Items from the Mail Bag – Barrel Scrapings and the Like January 29, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Facebook, Mail Bag, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Tags: Australian Open, Aventurine, darkfall, 해외커뮤니케이션팀, Kia Motors, Raptr
Mail bag was going to be a regular monthly feature, but frankly the mail I have been getting on the blog account really hasn’t been living up to the role. Still, I do get something amusing now and again. A pity none of it showed up recently, so this is all you get.
Three Kias, One Cup
The Kia Motors Overseas Communications Team ( 해외커뮤니케이션팀) wants me to go connect with their Facebook page so I can play a flash based tennis game featuring players that are, if I understand this correctly, anthropomorphized versions of their cars. The Soul, Sorento, and Cerato to be specific. Except I think that last one is sold as the Forte here in the US.
All because Kia sponsors some aspect of the Australian Open… which is a tennis tournament.
I had to look that up.
I almost want to go play this, just to see how they get that lumpy Sorento to move its ass around the court. But a surge of apathy has stayed my hand so far.
Still, don’t let me stop you! You can find the page on Facebook here. Just be quick, as the game only runs from January 16th through the 31st. Of course, they only sent me this note on the 29th, so clearly my participation was not all the important.
Aventurine Fails Again
Aventurine sent me a “Media Alert” to invite me to come and explore the world of Agon, which I am afraid always brings up images of Larry Storch.
Unfortunately for Aventurine, all they actually had for me was a link to a dev diary video about their upcoming (some day) Darkfall: Unholy Wars reboot.
Then they listed out the price of the game ($14.95 if you are a Darkfall Online returning player or $29.95 (25% off) if you are new to this game) like they expected me, a member of the media (who else gets “media alerts” right?), to actually pay for it myself. This is how you get 2/10 reviews. (Though I still suspect there was a method to their madness.)
Haven’t we all learned by now that companies can get game journalists to degrade themselves and their profession with a few simple freebies? Playing it straight is a mug’s game.
The Soda Sipping Inside Joke?
I keep getting press notices about a game called Soda Drinker Pro, but cannot tell if this is just the internet yanking my chain or not. The quotes sound tongue in cheek.
Soda Drinker Pro is the most advanced soda drinking simulator ever created
While sites like Gamasutra have reprinted the press releases due to contractual obligations.
Mashable has a brief write up, but it still ends up sounding like an internet goof.
Somebody Sued Facebook
Which probably isn’t news, but the announcement showed up in my email. It was something about sponsored stories.
Why did I get this notice? This Notice relates to a proposed settlement (“Settlement”) of a class action lawsuit (“Action”) filed against Facebook relating to a particular Facebook feature called “Sponsored Stories.” According to available records, you may be a “Class Member.”
What is the Action about? The Action claims that Facebook unlawfully used the names, profile pictures, photographs, likenesses, and identities of Facebook users in the United States to advertise or sell products and services through Sponsored Stories without obtaining those users’ consent. Facebook denies any wrongdoing and any liability whatsoever. No court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any liability.
You can read more about it here. If Facebook used your likeness without your consent, it could be worth a sawbuck to you.
Meanwhile if the suit succeeds the lawyers will all get paid for the hours they billed and Facebook will have to change their terms of service so that by accepting them you allow Mark Zuckerberg to do whatever he damn well pleases with your likeness.
So who is going to win here?
Raptr Has a List!
Raptr sent me a list of awards they made up and gave out for 2012 based on their game tracking stats.
- Most Played New Game – Borderlands 2
- Most Played Game (Released Anytime) – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Biggest Boost from User-Generated Content – Portal 2
- Most Played Long-Awaited Sequel – Borderlands 2
- No Bathroom Break – Borderlands 2
- Most Played XBLA Game – Minecraft
- Most Played New IP – Dragon’s Dogma
- Most Successful Paid to Free-to-Play Game – Star Wars: The Old Republic
Some of those make sense, while others… I am not so sure. The “Bathroom Break” bit probably relates to a measurement of play sessions, but how did they come up with “Long Awaited Sequel?” Was Borderlands 2 really that long in showing up? Relative to what?
Meanwhile, their last category almost always reflects a sentiment of “crap, we’d better mention MMOs!” They used the same category as 2011, but this time they managed to combine it with an attempt to suck up to EA/BioWare. Or does somebody think if you were going to mention MMOs that there weren’t other categories or titles you might choose? “Most played MMO” or GuildWars 2 certainly springs to my mind.
Anyway, you can read their full post here, which includes some additional details.
Finally, I seem to be getting more and more messages asking me if I would like to come write for other sites. These invites are rather transparent requests to please provide free content for such and such a site to exploit for ad revenue.
It is the sources of these requests that are getting more interesting. I had one from a web media group from everybody’s favorite Germans, ProSiebenSat.1 and another from a group that purports to run the largest MMO gaming site in China.
All I can think is, “China?” My Larry Storch jokes are probably too obscure for Cracked.com, how would they possibly play in China.
Anyway, send me something interesting that isn’t about your 99 cent iPhone app and maybe I’ll make fun of it. As always, contact info is on the About page.
Tags: Aventurine, CCP, Funcom, Gartner, Trion Worlds
Gartner, a well-known (at least here in the states) IT research and advisory firm, had a pretty amusing April Fools joke. They announced a new magic quadrant which was literally focused on magic. (Thanks to Xyd for sending me that link.)
But this got me thinking about applying the Gartner Magic Quadrant idea to the MMO industry.
Gartner divides up industries into grouping around specific technologies or foci and then rates all of the players in that industry based on two criteria: Ability to execute and completeness of vision.
I would show you the chart for my industry, IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals, except that it would cost me $2,000 to get a copy from Gartner and I am pretty sure they wouldn’t let me just post it on the web.
But making it onto the chart at all, especially if you are a smaller company, is a big deal. It means you are considered a player in that market space and need to be taken seriously. And to arrive in the magic quadrant, the upper right hand corner, is practically money in the bank as you will be invited to bid on projects at big companies.
Of course, the irony here is that with many projects with big companies like, say, Dell or Wal-Mart, you are lucky if you break even. Projects with small to medium size companies have the highest margins because unless you screw up, they tend to be happy and rarely ever call support.
This also does lead to more than a bit of the tail wagging the dog. I have worked on more than a few features that were thrown in because it was felt we needed that for our Gartner review. There was Gartner driving vision rather than measuring it. And more than once I have pointed out to the marketing people that we have new feature X in our latest release only to hear that we told Gartner we had that a couple years back.
But I digress. Let’s just say I have had some experience with prepping for Gartner.
And the standard Gartner chart looks like this:
The four quadrants are defined as:
- Leaders score higher on both criteria; the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Typically larger industry developed businesses with vision and potential for expansion.
- Challengers score higher the ability to execute and lower on the completeness of vision. Typically larger, settled businesses with minimal future plans for that industry.
- Visionaries score lower on the ability to execute and higher on the completeness of vision. Typically smaller companies that are unloading their planned potential.
- Niche players score lower on both criteria: the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Typically new additions to the Magic Quadrant, or market fledglings.
And the magic of the whole thing is how they score companies and place them in the different quadrants which is based on two criteria.
The first is ability to execute. Can the company in question do what they say they are going to do and do it well. That one is not so tough to figure out, at least in hindsight. Funcom for example, not so good on the execution side of things with Anarchy Online and Age of Conan.
The second part is a bit tougher to judge because, for those of us who follow MMOs, “Vision” is a loaded word. But vision is not what we are looking for, but “Completeness of Vision.” Sigil Games, pre-Vanguard launch, laid claim to a lot of vision, but at the same time was clearly staking out too much territory without being able to explain how they were going to get there.
The vision we are talking about here is less the that of a wonderful future with flying cars than that of company both knowing what they want to do and being able to explain how they are going to do it. They can make a game that is both fun as well as polished and keep it going.
They end up publishing something like this.
Success, as much as anything, seems drive you to the upper right quadrant, since that is seen as a validation of ability to execute and completeness of vision.
So if I were the Gartner analyst for MMO companies, I would surely put Blizzard in the Leaders category. You can argue against that, but you’d better be able to pull out something better than “WoW sucks!” because they have the biggest claim to success currently.
Trion Worlds, with how they have done with Rift so far, would be squarely in the Challengers category. They have shown they have the ability to execute so far, but are still too youthful to be able to prove their completeness of vision. SOE would be there as well I think. I think they have fallen out of the leaders quadrant for now.
There is a temptation to put Aventurine in the niche category, but I think they might just squeak into the visionaries quadrant. They started off there, but seem to be working towards a more complete and sustainable vision.
I have no idea where to put CCP. People call them niche, and they have certainly fumbled the ball when it comes to completeness of vision (features that end up not working as planned and are left to die on the vine) and ability to execute (maybe the root cause on the feature failure, plus a lot of down time and that UI), which could leave them candidates for either the challengers or visionaries quadrants. On the other hand, they have seen steady growth over time, something that sets them apart from most MMO companies, so you could make the case for leadership.
But maybe you should be the Gartner analyst instead of me.
Who else should go on the chart and where should they be placed?
Reviewing My 2010 Predictions December 24, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, Diablo III, Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Facebook, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Aventurine, Bill Roper, Brian Green, Carbine Studios, darkfall, Hero's Journey, Mark Jacobs, PlayStation 3, Red5 Studios, Richard Garriott, Runic Games, Scott Hartsman, Simutronics, The Agency, Torchlight, Torchlight II, Turbine
Oh yeah, I made a bunch of crazy predictions back in January, didn’t I?
For some reason last year I changed my predictions format from a set of paragraph long generalizations to a series of one line, very specific (well, mostly) guesses at the future. I think I was pressed for time and the humor muse had not bothered to visit. Plus it was always hard to score those paragraphs, especially since I seemed to insist on points. (I have accounting in my background, I must quantify everything!)
Now, of course, we’re here at the end of the year and I have discovered the flaw in my plan; I need to go figure out whatinthehell I got right or wrong. And there are like a bunch of them, some of which I have not bothered to pay attention to and others about which I really didn’t give a damn in the first place but was trying to get to a 200 point total for some maniacal round-number reason.
Anyway, what’s done is done. Next year I think I am going to go back to big predictions and a pass/fail model. Or something.
I started on this Thanksgiving weekend and, because of apathy, I haven’t found all the answers yet. Fortunately, other people have started posting their prediction results, so I can crib from that a bit. Plus I’ll make you, the reader, correct my mistakes. How about that?
So let’s see how good that cold medication was last December. What did I predict?
Predictions for Blizzard in 2010! (5 points each)
- StarCraft II – Will ship second quarter 2010 – Missed by 27 days, 0 points
- Cataclysm – Will ship fourth quarter 2010 – A pretty safe guess, 5 points
- Cataclysm – Will beat WotLK’s 24 hour sales record – Yes indeed. I do wonder how much digital pre-orders helped. 5 points
- Diablo III – Will not ship in 2010 – Another safe one, in my opinion, 5 points
- New MMO – An announcement at BlizzCon with the usual Blizzard mystery build-up – Nothing at BlizzCon, 0 Points
15 out of 25 points
Big Miss – RealID and Battle.net focus? I’m not sure those were that big in the end.
Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)
- Planetside – Dead by December – Still alive… barely… but I always thought that The Agency had to come online before it went. 0 points
- Norrath – Official details about the next Norrath based MMORPG some time in 2010 – We artist conceptions and some vague information, so I’m claiming 3 out of 5 points
- Norrath – The next Norrath based MMORPG won’t be called EverQuest III – Do we have that in writing? No? 0 points
EverQuest II – All digital distribution after the February expansion – I don’t see Destiny of Velious listed at Amazon.com, so I’m taking this as a yes. – 5 points.
- EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing – And so it was. I should have predicted it for EQII as well. – 5 points
- The Agency – Won’t ship in 2010 – Saying The Agency won’t ship is like betting against the Cubs, and no, the Facebook game does not count – 5 points
- PlayStation 3 – SOE still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – The put Free Realms on the Mac, but no PS3 support yet. They’ve been talking about stuff on the PS3 since E3 in 2008 at least… go listen to VW Podcast #125… and still nothing. You guys at SOE work for the PlayStation people now, right? – 5 points
23 out of 30 points
Big Miss – A free to play version of EQII
What will EA do? (5 Points each)
SWTOR – Not in 2010, no no no. – Another safe bet – 5 points
WAR – Won’t die in 2010, but won’t magically spring back to life either. It will just trudge on with enough resources to keep it going and improve it slightly, but not enough to change anything dramatically. – Vague enough for 5 points
10 out of 10 points
Big miss – Umm… Lord of Ultima? Was there a UO expansion or something?
Turbine predictions (5 points each)
- LOTRO – Next expansion, announced in 2010, will be the Riders of Rohan! – Isengard, not Rohan – 0 points
- LOTRO – Riders of Rohan will feature real mounted combat – 0 points
- DDO – Continued success under the free to play banner with a push into some overland content – vaguely fulfilled – 1 point
- New – We’ll hear about Turbine’s next project in 2010. – Not so much – 0 points
1 out of 20 points
Big Miss – LOTRO going free to play
CCP Predictions (5 points each)
- Station ambulation – Still just a myth in 2010 – Again, like betting against the Cubs – 5 points
- Dust 514 – Not for 2010 – What was that? – 5 points
- EVE – Two Content Releases, don’t we always get two a year? – Well, we got 1.1 expansions - 2 points
- EVE – Tech III ships will finally become common enough that you might actually see one now and again. – I have one and, while flying it, have ended up at a jump gate with another, is that common enough? – 5 points
17 out of 20 points
Big Miss – What was the big CCP story this year?
Runic Games (5 points each)
- An inexpensive expansion will be released for Torchlight to keep funding going for Runic’s MMO – Nope – 0 points
- Runic will give us some concrete details about said MMO – Nope – 0 points
- That MMO won’t ship in 2010 – Well, they didn’t announce it, so 0 points
- But said details will make some pundit say, “Wow, that’s what Dungeon Runners should have done.” – 0 points
0 out of 20 points. I thought they would move faster than they are.
Big Miss – Multiplayer Torchlight, sort of the interim step between the first game and the MMO.
NCSoft (5 points each)
- Aion – Going to seem like a replay of Lineage II, popular in Asia, less so in the west. Still, it will have enough customers to keep going. Given how readily NCSoft shuts things down, that will be saying something. – Um, I can’t even answer that – 0 points
- GuildWars 2 – Not for 2010 – 5 points
- PlayStation 3 – NCSoft still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – I guess I can let that old SCEA/NCSoft agreement die now – 5 points
10 out of 15 points
Other Titles (5 points each)
- Darkfall – Will continue walking the tightrope between hardcore PvP focus and giving players something to do when they aren’t actively engaged in battle. Slow growth with at most a single server added to the game for 2010. – Sounds vaguely right, but SynCaine will correct me – 5 points
- Star Trek Online – Won’t disappoint Trek fans, but we’re all co-dependent on the franchise after years of reckless treatment by the studio. We’ll all still be there after the first 30 days playing with our pre-order bonus items. The rest of you people though… – I stopped playing, so there is a big claim I missed - 0 points
- Hero’s Journey – It was best of show at E3 in 2005, but it will still be a no-show in 2010. – Like betting against the Twins – 5 points (Amusingly, Simutronics now has a somewhat whiny entry in their Hero Engine FAQ about Hero’s Journey, saying that the work for it is all in the Hero Engine so stop bugging them about it already. Anyway, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the eventual showcase for their work, pretty much the make or break I’d guess.)
10 out of 15 points
The following people will have new companies and new projects announced in 2010 (2 point each):
- Mark Jacobs – No word here – 0 points
- Richard Garriott – Some awful Facebook thing – 2 points
- Bill Roper – Still at Cryptic doing… something – 0 points
- Brian Green – Umm… The Fae’s Wyrd was a project, right? – 2 points
- Scott Hartsman – Rift, about which so many are talking of late – 2 points
6 out of 10 points
One of the following companies will announce their first/next project, and it won’t be an MMO (5 points):
- Aventurine – no announcement
- Carbine Studios – no announcement
- Red5 Studios – Firefall – it is an online, co-op shooter, so not really a traditional MMO – 5 points
- Simutronics – no announcement
- Turbine – No announcement
One of the following people will move to Canada (5 points):
- Scott Jennings
- Mark Jacobs
- Brian Green
- Scott Hartsman
- Richard Bartle
- Alan Crosby
- David Reid
Isn’t there some Canadian sovereign territory at Disneyland? No? 0 points
Spurious Logic Random neurons firing for the following guesses.
Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010. WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark. (5 points) – erm… can’t really say yes to that – 0 points
“Yahtzee” Croshaw will review exactly ONE muh-more-puh-gah on Zero Punctuation during 2010, and it will be Star Trek Online. He won’t like it (duh) but the Trekkie humor will be too much for him to resist doing a review. (5 points) – Nope, 0 points
We will find out that the following people will be appearing or doing voice work in the Warcraft movie (IMDB shows no actors as of this date – 1 point each):
- Jack Black
- William Shatner
- Keanu Reeves
- Ben Stein
- James Earl Jones
- John Ratzenberger
- Bruce Campbell
- Sarah Silverman
- David Spade
- Lucy Lawless
Nothing – No cast announcements yet. IMDB puts it as a possible 2013 release – 0 points
0 out of 20 points
My first pass, hand-waving total is 97 out of 200 points.
Not bad for my mix of obvious slam-dunks and way off the reservation guesses I suppose.
Now, I will look to comments for corrections and will post an updated score once people point out that I was really wrong about those 97 points and that my total should be much lower.
So correct me already.
Meanwhile, I’m working on a less intensive set of predictions for next year.
EuroGamer: Darkfall Agent Provocateur? May 8, 2009Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Humor, Misc MMOs.
Tags: Aventurine, darkfall, EuroGamer, Reviews
By now you have certainly read about EuroGamer’s review of Darkfall which was riddled with hyperbole, inconsistencies, and factual errors. You may have also seen Aventurine’s response and how solidly EuroGamer stood up to it, pointing out that the reviewer wasn’t actually a staff writer and offering to have somebody they, you know, actually trust re-review the game.
It seems a pretty cut and dried journalistic screw up. A lone reviewer (how many hours did he play?) cuts corners and gets called out, end of story.
But to those of us who have experience in the shadow world of deception and conspiracies and who don’t take these things at face value, there is much more here than meets the eye. This was quite clearly a false flag operation.
And what would Aventurine have to gain by such an operation? Clearly, there are two obvious wins.
1. Further solidification of the of the Darkfall community
2. Inoculation against further negative reviews
For the first point, the Darkfall community has spent most of its time under siege. Years of delays and being declared “vaporware” has driven the weaker members from the Darkfall flock and forged a small and dedicated fan base. They have been the foot troops in the public relations war that Aventurine has waged… if somewhat haphazardly… for the last few years. It is surprisingly easy to be fanatical in the name of a game that is not live yet.
But now Darkfall is real. The game is live. People are playing. Aventurine has tried to keep the player base pure by creating a false shortage. You cannot just pick up Darkfall off the shelf at Fry’s. No, you must run the web gauntlet in order to obtain one of the rare spots in the game.
But this has not been enough. There has been some unrest in the ranks. The less hard core have managed to get into the game and have begun to express their dissatisfaction. Aventurine has seen what happens when your hard core fans lose their edge. They not doubt witnessed how so many of the “Warhammer Faithful” turned on the game after launch.
What they needed was an external crisis, an attack on the game, something they could use to rally the troops.
So the masters at Aventurine contrived to have a major European (because they view that as their base) gaming site, EuroGamer, to give them not just a low score, but a low score based on a review written as though it were meant specifically to incite the Darkfall player community.
Did Aventurine attempt to refute anything said in the EuroGamer review?
No, they just trotted out some server logs (which they control) that indicated the reviewer spent approximately two hours playing the game, and that most of that time was spent in the character creator. The errors did not matter. The community would take care of that. Aventurine just needed to sew the seeds of doubt. EuroGamer responded that the reviewer says he spent about 9 hours playing the game, but then the review itself talks about how the game progresses after the 10 hour mark, creating a huge credibility gap. Was it around 2, almost 9, or more than 10?
And so the Darkfall community has been up in arms, united (as Aventurine planned) in the face of this outrageous attack on their game.
The second point, while a bit more subtle, is no less important. With this review, EuroGamer has effectively inoculated Darkfall against further such reviews. The EuroGamer piece was so palpably bad that people who do not play Darkfall have called them out on it. It was so over the line that it does not matter what sort of review Darkfall gets from anybody going forward. Certainly a good review would help them, but anything negative will be now be dismissed as more bias, and half-hearted bias at that, since nobody will write anything down at the level of this obvious shot at Darkfall.
Anything negative will be shrugged off as “another EuroGamer” by the core Darkfall fanbase and any other review will probably look good compared to the EuroGamer review for the mildly disinterested people outside of the community. Of course the Darkfall haters will pick up on any new negative review, but they will likely have supported the EuroGamer review themselves, and are thus discredited as biased.
So Aventurine’s operation appears to have been a success. Only the details of the actual operation, secret by necessity, remain in doubt.
Was Ed Zitron Aventurine’s inside man or just a patsy? Did he act alone? Or was it somebody at EuroGamer pulling the strings?
Certainly EuroGamer and Aventurine both act like they want you to believe this “lone reviewer” theory.
But there is much to suggest EuroGamer complicity if not outright control of the whole process.. A conspiracy there could have easily pushed Mr. Zitron in the right direction, given him the editorial attitude of the organization, pressured him with aggressive deadlines, and even edited his review and screen shots to maximize the anger of the Darkfall community. It seems unlikely that Mr. Zitron could have manipulated his editors in that direction. And you can see the way that EuroGamer hung him out to dry. He wasn’t a staff writer. We’ll get somebody we trust to re-review the game. We’ll make this right!
And of course EuroGamer benefits from all of this controversy, maybe even more so than Aventurine. All those page views. All those unique visitors. The big boost to their page rank. On a site that is obviously financed, at least in part, by ad revenue, these are all the right moves. All they had to do was hire somebody from the outside who would do their dirty work for them, somebody expendable to the organization.
And so much the better if the person in question has a history of negative reviews. Somebody you can trust to make a scene. Somebody whose Wikipedia page was deleted for being pretty much at attack on him and his character.
All we need is a smoking gun. A way to link the conspirators together.
Yes, we have this picture of three EuroGamer editors being hauled in by the local police for littering during the “Athens Event.”
And then there is Mr. Zitron’s work with the “Free Play for Moria” committee and its alleged connections to NC Soft which needs to be explored.
And if you go look at the list of anagrams that can be made from the name “Aventurine” you will see “Van Uterine,” which turns out to be one of the online handles used by a highly placed member of the EuroGamer staff. (Plus the fact that the word “urine” is right there in Aventurine’s name! Hah! Darkfall, however, only comes up with “Lard Flak.” I am not yet sure if that is significant.)
Quite clearly there is more going on here than a simple bad review!
There are those who will say I am seeing things that are not there. But this has to be a setup! Can’t you see that the government is reading your mail nearly everybody in this cabal got exactly what they wanted.
Aventurine got community cohesion and protection from further negative reviews. (And who knows, maybe even a follow up good review from EuroGamer… anything higher than a 6 would be a reason to declare total victory.)
EuroGamer got some Euros from all that traffic and got to wash its hands of the review at the same time.
Even Mr. Zitron got a public platform from which to rant and a bit of internet fame… something he probably thought he wanted until it was too late.
We have to work on this! We must find the evidence to crack this conspiracy! I already have a message in to Dave Emory on this. We need somebody with Dave’s body of work and experience helping us smoke out the real story!
This is what real bloggers are about!
(And if you believe I am serious about this, I know where you can get a good car on Craig’s List for cheap as well!)