Tag Archives: 2019

My ManicTime Numbers for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 games played by month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SuperData Reviews 2019 Digital Revenue

SuperData Research has put out their 2019 year in review summary.  It is available for free over on their Insights page.  You have to fill out a form in order to get access to it… they have to have an email address to harvest for their efforts… but it isn’t a big deal and I have email addresses just for that sort of thing.

The report follows the pattern set by the 2017 and 2018 reports in providing details.  It is more of an ad for their services, but there is some data to be gleaned.  I do wish they would stick to the categories they use for their monthly report.  I mean, they start there with some opening numbers in the summary.

SuperData 2019 Digital Gaming Revenues

Mobile gaming remains the biggest category.  However, past that point things get broken down into more discreet categories… or mashed together into larger ones… so that comparison and alignment with the monthly charts becomes problematic.  The report, which focuses on free to play, dices up the numbers like this to start:

  • Mobile – $64.4 billion
  • Free-to-play PC – $21.1 billion
  • Premium Console – $13.8 billion
  • Premium PC – $5.2 billion
  • Pay-to-play PC – $3.3 billion
  • Free-to-play Console – $1.6 billion

So consoles look a bit sad there, but you have to remember that consoles are also the market segment that remains the most dependent on physical, as opposed to digital, sales.  As we see in the NPD numbers every month, Nintendo can top the charts there with physical sales… with Switch games taking up half the spots on the chart one month… and still have little or no presence on the digital sales side of the house.

And then I am not sure how they really break out the PC market.  PC F2P is pretty easy I guess, as we all know League of Legends and Fortnite and those three China titles that hold the top spots every month.  And I would guess that Premium PC would be buy to play titles, and that we might find things like World of Warcraft over in Pay-to-play PC, but I don’t really know as the report neither provides details nor uses those categories elsewhere, choosing instead to launch into a couple of broader charts.  First up is free to play, which at least lines up to a chart used last year so we have some year over year comparison value in it.

SuperData Free to Play titles 2019

Fortnite tops the lists for 2019.  Despite it not dominating the monthly categories as frequently, it is available as a PC, console, and mobile title, so when you combine all three you get Fortnite on top.  It topped the same chart last year as well, though in 2018 it brought in $2.4 billion as opposed to the $1.8 billion in managed in 2019.  Still a lot of dough.

Dungeon Fighter Online was second again this year, with its revenue going from $1.5 to $1.6 billion, though that change is small enough that it could be from an adjustment in the US Dollar (USD) to Chinese Yuan (RMB), which was up in late 2019 relative to the same period in 2018.  Still, that is fairly steady as the 2017 number was also $1.6 billion.

Honour of Kings is the top mobile exclusive title on the list, also ringing in at $1.6 billion.  It moved up from 6th place last year when it reported $1.3 billion.

And then we get to League of Legends in fourth spot.  While down a position in the chart, its revenues were $1.5 billion, up from $1.4 billion reported in 2018.  That still puts it off its peak number in 2017 when it reported $2.1 billion in revenue.

After that we see perennial members of the mobile chart listing, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon Go.  Only the last two spots saw new entries on the list, with Game for Peace and Last Shelter: Survival, which replaced Monster Strike and Clash Royale.

Game for Peace is a reworked version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds made specifically for the China market in order to comply with content restrictions around things like blood and gore in video games.  Unlike PUBG, Game for Peace is free to play, which is probably the most practical approach in the Chinese market.

I couldn’t find much information about Last Shelter: Survival, aside from the fact that it is a mobile game from a Chinese company named Long Tech Network., so I am guessing its position on the chart in based on access to the Chinese market.

The other chart lists out the top premium PC and console titles for 2019:

SuperData Premium PC and Console titles 2019

Unsurprisingly, combining PC and consoles ends up favoring titles that are on both PC and consoles.  Literally everything on the this list is available on Windows and at least two consoles, to the point that I wonder if the title of the list literally allows only games that are cross platform.

We have three sports games… with two versions of the same sports game… five shooters, and action-adventure game that could pass for a shooter, and The Sims 4. (Which I was surprised to find out was on consoles and which really ought to have a shooter mode.)

Unlike the free to play chart, this one saw a much bigger shakeup over last year, with only Rainbow Six: Siege, Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII (or 4), and FIFA 19 returning. (Though the 2019 chart also had double FIFA entries, with FIFA 18 and FIFA 19 on the list.)  And last year’s chart topper, PUBG, is nowhere to be seen.

The report goes on into some general statements about the digital market, like that 4 out of every 5 dollars spent on digital gaming were for free to play titles and 3 out of every 5 dollars spent was on a mobile title. (Though given those opening numbers, it is closer to 3 out of every 4 dollars.)

Not stated specifically, but available from some of the charts provided that break out revenue by region, Asia is far and away the top spender on mobile games, with 61% share as well as free PC titles, with a 55% share.  When it comes to premium PC titles Europe is the biggest spender with a 46% share.  And, on the console front the US is out in front with 54% of the premium console market and 53% of the free console market.  But the markets where Europe and the US are ahead are also the smallest markets on the list.  If it is big, it is big in Asia, with mobile being especially so.

The report also wanders off into streaming segmentation along with VR and AR markets.  For the former, Twitch and YouTube are the top dogs, with 23% and 22% of the revenue between them.  On the VR and AR side of things, Beat Sabre and Pokemon Go are probably the titles worth mentioning.

Anyway, some data to chew on there.  There is more detail available if you sign up and download the report.

My Year in EVE Online

CCP did a cool end of year thing in that they produced videos for players that summed up their activities in 2019 in EVE Online.  This ended up with them rendering 214,713 videos for players, links to which they sent out via email.  I had such an email show up right away.

The video opening

The videos follow a set template, as one would expect, only diverging towards the end depending on whether you spent your time mostly doing PvP, PvE, or industry.  You can see my video here.

They allow you to download an .mp4 of your video, so I did that and then uploaded it to YouTube as the server hosting the videos for CCP appeared to be under a lot of stress.  Also, who knows how long they will keep it around.

My stats from the video:

  • 2,381 Jumps
  • 7,771 Warps
  • 812 Systems Visited
  • 245 Market Transactions
  • Most sold item: Scordite
  • 38,266,092 Skill Points Gained
  • On 258 Kill Mails
  • Most Killed Pilot: Logistician4
  • Most Killed by: Kilo181
  • Podded 8 Times

That doesn’t mark me as a stand out in any way, unless you consider that I mostly fly logi.  Getting on 258 kill mails means I am a bad logi pilot, with combat rather than repair drones in my hold.

Some of this is amusing.  My most sold item was Scrodite, which considering I did very little mining in 2019, and none on my main, is odd.

That isn’t even all that much Scordite really

I suspect I found some stashed away in a high sec station and sold it as we were flying by.  I do that on ops that go through high sec, check local stations to see if I have anything sitting then and then try to sell it quickly, before we move out of the region or my order range.

The most killed pilot looks to be an alt that somebody used to drop warp disruption bubbles in Delve.  I was there to help clean that up I guess.

The pilot who was on the more of my kill mails than any other is in Elitist Ops, which was in PanFam when we were mucking around in Geminate and then in Snuffed Out when Liberty Squad when up to play with them.  I only lost 18 ships/pods/deployables in 2019, so he was on four of my kill mails tops.

I was trying to figure out exactly which 9 alts were being counted with Wilhelm.  I certainly have more than 9 characters across multiple accounts.

This being a CCP venture, there was, of course, a dev blog to explain how videos were compiled.  The base criteria to get a video was:

  • Active Omega subscription at some point in 2019.
  • Omega time per email had to be greater than or equal to 30 days, for all users belonging to an email combined. Active playing time per email had to be greater than or equal to 25 hours, for all users and characters belonging to an email combined. That is log on, non-AFK hours.
  • Only valid emails were included, for instance, several Steam users had not verified their emails through our Account Management Site, and these were removed as no emails are associated with their accounts.
  • Stats were not collected for characters deleted this year.
  • Banned users were excluded.
  • Unsubscribed emails were excluded.
  • Players that did not have adequate activity to be categorized were excluded.

That email address seemed to be the key made me go dig through a few other accounts.  Back in the day I used to keep different accounts as isolated as possible, with different email addresses and payment methods.  And, sure enough, my main alt got his own video.

That video is clearly just for the one account.  Sel also had a PvP year.

Then I found another video for an account that I had kept active for cynos.

I think his usage was largely theoretical, given the stats.  I did, however, roll him out for the events where you killed some NPCs to get skill points.  I put him in a Venture and would stick him in a belt on some Veldspar with combat drones out until he zapped enough belt rats.  That explains why he got the industry path for his year.  I’m a surprised he made the minimum level to be counted, but I guess that bar was pretty low.

That totaled up to 15 total mains and alt, which seems about right to me.

As silly as bits of those are… I am a poor representative for these stats… it was pretty neat for CCP to go do this.

If you want to see more such videos, a lot of them were linked on Twitter using the hash tag.

The Passing of the 2019 Steam Winter Sale

The new year has been rung in, we’ve had a day off, and now it is January 2nd and reality has to kick in for some of us.  Not me.  I’m not going back to work until Monday.  But not everybody has that luxury or that much vacation time back logged.

And so it is with Valve.  By the time this posts another Steam Winter Sale will have come and gone.

Holiday 2019 Edition

Lots of things were on sale.  I got the traditional email letting me know that just about everything on my Steam wish list had been marked down.  And yet I got through almost the entire sale without buying a thing.  It looked like another dry year for me.  I didn’t even log on to play the store event game, which seemed pretty dry… dry enough that they had to revise it mid-way through to drum up some interest.  You think Valve would have that nailed down by this point.

The reasons for my lack of interest in buying new games are not much different than most years.  That something is on sale at Steam is no longer reason enough to buy it.  The novelty is gone there.  I have a list of unplayed games in my Steam library which acts as a deterrent.  And I am invested in playing something at the moment.  When I am not logged into WoW Classic I am logged into EverQuest II and playing the new Blood of Luclin expansion.  Expect posts about that to start next week.

So until yesterday it looked like my only purchase was going to be a Steam gift card for my daughter’s boyfriend as a Christmas gift.

And then we binge watched The Witcher, wrapping it up on New Years Eve, which got me to check if the original game was available on Steam.  And, sure enough, there it was, The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, in the store and on sale for $1.49.  So I bought that.

Toss a Coin to Your Witcher

So op success for Steam?  I guess.  I didn’t even end up paying the $1.49.  Because I bought that gift card I ended up with a $5.00 discount, which I applied to the game.

No coins for your Witcher

One more item in my library.  We’ll see if I end up playing it.  But now it is there.

As usual, Steam had its own lists and such to share.  There were the top revenue earners of 2019.

Top Revenue Titles for 2019

The ranking… since there are no numbers… include in-game purchases, which is how the aging Warframe and  Grand Theft Auto V stay up with the newer titles.  Warframe making the top spot is quite a coup.

Then there are the most played games, which has its own ranking structure.  Still, there is some overlap between revenue and being played.

Most played titles for 2019

You can find more such lists on the Steam Blog entry about 2019.

Then there were the Steam Awards, the user nominated and elected “best of…” designations.  It wasn’t a surprise to even me that Beat Sabre won the best VR game, since it is literally the only new VR game I can recall hearing about.  VR isn’t dead, but it is a lot more aspirational than real still.  And Grand Theft Auto V crept into another winning position.  How does that game keep going?  I guess I might know if I played the copy I bought during the Steam Summer Sale.

And so it goes.  I have one new game in my Steam library and six months to go until the summer sale. (I don’t count the spring and autumnal sales, they don’t get nearly as much press.)

Looking Back at 2019 Highs and Lows

What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

Here we are again, sitting at the end of another calendar year.  And not just that, but at the end of a decade as well, if we’re going to collect our arbitrary eras of time.  Reality doesn’t care about the calendar, but humans like to put things in nice neat boxes.

As has become the routine every year, I spend a bit of time writing out some of the highs and lows of the year.  This is not at all an inclusive or an exhaustive list of things good and ill that came to pass in 2019.  I inevitably look back at these posts and come up with a dozen more things I could have listed.  Rather, this is more of a stream of consciousness vomit of words into the text editor.  As such, don’t expect to find any links to whatever I bring up.  But you can ask in the comments I suppose.

The only links you get are back to past iterations of this post from previous years.

I think the major change this year is that I decided each bullet point needed to be a complete sentence with punctuation.  That probably means they aren’t really bullet points, but I don’t care.

One thing I will note is that going through some of the older posts… and I now have a full decade streak running from 2010 through 2019… is how much my focus has narrowed.  My ability to care about a wide range of games and genres and technologies has decreased noticeably as the years have dragged on.  I suspect that this is a function of age as much as anything else.  But this means that, over time, the list of categories has decreased and the number of titles I feel inclined to mention has grown smaller.  Still, I will go on about some of the expected standards from the blog.

Blizzard

Highs

  • The Warcraft 25th anniversary and WoW 15th anniversary were highlights.
  • Rise of Azshara update finally gave us the flying unlock for Battle for Azeroth.  That was enough to get a few people back.
  • WoW Classic comes alive and succeeds beyond at least Blizzard’s expectations, picking up the slack for the faltering Battle for Azeroth expansion.
  • Personally WoW Classic was an excellent return to a simpler time in Azeroth.
  • A working version of Diablo in conjunction with GoG.com!
  • Diablo IV announced!
  • Overwatch 2 announced!  It will have a PvE story campaign and will overlap functionality with Overwatch.
  • The next WoW expansion, Shadowlands was announced.
  • More decks and a new game mode for Hearthstone.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged closer to release, and it looks really good.
  • StarCraft Cartooned was pretty funny.  Worth my $10.
  • The promise of more devs for WoW and WoW Classic.

Lows

  • 2019 was a strong reminder that Blizzard is just a company and not a special magic factory or your best friend or an organization that cares a single whit about you.  Blizz is just EA dialed back to maybe 8.  That doesn’t mean you should be mean to people who work there (please don’t be that person), just that you should set your expectations accordingly.
  • The Blitzchung Hong Kong fiasco put a shadow over the whole company right before BlizzCon.
  • Blizzard’s sanctions against Blitzchung, their slow response, their corporate speak, and the lack of clarity as to what J. Allen Brack was actually apologizing for all worked against Blizz.  The only bright point for Blizz in all of this was probably that most of its customers didn’t give a shit.
  • Battle for Azeroth just wasn’t thrilling people.  This is a problem when you have a lot of people to please and you only push an expansion out every other year.
  • Took Blizz a while to get Darkmoon Faire trade skill quests working right with the BfA tradeskill revamp.  Another case of one hand not paying any mind to the other I bet.
  • Blizz wildly underestimated WoW Classic popularity, having to nearly triple the number of servers they started with, then doubling the capacity of the servers just to soak up all those wanting to play.
  • WoW Classic has some odd performance issues.  It is mostly crisp, but crossing zones always has a little hiccup and at times actions fall behind the UI and you’re left hanging while the game catches up.  Maybe that was in vanilla too and I’ve just forgotten.
  • WoW Classic population balance… lots of free character transfer offers, but not sure if they did the trick.
  • Then there was UKDillahs and their DDoS attack on WoW Classic.
  • WoW Classic can’t carry the load forever and there has been no indication that Blizz “gets” the whole nostalgia thing beyond a superficial level.
  • WoW Classic PvP servers once honor was introduced.
  • Paid character transfers for WoW Classic show up now that honor has made life miserable on some PvP realms.
  • The level squish plan coming with Shadowlands if rife with the possibility of problems.
  • Diablo IV is still a long, long way away.  We’ll be getting updates about it for a couple more BlizzCon cycles before it goes live.
  • No Diablo II remaster yet and the original Diablo II devs say it will never happen… though they throw shade at everything Blizz does with the franchise they created.
  • Is Overwatch 2 a dessert topping or a floor wax?  It is billed as a new game, looks like an expansion, and feels a lot like something that should have been part of the original.
  • Warcraft III: Reforged was supposed to launch in 2019.  Only made it to closed beta so far, and only for those who pre-ordered.  The launch should be in January.  We shall see.
  • StarCraft II?  Helloooo?
  • The usual amount of missed opportunities due to Blizzard being both slow and cautious and having grown to be even more lumbering due to its size.
  • Layoffs announced in the breath after celebrating their best financial performance ever.
  • Blizzard margins were way down mid-year, which is never a good look for a public company as Wall Street obsesses about margins.
  • Not a single new game out of the company in how many years now?

Daybreak

Highs

  • EverQuest turns 20!
  • Lots of good EverQuest news about the viability of the franchise.
  • EverQuest II turns 15!
  • Both Norrath games got a new expansion.  The future seems bright for fans.
  • EverQuest and EverQuest II special rules servers have helped keep the Norrath franchise alive.
  • Managed to find time to play and enjoy both EverQuest and EverQuest II this year.
  • The EverQuest Show arrives dedicated to covering EverQuest, something I have long wished for.
  • DC Universe Online remains hardy, gets updates.
  • DC Universe Online even got a version on the Nintendo Switch!  No idea how it is doing there, but that they thought it was worth the effort says something.
  • Daybreak launched a new title, PlanetSide Arena!
  • Plans for a PlanetSide 3 announced!

Lows

  • Layoffs.
  • Signs of a possible company break up or sale, with new names being registered and new social media accounts.
  • Daybreak has four viable games: EverQuest, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and PlanetSide 2… and I won’t swear to that last one… the youngest of which is seven years old.
  • EverQuest franchise is a cow and Daybreak is content to milk it.  Same for DC Universe Online.
  • Exec Producer says there could be another EverQuest game someday under the right circumstances, which leads me to believe there won’t ever be a new EverQuest game so long as current Daybreak management are running the show.
  • EverQuest special rules servers tend to work best in one flavor despite different variations.
  • EverQuest II special rules servers do not have the same appeal as EverQuest flavors.
  • EverQuest II seems to be back in the performance issues zone.  When playing there are is a lot of hesitation and delay when using spells or combat skills.  This is more so in group play, like the dragon events, but I see it even in solo instances.
  • The EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin, is… odd.  That may not be bad.  There may be things going on here the industry ought to look at.  But for a company that brings out an expansion annually in order to cater to its core audience, rocking the boat like this is a risk.
  • The EverQuest Show went quiet after a few months.  I hope it isn’t gone for good.
  • No more Player Studio.  SOE/Daybreak were leaders with that, but had to fold up shop.
  • Sorry about that currency exploit which apparently inflated the hell out of the economy in DCUO.  Daybreak had to apply a “fix tax” that basically took everything above 25 billion from anybody’s account.
  • Z1 Battle Royale handed back to Daybreak when NantWorks couldn’t make it work.
  • H1Z1 neglected and mis-handled on the PS4, while the returning PC prodigal son… was also neglected and mis-handled.
  • PlanetSide Arena, a battle royale based on PlanetSide 2 strikes very few as new in any way.  Overwatch 2 has better claim to being new to my mind.
  • PlanetSide Arena failed to launch in February, re-targeted to “summer” to include PlayStation 4 version as well, after which Daybreak goes into its usual silent mode for six months.
  • PlanetSide Arena goes early access on PC only in September (technically just before the end of summer on the calendar) only to be roundly scorned by the dwindling PlanetSide 2 community.  Steam numbers quickly go so low that the game is clearly not viable.
  • PlanetSide Arena gets shut down… would writing just PlanetSide Arena have been enough?
  • Plans to revitalize PlanetSide 2 appear to be to based on… something vague they can’t tell us about.  That generally means they don’t know.  We’ll find out in 2020.
  • PlanetSide 3 plans were to build off of PlanetSide Arena… which is now kaput.  So what happens now?
  • PlanetSide and H1Z1 franchises prove that being a cow and getting milked is still better than some other options.
  • Does Jason Epstein still own this mess?

CCP

Highs

  • Triglavian ships for everybody!
  • Triglavian invasions for most everybody!
  • Skill points for everybody!
  • Really a lot of good, solid, quality of life fixes in the game.  They may be small, but they matter.
  • Moratorium on devs playing EVE Online openly has been lifted after more than a decade.
  • CCP working on the ISK faucet problem seriously, and actually having an impact.
  • War Dec changes finally putting some sort of cap on that scourge of high sec.
  • Some progress on Upwell structure issues like time zone tanking and low powered structure spam.
  • Still some wars in null sec, with TEST and Fraternity battling and the Imperium going north to drive PanFam out of Tribute.
  • CCP said to have gotten lots of good, actionable data from summer experiments.
  • EVE Fanfest World Tour brought official EVE Online events to many people.
  • EVE Vegas and the Permaband performance were excellent.
  • EVE media seems pretty strong on the streaming front.  Lots of streamers and streaming shows covering New Eden.
  • Team Talos created to tackle what are essentially balance issues!
  • Katia Sai making it to all the systems in New Eden without losing a ship and getting wide recognition for the feat, including a monument in game and a Guinness Records achievement.
  • A whole range of new and colorful ships SKINs arrived as the year closed out.
  • EVE Aether Wars tech demo promised better tech infrastructure for online games of the future.
  • Finally progressing towards another live product with EVE Echoes.

Lows

  • CCP bans CSM member Brisc Rubal for cheating… and then does their investigation only to end up reinstating him and apologizing.  The phrase “measure twice, cut once” springs to mind.
  • The CSM remains a bastion of null sec for the same old reasons.  But an elected CSM will always be as such.
  • CCP gets lots of new players, then loses almost all of them in the first week.  Half of people who register don’t end up even logging in.
  • There comes a point where “give away more skill points” might not be the right answer.
  • What Alliance Tournament?
  • Entosis mechanics remain a barrier to sov warfare in null sec.  We shoot structures to fight and only take space when one side decides to pack up and leave.
  • Capital meta still oppresses subcap game play in null sec.  Form battleships and you get supers dropped on you.
  • The “summer experiments,” Hurricane Hilmar and the Chaos, era kills off a lot of null sec and economic activity.  Velocity of PLEX plummets.
  • Imperium campaign in Tribute was brought up short by the completely unfun and unrewarding Drifter attacks.  Player war killed by dubious event.
  • Their own analysis showed that the blackout hit the poor hard and was barely noticed by the rich.  Just like real world economics!
  • HyperNet Relay – Gambling returns to New Eden.  But CCP and the CSM seem quite enthusiastic about a mechanism where almost everybody involved loses their money.
  • Cyno changes meant an end to solo capital play unless you had the budget to pay half a billion for every cyno.
  • No more EVE Vegas.  Its not that I don’t like San Diego.  It is a nice place.  My sister lives there.  But if you’re going to to keep it in the western US, LA is the clear winner (Disneyland for the family) and Seattle is the place different enough to be a runner up.
  • CCP Guard and CCP Falcon, two staples of the community team, left CCP.
  • Written media about EVE Online continues its decline.  Crossing Zebras closed down, New Eden Register faded, EVE News 24 pretty much just reposts dev blogs and press releases, and even INN has become sporadic in its coverage of New Eden.  Streams and videos are great, but I miss the search and index functionality that comes with the written word.  But then blogs are pretty fringe now as well.  The cool kids don’t write.
  • There was a long, dry spell of almost no new ship SKINs for much of the year.
  • EVE Aether Wars is tech that will never make it into EVE Online at this point and the record attempts as part of the tests fell so far short of goals as to be embarrassing after three tries.
  • That Starter Pack deal that gave anybody who bought it a one time million skill point boost for $10 is still there, still available for anybody to buy.  I guess CCP decided they could weather out our 15 minutes of outrage… and it looks like they were right.
  • CCP’s plans for EVE Online are all tactical, which isn’t all bad, since the game needs that, but there is no long term vision of aspirational feature on the horizon.
  • Seriously, when CCP Seagull mentioned player made star gates way back when, was anybody thinking “oh, that will just be the replacement for jump bridges?”  Because I sure thought it meant something more expansive.
  • That chart from Hilmar that seemed to say that the goal of the new player path culminated in anxiety and boredom.  It is in the CSM minutes and it betrays some blurry thinking.
  • Still a lot of goofy, old, out of date, need revision mechanics in the game.
  • Perhaps the first year where I did feel like EVE Online was dying.
  • I am not a fan of EVE Echoes.  It is too complicated to be a mobile game yet too simplified to be EVE Online for me.

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • LOTRO got another expansion with Minas Morgul!
  • LOTRO Legendary server carries on with progression.
  • SSG says they have many years of additional content they could add to LOTRO.
  • An admission that the awful legendary weapons system might need some work.
  • DDO got… some things.  I seem to remember that.

Lows

  • The Minas Morgul expansion is hidden behind the Mordor expansion, which stopped me cold.
  • I honestly think the claims about future content are hubris in the extreme.  Content sells, but the ring was destroyed in the last expansion.  How many “we’re still cleaning up Middle-earth” expansions can they get away with?  Unless they’re going to go the time travel route.  Please no.
  • SSG attempting to cash shop their way out of the awful legendary weapon system that has been a menace following the game since Mines of Moria, like a tedious and time consuming Gollum.  Don’t like legendary weapons?  Just give us $50 and to unlock everything.
  • As I have said before, the company depends on milking their two titles for their ongoing survival.  Any serious misstep could derail the whole thing.
  • Still not clear who owns the company and what the real connection is with Daybreak and whether or not that connection should worry us given the tenuous nature of Daybreak’s future.

Other Games and the Gaming Industry

Highs

  • TorilMUD carries on, has added a new class to the options.  Not bad for a 26 year old game.
  • The Minecraft Village & Pillage update was pretty big, with a lot of great additions to the game.
  • Jedi: Fallen Order, in which it seems like EA somehow managed to make a decent Star Wars game that wasn’t laden with microtransactions, loot boxes, or other heinous cash grabs.  It is like they know what they’re doing wrong, but do it anyway.
  • Google Stadia promised a whole lot of stuff.
  • Auto Battler/Auto Chess gave us a new game mode that was some fun, leading to Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords.
  • The Switch gets a real Pokemon core RPG title in Pokemon Sword & Shield and it sells like crazy, proving once again the strength of the franchise.
  • The Epic Game Store gave Steam some competition, which it really needs.
  • Steam still carried on, even managing to get EA and Microsoft to put their games on the Steam store again.
  • Microsoft launched Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Steam.
  • Niantic has kept Pokemon Go lively by unlocking new Pokemon and adding new features.
  • Niantic even let me change teams in Pokemon Go. It cost a thousand coins, but was worth it.
  • Yathzee Crowshaw’s Dev Diary series on YouTube where he is making 12 Games in 12 Months has been great so far.  Learn about the primary game play loop!

Lows

  • The loss of Brad McQuaid.
  • Shroud of the Avatar getting handed off to an unknown company was a new low point for the game.
  • Not sure the downsides of Google Stadia… like having to buy any game you want to play there again if you already own it… will make the upsides worth it, even if Google manages to fulfill its promises.
  • I don’t even care about Fallout 76 and it annoys me.  Stop being bad!
  • The Epic Game Store lost many fans when it paid devs to sign exclusives that required them to pull already existing pre-order from Steam.
  • Most people are just going to stick to Steam no matter what.
  • Steam sales, summer, winter, and in between, just don’t have the power they once did.  I’ve been saying that for years now, but sales continue to have less impact on me and sale prices are the not-so-new normal at this point.
  • Great moment during the summer sale when Steam managed to get lots of people to purge their wishlists due to being unclear how you might win a game from it.  Lots of dev panic as they saw their games getting dropped and then Valve trying to explain their mistake.
  • Steam continues to have to revise their policy of allowing any game.  They approved a game called Rape Day, then removed it after outrage.  More recently they deleted a whole range of crap… which should be a high, but that they still won’t admit they should have standards makes this a low.
  • Unless you have a current machine, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition might not run very well on your system.  Also, do I want to buy that game for the third time? (Original, HD, and now DI versions.)
  • The last few levels before 40 in Pokemon Go are a drag with little in the way of rewards.  Also, any event that requires me to make multiple excellent curve ball throws is taxing to my patience.  Also also… damned Sinnoh stones.
  • Cryptic killed their player studio stuff in Star Trek Online and Neverwinter.  User created content is apparently more trouble than it is worth.
  • ArenaNet layoffs and the departure of people like Mike O’Brien cannot mean good new long term for Guild Wars 2 fans.
  • Fallen Earth went dark, but plans to come back.  We shall see.
  • Industry cannot stop making lockboxes seem bad, while trying to explain them away as “surprise mechanics” just makes them look like liars.  This is how you get your industry regulated.
  • GameStop is as good as dead now.  You may not love GameStop, but it being there and able to sell me some obscure bit of console hardware no longer made by the OEM was handy at times.
  • More local to me, electronics chain Fry’s, once the Silicon Valley go-to place for nearly everything nerd, looks to be on its death bed as well.
  • Along with the used market, digital is also killing off the rental market.  Redbox said nuts to that and shut theirs down.  GameFly probably won’t be long for this world.
  • Writing this section proves more so every year that I rarely play anything new.  I like my old games.
  • I’m not even good at keeping up with MMOs anymore.  I am not sure I could string together three relevant sentences about games like ESO, FFXIV, SWTOR, or any of the other still viable, still chugging along staples of the genre.

 

Media, Social and Otherwise

Highs

  • Watched some good shows like The Boys, Succession, The Madalorian, Watchmen, Umbrella Academy, and Russian Doll along with new seasons of The Expanse, Rick & Morty, The Good Place, and The Crown.
  • Baby Yoda deserves a special mention.
  • Good movies as well, like The Irishman, Detective Pikachu, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Dowton Abby, Ford v Ferrari, and Jojo Rabbit.  I was happy with all of those.
  • Working towards cord cutting with a Roku Streaming Stick and services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.
  • On YouTube Honest Trailers, How it Should Have Ended, and a few other channels continue to deliver joy for me.
  • Despite complaints, I find Twitter to be a good source of news and humor.  It has remained the best social media option for me, though I am also very selective as to whom I follow.
  • For all the cries that “Facebook kills democracy” and the like, I’ve yet to see anybody I know post or comment on something politically where I couldn’t have guessed where they stood in advance.  Nobody is swayed by retweeting memes or political ads as everybody makes up their mind first then cherry picks facts to support their point of view.  Facebook just made this more obvious.

Lows

  • No real “great” movies or TV shows however.  That might just be me, but nothing this year made me want to go back and watch it again.
  • Not feeling it for the final season of BoJack Horseman.  They seem to be setting him up for a huge fall just to make sure the series is done.
  • The main high point of Star Wars – Rise of the Skywalker is that at least we’re done with that for a while.  I’ll stack rank the series again at some point, but don’t expect episode IX to be near the top.  It mostly felt like wasted potential.
  • Profusion of new specialty video streaming services.  I am tapped out after having to get Disney+ because my wife said we needed Baby Yoda.
  • Cannot really cord cut because the cable company remains the only high speed internet option in my neighborhood and 100 MBit internet alone costs more than 100 MBit plus basic cable.
  • Also cannot cord cut because Hulu “live TV” is over a minute delayed for live sports, and my wife texts her friends about hockey and cannot stand to hear about goals or penalties that haven’t hit our TV yest.
  • Not enough time/energy to go see a lot of movies in the theater, and and many are getting hidden away on some streaming service I won’t be subscribing to.  I didn’t see Avengers: End Game until we got Disney+.
  • Love binge watching shows, but getting all the episodes at once just means waiting longer until the next season becomes available.  But I won’t stop.
  • That drip feed of weekly episode releases is tough to deal with now… but it does keep everybody on the same page and builds up a sense of fan engagement for some shows.  Just stop being in such a hurry to live post all the spoilers as the episode airs.  Some of watch the next day.
  • Horrible Sonic the Hedgehog render for movie gets huge fan backlash, forcing studio to rework the model, leading to the company doing that work getting fired for not going into constant crunch mode to do the fix.
  • Twitter redoing its web interface was an abomination.  I was very happy when a browser plugin showed up to return it to its old format.  But I freak out a bit every time I see the new UI on somebody’s machine.
  • People on Twitter are still horrible.  There needs to be some sort of reminder that the person you’re trashing is a real human being and maybe some sort of five minute delay on posting with a Win10 level “are you sure you want to post that?” and “really, last warning, do you really want to say this publicly and have it recorded for all posterity?” before a tweet goes live.
  • The lack of a typo edit feature in Twitter is just killing me.
  • Facebook is still annoying to look at even if it isn’t killing democracy.
  • The demise of MAD Magazine, staple of my adolescence.  There was much there that made me the cynic I am today.
  • Elementary wrapped up in a semi-satisfying way I guess with a half season finale.  But the previous season felt like they were struggling for a thread, so maybe it ran too long.
  • The end of Game of Thrones… as lots of people have noted… felt rushed and rather half-assed.
  • Also, generally speaking, in a world of LED TVs please stop doing so many scenes of people in black, with dark gear, in unlit rooms, on dark moonless nights.  If you create video that is pretty much unviewable on default settings you suck.
  • Google+ went away, though admittedly few were using it… much fewer than were still using Google Reader when they killed that.

The Blog, Blogging, and things more Personal

Highs

  • The blog carried on for another year.  That makes 13 years in total.
  • Still managed to crank out a prestigious amount of posts and words.
  • Blaugust had a reasonable turnout this year, and the Discord channel for it remained active after it ended. (Unlike last year, when there were like three of us still there afterwards.)
  • MMO Fallout announced it was shutting down… then opened back up to keep covering neglected bits of the MMO market niche.
  • The old instance group back together again in WoW Classic!
  • We got a new oven and I am surprised at how much of a difference it made.  Consistent, even, accurate heat means the directions on the box for most everything I cook are correct.  My wife, who actually cooks real food, likes it too.
  • My wife and I have successfully raised child to legal adult age.  Said child has already been accepted to several universities.  Op success!

Lows

  • Do people still read blogs?  Blog traffic continues to drop off.
  • I remind myself that quantity does not equal quality.
  • More worrying, my own desire to write yet another post about something I’ve probably covered previously feels like it is slipping.
  • The instance group is all older and less able to stay up past our bed times.  Earl being in Japan also makes group times a bit odd.
  • Having adult offspring doesn’t make you feel any younger.  Oh, and now to pay for that university education without incurring crippling debt for anybody.  Welcome to America.
  • What are we going to do when the child, the center of our existence for almost 20 years if you count getting everything ready, leaves the nest for college?  I kind of envy my parents for having kids so young.  When I left home my dad was the same age I was when my daughter was born.  Then again, my parents being young meant that my main parenting lesson from them was “Don’t do what they did if I can avoid it.”
  • Also, everything else in Silicon Valley is so freaking expensive.  If I am able to retire some day, we will have to move in order to afford it.  I hear Idaho is… nice.
  • In a complex world our simian brains fixate on simple answers, often “burn it down and rebuild it from scratch” without any care for the impact.  Humans are dumb when they generalize, freeze up when they get all the details, and I don’t know how to fix that.  It is frustrating no serious public discussion of any issue seems possible.

Final Thoughts

It isn’t as bad as all that.  But I am sure next year will try to prove me wrong.  It is a leap year, which means not only is there another full day for the world to get into trouble, but there is also another summer Olympics to get through.  And there is a presidential election too.  But I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

My Games of the Decade – A Look Back from 2019

I have noticed that a number of people and gaming sites are taking a moment to celebrate the coming change in the tens column of the year to take a look back at the last decade, the teens, and to pick out high and lows and bests and worsts and whatever.  As an end of year summary post is an easy pitch, so too must an end of decade summary pitch.

I didn’t do this back at the end of 2009.  I know, I checked and back in December of 2009 my posts… all 38 of them… showed only a low level of reflection, and that involved reviewing my gaming goals and predictions.  But the blog was just past the three year mark back then and I had yet to settle down and recognize how a recurring topic makes an excellent writing crutch.

With that in mind and some empty days to fill I thought I would join in on the retrospective action and pick out a list of what I consider to be my games of the last ten years.  I do have a decade of blog posts to refresh my memory here.

How I picked them is vague mixture or memory, blog posts, and any measure of how much time I spent with a given title over the time frame.  And, just to make this a bit more difficult, I am going to try to break these out into categories like some sort of award show, which will allow me not only to pick a winner, but then ramble on about other possible choices.

MMORPG – EVE Online

MMORPG is a special category in this list.  First because MMORPGs are the main focus of this blog and, second, because MMORPGs constantly renew themselves with expansions and updates.  So, unlike the other categories, I am not limiting this to games that launched this decade.  I would be hard pressed to pick an MMORPG I cared about that launched since 2010.  Maybe Rift?  And Rift fell apart for me with the first expansion.

So, with that out of the way…

Based on hours spent playing, number of posts written, and amount of time continuously subscribed, it would be impossible to pick anything besides EVE Online.  I’ve been playing EVE Online in a continuous arc since November 2011, when I came back to the game to see if the Crucible expansion would get the game back on course after Incarna.  And then I got tied up in the tales of null sec, where the stories are all player created, and have stuck around as a player/tourist ever since.  And, to loop back on how MMORPGs change, 2019 EVE Online is a lot different than 2011 EVE Online was.  Better or worse is up for debate, but definitely different.

As for other choices, World of Warcraft would probably place second, but a distant second.  I might even make it third behind WoW Classic if that wasn’t barely four months old.  Three disappointing expansions (Cataclysm, Warlords of Draenor, and Battle for Azeroth) and an inability to make things better has left me flat on the game.  They heyday of WoW was last decade, which is what WoW Classic is telling us.

And after that, what other choices could I justify?  I spent stretches of time in LOTRO, EverQuest II, Rift, Neverwinter, SWTOR, and a few others, but not nearly as much as either EVE Online or WoW.  So New Eden gets the nod, as nothing else comes close.

MMO – World of Tanks

I will make the definitional cut between MMORPG, where you can see or interact with hundreds or thousands of players in a virtual world, and MMOs, which are just online titles where a bunch of people can be in the same lobby, but actual game play is in limited arenas.

This was kind of a tough one, as I have pretty clearly spent more time playing War Thunder and I haven’t spent any time playing World of Tanks recently.  But when I do play, I like the way World of Tanks looks and feels, even if I am bad at it.  Also, I am way worse at War Thunder.

Other potential titles for me here included World of Warplanes (where I am even worse than War Thunder) or maybe World of Warships, though that never really clicked with me so my time with it is pretty minimal.  I never did play Destiny or the sequel or anything else along those lines, so World of Tanks it is.

Action RPG – Diablo III

This could arguably fall under the MMO banner, but I have chosen to break it out because there was actually some competition here.  The ARPG race this decade included Diablo III, Torchlight II, Path of Exile, Grim Dawn, and even Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, all of which I played.

In the end though, I have to give the nod to Diablo III.  It started off badly, with the real money auction house yielding results predicted before launch and an itemization scheme that seemed designed to make that situation even worse.  But somebody at Blizzard finally got the memo and, with the Reaper of Souls expansion, things were turned around.  The good game play and simple story let me click away happily for many hours.  I have spent as much time playing Diablo III as all of the competition combined.

On paper Torchlight II ought to have been the winner, with offline play and mods and such.  But all the mechanics in the world couldn’t save it from simply feeling bland and aimless.  And Path of Exile, while it felt closer to the Diablo II source of the ARPG genre, died for me under latency issues that they never fully solved and the desire to be something of an MMORPG which made going back later a pain as they had added so many additional bits and pieces to the game.

Grim Dawn probably gets short shrift in all of this.  I feel like I should go back and play that some more, but I never quite get to it.  If I were CCP, Grim Dawn would be my Faction Warfare updates… always on the list, but never high enough to get the attention it deserves.

While I do not go back with every new season, I have ended up playing and enjoying Diablo III more than any of its competition.

Strategy Game – Civilization V

For me, Civilization V is pretty much the culmination of the series.  I have owned and played the whole run, plus the side paths like Alpha Centauri (good) and Beyond Earth (not good), and Civ V is it for the decade.  And I write that having played Civ II, Civ III, Civ IV, Civ VI Alpha Centauri, and Beyond Earth this decade as well.

Civ V isn’t perfect.  It has flaws, both unique to itself as well as the usual flaws of the series (slow and overweight at launch along with the whole mid-game drag), and it was controversial at the time, but it has weathered the decade for me.  I was annoyed I had to make a new Steam account to play it, having rejected Steam after Valve screwed up my old account in the early HalfLife 2 era.  But I got past that.  I played it in 2010 and I was still playing it in 2019.  Hard to argue with that.

Other possible picks were direct competitors like Stellaris, excellent war games like Vietnam 65 and Unity of Command, literally the rest of the Paradox strategic game catalog, which I own, as well as RTS titles like Age of Empires II HD and a good chunk of the Total War series, all of which played and enjoyed.  But for my strategy title of the decade I cannot justify anything besides Civ V.

Builder Sim – RimWorld

I created this category pretty much to find a place for RimWorld.  I mean, I guess it is something of a genre.  The direct competitors for this on my list included Stardew Valley, Oxygen Not Included, Medieval Engineers, Space Engineers, and Kerbal Space Program RimWorld was pretty much a lock here… and then I looked down the list of games and found Minecraft.

Minecraft isn’t an MMO or MMORPG and is a full on multi-player builder sim and holy cow I spent a lot of time playing it this decade.

But, technically, Minecraft became available to backers in 2009.  So it is really a last decade game, no matter how much I played it.  The early access thing muddies the water.  And while it gets updates, it doesn’t get the MMORPG exemption in my book.

So RimWorld gets the nod, but with an asterisk for Minecraft.

First Person Perspective – Portal 2

Another force category.  When I was looking down the list of shooters I had played over the decade, thinking that FPS could be a category.  But then there were also a few outliers that were not really shooters but which had the first person perspective.  That led me to expand the category, which then went from me trying to balance Sniper Elite III and Doom to just handing things over to Portal 2.

And I think that is the right answer.  I played the game, I own the sound track, my daughter and I know the words to some of the songs, and it had enough cultural influence that, of the games I played, it has to be the winner.  Also, it was a very good game.  But I also own none of the Call of Duty or Battlefield titles from this decade either, so I am not much of a first person perspective fan.

Racing Game – Need for Speed World

I actually own a few racing games.  More than I expected, such that I decided I had better make this a category.  This is one area where console titles might fit in.  But when reviewing what I played, the one game I miss is Need for Speed World.

It had a lot of problems, not the least of which was being published by EA, but its simplicity and bits of destructible terrain and shared world and excellent customization options made it something I spent a lot of time playing.  And, honestly, there hasn’t been anything quite like it since.

Console Title – Pokemon SoulSilver

Proof that I am not much of a console gamer.  Yes, we have still have a Wii and a PlayStation 3 still. The former is now in a box and out of sight and the latter has spent more time streaming or playing DVD or BluRay discs than actually acting as a game console.  I did put in some time with both, most commonly with the LEGO Star Wars titles.  But that was really a last decade thing.  The Nintendo DS and 3DS series was really the console I played this decade, and for me that console is all about the Pokemon titles.

And if I have to pick one of the DS titles… and I’ve played them all… it has to be Pokemon SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Mobile Game – Pokemon Go

As with console games, I don’t really play all that many mobile games.  Stretching the definition to include things on the iPad I probably have a few options.  I played Neko Atsume (in Japanese, back when it was cool) and Monument Valley and DragonVale and Words With Friends and Prose with Bros and some less memorable titles.  Ticket to Ride got a lot of play time, though I’ve faded on it over the years.  And let us not forget all the time I spent hate-playing Candy Crush Saga just to try to beat it without paying.

But the one mobile game I get out and play every day is Pokemon Go.

It helps that it is the one and only video game my wife plays, so we play together.

Crowdfunded Title – Defense Grid 2

This was a depressingly easy pick because almost every crowdfunded gaming title I have been involved with either hasn’t shipped (e.g. Camelot Unchained, Star Citizen) or was kind of shit (e.g. Shroud of the Avatar, Planetary Annihilation).  Some I haven’t played (Project: Gorgon) and others fell apart (Hero’s Song). This decade saw the emergence of crowdfunding, along with early access, but it hasn’t really been a boon for my own game play.

But the one outlier was Defense Grid 2.  I played that and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Its only problem was that it wasn’t quite as good as the original Defense Grid: The Awakening.

Pirate Server – Nostalrius

I guess the polite term now is “emulator,” but they are still pirate servers.  They still exist by stealing somebody’s IP and work, and the noblest intentions in the world won’t change that.  These days every shut down online game that ever had half a dozen loyal customers seems to have an emulator project going for it.

That means there are lots of such servers out there to choose from.  There are even competing projects for games like Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes, not to mention the actual server software from CoH out in the wild.  I am still waiting for the legal shoe to drop on that one.

But Nostalrius, and the family of WoW emulators that preceded it, have racked up a special achievement.  They got a company as conservative as Blizzard to roll out the version of the game they were trying to bring back.  These servers were popular enough to get the company’s attention and had enough support that the idea managed to get past the obvious corporate reluctance to go there.

Basically, WoW Classic is a thing due to the work that went into pirate servers like Emerald Dream and Nostalrius.  Bravo!

Best Hardware Purchase – Blue Microphones Snowball

Not really a game thing, though something that helped with gaming.  Having gone through various headsets with good earphones but crap microphones I decided to opt out of the voice side of the headset thing by buying a decent desk mic.  So during the 2018 Black Friday sales found the Blue Microphones Snowball on sale and bought it.  And it has served me well ever since.  I am now free to use whichever headphones I like and nobody complains that they cannot hear me anymore.  I am fully ready to be a podcast or streaming guest!  Of course, I have also reached a point of irrelevance such that people have stopped asking me to be guests on such things, but I am ready if my topics ever begin to trend again!

Worst Hardware Purchase – Mineserver

I almost skipped this as a section, being unable to think of any gaming related hardware I bought in the last decade that was worthy of scorn.  And then I remembered the Mineserver.

Technically, I didn’t purchase this, I backed it as part of a Kickstarter campaign.  The campaign, launched by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely in Fall 2015, it was supposed to be delivered by Christmas that year.  The campaign funded successfully and we got rosy reports initially.  This was going to be easy.

And then it wasn’t.  This is what I get for trusting in the word of somebody who is not technical to assess the technical issues of a project.  I should know by now that things that look easy to those on the sidelines are often not easy down in the code.  Also, Cringely’s next successful business venture will be his first.  I had forgotten about that.

This was also a bad example, amidst many bad examples, of how not to run a campaign post success.  Communication was sporadic.  The excuse was that he only wanted to report when there was good news, but apparently there hasn’t been any good news for a couple of years now.

Cringely was blowing smoke up our collective asses with some pie in the sky “maybe this will turn into a business and I’ll give you all shares” nonsense, but then his house burned down in the Santa Rosa fire and he has declined to update the Kickstarter campaign page or send anything directly to the supporters since.  Instead he occasionally makes reference to the campaign, mostly to blame people who are angry about the whole thing for the lack of any progress. In his world, all of the problems are the fault of the backers.  Money down the drain.

Best Game Purchase – Minecraft

This was a tough one.  There have been a lot of games I have bought and gotten a ton of play out of, that ended up being great and bargains at the price I paid.  Defense Grid: The Awakening was a candidate, as was the Mists of Pandaria expansion for WoW and even the first year of Rift.

In the end though, I am going to call Minecraft the winner, because the criteria here is purchase during the last decade, and while Minecraft became available in 2009, I didn’t buy it until 2015.

Even with renting a public server for a shared experience, the dollar per hour value of the game was pretty damn high.

Worst Game Purchase – Star Trek Online Lifetime Membership

There were a lot of competitors on this front, like every single game in my Steam library that I purchased and never played.  But none of them could measure up to the cost and impact of Star Trek Online.

I pinned such hopes on Star Trek Online and it ended up being so not the game for me.  While many will point to Warhammer Online as the end of hope for a MMORPG that would eclipse WoW or Star Wars: The Old Republic as the last gasp attempt at a big budget MMORPG, Star Trek Online was the boiling pot of hope that burned my hands and convinced me not to get invested in an MMO before it is live.  And no more up front lifetime subscription purchases ever.

Disappointing at launch with mundane and repetitive game play (even for an MMO), I probably ended up paying the most per hour played for it since the time of CompuServe and GEnie and hourly connection charges.  I tried to return to the game a couple of times, but Cryptic just piled on features to try and keep the game going, turning it into a confused jumble that still held no seed of attraction for me.  It was so bad I was surprised when it went free to play mostly because I was sure it must have already gone that route.

So if you want to know why I am such the cynic now, occasionally mocking those who get excited and invested in games based on a vague feature list and a few artists concept drawings, Star Trek Online is a big factor.  And yes, I know it is somebody’s favorite game.  Everything, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite.  If you enjoy it, carry on.  But for me it is an example of the kind of garbage, half-assed MMORPG effort that tarnished the genre and sped up its decline.  And none of that was helped by the game embracing things like lock boxes.

STO will be mentioned in the next few month in review posts as we get through its 10 year anniversary, but I doubt I will ever post about again until I write an obituary about it.  I generally don’t waste my time on games I do not like.  This post was an exception.

A New Decade

And so it goes.  I made it through this post and only had to reach into the past decade twice.

Soon it will be 2020 and a new decade will be upon us.  Not that an arbitrary changing in numbering means anything really, but we like to put things into nice neat categories even if we have to make them up.  I certainly made up a couple above.

I do wonder what the video game industry will be ten years down the line.  Mobile has become the big money maker while things like VR, hailed as the future, languish due to various technical and physiological reasons. (The puke factor is real.)

I especially wonder about games in my MMORPG category, the shared world online experience that seem to go on and on.  Ultima Online and EverQuest are still going past the 20 year mark, while World of Warcraft and EVE Online are now past 15.  Will we be celebrating 25 and 30 year anniversaries when 2029 is coming to a close?  Will I still even care?

My Five Books of 2019

I did this last year and it seemed to go well enough, so here I am again.  I try to read, or when unable to find the time, listen to audio books.  Trips are usually good for reading time.  I do not read… or listen… as much as I would like… or as much as I used to back when my time was more free and my eyesight was able to focus on something as close as the printed page… but I do what I can.

I also log my reading over at Good Reads, which serves the same purpose for books as this blog does for gaming.  It is a record and a memory.  They even gave me a little end of year summary.

Good Reads Summary

According to Good Reads I managed to make my way through about two dozen books this year.  You can see my whole Good Reads list for 2019 if you want.  I’ve actually finished a book since then, and will likely finish at least one more, so the up to date tally is available at that link.

Out of those, these are the five that felt the most meaningful I suppose.

The covers, if you prefer visual representation

The Doomsday Machine by Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is remembered as the RAND Corporation employee who smuggled out the Pentagon Papers, the detailed study of US involvement in Vietnam commissioned by SecDef Robert McNamara who wanted to figure out how we got in that mess.  It was a big deal and changed the outlook on the war for many.

However, Ellsberg actually smuggled two sets of documents out of RAND, the other being related to the work he had done as a nuclear war planner to support the US in determining its strategy for nuclear weapons use.  He didn’t want to dilute the Vietnam report, so he hid those documents while the government tore his life apart.

And he ended up losing them.  The story of how is in the book.

But he has been able to recreate much of what he had worked on from declassified government documents and his own recollections, which became this book.

It covers US policy on nuclear weapons, the level of command which felt it could authorize a nuclear strike (the movie Dr. Strangelove seemed very possible), and how the US has used nuclear weapons, if not actively, as a constant and ongoing threat, both implied and explicit, as part of its foreign policy.

It makes you wonder how we got through the cold war.

Albion’s Seed by David Hackett Fischer

This is a long, detailed, and somewhat dry book, and could easily be dismissed as so much trivia about four groups of colonists who came from England to the new world.  But buried in all of that are a series of attitudes and traditions and behaviors that still influence the US and its politics and regional divides.  It is no coincidence of history that partisans of the English Civil War, the Puritans and Royalists, settled in the regions of the colonies that would later end up as opposing sides in our own civil war.

The book lays out attitudes and traditions that persist through today that make up much of the current Red/Blue political divide in the country.  The book is uncanny in tracing lines from the 1600s through to today.  Also, a bunch of regional words that are often associated with southern or African American culture originated in rural England, where they have since fallen out of use.  Hat tip to The Mittani who mentioned this book on Twitter.

The Peripheral by William Gibson

Some times you just need something new in a science fiction tale.  William Gibson managed that back in the 80s with Neuromancer, which was on my list last year as a re-read.  While not as ground breaking as that tale, it does take what was a new tack for me on what might otherwise be seen as tropes of the science fiction genre.  A good palette cleanser in the midst of some deeper reads.

Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall

When I was growing up the generation of leaders from WWII was passing and the mid-to-high level commanders were getting very old.  All of them seemed keen to write their memoirs which created a base of myth about the war, feeding off of and supporting each other.  I hit a point in my 20s where I refused to ready anything about the “big” battles of WWII like Midway, D-Day, Stalingrad, and so on because they were all telling the same story with only minor variations in detail.

It has only been since maybe the late 90s, when the higher ranks of the commanders began to dwindle and so those with a stake in telling a tale that put them in the best light stopped being an influence.  Historians like Anthony Beevor began taking a harder look things and reworking the myths to either discard them or at least make them align to the facts available.

For the Battle of Midway, Shattered Sword has become something of a definitive source.  Focused on the Japanese side of the battle, it dispels myths that have lingered for decades.  My only regret is that it took me about a decade to finally get to it, though the fact that they found two of the Japanese carries lost at the battle while I was reading about them sinking was kind of a nifty coincidence.

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Something of a latter day Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden tells the tale of his life.  This is his biography, covering his youth, desire to serve his country, time with the CIA and NSA, and eventually how he went about telling the world about the dubious and illegal activities of the US intelligence community.  In a parallel to Ellsberg’s book, it is surprising how much access and control was being handed to young and not well supervised employees and contractors.  Whether you think he is a hero or a traitor, this is the story of his life and the string of events that ended up with him in exile.  It also lined up well because the book I read next was Legacy of Ashes, which was about how the CIA ended up in the state it was when Snowden was there.

Picking

That is a lot of non-fiction there.  Picking five wasn’t a huge effort, but there were clearly some other contenders in my mix.  As the Good Reads banner indicates, I read Margret Atwood’s The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which I enjoyed.  However, I wasn’t for a minute unable to guess how things would turn out.  It felt like something cranked out as fan service to support the popular video adaption of the original book on Hulu.  I also disdain the re-used “academics discuss things” ending.

Good Reads also tells me that the book with the highest review score I read this year was How to Hide an Empire.  But that didn’t get high marks from me largely due to its tone, which was of the hysterical making mountains out of mole hills variety.  Also, I literally knew every talking point in the book before I picked it up, so this alleged attempt to hide an empire hasn’t exactly been a huge success.  I might not have been the target audience here.

I might have put Legacy of Ashes on the list if it had mentioned my great uncle who worked for the CIA in the 50s and 60s and who carried some of those briefcases of cash used to support or overthrow governments in the middle-east.  He also worked with Kermit Roosevelt in Egypt.  But he wasn’t high enough level to get a mention.  When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t kick any of the five titles I have to inject this.

And then there is William L. Shirer.  I have half a post written about his two huge tomes about Nazi Germany and the fall of France in 1940.  It basically sums up to what he wrote aligns up almost exactly to the views of my grandparents generation, who served in the war.  I heard many of the things he wrote come straight from the mouths of my grandparents and their siblings and friends.  His work, while not well loved by historians, captures that amazingly well.

I did read a lot more fiction than my picks might indicate.  Some of it was re-reading that didn’t spark much interest after I was done.  I did start on C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series, but after two books I couldn’t stand the ratio of introspection to action.  We read about Bren over-thinking things for about ten pages for every page where something actually happens.  I found that wearisome and declined to go further in the series.

I also went into the Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu due to it featuring as an alleged motivator for CCP for their summer of the Chaos Era.  Like the Chaos Era in New Eden, I found it interesting but tiresome.  I declined to pick up the third book.  I read a spoiler instead, so I know how it ends, so I don’t feel like I missed out.

I did just knock out the first book in a new series from Marko Kloos, who wrote the Frontlines series I mentioned in a post a few years back.  He’s done with that and while I liked the new book, Aftershocks, and I’ll read the next in the series when it comes out, it wasn’t epic.  Good, solid science fiction, but I want to see where it goes.

And then there is the curious case of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame.  I’ve read two of his books this year… one and a half as I write this, but I’ll be done with the second before we get to 2020.  His style has developed since Mogworld and makes me feel like he is about 20 degrees off course towards becoming the next Douglas Adams. (Also, he makes video games, which is something else Douglas Adams dabbled in.)  I like his work, I’ll read whatever he writes, but he isn’t quite there yet and I cannot put my finger on why.

Honorable Mention

I write these posts in advance which, given that they can go up whenever I have a slow day in December, which means they are done with enough time left in the year to knock out another book or two.  And so it was last year where I was able devour a book that might have made the list.  I thought I would mention it

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Scalzi at his page turning best, creating a universe of lives and politics.  I read this and then the second book in the series and felt thwarted by the fact the third installment was more than a year away.  Such is the life of a reader.  You binge through a hot new title and then there is a year or more wait until the next one.  Odd how television has adopted that model these days, where we get 10 episodes and then wait a year… or nearly two in the case of Rick and Morty… for the next installment.  Anyway, the next installment was due in April last I checked, so I’ll be there.

And so it goes, another year of reading has passed by.  Was there anything great that you read in 2019?