Tag Archives: 2018

The Passing of Another Steam Winter Sale

The 2018 Steam Winter Sale has come and gone.

I collected some cards, went through my queue every day, got my Steam level up to 20, and, like SynCaine, bought no games for myself.

I was actually considering buying a couple, but for some reason it was in my head that the sale ended on the 4th rather than the 3rd, so when I logged in on the what I thought was the last day the sales were all done.

Oh well, it isn’t like they won’t be coming back again.  We have long since been trained to wait for sales.  And there wasn’t anything I was considering that I was going to jump on right away.

I think the highlight of the sales for me these days are going through the daily queue of games Steam thinks I might like.

Occasionally it shows me things I might like.  I thought MewnBase, a cats in space base building game, was interesting.

My daughter wanted that, so I bought her a copy.  She played it for a bit and said it was pretty good, if a bit more hard core than she expected.  Your cat is going to run out of oxygen.  But not bad for an early access title.

Mostly though, the queue is for comedy as Steam tries to dredge up 36 titles it hasn’t shown me before based on what its algorithm thinks I like.  This tends to be self-defeating as I will wishlist some of the silliest stuff just to reference later only to have Steam jump on that and show me more of the same.

For example, at one point it showed me the title Seed of the Dead, which was described as a “A heart-pumping fusion of zombie FPS and erotic dating sim!” complete with the usual set of Anime girls either bursting out of their blouse or in a too-small school girl uniform.

I can’t link that on the Steam web site because it is flagged as adult.  But I put it on my wishlist to remember it only to have my next run through the queue filled with Hentai porn puzzle games.  I had not considered that Mine Sweeper could be used as a vehicle for titillation, but if you clear all the mines you get to see it all I guess.

Ignoring a streak of those managed to get me out of that trap.  It was pointed out to me that I could avoid that sort of thing entirely by telling Steam to block all adult content, but then how would I get my quarterly update on what is lurking on the service.

Having slipped the anime porn thread Steam put me on to the Battle Royale trend, which I predicted will hit peak saturation this year as the me-to crowed tries to jump on for an easy win.  We’re still in the point where the ideas have a bit of charm, like Super Animal Royale, where you play as creatures of the forest in a 64 player battle arena death match.

There was also the warning sign games, the ones that indicate that the trend has ballooned dangerously, the games that start on the meta of the genre.  And so I saw Battle Royale Tycoon.

That isn’t to say such a game cannot be good, and BRT has positive response so far, but it is not the only game of that sort out there, a couple of them look just like the cheap attempts to cash-in on a trend that we always see.  I am reminded of all of the BitCoin mining simulators I saw during the summer sale.

And so it goes.  Since Steam has already shown me over 3,000 games in past queues, it remains interesting to see where it will lead me next.

The Steam Winter Sale also saw the Best of 2018 post for the store, which stack ranks the top 100 games in a several categories, including revenue and hours played.  Topping the revenue charts were:

Steam Top Revenue for 2018

As noted in the Steam blog post about these charts, being declared “Platinum” does not signify any particular dollar amount.  For all we know Grand Theft Auto V could have earned as much as everybody else on the list.  Instead, it just means a game is in the top dozen, the the ranks working out as:

  • Platinum: 1st – 12th Top Seller
  • Gold: 13th – 24th Top Seller
  • Silver: 25th – 40th Top Seller
  • Bronze: 41st – 100th Top Seller

Still, it is interesting to see who tops the list… and how many older games do so.  Especially Warframe, about which I hear almost nothing most days, but which has quite a following all the same.  And then there is how the chart changes.  During the summer sale they had the mid-year numbers.  A few of those that made the Platinum ranks in June couldn’t hold on until December it seems.

Top Sellers for 2018 back in June

It is interesting to compare that to the most played chart, which is broken out into groups representing specific number ranges.  The top of the chart for that was games with over 100,000 concurrent players.

Steam most concurrent players

It corresponds reasonably with the revenue chart.  I do think it is interesting that, down the list, you will find Civilization V ahead of Civilization VI for simultaneous players.  I suppose I am not the only one that found the newer title disappointing.

And so it goes.  Since the Steam sales have become seasonal I suppose I will just wait until the coming of spring.

Looking Back at 2018 Highs and Lows

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

-James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion

We stand together again at the end of of another year; at least those of us who survived the journey do.  And, as has become the tradition here, I set aside some time to reflect and sum up the year that was 2018.

As usual, this is more of a stream of consciousness sort of affair as opposed to a rigorous study of the year.  Some things loom larger in my mind than others, especially the more recent.  I can’t really remember what happened in January, but BlizzCon was in November so my brain is still full of that.  Because of the method, and my general laziness, I don’t link out in this post (save for one exception this year).  You sort of have to know what I am talking about or else just let it pass.

For comparison… I suppose there is a study that could be done on my moods and views over the years… you can read the versions of this post that has come up in past years.

Not everything listed as a “low” is necessarily a tragedy, nor is everything listed as a “high” really something that was headline news to celebrate.  One year I inserted a “middle” category and then found I wanted to put most everything in there, so I set that aside.

There is also something of the accountant in me that tries to turn this into a balance sheet, with every “high” having a corresponding “low” on the list.  That works a lot of the time, but not always.  Some things are just one or the other.

Also, I remain undecided on punctuation in this sort of post.  To my mind, bullet points shouldn’t get punctuation.  Sort of.  They do when the bullet point is a question.  Also, I use a lot of semi-colons while eschewing the sentence ending period.  And then there is that exclamation point.  Does that wreck everything?  I think my life would be easier if I just made them sentences, but I am writing this after all the stuff below and I am NOT going back to change all that.

Anyway, on with the show.

Blizzard

Highs

  • A decent start of the year for Blizzard, building momentum for the WoW expansion and BlizzCon
  • Battle for Azeroth launched very well, with the build-up to the expansion drawing a lot of attention
  • Hearthstone did very well, even breaking into the digital revenue top ten on the PC platform
  • BlizzCon for once did not ignore any of the main Blizzard franchises
  • Blizzard showed they were very serious about getting WoW Classic right
  • There is even going to be progression in WoW Classic so the raiding is done with the right gear
  • We got an official announcement for the second of the three planned remasters, Warcraft III Reforged
  • Plans for upcoming Battle for Azeroth content
  • New expansion for Hearthstone
  • New hero for Overwatch
  • New champion for Heroes of the Storm, plus more plans to fix the game
  • New co-op commander for StarCraft II
  • New game for the Diablo franchise
  • Hey, Lindsey Stirling was one of the BlizzCon closing ceremony acts

Lows

  • BlizzCon seemed to kill fan enthusiasm for the aforementioned momentum
  • Even I am starting to feel that the BlizzCon formula might be wearing a bit thin
  • They say that all press is good press, but burning down that tree is going to take a while for some people to get past
  • After a strong start, flaws in Battle for Azeroth around gear and such began to tarnish the experience
  • Wait, as my ilevel gets higher mobs actually get harder rather than easier to kill?  And Blizz thinks this is fine?
  • BlizzCon divided up by six franchises means a preciously small slice of pie for any fan of only a single franchise
  • WoW Classic might be so authentic as to do to retro servers what WoW did to fantasy MMORPGs
  • Did you say WoW Classic would have progression?  This will inevitably lead to people wanting progression into expansions
  • Still waiting for news on that third remaster, Diablo II
  • The Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t all that exciting, even for a year with no expansion announcement
  • Unsure if the Battle for Azeroth content wasn’t exciting because the game is getting old and tired or I am… or both
  • Heroes of the Storm is losing its epsorts league and most of its devs as Blizz restructured it to keep it going with a smaller staff
  • I’m not even sure what a co-op commander is in StarCraft II
  • Complete fail on the part of Blizzard for expecting core Diablo fans to embrace  the mobile title Diablo Immortal
  • Failed to mitigate the above by not mentioning anything about Diablo VI, more Diablo III content, the Diablo II remaster, or anything else the core fan base might care about; vague references to multiple Diablo projects doesn’t cut it
  • Trifecta of Diablo franchise fails when rumors hit that they were going to announce Diablo IV but pulled it at the last minute, followed by a statement that the rumor wasn’t true, all of which will pretty much pull the punch from any future Diablo IV announcement
  • Gaming press proceeded to vilify Diablo fans, pretty much going full on “Imma let you finish…” over Blizz even as Blizz was owning up to badly setting expectations
  • Few people attended, and no press covered, the “Play Nice, Play Fair” presentation at BlizzCon which, among other things, presented evidence on how vilifying your player base as toxic tends to actually enable toxicity from your worst fans while alienating the 99% of your fan base that isn’t a problem
  • Allen Adham says senior devs at Blizzard are playing mobile games now, and Blizzard makes games they want to play by improving the games they are currently playing, so expect anything new from them to be on your phone

Daybreak

Highs

  • Company not shut down due to connection to Russian oligarchs via Columbus Nova
  • EverQuest still holding on as the standard bearer
  • EverQuest turned 19 and launched a new progression server called Coirnav
  • The Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest progression server is still running
  • Likewise, EverQuest II celebrated its 14th anniversary
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II both got an expansion again in 2018
  • DC Universe Online continues to hum along, getting some updates
  • As rumors indicated, PlanetSide 2 got a new map and some updates
  • Rumors also mentioned a new Norrath game, possibly EverQuest 3
  • H1Z1 actually left early access and went live, adding in a new vehicle mode along the way
  • H1Z1 became a success on the PlayStation 4
  • Some sort of joint venture with NantWorks to redo H1Z1 as Z1 Battle Royale
  • Just Survive looked to have received a last minute stay of execution
  • They finally announced a new game, PlanetSide Arena, the first since they ceased to be SOE
  • They actually sold out their 4,000 lifetime memberships at $299 a pop for a nice influx of cash

Lows

  • Not sure who is still playing on the Fippy Darkpaw EverQuest server, its been up for eight years
  • Company changed its mind rather abruptly about who owned it when asked about Russian oligarchs, deleting all references, attempting to scrub Wikipedia, and claiming that they misstated who actually owned the company for three years and on just about every document and press release they published
  •  After all that, Jason Epstein is/was still clearly tied to Columbus Nova
  • In the midst of changing its mind on the ownership question Daybreak took a moment out to lay off a chunk of their staff, showing that all is not well
  • Then, earlier this month they laid off another big chunk of the team
  • H1Z1 pretty much fell by the wayside in the market under pressure from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds then Fortnite
  • The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China also failed when the Chinese ethics review board rejected H1Z1 because of “blood and gore” and “vulgar content”
  • There went that H1Z1 esports league
  • The NantWorks joint venture, NantG Moblie, seems pretty nebulous so far, and uncertainty isn’t helping
  • The NantG Mobile plane, such that it has been stated, sounds suspiciously like “What if H1Z1 were more like Fortnite?
  • EverQuest is tied up in this deal in some way, but nobody has explained how
  • Just Survive’s stay of execution turned out to be an illusion and it was shut down
  • The new game, PlanetSide Arena, seemed to be just PlanetSide 2 with well worn shooter modes… including battle royale, of course
  • Lifetime subscribers are all people who won’t be paying a subscription going forward, so Daybreak essentially took a one-time buyout from some of its core fanbase
  • Lifetime subscriptions only apply to the four oldest games, nothing new-ish is covered nor are any console players covered
  • Not sure if NantG Mobile ought to come under the Daybreak heading
  • Not sure how many products Daybreak really has now
  • Not sure how healthy Daybreak is at this point
  • Nothing so far has really quashed the rumors from early in the year about Daybreak’s plans, for good or bad

Standing Stone

Highs

  • Found new ways to expand LOTRO and hey, it was free content
  • Raised the level cap in LOTRO to 120
  • Continued updating character models
  • High elves were added in, because we need more elves in Middle-earth
  • Possibility of a new class for the game
  • Female dwarves in Middle-earth, so now the Tolkien purists can be angry
  • Some mention of a 64-bit client in the offing
  • LOTRO Legendary server proves so popular they have to open a second server
  • A new musical instrument was added, so now you can play the bassoon
  • LOTRO lifetime subscription remains the best MMO deal I have ever made, all the more so since I am back playing
  • DDO got a new race, so you can unlock your inner wood elf; go team elf
  • DDO also got some other updates I think and sold some of those two year subscription deals

Lows

  • Nothing else on the horizon for the company at all
  • Still really don’t know who owns SSG
  • LOTRO remains difficult to pick up with an aging and awkward UI, a balky client, a patcher that is in no hurry to get you patched, and that whole legendary weapon thing which should have been left behind in Moria
  • The rise in the level cap was not universally applauded, but you have to gate content somehow
  • Managed to screw up the Shire for a bit like they were Sarumann
  • The need to make money meant more focus on lootboxes and making the in-game currency situation worse by adding “ember” currency to the list
  • An announced new Middle-earth game won’t shut down LOTRO, but it won’t help it either
  • The “legendary” aspect of the LOTRO Legendary server seemed more than a bit oversold
  • And yet SSG managed to poorly promote the whole LOTRO Legendary server thing at the same time
  • LOTRO Legendary seems most popular with those already invested in the game, so likely pulled a lot of its population from the live servers of players
  • Those LOTRO Legendary queues pretty much went away inside of two weeks
  • A second server and no more queues portends a server merge when the new server joy wears off
  • DDO news was so sparse that I don’t really have anything besides the wood elf to add
  • There was bluster about what the two year subscription might get you, but since two years of normal VIP actually cost $100 less I expect to hear some buyer’s remorse

CCP

Highs

  • CCP purchased by Pearl Abyss ends having to please direct investors
  • CCP and Pearl Abyss claim to be sympatico in their outlook on games
  • CCP says they will get to keep operating on their own
  • CCP got recognition from Guinness finally for the battle at 94P-I
  • A new war in null sec has made some additional headlines
  • Lots of people got to get their titans out and shot things
  • Lots of updates and improvements over the course of the year
  • Abyssal Deadspace was especially popular
  • It is a good time to be farming Gilas
  • In game events are generally getting better
  • CCP is FINALLY trying to fix War Decs
  • With FLEX structures the problematic POS code is almost ready to be expunged from New Eden
  • New Activity Tracker shows you what you’ve been doing in New Eden
  • New games, EVE Echoes and Project: Nova coming next year
  • Working with NetEase, their new partner, to re-launch EVE Online in China
  • Didn’t lose any major third party sites on which EVE Online depends
  • EVEMon is actually back again after the swap to ESI
  • EVE Vegas was a lot of fun
  • I gave a presentation at EVE Vegas

Lows

  • Pearl Abyss, whose reputation from Black Desert Online is that of “cash shop pay to win atrocity horror show” now owns EVE Online.
  • We will see just how sympatico the two companies really are
  • CCP trading external investors for one owner probably means a lot more direct scrutiny
  • CCP will get to run their own show only as long as the money keeps flowing, you can bet on that
  • Monthly updates, some of which can be quite meaty, do make it hard for named expansions to stand out for EVE Online
  • The New Eden concurrency number keeps slowly moving down
  • Null sec wars only last so long, then we all go home and mine
  • Peace is boring since I neither rat nor mine anymore
  • I may, in fact, be a bitter vet at this point
  • The null sec balance of power is now skewed such that the China syndrome seems a possibility, where one power bloc essentially “wins” null sec and everybody else quits
  • Faction Warfare has gone stagnant, with key players leaving it completely
  • The change from passive income to active moon mining sent some low sec groups into decline, hurting low sec even more
  • I’ve added “when will the in-game economy collapse?” to my list of concerns about the game
  • Even the people who used to bristle when it was claimed low sec was dead are starting to feel that low sec has gotten much less active
  • Abyssal Deadspace depends on RNG to stay fresh and still has become mostly a solved problem save for some very bad luck draws
  • Still can’t figure out how CCP went this long without looking into War Decs given how completely problematic the data ended up showing they were; they were pretty much universally declared as horrible years ago
  • Seems likely that CCP will muff fixing war decs, though in their defense there is no simple answer that will please everybody nor one that adheres to the spirit of the game
  • I am going to miss the good old POS bubble when they’re finally removed
  • What were they thinking with that Federation Grand Prix event?
  • Activity Tracker is essentially achievements for New Eden
  • Activity Tracker doesn’t count anything you did before Nov. 13, 2018, which kind of stings for those of us around for more than a decade
  • EVE Echoes is a NetEase mobile game completely disconnected from the main game
  • Project Nova looks nice and could connect to New Eden, but otherwise seems to lack a distinct personality and CCP wants to make it as complicated as EVE Online if they can
  • Oh, and even CCP thinks Project Nova has issues, so it has been delayed
  • Total EVE, EVE Files, and Dotlan EVE Maps all stumbled this year, making us all aware of how fragile the third party ecosystem for New Eden really is
  • There is always a period of post-event malaise for me after the excitement of an event like EVE Vegas wears off
  • In a room with seating for 800 people easy, I had 30 people at my presentation at EVE Vegas, with even some fellow bloggers blowing me off
  • My presentation was also neither streamed nor recorded, so it remains just a special moment in the memory of a very select group
  • Whatever happened to that EVE Online TV series?  I am sure Netflix would buy it

Nintendo

Highs

  • The Switch continues to prove itself a surprising force in the console market
  • Among titles arriving on the Switch was Diablo III
  • Pokemon for Switch looking to be popular
  • Pokemon Go revenues keep on going
  • Pokemon Go released the 4th generation Pokemon, which was a nostalgia rush for me
  • There will be a link between Pokemon Go and the new Pokemon titles on the Switch

Lows

  • The Switch version of most games cost more than on other platforms
  • The Switch isn’t up to supporting ports from other platforms for some games
  • All that Switch news is cold comfort if you’re invested in the neglected DS handheld platform
  • The Switch is not a handheld, portable platform; it is too big, too fragile, and lacks the battery life to be considered as such
  • No more Pokemon on the DS line, ending more than 20 years of the franchise’s link with Nintendo handheld platforms
  • Hilarious attempts to justify the easy nature of the Switch Pokemon games by claiming that those games are “for children” as though the past 20 years of Pokemon handheld games were not
  • Nintendo actively pushing its latest/last handheld model, the 2DS XL, while pretty much winding down the new game queue for the platform in something that feels a lot like dishonesty
  • Pokemon Go is pretty much the only winner in Nintendo’s mobile strategy
  • Pretty much have to admit that Pokemon games on handhelds were the last thing Nintendo had that interested me, in case you missed that, so they probably won’t even get a category here next year

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD made it to 25 years; long live the MUD!
  • Fortnite found its niche and conquered
  • I enjoyed some time with Rift Prime
  • Having enough leftover credits from the free to play conversion, I didn’t even have to spend a single dime on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar left early access
  • Project: Gorgon arrived on Steam
  • No Man’s Sky seemed to be finally living up to some of its pre-launch promises
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be a rock, able to carry on even as other titles falter and fall into neglect, maintenance mode, acquisitions, or closure
  • Everybody seems to be raving about Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Finally, somebody mad about loot boxes and set to do something about them
  • A ruling from the Library of Congress extending DMCA exemptions for video game archiving and study to include server/client based games like MMORPGs
  • We got a good Minecraft expansion with the Aquatic Update and Pandas are on the way
  • Steam declared they weren’t going to reject any games based on content, save for those titles it felt were just “trolling”
  • Civilization V got an update… it was only to the launcher, but the launcher needed it
  • Bomber Crew ended up being a nice little game, I should write about it

Lows

  • This section is getting harder to write every year as I rarely seem to play anything new
  • Fortnite has become popular enough to start facing backlash like a ban by the NHL
  • Battle Royale as a feature is now a requirement in all shooters
  • Rift Prime, like Rift the first time around, was guaranteed to lose my attention at Storm Legion; as it was I didn’t even make it that far
  • Trion’s games were bought by Gamingo as Trion folds up shop leaving an uncertain future for their titles; I guess I wasn’t the only one not spending money on Rift Prime
  • Shroud of the Avatar then proceeded to go free while the studio laid people off
  • I still haven’t given Project: Gorgon much of a shot
  • I can’t really tell anymore, is Star Wars: The Old Republic on an uptick or a down tick this year?
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea developer Portalus Games is calling it a day, leaving it to an even smaller group to run which does not fill one with confidence
  • Wildstar and Carbine Studios are no more, victims of their own hype as much as anything
  • Tried Anarchy Online and, as it turns out, nostalgia for the “good old days” only applied to reliving your own hardships, not the hardships of others
  • Every time I see “RDR2” my brain converts it to “R2D2”
  • RDR2 is a console game and my latest console was a PS3, not counting the 2DS XL
  • Loot boxes became a political football for those looking to score points on the “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” front; actual change outside of Belgium was pretty much zero
  • Riot  Games giving the industry an even worse reputation as Kotaku exposes their caustic bro culture
  • Riot Games attempting to fix their horrible culture through platitudes and PR; I only wish I played League of Legends so I could quit dramatically
  • Library of Congress ruling is essentially useless as it only allows museums and the like to archive MMORPGs if they can legally obtain the server code, which just isn’t going to happen
  • The eventual crashing of fan euphoria as they found out the DMCA exemption also prevents remote, off-site connections to preserved MMORPGs; The Library of Congress is not interested in letting you play SWG just because you miss it
  • The last refuge of closed MMORPGs remains the pirate emulator, which live a perilous existence in the gray space between popularity and a lawsuit
  • The Civilization V launcher update seemed primarily put in place to serve as an advertising platform to push the disappointing Civilization VI
  • Just to repeat, Civilization VI was quite the disappointment so I uninstalled it and play Civilization V when I have the Civ urge
  • As it turns out “trolling” isn’t well defined and Steam pretty much rejects the same games it always has, only now that is their excuse
  • All the same, the number of new games to hit Steam every day continued to grow, leaving only those studios that can afford marketing or who have a solid reputation likely to make any money at all
  • Many game developer careers remain Hobbesian in nature (nasty, short, and brutish) as studios abuse the seemingly endless supply of young developers seeking to do what they love in order to live the dream; the dream being 80 hour weeks, low pay, and no long term employment stability
  • Gaming media, another realm where an endless supply of replacements await those who can’t generate clicks, continues to play both sides of the game as they stoke up fan expectations with uncritical assessments of studio promises and then tar video game fans with whatever negative euphemism comes to hand (e.g. entitled, man babies, entitled man babies) over any backlash when the expectations they helped set fail to deliver; but controversy gets views man
  • And yes, some fans just need to shut the fuck up; but drawing attention to them, bringing them fame, and reporting their every complaint isn’t going to make that happen… and conflating the words of a tiny minority with the views of a whole community remains asinine

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Even more Star Wars in theaters
  • Lots of new shows and movies on services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu
  • Season five of Bojack Horseman was excellent
  • The First was slow, but good; despite his personal life, about which I could stand to never hear about again, Sean Penn remains an actor dedicated to his craft
  • Still some really nice, serviceable shows on what one might still call “basic cable” these days
  • Better Call Saul might be better than Breaking Bad
  • Honest Trailers and Honest Game Trailers just never get old for me; the Screen Junkies team is awesome
  • Honest Trailers Commentaries is my new YouTube addiction
  • Somehow Zero Punctuation has stayed pretty fresh for me as well despite the fact that I still reference videos Yahtzee made over a decade back
  • Twitter, for all its faults, remains pretty useful to me

Lows

  • Even Disney now believes that there can be too many Star Wars movies now
  • Solo was there to answer questions nobody was really asking
  • Is there any series or movie so bad that Netflix won’t pick it up as an exclusive?
  • House of Cards ends on a silly/disappointing season though, like the original, the first season was all that really made it matter
  • Whoa, have you seen the Netflix earnings lately?
  • Every network now seems to think they need to get on the exclusive streaming service train to gate in their content leading to market fragmentation and, likely, eventual failure for all but the strong
  • The strong are, inevitably, Amazon and Disney, and we know what they’re like
  • There are so many options on basic cable that I often miss good stuff until a season is part way through and then have to wait until it makes it to Hulu or Netflix in order to watch it
  • Kind of starting to resent shows that only drop an episode a week; I want to binge… and binging helps me keep the plot and characters straight
  • Screen Junkies owned by yet another new company now, I hope they continue to survive
  • CinemaSins has gotten pretty stales for me; I like to hear Jeremy talk on the podcast, but the same old complaints, like “47 seconds of logos,” have been beaten to death
  • Pretty sure at this point that Zero Punctuation is all that is keeping The Escapist alive at this point
  • The Escapist pretty much broke being able to watch Zero Punctuation on their site back in July; I hope they get revenue from posting it to YouTube, because that is where I go to see it now
  • Google announced that, due to low usage and a security issues, they would be closing Google+ in August 2019
  • And then another security issue came up and Google moved the end date for Google+ to April 2019
  • That threat by people to leave Twitter made me realize how much I depend on it
  • Mastadon, a Twitter alternative, is great… if you just want to be in a tiny echo chamber of stifling conformity
  • Facebook looks worse as a company with each passing day

The Blog, Internet, and Like Items

Highs

  • Somehow, after a dozen year, here I am still
  • The month in review posts have become pretty special to me as I get to review past posts every month
  • The MMO Blog Feed in the side bar continues to function, amazing given the hack that it is and that several times the companies involved were set to make changes that would break it completely
  • A really nice Blaugust event this year, combining both the usual activity with some of the Newbie Blogger Initiative stuff
  • Blaugust was low pressure and not even gaming blog oriented, which brought in a lot of faces, new and old, to participate leading to a lot of good cross-pollination
  • Blaugust Discord was fun and has kept going as a place to chat for some of us
  • The whole thing was objectively a success on many fronts, including traffic, which ticked up noticeably
  • Traffic to this site was not only up for August, but stayed up for the months following
  • For the first time since 2012 traffic is actually up for the year when compared to the previous year
  • Average word count per post was up this year; I assume that is a good thing
  • Also, and odd metric, but “likes” were up quite a bit on the site, something I think was directly from Blaugust
  • Stalking the tags and categories feature in the WordPress.com Reader has actually led me to several new blogs, which should be a reminder that people should try to use standard tags if they want their blog to be found

Lows

  • Blogging continues its decline as an influence, remaining a hold out for those of us who prefer long form, words, and being able to collect our thoughts into a single site
  • The month in review posts are becoming more bloated and no doubt helping to inflate that average word count
  • Always somebody keen to declare any social event like Blaugust a “failure” if their own independent measure wasn’t met, even if they did not participate or understand the premise
  • Not sure traffic boost was solely related to Blaugust as search engine quirks seem to be in play as well given the specific posts that are seeing ongoing interest
  • While likes were up, comments were down for the year, and rather dramatically so; on balance, a good comment is worth a half a dozen likes in my book
  • There are days when I feel I am stuck between people who can accept no criticism of their current favorite game and those who feel that in order for their game to fully succeed somebody else must fail
  • My cynicism about new titles remains driven by the unwarranted optimism certain repeat offenders seem willing to invest in studio generated hype even after they have time and again become resentful when reality fails to meet their inflated expectations
  • So much for net neutrality
  • So much for the alleged benefits of dumping net neutrality as the promised increase in infrastructure building actually went the other way
  • So many bloggers use bad tags or categories for their blogs (e.g. “wow” rather than “warcraft” or “world of warcraft” and “eve” instead of “eve online”) which makes finding them a low percentage accident at the best of times
  • WordPress.com ads have officially crossed the line into obnoxious, proving once again that ad block is pretty much a requirement on the internet
  • My brain has started auto completing words for as my fingers type them, and the result is even worse than when my iPhone does it

Final Thoughts

My temptation is to continue to beat to death the “and so it goes” line from Vonnegut.  I read a lot of Vonnegut in college… I actually read all of Vonnegut in college, or all that there was at the time, short stories included… and it clearly influenced my somewhat fatalistic outlook on life.  Maybe “no damn cat, no damn cradle” would be better.  That might be the lesson of life in the end.

Another year has passes and the trivial pursuits of our lives continue.

Reviewing My Game Time for 2018

Returning to the round up of 2018.

Most years I have something of a forward looking post in which I try to pick and/or guess at what games I might play in the coming year.  It remains a good reason why I don’t do monthly gaming goal posts or the like.  My ability to forecast my gaming mood is pretty iffy.

Well, sort of.

If I simply said I was going to play the same old stuff as last year and the year before, I would be pretty spot on.

Instead, these posts are also a way to try and convince myself to go play something new.  Sometimes the fact that I played nothing from the list isn’t my fault.  Look at the history:

There were years when almost nothing I was looking into shipped.

Given the fact that new titles of interest are pretty sparse, my 2018 list, posted back at the beginning of January, was focused on older titles I had not played.  I put together a list of “classic” MMOs that I had not played, listed out the pros and cons of each, and figured I should go back and give one a try.  The list was:

  1. RuneScape
  2. Ultima Online
  3. Dark Age of Camelot
  4. Anarchy Online
  5. Silkroad Online
  6. Maple Story
  7. Entopia Universe
  8. A Tale in the Desert

And, to give myself some minimal credit this year, I did in fact go and play Anarchy Online for a few hours.  I have the screen shots to prove it.  But I didn’t spend much time with it and I didn’t make any attempt to play anything else on the list.

In think the big lesson from that was that nostalgia is necessarily transferable.  I’m okay going back and playing EverQuest now and again and dealing with all the archaic aspects of it, but only because I was there when that was the state of the art.  Anarchy Online just felt old and awkward without any redeeming happy memories.

So what did I play in 2018?  Well, I have a handy chart for that!  Belghast does a chart like this, and I have copied him before and am back at it again.

2018 MMO Play Chart

EVE Online was the staple of my MMO year.  I’m not as invested in it as I once was, but I enjoy watching it and talking about it still and I am good for a few fleet ops a month.

Pokemon Go is sort of an MMO, and getting more like one as time goes along.  It is also the one game my wife and I play together, and it doesn’t take much time out of your day to keep up.  It probably helps that my work campus has six Pokestops and a gym.

World of Warcraft ebbed and flowed.  I was finishing up Legion early in the year, unlocking flying and all that.  Then there was a break before I came back in the warm up to Battle for Azeroth.  I still have things to do there, but have wandered off yet again.

Minecraft, despite our world being very quiet of late, still got some attention from me, usually around big public works projects.

I spent some time with Rift Prime.  That was nice to go back to for a bit, though it also wore out on me after not too long.  But that’s okay, I only feel nostalgia for the base game.

EverQuest II came and went twice.  I did have a pretty good run with my berserker up to level 100, at which point the game went back to its coy mode of indicating where I ought to go next.

But EverQuest II crapping out was fine because the LOTRO Legendary server came along and, despite my skepticism, I was clearly into that.

I did take a serious run at Shroud of the Avatar.  It is an odd, awkward, seemingly deliberately archaic game.  I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did like it however.  As happens with these sorts of things, in the end my subconscious won’t let me log in and waste time playing something that I am not really enjoying.  At least not for very long.

Then there was the flash in the pan for both Anarchy Online and Black Desert Online.  I played both for about the same duration and then walked away.

So that gets me through MMOs.  But I did play some other games over the course of the year.  I mean, look at that big empty space in June.  I was surely playing something else.

Steam can tell me what I was doing.  According to it I spent time playing the following this year:

  1. Civilization V
  2. Vietnam 65
  3. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
  4. Bomber Crew
  5. Fallout 4
  6. Oxygen Not Included
  7. RimWorld
  8. Stellaris
  9. Sudden Strike 4
  10. Hearts of Iron IV
  11. Train Simulator 2018

Some of those I have written about, like Vietnam 65.  Some are games I just return to over and over, like Civilization V and Age of Empires II.  There are a couple I should write about, including Oxygen Not Included and Bomber Crew.  Then there are the usual tales of buying things after 8pm on Steam because they were on sale despite the fact I could guess these games were not for me.  Fallout 4, Sudden Strike 4, and Hearts of Iron IV all got me to fall into that trap.

Lesson there, don’t buy anything with the number “4” in the title.

And finally there is Train Simulator 2018.  There is a post about that coming.  Basically I said I would do something with it if the right circumstances arose… and they did.  So I felt compelled to live up to that past statement.

That is where I spent the bulk of my gaming time in 2018.  I think for 2019 my forward looking statement will probably be simply more of the same.  We shall see.  It isn’t January yet.  I often come out of the holiday season rested and optimistic.

A Short Rant About the State of the MMORPG Market

This started as a response to a post over at Massively OP about the worst MMO trend of 2018.  However, a few paragraphs in I realized I wasn’t really on topic, focusing as I was on MMORPGs, since MMO pretty much means “online multiplayer” in today’s market, and I wasn’t keen to dump this much text into their comment section where about a dozen people might see it before it scrolls off the front page into oblivion.  Better to bring it over here where I can regret it again later.

So we’ll call this another end of 2018 post and I’ll run with what I had.

The most disappointing trend for me isn’t really a trend, but more the realization that MMORPGs are a trap for most studios, a tar ball that they find they’re stuck with once they have one. An MMORPG can bring in money, sometimes lots of money, but they have expensive infrastructures to maintain and they need a continuing stream of content to hold enough of an audience to keep them viable. They can eat up all the focus of a smaller studio, so they neglect or never start other projects because you have to keep feeding the monster or it will stop crapping out money.

But the population peaks, often very early these days, and then every content update pisses somebody off and they go away like it is a game of musical chairs and each patch is another point where the music stops. Or it would be like that if people wouldn’t also leave if you don’t patch often enough.  You can’t sit still or you will lose players and you can’t change anything or you will lose players.

Meanwhile MMORPGs have only gotten more expensive to make, which makes innovation a risk that few can afford. And then there is the target player base which complains about every game being a WoW clone and yet will also complain even more bitterly about anything that strays from the WoW formula.

And don’t even get me started on the false hope that is PvP.  It seems like a great idea, and a true money save, to just get the players to be the content.  In reality, anything beyond a tiny, consequence free instance of PvP in an MMORPG will be shunned or ignored.  Few developers who follow that path and go in on PvP are rewarded with any success and trying to move PvP out of its tiny corner is almost always a waste of development time.  Add in a capture the flag arena game… or a battle royale game these days… and move on.

The customers are no better, myself included.  The loud demographics that haunt any developer’s forums should serve as a warning, but if that is the only feedback you’re getting then where are you going to go?  There is always somebody agitating loudly for their favorite thing.  Some want PvP everywhere, others think your game will die if it doesn’t have player housing, another group hates walking and wants to fly everywhere, and somebody in the back seems to believe in time travel and that everything would be great if you could just teleport everybody back to 1999 or 2004 or 2007 or whenever they felt they were having the most fun playing your game.

And none of them has a fucking clue about the level of effort their one “simple” request entails.  But if you’re not doing exactly what they want or it is taking too long then you are “lazy” or “stupid” or both.

If players could keep their focus on actual game play issues it might not be so bad.  But they are on about how you charge money for this or that, with “greedy” or “cash grab” being favored terms.  They complain about how they just want to play the game and not worry about real world politics, a sentiment that is usually the opening salvo about how they’re bent out of shape that the CEO or some dev or some rumor indicates that the company has somehow transgressed the whiners personal stance on the topic of the day is; gamer gate, gender politics, overtime, unions, campaign donations, boarder walls, or whatever.  And then there are the truly loopy who see conspiracies, collusion, and corruption in the machinations of a studio that is really just trying to keep the lights on and the customers happy.

Add into the mix the players who see the genre as a zero sum game, so feel they need to constantly crap on every game that competes with their favorite.  The worry is that they might be right.

So we see studios going under, the weight of their MMORPGs around their necks pulling them down.  The revenues are no longer enough to keep them afloat, much less fund anything new, but they cannot let go because what else do they have?

Even Blizzard, long addicted to the huge income stream from WoW, once past a billion dollars per year, is in trouble now that the game is stumbling again. They don’t want to depend on WoW, but they haven’t made another game that has come anywhere close to the money WoW was bringing in at its peak.  And even their best, Overwatch, could only sustain its peak for a few months at a stretch and is now reported in serious decline.  Companies, like people, size themselves to match their income, and when it drops tough choices loom.

Someone in Blizzard at least recognized a bit of the problem, so we don’t see the company making any more MMORPGs.  But WoW was enough to distort the company and change investor expectations.  They can’t go back to selling stand alone games.  They have to keep WoW going or die, because there is no replacing it.

Game development is a bad business to start with. But at least with a stand alone game you can walk away to work on the next thing. An MMORPG never goes away, unless you have several and you have to make Sophie’s choice. Studios tied to MMORPGs die and other studios with less ambition buy the remains, put the games on life support, and try to milk the remains for some more cash. But only the unbalanced jump into the MMORPG market to create a new game and expecting happiness and success.

And so it goes.  Expect more studios to shut down operations, more games to be closed or put in maintenance mode by some third party game aggregator like Gamigo, and more loud complaining from players that if the studio had only listened to their completely uniformed opinion, then everything would have been fine.

Oh, and expect the usual level of optimism for every new MMORPG title announced because we also apparently never learn.

There, with that out of my system, let’s move on… or not.

My Five Books of 2018

A couple of years back I signed up over at GoodReads, a site devoted to books and reading.  I did so less to find new books or interact with others as I did to be able to track what I have read.  As with many other things, I often know that I have read a given book but I can be a bit hazy on when I did.

Anyway, now that I have a timeline of my reading I can now abuse the end of the year summary season here at the blog to recall the better books read.  If you want to see everything I read you can find me over at GoodReads under the usual name of Wilhelm Arcturus.

I used to read a lot more, knocking out a book a week easily at one point.  Life, family, TV, and video games have conspired to drop that number, and I have to make up some of the missing time with audio books in the car.

An odd aside, I had to look back and check which of these books I read on the Kindle and which I listened to as audio books.  One I read on the Kindle I could have sworn I listened to instead.  I suppose there is something to be said when, once done, the impression left by the book seems to be free of the media.

Anyway, I still think I get through a decent number of titles over the course of a given year, even if my taste can be somewhat questionable.  There are some dubious titles on my GoodReads page.

And, because we’re at the end of the year I thought I would pick out my five favorite reads from 2018.

The picks, if you just can’t wait

Five is a good number for such a list.  Three is too few, but when you try to stretch to ten there tends to be a couple of filler items in there that don’t really stand up to their peers.

These are not all new books.  Two are a bit long in the tooth, one is a book that I re-read every so often, and another actually got me to re-read an old title in anticipation.

Why Baseball Matters by Susan Jacoby

Picked up on a whim for a trip back in June and I pretty much finished it at the airport and on the plane out.

I grew up as a baseball fan and somewhere in my drafts folder is an unfinished post about the cultural importance and impact of baseball in the US.  It is the grandfather of sports in the US and had professional leagues back when basketball and football were intramural oddities at a few universities.

But it is also a product of its time, a game with no time limit played too often for many games to feel special. (A baseball season is 162 games and teams can easily play daily for a month at a stretch, while basketball and ice hockey have 82 game seasons and football a mere 16.)  This reflects it coming of age in an era of few competing entertainments and no mass media faster than the telegraph or the daily paper.

The slowness of play, the abundance of options and distractions, the expense of equipment and coaching needed for kids to advance towards serious play, and the 90s, where the big strike and the doping scandals made a mockery of the game, has all sent the baseball into clear decline.

Susan Jacboy has a plan to fix that.  It is a forlorn hope born of the connoisseur (my favorite over-used reason to link to this comic) who believes if you just got into baseball you would appreciate its subtleties and interesting choices, that if you just looked hard enough you would find a world to explore in every pitch.

I appreciated her walk through the history of baseball and felt a kinship with her feelings.  And I agree that some of the things Major League Baseball is trying or has proposed to solve the games problems in the modern age barely add up to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

But since the 90s I have lost my faith in the game and cannot see its decline being halted without radical change.  Baseball needs a new era.  Still, I quite enjoyed the exploring the game and my own feelings for it through this book.  Her passion for the game is genuine and I wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) do anything to derail it.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

This one is from the same trip as Why Baseball Matters.

The news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide was fresh in the news that week and I realized that, while I sort of knew who he was and recognized his face when it passed by on TV, I didn’t really know anything about him.  So I picked up his first book, which is pretty much the story of his life up to the late 90s.

While some seem to be critical of the fact that it includes sections that were initially done as magazine articles, which does lead to a change in style at times, it is still a good collection that holds together very well.

Restaurants are also an interesting business, as so many people seem to think it ought to be easy, but then so many restaurants fail.  But it still seems to be a thing that people do after they achieve fame and fortune elsewhere.  So people from Scott Adams of Dilbert fame to Willie McCovey, baseball star of my youth, end up in entwined in the business.

I also enjoy reading what goes on behind the scenes in various industries, how things really get done.  I’d read Waiter Rant some years back, a blog cum book, but that focused on the dining room.  Anthony Bourdain brings you into the belly of the beast, where the food gets made, who is likely making your food (Spanish makes up much of the lingua franca in most kitchens), how things go, and how to get a table’s food to all show up at once.

There is a lot off putting in the mix, but that is largely because, as with any human endeavor, it involves people with their own egos sometimes working at cross purposes.

In the end though I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.  I ended feeling I understood just a bit of the mania and demons and passion for food that drove Anthony Bourdain.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

I read this back in the 80s, maybe a year after it came out.  The name Wintermute was already on my brain when I started playing Stellar Emperor back in 1986.  I had an alt with that name for a bit.

Back then, as I used my Apple II and its 1200bps modem to log into an online service, the book seemed like a look into an amazing future.  And, as time moved along, I have been impressed with how prophetic the book was with each re-read.

There are bits that haven’t aged well.  Somehow the Soviet Union was still around and the fate of the US was a bit of a mystery.   But those things blow past in the vision of a gritty future that feels all too real and a tale told well.  I will be back to re-read it again I am sure.

Grant by Ron Chernow

I bought this for my father after hearing it reviewed, Grant is a hefty tome ringing in at over four times the length of Neuromancer.  But that is the way Ron Chernow rolls.  And before my dad had dug into it I picked up a copy for myself and dove into an exploration of all things Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant is a strange mix of traits who was lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time.  Grant born 20 years earlier or 20 years later would have likely never been heard of.  Instead, despite multiple character flaws, including a social awkwardness that made things like his job as a debt collector nearly impossible to a trusting nature that marked him as a sucker to some and came back to bite him multiple times to his binge alcoholism that haunted his career and forced him to abstain, he rose to lead the Army of the Potomac to victory in the Civil War and was twice president of the United States.

He was a complicated man and the book spends much time exploring his life, behavior, and the stories around him, sorting out the fact from the speculation and the rumors spread by those seeking to rise by bringing him down.

The expanse of the book is almost exhausting, but like a day of hard work and accomplishment, you feel better for having put in the effort.

A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre

I can be something of a lukewarm fan of Le Carre, and all the more so if we get into the film and television adaptations of his books.  I just made it through the AMC mini-series based on The Little Drummer Girl thinking mostly that it was at least an hour too long and that Michael Shannon could really play a good middle age to older Kurt Vonnegut if somebody wants to do a biopic.

But A Legacy of Spies is something special.  It drags up the events of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and runs it through the post Cold War wringer as loose threads from the original Operation Windfall arise and Peter Guillam is summoned to MI6 as investigators try and tease out what really happened in Berlin some 50 years before.

Knowing the basis of the novel, I read The Spy Who Came in From the Cold first, just to have that set in my mind before I started off on A Legacy of Spies.  I was not disappointed as the new novel explores and brings to light much of what was left out or only hinted at in the original.  The duplicity and hard choices of an older time seem silly and wasteful when trotted out decades after the Berlin Wall has fallen, an not only because the meat of the operation had been hidden all of this time.  Definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of the original book or even the film version, a Richard Burton classic that is an excellent adaptation of the material.

Reviewing my 2018 Predictions

Here we are in December, the new year is looming, and it is time to get to those inevitable end of year housekeeping and review posts that I plague you with every holiday season.

Being a regular event there are past versions of this sort of thing available if you care to see how this sort of thing tends to go.

As is usually the case, the start of the year comes around and I take the opportunity every January 1st to write out a post seemingly designed to make me look foolish.  Seriously, if anybody accuses me of not being able to admit I am wrong I just have to direct them to this series of review posts.

Anyway, as usual, back at the start of the year I posted 27 predictions, plus a bonus prediction, and then went on with my usual nonsense.  Now it is time to grade my folly.

As usual, each question is worth 10 points.  Multi-part questions are split up by segment.  Partial credit is available if I am close but not quite on the nose.  So here we go.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

A nice, cleanly defined and measurable prediction.  I am bad at making those, so let’s just enjoy this one for a moment.  Ahhh.  I was two weeks off the mark, so it is 6 out of 10 points.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

A little more subjective, but BlizzCon told the tale.  We got a detailed look at how serious Blizzard was about this whole project, including a chance to play two of the early zones.  The latter is going to pass for closed beta in my prediction.  And we got a launch… season.  Summer 2019 will see WoW Classic launch.  Going to give myself 10 out of 10 for this one.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

And now we’re into the subjective.  Yes, in 2018 Blizzard spent time going after WoW emulators.  But did it stoop to the level of Blizz kicking over every Vanilla WoW sandcastle on the beach?  I don’t know, because small servers don’t make the news, only big ones do.  Meanwhile emulators like Kronos and Demon Souls are still up and running and declaring that the presence of WoW Classic won’t stop them.  So much for the theory that these servers are only around because there is no official alternative.   Anyway, I think I get 0 points for this one.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

We didn’t hear much about Heroes of the Storm, aside from some new heroes.  High Inquisitor Whitemane was a good addition, along with another at BlizzCon.  BlizzCon showed that Blizzard was still working on a plan to “fix” the game, but it still remains far behind League of Legends and DOTA 2 in popularity.  Still, Blizzard is persisting, so call it 5 points for the heroes, but zero points for the dormant part.

[Dec 13 Addendum: If only I had waited I could have gotten full credit.  Blizz is killing the esports league and sending most of the devs elsewhere. But my cut off is Dec. 1.  Oh well.]

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

Well, there were clearly a few gimmes on that list.  I have to get some points somewhere.  We did get some news on some of those, but not all of it was great.  Still, none shipped, so 10 points.

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

Wow, even I am surprised at how on the nose this one was.  I mean, it happened.  Shroud of the Avatar had its live launch on Steam.  And then not much happened, except for laying off some of the development staff, backing away from their Euro publisher, and declining numbers on Steam.  But there were a updates and, as expected, focus on the cash shop specials.  Seems about dead on.  10 points.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

“Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.”

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

By my stated criteria I get the full 10 points.  That a person in Belgium cannot is outside the parameters of the prediction.  Betting against Gevlon is generally a wise move.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

Nope.  In fact, even as I wrote that prediction GameFreak had already washed its hands of the 3DS platform, so there will be no more Pokemon on Nintendo handhelds.  This makes me sad.  (No, the Switch is not a handheld.)  0 points.

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

Again, the 3DS is dead as far as Pokemon goes, and pretty much as far as any new titles go.  Nintendo wants everybody on the Switch and has abandoned the DS/3DS installed base.  0 points.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

There will be no Virtual Console for the Switch, and the lingering Virtual Console for the WiiU and 3DS platforms is slated to be turned off soon.  Nintendo has really turned against me.  0 points.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

Well, we got a friends list.  That is worth 2 points I think.  I was pretty much wrong on everything else, even though we got a hint that head-to-head might be coming.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

Nope.  Much to my surprise, Microsoft has kept Minecraft – Java Edition live and up to date.  0 points.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

*crickets*

I guess predicting anything new from Daybreak was optimistic at best.  0 points.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

I am going to claim half credit on this one because Just Survive was clearly in maintenance mode for some time frame in 2018… before Daybreak shut it down.  The problem is that, with Daybreak, you can only recognize maintenance mode retroactively, after the axe comes down.  So PlanetSide 2 exists as sort of Schroedinger’s MMO, where we cannot tell if it is supported or drifting untended because silence is Daybreak’s default mode.  It did get a new map, but there hasn’t been a lot else.  So I could possibly claim PS2 was in maintenance mode, which is why I am being greedy and claiming half credit for Just Survive5 points.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

I am lumping these two together because they are examples of bad prediction writing.  There are four measurable elements here, each worth five points.  The first two are whether or not EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual expansions, while the second two are the themes of those expansions.

For the first two, I get full credit, 10 points, as both got an expansion.

As for themes, I was only half right there.  EverQuest II did not return to the Desert of Flames, however EverQuest did move back to the elemental planes again, so 5 points on that.

All together, 15 points total.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

I haven’t heard a thing about H1Z1 in China.  Jace Hall had a lot to say in August, but China was not on the list.  It isn’t clear why H1Z1 didn’t go to China, just that it did not.  Going to claim 8 points for that.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

I was kind of down on CCP after the big layoffs and retrenchment.  The four fanfests plan still seems to be in motion and EVE Vegas is still a thing.  It just looks like CCP Guard and CCP Falcon are going to be very, very busy. 0 Points.

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

This would seem like a really spot-on prediction if CCP hadn’t done the Alpha clone thing before I wrote it.  I expected more.  Also, the null sec stations thing happened in June.  But there was continued focus on The Agency.  I get 1 point for that!

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

Seems close enough.  The average line through 2018 over at EVE Offline, as of this writing, shows the number at 31K.

The average online user count for 2018

That looks like I am dipping a little into December 2017, but even if I push it all the way to March the number doesn’t change.

Going to give myself 7 points and reaffirm that EVE is dying just like the rest of us.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

Well, I don’t think anybody is talking about new space.  We did, however, get player built star gates.  They were just replacements for jump bridges, not portals to new space.  And the rest was not anywhere close either.  0 points.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

HAHAHAHAHA… no.  If anything it went the other way, with only two non-null sec seats in the end and five Imperium members winning seats.  Also, nobody from Brave or TEST.  I cannot find a loophole here to even give myself a single point  0 points.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  And Project Aurora became EVE Echoes and is being made by NetEase, the same Chinese company that is making Diablo Immortal0 points here.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

I guess we heard about new product and projects, so it is hard to claim any points here, but then again some of what we heard, like the plans for Project Nova, got turned back after Vegas.  I have to go with 0 points on this.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

Okay, at least this one was spot-on, even if it was pretty much a gimme.  10 points.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no big changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

SSG actually surprised me on this, pulling some content and an increase in the level cap out of their hat.  It wasn’t sold as an expansion, so I suppose I and right on that front, but that isn’t much to hang my hat on.  I’m going to take 1 point for that.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

For something of a random-ass guess… I mean we knew CCP was being shopped around, but actually finding a buyer was never going to be simple… I am surprised I got this bonus round prediction.  But it happened, Pearl Abyss bought CCP.  So I guess 20 points for me.

Score

All of that adds up to 120 points, including the bonus question, out of 270, giving me a 44% score.  As usual, it is a failing grade, but it was still better than the 25% score I managed last year.

Anyway, I do this every year less to be right and more to make myself think about the future and the possible paths it may take.

And now I have to consider what I will predict for 2019… besides more of the same.  That tends to be the most consistently correct prediction of all.

The Passing of the 2018 Steam Summer Sale

If I scheduled this correctly, the Steam Summer Sale of 2018 should have wrapped up about fifteen minutes before this post went live.

In its way it was the same thing we have come to expect over the years.  The daily deals remain a thing of the past and hundreds… possibly thousands… of games are offered up at a discount.  Also, there was a game to play and cards to collect.  I collected cards via the event game and by browsing my queue three times daily.  That, and some trading, let me craft the badge for the event.  Go me.

Level 4 even…

Going through the queue as many times as I did, I could detect some patterns.  I bought an Anime flagged title in the past… the Valkyria Chronicles… which seemed to make Steam believe that I wanted whole queues of nothing but Anime titles proffered for my inspection.  Generally I flip past those, but this time around I decided to see if I could fix my queue, so I clicked the “not interested” button until the empire of Anime subsided.

That left my queue at least a little more on point.  Not that it came up with gems I might have missed.  Rather, it seemed to confirm the fact that there is a lot of derivative crap on Steam.  I was not aware as to how many psuedo-Civilization knock-offs there were, all with titles that were something like World Civilization Conquest of the Ages.

I did find one possible gem in my queue, OGRE.

I put it on my wishlist, though I did not buy it yet.  I played it, and its companion game GEV, back when they came in zip-lock bags at the hobby shop, but I wasn’t feeling the need to go quite that far back in time.

And, of course, I managed to screw up my queue on my own by putting other things I found funny on my wishlist.  I use the wishlist not so much as a shopping list than as a way to find games later because… so many damn games on Steam, if I don’t remember the title just right I’ll never find it again.

So when I put Blockchain Tycoon on my wishlist for a laugh, I was rewarded on my next few passes through my queue with Bitcoin Tycoon and Bitcoin Mining Empire Tycoon and Bitcoin Trading Master and Bitcon Farm and Bitcoin Collector and Cryptocurrency Clicker and I am tired of linking them.  There are more, including VR variations on the theme.  And they all look like crap.  I mean, I might laugh at something like EuroTruck Simulator now and again, but at least some effort went into that.  What I was seeing was… and I keep using this phrase… cheap, derivative crap, meant only to cash in on a current fad and unlikely to succeed at even that.

But I am not here to get back onto the “you know what’s wrong with Steam…” train again.  I am here to talk about what I bought during the Steam Summer Sale because I did indeed buy a few items this year.

The first item I picked up was Fallout 4.

I have been aware of the Fallout series since the original came out more than 20 years ago.  Despite it being the so-called spiritual successor to the original Wasteland, which I played to death on the Apple II, I have somehow managed to avoid picking up a copy of any of the various versions of the games… until now.  I am about four hours into it at this point.  I’ve collected the big iron suit, killed that nasty monster, and have gone off into the world only to have the batteries on the suit run out.

The second item on the list was Hearts of Iron IV.

This was an after 8pm impulse buy last Friday night when I wanted something in the grand strategy vein to play.  I am sure if I go back and check purchase dates and times, I would find that this is when I purchased most of the games from Paradox that I currently own.

I get all worked up for such a game and then end up defeated trying to pick up the basic flow of the game.  Almost everything from Paradox loves to throw a ton of details at you straight away without necessarily helping you build that into anything like a coherent strategy.

I will admit that it is easier to get a hold of than Hearts of Iron III… or Crusader Kings II or most of the other Paradox titles that languishing in my Steam library… and I feel like I am almost there when it comes to enjoying it.  I just have to find a good 4-6 hour stretch to focus on it.

And the third item was Oxygen Not Included.

I blame peer pressure for this one as several people in the MCats Slack channel have been going on and on about it.

And it is pretty fun.  Of my three purchases I have spent the most time with this.  It is a base building survival game which, I must admit, there are many variations of on Steam.  In fact, I already own one of those in the form of RimWorld, which I wrote about previously.

Oxygen Not Included is done from a side scroll perspective and spends a lot of time dealing with very basic issues, like getting enough air to breath and toilets overflowing.  Also you do a lot of digging up and down.  RimWorld has a top down perspective and you spend more time constructing buildings, furnishing them, fighting off the locals, and recruiting passers by to join your colony.  Also the weather plays into things a lot and you end up in the HVAC business eventually.

Overall I think I prefer RimWorld more… but I also think RimWorld is further along in its development.  But both of them largely involve moving from one crises to the next until you hit some level of stability.

So those are my three purchases.  I feel good that I have actually played all three.  My vow with Steam is not to buy something unless I plan to play it TODAY.

Steam also had some info up about games overall so far in 2018.  They had lists of the overall top sellers so far in 2018.

Top Sellers so far for 2018

They were divided into categories without any numbers attached.  Interesting that Warframe is on the list.  It has been out for ages, I’ve barely heard anything about it, but it seems to be doing well.  Somebody on my Steam friend’s list played 100 hours of it over a 2 week period.  Perhaps something to put on my list.

Comparing it to the Best of 2017 list that Steam had with the Winter sale, a lot of the titles are repeats.

Other categories were top sellers among games launched this year so far and top sellers among VR titles, which wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to make the first two lists.

The other interesting one for me was the top simultaneous players list, those games that had more that 100K at a time.

Most simultaneous players so far in 2018

Again, looks a bit like the December numbers as well as lining up with the best sellers.

Anyway, another Steam Summer Sale has come and gone.  Time to go clean up my wish list so my queue isn’t full of Bitcoin games come the winter.