Category Archives: WoW Classic

Diversion to Dire Maul East

As I mentioned last time around, after nine runs in and around Blackrock Depths since late October, we decided we could do with a change of scenery.  We’re not done yet.  We still have to get through the Lyceum and not screw up the vault at least once, but a little pallet cleanser seemed to be in order.

The plan was to head to Dire Maul out in Feralas.

Feralas in WoW Classic

Unlike some past instances, there wasn’t a lot of pre-work to do.  We just flew out to Feathermoon Stronghold, picked up one quest from there, then headed towards Dire Maul.  Fortunately the boat to the mainland was right on time for us.

Here come the boat

This is one boat ride where if you just missed it you might as well just swim as it takes its time getting back, swinging all the way around the island.  Our group for the run was:

  • Viniki – level 58 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 57 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 57 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 57 gnome mage

We headed right up the ramp and around the ogres… many of whom outside the instances were a few levels below us… and towards Dire Maul East.

Arriving at Dire Maul

Dire Maul has three wings, east, west, and north, but you have to do the east wing first as it gets you the key that lets you into the other two.  And you get the come on about the key almost immediately upon zoning into the instance as Pusillin taunts you.

Okay, so it is going to be like this

Pusillin is an imp, small in stature, and he runs off ahead as you clear your way through groups of mobs to catch up to him.

Fortunately, we seemed to be up to the task, with a bit of care.  Again, doing this with a group of four reminds me how bad we must have been back in the day when our group of five sometimes struggled with these things.

We did have a little problem with the packs of non-elites that are scattered about.  I had actually been reading an Icy Veins thread about how you can tank the five person instances as an arms warrior in battle stance using a 2H weapon, which has the advantage giving the warrior some strong AOE attacks with which to grab aggro.  However, the discussion broke down, as these things tend to on the internet, into a series of absolute statements about the pros and cons of the idea, that I wasn’t left feeling warm and fuzzy on the idea, at least not enough to respec right before a run.  Also, since I have gone very heavy on defense up until now, I was a bit worried about over taxing the healer.  Maybe I’ll read up more on that later.

Pusillin leads you around and down a tunnel and through some satyrs, and the whole way is littered with seed pods that spawn poison or groups of non-elite mobs, so that when we followed Pusillin up a ramp onto a platform and saw yet another one of those pods, I walked over to just trigger it and get it out of the way.  I didn’t know that was going to trigger the first boss fight, which is when Pusillin rises up to attack you for following him into his lair.

Pusillin comes alive

We went from causal follow and trash killing into boss fight mode against Pusillin and the non-elites that spawned from the pod.  It was a near run thing.  Ula ended up going down during the fight and I was punching all the back pocket abilities to stay alive as Skronk hit low mana.

Down to the last few hit points

But, in the end, I held out just long enough for us to kill him.  Boss down, Skronk ressed Ula, then we looted the Crescent Key, which was the key we were looking for.  Pusillin also dropped the Runn Tum Tuber Surprise recipe, which Viniki won in a roll-off.  Now he just needs some tubers to cook with it.  It is supposed to be good food for mages.

That done, we traced our way back up the path we had come to head into one of the doors we passed, that being where the next boss lay.

This way to the next target

Another area with groups and wandering mobs awaited us.  We did find here, as we did elsewhere in the instance, that with some planning we could skip by a lot of the fights.  We felt no need to take the Pengail approach and run after every mob in sight, so threaded our way to the end of the room and up a ramp to find ourselves facing Lethendris, the target of our one quest from Feathermoon.

Leathandris and minion walking around the fire

It was a toss up between her or her minion as to whom we should go after first.  I called her and nobody objected, so off we went.  The fight was short and sharp and soon both mobs were done.

Fight over

Looting her yielded a quest item and a wand that went to Ula.

From there it was down a spiraling path to a lower level where, after clearing a few groups we were able to pull the next boss, Hydrospawn, back and take him down.

Hydrospawn is here

We had a little bit of trouble with him as he was immune to cold, which is inconvenient when half your DPS is a frost mage.  He spawns a helper, but we opted to ignore that and just focus on him, which seemed to be the best plan in the end.  The helper washed away when Hyrdrospawn went down.  The boots he dropped were leather and went to Moronae for his alt healer gear set.

After that we found that we could slip across the pool where Hydrospawn was and bypass all the mobs in the room and head out into the conservatory, a wooded area.  We went there, cleared out much of the place, and spoke with Ironbark, who just said something about Zevrim.

Ironbark

We let that pass and kept clearing the area until we arrived at a door at the other end which seemed to be the next place we needed to go, but which was closed without any way to open it up.  We went back to Ironbark and he was on about Zevrim.  It seemed like the plan was to find Zevrim.

The thing we missed was up in that screen shot with Hrydrospawn.  There is a passage visible in the far wall of that picture, that was where we needed to go.  We threaded our way past the mobs we could avoid, slew the few we could not, and headed up the passage.  At the top, around a corner, was Zevrim.

There he is

Standing there looking at him and his altar sparked a few old memories.  He is the one that, mid-fight, grabs somebody and puts them on his altar to sacrifice them.  Good times.  Otherwise his platform is clear, so we made sure we were spelled up and then I went and grabbed him.

I was the first thrown on the altar, which burns you for 300 hit points every second, so Skronk had to be on his toes and ready.  I made it through, as did Ula and Skronk when it was their turn on the altar.  Moronae was the last chosen, at which point Zevrim was about done and Skronk was about dry of mana.  Moronae was sacrificed on the altar as Zevrim went down.

Moronae on the altar

We got Moronae ressed and healed up and headed back to Ironbark, who obliged us by breaking down the closed door, after which he fell over and died.

Though the door we had to work our way down to the final boss, Alzzin the Wildshaper, who was only intermittently visible to us.

Alzzin steps into view

One of the oddities of WoW Classic resulting from the old content being grafted on to the modern WoW framework is that the view distance is often much closer than you might imagine.  As with the elevators at the great lift, Alzzin wasn’t all that far away, but would walk out of our draw distance as he paced back and forth.  It wasn’t like that back in the day.

Alzzin’s gimmick is to change forms throughout the fight and, as we read, on each change he dumps all aggro, so the tank has to be ready on the taunt to keep him off the rest of the group.  And then, when he is about down, a wall breaks open and, instead of the Kool-Aid man, a bunch of non-elite helpers come join him in the fight.  Not soon enough to save him though.

Time to burn them down

After that we were about done.  We paused to take the usual group shot after the final fight.

Done in Dire Maul East

Then we went over and each collected one of the gems that were on the ground behind where Alzzin was pacing about.

Two gems left to collect

These are for a quest up in Moonglade which, among other things, has a shield upgrade for me as a reward.

Then it was out the back door of the instance, through the ogres wandering the grounds of Dire Maul, and back down to the dock for the boat to Feathermoon.

Feathermoon across the way

However, the boat had just pulled up at Feathermoon and the trip around the far side of the island seemed likely to take longer than swimming, so we jumped in the water and started pulling for the island.  Moronae was able to get into aquatic form to get ahead, but then Skronk cast levitate and was able to run over the surface while Ula and I just kept on swimming.

Even for the two gnomes the swim was faster than waiting for the boat.

There we turned in the one quest we all had and called it a night.  We now have to decide what to do next.

 

My Games Played for 2020 and Looking Forward into 2021

I am a little behind on my usual end of year posts with this.  Generally I have a wrap up and a looking forward post at some point in late December… but then I found a bunch of other things to write about.  I was only reminded of it when Belghast posted his charts.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a history here, as there is with so much on this blog.  It started with something akin to goals, a list of games I wanted to play, often very specific games.  Then it became games I was likely to play.  Then it turned into something like a long term weather forecast with some easy calls (it will be warm in the summer) and some possibilities.

And so it was that I wrote a post way back when about what I might play in 2020.

The list was broken up into several categories:

The Sure Things

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • EverQuest II

The Likely Candidates

  • WoW Shadowlands
  • RimWorld

Possibilities

  • Civilization V
  • Stellaris
  • World of Tanks
  • Minecraft
  • The Witcher

The Long Shots

  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • EverQuest
  • Diablo III
  • Elite: Dangerous
  • New World

I Should Make Time

  • Project: Gorgon
  • Grim Dawn

So, now that the year has gone by, what did I actually play?  ManicTime has some numbers for me.  I am only listing the top ten because after that the times drop down to mere minutes played.

  1. WoW Classic – 33.33%
  2. EVE Online – 32.69%
  3. World of Warcraft – 14.02%
  4. EverQuest II – 6.03%
  5. Minecraft – 5.25%
  6. EverQuest – 2.16%
  7. RimWorld – 2.08%
  8. Diablo II – 2.02%
  9. Pokemon Sword – 1.24%
  10. Minecraft Dungeons – 0.75%

At the top is a close race between WoW Classic and EVE Online, with a gap smaller than ten hours played total between them.  I guess Azeroth wins over New Eden overall, since retail WoW is in third place.  Everything else shakes out from there.

As has become the custom of the neighborhood, I have a chart.

2020 games timeline

At the top are WoW Classic and EVE Online, both of which I played throughout the year.  I also put Pokemon Go on the chart.  It isn’t tracked by ManicTime, being on my phone, but I played every day in 2020.

Technically, looking at my times, I also played retail WoW every month, but there were months where that did not represent a significant investment.  I have made those months where I pretty much just did Darkmoon Faire and some pet battles as a narrow streak.  And once the level squish came and then the Shadowlands expansion launched, I spent quite a bit of time there.

EverQuest II and Minecraft had their runs.  The former was me finishing up the Blood of Luclin expansion to the extent I felt I needed to, and Minecraft was a bit of a pandemic diversion setup by Skonk.  I played a bit of EverQuest after the anniversary gave us another heroic character boost, though I ended up mostly tinkering with the Overseer feature.

RimWorld had an update that I wanted to try out.  That was good for a bit of a run, though like so many build and conquer games, it suffers from the mid-game malaise once you get your base setup well enough.

I had a great run through Diablo II to celebrate its 20 years.  The game still lives up to its legend, though I would like it to run at a resolution higher than 800×600.

I received a Nintendo Switch Lite for my birthday with a copy of Pokemon Sword, which I played for a stretch.  I just wasn’t that into it.  For a Pokemon game to grab me I have to be in the right mood and have a real goal.  I couldn’t quite get either this time around.

And then there was Minecraft Dungeons, which is a serviceable and solid but shallow ARPG whose main attraction is being set in the Minecraft IP.  I played through the story, but it doesn’t have a lot of replay value save to boost up stats so you can face harder monsters that drop gear that let you boost up your stats further.

So that was 2020.  What of 2021?

As with last year, there are some sure things this year, games I am actively playing right now so that has already been decided.  They are:

  • WoW Classic
  • EVE Online
  • Retail WoW

And, given the news, we can add one slight variation to that list:

  • WoW The Burning Crusade Classic

After that, however, the future is a bit fuzzy, and part of the problem is hardware related.

As I wrote about last year, I have a 34″ 3440 x 1440 wide screen monitor now, and I love playing games on it full screen.  But not every game I have plays nice with it.  The three titles I am playing now all happen to work great with it, but others struggle and have issues or won’t run at all.  I actually tried to play Grim Dawn, which was on my “should make time” list for 2020, but it was not having it at all.  It would not even launch correctly with the new monitor hooked up.

And there is a further constraint, which is my video card.  I currently have a EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB card and, given the price of college and my wife being somewhat under-employed for the last year, spending a few hundred bucks on a new one is way down the priority list right now.  So whatever I play needs to work on the big screen with that video card.  WoW Classic and retail WoW both manage very well, with a few settings dialed back a bit, and EVE Online works like a champ, all settings maxed out, save for fights where the ships on grid get past the 2,500 mark.

But most newer games require a lot more horsepower to drive all those pixels.  There is no way I am getting something like Cyberpunk 2077 or Red Dead Redemption II or Black Desert Online or anything like that to run well.

Meanwhile, a lot of older stuff is a bit shaky.  As I wrote back when I got the monitor, EverQuest, EverQuest II, and LOTRO all sort of work, but have some issues, while Minecraft gives me motion sickness on the wide screen unless I dial back the field of view so far that I might as well just play it on my phone.

First world problems, I know.

Another angle is strategy games.  Things like RimWorld not only run fine, but the large screen improves the experience.  Maybe it is time for a bit of Civilzation V again. (I’m, betting Civ VI has too much going on visually to work with my video card at that resolution.  It is the way.)  Maybe I’ll pick up World of Tanks again when I need something fresh.

Of course, the lack of desire for something fresh is part of the problem as well.  I’ve been kind of okay playing the same stuff all year.  We shall see how I feel in 2021.

Blackrock Depths and Love Potion Run Number Nine

We got together on New Years Day with a simple plan.  We were going to go collect what we needed for the Love Potion quest in Blackrock Depths, then maybe run on into the instance, to the Grim Guzzler, in order to turn that in.  Then we would see how we felt at that point.

Blackrock Depths map

That sounded like an easy enough run and we would get a little xp along the way.  We still hadn’t firmed up plans for getting past the Lyceum save for maybe another level or two would help.  My mechanical greench idea didn’t seem to stir much hope.  Our group was:

  • Viniki – level 57 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 57 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 57 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 56 gnome mage

For the Love Potion quest we needed items from around Azeroth.  The first was 4 gromsblood, something Moronae was able to go out and harvest for us before hand.

Next up was 10 giant silver veins each.  These come from giants out in Azshara.  If you look at the map of the zone, it looks something like a crab claw.  The giants are towards the east end of the bottom half of the claw.  They are all named Cliff.

Hunting giants

We though we were going to need a lot of giants, but it turned out that the silver veins drop 100% of the time and they drop in groups of one, two, or three.  We finished up there in not too long.

From there it was to Un’goro Crater to fill a vial from the Golakka Springs Crater.  The hot springs themselves are easy enough to find on the map, but the point where you need to fill the vial is actually up on top of a steep hill next to the pond on the map.

Here is where you fill the vial

From there Ula was able to portal us back to Ironforge.  Then it was off to Thorium Point and the run into the instance yet again.  New Years Day was a busy time on the server and the way was clear all the way to the instance portal.

We needed to get to the Grim Guzzler, location 15 on the map, which mean going off to the left, through the side door, and into the room where the bridge controls are.  We were able to slip in and take care of that.

Skronk slipping up to the control

From there it was now down the well worn path to the bar.  Up the ramp, down the hall, across the bridge, and around to the Manufactory.  We had the usual problem with one of the groups that has two of the large fire elementals.  Their burst damage killed Viniki before I knew what hit him and the group ended up wiping.

This corner is our curse

We bounced back from that, ran through the instance once more, finished off that group, got through the Manufactory, and into the Grimm Guzzler where Mistress Nagmara was waiting for us.

Time to turn in the quest

Once we all turned it in, we tested our new ability.  She and Rocknot get together and run out the back door, leaving it open for us.

At that point we had accomplished out primary goal.  I took a moment to go over at speak to Lokhtos Darkbargainer, the Thorium Brotherhood vendor I mentioned in my blacksmithing post.

Vending for the Thorium Brotherhood

I had some recipes available to me, though I cannot make any until I get my blacksmithing skill up some more.  Have to go work on that later.

Since we were there already, I suggested we take down Ribbly Screwspigot.  He is just downstairs in the bar.  So we set up in the keg room like we did when we last fought him, then I spoke to him and pulled him and his three companions back there.  That wasn’t a tough fight for us… his group is around level 50… and he dropped something nice for us.

Everybody loves a 16 slot bag

Ula won the roll for the big bag.

After that, I noticed that the kegs were set up for the keg room quest, so I clicked on those and in came Hurley Blackbreath and his crew.  This time Ula was clear of the doorway.  Defeating that group got us another fine drop.

An eyepatch!

This is a nice item if you want to play with what we now call transmog.  I wish it was a plate armor item, as I think it would look good on me.

Argh!

But, as a leather item, and an upgrade, it went to Moronae.  Unfortunately, when you have fiercely glowing eyes, the eyepatch effect is somewhat ruined.

Moronae shining through

After that we started looking for something else to do while we were there.  Moronae mentioned that he had missed looting Fineous Darkvire (9 on the map).

That was an awkward target as we had chosen to go across the bridge and not through the Ring of Law, since the latter leads to him.  But we had time, so we figured we would give it a shot.

We ran back to the bridge, which has several open windows.  The plan was to jump out onto the Dark Iron Highway and take on one of the groups below, then clear our way through Lord Indendius (location 10) to our target.

At the bridge we were looking out of the windows trying to decided which way to go when I tried to jump up on the window sill and managed to jump through the window and down onto the highway.

I went through this window

Fortunately for me, the group below had just marched off, so everybody else jumped down to join me.  We setup and took out the group, then noticed that things were not as we had expected.  We always call it “the bridge,” when in reality, it is the gate that forms the bridge we cross.  And to get across you have to close it.  So it was closed and we were on the wrong side.

It is a gate

So we started trying to figure out how to get to where we needed to go.  Moronae offered to try and stealth back down the Dark Iron Highway to the room where you close the gate in order to open it back up again.  We waited while he went… but he got spotted and ended up dying.  So we waited for him to run back to the instance and go to the room.  But, once there, he reported he did not get the option to move the wheel.

“Of course!” I thought, “You need the Shadowforge Key to do that!”  And what we were trying to do was finish the quest for Moronae that gets you that key.  So we decided to yolo our way down the Dark Iron Highway since we were pretty much stuck there against the gate.  I led the way, while Skronk put a bubble up on me.

Down the Dark Iron Highway

I was the only one who made it.  So we got everybody back together and went to the room where you close the gate only to find that none of us got the cog wheel.  It seems that you can only close the gate form there, not re-open it.

Still, our initial plan did not seem bad.  We ran back to the bridge/gate and, this time, jumped out the window on the correct side and fought the group just below.  There is actually a ledge below the window and Ula and Skronk were able to stay up there and cast, out of range of the mobs.

Fighting on the right side of the gate this time

That led to some problems with the mobs going into “evade” mode, since they were being shot from an unassailable location, but I was able to taunt them back into combat to finish them off.

From there we were able to work our way to Lord Indendius.

Lord Incendius awaits

He was no problem, though we did take the fight back in the hallway this time, having learned about his knock-back last time we fought him and not wanting to end up in the lava by mistake.

We were there at the Black Anvil, which is where you need to go to forge Dark Iron Bars from Dark Iron Ore… however, I did not yet have the recipe for that.  That comes from the seven dwarves room, down the other path.

On the far side of that was the area where Fineous Darkvire roams.  We cleared one of the golem groups when he wandered into range.  In a rash moment I popped him with my gun to pull him, but got another golem and his three helpers together.  That was more of a fight than we were expecting.  We focused on Fineous, but things got out of hand as the non-elites have ranged attacks at started going after Skronk.

We killed Fineous, but Skronk went down as well.  We started shouting at Moronae to loot the corpse to get the quest item in case we wiped, but then his inventory was full and there were a few awkward moments while I pulled out every ability I had that wasn’t on cool down to keep going.

We ended up surviving.  Moronae ressed up Skronk and we saw what else Fineous had.  He dropped the Chief Architect’s Monocle, which was definitely mage gear.  That went to Ula, who got to show off our second single-eye piece of gear of the run.

Ula with her new Monocle

We got ourselves back together and buffed up again and I took a screen shot of the group, having survived another fight.

Healing up down by the Black Anvil

To finish the quest for Moronae we had to keep going back up the path towards the monument to Franklorn Forgewright, where you turn in the quest.  But part of the way there we found ourselves once again outside the vault.

We’re here once more

We did not finish up the vault the last time we passed by, so we figured we could pause for a bit to try it again.  Everybody swore not to open up or look at the portrait, which got us in so much trouble last time.  Instead we cleared the group inside, then took down the boss and his pet, allowing us access to the vault area.

All I could recall was that you needed to have a dozen relic coffer keys to open up the twelve normal vaults in order to gain access to the final vault.  By this time, our ninth run in the instance, we all had a stack of those keys, so we started opening up vaults haphazardly, ignoring the four frozen golems in the center of the room.

Let’s open up some vaults

I had forgotten the bit about the golems coming to life and attacking once you open the twelfth vault, which naturally took us by surprise.  Things did not go well.

Golems attack… and knock me out momentarily

We managed to wipe without killing a single golem.  By that point we had been going for quite a  while and respawns behind us were clearly going to be an issue.  We decided to call it a night at that point.

We still have things to finish in Blackrock Depths, but we are considering taking a break and maybe going after Dire Maul East as a diversion next time.  BRD will still be there waiting for us.  We might even want to finish the vault successfully just once.

When Will We get The Burning Crusade Classic?

It seems pretty sure, given the various surveys and leaks coming out of Blizzard, that we are going to get a classic version of The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft.

The Burning Crusade in a black bean sauce

The question appears to be no longer “if,” but rather “how” and “when” now.

You may have seen a post over at Massively OP about a rumored timeline for such a release.  I sent in that tip based on a story I saw over at WCCF Tech which referenced a fan site forum post about a video from a WoW streamer who had heard from a reliable source that the official timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic was to be:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement
  • Pre-patch: April 13th/14th, 2021
  • Launch: May 3rd/4th, 2021

My initial gut reaction to this timeline was that it has to be wrong.  That launch date is way too soon for Blizzard.  I have no doubt that we will be getting The Burning Crusade Classic, and it seems like a slam dunk than we will get it in 2021.  But in May?  Not going to happen.

A lot of the responses I have seen in support of this timeline seem to revolve around the technical feasibility of it.  Could it be done?  Could Blizzard get it together and launch in that time frame.

I think they could.  They have no doubt been working on it for ages now.  The popularity and success of WoW Classic no doubt cemented the resources to carry forward with it.

Instead, my main objection to the timeline is Blizzard and its past behavior.  Going from an announcement to beta to pre-patch to launch in about ten weeks… eight weeks really, since the pre-patch kicks off the opening of the black gate event, so they’re committed by then… seems uncharacteristically quick for the company.  That would be a positively hasty run by the standards of the company.

I don’t think people get how cautious Blizzard can be.  A lot of criticism was directed at WoW Classic due to the time it took to launch when people compared it to the comings and goings of pirate WoW servers.  If some randos on the internet can stand up a server quickly, why can’t Blizzard?  This blindly ignores how Blizz is a company that expects you to pay for a game, and you won’t pay if it breaks or falls over under load.  Blizz could no doubt put up a prototype server even more quickly, but would it stand up to the strains required of an official server?

Remember how many people piled into WoW Classic?  There will be a comparable surge when this come out.

Blizzard will want to run beta for a while, testing out specific functions of the expansion in classic form.  I firmly believe that will take more than the eight weeks this timeline allows.

Then they will want to to some load tests.  We’ll all be invited to pile onto a server to make sure that the new stuff still works.  We might get that in May, with a re-run of it again likely in June.

There is also the question as to how TBC Classic will be handled.  Surveys have gone out asking if people want fresh servers as transfer targets of to have their WoW Classic servers expanded to include TBC or some other option.  The server matrix for WoW Classic was relatively easy; PvP or PvE, with RP as a side order.  With TBC we might get fresh servers as transfer targets, upgraded WoW Classic servers, fresh start TBC servers, or some other combo.  Blizzard will try to make the maximum number of people happy, and as they were surveying people still late last month, it doesn’t seem like that has been decided.  They will likely have a plan by BlizzConline, but that is still another set of systems they’ll want to test.

My instincts, such that they are, says a realistic timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic would look more like this:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement or soon thereafter
  • Server load tests: May/June 2021
  • Server reservations for users: July 2021
  • Pre-launch events on WoW Classic servers: mid/late July 2021
  • Launch: August 2021

But I am a registered pessimist and didn’t think Blizzard would ever be convinced to make WoW Classic in the first place.

So I will make a poll and let you tell me when you think it will launch.

There is a poll above this line which your adblock or other security measures might block.

We will probably get an answer in February as to the plan, until then we can speculate.

2021 and Questions for a New Year

Welcome to the first day of 2021.  A new dawn on a new year greeted us this morning.

2020 plus 1

Traditionally the first day of the year sees a post from me about the upcoming twelve months.  Usually it is predictions, but as the history of links shows, I occasionally diverge and try something else.

This year is going to be one of those “something else” years.  This year I have questions.

Oh, I have many questions about what 2021 will bring.  Many questions.  But for the purposes of this post, I am going to keep them focused on video games.  And, when it comes down to things, asking a question is just one step removed from a prediction.  A prediction is just an attempt to answer the question, but even formulating the question requires a bit of speculation as to what the future may bring.  You just look less wrong because, hey, you were only asking a question!

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

I remember from my history classes that a return to “normalcy” was one of the campaign slogans of Warren G. Harding, which made it in to the word we have today.  And here in 2021, we have been offered a vision of normalcy. If the vaccines work, if the pandemic subsides, if some new horror doesn’t step in to fill the COVID-19 void, we could, come the summer, be back to some of our old pastimes.

Movie theaters. Restaurants. Sporting events. Family gatherings. Air travel.

All that and more may return.

That will leave less time for video games.  2020 was a story of success for many video game companies as we all stayed home.  Does the end of the pandemic portend a market crash and layoffs and all the other things that come with an industry down turn?

Also, some of us will likely have to go back to the office.  I know that some managers and most of HR hate having the employees out of sight.  Back to open plan fish bowls for some people. That will mean an increase in productivity for some, including in the video games industry, which has blamed the pandemic and work from home for some delays over the last year.  Will they get back on schedule or just find new excuses for delays?

Overall, what will the impact be?

This is probably the big general industry question.

Will Shadowlands hold players?

Blizz made a few risky changes last year, including the level squish.  But making Shadowlands an expansion where getting to level cap is basically the intro and the rest of the expansion is all what one might call “end game” is another level.  It is a change and a gamble and we will have to see how it plays out.

Will we get more classic WoW content?

The rumors and leaks seem to indicate that we will see The Burning Crusade Classic at some point this year.  However, there are serious questions as to when we’ll see it and how it will be rolled out.  There have been surveys asking players how they should handle TBC.  They won’t want to kill off the vanilla vibe that has worked so well for them, so transfers or new servers seem likely, but we don’t know anything really.  As for when, there was a rumor that May was a launch target, but that seems laughably quick for the slow and steady Blizzard bunch.  Maybe some time in the fall?

Will Diablo Immortal ship?

It has been two years now.  More of us have phone now.  Some of us have even upgraded our phones since BlizzCon 2018.  Are you going to ship this thing or what?  If it is any good at all it will do okay.  The BlizzCon 2018 reaction was largely due to you pitching to the wrong audience after having hinted about Diablo IV.  Just let people have it.  It couldn’t possibly be taking this long to finish it, could it?  This is just Blizz being conservative and not indicative of some horrible problem with the game, right?

Does Blizzard have anything new planned?

In a way, 2020 returned Blizzard to 2010, where so much of the revenue came from World of Warcraft that almost no other game really mattered when it came to the bottom line.  While Blizzard isn’t quite back to WoW being the only game in their portfolio that matters yet, but Diablo IV is years away, Hearthstone can only put out so many expansions per year, Overwatch is static, and they’ve put StarCraft on the shelf with Heroes of the Storm.  If they don’t have something big, then we’re back to all Azeroth all the time.

What does Daybreak under EG7 really portend?

It is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.

-Gimli, The Lord of the Rings

Here we are in a new year with a new company running Daybreak and they sound like they want to be serious about video games and expand their holdings and invest in the titles and IPs they have just acquired.  But what will really come to pass?  Lots of people have been bitten hard by the reality of the video games industry.  You have to make enough money to maintain your current project as well as fund any new projects.  Daybreak was hard pressed to do that on their own, will EG7 be able to change that?

Will Norrath continue to boom?

As bad as Daybreak management could seem at times, there is an argument to be made that EverQuest and EverQuest II rolled right along, got an expansion every year, got a big updates, ran holidays, and did all the things expected of such games quite steadily during the Daybreak era.  It was, in its way, a golden era with little in the way of shake ups to disturb them.  Gone were dumb ideas like SOEmote… as well as any hope for a new EverQuest game.  What happens now?  EverQuest seems secure, profitable as it was, but EQII was the low earner with the smallest customer base in 2020.  Does EG7 keep pouring money into that?  Is there plan?

What happens with H1Z1?

Somewhere behind EverQuest II is H1Z1, which didn’t even get a mention in the EG7 presentation when it came to numbers.  The acknowledged it as a valuable Daybreak IP, but how much of that was fluff?

Where is Cold Iron Studios?

Not even acknowledged by EG7 so far, so the question about them remains.  Where are they in the EG7 corporate structure?

What does ArenaNet do after all the departures?

Yes, there is still a plan for another expansion for GuildWars 2, and the game isn’t going anywhere.  But when the leadership wanders off… usually for reasons of dissatisfaction… that is a bad sign.

Where does CCP go next with New Eden?

The Trigalvian invasion is over.  A new region, Pochven, has been carved out of New Eden.  The huge, two year event has come to its conclusion  So what is next?  What will be the next venue to expand the lore of New Eden and give players something fresh to explore?

Will CCP stop strangling the New Eden economy?

CCP spent 2020 treating the player base like a bunch of ISK addicts and has been trying to dry us out.  The impacts of their efforts have been quite clear in the monthly economic reports.  The company has said that this situation is temporary, but how will they get to something less onerous without letting players return to old habits?  If they introduce new revenue streams that players reject, then things won’t get better… and CCP has something of a history of new ideas that don’t pan out… but if they restore the old streams then they might has well not have bothered.

How Will World War Bee End?

Assuming it ends in 2021.  We are about at the six month mark of the war and, while the invaders have pushed their way into Delve, the Imperium hasn’t rolled over and given up.  The great predicte evac has yet to occur.  The extermination goal, oft repeated by Vily, seemed unlikely to be accomplished at the start of the war and seems no more likely today.  That is especially true when Pandemic Horde, which has done the bulk of the work in the war, says that is not one of its goals.  At what point does PAPI declare victory and move on to other things?  And can TEST afford to see the war wind down with the Imperium vowing revenge on them for starting the war in the first place?

The war has set recorders for losses in both ship numbers and ISK value as well as total players participating in battles.  Will it end with a bang or a whimper?

Will Nintendo announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl?

We’re overdue on this.  Seriously, one of my major gripes about Game Freak dumping development for the 3DS line of devices is that when it came to remakes Pokemon Diamond & Pearl were next on the list.  They are the oldest titles of the Pokemon main line RPG titles that have not had a remake.  My daughter and I are so on board with this as a game idea.  But Nintendo and Game Freak have a different play and Pokemon Sword & Shield looks to be taking its time to play out, with two expansions so far.  I fret that we’ll never get this remake and that the current title is being treated like an MMO and will carry on for years.

Will crowd funded MMOs finally find their way?

Seriously.  There seems to be three paths for crowd funded MMOs up to this point.  There are the quirky little hobbiest games like Project: Gorgon or Shroud of the Avatar.  There are the “we totally missed our promises and have no ship date in sight” titles like Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained.  And then there are the ones that just took the money and folded up shop.

Right now I wouldn’t back a crowd funded MMO, endorse one, or even write a post mentioning one to draw even an iota of attention to it because the track record on that front is so abysmal that I feel complicit by my past enthusiasm.

Is there anything new possible for MMORPGs?

Yes, we have MMOs and games treated as services as pretty much the default way to deal with titles these days for a lot of studios.  Grand Theft Auto V, a game from 2013, appearing on the monthly SuperData Digital Revenue chart every month for the last five years of so is testament to that.

But I am talking about MMORPGs, where you play a character in a shared, persistent virtual world.  Ultima Online, EverQuest, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online are key in defining the genre.  The problem is, all of those titles are still there.  Furthermore, WoW Classic and EverQuest retro servers, seeking to recreate the early experiences of those games, are significant draws in the genre.

Is it possible to create something new in the genre, something different?  Or would anything different enough to be interesting end up classified as something else?  Is WoW the unbreakable definition of the genre now?

Will I play anything new this year?

You think the MMORPG genre is stale?  Look at my posts about what I have been playing.  If it were not for WoW Shadowlands, you might mistake some of my posts from 2020 as being from 2006 or 2010.

I suppose I did play a couple of new things.  There was Minecraft Dungeons and Among Us.  But for the most part, it was the same titles long covered here.  Am I the problem with the MMORPG genre?

Will VR get a killer app this year?

I should go back and see if I still have any of those VR sales projections from a few years back which predicted everybody and their mother would have one of those devices strapped to their heads by now.  VR headsets have gotten better and cheaper and some good games have come out, but I have yet to see anything that would make me jump on that bandwagon still.  Consoles seem to be the way forward at the moment.  And now I get unsolicited email from analysts talking about “XR,” which is VR mixed in with AR, to give them a bigger market to talk about… and probably so they can make new projections that cannot be compared apples to apples with their old ones.

Will the industry be smart enough to keep regulators away?

I am looking at you EA.  You managed to make lockboxes a headline issue again in the middle of 2020 by putting an ad for them in a children’s toy catalog.  Once the pandemic is in the past… and I dearly hope it will be some time this year… legislators looking to make some headlines for attention may turn back to lockboxes and gambling and the safe refrain of “won’t somebody think of the children?” yet again.

Will We lose Section 230 Protection?

Not strictly a video game issue, but it would have its impact on that industry as well as others.

You can read all about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of the United States over at Tech Dirt, which has a post about it and the many bogus arguments against it, but in a nutshell it protects people hosting sites on the internet from liability for what users may say or write.

For example, if I post something libelous on Twitter, Section 230 says you can sue me but not Twitter.  Easy to understand, right.  Twitter, or Facebook, or Massively OP, or you on your blog, are not liable for the wrongs of users.  It essentially allows the internet to be interactive.

And it is under political assault here in the US, most visibly by Trump, who is angry about the fact that Twitter very occasionally tries to make him comply with the terms of service he agreed to abide by when he signed up for the platform.

Those assailing Section 230 like to pretend they are defending free speech, but the opposite is actually the case.  There is a high correlation between rich people against Section 230 and rich people who like to sue anybody who says anything negative about them.

If Section 230 is repealed, if you write something objectionable on the internet, the hosting site can be sued.  They will then have the choice between spending money to fight a legal case over your dumbassery or deleting what you wrote and promising to keep you and anybody else from posting such things.  How do you think that is going to work out?

Removing Section 230 would basically give the litigious veto power over internet content and hosting services would start to behave in ways to avoid getting sued, which would mean disallowing comments in many places and preemptively deleting most anything political.

And if you don’t think that is going to spill over into your favorite online video game forum, you are wrong.

The only bright side is that while many people hate Twitter and Facebook, other tech and telecom companies are starting to realize that this would affect them as well, so they’re beginning to pull the appropriate strings on the politicians they’ve paid for in order to keep things as they are.

What will I do when the blog turns 15?

I mean besides write a long post full of stats and start including a “Fifteen Years Ago” section into my month in review posts?  Having almost 5,800 blog posts gives me data set of information that I always feel I could do more with.  Though, that said, you’ll get a bit of historical data next week, driven largely by the tenuous historical record that is this blog.  We’ll see how that flies.

What Else?

That is all I have right now.   am sure there are a lot more questions I want the answers to in 2021.  What did I miss?

Anyway, we shall see if I get answers this year. Some of them are clearly going to have simply “no” as an answer which, while unsatisfying, is still an answer.  At least I do not have to score questions, just figure out what happened with them.  Roll on 2021.

December in Review

The Site

Well, I made it to the end of 2020, and I should be happy about just that I suppose, though it isn’t like the world will change dramatically tomorrow, or the next day, or on January 20th, or whenever.  The same problems will face us and the same people will block whatever solutions might help people or alleviate problems.

2020 banner by my daughter

One thing that happens today is that Adobe officially stops supporting Flash.  You might have seen a few messages like this of late.

The end of Flash is here

This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog, but it is a moment of passing for a bit of code that had a huge influence on the web.  It has its roots back in the 90s in tech that powered games like Spaceship Warlock and Myst and was a gateway for many budding game devs to create projects that could be played by others.  There was a whole era of crappy Flash games in the early 2000s, some of which were not all that crappy really.

And it was the underlying tech for a lot of web animation of that era as well.  Homestar Runner was entirely done in Flash, as were many other greater and lesser known projects. (Shout out to Chris Coutts’ Tales for the L33T: Romeo + Juliette back in the day.)  It got into a lot of places.

Some of those bits of the web have been converted, preserved, or moved to other mediums.  Homestar Runner is on YouTube if you want to watch Trogdor again. (Also, Chris Coutts)

But a lot of stuff will just fall by the wayside and disappear.  Flash got a bad reputation, especially for security issues, but it helped build the web as we know it today.  And so we say farewell to it and the games it fostered.  This is why Farmville is also going away today.  Marc Pinkus went on at length on Twitter about the game, leaving out the bits where he stole it from another company and did a bunch of dodgy stuff for revenue and helped create the aura of Facebook games as “spammy pieces of shit.”  So it goes.

Anyway, here we are at the end of the year and post number 405 for 2020.  It was going to be post 404 with a cute “not found” joke, but then that titan fight happened last night.

405 puts 2020 behind 2019, which had 412 posts, but one ahead of 2018, which hit the 404 mark.  Did I make a joke about it back then?

One Year Ago

After many slipped dates and fan push back, Daybreak decided to shut down PlanetSide Arena, their attempt to re-capture some of that battle royale lightning that H1Z1 held briefly when it launched.

On the bright side, EverQuest launched its 26th expansion, the Torment of Velious.

I also made a pilgrimage of my own in old Norrath.

CCP experimented with a day of no downtime.  I heard later that this caused problems and the next downtime had to run long.  You just have to reboot New Eden once a day I guess.

CCP also brought in the HyperNet Relay gambling mechanic, the new wallet UI, and the Kicking over Castles update to make blowing up structures a bit easier.  We got the Naughty or Nice holiday event which included a station to refurbish melted snowballs.

The holiday season also came to WoW Classic and EverQuest II.

Blizzard introduced battlegrounds to WoW Classic early to stem the completely predictable carnage that came about from the introduction of the honor system.  We also got the key chain and paid character transfers.

In WoW Classic we hit our peak group size as six of us ran off to the Scarlet Monastery graveyard.  Back in vanilla a bunch of dungeons allowed raid groups of 10 players.  Skonk and I also got our paladins out for the Test of Righteousness class quest.

We were also back in Gnomeregan for some quest clean up with Earl.  I had to swap to my pally so he could tank.  And then we went back with a different group mix.  Then we went back in again to get Moronae the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.    Finally, we went back to Scarlet Monastery to run through the library.

Then I reviewed my WoW Classic characters four months into the launch.

On the retail WoW front I broke the story of the rejected squish ideas.

I was still running around tuning up my main in EverQuest II until the Blood of Luclin expansion launched.  Getting to Luclin was a bit of a chore, at least the first time through.  From there the run to level cap was pretty quick.

And, it being December, there were the usual reflection on the year gone by.  I looked at my games played, reviewed my 2019 predictions, looked at the books I read, and reviewed highs and lows of the year.

I also did a Decade in Review post about gaming related stuff.

And then 2020 hit.  But that is another tale altogether.

Five Years Ago

Thanks to The Force Awakens coming out, George Lucas was in the news and rationalizing his “Han didn’t shoot first” change.  I wasn’t buying it.  There were certainly other things he could have changed.

It was December, so I had to go over the usual posts, scoring predictions, looking back at the highs and lows of the year gone past, looking forward to what I might play 2016, and something about the inevitable Steam holiday sale.  I also made a chart to show what MMOs I was playing in 2015 because everybody else was doing it.  I totally forgot to make that chart again this year.

There was the Operation: Frostline expansion in EVE Online.

In New Eden I got blow up trying to slip a Caracal out of Fountain.  It happens.  On the other hand, I did get my first kill mark on another solo op.  I also hit 150 million skill points, an achievement soon to be made trivial by skill injectors.

The much reviled Fountain War Kickstarter was finally cancelled, as it was clearly not going to get anywhere close to its $150K target.  But was that going to bank the flames of the brightly burning Goon hate? (hint: no)

The recently rebranded Imperium was taking its plans to low sec, either to generate content or display its arrogance depending on who was describing it.  We were also waging a war in Cloud Ring.

Turbine finally got their head screwed on right when it came to insta-levels in Lord of the Rings Online.  I was stomping around in the Mirkwood expansion trying to see in the dark.

In Minecraft I was building a prismarine outpost along the great northern road.  Aaron and I also killed the End Dragon.

On the EverQuest front, the Phinigel “true box” server opened, a retro progression server that was supposed to keep people from multi-boxing groups.

I summed up five years of Raptr tracking my game play with my top 20 played games.  There was LEGO’s somewhat nonsensical online name policy.  And I was playing Monument Valley on the iPad.

Ten Years Ago

That December I had one of my all-time most popular posts, Talking Cats Playing Pattycake!  You can thank me for not taking the hint and going all talking cats, all the time.  Or hate me for not doing that.  Take your pick.  And We Didn’t Start the Fire?  Nothing.

But I still had kitty pictures.  Awww.

I still think that if you label a window “Currency” it ought to show all your currency, not just the odd-ball stuff.

I was still feeling the sting of ThinkGeek teasing us with the iCade at April Fools, all the more so because some pretenders were on the scene.

Turbine was giving away 10,000 Turbine Points, which comes out to real, and possibly taxable, value in real world dollars.  The comments on the post were obviously not from tax professionals.

I visited EverQuest for long enough to find a house.  And then I was out of money.

In EverQuest II they were starting the run up to vampires.

And I summed up what we knew about The Agency to that point… which was bupkiss.

In World of Warcraft, Cataclysm launched.  If you weren’t in the beta, there were still scams promising to get you in.  There was the digital pre-order, which worked for me.  And one final hardware upgrade we needed at our house before the expansion launched.  And then there was picking a new character for the re-rolled instance group in Azeroth.

The U.S. release date for Pokemon Black and White was announced at last.

Finally, I wrote something that looked sort of like a review of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s book Mogworld.  And then there was something about zombies vs. werewolves vs. vampires vs. unicorns.

Fifteen Years Ago

CCP dropped the Red Moon Rising expansion on EVE Online, introducing a host of new ships including titans and motherships.  They also introduced a new tutorial and new player experience, so some things never change.

Asherons Call 2: Fallen Kings, the sequel to Asheron’s Call, was shut down by Turbine.  Revived again some years later, it and its predecessor were both shut down when Jeffrey Epstein, Columbus Nova, and/or Daybreak Game Company acquired the MMO portion of Turbine and created Standing Stone Games.  The open question remains as to who might own the AC/AC2 IP at this point.  Warner?  Daybreak?  EG7?  Jeffrey Epstein?  The Russians? [Edit: Massively OP says that WB still owns it, which means it is as dead as any IP can be.]

Twenty Years Ago

The second EverQuest expansion, The Scars of Velious, launched.  The icy continent of Velious brought frost giants, Coldain Dwarves, and more dragons to Norrath.  It also introduced The Sleeper, a once per server event.

Most Viewed Posts in December

  1. Daybreak Revealed in Enad Global 7 Presentation
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. Minecraft Village Population
  4. Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting
  5. WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases
  6. Robbing Some Space Banks
  7. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  8. EVE Online Ushers in the Holidays with Winter Nexus Events Starting Today
  9. Do You Need a Level Booster for Shadowlands?
  10. Drone Aggression Nerf and Tech II Salvage Drones Arrive in EVE Online
  11. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend
  12. Daybreak to be Acquired by Enad Global 7

Search Terms of the Month

what were brad’s aradune stats in everquest
[All 18s?]

velius porno 69 ano 14
[Make up your mind]

will scaling kill wow boring
[It wasn’t the best feature in BFA certainly]

how to rush through all wow expansions
[You don’t even have to do that any more]

eve dodixie losing status
[I’m not sure it had much to begin with]

can you buy skill points in eve online?
[Yes.  Next question.]

eve skill pints per isk comparison
[That’s a bit more difficult]

Game Time from ManicTime

My game play time went in something of a reverse flow in December.  I came off the big WoW Shadowlands binge at the start of the month, focused a lot on WoW Classic in the middle, and then World War Bee activity picked up in the back half of the month, culminating in last night’s titan slaughter fest.

  • EVE Online – 53.14%
  • WoW Classic – 34.20%
  • World of Warcraft – 11.78%
  • About Us – 0.88%

Oh, and I played About Us for about 90 minutes in the middle of all of that.

EVE Online

There was still World War Bee to keep me busy.  With the enemy camped on our doorstep fights have been easy to come by.  Somebody is always trying to provoke the other side into doing something dumb.  I’ve seen fights over anything from bait titans to a bait Raven in T5ZI-S.  And then there was the Catch deployment, where Reavers went out to join in with The Initiative to lay siege to Legacy Coalitions backfield… some more.  And then there was the battle in M2-XFE yesterday and early this morning.  We will have to see how that affects the war.

Pokemon Go

We got released to start working our way to level 50 this month.  The xp climb is very steep, but there are also a series of tasks, sort of feats of strength, to accomplish before you can level up, even if you already have the xp.  The big one for level 41 is to catch 200 Pokemon in a single day.  I managed that sitting in the parking lot at the ER at just after midnight where a couple of Pokestops were close by. (Daughter is fine, but why do these things always happen so late at night?)  They don’t let people hang out in the ER due to COVID-19, so I had little else to do while I sat and waited for a few hours.

Niantic also started releasing Pokemon from the Kalos region (Pokemon X & Y) into the game.

Level: 40 (50% of the way to 41 in xp, all but one task complete)
Pokedex status: 611 (+18) caught, 637 (+21) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 9 of 9
Pokemon I want: Still need some Unova Pokemon to fill in the gaps
Current buddy: Zwelious

World of Warcraft

What else was there beside the Shadowlands expansion?  I made it to level cap, chose a covenant, and have messed around with that some.  I am not as taken by the whole thing as some… I don’t feel compelled to log in every night… but I am not unhappy with it either.

WoW Classic

I think “Blacksmithing and Blackrock Depths” sums up much of my time in WoW Classic this month, though I did spend some time with my alts as well.  Doing the blacksmithing stuff got me to get my druid out to harvest kingsblood and my pally out for any spare iron, and I ended up playing them as well.  I also did a bit of the Winter Veil activities, though not the whole routine.

Coming Up

2021!

But, as noted at the top, a change of arbitrary numbers won’t change the plight we’re in.  Tomorrow is just another day and it is quite possible the new year will vie with the old when it comes to total misery caused.

Here you can expect the usual.  There will be a post tomorrow looking into the new year.  I have a 2020 games post still brewing.  Otherwise I will likely play the same games, write about them in the same style, and report and comment on bits of news that are related.

We still need to go back to Blackrock Depths in WoW ClassicShadowlands is still calling.

There is a rumor that PAPI might try to make a big push against the Imperium come January.  I suspect if they can break into 1DQ1-A or Helm’s Deep they will have destroyed enough of our stuff to declare victory and go home to rest for a bit.  It has been a long war of sustained combat.  And, as mentioned in my earlier post today, there was that big titan battle over a Keepstar timer.  Will that change anybody’s plans?

Looking Back at 2020 and Trying for Highs

2020.  What a year.

Every year I try to distill a bit of the world I focus on into highs and lows.  There is a history of posts here.

Sometimes I include a “middling” category, but usually not.  This year though I have had enough lows.  This year I am going to make a list of highs.  And I am going to try… though I make no guarantees… not to include sarcastic highs that are back handed jabs to highlight actual lows.  Your mileage may vary.

Video Games Overall

  • 2020 has been a banner year for video games.  SuperData Research has reported every month since the pandemic began in earnest that sales have been up over last year by double digits.  Lots of new releases, lots of good games, lots of revenue to keep the industry going.

Blizzard

  • The Shadowlands pre-patch events went well.
  • Shadowlands launched to big numbers.
  • WoW Classic remains strong despite the pull of the retail expansion.
  • The instance group’s return to WoW via WoW Classic has kept on rolling throughout the year.
  • Bobby Kotick says WoW is a billion dollar a year franchise.
  • Shadowlands and WoW Classic combined have revived the fortunes of WoW… though the pandemic helped some too.
  • The retail WoW level squish clearly did not drive too many people away and made getting into the latest content less of a chore.
  • It seems likely we’ll at least get some news about a classic The Burning Crusade server.
  • Had a fun run through Diablo II, which still plays pretty well 20 years down the line.
  • Blizz has been quietly fixing Warcraft III Reforged after its bad launch.
  • We got some scraps of information about Diablo IV.

Daybreak Game Company (now including Standing Stone Games)

  • The games are set to be run by EG7, a company optimistic about being in games.
  • The company actually makes money.
  • The games they still have all actually make money too… well, maybe not H1Z1, but most of them.
  • The mystery of who really owns Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online was finally revealed.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got updates and expansions this year.
  • EverQuest was able to play the special server card successfully yet again.
  • We learned that DC Universe Online has what would have been considered a huge player base in the pre-WoW era.
  • LOTRO got a 64-bit client.

CCP

  • The EVE Online franchise is a resilient part of the Pearl Abyss portfolio.
  • EVE Echoes, the mobile version of the game, has grabbed a lot of new players, and took less time to get out than Diablo Immortal.
  • The pandemic helped boost the PCU over 40K for the first time in a couple of years.
  • Hilmar said at the Youil Fireside that 1.9 million new people logged into EVE Online this year, more than the past three years combined.
  • World War Bee got enough players together organically to set two Guinness World Records.
  • Andrew Groen delivered Empires of EVE Vol. II, another great installment in the history of the game.
  • That Triglavian event wrapped up with an epic finale that tore systems out of New Eden to create a new Triglavian region.
  • CCP seems really, really serious about fixing the in-game economy.
  • PLEX for Good ran for both the Australian wild fires and pandemic relief.
  • Tech II salvage drones.  At least one person got their Christmas wish.
  • CCP finally rolled out the replacement for the old fansite program.  I did not make the cut, but a lot of streamers now how free accounts and extra PLEX to spend.
  • CCP still has hopes for an EVE Online based shooter game.
  • The CSM15 election saw a peaceful transition of power and nobody has been kicked off the council… yet.  Seriously, it is a rare CSM when somebody doesn’t get voted off the island.

Pokemon

  • Pokemon Sword & Shield launched at just the right time before the pandemic to become a staple of play.
  • The new Pokemon model on the Switch is expansions after the main game drops, and Pokemon Sword & Shield had The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra this year, which helped keep the game a hot property.
  • Pokemon Home showed up to provide a link to bring Pokemon forward from the DS era and transfer them in from Pokemon Go.
  • Niantic changed up Pokemon Go to adapt to the pandemic, giving us things like remote raid passes to keep us playing when we had to stay home.
  • Niantic also raised the level cap on Pokemon Go in a way that didn’t toss your accumulated xp by tying levels 41-50 in with both xp and special tasks.

Other Areas of the Video Game Industry

  • TorilMUD carries on for another year, making it a total of 27… and even added a new class this year.
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed just in time to give many a shared virtual experience as we stayed home for the pandemic.
  • Minecraft got a big update to make the nether a more interesting place to explore.
  • Minecraft Dungeons launched, and was a nice, if somewhat simple, clicky ARPG.
  • EA managed to ship another decent Star Wars title, Star Wars: Squadrons, which is supposed to be quite good in VR.
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator had an excellent launch.  Again, another title that was supposed to be good in VR.
  • There was a Half-Life game.  That almost never happens.  And, one more time, Half-Life: Alyx was good for VR.
  • Crusader Kings III gave people the medieval royal soap opera simulator that they didn’t know they needed.
  • GuildWars 2 has an expansion coming.
  • A two year old game, Among Us, suddenly exploded onto the scene thanks to streamers.
  • New consoles!  The Xbox Series X/Series S and PlayStation 5 came out!

Blogging and the Like

  • Hey, the blog is still here!  Both of my blogs.
  • This blog is also experiencing a bit of a revival… or a dead cat bounce… as traffic has been up a lot over last year.  It is still a far cry from the heady peaks of 2012, but I guess the pandemic didn’t just boost video games.
  • I wrote a lot of posts in 2020.  This post number 403 for the year.
  • I actually got close to 800 followers on Twitter… and then they purged a bunch of bots and I fell back down.  Also I strayed into the political with the election and no doubt scared some people off.
  • We had a double event year with Blapril and Blaugust.
  • Lots and lots of plumbing related spam comments this month… like tens of thousands. If your comment got stuck in the spam filter I probably never saw it due to that.  Hrmm, that wasn’t a high, was it?

Television, Books, and the Media

  • I watched a LOT of television this past year.  There is probably another post on that coming, though I have done those Pandemic Binge Watching posts along the way.  While not everything was great, there were a lot of good shows available.
  • My reading routine was disrupted by the changes the pandemic brought.  I have to find a regular time in my schedule for that or it won’t happen.  But still I managed to read a lot of books in 2020.
  • I spent a lot more time reading the news… and I do not shirk on that front on a normal year.  No doubt this is some attempt to foster a feeling of control in the world, but I suppose I learned a lot.
  • Podcasts and YouTube content kept me going at times, with new faces popping up like Julie Nolke and Sarah Cooper.

Personal Life

  • We’re in the back half of December and I still have a job and haven’t caught COVID-19.
  • I have somewhat adapted to my new life where I spend 23 hours a day, seven days a week inside at home.  Nothing tests your introvert status than forced isolation from the world I suppose.
  • Daughter made it through her first semester of college living on campus and came out with both good grades and good health still.
  • I bought an exercise bicycle for home and have been very good about using it regularly… except over the holidays when my now weak grasp of time fell completely apart and I only know what day it is when I open up the blog.
  • I started depositing checks via my phone.  This was largely because my credit union finally added that feature to their mobile app.
  • Let me reiterate; family still healthy and safe.

This ended up being a somewhat shorter list than past years.  In part that is because the scope of my game knowledge has been funneled down to a few titles of late.  But mostly it is because I am better at writing negative entries I bet.  The post would be more than double in length if I let go on that front.  But we’ll let sleeping dogs lie, for now at least.  There will be plenty of time for that in 2021.

But if you’re dying for some 2020 sick burns, Honest Trailers has you covered.

Take that 2020!

Suddenly Serious about Blacksmithing

I am unable to resist the lure of crafting and trade skills in MMORPGs.  Despite more than 20 years of fumbling with them halfheartedly and having them draw off huge amounts of play time and in-game resources, I still jump right on them every time.

Seriously.  My advice after all these years.  At most, pick up a harvesting skill or two and just sell stuff you get and use the money you make to buy things you need.  Don’t try to make it yourself.  Every brief moment of profitability and convenience at having investing in crafting is far outweighed by the cost and effort.

And yet, knowing this in the logical and analytical portion of my brain, every single time I start an MMORPG I immediately start on crafting.  Even in games where I have done it before.  I start on a new server and crafting is on the menu.

So it will come as no surprise that I have several characters who have picked up and pursued trade skills in WoW Classsic.  Not all of them, thankfully.  Most of the alts just have two harvest professions.  But I have a leather worker, an engineer, and a blacksmith that I have pushed along into the mid-200s for skill levels.

Viniki, tank for the current incarnation of the instance group, is my blacksmith.  I have been able to keep him moving along by sending him out to harvest ore on his own.  Unlike retail WoW, there is no xp for harvesting, so he has managed to progress.  Ula has an alt that does blacksmithing as well, so I made the choice, when he made it high enough level, to split off and specialize in weaponry.  Ula’s alt could go down the armor path.

On the weapons path

That meant crafting some weapons as part of the quest to open up that path.

A dozen weapons

That was actually a bit of a pain, but mostly due to inventory space.  Collecting up the materials meant devoting precious bank space to the task, and then as I made each group of weapons, they also had to be stored away or carried with me.  But I got that done and was able to turn it in.

That unlocked the first set of weapons for me.  I still have a sub-specialization to go after later.

But then I realized, as we were working our way through Blackrock Depths, that I had an opportunity to pick up some additional recipes.  In the Grim Guzzler, inside the instance, is a NPC who will sell you such, so long as you have sufficient reputation with the Thorium Brotherhood, the Dark Iron Dwarf faction that resides in Searing Gorge.

So I set my sights on doing that.

Getting the faction though, that meant getting the attention of Master Smith Burninate out at Thorium Point.  He has the quests that let you raise your faction.

Is that name a Homestar Runner reference?

But to get to those quests you first have to do another quest, What the Flux?, which requires you to obtain the Firey Flux plans.  The plans are sitting on a table behind Overseer Maltorius and his two companions down in the slag pit in Searing Gorge.

The table behind them

The problem is that all three of them are elite mobs and were a bit too much for Viniki to handle solo.  I managed it with my hunter some time back by sacrificing his pet while he grabbed the plans, but it looked like I would need help to do this with a warrior.

Then I realized that one of my skills, Intimidating Shout, might do the trick.  It is a short term AOE fear that sends nearby mobs running away.  So I ran over to the table, got all three on me, then did my shout.  They ran off just long enough for me to scoop up the plans and jump of the ledge and run away.  The hard part was over I thought, now I just need to grind out the faction quests.

There are three quest options, each of which gives you 25 faction to the approximately 2,500 faction you’ll likely need at this point if you’ve done most of the quests at Thorium Point.

The three faction quests

The first requires four Kingsblood, the second four iron bars, and the third ten heavy leather.  After assessing my situation, it seemed that Kingsblood would be the best route.  I used a bit of heavy leather and some iron bars, but I sent my harvesting alt out to the Wetlands to get me Kingsblood.  I supplemented that with some I found cheap on the market.

The quest requirements

Each turn in also required two Incendosaur scales, which come from mobs down in the slag pit.  I had almost enough on my hunter from his time in Searing Gorge, and sent him down to collect some more… and skin… to fill out my need there.  And then you need one coal, which Master Smith Burninate sells, so seems like something of a silver sink, as you buy they from him only to turn them right back into him.

So I did that set of quests the 100 times required, which got me to friendly with the Thorium Brotherhood.

To get to honored you have a different quest.  You need close to a thousand Dark Iron Residue climb the 6,000 faction you need to go from friendly to honored and you need to do it in increments of 25 faction.

Dark Iron Residue has a use

Fortunately we had all been saving or Dark Iron Residue from the Blackrock Depths runs, so when everybody sent me what they had I was pretty much covered.  The tough part was doing the four clicks to turn in the quest 240 times.  I did it over three sessions.

But I made it, and am now ready to go talk to Lokhtos Darkbargainer in the Grim Guzzler in Blackrock Depths.  Of course at honored I can only get a few of the recipes, and to get beyond that in faction you have to raid Molten Core regularly.  And the recipes require Dark Iron Bars, the smelting of which requires another quest from one of the dwarves in the Summoner’s Tomb.  But we’ll be going there.  Then to actually smelt the bars I have to get down the the black anvil by Lord Incendious again, so I have been collecting those up to carry along if we make a run down there again.

All of which is more serious than I have ever been in the past about a WoW trade skill.  We’ll see how far I get and whether or not I end up making anything in any case.

As usual, if I had used the time I spent on this to just level up a character I would no doubt have at least one level 60 by now.  But that is the way I roll.  I cannot stop crafting.

Bad Day at Blackrock Depths

In the grand scheme of things in Blackrock Depths, we are nearing completion.  We have been to most of the spots on the map.

Blackrock Depths map

We really only have two locations to hit to be able to declare ourselves done.  We have to face Magmus (20 on the map) and then Emperor Dagran Thaurissan to rescue Moira Bronzebeard (21).

And we have been doing pretty well.  Much more so than I might have credited us as a group of four.  So when we got together last week we were set to get in there and get it done.  Our group was:

  • Viniki – level 57 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 56 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 56 night elf druid
  • Ula – level 56 gnome mage

We met up at Thorium Point and ran down the chains and to the instance one more time.

From there it was off to the left and through the gate with the Shadowforged Key, slipping past the wandering fire elemental easily enough.  Then we were in through the side door to the room that controls the bridge.  We found we did not even have to clear the full room.  Skronk slipped up to the control and was still out of aggro range of the final group.

The Skronk sneak

From there it was up the ramp and some clearing to get ourselves along to the manufactory and into the Grim Guzzler, the same path we took the week before.  However, we were hurrying along a bit too quickly and were, at times, a bit optimistic about aggro radius.  And accidental proximity pull of a group left Viniki down, though we won the fight.

Viniki waiting for a ress

We managed to stumble through the manufactory without losing anybody, though we managed to get ourselves a couple more surprise pulls.  Then we cleared the bridge and were into the Grim Guzzler once again.

This time we were just passing through, so I bought the beers for Private Rocknot and set him up for his event.  He got rambunctious and set of Phalanx who knocked open the back door… there must be some sort of emergency fire exit clearing routine in his programming… before we knock him down ourselves.

The back door open we headed out to keep clearing the way to our goal.  But them Skronk went down the steps and we got another proximity pull with me at the top of the steps and out of line of sight for heals.  That quickly led to our first wipe.

Viniki dead as Skronk releases

Accidents happen.  So we released, ran back to the instance, ran through the dungeon and back through the Grim Guzzler to get ourselves setup on the steps again.  This time I ran on in to start the engagement… and it turned out there were more guys than we had planned for… and, well, things went down hill from there and we managed to wipe again.

Dead together at the bottom of the ramp

We at least took one of them out before we wiped, so once we released and ran all the way back once again we were able to take them down without any further drama.

Around the corner, once it was clear, we came upon Ambassador Flamelash once again, a fight that seemed a lot tougher this time around.  Skronk died part way through the fight but Moronae was able to get a combat ress on him so we could finish things up, though it was a close run thing.  I think everybody ended up dying on their own during a fight at least once… twice for me… along with the various wipes.

We managed to wipe once more due to me running out of Skronk’s healing range as we fought the last group in that room.

Ula was the last hold out

Another run back.  We cleared that out and then did well on the Summoner’s Tomb event, slaying the seven dwarves without too much trouble.

All of that was just precursor to our first objective, which was to get through the Lyceum.  That was where we had stopped last time, though we had done a lot before then.  This time around it was our first main goal.  There are two mobs you need to slay in order to loot torches from them so you can light the braziers which opens the way to Magmus.

The trick, as noted last week, is that the non-elite mobs in the room are on a very quick respawn timer and come in groups of six to a dozen.  Also, unlike mobs early in the instance, that are around level 50, these are level 55, so have a much larger aggro radius relative to us.

Our plan, at the end of last week, was to look up some info about the Lyceum to see if there was a strategy we could make work.  Unfortunately, the info we found tended to be along the lines of “stay tight, AOE the crap out of things, use the columns to break line of sight with ranged mobs, get the torches, there is a safe spot near each brazier.”

We decided to head towards one of the braziers, get to the safe spot there, and see if we could spot one of the mobs with a torch.

One of the braziers is just at the end of this row

And, we actually made it to the platform with the brazier.  From there one of the torch carrying mobs, which Skronk had spent some time scouting out with mind vision and marking, was visible walking back and forth.  I tried to slip over in range of the torch mob, and managed to tag it, but I brought back a whole raft of non-elites with it.  We ended up in an epic fight on the brazier platform.

Moronae in bear form holding out at the end

However, it ended up as a wipe for us, though we did kill the torch mob.  The hope was that Moronae could stealth in and loot it when we got back.  However, by the time we ran to the instance and then took the path all the way through to the Lyceum again, the corpse had faded.

More research ensued and it came up that the torches persist and can actually be sold at the auction house.  The thought then was that we could perhaps blitz our way to a torch bearer and, even if we wiped, if we could just loot the torch we would be a step closer to getting through.  So I led a run straight for one of the torch mobs, and we got him down too.  I even clicked to loot him.

But I had turned off auto loot back when I went to grab an item from the chest you get at the end of the seven dwarves fight.  If I had had the option set we would have had a torch.  Instead, Skronk and I lay dead next to the corpse, still sparkling and ready to be looted.

Our corpses are practically on top of him

But at least we had a plan.  So we released for another run back, only to get to the room with the bridge control and find that it had respawned.  We killed a mob in our way and ran up the steps in the hope that we might beat the spawn there, but we were too late.  Groups at the top of the ramp were there and even as we watched groups down the hall began to re-appear.  We were stuck on the landing below the mobs.

As far as we could get back with many fights

We had spent too much time getting to the Lyceum and then too much time idle there trying to figure out a strategy.  We were not up for another clear, so we called it a day.  We will have to work our way back to the Lyceum another time.

Reviewing my 2020 Predictions

It is that time of year where I go back to my post from the first of the year where I have generally thrown out some rash ideas as to what might come to pass over the next twelve months.

2020 banner by my daughter

There is a long history of this around here:

I am generally wrong on most of my predictions, though I usually excuse/rationalize those predictions as just a thought experiment as to what might happen.

This year however, I ended up being more wrong than usual, and that is in part because I failed to predict the global pandemic.  COVID 19, the Cornavirus, has done me in, figuratively if not yet literally.

Anyway, it is still that time of year, so I’ll go through the predictions and see if I managed to score any hits at all and where I was thwarted by the ‘rona.

Each prediction is worth 10 points if correct, unless otherwise noted, and partial credit is available.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

Not so much.  I mean sure, they did their little internal studio division thing, and tried to declare them “indies,” so now we have Darkpaw, Rogue Planet, and Dimensional Ink “studios,” but they’re all effectively the same company.  Daybreak even acquired another studio this year.  No parts were sold off… individually at least.  We’ll get to the who shebang later.  But otherwise they seemed to hang on.  Did they even have a layoff in 2020?   If not I suspect that was due to the ‘rona boom in video games.  0 points.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

This one on the other hand pretty much came to pass.  I guess I covered myself both ways, but I have to have a gimme or two so I don’t completely zero out.  10 points.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

How is H1Z1 still alive?  I guess it is still rolling okay on PS4, but I can’t even take some partial credit for the PC side getting shut down.  More ‘rona bonus?  0 points.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

PlanetSide 2 seems to be rolling along under the Rogue Planet banner.  It got some updates over the year.  I don’t think there was anything that qualified as a big announcement. I mean, they were hinting that PlanetSide Arena would lead to PlanetSide 3 and we’re nowhere close to that.  Do outfit wars and shattered warp gates get there?  I think the biggest surprise was how many people actually play the game… and how few pay.  I’m giving myself 5 points here as it was just business as usual.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

Nope.  SSG just goes on and on telling people that they can’t make a real retro server while they let the current one languish.  Instead they wrapped a game update and a quest pack with a $99 bow and called it an expansion.  0 points for me, though we do know how they are connected to Daybreak now.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

Once again I see the hand of the ‘rona here saving another title that seems to be slipping into oblivion.  Lord British is still long gone, but the servers still seem to be up.  This will probably be the last time I ever mention this game in a post, unless it falls over dead.  0 points.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

Not even freaking close.  Who knew back in January that Blizz would decide to break the “time between expansions” record for the franchise?  Not me.  I can’t even blame the ‘rona for this… much.  I guess work from home might have slowed down progress.  Still, 0 points.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

No BlizzCon, no BlizzCon announcements.  My cynicism was wasted as the ‘rona did for this event.  0 points.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

Again, no BlizzCon, 0 points.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

Hah!  Cynicism pays off this year at last!  10 points.  Booyah!

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

No BlizzCon… have I said this enough already?  0 points.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

No logo change yet… but there are FOUR freakin’ Call of Duty titles on the launcher.  I’m giving myself 2 points for that.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

It was looking this way… and then came the ‘rona surge and the PCU popped through the 40K mark for the first time since 2017.  0 pointsEVE is dying, but not any time soon.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

I’ll be going on POS shoots until I retire it seems.  With the war on they aren’t even all that rare.  10 points.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

Well, seven null sec representatives dominating the council in any case, and one incumbent, Sort Dragon, didn’t make the cut, though he was an alternate and only got on after Killah Bee dropped out.  3 points for being somewhat close.  I don’t think the ‘rona had any influence here, except for increasing voter turnout.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

Nope.  The in-game gambling mechanism has turned into an in-game scam machine where the people listing buy most of the tickets, get their item back when they win it, and make some ISK from the few suckers who bought in.  There is nothing EVE players cannot corrupt.  0 points.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

Turns out politicians have better things to do during a global pandemic that worry about video games.  The ‘rona strikes again.  The world was distracted enough that EA thought it was a good idea to put a lockbox ad in a kids toy catalog.  Way get attention back on the topic.  Still, nothing really changed.  I should have kept betting against Gevlon on this.  0 points.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

Everything got a boost during the ‘rona, but then Mike O’Brien left to form a new company called Mana Works and… well, I don’t pay close enough attention.  I know the Super Adventure Box came back for another visit.  But there was also that End of Dragons expansion thing, so I guess that was a “no.”  0 points.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

Nope.  Can’t even blame the plague.  0 points.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

I actually thought about starting to write this post back when New World was delayed until fall.  I seemed to be right on the money.  And then the can got kicked down the road again, this time into 2021.  5 points for being right for half the year.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I could argue that nothing called Torchlight Frontiers shipped, but there is that pesky, and apparently mediocre Torchlight III running around.  Still, the others were not a tough call.  This is sort of me annual “I dare you to ship!” category.  8 points.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

I thought this one was a freakin’ shoe-in back in January.  GameStop looked to be on its last legs.  And then the ‘rona hit and video games became essential toward maintaining our sanity.  GameStop, like gun stores, was on the essential businesses list.  And now Microsoft has invested in them.  They live to fight another day.  0 points.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

I guess.  This gets back to the idea that predictions, like team goals, should be measurable.  Maybe if I paid closer attention I could make a hard call one way or the other, but I am going to just go with the fact that it feels like this happened and give myself half credit.  5 points.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Ha ha ha ha… no.  0 points.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

It was a wild conspiracy theory when I made it, but I still had a hope that it might come to pass.  But no, Pearl Abyss did not bit.  But then EG7 came along and bough them!  I am going to give myself 1 Point for at least being right about them being acquired in 2020.

That gives me 59 points out of a total of 230 possible, not counting bonus points against me.  That gives me a 26% correct ratio, which is pretty bad considering how many of those picks I thought were gimmes back in January.

But it is still a tiny bit better than my 2017 picks, so not my worst year ever.

And now to consider what 2021 will bring.

Will the ‘rona boom continue for a while?  What will happen if the vaccines are a success and we can all go back to work, school, travel, and the other activities we’ve been denied over the last year or so?  Are video games going to take a hit when we can all go out to eat and see movies again?  Will there be any theaters operating in 2021?