Tag Archives: Standing Stone Games

Is LOTRO Effectively in Maintenance Mode?

I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread

-Bilbo Baggins

There was a lot of optimism when EG7 announced their plans to purchase Daybreak Games.  It was a heady moment for many of us when EG7 gave us a bunch of data about the various titles.

Enad Global 7

There was also statements from EG7 about investing in titles like Lord of the Rings Online, including what seemed like crazy talk about a console version.  It felt like good things could be coming.

Almost five months down the road the, now that the afterglow of the announcements has passed, some of us are now getting a little impatient to see what changes, if any, the coming of the new Swedish overlords actually bring.  As with other such transactions, you only get so much goodwill time before the old problems become your problems.

Unfortunately, the message coming from the LOTRO team seems to be the usual litany of deferral and excuses.  Last week the community got a Q&A with the executive producer and to say it was a disappointment would be something of an understatement.  All sorts of things people have been asking after for years like a scalable UI or wide screen support to make the game playable on larger monitors are nowhere in sight.  They mostly seem to be on about bugs and whatever new content they can scrape together.

Most disturbing to me was the response about legendary items, a horribly grindy feature that should have been left behind in Moria:

We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue.

This betrays such a basic misunderstanding of what makes people stick with these sorts of games that I despair for any future for the game, even if EG7 decides to throw some money at it.  This is all of the worst conspiracies about MMO devs confirmed, that they make things purposely grindy to keep us with the game longer.  Have you met your players?  We do stuff just because we can.  We don’t need enforced mandatory grind, we’ll make our own thank you.

I honestly thought we were past that somewhat when WoW launched as was relatively easy to level up in compared to the industry as a whole and yet people still found things to do in the game.  I guess not.

The legendary items thing really strikes home for me.  Despite my enjoyment of Lord of the Rings Online over the years… I bought a lifetime subscription back at launch and own every expansion… I have never made it very far past Moria in the game.  Part of the reason is that Siege of Mirkwood is just an uninspired expansion where Turbine was clearly just mailing it in while they threw resources at some of their fruitless projects.  But it has been mostly due to the constant need to attend to the legendary weapon… and not the one legendary weapon I got back before Moria, but whichever drop I happened to get that was an upgrade.

Yet somehow they are worried that if they dumped legendaries that players wouldn’t be able to depend on drops to keep up with DPS… though we pretty much have to depend on drops for that anyway.  I guess maybe I should be happy they aren’t planning to make them more grindy, which was pretty much the message back in January, but adjusting the “suck” setting back 10% still means things suck.  And they’re talking about challenge modes that will make grinding your legendary even more of a requirement.  They seem 100% locked into “grind makes the game” as a philosophy.

Leaving aside my personal investment in the demise of legendaries, the whole tone of the Q&A was as depressing as any of the worst periods of the Turbine or Daybreak eras.  Even the positive bits, like the new bit of content, The Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins, turned out to be hollow, being made up of reused assets and mechanics.

A development team that was going to get an infusion of resources to help it along would surely be able to offer a more convincing vision for the future.  Instead I am beginning to wonder if EG7 isn’t simply perusing the Gamigo business model of buying up tired titles and milking the last bits of life out of them before shutting them down.  I previously dared to speculate as to what LOTRO needed.  Now I wonder what the game can even hope to get.

It should be a good moment for the game.  It is celebrating its 14th anniversary and a major potential competitor, the Amazon funded Middle-earth MMO, has been cancelled. (Though the LOTR series under development is still on, so there may still be a renewed interest in all things Middle-earth.)  Instead, the game is starting to feel like Bilbo at the top of the post, stretched too thin for the resources they have with no relief in sight.

What Does LOTRO Need?

Yesterday Massively OP reported that Standing Stone/Daybreak/Enad Global 7 had announced a new expansion bundle for Lord of the Rings Online which allows one to purchase the six expansions between the base game and the current War of Three Peaks expansion for one… price…. that is lower than buying all of them individually.

The headline at Massively OP declared that the bundle “smashes its huge barrier to entry,” a suggestion that made me grimace.

The LOTRO Expansion Trove if you’re were interested

While not exactly a “people aren’t wearing enough hats” level of analysis, if I were to make a ranked list of problems that keep people from playing the game, buying all the expansions would be far down the list, as it is something I suspect never becomes an issue for the vast majority of the people who bother trying the game.

The problem there is that, as with my list about EVE Online from a few years back, there are lot of things that are simply outside of the scope of reality to address.

Yes, thanks to EG7 giving us a peek behind the curtains, we know that LOTRO is a viable, money making concern, but its income is more in the range of “sustain the status quo” rather than “rebuild and revamp.”

Page 15 – Year to Date numbers as of Sep. 30, 2020

That number is only through Q3 2020, so we might be able to assume that the game brings in maybe $13 million a year.  That is sustainable, but there is no bonaza of cash for updates in that number, and it falls well short of the estimated $100 million the game was reported to have made back in 2013.

I was honestly a bit surprised when SSG decided to upgrade the client to 64-bit, though that was more of a long term survival plan than something that would make things better.  At some point in the not too distant future Windows will stop supporting 32-bit apps, so better to get that done before it is a critical item for survival.  Certainly that move did not improve the client’s actual behavior in any noticeable way.

And I fear that anybody who is holding out hope now that EG7 is running the show that they will pour a bunch of money into the game is going to be disappointed.  The idea of there being a console version seems so far from reality that the only answer could be a completely new game build for modern consoles, which would leave the current game out in the cold.

So LOTRO is likely going to stay pretty much as is, a cranky old fantasy MMORPG from 2007 with a difficult to read UI (at just HD resolutions, don’t get me started on how it looks on my new monitor) and a lot of mindless repetitive game play.  Has anybody ever counted how many bears, board, and wolves you slay following the quest chains to level cap?

What can they do?

They are stuck because at their current revenue they clearly cannot make any large changes to the game.  And they are even more restricted than some comparable MMORPGs because they have to stick with approved Tolkien lore and have a game that tells a linear story so the expansions are not independent.  EQ could copy Blizzard’s parallel expansions idea is they had the mind and the budget, but would LOTRO be allowed to even tinker with having Moria and Rohan as parallel experiences on the way to Mordor?

The EQ version would have 26 parallels

Without something dramatic… and I have my doubts about what would even qualify… making money off of new players seems unlikely, so they’re left with the MMORPG standard policy of farming the installed base.

One way to do that is via expansions.

The SSG team can’t simply crank out more expansions for revenue.  I mean, the are trying, but they have trouble keeping up their current pace, have made some customers wary due to lightness of the Battle of Three Peaks expansion, and they’re running out of places to expand into in any case.  They do have another expansion coming this year, but the next thing needs to be in planning.

The other way to farm the installed base is special servers.  LOTRO has played this card once already, and successfully so far as I can tell, with the LOTRO Legendary server of late 2018.

They can always just play that card again.  I am sure there would be a decent response to a fresh start.  But if they want something different, I have an idea.

I’m grabbing this idea from something Star Wars: The Old Republic did a few years back.

I call this the LOTRO Epic Storyline server.

Turn off the side quests… if possible… and tune the xp output/curve so that players can level up through the story just running the epic quest line.

Maybe you don’t even need a special server for that.  Maybe you just have players buy a token for a character on a live server that boosts xp for the epic quest line.  It would be a nice way to catch up and get past some of the less inspired content that lays astride the path to level cap. (Looking at you Siege of Mirkwood.)

There are problems to be solved with the idea.  You would have to have a mechanism to keep player gear up to level along the way.  And then there are the special mechanics like legendary weapons or mounted combat that players would need to be guided through.

But it seems like a possible, reduced if not low effort way to attract some players and boost revenue a bit.

Or is there something else they can do?

Addendum: I mean, besides irritating their installed base by making the awful legendary system even worse.

A Timeline of SOE and Daybreak Games

We are entering a new era for the games of Daybreak which made me think it might be a good time to review the story so far.  We’re around the 25 year mark for when the seeds of the company were planted and, with the Enad Global 7 purchase, the time seems ripe.

  • The House that EverQuest Built

First there was EverQuest.

Firiona and friends at launch, 1999

At some point around 1996 John Smedley, working at Sony, managed to get Brad McQuaid, Jeff Buttler, Steve Clover, Bill Trost, and a host of others together to create a 3D online multiplayer fantasy game loosely (or not so loosely in places) based off of Sojourn MUD / TorilMUD.

Launched on March 16, 1999, a variety of Sony organizational names were connected to the game at different times including Sony Interactive Studios America, Verant Interactive, 989 Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures, and Sony Online Entertainment.  My original disk and manual both display the 989 Studios logo prominently and names a couple others in the fine print.  As I mentioned in my 20 year anniversary reflections post about EverQuest, one magazine referred to the company running the game as Sony, Verant, and 989 in different parts of the same issue.  It was a confusing time.

Clarity came eventually though when EverQuest exceeded all expectations for success.  That was a bit of a surprise.  March of 1999 pre-dates the age of influencers and social media.  The internet wasn’t seen as a serious news source, though Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal had at least made a few start paying attention.  But a lot of us were still getting our gaming news via glossy monthly magazines where full page ads at the covers were the best way to gain attention.

I don’t recall any such ads for the game back in early 1999.  I only knew about the game because almost everybody then active on TorilMUD got invited to beta, usually by Brad McQuaid’s Aradune character in game.  I declined the beta invite, but came for the opening.

Not only were ads scarce, there wasn’t a lot of background to draw attention to the game.  Compare that to what most see as its direct competitor of the era, Ultima Online.  The Ultima franchise had been rolling along for more that 15 years when UO launched in late 1997.  The series spawned a studio, Origin Systems, that created other well known games.  And then there was Lord British, who ended up living in a castle and going into space on the proceeds of his Ultima empire.  UO had the fame, reputation, and lineage that EQ lacked.

And yet, at their respective peaks, EQ would have more than double UO’s subscribers.

EQ seemed to spread by word of mouth.  After buying it at Fry’s on my way home from work on launch day, I came into the office and told a bunch of people about it.  They all went out and bought copies and we ended up playing together.  And they told people and I told more people and others who played told people and soon the people I was telling already knew about it and there was a song “Has anybody seem my corpse?” being passed around and the whole thing had become something of a minor social phenomena.

And its success cemented the idea of online gaming at Sony so that the plethora of names was eventually pared down to Sony Online Entertainment.  25 years down the road from Smed collecting a team to get the ball rolling, this is all still the house that EverQuest built.

  • A Timeline of Events

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am not going to try to piece together things that came before March 16, 1999 or betas for various games.  Early access though, that is another story. I am also going to try not to editorialize, which won’t be easy for me.  If I have missed anything important, drop me a note or a comment and I’ll update the post.

  • 1999
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest launches, servers are quickly overloaded and a long series of new servers kicks off
    • Jul 28 – MMORTS Sovereign announced
  • 2000
    • Apr 24 – The Ruins of Kunark, the first EverQuest expansion, launches
    • Oct 5 – SOE acquires Infantry
    • Dec 5 – The Scars of Velious, EQ expansion #2
  • 2001
    • Apr 17 – Cosmic Rift launches
    • Dec 4 – The Shadows of Luclin, EQ expansion #3
  • 2002
    • Oct 29 – The Planes of Power, EQ expansion #4
  • 2003
    • Feb 11 – Sovereign MMORTS officially cancelled
    • Feb 11 – EverQuest Online Adventures launches on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 25 – The Legacy of Ykesha, EQ expansion #5
    • May 20 – PlanetSide launches
    • Jun 24 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition launches
    • Jun 26 – Star Wars Galaxies launches
    • Sep 9 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath, EQ expansion #6
    • Nov – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga launches
    • Nov 17 – EverQuest Online Adventures: Frontiers expansion launches
    • Dec 1 – Lords of EverQuest, a single player Windows RTS, launches
  • 2004
    • Feb 10 – Gates of Discord, EQ expansion #7
    • Feb 10 – Champions of Norrath launches on PlayStation 2
    • Mar – EverQuest subscribers hit a peak of 550K
    • Sep 14 – Omens of War, EQ expansion #8
    • Oct 27 – SWG Jump to Lightspeed expansion
    • Nov 8 – EverQuest II launches
    • Nov 12 – A second round of EQII servers are launched to absorb the surge of new players
    • Nov – SOE introduces the Station Access plan that gives players a combined subscription to EQ, EQII, and Planetside for $22 a month
    • Nov – EQII subscribers who opt for Station Access get two extra character slots on their account and access to the EQII Players stats page
    • Dec – EQII is down for almost two days as an update breaks the live servers
  • 2005
    • Jan – SOE Announces SWG is being added to Station Access
    • Feb 7 – Champions: Return to Arms is launched on PlayStation 2
    • Feb 8 – EQ server consolidation starts with the four PvP servers being combined into the single Zek server
    • Feb 15 – Dragons of Norrath, EQ expansion #9
    • Feb 17 – SOE temporarily adds the /pizza command to EverQuest II as a cross promotion with Pizza Hut allowing players to order a pizza from within the game
    • Mar 21 – The Bloodline Chronicles, the first EQII adventure pack launches
    • Mar 22 – Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, a PSP title, launches
    • Apr – SOE begins a series of EQ server merges to bolster the populations, which runs on until the end of June
    • Apr – EverQuest II – East, developed for China, Taiwan, and South Korea, launches
    • May 5 – SWG Rage of the Wookies expansion launches
    • Jun 28 – The Splitpaw Saga, the second EQII adventure pack launches
    • Jul 20 – EQII gets new servers, Shadowhaven, The Bazaar, and The Vox PvP under the Station Exchange program, which allows players to sell in-game items for real world money; players are allowed to transfer characters there from other live servers
    • Aug 15 – SOE takes over operation of The Matrix Online
    • Sep 13 – Depths of Darkhollow, EQ expansion #10
    • Sep 13 – Desert of Flames, the first EQII expansion
    • Nov 1 – SWG Trials of Obi-wan expansion launches
    • Nov 8 – SWG New Game Enhancements update lands, changing character progression
    • Nov 9 – The “SOGA” character models from EverQuest II – East become an available option in EverQuest II
  • 2006
    • Jan – SOE announces they will be merging 10 low population EQII servers into 10 medium population servers because players are “too spread out” on the low population servers.
    • Feb 17 – Shadowhaven Station Exchange server is merged into The Bazaar server
    • Feb 21 – Prophecy of RoEQ expansion #11
    • Feb 21 – Kingdom of Sky, EQII expansion #2
    • Mar 28 – Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code, a PSP title, launches
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest II – East is shut down, with all Chinese accounts transferred to the Mistmoore server, all Taiwanese accounts to the Najena server, and all Korean accounts to the Unrest server
    • Jun – EQ launches the first progression servers for the game, The Combine and The Sleeper, which let players play though all of the game expansions in order
    • Jun 14 – The Fallen Dynasty, the third EQII adventure pack launches
    • Sep 19, The Serpent’s Spine, EQ expansion #12
    • Nov 13 – Echoes of Faydwer, EQII expansion #3
    • Nov 15 – Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PSP title, launches
  • 2007
    • Jan 30 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 13 – The Buried Sea, EQ expansion #13
    • May 9 – Legends of Norrath collectible card game is launched, running within EQ and EQII
    • May 15 – SOE takes over operations for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Mar 21 – The Sleeper EQ progression server is merged into The Combine server
    • Apr 30 – The EQII Darathar– UK PvP, Gorenaire– FR PvP, and Talendor– DE PvP servers are merged into the Venekor – RP PvP server
    • Jul 11 – The Agency is announced
    • Jul 19 – EQuinox, the official print magazine of EverQuest II is announced with issue #1 featuring Rise of Kunark information and beta access
    • Oct – Station Access pricing peaks at $30 a month for subscription access to all SOE titles including The Matrix Online and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
    • Nov 13 – Secrets of Faydwer, EQ expansion #14
    • Nov 13 – Rise of Kunark – EQII expansion #4
    • Dec – SOE is caught after moving the level 60 Unholy Trinity guild off of the test server to a live server, an action against stated company policy and not something ever made available to the average player, causing a fierce reaction from players
    • Dec – A false rumor spreads that Zapak Digital Entertainment is planning to purchase SOE and its games for $300 million, an amount close to what the company will sell for in December of 2020
  • 2008
    • Jan 22 – Pirates of the Burning Sea launches with SOE as publisher
    • Feb 14 – EQuinox issue #2 is announced, featuring Legends of Norrath cards
    • Apr 16 – LiveGamer is brought in to run financial transaction for the Station Exchange RMT servers The Bazaar and The Vox PvP
    • ~Sep – EQuinox issue #3 is cancelled and the magazine idea is scrapped
    • Oct 21 – Seeds of Destruction, EQ expansion #15
    • Oct 24 – The EQII Venekor– RP PvP is merged into the Nagefen, the final remaining PvP server
    • Nov 18 – The Shadow Odyssey, EQII expansion #5
    • Dec – SOE introduces Station Cash, a virtual currency, and an in-game cash shop in EQ and EQII
  • 2009
    • Jan 23 – SOE games become available on Steam starting with EverQuest and EverQuest II
    • Apr 28 – Free Realms launches
    • Jul 31 – The Matrix Online is shut down
    • Dec 15 – Underfoot, EQ expansion #16
  • 2010
    • Feb 16 – Sentinal’s Fate, EQII expansion #6
    • Mar 4 – The Combine EQ progression server is merged into the Druzzil Ro live server, ending the first retro server run for the company
    • Apr – SOE tries a new EQII Passport subscription plan where for just $5.00 a month you can play for three consecutive days during a single month
    • May 5 – SOE announces The Agency: Covert Ops, a free to play title on Facebook
    • Jun 10 – Tanarus, a title that predated EverQuest was shut down
    • Jun 22 – EQ server merges come again, paring down the server count by ten as low population servers are merged into more populated ones
    • Jul – EverQuest II Extended, a free to play version of EQII launches
    • Aug – Plans for EverQuest Next announced at FanFest
    • Sep 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures launches
    • Oct 12 – House of Thule, EQ expansion #17
  • 2011
    • Jan 11 – DC Universe Online launches on Windows and PlayStation 3
    • Feb 15 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server launches, with the Vulak’Aerr server being added soon thereafter to handle the crush of players (I have a whole timeline for those servers)
    • Feb 22 – Destiny of Velious, EQII expansion #7
    • Mar 31 – The Agency is officially cancelled
    • Apr – Flying mounts introduced into EQII
    • May – SOE games are down for almost two weeks as part of the PlayStation Network security breach in which personal data from a reported 24.6 million accounts were compromised
    • Jun – At E3 SOE announced that pricing for Station Access, now called SOE All Access, would drop from $30 to $20 a month, but extra character slots for EQ, EQII, and Vanguard would no longer be part of the plan
    • Aug – SOE finally gets a unified server status page
    • Nov 1 – DC Universe Online goes free to play
    • Nov 15 – Veil of Alaris, EQ expansion #18
    • Dec 6 – Age of Discovery, EQII expansion #8, which also ushers in the free to play era of the game as EverQuest II Extended is folded into the live server list
    • Dec 15 – Star Wars Galaxies is shut down
    • Dec 18 – The Vox PvP Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Nagefen server
    • Dec 21 – The Bazaar Station Exchange server for EQII is merged into the Freeport server ending the Station Exchange program
  • 2012
    • Feb – SOE announces it is selling its EU customer accounts to a German media company, ProSiebenSat.1
    • Mar 16 – EverQuest goes free to play
    • Mar 29 – EverQuest Online Adventures shuts down on PlayStation 2
    • Mar 29 – Infantry is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Cosmic Rift is shut down
    • Mar 29 – Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga is shut down
    • Aug 7 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes goes free to play (a week earlier than planned)
    • Aug 7 – SOEmote is introduced to EverQuest II
    • Sep – SOE introduces Player Studio for EQII, which allows players to create cosmetic items to sell in the in-game cash shop, for which they will be paid a cut of the sale
    • Nov – SOE introduces Krono for EQ and EQII, an in-game item that can be redeemed for 30 days of subscription time, which users can purchase for real world cash and sell at the broker to other players for in-game currency
    • Nov 13 – Chains of Eternity, EQII expansion #9
    • Nov 20 – PlanetSide 2 launches
    • Nov 28 – Rain of Fear, EQ expansion #19
  • 2013
    • Jan 30 – SOE publishes the import Wizardry Online as a F2P title
    • Jan 31 – Pirates of the Burning Sea ceases to be published by SOE
    • Aug – A new vision/plan for EverQuest Next is announced at FanFest, which includes the involvement of Storybricks
    • Aug – The FanFest presentation mentions a dev tool EverQuest Next called Landmark
    • Sep 23 – SOE publishes the import Dragon’s Prophet as a F2P title
    • Oct 8 – Call of the Forsaken, EQ expansion #20
    • Nov 12 – Tears of Veeshan, EQII expansion #10
    • Nov 13 – SOE starts selling early access packs to EverQuest Next Landmark
    • Nov 15 – DC Universe Online launches on PlayStation 4
    • Nov 18 – EverQuest Macintosh Edition is shut down
  • 2014
    • Jan – Station Access/SOE All Access pricing drops to $15 a month, the price of a single game subscription, but keeps the 500 Station Case stipend after the forums erupt when Smed suggests they may remove that benefit
    • Jan 24 – SOE announced they will be shutting down Free Realms, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures, Wizardry Online, and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which is seen as the reason they have cut the price of SOE All Access
    • Mar – EverQuest Next Landmark becomes just Landmark
    • Mar 31 – Free Realms is shut down
    • Mar 31 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures is shut down
    • Apr 10 – H1Z1 is announced, a zombie horror title oddly dedicated to SWG players
    • Jun 18 – The ProSiebenSat.1 experiment ends and all EU accounts are transitioned back to SOE
    • Jul 31 – Wizardry Online is shut down
    • Jul 31 – Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is shut down
    • Oct 28 – The Darkened Sea, EQ expansion #21
    • Nov 11 – Altar of Malice, EQII expansion #11
  • 2015
    • Jan 15 – H1Z1 releases as early access
    • Jan 22 – The class action suit for the PlayStation/SOE security breach of May 2011 is resolved, awarding the lawyers $2.75 million and each affected player 450 station cash… but only for US players and only if you filled out a form and could prove you were affected
    • Feb 2 – Sony announces it has sold SOE to Columbus Nova and the organization will be known as Daybreak Game Company going forward
    • Apr 28 – The Rum Cellar, the fourth EQII adventure pack launches
    • Apr 30 – Daybreak acknowledged and blessed the existence of the Project 1999 EQ retro server being developed by a private group, with the P1999 team and the Daybreak EQ team coordinating updates so as not to overlap each other
    • May 22 – EQ opens the Ragefire progression server, the start of a regular run of special servers that help boost the game’s popularity by pulling back many lapsed players
    • Jul 24 – Daybreak announces that long time studio head John Smedley is leaving the company
    • Jul 24 – EQII launches the Stormhold progression server and Deathtoll PvP server, the first retro servers for the game
    • Aug 21 – EQII announces the Drunder server, where rule breakers will be sent to play and no customer support will be available
    • Oct – Nine of the lower population EQII servers, including the final PvP server Nagefen, are merged down to three PvE servers, all with new names (Maj’dul, Halls of Fate, and Skyfire), while the Antonia Bayle server remains unto itself
    • Nov 16 – Dragon’s Prophet is shut down
    • Nov 17 – Terrors of Thalumbra, EQII expansion #12
    • Nov 18 – The Broken Mirror, EQ expansion #22
  • 2016
    • Feb 8 – H1Z1 King of the Kill the battle royale game and H1Z1 Just Survive, the co-op zombie horror game, are split into two products, both remain in early access
    • Mar 8 – The EQII Deathtoll PvP retro server is shut down
    • Mar 11 – EverQuest Next officially cancelled, leaving Landmark the remaining active part of that project.
    • Apr 29 – DC Universe Online launches on XBox One
    • Jun 10 – Landmark leaves early access and goes live
    • Jul 1 – PlanetSide is shut down
    • Aug 17 – Legends of Norrath is shut down
    • Nov 15 – Kunark Ascending, EQII expansion #13
    • Nov 16 – Empires of Kunark, EQ expansion #23
    • Dec 19 – Daybreak acquires Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online from Warner, setting them up under the name Standing Stone Games, never mentioning in public that they are the actual owners
  • 2017
    • Feb 21 – Landmark is shut down
    • Jul 31 – LOTRO launches the Mordor expansion
    • Sep 22 – The Vulak’Aerr EQ time locked progression server is merged into the Fippy Darkpaw server
    • Oct – H1Z1 King of the Kill renamed H1Z1 again due to a desire to release the game in China, where having “kill” in a game name is frowned upon by government censors
    • Nov 28 – Planes of Prophecy, EQII expansion #14
    • Dec 12 – Ring of Scale, EQ expansion #24
  • 2018
    • Feb 28 – H1Z1 leaves early access and goes live
    • Apr 24 – In response to a question about Russian sanctions Daybreak issues a statement declaring it was never owned by Columbus Nova, in open contradiction to three years of information, and was always solely owned by Jason Epstein
    • Apr 24 – Daybreak removes all references to Columbus Nova from its web site and attempts to edit the Wikipedia page about the company to hide any Columbus Nova connection
    • Aug 7 – H1Z1 launched on PlayStation 4
    • Sep 4 – The EQII progression server Stormhold is merged into the Antonia Bayle server, ending its run
    • Sep 6 – Daybreak announces a deal with NantWorks to create NantMobile G which will take over H1Z1 on PC with a plan to revitalize it, starting by rebranding it as Z1 Battle Royale
    • Sep 6 – NantMobile G project also proposes mobile versions of Z1 Battle Royale and EverQuest
    • Oct 24 – H1Z1 Just Survive is shut down
    • Nov 13 – Chaos Descending, EQII expansion #15
    • Dec 11 – The Burning Lands, EQ expansion #25
    • Dec 14 – Planetside Arena is announced, an attempt to bring battle royale to PlanetSide 2, with pre-orders for early access for sale
    • Dec 18 – Daybreak offers 4,000 lifetime subscriptions for sale at $299 each
    • Dec 24 – Daybreak announces that they have sold out the 4,000 lifetime subscriptions
    • Dec 28 – Daybreak puts 6,000 more life time subscriptions up for sale through Dec. 31st
  • 2019
    • Feb 18 – PlanetSide Arena launch is delayed until summer, allegedly to have a simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, all pre-orders are refunded
    • Jul 11 – After over a year being offline, Daybreak announces that Player Studio for EQII has been shut down
    • Apr 6 – NantMobile G hands Z1 Battle Royale back to Daybreak having failed to revitalize the game, after which little is heard about the PC version
    • Aug 6 – DC Universe Online launches on Nintendo Switch
    • Aug 30 – A PlanetSide Arena roadmap is released with plans for early access soon, with an official launch in 2020, PC only
    • Sep 19 – PlanetSide Arena arrives in early access just barely making the declared “summer” launch plan
    • Oct 21 – A PlanetSide producer’s letter states that PlanetSide Arena is a stepping stone towards PlanetSide 3
    • Nov 5 – LOTRO launches the Minas Morgul expansion
    • Dec 14 – Daybreak announces that PlanetSide Arena will be shut down in January
    • Dec 17 – Blood of Luclin, EQII expansion #16
    • Dec 18 – Torment of Velious, EQ expansion #26
  • 2020
    • Jan 10 – PlanetSide Arena is shut down
    • Jan 21 – Daybreak announces a series of sub-studios, with Darkpaw Games responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II, Dimensional Ink handling DC Universe Online, and Rogue Planet Games handling PlanetSide 2
    • May 20 – The Fippy Darkpaw EQ time locked progression server ends its nine year run as it is merged into the Vox live server
    • Oct 20 – LOTRO launches the War of Three Peaks expansion
    • Dec 1 – Enad Global 7 (EG7) announces plans to acquire Daybreak
    • Dec 2 – EG7 presents an unprecedented array of previously private information about Daybreak to its board, shareholders, and the general public proving, if nothing else, that the company made money
    • Dec 8 – Claws of Veeshan, EQ expansion #27
    • Dec 15 – Reign of Shadows, EQII expansion #17
    • Dec 23 – EG7 completes the acquisition of Daybreak Game Company

And that brings us up into the new year.  We shall see what 2021 and beyond holds for the company

  • Sources

The joy of me blogging the way I do is that I have a blog post that corresponds to most every item on the above list that happened in the last decade.  I considered linking to each and every one, but decided against it.  You can use the search box at the top of the page if you want to find posts here about things like EQII Passport.

Before 2010 I was more chaotic in my blogging and, of course, before September 2006 there was no blog, so nothing to reference.  Fortunately, I had done a post about SOE and its MMORPGs back in 2016 where I had recorded the status of their games, and had researched a bunch of other items in the past.  This blog isn’t all just about Blackrock Depths and World War Bee.

And, where that failed, Wikipedia remains a wonderful source.  There are well maintained pages about most of the games and lists of all the expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II that helped me quite a bit.  And over at Daybreak there is even a server merge page for EverQuest and another for EverQuest II servers deep in their site.  There are some errors, but the dates seem solid.

As for what to include, I am obviously biased towards the games I play or played.  I did try to include every paid expansion for games, as those were generally pretty easy to find.  Game content updates are more obscure, though somebody has charted all of the episode drops for DC Universe Online on that Wikipedia page.  I just wasn’t that dedicated to the post.  I started getting into special servers, but decided once they became an annual thing in 2015, I declared them as such and moved on.

Daybreak to be Acquired by Enad Global 7

Enad Global 7 (EG7) announced in a press release earlier today that would be purchasing Daybreak Game Company for $300 million in a structured payout deal. ($260 million up front, $100 million in shares and $160 million in cash, plus another $40 million in cash if Daybreak makes its projected 2020 numbers.)  A bunch of news items have popped up about this today and I will link to them and other reactions at the end of the post.

Enad Global 7

That will get them the following games according to the press release:

  • EverQuest
  • EverQuest II
  • H1Z1
  • PlanetSide 2
  • DC Universe Online
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online

Not mentioned was Cold Iron Studios, which Daybreak was said to have acquired back in August.  But maybe that was Jason Epstein or Columbus Nova who actually bought it.

And I am not really kidding with that.  The nearly six year history of Daybreak has not been characterized by a close relationship with the truth when it came to the business, so a surprise twist or a revision of history would be right in line with past behavior.  Even now we’re just finally getting confirmation that Standing Stone Games was owned by Daybreak… or Jason… or Columbus Nova… after being told that Daybreak was merely going to be SSG’s “publisher.”  So I guess EG7 is buying Standing Stone Games as well.

The press release is also interesting as it lists out some of the Daybreak financials that were part of its due diligence.  We could barely find numbers about the company when it was part of Sony and never saw a thing since it was Daybreak.  For example, Daybreak has 178 million registered users of its games.  I’m sure they’re not all active, but that database alone has some value.

Anyway, the first question to leap to mind for me was, “Who the hell is EG7?”

The press release echoes the info on their web site which says:

EG7 is a group of companies within the gaming industry that develops, markets, publishes and distributes PC, console and mobile games to the global gaming market. The company employs 170+ game developers and develops its own original IP:s, as well as act as consultants to other publishers around the world through its game development divisions Toadman Studios, Big Blue Bubble and Antimatter Games. In addition, the group’s marketing department Petrol has contributed to the release of 1,500+ titles, of which many are world famous brands such as Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls and Rage. The group’s publishing and distribution department Sold Out holds expertise in both physical and digital publishing and has previously worked with Team 17, Rebellion and Frontier Developments. The Group is headquartered in Stockholm with approximately 270 employees in 10 offices worldwide.

So, a Swedish company, something confirmed over at Bloomberg, without much more to add, though their summary is much more succinct:

Enad Global 7 AB operates as a game development studio. The Company develops, markets, publishes, and distributes PC, console, and mobile games. Enad Global 7 serves customers worldwide.

The company, founded in 2013, says it is a game developer and has very recently purchased a few small studios, but its biggest claim to fame seems to be that its marketing department has helped out with some famous brands, likely just for the Swedish market if I were to make a guess. (Though their online presence is pretty week. They discovered Twitter just this year.)  And now they’ll have a bag of MMORPGs to play with.

As for what it will mean for the games and employees of Daybreak, that remains to be seen.  The press release has the usual rosy optimism in its quotes, as all such press releases do.

I am thrilled to be welcoming Daybreak into the EG7 family today. Daybreak is a studio I have the utmost admiration for, not only for their games but the teams behind those games and services. Together we have bold and exciting plans for the future, and I look forward to making those dreams a reality for gamers all over the world.

Robin Flodin, CEO and Co-founder of EG7

This could be a boon for the company, or they could get the Gamigo treatment like Trion did when they were acquired.  Or EG7 might just want the data for the 178 million registered Daybreak users for marketing purposes… that actually gets a mention in the press release. (Bad news for them, at least three of those users are just me.)

But that will all come later.

We’re still in the phase where the deal isn’t done yet and both sides of the transaction are invested in keeping to the status quo going.  Expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II will launch this month (Dec. 8th and 15th respectively, the latter being announced today along with the acquisition).  Updates will keep coming out.  Nobody is going to lose their job just yet.

But the deal is expected to close by December 31, 2020, so the real situation likely won’t become apparent until next year.  Some people will no doubt be redundant and get laid off.  Plans may change.  And maybe the individual studios that Daybreak created earlier this year will end up being used to distinguish the groups.  But come the new year Daybreak, announced back in February of 2015, will likely cease to be a thing.

Related posts (Those with info beyond the press release marked*):

Is it Minas Morgul Yet?

It is kind of a busy Tuesday.  On to my third post of the day.

Back in September when Standing Stone Games announced the Minas Morgul expansion the target date for launch was October 29th.  That was last Tuesday, and it clearly did not come to pass.  Unfortunately I put the target date in the title of the post I linked there.  Oh well.

Perhaps I should have been more cautious.  SSG certainly left themselves something of an out in the fine print, declaring October 29 as the target, but allowing that given any delay you’d certainly have your expansion and goodies by no later than November 30.  A month wide launch window there gave them five target Tuesday in which to go live.

Anyway, while they missed their initial planned date, the word from SSG is that the Minas Morgul expansion will go live today.

As always, the expansion promises more things, more levels, more quests, more dungeons, more raids, and even a new race and an additional character slot per server.  That is the base package, but as I covered in that previous post, there extra special versions of the expansion, with extra special prices, available with even more goodies.

SSG has a page dedicated to the options for the expansion as well as a FAQ.

Tipped off by a comment on the October in Review post, I see that the FAQ has a brand new restriction at the top in regards to purchasing the expansion with LOTRO Points, the in game currency.

CAN I PURCHASE THE EXPANSION WITH LOTRO POINTS?
The Minas Morgul expansion will be available for Store Points in March 2020 and will be priced as follows:

-Base Edition (includes the Minas Morgul Region & Instances only): 2495 Points
-Stout-axe Dwarf: 1000 Points

That is a bit of a “screw you” to those sitting on a pile of said points.  Money talks and virtual currency walks, or something like that.  I am reminded, once again, of one of my early concerns around virtual currencies, which is best summed up by a scene from The Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land:

Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park.  It works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun…let’s see, uh…I’ll take $1100 worth.

This exchange is followed immediately by this visual.

Where can I spend my LOTRO Points?

So here we are again.  If you were holding on to your LOTRO Points in hopes of buying the expansion, you get to wait until March.  Also, due to the rather opaque nature involved in selling LOTRO Points, where different price points get you varying amounts of currency in return in an attempt to get you to buy more.

Current LOTRO Point pricing

Given that chart, a LOTRO point varies in range from 1.3 cents per to .86 cents per point, making the cost of the equivalent to the base expansion (content plus new race) somewhere between $28 and $45, compared to the $40 price if you pay in real world money.

Of course, if you’re like me and you’re getting a month 500 LOTRO Point stipend due to being a subscriber (lifetime, in my case), you may feel that you accumulated currency has very little value.  And since SSG won’t let you spend it on what you want, it probably feels like it has even less value at the moment.

This isn’t a big deal to me.  I plan to sink some of my LOTRO Points into the expansion when it becomes available in the cash shop, but the likelihood of my ever actually getting into the content is pretty small.  I bought the Mordor expansion the same way and barely got anywhere with that.

But if you are a long term player and subscriber who had earmarked their saved up LOTRO Points for the expansion, I feel you pain.  SSG would like cash please.  It is at moments like this where I wonder how involved with SSG’s operations their “publisher,” Daybreak Games, are.

Return of the Ring – LOTRO Up Again

Hello! Thank you for your patience during our extended downtime. All indications are that things are on schedule. Thank you for being here!

LOTRO Twitter, March 6, 8:35am

Famous last words?

Standing Stone Games had been reminding everybody via various sources, including Twitter, that both Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online would be down pretty much all of Wednesday, March 6th, for what was described as “data center work.”  Time to muck with the servers I guess.  And, as the quote above indicates, hours into the work things looked good.

And then things began to unravel and the time to complete started to creep forward.  Midnight of the first day moved to 5am of the next.  That became 11am, and then 5pm, and soon the time had moved into Friday and began to threaten weekend play time.

These things happen.  If you have a server farm and bring all the machines down… machines that have been up and running sometimes for years at a stretch… some small percentage are going to fail when you go to bring them back up.  And that leaves out any changes you might intend to make to them or the infrastructure while things are down.

A computer looks almost like an appliance, nicely packed away in a box.  But it is not.  It isn’t even close.  An appliance is a serious of parts… and even software… designed specifically to work together and do a very specific set of tasks.

Your computer is disguised chaos, a thousand points of failure flying in tight formation, hacked together from a bunch of components that mostly work together.  I’ve worked on the hardware end of things and I’ve had various suppliers show up to tell us that the part we use is being discontinued, but they have a replacement that is pin compatible and functionally the same… and then had that part stop production because it turned out that the old part was actually out of spec or our design only worked due to some unintended behavior of the part of some such and now we have to hire somebody to sit at the end of the line and hand solder a surface mount resistor on one of the pins on every single unit with the new part while we work on a redesign.  True story.

So I feel for those members of the team trying to get things back up and running.

And come Saturday morning there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.  At about 5am Eastern or 2am Pacific time, the announcement went out that the servers were up again.

The game worlds have reopened. Thank you for your patience as we worked through these various data center issues in recent days.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 2:06am

But we were not done yet.

UPDATE: We are bringing back down the game worlds while we troubleshoot an issue with characters not receiving their proper account unlocks.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 2:36am

That persisted for a while, but about four hours later the servers were opened up again.

The game worlds have reopened. We appreciate your patience during this downtime, and thank you for being here.

LOTRO Twitter, March 9, 6:56am

That last one seemed to do it… but I held onto this post for another day because I wouldn’t be surprised if they found yet another glitch they needed to take things down to fix.

And, having gone more than two days past their planned outage, SSG has some offers for people to make them feel better about having been kept offline.  It is in the form of a FAQ.

Sales will be extended, everybody will get a bonus pack of various boosters, and VIP accounts that have logged in over the last 30 days will get 250 LOTRO Points.

DDO players will get something similar and have their own FAQ.

And so it goes.  They fared better that SOE did back in May 2011 when they were down almost 13 days, though that was due to a hacking incident.  And, of course, there is Alganon, which has been down since November 2017.

Now hopefully things will settle down a bit and SSG will get around to telling us when Moria is going to unlock on the LOTRO Legendary server.

Daybreak Offering a Lifetime All Access Deal for $299

Daybreak is getting into the Lifetime Subscription arena this holiday season as part of their Daybreak Winter Extravaganza.

The Daybreak All Access plan lets you play DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest 2, and PlanetSide 2 with subscriber benefits. (Sorry, this does nothing for H1Z1 or PlanetSide Arena players.)

The deal is good through December 31, 2018, but is limited to 4,000 subscribers.

If you’re not down with that level of commitment, there is also a yearlong All Access deal for a somewhat underwhelming $199.  There are bonus items involved, but Daybreak has previously offered a year for $99, and the normal deal gets you 12 months for $119, so it doesn’t feel like they’re really selling it here.  What bonus items are worth $80? [Edit: They offered a full year for $71.99 back in August 2016.]

Of course, those with a suspicious mind might wonder why Daybreak is offering such a deal right now.  It seems late in the game, so to speak, to be offering up such a deal on titles that are, to put it bluntly, getting on in age.  With the seemingly right so far rumors post from back in May predicting that we might be seeing the last expansions for the Norrath franchise next year to send off EverQuest and EverQuest II for their 20th and 15th anniversaries respectively, you might be buying into some games with limited additional content prospects.

And, since Daybreak is excluding their newest games from the plan, that might give one pause as well.

Still, I doubt Daybreak is going to close down any of the games on the list any time soon, so you will likely get years of play out of a lifetime subscription if you are committed to any of the titles.

Also, as a side note, I see that Daybreak has also included links to the Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online holiday bundles (not the subscription one, which already expired) at the bottom of that announcement as well.  I do still wonder what the real relationship is between the Daybreak and SSG.  Rumors are that Jason Epstein owns them both somehow, but I can’t quite credit that.

Anyway, a bit of odd and unexpected holiday news out of Daybreak.  I am not sure what to think about it.  Would you buy in on this?  Go take a look yourself.

Addendum:  Each of the four games on the All Access plan has their own version of the Winter Extravaganza banner.  I went with the EverQuest II version at the top as they were the first group I heard from.  But I thought I would include the others as well here at the end of the post.

DC Universe Online

DCUO went with Mister Freeze, which I guess is on point weather wise… more so that a couple of dragons anyway.  It is a “winter” extravaganza after all.

PlanetSide 2

A Santa hat and a bit of holiday color and some decorations get the PlanetSide 2 offer in the spirit.

EverQuest

And then there is EverQuest playing up the scantily clad Firiona Vie, who is also holding a sizable candy cane.  I realize that she is the iconic emblem of the franchise for many, but I feel cold just looking at her.  Also, I’m not sure how that Santa hat is staying on given the pony tail in the back.

The $200 LOTRO Legacy Edition

The team at SSG are looking for a Christmas bonus I guess.  Yesterday I posted about the Dungeons & Dragons Online 2 Year Season Pass limited offer and before that post could even go live SSG was out with a LOTRO version of the plan.

Available for a limited time

The LOTRO version, called the LOTRO Legacy Bundle, is different at least.  To start with, it costs $100 less and it isn’t limited to 1,000 units.

The deal is sort of the same as the DDO version, being wrapped up in a stretch of VIP game time.  However, the LOTRO deal is only for a year, and the price baseline for a year of LOTRO VIP is $99.99.

In the case of LOTRO, it gets you all of the quest packs, raids, and skirmishes that come with the expansions to the game… essentially all of the content of each expansion.

With that, $200 isn’t a horrible price point.  Knock off the price for a year of VIP and you only have to make up $100 in order to break even.

To go and buy the base package for all of the expansions today it would cost you $149.96.  The prices listed on the LOTRO site are:

Mordor            $39.99
Helm's Deep       $39.99
Riders of Rohan   $19.99
Rise of Isengard  $19.99
Siege of Mirkwood $9.99
Mines of Moria    $19.99

Siege of Mirkwood is expensive even at that price, but I might be a bit biased there.

In addition, you get all of the quest packs from the base game, something that comes with VIP status in any case, if I recall right.  That might be handy if you don’t want to keep paying for the VIP level access after the year runs down.

Unfortunately I cannot check the in-game store to see if the pricing is different because I own all of those, so they do not show up as options for me.

You don’t get any of the bonus items that came with any of the expansions, save for the Crystal of Remembrance that came with legendary version of Riders of Rohan.

In addition to that you get a pile of extras thrown in:

  • Premium Wallet (Account wide)
  • 250 Mithril Coins
  • Riding Skill
  • 5 vitality stat tome pickers
  • 10 skill and slayer deed boosts
  • 10 Reputation supply
  • A Fleet-Footed Goat
  • A Mount Picker (gets you 1 of 4 mounts)
  • Housing Pack

The wallet has changed enough over the years, and I got the premium one as part of some pre-order deal way back when, that I can’t tell you what that really means to an average player, even after reading the wiki.

Mithril coins are useful though, as is the riding skill.  Stat tomes boost your character, the boosters ease up a bit of grind, and a mount is always good.  The only thing I would discount would be the housing stuff, housing in LOTRO being such a waste in my opinion.

So one could argue that for your $199.99 LOTRO Legacy Bundle you end up with more than $250 worth of stuff.  Actual, tangible stuff, a VIP subscription and content.  That seems to make it a more substantial deal that the DDO Season Pass.

If, of course, you have not purchased any of these items already.  And therein lies the rub.

I actually own all of the expansions… and the base game… so of that estimate $149.96 in value, none of it applies to me.  And the fluff is not worth anywhere close to the extra $100… and I already have a lifetime subscription so even VIP access doesn’t get me anything.

But somewhere I am sure there is somebody who can commit to the game for a year… another problem for me… and who hasn’t purchased all the expansions.  If you stopped after Siege of Mirkwood you still come out a bit ahead on pricing using this to pick up all the content after that.

Anyway, as with the DDO Season Pass, this is a limited time offer, though the time limited is less constrained.  You have until the 16th to pick this up, while DDO side of the house is trying to rush you into buying by the 10th.  That, and the lack of an artificial 1,000 unit limit, makes me believe that SSG has a little more confidence in the LOTRO Legacy Bundle.

Also on about this:

Reviewing my 2018 Predictions

Here we are in December, the new year is looming, and it is time to get to those inevitable end of year housekeeping and review posts that I plague you with every holiday season.

Being a regular event there are past versions of this sort of thing available if you care to see how this sort of thing tends to go.

As is usually the case, the start of the year comes around and I take the opportunity every January 1st to write out a post seemingly designed to make me look foolish.  Seriously, if anybody accuses me of not being able to admit I am wrong I just have to direct them to this series of review posts.

Anyway, as usual, back at the start of the year I posted 27 predictions, plus a bonus prediction, and then went on with my usual nonsense.  Now it is time to grade my folly.

As usual, each question is worth 10 points.  Multi-part questions are split up by segment.  Partial credit is available if I am close but not quite on the nose.  So here we go.

1 – Blizzard will ship the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft on August 28th of this year.  10 points if I am right, minus 2 points for each week I am off for a partial credit calculation.

A nice, cleanly defined and measurable prediction.  I am bad at making those, so let’s just enjoy this one for a moment.  Ahhh.  I was two weeks off the mark, so it is 6 out of 10 points.

2 – WoW Classic – We will have a lot of details by the end of the year and you’ll be able to sign up for closed beta, but there won’t be a lot of emphasis on it to the disappointment of many.  But Blizzard is canny and won’t want to distract from the Battle for Azeroth launch.  Expect a major WoW Classic panel at BlizzCon with lots of details of things we can expect to try in 2019.

A little more subjective, but BlizzCon told the tale.  We got a detailed look at how serious Blizzard was about this whole project, including a chance to play two of the early zones.  The latter is going to pass for closed beta in my prediction.  And we got a launch… season.  Summer 2019 will see WoW Classic launch.  Going to give myself 10 out of 10 for this one.

3 – With plans for a real WoW Classic unambiguously in motion, expect Blizzard to serve notice on any emulator hosting enough players to run the Deadmines that legal action will commence if they do not shut down and promise to stay that way.  That was cute and all when Blizz said it couldn’t be done, but with actual money on the line Blizz will be more like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

And now we’re into the subjective.  Yes, in 2018 Blizzard spent time going after WoW emulators.  But did it stoop to the level of Blizz kicking over every Vanilla WoW sandcastle on the beach?  I don’t know, because small servers don’t make the news, only big ones do.  Meanwhile emulators like Kronos and Demon Souls are still up and running and declaring that the presence of WoW Classic won’t stop them.  So much for the theory that these servers are only around because there is no official alternative.   Anyway, I think I get 0 points for this one.

4 – Heroes of the Storm will continue to follow the Diablo III toward the dormant part of the Blizzard franchise locker room. More changes won’t revitalize it, but it will make enough money for Blizz to keep making new heroes through 2018.

We didn’t hear much about Heroes of the Storm, aside from some new heroes.  High Inquisitor Whitemane was a good addition, along with another at BlizzCon.  BlizzCon showed that Blizzard was still working on a plan to “fix” the game, but it still remains far behind League of Legends and DOTA 2 in popularity.  Still, Blizzard is persisting, so call it 5 points for the heroes, but zero points for the dormant part.

[Dec 13 Addendum: If only I had waited I could have gotten full credit.  Blizz is killing the esports league and sending most of the devs elsewhere. But my cut off is Dec. 1.  Oh well.]

6 – Won’t ship list – The following titles won’t ship, go live, leave early access, progress beyond alpha, or otherwise leave the criticism deflection zone and actually face the live market, 2 points each:

  • Star Citizen
  • Crowfall
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Pantheon
  • CCP Project Nova

Well, there were clearly a few gimmes on that list.  I have to get some points somewhere.  We did get some news on some of those, but not all of it was great.  Still, none shipped, so 10 points.

7 – Shroud of the Avatar will make the leap to live status, will leave early access and such, and be fully available for sale without caveat or restriction… and sales won’t take off because most everybody who was interested has already bought in.  Instead it will need an active, constantly updated, and heavily promoted cash shop to keep going.  Govern yourself accordingly.

Wow, even I am surprised at how on the nose this one was.  I mean, it happened.  Shroud of the Avatar had its live launch on Steam.  And then not much happened, except for laying off some of the development staff, backing away from their Euro publisher, and declining numbers on Steam.  But there were a updates and, as expected, focus on the cash shop specials.  Seems about dead on.  10 points.

8 – No legal changes to lootboxes, pay to win, or pseudo gambling.  This is a Gevlon inspired prediction, where he said:

“Mark my word: one year from now, it’ll be illegal to sell anything random or powerful and it’ll be also illegal to not disclose major gaming concepts like how the matchmaker works.”

I’m taking the opposite position.  I’ll leave out the matchmaker part, mostly because that seems nonsensical to predict… not to mention he was wrong about it with League of Legends… and stick with just the “random or powerful” part of that.  If I can buy a random lootbox come December 1st of 2018 with the promise of a useful, non-cosmetic item, that will be 10 points for me.

By my stated criteria I get the full 10 points.  That a person in Belgium cannot is outside the parameters of the prediction.  Betting against Gevlon is generally a wise move.

9 – Nintendo and GameFreak will announce a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl for the 3DS.  Come on, you know how badly we want this!  Dooooo eeeeet!

Nope.  In fact, even as I wrote that prediction GameFreak had already washed its hands of the 3DS platform, so there will be no more Pokemon on Nintendo handhelds.  This makes me sad.  (No, the Switch is not a handheld.)  0 points.

10 – In a retro focused year, Nintendo will also announce Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire for the 3DS Virtual Console.

Again, the 3DS is dead as far as Pokemon goes, and pretty much as far as any new titles go.  Nintendo wants everybody on the Switch and has abandoned the DS/3DS installed base.  0 points.

11 – The Nintendo Switch will get its own Virtual Console store in 2018, and one of the early test items will be versions of the above mentioned Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire in order to test the waters. We will get that announcement before we hear anything about a new, current generation core Pokemon RPG on the Switch.

There will be no Virtual Console for the Switch, and the lingering Virtual Console for the WiiU and 3DS platforms is slated to be turned off soon.  Nintendo has really turned against me.  0 points.

12 – Pokemon Go will finally get a head to head battle mode along with a friends list, though it will be segregated by platform, so iOS and Android shall not mix.  No trading of Pokemon however and the incentives to battle, aside from pride of winning, will be kept minuscule out of fears of abuse.

Well, we got a friends list.  That is worth 2 points I think.  I was pretty much wrong on everything else, even though we got a hint that head-to-head might be coming.

13 – Microsoft/Mojang will announce end of updates/new features for Minecraft –  Java Edition in favor of ongoing support for the unified edition that works across mobile, console, and Windows 10 which, coincidentally, is also the edition where they make money selling skins and such.  Basically, maintenance mode and a push to get people to go where the money is.

Nope.  Much to my surprise, Microsoft has kept Minecraft – Java Edition live and up to date.  0 points.

14 – Daybreak will finally announce a new product, a small-ish group/co-op RPG thing that will feel like something of a new coat of paint on Just Survive, but will be fantasy and based in Norrath because that is the only IP they have that has some draw and lacks a licensing fee.

*crickets*

I guess predicting anything new from Daybreak was optimistic at best.  0 points.

15 – PlanetSide 2 and Just Survive will clearly be in maintenance mode by the end of the year, with staff being pulled off to work on the above new title.  The problem will be distinguishing maintenance mode from whatever mode they are in now.  Daybreak will just have to tell us.

I am going to claim half credit on this one because Just Survive was clearly in maintenance mode for some time frame in 2018… before Daybreak shut it down.  The problem is that, with Daybreak, you can only recognize maintenance mode retroactively, after the axe comes down.  So PlanetSide 2 exists as sort of Schroedinger’s MMO, where we cannot tell if it is supported or drifting untended because silence is Daybreak’s default mode.  It did get a new map, but there hasn’t been a lot else.  So I could possibly claim PS2 was in maintenance mode, which is why I am being greedy and claiming half credit for Just Survive5 points.

16 – EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual autumnal expansions.  The EverQuest team will follow the lead of their younger sibling and return to a Planes of Power theme.

17 – On the EverQuest II side of the house the focus will be a surprising return to a desert theme along the lines of Desert of Flames, flying freaking carpets and all.

I am lumping these two together because they are examples of bad prediction writing.  There are four measurable elements here, each worth five points.  The first two are whether or not EverQuest and EverQuest II will get their annual expansions, while the second two are the themes of those expansions.

For the first two, I get full credit, 10 points, as both got an expansion.

As for themes, I was only half right there.  EverQuest II did not return to the Desert of Flames, however EverQuest did move back to the elemental planes again, so 5 points on that.

All together, 15 points total.

18 – The deal with Tencent to bring H1Z1 to China will fall apart when PlayerUnknown’s Battleground makes it there first and sews up the battle royale market.  Best case, H1Z1 will launch and fold in a few months, worst case it won’t even get the chance.

I haven’t heard a thing about H1Z1 in China.  Jace Hall had a lot to say in August, but China was not on the list.  It isn’t clear why H1Z1 didn’t go to China, just that it did not.  Going to claim 8 points for that.

19 – EVE Fanfest 2018 in Iceland will be a smash, celebrating as it will the 15th birthday of the launch of EVE Online.  However, one of the announcements will be that there will be no EVE Vegas going forward and that their plans for Four Fan Fests around the world in 2019 will be scrapped as will Fan Fest 2019, though the latter will be because they’re remodeling the Harpa.  I am not adopting the Massively OP outlook that EVE Online itself is mordibund because most of the community team got the axe, but without them who else is going to do these events?

I was kind of down on CCP after the big layoffs and retrenchment.  The four fanfests plan still seems to be in motion and EVE Vegas is still a thing.  It just looks like CCP Guard and CCP Falcon are going to be very, very busy. 0 Points.

20 – EVE Online itself will continue to move forward more slowly than planned.  The end of player owned starbases and null sec stations won’t come to pass until after the traditional CCP July/August vacation season.  Focus before then will be tuning Alphas some more, The Agency, and special events.

This would seem like a really spot-on prediction if CCP hadn’t done the Alpha clone thing before I wrote it.  I expected more.  Also, the null sec stations thing happened in June.  But there was continued focus on The Agency.  I get 1 point for that!

21 – After going up in 2017, the PCU will begin to trend down again, with the average over the next 12 months dipping down to 30K.  Not drastic, but it will keep the “EVE is dying” fan club active and have CCP looking around for short term changes to boost the player base.

Seems close enough.  The average line through 2018 over at EVE Offline, as of this writing, shows the number at 31K.

The average online user count for 2018

That looks like I am dipping a little into December 2017, but even if I push it all the way to March the number doesn’t change.

Going to give myself 7 points and reaffirm that EVE is dying just like the rest of us.

22 – EVE Fanfest 2018 will see a revised vision statement about future plans for EVE Online.  Gone will be talk of player built gates and new space.  There is already too much space in New Eden for the current player base.  Instead the new vision will seek to revitalize NPC null sec regions like Venal and the Great Wildlands with a much more aggressive NPC population defending those systems rather than just letting players pass.  Details will be high level, but CCP will hint that this is a test run for plans they are considering for Jove space as some sort of high end, raid-like experiment.

Well, I don’t think anybody is talking about new space.  We did, however, get player built star gates.  They were just replacements for jump bridges, not portals to new space.  And the rest was not anywhere close either.  0 points.

23 – In EVE Online the CSM 13 elections will see a bump in non-null sec representation, with four seats going to such candidates.  The return of Mike Azariah will help get out the non-null vote.  The six null-sec seats will be two Imperium (Aryth & Innominate), one Brave, one TEST, one PL/PH/NCDot, and one GotG.

HAHAHAHAHA… no.  If anything it went the other way, with only two non-null sec seats in the end and five Imperium members winning seats.  Also, nobody from Brave or TEST.  I cannot find a loophole here to even give myself a single point  0 points.

24 – Project Aurora, CCPs mobile game made in cooperation with… um… whoever that was at EVE Vegas… will ship in the second half of the year and… will do better than Dust 514.  It will do okay, people will download it and play it, it will get a core following and make some money, but it won’t be covering the bills or paying for an expanded community team.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  And Project Aurora became EVE Echoes and is being made by NetEase, the same Chinese company that is making Diablo Immortal0 points here.

25 – We won’t hear much about the alleged new project that CCP recently posted job listings about, aside from the fact that they have partnered with somebody else to do the heavy lifting. A year from now EVE Online will still be all CCP really has, but people will still be yelling at CCP for a) spending money on anything besides EVE Online and b) gambling the whole company’s future on just EVE Online.

I guess we heard about new product and projects, so it is hard to claim any points here, but then again some of what we heard, like the plans for Project Nova, got turned back after Vegas.  I have to go with 0 points on this.

26 – No 64-bit client for EVE Online in 2018.  The captain’s quarters wasn’t all that was holding them back, it was just the easiest to dispose of.

Okay, at least this one was spot-on, even if it was pretty much a gimme.  10 points.

27 – Standing Stone is running out of content for Lord of the Rings Online.  Between Mordor and the Grey Havens there is really only a couple of weddings, the walk home, the scourging of the Shire, and trying to clean up the mess.  No expansions, no big changes to the landscape, just a few updates with some of the more militant mopping up tasks in areas of Middle-earth they have already mapped out.  We won’t be walking Frodo to the Grey Havens in 2018, but it will be on the horizon.

SSG actually surprised me on this, pulling some content and an increase in the level cap out of their hat.  It wasn’t sold as an expansion, so I suppose I and right on that front, but that isn’t much to hang my hat on.  I’m going to take 1 point for that.

Double Extra Credit Bonus Prediction: CCP will announce they are merging with, or being acquired by, another studio before the end of 2018.

For something of a random-ass guess… I mean we knew CCP was being shopped around, but actually finding a buyer was never going to be simple… I am surprised I got this bonus round prediction.  But it happened, Pearl Abyss bought CCP.  So I guess 20 points for me.

Score

All of that adds up to 120 points, including the bonus question, out of 270, giving me a 44% score.  As usual, it is a failing grade, but it was still better than the 25% score I managed last year.

Anyway, I do this every year less to be right and more to make myself think about the future and the possible paths it may take.

And now I have to consider what I will predict for 2019… besides more of the same.  That tends to be the most consistently correct prediction of all.

LOTRO Fresh Start Server Goes Live Today

I know I’m being somewhat high strung, but the whole “legendary server” thing sticks in my throat a bit.  I’ve seen enough other runs at this sort of thing and the effort here seems low.

And not low effort just compared to the amazing plans for WoW Classic or how Jagex handled RuneScape Classic or the work Daybreak has put into its progression servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II. I think even Trion did more with Rift Prime, and they were on the edge of going out of business.

But you get what you get.  Maybe success here will inspire further refinements later.

A Legend in our own PR

There are enough good things with the server that I’ll get over the hubris of the word “legendary” at some point.  A fresh start server has its own potential.  All the early zones full of people will be nice to see.  And there is something to be said about a subscriber only server.  As with the Daybreak runs, you end up with a crowd that really wants to be there.

And we do get at least one change to differentiate the server.  According to SSG, the experience gain will be adjusted in order to slow it down a bit.

Yes, you will gain XP on the Legendary server at a slightly different rate. The goal is to make sure you don’t outlevel quests in a given zone too easily, but that progress through the game also isn’t cumbersome.

This is another item of fine balance, because the standard live server XP slope leaves you outleveling zones long before you’re through.  This is understandable in an older game with so many levels where people are often running alts up.  But now we’re only going to level 50 and everybody will be on their main and there to see the old sights.

However, it would be easy to crank that meter over too far, ending up with advancement that feels like a slog or, worse, the quest chain leveling faster than the player.  We’ll have to see how that goes.

The server itself has been christened Anor, after a small town in northern France… wait, no… it is named after the sun… Anor is the Sindarin word for the sun.  No doubt SSG has bright hopes for the server, thus the name.

The whole thing is set to open up at 17:00 UTC, which is noon on the east coast of the US and about fifteen minutes ago out here on the left coast, assuming it launched on time and this post went up when scheduled.  So if you’re hearing about this server for the first time now, you’re already late!

Also, if you haven’t patched yet… yeah, you’re not playing any time soon.  The LOTRO patcher is just awkwardly slow.  It isn’t Runes of Magic bad, but it isn’t anybody’s ideal world.  I installed and launched Destiny 2, which weighs in at 81GB, about 5x faster that the last LOTRO update patched.

Anyway, I’ll be trying to log in later in the evening Pacific time, so I won’t have anything to report today.  But that won’t stop me from pondering the likelihood of what might happen today.

  • Server Opens Late – Very Likely

If SSG has the server live at exactly 17:00 UTC I might concede them the legendary title.

  • DDoS Attack Keeps People from Logging In – Minuscule

Who hates Middle-earth that badly?

  • Login Queue over an Hour Long – Almost Assured

There will be the traditional rush for the server when it goes live, and the load will continue to rise as we get into US prime time.

  • Server Crash – Even Odds

I suspect that this might be the highest load on a LOTRO server since they went free to play.

  • Patching Slows to a Crawl – Quite Possible

There is going to be a lot of people patching, and SSG just pushed a big update last week.

  • Patching Fails Altogether – Probably Not

I’m going out on a limb on this, because the patcher and the whole LOTRO web site was down for over an hour last night.  I’m assuming they were just working on something to prepare for the launch.

  • Starter Zone Crashes – Unlikely

I think SSG is pretty solid here, though for the Shire I might go even odds.

  • Hobbit with Immersion Breaking, Semi-Obscene Name – You Think?

I’d honestly be disappointed if that didn’t happen.

  • Starter Zones Denuded of Quest Mobs – Mais Oui!

Yeah, this is just gonna happen.  Be ready and patient.

  • Somebody Gets to Level 50 by Tomorrow – Of Course

Only if they don’t get there by tonight.  Don’t pay them any mind.  They’re just going to have to roll another character anyway if they want to play with other people.

  • Calls in the forum for a second server due to crowds and queues – No Doubt

Pretty much standard item from the checklist for this sort of server event.

  • SSG actually rolling out a second server – Very Low

I don’t think SSG has that in their plans.

  • SSG Web Site Down – Possible

It is down as I am writing this the night before.

  • No Crowds At All – Slim

SSG has done a poor job at getting the word out, but those who pay attention to the game have mostly seem to have heard by now.

  • Drop in Population on Live Servers – Of Course

Most of the people interested in this server are probably already playing LOTRO.  Over at Daybreak their progression servers are their most popular.

  • Complaints about the server in world chat – A Sure Thing

The problem with calling it “legendary” is that is that it sets an expectation that it might be something more than what is on offer.  And people won’t read the announcement and FAQ.  Just mute world chat.  That is my plan.

  • Waiting for the Weekend and Being Happy Logging In – Seems Likely

Seems like the best plan for anybody not ready to run the gauntlet, though the following weekend will make it even easier to get on quickly I bet.