Category Archives: YouTube

Honest Game Trailers – Sea of Thieves

I had Sea of Thieves on my outlook list for 2017, where I rather aptly felt adrift.  Of course it, like almost every other title on that list, did not ship in 2017, so I made a new list for 2018 with a different theme and went on my way.

But Sea of Thieves did ship this year and what I’ve read about it has been… mixed.  And so here is the Honest Game Trailers take on the game.

That seems to align with what I’ve read, but since I haven’t played it I cannot confirm how legit it is.  And, of course, nothing here makes me at all keen to go give it a try.

Honest Game Trailers – Fortnite

Honest Trailers did a video about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds months back, just when it was starting to rise in popularity, taking over the market briefly held by the now officially released (and suddenly free) H1Z1 soon thereafter.  But I skipped past that back then because the game hadn’t really hit its stride yet as a dominate player.

But now Honest Trailers has a video about Fortnite, the one-time co-op game that showed up to totally eat PUBG’s lunch, according to SuperData, for specific definitions of “lunch.”

The building part of Fortnite, even in its battle royale mode, does look interesting.

EverQuest at Nineteen Launches a New Server

I see it around me
I see it in everything

-My Sundown, Jimmy Eat World

Here we are at EverQuest’s nineteenth birthday.  Cue the usual tale about buying it at Fry’s on the way home from work back on March 16, 1999, arriving home, installing it, and being instantly hooked.

And, as I have opined before, if you had told me I might still be able to play the game in 2018, that it would still be live and viable and getting expansions, I am pretty sure I would have at least politely agreed to disagree on that.

Back in 2007 I put up a post wondering how many more expansions we could expect from EverQuest.  The game just turned eight years old, the producers had announced that they were cutting back to a single expansion every year, the Sayonara Norrath video had already been making people misty eyed for a couple years, and I was guessing that it would make it at least to the ten year mark, maybe getting expansions out to twelve years.

In reality last year saw the Ring of Scale expansion launched, the 24th expansion for the game and here we are again for my annual homage to the world of Norrath.  How does it do it?  How has the game lasted so long?

Sure, it isn’t the oldest game out there.  It isn’t even the oldest MMO.  But a lot of things its age are quirky niche games in an already niche genre or are being run more as a hobby or labor of love than as a viable business venture.

EverQuest has followed the industry trends over the years, easing the death penalty, instancing content, focusing on quests, and going free to play.  They have even taken a shot at upgrading the graphical quality of some of the early zones. I am not sure how much any of that has really helped though.  Did free to play bring enough new players?  Did anybody like the reworked Freeport and Commonlands?

What keeps EverQuest going?

I think it helps that Daybreak owns the IP.  A licensed IP means writing a check to somebody else every month, not to mention the need to protect the IP, which means the owner might not want it attached to some maintenance mode shanty town.

Likewise, I think that its age is actually a benefit.  It stands out as one of the early archetypes of the genre, the trail blazer of what became the path most followed.  Also, having been initially built in during a time that pre-dates the rise in popularity of the genre meant that much of the game had to be built from scratch.  That means less third party tools and middle-ware that has a regular license fee attached.  It isn’t as simple as just having enough money to pay the electric bill and the network connection fee (and the domain registration, let’s not forget that… again).  I am sure there is a hefty database in there that has an annual maintenance contract.

So, while EverQuest does cost money simply to run (probably more than you or I think), and even more to keep people maintaining it, the absolute base line level to keep it alive is considerably less than a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has bills every month for a licensed IP, the HeroEngine on which it was built, and probably a pile of additional middle-ware and tools for the team, not to mention the revenue expectations of EA which, as a public company, has to trim products that are not performing. (I bag on EA a lot, but they are a product of the Wall Street environment.)

But the strongest card in its hand seems to be nostalgia, wherein it also benefits from its age.  If you wandered into the MMORPG genre in 2008 or later, you might have picked one of any number of games… though you probably went for World of Warcraft.

However, if you started playing before the year 2000, you likely played one of three titles, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, or EverQuest… and it was probably EverQuest.  Even if you moved on to other games, or moved to WoW and never looked back like a lot of people… EverQuest remained the foundation of the genre for a lot of players.  While the subscriber base peaked just past 500K, millions of people came and went from the game by the time WoW showed up at ate the genre.

And so EverQuest plays on that, and rightly so.  It works.  Expansions revisit old themes like elemental planes, pirates, or dragons, along with old locations such as Faydwer and Kunark.

But most of all this nostalgia is harnessed via special servers.  This is the magic… and money making magic, since you have to opt-in on an old fashioned subscription in order to play… that seems to keep people interested and returning to old Norrath.  Subscriptions for the nostalgic and expansions that hearken back to familiar themes for those who never left.

And so it only seems natural that today, on the game’s nineteenth birthday, Daybreak is launching yet another time locked, true box, instanced raiding, multi-zone spawning, something something, progression server, Coirnav.

Coirnav the fast and bulbous

Coirnav the Avatar of Water is a raid boss from from the plane of water, thus rolling back on that elemental planes theme I mentioned above.

There is a FAQ for the Coirnav server, though as far as I can tell it matches what they did for the last such server, which I think was Agnarr.  I believe with this there will be six such progression servers running for EverQuest, which leads one to the question of when should they end and be merged back into the live servers.  The problem is that EverQuest has so many expansions to unlock that every 12 weeks you still end up with a five year mission.

But roll on nostalgia if it keeps people interested and playing/paying.  I believe the best part is the first few months when everybody is new and the possibility of finding new people to play with is very real.  Once you get past Ruins of Kunark things settle into the more traditional fixed groups we know from many other MMOs.

I won’t be joining in for this round.  I had a good time with the Fippy Darkpaw server (which is still running) back in 2011, but I am not sure I am ready for any sort of serious return. (Follow the tag for the life and times of that server.)  I read somewhere that the internet has brought about the post-nostalgia era, since nostalgia means a longing for something gone and you can now find just about anything on a web page somewhere.  Certainly the knowledge that EverQuest is there and that I could go wander around the world and play for a bit should I ever want keeps me from missing Norrath as much as I might.

Future grad students will have a bounty of information about all of our trivial thoughts when they look back on the dawn of the 21st century.

Anyway, here is to nineteen years of EverQuest!

It is a nostalgia post, so I might as well close with a nostalgia video.  Here is the updated 720p version of Sayonara Norrath from 2004.

I am not sure it needed to be upped to 720p.  Certainly the graphics from the game were not up to that standard at the time.  But I still get a little misty eyed seeing all the old locations go by.

Winter Movie League – Denouement

The last week of our Fantasy Movie League is now in the rear view mirror of life and it is time, as the title suggests, to wrap up the tale of the season.

This thirteenth and final week should have been a dramatic one.  The gaps between the top six players should have been enough for some changes to occur.  The problem was that as far as the week went, there were not a lot of surprises in store.  Upsets only come with surprises, films exceeding, or failing to meet, expectations.

There were some new films on the list, but Black Panther was expected to dominate still into its second weekend, and so was split into three days again, leaving the lineup looking like this.

Black Panther (SAT)  $534
Black Panther (SUN)  $395
Black Panther (FRI)  $334
Game Night           $201
Peter Rabbit         $167
Annihilation         $154
Fifty Shades Freed   $100
Jumanji              $87
The 15:17 to Paris   $62
The Greatest Showman $55 
Every Day            $45
Early Man            $26
The Maze Runner      $17 
The Post             $16
The Shape of Water   $15

I think it was pretty universally agreed that a screen or two of Black Panther was the safe pick.  Game Night seemed to have some potential, but you had to be a bit of a contrarian to run with it.  Likewise, if you hoped against hope, Annihilation might have seemed viable, though the reviews out before screens locked seemed to make that unlikely.

I went what seemed to be the safe route and rode on Black Panther, anchoring on two screens of Friday, slotting in a screen of Game Night, and then back filling with Early Man in my ongoing mistaken belief that everybody has fond memories of Wallace and Grommit and that this will make Early Man succeed during a time when even the title seems to be working against it.

I tinkered with various other options, but kept going back to that, locking it in on Friday.

My Winter Week Thirteen Picks

That turned out to be the most popular lineup for the week, and in the Meta League, with four of us going that route.

There was some variation across the league, and some radicals went with four screens of Game Night, but most of us anchored on Black Panther.

Black Panther turned out to be the anchor for the perfect pick of the week, but it was a pair of Sundays that were needed, coupled with a screen of Fifty Shades, a screen of Every Day, and four screens of The Post, a set of picks I wouldn’t have touched.  A set of picks a lot of people wouldn’t have touched I guess, since only six people got the perfect pick.

Winter Week Thirteen Perfect Pick

If somebody in the Meta League had gone that route, it could have changed the final lineup.  Corr could have come in first.  I could have been bumped out of third.  But none of our picks were all that radical as the scores for the week show.

  1. Kraut Screens (T) – $85,854,487
  2. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $85,388,127
  3. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $85,206,009
  4. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $84,648,305
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $83,454,901
  6. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $83,454,901
  7. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $83,454,901
  8. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $83,454,901
  9. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $83,213,170
  10. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $80,631,400
  11. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $80,085,924
  12. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $80,005,525
  13. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $79,299,436
  14. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $78,049,648
  15. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $71,219,616
  16. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $71,219,616

The Meta League Legend:

  • TAGN Movie Obsession – players from it marked with a (T)
  • MCats Multiplex – players from it marked with an (M)

Kraut Screens took the week, but overall there is barely a $15 million gap between first and last place, and the gap between the upper half of the scores this week is a mere $3 million.

That left the overall scores for the season looking like this:

  1. Ben’s X-Wing Express (M) – $1,353,892,212
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex (M) – $1,346,243,354
  3. Wilhelm’s Broken Isles Bijou (T/M) – $1,297,477,638
  4. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics (T) – $1,280,673,691
  5. Biyondios! Kabuki & Cinema (T) – $1,277,791,402
  6. Dan’s Decadent Decaplex (M) – $1,257,578,055
  7. Aure’s Astonishingly Amateur Amphitheatre (M) – $1,253,528,836
  8. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex (T) – $1,215,941,564
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite (T) – $1,193,133,908
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights (T) – $1,173,221,457
  11. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex (T) – $1,121,506,158
  12. I HAS BAD TASTE (T) – $1,115,224,163
  13. Kraut Screens (T) – $1,105,530,778
  14. Logan’s Luxurious Thaumatrope (M) – $1,082,946,408
  15. Elly’s Elemental E-Plex (M) – $1,080,494,353
  16. Joanie’s Joint (T) – $1,066,304,533

The only change in that list over last week was Vigo Grimborne overtaking I HAS BAD TASTE.  Everybody else held their spots.

And so it goes.  For comparison House Harkonnen, who won the Season Showdown, clocked in with a total of $1,469,103,137 over the last thirteen weeks.

Congrats to Ben for winning the Meta League as well as the MCats Mulitplex League!

Against my own prediction, in which I declared that Pak and Po Huit would put me to shame this time around, I managed to eke out the win in the TAGN league and held third place overall in the Meta League.

Overall, weekly wins were fairly spread out.  Corr and Ben both won three weeks in the MCats League, but only one person there did not win at least one week.

Likewise, in the TAGN league only one person who was in for the whole season did not win a week, with SynCaine winning three of those weeks.

That pretty much wraps up the season.  The front end was dominated by Star Wars, while the back end was owned by Black Panther.  But I think the film that surprised me the most was Jumanji, which has been in the running for week after week and is carrying on into the first week of the Spring season.  I have to give The Greatest Showman in nod in that regard as well.  I don’t know how it keeps hanging on, but there it is yet again alive for another week as other contenders have come and gone.

Star Wars, while it opened strong, was a bit of a disappointment over time at the box office.  You cannot argue with the money it made initially, but it did not last as long in the hunt as the two I mentioned above or Wonder Woman or Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. II from the summer season.  Fans of Star Wars had to see it… once.  But it seemed to leave what I would consider the core fan base a bit underwhelmed, which led to the usual arguments over to whom the series should cater; kids or the long time supporters.  I think the How It Should Have Ended episode of the film sums things up quite nicely… especially the little bit after the end credits.

There were a some cool things the movie could have done, or should have done, but avoided.  Oh well, at least there was no pod racing.

As for next season, I am mostly in favor of carrying on posting.  I was a little bit worried about the poll I took last time, not because it came out against the idea, but because it garnered so few votes.  That seemed like a sign that, at best, people were not reading the posts and, at worst, they were actively driving people away.

However, the poll I took the next day about an actual MMORPG got about the same number of responses, so it looks more like I have about 40 regular readers, having driven everybody else away already, though it could still be possible that various forms of ad block and browser filtering could be eating the polls.  I mean, it doesn’t take much to click on two freakin’ buttons, does it?  People wouldn’t read the poll and say, “I don’t feel like I have enough information or experience to answer that” would they?  That seems like behavior completely contrary to the ethos of the internet.

So I will likely carry on.  A few new people have signed up for the TAGN League, Pak and Po Huit are plotting my downfall, and the regular posting cycle keeps me going in its own way.  You can join the league as well.  I will provide a fresh link in the comments after this goes live.  Look for the post for the first week of the Spring Season on Thursday, just to get it into next month, which is a bit late, so don’t wait to do your picks until then.

Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More

The whole lockbox thing continues to meander down the road, hoving in and out of view as various politicians try to hitch their name to some aspect of this debacle.  Again, you can thank EA and their gross mishandling of Star Wars Battlefront II for this being in the public eye.

And while those seeking government intervention were buoyed by the Don Quixote-like tilting at lockboxes via bad legislation of a single Hawaiian legislator, they seem to have missed the part where an actual US Senator reached out to the ESRB in order to get the industry to self-police the whole lockbox thing.  The ESRB itself is a creation of the ESA, the video game lobbying group, who will no doubt be throwing money at key politicians to make sure any legislation goes nowhere.  Like the sign in the background in Thank You for Smoking said, “The best damn government money can buy!” and asking the ESRB to self-police is essentially a politician with their hand out looking for campaign donations.  I have seen nothing so far to make me waver from my prediction at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile the team at Extra Credits devoted some time to the lockbox thing, taking what I would guess is a more industry insider view.

Building on their previous two episodes about why video games should cost more than $60 and why video games are so expensive to make, which I previously referenced, they espouse the view that lockboxes are, at their heart, a good thing.

They take the stance that lockboxes are not gambling, echoing my own past statements, that under the laws, as currently written, they do not meet the requirements to be considered as such lacking, as they do, a real world payout mechanism.

But they move a step farther by declaring the lack of a real world payout makes lockboxes completely unlike gambling in any emotional or psychological sense, not something at all that would feed on the compulsive nature weakness that some people have.  They back this up by mentioning a study that says it is totally not a thing, failing to link to or otherwise reference the study so you can’t check up on it.  And then they hedge a hell of a lot even after that, undermining their belief in this alleged study, by saying that more work needs to be done on the topic and that should it come to pass that lockboxes are similar to gambling psychologically, then that would be a red warning light for the industry or something.

It struck me a bit like somebody speaking about addiction without having any experience with somebody in its grip, with a bit of denial sprinkled on top.  Grandpa’s not an alcoholic, he just likes a drink or six in the evening to help shed the stress of the day.

Or perhaps it is the view of somebody with a vested interest in lockboxes.  You cannot watch that video and not think they see lockboxes as good for the industry, a way to get past the pricing barrier of $60 via the time honored tradition of making whales do the monetary heavy lifting.

They will allow that, if lockboxes were being marketed to children, that would be “evil.”  That is one of the aspects around lockboxes that the legislator in Hawaii is going after.  However, they don’t seem to think that is really a thing.

I suppose the value of the video is the industry insider aspect of it.  Lockboxes are pretty much a necessity in that mind set, a requirement to sustain their otherwise untenable business model.  They don’t think companies should be unleashing every trick in the book to make players feel the MUST buy in to play, but admit that some companies will go to far and that the industry should self-regulate.

Of course, with yet another school shooting in the US, the industry has a bigger issue as a predictable demographic seeks to blame violence in movies and video games for the tragedy.  Our president even suggested that perhaps a rating system for such entertainment would be appropriate.  Such are the times in which we live.

Addendum:

They have done a lockboxes part II video covering the legislation things:

This goes down the gambling path, decided that if they are gambling then virtual goods have real world value and so you could, in that world, never ban an abusive user who spent money on your game or close down a server because that would separate people from their legally obtain virtual goods with real world worth.  They also try to hold out an olive branch to the legislator in Hawaii who, in the mean time, proposed legislation that made them throw their hands in the air at the end.

They do, however, rightly call out EA for ruining things for other devs with Star Wars Battlefront II. 

A Bad Show asks What is EVE Online

A Bad Show (For Bad People) explores the ins and outs of EVE Online.

The presentation, done with dry sarcasm, is pretty spot on when it comes to the nature of the game in New Eden.  Some of it digs up the usual conflicts about the game like pay to win, balance, null sec being the main point of the game, and the eventual ISK death of the New Eden universe, but it is worth a watch if you’re thinking about finally trying EVE Online.

There is also a video up about the current Guardian’s Gala event and one about ship fitting if you want something on that front.