Tag Archives: Nostalgia

BB78 – Can The Slate Ever Be Made Clean Again?

After something of a vacation, it is time for another EVE Online Blog Banter entry.  This is number 78 in the series and it asks the following question:

Just for a moment engage your “willing suspension of disbelief”. Imagine that CCP, at downtime today, reset everything in Eve Online. Everything! When you logged in you were in a starter system with your character… but now with less than a million skill points, a mere 5000 ISK and a noob ship (now with civilian afterburner!). Markets are pretty empty other than a few seeded items. All Sov is gone. All player structures are gone. All PI infrastructure is gone. No corps or alliances exist. Nothing remains. New Eden is suddenly a completely level playing field and the next great gold-rush is on? Or is it? What happens now?

The great player wipe question.  I went directly there only a few months into the life of the blog, trying to split the difference between death and rebirth.  And I have been back there many times since.  It is a thorny question and not one easily dismissed, for each tired “obvious” response has its own set of counter arguments that you have to ignore in order to believe there is but one true path.

The pro-player wipe, or pwipe, side of things draws on a desire to relive the past.  Nostalgia is a more powerful force of nature… at least human nature… than people often believe.  Quoting Thomas Wolfe and declaring the very idea of being able to relive the past an impossibility ignores the flexibility of the human brain and memories.

I say this as one who has been on successful trips into the past.

TorilMUD, the Forgotten Realms based MUD I played for many years went through three distinct periods with pwipes in between and probably the best time I ever had in the game was after the third pwipe.  That was in early 2002 if I recall right, nearly a decade after I made my first character, so the game was not new to me.  There were no more feelings of first discovery to be had, no sense of wonder and anxiety in exploring the low level areas of the game.

But there was a huge rush of fun as everybody started out again at level one.  Many old players returned and there were lots of familiar names as we set out with our basic newbie equipment to slay orcs and kobolds and those buffalo outside of Waterdeep.  TorilMUD is very much a game that requires grouping and having ample low level groups to join is something that only happens at pwipe.  After enough time passes the usual thing happens and the regulars are all at the top of the level curve and those few lowbies you see online are often alts, twinked with good gear so they can solo.  If you start new then, low level zones tend to be dead and groups difficult to find.

The game had changed quite a bit since I started playing just after the 1993 pwipe.  But the mechanics do not matter as much as you might imagine.  There is a lot of fun/nostalgia to be had just being on a fresh server where everybody is starting over again.

As a follow on to that, I will point to the progression servers in EverQuest.  Back in the Fippy Darkpaw server era, Skronk and I had a great time running through old Norrath.  Granted, it helped that we started in Qeynos, the side of the world long in disfavor with SOE and so which still has old school graphics.  But even our runs to redone Freeport and The Commonlands were not spoiled by revamped visuals.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

And we were not bothered by the how much the mechanics of the game had changed over the years.  A few people were nit picking about how such and such a thing wasn’t like that back in 1999, but on the whole players seemed happy to just jump onto a fresh server with new players and old content in order pretend we were all young(er) again.

In the case of EverQuest, this is born out by the fact that of the three most popular servers running, two of them are nostalgia/progression servers, with the third being a community heavy role play server.

Not so many servers as the old days

Not so many servers as the old days

And, yes, the call of nostalgia is an emotional one, not a logical one.  But we are not logical beings.  I think the past election is proof of that.  I’ve certainly seen enough in life to support the assertion that people general make their decisions immediately and then find and weight facts to support that decision after the fact.  And I know I do it too.

So I can see the emotional appeal of just wiping that database and restarting Tranquility afresh.  Imagine New Eden with 40K rookie ships… erm, corvettes now… undocking.  A New Eden with now loyalty points yet banked, no faction yet earned, no huge piles of ISK socked away in wallets, no markets piled high with equipment, no sovereignty claimed, and not a tech II module or BPO to be found anywhere.  Everybody equal; the same starting equipment, the same amount of ISK, the same number of skill points.  A bright new universe of choices and second chances.  Alliances to be rebuilt, empires to be forged anew, fortunes to be sought once again.

It doesn’t have to be technically 2003 again… or 2006 for me… to feel at least some excitement at the prospect of a pwipe.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant docking back in the day

Of course, there is the flip side to all of that, wherein a pwipe would be very, very bad for CCP.

As human beings, we often get very attached to our “stuff,” and the distinction between real and virtual stuff is no distinction at all for some, regardless of what the EULA might say.  In fact, one of the draws of MMORPGs, the thing that keeps them going for beyond a decade, is often tied into our virtual inventories and accomplishments.

Stuff… be it bank tabs full of cosmetic gear and outdated crafting supplies or hangars full of ships and modules… is part of the link the tethers us to these games.  The sunk cost fallacy is alive and well as people will continue to play a game, even after it goes stale for them, simply because they have accumulated so much stuff.  And levels, experience, or skill points further cement that bond.

I don’t play EVE Online merely because I have 160 million skill points, but all those skill points and what they enable within the game do make me much more likely to log in.

And somewhere in between… at a different spot for everybody… is a balance, a spot where loss of stuff would break the tie between them and the game.  A good portion of people don’t want to start over again, and I am sure that some who do would find that wish challenged in the face of a rookie ship reality.

Of course, CCP knows this.  Every decent MMORPG company knows this.  This is the reason they don’t clean out the character database regularly, why you should worry too much about what it says in the EULA about when they CAN delete your account, because when they actually WILL delete it is a different story.

For CCP to do a pwipe, especially one as described, would be insanity given the current state of the game.  It would be throwing out a known situation in hopes that an unknown situation might be “better,” for whatever definition of the word you wish to choose.  “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens!” is not a viable business plan.

So it ain’t gonna happen in New Eden.  Or not any time soon.

And neither is a fresh server.  Leaving aside the cost of setting up and maintaining another live server, one of the lessons from the EverQuest and EverQuest II is that, while some people will come back for a fresh/retro/nostalgia server, a large part of those who will play them are already subscribers.  One of the forum complaints about the Stormhold server in EQII was that it stole enough players from live servers as to make forming groups for raids a much more difficult task.

Opening a fresh server would steal more players from Tranquility than it would bring in new players, and then we would end up with two servers with less players than the current one.

For a game that thrives on having a certain critical mass of players… any why else would you bring in Alpha clones than to try to keep the game above that level… a second live server (outside of China, which doesn’t count) looks like a non-starter as well.

So we shall plow on through space as before, all of us together aboard the SS Tranquility, for the foreseeable future.

Still, though, it is fun to imagine what we all might do if after some future downtime the whole thing came up fresh.  The reactions would range between sheer joy and utter rage I am sure.  I’d give it a shot.

Alternate titles I considered for this post:

  • You can sort of go home again
  • Playing with your old toys as an adult
  • Roll on rose colored glasses
  • Nostalgia is a can of worms
  • The clean slate
  • How to kill New Eden
  • Nostalgia is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad

Meanwhile, other bloggers tackling this month’s topic include:

A Decade Under the Influence of Online Games

Here we are, ten years and more than four thousand posts later, and I am still notably bad at online games.  But I persist.

Being there achievement, blogging version

Being there achievement, blogging version

The title is actually wrong, but I couldn’t come up with a better one.  I can prove I have been playing online games for 30 years.  I even have physical artifacts from the era.  Hell of a year for games… and movies.  I’ve merely been blogging about them for the last decade.

Anyway, for those keen to review past attempts at anniversary posts, here is the list:

I actually did a lot of work on those posts around years five and six.

Base Statistics

An attempt to quantify what I have done here in the last twelve months.  The change over last year’s totals are noted in parentheses.

Days since launch: 3,653 (+366)
Posts total: 4,075 (+368)
Average posts per day: 1.11 (-0.02)
Comments: 27,959 (+2,401)
Average comments per post: 6.86 (-0.04)
Average comments per day: 7.65  (-0.15)
Spam comments: 1,312,165 (+34,173)
Comments Rescued from the Spam Filter: 408
Average spam comments per day: 359.2 (-29.6)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 46.9 (-3.1)
Comments written by me: 3,531 or 7.9%
Images uploaded:  10,416 (+1157)
Space used by images: 2.3 GB of my 3 GB allocation (78%, up 8%)

I continue to post about once a day, but all other metrics remain in decline.  Even spam comments were just one third of what they were last year.  What does it mean when even spam bots are tiring of your blog?

Then I go over to Feedly and look at the stats for the blogs feed and is says crazy things like this:

9,000? That cannot be right!

Seriously, it says this

9,000 followers can’t be right… hell, even 9 stories a week is optimistic.  The stats from the blog say 7 tops.

Meanwhile, the site (noted down below) that sent me the MOST referral traffic shows up with this number.

Being on the CSM doesn't help on Feedly I guess...

Being on the CSM doesn’t help on Feedly I guess…

So there went logic out the window I guess.

The next highest number I could find in my feeds was this:

WoW, really not as popular as me it seems...

WoW, really not as popular as me it seems…

I call shenanigans on the whole thing, unless my site is just a magnet for people addicted to RSS feeds and daily-ish posts.

Life on the internet.  Anyway, those are the basic numbers.  More detailed nonsense is available after the cut… unless you’re reading via RSS, in which case it is all there in your reader of choice, because I love you right back RSS junkies.

Continue reading

What is Vanilla WoW in Any Case?

The whole World of Warcraft vanilla server remains a divisive issue.

Both sides have armed themselves with arguments containing just enough truth that they feel entitled to shout it to the stars, while the opposing side sees the patent false assumptions that underlie these arguments and brush them aside.  There is no convincing anybody with these arguments, so the line remains drawn between the two groups and never the twain shall meet I suppose.

I side with the legacy server idea.  I believe it will serve a segment of the WoW fan base that is more substantial than people might think and will be unlikely to draw resources from the main bottleneck that slows down expansions, which is the development of content.

You no take catch phrase!

You no take dev resources either!

My beliefs are rooted in what I have seen done with EverQuest and EverQuest II, where such servers have proved popular, along with what I have read about Jagex’s experiences with their own old school RuneScape servers, which Bhagpuss has summed up in a post.

I am also thoroughly convinced that 3rd party pirate servers are not an acceptable substitute as, by their very nature, they will only serve a hardcore subset of the potential market.

So I am heartened by Blizzard finally seeming to soften a bit on subject they have for years rejected.  As I pointed out in my previous post on the topic, Blizzard has been shooting down this idea for so long that the company itself has had to bring things forward from the old forums in their responses.

So we have the Nostalrius team invited to come and talk to Blizzard at some point in June.  They will come armed with their own experiences in running a Vanilla focused server as well as the results of a survey that have been running about what people might want.

And then there is Mark Kern, who is trying to elbow his way into this affair in the hope that if he walks in front of the parade people will think he is leading it, to deliver a printed copy of an online petition.  Not an ally I would choose, as I would put the odds of him making things worse at about 50-50. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he just made the whole thing up.)

Still, things are happening.

While the thaw on this topic is nice, the fun has only started.  Those against the whole idea won’t cease to carp about it.  It is known.  Blizzard itself may simply hope that this whole thing will die down and be drowned out by the noise of the Warcraft movie and the impending launch of the WoW Legion expansion. But the real looming holy war will come if Blizzard actually agrees to do some sort of vanilla server.

What is a vanilla server really, and how should it operate?

WoW launched on November 23, 2004.

The Cataclysm expansion, which replaced the original 1-60 content with a new version, went live on December 7, 2010.

A day that will live in infamy...

A day that will live in infamy…

That is a six year gap during which a lot of things changed, even if the landscape remained about the same.  If I were Blizzard, any plan I built up around vanilla would involve something a lot closer to 2010 than 2004.  A lot of fixes and upgrades no doubt went into the code during those six years.

And that would be fine with me.  My own goals for such a server are focused on having the old content back, especially the 5 person dungeon content like the original Deadmines and the full version of Sunken Temple.  But that puts classes into the Wrath of the Lich King era.   While that time is a favorite of mine, even I will admit that the classes were hardly vanilla by then and that power creep in the spec trees made most options at least a bit overpowered down in the 1-60 content.  Blizz would need to tinker with that some to get things balanced for the original content.

That, however, will not be a satisfactory answer.  I suspect that a loud subset of those who want a vanilla server will draw the line at January 14, 2007, the last day before The Burning Crusade went live. (Atheren’s has a link to the final vanilla patch if you are interested.)  And among that group, there will likely be divisions as to how close to November 23, 2004 things have to get in order to be able to claim that things are really vanilla or not.  Somebody is going to call out Maraudon as “that new stuff” and somebody else won’t be satisfied unless Captain Placeholder is back in Menethil Harbor.

And while we are all arguing over what time stamp makes for an authentic vanilla server, there is the follow on question as to how Blizzard should operate such a server.

My own bias is that such servers should progress.  That is because, for me, one of the best parts about the SOE/Daybreak nostalgia servers has been everybody starting off at level 1 together in a giant mass.  To me that is far more important than any purity of content.  And once the bulk of the population has risen to the level cap, the fun wears off until another unlock comes along and another great mass rush begins.

Of course, progression runs into a problem just three expansions in for WoW, as then Cataclysm hits and the old world for which we are currently clamoring goes away.  Dammit Blizzard.  Furthermore, progression means that anybody late to the party misses the fun bit unless another such server is launched.  And launching a new server inevitably draw from the population of the older server, reducing its numbers.

So, for me, the most enticing part of such a server is transitory at best.  (It also explains why I am down with even Blizzard’s half-assed special rules server idea.  That would at least give me something, if not everything, I want.)

But no progression, just a static vanilla forever server, would quickly lose that new world feel as players capped out, did their nostalgia raiding, made an alt or two, and moved on.  A community will develop and remain.  Somebody will always stick around as we saw with EverQuest: Macintosh Edition, which sat with the same content for 9 years.  But a special server with most of the population lingering at level cap starts to feel more like a museum than a game.  But, if you were looking for that vanilla experience on demand, without the new server feel, at least it would be there.

So there we stand.  The only sure thing in all of this is that no matter what Blizzard does, somebody will be pissed off.  I have seen it in the flames.

Looking for Nostalgia in The Commonlands

In a turn of events which should surprise nobody who reads this blog regularly, having spent a chunk of the past week or so writing posts about the demise of EverQuest Next, the seventeenth anniversary of EverQuest, a new feature in EverQuest II, and related… or somewhat related… Daybreak topics, I had the urge to spend some time in Norrath over the weekend.

I am, if nothing else, predictable.  Even I could see this coming part way into those posts.

Encapsulated Norrathian Nostalgia Trigger Warning

Encapsulated Norrathian Nostalgia Trigger Warning

The question was where to go.

I am setup with Daybreak Access at the moment, so all servers are available to me.

EverQuest, the ancestral home of Norrathian nostalgia for me would seem to be the natural choice.  But EverQuest is also difficult for me to get into on a whim.  Basically, the live servers are out as everything past Luclin is “that new crap,” which doesn’t hold much interest for me.  An insta-85 character holds no fascination for me.  I could start from scratch again and visit old haunts with a mercenary in tow, but all of that is off the main path of the game and I would end up with yet another barely equipped and impoverished character.

I have a few characters on Fippy Darkpaw, but that server has probably run its course at this point.  And there aren’t even any mercenaries so I would have to wander about solo.

The Phinigel server, Daybreak’s “true box” attempt to fix one of the loudest complaints about past progression servers, was a possibility.  It has only been around since early December and is still in Kunark.  I might actually be able to find a group, though that was far from a sure thing.

Still, I wasn’t really feeling it for classic Norrath, which meant looking at EverQuest II.

I have a lot more investing in post-cataclysm Norrath, with characters between level 20-75 spread over three of the live servers (even after the server merges) as a start, plus a few characters on the Stormhold progression server.

I decided to go with Stormhold.  While it is down the path and into the Kingdom of Sky expansion, with the unlock vote in progress for Echoes of Faydwer expansion, EQII is also solo friendly enough that not being with the pack of current players won’t automatically make the whole thing a bust as it would in EQ.

And I made a few characters on the server back when it went live.  They are all past the Isle of Refuge, the initial nostalgia point for the server.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Past that and into the game though… well… with an eye to trying something different AND experiencing nostalgia, I decided to roll on the Freeport side of Norrath, and I am not sure how well that is working out, and whether or not that speaks to nostalgia or just the way the server was configured on that first pass.

The thing is that the quest path after the Isle of Refuge, through the Freeport sub-zones, into The Commonlands, and so forth feels a bit rough.  The pacing of quest chains often seems to assume you have gained a level with each quest turn-in, and unlikely scenario with the reduced experience gain on the nostalgia server.  And then I have the occasional quest giver suddenly present you with a quest five levels or so above the last one they gave you.  Meanwhile, the quests lines themselves also are not very good at sending you on to the next quest or the next zone or whatever.  This is not helped by the fact that my knowledge of Freeport was largely formed by a single character I rolled there about eight years back.

Of course, I am sure that the old quest chains on the Qeynos side of things feel equally awkward at this late date.  However, on that side of the world you still have the ability to opt into New Halas and vicinity, which is a very good and well structured solo-to-20 experience, form which you can pick up and head to Nek Forest or the Thundering Steppes.  Not authentic nostalgia, but then what is?

On the Freeport side your alternate option is Darklight Woods and the starter quest chain there which, upon trying it, sent me scurrying back to Freeport and The Commonlands.  I can deal with the patently ludicrous “we’re the evil faction so we have to be total butts to everybody, even those on our own team” that pervades Neriak, the rightly named “City of Hate.”  Horrible role playing, but whatever.  However, the layout of Neriak seems more likely to make it “the City You Hate.”  I have complained in the past about finding Freeport overly complicated in layout, but it is the model of sanity compared to Neriak.

So I spent a good chunk of my weekend in The Commonlands, chasing down cooking ingredients for Mooshga just outside the Freeport gates and picking up what quests I managed to find along the way while trying to gauge just how “heroic” heroic encounters really are.  I’ve forgotten how to read the finery around a mob’s name plate that indicates just how tough of a fight they are… beyond “more and thicker and having an actual probably makes them a tougher fight.”  My Shadow Knight managed a few levels during that time, and sits at 17.  Not quite enough to head into Nektulos Forest yet, which is where Mooshga has me going next, so I need to find some more quests before I decide to leave The Commonlands behind.

Nine is a Magic Number

Yes, I was testing you… it’s nine. And that’s a magic number

-Dewey Finn, School of Rock, misquoting Schoolhouse Rock

However the magic being referenced here is mostly a product of stubbornness or persistence or force of habit as opposed to anything that one would find amazing or entertaining.

Also, references to my childhood

Also, reference to my childhood

Yes, here we are again, another anniversary, the ninth time through this sort of post.  If I were married to the blog, something my wife might suggest was the case at times, Hallmark would be suggesting I buy it something of pottery or willow or perhaps leather if you prefer the modern view.  Instead all it is getting is words, just like every year.

But just to keep on the video game theme, WordPress.com even popped up an achievement for me at 17:05 UTC, which I guess is when I clicked the create button nine years back.

WP9YearAchievement

“Good blogging” is making something of an assumption there I suppose, but I appreciate the sentiment I guess.

Meanwhile, past runs through this sort of post for those who just need to know what came before.

I think I have settled down into a pretty regular pattern at this point.  I went well out of my way with some stats in the early years, in part because they were easy to derive with only a year or two of data to sift through.  Now I just present what is close to hand and hope for the best.

Base Statistics

An attempt to quantify what I have done here in the last twelve months.  The change over last years totals are noted in parentheses.

Days since launch: 3,287 (+365)
Posts total: 3,707 (+360)
Average posts per day: 1.13 (-0.02)
Comments: 25,558 (+2,346)
Average comments per post: 6.9 (+0.0)
Average comments per day: 7.8  (-0.1)
Spam comments: 1,277,992 (+104,525)
Average spam comments per day: 388.8 (-12.8)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 50 (-0.6)
Comments written by me: 2,994 or 11.7%
Images uploaded:  9,259 (+1244)
Space used by images: 2.1 GB of my 3 GB allocation (70%)

Eventually we’re going to need a bigger boat or something for all the picture I upload.

Further stats, summaries, a mildly off-the-rails semi-rant, and a forward looking statement are hidden below because I seem to be going on and on this year.  ~4,000 words after the cut for those interested in such things.

Continue reading

Return to a LEGO Galaxy Far, Far Away

The age of the gaming console has pretty much faded in our house.  We have had a Wii for more than eight years now, but it has been mostly collecting dust for the last few years.  The last thing I did with it was bring up Pokemon Ranch to get back all the Pokemon I had stored in it last summer during my Pokemon binge.  I am pretty sure I could pack the unit, the controllers, and all the games up in a box and store them away without anybody in the house protesting.

Our PlayStation 3, now four years in the house, gets more attention.  Hooked up to our TV, it gets used to play BluRay movies or stream content from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Video games though?  Not so much.  Little Big Planet, once my daughter’s favorite thing ever, the game that got her to leave the Wii behind, hasn’t been played in ages.  The last games that got played on the unit were the short bout with the poor PS3 port of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a bit of Diablo III, picked up with a GameStop gift card my daughter got for Christmas.  Those were both very brief encounters.

The mojo had clearly gone from our console gaming.

As I waxed nostalgic around Christmas about the days back when my daughter would wake me up early on Saturday mornings so we could jump in the Love Sac and play Mario Party 8 or Mario Kart Double Dash or LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, my wife decided that we might be due for a replacement.  Our late cat Trixie kept peeing on the Love Sac, so we had to get rid of it, and with it went what seemed to be an essential part of our console gaming mix; the ability to lounge comfortably on something close to the TV.

My wife decided to fix this, so got me a six foot Cozy Sack for my birthday back in March.  A discount competitor to Love Sac, it cost about a third as much as a Love Sac of comparable size and delivers about 80-90% of the experience.

With that, I decided to see if I could tempt my daughter back into playing video games with me on Saturday morning.  Not early Saturday morning… neither of us are keen to get up early these days… but at the more reasonable, post-breakfast hour.  But what game to choose?

Looking through our small-ish collection of PlayStation 3 titles… at least relative to our Wii collection… I decided to go with a classic.  Back when we bought the PS3, I decided to get a couple titles that we already had on the Wii so I could compare the game play.  One of those was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

PlayStation version

PlayStation version

While we had to played the first LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, (Game Cube versions for both) when the LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga came out we had to have it on launch day and we played the hell out of it.

So I loaded it up, jumped into the Cozy Sack and called my daughter to come play with me.

It didn’t really work.  She came over and watched me play for a bit, but then went back to whatever she was doing.  My wife watched for much longer, but was not inclined to pick up a controller and join me.  But I was comfy and enjoying myself, so I persisted.  I have done a few levels every weekend and have been enjoying myself quite a bit.

The game has held up for me very well.  Part of that is its simplicity.

Traveller’s Tales has put out quite a list of LEGO games at this point.  We have LEGO Batman, both LEGO Indiana Jones titles, both LEGO Harry Potter titles, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars IIILEGO Lord of the Rings, and The LEGO Movie game.

As the years have gone by and new titles have been released, Traveller’s Tales has worked to keep the series fresh by adding in new features and new mechanics.  Viewed from that angle, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga feels more than a bit clunky.  Everything is jump or shoot or light sabre or use the force with a special mode events appearing very infrequently.

On the flip side though, this is still the culmination of Traveller’s Tales “getting” what makes their LEGO game series great.  After two tries, where the original LEGO Star Wars was too much of a hard core video game and The Original Trilogy still showed some tuning was needed, it felt like they finally got the basic model for their LEGO games down with this one.

So, going back to that early model of the LEGO game idea was refreshing.  A lot of what I said about the game in the past still holds true, including it being perfectly fine on a PS3 controller versus using the Wii Remote.  And, while only running at 720p, it looks much better than the 480p Wii version, not to mention not being rendered in a way that makes the universe far, far away look like it was just buffed to a high gloss finish.

I am at the 40% mark according to the game, with only two episodes left undone.  When I wrap those up I’ll have to decide if I want to go back and find all the mini kits and get the True Jedi achievement on each level, not to mention unlocking all the characters that you have to buy.

 

A Sad Day for Sims

Upon seeing the news about Maxis yesterday, I realized that I had probably not sat down and really played a game from Maxis this century.

I bought a copy of SimCity 2000 from GoG.com for some tiny price back when EA/Maxis was busy shooting itself in the foot with the latest SimCity.  That was the last game in the series I could recall having played.  And I put SimCity 4 on my Steam wishlist and a reader actually bought it for me. (Thank you again!)  But I never managed to sit down and focus on playing either for any real length of time.  The crude graphics and the awkward interfaces of both chased me away pretty quickly.  Minecraft seems more palatable to me these days than either of those.  And I certainly wasn’t going to give EA any money for their latest version.

And without SimCity, what is there when it comes to Maxis?

Well, I guess there is The Sims, the best selling game series ever and probably the one reason that there is still a Maxis left to shut down in 2015.  EA seem dumb, evil, and heartless… often on the same day… but they do love the sound of money.  It’s just a good thing they haven’t figured out how to make money via malware or we would… oh, wait, I forgot about Origin.  Never mind.

However, I never played The Sims, aside from a brief dalliance with the Facebook version, back when that was how all game companies were going to get rich like Zynga, and we saw how that turned out.

And your father smelt of elderberries...

My usual interaction options with Tobold… we flirt shamelessly

And if I understand the history correctly, EA had already brought The Sims into their Redwood Shores lair, placing it directly under their control before letting it return to the Maxis logo, creating a taint that explained to some why The Sims 4 seemed like a step back from The Sims 3 in many ways.  So that wasn’t going to keep Maxis viable any more.  EA could just snatch The Sims back any time they felt like it.

Fun Created Here!

Fun Created Here!

And without The Sims, that left Maxis with… um… SimCity 2013 and… Spore maybe?  Talk about a couple of titles that failed to live up to expectations.  I didn’t even know that Spore had a follow-on game, which was even more poorly received.

So I suppose the real question is why it took EA so long to finally shut Maxis down and close their no doubt pricey digs across the bay in Emeryville. (I had a job interview right around the corner from Maxis back in 2010, with another company that is no longer around.)

Still, I feel some lingering nostalgia for Maxis.  I remember back when the original SimCity came out, when it was something new and different and people were struggling with the idea of it being a game because there was no obvious win condition.  Some were insisting we call it a computer “toy” or some other ambiguous title.

SimCity back in the day

SimCity back in the day

Back then I played many, many hours of SimCity.  Likewise with SimCity 2000 (which like a lot of games of its era, was much better on Mac OS).  I would let my city run while I was in the other room or at work (with disasters turned off naturally) to build up a tax base and then spend the evening expanding my domain and fighting off fires and alien invasions, all while trying to keep my ungrateful population happy enough to not flee the city.  I’ll tax you little bastards back to the stone age!  I remember the music especially, the jolly, bouncing, honky tonk tones of a happy thriving city or, more commonly, that trudging, day-to-day, we’re just getting by melody.  Is the SimCity 2000 sound track available on iTunes?

I am pretty sure I also bought SimCity 3000, but can only recall a mild sense of disappointment.  Plus it came out in 1999 when EverQuest pretty much owned my play time.

A bunch of other “Sim” games came from Maxis over the years, none of which really appealed to me.  Looking at the list of Maxis games, there are a lot of titles there that I let pass on by.  I think Maxis might have been ahead of their time in some ways.  SimFarm, as an example, was never a hit back in the day, but Farming Simulator has sold millions of copies on Steam.  Gaff can’t get enough of that one.  The simulation craze came too late for Maxis.

The only other Maxis titles I can muster much nostalgia for are RoboSport and Marble Drop.

RoboSport was a simultaneous move, multiplayer combat game, something of a precursor to the Combat Mission series of games, where both sides give their units instructions during the orders phase, then both sides act on those order at the same time during the combat phase.  For a season, when we were not playing Full Metal Mac or Bolo or NetTrek, it was the after work game of choice.

Then there was Marble Drop, which was probably the last Maxis game I purchased.  It apparently got poor reviews, but I recall it as being a fun little puzzle game that I played all the way through… though time may have fuzzed the edges of those memories.

A level in Marble Drop

A level in Marble Drop

And that is about it for the history of Maxis as viewed through the prism of my experience.  They mostly made games which I did not play.  Then they were acquired by EA which kept them around a lot longer than some other studios they have purchased.  But now Maxis has joined the list of the departed, along with Mythic, Origin, Kesmai, Westwood, Pandemic, and Bullfrog.

You can argue over whether Electronic Arts buys studios that were destined to die anyway or, if by buying them, EA destroys them on its own.  Either way, there does seem to be a pretty strong correlation between being bought by EA and being shut down by EA.

But the world of video games is volatile and it isn’t like the only studios that shut down are the ones owned by EA.  So we say farewell to Maxis and wish good luck to those who are now out there looking for a job.

I feel like I have been writing a lot of these nostalgic/memory/milestone/obituary posts lately.  What is up with 2015?