Category Archives: Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

Has 2016 stopped looking our way yet?  Yes?  Good.

Glad to be done with that, because a new year is like a new roll of the dice right?  Completely independent of the last year/roll?  Aren’t they?

My daughter even drew me a brand new pic for a brand new year.

kidpixtigerredraw2017

That is her re-draw of a picture she did in 2009 to celebrate getting her first mount in World of Warcraft.  Her talent has grown over the years.

Anyway, here we are again at the arbitrary point in time where we declare a “new” year and start yet another roam around the star we call the sun.  And with that, I will carry on my own minor tradition of greeting the new year by attempting to foresee what may come to pass.

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

Given past low scores I persist in making predictions.  So here is my list for 2017.  All predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.  And, just a reminder, these are predictions and not wishes.  I am not rooting for many of these things to come to pass, it is rather that I fear they will.  A list of my actual wishes would look different and probably be even less likely to happen.  Such is life.

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

10 – And Access for All LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

18 – Forsaken AvatarShroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

19 – Not ShippingCamelot Unchained, Crowfall, Pantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

So those are my guesses at the new year.  At ten points each, that is a possible of 200 total, with an extra ten extra credit points for the wild guess of the year.  I will be back in eleven and a half months to score that, and if I do better than 40% it will be yet another Festivus miracle.

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

Adrift: My 2017 MMO Outlook

As I noted in my ten year anniversary post, my own outlook as an MMORPG gamer has changed over the last decade.  I came to blogging in a time when the genre was growing and ambitions seemed unlimited.  We would get a continuous stream of newer and shinier things as MMOs expanded into new territory and conquered the world.

Now I feel like Estragon, nodding off as we wait for the promised future that never arrives.  To my mind somebody could do an easy parody of the song Little Boxes to describe the state of the genre.

There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all poor copies of WoW
And they all look just the same.

Stoking the embers of enthusiasm is difficult.  It isn’t so much “no new worlds to conquer” as “no new worlds worth giving a damn about” these days.  Differentiation seems like variations of the same over used tropes and standards.

Also, not done with the "Little Boxes" theme... picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Also, not done with the “Little Boxes” theme… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

And yet I persist, sitting here at the end of the year, looking into the mists of 2017 and wondering if he will come.  Is there something out there that might spark the imagination and rekindle the enthusiasm for virtual worlds I felt back in 2006?  Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

What is even an option for 2017?

Well, EverQuest Next is out, having been cancelled earlier this year after the traditional SOE “months of silence” indicator that it just wasn’t going to happen.  But I wasn’t even optimistic enough to put that on the list last year.

Blizzard isn’t going to do any more MMOs… not that I am sure we would want them to… but that is out.  And then there is the perennial list of “maybe this year…” titles like Star Citizen that probably won’t be anything more than tech demos and pre-release “don’t you dare criticize me!” tiny tastes of past promises.

Still, there are MMOs that may come out in 2017.  Time to fake some enthusiasm.  Plus there was a nice list over at Massively OP from which I plan to crib.   There are even some titles in which I am invested, allowing for a variety of definitions for the word “invested.”  So here are a DOZEN titles that I am going to throw out there as possibilities for me in 2017.  That is more options than any previous list ever!  Go me.

1 – Project: Gorgon

  • Gut Reaction: Why doesn’t this have a Wikipedia page yet?
  • Rationalization: I’ve paid for it, my peeks in have shown it developing nicely, it could be a thing!
  • Chance: 100% if it hits Steam or otherwise goes live.

2 – Albion Online

  • Gut Reaction: You woke me for this?
  • Rationalization:  Feels like the 2017 version of either ArcheAge or Black Desert Online
  • Chance: There would have to be some very special feature I overlooked.

3 – MapleStory 2

  • Gut Reaction: Ummm… Canada? Pancakes?
  • Rationalization:  Not quite sure how side-scroller and 3D fit together.
  • Chance: It isn’t impossible. I went and tried RuneQuest and was impressed, why not this?

4 – Star Citizen

  • Gut Reaction: Confusion as to how this made the list after what I wrote above
  • Rationalization:  I’m in for $30, but I have no interest in testing something that probably isn’t ready to be called “Alpha” in my book.
  • Chance: I mean, if it “shipped” for any rational definition of the word, I’d be in… but that ain’t happening in 2017.  I just want you to know that I am up for it if it somehow did.

5 – Camelot Unchained

  • Gut Reaction: slipping enthusiasm
  • Rationalization:  I probably like this game more in theory than I will in reality.
  • Chance: I am in from the Kickstarter, so I will play at some point, but nothing has really sparked my enthusiasm. Also, seems likely to miss 2017.

6 – SkySaga: Infinite Isles

  • Gut Reaction: *glassy stare*
  • Rationalization:  My Minecraft itch is already filled by Minecraft
  • Chance: Not sure that islands floating in the sky is really something I am missing, so very low

7 – Lost Ark

  • Gut Reaction: Raiders of the?
  • Rationalization:  A clicky action MMORPG might be an idea!  And at least it has a placeholder for a Wikipedia page.
  • Chance: Given that Diablo III is going to try to eke out another year at least with seasons, nostalgia, and a new class, it might be worth a try.  30% chance if it goes live, higher if it is on Steam and goes on sale.

8 – Sea of Thieves

  • Gut Reaction: Pirates!
  • Rationalization:  The urge to play with tall ships and cutlasses balanced with memories of Pirates of the Burning Sea… which were not all bad, but I also never went back and played it again either.
  • Chance: Dampened by the cross platform aspect, as the Windows version will likely have the horrible console interface. If I could find a compelling feature though, it might have a shot.  Oh, and it would have to ship.

9 – RuneScape

  • Gut Reaction: Didn’t I make an account for that at Thanksgiving?
  • Rationalization:  I did play a couple hours of it already and it did have a flavor and charm of its own.  The old grand dad of F2P titles, it has a huge following for some reason.
  • Chance:  It also had a somewhat odd control scheme, and the fact that I am only now recalling that I played it probably doesn’t bode well.  But it has at least fucking shipped already!  That raises the odds dramatically!

10 – Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title

  • Gut Reaction: Hey, didn’t I pay for this already?
  • Rationalization:  I am in with the Kickstarter, I have it up in Steam where it updates weekly, and I tried it a couple of times in 2015 when it was pretty rough.  Also, it was on last year’s list.
  • Chance: I’m in if they hit a “done” milestone, which seems semi-likely.  I’m just not sure what the game is about now.  2013 was a while back.

11 – Life is Feudal

  • Gut Reaction: Hrmmm… but that name…
  • Rationalization:  I long ignored it based on the name alone, but it does have some interesting ideas.
  • Chance:  Maybe… long-shot, but if it went live… I keep using different euphemisms for what is essentially “actually end-customer ready” I might be up for it.

12 – Pantheon: Saga of Heroes

  • Gut Reaction: Why Brad, why?
  • Rationalization:  Part of me wants to believe that 1999 can be recreated.  Maybe he can get Smed over to help now that he is at loose ends and really get the 1999 party rockin!
  • Chance: You know, if something ships… I’ll probably buy-in and play.  But despite the long demo videos, I am not convinced yet that something will ever ship… and 2017 seems like an extreme long-shot if it does.

So there are dozen MMO-esque games that I am going to lay out there and semi-sort-of commit to looking into if it doesn’t take too much time away from Minecraft, EVE Online, and EQII / WoW.

Which on that list do you think I should prioritize should the opportunity arise? (i.e. should it actually ship if it isn’t there already?)  Here is a Poll (which you may not see if you have an AdBlocker running):

Naturally I left the “other” option open, you can use that or add other options in the comments if my list is missing a key title for 2017.

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:

  • 2016 – I played none from the list, but most didn’t ship
  • 2015 – literally nothing I listed went live
  • 2014 – I played Warlords of Draenor, which was a gimme really
  • 2012 – Actually tried most of the items on the list
  • 2011 – Tried 3 out of 5 eventually, but then The Agency was on the list
  • 2007 LOTRO (shipped!)
  • 2007 Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (Didn’t ship)

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.

The Coming Death of Deathtoll and PvP in EverQuest II

The story of PvP in EverQuest II is one of brief flashes of modest popularity interspersed amongst great stretches of general ennui.  It is an object lesson in lack of focus.

Because SOE certainly spent a lot of developer time on PvP when it came to EQII in an attempt to find a way to make it work.  But in what is almost completely a PvE oriented game, with classic level and gear progression, PvP never quite fit right.  Over the years SOE tried a number of things, limiting levels at which you could engage other players, nerfing stats when used in PvP, and eventually just giving all gear both PvE AND PvP stats.   They have had open world PvP, arenas, duels, and WoW-like battlegrounds.

And all of it was, in my opinion, a waste of development time.

PvP is not at all core to what made EverQuest II (or EverQuest) the game it is today.  I won’t say nobody played EQII for PvP, because there is always a small group that likes it and shouts loudly for it in the forums, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that all the work done on PvP over the last 11 years was a sound investment based on how many players it attracted.

Back in June when the legacy Norrath team started talking about nostalgia servers for EQII, I was pretty quick to discount the PvP idea.  Not core.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

Generic TLE graphic

So it was a bit of a surprise to me when Daybreak announced not one, but two Time Locked Expansion servers, Stormhold for PvE, and Deathtoll for PvP.

I am not saying that people haven’t had fun with PvP in EQII, because clearly people have.  But it has never been a serious draw relative to the PvE side of the game, a fact proven once again by yesterday’s forum announcement:

Deathtoll will be merged with the PvE Time-Locked Expansion server Stormhold. This is currently scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, 2016. If you haven’t chosen to transfer your character before this date, we’ll be moving characters that remain on Deathtoll to Stormhold on April 5.

Deathtoll is dead, gone before it made it to the Secrets of Faydwer expansion.

And, in keeping with how these things go, that forum announcement has responses complaining about how Daybreak isn’t supporting the PvP community, completely oblivious to the fact that there apparently isn’t a big enough PvP community to even keep one server going.

If you have a character on the Deathtoll server… and are still subscribed to Daybreak All Access… you should be getting a token via in-game mail for a free transfer to any other EQII server.  If you are a PvP fan still on Deathtoll, I might have suggested transferring to that Russian PvP server… Harla Dar wasn’t it… but the Russian servers are being merged into the Splitpaw EU server.

Thus endeth PvP in EverQuest II… and good riddance to it.

Yes, I know a few people liked it.  And there will still be battlegrounds.  But in the end, non-core feature was non-core, and you cannot argue otherwise without creating castles in the sky built on magical clouds of “what if…” and “If only SOE had…” speculation.

This sort of “must cater to all play styles” idea should die, especially now in this era of the niche MMORPG.  Like so many other unsustainable MMO industry trends, you can probably blame this is one on WoW as well.  They managed to carry it off through sheer size.  You can afford support a small part of your player base if the total numbers are big enough to staff up for it.  More people probably play on PvP servers in WoW than ever played EQII at any given time.

But it still persists.  Maybe Lord British has enough bandwidth to manage it with Shroud of the Avatar… color me skeptical though, no matter how much people love to talk about the good old days of Ultima Online… but when Brad McQuaid is talking about PvP as a feature for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, that is enough for me to write the whole project off.  That is too big of an additional feature.  But scope creep was his problem with Vanguard as well.

Addendum: EQ2Wire has a summary of EverQuest II PvP posted.

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

Reviewing My Kickstarter History

With some Kickstarter campaigns of interest running of late, like the Massively Overpowered funding campaign and the much-talked-about Crowfall campaign, I decided to look back at the projects I had funded to see how the whole Kickstarter thing has treated me.

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

NOT the official drink of Kickstarter

Fortunately Kickstarter has a nice little page that lists out the campaigns you have supported.  It was then just a matter of figuring out where everything stood.

Successful Campaigns

1 – Campaign: The Jason Scott Documentary Three Pack

  • Date Funded: November 11, 2011
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: Not late yet

My first ever Kickstarter.  Jason Scott, who did the documentaries BBS: The Documentary and Get Lamp had a plan to do three more.  He wanted to cover tape as a recording medium, the 6502 processor, and video game arcades.  What is not to love about those three topics?

I was a little annoyed when he went out and did another documentary after getting funded, but the man is like a force of nature and cannot be controlled.  And I have no doubt I will get all three documentaries.  We’ll see if it happens by December.

2 – Campaign: Defense Grid 2

  • Date Funded: August 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: December 2012
  • Project Status: Delivered January 2013

Hidden Path Entertainment wanted funding to do a sequel to their game Defense Grid: The Awakening.  They only made their initial goal, which was enough to fund an expansion to the original game as opposed to a whole new game.  That got delivered just a month behind schedule, which is pretty good for a Kickstarter so far as I have seen.

Then they went on to get other funding for Defense Grid 2 and eventually everybody who backed the Kickstarter beyond a certain level got a copy of that, including me.

3 – Campaign: Planetary Annihilation – A Next Generation RTS

  • Date Funded: September 14, 2012
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: Delivered September 2014

Here was the promise of a successor to Total Annihilation, one of the three great RTS games of 20th Century, along with StarCraft and Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

Of course, the project ran long, Uber Entertainment thought it was a good idea to sell pre-orders on Steam for less than the cheapest Kickstarter backer price, and when the game finally showed up I found it kind of blah.  Still, not the worst $20 I ever spent.

4 – Campaign: Project Eternity

  • Date Funded: October 16, 2012
  • Date Promised: April 2014
  • Date Delivered: March 26, 2015

Obsidian Entertainment said that they were going to make a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and a few other great single player RPGs.  What is not to love about that.  And, again, $20, what the hell, right?  And while it is nearly a year late, it got there and I should get my Steam code next week for Pillars of Eternity, as the game has been christened.  We’ll soon see how it turned out.

5 – Campaign: Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

  • Date Funded: February 5, 2013
  • Date Promised: August 2013
  • Project Status: Soon

Tunnels & Trolls was the first RPG rules set that I spent a lot of time with.  We started with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but getting all three books was expensive back then and there was Tunnels & Trolls all in one book at less than half the price of of the TSR tomes.  Also, you could plunder that copy of Risk in the back of the hall closet and have all the dice you needed.  Anyway, I’ll write more about the rule set when I get the new edition.

Getting the new edition though…  The promised date was August 2013, and that was viewed as conservative because they were sure it would be done by July of 2013.  Well, here we are in March of 2015 and they keep sending out updates, but it is still somewhere over the horizon.

6 – Campaign: Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

  • Date Funded: April 7, 2013
  • Date Promised: October 2014
  • Project Status: Alpha releases available to backers

The Lord British successor to whatever aspect of the Ultima series he is speaking about at the moment.   Clearly optimistic on dates, it is still in an unoptimized alpha state that does not run very well on my CPU.  But it is there and you can poke at it if you want, and it has been in that state for more than a year, improving slowly while trying to raise more money.  I am still waiting for it to get more solid before I devote any real time to it.

7 – Campaign: Camelot Unchained

  • Date Funded: May 2, 2013
  • Date Promised: December 2015
  • Project Status: First alpha just available

At some point Kickstarter became “spiritual successor” central.  Anyway, like the previous entry, I have written a few posts about Camelot Unchained, Mark Jacob’s run at capturing all the good of Dark Age of Camelot in an updated package.  Promised for December of this year, it just had its first alpha last week if I read the update correctly.

8 – Campaign: Planet Money T-shirt

  • Date Funded: May 14, 2013
  • Date Promised: July 2013
  • Project Status: I got a shirt in December 2013

Planet Money is one of the few podcasts I listen to regularly, in part because it covers a wide range of interesting financial topics, and in part because shows tend to run 20 minutes or less so I can listen to a whole episode during my rather short daily commute.  Their Giant Pool of Money episodes on the financial crisis were great stuff.

Anyway, Planet Money decided to do a practical project on how T-shirts are made, starting with the basic materials, raw cotton for example, and ending with people actually getting a shirt.  So there is a series of shows in their backlog about this.  The shirt showed up late, but it is nice.

Men's and women's versions of the shirt

Men’s and women’s versions of the shirt

I wear it around the house on weekends because, while it is soft and I like the graphic, it is a bit snug on me.  I am not sure anybody at the office needs to know that much detail about my body contours.

9 – Campaign: A History of the Great Empires of Eve Online

  • Date Funded: May 25, 2014
  • Date Promised: May 2015
  • Project Status: Still has two months to run.

Andrew Groen’s epic attempt to write the story of the null sec conflicts in EVE Online.  The campaign, which only asked for $12,500, funded in seven hours and hit nearly $100K.  I am not sure we’ll get the books on time, but his monthly updates have covered his progress in some detail.  He is even now up in Iceland, having given a presentation about his work.  But when we do get it, you can be sure I’ll review it here.

Failed Campaigns

And then there were the campaigns I backed but which did not fund.

1 – Storybricks, the storytelling online RPG – May 2012

I am still unclear as to what I was actually getting in exchange for backing this project.  They were working on a development tool, which doesn’t translate well for end users.  Believe me, I know that pain.  I have been working on development tools for the last 17 years.  But Brian Green was part of the project, so I kicked in before the campaign ended.  Eventually Storybricks got in bed with SOE for the whole EverQuest Next project, then the buyout happened, Daybreak ended their contract, and they folded up shop… dropping a final bit of crazy on us on the way out the door.  I am not at all sure what the trajectory would have been had this campaign succeeded.

2 – Project: Gorgon – An Indie MMORPG by Industry Veterans – October 2012

The first Project: Gorgon campaign.  Eric Heimburg wanted $55K, but barely got past the $14K mark.  Too obscure to get the backing it needed, the project soldiered on without it.

3 – Tinker Dice from Project Khopesh – June 2013

Tesh makes some dice.  While this first campaign did not fund, he later went on to have success in subsequent campaigns.

4 – Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – January 2014

Brad McQuaid decided he was going to get into the whole spiritual successor funding thing with a throw back to EverQuest.  He asked for too much money… at least more than his name and reputation could draw… and spread his focus too wide in my opinion.  The project is theoretically still going, but post-campaign funding has been problematic at best.

5 – Project: Gorgon – A new approach to MMOs – August 2014

The second coming of the Project: Gorgon kickstarter campaign.  By this point there was a solid, playable game to be supported.  Asked for $100K, got just over $23K in pledges.  Eric Heimburg just isn’t a name with much draw, and as has been discussed before, the project name itself isn’t doing him any favors.  The project doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia.  Still, Project: Gorgon lives and you can go play it right now.

Summary

Overall, Kickstarter has worked out pretty well for me.  I have managed so far to back only projects that have come to fruition. (I don’t count the failed campaigns.)  I like to think that I have chosen wisely, picking only campaigns run by teams with a track record of success.  But it is probably more likely that, in backing just a few projects, I managed to get lucky.

There was clearly a stretch of time where I was more enthusiastic on the whole Kickstarter thing.  That has faded somewhat, and you will no doubt notice some omissions from the list, popular projects I opted to pass on.  There is no Crowfall on my list, as an example.

The only project I have mild regrets about not backing is the Ogre Designer’s Edition campaign from Steve Jackson Games.  I played Ogre and G.E.V. back when they came in a zip-loc bag, so there was a strong nostalgia factor present when the campaign launched.  That said, I am not sure what I would do with the 29 pound box that resulted when the campaign raised nearly a million dollars when they only asked for $20K.  I don’t have anybody to play table top games with and I have more than enough stuff around the house I do not use, so another huge box in a closet probably wasn’t necessary.

So that is my Kickstarter tale.  I am still waiting on some projects to finish, and every single project I have backed has been late to one degree or another, but things have still turned out okay so far.  How have you done with Kickstarter?

Pantheon: Just Brad has Fallen

Money is always an issue.

PROTF04

This link was sent to me by Kaderre and I am starting to see it pop up in a few other places, so I will add it to the tale of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  The central quote in the post:

The money- It’s widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project. He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project.

-Over in the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen forums on Rerolled.

Basically, the fear of donating to a failed Kickstarter that cannot make critical mass continues to bear itself out.  Well that and those who had a low opinion of Brad will feel vindicated in their belief.  This looks like a bullet in the head for the game at this point, what with Brad making sure he got paid first and apparently valuing himself as worth $220K a year in a company in start-up mode.

As the news cycle goes, one day up on a forum, next up on Reddit, and the next after that it will be on the gaming news sites.  Look for a fun comment thread over at Massively soon.