Category Archives: Pirates of the Burning Sea

Milestones: In with Wizardry Online, Out with Pirates of the Burning Sea

Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.

WizOnline

While it doesn’t really bring back the spirit of the original Wizardry for me… and really isn’t my cup of tea… it is now part of the line up, free to play if you want or as a subscription or part of SOE’s All Access Pass.

Some find me... disturbing

It was tough just getting past this screen…

It remains to be seen if this title will bring a lasting dungeon crawl experience or if their concept of “permadeath” will be a compelling feature. We shall see whether it lights a fire or languishes in the shadow of SOE’s other fantasy MMORPG titles.

Stropp has been in there for day one fun, if you are looking for a report on that.  He does mention that the “connecting” issue, that so many people have arrived here searching for, appears to be SOE completely lacking any sort of informative “you’re in the login queue” messaging.  You just sit there “connecting” until it is your turn.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking its leave from SOE.

FLSlogo

Flying Lab Software will no longer be the developer and SOE no longer the publisher of this title. The following announcement went out to those of us still on their mailing list:

Ahoy there!

As you may know, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) will be leaving SOE’s family of games at the end of the month and setting sail with Portalus Games. Portalus may be a new name, but the people behind it are veterans of Flying Lab who love the game. They have banded together to form a new company whose sole focus is PotBS, and will continue running, developing, and expanding the game into the future.

I’m personally very excited about Portalus and I’m looking forward to where they’ll be taking PotBS, but it will be as a player, not as a member of the development team. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the development of Pirates, and while the details of these moments are wildly varied, they all revolve around the same thing: interacting with you, the players. We decided to build an MMO because we wanted to have a more direct relationship with our players, and PotBS came through in spades. I’ve enjoyed going out, and meeting and talking with so many of you, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.

I want to thank all of you for your support, and if one day you’re sailing on the open seas, and you meet a grizzled old Pirate who talks about the old days, think a kindly thought for me. Then give him a broadsides and take his ship!! See you on the Burning Seas!

Russell Williams
– Co-Founder Flying Lab

Accounts can be migrated to the new company, which takes over today. The SOE servers will go down at 10:30pm PST. Instructions on how to migrate your account are on the Portalus Games web site.

While Potshot and I were there at launch and before with the pre-boarding pass (and once again adopting the French faction), the game never really stuck with us.

The French have the most attitude

The ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.

Broadside!

Most other aspects of the game fell flat for us however. Ship boarding combat was dull, the economy was convoluted, the strategic game was broken, and even finding ship to ship battles was unsatisfying. In less than a month we felt adrift in the burning sea, rudderless and uninterested in where the current might take us. And so we left the game, though it sailed on.

Onward!

And while I always intended to come back and check on how things had progressed after our short time in the game, it never came to pass. There are always more games to play than time in which to play them.

As with Wizardry Online, the future remains to be written. Will this be a rebirth for the now five year old game, or has it merely been moved to hospice care where it can die quietly?

SOE Station Access Returns to 2004… And Then Some

I was going to wait until SOE posted something official on the SOE web site about the Station Access price reduction, but their community team seems to all be at E3 and unable to do anything besides post pictures to the SOE Facebook page.

I thought a bit of caution might be required, since the stories that announced this coming price reduction all seemed to lack an official original source to which they could link to, only linking to other similarly sparse reports on the subject.  Given how the press “misunderstood” and repeated certain stories during the Sony hacking fiasco, I thought a little care with SOE related stories would be a good thing.

Color me a cynic.  I want the deal in writing.

But I am also impatient, so let’s just treat this as if it is true, and that SOE is going to reduce the price of Station Access to $19.99 a month, down from its current $29.99 a month, at some date which we will refer to as “soon.”

I remember when Station Access was announced, way back in late 2004.  A mere $21.99 a month would cover your subscription fees for all of the Sony Online Entertainment MMOs. (I had to go back to my SOE billing history to get that number.)

For me, the fact that I could be subscribed to EverQuest II and still go tinker around in EverQuest was a decent draw at that price, but the clincher was the fact that, with Station Access you also got a couple more character slots in EQ2.

I will grouse to my dying day about SOE launching a game with 24 character classes that only allowed you to make four total characters.

The price went up to $24.99 later on, and then just a little over four years ago it jumped up to its current $29.99 a month.

The speculation at the time was that this was to help cover Vanguard being brought into the SOE family of MMOs, and there was worry that with each new game a future price increase would come.

Fortunately for those of us at the consumer end of things, the price did not rise any further with the addition of games like Pirates of the Burning Sea.  I would guess that the $29.99 price seemed to SOE to be perhaps the most the market would bear.

For those who are not familiar with Station Access, it is one of the SOE subscription plans.  It allows the subscriber to play any of SOE’s online games as though they have subscribed to that particular game.

In theory you must buy the game box before you can play any particular game.  In practice I was able to download and play Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, and Planet Side without paying for anything aside from my Station Access subscription.  And the games you play benefit, as your Station Access subscription is allocated out based on what game you play over the month.

At $21.99 it was a hell of a deal.

At $24.99 it was still a very good deal.

But at $29.99 the package deal lost some of its luster.

At that price it was a penny more expensive than simply having two month-to-month subscriptions for any given pair of SOE games.  Furthermore, with a standard subscription you can get a further discount by subscribing in 3, 6, or 12 month increments, something not available to Station Access subscribers who can only pay on a month-to-month basis.

This lead to a rather amusing, in my opinion, Station Access Savings Calculator that would tell you how you could “save” nearly $75 a month in subscription fees (if you otherwise subscribed individually to every SOE game), but could not explain why you should subscribe if you only played one or two SOE games.

So unless you were active in 3 or more SOE games on a regular basis (and there are some of you out there who have been at times… I’m looking at you Stargrace and Tipa… and speaking of Tipa, her comment on this post is worth noting just for context) or really needed one of the few other benefits that Station Access offered (like more character slots in EQ2… of that I am guilty), the value proposition for Station Access was not so hot.

But now, if the news is to be believed, Station Access is being reduced in price, back to a level below what seems like a good deal back in 2004.  At $19.99 a month I would subscribe to SOE games only via Station Access, if only to allow myself to peek into EverQuest now and again and keep myself going in both versions of EverQuest II.

Which leaves me with the usual question, “What does it mean?”

Certainly SOE has been a leader in subscription options.  Just looking at EverQuest II, does any other competing game offer as many ways to subscribe and play?  We have free (EQ2X only, granted), $10 forever (ibid), a 3 day a month plan (EQ2 Passport), a standard monthly subscription, and Station Access.  If there was a lifetime plan and an option to buy your subscription time with in-game currency I think they would have almost all the current options in the MMO sphere covered.

But with all of that, why upset things with a radical change in the price of Station Access?

My speculation, and that is all it is, is that the market has changed, both inside and outside of SOE.

Back when EQ2 launched, $15 a month was the defacto standard subscription fee.  (Remember how we scoffed, well I did, when Mark Jacobs suggested that Warhammer Online might charge more, positioning it as a premium game? And now the first 10 levels are free.)  $15 was the line, and the MMO companies held to that, because there were not a lot of options for your western fantasy MMO dollar.

But with the market now flooded with choices, price has become one of the points of competition.  With Lord of the Rings Online, for example, even before it went free to play if you couldn’t find a way to subscribe at $10 a month (basically a $5 discount off the list price) you were not trying hard enough.  And after going free to play, $10 a month became the standard monthly VIP price.

$15 a month has gone from being the standard to being something of the cap on MMO subscription pricing.  How can you charge MORE than WoW, the bestest MMO ever if we use subscribers as our sole metric like so many people do?

So for something like Station Access to “feel” like a deal, pricing it at double WoW is no longer really viable.

And SOE has changed as well.  When Station Access came out… and even when it went up to $30 a month… SOE games were all monthly subscription that, with the exception of Planet Side, were at the standard $15 a month.

Now, however, we have FreeRealms which is nominally free, as are EverQuest II Extended, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.  If that does not necessarily break the Station Access model, it certainly adds a new dynamic to it.

And you have Station Cash, which has been around for a while now and which was not met with enthusiasm. (And it still has the purists screaming. See race change potion on Fippy Darkpaw.)  Station Cash has become, over the last two and a half years, an increasingly bigger piece of SOE’s revenue pie.  And this, I am going to guess, is probably the key item.

While market changes certainly had no small influence, I am going to bet that somebody did the math, went through and figured out how much revenue there was in attracting each free to play player and how much that revenue changed… went up… when a free to play player converted to a subscription.

Those would be very interesting numbers to see, but I would guess that Station Cash purchases for a player that commits to a subscription are higher than for a free player.  And, I would additionally be willing to bet that somebody willing to spend Station Cash in one game is more likely to spend it in other SOE games.

And if that is the case, getting somebody to commit to all of your games probably nets out better in the long run if Station Access is less expensive because more people are likely to commit over all.

Or so goes my theory, which I will summarize as “market change and the increasing importance of Station Cash purchases to the SOE bottom line.”

Syp took a look at the value proposition of the change, which for a consumer can simply be said to be “better,” but I haven’t see much on the “Why” front.

What do you think is really driving this change?

Addendum: They posted the webcast to YouTube and mentioned the Station Access pricing change in their post on the Station Blog, so we now have something in writing.  Still no details… like an actual date.

SOE Joins PlayStation Network Hacking Woes

I thought I was safe, not having given my credit card to Sony on the PlayStation Network.

Then Sony Online Entertainment brought down all their servers this morning, purportedly for “an investigation into an intrusion.”

And now it seems there was a reason for it.

While the shut down has been covered around the webKotaku is now reporting that hackers may have stolen more than 12,700 credit card numbers from Sony Online Entertainment players.

That is a small-ish percentage of the players of SOE games such as EverQuest II, and considerably fewer credit card numbers than were obtained through the hacking of the PlayStation Network (last count, 10 million!), but it is still a disturbing reminder of the problems Sony is currently having with network security.  And who knows what the final numbers will be.

No word on how to tell if your credit card has been compromised, though SOE Community Manager Amnerys encourages you to call SOE customer service if you have concerns.

Good luck getting through!

You might as well read the alarming security update from SOE.

I guess I picked a bad week to quit WoW.

Addendum: Sony says this was not a second attack, which I guess means they still haven’t figured out how bad the attack nearly two weeks ago really was.

Addendum 2:  Per ZAM, SOE is granting customers 30 days of additional time on their subscriptions, in addition to compensating them one day for each day the system is down.  No word on how long the system will be down.

(SOE Offline graphic from the Kotaku story.)

STO Lifetime Sub – The Sucker Bet?

I missed a good chunk of the Star Trek Online open beta.

Part of that was because we spent a week on Maui, which is a pretty fair trade in the middle of winter.  Even for a California winter.

But even when I have been around there have been problems getting into the game.  The server was essentially full for most of the time before I was on vacation.  That is when it wasn’t down.  And it has been down rather regularly since I have been back.

Not that Cryptic hasn’t been working on things.  I’ve downloaded about a gigabyte and a half of updates since I got back home.  But I get the feeling that the Star Trek IP is a bit more popular than they calculated.

Somehow, between the outages, I have managed to get in enough time to, you know, blow things up.

Cruiser Goes "Boom!"

And I like what I have seen.

I think.

I have to deal my internal love of Star Trek which makes it difficult at times to evaluate whether I like something that is Star Trek related, or whether I merely like that it is Star Trek related.  I’m a fan boy.  Not as much as some people, but I am to the degree that I can be and still be me.  And Star Trek fan boys can get uptight about some of the silliest of things.

These fish are totally non-canon I say!

So play I must.  And having played a little, here is what I think.

Ship combat looks good.  It is close enough to the Starfleet Command (my favorite series of Star Trek games ever, which culminated with Starfleet Command III) style of ship combat for my taste.  Things go a bit quicker and I miss the ability to transport over marines to capture ships when the shields are down, but otherwise it feels about right.

I am undecided on ground combat.  That isn’t what a Star Trek game is really about for me, but it seems better than, say, Pirates of the Burning Sea’s version of the same thing.  And planet side seems to offer places to relax.

And the game as a whole?  I am surprised by some of the complexities.  But it feels okay, and you can tweak enough things to make the future feel a bit less sterile and mass produced.

USS Wensleydale Customized

Like Darren, I agree that being on a mission and finding myself in an ad hoc fleet working towards the same objectives works.  Though it can stink when you draw a tougher mission and find yourself alone.  I had to call on Skronk to help me out on one.

So, if nothing else, I am not going to try and get out of my GameStop pre-order.  I will be playing this game.  And I will be playing it soon since, as Cryptic pointed out, the last open beta weekend was upon us.

Next Friday, January 29th, those with pre-orders can get into the game for real.  Things are live.

But there is a decision to be made between now and the official launch day of February 2nd.

Do I get the lifetime subscription?

It is available up until February 1st for $239.  After that it will still be available, but it will be priced at $299.

The Trek fan boy in me says, “Get it!”  In fact, the Trek fan boy in me wants to know why I am still typing this since the order page is up in another tab and I could be ordering it RIGHT THIS SECOND!

And then there is skeptical me. (Alternately known as thoughtful me, sarcastic me, or obstinate ass-hat me, depending on how far off I am from other people’s own opinions.)

Skeptical me still likes the idea of the lifetime subscription, since it takes the whole subscribe, unsubscribe, am I playing enough to justify a monthly subscription detail off the table.

But then skeptical me goes on and points out Lord of the Rings Online, which I don’t play all that much.

Sure, I patch and log in about once a month and play a little.  But I spend a lot more time in WoW and even in EVE Online.  And while that is partly because I have regular groups and friends in those games, it is also, to a certain extent, because I am paying a monthly fee for them, so I feel I had better be playing if I am paying.

And so LOTRO falls into third place because the pressure is off in that regard.  I can play whenever.

Then skeptical me brings up Pirates of the Burning Sea.  The parallels between that and Star Trek Online are clear, if not absolute.  In PotBS I loved the ship combat, but the rest of the game really did little for me.  Could STO be a repeat of that?

And while skeptical me has me on the ropes, he brings up Starfleet Command.  Sure, I love that game.  I bring it out every few months to play it.  But how much play time does it really get, skeptical me asks like a lawyer in a courtroom drama bringing up the critical point in his case, exactly how much time did you spend playing that game in 2009?

Maybe six hours.

“SIX HOURS?” shouts skeptical me, waking up the jury, “You spent 6 hours out of the year playing that game, and now you want to get a lifetime subscription to a game because it plays like SFC?  Is this what you’re suggesting?  Does this make sense?

Damn skeptical me, he has a point.

And then skeptical me starts to play good cop.  Look, he points out, they also have a discount year long subscription.  That is $119, which saves you $60 over the course of a year and you lock in that price ongoing.  So in two years you will have spent the same as the lifetime subscription, and you might be over the game by then.

Finally, skeptical me wraps up his case.  Look at Turbine, he says.  They offered a discounted lifetime subscription before launch, but they have brought back that discounted price a number of times.  If you truly get into the game, you might have the opportunity again later.

But then the fan boy retorts that not having to worry about a subscription is more likely to get me through the rough launch ahead.  And it is going to be a rough launch if my current experience, where I have spent more time trying to play than playing, what with patches, the server being full, or the server simply being down, over the open beta cycle.

But the year long subscription plan also works for that.

I still have a week to decide.  Lifetime or not?

What would you do?

And more importantly, what would Kirk do?

STO Open Beta – First Night

I got home last night and found that my download was complete.  The Star Trek Online client was ready to install.

I ran the installer.  That went well.

I logged in and let it patch.  Also good.

And then I was told that the server was down, but that it would be up soon.  No big deal.

At some point after the server came up, I logged in.  I got to see the Cryptic and Atari logos as well as the cool loading screen.

Loading Screen Engaged!

And then that was about it for the excitement.

After that, the only two messages I saw were:


and

over and over again.

Not the most auspicious start for me I suppose.

But then again, it was the first night of open beta for a popular game.  Problems are to be expected.

It was persistent enough that I began to wonder if it was some sort of replay of the UDP issue I was having with Pirates of the Burning Sea way back when. (PotBS comparisons with STO seem to en vogue at the moment.)  However, a check of the forums showed that other people were having the same issue.

So there was no Star Fleet activity at our house on the first night of open beta.

But World of Warcraft was there for me.  I got on just in time to run Wintergrasp and call it a night.

December in Review

On Events in 2008

I sit here on the final day of 2008 looking back and saying, “WTF?”

Pirates of the Burning Sea set sail, but foundered.  Excellent ship to ship combat turned out to not be worth a monthly fee.

Age of Conan should have launched in March because it came on like a lion, but is now more like lamb in size and competitive vigor. (Or maybe a salt marsh harvest mouse.)  Folks in Oslo have since been heard saying things like, “Third time is a charm!”

Warhammer Online screamed “WAAAGH!” in September, but within six weeks the Mythic team was trying to consolidate its population rather than adding new servers, something that Mark Jacobs himself had previously said would be a sign they were in trouble.  Not that Mr. Jacobs is now saying they are in trouble, but I just love that quote as an example of things not to say. Meanwhile, even some WAR fanbois have changed their mind on the game.

Tabula Rasa, after a statement of support by NC West President of Publishing David Reid, was declared untenable just weeks later and slated to be closed at the end of February 2009.  The Bane issued a press release declaring total victory over the humans while General British, Colonel Blackthorn, and Major Miscalculation fled into space.  A blank slate indeed.

Sony Online Entertainment talked a lot about cool upcoming products, but shipped no new games.  Aside from two expansions and a lot of small content additions, the big headline of the year for SOE seemed to be, “EverQuest and EverQuest II: Now with RMT!”  While I won’t argue with Grimwell’s declaration of success on that front, the reaction seemed to me to be mixed.

All the while the Wrath of the Lich King seemed to be getting lukewarm support at best over the summer with many a blogger picking apart individual features or weighing the whole and declaring it “too little, too late” after nearly two years of waiting.  Then, as the day approached, people began filing back into Azeroth after their summer vacations in other lands.  On the ship date Wrath broke previous sales records set by The Burning Crusade, pushed WoW to a new subscriber peak (sure, just half a million people… small when compared to 11 million, but still more than almost any other subscription based MMO you care to mention has total.), and was generally declared wonderful by those who have enjoyed WoW in the past.

So screw convention wisdom, I’m going back to wild and crazy predictions.  Diablo III will generate more revenue than Toyota when it ships and StarCraft II will cure cancer and lead to the reunification of Korea.

The Site

I cleaned up the right hand bar quite a bit.  The most obvious piece that is missing is the counter for Feedburner.  I originally put it up there to encourage people to subscribe to the site via FeedBurner, since it offered some statistics.  However, most of the people who read the site via RSS use the WordPress.com feed, so the counter was displaying about 10% of my RSS readership.  Since WordPress.com has since added some minor stats about RSS, I decided to just remove the counter.  The FeedBurner feed is still live and will remain so, there just won’t be a link to it now.

One Year Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

The yearly EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” which I have yet to score.  I will have to get a post together comparing The Shadow Odyssey with my own guesses.

The Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group was finishing up Blackrock Depths.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

I was interviewed over at World IV.  So far that is the only interview I have ever been asked to do.

I lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

And I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

New Linking Sites

A big holiday thank you to these sites who link to The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Please take a minute to visit these sites, one of them may be your new favorite blog!

Most Views Posts in December

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Howling Fjord Quest Night
  5. Best MMO Expansion in 2008?
  6. Do You Name Your Ships?
  7. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
  9. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  10. The Name Generator (which has nothing to do with #1)
  11. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  12. The Way Questing Used To Be

Best Search Terms

world of warcraft hot to get out of gnomergen
[A lot of people are]

which mmo
[A question that plagues so many of us]

new lego emperor
[That is what we all seek!]

Spam Comments of the Month

ignorant christmas wallpaper cell phone :PPP
[Not a random string at all!]

I use WoW code all the time as it saves time!
[added to my Know Your WoW Code post and linked to a gold seller.]

Deleted Comment of the Month

Die in a fire you ‘tard.
[Like almost all of the really hateful comments I get, this came from an EVE Online player.  The game inspires passion, both good and bad.]

EVE Online

EVE Has been quiet for me this month, not so much out of a lack of desire to play as a lack of time.  The first half of the month I was busy shipping a product before the holidays, and then came the holidays.  Still, I ran a mission or two, hauled freight when needed, kept production going, and brought in another pile of ISK.  Still no freighter though.

EverQuest

I have not played ANY EverQuest.  There has been no 2008 EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.   EverQuest II might be old enough now that it is suitable for nostalgia.  That certainly fits what I have been doing there.

EverQuest II

In Norrath I have been mostly involved with the adventures of Reynaldo Fabulous of Freeport, a swashbuckling berserker who has been cutting a swathe through the original level 1-50 content in EverQuest II.  With the support of his friends and his guild he has managed to get to level 52 and remain fabulous.

Lord of the Rings Online

The call of Moria seems to have hit Gaff.  Having a lifetime membership means I can pick that game up any time.  However, now he is talking about starting over on a new server.  Damn his eyes, I finally have horses on all my guys on the old server.

World of Warcraft

Holiday commitments and illness has kept the instance group from playing as often as usual.  Still, we are banging away in Northrend and expect full victory in Utgarde Keep any day now!

Coming Up

Santa delivered more than just LEGO kits to our house over the holidays.  There were also a few Wii and DS games that I will mention in future posts, though it seems at the moment that Cooking Mama II is the surprise DS hit with my daughter.

And, of course, tune in tomorrow for my predictions for 2009.  I’d better start working on them!