Category Archives: Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day – EverQuest Hubris and Reality

If we tried to broaden our horizons and invite new people in, I don’t think we’d have enough servers to be able to handle the influx of new players.

Holly Longdale, Interview at PC Gamer

I love EverQuest as much as any bit of my gaming history.  And all the more so here on the 20th anniversary.  But I also try to inject at least some tiny amount of objectivity into my rose colored glasses view of the game.  In that spirit, I would have to say that there is no way that EverQuest could attract and hold enough new players that server capacity would be a worry.

20 Years Ago…

The idea strikes me as very much an “if I had a magic wand” sort of hypothesis.  I’d have to see an example of another game of similar vintage hauling in new customers to be convinced.  Remasters of games, like Age of Empires II, and return launches of old games, like last week’s appearance of Diablo on GoG, happen.  And the will likely continue to show up.  But I don’t see much evidence that this has meant any sort of gold rush of new players these titles.  Rather, it seems more a plan to sate demand from an older demographic… people like me who played those games when they were new.  There is money to be made on that.  Not chart topping, League of Legends money, but enough to support a small team.

That said, the article linked… which I also linked in Friday’s post… is well worth a read for fans of the franchise and has a lot to unpack and there are enough tidbits that I could probably write half a dozen posts exploring them.

Key among them are:

  • “We have more players now than we did in 2015 and our revenue has gone up.”
  • “I’m not allowed tell you exactly how many people have come through the game over the years, but it’s enough to sustain us.”
  • “So we just have an agreement in place that they [Project 1999] don’t launch stuff around the same time we do.”
  • “Our biggest customer service request is people asking what email they used for their EverQuest account 15 years ago, because they want to log back in and play with their old characters again.”
  • “Every three years we do a level increase, and we have changed the way some things work.”
  • A new expansion, The Burning Lands, was released in December last year, and another is on the way.
  • “But fundamentally, we don’t want to change the game. It’s like when we did the New Game Experience for Star Wars Galaxies and everyone quit.”

Those are all out of context, but not dramatically so.

Meanwhile, given the fact that every single time EverQuest opens up a progression server there are queues and problems and crashes until things settle down… and that was going on yesterday as Daybreak tried to get the Selo and Mangler servers off the ground… I agree that if they could attract a bunch of new players, there is no guarantee that their current servers could handle it.  I just don’t think there is any way they could attract those sorts of numbers.

We’ll see if Daybreak has better luck on day two, which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day as well.

I used Station Cash just to get this screen shot

Maybe a bit of luck will help them.

Quote of the Day – Possible Side Effects

Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan…

Activision Blizzard – SEC Filing about the impact of laying off 8% of staff

Activision Blizzard caught more than a bit of heat last month when it announced record revenue and layoffs in the same investor call when going over its 2018 financial reports.

But, you know, Activision Blizzard is a publicly held business and so cannot rest on its laurels.  It has to set expectations for the next period, which it said would see a decrease in revenue.  To show they were addressing that up front they opted to give the axe to 8% of the company.  It was their fiduciary responsibility.

I do wonder how fiduciary responsibility plays out when CEO Bobby Kotick is asked to explain the $33 million in compensation he received last year.  Is he really worth the 100+ senior developers that kind of money could hire?  That number was enough to earn him the #2 spot on the Top 100 Most Overpayed CEOs list, which ranked CEOs on the financial performance of their company relative to their compensation.  He is ranked worse than Virginia Rometty, the latest charlatan trying to keep the corpse of IBM shambling down the road just long enough to cash in.  Not a good look.

Anyway, people got the axe because the company needed to trim sails for 2019.  It was required.

And then this past week came the SEC filing that covered the planned staff reduction, which said this about it:

In February 2019, we announced a restructuring plan under which we plan to refocus our resources on our largest opportunities and to remove unnecessary levels of complexity and duplication from certain parts of our business. While we believe this restructuring plan will enable us to provide better opportunities for talent, and greater expertise and scale on behalf of our business units, our ability to achieve the desired and anticipated benefits from the restructuring plan within our desired and expected time frame is subject to many estimates and assumptions, and the actual savings and timing for those savings may vary materially based on factors such as local labor regulations, negotiations with third parties, and operational requirements. These estimates and assumptions are also subject to significant economic, competitive and other uncertainties, some of which are beyond our control. Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan,or that additional restructuring plans will not be required or implemented in the future. The implementation of this restructuring plan may also be costly and disruptive to our business or have other negative consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce or negative impacts one employee morale and productivity, or on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Any of these consequences could negatively impact our business.

Basically, this planned layoff might not change anything and could possibly make things worse.

Now, I know that in the litigious world in which we live a public company has to cover its ass lest their publicly announced plans not go as expected, leading to lawsuits.  It is pretty much the same way that drug companies have to list all possible side effects… and I love when “death” gets its own spot on those lists… so that they can later claim that they warned you that you might end up with eczema, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, or death.

But it still undermines the confidence shown on the call that laying off almost 800 people from the company was necessary to see it through 2019.  And it further exposes the assumption that a CEO like Bobby Kotick is paid so much because he knows what to do, that his expertise is somehow worth all that money.  The ATVI stock price, the all important absolute measurement of a company’s value for Wall Streets, seems to indicate that over the last he wasn’t all that.

Meanwhile, as a side note, buried in that filing, is a statement about the top franchises of Activision Blizzard:

For the year ended December 31, 2018, our top three franchises—Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft—collectively accounted for 58% of our net revenues.

So if you’ve been gloomy about WoW, or worried that something else might be taking over the main focus at Blizzard, you can feel a bit better.  If you’re an Overwatch fan though… well… Overwatch made the “top franchise” cut in 2016 and 2017, but appears to have fallen below the line for 2018.  The line is apparently set at the 10% or more of total revenues mark.

Quote of the Day – But Can You Do It Like This?

No one is attempting to do what we are doing, in the manner we are doing it, nor being as open about as we are.

Chris Roberts, October Letter from the Chairman

As reported over at Massively OP, Star Citizen having crossed the $200 million mark for crowd funding go a message from Chris Roberts about reaching that milestone.

In his post he warns people not to reduce his project down to just that $200 million number, though that is the attention getting headline for most news sites.

He spends some time going on about the current state of alpha and the upcoming sixth anniversary event of the end of the original Kickstarter campaign (and the fourth anniversary of failing to meet the project deadline set by that Kickstarter I suppose) before getting into thanking everybody for believing in him and his project.

But the paragraph that stands out the most for me is the one that ends with the quote above.  Something about it does not ring true to me.

Is how you build a video game so important that you want to call it out?

I mean, I suppose there are extremes to compare it against.  Mark Pincus has told the tale of all he did to promote FarmVille, a game idea which, among other things, he pretty much stole from another developer.  So I guess saying you’re not as shitty as that is good, though if you’re selling inaccessible real estate and pictures of ship models people might be able to fly at some future date for a game that is in alpha, you are not exactly going to come of as a paragon of virtue, no matter how pure your intentions.

But I don’t think that is what he meant.

I think he was more about how they’re doing this whole project in front of a live audience, sharing details, promised, setbacks, and the reality of software development.  I guess that is something to brag about, though so is writing a novel while on a unicycle or while sitting at a desk while it is on fire.  That you can complete the task is interesting, but you have to ask if it was a method that yielded the best possible output.

People are impatient, the world is changing around you, and most of the audience has no idea how programming remains much more art than science these days.  Sometimes it is better to go off and work on something for a long stretch, then come back when you have some sort of solid foundation.

As for nobody being as open, I think Mark Jacobs and the Camelot Unchained team might have some words on that.

Quote of the Day – The Dumbest Thing Ever Said About PvP

Is combat really fair?

Good god no, you could place a 10yr old player and a brand new player in the same ship, same fittings, same ammo, same rigs and say “go go”. The new player would be dead in seconds…

-Evocationz Adhera, Will Eve Online ever really match any other MMO? Honestly, No.

If skill, experience, and knowledge of the game aren’t supposed to lend you advantage, then what is left?  Should the random number generator determine all outcomes?  Seriously, what else is there that should determine the outcome of PvP, all other things being equal?

Evocationz Adhera is, to use the term of art for the genre, salty about EVE Online.

EVE is, of course, dying, a state of affairs that has been ongoing since not too long after launch.  In fact, we’ll be celebrating the 15th annual “EVE is Dying Day!” in just over a month.

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

But if the devs would only listen Evocationz Adhera has all the answers on how to fix the game… not one of which hasn’t been brought up and thrashed out dozens of times in the past.  But the amateur outsider always knows better than the devs who’ve run a game successfully for a decade and a half, right?

Okay, yes, there are days when CCP doesn’t seem to be fully aware of what the hell is going on in their game as the combined intellect of the player base finds the loopholes in the system a few devs and designers missed.  But some random player complaining that EVE will never compare to WoW and RuneScape is making an exceedingly false comparison. (Not to mention failing to note how many MMOs went down the WoW path and never even hit EVE Online levels of subscribers.)

EVE Online is a PvP game.  CCP has been very clear on that.  Compare EVE Online to other PvP MMOs and it has done very well. 15 years online and having hit a peak of over half a million subscribers puts it well ahead of perennial sandbox favorites like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, both of which tried to change course after launch and yet failed to achieve WoW-like numbers either.

CCP has been pretty clear that they are never going to make any area of space completely safe.  CCP isn’t doing this out of caprice, but because their data say that people who wander off and play the mission running game, the primary PvE element, generally don’t stick around for the long term.

New Player Trajectory

The details were explained at Fanfest 2014 (recorded here) where it was noted that somebody who gets ganked in high sec is actually more likely to stick with the game.

Which isn’t to say some things are not broken.  War Decs have been a bleeding sore for the nearly dozen years I have been playing and no change made has ever made it much better.  Even long time veterans start thinking about change… when they lose something I guess.  You can go peruse /r/eve or the forums and find many things people are complaining about.  But CCP isn’t avoiding radical change because they are ignoring they’re player base.  They are avoiding it because one player’s radical improvement is another player’s game ending move.  That is the problem with the sandbox.  There isn’t a limited set of viable paths in the game, but a multitude of ways to play and killing one in the name of another is always a risk.

And, honestly, EVE is dying.  But it isn’t dying because high sec isn’t safe.  It is dying because it is old and suffers from an accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of old vets.  It is dying because, as a PvP MMO, it has a limited audience to begin with.  It is dying because most people ever likely to invest the considerable time and effort needed to get good at it have already come and gone.  It is dying for the same reason every game dwindles as it ages, people have played it enough and moved on.  Even World of Warcraft is in decline.  Nothing lasts forever.

MMOs are Bizarro World oddities in video games, expecting to live on for years and keep people’s attention in a market that favors new titles.

Anyway, Evocationz Adhera’s comments are hardly new or very moving and seem steeped in resentment.  I feel like you get to the real nugget at the end of the post.

Take me for instance, 3 years of Eve Online videos, not once has CCP plugged me. It seem’s CCP cares about money and not it’s player base.

I’m going to guess that is the real salt.  Anyway, Evocationz Adhera is looking to provoke, yet cannot abide disagreement, deleting my comment taking issue with a few items in their post.  That, of course, is the real tell, somebody complaining about others not listening to them yet having no interest in hearing from anybody else.  What goes around comes around I suppose.

Addendum: Since the post to which I linked was addressed to #tweetfleet in the title, it has gotten some additional reactions:

Quote of the Day – Satire is Dead

Always predict the worst and you’ll be hailed as a prophet.

-Tom Lehrer, quoting a friend

I don’t have an agenda when it comes to Steam.  I tend to take it as it is in my own fatalistic way.  But sometimes this stuff writes itself.

The Timeline:

Thursday – Anything goes on Steam, even if we hate it.  The only exceptions are things that are illegal or straight up trolling.

Saturday – Well, yes, there may be some correlation between things we don’t like and what we’re going to call trolling.

Monday – Hey, we’re bringing Steam to the People’s Republic of China!

Yes, because of the laws there Valve won’t actually own Steam in China.  Their partner, Perfect World Entertainment will be the majority shareholder.

Still I just find it a strange and/or amusing bit of timing to have the company go from declaring openness one day to lending their name to a service in China, where the game lineup will be anything but open, just a few days later.

I’m hoping the next thing I write about Steam will be in regards to the summer sale.

Quote of the Day – The Trolling Loophole

We rejected Active Shooter because it was a troll, designed to do nothing but generate outrage and cause conflict through its existence…

-Doug Lombardi, Interview with Ars Technica

Earlier in the week we saw the blog post from Steam announcing its new “anything goes” policy towards what sort of games will be allowed on the service.  I wrote about that myself and linked out to just about everybody else who did as well.

For me the most outrageous aspect of the whole thing was probably Steam’s line on whether allowing a game on their service constituted an endorsement of that game and its content and, whether you can take seriously their personal rejection of a controversial or offensive game while they also take a cut of the sales price.  There is, at best, a conflict of interest there and, at worst, a transparent and hypocritical attempt to protect their reputation from the consequences of their choices.  Because, in the end, Steam makes those choices and profits from them.

The only thing things that would keep a game of Steam with this new policy would be actual illegality or “straight up trolling.”

Determining what is legal is a minefield in and of itself given the number of jurisdictions Steam serves.  And we have already seen discreet jurisdictions that believe their laws apply to the whole world.  So at the end of my last post on the topic I wondered if this alone might cause Steam’s policy to remain effectively unchanged.

What I tended to discount was the concept of “straight up trolling.”  After all, what is trolling?  It seems to mean different things to different people.  How far does somebody have to go to be a troll.  I see people get called trolls for seemingly innocuous things or for even just disagreeing with people.  So where would Valve stand on trolling?  What does the word mean to them?

Well, we got some insight into that in the article linked at the top.  The game Active Shooter won’t be making it onto Steam because it falls into the troll category.  Is this Steam’s out?  Will they be able to vote their conscience by declaring things they don’t like as trolls?  Will anything controversial end up tagged as such?

I suspect Valve is going to be pressed as to what constitutes a troll.  There are some hints in that article, but nothing like a firm line drawn to separate the trolls from the flock.  I mean, if you’re going to make “zero effort cash grab” a measure, I’m going to point at some titles already on the store and ask how they’re still allowed.

I also strongly suspect that Valve will never want to, or perhaps even be able to, make a definitive set of rules as to what makes the cut and what does not.  In part, that is due to how humans behave.  The moment you draw a line somebody will step right up to it just to test you.  This is why EULAs and Terms of Service documents for online games always give the game companies an out, a free hand to punish or ban people for circumstances unforeseen, and why the rules of conduct are almost always annoyingly vague.

Which brings me back to their blog post earlier in the week.  Why bother sapping their credibility with claims that they’ll let games on their service that they’ll hate as much as some of their players if, in the end, they’re as like as not still going to refuse the same games after the policy change as they did before?

Quote of the Day – We Just Work Here

The Steam Store is going to contain something that you hate and don’t think should exist…

-Erik Johnson, Who Gets to be on the Steam Store

It has come to this.  In the face of some questions and minor controversies Valve has decided that they won’t judge what goes on their Steam service.  Aside from items that are “…are illegal, or straight up trolling…” anything goes on Steam now.

I have to admit that my initial gut reaction was one of surprise at the idea that the barrier to entry for getting a game on Steam could be any lower or, in a situation where something like 35 new titles show up on the service every day (up from 25 a day in 2017), that more titles would in any way be better for anybody.  The Steam store is already full of titles I don’t think should exists, not because they offend me, but because they are just poorly conceived and badly executed.  Adding the loathsome and offensive is not going make things better.

I suppose I can appreciate Valve’s issue.  The whole Steam thing seems to have gotten away from them.  It has gone from a service to host their games to DRM for some quality titles like Civilization V to a way for some select outsiders to get onto a popular online service to a desire to be the biggest source of unfiltered video garbage games on the internet pretty fast as the platform seems to be an unending source of success (and revenue) for Valve, to the point that they just don’t make games anymore so far as I can tell.

They’re a victim, in a way, of their own success and now the idea that they can police every bit of software is daunting as subjective decisions can’t be made by Gabe, or people who report directly to Gabe, or people who report to people who report to Gabe any more.  Now there are a bunch of people, distant from the core of the company, charged with making value judgements that no doubt vary wildly with the personal context and experience of each individual.

You probably have to either reign things in drastically or just let go at this point.

Still, I don’t buy into everything they’re saying.  This for example:

It also means that the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values

That is going to prove to be some prime, grade A bullshit in the long run.  If you sell porn, cigarettes, or alcohol in a store that you own, if you make money off of those items, while claiming that they don’t reflect your values, that is a straight up self-deluded evasion.  The owner of the store doesn’t get to distance themself from the items they sell like it was all happening to somebody else.  At best, it says that money is all you value.  Cashing the checks while saying you don’t support something is just hypocrisy.

And since Valve has pretty much declared open season for things that will offend, things that do not reflect their values, I am going to bet that somebody is even now planning to see just how far that sentiment goes.  I hesitate to speculate as to what somebody might try to pass off as a game, but somebody will come up with something so horrible that it will make the press and cast Valve in a bad light.  Some people just want to see the world burn.

And then the policy will change again.  Something will come along that will force them to change.  Something will be bad enough to cause internet level outrage and then the change will be forced upon them.  I give it until September 1, 2018 before something like that happens.

[I’m going to put that in my calendar so I can come back to it if I am wrong.]

[Addendum (June 25, 2018): Since Steam showed just days after this post that they were set to use “trolling” as their loophole to reject games they do not like, I will just admit that this isn’t going to happen right now.  More the fool I for believing them I suppose.]

[Addendum (March 8, 2019): Well, the horrible title I predicted showed up and Valve didn’t play their “trolling” out card, so bad press and outrage came to pass.]

In the mean time, if I were running Origin, and I could get my mind off of how to screw over the customers for just a bit, I might think about running some easy ads about how “family friendly” the service is relative to the cesspool that is Steam.

I might even think about really pushing a 3rd party program for the service with an eye to maybe poaching some studios from Steam with the promise of both not being lost in the forest of endless titles and being on a wholesome service that doesn’t include whatever edge cases people are going to try to push onto Steam now.

It has come to this, a viable plan to push Origin as a good alternative to Steam.

I will say, if nothing else, that Valve has shown itself to be adaptable in the past and generally doesn’t double down on decisions that go bad.  They might change course before the inevitable bad press, like when they really get down to having to decide what is illegal in every jurisdiction they serve, a problem they cop to in that blog post as well.  It might end up being better to just make some value judgements, protect the brand, and not try to be the sales point for all possible video games.

Also posting about this news from Steam: