Tag Archives: 2019

Looking Forward to BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Not that you would want to stop it.  I certainly don’t want to stop it.

In fact, I am more than a bit excited to see what it will bring.  It is exactly a month away and I already want to start talking about it.

Last year’s BlizzCon was a bit less than thrilling.  It came a couple of months after a WoW expansion, so while there were some update items to reveal, there was no big Azeroth announcement.  WoW Classic was already known so, while we got to play a demo, the only big news was penning in the ship date to summer.  Hearthstone got a new expansion, OverWatch got a new hero and a cereal, Heroes of the Storm felt lucky just to get mentioned, StarCraft received the tiniest of nods, and if it had not been for the Diablo Immortal brouhaha there wouldn’t have been a headline worthy announcement out of the whole thing.

It wasn’t as dull as some made out, but it was a lot more details than big picture, and big picture is what gets attention.

This year though, this year has some potential.  So it is time to go once again go through what I expect to hear, what I hope I will hear, and maybe a couple of things somewhere in between.

Going down the list of franchises:

World of Warcraft

New expansion announcement.

Yes, there will be all sorts of anniversary related things to talk about, with special panels and goodies and videos and whatever, and rightfully so, but there had better be a new expansion announcement on the list.

If there isn’t a new expansion announced for retail WoW the stock price will crash, there will be unrest in the streets, we won’t be able to trust anybody ever again, and the world will pretty much end.

Okay, maybe it is not that bad, but it would be an unprecedented break in the pattern of the ages not to announce a new WoW expansion here.  It would be very bad to not have one to announce. A new expansion will make fans of WoW retail will feel better and we might get a bit of insight into what Blizz has learned from the summer of slumber in Zandalar and Kul Tiras.

But where do we go from Battle for Azeroth? I know the lore is pretty pliable, but that map of Azeroth doesn’t have a lot of wide open seas left in which to discover yet another continent. So what is it going to be?  Time travel again?  Khadgar leading us through some new portal into another world?  Will it be time for another invasion from an external source (please, no more Burning Legion) that will, once again, push the Horde and Alliance back into cooperation again?

And what will be the hook to get people back and playing?  I don’t think a new race by itself will work.  I think the whole allied races thing represented a draining of all interest in going back to that well any time soon.  How many alts do people need?

So a new class then?  Is there a class niche they haven’t explored yet?  Berserkers?  Technos?  Rangers? Necromancers?

Most things I come up with sort of fit in or between the current classes.  How is a Berserker not a fury Warrior?  How is a Techno not a Dwarf/Gnome Hunter with the engineering profession?  How is a Ranger not just a Hunter without a pet?  How is a Necromancer not just a cross between a Warlock and a Deathknight?

If I had to bet, it would be some sort of magic using class I guess.  While I see the cross over, Necromancers might still have potential.

And will Blizz try something new with levels?  Maybe they have some form of alternate advancement in the works.  Or will this be another ten level expansion?  With the company floating the idea of a level squish, it would be strange for them to simply carry on as before.

While I am not playing retail WoW right now I certainly plan to go back to it at some point, which means I am still quite interested in its future.  BlizzCon is the chance for the company to set a course for our expectations.  I hope they don’t blow it, either by coming up empty or setting expectations that lead to eventual disappointment.

WoW Classic

WoW Classic is the difficult bit for Blizz.  It has succeeded beyond expectations.  I think that is a pretty safe claim when the company had to more than double the server count (see the numbers) AND THEN double the amount of people a server was allowed to hold.  Also, there is that 223% increase in subscriber revenue.  All that has put WoW in the headlines again and may have even pushed up the stock price.

Which means you can’t just say nothing about it.  You can’t just say, “Wasn’t that great?  Aren’t we all having fun?” and move on to the next topic.  There has to be a plan communicated.  It doesn’t have to be deep or detailed, but somebody has to get up there and at least hand wave an idea of how Blizz keeps this party going.  Things I think they might bring up as options.

  • 100% Sure – Phase Plan – This is, to my mind, the bare minimum they can communicate, some idea of when the next five phases of WoW Classic will unlock.
  • 80% Sure – Other Expansions – The logical follow on for WoW Classic is The Burning Crusade Classic.  I expect the minimum they will say is that they are looking into it.  The upper limited of my expectations is a declaration that they will make this happen without any details.
  • 10% Sure – More Classic Servers – I will be interested to see if Blizz “gets” what makes up all of the appeal loaded into WoW Classic.  It is rooted in nostalgia, certainly.  But as SOE learned eventually, this is an evergreen proposition, not a one and done effort.  People want to start on FRESH servers and be in that wave of level one players.If they do get this, there will be a mention of a new round of servers at some future date.  Daybreak has found they can roll out a fresh progression server every other year and it will fill to overflowing.  Blizz could easily make this a filler for non-expansion years for WoW.  Maybe they don’t need 70+ servers, and it would be good if there was some sync between finishing up the phases and rolling out a new generation.
  • .001% Sure – Alternate Reality – SynCaine really brought this one up for me.  With WoW Classic essentially standing as an independent game with its own client separate from retail, Blizzard could realistically create a different way forward for the game with its own exclusive expansions.  If anybody has the resources for such a thing, it is Blizz. On the other hand, this is also very much a coloring outside of the lines move, not a Blizz strong suit, and if they can only get an expansion out every other year for retail, I am not sure they have the talent and other non-cash resources capable of producing something that would not lead to disappointment.

Diablo

Diablo IV or go home.

Seriously, if that is not announced after last year’s tease and follow ups, Blizz might as well give up on the franchise.  They have started calling Diablo III a “classic” title. I guess it is already more than seven years old.  So a new Diablo on PC/consoles seems due.

Also, give me a damn Diablo II remaster already.  I would take a GoG.com version.  I have already proven that when I bought Diablo from GoG.com.  Just give it to me already.

Oh, and we do want to hear what happened with Diablo Immortal, but only after you’ve made us all happy with the wonders of Diablo IV.

Heroes of the Storm

Auto Chess or go home.

HotS is still a thing, still getting some minor updates, and will probably get a special new hero for BlizzCon, but the esports body-blow still has many convinced the game is dead.

But Blizz has a unique opportunity here.  With Dota Underlords and Teamfight Tactics out there having stolen the thunder of the Auto Chess mod, the company could step into the fray with their own version.

However, it needs some special sauce, something tight to set it apart.  And I don’t mean putting making the play grid triangles rather than squares of hexagons.  They need a leap in the concept, because Teamfight Tactics seems to be doing pretty well.

Overwatch

Overwatch 2 or go home.

Okay, I am not sure whether Overwatch 2 is a good plan or not, but reports are revenue has been sagging and you know the Activision side of the house makes damn good money releasing slight variations of the same damn shooter every year.  Somebody might force that issue.

Otherwise, what else have they got?  A new hero?  A new map maybe?  A new cereal?

Hearthstone

More card packs.  Maybe a new play mode.  What else are they going to do besides milk this cow?

But I also don’t “get” Hearthstone in some deep way.  I mean, I understand how to play, I just don’t find it all that interesting.  I put the client on my iPad every six months or so, play a few hands, then wander off.

StarCraft

Yeah, I got nothing here.  I mean, StarCraft II has been out for more than nine years now… is it “classic” at this point too… and the base game has gone free to play, while StarCraft, its now 21 year old predecessor, has gotten a remaster and a DLC skin overlay.  The company is pottering around with tidbits, but nothing that is worth a headline.

What could revive the StarCraft franchise?  I think a third RTS would be pointless.  StarCraft was so well done that StarCraft II had to be, almost by necessity, nearly a direct knock-off of the original.   A new campaign module might interest some.  But something like a first person shooter would collide with Overwatch and my gut says that Blizz will never do another real MMORPG.  So what is left?

Maybe StarCraft is where Blizz goes with the Auto Chess thing?  Rather than just selecting from a random set of heroes you have to commit to one of the factions and only draw from their units?

New Stuff

There needs to be something new.  Like, really new.  As much as I dig Warcraft III or Diablo II remaster ideas, or even the thought of Diablo IV, there might be a need for some fresh blood down in Irvine.

The Blizzard tradition has been to remake a game that the devs are currently playing.  That literally covers the history of the company from its founding forward.  So what have the devs been playing?  Last year Blizz said mobile games were hot with the dev team, so what will they copy?  Pokemon Go?  Clash of Clans?  Honour of Kings?

Waiting

That is what we get to do for a month, wait.  BlizzCon is November 1st.  I am sure we’ll get more hints about what to expect as the month progresses.  The schedule, for example, is always something you can read things into.  Whichever game gets the first presentation after the keynote tends to have the biggest announcement, which will set expectations.

Of course, that can lead to disaster.  Last year that position of honor had “Diablo” written on it, but then they announced Diablo Immortal.  I expect they won’t make that mistake again.

So what is it going to be?  What will BlizzCon bring?  And when will the Virtual Ticket go on sale?

Addendum:  Just before this was slated to go live the Virtual Ticket was announced.  A couple of battle pets, murloc versions of Anduin and Sylvannas, along with cosmetic “Wendigo Woolies” transmog items for retail WoW players.

 

The Virtual Ticket battle pets have been some of my favorites, so even if I wasn’t already on board for the Virtual Ticket I’d be leaning heavily towards it.

I am also happy that replays of panels will be available for longer than previous BlizzCon Virtual Tickets.  I can re-watch things until March 31, 2020.  But more about the Virtual Ticket later.  Now the wait for the event schedule to be posted.  Who will get pride of place after the keynote?

More New Eden Numbers for 2019

There have been a lot of numbers thrown about with regards to EVE Online of late in attempts to prove all sorts of things like whether the Chaos Era or the blackout or tax rates or PLEX prices are helping the game, hurting the game, or whatever.  So I thought I would join in on the fun.

Being who I am, I don’t have a point I am trying to prove, and if you skip down to the end you won’t find any grand conclusions either condemning or congratulating CCP.  I just want to see what the data says… or, more likely, what it doesn’t say.

For my numbers I thought I ought to compare the extremes of 2019, so I figured I would put January of the year up against August.  When those two months?  August simply because it is the latest set of MER data we have, while January… well, January was the peak of what one might call “fat times in null sec,” when NPC bounties were paying out greater than ever before.  Look at this chart from the August MER.

August 2019 – Top Sinks and Faucets over time

You can see that NPC bounties reached their peak.  This was also a period of not much in the way of wars.  It also pre-dates not only the Chaos Era but also the series of nerfs to bounties and mining in null sec.  January might very well be the height of everything that people outside of null sec hate about it.  It was the peak of the Delve Time Unit.

As for the data I want to toss around, there are three things I want to look at, all of which I am taking directly from the MER data in the January and August reports.

The first is NPC bounties, because of course it is.  As I noted above, January was the absolute peak of NPC bounty largess and CCP has been trying to combat that for much of the year, with nerfs to anomaly spawns and fighter damage application and VNI changes and the blackout and the recent cyno changes to complicate defense group responses.  As I mentioned in my August MER post, those numbers have been declining over the course of the year.

  • January – 83.8 trillion
  • February – 69.8 trillion
  • March – 71.4 trillion
  • April – 57.2 trillion
  • May – 55.5 trillion
  • June – 48.2 trillion
  • July – 29.1 trillion
  • August – 21.1 trillion

August was basically 25% of the January total from the sinks and faucets table.

Unfortunately, I am working from the RegionalStats.csv file that is included with each MER, and the numbers there do not align with some of the other charts.  I get it.  You write your SQL query and you take your chances, and different queries can yield different results if you’re not careful.

Also, the region of Cache was missing from the January MER file, so I removed it from the August data so as to compare apples with apples to the extent I could.

With that data in play, the numbers are:

  • January – 84.8 trillion
  • August – 19 trillion

That puts August at about 22.39% of the January total.  However, looking at it in drops sorted out by region, the average/mean drop was 50.49% and the median drop was 49.38%.  That those two differ so much from the combined total drop seems to indicate that drops varied greatly by region.

Since I have that data broken out by regions, I thought I would look at the biggest and smallest losers.

For losers, here are the regions that took the biggest hits:

  1. Period Basis – 3.4 trillion to 20 billion ISK – 0.58% of January
  2. Outer Passage – 2.4 trillion to 80 billion ISK – 3.31% of January
  3. Branch – 6.9 trillion to 259 billion ISK – 3.75% of January
  4. Catch – 1.2 trillion to 52 billion ISK – 4.47% of January
  5. Wicked Creek – 2.1 trillion to 96 billion ISK – 4.54% of January

Period Basis, that was Red Alliance space back in January, though they fell apart and GSF took over, turning it into Imperium rental space and an alleged haven for bots, protected behind the bulk of Delve.  The blackout and bot banning took its toll there.

Outer Passage was another deep null sec spot reputed to be a haven for bots.

Branch was Dead Coalition’s ratting paradise back in January, where they were recovering their fortunes after the Keepstar War of last year.  Not quite as well protected as some regions, but well back from NPC space aside from a station in Venal.

Catch is home to Legacy Coalition alliances including Brave Newbies.

Wicked Creek has been held by Fraternity for ages, but they have apparently pulled back from it for ratting, at least relative to their core in Detorid, which we’ll get to.

The big winners were:

  1. The Kalevala Expanse – 190 billion to 400 billion ISK – 210.29% of January
  2. Genesis – 199 billion to 218 billion ISK – 109.81% of January
  3. Placid – 76 billion to 83 billion ISK – 108.79% of January
  4. The Bleak Lands – 14 billion to 15 billion ISK – 105.83% of January
  5. Tash-Murkon – 98 billion to 103 billion ISK – 104.76% of January

Basically, that is four non-null regions that stayed about the same and The Kalevala Expanse, which is the real outlier in the mix.  It has been held by Pandemic Horde since May of 2018, but was not well utilized for a long stretch.  It was going to be, and may still be, their rental empire.

Then there are what I have decided to call the benchmark sov null regions, which were held by the same groups throughout 2019 and how they fared:

  1. Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 2.0 trillion to 706 billion – 34.72% of January
  2. Delve (Imperium) – 12.9 trillion to 4.4 trillion – 33.92% of January
  3. Detorid (Fraternity) 5.5 trillion to 1.2 trillion – 22.19% of January
  4. Esoteria (TEST) 5.1 trillion to 1.0 trillion – 20.44% of January
  5. Providence (Provi) 860 billion to 71 billion – 8.26% of January

The wretched excess of Delve was curbed, but it did not fall as far as many, while Provi appears to have suffered quite a bit over the course of the year. Detorid looks to be right at the mean drop.

And then, finally, I also broke the regions of New Eden out into three different areas, Empire (both high and low sec, since Empire regions often include both), Sov Null, and NPC Null.  Broken out, here is how they compared:

  1. NPC Null – 749 billion to 620 billion – 82.77% of January
  2. Empire – 4.3 trillion to 3.5 trillion – 81.70% of January
  3. Sov Null – 79.7 trillion to 14.8 trillion – 18.62% of January

So the weight of the changes over the course of the year fell on null sec.  Of course, that is where the most of the bounties were.  Empire and NPC Null lack upgraded anomalies and don’t see capital or super capital ratting, so the NPC bounties are likely from missions and belt rats.

Looking at NPC bounty changes overall and broken out by the different areas:

  • All Regions Overall: 22.39% Mean: 50.49% Median: 49.38%
  • NPC Null Overall: 82.77% Mean: 76.59% Median: 76.93%
  • Empire – Overall: 81.70% Mean: 84.96% Median: 84.78%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 18.62% Mean: 22.57% Median: 9.24%

When the overall, mean, and median are close, that means that the change was spread pretty evenly.  When they vary, as they do with All Regions and Sov Null, that indicates that changes were uneven.

Basic conclusion is that NPC bounty changes affected Sov Null more than other areas.  I do not think that is a particularly controversial statement.  It is what we would expect having paid attention to the MERs during 2019.

Next up is mining, the other thing CCP sought to nerf in 2019.  Again, it is something that happens heavily in Sov Null, but it is also pretty big in Empire space as well.  The only problem is that the ISK numbers are based on mineral prices during the given time period, so January to August comparisons will be less indicative than NPC bounties, which are always in direct ISK value.  But let’s look anyway.

Overall mining in January brought in 58 trillion ISK in mineral value, an amount that fell to 28 trillion in August, just 48.47% of January.  But the average percentage, when look at per region change, was 76.19%, which means there were some big losers out there.  They were:

  1. Period Basis – 155 trillion to 91 million – 0.06% of January
  2. Outer Passage – 809 billion to 35.4 billion – 4.37% of January
  3. Branch 2.2 trillion to 106 billion – 4.81% of January
  4. Deklein – 1.3 trillion to 83 billion – 6.38% of January
  5. Perrigen Falls – 327 billion to 35 billion – 10.54% of January

There is at least some overlap between the NPC bounty and mining regions here, with Period Basis on top and Branch in the middle for both.

Likewise, the regions with the biggest gains have a pair of repeats:

  1. The Kalevala Expanse – 150 billion to 520 billion – 345.47% of January
  2. Omist – 126 billion to 378 billion – 300.29% of January
  3. The Bleak Lands – 133 billion to 202 billion – 151.82% of January
  4. Pure Blind – 149 billion to 220 billion – 147.19% of January
  5. Aridia – 166 billion to 240 billion – 144.44% of January

As noted before, TKE was underutilized back in January, while TBL, high sec space, saw something of a boost for both bounties and mining.  The surprise for me is probably Pure Blind… who even lives there to mine… and Aridia, as low sec doesn’t have a reputation for being a miner’s paradise.  But, then, none of those regions had big numbers to start with, no trillion ISK regions on that list, so the amount required to move the needle is significantly less.

[Addendum: During the Sep. 20 Open Comms Show Brisc Rubal said that The Initiative moved their mining ops to Aridia during the blackout, which explains that jump.]

And then there are my benchmark Sov Null regions:

  • Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 745 billion to 217 billion – 29.06% of January
  • Delve (Imperium) – 14 trillion to 3.6 trillion – 25.81% of January
  • Detorid (Fraternity) – 3 trillion to 415 billion – 13.48% of January
  • Esoteria (TEST) – 3.9 trillion to 1.5 trillion – 36.97% of January
  • Providence (Provi) – 405 billion to 122 trillion – 30.16% of January

All were down, with Detorid down the most, while Esoteria seemed to hang on better than the others.

Broken out by different areas of space, overall is all regions as a whole, mean and median are per region changes:

  • All Regions Overall: 48.47% Mean: 76.19% Median: 75.61%
  • NPC Null Overall: 70.94% Mean: 63.77% Median: 65.66%
  • Empire – Overall: 99.99% Mean: 103.34% Median: 104.91%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 31.37% Mean: 60.01% Median: 36.27%

Mining isn’t down as much as bounties, but it is still down.  Empire space was the least affected over the course of the year, with January and August numbers looking very similar.  That at least seems to cast some doubt on the “all the mining bots moved to high sec” theory I have seen.  But the picture is incomplete.  The change in mineral prices, which went up over the course of the year, means that it the totals are close then less ore overall was mined.

Finally, the third thing people have brought up quite a bit is destruction.  The purpose of the blackout was, among other things, supposed to bring more destruction to New Eden.  Or so some people were loudly declaring.  Maybe it was just to frighten botters.  Anyway, we’ll look at those numbers.

Overall destruction in New Eden, according to the data I am using (and we know the data isn’t always complete as noted here) has January pegged at 40 trillion ISK and August at 39 trillion ISK, which is probably withing the margin of error for CCP data.  That would be an almost Ivory Soap-like 99.41% change.  That the by region mean change was 129.22% indicates that different areas saw different results over time, but the median was still a nice solid 96.21%, which is pretty close to the overall change.

So where were the big increases?

  1. Fade – 113 billion to 1.4 trillion – 1265.61% of January
  2. Omist – 76 billion to 414 billion – 544.21% of January
  3. The Kalevala Expanse – 278 billion to 777 billion – 279.66% of January
  4. Genesis – 402 billion to 910 billion – 226.64% of January
  5. Verge Vendor – 168 billion to 363 billion – 216.71% of January

I have no idea what was going on in Fade, which is a problem with a lot of these numbers.  And a big increase like that will skew your data when you look at it in region sized chunks.  Still, something was going on.  It was also interesting to see that destruction followed utilization in TKE, it having made the top increase in all three areas.

The last two regions are in high sec.  More ganking maybe?

At the other end, where did destruction drop off?

  1. Period Basis – 491 billion to 26 billion – 5.30% of January
  2. Geminate – 2.4 trillion to 380 billion – 15.68% of January
  3. Perrigen Falls – 372 billion to 81 billion – 21.78% of January
  4. Outer Passage – 387 billion to 93 billion – 23.95% of January
  5. Cloud Ring – 383 billion to 151 billion – 39.57% of January

Again, it is nice to see some consistency, with the drop off in ratting and mining on Period Basis there was a corresponding drop in destruction.

Geminate was where Pandemic Horde used to live.  Perrigen Falls and Outer Passage are both in the upper drone region, a place reputed to be a botting home.  And then there is Cloud Ring.  I blame The Initiative and Snuffed Out for whatever happens up there.

And how about the benchmark Sov Null regions?  Any changes there that correspond to anything we have seen so far?

  • Cobalt Edge (Hard Knocks) – 395 billion to 699 billion – 177.02% of January
  • Delve (Imperium) – 1.8 trillion to 1.5 trillion – 85.86% of January
  • Detorid (Fraternity) – 1.2 trillion to 1.6 trillion – 137.20% of January
  • Esoteria (TEST) – 613 billion – 860 billion – 140.39% of January
  • Providence (Provi) – 765 billion – 843 billion – 110.24% of January

Unlike Period Basis, there is no corresponding drop in destruction relative to the decrease in ratting or mining.  Somebody took it upon themselves to get out to Cobalt Edge and blow things up. Detorid and Esoteria are also part of an ongoing war in the east, which muddies the water a bit.  Providence saw a bit of a bump.  And then there is Delve, the only one of the bunch that saw a decrease, though at both ends of the measure it saw the most absolute destruction.

Destruction broken out by different areas of space, where overall is all regions as a whole, mean and median are per region changes:

  • All Regions Overall: 99.41% Mean: 129.22% Median: 96.21%
  • NPC Null Overall: 79.61% Mean: 74.70% Median: 76.72%
  • Empire – Overall: 110% Mean: 118.98% Median: 103.41%
  • Sov Null – Overall: 92.29% Mean: 145.77% Median: 88.00%

NPC Null saw a drop, the data shows that it fell in every region, Empire stayed about the same, with some outliers, and Sov Null saw the widest variety of change.  But there are more Sov Null regions than the other two areas combined, so that seems likely.  But the overall numbers didn’t show much change.

So what do all of these numbers mean?  I don’t know.

My daughter is currently taking AP Statistics, so I am trying to show the same restraint I have tried to instill in her when it comes to jumping to conclusions based on data that may not tell a complete story.  It is easy to infer meaning at a glance that is not really there.

There are certainly some consistent stories in the mix, like those of Period Basis or TKE, where a changes followed a nice pattern.  The stories of those regions seem clear.  But others are less so, which points to the need to know what was actually going on in any given area before drawing any conclusions about it based on the data here.  And everything should probably be overlaid on some sort of user online report to give some hint if more people online end up with more ratting and mining and destruction as part of things.

Still, I think there is some value in looking at the data, if only just to get a sense of what is changing where.

For this post I put the data from the August and January MERs into their own Excel spreadsheet, which you can download if you like.

Of course, I started doing this last weekend just because, then got it queued up to post this week after the Ragefire Chasm three-parter, only to find Rhivre at INN also wanted to throw lots of data around this week as well.  She goes into more depth, talks about more things, and generally does a much better job than I bothered to do, so if you want to wallow in numbers you should probably go check that out.

Top Five MMORPG Stories I am still Waiting for in 2019

We are here in the final third of 2019, just four months left to go in the year and it has been a blur so far.  Everything has gone by too fast… except for those last two weeks before WoW Classic, which seemed painfully slow.

But there are still some new stories I am waiting for to pop up, things I feel certain we’ll hear about between now and the end of the year.

So I put together a list of five such news stories that I will be watching for between now and New Years Eve, and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get them all.  These are, of course, steered by my own interests.  Your mileage may vary.

1 – Blizzard – WoW Classic Plans

Less than a week ago Blizzard let WoW Classic out into the wild and suddenly the retro sound track of life started playing Oops!… I Did It Again as the WoW team once again unleashed an uncontrollable juggernaut into the MMO scene.  2004 all over again, and Blizz will be some time getting it under control.

But with that much positive feedback on WoW Classic, including the stock price getting a bump, they cannot possibly leave things as they are.  They have to announce a plan for future retro operations.  They have hinted at various things, but the board of directors will want the ongoing stock boost that will come with an announced path forward.  It can be more fresh WoW Classic servers in a year.  It can be plans for The Burning Crusade.  It can be a tech breakthrough to eliminate queues.  But they have to announce something.  If there isn’t a whole session about this at BlizzCon 2019 I will be disappointed.

2 – Daybreak – The Breakup

Part of my New Year’s Predictions for 2019, we have been getting hints about Daybreak becoming multiple studios with Darkpaw Games and Twitter accounts for a while now.  Somebody has to be buying some or all of the place.  At some point… probably on a Friday afternoon after 3pm Pacific Time if I know Daybreak… they are going to have to spill some news on this and give us something in a press release.  Waiting for that Friday afternoon.  My vested interest here is to end up with a company that is focused on the EverQuest property that won’t be distracted by, or need to bear the burden of, fruitless attempts to make battle royale a thing again at Daybreak.

My current tinfoil hat theory is that CCP moving EVE Vegas to San Diego for 2020 along with the EverQuest team putting out a questionnaire about a possible player event in 2020 adds up to Pearl Abyss buying some, if not all, of Daybreak.  Maybe they want PlanetSide Arena as well, or maybe the don’t.  We’ll see.  The odd part about this crackpot theory of mine… other people have written more about it than I have.

3 – CCP – New Player Experience

CCP has been fretting about new player retention… again.  Despite the fact that their numbers seem to land pretty solidly within the industry norms, they want to do better.  An admirable goal, for sure, and they have declared that they are pulling resources from other projects to work on this.

The problem is… well… have you played EVE Online?  Nothing short of a complete revamp of the UI is going to make it more comprehensible.  And it is still an 16 year old MMO, a market position where a 2% new user retention rate is considered viable.  So I am waiting patiently for CCP to announce their plan to tackle this issue mostly so I can either be amazed or point and laugh.  I expect to do the latter.

4 – CCP – The Golden Parachute Escape

It was a little less than a year ago that the Pearl Abyss acquisition of CCP closed.  That included a series of performance goal to meet in order for CCP and its investors to get the full $425 million.  I expect that once the first anniversary of the acquisition hits in October we will see a quick exit by some of the vested CCP honchos, with Hilmar leading the pack.  I would buy into his statements about how he loves to interact with EVE Online players a lot more if he didn’t already have a foot out the door on his way to a new venture.

So the news I am waiting for concerns the disingenuous rats deserting the ship.  After that maybe somebody will have a better plan than chaos and pitting various player groups against each other in order to improve EVE Online.

5 – Blizzard – New Games

I had a bunch of possible items for fifth spot, all of them Blizzard related.  For example, what ever became of Diablo Immortal?  NetEase says it is done.

If nothing else, I have the core of a BlizzCon projection post already set.

But on that list, the easy first item was to hear about new games that Blizz has been hinting about.  And not an old new game.  Not Diablo IV.  But a new new game.  Blizz has found success in the past making new versions of the games the main developers have enjoyed.  This has been somewhat diluted by the growth of the company.  It is no longer a bunch of people who enjoyed raiding in EQ so they decided to make WoW, but I still want to see what they have going.

Blaugust and Keeping the Words Flowing to the Site

Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

-Voltaire

Here we are in the last week of Blaugust and the topic of the week is about staying motivated.

To write a single blog post is pretty easy.  We all have something to say, some opinion to share, something to complain about, or some entertaining tale of challenge, victory, defeat, or shame.  It probably isn’t a chore to get to maybe half a dozen posts.  The world is, as I noted a couple weeks back, full of topics if you look closely enough.

But at some point the white hot rage or whatever drove you to start a blog will diminish.  You will have said the things that were on your mind at the beginning and will have to face the fact that if you want to keep writing you will need both a source of topics and the motivation to keep going.

If you are happy with what you have written, if people are reading, if you’re getting comments that turn into thoughtful discussions or interesting counter-points to your posts, it will be easier to carry on.  Attention is a powerful motivator.

But what if you post your well crafted opus on the evolution of housing options in Runes of Magic and nobody responds?

There was a time about a decade back when you could reliably count on somebody showing up for a comment if you had managed to pass what seems now like a fairly low bar of notoriety.  The stats that WP.com shows me say that there was a stretch when I could count on an average of 8 comments per post.  Even with some percentage of those being my own responses in comments, that is a lot of discussion going on.

As SynCaine pointed out in my July month in review post, there was a link to a reference to a fairly simple post he did back in 2009 that ended up with 40 comments.  That was the golden age, where a rant or a controversial opinion might get your comments to overflow.

But now a days the threshold for getting comments has risen quite a bit.  The advent of other social media channels like Twitter and Reddit, and other gamer outlets like Twitch, not to mention the whims of Google, has made blogs much more of a niche than they were.  Comments per post here, which peaked at 9 a decade back, are a lot closer to 3 these days.  And if it wasn’t for Bhagpuss that number would probably have sunk to around 2.

What do you do now?

Well, first, go leave a comment on another blog.  They’ll appreciate it.  And, if they don’t, you know not to bother going forward.  There are still plenty of fish in that sea.

But after that, you probably need to evaluate why you were blogging in the first place and work towards that as a goal.

If you started blogging in order to get traffic and comments and whatever, you can still do that.  It is more difficult than it was a decade back, but you can still swing it.  You can work on your SEO, you can promote your blog on a wide range of social networks, and you can tackle controversial topics or take radical stances on more mundane things.  You can get attention.  Whether that attention will make you happy is your call.

Or maybe you set out simply to craft a gold plated edifice of perfect text that you expect to stand the test of time and and serve as a shining beacon to future generations.  You might manage that with a few more revisions of that post that has been sitting in your drafts folder for two years already.

My own motivation is much more mundane; just to remember.

Even if you have your writing goals nailed down and you can think up topics left and right, there can still be times when motivation lacks.  Do I want to write about another move op or quest run or achievement?  Sometimes the words just won’t come, or dribble out half halfheartedly.  It is around then that I feel like I need to prime the pump.  The one thing that seems to get me writing is to be writing already.  So I have a series of regular posts I do, or events that I will write about, which I can fall back on.  I mentioned a few in my prep week post.

Probably the most common on here at TAGN is the month in review post.  I have managed to do one on the last day of the month, every month, since I started the blog.  But I don’t have to write it on that day.  It has a standard format and, save for a couple of entries that require the end of the month, I can start writing it any time.  I often start writing these posts weeks in advance when I have some time to write but don’t feel I have something to write about.  Doing the 1/5/10 years ago section often sparks ideas and leads me off to some topic about which to write.

Another post type I find I can get running with are Quote of the Day posts.  Somebody is always saying something.  Take their quote and run with it.  And then there are “Summer Re-Runs” posts, where I lump together a series of posts on a specific topic that bring together a story or a bit of history.

There are some other regular posts, like a look at the EVE Online Monthly Economic Report and the SuperData Research digital video game revenue chart.  EVE Online also releases a patch/feature update most months, which is an easy item to write about.

And then there are the items that trigger posts for me, things like announcements, patch notes, expansions, and the sort of headline news items that come around once in a while.  There are times when I get in almost a reactionary style of writing, where these sorts of bits that I feel I ought to write about start showing up all of a sudden and I am just writing about them.  The blog starts to feel like a news site as I try to cover these sorts of things.  But I am not about news, but about context, the idea that all sorts of things are going on even if I am only playing EVE Online or WoW in a given week.

Of course, the problem with standard posts is that they can start to feel routine.  If they get stale then they are less likely to spur you to write other things.  Sometimes you have to shake things up in order to find a new balance that can keep you going.  For example, for the EVE Online MER I kept reporting on the same charts for over a year.  When that got stale, I decided to find something specific to focus on each month, something related to events in the game to see what influence they had.

And then there was the weekly Fantasy Movie League posts, which grew to be immense, 2,000 word ventures each week.  That started to feel like a burden.  So I looked at what was the most interesting bits and focused on that… for me it is probably the look at the new movies that show up each week… and cut other parts back to no more than what was probably really needed.

But all of those together, the regular posts and the fall back options, give me just enough structure that I seem to be able to build up a week’s worth of posts, one week after another, until another year has gone by.  And then they find their way into the Month in Review post where I look at them and often find inspiration from them yet again.

Or I suppose you could just to what WordPress.com sent me this morning about writing more.

Blaugust and Burning Things Down

Here we are into the third full week of Blaugust and another topic of the week.

I have tried to keep up and do something on the right theme each week, though I failed a bit last week.  I mean, you got to know me some, but maybe that wasn’t what you were looking for.  And I felt, looking at the calendar, that this week was going to be another punt.

Blaugust 2019 Schedule

Developer appreciation things never quite resonate with me for a variety of reasons I’ve been over in the past.  I neither revere nor dismiss game devs or their work, or so I tell myself.

So I was going to give this week’s topic a miss… and then INN posted an article with the title, Why EVE or CCP Games Needs to Fail and I felt maybe I had an angle.

The basic premise is that CCP has done so many things wrong with EVE Online, made so many errors in the face of players telling them what would happen, been so tone deaf in their relations with customers, that the whole thing, game, studio, and all, should be burned down and scattered to the winds.

I have run across this attitude many times, the idea that things are so bad that we need to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.  Only then can we get something good.

I think there is a class somewhere that instructs young developers, when faced with taking over somebody’s code, to say that it would be easier just to re-write it all from scratch.  (Oh cute little dev, if we trusted you to do that we wouldn’t have handed you that code to maintain.)  But even old salts fall into that trap, the idea that it would be easier to go back to a blank sheet rather than start with code not their own.

Starting from scratch is a hazardous path, one that I’ve been down before.  It can even kill whole companies.  Microsoft gets the attention for the fall of the Netscape Navigator web browser, but if Netscape hadn’t decided to rewrite everything from scratch… in Java… it might have remained viable, or at least capable of keeping up with the features of Internet Explorer.

I’ve watched devs get their wish to start from scratch only to have to spend their time on a long voyage of discovery as they have to relearn all the wisdom that went in to forming that mess of code they are trying to replace.  Instead of spending time adding to the product that dev is stuck redoing something we already had.

Which isn’t to say there is a lack of code that deserves a fiery death.  There was a fax form editor I had to work with about 20 years back that was so problematic that it might actually have been better to restart from scratch.  But you never know until you’re waist deep in things and begin to regret your decision.

Anyway, my point here is that EVE Online or CCP failing would not automatically result in something better coming along.  If anything, the opposite is likely true.  Who wants to create a harsh, dystopian internet spaceship sandbox game if the premier example of the niche has failed?

And what other options would former New Eden residents have?  Star Citizen is not ready for prime time, Elite: Dangerous requires docking skills I’m too old to want to work on, Prosperous Universe is all the bad UI and spreadsheets of New Eden without any of the pretty pictures, and the handful of spaceship MMO startups are so far from being anything close to the scale of EVE Online that we would all be clamoring for an EVE Online emulator five minutes after the game went down.

Appreciate what you have got.

That doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with everything.  One of the more dynamic aspects of EVE Online is the discussion of what it is, what is wrong, and what it could be.  And it can be tough when “chaos” is the new flavor of the month.  But EVE Online with chaos is still better than no EVE Online at all.  Space is still pretty, the scale is still epic, fights still happen, and chaos cannot go on forever.  Maybe Hilmar will read Ringworld Engineers and become obsesses with stability.

Leave the wishes for financial failure, closure, and all that to the people who find the game’s mere existence to be an affront.  There is enough hate out there already.

Blaugust and What the Hell to Write About

We’re past the first full week of Blaugust so it is time for another community post.

This week the schedule of suggested topics says something about topic brainstorming.

Here’s the thing.  I never have a problem coming up with topics.  I mean, have you read this blog at all?  I can clearly poop out 500 words on just about any tangentially video game related topic… mention the main event/title/actor, bring up a bit of history, relate it to myself and my experience, speculate a bit on the future, and were done.  And if I warm to to the topic then we’re probably into the 1,500-2,000 word range.

And I have mentioned how I crank out all these posts… a simple lack of standards and a strong sense that having written something, even if it is junk, is better than having written nothing.

So nearly thirteen years down the road I have a blog of some 5,000+ posts adding up to nearly 4 million words that feels like a giant first draft of something.  When it comes to the sheer mass of words I’m catching up to the Wheel of Time book series, which weighs in at 4.4 million words, and I don’t think I have over abused nearly as many turns of phrase. (He said, tugging on his braid.)

The thing is, at some point along the line I actually decided what I wanted this blog to be.

I am sure that sounds like a “well, duh!” sort of statement because I am sure many people start out thinking they know what they want to write about and what they want their blog to be about.  And I am sure I did too.  But I was wrong.

Or, rather, I was not specific enough.  So for the first couple of years I wrote all sorts of things about all sorts of semi-related topics.  I wrote 490 blog posts in 2007, the first full calendar year of the blog, more than any other year and they were all over the place in terms of style, format, direction, and what not.

Eventually though I figured out what I wanted the blog to be.  It took some time and it came to me via what was a rather random event in the first month of the blog.  For no particular reason, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, I wrote a month in review post.

It was short, ringing in at just 500 word, relative to my current monthly monsters, which can loom towards the 3,000 word mark without much effort.  But the basic elements were there.  And I kept doing it, month after month until I hit the one year mark of the blog.  With the first month in review of the second year I added a new element, the “One Year Ago” section.

And that was the magic moment, though I did not know it at the time.  The first few attempts at summarizing what happened a year back were pretty rough.  But it got me looking back at 20-40 old posts at regularly monthly intervals in order to decide what I ought to bring up, which got me thinking about which posts were important, which posts mattered to me, and which posts did not stand the test of time.

If you have done any systems analysis, you will see that I managed to accidentally create a feedback loop that was triggered at regular monthly intervals.  Every month I would review and evaluate some old posts to see which ones were worth bringing up again and which I should let fall by the wayside.  That let me know which posts were important to me and shaped what I would write going forward.

It took a while to gel.  I had to go a full year before I even started on that, so there was a lot of chaos in the first twelve months as I thrashed about in my writing.  And then looking back a year took some refinement as well.  You can see in that 13th month in review that I didn’t even link back, I just wrote a summary.  I had to develop how I even did a “One Year Ago” section.

So I would say, in looking at how things went, that the whole process didn’t even settle down until some point in 2009, and there was some over-correction in 2010 and 2011 as I chased after some things I might not have written about in later years.  2011 was the year with the second most post, ringing in at 488. (It was a busy year.)

Eventually though I managed to hit something of an equilibrium.  Looking back a year in 2008, I would end up excluding a lot of posts I had written when it came to the summary.  They just were not worth mentioning.  But as I have moved along, the ratio of posts written in a given month to the number of post mentioned in the following year review has narrowed dramatically. (All of my month in review posts are collected in a single blog category here.)

And even what to include has changed some over the years.  Generally, when I go to write a month in review today, I do the “One Year Ago” section from scratch.  Then I go back four years ago and take the “One Year Ago” section from that post and use it as the core for the “Five Years Ago” section.  But I go review what was in that year to see if I need to add or amend anything.  Then I go back five years to use the “Five Years Ago” section as the core of the “Ten Years Ago” segment.

That process has gotten much easier over the years.  There was a point when I was rewriting whole “Five Years Ago” segments because what I had written at the one year mark was insufficient.

These days the source for most of my “Five Years Ago” links is generally pretty solid.  I only add something if I feel I missed an event that I did not post about at all.  You will get the occasional Wikipedia article link in the midst of those for an expansion or launch that I might have neglected to mention, but which seems important in retrospect.

And I am getting to the point where the sources for my “Ten Years Ago” sections are starting to be pretty solid, though I do go through and add some links there fairly often.  And, in a few years, when “Fifteen Years Ago” becomes an option, I think I will be able to mostly just copy and paste work I have already done.

But that doesn’t really get to the whole topics question directly, now does it?

The thing is, in looking at what has been important to me in the past serves as a guide as to what I ought to write about in the future and has shaped what sort of posts I take the time to write.

The end goal of the blog is to write something or a narrative history of my gaming.  That wasn’t what I set out to do, that is just what I ended up with after going through and deciding what was important to me.

That does tend to make the blog very event driven.  Something happens, a launch, an update, a battle, a dungeon run, a major announcement, or whatever I filter that through what has become my criteria of importance, which I can sum up simply as, “Will I want to remember this in a year?”  If the answer is “yes,” then I have a topic and a blog post is on the way.

Now, it is not infallible.  I still write stuff that I don’t end up caring about in a year.  You will, for example, see that I rarely ever mention the Fantasy Movie League posts in my monthly review.  The week to week scores just are not that interesting a year later, unless something outrageous happens.  I do mention the end of season posts.  Those seem worthwhile.

And, of course, I write about things that seem very much off topic at times.  I have done book reviews and posts about our cats and vacations and other similar things.  Those don’t get triggered the way that a lot of gaming posts do.  However, they do act as sign posts along the way, points of reference as to what was going outside of video games.

But you still don’t have a topic to write about coming out of this, unless you want to get meta and write about what your blog is really about, what posts appeal to you immediately or in the hindsight, and whether or not you are like me and reflect on the past on a regular basis or just write and move on and never look back.

So maybe think on that.  That might be a topic for you.

Blaugust Arrives and You Call This Prep?

On the first day of Blaugust… I wrote a post about Blaugust.  No surprise there.

Blaugust, back in its early origins, was a goal, a challenge, to write a blog post every day for the whole month of August.  It has softened up a bit over the years, merging a bit with the Newbie Blogger Initiative idea, to become more of… well, as it says on the logo… a festival of blogging.

You can read all about it here.  It is not too late to join!

But I hold myself to the traditional goal of the event and plan to post daily for a month.

Which, of course, means I am in a bit of a panic here on day one.  How the hell am I going to find something to write about every day for a full month?

That is my usual lack of confidence speaking.  It ignores the fact that not only have I managed to fulfill that task in every Blaugust so far, I wrote more than a post a day for a full month just last month.  July could count as my Blaugust.

In fact, if you look at the stats of the blog, I have effectively write more that one post a day for most of the years that the blog has been around.  In 2009 and again in 2017 I only wrote 350 blogs during the calendar year.  Those were my worst years ever.  Given that my goal is a post every weekday, which adds up to about 260 posts in a year, I am well ahead of the curve.

None of which can dissuade my brain from trying to calculate out how I am going to make it this year.  The past is old news, I have to do this today, this week, this month!  Aigghhhhh!

It is good thing that this is, according to the suggested calendar for the event, prep week.  So let me do some planning here in front of a live studio audience to see if I can calm myself down a bit… or let you in on my thought process, which might be a more useful/scary way to look at it.

Blaugust 2019 Schedule

How to fill up that calendar?

Well, to start with, I can skip that last week, that is September.  I’ll worry about next month when it arrives, though that Monday will probably still be a summing up post about the event.

The other weeks each have a topic, I can probably make something out of each of those… except developer appreciation week.  I appreciate devs, and wouldn’t necessarily want their career path, but I never know what to say when people get on that appreciation topic.  I’ll find something.  So that is five topics for August, five posts down, including this one, 26 to go.

Then there are my standard weekly FML posts.  The league goes on through the end of the month, so that is a post every Wednesday, so four more knocked out, 22 to go.

There is also the monthly look at the SuperData numbers and the EVE Online monthly economic report, plus there will be an August patch update for EVE Online.  Oh, and month in review, the cornerstone of every month!  That brings the number of posts down to 18.

What is coming up in August?

There is the final two aspects of the Season of Skills event in EVE Online and another EVE Online stress test event.  And my 13th anniversary of starting off in EVE Online lands this month.  That is four more posts easy, so call it 14 needed now. (I’ve already written that last one too.)

WoW Classic is coming.  Launch day is August 27.  I wish it was earlier in the month, but you get what you get.  There will be at least one looking forward post, the launch day post, and a post about the chaos of the first night.  At least four posts this month will likely be about that, so now we’re to 10.

What else is coming up?

DC Universe Online is launching on the Switch on August 6th.  Might be worth a mention, just to keep track of what Daybreak is up to.  That gets us to 9.

Time to look in the drafts folder.

I have three almost complete posts in there, all started with Blaugust in mind.  I should be able to knock those out.  That leaves us at 6 posts.  I need to come up with six new post ideas over the course of August.  That doesn’t sound too bad.

Likely topics:

  • Ops I fly in EVE Online
  • Looking at Dota Underlords after a couple weeks of play
  • Looking at Teamforce Tactics, a Dota Underloards competitor
  • TorilMUD introducing a new character class… 36 year old MUD is still going
  • My Pokemon Go 3 year anniversary
  • The Switch Lite – my daughter an I have been talking about that
  • Something about my new keyboard
  • Kickstarter project review
  • Something about books/movies/TV

Things I will jump on if they happen:

  • Any Daybreak announcements/rumors
  • BlizzCon rumors
  • CCP making people mad in EVE Online through words or deeds… some more
  • Anything particularly quotable in the MMORPG space
  • Waves of nostalgia, my own or from others

From all of that I think I might be able to scrape out 31 posts, one for each day of Blaugust.  We shall see.

So welcome to Blaugust!

In furtherance of Blaugust spirit, I present a list of the current participants according to the master list that Bel has.  There are some old, well established blogs there, some brand new ones, some that have been quiet for a while, and some that won’t need to change pace to plow through the event with a month’s load of posts.

The list is in order of when people signed up so I can just compare the end of Bel’s list with this list and add people as they appear.  Hopefully he won’t sort the list, since there isn’t a time stamp field or anything.

For those with a social media bent, there is also a Twitter list of participants that Chestnut put together, as well as a Blaugust subreddit on Reddit that Bel launched because there is apparently not enough pain in his life.  (That might just reflect my own experience with Reddit however.)  And UltrViolet has a post up with an OPML file of the RSS feeds for the participating blogs if you want to import them all into your feed reader.

Anyway, there are all the blogs on the list.  I’ve clicked on every single one and only had to fix one URL.  Of course, Bel’s post today also has a list up as well, but I already did the work on this one so I am keeping it.

  1. A Hobbits Journey
  2. Aywren Sojourner
  3. Backlog Crusader
  4. Bio Break
  5. Contains Moderate Peril
  6. Gamer Girl Confessions
  7. Gaming Conversations
  8. Inventory Full
  9. Me vs. Myself and I
  10. Nerdy Bookahs
  11. NomadicGamersEh
  12. Tales of the Aggronaut
  13. The Ancient Gaming Noob
  14. ..in the mind..
  15. Cooler on the internet
  16. Dating Sims on the Holodeck
  17. Enjoying Overload
  18. Everwake’s Internet Journey
  19. Indiecator
  20. Kaylriene
  21. Synthetic Dulips
  22. Where The Monsters Are
  23. Aeternus Gaming
  24. All the Ampersands
  25. Ammo’s Rambles
  26. Ash’s Adventures
  27. Azerothian Life
  28. Beyond Tannhauser Gate
  29. Blog of the Idle
  30. Book of Jen
  31. Can I Play Too
  32. Daily Creative Thing
  33. Dextraneous
  34. Endgame Viable
  35. Galumphing
  36. Gaming SF
  37. Going Commando – A SWTOR Fan Blog
  38. Home of Beau Hindman
  39. I’m Not Squishy
  40. Kabalyero
  41. Knifesedge Blogs
  42. Later Levels
  43. Leaflocker
  44. LeeksEverywhere
  45. Mailvaltar – MMOs and other stuff
  46. MMOJuggler
  47. Nerd Girl Thoughts
  48. Neri Approves
  49. Neverwinter Thoughts
  50. Priest with a Cause
  51. RandomX
  52. Shadowz Abstract Gaming
  53. Shards of Imagination
  54. TechJoy2Day
  55. The Friendly Necromancer
  56. The MMOist
  57. The Parent Trope
  58. Time to Loot
  59. Unidentified Signal Source
  60. I Care a Lot
  61. Wordy Introvert
  62. A Technical Rejoinder
  63. A Missioneer in EVE
  64. Psychochild’s Blog