Quote of the Day – What Baltec Fleet Really Does July 21, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: Baltec Fleet, Null Sec, Quote of the Day, The Mittani
Dreadnoughts were literally a punchline of nullsec jokes until the five-minute siege timer, and now unless in blap mode they scuttle for cover like oversized space-cockroaches, cap boosters firing wildly, when confronted with bright lights.
-The Mittani, Traffic Control: Apex Force
The Mittani is continuing his pot stirring over at TMC with his Traffic Control series of columns. This time around he is on about the current chestnut of favor, power projection, and how it has ruined null sec. I was particularly amused by the dismissal of dreadnoughts, quoted in part above, as a good percentage of Baltec fleets I’ve stood up for over the last year… from midway through Fountain forward… have been called to cover dreadnought fleets.
Of those call ups, a good half of the time we end up just sitting on a titan, a fleet in being, as much there to dissuade any hostile move as to actually shoot something. We only get to go out and shoot if the target system is beyond the range of a titan bridge. And even then, as with recent run down to Delve, we have to move out, cover the system, wait for the dreads to arrive, let them shoot stuff up, then hang out while they head home before we can start for home ourselves.
I actually have all the skills required for a Naglfar dreadnought at this point. It might be time to buy one so Baltec fleet can sit on a titan or scurry across space to protect me.
Tags: DC Universe Online, Quote of the Day, SOE All Access
Smedley said DC Universe Online is the largest revenue generator across PS3 and PS4 combined, even though the game is free to play.
That is a pretty amazing, given how DC Universe Online stumbled almost immediately after a hot launch.
Then again, the article says that the PlayStation people are just starting to embrace free to play, so there isn’t much competition. (Warframe is the top on PS4 alone, and I wonder where PlanetSide 2 stands?) And the game itself was designed around playing with a controller, one of my primary complaints about the game when I tried it on the PC. It is very much a console title.
I suppose there is some irony in that DC Universe Online was something of the last stand for subscriptions at SOE back in early 2011, with Smed making a pretty strong statement about what customers of a subscription game should expect. By the end of 2011, the move to free to play was in full swing at SOE. Now, in this article, it is all about free and harnessing the user base for content and not depending on subscriptions. The article closes with:
SOE continues to evolve as a company. The days of charging a subscription for online games are part of its history.
Well, except for that one subscription they still have.
SOE All Access is still a thing, and as good of a deal as it seems these days compared to the past, you still pretty much have to subscribe to get the fullest out of games like EverQuest or EverQuest II. So call it mostly part of SOE’s history.
Quote of the Day – World of Darkness, World of Chaos June 5, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: CCP, Quote of the Day, World of Darkness
Sources report that, over the nine-year period, the game effectively reached alpha – the stage at which all the major features have been implemented – three times, only for each version to be scrapped.
-The Guardian, World of Darkness – the inside story on the death of a game
We all know that the World of Darkness MMO, which CCP had been working on since it acquired White Wold back in 2006, was cancelled earlier this year.
But what actually happened, how things reached that state of affairs… all of that has been somewhat murky. There are rumors and lots of speculation about what happened, but few details.
Well, that just changed. Over at The Guardian, there is an article up attempting to detail exactly what happens. The piece depends heavily on the word of Nick Blood, a former CCP staffer who is unhappy about how things played out. But even if you allow for a certain level of disgruntled spin… and Blood is clearly angry… it does lay out a tale of woe, of lack of direction, of poaching WoD resources to support EVE, of being disconnected from the reality of the situation. There are lots of EVE Online tidbits in the article… since WoD staff apparently spent a good deal of time working on EVE… including a bit more dirt about the Incarna expansion.
There is one quote from Nick Blood that certainly rings true for the bitter vets,
CCP has an extensive track record of promising to return to features and never doing so.
I would have agreed with that quite readily before Incarna. Afterwards though, CCP seemed to have changed. They have returned to old features and have spent a lot of time of things that had otherwise been left alone for years. Maybe Incarna was the shock to the system that CCP needed.
And maybe letting go of World of Darkness was the better course. It is certainly disappointing to those who wanted to see that IP come alive as an MMO, but it doesn’t sound like CCP was doing well at juggling two very disparate game worlds. Sticking to EVE and its derivatives is probably for the best.
Anyway, there are certainly a few insights to be gleaned from the article.
Meanwhile, CCP has announced even more layoffs, this time in Iceland.
Not a good day for CCP, with dirty laundry out for all to see and more people losing their jobs.
Hat Tip: Neville Smit
Quote of the Day – Getting the Dev’s Attention May 15, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: CCP, CCP Greyscale, Developer Insights, Quote of the Day
I may just end up kicking Titan rank to 600 simply because Shoogie suggested it and his reasoning looks sane.
-CCP_Greyscale, post in the EVE Online Forums
That isn’t really the quote I wanted to use, but everything I did want to use was so long and interconnected that I would have to reprint the whole post to get what I wanted. So I’ll do that too, but further along.
This was the end result, on page 49 of a thread, when Patri Andari up and asked three questions:
1. No one has ever proclaimed the criteria a post requires to get a response, yet this “good post” rises to the top and is responded to fortwith. I would love to see an enumerated guide on how to get a response from the devs.
2. Why have so many other posts which bring up even more important circumstance gone ignored?
3. Is it required that one post in a way that rubs a dev the right way to be considered a ‘good post’? If so, how do you like to be rubbed?
I am sure we have all asked ourselves how we can post something on the forums that will get the attention of development. And, judging by what I have seen in the past, at least a few people have decided that being as angry and as insulting as possible (I always love when somebody calls developers lazy, as an example. No better way to get somebody on your case than calling them lazy!) must be the key.
Maybe this will get those people to reconsider.
I am putting CCP Greyscale’s response after the cut. It is long, but I think it is worth a read (and preserving somewhere I can find it easily) even if only to see how one developer views player input in the forums.
Hat Tip to CSM9 member Sion Kumitomo for highlighting this post on Twitter.
Lots of text after the cut.
Quote of the Day – MMO Content Delivery Pacing May 2, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Quote of the Day, WoW Insider
Every patch has tons of content for nearly every aspect of the game. It’s exciting — there’s almost too much to do. When a new patch releases, we’re in WoW heaven.
Then months go by and that content grows stale. Blizzard doesn’t give us new content at that point, but peeks at future content. We’re starving for a delicious content meal, but we can only look at pictures of the food.
-Scott Andrew, article Blizzard should rethink their content release model
I know that being in WoW right now, this is something that a lot of people are probably mulling over. The Siege of Orgrimmar update came out way back in September and players are not set to get anything new until the patch that will precede the Warlords of Draenor expansion sometime this fall.
Blizzard gets its share of flak for its long expansion cycle. Ironing things out to smooth averages, we’ll see the 5th WoW expansion around the 10th anniversary of the game, so we get one about every other year. This is actually kind of amazing when you consider how much Blizzard studied EverQuest during WoW’s development, because SOE appeared to be convinced that they needed to ship two expansions a year to keep subscribers happy and paying the bills.
Even after watching WoW in return for a few years, SOE felt that they could only relax their pace to an expansion a year. So we are at 20 EverQuest expansions in just over 15 years, but I may not live long enough to see 20 WoW expansions at their current pace.
The flip side of this has been GuildWars 2, which went through a long stretch of dropping new content every two weeks. I have no first hand experience as to how that felt as a player, but a number of bloggers writing about it managed to transmit a sense of frenzied exhaustion that I am not sure that ANet’s solution was the best of all possible worlds. If fans seemed a bit frazzled, I can only imagine how the devs felt working at that pace. And, in the end, a select group of players experienced a lot of one-time content that is likely never to be seen again.
They could run something like Super Adventure Box again I suppose, but storyline stuff that comes to a resolution would be jarring under all but the most specific circumstances, so becomes throw away content. And you won’t find many devs who like to write throw away code, so I am going to guess the attitude about throw away content would run about as strong amongst game designers.
And then there is what is going on with EVE Online and expansions.
With all the talk about players being content, you might not think that expansions are all that important. But, if you go look at the population graphs, subscriptions always surge after an expansion. It turns out we like new stuff and the promise of such will get us to spend money.
CCP is going from their “every six month” content vehicles to what I have always called the “train” method. Basically, you lay out a series of delivery vehicles… trains if you will… and as teams finish up features, they just assign them to whatever train is leaving the station next.
I have work with this system before. We failed badly at it, but that was primarily because the product group that was told they needed to adopt this method was responsible for software that was wholly unsuited to it. Enterprise software costing hundreds of thousands of dollars does not need six distinct releases a year. No IT department I have ever encountered wants to roll an update to anything more than once a year.
Were that not enough, we also managed to shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly. We would have a big feature that would span many departing trains in progress, and some small features going out, but the big feature would depend on aspects of the product that the smaller features would end up changing every freaking time, thus making it nearly impossible to ship a feature that couldn’t be done in under six weeks. You need strong leadership, discipline, and good communication for that. (As opposed to my project, which was an acquisition into our group and then had most of the team laid off. We were a mess.)
And then there is still the content question. The train schedule sounds great in theory, but what happens if you end up with a delivery vehicle where no features are ready? I am going to predict that there are going to be some uneven releases here, with some seeming amazing and some having us asking why they bothered to have a release at all. As any child who has gotten a filler gift like pencils for one of the days of Hanukkah can tell you, sometimes it seems like a good idea to save everything up for one big surprise.
Add in how CCP generally handles content releases… which from the outside looks like three months of development followed by three months of fixing what they just shipped… and it will be interesting to see how their new plan plays out.
In the end, I am not sure which one of these methods is the “best,” or even if any of them are optimum in any way for the company using them. All I can guarantee is that we’ll complain about them all no matter what.
Back to looking at pictures of food.
Tags: Candy Crush Saga, Free-To-Play, No Real Point, Quote of the Day
The micro-transaction is so strong and it’s definitely a much better model. I think all companies have to transition over to that.
Tommy Palm of King.com, interview at IGN
IGN is becoming the place to talk about free to play and micro transactions. And King.com, the new Zynga, certainly has reason to support that point of view. They are making a lot of money and, true to Tommy’s word, you can “win” Candy Crush Saga without paying. But they are also monetizing frustration, as has been pointed out by Laralyn McWilliams, which I am not sure gets them a lot of love.
People defend King.com by pointing out that a lot of people play through the whole game without paying or by noting how much money they make. But I do not see many F2P advocates examining their monetization scheme (Laralyn McWilliams aside) and asking if that is the best approach. The monetizing of frustration aside… which alone has kept me from giving a damn about any other game King.com has made… there is the question of buying progress.
Buying my way out of a level with their boosts… and as far as I can tell, there are no levels you cannot win on the first try if you have spent enough money… feels a bit like cheating. It is like dealing out a hand of solitaire and then giving somebody $1.99 to tell you it is okay to re-arrange the cards so you win any given hand. I would say that is, in essence, pay to win, except you are not actually playing against anybody but yourself, so I am sure somebody would take me to task.
So maybe it is more like pay to skip playing, in which case why bother playing? That might explain why only 30% of players who beat Candy Crush Saga paid any money. Where is the feeling of victory or the bragging rights if you paid your way through the tough bits?
Or to flip that around, I wonder how many of that 30% would admit to paying? Sure, King.com knows they did, but would they tell their friends?
Anyway, you might excuse Tommy’s exuberance because of the corner of the market he is in and how much money his company is raking in. They have likely spent more on TV ads for Candy Crush Saga than they did on actually developing the game initially.
But we also had David Georgeson talking about all games being free to play as well, and he definitely lives in a world where there is a lot of development expenses before you can start ringing up microtransaction dollars.
We’re effectively street performers: we go out there and sing and dance and if we do a good job, people throw coins into the hat. And I think that’s the way games should be, because paying $60 up front to take a gamble on whether the game is good or not? You don’t get that money back.
-David Georgeson, busking out in front of IGN
This is, of course, the utopian ideal, the big upside to the whole free to play thing, the idea that you only shell out money for what you like.
And I can certainly find examples to support this idea.
I spent a lot of money… bought the collector’s edition and a lifetime sub… on Star Trek Online, which ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing. A big fail on my part.
In comparison I spent no money at all on Neverwinter, which also ended up being a game I really didn’t enjoy playing. But at least it was only time invested.
Those, however, are both negative examples. Games where I was better, or would have been better off, with free to play.
But when it comes to the whole persistent world MMO genre, of which I am a big fan, I do not have any real positive examples where a free to play game really sold me. Sure, I have played a lot of Lord of the Rings Online, even after they went F2P, and I was enthusiastic about EverQuest II Extended when it first showed up. But those were converts from the old subscription model into which I had invested and I have had my ups and downs with both. I think I am done with EQII, and if I return to LOTRO again, it will be because of Middle-earth and despite the microtransaction in every window nature of their business model.
So, while I am okay with microtransactions in many forms… I have enjoyed games like World of Tanks and War Thunder, and I think the iOS version of LEGO Star Wars has a great model where you get the base game and a few levels for free, then can buy additional content if you like the game… it doesn’t seem to work for me in certain areas. The money-where-my-mouth is proof is the persistent world MMOs I am currently playing, World of Warcraft and EVE Online.
Fortunately, as small as the world of game development may seem, it still encompasses a broad spectrum of opinions on many subjects. So while some are gung-ho on F2P, others are sticking with older models. The Elder Scrolls Online just launched as a subscription model MMO, and WildStar plans to later this year. Maybe EverQuest Next or Landmark or something else will change my mind, but for now I seem happiest with the alleged outdated model.
There is no one true path, and I always wonder and people who make declarations in defiance of that. The industry cannot even decide on DRM. We have had industry voices wondering while companies bother, yet just this week Square Enix was saying that DRM is here to stay.
Meanwhile, I hope we’re all spending our dollars on things we actually enjoy playing.
Quote of the Day – Never Shutting Down EverQuest April 2, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Quote of the Day
EverQuest and EverQuest II? We hope they never die. We have no intention of ever shutting those games down.
-David Georgeson, interview at IGN
I was just picking on Georgeson this week because of a quote from a year back about the idea that MMOs should never die. Of course, this week we saw SOE shut down two of them, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures and Free Realms.
CWA is understandable. That was a tie-in with a TV show and clearly had an expiration date. But Free Realms, that was all SOE’s to do with as they pleased. Ah well.
Still, I am more likely to take him at face value when it comes to talking about the EverQuest franchise, the bedrock on which SOE rests. SOE without Free Realms is still SOE. SOE without EverQuest though? I am not sure that is an actual thing that can survive in our universe. We’re fifteen years in and the game is still playable and getting new content.
So EverQuest forever and all that. At least I expect to see EverQuest hit 20.
But I still wonder how things will play out once we have EverQuest Next in the house… probably about when EverQuest hits 20 if we keep getting updates about it at the current rate.
Two EverQuests on the scene I can fathom, but three?
I suppose it depends on what the plan is. I am pretty sure SOE figured people would move from EverQuest to EverQuest II and they would shut that down in a couple of years. Instead, people either stayed with EverQuest because they were invested or, as like as not, ended up in WoW.
Is EverQuest Next expected to coexist with its two direct predecessors? Given recent history, how long can that last? And who goes into the night first?
Maybe they can recreate EverQuest on the EverQuest Next platform. You can say that it won’t be the same, but when has EverQuest ever stayed the same for long in the last 15 years?
Quote of the Day – More Pessimistic Than I About Draenor February 12, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Quote of the Day, Warlords of Draenor
There’s also no mention of expecting Warlords of Draenor to boost 2014 sales. It feels natural enough to infer that the expansion won’t launch until next year. While this expectation wasn’t exactly uncommon already, it seems at least a little more credible now.
Richard Aihoshi, MMORPG.com post looking at Blizzard’s Q4 financials
The whole post strikes me as working to try and take a negative spin on anything Blizzard said. No doubt there is some link bait appeal for the site in that. (It worked on me.) But I cannot recall anybody saying before that Warlords of Draenor might not ship until 2015. Is that something new? Has that been going about? I mean, I thought people who were calling April for the expansion back during BlizzCon were way off base, but this seems a bit of an excess in the other direction.
Of course, he didn’t say where that expectation wasn’t exactly uncommon, so maybe it wasn’t uncommon in his own mind. That would fit in with his whole post.
No Warlords of Draenor until 2015? Credible or not?
I am sticking with September 9th… of this year.
Quote of the Day – Hearthstone, SOE, and Historical Inevitability January 29, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Battle.net Desktop App, Because SOE, Hearthstone, John Smedley, Legends of Norrath, Quote of the Day, Station Launcher, Unfair Characterizations
Actually after seeing what Blizzard did with Hearthstone it’s given us some other ideas…. LoN is an awesome card game. We can take that to the next level.
John Smedley, Reddit AMA on plans for Legends of Norrath
Okay, that is actually a quote from a few days back, but the Reddit Ask Me Anything that John Smedley did last Friday is a gold mine of quotes. I have to salute Feldon at EQ2 Wire for picking out some of the prime samples for his post.
And I have to hand it to Smed for not flinching from some tough question and answering things the way he did. He laid out a lot things there, and not all of them were flattering to SOE. He also left a lot of meat on the table to discuss, from SOE operating Vanguard at a loss for “a long time” to consolidation of IPs plan (again, is DC Universe Online safe with that going on?) to EverQuest Next being headed for the PlayStation 4 (not good news in my book, at least when it comes to a ship date… or user interface choices). You could get a month’s worth of blog posts out of that AMA. I am sure bloggers will be feeding on this all week.
But the item quoted at the top… I think speaks volumes in just two sentences.
The online collectible card game Legends of Norrath was launched back in late 2007, when it was integrated with EverQuest and EverQuest II, giving players a game to play within a game. No mixed message in that. Later it got its own stand-alone client, but the integration with the EverQuest games was still prime. Legends of Norrath borrowed the stories and metaphors of the EverQuest games for theme and mechanics, and offered up in-game goodies for players of the two MMOs along with throwing out the occasional reward to the community by including somebody on a card.
And, as far as I know, the game has been a success. It survived the great purge of the Denver and Tuscon studios that seemed to spell the end of online card games being anything like a focus at SOE. (There are some good historical Smed quotes on the old SOE Blog, and some interesting posts from others about company plans. I am surprised it hasn’t all been sent down the memory hole yet.) Legends of Norrath survived along with Magic The Gathering: Tactics, though the latter is slated to be shut down at the end of March. Another aspect of the recent blood bath I guess.
And then along came Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
Actually, it hasn’t really come along yet. It just got out of closed beta and is now downloadable by anybody who wants to be in the open beta (Europe too now) and who has a Battle.net account.
Hearthstone compares directly to Legends of Norrath. It is an online collectable card game based on the lore of a popular MMO, it is free to play with its own client, you can buy cards, play against other online, and so on.
However, unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone isn’t integrated into World of Warcraft. For now the linkage is only in lore and sharing a Battle.net login with WoW and your other current Blizzard games. Also unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone has gotten a lot of praise from both inside and out of the MMO player community.
Not that I have heard people slam Legends of Norrath, but it never seemed like a big deal either, not the way Hearthstone has been hailed. Part of that is no doubt the fact that Blizzard games are much more visible, popular, and highly rated than games from SOE. A lot of people will try anything Blizzard ships. Simple truth: Blizzard has a lot more fans than SOE.
And part of that is no doubt the application of Blizzard magic to the Legends of Norrath idea, which made Hearthstone shinier, easier to get into, and more appealing to players for whom collectible card games were never really a thing to do. Plus there is the promise of an iOS and Android version of the game. The iPad will likely be the Hearthstone platform for me.
This is, of course, pretty much a parallel to EverQuest and World of Warcraft. SOE got out there first and succeeded, but then Blizzard took what they saw SOE doing and created something an order of magnitude more successful. And so I suspect will be the case with Hearthstone.
Of course, not everybody loves Hearthstone. As the hardcore early EverQuest players derided World of Warcraft (even as EverQuest tried to become more and more like WoW ), so some serious CCG players have declared that Hearthstone is a shallow game only fit for casual scrubs, bitter that people are not playing “more deserving” games. And so it goes.
But the generally favorable reviews of the game got even me to download the Hearthstone open beta, and I am well into the “CCGs are not for me” camp. (I tried the Pokemon CCG a few times, but never enjoyed it.) I haven’t actually played it yet… or even launched the app… but I have it downloaded. And that brings me to yet another SOE vs. Blizzard parallel.
In downloading and installing Hearthstone, I found out that to use it required the still-in-beta Battle.net launcher… erm, excuse me… the Battle.net Desktop App. Oh, and that replaced the launcher for all of the current Blizzard games, including World of Warcraft and Diablo III.
The Hearthstone install did not warn me about that and I was PISSED!
I was pissed because I have been through the single, unified launcher/updater wringer before. Of course, that was with SOE which was trying to push their version of that sort of thing quite a while back.
The fact that Station Launcher never quite worked right was compounded by the fact that the SOE website kept telling people to use it after they had stopped supporting and it had ceased to function. I had to open a support ticket to get the response of “don’t use that” from SOE. So my anger was entirely based on having problems with this sort of thing before. I would have avoided downloading Hearthstone had I known what it meant.
Only, in the ongoing parallel between SOE and Blizzard, the new Battle.net launcher… Desktop App… just works. I log into Battle.net through it and can kick off World of Warcraft just fine. It shows me all the news tidbits that the WoW launcher did and, in addition, shows which of my Battle Tag friends are online and in which game. No problems at all.
My anger was thus short lived, which brings me back around to the quote at the top of this post. SOE deciding to copy Blizzard, who copied SOE in the first place seems to be the natural order of things. I am sure somebody can make quite a list of the things that SOE copied back from Blizzard. So it is no surprise to me that, upon seeing what Blizzard has done with Hearthstone, that SOE has been moved to action. Because, when left to their own devices, SOE can come up with some clunkers. (Not to mention being a bit tone deaf at times.)
I suppose the only thing wrong with Station Launcher was that SOE didn’t leaving hanging around long enough for the Blizzard version to appear so that they would know what to do.
Quote of the Day – For Specific Definitions of “Next” January 22, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Because SOE, Landmark, Quote of the Day
EverQuest Next — which is a totally different beast — has no current timetable. It could release in 2015 or 2025 for all we know right now.
Massively, Leaderboard: EQN vs. EQN Landmark
Therein lies the rub.
Last August, when SOE Live was done, I was quite excited about EverQuest Next. It was the big announcement out of the event. I wrote ~2,500 words about EQN, less than 100 of which were about Landmark, which was a Minecraft-esque tool set pseudo-game that I did not quite understand.
I did not really care about Landmark. I wanted the core game that was described at SOE Live. The one that was… well… a freakin’ EverQuest MMORPG, with emergent AI and a new class system and all the things they presented.
I worried that, after the huge splash the EQN announcement made at SOE Live, that SOE would follow past patterns and let the excitement die off through neglect.
And, I guess if I am speaking strictly of of EQN, my worries were well founded. EQN has been relegated to a series of banal survey questions that the same few people debate on their forums. Such is the Round Table. It apparently only seats about a dozen.
However, if we just follow from SOE Live, then excitement has been maintained to a certain extent… only occasionally interrupted by the usual SOE foibles… if we include Landmark in the picture. Since SOE Live, Landmark has grown to take up almost the whole of the SOE marketing and community interaction effort. At this point somebody stumbling onto the scene might justifiably conclude that EQN is just shorthand for EverQuest Next Landmark.
So I am… well… “frustrated” or “annoyed” are too strong… bemused, I guess, that SOE led with EQN at SOE Live, talking that up a great deal, only to let it fall by the wayside while all focus was devoted to Landmark, which looked like an adjunct product at the time of the announcement.
Yes, I understand that SOE ought to focus their marketing on the project shipping soonest… these days we ship at alpha and charge people for the privileged… and that there is an audience for Landmark… but dammit, they talked about this other thing I wanted and now barely acknowledge its existence. Validate my selfish needs, damn you!
I guess I just fear another outcome like The Agency.