Broadsword and Niche MMOs February 7, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: "Eye of EA" in no way affiliated with "Eye of Sauron", Dark Age of Camelot, EA, Evil Enhanced for Comedic Purposes, Evil in mirror may be closer than it appears, Rambling Friday, Ultima Online
Did Electronic Arts actually do us a favor this week with the whole Broadsword thing?
I mean, it may have been inadvertent… EA may have been trying to be its usual evil self, envisioning an attempt to create some layer of contract studio serfdom in order exploit an IP they own to the maximum amount of return… but does this benefit us?
What Broadsword thing? Well, this:
Broadsword Online Games will partner with EA’s Mythic Entertainment to operate, support and develop Dark Age of Camelot on EA’s behalf. Electronic Arts will continue to provide billing and account services through its Origin™ portal. Broadsword and Electronic Arts will work closely together to ensure a bright future for Dark Age of Camelot.
Broadsword site, DAoC Producer’s Letter
There is also an Ultima Online Producer’s Letter, where Ultima Online has been substituted in for Dark Age of Camelot for that bit of text.
EA is… allegedly… handing over the running of these two now-pretty-damn-old and long neglected MMORPGs to what appears to be… theoretically… an external team that is… presumably… made up of people who care about these two games and want to keep them alive.
This is EA though, so it pays to pay close attention when they say things like they are making a SimCity game, or that they are creating a successor to Dungeon Keeper on mobile OSes, or that the sun will rise in the east come the morning, because the expectations that get set in your brain based on your past experience may be at odds with what is actually being planned in the dark recesses of their San Mateo keep.
And how would this be a boon to us… where “us” is a legion of long term MMORPG players who haven’t been really happy since who-knows-when and who have traded in our rose colored glasses for rose colored long term contacts so we can avoid the harsh light of reality at all times… right now?
Does this move validate or otherwise legitimize the often Kickstarter focused, niche oriented MMO projects that have been popping up since the genre fell from grace… which was when? LOTRO? WAR? AoC? SWTOR?
Or is this just EA trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste from the tube in the most economically expedient way possible?
And is this even a good thing for Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online? Will being out from under the yoke of BioWare subsidiary of EA, whose founders cashed out at their earliest possible convenience, lead to a revival of either game? You still need to wear the mark of the beast, in the form of an Origin account, in order to play them. Will that keep people away?
The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost? January 24, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, polls, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Classes, Rambling Friday, Warlords of Draenor
The question of the hour in our guild is, “What class should I level up to 90 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion?” For some of us, it represents an opportunity to change up the group and play something new. For others… well, me… who have changed up their character a couple of times already, it is still a chance to try something new after all these years without having to go through the work of catching up.
This question became all the more pressing when Blizzard announced that your free insta-90 boost would be available as soon as you pre-ordered the expansion. (If you pre-order the collector’s edition, you also get the pet and the mount and whatever else in-game they offer.) Leaving aside the “that sure sounds like we won’t be getting WoD any time soon” aspect of the announcement, it seems like we could be granted our level 90 boost in the near future. (My pre-ordering as soon as it becomes an option seems per-ordained. I am pre-pared… or something.)
So this seems like a perfect opportunity to bore people and start arguments by looking at the classes in World of Warcraft and my relationship with them. And I might as well break them up into arbitrary categories to further horrify people. So on with the debacle!
Classes out of the running for an insta-90 boost because I already have one at level 90, or will have one there before WoD ships. A look at what I guess I like in WoW.
Paladin – Back in March 2005, when I finally broke down and bought World of Warcraft, having been otherwise devoted to EverQuest II since November 2004, the first character I made was a dwarf paladin.
That was a mistake. The paladin’s life was a hard one back then. The only ranged attack you could pull with was limited to undead and demons. Judgement was a strange beast. Their epic mount quest was a serious chore, and no cheaper in the end for all the work. Warriors were better tanks, priests were better healers, and just about anybody was better DPS. The joke was that a paladin never dies, but neither do his foes. Add in the fact that the snowy dwarven starter area that was the least interesting of the bunch and that I started out hating the dwarf character models and you might begin to understand why it took me some time to warm to WoW. I deleted that character after not too long.
However, I did return to the class later, and stuck with it in the end. Paladins have evolved over time and I have been happy enough playing one. Picking up engineering as a profession filled in some of the class gaps back in the day. I was always fond of the wrist mounted rocket launcher enchant that engineers could add. The character I consider my “main” in the game is Vikund, my one and only paladin. (Ignore that low level blood elf! He means nothing!) He was my first to level 60, 70, 80, 85, and 90. He’s the guy, my “do all the things” character. I don’t need another paladin.
Hunter – The go-to class when for a lot of people when they want to solo. I have always enjoyed the class, I have several on various servers. If my pally was first to all those levels, my hunter, Tistann, was second. He just hit level 90 this week. I have always enjoyed the pet taming and interaction aspects of the class. And while people often groan aloud when they see a beast mastery hunter show up in their Dungeon Finder group, you can be quite competitive with other DPS if you play right. But I don’t need another one at level 90 just yet.
Druid – I think everybody has a class they are dumb for. I would have told you that, for me, the class is hunters. Then I noticed I had five druids over level 60, including two above level 80 on the same server in the same faction. So as Earl has his warriors, and my mother has a collection of hunters, I have an army of druids. There is a lot to like. I tell people I have two druids on the same server so I can play all four druid specs… druids are so special that they get four specs… but I think I really just like flight form. I jump off of high places just to invoke flight form mid-fall. It is too cool. But with two druids in the 80s, at least one of which will be level 90 before WoD drops, I don’t need to use my boost on this class.
The Mid-Level Blues
Classes I have worked on at various points, but which have never quite made it to level cap.
Death Knight – This seems to be cheating a bit as Death Knights start at level 55 and are close to 60 by the time they get done with their starter zone. Mid-level at birth, depending on where you set the bar for “mid-level,” I never really thought much about DKs until I was pushing druid #2 through Outland and Northrend as a healer. Then I noted how durable they were and figured that maybe this was a class even I could play the tank in. So I rolled one up and he currently sits at level 64. My main problem with him is that he is in 5th place after my pally, hunter, and two druids, so I do not get around to him very often. But DKs totally seem like a class I could play up to 90… once the two druids are there… so perhaps it would be a waste to use an insta-90 on mine.
Priest – The first thing I rolled up when our old TorilMUD guild finally said, “screw this!” to EverQuest II, just as Kingdom of the Sky squelched onto the scene, and headed to WoW, was a priest. This never quite worked out. For me, a priest is a cleric in the D&D vein, wearing heavy armor, wielding a mace mostly for show, and dispensing heals while taking repeated punches to the face. So it was in TorilMUD, EverQuest, and EverQuest II.
In WoW a priest is a holy guy that wears cloth vestments. On what sort of Bizarro world does that make sense?
Plus we never really formed a group where I could be the healer, so my priest made it solo to about Stranglethorn Vale before I said, “To Hell with this!” and just focused on my pally and hunter. The pally was the cleric I really wanted to play in any case. Now though, with Dungeon Finder, having another healer around wouldn’t be a bad thing, and I am still pretty sure I wouldn’t want to level one up. So there is possibility here.
Rogue – I actually rolled up a rogue for the instance group back in late 2006. Blintz was going to be our DPS, lockpicker, and stealthy scout. He is in at least one of the group shots at the top of the post.
And then as soon as the group hit 40, I swapped out Blintz for my paladin and barely ever played him again. The rogue class and I aren’t very compatible. Attacks are very positional, I never had a good feel for the skills, and I can never quite use stealth right. These are things I also struggle with as a feral druid, but at least with the druid I can claim status as a backup tank and healer when Ula and Bung are blowing me away on the DPS chart. So I am not sure being a level 90 rogue would change any of that.
Still, I keep thinking about him. Every once in a while I will play him for a bit. He has managed to make it to level 46 in the last six year. But is a level a year really progress?
Never Got Very Far
And then there is everything else.
Warrior – I’ve rolled up any number of warriors over the years, but never found the time to focus on one. Way back in the day there were drawbacks to being a warrior, at least if you didn’t have a healer along. You needed potions, bandages, and lots of food around. I chose a paladin to avoid all of that, and of course ended up with another set of problems. Later on, when that was less of a big deal, I did tinker with warriors now and again. But like the Death Knight, warriors were never high enough on my list to get enough play. And the question remains, what would I do with one at level 90 is I had one?
Shaman – I recall leveling up a shaman once into the 20s, but I can’t remember when or on what server. I think I was horde. Maybe. Clearly the class never stuck. As with warriors, back in the day the class used to be a bit of a trial to get used to. Later, with things smoothed out, it was simpler, but it still didn’t do anything I couldn’t already do, which is what you get when you play two classes that can do it all I guess.
Warlock – I rolled up a warlock once, but only played a couple of levels in. This was back when warlocks were completely OP, as opposed to just being mostly OP. Still, everybody I know who has a level cap warlock can burn stuff down like no other, so there is some allure there, even if I have never been good at the DPS caster role. But if Bung decides he wants use his insta-90 boost to swap out his warlock and try something new, I might be up for the challenge. The utility value of warlocks, with health stones, soul stones, and a variety of pets, is high enough that I would feel useful. I’d just have to learn the class, though you could argue that I need to do so even with the classes I already have at level 90.
Mage – I do have a mage who is in the 30s. He was part of the Worgen instance group we rolled up for Cataclysm. I never really liked him all that much. In part because of the Worgen thing… which I could stand until I found out the racial mount was just them running around on all fours… but also because of the “I’m not really a cloth wearing caster type,” which I have mentioned above. I do not find the mage all that alluring as a class, so even if Ula decided to trade out, I am not sure I would step up to play one again.
Monk – And, finally, there is the latest class added to Azeroth. I rolled one up and played it for a bit when we first jumped back into WoW last August, but wasn’t really fond of it, so I never bothered to get him out of the Pandaren starting area. So I went and made a hunter… and a druid… because that is apparently how I roll. The one thing that the monk has going for it is that it does fit my pattern of playing classes that can be all the roles. Paladins and druids can play tank, healer, or DPS, and so can a monk. If I play to that type, the monk should be good. But, as I said, I didn’t enjoy the class when it started and, for no good reason, Pandaren monk tanks annoy me. I cannot explain why. So this is not a sure thing.
Make a Choice Already
So those are the options. And, honestly, I am not sure what I will choose. It likely won’t be until the very day the option becomes available… and maybe not even then. There will be a point when I will press the button and do this, and I guess I will just stew until then.
I will say that, at the moment, the leading contenders are the warlock, the monk, and the death knight. My gut response way back when WoD was announced was a warlock. But I could easily be swayed elsewhere. I will be watching what other people say on the topic. I see that Liore already has a post on this. I expect that others will follow suit.
In the mean time, I’ll throw out a poll asking what you would do. You can, of course, attempt to influence my decision in the comments.
Looking Back at 2013 – Highs and Lows December 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, War Thunder, World of Warcraft.
Tags: EA, Rambling Friday, Turbine
This has become a regular end of the year feature here I guess, now that it is in its fourth year. Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:
This list isn’t meant to be definitive in any way. Highs and lows are relative. My lows are certainly highs to somebody, and vise versa . This is more of a wash of impressions that I find myself left with at the end of the year. I am sure I will miss something important, even for more own narrow definition. Feel free to add or question in the comments or use what I say as fodder for your own blog posts.
The wall of bullet points beings.
Payment Model Wars
- F2P vs. Subscription gave us plenty of things to post and/or argue about.
- We are starting to get Western MMORPGs that were designed from the start to be F2P, which ought to give a better experience than conversions.
- The “free” part of F2P MMORPGs seem, in general, to be edging further into the “substantially free” zone.
- World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and… the one people seem to forget… Final Fantasy XIV still holding the fort for the subscription model. Not dead yet.
- WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are determined to test if the subscription model is still valid for new games in this day and age.
- A lot of people think WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online are headed for a trouble by going the subscription route. F2P by fall.
- SWTOR failing at the subscription model still casts a long shadow, which plays into the line above.
- When somebody says an MMO is “free to play” that doesn’t tell me anything yet, beyond the idea that it probably doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
- The dichotomy of the two models still exists for me. I hate when a game brings up money almost constantly… nothing brings me “out” of the game like a financial calculation… but I won’t stay subscribed to a game for a day longer than I have to if I am not playing it. Or, to flip it the other way, I like not having a subscription, but I hate that the hand is always out for money even when I do opt for the “yes there is still a subscription” option in a F2P title. Or something.
- Subscription to F2P conversions still dominate the Western MMO F2P landscape. Even if you don’t think they carry the stink of failure, it is still tough to escape the before/after comparison, especially if the F2P model looks like a thinly veiled attempt to make you subscribe.
- Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn is probably the most interesting sounding MMO I am never going to play. Not buying a box and paying another monthly subscription.
- Asian MMOs no longer have an automatic “in” to the market by virtue of being free to play. Remember when Runes of Magic was a big deal? Remember when a $10 horse caused outrage? Dime a dozen complaint these days. The market is crowded enough that even their tiny cost structures cannot be sustained. Early entrants are still around… how Silk Road Online survives is one of the mysteries of the universe… but new titles seem to come and go quickly. I am not sure that is good for the industry overall. Or maybe it is.
- Every conversion from subscription to F2P includes an immediate press release about huge success… and then we never hear another word on the subject. I don’t expect weekly updates, but when you never mention something ever again, it sure seems like the peak came early on.
- The F2P store balance seems to be a tightrope walk… and some companies are working without a net.
- Woo hoo, Lord of the Rings Online moves a step closer to Mordor with the Helm’s Deep expansion!
- Middle-earth still has that Middle-earth charm.
- I made it THROUGH Moria during my latest vacation in Middle-earth. Now just two more expansions to get through and I will be caught up with all I have paid for.
- The change up of classes into a more role specific model seems to be a good thing.
- No repeat of the hobby horse idea.
- Yay… other Turbine games. Dungeons & Dragons Online and all calls routed through to Asheron’s number.
- Oh, hey, they have Macintosh versions of DDO and LOTRO. My daughter even tried DDO.
- As much as I love Middle-earth, LOTRO is starting to show its age. Moving to WoW after a summer of LOTRO was like realizing you’ve been driving with your parking brake on.
- Being just out of Moria, it doesn’t matter how nice the next LOTRO expansion is, I don’t need to buy it.
- Turbine seems to be rethinking the whole big expansion thing, with no such beast expected for 2014. How we get to Mordor… or even Gondor at this point… is unclear.
- Every time I come back to LOTRO, it feels like they have installed another “insert coin here” adjunct to the UI.
- Insta-level to the mid-game seems like a half baked idea, unless you think Moria is the best content in the game… and you already own Moria.
- Just waiting for Turbine to give in to the “lifetime subscribers are the problem” mob.
- DDO reminds you that it pre-dates LOTRO in look and feel. My daughter said it was confusing and ugly and went back to Minecraft.
- The return of Asheron’s Call 2 was the big Turbine announcement last year at this time… and not much else has been mentioned since.
- Infinite Crisis, Turbine’s run at the MOBA genre, sounds more like their financial situation pre-Warner. And it looks like a no show for 2013 at this point. Plus, really? Another MOBA? I am not sure what Turbine brings to the table on this.
Sony Online Entertainment
- Finally announced EverQuest Next as an MMO that might bring something new to the genre. The word “sandbox” has been thrown about liberally. There has been much excitement. This is perhaps the only new MMO I am looking forward to at this point.
- EverQuest Next Landmark, a subset of the tools being used to create EverQuest Next, will be available to players as a F2P title.
- SOE eased up on the restrictions on free players in EQII. One notch back on the “really, you should just subscribe to play” focus.
- EverQuest is still a live an going concern. It even got an expansion.
- SOE has actually made some progress getting themselves out of the discount Station Cash hole they dug for themselves with huge discounts up through last year.
- EverQuest Mac gets powered down. Its days were numbered, but it is still sad to see it go.
- EverQuest Next is way out in the future, and I am not convinced the “design by committee” thing that SOE is doing via the round table… even if is is all illusory… is the best of all possible options. Still, it beats their past practice of announcing something then going silent for a year.
- EverQuest Next… how is a F2P sandbox going to work? SOE has a horrible track record at pricing things in a way that puts the “micro” in “microtransaction.” If your minimum price is going to be $5.00, you might as well just take VISA up front.
- EverQuest Next Landmark is closer, but I have no desire to try it for free at this point, much less pay $100 to do so.
- PlanetSide 2 had so many problems this year. Aimbots, stability, performance… I stopped playing pretty quickly, but people I follow seem to be bemused about SOE’s progress with the game.
- I have grown so apart from EverQuest II that all I do when I log in is pay the rent on my house.
- EverQuest abides in its own form, but SOE seems to be really pushing it to the back burner, and you wouldn’t know there was a Progression Server thing still going the way it has been handled. I doubt we will see another such special server.
- Just waiting for SOE to “expire” Station Cash on unused accounts.
- EVE Online, still hanging in there on the subscription model, growing ever so slightly, and unique in so many ways. Ten years old and as strong as it has ever been.
- Two decent expansions this year, Odyssey and Rubicon, with some solid features and improvements in each.
- Giant space battles deciding the colors on the map!
- Does any gaming company running a live game do Dev blogs that approach what CCP produces?
- Hints at plans for brand new space frontiers in New Eden.
- Managed to stay away from controversy when it came to the direction the game is going. No more “greed is good” talk or other things that caused the Incarna revolt.
- Gave me a free copy of the collector’s edition.
- EVE Valkyrie for Occulus Rift sounds very exciting.
- Growth is oh so slow, and the question always arises about how many new accounts are just alts?
- It wouldn’t be CCP without some scandals! So we had SOMERBlink and Ishokune Scorpions, SOMERBlink at EVE Vegas, SOMERBlink and RMT loopholes, preferential treatment by CCP in general (which included SOMERBlink) and who gets what for free (which included some real crybaby attitudes at various points), Terms of Services hair splitting by CCP (which did NOT involve SOMERBlink!), and the usual CCP summer season of foot shooting. Really, the only thing we were missing was Mintchip accepting an Ishukone Scorpion from SOMERBlink, selling it for a PLEX in EVE, and then using that PLEX to pay some capsuleer to mow her parent’s lawn… while topless, wearing a monocle, and speaking entirely in quotes from Atlas Shrugged.
- PLEX continues to amaze and horrify people by turns. It remains a comically divisive aspect of the game.
- The defining issue for CSM8 seems to be the CSM minutes at this point. Those minutes had better be worth it. Still better than CSM7 though.
- Epic space battles have turned into epic node crashes lately. Does anybody think the drone assignment feature is a good thing at this point?
- A good portion of the interesting things that happen in EVE… and 100% of the CCP run events… happen while I am at work. I read about them online just like anybody not playing the game.
- After the war in Fountain, the deployment(s) to Curse have felt a little dry. I have spent more time moving to and fro than in actual fleets.
- I am still trying to click on the lower left corner of the screen to undock six months later. Old habits.
- The future “huge effort to build a jump gate” in order to open up new areas of space idea sounds vaguely like “huge effort to build a titan” from times gone by. Efforts will thus be limited to large entities and the huge effort will become manageable for those entities over time. Expect jump gate proliferation.
- DUST 514? Hello, is anybody there? *distant occasional gunshot*
- World of Dakrness? Lay offs at CCP Atlanta make that an even more distant possibility.
- WoW revenues: still laughing all the way to the bank.
- Returning to WoW this fall was like getting into my own bed made up with flannel sheets fresh out of the dryer on a cold winter’s night.
- The instance group returning to Azeroth has also revived our spirits and our time spent playing together.
- Blizz’s work on softening the walls between servers has actually done some good. The game feels alive still and I have been able to group cross realms with people I haven’t been able to play with since server splits ages ago.
- I am reasonably sure there are no NSA/CIA/FBI infiltrators in our guild.
- Warlods of Draenor and the return to the 10 level expansion. Sounds good to me so far.
- Mists of Pandaria, meanwhile, is pretty good. I find it fulfilling in a way that Cataclysm was not.
- Blizz actually seems primed for a very strong 2014. The money machine will continue to print.
- Hearthstone looks good enough to even interest me slightly, and the only card game I ever play is Gin Rummy.
- Diablo III Reaper of Souls expansion looks promising.
- The death of the Diablo III auction house is a winner in my book.
- StarCraft II has Legacy of the Void lined up as the third expansion.
- Heroes of the Storm sounds like it might be a viable thing. It is Blizzard’s chance to apply their refinement magic to the MOBA genre. If only they can find a name and stick with it.
- WoW Subscribers down from the peak of “over 12 million” in the quarter after Cataclysm shipped to 7.6 million at last report. Blizz can still say “more than you ever had” to most everybody, but that is a lot of subscribers gone. There are whole industries that would disappear if that many people walked away. And where is that subscriber number headed next?
- Long term profitability seems to have stifled innovation on the subscription model options front, even considering how slow Blizz is about change in general. Blizz just rolls along.
- Coming back to WoW reminds me that there still a number of things that Blizz hasn’t quite fixed over the years, stuff that almost every competitor has worked out by this point. Fodder for a blog post, coming soon-ish.
- All that cross-realm and combined server stuff isn’t going to stave off server merges forever unless they stem the subscriber bleed.
- A cash shop in-game? Here we go again. As a developer though, I think I am most offended by problems with the implementation.
- There isn’t a lot between now and Warlords of Draenor to keep long time WoW players going if they have finished up Mists of Pandaria. I am happy enough with WoD probably being 9 months out, but I am sure a lot of people are restless.
- Also on the “Blizzard remains slow front,” even removing a feature they freely admit was a mistake and ruined their game for a lot of people is taking a while to happen. The Diablo III auction house lives on into 2014.
- Is the Reaper of Souls expansion, reitemization, and removal of the auction house going to be enough to goose sales and play time for Diablo III? I cannot see myself going back to play, much less buying the expansion.
- I doubt we’ll see Heroes of the Storm go live next year, and I wouldn’t bet against at least one more revision of the name.
- Titan, the “next big thing” from Blizz post-WoW, remains a tiny dot on the horizon. Or is that just a mirage?
Other MMO Developers
- Arena Net has to have set some sort of record for content delivery in GuildWars 2, serving up some sort of new variation every two weeks for… how long now? Somebody tell the SWTOR team “that’s how it’s done.”
- Trion manages a pretty sharp F2P transition with Rift. They went all-in on it and their commitment to the model shows. The store is clean, bright, and filled to the brim with things to buy. Once the F2P launch settled down, Trion relauched Rift on Steam with new starter packs and such. The game remains the definitive alternate to WoW, polished and with plenty of content, even as F2P.
- Trion also pulled Trove out of nowhere.
- Cryptic and PWE entertainment seem pretty solid on F2P, delivering Neverwinter as a substantially free game that is both very well put together and provides a content generation system, the Foundry, that yields some excellent content. Easy to get into, low commitment, looks good, what is not to love?
- Path of Exile really scratched the Diablo II itch. Official heir to the Diablo II crown in my book.
- War Thunder, a title I set out to ignore, turns out to be decent and has low skill roles I can actually fulfill… and lots of cool planes to fly.
- Wargaming.net joined up accounts across their games, so your World of Tanks account is also your World of Warplanes account and shares currency and so on.
- SWTOR seems to have struck out on a new path with the Galactic Starfight update. But what does it portend?
- Shroud of the Avatar is a thing.
- There is a minor possibility that I might be interested in the idea of playing The Elder Scrolls Online.
- I am unable to understand how any but the most dedicated gamers can adequately handle and play through new content every two weeks in GuildWars 2. I get physically tired just reading about it. It feels like a lot of content just melting away, never to be seen again.
- Storm Legion remains uninspired for me. I want to like it a lot more than I actually do.
- The Rift F2P model feels too weak to me, like they gave away too much. I could see no reason to ever give them money again. I know, I complain when people ask for money, now I complain when people don’t ask for money. See my entry in the first section about a tight rope walk.
- Trove seems a little me-to at this stage of the game, with Minecraft already established and EverQuest Landmark showing up soon. Plus, if you don’t care about that kind of thing, another option isn’t really a big deal.
- Speaking of me-to, ArcheAge? Haven’t we seen the “Asian MMO comes West and flops” tale enough times already? Trion had better have some secret sauce for this one.
- Neverwinter never really clicked with me. There is lots of interesting stuff to see, but it never felt like I was in a world. It was more like an arcade where you lined up to run the Cloak Tower machine, then ran off to play the Dreadmines machine, and then maybe played orc hockey in the open area for a while.
- Path of Exile has “always online” problems similar to Diablo III. When you depend on the internet…
- War Thunder didn’t last all that long on my list. I managed to tourist up to level 5 for all nations, then wandered off.
- Wargaming.net still keeps regions separate, so I cannot play with my EVE corp mates without having another client/account just for Europe.
- World of Warplanes, a title I was determined to play… well… we shall speak no more of that one.
- Shroud of the Avatar is a thing in the sense that it ought to be worth looking at again in about a year.
- Seeing what is potentially on offer for 2014, as like as not I probably won’t play a new MMO next year. If it is just going to be the same game with different art, I might as well play the one I am most invested in.
- Pirates of the Burning Sea, cut loose from SOE, seems to be more adrift than ever.
- Warhammer Online goes to its inevitable fate.
Other Gaming and Vaguely Related Items
- Sony pledges a long life, new games, and ongoing support for those of us who own PS3s. And their track record with the PS2 seems to back up their statements.
- Pokemon X and Y actually looked interesting enough to get some interest in our household.
- I remain quite fond of my iPad.
- The used game scene remains, not that I participate. Good news for Game Stop, but also probably good news for the big publishers, since they have pretty much fessed up that the ability to trade in a game for store credit is probably boosting sales numbers beyond any perceived lost revenue from third party sales.
- Some interesting projects on Kickstarter in 2013.
- High speed internet is finally available in our home. Buying a game on Steam doesn’t mean waiting a day or two to play it.
- When 60 Minutes can run an NSA propaganda piece and call it news, it makes me think that game journalism isn’t all that bad. At least motivations are clear; everybody has to earn a living.
- Games? I only use the PS3 to watch Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix at this point.
- Nintendo basically doesn’t support any of the platforms that I own any more. There will be nothing new under the sun for Wii or DS owners ever again, and I have no interest in buying a Wii U or a 3Ds. But I don’t plan to buy an Xbox One or a PS4 either. Good thing about the used market.
- The screens on my Nintendo DS Lite have gone all blurry, so I can’t even go back and finish up Pokemon Black. Oh, wait, let me put on my glasses. Damn tiny screens!
- I remain somewhat less enthusiastic about gaming on the iPad. Ticket to Ride remains my all time favorite, and board game translations seem like an excellent opportunity for the platform, yet I haven’t found many games I really like otherwise. And then there is pricing. EA has the most odious practice in that they will sell you a game and will then insist on running game interrupting ads when you try to play. Has made me swear to never give EA another nickel again ever. I find Candy Crush Saga to be a rare gem, a paragon of virtue and restraint compared to anything EA has to offer.
- I’ve been stuck on level 125 of Candy Crush Saga for like six weeks now. Still not giving them any money either, but for different reasons.
- Kickstarter remains a “pay and pray” option. You toss somebody some money and hope that it turns into something some day. I can see why some people shun the idea.
- Buy something on Steam? I have too many unplayed or underplayed titles already in my Steam library. Even Steam sales are a bit “meh” now.
- I still do not see the appeal of streaming. Except for a few rare cases where something special is happening, I’d rather play the game than watch somebody else play. And then I saw somebody live blogging somebody else live streaming and my head just about exploded. Stop the inanity.
- Runic Games appears to have burnt out creating Torchlight II and has punted on the Mac OS version, the MMORPG version, and hasn’t bothered to get dressed to leave the house for much of 2013 so far as I can tell.
- Microsoft, determined that there be a single version of Windows and that it run on all devices (q.v. Ballmer remains loyal to Mordor), gives people a tablet button interface for their desktop machines. When people won’t stop complaining about the missing “Start” menu, which MS trained people for years to depend on, they add it back in to Windows 8… only it just brings up the tablet button interface. Why Fucking Bother?
- Hey, I still post something nearly every damn day, don’t I?
- A lot more people visit the site, even after my purge from Google search returns, than I ever expected.
- I have a pretty decent account of my online gaming since 2006. I am particularly happy with the ongoing tales of the instance group.
- I have lots of pretty pictures on the site, which helps out when I lose stuff on my hard drive. I have no idea where all my Warhammer Online screen shots went.
- Quantity is not quality, and a lot of what I write is just for me. Plus, there are times when it is tough not to write “And we did another instance. Thousands of people have done it before. There were no surprises. Consider this milestone marked.” This has lead to what I might describe as an over-dependence on screen shots.
- The name of the blog becomes ever more accurate. I now write mostly about a 9 year old game and a 10 year old game, with an occasional look back at a 20 year old game.
- It is sometimes tough to find the old post I am looking for. The search option is primitive in the extreme.
- Really feel like the blog needs a new look after seven years, yet I am not fond of any of the WP.com options.
- WP.com has taken it upon themselves to break something about once a month by rolling new (and I would guess untested) code out to their customers without any announcement. Just this week the “more after the cut” option was broken for several hours.
- Self hosting seems slightly more attractive at this point, except for the hours of extra work, the need for a domain name, and the fear that I will find out just how many readers visit out of habit as they fall off the moment something changes.
And that is about all that oozed from my brain when pressed to come up with what happened in 2013. What else should be on the list?
What You Get in the Absence of Actual Information… October 18, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: No Real Point, Rambling Friday
In which I chase my tail in ever smaller circles.
Over the last seven years of blogging I have evolved something of a regular style and structure to my online musings. There are a few standard posts I make, which I would sum up as:
- I did a thing! - The general log of what I have done lately. Generally things I want to remember;I moved a ship to Curse, I re-subscribed to WoW, I made it to the 21st hall in Moria. Simple telling of a tale. Probably the most common post on the blog.
- The Instance Group did a thing! - A sub-set of the above, the ongoing tales of our group adventure. Lately it has evolved into “The Instance Group did not do a thing.”
- Remember that thing? – I pull out memories of some old game… Air Warrior, Stellar Emperor, TorilMUD… and try to assemble them into a coherent post.
- A month passed with a lot of things – With 85 month in review posts already written, this is clearly part of the standard fare.
- Things from my email – As you might suspect, something for days when I have nothing else to write about.
- Quote of the Day – Somebody said something worth discussing.
- Marking an event – A game shut down, an anniversary or other milestone has come, someone notable has passed.
- I attempt something akin to a review – This never goes well.
- Announcement of a new thing! – A new game, patch, expansion, or feature is announced and I bring it up and try to figure out what it means to me.
- A thing was announced, what does it really mean? – Different from the above in the extent of information provided or how it links to the bigger picture are not stated outright, leading me in to speculation mode.
So that is ten standard-ish formats, with bit bucket, catch all, miscellaneous undeclared category to cover the remainders.
But it is that last one on the list that is often the most fun or interesting to write. You take an announcement and whatever actual information is floating around on the web and you try to come up with a big… or at least bigger… picture assessment of what is going on. It is a pretty standard format. You see it on a lot of blogs.
I find it fun because it is the sort of thing I like to talk about. But it is also pretty meaningless except as a discussion exercise because, as a complete outsider I (and most of my fellow bloggers) lack access to the whole story. Key facts are missing and we are left to fill in the blanks.
For example, on Wednesday, I put up a post about Rift and the announced server merges. It seemed to me that this was a sign that the post-F2P transition boom in popularity was over.
This was not unexpected. It seems to be a standard phenomena when an MMO goes from monthly subscriptions to a F2P business model. Once F2P hits there is a rush of new and returning players interested to see what is on offer, something I refer to as the “Happy Time.” There is often a public statement about a revenue increase, which given that the business model transition was done for that reason, seems like a gimme. Plus, the comparison often seems to be between low ebb of the previous model and the peak of the “Happy Time.” You had best be able to multiply your revenue in that environment.
Eventually that settles down. The company stops talking about revenue and players and such, unless they are a public company and it appears in the financial reports, and those of us outsiders are left to try to divine how things are going by inspecting goat entrails, reading tea leaves, and expressing disgust at the latest abomination being offered up in the cash shop.
I think the above scenario pretty much applies to Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and probably a few more; business model transition, immediate declaration of success with increases in revenue and players, and then not much more on the subject. No big deal. All those games are carrying on and I do not expect that any will fold up shop in the next year.
But with Rift there were other data points. The game had shut down in Korea and is headed the same way in China. The parent company, Trion, had been through layoffs and office closings. Outside of Rift, the company only has Defiance as a going concern, which has been awfully quiet while the companion TV series has been in re-runs. And on the horizon for Trion there is End of Nations, which seemed troubled in beta when I tried it, and ArcheAge, which looks to me, perhaps unfairly, like yet another attempt by an Asian MMO to conquer the West.
So my speculation was that Trion might not be around as an independent entity a year from now. Given the information available to me, that didn’t seem exactly like a shot out of left field. The key there is “the information available to me.”
Later, in a special guest star, walk-on appearance, Scott Hartsman, CEO of Trion, left a comment on the post correcting me on my server count and dropping a tasty morsel about Rift’s F2P performance, saying that Rift has had the most sustained success in a F2P transition “by the numbers.”
On one hand, this is a fresh new data point for me, and a fair comment from the person who must certainly know more than I on the subject. The “Happy Time” might be over, but it is far from gloom and gray skies for Rift. My relationship with the game is…complicated… but I don’t want the game to go away. Some day our regular group will return and finish its run through the five person instances.
On the other hand, that comment just opens up a new can of “what the hell does that mean?” What numbers? Representing what? Compared to whom?
Must have more information! Stop me before I speculate again! (And will Rift then make Raptr’s yearly list?)
Following this up was a comment from another reader who, among other things, expressed a desire to get away from the sharded existence (against which I have railed in the past) that seems to be the norm for MMORPGs and to move towards a single server concept, even if it meant going with instanced versions of zones as Neverwinter is doing.
I could hardly disagree with that idea.
The odd thing about the comment though was that he did not suggest moving away from shards for the good of the community or for letting friends play together rather than being stuck in different versions of the world. No, he seemed more interested in removing servers so that people like me wouldn’t report server merges as bad news.
With a single server, there are no merges! Nothing to see here, please move along!
That seemed to be going down the path towards gaming companies making even less information available, which actually seems to invite more speculation about the health and well being of such games, not less. After all, we will find a way. We will look at Raptr reports or weekly Xfire numbers or the number of instances of a given zone on a Saturday night (Only 2 instances of the Frostfang Sea? The game is clearly dying!), and build fresh sand castles in the face of the storm.
Which brings me to what I suppose is the question of the day.
Is it better for companies like Trion or Turbine to keep the health of their games under wraps, dribbling out a tidbit now and again but otherwise letting speculation run wild without a retaining wall of fact?
Or is it better to be in the boat with NCSOFT, Blizzard, and EA who must, as part of their financial reporting requirements, pony up an assessment backed up with financial data every quarter?
Which is better… or worse? Rift announcing the closure of 30% (22 to 15) of its servers in a single announcement or being able to track, quarter by quarter, WoW losing 36% of its subscribers (from “more than 12 million” to 7.7 million) since the Cataclysm peak?
Or should we… you know… just go play the damn games already?
Rambling About Motivation and What Makes a Good Story November 2, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Guild Wars 2, MUDs, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: No Real Point, Rambling Friday
Anybody can use public transport, darling!
-Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous
Warning: this post does not actually lead anywhere and may not actually make sense.
Freedom seems to be a theme since the launch of Guild Wars 2.
Freedom from ever having to find a group.
Freedom from ever having to find a mailbox.
Freedom from ever having to stand still while casting a spell.
Freedom from much of the baggage of past MMOs, like subscriptions and the holy trinity and levels that get more difficult as you progress.
Not that this freedom drive is anything new.
At one point World of Warcraft, which now represents the status quo from which we are being freed, was once the harbinger of freedom.
It offered freedom from corpse runs and experience loss, freedom from having to find a group to advance your character at all past level 10 or so, freedom from fighting over who gets to run dungeon or raid content on a busy Saturday night, and freedom from simply grinding mobs for most of your leveling experience.
Not to mention freedom from relatively onerous system requirements.
Cutting this wall of text. You’ll see it all in RSS anyway.
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.