Category Archives: Star Citizen

Get Your Camelot Unchained Refund Now

The thing that kind of separated the ongoing bullshit that comes out of Chris Roberts around Star Citizen and Camelot Unchained was that at least the latter had not gone down the rampant feature creep path.

Because, otherwise, there are a lot of similarities between the two projects… and the two personalities.  Even their previous games were failures that they blamed on their corporate overlords, but now that they run the show the projects keep spinning out into infinity and you start to feel their overlords might have had a point.  With nobody holding them to their plans they do as they please.

And then yesterday Mark Jacobs told the world in an interview over at Massively OP that his company, City State Entertainment, has been working on another game for the last half of a year. It is named Colossus or Ragnarok or something… it isn’t clear… and boy was it a surprise.

If that isn’t the ultimate in feature creep, I don’t know what is.  They now have two in development games with no ship date instead of just one.  This is not progress.

In the interview Mark says in the same sentence that the new game both has and has not slowed down Camelot Unchained, which means that it has and he is just spinning bullshit now.  He learned well from his time at EA I guess.

I thought maybe his bit of pre-Kickstart campaign self-flagellation about Warhammer Online, where he sort of took a bit of the blame on his shoulders, meant something.  But it clearly didn’t.  In looking back I had forgotten how, despite everything, he still clung to the Metacritic score the game got at launch, like he was holding out for a “Best Score for an Otherwise Failed Game” award at GDC or something.

So now Camelot Unchained is just fantasy Star Citizen in my eyes, minus the broken alpha demo content you can play.  It is put up or shut up for them both.  Until they ship something real it is all just bullshit.

The difference for me is that I am in on Star Citizen for the minimum bid, but I pledged a lot more for Camelot Unchained and I am feeling all the more the sucker for the faith I showed.

I want a refund.

City State Entertainment says on their FAQ page that they will give people refunds.  Just send an email to support@citystateentertainment.com asking for one.  You won’t get the full amount back.  They will subtract the fees the incur giving you the refund, but at least you ought to get something back.  And it is about the only message one can send that Mark won’t just hand wave away.

We shall see what I get in response.  I expect them to stonewall me on the request.   And I will certainly post updates here on how it goes.

I had already pledged never to Kickstart an MMO again, so I cannot really swear further on that.  But this certainly hasn’t done anything to soften my view on this.

Finally, I am curious that he went to Massively OP first for this announcement.  It isn’t like a gaming site with a bigger audience wouldn’t have been happy to have the scoop.  Did he expect it would slip by or that he would get a more favorable response going there?  The big sites will pick up the story anyway.

Related:

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.

The Vulture Venture

This actually started up before I left on vacation and, honestly, I thought it would lose steam and fade away in a day or so.

But this involved Star Citizen, so drama blew up everywhere and proved once again that if you complain aggressively about some perceived slight you can get everybody to focus on it for a week or more.

I am, of course, referring to the Venture/Vulture design thing.

More than a week back Star Citizen announced a new ship called the Vulture from Drake Industries.

From Star Citizen, the Vulture

As images spread out on the web, those familiar with EVE Online noticed a decided similarity between that ship and the ORE industrial frigate in the game call the Venture.

From ORE the Venture

This led to some immediate poking of fun at Star Citizen, kicking off a couple dozen threads on /r/eve about the similarities of the ship (starting with this one I believe) as well as a tweak from CCP on Twitter.

This led to some rage from some parts of the Star Citizen community who protested that it was CCP that copied from some past Chris Roberts game, producing screen shots from the 1990s of something of a vaguely similar configuration while also tossing out any ship model they could find that featured twin booms out front to prove that the concept hasn’t been original for ages.

However, that barely had any impact as the EVE Online community made more memes and bad puns and pointed out more strange coincidences.

The Prospect is also the name of an ORE industrial ship in EVE Online, based off of the Venture, so Prospector is hitting close to home as well.

Meanwhile, on Reddit the two communities were… well… like this:

Smug versus Rage

The Star Citizen moderators on Reddit began banning people who brought up anything about the two ships, which only encouraged the EVE Online players.  The Star Citizen mods complained to the EVE Online mods and were said to have reported the /r/eve subreddit for vote brigading in an attempt to get it banned outright.  More fuel for the fire, more attention drawn to the issue, more memes.

Meanwhile CCP, never shy about poking some fun at other games, had another arrow in its quiver, putting up the Venture Capitalist SKIN Bundle in the New Eden Store.  The copy made pointed reference to the Venture which, in its cheapest form, will run you $120.

Head on over to the New Eden Store and pick up the “Venture Capitalist” SKIN bundle, which contains three Venture SKINs that are ideal for mining below the belt. Just beware of sneaky vultures attempting to swoop in and loot your assets!

The best part about this SKIN bundle is that it won’t cost you $120 – You can get all three of these SKINs for just 120 PLEX – that’s more than 50% off their total value when they’re sold separately!

Score a direct hit with that.  There is more in the post, but that is probably the bit most requiring AN application of burn cream.

However, CCP Falcon also posted a statement over in the Star Citizen subreddit to try and bring a little peace to the situation.  That seemed to be appreciated by the crew there and the whole things seemed to finally be receding from the forefront in both forums.  Of course, this spread everywhere, including the forums of other games in the genre like Elite: Dangerous.

Yes, this is all last week’s news, but I was away last week so I am catching up.  And no, I do not think RSI deliberately or directly copied a ship from EVE Online.  It would be dumb to lift a design from a game in the same space, so to speak, and it is too much to ask that every design be completely new and unique.  And, in any case, we know where this design really originated from:

Space Forklift Simulator 2009

More recently there has even been a LEGO version of the Venture… Vulture… one of them over on Reddit.

Other sites that dug in on this while I was away:

Friday Bullet Points Gaze into the Future

Another Friday where I have a few items that I could probably force into full length posts, but I just don’t have the stamina to get there.  So I will pack them into one post.

Truth in Advertising?

There was a recent Star Citizen weekly update from RSI that seemed to unintentionally confirmed my suspicions.

It barely feels like it has been 25 years

The update itself was a lore item about some in-game entity celebrating its 50th anniversary, but the first glace at the top of the message made me wonder if they were admitting it was going to take 50 years to get where they plan to go.

Apple and OpenGL

One tidbit that came up at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference was the plan to deprecate OpenGL support with the Mojave release of the MacOS and in iOS 12.  This led to a panic about there being no more video games on the Mac.

I haven’t been to a WWDC since 1995…

OpenGL has been around for a long time and, among other things, its openess helped nVidia get in and dethrone 3dfx Interactive and their proprietary Glide API back in the day.  And deprecate doesn’t mean pulling it out wholesale.  It will still be there for a couple of years.  But if you find a problem or need an update, Apple isn’t going to help you.

Still, Apple will drop it eventually.  Past history says that will probably get announced in 2020 or so.  Apple would like you to use their Metal interface instead, and some companies have support for that on the way.  You can use Metal with World of Warcraft currently if your hardware and OS are current. (And probably should use it, as it fixes a crashing issue with WoW.)  But if you are a serious PC gamer you probably have a Windows partition on you Mac, if not a Windows machine already.

Blizzard and Diablo IV

It was noted that Blizzard had posted a job listing looking for a dungeon artist for an as yet unannounced Diablo project.  This led to a hysteria of complaints and the projection of personal feelings onto the idea.  Just Google “diablo iv” and look at the headlines. (And yes, I am going to call it Diablo IV at this point.)  Everything from “when are we going to get it?” to “Oh lord, no!” pops up.  So I figured I ought to note this as the week the controversy began.  We know nothing so far, but some people are already angry.

I for one welcome our new demonic overlords.

Despite the one-two punch of the auction house and the horrible itemization (the latter which I remain convinced was there to drive you to the auction house), Blizzard eventually got the game in order by killing the auction house and fixing itemization, making Diablo III a pretty decent game.  The “always online” bit is still annoying, but Blizz is hardly alone in demanding that.  And they have continued to tend the now six year old game, which is more than they ever did for Diablo II.  By any practical measure the game is a success and warrants a sequel. (It sold lots of copies on the PC and consoles.)

Hopefully Blizzard will run with what they have learned and stick with the roots of Diablo as the foundation for the next game rather than, say, making it a Battle Royale title or something.

Minecraft Subnautica

On a closer horizon, the Minecraft Java Edition 1.13 release, the Aquatic Update, looks to be slowly making its way to us.

Under the sea…

The update entered pre-release at the start of the week, whatever that means, so I think we should be getting the official release soon.  I have actually been avoiding our Minecraft server, knowing that I’ll want to go play when this hits.

Free Games for Amazon Prime Subscribers

In yet another benefit for Amazon Prime subscribers, you can now download any of five free games before the end of June.

Amazon Prime benefits

The games are Tumblestone, Treadnauts, Strafe, Banner Saga, and Banner Saga 2.  You need to have the Twitch client to download them (the Twitch client is what the old Curse client became when Amazon bought Curse… and Twitch) and you need to have linked your Twitch account to your Amazon account.  This sounds like a recurring deal, so there will likely be more games in the future as the Amazon Prime largess train continues on.

As an aside, the first version of this Amazon post I saw said it was six games.

Is it five or six?

However the image only shows five games and I didn’t click on the link until later, so I don’t know if there was a sixth game at one point, if a sixth game was planned but was removed and the word didn’t get out, or if it was always five games and somebody just messed up.  (h/t to Corr who first linked this to me and who had that second image handy.)

Pokemon Zygarde Download Event

Despite the impending end of Pokemon on the Nintendo 2DS/3DS, download events continue for the current core RPG titles.  During the month of June in the US you can go to your local GameStop for a download code for a shiny Zygarde.

Zygarde

This event is only for Pokemon Sun & Moon and Pokemon UltraSun & UltraMoon.  Instructions for claiming the legendary Pokemon are available at the Pokemon site.

Reviewing My 2017 MMO Outlook – What The Hell Happened?

Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

-Me, about a year ago

I guess it sort of turned out that way.  That might be my most accurate prediction of the year, really.  I mean, I started out the year playing EverQuest II and here I am at the end of the year playing World of Warcraft.  I still dabble a bit in Minecraft, but I am between projects on that front.  And then there was EVE Online.

Going around on the same ride

So in my MMO Outlook post for 2017 I listed out a dozen titles, games I had either not played or had barely touched, with an eye to trying something new.  And did I play any of them?  Even one of them?

No!

Still, I am going to say that this isn’t entirely my fault.  Yes, I have been in something of a state of ennui when it comes to our favored genre, but lets go back down that list from a year ago and see what I was up against.  How likely was it that I could even play these games?

  1. Project: Gorgon – Not done yet
  2. Albion Online – Went live, but didn’t appeal
  3. MapleStory 2 – Still only in Korea
  4. Star Citizen – Hahahaha… some day maybe, but not any day soon
  5. Camelot Unchained – Nothing to play yet
  6. SkySaga: Infinite Isles – Development ceased
  7. Lost Ark – Not yet released
  8. Sea of Thieves – Target is 2018 now
  9. RuneScape – Unambiguously playable!
  10. Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title – What test release are we at this week?
  11. Life is Feudal – Seems to still be slated for 2017 as I write this
  12. Pantheon: Saga of Heroes – Just a vision and some demos

Given that list and my criteria that the game must be in some form of viable, released, not hiding in some criticism deflecting “beta” or “early access” mode while charging for the privilege state of affairs, I was left with two titles out of the dozen.

And that was even with setting the bar pretty low for fan favorite Project: Gorgon, which I said I would play regardless of state so long as it was together enough to be up on Steam.

No joy there.

So of that list of a dozen I could have realistically played two of them, Albion Online and RuneScape.  I’ve played a bit of RuneScape in the past, I just never went back to it while there was nothing on the feature list that attracted me to Albion Online.  Again, differentiation in fantasy MMORPGs is a pretty narrow thing these days.

My metaphor for MMOs… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

So what they hell did I play in 2017?  I mean, besides EVE Online, Minecraft, and EverQuest II at the start then World of Warcraft at the end.

I actually did play a few other fantasy MMORPG titles.  Overall, this was what I played, month by month, on that front:

  • January – EverQuest II
  • February – EverQuest II at the start of the month
  • March – none
  • April – Glanced at LOTRO
  • May – Runes of Magic
  • June – Guild Wars 2
  • July – EverQuest II
  • August – LOTRO
  • September – very short bursts of LOTRO and Guild Wars 2
  • October – World of Warcraft
  • November – World of Warcraft
  • December – World of Warcraft

Nothing new.  Games I already had installed, save for Runes of Magic, and in which had some previous investment.  And none of them stuck for very long, save for WoW.

On the non-fantasy side, in addition to EVE Online, I played a little War Thunder and World of Tanks during the spring and summer, but not enough for it to be really noteworthy.

So that was it, which makes me wonder if I should continue the tradition of the “MMO Outlook” posts here at TAGN.  Is this sort of post simply a holdover from a time when new MMOs seemed full of promise, a tired attempt to relive past bouts of enthusiasm when I am fairly sure that the future only offers bland, “me too” alternatives that are barely alternatives at all in a world where World of Warcraft offers as much as it does?

Or is there something out there that I should be looking into, a star by which to navigate my online gaming obsession into the future?

Syp says he is “keeping an eye on” 44 different upcoming MMO and MMO-ish games, though for that number I’d have to consider it a pretty minimalist definition of the phrase.  But there are still things in the pipeline.  Hell, I could make an outlook post and just recycle ten of the twelve I had listed and call it a day.

Part of me thinks I should shelve the idea.  I have shown myself to be a creature of habit there being, to paraphrase the quote about Alexander, no vaguely interesting new worlds to conquer.   Cynicism is part of my makeup to be sure, and a conservatism and a strong sense of the past.  I still have more TorilMUD posts to finish.

But I have an optimistic side as well.  I want to believe there is something new and different and interesting and exciting possible, that somebody will turn a corner or find a new angle that will ignite a new spark in the genre.

We shall see how I feel.  It will likely be that or another post about pet battles.

Did you play anything new and different this year in the MMO sphere?  Is there something I should be paying attention to for the future?

Quote of the Day – The Optimism of Software Developers

Software developers at all levels tend to be optimistic – you have to be to build big things

Chris Roberts, EuroGamer interview

In my experience, developer optimism is the true state of affairs on every software project, big or small, and I can think of a few on which I have worked that wouldn’t have been started had we known up front how long they would take.

One of the tricks in managing software projects is understanding that the estimates that software developers give often need to be decoded to understand what the real number is likely to be.

There is an old saw about software project estimates that says you should take the time a developer says a task will take, double it, then go up a unit of measure.  So if your dev says it should take a day, you should assume it will be delivered in two weeks.

Of course you can’t develop a project plan that way.  If all your developer time estimates add up to a month and you say the project will take two years, you’re going to get fired.  And, in any case, with any software project you’ve probably been given the feature list and the deadline in advance, so you really have to start stack ranking features by importance to know where to focus.  Of course, marketing will rank every feature as a “1” so good luck there.

Still, if you know your team you’ll know how to interpret estimates.  You’ll know who chronically underestimates and who has other tasks that might interfere with the project.  I used to work with one dev who was always spot-on with his estimates of how long it would take him to finish any task.  The problem was that he was the key database guy on a product that was completely database driven, so spent more than half his time debugging field issues and helping out with new installations, tasks always deemed more critical than project work.  So his estimate of a day of effort for a task would be correct, you just wouldn’t know when he would have a day to focus on it.

And don’t even get me started on having a dependence on third party libraries and such.

Anyway, this is why most companies keep their projects vague and under wraps until they get close to launch.  Maybe a company will put out a road map with some general milestones, but even those tend to fall over beyond a six month window and get swept under the rug to be forgotten.

So running a project where you’re trying to do everything out in the open in front of customers… that way lies madness.  It would be nothing but outsiders kibitzing, asking for updates, and holding you to account for everything you’ve ever said would be a feature.

I am not sure why anybody would subject themselves to that.

Kickstarter MMO Metaphor

There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane.

Francis Ford Coppola, not at all describing Star Citizen

There is, even as I write this, a Kickstarer campaign running for a video game based on the movie Apocalypse Now.

ansplash

I have no real opinion when it comes to the game itself.  It might be the best game ever or allow one unique depth and perspective into the movie.  It might be all they promise and more.  I just know that it looks pretty sure that the campaign is not going to make its $900,000 funding goal.

Wilhelm’s Rule of Kickstarter campaigns is that if you don’t make 20% of your funding goal in the first 24 hours, you might as well go home.  You haven’t rallied your base or given enough notice or come up with the right pitch or simply just don’t have the draw to get there.

The campaign sits at 18% and is at day 14 of 30.  The prospects look grim.  They even have a backer in at the $10,000 mark, but not nearly enough backers in at the sane funding levels.

I didn’t even hear about the title through the gaming news media.  I stumbled on it by mistake on the Kickstarter site, and I was only there because I saw Bob Cringley had time to do another post on his blog so was wondering if he might have also found time to update people on when the hell their Mineservers might be showing up. (If ever.)

Still, when I found the campaign I had to laugh.

I wasn’t laughing at the campaign or what it was trying to accomplish.  Like I said, the intent there might be pure.

Rather, I was laughing at what a perfect metaphor the movie was for the big ticket, grandiose plans, uncontrolled feature creeping, perennially behind schedule, and always over budget crowdfunded MMORPG market.

And lets face it, the grand champion poster child for all of that is Star Citizen. You could make this it several others, but Star Citizen is the big fish, so let’s just go straight for the jugular on that one.

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man...

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man…

How can you have this thought… this mixing of media minds… and not put Chris Roberts up there in the role of Colonel Kurtz?  Surrounded by loyal followers who continue to give him money to driving a project that seems to have gone beyond being a viable venture.

I suppose if he could keep his posts a little more terse I might have to cast Derek Smart as Captain Willard.

They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.

-Capt. Willard, on meeting Col. Kurtz

That is a fun mental image to play with, but it is too much.  The movie is too large, too dramatic, too bloody, too wrought with peril to really be a metaphor for Star Citizen.  The real metaphor requires you to pull back a level, to consider the making of Apocalypse Now.

There is a great documentary about the making of the movie, Hearts of Darkness.  It illustrates the parallel between the theme of the movie and the reality of making the movie, with Coppola himself taking on the Kurtzian role, out in the jungle, making a movie that nearly grew beyond his ability to shape.

I can picture Chris Roberts in that situation as well.  He had a vision, but the scope may well have grown beyond his ability to shape and bring to fruition.  Some of the problem is letting things grow because the wider scope is what he really wants.  But not every problem is of his making.  Coppola in the jungle face expensive problems with sets, actors unprepared (Brando) or ill (Sheen had a heart attack) and a range of studio execs back in the states wondering what he was doing with all the money and reminding him that he was past his deadline.

For Chris Roberts you can substitute in technology not up to his vision, the need to build some things from scratch, the need to change engines, and of course a whole range of people wondering what he is doing with the money and pointing out that the promised November 2014 ship date disappeared in the rear view mirror quite a ways back.

Coppola got an enduring classic for all his problems, explosions, and a million feet of film.  We are still waiting to see what Chris Roberts will deliver.

And the irony is that the game that inspired this metaphor in my head, it isn’t going anywhere if it is depending on its crowdfunding run.  But it has been a down time for video game crowdfunding, so they might have to go back to more traditional methods.