Category Archives: Pirates of the Burning Sea

SOE and Its MMORPGs

This started as just me attempting to see if I could list out all the MMORPGs that spent time under the SOE banner.  Then I started adding in some details and soon I had wasted my usual allotted writing time working on this, so it became a blog post.  Perhaps it will be something of historical interest at some point.  Anyway, I guess I am carrying on with Daybreak week here, because you know I’ll have another related post tomorrow.

For this list I have stayed with what I would consider “worldly” MMORPGs that SOE developed or published, not venturing into some of the other online games they did early on, such as Tanarus, Infantry, or Cosmic Rift, any of the collectible card games, or other games that were just published under their name without any real involvement, such as Payday.

That left me with the following list of titles in something like chronological order.

EverQuest

EverQuest

  • Launch Date: March 16, 1999
  • Current Status: Still Going
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

The original SOE MMORPG, the crown jewels, the foundation upon which everything else was built.  John Smedley gets Brad McQuaid, Jeff Butler, and a few other people to make a graphical version of Toril MUD.  Most popular of the “big three” early MMORPGs, which also included Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call.   Gave SOE the impetus to try to make more such games and Edward Castronova something to study for a few years.  Slated to get its 22nd expansion this fall.

Sovereign

  • Launch Date: Announced July 28, 1999
  • Current Status: Cancelled February 11, 2003
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info
Sovereign on display

Sovereign on display

Jenks brought this up in the comments after the post went live, so I am adding it after the fact.  Before The Agency and EverQuest Next, there was Sovereign, the MMORTS that never was. (Screen shot borrowed from Matthew Cox.  More screen shots are available on his site.)  There are bits and pieces about the game still bobbing about amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the internet, but I’ll let Chairmen Smed set the expectations:

We pushed the envelope of massively multiplayer gaming with 989 Studios’ EverQuest and created an entirely new set of expectations for the fantasy role player. Building on what we’ve learned and applying it to a strategy game will result in an incredible new product. Sovereign is this product, ”

-John Smedley, President and CEO of Verant Interactive.

EverQuest Online Adventures

  • Launch Date: February 11, 2003
  • Current Status: Closed March 29, 2012
  • Platform: PlayStation 2
  • Info

EverQuest moved to the PlayStation 2. (“Sony’s Cash Machine” according to CNN.)  The fact that it lasted through until 2012 speaks to the longevity of the PlayStation 2 platform and the one-time tendency for MMORPG players to settle down in a game for a long stay.

PlanetSide

  • Launch Date: May 20, 2003
  • Current Status: Still going… sort of…
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

SOE attempts to make a first person shooter MMO and mostly succeeds.  Blighted over the years by hacks, aim bots, and company neglect, it lives on today in something of an undead state, shambling around but largely ignored, because Smed was sentimental about the game and refused to close it.  I expect it will get shut down when somebody figures out where Smed hid the last server.

Star Wars Galaxies

  • Launch Date: June 26, 2003
  • Current Status: Closed December 15, 2011
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

A controversial game.  Some people loved it and swear to this day that it had the best crafting or housing or classes or whatever.  Others look at it and saw only the problems that plagued it, which included overly complex crafting, ugly trailer park stretches of indistinguishable player housing, and the whole Jedi issue.  Famously the focus of the New Game Enhancements in November 2005 (ordered directly by Lucas Arts or Smed depending on who you listen to) which either made the game more manageable or destroyed everything that was good about it.  It is the subject of thousands of reflective editorials.  Closed down (again, on the orders of Lucas Arts at the request of EA or by Smed) so as not to compete with Star Wars: The Old Republic.

EverQuest Macintosh Edition

  • Launch Date: July 2003
  • Current Status: Closed November 18, 2013
  • Platform: Mac OS
  • Info

EverQuest on the Mac, called out on its own because it had its own client, its own server, and had a very different trajectory than the game from which it was spawned.  Launched with the expansions through The Planes of Power, it never got another expansion.  Long ignored by SOE, it became the home of the “classic” EverQuest experience, with home brew instructions available on how to make the Windows client run on the Mac server.  When EverQuest went free to play, the Mac version was simply made free, since SOE still did not want to invest any time or effort into the game.  That lasted from early 2012 until late 2013, when the game was finally shut down.

EverQuest II

  • Launch Date: November 8, 2004
  • Current Status: Still Going
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

The Prince Charles to EverQuest’s Queen Elizabeth II, often better informed or more progressive yet still doomed to live forever in the shadow of its parent on a small island that used to rule half the known world.  EQII has always had a funny path to walk, needing to keep some affinity for old Norrath while trying to distinguish itself at the same time.  After a decade, 12 expansions, and 4 adventure packs, I think it is safe to call it a success or sorts, with its own dedicated following.  It has also had to live long in the shadow of WoW, which is probably the ascendant new world in that initial analogy.   Was two games for a while, when the EverQuest II Extended free to play trial was going, but that was merged back into the main game line.

The Matrix Online

  • Launch Date: March 22, 2005
  • Current Status: Closed July 31, 2009
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

The first of the misfit MMOs for SOE, and another in the long line of troubled titles.  Launched by Sega, the game had problems, but SOE took it over in August 2005 and revamped it.  A strange game, and one I found dissatisfying when I tried it.  Perhaps best summed up by Ben Kuchera when he wrote, “The Matrix Online offered a weirdly meta experience, as real people created virtual players to go online in a virtual world pretending to be a virtual world.”

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

  • Launch Date: January 30, 2007
  • Current Status: Closed July 31, 2014
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

The next on the island of misfit MMOs, the way, way over ambitious brain child of Brad McQuaid was supposed to be launched by Microsoft.  That agreement fell through, so Brad cut a deal with his old pals at SOE to publish the game.  The launch was so bad… the game was essentially broken, while going live within a week of World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade expansion helped bury any news about it… that in something of an anti-Victor Kiam move, SOE ended up buying the company.  A hero for saving the game for its few fans, SOE spent a lot of time simply fixing it.  After running hot and cold on the game for years, SOE finally converted it to a free to play title in August 2012… and then closed it when it still didn’t make any money after the initial conversion enthusiasm died.

The Agency

  • Launch Date: Never launched, originally announced July 11, 2007
  • Current Status: Still a legend told around the campfire, but died on March 31, 2011
  • Platform: Imagination
  • Info

In something of a foreshadowing event for EverQuest Next, SOE showed demos of The Agency at a couple of Fanfests and even sounded like they had a launch date in mind at one point. (Brenlo nearly slipped and said it on one of the SOE podcasts.)  Then there was a horrible Facebook game launched as The Agency: Covert Ops. to tide us over while development continues.  But the spy shooter MMORPG never made an appearance, finally being laid to rest on March 31, 2011.

Pirates of the Burning Sea

  • Launch Date: January 22, 2008
  • Current Status: Left SOE January 31, 2013
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

SOE using its expertise to go into the MMORPG publishing business.  In this case, the Flying Labs Caribbean ships and pirates game.  Ship to ship combat was pretty neat, but everything else was poor by comparison.  Eventually the game left SOE and is now run by Portalus Games.

Free Realms

  • Launch Date: April 28, 2009
  • Current Status: Closed March 31, 2014
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 3, Mac OS
  • Info

SOE was going to burst onto the free to play scene with a dedicated free title… a free title for the whole family.  Amusing to me was the fact that it took a year longer to get it out on PlayStation 3 than Mac OS.  Like most online games, it garnered a small but dedicated following.  However Smed seemed to think it was more trouble than it was worth.  After the shut down announcement Smed said, “No more kids games.  Kids don’t spend well and it’s very difficult to run a kids game.  Turns out Kids do mean stuff to each other a lot.”

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures

  • Launch Date: September 15, 2010
  • Current Status: Closed March 31, 2014
  • Platform: Web launched Windows and Mac OS client
  • Info

Considered by me to be the bone that Lucas Arts threw SOE when they were told they would have to close down Star Wars Galaxies, this mini-game focused online encounter is getting to the far edge of what I might consider an MMORPG.  There was a lobby as opposed to a world, but you could still interact with other people.  It was from a period when every show on Cartoon Network got a web launched MMO like this.  Still, it got 10 million registered accounts.  Thrown out with the bloodbath of 2014.

EverQuest Next

  • Launch Date: Announced August 2010
  • Current Status: The dream was over on March 11, 2016
  • Platform: Windows and PlayStation 4
  • Info

I, and a bunch of other people, just wrote a lot of words about this.  (Words and links here)  Years after saying that MMORPG sequels were a bad idea, SOE decided it needed to carry on the world of Norrath in a new way.  Every fan of EverQuest then proceeded to project their dreams on this title.  It was The Agency all over again, only on steroid enhanced expectations.  I still think the name was a bad idea.

DC Universe Online

  • Launch Date: January 11, 2011
  • Current Status: Still Going
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, coming to XBox One
  • Info

SOE’s entry into the super hero market.  Started as a subscription game, which got Smed to make statement about regarding what subscribers should expect from such a business model, expectations which were not met.  Later converted to free to play.  Alleged to be an economically viable title on PlayStation, causing Daybreak to want to move this five year old title over to XBox.  Not my cup of tea, but super heroes never were… and the console focused control scheme on the Windows client made it even less enjoyable for me.

PlanetSide 2

  • Launch Date: November 20, 2012
  • Current Status: Still Going
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 4
  • Info

Smed’s pet project, PlanetSide redone.  Has, at times, suffered from the same neglect and hacking issues as the original.  A troublesome title when it comes to revenue (“really struggling” was the quote, also “China“), since you can shoot people for free, and the pay to win options that people might spend money on don’t grant enough advantage.  Not sure that this will be on the train to an XBox One port.

Wizardry Online

  • Launch Date: January 30, 2013
  • Current Status: Closed July 31, 2014
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

SOE decides to see if it can make any headway with an Asian import game.  Wizardry Online at least had some name recognition in the West because of its roots in the old game on the Apple II.  However, the game’s lineage changed a lot since the early 80s, having turned decidedly… well… Asian in flavor since then.  Fails to grab a big enough audience to survive.

Landmark

  • Launch Date: Announced August 2013, set to launch Spring 2016
  • Current Status: Early Access
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

Originally a tool that was to be used to create EverQuest Next, it was weaponized and made into its own product.  Something of Minecraft with higher resolution graphics, I am still not sure what niche it will really fill.  More on that here.  Will not be free to play.

Dragon’s Prophet

  • Launch Date: September 23, 2013
  • Current Status: Closed November 16, 2015 (US only)
  • Platform: Windows
  • Info

After grabbing Wizardry Online, somebody at SOE apparently felt they needed for another title from Asia, only this time without any name recognition to carry it along.  Its main claim to fame was being from the same developer who made Runes of Magic.  I completely missed its launch and barely noticed when it closed down.  Still available in Europe where a different company published it.

H1Z1

  • Launch Date: Announced April 2014
  • Current Status: Split into two games
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 4
  • Info

The original… and I use that word a bit ironically… zombie genre game idea from SOE.   Built off of the PlanetSide 2 platform, sold a million copies in Early Access.  Was slated to be a free to play game… until it sold well in Early Access.  No longer a single title.

H1Z1 – Just Survive

  • Launch Date: Announced February 8, 2016
  • Current Status: Early Access
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 4
  • Info

The spirit of the original, the small world co-op MMORPG (despite what Smed said) vision of the game.  Has its moments.  Currently no launch date has been announced, is clearly in the back seat relative to its sibling King of the Kill.

H1Z1 – King of the Kill

  • Launch Date: Announced February 8, 2016, slated to launch Summer 2016
  • Current Status: Early Access
  • Platform: Windows, PlayStation 4
  • Info

The arena death match vision of H1Z1, with clear esports aspirations.  This is Daybreak looking for something they can grab a headline with.  Also, no longer free to play.  Daybreak will continue to collect $20 if you care to give it a try.

So that is the list, 22 games of various sorts.  I decided that the title of this post had to be SOE and not Daybreak because everything here was started before the Daybreak era began a little over a year ago.

From that list, Daybreak has the following to work with:

  1. EverQuest
  2. EverQuest II
  3. PlanetSide
  4. DC Universe Online
  5. PlanetSide 2
  6. Landmark
  7. H1Z1: Just Survive
  8. H1Z1: King of the Kill

And of those, only half are on the Daybreak All Access plan… though the other half are either in Early Access or free.

Daybreak All Access - March 2016

Daybreak All Access – March 2016

So that is the Daybreak lineup.  I suppose the real test of what Columbus Nova Prime has planned for the company will be if we ever see another new title.  A new title would mean plans for the future, while none would seem to indicate that the plan is just to milk the old SOE cow until it is dry.

Milestones: In with Wizardry Online, Out with Pirates of the Burning Sea

Wizardry Online is now a live, full fledged member of the SOE stable of games.

WizOnline

While it doesn’t really bring back the spirit of the original Wizardry for me… and really isn’t my cup of tea… it is now part of the line up, free to play if you want or as a subscription or part of SOE’s All Access Pass.

Some find me... disturbing

It was tough just getting past this screen…

It remains to be seen if this title will bring a lasting dungeon crawl experience or if their concept of “permadeath” will be a compelling feature. We shall see whether it lights a fire or languishes in the shadow of SOE’s other fantasy MMORPG titles.

Stropp has been in there for day one fun, if you are looking for a report on that.  He does mention that the “connecting” issue, that so many people have arrived here searching for, appears to be SOE completely lacking any sort of informative “you’re in the login queue” messaging.  You just sit there “connecting” until it is your turn.

Meanwhile, Pirates of the Burning Sea is taking its leave from SOE.

FLSlogo

Flying Lab Software will no longer be the developer and SOE no longer the publisher of this title. The following announcement went out to those of us still on their mailing list:

Ahoy there!

As you may know, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) will be leaving SOE’s family of games at the end of the month and setting sail with Portalus Games. Portalus may be a new name, but the people behind it are veterans of Flying Lab who love the game. They have banded together to form a new company whose sole focus is PotBS, and will continue running, developing, and expanding the game into the future.

I’m personally very excited about Portalus and I’m looking forward to where they’ll be taking PotBS, but it will be as a player, not as a member of the development team. I’ve had a lot of great moments in the development of Pirates, and while the details of these moments are wildly varied, they all revolve around the same thing: interacting with you, the players. We decided to build an MMO because we wanted to have a more direct relationship with our players, and PotBS came through in spades. I’ve enjoyed going out, and meeting and talking with so many of you, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for the world.

I want to thank all of you for your support, and if one day you’re sailing on the open seas, and you meet a grizzled old Pirate who talks about the old days, think a kindly thought for me. Then give him a broadsides and take his ship!! See you on the Burning Seas!

Russell Williams
– Co-Founder Flying Lab

Accounts can be migrated to the new company, which takes over today. The SOE servers will go down at 10:30pm PST. Instructions on how to migrate your account are on the Portalus Games web site.

While Potshot and I were there at launch and before with the pre-boarding pass (and once again adopting the French faction), the game never really stuck with us.

The French have the most attitude

The ship to ship combat was very good. It was about all you could expect from such a game and then some.

Broadside!

Most other aspects of the game fell flat for us however. Ship boarding combat was dull, the economy was convoluted, the strategic game was broken, and even finding ship to ship battles was unsatisfying. In less than a month we felt adrift in the burning sea, rudderless and uninterested in where the current might take us. And so we left the game, though it sailed on.

Onward!

And while I always intended to come back and check on how things had progressed after our short time in the game, it never came to pass. There are always more games to play than time in which to play them.

As with Wizardry Online, the future remains to be written. Will this be a rebirth for the now five year old game, or has it merely been moved to hospice care where it can die quietly?

SOE Station Access Returns to 2004… And Then Some

I was going to wait until SOE posted something official on the SOE web site about the Station Access price reduction, but their community team seems to all be at E3 and unable to do anything besides post pictures to the SOE Facebook page.

I thought a bit of caution might be required, since the stories that announced this coming price reduction all seemed to lack an official original source to which they could link to, only linking to other similarly sparse reports on the subject.  Given how the press “misunderstood” and repeated certain stories during the Sony hacking fiasco, I thought a little care with SOE related stories would be a good thing.

Color me a cynic.  I want the deal in writing.

But I am also impatient, so let’s just treat this as if it is true, and that SOE is going to reduce the price of Station Access to $19.99 a month, down from its current $29.99 a month, at some date which we will refer to as “soon.”

I remember when Station Access was announced, way back in late 2004.  A mere $21.99 a month would cover your subscription fees for all of the Sony Online Entertainment MMOs. (I had to go back to my SOE billing history to get that number.)

For me, the fact that I could be subscribed to EverQuest II and still go tinker around in EverQuest was a decent draw at that price, but the clincher was the fact that, with Station Access you also got a couple more character slots in EQ2.

I will grouse to my dying day about SOE launching a game with 24 character classes that only allowed you to make four total characters.

The price went up to $24.99 later on, and then just a little over four years ago it jumped up to its current $29.99 a month.

The speculation at the time was that this was to help cover Vanguard being brought into the SOE family of MMOs, and there was worry that with each new game a future price increase would come.

Fortunately for those of us at the consumer end of things, the price did not rise any further with the addition of games like Pirates of the Burning Sea.  I would guess that the $29.99 price seemed to SOE to be perhaps the most the market would bear.

For those who are not familiar with Station Access, it is one of the SOE subscription plans.  It allows the subscriber to play any of SOE’s online games as though they have subscribed to that particular game.

In theory you must buy the game box before you can play any particular game.  In practice I was able to download and play Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, and Planet Side without paying for anything aside from my Station Access subscription.  And the games you play benefit, as your Station Access subscription is allocated out based on what game you play over the month.

At $21.99 it was a hell of a deal.

At $24.99 it was still a very good deal.

But at $29.99 the package deal lost some of its luster.

At that price it was a penny more expensive than simply having two month-to-month subscriptions for any given pair of SOE games.  Furthermore, with a standard subscription you can get a further discount by subscribing in 3, 6, or 12 month increments, something not available to Station Access subscribers who can only pay on a month-to-month basis.

This lead to a rather amusing, in my opinion, Station Access Savings Calculator that would tell you how you could “save” nearly $75 a month in subscription fees (if you otherwise subscribed individually to every SOE game), but could not explain why you should subscribe if you only played one or two SOE games.

So unless you were active in 3 or more SOE games on a regular basis (and there are some of you out there who have been at times… I’m looking at you Stargrace and Tipa… and speaking of Tipa, her comment on this post is worth noting just for context) or really needed one of the few other benefits that Station Access offered (like more character slots in EQ2… of that I am guilty), the value proposition for Station Access was not so hot.

But now, if the news is to be believed, Station Access is being reduced in price, back to a level below what seems like a good deal back in 2004.  At $19.99 a month I would subscribe to SOE games only via Station Access, if only to allow myself to peek into EverQuest now and again and keep myself going in both versions of EverQuest II.

Which leaves me with the usual question, “What does it mean?”

Certainly SOE has been a leader in subscription options.  Just looking at EverQuest II, does any other competing game offer as many ways to subscribe and play?  We have free (EQ2X only, granted), $10 forever (ibid), a 3 day a month plan (EQ2 Passport), a standard monthly subscription, and Station Access.  If there was a lifetime plan and an option to buy your subscription time with in-game currency I think they would have almost all the current options in the MMO sphere covered.

But with all of that, why upset things with a radical change in the price of Station Access?

My speculation, and that is all it is, is that the market has changed, both inside and outside of SOE.

Back when EQ2 launched, $15 a month was the defacto standard subscription fee.  (Remember how we scoffed, well I did, when Mark Jacobs suggested that Warhammer Online might charge more, positioning it as a premium game? And now the first 10 levels are free.)  $15 was the line, and the MMO companies held to that, because there were not a lot of options for your western fantasy MMO dollar.

But with the market now flooded with choices, price has become one of the points of competition.  With Lord of the Rings Online, for example, even before it went free to play if you couldn’t find a way to subscribe at $10 a month (basically a $5 discount off the list price) you were not trying hard enough.  And after going free to play, $10 a month became the standard monthly VIP price.

$15 a month has gone from being the standard to being something of the cap on MMO subscription pricing.  How can you charge MORE than WoW, the bestest MMO ever if we use subscribers as our sole metric like so many people do?

So for something like Station Access to “feel” like a deal, pricing it at double WoW is no longer really viable.

And SOE has changed as well.  When Station Access came out… and even when it went up to $30 a month… SOE games were all monthly subscription that, with the exception of Planet Side, were at the standard $15 a month.

Now, however, we have FreeRealms which is nominally free, as are EverQuest II Extended, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.  If that does not necessarily break the Station Access model, it certainly adds a new dynamic to it.

And you have Station Cash, which has been around for a while now and which was not met with enthusiasm. (And it still has the purists screaming. See race change potion on Fippy Darkpaw.)  Station Cash has become, over the last two and a half years, an increasingly bigger piece of SOE’s revenue pie.  And this, I am going to guess, is probably the key item.

While market changes certainly had no small influence, I am going to bet that somebody did the math, went through and figured out how much revenue there was in attracting each free to play player and how much that revenue changed… went up… when a free to play player converted to a subscription.

Those would be very interesting numbers to see, but I would guess that Station Cash purchases for a player that commits to a subscription are higher than for a free player.  And, I would additionally be willing to bet that somebody willing to spend Station Cash in one game is more likely to spend it in other SOE games.

And if that is the case, getting somebody to commit to all of your games probably nets out better in the long run if Station Access is less expensive because more people are likely to commit over all.

Or so goes my theory, which I will summarize as “market change and the increasing importance of Station Cash purchases to the SOE bottom line.”

Syp took a look at the value proposition of the change, which for a consumer can simply be said to be “better,” but I haven’t see much on the “Why” front.

What do you think is really driving this change?

Addendum: They posted the webcast to YouTube and mentioned the Station Access pricing change in their post on the Station Blog, so we now have something in writing.  Still no details… like an actual date.

SOE Joins PlayStation Network Hacking Woes

I thought I was safe, not having given my credit card to Sony on the PlayStation Network.

Then Sony Online Entertainment brought down all their servers this morning, purportedly for “an investigation into an intrusion.”

And now it seems there was a reason for it.

While the shut down has been covered around the webKotaku is now reporting that hackers may have stolen more than 12,700 credit card numbers from Sony Online Entertainment players.

That is a small-ish percentage of the players of SOE games such as EverQuest II, and considerably fewer credit card numbers than were obtained through the hacking of the PlayStation Network (last count, 10 million!), but it is still a disturbing reminder of the problems Sony is currently having with network security.  And who knows what the final numbers will be.

No word on how to tell if your credit card has been compromised, though SOE Community Manager Amnerys encourages you to call SOE customer service if you have concerns.

Good luck getting through!

You might as well read the alarming security update from SOE.

I guess I picked a bad week to quit WoW.

Addendum: Sony says this was not a second attack, which I guess means they still haven’t figured out how bad the attack nearly two weeks ago really was.

Addendum 2:  Per ZAM, SOE is granting customers 30 days of additional time on their subscriptions, in addition to compensating them one day for each day the system is down.  No word on how long the system will be down.

(SOE Offline graphic from the Kotaku story.)

STO Lifetime Sub – The Sucker Bet?

I missed a good chunk of the Star Trek Online open beta.

Part of that was because we spent a week on Maui, which is a pretty fair trade in the middle of winter.  Even for a California winter.

But even when I have been around there have been problems getting into the game.  The server was essentially full for most of the time before I was on vacation.  That is when it wasn’t down.  And it has been down rather regularly since I have been back.

Not that Cryptic hasn’t been working on things.  I’ve downloaded about a gigabyte and a half of updates since I got back home.  But I get the feeling that the Star Trek IP is a bit more popular than they calculated.

Somehow, between the outages, I have managed to get in enough time to, you know, blow things up.

Cruiser Goes "Boom!"

And I like what I have seen.

I think.

I have to deal my internal love of Star Trek which makes it difficult at times to evaluate whether I like something that is Star Trek related, or whether I merely like that it is Star Trek related.  I’m a fan boy.  Not as much as some people, but I am to the degree that I can be and still be me.  And Star Trek fan boys can get uptight about some of the silliest of things.

These fish are totally non-canon I say!

So play I must.  And having played a little, here is what I think.

Ship combat looks good.  It is close enough to the Starfleet Command (my favorite series of Star Trek games ever, which culminated with Starfleet Command III) style of ship combat for my taste.  Things go a bit quicker and I miss the ability to transport over marines to capture ships when the shields are down, but otherwise it feels about right.

I am undecided on ground combat.  That isn’t what a Star Trek game is really about for me, but it seems better than, say, Pirates of the Burning Sea’s version of the same thing.  And planet side seems to offer places to relax.

And the game as a whole?  I am surprised by some of the complexities.  But it feels okay, and you can tweak enough things to make the future feel a bit less sterile and mass produced.

USS Wensleydale Customized

Like Darren, I agree that being on a mission and finding myself in an ad hoc fleet working towards the same objectives works.  Though it can stink when you draw a tougher mission and find yourself alone.  I had to call on Skronk to help me out on one.

So, if nothing else, I am not going to try and get out of my GameStop pre-order.  I will be playing this game.  And I will be playing it soon since, as Cryptic pointed out, the last open beta weekend was upon us.

Next Friday, January 29th, those with pre-orders can get into the game for real.  Things are live.

But there is a decision to be made between now and the official launch day of February 2nd.

Do I get the lifetime subscription?

It is available up until February 1st for $239.  After that it will still be available, but it will be priced at $299.

The Trek fan boy in me says, “Get it!”  In fact, the Trek fan boy in me wants to know why I am still typing this since the order page is up in another tab and I could be ordering it RIGHT THIS SECOND!

And then there is skeptical me. (Alternately known as thoughtful me, sarcastic me, or obstinate ass-hat me, depending on how far off I am from other people’s own opinions.)

Skeptical me still likes the idea of the lifetime subscription, since it takes the whole subscribe, unsubscribe, am I playing enough to justify a monthly subscription detail off the table.

But then skeptical me goes on and points out Lord of the Rings Online, which I don’t play all that much.

Sure, I patch and log in about once a month and play a little.  But I spend a lot more time in WoW and even in EVE Online.  And while that is partly because I have regular groups and friends in those games, it is also, to a certain extent, because I am paying a monthly fee for them, so I feel I had better be playing if I am paying.

And so LOTRO falls into third place because the pressure is off in that regard.  I can play whenever.

Then skeptical me brings up Pirates of the Burning Sea.  The parallels between that and Star Trek Online are clear, if not absolute.  In PotBS I loved the ship combat, but the rest of the game really did little for me.  Could STO be a repeat of that?

And while skeptical me has me on the ropes, he brings up Starfleet Command.  Sure, I love that game.  I bring it out every few months to play it.  But how much play time does it really get, skeptical me asks like a lawyer in a courtroom drama bringing up the critical point in his case, exactly how much time did you spend playing that game in 2009?

Maybe six hours.

“SIX HOURS?” shouts skeptical me, waking up the jury, “You spent 6 hours out of the year playing that game, and now you want to get a lifetime subscription to a game because it plays like SFC?  Is this what you’re suggesting?  Does this make sense?

Damn skeptical me, he has a point.

And then skeptical me starts to play good cop.  Look, he points out, they also have a discount year long subscription.  That is $119, which saves you $60 over the course of a year and you lock in that price ongoing.  So in two years you will have spent the same as the lifetime subscription, and you might be over the game by then.

Finally, skeptical me wraps up his case.  Look at Turbine, he says.  They offered a discounted lifetime subscription before launch, but they have brought back that discounted price a number of times.  If you truly get into the game, you might have the opportunity again later.

But then the fan boy retorts that not having to worry about a subscription is more likely to get me through the rough launch ahead.  And it is going to be a rough launch if my current experience, where I have spent more time trying to play than playing, what with patches, the server being full, or the server simply being down, over the open beta cycle.

But the year long subscription plan also works for that.

I still have a week to decide.  Lifetime or not?

What would you do?

And more importantly, what would Kirk do?

STO Open Beta – First Night

I got home last night and found that my download was complete.  The Star Trek Online client was ready to install.

I ran the installer.  That went well.

I logged in and let it patch.  Also good.

And then I was told that the server was down, but that it would be up soon.  No big deal.

At some point after the server came up, I logged in.  I got to see the Cryptic and Atari logos as well as the cool loading screen.

Loading Screen Engaged!

And then that was about it for the excitement.

After that, the only two messages I saw were:


and

over and over again.

Not the most auspicious start for me I suppose.

But then again, it was the first night of open beta for a popular game.  Problems are to be expected.

It was persistent enough that I began to wonder if it was some sort of replay of the UDP issue I was having with Pirates of the Burning Sea way back when. (PotBS comparisons with STO seem to en vogue at the moment.)  However, a check of the forums showed that other people were having the same issue.

So there was no Star Fleet activity at our house on the first night of open beta.

But World of Warcraft was there for me.  I got on just in time to run Wintergrasp and call it a night.