Tag Archives: Aion

What are the Prerequisites for a Retro Nostalgia Server?

The whole retro nostalgia server thing has gone from something those weirdos at SOE did once in a while to a idea that has helped sustain the profitability of titles as large as World of Warcraft.

Classic is as classic does

The idea has officially been part of the EverQuest business model since 2015 and has spread to other Daybreak titles and beyond.  Old School RuneScape has a life of its own, Aion just launched a classic server last week, and the Lord of the Rings Online team is launching two new legendary servers next week and has started hinting about a real “classic” server.

So I started wondering what it takes to make one of these sorts of servers viable.  I came up with four… I’ll call them “common threads”… that seem to be involved with successful ventures of this sort.  They are, to my mind:

  1. Player versus Environment Progression
  2. Expansion Based Content
  3. Multiple Server Architecture
  4. Some Past Era of Fame or Success
  5. A Monetization Scheme

Player versus Environment Progression

The first item on my list, PvE, is probably the most controversial.  I mean we only have to look at how many PvP servers Blizzard stood up for WoW Classic to convince just about anybody that PvP is not necessarily a detriment to the nostalgia idea.

But I am going to argue that even on a WoW Classic PvP server that PvE progression, doing quests and killing mobs and getting to the level cap, is the primary.  Getting ganked in Stranglethorn Vale or coming to an uneasy truce with somebody from the other faction when you just want to finish up a quest out in Un’goro Crater, that is some extra spicy topping on the PvE game and not an independent PvP experience.  It is PvP in a PvE framework, and that PvE framework is what you need.

Which isn’t to say that PvP can’t screw things up even with a PvE framework.  The story of PvP in EverQuest II basically consists of a few brief moments where a PvP server was fun… under very specific circumstances, like leveling locking yourself at a specific point in progression and sticking to low level zones… and most of the rest of the fifteen years of the game trying and failing to recreate or recapture the magic of those moments.  They keep breaking PvE progression to make it work, which makes it otherwise unsustainable.

Expansion Based Content

This might not be as critical as the first item.  It is more of a factor as to how long your nostalgia experience can be expected to last.  EverQuest, with 26 expansions, is the poster child for this.  You can unlock an expansion a month and still keep the party going for a couple of years.

But you might not want to drag people through every expansion.  The Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server for EverQuest ran for nine yearsEverQuest was only seven years old when they rolled out the first such server.  Nine years is long enough to feel nostalgic for the good old days of the launch of the server.

For World of Warcraft it feels like there is an argument to stop after the second expansion, if only for the sake of simplicity.

And, of course, having expansions where the game changed all in one go gives the company and the players nice, clear markers as to where the nostalgia is.  It is handy.

Multiple Server Architecture

The MMO in question ought to support the idea of multiple shards, servers, realms, or whatever you want to call them.  This seems like a bit of a gimme, but it does leave out EVE Online, where not only does everybody play in a single version of the game (except those in China), but the game itself is a success based on the critical mass of players.  Splitting off a nostalgia based New Eden would be a non-started for this reason alone… but it also doesn’t have PvE progression nor expansion based content.  No retro server for EVE Online ever.

Anyway, you should be able to roll up a new, special rules server and not kill your game or over-tax your staff.

Some Past Era of Fame or Success

Can you have nostalgia for a game nobody has heard of?  Sure, why not!  Will anybody else come and play?  No.

A big part of the retro server plan is farming your installed base, appealing to them with visions of the “good old days” when the game was new, they were young, and everything seemed much simpler.  While those who missed out on the original launch might show some interest, the success of your server is largely based on how many people have fond memories of your early game.

EverQuest does very well on this front because, while the game never achieved anything like WoW level subscription numbers, in the five years between its launch and WoW‘s launch a lot of people came and played for at least a little while.  Brad McQuaid said at one point that there were a couple million former EQ players before WoW was a thing.  These are the people who will be tempted to come back.

And then, of course, there is WoW Classic, where Blizz had to roll out about 150 servers to handle the nostalgia overload.

Even Lord of the Rings Online, which never met Turbine’s grandiose visions of popularity, did score a lot of players over the year.

On the flip side there is EverQuest II, which launched just weeks before WoW, and never achieved the kind of success its older sibling had, or Anarchy Online, 20 years old this month, which had such a bad launch it became the first title I knew of to go down the free to play path.  Both games have dedicated followings, but neither has the depth of installed base that makes the idea of a retro server a big deal.  EQII has had a few of those at this point, but they tend to launch quietly and shut down even more quietly.

A Monetization Scheme

The company isn’t doing this for nostalgia, it is doing it to farm the installed base for money.  And to get that money, they have to have a plan.  WoW Classic has the simplest of all plans.  Since you still have to subscribe to play WoW, they just included WoW Classic in that plan and they were set.

EverQuest and other Daybreak titles, which still have a subscription plan as an option, just put their special servers in a special “subscribers only” room.  Not too tough, that.  (Though can we get LOTRO and DDO on the Daybeark All Access plan now that we finally know Daybreak owned them before EG7?  or How about an EG7-wide all access plan?)

Aion Classic has… a monetization plan of sorts.  If I am reading things correctly, it consists of a special pay to win cash shop and an optional subscription for benefits, but at least that is a plan.

But I wonder if a game like Guild Wars 2 could ever pull off the nostalgia server idea.  It seems like there might be a market to re-roll the event experience of the game from scratch.  Maybe?  But their business plan is buy the box and cash shop items.  I guess they could have some special cash shops items, but I am not sure they would bring in the money needed to make a classic server worthwhile.

Anyway, those are my somewhat off-the-cuff thoughts this morning.  I am sure I missed something in the mix.

TTH Picks the Top Ten PvP MMOs

Lists, especially ranked lists, are always good for some attention.

In that vein, Ten Ton Hammer decided to stir the pot a bit by ranking what they consider to be the Top Ten PvP MMOs.

I’ll spoil the surprise and give you their list ranked top to bottom.  You’ll have to go read the article to get the justifications.

  1. Dark Age of Camelot
  2. Eve Online
  3. Darkfall
  4. Planetside
  5. Warhammer Online
  6. Aion
  7. Lineage 2
  8. Guild Wars
  9. Age of Conan
  10. Lord of the Rings Online

They used the phrase “out there” to describe their selections, by which I assume they mean they are measuring the PvP-ness you can get today from these games, as opposed to when they were at their peak.  So no Shadowbane.

That also might explain the lack of Ultima Online on the list.

But if you’re going to exclude UO for its current state of affairs, how do you justify keeping Planetside on the list?

I’m Pretty Sure This Wasn’t From Scott Jennings…

His style is usually a bit more… coherent.

When you receive this message at the same time means that you have a routine account of our recent examination, was checking your account we have the evidence to prove that involved in the controversial game currency transaction so we had to take the necessary measures.

Please visit our web site https:[bogus URL] as soon as possible to activate your account or we will suspend your account.

The NCsoft Team

Worst phishing attempt so far this year.  Not only is the grammar attempting to work under extreme duress, but I don’t even have an Aion account.

Oh, and this may be my first Aion related post ever.

2010 MMORPG Progdictionations

MMORPG predictions, now in its third year here at TAGN.

Having done the same thing for both 2008 and 2009 predictions, I thought I would change it up a bit and go for a series of short, sharp, and easily scored predictions for 2010.

Yes, I still have that cold I mentioned the other day, so I’m not feeling very creative at the moment.

Of course, other people are putting out their predictions for next year, so I am putting this sentence in as a place to link to them as their posts show up.

See!  Creativity, out the window!  On with the floor show!

Not Nine, Just Six

Polar Bear in a Blizzard

My quick predictions for Blizzard in 2010! (5 points each)

  • StarCraft II – Will ship second quarter 2010
  • Cataclysm – Will ship fourth quarter 2010
  • Cataclysm – Will beat WotLK’s 24 hour sales record (early 2012 prediction: whatever follows Cataclysm won’t do as well)
  • Diablo III – Will not ship in 2010
  • New MMO – An announcement at BlizzCon with the usual Blizzard mystery build-up

Every Station but PlayStation

Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)

  • Planetside – Dead by December
  • Norrath – Official details about the next Norrath based MMORPG some time in 2010
  • Norrath – The next Norrath based MMORPG won’t be called EverQuest III
  • EverQuest II – All digital distribution after the February expansion
  • EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing
  • The Agency – Won’t ship in 2010
  • PlayStation 3 – SOE still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010

Electronic Arts and Science

What will EA do? (5 Points each)

  • SWTOR – Not in 2010, no no no.
  • WAR – Won’t die in 2010, but won’t magically spring back to life either.  It will just trudge on with enough resources to keep it going and improve it slightly, but not enough to change anything dramatically.

Turning the Turbine

(5 points each)

  • LOTRO – Next expansion, announced in 2010, will be the Riders of Rohan!
  • LOTRO – Riders of Rohan will feature real mounted combat
  • DDO – Continued success under the free to play banner with a push into some overland content
  • New – We’ll hear about Turbine’s next project in 2010.

Glory to the CCCP!

(5 points each)

  • Station ambulation – Still just a myth in 2010
  • Dust 514 – Not for 2010
  • EVE – Two Content Releases, don’t we always get two a year?
  • EVE – Tech III ships will finally become common enough that you might actually see one now and again.

Leading by Torchlight

(5 points each)

  • An inexpensive expansion will be released for Torchlight to keep funding going for Runic’s MMO
  • Runic will give us some concrete details about said MMO
  • That MMO won’t ship in 2010
  • But said details will make some pundit say, “Wow, that’s what Dungeon Runners should have done.”

NCSofties

(5 points each)

  • Aion – Going to seem like a replay of Lineage II, popular in Asia, less so in the west.  Still, it will have enough customers to keep going.  Given how readily NCSoft shuts things down, that will be saying something.
  • GuildWars 2 – Not for 2010
  • PlayStation 3 – NCSoft still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010

Other Titles

(5 points each)

  • Darkfall – Will continue walking the tightrope between hardcore PvP focus and giving players something to do when they aren’t actively engaged in battle.  Slow growth with at most a single server added to the game for 2010.
  • Star Trek Online – Won’t disappoint Trek fans, but we’re all co-dependent on the franchise after years of reckless treatment by the studio.  We’ll all still be there after the first 30 days playing with our pre-order bonus items.  The rest of you people though…
  • Hero’s Journey – It was best of show at E3 in 2005, but it will still be a no-show in 2010.

MMO Industry

The following people will have new companies and new projects announced in 2010 (2 point each):

  • Mark Jacobs
  • Richard Garriott
  • Bill Roper
  • Brian Green
  • Scott Hartsman

One of the following companies will announce their first/next project, and it won’t be an MMO (5 points):

  • Aventurine
  • Carbine Studios
  • Red5 Studios
  • Simutronics
  • Turbine

One of the following people will move to Canada (5 points):

  • Scott Jennings
  • Mark Jacobs
  • Brian Green
  • Scott Hartsman
  • Richard Bartle
  • Alan Crosby
  • David Reid

Spurious Logic

Random neurons firing for the following guesses.

Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010.  WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark. (5 points)

“Yahtzee” Croshaw will review exactly ONE muh-more-puh-gah on Zero Punctuation during 2010, and it will be Star Trek Online.  He won’t like it (duh) but the Trekkie humor will be too much for him to resist doing a review. (5 points)

We will find out that the following people will be appearing or doing voice work in the Warcraft movie (IMDB  shows no actors as of this date – 1 point each):

  • Jack Black
  • William Shatner
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Ben Stein
  • James Earl Jones
  • John Ratzenberger
  • Bruce Campbell
  • Sarah Silverman
  • David Spade
  • Lucy Lawless

Total Points

If I count correctly, that should be 200 points total at stake.  I’m a little woozy at the moment, so I wouldn’t put money on it, but we’ll call it 200 for now.

If history is an accurate predictor of success I will probably get 40-60 points total.

Check back in December 2010 to see how I did.

In the mean time, what do you think will happen in 2010?

Day One: Is It Worth It?

Aion kicking off has lead to the usual menu of  MMO first day woes;  server queues, connection issues, and other problems veterans of the genre have seen on past occasions.  And so the usual question comes up:

Is it worth it to play an MMO on day one?

On day one you face the queues, the lag, the technical glitches, and the crowding as a bowling ball sized mass of players try to squeeze through the garden-hose sized content all at once.  Almost every MMO is a mess, a madhouse on day one.  What could make it worth the effort?

Well, there are some perks, though how tangible they are is up for discussion.

For a short time, everybody in the world is of equal stature.  For a day or two, even the hardest driving grinder and the most distracted altaholic are on par.

There is the feeling of sharing a new world with a mass of fellow players who are all starting out just like you.

And there is the fact that you are shoulder to shoulder with that mass of players, that you need never feel lost or helpless because you there are so many people around in the same situation as you that you can almost always find help or directions from somebody headed the same place you are.

Finally, there is the sense of an overall shared experience.  No matter how bad things are going on day one, you were there.  You are part of a club that saw the world in a state that will probably never exist again.  You can be the cranky old coot who tells those who show up days, week, months, or years later how things looked on that first day and how easy new players have it now that so much has been fixed and that the population has settled down.

Does day one of an MMO release hold any appeal for you?

For myself, I tend to be in favor of the day one experience, regardless of the aggravations.  I was there on day one for EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, and Warhammer Online, and each offered a unique experience that won’t ever be repeated.  I do tend to be something of a tourist though.

And on the other hand, I don’t necessarily feel cheated having first played World of Warcraft five months after launch.  That was still early enough in the history of the game that I experience things like server queues, auction houses limited to the local city, and only being able to fly between two connected flight points.  Then again, the population of Azeroth was still growing, so WoW might be a mild exception to the first day rule.  Starter areas were still crowded when I finally showed up.

I do wonder what EVE Online felt like on day one.  That certainly had quite the potential for calamity and confusion.