Monthly Archives: November 2012

Amazon.com Proves I Do Not Play Video Games

Or that I don’t play new games.  Or good games.

Or at least that I do not buy any new games.

Another list.  Still not done with that theme, not by a long shot.

This time around, The Amazon Games team at Amazon.com has created their Best of 2012 Video Games list.

I am going to copy it here, with the platforms they indicate, just because.

  1. Journey (PS3)
  2. Borderlands 2 (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  4. Dishonored (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  5. Mass Effect 3 (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  6. The Walking Dead (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  7. Halo 4 (Xbox)
  8. Darksiders II (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  9. Hotline Miami (PC)
  10. The Last Story (Wii)
  11. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox, PS3, PS Vita, PC)
  12. Gravity Rush (PS Vita)
  13. Diablo III (PC)
  14. GuildWars 2 (PC)
  15. Sleeping Dogs (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  16. Zero Escape: Virtues Last Reward (PS Vita, 3DS)
  17. Assassin’s Creed III (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  18. Max Payne 3 (Xbox, PS3, PC)
  19. Lumines: Electronic Symphony (PS Vita)
  20. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Xbox, PS3, PC)

So, looking up at that list, my first thought is that there are a pile of sequels and remakes up there.

Of course, remakes, reboots, and sequels are the staple of most entertainment industries.  We moan about video games slipping into that mode these days, and movies having been there for a while, but frankly it is the way of things.  Go look up how many movie adaptations there have been of The Wizard of Oz.  Video games just haven’t been around long enough for us to get used to remakes, but even Shakespeare was ripping off plots and retelling old stories 400 some odd years ago, so we had all better get used to it I suppose.  Your grand kids will be playing Wasteland 8 or some such I bet.

After that, I have to admit that I have only played two of the games on the list (Guild Wars 2 and Diablo III), and I only bought one of them (Diablo III), and since I got that one through subscribing to World of Warcraft for a year (annoying pain point unnecessarily referenced just because I hold a grudge), you could make the case that I did not even buy that.

And then, finally, I start to wonder if these are really the best games of 2012.  I probably watch too much Zero Punctuation (for example, Halo 4 review) and play too few such games to be able to make my own determination.

Oh, and it sucks to be the Wii about now, with one game on the list.  But even Nintendo says they have moved on from the Wii, having no more titles in the queue for it.  Screw you, little white box of joy, we’re on to bigger and better things!

So, the usual wrap up.  The list, legitimate ranking or crass attempt to get sales out of the titles with the highest margins?

Woke Up this Morning, Got Yourself a Gun

Seeing that it just launched, I decided to patch PlanetSide 2 last night.  Like most MMOs these days, you download the launcher and that in turn downloads the game for you.  I let that run over night.

This morning I got up and found everything ready to go.

Unable to resist, I clicked “PLAY” and entered the game.  I quickly chose a server, chose a faction (Terran Republic), did my customization (picked a face), chose a fit (light assault), then got quickly into the game to see what I could see.

Mental image of my expectations…

And I ended up dead on the ground within 10 seconds because the spawn point was camped.

Since that was pretty much my first experience in the original PlanetSide, I would have to say “working as designed.”

Anyway, I had to get to work, so I scrawled this out and went on my way.

I will have to give it another try over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Plenty of time to play then, and plenty of reasons not to leave the house as well.

Provided I can get back on.

Krono – Maybe It Will Work… Maybe It Won’t

I mentioned SOE’s new Krono item previously, though really only in reference to an oddity in its pricing.  It is SOE’s version of EVE Online’s PLEX, an item that can be redeemed for 30 days of game time (or premium game time, in the case of SOE’s free to play model) and which exists in-game and can be sold to other players for the in-game currency.

All About Krono

(Krono screen stolen from The EQ2 Wire because we love them.)

I had wondered previously if WoW could support something like this, back when they were indulging in their half-hearted, and I would say ultimately failed, kitten economy experiment.  But now that SOE is attempting to emulate the PLEX model directly, I am very interested to see how it works out.

Currently Krono is only in EverQuest II, though there are plans to bring it to EverQuest and Vanguard should things go well.

But will things go well?

I have been watching pricing of Krono on the broker on a couple of servers and it seems to be all over the map.

Now, there are a couple of problems that cause this.

To start with, unlike EVE, EQII has no buy order mechanism built into the broker.  In EVE, the ability to set a buy order sets an effective floor on the price of anything.  No matter what you have to sell in EVE, there is somebody somewhere who will think, “I’ll take n of those if it gets down to the right price.”

Sometime buy orders are really low.  There is always somebody who will do a region-wide buy order for light missiles at half an ISK each.  Reprocessing them or reselling them near a low level mission hub will allow the buyer to turn a profit.

But in trade hubs like Jita the buy orders and the sell orders begin to converge and you can determine the real market price of an item, minus the geographic convenience multipliers.

Since you cannot do that in EQ2, sellers are flying blind.  Let’s say you buy a Krono and put it on the market for 700 plat and it sells.  Is 700 plat the real market price?  Did you simply price the Krono too low?  Did you just find a fat cat in a hurry?  Were you simply the lowest price at that moment on the broker?

None of that tells you what the real price should be.  It is one of the flaws of the EQII broker.  I certainly hope buy orders are on the list of features for the tentatively sandbox-like EverQuest Next.

The second issue is that there simply were not that many Krono for sale on the broker.  People seem tentative, and rightly so, about diving into this latest SOE scheme.

So on one server I saw about a dozen Krono up for sale.  They were priced between 700 and 2500 platinum, and except for the couple at the bottom of the price list, who were clearly in a price war, there were pretty wide gaps between the listings.  Anything with a commonly accepted value should be clustered pretty closely for the most part, with a few outliers looking for suckers.

This says to me that most of the people selling Krono on the broker are trying to sell at what they feel should be the right price.  This is how much plat they think $17.99 should bring in.  This, again, goes back to the whole lack of a buy order mechanism thing, as there is nothing out there to help determine a real market value.  Without that a seller cannot make an informed pricing decision, so we get stuff all over the map.

Meanwhile, I saw several people on the trade channel at various times trying to sell Krono for between 500 and 600 plat.  This is an off-shoot of the fact that the broker in EQII, unlike the market in EVE, is a completely optional feature.  You can go through years of playing and never buy anything off the broker and never feel the worse for it.  After all, the best items in the game cannot be bought or sold.  You have to go slay some beastie or another, or complete some epic quest to get that.

And unless you have a gold account, you cannot even use the broker to its fullest.  That is how non-essential the broker is.

So the deck isn’t somewhat stacked against outright, unmitigated, obvious success.

And I am not even including the calculations from old hands like me who remember the days when selling something for a gold… 100 gold is 1 plat… seemed like a major economic victory.  Something selling for hundreds of plat seems crazy insane, because I do not thing all my characters, if they pooled all their coins, could come up with 200 plat.  But I am still playing in the mid-tiers of the game, in content from 2005, so have no real sense of how readily available plat is when you are in the 90-95 zone.  The price of Krono might be quite reasonable to somebody at that level.

But there appears to be at least one wild card in favor of the whole Krono scheme, and that has to do with the RMT gold selling sites.

I went to check some of those sites just to see if I could get a sense of the street value, such that it is, of plat coins in EverQuest II.

The basic response from most of the sites I visited was, to mix a reference, “Screw you and the crappy SOE game you rode in on!  We don’t serve their kind in here!”

Okay, maybe they were not quite so up front.  It was more like “We do not currently serve this community” or “We are currently out of stock and cannot foresee a time when we will resume sales” when it came to EverQuest II.

I went through six sites I found via Google before I was directed by one to a seventh site that actually had EQII plat for sale.  And they didn’t even have plat for all of the servers.  But on those that they did, it looked like $16.99, the cheapest price for a Krono, could get you about 300 plat coins.

Krono Pricing

Which, in the world of RMT versus PLEX, is mondo bizarre.  Go look at Nosy Gamer’s chart.  In EVE, you are paying nearly a 50% premium to get clean ISK via PLEX when compared to RMT.  In EQII at the moment, where I checked, you could be getting a 50% premium when buying clean plat via Krono.  Being legit pays, for the moment.

Of course, the problems I mentioned about the EQII market apply.  There is no saying if this will be the price range next week, or the week after, or the month after.  There is no way to get a sense of the demand, absent the buy order mechanism, so we are still flying blind when it comes to pricing on any given day.

Which is kind of a shame, because I would really like this to work.  And, I think in EverQuest, where inflation has led to people having huge stacks of plat coins around, it might be a viable way to spread out some of that wealth that is just sitting in banks doing nothing, to the betterment of the game.

Still, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think?  Is Krono, a good thing or not, and will it succeed?

PlanetSide 2 Goes Live

The counter on the main page for the game ran down at last this morning.

Just a second to go!

The site is finally live.  People can play PlanetSide 2.

The big reveal…

It seems to be pretty popular.

No surprise on the source there.  SOE head John Smedley has been in the forefront, pushing this game.  His twitter account is practically the official source for PS2 news.

Of course, PS2 has been very popular already up to this point.  The open beta has been very open and lots of people have been playing.  The game has a clear following already, on day one, with the EVE Online demographic.  It is one of the non-EVE games covered over at The Mittani, which also has coverage of League of Legends, MechWarrior Online, and World of Tanks.

It makes you wonder where CCP’s own DUST 514 will fit in things?  In competing for the same audience, the “only on PlayStation 3” aspect of DUST 514 continues to look like an awkward move at best for a company whose following is all on personal computers.

I mean, SOE reports to the PlayStation people at SCEA and they didn’t go to the PlayStation 3 with PlanetSide 2.  Not yet at least, though Smed did say we would see PlanetSide 2 on the Mac.

Meanwhile, PlanetSide 2 seems to fit right into the current SOE philosophy.  It is free to play.  It has a premium subscription option.  It is part of the SOE All Access pass.  And, as Smed said at Fan Faire, the players are providing the bulk of the content.

Pity that the philosophy also includes selling all their European customers to some German outfit.  That puts a damper on the game for some.

Of course, that last bit is pretty easy if you build a shooter game well.  We will see how the player created content/sandbox theme plays out with EverQuest Next as he mentioned in his keynote this year.

And then there is the question of the original PlanetSide.  Smed has said they won’t be closing it.  But in a family of free to play games, where does the sole remaining subscription title belong?

An EverQuest II Chains of Eternity First Impression

Actually, that title is pretty much a lie.  I was just on a roll with “First Impression” posts.

While the post is something of a first impression about returning to the game, it isn’t about the expansion.

I have not purchased the Chains of Eternity expansion for EQII, mostly because it is focused on characters well beyond the highest level of any of my own.  I think my characters cap out in the 60s for adventure levels and in the 80s for crafting levels.  So even had I purchased it, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything with the content.  Life in the level based MMO lane.

Still, the launch of the Chains of Eternity expansion and my own minor reflections about the past eight years of EQII did kick off a bit of a nostalgia vibe.  My post I got Gaff nostalgic for the game.  And then he started chatting to me about it, which got me more interested in going back for a peek.

Such is the power of the blog.  What I do influences what I write.  What I write influences what I do.

I am told that the screen shots really sell the nostalgia angle.

Anyway, I patched up the game and opted in for Gold level, which means the traditional subscription.  More blathering aboutthat after the cut.

Continue reading

A Guild Wars 2 First Impression

Guild Wars 2 had a free trial this past weekend.  My friend Gaff, who has been playing it, sent me a code for the trial.  Apparently you had to get a code from a current player to be a worthwhile prospect, which isn’t a bad theory.  If you know somebody who is already playing, you are probably more likely to want to keep playing after the trial is up.

So I spent Wednesday night patching while I slept and then patched some more after that because ANet had an event planned and since I was being handed a full version of the game for the weekend, it was theoretically possible I might get to it.

I did not.

I will point out that if you look at my Raptr profile, it will tell you I have spent 15 hours playing Guild Wars 2.

I did not spend 15 hours playing Guild Wars 2.

More about that after the cut, as this gets long and has pictures and the usual.

Continue reading

A SWTOR F2P First Impression

One of my friends who played Star Wars: The Old Republic… until he ran out of content and unsubscribed… news flash, I know… decided to to check it out now that it has gone free to play.  He left me a few messages on IM about the attempt.

so i logged into swtor.  it is ridiculous

you have to buy hotbars.  you get one.  you get 2 character slots, and i cannot find anywhere to purchase additional ones

past that i said the hell with this and logged out.  the other highlight–you have to buy the ability to toggle whether your head gear displays or not

I thought they had canned the single hotbar thing?  Didn’t that cause a huge blow up on the forums?

And it sounds like they haven’t gotten the store quite worked out yet.

So much for first impressions.

Top Ten Themes from my iTunes Library

Apropos of nothing, I was looking for the theme from Doctor Who in my iTunes library, so typed “theme” into the search box.

I have had an iPod and iTunes for quite a while now, having picked one up once they made iTunes available for Windows.  That was something like 9 years ago.  I have collected quite a bit of music since then. (But I have only needed two iPods, my original 3rd generation iPod and a 3rd generation Nano that replaced it.)

Just the search term “theme” brought up 73 results.  And iTunes can sort them by how many times I have listened to them.  So my top ten themes are:

  • Theme of the Universe – EVE Online sound track
  • Firefly Main Theme – From the show Firefly
  • Woke Up This Morning (Soprano’s Theme) – From The Sopranos
  • Doctor Who Theme – The enduring music from Doctor Who
  • Peter Gunn Theme – From the Blues Brothers sound track
  • The Theme from Route 66 – From Route 66
  • Kamp Krusty Theme Song – From The Simpsons
  • For Pete’s Sake (Closing Theme) – From The Monkees
  • The Itchy & Scratcy & Poochie Show Theme – From The Simpsons
  • The James Bond Theme – From like 23 movies, alright?

All told I have 5601 tracks in iTunes, for a total of 13.4 days of play time, end to end.  And that does not include podcasts (919 items, 34 days) or audio books (610 items, 167 days).

The most played track is actually a tie between The Son of Flynn from the TRON: Legacy sound tack and Below the Asteroids from the EVE Online sound track.  The most played theme that doesn’t actually have the word “theme” in it is Greeback Boogie, which is the theme from Suits.

And in all of that, I actually have the Doctor Who theme not once, but twice.  But I apparently only listen to one of them.

The Interesting Thing About Krono and the All Access Pass…

Krono is a new item from SOE, currently available in EverQuest II.  The Krono page describes it as such:

When used, this magical krono adds 30 days membership time to the amount of the consuming character. This krono can be used only once.

  • Adds 30 days of game time to the account of the consuming character
  • Fully tradable and salable
  • No expiration date
  • Krono only redeemable in EverQuest II

So Krono is, essentially, the same thing as PLEX in EVE Online.

This is PLEX

I need to get a new stock PLEX screen shot.  That one is out of date.  PLEX is now just an object in game like any other and can be destroyed.

Anyway, Krono is an attempt by SOE to thwart RMT currency sales in EverQuest II by giving players a legitimate way to buy something that can be traded in-game for platinum.

And, on the flip side, if you are a player with lots of plat who wants to save some money on their subscription, you can fund your premium access with your game play.

As in EVE, generally a win-win, so long as the market can support such an item at a reasonable price.  In EVE the price of PLEX has been rising over time, hovering around 600 million ISK per these days, double what it was two years ago.

We will see how the EverQuest II broker handles it.  My own fear, if I were SOE, would be that of low demand and/or low or erratic price patterns.  PLEX works in EVE because everybody has to use the marketplace.  The same is not true in EQII.  In fact, free players are somewhat restricted in what they can access at the broker.  As I pointed out when I asked if WoW could support something like PLEX, market participation is a key factor.

I suppose we shall see how it works out.  I applaud SOE for diving right in with this.  According to the FAQ, if the response is favorable, Krono will be rolled out to EverQuest and Vanguard as well.

Also like PLEX, Krono are priced to be more expensive than a normal monthly subscription.  A standard game pass… what SOE calls a subscription these days… is $14.99 a month, while Krono is $17.99 per 30 day unit of time.

Krono Pricing

Clearly, nobody is going to simply buy and consume Krono just to keep their subscription going.

Unless you happen to subscribe via the SOE All Access Pass.

There is a long history to the All Access Pass, once known as Station Access, which was introduced just about the time EverQuest II launched.  In short though, it is a subscription plan where, for a few dollars more, you can have access to all SOE online games.

Pricing has varied over the years, peaking at $29.99 at one point.  But once SOE went all-in on free to play (and shed a few games), the price was dropped significantly.  Here is where the pricing stands today.

All Access Pricing

Nice, but what does that have to do with Krono?

Well, deep inside the Krono FAQ, there is a question about SOE All Access.

13. Do Krono work for game memberships as well as All Access memberships?

Yes. When a Krono is consumed, it will add 30 days of game membership time to the account associated with the character that consumed it. If that account has an existing All Access membership, the All Access membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has a regular game membership, that membership will be extended by 30 days. If the account has no current membership, then 30 days of regular game membership time will be added to the account.

So using Krono will actually extended your All Access subscription.

And, in certain increments, it is cheaper than.  Basically, if you subscribe in increments of less than 6 months, Krono is the cheaper route.  At 6 months, they are essentially the same price.  Only if you buy your All Access subscription in year long increments is Krono more expensive.

Which makes me wonder if this was a deliberate action to help boost the sale of Krono, or if we are seeing yet another case of SOE not quite thinking things through, as happened with the $1.25 worth of Station Cash buying a 30 day subscription situation.

What do you think about that, or about Krono in general?

SWTOR Update 1.5 – A New Hope

…our Free-to-Play option has arrived! For players who want to experience the dynamic world of Star Wars: The Old Republic without committing to a monthly fee, there is a truly viable option to experience all of the incredible content the game has to offer. Free-to-Play players can now play all eight classes up to level 50 without committing to a monthly fee.

We also now have our Cartel Market up and running so players can purchase unique items like the Gamorrean Axe or Cartel Packs that hold fantastic treasures such as the Kowakian Monkey Lizard and the Overlord’s Command Throne, in addition to allowing Free-to-Play folks the opportunity to purchase unlocks for Free-to-Play restrictions .

-From the Producer’s Letter for Game Update 1.5

So there it is, Star Wars: The Old Republic has now joined the rebellion against subscription-only MMOs.  They announced it back in August, but now the plan is in place.  They have turned off the subscription requirements computer and are going to let the economic force of free guide their path.

Free on their main page

This, along with their plan for regular content updates every six weeks (has anybody been tracking that?) is the plan to keep the game afloat.

I obviously have no real insight into the economics of the game, but the number floating around was “500K,” as in “the game needs 500K subscribers to be viable.”  And I find it difficult to believe that this move will give them the cash flow they are looking for.

Of course, I remain dubious of free to play in general, so you have to take what I say on the subject with that in mind.

While I like the idea of not having a subscription running for games I may only play occasionally, what the conversion does to games,  how the economic model forces them to throw some garish new shiny things in your face every other week, does not endear the model to me.  It tends to drive me away.

Anyway, we shall see what the future holds for SWTOR in the free to play galaxy.  Will it be a new hope, or just a false hope?

Certainly, less likely scenarios have come to pass in the Star Wars universe.