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Question of the Day – What Will Lord British’s Sith Name Be? September 28, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Humor.
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9 comments

The more I think about this, the more the Anakin Skywalker / Richard Garriott de Cayeux parallel fits.

So here we are.  As I posted yesterday, Lord British acknowledges that Zynga is evil, or at least really annoying.  And since they are annoying not only purpose, but to their own material benefit, how does one distinguish that from evil? (See Tobold definition.)  And what is the Lord British response?

I’ll use this knowledge for good!

Knowing the truth, and even acknowledging it publicly and repeatedly, Lord British has still partnered with, and has been accepted as the apprentice of, a card carrying Sith Lord, the man who has admitted in the past that the ends clearly justify the mediocre means (the ends being increasing his wealth and power, as opposed to, say, making good games), Darth Pincus.

(Not to be confused with Greg Pincus, though the methods may sound similar.)

In the words of Lord British, when reflecting on the evil of Zynga:

Yet, it’s still really important to learn those lessons, and there’s no better place to learn them then by having Zynga as a partner.

Holy crap!

As a rabid consumer of crap science fiction and fantasy in my youth… and my relative youth… and, well, into middle age frankly… I know that this can only end one way.

Offensive monetization strategy? Sounds great!

So the immediate next question for me is, what name will Darth Pincus bestow upon his new apprentice?

And here is where things get a bit fuzzy, as the whole Sith naming structure is pretty opaque to me.  Do they have some deeper meaning?  Are they some sort of subtle mockery of their past, pre-Sith life?  Are they just supposed to sound badass so as to strike fear into their enemies and make it easier for movie goers to figure out who the bad guy really is when they are off screen?

So I can only guess how Lord British will be restyled once his transformation has begun.

Darth BritanniaVille?

Darth CosPlay?

Darth SoyuzVille?

What do you think it will be.  Who will rise up to cast down Darth Pincus and redeem our misguided hero?  And will George Lucas get involved somehow and screw the whole thing up?

This whole thing needs a web comic or something.  And a better version of Darth Vader’s head pasted on Lord British.  I was short on time before work this morning.

Looking Back at 2011 – Highs and Lows December 30, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Casual Games, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
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11 comments

Last week I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed online game-wise in the new year.  That list was filled with a lot of not-quite-MMOs.

Now it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2011, or at least what came to pass from my vantage point in this little corner of the gaming world.  So, as I did last year, I present you with a lot of bullet points in no particular order.

Turbine

Highs:

  • LOTRO is still there, still has wonderful Middle-earth charm, still has some of the best role-play tools available in any MMORPG.
  • Their games survived and thrived post free-to-play.
  • They got a nice new chunk of Middle-earth on the map with Rise of Isengard.
  • I made it to freakin’ Moria at last!!11 one one one

Lows:

  • Their stuff still doesn’t feel as polished as WoW or Rift, which is bad in a still-growing field of competitors.
  • Their character models, awkward at launch, are not aging well at all.
  • I am still in Moria and have no plan to buckle down and get to Mirkwood, much less Isengard.
  • They shipped their last new game when?

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs:

  • I say this every year, but EQ still lives!  12 years in and still going!
  • Time locked progression servers brought back a healthy slice of that MMO nostalgia goodness!
  • I got to partake in that goodness with Potshot for a while… and it was damn good!
  • EQ got a new expansion with things like parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
  • EQII still does a ton of things better than other games, like housing interiors.
  • SOE reconciled the Live/Extended split so there is, again, but one Popeye EverQuest II.
  • EQII got a new expansion and actually added a new class, beastlords, to the game after seven years.
  • Star Wars Galaxies goes out with dignity and some fond memories.
  • Planetside 2 announced!
  • Vanguard is actually getting some attention!

Lows:

  • That whole PSN/SOE hacking thing.  It killed our momentum on Fippy Darkpaw and made SOE look bad in general.
  • The nostalgia marketing effort around the EQ progression servers started weak and then totally disappeared once they went live.  A 12 year old game has a big nostalgia card to play, but SOE chose to pretty much ignore it the day after the Time Locked Progression servers were launched.
  • They behavior of some players on the TLP servers reminded us all why we went to instanced dungeons in the first place, plus a lot of other old arguments sprang up anew on the forums.  Too much nostalgia.
  • Hey EQ team, haven’t items through the mail been on every MMO since 2004? What took you so long?
  • EQII still pisses me off with a myriad of stupid little things, like why is “auto loot” when solo and “auto greed” when in a group the same setting.  I want to do one but not another.  The game has more settings than any MMO I have ever played, yet felt the need to combine these two?
  • EQII pissed off members of the instance group and pretty much closed the door on us ever going back there again.
  • SOE remains amazingly unprepared to announce things.  The whole merger of EQII Live and Extended brought up a couple dozen questions, the immediate answers to which were, “Uh… we need to think about that.”
  • I still cannot get past level 60 or so in EQII before becoming bored.
  • There were layoffs and the death of The Agency.
  • Who decided that a double station cash event was a great idea three days after a triple station cash event?
  • Planetside 2? Was the original popular enough to spawn a sequel?
  • Star Wars Galaxies… Lucas pulls the plug, leaves SOE to clean up the mess.

CCP

Highs:

  • The EVE Online CSM actually does some good, gets management to focus on EVE fundamentals.
  • CCP management actually turns things around for the next EVE expansion.
  • Crucible moves the game forward by fixing what we already had.
  • Oh, hey, I am in null sec!  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
  • Dust 514 looks like it might become real giving CCP… two games.

Lows:

  • Arrogance, blindness, and Incarna nearly lead the company off a cliff.
  • Over-extension of resources meant layoffs and the long-term postponement of a World of Darkness based MMO.
  • EVE is back on the right course… but there are still times when the game is dull.  I had to buy Peggle to play while sitting and watching local.
  • Dust 514 makes sense I guess… CCP clearly has to focus… but with their customer base all on the PC, was going to a console game really the right move?

Blizzard

Highs:

  • WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
  • Still immensely profitable.
  • Has plans for pandas.  My daughter is all over that.
  • Oh, and they shipped Star Craft II in the last decade… and are talking about Diablo III and some new game.

Lows:

  • WoW is down 2 million players since this time last year.
  • Cataclysm malaise and the killing of game nostalgia by redoing the world we started with.  Can they ever do a WoW progression server now?
  • The slow response time of Blizzard, which worked out fine when things were going good, is starting to work against them.
  • Pandas?  That was the big news in 2011 from Blizzard?
  • Did they ship a freakin’ thing in 2011?  Does Blizzard and its huge profit margin exist simply to keep Activision from losing money every quarter where they do NOT ship a version of Call of Duty?

Trion Worlds

Highs

  • Rift actually turned out to be well executed.  It is like somebody learned from the last dozen years of MMO foibles.
  • Comfortable and polished enough to pick up and hold on to some defectors from WoW.
  • Public quests… rifts and invasions… done in the way that Warhammer Online should have.
  • Turned out to be a good place for the instance group to call home for now.

Lows:

  • It is, really, just another fantasy MMORPG in the WoW model.  If it had shipped against Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King I am not sure it would have been as successful.
  • Nothing in Trion’s next acts has me interested.

Steam

Highs:

  • I am beginning to reconcile myself with Steam.  I am still not fully on board, but I see the utility of the system as a platform to distribute games.
  • Wow, they put a lot of games on sale for real cheap over the summer and this winter.
  • Steam achievements are… something I guess.

Lows:

  • The internet went down for a couple hours last week and guess what I couldn’t do?  Play any of my games on Steam!  And, of course, Steam is where most of the single player games I would want to play when the internet goes down are.  This is the part I cannot reconcile.
  • Just because a game is marked down from $29.99 to $3.74 does not mean I will like it.  I have a lot of very inexpensive games that I do not like now that I simply wouldn’t have purchased at all were it not for a Steam sale.  Victory for the developer and Steam there, not for me.  Steam now represents the greatest collection of games I do not play on my current PC.
  • Why in the hell did I buy the entire Pop-Cap catalog? I know it was marked down 84%, but I really only wanted Peggle.  Damn you Steam!  And damn me for violating the “never buy anything online after dark” rule.
  • How often does Team Fortress 2 get updates?  Steam was updating it so frequently I had to uninstall it.

Free to Play Movement

Highs:

  • Lots of free to play games out there to sample, like World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Need for Speed World, and a lot more are promised.
  • Older games are getting a new breath of life via an influx of new players via this model.  It seemed to do wonders for EverQuest II.
  • Facebook… there were sure a lot of new games there.
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play.

Lows:

  • To one degree or another, the current consensus on the business model seems to be that a company must bestow some sort of advantage on or remove some annoyance from players who pay.  It is accelerated experience and golden bullets that support most of the games I see, with the selling of actual content far behind in the pack.  And the idea of supporting a game entirely based on cosmetic items sales appears to be a myth on par with Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The games that I play that converted to free to play were the ones I played when they were subscription based.  Time is still the biggest tax on my ability to play games.
  • That a game is free to play does not make it fun to play.  A business model can ruin fun, but it can rarely create fun.
  • Is there any game idea that has not yet been screwed up in attempting to bring it to Facebook?
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play

Players, Blogs, and Community

Highs:

  • Players, like those in EVE Online, show that a group with limited, rational objectives can make their voices heard and see their demands met.  #Occupy protestors take note.
  • Community and playing together is not dead.  Thrown into the EverQuest progression servers, people got together, formed groups, and played nicely… for a while.
  • Hey, we all like to comment on each others blogs!  Thanks for taking the time to leave comments on mine.

Lows:

  • Every time I go into a game’s official forums, I am saddened. This is surely a symptom of the human condition.
  • EverQuest progression servers were a self-selected population of those who wanted most to group up and play nicely… and that has devolved into all the problems that made the WoW model of solo content and instances so popular.  Remember that when you have your rose colored glasses out.
  • For every rational discussion where consensus is reached I see in a blog comment thread, there has to be a dozen cases of the complete inability to see the other person’s perspective or even admit that it exists.  Can we get over that please?
  • I am still not sure which is worse, people complaining bitterly about a game they do not play and do not understand, or people complaining bitterly about people who do not like their game de jour.  Of course, they are often the same people on both counts, so at least they are easy to spot and ignore.
  • Most of the problems in-game… in any game… such as hacking, cheating, bad behavior, poor community, illicit RMT, and the state of official game forums are all pretty much our own damn fault.  Can we promise to try to behave better next year?

So that was 2011, at least from where I sit.  Yes, I failed to mention SWTOR, but I think that is really part of 2012.  There is still too much new game euphoria for me to get any feel for how things are going, especially since I am not playing.

Still, trying to recall a whole year, even with the blog open in front of my for reference, is doomed to failure.  What did I miss?  What came to pass in 2011 that I should have remembered?

Games I Mentioned Once and then Totally Forgot About – Playboy Manager Edition December 9, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Facebook, Misc MMOs.
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1 comment so far

Back in May of 2009 I posted about a press release for Playboy Manager, Playboy’s attempt at an MMO, which they christened a  “Massively Casual Online Game.”

They might have actually been a bit ahead of their time on that one.

And, after that, despite my signing up for the mailing list, I never heard a single thing about the game.

I mentioned it a year later in my month in review post  (so I guess I mentioned it twice) where I said:

And a year ago Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.  The site for the game is still there (go Google it) but it still mentions signing up for beta invites.  Casual might refer to the development plan I guess.

The game looked to be on the same trajectory that Planet Michael is now; all talk, no rock.

However, the game did eventually launch.  Or so I hear.

In an astonishingly bad use of captured email addresses, Jolt Online Gaming and/or Playboy apparently failed to alert those who expressed an interest in the game that it had actually gone live.  You would think after all that work, they might have put some effort into publicizing it.

Seriously, I would have logged in just to experience it, had I but known.

Their effort went live as a Facebook game, under the name Playboy Party, back in November 2010.  Of course, since it went to Facebook, it was probably flagged as Beta like every other Facebook game, so maybe they felt it wasn’t time yet to go to the public.

However, time was of the essence, as the game closed on September 12th of this year.

In the middle of that, in March 2011, things go so messed up that the game had to be reset and everybody had to start again from scratch.

Brilliant!

And so the game has come and gone, having garnered all of 400 actual players during its short life span.  It may now aspire to be a footnote in the appendix of an unpublished volume of esoteric video game history.

Thanks to UnSubject over at Vicarious Existence whose post on the subject, which has more detail and actual screen shots from the game,  reminded me again that the Playboy Manager/Playboy Party even existed.  Plus there is a bonus mention of another failed Playboy online game project, Poisonville!

Raptr: MMOs? None Were Released in 2011 December 8, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Gaming Industry Trends, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
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6 comments

Raptr, the game play tracking and social network tool thing that seems a lot like Xfire… because it was created by the same people who made Xfire… where was I going with this…

Oh, yeah.

Raptr announced their Most Played Games for 2011, restricted to games launched in 2011, despite the fact that we still have 23 days to go here.  Maybe nothing else important is launching this year.

What?  Star Wars: The Old Republic is launching this year?

Well, too late and too bad!

In fact, of the categories Raptr chose to acknowledge, MMOs barely make the cut.

The categories are:

And while you might think “Open-World Game” would include MMOs, that is actually just single player open world games like Batman: Arkham City or L.A. Noire.

No, the only mention of MMOs is in the final category, the one about Paid-to-F2P conversions.  That covers MMOs, because it seems if you ran some sort of crime or crime fighting MMO… Champions Online, DC Universe Online, City of Heroes, All Points Bulletin, or… well, it doesn’t quite fit but I’ll make it fit… Global Agenda… then apparently 2011 was your year to go Free to Play.

So, from one angle I suppose congratulations are in order.  Raptr managed to do a “Most Played” list that squeezed in MMOs from such an angle that they avoided mentioning any fantasy MMOs… like Rift maybe… along with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Was it really that bad of a year for MMOs?  I know my 2011 MMO Outlook ended up on the sad end of things, but were there really so few launches?

Was the slide to F2P really the big event for 2011?

The Madness of Lord British December 1, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment.
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14 comments

Oh the wacky things that come out of the mouth of Dr. Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux!

(Please note/respect his name change)

The first image from the Portalarium site

Now maybe the press is just catching him at the wrong moments, but I am having problems parsing the meanings of his statements of late.  He seems to be all over the map.

About a month ago he was scolding EA and Blizzard for “letting” Zynga have the casual market, which seemed to me to be like scolding Peterbilt for letting Daihatsu beat it in the Kei car market in Japan.  And on thinking about it, since he is all about the whole casual game scene at the moment, he seems to be complaining that EA isn’t in a position to kick him in the ass yet again.

Then he starts talking about his ultimate RPG game, all the while hinting that if only EA would hire him back and give him creative control, (or at least just let him use the name and IP) he could banish elves and ninjas and make the Ultima franchise great again.  But that didn’t sound very casual.

This was followed up by the big interview over at Industry Gamers where, after comparing himself to Tolkien, he goes on to say that gaming consoles are doomed… we MIGHT see one more generation… and that the future is in portable devices, which coincidentally happens to be a platform he is targeting.  At least that seemed to be clearly self-serving in a Bobby Kotick sort of way.  I can grasp that, especially when I recall him saying at GDC 2007 that MMOs were the way to go… because, of course, he was making an MMO. (He’s done with MMOs now.)

On top of that, add in the background noise of one of his manors going up for sale, which includes some stunning amenities, winning his lawsuit with NCsoft, where his last big effort, Tabula Rasa  went live 4 years ago and closed 16 months later, his space faring ventures, which gets played up a lot, the rather limited focus of in his company, Portalarium, with its loathsome twitter feed, the big output from which appears to be online Poker and Blackjack, and how he runs the company via robotic interface… and an appearance with Martha Stewart

and…

well…

…you start to wonder how seriously you should take the guy these days, at least when it comes to computer games.

You cannot take away what he has accomplished.  The Ultima series of games was huge and innovative and influential and in ways remains unmatched to this day.  But even that series seemed to be faltering until Ultima Online came along.  And since then his efforts on the gaming front seem to have dissipated.

Thus while the thought of EA bringing him back and, say, teaming him up with BioWare to produce the ultimate Ultima RPG is a great “What if…” scenario, it seems only just slightly more likely to happen than EA handing Richard Bartle a pile of money to create the ultimate virtual world.

So if he is serious about building his dream RPG, it seems like it will have to be in a land besides Britannia.

All of which still leaves me in kind of a “what the hell?” state of mind.

Would you want to play Mr. Garriott de Cayeux’s ultimate RPG even if it wasn’t set in the lands of Ultima and he had to place himself in game as… I don’t know… Seigneur Cayeux sur Mer?

Would you play it if it was only on Android or iOS?

Would you play it if it involved talking to trees?

Has anybody checked the color of his urine lately?

September in Review September 30, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, Casual Games, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Facebook, Month in Review, Need for Speed World.
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1 comment so far

The Site

Welcome to my 61st month in review post.

Just to reiterate, the site made it to the five year mark and remains active.  Given the observed blog mortality rate, this seems like a reasonable achievement.  And it also means that now every month in review post will include not only a “One Year Ago” section, but now a “Five Years Ago” segment.  Suck it.

As often happens, spammers grab onto one of my older posts and that becomes the target of 90% of the spamming for a brief time.  I have yet to figure out a pattern.  This month, the year old post EverQuest Next and Lessons Learned seemed to be the target.  I actually kind of like that post, as I tried to put some thought into it… differentiating it from many of my other posts.   But in the last month, literally hundreds of obvious spam comments were caught in the spam filter trying to get to that post.  And since I see maybe 1 in 10 of what Akismet gets, that means a lot of spam pointed at one odd target.  I have no idea why.  Maybe it was the pretty pictures.

Home of future gold spammers?

And then, in watching traffic, I noticed I was getting a lot of referral traffic from the fine people over at Popehat.  And while that is partially explained by Patrick linking me in a post, the trend actually started more than a week before that post, and I have no idea why.

A Pope of a different hat…

They write snarky pieces about serious social issues  (go look through Ken’s Anatomy of a Scam posts, for example, a worthwhile read) and I write… well… this crap.  There must be some sort of Venn diagram overlap between “gamer” and “free speech issues” or something.

The internet remains a mystery.

(Pope-alope picture property of somebody, reprinted without permission, and stolen from here.)

One Year Ago

Well, there was that whole four year anniversary thing.

Planet Michael, the Michael Jackson virtual world, was announced.  How is that coming along?

The whole David Allen, Derek Smart, Quest Online public blame and shame fest ended when Quest Online gave David Allen some money and he went away.  Dr. Smart could not help but throw in a couple final comments.

CCP was talking about Public Fleets and such that were planned for their Incursions expansion.  That got delayed long enough for me to get tired of waiting.  Still, it was better than Incarna.

More interesting was a guide to suicide ganking in EVE Online put up by TooNuRacoon.

Meanwhile, I was kicking off my EVE Online screen shot contest.  All of the entries are now posted on my other site.

I tried turning an old joke into an MMO joke.  Some people got it.  Some did not.

I looked at cloaks in MMOs, and how little they resemble what we would call a cloak in the real world.

Lord of the Rings Online flipped the switch and went free to play.  We were truly among the free (to play) peoples Middle-earth then.  There were some issues with Turbine Points, though I did get my 5,000 point pay-off.

The instance group was still summering in Middle-earth.  The group was finally into the meat of the Lone Lands.  We also tried some skirmishes and talked about Anderson Cooper.

In LOTRO I also ran into somebody who was looking for a social environment similar to old EverQuest.  I wonder if he ended up on Fippy Darkpaw which, for a short time, had all the best aspects of early EQ.

And, after a year of waiting, I finally finished off that one last Brewfest achievement in World of Warcraft.  Go me.

Five Years Ago

The blog started.  As with all blogs, there was a first post.  I still haven’t covered all of the topics I laid out in that post.

Our WoW instance group started up, saving me from a solo life in Azeroth.

I made my first of many runs at EverQuest nostalgia.  It will never end, I assure you.

I  started up EVE Online for the first time, choked on the tutorial, and had some impressions to share.

I put up the first of my planned ancient gaming posts, with a look at Stellar Emperor circa 1986.

I was musing about games slated for the future, including Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online.  I had reservations about both.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Special Site Mention

Cosmetic LOTRO

The place to go when you are looking for your “look” in Middle-earth.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Zoroark Download Event Coming to Toys R Us!
  2. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  3. World of Warcraft Magazine – Dead After Five Issues
  4. In Which I Feel the Power of the Dark Side… of The Sims Social
  5. The Great Star Wars Saga Viewing Order Question
  6. Things I Hate About Twitter – The Babbling Company Feed
  7. The Sims Social Pegs My Dating Life…
  8. Vast Goon Conspiracy Ensnares Even Its Foes!
  9. SOE Finally Gets a REAL Server Status Page
  10. Star Wars Blu-Ray Viewing Order Poll Results and Impressions
  11. Heroic Results of the First Five Year Plan!
  12. Fippy Darkpaw GMs Starting Their Own Fight Club

Search Terms of the Month

fort necessity
[Wow, somebody's George Washington paper is off to a rocky start!]

did he drop any good loot
[If you have to ask, I am going to say "no."]

moparisthebest
[Now there is an obscure reference to an old post.]

We hope you are enjoying participating in the Game Testing Program and want to thank you for helping shape the most anticipated MMO to date.
[A sudden spike of this in the last 24 hours.]

Spam Comments of the Month

I consume around 4 liters a day, I will begin my day with close to one and then go to on to many other types. I think the more the better though.
[The guy is either a diabetic or drives a vintage Jaguar.]

EverQuest and EverQuest II

In a mental mis-calculation, it appears that my SOE All Access pass is still good.  I think.  The fact that the SOE account page that should tell me this information is broken on my account (again) means that I am not sure.  But I think I forgot to add in the extra 45 days I received as part of the SOE post-hack make good program.  So I am probably still live until November.

That and getting the SOE authenticator got me to at least log into their games, if only to see if they missed anything with their implementation.  Plus there was Karen’s new series on EQIIx at Massively, which got me to poke around EQIIx a bit myself.  I’ve done a bit of crafting, gotten my templar another level, and opened up the guild hall to send out the resource bots to gather so I can sell their plunder on the broker for the guild escrow account.  Maybe my account will stay active long enough for me to make a Beastlord.

I also wandered around old Norrath a bit on Fippy Darkpaw, just to see how things are going with the Velious expansion.  They seem to be stuck due to technical issues.  Go SOE.  It is like they never did a progression server before.  So the timer until the next expansion has yet to start.

Lord of the Rings Online

The rump instance group continued making slow progress in Evendim.  Real life has keep us from pressing on as quickly as we might have.  Basically, our usual three hours on Saturday night has fallen to two hours, and only every other Saturday.  Still, we persist.  Soon though the cold will come and we’ll be looking for a game for the whole team.

Need for Speed World

As I said before, I am surprised at the longevity I have had with this game.  I have even dropped some cash on it to buy a couple of cars and have pressed passed level 20.  I think at this point I have unlocked the whole map and am now just adding new race courses with each level.  I will have to look around for a level guide to see if there is anything really worth unlocking at this point.

Facebook

I will probably end up blocking The  Sims Social before the weekend is up.  It bores me, even when I am insulting people.  But I would have guess that I would find it a bore before I tried it, so that my not liking it isn’t exactly a startling revelation.

Zynga’s Empires & Allies has persisted for me for longer than I expected.  There is still too much “go beg your neighbors for these parts you need” to suit me and I am not enthralled enough to actually give them money. (Even more so now that they sell their premium currency via Facebook credits, which has made that currency even more outrageously expensive, in my opinion.  Furthermore, unlike previous games, you cannot earn the premium currency in game.)  But at least they have streamlined the begging a bit.

Other Games

I have been going through some of the games I purchased on Steam as part of their big summer sale, plus a game or two I have purchased since, including a couple of indie titles.  This should lead to a series of posts.  My general rule is to write only about games I generally like, even if I have specific issues with the game.  I try to avoid the “OMG this is Shite!” posts, although I have made exceptions in the past. (CivWorld)  With indie games I am a bit squeamish about coming out with any negatives.  I don’t mind kicking EA, Sid Meier, or Richard Garriott in the shins, but I feel guilty going after the lone developer or small team.  So I am on the fence about a couple of potential posts where I will likely be very critical of certain design elements or the value of the game versus the price being charged.

Coming Up

It is about time for a instance group summit.  I would be willing to go back to WoW, or maybe try Rift… something to fill the gap between now and whatever is next just to get back to playing together.   Oh, and there will be problems with some of the “whatever is next” items we are thinking about.  So we will have to hash that out.

My goal for next month is to go through my list of games I have purchased on Steam and assess their value to me based on how much time I have spent with them.  That should make for an amusing post.

And maybe BioWare will throw us something new about Star Wars: The Old Republic.  Something that isn’t, you know, a complete tease.

Maybe Mark Jacobs will give me something to write about… or Scott Jennings will trigger some new “I remember that” event.

And where is Torchlight II dammit?

All I know is that I will find something to complain about.

What are my cats up to?

In Which I Feel the Power of the Dark Side… of The Sims Social September 26, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Facebook.
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Facebook games and I have a cycle.

There is a short initial cycle of interest, usually accompanied by a burst of activity, followed by a period of peak interaction with friends/neighbors, followed by a quick decline in interest leading to me telling Facebook to not allow a given game access to post any more messages or notifications.

The whole cycle can last anywhere from minutes (CivWorld) to months (The Agency: Covert Ops), and the list of games I have played is almost embarrassingly long.  But they all end up the same.  Or at least the ones that don’t fold up shop while I am still playing do at least.  I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times.

But usually it is interest, a quick peak, and then wishing the whole thing would shut up and go away.

And so, it was just a question of time before The Sims Social peaked and became a chore.

Frankly, I have never been very interested in The Sims in any case.  I was a big Sim City fan, back in the day, but down at the individual Sim level, I get bored.  I am not much on decorating and such.  And so, while I cleared most of my yard, my home remains pretty close to the starting point.

Watching the neighbors…

And as amusing as it is to imagine relationships as selecting from a menu of options like “Gossip” or “Express Appreciation,” the whole thing wore off pretty quickly.

Talk about writing with Tobold

Even my sim wasn’t feeling it.

Tell us how it is

Soon I was getting notifications on my wall about friendships in danger because I had not bothered to visit.  Needy bitches!

I decided if I was going to wrap this game up and block it off, I might as well explore all routes.  So I figured it was time to hit the insult button.

Tobold, as it turns out, is pretty thick skinned.  I guess our relationship was pretty solid, as even implying his mother was a llama did not seem to phase him.

And your father smelt of elderberries…

Of course, I have to imagine if there has been something about his bathroom decor choices, it might have moved him more.

Pink!

But no, I could sit there and insult him until I ran out of energy and there was no change.  There even appeared to be benefits from rudeness.

Clearly enjoying my work

I am not sure what a bad mood potion does… or why it requires, among other things, left overs… but now I have one.  And my guy is clearly enjoying himself as he checks off insults from his notepad.  Insults work for me.  It must be that Oscar the Grouch, happy when I’m angry, angry when I am happy thing.

How… uh… unlike me

I guess that it makes sense that apologize is on the list of options once you go the insult route, but flirt?  Is there some sort of “make up sex” dimension here?

Anyway, insulting Tobold was turning into work, so I went searching for other victims.  I quickly found a relationship that was almost on the rocks as it was.  One insult was all it took!

New Status! Ex-Friends!

As with everything else, there is an option to share the news of your new ex-friendship with the world!

Being an ex-friend doesn’t seem to change much.  Sure, there is that gray frowny face, and the insult options are up by default when you interact.

Revive Old Argument!

But the door is still open.  I can still walk around his house, use his shower, and so on.  I cannot sleep in his bed now, only take a nap.  Among the other options

  • Patronize
  • Cat fight
  • Remember the bad
  • Belittle
  • Mock
  • Sneer
  • Insult haircut
  • Mock their dancing

I am so going to scratch you!

You can also wander around their home and retune the TV channels, change the pre-sets on their stereo, re-arrange the keyboard on their computer (set to Dvorak I guess), steal their food, and place a fish in their bed.

I am not sure what this is all in furtherance of.  Is there some sort of negative relationship tree to climb here?  Can I become somebody’s arch enemy?  Will that unlock some evil decor options?

Anyway, that kept me playing The Sims Social for at least one more day.

Epilog: If you imply that Tobold’s mother is a llama, he will eventually unfriend you on Facebook.  He seemed thick skinned, but I guess that skin just holds in all his deep seated resentment.

They’re Dogs… And They’re Playing at Being Cultured… July 7, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Facebook.
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CivWorld.

Erm, Civilization World.

But it says “CivWorld” on the splash screen.

It is a Facebook game, it will be in "beta" forever

The Civilization series re-envisioned as a Facebook game.

It is enough to make you think that… just maybe… Facebook isn’t going to be a “serious” game platform ever.

Whatever that means.

Okay, fine.  I knew I was going to have to build houses for my population.  And of course, farms had to go along with it.  Sound familiar so far?

Houses and farms and... oh, stop please...

I suppose that I should be thankful that I did not have to click on farms to harvest.  There is a button in the corner that takes care of that for you.

But when I found that advancing my scientific knowledge involved solving a maze that wouldn’t stump a 3 year old, I was bemused.

And when increasing the culture of my society required me to re-arrange tiles to make the painting of dogs playing poker, I was annoyed.

A friend in need... would put a bullet in this game

And when establishing trade involved yet another little puzzle, I was about done.

Yeah Sid, and the camel you rode in on!

What an awful game.

It has all the drudgery of FarmVille with some mini-games thrown in.  But unlike The Agency: Covert Ops, which had a couple of fun mini-game, these are crap.

I hate to think that somewhere, someone who was involved in creating any of the Civilization games thought this game was a good idea.  Because if feels like somebody just said, “What is the shortest route we can take to crap out some Facebook game with ‘Civilization’ in the title?”

I heard a wise game dev once say that the first two hours of a game of Civilization can be the best gaming experience you are likely to have.

With CivWorld, the first 10 minutes were the most uninspiring gaming experience I have had in a long time.

It is crap.

And it makes me wonder if it the medium and not the artist that is causing it.

Does Zynga make crap games because they are Zynga, or do they make crap games because they insist on running them on Facebook?

How Like Unto a Pokemon April 16, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Humor, Pokemon.
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The ongoing wonders of Facebook ads.

Because, of course, when I think of Pokemon, I think of leading an army of humans, “elfs,” orcs, demons, and undead.

Very Pokemon like indeed.

And, well, for the first game with real action (not clicks) and spectacular effects I am sure the sky is the limit.

A Facebook Ad Combo Attack November 2, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment, Facebook.
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Ads for browser games on Facebook tend to follow a couple of common threads.  You have to grab people’s attention and tell them something compelling about your game in a Twitter-like word restricted format.

Lying is a popular formula.  We saw that with Dungeons & Dragons Online and their “No Download Needed” ad.

When I saw this gem this morning, I knew I had to post it.


Here we have a one-two punch of Facebook ad cliches.

First, the title, “Banned on Myspace.”

Being banned somewhere seems to have some allure to the advertiser end of the equation, though I am not sure why.  I’ve seen ads for games that have been banned, banned in Utah, banned for kids (as Facebook ought to be), or nearly banned.  Nearly banned?

But “Banned on Myspace” is a new one.  I didn’t think people got banned from Myspace as a punishment, I thought they were sent there as a punishment.

Does Myspace even have games?  How exactly was this game banned?

And then there is the “Most Addictive” whatever, another popular unsubstantiated claim for Facebook game ads.

Then we add in “No download needed,” which we’ve seen for games that did need a download, as I pointed out above.

Finally, there is the picture.  What is going on in that picture?  Is that a Kerra with a Santa hat squaring off against a red turtle with a club?  Or is it some sort of little red Power Ranger?  Is this picture even from the game in question.

Another classic Facebook ad.