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July in Review

The Site

I started getting ready for Blaugust, but I am probably still behind on things.  I do tend to write things in my own good time.  This is why I can never write for anybody else.

A picture of one of our cats because I don’t have a relevant image

July was sort of an odd traffic month.  The actual volume of traffic was about normal for these days, even a little bit better than the last couple of months.  The number of referrals from search engines was about on par, almost exactly the same as May, which meant I was getting a little more direct traffic I guess.

The odd bit was the posts that were popular this month.  If you look down at the “most viewed” posts section you will see that not a single post that I wrote during the month of July made it into the top dozen, the closest being in 17th place.  I do not think I have ever had that happen before.

Also, the selection of posts on that list… again, odd.  I mean, the top one is normal, but some of the others are strange.  I guess Burn Jita 2018 came up somewhere, but otherwise I cannot explain it.

Maybe that post about masks was relevant after one EVE blogger turned completely toxic and got himself banned, only to claim it was all an project for a class and expecting all his bad behavior to be forgiven.  (That didn’t work out well and, unsurprisingly, he went right back to toxic, leaving his excuse more than a bit threadbare.)

But the two FML posts from past seasons? I am not sure what got them all that traffic.

One Year Ago

We adopted a new kitten.  He’s much bigger now.

The Steam Summer Sale wrapped up and I went over what I bought and what I considered buying, but then passed on.

Amazon Prime Day came and went and I realized I had been buying things from Amazon for 20 years.

I started using a dual monitor setup at home.  It took me a while to get used to it… I would turn off the second monitor a lot early on… but it seems natural enough now.

Gevlon was telling us about the corrupt game developer career path.  I bet you wish you knew it was just that easy to get rich.

The call of nostalgia got me to subscribe to EverQuest II for a bit to try the Fallen Gate progression server.  I got far enough to get the crazy mount.

In EVE Online Reavers were deployed in the east of New Eden where we helped blow up a Fortizar in the Great Wildlands.  CCP has used a picture from that fight a couple of times. It then took us two days to get back to Delve, during which we argued about BBQ sauce.

Back in Delve we covered the deployment of another Keepstar in the region.  I was also producing mechanical parts via PI.  And I tinkered around with one of my Alpha clones, running some of the profession quests and mining in a Vulture… I mean a Venture.

The July update for EVE Online brought us revamped Strategic Cruisers… the start of the current reign of Loki supremacy… as well as an update to Project Discovery.

It was also announced that the captain’s quarters would soon be removed from the game.

We also got our first taste of The Agency in New Eden.  It was just an event at the time, though it would grow to be all things PvE soon enough.

And CSM member Jin’taan was advocating for cat ears in space.

I found that Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin still ran on my system.  A great old war game.

Albion Online launched.  I didn’t play it.

And, finally, Lord of the Rings Online got us to Mordor.  It only took ten years.  I bought in, but then there was the question of how to proceed… and with whom… and how to get back into the swing of a game I hadn’t played for ages.  I returned to one of my favorite places in the game, Annuminas

Five Years Ago

I was looking for gold in the MMO blogging community, which became the topic of the moment.  I think that post marks the final time Tobold deigned to leave a comment here.

It was summer, so there was a Steam Summer Sale.

Activision-Blizzard was moving away from Vivendi… and WoW dropped 600K subscribers.  Heh, remember when that seemed like a big drop?

There was a promise of some news about EverQuest Next, so I started speculating about what we might hear.  The word “sandbox” got mentioned a lot.

In New Eden the battle at 6VDT-H ended any hope left for TEST and heralded the end of the war in Fountain.  The war made up most of my posts for the month, which I will list out here:

There is a summer reruns post that rolls all of my Fountain War writing together into a single post if you are interested.  It includes propaganda and the defining video of the way.

On the iPad, DragonVale and Candy Crush Saga were my current games of choice.

My summer vacation in Middle-earth got me to Moria.

The instance group got together just long enough to defeat the Storm Queen… and that was about it for us and Rift.

The Civilization V expansion Brave New World changed up the game again.

I starting musing about the inventory management aspect of games.

And we said goodbye to Google Reader.  While I am used to Feedly at this point, I still think this was a mistake by Google.  It certainly didn’t push enough people to Google+.

Ten Years Ago

BioWare finally let loose the least well kept secret in the MMO-verse at the time.  They confirmed they were making a Knights of the Old Replublic type MMO.

The mention of Diablo III seemed to spur a revival of Diablo II with the Diablo II Battle Chest taking the #1 sales spot for a time.  Not bad for a game that has not had an expansion since 2001.

Meanwhile, on the SOE front, it was time to say farewell to the EverQuest side of the Living Legacy program.  I also griped a bit about how SOE was advertising the completely out of date EverQuest Platinum on the EQ Players site and had been doing so for a long time.  That ad disappeared before the month was out though.  Such a coincidence!

In Azeroth the instance group went back to the Slave Pens as we edged ever closer the Burning Crusade level cap of 70.  We were also out in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. Then there was an off night where we visited Norrath for a bit.

Meanwhile people were selling Wrath of the Lich King beta keys on eBay for $500.

Blizzard also seemed to have a default web site for their games.

In New Eden I was pondering the economics of building and flying a marauder and comparing the benefits of a Raven Navy Issue and the Caldari marauder, the Golem.  It was laggy in Lonetrek, which later turned out to be some GoonSwarm op going on in the region.  Our little corp was on the move again.  And some of us were taking the EVE personality test while I compared ships styles of the different factions to cars from my youth.

And speaking of EVE Online, I also joined in with CrazyKinux on some crazy EVE Blog Pack idea.  I was kicked out later for not being an exclusively EVE Online blog, then weaseled my way back in.  Not many of the original 20 blogs are still up and running.

Warhammer Online was on the horizon.  I had pre-ordered the collectors edition, but then came the content removal, some classes and four cities.  And while Mythic posted the minimum system requirements, I was wondering what the recommended… often thought to be the true minimum for many games… might end up being.

And, finally, I was done with GameFly and damn glad to have escaped from Atlanta.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Burn Jita 2018 Aftermath
  3. Honest Game Trailers – Animal Crossing
  4. Burn Jita Back for 2018
  5. Extra Credits – Picking at the Lockbox Thing Some More
  6. Winter Movie League – Denouement
  7. SuperData and the Rise of Fortnite
  8. Spring Movie League – Cats and Birds and Bruce
  9. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  10. Rift Prime Time
  11. Do You Wear the Mask or does the Mask Wear You?
  12. The Road to CSM13

Search Terms of the Month

test keepstar killed
[Which one?]

are wow chats dead azuremysy
[WoW was having all sorts of issues, and don’t call me azuemysy]

cqbb8zuazauxymjot9dt6bvyvbscpniymcjjpeybo8kjeym_uqv0kjsr2nbysvcb1vnasmaoaf_p0p_d1rzp-tcwo4ytelyaok8s1ku8srgyi-qrubxmwzyq5bhzwaeybej5kgat8khjlezt0ujmzvhpwpqtixf12ecugegsdu9vv3svigbrtxelv0qgz__cazueezhb6f6a-bq2fzibx_7hdxhsfmsifawtrwsjq4i8tz8ziiecbuhekhnpmoayubht2bfjxafr5cmkoppont3z6p-dk7yiygkms80osfwbxshf2eowlvv8d9744dg5tlf3oc3wgdttm3zw4j-fma
[Must have been a hit on a Friday post]

EVE Online

It has certainly been an active month in null sec, with battles happening in the north and south end of 0.0 space as the whole place split into two teams to fight.  Keepstars were a focus, and for a while TEST has a bunch of northern capitals bubbled up and camped, until they broke out.  All of that is going to make for a bullet point list a year from now when I do the month in review.

Minecraft

The Aquatic Update finally landed.  There were some problems initially, but it settled down a bit and mostly worked.  I had actually been putting off looking into Minecraft until the update was finally released.  Now I am out looking for the new stuff it delivered… and trying to figure out what to do with it once I do find it.

Pokemon Go

I actually made it up a level in July, hitting level 33. To get to level 34 however is now a million xp, so that will likely be a while. I have kept on with the friend thing, exchanging daily gifts pretty regularly. Because of that I now have nothing save 7km eggs in my inventory.

One thing that changed with the last update has ended up being a bit irksome; the journal no longer logs when you get kicked out of a gym and how many coins you earned. That is actually kind of important information to go missing, since you can only earn 50 coins per day. It matters if I got kicked out of a gym before or after midnight. Ah well.

Level: 33 (+1)
Pokedex status: 333 (+2) caught, 351 (+1) seen
Pokemon I want: Still Lapras, still don’t have one
Current buddy: Slakoth

World of Warcraft

We hit the end of the Legion expansion and started warming up for Battle for Azeroth.  That warm up has been… slow.  But not as slow as waiting for my addons to get updated.  WoW seems to need to pitch a fit when addons are askew.  Why can’t I just unselect “load out of date addons” and get on with my life?  Instead I have to affirm my addon choices with every visit to the character select screen, and woe be to me if I forget to one again uncheck that box about out of date addons.

Coming Up

Battle for Azeroth will launch simultaneously world wide in the middle of August.  I’ll be good to go at 3pm local time on August 13th… unless there are problems.  But there are never problems when launching an expansion, are there?  Anyway, this launch will no doubt dominate a lot of the MMO related blogging.

As noted above, Blaugust is also upon us.  That will mean trying to get myself on track to write something related to the suggested weekly topics for the event.  Also, I am going to try to post something every day over the course of the month, as task that always seems daunting at the start of the month.  Then I go into overdrive and end up with excess posts by the end of the month.

In EVE Online the brewing null sec war will likely continue with each side taking on targets of opportunity.  Will it lead to another huge supercap killing battle?  Somehow I think not.  EVE Online‘s ability to handle such battles is still dubious, reinforced nodes or not. If a node goes down mid-battle the losing side just declines to log back in when the node is restored and that is the end of that.  So both sides will probably just keep scorching whatever regions of space they can manage.

Finally, if you follow TAGN on Facebook, you won’t be come tomorrow.  Pressured to fight the boogeyman that is “fake news,” Facebook is cutting off the ability for people to post automatically to their timeline from other applications.  Oh well.

Still, if it reduces even a bit of the stupidity I see on Facebook I won’t complain too much.  The note I got said I could make a “page” and things would still work, but I don’t know/care what that is really, so I am not sure if it is worth the effort.  As a source of traffic Facebook ranks well behind Bing at the trivial end of the commercial sites and, as a rule, almost none of that meager amount comes from my own feed but from when somebody links me independently in their own feed.  You can still do that.

October in Review

The Site

Odd that this, a month in review post, is also my yearly Halloween post.  That is kind of anti-climactic… unless you really like these posts I guess.

Meanwhile, the only amusing site-related bit for the month was this message I got over on Facebook.

My flaming fart joke falls afoul of Facebook

Yes, you can follow the blog on Facebook by friending Wilhelm Arcturus there.  Friend him, he’ll accept.  It is just blog posts from here, EVE Online Pictures, and updates from Good Reads, if you’re interesting in what I am reading.  I don’t play crappy Facebook games any more because, so far as I can tall, all Facebook games are crappy.  Thanks Zynga!

Anyway, Facebook seemed to think that the lighting of farts was an indicator of spam.  Or such is my guess.

Given all the absolute garbage that gets “suggested” to me by Facebook, not to mention all of the alleged Russian sponsored political ads that Facebook is trying to pretend didn’t happen, flagging my post as spam seems almost comical.  That’s some top notch work there Facebook.  I bet it wouldn’t be spam if I paid you some money.  Glad you’re on the job.

I filled out the form declaring that my post was not spam.  Well, it isn’t spam any more than anything I post here is spam, but spam is in the eye of the beholder I suppose.  I haven’t been back to check to see if they agreed.  That account is a bit on auto-pilot.

Happy Halloween all the same!  Go “like” this post on Facebook or something!

One Year Ago

Amazon’s game studio announced some games including the alleged MMO New World.  Being given almost no information about New World did not stop some people from banging the hype drum, boosting expectations, and generally setting themselves up for disappointment.

Also announced was the Nintendo Switch, which would allow millenials to play video games at roof-top parties if the trailer was to be take literally.

Civilization VI launched and became the first Civ title I did not acquire at the soonest opportunity.  It just didn’t excite me.  Instead I was getting my strategy game fix with Stellaris.

I reviewed the Mineserver Kickstarter campaign a year later.  The units were nine months late with no end to the wait in sight.

I made it to level 20 in Pokemon Go.  There was also a Halloween event.

Tom Chilton of unfortunate quote fame let out another one when he said that World of Warcraft had over 10 million subscribers again after the Legion expansion launch.  Blizzard, having taken a vow of silence on subscription numbers the year before, denied everything and claimed he was mis-quoted.

Over at Daybreak they were discontinuing game cards and taking H1Z1: King of the Kill off of Station Cash as an RMT currency.  They did give us firm dates for the two Kurnak based expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II.

In EVE Online, while we were fortifying Delve our foes in the Casino War began to turn on each other, with Pandemic Legion and their followers declaring their intention to take Tribute and Vale of the Silent away from Circle of Two and TEST.  All I could do was give a Nelson Muntz, “Haw-haw!” at that turn of events.

Still, that wasn’t half as much fun as CCP declaring casinos against the EULA with the coming of the Ascension expansion.  Our foes would have to actually earn ISK in-game.  I wondered what that would do to the economy.

We also got the YC118.9 update which, among other things, meant the death of the in-game browser.  We did get breast cancer awareness skins.  Yay, pink skins!

At our end of New Eden there was a lot to do.  I was fighting the Blood Raider menace with my Ishtar and looking for ways to help the coalition.  Reavers turned two years old and were blowing up citadels and fighting over timers in Querious.  The coalition itself was ranging up into Fountain with a new doctrine.

And in World of Warcraft the Legion got its first post-launch content drop while my own enthusiasm for the expansion was starting to wane.

Finally, I was at EVE Vegas, but since it lasted through Halloween I didn’t post about it until November.  Also, a new version of my blogger feed was operating in the side bar.

Five Years Ago

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series.  That made the second time in my life, which was one more than I had any reason to hope for.

Disney bought out Lucasfilm, claiming ownership of Star Wars.  Panic ensued.

Zynga was well into its troubles, leaving me to wonder how Lord British viewed his partnership with the imploding company.  Certainly the Zynga business plan seemed… childish?

I had a sudden crescendo of activity around World of Warcraft, culminating in Blizzard finally letting me cancel my subscription.  There was the Panda launch and people declaring success or failure.

Instead I was off in the Emerald Dream pirate server attempting to relive what WoW was like back in 2006.  In involved a shovel.  Vanilla WoW nostalgia drove a sudden surge of traffic to the blog.

The first Project: Gorgon kickstarter kicked off.

I was invited on a pre-release tour of the Storm Legion expansion in Rift.  Then there was the big update to the soul system, some adventures in Lantern Hook, and the Autumn Harvest Festival.

In World of Tanks the word of the day was Sturmgeschütz.

Storm Eagle Studios was again worried about my marriage.

There was some trolling about free to play.

Lord of the Rings Online launched the Rider of Rohan expansion.  I eventually picked it up for Turbine Points… or LOTRO Points… or whatever.  I haven’t actually played through it yet.

In EVE Online we got the Retribution expansion that updated all that crime watch stuff.  At least visible timers ended up being cool.

EVE-Kill was looking for donations to keep everybody’s then-favorite kill board up and running.  It has since died, so I guess that didn’t work out in the long run.  Also in that post, there was a new EVE site up called The Mittani dot com (worst name ever), something about sound in EVE Online (who knew?), and the dawn of miner bumping.  This is why I hate those bullet point posts one, five, and ten years later.

I was off on a CSAA killing mission that got me accused of cognitive dissonance.  I was feeling warm and cozy in null sec.  We were also pursuing our foes in Tribute and the Vale of the Silent.

I was wondering how EA Louse’s comments about Star Wars: The Old Republic were holding up two years after he made them.

I was complaining about games (or, in my 30+ year old example, a game master) that try to impose their story on your character.   I don’t mind being a part of the overall story, but my characters have their own stories and motivations and I do not like it when games put their own words in my character’s mouth.

And, finally, there was the case for seat belts.

Ten Years Ago

For about 20 minutes the blog had a different theme.

In EVE Online I finally finished my training and was actually flying a Hulk!  Being mining focused, I went out and calculated which asteroids were the most profitable to mine.  Veldspar rated surprisingly high.  I was also calculating the cost of producing light missiles, probably the only time I really used a spreadsheet for EVE Online.  “Spreadsheets in Space” is a lie.

I also figured out that with 120 billion ISK and a year of training, I could fly a Titan, but I couldn’t fire the main weapon system.

Blizzard made its first big cut in the amount of experience needed to get to level 60 in World of Warcraft.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

There was SOE’s Station Access Savings Calculator.

EA announced it was buying BioWare for $860 million.  It seemed like MMOs might be in EA’s future again, as BioWare was already known to be at work on one.  Meanwhile, I was trying to work up a set of criteria on evaluating whether an MMO would be a success or not.

I was going on about THE REAL PROBLEM with voice chat in video games.

Mario Kart Double Dash was our Wii game of the moment.  My daughter was also playing Webkinz, though some of her friend’s got their mothers to play for them.

I found one of the rare Golden C-3P0 mini figures in a LEGO package.  I was also looking at the stack of old Dungeons & Dragons books at the used book store up the street from work. (Both my work and the book store are long since gone.)

The instance group finished up Zul’Farrk and went after one wing, then the other, in Maraudon.  We were closing in on level 50 across the group.  I also got a horde character to level 40… I think he is still level 40 today. I was also excited to get a 16 slot bag drop!  Also, being able to craft from items in the bank, as we now can, would have helped me a lot.  Meanwhile I finally read some quest text closely.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was put on indefinite hold, which lead to a headline contest.

In the post-launch downturn for Lord of the Rings Online, Turbine was out polling players about what they wanted… and what they would pay for.

As usual, with the coming of autumn, the rains, and a new expansion I again became nostalgic for EverQuest.  I was also playing around with some ideas for Secrets of Faydwer packaging.

Also, Team Fortress 2 launched.

Twenty Years Ago

Age of Empires and the first Grand Theft Auto launched.

Most Viewed Posts in October

  1. From Alola Pokedex to National Pokedex in Pokemon Sun
  2. Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?
  3. Lost in Legion
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. Home From EVE Vegas 2017
  6. RimWorld Ate My Gaming Time
  7. The Demise of BattleClinic
  8. VR Development Dead and Layoffs at CCP
  9. Daybreak 30 Months In
  10. Lifeblood comes to EVE Online
  11. Three Years of Reavers
  12. Attribute Remap in New Eden

Mildly amusing that the end of month post Lost in Legion made it up to third place on the list so quickly.  Writing about WoW attracts views.  Also amusing is how the top two posts on the list have persisted for so long.  There is a reason for the first, there being NO national Pokedex in Pokemon Sun & Moon, however the second seems… odd.  Are people really looking for an EverQuest successor?  They keep coming here in search of that.  I’m not sure my post is much help in that regard.

Search Terms of the Month

eve jaspet mining strategies
[Go find some in your Venture and mine it. Warp off if somebody shows up.]

eve online change name
[As bad as the name is, I don’t think they’re going to change it]

new everquest game
[Maybe, some day… probably not an MMO though]

any games succeeded everquest
[Technically EverQuest II I suppose]

level 20-25 planarite bow rift
[The way you level up, you won’t use it for long I bet]

“october 15 2017” torilmud
[An oddly specific date]

blizzcon predictions 2017
[I sort of did that yesterday]

why make flying in draenor so difficult
[Wait until you get to Legion buddy]

EVE Online

There was EVE Vegas.  We also got a big update with the Lifeblood expansion last week.  The repercussions of that will likely take a while to settle down.  But actually, in-game, I did not do a lot in New Eden.  I went on one actual strategic op, got two PAP links, and that was about it.  Oh, and I remapped my attributes.  I’m barely down from that high.  Woo.  Perhaps The Agency revamp and the Crimson Harvest event will give me something to do.

RimWorld

Holy moly, this is probably why I wasn’t playing EVE Online… or anything else… for at least half the month.  Steam says I put in a lot of hours playing RimWorld… which isn’t a game you play so much as tinker with and adjust and watch until you realize it is way past when you planned to go to bed.  I eventually hit a threshold with it, but for a while that was pretty much all that was running on my computer.

Grim Dawn

This was on a Steam sale when the game launched an expansion.  It had long been on my wish list, so I decided to grab it.  I haven’t spent too much time with it, but it really seems to be the ideal Diablo clone; same enough that you get it right away, but different enough to not feel like a straight up copy.  Unfortunately the timing was bad and I started off in WoW and have slacked off.  I’ll have to return to it and write something about it, but SynCaine was effusive about it back in March and so far I agree.  Tops Diablo III, Path of Exile, Torchlight II, and the Titan Quest remaster in my early, and perhaps premature, opinion.

Pokemon Go

I hit level 30, a milestone indeed, though the path from there to level 40 is much longer than the path I have already trod.  Then there was the Halloween event which offered double candy, something that helped my finally evolve a Magikarp into a Gyrados.  It takes 400 candies to get there and Magikarp are rare in my neck of the woods.  My next goal is to get a Blissey because I want to be that level 30 jerk with one in a gym that can’t be taken down by people level 25 or under.

  • Level: 30 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 204 (+15) caught, 236 (+14) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Blissey
  • Current buddy: Chansey, because I only need 10 more candies to evolve it to Blissey

Pokemon Silver

I started off playing for a bit, but let that fall to the wayside with the coming of RimWorld.  I haven’t even gotten to the first gym yet.   Still, it is playable and clearly a solid entry that helped cement the Pokemon saga as a staple of Nintendo’s handheld titles.  I own a 3DS XL to play Pokemon.

World of Warcraft

I resubscribed.  I want to fly in Legion.  I am still figuring out where I left off a year ago.  But I will say returning to WoW and all of its polished smoothness is still a good feeling even when I’m mildly frustrated about what the hell I should be doing.  I seem to be on course now, immersed in a task, though the mount of the Headless Horseman still eludes me.

Coming Up

Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. 

So we have that to look forward to.   Seems apropos this year. 

But by the time that rolls around BlizzCon 2017 will have come and gone and we’ll be more the wiser… or not.  Despite my prediction back in January, it seems likely we’ll all be talking about a new expansion for WoW rather than Guy Fawkes.  I waxed a bit about that in yesterday’s post.

I expect we’ll have a broader look at the upcoming expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II, the latter being set to arrive during the last week of the month.

Given the big expansion in EVE Online I’m not sure we’re slated to get a November update.  They may just be pushing bug fixes through until December when they have a few more items in store.  And the disruption that layoffs and re-orgs cause lends more weight to “not much going on in November” idea.

Nintendo will be launching Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon in the latter half of the month.  I should get that pre-ordered to get my discount on Amazon and make sure my old 3DS XL is charged up.

And then there is the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, the gateway to winter, Christmas, New Years, and a bunch of predictable annual posts.  We’ll get there soon enough.

Obligatory Shock About Oculus Rift Post

So yeah, yesterday after the markets closed, Facebook announced they were going to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion. Oculus VR is the company currently working on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

And then a corner of the internet exploded.  I figured I ought to mark that moment in time so we can come back and revisit it later.

Sudden, and potentially rash statements were made.

A general revulsion with all things Facebook was expressed by some.

Basically, all the dislike of Facebook… and there is much to dislike about Facebook and it methods and its founder’s outlook… bubbled forth.  Answer this question: If Mark Zuckerberg asked you to strap this to your face…

Into the Rift

Into the Rift

…which movie would come to mind?  Aliens?  Clockwork Orange?  Lawnmower Man?

Would you envision fun things happening or bad things?  Or just boring things?

So we are currently in the shock phase of this announcement, which is making the whole “Disney buys Star Wars“thing look pretty tame, at least in our little corner of the internet.  After all, for a lot of people the Star Wars series was already ruined by episodes I-III, so what else could Disney do?  But a lot of people were pining some pretty big hopes on Oculus Rift being a step into the future of gaming.

And now Facebook has it.  Are we going to get Candy Crush Saga VR?  FarmVille 3D?  Are we going to get any sort of VR gaming experience at all out of this?  Zuckerberg isn’t exactly big on video games.  His past actions have been about extracting money from those games that choose to live in his domain.

Ars Technica already has a column up about what Facebook might do, which includes a lot of promises about what won’t happen… from the guy who no longer controls the company… so the brightest bit in that seems be the fact that Facebook bought Instagram and hasn’t destroyed it yet.  Maybe Zuckerberg will just leave them alone.

Then there is the Kickstarter aspect of the whole thing.  Oculus VR raised $2.4 million of its funding via a Kickstarter campaign… just before Disney bought Star Wars, to bring that back around.  People who gave money at that point forked it over for very specific reasons.  This was the way it was pitched:

…the first truly immersive virtual reality headset for video games.

For video games.  That is what they said.  Will they keep saying that a few months after the acquisition?  And will it matter if more developers step away because of Facebook?

While Oculus VR likely has no legal/financial obligation to do anything but send out the promised T-Shirts and early units that people were entitled to for their pledges, do they have any sort of moral obligation after taking Facebook’s money when it seems likely that the vision sold will not end up being the vision pursued?

And, finally, there is the “Why sell to Facebook?” question.  Why would Oculus VR sell to a company that has so little interest in video games and so much invested in collecting and selling our data?  Were things just up for the highest bidder?  Were there too many strings attached to other offers? Did current investors force the move to cash out?

Because there had to be other offers.

Anyway, among other things, this puts the whole “CCP moving closer to Sony” thing in a new light.  Was the word already out that Oculus Rift might be moving away from video games?  Was CCP hedging its bets?  Is Sony’s Project Morpheus the new leader in that arena?

The Sony project was interesting when Oculus Rift was there as well, but alone it seems destined to become yet another proprietary piece of Sony hardware.  Sony VR will require you to purchase a PlayStation 4.  And that may keep Oculus Rift in play even with Facebook looming large over it.

As the dust settles after the big shock, people are starting to muse about what this really means.  I suspect we will be doing that for a while.

Of course, every such announcement has its bright side.

And then there is the humor aspect.

We shall see how this all develops.  If nothing else, I have a tickler now to check back on this in a year.

Quote of the Day – Social Gaming in Hindsight

A lot of people now equate ‘game on Facebook’ to ‘spammy piece of shit,’ which I don’t think is an unfair or inaccurate estimation of the situation

Scott Jon Siegel, quoted at Gamasutra on social gaming

Gamasutra is moving into one of the things they do really well, which is looking at how things unfolded in some aspect of the gaming industry in hindsight by pulling in key players and getting them to talk about their experiences.

The topic of the moment is social gaming… which pretty much means games on Facebook… and articles like the one above are starting to show up to examine the phenomena.

Of course, it is tough to pick just one quote out of that article.  Gems abound, such as:

any Facebook game he tries will be poorly designed, lack invention, try to trick him into spending money and spamming friends, and start emailing him regularly without permission

And the especially damming:

You had a huge population of product managers, game designers, and developers making games that they themselves didn’t like

You hear a lot of “game studios are businesses” and “they have to make money” when anybody complains about monetization in games.  Those sentiments are true enough, if not exactly a defense against any particularly odious money making scheme.   But when your studio becomes all about the money and cashing in and being the next Zynga, well, something is wrong.

And a lot of the blame in the article goes on Zynga, both for their questionable business practices as well as for their huge initial success attracting copycats and wooing Facebook to tie themselves to the Zynga model.  In the end, so-called social gaming went from a giant cash cow, to a more modest one that now requires some originality to stand out.  You can still make money.  Look at Candy Crush Saga.

An interesting read, and one I am sure some people will take a great deal of satisfaction in.  “I told you so!” should spring to mind for some.

Additional fodder: These two videos about Cow Clicker and Age of Empires Online.

Extra Credit Question: Lord British was telling people they would be stupid not to make an MMO when World of Warcraft was the big, big thing.  He then jumped on the social gaming bandwagon and even attempted to hitch his star to Zynga at one point.  Now he has a crowd-funded project.  What does that say about crowd-funding?

The Biggest Lie About Real ID

Sometimes we get mired into arguing about minutia and miss the real point.  I’ve been going back and forth about the symptoms and ignoring the reality.  What forest, all I see are a bunch of trees.

Blizzard is not imposing Real ID on the WoW forums to clear out trolls or to make us responsible for our posts or to save money on forum moderation.  That is a load of crap. An excuse.  A smoke screen.  The post that set off nearly 2500 pages of responses (so far, including one from me) is just a side show, a distraction.

Seriously, are you telling me that after more than five years, suddenly Blizzard can’t take it any more?  Did Mike Morhaime suddenly crack and shout, “I’ve had it up to here with you damn trolls!  I’m taking you all down!” and start hurling murlocs around his giant office?

Not likely.

A big change like this, which is really a change in the way they do business, a change in the way they want to relate to their customers, always comes with a corporate press release.

So I went looking for one.

There is no corporate Blizzard press release out there about cleaning up the forums.

This is not the purpose of their grand stroke.

These are not the forum trolls you are looking for.

The people at Blizzard know that the forums are unlikely to get more civil.  And they also know that support issues diverted from the forums to email and the phones are likely to cost them more money, not save them any.

No, the only press release out there related to Real ID, and it doesn’t even mention it by name, is the announcement that StarCraft II will be integrated with Facebook.

Real ID is the result of that integration.

Because to integrate with Facebook, you have to use your real name.  So say the terms of service.

So if Blizzard wants to come play with Facebook, or is being told they have to go play with Facebook because somebody mentioned to Bobby Kotick that Facebook is where the money is, they have to go in with their subscribers real names in full view of the world.

Getting in bed with Facebook requires full disclosure.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “That press release only mentions StarCraft II!  We’re talking about the World of Warcraft forums!”

That is merely because we haven’t seen the right press release yet.

Prediction: New Cataclysm feature to be announce, Facebook integration with World of Warcraft.

I’m going to stick with that one until proven wrong.

You’re welcome for that blinding flash of the obvious.

You probably beat me to it by a few days.  I just haven’t made it to a post yet that laid it out quite like that.

What that means to World of Warcraft and the Cataclysm expansion… well… I think I’ll quote Robert Heinlein:

When in danger or in doubt
Run in circles, scream and shout!

You may now begin to panic.

If you wish to defer panic for a few minutes, go read this, laugh, sigh, and smile for a moment.

Then begin to panic.

100 Levels of The Agency: Covert Ops

So I did it.  I played SOE’s Facebook game, The Agency: Covert Ops through 100 levels.

The Level Achieved

That meant getting to level 101, since there is no level 0.

The overall time commitment wasn’t that great.  As I said in my initial post on about the game, it has a not-atypical method of doling out play time for a Facebook game.  In the case of Covert Ops, you have a pool of “cover,” a resource that allows you to go out on missions.  You spend some to do mission, and when you’re out, you’re done.  Cover comes back slowly over time, or you can spend some Station Cash to buy some additional Counter Intel, each of which basically refills your cover pool.

And that leads us to the first gripe.

SOE will toss you some free Station Cash when you start playing, but to use it you have to create a Station account.

No problem there, I already have a Station account, and I have for years!

Only, you cannot use your current Station account.  You have to create a new account.  A believe me, there is nothing I need less than another ID and password to remember.  In fact, I’ve already forgotten both for the new account I had to create.

That is going to make it really tough for SOE to get any money out of me.  Not that such an event was likely, but you want to make spending money on your game easy.

And I can guess why they did this.  I would bet that SOE has to pay Facebook a cut of Station Cash sold for Covert Ops.  However, I think SOE treats Station Cash as a single pool of funds usable across multiple games.  So they had to keep the Facebook revenue separate.  That is my theory.

Anyway, 50 days of play, 100 levels.   And after that very un-Eurogamer like effort, I should be able to answer the magic question:  Is it fun to play?

No, it is not.

I will qualify that however.  There are bits of it that are fun to start with.  The mini games, for example, were fun for the first few passes.  The mini games are:

  • A linear run, jump, avoid obstacles
  • A simplified version of suduko (you get wild cards)
  • A “Where’s Waldo” find several items in a scene
  • A mini Husker Du? matching game (Who else had Husker Du?)
  • A version of the Jumble word puzzle

Except for the first, I had fun playing the mini-games.  But aside from the word puzzle, which at least has new words each round, the fun wears out quickly.  You learn how to jump, how to spam through the matching game, how to form up suduko, and where everything is hidden in the scene after a few rounds at most, and then it is just repetition.

Aside from the conflict resolution system, which I will get to in a bit, the rest of the game is clearly in the Mafia Wars vein.  You get a mission, if you have sufficient cover left, you click to do it, collect your reward, and move on to the next mission.

Only Covert Ops does not farm the ground that Mafia Wars does (see the Mafia Wars deposition) when it comes to collaboration with your Facebook friends.

You do not have to go through the annoying add friend routine that Zynga seems to be locked into, and which I hate.  Instead you are automatically friends in-game with anybody on your Facebook friends list, for which I give SOE full marks.  I’ve already committed to those friendships, don’t make me repeat the whole invite thing.

But once you have friends, there isn’t much you can do with them.  You can send them off on a mission for a reward (which you can share with them via a post to their wall) and you can visit their homes to sweep them for infiltration once a day, which always yields a small reward since everybody’s home seems to be infiltrated daily.

But the whole mob-family support mechanism and the endless gift request/gift giving are mostly absent.  Not that I miss the latter that much, but SOE hasn’t replaced it with anything better, they’ve just got their own minimalist version.

So the whole thing is a bit less social than FarmVille.

They have added in the ability to fight other players for rewards.  However, it uses the conflict resolution system of which I have written about before.

Let's see, rock, paper, or scissors this time?

The rock, paper, scissors method isn’t the worst way to resolve a conflict.  You might even view it as an additional mini game, except for the tedious nature of the system.  And you end up having to go through this routine a lot.  And the fights scale with you, so the only way to gain any advantage over your opponent is through equipment and upgrades.

You can spend your money on a few things.  You can buy new clothes.  You can furnish your home.  Or you can buy equipment and upgrades.

Your appearance doesn’t change the game, and a fancy home buys you little, but you need equipment upgrades, so that is where almost all my money went.

My home, with minor upgrades

To win the conflict resolution consistently, you will need the bonuses equipment gives you.  Some of the parts you need for equipment you can buy with the in game cash, but key pieces come only from mission drops or via Station Cash.  And at a number of points you will hit an equipment check gate and won’t be able to proceed to the next mission without an upgrade.

That means either spending Station Cash, which I refused to do, or going back through your old missions to find the one that drops the piece you need.  Then you run that mission.  Over and over.  Until you get the drop.

Now, it is nice that you can go back and re-run missions.  You still gain experience and get rewards.  They even look to have some sort of mission mastery indicator built into the UI, though I did not see it activate in anyway.

But running old missions uses cover, just like your current missions.  So when you are doing one, you won’t be able to do the other.  I once spent three days running the same mission in Italy to get one part to drop so I could get an upgrade to move forward in the game.

Now, three days sounds like a long time, but unless you buy additional cover, you end up spending about 5 minutes a day playing.

But in the end, it was the conflict resolution system that wore me down.  Just at level 101 I hit a boss fight that needed an equipment upgrade.  To get that upgrade I needed a piece that was only available as a drop or via Station Cash.

I ran back through missions until I found one that would drop the right part, but it turned out to be another boss fight with the conflict resolution systems.  And since anything in that system scales to your level, and since the components rarely drop, the grind required to proceed overwhelmed my meager desire to play and I stopped.

End of game.

Summary

The game has decent art assets, though they get used over and over again.  The guy you talk to in Amsterdam looks just like the guy in Naples, New York, Dehli, or Los Angeles.

The game is story driven, and it looks like a lot of time was spent on story.  At each location you are guided through a series of events that lead you to that final boss fight.  Unfortunately, since 80% of game play is clicking a button to complete a task, you do not really get engaged and you soon stop reading the story.

The mini games are fun at first, but there only a few and they get used in the same way at the same story points over and over.  Again, this does not get the player involved.

The conflict resolution system is mediocre.  You fight people, dogs, submarines, and so on using the same rock-paper-scissors system.  These conflict events come up a lot and I began to dread them.  Of course, dreading what is the core of the game play is a bad sign.

The social aspect of this social game is seriously lacking.  Seriously.  While I like that your friends who join the game get automatically added to your in-game list of operatives, there isn’t much you can do with them after that.  As annoying as Zynga’s wall spam can be, they do social interaction better.

Farmville is a more compelling social game frankly.  You can play sim farm at least and tell your friends about what you’ve accomplished.  In Covert Ops, all I could really remember was the names of the cities where events took place.  “I fought some guy in Amsterdam” is less social than, “I’m trying to build a barn, can you send me some wood?”

In the end, The Agency: Covert Ops is a Mafia Wars clone that tried to trim some of the annoying parts of that game, but ended up going too far.  They trimmed out what I am told makes Mafia Wars compelling to play.

And while the game is technically in beta still (as is every damn game on Facebook I think… I’ll invoke the Heartless_ statement that if you’re taking money for your game, you are not in beta) and they have been changing things up some, the core game hasn’t changed since launch.  There really wasn’t enough there to keep me interested once I hit my self-imposed goal of 100 levels.

So I won’t see what location comes after Los Angeles in the story.  But I don’t mind.  I’m pretty sure it would look very much like Amsterdam, Naples, New York, or Dehli.

The tag line for the game is “Live the Life of an Elite Agent!”

What a dull and repetitive life that seems to be.

Real Estate Developer Tip of the Day!

I went to go look in on my people in My Tribe, one of those Facebook games. (Itself a rework of an already existing game.  But the casual game genre makes Blizzard look absolutely restrained when it comes to “borrowing” ideas.)

I hadn’t been there recently and was wondering if the tribe had perished.

And, while the game was loading, I got the following tip:


Aside from the foreshadowing aspect of that tidbit, my first thought was, “Wasn’t that the plot to the movie Poltergeist?”

As for the members of my tribe…

You can, in fact, pick tombstones up and place them wherever you like.

Except in the ocean.  No burials at sea.

Bringing a Submarine to a Gunfight

I thought the dogs with guns was amusing in The Agency: Covert Ops, but then I got into a gunfight with a submarine.

Dodged that submarine attack!

Okay,  I realize that this screen just represents the game’s conflict resolution mechanism, its own little marathon rock/paper/scissors effort to declare a winner when face with direct enemy opposition.  The actual resolution describes what happened in the story of your character.

Out swam a sub!

But when you choose the gunfight metaphor for every conflict resolution, it ends up looking pretty silly when you start throwing in dogs or submarines as opponents.

What else do you suppose is packing heat in The Agency: Covert Ops?

Dogs with Guns

My first blatantly silly encounter in The Agency: Covert Ops.

Heading out on the next stage of a mission, I was told I will be facing a fierce Doberman.  They didn’t mention he’d be packing heat!  The dog gets the same shooting based attacks as the humans do.

Doggie Suppressing Fire Incoming!

Furthermore, the dog was kind of working me for the first couple of rounds.  No doubt I was shooting high, as indicated in the picture.

Of course, SOE has a history of oddly inappropriate attack types, from the fact that my monk in EverQuest II can do a roundhouse kick from horseback (I’m glad they announced that you’ll soon be dismounted for combat in EQ2.  Sorry, but that was just silly.) to the famous kicking snakes from the original EverQuest.  It has become a something of a tradition I guess.

And, at the end, the wrap up message didn’t exactly match up with a the gun battle.

No mention of the dog's firearm

But the wrap up messages all seem to be talking about fights that happened to other people.

And, as an aside, that dog doesn’t look really like any Doberman I’ve ever seen.  The gun-carrying version of the breed must be a bit different I guess.

Waiting to run into the sharks with frickin’ lasers next!