Quote of the Day – Did SOE Solve the Latency Problem? November 14, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Landmark, Quote of the Day
In old MMOs, when monsters started to attack, dice rolls had already determined if they was going to hit you or not. We’re not doing that. We’re allowing you to move out of the way and do stuff that way. With positioning of your abilities versus what the monster is doing, it’s a very fluid situation. There’s no lather, rinse, repeat mechanic that works all the time.
Dave Georgeson, interview at Rock, Paper, Shotgun
The interview linked above is interesting if you want to learn more about the plans for EverQuest Next and Landmark. I recommend it.
There is a lot about the tools that will be available to end users and the scope of what players will be allowed to do. Heady stuff, with ideas like “build your own MMO” being bandied about and EverQuest Next being referred to as just “a professionally developed alternative” to what players will be able to create in Landmark. It all sounds like many steps beyond things like Wurm Online, right down to the griefing potential.
In the midst of all of that, there was some talk about players, classes, and combat, which included the quote at the top. Again, sounds nifty!
Only reading that triggered a memory. A few years back there was a new studio… and I have forgotten the name, date, and what not, so … and one of the developers was talking about them making a zombie MMO and generally criticizing combat in all MMOs up to that point. He didn’t want hot bars and dice rolls behind the scenes, he wanted to swing a bat and, if it intersected with a zombie’s head, to score a hit and do damage.
Somebody else must remember this, right? Help me out here.
[Addendum: Talyn found it! I am not crazy... in that regard at least.]
Anyway, that was doing things properly and he was quite dismissive of the MMO industry for not having done this already.
In due course a fair number of MMO devs sighed, shook their heads, and went on about how they would love to do that sort of thing, but the realities of network reliability and latency and client synchronization prevented it and that these loud mouthed upstarts would surely learn all of this in the fullness of time. (Or maybe it was just this post, which I was able to find once I had the date.)
If I recall right, they did, balance was restored to the force, and we all moved on.
At least until I read that quote up there at the top, which brought back those partial memories along with a few question… like, did Dave Georgeson really mean that? No dice, no probability, just a check on positions and the intersection of objects in motion? In real time? In an MMO? Over the internet?
Did SOE solve some critical network issue along the way here? Or am I reading this wrong?
My alternate quote from that article, which also hits on a side detail is this:
Sometimes we ask questions that we know can only go one way. But the players are constantly having debates over stuff, so then we can go in and explain why we’re doing things a certain way. Because the more we can work with our players so they can understand why games need to be built a certain way, the better the suggestions will be.
This actually makes me feel a little better, as a number of questions that have popped on the round table have seemed to have only one possible outcome, so I was wondering why they bothered asking. Now I know.
The End of the Road for EverQuest Mac October 19, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: EverQuest Mac
About 18 months back, in the run up to the free to play transition for EverQuest, the word came down that the red headed step-child of the EverQuest Franchise, EverQuest Mac, was going to be shut down. It was just another ignominy in the life of the game.
Brought online in 2003, SOE invited Mac users to come and join all those EverQuest players in their online world.
Good news for Mac users! The world of EverQuest is now yours to explore!
Immerse yourself in what hundreds of thousands have already experienced; a land without limits to the imagination where excitement and myth reign supreme! Join over 400,000 players as they seek treasure, unlock hidden quests, and slay dragons.
Missing from that was the fact that EverQuest Mac ran its own distinct client that would only connect to specific, Mac-only servers. Or server, really. There was only one. It was called Al’Kabor, and it was locked in time.
Some history and long quotes after the cut.
Can SOE Keep the EverQuest Next Excitement Going? August 14, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: NGE, The Agency
For fate strums a mournful tune
For those those campaigns peak too soon
-Stomper (aka Arrowroot of Arrowshirt), Bored of the Rings
Companies get reputations for reasons. They aren’t always for good reasons, and sometimes those reputations are far more about perception than reality, but once you get a reputation, it tends to stick.
And Sony Online Entertainment has a… colorful reputation.
They have lots of fans, certainly. I count myself among them. And for many, the simple fact that they made EverQuest cuts them some slack on things. They also saved and fixed… such that they could… Vanguard, kept EverQuest Mac going for free, and anybody who starts talking about player housing in MMOs and doesn’t bring up SOE should… well… stop. They have also pretty good about trying new things. Has any other company tried as many subscription options or come up with anything as enticing as SOE All Access (formerly Station Access)? Who has anything like Player Studio? They have done many good things. But a lot of people only remember the bad.
SOE has done its share of that as well, enough so that it sometimes becomes difficult to expect anything beyond the worst.
And it isn’t just “they screwed up my favorite game,” though that is a big one. SOE owns the industry crown for single change alienation of a gaming population with the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies. That happened nearly eight years ago, but if you put John Smedley in a room with some gamers, somebody will bring up the NGE and still be angry about it. Smed did a Reddit AMA last year to talk about PlanetSide 2. The NGE came up, of course, and that question ended up being the one with the most up votes, because NGE hate is like a living, breathing being at this point. The NGE is a particularly ugly monkey on Smed’s back, to destroy a metaphor. I am pretty sure he could arrange world peace, limitless cheap power, and a decent nickel cigar and somebody would still be asking about the NGE.
SOE also has a reputation for acting first, then realizing the implications only after the story has fled from their grasp, leaving damage control as their only option. There is, as a minor example, the Station Cash for Subscriptions fiasco, that smacks of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to. And for letting the narrative escape, few stories can beat the ProSieben.Sat1 debacle, where the whole affair managed to get summed up pretty quickly by a cartoon showing SOE selling an 8 year old to a shady guy with a van. Once a child molester is a key metaphor for your plan, you are in trouble. That took a lot of back peddling and changes to bring the flames down to a merely manageable level. And this remains an extremely sore spot today with SOE’s European “customers,” coming up again immediately after the EverQuest Next keynote presentation, largely through a failure to convince those players that there is any benefit to them at all from the change.
And then, probably far down the list for most, maybe past “recent UI models all seem to be console oriented,” there is SOE’s hot and cold marketing messages. And the poster child for this has to be The Agency. Before it was killed in 2011, The Agency had been the on again, off again darling of SOE. In 2007, in SOE Podcast #19, Brenlo was talking about builds for the game and nearly slipped and said a ship date. At SOE Fan Faire, people who saw the game were excited and the vibe seemed to be that it would ship soon. Then it faded from view and nobody said a thing. And then it popped up again. And then it was gone. And then they made a Facebook game. And then they killed the Facebook game. And the web site got updated. We would hear a bit of news, then nothing. Finally the whole thing was cancelled and that was that.
An extreme example, sure. There were clearly problems with the project. But the external messaging was a mess, and not exactly uncharacteristic. There have been years where it wasn’t clear if EverQuest or EverQuest II we going to get an expansion until very late in the season. They announce new projects, like Station Launcher, then let them die on the vine, falling out of date while still up on the web site. The SOE web sites tend to have out of date items on them on fairly regularly. And SOE’s ad campaigns have had their questionable moments.
Even EverQuest Next has gone through an odd cycle. It was announced, we saw artists sketches, possible parameters were discussed, then we were told to forget all about that. And while that reflected the realities of the project… and was handled in a tolerable manner… there is still that history, that reputation.
So when I see EverQuest Next building up a huge amount of momentum, being talked about all over the place, and generally able to bask in the rapt attention of the MMO gaming community, I can only wonder to what extent they can keep that going.
While there was a lot to digest after SOE Live, everybody who wants to will be able to review all the panel videos, tease out all the facts, hopes, and dreams, read and/or write opinions about what they have seen, and generally come up to speed on what has been released to the public.
And then what?
Well, we have the so-called EverQuest Next Round Table over on the official site. So far that seems to be a series of polls where the answers are pretty much foregone conclusions and links to a special forum where people can argue about their choices. However, the forum dev tracker either isn’t working or the devs are busy elsewhere. So there are nearly 60 pages and more than four thousands forum posts around whether races should have class restrictions, all based on “I want” and assumptions with sand castle strength foundations, and featuring the same small cast of characters battling over the same ground endlessly. I think you have as much chance influencing the game by going to a bar near SOE headquarters after hours and expressing your opinions at anybody who looks like a programmer.
There is the EverQuest Worlds mobile app, which seems to be built around SOE’s slightly-behind-the-curve obsession with Facebook. The reviews are predictable.
And then there is some activity on Twitter. A few key people saying things now and again, while supporting player StoryBricks is out there driving a whole emergent AI discussion that carefully says it is not necessarily EverQuest Next focused, pointing people towards relevant threads on Reddit, and retweeting things on the topic.
But otherwise, things are starting to slow down. The initial buzz of excitement has faded a bit. A whole bunch of stuff is out there and those interested have run through it. Now we’re waiting for SOE to build on that foundation.
Which brings me back up to the title of this, can SOE keep the excitement around EverQuest Next going? What should they be doing?
And what shouldn’t they be doing?
And, finally, should they even worry about it?
Monday Morning Talking Points for EverQuest Next August 5, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
I decided not to rush to post thoughts about EverQuest Next right away. First of all, the initial presentation, while full of spectacle, was shy on details. I walked away full of unfocused enthusiasm. So I decided to see if further panels on the game would bring out more.
And I wanted to see if anybody picked up details I missed and to gauge my enthusiasm to see if my own lens on life was distorting anything way out of shape. The blogesphere mostly obliged, so if you want further reading you can look at:
- Keen and Graev
- Bio Break
- The Cesspit (Twice)
- Avatars of Steel
- Inventory Full (and coverage of the class panel)
- Aardwulf’s Lair (plus a part 1 and part 2 Q&A panel overview)
- MMO Symposium
- Nosy Gamer
- Party Business
- Hardcore Casual
- Heartless_ Gamer
In that group there is a range of responses from excitement, to “meh, sounds like Guild Wars 2“, to predictions of failure. I cannot honestly say I read every one end-to-end… too much to do over the weekend… but there are opinions in there.
In the end, I am not sure if I learned enough by waiting to focus my own enthusiasm. I was able to fill in a few details, but hard data is still pretty scarce on the ground. There is an official EverQuest Next wiki forming. EQNexus is trying to collect data into an information index. Hopefully we will get something that will stay up to date and pool updates as they come out.
I am cautiously optimistic. A lot of what was said sounded like a pretty big change on the fantasy MMORPG front for SOE. They appear to have stuck to a lot of what I divined in the past as “SOE Lessons Learned” and even managed to include a few items from my wish list.
However, what things will actually look like at launch… we’re still a long way from that. Here is what I managed to cull from the data stream. My list of items is after the cut as they go on for a while.
More Unspent Virtual Currency… February 5, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlayStation 3, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: SCEA, Station Cash, Virtual Currency
I was just complaining about not having anything on which I wanted to spend Station Cash, and now Sony Computer Entertainment America sends me a note to remind me to… well… please spend some of the funds on my PlayStation 3 account.
Yes, I know, the PlayStation people actually use standard monetary units. But you cannot get it back out again, so your “funds” in whatever currency might as well be Play Station Doubloons.
It would be nice if the two piles of Sony funds were not segregated, but as we saw with DC Universe Online, SCEA wants to protect its users from any interaction with the unwashed PC masses.
I wonder how much unused virtual currency I have sitting around? SOE Station Cash, Play Station Network Funds, Turbine Points, World of Tanks gold, Need for Speed World Speed Boost, EA Play 4 Free Funds, Turbine Points, Runes of Magic Diamonds, Star Trek Online C-Store whatevers…
There might be a virtual fortune out there.
How about you? How much virtual currency do you have sitting around?
Tags: SOE All Access, Wizardry Online
Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.
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.
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.
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:
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!
- 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 ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.
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.
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?
The Success of Krono? It Has Come to EverQuest January 21, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
1 comment so far
Krono, SOE’s version of PLEX, which they introduced back in October, seems to have taken root. Back then they announced that they would keep an eye on it, and if things went well they would introduce it into other SOE games.
Well it has come to EverQuest, which I guess means things are, in fact, going well for Krono.
As with EverQuest II, there is a FAQ for Krono on the EverQuest site detailing its integration with the game, cost, and so on.
I took a peek at Krono prices yesterday on the three EverQuest II servers where I have characters, and the market price seems to have remained stable, though supply varied from server to server. When I first looked at Freeport it was around 650p. Yesterday I saw:
- 80 Krono for sale from 19 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 600p
- 31 Krono for sale from 15 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 750p
- 18 Krono for sale from 10 different sellers
- Likely price you will pay – 750p
Those servers represent different population levels, with Freeport being the most active of the three. So I suspect that if you visited the Antonia Bayle, pricing and availability would be closer to the Freeport range, while lower population servers would likely be in the range of the other two.
And, as I noted before, at that price Krono is cheaper than RMT currency prices for EverQuest II, when you can find them. EverQuest II is not popular with RMT vendors, and has probably grown less so with the introduction of Krono.
But will that be the case for EverQuest?
The EverQuest market has been on a down slide for the last couple of years, with people willing to camp characters in the Bazaar 24/7 dwindling to a shadow of former days the last time I logged into Luclin.
However, in addition to raising the level cap to 100 and continued opportunities to kill off halflings, the Rain of Fear expansion also introduced offline selling in the Bazaar. No longer do you have to log in a character to setup shop and sit there in order to peddle your wares. That alone will probably revive the marketplace in EverQuest somewhat and help make Krono more viable.
The other question is the price of Krono. EverQuest has seen nearly Weimar Republic levels of inflation over the years due to various issues.
Okay, maybe it hasn’t been that bad, but prices of things in later expansions seem to be adjusted for the decreased value of the platinum coin, making items you can vendor for a couple of copper feel like they are not worth the effort.
What will the price of Krono be on the EverQuest servers? And how will that related to the RMT price? I have not had a chance to check.
Of course, one of the things that might help Krono along is that for certain scenarios, buying Krono is cheaper than renewing your subscription. At least if you are using it to renew your SOE All Access Pass.
Anyway, the Krono experiment presses onward as SOE attempts to bring a PLEX-like offering to its customers while killing off what remains of the RMT market servicing their games. I expect we will see Krono in Vanguard by Summer.
Would you want to see something like PLEX/Krono put in place by other publishers?
What The Hell Do You Spend Your Station Cash On? January 18, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Station Cash
As mentioned previously, in writing about eight years of EverQuest II last week, I got all nostalgic for the game and went back and played for a bit. Such is the power of the blog.
And in going back I did go visit some places, added about 10 levels to a character, and generally did the tour.
And then the tour petered out, as these nostalgia ventures usually do, I unsubscribed and went off to other things.
But when not subscribed, SOE sends me a monthly Station Cash account balance message via email. I am not sure why they don’t do this when I am subscribed. Maybe they want me to stay subscribed and are afraid that bringing attention to themselves will remind me to unsubscribe?
Anyway, the last one I got said I had more that 9,000 Station Cash on my account.
Some of this was left over from a triple value event back when EverQuest II Extended was fresh and young, along with the 500 SC you get every month when you have Station Access, which I tend to subscribe to when playing SOE games. (And then Station Access became SOE All Access, because if marketing can’t change the names of things every so often, they might as well just go home I guess.)
500 SC a month doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up when you never spend it.
And no matter how I got it, it seems like a lot of Station Cash to have hanging around. Theoretically, that has a cash value of $90, though my actual out of pocket investment is probably $20 at the most. Having that big of an asset sitting around seems wasteful, so I started to poke around in the to see if there was anything worth buying.
Well, you cannot buy expansions with Station Cash any more.
And you cannot buy a subscription with Station Cash.
You cannot buy any of those shiny Krono.
And you certainly cannot simply buy the in-game currency. Not that I expected to be able to do so, but looking at my actual in-game currency balance, I might have gone that route had it been an option.
You cannot buy armor, or weapons, or crafting materials, all of which you could buy during the EverQuest II Extended experiment, when Smed was calling them “convenience” items. I imagine a Wand of Obliteration would be very convenient to have around now and then.
You can buy account services, but I think I have done my fill of transfers, renames, and the like. And I have too many characters already, so I do not need any more character slots or race or class unlocks.
I might be tempted by experience boosting potions if I did not already have a giant stack of those sitting around on every character from veteran rewards. And if I ever used them. I don’t like the “timer” aspect of them, as they make me feel like I need to save them until I am going to be in an hour of constant combat or crafting… which is almost never. I much prefer the way Turbine does some of there boosts, where it matches you gained exp for a given amount of exp over however much time it takes you to earn it.
Which sort of leaves cosmetic aspect of the game. That includes cosmetic gear.
And I did buy a rabbit hat once.
But so far that is the only cosmetic appearance item that has appealed to me.
There is housing. And while SOE has some stunning housing options, my housing needs are pretty simple. I did buy that first player created housing item, the chest, just to support the person who made it. And it looks good. But it doesn’t do anything and it doesn’t have any particular meaning to me, so I doubt I will go down that path again.
And then there are mounts.
Let’s just skip over mounts before I start ranting on the many variations of ugly that SOE seems to have discovered.
Which leaves me with… what?
Well, there are bags. I did buy one of those. And I unlocked all the bag slots on Sigwerd so I could play him when not subscribed. But with the removal of weight as an aspect of the game, he has that single 44 slot bag and some storage crates that give him more storage on his person that I think any three of my WoW characters have in total.
And I did that already and still have all that Station Cash.
There are some things I would pay for in Station Cash if I could.
I would pay the weekly Guild Hall fee now and again to have access to that. That Guild Hall rent isn’t bad in currency… I think it is 4p a week… but it does eat up a lot of status, and I haven’t earned much of that in ages.
I might consider paying for access to the broker, though not via the current “per item” method SOE currently has. Though since there is a back door way to sell without that, and selling is 99% of what I do with the broker, they could easily make that one over priced. Still, I would be interested in buying broker access for a week as opposed to for 10 items.
One thing SOE has on its side is that you can use Station Cash in all of their games… or all of them that aren’t on FaceBook or on the PlayStation 3 at least.
So I could spend Station Cash in EverQuest… except that the choices are even more limited, the cosmetic items more grim, and the mounts even uglier. Oh, and I am not actually playing EQ. Details.
Likewise, PlanetSide 2 is an option. I do log into that now and again, though my recent World of Tanks revival has eaten up all of my shooter mental bandwidth. And I did buy an experience booster once… I think… when I was playing PlanetSide 2 early on. It was hard to tell. There were a lot of options and boosts and weapons and unlocks and other crap on screen which were difficult to distinguish or compare, all of which got me to skip the whole thing and just go out and die while trying to shoot at some people.
But given how freely I can spend gold at times in World of Tanks, PlanetSide 2 seems like it might be a place to spend my Station Cash some day, once they rationalize things a bit.
And, really, there are no other SOE games I play right now. I said I might look into Vanguard at some point this year, but I suspect that the Station Cash store there will look like its EQ and EQII brethren. So I am pretty “meh” on my Station Cash prospects. Not that that is a big change.
Which makes me pretty much “not a customer” in SOE’s eyes, no matter how much Station Cash I have, since I do not spend it. Idle currency has no influence.
So what should I do with 9,000 Station Cash?
(And no, I am not going to just give it to you.)
Looking Back at 2012 – Highs and Lows December 26, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Tags: 2012, EverQuest Online Adventures, Steam
Every year I try to come up with a list of highs and lows for the year. You can go back and read my 2010 and 2011 editions if you so desire. I often complain about the same things year after year. As for 2012, this is what I recall.
Free to Play
- Another pile of games went from subscription to free to play as a default business model. If you are a fan, you have lots of options now.
- Free to play continues to offer the best “free trial” option for games.
- Clearly the dominant business model to the extent that being free to play no long bestows any sort of competitive advantage as it did back when DDO and LOTRO made the transition. Merely going free to play will not save your game.
- Being a primary source of income, with revenue targets to achieve, the in-game cash shop becomes a major focus of free to play games. Increasingly, it is players who buy from the cash shop who matter most, even in games like EQII that push you to become a subscriber. Subscribing removes some annoyances and restrictions, but you are still pushed to buy from the cash shop. They even hand you a bit of their RMT currency every month in order to prime the pump.
- An early justification for cash shops and RMT currency was the idea of selling thing to players that could not be paid for via credit card due to transaction fees. The idea was that players would be offered many inexpensive items that they would buy en masse. Instead, items that cost less than $5.00, or one third of a months subscription, seem to be the tiny minority of items available… at least at the generally understood value of the RMT currency.
- The vicious circle of discounting the RMT currency to drive people to purchase it, followed by cash shop discounts to soak up the ensuing currency glut may be emerging.
- Some players seem to think they can get something for nothing. They cheer when a game goes free to play, but then get upset when the inevitable reality emerges. There is no such thing as free.
- The pleasant Middle-earth charm of LOTRO can still be found.
- The Riders of Rohan expansion has received much praise.
- Still one of the few F2P MMOs that lets you earn their cash shop currency in-game.
- Have I mentioned their music system lately? Why hasn’t anybody shamelessly ripped this off?
- Not actually playing LOTRO, there is little chance I will see any of that cool new Rohan content… well, ever.
- The heady days of F2P success have clearly worn off, and Turbine’s WB overlords have been cracking the revenue whip. So we have the despoilment of Middle-earth moving forward in the cash shop.
- Really one of the great passive-aggressive community relations fiascos occurred when Turbine asked for comments on their awful hobby-horse idea with the caveat that they didn’t want to hear anything negative. That sort of thing never turns out badly.
- And the F2P divide continues. You can be a fan of the game, but unless you are buying stuff from the cash shop, you don’t mean anything. And so some long time fans of the game seem to be moving on. Eru wept!
Sony Online Entertainment
- EverQuest still going 13 years in and now has parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
- EverQuest Mac got a call from the governor while on death row, so lives for a while longer.
- Planetside 2 launched! That is a massive shooter!
- Vanguard is alive and free to play and getting content updates! And Brad McQuaid is back working on it.
- The Krono experiment will make for an interesting change to watch.
- Vague promises of a more sandbox-like EverQuest game in EverQuest Next in hopes of breaking the “me too” MMO mold where everything is basically based on EverQuest. Sounds interesting, but we’re a long way from reality.
- They screwed up Station Cash valuation through heavy discounting and cash shop blanket discounts to the point of requiring SOE to stop selling expansions and gold subscriptions for Station Cash. This in turn puts more pressure on the cash shop people to sell a couple of useful items and piles of cosmetic crap. Meanwhile, the triple Station Cash sales continue because, of course, they have trained us to hold out for that.
- SOEmote. Science experiments are cool and all, but SOE is starting to accumulate a few too many such things in its basement. Voice control, Station Launcher, will SOEmote join these on the scrap heap eventually?
- EverQuest Online Adventures fell by the wayside.
- Didn’t SOE already have a sandbox-like game in SWG? The word is that Lucas was behind NGE and the closure, but SOE still has blood on its hands.
- The EverQuest time locked progression servers seem to be dying from neglect, which is ironic because every player on those servers is a subscriber. That is a requirement. So I guess we see where a server full of subscribers ranks in the free to play world?
- No major player revolt provoking crises. There is always some drama and things to piss off players, like the inventory changes. But there was nothing that came anywhere close to the uproar when flying in space was set aside in favor of space Barbies with the Incarna expansion.
- Really some cool new features in this year’s EVE expansions.
- A year in null sec was a whole new experience for me.
- With no crisis to rise to, the EVE Online CSM went back to being just a marketing tool. I can see no tangible benefit to players from CSM7. Roll on galactic student council.
- DUST 514? Have you heard of it? Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you while you were playing PlanetSide 2.
- So, yeah, null sec. The wars are over. What now?
- WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
- WoW remains immensely profitable.
- Mists of Pandaria shipped, putting WoW back over the 10 million players mark.
- Diablo III shipped at last, and sold a lot of boxes, both real and virtual.
- Pretty much done with WoW for now.
- No StarCraft II expansion yet.
- Diablo III shipped about five years too late.
- Customer support dickishness around the ability to shut off future payments when you signed up for the Annual Pass. You can be a dick about many things, but when you start refusing to stop billing credit cards, you have crossed a line.
- The Blizz obsession with hacks and cheating turned Diablo III into an “always online” experience that lead to the Error 37 fiasco and much complaining about things like server downtime and patch days.
- The Diablo III auction house, a clear reaction to the illicit RMT that happened in Diablo II and WoW, managed to kill off the “item hunt” part of the game for some.
- The level based difficulty of Diablo III meant having to play through the whole game in normal mode just to ramp up some challenge. Some people will be happy to play through the game four times with each character. I am not one of those people.
- Stark failure to plan for more content once Diablo III was played out.
- Titan? Hello?
- Rift continued to evolve and add features to keep players active.
- Rift launched an expansion, the classic “next move” for a successful MMORPG, that added more content, new styles of quests, and player housing.
- Trion managed to keep to the subscription model for Rift, thus avoiding the ruination of immersion that cash shops inevitably bring.
- The instance group made it through all the pre-expansion instances in Rift.
- I managed to get a level 50 character of each of the four classes before the Storm Legion expansion launched.
- Declining subscriptions, soft server merges, lots of “WoW did it first” additions. They have spun the server merges as a “good” thing and have gotten all of the servers into clusters for warfronts and the like. But less people means less subscription money.
- Layoffs. Not sure yet what this impacts, but it clearly isn’t a sign of sunshine and lollipops.
RiseEnd of Nations seems doomed. But I couldn’t play it in any case as it refused to run because I have my default text scaled to 120% in Windows, or so said the error message, and I am not going to reset that every time I want to play a game.
- Cash shop interface is already in Rift, foretelling a transition to eyesore mounts and ugly cosmetic gear… though, honestly, I am not sure I could tell the difference in Rift.
World of Tanks
- The physics revamp was a huge improvement for the game in my opinion. Power slide that TD down a hill!
- Free to play that can actually be free without being oppressive.
- Made gold ammo available for standard credits.
- Got bit by that NA/EU divide.
- In the end, it is just a shooter dressed up in vehicles. I will get bored of the same maps and the same tactics in every game sooner or later.
- Lots of big sales.
- Still a reasonable way to buy games and keep them updated.
- Has basically trained me never to buy a game until it is at least 50% off of list price.
- Even with heavy discounts, I have pretty much stopped buying because I don’t really need any more games.
- I need to delete some of the games I have on my system because there are too many updates downloading.
- Came home to find the internet down, which meant I could not play any of my games on Steam once I booted up my computer.
- I still don’t see why anybody would buy or download an MMO from Steam. I don’t want to log in and start Steam just to turn around and log in and start the MMO, which will then patch itself.
- GuildWars 2 shipped at last.
- Torchlight II shipped at last! And it is pretty good.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic actually has an expansion planned.
- Kickstarter seems to be getting people excited about games.
- As is typical, the Guild Wars 2 fanboys remain pretty much blind to any faults.
- Torchlight II still isn’t Diablo II. But expecting that it would be was probably too much.
- SWTOR basically slammed the door on the subscription model’s dick, while introducing some new noxious ways to implement free to play.
- City of Heroes gets the axe based on opportunity cost. It was making money, just not enough money.
- Glitch fails to get the quirky/greedy balance right, has to close. I never played it, but I hope something was learned.
- Most Kickstarter projects don’t make their funding goal, and apparently most that do make it find that they have underestimated the money they really needed or the time it was going to take to get the project done. Sometimes things are delayed because the funding went way past the goal and the developer decided to add in all sorts of new things, as with Steve Jackson Games and their Ultimate Edition of O.G.R.E., but that seems to be the exception. Of the six projects I have backed, two failed to meet goal while three of the other four are way behind schedule. (Go Defense Grid team!) I am not saying that Kickstarter is a bad thing, but you have to go in with your eyes open. It is less Wall Street and more “The Producers” than you might expect.
- Streaming. I completely fail to get that whole fad. Why would I want to sit in front of my computer just to watch somebody else play a game? And really, most of us aren’t as witty and amusing as we think we are. I’ll just actually PLAY a game, thank you.
Well, that was all I could come up with. But sitting at the end of the year looking back, I am sure I missed or forgot some key items.
What else should be on the list of highs and lows for 2012?
Reviewing My Questions for 2012 December 18, 2012Posted 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.
Tags: Lord British
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.
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?
Oh, and that 38 Studios fiasco. An MMO that never was will never be.
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?
12. What will Lord British do next?
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.