Further Mutterings about MMO Revenue Models May 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Free-To-Play, MMO Subscriptions, No Real Point
A few years back, at the height of the housing boom, we decided to move. We listed our house at the market price for our neighborhood, and the first day on the market we got an offer for roughly 60% of what we were asking. Somebody sensed, as we all were beginning to at that point, that the bubble was going to burst soon, and wanted to know if we were desperate.
We were not, and actually sold the house for what we were asking a couple weeks later. But there was no possibility that we were going to come to an arrangement with the person who made that first offer. Their offer was so insultingly low that it made it completely unlikely to be able to negotiate any deal at all.
We have a garage sale at least once a year. Often we have two, one in the spring and one in the fall. Just the process of finding stuff to sell helps us keep the house clear of clutter, so that our home, with the exception of my office and my daughter’s room, feels clean, open, and spacious.
We tend to put out all manner of things on the driveway for sale. I often have a pile of books that have made it into the category of “won’t read again” out on a table. At one garage sale I had done a big purge and had 40+ paperbacks lined up, with the asking price was 25 cents each. Cheap enough that anybody with an interest would pick them up, and it wouldn’t kill me if I decided to give a couple away to any kid who looked like they wanted to read one. And, as always, quantity discounts are available.
A woman, who rolled up in an expensive car, offered me a dollar for all of the books, and then started gathering them up like it was a done deal. A dollar turned out to be exactly the right price to start a fight.
In the cold logic of hindsight, it was just an offer I could freely reject.
In the reality and emotion of the moment, it was insulting. I started with “no” and worked my way up to using them for kindling before I would sell her one at full cover price. Her offer stayed at a dollar throughout, leavened with sneers and insults. But we could have stopped after our first pass through offer and rejection, as no deal was possible after that point. I cannot imagine she thought her negotiation technique was going to be effective. It is always interesting to meet people who are worse at interpersonal relationships than I am.
What did those two little stories have to do with anything? We’ll get to that. First, a foundation of words needs to be built.
With the announcement that Rift is moving from the once traditional monthly subscription model to a cash shop driven free to play model, there have been the usual range of reactions, from feelings that no good will come of this to expressions of joy at the demise of yet another monthly subscription barrier to entry. Some people really hate the subscription idea.
My own response is somewhere in between.
Good things will come of this change. I know that.
More people will play Rift. It won’t make it suddenly popular with people who wouldn’t play a fantasy MMORPG in the first place. But people who wouldn’t otherwise commit to $15 a month will want to play.
An annoying amount of words, and some irrelevant pictures, after the cut:
Missing MMO Music Features – LOTRO Leads, Nobody Follows February 1, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, World of Warcraft.
Tags: LOTRO Music, MMO Music
Lord of the Rings Online can be a bit of a mixed bag. Depending on your point of view, you can easily find much to like or dislike about the game.
On the plus side it brings to the table a lush and beautiful environment that brings alive the the world of Middle-earth in ways impossible in the books or the movies. It is one thing to read about Frodo stumbling across the three trolls that had been turned to stone, or to see it projected up on a screen as Peter Jackson’s vision. It is something else entirely to be wandering through the Trollshaws and to discover them on your own. Being given free reign to wander Middle-earth is like a dream.
The game also has classes that do not all fit the standard RPG mold, a variety of different content options fit with various group sizes and skills, and, of course, many an NPC that looks like Anderson Cooper.
On the flip side, we have LOTRO the game, which suffers from many flaws. It is showing its age, and it frankly was never put together as solid as a lot of other MMOs have been in any case. It is another copy of the WoW quest hub model, and as is common in that model, the quests can be too “same-ish,” too repetitive, and too boring, so that even when the route through the game is wide enough for some choices on what to do next, it often ends up as being six of one and half a dozen of the other. For all the beauty of the environment, the character models leave much to be desired. And then there are the elements of its free to play business model which have become more and more intrusive as time has gone along.
And I am sure we as players could come up with more items for each side of the equation.
But do any of these, good or bad, make LOTRO stand out?
Leaving aside the Tolkien lore, we certainly have our choice of beautiful worlds to explore. If that is your thing, you should probably be playing Guild Wars 2. A non-standard, non-traditional class seems to be a line item requirement for the genre. Even WoW had hunters, which were odd at the time, but have become extremely popular. Scalable content and a variety of content options are likewise becoming pretty common. And, frankly, clean shaven and close cropped, who doesn’t look like Anderson Cooper?
Of course, the complaints can find homes elsewhere as well. A lot of games are showing their age and WoW has set a bar for fit and polish that few have reached. The quest model is an issue because it is so damn common. Character models are a bigger issue in other games for me, like Wizardry Online. And the noxious tendrils of the free to play business model are the default in the industry now.
So LOTRO‘s stand out in the genre is the Tolkien lore, which nobody can take from it. At least not until 2014 at the earliest.
But LOTRO has something else, something that sets it apart, something that makes it a joy, and that is its music system.
That your character can pick up a musical instrument and play notes is great.
That you can have your character play a song from a pre-made file, so you can essentially be a street musician is even better.
And that you can have multiple people in a group play different parts from a song that stays synchronized so that you can essential form your own band is a master stroke.
Back when we were last playing LOTRO, we began working with the music system and ended up spending a good chunk of each night just playing music as a group. We would check The Fat Lute, a web site devoted to LOTRO music, ever week for new tunes. Music was a lot of fun for us.
And we were hardly alone. We would run into people playing music alone or in groups all the time on a Saturday night. Bree was alive with music. And this lead all the way up to events like Weatherstock, where bands in matching outfits perform, even bringing their own compositions to perform.
When I go back and log into LOTRO every month to make sure I get my 500 Turbine point Lifetime Memebership stipend (As Abe Simpson said, “I didn’t earn it, I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment I’ll raise hell!”) During my trip to pick up my check, I often spend a few minutes playing the Popeye theme on a horn at a busy street corner, which is often worth a chuckle.
And, as far as I know, no other MMORPG has copied, recreated, or outright stolen this feature.
Which is, frankly, amazing to me. The easiest way to denigrate an MMO you don’t like is to dismiss it because they copied feature x from game y. This is because, of course, they all copy features from each other incessantly.
Yet here is this music system, which has been around for year now, and still remains pretty much a LOTRO thing.
I have to wonder why.
If I were the Rift team, this would be high on my list.
If I were running EverQuest II, weapon smiths and woodworkers would have a huge piles of instrument recipes and New Halas would be a cacophony of music. (Or, if I were Smed, I would totally have this on the list for EverQuest Next. Perfect sandbox feature.)
Hell, it would even fit into World of Warcraft, where their philosophy won’t let them do player or guild housing because it takes people out of the world. A Music feature like this puts people into the world, into towns and other gathering places, and gives them something to do.
Honestly, I think music is a blind spot for most MMO developers. It is graphics and mechanics and classes and skills and balance and… oh yeah, sound.
Yes, sure, there is always a sound track and incidental music. But how many people turn that off or play without sound. And for all of Syp’s Jukebox Heroes columns, the sound track is static thing, released but rarely revisited.
Even Star Was: The Old Republic and its vaunted sound work ends up being hours of (tedious) talking and relatively little music.
I cannot fathom why a game like Need for Speed World doesn’t have a dashboard radio interface to let you play some of the game music tracks as well as control and play music from your own computer. When I was playing the game a lot a while back, I used to play driving music to go along with it.
Hell, in some games we are moving backwards. One of the lesser known “features” of the Retribution expansion in EVE Online was the removal of their in-game music player. They have gone to the more traditional MMO scheme of “you will listen to the music we want you to, when we want you to.”
So what do you think? Does the industry have a blind spot when it comes to music? Is the genre missing out by ignoring music features? Would they help player retention and make games more “sticky” as it were? Or would music be more of a distraction and take focus away from the core elements of such games?
The Success of Krono? It Has Come to EverQuest January 21, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
1 comment so far
Krono, SOE’s version of PLEX, which they introduced back in October, seems to have taken root. Back then they announced that they would keep an eye on it, and if things went well they would introduce it into other SOE games.
Well it has come to EverQuest, which I guess means things are, in fact, going well for Krono.
As with EverQuest II, there is a FAQ for Krono on the EverQuest site detailing its integration with the game, cost, and so on.
I took a peek at Krono prices yesterday on the three EverQuest II servers where I have characters, and the market price seems to have remained stable, though supply varied from server to server. When I first looked at Freeport it was around 650p. Yesterday I saw:
- 80 Krono for sale from 19 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 600p
- 31 Krono for sale from 15 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 750p
- 18 Krono for sale from 10 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 750p
Those servers represent different population levels, with Freeport being the most active of the three. So I suspect that if you visited the Antonia Bayle, pricing and availability would be closer to the Freeport range, while lower population servers would likely be in the range of the other two.
And, as I noted before, at that price Krono is cheaper than RMT currency prices for EverQuest II, when you can find them. EverQuest II is not popular with RMT vendors, and has probably grown less so with the introduction of Krono.
But will that be the case for EverQuest?
The EverQuest market has been on a down slide for the last couple of years, with people willing to camp characters in the Bazaar 24/7 dwindling to a shadow of former days the last time I logged into Luclin.
However, in addition to raising the level cap to 100 and continued opportunities to kill off halflings, the Rain of Fear expansion also introduced offline selling in the Bazaar. No longer do you have to log in a character to setup shop and sit there in order to peddle your wares. That alone will probably revive the marketplace in EverQuest somewhat and help make Krono more viable.
The other question is the price of Krono. EverQuest has seen nearly Weimar Republic levels of inflation over the years due to various issues.
Okay, maybe it hasn’t been that bad, but prices of things in later expansions seem to be adjusted for the decreased value of the platinum coin, making items you can vendor for a couple of copper feel like they are not worth the effort.
What will the price of Krono be on the EverQuest servers? And how will that related to the RMT price? I have not had a chance to check.
Of course, one of the things that might help Krono along is that for certain scenarios, buying Krono is cheaper than renewing your subscription. At least if you are using it to renew your SOE All Access Pass.
Anyway, the Krono experiment presses onward as SOE attempts to bring a PLEX-like offering to its customers while killing off what remains of the RMT market servicing their games. I expect we will see Krono in Vanguard by Summer.
Would you want to see something like PLEX/Krono put in place by other publishers?
What The Hell Do You Spend Your Station Cash On? January 18, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Station Cash
As mentioned previously, in writing about eight years of EverQuest II last week, I got all nostalgic for the game and went back and played for a bit. Such is the power of the blog.
And in going back I did go visit some places, added about 10 levels to a character, and generally did the tour.
And then the tour petered out, as these nostalgia ventures usually do, I unsubscribed and went off to other things.
But when not subscribed, SOE sends me a monthly Station Cash account balance message via email. I am not sure why they don’t do this when I am subscribed. Maybe they want me to stay subscribed and are afraid that bringing attention to themselves will remind me to unsubscribe?
Anyway, the last one I got said I had more that 9,000 Station Cash on my account.
Some of this was left over from a triple value event back when EverQuest II Extended was fresh and young, along with the 500 SC you get every month when you have Station Access, which I tend to subscribe to when playing SOE games. (And then Station Access became SOE All Access, because if marketing can’t change the names of things every so often, they might as well just go home I guess.)
500 SC a month doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up when you never spend it.
And no matter how I got it, it seems like a lot of Station Cash to have hanging around. Theoretically, that has a cash value of $90, though my actual out of pocket investment is probably $20 at the most. Having that big of an asset sitting around seems wasteful, so I started to poke around in the to see if there was anything worth buying.
Well, you cannot buy expansions with Station Cash any more.
And you cannot buy a subscription with Station Cash.
You cannot buy any of those shiny Krono.
And you certainly cannot simply buy the in-game currency. Not that I expected to be able to do so, but looking at my actual in-game currency balance, I might have gone that route had it been an option.
You cannot buy armor, or weapons, or crafting materials, all of which you could buy during the EverQuest II Extended experiment, when Smed was calling them “convenience” items. I imagine a Wand of Obliteration would be very convenient to have around now and then.
You can buy account services, but I think I have done my fill of transfers, renames, and the like. And I have too many characters already, so I do not need any more character slots or race or class unlocks.
I might be tempted by experience boosting potions if I did not already have a giant stack of those sitting around on every character from veteran rewards. And if I ever used them. I don’t like the “timer” aspect of them, as they make me feel like I need to save them until I am going to be in an hour of constant combat or crafting… which is almost never. I much prefer the way Turbine does some of there boosts, where it matches you gained exp for a given amount of exp over however much time it takes you to earn it.
Which sort of leaves cosmetic aspect of the game. That includes cosmetic gear.
And I did buy a rabbit hat once.
But so far that is the only cosmetic appearance item that has appealed to me.
There is housing. And while SOE has some stunning housing options, my housing needs are pretty simple. I did buy that first player created housing item, the chest, just to support the person who made it. And it looks good. But it doesn’t do anything and it doesn’t have any particular meaning to me, so I doubt I will go down that path again.
And then there are mounts.
Let’s just skip over mounts before I start ranting on the many variations of ugly that SOE seems to have discovered.
Which leaves me with… what?
Well, there are bags. I did buy one of those. And I unlocked all the bag slots on Sigwerd so I could play him when not subscribed. But with the removal of weight as an aspect of the game, he has that single 44 slot bag and some storage crates that give him more storage on his person that I think any three of my WoW characters have in total.
And I did that already and still have all that Station Cash.
There are some things I would pay for in Station Cash if I could.
I would pay the weekly Guild Hall fee now and again to have access to that. That Guild Hall rent isn’t bad in currency… I think it is 4p a week… but it does eat up a lot of status, and I haven’t earned much of that in ages.
I might consider paying for access to the broker, though not via the current “per item” method SOE currently has. Though since there is a back door way to sell without that, and selling is 99% of what I do with the broker, they could easily make that one over priced. Still, I would be interested in buying broker access for a week as opposed to for 10 items.
One thing SOE has on its side is that you can use Station Cash in all of their games… or all of them that aren’t on FaceBook or on the PlayStation 3 at least.
So I could spend Station Cash in EverQuest… except that the choices are even more limited, the cosmetic items more grim, and the mounts even uglier. Oh, and I am not actually playing EQ. Details.
Likewise, PlanetSide 2 is an option. I do log into that now and again, though my recent World of Tanks revival has eaten up all of my shooter mental bandwidth. And I did buy an experience booster once… I think… when I was playing PlanetSide 2 early on. It was hard to tell. There were a lot of options and boosts and weapons and unlocks and other crap on screen which were difficult to distinguish or compare, all of which got me to skip the whole thing and just go out and die while trying to shoot at some people.
But given how freely I can spend gold at times in World of Tanks, PlanetSide 2 seems like it might be a place to spend my Station Cash some day, once they rationalize things a bit.
And, really, there are no other SOE games I play right now. I said I might look into Vanguard at some point this year, but I suspect that the Station Cash store there will look like its EQ and EQII brethren. So I am pretty “meh” on my Station Cash prospects. Not that that is a big change.
Which makes me pretty much “not a customer” in SOE’s eyes, no matter how much Station Cash I have, since I do not spend it. Idle currency has no influence.
So what should I do with 9,000 Station Cash?
(And no, I am not going to just give it to you.)
December in Review December 31, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Month in Review, Need for Speed World, World of Tanks.
WordPress.com continues to fiddle with the site interface. They have very much the same attitude as Google on this sort of thing, where it often seems more important for them to get a cool new feature out than to check to see if it is actually better than what was in place… or even if it breaks what was already in place. Oh, and they always implement features first then wait half a day or so before posting something to explain that whatever it is you are raging about was on purpose. So it can be a matter of two steps forward, one step back, one step to the side, and cha cha cha.
So we got, for example, maps that do little to indicate anything. My little flag counter widget in the side bar is much more informative. They removed the ability to search on image files based on date… because screw searching by date I guess. They also broke, then later removed completely, RSS feeds that allowed you to follow tags and categories across all of WordPress.com, an incredible powerful feature that they let rot.
On the step forward side of things, they have decided to report unique visitors as well as page views as part of their standard statistics. I don’t know why it took them so long, but as of December 3rd, they were there. So the in the graph now, light blue is page views, dark blue is uniques.
I ran Site Meter here for a few months at one point just to see how unique visitors compared to page views, and the ratio back then was generally about 7-8 uniques per 10 page views. Now looking at the new stats, it seems to be around 6 uniques per 10 page views, which I guess means that people are staying longer or clicking on more things. I guess that is good. It would probably matter if the site generated ad revenue or such. For now it is just another bit of statistical trivia for me to mull over.
One Year Ago
One of those games was Diablo III and another Torchlight II. They were both vying for the mantle of successor to Diablo II. So I tried to define the essence of Diablo II.
I also had some demands for 2011 and had to look at how that worked out.
I began my journey into null sec appropriately, by killing myself. Then I saw titans, lit cynos, and got blown up. But hey, a ship blows up every six seconds in EVE. There was a war on, and it was announced we were going to be driven from Deklein. And there was something about ganking tourism and three flavors of ravens.
EverQuest II and its free to play twin, EverQuest II Extended, were merged into a single fighting force of extraordinary magnitude or something.
Richard Garriott de Cayeux went a little nuts talking about his Ultimate RPG, his great fondness for EA, and the failure of Tabula Rasa and Ultima 8. He seemed to try to be getting EA to join with him by talking to the press… and not to EA. And then it was the Mayans.
Closer to planet Earth, the instance group was in the Realm of the Fae.
And I proved my laser tag prowess against a bunch of little girls.
Five Years Ago
December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE. First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha. Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment. And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan. All of which I wrapped up in one post.
The yearly EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities.
I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” which I have yet to score. I will have to get a post together comparing The Shadow Odyssey with my own guesses.
The Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group was finishing up Blackrock Depths.
Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.
And I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.
New Linking Sites
The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.
Please take a moment to visit them in return.
Most Viewed Posts in December
- Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
- Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
- An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online
- A SWTOR F2P First Impression
- Travels with Commander Bond
- Love, Hate, and the T-28
- A Year in Null Sec
- Second Life Among Technology Fails?
- WoW Drops More Subscribers Than SWTOR Has Left
- In the Hardware Doldrums
- Tobold Prediction – CCP Bankrupt in 2012
- First Peek at Retribution
Search Terms of the Month
gay league of legends porn
[Okay, Rule 34 strikes again I suppose...]
[Good fight to you too...]
continued opportunity to kill off halflings
[About all we can ask for]
Things have been quiet in EVE Online this month. I haven’t been on the kill board since October. I have ratted now and again, which is something I can do while listening to the news or an audio book… or while writing checks. But fleet ops haven’t been very frequent with the end of the war in Tribute and Vale. Time to find some new activity in EVE I think.
The nostalgia tour sputtered out basically when I made it past the original content. At level 50, the Desert of Flames content seems to be the most interesting to tackle, and it isn’t all that interesting after a bit. So Sigwerd made it from 42 to 53. He is fully equipped in mastercrafted gear again, should I want to make the run to 62 at some future date. But for now, EQII has petered out for me. Nostalgia always has a short shelf life.
Need for Speed: World
We have spent a bit of time in NFSW, where we have played it as a networked racing game, ignoring the rest of the world for the most part. That is actually pretty fun.
The holidays have kept the instance group from doing much in Telara. We did finish off all of the pre-Storm Legion five person instances, at least in “normal” mode. Now we are getting ourselves equipped in the expansion. With the new year we ought to be able to take a run at the first instance.
World of Tanks
This has become something of my main game for the last few weeks. Basically, it is a shooter that concentrates on vehicles, where I have always done better. In PlanetSide 2 I am always just a target on the ground. So it is probably best to just stay with the shooter where it is all vehicles all the time. I have made it to tier VI on a couple branches of the tech tree. But each higher tier becomes a bigger effort. We’ll see if I get to VII.
A whole new year.
The instance group will return to Telara. I will continue to play tanks. We will see if Need for Speed World was more than a week or two of fun.
But otherwise it will be a cold, gray month. Lots of time for games and writing about games I suppose.
Looking Back at 2012 – Highs and Lows December 26, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Tags: 2012, EverQuest Online Adventures, Steam
Every year I try to come up with a list of highs and lows for the year. You can go back and read my 2010 and 2011 editions if you so desire. I often complain about the same things year after year. As for 2012, this is what I recall.
Free to Play
- Another pile of games went from subscription to free to play as a default business model. If you are a fan, you have lots of options now.
- Free to play continues to offer the best “free trial” option for games.
- Clearly the dominant business model to the extent that being free to play no long bestows any sort of competitive advantage as it did back when DDO and LOTRO made the transition. Merely going free to play will not save your game.
- Being a primary source of income, with revenue targets to achieve, the in-game cash shop becomes a major focus of free to play games. Increasingly, it is players who buy from the cash shop who matter most, even in games like EQII that push you to become a subscriber. Subscribing removes some annoyances and restrictions, but you are still pushed to buy from the cash shop. They even hand you a bit of their RMT currency every month in order to prime the pump.
- An early justification for cash shops and RMT currency was the idea of selling thing to players that could not be paid for via credit card due to transaction fees. The idea was that players would be offered many inexpensive items that they would buy en masse. Instead, items that cost less than $5.00, or one third of a months subscription, seem to be the tiny minority of items available… at least at the generally understood value of the RMT currency.
- The vicious circle of discounting the RMT currency to drive people to purchase it, followed by cash shop discounts to soak up the ensuing currency glut may be emerging.
- Some players seem to think they can get something for nothing. They cheer when a game goes free to play, but then get upset when the inevitable reality emerges. There is no such thing as free.
- The pleasant Middle-earth charm of LOTRO can still be found.
- The Riders of Rohan expansion has received much praise.
- Still one of the few F2P MMOs that lets you earn their cash shop currency in-game.
- Have I mentioned their music system lately? Why hasn’t anybody shamelessly ripped this off?
- Not actually playing LOTRO, there is little chance I will see any of that cool new Rohan content… well, ever.
- The heady days of F2P success have clearly worn off, and Turbine’s WB overlords have been cracking the revenue whip. So we have the despoilment of Middle-earth moving forward in the cash shop.
- Really one of the great passive-aggressive community relations fiascos occurred when Turbine asked for comments on their awful hobby-horse idea with the caveat that they didn’t want to hear anything negative. That sort of thing never turns out badly.
- And the F2P divide continues. You can be a fan of the game, but unless you are buying stuff from the cash shop, you don’t mean anything. And so some long time fans of the game seem to be moving on. Eru wept!
Sony Online Entertainment
- EverQuest still going 13 years in and now has parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
- EverQuest Mac got a call from the governor while on death row, so lives for a while longer.
- Planetside 2 launched! That is a massive shooter!
- Vanguard is alive and free to play and getting content updates! And Brad McQuaid is back working on it.
- The Krono experiment will make for an interesting change to watch.
- Vague promises of a more sandbox-like EverQuest game in EverQuest Next in hopes of breaking the “me too” MMO mold where everything is basically based on EverQuest. Sounds interesting, but we’re a long way from reality.
- They screwed up Station Cash valuation through heavy discounting and cash shop blanket discounts to the point of requiring SOE to stop selling expansions and gold subscriptions for Station Cash. This in turn puts more pressure on the cash shop people to sell a couple of useful items and piles of cosmetic crap. Meanwhile, the triple Station Cash sales continue because, of course, they have trained us to hold out for that.
- SOEmote. Science experiments are cool and all, but SOE is starting to accumulate a few too many such things in its basement. Voice control, Station Launcher, will SOEmote join these on the scrap heap eventually?
- EverQuest Online Adventures fell by the wayside.
- Didn’t SOE already have a sandbox-like game in SWG? The word is that Lucas was behind NGE and the closure, but SOE still has blood on its hands.
- The EverQuest time locked progression servers seem to be dying from neglect, which is ironic because every player on those servers is a subscriber. That is a requirement. So I guess we see where a server full of subscribers ranks in the free to play world?
- No major player revolt provoking crises. There is always some drama and things to piss off players, like the inventory changes. But there was nothing that came anywhere close to the uproar when flying in space was set aside in favor of space Barbies with the Incarna expansion.
- Really some cool new features in this year’s EVE expansions.
- A year in null sec was a whole new experience for me.
- With no crisis to rise to, the EVE Online CSM went back to being just a marketing tool. I can see no tangible benefit to players from CSM7. Roll on galactic student council.
- DUST 514? Have you heard of it? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you while you were playing PlanetSide 2.
- So, yeah, null sec. The wars are over. What now?
- WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
- WoW remains immensely profitable.
- Mists of Pandaria shipped, putting WoW back over the 10 million players mark.
- Diablo III shipped at last, and sold a lot of boxes, both real and virtual.
- Pretty much done with WoW for now.
- No StarCraft II expansion yet.
- Diablo III shipped about five years too late.
- Customer support dickishness around the ability to shut off future payments when you signed up for the Annual Pass. You can be a dick about many things, but when you start refusing to stop billing credit cards, you have crossed a line.
- The Blizz obsession with hacks and cheating turned Diablo III into an “always online” experience that lead to the Error 37 fiasco and much complaining about things like server downtime and patch days.
- The Diablo III auction house, a clear reaction to the illicit RMT that happened in Diablo II and WoW, managed to kill off the “item hunt” part of the game for some.
- The level based difficulty of Diablo III meant having to play through the whole game in normal mode just to ramp up some challenge. Some people will be happy to play through the game four times with each character. I am not one of those people.
- Stark failure to plan for more content once Diablo III was played out.
- Titan? Hello?
- Rift continued to evolve and add features to keep players active.
- Rift launched an expansion, the classic “next move” for a successful MMORPG, that added more content, new styles of quests, and player housing.
- Trion managed to keep to the subscription model for Rift, thus avoiding the ruination of immersion that cash shops inevitably bring.
- The instance group made it through all the pre-expansion instances in Rift.
- I managed to get a level 50 character of each of the four classes before the Storm Legion expansion launched.
- Declining subscriptions, soft server merges, lots of “WoW did it first” additions. They have spun the server merges as a “good” thing and have gotten all of the servers into clusters for warfronts and the like. But less people means less subscription money.
- Layoffs. Not sure yet what this impacts, but it clearly isn’t a sign of sunshine and lollipops.
RiseEnd of Nations seems doomed. But I couldn’t play it in any case as it refused to run because I have my default text scaled to 120% in Windows, or so said the error message, and I am not going to reset that every time I want to play a game.
- Cash shop interface is already in Rift, foretelling a transition to eyesore mounts and ugly cosmetic gear… though, honestly, I am not sure I could tell the difference in Rift.
World of Tanks
- The physics revamp was a huge improvement for the game in my opinion. Power slide that TD down a hill!
- Free to play that can actually be free without being oppressive.
- Made gold ammo available for standard credits.
- Got bit by that NA/EU divide.
- In the end, it is just a shooter dressed up in vehicles. I will get bored of the same maps and the same tactics in every game sooner or later.
- Lots of big sales.
- Still a reasonable way to buy games and keep them updated.
- Has basically trained me never to buy a game until it is at least 50% off of list price.
- Even with heavy discounts, I have pretty much stopped buying because I don’t really need any more games.
- I need to delete some of the games I have on my system because there are too many updates downloading.
- Came home to find the internet down, which meant I could not play any of my games on Steam once I booted up my computer.
- I still don’t see why anybody would buy or download an MMO from Steam. I don’t want to log in and start Steam just to turn around and log in and start the MMO, which will then patch itself.
- GuildWars 2 shipped at last.
- Torchlight II shipped at last! And it is pretty good.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic actually has an expansion planned.
- Kickstarter seems to be getting people excited about games.
- As is typical, the Guild Wars 2 fanboys remain pretty much blind to any faults.
- Torchlight II still isn’t Diablo II. But expecting that it would be was probably too much.
- SWTOR basically slammed the door on the subscription model’s dick, while introducing some new noxious ways to implement free to play.
- City of Heroes gets the axe based on opportunity cost. It was making money, just not enough money.
- Glitch fails to get the quirky/greedy balance right, has to close. I never played it, but I hope something was learned.
- Most Kickstarter projects don’t make their funding goal, and apparently most that do make it find that they have underestimated the money they really needed or the time it was going to take to get the project done. Sometimes things are delayed because the funding went way past the goal and the developer decided to add in all sorts of new things, as with Steve Jackson Games and their Ultimate Edition of O.G.R.E., but that seems to be the exception. Of the six projects I have backed, two failed to meet goal while three of the other four are way behind schedule. (Go Defense Grid team!) I am not saying that Kickstarter is a bad thing, but you have to go in with your eyes open. It is less Wall Street and more “The Producers” than you might expect.
- Streaming. I completely fail to get that whole fad. Why would I want to sit in front of my computer just to watch somebody else play a game? And really, most of us aren’t as witty and amusing as we think we are. I’ll just actually PLAY a game, thank you.
Well, that was all I could come up with. But sitting at the end of the year looking back, I am sure I missed or forgot some key items.
What else should be on the list of highs and lows for 2012?
Reviewing My Questions for 2012 December 18, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, Diablo II, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Torchlight II.
Tags: Lord British
At the beginning of each new year I have a special post. Sometimes if it predictions. Some times it is demands. Last year I decided it should be questions.
I asked 12 questions of the new year. 12 questions for the year 2012.
I think it is time to see if I received any clear answers.
1. What fate awaits the Old Republic?
Love it, hate it, see it as a revolution in MMOs or as a symbol of that all is wrong, Star Wars the Old Republic is now a force to be reckoned with on the MMO landscape. It has everybody’s attention for good or ill. Where will it lead us?
That was the position at the beginning of the year.
Unfortunately, the answer since then seems to be “Over a cliff.” That cliff was described by the chart showing ongoing drops in total subscribers every quarter after launch.
Apparently story and voice acting will only keep people interested for so long. That works for a single player game. For a subscription game, not so much. And so the Tortanic began to sink, and it was heralded as the death of the subscription model for MMOs. They did announce an expansion, so they will have some content to sell along side action bars and raid access. But there do not seem to be clear blue skies on the horizon for SWTOR yet.
2. Can Blizzard stem the World of Warcraft subscription trend?
Sort of. The annual pass option, which got you a shiny mount and a free copy of Diablo III, kept at least a million people locked into their subscriptions. And while numbers still fell, they rebounded some with the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. The peak of “over 12 million” appears to be in the past, but 10 million isn’t so bad.
And, of course, WoW still rakes in cash like no other MMO out there. Reports of the death of the subscription model may be a bit premature.
3. Will Free to Play continue to be the gold mine/panacea for subscription games?
Panacea? It certainly seems so. SOE has thrown in fully for the free model, bringing all their titles save the original PlanetSide into the fold. And certainly SWTOR is looking to that model to rescue it and revive their fortunes.
Is it a gold mine though? Early reports from the LOTRO transition to F2P seemed to indicate that there was indeed gold to be had. However, since then, there appears to have been some iron pyrite mixed in with the real thing, leading companies to try and cast an ever wider net to get players to buy their RMT currency and then turn around and spend it in their cash shop.
LOTRO, which at least lets you earn their RMT cash in-game, went towards the odious prize boxes and started suggesting things like the hobby horse mount.
SOE screwed up their RMT currency so badly with heavy discounts that they had to stop selling premium memberships and expansions in Station Cash.
And reports I have read indicate that SWTOR might not have figured out the magic formula for F2P success quite yet either.
So there appears to be a lot more work to be done on the F2P front. Merely being F2P is no longer enough, as there are a lot of choices out there.
Companies keep bringing their games to the F2P altar, but that alone is no longer enough.
4. Who will really win the “Just Like Diablo” battle of 2012?
It depends on what you value.
I started to write a full post about it with the objective of declaring Diablo III the winner, but only on technicalities. Basically, it does more to capture the atmosphere of Diablo II, while at the same time doing the most to destroy the game. It just feels more like Diablo II, if you ignore the auction house, the always online aspect, the need to play through the game repeatedly in order to get to the most challenging game play, and a few other things.
That said, I think Torchlight II is, overall, a better game if you take the “heir to Diablo II” aspect out of the picture. It doesn’t get anywhere close on story or atmosphere compared to Diablo II, but it managed to avoid the manifold mistakes of Diablo III while being light, fun, and full of options denied the players of Diablo III.
Basically, the answer for me is that neither game really wins the “Just Like Diablo” crown, mostly because it just isn’t the year 2000 any more, so neither game could really have the same impact.
5. When will we lose a game to hacking?
We seem to be safe from this still, at least on the MMO front. Lots of security breaches, but I haven’t read about a game completely brought down and destroyed, never to run again because of hacking.
So the only answer here I suppose was, “Not yet.”
6. Will SOE remain the only player in the MMO nostalgia game?
This stems from the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, about which I have posted often.
And my answer up until last week would have been “Yes.” SOE is the only purveyor of MMO nostalgia. I even got impatient by mid-year and went after the issue in a blog post.
After all, it seems like WoW could make a bundle with a similar scheme. There are literally dozens of private WoW servers out there trying to recreate the “old” WoW, that being anywhere from day one to before Cataclysm. I spent a bit of time on the Emerald Dream server and can vouch for the cathartic effect of playing an old-school version of the game.
But no such official venture looks to be forthcoming.
And then Turbine showed up with Asheron’s Call 2, fresh from the crypt, electrodes bolted on firmly in an attempt to create life where there was none.
I am not sure if it is quite the same thing, but it is something. And it is nostalgic.
So SOE does not own the MMO nostalgia market completely.
7. Will Guild Wars 2 be the game changer in the MMO market in 2012?
Well, a lot was promised for Guild Wars 2. But did it really change anything?
I have seen a number of GW2 fans lauding The Secret World for adopting the GW2 revenue plan, conveniently ignoring all the details that prove that they did no such thing. Yes, there is the “buy the box” aspect for a free to play game that sure sounds a lot like GW2. But what about the continuing monthly subscription model that unlocks things and hands out RMT currency as a reward? That sounds a lot like an SOE game, doesn’t it?
I suspect that the “buy the box” aspect was a requirement only because they admitted they did not make their sales numbers, so it is either throw away all those boxes or find a way to keep selling them.
And, if we’re honest with ourselves, the “buy the box” plan was from Guild Wars, not GW2, so rationalize harder please.
Anyway, I think it is too early to tell. GW2 only launched at the end of August, which didn’t leave a lot of time for anybody to react to anything they did in 2012, conspiracy theories not withstanding.
Maybe next year?
8. Will CCP ever be anything but the company that makes EVE Online?
Of course, they also helped make Lazy Town, right? Next question.
Okay, yes, DUST 514. It looms. It seems like it could be something some day. But that day was not this year. So I can only say, “We shall see.”
Call me when DUST 514 is a thing and maybe I will be able to build enough enthusiasm to download it.
9. What will the earth shattering MMO announcements be in 2012?
Oh, and that 38 Studios fiasco. An MMO that never was will never be.
10. Will MMOs get redefined in new and interesting (or bad and annoying) ways?
No, nothing new here, move along.
Okay, maybe PlanetSide 2 moved the ball a few inches down field with a really massive online shooter. But what else was there really?
11. Are we every going to get another decent MMO news podcast?
12. What will Lord British do next?
So those are my questions and the answers as I see them. I am sure somebody will remind me of a few items I missed… or will want to argue about Diablo III vs. Torchlight II. But that is about it for me.
Now to consider next year’s post.
Dimensionally Challenged December 13, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Rift.
Tags: Dimensions, Housing, Storm Legion
I am having some trouble getting into the new player dimension feature that came along with the Storm Legion expansion to Rift.
I ran the little quest that introduced you to dimensions, and dutifully placed the few little items that you start with in my new space in Telara.
But I am not really feeling inspired to do much with it. You can see all of my starter items have sort of been dropped off around the front of the little structure.
The view is nice… so long as you do not get too close to the edge of the dimension, at which point the invisible wall gets all non-invisible in your face.
Anyway, my dimensional malaise sort of took me by surprise, as I have been much more enthusiastic about housing in other games, like LOTRO and EverQuest II.
I think there are two things that are different in Rift.
First, the dimensions are kind of a raw material, a palette on which to express yourself, on which you can build your own home. A lot of people really go nuts for that, as I saw in the beta tour. But I don’t think I really want to actually design and build a house. I think I prefer one pre-made, a structure within which to work. Rift is, perhaps, a bit too much “from scratch” for me.
And then there is the second factor, which I think feeds into the first.
I have been playing some EverQuest II lately, and I went to look at the home of my berserker, Sigwerd, who has the base level house in New Halas. It is one of my more decorated locations. It is out-done by a couple of my original characters, but the theme is the same when you look at what they share in common.
Almost everything in Sigwerd’s house is something he picked up on a quest, or an event, or via a LoN card, or as a veteran’s reward. It is not so much a place I have decorated as a place that represents where I have been and what I have done. This is especially true with the wall of prizes from the Lore & Legend quests.
I think SOE made a good decision in creating so many such items that can be displayed in player homes.
I hope Trion picks up on that aspect… and maybe comes up with a few more house-like dimensions going forward.
In the mean time, Frostfell is nearly upon us. It might be time to pick up some snow globes for Sigwerd’s place.
SOE Web Inertia Face Off! December 7, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Humor.
November was a big month for SOE. Not only did they launch an new game, PlanetSide 2, but they also launched expansions for their two Norrathian MMORPGs. EverQuest got Rain of Fear and EverQuest II got Chains of Eternity.
But no event is so big that some obvious, customer facing detail cannot be left out. So here we are, a week into December, and both the EverQuest and the EverQuest II web sites are still advertising their previous expansion right there in the side bar of the front page.
So the question is, which site will get updated first?
Now, with all things being equal, I would bet on the EverQuest site being updated first, as you can no longer even buy the Veil of Alaris expansion if you click on the Buy Now link. Meanwhile, Age of Discovery looks to still be listed on the EverQuest II expansion content page.
So which site do you think will get updated to the latest expansion first?
Will anybody care enough to check up on the answer?
Norrathian Tourism 2012 December 3, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
There is clearly a difference between me playing an MMORPG… well, I will say “seriously” for lack of a better word… and me going back to play one for the sake of my annual autumnal nostalgia drive.
In the so-called serious mode, it can be a somewhat OCD-like drive to see and experience the world, to chase down the last quest in a zone, to peek into every corner, run dungeons, fight in events, and so on and so forth. And a key aspect to this is that the world must resist my efforts. If things are too easy, I will lose interest. I should not be able to do everything correctly on the first try every single time.
In fact, I think making things too hard is better than making things too easy, at least to a certain point. Walking out into a the world only to be insta-killed by the first set of mobs is turning the knob too far for most games. And I am not sure how soon you want to transition over from learning how to play the game to the game making things difficult.
In my experiences on the Emerald Dream server, for example, I replayed how WoW used to turn from the playing slaying easy, non-aggro mobs in Elwynn Forest to facing packs of Defias with overlapping aggro zones in the vineyard in one very short step.
But in nostalgia mode, I am not interested in a lot of such thing. I am not interested in grinding my way through a zone’s storyline, I do not want to work hard. I want to run around, visit interesting places, and kill the local boss.
In this, I think EverQuest II might be perfectly arranged for me.
It helps that I left myself a character perfectly setup for a nostalgia tour. I cannot remember if I did this on purpose or not, but my barbarian berserker Sigwerd hit level 42, at which point I outfitted him with a full set of master crafted gear… that probably translates to very good blue items or base level purple in the WoW scale of things… upgraded all his skills, and then parked him.
So, when I did come back to roam I had the maximum amount of time to run around before running into to the “you must completely replace all your equipment every 10 levels” barrier. Add in mercenaries so I can hire a healer and become pretty much invincible to heroic named encounters, and I was set.
So, I ran around visiting places, slaying named mobs, and wrapping up the occasional quest. The slaying named mobs seemed to be helped by the fact that named mobs seem to be up a lot more frequently. Or less people are out there slaying them.
And, like all tourists, I took a series of pictures along the way. I posted some previously, but here are some more.
Of course, some came out blurry. And the JPEG compression is pretty harsh. And half the time I forgot to take a picture. Such a tourist.
Now though Sigwerd has hit level 52. And while I was able to harvest enough rares to re-equip him for another 10 level jaunt, I am wondering where he should head next. What should be on the tourist map for 53-62 in EverQuest II?