Category Archives: Project: Gorgon

Looking Back at 2016 – Highs and Lows

Lord, what did we do to deserve this year?  I’ll just steer away from politics, the world, and celebrity deaths for this if you don’t mind.  Wow, 2016.

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Still, it is time for this post, where I look back at the year gone by and look at some aspects over it, a tradition going back to 2010.  Past entries:

This annual post tends to be even more haphazard than my standard fare, an exercise in stream of consciousness writing as I add things to the list as they pop into my head.  No links, no explanations, minimal punctuation, and lots and lots of bullet points.

Blizzard

Highs

  • Still makes tons of money, actually has several popular, profitable games
  • Just to reiterate, “Money, money, money, money, money!”
  • Celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding… and the 22nd anniversary of when it was first bought by another company
  • Shipped a WoW expansion, Legion, which sold well
  • the lead-in preview events before the Legion launch were pretty good
  • Actually appears to have a plan to keep content coming for Legion rather than the usual year long drought
  • Blizz still does a good job with new players and level boosts to let you jump straight to the current content with your pals
  • WoW Tokens haven’t destroyed the in-game economy or anything
  • Overwatch is totally a stellar success, you can tell by the amount of rage that comes from one character getting just an okay holiday outfit
  • Oh, and Overwatch got its own paid professional league
  • Hearthstone is doing pretty well, getting new expansions and coverage on Twitch as a casual alternative to whatever
  • Diablo III is getting some new stuff
  • Hell, even StarCraft II is still chugging along selling mission packs

Lows

  • If you are a fan of just ONE Blizzard game, you probably don’t think they give your game enough attention
  • If you are a WoW fan, you’re probably pissed about how much attention all the new shit is getting
  • The old instance group… totally not playing WoW, except for Earl who never stops playing it
  • Chris Metzen, Mister Lore Enthusiasm, retired
  • BlizzCon has become mostly a Blizzard eSports event
  • Legion made the long, long tradition of alts a pain in WoW
  • WoW classes in Legion are pretty much designed around a legendary weapon, so feel off until you get into the current content
  • Have you seen the path to get flying in the Broken Isles?
  • The whole Nostalrius saga, which really brought out some horrible people on both sides of the issue
  • Blizzard continues to steadfastly fail to understand why somebody would want to play an old version of WoW
  • Mark Kern injecting himself into the Nostalrius saga, which just seemed to make any progress forward less likely
  • Nostalrius expecting fast action from Blizzard and just relaunching when they didn’t get it… this will end well
  • The Diablo III new stuff is really nostalgia driven… which is okay for an older IP, but won’t sell many boxes as, say, Diablo IV would
  • Uh… Heroes of the Storm… you still there?

Daybreak Game Company

Highs

  • Really, things seemed to be well if you were a long time EverQuest or EverQuest II player; expansions, updates, free things, all good
  • DC Universe Online has a happy community and seems to be doing well, especially on PlayStation
  • H1Z1 King of the Kill seems to be popular on Twitch and is getting off of Station Cash
  • Some sort of publishing deal for LOTRO and DDO through the new Standing Stone Games… that should be worth some money, right?
  • Lots of job reqs on the Daybreak site, so they must be working on something new

Lows

  • EverQuest Next got the axe after the traditional SOE long silence
  • Without EverQuest Next, Landmark got shoved out the door, ready or not… mostly not
  • Has Daybreak hit the point of diminishing returns for special/nostalgia servers for EQ/EQII?
  • “Free to Play, Your Way!” became “There is a cover charge at the door and a two drink minimum”
  • If you think you’re going to buy a level boost for EQ or EQ2 in order to play the new content, think again!  This ain’t WoW, the path through Norrath is not well marked
  • Haven’t heard much about PlanetSide 2 since its console launch
  • H1Z1 Just Survive might have a name that is too close to the reality of its situation
  • If Station Cash is so bad that they’re getting H1Z1 King of the Kill off of it, what does that say about the games left behind?
  • Pulled support for retail game cards; no more bringing your allowance to GameStop to pay your subscription, you have to pay online now
  • Good-bye Legends of Norrath
  • No more open world PvP in EQ2 (I’m sure somebody considers this a low point, even if I don’t really)
  • No more EQ2 Worlds mobile app either (That’s bad, right? Or was that just another distraction?)
  • With Russell Shanks gone, Columbus Nova doesn’t even have the pretense of a gaming exec running the show

Standing Stone Games

Highs

  • No longer part of Turbine or on WB’s balance sheet, so no more margin requirements… can actually spend money on development
  • Being able to just run DDO and LOTRO is probably the best thing possible for both games at this point
  • Mordor is in sight in LOTRO
  • DDO still seems to be in good shape

Lows

  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 have taken their final call and are being shut down
  • With nothing new in sight, SSG is playing through its own company end game as a caretaker
  • As their own company they gain the overhead for internal tasks that WB was likely doing for them, things like HR and payroll and such
  • LOTRO and DDO are both licensed properties, so SSG still needs to send out checks for that every month, which is more overhead than a fully owned property like EveQuest or Ultima Online has to deal with
  • Daybreak is now their publisher, which means they will need to get paid too
  • Despite the “nothing is changing” FAQ, this move will mean changes eventually
  • Able to run their own show, the first reaction seemed to be “revamp avatars!” which is code for “screw the current player base, I want new people around here!”
  • Can they even afford to make new avatar models that are good enough to make a difference to anybody?

CCP

Highs

  • They have the most popular VR app for the Oculus Rift in EVE Valkyrie
  • Two big expansions, Citadel and Ascension that changed the face of New Eden
  • A new New Player Experience in EVE; this time for sure!
  • Citadels everywhere!
  • Rorqual becomes the most popular capital ship in the game, figuratively if not literally
  • We had a great big war, a two year PCU high mark, and the most people ever in a single battle this year
  • CCP ends gambling, confiscates tainted ISK, and bans the RMT barons who fomented The Casino War after the Imperium called them out for being involved with RMT
  • Skill injectors let new players “catch up” to vets in training
  • The new CSM hasn’t been a distraction/embarrassment/hostile force this year

Lows

  • DUST 514 went dark
  • Rated 6/10 due to the shallowness of the game, EVE Valkyrie doesn’t have much competition and costs $99 if you didn’t get it for free
  • Being the most popular VR app in the Occulus Rift fragment of the market is like being the most proficient thumb sucker in pre-school, an honor that just isn’t going to last
  • F2P option boosted average PCU for EVE, but it is still 15K below the 2013 peak
  • Banning RMT tainted casino accounts came too late to save the Imperium, but a dish served cold was better than no dish at all
  • After the The Casino War Goons went to Delve while PL and NCDot started a rental empire at the expense of their erstwhile allies… nothing new in space, so just replay the greatest hits I guess
  • Ummm… no, really, citadels everywhere
  • Welcome to the new super cap arms race in null sec!
  • Suddenly becoming the most popular anything in New Eden is a sure sign of a balance issue
  • Not sure where the New Eden road map is headed next, and we probably won’t hear until Fanfest
  • Skill injectors pretty much made the powerful more powerful, as the rich now can have insta-trained alts
  • Not sure CCP is actually listening to the CSM
  • RIP New Eden solo industrialists
  • Still a loud faction out there that thinks walking in stations will “save” EVE Online
  • Rumors of CCP being sold… you may not love those vikings, but who else would have even tried to make EVE what it is today?

Nintendo

Highs

  • 20th Anniversary of Pokemon
  • Re-release of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon, a great new core Pokemon RPG, was a bit seller
  • Pokemon Go takes the world by storm, boosting Pokemon related sales on all fronts
  • Super Mario Run followed on Pokemon Go as a huge immediate success on mobile
  • Announcement of a new mobile console thing, the Switch

Lows

  • End of the line for the Wii U… but at least it outsold the Saturn and the Dreamcast
  • Pokemon Sun & Moon performance on old model 3DS units is laggy
  • They must Amiibo all the things these days I guess
  • Pokemon Go problems… it wasn’t ready to be a phenomena
  • Will the Switch be more of a handheld or a living room gaming console?
  • The “not a successor” designation for the Switch no doubt means no backward compatibility for any of your current Wii U or 3DS games.

Other Games

Highs

  • Star Trek Online made its way to consoles
  • Star Citizen shook off Derek Smart eventually
  • Rift got an expansion out, as did SWTOR
  • Black Desert Online had the MMO spotlight for a while
  • The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have turned a corner to success/stability
  • Minecraft continues to boom, with new updates, high sales, and a happy fans
  • Project: Gorgon has been available and improving and got some more funding via Indiegogo
  • WildStar lives yet!
  • Dark and Light sputtered back into existence after an eight year server downtime
  • No Man’s Sky had everybody excited for a cool, new indie space exploration game
  • Stardew Valley shows one dev can make a compelling game

Lows

  • The usual array of F2P fuckery, as J3w3l would put it, in various titles trying to boost income; I think Rift and Black Desert Online get a special mention for 2016
  • A special bonus mention for SWTOR and its “new content is for subscribers” plan; can’t buy it ala carte, gotta pony up
  • Black Desert Online fulfilled its prophecy and pretty much a re-run of ArcheAge, but that seems to be the way of these things no matter what MMO launches
  • ArcheAge got an update, the main feature of which seemed to be killing the servers
  • Consoles seem to be the main focus for Star Trek Online, so if you play on the PC you are probably behind on new features.
  • Just because Derek Smart hasn’t posted about Star Citizen in a couple months doesn’t mean all is happy, as the whole package is still in alpha, still nowhere close to all those promised features, has moved to a new engine (which they forgot to mention for months), and still seems to be run in a haphazard and/or amateurish fashion
  • Jesus, did any fucking Kickstarter I back even ship this year?  Camelot Unchained? No!  Shroud of the Avatar? No! Project: Gorgon? No! MineServer? No!  Even Jason Scott’s documentary trio hasn’t shipped a single video yet.  Dammit people, you know when you promise and don’t deliver you screw over the people trying to get funding after you, right?
  • While I am complaining, early access has turned into something like, “We got the code to run, give us some money!” of late
  • If WildStar’s revenue drops any further the studio is going to turn into a tax write-off for NCsoft
  • Main line PC Minecraft needs to get off Java already
  • The return of Dark and Light hardly seemed worth the effort
  • No Man’s Sky was just the intersection of many bad things, with unmet promises, overreacting fans, and a level of post launch company support that might be best summed up with, “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?”
  • Seriously Hello Games, if you go on TV and say people can play No Man’s Sky with their friends, and they cannot, you have earned a pile of negative reviews
  • The LEGO Minifigures Online closer punches Funcom in the gut yet again
  • The rocky ride and sudden end of Hero’s Song
  • Yahoo shut down Yahoo games, because literally anything Yahoo touches turns to shit… and then just gets worse from there

Media

Highs:

  • Rogue One, a new Star Wars movie, was pretty okay
  • Fantastic Beasts, a new Harry Potter universe movie, was pretty okay
  • Westworld kept me going for ten weeks
  • I am not a big super hero movie fan, but Deadpool did make me laugh

Lows:

  • The end of Downton Abbey
  • Rogue One isn’t going to get anywhere close to $2 billion in the box office revenue, probably due to a lack of Skywalkers
  • Also, Rogue One continued the tradition of crying about a vast SJW conspiracy because a female got a lead part in an action movie
  • Akin to Rogue One, a lack of Potters does limit the appeal of Fantastic Beasts
  • The Warcraft movie was really a for-the-fans-only venture, unlikely to expand the player base of the franchise
  • I think super hero movies have hit saturation point… maybe we can do some westerns or something?
  • So many celebrity deaths… crap, I wasn’t going to mention that… but Jesus Christ, even Carrie Fisher?

The Blog and Blogging and The Internet

Highs:

  • Continues to chug along with 360 posts this year, or almost one a day, up 7 from last year
  • I still enjoy writing
  • I still very much enjoy writing after I have writ and can go back and see what was up a year later
  • Still a decent rang of blogs out there to read
  • Massively OP still does a regular call out to blogs
  • Reddit does has some very good and informative subreddits

Lows:

  • My enthusiasm for new and different MMORPGs has largely faded, so I tend to write about the same half dozen games over and over
  • My style… crank out a first draft then press “publish,” after which I start to find errors and typos… remains largely unchanged
  • I still have to fight the urge to start every paragraph after the first with, “And,” “So,” “Then,” and “Meanwhile.”
  • Readership is down to about 2009 levels, though I suspect the core regular readership is about the same, it is just less new people showing up… sort of like an aging MMO, which seems oddly appropriate
  • I still don’t link out to other blogs as often I think I should
  • Blog attrition and fading has passed the replacement level in our corner of the net, or maybe I am so out of the loop that I simply no longer see new blogs as they pop up being an old fart
  • Other MMO gaming news sites pretty quickly forgot about blogs after a flurry of paying attention to them last year
  • AOL killed the Massively and WoW Insider archives… or at least broke all the links going to them… At least we still have the Internet Archive
  • Reddit does make blogs feel redundant unless you are a fan of long form
  • /r/eve

Anyway, that is what I have in my brain here at the end of 2016.  I am sure I left a lot out, so feel free to add anything you feel needs a mention in the comments.

A new year approaches, which at least implies two more of my yearly posts are yet to come, my outlook for 2017 and the inevitable New Years Day predictions post.

Others looking back at 2016:

Reviewing My 2016 Predictions

Roll over Beethoven, here we are again.  There is still some time left in the year, but I pretty sure we are far enough along that anything I predicted back in January will have either come to pass or just won’t happen this year.

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Back at the start of the year I listed out sixteen predictions for 2016, the sweet sixteenth birthday of the 21st century.  And then somebody spiked the Kool-aid and the party ran out of control in a way that even a National Lampoon script writing team would deem too implausible to put to paper.

So my predictions look pretty tame compared to reality.

Anyway, here is what I predicted back then.  As usual, the questions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit available.

  • 1WoW Legion will ship on August 16th, which will give Blizzard both one of the fastest expansion release cycles in its history along with one of the longest content droughts, leaving few happy.

Pretty close on that one.  Yes, I know that is two weeks off the actual date, but given the number of people insisting June simply had to be the date, not too shabby.  And it was one of the longest content droughts, about which nobody was really happy.  I’m giving myself about half credit on that – 6 points.

  • 2WoW Legion will be heavily criticized for the small amount of content it delivers at launch.  It will turn out that Blizzard can’t figure out how to make any more content than usual, so the plan will be to dole it out in more, but smaller, chunks over the life of the expansion.

Hrmm, not so much.  I mean, you could argue that the initial four zones and the run to level 100 were pretty darn quick.  But Blizz did have a bunch of level cap content ready, has rolled out the first content update and talked about future updates.  So I think I get a nada here – 0 Points.

  • 3 – The Warcraft movie will be a modest success, though after it settles down somebody will calculate that more people have probably played World of Warcraft than saw the movie in the theater.  The movie’s impact on the game will be negligible.

I think modest success is about spot-on.  The Chinese box office wasn’t all that profitable.  If you saw the movie in the theater you probably live in China and being the best movie in a traditionally crap niche still isn’t saying much.  As for impact on the game… meh.  Did anybody subscribe because they saw that movie?  And I think I saw that players vs. viewers calculation at one point in July.  I’m giving myself full points on this one just to make you angry.  If you disagree, go watch this then channel your rage into the comments – 10 Points.

  • 4Diablo IV will be announced at BlizzCon.  Really.  This time I am serious dammit!

Blizzard, however, was not serious.  We did get an announcement about a treat, a remake of the original Diablo in the game, plus something that sounds a bit like a new expansion vehicle for the return of the Necromancer class, but that was about it – 0 Points.

  • 5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence.  Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail.  They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database.  So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.

How to score this?  I wrote a whole post about this two weeks back.  Long time SOE veteran Russel Shanks stepped in back when Smed got the axe… erm, stepped down… almost a year and a half ago.  I wasn’t sure if that was an interim move back then.  That lingered until October when Shanks stepped down and Ji Ham, a Columbus Nova Prime operative was put in the top slot, no doubt to make sure the spice cash was kept flowing. And while he has no notable experience with fantasy MMORPGs, he also isn’t exactly what my prediction implied either.  Also, is seems that we was co-president or some such this whole time.  Still, I suppose that appointment does mean we’ll know what to expect.  I’m going to go with Bree’s call on the score here – 8 Points.

  • 6 – It will be more tough times and harsh realities for Daybreak.  The EverQuest/EverQuest II teams, which pull their own weight, will be safe so long as they can sell expansions, but everything else will be up for grabs.  As a result I expect two of the following to happen:
  • EverQuest Next pushed out prematurely for early access dollars.
  • EverQuest Next and Landmark merged back into a single product/project, but you have to buy it again it you bought Landmark.
  • Legends of Norrath shut down.
  • Legends of Norrath turned into a stand-alone iOS and Andoid game, where it fails and gets shut down.
  • PlanetSide 2 shut down, relaunched with a new name as a buy-to-play title for consoles only, old version not compatible with the new one.
  • DC Universe Online shut down on Windows, left running on PlayStation.
  • H1Z1 basic package launched as a buy-to-play title, but seriously gimped unless you are a Daybreak All Access subscriber or plan to spend big in the cash shop.
  • New, console-only project announced.

You know, that list isn’t nearly as divorced from reality as I thought it was eleven and a half months back.  I even got one on the nose, as Legends of Norrath went away back in August.

And I could make the case that some variation of the first two on the list came to pass as Daybreak kicked Landmark out the door into the cold marketplace for the few players that remained.

Meanwhile, bits of that H1Z1 prediction contained threads of reality, while DCUO moving to XBox seems to confirm what was said in the past about the game being popular on consoles as opposed to being a big deal in the Windows market.

In the end though, I am only going to claim one, if only to off-set those ill-gotten points from the Warcraft movie prediction – 5 Points.

  • 7 – Turbine needs a splash in 2016 with LOTRODDO rolls along as is, sharing the Dungeons & Dragons license with Neverwinter.  But the contract with Tolkien Enterprises for LOTRO wraps up in 2017.  While a renewal seems pretty likely, barring a complete disaster, it would go over much better if some additional cash were flowing in.  So, after a couple years off… and perhaps learning from the market… a big expansion will be announced that will bring us to Mordor.  Cirith Ungol or maybe just to the main gates, but the end of the journey will be in sight.  Expect a special Blessing of the Valar level boost to be bundled in with it that will get you stuck straight into the new content.  Yes, I know this isn’t in the current 2016 plan for Turbine, but this will change before the end of the year.

Poor Turbine.  I don’t think they have it in them to get an expansion out anymore.  They’ll just slowly update their way to Mordor and toss in the ring eventually – 0 Points.

  • 8 – In EVE Online, citadels will be big. (Ha ha!)  Everybody will want one, which will cause a boom in construction and a spike in mineral prices and a rise in concurrent users.  It will be the new shiny.  This will wane as the close of summer comes to an end and we all figure out the flaw in the citadel plan and the game grinds to a halt while we argue about how CCP should fix it.

Well, I was certainly right on the “everybody will want one” side of the equation, with more than 7,000 of the things having been deployed across New Eden.  We never did get to the horrible flaw in them.  Some small ones, but no game breakers.  Then again, I think that part of the prediction might simply have been premature.  Wait until they want to kill null sec stations and POSes – 4 Points.

  • 9 – CCP will either close down the CSM or change it so drastically that it is essentially a different beast.  We’ll get CSM XI, but it will carry on the now familiar tradition of institutional animosity from certain sectors within CCP, something that won’t be helped by the fact that most CSM veterans will decline to run for election, leading to a fresh CSM with Xenuria and DurrHurrDurr (or a reasonable facsimile of the latter) as the permanent Icelandic duo.  That will force CCP to act.

I am claiming a few points up front for predicting Xenuria on the CSM and the whole “veterans decline to run” thing.  As for change, the most drastic was pulling CCP Falcon and CCP Leeloo off of CSM duty, as the pair of them seemed to be a major part of the drama creation machine that had been the CSM for a while… CCP Falcon especially, as he seems to thrive on building a reputation of being combative and confrontational… and putting in the ever-chill pair of CCP Guard and CCP Logibro.  After that and the election, the CSM almost disappeared into obscurity as they simply tried to get the job done.

So not a drastic change, but CCP seems to have succeeded, for now, in turning the CSM back into an asset rather than a public relations nightmare – 7 Points.

  • 10 – The return of The Fountain War Kickstarter will succeed when it kicks off in March, being better thought out.  Drama will be way, way down compared to the initial run.

Ha ha ha ha!  Ever the optimist am I!  CCP ran away from The Fountain War book idea like a scalded cat after the disaster of the first attempt.  We shall not hear of that again – 0 Points.

  • 11 Black Desert, the new anticipated hotness, combining an Asian MMO import with the word “sandbox” yet again, is going to be a replay of ArcheAge, with a big rush, overcrowding, disappointment and recriminations, before settling down for the core audience that will remain after everybody who pinned sky high hopes on it storms off in a fit of pique.

I mean, pretty much, right?  For a bit it was all anybody could talk about, then it pretty much fell off the map when it comes to the blogs I read.  I see update posts about it over at Massively OP, and it had a server merge recently, so it seems to fit in the ArcheAge mold well enough – 10 Points.

  • 12 Project: Gorgon, after being in the shadows for so long, will have a banner year in 2016, with early access success on Steam leading to the game going live for real before the year runs out.

Not quite there yet.  The game is on its way, but everything always takes longer than you think when it comes to software – 0 Points.

  • 13 – NCsoft will announce that WildStar is closing down, it’s free to play conversion having been a brief flash in the pan.

I keep expecting this as WildStar sets new revenue lows in the NCsoft quarterly reports, yet it is still around.  Congrats to a 2016 survivor I guess – 0 Points.

  • 14 – Despite all the back and forth and talk of lawyers and lawsuits and who is going to sue who for what and where, the Derek Smart vs. Star Citizen brouhaha will fade away without a metaphorical legal punch being thrown.

Okay, maybe I was looking for a gimme trying to get to 16 predictions.  No lawsuit, no how – 10 points.

  • 15 – Somebody will buy Funcom… for cheap… to rescue a couple of their titles, but Anarchy Online won’t be on the list of the saved.  LEGO Minifigures Online is the prize there.

Meanwhile Funcom remains in trouble, still wobbling around on its own, while LEGO Minifigures Online went the way of LEGO Universe back at the end of September – 0 Points.

  • 16Crowfall, will still be in development, allowing only limited access for backers by the end of 2016.  It won’t really be a thing until 2017.

I don’t think Crowfall is even that far along now.  It certainly won’t be a thing until late 2017 at the earliest – 0 Points.

  • Special Bonus Prediction – A big Pokemon announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series on February 27, 2016.

My make up gimme prediction.  We got the Pokemon Sun & Moon announcement and the launch of Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on the 3DS Virtual Console on the anniversary.  I think the former counts – 10 Points.

  • Big 2016 Question – Will VR be interesting enough to spur people to spend money upgrading their systems in order to spend more money to buy an Occulus Rift rig?

Pretty much no.  VR is a fragmented niche market without a killer app currently.  Not a scored item, since it wasn’t a prediction but a question.

70 points out of 170 possible, including points for the extra credit question, which at about 41% would be a failing grade in any class I ever took.  But in the land of prognostication, that is a positively stellar record… or at least in the land of my own blind guesses at the future.  And so ends the year.

As for others scoring their predictions, this is what I have seen so far:

It just wasn’t the thing to do in 2016, so I expect I won’t have many on the list.

Meanwhile, I have the self-linking bonanza that is my summary of past predictions and results here at TAGN:

Now to think on what I should do for 2017.  First item on the list, get my daughter to make me another graphic.

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.

Project: Gorgon Returns to Crowdfunding

In August of 2015 Project: Gorgon, on its third run at a Kickstarter, succeeded and raised nearly $75K to fund development of the game.

ProjectGorgonLogo

Since then a lot of changes have come to the game.  However, they are back for another crowdfunding campaign.  This time the game is going the Indiegogo route.

Three reasons were given for the new funding effort.

  • Allow people interested in the game to support it using PayPal, as they only support credit cards on the game’s site.
  • Cover expenses like server costs and third party development during this non-revenue time frame.
  • Cover the costs of some planned and “wish list” features

The target amount of the campaign, like the previous Kickstarter, is $20,000.  As of today they are closing in on the $4,000 mark.

Indiegogo campaign

Indiegogo campaign

As noted in past posts, with Indiegogo you can do a “flexible goal” campaign, wherein you get all the funds pledged, even if the campaign does not reach its goal.

The campaign itself runs through the end of the month, and as part of that they have created a new trailer for the game.

While I have poked my nose in on the game from time to time, I am personally waiting for it to hit the “ready for Steam” stage before I spend any serious time with it.

If you missed the links embedded in the post above, you can find the Indiegogo campaign page here.

My MMO Outlook for 2016

Here we are again with one of those end of the year posts I trot out every December.

This once hasn’t been as regular as some of the others, in part because it has become more difficult to write as time has moved on.

There was a time during the life of this blog where I was enamored to some degree with almost any new MMORPG on the horizon.  I remember the run up to Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic as being exciting.

But as time wore on, I was overwhelmed by what I will call “the great sameness” of every new MMORPG.  They all differ some in details… graphics, classes, skills… but they all started to feel the same.  It turns out that killing ten rats doesn’t feel all that different no matter how you dress it up.

My post last year was essentially what I was already playing, EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and EverQuest II.  Why run after the false promise of a new experience when you’re already invested in one that isn’t all that different in the end?

And of those three I am only still playing EVE Online at the moment, that being the only one that doesn’t fit directly in the generic WoW-influence MMORPG role.  Minecraft has filled the void on that front, judging from my hours spent with it since June.

So it is tempting to just skip this post.  Do we really need another “burned out on MMORPGs” screed?

The thing is, some seeds planted in the last few years might actually come to fruition in 2016.  Kickstarters, long funded and past due, might actually deliver something in the coming year.  Here is what I think might be available… and yes, I know you can play bits and pieces of all of these right now, but among the things beaten out of me over the years is the desire to test somebody else’s product.  I want a shipping, ready for public consumption version of your game.

Shroud of the Avatar

ShroudoftheAvatar

Lord British attempts to bring back the wonder of the Ultima series in a sandbox-like, full 3D environment.

Attraction: I have fond memories of the first half of the Ultima series.  Seems like it might be an excellent place to explore.  I backed it on Kickstarter.  I already have it setup in Steam.

Worries:  Might be too cash shop focused and who knows what Mr. Garriott will glom onto as a good plan.  He has had some odd ideas over the years.

Camelot Unchained

CamelotUnchained_450pxMark Jacobs attempts to bring back the wonder of Dark Age of Camelot and some of the interesting bits of Warhamer Online, without all that mucking about with PvE levels and what not.

Attraction: While I never played DAoC, I do recall a few fun PvP moments in WAR.  Mark has owned up to lessons learned and has skin in the game, investing some of his own money.  And I backed it on Kickstarter.

Worries: PvP works best if you have a regular group and I will likely be showing up solo.  Also, recent history has shown some nifty large scale PvP ideas defeated by the players just forming an unstoppable zerg mob.

Project: Gorgon

ProjectGorgonLogo

Eric Heimberg and Sandra Powers make the MMORPG that they really want, quirky and a bit different and quite pretty… and you get used to the ill-fitting name after you have said it about five thousand times.

Attraction: Quirky, pretty, fun world to explore that might just be different enough to not make me sigh in boredom a few hours into playing.  And I backed all the Kickstarters, including the one that actually succeeded.

Worries: Quirky does have its limits, and where are you left when that wears off.  As a small budget project, will never be as polished as WoW or the like.  Not sure who will run off to play with me.

Star Citizen

Star_Citizen_logo

Chris Roberts promises to take every single cool feature from every space related game he has ever touched and meld them together into the most awesome persistent universe space game ever… and a single player campaign… and a first person shooter… and probably something else I missed.

Attraction: Love me some space games.  I  still log into EVE Online sometimes just to fly around and look at things.  Could be the game that steals me away from New Eden.  And I backed it post-Kickstarter, when it was at about the $20 million level of total funding.

Worries:  I don’t want to go all Derek Smart, but Chris Roberts has promised a whole lot of stuff.  I actually wish it was less.  That would make it more likely for 2016 if nothing else.  Also worried it will have an Elite: Dangerous level of difficulty just to do the most simple things, like undock and dock your ship.  Has very little traction amongst the people with whom I play regularly.

H1Z1

H1Z1logo

One of these things is not like the others… and kind of a long shot as well. Not an indie Kickstarter game like the previous four.  No, this is Daybreak’s attempt to leverage their work on PlanetSide 2 into something that will make some money.  And it has, selling a lot of early access copies.

Attraction:  It is actually pretty fun in a group.  Interesting combination of PvP, crafting, base building, and general survival.  And I own an early access copy.

Worries:  Daybreak will monetize it into oblivion, and they might have to based on the peak early access sales, lest Columbus Nova Prime be angered.  PvE version seems tedious while the esports aspects hold no interest for me.  It does need a regular group to be fun, and I am never great at making friends.  Suffers from all the usual PvP problems.

Other Candidates

I suppose I could put in a couple of comedy additions, like Landmark or EverQuest Next, but I strongly suspect neither will be much in 2016.  And then there is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, which Brad McQuaid is still hanging on to.  Another one not for 2016 I would guess.  Crowfall, which I did not back, seems like it has its shit together, but I would call that yet another one for after 2016.

So I am going to stick with those five.  Which will be the winner in 2016?  And will any of them end my new MMO malaise?

 

Or are WoW Legion and the EVE Online Citadel expansion all I have to look forward to in 2016?

Meanwhile, if you want to see how previous versions of this mostly yearly post have fared, here are some links.  A bit of comedy to be mined in those.

 

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?

Who is Vote Brigading Today?

MMOGames, like a number of sites, has polls up for a range of “Best of 2015” items, including one for the “Best Crowdfunded Game of 2015.”

The category seems like a complete muddle to me.  Few of the games listed are actually finished or released, so how would you even evaluate that?  Also, most of them started their crowd funding before 2015, so even getting a sense of what the best new projects of the year is completely lost.  And what do you even say about the titles that failed in their crowdfunding attempt, yet appear on the list still?  And where is Shroud of the Avatar?  Given what else is listed, that belongs there as well.

So it seems to be more a measure of which player base is the most fanatical in support of their game.  Yeah, we can guess which group that is…

And the run away winner so far is...

And the run away winner so far is… the runners up aren’t even close

Well, at least it isn’t a Blizzard title I guess.

Me, I gave my vote to one of the lonely titles down the list.

That vote, that is me!

That vote, that is me!

Meanwhile, over in the “Most Anticipated MMO of 2016” the results are… not as lopsided, but you can guess see who has been getting out the vote there as well.  2K votes for Star Citizen and 19 votes for WoW Legion says something… well, it probably says a few things.

If you want to avoid the totally brigaded categories, you can always go to “Best New Online Game of 2015” or the rather narrowly focused “Best EVE Online of 2015.”

I voted for EVE Online in that last one.  What other game gets its own category? (Which may have been the result of vote brigading last year.  We’ll see if Star Citizen gets its own category next year.)