Tag Archives: Friday Bullet Points

Friday Bullet Points Gaze into the Future

Another Friday where I have a few items that I could probably force into full length posts, but I just don’t have the stamina to get there.  So I will pack them into one post.

Truth in Advertising?

There was a recent Star Citizen weekly update from RSI that seemed to unintentionally confirmed my suspicions.

It barely feels like it has been 25 years

The update itself was a lore item about some in-game entity celebrating its 50th anniversary, but the first glace at the top of the message made me wonder if they were admitting it was going to take 50 years to get where they plan to go.

Apple and OpenGL

One tidbit that came up at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference was the plan to deprecate OpenGL support with the Mojave release of the MacOS and in iOS 12.  This led to a panic about there being no more video games on the Mac.

I haven’t been to a WWDC since 1995…

OpenGL has been around for a long time and, among other things, its openess helped nVidia get in and dethrone 3dfx Interactive and their proprietary Glide API back in the day.  And deprecate doesn’t mean pulling it out wholesale.  It will still be there for a couple of years.  But if you find a problem or need an update, Apple isn’t going to help you.

Still, Apple will drop it eventually.  Past history says that will probably get announced in 2020 or so.  Apple would like you to use their Metal interface instead, and some companies have support for that on the way.  You can use Metal with World of Warcraft currently if your hardware and OS are current. (And probably should use it, as it fixes a crashing issue with WoW.)  But if you are a serious PC gamer you probably have a Windows partition on you Mac, if not a Windows machine already.

Blizzard and Diablo IV

It was noted that Blizzard had posted a job listing looking for a dungeon artist for an as yet unannounced Diablo project.  This led to a hysteria of complaints and the projection of personal feelings onto the idea.  Just Google “diablo iv” and look at the headlines. (And yes, I am going to call it Diablo IV at this point.)  Everything from “when are we going to get it?” to “Oh lord, no!” pops up.  So I figured I ought to note this as the week the controversy began.  We know nothing so far, but some people are already angry.

I for one welcome our new demonic overlords.

Despite the one-two punch of the auction house and the horrible itemization (the latter which I remain convinced was there to drive you to the auction house), Blizzard eventually got the game in order by killing the auction house and fixing itemization, making Diablo III a pretty decent game.  The “always online” bit is still annoying, but Blizz is hardly alone in demanding that.  And they have continued to tend the now six year old game, which is more than they ever did for Diablo II.  By any practical measure the game is a success and warrants a sequel. (It sold lots of copies on the PC and consoles.)

Hopefully Blizzard will run with what they have learned and stick with the roots of Diablo as the foundation for the next game rather than, say, making it a Battle Royale title or something.

Minecraft Subnautica

On a closer horizon, the Minecraft Java Edition 1.13 release, the Aquatic Update, looks to be slowly making its way to us.

Under the sea…

The update entered pre-release at the start of the week, whatever that means, so I think we should be getting the official release soon.  I have actually been avoiding our Minecraft server, knowing that I’ll want to go play when this hits.

Free Games for Amazon Prime Subscribers

In yet another benefit for Amazon Prime subscribers, you can now download any of five free games before the end of June.

Amazon Prime benefits

The games are Tumblestone, Treadnauts, Strafe, Banner Saga, and Banner Saga 2.  You need to have the Twitch client to download them (the Twitch client is what the old Curse client became when Amazon bought Curse… and Twitch) and you need to have linked your Twitch account to your Amazon account.  This sounds like a recurring deal, so there will likely be more games in the future as the Amazon Prime largess train continues on.

As an aside, the first version of this Amazon post I saw said it was six games.

Is it five or six?

However the image only shows five games and I didn’t click on the link until later, so I don’t know if there was a sixth game at one point, if a sixth game was planned but was removed and the word didn’t get out, or if it was always five games and somebody just messed up.  (h/t to Corr who first linked this to me and who had that second image handy.)

Pokemon Zygarde Download Event

Despite the impending end of Pokemon on the Nintendo 2DS/3DS, download events continue for the current core RPG titles.  During the month of June in the US you can go to your local GameStop for a download code for a shiny Zygarde.

Zygarde

This event is only for Pokemon Sun & Moon and Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.  Instructions for claiming the legendary Pokemon are available at the Pokemon site.

Friday Bullet Points Dipped in Nostalgia

It is raining again… which is a good thing in California… and a spate of different things have rolled across my screen, all of which interest me but which don’t quite warrant a full blog post yet, so we’re back to Friday bullet points.

Age of Empires Restrictive Edition

I was keen as mustard when it was announced last June that Microsoft was working on a remaster of the original Age of Empires.  While I was always more of an Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings fan… and I own the remaster of that already… I was still in for the original.

Age of Empires

After a long stretch of silence, there was finally some news about the game.

On the upside of things, the remaster will be available come February 20, 2018, so it will be here soon.

On the down side, the game will ONLY be available through the Microsoft Windows Store.  Leaving aside the whole “I don’t need another goddam Steam clone” and my lack of trust in Microsoft, the store itself tells me it won’t be available until the end of 2018 and that it won’t run on my device.

Also, it may require certain hardware

So I guess that pretty much lets the air out of any Age of Empires nostalgia I had as well as being a bad sign for any possible hope I had in their whole Age of Empires IV plan.

Rift’s Prime Number

From there we head over to Trion Worlds where their 2018 Rift On! producer’s letter.

Not a dye nor a floor wax

Trion looks to be eyeing the green fields of nostalgia as well, taking a card from Daybreak’s deck and promising something called Rift Prime, a subscription only version of the game that will come with a fresh server, reduced cash shop options, progressively unlocked content, and NO lockboxes.

I have said in the past that the one thing that would surely get me to roll on back to Telara was a retro server of some sort, so this sounds like it might be the time.  The instance group in pre-Storm Legion expansion Rift was one of my MMO high points.  Still, there are some mixed messages.

We plan to present RIFT at its roots as much as is possible to do, and look forward to sharing details over the coming weeks. The PRIME server will progress at a faster pace than the original launch and will eventually come to an end in spectacular fashion.

So back to the roots is good, and I expect that the servers will have to progress… by which I assume they mean unlock expansions… more rapidly that than the first time around.  I am curious as to what the spectacular end will be.

But then there is also this to wrestle with.

As a small teaser of what’s to come, dynamically matching characters to their current zone’s level, dungeons dropping loot specific to your character’s true level, caps on the number of professions available to a single character, and participation awards that carry over to your characters on existing servers.

Many upcoming live content changes that apply to existing servers will also apply to the new PRIME server, assuming they’re not restricted by progression locks.

That doesn’t sound very much like Rift at its roots.

Anyway, the current time frame is “spring” for Rift Prime which, as we recall from the Landmark launch, extends out to the first day of summer in the back half of June.  Syp goes on about the Rift Prime server idea at length, but I am waiting for more details before I crank up the thousand word minimum post-o-matic opinion machine.

Legendary Pokemon Return.. Again

It is an even numbered year so Nintendo is having Pokemon events to give away legendary Pokemon.

Didn’t we just get some of these?

Getting people to come to events to make Pokemon a more social game has always been part of the Game Freak/Nintendo plan, but didn’t we just spend 2016 having monthly legendary events?  And isn’t the ability to catch a bunch of these part of the sales pitch for Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon?

Oh well, if you missed out and don’t have the wherewithal for end game Pokemon, another series of events are coming for 2018 starting with a Dialga and Palkia event in February at your local GameStop.  In order to participate you must have a copy of Pokemon Sun, Moon, UltraSun, or UltraMoon.

Also coming up in February for Pokemon nostalgia buffs is Pokemon Crystal on the 3DS Virtual Console.

More on the Expense of Video Games

In something of a follow up on the raging discussion back at the end of November about how expensive it is to make video games, Raph Koster has returned with a new presentation and discussion about the cost of making video games.  So more charts and graphs and a list of suggestions await.  If nothing else you can bask in how little we pay per kilobyte of video game software these days I suppose, a measure which makes those old 143KB Apple II floppies seem like something of a gold mine.

Where Have All Our Video Cards Gone?

And finally, we can wistfully recall the glory days when we were able to go down to Best Buy and purchase a goddam video card.  Ars Technica has an article up about how all this Tulip bubble crypto currency boom is soaking up all the high end video cards.  I guess I will be stuck with a GeForce GTX 960 until this whole thing collapses.

Anyway, those were my bullet points for the week.  If you want more there are some over at Endgame Viable, most of which are not duplicates of items on my list.

Friday Bullet Points – Names and Prices and Gambling

It is Friday and, while I have posts that I could put up today, I wanted to cover a few small items that popped up this week, if only to write them down for discussion later.  As usual, just marking the dates with a bullet point post.

King of the Kill Dethroned

In a surprise move… to me at least… Daybreak announced that their battle royale game H1Z1: King of the Kill, already under pressure from hot new contenders like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and Fortnite, decided that one of the things it needed to do was simplify the games name.

So they cut one side of the colon.  The side with what I sort of considered the actual name.

The game is now simply called H1Z1.

H1Z1 – October 2017 logo

Back where we started in 2015 when there was only one game with two modes and a single name.   Only the other mode is now Just Survive.

H1Z1 2015 Logo

Daybreak gives a several dubious sounding reasons for the change, ending on what was likely the real answer”

…having the word ‘Kill’ in the name of the game can be limiting with some global audiences…

I have to admit that I cannot, off the cuff, come up with a widely successful game with “Kill” in its name.  Maybe they’re right.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that the two titles mentioned above are eat H1Z1’s lunch, that the game is still in Early Access after saying it would be released last year, and the planned console port is still just a wink and a promise.

Oculus Price Cut

Facebook announced a price cut for the Oculus Rift.  The unit, which started off at $599 back in the day, will now be $399 and include the Touch controllers as well, at one time additional cost items.

That is a better price, though I am still in the boat of having to upgrade my PC first to be able to support their VR implementation.  I am at the very minimum spec for the Oculus Rift, and we now how well minimum specs work out.  And there still isn’t a must-have game or app out there to push me forward.

Facebook also announced the Oculus Go, priced at $199, but then didn’t say much about what the hell it actually was.  According to the Game Informer post linked above, the Go unit is stand alone and comes with one controller and a lot of promises.  So I am not sure what that even means.  Can I watch movies on it?

Empires of Kunark Still Half Price

Back to Daybreak, where the Norrath titles are in the middle of their annual expansion run up.  I’ll probably compare and contrast the pre-order offers at a later date.

But as part of that both EverQuest and EverQuest II put last year’s expansion up for sale at half off the original price for a limited time.

Empires of Kunark – Half Price through Tuesday

If you wanted to get all of the goodies that came with the more expensive packages… well… they are less expensive now, though you don’t get any price credit for having bought the base package it seems.

Half Price Pricing, Buy or Upgrade

As usual, being a subscriber gets you an additional ten percent discount.

Lockboxes and Gambling

This has been going around due to a petition to the UK government to declare lockboxes a form of gambling.  This seems silly to me as lockboxes do not meet the required win/lose scenario of gambling.  You always get a prize.  That it is not the prize you wanted is irrelevant and you don’t get to claim that virtual good have no value if you only mean the ones you don’t like.

Anyway, fellow bloggers have weighed in on this:

The above doesn’t mean I like lockboxes, and I certainly don’t spend my money on them.  I think they are a predatory device that plays to the same weaknesses that gambling does.  They just aren’t gambling any more than Pokemon cards or the gumball machine at the grocery store.  Chance alone does not make something gambling.

Meanwhile devs offer responses as to why they use lockboxes.  Spoiler: They have families to feed, so are apparently absolved of any moral issues.

Meanwhile, Activision has patented a system to punish you for not paying to win, which can include buying lockboxes, so welcome to reality.  Good luck playing for sympathy with that on your side.

Friday Bullet Points – Financials Time

August, being the second month of Q3, is the herald of the Q2 financial results.

Activision Blizzard – Q2 2017

The quarterly results for Q2 2017 were out last week for Activision Blizzard.  Blizzard remains the big money maker in the A/B/K company mix.  You can find the data over at the company’s investor relations site.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2017 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 11

In the details the company reports that the Legion expansion continues to out perform the Warlords of Draenor expansion, which isn’t too surprising, given that players finished up the latter content and left in droves such that the company stopped reporting subscription numbers.

Apparently unhappy with monthly average users, MAUs, they also dropped a Daily Average Users claim, DAUs, on the report as well.  I am not sure why they felt the need, the nonsensical MAUs didn’t really need propping up so far as I could see, but maybe there was some empty space on the slide they felt they needed to fill.

Overall though, Blizzard remains the consistency champion in the company.  The mercurial Activision will blitz past it on quarters where it has a big release, but Blizzard delivers quarter after quarter with much less fluctuation.

SuperData Reasearch – 2017 So Far

I post the monthly chart from SuperData Research on the theory that even data of dubious completeness can be of value if collected consistently over time.  One problem is that the charts are just rankings and do not include hard numbers, so one cannot know how much weight to give the bottom half of the chart, the only portion that tends to change from month to month.

SuperData has thrown us a bone on that front with a six month roll-up chart for 2017 so far.

SuperData Top Ten – First Half of 2017

This gives a somewhat better idea of who is in it for the long term as the sudden blips due to updates or promotions get ironed out over time.   World of Warcraft seems pretty secure in the fifth spot on the PC front, while CS:GO is on the cumulative list even though it dropped off the top ten monthly list last time.

On the mobile front, neither Pokemon Go nor Candy Crush Saga make the cut.

This chart isn’t up on the SuperData Research blog.  It went out to people who are on their mailing list along with another chart of data tidbits and an invite to download the associated report.

SuperData First Half of 2017 Highlights

Mobile is the largest digital platform, but League of Legends on the PC remains the biggest game.  Also, they could only come up with a big number for VR by projecting forward to 2020.

NCsoft sees Lineage Slump

NCsoft financials tend to be pretty predictable.  The 1998 title Lineage will be the big earner, the further we get from an expansion release, the lower the Guild Wars 2 revenue will be, and there will be that game we’re all pretty sure is going to get shut down because it has slumped so bad that it stopped getting its own chart.

But Q2 2017 changed things up. (Report available here)

NCsoft Sale by IP – Q2 2017

Okay, sure, GW2 is tracking to form, and has an expansion on the way, and we’re still pondering the future existence of WildStar, but the change with Lineage is nothing short of shocking in the context of the company’s history.

As it turns out, the only thing that can kill Lineage is Lineage.  Lineage is tanking because NCsoft released a mobile version of the game, Lineage M, which they track under “mobile games,” a category which is suddenly number one on their list.

And with that, the majority of the company’s income still comes from a Korean audience playing a variation on a 1998 title.

 

Friday Bullet Points for a Warm Spring Day

Well, it has been warm in Silicon Valley this week, with temperatures up to 90 degrees at times.  After a wet winter that means that more than spring is in the air.  Pollen is a serious, palpable thing outside right now for those of us with allergies.  But a runny nose and a desire for some of those good old “makes you drowsy” allergy meds from my youth won’t stop me from at least doing a bullet points post.

Pokemon Go in the Grass

Bulbasaur knows what I am talking about!

Clearly in the spirit of my pain, Niantic is having a Grass Weekend mini-event for Pokemon Go.  Starting this afternoon and ending early Monday grass type Pokemon are supposed to be out in force.  In addition, lures dropped at Pokestops are supposed to last 6 hours rather than the usual 30 minutes.  Will that be enough to lure me out of the house?

Pokemon Sun & Moon Bean Collecting

Meanwhile, in Pokemon Sun & Moon, there is an in-game event around collecting Poke Beans at the Poke Pelago.  As with the Pokemon Go event, it runs until Monday.  The minimum and bonus thresholds have already been reached, so all you have to do to get some Festival Coins is register in the Festival Plaza, collect some beans, and then go back and update you status.  Details are at the link.  If you are a registered Pokemon Global Link player, you get double the Festival coins plus a level ball and some rare candy as well.

We’re well past the 6 million bean stretch goal…

Ashes of Creation Campaign Status

The Ashes of Creation Kickstarter that I wrote about earlier in the week seems to have hit the mid-campaign doldrums already.  After passing a million dollars in the first 36 hours, pledges have slowed down.  That is to be expected.  I will be interested if they have a mid-campaign plan after their very strong start.  Meanwhile, there has been some concerns about Intrepid’s Creative Director and CEO Steven Sharif and the depth of experience of the Ashes of Creation team.  Sharif has responded via an interview with Massively OP.

Activision Blizzard still Touting MAUs

The Activision Blizzard first quarter results were announced yesterday.  You can find all the data, such that it is, over on their investor relations site.  Blizzard and King were tied as the first quarter net earning powers, with King ahead it gross revenue but Blizzard having a higher margin.

Revenues on Slide 10 of the investor presentation

And yet the big “we’re doing good!” metric remains Monthly Active Users, or MAUs.  I have griped before that MAUs are meaningless without context.  The fact that the two net earners have wildly different MAU numbers (41 million for Blizzard, or less than Activision, and 341 million for King) seems to require at least some details about their disparate business models.

Meanwhile, the report also celebrates Overwatch becoming Blizzard’s eighth “billion dollar” franchise, making me strain my brain to come up with that many.

  1. World of Warcraft
  2. Warcraft
  3. StarCraft
  4. Diablo
  5. Hearthstone
  6. Overwatch
  7. Heroes of the Storm
  8. Lost Vikings

They must be slicing and dicing what constitutes a franchise to get eight billion dollar earners… or Lost Vikings was more popular than I imagined.  Also, I would argue that WoW is a continuation of the Warcraft franchise.  But marketing will segment how they see fit.

Anyway, back to the land of Benedryl for me.

Mostly Mobile Friday Bullet Points

Another Friday post about minor items of interest.

Candy Crush and Pokemon Go Slip

Superdata Research put out their monthly chart for December 2016, which showed Pokemon Go slipping down to 4th place on the mobile list.

December 2016 Numbers

December 2016 Numbers

I think I am mostly surprised that the game is still holding out in the top five now that winter is here and that the game has clearly worn on some people during its first six months.

Also of note, Candy Crush Saga is down in 10th place.  While lower than it has been previously, I remain surprised that it is still on the list more than four years down the road.

Superdata also has a 2016 summary report that you can get for free which puts some dollar amounts to a few of their charts.

Pokemon Go Expands

This week sees the addition of creatures from Pokemon Silver & Gold into the mix players can catch.

Now featuring the Johto Region

Now featuring the Johto Region

Eggs have been hatching certain Johto Pokemon for a while, but now you should be able to find new Pokemon out and about in the world.

Pokemon Bank Update

On the 3DS hand held side of the franchise, Pokemon Bank has finally been updated to work with Pokemon Sun & Moon.  You can now move Pokemon from previous 3DS Pokemon RPG titles into the latest game.

How things line up now

How things line up now

In addition you can get the Z-crystal for Mew by scanning the QA code in the linked announcement.

Hearthstone on My iPad

After dumping Candy Crush Saga from my iPad, I found I did not really have a good “sit on the couch and play while I watch TV” sort of game left.  With the fancy new iPad able to run more modern games, I started poking around at the App Store to see what I might download.  I also went down the list of games I had already tried and found Hearthstone.  So I grabbed that.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I had not really played it since the game came out, and I only played it then because Blizzard offered up a mount for WoW players who won three games.  I had put it on the old iPad 2 as well, but never got into it.  This time around things have been a bit different.  So far it sort of works as a replacement.  I am not into collectible card games at all, so it being a dumbed down version of whatever probably means it is well suited to me.  I barely remember how the game works, but I seem to win once in a while, so it is working out.

Also, looping back to a previous bullet point, Superdata reports that Hearthstone is the highest grossing collectible card game, with the money quote being:

Hearthstone earned roughly four times as much as its closest competitor in 2016 and is forcing the digital CCG market to transform

And so it goes.  I still don’t plan to spend any money on the game myself unless I somehow really get into it.

EverQuest II Down

And,as a final item, it was reported over at EQ2 Wire yesterday that EverQuest II had to be taken down unexpectedly yesterday and problems logging on still persist as of the latest update this morning.

That is it, on towards the weekend.

Friday Inaugural Bullet Points

Today we get a new president, the 10th in my lifetime and the third during the life of the blog.  The state government here in California has declared itself opposed in all ways possible to the new president, which I find mildly amusing because the last governor of the state was Arnold Schwarzenegger and in the last election we not only failed ban the death penalty, most voters actually went for the ballot initiative that promised to speed up the process of killing.  How very liberal we are.

Back on the video game front, it is a rainy Friday morning and I have a few small stories I want to mention but which are probably not worth a whole post.  None of them, to my knowledge, involve the new president.

Pokemon Billionaires

An article up over at Venture Beat gives the total 2016 revenue for Pokemon Go as $950 million.  For a game that launched on July 6th of 2016, that is a pretty impressive take.  To put that into MMO perspective, World of Warcraft was raking in over a billion dollars a year at its peak, but nowhere near double Pokemon Go’s six month total.

PokemonGO_500px

Now, of course, there are a lot of “buts” to that story.  The earnings were very much front loaded, with the initial $600 million coming in the first 90 days before revenues began to taper off.  This isn’t going to be a year over year Juggernaut like WoW.   And, of course, revenue isn’t cash in the pocket.  Apple takes their cut off the top, then Niantic takes theirs, after which they pay the Pokemon Company their licensing cut, from which eventually Nintendo gets some money.

But for the meager amount of effort Nintendo put in to the whole thing, it did pay mighty dividends, boosting sales of other Pokemon games and even of 3DS hardware.  Even if everybody stops playing Pokemon Go tomorrow, Nintendo, Game Freak, and the Pokemon Company have done very well out of the deal.

Hero’s Song Refund

We heard the tale of the end of Hero’s Song late last month as Smed’s first post SOE/Daybreak gaming venture had to fold up its tents and call it a day.  The game walked a troubled path, with a failed Kickstarter campaign and, later, an Indiegogo campaign that fell short of the funding target.  But with Indiegogo you get to keep the money pledged, even if you don’t make your goal, so Pixelmage got some money out of the deal.  It just wasn’t enough to carry on.

Then Pixelmage did the unexpected and said they would give people their money back.  And they did.  I got my refund via PayPal for the two licenses I bought.

Refund

Refund

Not every crowd-funded project is going to have the luxury of doing that, but it is nice to see one make the effort when they had the means.

Refund Splurge

So there I had $28 in my PayPal wallet, and I never carry a balance with PayPal, so I turned around and blew the whole lot on three games from Steam wish list.  I grabbed Orwell (plus the soundtrack), Atlantic Fleet, and Death Ray Manta.  So those, along with my Steam Winter Sale purchases, give me a small pile of games to work on.

Ruse of the Day

One of the things that Pandemic Legion does is put out invites to high profile players in other groups.  Asher reports that he has three such invites to different corps in PL.  Apparently gigX,  the leader of Circle-of-Two, took one of those invites, joined ElitistOps, (which has been part of GoonSwarm, Band of Brothers, and Pandemic Legion) and then let his mates in CO2 blow up three of his capital ships (Moros, Apostle, and Revelation) just to mess with their kill board stats before rejoining CO2.  Was it worth it?

New Eden Good News/Bad News

Elsewhere on the EVE Online front, we got a look into what is coming up in the game, which includes the ability to insure ships in citadels finally.  On the down side, the game has been experiencing rubberbanding, latency, and desync issues since the last patch.  CCP is working on that, but it isn’t fixed just yet.

So that is all I have.  Back to the rains here.  We only seem to have two settings in our part of the state; drought or deluge.  At least during the deluge I can take a nice long shower.