“Innovate!” is the Mating Call of the Lazy Gamer March 8, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, MMO Design.
Tags: Friday Blog Wars, Innovation, Trolling Tobold
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… February 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Humor, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Air Warrior, Camelot Unchained, Friday Blog Wars, sarcasm, Trolling Tobold
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 October 24, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: Null Sec, Tribute War, Trolling Tobold
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.
(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.
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.
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? September 18, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: darkfall, General Confusion, Trolling Tobold
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 August 10, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: CCP, Dust 514, Trolling Tobold
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.
Tobold Prediction – CCP Bankrupt in 2012 October 21, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: CCP, Friday Blog Wars, Piling On CCP, Predictions, Syncaine, Trolling Tobold
Hey, it is Friday and Tobold has made a prediction for the 2012 MMO market over in the comment thread over at Hardcore Casual:
I am quite willing to bet you that CCP goes bankrupt in 2012. You might want to interpret their “great success” how ever you like, but financial reports don’t lie.
Yes, there was the whole Incarna debacle and the recent layoffs that brought with them a return to focus on EVE Online at the expense of the planned World of Darkness MMO. But it is a long jump from there to bankruptcy. Or is it?
What do you think will happen to CCP in 2012?
I enabled the “other” field if you have a different vision of the future. And, of course, feel free to justify your point of view in the comment thread for this post.