Monthly Archives: August 2013

Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE?

The big news so far this week… at least at the point when I started writing this post… seems to be the announcement about WildStar’s business model.

Wildstar_logoWildStar is going for the classic monthly fee subscription model, which means they had better have something new and different to offer.  Given what I have seen so far, I hope their secret weapon is still under wraps, because the MMO market is pretty harsh these days.  The masses have spoken, and they do not like monthly subscriptions and won’t tolerate them without good reason.

And Carbine, WildStar’s developer, is working for NCSOFT (Didn’t they used to write it NCsoft?), which means the gun will be to their head from day one to make this work and work well.  NCSOFT’s record of closing down games indicates that they either have no compunction about shutting them down or they have no clue about what works for MMOs and end up backing a lot of losers.  Neither paints a happy picture.

So, yea, no pressure there Carbine.  Hope you have your shit well and truly together.

The alleged mitigating factor in the WildStar plan appears to be a PLEX-like item which they are calling CREDD.  As they put it on their site, after you buy the box and use up your “30 days with purchase” time, you have two options:

Option 1: Monthly subscription

Option 2: C.R.E.D.D.

So, the buzz after that has been people sorting themselves out into the love/hate sides of the subscription model, attempting to decipher exactly how this is “hybrid,” and generating inapt parallels to EVE Online and its PLEX scheme.

You all remember PLEX right?

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX has been around for about four years at this point.  It has added to the usual EVE drama.  You buy PLEX from CCP and get it as an item in-game, which you can then sell to other people for the in-game currency, ISK.  You do this if you really need some ISK.  If you buy PLEX, you can consume it for 30 days of game time or use it for various account services.

PLEX works in EVE.

It works for various reasons, the most important of which is that everybody who plays EVE with any level of seriousness has to be part of the in-game player economy.  EVE is not World of Warcraft where you can say, “screw the auction house” and go run through the quest chains that lead you through the game and which keep your level of equipment… well… I hate to say “competitive” in a game like WoW… but you can get the basic job done, the bar being set low and the equipment being handed out readily making keeping you sufficiently over powered.

There is no escaping the economy in EVE.  You need it for your ship, for your fittings, for your implants, for your skills.  And the fact that ships and fittings and implants… and if you screw up, even skills… are constantly being lost to player action means that you keep going back.  You keep a few ships fit and ready to go.  You buy better fittings.  You change up fits that just are not working.  You spend a lot of ISK.

Or maybe not a lot.  If you are new, losing a frigate seems expensive.  Later on you’ll throw frigates away and laugh… if you last long enough in the game.

But another aspect of EVE that makes PLEX work is that the in-game currency isn’t an “I win” button.  Sure, it helps.  But if you can only afford to fly frigates, you can still find something to do.  And if a battleship lumbers up to you, you can run away easily.  Or, even better, you can tackle him, orbiting faster than his guns can track, and call in some friends to kill him.  Or kill him yourself and laugh, if you are skilled enough.

Look at Gevlon.  He has, through an admirable level of persistence, become quite wealthy in EVE Online.  He has made billions of ISK.  But has he “won” EVE?  Was all that ISK able to save TEST?  Is he powerful in-game in relation to his wealth?

I would say no.

Anyway, all of that is old news and has been discussed and argued over for ages at this point.  The take away from that is that WildStar does not sound like EVE, so the success of PLEX is not, to my mind, a reliable predictor of success when it comes to CREDD.  Feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong.  I am no expert on WildStar.  But the two do not feel parallel.

No, WildStar’s CREDD seems like it might be closer to SOE’s Krono.

Krono has been out for almost a year now and it sounds a lot like PLEX and CREDD.

All About Krono

All About Krono

You buy it from SOE for real money and can turn around and sell it in-game to other players for in-game currency.  The last I checked it was available in EverQuest and EverQuest II.  While PLEX sounded like a viable plan in EVE from day one, I was a bit dubious about Krono.  (I was dubious about WoW supporting such a thing in theory as well.  Certainly the Kitten economy did not take the world by storm.) It seems like a decent idea.  It ought to work.  But it depends so much on the in-game economy, which can vary greatly from server to server, and which does not have anywhere near the buy-in you get in EVE Online.

I checked into the market price for Krono a few times early on, but haven’t heard much about it since.  So it isn’t clear to me if Krono has been a big win, a modest success, or is another one for the list of SOE science experiments that will never be spoken of again.  Did it get any mention at SOE Live?

The one ace in the whole that Krono had was the price.

Krono Pricing

Krono Pricing

A single Krono is $17.99, or two dollars cheaper than a month of SOE All Access, which starts at $19.99.  I looked into this pricing scheme in a post a while back.  It seemed like the one thing that might guarantee some Krono sales, since Krono can extended you SOE All Access plan by 30 days, just like it does a single game plan, and there are some price points where Krono wins for that.

Anyway, Krono seems like a much closer parallel to WildStar’s CREDD, so if I knew that Krono was a success, I think I would have more confidence in CREDD.

Of course, there isn’t a perfect parallel between any SOE game and WildStar.

Wildstar will be shiny and new, will be monthly subscription based, will have its own take on things, will presumably be different enough to stand out, and so on.  Meanwhile, SOE games are all free to play at this point and the games closest to Wildstar in model are pretty old at this point, with EverQuest standing at 14 years of age and EverQuest II at nearly 9.

On the other hand, some of the differences work in Krono’s favor.  The fact that some of the SOE games are older and have mature economies means that there are players out there with the cash in hand to buy Krono at a price that makes it worth acquiring Krono from SOE.  That might be an early days weak spot for WildStar.  Will its economy have evolved and produced enough wealth to make selling CREDD a viable option just 30 days after launch?  And if it has, if there is enough money in the market so quickly, is that really a good thing, or a sign that inflation will grip the economy?

That is a whole pile of questions and speculation without much in the way of answers.  Such is my usual method I suppose.

What do you think?  Is it going to work?

And, in another parallel, I do wonder where Krono fits into the EverQuest Next scheme.

EverQuest Next News Timeline

Cyanbane, one time helmsman for the EQ2-Daily podcast… at one time a pretty big deal in the EverQuest II fan base… has, like many of us, found his interest in Norrath rekindled by the revelations surrounding EverQuest Next.

Interesting times and all that.

Towards that end, and somewhat in the spirit of the old EQ2-Daily front page news feed, he has created what he calls The Timeline over at the EQ2-Daiy successor site, GuildM8s.

All the important info...

All the important info…

The intent is to gather all of the EverQuest Next related news and opinion posts into a chronological framework, with the starting point, day zero as it were, being SOE Live and the big reveal.

Now, there are certainly other places to get your EverQuest Next news.  All the big MMO sites are devoting time to the game, and some independent sites are springing up to focus on the game. Feldon, ever the master of all things EverQuest II over at The EQ2 Wire, has an EverQuest Next companion site up, The EQN Wire.  There is also EQN Extra that is focusing on aggregating news an opinion.

But The Timeline has its own unique nature, in that it does stack things in a timeline, so you can get a look at who was talking about what and when.  You can see bursts of activity when some new information shows up, and you can see things thinning out as news is discussed and digested.  This will be a way to track something I brought up last week, which is how well SOE keeps the excitement for EverQuest Next going.  Lots of white space on the timeline will mean “not so much.”

I could quibble about how effective space is being used in the timeline.  The whole thing feels really constricted in the vertical plane.  But it overall it is a new way to look at the EverQuest Next news.  Cyanbane is working on similar timelines for other games of interest.

The Timeline was announced on the GuildM8s forum in a post that includes a history of the EQ2-Daily site and podcast.    If you are like me, and appreciate such insights into the history of the net, that might be the more interesting piece to read.

At least until the next bit of EverQuest Next news shows up.

Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick?

Red Shirt Guy… you remember the Red Shirt Guy from BlizzCon, right… he got his own NPC in game… has an editorial up about the perception in World of Warcraft that the Horde is the favored faction and the the dev team prefers to work on things for the Horde to the detriment of the Alliance side of the coin.

Since he is a well established lore hound in addition to being a dedicated player, it was interesting to see his take on what has been a controversial topic from time to time.

Of course, the bias hasn’t always been that perceived the same way.  I recall a time when it was felt that the Horde was neglected because they did not have a “pretty” race.  And so they got blood elves.  And the Alliance got blue space goats.  Making things right or evidence of bias?

Anyway, this got me thinking about other games, and there are certainly times when I felt a faction was being neglected.

For example, when I started off in EverQuest back in 1999, I chose Qeynos as my starting place.  That was a mistake in some respects.  The city was somewhat neglected, was not the place to be if you wanted to craft, and was on the opposite side of a hostile continent from most of the player base.  They were all in Freeport where all the cool stuff happened.  So while I loved the Karanas, I still had to travel to Freeport time and again to by things or meet up with friends.

On the flip side of all of that, when it comes to nostalgia, being from Qeynos is now superior.  Freeport continued to be lavished with attention, getting a graphics revamp a while back.  Meanwhile, Qeynos remains in pretty much its original state, which is fine with me.

And the Freeport bias continued in EverQuest II, where at launch Freeport was a giant, over-wrought city or intricate detail.  And Qeynos was a nice place to live, but not very memorable.

In EVE Online there used to be some irregularities in the factions.  And I am not talking about the ships, which seem to favor one faction or another with each revision.  Long was the rule of the Drake and Hurricane battlecruisers before their nerfing.  But back when I was starting, there was a clear advantage to picking the Caldari faction and specific bloodlines and background, as you ended up with more, and more useful, skill points to start with.  That has since been fixed, but for quite a stretch there was a “right” choice when creating a new character.

And, to beat a nearly dead horse, there was Warhammer Online, where it sure felt like destruction had been given some better options when it came to character classes back when a lot of people actually played it.

You could go on.  the Guardians in Rift clearly got the better character models.  The dwarves and elves in Lord of the Rings Online get kind of crap starting zones in my opinion, while the hobbits just get a version of the human starter zone, then get jumped from Archet to the Shire, breaking the story line.

But you start to get to nit picking and things that are really opinion.  Some people might like the Defiant character models in Rift.

The question comes down to whether or not it really matters.  I think in a lot of cases, it really does not.  I got over the character models, you don’t spend much time in the starter zone, I’ve moved on to flying other ships, and once in a while it works out, as in the case of Qeynos.  Not that I let anybody forget the slight.

Of course, I am in favor of there being a more difficult faction available, something that makes the game more challenging for those willing to accept the assignment.

What about you?  Is there a faction getting a raw deal in your game?

Who Holds the Oldest Null Sec Sovereignty?

And other bits of sovereignty trivia that are on my mind.

December 2, 2009

We were chatting about the war and the shifting tides of color on the null sec sovereignty map, and the assertion was put forth that our alliance, TNT, has the longest continuous sovereignty claim in null sec.  Specifically, we have held the system K5F-Z2 since December 2009.

My thoughts, after some mild amazement, fell into the usual, “How do we know that is true?”  I have trained myself to be a bit of a skeptic, something I am trying to pass along to my daughter.

The first thing I did was look at the sovereignty maps for the December 2009 time frame.  That would show me large swaths of space that had changed hands when compared with the current map, thus eliminating those as possibilities.  The sov map archive is a treasure.

Sovereignty - December 3, 2009

Sovereignty – December 3, 2009

You can see the mention of K5F in the change list at the top left.  TNT doesn’t hold enough sov to actually show up on the map until a few months later, when the purple dot begins to show up.

The map itself is quite different from today, with many names that no longer exist, as well as a fair number that are still around.  RAZOR is actually in the same place now as they were back then, though they had a hiatus away before they returned to Tenal in the north.  The east has some familiar players, but has changed hands so many times that I doubt there are any challenges to the record there.  The Goons are in Delve… because “Goons in Delve” has the solidity of “white on rice” in the context of EVE.  We’ll see what happens when TEST evacuates.  And the only other possible contender for duration held seems to be Curatores Veritatis Alliance down in Providence.

However, CVA has had its problems over the years, losing and regaining sovereignty.  It looks, in manually clicking through systems they currently hold, that their oldest system only goes back to 2010.

So my half-assed attempt to verify the assertions appears to show that TNT’s claim on K5F-Z2 may in fact be the longest one currently running in null sec.

Now is the point when somebody shows up and proves me wrong.

What About Delve?

The word went out a week ago or so that, in the wake of losing Fountain, TEST was going to evacuate Delve and move to low sec space to do… whatever they think they are going to do there.  This struck me as a bit odd.  Various alliances have their own metrics for what makes them what they are, and I had a sense that TEST was one of those that felt they were only really a player if they held sovereignty in null sec.  I guess I was wrong on that.

In the wake of this there have been attempts to write this chapter of EVE in the usual irreverent manner.  Endie is also a treasure.  Meanwhile TEST continues to break apart and attack itself as people pick apart what went wrong.

I remain surprised at how space famous Gevlon has become in null sec.  You cannot fault him on the persistence front.  I think he has a home in EVE well beyond anything he had in WoW.

But, so far, nobody has really answered the question about what happens to Delve once TEST leaves.  The CFC has said they won’t let Northern Coalition take it, but that is a reactive position.  So who is going to be on the map in Delve come the end of the year?

More On Wallpapers

I wish I knew what was going on in the south of null sec.  I was happy in that sort of “Good for them, they deserve it” way when the Walltreipers Alliance, the one time shining stars of the fight in Delve last summer because of their Alamo-like stand in T-IPZB, showed up on the sovereignty map again as part of the tussle of alliances that took up holdings after the fall of Against All Authorities’ sov holdings.

Small Holdings

Small Holdings

I have no idea how the ended up there or whether the deserved it at all, really.  But it was a name I knew from an alliance that showed fighting spirit in the face of adversity.  Only, in looking for system sovereignty dates over at DOTLAN, I noticed that Walltreipers dropped all of their sovereignty.  So add that to the list of things I have no clue about.  I don’t know how they got there and I couldn’t tell you why they left.  But another name dropped off the sov map as C0VEN moved in.

Oddly, C0VEN appears on that map up above from 2009 in about the same place.

Addendum – If this story is correct, Walltreipers might be planning a trip back to Delve, thus linking my second and third topics.

Can SOE Keep the EverQuest Next Excitement Going?

For fate strums a mournful tune
For those those campaigns peak too soon

-Stomper (aka Arrowroot of Arrowshirt), Bored of the Rings

Companies get reputations for reasons.  They aren’t always for good reasons, and sometimes those reputations are far more about perception than reality, but once you get a reputation, it tends to stick.

And Sony Online Entertainment has a… colorful reputation.

They have lots of fans, certainly.  I count myself among them.  And for many, the simple fact that they made EverQuest cuts them some slack on things.  They also saved and fixed… such that they could… Vanguard, kept EverQuest Mac going for free, and anybody who starts talking about player housing in MMOs and doesn’t bring up SOE should… well… stop.  They have also been pretty good about trying new things.  Has any other company tried as many subscription options or come up with anything as enticing as SOE All Access (formerly Station Access)?   Who has anything like Player Studio? They have done many good things.

But a lot of people only remember the bad.

SOE has done its share of that as well, enough so that it sometimes becomes difficult to expect anything beyond the worst.

And it isn’t just “they screwed up my favorite game,” though that is a big one.  SOE owns the industry crown for single change alienation of a gaming population with the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies.  That happened nearly eight years ago, but if you put John Smedley in a room with some gamers, somebody will bring up the NGE and still be angry about it.  Smed did a Reddit AMA last year to talk about PlanetSide 2.  The NGE came up, of course, and that question ended up being the one with the most up votes, because NGE hate is like a living, breathing being at this point.  The NGE is a particularly ugly monkey on Smed’s back, to destroy a metaphor.  I am pretty sure he could arrange world peace, limitless cheap power, and a decent nickel cigar and somebody would still be asking about the NGE.

SOE also has a reputation for acting first, then realizing the implications only after the story has fled from their grasp, leaving damage control as their only option.  There is, as a minor example, the Station Cash for Subscriptions fiasco, that smacks of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to.  And for letting the narrative escape, few stories can beat the ProSieben.Sat1 debacle, where the whole affair managed to get summed up pretty quickly by a cartoon showing SOE selling an 8 year old to a shady guy with a van.  Once a child molester is a key metaphor for your plan, you are in trouble.  That took a lot of back peddling and changes to bring the flames down to a merely manageable level.  And this remains an extremely sore spot today with SOE’s European “customers,” coming up again immediately after the EverQuest Next keynote presentation, largely through a failure to convince those players that there is any benefit to them at all from the change.

And then, probably far down the list for most, maybe past “recent UI models all seem to be console oriented,” there is SOE’s hot and cold marketing messages.  And the poster child for this has to be The Agency.  Before it was killed in 2011, The Agency had been the on again, off again darling of SOE.  In 2007, in SOE Podcast #19, Brenlo was talking about builds for the game and nearly slipped and said a ship date.  At SOE Fan Faire, people who saw the game were excited and the vibe seemed to be that it would ship soon.  Then it faded from view and nobody said a thing.  And then it popped up again.  And then it was gone.  And then they made a Facebook game.  And then they killed the Facebook game.  And the web site got updated.  We would hear a bit of news, then nothing.  Finally the whole thing was cancelled and that was that.

An extreme example, sure.  There were clearly problems with the project.  But the external messaging was a mess, and not exactly uncharacteristic.  There have been years where it wasn’t clear if EverQuest or EverQuest II we going to get an expansion until very late in the season.  They announce new projects, like Station Launcher, then let them die on the vine, falling out of date while still up on the web site.  The SOE web sites tend to have out of date items on them on fairly regularly.  And SOE’s ad campaigns have had their questionable moments.

What exactly was the message here?

What exactly was the message here?

Even EverQuest Next has gone through an odd cycle.  It was announced, we saw artists sketches, possible parameters were discussed, then we were told to forget all about that.  And while that reflected the realities of the project… and was handled in a tolerable manner… there is still that history, that reputation.

So when I see EverQuest Next building up a huge amount of momentum, being talked about all over the place, and generally able to bask in the rapt attention of the MMO gaming community, I can only wonder to what extent they can keep that going.

While there was a lot to digest after SOE Live, everybody who wants to will be able to review all the panel videos, tease out all the facts, hopes, and dreams, read and/or write opinions about what they have seen, and generally come up to speed on what has been released to the public.

And then what?

Well, we have the so-called EverQuest Next Round Table over on the official site.  So far that seems to be a series of polls where the answers are pretty much foregone conclusions and links to a special forum where people can argue about their choices.  However, the forum dev tracker either isn’t working or the devs are busy elsewhere.  So there are nearly 60 pages and more than four thousands forum posts around whether races should have class restrictions, all based on “I want” and assumptions with sand castle strength foundations, and featuring the same small cast of characters battling over the same ground endlessly.  I think you have as much chance influencing the game by going to a bar near SOE headquarters after hours and expressing your opinions at anybody who looks like a programmer.

There is the EverQuest Worlds mobile app, which seems to be built around SOE’s slightly-behind-the-curve obsession with Facebook.  The reviews are predictable.

Not really what people wanted

Not really what people wanted

And then there is some activity on Twitter.  A few key people saying things now and again, while supporting player StoryBricks is out there driving a whole emergent AI discussion that carefully says it is not necessarily EverQuest Next focused, pointing people towards relevant threads on Reddit, and retweeting things on the topic.

But otherwise, things are starting to slow down.  The initial buzz of excitement has faded a bit.  A whole bunch of stuff is out there and those interested have run through it.  Now we’re waiting for SOE to build on that foundation.

Which brings me back up to the title of this, can SOE keep the excitement around EverQuest Next going?  What should they be doing?

And what shouldn’t they be doing?

And, finally, should they even worry about it?

Drying Off After The Waterworks

I have managed to keep plodding forward in Lord of the Rings Online.  My previous post put me on the verge of Moria.  Well, I am through the doors and stuck into the expansion.

Our kinship seems to have faded however.  The summer diversion into Middle-earth has fallen by the wayside for most of our EVE Online corp which, if nothing else, means that even at my modest pace of advancement, at level 56 I am close to being the highest level player.  Of course, without everybody else, doing instances as a group hasn’t come to pass.  And just to rain on my parade a little bit more, the founder of our kinship quit EVE and, in what I take to be a big “Up yours!” to his former corp mates, revoked officer status for everybody in the kinship.  So the kinship is now both dead and without anybody who can make any changes.

Life in MMOs.

At least there wasn’t anything for him to steal.

So my progress forward has been pretty quiet as well as slow.  But it has allowed me to explore Moria, which is turning out to be a much bigger place than I had imagined.

I do find that Moria’s separation from the initial world… which I know was required back in the day… is initially quite bothersome.  You cannot travel straight to Moria, the last horse stop is at the portal into the zone outside Moria, so you have to hoof it across a modest zone every time you leave and then come back.  This is aggravated by the fact that all of the services you go back to Bree or Rivendell for are available in Moria, just not until you reach the Twenty First Hall, which the map below shows, isn’t exactly close to where you start off.

Moria Zones

Moria Zones

So you can be a while getting there.  And until you do all your crafting, banking, and training needs have to be served back on the surface.

Initially you start off in mostly cave-ish areas where the dwarves have carved out rooms and a few structures.  But as you move deeper in, the size and scale of the works become truly massive.

We like high ceilings

We like high ceilings

Of course, massive comes with a price as well.  I was in Durin’s Hall at one point, which is a well developed area at least five levels deep, and was standing on a walkway at the top on one side of the area and needed to be on a platform one level down and across the… room?  I could see it from where I stood… but actually getting there involved a Super Mario Brothers routine of stairs and ramps.  This was further hindered by the designer’s love of very steep stair cases.  They are so steep that you often cannot verify that there are stairs there until you get to the very edge of a platform.  And they are not always where you think they will be, something that has lead me to go over the edge on several occasions.

And I always seem to be a bit lost.  Not a bad thing, as it speaks to the depth of the zones.  But not only is it surprisingly easy to get turned around and headed in the wrong direction if you fail to consult the map every so often, but I also end up completely losing the thread of quest chains as I accidentally stumble on new locations.

And the names of places just don’t seem to be sticking with me.  So I abandon some quests, pick up some new ones and carry on.

In part I think this is because the goat subway system that forms the mass transit backbone in Moria insists on naming the stations, such as they are, after the immediate geographic location.  So, for example, the destination when I want to get to the Waterworks, a zone in which I did all the quests I could and finished most of the deeds, is reached by a goat stop at The Rotting Cellar.  But it took me a while to associated that name with the Waterworks.

The Waterworks itself though is an amazing place.  At least assuming you don’t mind being waist deep in water a good portion of the time.  It is one of those locations that makes you feel really small.  The quests in the zone were not anything exciting.  They were mostly the standard fare, go kill some of these and come back, now go turn the knob over there and come back, now kill something else.  And the water structures themselves often appeared to have all the purpose of the engine room in Galaxy Quest.  But the design and feel of the zone, a huge open cavern with immense structure all bathed in an eerie crystal light, kept me going.  It was one of those zone where I wanted to poke my nose into every location.

I suppose the fact that is was a much more open zone than what I have been through in Moria helped.  I could see the distant corners I wanted to explore.

So I actually finished up the quest chain there… unlike any Moria area up to that point… after which the final task was to send me off to the Twenty First Hall and essential services.  I had been there already.  I dropped a Mithril coin to get there just to be able to use the bank.  But now I was actually being sent there.

Gaff pointed out that I might want to pick up a new legendary weapon, as I was still using the one I picked up in Eregion.  It was falling behind in damage rating, and I apparently picked up some of the barter currency as drops along the way. With auto loot on, I am often surprised what I find in my bag or wallet at the end of the night.

Fortunately, that investment in first weapon gets paid back somewhat when you deconstruct it.  You can then apply that to your new weapon.

After doing some lift and carry and search quests (the dwarves seems to lose a lot of things in Moria) in and about the Twenty First Hall, I made my way to the Redhorn Lode area.  That will be my next area of exploration.  It isn’t as open as The Waterworks, though it certainly isn’t as cave-like as the opening zones either.  And it is tinted in a reddish glow rather than blue.

While I start in on that, here are some tourist photos from my time in The Waterworks.

The Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere and You!

When, during a fleet op on Saturday afternoon my local time, The Mittani asked over Jabber if somebody had an alt handy that could create an alliance.  We immediately began to wondered what was up.

And we had time to wonder, as TEST’s erstwhile allies, who went to the trouble to put the ihub at D4KU-5 into reinforce, couldn’t raise a fleet to finish off the timer, so we were out there repping the ihub in peace.

Repping the ihub

Repping the ihub

Visions of a disgruntled director dissolving TEST and GSF grabbing their alliance name, as happened with Band of Brothers way back when, swam through my head.  Why else would they need somebody to create an alliance on short notice.

But no, we weren’t going to be adding to TEST’s current implosion and retreat to low sec.  We got the word, again through Jabber:

Directorbot: HORRIBLE EXPERIMENTS WITH PUBBIES: Due to the horrors of the Odyssey changes, we are now considering the formerly unthinkable: setting up a CFC-affiliated renter zone, where each entity in the CFC gets ~mad bux~ based on their participation. CCP seems to be forcing everyone into being serf-lords. Give me your best renter-alliance names in gfgbs, with the understanding that “Free Trade Zone” has sadly already been taken.

We’re also going to arrange a ~sales force~ where you can get a cut of the first month’s rent of any renter pubbie corp you help us slot into their ghettoes.

*** This was a broadcast from the_mittani to all-all at 2013-08-10 21:14:04.819616 EVE, replies are not monitored ***

Goonswarm was going into the space rental business.

The name chosen, as seen in the title of this post, was the Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere (ticker: PBLRD).  The name is a reference that had to be explained to those not keeping up.

The irony of the situation is… I don’t know… very ironic?  Irony turned up to 11?

The Goons in particular have been quite vocal in their hate of renters and alliances that fund themselves through renters, to the point that anti-renter propaganda has become a core value of the alliance.  The big April Fool’s joke at The Mittani this year was a mock announcement that Goonswarm was going to start renting space.

But there it was.  A post was up in the Goon forums announcing the plan, complete with imposing charts and graphs detailing the potential upside value in ISK for the whole venture, which you can see here in the public announcement of the plan.  And then the thread lit up.  The first response was:

this is the dumbest thing we could possibly do

And it devolved from there.  As noted, hating renters, and pubbies in general, has a history.  And even trying to cast the whole thing as a bold new way to oppresses the masses in New Eden was not getting many converts.

A new vision

A new vision

And the most bitter pill to swallow had to be the immediate ban on rental scams.  Long have Goon scammers fattened their wallets acting as null sec real estate agents, taking large deposits on the promise of an early move-in date for prime ratting/mining locations.  All of that is now verboten.

In then end, the project was destined to go forward because of the ISK factor.  With moon income being reduced greatly with Odyssey, potential CFC adversaries, all of whom rent space to subsidize their empires, looked to be able to accumulate war chests that would allow them to outspend us in any  future conflict.  The venture has been cast as one required for long term survival.   Plus, you know, ongoing peacetime reimbursements, first carriers free to Goons, and other aspects of space communism.  The Goons will harness the carebears to the yoke.  Gevlon would be proud.

All of which was both interesting and uncomfortable to watch as a Goon ally in the CFC.  Things in the Goon forums tend to be cast entirely in a Goon light, and rightly so.  But as a… pubbie… non-Goon… Goon by association… or whatever the hell I am, I am never quite sure…  with access to their forums, from which almost all my CFC information comes, it isn’t always clear where allies fit in.  Some questions up the chain in my own corp/alliance indicated that this was a CFC-wide initiative and that all alliances in the CFC would share in the bounty in some way.

Now there is just the details of making the whole thing work.  As part of an ongoing educational plan, there is a good post up describing how null sec rental empires operate in EVE Online, which includes some information on other such operations.  But there is still a gap in trust to be overcome.  If you have been scammed by Goons in the past, what is the likelihood that you are going to sign up for this, pay the first month’s rental in advance, and then put all your corporate assets in a station that they can lock you out of should the need and/or desire arise?

Because jumping onto that is not going to make you a member of the CFC.  It is not a back door to becoming a Goon ally.  If you are looking for that sort of thing, then you are doing it wrong.

It is even tough to hold up CSM8 member Mynnna, who is driving part of this initiative, as a sign of good faith after The Mittani used his position as CSM chairman as a way to gain trust in order to pull off a number of supercapital escrow scams.  Life with a reputation.

But renting such space can be a way to make a lot of ISK, if you have a corp willing to work the space.  Or multi-box like crazy.

And you can trust me right?  Hah!  I will have to see what this sales force option is, since I could use the ISK for my capital ship plans.   And my corporation explicitly forbids scamming in their bylaws.

The upshot of all of this is that it looks like renters will become a key financing method for all major null sec power blocs.  And since wars are often about money… see the stated reason for the invasion of Fountain… I expect that renters will become a greater focus in conflicts going forward.  That was one of the forum proposals, that rather than renting we just go interdict the opposition’s renters in order to level the ISK playing field.  That did not fly on its own, but I am sure it will be part of the plan going forward.

Personally, I am mostly looking forward to seeing “Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere” appear on the null sec influence map.  Well, that and ongoing ship reimbursements.  I am all for that.

Summer Reruns – The Instance Group in Vanilla WoW

The Chronicles of the Saturday Night Instance Group have been somewhat sparse this year.  Things change and real life intrudes.

So I went back and picked out the tales of the original group run, our joint conquest of the group content in World of Warcraft, which started in earnest back in October 2006.

The group in Shadofang Keep – 2006

Not that we were free from interruptions back then.  There is a pretty large gap in the timeline March and September 2007, during which one of us published a book, one of us moved across town, and another changed jobs and moved across country.  That gave us some time to go explore other games.  And we got back together to continue forward.

This group of characters… with one substitution part way in, Blintz the dwarf rogue was replaced by Vikund the paladin… did the group content and followed the various story lines all the way through to the end of Wrath of the Lich King.  We ended up skipping bits here and there.  And we never did get back and finish up those last three instances they added WotLK after we were done.

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

And That was that.  After getting UBRS access, we were through the dark portal and into The Burning Crusade content.  We had our epic mounts.  We saw most of the content.  And we were the right level.  It was time to advance.

The Group on Epic Mounts

Post WotLK we tried to recapture the feeling of the original instances by re-rolling our group as Horde on a PvP server in November 2009.  We made it into TBC content.  But various changes to the game… talent trees and abilities were tuned for the new content… and ourselves… we eventually figured out how to play… made it seem like the original content had been nerfed in some way.

And then again, with the launch of Cataclysm, we re-rolled and tried to start from scratch, four Worgen and a gnome.  But that fell apart more quickly than I thought it would.  The dark side of the Dungeon Finder reared its ugly head, as Blizzard redesigned the original content to suit its tool.  Until then, DF wasn’t that bad in my eyes.  I wasn’t so concerned about cross-realm groups or bad matches.  But when Blizzard decided that the instance content should be successfully completed by any group that met the minimum requirements in an hour or less, the instance plan died.

In about four years we went from needing to take multiple all-night runs at some instances to running multiple instances in a single night on a regular basis.  The game had clearly changed and the past was no longer reachable.

But we have our memories of good times, a series of blog posts to help remind us when memories fade, and even a video.

LEGO Legend of Chima Online – A Second Try at a LEGO MMO

LEGO Universe is just a memory, some random screen shots, and a painful timeline at this point.  But that doesn’t mean LEGO is out of the MMO business or that a LEGO MMO isn’t a good idea.  LEGO has a new MMO going, LEGO Legends of Chima Online.

LEGOChimaOnline450LEGO has teamed up with Warner Games for to take another run at the whole MMO idea.

I am not sure why they haven’t gone with Traveller’s Tales on this plan, as they are the people who have made pretty much ALL the good LEGO games, from LEGO Star Wars forward.  Then again, TT does seem to have a pretty set formula, one that might be getting old by this point.

Anyway, with lessons learned from LEGO Universe, things have a new flavor.  The game will be web based, using the Unity Plug-in as a platform.  It will be free to play, with premium options.  And it will be focused on a single, LEGO owned property, the Legends of Chima, which LEGO is starting to roll out as building sets, games on the DS and Vita platform, and a television show on Cartoon Network.  So a big cross channel cash-in is being attempted here, and it looks even more ambitious than the Ninjago campaign.

The site for Legends of Chima is up and running and the game is in open beta and seems to include all of the standard MMO features from levels to combat to inventory management.  The critical game features that LEGO is calling out are:

Free to Play – LEGO Legends of Chima Online is a free-to-play online game! Membership and Premium currency are available to further enhance the experience but are never required!

Build – As the new commander of your Outpost, it is up to you to decide what you want to build and where you want to build it. Every building provides benefits from generating and collecting studs, creating weapons and armor, or providing your hero with special skills and abilities! You can also build and destroy LEGO creations within the game world.

Create & Customize – Be the hero you want to be. Your skills depend on what kind of Outpost you choose to build! There are no classes, no restrictions – you can play the way you want to play! Customize items by picking which color brick you want to build them with!

I suppose we will see how a new LEGO MMO stands up in world that already has Minecraft and EverQuest Next Landmark on the way.  But this time around, the goals seem to be more modest and the focus a lot more concentrated for LEGO.

Blog Banter #48 – You Want the Lore? You Can’t Handle the Lore!

Mrs Caldari Citizen 561237412,

We deeply regret to inform you that your son, Caldari Citizen 564752873, was killed in action on July 28th. His ship, the Dongs Dongs Butttes Dongs, self-destructed for unknown reasons.

A Board of Inquiry was formed to address these issues. Captian xWeedLordXxXGoku420x was found to have acted properly on all counts when the court learned that he was 27 jumps from home and his ship was a stock-issue Slasher. He has been provided a new crew and Slasher.

In deepest sympathy,
The Mittani
CEO Goonwaffe
(signed on his behalf)

In partial fullfilment of Blog Banter #48, which asks, “How important is the lore in EVE Online?”

Not very important at all.

There, am I done yet?

No?

Okay, some of the lore does get impressed upon us at.  The tutorial explains the EVE Gate and how humanity ended up in New Eden, though it never quite gets to why I feel the need to write “EVE” in all capital letters.  It isn’t an acronym.  It is just the way that CCP styles it.  But back to lore.  I bet some of you can even tell me which system in EVE Online the  EVE Gate resides in.

The lore also explains the four main factions of EVE Online, their background and political system.  And while I am sure players tend to skim over that sort of thing, I bet most can match up the faction with its political system.  Go ahead, print this out and drawn a line between the faction and the description of it’s primary political philosophy.

Amarr          Shareholder Rights
Caldari        Rounded Edges
Gallente       Worship of the Rust God
Minmatar       Aging Skinhead Rulers

And the lore of EVE Online does touch us nearly every day, influencing our decisions, shaping our goals.

There is the Consolidated Cooperation and Relations Command, better known as CONCORD. (As with the Amalgamation of Regional Militia (ARM), it sounds like the acronym came first, then some words were forced into place.)  CONCORD is part of the lore and it heavily influences how PvP happens in large parts of space.  Who you can shoot, what gates you can go near, how you fit your ship for a gank, and whether or not you are safe to fly in high sec space at all is influenced by CONCORD.

Likewise, the somewhat insane lore that dictates that you can insure ships influences behavior in game.  The reimbursement policy of many an alliance assumes that you will buy the Platinum Insurance Package for your ship before you fly off into battle.  I would love to see the balance sheet for the insurance system of New Eden.  It is probably so out of balance that we should consider magic money to be part of the lore as well.

And then there are ships and ship design philosophies, which is probably where lore comes closest to touching every single player in EVE Online.  Some of it is so ingrained that people might not even think of it as lore.  That the Amarr like phallic shapes, that the Caldari think asymmetry makes them edgy and modern, that the Gallente think green doesn’t make them look fat, and that the Minmatar have figured out how to make metal rust in a vacuum… plus the various armament and tanking philosophies… influence our ship choices.

But it emphasizes my front still, right?

Some (or all) of those philosophies end up becoming part of the game framework of any long term player.  And it is driven by lore.

So the lore is important to the degree that it does shape our play style choices.  But the lore doesn’t stop there.  No, it just keeps on rolling.

There are ongoing updates from CCP about the political struggles amongst the four major NPC factions, like that time… when that guy… crashed his ship into that station… and the Caldari and the Gallente went to war or some such… and the dead station was there in space for all of us to ignore as we went about our very important space business.  And then Factional Warfare was introduced, left to stagnate for a while, and was eventually spruced up and incentivized so people would play it.  And manipulate it.  Because this is EVE Online.  That was all part of one plan.  I think.

There are the back stories to all of those infinitely staffed and supplied rebel/pirate organizations, like Sansha’s Nation and The Guristas.  I am not sure how deeply involved with that back story anybody really gets when running missions or clearing anomalies, so long as there are more to shoot.

And then there are the lore details that most people don’t even get to.  Like the fact that, according to the lore, ships have crews.  That is canon right there bub, you do not fly alone.   Somebody has to tend the fedos.

People discover, dig up, or remember the crew thing every so often.  Jester wrote about it back in March, mostly to muse aloud about whether crews that live long enough ought to bestow benefits upon ship performance.  He also put up this nice little chart that I can never find when I look for it, so I am going to steal it right from him.

Ship Staffing Parameters

Ship Staffing Parameters

Somebody in the Something Awful forums stumbled upon the ship’s crew aspect EVE Online, and the game discussion thread devolved into an exploration of that bit of lore for several pages.  The quote at the top of this post is from one of the responses to the crew question, an example of the thousands of letters of condolence that one might imagine has to be sent out after battles like the one at 6VDT.  Boodabooda’s signature might have been stamped on as many as 25,000 such notes just for Prophecy crews alone after that battle, assuming a crew of 100 and a 30% survival rate.

And the discussion went on to wonder where all these crew members come from.  How do you recruit the thousands of warm bodies needed to work the internal systems of the ships in your fleet.  At 6VDT we had more than 900 Megathrons in the system, which could represent more than 270,000 crew members.  Who signed them up?  How did they get out to 4-EP?  Who feeds them?  What motivated them to join one side or another?  Are citizens of the various empires press ganged into serving?  Are conditions down on the planets of New Eden so terrible that a likely death in the vacuum of space seems like a reasonable choice and where most of your life is spent in a station in the middle of contested space?  And to whom do these crews hold allegiance?

Sometimes it might not be in your best interest to look too closely at the game lore.

But I will change my opening statement and grant that the lore is important, at least as a framework for our lives in New Eden.  It just is not that important in terms of the story of our own experiences in EVE Online, the tales we tell and the memories we create through playing the game.  In the end, player made lore behind a list like this:

2009-02-04
16:04 Alliance Band of Brothers has been disbanded
16:04 Corporation Keiretsu has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Relentless Construction has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Tin Foil has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Black Eclipse Corp has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Reikoku has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Destructive Influence has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation TAOSP has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Black Nova Corp has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation gettingaDeathSquad has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Justice. has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Evolution has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation FinFleet has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Oh Canada has left alliance Band of Brothers
16:04 Corporation Umbrage Inc. has left alliance Band of Brothers

is far more important than where the Guristas came from (and why they keep coming back) or what happens to your crew when your ship gets blown up… again.

Other, more serious entrants in the Blog Banter: