Category Archives: WoW Classic

Forty

It took five months, but I finally hit level 40 with my first character in WoW Classic.  That might seem pretty slow… lots of people have been level 60 for a while now… but I have been pushing a group of characters through the game in parallel, not to mention spending some time getting characters to the new level cap over in EverQuest II.  And I am in no hurry in any case, spending more time going into various side areas to see the things I might have missed back in the day.

And in getting past level 30 you do end up with opportunities to see more things.  While even at lower levels the rise in quest levels in zones encourages you to do a couple zones in parallel, past 30 it becomes something of a requirement.  I think one of the reasons that leveling past that point starts to feel difficult is that you have to have some insight into where you might go to pick up a few quests in your level range.  Tistann, my hunter, went all over.

Hunting Ravagers in Desolace

There are little bits and threads of quests in Desolace, Theremore, Thousand Needles, and Stranglethorn Vale that send you back and forth or lead you to other locations for a bit, like a diversion of the Swamp of Sorrows.  I had forgotten about a group that lived there, though I am sure they won’t enter into the story in any significant way.

You’re from where now?

And while I was out I also poked my nose into neighboring zones, like the Blasted Lands and Tanaris to pick up flight points and set myself up for later ventures.

The sights around Tanaris – Do I want to know how hanging people ends up with all that blood?

But eventually I was in Stranglethorn Vale, the southern end, when the moment hit and my hunter rolled over to 40.

I missed the ding, but here I am seconds later

And there I was.  I finished out the quest I had going and recalled back to Ironforge as level 40 brings with it a whole host of new things.

New Skills

There are always some skills to learn or upgrade every other level, but 40 got me Aspect of the Pack, the group buff version of Aspect of the Cheetah that lets everybody run 30% faster.  There was also Volley, a new shooting skill, and Track Giants to add to my list of tracking options.  I always feel blind when I play another character after my hunter because I get used to tracking very quickly.

New Pet Skills

There were also some pet skills to upgrade, including a new version of Growl for my wolf, to help him keep aggro.  This actually feels a bit overdue as he had been having trouble holding aggro for the last couple of levels.  I supposed that help keep my melee skills up to date, but it will be nice for him to be a little stickier going forward.  I just have to get him to level 40 now so her can use it.

New Ammo

Level 40 gets you the next tier of ammo, the accurate slug, that increases the amount of damage each shot applies.  I also upgraded my gun at the auction house, as the one I was using was a few levels past its prime.  So I can throw a lot more damage down range.  The wolf is going to need that new taunt, and until he gets up to where I can train him, I am going to be getting more time to work on my melee skills I guess.

New Armor

Technically one of the skills I got at 40 was the ability to wear mail armor, but I am putting it in its own category because this feature is on my list of “Why?” questions that go back to vanilla WoW.  Playing WoW Classic has reminded me of that list and I should probably do a post on it.  But still, why did Blizz think that changing armor type at level 40 was a good idea?  They got rid of that, but only much later.

I suspect that Blizz just assumed people wouldn’t obsess about it and pick up new gear as it became handy, which would just prove that Blizz doesn’t know people very well.  I started collecting mail armor drops from about level 35 forward and have been hording turtle scales to make mail armor, a leatherworker skill, but I am still mostly wearing leather.

A Mount

Of course, the big thing that comes with level 40 is the ability to buy a mount.  Unfortunately, after dealing with the above, I am well short of the gold needed.  I had about 30 gold going into level 40 and a little more than 12 gold once I got everything settled.

Of course, part of the problem is that I end up sending the good equipment drops to my alts rather than selling them at the auction house.  I have two characters that will be upgrading to plate armor at 40, so I save every such drop I see.  And, of course, with several characters in rotation I don’t end up with a lot of time spent on just working on earning gold.  So it will be Aspect of the Cheetah for a while now as I don’t think I have 100 gold across all my characters combined.

But, as I said, I am not in a huge hurry to get anywhere.  I’ll have the gold at some point, but for now I walk.

To Stranglethorn Vale in Search of 36

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

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

The question was where to go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The general vicinity

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

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

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

Instead you have to hoof it from Darkshire into STV.

Welcome to Stranglethorn Vale

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

Not the last time I’ll run into you

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trolls on the way out

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

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

Waiting for Sin’Dall to spawn

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

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

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

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

The Kurzen camp awaits

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

Taking them all on

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

Skronk to be bonked by a surprise spawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Library and the Armory

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dangerous turn off

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

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

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

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

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

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

We remained standing

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

Just enough chairs for our group

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

Ula grabbing the book

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

Look, we won, didn’t we?

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

Doan Down

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

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

Skronk’s reward this time

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

About where we picked up that book

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

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

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

The armory layout

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

Are we the targets?

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

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

The armory layout

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

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

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

Ula throwing ice in the last moments

We wiped.

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

Stoning out in the dark anteroom

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

We needed a drink

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

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

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

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

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

My ManicTime Numbers for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 games played by month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Would I Like to See in 2020

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

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

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

World of Warcraft

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

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

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

WoW Classic

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

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

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

EVE Online

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

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

EverQuest

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

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

EverQuest II

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

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

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

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

Lord of the Rings Online

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

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

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

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

The MMORPG Genre

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

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

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

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

Steam

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

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

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

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

Others

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

Anyway, we will see what the year brings.

My Gaming Forecast for 2020

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

-Woody Allen

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

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

Reality dictates a more modest vision.

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

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

The Sure Things

Games I will almost assuredly play in 2020.

  • WoW Classic

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

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

  • EVE Online

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

  • EverQuest II

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

The Likely Candidates

Titles that history indicates are probably going to get played.

  • WoW Shadowlands

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

  • RimWorld

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

Possibilities

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

  • Civilization V

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

  • Stellaris

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

  • World of Tanks

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

  • Minecraft

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

  • The Witcher

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

The Long Shots

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

  • Lord of the Rings Online

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

  • EverQuest

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

  • Diablo III

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

  • Elite: Dangerous

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

  • New World

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

I Should Make Time

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

  • Project: Gorgon

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

  • Grim Dawn

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

  • Something Else from Steam

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

Something New?

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

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

2020 and Predictions for a New Year

I have to say that the brightest point about the new year is that we have now moved into a decade that should be easily referred to.  Gone are the “teens” or whatever we called the last ten years, so bring on “the twenties!”  Whether they are “roaring,” “soaring,” or simply “boring” remains to be seen.  (And yes, it is a new decade. It has been proven beyond doubt.)

And, as happens every year, it is now time for me to expose my ignorance and nonsensical notions by attempting some predictions about what may come to pass in this fresh new year.

The history of this ritual is documented.  You can go back and see just how often I am wrong, which ranges between “almost always” and “damn near always.”

As always, each prediction is worth ten points, with partial credit available.  And, just because it comes up now and then, I will remind people that predictions are not wishes.  What I think will happen and what I want to happen are generally pretty different.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

10 – Wait of Immortals

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Scoring

That gives me 230 possible points from the core questions, plus the extra credit bonus questions.  Now I just have to sit tight and wait for eleven and a half months to see what comes to pass.