Is PvP a Requirement for All MMOs? February 24, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, MMO Design, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, World of Warcraft.
One of my gripes about the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign was about PvP.
PvP was a stretch goal, but I was annoyed that it was on the list in any form at all. The promise of Pantheon seemed, to me at least, to be getting back to a difficult and dangerous PvE world that required grouping to take on. The early days of EverQuest were invoked in this regard. For a game being made by a small team that declared it was not trying to be “all things to all people,” the mention of PvP seemed like a step in that very direction.
And you should not get me wrong on this. I am not saying there shouldn’t be PvP. I play EVE Online, right? But does every PvE focused game need to spend time developing a PvP mechanism as well?
Going back to the dawn of the first massive successes on the MMO front, Ultima Online was PvP from day one. But EverQuest was derived from TorilMUD which had no PvP at all. In fact, the dev staff at TorilMUD split over the idea of PvP, which the PvP faction moving off to follow their dreams with Duris MUD. But SOE eventually felt that EverQuest needed PvP and so the Rallos Zek server was born.
This moved was widely viewed as a way to concentrate all the griefers into a single thunderdome where they would leave the rest of the player base alone. It was successful, in that the investment was low (as far as I can tell SOE did very little explicitly for PvP and was pretty hands off when it came to running the server) and it scratch that PvP itch for those who had to have it in a Norrathian context. (Roll stock footage of Fansy the Famous Bard.) And this lives on today as the Zek server with its own PvP rule set.
Asheron’s Call also had a PvP flagging system and a PvP dedicated server as part of its mix. So the big generation clearly bought into PvP, as did the next round of games. Dark Age of Camelot was explicitly PvP and Star Wars Galaxies had a sandbox PvP aspect to it.
Then came World of Warcraft, which had PvP and PvP servers from day one. Granted, day one was pretty ad hoc when it came to PvP, but Blizzard has a long history with RTS games, so players fighting other players must have seemed a natural to them. And whether or not you like the various stages WoW PvP has progressed through, it has been pretty successful. It would be hard to imagine WoW without it.
Of course, WoW also ran into one of the problems with PvP in a heavily PvE game, that of gear and ability balance between the two. It is really cool that the rogue in your dungeon group or raid can crowd control an off-mob with a stun lock, but I don’t know anybody who likes having that done to them by a rogue in a battleground. And Dark Age of Camelot ran into similar issued from the other direction, by introducing powerful PvE acquired gear into a primarily PvP game.
So mixing PvE and PvP is rarely a matter of a flagging system or a separate server. The eternal balance of equipment and abilities… which is already nettlesome in just the PvE environment… takes on an even bigger role when PvP is part of the mix. It doesn’t come for free, it requires design and development time… unless you take the approach SOE did with EverQuest and just try to ignore the whole PvP aspect of the balance thing, or you take the Guild Wars approach and just keep the two as separate as possible.
And after WoW, things just got went down hill. The success of the game meant other companies trying to copy WoW features in order to capture WoW numbers. EverQuest II is probably the most tragi-comic example of this. So much development and design time has been spent on PvP ideas in that game that it just about breaks your heart. They have had PvP servers, PvP arenas where you fight with a special sub-avatar of your character, arenas where you fight with your actual character, and, more recently, WoW-like battlegrounds. And the trend has always been that either the PvP is so bad that nobody uses it or that it is so affected by PvE stats and abilities that a whole array of special rules and exceptions have to be put in place to try to maintain at least some illusion of balance. The last time I checked in, SOE had gotten to the point where every piece of equipment and every ability essentially had two sets of stats, one for PvE and one for PvP, leading to some of the largest tool tip windows known to man.
Then there was Lord of the Rings Online, which couldn’t bring itself to allow the elf-on-elf combat we all secretly desire (we need more kinslayings) but which felt it had to have PvP, so they gave us Monster Play, a feature convoluted enough that I couldn’t even tell you how it works because I have never once used it. And I have tried the various PvP options on every MMO I have played. I know somebody loves Monster Play out there… you can find somebody who loves and will defend any MMO feature ever… but was LOTRO as a whole made better by it? Could the time spent on that have been better invested?
Warhammer Online at least never had the PvE vs. PvP balancing problem, because I don’t think most of us stuck around long enough for it to be a problem. Instead, it was bit by the WoW battleground bug, which became the most efficient way to level up, so everybody did those while the open world content languished for want of the numbers needed to make it viable.
And so it goes. Even today we are looking at The Elder Scrolls Online coming out in a little over a month. This is an MMO based on an exclusively single player RPG franchise… PvE to its deepest roots… and they are busying pushing the Alliance War, the PvP aspect of the game. Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO made in the BioWare mold… fourth pillar and all that… has its Galactic Starfighter battleground out and available to everybody now.
Which brings me around to the title of this post. Is PvP a requirement for all MMOs? Can you even launch a PvE MMORPG without an announced PvP plan?
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter Campaign Winds Down February 22, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Kickstarter
The Kickstarter for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen finished up earlier today.
While there was a surge of pledges at the end, the final total came in at $460,657, well shy of the $800,000 goal. (But about where I predicted back on January 1st.)
The daily numbers ended up looking like this according to Kicktraq:
With that result, Visionary Realms and Brad McQuaid are now moving into a new dimension of crowd funding, going it alone and asking for donations. Their site is up and ready to take PayPal.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, going that route really changes, to my mind, the whole funding dynamic. There is no minimum threshold for funding. You pledge and they have your cash. And while that has worked well for other games, Star Citizen has gone insane in it post-Kickstarter financing and even Lord British has managed to come up with another million for Shroud of the Avatar, I am not sure how things will play out in the absence of successful Kickstarter campaign.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – Kickstarter and Beyond February 21, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Kickstarter
Well, here we are with about a day left to go and the Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen is well shy of its $800,000 funding goal. At this late date I think we can all agree that the project would need a Kickstarter Christmas miracle to fund.
A look at Kicktraq this morning shows the last 24 hours of the campaign faces a hill… well, a mountain… representing 46% of the funding goal.
And so it goes.
The campaign has been a mixed bag. On the downside, I think that the groundwork done by Brad McQuaid and his Visionary Realms team before they set off down the Kickstarter path was woefully inadequate. One does not simply *something something* into Kickstarter.
I also think (based on my 2014 prediction) that they asked for too much money. I know that the idea was to set the groundwork for other funding by showing that the project had legs, but asking for $500K and getting it (which I think they could have) would have been better than asking for $800K and not getting much beyond the half way point. There is also a tipping point after you hit your goal where you can open things up to other funding sources.
And I remain concerned about the focus of the project. A key statement early on was that this was not going to be an attempt to be all things to all people. But seeming acquiescence by Brad, both in the project stretch goals and the Reddit AMAs, to a variety of things I would consider out of scope for an initial release made me wonder if they could keep things on a single track. The problem in software development never involves with coming up with ideas. The problem is always paring things down to essentials so that the team can deliver quality.
But all was not bad.
I think that the overall message is one that a select group of players wanted to hear. I think there is room in the world for a niche MMORPG focused on grouping and group content in the TorilMUD and EverQuest tradition. (Though I had to walk away from forum discussions when the “EQ PvP, Best PvP” squad hunkered down to stay. Absolutely the wrong group of players for this, in my opinion.)
I think Brad handled the Reddit AMA’s well, aside from a couple of “I don’t see why not” answers to things I felt were really out of scope. (I will not get off the focus wagon, will I?) There were a lot of good answers to question about views and details about Pantheon. But I think the whole thing was best served by his answers around Vanguard, what happened there, and how things are being run differently with Pantheon.
And, finally, I think that the cross-promotion between Pantheon and Shroud of the Avatar that came at the halfway point of the campaign was brilliant. That was a really slick idea to find the cross-over appeal between two different projects.
Of course, once that was in play, any number of people wanted to know if Brad could work a similar deal with Chris Roberts to maybe get a boost from his Star Citizen funding success. I am not sure that would see the same sort of overlap of interests as Shroud of the Avatar and Patheon: Rise of the Fallen, and it did not seem likely to come about in any case.
In the end though, it wasn’t enough.
Aside from looking for an angel investor, what now?
Well, it looks like Visionary Realms is going to take on the funding effort themselves. They have updated their web site and have announced their post-Kickstarter plans.
And there are some advantages to going this route. They are not beholden to Kickstarter and do not have to give them a cut. They are not hemmed in by a time limit. They can offer a wider variety of funding options. Even now Visionary Realms has a subscription option listed with special benefits.
So the funding effort goes on.
The question is, will it have the same impact?
Despite the occasional pedantic view on the subject, the goal of funding efforts like this are not to obtain 100% of the money required to complete the project. The idea is to get enough initial funding to demonstrate that there is interest in your project so that you can get further investment. Brad McQuaid has said as much about Pantheon.
So Kickstarter is a funding exercise in part, but even more a marketing exercise. But if you fail the funding part of Kickstarter, how much is the marketing exercise constrained? And even if a company can turn around and go do their own fundraising effort post-Kickstarter, will that have the same impact?
And, the biggest question for me, how long will it take Visionary Realms be able to catch up to where they left off with Kickstarter and will people be as willing to pledge? Because they have lost a few valuable assets that Kickstarter provides.
The first is, of course, the Kickstarter name itself. People have a range of opinions about Kickstarter and the wisdom of giving people money through it, but they know what Kickstarter is and as a service it seems reasonably well respected. There will be no Kickstarter cachet to bring people to the table any more.
Then there is the time limit aspect of the campaign. While Visionary Realms won’t make their goal in the time frame, I would be willing to bet that the mere fact that there was a time limit got people to pledge. There is nothing like a deadline to get people to focus. Campaigns that succeed, or which are close to success, often have a large surge of pledges at the last minute.
Now though, there is no time limit. There is no boundary to make people get off the fence one way or another. I suspect that will hurt funding in the short term.
And then there is what I will call, for lack of a better term, the “Kickstarter Deal.” In the case of Brad McQuaid and Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, the deal was that if he could raise $800,000, he would make this game happen. You can believe him or not, but that was what he was offering. So I put up some money along with about 3,000 other people. But the effort will fall shy of the mark, so none of us will end up paying out any money. Our pledge cost us nothing because the threshold for funding… the threshold at which Brad said he could make it happen… was not met.
Now that threshold is gone.
If I go over to the Visionary Realms web site and pledge $100 they have it that day, and if nobody else pledges I have just wasted my money. It is much easier to throw in some cash if you think you are part of a group that will meet the threshold for funding. But in the absence of that, I am probably not going to rush out on day one to give them some cash. I am much more likely to sit on my hands, to wait and see how things are going, before I think about donating.
While Kickstarter does not in anyway guarantee that a funded project will actually do what it says in the end, it does at least give the illusion of a concentration of pledges that, if a pre-determined threshold is met, will make the project possible. Unless I am missing something here, going to self-funding removes that aspect of the campaign.
So there we stand. The Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter will run out the clock in less than a day and will not meet its goal.
Did you pledge any money to the Kickstarter and will you, in turn, donate to the self-run funding campaign for the project?
Is this the beginning of the end, or just the end of the beginning?
Pantheon Falling – A Desperate Plan B February 13, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
I cannot say that I find this all that encouraging for the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter.
If anyone knows an angel investor or other type of investor who might be interested in investing in VR, please let me know.—
Brad McQuaid (@Aradune) February 13, 2014
VR is Visionary Realms, his company, and not some other virtual reality venture as I initially hoped.
An Angel Investor is somebody willing to invest with a very high amount of risk. As the next step after failing to successfully crowd fund a project… and Brad was using crowd funding to demonstrate that the project had sufficient support to be worth investing in… it smacks of desperation. Well, it does when you put it out there on Twitter.
Of course, the project has not failed to crowd fund yet. There are still nine days left to go. But the numbers look grim. The mini chart at Kicktraq tells the tale.
With nine days left to go, the project is not even at the half way point of funding. And the total needed to be raised each and every day now stands at close to $46,000. The most raised in a single day to this point has been just over $42,000, with the average per day standing at just $12,000.
So there needs to be a really REALLY big finish for this to be a success.
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Half-time Report February 2, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Shroud of the Avatar.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Kickstarter, Lord British
Not the Super Bowl half-time.
No, we have now reached Day 20 of the 40 day Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. It is half way through its run.
And looking at the raw numbers this morning, you might feel justified in some skepticism about whether the campaign will reach its goal. Things currently stand at:
Half way through and not quite at the 40% mark. In a lot of campaigns that would be a serious cause for concern. Kicktraq shows that the average pledge per backer is $131 and that the average pledged per day stands at $14,876, well shy of the $20,000 a day required to make the goal.
But this campaign isn’t unfolding in the smooth, inverted bell curve way that I described in an earlier post, the way that Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar did. That it is different can be seen as something of a mixed bag.
First there was the campaign launch, which was preceded by very little fanfare. This turned what might have been a psychologically useful big first day into a scramble to catch up and get the word out. And while the work on that has been going apace, it would have been nice to point at a big opening day for that.
The campaign did get a couple of boosts. The first came when SOE announced that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes would be shut down this summer. If nothing else, that seemed to answer the musical question, “Why would I want this new thing when I am happy enough with Brad’s past work?” That past work is going away.
Then there was the Reddit Ask Me Anything that Brad got through pretty well. Those can be tough runs. I recall the first one John Smedley did, where he had to go through the whole Star Wars Galaxies NGE thing again, along with a few other unfun episodes in SOE history. If anything, I think the questions that Brad got were not tough enough. There was a lot of fanboy questions about this feature or that and a couple about Vanguard and what happened at Sigil. But he has that last down to a nice sound bite at this point, so it was a lot more kumbaya than inquisition.
I would have liked to have heard… and would still like hear… a run through by him about the evolution of EverQuest from its roots to today. He wants to get back to the old school days of 1999, dispensing with the new crap. (For me, “new crap” is pretty much defined as “everything after Ruins of Kunark,” which was the only truly all good MMO expansion ever, in my rose tinted view of the world.) But EverQuest didn’t change and evolve in a vacuum. Things were done for reasons, and often to solve specific problems. I would like to hear how Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will handle this. (And I don’t think “smaller audience” is a sufficient answer.)
And then there was the latest item to get out the pledges, a tie-in with Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue. If you support both projects at a specific level or higher… and you can still get in on Shroud of the Avatar, Lord British is past the $3 million mark… you will receive a cloak in each game with that features the crest of the other.
That is a nifty incentive. But the real win for Pantheon is that it included a direct message from Lord British to all 27,000+ supported of Shroud of the Avatar about the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign. That is some serious targeted marketing, getting the word out to that many nostalgia focused gamers. And while the cross-over between Ultima fans and EverQuest fans won’t be anywhere close to 100%, even a 10% hit rate would do wonders for Brad’s funding effort.
So that is a big wildcard that won’t be fully played until we get to the final days of the campaign. There is almost always a spike in pledges at the end, which can be all the more frantic if it looks like a last minute push can be make or break. We shall see.
And I also wonder if there isn’t more to the talks between Brad and Lord British. Only a fool would pin all his hopes on a single throw of the dice on Kickstarter, and I do not think Brad is a fool. Could Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen end up under the Portalarium banner next to Shroud of the Avatar? That seems like a long shot, but it would make Portalarium more of an adventure game nostalgia power house. We shall see. We still have 20 more days to go.
January in Review January 31, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Month in Review, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Feedly, WordPress.com
This month I’ll ramble on a bit about Feedly. With the demise of Google Reader, Feedly is where I ended up in my search for an online RSS feed reader. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t even as good as Google Reader was before Google+ came along. But it is close enough to the post-Google+ version of Google Reader that I am okay with it. I even opted in for Feedly Pro, which at this point only buys me a search field, but other things are promised for the future. And I appear to need that search field. Who are you bloggers who do not have any sort of search function available on your blogs? (Looking at Liore, amongst a cast of dozens.)
Anyway, it fills my basic needs, even if it appears to hate how WordPress.com formats pictures, appearing to toss them around in a fit of pique and sundering them from their captions when my posts are viewed. And there is much I do not know, or have not noticed about the service. For example, the other day Tobold was chuckling about how Feedly was attempting to prove what we all secretly believe, that he and SynCaine are the same person and just trolling us all on a grand scale. Laugh while you can! Somebody will prove it some day!
But I was wondering about Feedly recommending feeds, which he noted. It doesn’t do that for me, though that might be because I have it set in the most minimalist form I could manage. I don’t need anything fancy or pictures or a book format or anything. I have FlipBoard for that. I just want a list of titles to run through. And I also saw in his screen shot… such a rare thing on his blog that we all should stop and gape (pro tip: png format for text like that, as JPEG will blur.)… that it also showed the number of people who are subscribed various feeds. So, of course, I had to go find out how many people on Feedly were subscribed to mine.
That is actually a lot more than I would have guessed. So much more that I suspect that the number is wrong. I certainly would have put the number far lower. Not that the number is huge. Look what Massively has on Feedly.
Still, if it is correct, I guess I am not faring too badly. And I am doing a bit better than some on Feedly.
Ah well, I can make Mittens feel better about that one.
I bring this up not only because it is something to ponder… though that would be reason enough… but also because it pokes a big hole in WordPress.com’s stats page. Theoretically, WordPress.com tells me how many page views I get on the site and, if I go into detail on a single post, how many people saw it through syndication. Back in the days of Google Reader, the ratio of site to syndication views was at least 3 to 1 in favor of RSS feeds. Checking recent posts, that ratio has swung in favor of on-site views, with the ratio having move to something like 2 to 1 in that direction. And believe me, the numbers listed for syndicated views are nowhere close to the alleged number of followers that Feedly pegs me at. So something, somewhere is amiss. The usual state of affairs in the universe I suspect.
I am also curious about where those little hash tag entries come from for feeds and why I only get two.
One Year Ago
Wizardry Online joined the SOE stable while Pirates of the Burning Sea was sent packing. Who is laughing now?
In EVE Online, after a sudden burst of war fever died down, there was a surprise battle where more than 2,500 ships clashed in Asakai when CFC FC Dabigredboat lead a supercap fleet in to rescue a stray titan. The battle was so big that CCP did a Dev Blog about it. Meanwhile, we were to be denied LEGO Rifters.
Path of Exile went into full open beta as well.
There was a list of 20 games that defined the Apple II.
Five Years Ago
Five years ago I was in a Middle-earth mood. I had rolled up some new characters on the same server as a few notable podcasters and then started trying to catch up to them. The small and friendly community in LOTRO helped out, so I was able to do the Great Barrow with a pickup group and not feel the need to drink heavily afterward. Of course, I sometimes feel the need to stir the pot. And then there was the whole icon thing.
I also mentioned something that involved punching Amy Tan that seemed to go down well. According to Google, this was the only site it tracks that has ever used the exact phrase “punch Amy Tan.” I think it is still pretty much a TAGN unique.
I went looking for KartRider and found that after beta Nexon apparently folded up that tent and called it a day, at least here in the US.
I noticed that the optical drive on our Wii started making a lot of noise. It still makes noise five years later, but it also still works.
There was that whole controversy about Wikipedia deleting entries on MUDs and MUD history. That lead to the creation of MUD History Wiki over on Wikia. Many MUDs are still alive and well, and sites like the MUD Connector seem to still thrive.
I pointed to a post over at Massively that showed the top selling games for October of 2008 were almost all a couple years old or more.
I hit the 1,000 post mark, which was cause for yet another milestone post and some reflection. (I’m past the 3,000 mark a now and I’ll probably hold off on more reflection until the 5,000 mark, so you’re safe for a while.)
Oh, and I predicted a whole bunch of crap that mostly failed to materialize. But that didn’t stop me from trying again this year.
And, like everybody else, I had a laundry list for the new President. He totally failed on all fronts!
New Linking Blogs
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 January
- Eastasia Routed at B-R5RB! 70+ Titans Down!
- Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
- A Horrible Community…
- Bloodbath at SOE – Four Titles Closing Down, PlanetSide Goes F2P
- SOE All Access Changes… yet again… And the Future
- Did Blizzard Just Hint at the Warlords of Draenor Ship Date?
- Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Reaper of Souls
- My MMO Outlook for 2014
- In Which We Have Always Been At War With Eastasia
- Quote of the Day – WoW, Legacy Raids, and The Squish
- The Malthusian Trap of HED-GP
- Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and the Realities of Kickstarter Funding
Search Terms of the Month
nation pokedex all 705 caught
[And I thought 485 was bad]
mountain dew code red with vanilla ice cream
[been there, done that]
why are bond villains so stupid
[Their motivations are mostly mundane]
many talk porno blog
[loves you long time]
After starting off the month bitching and moaning about being bored in null sec and mostly tending my training queue in a station in high sec, the war in the south heated up. There was the big battle at HED-GP, which I avoided but which was worth writing about, and then the titan slaying festival at B-R5RB that I managed to sneak into towards the end of the fight. Quite the time. And then CCP pushed Rubicon 1.1 the next day, the bugs in which pretty much grounded null sec. Ah well, such is the way of things in New Eden. CCP will get it fixed, and that big fight will keep me subscribed for another six months. And while the big battle has turned the tide of the war, it still isn’t over yet.
World of Warcraft
The binge in Azeroth continued through January. I made a sky golem. I got a second character to level 90. I managed to get to exalted with a couple more factions in Pandaria. I actually did a raid via the raid finder, which I would have posted about had I understood a bit of what happened. I think it just reinforced the reason I am in a group that does five person content and not a raiding guild. Still, fun continues to be had in WoW.
Well, there is a bunch of stuff coming up, though I am not sure how much of it I will write about.
I probably won’t say anything about the SuperBowl.
While the launch fervor is building, I remain lukewarm about The Elder Scrolls Online. The minor flare up about the pre-order and collector’s edition hasn’t helped that at all. And by that, I mean that it didn’t make me care any more or less about the game.
EverQuest Next Landmark Minecraft, the part of the EverQuest Next story I don’t really care about, will go/has gone/might be into alpha today. Smed has cautioned those who paid to be there to remember that this is alpha. To his credit, he did say that SOE would offer refunds to people who didn’t like it. SOE always wants to do the right thing, it just takes them a few tries to get there some days.
The Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen will finish up before the end of next month. As of last night I would have guessed it wasn’t going to make it. It got a boost from the announcement that Vanguard was closing, and the Reddit AMA that Brad did helped things, but it didn’t look like either was going to be enough. And then there was the announcement that there would be a cross promotion with Lord British and Shroud of the Avatar. Support both and get something special. While I remain skeptical of the fickle nature of the fondness Lord British can show, this could help out a lot. Will that be enough? At this point there needs to be a really big finale for this campaign to fund.
While there is still a war on in EVE Online, the news seems to indicate that it might be winding down before too long. What will this mean to the three sided power structure in null sec?
Raptr sent me a summary of my year in gaming 2013 which actually surprised me. That’ll get a post.
Warlords of Draenor might go into beta… or might at least announce when beta will begin, which will likely start the 6 month count down to the go-live date. I still have to figure out which class to insta-level to 90. And then there will likely be more of the usual with the regular group in Azeroth.
Will Vanguard’s Closure Help Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen? January 27, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, John Smedley, Kickstarter
On Friday afternoon SOE chucked a huge stone into the lake of MMOs, and now we are watching how the ripples spread and wondering what they will impact.
What does Friday’s blood letting say about SOE’s all-in attitude on free to play, or about one company running more than a couple of MMO titles? Should we avoid the niche titles from SOE and NCSOFT, as they appear vulnerable to closure at a whim compared to similar titles where that is all a given company has going for it? You seem safe playing in Norrath (on Windows) and in whatever the PlanetSide universe is called, but other titles… not so much. How long does the contract for the DC Universe Online IP go?
Will people who invested a lot in cosmetic gear in Clone War Adventures or Free Realms feel burned and thus be less likely to spend money now that these two cosmetic funded titles are being shut down with 9 weeks notice? Has SOE poisoned the well on this front? And what does Smed’s “no more titles for kids” pronouncement mean? I guess the myth that many MMO players were kids with daddy’s credit card has been dispelled.
Have we seen enough Asian MMOs ported to the US market only to languish and fade yet?
Can Smed be naive enough to believe that a vague promise to former Star Wars Galaxies players about SOE’s next, unannounced title being for them, that they can come “home,” means anything? I am sure that those driven out by the stick that was the NGE are pretty sure that their home is elsewhere these days. And as for those who remained, how many stuck with the game just because it was set in the Episodes IV-V era of Star Wars? Is a different IP going to scratch that itch?
And then there is Vanguard and Brad McQuaid and the kickstarter for his new game, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
On the one hand, part of his “trust me” appeal for the Kickstarter campaign is his leadership in producing two enduring MMORPGs, EverQuest and Vanguard. Sure, Vanguard had a tough launch. That was just the situation at the time and he had to roll with it. But once it was “fixed,” the game was good.
So SOE “sunsetting” (Because that makes us all feel better than just saying “closing” or “shutting down” right?) Vanguard kind of puts a pin to the balloon of that argument. *POP*
Because if Vanguard was good enough, popular enough, and profitable enough, SOE wouldn’t have found security updates to be too difficult. Money talks, and enough money gets your fixes done. So we can assume there wasn’t enough.
So Brad now has one successful, still running MMO on his resume, even if it has been drastically changed from back in the day, and one that is being shut down… the announcement for which went out during his Kickstarter.
And then there was the talk about Brad buying Vanguard from SOE. Fine, I know a small crowd of fans were really for that, but for me that was a red flag moment. My concern for Pantheon, should it fund successfully, is that it will end up being another case of trying to do too much and ending up launching with an unready product. A small team really needs to pare down projects to the essentials to deliver. I still cringe that PvP is on the stretch goals, as that seems like a distraction, something totally outside of the vision set out for the game. And it doesn’t matter that they will likely not make it to that stretch goal, it is the fact that they even consider it an option that worries me.
So, in the middle of a campaign for a new game, sudden talk about buying up the old game seems like a moment where somebody should be saying in Brad’s ear, “Stay on target!”
On the flip side, I wonder if the timing of this announcement from SOE… delivered after lunch on Friday, the time slot chosen by PR people who hope the news will be too late to make a splash in the news cycle and will end up forgotten by Monday… might turn to something of a boon for the Pantheon Kickstarter campaign.
Certainly, there is the potential to get the news about the Kickstarter in front of a few more faces. The coverage of the closure of Vanguard inevitably rolls around to what Brad is up to now.
And Vanguard shutting down puts paid to some of the comments I have seen about the Pantheon up to this point, which basically amount to “Why do I want this when I already have Vanguard available?” Well, you won’t have Vanguard around for much longer.
Will these two points help boost the Kickstarter campaign? It currently sits at just over $238,000 of the $800,000 initial goal, with 26 days left to go. That seems like a lot, but pledges have fallen short of the daily minimum to make goal since the initial surge of support. So the campaign clearly needs a shot in the arm.
Can this news do the job? It looks like there was already a small uptick in people supporting the project over the weekend, and there is some sentiment about for supporting Pantheon as a replacement for Vanguard. But is it enough?
Brad McQuaid on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and Project Focus January 16, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Kickstarter
The Kickstarter campaign for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen launched earlier this week and, as an old school Sojourn/TorilMUD and EverQuest player, I have been quite interested in this project. Long time visitors know I am big on nostalgia for past games, returning to things like Leuthilspar tales or Fippy Darkpaw Progression Server coverage on a regular basis. So a game promising to reignite some of that style of play is right up my alley.
As part of the campaign there has naturally been a lot said about various aspects of the game. There is a list of game design tenets that will guide the project. There has also been a lot said about very tactical things, like combat and grouping and exploration. And all of that is both necessary and good. But I felt something was missing from the mix. I wanted to hear about how he expects his team to get from funding to a finished product that we will want to play. My specific question was this:
How is this project, being taken on by a small team, going to pare down the possibilities to the key essentials so that they can deliver both to the vision and at an acceptable level of functionality and polish?
For me, that question needs a good answer. After more than 20 years in software, I am well aware that good ideas are never in short supply, but time and the skill to implement them are. During my career I’ve gone from idealism to being the guy in the room that wants to eliminate any open-ended, ill-defined feature.
Fortunately, I was in luck with my question. Brad McQuaid, taking on the endless work that is driving a Kickstarter campaign, showed up in the comment thread on my post about the realities of Kickstarter, so I was able to pose that question to him directly. This was his response:
The main response I have to this is that EQ 1 was made by 23 people in 3 years for $8M. Now I realize that was in the late ’90s and it’s a different world. But we have some advantages now that did not exist with EQ 1 (and even Vanguard).
1. We are using the Unity engine which makes it orders of magnitude faster to develop. The game is already being developed, and we have a rough prototype up right now, with our new combat system already working. 10 years ago it would have been impossible for 3-4 guys to do that.
2. This is a game with a targeted audience. We are not trying to make a game that is all things for all people (WoW, SWTOR, etc.). We don’t need 10s of millions of dollars to do this.
3. Take a look at our stretch goals (which need some work — we’re going to have a revised and better set of stretch goals up by next week). You can see that big systems, like crafting, PvP, etc. are all stretch goals. We’d love for these systems to be in the game, but we can also make a great game without those systems.
4. Our team is very experienced (we have 10 or so on the team now, but another 10-15 ready to jump ship once we have funding). This isn’t their first BBQ. We’ve learned a lot about building MMOs and this allows us to work smarter, making fewer errors, and to be more efficient.
So, if we make the $800k, we will likely have to get additional funding elsewhere (this is addressed in the FAQ on the KS site). We may reach out to a publisher, or investors, or both. But having $800k will make this much easier, because we’ve shown that there is definitely a demand for a more ‘niche’ game. I’d prefer to fund the entire game via Kickstarter, but I’m also being realistic about it.
That does answer my question. The stretch goal thing still makes me a little squeamish. I am not sure I would have PvP listed as a possibility in any form, as it feels like a distraction from the core vision of the game, something that contradicts the attempt to not be all things to all people.
Then again, I do not have fond memories of PvP in EverQuest. As amusing as tales of Fansy the Famous Bard were, PvP held no interest for me in EQ. And EverQuest II is still struggling with the idea of PvP to this day. The last time I checked, they had gone to a system where every skill has a PvE and a PvP effect, successfully making each skill tool tip just that much more complex.
Crafting is also one of those things that I imagine can swallow a lot of development time for little real benefit. I am guilty of always indulging in whatever crafting model an MMO offers, but I am not sure I have come out the better for it. Except for fishing. I still love fishing. But I’d be willing to give that up and live the TorilMUD model, where all gear comes from drops and the rare epic quest.
But the other aspects, the use of the Unity Engine, which will limit the amount of heavy lifting to be done, and having an experienced team (I hope we’ll see bios soon) do move towards what I was driving at. And we may never hit the stretch goals, so unless additional funding is needed and can only be secured by adding something like PvP, they may not enter into the equation.
As for now, the Kickstarter campaign has reached about 15% of the $800,000 needed to make the basic funding goal, with nearly 1,000 backers so far. The campaign has another 37 days to run.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Dark Age of Camelot, Kickstarter, Lord British, Mark Jacobs, Ultima Onilne
Here we are, less than a day in and Pathneon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter project is just shy of the $50,000 mark. That would put it at a little over 6% of the way to the first goal of $800,000.
As with Camelot Unchained and Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Title Brevity, I am interested in this project and Kickstarter campaign for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the personality driving it. Brad “Aradune” McQuaid is an name to conjure with in the MMORPG world.
His is also a name tied with a pretty public meltdown of vision versus follow-through.
If you want to spin this from a particular angle, you can draw on the parallels between Brad and Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott. All three were key drivers for three of the early MMORPGs that were very successful, drawing in hundreds of thousands of players. EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima Online all left their mark on the MMORPG world.
All three went on to another MMORPG that… failed to meet expectations. Tabula Rasa closed quickly, Warhammer Online lingered, but closed as soon as it was contractually able, and Vanguard would have shut down a few months in had SOE not bailed it out.
And all three have come back to the MMORPG table pitching a new game based on lessons learned.
Well, sort of.
Mark Jacobs clearly had a “lessons learned” message with Camelot Unchained, and spent weeks talking about it before the Kickstarter was launched. PvE is out, all focus of the game must be on PvP and RvR and everything in the game must in some way support those two. The theme is about moving forward into a superior mix that will make for a game that is great within a limited focus and which can be sustained by appropriately small numbers.
Richard Garriott’s “lessons learned” were more along the lines of being true to what made his past single player RPGs popular. Shroud of the Avatar will have a single player mode and it isn’t exactly clear to me how “MMO” the multiplayer mode will really be. The theme here is about all the cool games from the past, Ultima IV through VII inclusive, and how to make that sort of thing come alive again. We shall see. But there is also a sub-current of focusing on what is important to make sure that gets developed fully.
And then there is Brad McQuaid. He wants to remake EverQuest in a more modern image… which isn’t a bad thing. After all, viewed from the right angle, Mark Jacobs simply wants to re-ignite what was great about Dark Age of Camelot and Richard Garriott is clearly after the spirit of the Ultima franchise. The problem is that while Jacobs and Garriott spent many days before their Kickstarters talking about visions and lessons learned and what is important and where they want to focus, the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen preamble was pretty much this:
The game is high fantasy and if you've played EQ 1 and/or Vanguard, you've got a general idea of what the game's about and what kind of…—
Brad McQuaid (@Aradune) October 31, 2013
And I got what he meant by that, at least in spirit. The problem is that this isn’t a big enough nail to hang a project on, in my opinion. There wasn’t a lot of build up to the Kickstarter, the game details and tenets are bullet point lists (copied in my previous post), and there is very little on the whole “lessons learned” front. I know Brad has said that he clearly bit off more than he could chew with Vanguard. The game had way too many goals. But what is the take-away from that? How is this project, being taken on by a small team, going to pare down the possibilities to the key essentials so that they can deliver both to the vision and at an acceptable level of functionality and polish?
It is here I think that we see the key difference between Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott, both long time game designers who founded their own companies, lead teams, and delivered many titles over the years, and Brad McQuaid, who has EverQuest (which got a nurturing hand from Sony and John Smedley), Vanguard, and a couple of small efforts he worked on before EverQuest. This aspect of his skill and experience could be the make or break with the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter.
If Brad McQuaid cannot get people engaged by articulating both the vision he has for the game and how it is going to come together, then my guess is that the funding is going to dry up pretty quickly after the “I want another EverQuest” faction kicks in. And that time is going to come very quickly. The first 48 hours of a Kickstarter set the tone. That is where critical mass is assembled, where you get your true believers to become your evangelists. Because after that, every dollar is a fight. Look at the patterns for Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar from Kicktraq:
Both of those graphs are very front loaded. Camelot Unchained got 35% of its $2 million goal in the first two days, while Shroud of the Avatar got 55% of its $1 million goal in the same period. After that, there was the long dry spell where Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott got out and did interviews and spoke to everybody who would listen. Hell, Mark Jacobs came HERE and left a comment on my first post about the Camelot Unchained Kickstarter, acknowledging my statement that it was going to be a tough fight to get to $2 million. The man was a communications machine, and he continues to be one in the project updates.
Brad McQuaid will need to do the same, because the easy money will dry up soon. Will he be able to take it to the streets and get people interested? We will see. He will have to do more than make comments on Twitter and Facebook supported by a company web site that currently does little more than act as a pointer to the Kickstarter page. This needs to be a political campaign, a marketing event, and an old fashioned spiritual revival meeting all wrapped up into one to succeed, and Brother Brad needs to step up and testify. If he is going to bang the nostalgia drum, he needs to bang it loud and often. He cannot be the lone monarch on the throne. He has to be out and about. We need to see him in the press and doing updates and a dozen things in between.
While the project “only” needs $20K a day to fund fully, and it will no doubt make more that $50K in its first 24 hours, it has to do a lot better out of the gate to carry things forward. There will be a last minute rush of people pledging, but that will only matter if there is a big enough base of funding in place. In looking through a bunch of projects, the last day rarely ever exceeds the first.
What do you think? Is Brad up to the task of getting out the faithful and getting them to pony up for another run at the EverQuest vision? Are bullet points enough, or does this whole thing need more substance?
Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter Started January 13, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Kickstarter, Visionary Realms
Brad “Aradune” McQuaid has launched his Kickstarter campaign to fund his planned game Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. I did not see much build-up to it, but maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the right sources.
Aradune, who came through TorilMUD back in the day, is best known for being one of the primary drivers of EverQuest and Vanguard.
Of course, everybody (or everybody reading this) remembers EverQuest, while Vanguard hasn’t always been… appreciated? I hate to say winner/loser, but one was king of the genre pre-WoW and remains influential today and the other…
So this is the third try. Can Aradune and his cohorts at Visionary Realms, Inc. (there is that “vision” word again) take what has been learned over the years and craft an MMORPG that brings back the hardcore days of EverQuest while running well and feeling up-to-date? That certainly seems to be the target.
Pantheon emphasizes the need to adventure with others. The world is dangerous and full of unexpected challenges making it unwise to travel alone. We feel that the best memories are those shared with fellow adventurers and friends. Thus, we are aiming to create a world where grouping is paramount.
He is asking for $800,000 in funding, which if you read my predictions for 2014, means I think he won’t make it. I figured his name and reputation was good for half a million tops, so I guess we will see if I am wrong in the next 40 days. (The timer runs down on Saturday Feb 22, 11:40am PST. I’m in for $75. If the ride starts, I want to be on board.)
I expect it will be a hard fight to make it there no matter what and Brad will have to be out and about and getting people interested pretty much full time. Remember how hard Mark Jacobs worked to get to two million dollars for Camelot Unchained?
There are the usual aspects of a Kickstarter campaign in place, including stretch goals out beyond the 6 million dollar mark. You can find all the details on the Kickstarter page for the project. I expect we will see interviews with Brad coming up where he will have to answer some hard questions about what he learned from the Vanguard project and where something like Pantheon fits in today’s market.
The target date for the game is pegged at three years out, January 2017.
I thought I would copy these bullet points to ponder as the campaign moves on.
- An MMO developed by gamers who aren’t afraid to target an audience of like-minded gamers.
- A fantasy themed Massively Multiplayer Role Playing game (MMO) with a heavy focus on character development, an immersive world, and teamwork.
- An MMO for players wanting a challenging and rewarding experience.
- An open world in which you explore to obtain not only more powerful items but also new spells and abilities.
- Travel where and when you want to in a non-linear world.
- A huge world to explore, trade, and adventure in.
- A complex back-story that players may gradually discover as they grow in power and explore the world.
- A constantly expanding and evolving world.
- Group-focused social gameplay using a class based system to encourage teamwork.
- Customize your class by bonding with the spirits of fallen warriors.
- Reactive combat where you can determine what the NPC is doing and react to it. (move, counter, deflect, etc.) .
- Combat will be challenging and involved — your decisions will matter and directly affect the battle’s outcome.
- Travel the world and profit from selling exotic items collected from distant realms. Different cities and outposts may have local Bazaars.
- Limited and class based teleportation may get you close, but in order to reach many destinations you will have to traverse the planar scarred lands of Terminus through the use of your own two feet or on the back of your mighty steed.
- Earning experience is only part of what it takes to level up. Exploring the world you will gain knowledge and power allowing you to overcome more powerful enemies.
- The game will run on PC, Mac, and possibly other platforms in the future.
- An awareness that content is king
- A belief that game economies should be predicated on delaying and minimizing item value deflation
- A commitment to a style of play that focuses on immersive combat, and engaging group mechanics.
- An understanding that a truly challenging game is truly rewarding
- An expectation that the path of least resistance should also be the most entertaining
- A mindset that Designed Downtime should be a part of the game to ensure players have time to form important social bonds.
- A belief that an immersive world requires intelligent inhabitants
- An understanding that faction should be an integral part of interacting with the world and its citizenry.
- A commitment to creating a world where a focus on group play will attract those seeking a challenge
- A belief that the greatest sense of accomplishment comes when it is shared