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Do You Remember Dragon’s Prophet? August 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, Sony Online Entertainment.
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10 comments

Whenever I end up looking at the SOE MMO lineup, I am always surprised to see a new MMO on the list.

SOE Live 2014 list

SOE Live 2014 list

Down on the bottom row, second from the right, is Dragon’s Prophet.  And every time I see it, I think, “Hey, that’s new!”  As recently as my post post about the demise of Wizardry Online I was ready to add in that Dragon’s Prophet was the new Asian import set to replace it in the SOE lineup.

DragonsProphet450

But that isn’t right.  That isn’t right at all.  And it was a good thing I checked up on it before I published that post. (See, I do catch some errors before I click the “Publish” button!)

Dragon’s Prophet has been out for nearly a year at this point, having launched in September of 2013, which means it was already a thing back when SOE announced it was closing four titles back in January… and I totally forgot about it then as well.

I just cannot seem to remember that Dragon’s Prophet is a thing.  I cannot tell if SOE just did a bad job publicizing the game’s launch, if it just go over shadowed by all the excitement around the EverQuest Next at SOE Live just a month before its launch, or if I am just getting old and/or can’t be bothered to care about Asian import MMOs… at least when their not trying to destroy cherished game of my youth with scantily clad horned gnomes.

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Not part of MY Wizardry head canon

Whatever the reason, the game just could not seem to stay attached to my brain.  Which is odd because, while I do not actually play any SOE games regularly at this time, I do tend to pay attention to what they are up to.

Anyway, I decide I could fix this by giving the game a quick try.  I was encouraged to do this because of who made the game.  Unlike Wizardry Online from Gamepot, which appears to be batting 1.000 on the “games closed in North America” front, Dragon’s Prophet was developed by Runwalker Entertainment who also created Runes of Magic.

Runes of Magic is actually the only decent Asian import MMO that comes to mind.  It managed to cater just enough to western sensibilities to survive and thrive outside of the Asian market.

Of course, five years back, when Runes of Magic landed on the scene, it was kind of a big deal.  It was going to be the Asian import that “got” how to make an MMO for the west and it was coming in as a free to play game by design, at a time when F2P was mostly a niche for MMOs that failed badly at the subscription thing.

And Runes of Magic was even a bit controversial back in 2009, at least in our little corner of the blogesphere.  The game dared to charge $10 for a horse!  This practically set a few people’s hair on fire with the rage.  Doesn’t that all seem charmingly naive five years down the road?  Today if some game has a mount for just $10, it generally means it has been marked down.

But it was still a decent game despite the patcher, which I am reliably informed has remained just as awful to this day.  We actually got out there and gave the game a try, assessing its potential for the instance group.  We even did and instance and got housing and tried crafting and invested a bit of real world cash into the RMT currency before letting it drop.  I am not sure why we never went back at this point.  At the time we were busy with our horde group in World of Warcraft, and after Cataclysm we tried a number of games but never landed in RoM.

Anyway, the remaining impression of the game five years down the line was reasonably favorable.  And my impression of Dragon’s Prophet, after a few hours of play, is likewise reasonably favorable.

The character models themselves look a bit like RoM graphics brought forward five years.  They are a little more real looking, but still anime influenced.  And upon logging in there was just an air about the game… some combo of the fonts and colors and general layout… that made me think of RoM.

Not sure what all those bars actually mean...

Not sure what all those bars actually mean…

The mechanics of the game itself though are different.  It was claimed by some that RoM was very much an attempt by an Asian company to clone WoWDragon’s Prophet is more influenced by the design philosophies of Asian MMOs.  Movement is done with the WASD keys, but you steer with the mouse cursor and combat is much more about mouse clicks than hotbars.

Take that you fiend!

Take that you fiend!

It feels much more like Neverwinter in mechanics than WoW.  You click for attacks, big graphics display for your move, big numbers bounce up showing your damage, and you can jump around avoiding incoming attacks which are often telegraphed in advance by big red indicators on the ground.

Now THAT is a lizardman!

Big orange slash in Neverwinter

The graphics aren’t as… nice… polished… realistic… something… well, they are different from Neverwinter’s style.  And Neverwinter’s draw is, to my mind, more about being in Forgotten Realms and the whole Foundry aspect of the game that lets you run through player created modules.  Neverwinter is more like Dungeons & Dragons (table top game, not DDO), with various modules that exist in the same world but which are not necessarily connected by stories or geography.

And Dragon’s Prophet does feel Asian, with many of the usual conventions, like women in mini-skirts and high heeled boots tromping around in the wilderness hunting zombies.

That's what Wizardry Online said...

That’s what Wizardry Online said…

But even Runes of Magic didn’t get away from that, right down to the housing helper in a skimpy French maid’s uniform.  And there are, of course, the WoW conventions that still must be catered to.

Always exclamation points

Always exclamation points

Otherwise it seems to fit the standard MMO bill.  You are the hero in the Dragon’s Prophet story.  People go about town talking about you like there were no other players in the game fulfilling the exact same role and performing the very same tasks.

Talking about me again

Talking about me again

That NPC comment would have been a lot more impressive if I had not been stuck on that little tree stump at that very moment.  Or maybe the game was being sarcastic.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be a bad game.  The graphics are decent.  It ran well for the few hours I spent with it.  The combat is very dynamic.  I am not sure I will be able to find time to play the game seriously.  It isn’t bad, but it is still way down my priority list.  And if I stop playing, I am not sure I will ever get any sort of trigger to start back up again.  As I said above, I almost never hear anything about the game.

So how about you?  Do you remember Dragon’s Prophet?

No Tears for Wizardry Online? August 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, Sony Online Entertainment.
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I am sure somewhere out there, somebody is angry, sad, or otherwise feeling an emotional effect because Wizardry Online closed its doors yesterday.

I am sure because I have found that even the worst, most widely despised feature in any MMO ends up being somebody’s favorite feature.  And you find out exactly who they are the moment it goes away because they show up on the forums wanting to know what happened.

WOlogo2

So I feel quite confident that somebody, somewhere loved SOE’s imported Wizardry Online MMO.

It just wasn’t me.

But I pretty much guessed that was going to be the case before the game showed up in the SOE lineup back in 2013.

For me, this is Wizardry:

I am sure I'll never use this picture again...

Somewhere in 1983…

Wizardry is something that exists in the context of the distant past along with a lot of hand-drawn graph paper maps and things I described in a post.

So Wizardry in MMO form… or at least in Asian import MMO form with anime style characters… never had a chance with me.  I wrote me feelings about it, acknowledging that my assessment was unfair in the title.

Some find me... disturbing

Porkul… so disturbing

Unlike my previous post, where I eulogized Vanguard and tried to describe its place in the history of the genre, I cannot really place Wizardry Online.  Why SOE chose to publish it, why they decided to close it down after a year and a half, and all the questions in between are unanswered for me.  And, unlike Vanguard, I do not see any posts out there in my corner of the blogesphere mourning its departure.

Who will speak for Wizardry Online?  Who has some final words?

Where is PoliticallyIncorrectJessica now?

[And why won't that link go to the right comment. Some dwarven magic I bet.  You might have to scroll down to see the comment from her.]

Addendum: Oh, hey, Joseph Skyrim cares!

Quote of the Day – Why Charge for Beta Access? June 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: , , ,
13 comments

We’re simply not interested in letting freeloaders gain early access to the game, not provide meaningful – if any – feedback, while we foot the bill for the backend services, servers, bandwidth etc

-Derek Smart on the $99 price for Line of Defense Beta Access

Saying that Derek Smart can be a polarizing figure might the understatement of the year, at least in the gaming industry.  Polygon did an piece on him a couple years back that covers a lot of past ground on the topic of Derek Smart.  He gets online and says what he thinks.  Sometimes what he says looks to be self-defeating, like the extra drama piled onto the Quest Online vs. David Allen lawsuit, which ended up with Quest Online giving David Allen some money to just go away.

And sometimes he stabs right at the unvarnished truth that others are skirting around, as with some comments about the demise of 38 Studios two years back.

The latter is the case with the quote at the top about Line of Defense.

LineOfDefenseLogo

We have been wringing our hands about companies like SOE charging for what they call alpha access to Landmark… in a world where “alpha” apparently now means a stable platform devoid of most of the planned features… but this is the real reason you ask for money up front.  Sure, a bit of income is nice, but if your company is at a point where it needs that revenue, you are probably have other problems to worry about.

No, what charging for early access like this does is put up a barrier to entry that filters out all but those who are truly interested in what you are creating.  This gets you the people who really believe and want to help you out.

It is a double-edge sword however.  If you are going to make people commit, you had best have something ready for people to commit to.  You have your true believers, the core of your core audience, lined up and ready to go, so you screw them over or leave them hanging at your peril.

We have seen quiet periods with Landmark where the user base starts to idle as it waits for the available tool set to take another step towards the vision of what the game might be.  Not much testing getting done.  And then there is the true believer syndrome, where the forums start to feel like the domain of a few such who are committed to a particular version of the vision and who shout down any who challenge their orthodoxy.  Such are the risks.

You can read more about the Line of Defense early access program on Steam at the 3000 AD web site.

Quote of the Day – Working with a Really Tricky IP January 8, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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17 comments

We hold the Bible completely sacred, and we’ve gone to great lengths to maintain authenticity. For this reason, we formed an advisory team of four well-respected pastors and ministry leaders to make sure all of our storylines and characters are historically accurate. Although we consider ourselves devoted Christians, it’s amazing how many details this team has caught and adjusted to make sure we stay accurate to the biblical record.

-Phoenix Interactive Studios, on their Bible Chronicles RPG Kickstarter

Yeah, you think working with Tolkien or the Star Wars IP is difficult?  Think again!

While they have wisely opted to stick to the Old Testament, even there it isn’t like we have a universally accepted interpretation to work with.  Cornerstone of three major religions?  Sure, let’s make a video game out of that!  I cannot foresee anybody getting angry about choices made around interpretation!

Color me a pessimist, but they may have chosen more wisely than they suspect when it comes to the main image used for their web site.

Metaphor or premonition?

Metaphor or premonition?

Of course, on the flip side of that, teaching the Bible… or a given interpretation thereof… seems to be pretty much perfect for the WoW model MMO format, where quests have only one possible end state.  The story will move on only when you do the right thing.

It will be interesting to see if people will be any more likely to read the quest text in this game than they are in WoW.  The forum questions about that ought to be amusing.  I foresee “Can’t watch the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah without being turned into a pillar of salt!”  Any other likely candidates?

No word on the business model… subscription vs. free to play… that this project will follow on release. [Addendum: because it isn't an MMO. Silly me.]  Of course, they still have a $100,000 Kickstarter goal to surmount.  But for $2,500 you can have a character in-game modeled on your appearance, and for $5,000 that character will be one of the kings of the local city-states.  You could be Melchizedek!

RuneScape Embraces Nostalgia February 22, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Misc MMOs.
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5 comments

RuneScape, a popular (200 million accounts created is their claim to fame metric) browser-based fantasy MMORPG, has decided to farm the nostalgia sector by opening up servers aimed at those who want to relive RuneScape’s past.

Officially called “Old School RuneScape,” the setting will be August 2007 version of RuneScape.

RuneScape

Jagex, the game’s developer, has taken an interesting approach to bringing these servers to the community.  They have a poll up to gauge how much interest there is in the servers, with more interest by the player base yielding more focus by the studio itself.

The poll approaches 250K

The poll approaches 250K

Omali has some condensed details over at MMO Fallout about what happens at given result levels. (There is an update to go along with the final results.)  There is also an official FAQ up about the servers.

Interesting to me is that by default… with the likely poll results… is that people interested in playing the classic version of this free-to-play game will have to pay for a subscription.  That seems right to me.  I don’t think people looking to relive a “classic” experience do so because it might be cheaper.

Certainly I did not run off an play on the Emerald Dream server in order to dodge the WoW subscription price, and I doubt Keen or SynCaine were so influenced with the Ultima Online Forever.

And that is how SOE has handled things with the Fippy Darkpaw server in the post free to play EverQuest world, making it available only to subscribers.

So RuneScape joins the rather short list of MMOs offering official “old school” versions of their game.  I only know of two others.  There is SOE with its EverQuest progression servers and Mythic with its past classic Dark Age of Camelot server (and its never to see the light of day Origin server).

And while there will always be arguments about what point in time is the “best” and whether such a server should be stuck in time or move forward, I think this sort of exercise is a good way to reach out and revive interest in your game with a big chunk of your current and former player base.

Of course, this sort of things probably works with some games better than others.  World of Warcraft is an obvious target.  Few expansions and slow improvement over time gives it a series of identifiable eras.  EVE Online, on the other hand… their whole single server approach pretty much precludes such a nostalgia path… plus who wants to go back to the days before “jump to zero?”

What MMOs would you like to see embrace nostalgia?  Or does that even have any appeal for you?

Quote of the Day – Firefly Universe Online January 6, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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5 comments

We’ve been had.

Owen Good of Kotaku, on Firefly Universe Online

Friday there was buzz about an MMO based on the Firefly universe being a possibility again.

The "FU" part is right...

The “FU” part is right…

Today though, it seems like the world is singing a different tune.

In something of an odd twist, my wife and I just watched the series again… all 14 episodes… we have it on DVD… so we could ask aloud once again to nobody in particular, “Really Fox?”  And yet, even in that state of mind, I wasn’t at all excited about Friday’s announcement.

Not because I somehow knew it was a hoax.  I am not that insightful.

No, it was just because I have heard enough, “Hey, we’re going to make an MMO on popular property X” over the last few years to need to see something substantial before I can generate any enthusiasm.

See Planet Michael and that Wheel of Time MMO for examples.

Addendum: Nothing is ever simple.

Turbine Time Machine – Asheron’s Call 2 Returns December 14, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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15 comments

Be careful what you ask for, because people will take note of what you do if you get it.

Turbine has announced in their forums that they are going to bring Asheron’s Call 2 back from the dead.

It has been seven years since it was shut down.  I never played it, nor its predecessor, but I have seen more than a few posts over the years bemoaning its demise.

Google Image Search Finds All...

Google Image Search Finds All…

Now, I can hardly criticize people for being nostalgic for a game like this.  I run back to EverQuest just about every autumn, which is when the nostalgia bug seems to bite.  But the whole act of reviving a game seven years gone does raise some questions.

I would assume that Turbine has done some work on the game in the interim.  But I suspect it will still represent the state of the art at Turbine circa 2004.  And while AC2 may have done some things right,  is that going to be enough of a draw for any but the nostalgic and those with an archaeological bent?  Has what made people leave AC2 been addresses, or is this just hope against hope?

What will be the business model this time around?   For the beta you need an Asheron’s Call subscription.  I am sure that the nostalgia bug will make for a spike in subscribers just to get in on it.  But this was a game that was shut down seven years back because of a paucity of subscribers.  And Asheron’s Call itself was always a distant third in the UO/EQ/AC triumvirate when it came to subscribers.  Is Turbine planning to make this another free to play title?  And are there enough interested parties out there to make this a viable venture either way?

And finally, what does this say about Turbine itself?  It has been more than five years since they last launched a new game, which was Lord of the Rings Online in the first half of 2007.  In all the time since then, the best they could come up with was to pull a game they shut down out of cold storage?  That is a big bet on the nostalgia card with a game that purportedly peaked at 50K subscribers and had dwindled to less than a third of that by the end.  Is this a love letter to long time fans or a desperation move?

Like I said, I can hardly criticize anybody for nostalgia, since it drives much of my own gaming patterns.  I can never fully answer the question about reliving the past.  But there is a lot to this that makes me raise a quizzical eyebrow.

Anyway, Turbine has set the WABAC Machine to 2005.  Are you going to go for a ride?

An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online December 7, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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12 comments

Now that the beta NDA is down, I can share my reaction to Wizardry Online.

WOlogo2
This is the content of an email I sent to Potshot, November 13, 2012, which constitutes my initial, and only, impression of the game.

Somebody sent me a beta key so I tried it last week. I think I am finally able to speak of it now.

Basically, every negative preconception you have about the game is true.  Horrible scantily dressed, all-looks-alike anime character models, including the requisite Down’s Syndrome gnomes.

Bizarro world controls. It is WASD, but W isn’t “move forward,” it is “move north.”

A camera view that is completely uninterested in whatever the hell you are doing.

And you don’t even get to start experiencing all that until you get through 10 minutes (though it seems like an hour) of really bad exposition unworthy of even the most half-assed, shown after midnight anime series you can think of.

Let me tell you, the idea of the blissful release that permadeath might bring you could be the only motivation to play the game.

The whole thing is just a cat-girl race away from simply being DOMO taking a crap on a classic Apple ][ video game.

I am not sure if I actually played the game, or just dreamed that I played something so bad. Yet there is the icon on my desktop.

That was my gut reaction to the game.

Of course, that email is full of errors.  The so-called “Down’s Syndrome gnomes” are actually the Prokul, and not gnomes at all.  And they apparently do not actually suffer from Down’s Syndrome, or any other genetic related malady.  In fact, they seem to enjoy it.

Some find me... disturbing

Some find me… disturbing

I do not know what the affinity is for little races with melon heads is in Asia, but it is clearly not to my taste.  You can see some of the other character models as well.

Meanwhile, gnomes are really just female dwarves… with horns… and other features.  Somebody tell Brasse she’s a gnome!  I dare you!

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

“Naturally!” I hear you say, “Of course gnomes have horns!”

Their aura is enhance by the soft core porn style soft focus effect.  You can almost see the Vaseline on the lens filter.

And the controls aren’t actually absolute, but relative to the camera.  DOMO, which I mentioned, is Dream of Mirror Online, another not-quite-westernized Asian import that I tried (and never wrote about) which had a similar control scheme.  Another clearly regional distinction.

Still, not exactly an in-depth review of a game I probably wasn’t going to like anyway.

But given my affinity for the original, I had to go and take a look.  It might be the hardcore dungeon crawler somebody is looking for, but it was too hard on the senses for me to get far enough to find out.  The Wizardry franchise has taken a different path since I played back on my Apple ][+.

If you want somebody who gave the game a fair shake, Tipa has you covered. (She also has you covered if you want to read something about DOMO.)  As does Stropp now.  And there is the official wiki, because SOE has partnered with Wikia for the moment.  (Didn’t SOE partner with Zam previously for something like this?  How did that work out?)

Anyway, not a game for me.  But not every game has to be for me.  There are plenty of other MMO choices out there.

(Though I am not going start wringing my hands about there being too many games out there in the eternal search for the reason PC game game market is dying.  I think PC gaming has been “dying” for the last 20 years.)

Somebody will enjoy the game I am sure, and I will be interested to see if it does turn out to be a decent dungeon crawler for those who can handle the art style.

Have you given it a try yet?

Farewell to Paragon City November 30, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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4 comments

Tonight at midnight Pacific Standard Time, City of Heroes will be shut down.

Or sunsetted.

Or whatever it is they have chosen to call it.  But it will be gone all the same.  The heroes will be told to hang up their capes and move on with their lives.

CityofHeroes

CoH will join Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault, and Dungeon Runners, on the list of closed NCsoft MMORPGs.

The closure was announced back in August, which galvanized a chunk of the CoH player base.

SaveOurCity-450

Those players protested, created petitions, and questioned whether NCsoft was exploring any alternatives besides simply closing the game.  Even as time ran out there was hope of a Disney miracle.

But, at this point, it does not look like there will be any last minute reprieve.

The appointed hour approaches.

Among other things, CoH is another former subscription MMORPG that looked to boost its bottom line by going free to play.  However, we are now in an age where free to play is the norm.  Subscription only MMOs are now the rare breed. “Free” is no longer the inducement it once was.  And so, while reportedly still making money, CoH became a very small percentage of NCsoft sales, being folded into the “other” category for the last quarterly report.

I think if City of Heroes had been more core to the NCsoft corporate story, the way EverQuest is to SOE, we would have seen a lot more work on the part of the company to keep it around.  However, from NCsofts point of view, CoH might seem like Cryptic’s game.  A game that NCsoft published, then bought out, which was never a huge source of revenue for them, and was always something of an outsider.

Heroes are ever loners.

It is Lineage that is to NCsoft what EverQuest is to SOE.  It is core to their culture, popular in their home country, and still bringing in a lot of money after 14 years.  City of Heroes is just something in the “other” category, soon to be struck from the list altogether.

And so it goes.

How soon until there is a private server?  Somebody must be working on that.

Second Life Among Technology Fails? November 27, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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16 comments

Over at The Register, they have a post up about Ten Technology Fails.

Those sorts of articles are always good fun.  They get to poke at some obvious targets, like Microsoft BOB.

Forever a punchline…

Enough fun cannot be made of that.

There are some others I am very familiar with, such as push technologies like PointCast.  I had friends who went to work for them, and my own company worked on a hardware device that let you use push services via a pager service. (Remember getting headlines on your pager? Yeah, me neither.)

Named “News Catcher,” it was eventually dubbed “Dust Catcher” because 99% of the units produced ended up collecting dust in a warehouse somewhere.  They may very well still be there today.

News Catcher

That was just recent enough in internet years for Google to find a picture of it for me, though it is a .gif image.  Makes me want to write a post about Baudman next.

Anyway, good stuff that.

Then there are some entries that might be considered controversial.  Did PDAs, for example, fail to meet the vision set out for them, or has all of that just been slurped up into smart phones?

And then on page four of the article, Second Life makes a showing.

Certainly, Second Life has provided its fair share of… entertainment… to people outside of the game.  Scott Jennings has a deep set of posts on the subject, complete with lively comment threads, which attracted some attention.  They are worth reading if the subject interests you. (As are these, since why not have TWO categories for Second Life posts.)

Likewise, Second Life certainly never lived up to the Snow Crash-like metaverse vision of the future.  Companies like Reuters who bought virtual space and embedded offices in that world have mostly packed up and gone home by now.  The visions of a virtual future where people can meet, work, make a living, or even get rich have faded somewhat.

And there has certainly been no shortage of criticism of Second Life itself, spawning a page on Wikipedia devoted to just that.

But has it really been a failure?

The article itself says that items on the list  represent “Tech that might have revolutionised your life but you have now completely forgotten.”

I have spent very little time in Second Life.  It did not really interest me, being too much social sandbox to my view.  But I certainly remember it.

But did it fail?  Has it been effectively forgotten?

And did The MMO Report stop doing their “WTF!?! Second Life” segment before they faded as well?