Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Diablo Returns via GoG.com

While Valve was out making itself look bad in front of the world, Blizzard and GoG.com were conspiring to bring back a video game classic, the original Diablo.

Diablo at GoG.com

Seeing the news about this over at Ars Technica, I immediately went to GoG.com and bought a copy.

You actually get two versions of the game for your $10.

Diablo Launcher

There is Diablo (Classic), which is pretty much the original game, fixed up a bit to run, and able to get onto Battle.net.

Then there is the GoG.com Diablo, which has been jiggered to run better and scale to larger monitors.

Having tinkered with the original Diablo on Win7 a couple years back… you could get it to run, but there were some quirks to be sure… I was keen to try the GoG.com version.  And, just a ways in, I can say it sure feels like the real deal.

Wandering Tristram

I got in and went straight for the dungeon looking for an old friend.

Enter The Butcher!

The game looks and plays like it is 1997 again… which means the graphics are crap and the whole thing feels extremely primitive.  But it is true to the times.   After all, I think my phone has more processing power than every computer I owned during the 90s combined.  And it certainly has better graphical resolution than any monitor I owned.

And then there is the way the game plays.  A lot of what I think of when it comes to the Diablo series comes from Diablo II.  It took the original and lifted it, improving the game in many ways.  So I was reminded how things used to be… like there being one potion per hotbar slot.  Were there belts in the original Diablo?  Or was that a D2 thing?  And then there is the fact that when your gear runs out of durability it is destroyed.  I lost almost all of my gear fighting the Butcher, but I killed him in the end.  And a good thing too, I needed that weapon.

The Butcher Down and Me Disarmed

It is also hard to just find loot on the dark dungeon floors.  I don’t think that is just because my eyes are 20+ years older now.

Whacking skeletons with the Butcher’s axe

I doubt this is a game that will impress anybody not old enough to have played it when it came out.  Back then it was a revelation.  The Blizzard North team got a lot of stuff right.  It is sure more authentic than the Darkening of Tristram event that Blizzard put into Diablo III.

I suppose the real question is, “Why GoG.com?”

Blizzard goes on in that post I linked about not being able to put it into the Blizzard launcher because it doesn’t tie into the current back end architecture, but that begs the question.  Blizzard has the kind of resources to fix or update the code.  However, they let GoG.com do the improvements.

I mean, good for GoG.com and all.  They just had some layoffs so something that helps support them is probably a good thing.  Maybe they have the retro-restoration experience that Blizzard does not for this sort of thing.  And it sounds like they may get to do similar work with Warcraft and Warcraft II.

All of which is great, but I still want a full remaster of Diablo II.

Norrath Nostalgia Tour turns into Literal Nostalgia Tour

One of the early themes on this blog was nostalgia for Norrath and the annual autumnal return to EverQuest or EverQuest II.  If you go way back to September 2006 you’ll find that to be the topic of the third post on the site.  So there is a lot of history/tradition here, and I have referred to it as a “nostalgia tour” off and on since that time.

As has probably happened more often than not here over the years, autumn showed up and I started thinking about Norrath. And, as also tends to be the case, I feel a bit lost as to where to go these days. It is hard to believe that EverQuest II and World of Warcraft were not even two years old when I started the blog.

Fortunately Bhagpuss had a suggestion for me and, as I noted last week, I started down that path by visiting Yun Zi and picking up the Days of Summer quests.

I’m here for the event please

Before getting to the current version of the event I had to go through and run the 2017 quest line.

Getting started

The event is, as the title notes, literally a tour of Norrath, with the 2017 version running players through various expansions with each quest.  This started well in my range of knowledge, kicking off in the Desert of Flames, where you had to head off to various points in the expansion to get updates.

Peeking in on the Silent City

I could not do the quest without some help.  I am not sure how I was supposed to divine the destination for the little icons presented (except perhaps the coin with the Maj’Dul faction on it) and I honestly did not have the patience to fly hither and yon about the expansion trying to guess.  But even with the locations from the wiki to hand I did have to fly around a bit to figure out where to go.

The next quest, which feature the Kingdom of Sky expansion, was a little bit more tricky.  I played EQII from launch until KoS, took a break then, and then came back with Echoes of Faydwer, so I avoided a lot of KoS.  I did end up running through it at one point, so it wasn’t totally alien to me, but I did need to use the waypoints provided by the wiki now and again to figure out where to go.

I do actually remember coming here at one point

After that it was off to Echoes of Faydwer, which was the great revival expansion for EverQuest II, where they decided maybe they should just ignore the lore from EverQuest.  With this they chose to embrace it.

In the Butcherblock harbor

That return to the lore proved popular and revitalized the game somewhat.  With that expansion, which came out in November of 2006, we’re into the era of the blog.

Welcome to the nut house

Having played through much of Faydwer repeatedly, I was again able to just travel based on the locations the wiki fed me.

The next quest brought me to Rise of Kunark, which might be the last expansion I played, or at least purchased, at launch. (I have the little pewter bear mount on my bookshelf still.)  I wrote a bit about my getting stuck in the waterfall, but otherwise was able to get around the expansion pretty well.

After that, however, I was in unknown territory.  The expansion list for the game goes on… and gets a bit strange… but they are mostly areas where I either haven’t been, or if I have been there, I did so without really knowing which expansion I was wandering around.  Still, some of it looked nice and I got a feel for the generally increasing level caps of the zones.

Somewhere pretty… not sure which expansion

But with my heroic boosted Shadow Knight (chosen because he can one-shot just about anything I’ve ever run into) and copious help from the wiki (I not only had to use waypoints but also look up how to simply get to certain areas) I was able to complete the 2017 series of quests.

That done I was able to start in on the 2018 set of quests.  For those I got out my level 96 berserker, Sigwerd, who I consider my “main,” even though I have four level 100s.  He is the one character I have leveled up the furthest in the old fashioned way.  He at least made it through Kunark before I used a free boost on him a couple years back.  I forget if it was level 90 or 95, but he made it to 96 and has been lingering ever since.

I chose him because the 2018 quests go back to the original zones of EverQuest II, so I clearly wasn’t going to need a character that could one-shot level 100 heroics.

While I wasn’t going to need directions on how to get the various zones, I still used the list of destinations from the wiki.  With that I was pretty sure I could find the landmarks, starting in Antonica.

Heading to Coldwind Point

I rolled through that, seeing the sights from so long ago, then it was off to the Commonlands.

Looks like a golf course

Nek Forest, on the other hand, was a bit more challenging.  As often as I ran through there, I was at a bit of a loss for some of the landmarks and had to wander for a bit before finding a couple of them.  This was as much because of the claustrophobic feel of the zone as anything.

The Thundering Steppes though, there I raced ahead to each landmark.

At the Shrine of Decay

I rushed so fast that I missed a checkpoint and only realized I wasn’t getting updates when I was way over in the Ruins of Karana, so had to backtrack and run through again.

After that the Enchanted Lands were a breeze, it being a smallish zone with landmarks I well remember.  And then Zek, a run which ended predictably at Deathfist Citadel.

I’ve been here before

And then I was drawn up short.  Apparently, in Norrath, summer runs with the baseball season, and the last three weeks of the event, with a zone each, had yet to unlock.

So I was all caught up.  Now I have to wait like everybody else for the event to finish as well as finding something else to do in Norrath.

No More Toys for Us

I remember the coming of the big Toys R Us store in Sunnyvale, over on El Camino Real near Mathilda Avenue.  It was, in a somewhat conservative time, a brash statement of color.

Something akin to what it looked like back in the day – Pic swiped from the internet

And, more importantly to me at the time, if was full of toys.

More recently they transformed the building into the bland beige store front style so common on strip malls across the country.  But for a while it stood out.  And it was haunted.

Of course, as a kid, it was a big deal even without the alleged ghost. (There is a post on Snopes about the haunting, a recurring story here in the valley, which had to get mentioned one last time when the location was set to close.)  But toy stores seemed to be a thing back then.  We not only had Toys R Us expanding into the valley, we also had a local chain, Kiddie World, with a couple of equally sizable locations, and later another big store… King Something’s Kingdom of Toys I think… it was over off of Interstate 880 with a big wooden soldier on the front of the building … along with smaller local retailers and the mall toy stores that eventually all became KB Toys.  And then there were the pseudo-toy stores, the hobby shops and the like, which grew in importance to me as time moved along.

I suppose it is in the nature of being a child, know where all the toy stores are and which retailer has a decent toy department and which does not.  I recall being disappointed with the one at Sears back in the day.

But even before the internet began to thin the heard of brick and mortar toy stores things were changing.  Silicon Valley was growing.  The population has more than doubled since that Toys R Us location opened.  Population pressures and a level of land scarcity (exacerbated by zoning laws favoring single family detached dwellings, leading the valley to be called a gang of suburbs in search of a city) began pushing up real estate prices, something reflected in retail rental costs, which killed off a lot of the small, independent toy stores.

Time, change, and competition send others packed.  That big toy store off 880 whose name eludes me was gone by the end of the 80s.  By the mid-90s Kiddie World, shrunk to a single location not too far down the road from the haunted Toys R Us, was trying to make its way by focusing on patio furniture and backyard play sets before it closed down.  And, as I mentioned, KB Toys scooped up the mall toy stores… at least before land value made having as many malls as we did economically nonviable.  And then even it fell over, as did the famous FAO Schwartz.

But Toys R Us seemed to be able to hang on and even thrive, scooping up fallen rivals and opening up Babies R Us in the late 90s, the go-to store for new parents.  Gift cards to Babies R Us were very welcome at baby showers and the like.  And in the age of Amazon the chain was able to strike a deal with wrecker of the status quo, even if Amazon reneged on the deal.

The chain was around for my daughter to grow up with.  Trips there were fun for the both of us.  There is something about being able to see and touch toys in person, to get their measure in reality, that surpasses any online purchasing experience.  The web is for buying, but stores are for browsing.  And Pokemon events.  Toys R Us used to host Pokemon download events, and my daughter and I attended more than a few of those.

However the internet kept pressure on the company while retail competitors like Target and WalMart.  Then they screwed up a couple of season of buying and were soon in deep trouble, needing to borrow more money for 2017 holiday season, a time of year which generates the lion’s share of their revenue.  That did not pay off and, having not turned a profit since 2013, the company was in serious trouble.

And so it goes.  Today, Friday, June 29, 2018, the last Toys R Us in the US is closing down.  It has been reported that their overseas subsidiaries will follow suit and the company will effectively disappear.  There is a farewell notice on their web site.

Farewell from Toys R Us

I am, at least theoretically, well past the need for a toy store, though I have persisted pretty well on the “don’t ever grow up” front.  As well as can be expected.

My daughter too is past toy stores for now, but she was sad as well when she heard the news.  She remembers going there when she was younger.  It was a memorable experience, a rite of childhood, being able to go to a big toy store.  And she has picked up some of my sense of nostalgia as she has realized that childhood doesn’t last forever.  The only constant in life is change.

And so one more facet of my life, of my daughter’s life, of the life of the valley, passes into memory.

Good-bye Geoffrey!

It will be a while… I hope… until grand kids are a concern.  I wonder what will fill the gap for them?  What will replace the toy store experience?  Or will video and virtual be all they know?

EverQuest at Nineteen Launches a New Server

I see it around me
I see it in everything

-My Sundown, Jimmy Eat World

Here we are at EverQuest’s nineteenth birthday.  Cue the usual tale about buying it at Fry’s on the way home from work back on March 16, 1999, arriving home, installing it, and being instantly hooked.

And, as I have opined before, if you had told me I might still be able to play the game in 2018, that it would still be live and viable and getting expansions, I am pretty sure I would have at least politely agreed to disagree on that.

Back in 2007 I put up a post wondering how many more expansions we could expect from EverQuest.  The game just turned eight years old, the producers had announced that they were cutting back to a single expansion every year, the Sayonara Norrath video had already been making people misty eyed for a couple years, and I was guessing that it would make it at least to the ten year mark, maybe getting expansions out to twelve years.

In reality last year saw the Ring of Scale expansion launched, the 24th expansion for the game and here we are again for my annual homage to the world of Norrath.  How does it do it?  How has the game lasted so long?

Sure, it isn’t the oldest game out there.  It isn’t even the oldest MMO.  But a lot of things its age are quirky niche games in an already niche genre or are being run more as a hobby or labor of love than as a viable business venture.

EverQuest has followed the industry trends over the years, easing the death penalty, instancing content, focusing on quests, and going free to play.  They have even taken a shot at upgrading the graphical quality of some of the early zones. I am not sure how much any of that has really helped though.  Did free to play bring enough new players?  Did anybody like the reworked Freeport and Commonlands?

What keeps EverQuest going?

I think it helps that Daybreak owns the IP.  A licensed IP means writing a check to somebody else every month, not to mention the need to protect the IP, which means the owner might not want it attached to some maintenance mode shanty town.

Likewise, I think that its age is actually a benefit.  It stands out as one of the early archetypes of the genre, the trail blazer of what became the path most followed.  Also, having been initially built in during a time that pre-dates the rise in popularity of the genre meant that much of the game had to be built from scratch.  That means less third party tools and middle-ware that has a regular license fee attached.  It isn’t as simple as just having enough money to pay the electric bill and the network connection fee (and the domain registration, let’s not forget that… again).  I am sure there is a hefty database in there that has an annual maintenance contract.

So, while EverQuest does cost money simply to run (probably more than you or I think), and even more to keep people maintaining it, the absolute base line level to keep it alive is considerably less than a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic, which has bills every month for a licensed IP, the HeroEngine on which it was built, and probably a pile of additional middle-ware and tools for the team, not to mention the revenue expectations of EA which, as a public company, has to trim products that are not performing. (I bag on EA a lot, but they are a product of the Wall Street environment.)

But the strongest card in its hand seems to be nostalgia, wherein it also benefits from its age.  If you wandered into the MMORPG genre in 2008 or later, you might have picked one of any number of games… though you probably went for World of Warcraft.

However, if you started playing before the year 2000, you likely played one of three titles, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, or EverQuest… and it was probably EverQuest.  Even if you moved on to other games, or moved to WoW and never looked back like a lot of people… EverQuest remained the foundation of the genre for a lot of players.  While the subscriber base peaked just past 500K, millions of people came and went from the game by the time WoW showed up at ate the genre.

And so EverQuest plays on that, and rightly so.  It works.  Expansions revisit old themes like elemental planes, pirates, or dragons, along with old locations such as Faydwer and Kunark.

But most of all this nostalgia is harnessed via special servers.  This is the magic… and money making magic, since you have to opt-in on an old fashioned subscription in order to play… that seems to keep people interested and returning to old Norrath.  Subscriptions for the nostalgic and expansions that hearken back to familiar themes for those who never left.

And so it only seems natural that today, on the game’s nineteenth birthday, Daybreak is launching yet another time locked, true box, instanced raiding, multi-zone spawning, something something, progression server, Coirnav.

Coirnav the fast and bulbous

Coirnav the Avatar of Water is a raid boss from from the plane of water, thus rolling back on that elemental planes theme I mentioned above.

There is a FAQ for the Coirnav server, though as far as I can tell it matches what they did for the last such server, which I think was Agnarr.  I believe with this there will be six such progression servers running for EverQuest, which leads one to the question of when should they end and be merged back into the live servers.  The problem is that EverQuest has so many expansions to unlock that every 12 weeks you still end up with a five year mission.

But roll on nostalgia if it keeps people interested and playing/paying.  I believe the best part is the first few months when everybody is new and the possibility of finding new people to play with is very real.  Once you get past Ruins of Kunark things settle into the more traditional fixed groups we know from many other MMOs.

I won’t be joining in for this round.  I had a good time with the Fippy Darkpaw server (which is still running) back in 2011, but I am not sure I am ready for any sort of serious return. (Follow the tag for the life and times of that server.)  I read somewhere that the internet has brought about the post-nostalgia era, since nostalgia means a longing for something gone and you can now find just about anything on a web page somewhere.  Certainly the knowledge that EverQuest is there and that I could go wander around the world and play for a bit should I ever want keeps me from missing Norrath as much as I might.

Future grad students will have a bounty of information about all of our trivial thoughts when they look back on the dawn of the 21st century.

Anyway, here is to nineteen years of EverQuest!

It is a nostalgia post, so I might as well close with a nostalgia video.  Here is the updated 720p version of Sayonara Norrath from 2004.

I am not sure it needed to be upped to 720p.  Certainly the graphics from the game were not up to that standard at the time.  But I still get a little misty eyed seeing all the old locations go by.

What Other Pains will WoW Classic Bring?

Over at Massively OP Syp published a Perfect Ten column about the perils of getting what you ask for in the form of WoW Classic.

WoW Client from Days Gone By

The list he came up with is almost charming in its scope, featuring things some people have been literally clamoring for in a vanilla server, like no Dungeon Finder and old school talent trees and new skills that don’t magically appear in you skill book.  And believe me, inventory space is still at a premium in WoW Legion today.  We have three damn hearthstones to start with.

So I started trying to come up with other aspects of vanilla WoW that people might have forgotten or actively suppressed from their memory.  So, to steal Syp’s idea and add to the list, here are a few that stick out for me:

Just Being Poor

Gold was scarce and you would collect every bit of gray trash to vendor just for the few silver coins it might bring.  One of my earliest memories of World of Warcraft is going to my class trainer and realizing that I did not have enough coins to train all of my skills.  This got a little better as time went on but, like so many things, it seemed to be especially burdensome for new players.

Expensive Epic Mounts

Even when you think you’re no longer poor you end up running into this.  I don’t even remember the price of the level 60 fast mount, but you had to buy the skill, which was expensive, and then you had to buy a mount, which wasn’t cheap either.  And then there were the paladin and warlock mounts, both of which had long quests, needed the skill, and cost even more to finally acquire.  Our little group did both of those.

The instance group all mounted up

Mounts in Inventory

And if you are worried about inventory slots, then you might have blotted the fact that your mount took up a spot in your bag.  You kept your favorite mount with you and, if you had others, you left them stashed in your bank… which was probably also full.

You Are Mounted

It seemed like any mob that tagged you would dismount you.  But if you went to a flight point and tried to get on the bird while still mounted, you would just get an error message flash on your screen informing you that you were still mounted.  At one point Blizz tried to go through and automatically make you dismount when a task required it, but there are still a few corner cases in the game where you can get that message.  But back in the day you had to manually dismount for damn near everything.

Point to Point Flight Paths

While we’re on the topic of travel, flight points were different back then.  While being able to fly past flight points you hadn’t visited is a more recent change, back in the day you couldn’t even automatically fly through multiple flight points.  Sitting up in Darnassus and want to fly to Tanaris?  It didn’t matter if you have the whole route on your map, you could only fly to a flight point directly connected to your current location, at which point your trip would stop until you talked to that flight master and picked the next connecting flight point.  Non-stop flights eventually came, but for a long stretch you had to get off the bird to catch your connecting flight.

Still, it probably wasn’t as bad as taking the tram from Stormwind to Ironforge, getting distracted, and then finding yourself heading back to where you started again.

Hunters with Ammo and Quivers

I still have a few old hunters I rolled up back in the day on various servers that still have quivers or ammo pouches with ammo in them.  Hunters were really this strangely different class back in the day, which I think explains some of the love/hate relationship people have with the class even today.

So yes, you had to have ammo for your ranged weapon.  And you had access to better ammo as you leveled up, and getting that was pretty much critical to remaining effective.  And then there was player made ammo, which was a bit better… and also came in various levels.

And all this ammo had to go into your inventory, taking up precious space.  And if you wanted to draw ammo from inventory you had to keep it in a quiver or an ammo pouch, something that took up a whole bag slot.  Basically, hunters had four bags of general inventory while every other class had five.  Whoever thought that was a good idea had never done The Green Hills of Stranglethorn.

Hunter Pet Skills

This was one of those neat ideas that became awkward as you progressed.  Like every other class, Hunters had to go back to their trainer to get and upgrade their skills.  But not all of them were available to the trainer.  Some pet skills you had to learn in the wild.  What that meant was putting your pet in the stable (three slots only, no epic collections of pets back then), running out into the wild without your essential combat buddy, finding a mob with the skill you wanted to learn, taming that mob, then fighting along side it for a while before you would finally learn the skill, at which point you would abandon that pet and head home to teach your pet the skill and then carry on with your adventures.

Hunter Pet Levels

Hunter pets had their own independent level back in the day.  If you liked the model of a level 10 lion… like The Rake in the Barrens, with its special fast attack speed… but were level 30 already, you would have to go level up your pet to catch it up to your level.  And the only way to do that was to grind mobs.  You had to be really dedicated to a particular model to level up a pet more than a few levels.

Hunter/Pet Relationship

Again with the hunters… I know, but they were special and popular and helped make Azeroth what it is today.  But first they had to suffer.

So hunters also had a relationship with their pet based on being fed and letting them die and just fighting together.  A happy pet did more damage, so you wanted to keep them happy, which primarily meant keeping them well fed.  So in addition to having a while bag slot roped off and dedicated for ammo, you also had to keep a stack or two of pet food in your bags.  And not just any food, but the RIGHT food.  Some only ate meat, some only dairy, others a variety.  There was nothing like being out in the field and finding you were short of food and the only vendor around only sold something your pet wouldn’t eat.

And it was possible that, if neglected, you pet might run away.  I never had that happen, but the thought of it was enough for me to pack an extra stack or two of food… because stacks were only 20 units back in the day.

The Elf Run to Ironforge

If you made a Night Elf back in the day, you were probably found yourself pretty much alone over in Darnassus while your friends we all over having fun in Stormwind and Ironforge.  The reason you were alone was that Westfall was one of the best early zones and led to the Deadmines instance, so nearly every night elf before you had already gone there.  Getting there meant taking the ship to Menethil Harbor and then making the perilous run across the Wetlands to Dun Algaz and the tunnel that would bring you to the zone with Ironforge.

The Elf Run

Of course, the Wetlands was a level 20+ zone and you were likely level 10 tops… so everything could kill you and your aggro radius was huge.  And then, if you did make it and were a druid… well… you class trainer was back in Darnassus, which could be awkward.  But at least you had a travel form.  You did train the travel form, right?

Strange Dungeons

The current design philosophy for dungeons in Azeroth is like the old slogan for Dominos, “30 minutes or less.”  New ones are designed in that scope while older ones have been mostly trimmed back to that goal.

But back in vanilla WoW the design philosophy seemed to be… hrmm… more like, “We’re just doing something that seems cool!”

So instead of being configured for one run, some instances seemed to be designed for multiple visits.  Everybody’s favorite early instance, The Deadmines, had a level split from the start to the end that was wide enough that if you were set for Van Cleef the start of the run was all gray to you.  The Wailing Caverns were a long and confusing crawl.  Uldaman was another with a wide level gap designed for multiple runs… and the worst death respawn location ever.  There were three wings to Scarlet Monastery, but just getting there as alliance was a chore.  Then there was the epic puzzling majesty that was the original Sunken Temple.

And many of these had quest lines that tied them to the zone they were located, so you would have to do at least some of the zone in order to get the quests. (Otherwise, for example, Gryan Stoutmantle wouldn’t shout your name to the whole zone after you defeat Van Cleef.)  I look back at our instance runs through vanilla back in the 2006 to 2008 range and times were a lot different.  (Also, if you want to wallow in nostalgia I have a video from our first year and another one devoted just to Sunken Temple.)

It was, when it came to five person dungeons, a very different time.

The Great Stranglethorn Quest Gap

One of the things Syp mentioned was quests not filling in the experience gap to keep you advancing.  But that one is a lot deeper.  The thing is, quests were fine, you just had to make sure you did them all across a couple of zones.  For example, I would move back and forth between Stormwind and Ironforge, each of which had their own early zones, and do all the quests in both areas.  Doing that would keep you moving into appropriate level content and was easy enough to find.

Eventually though you were funneled into Stranglethorn Vale, with quests both odd and annoying, crowded with the flow of players, and unable to provide the experience boost needed to get you past it via questing alone.  There was a reason I had a number of characters sitting levels between 35 and 40 unplayed for ages.

If you went and did some research you could find Desolace as a possible alternative, though getting there from Menethil Harbor would take you an hour or so, if you didn’t get lost.  And there, in the pre-Maraudon days the quest chains were… odd?  You could end up running around trying to quest there, Arathi, or in the Swamp of Sorrows and still find yourself coming up short.  Or that was how it felt.  But once you got past that hurdle to about level 45 or so, more options started to open up, and from 50 to 60 there was almost an embarrassment of choices.  This was one of the reasons that Blizzard went back and filled in the Dustwallow Swamp with a bunch of additional quests.

Others

There are many others.  Useless trade skills, no quest locations on the map, dancing for tips, restricted class roles in raids, five minute pally buffs, Addons yet to be imagined, and more swim in and out of view in my brain.  But these are the ones I wanted to put on the growing list of what to possibly expect from WoW Classic.

Addendum: I case it is not clear, I embrace all of these items as part and parcel of the original experience and, in case you haven’t read any of my past posts about wanting something like WoW Classic Blizzard, I will be there on day one when it is launched,

MegaWars Dawn of the Third Age

In order to talk about MegaWars – Dawn of the Third Age I feel I need to delve into the well of ancient games from which I drew the title of this blog.  It is been a while since I’ve gone here, so a refresher might be due.

Back in the early-to-mid 1980s personal computers were becoming common, modems were increasingly becoming an option for the, and online services like CompuServe and GEnie began to flourish.  This was the pre-web era, when even having a GUI beyond a command prompt was considered.  (There is a whole “pre-web online services” category on Wikipedia.)

And while special interest forums, online encyclopedias, and services were often bullet points used to get people to sign up, it wasn’t long before online games came into being.  Kesmai was an early leader in online games and its Island of Kesmai on CompuServe was very much a precursor to today’s fantasy MMORPGs.

Also on CompuServe was a game called MegaWars III.  If Island of Kesmai foretold the fantasy side of the MMORPG genre, then MegaWars III was very much a hint as to what the future might bring when it came to internet spaceships in EVE Online.  Launched on CompuServe in January 1984, it gained a following even at the expensive hourly connect rates that online services charged back in the day.  $15 a month seems like a bargain compared to $6 an hour.

MegaWars III did not feature a long term persistent universe.  Instead games were four week long affairs that saw everybody logging on to scout on the first night to find and colonize planets.  There was a fixed amount of numbered star systems, but the planets around them, and the quality thereof, changed with each game.

Players would colonize and manage their planets, build up defenses, try to take planets from each other, and attempt to blow up each other’s ships.  At the end of the four weeks scores were tallied up and winners declared.  The leader of the highest scoring team was declared Emperor while the highest individual score was named President of the Imperial Senate.  The top 20 scoring players were made senators.

When GEnie arrived on the scene, they wanted online games too and got Kesmai to make a simplified version of MegaWars III which was called Stellar Warrior.  A fun game in its own right, and following the four week campaign model, it did not have the depth of MegaWars III with its planetary management module.  GEnie eventually got a straight up copy of MegaWars III a bit later in the form of Stellar Emperor.

And that is where I came in.  During the fourth four week Stellar Emperor campaign during the summer of 1986 I logged into GEnie via the modem I bought from Potshot for my Apple //e and started fumbling around with online games.

It was then that I first used the handle Wilhelm Arcturus.  I had been recruited by a team called the Arcturan Empire (-AE-) and learned the ways of the game sufficiently to become both Emperor of the Galaxy and President of the Imperial Senate.  You actually got physical trophies for that back then.

Pewter Cups Awarded for Emperor and President titles

The names are probably easier to read on the paper certificates that were also mailed out to winners, including those senators in the top 20.

Wilhelm d’Arcturus Emperor of the Galaxy

Wilhelm d’Arcturus – President on the Imperial Senate

Later I dropped the “d” from the last name to become simply Wilhelm Arcturus.  My tales from those days can be found here:

And so it went.  For most of the balance of the 1980s MegaWars III and Stellar Emperor ran along as identical twins.  As the 90s approached GEnie and Kesmai began to work on improving Stellar Emperor, giving it a GUI eventually, while MegaWars III remained as it was.  If you played them both after 1989 or so you’ll probably say they were different, but before then they were essentially identical.

Into the 90s the internet and the web became a thing and online services started to fade away.  CompuServe was bought by AOL in 1997 and faded away into the background while GEnie shut down in 1999.  Kesmai ran its own online service, GameStorm, through the 90s until the company was sold to EA.  EA did what it always does with studios it buys; shut it down, never to be seen again.  And so all of the Kesmai titles, including MegaWars III, disappeared.

Like all closed online games, somebody out there decided to go ahead and recreate the originals.  I have written previously about Crimson Leaf Games and their resurrection of the original MegaWars III as well as Cosmic Ray Games and their recreation of a 90s version of Stellar Emperor.

But some time has passed since then; seven years in the case of the former and four years for the latter.

Crimson Leaf Games has been hard at work and has produced a new version of MegaWars III, MegaWars: Dawn of the Third Age.  The site for the game is here, and includes a history of MegaWars III worth reading.

The new version has a client and graphics and all sorts of things we associate with more modern online games.

The MegaWars III universe has also expanded from a couple hundred stars to over five million systems to explore.  Space has also changed in a way that might sound a bit familiar to EVE Online players.  Rather than the game being open season for PvP, there are three regions of space.  They are:

  • Empire – no combat and planets cannot be taken
  • Frontier – full combat and planet industries can be bombed but not taken
  • Open – full combat and planets can be taken

The penalty for Empire and Frontier is that you pay taxes that sap your planetary economy, and a hit in score, relative to the wild west of open space.  But in exchange for that you get complete safety in Empire space and some amount of safety in Frontier space.

The game is currently in open Alpha… which seems to be what we would call Early Access if it were on Steam… so you can try it out if you are interested.

So we now have a new take on a game that has its origins in the nearly 40 year old DECWAR, which was, in turn, an attempt to make a multiplayer version of the Star Trek terminal game from the early 70s.

And the beat goes on.

Elf

No, I am not trying to trigger Syp.  Well, not just that anyway.

Any elf will do for our purposes…

Back in high school, a distance through time more easily measured in decades than years at this point, I took German as my foreign language.  I think the primary outcome of three years of the language is that my writing in English improved greatly.  One of those side-effects, you have to examine your own language in order to learn another one.

I think my greatest achievement in German was reading Catch-22 in the language, something that took me most of a summer, a copy in English, and my German-English dictionary.  Other than that, I retain very little of the language.  Enough to annoy my mother-in-law (who is German), catch the occasional bit of dialog in a movie, appreciate The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers slightly more, get that joke about the German novel where the last two chapters are nothing but verbs, and make a poor joke from a post title.

Anyway, the German word for “eleven” is “elf,” something endlessly amusing to a 13 year old boy, an age I have never fully ceased to be.  The title is a joke because I write about fantasy MMORPGs now and again… less lately than before… where the elf is a staple, and yet relevant because this is one of those anniversary posts… my eleventh.

The Annual WP.com achievement

I am clearly out of clever titles and amusing intros at this point.  Remember that anniversary post that was full of Soviet propaganda?  Or the one grounded in Winnie the Pooh?  Now I am hanging my hat on the fact that the German word for eleven is a mythical creature in English.  It’s all I’ve got, and I’m not even going to run with it.  I’m going to just break in the usual statistics for a bit and hope I can come up with something new to say before we get to the end of the post.

For those interested in some of my better attempts at anniversary posts, here is the list:

And from that we might as well get stuck into this.

Base Statistics

In which I 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: 4,018 (+365)
Posts total: 4,416 (+341)
Average posts per day: 1.097 (-0.013)
Comments: 29,415 (+1,456)
Average comments per post: 6.66  (-0.2)
Average comments per day: 7.32  (-0.33)
Spam comments: 1,376,145 (+63,980)
Comments Rescued from the Spam Filter: 424
Average spam comments per day: 342.5 (-16.7)
Comment signal to noise ratio: 1 to 47.2 (+0.2)
Comments written by me: 3,873 or 13.1%
Images uploaded:  10,416 11,764 (+1,348)
Space used by images: 270MB of my 3 GB allocation (9%, down 69%)
Blog Followers: 1,340
Twitter Followers: 722
US Presidents since launch: 3
British Monarchs since launch: 1
Prime Ministers of Italy since launch: 6 (one twice)

This is the first year of the blog where I wrote less than one post per day, hitting the publish button 24 fewer times in the last year than the year before.  That is about a month of weekday posts I did not do.  See the effect of MMO malaise?  Because, seriously, I didn’t take any long vacations or suffering from debilitating illness over the previous twelve months.  I just wrote less, something that generally happens when I am just not interested in a given topic, which in this case is my MMO hobby.

Still, the average over the full life of the blog is over a post a day.  And even 333 is more than a post every weekday, the goal for which I strive.  That would only net me about 260 posts so, while no Stakhanovite, I have exceeded my posting norm.  Not bad for an eleven year long streak.

With posts down, comments were also down, both overall… simply fewer comments than last year… and as a percentage of posts… people commented less per post.  My comments, as a percentage of the total, was up.  Probably me talking to myself.

One oddity in the stats above is the amount of space used by my uploaded images, which dropped precipitously since last year’s post.  For some reason WordPress.com reset my allocation last year.  Maybe it was a happy anniversary gesture.  Maybe it was a bug.  I suspect that nothing good will come of it and that some day I will log in and find every screen shot from 2006 through 2016 missing, having been deleted by some automated process.  But for now they survive.

Anyway, that is the basic gist of what happened here over the last year.  The remainder of the post is after the cut to keep the long list of mostly meaningless words and statistics from overwhelming the from page.  See you on the other side, should you choose to go there… or if you are looking at this in an RSS reader.

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