Quote of the Day – The Magic of Turbine February 21, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Turbine, Whistful Friday Thoughts
I admire turbine, they took perhaps the most well known IPs in fantasy and managed to make them small niche mmo
Isn’t that just a sarcastic stab at the heart of the truth? And there is a whole trail of tweets on the topic if you click on the link.
When you think about it, Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings are huge IPs and ought to be cash cows if you made a decent game.
I cannot speak for Dungeons & Dragons Online, which has never clicked with me, but I really like and have enjoyed Lord of the Rings Online throughout the years. Getting a lifetime subscription back at launch was one of my best gaming purchases. It probably even offsets the tragic mistake of buying that Star Trek Online lifetime subscription.
And the landscape of Middle-earth looks so good in LOTRO and there are so many excellent features… I can go on and on about the music feature alone.
But I have to admit that things are not perfect. The interface is still not as responsive as it ought to be nearly seven years down the road, the icons are still poor representatives of the actions they trigger, and every time I see the message, “Item use succeeded” I want to do a facepalm. Good debug message for a programmer, not something that should be displayed in the game. And then there is the cash shop.
And with further expansions off the table for now and layoffs and uncertainty as to what will happen between now and 2017, you really cannot help but think that things could have gone better.
I was a lot more hopeful a year back.
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?
Turbine Time Machine – Asheron’s Call 2 Returns December 14, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: Asheron's Call, Asheron's Call 2, Nostalgia, Turbine
Be careful what you ask for, because people will take note of what you do if you get it.
It has been seven years since it was shut down. I never played it, nor its predecessor, but I have seen more than a few posts over the years bemoaning its demise.
Now, I can hardly criticize people for being nostalgic for a game like this. I run back to EverQuest just about every autumn, which is when the nostalgia bug seems to bite. But the whole act of reviving a game seven years gone does raise some questions.
I would assume that Turbine has done some work on the game in the interim. But I suspect it will still represent the state of the art at Turbine circa 2004. And while AC2 may have done some things right, is that going to be enough of a draw for any but the nostalgic and those with an archaeological bent? Has what made people leave AC2 been addresses, or is this just hope against hope?
What will be the business model this time around? For the beta you need an Asheron’s Call subscription. I am sure that the nostalgia bug will make for a spike in subscribers just to get in on it. But this was a game that was shut down seven years back because of a paucity of subscribers. And Asheron’s Call itself was always a distant third in the UO/EQ/AC triumvirate when it came to subscribers. Is Turbine planning to make this another free to play title? And are there enough interested parties out there to make this a viable venture either way?
And finally, what does this say about Turbine itself? It has been more than five years since they last launched a new game, which was Lord of the Rings Online in the first half of 2007. In all the time since then, the best they could come up with was to pull a game they shut down out of cold storage? That is a big bet on the nostalgia card with a game that purportedly peaked at 50K subscribers and had dwindled to less than a third of that by the end. Is this a love letter to long time fans or a desperation move?
Like I said, I can hardly criticize anybody for nostalgia, since it drives much of my own gaming patterns. I can never fully answer the question about reliving the past. But there is a lot to this that makes me raise a quizzical eyebrow.
Anyway, Turbine has set the WABAC Machine to 2005. Are you going to go for a ride?
The First Rule of Isengard Beta Club… July 22, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Rise of Isengard, Turbine
1 comment so far
Is to stop making Fight Club references. Oh, and you do not talk about Isengard beta club.
Turbine is starting up the beta for the next LOTRO expansion, The Rise of Isengard.
There is no application, so do not bother looking for one.
The whole thing will be by invitation only.
If you get an invite in you email in box, lucky you.
Just don’t tell anybody!
Meanwhile, my hunter is level 47.
I might make it to Moria before Isengard launches!
Reviewing My 2010 Predictions December 24, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, Diablo III, Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Facebook, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Aventurine, Bill Roper, Brian Green, Carbine Studios, Darkfall, Hero's Journey, Mark Jacobs, PlayStation 3, Red5 Studios, Richard Garriott, Runic Games, Scott Hartsman, Simutronics, The Agency, Torchlight, Torchlight II, Turbine
Oh yeah, I made a bunch of crazy predictions back in January, didn’t I?
For some reason last year I changed my predictions format from a set of paragraph long generalizations to a series of one line, very specific (well, mostly) guesses at the future. I think I was pressed for time and the humor muse had not bothered to visit. Plus it was always hard to score those paragraphs, especially since I seemed to insist on points. (I have accounting in my background, I must quantify everything!)
Now, of course, we’re here at the end of the year and I have discovered the flaw in my plan; I need to go figure out whatinthehell I got right or wrong. And there are like a bunch of them, some of which I have not bothered to pay attention to and others about which I really didn’t give a damn in the first place but was trying to get to a 200 point total for some maniacal round-number reason.
Anyway, what’s done is done. Next year I think I am going to go back to big predictions and a pass/fail model. Or something.
I started on this Thanksgiving weekend and, because of apathy, I haven’t found all the answers yet. Fortunately, other people have started posting their prediction results, so I can crib from that a bit. Plus I’ll make you, the reader, correct my mistakes. How about that?
So let’s see how good that cold medication was last December. What did I predict?
Predictions for Blizzard in 2010! (5 points each)
- StarCraft II – Will ship second quarter 2010 – Missed by 27 days, 0 points
- Cataclysm – Will ship fourth quarter 2010 – A pretty safe guess, 5 points
- Cataclysm – Will beat WotLK’s 24 hour sales record – Yes indeed. I do wonder how much digital pre-orders helped. 5 points
- Diablo III – Will not ship in 2010 – Another safe one, in my opinion, 5 points
- New MMO – An announcement at BlizzCon with the usual Blizzard mystery build-up – Nothing at BlizzCon, 0 Points
15 out of 25 points
Big Miss – RealID and Battle.net focus? I’m not sure those were that big in the end.
Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)
- Planetside – Dead by December – Still alive… barely… but I always thought that The Agency had to come online before it went. 0 points
- Norrath – Official details about the next Norrath based MMORPG some time in 2010 – We artist conceptions and some vague information, so I’m claiming 3 out of 5 points
- Norrath – The next Norrath based MMORPG won’t be called EverQuest III – Do we have that in writing? No? 0 points
EverQuest II – All digital distribution after the February expansion – I don’t see Destiny of Velious listed at Amazon.com, so I’m taking this as a yes. – 5 points.
- EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing – And so it was. I should have predicted it for EQII as well. – 5 points
- The Agency – Won’t ship in 2010 – Saying The Agency won’t ship is like betting against the Cubs, and no, the Facebook game does not count – 5 points
- PlayStation 3 – SOE still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – The put Free Realms on the Mac, but no PS3 support yet. They’ve been talking about stuff on the PS3 since E3 in 2008 at least… go listen to VW Podcast #125… and still nothing. You guys at SOE work for the PlayStation people now, right? – 5 points
23 out of 30 points
Big Miss – A free to play version of EQII
What will EA do? (5 Points each)
SWTOR – Not in 2010, no no no. – Another safe bet – 5 points
WAR – Won’t die in 2010, but won’t magically spring back to life either. It will just trudge on with enough resources to keep it going and improve it slightly, but not enough to change anything dramatically. – Vague enough for 5 points
10 out of 10 points
Big miss – Umm… Lord of Ultima? Was there a UO expansion or something?
Turbine predictions (5 points each)
- LOTRO – Next expansion, announced in 2010, will be the Riders of Rohan! – Isengard, not Rohan – 0 points
- LOTRO – Riders of Rohan will feature real mounted combat – 0 points
- DDO – Continued success under the free to play banner with a push into some overland content – vaguely fulfilled – 1 point
- New – We’ll hear about Turbine’s next project in 2010. – Not so much – 0 points
1 out of 20 points
Big Miss – LOTRO going free to play
CCP Predictions (5 points each)
- Station ambulation – Still just a myth in 2010 – Again, like betting against the Cubs – 5 points
- Dust 514 – Not for 2010 – What was that? – 5 points
- EVE – Two Content Releases, don’t we always get two a year? – Well, we got 1.1 expansions - 2 points
- EVE – Tech III ships will finally become common enough that you might actually see one now and again. – I have one and, while flying it, have ended up at a jump gate with another, is that common enough? – 5 points
17 out of 20 points
Big Miss – What was the big CCP story this year?
Runic Games (5 points each)
- An inexpensive expansion will be released for Torchlight to keep funding going for Runic’s MMO – Nope – 0 points
- Runic will give us some concrete details about said MMO – Nope – 0 points
- That MMO won’t ship in 2010 – Well, they didn’t announce it, so 0 points
- But said details will make some pundit say, “Wow, that’s what Dungeon Runners should have done.” – 0 points
0 out of 20 points. I thought they would move faster than they are.
Big Miss – Multiplayer Torchlight, sort of the interim step between the first game and the MMO.
NCSoft (5 points each)
- Aion – Going to seem like a replay of Lineage II, popular in Asia, less so in the west. Still, it will have enough customers to keep going. Given how readily NCSoft shuts things down, that will be saying something. – Um, I can’t even answer that – 0 points
- GuildWars 2 – Not for 2010 – 5 points
- PlayStation 3 – NCSoft still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – I guess I can let that old SCEA/NCSoft agreement die now – 5 points
10 out of 15 points
Other Titles (5 points each)
- Darkfall – Will continue walking the tightrope between hardcore PvP focus and giving players something to do when they aren’t actively engaged in battle. Slow growth with at most a single server added to the game for 2010. – Sounds vaguely right, but SynCaine will correct me – 5 points
- Star Trek Online – Won’t disappoint Trek fans, but we’re all co-dependent on the franchise after years of reckless treatment by the studio. We’ll all still be there after the first 30 days playing with our pre-order bonus items. The rest of you people though… – I stopped playing, so there is a big claim I missed - 0 points
- Hero’s Journey – It was best of show at E3 in 2005, but it will still be a no-show in 2010. – Like betting against the Twins – 5 points (Amusingly, Simutronics now has a somewhat whiny entry in their Hero Engine FAQ about Hero’s Journey, saying that the work for it is all in the Hero Engine so stop bugging them about it already. Anyway, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the eventual showcase for their work, pretty much the make or break I’d guess.)
10 out of 15 points
The following people will have new companies and new projects announced in 2010 (2 point each):
- Mark Jacobs – No word here – 0 points
- Richard Garriott – Some awful Facebook thing – 2 points
- Bill Roper – Still at Cryptic doing… something – 0 points
- Brian Green – Umm… The Fae’s Wyrd was a project, right? – 2 points
- Scott Hartsman – Rift, about which so many are talking of late – 2 points
6 out of 10 points
One of the following companies will announce their first/next project, and it won’t be an MMO (5 points):
- Aventurine – no announcement
- Carbine Studios – no announcement
- Red5 Studios – Firefall – it is an online, co-op shooter, so not really a traditional MMO – 5 points
- Simutronics – no announcement
- Turbine – No announcement
One of the following people will move to Canada (5 points):
- Scott Jennings
- Mark Jacobs
- Brian Green
- Scott Hartsman
- Richard Bartle
- Alan Crosby
- David Reid
Isn’t there some Canadian sovereign territory at Disneyland? No? 0 points
Spurious Logic Random neurons firing for the following guesses.
Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010. WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark. (5 points) – erm… can’t really say yes to that – 0 points
“Yahtzee” Croshaw will review exactly ONE muh-more-puh-gah on Zero Punctuation during 2010, and it will be Star Trek Online. He won’t like it (duh) but the Trekkie humor will be too much for him to resist doing a review. (5 points) – Nope, 0 points
We will find out that the following people will be appearing or doing voice work in the Warcraft movie (IMDB shows no actors as of this date – 1 point each):
- Jack Black
- William Shatner
- Keanu Reeves
- Ben Stein
- James Earl Jones
- John Ratzenberger
- Bruce Campbell
- Sarah Silverman
- David Spade
- Lucy Lawless
Nothing – No cast announcements yet. IMDB puts it as a possible 2013 release – 0 points
0 out of 20 points
My first pass, hand-waving total is 97 out of 200 points.
Not bad for my mix of obvious slam-dunks and way off the reservation guesses I suppose.
Now, I will look to comments for corrections and will post an updated score once people point out that I was really wrong about those 97 points and that my total should be much lower.
So correct me already.
Meanwhile, I’m working on a less intensive set of predictions for next year.
Turbine is Totally the Reason Warhammer Online Failed… December 15, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, Humor, Lord of the Rings Online, Pokemon, Star Trek Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Alusiphus, Final Fantasy XIV, Turbine, Warhammer 40K
Alusiphus is totally pissed at Turbine. He hates them and the games they make.
-He hates Dungeons & Dragons Online, which is too complex.
-He hates Lord of the Rings Online, which is a total WoW copy grind fest.
-He hates Warhammer Online, because it is boring and totally not worth it.
-And he hates that Turbine is making a Warhammer 40K MMORPG.
Hrmm… about those last two Alusiphus….
I hate to break up a good rant with annoying details, but Turbine is totally not in the picture when it comes to Warhammer of any flavor. EA Mythic messed up the first one, and I believe it is THQ that is in the process of messing up the second.
Alusiphus hates other games. He hates Star Trek Online, for example, and Final Fantasy XIV.
He seems to have no opinion on Asheron’s Call, but since Turbine made it, I think we can guess where he’d go with that.
On the bright side, he does seem to like World of Warcraft and Pokemon. You have to give him that.
If you aren’t getting your USDA recommended daily allowance of bile and rants, you should go read his blog. But remember, small doses are best.
What is the Tax Burden on 100,000 Turbine Points? December 2, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, Humor, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: contest, IRS, Turbine, Turbine Points
I have no idea, really, but it is probably more than you think.
The latest LOTRO contest brought this thought to my mind.
The team at Turbine is having a contest, the grand prize for which is 100,000 Turbine Points.
That is a lot of Turbine points.
Enough that we’re starting to talk about real world value that is getting into consequential (i.e. taxable) amounts of money.
Depending on how you purchase them (since I have not seen Turbine publish anything like SOE’s guideline which pegs the value of 100 Station Cash at $1.00 US), that many Turbine points could run you anywhere from $600 to $1500.
For the sake of easy math, let’s call it 100 Turbine Points = $1.00 US, just like SOE’s model, in which case Turbine is giving you a prize worth $1,000.
And since the US Internal Revenue Service requires a business to file and issue a 1099-MISC tax document if they give you more than $600 in a calendar year, if you win you might find yourself paying for some of those free Turbine Points.
Think I am kidding? Ask anybody who has ever been on Oprah’s Favorite Things episode. You get all that free stuff, then you get a 1099-MISC with the retail value listed on it and the IRS wants its cut of that income. Or something along those lines. From the instructions for the 1099-MISC form:
Box 3. Generally, report this amount on the “Other income” line of Form 1040 and identify the payment. The amount shown may be payments received as the beneficiary of a deceased employee, prizes, awards, taxable damages, Indian gaming profits, or other taxable income. See Pub. 525. If it is trade or business income, report this amount on Schedule C, C-EZ, or F (Form 1040).
The tax on ordinary income is 28% the last time I checked (less all those deductions, which includes the fee for the tax person to get you all those deductions) so you could, theoretically find the IRS looking for up to 28,000 of your Turbine Points, if you are in the worst possible tax situation. And then there is your state income tax, if you live in the right/wrong state. That could add up to another 10,000 Turbine Points.
Well, the cash equivalent thereof.
I don’t think the IRS wants the points any more than it wants the engine out of the new VW Beetle some people got on Oprah last week. But I like the idea of the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board with a fund of Turbine Points. What would they buy? Probably more storage space to hold the stuff they impound.
I know that, in the past, people have talked about the real world value of virtual currency. Edward Castronova has measured the… gross virtual product I suppose… of such currencies in virtual enconomies while Julian Dibbell, in his book Play Money tried to get the IRS to put a value on his virtual world earnings.
But that has generally been about virtual currencies which are controlled by companies that deny, quite vehemently, that they are convertible into real world money and actively seek to stop such conversions. (How many gold sellers has Blizzard banned to date?)
But now Turbine is giving away 100,000 units of a virtual currency which quite clearly has real world value. They sell it for real world currency. Even if we ignore the virtual currency dimension, it is something of value, a prime revenue stream for Turbine, that users buy to gain access to various aspects of the game.
Given that, is the IRS going to want a cut of the prize?
I don’t know, but I’m still entering the contest. I do know what I’ll do with the points I am allowed to keep after taxes.
A Weekend in EverQuest II Extended November 22, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Gaming Industry Trends, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: EverQuest II Extended, Turbine, Turbine Points
I did not know it was going to be a free “gold level” weekend in EverQuest II Extended this past weekend.
Not that it would have mattered. I opted in for a month of Station Access which, it turns out, also gives me a Gold Level membership in EQ2X, as I think I shall refer to it.
I figured that, as I had just done the level 1 to 20 jaunt in old, subscription style EQ2, that it might be an opportune time to compare that with extended.
I thought I was actually going in as a bronze level player when I grabbed the EQ2X client on Thursday. However, I quickly noticed that I had a lot more bag slots than I was supposed to get as a bronzie. I also did not have the option to upgrade to silver, which you can do for a one-time, 1,000 Station Cash transaction.
When I went to check my SOE account information, it showed me as a gold member by virtue of Station Access.
The current (as of this date) EQ2X membership chart will show you what the differences are (I have the previous one here, if you want to note minor changes):
Still, even if I wasn’t a bronze, I figured that the comparison was still worthwhile.
I decided to repeat my experience as closely as I could.
I rolled up another barbarian berserker. I started him in Halas. I even named him Sigwerd.
Sigwerd (the second) is now level 22 on the Freeport server, the EQ2X server. Here are things I noted on the way to that level.
I saw a lot more people playing on EQ2X compared to my adventures on the Crushbone server, which is no slouch when it comes to population on the old servers. It isn’t Antonia Bayle, but they are not going to merge it with another server either.
The Freeport server always shows a heavy load because it is the only EQ2X server available. SOE appears to be ready to try out that single fantasy world idea I was speculating about roughly two years back.
Because EQ2 uses multiple versions of the same zone when a zone becomes heavily populated, I was not seeing anything like all of the people running around in the New Halas area.
Because you end up doing a couple of solo instance events as part of the New Halas 1-20 quest line, you can tell when there are a lot of people about. On Crushbone, on a Saturday afternoon, I never had to choose which version of the zone I wanted to enter. But I saw as many as 7 versions of the Frostfang Sea on Freeport.
Of course, there is a downside to this. If your main argument against WoW is that people are there are idiots, then EQ2X is proof that idiots are a fixed percentage of any population. With everybody allowed access to all channels for the weekend, the idiots made themselves known. I think the main purpose of the levels 1-9 channel is to force new players to learn how to turn off a chat channel.
And even if we vary on definition of who is a idiot, certainly the masses on EQ2X show a very WoW-like attitude towards what messages are appropriate on the Auction channel.
Still, I can put up with a bit of that to have a world that feels occupied and in use. Or at least in a world where parts of it do.
Certainly New Halas is a vibrant and active location. But it is the hot new zone with the fancy new housing. Everybody wants to be there.
Meanwhile, a trip through Qeynos was a trip through an almost empty city. A couple of people were running around, but it was about as active as the Crushbone version, which is to say not very active at all. But then, what is there to bring people to Qeynos these days?
Buy Stuff, Sell Stuff
I was interested to see that on the EQ2X server that you could buy your way through the equipment rat race. A set of master crafted armor, for example, runs 600 SC, or $6.00 US.
And the equipment grind is even more of a rat race these days since SOE has made old equipment lose its effectiveness as you out level it.
I am not sure what this is doing to the in-game market. You are forced to buy new equipment every 10 levels, but SOE will happily let you buy your way out of that worry. Is that good or bad for people who, say, craft armor?
The broker seemed pretty vibrant for things like collection quest items. I made over a plat with those, mostly because I was being a bit obsessive about finishing off the butterfly collections. But this was a weekend when everybody had access to it.
Most of the time, bronze players have no access, and silver players can buy but not sell on the broker unless they buy special credits.
I realize that it has been said that there is a hope that we’ll go back to the Commonlands Tunnel method of commerce. The problem is, SOE will sell you all the important equipment, which leaves commodities like trade skill materials (which SOE will also sell you directly, btw) which are best handled via the broker. I mean, there is a reason they put a broker in every trade skill instance, right?
The Inevitable LOTRO Comparison
Content is an obvious area of comparison with Lord of the Rings Online.
EQ2X gives you all the content in the game up to level 80. If you want the Sentinal’s Fate content, which is 81-90, you’ll have to buy the expansion. This is a big selling point over the LOTRO system where they want to sell you content past level 20 or so.
I was a bit surprised at how many restrictions I could not buy myself out of in EQ2X though.
Again, comparing with LOTRO, I like that they allow you to get past the bag slot restriction with cash. More bag slots, more bank slots, more shared slots, all yours for some Turbine Points. In EQ2X, these items are not available for Station Cash. No, you have to move up to a higher access level. The only exception seems to be character slots, on which I have given my opinion already, an opinion I heard echoed a few times in-game.
Then there is the currency question, Station Cash versus Turbine Points. I like that Station Cash seems have a set value versus real world currency, so no matter how you buy it, it is 100 SC to the US Dollar. (In the US at least.) Turbine Points can run anywhere from $0.60 to $2.00 per 100, depending on how and where you purchase it.
Station Cash also seems to have more options for purchasing. For example, if I want some Station Cash, I will probably buy it via my cell phone, which is on a pre-paid plan that I barely use. So there is more than $200 sitting there that I have already “spent” once, by putting $20 on the phone every 90 days to keep it active, that I could turn around and “spend” again on Station Cash.
On the flip side, I do really like that you can earn Turbine Points in game. Played right, and not too far off the most efficient path, you can earn enough points to get a few zones past the initial level 20 cap. Station Cash, as far as I can tell, is a cash-only situation, barring the 600 Station Cash I seemed to have accumulated by just being subscribed off and on over the last couple of years.
Well, aside from the lack of that “Knight of Bayle” quest for new players, EQ2 and EQ2X are the same basic game.
EQ2X’s main draw, for those already play EQ2, is the fact that the server is well populated. It is very nice to see the game feeling alive again. It am glad that SOE is holding firm on keeping this to a single server, even if it does mean more disconnects when zoning. (On Sunday, every attempt to enter my house ended up with me at the character select screen.)
That said, it is kind of a pain that for EQ2 vets the option to play on a well populated server seems to require moving to a place where your $15 a month doesn’t buy you nearly as much. I wonder if SOE should pursue a more aggressive plan towards server consolidation for EQ2 Live.
Then again, part of the liveliness of the Freeport server is that new people are joining the game. You could crush all the EQ2 Live servers into a single server and still not get any new blood since the only trial for the game is EQ2X, and once you make characters there you cannot move them to EQ2 Live.
So it looks like EverQuest II Extended is the wave of the future.
What do you think? Is a more vibrant and varied population worth the restrictions that hit even Gold level accounts? Is there a way to save EQII Live, or will it be non-stop server consolidation from now on, until we’re all playing on the Antonia Bayle server?
And should SOE try this with EverQuest as well?
LOTRO Cash Shop Now Takes… Cash November 17, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Turbine, Turbine Points
Turbine sent me a note last week to inform me that I can now buy Turbine Points at Best Buy, GameStop, or Target. Turbine has a page on their site about it.
$10 gets you 600 Turbine Points… or 750 Turbine Points, depending on whether you accept the logic that the extra points are really free or not. 1.67, or even 1.33 cents per point seems a bit steep to me.
But you have to pay for the convenience of being able to break open your piggy bank and run down to Target to buy virtual currency.
A couple of years back, the head of Nexon said (at GDC if I recall right) that getting these cards in the stores was a gold mine for both the company and the retailer. But Nexon has cards at a lot more retailers than Turbine.
We’ll see if their cards are still available in a year I guess. If they are, they were probably a success.
And I still think it was a mistake for Turbine to make LOTRO Turbine Points and DDO Turbine Points separate.
LOTRO Survey – Not for 64-bit October 31, 2010Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Survey, Turbine
Turbine sent me an email asking me to take a survey. They want to make the game better and all that.
The poll starts off in a common enough way. They ask about what game systems you own, what gaming and news sites you read, what MMOs you’re aware of, and what MMOs you play.
Then, once you’ve gone through a couple of layers of that, the poll put up a confidentiality agreement.
They want to show you something new and cool. You can’t tell anybody, but they want to know what you think.
You just have to download this plugin for your browser.
Only that plugin doesn’t work with 64-bit operating systems.
No special secret cool preview thingy for me I guess.
I have to wonder how this will skew their results?
I am going to guess that you’re more hardcore gamer is going to have gone for 64-bit to be able to access more RAM.
Anyway, the future path of LOTRO is apparently in the hands of those with 4GB or less of RAM in their system.