The Call of Aradune November 1, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, EverQuest, TorilMUD, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Mark Jacobs, Shroud of the Avatar
The sword of Aradune has been drawn. Brad McQuaid is back in play.
The word is out. Reports are popping up around our little online neighborhood.
Brad McQuaid is putting together a project for Kickstarter, which he describes:
The game is high fantasy and if you’ve played EQ 1 and/or Vanguard, you’ve got a general idea of what the game’s about…
And part of me reads that and goes, “Whoo-haaa!” or some other loudly affirmative interjection.
After all, there was a time and place where we were clearly on the same page when it came to online gaming. We both were playing TorilMUD back in the day and he, along with a group of talented people, many of whom also played TorilMUD, and created EverQuest.
To this day I cannot describe the combined feeling of newness and amazement mixed in with equally strong feelings of comfort and a sense of being exactly where I wanted to be when I first started playing EverQuest.
And that is what springs to mind right away when I think about Brad McQuaid.
Unfortunately, he also brings up Vanguard, which is sort of the antithesis of EverQuest to me.
There were certainly a lot of things that went wrong on that path. The list of mistakes… with I can sort of sum up as “too much breadth, not enough depth” or “too much big picture ambition, not enough focus on the details”… was long. And it was crowed with arrogance that I found off-putting. It was the spiritual forefather of Tabula Rasa or Warhammer Online, the big draw based on a reputation that failed to pan out.
I suppose that Brad McQuaid can get a little satisfaction out of the fact that his creation outlasted those two titles. But it damn near did not. While I was happy enough for SOE to step in and save Vanguard, I couldn’t tell you if that was the best business decision for SOE. It is certainly not obvious if SOE made much money with the game relative to the effort it took to fix it, and less certain is what SOE could have done with that money. Finish The Agency maybe? who knows?
Anyway, I bring up those two other titles, Warhammer Online and Tabula Rasa for a pretty obvious reason. Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott both had initial successes in the early MMO market, turned that into big projects that failed to meet expectations, and then turned around years later to do smaller, Kickstarter focused projects allegedly based on what they learned on their respective roads through life.
That, in turn, required them to come clean on what they actually learned in their failures and how they would apply that to the current projects, Camelot Unchained in the case of Mark Jacobs and Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, which they did with mixed results.
Richard Garriott spent a lot more time blaming EA, NCSOFT, and people less talented than him along with playing the nostalgia card rather than going into much detail. Mark Jacobs was more forthcoming, especially in terms of focus and what the Kickstarter financing really meant to the project. But then he had to mention how Warhammer Online still had a great rating on Metacritic, which was something of a face palm moment, as well as a reminder of the value of pre-release reviews around something like an MMO.
So that time is coming for Brad McQuaid.
He is going to have to stand up and not only be able to talk about his new project and where he wants to go with it, but also what he learned from Vanguard and how those lessons will be applied to this project. I realize that he has spoken frankly before about what he felt went wrong at Sigil Games when they were working on Vanguard. But that is always the easy part. Now is the time to talk about practical application of the lessons learned. How will he keep these things from happening again.
And I am expecting to hear a lot about focus and managing expectations and keeping things small to start with and then building upon a solid foundation.
Anyway, that should make for some interesting reading when it comes to pass.
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.)
The 2013 List – This Time it is Goals January 4, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, EVE Online, Rift, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH, Warhammer Online, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: 2013, Runes of Magic
At the beginning of every year I write a post about the upcoming 12 months. Sometimes it is silly predictions. Sometimes my predictions are even correct, but not very often. I have made demands. I have asked questions. Here is the story so far:
- 2008 – Predictions (silly, mostly wrong)
- 2009 – Predictions (mostly silly, mostly wrong)
- 2010 – Predictions (lots of bullet points, mostly wrong)
- 2011 – Demands (mostly unmet)
- 2012 – Questions (mostly unanswered)
Now it is time for the 2013 version of my yearly post.
This year I think I am going to set goals, which is just another way of drawing some marks in the sand to measure what happened when the year finally comes to a close.
1- Finish Rift
Well, finish Rift for a specific definition of “finish.” MMOs are designed to never truly be finishable and Rift, with all its possible class builds, especially so.
In this case, it means hitting the level cap and running all of the five person instances with my main character, Hillmar, and the rest of the regular group. And, just to put another parameter in the mix, I would like to see this happen before the inevitable Summer hiatus when we head out for vacations and other distractions.
2- Find a new goal in EVE
2012 was about learning to live in null sec and flying in large fleet operations. There were large wars going on throughout most of the year and I flew all over null sec in fleet ops. Now, however, things have quieted down. There was no “Winter Break War” as there was last year and the prospect of any big conflict seems pretty remote right now. We have been effectively ordered to not do anything that might result in the CFC having to deal with any more sovereignty.
Which puts me out of a job.
So I am in training mode with a little bit of ratting and selling now and again. That can be lucrative, but it is also dull, as is mining. (Though I hear from Gaff that with the new NPC AI, he has to actually tank all his mining ships as the rats now change targets. And they pop drones without mercy, making drones pretty much useless for mission running and the like. So mining is dull AND annoying now!)
There are some things I could train up. There are a few decent guides on planetary interaction out there, if I wanted to add that do my EVE resume. There are some player skills I could work on, like scanning. I am hopeless at scanning at the moment and, historically, every time I make an effort to figure it out, CCP changes how it works.
But as for what would essentially be a new vocation in EVE, I do not have a plan… or even a general direction. It might be time to go back to that chart.
3- Get to Tier IX in World of Tanks
This is something of a vague goal, as I do not really have my eye on any specific Tier IX tank in WoT. For now the Soviet heavy tanks seem to be my favorites, followed by the German tank destroyers. But who knows, I might be mad for French self propelled guns or get the itch to nip about the field of battle in one of those Cromwells. And then there is the Chinese tank line coming along soon. Or so they say.
Anyway, barring any dramatic need to start up on another branch of the tree, Tier IX ought to be an obtainable goal even with my somewhat sporadic play schedule. I just need some focus.
Good luck on that.
4- Finish that Second Instance Group Video
Almost a year back I put together a video about the first year of the regular instance group in World of Warcraft. Fun stuff. I like to go back and watch that video now and again. Not quite as emotionally evocative as Sayonara Norrath, but a lot closer to home.
Originally I was going to make a video about our whole experience, but that was a huge project, so I cut it back to just the first year with the idea that I would do one for each of our six… headed into seven… years.
But while the first year was a good plan (for me at least) as it gets our origin, how do you distinguish it from year two, three, four, and so on? So I decided I needed another specific subject.
I chose our time in Wrath of the Lich King for the next video. I even started in on the long job of reviewing and editing pictures. WotLK was the pinnacle of the instance group in WoW, where we finally got our act together. It was also our downfall, the last happy time in WoW. We got good at the game only to find that it isn’t that much fun when you are good. When you are a random, badly equipped group running comedy specs in the wrong roles, every boss kill is a major victory. When you are geared appropriately, using the right spec, and playing your role correctly, it starts to become a matter of just figuring out the gimmick for any given boss.
Still, those were good times and set a standard of effort and fun that Cataclysm couldn’t match. And it was a nice, discreet time frame. We were there the day the expansion launched through to finishing off the last instance.
Piece of cake to put it together, right?
Except I cannot find the right music. I need that to inspire me. Earl’s rendition of Eleanor Rigby, with its twangy sounds and great mix of nostalgia and irony (all the lonely people indeed!) really moved me to finish the first video. But I have not found the right music to get me excited to finish this video yet. What will capture Northrend and the instance group, our travels, our defeats, and our victories?
So really my goal is really to find the right music. We shall see if I can get there.
5- Retry an MMO That Didn’t Stick
There are a number of MMOs out there which I have tried and let drop after some effort. For one reason or another the games just did not hold my attention or otherwise compel me to keep moving forward.
There are a number of options for this goal. Possibilities include Vanguard, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and probably a few more I have forgotten. Pirates of the Burning Sea maybe!
The trick here of course is to find a game where whatever made me stop playing has either been changed/fixed or was something that I have since changed my mind about. And that, in turn, is something of a function of the time that has passed since I last played the game.
SWTOR, for example, is just a year gone by, and I did not like blaster combat or having dialog forced on my character. The former probably hasn’t changed, while the latter is the vaunted “fourth pillar” that was going to distinguish the game, so it seems like unlikely that I am going to like the game any more than I did the first time around.
At the other end of the spectrum is Vanguard, which I haven’t really played since late beta, and which I only recall as being an ugly, lagging, broken, resource hog of a game that was clearly not ready for prime time. Six years down the road it is possible they may have addressed some of those issues.
6- Scout for the Next Instance Group Game
With the downfall of WoW as our default game, it has become an ongoing task to scout for the next game we might try. We are currently settled in Rift, but since the first goal on my list is to “finish” Rift before the Summer hiatus, it seems likely that we will need something new come the end of vacation.
As always, the usual parameters are in place. It must have content that caters to groups of five or six people. It has to work for a variety of play time budgets. (Some of us will play all week long, others will only play on group night.) It has to have content that we can enjoy in our standard “three hours on a Saturday night” parameter. And it has to be something that we can all buy into.
There are a lot of options out there, even discounting things some of us have already played. I think that, as a group, we might find a month or two of fun in PlanetSide 2. Four of us would probably find Need for Speed: World or World of Tanks good fun, but I am not sure about all five. And there are candidates from both the previous and the next goal that are possibilities. Picking one though and getting everybody to download and commit, that can be a challenge.
7- Book My Autumn Nostalgia Tour Early
Every autumn I get the urge to go back and play some game from my past. Sometimes it is EverQuest or TorilMUD. This past year is was EverQuest II. And given my long time attachment to the games, you can probably put WoW and Lord of the Rings Online on the list of potential candidates.
The thing is, the urge tends to hit me rather suddenly and I run off, play for the requisite month or so solo, then the urge tapers off and I am pretty much done. (Pro Tip: Always subscribe month-to-month for nostalgia based events.)
But while this is often fun, it is usually a lot more fun if I can get Gaff or Potshot in on the tour. Nostalgia is a meal best served family style or some such. So if I can just peer into the future and maybe decide on my target, we can get together on the plan and have a great time. The thing is, which game? Do I book a room in old Qeynos for the rainy season, or is the Forsaken Inn a more likely holiday spot?
8- Blog Stuff
Often when I look at the future, I will tack on something about “playing more and writing less.” Over time though, this has increasingly looked like nonsense. Writing here on the blog is clearly part of the process of playing games… or at least online games… for me. The writing, the remembering, the picking of screen shots, and the clicking of the “publish” button are all part of the package.
So my goal for the blog is pretty much “stay the course.” And maybe find a new theme. Though I have been saying that for about six years and I am still using the same WordPress theme that I had on day one.
So those are my goals for 2013. Not very exciting. We shall see how they play out.
How does 2013 look to you? And any ideas for music for that video?
Free to Play and the Implied Social Contract August 13, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH, World of Warcraft.
I am going to start sounding like I hate free to play if I am not careful.
I do not hate free to play.
Free to play can bring a lot to a subscription game that transitions to the model.
The primary benefit is more players.
Bringing more players to a declining MMO can be a wonderful thing. When I was playing the short-lived EverQuest II Extended, one of the best things about it was that the world seemed quite alive relative to the subscription side of the house.
It is also very nice to not be tied to a monthly subscription plan when it comes to games that you no longer play regularly, but still like to drop into now and again. For example, I doubt I would have resubscribed to EverQuest II just to be able to see… well… whatever it was they did to Qeynos.
These are clear benefits on which I think most people can agree.
But I am also mindful that there are costs as well.
There are the inconveniences, the nagging, the intrusion of crass commercialism into an alleged escapist fantasy world, and the inevitable realization that, unless you’re buying what they have on offer in the cash shop this month, you really aren’t important to the company any more.
But you can get used to that. Or some people can. Probably most people can.
The problem, as I see it, is that you may have to get used to the way things are over and over again. Currently, “free to play” is a pretty empty phrase, since it can mean so many things.
A long and winding thread of “logic” follows after the cut in order to spare the front page a wall of text.
Vanguard Goes Free to Play Early August 8, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
Almost six years ago the trailer for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had the tag line “Set Yourself Free.” Well, now the prophecy of that line has come to pass.
Vanguard was slated to go live as a free to play title on August 14th.
In case you haven’t seen the news, we’ve announced the official date for the Vanguard Saga of Heroes free-to-play launch: Tuesday, August 14, 2012!
We didn’t want to keep you – our most loyal and dedicated Vanguard citizens – waiting any longer, so we’ve released all of the free-to-play features for you to experience FIRST!
Since SOE has a single, unified account system, I have to imagine that “dedicated” citizens includes anybody paying close enough attention to have noticed that post. You certainly seem able to download the client and such at this point
SOE has also posted the final feature matrix for launch. It remains a two tier system, eschewing the middle, or Silver tier that EverQuest and EverQuest II have, but a few details have changed since SOE originally posted about it.
If you compare that with the earlier one, you will see that they have changed brokers and mail access. You now just paying higher in-game fees to use those services. There will also be no restrictions on chat access for free players.
Meanwhile, the standard inconvenience restrictions on things like item quality, total in-game coins, quest log entries, remain in place to push people to subscribe.
The Vanguard Marketplace is also open now and will be offering things in the categories of “Services, Mounts and Pets, Housing, Appearance and Equipment.” I will be interested to see what ends up in the cash shop.
There is also a new FAQ up about the game.
All of which now leaves PlanetSide as the sole monthly subscription title in the SOE arsenal of online games. SOE has bet heavily on its particular flavor of the free to play model. It is what I might call the “push to subscribe” subset.
John Smedley says that PlanetSide is not going away when PlanetSide 2 launches. (Smed’s twitter account seems to be the new official news source for PlanetSide 2. He was clearly telling the truth when he said that PS was his thing.) But I do not think it can remain a subscription game, so I wonder what the plan is.
[Addendum: Massively has an interview with a bit more information posted.]
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Things I Just Have To Note
I had to check the calendar… and then double check just to make sure this wasn’t some sort of April Fools mis-fire.
The man with “the vision” is back and on the team that is reviving Vanguard and remolding to the free to play model. It… boggles the mind.
Not that I am anti-Brad. He was the right person at the right time to make EverQuest, something for which he has won endless respect from myself and others.
But the right time was… well… the late 1990s, wasn’t it?
I mean, the first time around with Vanguard… there was something of a vision vs. execution gap to be sure, which ended in tears about five years ago, the demise of his company as it was bought out, and a lot of work by SOE over the next year to make the game playable. So bringing him back seems to trend towards the “crazy/insane” end of the spectrum at first glace.
Then again, he is back as a game designer. Regardless of past any past vision for the game, he is there to make things work within the confines of the situation as it stands today. As much as ones emotions want to say, “Uh oh, something wacky is going to happen here!” or make some sort of “Steve Jobs returns to Apple” analogy, it just doesn’t fly.
What we really have is a member of the MMO industry in a new position. Everybody needs a job. People come and go all the time. I just wonder how things feel for him and those around him to be back at SOE after all that has happened in the last 15 years.
What do you think? News? Not news? Any meaning at all in this?
Tags: EverQuest II Extended, Planetside, PlanetSide 2
SOE announced back in March that Vanguard, the fantasy MMO step-child in their lineup, would be going free to play this summer.
Having been around the block with SOE titles moving from subscription to F2P at least twice before, first with EverQuest II and then EverQuest, it was probably easy enough to predict what was going to come to pass.
Both of those games ended up with a three tier subscription plan. (Yes, EverQuest II Extended had FOUR tiers, but that was clearly an experiment.)
At the bottom was “free,” which required no money changing hands. All you had to do was create an SOE Station account, download the client, and you were set to log in and go. Of course, there were some pretty severe restrictions on just what you could do with a free account. These were put in place both to encourage you to upgrade and to keep abuse from gold sellers and the like to a minimum.
At the top end there was the “Gold” subscription, which was essentially the old monthly subscription plan in a new wrapper. You could continue to give SOE $15 a month and get access to what you had before the transition.
And in the middle was the “Silver” tier where, for a fee of 500 Station Cash (which could range in value from $5.00 to 80 cents depending on various sales and incentives), some of the restrictions placed on “free” accounts were relaxed. You got a couple more character slots, the ability to have more cash per character level, and no restrictions on chat channels.
This “Silver” tier made a lot of sense to me. For an up front, one time payment, you were able to still dispense with the monthly fee, but got some benefits by essentially buying into the system. Doing so probably meant you were unlikely to be a gold seller or other nefarious character likely to commit acts that might get you banned. You had invested.
So I was somewhat surprised to see the Vanguard subscription matrix that was released today, as that “Silver” tier appears to be missing.
There is a FAQ up about the transition to F2P, which this time appears to cover most of the pertinent questions, but which makes no mention of the lack of a middle tier.
I wonder if that “Silver” level has proven ineffective in keeping the riff-raff under wraps, or if it ended up being too appealing to players, thus siphoning off potential dollars from players who might otherwise opt for a monthly subscription.
And this still leaves me wondering about PlanetSide? It will soon become SOE’s sole subscription-only title.
Smed says PlanetSide won’t be going away when PlanetSide 2 shows up.
Happy Planetside day! I'm in the fight myself. Damn I love this game.—
John Smedley (@j_smedley) July 01, 2012
And no. It isn't shutting down when we launch Planetside 2.—
John Smedley (@j_smedley) July 01, 2012
When will it go free to play?
38 Studios – The Legend, The Myth, The End May 25, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Gaming Industry Trends, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: 38 Studios, Azeroth Advisor, No Real Point, Rambling Friday
Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse
John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949)
Well, I cannot speak to whether or not 38 Studios lived fast, and six years can be a long time in technology, so you can argue that the company did not die young.
Legends have been created out of less.
And now nobody will ever say that Copernicus, their as yet unnamed flagship game, to which the main effort of the company had been devoted for almost six year, sucks.
Nobody will complain about unbalanced classes or broken game mechanics or servers being down or sever queues being too long or any of the thousand other things that we find to pick on when it comes to MMOs.
Copernicus is pristine, a blurry mirage doomed to ever been in the distance, on which some will overlay their hopes and dreams for the future of MMO gaming. I’ve seen it already, with some bloggers mourning not just the fact that we will now never see this game come into full bloom, but that it somehow represented our last, best hope to return greatness to the genre. Some future games will find themselves compared to Copernicus that might have been. It was to be the holy grail game that brought joy back to fantasy MMOs.
Which is a tune I have heard before.
It was the sort of thing some of our guild members were saying about Vanguard in 2005 when we were playing EverQuest II and it had fully sunk in that the game really wasn’t a sequel to the EverQuest experience. And so Vanguard became the dream, the game destined to be the true successor to EverQuest.
And, well… we know how that turned out. Sigil Games, facing their own financial woes, opted to go to market early with a game clearly not ready for prime time.
In one of those twists of timing, it was just five years ago this month that Sigil folded up shop with the now infamous parking lot layoff, sans Brad McQuaid. But we got the word from Smed that SOE was swooping in to save the day. SOE was a hero for the moment, but I wondered how long they would remain a hero. Not very long, it seemed, as soon all the problems with Vanguard became SOE’s problems, and SOE’s fault for not fixing them fast enough.
It makes me wonder what image Vanguard would have ended up with had Brad opted to run out of money before launching the game.
And, alas, there will be no SOE white knight to rescue Copernicus. Those days are clearly done. Back when SOE was under Sony Pictures, which I am convinced really didn’t know, and didn’t care, what was going on in San Diego so long as the money was coming in, was able to collect orphaned MMOs like Vanguard and The Matrix Online. Now though, under the PlayStation people, who clearly want to hear about things that sell PlayStation hardware when they aren’t being evil, things have been trimmed back substantially.
There was an estimate that the assets of 38 Studios might be worth up to $20 million, though that sort of talk denies the reality of software development. If you buy a software company with no people, you have pretty much bought nothing. The people who write the software, they are the assets. Without them you have some source code, which can be interesting, but is tough to make your own. You can bring in your own people to try. I’ve been down that path. If you just want to be able to build the software and maybe make some small fixes, it can even be viable. But if you want to own the software and be able to use it to its full, you have to know it well, which is hard work. And the first thing that will happen is the devs will start saying that it is easier to rewrite some section of code from scratch than figure out what is really going on, and that way lies madness and repetition of the same mistakes to gain the same knowledge as the original authors of the code.
And then there is the outside influence of Star Wars: The Old Republic which, according to analyst Michael Pachter, has killed off interest in investing in MMO projects. To quote the money line:
Nobody is buying MMOs after Star Wars fizzled
So yeah, we can blame SWTOR! Because if EA can’t get MMOs right, then it is clearly some sort of once-in-a-lifetime black art not worth exploring.
Life in the big money lane.
I feel a bit sorry for Curt Schilling for not getting to live out his dream of creating a great MMO. But only a bit. I mean the guy had fame, fortune, and three world series wins coming into this deal, all while deliberately and maliciously being younger than me. He can go back to that. Maybe he can be a champion for small studios that reflect some of the things he was trying to bring to MMOs.
But I identify more with the team at 38 Studios, the worker bees who have to scramble to find another gig to pay the mortgage. I’ve been down that path a few times. The joy of Silicon Valley start ups, here today, gone tomorrow. I worked for eight different companies in the 90s, and only one still exists. I was there twice for the “everybody go home” company meeting. It doesn’t get easier with repetition.
I do want to throw out a minor “screw you” to 38 Studios for buying and shutting down the Azeroth Advisor. Grudge holding… we have that here at TAGN.
But other than that, I am sorry to see things turn out as they did. We won’t ever see Copernicus now, and so I will be denied the privilege of playing it while complaining about insignificant details that annoy me.
Addendum: And then there is the industry insider view of this debacle from the newly returned to blogging Lum and how it is killing the very concept of massively multiplayer online gaming.
Further Addendum: And there are always methods to make a bad situation worse.
R. A. Salvatore says Copernicus was awesome, but can’t actually back that up. He was right on one thing in that comment, he shouldn’t be commenting. More for the myth and legend department.
Steve Danuser puts the blame on the governor of Rhode Island.
It looks like 38 Studios may have screwed some employees worse than others. Was that the governor of Rhode Island’s fault as well?
Everybody wants to know where the money went.
Of course, there is Curt.
And then Derek Smart chimes in with a dump truck load of reality. Refreshing to see him poking at a subject that needs it.
With Vanguard Going Free to Play, PlanetSide Becomes the Last SOE Subscription Based MMO March 21, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
In November of last year, when EverQuest II slated to go fully free to play, I asked the obvious question; which of the remaining SOE subscription MMOs would also go free to play?
Back then, only four games remained subscription based. And even then, rumblings seemed to indicate Vanguard might have a free to play role in the line up. That was clearly the wave of the future at SOE.
What will happen to PlanetSide while SOE works on PlanetSide 2?
Will SOE keep it as a subscription game for now? Will they make it free or free to play? Or will it go away before its successor shows up?
There do not seem to be any good choices in that mix.
Why Isn’t Vanguard Overrun By Those Seeking an “Old School” MMO? January 30, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Bhagpuss, Meaningless Milestones
If all the people who wish there was an MMO like MMOs used to be would stop wringing their hands and go play Vanguard, maybe it would get that expansion. Even without one, it remains very close to the best MMO there’s ever been.
Oh Vanguard, saga of more than heroes, negative example cited by many.
Here it is, the twin fifth anniversary of the launch of both Vanguard and Microsoft Vista. And what a pair they are, mirror images of, if not failure, then certainly a failure to meet expectations. Both sold moderately well, though in ways that did not help them in the long run.
Dell, for example, made money selling machines with Vista and then charging a fee to revert them back to Windows XP. And didn’t Vanguard sell something like 90,000 boxes right off the mark? [242,000 boxes sold according to Wikipedia. Thank you Bhagpuss.]
I know having played in the beta I was dubious when Sigil announced their launch date, which was both too early and square in the teeth of the first WoW expansion. And very soon after launch I was pondering how they were going to get out of their mess.
And after the launch… and after SOE took over the game… there was the long march back to sanity and, in some ways, away from the vision. Server merges. Graphic revamps. Bug fixes. Making the game playable took a while.
But here we are, five years later. The game is as “fixed” as it is ever going to be. It is available, stable, and five years down the road you likely have a machine that can run it.
So why isn’t Vanguard the focus of players looking for an old school experience? Why is something like EverQuest, which is coming up on its 13 year anniversary and which, in many ways, has abandoned many of the old school difficulties, still more popular?
My theory is that many of those seeking such an experience really have something specific in mind. I suspect that they do not, in fact, seek an old school experience, but rather long to experience their first game as it was when they played it initially. Basically, I think they want an old school experience in their old school, not in some new world.
And so Vanguard is not regarded as a viable option. Relatively few people have nostalgia for the game. I would be willing to bet that the EverQuest progression servers were more popular by themselves when they went live than Vanguard as a whole.
Why do you think, five years after launch, Vanguard isn’t the target of players claiming to seek an old school experience? The bad launch? The system requirements? Too small of a player base with nostalgia for the game?
Anyway, Bhagpuss has a post up celebrating the Vanguard fifth anniversary, which along with his comment quoted above made me think about what will become of the game.