Monthly Archives: February 2015

February in Review

The Site

I did have my first failure of my current Rube Goldberg MMO blogesphere feed this month when somebody decided that Pinboard, a key player in the chain of events that moves things from my Feedly feed to the sidebar of this blog, was picked to receive a DDoS attack for a couple of days.

FeedDownFortunately things came back together in a couple of days, but for a while there the side bar was back to depending solely on the VirginWorlds feed for links to posts on other blogs.

And then VirginWorlds feed started to have some problems.  I think there is an RSS problem in one of the blogs on Brent’s list, which is causing only a few sites to get picked up.  Plus Massively is no longer updating, long a staple of his feed.  And then another site on his list became a spam site and some odd things started showing up in the feed, so I took it off the side bar and dropped Brent a note.  We’ll see how that plays out.

One Year Ago

A lot of people got their panties in a twist about Steam tags.  It was the literal end of civilization as we knew it… for about 30 minutes.

EA handed over the running of Camelot Unchained and Ultima Online to Broadsword.

I spent some time with Warcraft III attempting to discover the pre-history of WoW.

There was Diablo III version 2.0, and the changes looked promising.

On the World of Warcraft front, we were still talking about Warlords of Draenor.  Pre-orders were announced an there was a rumor that the expansion would cost $60, which seemed a bit steep.  Also, insta-90s looked to be coming as a cash shop item.  Would all of that stem the tide on subscription decline?

Meanwhile, I finished the last of the LFR raids, witnessing the downfall of Garrosh Hellscream.  For all of the complaints about LFR, I enjoyed my raid tourism.  The instance group did Grim Batol, then made the jump to Pandaria before returning with slightly better equipment for Heroic Deadmines.

I was wondering why PvP seemed to be a requirement for all MMOs.

I got into The Edler Scrolls Online beta and declared it Skyrim-like enough for me, then never played it again.

Brad McQuaid’s Pantheon: Further Falling of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign was winding down, doomed to failure.  There was talk about what would happen nextPlan B anybody?

I ran another EVE Online screen shot contest to give away some items from the Second Decade Collector’s Edition which I scored for free… after having bought it for myself.  And then there was the monument and drone assist and campaign medals and the repercussions of B-R5RB to talk about.

And I wondered what was going to happen with people being given free reign in Landmark.

Five Years Ago

We learned SynCaine’s dirty secret.

I was invited to go play in the beta for the web based Crown of Byzantus.  It didn’t really stick with me, though I wrote about it a couple of times.

There was another press release or some such for a Wheel of Time MMO.  My call: It isn’t going to happen.

Ten Ton Hammer made a list of their Top Ten PvP MMOs, and there was some chagrin that Ultima Online didn’t make the cut.

For reasons I cannot recall, Conner at MMO Fallout started looking into how MMO companies ranked over at the Better Business Bureau.

There was an announcement for a new game… World of Tanks!

In World of Warcraft, the instance group got as far as Zul’Farrak in our horde adventures, though we were still forgetting we could use the Dungeon Finder.  Otherwise we were running around doing holiday events and the like.

Oh, the Dungeon Finder.  My first runs with that were… not so good.  I seemed to run into some cliche bad groups.

Meanwhile, WoW decided to emulate WebKinz and start selling stuffed animals that had codes for in-game versions.  They are still around.  My daughter wants the Windrider Cub.

The Azeroth Advisor went buh-bye.  Thanks 38 Studios!  I saved all the email tips they sent me, however they are all pretty much worthless post-Cataclysm.

Finally, there was Star Trek Online.  The head start ended, The game went full-live, I was fiddling with my super special pre-order collector’s edition junk, and I gave out some codes in a caption contest.  There was even some new content.  But by month’s end, STO faded for me.

New Linking Blogs

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

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. WoW Insider Reborn as Blizzard Watch
  2. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  3. The End of Sony Online Entertainment, the Coming of Daybreak
  4. On Departures from Our Corner of the Web
  5. Shot at Daybreak – First Casualties of the Acquisition
  6. A Warning to My Fellow Dummies
  7. Two Paths Forward – Blizzard Watch and Massively Overpowered
  8. Pet Battling Across Azeroth
  9. SWTOR Returning to that Fourth Pillar
  10. Too Late for Torchlight II?
  11. Quote of the Day – Skepticism Blooms
  12. Crowfall Kickstarter Commences

Search Terms of the Month

pirating star wars galaxies for emu
[You mean, for the pirate server?]

eq2 100% weight reduction bags
[I’m pretty sure weight is no longer a thing in EQII]

wow epic dungeon group
[Wow, have you come to the wrong place]

fastest way to get sky golem mount
[The auction house]

EVE Online

I started off somewhat active in New Eden.  There was a reavers operation going on in Period Basis, and those are always good for me because you can drop in at just about any hour of the day and find something going on.  Granted, “something” generally means shooting a structure, but that something is better than nothing.  And I can always tab out and do pet battles in WoW if there is no opposition.  But then that op wrapped up and there hasn’t been much else going on that I have been able to get to.

World of Warcraft

There are days when I feel like I am stuck in my garrison.  With five garrisons running, there are evenings when my play time is just about exhausted when I have finally done every little thing in every garrison and whatever daily quest and the daily pet battles and checking the auction house.

Coming Up

I actually have a couple of outstanding posts I haven’t gotten to yet.  That is “outstanding” as in “on my list of things to do” and not a measure of their quality.  The instance group went and ran the Iron Docks… like four times.  I just haven’t gotten around to putting that post together.

I also have a list of things to write about when it comes to WoW Patch 6.1.

There is another EVE Online expansion coming along, because every five weeks is the way they roll.

A couple of Kickstarter campaigns will be wrapping up, so there will be some dollar totals to write about.  And I am sure there will be something new on Daybreak front to talk about.

I am also waiting for Raptr to send out their 2014 game play summaries, so I can see where I wasted my time last year.  It is, frankly, one of the few reasons I still run Raptr.

Otherwise it will be March and something about a salt marsh harvest mouse.  There was so much going on in February, maybe things will just take it easy in March.

The Influence of Star Trek

In a world where there was no Star Trek, what becomes of the post-Trek cultural artifacts that range from Galaxy Quest to The Big Bang Theory to catch phrases to television tropes to William Shatner doing Priceline.com commercials?  He’s not getting that gig because of T. J. Hooker or that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

What does the world look like without Star Trek’s influence?

I know, Star Trek feels dated.

The pilot for the original series was done and rejected before I was even born.  The series itself had run its three seasons and was cancelled before I even old enough to know it was a thing.

But then, somehow, it stayed alive.  It ran, and remained popular, in syndication for years and years.  I and millions of others watch those re-runs and the follow-on animated series.  Before Star Wars could have an expanded universe there was already a pile of Star Trek novels available.  There were models and costumes and board games and books just about the phenomena that was Star Trek.  There was even a store over at the San Antonio shopping center at one point called Starbase One or some such.  It sold other science fiction stuff.  You could find a battery powered Robby the Robot or a model of an Eagle from Space 1999 or a few Lost in Space related items, but most of the place was just stacked up with Star Trek related items.

There was a time when having a store dedicated to Star Trek seemed like a sound business decision.  And I used to just nerd out in there when I wasn’t over at the Hobby Shop.

I’ve even written about the first computer video game I ever played, which was, of course, Star Trek.

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek was a big freakin’ deal.  And it was cemented into my consciousness before Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica or Alien or any number of other science fiction franchises.

It wasn’t high art.  The original series could be groan inducingly bad at times.  The third season especially seemed to have trouble finding decent scripts.  And it hasn’t aged very well.  It feels awkward and self-conscious today.

But at the time it filled a need.  It was water on a desert.  It was optimistic and hopeful and showed us a future that looked pretty damn cool.  I wanted to be on the Enterprise, to be a part of that crew.

And the cornerstone of that crew was the half human, half Vulcan Mr. Spock.  I do not think Star Trek works without him and his exotic look and pointy ears and oddly compelling logical view of the universe.  Yes, sometimes emotion would win out, but only when it was logical for it to do so. No character so well defined the series (or was so completely abused in the subsequent flood of novels) than Mr. Spock.

I remember once, back in the early 90s, explaining to a co-worker about Star Trek.  She grew up overseas and emigrated to the United States as a graduate student and then stayed on, marrying a fellow immigrant and settling down in Silicon Valley.  She was (and remains) very smart and was interested in various cultural things.  One day we were giving the “Live Long and Prosper” sign in the lab and she wanted to know about it.

So I gave her a little background on Star Trek and then tried to help her get her hand to do the sign, which she couldn’t quite manage.  Then her husband showed up to pick her up on the way home from his job, and when he walked into the room I turned to him and gave him the sign… and he put his hand up and returned it, causing his wife to boggle in disbelief.  She practically shouted the question, “How do you know that?”  It was a beautiful moment.

Being able to do that was the universal nerd secret handshake and high sign at the time.  If you were in the club, you practiced making that sign until you could do it without hesitation.  And if you couldn’t do it, you weren’t in the goddam club.  But he was in the club.  We were all in the club around those parts.

Live long and prosper

Live long and prosper

I know that this is a bunch of silly, half thought through, semi-connected statements, but it represents the rush of emotion that ran through my brain when I read today that Leonard Nimoy had passed away at age 83.  He and his character were an unreasonably big part of my early life.

And I know he was more than just Mr. Spock, that he played more roles and had a wider range of interests and a life outside of all of that.

But Mr. Spock was important to us and he got that and he played the role long after many people would have tired of the whole thing because he got how important it was.  And through that he will have achieved a sort of immortality.  Mr. Spock lives on.

Crowfall Makes its Funding Goal, The Campaign Continues!

At some point while I slept the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign crossed the $800,000 mark, which means that if you don’t reneg on that bid you made in the next 26 days or so, you’ll end up having to pay them some money.

Crowfall800KSo we’re done, right?  Of course not!

Crowfall800K_bannerThe marketing aspect of this campaign has only just begun, plus more money is always good.  Any detail oriented person probably noticed, it says right on the Kickstarter page itself that you cannot make an MMO for $800K.

So where will this campaign head?

I could see the Crowfall campaign hitting the $2 million mark, which would allow it to finish up in the neighborhood of titles like Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar, and Star Citizen.

Of those campaigns, this one feels the most like Shroud of the Avatar at least superficially.  Lord British asked for one million dollars, hit that at the 10 day mark, and then went on secure just over two million in funding.

The Crowfall team has 26 days left to go raise another $1.2 million and hit that respectable mark.  And they can do it, if they can negotiate the mid-campaign doldrums.

Wait, what?

Wait, you never said anything about doldrums!

If you look at the charts at Kicktraq, the amount of money raised and the number of new backers signing up is dropping off day by day.  The early rush of enthusiasm is over.  The pent up and eager backers are already on board.  In about a week it is going to get very quiet on the campaign if they don’t have a plan.  To progress further they have to capture the fence sitters and the unaware while continuing to engage their core supported.

On top of that, they have already met their goal, so the tension on that front is over.  This campaign will fund (barring any mass defection) so there is no need to rush out to pledge or up the ante on what you have already opted to give.

To catch the unaware will require more press coverage.  But more of the same “hey, look, a game” sorts of stories probably won’t cut it.  The campaign will need something that will attract fresh eyes.  I am not sure that the Lord British tactic of getting out on the stump and telling people that most game designers suck compared to him (and then claiming he was taken out of context) is necessarily the right route to take.  After all, Lord British has spent years laying the foundation of being an erratic nut case when it comes to talking to the press.  You can’t just get that reputation in a day.

What I expect we will see in the next week or two is a few interviews where Gordon Walton or J. Todd Coleman offer to dish the dirt on what REALLY went wrong with Shadowbane or The Sims Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic.  We love that sort of thing.  You can bet we’ll be blogging about that if it comes up, because a good interview on that front will echo all over the place.  Admissions of failure play very well to a wider audience.  And such tales can easily be turned to teaching moments about how much they learned and how the Crowfall plan has taken those lessons to heart.

CrowfallMeanwhile, there are those fence sitters and those who have already pledged.  There are all sorts of ways to entice them to get on the bus and then give even more money.

One way is stretch goals.  And, frankly, the current stretch goals stink in my opinion.  You are never going to convince me that they weren’t going to do both anyway.  But that is the problem when you present a tight plan, anything you suggest seems either tacked on or was assumed to be part of the plan anyway.  I don’t know how they are going to do it, but they need to step up their game on that front.  Yeah, you want to hold off on the really good stretch goals until the very end to help drive that last 48 hour push, but right now they aren’t playing for me.

But more importantly, they need to tinker with the pledge tiers.  People who were in at the start will up their game if a new tier with a special shiny shows up, while those on the fence may be swayed by a tier that gives them just the right mix of things.  Expect a regular re-rolling of new tiers as they seek out sweet spots and special deals that will bring in more money.

And I expect that they will open up pledges via PayPal and other sources on their own site for people who do not want to use the Amazon funding system that Kickstarter rests on.

At least that is my ignorant, outsider’s view of the world.

Do you think they will make it to two million?  Maybe more?

Progression Server Progress in EverQuest

Color me surprised.  I mentioned EverQuest and progression servers at the top of the week, then left that behind, expecting to hear no more about it for many months, thinking on the Galactic Student Council and the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign and the WoW 6.1 patch and other more current items.  Plenty of time for these things before EverQuest news shows up again.  There isn’t even a community team left to put our EverQuest news, is there?

And then I saw this tweet from Holly “Windstalking” Longdale, now executive producer of both EverQuest and EverQuest II, last night.

Wait, what?

Sure enough, the link to the EverQuest forums resolves to an actual post talking about proposed progression server models.  That is like moving at light speed for the organization formerly known as SOE.

The forum post explores four potential progression server models they might pursue, and I am going to copy the text for each wholesale here because you just KNOW that this company change is going to end up with another revamp of the forums and the inevitable loss of old posts.

The proposed models are:

1. Existing rules – A restart of what we have on Fippy Darkpaw

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

2. Slower progression – Fippy taking it easy

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a three-plus month countdown timer starts.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

3. Locked progression – Fippy that won’t progress to live, possible classic server

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • OPTION: When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Dev determines the unlocked progression based on the player completion rates.
  • At a specific point, determined by Dev, votes are no longer available and progression is complete.

4. Seasonal Challenge Server – Constantly refreshing Fippy

  • The server starts with only original EverQuest zones active, or with content enabled through a later expansion. Players start at level 1.
  • OPTION: When players kill a set of predefined targets, a vote begins within a week. Each vote lasts two weeks. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Alternatively, Dev may choose to unlock content when progression targets are complete.
  • Players have a set period of time (one season) to complete as much content as they can. The player(s) who get the farthest will receive recognition and a prize (to be determined later).
  • Once the season is complete, the server is reset and the challenge begins anew!

Of those four, I would be happy enough to see any of the first three, as they contain what I consider the key element of fun/interest for me, which is everybody starting together at level one in the old content.  Honestly, once the game gets past Ruins of Kunark, my interest starts to fade, so slowing things down a bit or not holding out until the bitter end of the last expansion before syncing up with the live servers makes sense to me.

Not that the fourth option doesn’t sound interesting.  That might be the old school raider progression vehicle of choice, with a constant stream of raiding goals and prizes and what not.  I just wonder how that will play out given how raiders behave every single time there are contested open world raids.  Because once the GMs have to get involved and make a schedule (or start their own fight club) somebody else is controlling the flow.  Don’t try to tell me it will be different THIS time, because it won’t.

Not that I would even be able to get into the raiding bit.  And I must admit that a server that basically pwipes at intervals and starts everybody back at level 1 again has a certain appeal.  Some of my best times on TorilMUD were at pwipes.  That would essentially replay what I consider the best part of the whole thing over and over, like some demented shared Norrathian version of the movie Groundhog Day.

The problem is that I do get attached to my characters.  I like to see them progress.  And even when they don’t get very far, I like that they at least made SOME progress and got to KEEP that progress in anticipation of my return.  For me it starts to get into the “death or rebirth?” discussion, and having that happen at regular, and presumably short, might end up wearing me down.  Or it might let me jump on the ride when it starts up again.  I am not sure.

Anyway, as mentioned in the forum post, there is a poll up in EverQuest currently that allows you to vote on which of the formats you might prefer.  I actually got out the EverQuest client and pushed the button for one of the options.

Progression Server Polling...

Progression Server Polling…

The poll itself had some trouble recording my vote because… well… EverQuest polling is like that.  See the forum thread related to any Fippy Darkpaw expansion unlock vote, there is always a few people who are not able to vote because the client is just not feeling it at that moment.

Of course this might all be for naught, at least if the discussion in the general channel on the Vox server is any sort of barometer of player sentiment.  After I voted I watched a stream of vitriol about the whole progression server idea flow past in text form.  I would politely sum up the general sentiment I saw as, “Progression servers just steal players and developer resources from the real game and nobody wants to go play the 1999 version anyway because it was horrible.”

Meanwhile, all is not peaches and cream in the progression server sub forum either, where vocal members of the various factions that haunt that section are calling for any number of impractical or unlikely suggestions that have piled up over the years.

We shall see how this plays out.  This could mean that DGC might roll out some new form of progression server in time to take up the slack of the summer hiatus.  Or the whole thing might just fall down a well, never to be heard from again.

What kind of progression server would you like to see?  Or is that even your thing?

Also, if you want to see the progression of the Fippy Darkpaw server up through July of last year, when the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, you can find it all summed up here.

Addendum: Keen, who is also interested in the whole EverQuest progression server thing, has his own post up on the same topic.

Choosing the Tenth Galactic Student Council

I went with the Galactic Student Council metaphor just about seven years ago when the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management ran its first election.   And here we are today with the election of the 10th council kicking off.  (The whole thing started off with six month terms, which is how we got ten in seven years.)

CSM10There are 75 candidates out there vying for 14 spots and several bloggers have attempted to cover the candidates in order to give us some insight as to who stands for what as well as broader stroke views of the election itself.  Now, as polls have opened, people are posting their endorsements.

And I am still sticking with the Galactic Student Council metaphor.

That metaphor isn’t meant to denigrate any of the effort that those elected have put in during the past or plan to put in during the future.  Those that get elected are for the most part honest, forthright, and hard working, and CCP ought to feel lucky to have them.

And it doesn’t mean that I won’t vote.  I will likely vote the straight CFC party ticket, though I’d vote for Sion and Endie regardless.  Frankly I can’t wait for Endie on the CSM.  He wields metaphor like somebody wielding… a thingy… very deftly… or something.  I envy his way with words.  And people like Sugar Kyle and Steve Ronuken are on the CFC ticket, though I might bump them up the list.   And I want competent people around so when CCP deigns to ask their advice, so they get a good response.

No, that metaphor is a poke at CCP.  The CSM is a creature of CCP’s own making.  They control it and within the bounds of its work the CSM only has exactly as much power and influence as CCP allows it.  CSM members can have real power, but that power really only exists when they take things out of school, as happened with Incarna or the bonus room, neither of which were happy, comfortable moments for CCP.  That is clearly not the CSM CCP dreams of.  And the stink coming from behind the curtains of CSM9, where CCP basically refused to deal with an elected candidate, but wouldn’t remove him or own up to the situation, just makes me roll my eyes.  If you want to pick and choose who you deal with, then don’t go through the pretense of elections.

Anyway, like a minority of EVE Online players out there, I will go cast my vote.  I will also happily collect my “so you’re still subscribed” free blueprints for a special shuttle and my “please vote, we’ll give you some goodies” collectables.  All the details are here on how and when to vote and what prizes you get.

Diplomatic Shuttle... Caroline's Star not included.

Diplomatic Shuttle… Caroline’s Star not included.

And then the election will be over, the new CSM will be announced, and the whole thing will go into the background… or even more so into the background… for most players.

I sort of pay attention to what is going on and I would find it hard to pick out the right candidates out of a list of 75… how can we be sure all these people are running for the right reasons… and as amusing as I would find it to inflict former CFC member (elapsed time as in GSF, ~8 minutes) Xenuria on CCP for a year, I do want somebody I think I can trust around when the time comes.

So if you want help figuring out who to vote for, there are plenty of suggested ballots out there, often with detailed reasons why you should select a given candidate.  Here are a few:

Anyway, go vote when you’re ready.

Quote of the Day – If You’re Selling it, We’re Reviewing it

If I had paid money for H1Z1, I’d be pretty pissed off right now. Some players have already taken to demanding refunds. And I can’t blame them.

Polygon review of H1Z1

I laughed out loud when I saw that Polygon put up a review of H1Z1 on their site this morning.  But I have to admit that a review is a fitting response to Daybreak Game Company selling the game on Steam.  Not that Polygon hasn’t been on the H1Z1 beat already.

H1Z1Disaster

Yeah, yeah, cry me a river about that “Early Access” disclaimer.

I wouldn’t dream of endorsing a review of a product that was in alpha or beta and testing with volunteers.  But my view, and this is an opinion that I hold pretty strongly, is that once you are charging money and have a cash shop setup, trying to hide behind words like “Beta” (the long time Zynga ploy… do you want to be like Zynga?) or “Early Access” is a bullshit move.

The “Early Access” disclaimer has to compete with the pie-in-the-sky marketing vision about what the game might be some day way down the road when it is finished.

Tell me about H1Z1 please...

Tell me about the reality of H1Z1 please… I hear it isn’t actually an MMO

A “fully transparent” approach to game design would require the equivalent of “Warning: Lark’s Vomit” on the Steam store page and the SOE web site. (Since there is no Daybreak web site yet.)

And Daybreak Game Company is out there with not one but two early access events, with Landmark having mucked about in some sort of limbo for over a year at this point.  And to echo the quote at the top of the page, after my free time in Landmark I was pretty happy I didn’t pay any money for it.  And don’t get me started on the irony of a company whose motto is “Free to Play Your Way” and has a subscription program called “All Access” that doesn’t actually give you access to all of their games.

Yeah, I am on a bit of a rant here over what is probably a pretty small item in the grand scheme of things.  And it would certainly be fair game to ask how I reconcile this with Kickstarter campaigns and pre-orders and whatever other industry practices I don’t seem to take issue with that share some similarities with early access.  My primary goal in all things of late is the finished game, something I even mentioned in the earlier post about Crowfall.  I already have a day job in software development, I don’t need/want to keep fretting about code when I get home at night.

And who knows, the whole early access thing might work out.  I’m just not convinced right now that paid early access is a good thing for the industry, and it is Smed’s handiwork with Landmark and H1Z1 that has pushed me in that direction.

Anyway, cheers to Polygon for having a policy about reviewing early access games so people know what they are getting for their money.  How do you feel about that?

Crowfall Kickstarter Commences

It’s like Game of Thrones meets Eve Online

Crowfall Kickstarter Tag Line

Today my post will probably echo a lot of other posts around our little corner of the internet in talking about the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign, which kicked off this morning.

Crowfall has gotten some buzz of late.  You can go look at their site if you need to catch up, but it is an attempt to get some new dynamic into the whole fantasy MMORPG thing we’re all keen on around these parts.  It is being led by Gordon Walton who, while not the household name of Richard Garriott or even Mark Jacobs, has MMO online gaming chops back from the late Kesmai era all the way through Star Wars: The Old Republic, and who might be the most famous person to ever follow me on Twitter…  I can’t explain that last bit, but I have a pic so I can prove it after he unfollows me… and J. Todd Coleman, who comes from Kingsisle Entertainment, famous for Wizard 101 and Pirate 101.

They, and a team of developers down in Austin, are making Crowfall.

CrowfallThey are currently on the “fan buy-in” step of the whole project, as they are running a Kickstarter campaign that is asking for a mere $800,000.

Yes, I know that Brad McQuaid couldn’t get there just a year ago, and he might be more recognizable by name than Gordon Walton, but I am not sure it was always recognized for positive reasons. (And then there is Project: Gorgon.)

The Crowfall team apparently paid attention to how successful Kickstarter campaigns work, which puts them ahead of a lot of others.  They built up just about the right amount of buzz, got another industry name (in this case Raph Koster, who is consulting, which stoked some SWG wishful thinking) talking about the game, managed to present some coherent ideas coherently, including business models, and were a bit coy, but not too coy, about where things were heading.  If you were paying attention, you knew they would be launching a Kickstarter today.

And they are off to the races.  If you watch the site refresh, the amount of money pledged keeps on going up and up and up.  I have no doubt that they will hit “Wilhelm’s Minimum First Day Threshold for Success” (the 25% funding mark) within a few hours and it seems completely likely that they will be able to declare success and start talking about stretch goals and alternative funding methods (for those that wish to use PayPal) before we get to the weekend.  The charts and Kicktraq should be fun to watch and I will be interested to see how they play the later campaign, when the inevitable slow down comes.  There is an art to that.  This has all the makings of a model campaign for the MMO genre.

I’m just not kicking in myself.

Wait, what?

Wait, what?

I know, right?

There is nothing wrong with Crowfall, or at least nothing to which I specifically object.  They are pushing a lot of the right buttons for me, I like the art style well enough, and things look fine in general.  I’m just not feeling it.

It might be because I am already waiting on enough Kickstarter funded games to finish up and deliver something worth playing. (e.g. Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar or Star Citizen or Pillars of Eternity… I was feeling generous at some past date.)  It might be that this campaign seems set to succeed, so there is no need for me to rush in, or how some previous games I backed ended up selling Early Access on Steam at a price below the minimum backer price to get the game. (Looking at you Planetary Annihilation!)  It may very well be that I have absolutely no interest in any sort of early access, so why commit money before I have to.  Or maybe it is just the gloomy February blues.

Anyway, it is me, not the game.  But you should take a moment to look at the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign to see what they are pitching.  It might be worthwhile to get in early.

But I will be paying attention and will be interested to see where the final take ends up.

Are you in for the Kickstarter?  I am interested to hear what the biggest selling point is for people.

A Vision of Norrath at Daybreak

…because the Everquest franchise is our lifeblood and we treat it with the respect it deserves.

EQN has the largest development team at SOE. It is going to be more than ok.

John Smedley, on Twitter (one and two), post layoff.

The web sites are all still flavored “Sony Online Entertainment,” and I haven’t even seen an official logo yet for Daybreak Games Company, but the wheels of the Columbus Nova Prime acquisition continue to grind forward.

The week before last we had the “straight from the acquisition playbook” layoffs when DGC shed those it saw as redundant, low performers, or possible trouble makers when it came to their plans.  None of those who were let go had anything bad to say about DGC, but a good severance package can have that effect.  I don’t know if Columbus Nova Prime when full EA in the fine print, telling people they would want their money back if they said anything negative about Daybreak, but I wouldn’t count that out.  Not that I expected negativity.  The first day there is generally too much shock and dealing with the business at hand, and later, if you’ve left friends behind, you don’t want to shit all over them.

With that settled for the moment, DGC had to turn around and reassure the customer base, and especially those customers who are invested in the company and who are paying the bills for just about everything, which is the Norrath fan base.  Smed himself seems to spend all his time and energy on everything besides Norrath.  I think he may have said more about EVE Online in the last few years than he has about straight up, old school, made the whole company possible, EverQuest.

H1Z1 isn’t making any money yet, Dragon’s Prophet seems dubious as a cash cow, PlanetSide 2 is finally carrying its own weight, and DC Universe Online appears to be doing well on the PlayStation, but I wonder how much of that money flows back to SOE and how much stays behind to bolster PlayStation Plus revenues.

So, from the outside, it feels like Norrath is still paying the bills.  Michael Zenke came back from talking with Smed some years back with the impression that EverQuest was so cheap to operate on a day-to-day basis that it might literally hold out until the last subscriber walks away.  Throwing away the cash cow, or letting it starve, seems like a bad play.  And when the layoffs seemed to be focused primarily around people working on Norrath related projects, some of the vocal members of the fan base were clearly running scared and talking about swearing off any form of EverQuest before the place ended up a stagnant backwater.  So something had to be done.

That something was live streams.

I will say right now that I hate live streams for developer updates.  They are fine for a special announcement or some such… SOE Live or BlizzCon level events are okay… but as a method for delivering more mundane updates or plans, I really don’t like them.  They involve too much personality and not enough detail and you end up with half-considered statements that people will glom onto, like Tom Chilton saying that he felt Warlords of Draenor was further along back at BlizzCon in 2013 than Mists of Pandaria was when it was announced at BlizzCon.  That practically became “Draenor by February!” in some corners.   Plus, I must admit, I am old and grumpy and actively resent a developer group making me sit and watch something for an half an hour to glean maybe five minutes worth of actual details if I am lucky.

So I skipped what I could on that front and have depended on the MMO focused gaming media to deliver tidbits about what transpired.

Most of the coverage was about EverQuest Next, as that is the future of Norrath on which any number of former, but never again, EverQuest and EverQuest II players have pinned their hopes on.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Still looking at this picture of EverQuest Next vision…

On the interesting side of things, there is apparently some hedging as to whether or not EverQuest Next will be free to play, or at least free to play in the current SOE model.  I suspect that might be wishful thinking, because unless Daybreak really has something new and different that can command a box price or a mandatory subscription, they might do themselves more harm than good going that route.  And my confidence in Daybreak being able to recognize a good idea from a bad one, given their track record, is pretty low.  But I couldn’t tell you if, in the long term, F2P has been the salvation that has been claimed on the Norrath front.

Then there is EverQuest Next on consoles.  Given what Smed has been preaching since the acquisition has been announced, that feels more likely an outcome than not.  The question then becomes one of balance… as in how many PC players will stop playing the game when they find a clunky UI designed to be used with a gamepad?  There is going to have to be a lot of XBox and PlayStation interest to counteract shitting all over the main fanbase if we end up with a DCUO interface.

And then there is the question of what EverQuest Next will be now that Daybreak has cut its ties with Storybricks.

I refuse to go full Tobold here and declare that this move means that EverQuest Next is likely to be a boring old WoW clone.  On the break with Storybricks, Senior Producer Terry Michaels said,

We made the decision that it was in the best interest of the game to take that work in-house. They did a lot of work for us and we’ll be utilizing that. It’s not like that work is lost.

So I am not sure you can make the logic-defying leap and declare that EverQuest Next is going to be completely 2007 or whatever in makeup because of this change, at least not without a supporting argument along the lines of “SOE is lying to us again” or some evidence that they are, indeed, trashing all the code related to Storybricks’ involvement.  Of course, bringing all of that work in-house isn’t likely to make EverQuest Next appear in the “near future” as was recently mentioned.

Anyway, that is the meat of what I saw over the weekend, which really wasn’t all that much, as the game is still out in the future.  I am sure I missed some details on the EverQuest Next front, I’m just not sure they matter until the game is an actual thing on Steam access at a minimum.

I had to go to a more a dedicated site, the ever alert EQ2 Wire, to find out what was going on when it came to news from the EverQuest II stream.  That appeared to be much more focused on simply reassuring the fan base that EverQuest II was still a going concern.

This treasure... you cannot have it

Is there still treasure in post-cataclysm Norrath?

The core of that seemed to be that updates and events and what not would continue on as before along with an acknowledgement around some pathological desire in the fan base to have a duck mount.

Then there was the EverQuest stream, which as far as I can tell, no MMO news site even bothered to dig into, so I had to actually go listen to that video once it was up on YouTube. (I put the video in the background because people sitting around talking wasn’t exactly adding to the flow of information.)

There the talk started off with some of the diminished team introducing themselves, and a statement that Holly Longdale was taking over as executive producer, putting her in charge of both EQ and EQII.  There was mention of new updates coming up in the next couple of months, including a new loot system and some vague statements about this year’s expansion, so I suppose that isn’t totally out the window, along with some minor talk about what they want to add to the game going forward, including making the UI better.

The biggest part of that whole stream for me was the mention of continuing to do things that work well with EverQuest, including progression servers.  There wasn’t anything concrete about how they want to do them going forward or what form they would take, but they were definitely on record that they want to do them again, which is great.  I thought we had kissed that idea good-bye forever once free to play hit everywhere.

Timeline stuck in time

So many expansions to unlock

For a game that has such nostalgia value for so many people, the whole progression server idea has always been a winner, delivering a lot of bang for the buck for bother players and the company.  There are a lot of players who will jump on board, even if it is subscription only, to have a “Day one, everybody level 1, lets go camp bandits!” experience.  It would just be nice if Daybreak could actually really run with the idea and promote it and keep people interested.  My past experience has been that progression servers get attention for about five minutes on the front page and then never get mentioned again, while in the forums, the most common company presence is SOE-MOD-04, the harbinger of locked threads.  The Fippy Darkpaw progression server just passed the four year mark last week and I still can only find updates about it when Daybreak screws something up.

Anyway, those are my notes from the weekend on the Norrathian front at Daybreak. (I will also say that the new company name is just the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to post titles.)

A few other blogs are writing a bit about these topics as well, including:

And the beat goes on.

Notes from the Field in Azeroth

Unlike some people, I usually prefer to keep my posts on a single topic.  But some days I have a couple of topics that don’t feel like they rank a post on their own, so they have to share.  So some tidbits about World of Warcraft.

Pet Battles to Level Cap!

So in about three weeks of focusing on pet battles with a level 95 character, I now have another level 100 character.

Level 100 with a victory

Level 100 with a victory

The pity is that in that fly through he barely accumulated any garrison resources, so he’ll be stuck doing that for a while to upgrade his garrison.

Of course, having gone on and on about pet battles for a week and having shown it to be a viable leveling strategy, I have gotten some questions in the guild about how to get into pet battles.  Everybody else seems to have level 1 pets, which just gets the “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” response out of me.

However, it looks like Patch 6.1 is going to change that.  After that hits, level 100 characters who have upgraded their garrison to tier 3 will get an item in the mail that will boost a pet to level 25.  Insta-levels again.

My daughter was especially keen on that.  I told her she had best use it on the Molten Corgi or the Terrible Turnip, as both have skills akin to the Pokemon False Swipe attack, which will never reduce your foe below 1 hit point.  I favor the Terrible Turnip, since the Molten Corgi’s skill has a four turn cool-down on it.  But if you only have one, you go with what you’ve got.

Patch 6.1 is Nearly Here!

Speaking of Patch 6.1, it will be arriving on Tuesday the 24th.  Blizzard announced that the other day and the launcher has started pre-downloading the data.

There are a lot of new and interesting things coming with the patch.   I am not sure Twitter integration is a huge thrill… oh how we suffered when Rift launched and everybody linked their accounts to Twitter and bombarded the world with every little achievement… but I’ll still hook it up to my “gonna spam you” Twitter account.

The heirloom consolidation though, that does interest me quite a bit, if only because I think I have totally lost track of all the heirlooms I have collected over the last few years.  I know that there are some heirlooms from Argent Tournament that are socked away somewhere.  I like that I will be able to check out a copy of an item on as many characters as I need.  I may soon have an army of alts I never play so equipped!

Now they just need a tabard organizer.

Eye on the Horde

I have been watching my daughter play her main character, which is a Horde Pandaran monk, and that has given me a desire to see the Horde side of the story in Draenor… and Pandaria… and Northrend… and, honestly, Outland.  I have a collection of horde characters, but the highest level is in the low 60s.

Anyway, while I am in no way done with my alliance characters yet, doing the Horde tour is on my list of things to do again.  That sounds like another project to run through when the inevitable group hiatus comes during the summer.  But the first question I considered was which character.  The heirloom update will make equipping him easy.  If I don’t have the right heirlooms now, I will once a few more Darkmoon Faires roll by.

I do want a character in a guild, if only for the perks.  That sort of lets out most of my Horde characters.  Our guild on Lightninghoof was stolen from us.  No more “friend of a friend of a friend” invites to our group guilds any more.  All our characters now have these blank tabards.  On Garona, our temp guild moved servers, while on Thrall I do not think we ever got around to forming one.

Anyway, my eyes landed on the Orc hunter I still have on Eldre’Thalas.  I have had him for a while.

Mounted up on his new wolf mount!

Mounted up on his then new wolf mount!

He is level 42, he hit level 40 back in October of 2007, and he still has a quiver equipped and it still has arrows in it for his crossbow.  I almost hate to sell those.  But he’ll have a set of heirloom gear to replace that.  I also wonder if I should change his profession.  He has the whole leatherworker/skinner thing going on right now.  That will allow him to make himself some armor.  But I almost want to switch him to Engineer right away so he can make his own item level 630 gun in Draenor.  Plan for the future!  We’ll see about that.

But the best thing he has is ownership of a Horde guild dating back to 2006, back when you needed an annoying amount of signatures in order to create one.

Tumult the Guild

Tumult the Guild

He has to earn rep with the guild, but at least he doesn’t have to level it up in order to get the perks.  So perhaps, come the summer, I will return to my old Orc hunter.

To All The Ships I’ve Flown Before…

BattleClinic.com, which you may know from their involvement with the EVE Mon utility, has been undergoing a serious revamp of their site.  It has been under way for a while now.  I got a note from them months back asking if they could use screen shots from EVE Online Pictures, to which I answered in the affirmative.

But the big site changes have finally been revealed… which I didn’t notice until Rixx Javix did a post about a new feature, ships used.

I actually think that the “ships used” information was in the old version of the site.  Something in the back of my brain believes that it was there.  But it wasn’t as accessible and I do not think it showed as much detail.  Or maybe I am totally wrong.  Memory.

And technically it is not ships you’ve flow, just ships you were flying that were involved in combat where they appeared on a kill mail, either having contributed to a kill or having been the victim.  I’d like to see a stat on which ships I have spent the most time flying in space, especially since I fly in the “space priest” logistics role a lot of the time.  But a list is a list and any long time reader knows I love me a list.

So what ships have I been flying while whoring on kill mails by pressing F1 in CFC blob fleets since December 2011?  Here are the top 10, plus one.

1. Drake – 395 kills / 12 losses

Oh my trusty old Drake.  I have half a dozen of them sitting around still in various null sec stations just waiting for my old favorite ship to return to its place in the sun.

Me and my lag causing friends at 319-3D

Unleash the Drake-en!

It was a fortuitous set of circumstances that made Drake Fleet a prime CFC doctrine shortly after I arrived in null sec.  I couldn’t shoot guns or lasers for shit, but I have max shield and missiles skills and Battlecruiser V when it came time for Drake Fleet.

Those were happy times.  Null sec combat was all new to me and scooting about the battlefield in a swarm of MWD Drakes like a school of fish, Scimitars weaving around us while we spewed missiles and dodged foes was a real highlight in my career.  The first big fleet engagement where I kind of knew what was going on was in a Drake at EWN-2U back in 2012.  Time dilation was a new thing back then.

2. Megathron – 166 Kills / 2 Losses

Mainstay of the war in Fountain, the primay weapon of Baltec Fleet, one of the two doctrines that got rolled up once we found that the doctrines we started the war with were not working out.  This was the ship I flew into some of the more memorable fights of the war, including Z9PP-H, 3WE-KY, and 6VDT-H.

The "How To" of Baltec Fleet

The “How To” of Baltec Fleet

The Megathron hasn’t seen as much action since Fountain.  First it was replaced by the Dominix to exploit drone assist, then the Apocalypse came along and the Megathron was phased out.  Still, the ship was immortalized in the Boat’s Oddity video, and I bet Baltec1 is still flying one in every fleet no matter what the actual doctrine.  Never not Mega.

3. Harpy – 143 Kills / 2 Losses

Harpy fleet has been an ongoing frigate doctrine in the CFC for a while.  I tend to resist flying frigates.  It used to be a matter of not wanting to lose a 40 million ISK clone in a 20 million ISK ship, but now CCP has fixed that.  But I found Harpy roams to be enjoyable.

EVE Online Curse Deployment

A Harpy down in Curse

The doctrine started when we were deployed on and off to Curse.  I probably have more Harpies sitting around in hangars than any other ship besides the Drake.  I need to go on more Harpy fleets.

4. Apocalypse – 93 Kills / 1 Loss

After drone assist was scaled back from “game breaking” to merely “overwhelming” we moved back to the Baltec Fleet doctrine.  However, while you could still fly Megathrons, we were all encouraged to pick up an Apocalypse.  I did not need more than a small push in that direction.  I had been training up lasers in the hope that one day they would be useful, so once I wrapped that up I immediately moved into the Apoc.  I wanted to shoot colored beams of light dammit!

Long range beams

Apocs with lasers hot

I used to carry every damn crystal type I could find and I pretty quickly became “that guy” in Baltec fleet firing a different color laser from everybody else (I am pretty sure the red beams in that picture above is me) or multiple colors because what the hell.  Red and green on Christmas, mustard and ketchup because I was eating a hamburger.  I had a good time with that.  The doctrine has since fallen into disuse, but I still have a couple Apocs, and a large supply of crystals, sitting around.

5. Ishtar – 64 Kills / 0 Losses

Drones are still pretty strong, so Ishtars and Dominixes are back in fashion, to the point that the game is mockingly called Ishtars Online some nights of the week.  This is also a Reaver doctrine fit, which is where I have flown it.  Most of my kills are towers, though there was that carrier we got at the end of our first deployment.  Due to a general shortage of logi pilots, I only flew the Ishtar on that one deployment, swapping out for a Basilisk since then.

6. Caracal – 39 Kills / 6 Losses

There have been a number of tries to get a good Caracal doctrine going from time to time.  I always join in because they aren’t too expensive and I have all the skills.  Caracals were a doctrine at the start of the war in Fountain and we lost them in droves until we stopped using them.  I think I have lost every single one I ever owned in null.

7. Dominix – 27 Kills / 1 Loss

The post Fountain doctrine with drone assist.  I was in something of a slack period when Domis were the main thing.  I went on a few ops with a Domi, but it isn’t really a special ship to me.  Or it wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the fact that I am on six titan kill mails with a Domi from the fight at B-R5RB.  I still have that particular neut fit Domi, still parked in the station in that system with a jump clone should I ever wish to retrieve it.  A pity that N3 owns the system again.  I have a Basilisk stranded out there as well.

8. Hurricane – 25 Kills / 1 Loss

One of the ships I bought early on when I was trying to be a good soldier and follow orders to have one ship for every doctrine on hand at all times or some such.  It was a “Digi-cane,” which belonged to a doctrine that was already out by the time I bought it.  I used to use in for Homeland Defense ops and I flew it to BWF-ZZ in a Boat fleet that bagged a dozen Raiden capital ships.  I think I have an “insta-cane” in a hangar somewhere, which I bought seconds before they got nerfed.

9. Maelstrom – 21 Kills / 0 Losses

This was the prime doctrine when I joined the CFC, just before Drake Fleet showed up.  Big, slow to move, slow to align, and slow to shoot, the key to the doctrine was to have everybody fire at once to cause an overwhelming spike in damage that would blow the hostile ship off the field with a single volley.

10. Scimitar – 18 Kills / 2 Losses

Given how many times I have flow logi, I am actually surprised to see that I have only lost two Scimitars.  I guess a debt is owed to our logi anchors who appear to have kept us out of the line of fire and aligned to get the hell out of Dodge when things go wrong.  Plus it is a swift ship.  And, as you can see, even a space priest isn’t above loading a couple of combat drones in order to whore on kills.

Special Mention – Basilisk – 13 Kills / 3 Losses

The ship in 11th place and the one I have been flying for the most part for the last six months.  Ugly and awkward in that way that only Caldari ships can manage, it is once again proof that logi isn’t above carrying a combat drone or two in order to get a few hits in.  I don’t mind playing logi.  It is what I mostly do these days.  But I like to get something on the kill board at least once a month just some my corp knows I’m still alive.  Lord knows I barely talk to them and I almost never fly with them, so I try to keep up my end by paying my monthly dues, getting a few kills, and clicking on participation links.

Cap chaining in Immensea... Caroline's Star visible

It is all about the Basi… and cap chaining

So that is the list, my top 10+1.  Of course, the kills and losses are in no way an indicator of any capability on my own part.  Even a scrub like me can keep a “green” kill board because of the way kills and losses are counted.

And, of course, this is just the BattleClinic accounting of my ships and kills.  My totals at ZKillboard and EVE-Kill are different, though I do wonder why my BattleClinic totals are as far off as they are from the other two.  ZKillboard and EVE-Kill differ by a mere dozen kills while BattleClinic is a good 20% shy of those total.