Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Claiming Fire Hardened Mail

While we were getting ourselves set for Shadowfang Keep, Skronk had asked if I have gotten Viniki very far along on Fire Hardened Mail quest, the warrior class you pick up at level 20.  I had to admit that, while I had grabbed it, I had not done anything with it as when you get it the quest is “warning danger level” red in your quest log.

He mentioned that he and Ula had managed to finish it off as a duo, though not without some considerable effort, so they could probably help out.

So the next day when I got online I set about making some progress.  Viniki was level 26 and the quest was moving into the range of viability.

The first bit was simple enough.  You need 50 drops from spiders out in the Wetlands.  They were levels 20-23, so it was just a matter of chopping them down.  The main annoyance was that then required drops only stored in stacks of 20 in my bag, and in the current WoW Classic age of inventory management dedicated three bag slots to anything is a big ask.  But I figured I would make due.

After that it was time to travel.  The next stage is out on the Stonetalon Mountains.  I may have forgotten quite a bit about vanilla WoW, but I do remember running the length of that zone to get myself up to Desolace at one point, which ended up taking me something like 45 minutes.  A long trip.  So I was headed that way again.  But the first bit would be short I thought, just a run across the breadth of The Barrens.

Ratchet to Stonetalon Mountains

Of course, I was deceived again by the scale of The Barrens.  It takes longer to run across, even at its short point, than you think.  But I made it and even remembered to not run straight up the road where the zones meet, avoiding the Horde guards at Honor’s Stand.  From there signs would show the way.

Stonetalon Peak this way

Not that there are a myraid of ways to choose from.  The road through the zone has some turn-offs, but my destination was at the very far end in the Charred Vale.

The Stonetalon Mountains

Starting in the lower right I just had to follow the path, bearing right at the lake to go to Stonetalon Peak to get the Alliance flight point.  The way Classic works you may find you need flight points you don’t necessarily travel to as they can provide connections.  While I was on my way there Skronk logged on.  He swapped to his level 22 paladin, who happened to be in Ashenvale, to come join me.

I grabbed the flight point and a quest that was to hand, and headed for the charred vale where Skronk caught up, having grabbed the flight point and the same quest as well.  He went AFK for a minute and I promptly got us killed.  He was on follow and his aggro radius was such that I managed to pull half a dozen mobs when I went to stalk one of the chimeras I needed for my next set of drops.

Oh well.  We got ourselves settled and Ula joined us with her warrior, which gave us more than enough muscle to finish off harpies and get the drops I needed for the quest.

From there we ran down into Desolace to grab the flight master at Nijel’s Point.  That was a bit dicey with Skronk’s pally in tow, as his aggro radius was about max size relative to the mobs there, but we made it to the flight point after a couple of encounters.

From there we wanted to go to Razorfen Kraul, the location of the last item on my list.  We decided to fly to Theramore and run from there.  We’d run through the swamp at a lower level already.

Over those familiar centaur camps

From Theramore we trotted out to The Barrens again and headed south to RFK.  Skronk said that when they did this for Ula’s warrior it took a while and some strategic dying was involved, along with some outright running for the exit.  But with three of us it seemed to go okay.  We were able to take on ones and twos without too much drama.

Fighting in RFK

Skronk’s pally healed while the two warriors got stuck in to tank and DPS.  This mostly worked.

There was one point when we got too many on a pull and had to run for the exit, with Ula’s warrior getting trapped and dying.  That also served as a reminder to put Escape Artist, the gnomish racial ability that gets you out of traps, on our respective hot bars.  Fortunately with a pally along a ress was available.

When we had cleared our way to our target, Roogug, we were able to get just him and one caster.  This was another fight where we thought we might have to take down on mob, flee, then repeat until we could cope with the whole thing.  But with three of us we were able to handle the fight.

Battling with Roogug

A little bit of healing goes a long way in these situations.

With Roogug down I had the last piece of the quest.  But since we were down at the southern end of The Barrens in any case, we decided to extend our trip to pick up one final flight point.  We wanted to get the one at Thalanaar in Feralas at the edge of the Thousand Needles zone, which meant taking the Great Lift.

I had read/heard that with WoW Classic you could only see the positions of the cars of the Great Lift, but it didn’t really strike me until we got there.  The cars just don’t show up the way they did back in the day, no doubt due to the update client/server tech being used.

So we sat there for a bit and discussed possible options.  The two NPC guards mean you cannot just saunter up for a peek.  In the end I decided just to rush the ramp and see what I could see when I got to the end.  Worst case I would simply jump off.   I have done that before.

In running I picked up the near guard and, as I reached the end of the ramp, saw the elevator car just starting its descent, so I jumped for it… and sailed right over it and down to my death.

Viniki at the bottom of the lift

However Ula and Skronk, following on behind, were ignored by the guard as he ran back to his post, so were able to wait for the car to return and take it down to the floor of Thousand Needles.  Again, having a pally around for a ress came in handy.

Once restored we made our way to the east end of the zone to Thalanaar and collected the flight point.  From there we flew back to Stonetalon Peak to turn in that harpy quest that we had finished up, after which we were done.  I recalled back to Stormwind and turned in the quest and collected a nice new bit of armor.

Fire Hardened hauberk

This was another quest line I never did back in the day as I do not think I bothered rolling a warrior as an alt until Warlords of Draenor.  It was a chance to go back and experience something I had missed the first time around.

Quote of the Day for WoW Classic Fans

World of Warcraft® Classic drove the biggest quarterly increase to subscription plans in franchise history, in both the West and East.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2019 earnings report

WoW Classic brings another ray of sunshine.

Given what SuperData told us about WoW Classic previously, this was not unexpected.

This ray of sunshine however comes amidst some cloudy skies at A-B.

The company took a lot of heat at the start of the year when it announced layoffs in practically the same breath in which it announced record financial performances.  While people were outraged, the 2019 financial reports have supported the company’s pessimism.  Blizzard was especially hard hit with its margins dropping from 30% to 16% in Q1 2019 as Battle for Azeroth shed players while the company had nothing else new to attract people.  And things have remained down.  The charts show that Blizz has recovered a bit on margins, but now Activision is was down.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

And the talk at the presentation was largely about the long term tent pole products, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.  Even as they try to diversify their stable of titles, the old champions have to carry water for everybody.  Even the up part of company, King and its mobile games, the emphasis was on the Candy Crush franchise.

This is a very common problem, creating a popular and very profitable product then never being able to create something that could match, much less surpass, that product.

There was even mention of possibly beefing up the WoW team.  And, it was recognized that WoW Classic gave the company a boost during an “off” year when WoW did not have an expansion set to go.  There was some uncertainty about how sustainable WoW Classic would be over the long term.  And certainly, if they don’t do anything else with it, it will dwindle off to a much smaller population.

Finally, Q3 ended on September 30, 2019.  The Hong Kong debacle did not come to pass until mid-October, so that may put something of a damper on Blizzard numbers for Q4.  Opening up pre-orders for Shadowlands during BlizzCon may offset that somewhat, but that is a short term solution for a long term problem.

You can find all of the quarterly result information at the Activision Blizzard investor relations site.

Comparing Four MMO Expansions

I originally sat down to write about pre-orders being available for the next EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin.  However, aside from the addition of the Friends & Family option, it isn’t all that different from the last few times I’ve written about EQII pre-orders.  And even the new F&F bit is similar enough to the EverQuest version that I was feeling little dull.  Also, I am sick right now and going through that chart in detail was making my headache worse.  You can check out the details here, but I won’t be going through them with a fine tooth comb.  I’ll probably regret that in a year, but I’ll live.

You can buy it today

Instead I started listing out different aspects of some expansions.

We have a few expansions that have been at least announced.  Minas Morgul just went live for LOTRO, EverQuest and EverQuest II both have expansions in the offing, and at BlizzCon we heard about Shadowlands, the next WoW expansion.  In laying out some details for comparison I don’t have any real key points to highlight, but sometimes just the comparison is enough to make you think about what is going on.

How far in advance did they announce an expansion?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance
  • LOTRO – About two months
  • EQ – About three month
  • EQII – About three month

WoW has a tradition of getting a lot of details announced at BlizzCon about nine months ahead of when an expansion will ship.  Way more details than we got for the other three just months before their planned launch.  However, EQ and EQII do yearly expansion, so a year in advance they’d still be patching the current expansion rather than the next.

LOTRO though… I guess SSG just doesn’t like to spill the beans too far ahead.

When were pre-orders available?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance… like now for Shadowlands
  • LOTRO – About two months ahead of launch
  • EQ – About a month ahead launch
  • EQII – About a month ahead launch

With SSG and Daybreak, pre-orders seem to be offered pretty close to the official expansion announcement.  With Blizz there used to be a fair gap between the expansion being announced and pre-orders being available, but at this past BlizzCon we saw pre-orders go live coincident with the expansion announcement.

Expansion tiers and pricing

  • WoW – Base $40, Heroic $60, Epic $80
  • LOTRO – Standard $40, Collectors $80, Ultimate $130
  • EQ – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250
  • EQII – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250

The new “Friends &  Family” packages are outliers.  But even if we leave those out it does strike me as a bit odd that WoW is not the most expensive in any category save for the base expansion, and there it is tied with LOTRO.

Should the base expansion include a level booster?

  • WoW – No
  • LOTRO – No
  • EQ – No
  • EQII – Yes

I am a bit surprised that EQII is the outlier here with its level 110 boost.  LOTRO offers a level 120 booster with the two higher tier packages, as does WoWEQ though… as I noted previously, it is in a strange place.  It offers a booster with its more expansive packages, but it is still the now more than five years old level 85 boost.  This, for an expansion where the level cap is going from 110 to 115.  My “WTF Daybreak?” opinion of that remains.

Key items from upgraded packages

  • WoW – Mount, pet, cosmetics
  • LOTRO – Mount, pet, cosmetics, titles, various booster potions
  • EQ – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, house item, bag, various booster potions
  • EQII – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, cosmetic house item, teleporter to new expansion house item, various booster potions, and an trade skill insta-level boost to 110

I left out the level boost obviously, as it was covered above, and ignore the F&F packs, as they are strange new beasts.

EQII is really the standout in piling things on here, including even a level booster for trade skills, though EQII trade skills have the same level cap as adventure levels, and are earned more like adventure levels than the skill point upgrades in the other crafting systems.

WoW effectively gives you a boost into trade skills since they split trade skills up per expansion with BFA.  But you get that no matter what.

As I have said before, if I were a dedicated EQII player, I could see being very tempted by one of the more expensive packages… relative to EQ especially, which has the same price points… despite the high prices.

Anyway, I thought that comparison was mildly informative.  You can find all the order pages below.  I’d be curious as to how these four games compare to other MMORPG expansion, though I don’t keep a close enough eye on anything else to even know who still sells expansions like this anymore.

Shadowfang Keep in WoW Classic

As usual, our pace is slow, but we continue to go.  The weekend before last I was off to EVE Vegas and others in the instance group were down with the flu, but this past weekend we were all together and, if not in perfect health (Skronk was still coughing and I managed to catch some minor convention crud in Vegas which made me tired all weekend), at least ready to run.  We set a time on Saturday afternoon to meet up for our next instance destination, Shadowfang Keep.

However, the time picked was a little later in the afternoon than I expected, as I had plans for the evening, so I decided to do a little preparation work.  I had already run Viniki out to Southshore, the closest flight point to the instance.  But, fearing that our proposed start time might slip… real life will get in the way of virtual plans… I decided to hedge by turning to an alt.

I have a post brewing about my alts in WoW Classic, but I will say that one of them is a level 20 Warlock named Winki.  Level 20 is an important level because it gets a warlock the ever so useful “ritual of summoning” spell.  That lets you and two other people in your group summon other people in the group to you.  I was not sure if Obama and Moronae would be on time, so I put Winki on the trail to Southshore as well a couple hours before the appointed time.

At level 20 he had already been out to the Wetlands and Menethil Harbor.  He just had to run from there, up through the Arathi Highlands and into the Hillsbrad Foothills.

Entering the Arathi Highlands

Arathi was the worrying part, as mobs there are in the low 30s, but he made it through without incident, grabbing the Refuge Point flight point along the way.  Hillsbrad mobs are mid-20s, so while higher level than Winki, he was able to get through, sacrificing his voidwalker to some bears along the way.

I logged him off at the Southshore inn after grabbing the flight point.  Always grab the flight point.

The appointed hour arrived to find Skonk, Ula, and Viniki logged in, but Obama and Moronae nowhere to be seen.  Again, real life is like that.  After a bit of a wait we decided to just head out and see what the three of us could manage.  With healer, tanks, and DPS, we thought we could get a start, so we headed off to the instance.  It is not too far down the road in Silverpine and, once I paid attention to the signs, I led us to the correct path that ran up to the keep.

The three of us in the instance

Inside we found the first set of mobs awaiting us to be gray, not worth any experience.  This is one of the oddities of some of the earlier instances, that the level range of the mobs varies a lot.  By the end we would be facing mobs our level or higher.

We got stuck in and seemed to do okay.  We cleared all the way to the first boss, Rethilgore.  If you want to count him as a boss.  He isn’t a tough fight and doesn’t drop anything worthwhile, but he has a name.  As we were contemplating him, Obama and Moronae showed up.  They had been delayed, but were now ready to go.  However, they were nowhere close by.

Enter Winki.

We ran out of the instance, because you cannot summon from within one, and I had Viniki drop group and log out.  Then I logged in Winki and started running him to the instance.  Again, bears ate my minion, but I was able to get into Silverpine where Ula and Skronk escorted me to the bridge outside the instance.  There we summoned Obama and Moronae to the group.

Ritual of Summoning commence!

Then I logged Winki out and Viniki back in and we had our group for the afternoon run.

  • Ula – level 25 gnome mage
  • Viniki – level 25 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 25 dwarf priest
  • Obama – level 26 human warlock
  • Moronae – level 26 night elf druid

And this is where I say that perhaps I don’t need to do a blow by blow run through the instance.  We were, as a group, high enough level to handle most everything without much drama.

Back to Rethilgore

We were able to slay Rethilgore and get out into the courtyard, one the early barriers for groups, with mobs close and wandering back and forth.  However, we were able to clear the area and get into the keep proper.

From there it is a long and somewhat… well, I hate to say linear because it twists and turns…. but there is only one way forward past the dining room and Baron Silverlaine.

At the baron’s dinner table

The baron was nice enough to drop a ring that went to Viniki.

a pretty good ring too

The only difficult bit early on was when we accidentally proximity pulled four of the wailing guardsmen that are before Commander Springvale.  They have an AOE silence which meant that healing and other casting was put on hold for a bit.  But we survived.

Eyeing Springvale after our big fight

We rolled for loot as we went along, Obama showing an alarming consistency in rolling 80+ on almost every go.  I wondered aloud if there was an addon for that.  The closest roll however was when Skronk rolled a 99 and then Moronae rolled 100 to beat him.

Strangely low roll for Obama

Things went well and we eventually wound our way around and to Archmage Arugal, the final boss of the instance.  He is level 26, which put most of us on level with him.

The Archemage awaits

He is notable for being that boss that teleports around the room.  He also casts void bolt continuously, which puts out a lot of damage.  Checking the Recount logs, Viniki took more damage from him than any other boss and all other groups of mobs.

The group stayed up at the top of the stairs where we came in while Viniki ran around to the platform on which Arugal stands to start the fight.  There was the usual amount of running about after him.  Viniki took the brunt of his special attacks, save for that last one, mind control.  Arugal was on the platform with the rest of the group when he hit Viniki with that, as which point I turned around and killed Skronk.

As Skronk is fond of saying, “Mind control FTW!”  I killed one more named character than everybody else on the run.

Fortunately, by the time that happened we had worn him down enough that finishing him off wasn’t a big deal.  Moronae dropped a couple of heals on me… I had used a potion and a healthstone already by then… and we did him in.  He dropped the nice cloth caster’s belt and we stood and took the usual group picture.

I took the mask off for the shot

If my  description of the fight is brief, it is because Ula caught it all on video so you can watch our fight.

The video shows the pre-clear then the whole fight with Arugal.  Watching it closely, I think it actually vindicates me.  The change in my avatar when I am mind controlled indicates that I was done with that before the final blow was struck.  But I like to think I helped.

Ula got the belt despite the roll.  It was a bigger upgrade for her I believe.

You can also see us lining up for the final group picture.  I always like when Ula’s videos align with one of my screen shots.

And so we were finished.  Aside from the final fight it was a bit of a face roll.  The instance says it is for levels 22 to 30, but it is only challenging at the lower end.  And it sits in the midst of a series of instances (Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, Blackfathom Deeps, Stormwind Stockades) in a very narrow band of levels where, even at classic leveling rates, you’re moving up fairly steadily in levels if you’re not careful.

The whole thing did not take as long as we thought it might, so we went back out to the front of the instance and reset it to run it again.

If you have 2 DPS you do not have a group

I joined in for a bit, but it was getting close to when I would need to bail in order to have some dinner before my daughter and I went out to see a movie together. (We saw Jojo Rabbit, which she quite enjoyed.)  But the group carried on with Viniki there to tank.

When I checked in the next day the report was that even as a foursome most of the instance was pretty doable.  The only struggle was at the final battle again, where three out of four of the group died before Arugal was slain.  Skronk died twice, having used a soul stone to revive mid battle.  But they still managed it.  There is even a video of that fight as well.

They also said that the shield I wanted from Commander Springvale did not drop on the second run, so I don’t feel like I missed out.

That run seems to line up with the instance group history with Shadowfang Keep, where we did at least one four person run previously.

Victory over Arugal back in 2006

Having a dedicated healer makes a big difference.

As for where we head next, the group will probably hit Stockades, then go back and faceroll Blackfathom Deeps just to say we’ve done it.  After that we’re getting into range of Razorfen Kraul.

Looking Back at BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon 2019 was sure a hell of a lot better for Blizzard than BlizzCon  2018.

I watched some of panels I wanted to see, but not all of them yet.  So, while this isn’t quite a hot take on the event, it is my impressions about what was announced in a slightly more detailed fashion than my recap of the big four announcements post I did on Friday.  That post has links to all the cinematics and game play videos that Blizz posted as they announced things, if those interest you.

So, lets dive in by categories that almost line up by franchise.

World of Warcraft

A new expansion.  Pretty much a requirement at BlizzCons that fall on odd numbered years.  So they got that right.  But honestly, I am not sure how I feel about Shadowlands.

Part of that is just what you get when your game gets past maybe three expansions, they start to blur for all but the most hardcore.  There are some cool things in the plan.  The covenants things seems like it could make for interesting choices.  I like the return to a plan to focus on classes rather than specs.  A single narrative arc that drives you through four zones in order is back to the old school, and how alts will be handled seems innovative.

No more re-grinding

Better character customization is good direction.  Everybody can be a death knight now.  But the ideas for a new class… again, perfect chance for a necromancer class to show up… seems to have been bypassed.  And thus in its way it will be more of the same, more zones, more levels, more dungeons, more raids, and so on.  And it feels a bit like they were inspired by Stranger Things, which means we will no doubt run into plenty of references to the show.

It sure looks like the Azeroth Upsidedown to me

Wait, did I say “more levels?”  I meant LESS levels.  The level squish is coming.

Leveling up after Shadowlands

I said Blizz wouldn’t do it, so I have clearly been proven wrong on that front.  And my concerns from that post remain, though there are some updsides.  It sounds like they will rescale… again… all of the old content so you can get to level 50 playing through any previous expansion then head into the Shadowlands.  Still, it will be odd to have max level characters in WoW and WoW Classic at the same level.  There were more details about this in the deep dive, which I watched, and I will probably throw together another post just to look at how leveling is going to change with Shadowlands.  But the level squish is coming.

Overall though, you can color me somewhat interested in the expansion.   I am sure the fact that it was made available for pre-order will get hopes up that it will show up sooner rather than later, but I doubt it will show any time before June of 2020.

There is no doubt another post to be made in Blizz moving to three levels of expansion packages, especially just as Daybreak moved to four levels.  No level 120… eventually level 50… boost with the base package either.

MMO Champion has a good outline of the main presentation.  Or you can look at the pretty pictures on the official expansion page.

WoW Classic

We got the very bare minimum of news about WoW Classic, something I indicated might end up being the case back at the start of October.  There was a bit of “isn’t this great!” and the date for the phase 2 unlock (November 12th), and that was that.  No future plans, no talk about expansions, and nothing even daring to look in the direction of somebody low key hinting that there might be anything like original content for the WoW Classic path.

In fact, WoW Classic was stuck in the “oh, by the way” section of the keynote with StarCraft II and Heroes of  the Storm.  Talk about being put on the bench.  Even at the WoW Q&A session the question about future expansions for WoW Classic was pretty much deflected.

But Blizzard moves slowly, something I have to keep reminding myself.  I am sure they are still trying to figure out what to do with this unexpected success story.  We will likely have to wait until next BlizzCon to hear anything new I guess, but that will put it after the Shadowlands launch, so Blizz will be able to focus on it.

I will say though, at least we got a self deprecating crack from J. Allen Brack about serving vanilla ice cream at the BlizzCon concessions.  He didn’t think we would want it, but it turns out we did.

I don’t find Brack to be a particularly compelling or convincing speaker.  He lacks Metzen’s energy or Morhaime’s air of goofy humility.  And, of course, after the infamous quote, I associate him with a level of smug condescension, which biases my perception even when I agree with what he is saying.  We all see things through our own filters.  But at least he was willing to stand up there and remind everybody how wrong he was.

I previously wrote that if he said something about that quote I’d stop bringing it up every time I mentioned him.  I think I can stick to that now.  I won’t mention it every time, though I reserve the right to bring it up when it fits the situation.

Diablo

Diablo IV was announced, to nobody’s surprise.

It looks interesting.  I like the direction they are going.  Darker.  A more open world.  Mounts even.  No RMT auction house.  I have no doubt I will play it some day.  But that day will be… when?  2022?

I guess I can see why they didn’t want to announce it last year.

Basically, I will be a lot more interested in this when it seems like its launch is imminent.

Overwatch

Again, if even I was predicting something like Overwatch 2 more than a month ago, then having that announced was probably not a huge surprise.

I am not an Overwatch player.  I don’t even eat the cereal.  But I am interested in how they are handling Overwatch 2, which is more like an expansion than a new game.

If you own Overwatch, you can keep playing that and your play will overlap with Overwatch 2 players, which includes all the original content plus all the goodies you may have gotten.  Overwatch 2 players will get their own content as well, including a PvE campaign.

I think the latter, the PvE campaign, might be the key here.  The thing that the original lacked was new stuff to sell players… besides loot boxes.  And if loot boxes are you revenue stream it might be prudent to diversify that a bit.  But additional PvE co-op campaigns, that is something Blizz could sell people on.

It is interesting to see how they have chosen to go.  EA gets you to buy their latest Battlefield game by shutting off the servers to the past ones.  I assume Activision does something similar with their Call of Duty games, along with leaving a year gap between launches and trying to add new gimmicks with each annual generation.  In contrast, Blizz wants to keep people playing together.  I suspect that you won’t be able to buy Overwatch once Overwatch 2 is out.  But if you do have the original, you won’t be left completely out in the cold.

Hearthstone

A new expansion.  What a surprise!  It isn’t like we don’t get a few of those every year in any case.

The real surprise was that Blizz decided to take the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea and integrate it with Hearthstone with their new Battlegrounds play mode.  That demonstrates some oddly un-Blizzard-like thinking, since the obvious route was to copy Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords and build it off of their MOBA.  I didn’t exactly get how this was going to work, in part because the description during the opening ceremony was pretty fast and in part because I have no interest in Hearthstone so I didn’t watch the panel where it would have been explained.

At least I haven’t watched it yet.  It was well down on my list of priorities.  I might still, just to get an idea where Blizz is going with this.

Warcraft III Reforged

The re-release of Warcraft III seems to be getting closer.  No ship date was announced, but they are spreading the beta further afield now.  If you were at BlizzCon or had the Virtual Ticket, you now have access to the beta and can download it from the Battle.net launcher.  I was actually in already, as I saw I was able to install it early last week, though I couldn’t tell you if that was because I was special or because they started opening it up to Virtual Ticket holders early.  Either way, it seems unlikely that I will download it to play before it goes live.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm

A new commander and a new AI for the former, and new unit for the latter, all mentioned during what felt like an apologetic side bar in the midst of the opening ceremonies.  I was not expecting much, and so was unsurprised when that was exactly what we got.  Still, being in the same segment where they mentioned the Blizzard Arcade at BlizzCon, where you could go play Rock n Roll Racing and Lost Vikings, does tend to set a tone.

The Heroes of the Storm fans are probably happy for any scraps they get, but the StarCraft II playerbase has to have some mixed feelings since SCII is still one of the Blizz esports titles.

Unmentioned

I did not hear anything about the remaster of Diablo II yet again.  It came up as part of the ideal for Diablo IV, but it was left out otherwise.  I still want this.  I would happily take a GoG.com version updated to run on Windows 10, though I would really like something more akin to the Warcraft III Reforged full remaster for modern screen sizes.  Maybe someday.

Then, maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear anything about Diablo: Immortal.  Did fan reaction really bury that?  My complaint from last year wasn’t that it wouldn’t find an audience, just that it was presented to the wrong audience.  They put some updates on the official site… it was mixed in with the feed on their “all news” page… but they seemed loathe to mention it yet again in front of a live studio audience.

Also, any hope for a completely new game or IP was left in the dust.  Everything was an expansion or a sequel.  There wasn’t even a mobile version of any other Blizzard IPs mentioned.  Hearthstone might have had the only new idea… or, newly stolen idea, this being Blizzard and all… with it picking up the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea.

Virtual Ticket

The Virtual Ticket plan still seems like an acceptable value to me.  There is still a list of panels I want to watch that I could not make time for over the weekend, so I am able to watch them at my leisure.  As I noted previously, this year Blizz has decided that access to the videos will remain up until March 2020.

One feature I noticed was that Blizz also gave Virtual Ticket holders access to the videos from the past two BlizzCons as well.  So you can, if you want, go back and watch the horrible Diablo: Immortal panel or the informative Play Nice, Play Fair panel that was completely bypassed by the gaming media that often rages about how companies like Blizzard do nothing to contain player toxicity.

BlizzCon Overall

This should have been pretty much the ideal BlizzCon for the company, with four big product announcements.  Back at the start of October it looked to be huge.  And then, of course, there was the Hong Kong thing, which necessitated the apology, which I covered in its own post.

After Blizz banned Blitzchung and the outrage was at its peak there were wild predictions that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  Or, if BlizzCon went on, it would be tightly controlled, a mirror image of the repressive Chinese state on stage in Anaheim.  Would Brack even get up in front of the audience live, or would he just appear on the monitor so the engineers could cut out the sounds of the crowd should they get 40,000 people chanting “Free Hong Kong!” or some such?  Would Blizzard be able to contain the outrage of the fan base?

In the end, things went mostly as they usually do.  The vast majority of the fans were there to see Blizz and to revel in the spectacle and be a part of the event.   Cheering was the norm.  And when, during the WoW Q&A panel, a questioner ended his interaction with a message about Hong Kong, he wasn’t cut off or ejected from the event.  People chanted a bit and Blizz let it all pass like the guy in the Winnie the Pooh costume, who showed up on camera at least once.

People will take whatever message they want from that.  You can read into that the promise of better behavior from Brack’s apology, or you can assume it is Blizz throwing a minimal bone to some fans that does not otherwise reflect corporate policy.  It still puts them ahead of the NBA in either case.

In the end though, Blizz clearly won the news cycle.  Every “What about Hong Kong?” story had to contend with a dozen or more “OMG! New Things!” stories out of BlizzCon.  With that and what will likely be a somewhat rosy Q3 2019 earnings report later this week (thanks to WoW Classic) and the 15th Anniversary WoW events coming up, the company seems to be well positioned for the balance of the year.

BlizzCon 2019 and The Big Four Announcements

Not at all my review of BlizzCon or its announcements, but just a note about what the big four announcements that came up in the opening ceremony.

Diablo IV

As expected, the next entry in the Diablo franchise is finally here.

The focus is darkness, world, and legacy.  They want to get back to what the series was like, while keeping the snappy game play of Diablo III.

There is a cinematic and a game play trailer available to watch.  This was the first of the four main stage presentations lined up for today.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

The next expansion for WoW.

Sylvannas is off to Ice Crown to take us to the world beyond death.  This ended up as the third unannounced panel on the main stage for today.

The Lich King awaits

Available for pre-order today, launching in 2020.  There is also a cinematic and an expansion overview video.

Hearthstone Descent of Dragons

And then Hearthstone got a new expansion.  I figured on that.

What I did not count on is that Blizzard would decide to go with Hearthstone as the basis for their new 8 player Auto Chess/Auto Battler destination.

There is, of course, a cinematic video for the expansion and a trailer for the new mode, which is called Battlegrounds.  This ended up as the fourth unannounced presentation on the main stage.

Overwatch 2

Not unexpected.

Overwatch 2 will have new modes, new maps, some new heroes as well as a PvE campaign.  It will be linked into Overwatch, so players of the original will get to play with owners of the new game where they overlap and all your goodies and progress will be saved.

This ended up as the second big main stage presentation today.  And naturally there is a cinematic trailer and a game play video to go along with the announcement.

Other Items

There was an statement up front by J. Allen Brack about the Hong Kong fiasco with an apology and a promise to do better, hinged on watching Blizzards actions going forward.  This won’t be enough for some I am sure, but it was more than I expected.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm also got small mentions, the usual additions one might expect for titles on the back burner.  Also, Warcraft III reforged is expanding its beta.  I’m already able to download it.

WoW Classic also got a mention.  It was the minimum I expected, the phase 2 unlock date.  But J. Allen Brack also mentioned that they would be serving vanilla ice cream at BlizzCon.  He didn’t think we would want that, but maybe we really do.

The last two unannounced presentation slots were for Diablo IV related panels on day two, so nothing else new to come.

Anyway, much more to watch and think about over the weekend.  Look for a post on Monday I suppose.  I get an extra hour to work on it this weekend as Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday.

October in Review

The Site

Well, that was a month, wasn’t it?

Because I write this end of month summary, part of which tries to bring together what happened a year ago, I am often sitting here writing this and thinking about how big that year ago section is going to be twelve months down the road.  The October 2020 month in review will have quite a sizable “One Year Ago” section.

And next month promises to be even bigger.  But today it is Halloween.

Fifteen year old pumpkins

Looking through old digital pictures, there was a time when I put a lot of effort into carving pumpkins every year.  These days, I let the kid do it, and she has such the active social life that we’re lucky to get one pumpkin.  Oh well.

One Year Ago

Gamigo bought the games of Trion Worlds, leaving not much behind.

We heard that a lot of people play Minecraft, that there would be no Minecraft 2, and that pandas were coming.

We were told that Google Plus would be going away.

We learned that Mike Morhaime would be stepping down as CEO of Blizzard to be replaced by J. Allen Brack of the infamous quote.

Standing Stone decided to farm nostalgia with the LOTRO Legendary server idea.

We learned that the 25th EverQuest expansion would be The Burning Lands.  For EverQuest II the Chaos Descending expansion was coming.

I was on a nostalgia tour of EverQuest II that involved a quest chain that was literally a nostalgia tour of EverQuest II.  That got me geared up to run through The Withered Lands.  I made it to level 100 even.

There was a hint that Just Survive might.  And then we were told it would not.

In New Eden the Keepstar War was over and a massive move op got me back home to Delve.  There was even a video.  Then it was back to shooting stuff around home.

The Reavers SIG turned four years old.

We seemed to be headed to war in high sec in Perimeter, and shot the Panfam trading Fortizar.  That ended when TEST dropped a Keepstar, the Perimeter Trading Tower.

The October update was about balance, which meant killing ECM really, while the CSM 13 summit minutes mentioned how war decs were killing high sec.

I was headed to EVE Vegas where we would see Pearl Abyss, CCP’s new owners, for the first time.  Much info was shared and swag gathered.  I even gave a presentation.  But it was about blogging, so nobody saw it.  I summed it all up when I got home.  I was dubious about the announced FLEX structures.

There was some joyful hysteria as a DCMA exception was made for MMO preservation.  However, it required the owner of the source code give it over voluntarily, which seemed like a huge stumbling block to me.  Creating emulators was still verboten.

And then there was that Rules for Rulers video, which prompted me to read the source material on which it was based, which made me even more cynical about politics than I already was.

Five Years Ago

The SF Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years.  I was just happy when they won it once in my lifetime.  Of course, they haven’t done much in the time since, but I had my moment… three times!

I was wondering about guild progression and whether they should have levels.

I was disappointed at Trion installing HackShield on my system and only deigning to notify me of this after the fact.  That got their Glyph launcher off my system.

EA put a new twist on insta-level by introducing a limited 12x experience bonus offer that would essentially let Star Wars: The Old Republic players level up via just their class story, without indulging in the myriad side quests the process would otherwise require.  Basically, you could play just the good bits of the game.  Imagine that!

The strategy group was doing city assaultsriver crossings, and ambushes in Total War: Rome II.

At EVE Vegas there were development plans for the coming year, which included Tech III destroyers.  Jump fatigue was also announced.  But at least we were also getting a much longer skill queue. (Limited to 50 skills or ten years of training, whichever you reach first.)  That was much on my mind as I crossed the 130 million skill point mark.

The Reavers, a group within The Imperium dedicated to living in hostile territory and attacking enemy infrastructure, was formed.  Our inaugural operations went to Insmother , where we blew up plenty of stuff, and then went to Feythabolis.

Closer to home there was a capital brawl in our staging system.  That was part of some battles with Black Legion, where they would visit us and then we would visit them.  Or blob them.  I also experienced one of the classic EVE mistakes for the first time.  People seemed anxious to use their capital ships before the Phoebe expansion changed everything.

In World of Warcraft I summed up my summer campaign for the Loremaster achievement.  It was not a success.  I did get my Sha’tari Skyguard reputation to exalted though.  More mounts!

Meanwhile, the WoW 6.0 patch dropped and the count-down to Warlords of Draenor began in earnest.  I was looking at the new features in that.  The instance group also stirred in anticipation of the new expansion, mostly finishing off Mists of Pandaria.

Finally, Planetary Annihilation arrived at last, and proved once again that recreating past fun isn’t as easy as it should be.

Ten Years Ago

League of Legends launched, going on to become the most successful rip-off of Defense of the Acients MOBA, topping online gaming revenue charts and spawning a long chain of failed copy cats.  I still don’t get the appeal of the game or its genre.

Torchlight came out, giving a lot of people a Diablo-like injection of fun.  It didn’t have a lot of replay value for me.  Once I burned through the game once I was pretty much done, which made it unlike Diablo II, which I returned to a number of times.  But it was just $20 and gave us a taste of what Runic might be able to deliver going forward.

I was on a MUD history kick, with tales of exciting ways to die in Kobold Village, the Kobold Temple of the Unholy, getting lost in the Faerie Forest, and all the rooms in TorilMUD.

It was also the three year anniversary of the regular Saturday night instance group, and I presented a summary of what we had done.

A couple of us scouted the then newly Free to Play Dungeons & Dragons Online as a possible next game for the instance group, but it didn’t stick.

I was able to buy the Adventurer’s Pack for Lord of the Rings Online and get the Siege of Mirkwood expansion for free.  Not as good of a deal as monthly subscribers got I understand, but a decent deal.  Of course, LOTRO has changed a lot since then.

In World of Warcraft October that year saw me finish off both the Brewfest and Hallow’s End meta achievements.  I was still left with one achievement for each holiday though.  Fun was had with pumpkins and the Headless Horseman.

The instance group returned to Utgarde Keep to take on Utgarde Pinnacle, at that time the last five-person dungeon in Northrend.  We were victorious and gained the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement.  But otherwise we were deciding on where the group should go next.

And Blizzard was busy merging everybody’s WoW account into a Battle.new account because… well, it wasn’t because of better security.

Fifteen Years Ago

The first Star Wars Galaxies expansion, Jump to Lightspeed, was launched, adding space combat to the game.

Thirty Years Ago

Prince of Persia is launched for the Apple II. It later becomes a hit and kicks off a franchise when ported to other, less dying platforms.

Maxis launches SimCity, which was a big success, but which led to people at the time to argue about whether it was really a game since you cannot necessarily “win” it.  Not the last time this topic would come up.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  3. Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains
  4. Visions of a Sunken Temple
  5. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  6. China Reckoning
  7. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  8. Blizzard Speaks
  9. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  10. Running of the Gnomes in WoW Classic
  11. Looking for Offense
  12. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?

Search Terms of the Month

does daybreak game company have any ties china?
[They only wish they could prostitute their values for money]

everquest old times
[Old time, aye, old times…]

is torment of velious going to be the last expansion for everquest
[Probably not, but we shall see]

how to watch star wars in order
[Lots of alcohol will help]

Spam Comment of the Month

Weblog feedback are often the nightmare that by no means ends.
[You read the comments, didn’t you?]

Manic Time

While WoW Classic continues to dominate my play time, I did spend less time playing.  Some of the freshness has worn off, so total time was about half of what I played last month.  Still, it is my nightly go-to game.  EVE Online saw a bit of a boost.  I doubled the number of hours played, though that did not add up to much.  With no SIG/Squad deployments going on I probably spent more time on utility tasks and login rewards than fleet ops.  And I patched up LOTRO and logged in to see if the new expansion was in the LOTRO Store yet.  It was not, but I have more than enough in-game cash to buy it when it is.  So the gaming time tracked was:

  • World of Warcraft – 84.16%
  • EVE Online – 15.72%
  • Lord of the Rings Online – 0.12%

EVE Online

As noted just above, I spent more time in EVE Online this month, just not that much on operations.  Reavers came back from its Cache deployment, after which I went on a few main fleet ops.  But mostly I was logged in for the login rewards, to tinker with alts, and to move my stuff from one Keepstar to another as we changed our staging Keepstar.  Logistics… actual logistics, moving stuff around… remains a big part of the game.  There are no banks that magically have all your stuff in every town.

Pokemon Go

I had a pretty big month with catching and evolving Pokemon.  I am still way behind on the Sinnoh Pokemon and the seasonal events have pushed the usual round of spooky breeds, all of which I have, into the forefront.

Level: 37 (+0)
Pokedex status: 463 (+19) caught, 488 (+21) seen
Pokemon I want: I have yet to see an Oshawott
Current buddy: Tepig

World of Warcraft

As with last month, I did log into the main game for a bit.  However, it was just to run the Darkmoon Faire quests with my main to notch his trade skills up by another 5 points.  Otherwise I remain as far from things like unlocking flying in Battle for Azeroth as I was a month ago.  At least that kept me from the fruitless hope of getting the headless horseman’s mount.

WoW Classic

Still my main game, still playing with the reconstituted instance group.  We are still moving slowly and there are many alts in our guild.  But Earl now has internet access, so is catching up to the group while we meander about with our alts.

Coming Up

November will be a busy month.  I get to this section and start thinking not only about what is coming up but what I will feel I need to write about.

BlizzCon is literally tomorrow.  There are probably two, maybe three, posts in that.

We have the 15th anniversaries for both EverQuest II and World of Warcraft this month, along with related events and such.  Multiple posts there.  I’ve already written two of them.  Back in March, during the EverQuest 20th anniversary I got it in my head to write the 15th anniversary posts for EQII and WoW.

LOTRO has the Minas Morgul expansion coming out… I hope… and I’m expecting an update on the next EQII expansion, Blood of Luclin.

EVE Online has their last Invasion World Tour event in London, which will have some announcements, a couple of Team Talos updates, and the usual MER to write about.

Add in the usual SuperData post and the month in review and of the 21 weekdays in November most of them will have a post already.  And I might want to write about other things.  There is a Liberty Squad deployment in the offing and the usual updates about what I am playing.  It seems likely I will come close to a post a day in November.

Of course, things have a way of changing up as you go, so we shall see what November brings.