Month in Review – December 2019

December is traditionally something of a slow month for an MMO blog, at least one that covers WoW and FFXIV primarily. Neither game put much out in December, with only patch news for both games – 5.2 for FFXIV and 8.3 for WoW.

January will of course change that, as WoW’s patch 8.3 launches a week from Tuesday, and while FFXIV patch 5.2 doesn’t launch until February, more news on the patch is expected.

Outside of these games, however, there was some interesting stuff to discuss in December in games overall.

-Xbox Series X was announced: unwieldy name aside, the Xbox Series X is an interesting console in a few ways. PC gamers lined up to point out how similar the system’s form factor is to the garbage can shape of several ITX PC cases, most notably Corsair’s tightly packed Corsair One gaming PCs. Hardware-wise, those of us who follow AMD’s moves closely didn’t find many surprises – as was rumored with the Durango leaks almost a full year ago, the system features an 8-core Zen 2 derived CPU of unknown clock speed and a Navi-based GPU.

What was surprising, however, is that a new AMD leak shows both the teraflop rating for both the Xbox Series X and PS5, and the results are unexpected. While both are using similar enough hardware, much like the current generation, the PS5 skews closer to the current Navi architecture on PC, with 36 CUs making up the GPU, while the XSX uses 56 CUs, a design not currently available on PC. Both system deviate in clock speeds, with Microsoft using the larger GPU die to run a lower clock speed, while Sony instead is supposedly clocking their GPU up to 2 GHz, which, given the voltage/frequency curve on desktop Navi graphics cards, seems like a bad idea. The end result is that the huge gap in CUs does make Microsoft’s box the more powerful one visually, on paper at least, while Sony’s machine is at roughly 80% of the XSX mainly because of that clock speed.

Sony has not yet announced the final specs of their machine, or an appearance, while Microsoft is also rumored to be working on a cut-down version of the XSX which would bring the price of the machine down in exchange for some cuts to the processing power (mostly in the GPU, as the XSX is intended to be capable of 8k output and unless you live in Japan, that currently isn’t happening). Either way, 2020 is the year of the new consoles and I’d hope for CES this week to contain some news on the consoles – although we’re probably stuck waiting for E3 at this point.

-The Game Awards: they happened, a Steam sale accompanied them along with the aforementioned Xbox Series X unveiling, there’s not much to say about them.

-Google Stadia Launched: I avoided this topic because I personally don’t have one (or, truth be told, a lot of interest in one personally) but I was fascinated enough in the concept and some of the unique titles promised that I wrote about it previously. Sadly, the Stadia launch was plagued with more reminders of why game streaming services just haven’t found their market yet – higher latency, the need for fast connections, and a confusing business model involving buying a game on the cloud all marred the launch. Nothing, however, quite as bad as the actual experience. Regardless of how you intend to use Stadia, phone activation was required via the mobile app, and those dedicated customers that preordered their kits with controllers met with a unique problem – activation codes were emailed separately, and there was a lack of communication around how they would work, which led to an arbitrary date line being used to divide batches of codes without warning, leaving many people getting their hardware bundles in the mail without access to the service.

I still think that we’ll reach a point where game streaming is practical, but in a world where ISPs still are among the worst companies in the world and make their cash by offering as little as possible for as much as possible, we won’t get there quickly. Google made it much worse for themselves, however, and for that the blame for much of the launch day woes lays at their feet.

As for the blog, well, December was a pretty good month, all told! Slower on the posts due to the holidays and a bit of recuperation from the world trip and Blizzcon, plus just not having much MMO stuff to write about. December came in with the following stats:

-959 views from 571 visitors
-79 likes/15 comments
-17 posts published

My most popular post for the month was “A Quick Look at Why I Like Modern MMO Gameplay” which brought about some interesting discussion. In my last attempt at writing a recap post, I had called out my spoiler-loaded Shadowbringers plot discussion for FFXIV, and that mention fueled more looks at the same post, which ended 2019 at near a thousand views and then my first post on the Shadowlands release timing debate was third place on the podium for December 2019.

I’m going to do a separate post this week looking at 2019 as a whole, both in news and in my site, because there is a lot to say there (and not much else going on in my main topics until next week!) but to say 2019 was a banner year for the site would be an understatement. Despite 2017 being the year I was most linked out to on more mainstream sites, it has remained beaten by the subsequent years – 2018 was a small but appreciated increase in traffic, but 2019 was an absolute juggernaut, beating both prior years combined by a multiplier of at least 2 – so thank you for stopping by to read!

My gameplay in December was more varied but also spread thinner as a result of the lull in my MMOs. I played very little FFXIV, used the anniversary event in WoW to grind my remaining classes to 120, meaning I again have all classes at max level, and then bought and played a handful of other titles on Steam. In no particular order, here is what December brought me:

Doom (2016)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Tomb Raider (2013)
Everquest II
Two-Point Hospital
Poly Bridge

All of these were interesting in different ways – I wrote about a couple of the above, and have plans for others (that EQII post is coming!), but the others are either fun diversions or just for me.

As for January goals, here is what I have on the horizon:

-That aforementioned 2019 breakdown post
-My experience playing Everquest II (early spoilers – I like it far more than I expected to, but the rough edges do sand a lot of that enthusiasm off)
-Patch 8.3 WoW coverage (a ton, because it is likely to bring a degree of story significance and connective tissue that pulls us forward into Shadowlands)
-At least a small number of posts about that game project I mentioned previously – looking to share some design document snippets, sketches, and prototype models – maybe more as I begin digging into Unity (which I’ve acquired and installed!)

I expect that January is going to have a decent amount of scattered gameplay still too, because while the new WoW patch means raiding again and farming for Azerite/Horrific Vision currency and legendary cloak upgrades, I’m not really feeling it that much, to be honest. I debated even returning to raid at all, just because I am not feeling Battle for Azeroth that much, but I also do enjoy raiding even in this expansion, so I’ve already confirmed my return with my guild. I’m optimistic that I will finish Tomb Raider this month and probably write it up, and I’ll probably find the steam to resume leveling alt jobs in FFXIV – I’m getting so close to having my second MMO of all combat classes maxed out, that eventually my desire to get there will overtake the crushing sense of directionlessness I have logging in lately – and that feeling will also likely make a post in its own right!

Personally, winter is always pretty rough for me – I hate cold and live in a place where it gets cold, November-on is always a difficult season mentally for me (lost my father in November 24 years ago, lost my job and a girlfriend in a 3 day span in December 6 years ago, found out my ex-fiancee was seeing another guy behind my back in December 10 years ago) so even though the individual events mentioned are long-settled for the sake of my mental health, it all contributes to winter being contemplative and kind of awful. On the plus side, I did make some positive strides – the very few people who found and read my personal blog know that last year, I made a decision to deactivate Facebook for most of the year, and spent January 2019 through September without it and found the experience incredibly positive overall for my mental health and time. Well, I made a bigger leap for 2020 – yesterday, I downloaded all my data from them, deleted the apps off my iPad and phone, and deleted my account, never to be seen again. Being off it for so long and returning made me realize I actually kind of hated it and was using it to just be mad, so I bailed on it. With the upcoming 2020 election in the US, it felt like an even better move – helping me save my sanity from myself. In my twenties, I used it a lot as a blank canvas to paint a fiction of my life – amplifying the good and downplaying the bad, and I realized with the 8 months off that I just didn’t need that or feel a need to do that in my thirties anymore.

Lastly personally, pretty much all of my wedding planning is already done, so that is pretty cool and alright!

And with that, I think I’ve run out of long paragraphs to write, so see you next time!

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