Tag Archives: Trolling Tobold

In Which We Feel Smug Relative to Raiders for Just a Moment…

“…matchmaking systems never work…”
“…players never believe they work.”
“Nevertheless everybody believes…”

-Tobold, in comments on his own blog

There is a natural tendency in human beings to project their view of the world on others.  I had a professor back in college who called it the “like me” phenomena, the belief that we’re normal and that most people are like us and view the world the same way.  The Tobold snippets above just happened to be handy, as they showed up just when I needed them, from a post that is, from my point of view, flawed in its very premise.  I have the first comment on that post, asking for a supporting argument which Tobold singularly failed to deliver in my opinion.  He went on, in response to others, in an absolutist tone that spoke for everyone.

Person speaks for a whole group and makes assertions unsupported by the evidence on the internet!

Hardly a special moment.  It happens all the time.  I slip into that mode myself on occasion even though I try to make a conscious effort to speak only for myself and not a wider community onto which I have projected my views.  It is easy to do.  Hell, I used “we” in the title of this post?  Is that a royal “we” or am I speaking for me and somebody else. (I am just assuming some non-raider besides me is going to feel smug, but I am getting ahead of myself now.)

But less often do people get put in their place by somebody with the numbers to back things up.

Last week over at Massively, Syp had an article published which I suspect gave him great joy, in which Lord of the Rings Online community manager Rick Heaton told raiders exactly where they stood in terms of the LOTRO population

Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn’t comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it’s not a new thing, it’s a long standing historical fact).

Forum posters comprise a slightly larger group than the combined group of PvMP and Raiders. However, Raiders and PvMP players make up the overwhelming majority of forum posters (More than half. Though raiders are the smaller group of the two (PvMP/Raiders)). So you have a tiny group, inside a small group that is grossly disproportionately represented on the forums.

Raiders and PvPers make up less than 10% of the population of Middle-earth, but tend to be vocal (and heavily invested) groups and are thus over-represented in the forums.

Doesn’t this just confirm something you have long suspected?  (Unless you’re a raider/PvPer.)  Haven’t there been times when you have just prayed for somebody from any given MMO developer to show up and say that?  Raiding and PvP aren’t the most popular activities in the game, so stop bringing them up in every single thread.  A bit of the total perspective vortex for a group in need of a being brought down a notch, right?

And you are only 4% of "Here"

And you are only 4% of “Here”

Having long since left raiding behind me, and never having been much for PvP, I feel more than my fair share of that warm schadenfreude glow on reading those words.  In your face, forum loud mouth!  You can bet that those words will be echoed for some time to come.

And yet, the words are incomplete.

All things being equal, Turbine probably shouldn’t spend time working on raid content to the exclusion of other areas if only a small percentage… let’s call it 4%… of their players raid.  Seems fair.  And I am sure that this reinforces what some of us feel, at least at a gut level, that resources are lavished on raiders out of proportion to their numbers in the game.

Unless, of course, we were to find out that raiders made up a greater percentage of paying customers.  Rick Heaton did say “total player base,” which in a free to play game has to include a lot of people paying little or nothing to play the game.  In the free to play market, 4% of your total player base might be a very large number when compare to total subscriber player base.  So if we found out that raiders, as a group, had VIP status… what they call the $15 a month subscribers in Middle-earth these days… at a much higher rate than the player base as a whole, then they might actually be more important than was made out.  And do raiders stay subscribed longer and play more and get more involved in the social elements of the game, including the forums?  Are they more committed to your game than other groups?  And what value does that have?

Basically, Rick Heaton slammed raiders and PvPers without really putting a nail in the coffin.  Turbine not building more content for 4% of their total player base sounds reasonable.  Turbine ignoring a significant portion of their long term paying players might not.  But we didn’t get those last bits as no doubt that would give a greater insight into Turbine’s business than they want to people to know.  I am honestly surprised a community manager came out and said as much as Rick Heaton did.

It also might be interesting to know just how “good” the raiding content in LOTRO really is?  That is a very subjective things, certainly, but does LOTRO raid content attract raiders?  I know that the PvP content has a small, dedicated following that is hampered quite a bit by Monster Play being sort of a side show of the game, but I have no real way to judge raiding in LOTRO, as I have never tried it nor do I know anybody who has.  I cannot name a single raid in LOTRO.  Does that mean raiding isn’t important to players or that Turbine hasn’t done a good job?

And there will be the temptation to generalize from this single statement and to apply it to what is generally terms “end game content” in other MMOs, with the first stop being WoW.

That is, I suspect, destined to a tragically flawed endeavor.  There are the general arguments I already made… who subscribes longer and is more committed.  Plus, I am going to guess, in the absence of any hard numbers at hand, that World of Warcraft sees a much larger percentage of players accessing raid content due to the much-maligned (by “real” raiders) Looking for Raid tool.  That is a matchmaking tool that works… just to circle back to those quotes at the top… for the specific purpose of giving lower commitment player the ability to experience the end game content.

Meanwhile over in EVE Online, where “end game” is a slippery concept, there is always the temptation to rage about null sec and sovereignty warfare getting more than its fair share of attention relative to the population involved.  There is the much quoted “most people never leave high sec” thing (though there is also the “most people who subscribe just leave after their first subscription cycle” thing as well, so most players never seem to get a reason to leave high sec) and the various constituencies throughout the game, most of which are not sovereignty holding entities in null sec.  But even its detractors have to allow that null sec gets press outside of gaming circles.  A giant battle like B-R5RB boosts new account generation.  It is hard to have a more tangible impact on a game than that.

And I suspect there are such arguments to be made around other MMOs and their end game content.  Not all of it is as focused on raid content as, say, the EverQuest time locked progression servers, which are raid driven by design, that being the way the next expansion vote is unlocked.  But end game, and keeping players playing once they reach the level cap is still a concern.  Longevity is tied to profitability in MMOs.

So as amusing as it is to point and say, “Hah, raiders got totally burned!” on that comment, I am still not sure what one should really take away from that particular statement.

CCP – Losing Money and Getting Closer to Sony

A couple of interesting/odd things around CCP this week.

CCPlogo

The first is that CCP released their 2013 financial report (you can view it here), in which indicate that they lost $21 million for the year.  It says so right there at the bottom line.

However, if your reaction is, “OMG, Tobold was right! CCP is doomed!” you should calm down.

As Jester covered in detail, the loss came from a capital asset… in this case, software which they no longer feel will generate revenue… being “derecognized.”

Bascially, they wrote some software that they felt had value  because of potential revenue it might generate and called it an asset at some point, adding to the total value of the company.  Now they have decided that the software in question does not have value, again revenue potential comes into play, so they have to take it off the books.  To the shareholders, the company effectively “lost” that much in its overall valuation, but no actual cash money disappeared or changed hands.  The operational aspects of the company were profitable and, as expected, completely dominated by EVE Online, which generated most of the $74 million in revenue from games. (Which is a $9 million boost over 2012.)

So the real question has become, “What software got ‘derecognized?'”

Contenders seem to be World of Darkness related development, “walking in stations” code from the Incarna era,  or maybe some aspect of DUST 514, though the latter, as a whole, did actually generate some revenue in 2013, if not as much as CCP hoped.

The whole thing is muddied up by the fact that CCP dropped the financials out there without any accompanying press release or explanation.  This is no doubt why certain gaming sites, who would likely jump on such a headline as sure-fire click bait, haven’t put up stories about it yet.  “CCP Loses 21 Million Dollars in 2013″ is a winner on that front, right?  But nobody has told them what to think, so they have yet to act. (I, meanwhile, will act without thinking at all!)

Well played CCP.  More as that develops.

Meanwhile, David Reid tweeted last night CCPs virtual reality game, EVE Valkyrie, which has been shown with the Occulus Rift headset up to this point (and which is reportedly getting closer to an actual consumer model), would also be coming to the PlayStation 4 using Sony’s VR headset, currently flying under the code name Project Morpheus… because The Matrix (and not some NASA lander project).

Nifty stuff.  CCP was already close to Sony through DUST 514, which remains (much to the dismay of many EVE Online players) a PlayStation 3 exclusive title.  Now CCP is getting closer still, being in a position to help boost Sony’s new peripheral with software that is already generating “oohs” and “ahhs” from those who have had a chance to play with it.

Over at The Nosy Gamer, there is also speculation that this further tightening relationship between Sony and CCP might also aim to help Sony crack the China market with the PS4 by porting DUST 514 over so they would have a free to play, made in China FPS game to bring to the table.  Or something.

But, going back to the CCP financial statement, one other theory being bandied about is that the “derecognized” software isn’t anything in particular, at least not a whole project being terminated, but rather a collection of odds and ends bundled up to be removed from the books in order to clean things up for a potential financial move in the coming year.  If CCP was going to be involved in a merger or get a major new investor, it would certainly be prudent to have their valuations rock solid.

And, of course, here is Sony, back in the picture again, potentially in a big way, with new technologies and a chance for “firsties” on the VR front in the console wars.

Completely circumstantial… and barely that… but it is enough to make you go, “Hrmmm…”

“Innovate!” is the Mating Call of the Lazy Gamer

There was a cartoon that ran in the New Yorker years ago.  I wish I could find it.

The cartoon featured a man dressed up in a clown suit on a television studio set.  He was on a fully dressed sound stage with back drops.  There was a large studio audience.  Cameras were pointed at him.  Studio technicians were off on the side.  A boom mic hung above him.  Everything was in its place.

And on the cue card was the phrase “TELL A FUNNY JOKE.”

That seems to be what Tobold is up to today.  He is kvetching that game studios with revenue goals and investors and expectations and all the baggage of big business aren’t reading his cue card, which simply says, “INNOVATE.”

Well, that and the idea that the past is bad, which is why it is in the past.  Only fools put on rose colored glasses and bask in nostalgia or some rubbish.

So he doesn’t just want a funny joke, but he wants it to be a new joke as well.

But there are no new jokes.  There are only new contexts in which to tell them.

In entertainment, as in jokes, remakes, reboots, re-imagining, and telling the same damn story in a slightly different way is what sustains us.  Using old material was old hat when Shakespeare (or whoever) was cribbing his plots from the Greeks.

And the more familiar the story, the more of our dollar votes go towards it.  Avatar is where the money is, not Primer.  Or, if you want the “higher” arts, the music of Mozart or Beethoven get more performances and sell more albums than that of Rachmaninoff or Prokofiev.

The problem is that we’re not used to this being the case when it comes to video games.  The video games industry is pretty young.  It hasn’t just been a business in living memory, it became a business in my lifetime.

It went from a cottage industry of single person or very small development teams, when what ever they produced seemed new (though they borrowed heavily) because we had never seen such a thing on a computer before… or in some cases, even a computer… to the big business it is today in something like 40 years.

We are just reaching the point where remakes have become the norm.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I have my doubts that something like Wasteland 2 can deliver on its promise.  A lot of what made the original great was in the context of the time and the limitations of the hardware.  But it could still be a decent game.  On the other hand, I am quite happy that somebody is going to fix up Age of Empires II and bring a great game into the 21st century.

And it also doesn’t mean that there is no innovation.  There are plenty of developers trying to tell stories or create situations in new contexts that challenge and amuse us.  They just so rarely show up from big studios that looking for them there seems to be the real fools errand.  Games like Journey or Katamari Damancy will always be the exception on that front.

It is the so-called independent game studios that will likely foster any innovation we see.

If you are complaining about no innovation and ignoring them, then you didn’t really want any innovation in the first place I guess.  Heaven forbid you get off your ass and go find something new.

Addendum: And then later Tobold said we need to pay more for niche titles.  So I guess I win.

EverQuest: More Popular at Launch than WoW is Today…

But only if you use the Bizarro metrics.

For example, on Planet Tobold, it ISN’T how many who play your game that matters, but how many people DIDN’T play you game.

Taken to logical extremes, there are more than 7 billion people today who do NOT play World of Warcraft today.

However, back in 1999, when the first player logged into EverQuest, there were only 6 billion people not playing it!

A clear victory for SOE, putting it a whole billion “non-players” ahead of Blizzard!

But wait.  Back in 1987 when Air Warrior was finally rolling, it only had 5 billion people not playing it!

Who is the most successful online game now, bitches?

Meanwhile, SpaceWar, running way back in 1961 had a mere 3 billion people not playing it!

A clear victory in the unpopularity race!

And yes, I am stretching Tobold-logic to humorous extremes on purpose.  But even trying to work the negative player numbers in a serious manner… potential player populations, target populations, subscription rates, and what not… seems like building a castle in a swamp.

Of course, so does trying to measure how many people remember a game.  I suspect there are games out there that more people remember than actually played them.  But how do you even begin to measure that and, more importantly, how does that equated to success?

Being remembered certainly doesn’t pay the bills.

Nor does historical significance which, by definition, is an assessment of something that happened far enough in the past that  it has ceased to be contemporary and actual becomes history.  Real history, in the serious academic studies sense, only starts when those who were there to witness it… and thus have invested opinions about it… pass on and things that had to be held secret to protect governments and individuals alike are released to the public.

Which is to say that neither I nor Tobold can really make anything besides guesses now about how the future may view this era when it comes to MMOs and the like.

But when you’ve soured on a genre to the point that your agenda seems to be deny that any MMO with numbers south of 250K can possibly be a success merely because WoW exists and heap scorn on anybody who wants something different, I guess you have to take whatever crazy ammunition you can find.

I am certainly not saying WoW isn’t a success.  It is certainly what keeps Activision-Blizzard funded for the three quarters each year when they don’t ship a new Call of Duty game.   But success is not an absolute bar, now set so high by WoW that nobody can ever succeed again.  Mark Jacobs’ Camelot Unchained plans are not an automatic failure merely because he is targeting a small audience.  It is an experiment.  It has risks.  It has to live in the current MMO ecosystem.

But that alone doesn’t mean it won’t work.

Of course, even Mr. Jacobs isn’t above pulling out a silly metric himself now and again.

Looking at the Map of Tribute

I haven’t written much about EVE lately, mostly because I have not been doing much in EVE lately.

There is still a war on in the Tribute region of space for the moment.

The battle between the CFC, which includes my alliance, and Northern Coalition and their allies continues.  But so far during the month of October I have only been on a couple of strategic operations.

DBRB FC’ing from a Vigil

(That picture is my only proof I have been on an op this month!)

This hasn’t been for a lack of desire to go on such operations.  Strat ops are, right now, my favorite thing in EVE.  I enjoy being in large fleets with hundreds of people battling over things that change the map of the game.  It lets me participate in a way that matters, yet gives me a small enough role that my lack of total lack skill (as opposed to skills) won’t mess things up.

No, this is primarily because of the times fleets have been going out.  NC has been playing the time zone game… something that would bring cries of “night capping” in GW2, but which is just part of the game in EVE… by trying to get timers to expire in prime time of time zones in which they are stronger.  This has generally been Australian time, which Vince Draken, the NC leader, said is a time zone they have actively recruited for in the past.  24 hour coverage, another EVE thing.

Anyway, the upshot of this that fleets have been going out, for the most part, when I am at work or asleep.

I am not even on the kill board yet for the month.

There have been some fleet doctrine changes (as noted in the Not Winning Fast Enough alliance update) which, along with the impending heavy missile nerf, has me training up skills so I can leave the Drake behind.  However, I am kind of mid-stream on training plans.

I want to fly the Rokh for Alpha fleet, but getting gunnery skills up for tech II hybrid weapons is one of those “train this, but first train these other six skills to level IV or V” chains that ends up feeling like your driving from New York to Chicago via Mexico City.

And then, as I kicked off that plan, Gaff started trying to tempt me into flying capital ships.  And, as it turns out, the skill plan for me to fly a Caldari Phoenix dreadnought is only about four weeks longer than it would take me to get into a fleet fit tech II Rokh.

Okay, it isn’t pretty or anything…

This is primarily because I have all of the secondary missile skills they want you to have before you join cap fleet trained up to V.

I have clearly been all about the missiles up to this point.

Plus, the dreadnought plan also includes a couple of skills that would finish up my requirements to fly in stealth bomber operations.  Those sound interesting.  Of course, they also sound like they require some skills beyond the ability to “press butan,” which makes me wary.

Anyway, because of all of this, I have opted to play space priest for a while now, flying a Scimitar and keeping other people alive.  You can always get in a fleet with a Scimitar and at this point I have all the Scimitar skills maxed out.  You just don’t get on the kill boards unless something rare occurs.

And so the war in Tribute has been grinding along without me for the most part.  I have ships in our forward deployment station, I just don’t get to use them very often.

But my participation is not really required.  After a long slog to set things up, it sounds like the CFC has made a great leap forward in the war.  Earlier this week, a series of operations turned sovereignty in 11 systems in Tribute, and NC appears to be down 15 for the last seven days.

That was enough to make the colors on the big sovereignty map (updated daily here) change noticeably, as well as moving the “front lines” in the war even farther from home in Deklein.  This war started out practically in our front yard back in August.

Tribute and Area – October 14

Tribute and Area – October 24

Of course, part of the reason for this advance seems to be related to NC’s own internal drama and deteriorating relations with their ally Black Legion.  EVE is as much about building and maintaining relationships as anything else.

This leaves NC left holding a total of three systems and one station in the Vale of the Silent corner of Tribute.

I am not sure how this is going to play out going forward.  Will the final conquest of Tribute end the war, punishing NC enough for their breaking of the OTEC treaty? (That is why we started this whole thing, right?)  Can a peace settlement be worked out?  Or will the war go on?

And what will the CFC do with all that additional space?  Sovereignty costs money and an alliance can have too much.

The wheel of null sec continues to turn.

Of course, if Tobold were to recount the tale of the war in Tribute, it would no doubt be summed up as the work of half a dozen deranged basement dwelling sociopaths because, you know, nobody really plays EVE.  (Well, unless they are evil I guess.)

How has CCP not gone bankrupt yet?

Addendum – Two days later, we have a CFC Alliance Update on the war.

Darkfall: Unholy Wars is What Now?

The story of Darkfall is a saga unto itself.

The game was initially announced back in August of 2001, a time frame I put into perspective this way back in 2008:

…in August 2001 Dark Age of Camelot was readying for release.  I was still playing EverQuest, which was on its second expansion (count now: 14), on my 400 MHz Pentium II system with a hot TNT2 based video card, having finally ditched the 3Dfx Voodoo2 configuration. And Duke Nukem Forever was only approaching its fifth year of not being available yet.

The game stayed in development, only starting to show signs of launching back in 2008, by which point there were plenty of people who viewed the game as vaporware, never destined to see the light of day.

The development history of the game has its own long section in the Wikipedia article.

The game promised a long list of features, which I copied into a blog post as a reminder to check against what was actually available at launch.  Of course, I never actually did that, because I never actually played the game, but I am going to guess somebody did.

And the game did launch!

It went live in Europe in February of 2009 and in North America in July of 2009, which opened up a whole new can of blog posts.

There was the great EuroGamer 2/10 review scandal, which gave SynCaine meat for a week’s worth of posts, plus an ongoing metaphor for crappy reviews, though I thought that the whole thing was a false flag operation to build community.

Then there was conflict about the mechanics of actually playing the game, which did not adhere to some of the past principles of MMO convenience.  Some of the things complained about were listed as features by Aventurine.

And then there was yet another Tobold vs. SynCaine face off over what counts as content when SynCaine declared that Darkfall had added more content in its first year than WoW had added in its first five. (Though neither of them knew the true powerhouse of content.)

Then things settled down and most people went back to not giving a damn about Darkfall.  Even SynCaine stopped playing.  There was peace in the world.  Or at least we found other things about which to bicker.

And then Aventurine decided to disturb the peace by announcing… something.

Oh, Darkfall: Unholy Wars… which has a feature list that sounds like a subset of… Darkfall.  So clearly I am missing something here.

  • Massive Land and Naval PvP Battles: Thousands of players can participate simultaneously in wars and sieges on land and sea, in real-time, on a single server.
  • A Huge, Seamless World: The world of Agon is a large open world that consists of both land and water and gives the freedom to players to uncover its hidden secrets.
  • Flexible Roles: Choose role at will, switching from meat shield to master mage to benevolent healer. Players can switch between roles, skills, spells, and ability boosters on the fly. Develop your skills in all roles and experience the game in a multitude of different ways over time or specialize in a single role and be the one your friends depend on to fulfill that calling.
  • Full Loot: You keep what you kill. Players can loot all of the goods from a slain enemy, and vice versa.
  • Persistence: Players can affect the fabric of the game world, constructing and fortifying cities across Agon and building empires that last as long as they can defend them.

Is this a rewrite of the original?  It sounds like a new game on the web site, though the features sound like the original.  I suppose there are some nice screen shots, but what else it is?

This, of course, ignited… something.  Well, SynCaine seems dutifully, if somewhat laconically, pleased.

Meanwhile, Tobold wasted no time trying to spark up the passion that has been missing lately in his relationship with SynCaine by trolling him as quickly as his fingers could type.  SynCaine may be evil, but he is our evil I guess.  (Though the “needs the money desperately” line seems awkward from somebody who himself has a donation button on his blog.  By that logic I guess I should thus assume that Tobold cannot afford coffee.)

And while those two warm to this new stage of their relationship, other people… well one other person… seems to be saying what I was thinking, which is probably best summed up as, “Huh?”

So, Darkfall… or Darkfall 2… or Darkfall: Unholy Wars…

What does it mean?

Somebody Thinks MMOs Still Have Value – CCP Raises 20 Million in New Funding, Talks IPO Again

With Star Wars: The Old Republic pretty much failing to meet expectations all around, there has been a lot of talk about the death of many things: Monthly subscription MMOs, big budget MMOs, and well… MMOs in general.

Aside from a burst of asylum level crazy talk about SWTOR somehow claiming as many as 10 million monthly users once it goes free… which I am going to guess is what they will need to make it profitable in that mode… to whatever, the news seems to be grim.

Then there is CCP, which seems to be bucking the trend… as usual.

It still has a the subscription model going.  And while it has eyed the cash shop idea longingly at times, it really hasn’t gone very far in that direction, barring some useless cosmetic items.

And they continue to buck the trend by getting $20 million in new funding in these dark days, according to Tech Crunch.

Of course, this should not really be news.  CCP was talking about more funding and an IPO back in February when they announced that they had not only defied some dire predictions about going bankrupt, but actually made a handy profit for 2011.  This despite the whole Incarna thing.

What will a publicly traded CCP mean?  Is that even a good thing?

I couldn’t tell you.  Then again, I live in Silicon Valley where IPO generally means “screw the company, I’m cashing out!” so I sometimes have a dim view of the whole process despite having “cashed out” at least once myself.

But somebody out there thinks there is value to be found in MMOs.