Category Archives: Other Games

Love Is In The Air For LotRO

Female Beorning Face Tattoo

This week I re-installed LotRO. LotRO is receiving love from the bloggers this week on the heels of a new update and a ninth anniversary celebration.

When LotRO originally went F2P, I was disgusted at the cash shop tactic takeover of the game and interface. Now it’s the norm (unfortunately) and I hardly even notice.

Last week I was playing Ms. Pacman, the new SEGA release on Steam. I made fourth place on the leaderboards and started thinking: I could be playing an outdated MMO for the millionth time, and it would be more fun, and have a better story.

I had to buy the Beorning class and try it. A few years ago, I argued in the official forums for a tribal race, including face tattoos. Turbine provided them! I love my Beorning. I love her grunting she-bear attitude.

There is a wee deal-breaker: a rage mechanic.  For some reason, this mechanic frustrates me.  I quit trying to play Bear druid in WoW because of this.

So I’m playing a Warden. Today I watched some of the six-hour anniversary livestream from a few days ago, which was entertaining, offering a lot of candid dev interviews.

One highlight was the assertion that we will surely see the gates of Mordor within the next year. At least the black gates.

Another highlight was Edgecase’s emphatic assertion that Burglars were in a bad place, and they were a “high priority”.

I’ve never seen an MMO class more abandoned by the players. There are ten classes in LotRO, and about 1.5% of players are currently playing Burglars at cap at any given time, i.e. two players on Landroval.

This is what happens when you ignore a problem for so long, like updating your server software, which as of yesterday was super glitchy, rubber-bandy, and the worst ever. Today the servers are better, so maybe they fixed some issues.

A few years ago the Turbine organization was crass greed (to me), and now they are more like cute, clever, small-handed hobbits, underdogs. The livestream was nice.

Some players today are only now reaching the original conclusion of pure greed, of course, while others are just now discovering LotRO. For the latter, I’m trying to update my Newbie Guide To LotRO as I go along.  The guide still sees 10-20 views per day.


Gaming Stocks


This last week was a brutal week for corporate earnings in the U.S.. Google, Apple, and Microsoft all fell on their faces.

I sold $MSFT at break-even. I tried to buy Sony at chart support, but was forced out immediately when the Bank of Japan held fast on their policy, causing the Yen to skyrocket, and $SNE to break support.

The dollar is plunging, sending every Uncle Joe piling into spiking gold and silver prices. I rode that for a short while, but good grief people.

High Yen puts pressure on exports and revenue in Yen denomination. I guess. So I might be watching the Yen for another Sony entry point, or I might just forget getting into Sony before E3.

Sony is also now under some pressure as an iPhone sensor supplier, like all iPhone suppliers, after Apple’s disappointment, not to mention the work stoppage for the recent earthquake. So I was thinking buy the bad news, but I was too early. Now it looks like the U.S. markets could roll over, dragging down others with it.

With Sony’s supposed PS4.5, Playstation VR, and Sony’s VR games in the pipeline, which were heralded by the Gamestop CEO as something special, this is looking like Sony’s year to push forward after some recent impressive PS numbers.

Nintendo also mentioned this week a new console-type product for possible spring 2017 release, but that still seems to leave Sony in command of the hardware holidays.


Elder Scrolls Online: Nameplates Coming

skyrim mod

While playing Skyrim, I miss my ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) high elf Templar.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of ESO. Most reasons I left the game I know are still in place: no real Auction House, only four classes with a very limited skill bar, and a super-obtuse UI that’s difficult to navigate.

I’d almost forgotten about the missing nameplates.

I remember when the ESO devs were showing off their game pre-launch, practically thumping their chests proudly at their amazing non-existent interface. Apparently they hadn’t noticed how much players don’t like their interface.

SkyUI – the super-popular interface-fixer mod for Skyrim, has over eleven million downloads. That’s a shocking number, apparently about one download for every two copies of Skyrim sold on all platforms (22 million) worldwide.

Last month the ESO devs actually announced they are planning to make the ESO interface a little less painfully opaque. They are planning to put back nameplates, which have been gone since beta. (I saw them – they weren’t glorious, but they worked.)

Apparently it only took two years of begging from players (I was one of them early on) and even a Change.Org petition!

I’ll probably give ESO another try in subscription mode as soon as I finish Skyrim.  I miss my elf, and I miss open world cooperation.  ESO has a strong focus on open world coop, i.e. Delves.

In the Orsinium preview last fall, the Creative Lead said public dungeons are a place they want to get more characters to, so they increased the experience rewards.  I love public dungeons.

Rift also has excellent grouping, public and otherwise, but I’m not ready to return yet.  Archonix put out a producer’s letter this week.

Rift has introduced login rewards, and intends to roll out multi-core and 64 bit client support this year, along with new souls, and new Carnival content.


Hearthstone


In other news, Blizzard announced a major change to Hearthstone – new ways to play. Casual and ranked play will be broken into an official tournament division using only the most recently released decks of cards, while a “wild mode” will allow all cards from all sets.

I think it’s a great and needed change for various reasons. The players get a lot more new cards. The devs are less constrained, so they can do more creative things.

The game is free, so the amount of money that players spent on the retired cards (Naxx and GvG initially) in “standard” mode is not that much money over a two-year time period, unless they spent far too much in the first place. The real catch is the amount of money needed in the future to keep up with the pace.


Gaming Stocks


Stocks today (Friday) are giving up on their attempt to rally from Bear mode, and are dying in a fire. Even companies announcing great results this quarter (Google, Facebook), are being pummeled (down 4% and 6%).

That’s not wild mode – that’s crazy mode. Blizzard’s stock is continuing to get killed, and I’m now back to break-even.

I sold my Electronic Arts last week at break-even after they reported lackluster results, and the stock dropped 8% in one day. So I’m happy enough to see it drop another 10% this week.

I also sold Alibaba last week because I realized it’s a liquid trading proxy for China, and it no longer trades on its own merit. So that means I have to play that game, so I’m looking for the chart of the China ETF (i.e. FXI), to break out of the downsloping pattern before buying back into Alibaba as a proxy for China.

I’m just holding Activision-Blizzard and Microsoft until hell freezes over. Blizzard debt is even more of a potential albatross with the rising interest rates (I think?) but clearly no one else understands characters and can create new IPs and cross-marketing like they can.

The Electronic Arts CEO was going on (in their conference call) about Star Wars Battlefront’s great visuals, and how they are trending for a younger demographic. Apparently their new direction isn’t working well for them, since they drastically missed their revenue estimates, which actually fell from last year according to Zack’s.

So happy Friday! This went longer than expected, so next time I’ll try for an update on my game project. I’m programming this weekend. Last weekend was art.

I’m puzzled a little trying to make elves look like elves, and not like humans with pointy ears. If anyone has a genius observation, I’d love to hear it! The below portraits need a few touches still.

Professor Aspen is supposed to be an homage to Professor Snape (Alan Rickman, who passed on last month), but the semblance isn’t exactly brilliant.  The elf naming needs research and decisions.

elf ports


Rift: Game Is In Great Shape, Announcement Coming (+ Gaming Stock Commentary)

In response to player concerns today about the future of Rift, community manager Ocho had this to say in the forums:

“So let’s get to some facts:

  • The RIFT Dev team is the largest Dev team I’ve ever worked with in almost a decade of working on triple A MMOs.
  • The team has grown over the last year and a half, and hiring for the team continues.
  • Population in RIFT is strong, lots of people play RIFT and lots of new people continue to start to play RIFT.
  • Profits from RIFT are certainly reinvested in RIFT. AA took 0 devs from RIFT. None, nada, zilch.
  • RIFT is in zero danger. We’re really excited about the future, right now is a great time to be playing or working on RIFT. …
  • We’re not only reusing old content, we’re also developing new content. Keep your eyes out over the next couple weeks, we might be announcing something.”

– Ocho

This is great news, since this kitty has also been a little worried.

This week I capped my rogue alt, and I continue close to picking up a few pieces of raid gear earned for my main by weeklies and dailies instead of raiding. I’m also enjoying the creative and quirky nightmare saga story.

The second act released yesterday. The return of old classic characters doesn’t bring much life to them (so far), and we mostly see them as generic quest-advancers. The third act of the saga also supposedly forces you to do a lot of PvP and NTE dungeons.

I disagree with this design, even if it’s to justify the epic weapon you can theoretically get when it’s all over. There are two main types of players:

  • Players for whom this is just same-old grinding to pad out the saga.
  • Players for whom this is horrible and will spend an entire weekend trying to queue for PUG DPS and beat five dungeons, or queuing PvP and hating Trion the entire time.

Just doesn’t seem like a winning scheme to me.


Video Game Stocks


Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft (MSFT) both had solid earnings reports this week, so hopefully these will be long term for my paltry little portfolio, and I can ease up on my nine-month quest (right before the stock market goes off a cliff, possibly.)

How can Microsoft compete with Apple and Google? By uniting your PC in an ecosystem with your other devices and monetizing by applying what they’ve learned from Free-To-Play video games. I plan to buy a Lumia soon. My Samsung tablet completely fails to recognize my Windows 7 PC.

You’ll also be able to stream XBOX to PC with Windows 10, or stream console-quality games to your PC without an XBOX using the cloud, which Microsoft demonstrated yesterday.

If you need any more good news for Microsoft, China announced this week that it will now allow game consoles to be sold in China after a 15 year ban. This is probably more better for Sony and Nintendo.

My third tech pick is still Equinix (EQIX), a cloud pipeline and data center owner. They are allied with Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, which I hope will eventually win against Amazon’s huge cloud. Who wants to trust Amazon with their entire corporate business and security if the other choice is the Microsoft on your PCs?

I also still hold AT&T (T), which is now FCC-approved to merge with DirectTV, with an expectation of leveraging their scale to produce their own competitive over-the-top video streaming service like everyone else.

Nvidia’s (NVDA) stock continues to head into the abyss with PCs and chips, although the stock is super tempting as it dips below $20. The future of virtual reality in video games and in general might see Nvidia as a big player.

As TAGN reported, Blizzard (ATVI) announces results next week on 8/4, followed by an announcement of a new expansion a few days later on 8/6. Interesting.

In the last two quarters, Blizzard reported strong results and the stock popped. Both times I sold and took small profits. The stock might pop again, but right now Wall Street seems to be in a mood to sell any stocks after their results hit print.

Especially if a stock ran up into its earnings announcement.

I would not be betting on Blizzard’s stock to be higher the day after it reports. If ATVI sells off hard, it might be a buying opportunity, especially if the Wall Street boys aren’t completely up to speed with the expansion deal.

Also, if Blizzard is announcing their expansion earlier than normal at Gamescom, then maybe they are saving something even bigger for Blizzcon in November?


Electronic Arts CEO: “Life Is Better With Video Games”

This afternoon, CNBC interviewed the CEO of Electronic Arts (Andrew Wilson) live from E3. The interview ranged from the new Star Wars: Battlefront game to virtual reality games, which Wilson thinks are years off. Wilson’s punch line for the interview was the following:

“When you play more games, your life gets better and better.”

That just sounds weird to me, not to mention wrong, unless you interpret “better” to mean less sex due more divorces and less dating, which means less babies, which means the world is saved, or at least ecological Armageddon is forestalled a little longer.

To me, it honestly sounded like a slogan for a happy pill. It sounded like someone was pushing addictive happy pills and knew it. That was my reaction to the interview.

Electronic Arts was pushing the new Star Wars: Battlefront game at E3. The clips during the interview looked really good, like an old-school Star Wars: Jedi Knight game brought into the year 2015.

For everyone who ever wished Star Wars: The Old Republic looked better graphically, which is pretty much everyone, we should be looking forward to this game. This is surely the best snow landscape I’ve ever seen.

My only criticism of the Star Wars preview videos is that the ancient, used-a-million-times Star Wars sound effects and music sound a little stale. I hope Disney’s movie productions will come up with something new.


Weekly Wyrm ~ Toy Cars and Plutonium

Bethesda announced Fallout 4 today. The trailer is plain brilliant. We’ve got a strong character, a little story, and heart-touching emotion. Wait, a dog?! A dog is a great solution for a character that doesn’t favor one gender.

This is one of my favorite trailers ever, and Bethesda even stretched their usual under-two-minute effort by a whole 50%. IGN reports the game will take place in Massachusetts.

The 50s flashback sequences are creepy, given the increasingly real renewed threat of nuclear bombs recently. Think Russia’s lax security and non-existent ethics, Iran, Syria and terrorism.

I think it’s only a matter of time before New York City is blown up, which is why I won’t buy and hold a stock with a headquarters in New York. Crazy? You heard it here first on the Kitty.

Just yesterday I sold my stock in Activision Blizzard on the launch of Heroes of the Storm, and today they announced Planes, Boats, and Cars for Skylanders, to release this fall along with Guitar Hero Live. The stock took off again.

It’s a nice idea.

Disney made horrible headlines recently by laying off 200+ tech employees and replacing them with cheap workers from India, exploiting a government allowance for temp visas for tech workers. These temp visas are supposed to be for tech jobs that employers can’t fill, not to displace American workers.

Just disgusting, and I’m just now finding out about it. I’m probably selling Disney and buying back Blizzard. I really hate investing in software, and especially game companies trying to turn joyful innocent games into gambling, addiction, and kid-sploitation. I guess it’s inevitable, just like drones looking in our windows.

Jim Cramer talked video game stocks tonight on CNBC. He opines that EA, Activision Blizzard, or Take Two–any way you’re winning. I still like Blizzard because of Tencent’s 12% stake. I was watching an evil video on Chinese style game monetization, and the speaker said everything Tencent touches turns to gold.

Speaking of competition, Cramer talked about the sudden resurrection of Gamestop (the game store), which everyone had written off as dead due to download purchases. They’ve mutated into other areas (phones and Apple knockoff stores) and reported a shocking quarter.

Cramer also mentioned Gamestop’s 40 million Rewards members, and he called them “loyal”. No. Gamestop practically twists your arm to join.

No one is twisting my arm to write these blog posts, and my morale is falling with my visitors. My Rift Newbie guide visits are down about 50% YOY. I’ve been watching Hearthstone a bit on Twitch.

I finished the Blackrock Mountain expansion last week. It was satisfying fun, but I’m not motivated to keep playing the PvP game. I just don’t know where I’m going without a story, MMO-like progression, or character development.

Also with no story or story quests, I’ve stalled in Guild Wars 2 with my Guardian at the exact place I stopped with my Hunter – around level 35. I’ve been working hard on my novels, and I’m taking the summer off school.

I might make the 4th a gaming weekend and celebrate my freedom by doing nothing constructive. Happy gaming, whatever you’re playing!