Category Archives: Casual Games

Done with DragonVale

I think I last mentioned DragonVale about five years ago.  It was a game my daughter installed on my iPad which we played together for a bit.

DragonVale

It was an innocuous free to play game somewhat in the vein of FarmVille which had you breeding dragons as opposed to growing crops.  Also, it was on the iPad so there was a lot less spamming of friends on Facebook.

So the surprise bit was that, five years later I was still playing it.  For a while it was mostly my daughter, but then I took over management of day-to-day operations she decorated the place.  Later, it was pretty much just me with my wife and daughter occasionally commenting, “Are you still playing that?”

Our “High Value”Dragon Island back in the day

Yes I was.  The game was pretty raw to start with, giving you little information about how you were doing… “doing” for me meaning collecting all the dragons.  That was my goal.  You couldn’t tell how many dragons you had or which ones you were missing.  When breeding them… and the dragons have as many types and more than Pokemon do… you had to do online research to figure out which two dragons to breed in order to get a third.  And then finding those dragons on your ever growing list was a chore, and one you had to repeat every breeding cycle.

However, I will say that Backflip, the makers of DragonVale, put in a lot of effort to make the game better and, more importantly, to make information available to the player in the game.  Now in the game you can sort by types, get breeding information, and most important of all, see a list of all the dragons available and which ones you are missing.  There is a number there, a simple number, that tells you how close you are to collecting them all.

There are other things to the game, like levels.  Levels unlock the ability to have more islands and habitats.  When I left the maximum level was 125.  You could also collect dragon eggs, which were pretty.  And they also added in the ability to collect and track decor items, which was a little much for me.

But it was the dragons that I wanted.  And slowly but surely over the years I closed in on the getting them all.  It could be a slog, since they constantly introduce new ones and every in-game event adds a few more.  Still, persistence was paying off.  I bred all the ones that could only be bred at specific times, like during a lunar or solar eclipse, or during a blue moon, or when the Olympics were in session.

A Year ago and six dragons shy

I just wanted to get them all, then I could quit.  I was going to do what I did with Neko Atsume and get them all and walk away a winner… before they added anything else to the game. (I was done before it was even available in English.)

At three points during this year I was one dragon away, only to have something new pop up and thwart me.

Dragonarium says I had 428 out of 429 on May 14th

The last addition was an epic dragon, which you have to perform a long series of tasks in order to unlock.  You can, of course, pay to unlock it.  And, while I have thrown some cash at DragonVale a few times over the years, I haven’t straight up bought a dragon.

Leaving out the “hollow win” aspect of it, the prices are a bit crazy.  DragonVale has a real money barrier in that to buy your way to things you have to spend more money than I am ever going to be willing to toss at a game like this.  I am good for $5 on a whim.  But $99 to get enough special coins to unlock your new epic… I’ll wait and play the game thank you.

So I carried on doing my daily task to unlock the epic.  Basically, I clicked on something which gave me a random number of special coins along with the option to get some more if I would watch a 30 second ad.  I can manage an ad, so I generally did that as well.  And so I was progressing.

Then a new special event came along.

Special events are an opportunity for the game to get players to spend some money.  It is the time when I have, in the past, been willing to part with five bucks to get enough coins to get that one last dragon.  But Backflip has been tinkering with the special event system, trying to channel people towards that money spending point.  But they have generally been pretty good about it, in the end, being about a special currency which you can then use to buy exactly what you want.

This time however there was a new twist to the event.  There were four new dragons to obtain and a special currency.  But in between they put a new mechanic.  You couldn’t just buy the dragons with the currency, you had to buy an egg which would hatch into one of the four dragons.  A level of randomness, but with a bit of OCD on your side you could earn enough currency every day to buy quite a few eggs.  Furthermore, there were double currency earning days which also allowed you to find eggs in your park if you looked.

The odds were not posted.  But after getting a lot of eggs I could tell that it wasn’t a straight up even 1 in 4 chance.  I got one of the eggs over and over.  Eventually I also got two of the other eggs, so was able to hatch three out of the four dragons.  But I was one shy.  And as we reached the last day of the I spent the last bit of the special currency I had earned in game and still did not have the final dragon.

So I looked at what my options were, and that was the table flipping moment.

At that point my only option to get what I wanted as a customer was to spend money to buy random chances.  Random chances that seemed to have a low probability of success given my past observations.

Basically, I couldn’t get there without buying a lockbox.  And at that point I said, “Fuck you,” closed the app, and deleted it.  There went a customer with a demonstrated willingness to pay now and again.

If you, as a developer, think you are going to put me in a situation where getting somewhere in your game requires me to buy a random chance, then you are not going to keep me as a customer.

In Which I Ramble About Being All Things to All People

Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man

-The Dude

If you asked me what the most egregious flaw in MMORPG development has been over the history of the genre, I would say it was a “lack of focus.”

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

Overreach, trying to have too many features, trying to appeal to too many different audiences, listening to too many voices saying that they will give you money if only you support their pet feature, has ended up with a lot of time wasted on features that did not enhance a given game over time.

Vanguard is probably the poster child for this, a game that launched with too much breadth and not enough depth. (Star Citizen could claim that crown from Vanguard, save for the “we’re still in Alpha” loophole that will be going on for the foreseeable future.)  All those races, all those starting zones, PvP and different types of PvP servers, huge landscapes devoid of content, all running on server code not ready for prime time.

The game wanted to leap past day one EverQuest and be EverQuest five expansions into its life.  Instead it jumped down a well and was on life support for the next seven and a half years, finally being let go when even a free to play conversion couldn’t make it economically viable.

That trajectory might have been different had the vision for launch not been so grandiose.  A few races, one continent, and a focus on content around that might have led to a different outcome.  Maybe.  They still would have needed more time on server code, but maybe with less emphasis on a huge world they could have spent some money on the underlying mechanics.

When Brad McQuaid showed up again with his Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign three years back, I was happy with his vision… back to the core of what made EverQuest a success… and doubly so at him saying that the plan was to keep things small and focused.  And then people started pestering him about features they wanted to see in his new game and vision creep seemed to have returned.  When he caved in to a loud corner of players and said PvP would be a thing, I gave up on following the game.  What attracted me to it was his statement about focus, and once that was gone the project ceased to be special to me.

Not that I am anti-PvP.  I have enough posts about EVE Online here to show a commitment to that as a play style.  But I am not convinced that PvP needs to be a feature in every single MMORPG.  It needs to be an integrated, core feature and not something tacked on in the hope of a few more box sales.  That is where it works, where it is good.  However, there is a loud group of players who will show up and rant about any game that dares not have PvP on its feature list.

EverQuest II is my favorite example of time wasted on PvP.  It is a game where the core feature set and audience is PvE that spent way, way too much time trying to make PvP viable by tacking it on to the game in all sorts of ways.  There battles with avatars, and arena battles, and battle grounds, and different servers with different rule sets over time, and eventually there was a point where they redid all the gear so that it have both PvE and PvP stats.  And, in the end, after attempt after attempt to make PvP a thing, they finally gave up and went back to focus on the core game play, the PvE questing and dungeons and raiding, that keeps its main audience going.

Of course, I have a flip side example for EQ2 in EVE Online.  There has always been a persistent rumbling from people about making New Eden more PvE friendly or making high sec completely safe from non-consensual PvP.  CCP has admirably stuck to its vision of the game on that front, but they nearly slipped at one point.

When we speak of the Incarna release, a lot of people jump straight to cash shops and monocles and the insider talk of selling “gold” ships or ammo ala World of Tanks.  But the cash shop still exists and monocles are just as expensive today as they were five years back.

That was all fluff.

The main issue was the captain’s quarters and the diversion from flying in space to avatar based game play.  That was what was rejected after Incarna, but only after a dismissive attitude from CCP about ship spinning… something that was even in their CSM summit statement…  and the like.

But results trump attitude, and after Incarna we got a renewed focus on flying in space with the Crucible expansion that started a long series of reworks of broken or ignored features that were part of the core game play, after which the game reached its subscriber peak.  They seem to get that they have a core they need to maintain. (Which they even mentioned in an interview today.)

And yet there remains a loudly vocal group of players who insist that EVE Online needs avatar based game play, the dreaded “walking in stations” crowd, despite it being such a non-core feature that to make it viable CCP would have to essentially develop another game within EVE Online in order to make it any sort of real attraction.  And to do that it would need to shift resources away from space, which is where everybody who plays the game today is invested.

Arguments about avatars attracting new players are all pie in the sky wishful thinking, while ignoring core game play and the primary audience for the game simply cannot be justified.  But still somebody brings up “walking in stations” every time the future of the game is discussed.

Straying from your core audience can be a win, but only if you know the demand is there, and there is no evidence that an investment in avatar based game play would add a single player to New Eden.

You can point your finger at me and rightly say that I am not a game developer, so how would I know.  And it is true, I work in a different segment of the tech industry, enterprise software.  It pays better and is much more stable.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a sack full of stories about companies with solid products that bring in 99% of the revenue ignoring them to chase some pie in the sky vision because the VP of sales heard some analyst at Gartner say that the future was in “nano-plastic biometric IPv6 reporting schemas” or some other nonsense feature.

And let me tell you, the urge to stray from your focus is tested a lot more by a fortune 50 retailer telling you that they will only consider your product for their seven figure RFP if you support crazy feature X than by any number of gamers grumbling in your forums.

So I certainly have a sense of what happens when you lose focus along with a series of “no customer ever used” features I on which I worked for my resume.

All of which makes me a bit more optimistic about the MMORPG market these days.  WoW clones attempting to appeal to all demographics are dead for now.  Even WoW has felt the pinch for being too much of a bland reflection of early versions of the game.

Instead we have a range of “niche” titles in development, games that set out to be smaller and so can focus on what makes them what them special rather than feeling the have to have every feature ever present in any MMORPG ever shipped.  We wait upon Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained, Project: Gorgon, Crowfall, and probably a bunch more to validate once again that an MMO can be small and focused and successful.

But if you’re still out there shouting that every game needs to support your pet feature, you’re might want to reflect on whether you’re actually part of the problem that got us to the grim state of big MMORPGs in the first place.

Question of the Day – What Will Lord British’s Sith Name Be?

The more I think about this, the more the Anakin Skywalker / Richard Garriott de Cayeux parallel fits.

So here we are.  As I posted yesterday, Lord British acknowledges that Zynga is evil, or at least really annoying.  And since they are annoying not only purpose, but to their own material benefit, how does one distinguish that from evil? (See Tobold definition.)  And what is the Lord British response?

I’ll use this knowledge for good!

Knowing the truth, and even acknowledging it publicly and repeatedly, Lord British has still partnered with, and has been accepted as the apprentice of, a card carrying Sith Lord, the man who has admitted in the past that the ends clearly justify the mediocre means (the ends being increasing his wealth and power, as opposed to, say, making good games), Darth Pincus.

(Not to be confused with Greg Pincus, though the methods may sound similar.)

In the words of Lord British, when reflecting on the evil of Zynga:

Yet, it’s still really important to learn those lessons, and there’s no better place to learn them then by having Zynga as a partner.

Holy crap!

As a rabid consumer of crap science fiction and fantasy in my youth… and my relative youth… and, well, into middle age frankly… I know that this can only end one way.

Offensive monetization strategy? Sounds great!

So the immediate next question for me is, what name will Darth Pincus bestow upon his new apprentice?

And here is where things get a bit fuzzy, as the whole Sith naming structure is pretty opaque to me.  Do they have some deeper meaning?  Are they some sort of subtle mockery of their past, pre-Sith life?  Are they just supposed to sound badass so as to strike fear into their enemies and make it easier for movie goers to figure out who the bad guy really is when they are off screen?

So I can only guess how Lord British will be restyled once his transformation has begun.

Darth BritanniaVille?

Darth CosPlay?

Darth SoyuzVille?

What do you think it will be.  Who will rise up to cast down Darth Pincus and redeem our misguided hero?  And will George Lucas get involved somehow and screw the whole thing up?

This whole thing needs a web comic or something.  And a better version of Darth Vader’s head pasted on Lord British.  I was short on time before work this morning.

Looking Back at 2011 – Highs and Lows

Last week I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed online game-wise in the new year.  That list was filled with a lot of not-quite-MMOs.

Now it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2011, or at least what came to pass from my vantage point in this little corner of the gaming world.  So, as I did last year, I present you with a lot of bullet points in no particular order.

Turbine

Highs:

  • LOTRO is still there, still has wonderful Middle-earth charm, still has some of the best role-play tools available in any MMORPG.
  • Their games survived and thrived post free-to-play.
  • They got a nice new chunk of Middle-earth on the map with Rise of Isengard.
  • I made it to freakin’ Moria at last!!11 one one one

Lows:

  • Their stuff still doesn’t feel as polished as WoW or Rift, which is bad in a still-growing field of competitors.
  • Their character models, awkward at launch, are not aging well at all.
  • I am still in Moria and have no plan to buckle down and get to Mirkwood, much less Isengard.
  • They shipped their last new game when?

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs:

  • I say this every year, but EQ still lives!  12 years in and still going!
  • Time locked progression servers brought back a healthy slice of that MMO nostalgia goodness!
  • I got to partake in that goodness with Potshot for a while… and it was damn good!
  • EQ got a new expansion with things like parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
  • EQII still does a ton of things better than other games, like housing interiors.
  • SOE reconciled the Live/Extended split so there is, again, but one Popeye EverQuest II.
  • EQII got a new expansion and actually added a new class, beastlords, to the game after seven years.
  • Star Wars Galaxies goes out with dignity and some fond memories.
  • Planetside 2 announced!
  • Vanguard is actually getting some attention!

Lows:

  • That whole PSN/SOE hacking thing.  It killed our momentum on Fippy Darkpaw and made SOE look bad in general.
  • The nostalgia marketing effort around the EQ progression servers started weak and then totally disappeared once they went live.  A 12 year old game has a big nostalgia card to play, but SOE chose to pretty much ignore it the day after the Time Locked Progression servers were launched.
  • The behavior of some players on the TLP servers reminded us all why we went to instanced dungeons in the first place, plus a lot of other old arguments sprang up anew on the forums.  Too much nostalgia.
  • Hey EQ team, haven’t items through the mail been on every MMO since 2004? What took you so long?
  • EQII still pisses me off with a myriad of stupid little things, like why is “auto loot” when solo and “auto greed” when in a group the same setting.  I want to do one but not another.  The game has more settings than any MMO I have ever played, yet felt the need to combine these two?
  • EQII pissed off members of the instance group and pretty much closed the door on us ever going back there again.
  • SOE remains amazingly unprepared to announce things.  The whole merger of EQII Live and Extended brought up a couple dozen questions, the immediate answers to which were, “Uh… we need to think about that.”
  • I still cannot get past level 60 or so in EQII before becoming bored.
  • There were layoffs and the death of The Agency.
  • Who decided that a double station cash event was a great idea three days after a triple station cash event?
  • Planetside 2? Was the original popular enough to spawn a sequel?
  • Star Wars Galaxies… Lucas pulls the plug, leaves SOE to clean up the mess.

CCP

Highs:

  • The EVE Online CSM actually does some good, gets management to focus on EVE fundamentals.
  • CCP management actually turns things around for the next EVE expansion.
  • Crucible moves the game forward by fixing what we already had.
  • Oh, hey, I am in null sec!  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
  • Dust 514 looks like it might become real giving CCP… two games.

Lows:

  • Arrogance, blindness, and Incarna nearly lead the company off a cliff.
  • Over-extension of resources meant layoffs and the long-term postponement of a World of Darkness based MMO.
  • EVE is back on the right course… but there are still times when the game is dull.  I had to buy Peggle to play while sitting and watching local.
  • Dust 514 makes sense I guess… CCP clearly has to focus… but with their customer base all on the PC, was going to a console game really the right move?

Blizzard

Highs:

  • WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
  • Still immensely profitable.
  • Has plans for pandas.  My daughter is all over that.
  • Oh, and they shipped Star Craft II in the last decade… and are talking about Diablo III and some new game.

Lows:

  • WoW is down 2 million players since this time last year.
  • Cataclysm malaise and the killing of game nostalgia by redoing the world we started with.  Can they ever do a WoW progression server now?
  • The slow response time of Blizzard, which worked out fine when things were going good, is starting to work against them.
  • Pandas?  That was the big news in 2011 from Blizzard?
  • Did they ship a freakin’ thing in 2011?  Does Blizzard and its huge profit margin exist simply to keep Activision from losing money every quarter where they do NOT ship a version of Call of Duty?

Trion Worlds

Highs

  • Rift actually turned out to be well executed.  It is like somebody learned from the last dozen years of MMO foibles.
  • Comfortable and polished enough to pick up and hold on to some defectors from WoW.
  • Public quests… rifts and invasions… done in the way that Warhammer Online should have.
  • Turned out to be a good place for the instance group to call home for now.

Lows:

  • It is, really, just another fantasy MMORPG in the WoW model.  If it had shipped against Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King I am not sure it would have been as successful.
  • Nothing in Trion’s next acts has me interested.

Steam

Highs:

  • I am beginning to reconcile myself with Steam.  I am still not fully on board, but I see the utility of the system as a platform to distribute games.
  • Wow, they put a lot of games on sale for real cheap over the summer and this winter.
  • Steam achievements are… something I guess.

Lows:

  • The internet went down for a couple hours last week and guess what I couldn’t do?  Play any of my games on Steam!  And, of course, Steam is where most of the single player games I would want to play when the internet goes down are.  This is the part I cannot reconcile.
  • Just because a game is marked down from $29.99 to $3.74 does not mean I will like it.  I have a lot of very inexpensive games that I do not like now that I simply wouldn’t have purchased at all were it not for a Steam sale.  Victory for the developer and Steam there, not for me.  Steam now represents the greatest collection of games I do not play on my current PC.
  • Why in the hell did I buy the entire Pop-Cap catalog? I know it was marked down 84%, but I really only wanted Peggle.  Damn you Steam!  And damn me for violating the “never buy anything online after dark” rule.
  • How often does Team Fortress 2 get updates?  Steam was updating it so frequently I had to uninstall it.

Free to Play Movement

Highs:

  • Lots of free to play games out there to sample, like World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Need for Speed World, and a lot more are promised.
  • Older games are getting a new breath of life via an influx of new players via this model.  It seemed to do wonders for EverQuest II.
  • Facebook… there were sure a lot of new games there.
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play.

Lows:

  • To one degree or another, the current consensus on the business model seems to be that a company must bestow some sort of advantage on or remove some annoyance from players who pay.  It is accelerated experience and golden bullets that support most of the games I see, with the selling of actual content far behind in the pack.  And the idea of supporting a game entirely based on cosmetic items sales appears to be a myth on par with Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The games that I play that converted to free to play were the ones I played when they were subscription based.  Time is still the biggest tax on my ability to play games.
  • That a game is free to play does not make it fun to play.  A business model can ruin fun, but it can rarely create fun.
  • Is there any game idea that has not yet been screwed up in attempting to bring it to Facebook?
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play

Players, Blogs, and Community

Highs:

  • Players, like those in EVE Online, show that a group with limited, rational objectives can make their voices heard and see their demands met.  #Occupy protestors take note.
  • Community and playing together is not dead.  Thrown into the EverQuest progression servers, people got together, formed groups, and played nicely… for a while.
  • Hey, we all like to comment on each others blogs!  Thanks for taking the time to leave comments on mine.

Lows:

  • Every time I go into a game’s official forums, I am saddened. This is surely a symptom of the human condition.
  • EverQuest progression servers were a self-selected population of those who wanted most to group up and play nicely… and that has devolved into all the problems that made the WoW model of solo content and instances so popular.  Remember that when you have your rose colored glasses out.
  • For every rational discussion where consensus is reached I see in a blog comment thread, there has to be a dozen cases of the complete inability to see the other person’s perspective or even admit that it exists.  Can we get over that please?
  • I am still not sure which is worse, people complaining bitterly about a game they do not play and do not understand, or people complaining bitterly about people who do not like their game de jour.  Of course, they are often the same people on both counts, so at least they are easy to spot and ignore.
  • Most of the problems in-game… in any game… such as hacking, cheating, bad behavior, poor community, illicit RMT, and the state of official game forums are all pretty much our own damn fault.  Can we promise to try to behave better next year?

So that was 2011, at least from where I sit.  Yes, I failed to mention SWTOR, but I think that is really part of 2012.  There is still too much new game euphoria for me to get any feel for how things are going, especially since I am not playing.

Still, trying to recall a whole year, even with the blog open in front of my for reference, is doomed to failure.  What did I miss?  What came to pass in 2011 that I should have remembered?

Games I Mentioned Once and then Totally Forgot About – Playboy Manager Edition

Back in May of 2009 I posted about a press release for Playboy Manager, Playboy’s attempt at an MMO, which they christened a  “Massively Casual Online Game.”

They might have actually been a bit ahead of their time on that one.

And, after that, despite my signing up for the mailing list, I never heard a single thing about the game.

I mentioned it a year later in my month in review post  (so I guess I mentioned it twice) where I said:

And a year ago Playboy’s “Massively Casual Online Game” Playboy Manager was announced.  The game was supposed to launch in the summer of 2009 according to the press release.  The site for the game is still there (go Google it) but it still mentions signing up for beta invites.  Casual might refer to the development plan I guess.

The game looked to be on the same trajectory that Planet Michael is now; all talk, no rock.

However, the game did eventually launch.  Or so I hear.

In an astonishingly bad use of captured email addresses, Jolt Online Gaming and/or Playboy apparently failed to alert those who expressed an interest in the game that it had actually gone live.  You would think after all that work, they might have put some effort into publicizing it.

Seriously, I would have logged in just to experience it, had I but known.

Their effort went live as a Facebook game, under the name Playboy Party, back in November 2010.  Of course, since it went to Facebook, it was probably flagged as Beta like every other Facebook game, so maybe they felt it wasn’t time yet to go to the public.

However, time was of the essence, as the game closed on September 12th of this year.

In the middle of that, in March 2011, things go so messed up that the game had to be reset and everybody had to start again from scratch.

Brilliant!

And so the game has come and gone, having garnered all of 400 actual players during its short life span.  It may now aspire to be a footnote in the appendix of an unpublished volume of esoteric video game history.

Thanks to UnSubject over at Vicarious Existence whose post on the subject, which has more detail and actual screen shots from the game,  reminded me again that the Playboy Manager/Playboy Party even existed.  Plus there is a bonus mention of another failed Playboy online game project, Poisonville!

Raptr: MMOs? None Were Released in 2011

Raptr, the game play tracking and social network tool thing that seems a lot like Xfire… because it was created by the same people who made Xfire… where was I going with this…

Oh, yeah.

Raptr announced their Most Played Games for 2011, restricted to games launched in 2011, despite the fact that we still have 23 days to go here.  Maybe nothing else important is launching this year.

What?  Star Wars: The Old Republic is launching this year?

Well, too late and too bad!

In fact, of the categories Raptr chose to acknowledge, MMOs barely make the cut.

The categories are:

And while you might think “Open-World Game” would include MMOs, that is actually just single player open world games like Batman: Arkham City or L.A. Noire.

No, the only mention of MMOs is in the final category, the one about Paid-to-F2P conversions.  That covers MMOs, because it seems if you ran some sort of crime or crime fighting MMO… Champions Online, DC Universe Online, City of Heroes, All Points Bulletin, or… well, it doesn’t quite fit but I’ll make it fit… Global Agenda… then apparently 2011 was your year to go Free to Play.

So, from one angle I suppose congratulations are in order.  Raptr managed to do a “Most Played” list that squeezed in MMOs from such an angle that they avoided mentioning any fantasy MMOs… like Rift maybe… along with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Was it really that bad of a year for MMOs?  I know my 2011 MMO Outlook ended up on the sad end of things, but were there really so few launches?

Was the slide to F2P really the big event for 2011?

The Madness of Lord British

Oh the wacky things that come out of the mouth of Dr. Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux!

(Please note/respect his name change)

The first image from the Portalarium site

Now maybe the press is just catching him at the wrong moments, but I am having problems parsing the meanings of his statements of late.  He seems to be all over the map.

About a month ago he was scolding EA and Blizzard for “letting” Zynga have the casual market, which seemed to me to be like scolding Peterbilt for letting Daihatsu beat it in the Kei car market in Japan.  And on thinking about it, since he is all about the whole casual game scene at the moment, he seems to be complaining that EA isn’t in a position to kick him in the ass yet again.

Then he starts talking about his ultimate RPG game, all the while hinting that if only EA would hire him back and give him creative control, (or at least just let him use the name and IP) he could banish elves and ninjas and make the Ultima franchise great again.  But that didn’t sound very casual.

This was followed up by the big interview over at Industry Gamers where, after comparing himself to Tolkien, he goes on to say that gaming consoles are doomed… we MIGHT see one more generation… and that the future is in portable devices, which coincidentally happens to be a platform he is targeting.  At least that seemed to be clearly self-serving in a Bobby Kotick sort of way.  I can grasp that, especially when I recall him saying at GDC 2007 that MMOs were the way to go… because, of course, he was making an MMO. (He’s done with MMOs now.)

On top of that, add in the background noise of one of his manors going up for sale, which includes some stunning amenities, winning his lawsuit with NCsoft, where his last big effort, Tabula Rasa  went live 4 years ago and closed 16 months later, his space faring ventures, which gets played up a lot, the rather limited focus of in his company, Portalarium, with its loathsome twitter feed, the big output from which appears to be online Poker and Blackjack, and how he runs the company via robotic interface… and an appearance with Martha Stewart

and…

well…

…you start to wonder how seriously you should take the guy these days, at least when it comes to computer games.

You cannot take away what he has accomplished.  The Ultima series of games was huge and innovative and influential and in ways remains unmatched to this day.  But even that series seemed to be faltering until Ultima Online came along.  And since then his efforts on the gaming front seem to have dissipated.

Thus while the thought of EA bringing him back and, say, teaming him up with BioWare to produce the ultimate Ultima RPG is a great “What if…” scenario, it seems only just slightly more likely to happen than EA handing Richard Bartle a pile of money to create the ultimate virtual world.

So if he is serious about building his dream RPG, it seems like it will have to be in a land besides Britannia.

All of which still leaves me in kind of a “what the hell?” state of mind.

Would you want to play Mr. Garriott de Cayeux’s ultimate RPG even if it wasn’t set in the lands of Ultima and he had to place himself in game as… I don’t know… Seigneur Cayeux sur Mer?

Would you play it if it was only on Android or iOS?

Would you play it if it involved talking to trees?

Has anybody checked the color of his urine lately?