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Tidbits from EVE, WAR, and PlanetSide 2 February 28, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, PlanetSide 2, Warhammer Online.
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11 comments

One of thosen informational time stamp post.

New EVE Online Milestone

CCP apparently told Massively (oh, there is an official press release now too) that they passed the 500K subscription mark, which puts them into the range of EverQuest at its peak, just before the launch of World of Warcraft.  Certainly the total players online has been up when I have been logged in, hitting close to 60K during the weekends. (The record is currently 63,170 online at once.)  The longer term numbers show an uptick as well.

Not bad for a game that started off badly.  The game has come a long way in a decade.

Early Raven in Combat

Early Raven in Combat

The iconic Rifter hasn't changed much

The iconic Rifter hasn’t changed much

(Early game pictures from this CCP forum post.)

Also not bad for a studio predicted to go bankrupt… well, by one person at least.

Yeah, I’m not letting that one go yet.  Financial reports do not lie, but people projecting their internal wishes about games they dislike…

Warhammer Online Trail of Tears – MOBA Edition

Meanwhile, the Warhammer Online team cannot seem to catch a break.  While League of Legends roams the internet landscape as possibly the biggest online game ever, and certainly one of the few with what seems like a license to print money, EA/Mythic’s attempt to take Warhammer Online assets to create their own MOBA game, Wrath of Heroes, seems to have fallen flat.

EA has announced that the game, still in beta, is closing up shop because it did not meet its financial goals.  I love how we use the word “beta” in the 21st century.  Oh, and if you spent any money on it… well… no refunds.  How about a couple of drink vouchers and a free month of Warhammer Online?

My own feelings remain mixed on the original game.  There was a lot in it that I liked… but there was also a lot there that turned me away.

Most developers agree, the quest log should be mapped to "L"

And not all of it was this trivial

In the end, I simply stopped logging in about two months after launch, which is the real sign of whether or not a game has grabbed me.  I can kid myself, but I won’t log into a game I am not enjoying.

PlanetSide 2 Bot Thoughts

I haven’t logged into PlanetSide 2 lately, but I still keep an eye on the news.  And one thing that keeps popping up is the proliferation of aimbots, unauthorized add-ons that make sure you are shooting to kill every time you pull the trigger.  This gives the user/cheater a huge advantage in the game.

Smed has been quite vocal about how they are working to fight aimbots, including banning the accounts of anybody caught using one.

But in this war, SOE is fighting without all the tools it once had.  With a free to play game that is free to download, does an account ban keep a player out of the game any longer than it takes him to create a new account and maybe grab an updated version of his aimbot?

How do you fight the aimbot blight under those circumstances?

You cannot just ban IP addresses, as a lot of people do not have a fixed IP address.

You might be able to tag the client so that it won’t log in again if an account using it has been banned.  That would at least make cheaters have to download a fresh copy.  A minor inconvenience for anybody with a faster internet pipe than mine… and most people seem to have faster pipes than min.

In response to all of that, it sounds like SOE might be lawyering up to go after the sites that are creating… and selling… the bots.  Certainly there are EULA and DMCA aspects to exploit as well as making money on an SOE game.

But does that have any real chance of success?  Will that do anything more than slow down the aim-bot menace?

In the end, will SOE just have to include auto-aim, a built-in aim assist… or aimbot… which some console shooters use to overcome the problems of aiming with the analog stick, and just nerf accuracy to simply remove the viability of aimbots in PlanetSide 2?

I know that mouse aiming is the long established norm on the PC platform and can be a skill differentiator.  Should we give that up in order to make teamwork and tactics even more important?

Reviewing My Questions for 2012 December 18, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in blog thing, Diablo II, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Torchlight II.
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14 comments

At the beginning of each new year I have a special post.  Sometimes if it predictions.  Some times it is demands.  Last year I decided it should be questions.

2012pic

I asked 12 questions of the new year.  12 questions for the year 2012.

I think it is time to see if I received any clear answers.

1. What fate awaits the Old Republic?

Love it, hate it, see it as a revolution in MMOs or as a symbol of that all is wrong, Star Wars the Old Republic is now a force to be reckoned with on the MMO landscape.  It has everybody’s attention for good or ill.  Where will it lead us?

That was the position at the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately, the answer since then seems to be “Over a cliff.”  That cliff was described by the chart showing ongoing drops in total subscribers every quarter after launch.

Apparently story and voice acting will only keep people interested for so long.  That works for a single player game.  For a subscription game, not so much.  And so the Tortanic began to sink, and it was heralded as the death of the subscription model for MMOs.  They did announce an expansion, so they will have some content to sell along side action bars and raid access.  But there do not seem to be clear blue skies on the horizon for SWTOR yet.

2. Can Blizzard stem the World of Warcraft subscription trend?

Sort of.  The annual pass option, which got you a shiny mount and a free copy of Diablo III, kept at least a million people locked into their subscriptions.  And while numbers still fell, they rebounded some with the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.  The peak of “over 12 million” appears to be in the past, but 10 million isn’t so bad.

And, of course, WoW still rakes in cash like no other MMO out there.  Reports of the death of the subscription model may be a bit premature.

3. Will Free to Play continue to be the gold mine/panacea for subscription games?

Panacea?  It certainly seems so.  SOE has thrown in fully for the free model, bringing all their titles save the original PlanetSide into the fold.  And certainly SWTOR is looking to that model to rescue it and revive their fortunes.

Is it a gold mine though?  Early reports from the LOTRO transition to F2P seemed to indicate that there was indeed gold to be had.  However, since then, there appears to have been some iron pyrite mixed in with the real thing, leading companies to try and cast an ever wider net to get players to buy their RMT currency and then turn around and spend it in their cash shop.

LOTRO, which at least lets you earn their RMT cash in-game, went towards the odious prize boxes and started suggesting things like the hobby horse mount.

SOE screwed up their RMT currency so badly with heavy discounts that they had to stop selling premium memberships and expansions in Station Cash.

And reports I have read indicate that SWTOR might not have figured out the magic formula for F2P success quite yet either.

So there appears to be a lot more work to be done on the F2P front.  Merely being F2P is no longer enough, as there are a lot of choices out there.

Companies keep bringing their games to the F2P altar, but that alone is no longer enough.

4. Who will really win the “Just Like Diablo” battle of 2012?

It depends on what you value.

I started to write a full post about it with the objective of declaring Diablo III the winner, but only on technicalities.  Basically, it does more to capture the atmosphere of Diablo II, while at the same time doing the most to destroy the game.  It just feels more like Diablo II, if you ignore the auction house, the always online aspect, the need to play through the game repeatedly in order to get to the most challenging game play, and a few other things.

That said, I think Torchlight II is, overall, a better game if you take the “heir to Diablo II” aspect out of the picture.  It doesn’t get anywhere close on story or atmosphere compared to Diablo II, but it managed to avoid the manifold mistakes of Diablo III while being light, fun, and full of options denied the players of Diablo III.

Basically, the answer for me is that neither game really wins the “Just Like Diablo” crown, mostly because it just isn’t the year 2000 any more, so neither game could really have the same impact.

5. When will we lose a game to hacking?

We seem to be safe from this still, at least on the MMO front.  Lots of security breaches, but  I haven’t read about a game completely brought down and destroyed, never to run again because of hacking.

So the only answer here I suppose was, “Not yet.”

6. Will SOE remain the only player in the MMO nostalgia game?

This stems from the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, about which I have posted often.

And my answer up until last week would have been “Yes.”  SOE is the only purveyor of MMO nostalgia.  I even got impatient by mid-year and went after the issue in a blog post.

After all, it seems like WoW could make a bundle with a similar scheme.  There are literally dozens of private WoW servers out there trying to recreate the “old” WoW, that being anywhere from day one to before Cataclysm.  I spent a bit of time on the Emerald Dream server and can vouch for the cathartic effect of playing an old-school version of the game.

But no such official venture looks to be forthcoming.

And then Turbine showed up with Asheron’s Call 2, fresh from the crypt, electrodes bolted on firmly in an attempt to create life where there was none.

I am not sure if it is quite the same thing, but it is something.  And it is nostalgic.

So SOE does not own the MMO nostalgia market completely.

7. Will Guild Wars 2 be the game changer in the MMO market in 2012?

Well, a lot was promised for Guild Wars 2.  But did it really change anything?

I have seen a number of GW2 fans lauding The Secret World for adopting the GW2 revenue plan, conveniently ignoring all the details that prove that they did no such thing.  Yes, there is the “buy the box” aspect for a free to play game that sure sounds a lot like GW2.  But what about the continuing monthly subscription model that unlocks things and hands out RMT currency as a reward?  That sounds a lot like an SOE game, doesn’t it?

I suspect that the “buy the box” aspect was a requirement only because they admitted they did not make their sales numbers, so it is either throw away all those boxes or find a way to keep selling them.

And, if we’re honest with ourselves, the “buy the box” plan was from Guild Wars, not GW2, so rationalize harder please.

Anyway, I think it is too early to tell.  GW2 only launched at the end of August, which didn’t leave a lot of time for anybody to react to anything they did in 2012, conspiracy theories not withstanding.

Maybe next year?

8. Will CCP ever be anything but the company that makes EVE Online?

Of course, they also helped make Lazy Town, right?  Next question.

Okay, yes, DUST 514.  It looms.  It seems like it could be something some day.  But that day was not this year.  So I can only say, “We shall see.”

Call me when DUST 514 is a thing and maybe I will be able to build enough enthusiasm to download it.

9. What will the earth shattering MMO announcements be in 2012?

I have to go with NCsoft shutting down City of Heroes, SWTOR going free to play, and Turbine reviving Asheron’s Call 2.

Oh, and that 38 Studios fiasco.  An MMO that never was will never be.

Anything else?

10. Will MMOs get redefined in new and interesting (or bad and annoying) ways?

No, nothing new here, move along.

Okay, maybe PlanetSide 2 moved the ball a few inches down field with a really massive online shooter.  But what else was there really?

11. Are we every going to get another decent MMO news podcast?

No.

12. What will Lord British do next?

Apparently jump on board the Zynga train just as it drives over a cliff.   Timing is everything in comedy!

So those are my questions and the answers as I see them.  I am sure somebody will remind me of a few items I missed… or will want to argue about Diablo III vs. Torchlight II.  But that is about it for me.

Now to consider next year’s post.

Quote of the Day – Innovation? December 15, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2.
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4 comments

With Planetside 2, the innovation is in how you buy it. For a massively multiplayer online game like this, you’d expect to pay a monthly fee like millions of people do to play World of Warcraft. Instead, Planetside 2 is free to play. Sony makes money when you purchase new weapons, add-ons for tanks, and other items, though you can also earn these upgrades by successfully completing objectives as you level up. Plenty of smaller games found on Facebook or on smartphones use this freemium model; now the model has entered the MMO world.

Popular Mechanics, The 10 Most Innovative Video Games of 2012

We do piss and moan about the poor state of the video game press.

Often it is our closeness to the subject and our own motivation and bias (journalists are not allowed to have that unless, of course, we agree with it, in which case it is just telling the gospel truth) that leads us to jump on comment threads (here is the cesspit that fertilizes the whole thing) or blogs (:blush:) to decry an article as totally biased or invalid because the writer in question was paid off, did not spend enough time with the game, included something that was clearly a matter of taste or option, or used “your” when they meant “you’re” in paragraph twenty-seven.

It is really our own little culture war, where if you do not agree with me about game X, then you must be the enemy.

Part of me is annoyed by this.  When I foolishly look at comment threads on gaming sites, I become depressed at the state of humanity.

And part of me sees video games as an entertainment medium and, thus, deserving of the same sort of coverage as any similar medium.  How does the journalistic integrity meter rate TMZ or Entertainment Tonight or any of that ilk?  Do we get out the torches and pitchforks when somebody gives a bad review to a movie we love? (If you don’t think we do, then you aren’t reading the right comment threads.)

But in the midst of that, nothing can rally gamers together like a non-gamer journalist covering games.

And so we have that quote at the top, retweeted by SOE in what I have to imagine was a moment of mixed emotion, where PlanetSide 2 is lauded as innovative because… if I read that right… they ripped off the business plan being used so successfully by Facebook and iPhone developers.  As they said, “…the model has entered the MMO world!”

Zynga should sue!

PlanetSide 2 does merit some praise.  How about getting a shooter to work in a huge sprawling environment where thousands of players face off?  That seems to be a pretty decent accomplishment.

But to call it out because of its business model… which is pretty much the same as all of SOE’s other games at this point… plus all of the other free to play MMO titles out there… seems like calling out Heath Ledger‘s performance in The Dark Knight because of the cool clown makeup.

Not to mention that in the current online market, a subscription model MMO is about as common as a silent movie in the age of talkies.  But here is somebody for which MMOs are World of Warcraft.

And so we must put the hapless noob in the pillory for his transgression.  Point and laugh, people, point and laugh.

And rightly so, I would say.

But is this banding together against the ignorant outsider, the gamer Gaijin, a tribal thing?  Is so-called professional video game journalism the worst… except when compared with the alternatives?

Or is this just the hubris of journalists… or the hubris of people in general… that we feel we can rush into anything, clearly ill informed on the subject at hand, and add something of value?

Oh, and that Popular Mechanic’s article was probably right on target with Journey…. and perhaps the rest of its list.

I don’t know.  I didn’t actually play any of them besides PlanetSide 2.  I am only indignant about the part of which I have first hand knowledge.

Which sort of describes my relationship with the daily newspaper.  I believe whatever they write, except when it comes to articles about which I have first hand knowledge.  Those are always riddled with errors and are as often as no flat-out wrong.

There is probably a lesson in that.

Woke Up this Morning, Got Yourself a Gun November 21, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2.
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10 comments

Seeing that it just launched, I decided to patch PlanetSide 2 last night.  Like most MMOs these days, you download the launcher and that in turn downloads the game for you.  I let that run over night.

This morning I got up and found everything ready to go.

Unable to resist, I clicked “PLAY” and entered the game.  I quickly chose a server, chose a faction (Terran Republic), did my customization (picked a face), chose a fit (light assault), then got quickly into the game to see what I could see.

Mental image of my expectations…

And I ended up dead on the ground within 10 seconds because the spawn point was camped.

Since that was pretty much my first experience in the original PlanetSide, I would have to say “working as designed.”

Anyway, I had to get to work, so I scrawled this out and went on my way.

I will have to give it another try over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Plenty of time to play then, and plenty of reasons not to leave the house as well.

Provided I can get back on.

PlanetSide 2 Goes Live November 20, 2012

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

The counter on the main page for the game ran down at last this morning.

Just a second to go!

The site is finally live.  People can play PlanetSide 2.

The big reveal…

It seems to be pretty popular.

No surprise on the source there.  SOE head John Smedley has been in the forefront, pushing this game.  His twitter account is practically the official source for PS2 news.

Of course, PS2 has been very popular already up to this point.  The open beta has been very open and lots of people have been playing.  The game has a clear following already, on day one, with the EVE Online demographic.  It is one of the non-EVE games covered over at The Mittani, which also has coverage of League of Legends, MechWarrior Online, and World of Tanks.

It makes you wonder where CCP’s own DUST 514 will fit in things?  In competing for the same audience, the “only on PlayStation 3″ aspect of DUST 514 continues to look like an awkward move at best for a company whose following is all on personal computers.

I mean, SOE reports to the PlayStation people at SCEA and they didn’t go to the PlayStation 3 with PlanetSide 2.  Not yet at least, though Smed did say we would see PlanetSide 2 on the Mac.

Meanwhile, PlanetSide 2 seems to fit right into the current SOE philosophy.  It is free to play.  It has a premium subscription option.  It is part of the SOE All Access pass.  And, as Smed said at Fan Faire, the players are providing the bulk of the content.

Pity that the philosophy also includes selling all their European customers to some German outfit.  That puts a damper on the game for some.

Of course, that last bit is pretty easy if you build a shooter game well.  We will see how the player created content/sandbox theme plays out with EverQuest Next as he mentioned in his keynote this year.

And then there is the question of the original PlanetSide.  Smed has said they won’t be closing it.  But in a family of free to play games, where does the sole remaining subscription title belong?

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.

PlanetSide 2 to Go Live by December 31, 2012 September 7, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2, Sony Online Entertainment.
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5 comments

Today’s SOE announcement was the PlanetSide 2 Alpha Squad, a deal by which you could get into the PlanetSide 2 beta, get some Station Cash, and get a few special early adopter perks, including a “Founder” title, all for $39.95.

Join Alpha for Beta!

Good stuff, and I know some people will jump right on that.

But down in the FAQ section, we appear to get a reveal as to the expected launch date for PlanetSide 2.

Q. I’ve purchased the Alpha Squad Package. When do I get my items?

A. Your Beta access starts immediately, and you will receive 4000 Station Cash immediately! You will receive your in-game items upon the launch of PlanetSide 2, on or before December 31, 2012.

That seems like a pretty firm statement to me.  We shall see if that comes to pass.

All I have to say is that at least it isn’t launching into the pre-holiday mess with all the other launches and expansions.

Addendum: Heh, I actually suspected as much based on what Smed has tweeted in the past, but I could not resist declaring a ship date:

PlanetSide 2 News Coming Very Soon July 6, 2011

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

Tipped off by a tweet from Smed, it seems the clock is counting down at the new PlanetSide 2 web site.

Time runs out soon…

Meanwhile, the Facebook page for the game shows the magic hour when the announcement can be expected.

Whatever the announcement is, I still say the game won’t be shipping as soon as some were saying. (Silly EuroGamer, I told you so.  Hell, SOE is even late on the announcement.)