Category Archives: World of Warcraft

To Stranglethorn Vale in Search of 36

After our peek into the Armory in Scarlet Monastery the previous week we were feeling a bit under-level to consider trying to finish off the instance.  The gut feeling was that we probably should be level 36 as a group of four to have a hope of getting through the Armory to finish off Herod and the Scarlet Monastery floor show.

We were all in and around level 34 when we wrapped up that run, so there was between a level and two levels of extracurricular activity that had to happen to get us back there.

The question was where to go?

Having crossed over the level 30 threshold, we are now in the timeline of no fixed zone for leveling.  If you’re working through solo from 30 forward you optimally end up bouncing between a few zones like Thousand Needles, Hinterlands, and Desolace.

I do not know if it was a deliberate design choice, but in these zones you find that the levels of quests increment, often jumping a level or two with each step in chain, so that you can quickly find yourself bumping up against red quests and mobs where an accidental add means death.

But as a group that might be a more manageable proposition.  So in looking for a destination for us I wanted a zone that had a bunch of quests, the more the better, that we as a group could burn through.

Having run through pieces of those zones solo with my hunter, Stranglethorn Vale seemed like the obvious choice.  It has the series of quests from the rebel camp at the north as well as the first “slaughter the local fauna” Hemet Nesingwary quest hub, something that has become a tradition in WoW expansions since.

And the quests, for the most part, seemed about ideal.  For a group, killing a set number of mobs, as Hemet would ask, is about ideal.  Likewise, the rebel camp sends you off on a series of quests that almost require a group.  Both the Kurzen camp and the troll areas are teeming with mobs, packed in tightly and with sprightly respawn rates.  And the last quest in the Kurzen quest chain sends you after a level 40 elite.

Also in its favor is that most of the early quests are pretty well contained to the northern bit of the zone around the rebel camp and Hemet Nesingwary’s setup.

The general vicinity

That compares favorably with, say, Desolace.  I’ll get to Desolace later.

So that was our plan for the weekend, to dive into Stranglethorn Vale.

It was just a matter of getting people on together.  And getting there.  STV has a flight point, but it is down at the southern tip, at Booty Bay.  While I appreciate the sparse flight point aesthetic of early WoW, where every zone gets one flight point whether they need it or not, I have to admit that the later addition of the flight point to the rebel camp in STV was sorely missed more than a few times over the weekend.  Even a mailbox would have been appreciated.

Instead you have to hoof it from Darkshire into STV.

Welcome to Stranglethorn Vale

I set Viniki up down there ahead of time.  Oddly, of my alts in their 30s, I think he was the only one of the bunch that had not started on any of the quests there.  I camped him with Hemet so he would be ready when the time came.

Not the last time I’ll run into you

Saturday evening Skronk, Ula, and I were online, but Moronae wasn’t expected.  Skronk had his hunter out and was just starting in on the Kurzen quest line.  I grabbed my pally to join him, while Ula came along.  She was the furthest behind in experience, needing a little more than two levels to get to 36.  Skonk and my warrior, Viniki, were much closer to the group goal so we kept to our alts.

I was kind of glad to get my pally out.  While he had done some of the Nesingwary stuff, he was still early on in the rebel camp stuff.

Not for the last time, I wish it had that flight point

Specifically, he was a bit stuck on the quest Bad Medicine.  That requires seven drops, which are, of course, rather sparse.  In addition, the easiest source of the drops, the medicine men in the Kurzen camp tend to be both heavily hunted and a bit of a pain to solo with a pally.  They self-heal at a cycle faster than my interrupt, so each fight becomes a protracted event.

While we couldn’t do much about the competing groups… STV on a Saturday night had people running all over… we were able to press on into the caves where the headhunters also drop the jungle remedy potion needed to complete the quest.  So we were able to press on and finish that up.

Bad Medicine unlocks a couple of quests, including the first foray into the trolls.  That run was… interesting.  I had done it with my hunter a couple weeks back, so could guide everybody to the four tablets on which you need to click.  The challenge is more that the population density in the troll areas is pretty high.  It is easy to get way too many adds.  Even with other players around, getting through can be a challenge as the respawn rate is also very quick.  We had a duo wipe just ahead of us… horde, so we could only mourn… while we were fighting a group that had just respawned after their passing.

Trolls on the way out

But running the troll circle also brought us through areas for three of the Nesingwary quests, so we picked up various flavors of tigers, panthers, and raptors before finally circling back to turn in quests.

It is especially easy to see the quest levels ramp up with those kill quests.  The tigers are the easier of the trio as they start doable at 28 or so, with the final task of slaying Sin’Dall, a level 37 non-elite being soloable at 35 without much fear.

Waiting for Sin’Dall to spawn

At the other end are the raptors, which are level 40-41 when you are only on the third round.  We managed that at the end of the night, with a group that was 5-7 levels shy of the mobs.  A group of three can handle that, but the level difference means that the raptors resist spells regularly, and an add can be fatal.  We did have one death, though that was mostly because I had to remember that paladin’s can heal.  Fortunately they can also ress.

We also sorted out pages from the Green Hills of Stranglethorn quest.  I had been to STV already with my pally and, after collecting most of the pages, I bought my way through the quest at the auction house.  So I was able to hand over needed pages for Ula and Skronk, though in the end they too used the auction house to collect the last page or two.  I think I did this the hard way back in 2006.

The next afternoon was to bring Moronae on the scene.  However, some of us were early and so Skronk and I worked with a different set of alts, his pally and my restoration druid, while we waited for Moronae to show.  We dropped our alts when he logged in and started out with out mains.

Like Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon saw other groups hunting out in the Kurzen camp.

The Kurzen camp awaits

Having learned our lesson the previous night, we passed through the camp and into the caves and back down to where Sgt. Malthus lives to fight the mobs there that also drop the needed jungle remedy. Needing seven a piece and with low a drop rate, we were down there for a while.

Taking them all on

Aside from the occasional lost player, we had the place to ourselves for a while.  The spawn rate was rapid enough to keep us mostly engaged, while adding in the occasional surprise.

Skronk to be bonked by a surprise spawn

It took us a few cycles of spawns, but we eventually came up with seven jungle remedy potions for the three of us that needed them.  And then, on the way out, jungle remedy potions pretty much dropped off of every possible mob.  There were enough between us that I collected seven and set them aside to mail to one of my alts just to get past that stage of the quest.

What wasn’t dropping were pages for the Green Hills of Stranglethorn.  Unlike the night before, when we were getting quite a few such drops, this time around we all came out with one page.  And that was all I would get for the night.  Some times it rains those pages and overflows your inventory… usually when you’re on with you hunter… and some times they just don’t drop.

We went back to the rebel camp to turn in quests and pick up the next round.  Ula took a break while Skronk, Moronae, and Vinki went to go do the troll tablets run, which has the previously mentioned benefit of swinging through areas for raptors, panthers, and tigers.

We circled back from that to Nesingwary then to the rebel camp, where we happened to catch Private Thorsen doing his patrol, which allows you to get another quest chain going.  Unfortunately, Ula wasn’t back yet so missed out on grabbing that.

After a bit of a break we made out final run of the evening at the Kurzen camp.  We made a quick venture to the camp to knock out one last preliminary quest, then picked up the final goal.  We were after Colonel Kurzen himself.

I remembered this vaguely enough to know that we had to go all the way to the end of the cave to find him.  We found a solo druid who was trying to go that way as well and asked if he could join, so Skronk invited him.  We had the room.

And then we were into the caves and clearing our way to Colonel Kurzen.  That wasn’t particularly tough as the mobs are not elite, but there are a lot of them and you have to plow through row after row of them to advance and even non-elites can pile on if you pull too many.

We had made it through most of the cave and were just down the path from Colonel Kurzen himself, literally right outside his den at the end of everything, when a level 44 night elf hunter ran right past us as we were mid-fight and into Kurzen’s room.

I wasn’t going to let that stand.  I abandoned the mob I was finishing and ran into the room after him and tagged Colonel Kurzen with my gun.  It was on.

We were, of course, still involved with a couple mobs and Kurzen had a couple more with him, while the colonel himself is an elite with his own special routine.  It was not a guaranteed slam dunk at that point, and the hunter was content to let us work this out on our own.

Getting thing under control was… a challenge.  Things looked bad when Skronk went down before I could pull mobs off of him.  But we had two druids in the group, so there was a combat ress to be had.  Our guest druid got his off, putting Skronk back in the fight as we eventually got a handle on everything.  Kruzen went down, we looted his head, and that was that.

We had to fight some of the way back out of the cave, the respawn rate being what it was, along with stopping to get the the contents of the locked box that was on the quest chain that Private Thorsen set us on.  But from there it was back to the rebel camp to turn things in.

At that point Ula hit level 36, the first in the main group to do so.  Viniki was very close to 36, and managed to get there with a few kills later on.  Skronk likewise managed to get to 36 shortly thereafter.  And Moronae is very close to 36 and will likely get there soon enough; if not before out next run, then probably not too many mobs into it.

So we look to be set up to make another run at the armory in Scarlet Monastery.

Blizzard Wants to Lock You In with a Flying Rat

A different sort of Room 101.

With Tuesday’s post about the Visions of N’Zoth update for Battle for Azeroth, there was a short bit of discussion as to what else Blizz might do to keep people subscribed between now and the launch of the Shadowlands expansion.  I suggested that they might do another “free mount with a six month subscription” offer.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when less that 48 hours later Blizzard announced a “free mount with a six month subscription” offer.

Welcome Squeakers

The deal itself is the same as the usual 6 month subscription deal, which averages out to $12.99 a month in the US, saving you a bit over the usual $14.99 when you pay by the month.  You just get a free mount, which is a $25 value, because that is what Blizzard charges for mounts and the fans have established that they will pay that much.

Now with free rat

I don’t think you can get Squeakers on his own, but why would you want to? [Edit: Yes you can, though it is tough to find on the web site.]  And certainly Blizz wants to keep you on the books until the 9.0 patch and the warm up to Shadowlands.  And this will no doubt play well in Asia where the lunar new year is approaching, and with it the year of the rat.

The mount and subscription deal is a limited time offer.  You have until February 23rd to take advantage of this deal.  If you bought it on the  last day that would get you into August on your subscription, when I suspect we will see the Shadowlands expansion launch.

Of course, the mount does not apply to WoW Classic, where I have been spending my time, so I am not particularly interested.  I already have enough mounts in WoW retail and, due to the last six month deal mis-firing, I am still subscribed out until June anyway.

The Library and the Armory

After a bit of time off around the holidays the instance group was able to form back up for another run this past Sunday.  Various holiday distractions meant that not much progress was made by anybody during the off time, which meant that we were still mostly in the level range for the library in the Scarlet Monastery, which we had previously run through.

Also, we were a group of four again, our lineup looking like this:

  • Viniki – level 34 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 33 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 33 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 32 gnome mage

I fear that Obama may have lost interest… or has other, more pressing interests… as he hasn’t logged in for quite a stretch.  Meanwhile, things have not settled down enough to get Earl on with us regularly, leaving us with the gang of four.

As the Scarlet Monastery library was still in the level range for us… maybe a level or two above our range really… we decided to take another run at that.  There was a quest in Ironforge that we had neglected to pick up previously that required us to pick up a book in the library, so at least we had a task.

We all grabbed the quest and headed for Southshore where we commenced another trot across the landscape to the Scarlet Monastery.  This time we managed to neither go completely wide of the mark nor run through the camp with the guards that wiped us out last time.  We kept to the road, swinging wide once we got past the Undercity.

Dangerous turn off

I did veer us a little bit more northward than I might have needed, but we arrived outside the Scarlet Monastery complex intact.  And we got the map update for Brill, so our Tirisfal Glades map isn’t quite so blank as before.

While it was Sunday afternoon, which can be something of a quiet time, we did have a couple other groups around, so we didn’t have to clear the whole way to the library door, though we did get in over our heads a little bit at one point before another group wandered in to help.

And once inside we nearly got a wipe on the second engagement.

The first area is corridor with four groups and a walker that comes and goes.  We cleared off the first group right away.  Then I shot the target in the second group to pull him, only to find he just wanted to sit there and cast, so I ran up to him and engaged.  Moronae followed me in cat form and got behind him, which put him just in range to proximity pull the next group.  Now we had four mobs to deal with.  As that was going on, the walked came up as well and joined in just as Skronk was dropping a heal on me.  An archer, she began pelting Skronk at range while her hound pet went chasing after him.  We were spread out down the corridor so losing aggro on somebody meant scrambling about, and I got there too late to save Skronk at one point and he went down.

Things were looking bad, but then somebody remembered that Moronae, a druid, had a combat ress, so he was able to get Skronk back up as we carried on.  I thought things were getting worse when I saw another hound engaged in the fight, but that was Ula using the dog whistle she got as a drop from Houndmaster Loksey last time.

In the end, we made it, but it was something of a mess.  At least we had cleared out most of the room.

We remained standing

That done, we took it a little more carefully going forward, clearing the courtyard and taking down Houndmaster Loksey without much in the way of drama.  Having been through the instance once already, we were somewhat aware of places we where we needed to take care, though being a few levels below some of the mobs, which range 33-37, we still managed the accidental proximity pull now and then.  But that generally happened when we were setting up for a fight anyway, so we carried on, stopping for a rest now and then.

Just enough chairs for our group

We picked up the book we were looking for along the way.  That took a couple minutes as the book disappears once somebody picks it up.  But it respawns eventually.

Ula grabbing the book

We worked our way around to the final corridor with only a few more accidental proximity pulls along the way.

Look, we won, didn’t we?

That left us with the main boss, Arcanist Doan.  The fight with him went about as well as we could have hoped.  He still sheeps the healer now and then, but we burned him down quickly enough that there wasn’t much of an issue.

Doan Down

As with our last run, he dropped the robe and the illusionary rod, the two big caster items.

There was a bit of confusion over who should get the illusionary rod.  I was sure it had dropped the last time but nobody remembered who got it.  Then Ula found it in her bag.  The problem was that it requires level 34 to use and neither she nor Skronk were there yet.

Skronk’s reward this time

At that point we were done with the instance, but we still had some time.  Both casters had the boss drops they wanted, so there wasn’t much point in doing the library again, so we decided to poke our noses into the armory wing of the Scarlet Monastery.  We were well below level for that, but we wanted to see how far we could get, so we started to run back to the entrance of the library… and ran unwittingly into a bunch of mobs and promptly wiped.

About where we picked up that book

Now, I remembered that instances in vanilla WoW respawned.  There was always that hanging over a group’s head back in the day if the run was going too slowly.  But in my mind respawns were something like a 2 hour thing.  We ran into respawned mobs at the location where we had taken them down about 30 minutes previously.  These instances are small, so maybe that accounts for the quicker timer, but it came as a surprise.

Still, we were out and nobody was keen to fight our way through the library in both directions.  So we ran back as ghosts, revived in the library, then exited to go next door to the armory.

Like most of the complex, the armory isn’t a big instance.  You work your way through the courtyard and then the open plan office area where most of the mobs hang out, to the the long corridor, finally ending up with Herod and the Scarlet Monastery floor show at the end.

The armory layout

We were definitely a little paranoid going in.  For some reason I had a bad feeling lurking in the back of my head about the open archery range, like there was some event or such that gets triggered there.

Are we the targets?

However, that might be something from the post-Cataclysm revamp in my head.  It proved to require just a careful clear to get through it, and only careful due to the rising level of the mobs and the possibility of more proximity pulls.  Mob levels were running 36-38 and, while Ula and Moronae had both leveled up, we were still punching up with a short group.

Once inside the armory we managed to keep things mostly under control.  The open space plan means that fleeing mobs can run straight to the next group if you are unlucky.  But we seemed to do okay.

The armory layout

Our first problem came at the top of the stairs in the room with the cannons, where we managed to get a patrol and proximity adds due to the closeness of the groups.  Things again looked like they might fall apart as mobs took down Skronk while I was trying to taunt them off.  Mobs resisting taunts and spells and polymorph were becoming much more common.

But Moronae’s combat ress was off cool down and Skronk was alive again and we managed to get through the fight.  We carefully moved forward, arriving at the fireworks stockpile after a few careful fights.

There we were facing a pair of level 38 mobs off to the right down the corridor.  There was also another pair of level 38 mobs on the left side of the corridor, which I thought everybody saw, but when I pulled the right pair somebody stepped into proximity range of the left pair and we suddenly had four mobs that were very resistant to our efforts to deal with.  It did not end well.

Ula throwing ice in the last moments

We wiped.

And, when we ran back we found that the instance had begun to respawn as the library had.  Also, we got too close to the first two mobs and pulled them by proximity… again… and had to flee the instance for the dark anteroom outside.  That happened to have another group hanging out in it.  We decided that we had gone about as far as we were likely to get… there was no way we were going to be able to take on the boss encounter with most of the group six levels below him.  So we recalled.

Stoning out in the dark anteroom

Three of us had our stones set in Ironforge, where we landed comfortably back at the bar.

We needed a drink

Along the way Skronk made it to 34, so was able to wield the illusionary rod.  Ula still has a ways to go for hers.

From the bar we ran first to repair, then across Ironforge to turn in the one quest we had.  The reward for that was a +6 stamina +6 spirit item for the neck slot.  Given that was empty for all of us, we were happy to have it.  Now we only have empty trinket slots, and it might be a while for that.  You don’t get the carrot on a stick until ZF.

We might have to spend a bit of time leveling up between instance runs.  We’re clearly shy of being able to do the armory wing, and nowhere close to the cathedral.  Also, we might have to work on a plan to fill out that lingering empty spot in our group.

Addendum:  Ula did a video of our run through the library where you can see, among other things, our near wipe at the start of the instance.

As always, amazing work by Ula with a fun sound track.  If you watch it on her channel you can see it in full 1440p.

Battle for Azeroth Enters the Final Lap

Today we get the 8.3 patch for Battle for Azeroth.  At least it is today in the US and related regions.  Europe gets it tomorrow and I gather Asia will get it the day after that.

Titled Visions of N’Zoth, it is, if not the final patch, then likely the final bit of content the expansion will be able to call its own.

Visions of N’Zoth arrives

The list of things coming with this update is quite impressive.  It includes:

  • Corrupted Zones: Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms
  • New Raid: Ny’alotha, the Waking City
  • Awakened Assaults: The Servants of N’Zoth
  • Horrific Visions
  • New Legendary Cloak: Ashjra’kamas, Shroud of Resolve
  • New Corrupted Items and Rewards
  • Deepwind Gorge Redesign
  • New Pet Battle Dungeon: Blackrock Depths
  • New Allied Races: Vulpera and Mechagnomes
  • Death Knights for All
  • Auction House Overhaul
  • New Quests
  • New Warfront: Heroic Darkshore
  • New Brawl: Teeming Islands
  • Darkmoon Faire Arcade
  • New Mounts
  • Updates to classes, dungeons, raids, items, etc.

That is a serious list, though it is probably the final list, the list of features that will close out the legacy of the Battle for Azeroth expansion.  There has been quite a bit of discussion by the dedicated aboutmany of the features, though I think the most buzz has been around the allied races… and specifically the Vulpera.

The Vulpera arrive

From the allied race announcement:

Clever and resourceful, the vulpera of Vol’dun have survived amidst the sands for generations. Eager to join the ranks of the Horde, their caravans have departed from the dunes in search of adventure.

The serpentine sethrak have taken to subjugating anyone they can as slaves, and the vulpera are an easy target for their machinations. If you’ve taken steps to liberate the vulpera from these overseers, they’ll join the Horde on the battlefield.

  • Available Classes: Hunter, Mage, Monk, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock, Warrior, and Death Knight
  • Racial Traits:
    • Bag of Tricks – Use a trick on an enemy to damage them, or an ally to heal them.
    • Rummage Your Bag – Change the contents of your Bag of Tricks. Now where did you put that…?
    • Make Camp – Set your camp location outdoors.
    • Return to Camp – Teleport back to your camp location.
    • Nose for Trouble – Take less damage from the first strike inflicted by an enemy.
    • Vulpera Survival Kit – Find extra goods when you loot humanoids.
    • Fire Resistance – Take less damage from fire.

The unique/cute/fun look of the Vulpera, along with their racial traits have led some to forecast how things will end up looking on the Horde side of the game soon.

By the weekend surely…

The new Alliance allied race, the Mechagnomes, pale by comparison.  I mean, sure, there are some out there for whom “more gnomes!” is an incentive, but how many are there?  From the announcement:

Though they once sought to mechanize themselves completely, the mechagnomes now seek a balance between flesh and steel. Emerging from years of isolation on Mechagon, they bring both ingenuity and aptitude to the Alliance.

They left Gnomeregan to construct a metal metropolis, Mechagon. However, their once wise and ambitious ruler King Mechagon now ruthlessly rules over them with an iron fist.

Work together with the Rustbolt Resistance to overthrow their tyrant so these mechanical mavericks will join the Alliance.

  • Available Classes: Hunter, Mage, Monk, Priest, Rogue, Warlock, Warrior, and Death Knight
  • Racial Traits:
    • Re-Arm – Automatically heal yourself when your health drops to a low life total.
    • Combat Analysis – Get stronger as you fight the same enemy.
    • Hyper Organic Light Originator – Summon decoys of yourself to distract foes.
    • Skeleton Pinkie – Open locked chests.
    • Mastercraft – Function as a personal set of crafting tools for professions.

Both allied races have a faction grind you must complete and a list of achievements you must obtain before they can be unlocked.  But we’ve known about the requirements for a few months now, so I am sure people are prepped to get there.

The downside, for me at least, and I have unlocked most of the previous allied races, is that you end up with a level 20 character and a 100 levels between you can the cap.  But Blizz has discounted race and faction changes by 30% in anticipation of this.  Discount available through February 3rd.

And that will be the end of Battle for Azeroth.  There are reportedly no plans for something like an 8.3.5 patch.  This will be where the expansion is done and we’ll have been given all it has to offer.  Work by the WoW team will no doubt be focused on the upcoming Shadowlands expansion.

Battle for Azeroth will depart with something of a mixed legacy.  There was a lot there to like.  Kul’Tiras and Zandalar were both cool and interesting areas.  But it also seemed to include something to irk just about everybody.  From the burning of Teldrassil to the counter-intuitive level scaling to the dissatisfaction with classes to the simple, unfavorable comparisons with how things worked in Legion.

I had great hopes going in.  I had Horde and Alliance characters lined up so as to experience both sides of the story.  But the expansion just wore me down.  Playing a pally in WoW Classic felt better than playing one in Battle for Azeroth.

And the legacy of the expansion will be short lived.  By the time summer rolls around Blizzard will be getting ready to roll out the pre-Shadowlands patches, which will include the risky level squish.  That will make everybody at the cap level 50 and turn all of the past expansions into parallel paths to get players from level 10 to 50.

The new leveling flow from BlizzCon

I am waiting for Blizz to come out with their final plan on the squish… they could still make every expansion annoying by putting the BFA level scaling scheme into them… but it will let you pick your favorite expansions to level in, and even swap between them mid-way, while allowing you to avoid the ones you did not like.  I am not sure Battle for Azeroth would be on my list were I to level up another alt.

Anyway, today begins the final round of the expansion.  For its fans, I hope it will add up to a good send off.  I remain mixed on the whole thing, which has made me skeptical about Shadowlands as well.  But we have months left before I need to worry about that and WoW Classic is still running along just fine for me.

My ManicTime Numbers for 2019

We have finally arrived at what I believe to be my final end of year post.  I have nothing else on my list.  So after this it will likely be a return to my more common ramblings and complaints.

I mentioned back in January of 2019 that I was going to track my game time with ManicTime.

The idea came from Endgame Viable and landing as it did right at the end of the year it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.  And so with every month in review post for 2019 I added a short entry that listed out which games were tracked at what percentage of my play time they represented.

But, of course, I kept all those numbers in a spreadsheet so I could trot out the numbers for the full year once it was done.  And here we are with the list of all the games tracked.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%
  8. Path of Exile – 0.84%
  9. Dota Underlords – 0.82%
  10. Civilization V – 0.60%
  11. Diablo – 0.46%
  12. Defense Grid – 0.44%
  13. StarCraft – 0.43%
  14. MS Solitaire – 0.33%
  15. New World – 0.31%
  16. Teamfight Tactics – 0.19%
  17. EVE Aether Wars – 0.14%
  18. Combat Mission – 0.10%
  19. Age of Empires 2 – 0.09%
  20. GTA V – 0.08%

That list is pretty easily parsed into two sections.  There are the first seven games, which are measured in full percentage points, and everything else, which are in fractional percentage points.  That, in turn, lines up pretty nicely with this chart from a previous end of year post, where I graphed the games I recorded playing every month in the month in review posts.

2019 games played by month

Yes, that list is slightly different… WoW Classic is its own thing while a couple of the ManicTime measured games are not listed… but basically, the top seven on the list are games I played for more than a single month or so.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%

So what makes those seven games so special.  That six of the seven are MMORPGs is the most obvious.

World of Warcraft was always going to be a player on that list, but the launch of WoW Classic was what made it a lock for the top spot.  The first couple months I binged a lot on that.  And, as I mentioned in the December month in review, Blizz changed the name of the WoW Classic executable and ManicTime now tracks that independent of retail WoW, so we will get to see how those two diverge in 2020.

EVE Online is the static regular.  It isn’t the monthly top of the list unless there is a war… and, honestly it suffers somewhat from the fact that it is the game I spend the most time tabbed out of and in another window while playing and ManicTime stops the clock when the game isn’t the window of focus… but zKillboard has me recorded for every month of 2019 with a kill mail, though for August the kill mail was me.

EverQuest II is probably the biggest surprise on the list.  I wander back into it every year or so for a bit of time, and expected to again this year due to the 15th anniversary thing.  What I did not expect was to find the stars aligned just right for me to get hooked and lined up to run into a new expansion.  It ought to have been down with EverQuest.  Instead it banked nearly 10% of my play time for the year mostly in the last two months.

LOTRO was kind of the hangover game in the new year.  It was in kind of the EverQuest II position for 2018, where the LOTRO Legacy server thing saw it get a lot of binge play.  However that tapered off as I wrapped up the initial content, and did not pick up when Mines of Moria was unlocked.  It got a bit of time as I poked my nose in now and then to try out things like the new 64–bit client.  But for the  most part things ended when Moria began.

Minecraft saw a burst of activity when Microsoft released a big new update, the Village & Pillage thing.  However, once that wore off, things tapered off and I eventually backed up the world and turned off the Minecraft Realms server.

And then there is EverQuest with just under 4% of my time, which ended up being about 45 hours of play time.  That is more than I thought I might spend with the game.  Despite updates and expansions and all that, it is still a 20 year old title and I have been away from it for so long that it can be tough to find my way when I jump back in.  But I found a path to follow for a bit and got to be around for the anniversary.

Which leaves us with RimWorld, the sole single player game on the list.  How did that happen?

RimWorld is a very good combo of elements that appeal to me.  It isn’t constantly demanding.  You spend time adjusting or setting priorities rather than directly doing things.  It has that compelling “I just want to see what happens next” aspect to it, akin to the “just one more turn” thing that a good Civilization title gives you.  And it is pretty compatible with listening to podcasts or audio books.  Something I pick the game I want to play because I want to listen to something while I am doing it.

The question really is why I didn’t play more RimWorld if it has a feature set that appeals to me.  And the answer to that is “mid-game.”  Just like Civilization and some other titles, eventually you solve your critical problems and your path forward becomes clear and you end up just tuning and adapting a bit and solving little issues and pushing back on random attacks, but things are otherwise so in the bag that you know you’ll get there.

Looking at the numbers so far for 2020, EverQuest II is well ahead of the pack.  It is my current focus title for solo play.  That doesn’t mean it will stay there.  I have a habit of being into it for a stretch, the dropping it to return to WoW.  And WoW Classic is still a thing and the instance group has many dungeons ahead of it in the new year.  The interesting question will be if some new or unexpected title makes it into the full percentage point, multi-month play category for 2020.

But now, one final question.  Did ManicTime alter my game play habits?  This might seem a silly question to some, but it has long been proven that observation and measurement of people’s behavior will change that behavior, and it is something that I felt I needed to bring up at the six month mark of using ManicTime.  I am going to say yes, and unequivocally so, that ManicTime did influence my game choices and play time in some way.  The question is only how much.

I am pretty sure, for example, that my games played list for 2019 is only 20 games deep due to the knowledge in my head that I was tracking and  reporting on games played.  How significant was that I cannot say.  I would guess that the list might have had from two to five more titles on it otherwise.  There are probably a few games I might have launched had something in the back of my head not said, “Do you want to have to write about that in the monthly wrap up?”  I was determined to mention every game tracked early on, though I relented on that as time passed.  But it still sits there in my brain.

On the flip side, I am going to say that GTA V might not have even been launched had I not been measuring.  There may have been some internal mental pressure to get it on the list after having said I bought it during the Steam Summer Sale.  (We’ll see if my buying The Witcher during the Winter sale does the same thing!  I’ve already thought about it.)

So without ManicTime the list might have been as low as 19 or as high as 25 possibly.  And a “made from memory” end of year list might have even been much shorter.  That month to month chart above only has 17 titles from the ManicTime list.

That said, I suspect that the changes would have been confined to the “less than a full percentage point” part of the list.  I can attest to being tracked having made small changes to my behavior, but I doubt it was going to suddenly make me start playing something I didn’t already have a mind to play, nor keep me playing a game that had grown  stale.  I said nice things about RimWorld a couple paragraphs up, but it hasn’t gotten any play time recently.

And so it goes.  Heisenberg was right.  But people will over think so many things that I find it difficult to worry about, even as I over think it.

What Would I Like to See in 2020

So far this year I have done predictions and a forecast of my own likely game play pattern for 2020.  It is time for something more upbeat here on the first Monday of the new decade.

The problem is that I am a bit of a pessimist by nature.  I am a product of my environment and have been part of too many rosily optimistic ventures that have been about as well grounded in reality as that of the gnomes in South Park.  Four out of five start ups fail because they cannot satisfactorily answer that second section. If I never hear another exec wave away objections to a vague plan with a quote from Field of Dreams I would be quite happy.

So even in a post predicated in optimism I feel the need to stay somewhat grounded.  No miracles.  No “just be good so you get a million customers” sentiments.  Which, of course, makes this post a tad more difficult.

World of Warcraft

Just make Shadowlands not suck?  I’m already off track.  See, this is going to be difficult.  Hrmm…

Okay, maybe get this whole level squish thing right?  I am warming to the idea of being able to run an alt from 10 to 50 through which ever expansion I choose.  But I also wonder about the itemization and how it might make all those parallel experiences lose any uniqueness when it comes to equipment. Also, I know they said they thought about this, but still make sure the favorite of running old raids is still viable at level cap.  And whatever you do, don’t make mobs scale based on ilevel.  That went so badly in BFA.  You could literally screw over all new players… unless the plan is to force them to buy character boosts, which is something not included with the Shadowlands base expansion.   Please don’t do that either.

Class rework.  Make classes great again or something.  WoW Classic has shown how well simplicity can work.  It was imperfect, but the designers can work from that.  At one point I had seven different classes at level cap.  With BFA only two of them were any fun to play.

WoW Classic

Again, a place where I could go crazy with pie in the sky wishes, like wanting Blizz to develop fresh new content on the WoW Classic platform.  But that just isn’t going to happen, so I have to reign myself in.

Given that, I want a path forward to later expansions.  I don’t know how Blizz is going to do it, but if five years down the road there are not classic experiences availabe for The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, I will be angry.  That is the Cornetto Trilogy of WoW.

What the best path forward will be remains to be seen.  Separate fresh start expansion servers?  Transfers off of WoW Classic to expansions?  Expand WoW Classic into the new content?  No matter which way they go somebody will be pissed off.  And I suspect that Blizz will end up needing to create a version of the client for each era, which will no doubt lead to them bitching about having to keep a total of four clients up to date.  But this is a gold mine and will pay for itself if worked correctly.

EVE Online

All I want is vision.  Of course when CCP is talking about vision we complain about all the little broken things they ignore, and when they work on tactical items like balance and all the little broken things we go on about a lack of vision.

That said, I still think the lack of a longer term vision for the game is hurting EVE Online.  As I have opined before, people who like space games tend to be the type of people who get caught up in vision and the promise of the future.  Making sure the NPE doesn’t drive people away is a good goal, but it doesn’t spark any sense of adventure or wonder at the possibilities.  As lame as player made star gates ended up being, just the idea of them and what they might be was probably worth something.  We need a vision.  And visions are cheap, though it does help if one goes with a vision that has some grounding in the possible.

EverQuest

There are so many things I would like to see done with EverQuest, not the least of which is a redone modern client.  I would happily take all the old content, doled out in annual increments, named EverQuest III or whatever, if they could just throw together a client that ran even half as smoothly as WoW Classic.  That is probably too much to wish for, but if somebody like Pearl Abyss bought the Norrath part of Daybreak… hell, I’d take a Black Desert Online looking version of EverQuest too.

More in reality-ville, I honestly think the best I can hope for is ongoing annual expansions and maybe a new special server now and then.  Oh, and a heroic insta-level character boost that goes higher than level 85.

EverQuest II

The other Norrath franchise is strange because it is both crazy insular and focused on its core audience while being, at times, deeper than the ocean.  And the team is still not afraid to try new things every expansion.

So while my main wish might be a more comprehensible game… I don’t know how, as a new player wandering in off the street, how you even get started in such a way as to make the game stick… part of its charm at this point is its level of incomprehensibility.  I write what might seem like angry posts about the crazy level of effort that sometimes goes into getting things done, but that is what keeps me engaged.  However, I have no idea how somebody gets the wiki together.  I look at the flow of some of the signature quests and wonder how long it took to figure out some of those steps.  It still struggles from all the same problems, like too much old, outdated, and opaque content, odd, confusing, and sometimes archaic mechanisms to guide you places, the strange focus on the potency stat over all others, and way way too many skills.

With all those problems I cannot come up with an simple or realistic change.  I mean, I kind of want a Station Cash sale, but I am pretty sure there are still burnt fingers in accounting from that.

So I guess my wish here is to keep on being weird?

Lord of the Rings Online

Even more than the Daybreak team, Standing Stone Games feels like a group that doesn’t have a lot of slack for ambitious projects that won’t either bring in money, like an expansion, or that are required to keep the game viable going forward, like a 64-bit client.  So asking for a better patching mechanism to replace that “let me inventory all your files on the fly then go grab the files I need and copy them over one by one” isn’t going to make it.

Neither is some of the new content I might like.  One of the oppressive aspects of the MMORPG genre is the “moving ever forward” aspect of it.  So we’re never going to get, say, an alternate leveling path that would bypass Siege of Mirkwood.  Wouldn’t I love that?

So down in reality-ville, maybe fix the legendary weapon system?  That is a serious mill stone around the neck of the game, an awkward, demanding, do I really need to go back to a settlement and reforge this piece of crap again mechanic that they should have let go of when we passed out of Moria.

That, however, probably won’t be enough to get me to go back and play.  So maybe a special rules server?  I realize that one of my predictions this year was that SSG would go that route and do it badly.  But that doesn’t mean I cannot wish they would come up with something fun and new and interesting.

The MMORPG Genre

I realize that, as somebody whose wish list so far is made up of a set of games, the newest of which launched in 2007, I am not your ideal customer.  Or I am exactly your ideal customer as I will clearly become invested in your game and stick with it long term.

If the former is true, stop copying the games I already play and do something new that will attract a different target audience.  I’ve made it pretty clear with my dollar votes that I am not going to run off to play your game due to the graphics being 43% better or the elves being 19% sluttier.

If the latter is true… well… same story I guess.  Why would I put in the work to get invested in your new version of WoW if you are mostly retreading the old version with some minor variations?  Again something new.

Of course, the problem is that anything really new likely won’t fit nicely into my internal definition of what an MMORPG is or should be.  So, really, I have nothing here.  But I felt I needed to explain why.

Steam

Just curate.  You know you want to.  You’re effectively doing it already.  Just admit that there is, in fact, some bar a title needs to clear in order to find a space in your store.

I get it.  I get that having the biggest pile of games is a marketing point.  But I could illustrating the 2008 mortgage lending crisis of the with Steam.  It started out with quality, but then over time, to keep things going, it became necessary to mix in a lot of low value shit that kind of ruined it for a lot of people… like indy devs with actual quality titles who haven’t a hope in hell of getting noticed.

Honestly, I think the biggest rock that the Epic Store could throw at you is that your service is ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound bag.  It is hard to navigate and filled with things people don’t care about.  And once Epic gets a store that worth being something beyond second place, they might go there.  Steam is safe for the moment because Epic doesn’t have the critical mass to be anybody’s exclusive.  Steam is the only place you can have almost everything you want.  They even got EA and Microsoft to bend to their will and admit last year that they need Steam.

So Epic is trying to poach exclusives to make themselves matter until they can get a quality critical mass.  At that point they can start talking about what a huge pile of garbage Steam is.  Yes, I know EA tried that back when they introduced Origin, saying that they would be the Nordstrom to Steam’s Target.  But EA is rampant capitalism dressed up as a video game company and couldn’t back up their words.

Others

I tend to ignore pretty much everything else in gaming, unless it becomes a meme or so popular that it is getting a lot of press.  So maybe something that would distract for my MMORPG obsession for a bit?

Anyway, we will see what the year brings.

My Gaming Forecast for 2020

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.

-Woody Allen

There are days when I want to quit my job, sell the house, cash in my 401k, and do whatever the modern MMO equivalent of buying a VW bus and following The Grateful Dead would work out to be.

I can’t quite imagine what that would be, and it is all a bit of fantasy, as much as the virtual worlds I wander around in.  Also, I have a now adult daughter whose college education needs paying for, not to mention what my wife might have to say about such notions.  And my 401k only recovered from the last recession due to the money I have shoveled into it since.

Reality dictates a more modest vision.

So when a part of me wants to fly free, do new things, and maybe actually play Project: Gorgon or some other game less than a decade old, I have to temper myself with an examination of what is really likely to happen.

And so any such list has to start grounded, setting a foundation of the likely or obvious.  What will I play in 2020?  Here is the forecast.

The Sure Things

Games I will almost assuredly play in 2020.

  • WoW Classic

I’ve almost certainly logged in and played this, even if just for a short time, since the clock struck midnight and the new year was rung in.

And why shouldn’t I play it?  I am enjoying it, I have friends to play with, and it is a voyage both nostalgic and fulfilling.  Four months into the game and in our 30s, the instance group is maybe a third of the way

  • EVE Online

The way my main account is setup right now I will remain an Omega clone into 2021 thanks to one final bump from the Fansite program.  There is no reason not to log in and keep things going.  But I am also feeling a bit weary of New Eden.  I have been subscribed and playing since late 2011, when I came back to see if the Crucible expansion would be a worthwhile return point after the fiasco of Incarna.  In December of 2011 I went to null sec and straight into a war and have been there ever since.  But wars in null sec are barely a thing anymore.  I’ll play some EVE Online, but it might be time for a change of scenery.  But what I may or may not do is something for another post.

  • EverQuest II

My last couple of runs back in Norrath have gone pretty well.  In fact, I did so well in November that I bought the Blood of Luclin expansion, having managed to get a character up to the level cap and ready to take part in it.  Having thus invested it seems pretty sure that I will play.  How long I will play is another question though.

The Likely Candidates

Titles that history indicates are probably going to get played.

  • WoW Shadowlands

This would have been a sure thing a couple of years back.  When was the last time I didn’t run straight to a WoW expansion launch? (Answer: Only twice, The Burning Crusade and Mists of Pandaria, both arguably very good expansions.)  But a decade haunted by wrong turns leaves me less than excited at the prospect of another WoW expansion.  We’ll see if I am saying that when the pre-expansion events kick off.

  • RimWorld

It seems probable that I will go back to this for a bit.  The build up part, the struggle to get to a stable state that can withstand setbacks is still quite enjoyable.  Whether I will be able to endure another long mid-game is another story.  But it is an easy game to pick up and while away the hours with as I listen to podcasts or audio books.

Possibilities

Titles I have a fondness for and which I wander back to now and then.

  • Civilization V

When I am in a mood for a strategy game there is always Civ V there waiting for me.

  • Stellaris

If not Civ V, then this is the other likely alternative.

  • World of Tanks

I keep thinking I am going to log in and play this again.  I think I like looking at the tanks more than I like playing, but it is still fun.

  • Minecraft

While I took down the Minecraft Realms server due to nobody playing, a big new update might get me back to poking around.

  • The Witcher

I just bought it on Steam for a buck and half, maybe I should play it.

The Long Shots

I might log into these now and again, but I am not sure I will commit to any real play time.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

The Legendary server proved to me once again how much I like the initial 1-50 content.  I suppose I might wander back into that.  The problem is, as I have said before, the Siege of Mirkwood is an impenetrable barrier for me, and the live servers hold no temptation.

  • EverQuest

For all the nostalgia I spew about EverQuest back in the day, it has not always aged well.  It looks and runs better than any 20 year old game has any right to, but that doesn’t mean it is the best game for me.

  • Diablo III

Not beyond the realm of possibility if I get the simple ARPG urge.  The problem is that I really only enjoy two classes in the game and I have played those multiple times.

  • Elite: Dangerous

Somebody said they have automated docking.  Since I could never quite master that, maybe it is worth a look back in at the game.

  • New World

I played in the closed test phase for Amazon’s new game last year.  It had its merits.  It was kind of interesting.  I just don’t know that it really grabbed me all that much.

I Should Make Time

But if history is any indicator, I likely won’t.

  • Project: Gorgon

I keep thinking I should go play, but it is always a few places down the list.  You find the time to do the things you really want to do, so that I have not found the time must mean I don’t really want to play I guess.

  • Grim Dawn

I should dedicate a month to just getting into this.  I dipped my toes into it previously, but didn’t get that far in.

  • Something Else from Steam

My list of unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library is annoyingly long.  It weighs upon me if I stare at it too long.

Something New?

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’re probably of the opinion that new isn’t really my thing.  And it would be difficult to argue with that, though I would point out that a lot of “new” seems synonymous with “the same old stuff we’ve seen before.”  I think the only “new” I saw last year was the auto battler genre.

Still, I live in hope.  Maybe there will be something new in 2020 that will catch my eye.