Category Archives: Misc MMOs

Nebula Online – Running an MMO with No Visible Means of Support

No free-to-play limitations, no cash shop and no hidden costs – not even a monthly sub. Relax and play!

-Nebula Online Kickstarter Tag Line

I don’t really want to pick on anybody’s Kickstarter project, but sometimes they just raise questions that I then want to write about.  I appease my inner self-critic by telling myself that at least I am giving them a bit more visibility.

NebulaOnline

Anyway, there is the Nebula Online Kickstarter campaign.  They have 29 days to go on a 45 day funding run, want $130,000 (though in Canadian Loonies as opposed to trusty greenbacks) and haven’t even managed to garner 10% of their total in the first two weeks, which anybody who has followed my commentary on Kickstarter campaigns before knows does not bode well for success.  If you bring in less than 25% of your goal in the first 24 hours, you probably haven’t built enough support for your campaign in advance.  Their daily data looks bad right now.

The game itself is billed as “an old school hardcore Sci-Fi MMORPG,” and sounds a lot like a more ambitious EVE Online with maybe a bit of Elite:Dangerous sprinkled in for leavening.  But I have to say that space is suddenly becoming a crowded market of late, which probably isn’t helping them much.  Star Citizen looks to be grabbing the lion’s share of uncommitted money on the space game development front.

And the team… well… looking at their bios, they all really like MMOs, they just haven’t actually made one yet.  Yeah, they are doing the whole thing on Unity, which will give them a leg up in many areas, but going full on MMO is going to be a learning experience for them.

None of which makes the project particularly post worthy here.  I am sure I could find a new campaign every week that looked as starry eyed optimistic as Nebula Online.

No, the bit that sparked my interest was the quote at the top, which is a tag line for the project.

They plan to finance this whole thing based entirely on box sales.

Yes, I know, the “Buy” category in the whole range of “to Play” options is the new favorite option of the mob.  GuildWars 2 falls into “Buy to Play,” as does The Secret WorldThe Elder Scrolls Online is heading that way in a month and the new hotness that is Crowfall is talking about that as well.

The thing is, while those games are all in the B2P column, they all have optional revenue streams.  I could not think of an MMORPG … at least something I would call an MMORPG, which includes a persistent world and all that DikuMUD / EverQuest baggage, and not a lobby game like World of Tanks or League of Legends or Diablo III… that has made a go of it without some follow on plan to pay the bills as the years go by.  A cash shop with a special currency, an “optional” subscription (your definition of optional may vary), content or expansions, PLEX-like items in game, or just a straight up ability to buy in-game items from the web site.

There always seems to be something on the recurring revenue front to keep paying the bills after box sales eventually taper off.

So, of all the aspects of Nebula Online, I find this to be the most dubious, the idea that they will be able to keep a game… a real MMORPG… up and running on box sales alone.  It doesn’t make logical sense in my view of the world, which is abetted by the fact that I cannot think of another similar game making a go of it with that particular model.

But then, it is no longer 2004, back when it seemed like a mere mortal could know all you needed to know about the field of MMORPGs.  Today there is so much going on that I sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the games I am actually playing (thanks CCP “every five weeks” expansion schedule), much less what in the hell is going on in the wider market.

Has somebody else been successful… for whatever definition of success you care to pick… with a “box sales only” business model for an MMORPG?  Has somebody managed to keep the lights on for an extended time with only that revenue stream?

Quote of the Day – Is H1Z1 an MMO or Not?

I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game.

John Smedley, Twitter

So H1Z1 has been a thing… at least an early access thing… for almost a week now and, as I have noted, it has gotten a variety of reactions.  Whether you believe early access is a good thing or not, H1Z1 is out there, the latest MMO from SOE.

The night is dark, I think I'll go to bed

And, of course, will IT survive?

Only there is that Smed quote from Twitter.  This was in reaction to a story posted over at Massively, More Boredom than Terror, that describes Syp’s venture into H1Z1 on a PvE server.

Putting together the full series of tweets from Smed, they read out:

Watching [Massively’s] story about how H1Z1 is boring and seeing other commentary along the same lines from people playing PVE.  Makes me realize just how stratified the online gaming industry is. Not a bad thing at all. just interesting. Basically the review is from the perspective of an MMO vet coming into it. The comments are identical to stuff we heard from our own company.

My perspective is different – new kinds of experiences with comparisons to current MMO experiences mean people are looking at it through a different lens then we made it. All still valid points of view though and can’t disagree with them.

I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game.  session based because lots of people play until they die. It’s an easy stopping point.  anyways… just a bit of rambling about it, but I find the experience an MMO vet has coming in to H1Z1 (or Day Z for that matter)

I will say that at least Smed didn’t go for the cheap “It’s a PvP game” shot like so many comments over at Massively did.  SOE provides PvE servers and the team has, in Smed’s words, “…really have gone out of our way to make sure PVE players will be happy” so the idea of “not playing it right” can be discounted.

But how about the idea of not looking at it right?

That does bring us back to the age old question of “what’s an MMO anyway?”  I know what I mean when I use the term… when I write it, it is almost always short hand for persistent world, progression based, multiplayer, online, servers and shards, role playing game.  I also usually mean “fantasy” as well, but there is EVE Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic out there, so maybe I should stop thinking that automatically.

But what I mean when I say it clearly carries little weight, as the term gets used for games like War Thunder and World of Tanks and League of Legends, and probably quite a few more games that would not, in any way, meet my own personal definition.

On the flip side, H1Z1 does seem to press most of my MMO buttons.  You have a character, a persistent world, the whole shards concept with many parallel realms, a form of progression… it is equipment based progression, but that is hardly a new thing… and there is the whole multiplayer aspect.  Common mechanics we find in MMOs, quests and raids and auction houses, are missing, but so what?  Common isn’t the same as required, while the hardcore nature… gotta eat and drink or you’re gonna die… doesn’t disqualify it.

In the “quacks like a duck” view of the world, H1Z1 seems like an MMO to me.  Also, SOE calls it an MMO right there on the SOE main page, thus planting the seed rather firmly.

H1Z1 is a zombie survival MMO set in a post-apocalyptic world where thousands of players must strategically align with friends and against enemies in order to survive the worldwide infection.

And then there is the description on the H1Z1 site itself:

Tell me about H1Z1 please...

Tell me about H1Z1 please…

And “sandbox” is a common subset of MMOs, at least for purposes of argument most days.

Of course, you might say that marketing needed to call it something, and they call everything else at SOE an MMO… except of course, they do not.

They manage to avoid the term, at least on the SOE main page, with Landmark and with H1Z1’s antecedent, PlanetSide 2…. and also with EverQuest and EverQuest II, which are clearly examples of the MMO genre.  Maybe marketing was just lazy.  After all, they also say that EverQuest is the “online game that started it all!”  Though, to be fair, they don’t really define “all.”  However, you get the possible implication swimming in that vagueness, don’t you Ultima Online and Meridian 59 vets?

But I digress.

The usage of the shorthand term MMO could also just be the lens through which we… me, Syp, SOE marketing… are seeing things as well.  The human brain loves to categorize things.  It was a key survival instinct out on the African savannah and remains so in many modern situations, like crossing a busy street in a big city. (Hint: Cabs are predators.)  But it doesn’t always help in situations that are more nuanced… or even when recognizing which situations might be more nuanced.

I know the idea of an MMO is more nuanced than the industry treats it.  A lot of things seem to get that label more because of marketing than any deep thinking on genres and classifications.

But even with that, H1Z1 still feels more like an MMO than any other option.

Is H1Z1 an MMO?  Is it something else?

Are we too fixated on MMOs to be able to tell?  Is Smed to close to be able to see beyond the details?

Looking Back at 2014 – Highs and Lows

As the month of December bleeds out before our very eyes and the new year looms, it becomes time for certain standard posts to appear.  Looking back at the year gone by, revision 5.

Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:

Payment Model Wars

Not much new to add since last year, so you can go back and read that.  I still don’t like where free to play inevitably leads games, but in a market where free is now the norm, you have to be extra special to warrant a subscription.

Turbine

Highs

  • They still seem to be a going concern.
  • They have had updates out for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Lord of the Rings Online is still a great way to get a feel for Middle-earth.  I like to go back and just visit places.
  • They aren’t actually killing off Asheron’s Call or Asheron’s Call 2. There is a promise to keep the servers up and running and some effort to allow players to run their own servers.  And, hey, it’s free.
  • They have a new game waiting in the wings… somewhere.
  • WB Games management exhales carbon dioxide, which helps plants grow.

Lows

  • More layoffs.
  • No expansion for LOTRO.
  • All I do is visit and look.  The last big change to classes pretty much made me give up on going back to play.
  • How is that “PvP and Raiders make up less than 10%…” stance working out?
  • Asheron’s Call series is in some state that is probably less than maintenance mode.  No income generally means no attention unless something is literally on fire.
  • The “run your own server” option sounds like a hollow promise at best.  How much effort do you think they will expend on this while struggling with other projects and laying people off?
  • Is Infinite Crisis a thing yet or not?  It isn’t going to save the company sitting in closed beta or whatever.
  • Management’s main function at this point might merely be contributing to global warming.

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs

  • Leaner, more focused organization
  • A new game, H1Z1 in the pipe
  • Fixed a bit of confusion by splitting out Landmark as its own title without the EverQuest name attached.
  • Ongoing support and new expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II
  • EverQuest II ten year anniversary!  Isle of Refuge prestige house!
  • Closed the exp loophole in Dungeon Maker in EQII.
  • Station Cash is strong enough again that they could actually sell a bit at a discount for a holiday sale.  People actually complained because they couldn’t buy Station Cash up to the set limit of 30K per day during the sale.
  • Didn’t get brought down by the latest Sony hacking incidents… well, except for the PlayStation titles.
  • I think people have finally stopped accosting Smed in the street about the NGE.

Lows

  • The organization got leaner and more focused by killing off four titles, Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, Vanguard, and Wizardry Online.  As many as three of those will be missed, and all four will get Smed accosted where ever he goes.  Okay, maybe not Wizardry Online.
  • Apparent revolving door, flavor of the whatever, Asian import MMO plan.  Out with Wizardry Online, in with Dragon’s Prophet.
  • Landmark is still a work in progress with no real end in sight.  Worked for Notch and Minecraft because he got some good, tangible stuff in early.  Not so much with Landmark even with the latest code drop.
  • EverQuest Next is still a blur on the horizon.  Is it getting closer or not?  My gut is starting to feel like another EverQuest title might be too much to hang on that lore in any case.
  • SOE now has two titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, with level caps that started at 50 and now are into triple digits.  Not sure if that is bad, but it makes you go “whoa!”
  • SOE’s History of EverQuest II – 10th Anniversary Documentary was completely lacking in substance.
  • So what is the Dungeon Maker good for now?  Can I go in there and play with SOEmote?
  • Never got my promo code for Station Cash, despite signing up well in advance of the date, a problem a lot of people had.
  • With people buying up gobs of Station Cash with up to a 3x bonus, will that flood the market again?
  • Still no idea what people could possibly spend 30K of Station Cash on, much less the 90K somebody must have tried to buy over the three days of the sale.  Seriously, is there some special tab that is not visible in my version of the Station Cash store?

CCP

Highs

  • The change in development strategy for EVE Online has really invigorated the game for the installed base.  Fixing shit and making the game better is a win.
  • Some good PR moments have brought a lot of new players to the game.
  • CCP is focusing more on their core competencies.
  • EVE Valkyrie gets people excited whenever they see it.
  • DUST 514 is still a thing… right?

Lows

  • A lot of the cool things CCP is doing for EVE Online are good, short term wins, but are they the kind of things that keep people invested and subscribed?
  • What happens when the low hanging fruit is consumed?
  • CCP admits that bringing new players to the game isn’t even the battle, as 90% of those who subscribe cancel before their subscription period runs out, and that doesn’t even get to the number of people who don’t subscribe.  The conversion rate for the trial accounts was what then? 1%?  Less?
  • Better not mess up on any of these changes to EVE Online, because it is all that is paying the bills right now.  One slip up and SOE will buy them and… do I even want to think about that?  I mean sure, Smed was in the CFC… but in SMA.
  • For all the changes to the game this past year, we just need AAA to take some sov again and all the usual suspects will be back on the map again.
  • Not enough hats in New Eden.  We need some decent hats.
  • Yeah, EVE Valkyrie sounds cool, and looks cool, but will VR headsets make us vomit after 30 minutes or go insane after extended use?  There are some doubts on that front.
  • I barely know if DUST 514 is still a thing.  I have yet to bomb anybody from orbit, and I feel poorer for it.

Blizzard

Highs

  • As usual, laughing all the way to the bank pushing wheel barrows full of cash.
  • WoW subscriptions way up with Warlords of Draenor and a solid change of focus.  Orcs make the best bad guys.
  • New plan for global domination means having one winning product in each important gaming genre.
  • Glad they fixed Diablo III by removing the auction house and fixing itemization.  The “real money” aspect was a side issue, the auction house itself and the original itemization, which felt like it was designed to push you to the auction house, were the problems with the game.  I went back and played through the game again.
  • Some rumbling that Heroes of the Storm is actually good and might do to MOBAs what Hearthstone did for collectible card games.
  • Overwatch looks like money in the bank at this point.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void might actually see the light of day in 2015.

Lows

  • The balance sheet might as well read “WoW and the five dwarves,” because Azeroth is the big breadwinner.  Blizzard without WoW is just a very successful studio, not an obscenely successful one.  They have to keep WoW going or change their lifestyle.
  • Some moon-eyed dreamers out there are going to hang on to the idea of the now-cancelled Titan project and moan about how it could have changed things despite it never having been a thing.
  • Rough start going into Warlords of Draenor.  Everybody says being too popular is the problem to have, but it is still a problem.
  • WoW subscriptions still below the 12 million peak going into Cataclysm.  No new class or race means no real drive to create new alts while insta-90 means those alts that get made are quickly at the level cap.
  • The low water mark for WoW subscribers was this summer, during the great content drought of 2014, and it isn’t clear that Blizz learned a lesson from that.  They say they did, but will they live up to that.
  • Five expansions in, occasionally hit by the realization that this is two years of busy work that will be washed away by the next $50 box.
  • And after playing through Diablo III again I didn’t buy the expansion and pretty much put it away.  It is still there if we get a group together, but soloing through a couple times was enough.
  • Is Heroes of the Storm live-ish yet?  I’m not sure you can change the world in closed beta.
  • Really not sure what Hearthstone did for collectible cards games, now that I think about it.
  • Anybody who thinks Blizz has learned any lessons about timeliness is kidding themselves.  They ship when they are good and ready… which is a luxury they enjoy… but if you think another WoW expansion is coming in less than two years, think again.  I think the best we can hope for is that they won’t dole out the add-on content for the game as quickly.

Other MMO Devs

Highs

  • Trion rolls out an expansion for Rift and brought out ArcheAge which boasts a feature set that gets a lot of people very excited.
  • Two big titles came out in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic got an expansion and a level cap increase.
  • ArenaNet plays its living story hand to the fullest in GuildWars 2.
  • Jagex is trying hard to not be just the RuneScape studio.
  • Funcom gets a property that looks like a potential gold mine, LEGO Minifigures Online.  They surely learned from the failure of LEGO Universe.
  • Chris Roberts continued to bring in the cash for Star Citizen.  They are past the $66 million dollar mark at this point.  Op success!
  • Some other Kickstarters I backed made some progress.  Camelot Unchained’s promise date is still a year out, and while Shroud of the Avatar is behind their original schedule, you can get in the game and do things.
  • Project: Gorgon, despite a name that really isn’t helping things, and despite failing the second Kickstarter, is still progressing and could very well be one of the prime examples of what a niche MMO title can be.

Lows

  • Trion botches the ArcheAge launch to the point of alienating some of their most ardent fans.  The game went from being worth a four hour queue to not being worth logging on at all for a lot of people I follow.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online has spent months working on bugs and will likely be at least a year late in shipping the console version, while WildStar is facing an uncertain future after subs dropped off a cliff, since they were published by NCsoft, whose motto is “kill the weak.”
  • Despite claims that SW:TOR is a cash cow, EA is officially saying it isn’t meeting expectations.  Not sure that bodes well for the future.
  • GuildWars 2 may have lots of fans, but the revenue chart seems to indicate that they will need another box to sell to keep NCsoft happy.
  • Jagex stumbles again with Transformers Universe shutting down before leaving open beta.  So they’re still just the RuneScape company, at least when it comes to revenue.
  • LEGO Minifigures Online is not meeting revenue expectations according to Funcom.  But then, I barely knew that it launched and I thought I was paying attention.
  • The original Star Citizen promised launch date has come and gone and we have a hangar module and a mini space sim module.  Meanwhile, the new go date for the real game is out in 2016.  More space bonsai needed to raise money.
  • Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Awkward name, asked for too much money, the follow-on plan was just “give me money, no strings attached!” all while having too many goals.  I have doubts we’ll ever see a finished project.  It is sort of the anti-Project: Gorgon.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Nintendo scores a big win with Maro Kart 8, a game that actually moved some Wii U units.
  • The 3DS line continues to be a bright spot on the Nintendo balance sheet.  It is still selling well, updated units are coming, and it is getting some decent titles.  I am very happy with my 3DS XL, it is a quality unit and worthy of the high standard set by the DS Lite.
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire keep the Pokemon tradition going.
  • Sony still releasing PlayStation 3 titles.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • I finally hit level 8 on Steam.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 8 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • Really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online next year.  Andrew Groen has been making regular updates and things seem to be on track.

Lows

  • Nintendo still hasn’t sold enough Wii U units to make the whole thing worth the effort.  It remains their worst selling mainstream console, a bitter pill to swallow after the Wii.
  • While Nintendo’s handheld rules the portable roost, it’s success is mainly reliant on remakes and the same small cast of characters.  How much longer can Mario and Pikachu carry this show?
  • Part of the Pokemon tradition includes cool features that only appear in one game, then are gone for the next release.
  • Have to suppress the realization that, despite all the updates and tweaks, Pokemon has not changed in any fundamental way since it was on the original GameBoy.
  • I only bought one PlayStation 3 title in 2014… and it was Assassin’s Creed III, which came out in 2012.  And I had to wait to buy it (for my daughter) because the PlayStation Network was down due to hackers… again.  All we use the PS3 for is streaming video most days.  It is great at that, but frankly a $100 Roku box would give us more options.
  • I literally won’t buy anything that isn’t at least 50% off on Steam at this point.  And even then I let my wishlist pass.
  • Steam competitors?  How many software sales platforms do you think I am going to invest in?  So far, the answer is one.
  • Steam blocked me one point shy of level 8, where you get a serious boost in cards and stuff, until I bought something.  I bought the original Wasteland for $1.49.  I’ll have to see if it plays like it did back on my Apple //e way back when.
  • I really just use my iPad 2 to browse the web, read news, and text my wife.  The only games I play regularly at this point are Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, and Candy Crush Saga.  The same three titles I was playing 2 years ago.  And I am only to level 301 in Candy Crush Saga, because I won’t give King a dime.
  • Where the hell is my copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls?  The Kickstarter date was a “pessimistic” August 2013, back in February of that year.  2014 is about done and there is no ship date in sight.

The Blog and the Internet in General

Highs

  • Hey, I kept blogging for another year.  Gotta love the force of habit!  375 posts so far in 2014.
  • Still feel like I am connected in some minor way to a lot of the other bloggers out there in our little corner of the net.  You all write great stuff and I don’t link out to you all nearly enough.
  • The blog continues to live up to its name, as the games I played the most this year are all pretty old in internet terms.  World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both just turned 10, EVE Online is 11, and the Pokemon franchise is 18 years old at this point.
  • Turns out what I said last year about it being nice having a blog because so many of my screen shots are there came to pass when my power supply blew out and fried my motherboard, video card, and both drives… which actually sounds like a low, but I got a replacement board for one of the drives and it spun up and I was able to recover data.

Lows

  • WordPress.com seems determined to force horrible design choices on their users.  Most of their 2014 updates have offered less functionality, worse layout, and slower performance.  Seriously, WTF WordPress?
  • The randomness of Google and the internet means my most read post this year is the one I wrote about considering which class on which to use my WoW insta-90.
  • I remain at a loss as to what gamer social networking ought to be.  I keep getting invites to sites, and spent some time with Anook, but I dropped off after a while.  I already have a blog and too many ways to interact with people, why do I need a site that appears to be primarily looking to me to provide free content?
  • When did Yahoo’s motto become, “Well, we’re not the best, so let’s just be complete shit?”  Their site, their mail interface, their mobile app for mail, all have gone to utter shit.  I am pretty sure if I install Ad Block, Yahoo would simply disappear.
  • Also, Apple, WTF is it with iTunes?  Why must it get worse and worse?
  • GamerGate: Failed to learn the lesson of Occupy Wall Street (no leadership or unified platform or goals), so now any reasonable message under that hash tag is forever tainted by death threats, doxing, and revenge porn.  You cannot disavow something if nobody/everybody speaks for you movement.  You just managed to reinforce all the negative gamer stereotypes.

That is what came to mind for 2014 when I sat down to write this.  I am sure somebody will point out some big things I missed… which is the purpose of the comments section, so have at it.

And other people in the blogesphere have been looking at 2014 for good or ill, so you can see what they had to say as well.

Project Gorgon – Not Dead Yet

Barring some sort of miracle, this Kickstarter attempt isn’t going to succeed. But that’s been pretty obvious for a while! The more important thing, to the team here, is that people are getting a lot more excited than they’ve ever been. We’re seeing close to a hundred people online, which is still tiny, but for a previously-completely-unheard-of alpha test, it’s great!

Eric Heimburg, Project: Gorgon Kickstarter Update #6

There is less than 24 hours to go for the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter campaign at this point and it sits about 22% into its $100,000 funding goal.  Unless somebody shows up ready to write an $80K check really soon, the campaign will not fund.

ProjectGorgonLogo

And the failure to fund comes for a few reasons.  I mentioned the name recognition issue in my post at the start of the campaign.  “Who is Eric Heimburg?” is a serious problem in a field where names can be a draw.  And the name of the game itself, Project: Gorgon has never struck my as very dynamic or descriptive.   While it doesn’t feel as weighed down as the labored Shroud of the Avatar: The Hidden Virtues or as nonsensical as Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, it also doesn’t have the zing of Camelot Unchained or the simplicity of EverQuest.  And it isn’t like all the good short names are taken.  Didn’t Bungie just go live with Destiny?  And wasn’t there Journey just a while back?

I don’t know.  I just look at that name and wonder “What is this Gorgon?  And why has it become somebody’s project?”  It doesn’t say “game” or “fun” to me… it trends more towards frog dissection in high school biology to be honest.  That might just be me.

And the whole Kickstarter campaign probably could have gone better.  While I am on the mailing list, the whole thing came up as something of a surprise to me.  There wasn’t a lot of build up or attempts to get the word out in advance of the campaign.  There was no attempt to build up a sense of excitement to make a big, first day splash.  Hell, I only happened to see the Kickstarter announced on Twitter, after which I went away for about 20 minutes, came back, logged in, and managed to be the first backer.

Me being first in line for something I wasn’t even aware was coming, that speaks to some poor prep work.  And there is a strong correlation between Kickstarter projects doing well in the first 48 hours (well as in hitting 25-50% of their goal) and successfully funding.  Project: Gorgon didn’t even make 10% of the target in that time frame.

Finally, Eric Heimburg just isn’t a bright beacon for the project.  Not only does he lack name recognition, but he is just not the tireless showman that Mark Jacobs is, or the shameless self-promoting egomaniac that Spaceman Richard “Lord British” Allen “father of the online gaming industry” Dennis “most game designers really just suck” Garriott de Cayeux comes across as, or even the snake-oil selling charlatan that Brad McQuaid can be on a bad day.  Eric Heimburg is just too focused on the game itself… which is the right thing for an engineer, but doesn’t work so well when you need publicity.

Such is life.  I certainly wouldn’t be any better in the role.

And so, for whatever mix of reasons, the Kickstarter will almost certainly not fund.  And here I was all ready to name an NPC as part of my pledge.

However, as a follow on to the quote at the top, there is this:

We’re working on other ways to get the funding we need to make the game. I’ll share more of our plans as soon as I know them! In the mean time, if you’re enjoying the alpha, fear not: it will remain up and running for at least a few more months while we try to figure out a way to bring the game to completion.

And here is one of the key bonuses that Project: Gorgon has as a Kickstarter project.  You can go to the Project: Gorgon site right now, download and play in the alpha.

And there are things to see.  I only ran around the initial starter cave… it has been one of those month’s where “go play more Project: Gorgon” has been the 4th or 5th item on my list of things to do on any given night, and I rarely managed to get past the 2nd item… but there is a lot more to see, a world to explore, and I am sorry I haven’t gotten there yet.

Bhagpuss put up some screen shots of what he has seen, and I will add in some of the shots that have been posted as part of the Kickstarter campaign or on the game site at the bottom of the post.

But the essence is that there is a game here, an MMO, and if you are too busy whining about how World of Warcraft “ruined” MMOs to peek in on some of the niche projects like this or Camelot Unchained or Shroud of the Avatar, that are catering to concepts that just are not possible or practical in a mass market “must appeal to as many people as possible” MMO, then I am not sure I can take your rants very seriously.  Put your money where your mouth is.  If you want these sorts of things, go support them.

How often do the really interesting things in life line up with what works in the mass market in any case?

 

ArcheAge Went Live and Everybody Went Crazy or Something

Normally I note when MMOs that are popular in our little corner of the web go live, if for no other reason than to track dates and such.  Somehow I missed my cue when ArcheAge went live… um… the other day?  Last week?  There was some sort of head start and such.  I sort of lost track.  But anyway, it went live and people went crazy.

ArcheAge_logo_450

Certainly, lots of people in the neighborhood seem to be playing it.  You can find all sorts of posts about it at:

As far as I can tell, Trion launched the game at exactly the right moment, in the lull where WildStar has begun to fade… erm… set out to create MegaServers(tm)… whatever… but Warlords of Draenor is still a couple months out.  And so ArcheAge became the oasis to which everybody flocked.

All servers queued, some with restrictions

All servers queued, some with restrictions

Being too successful is the best problem to have, but it is still a problem.  I even downloaded it over the weekend to take a peek.

I finally bit the bullet and let Trion install their Glyph gaming sales portal so I could log into Rift, and once I was there it was just a couple more clicks to have it install ArcheAge as well.

I was a little annoyed that they installed HackShield, an anti-hacking root toolkit, without bothering to warn me in large, flashing red letters, as I would have stopped the install right then and there.  I understand the need for such things, but I will avoid them if I can based on past experience with things like PunkBuster and such.  Basically, to play the game there is now another company in the mix, AhnLab, Inc., that can cause problems.  And there will be problems.  Some portion of legit users are always hit by these measures, so they basically send the message that it is okay to screw over a few of the innocent so long as we catch more hackers.  And then there is always the possibility of it being used as an attack vector.  Bleh.

And I wasn’t even going to have the potential to hack.  Being non-Patron scum, I was only able to check out the queues to get onto a server.  There was some variance, with the older servers being queued up past the 3K mark, and even had restrictions on what characters you could create.

More than an hour indeed...

More than an hour indeed…

More than an hour was a pretty light touch compared to reality.  While I am sure that patrons were being shown to the front of the queue that held me back, I let the whole thing sit there for a couple hours and it seemed that the queue moved me up about 700 places an hour.  The newer servers were at about half total queue it seemed.

Just 1,400 or so...

Just 1,500 or so…

The calculation eventually resolved to tell me my wait time would be about 20 minutes.  That was clearly optimistic in the extreme for prime time on Saturday afternoon.  Not that it mattered all that much to me.  I was just there to kick the tires.

But for others it has be a problem, and the whole queue situation has plenty of people talking about what ought to be done.  Hardcore Casual, Blessing of Kings, and Keen & Graev have all piped up on that front.

All of that has masked, to a certain extent, worries about the land rush in ArcheAge.  With housing being in the actual world rather than in some form of instance, the supply would seem to fall far short of the potential demand.  That has people worried and a whole side topic about illegal farms, which aren’t actually illegal has popped up.  However, stealing from them is illegal.  Go figure.

Anyway, it has all been an interesting read from the sidelines so far.  Trion is promising compensation for patrons over the whole queue thing and has worked to get more servers online.  But will this all end with them announcing the formation of MegaServers a few months down the line?  I suppose we shall see.

Do You Remember Dragon’s Prophet?

Whenever I end up looking at the SOE MMO lineup, I am always surprised to see a new MMO on the list.

SOE Live 2014 list

SOE Live 2014 list

Down on the bottom row, second from the right, is Dragon’s Prophet.  And every time I see it, I think, “Hey, that’s new!”  As recently as my post post about the demise of Wizardry Online I was ready to add in that Dragon’s Prophet was the new Asian import set to replace it in the SOE lineup.

DragonsProphet450

But that isn’t right.  That isn’t right at all.  And it was a good thing I checked up on it before I published that post. (See, I do catch some errors before I click the “Publish” button!)

Dragon’s Prophet has been out for nearly a year at this point, having launched in September of 2013, which means it was already a thing back when SOE announced it was closing four titles back in January… and I totally forgot about it then as well.

I just cannot seem to remember that Dragon’s Prophet is a thing.  I cannot tell if SOE just did a bad job publicizing the game’s launch, if it just go over shadowed by all the excitement around the EverQuest Next at SOE Live just a month before its launch, or if I am just getting old and/or can’t be bothered to care about Asian import MMOs… at least when their not trying to destroy cherished game of my youth with scantily clad horned gnomes.

Could almost change my mind about gnomes

Not part of MY Wizardry head canon

Whatever the reason, the game just could not seem to stay attached to my brain.  Which is odd because, while I do not actually play any SOE games regularly at this time, I do tend to pay attention to what they are up to.

Anyway, I decide I could fix this by giving the game a quick try.  I was encouraged to do this because of who made the game.  Unlike Wizardry Online from Gamepot, which appears to be batting 1.000 on the “games closed in North America” front, Dragon’s Prophet was developed by Runwalker Entertainment who also created Runes of Magic.

Runes of Magic is actually the only decent Asian import MMO that comes to mind.  It managed to cater just enough to western sensibilities to survive and thrive outside of the Asian market.

Of course, five years back, when Runes of Magic landed on the scene, it was kind of a big deal.  It was going to be the Asian import that “got” how to make an MMO for the west and it was coming in as a free to play game by design, at a time when F2P was mostly a niche for MMOs that failed badly at the subscription thing.

And Runes of Magic was even a bit controversial back in 2009, at least in our little corner of the blogesphere.  The game dared to charge $10 for a horse!  This practically set a few people’s hair on fire with the rage.  Doesn’t that all seem charmingly naive five years down the road?  Today if some game has a mount for just $10, it generally means it has been marked down.

But it was still a decent game despite the patcher, which I am reliably informed has remained just as awful to this day.  We actually got out there and gave the game a try, assessing its potential for the instance group.  We even did and instance and got housing and tried crafting and invested a bit of real world cash into the RMT currency before letting it drop.  I am not sure why we never went back at this point.  At the time we were busy with our horde group in World of Warcraft, and after Cataclysm we tried a number of games but never landed in RoM.

Anyway, the remaining impression of the game five years down the line was reasonably favorable.  And my impression of Dragon’s Prophet, after a few hours of play, is likewise reasonably favorable.

The character models themselves look a bit like RoM graphics brought forward five years.  They are a little more real looking, but still anime influenced.  And upon logging in there was just an air about the game… some combo of the fonts and colors and general layout… that made me think of RoM.

Not sure what all those bars actually mean...

Not sure what all those bars actually mean…

The mechanics of the game itself though are different.  It was claimed by some that RoM was very much an attempt by an Asian company to clone WoWDragon’s Prophet is more influenced by the design philosophies of Asian MMOs.  Movement is done with the WASD keys, but you steer with the mouse cursor and combat is much more about mouse clicks than hotbars.

Take that you fiend!

Take that you fiend!

It feels much more like Neverwinter in mechanics than WoW.  You click for attacks, big graphics display for your move, big numbers bounce up showing your damage, and you can jump around avoiding incoming attacks which are often telegraphed in advance by big red indicators on the ground.

Now THAT is a lizardman!

Big orange slash in Neverwinter

The graphics aren’t as… nice… polished… realistic… something… well, they are different from Neverwinter’s style.  And Neverwinter’s draw is, to my mind, more about being in Forgotten Realms and the whole Foundry aspect of the game that lets you run through player created modules.  Neverwinter is more like Dungeons & Dragons (table top game, not DDO), with various modules that exist in the same world but which are not necessarily connected by stories or geography.

And Dragon’s Prophet does feel Asian, with many of the usual conventions, like women in mini-skirts and high heeled boots tromping around in the wilderness hunting zombies.

That's what Wizardry Online said...

That’s what Wizardry Online said…

But even Runes of Magic didn’t get away from that, right down to the housing helper in a skimpy French maid’s uniform.  And there are, of course, the WoW conventions that still must be catered to.

Always exclamation points

Always exclamation points

Otherwise it seems to fit the standard MMO bill.  You are the hero in the Dragon’s Prophet story.  People go about town talking about you like there were no other players in the game fulfilling the exact same role and performing the very same tasks.

Talking about me again

Talking about me again

That NPC comment would have been a lot more impressive if I had not been stuck on that little tree stump at that very moment.  Or maybe the game was being sarcastic.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem to be a bad game.  The graphics are decent.  It ran well for the few hours I spent with it.  The combat is very dynamic.  I am not sure I will be able to find time to play the game seriously.  It isn’t bad, but it is still way down my priority list.  And if I stop playing, I am not sure I will ever get any sort of trigger to start back up again.  As I said above, I almost never hear anything about the game.

So how about you?  Do you remember Dragon’s Prophet?

No Tears for Wizardry Online?

I am sure somewhere out there, somebody is angry, sad, or otherwise feeling an emotional effect because Wizardry Online closed its doors yesterday.

I am sure because I have found that even the worst, most widely despised feature in any MMO ends up being somebody’s favorite feature.  And you find out exactly who they are the moment it goes away because they show up on the forums wanting to know what happened.

WOlogo2

So I feel quite confident that somebody, somewhere loved SOE’s imported Wizardry Online MMO.

It just wasn’t me.

But I pretty much guessed that was going to be the case before the game showed up in the SOE lineup back in 2013.

For me, this is Wizardry:

I am sure I'll never use this picture again...

Somewhere in 1983…

Wizardry is something that exists in the context of the distant past along with a lot of hand-drawn graph paper maps and things I described in a post.

So Wizardry in MMO form… or at least in Asian import MMO form with anime style characters… never had a chance with me.  I wrote me feelings about it, acknowledging that my assessment was unfair in the title.

Some find me... disturbing

Porkul… so disturbing

Unlike my previous post, where I eulogized Vanguard and tried to describe its place in the history of the genre, I cannot really place Wizardry Online.  Why SOE chose to publish it, why they decided to close it down after a year and a half, and all the questions in between are unanswered for me.  And, unlike Vanguard, I do not see any posts out there in my corner of the blogesphere mourning its departure.

Who will speak for Wizardry Online?  Who has some final words?

Where is PoliticallyIncorrectJessica now?

[And why won’t that link go to the right comment. Some dwarven magic I bet.  You might have to scroll down to see the comment from her.]

Addendum: Oh, hey, Joseph Skyrim cares!