Category Archives: WildStar

WildStar Shuts Down

Today is the day that WildStar faces the inevitable end and goes dark.

The news came back in September that WildStar would be shutting down.  The surprise wasn’t so much that it would shut down but that it lasted as long as it did, given how keen NCsoft has been in the past to terminate titles.  Many a City of Heroes fan still laments that the game was making money when it was closed.

Back when the announcement came I wrote a post that summed up the lift of the game, from the idealistic foundation to the harsh realities of the MMO market through to the seemingly inevitable demise. That post includes links out to many others doing the same.

The announcement of a game closing seems to be the point of reflection, the time for shock and acceptance, gloating and regret, nostalgia and dismissal.  By the time the actual closing date comes much of the emotion has run its course.

And so we say good-bye to WildStar today.  It has run its course.  Launched in June of 2014, it ran for nearly four and a half years.  Carbine Studios itself, founded back in 2005 by former Blizzard employees who had worked on World of Warcraft, was shut down back in September.

Others saying farewell to WildStar:

WildStar to Succumb at Long Last

Back in 2013 it was WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online who were going to buck the free to play trend as both pledged to make MMORPGs that were able to sustain the monthly subscription model.  The Elder Scrolls Online didn’t want to pollute their game with the necessary evils that come with free to play and WildStar thought they had an out in their PLEX-like CREDD idea.

WildStar went live in June of 2014 while The Elder Scrolls Online was up and running in April of the same year, and before too long it became a coin toss as to which would have to go free to play first.

The Elder Scrolls Online blinked first and announced the end of mandatory subscriptions in January of 2015.  WildStar held out until May of the same year before announcing a free to play option.  Neither made it a full twelve months before they had to conform to the reality of the market.

But, while The Elder Scrolls Online went on to adapt and even thrive, the same could not be said for WildStar.  It got an initial boost, but soon sagged.  Likewise, it jumped on to the Steam bandwagon looking for more players, only to find little help and mixed reviews on that front. In the mean time its low revenue numbers stood out every three months in the NCsoft quarterly reports, until NCsoft stopped listing the game at all in in its reports.

NCsoft Sale by IP – Q2 2017 – No WildStar mentioned

And so the death watch began.  NCsoft, which had built up a reputation for rather brutally shutting down games that were not making the cut, including the beloved City of Heroes, inexplicably let WildStar linger on.

The time has finally come.  A story over at Kotaku indicated that staff were informed at a meeting today that Carbine, the studio founded by former World of Warcraft devs who went on to create WildStar, was closing and the game would be shutting down.  The statement quoted was as follows:

Today, we are closing Carbine Studios and will begin the process of winding WildStar down to ultimately shutter the game,” NCSoft said in a statement. “WildStar players who have spent money within the game will be refunded purchases from July 1, 2018 until the payment system is shut off. We are also in the process of identifying the teams that will be doing the work to bring WildStar to a close. These decisions are very difficult to make and we are in the midst of shifting as many of our teammates as possible into other roles within the organization.

It isn’t clear how long WildStar will remain up and running, but with the staff having been given their notice, it cannot have much time left.  If you want a last look at the game I wouldn’t wait around.  Log in now to get your fill and take your final screen shots.

As of this post the WildStar web site is still up and advertising the game as normal, inviting people to create accounts and come play.  No word of the closure has yet been posted though one of the community team did confirm the story in Kotaku in the forums.

Coverage and reactions:

2017 – Predictions for Another New Year

Has 2016 stopped looking our way yet?  Yes?  Good.

Glad to be done with that, because a new year is like a new roll of the dice right?  Completely independent of the last year/roll?  Aren’t they?

My daughter even drew me a brand new pic for a brand new year.

kidpixtigerredraw2017

That is her re-draw of a picture she did in 2009 to celebrate getting her first mount in World of Warcraft.  Her talent has grown over the years.

Anyway, here we are again at the arbitrary point in time where we declare a “new” year and start yet another roam around the star we call the sun.  And with that, I will carry on my own minor tradition of greeting the new year by attempting to foresee what may come to pass.

Previous runs at this sort of thing:

Given past low scores I persist in making predictions.  So here is my list for 2017.  All predictions are worth 10 points each, with partial credit possible.  And, just a reminder, these are predictions and not wishes.  I am not rooting for many of these things to come to pass, it is rather that I fear they will.  A list of my actual wishes would look different and probably be even less likely to happen.  Such is life.

1 – Long in the Legion – Blizzard is going to use their ongoing content additions to WoW Legion as an excuse to not announce a new World of Warcraft expansion in 2017.  BlizzCon will come and go without a word about a new box and people will predict that it means the death of the game.

2 – Roll Credits – A second Warcraft film will be announced… for the Chinese market.  There will be no plans for a theatrical release in the West.  The announced plan will have it arriving as a dubbed straight-to-video option on the market some time in 2018.

3 – Really Big Storm – Blizzard is going to make radical changes to Heroes of the Storm in 2017 in an attempt to get it at least somewhere in the same market as DOTA 2 and LoL.  Different modes, different maps, and better stats will be featured, the latter accompanied by changes that will make individual contributions stand out much more.  So rather than talking about a new WoW expansion, Blizzard will be talking about this.

4 – CEO of the Kill – I am going to re-roll last year’s prediction and say that Daybreak is going to get a new president… a real new president, not the current Columbus Nova overseer… with actual game industry experience; console or mobile experience, take your pick.

5 – More Than Just a Title – Daybreak also has a lot of positions open on its home page, which seems to indicate that they have some new project plans under way.  We will hear about the first of those projects in 2017, and the biggest shock will be lack of support for the PC platform.  In a world where Daybreak’s sweetest paying title is probably DC Universe Online on the PS4 and where Nintendo is cranking out hit after hit on mobile (or at least licensing to companies making hits for them), Windows will seem like yesterday’s market.

6 – Milestone Really – Yesterday’s market will get smaller at Daybreak as well as they close down Landmark and the aptly named H1Z1: Just Survive.

7 – Trash Cash – The change with H1Z1: King of the Kill getting its own currency was just the start of death of Daybreak Cash good across all games.  The real money currency market at Daybreak will continue to fragment, with DCUO and PlanetSide 2 getting their own currency.  Only EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Landmark will keep Daybreak cash.  As with King of the Kill, there will be an open period where you can transfer your Daybreak cash to one of the new currencies.

8 – My Card – When the currency revamp is complete, Daybreak will launch new retail game cards for some, but not all, of the currencies.  Daybreak cash won’t get cards.

9 – Point Break – At Standing Stone Games, the statement about nothing changing will last for a bit, and then changes will come.  Among those will be changing Turbine Points to have new, game specific names, since you couldn’t transfer them between LOTRO and DDO in any case.

Those new currencies for SSG titles will be part of Daybreak’s currency revamp and you will be able to buy into the new currencies with Daybreak cash for a limited time.

10 – And Access for All LOTRO and DDO will be on Daybreak All Access before the end of the year.

11 – Hardcore Death – NCsoft will announce the end of WildStar by the end of 2017.  Another re-roll from last year.  Yes, I know you love it, but look at the numbers the NCsoft financial statements.

12 – Cloud Imperium Crisis – Push will come to shove at the house of Star Citizen in 2017… as in the need to shove something out the door that they can sell, both to generate revenue and to establish some credibility that they can ship something.  Star Marine will end up as a stand-alone purchasable product by the end of the year.  You won’t need to buy it if you’re already invested, but it will only be available after its “launch” a la carte.

13 – Hello World – Hello Games will continue to quietly grind out updates for No Man’s Sky, eventually turning it into a decent single player space sim/RPG.  Game sites will re-review it and give it a positive nod.  Multiplayer however will remain a lie that will haunt the game and its developer.

14 – Future Gates – CCP will wait until FanFest where they will finally announce the next step in their road map forward.  The announcement will be new space.  It will be available only through one-way gates that will only allow frigate sized ships to pass and once you’re on the far side you’re stuck there.  No death clones back even.  Return will depend upon completion of a giant, dozen-keepstar level of effort project has been completed by your corp/alliance/coalition.  Said gates will not allow capital ships to pass, but you can always bring blueprints.

15 – PCME? PCU! – The lasting effect of the Ascension expansion will settle down to a PCU count of about 3- 5K addition players online at any given time over the pre-expansion numbers.  For a game that runs on one server that handles time zones around the globe, that adds up to a lot of additional people, but it still isn’t the heyday of 2013 and the “EVE is dying” chorus will continue sing its near constant refrain.

16 – Switcharoo – The Nintendo Switch will hit store shelves come the Fall, but the big deal for this “is it a bit handheld or a small console?” unit will be the announcement that versions of Pokemon Sun & Moon will be available for the unit, so you will finally be able to play Pokemon on your big screen TV and even stream it on Twitch or Yahoo or Facebook if you want.  But you still won’t be able to take screen shots.

17 – Let’s Hear It for the GameBoy – Following on the success of the 3DS Virtual Console versions of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Nintendo will follow up with an ongoing series of legacy Pokemon titles, with the generation 2 titles of Pokemon Gold, Silver, and Crystal next up.

18 – Forsaken AvatarShroud of the Avatar will finally hit its launch state and announce it is live and ready for the wide world to join in.  However, in yet another hard lesson about early access, sales won’t jump.  The core audience has already bought in and new comers will be scared off by the reviews on Steam that are the outcome of the early access run.  If it even appears on the front page of Steam’s the top seller list, it won’t stay there for very long.

19 – Not ShippingCamelot Unchained, Crowfall, Pantheon: Rinse and Repeat, and Amazon’s New World will all be no-shows on the release market for 2017.

20 – Back on Track – After another year of tinkering with the game, NCsoft is going to put the screws to Arena Net and a new expansion will be announced for GuildWars 2.  That will give ANet something to talk about for months. It will also kill of any Heart of Thorns purchases given past behavior.  And, sure enough, as the new expansion gets close HoT content will become free.

Extra Credit Wild Ass Guess – Daybreak hires an ex-Riot person as chief exec and announces they going to make a MOBA!  Double points if it is Norrath based!

So those are my guesses at the new year.  At ten points each, that is a possible of 200 total, with an extra ten extra credit points for the wild guess of the year.  I will be back in eleven and a half months to score that, and if I do better than 40% it will be yet another Festivus miracle.

Others forecasting events of 2017:

 

Friday Bullet Points – Numbers, Pokemon, and Phishing

Another Friday morning when I have a half a dozen almost done posts in my drafts folder, but no real drive to finish any of them.  So time for some bullet points.

Such Super Data

I do enjoy when SuperData Research puts out another blog post with titles ranked by revenue.  They just posted one for June.

SuperData Sez - July 2016

SuperData Sez – June 2016

Of course, I enjoy their charts for odd reasons.  They are, in their own way, very effective trolling devices.  I can already predict a SynCaine response to this.

And then there are the questions raised.  What defines an MMO?  What defines a P2P MMO? (SWTOR claims to be F2P, right?) And, finally, how the hell is FarmVille 2 even a thing?  Is Zynga still a thing?

NCsoft Numbers

NCsoft put out their Q2 2016 earlier this week.  You can find them at their investor relations site.  The PDF summary is the usual 10 pages, with everybody’s favorite chart on page 4.

NCsoft revenue by title - Q2 2016

NCsoft revenue by title – Q2 2016

The surprise of the quarter is WildStar, which revived with a more than 40% boost in revenues over Q1’s all time lows.  Of course, WildStar’s revenue number is still pretty small.  GuildWars 2 dropped by more that 6.5 times the WildStar total and still pulled in 7 times as much revenue.

The numbers are in millions of South Korean Won (KRW), which makes the WildStar total about 2 million USD for the quarter.

Meanwhile, it looks like GuildWars 2 is going to be feeling some pressure to release another box and, as always, the 1998 title Lineage rules the revenue roost for NCsoft

(Hat tip to MMO Fallout)

Pokemon Nation Championship Restrictions

The 2016 Pokemon National Championships are being held not too far from where I live… just up in San Francisco… and Nintendo has asked me not to show up.

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay

Pokemon come to Baghdad by the Bay – By Invite Only

Due to the limits of the venue and the popularity of the event, no outsiders or random visitors will be allowed in to view the competition.  So that is that.  Nothing can keep you from going up to SF to hang out, but if you think you’ll be seeing some sort of Pokemon competition, you had best plan on running it yourself.

Also on this front, the whole Championship series is undergoing changes for 2017 as well.

New Eden Phishing and Seabeasts

CCP has an alert out on a phishing scheme going about, with emails pretending to be from support asking players to log into their account via a dubious link.

Know your login pages

Know your login pages

So, you know, don’t do the dumb.

On the upside, CCP also announced that the Matigu Seabeast SKIN is now available in the New Eden store for a variety of Caldari hulls.

And that is about it for Friday.  The weekend approaches.

Friday Bullet Points are Lucky Even Today

Here it is, Friday the 13th, a date synonymous bad luck and a series of horror movies that, oddly enough, capped out at an even dozen.  How could they not make a 13th one?

Fortunately my wife’s family embraces the number 13 as their lucky number, so that cancels things out… right?  I’m still working from home today all the same.

Meanwhile, here are some items I feel like mentioning but which didn’t quite make the cut for a full post.  If there aren’t 13 of them, well… that’s just bad luck.

They Are So Cute When They Are Young

Nintendo is starting the slow drip of information on the official site about the upcoming Pokemon Sun & Moon games, and so this week Nintendo gave us the date for the launch, November 18, 2016.

Sun and Moon coming in November

Sun and Moon coming in November

We also got a look at the starter Pokemon for the game.

Which one will you choose?

Which one will you choose?

They are Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio, filling the traditional grass, fire, and water starter roles.  Starter Pokemon can be an emotional topic and people get quite invested in their choices.  Currently Popplio seemed to be losing the popularity race on Twitter.

The poll results

The poll results

I traditionally go with the water Pokemon, so Popplio is likely going to be my choice regardless of what people say about him.  Also he’s a seal, how is that not cute?  Meanwhile, is Rowlet wearing a bra or what?  Just asking!

Of course, Nintendo has a track record of turning cute into ugly with evolutions while punishing you by withholding key moves if you opt not to let your starter evolve.  Can’t they stay young and cute forever?  It is a complex issue.

Civilization Goes Cartoony

Firaxis announced the coming of Civilization VI, the next installment in the grand Civilization franchise…. and all anything people seemed to want to talk about was the new art style.  We are so shallow.

A first glimpse of Civ VI

A first glimpse of Civ VI

Alright, alright, I hear you saying that other details were somewhat sparse, so what else were we going to talk about.  I myself welcome a lighter look for the aging game series.  Anything to cut down on the resource demands of a Civ game is probably good.

The game itself is set to ship on October 12, 2016 and will be the industry standard $59.99 for the basic version, and $79.99 for the deluxe edition which will include the obviously planned in advance DLC.  It will probably be four more civilizations that they will end up throwing in with the first expansion in any case.

The question isn’t if I will buy Civ VI, but when.  Given the screw jobs that have happened with Steam sales showing up just weeks after Civ releases or expansions go live, the fact that Civ games are inevitably resource hogging, bug filled, crashing messes at launch… they put in auto-save after every turn for a reason…, and the fact that their last release, Civilization: Beyond Earth was as dull as dishwater and an insult as a successor to Alpha Centauri, and I am thinking I might pass on a day one purchase.  I’ll see what things look like at the Steam Holiday Sale… or maybe the next Steam Summer Sale.

WoW Legion to Beta

I don’t suppose the timing really matters all that much now.  We already have a launch date, so the usual metrics around things like beta-to-launch calculations will be purely academic.  So the important bit is that the WoW Legion beta is now live, having gone up last night.

Beta for those who care...

Beta for those who care…

Blizzard has the initial release notes along with a detailed intro into the features of the expansion.

I do not do beta any more, going so far as trying to avoid information about the release, as I find it spoils my enjoyment when a release goes live.  I feel like I’ve already played it and my enthusiasm quickly wains.

Still, I look forward to hearing some general reactions to Blizzard’s plan for the expansion.  And, of course, the big question is when will the 7.0 pre-expansion update drop?  My bet is on August 9, 2016.

EverQuest II Prestige Servers

The Norrath dev team at Daybreak… we can call the EQ/EQII team that now, since there are no other Norrathian projects now… is looking into what other special sorts of servers players would like.  And so there is a poll waiting in your mailbox in EverQuest II about prestige servers.

Just three options...

Just three options…

As with things in Azeroth, special servers at Daybreak have their proponents and detractors.  Foes of the idea are annoyed that there is no “none of the above” option so they can directly express their displeasure at dev resources being used on projects they don’t care about.  (As the poll notes, they can do so indirectly by not voting, since I am sure that Daybreak will notice if only a few people respond.)

I’m not sure I would play on either server option myself, though that is because I am still pottering around on the Stormhold nostalgia server.  The thing is, the long poll for expansions is content creation, and these sorts of servers just use content that has already been created, so the hand wringing about delaying new stuff isn’t all that valid.

Not That Wild, No Longer a Star

The NCsoft Q1 2016 financials are out and, while things look good for the company as a whole, and most of its properties, WildStar is the noticeable exception.

Q1 2016 results

Q1 2016 results

After an initial boost in revenue with the free-to-play transition, sales have already slumped to below where they were when the game was subscription only.  Of course, this shouldn’t have been a huge surprise given the moves NCsoft was making with Carbine back in March.  This is more the confirmation of what many suspected.

Oculus Rift Retail Rage

So for a brief stretch of time last Friday you could go to a store or Amazon and buy an Oculus Rift unit.  They sold out quickly and you can probably find more than a few re-listed for a well beyond their $599 list price on eBay.  I see one on Amazon for $1,099.  But if you were at the right place at the right time, you could have spent your weekend playing EVE Valkyrie.

But if you pre-ordered a unit back in January, you’re probably still waiting for it to show up.

And so there is a bit of righteous anger out there about the company snubbing the people willing to buy in early in favor of those who waited.  I didn’t buy in either way, but I would have been pissed were I still waiting around for my pre-order to ship.

As Jerry Seinfeld might have put it, taking pre-orders isn’t the important part.  Anybody can take pre-orders.  It is the delivery that matters.  Also, the comments on that linked video are hilarious AND on topic for this post.

CSM XI By the Numbers

I am sure others will dive into the details on this, but CCP just posted the Dev Blog with the details of the CSM XI election.  Charts and explanations and raw data are all available there.

CSM11_logo

It is interesting to see how the two winning blocks stuck fairly well to their suggested ballots.  You can see the top three Imperium candidates, Aryth, Innominate, and Xenuria, getting elected in rounds one, two, and three.  Other tidbits include the fact that players from the US and UK cast half the votes, that most votes came in during the first two days of the election, and that the more recent your account, the more likely it seems you are to vote.  Accounts created back in 2006, when I started, made up only 4% of the voting pool, while those from 2015, 2014, and 2013 represented 14%, 15%, and 16% of the vote respectively.

Episode 18 of the Asher Hour

Asher Elias, head of the Reavers and the 23rd 15th best fleet commander in The Imperium has a new podcast out after a long stretch of silence.  This time around it is just Asher talking about the war, fleets, and what it is like on The Imperium side of the fight.  Not party-line propaganda, but Asher is still enthusiastic and positive about what we can do in the war and where we may end up.

So that is what I had kicking around.  Of course, now that I have all those items cleared out I am starting to wonder what I will write about next week.

Oh, wait, I have 57 unfinished items in my drafts folder.  Maybe that isn’t such a big deal.

Google Tells Me Nearly All Games are Dead

There is a game you can play with Google… well, there are probably many, but this is one of them… where you enter the name of something, followed by “is” to see what pre-filled search suggestions come up.  These results are driven by what people have searched for previously.

As I was playing this game the other night instead of doing something important, I began to notice a trend in my searches.  It seemed like Google was declaring most everything dead.

Sure, sometimes that was apt.

GSAbeVigodais

Abe Vigoda, after being reported dead by mistake on multiple occasions over the years, does indeed now sleep with the fishes, having passed earlier this year.

And sometimes the result wasn’t so spot on:

GSObamais

I’m pretty sure somebody would have mentioned if he was dead… or a mack daddy.

I decided to see if that trend held for video games on my side bar.  First on the list was, of course, EVE Online:

GSEVEis

Given that “EVE is dying…” is practically an meme at this point, that wasn’t too surprising.

Likewise, EverQuest, at 17 years of age got a similar result:

GSEQis

At least it wasn’t both “dead” and “dying” I suppose.  Of course, that last item lead me to World of Warcraft:

GSWoWis

Three of those aren’t so good, “dead,” “dying,” and “boring.”  Even EVE Online didn’t get “boring” as a top result.  That lead to a series of other titles, all of which at least got dead as a result:

GSGW2is

GSLOTROis

GSRiftis

GSWildStaris

I had a whole run there where “dead” wasn’t just a result, but the top result.  Then I started branching out from MMOs:

GSSCis

GSTF2is

I finally hit a game where “dead” wasn’t the top result, though I am not sure that was a good thing:

GSStarCis

Even Minecraft got “dead” as a result, though at least it was in fourth position, which was practically an endorsement at this point:

GSMinecraftIs

Hey, “awesome” came before “dead!”

Landmark was odd, but I think it suffers from having a generic name:

GSLandmarkis

Still, I think “dead” might be in there just for it.

Then, finally, I hit a game that wasn’t dead:

GSLOLis

League of Legends is only “dying,” not “dead.”  Also, it is “gay,” which I think says more about the demographic that is searching for things about it.  Still, it is doing better than Heroes of the Storm:

GSHotSis

“Dead,” “dying,” “bad,” and “free!”

Then at last, I hit a search where “dead” wasn’t even a result:

GSHearthis

I’m not sure Hearthstone was really winning with that draw.  I mean sure, “dead” wasn’t on the list, but the rest was hardly an endorsement.

The WildStar Headshot

Yesterday was one of those days.  I started writing about cash shop behavior being a symptom of the over-saturated MMORPG market and a couple of stories pop up that seem tailor made to illustrate that assertion.

The first, and closest to my interest, was the cancellation of EverQuest Next.  No new Norrath for us as Daybreak continues to sort itself out of its SOE history.

And then there was the death of WildStar.

Wildstar_logo

Okay, no closure was actually announced.  What was announced was:

Hi Folks,

Earlier this morning, Carbine Studios completed a reorganization of its operating structure. Moving forward, the studio will focus on operating and updating WildStar as a live game in the US and Europe. As part of this change, the studio has canceled its plans to bring WildStar to China.

Unfortunately, as a result of these changes, we’ve had to reduce staff. These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title, to the cancellation of work to bring WildStar to China, and to the overall performance of WildStar since launch in 2014.

These kinds of decisions are exceptionally difficult. The talented and passionate professionals who are impacted by these cuts have been valuable team members and respected colleagues. We wish everyone well for the future and will be providing severance and employment search assistance.

As for WildStar, we remain committed to the game. Over the next few weeks and months we will deliver a significant update to the game, kick off a variety of community events, and continue our work on new content that we will talk more about in the near future.

-Omeed, NCSOFT Director of Community and Social

Summing up:

  • Cancellation of plans to bring the game to China
  • 40% of the current staff, 70 people, laid off (per Polygon)
  • Cheerful outlook about carrying on and delivering new content

That is sad for those affected by the layoff.  I hope they are able to bounce back with new positions soon.

If you are a fan of the game it is easy to spin this into something positive.  The game is still going.  Most of the staff is still there.  New content is coming.  And look, the NCsoft 2015 financial report says that WildStar revenues are up since the free to play conversion!

WildStar is up!

WildStar is up!

Unfortunately, I am not sure how well grounded that view really is.  Even without that Polygon article and its rumors of more layoffs and a sunset plan, or that analyst’s gloomy outlook, this seems like more of a last chance, and a daunting one at that.

Yes, revenue was up with the conversion to free in Q4.  However, that up is really only relative to how far down it was before.  The boost is nowhere near the previous peak and it barely gets the game within spitting distance of the revenue level for City of Heroes, $2.9 million, when NCsoft shut them down.  And look how its revenue stacks up against the other NCsoft titles.  GuildWars 2’s cash shop in any quarter you care to choose looks to have had more revenue that WildStar’s total revenue on that chart.

The game simply needs more people playing and buying things in the cash shop, but in this market that seems extremely unlikely to happen, especially with no new market to help.

Every game gets a bump when it goes free to play, but once that fades, and it always fades, what is left to make it a choice in a market crowded with very similar alternatives?

The thing is, there isn’t really anything wrong with WildStar so far as I can tell.  I haven’t played it myself, but my reading about it seems to indicate that It is well put together and has its high points.  It just didn’t really bring anything new to the table that would make it stand out, that would make it feel different from all the other WoW derivative MMORPGs out there.

Which is somewhat ironic, considering that Carbine Studios was founded by 17 former members of the original World of Warcraft development team back in 2005 with the stated intention to, “…do anything but WoW.”

Is there anything out there that might save WildStar?

 

Friday Bullet Points Roller Coaster

More bits and pieces that I feel like bringing up but which I don’t care enough about to turn into full blog posts.  And I wasn’t really in the mood.  Plus, my office chair was take over by cats.

And the top one gets all frisky if you move him...

And the top one gets all frisky if you move him…

So this is what you get.

Wild Times for WildStar

Fans of WildStar cannot be happy with the news of late.  The F2P conversion was done in hopes of reviving the games fortunes, but Korea’s Daewoo Securities, which keeps a close eye on NCsoft, thinks the game is going to tank in 2016.

Wildstar_logo

And if it wasn’t bad enough that analysts close to NCsoft were down on the game, former employees of Carbine, the studio which created WildStar, were following the long tradition of recriminations, exemplified by EA Louse and that guy from Turbine, have come out to tell people just how screwed up the organization was.  The whole thing was summed up on Reddit.

My take away: In the second decade of the 21st century they chose an old school, price per seat, source control system like Perforce, and then used it badly?  They could have saved a lot of money doing things wrong with any of the equally bad open source options available.

The Force Awakens Many Things

As I often note, timing is everything.  EA released Star Wars: Battlefront into the teeth of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens hype and, hey presto, despite mixed reviews (PC, PS4, Xbox, and Yahtzee) EA says they have made bank on the venture.

And, as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, even the Tortanic it seems.  EA says that, in addition to the above, they also saw a surge in revenue for Star Wars: The Old Republic as well, reporting subscription levels for the four year old game were at their highest level in almost the last three.  Quite a change from the time when John Riccitiello didn’t want to talk about the game on an investor call because it wasn’t a very important property for EA.

As I noted in a previous Friday post, even my daughter was keen to give SWTOR a try… and then the whole Boot Camp drivers issue got in the way.

One wonders how Star Wars Galaxies might have fared in this mood of revival.

Anyway, I hope this doesn’t go to EA’s head.  Not that I had a lot of hope in their plans for a “make nice” campaign plan, but it was something at least.

Paving the Way for Xenuria 2016

As part of the run up to the CSM 11 elections CCP reworked some of the CSM Whitepaper… again… including some updates about who could run for the CSM. The result was vague enough to make people think if the ran a blog they might not be eligible.  After some outcry there was a slightly less ambiguous version that still wasn’t all that clear, so CCP eventually had to come out and just say that if you were affiliated with The Mittani dot com you couldn’t be on the CSM, it being professional gaming media site compared to the fan sites that are EN24 and Crossing Zebras.

Or something like that.  CCP has a couple stories on that front, but I guess they have to put a question like, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Commumittanist Party?” on the CSM application.

This means that Sion Kumitomo, the loudest critic of the relationship between CCP and the CSM, is barred from running for another term.  Funny how that worked out.  A statement from the Church of Siontology expressed both smugness and a sense of relief at the rule change.

Meanwhile, the slate of candidates for The Imperium now looks to be Xenuria, Suzy RC Mudstone, and that KarmaFleet guy who links all those cat videos in local… and I’m not sure about those last two.  Onward the Goon plan for world domination!

Contest

Finally, you still have a chance to win ISK by entering the Signal Cartel anniversary screen shot contest.  Act now.

And that is all I have.  I will have to make my search minions work harder next time.

Same stories in here as the last time I looked...

Same stories in here as the last time I looked…

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

WildStar Goes Free to Play

Two years ago I was wondering if The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar were throwing themselves under the bus by declaring for a monthly subscription model in an era when only a select few games seem able to hold enough customers to make that model work for their vision.

Wildstar_logo

Back then the team doing TESO said that a subscription model was essential to deliver the experience they wanted while the WildStar team felt they could offer a PLEX-like option and declare themselves free to play already.

The subscription business model champions of 2013 have come around to free to play in 2015.

TESO went first, going free back in January, while WildStar, after a precipitous drop in revenue, reflected in the NCsoft quarterly results… I believe somebody said that WildStar might end up bringing in less revenue that City of Heroes when NCsoft shut that down… announced that they were going free to play back in May.  This staved off closure by the trigger happy team at NCsoft for the time being.

And today is the day.  WildStar is now officially free to play, another such title in a veritable forest of free to play MMORPGs.  I cannot name a single factor that would set it out from the crowd of other options.  We shall see if free is sufficient inducement for players to keep the game going.

The WildStar site has been updated and there is a FAQ spelling out what free to play means for the game.  As with the game itself, nothing in the FAQ stands out as new and different enough to separate it from the pack.