Category Archives: WoW Classic

Planning for Wrath of the Lich King Classic

Wrath of the Lich King Classic is coming.  It will land at some point this year.  Probably by the end of summer, if my guess is correct.

The classic comes to classic

The last time I checked there was still some interest in our regular group, a desire to go back to Northrend and face the challenges of what might be the expansion I spent the most time playing.

The question is, how shall we proceed?

Unfortunately Burning Crusade Classic didn’t hold us the way that WoW Classic did.  It turned out my memories on not being really into the Burning Crusade overland content wasn’t just a post-play rationalization.  I felt that was the second time through.

Which leaves us in a bit of a dilemma as to what we ought to do.

I guess the obvious route for us would be to buy whatever level booster that Blizzard will have for us when Wrath Classic finally launches.  We can just skip ahead past Outland like it was never a thing.

I suppose we could save the cost of a character boost with a little effort and just pick up where we left off and power through Outland if we were so inclined.

But Blizzard has come up with a third option.  They have announced that, as part of the Wrath of the Lich King experience, they will be launching some brand new fresh start servers where everybody will start anew again.  The idea is that players coming back for just Wrath might feel like they are behind the curve starting on one of the older servers.  So why not let everybody start at level one again?

Why would I even suggest this route?  If I don’t want to play through Outland, why would I want to play through classic AND Outland?

Well, there is the joy of day one on a fresh server.  And the vanilla content, I could probably do that again.  Maybe we could even swap sides and do it as Horde this time around or some such.  I’ve never done Wrath as Horde.

But when the servers go live, before the actual Wrath Classic launch, they will have the 3.x patch applied, with all the talent tree updates for Wrath along with the change in the xp needed to level up.  So it might be a nice warm up to run through vanilla and a less onerous Outland.

Of course, if we commit, we won’t be able to boost right away on that server if we decide we that we don’t want to take the full ride to Northrend.  The rules have been set:

  • For at least 90 days, you will not be allowed to boost a character on Fresh Start realms.
  • For at least 90 days, Fresh Start realms will not be available destinations for character transfers.
  • Death Knights cannot be created on these realms without a level 55 character on that same realm.

So it will be three months before you can boost your way up.  But we can always boost on the old server if push comes to shove I suppose.

But that is all in the future.  Blizzard has a list of things they want to get done before we get to the Wrath Classic launch.  They are:

  • PvE to PvP transfer restrictions removed*
  • Wrath Classic closed beta test
  • Classic Era clone service retired
  • Existing realms consolidated**
  • New Fresh Start Realms with Wrath Classic pre-patch
  • Wrath of the Lich King launch

*This will include the removal of the restriction on having characters of both factions on a PvP realm.

**Before we consolidate realms, we’re going to remove the restriction on the number of characters you can create on each realm, up to the limit of 50 characters per account.

All of which I suspect will take us out to the end of summer.  Mid-August at the earliest, early September more likely.  We shall see.  Plenty of time to make plans.

Blizzard Declines Hard in Q1 2022 While Diablo Immortal Finally Gets a Launch Date

Activision Blizzard pushed out their Q1 2022 financials at 7:30am Eastern Time yesterday which, while it isn’t the Friday at 4pm routine, still strikes me as an hour suited to attracting less attention or getting bad news out of the way quickly.  And Elon Musk promptly buried that news by buying Twitter.  So there you go.

The date was a bit earlier than I expected as well, the pattern generally being that one gets the announcement in the first week of the second month of the quarter.  But I guess if you aren’t going to do anything fancy you can get things out more quickly.

And Activision Blizzard isn’t doing anything fancy because of the Microsoft acquisition.  They don’t have to impress analysts with a cool slide deck or an engaging conference call or throw out a buzzword salad because Microsoft has said they are going to pay $95 a share when the deal closes, which puts a pretty hard ceiling on the share price.

Of course, Activision Blizzard also has to not screw things up between now and when the deal closes because I am sure the contract for the acquisition is miles long and contains many provisions where by Microsoft can pay less or walk away if Bobby Kotick and company degrade the value of the company in any substantial way… or more so than they have already in any case.

This is the part where I tell you that they aren’t doing very well on that front at the moment.

The overall company reported revenue of $1.77 billion, down from $2.28 billion a year ago in Q1 2021 as both the Activision and Blizzard portions of the company slipped hard so far in 2022.

King, however, was up.  Candy Crush Saga abides while Call of Duty and World of Warcraft fall.

I am only really interested in the Blizzard corner of the business, so how badly did they tank in Irvine?

Blizzard revenue in Q1 2022 was $274 million.

For comparison, Blizz brought in $419 million in Q4 2021, which itself was down noticeably from the $493 million posted in Q3.  That was also off from the $433 posted in Q2 and the $483 million posted in Q1.

The holiday season was off for Blizz because they had nothing new to sell, but the new year was brutal, as even the low point of 2021 looks pretty sweet when compared to how 2022 is breaking for the division.

To go along with that, the Blizzard Monthly Active User count went down another 2 million users in Q1 2022.  Over at Massively OP they have been tracking the user count decline, which went from 38 million users in Q1 2018 to just 22 million users in Q1 2022.  Even during the peak COVID lockdown Blizzard’s user numbers were flat.  Now we’re closing in on losing half of their user count in four years.

So not happy times down in Irvine.

What did they have to say about it?  It was the usual hand waving about the product cycle of World of Warcraft and promises of better things to come.

Blizzard’s first quarter financial results were lower year-over-year, primarily reflecting product cycle timing for the Warcraft® franchise. Blizzard’s teams reached important milestones across its key franchises in recent months, and the second quarter represents the start of a period of planned substantial releases across Blizzard’s portfolio.

Blizzard continues to work on numerous new experiences to delight and expand the Warcraft community. The newest Hearthstone® expansion, Voyage to the Sunken City™, launched on April 12. Blizzard’s teams are working on major new content for World of Warcraft® including World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the innovative upcoming expansion for the modern game, and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King® Classic. Blizzard is also planning to unveil more details about its first Warcraft mobile experience in the coming weeks.

Diablo® Immortal™ will launch on June 2, 2022 in most regions around the world, with the remaining regions in Asia-Pacific gaining access a few weeks later. Over 30 million people have already pre-registered for the game. In addition to offering a deep, authentic, and free-to-play Diablo experience on the mobile platform, Diablo Immortal will also be available free-to-play on Windows® PC, initially as an open beta starting on June 2, 2022, and will support cross-play and cross-progression.

Development on Diablo 4 and Overwatch® 2 is also progressing well. Company-wide internal testing of Diablo 4 is underway, and external testing of the player-versus-player mode of Overwatch 2 begins tomorrow, April 26, 2022.

This is a reminder, once again, as to how important World of Warcraft is to the company and its bottom line.  Nothing delivers as much revenue as reliably as WoW, so the company is chained to it.  They can never walk away from WoW as it keeps the lights on and the paychecks flowing while the company farts around trying to create a new cash spigot from one of its other franchises.

So the forward looking good news was about WoW Dragonflight and Wrath of the Lich King Classic and the recent Hearthstone expansion and some empty milestones related to the Diablo and Overwatch franchises that won’t be anywhere close to launch in 2022.  I think they would have pre-orders open if they had any confidence in a 2022 release.  Remember how far in advance Shadowlands pre-orders started?

The one release with a hard date, the one new thing that Blizzard has lined up to sell in 2022, is Diablo Immortal.

I have been more than a bit dismissive of Diablo Immortal since it was announced at BlizzCon 2018, referring to it as Candy Crush Diablo at the time.  But it was primarily the tone deaf aspect of the announcement… gather all your PC and console fans in a big room and tell them you’re launching a mobile game… that struck me.  How do you get that so wrong?  The phrase “Don’t you guys have phones?” will live on for a decade or more due to that event.

And, the other thing I have harped on about Diablo Immortal was its long development time.  They had a playable demo version at BlizzCon 2018.  Here we are in 2022 and we’re just now getting a release date.  Diablo Immortal will finally launch on June 2, 2022.  How does this take so long?

As it turns out, Blizzard seemed to get it that their core player base was not on mobile, so they ported Diablo Immortal so we could play it on PC as well.

That is actually a pretty impressive demonstration of the company actually trying to listen and respond to user feedback.

I am not sure I would have delayed the mobile release for too long, and technically PC users are only getting access to the open beta of Diablo Immortal on PC on June 2nd, but getting it at all on PC was completely unexpected for me.  (System requirements for phone and PC are up now.)

Pretty exciting stuff in that.  But is it enough?

I am going to guess that the Diablo Immortal release date, with PC only in open beta, is primarily in place to shore up expected ongoing declining numbers for Blizzard.  They need people to get in and spend on that cash shop.

After that, though, 2022 is looking light.  Wrath of the Lich King Classic could easily be a Q3 2022 launch, which would carry the company another quarter, but I am not really feeling like WoW Dragonflight is going to make Q4 2022, which would make for another light holiday season.  And, as I noted above, WoW is what makes or breaks Blizzard.  They need players subscribed.

There we go.

I will say that at least Activision Blizzard knows how to mitigate bad news.  They hit us with the bad news in the earnings announcement, then turned around and gave us the Diablo Immortal announcement with the good news about it being available on PC.  Going through the gaming news headlines, there are bland entries about financials and excited ones about the ship date, PC compatibility, cross platform play, and all of that.  Diablo Immortal on PC will dominate the news cycle compared to the financials.

They did not, pulling a random example out of the air, give us a bunch of bad news on a Friday afternoon and then opt to let it fester for two weeks with a vague promise of good news to come.

You may not like Activision Blizzard, but they know what they are doing in many regards… though that is sometimes the problem as well.

Related:

The Coming of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

In addition to the WoW Dragonflight announcement on Tuesday, which I covered already, there was also the announcement of Wrath of the Lich King ClassicThe WoW Classic page is now dominated by the grim icy visage of the Lich King.

I suppose I could have covered both in a single post easily enough… words are words and all… but WotLK occupies a very different spot in my relationship with World of Warcraft and felt like it should get its own post.

The classic comes to classic

Also, WotKL Classic is supposed to be arriving this year, which might make it a standout from Dragonflight.  Blizz has to ship something this year.

I have, at various points, attempted to rank WoW expansions via various dubious methods, and I always work it so that WotLK comes out on top.  Not that it is the incorrect result, it is more a matter of my metrics being less than scientific.

Still, it remains a stand out for me, the only expansion I played from the day it launched until the day the next expansion launched without a break.  While there are lots of factors that play into that run, they all added up to me going all in on the expansion like no other before it.  Wintergrasp, the Argent Tournament, leveling up alts, crafting, grinding faction, running the instances, building the chopper, it was my peak effort in WoW.

So I should be totally stoked for WotLK Classic, right?  I was stoked for WoW Classic.  There were points between beta and launch that all I wanted was just to play WoW Classic.  And I was pretty excited for Burning Crusade Classic, wasn’t I?

Then why am I not feeling it?

Sure, part of that is the Blizzard malaise, the discovery that the company is problematic on many levels along with a feeling of tiredness about the whole genre at the moment.  It happens.  I don’t want to be down on the whole thing, I just am.

But I am also wary of going back to try and relive what might have been my peak time in the game.  I worry that WotLK was great in its time, both in the state of the genre when it came out and at the point in my life when I played it, but that it might not be all that when it comes to nostalgia.

The thing is, I have been back to Northrend a few times over the years with alts at various times as the game has gone on and I have never, ever stuck it out when I didn’t have to.  Even after the level squish, when getting to the level cap was suddenly much quicker and you could choose which expansion you wanted to level up in, I tried WotLK, but ended up opting for Legion or Battle for Azeroth to finish out some alts.

And then there is the practical aspect of the whole venture, the fact that we ran out of steam when it came to Burning Crusade Classic.  The overland content in Outland was every bit as grindy as I had said over the years, and the four of us were not quite enough to get through five person instances without having to simply be better than we’re every likely to be.

So I have a level 62 paladin in Outland.  That is a ways to go, six levels at least, before you can hope a boat to Northrend.

Yes, Blizzard will happily sell me a level 70 boost.  They are even going to let death knights get an early start so they can be level 70 before the expansion drops in the land of classic.  But do I want it that bad?  And what awkward mount package will they sell this time around?

Meanwhile, there is some controversy about there being no Dungeon Finder available in Wrath Classic, which seems odd to me.  My most popular post yesterday wasn’t about Dragonflight or CSM17. Those two weren’t even close.  The big attraction here at TAGN yesterday was a twelve year old post about some early good/bad experiences with Dungeon Finder that got linked in /r/wow due to all of this.

I have been down the “where does classic end?” path before, but I think you could make a very strong argument that Dungeon Finder is the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” World of Warcraft.  Yes, Cataclysm changed the world, making Azeroth a different place, but Dungeon Finder changed how we played.

We no longer had to schlep out to a dungeon in some zone, maybe use the summoning stone, then enter the instance… or, in places like Scarlet Temple, fight to get to the instance… to get rolling.  We also no longer had to have our dungeon quests all lined up before we walked in.  There was still some connection to the zones, still quest chains that culminated in an instance run, but more and more quests were given inside the instance, right at the start, because people were just being teleported right into the dungeon from Stormwind or Orgrimmar or where ever.

You can argue whether or not it was a good change… my recollection is almost a dozen years of non-stop complaining about its problems and being castigated for defending it now and then… but it was a radical update that changed how we played the game and, frankly, marked the end of what I would consider the classic era of WoW.

But I see a bunch of people angry that Dungeon Finder isn’t in Wrath Classic, including a column over at Massively OP which says I am a selfish gatekeeping ogre for even considering the idea, which baffles me a bit, given the above.  So many years of people complaining about it has led me to expect that is the default reaction to the feature.  I guess not.  There is an attempt to lay the blame on Holly Longdale due to her history with EverQuest and the contested raids thing that eventually got scrapped in favor of instanced raids on retro, which isn’t even close to a parallel situation, but if you were ever seen as gatekeeping… and what is a classic server but an exercise in gatekeeping… then you get painted with that brush forever I guess.

Oh well.  Just because I define classic one way doesn’t mean anybody has to agree.  Certainly the comment thread on that Massively OP post seems to be completely on the side of Dungeon Finder.  I expect Blizz will, if not cave, hedge on the issue due to the outcry, and then we’ll hear the other side of the issue howl.

Selfishly speaking I hope Blizz sticks to this because Dungeon Finder (and achievements frankly) would undermine the whole experience for me… should I decide to play… which isn’t even feeling likely at the moment even if they don’t include it, so I shouldn’t really care about it but I clearly DO care about it and… I don’t know, it is a mix of emotions.

I know, I am in a mood.  And moods pass.  Maybe, when the launch date is closer I will find some enthusiasm for Northrend again.

WoW Classic and What We Left Behind

In the post I did late last month about the metaverse and VentureBeat’s summit, I included a video from the Folding Ideas channel on YouTube about NFTs and crypto and what they’re really about.  I do recommend listening to that video (you can watch it, but I think you get 90% of the content just through audio, which I’ve done twice now) even if it is two hours long.

Impressed by that video, I went an explored what else the channel had to offer, which includes an interesting and deep look at the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings movie from the 70s, but the more relevant gem I uncovered was a video about WoW Classic.

Classic is as classic does

The video, which runs 40 minutes is a look at World of Warcraft back in the day, how it was part of the role playing game genre, its roots in EverQuest, and a comparison between WoW of 2006 and the more recent version of the game.  As with the previous two videos I mentioned, it is a thoughtful examination of the topic, delving into mechanics, social dependency, and self-directed play.

As a note, the video is more than two years old at this point, and much of the comparison being done with vanilla WoW focuses on the Battle for Azeroth expansion though, as you might expect, Cataclysm also come under some scrutiny.

For me, the comparison between Battle for Azeroth and vanilla, and how the myriad of options that expansion offered when it came to things to do could quite easily lead to a sense of obligation, a feeling that you HAVE to do all the things to keep up and current, seems even more relevant in the era of Shadowlands.

Shadowlands, having shortened up the already short run to level cap that Battle for Azeroth offered, stuck me as an expansion almost entirely devoted to generating a sense of obligation within players, a false need to get out there and work on faction rep, do the dailies, run Torghast, and work your way up towards the current raid meta.

Whatever gripes I have or had with Battle for Azeroth, I did play it through, getting multiple characters to level cap, unlocking all the allied races, unlocking flying, and generally “doing all the things” that could be done without having to queue up to play with strangers.

So for me it was interesting to consider the direction Blizzard went with Shadowlands and how its design runs against the idea of self-directed play.  I made it through to level cap with a single character, then fell off the wagon without even a thought of coming back later to pick up the thread.

Anyway, a food for thought video on a Saturday.

The 500 Hour Mark

I saw a question going around Twitter last week asking people to list out video games that they had played for 500+ hours.

Artwork provided by my daughter

This apparently stemmed from the developers of Dying Light II saying that the game would require 20 hours to play through the main story, 80 hours to finish the main story and all side quests, and 500 hours to “max out” the game by going down all possible choices and whatever, which generated some minor controversy and whatever.  Articles have been written, posted, and probably forgotten by this point.

I honestly don’t even know what the game is about.

But, as tends to happen, a side discussion about time spent with games came up with people listing out games they have spent 500+ hours playing.

And that is where I want to go with this.  After playing video games for more than 45 years I have to have more that a few titles with which I have hit the 500 hour mark.

Here is the thing.  I kind of want to be sure about it.  There are a lot of games I have spent a lot of time playing, but have I really spent 500 hours?  That is equal to a full time, 40 hour a week job for about three months.  And people, myself included, often wildly overestimate how much time they really spent with a game.

For example, I figured that Civilization V would make the cut.  I played a ton of that in the last decade.  But Steam clocks me in at just 425 hours played.  That is a lot, but it isn’t 500 hours.

And Civ V is the game I have the most time with on the Steam platform.  I have several games there I feel I have played thoroughly which only have 20-40 hours recorded.

But then there is something like Valheim.  I played that for a few months just a year ago.  I have 280 hours played on it, which still isn’t 500 hours, but is over half way there in under a year.  So it doesn’t have to be a title that I have played for a decade, it can be a title I focused on a lot in a limited time frame.

So I am going to break my titles out into confidence levels.  Some things I have numbers for.  My monthly ManicTime measurements enter into things as well.  I started using that to measure game play time back at the start of 2019, and there are titles I have hit 500 hours with since then.

Verifiably Have 500+ Hours Played

  • TorilMUD

I played this regularly, with a few breaks, from 1993 until late 2004.  The current running version, which represents the third one I have played, shows I have over 100 days played, which gives me 2,400 hours played at least, and that came after the last pwipe in 2002.  So there could easily be more than double that invested in the game.  Would I bet on having played 5,000 hours?  Maybe not, but it seems possible.

  • World of Warcraft

Yeah, pretty easy on this one.  Given all the time spent with the instance group, having played through WotLK from launch until Cataclysm, and time devoted to later expansions like Mists of Pandaria and Legion, I am probably past the 500 hour mark at least four times over, if not more.

  • WoW Classic

I am going to differentiate this from WoW, in part because they have different clients, but also because all of my WoW Classic time has been tracked by ManicTime.  And ManicTime puts me in at 775 hours played.  Yikes.

  • EVE Online

After fifteen years, this is pretty easy.  Once again, even my ManicTime measurement for the last three years puts me past 500 hours, and that is impressive given how much time I spend tabbed out of the game when I play.  I swear I am logged in twice as long as ManicTime tracks.

Almost Assuredly have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest II

I could probably get EQII into the above category if I went in and did /played on half a dozen characters.  I played it a lot in the first year and then have come back to it at various times.  I have a lot of alts spread over the few remaining servers at this point.

  • Civilization II

I have absolutely played more Civ II than Civ V, and since I have a benchmark for Civ V via Steam, it stands to reason that I have the hours in for it.

  • Minecraft

Have you seen how much time I spent building roads and rail systems?  Minecraft had the advantage of being something I could play for hours while listening to podcasts or audio books.

Pretty Sure I have 500 Hours Played

  • EverQuest

I mean, come on, I must have 500 hours in for this.  This one gets into the mists of time though.  I did play a lot back in 1999 and 2000.  But  I no longer have the account I used back then and I am fairly confident I haven’t put in that much time with my current account.  So I feel like it is over 500 hours, but I don’t have anything to really anchor it to.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

While I really never get far beyond Moria, I have been back into the game enough times now that I must be well past the 500 hour mark.  I have played through the original content many times at this point.

 

It is Quite Possible I have 500 Hours Played

  • Rift

I wasn’t even thinking about this, then I went back and looked at some old posts about Raptr and the time tracking it did, and I hit Elite in Rift for hours played.  It was the WoW replacement for quite a stretch.  Add in the Rift Classic experiment and I feel pretty sure I am there.

  • Civilization

I played the original pretty obsessively back when it came out.  I never went back after Civ II came out, but it was a few years before that happened.

  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

This came after Civ II and there was quite a stretch between that and Civ III where this was the big strategy game.  I liked this a lot more than Civ III and a bit more than Civ II, but it had problems in the long term as it was locked into a few full screen resolution sizes from the 90s, while Civ II was just a window that even today resizes to the fit my current huge monitor

  • Age of Empires II

I think I make the cut on this one just due to longevity.  I have played this off and on since it came out more than 20 years ago.  It used to be a staple at work on a Friday night back in the day, and Steam say I have about 100 hours played with the HD remaster.

  • Pokemon Go

The math works here for the most part.  My wife and I have been playing for almost five and a half years at this point, so 500 hours requires less than 15 minutes a day on average.  The only thing keeping me from being completely on board with this is figuring out what really constitutes “playing.”  Me tapping on my phone screen, yes.  But how about me going for a walk to get steps?  Does the walk require intent?  Does spinning a Pokestop make the whole duration of the walk count as playing, or just when I have eyes on the screen?

The Mists of Time are Thick, but I think I made 500 Hours

  • Wizardry

Have I mentioned the annotated, hand drawn maps I made of the game back in the day?  I have a couple of Apple II titles that probably make the cut, but this one left behind physical evidence.

  • Ultima III

The last in the Ultima series before Lord British got all moody and introspective.  I played this to death, and then bought an editor that let me make my own modded version of the game, which I then played some more.  Also, my girlfriend at the time wore makeup with the Ultima III brand, completely unrelated.

  • Lode Runner

There are a lot of Apple II games that I played for a bit, and then there are a few that I played for ages.  I played a lot of Lode Runner, solving all those levels and then making my own levels.

  • Stellar Emperor

I spent a lot of time… and money… playing this back in the day.  I won the game once.

  • Klondike

This was the first really good solitaire game that I found on the Mac back in the day.  I used to play it obsessively at times.  It had a scoring system that rewarded smart, efficient play, and I developed a whole philosophy of play to adapt to it.

  • NetHack

Maybe, sort of, if you count the time I spent digging through the code and modifying it to see if I could make the game better… better for me at least.  It was a bit of an obsession for me in the early 90s.

Missing From the List

  • Diablo Series

While I have played all the titles from the Diablo series, often intensely at times, it has tended to be in short bursts.  I might have played them all for a combined total of 500 hours, but no single title has hit that mark.

  • Pokemon

Again, my combined time playing Pokemon, by which I mean the core Pokemon RPG games on the GameBoy, DS, and Switch, no doubt adds up to more than 500 hours.  But I have not spent 500 hours on any single title.  The champion was probably Pokemon SoulSilver, when I caught them all.  My blog post of that shows I invested 243 hours getting there.  Nearly half way to 500, but half way doesn’t count.  I probably spent closer to 50 hours on most of the ones I finished.

  • Atari 2600 Games

From 1977 to 1983 the Atari 2600 was my only real home video game outlet, so I am sure I played many more than 500 hours.  But did I play any one game that much?  Maybe Adventure or the Indiana Jones game… but most likely the Blackjack cartridge.  The fourth game on that was Poker Solitaire, and I could sit and play that for ages.  But that was so long ago, I really can’t commit to saying I have 500 hour into any of those cartridges.  They were not deep games.

So that is my guess at the games I have invested 500 hours into.  But when you’re into the back half of your 50s, you’ve had a lot of time to get there.

My Games Played for 2021 and Looking Forward into 2022

It is that time again, time to look back at what I played last year and maybe try to get an idea as to what I might play in the coming year.

2020 plus 1

Past Entries

Last year I wasn’t really feeling it for what I might play, probably because the list I made didn’t really pan out, so when I made the call for 2021 I kept it short and sweet.

The likely candidates were:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW
  • Burning Crusade Classic

I also threw out RimWorld, Civilzation V, and maybe World of Tanks as possible candidates to which I might return.

So now is when I look at what I actually played.  I don’t go as into as much detail as Belghast, but my chart is more colorful!  The top ten titles, which represent the games I spent 10 or more hours with in 2021, were:

2021 in gaming for me

Overall I tracked time for 20 games, so the bottom half of the list did not make it to the ten hour mark.

  1. WoW Classic – 29.61%
  2. Valheim – 23.10%
  3. EVE Online – 18.73%
  4. Diablo II – 7.18%
  5. New World – 6.67%
  6. Forza Horizon 4 – 3.68%
  7. Forza Horizon 5 – 2.36%
  8. RimWorld – 2.21%
  9. EverQuest II – 1.77%
  10. Pokemon Pearl – 1.21%
  11. World of Tanks – 0.92%
  12. War in the Pacific – 0.56%
  13. MMO Tycoon 2 – 0.49%
  14. The Fermi Paradox – 0.48%
  15. World of Warcraft – 0.38%
  16. Flashing Lights – 0.36%
  17. Runes of Magic – 0.18%
  18. Art of Rally – 0.13%
  19. Hearthstone – 0.05%
  20. LOTRO – 0.05%

EVE Online was the only title I played through all year, and even that was fairly light once World War Bee ended, which explains why it ranked in third in overall time played.

WoW Classic, which includes Burning Crusade Classic, topped the total time played, but petered out when we were reminded that we did not exactly love The Burning Crusade the first time around.  Our WoW Classic time probably peaked in Blackrock Depths, which we ran into a dozen times at least.  Leaving was made easier by having Blizzard’s behavior exposed.

Valheim, which came out of nowhere to become our obsession for a few months managed to come in second.  We got our money’s worth out of that title, though the content ran out of steam for us and the small team working on it was overwhelmed trying to just keep things going.

Diablo II Resurrected was also a good time for a bit.  New World showed up in September, but we didn’t really start playing it in earnest until more than a month had gone by and the login queues began to subside.

The two flavors of Forza Horizon were in there as well.  I combined them into one row on the chart, though they would have easily both made it on their own.

RimWorld made the cut when the Ideology expansion hit, giving your colonists their own belief systems to work around.

I wandered into EverQuest II for a bit, as I tend to do, but didn’t make a big commitment.

Once it arrived, Pokemon Shining Pearl was a hit for me, making it into the top ten for time played in just the last five days of the year.

And then there was World of Tanks, after which time played starts to drop off rather quickly on the chart.  I suppose my one regret was not being able to get into War in the Pacific, though honestly the biggest hurdle was how tiny the print was on my 34″ monitor.  It is a war game from an earlier age of small monitors with large pixels.

So of the four likely candidates, I did end up playing three of them.  Retail WoW quickly fell off the rotation for me in 2021 as the Shadowlands expansion turned into a repetitive grind for somebody not interested in raiding.  Technically I logged in for quiet a while into the year, but I am not sure you should count the monthly run at Darkmoon Faire as really “playing” the game.  I only did that because I was already subscribed and playing WoW Classic.

Which I guess brings us to the 2022 outlook.

2022 is what we get

Here is what I can see from where I sit this week.

Sure Things

  • EVE Online
  • Forza Horizon
  • New World
  • Pokemon Shining Pearl
  • Stellaris

I already have time logged for all of those this year.  I might give up on them sooner rather than later, but they will be somewhere on the list.  I certainly have much still to do in Shining Pearl and the group seems committed to New World for the time being.  And I just bought some of the DLC for Stellaris, so I’ll play a bit of that I am sure.

Likely Candidates

  • EverQuest II
  • RimWorld
  • World of Tanks
  • WoW Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I own the latest expansion for EQII and am subscribed for another two months, I’ll probably play some.  Likewise, it is easy enough to pick up World of Tanks whenever.

And, naturally,l I started thinking about RimWorld again since I started writing this, which makes it more likely that I will go back and play it.  It happens.

WotLK Classic though, that depends on Blizzard actually shipping it this year, though it feels like that is all the WoW team will manage in 2022, and Blizzard not being a complete shit show that makes me feel bad handing them money.  I am biased towards playing it, that expansion representing what is my likely peak in Azeroth, but I am also wary of Blizz and how they might screw it up or just make doing business with them so unpalatable that I’d rather just stick with the memories.

Maybe, Maybe Not

  • Age of Empires IV
  • LOTRO
  • Valheim

AOE4 is part of the XBox PC subscription, so I just need to download it.  I am just wary of another 100 megabyte download for a title that might not pan out for me.  I haven’t liked anything in the series since AOE2.

LOTRO I want to go back and play now and again, but it looks so bad on my big monitor that they have to do something for wide screen support before I will commit.  If they do that I’ll give it a shot, otherwise I’ll pass.

And then there is Valheim.  I am wary of this because any updates they ship will only apply to unexplored areas, and on the world we build up we explored a lot, including into biomes that should be getting content.  So going back for new content means started over again on a new world, abandoning all of our work.  That might be too much to ask.

Unlikely

  • World of Warcraft
  • Burning Crusade Classic
  • WoW Season of Mastery
  • Diablo Immortal

Okay, I might  try Diablo: Immortal when it arrives, having a phone and all that… though I’ll likely play it on the iPad instead.  But otherwise the theme here is clearly Blizzard games I would be likely to play in past years not drawing much appeal from me in 2021… and honestly it is as much because of their own lack of merit as much as because of anything Blizzard is up to.

And then there are the new games that might show up.  As I have noted in the past, in January of 2021 I wouldn’t have called Valheim, New World, or Pokemon Shining Pearl even being options, yet they all made the cut.  So I am open to some new things, but I cannot see far enough into the future to tell what might show up and tickle my fancy.

Predictions in the Face of 2022

We’re here again at the arbitrary start of another year.  I remember a time when New Years Day was a day of optimism, a day of resolutions about making yourself a better person.  Now… now I am reminded of a Life in Hell comic where Bongo prays every night for tomorrow to be better than today despite the fact that his prayers are never answered.

2022 is what we get

So, yeah, welcome to the new year.  It is an even numbered year which means national (but not presidential) elections in the US and some sort of Olympics… I think we get the cold kind this year, but they’re in China, so time to celebrate repressive regimes I guess.  I’m sure the year will be just dandy.

I am going to go with predictions this year, after having taken a year off with questions for 2021.  As I always point out, I have a history here, checkered and/or dubious and mostly wrong.  But as my boilerplate for this post says every year, I’m fine being wrong if the discussion is interesting.  Anyway, past events:

I was tempted to run with questions yet again, but I made a bold prediction back in 2021 and promised that I would include it in any New Year’s predictions post, so let’s get straight to that.  You will probably be able to tell from the tenor of some of my predictions that I am not exactly in a happy, optimistic, “everything will be great” sort of mood.  So be it, maybe the new year can step up and prove me wrong.  I would be happy enough to let it do so.

1 – Activision-Blizzard will drop “Blizzard” from the Corporate Name

I made this call back in August, when things seemed really bad for Blizzard, and committed to making it a prediction, so here it is in the first spot.  There was a possibility that they could have straighten up and fixed their issues, but I have such confidence in the indelible nature of corporate culture… every time somebody says “we’ve always done it this way” they might as well add “because this is who we are” to it… that I remain unsurprised by the company’s inability to clean house effectively.  Even when they admit that there might be a problem, it is all they can do to keep from fighting that idea, pushing back on the state and, by proxy, all the complaints against the company.   If you cannot candidly admit there is an issue then you cannot fix it.

And the problem has damaged their brand, damaged their income, and alienated them from a chunk of their once loyal fan base.  Meanwhile, Activision, having finally figured out how to milk the Call of Duty cow year round, doesn’t really need to be dragged down with all those problems which, outside of Bobby Kotick’s connivance, seem to be focused just on Blizzard’s team.

The prestige of leading the Blizzard brand has already been downgraded over time.  Morhaime was CEO, Brack was President, then it was Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra were “co-leaders” of the studio… until Oneal left because the company sill pays men more for the same jobs.  I think Ybarra became Office Manager at that point.

All of that points to the Blizzard brand not being as big of a deal.  The only counter to this slide in the brand is how Bobby Kotick has taken center stage of late in the company issues.  It is possible that his bad behavior, and endorsement of the bad behavior of others, could draw enough heat directed solely at Blizzard so far.

Overall though the trend for Blizzard has been to be third of three when the quarterly reports come out, so even if the Blizzard name isn’t gone I’ll give myself a small partial credit win (2 points) if the company name is officially Activision Blizzard King by the end of 2022.

2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022

I am going to go out even further on a limb when it comes to Blizzard and suggest that the disruption they have been facing and the need to retool things a bit to look better when compared to FFXIV are going to slow down their development process even more than usual. As such I think we’ll be seeing the largest gap between expansions in the history of the game as the next expansion wanders out into 2023.

3 – The Arthas Hail Mary

Wrath of the Lich King Classic will be announced to great fanfare.  This will be the big 2022 announcement for the WoW franchise, and it will be as stale as you expect.  While I love the whole retro server scene, and WotLK as well, there is a reason that Daybreak doesn’t put out a press release every time an EverQuest progression server unlocks a new expansion.  And it will be tainted by the same things that hurt Burning Crusade Classic, like a special deluxe package with a horrendous mount to single you out for ridicule.  It will be more popular than whatever is going on with Shadowlands, an admittedly low hurdle, but it won’t launch until Q4 so we won’t see any financial impact during the 2022 calendar year. (Q4 financials won’t show up until February 2023.)

4 – Immortality is Overrated

Diablo: Immortal will finally ship in time for summer… after all, NetEase is the one doing the work here.  It will get a lot of hype from the company because WoW Classic and Hearthstone updates can only carry so much water for them.  It will be briefly popular, because we do in fact all have phones, combining as it will everything Blizzard promised (something like Diablo) and everything fans feared (cash shop from hell), but the Q3 2022 financials will only mention it in passing.

5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California

The cost of fighting on multiple fronts… the company is being assailed in various ways by the government, its employees, customers, and shareholders… will wear the company down because none of it is good for business.  Somebody on the board will eventually force the issue and make the company do something to make these problems go away… something besides denial, platitudes, and union busting tactics, which has been the Activision tack so far.

Riot, which played the same game for years, largely due to being able to turn a big profit for Tencent even as the fight went on, eventually settled and agreed to pay out $100 million, $80 of which went to compensate employees and contractors mistreated by the company.  The state is tenacious and the price of fighting eventually becomes more of a burden and it will make sense to simply not be discriminatory jerks as a matter of policy going forward.

As a public company Activision, and with Blizzard development seemingly moribund in the face of the crisis, won’t be able to diddle as long as Riot.  A year of this will be too long for stockholders.  The company will have to pony up double what Riot did, so they will have to write a check for at least $200 million in penalties and compensation, agree to mandatory training for management (though everybody VP and above will just have their admins do the training for them, so no change there), and agree to let the state keep an eye on the for a few years.

6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision

I feel I have to remind people now and then that these are predictions, not wishes, and this is one of those times.  Bobby owns too much stock and is in too deep with the board, which has backed him all the way, to lose his seat.  Any sense of irony is completely lost in the executive suite, so the fact that he knew about and endorsed what was going on that caused the company so many problems won’t disqualify him from continuing to collect a huge compensation package for running the company.

7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online

Maybe they won’t call it exactly that, but there will be a new MMO from them based on the Marvel IP, which Daybreak had the rights to make before EG7 purchased them, that will look suspiciously like DC Universe Online to those who know where to check.

And it will be on the PC and consoles and it will be kind of a big deal when it ships.  But I’m only saying they’ll announce it in 2022.

8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo

Of all the titles in the Daybreak portfolio, none must be as vexing for EG7 as H1Z1.  It sold a ton of copies, it was huge for a season or two, and it was the type of brand that Daybreak always dreamed of creating.  Then Daybreak screwed it up and has spent a few years now trying to catch that lightning in a bottle again.  And with Fortnite and PUBG out there still making bank, there is always that hope for a comeback, yet the chances are so sketchy that the company can’t bring itself to actually invest in it.  They simultaneously know it won’t happen and yet still believe it could.  So they’ll keep talking about H1Z1 in 2022 yet do nothing new.

9 – LOTRO Old and New

There won’t be a console release for LOTRO, but there will be news.  We will find out that, in order to support current generation consoles, the game needs to be re-written, a process that will end up with there being an old LOTRO, the current game, and a new LOTRO, for PC and consoles.  This will put old LOTRO in semi-maintenance mode, with limited updates and no new expansions, while the team focuses on the new LOTRO.

10 – Nothing New in Norrath

And that won’t necessarily be a bad thing.  Despite being the foundation of the company, EverQuest and its younger sibling will just continue on as before, with an expansion each in Q4.  EG7 talks up the original IPs it owns, but it only sees potential in the popular IPs which it has licensed.  EverQuest Next, EverQuest III, or EverQuest the small group RPG, those are all still dead until Amazon or Netflix wants to make a Norrath streaming series.

11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7

His acting career pretty much demands it at this point.  The search for a suitable candidate will come up dry and he will be the default choice.  Things could be worse.

12 – CCP will Circle the Wagons to Defend Against Player Feedback

The last year has demonstrated that CCP will stick to its own pet theories when it comes to the game, ignoring player feedback by covering its collective ears and repeating over and over that everything is fine, that the players don’t understand, that the company can dictate the correct way to play, and blah blah blah “I can’t hear you!”  Angry players should be ignored, where “angry” is defined as anybody who disagrees with the company line.  Nice players agree wholeheartedly with everything the company says.

To further support their position 2022 I predict that we will see the company start cutting back on the data players have been using the assail the company.  The Monthly Economic Report will cease to be published.  The data feeds that EVE Offline uses to create its PCU charts will be turned off.  The current online player count will disappear from the launcher.  Dev blogs will be more message, less substance than we’ve been used to.  Then CCP will be able to control the message without having their own data constantly contradicting them.  How can you say “EVE is dying!” if you don’t have any data to back it up?

13 – New Eden Economic Times

To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

-CCP, December 2020 Economic Outlook

While taking measures to silence dissent, CCP Rattati will continue to lead the charge against the economy.  The tenants of their economic outlook from 2020 remain unchanged.  They were:

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
  • Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

And while they appear to have had the opposite effect… scarcity ended a war for a starter… CCP will continue to fixate on the idea that if they just keep putting the screws to players and making them poor and miserable that we will all snap to and play the game the correctly sooner or later.  The idea that the game should be fun, that players might not want to fret about losing ships they can no longer afford to replace, or that the economy is the critical aspect of the game will not enter the company’s philosophy in 2022.  More of the same, the economic beatings will continue until subscriber numbers improve.

14 – New World on Consoles Announcement

One of the odd things to master in New World has been the UI, which is decidedly different that the WoW-centric UI conventions of the MMORPG genre.  It isn’t bad, though it sometimes seems a bit awkward, but for the most part it just takes some getting used to.

And then I started playing Forza Horizon 4 and 5, which is a title designed to play on Windows PCs and XBox consoles, and some similarities clicked for me… the New World UI is setup to be playable on consoles (in a way that, say, LOTRO is completely not).  They have minimized the keys used for many things, movement and positioning can all be done via the analog sticks, special combat moves map to buttons, the main attacks… I guess the shoulder controls.  It all pretty much fits.

This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious for some of you, but to a non-console player it didn’t spark until I had another cross platform title in my face.

Add to this the fact that Amazon seems fine letting Steam host its front end and the XBox or PlayStation store aren’t likely to get in the way either.

The official stance is that there is no plan for consoles, but it sure feels like it was made to be on consoles, so that might just be Amazon playing coy after getting pestered for five years about when the PC launch was going to happen.  As with above, the announcement only is being predicted, though I wouldn’t be completely surprised by a Q4 2022 ship date.

15 – New World Store Update

New World did very well on box sales in 2021, and I am sure they plan to repeat that on consoles as well, but the in-game store will still change in 2022 as the pressure to keep bringing in cash begins to mount.  Those AWS servers don’t pay for themselves.

The store has been entirely focused on cosmetic gear, the one in-game store item that seems the least objectionable.  It is kind of expensive to my mind, but some people seem to be buying the stuff.  I see it around Windsward now and then.  But it won’t be enough in the end.  Every MMORPG with a cash shop goes down the same path in the end.  So before the end of 2022 I predict that at least three of the following will be available in the cash shop:

  • Premium Housing
  • Fast Travel Tokens
  • XP Boosters
  • Faction Boosters
  • Trade Skill Learning Boosters
  • Learning Speed Boosters for Weapon Mastery
  • Cosmetic Items with Stats
  • Mounts
  • A second character slot on your server

16 – Crypto Mania will Continue and yet Yield Nothing of Value

UbiSoft, EA, Pearl Abyss, and a host of smaller studios and studios started for the express purpose of jumping on the bandwagon, will continue to talk about crypto, blockchain, play to earn, and NFTs.

And it will all net out to nothing a year from now because, despite the bleating of the crypto bros and the sheep following them, there is really no upside for a studio like EA to hitch its titles up to somebody’s block chain and give up income when there is nothing crypto could do that they couldn’t already do… or haven’t already done… themselves.

And the downsides? Whoa Nelly, if you think lock boxes look like gambling, I am pretty sure when they become NFTs with the intent that they can be bought and sold for real world money that even the government will suddenly agree that it is gambling.  Even skirting that, there are tax implications for “play to earn” if it gets too lucrative… and that will fall outside of the studios hands… that make the whole thing a nightmare.

The UbiSoft test case will fall flat because they will end up having to impose such restrictions to stay within the law and away from expensive entanglements as to end up not achieving any of its promise, and no studio with live games will see fit to follow suit.

17 – Metaversary Rhymes

Then there is the whole fairy tale metaverse aspect of crypto that people are on about.

The main item here are the crypto bros who think NFTs are the future and will act as transferable tickets for virtual goods so that you can buy a car in Need for Speed and drive it in Forza or Mario Kart.  That ain’t gonna happen.  Leaving aside the complexity of getting different studios with different motivations needing to get together on some sort of agreed upon standard for… well… literally anything anybody would want to move from game to game, no studio is going to buy into that.

Any game that makes money selling cars, using the example above, wants you to buy their cars.  That is how they make money.  If you can just bring all your Mario Kart stuff into Forza Horizon… again, leaving aside the huge elephant in the room issue of standards… Forza loses.  So Forza isn’t going to join that venture.

And we’ve been to the internet, right?  How long do you think it would take for somebody to mass produces knock-off cars for a buck that could be used in all those metaverse titles?  This is a dead end as there is no upside for the development studios that would need to implement it.

So this will go absolutely nowhere in 2022, despite the myriad start ups jumping on board the bandwagon trying to milk a bit of that sweet venture capital by throwing around buzzwords.

18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos

Even with the above pair of predictions I know that some company’s won’t be able to help themselves and will stick their hands in the fire and get burned.  I predict crypto/NFT/play to earn nonsense will at least get an official announcement and plan for the following titles (2 points per correct call):

  • EVE Online
  • Star Citizen
  • Black Desert Online
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Wild Card: Some Gamigo Title

I am not saying that any one of them will be implemented… player push back will be huge… but the blue sky press releases will go out.

19 – Chapter and Metaverse

Meanwhile, there is the other metaverse story, where Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently missed out on Second Life, wants to create a VR world that he controls.  He is so bent on it that he renamed the company Meta… and totally not because Facebook has a horrible reputation and he needed to distract from that.

In his metaverse there is none of this NFT movement nonsense, because you won’t ever leave his domain once you strap the VR headset onto your face and log in.  In Zucktopia you will see what he wants you to see, which is generally the right wing propaganda that pays top dollar.

The problem is that you can’t goose-step around with your neo-fascist buddies if you don’t have legs, which means all torchlight rallies will be limited to less than a dozen people.  Limitations of the platform I’m afraid.

And so this too will go nowhere in 2022.  At best we’ll see some more creepy demos with uncanny-valley Mark Zuckerberg… and I leave you to decide if I mean his avatar or himself… talking up his dystopian future where all the bad parts of Facebook will be injected straight into your eyeballs via a VR mask strapped to your face like something reminiscent of Clockwork Orange.

20 – A Better Metaplace

The year started out with me poking at some of the vague statements that Raph Koster was making about his own multiverse plan, wondering at how his new company was going to address some of the more obvious issues, like who would be paying for all of it.

But that was me quibbling over details.  Here at the dawn of 2022 I don’t know anybody else I would trust as much as Raph to speak of a future vision of virtual worlds.  Most of the metaverse talk is castles in the sky, next to which Raph seems to be a guy with wood, nails, and a hammer, ready to build something real.

So, to try and turn this editorial into a prediction, I am going to say Raph Koster and Playable Worlds will deliver something tangible in 2022.  Not a complete product, but enough to get past the vague teases that have gone before and cement the company as serious in a sea of pretenders.

21 – Non Starters

I have to have a couple of gimme predictions on the list, so lets run down the quick list of things that won’t ship in 2022 (2 points per correct guess):

  1. Crimson Desert
  2. Star Citizen
  3. Squadron 42
  4. Camelot Unchained
  5. Pnatheon: Rise of the whatever will get us a headline

Extra Credit Guesses

A bonus 10 points each if these come to pass

  • CCP will go really overboard on defense and decide that electing the CSM is a bad idea, since that process tends to fill the seats with people who have independent ideas.  Instead, taking a cue from Blizzard, they will let players apply to be on the CSM, picking the candidates that most suit the company needs.
  • Meanwhile, the WoW Player Council will be a one-time production.  After a year of shooting down ideas from the current council, Blizzard will thank members for their service, declare the whole thing a wonderful success, then not ask for applications for a new council as the team goes off to do whatever they were planning to do in the first place.

Scoring

As I usually do, each prediction is worth 10 points if I get it correct, with partial credit available.  I have already marked some of the predictions with “points per correct call” for multi-title guesses. With 21 predictions, that is 210 possible points.    Extra credit predictions don’t count against my win percentage, which I assume will be very low, as it is most years.

Again, I want to remind some readers that these are predictions, not wishes.  My wishes for would be sunshine and lollipops compared to what I have laid out above.  This is just what I think could happen after having been through both 2020 and 2021, a pair of years that saw fit to try and beat any cheery optimism out of me.

Which isn’t to say I don’t want to hear any contrary positions.  As I said at the top, discussion is an aspect of the whole thing and  I expect to be right on 30% of these tops, so in disagreeing with any one of my predictions you are more likely to end up correct in the end.

Anyway, the coming twelve months will reveal the truth and I’ll be back in December to count up the score.

Answers to My Questions for 2021

Back at the start of the year I eschewed the usual predictions post and instead went in for a round of questions.  After 2020 I was clearly feeling unprepared to predict anything, though this was not the first time I went down that path.  Now we have hit the middle of December and it is time to see if any of my questions got answers we like.

2020 plus 1

There is a long pattern of me making such posts on the first of the year.

Anyway, let’s get tucked in and see what I can come up with.

What will a return to normalcy bring to the video game industry?

Right off the bat I am going to have to object here to the assumption that we’ve returned to anything like normalcy.  We’re not in 2020 anymore, but we’re not not in 2020 anymore either.  The shadow of that year lay heavily over this one, its poison seeping in.  People who can are still working from home, Covid is still spreading, the economy is still in a bind from the pandemic, and the world still seems to be going to hell at a rapid pace.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Well, at least we have an easy one here.  The answer is “no.”  There are a few reasons, not the least of which is Blizzard not releasing much in the way of additional content and Blizzard being revealed as a nightmarish Dickensian workhouse of misogyny and intolerance.  Also, maybe “run Torghast every day for the next two years” wasn’t the winning plan that somebody thought it was.

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

Another easy one!  And another “no.”   Wyatt Cheng once asked if we had phones.  Many of us probably have new ones since he asked that question at BlizzCon 2018.  Now does he have a game?  That seems to be a more pertinent question at this point.

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

Three for three here on the easy questions, with another big “no” on the tally.  Diablo II Resurrected is about as “new” as they got, and they had Vicarious Visions do the remaster of a twenty year old title for that.  It was a good remaster, but it wasn’t new.

Along with that we had Burning Crusade Classic and WoW Classic Season of Mastery, also not new.  Even the solo mode for Hearthstone didn’t feel very new.  I guess their bigger company issues got in the way for some of that, but it still feels like they came into 2021 just winging it and hoping something would come up.  And, honestly, they don’t seem to have much lined up for 2022.  How can such a big studio… more people work on WoW than most MMO studios have total employees… deliver so little?

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

A reverse merger, with Ji Ham now at the helm?  I wouldn’t have called that one.  Otherwise there has been some promises for the future, but the first year really seemed like business as usual for Daybreak… except maybe they didn’t lay so many people off in 2021.  That’s a plus.

Will Norrath continue to boom?

Kinda, maybe, sorta.  As noted above, things were mostly business as usual.  That has generally been good for the Norrath titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, which get an expansion in November/December and a major content drop in late spring/early summer every year.  So things roll on there.

But when it comes to doing anything new, it is LOTRO they want to put on consoles, DCUO they want to update, and an unannounced Marvel IP MMO that gets all the headlines.  They even keep bringing up H1Z1.  But EverQuest as a franchise?  Any plans for that look to be dead.

What happens with H1Z1?

Nothing.  As I wrote above, EG7 keeps bringing it up when they talk about the important IPs they control.  There is clearly some wishcasting going on about the title returning to the top of the battle royale genre. But actual progress?  There was some mention that they had a few people look into being able to run a build, but otherwise nobody appears to be working H1Z1 in any meaningful way.

At least they stopped renaming it I suppose.

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not with Daybreak and EG7, we know that much.  Somewhere between the announcement that Daybreak was purchasing Cold Iron and the launch of their game Aliens: Fireteam Elite, Cold Iron went somewhere else.  Details are hazy, the story is mostly inferred, but Cold Iron never made it into the EG7 stable of studios.

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Pretend nothing has changed and announce an expansion?  This is the problem with bringing up studios and games I do not watch closely.  A bunch of key people left ANet last year, but back in August they announced the End of Dragons, slated for February 2022, so I guess everything is good.  Maybe?  I don’t really know.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

Nowhere?  Seriously, after the Triglavian story cycle the company has been been focused on the new player experience and trying to force the in-game economy into a form that they believe is best for the long term survival of the game, ignoring the short term “hey, can you give us something fun?” requests from the players.  Short sheeting the economy isn’t fun.  Even if you don’t care about the economy and mock miners and industrialists who are complaining, you have to admit that there is very little fun in what CCP has been doing for the last year.

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

No.  There was a promise over the summer that the end of scarcity was coming.  But the Q4 quadrant, New Dawn: Age of Prosperity, involved very little prosperity.  For every relaxation of the economic restrictions there was some matching nerf to offset things, often hidden behind some oppressive new game mechanic.  CCP said they were listening to feedback, but they mostly slowed their roll a bit (compression will be in 2022 now) and tried re-arranging the deck chairs some (“waste” got renamed to “residue”) as they carried forward with the goal of resetting the economy to some past halcyon state.  I am sure this will end well.

How Will World War Bee End?

The side with the 3:1 numbers advantage got tired and went home.

There are many ways to spin who “won” the war.  PAPI can claim that they forced the Imperium down from four regions to one constellation and destroyed trillions of ISK in ships and structures.  The Imperium can claim that they held out, denied PAPI their stated victory conditions, and in the end destroyed as much in ships and structures as PAPI did.

As for losing the war, that award generally goes to the group that loses their space and has to move elsewhere.  That makes Legacy Coalition, the main instigators of the war under Vily, the losers.  TEST, the leading alliance in Legacy, lost their old space, couldn’t hold their new space, and ended up trying to live as far away from the Imperium as they possibly could.  Brave gets a special mention for losing hardest of all, as not only did they lose their old space and their new space, but now the rest of PAPI is attacking them because Brave sold structures to the Imperium so they could at least asset safety their stuff and get some seed ISK in the bank to carry on.

Really though, the honor of ending the war goes to CCP.  It was already somewhat obvious after the second battle of M2-XFE that their servers were not going to be up to a final mighty battle.  And then CCP made changes to resources and production that made capital ships too valuable to expend freely, so the attackers were limited to subcaps.  In the choice between investing a lot of time and effort in a real blockade of the final Imperium constellation or just going home, they opted to go home.

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

Yes, goddammit, yes they did.  About freaking time.  And it has shipped and there is a copy for me and my daughter under the Christmas tree.  We’ll see how that plays out soon enough.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  I mean, Crowfall went live I think.  I am not sure it will survive, but it shipped.  And they are a stand out in the stable of crowd funded MMOs, which mostly promised things they couldn’t deliver.  Don’t spend money on things that you cannot play today.

Project: Gorgon is the right path, as it was in playable form from the day of the first monetary ask. Camelot Unchained is the wrong path, asking for money, blowing through every promised date ever, and starting a new project before the promised one is even in beta.  And then there is Star Citizen… well, they certainly know how to milk a community.  Star Citizen is a lot of things, but being an actual video game seems to be a few bullets down the list.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

The metaverse maybe?  That seemed to be the topic for 2021.  I don’t know if it is Raph Koster’s desire to remake the simple days of MUDs in the 90s or Mark Zuckerberg’s dystopian vision of an all controlling metaverse that turns our very desires against us, but I guess either might be something new… at least for MMORPGs.

Oh, and something about crypto and NFTs.  But we’ll probably burst that bubble in 2022.

Will I play anything new this year?

Valheim.  That was a bit of a left field star, but ended up being our main game for about two months earlier this year.  New World showed up and, once the initial chaos settled down, the instance group got into the game.  And then there was Forza Horizon 4 & 5.  Open world driving for the win.  There were a couple of other small titles that were new, but nothing that I invested more than a couple of hours in.

That I played three new games made 2021 a departure from the usual routine.  In 2020 80% of my game time was spent in WoW, WoW Classic, and EVE Online.  The year isn’t over yet, but so far those three titles represent less than 50% of my tracked play time.

Will VR get a killer app this year?

Ha ha ha ha… no.  VR will remain a niche so long as it requires a real world obscuring mask strapped to your face… oh, and the motion sickness issue gets addressed.  Ready Player One and Zuckerberg’s idea that we’re all going to live in his ad laden VR metaverse hell is a pipe dream.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

Not really.  The industry’s best defense so far has been regulators being interested in other things to further their own interests.  It has to be a slow news day for lockboxes to make the headlines of late, so politicians and regulators have mostly been busy elsewhere.   Except for Blizzard.   Yeah, Blizzard is having some regulatory issues, though not over lockboxes and that sort of thing, just mundane things like running a hostile, discriminatory work place.  The usual corporate thing.

But the industry keeps on trying to get the government to come down on them hard, with cryto and NFTs on their list of things to try next.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not yet, though Facebook seems to be pushing to have that taken away, because they have the money and the staffing to deal with any new regulations which would help them cement their place in creating our dystopian future… and present… and recent past.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

Write a post about it.  That is my answer for most things I suppose.

So that was the list for 2021.  As those were just questions rather than predictions there is no score.

I think I’ll be able to warm up to doing some predictions for 2022.  I have a couple of weeks to get on it.  But first I need to make a 2022 graphic.

The WoW Classic Season of Mastery Starts Today

The time has come for the next WoW Classic experiment from Blizzard, the WoW Classic Season of Mastery will be available all over the world later today… at least today Pacific time, tomorrow in some places further east.

The Season of Mastery Launch Times

This is Blizzard’s second dip in the nostalgia well for the vanilla WoW experience and I am interested to see how recyclable the idea is.  In 2019 it was huge, but for last week’s name reservation event they put up just 13 servers.  Not that 13 servers is anything to look askance at.  There are a lot of MMOs out there that would love to fill up 13 servers.  I think the EverQuest team is happy to fill up just one server every time they roll out the retro experience.  But it is well shy of the 80+ servers that WoW Classic saw two years back.

Back then they had to have layering and free server transfers to help alleviate the crowding and queues.  Now they are offering free server transfers off of dead servers in the age of Burning Crusade Classic.

Anyway, we shall see tomorrow and in the coming weeks whether or not they have under estimated… or possibly over estimated… the demand for a fresh run at vanilla.

Though, it isn’t really vanilla this time… or even less vanilla than WoW Classic was the first time around.  Blizzard has finally tallied up all the changes they are making for this run compared to WoW Classic, and the list is pretty long.  I might as well toss them in here for posterity:

Systems

  • All characters under level 60 will receive the “Adventure Awaits” buff.
    • This buff will increase the experience gained from quest turn-ins by 40%.
    • This buff will also grant additional bonus experience to Group and Dungeon Quest turn-ins.
  • In raid instances, players cannot benefit from world buff effects such as Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer, Warchief’s Blessing, and Spirit of Zandalar.
  • Buff and debuff limits will be removed.
  • Players who kill an enemy while in a group with one or more players at a much higher level than the slain enemy will receive significantly less experience.
  • Calculations used to determine the experience awarded for enemies that have been “tapped” by one player or group but killed by another player or group were adjusted.
  • The Looking For Group tool from Burning Crusade Classic is present in Season of Mastery.
  • Chat reporting feedback improvements are available.
    • Added in-chat confirmations for players who report misbehavior in chat, as well as for those that someone may report.
    • When reporting a player for verbal harassment or other disruptive chat in-game, players will receive a confirmation when there’s an action against the other player.
    • When your behavior has moderately changed for the worse, you may receive a warning message so that you can modify your behavior before receiving a penalty.
    • When acutely inappropriate behavior from a player is observed, the system may skip a warning and take immediate action.
    • /ignore now blocks characters on the ignored player’s WoW account.

  Content

  • There will be significant adjustments to enemies in Onyxia’s Lair and Molten Core:
    • Bosses and other creatures that are part of boss encounters have had their health increased.
    • Augmentations to many existing boss mechanics and new mechanics introduced to challenge players in Season of Mastery have been made.
  • The availability of Mining and Herbalism nodes has been significantly increased in all zones, as well as:
  • Max-level herbalists have a slight chance to obtain Black Lotus when looting a high-level herbalism node.
  • Western and Eastern Plaguelands will enjoy new spawns of Plaguebloom.
  • There have been adjustments and additions to Herbalism nodes in Dungeons.
  • There’s been an increase in the availability of certain crafting materials such as Elemental Fire, Elemental Earth, and Elemental Water.
  • High Elf Watchers have appeared in Ironforge and Undercity, seeking to chronicle adventurers who bear a “Soul of Iron”.
  • Some dungeon enemies have received slight adjustments:
    • Stratholme – All Undead creatures in Stratholme will now gain immunity to snares 30 seconds after entering combat and gain immunity to roots after an additional 30 seconds of combat.
    • Maraudon – Many creatures in Maraudon will gain immunity to snares 30 seconds after entering combat and gain immunity to roots after an additional 30 seconds of combat.
    • Maraudon – 30 seconds after gaining immunity to root effects, enemies gain 50% increased movement speed.
    • Maraudon and Stratholme – Crowd control of any type (except snares or roots) will reset the snare immunity, root immunity, and speed buffs.
    • Zul’Farrak – Zombie Trolls in Zul’Farrak now drop fewer lucrative treasures. Most of the loot previously dropped by Zombie Trolls has been redistributed to other enemies in the dungeon.
    • The denizens of Blackrock Depths have grown suspicious of criminal activity and will now attempt to stash their most valuable items away if they suspect a thief in their midst.
  • There’s been a reduction in the cost of training riding skills and purchasing level 40 mounts.
  • Dire Maul will be available at the launch of Season of Mastery.
  • The Gordok Tribute chest in Dire Maul can no longer be looted by players not on the tap list for King Gordok himself when the encounter is defeated.
  • Changes made in patch 1.10 to dungeon rewards will be in place at the launch of Season of Mastery, including the availability of Idols, Librams, and Totems, and adjusted drop locations and drop rates of some items such as the Hand of Justice in Blackrock Depths.
  • Changes and additions made to reputation vendors and item drops in patches 1.6 through 1.11 will be in place at the launch of Season of Mastery, with a few exceptions:
    • Items on vendors and items associated with reputations are not accessible until a later content phase, such as the Zandalar Tribe.
    • The (world drop) plans for Titanic Leggings and Sageblade will be made available in a future content phase.
  • Summon elemental Templars and Dukes in the Twilight’s Hammer camps in Silithus to facilitate the completion of the Dungeon Set 2 questlines at the launch of Season of Mastery.
  • Please note that the rest of the Cenarion Hold and Silithus activities associated with Anh’Qiraj will remain unavailable until the Anh’Qiraj War Effort event kicks off later.
  • Level 50 class quests will be available at the launch of Season of Mastery.
  • The healing provided from the Diamond Flask trinket on-use effect no longer benefits from bonus +healing or spell power.

 PvP

  • We have doubled the maximum amount of weekly ranking progress gained. Dedicated players who consistently finish each week at the top of their realm and faction’s rankings each week can expect to move through the ranks roughly twice as fast as was possible in Original World of Warcraft.
  • Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley are available from the launch of Season of Mastery, including their associated reputations and rewards.
  • Season of Mastery brings back many Horde and Alliance Guard NPCs removed from Alterac Valley in patch 1.11 of Original World of Warcraft.
  • At the launch of Season of Mastery, we will enable the World PvP objectives in Eastern Plaguelands.

There are some interesting things on the list.  I think the faster/smooth leveling will appeal to the raiding crowd that wants to get in and start on that without the somewhat uneven ride to level cap that vanilla offered and which WoW Classic faithfully recreated.  I did the grind to 60 on two characters, but was pretty happy with the exp changes that came with the Burning Crusade Classic update.

At this point my WoW account has finally lapsed and I am not interested enough to renew it just for this, but I will keep my eye on the news to see how it is going.

Addendum: Just in time for the launch a new round of horrible insider details from Activision Blizzard.  We’ll see if that puts a damper on things.

WoW Classic Season of Mastery Name Reservations Available Today

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft Season of Mastery, their return to the nostalgia well, is on its way.  This is another fresh start opportunity for those wanting the day one WoW Classic experience, and the whole thing kicks off for real today… or tonight… or possibly tomorrow depending on where you live… with a name reservation event.

When you can get logged in to reserve a character name

There was a similar event for WoW Classic more than two years back, which turned into a bit of a fiasco because they hadn’t put up enough servers.  Not enough servers became a bit of a theme for the launch, with long queues and more servers being added and layering tech, which allowed more players to be on a server than it would otherwise hold, having to run much longer into the life of the game than Blizzard expected.

So I am sure that this time around Blizzard will be prepared.  That have had the big WoW Classic launch, back in 2019, and the Burning Crusade Classic launch earlier this year, to help them size things.

And with all of that experience, they have 13 servers setup for name reservations today, eight in the US and Pacific and five in Europe.

  • U.S. East Barman Shanker PvP
  • U.S. East Jom Gabbar PvP
  • U.S. East Shadowstrike Normal
  • U.S. West Mutanus PvP
  • U.S. West Nightfall PvP
  • U.S. West Obsidian Edge Normal
  • Australia Lionheart Normal
  • Australia Swamp of Sorrows PvP
  • EU Bonescythe PvP
  • EU Dreadnaught PvP
  • EU Ironfoe PvP
  • EU Kingsfall Normal
  • EU Quel’Serrar Normal

That doesn’t seem like a lot of servers.

But I cannot tell if the Blizzard team feels that WoW Classic has been done once, so it won’t ever be as popular again so there is no need to plan on anything like the 80+ servers WoW Classic eventually needed the first time around, or if they feel that Blizzard’s bad odor in the news cycle means nobody will show up for their grand re-opening (though that certainly didn’t seem to be a problem for Diablo II Resurrected).

Now, I suspect that this event is as much to let people reserve names… though this time around you will be limited to one character on one server… as it is a way to test the popularity of the idea.  After the 2019 name reservation event Blizzard started adding a lot more servers.

So we will have to wait and see if Blizzard piles on some more servers between today’s name reservation event and next Tuesday’s launch of the WoW Classic Season of Mastery.