Category Archives: Vanguard SOH

The 2013 List – This Time it is Goals

At the beginning of every year I write a post about the upcoming 12 months.  Sometimes it is silly predictions.  Sometimes my predictions are even correct, but not very often.  I have made demands.  I have asked questions.  Here is the story so far:

Now it is time for the 2013 version of my yearly post.

2013

This year I think I am going to set goals, which is just another way of drawing some marks in the sand to measure what happened when the year finally comes to a close.

1- Finish Rift

Well, finish Rift for a specific definition of “finish.”  MMOs are designed to never truly be finishable and Rift, with all its possible class builds, especially so.

In this case, it means hitting the level cap and running all of the five person instances with my main character, Hillmar, and the rest of the regular group.  And, just to put another parameter in the mix, I would like to see this happen before the inevitable Summer hiatus when we head out for vacations and other distractions.

2- Find a new goal in EVE

2012 was about learning to live in null sec and flying in large fleet operations.  There were large wars going on throughout most of the year and I flew all over null sec in fleet ops.  Now, however, things have quieted down.  There was no “Winter Break War” as there was last year and the prospect of any big conflict seems pretty remote right now.  We have been effectively ordered to not do anything that might result in the CFC having to deal with any more sovereignty.

Which puts me out of a job.

So I am in training mode with a little bit of ratting and selling now and again.  That can be lucrative, but it is also dull, as is mining.  (Though I hear from Gaff that with the new NPC AI, he has to actually tank all his mining ships as the rats now change targets.   And they pop drones without mercy, making drones pretty much useless for mission running and the like. So mining is dull AND annoying now!)

There are some things I could train up.  There are a few decent guides on planetary interaction out there, if I wanted to add that do my EVE resume.  There are some player skills I could work on, like scanning.  I am hopeless at scanning at the moment and, historically, every time I make an effort to figure it out, CCP changes how it works.

But as for what would essentially be a new vocation in EVE, I do not have a plan… or even a general direction.  It might be time to go back to that chart.

3- Get to Tier IX in World of Tanks

This is something of a vague goal, as I do not really have my eye on any specific Tier IX tank in WoT.  For now the Soviet heavy tanks seem to be my favorites, followed by the German tank destroyers.  But who knows, I might be mad for French self propelled guns or get the itch to nip about the field of battle in one of those Cromwells.  And then there is the Chinese tank line coming along soon.  Or so they say.

Anyway, barring any dramatic need to start up on another branch of the tree, Tier IX ought to be an obtainable goal even with my somewhat sporadic play schedule.  I just need some focus.

Good luck on that.

4- Finish that Second Instance Group Video

Almost a year back I put together a video about the first year of the regular instance group in World of Warcraft.  Fun stuff.  I like to go back and watch that video now and again.  Not quite as emotionally evocative as Sayonara Norrath, but a lot closer to home.

Originally I was going to make a video about our whole experience, but that was a huge project, so I cut it back to just the first year with the idea that I would do one for each of our six… headed into seven… years.

But while the first year was a good plan (for me at least) as it gets our origin, how do you distinguish it from year two, three, four, and so on?  So I decided I needed another specific subject.

I chose our time in Wrath of the Lich King for the next video.  I even started in on the long job of reviewing and editing pictures.  WotLK was the pinnacle of the instance group in WoW, where we finally got our act together.  It was also our downfall, the last happy time in WoW.  We got good at the game only to find that it isn’t that much fun when you are good.  When you are a random, badly equipped group running comedy specs in the wrong roles, every boss kill is a major victory.  When you are geared appropriately, using the right spec, and playing your role correctly, it starts to become a matter of just figuring out the gimmick for any given boss.

Archaedas was exaltation.  By the time we hit King Ymiron, he was just another boss on the long list.

Still, those were good times and set a standard of effort and fun that Cataclysm couldn’t match.  And it was a nice, discreet time frame.  We were there the day the expansion launched through to finishing off the last instance.

Piece of cake to put it together, right?

Except I cannot find the right music.  I need that to inspire me.  Earl’s rendition of Eleanor Rigby, with its twangy sounds and great mix of nostalgia and irony (all the lonely people indeed!) really moved me to finish the first video.  But I have not found the right music to get me excited to finish this video yet.  What will capture Northrend and the instance group, our travels, our defeats, and our victories?

So really my goal is really to find the right music.  We shall see if I can get there.

5- Retry an MMO That Didn’t Stick

There are a number of MMOs out there which I have tried and let drop after some effort.  For one reason or another the games just did not hold my attention or otherwise compel me to keep moving forward.

There are a number of options for this goal.  Possibilities include Vanguard, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Star Trek Online, Runes of Magic, Warhammer Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and probably a few more I have forgotten.  Pirates of the Burning Sea maybe!

The trick here of course is to find a game where whatever made me stop playing has either been changed/fixed or was something that I have since changed my mind about.  And that, in turn, is something of a function of the time that has passed since I last played the game.

SWTOR, for example, is just a year gone by, and I did not like blaster combat or having dialog forced on my character. The former probably hasn’t changed, while the latter is the vaunted “fourth pillar” that was going to distinguish the game, so it seems like unlikely that I am going to like the game any more than I did the first time around.

At the other end of the spectrum is Vanguard, which I haven’t really played since late beta, and which I only recall as being an ugly, lagging, broken, resource hog of a game that was clearly not ready for prime time.  Six years down the road it is possible they may have addressed some of those issues.

6- Scout for the Next Instance Group Game

With the downfall of WoW as our default game, it has become an ongoing task to scout for the next game we might try.  We are currently settled in Rift, but since the first goal on my list is to “finish” Rift before the Summer hiatus, it seems likely that we will need something new come the end of vacation.

As always, the usual parameters are in place.  It must have content that caters to groups of five or six people.  It has to work for a variety of play time budgets. (Some of us will play all week long, others will only play on group night.)  It has to have content that we can enjoy in our standard “three hours on a Saturday night” parameter.   And it has to be something that we can all buy into.

There are a lot of options out there, even discounting things some of us have already played.  I think that, as a group, we might find a month or two of fun in PlanetSide 2.  Four of us would probably find Need for Speed: World or World of Tanks good fun, but I am not sure about all five.  And there are candidates from both the previous and the next goal that are possibilities.  Picking one though and getting everybody to download and commit, that can be a challenge.

7- Book My Autumn Nostalgia Tour Early

Every autumn I get the urge to go back and play some game from my past.  Sometimes it is EverQuest or TorilMUD.  This past year is was EverQuest II.  And given my long time attachment to the games, you can probably put WoW and Lord of the Rings Online on the list of potential candidates.

The thing is, the urge tends to hit me rather suddenly and I run off, play for the requisite month or so solo, then the urge tapers off and I am pretty much done. (Pro Tip: Always subscribe month-to-month for nostalgia based events.)

But while this is often fun, it is usually a lot more fun if I can get Gaff or Potshot in on the tour.  Nostalgia is a meal best served family style or some such.  So if I can just peer into the future and maybe decide on my target, we can get together on the plan and have a great time.  The thing is, which game?  Do I book a room in old Qeynos for the rainy season, or is the Forsaken Inn a more likely holiday spot?

8- Blog Stuff

Often when I look at the future, I will tack on something about “playing more and writing less.”  Over time though, this has increasingly looked like nonsense.  Writing here on the blog is clearly part of the process of playing games… or at least online games… for me.  The writing, the remembering, the picking of screen shots, and the clicking of the “publish” button are all part of the package.

So my goal for the blog is pretty much “stay the course.”  And maybe find a new theme.  Though I have been saying that for about six years and I am still using the same WordPress theme that I had on day one.

So those are my goals for 2013.  Not very exciting.  We shall see how they play out.

How does 2013 look to you?  And any ideas for music for that video?

Free to Play and the Implied Social Contract

I am going to start sounding like I hate free to play if I am not careful.

I do not hate free to play.

Free to play can bring a lot to a subscription game that transitions to the model.

The primary benefit is more players.

Bringing more players to a declining MMO can be a wonderful thing.  When I was playing the short-lived EverQuest II Extended, one of the best things about it was that the world seemed quite alive relative to the subscription side of the house.

It is also very nice to not be tied to a monthly subscription plan when it comes to games that you no longer play regularly, but still like to drop into now and again.  For example, I doubt I would have resubscribed to EverQuest II just to be able to see… well… whatever it was they did to Qeynos.

These are clear benefits on which I think most people can agree.

But I am also mindful that there are costs as well.

There are the inconveniences, the nagging, the intrusion of crass commercialism into an alleged escapist fantasy world, and the inevitable realization that, unless you’re buying what they have on offer in the cash shop this month, you really aren’t important to the company any more.

But you can get used to that.  Or some people can.  Probably most people can.

The problem, as I see it, is that you may have to get used to the way things are over and over again.  Currently, “free to play” is a pretty empty phrase, since it can mean so many things.

A long and winding thread of “logic” follows after the cut in order to spare the front page a wall of text.

Continue reading

Vanguard Goes Free to Play Early

Almost six years ago the trailer for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes had the tag line “Set Yourself Free.”  Well, now the prophecy of that line has come to pass.

Vanguard was slated to go live as a free to play title on August 14th.

But instead, surprise, it is live and free as of yesterday.  Or I guess it is.  The statement over at the new Vanguard site reads:

In case you haven’t seen the news, we’ve announced the official date for the Vanguard Saga of Heroes free-to-play launch: Tuesday, August 14, 2012!

We didn’t want to keep you – our most loyal and dedicated Vanguard citizens – waiting any longer, so we’ve released all of the free-to-play features for you to experience FIRST!

Since SOE has a single, unified account system, I have to imagine that “dedicated” citizens includes anybody paying close enough attention to have noticed that post.  You certainly seem able to download the client and such at this point

SOE has also posted the final feature matrix for launch.  It remains a two tier system, eschewing the middle, or Silver tier that EverQuest and EverQuest II have, but a few details have changed since SOE originally posted about it.

First Day Feature Matrix

If you compare that with the earlier one, you will see that they have changed brokers and mail access.  You now just paying higher in-game fees to use those services.  There will also be no restrictions on chat access for free players.

Meanwhile, the standard inconvenience restrictions on things like item quality, total in-game coins, quest log entries, remain in place to push people to subscribe.

The Vanguard Marketplace is also open now and will be offering things in the categories of “Services, Mounts and Pets, Housing, Appearance and Equipment.”  I will be interested to see what ends up in the cash shop.

There is also a new FAQ up about the game.

All of which now leaves PlanetSide as the sole monthly subscription title in the SOE arsenal of online games.  SOE has bet heavily on its particular flavor of the free to play model. It is what I might call the “push to subscribe” subset.

John Smedley says that PlanetSide is not going away when PlanetSide 2 launches. (Smed’s twitter account seems to be the new official news source for PlanetSide 2. He was clearly telling the truth when he said that PS was his thing.)  But I do not think it can remain a subscription game, so I wonder what the plan is.

[Addendum: Massively has an interview with a bit more information posted.]

SOE Crosses the Streams, Mixes Vanguard, F2P, and Brad McQuaid

I had to check the calendar… and then double check just to make sure this wasn’t some sort of April Fools mis-fire.

Here it is, early July, and Massively was reporting that Brad McQuaid was back at SOE and working on Vanguard and pointing at an SOE developer spotlight profile of him.

The man with “the vision” is back and on the team that is reviving Vanguard and remolding to the free to play model.  It… boggles the mind.

Not that I am anti-Brad.  He was the right person at the right time to make EverQuest, something for which he has won endless respect from myself and others.

Well, except for that Qeynos sewer faction…

But the right time was… well… the late 1990s, wasn’t it?

I mean, the first time around with Vanguard… there was something of a vision vs. execution gap to be sure, which ended in tears about five years ago, the demise of his company as it was bought out, and a lot of work by SOE over the next year to make the game playable.  So bringing him back seems to trend towards the “crazy/insane” end of the spectrum at first glace.

Then again, he is back as a game designer.  Regardless of past any past vision for the game, he is there to make things work within the confines of the situation as it stands today.  As much as ones emotions want to say, “Uh oh, something wacky is going to happen here!” or make some sort of “Steve Jobs returns to Apple” analogy, it just doesn’t fly.

What we really have is a member of the MMO industry in a new position.  Everybody needs a job.  People come and go all the time.  I just wonder how things feel for him and those around him to be back at SOE after all that has happened in the last 15 years.

What do you think?  News? Not news?  Any meaning at all in this?

SOE Eschews the Middle Tier with Vanguard Free to Play Pricing

SOE announced back in March that Vanguard, the fantasy MMO step-child in their lineup, would be going free to play this summer.

Having been around the block with SOE titles moving from subscription to F2P at least twice before, first with EverQuest II and then EverQuest, it was probably easy enough to predict what was going to come to pass.

Both of those games ended up with a three tier subscription plan. (Yes, EverQuest II Extended had FOUR tiers, but that was clearly an experiment.)

At the bottom was “free,” which required no money changing hands.  All you had to do was create an SOE Station account, download the client, and you were set to log in and go.  Of course, there were some pretty severe restrictions on just what you could do with a free account.  These were put in place both to encourage you to upgrade and to keep abuse from gold sellers and the like to a minimum.

At the top end there was the “Gold” subscription, which was essentially the old monthly subscription plan in a new wrapper.  You could continue to give SOE $15 a month and get access to what you had before the transition.

And in the middle was the “Silver” tier where, for a fee of 500 Station Cash (which could range in value from $5.00 to 80 cents depending on various sales and incentives), some of the restrictions placed on “free” accounts were relaxed.  You got a couple more character slots, the ability to have more cash per character level, and no restrictions on chat channels.

This “Silver” tier made a lot of sense to me.  For an up front, one time payment, you were able to still dispense with the monthly fee, but got some benefits by essentially buying into the system.  Doing so probably meant you were unlikely to be a gold seller or other nefarious character likely to commit acts that might get you banned.  You had invested.

So I was somewhat surprised to see the Vanguard subscription matrix that was released today, as that “Silver” tier appears to be missing.

The two tiers of Vanguard

There is a FAQ up about the transition to F2P, which this time appears to cover most of the pertinent questions, but which makes no mention of the lack of a middle tier.

I wonder if that “Silver” level has proven ineffective in keeping the riff-raff under wraps, or if it ended up being too appealing to players, thus siphoning off potential dollars from players who might otherwise opt for a monthly subscription.

And this still leaves me wondering about PlanetSide? It will soon become SOE’s sole subscription-only title.

Reusing Images is “Green,” Right?

Smed says PlanetSide won’t be going away when PlanetSide 2 shows up.

When will it go free to play?

38 Studios – The Legend, The Myth, The End

Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse

John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949)

Well, I cannot speak to whether or not 38 Studios lived fast, and six years can be a long time in technology, so you can argue that the company did not die young.

But they left a good looking, if sparse, corpse in the form of a three pictures and a less than two minute fly through video of their planned virtual world.

Somewhere in Copernicus

Legends have been created out of less.

And now nobody will ever say that Copernicus, their as yet unnamed flagship game, to which the main effort of the company had been devoted for almost six year, sucks.

Nobody will complain about unbalanced classes or broken game mechanics or servers being down or sever queues being too long or any of the thousand other things that we find to pick on when it comes to MMOs.

Copernicus is pristine, a blurry mirage doomed to ever been in the distance, on which some will overlay their hopes and dreams for the future of MMO gaming.  I’ve seen it already, with some bloggers mourning not just the fact that we will now never see this game come into full bloom, but that it somehow represented our last, best hope to return greatness to the genre.  Some future games will find themselves compared to Copernicus that might have been.  It was to be the holy grail game that brought joy back to fantasy MMOs.

Which is a tune I have heard before.

It was the sort of thing some of our guild members were saying about Vanguard in 2005 when we were playing EverQuest II and it had fully sunk in that the game really wasn’t a sequel to the EverQuest experience.  And so Vanguard became the dream, the game destined to be the true successor to EverQuest.

And, well… we know how that turned out.  Sigil Games, facing their own financial woes, opted to go to market early with a game clearly not ready for prime time.

In one of those twists of timing, it was just five years ago this month that Sigil folded up shop with the now infamous parking lot layoff, sans Brad McQuaid.  But we got the word from Smed that SOE was swooping in to save the day.  SOE was a hero for the moment, but I wondered how long they would remain a hero.  Not very long, it seemed, as soon all the problems with Vanguard became SOE’s problems, and SOE’s fault for not fixing them fast enough.

It makes me wonder what image Vanguard would have ended up with had Brad opted to run out of money before launching the game.

Alas, there will be no SOE white knight to rescue Copernicus.  Those days are clearly done.  Back when SOE was under Sony Pictures, which I am convinced really didn’t know, and didn’t care, what was going on in San Diego so long as the money was coming in, was able to collect orphaned MMOs like Vanguard and The Matrix Online.  Now though, under the PlayStation people, who clearly want to hear about things that sell PlayStation hardware when they aren’t being evil, things have been trimmed back substantially.

There was an estimate that the assets of 38 Studios might be worth up to $20 million, though that sort of talk denies the reality of software development.  If you buy a software company with no people, you have pretty much bought nothing.  The people who write the software, they are the assets.  Without them you have some source code, which can be interesting, but is tough to make your own.  You can bring in your own people to try.  I’ve been down that path.  If you just want to be able to build the software and maybe make some small fixes, it can even be viable.  But if you want to own the software and be able to use it to its full, you have to know it well, which is hard work.  And the first thing that will happen is the devs will start saying that it is easier to rewrite some section of code from scratch than figure out what is really going on, and that way lies madness and repetition of the same mistakes to gain the same knowledge as the original authors of the code.

And then there is the outside influence of Star Wars: The Old Republic which, according to analyst Michael Pachter, has killed off interest in investing in MMO projects.  To quote the money line:

Nobody is buying MMOs after Star Wars fizzled

So yeah, we can blame SWTOR!  Because if EA can’t get MMOs right, then it is clearly some sort of once-in-a-lifetime black art not worth exploring.

Life in the big money lane.

I feel a bit sorry for Curt Schilling for not getting to live out his dream of creating a great MMO.  But only a bit.  I mean the guy had fame, fortune, and three world series wins coming into this deal, all while deliberately and maliciously being younger than me.  He can go back to that.  Maybe he can be a champion for small studios that reflect some of the things he was trying to bring to MMOs.

But I identify more with the team at 38 Studios, the worker bees who have to scramble to find another gig to pay the mortgage.  I’ve been down that path a few times.  The joy of Silicon Valley start ups, here today, gone tomorrow.  I worked for eight different companies in the 90s, and only one still exists.   I was there twice for the “everybody go home” company meeting.  It doesn’t get easier with repetition.

I do want to throw out a minor “screw you” to 38 Studios for buying and shutting down the Azeroth Advisor.  Grudge holding… we have that here at TAGN.

But other than that, I am sorry to see things turn out as they did.  We won’t ever see Copernicus now, and so I will be denied the privilege of playing it while complaining about insignificant details that annoy me.

Addendum: And then there is the industry insider view of this debacle from the newly returned to blogging Lum and how it is killing the very concept of massively multiplayer online gaming.

Further Addendum: And there are always methods to make a bad situation worse.

R. A. Salvatore says Copernicus was awesome, but can’t actually back that up.  He was right on one thing in that comment, he shouldn’t be commenting.  More for the myth and legend department.

Steve Danuser puts the blame on the governor of Rhode Island.

It looks like 38 Studios may have screwed some employees worse than others.  Was that the governor of Rhode Island’s fault as well?

Everybody wants to know where the money went.

Of course, there is Curt.

And then Derek Smart chimes in with a dump truck load of reality.  Refreshing to see him poking at a subject that needs it.

With Vanguard Going Free to Play, PlanetSide Becomes the Last SOE Subscription Based MMO

In November of last year, when EverQuest II slated to go fully free to play, I asked the obvious question;  which of the remaining SOE subscription MMOs would also go free to play?

Back then, only four games remained subscription based.  And even then, rumblings seemed to indicate Vanguard might have a free to play role in the line up.  That was clearly the wave of the future at SOE.

The SOE Options in November 2011

With the announcement today that Vanguard is going to go free to play (FAQ here), there is only one subscription MMO left in the SOE lineup.  PlanetSide stands alone.

As of Today

What will happen to PlanetSide while SOE works on PlanetSide 2?

Will SOE keep it as a subscription game for now?  Will they make it free or free to play?  Or will it go away before its successor shows up?

There do not seem to be any good choices in that mix.

Why Isn’t Vanguard Overrun By Those Seeking an “Old School” MMO?

If all the people who wish there was an MMO like MMOs used to be would stop wringing their hands and go play Vanguard, maybe it would get that expansion. Even without one, it remains very close to the best MMO there’s ever been.

Bhagpuss, in a comment at We Fly Spitfires

Oh Vanguard, saga of more than heroes, negative example cited by many.

Here it is, the twin fifth anniversary of the launch of both Vanguard and Microsoft Vista.  And what a pair they are, mirror images of, if not failure, then certainly a failure to meet expectations.  Both sold moderately well, though in ways that did not help them in the long run.

Play Vanguard - Ride a Dragon

Dell, for example, made money selling machines with Vista and then charging a fee to revert them back to Windows XP.  And didn’t Vanguard sell something like 90,000 boxes right off the mark? [242,000 boxes sold according to Wikipedia. Thank you Bhagpuss.]

And then Sigil offering up a mea culpa about the game problems in April then and handing the whole thing over to SOE by May.

I know having played in the beta I was dubious when Sigil announced their launch date, which was both too early and square in the teeth of the first WoW expansion.  And very soon after launch I was pondering how they were going to get out of their mess.

And after the launch… and after SOE took over the game… there was the long march back to sanity and, in some ways, away from the vision.  Server merges.  Graphic revamps.  Bug fixes.  Making the game playable took a while.

But here we are, five years later.  The game is as “fixed” as it is ever going to be.  It is available, stable, and five years down the road you likely have a machine that can run it.

So why isn’t Vanguard the focus of players looking for an old school experience?  Why is something like EverQuest, which is coming up on its 13 year anniversary and which, in many ways, has abandoned many of the old school difficulties, still more popular?

My theory is that many of those seeking such an experience really have something specific in mind.  I suspect that they do not, in fact, seek an old school experience, but rather long to experience their first game as it was when they played it initially.  Basically, I think they want an old school experience in their old school, not in some new world.

And so Vanguard is not regarded as a viable option.  Relatively few people have nostalgia for the game.  I would be willing to bet that the EverQuest progression servers were more popular by themselves when they went live than Vanguard as a whole.

Why do you think, five years after launch, Vanguard isn’t the target of players claiming to seek an old school experience?  The bad launch?  The system requirements?  Too small of a player base with nostalgia for the game?

Anyway, Bhagpuss has a post up celebrating the Vanguard fifth anniversary, which along with his comment quoted above made me think about what will become of the game.

Looking Back at 2011 – Highs and Lows

Last week I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed online game-wise in the new year.  That list was filled with a lot of not-quite-MMOs.

Now it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2011, or at least what came to pass from my vantage point in this little corner of the gaming world.  So, as I did last year, I present you with a lot of bullet points in no particular order.

Turbine

Highs:

  • LOTRO is still there, still has wonderful Middle-earth charm, still has some of the best role-play tools available in any MMORPG.
  • Their games survived and thrived post free-to-play.
  • They got a nice new chunk of Middle-earth on the map with Rise of Isengard.
  • I made it to freakin’ Moria at last!!11 one one one

Lows:

  • Their stuff still doesn’t feel as polished as WoW or Rift, which is bad in a still-growing field of competitors.
  • Their character models, awkward at launch, are not aging well at all.
  • I am still in Moria and have no plan to buckle down and get to Mirkwood, much less Isengard.
  • They shipped their last new game when?

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs:

  • I say this every year, but EQ still lives!  12 years in and still going!
  • Time locked progression servers brought back a healthy slice of that MMO nostalgia goodness!
  • I got to partake in that goodness with Potshot for a while… and it was damn good!
  • EQ got a new expansion with things like parcel delivery through the mail, more zones, five new levels, and hotbars that look like they are now from this century.
  • EQII still does a ton of things better than other games, like housing interiors.
  • SOE reconciled the Live/Extended split so there is, again, but one Popeye EverQuest II.
  • EQII got a new expansion and actually added a new class, beastlords, to the game after seven years.
  • Star Wars Galaxies goes out with dignity and some fond memories.
  • Planetside 2 announced!
  • Vanguard is actually getting some attention!

Lows:

  • That whole PSN/SOE hacking thing.  It killed our momentum on Fippy Darkpaw and made SOE look bad in general.
  • The nostalgia marketing effort around the EQ progression servers started weak and then totally disappeared once they went live.  A 12 year old game has a big nostalgia card to play, but SOE chose to pretty much ignore it the day after the Time Locked Progression servers were launched.
  • The behavior of some players on the TLP servers reminded us all why we went to instanced dungeons in the first place, plus a lot of other old arguments sprang up anew on the forums.  Too much nostalgia.
  • Hey EQ team, haven’t items through the mail been on every MMO since 2004? What took you so long?
  • EQII still pisses me off with a myriad of stupid little things, like why is “auto loot” when solo and “auto greed” when in a group the same setting.  I want to do one but not another.  The game has more settings than any MMO I have ever played, yet felt the need to combine these two?
  • EQII pissed off members of the instance group and pretty much closed the door on us ever going back there again.
  • SOE remains amazingly unprepared to announce things.  The whole merger of EQII Live and Extended brought up a couple dozen questions, the immediate answers to which were, “Uh… we need to think about that.”
  • I still cannot get past level 60 or so in EQII before becoming bored.
  • There were layoffs and the death of The Agency.
  • Who decided that a double station cash event was a great idea three days after a triple station cash event?
  • Planetside 2? Was the original popular enough to spawn a sequel?
  • Star Wars Galaxies… Lucas pulls the plug, leaves SOE to clean up the mess.

CCP

Highs:

  • The EVE Online CSM actually does some good, gets management to focus on EVE fundamentals.
  • CCP management actually turns things around for the next EVE expansion.
  • Crucible moves the game forward by fixing what we already had.
  • Oh, hey, I am in null sec!  Bet you didn’t see that one coming!
  • Dust 514 looks like it might become real giving CCP… two games.

Lows:

  • Arrogance, blindness, and Incarna nearly lead the company off a cliff.
  • Over-extension of resources meant layoffs and the long-term postponement of a World of Darkness based MMO.
  • EVE is back on the right course… but there are still times when the game is dull.  I had to buy Peggle to play while sitting and watching local.
  • Dust 514 makes sense I guess… CCP clearly has to focus… but with their customer base all on the PC, was going to a console game really the right move?

Blizzard

Highs:

  • WoW still has more players than any other subscription MMO you play… not that there are many of those left.
  • Still immensely profitable.
  • Has plans for pandas.  My daughter is all over that.
  • Oh, and they shipped Star Craft II in the last decade… and are talking about Diablo III and some new game.

Lows:

  • WoW is down 2 million players since this time last year.
  • Cataclysm malaise and the killing of game nostalgia by redoing the world we started with.  Can they ever do a WoW progression server now?
  • The slow response time of Blizzard, which worked out fine when things were going good, is starting to work against them.
  • Pandas?  That was the big news in 2011 from Blizzard?
  • Did they ship a freakin’ thing in 2011?  Does Blizzard and its huge profit margin exist simply to keep Activision from losing money every quarter where they do NOT ship a version of Call of Duty?

Trion Worlds

Highs

  • Rift actually turned out to be well executed.  It is like somebody learned from the last dozen years of MMO foibles.
  • Comfortable and polished enough to pick up and hold on to some defectors from WoW.
  • Public quests… rifts and invasions… done in the way that Warhammer Online should have.
  • Turned out to be a good place for the instance group to call home for now.

Lows:

  • It is, really, just another fantasy MMORPG in the WoW model.  If it had shipped against Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King I am not sure it would have been as successful.
  • Nothing in Trion’s next acts has me interested.

Steam

Highs:

  • I am beginning to reconcile myself with Steam.  I am still not fully on board, but I see the utility of the system as a platform to distribute games.
  • Wow, they put a lot of games on sale for real cheap over the summer and this winter.
  • Steam achievements are… something I guess.

Lows:

  • The internet went down for a couple hours last week and guess what I couldn’t do?  Play any of my games on Steam!  And, of course, Steam is where most of the single player games I would want to play when the internet goes down are.  This is the part I cannot reconcile.
  • Just because a game is marked down from $29.99 to $3.74 does not mean I will like it.  I have a lot of very inexpensive games that I do not like now that I simply wouldn’t have purchased at all were it not for a Steam sale.  Victory for the developer and Steam there, not for me.  Steam now represents the greatest collection of games I do not play on my current PC.
  • Why in the hell did I buy the entire Pop-Cap catalog? I know it was marked down 84%, but I really only wanted Peggle.  Damn you Steam!  And damn me for violating the “never buy anything online after dark” rule.
  • How often does Team Fortress 2 get updates?  Steam was updating it so frequently I had to uninstall it.

Free to Play Movement

Highs:

  • Lots of free to play games out there to sample, like World of Tanks, League of Legends, and Need for Speed World, and a lot more are promised.
  • Older games are getting a new breath of life via an influx of new players via this model.  It seemed to do wonders for EverQuest II.
  • Facebook… there were sure a lot of new games there.
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play.

Lows:

  • To one degree or another, the current consensus on the business model seems to be that a company must bestow some sort of advantage on or remove some annoyance from players who pay.  It is accelerated experience and golden bullets that support most of the games I see, with the selling of actual content far behind in the pack.  And the idea of supporting a game entirely based on cosmetic items sales appears to be a myth on par with Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • The games that I play that converted to free to play were the ones I played when they were subscription based.  Time is still the biggest tax on my ability to play games.
  • That a game is free to play does not make it fun to play.  A business model can ruin fun, but it can rarely create fun.
  • Is there any game idea that has not yet been screwed up in attempting to bring it to Facebook?
  • Lord British is now the self-designated champion of light platforms and free to play

Players, Blogs, and Community

Highs:

  • Players, like those in EVE Online, show that a group with limited, rational objectives can make their voices heard and see their demands met.  #Occupy protestors take note.
  • Community and playing together is not dead.  Thrown into the EverQuest progression servers, people got together, formed groups, and played nicely… for a while.
  • Hey, we all like to comment on each others blogs!  Thanks for taking the time to leave comments on mine.

Lows:

  • Every time I go into a game’s official forums, I am saddened. This is surely a symptom of the human condition.
  • EverQuest progression servers were a self-selected population of those who wanted most to group up and play nicely… and that has devolved into all the problems that made the WoW model of solo content and instances so popular.  Remember that when you have your rose colored glasses out.
  • For every rational discussion where consensus is reached I see in a blog comment thread, there has to be a dozen cases of the complete inability to see the other person’s perspective or even admit that it exists.  Can we get over that please?
  • I am still not sure which is worse, people complaining bitterly about a game they do not play and do not understand, or people complaining bitterly about people who do not like their game de jour.  Of course, they are often the same people on both counts, so at least they are easy to spot and ignore.
  • Most of the problems in-game… in any game… such as hacking, cheating, bad behavior, poor community, illicit RMT, and the state of official game forums are all pretty much our own damn fault.  Can we promise to try to behave better next year?

So that was 2011, at least from where I sit.  Yes, I failed to mention SWTOR, but I think that is really part of 2012.  There is still too much new game euphoria for me to get any feel for how things are going, especially since I am not playing.

Still, trying to recall a whole year, even with the blog open in front of my for reference, is doomed to failure.  What did I miss?  What came to pass in 2011 that I should have remembered?

Speaking of “Pants on Head” Bizarre, Vanguard is Getting New Content

I just saw this over at Massively, which sort of fits in with Tuesday’s post, SOE’s Vanguard: Saga of Heroes is slated to get some genuine new content.

The post on the Vanguard forums lists out:

  • Overland Raid bosses
  • New Dungeon – City of Brass:  Massive progressive dungeon with thirteen bosses and new rewards for players that can survive long enough to obtain them
  • Removal of Corpse recovery
  • This will aid in making the leveling process more enjoyable as well as remove the frustration that can be encountered from suffering a death penalty
  • Experience curve decreased – Experience has been modified to make leveling a new character a bit easier
  • Increase in loot drop rates
  • “Golden Path” – Riftways instructing players to ideal leveling areas with new rewards for all levels

So Vanguard has gone from “no devs, no fixes” to “okay, we’ll patch some broken stuff” to “okay, let’s get some new content together for you!” in the last year.  Amazing.

And the City of Brass… one of my favorite Forgotten Realms locations in TorilMUD… I wonder what it will look like in Vanguard?

Plus the experience curve tweak sounds like they might have plans… maybe free to play plans… for the game after all.  So count me wrong on that.

Is it too late to start this week over?