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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?

Support Your Local Indie MMO October 3, 2012

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

Eric of Elder Game has a Kickstarter up for his game Project: Gorgon.

I felt like I needed a picture here

The game is summarized as:

Project: Gorgon – An Indie MMO by Industry Veterans

Project: Gorgon is a 3D fantasy MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game) for PC & Mac with a quirky, old-school feel. It is designed for players who want to explore a deep world with complex game systems and a tight-knit community that is friendly enough to actually chat while they group. Think Asheron’s Call crossed with EverQuest crossed with NetHack.

There is a much more detailed description on the Kickstarter page, including links to videos and a detailed discussion of what the project entails, where it stands, and where it hopes to end up.

As Zubon pointed out,  the Elder Game blog has been full of great tales of game design issues along with other items like how the hell the project is going to make money, as the project has progressed.

However, now Project: Gorgon needs art and audio assets.  And to fund that, they have turned to Kickstarter.

There are, of course, risks.  Kickstarter now requires funding projects to include a summary of what might go wrong and how your donations might be pissed away for no return.  Of course, like those disclaimers in investment prospectuses, that doesn’t really help much if your donation does get pissed away for no return.

Still, Kickstarter is the go-to option for small projects like this, and if this is the sort of game you want to see made, you should at least read the info about it and consider donating.

Addendum: The Kickstarter did not get funded, but development has carried on.  You can see the latest updates at the Project: Gorgon web site.

PlanetSide 2 – Time to ROCK September 20, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment.
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3 comments

I have been able to resist the lure of PlanetSide 2, it being in beta and there generally being a whole lot of other games out and about and begging to be played.

But videos like this make it tempting to join in.

Looking pretty good so far.  Appropriate music choice.  Thunderstruck indeed.

Direct link.

Darkfall: Unholy Wars is What Now? September 18, 2012

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

The story of Darkfall is a saga unto itself.

The game was initially announced back in August of 2001, a time frame I put into perspective this way back in 2008:

…in August 2001 Dark Age of Camelot was readying for release.  I was still playing EverQuest, which was on its second expansion (count now: 14), on my 400 MHz Pentium II system with a hot TNT2 based video card, having finally ditched the 3Dfx Voodoo2 configuration. And Duke Nukem Forever was only approaching its fifth year of not being available yet.

The game stayed in development, only starting to show signs of launching back in 2008, by which point there were plenty of people who viewed the game as vaporware, never destined to see the light of day.

The development history of the game has its own long section in the Wikipedia article.

The game promised a long list of features, which I copied into a blog post as a reminder to check against what was actually available at launch.  Of course, I never actually did that, because I never actually played the game, but I am going to guess somebody did.

And the game did launch!

It went live in Europe in February of 2009 and in North America in July of 2009, which opened up a whole new can of blog posts.

There was the great EuroGamer 2/10 review scandal, which gave SynCaine meat for a week’s worth of posts, plus an ongoing metaphor for crappy reviews, though I thought that the whole thing was a false flag operation to build community.

Then there was conflict about the mechanics of actually playing the game, which did not adhere to some of the past principles of MMO convenience.  Some of the things complained about were listed as features by Aventurine.

And then there was yet another Tobold vs. SynCaine face off over what counts as content when SynCaine declared that Darkfall had added more content in its first year than WoW had added in its first five. (Though neither of them knew the true powerhouse of content.)

Then things settled down and most people went back to not giving a damn about Darkfall.  Even SynCaine stopped playing.  There was peace in the world.  Or at least we found other things about which to bicker.

And then Aventurine decided to disturb the peace by announcing… something.

Oh, Darkfall: Unholy Wars… which has a feature list that sounds like a subset of… Darkfall.  So clearly I am missing something here.

  • Massive Land and Naval PvP Battles: Thousands of players can participate simultaneously in wars and sieges on land and sea, in real-time, on a single server.
  • A Huge, Seamless World: The world of Agon is a large open world that consists of both land and water and gives the freedom to players to uncover its hidden secrets.
  • Flexible Roles: Choose role at will, switching from meat shield to master mage to benevolent healer. Players can switch between roles, skills, spells, and ability boosters on the fly. Develop your skills in all roles and experience the game in a multitude of different ways over time or specialize in a single role and be the one your friends depend on to fulfill that calling.
  • Full Loot: You keep what you kill. Players can loot all of the goods from a slain enemy, and vice versa.
  • Persistence: Players can affect the fabric of the game world, constructing and fortifying cities across Agon and building empires that last as long as they can defend them.

Is this a rewrite of the original?  It sounds like a new game on the web site, though the features sound like the original.  I suppose there are some nice screen shots, but what else it is?

This, of course, ignited… something.  Well, SynCaine seems dutifully, if somewhat laconically, pleased.

Meanwhile, Tobold wasted no time trying to spark up the passion that has been missing lately in his relationship with SynCaine by trolling him as quickly as his fingers could type.  SynCaine may be evil, but he is our evil I guess.  (Though the “needs the money desperately” line seems awkward from somebody who himself has a donation button on his blog.  By that logic I guess I should thus assume that Tobold cannot afford coffee.)

And while those two warm to this new stage of their relationship, other people… well one other person… seems to be saying what I was thinking, which is probably best summed up as, “Huh?”

So, Darkfall… or Darkfall 2… or Darkfall: Unholy Wars…

What does it mean?