Category Archives: Sony Online Entertainment

Is One MMO Enough for a Studio?

CCP was on the cusp of becoming a respectable multi-MMO studio, but then it jettisoned World of Darkness and pledged undying loyalty to the EVE universe.

Syp, MMO studio report card: Where are our leaders?

Syp had a post a while back about MMO industry leadership that had a strongly implied and, to my mind, not well supported assumption about what such leadership amounts to.  Subscribers/customers wasn’t a factor.  Not to pick on Syp, but he does tend to see the negative in all things Blizzard, so he would have to either throw that out or say something nice about Blizz.  The latter may have stuck in his throat, thus leadership has nothing to do with audience size or the influence that goes with it.

Nor does it have anything to do with who is following whom, a simple definition of leadership.  That way lies madness… or Blizzard again.  Lots of people have been following Blizzard, adopting features haphazardly over time like EverQuest II, setting themselves up as alternatives with “WoW Plus” games like Rift at launch, or just copying chunks the game wholesale like Alganon.

No, not Azeroth!

Mentioning Azeroth acknowledges its leadership

Whether or not World of Warcraft being viewed as a leader… it is by outsiders if nobody else, and they seem to have all the money… has been good for MMOs over the last decade is an open sore of a topic.  Are the stifling aspects of Blizzard’s behemoth on the industry (go into any MMO beta and count the number of times somebody is essentially complaining in general chat that the game in question isn’t WoW) worth the players that WoW brought into the genre and who went on to play other titles?  So goes the debate.

No, the only aspects that seemed to count on his list was having multiple MMO titles in play and who was making new MMOs.

But are more MMOs better for a company or not?  And do more MMOs really mean leadership?

Perfect World Entertainment, which includes the perennially troubled Cryptic Studios and the “disappeared off the map for two years and not making a Torchlight MMO” Runic Games, has many MMO titles available.  However, aside from the output of Cryptic, their titles tend to be Asian imports that do not play well in the west.  And even the Cryptic titles are not all that strong.  Neverwinter has a following and some features of note, but I rarely hear much good about the rushed to market due to contractual requirements Star Trek Online and almost never hear anything at all about their “let’s remake City of Heroes” title, Champions Online.  Maybe PWE isn’t a good example, especially when they are pointing at their US operations as hurting their bottom line.

How about NCsoft?  Again, they have a range of MMO titles from their home studio in South Korea along with titles from ArenaNet and Carbine Studios.  Certainly GuildWars 2 is a strong candidate, though the financials indicate that the execs in Seoul will be forcing ANet to ship an expansion box to boost revenues.  And all focus at ANet is on GW2, with GuildWars left to run out its days unsupported.  WildStar though… I haven’t heard any good news there.  And when it comes down to it, NCsoft gets most of its revenue from South Korea, and largely from its 1998 title Lineage.  Meanwhile, it has closed a lot of MMOs, which could be bad news for Carbine if they don’t get their act together.  Is this the multi-MMO company model we want others to follow?

And then there is Funcom, which has shambled from disappointment to disappointment.  They launched LEGO Minifigures Online a little while back which, true to Funcom’s history, has failed to meet expectations.

Okay, maybe we should ignore all those foreigners and look at a US-centric company like Sony Online Entertainment.

I love SOE, but at times they seem to be the MMO studio embodiment of Murphy’s Law.  If they can do the wrong thing, they will, and in front of a live studio audience.  Granted, they do tend to fix things in the end and do the right thing, but sometimes getting there is painful to watch.  However, they are the US champion for a multi-MMO company, at least in terms of number of titles.  But has this made them better or just spread them too thin?

They have two flavors of EverQuest and a third on the way at some distant future date.  There is LandmarkMinecraft for people who don’t like pixels, and the engine on which the next EverQuest will someday ride… in progress.  They have PlanetSide, PlanetSide 2, and H1Z1 (Zombie PlanetSide) in development.  And then there is the Asian import flavor of the month, previously Wizardry Online and currently Dragon’s Prophet.

That list of titles feels like too much stuff, and all the more so when you consider that SOE also cranks out an expansion for both EverQuest titles every year.  While those expansions mean revenue, SOE could be operating with as few as 50K subscribed players on EverQuest II and probably less still for EverQuest.  That is a big investment in the past while we wait for EverQuest Next.

Then there is Trion, which does a respectable job with Rift, which remains their best received title.  But Defiance has been problematic.  ArcheAge, which had the potential to be a big hit, has been mishandled. And then there is Trove, which seems to Minecraft for people who want bigger pixels and brighter colors.  Multiple MMOs hasn’t been a stellar success for Trion.

And, finally, on the US front there is Turbine which, inexplicably in hindsight given the size of the company, has the rights for Dungeons & Dragons AND Lord of the Rings and which has manage to turn both huge franchises into awkward niche titles.  Other than that they have Asheron’s Call, the distant third of the “big three” break-out MMOs from the end of the 90s, and Asheron’s Call 2, revived from the dead because… I still don’t know why.  I think it speaks volumes about Turbine’s outlook in that they are betting on a MOBA to save their flagging fortunes.

Stack those up against companies with just a single MMO.

Blizzard.  Do I need to say more about the very, very rich company in Anaheim?  One MMO has been very good to them.

CCP.  They seem to get into trouble only when they wander away from EVE Online.  When they focus on their main product, which in the past meant stealing resources from World of Darkness, things tend to go well for them.

EA.  Okay, EA has three MMOs, but they bought two of them and have farmed them out for another company to run, leaving them with just the BioWare MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It was never a WoW-killer, and it has its problems (roll stock footage about subscriber retention and selling hotbars), but it makes money.  Not as much as EA would like, but that may be as much because Disney gets a cut as anything.  That is the rub with a licensed IP, they come with more overhead.

Zenimax.  The Elder Scroll Online might be the weak point in the single MMO theory.  I don’t know how the game is doing, other than things are still being fixed and that the console versions of the title, a big part of the plan, have been pushed out into 2015.

And then there are the MMO-ish niche titles of the future, Star Citizen, Shroud of the Avatar and Camelot Unchained.  Those are being made by small companies that can only afford to invest in a single game.  And while those titles are playing the nostalgia card for all it is worth, they are also potentially mapping out new paths in the MMO world as smaller titles are able to do.

All of which is just so much talk, punctuated with some admittedly unfair characterizations both of various companies and of Syp.  I am not saying that companies should run one or multiple MMOs.  Clearly some companies do well, or well enough, running multiple games, while others seem best suited to focusing on a single title.  But I wouldn’t categorize any company as not being a real MMO player just because they only have one such title.

What do you think?

The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone?

The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

Continue reading

SOE Live – The Norrathian Front

SOE Live went off this past weekend in Las Vegas and, in my typical hope in the face of reality sort of way, I tuned in to watch several of the live streams with the idea that SOE might have some magic potion that would tempt me back to one of their games… or would tell me something about the one I was looking forward to.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

So the keynotes for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and EverQuest Next were on my list, as well as a couple of the follow up panels and the main keynote.  Norrath is clearly what draws me to SOE.

However, the one thing I did not do was take notes while watching the streams.  Why would I?  Any normal company doing big announcements for various products which they had been working on for weeks, and which obviously had time to get press briefing packs complete with graphics and what not together, surely would have all of that information posted on their web site shortly after the respective keynotes.  Right?  I mean Blizzard had everything from their Thursday morning live stream up for the world to see on their main page by early afternoon the same day.  SOE had all the information together.  It should have been tee’d up so that after each keynote, somebody pressed a button to update the respective site so that all of your user facing media is delivering the same message.

But no, this is SOE.

As of my writing this, there is none of the information from SOE Live on the respective sites or forums as though none of this had happened.  So I had to thrash around looking for what other people wrote to get details that I would have written down had I not forgotten yet again how SOE runs their railroad.

EverQuest – A Return to Pirates

The EverQuest announcement focused on the upcoming expansion, as one would expect.  This time around SOE is returning to the nautical theme last visited with The Buried Sea expansion.  This time it is The Darkened Sea, which will launch on October 26 for All Access Pass members and on November 11 for the unwashed free to play masses.

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

The level cap goes up from 100 to 105 with this expansion.  There are more zones, access to the bazaar from outside of the bazaar, and a few other goodies.  As essentially an outsider to EverQuest content after… well… The Planes of Power really, though I have gone back for a couple of runs since… it is tough to find something to get excited about here.  Even Bhagpuss seems relatively calm in his words, tucked in at the end of a long post about SOE LiveEverQuest is catering to the installed base, we have long known that.  But even then, I don’t recall The Buried Sea being a fan favorite back in the day.  The blog review of it over at the past version of Mobhunter, when Loral was writing it (internet archive for the win, I miss Loral) seemed to be lukewarm at best.

But there it is.

EverQuest II – And Malice Towards None

Is EverQuest II the current standard bearer for Norrath?  I cannot tell if it is more popular than EverQuest or not.

Anyway, there was a small disturbance in the community force a few weeks back as the EQII forum dwellers started getting a bit testy about SOE’s trend towards social media and streaming and what not, to the point that information that would normally be in the forums first was falling all over the place.  I have long complained that SOE has favored their forums and used them as their primary method of information distribution as opposed to the web site they allegedly maintain for that purpose, and which is the first point of contact for any new player.  But at least with their forum bias they were concentrating in one spot, so at a minimum I knew I had to dive into the forums if I wanted current information.  Now I am not sure where to find things.

Or I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Feldon over at EQ2 Wire.  He keeps on top of that game like no other.  So it was a bit disappointing to see that SOE left him off the list of sites to be fed information in advance of Altar of Malice expansion announcement at SOE Live.  The embargo on that news dropped five hours before the EverQuest II keynote, so anybody paying attention knew all the details before the presentation.

So, yes, a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion brings in a new race… the Aerakyn, another one with built-in wings that can fly, though unlike that vampire race from a few years back, you won’t have to pay $80 to unlock all of its abilities… new dungeons, new raids, new overland zones, and a boost to 100 for most flavors of levels. (adventure, trade skill, guild)

The interesting bit for me are the level agnostic dungeons.  These run from level 20 to 89 and are suppose to make the process of leveling up to the more recent content… and the main mass of the player base… more fulfilling or some such.  I think the phrase was “not wasted.”  Currently, with the the state of abilities, both alternate advancement related and otherwise, jumping up through the first 60 or so levels tends to be challenging mostly in the form of figuring out what some of the outdated quest text really means.  So I gather that this is suppose to be more of a challenge so as to make game play fun.

Sounds good to me.  A pity that our past run in with EverQuest II with the instance group ended up with it on the banned list, as that sounds kind of like what we needed back then.

And, on the sea theme from EverQuest, there are also some islands involved, including the long lost Isle of Refuge, where we all used to start back in the day via the shipwrecked survivor video game trope.  There is also an island with dinosaurs.

Then there are all the other details.  Rabbit mounts.  A revamp of the extraneous deity system.  Another rank or two for spell/skill quality.  And a cross-server dungeon finder.  I am curious as to how dungeon finder works for EverQuest II, though not curious enough to actually go ruin somebody elses’ day by logging in a queuing up myself.

This all goes live on November 11, which is going to make for a busy week.  The EverQuest expansion above goes live for everybody that same day and just two days later, Warlords of Draenor launches.  (And then Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire come out less than two weeks after that.  Where will I find the time?)

As noted, all the details, live blog of the keynote, slides from the game mechanics presentation, and more are over at EQ2 Wire.  Check it out.

EverQuest Next – Dark Elf Disco

 EverQuest Next is where my hopes truly lie.  The idea that SOE could miracle their way into something that would tempt me back to the two remaining members of the Norrathian franchise (out of what, a dozen total EverQuest games according to Georgeons?) has always been a forlorn hope.

But EverQuest Next is the future.  The lack of news on that front has banked the flames of passion for that title, they remain aglow, waiting for the day when we get something tangible.  This was the keynote to which I paid the most attention, and which was both the most interesting and the least satisfying at the same time.

We got a look at some architecture, especially some of the dark elf stuff in its moody, pointed glory, some of which came from the fan base via Landmark.  SOE’s crowdsourcing/exploitation pays off.  They also showed some examples of the dark elf character models.  Dark elves are apparently the most popular race in both EverQuest and EverQuest II at this point, so it is important to get them right. (Screen grabs from the stream.)

The art all looked very good and very much made me want to go there… wherever “there” was… and explore.

Then the devs introduced the wizard, warrior, and cleric classes and went through some combat situations with them.  This was by far the most impressive bit.  Each was a quick run through of some combat encounters, followed by a step by step replay where he described what was going on at each point.  The combat looked fluid and dynamic and exciting.  Various moves flashed or blurred or exploded in very satisfying ways and there were no little damage numbers popping up, which helped with the visceral feel of the combat.  The little kid inside of me was shouting, “Oooh! Oooh! Let me try that! I want to do that!”

I recommend watching the replay of the keynote, which is available on YouTube.  The combat segment picks up at about the 29 minute mark and runs for about 20 minutes.

Of course, the downside to all of this was that there is no date in sight for EverQuest Next.  Speculation is that a launch is at least two years away.  Certainly they have to get all of Landmark nailed down first, as it represents the foundation on which EverQuest Next will be built.  So until Landmark is solid and stable and fully featured and live there can be no EverQuest Next.

Bummer.

David Georgeson invited us all to go read the ebooks that are being used to build up the lore for the game to tide us over… which I was honestly tempted to do after the combat stuff… but publicly SOE still seems most focused on Landmark and likely will remain so for some time.

Return to Norrath?

So while I found bits and pieces of all of the presentations interesting, is there anything that would make me focus on EverQuest or EverQuest II as my primary game?

Probably not.

I am in the odd duck position of having been away too long for both titles at this point, so the new stuff being piled on top of the level curve is so far away as to be effectively unreachable given my reserve of patience, but the old stuff I would have to work through… well, it didn’t interested me enough when it was new stuff to work through it.   The 20-89 level agnostic dungeons in EverQuest II are interesting, though I probably wouldn’t bother with them until level 40 or so, as the 1-40 game is the heart of my nostalgia for the game.

But who knows.

With the autumn I always seem to be hit with a bout of video game nostalgia.  Maybe I will heed Norrath’s call yet again?  Though unless Warlords of Draenor slips, it seems unlikely.

How about you?  Is Norrath in your future?

A Busy Thursday in August for MMOs

Here it is Wednesday night and I am wondering what I am going to post about tomorrow.  I have several choices, as tomorrow appears to be a busy day in the MMO world.

Blizzard

At 9:30am Pacific Time (16:30 UTC) Blizzard is going to do their big announcement for the date for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

Save the date! Which date?

Tell us the date

That is the date people have been waiting for… and predicting would come early or earlier… since the beginning of the year.  My own pick back in January was September 9th, a date judged as pessimistic by some.  Now I am going to guess November 18th, right near the 10 year anniversary but just before the holiday season begins in the US.

Blizzard will also be showing us the cinematic for the expansion, which will no doubt be much discussed, but won’t tell us much more than the story behind the whole thing.

CCP

Then just a couple hours after that, at 20:00 UTC (13:00 Pacific Time), CCP will be holding their own live stream on their Twitch channel to present the next expansion for EVE Online, Hyperion.

No Hyperion graphic yet...

No Hyperion graphic yet…

So far this has been billed as the big “fix wormhole space” expansion.  I didn’t even know W-space was broken, but players will work whatever system is in place.

Sony Online Entertainment

Then in the evening, at some point past 19:00 Pacific Time (2:00 UTC) SOE will be having their SOE Live Welcome Keynote address.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

This will also be on their Twitch channel, though  SOE is trying to get people to put down $20 for their channel, so I am not sure what you get for free.

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

While we probably won’t get much in the way of details, this is the likely point during the event for any big announcements.  This will produce news, and I will be watching the EQ2 Wire blog for a summary. (And they have a list of streamed SOE Live events.)

BioWare

And at some point today BioWare will be launching the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Galactic Strongholds.

Housing!

Housing!

This will be the housing expansion for SWTOR and I will be interested to hear what path they have chosen for this and how players react.

Addendum: Or maybe not.  I thought there was a live stream planned for today about housing, but I must have dreamed it.  Probably for the best.

Others?

Meanwhile, Gamescom is still running in Germany and I haven’t checked to see if any other developers have decided that the second Thursday in August is THE day to announce something, but I won’t be surprised if somebody else is on board.

Which announcements will you be paying attention to?

SOE Live 2014 – What Are You Wishing For?

Currently I am not very invested in any SOE games.  I pay some attention to changes in EverQuest, with occasional glaces towards EverQuest II, based mostly on nostalgia for the “good old days,” but otherwise there isn’t much in their current lineup that thrills me.  Landmark has some potential once it gets closer to being feature complete.  EverQuest Next has raised some enthusiasm, but exists only as a blur on the horizon at this point.  And the other remaining titles aren’t really my thing.

But here it is, the week of SOE Live, the time for announcements big and small.  Yes, whatever Smed says during the Thursday night keynote will likely be overwhelmed in the news cycle by Blizzard’s big Warlords of Draenor announcement planned for earlier in the day… I think the timing was more to head off the subscription numbers news than to stick it to SOE, but they seem to have gotten a threefer on that one if you include the SWTOR hit as well… plus there is Gamescom this week as well… but some of us will still be paying attention to SOE.

SOELiveLogo

And because it is that time, I am asking myself what I would like to see and what I expect come out of the event.  SOE Live can bring with it some very big news.  Last year had a lot of people talking about EverQuest Next.  What will we get year?

What I Expect

  • Some firming up of the Landmark timeline, with some more details about specific features, but no real “go live” information
  • Expansion announcements around EverQuest and EverQuest II, though as the F2P years roll along I am not sure expansions have all that much impact any more unless they raise the level cap or add new AA features
  • An open/paid beta plan for H1Z1 with an estimated date for access that will be off by at least a month
  • Something about fixing whatever woes are currently afflicting PlanetSide 2
  • Some more screenshots and in-game video from EverQuest Next, but nothing playable and no concrete details

Things I Would Like to See

  • A date for Landmark to be feature complete and generally available for those who didn’t pony up for a pay-to-test package. (Even if it is off by 3-6 months.)
  • Something solid, tangible, and new about EverQuest Next
  • Or just something that ignites some hope that EverQuest Next will be a game I want to play

Things I Fear Might Be Communicated

  • Closing down PlanetSide… well, that might not be a fear for me, but I do wonder how it is still running
  • Little or nothing about EverQuest Next
  • A draw down of content for EverQuest, no more expansions, limited content updates on a vaguely expressed timeline
  • That some new game is dedicated to the dispossessed players of another SOE title that has been shut down (e.g. The planned science fiction biome in Landmark is really dedicated to former players of Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures)
  • Some new technological dead end like SOEmote or SOE Launcher to eat up dev cycles for no real benefit or follow through (cue Sony Olfactory Enhancements or some such)

Dreams Likely to be Unfulfilled

  • Something about the next EverQuest nostalgia focused server, progression, classic, or otherwise
  • An announcement that an EverQuest II nostalgia focused server… original content, steeper leveling curve, more difficult mobs, or whatever… is in the offing
  • Something that might otherwise revive my interest in either EverQuest or EverQuest II… but I don’t know what… what is the “fix these games for Wilhelm” plan?
  • An open/paid beta plan for EverQuest Next with an estimated date for access… this I might pay for… maybe
  • Something about hats… no… wait…

From Left Field on Bizarro World Unlikely

  • The Agency being revived on the PlanetSide 2 platform ala H1Z1
  • The return of any dead SOE game
  • A new game announcement
  • The EverQuest Next plan being completely revised from last year’s announcement
  • EverQuest Next being cancelled
  • A ship date for EverQuest Next

So those are my various lists.  What do you want to see, expect to see, or fear might come from this year’s SOE Live?

 

Do You Remember Dragon’s Prophet?

Whenever I end up looking at the SOE MMO lineup, I am always surprised to see a new MMO on the list.

SOE Live 2014 list

SOE Live 2014 list

Down on the bottom row, second from the right, is Dragon’s Prophet.  And every time I see it, I think, “Hey, that’s new!”  As recently as my post post about the demise of Wizardry Online I was ready to add in that Dragon’s Prophet was the new Asian import set to replace it in the SOE lineup.

DragonsProphet450

But that isn’t right.  That isn’t right at all.  And it was a good thing I checked up on it before I published that post. (See, I do catch some errors before I click the “Publish” button!)

Dragon’s Prophet has been out for nearly a year at this point, having launched in September of 2013, which means it was already a thing back when SOE announced it was closing four titles back in January… and I totally forgot about it then as well.

I just cannot seem to remember that Dragon’s Prophet is a thing.  I cannot tell if SOE just did a bad job publicizing the game’s launch, if it just go over shadowed by all the excitement around the EverQuest Next at SOE Live just a month before its launch, or if I am just getting old and/or can’t be bothered to care about Asian import MMOs… at least when their not trying to destroy cherished game of my youth with scantily clad horned gnomes.

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Not part of MY Wizardry head canon

Whatever the reason, the game just could not seem to stay attached to my brain.  Which is odd because, while I do not actually play any SOE games regularly at this time, I do tend to pay attention to what they are up to.

Anyway, I decide I could fix this by giving the game a quick try.  I was encouraged to do this because of who made the game.  Unlike Wizardry Online from Gamepot, which appears to be batting 1.000 on the “games closed in North America” front, Dragon’s Prophet was developed by Runwalker Entertainment who also created Runes of Magic.

Runes of Magic is actually the only decent Asian import MMO that comes to mind.  It managed to cater just enough to western sensibilities to survive and thrive outside of the Asian market.

Of course, five years back, when Runes of Magic landed on the scene, it was kind of a big deal.  It was going to be the Asian import that “got” how to make an MMO for the west and it was coming in as a free to play game by design, at a time when F2P was mostly a niche for MMOs that failed badly at the subscription thing.

And Runes of Magic was even a bit controversial back in 2009, at least in our little corner of the blogesphere.  The game dared to charge $10 for a horse!  This practically set a few people’s hair on fire with the rage.  Doesn’t that all seem charmingly naive five years down the road?  Today if some game has a mount for just $10, it generally means it has been marked down.

But it was still a decent game despite the patcher, which I am reliably informed has remained just as awful to this day.  We actually got out there and gave the game a try, assessing its potential for the instance group.  We even did and instance and got housing and tried crafting and invested a bit of real world cash into the RMT currency before letting it drop.  I am not sure why we never went back at this point.  At the time we were busy with our horde group in World of Warcraft, and after Cataclysm we tried a number of games but never landed in RoM.

Anyway, the remaining impression of the game five years down the line was reasonably favorable.  And my impression of Dragon’s Prophet, after a few hours of play, is likewise reasonably favorable.

The character models themselves look a bit like RoM graphics brought forward five years.  They are a little more real looking, but still anime influenced.  And upon logging in there was just an air about the game… some combo of the fonts and colors and general layout… that made me think of RoM.

Not sure what all those bars actually mean...

Not sure what all those bars actually mean…

The mechanics of the game itself though are different.  It was claimed by some that RoM was very much an attempt by an Asian company to clone WoWDragon’s Prophet is more influenced by the design philosophies of Asian MMOs.  Movement is done with the WASD keys, but you steer with the mouse cursor and combat is much more about mouse clicks than hotbars.

Take that you fiend!

Take that you fiend!

It feels much more like Neverwinter in mechanics than WoW.  You click for attacks, big graphics display for your move, big numbers bounce up showing your damage, and you can jump around avoiding incoming attacks which are often telegraphed in advance by big red indicators on the ground.

Now THAT is a lizardman!

Big orange slash in Neverwinter

The graphics aren’t as… nice… polished… realistic… something… well, they are different from Neverwinter’s style.  And Neverwinter’s draw is, to my mind, more about being in Forgotten Realms and the whole Foundry aspect of the game that lets you run through player created modules.  Neverwinter is more like Dungeons & Dragons (table top game, not DDO), with various modules that exist in the same world but which are not necessarily connected by stories or geography.

And Dragon’s Prophet does feel Asian, with many of the usual conventions, like women in mini-skirts and high heeled boots tromping around in the wilderness hunting zombies.

That's what Wizardry Online said...

That’s what Wizardry Online said…

But even Runes of Magic didn’t get away from that, right down to the housing helper in a skimpy French maid’s uniform.  And there are, of course, the WoW conventions that still must be catered to.

Always exclamation points

Always exclamation points

Otherwise it seems to fit the standard MMO bill.  You are the hero in the Dragon’s Prophet story.  People go about town talking about you like there were no other players in the game fulfilling the exact same role and performing the very same tasks.

Talking about me again

Talking about me again

That NPC comment would have been a lot more impressive if I had not been stuck on that little tree stump at that very moment.  Or maybe the game was being sarcastic.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be a bad game.  The graphics are decent.  It ran well for the few hours I spent with it.  The combat is very dynamic.  I am not sure I will be able to find time to play the game seriously.  It isn’t bad, but it is still way down my priority list.  And if I stop playing, I am not sure I will ever get any sort of trigger to start back up again.  As I said above, I almost never hear anything about the game.

So how about you?  Do you remember Dragon’s Prophet?

The PLEX Idea Continues to Catch On as Darkfall Introduces DUEL

We have another entry in the PLEX-like game item arena, this time for DarkfallAventurine has been busy revamping Darkfall: Unholy Wars… or Darkfall 2.0 or just Darkfall, since the original isn’t around anymore… with class overhaul, a cash shop, a presence on Steam, and a rework of the UI.

DFLOGO B-450

And with the latest update, Aventurine has joined the ranks of studios offering an in-game item worth subscription time that players can buy and then trade for the in-game currency.  Called DUEL (Or as they style it, D.U.E.L, with three periods because… why?) it can be purchased with Selentine (is that the in-game currency or the cash shop currency?) and then used to wheel and deal with other players.

This scheme has been seen before with SOE’s Krono, Carbine’s CREDD, Funcom’s GRACE, and, of course, CCP’s PLEX, which was introduced into EVE Online back in 2009.

It will be interesting to hear how this works out.

As I have said often in the past, this sort of thing works in EVE Online because the in-game economy is not optional.  If you play EVE, you have to buy in sooner or later or just stop playing.  With the other games on the list… the economy is optional, which has always left me wondering if their economies could support such a scheme.

Unfortunately, I do not play any of the other games offering this sort of item, so I have to go by what other people are saying.  CREDD seems to have been a good investment in WildStar if you got in early.  Some Krono shows up on the market in EverQuest and EverQuest II, but seems to be more active on the Trade channel where it can be used for barter for specific things in addition to being traded for the in-game currency.  And GRACE hasn’t been in Anarchy Online long enough for it to have settled down.

So I am left wondering if Darkfall has the critical mass of players and an active enough economy to make something like DUEL viable.  I was interested to see that, despite its hardcore nature, Aventurine opted to make DUEL unlootable when you kill another player.  No headline comedy.  Of course, CCP started off with PLEX being stuck in stations, so maybe DUEL will change later.

And my final question is, what does DUEL stand for?  That isn’t listed in the FAQ or the forum patch notes.  They are clearly using it as a cute acronym.

PLEX stands for Pilot License EXtension

CREDD is the awkward Certificate of Research, Exploration, Destruction, and Development

GRACE is GRid Access Credit Extension

So what does DUEL stand for?  Darkfall Unholy wars Extended Living?

I think SOE might have been smart to just go with a name rather than an acronym.

And one question past my final question; who will jump on the PLEX-like bandwagon next?