Category Archives: WoW Classic

July in Review

The Site

There has been some discussion of the summer slump that EVE Online has been in, with the peak concurrent user numbers taking a dive over the last month or so.  There are several theories and lots of possible influences on that number, not the least of which is that it is summer and pandemic restrictions have been relaxed so some people just want to go on vacation after 15 months stuck at home.

EVE Online gets the focus here because they let people see their online numbers all the time and there is a site dedicated to tracking them.  Other games are less forthcoming with these sorts of stats, which makes it look like it might just be a New Eden problem.

Looking at my own blog stats however, I see a similar trend when it comes to pages view when I bring up the week by week stats.

Weekly page views – May – July 2021

The current week is a little low due to the measurement being from Monday to Sunday, but you can see the trend down from May to July, which lines up pretty well with the weekly peak concurrent user number I have been tracking in my weekly World War Bee updates.

This is not to say that CCP doesn’t have other problems, but it feels like there is a bit of a slump in interest in video games after more than a year of people binging on them.

One Year Ago

The 2020 Steam Summer Sale finished up.  I bought some things.

In TorilMUD, aging was abolished.

SSG was compensating people for outages in Lord of the Rings Online.

Minecraft gave us the Nether Update.  I went out and found a crimson forest in the nether.

I was reflecting on Diablo II at its twenty year anniversary.  We didn’t know for sure there would be a remaster at that point.

Blizzard was getting us more details about the Shadowlands beta and launch.

In WoW Classic the instance group was finishing up Zul’Farrak and then meandering about Maraudon, which we finished up on our second run.

Blizzard was banning botters in classic while getting ready to open up the Ahn’Qiraj war effort event.  As part of the anti-botting effort they were limiting the number of instances players could spawn in a day, but we were at least getting some extra bag slots.

CCP cancelled their San Diego player event as Covid did not look to be going away any time soon.

I also resigned myself to the fact that, despite past promises, CCP was going to keep selling skill points in EVE Online.  (I’d feel better if they stopped being so dumb about it.)

In game we saw the launch of the Zenith Quadrant, the first part which was a small update to command ships, and an official capsuleer cemetery at Molea.  The June MER showed that mining was shifting to high sec after the resource changes.

But the bulk of my posts in July were about the opening of World War Bee, which I am just going to list out rather than try to create a paragraph narrative:

Five Years Ago

Pokemon Go was everywhere after it launched.  Everywhere.

I listed out the NBI Class of 2016.  I haven’t gone to check how many survived the year.

Daybreak turned off the last PlanetSide server and the game was gone… though it lingered on the server status page for a while.

Daybreak did launch a pair of special event servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  I was keen enough to go earn the special mount on the EQII server.

There was strange news for Turbine as their parent company, Warner Brothers, announced that they were transitioning into a mobile app development studio.  We wondered what that meant for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

In Minecraft I was tinkering with maps and night renders while Aaron created a huge map room in game.

In World of Warcraft I managed to unlock flying in Draenor.  Just in time too, as the 7.0 patch was already pre-loading.  Soon the garrison gold mine would be turned off.  And then it hit, bringing new features.

In EVE Online the Casino War was winding down.  There was a Keepstar to chase, the alleged hellcamp, and some sovereignty exchanges in Pure Blind.  That wasn’t really going anywhere though.  We killed four titans in Okagaiken and blew up a CSAA just to show we were still fighting.  But in the end we admitted defeat and began packing for our trek to greener pastures.

Our destination was Delve, ever the region that calls to Goons.  But first we had to get through Rakapas.  I was there for a bit before I ended up soloing my carrier down to our staging in Sakht, accruing the maximum about of jump fatigue possible.

I also hit 160 million skill points while the Blog Banter spoke of malaise.

Ten Years Ago

Google+ was already starting to become annoying. (At the end of that post I also link out to an article that predicts that social media in general, and Facebook specifically, will start to fade by 2014.)

I tried Civ World, the Facebook interpretation of the classic Civilization series of games.  I didn’t like it.

In EVE Online, the results of the emergency CSM Incarna summit were released with CCP basically saying, “Ooops.”

I hit level 50 in LOTRO, got into Eregion, and actually saw the door into Moria.   Only a couple of years had passed since I bought the expansion. Gaff was ahead of me, as usual.   Meanwhile, Isengard was in beta, but nobody was supposed to talk about it.

Getting lost… rules.

EA, BioWare, and their new Origin service got together and combined my accounts without bothering to mention they were doing it in advance.  Just another day at EA as I understand it.  Customers come behind their own convenience.  Still, I was interested in their authenticator and how it stacked up against others.

Speaking of authenticators, SOE made one available as well that looked just like the Blizzard model.  But they cannot be swapped, one for the other.  I got the official line from VASCO on that.

And on the EverQuest II front, they announced that they were going to revamp Freeport, which I took as a waste of time.  (Plus, of course, Qeynos got shoved off until later.)  I am still not convinced that either revamp was worth the effort of the time spent downloading the assets.  But I am not sure Beastlords were either.  They seemed pretty broken when they launched.

The instance group wrapped up our last adventure in EverQuest II Extended.  There were a number of ways the game wasn’t right for us.  It wasn’t just the ugly mounts.

The pending closure of Star Wars Galaxies led to interest (and concerns) about SWG emulation.

But PlanetSide 2 news was coming.

I started playing Need for Speed: World, a driving MMO.  It wasn’t a bad game with the right music playing.

Zynga helped reveal the two faces of Tobold.

And World of Warplanes was announced, which got me wondering if this might not be a spiritual successor to Air Warrior of old. [The answer to that was “no.”]

Fifteen Years Ago

Twitter launched.  This blog has been entirely part of the Twitter era.

Microsoft was talking about a device to challenge the iPod and denying they would ship an XBox 360 with an HD DVD drive.  Being on the mark half the time is pretty good for them.

EA was trying to retain people by giving out more stock options and revising under water options while Take-Two Interactive was being investigated over stock grant shenanigans.

The ESA announced they were downsizing their yearly E3 conference.

The Civ IV – Warlords, the first expansion for the title, came out on Windows,

Twenty-Five Years Ago

The perhaps unfortunately named (and all the more so given the current scandal) CUC International purchased Blizzard Entertainment parent Davidson & Associates and Sierra Online, which became the heart of the new CUC Software.  The company later became Cedant Software, Havas Interactive, and eventually Vivendi Games.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. California Explores Gaming Power Usage
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  6. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  7. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  8. LOTRO Launches the Shadowfax and Treebeard Legendary Servers
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. On Immersion
  11. The End of Scarcity Foreseen in EVE Online in Q4 2021
  12. The Fraternity Alliance Update and the Direction of the War

Search Terms of the Month

is imperiume tech stock the one that bill gates called the holy grail
[Google says “no”]

how to get to the scarlet desert eq
[I actually have a whole post about that]

sylvanas x anduin wordpress
[The math doesn’t add up]

minecraft warm biome near cold biome
[I have screenshots of an ice biome taken from a desert biome]

Game Time from ManicTime

I came into the month working pretty hard on WoW Classic, or at least alts there.  Then the war started heating up a bit in New Eden and I tried a playing a few other titles.

  • WoW Classic – 51.04%
  • EVE Online – 24.36%
  • RimWorld – 12.44%
  • Flashing Lights – 4.64%
  • MMO Tycoon 2 – 4.51%
  • World of Warcraft – 1.06%
  • New World – 0.95%

EVE Online

Lots of little things going on in New Eden, but the war itself wasn’t very exciting.  PAPI decided to take the summer off at one point, then changes their minds and now are coming back for a final try to take our capitol.  They’ve only had a Keepstar next door since November.

New World

So yeah, I pre-ordered and have played a tiny bit in the beta.  Things have changed a lot since I was in one of the early betas a couple of years back at this point.  I am not sure I am happy with the direction the game took.  But more on all of that at a later date.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go Fest was the big deal this month.  My wife and I did a lot of that.  But the climb from 40 to 50… that’s a lot of xp.  To get from level 47 to level 48 you need 21 million xp, which is more than levels 1-40 combined.  You need to be pretty hard core for that, and yet I met a level 50 player during the event.  In talking to him, he just does everything I do, just a lot more often.  For example, he has caught almost 400K Pokemon, while my total is about 18K.

Level: 41 (69% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 654 (+8) caught, 677 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Heracross would finish my Johto Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

With the coming of the Ideology update for the game, I bought it and gave it a try.  I will no doubt have some words to write about what changed, but in general it is an easy game to sink back into even with the updates.

Steam Games

As I noted, I bought a few titles during the Steam Summer Sale.  You can see I’ve played them a bit in the Game Time section this post.  I plan to write something about each of them.  But plans often fall by the wayside.  I thought I would have a post up about at least one of them by this point, and yet here we are.

World of Warcraft

It was a bit more than the usual routine for retail WoW this month.  I did the Darkmoon Faire quests, but then I spent some time with pet battles when they had the bonus event running.  Still, over all, I didn’t spend much more than an hour with the game.

WoW Classic

I went into July strong on Burning Crusade Classic.  Or, at least the vanilla content as re-worked by the Burning Crusade updates.  I leveled my rogue from 21 to 37 while working on crafting and some other things.  And then the giant harassment scandal blew up at Blizz and, while my subscription hasn’t lapsed yet and our group is still playing a bit… we have paid for the privileged… we’re also discussing what we ought to do.

Coming Up

August means we will be getting some Q2 2021 financial reports.  Activision Blizzard should be interesting because it ought to give some insight into what the end of the lockdown in many places has meant to video games.

When it comes to WoW specifically the 9.1 patch came out at the very end of Q2, so the impact of that and the flow of players from retail WoW into FFXIV won’t be reflected until Q3 results.  And Q3… well, now that the state of California is after Activision Blizzard for creating and abetting a hostile workplace, I can only see things getting worse for the company.  They’re just another Riot and all their words about diversity and inclusiveness were just BS.  If you needed an actual example of virtue signalling… trying to ride on a popular wave that you don’t really care about… this might be it.  The question time for the Q2 call should be lit.

Then there is EVE Online.  August is traditionally a slow month for CCP as it is the nicest weather all year in Iceland, so they tend to emulate the French and go on vacation if possible.  But World War Bee still… rages?  I am not sure it has “raged” at all in the last six months.  But PAPI has promised an all out assault on the Imperium capitol, so maybe the rage will return to space, rather than hanging out in r/eve.

And, of course, it is the start of Blaugust, the annual blogging celebration.  It is not too late to join in.  There will be more about that tomorrow.

Going Rogue from Outland

I am not sure if it says more about me or the Burning Crusade content that I seem to be spending as much, if not more time, screwing around in old Azeroth as I do in the expansion content.

First, with the coming of the Burning Crusade Classic pre-patch I started working on my druid, who I managed to level from 36 all the way up into Outland.  Then there were trade skills to catch up and thorium to be mined.  And then, faced now with four characters in the expansion that I could work on, I turned around and picked up my rogue Chad.

Chad, or Chadwicke to give his full name, was part of the first group mix early on in WoW Classic.

Group 1.0 – Obama, Skronk, Chad, Jeepy, and Scscla

He was there for the run to Ragefire Chasm in the middle of Orgrimmar, the first instance we took on.  That was almost two years ago at this point.

Inside the instance

I was actually kind of invested in him at the time and had even given him a Chad catch phrase, marcro’d with an emote and sure to annoy everybody before too long.

Roll on brother Chad

However, it was not to be.  We ended up shifting characters and I ended up being the tank with my gnome warrior Viniki.

I worked on him for a little bit longer.  There was the possibility of another regrouping with Earl, but that never came to pass.  So he ended up at level 21 before I moved on to other characters.

When I returned to him last month he was still in the Santa’s Helper guise, from Winter Veil 2019 if I recall right.  That change has a 60 minute timer on it, so he hadn’t been logged in long during the intervening time.

I have also had a problematic relationship with rogues in WoW over the years.  It isn’t always a play style that suits me, so I wasn’t sure I would stick with it once I got him out again.  However, things seem to have gone well as he is already up to level 37.

I am glad I gave him a try for a few reasons.

First, it was nice to remind myself that the rogue isn’t as much like the cat form feral druid as I tend to think.  Sometimes I equate the two, forgetting some of the extras either class brings to the party.  Having buffs and heals makes the feral druid feel very different out in the field.

Second, which goes along with the previous one somewhat, is how complicated a class rogues were back in the early days of WoW.  I remembered lockpicking, which is a skill you get early on with your rogues, though I had forgotten the effort needed to go out and keep the skill up to date.

And then there are poisons.  I had totally forgotten that poisons were a thing and hadn’t really reached the point where I could unlock them before I let Chad slide.  Once I did the class quest to unlock those I had a whole new aspect of the game to play with.  There is a poison for every occasion and two weapons to coat so I can mix and match.  Also, poisons are both something that unlocks as you level up and a skill you have to keep up with, though the latter is pretty easy I suppose if you just make enough poison to keep your weapons coated at all times.

Finally, it has been interesting to see how much the game changed between the build chosen for WoW Classic and the build chosen for Burning Crusade Classic.

I got a bit of that with Alioto, my druid, going from 36 to 60 back in May and June.  But he was already at the start of the great dead spot for WoW Classic quests, so while I could see some improvement, he had to work a bit to get back on the center of the path forward.

Chad, at 21, got to enter his 30s and experience the fullness of quest options available.  Partially because there are more quests and partially because quest givers are on the mini map now so you don’t miss as many quests by accident, Chad hit level 36 and I felt like his quest log wasn’t big enough.  There is now almost an embarrassment of quests available, though I am trying to do them in order of level… I need that addon that puts the quest level in your quest log… to make sure I don’t gray out a bunch by mistake.  It doesn’t help that the WoW Head leveling guide is a bit off on which zones fall into which level bands.

If I play this through right I should vault Chad into his 40s with lots of options still available.

And then there are the quality of life improvements.  I mentioned the quest givers on the mini map, but there are also a few key new flight points.  At Chad’s level the new flight point at the Rebel Camp at the north end of Stranglethorn Vale is a huge help.

A new flight point has appeared

That means that the half dozen quests that require you to run back and forth from Booty Bay and either the Rebel Camp or Nessingwary’s camp are much easier to deal with.  I look forward to avoiding some similar runs when I get to Felwood, where there is also a new flight point.

And, with all that, I also got to enjoy getting a mount at level 30.

Riding through Redridge harvesting

Fortunately I have enough gold on my alts that it was now a no brainer to buy a mount for Chad.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we were working to scrape together the 10 silver for a guild charter.

Anyway, I am having fun with a rogue… whether or not that means I am avoiding Outland will likely be decided when he gets to 58.  Do I just roll up a shaman then?

Addendum: This post was written over the weekend, before the news broke about Activision Blizzard, so this might be the last post about their games until they do something.

Skulking in Frostwhisper Gorge for Thorium

I mentioned previously that our group, having arrived in Hellfire Peninsula, was still trying to catch up some lagging trade skills to keep up with our transition from vanilla content.

That was easy enough with some things.  Tistann, my hunter, was already at 300 for skinning and leather working.  Wilhelm, my pally, was up to 300 mining and closing in on 300 for engineering.  Viniki, past tank for the group and my weapons specialized blacksmith crafter, was in a bit of a bind though.

The path from 280, where he stood, to 300, requires a walk through a rich field of thorium veins… and he was hardly the only character in that situation.  The competition for thorium veins was pretty fierce.  So I was feeling kind of content at letting him stay behind for a while.

And then Ula succeeded in getting up to 300 in enchanting and needed a fel iron rod for Outland enchants and the market was alternating between empty and highway robbery on that front.  Suddenly a blacksmith with a 300 skill level seemed like a very handy thing to have around.  The rod is one of the first Outland recipes available for one.  I just needed a pile of thorium.  Fortunately, I had figured out a plan.

In farming for thorium for Wilhelm, I had noticed that at the south end of Winterspring, in Frostwhisper Gorge, there was a regular rotation of rich thorium vein spawns.

Six rich thorium veins

Unfortunately, the gorge is also home to a bunch of Frostmaul Giants, level 59-60 elites.  That makes getting into the gorge a bit of a challenge… unless you can stealth your way around.

Alioto, my recently level 60 feral druid had managed to get t 300 mining and could stealth around in cat form pretty well.  So I sent him there to farm the thorium veins.

Slipping by the giants

The next problem was the spawn rate.  Once you harvest a node it takes 20 minutes of so for another one to appear.  It is kind of dull just hanging out waiting for spawns to show up.

So I hit on the idea of just logging in every half hour to hour, depending on when I had the time, scooting along to find the current node.  Then I would mine it, go back into stealth mode, and log out again.

Sweet thorium vein spotted

This was pretty low pressure and something I could do throughout the day.  The joys of working from home.

In fact, logging in during the day was more fruitful than in the evenings.  Once the server hits prime time there starts to be some competition for the nodes.  There are a couple of level 70s who come in and farm the giants… they must drop something of value… and harvest the nodes.

But during the day things tend to be quiet.  Not perfect… you get a truesilver spawn every once in a while, which isn’t as useful… but pretty good.

A truesilver spawn

I had to hang out there for a while.  For Viniki to get from 280 to 300 blacksmithing, he needed to make 20 Imperial Plate bracers, which take 12 thorium each.  That is 240 thorium, which at 4-6 ore per spawn, takes a while.  But I just left Alioto parked in the gorge all week, logging in every once in a while to grab a bit more thorium.

Eventually I collected enough that his bags were full.  But when I sent it all to Viniki he went to work on the bracers and made it to 300.

300 the hard way

The fel iron rod was the next thing he made.  Op success!

Then I sent Alioto back to the gorge to help out Ula’s blacksmithing alt Scscla.  More thorium harvesting.

Swinging the pick again

One thing I did find out was that rich thorium nodes continue to give skill ups when you harvest them all the way to the Burning Crusade maximum.  Alioto hit 375 mining mostly on rich thorium.  (I did take hit to Hellfire Peninsula for some gear upgrades and he mined a bit of fel iron there.)

The whole thing has also made Alioto my wealthiest character.  Truesilver, and the gems from rich thorium veins, sell pretty well at the auction house.  He isn’t out buying an epic mount yet… but he is pretty close to that being an options.  Of course, that is in part because the expansion rewards pumped a bunch of gold into the economy, so everything at the auction sells for more.  But that is the way to get to a flying mount eventually.

What I Have Played so far in 2021

2021 is past the half way mark now and, as usual, the months seem to have slipped by.  But it did seem like a good time to maybe stop and look at what video games I played in the first six months of the year.  Thanks to ManicTime I have a handy list to work with.

Unfortunately, ManicTime can only tell me what I have played.  It cannot make my list longer or more interesting.  Still, let’s see where I spent my play time budget.

  1. Valheim – 40.18%
  2. WoW Classic – 39.50%
  3. EVE Online – 17.89%
  4. War in the Pacific – 0.97%
  5. Burning Crusade Classic Beta – 0.43%
  6. World of Warcraft – 0.39%
  7. Runes of Magic – 0.31%
  8. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.24%
  9. LOTRO – 0.09%

Not even an even ten games, though these are just games on my PC.  We can add Pokemon Go if I need the round number I suppose, but I don’t have times for that, so we’ll skip it.  Anyway, looking at that list we have:

  • Valheim

Proof that I do play new games now and again.  It came out of nowhere in February and distracted the instance group from WoW Classic for more than two months.  It is actually in second place now in my Steam library based on hours played, just barely ahead of RimWorld and out in front of Age of Empires II and War Thunder, but still quite a ways behind Civilization V.

  • WoW Classic

The title I expected to be in first place, though it isn’t far behind Valheim.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while it making the list is probably no surprise to you

  • EVE Online

I am sure it is a sign of the current state of World War Bee that my time spent in New Eden is less than half of the time played in either of the first two titles.  Still, it is in the top three that together make up about 97.5% of my PC gaming time so far this year.  I do wonder sometimes if I should give EVE a multiplier for play time because there is no other game I spend so much time playing while tabbed out in a browser looking something up, and ManicTime only counts the time when the game has focus.  Then again, I do also sit docked in a hangar doing nothing a good chunk of time too.

  • War in the Pacific

My apparent attempt to prove that I no longer have the patience to get into a complicated war game title.  22 year old me would have managed it.  Even 35 year old me might have made it.  But far side of 50s me isn’t getting there it seems.  I blame the tiny text and the lack of a zoom feature.  And even as a failed experiment it makes it into 4th spot, so I tried!

  • Burning Crusade Classic Beta

You can argue that this ought to be under WoW Classic, but it had its own executable and was tracked on its own line.  Plus, given how little time I spent in beta, about which I have posted, there is a statement on how little I played anything below this.

  • World of Warcraft

Oh retail WoW, I was so into your Shadowlands expansion right up until I got my first character to level cap and decided I didn’t want to do dailies and grind anima or whatever it is.  I was seriously excited about some of the zones.  I’ll probably come back next year when the catch up mechanics kick in and make everybody who did it the hard way feel like a schmuck.  I mean, unless you enjoyed the journey.  I don’t want to take that away from you.  Anyway, my time spent here is mostly the monthly Darkmoon Faire login… and I even missed a month of that.

  • Runes of Magic

This isn’t a bad game, and it even works on my big monitor.  It suffers from the fact that there are just half a dozen other games at least that I would rather play.  I got hooked up into it for its anniversary for a bit.  Actually, it is probably for the best I didn’t carry on, because I never got as far as having to rent bag space or the dreaded $10 horse, which would have made me pissy about them having converted my account somehow causing me to lose all my diamonds.  Maybe it is a bad game.

  • MMO Tycoon 2

A single player game?  Whaaaaa?  Purchased this on a bit of a whim at the end of last month.  It seemed like it might be a bit of a laugh.  How meta, the one game on my list that has no MMO characteristics is about simulating the creation of an MMO!  Me so crazy!

  • Lord of the Rings Online

Grumble, grumble, monitor size and UI scaling.  I do log into the game once in a while, though I suspect if I went back into ManicTime and added up the time spent in the launcher patching and added that to the list, it would push LOTRO down another position.  Some day SSG will get around to supporting large screens.

What an entirely predictable list!

The good news, I suppose, is that I have picked up a couple items on Steam so the list ought to be a bit deeper before year’s end.  Everything won’t be “the siege of 1DQ carries on” and “the instance group rides again!”

Friday Bullet Points about Things Old and New

Here it is, another Friday bullet points post that future me will curse as I try to write up a month in review.  But I live for the day, and there are some things I wanted to mention but couldn’t really work up into a stand alone post.  How have I not made this a blog category yet?

  • Crowfall Ships!

Holy crap!  Color me shocked!

Seriously, I was interested enough in Crowfall to have created a category for it… something generally reserved for regular features and titles I play a lot of here on the blog… back when the Kickstarter campaign launched… which was in February of 2015.  So, its been about six and a half years.

Is this even still their logo?

This was back when I had stopped backing MMO Kickstarter campaigns but still held out hope that something might come of them, before the great cynicism fell on me after every date offered by an MMO Kickstarter campaign winded up being as much a fantasy as their IP.  The ship date projected during the campaign was December of 2016, and it featured in a number of my annual prediction posts as an easy “this won’t ship” call.

But here it is.  Live.  That puts it well ahead of titles like Camelot Unchained, a title that has helped sink backer confidence almost as much as Star Citizen by this point.

Anyway, congrats to the team.  I have no idea what they ended up shipping or if it is anything close to the “Game of Thrones meets EVE Online” catch phrase they were bandying about, but at least I could find out if I had even an ounce of inclination left in me.

  • Burning Crusade Classic Beta Stats

Blizzard sent out an email to those who participated in the Burning Crusade Classic beta back in April and May.  I was invited a bit late to that party, and honestly wasn’t all that into it, but I logged in long enough to find a few issues and to feel concerned about whatever Blizz was up to.  The beta felt pretty wonky in a way that belies the stability now that it has shipped.  But I apparently reported seven bugs… mostly related to hunter issues.

What I did in the beta… not much

Overall the community reported quite a few things.

The stats for everybody

It seemed to do some good I guess, because Outland has been pretty stable, at least on our server, though I am still a bit annoyed at the whole draw distance thing, but that was in WoW Classic as well.

  • The Next 6 Month Mount From Blizzard

Those of us on the six month subscription plan for WoW got a new mount for being such dedicated customers.  This time around it is the Sapphire Skyblazer.

The latest in a series

Part of me isn’t all that impressed. I have a few hundred mounts now, so another blue bird… eh.   Then again, at least it isn’t some cosmetic pajamas this time.  I am pretty sure Blizz learned their lesson on that front.  I’ll take a mount every time, thank you.

Six month subscribers also got a special prize in Burning Crusade Classic, the Imp in a Ball.

Available at an Inn near you

The Imp in a Ball toy actually went into the game with the Burning Crusade Classic pre-patch, so I have had one on my characters for quite a while now.  They come from a quest that the city innkeepers have, and are basically an Azerothian Magic 8-Ball… ask it a question… say it out loud or whatever… then activate it for a comically indecisive answer.  Your mileage may vary.

  • New Switch Disappointment

Rumors have been floating around about Nintendo possibly launching a new Switch model with 4K or a faster processor or whatever.  So there was some disappointment apparent when Nintendo announced a new model with an OLED screen.  Yay higher quality screens of the same size?

The Switch line up

It does have double the RAM built in and some other improvements, but it was very much an incremental upgrade to the product line… which is a very Nintendo move, really.  But it does mean that demand has slowed down enough since the pandemic rush on units that they feel they can tinker with the new models.

  • RimWorld Ideology

It was announced earlier this week that the survival game RimWorld, number three on my list of Steam titles I have played the most, will be getting a new DLC package soon.

A new drama generator

Called RimWorld Ideology, it will allow your colony or clan to create a belief system, allowing the configuration of things such as rituals, veneration, dress, adornment, and social roles.  You can play as a tribe of tree worshiping cannibals if you want.  I am sure this will crank base drama up a few more notches.

  • Minmatar Liberation Day

It feels like we just finished up Gallente Federation Day and we’re already on to Minmatar Liberation Day.  They always have the cards and decorations out so early.

Have a Brutor Libre, the official drink of Minmatar Liberation Day!

As is the usual pattern these days, there are login rewards (12 days worth), in game events, SKINs in the New Eden Store, and some SKINs you get as an add on when you buy some PLEX.  There is a full run down of events and rewards over at The Nosy Gamer.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Immersion

This could be the first of a multiple post thread on the topic… or it might all end right here.  I am not sure yet.

Last week I wrote about immersion from my usual point of view, which was trying to pin down what it is while trying not to become the pedant that cannot see that it can be different things to different people, that getting there and getting pulled out of that state are very much things that vary from person to person.

In reflecting for a while on things I found immersive, games and moments in time from those games, I came to the not all that startling in hindsight conclusion that there is very much a pattern of immersion when it comes to games I have enjoyed, played for long stretches, or for which I feel a great deal of nostalgia.

More of a “that makes sense” discovery than a “eureka!” moment, and yet I feel that there is, perhaps, a “eureka!” to be found if only I could approach this from the right angle.  It feels like if only I could somehow parse through the games that I liked because I achieved some tipping point level of immersion in them that I might find a pattern, some common thread… or maybe several parallel threads… that links those games together.  If immersion is truly a key aspect that dictates how much I like a particular video game, then discovering what factors lead to immersion might not only explain my video game preferences, but help me find games more likely to get to that immersion point.  To figure that out I need more data.

But how do you even go about compiling data for what is, at its heart, a very subjective and often transitory experience?

My initial thought is to simply list out all of the games that I have really enjoyed, that series of special titles that rise up above the rest, and explore, one by one, what worked for me within each.  Call that “The Immersion Files” and we are probably talking about a minimum of 50 posts exploring various titles through the years.

That can’t be enough though.  I have to at least spend some time with titles that, for whatever reason, did not hit the nebulous and indefinable immersion threshold, but perhaps should of due to their similarity with titles that did.

Why, for example, did EverQuest II and Lord of the Rings Online cross into immersion territory, but Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 never did?  That comes close to trying to say why World of Warcraft succeeded and Warhammer Online failed when somebody like Richard Bartle says that they are, with enough distance, pretty much the same game; an exploration guaranteed to make somebody angry!

Not that such would stop me.  I’ve already had people shout “willing suspension of disbelief” at me like it was an answer on that front, I can handle that.  Plus, I would be exploring my own likes, which need not feel obligatory to anybody else.

Also, any such exploration depends on my own recollection, and memory is notoriously faulty in most people.  If I go through all the possible titles I am going to have to dig way back.  Literally the first really immersive video game title that comes to my mind was from the mid 1970s, somewhere between Pong and the Atari 2600, when a friends dad brought us into the office while he was watching us one weekend and let us play Star Trek on the mini computer in accounting.

Star Trek in vt52 emulation

The source code for a variation of that in BASIC is all of 425 lines long.  We were so into that game we had to be dragged away and we went on to create a board game version of it so we could play it independent of the accounting department.

But this very early title brings up some important… to me at least… questions about the relative nature of immersion.

First, how much has what triggers immersion changed for me in almost 50 years?  I found this very deep at the time, but I was also 10 years old.  I suspect I wouldn’t find the same level of immersion in it today.

Second, how much does the state of technology at the moment affect immersion?  A 425 line BASIC program was pretty spiffy back then, but today it hardly makes the cut.  I was playing much better Star Trek games in the 80s and 90s, and even those games seem somewhat primitive by today’s standards.  I don’t need AAA photo realistic titles to find immersion… I can find it in un-modded Minecraft for Pete’s sake… but it seems likely that my experience since that game would make it less likely to hold my attention.

And third, how much does the associated theme and/or IP affect immersion?  While I practically need rose-tinted binoculars to see that far back in time, I do know that part of the appeal was that my friend and I were very big fans of Star Trek and this gave us an opportunity, simplistic though it was even at the time, to sit in the captain’s chair and fight Klingons.

This is not a throw away idea, either.  I suspect, could I fully explore my subconscious, that I would find that part of the reason I found, and continue to find, LOTRO compelling and immersive is its association with the books I read not too many years after my friend and I were playing our board game version of Star Trek.

Does my love of EverQuest at launch stem from it being a great game at the time or from the fact that it was very much a translation of TorilMUD, so I came in with some familiarity of what was going on?  I would argue that it was more of the former, but the latter was not absent.

How much impact does familiarity have?

Then there is playing with others.  That is always a big draw for me.  I am pretty sure I put up with WoW at first, which I didn’t like all that much at launch, because friends jumped over to play.  What impact does that have?  Does it improve the chances of immersion?

And given all that, how do I explain Star Trek Online?  I was into and familiar with the IP, wanted to play, and was there on day one with friends… and yet it never grabbed me.  Was it lack of immersion?  Was it just not a game made of of elements that appealed to me?  Or were expectations that the stars would align on such a combination of factors so high that disappointment was inevitable?  Does hype, anticipation, and high expectation impact the possibility of immersion?

Then, let me pile on top of all of that the “me” factor of how I felt, thought, and reacted to the world at various times over the last half of a century.  Leaving aside the tech aspect, there was a time when I would play NetHack all night long… I had the source code and would throw in my own tidbits at times just to see if would run into them… and then there was a time when I would no longer find that interesting.

Did I change?  Did something better come along?  Did I just wear out the possibilities of the game?  I suspect it was all of those combined and probably a couple other items as well, but there was a point when immersion was possible, and then that passed.

So is it even worthwhile exploring why Tank was immersive and Pong was not?  Why the Atari 2600 games Air Sea Battle and Pac Man were dull but Adventure and River Raid would keep me up past my bed time?  Why I played so much Wizardry and Ultima III?  Why WoW Classic is immersive now, and much more so than retail WoW, while early WoW wasn’t terribly immersive for me back in the day until around Wrath of the Lich King? How far back does the exploration of immersion remain valid?  What applies to me today?  Does TorilMUDEverQuestWoWLOTROValheim?  Where do the answers to this lie?

Perhaps the study of a single title that has both immersive and non-immersive aspects for me?  We shall see if I get to that.

In Search of a Guild Tabard

I feel like guild tabards fell by the wayside a long time back in Azeroth.  First they started giving players game faction tabards as rewards, then tabards helped you earn faction if you wore them, then we got transmog and once that settled down it was all fashion all the time.

But back in vanilla a guild tabard seemed like kind of a big deal.  I know we got one put together pretty quickly back in the day.  When it came to WoW Classic though we never quite got there.  Nobody wanted to spend the 10g to design one.  We were poor or cheap, or both in my case, and had better things on which to spend out limited gold.

Then came Burning Crusade Classic and suddenly a guild tabard became necessary because of the Outland gear models.  We were out with alts on Saturday night and Ula got her first chest piece upgrade for Scscla, he warrior alt, and it turned out to be a skimpy halter top.

We did get through the exciting exorcism scene

I can’t say I’ve forgotten how bad some of the gear looked back in Burning Crusade, but as a male paladin it was mostly due to the clownish and colorfully mis-matched style of much of the gear.  I had forgotten how much worse it could be for female characters.

So it was decided, with that quest reward, that it was time to get a guild tabard.  Gold is much more freely available… again, the market is still pretty hot if you have stuff to sell… so we were good to go.  We just had to pick a suitable design for our guild, Crag Boar Rebellion, and we would be set.

So we got to the guild master in the visitors center in Ironforge and quickly found that there was no boar option for a tabard graphic.  In fact, if we’re going to list out things I have forgotten over the years, we can add the bizarre and disappointing set of graphics available for tabards.

You call this selection?

To some extent I get why the options are limited.  For whatever reason… probably simplicity… a tabard isn’t one texture but two, being left and right hand versions that are mirror images of each other.  That means that every logo must display bilateral symmetry, so visions of anything like a boar rampant on a tabard is unrealistic.  We would have settled for something that looked like a boars head, but were disappointed on that front as well.  The closest we got to a boar was something that was either a boar’s tail or a whisk broom.  So we started going through the other options.

A lobster has bilateral symmetry

I have to say that even with the symmetry requirement, the options for logos is pretty bad.  Well, some are not bad.  A few are pretty good.  But I am not sure what they represent, and they certainly did not fit with our guild name.

We began to favor the old Twilight Cadre tabard style, which was a red field with gold trim and the crossed hammers logo in gold.  Very proletarian.  However that felt like a re-do.  So we considered the angry gingerbread man and the flattened roadkill squirrel, but nothing was really clicking.

Eventually we decided… more out of making a choice than any real love for the design… and went with the concentric circles.  The target.  Which is now painted on all of our backs… if we chose to hide cloak at least.

Alioto wearing the tabard

Having made that choice… we then had to swap guild leaders.  On the guild leader can set the tabard and Ula was driving the design, so I had log Tistann in and set Ula as the leader, which took a bit to figure out.  You don’t do it in the UI, it is a command line option, /gleader.

So she pressed the button and we had a guild tabard.  Then we got back to actually playing after about an hour or so of tabard talk.  You can see the tabard on Alioto, the big target on his back, in the screen shot up at the top of the post.

I at least comforted myself in a sense of surety that this was really an old WoW problem, that Blizzard must have made this better or given people more options over all these years.

But no.  I logged into retail WoW to check and it is the exact same interface with the exact same logo options.  Not an important feature I guess.

If you want to see the tabard creation options, somebody built an page that let’s you design one offline.

June in Review

The Site

After a bit of a traffic boom in mid to late May, something I mentioned in the May review, search traffic fell off quite a bit on June 1st.

Peak Search Impressions in May

Google is the main variable in my traffic.  Without that my daily visitors and page views are pretty flat.  The same few people show up here regularly, so if you’re one of those… Hi!

Anyway, I am always a bit curious as to what attracts Google results, and for the back half of May my position in Google search was related heavily the Dire Maul summoning stone.  Google gives you a nice little report about the last 28 days if you know where to find it in their search console stuff.

When you need that summoning stone

Nice positioning too.  I am the top result for most of those search terms.

Bing also has a search console that tells you about your traffic, and I likewise saw a spike from Bing for “Dire Maul summoning stone.”  However, traffic from Bing is approximately 5% of the Google traffic, so not as big of an impact on my stats.  Still, some traffic.

So my guess is that once the Dark Portal was open and we were all rushing into Hellfire Peninsula, the need to summon people to Dire Maul fell off and my search traffic went with it.

Here at the end of June “Dire Maul Summoning Stone” is still my top search term, but it is just not as popular.  “Jintha’alor Altar” is still there in 4th spot with about the same amount of traffic.  But “How to find a Warm Ocean in Minecraft” is on the list now as are two variations of “EVE Online cloak stabilization,” which relates to the cloaky camping nerfs CCP introduced this month.

One Year Ago

My daughter graduated from high school.  It was a pandemic graduation, but we made do.

My poll about voice chat indicated that Discord now rules that roost.

Pokemon Go gave us remote raid passes since we all had to stay home.

I was giving Minecraft Dungeons a try.  I finished the main story fairly quickly and found the game to be light and fun, but not very deep or replayable.  Other reviews were even less charitable.

Daybreak was still having problems with their Aradune progression server.

We were getting down to the final days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft and I was wondering how it would rank in the pantheon of expansions and how much the previous expansion plays into how people feel about the current or next expansion.

WoW Classic was still going strong enough that Blizz had to turn layering back on for several realms.  There was also the Summer Bowl and the campaign against bots.

The instance group was still working on Zul’Farrak, failing the stairs when Sergeant Bly and his crew died.  Then, the next time, Bly and his crew survived, but disappeared as we looted the field.

My hunter became my first character to hit level 50 in WoW Classic.

In EVE Online I was reminding people about why CCP gave Upwell structures asset safety… because they took it away with the Forsaken Fortress update.  Another case of people foolishly believing in company promises.  So we went out and shot our own abandoned state structures in Delve just to keep other groups from coming along and doing it.

Meanwhile, the CCP mineral starvation plan was driving mineral prices to an all time high.

We did, however, get new ships for the EDENCOM faction as part of the Triglavian invasion event as well as a Project Discovery update that moved its focus onto the coronavirus.  And we got character log off!  People had only been asking for that since forever.

The CSM15 elections kicked off, with the results being announced by mid-month.

Also a little something about how opaque the game UI can be.

Actually in space the GEF was still up north fighting over various objectives.  But that all came to a screeching halt when we we found out that most of null sec was planning to gang up against us and invade.  They denied it, but then the evidence was found.  Our deployment up north ended and we began consolidating the empire into our core space, pulling down the last Keepstar in Cloud Ring before the month was out.  World War Bee was coming.

We were playing some Minecraft and seeing how villages had changed.

I was getting promotions for an Atari branded online casino complete with its own crypto-currency.  I guess, as a brand, Atari still has some value.

Five Years Ago

Daybreak’s Landmark finally went live just a few days short of summer.  However, it was the end of the road for PlanetSide and Legends of Norrath.

There was also the launch of the Isle of Refuge free trade server for EverQuest II.

There was a Newbie Blogger Initiative, for which I put up a post.

It was reported that Minecraft had sold more than 100 million copies.

Minecraft put out the Frostburn Update, version 1.10.  I was building the last stretches of what would become the 22km rail loop.

I also reflected on a year of playing Minecraft, then added in some statistics.

Blizzard had the Warcraft Movie open.  I didn’t like it, nor did that many people outside of China.  Meanwhile Blizzard was also explaining that WoW expansions were just going to take time.  While WoW Legion was still weeks away, my daughter and I went back to finish up Warlords of Draenor and get ready for the new expansion.  Meanwhile the whole Nostalius thing was still simmering.

And I was playing EVE Online.  There was the YC118.6 update, which brought us more overview tabs and the Shadow of the Serpent event, among other things.  Recurring opportunities, in which you could earn some skill points by undocking and shooting an NPC, were removed after their short runDX9 was also dead in EVE.  And there was Blog Banter 76, which was about FC’s and how vulnerable they should be.

But mostly I was flying in fleets out of Saranen as we kept up the tempo of operations in what would become the final full month of the Casino War.  There were just too many posts about that to try and sting them together in a single paragraph narrative, so I will just list them out:

Ten Years Ago

I had to get out my Monty Python and the Holy Grail DVD.

Team Fortress 2 went free to play.  Begin the hat-based economy!

I was wondering if people were picking on Lord British.  This was before he started talking about his “ultimate RPG” and made picking on him a very entertaining sport.

We were not playing WoW, but guild accounts were being hacked.  And we were not even among those 600K WoW players that supposedly went to Rift.

LOTRO announced the Rise of Isengard expansion and offered up a exp boosting item for pre-orders.

I was wondering what launch conditions would be like for SWTOR.  Of course, I sort of figured it might launch before mid-December.

LEGO Universe announced it was going free to play.  At our house, my daughter enjoyed it for a bit, but eventually dropped it for Animal Jam.

CCP began a slow and deliberate campaign of alternating between shooting itself in the foot and sticking said foot in its mouth, all in the name of the Incarna expansion.  And my sentry drones were still boring.  And then LulzSec brought them down.  At least they had finally made it much easier to find an agent in the game.

SOE announced a new version of Station Access, its “all games for one low monthly price.”  Called SOE All Access, which had a price of $19.95 a month.  This was a welcome drop from the previous $29.99 a month price.

However, by this point, SOE had dropped The Matrix Online and had just announced they were killing Star Wars Galaxies, so there were certainly fewer games to play.  Of course, that was also back when they had some games that were not free to play already.

At least SOE was up and running after the PSN/SOE outage.  A pity they fumbled the marketing opportunities offered by their make good plan.

The instance group had finally gotten out of the damn starter zone in EverQuest II Extended, but the game still wasn’t sitting well.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, the Ruins of Kunark expansion was opened up and then “finished” in short order.

And finally, on June 29, 2010 I created a Reddit account so I could reply to something on /r/eve.  Apparently I have yet to learn my lesson on that front.

Fifteen Years Ago

Sonic the Hedgehog turned 15, which I guess means it is 30 now.  Maybe I shouldn’t do call backs to birthdays.

Bill Gates announced that he was planning to relinquish his remaining full time positions at Microsoft in order to focus on his foundation.  Though Steve “Uncle Fester” Ballmer had been CEO since 2000, Gates was still Chief Software Architect and Chief Research & Strategy Officer (along with being chairman of the board).  More recently he’s been accused of trying to microchip us via vaccines and is in the midst of a divorce.

EverQuest II got the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack, the last such pack until 2015’s Rum Cellar.

Nintendo finally shipped the Nintendo DS Lite in Europe, though $3.2 million worth of them went missing en route from China.

Half-Life 2: Episode One was released as Valve briefly tried to pay attention to the core of their biggest franchise at the time.  Still waiting for Episode Three.

Titan Quest, one of the great post-Diablo II ARPGs launched.  It even got a remaster way before Diablo II.

Twenty Years Ago

Anarchy Online launched in what became one of the more tragic opening day break downs in early MMO history.  I mean, they were always bad back then, but AO had to introduce a free tial program, which eventually became a free to play option, to recover, making it one of the early free to play conversions.  The game recovered and carries on to this day, but it was a shaky start.

WWII Online launched as well and was also another troubled title.  And yet somehow it still survives to this day.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. New Eden and the Death of the Subscription Model
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. Robbing Some Space Banks
  6. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  7. EverQuest Launches the Mischief and Thornblade Servers
  8. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  9. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  10. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  11. Where Does WoW Classic End?
  12. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend

Search Terms of the Month

dcuo pay for skill points
[I think that is more an EVE Online thing]

eve online female characters
[They’re mostly men]

ancient winter poncho
[No Ponchos!]

everquest 2 pvp server 2021
[Get there fast before it closes]

Game Time from ManicTime

This month ManicTime shows a pretty solid trend in my play time.

  • WoW Classic – 89.21%
  • EVE Online – 9.07%
  • MMO Tycoon 2 – 1.41%
  • Valheim – 0.19%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.12%

The launch of Burning Crusade Classic was clearly the focus of my play time in June.

EVE Online

Stalemate in the war, CCP’s ongoing economic starvation plan, the end of Covid restrictions, and the coming of summer have conspired to make New Eden a bit quiet.  Well, quiet save for the bits of the game where people are angry.  There was some desultory shooting of the monument in Jita at one point of packs and pop-ups, but that seemed to fade pretty quickly.  There wasn’t enough anger to sustain it, which means CCP successfully pushed monetization forward another step or tow.

MMORPG Tycoon 2

A Steam purchase, though not because it was on sale.  I saw Lum tweeting about it last weekend and asked if you could play with business models and monetization.  He said you could, so I grabbed a copy.  It is early access, but seems pretty solid so far.  At some point I will write a post about it and my first game, Attractive Nuisance.

Pokemon Go

I am a bit concerned about how much Niantic is planning to pull back from the changes put into the game during Covid.  Specifically, how close you need to be to a gym or Pokestop to interact with it is going to get cut way back, which seems a bit dumb.  It isn’t like you can spin one from a mile away, the change is a matter of yards/meters, but for a few gyms it means the difference from parking my car close by to get in or having to get out and walk across some grass.  Not a huge hassle, but enough to make it less likely that I will bother at all.

I did see a level 50 at last.  The highest person on my friend’s list is level 44 and they seem to be running out of steam.  But I was in a raid last weekend and saw this person:

Level 50 among us

I hadn’t even seen the requirements for levels 49 and 50 yet, as Niantic held them back when the new levels were unlocked.  But I guess they are in now.  So that person is starting to accumulate xp for the next level cap increase I guess.  Meanwhile I am not even half way to 42 yet.

Level: 41 (47.5% of the way to 42 in xp, 3 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 646 (+3) caught, 675 (+2) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: I accidentally transferred my Vanillite before I evolved it
Current buddy: Event Slowpoke wit a special evolve

Valheim

I did log in for a bit to check out the latest update and to make a maypole.  Still waiting for a major update before I resume a more active focus on it.

World of Warcraft

Once more my venture into retail WoW was just to run the Darkmoon Faire crafting quests in order to boost those skills up another 5 points.  At some point as the expansion is winding down and everything has been unlocked I will probably come back and finish things up.

WoW Classic

As noted above, the launch of Burning Crusade Classic dominated June for me though, given how much I have played, I certainly haven’t gotten very deep into the expansion.  My highest level character is 62 and is only just into Zangarmarsh.  Meanwhile I am already angry at level 70s with flying mounts swooping down to grab harvest nodes while I am fighting a mob that was blocking me from grabbing it.  Some things never change.

Coming Up

Umm… what is coming up in July?  Vacation?  I know some people are going on vacation.  My wife was at the mall the other day and told me that there wasn’t a piece of luggage to be had at any department store.  But I’m not going anywhere.  We have vacation plans for later in the year when, one hopes, the immediate rush might be over.

Otherwise what do we have?

More Burning Crusade Classic for sure.  Maybe something will happen in the war in New Eden.   A new pair of Legendary servers from LOTRO.  All this and more I suppose.  Maybe I’ll even buy something else at the Steam Summer Sale.

Exploring This is World of Warcraft

I always enjoy the Carbot Animations videos about Blizzard products.  The ability to capture what is often the essence of something like Diablo with some simple animations, an absurdly familiar situation, and a few of the in-game sounds is amazing.

And the quality of the work has made the channel a success, leading to items in the official Blizzard store based off of the videos including the StarCraft Cartooned graphics pack for the remastered game.

But the most recent video… This is World of Warcraft… it is a bit of a punch in the gut.  It captures in its way the nostalgic experience of World of Warcraft and its move from early innocence to the state of the game today in a way that managed to make even me a bit misty eyed.

Back when I was much younger

This could be the Sayonara Norrath for WoW.  So take three minutes to watch it.

Did you watch it?  Because I am going to write about it.

The first cut response is how well it captures the arc of the game for many people, the early joy, making friends, conquering raids, and all the things we’ve heard.  The expansions come, and they’re good too, mostly, as they pile up.

The expansion pile

And Blizzard starts introducing new things like paid mounts, which are accepted enthusiastically by the fans.  But as time goes on and the game seems less unique and less special.  Our protagonist feels the world emptying out.  The magic is gone, sunk by Blizzard’s hamfisted handling of the game.

And then WoW Classic comes along and the world is special again.  But monetization creeps in and seeing the special packs and mounts in Burning Crusade Classic our protagonist feels lost and cheated by Blizzard again

Money invades the classic experience

They exit the game, ending the video.  The magic is dead.  Fade to black.

That is a pretty much on-point story that a lot of people tell, and such a punch in the gut that I have to wonder where the channel is headed.  It almost felt like a sign off.

So many feels.

But it really isn’t comparable to Sayonara Norrath.  That video, which pre-dates the launch of World of Warcraft, is about the memories of a guild that has decided to move on.  They have changed, the world has changed, and while they have many memories, those are in the past.

This is World of Warcraft is what you would get if the Mirage guild of Sayonara Norrath hung on for another fifteen years, trying to live EverQuest as it was back in the day, forever comparing the good old days to whatever expansion or update or free to play scheme or company change or special server Daybreak came up with.

So This is World of Warcraft feels like it heaps blame on Blizzard for wrecking what was once a happy and formative experience for many gamers… millions of gamers.  And I get that.  But I also question it.

I have been on about the static nature or subscription pricing lately… it was $15 a month back in 2004, it is still $15 a month here in 2021… and the unrealistic expectations of players.  The response to paying more is almost always negative.  The companies themselves are viewed as greedy and unresponsive… something that Activision Blizzard hasn’t helped with given the obscene compensation some of their senior execs get… and are often blamed for ruining our gaming experience through monetization.   Over in EVE Online players are up in arms… again… about CCP doing that as well.  We want our peak enjoyment at all times at the price we were paying back when my college age daughter was still in diapers.

How realistic is the expectation that World of Warcraft should feel as fresh and new now as it did back in 2004?  How, with eight expansions in the can now, was Blizz supposed to maintain that sense of simplicity and innocence while cranking out a full fledged expansion every other year?  And how, with subscriptions down and the cost of everything going up, were they supposed to be a viable business without finding another revenue stream?

How much of the fact that we don’t think WoW now feels like WoW of old is grounded in unrealistic expectations that a party should remain fun for fifteen years running?  Blizzard gave us something amazing in 2004 and we’re all kind of pissed off that it isn’t as amazing and as fun in 2021.  Is that realistic?  WoW is practically The Simpsons when it was 15; still something good there, but nothing like the first half a dozen seasons.

I can sit back and objectively dissect the faulty logic of our expectations, and yet I too feel them.  I just want the game to be as fun as it was back… whenever… and to feel that joy.  I am part of the problem too.  I see Sayonara Norrath and my first thought is always “Hey, I should go play that again!” and not “What a special time that was.”

So bravo to Carbot Animations for stirring up all these conflicting feelings.

I’m still playing Burning Crusade Classic.  I want to play it because it was, and still is, a good game. (And hey, it is only $15 a month!)  But part of me does want it to be 2007 or whenever, to feel like I did when I was that much younger.  It is a flaw in me, a flaw in many of us.  Letting go is hard and some of us won’t do it until we’re forced to.  It is complicated.

Related:

What are the Prerequisites for a Retro Nostalgia Server?

The whole retro nostalgia server thing has gone from something those weirdos at SOE did once in a while to a idea that has helped sustain the profitability of titles as large as World of Warcraft.

Classic is as classic does

The idea has officially been part of the EverQuest business model since 2015 and has spread to other Daybreak titles and beyond.  Old School RuneScape has a life of its own, Aion just launched a classic server last week, and the Lord of the Rings Online team is launching two new legendary servers next week and has started hinting about a real “classic” server.

So I started wondering what it takes to make one of these sorts of servers viable.  I came up with four… I’ll call them “common threads”… that seem to be involved with successful ventures of this sort.  They are, to my mind:

  1. Player versus Environment Progression
  2. Expansion Based Content
  3. Multiple Server Architecture
  4. Some Past Era of Fame or Success
  5. A Monetization Scheme

Player versus Environment Progression

The first item on my list, PvE, is probably the most controversial.  I mean we only have to look at how many PvP servers Blizzard stood up for WoW Classic to convince just about anybody that PvP is not necessarily a detriment to the nostalgia idea.

But I am going to argue that even on a WoW Classic PvP server that PvE progression, doing quests and killing mobs and getting to the level cap, is the primary.  Getting ganked in Stranglethorn Vale or coming to an uneasy truce with somebody from the other faction when you just want to finish up a quest out in Un’goro Crater, that is some extra spicy topping on the PvE game and not an independent PvP experience.  It is PvP in a PvE framework, and that PvE framework is what you need.

Which isn’t to say that PvP can’t screw things up even with a PvE framework.  The story of PvP in EverQuest II basically consists of a few brief moments where a PvP server was fun… under very specific circumstances, like leveling locking yourself at a specific point in progression and sticking to low level zones… and most of the rest of the fifteen years of the game trying and failing to recreate or recapture the magic of those moments.  They keep breaking PvE progression to make it work, which makes it otherwise unsustainable.

Expansion Based Content

This might not be as critical as the first item.  It is more of a factor as to how long your nostalgia experience can be expected to last.  EverQuest, with 26 expansions, is the poster child for this.  You can unlock an expansion a month and still keep the party going for a couple of years.

But you might not want to drag people through every expansion.  The Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server for EverQuest ran for nine yearsEverQuest was only seven years old when they rolled out the first such server.  Nine years is long enough to feel nostalgic for the good old days of the launch of the server.

For World of Warcraft it feels like there is an argument to stop after the second expansion, if only for the sake of simplicity.

And, of course, having expansions where the game changed all in one go gives the company and the players nice, clear markers as to where the nostalgia is.  It is handy.

Multiple Server Architecture

The MMO in question ought to support the idea of multiple shards, servers, realms, or whatever you want to call them.  This seems like a bit of a gimme, but it does leave out EVE Online, where not only does everybody play in a single version of the game (except those in China), but the game itself is a success based on the critical mass of players.  Splitting off a nostalgia based New Eden would be a non-started for this reason alone… but it also doesn’t have PvE progression nor expansion based content.  No retro server for EVE Online ever.

Anyway, you should be able to roll up a new, special rules server and not kill your game or over-tax your staff.

Some Past Era of Fame or Success

Can you have nostalgia for a game nobody has heard of?  Sure, why not!  Will anybody else come and play?  No.

A big part of the retro server plan is farming your installed base, appealing to them with visions of the “good old days” when the game was new, they were young, and everything seemed much simpler.  While those who missed out on the original launch might show some interest, the success of your server is largely based on how many people have fond memories of your early game.

EverQuest does very well on this front because, while the game never achieved anything like WoW level subscription numbers, in the five years between its launch and WoW‘s launch a lot of people came and played for at least a little while.  Brad McQuaid said at one point that there were a couple million former EQ players before WoW was a thing.  These are the people who will be tempted to come back.

And then, of course, there is WoW Classic, where Blizz had to roll out about 150 servers to handle the nostalgia overload.

Even Lord of the Rings Online, which never met Turbine’s grandiose visions of popularity, did score a lot of players over the year.

On the flip side there is EverQuest II, which launched just weeks before WoW, and never achieved the kind of success its older sibling had, or Anarchy Online, 20 years old this month, which had such a bad launch it became the first title I knew of to go down the free to play path.  Both games have dedicated followings, but neither has the depth of installed base that makes the idea of a retro server a big deal.  EQII has had a few of those at this point, but they tend to launch quietly and shut down even more quietly.

A Monetization Scheme

The company isn’t doing this for nostalgia, it is doing it to farm the installed base for money.  And to get that money, they have to have a plan.  WoW Classic has the simplest of all plans.  Since you still have to subscribe to play WoW, they just included WoW Classic in that plan and they were set.

EverQuest and other Daybreak titles, which still have a subscription plan as an option, just put their special servers in a special “subscribers only” room.  Not too tough, that.  (Though can we get LOTRO and DDO on the Daybeark All Access plan now that we finally know Daybreak owned them before EG7?  or How about an EG7-wide all access plan?)

Aion Classic has… a monetization plan of sorts.  If I am reading things correctly, it consists of a special pay to win cash shop and an optional subscription for benefits, but at least that is a plan.

But I wonder if a game like Guild Wars 2 could ever pull off the nostalgia server idea.  It seems like there might be a market to re-roll the event experience of the game from scratch.  Maybe?  But their business plan is buy the box and cash shop items.  I guess they could have some special cash shops items, but I am not sure they would bring in the money needed to make a classic server worthwhile.

Anyway, those are my somewhat off-the-cuff thoughts this morning.  I am sure I missed something in the mix.