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No Tears for Wizardry Online? August 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs, Sony Online Entertainment.
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10 comments

I am sure somewhere out there, somebody is angry, sad, or otherwise feeling an emotional effect because Wizardry Online closed its doors yesterday.

I am sure because I have found that even the worst, most widely despised feature in any MMO ends up being somebody’s favorite feature.  And you find out exactly who they are the moment it goes away because they show up on the forums wanting to know what happened.

WOlogo2

So I feel quite confident that somebody, somewhere loved SOE’s imported Wizardry Online MMO.

It just wasn’t me.

But I pretty much guessed that was going to be the case before the game showed up in the SOE lineup back in 2013.

For me, this is Wizardry:

I am sure I'll never use this picture again...

Somewhere in 1983…

Wizardry is something that exists in the context of the distant past along with a lot of hand-drawn graph paper maps and things I described in a post.

So Wizardry in MMO form… or at least in Asian import MMO form with anime style characters… never had a chance with me.  I wrote me feelings about it, acknowledging that my assessment was unfair in the title.

Some find me... disturbing

Porkul… so disturbing

Unlike my previous post, where I eulogized Vanguard and tried to describe its place in the history of the genre, I cannot really place Wizardry Online.  Why SOE chose to publish it, why they decided to close it down after a year and a half, and all the questions in between are unanswered for me.  And, unlike Vanguard, I do not see any posts out there in my corner of the blogesphere mourning its departure.

Who will speak for Wizardry Online?  Who has some final words?

Where is PoliticallyIncorrectJessica now?

[And why won't that link go to the right comment. Some dwarven magic I bet.  You might have to scroll down to see the comment from her.]

Addendum: Oh, hey, Joseph Skyrim cares!

Bloodbath at SOE – Four Titles Closing Down, PlanetSide Goes F2P January 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: , , ,
12 comments

In one of those “Good news, bad news, more bad news, even more bad news, how about a tiny bit of good news, now can I bring up some more bad news” scenarios, Sony Online Entertainment announced that they had finalized their plans for their change over of all subscriptions types to the full boat SOE All Access plan, which they fumbled on earlier in the month, but which will now be just $14.99 a month and which will still come with a 500 Station Cash monthly stipend.

Once known as Station Access...

Now the plan for everybody

There is a new FAQ up in the official SOE forums describing the plan., which will be put in place “on or about” April 2, 2014.  (No April Fools Jokes for SOE!)

Down in the FAQ there are a few rather less-than-minor details, like the fact that SOE will be closing down four of their games.  Those on the list:

So SOE is going to expand their “all the MMOs you can eat” plan while at the same time cutting back on the number of MMOs on the menu.

I always say, there will be plenty of time for recriminations later.  I expect a lot to bubble up after this.  I await the SynCaine post on the F2P business model for openers.

As for the games themselves, I never really played any of them for any long duration, so my feelings on the closures are pretty subdued.

Clone Wars Adventures was an adjunct to a TV show that is no longer on the air, plus EA snagged the rights to all Star Wars video games in May of last year, so this one closing isn’t a real surprise.  It will just stand as a lesson in not investing in virtual hats.

Free Realms was never a thing for me.  My daughter played it for a bit until they broke the Mac OSX client one too many times, which weaned her from the game.  She had a lifetime membership, which I am sure means nothing.  This was SOE’s first game designed to be free to play, one Smed wanted to play with his kids.  I guess the kids grew up in the last five years.

Wizardry Online was awful in my opinion, but I came in saying I am not big on Asian imported MMOs.  I won’t miss this one at all.  I am surprised it made it this long.  I am, however, counting it towards my prediction that more than half a dozen crap Asian F2P MMOs will fold up shop this year in the US market.

And then there is Vanguard.  There is a bit of strange timing here, with Brad McQuaid launching a Kickstarter for a new game just as his last one is finally getting the axe.  I was comparing him to Mark Jacobs and Lord British in that their first MMOs were good and their second MMOs got the axe… except for Vanagurd.  Well, now the comparison is complete.

Surprisingly, the original PlanetSide did NOT get the axe.  I have no idea why.  I would have put it on that list first thing.  But it is a Smed favorite I guess.

In fact, they are going to make it a free to play title.  They are actually expending some effort on that ghost town.  Did they learn nothing when they converted Vanguard?

So, in the end, the shiny SOE All Access subscription plan to be introduced “on or about” April 2 will buy you gold memberships to:

  • EverQuest
  • EverQuest II
  • PlanetSide
  • PlanetSide 2
  • DC Universe Online

And I think with this move, SOE has stolen the crown from NCSOFT for the most closed MMOs.  Because SOE.

Addendum: Oh, and I apparently forgot about the completely forgettable Dragon’s Prophet in the SOE lineup.  When did Asian imports become a thing for SOE?  Anyway, it just opened late last year, so it was probably too soon to shut it down contractually.  But it looks like it ranks with Wizardry Online when it comes to potential.

More comments from other sources:

Milestones: In with Wizardry Online, Out with Pirates of the Burning Sea January 31, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Sony Online Entertainment.
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6 comments

Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.

WizOnline

While it doesn’t really bring back the spirit of the original Wizardry for me… and really isn’t my cup of tea… it is now part of the line up, free to play if you want or as a subscription or part of SOE’s All Access Pass.

Some find me... disturbing

It was tough just getting past this screen…

It remains to be seen if this title will bring a lasting dungeon crawl experience or if their concept of “permadeath” will be a compelling feature. We shall see whether it lights a fire or languishes in the shadow of SOE’s other fantasy MMORPG titles.

Stropp has been in there for day one fun, if you are looking for a report on that.  He does mention that the “connecting” issue, that so many people have arrived here searching for, appears to be SOE completely lacking any sort of informative “you’re in the login queue” messaging.  You just sit there “connecting” until it is your turn.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking its leave from SOE.

FLSlogo

Flying Lab Software will no longer be the developer and SOE no longer the publisher of this title. The following announcement went out to those of us still on their mailing list:

Ahoy there!

As you may know, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) will be leaving SOE’s family of games at the end of the month and setting sail with Portalus Games. Portalus may be a new name, but the people behind it are veterans of Flying Lab who love the game. They have banded together to form a new company whose sole focus is PotBS, and will continue running, developing, and expanding the game into the future.

I’m personally very excited about Portalus and I’m looking forward to where they’ll be taking PotBS, but it will be as a player, not as a member of the development team. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the development of Pirates, and while the details of these moments are wildly varied, they all revolve around the same thing: interacting with you, the players. We decided to build an MMO because we wanted to have a more direct relationship with our players, and PotBS came through in spades. I’ve enjoyed going out, and meeting and talking with so many of you, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.

I want to thank all of you for your support, and if one day you’re sailing on the open seas, and you meet a grizzled old Pirate who talks about the old days, think a kindly thought for me. Then give him a broadsides and take his ship!! See you on the Burning Seas!

Russell Williams
- Co-Founder Flying Lab

Accounts can be migrated to the new company, which takes over today. The SOE servers will go down at 10:30pm PST. Instructions on how to migrate your account are on the Portalus Games web site.

While Potshot and I were there at launch and before with the pre-boarding pass (and once again adopting the French faction), the game never really stuck with us.

The French have the most attitude

The ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.

Broadside!

Most other aspects of the game fell flat for us however. Ship boarding combat was dull, the economy was convoluted, the strategic game was broken, and even finding ship to ship battles was unsatisfying. In less than a month we felt adrift in the burning sea, rudderless and uninterested in where the current might take us. And so we left the game, though it sailed on.

Onward!

And while I always intended to come back and check on how things had progressed after our short time in the game, it never came to pass. There are always more games to play than time in which to play them.

As with Wizardry Online, the future remains to be written. Will this be a rebirth for the now five year old game, or has it merely been moved to hospice care where it can die quietly?

An Unfiltered (and Unfair) Impression of Wizardry Online December 7, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Misc MMOs.
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12 comments

Now that the beta NDA is down, I can share my reaction to Wizardry Online.

WOlogo2
This is the content of an email I sent to Potshot, November 13, 2012, which constitutes my initial, and only, impression of the game.

Somebody sent me a beta key so I tried it last week. I think I am finally able to speak of it now.

Basically, every negative preconception you have about the game is true.  Horrible scantily dressed, all-looks-alike anime character models, including the requisite Down’s Syndrome gnomes.

Bizarro world controls. It is WASD, but W isn’t “move forward,” it is “move north.”

A camera view that is completely uninterested in whatever the hell you are doing.

And you don’t even get to start experiencing all that until you get through 10 minutes (though it seems like an hour) of really bad exposition unworthy of even the most half-assed, shown after midnight anime series you can think of.

Let me tell you, the idea of the blissful release that permadeath might bring you could be the only motivation to play the game.

The whole thing is just a cat-girl race away from simply being DOMO taking a crap on a classic Apple ][ video game.

I am not sure if I actually played the game, or just dreamed that I played something so bad. Yet there is the icon on my desktop.

That was my gut reaction to the game.

Of course, that email is full of errors.  The so-called “Down’s Syndrome gnomes” are actually the Prokul, and not gnomes at all.  And they apparently do not actually suffer from Down’s Syndrome, or any other genetic related malady.  In fact, they seem to enjoy it.

Some find me... disturbing

Some find me… disturbing

I do not know what the affinity is for little races with melon heads is in Asia, but it is clearly not to my taste.  You can see some of the other character models as well.

Meanwhile, gnomes are really just female dwarves… with horns… and other features.  Somebody tell Brasse she’s a gnome!  I dare you!

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

“Naturally!” I hear you say, “Of course gnomes have horns!”

Their aura is enhance by the soft core porn style soft focus effect.  You can almost see the Vaseline on the lens filter.

And the controls aren’t actually absolute, but relative to the camera.  DOMO, which I mentioned, is Dream of Mirror Online, another not-quite-westernized Asian import that I tried (and never wrote about) which had a similar control scheme.  Another clearly regional distinction.

Still, not exactly an in-depth review of a game I probably wasn’t going to like anyway.

But given my affinity for the original, I had to go and take a look.  It might be the hardcore dungeon crawler somebody is looking for, but it was too hard on the senses for me to get far enough to find out.  The Wizardry franchise has taken a different path since I played back on my Apple ][+.

If you want somebody who gave the game a fair shake, Tipa has you covered. (She also has you covered if you want to read something about DOMO.)  As does Stropp now.  And there is the official wiki, because SOE has partnered with Wikia for the moment.  (Didn’t SOE partner with Zam previously for something like this?  How did that work out?)

Anyway, not a game for me.  But not every game has to be for me.  There are plenty of other MMO choices out there.

(Though I am not going start wringing my hands about there being too many games out there in the eternal search for the reason PC game game market is dying.  I think PC gaming has been “dying” for the last 20 years.)

Somebody will enjoy the game I am sure, and I will be interested to see if it does turn out to be a decent dungeon crawler for those who can handle the art style.

Have you given it a try yet?

Wizardry in Online Form September 26, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: ,
11 comments

I must admit to a bit of a mental disconnect when I think of Wizardry Online, a new game that SOE will be publishing this year.

For me, Wizardry brings this image to mind.

Wizardry on an Apple ][+ in 1983

And, well… not this.

Asian influence anybody?

The first Wizardry, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, was one of the first games I acquired for my Apple back in 1983.  This, along with Ultima III, was one of the first games I really played to death.  I still have hand drawn and annotated graph paper maps of the whole dungeon sitting in a drawer in my office.  They look something like this, though not as neat.

The first level

And the game itself, on the Apple II… here it is full resolution.

A game image stolen from the internet

Not a lot of pixels on an Apple ][ screen.  That was back when we measured screens by the numbers rows and columns they could display, 24 rows and 80 columns being the standard, though the Apple ][+ only did 40 by default.  I did not get 80 columns until I upgraded to an Apple //e a year or so later.

The game, which appears on Gamasutra’s 20 Essential RPGs to Study list, is a dungeon crawl in almost the purest form. It taught you to map, advance cautiously, and to be patient.  After many a death in the dungeon, with whole parties being lost and unrecoverable, you learned to build up your strength and return to town frequently.

It also taught party structure, as only the first few characters in your party could come to grips directly with the enemy, while those behind were left to defense or support roles.  Hints of the holy trinity were visible more than 20 years before WoW.

And, of course, it taught me the phrase, “Cheap Apostates! Out!”  You got that message when you were short of money for healing or reviving at the monastery.  I got that message a lot early on.

As I said, I played the hell out the game, finished it, and pretty much moved on.  I think I may have purchased the next game in the series, Knight of Diamonds, but I don’t think I ever got into it.  I certainly never went beyond that, and the series went out to Wizardry 8, which came out just a decade back.

Instead I went on with Ultima IV, Bard’s Tale, and Wasteland for RPGs.  And then online gaming showed up and became a focus of mine.

So my memories of Wizardry are of the first game alone, causing me make a nearly 30 year mental jump to get caught up to what is being proposed now for Wizardry Online and what it has to offer.  And the web site helpfully offers up three great reasons to play.

Well, three allegedly great reason, though I would argue that the first two are not well stated.  I would have written the list as:

  1. An MMORPG designed for hardcore players!
  2. Permadeath puts an edge on your decisions!
  3. Amazing graphics!

Oddly, the first two are totally in line with my memories of the original game.  Wizardry was hardcore, with no maps, no easy travel, and corpse retrievals if your whole party was wiped out.  And you could fail to revive, thus lose characters permanently.

The third, well… I am not sure ~I~ would emphasize the anime influence of the graphical style.  I am not opposed to it myself, but it does tend to be one of those polarizing issues.

But there it is, Wizardry Online.  You can sign up for beta if you are impatient.  Otherwise SOE is pegging it for a 2012 release, and it will surely be “Free To Play – Your Way” as is the SOE norm, which generally means “Cheap Apostates must be hounded ceaselessly until they subscribe!”

Having missed the entire middle of the Wizardry saga, I will be interested to see exactly where this title lands.  Massively looked at the title over a year ago at E3, but who knows what has changed since then.

If it is really true to the original, a hardcore (whatever that really means these days), party based, dungeon crawler, it could be something interesting to try out.