Category Archives: Misc MMOs

The Unchecked Optimism of Not Knowing Better

I want to say up front that I am not writing this post to be mean.  But, given that I am going to explore something with so many things wrong with it, I am sure that is the way it will come across.  Such is life.  I suppose I could just not make the post, but I just cannot let this pass, it being an object lesson on so many fronts.

l speak, of course, of The Flower of Knighthood Kickstarter campaign.

The Flowers of Knighthood for Algernon

I’ve been down the list of things wrong with past Kickstarter campaigns.  I was critical of The Fountain War, Hero’s Song, and The World of Warcraft Diary Kickstarter campaigns, calling them all problematic early on, because they all seemed to fail on fronts that seemed obvious to even an outside observer like myself.

But The Flower of Knighthood seems on track to outdo them all.

Let’s start with the asking amount.  As I have said in the past, the amount you ask for needs to reflect reality.  People with industry fame like Lord British and Mark Jacobs, they were good for $2 million.  Brad McQuaid, certainly famous in MMORPG circles, didn’t have enough pull for $800K, but came close to $500K.   Eric Heimberg, who could at least point to some successful MMORPGs he had worked on, had to take three runs at Kickstarter campaigns for Project: Gorgon before getting the mix of publicity and goals correct. to bring in nearly $75K.

Basically, a little bit of research can give you some baseline expectations when it comes to funding.  Those aren’t hard and fast numbers.  You too could possibly bring in a million dollars on a campaign without being Lord British, but you would have to do something else to bring attention to your efforts.  You could get media outlets interested in your project, have some sort of event, or maybe buy ads on Facebook.  I hear those can swing national elections.

What you shouldn’t do is just forge ahead with an ask you think you need but have no reason to expect you’ll make.  So there is The Flower of Knighthood looking for $600K.  No real publicity in advance… I mean, I pay attention to things better than most and I only heard about the campaign when Massively OP posted about it earlier this week.

Before that there was just a post about their project, but no mention of funding, no attempt to get people ready to buy in, just launch the Kickstarter without preamble and hope for the best.

This campaign is not going to make its $600K goal.

My rule of thumb, based on observations of successful campaigns, is that if you cannot secure 20% of your funding in the first 24 hours you are not going to make your goal.

The first 24 hours is when your installed base, the true fans of your plan, will show up and support you.

The Flower of Knighthood brought in just $351 in the first two days of its campaign, a dismal 0.006% of their goal, and I rounded up a bit to make that number look better.  If you follow the campaign over at Kicktraq it will give you the scale of how far they are off from their goal.  The campaign needs to bring in $20,000 a day to hit its goal.

$351 is such a ridiculously tiny amount that it brings into question how serious this team really is about their project.  Seriously, the base level of effort I would expect, the low end support they should be looking for is from their friends and family.  Surely they went out and at least told all connections on Facebook about this campaign to at least drum up some level of pity support.  If you can’t get your mom to kick in five bucks, just go home.

And yet in the first two days they managed to get pledged from just nine people.

Given the lofty goals and wide scope of their plan, I have to believe there are more than nine people working on this product.  Whose mom wouldn’t pony up?

So the whole thing is dead out of the gate.  No real publicity, no real effort to rally fans, nothing but a misguided belief that if they put up the project then fans will magically appear. (And, best of all, they have stretch goals already, out to $4.8 million!  Plan for success I guess.)

Somewhere they missed the news about how 20 new games popped up on Steam every day in 2017, a number that has continued to rise in 2018.  In the flood of new games that is our current reality, how did they expect somebody to find theirs?

Of course, that doesn’t start to get into some of the other issues hindering this campaign, like the game itself.

I know from long experience that any game, or any aspect of a given game, no matter how horrible and tedious you may find it, is somebody’s favorite thing.  That is the nature of the world.

But just because you know somebody out there will like your game doesn’t mean that there is a big enough audience out there to support it.  The campaign states “the main point of our game is realism” and they are taking that seriously.  For example, I give you the summary of the crafting system:

Authentic craft system – thanks to Dr Stephen Mileson from Oxford University we are creating a maximally authentic craft system. It means that during craft activities you will accurately repeat the actions of 15th-century blacksmiths, carpenters, leatherworkers, tailors and other craftsmen.

I am sure this will appeal to somebody, but I already have a day job.  People found the old EverQuest II multi-level crafting, where you had to refine raw materials, build components, then assemble them into a final finished product, so I have to wonder how realistic they can afford to get.  Will things take literal days and weeks to create?  And what is everybody using until production gets under way?  There is something about NPCs being able to do some of the tedious work, but will they want to get paid?

To make thine axe…

And speaking of paying people, what about the economy to support this crafting?  They don’t say much, aside from the fact that there will be no instant travel and thus, I assume, no instant delivery auction house, so it sounds like people will be walking around from town to town trying to sell things.

Then there is the combat system.  They have rejected hit points and have declared for a realistic physics based system of attacks and blocks.

This reminds me of the post from back in 2010 from the dev at Undead Labs who was going to revolutionize MMOs by eschewing auto-attack and skills for the ability to just swing a bat and hit somebody.  That… and Syp’s reaction to it… got a long response from Brian “Psychochild” Green back then.

More telling, Undead Labs ended up releasing State of Decay in 2013, a single player game.  Even the recently released update, State of Decay 2, is four player co-op, so you’re only bashing zombies, not other players.  So much for fixing MMOs. (There is an Honest Game Trailers about State of Decay if you’re interested.)

And while games like Darkfall and Asheron’s Call have done positional based combat… you have to at least be in the arc of the attack to get hit… I am not sure they attempted to match up attacks versus blocks in a PvP world.  Latency is still a thing.  I can speak from experience in EVE Online, where it has been proven that the person closest to the London data center gets their attack in first.

Okay, you might think, but maybe their goals aren’t so lofty?  Maybe they are overstating things by declaring it an MMORPG?  Maybe this is really meant to be something small, like Medieval Engineers or some such.

Well let me disabuse you of any thoughts down that path.  They want all of that and they want it on a massive scale.  From the Kickstarter:

Talk of ‘massive’ does not mean 100 vs 100. We want to make it possible to gather armies of 1,000 people on each side of the battle. This allows you to implement diverse tactics and combat strategies. You can use archers to weaken your opponent’s army and then send heavy swordsmen with high shields in to attack, and in the most tense moments you can strike with your cavalry into the opponent’s flank.

Two thousand people on field?  I have been on internet spaceship battles in EVE Online of that scale and larger, but fights in New Eden are “press the button to shoot” level of complexity, where you just have to get hostiles within your weapons envelope, open fire, and let the server calculate the rest.  The system gets so slow and so unresponsive that the thought of having to do individual attacks seems ludicrous.  And, as a defender, being able to put up blocks to counter attacks… attacks you would have to see coming… seems like a pretty dicey proposition.

When questioned about this on the Kickstarter page, their answer expressed a confidence that it could be done given enough server computing capacity, which I know to be the answer to all performance issues, but which seems a bit smug given the level of funding they have achieved so far.  Server capacity costs money.

Meanwhile, they just sort of wave away the end user’s video card capability to render such a battle with the idea that first person view will help.

But when they are planning on “realistic” graphics and character movement based on motion capture, facing even a hundred live and active players seems likely to melt ones video card.

Basically, almost every aspect of this project, from funding to design to implementation, seems like pie in the sky.  They are even missing one of the key items of every MMORPG Kickstarter campaign, the list out of the veterans on the team and the projects on which they have worked.  If you’re going to do something this crazy ambitious, you want to at least be able to say you’ve got somebody on the team who has done something similar.  There is a reference to somebody with 21 years of experience, but neither the projects they worked on nor in what capacity.  If it was somebody with 21 years experience working on server side code for some big titles, I might be impressed.  If it is somebody with 21 years experience doing character models and textures, not so much.

At best they seem to have checked too many boxes on their wishlist.  Maybe this is viable as a multi-player co-op.  Leave out the massive battles and cavalry charges and just have players join tournaments and fight off the odd bandit.

And, yes, I am sure I have just expended 1,500 or so words shitting all over somebody’s dream.  But the company, Eaglance (not to be confused with Swiss SEO firm of the same name), really hasn’t the groundwork to be taken seriously.  They’re an effectively unknown company with nobody on staff they can name with relevant experience, planning technical feats that have thwarted the likes of Blizzard in the past, with just a bunch of features, asking for an amount of money that manages to be both ludicrously large and hilariously small at the same time given their abilities and needs.

Anyway, I invite you to take a look at their Kickstarter and their web site to tell me if I have missed something that indicates that this project might have a chance.  To me it seems likely to simmer for years before either shipping something with little relation to their grand vision or disappearing altogether.

Ultima Online Adds a Free to Play Option

In an item of note today, Ultima Online becomes the last of the “big three” MMORPGs from the late 90s to jump into the free to play pool.  EverQuest went to FreeVille back on its 13th birthday in 2012 with the SOE “Free to Play Your Way” campaign while Asheron’s Call went free… back in August 2014 I think.  It was at some point after they decided bringing back Asheron’s Call 2 was a good plan, but before they turned them both off for good early last year.

Welcome indeed

While the plan was announced a while back, today with Publish 99 Broadsword, the minders of the game since 2014, have added a free to play option called the “Endless Journey.”

This new option will be available to new accounts as well as any previously created account that has not been subscribed in the last 120 days.  I guess that is one way to keep people from just unsubscribing when you add a free option, though I am not sure banishing current players for 3 months if they want to go down the free path is necessarily sending the right message.

There is, of course, the usual list of things that free accounts can and cannot do.  In the case of UO, the list is pretty long.

You’re going to have to click on this to make it readable

This list is also part of the Publish 99 release notes linked above, but I thought I would take a snap shot of the day one version in case it changes at some future date.

I really know very little about Ultima Online, having never played it, so I cannot speak to whether the restrictions on the Endless Journey option are going to really push people to subscribe after they have tried the game.  But I do know from experience that when you go free to play with an MMORPG the plan is to drive people to subscribe, get people to buy from the cash shop, or both.

Either way this does make it a bit more likely that Ultima Online will be my choice for my 2018 goal of playing one of the early MMORPGs I have never tried.

A Glimpse of Anarchy

I wrote my 2018 MMO outlook post a few days in advance, as I tend to do with those sorts of end-of-year posts.  They lend themselves to stewing in the drafts folder for a while.  I think I only had 5 choices on the first draft.

So I had already been thinking about those titles for a bit, enough so that when I was sitting around on New Years Day I decided to poke my nose into one of them, a day before the post even went live.  I picked Anarchy Online for my pre-post peek, a game which has since stayed near the top of the poll results.

Anarchy Online is Loading…

I went to the web site for the game, made an account, downloaded the client, and got stuck into things.

As a pre-WoW MMORPG outside of the fantasy genre, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I can’t even recall having ever seen a screen shot from the game before I logged in.  And back in 2001 the conventions for even the simplest things… like how hot bars ought to work… were not yet set in stone.

Still, the first steps seemed familiar, as character creation hasn’t changed too much since A Bard’s Tale back in the 80s.  First up was race… or I guess breed in the case of AO.

Can I achieve best of breed?

I opted for the Solitus… the ones on the right… simply because they were the most human looking of the choices.  The others struck me as bordering on space elves, save for the space troll on the other end.

Then there was the bit of character customization.

Where I make myself look like a space elf anyway

That is some old school level of polygon count right there.  I think my head has as many facets as that old marmot model in WoW… which is still in game.

Then came the tough choice, that of which vocation to follow.  In fantasy your classes tend to shake out into three or four standard categories.  But what can one say of the future when the possibilities are limited only to the imagination?  And there was quite a list from which to choose.

Which path will you choose?

I could probably guess well enough at what a Trader or a Soldier or a Martial Artist or a Doctor might do, and even a Shade, or an Enforcer, or an Engineer hinted at what they might hold in store, but what is the Metaphysicist play style like, how does a Bureaucrat gain levels, and what is it that a Keeper keeps?

So I tabbed out and used Google to search on the best class for a new player and got Adventurer as the top result, so I went with that.

In search of adventure!

The description seemed to paint it as the jack of all trades class, so why not.  From there it was just a matter of giving my character a name and getting into the world.

With a game this old though, one expects that getting a reasonable name might be a chore, and doubly so when the game has had a free to play option for so long.  So I decided to let the name generator come up with some options for me.  Let it do the work.

The first name it rolled up was Sammy, which seemed suspiciously likely to have been taken.  But still, it was offering it to me, why not take it.

You will not be Sammy

However, when I tried to take the name it popped a window saying that the name have already been taken or was reserved.

I gave it another try, just in case that was a one-off error.  This time it threw up Bred as an option and, not unlike that time I threw up bread after a party, the results were not the best.

Nor will you be Bred

A pity, thinking that being Bred after choosing my breed was amusing.  Anyway, a couple more tries made it clear that the name generator does not in any way vet the availability of names it offers up, making its utility for a game of this age somewhat dubious.

So I put in one of my standard names, Tistann, which was accepted right away.  Go me.  Then it was off to my new life in the off world colonies on Rubi-Ka.

Behold the many splendors of Rubi-Ka

That splash screen belies what came next.  Rather than a glorious future on a modern new planet I was transported back nearly 20 years in time when polygon counts were low, UI design consisted of throwing windows about at random, and 1024×768 was deemed a large enough screen resolution for anybody’s needs.

Seriously, I went into the settings and told it how large my screen was and turned up all the other settings… or both of the other settings really.

No, I have a BIG screen… well, big for 2001…

But as you can see, all the screen shots are 1024×768 and the world is dark, grim, and full of the sharp edges of polygons.  Welcome to history.

Meanwhile, there wasn’t much of a tutorial.

Shift plus Click equals?

That is about all I saw, and I couldn’t get it to do anything, so I was left to the occasional pop-up tip and my own imagination as to how to proceed.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was figure out how to take screen shots.

Ironically, my first screen shot

And then I had to figure out where the game actually stored them, which was a bit more challenging.

I pottered around a bit with the UI.  I like that you can move almost every piece of it at need, though it does seem crowded in that resolution.  Still, it is better than 1999 EverQuest with its little square window view of the world in the middle of the UI.

I tried equipping the two melee weapons in my inventory and then attacking one of the many malfunctioning cleaning robots in the area, the obvious newbie fodder, but that did not go well and I died.

I then swapped to the two pistols they gave me and plinked away at a cleaning robot at range, which went better.  It was still a near run thing, but I lived and managed my first kill.  Something seemed amiss though, so I started digging through the skills.  This does seem to be a skill based game and there are lots of skills.

Skills to pay the bills… and kill the mobs…

I put points into ranged weapons and some defensive items.  I wasn’t sure how useful some skills would be, but I had a lot of skill points, so why not spend them?

Ducking explosions and thrown objects seems like an odd combo

With some shooting skill I was able to shoot up malfunctioning cleaning robots with abandon, boosting myself up quickly to level two.  I moved on a bit and took out a few more and a garbage flea, which got me up to level three.  High on that success I went after bigger game.

My attempts to take on the Cleanmeister Intelligence Robot… is that a named boss NPC… however did not go well.

The war on automation continues

I pulled back and the Cleanmeister let me go.  I settled down to rest and heal in the time honored tradition of the era, only to walk away from my desk then come back to find another garbage flea, no doubt avenging a fallen comrade, had slain me.  Oh well.

That was enough of a preview, so I logged out. (Though I did go back in later to take a few of these screen shots.)  While the summary sounds like I spent about five minutes with the game, that all transpired over the course of a few hours.

It was an interesting glimpse back into the past and, while I am sure Funcom has updated a lot since the game launched, it still feels very much like a game of its era.

At this point I am not saying that Anarchy Online will be my eventual pick to play seriously for a at least a month later this year, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.

Meanwhile, if you want to read about another game from my list, Jeromai has an excellent post up about a return to A Tale in the Desert.  Another game that looks to be still a part of the time from which it came.

My 2018 MMO Outlook – Mining for Old Gold

Here we are again, a common refrain at the top of these annual posts, but what else have I got going for me?  This will at least be the last of the annual posts for quite a while.

Last month I posted my review of my annual MMO outlook and found that I had played nothing on the list.  That was in part because most of the list didn’t ship, but also because I just reverted to the mean and played what I always play, which is WoW, EQII, and EVE.

So this year I am going to eschew the looking forward aspect of my annual post.  Let’s face it, there isn’t that much coming that both interests me AND is likely to ship in 2018.

I am going to, here at the start of the new year, buckle down and commit to playing a new MMO in 2018, but only one that is new to me.  There are plenty of old MMORPGs still knocking around, classics of the genre, storied in their time, that I have never touched.

I will spend at least a month playing one of these titles seriously and blogging about it, because that it the point of the exercise to a certain extent, so that old timers can come by and mock my ignorance and tell me how things were back in the good old days and all of that.

So here is the list I am mulling over with some pros and cons as I see them from the outside.  Each game has some minor claim to fame in my mind, has come up occasionally, and is more than ten years old.

1RuneScape

A re-tread from my last year’s list and a bit of a cheat since I have actually spent a few minutes playing this.  But it is an old title, having launched back in 2001

Pros:  I have, in fact, tried it so know that I can get it running, create a character, and play.

Cons: Was not in love with the camera and controls.  Also, as it has been modernized so much that I wonder if I should go play the “old school” version of it.

2 – Ultima Online

Hard to leave this one off the list seeing that it was the first of the big wave of popular titles in the MMORPG genre.

Pros: Really getting to the old school thing, might be a free to play option soon.

Cons: Isometric, third party camera view always seemed odd to me in screen shots.  Might indirectly lead me into giving money to EA.

3 – Dark Age of Camelot

I had some friends who left EverQuest back in the day and found it a pretty decent time.  At that point I was living in a house with spotty internet at best so wasn’t keen to invest in it.  But now connectivity is no problem.

Pros:  It was supposed to take the “suck” out of MMORPGs and also has some sort of free plan.

Cons: It is really a realm vs. realm sort of game as I understand it.  Am I ready for old school PvP?  Also, as above, some of this money goes to EA, which does not please me.

4 – Anarchy Online

The original MMO launch disaster movie and one of the early free to play titles by necessity.

Pros: It is one on the list that isn’t fantasy based and Funcom is talking about rolling a new server.

Cons: The stories about it might be true and most MMORPGs are fantasy for a reason.

5 – Silkroad Online

Token Asian MMORPG?  There were some people in an old guild that went off to play it and reported having a decent time.  It is old-ish, and still around.

Pros:  7th century Chinese theme, a bit different, free to play, and has survived this long.

Cons: PvP-centric, grindy to get you to pay, everything else on this list has survived even longer, and I might be thinking of a different game when it comes to where those old guild mates went.

6 – Maple Story

Why wouldn’t I put a 2D side scrolling MMORPG on the list?  Another one of those “been around for freakin’ ever” titles that I have never tried.

Pros: Low system requirements… hell, there was a single player Facebook version of the game at one point… free and it has lasted this long.

Cons: Browser based 2D side scrolling MMORPG might be warning enough, right?

7 – Entopia Universe

Unbridled virtual capitalism where some guy bought a moon and then resold it and because rich or something… the details are kind of vague.

Pros: Very much free, storied, and still around.

Cons: Very much designed to make you spend money and I am not sure what the real objective of the game is besides the Burnsian “make more money!”

8 – A Tale in the Desert

A non-combat, social MMO that resets to a new “telling” of the tale every so often, one of those games that gets mentions a lot but rarely by anybody actually playing it.

Pros: The first 24 hours are free.

Cons: Social might be a problem for me going in solo, especially since the current “telling” has been going on for over two year now, so I might feel late to the party.  Also, after the first 24 hours you have to subscribe.

So that is a list of eight possibilities.  I won’t be jumping straight into any of them.  This will likely be a spring-to-summer sort of event.  That means if I am missing some vital option from the list you can chime in via comments or the poll below using the “other” field.  Otherwise take a moment to pick which one of the above might be the most worthwhile venture.

If there isn’t a poll above this line AdBlock may have eaten it.  It happens.

I won’t say I’ll follow the will of the respondents, but if one title seems to be leading the pack substantially I will give that some weight.  Also, a bit of trivia; I had previously made tags for every game on the list above.  I suppose that says something, though I am not sure what, besides that I have mentioned them all here at some time before.

And, of course, if you want to see how this sort of post has played out in the past, you can check out attempts from past years:

The Fall of Club Penguin

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

Time for another MMO for kids to fall by the wayside.  Club Penguin, the 12 year old kids MMO with over 200 million registered users (as of 2013), has been closed by Disney.

We are no strangers to Club Penguin at our house.  My daughter was a fan of the game for a stretch and used to participate in events, was in a band in the game, and collected the various in-game items including hats and puffles.

Waddle around

In fact, it was a desire to collect some special in-game item that led my daughter to get her account banned when she gave her login information to a classmate who then gave it to somebody else.

Forever…ever…ever…ever…

That was a serious blow to her relationship with the game, as she had collected quite a bit of stuff.  If fact, she recently read that post I wrote about that incident and got mad at me when she realized I could have probably gotten her account unbanned if I had set that as a goal, as opposed to teaching her a lesson in account security.  She still misses some of her stuff even though that was half of her lifetime ago.  I cannot recall when I was 15 if I was nostalgic for things that happened when I was only 8.

But it really does not matter now as all of her stuff in Club Penguin is gone.  Disney announced back in January that the game would be shutting down and yesterday was the last day.  Sales have been down, Disney had already laid off some staff and closed down some of the overseas sites for the game, but that was not enough.

In a bit of an ironic turn, at least for our household, getting banned from Club Penguin became a new sport for people playing the game, and my daughter joined in

He last encounter with Club Penguin was trying to get kicked off of Club Penguin.  And that fun is over for good as well now that the game has been shut down.

Of course, I am dubious as to how badly Disney needed to shut the game down.  The financials are all buried in the numbers for the corporation and we are all pretty aware that online games in motion tend to hang onto a core audience that can keep them viable.  I doubt if the game were still independent that it would be closing.  But Disney is in the business of growth, not mere viability, so Club Penguin was sent off to join Toontown Online, another acquisition of theirs they subsequently shut down.

Anyway, the real reason to kill Club Penguin was to keep it from drawing customers from Disney’s new mobile venture, Club Penguin Island which, surprise surprise, went live on iOS and Android yesterday.

Penguins go mobile

The plan was obviously to channel Club Penguin player to the new game.

Of course, the usual reactions from the player base occurred, with people angry and threatening boycotts and the like.

Players like to settled down in their MMOs for the long term.  They want them to remain so they can come back and visit.  They get invested in their virtual goods and hate to lose them.  So expecting people to pick up from a long standing MMO to invest in a new game is a faint hope, and all the less likely when you chase them out of the old one with a stick.  Sequels are difficult as we saw with EverQuest II and Lineage II, neither of which ever outshined their predecessor.

And when the replacement isn’t even on the same platform… well, that seems like a faint hope.

Not that I think Club Penguin Island will fail.   It is a Disney product and will have Disney marketing behind it and will be featured on the Disney channel and on Radio Disney and in the Disney Store and so on and so forth.  It is just a completely different beast and will have its own fans and followers who may not have played the original.

High Noon for Asheron’s Call

We learned last month, the money making MMOs at Turbine have been split off to be run by a new company called Standing Stone Game.  That meant Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online would both be leaving Turbine.  That left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 in the lurch.

asherons_call_full_logo

Staying with Turbine rather than being spun off with the new MMO running entity Standing Stone Games seemed to indicate a short future for the two titles, something quickly confirmed in a statement from Turbine:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017.

This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it’s not easy for us to bring it to an end.

We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron’s Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it.

It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud.

Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled.

Yet hope springs eternal… only to be stomped on.  In an earlier time of greater optimism at Turbine, there was talk about letting players be able to setup private Asheron’s Call servers, a promise that immediately led to, “Hey, maybe we’ll get something!”  And then Turbine came back and said no, private servers would not be a thing.

We had hoped to be able to hand off our servers to the community, so our most loyal players could continue their journey through Dereth. Unfortunately, this is something we were unable to do.

So that was that.  Turbine further clarified the end time for Asheron’s Call, saying that the game would go dark at noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.  If this post went live as scheduled, that was two minutes earlier, so the game should be down by the time you read this.  Hopefully, if you were a fan, you got in your final look at the world and didn’t get hampered by the last minute attempt to ruin the closing.

MMORPGs are strange beasts, and their passing are always sad and strange.  The social nature and persistent world aspects of them make them different from games where you play for a session and then everything resets.  As we have gone on about, and demonstrated ad nauseum, people get invested in MMORPGs.  And Asheron’s Call, being one of the “Big Three” late 90s MMORPGs that, along with Ultima Online and EverQuest, popularized the genre, all the more so.  It was a “first” MMORPG for people in the pre-World of Warcraft era, with its own special features, quirks, and lessons.

It is hard for me to imagine the day that EverQuest goes dark.  All those memories… mostly good, since we forget or repress the bad over time… that I could no longer pretend were just a patch update and a login away.  I don’t play anymore, but I could… and that I could makes a big difference.  So I feel for those who are losing their first MMORPG today.

That said, I do wonder at hope continuing to spring up.  Some are pinning hopes that there will be an announcement of some sort about Asheron’s Call tomorrow.  As the somewhat detached outsider, it is tough for me to see the hook one can hang that idea from.

Asheron’s Call was one of the big three, but it was the smallest of the bunch, topping out at half of UO’s numbers and a quarter of EQ’s subscription peak, so it doesn’t have the legacy of success that the other two had.  Furthermore, in the pantheon of Turbine titles, Lord of the Rings Online is their big success.  For Origin and SOE, their first MMORPGs remain their most popular, while Turbine has long neglected AC in favor of the two games that went with Standing Stone.  And then of course, there is Turbine, a shell of its former self, and WB, a media company from which one can expect no favors.

So while I don’t want to stomp on anybody’s dreams, I haven’t seen anything that would make me think there will be a post-closing announcement.  But we shall see tomorrow I suppose.

But whatever happens tomorrow or in the future, today we mark the end of what once was.

Amazon’s New World

Amazon’s new game studio announced three games that they are working on at TwitchCon yesterday.  (Amazon owns Twitch, so there is that connection… and you can now get some Twitch bennies for being an Amazon Prime customer.)

Of the three, the one garnering interest in this corner of the internet is New World, because they used our three favorite letters, M, M, and O.  Or, at least they said “Massively Multiplayer,” but the “online” part is more that implied at this point.

New World is the one for us though.  I think.  I hope.  I guess.

Just how new and how worldly?

Just how new and how worldly?

It was hard not to roll my eyes a bit, mostly because the acronym “MMO” has been so stretched and otherwise abused by now that I don’t trust my gut when people use it.  Everything that can get a dozen players online at once seems to feel entitled to that tag these days.

Yes, yes, cynicism is my thing here, but after the last decade of MMOs I think anybody trying to use the designation has to earn our trust.  I am a product of my environment.

Where I am headed...

Old man yells at cloud base gaming… and AWS…

We have a description of sorts, right there on the store page over at Amazon.

New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land. How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you. Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations. In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.

And for those who don’t like their information in paragraph format, there are bullet points as well.

  • New World is a massively multiplayer, open-ended sandbox game that allows you to carve your own destiny with other players in a living, hostile, cursed land.
  • How you play, what you do, and whom you work with or against is up to you.
  • Live on your own amidst the supernatural terrors or join with others to build thriving civilizations.
  • In this evolving world that transforms with the changing of the seasons, weather, and time of day, the only limit is your own ambition.
  • A release date for New World has not been set.

Of course, tossing in the word “sandbox” got an audible sigh from me as well, as it is also a favored term of late and seems to mean something like, “We’re not going to completely copy World of Warcraft.”

At least we know it will be released on Windows.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Processor:   TBD
  • RAM:   TBD
  • Hard Disk:   TBD
  • Video Card:   TBD
  • Supported OS:   Windows

However pricing, business model, and whatever have yet to be announced.

I like the price so far... unless that means F2P cash shop hell

I like the price so far… unless that means F2P cash shop hell

And given how long it can take to get a real MMO together… if it is a “real” MMO, by which I mean a worldly, persistent, shared experience, multiplayer RPG… I suspect it will be some time before we get enough details to begin projecting even our most optimistic fantasies on it.

But it has been announced, so I figured I had best take note.  And, of course, because it is already listed over at Amazon, it has reviews.

Only 4 stars for a non-existent game

Only 4 stars for a non-existent game

The other two titles that were announced:

  • Breakaway – Breakaway is a 4 vs. 4 mythological sport brawler built for fast action, teamwork, and live-streaming.
  • Crucible – Crucible is a battle to the last survivor on a hostile alien world. Players choose and customize heroes, making alliances and betraying allies on their path to victory. An additional player heightens the drama by triggering events, live-streaming the battles, and interacting with viewers

So that sounds like a streaming optimized MOBA and something that might be Overwatch meets The Hunger Games maybe?  I don’t know.  Not MMORPGs.

New World is the title that fits here, though I have to say that all three of the titles chosen seem likely to have problems standing out from other uses of those words.

As I noted above, others in our little internet tribe are talking about it as well.  They might even be less cynical than I.