Daily Archives: March 31, 2014

March in Review

The Site

WordPress.com, ever fodder for for this section of the monthly round up, popped up something amusing this month.

Leet?

Leet?

We all love the number 1337 right, being “leet” in “leet speak” and all that.  But the pop-up does make me wonder a bit.  I am close to 3,200 posts here, but only 1,337 were likeable?  Okay, the whole “like” button thing didn’t show up here at WordPress.com until quite a while after I had started blogging, but still.  If it were not for C.T. Murphy, I wouldn’t even have 1,337.

Meanwhile, on my “other” blog, EVE Online Pictures, WordPress.com congratulated me on having 500 posts.

500! It's a round number!

500! It’s a round number!

Which confused me, because I have nearly 800 posts total over there.  However, I started posting under a different nom de plume when I launched the blog.   It was done for dubious reasons.  That whole story is here.  So what this really meant was that I changed over to just posting as me, Wilhelm Arcturus, 500 or so posts ago.

And, finally, I applied for official EVE Online community fan site status for EVE Online Pictures, and it was accepted… which shows you just how low the bar is for that sort of thing. (I decided to give it a shot after reading one of many posts on monetizing blogs.)

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

Between my Italian pals! Ciao!

While that lead to a very minor boost in traffic, the big thing is that my main account is now a “fan site account” which means it is free so long as I keep the site active and fill out a form every few months.  The main change for me was having to put up a couple of legal disclaimers, which was no big deal.  The impact here is that I will likely remain subscribed to EVE Online for the foreseeable future, as keeping the other blog going doesn’t require a ton of effort. (And I got a pile of pictures for the site this month.)

So you can consider me bought and paid for by CCP, but I doubt it will change what I write here in the slightest.  After all, this isn’t the fan site, the other one is.

One Year Ago

Dave Georgeson of SOE said MMOs should never die. A noble sentiment at the time, it rings a bit hollow a year and five SOE MMO closure announcements later.  Business is business.

I got a seven day pass to Azeroth from Blizzard.  It was nice.  I had some fun, but I wasn’t ready to go back full time yet.

Meanwhile, Blizzard was saying they were blindsided by the popularity of the auction house in Diablo III.  They were nearly a year late on that revelation.

On a similar theme, EA launched a new version of SimCity, pretty much ignoring the obvious expectations the franchise comes with.  I could only wonder if they learned anything from their efforts.

The instance group was doing some Rift content as a four player group.  This was the time of our long hiatus, though we got a full group now and again.  And when it was just the three of us, we ended up playing Neverwinter Nights 2 instead.

In EVE Online we were chasing around Deklein, flying the Tech Fleet doctrine, and bagging a carrier or two.

EON Magazine was closing its doors, marking the end of an era in EVE Online.

EverQuest hit its 14 year anniversary, and there was some talk about the camera view’s influence on the game’s popularity.

I was still playing World of Tanks and had hit the 2,000 battle mark.  I was out there with the KV-3 and the ARL 44.

I finished up all the things in Wayfaerer Foothills, which sort of ended my time in Guild Wars 2.

Then there was the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, which seemed more marketing tool than funding effort, and which hit its number in 11 days.  Still, Lord British felt the need to stir the pot by declaring most game designers suck… and are lazy… and are not as good as him.  Then he claimed he was taken out of context and not just saying things for cheap publicity.  As the month closed, his Kickstarter was wrapping up, but Camelot Unchained was coming.

It was announced that Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was getting updated to run on modern machines with better graphics.  That set me on five other older games that I wished would get a similar revamp, which I think was more useful than just declaring that game developers need to innovate.

Finally, I was looking for input on some actual, real world things.

Five Years Ago

In March 2009 we were excited about Pokemon Platinum around our house, although we weren’t really finished with Pokemon Diamond yet.

I spent a day up at GDC in San Francisco.

In WoW we finished up a short hiatus and started back in at the SteamVault.  My daughter was tearing up Warsong Gulch.  Meanwhile, the Lich King seemed to have laid a curse on my new video card.  Nothing I did ever seemed to change this issue, though it did seem to go away eventually.

In EVE Online, Apocrypha came out, and with it the classic graphics were swept away.  Adam though, was making his own adventures in New Eden.  Oh, and I bought a freighter.

Somebody tried to put together a list of the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.  Like all such list, this one started the comments rolling.

It was launch day and I was already complaining about Runes of Magic… well, about the patcher in any case.

I finished up what was the last book of the Wheel of Time series.

The EverQuest 10th anniversary just wasn’t evoking the level of nostalgia in me that I thought it would.

And we had to say goodbye to an old friend and family member.  The picture my daughter drew is still up on the wall.  It still draws the occasional tear later in the evenings when people are tired and a bit more emotionally fragile.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in March

You can tell when I have written nothing exciting all month, some old nuts and bolts post rises to the top thanks to Google.

  1. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  2. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  3. Warlords of Draenor to be a $50 Expansion? And Something About Insta-90s
  4. Picking My 15 Most Influential Games
  5. Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Warlords of Draenor
  6. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  7. Show Me The Planets Contest Results
  8. Report from New Tristram
  9. How Blizzard Got Me to Play Hearthstone
  10. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  11. The Insta-90 Choice is… Death Knight
  12. CCP – Losing Money and Getting Closer to Sony

Search Terms of the Month

that moment when a ex friend still manages to steal your beer
[That pretty much cements the ex-friend status]

is there aplace where some one can get donated plex for eve
[I’m not sure that is how it works.]

how did the lego universe story end
[Quietly]

Age of Kings

Our floating Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings group managed to get in a few matches over the course of the month, including our disastrous encounter with actual, real people.  The question is whether we will carry on.  Player against the computer gets dull fast, playing against each other remains imbalanced, and playing against live people… is a challenge mostly confined to seeing how much we can slow down the inevitable steam roller.  We might need a different game.  Maybe something more in the turn-base strategy genre, playable by four people.  Ideas?

Diablo III

Loot 2.0 and the coming of the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo III revived some interest around the game.  I rolled up a new barbarian… can you used the term “rolled up” when your only options at start are name and sex?  Anyway,  went out and played most of the way through Act III and found the game much improved for the effort.  However, I didn’t run out and buy Reaper of Souls, or even finish Act III.  Even at my most engaged, the game never got higher than second place in my mental “what do I want to play?” list, where I barely play the third place entry and fourth is lucky if I launch the game.  Still, maybe at some point.  The expansion sounds exciting.

EVE Online

EVE Online spent most of the month sitting in that fourth place position, as reference above.  There is no real war going on.  We’re back to cloaky campers in the systems I might rat in just to earn some ISK.  I have ships scattered all over the game that I should corral and bring back to staging systems, something that can be an adventure when I am in the mood, but which has just seemed like work of late.  And our corp, which hasn’t kicked me out for idleness yet, has gone through a leadership change.  Gaff is out.  And with that change, the “more POS towers!” faction is running the show.  We had a corp day to mine ice, which I attended.  The op was to gather ice to fuel our towers, and most of the talk was about where to get the rest of the ice we’ll need to fuel our towers.  Because we have a lot of towers.  Because, towers.

I did find out that one of the reasons things have been so quiet is that strat ops are no longer getting rebroadcast from Goon coms to our own.  So if I want strat ops, and that is pretty much all I want, I have to log into their coms, not ours… which is not a big deal, as I am on their coms most of the time anyway.  If I had actually bothered to post something from my SA forum account in the last six years, I’d consider just applying to Goonswarm to cut out the middle man.

World of Warcraft

Azeroth still looms large in my daily gaming, in part because I am on the auction house and daily quest treadmill.  That isn’t a bad thing.  I have a set of goals which keep me coming back.  It is when I have no goals that these sorts of things become drudgery.  The guild remains active over the weekends.  Gaff, no longer worried about running a corp in EVE Online, has joined us and brought along a friend.  So they are diving into Pandaria and doing all the usual alt-a-go-go routine.  The guild is lively enough that we’ll get to level 25 before summer I am sure.  The instance group also has enough content ahead to get to summer and our usual hiatus.  What will happen come the fall if the launch date for Warlords of Draenor is close to the first day of Winter?  I couldn’t tell you.

Coming Up

The Elder Scrolls Online launches this week.  The head start kicked off yesterday, mere mortals to be allowed in by the end of the week.  I am not buying the game as yet, but I will mark the launch date.  Have to get that into the “one year ago” and “five years ago” system.

I have a post coming up this week about new hardware and a new game I have been playing.  We’ll get to that on Wednesday I think.

The instance group carries on, World of Warcraft remains a thing.  EVE Online, likewise, remains on my list.  Diablo III… we shall see.  It has fallen into fourth place for now.  Or maybe lower.  I didn’t play it at all over the past weekend.

And then there is tomorrow, when we get to sort out the obligatory from the inventive.  I have nothing planned, so I will probably just point at others.

A Farewell to Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures

No.  No more kids games.  Kids don’t spend well and it’s very difficult to run a kids game.  Turns out Kids do mean stuff to each other a lot.

John Smedley, Reddit AMA

Back towards the end of January, SOE announced that it would be closing down four of its titles this year.  The closures were set out with the following dates:

While some at SOE have, in the past, expressed a desire that MMOs should never die, the financials and resource constraints companies face do not always support those ideals.  Smed said, it wasn’t a cost issue… and then turned around and said that it was, in fact, a cost issue:

This isn’t a big cost issue. The real problem is maintaining the code bases when we update our authentication or security updates. It’s really that simple. The costs scale with the userbases. It’s just getting prohibitively expensive in terms of time to maintain these games.

So today we say farewell to the first two titles on the list, the two titles in the SOE lineup aimed at kids.  As you can see from the quote at the top of the post, it seems unlikely that SOE will try that focus again.  So goes the myth of the kid with daddy’s credit card that was so popular some time back.  It turns out that they don’t spend money.

Oh, and they are mean to each other.  I guess that fits the stereotype that WoW problem players are all 13 year olds, though I would not discount the 18-24 year old demographic when it comes to excelling at obnoxious behavior.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures seems like a natural for closure.

SWCWE_Logo

It was tied in with a TV series that has since ended… sort of… Netflix might revive it.   But as a game, it struck me as little more than a shared lobby for mini-games in the hour or so I spent on it on quiet Sunday afternoon.  A vehicle for selling Jedi hats.  I am sure some will miss it, but it never seemed to me to be a high point in the history of SOE.

Last Day...

Last Day…

More like a bone thrown them by Lucas because they were yanking the Star Wars Galaxies license just before Star Wars: The Old Republic went live.  I hope SOE made some money from it to fund other things, though I doubt they would be closing it if it was bringing in a lot of money.

Still, SOE gave people their fill of Jedi hats during the last days of the title.

Dear Clone Wars Adventures Players,

As previously announced, we wanted to remind you that game services for Clone Wars Adventures will be discontinued the evening of March 31, 2014. We have had many incredible experiences with you in the game – from insane battles to unbelievable memories – and we thank you for all of the great adventures and support over the years.

On Tuesday, March 18th, most items in the Clone Wars Adventures Marketplace will be reduced to 1 SC each for you to enjoy over the last couple of weeks. For more details, information and FAQ, please visit SOE Customer Service.

May the Force always be with you!

Best,

Sony Online Entertainment LLC

Out in style I suppose.

And then there is Free Realms.  This was the big experiment.  This was the high quality, family focused, designed as free to play from day one experiment.

FreeRealmsLogo

A lot of people were excited about Free Realms.  Even the “What is Free Realms?” marketing blurb sounds exciting.

What is Free Realms?

Free Realms is a free 3D virtual world where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want! Jump in straight from your web browser! Once you create your character, you’ll be in and playing in just a few minutes.

Decorate your house, then invite your friends over for a party! Teach your pet a new trick or dress them up in a sweet costume! Battle enemies as you search for lost treasure or duel other players, mine for gold, cook up a meal, or race your car! When you’re ready for a different kind of challenge, play a wide variety of fun minigames, jump into the trading card game or check up with your friends on your profile page. Free Realms is the place to join up with your friends to discover, explore, compete, chat, share achievements and just have fun! In Free Realms, YOU RULE.

YOU RULE, until the bank forecloses.

The game ran into its own “gotta pay the bills” problems not to far into its life, and the velvet ropes vision that Smed put out there had to grow more restrictive in order to shake some coins out of the players.  I am sure that SOE’s problems with Station Cash and “triple Station Cash” offers did not help.  And when they were offering lifetime subscriptions for just $30, I suppose that was a sign that the cow wasn’t giving enough milk.

Is that a squirrel or what?

Still not sure if that is a squirrel

Still, Free Realms was interesting. (I think Tipa kept track of it best.)  It came out on multiple platforms, starting on Windows and then moving to Mac OS and then eventually to the PlayStation 3.  Amusingly, while PlayStation support was announced early on, the Mac OS version came out first.  My daughter played it on the Mac, though support for the game was a bit spotty.  After the third time SOE support responded to a problem with “delete everything and install from scratch” we decided that maybe it was time to move on.

We also tried it on the PlayStation, but since you cannot share accounts, that meant that anything my daughter had was gone.  So that did not gain much traction.

It also seemed a much deeper title than its Star Wars stable mate, which probably made it just that much more expensive to maintain.  And then there is the engine problem.  SOE seemed to be all over the map developing games on different engines, which leads to support and maintenance issues over time.  We have seen with the whole Landmark and EverQuest Next thing that SOE is moving towards consolidation.

There were no cost reduced hats to celebrate the end of days in Free Realms.  The last producer’s note was from back at the closure announcement.

Hi everyone,

Usually I’m in here telling you about cool new developments in the Realms. Today is a much different day for me. I’m deeply saddened to announce that we will sunset Free Realms on March 31, 2014.

Free Realms has truly been a labor of love for SOE (even our own president’s kids are huge fans and active players of the game!). In a nutshell, the game has reached a stage in its life cycle where players are growing up and moving on to other games.

When we first released the game in 2009, it was one of the very first free-to-play MMO for kids and teens, and we couldn’t be prouder of everything we have accomplished together in the game. While today’s news might be a disappointment, we’re sincerely excited about what’s to come for the game before we say goodbye, including player celebration in-game events and more!

We will share details on the upcoming activities and sunset soon, but we wanted to give you plenty of notice so you can truly enjoy your remaining time left in the game. We thank you for all of the memories we have made together in the Realms!

Steve George

Producer, Sony Online Entertainment

And so the end of Free Realms will be marked.

As for kids MMOs, Smed might have a point.  While Club Penguin still abides, and WebKinz continues to shift its model away from real world toys into virtual world goods, other online titles aimed at kids have faded as well.  Gone are Toontown Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Fusion Fall.  It isn’t an easy market and it competes with a lot of other entertainment options for kids.

And then there is free to play in general, which one of the original Free Realms team was talking about recently.

So today is the day.  And the clock keeps on ticking down for Vanguard and Wizardry Online.