Tag Archives: Amazon Games

Amazon Renews Plans for a Middle-earth MMO while LOTRO Abides… for Now

News this week included the announcement that Amazon Games, which had previously scrapped a development partnership with a company later purchased by Tencent for a Lord of the Rings title, had returned to the Middle-earth well, this time with the company that purchased Tolkein Enterprises, the uncomfortably names Ebracer Group.

Here they come again

This would have been a bit of a “wake me when it actually means something” sort of story for me… after all, we have heard this tale before from Amazon… except for the fact that it showed up just as I was attempting to launch back into Lord of the Rings Online, the one title in the universe most likely to be threatened by this Amazon venture.

Of course, none of the involved parties are saying that right now.  In fact, they are saying the opposite.  The LOTRO team declared that the game isn’t going anywhere in the forums and the Amazon Games studio VP Chris Hartmann is allowing that the games can “co-exist.”

That said, he also seemed pretty sure elsewhere that LOTRO players would simply migrate to their new title.

Even the most likely scenario is… for people just to move over, because the other one is an old game.

Part of me feels the hubris that seemed to infect New World, where Amazon seemed to feel that lessons learned in the industry could be disregarded because they were smarter than that.  The saving grace for New World was that they did have something fun and a bit different, even if Amazon had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way about things like having a test server.

Among the lessons of the last 30 years or so is that people invested in one title are not likely to move on to another merely because it is new.  I think a very direct lesson in this regard was EverQuest II, which SOE seemed to assume people would migrate to from EverQuest.

And EQ players certainly tried it out, but many just went back to the old game after their initial experience, while a good many moved on to World of Warcraft.  That left EQII, the newer and, in some mechanical ways, the arguably better title forever in the shadow of its predecessor.

The combination of the world and its setting, its familiarity, the fond memories, and the sense of community conspire to hold people in place even when other newer and possibly better options appear… which is the lesson of pretty much every fantasy MMORPG launched after WoW, including LOTRO.

The general chat of every new MMORPG beta or launch since 2004 has included a litany of comparisons to WoW and how it did x, y, or z better than this new title, something supported by the gaming news, which just loves to brand things as a simple “WoW clone” so they can look insightful and move on.

That isn’t entirely without merit.  If you pull back far enough, if you aren’t interested in details, distinctions, or lore, all fantasy MMORPGs look about the same.  The same could be said for four door family sedans or mid-sized SUVs… they’re all about the same in the end if you just glance at the general spec.

For those who get deep into the games, for those for whom the details matter, for the connoisseurs of the MMORPG genre, the games are often dissimilar as to make such hand waving comparisons seem bizarre.  LOTRO is NOT like WoW, nor was Warhammer Online just like WoW, Richard Bartle comments aside.  Fans of WoW run off to try new titles and find that they still really like WoW due to the details of the game and not the general pattern of the primary game play loop of the general art style. This has been repeated enough to be a trope of the genre.

Likewise, if you are invested in the nuances of LOTRO and all that the development team has built up over the last sixteen years, then some new title that is only superficially similar… it is an MMORPG… or maybe it is… and it is set in Middle-earth… has an extremely high likelihood of not being satisfying for all of its shiny newness.

And I strongly suspect that anything Amazon produces will bear only a superficial resemblance to what LOTRO offers today.  I opined eight years ago, as we passed through a past LOTRO anniversary, half the game’s lifetime ago now, that the era of making anything as sprawling and chaotic as Turbine’s vision of Middle-earth seemed done and gone.

Who would ever fund such a thing?  Sure, LOTRO is a financial success, if a modest one.  But it never lived up to its potential or promises or reach that Turbine internally assumed it would.  So the question is who would thrown a lot of money into a similar investment?

Yahoo Headline 2007

Nobody.  I believed that eight years ago and I think that still stands.  Amazon is not going to make something that feels at all like LOTRO.  I will be genuinely surprised if they get anywhere close. (I’ll even be modestly surprised if they ship anything at all honestly, but that is another opinion piece to be written)

So good news for LOTRO then, right?  Unless Amazon and Embracer gives it the (completely predictable) SWG treatment, declaring that there can only be one Middle-earth MMORPG, things should be fine.  And, while everybody is saying LOTRO is safe, the news is still hedging a bit on the long term prospects of the title, with Game Developer throwing this line into the mix:

Standing Stone will continue to keep its Lord of the Rings MMO up and running as Amazon’s separate Lord of the Rings MMO is being developed.

Yeah, and what happens once it has been developed and is ready to launch?

That is tomorrow’s problem though.  We’ll set that aside for a few paragraphs and assume that LOTRO will carry on as before and things will be great, even when Amazon launches its new game.

Except, of course, this news comes just as I am returning to LOTRO and… oh boy… the game is a mess.  Leaving aside the playability issues at resolutions above 1920×1080 and the muddle that is (and always has been) the UI and the long encroachment of free to play into the game mechanics where nearly every alert has something you can buy with a mithril coin or five, the game needs some serious work.

And we can start with the launcher, move through into client performance… 64-bit did not give the game any help it seems… and then drive straight through into ongoing and very noticeable lag issues in game.

For the latter, I’m not just talking about Bree when there are half a dozen bands lined up on a Saturday night ready to play when you walk out of the Prancing Pony and the world takes a deep breath and says it will get back to you in a few minutes leaving you stuck in place until it can figure everything out.  I am seeing some bad moments with annoying frequency while out and pretty much alone in the Midgewater Marshes and the Lone Lands.

It is not a good look.  And I know I put the UI in the category of “leaving aside,” but I feel I need to reneg on that and say that the UI, even when scaling isn’t an issue, leaves a lot to be desired.

But, as I said, that does not impact the current, dedicate base of users.  If you’re in a band that stands outside the Prancing Pony on a Saturday night waiting for your turn to perform, some new title… which probably won’t support anything like the LOTRO music system… isn’t going to interest you.  The problems of the game are already baked into your decision as to where you want to spend your time.

However, when we get to 2028 or whenever this new Amazon Middle-earth title that will completely not like New World at all arrives on the scene (and I don’t know why they insist on saying it won’t be like New World, since a lot of that title seems pretty solid, so clearly Amazon is still smarting from something on that front if they’re disavowing it in their own special way), then the option for any NEW players who want to run around in Middle-earth will be the 20+ year old LOTRO and all of its problems, or something shiny and new where they can get in on the ground floor and it probably plays well on their 20 Core i17 CPU or PS7 or XBlizzBox BS or whatever.

And that is where LOTRO‘s slow walk into oblivion gets accelerated.

Because that cuts off most of the potential new players, and while the old players remain, they eventually tire of move on, and eventually the game will fall below the level of profitability if there isn’t some replacement for those who leave.  And the threshold for profitability is higher for LOTRO than a title like EverQuest because Tolkien Enterprises… or Middle-earth Enterprises, as Embracer has renamed it… needs to get paid for the license every month.  Probably off the top.

All of which brings me back to something I wrote in Monday’s post, that being crap at higher resolutions and generally being problematic to play is an existential threat in the long term, and that threat only gets larger if there is another Middle-earth out there.

Though, honestly, I think Embracer is going to give LOTRO the SWG treatment when the time comes.  I mean, they can do the same math I can.  And they might even convince themselves that if they shut down LOTRO and force people to move on, Amazon’s title will benefit to some degree.

And if it is that obvious, then EG7 will be do those same calculations as well, which means that investing in any major upgrades will seem futile, so there will be no wide screen support and new users will taper off and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They will, as a business, opt for maintaining profitability for as long as they can, which will mean only working on things that will directly bring in revenue (expansions and cash shop items) while ignoring ongoing problems and trimming back staff to keep the books balanced.

The future is, as always, grim.

So who is working on a LOTRO pirate server already?  It is never too early to start on these things because if sure feels like the writing is on the wall.


Who Should Have Bought CCP in 2018?

I think we can take it as read that, after the failure of CCP’s lunge into VR gaming, that it could no longer stand as a company on its own.

This is not to say that it couldn’t have been a viable stand alone company focused on just EVE Online.  I am convinced CCP could have done that and been profitable.  But, as I noted in a previous post, CCP had a series of external investors, and investors demand a return on their investment that requires a company to either keep growing at a rate that most find unsustainable or that they be acquired, allowing the investors to cash out.

CCP had already made a couple of runs at the ongoing growth plan and failed.  It was time for them to be acquired.

Pearl Abyss was in a similar situation.  They had a breakout hit with Black Desert Online, but could not seem to come up a second act to sustain grown and, as a publicly held company growth is the only requirement.  Grow or die!

So they bought CCP, which gave them some instant growth because the magic of acquisitions is that they are assumed to be assets worth exactly what you paid for them.

A new addition to the logo page

It is only later, in regret, that you have to mark them down when they fail to pay off.  So Pearl Abyss shelled out $225 million for CCP.  (Yes, the offer was for $425 million, but CCP failed to make their objectives for the full price… wow, that was a bad sign… so the price dropped by almost half.)

It was sold as a match in such a way I am surprised they didn’t use “synergy” in every other sentence.

And the deal sated investors for a season with new revenue, the promise of the NetEase mobile title, EVE Echoes, and the projects both companies had in the pipeline.  But that never lasts.  “What have you done for me lately?” might as well be the Wall Street investor’s motto.

Pearl Abyss has shipped a couple of titles, but no big wins and CCP… well, I think they closed up their VR titles, which took an expense off the books and they had a bit of a boom during COVID, but otherwise it was starting to look like the “succeed or sell out” horizon was being reached.

So CCP and Pearl Abyss both found a bit of refuge in the short term, but in the longer term they are back in the same boat.

Pearl Abyss likely dove into blockchain looking for buzzwords to buoy their stock and maybe a quick win.  That was basically going to the casino and betting a stack of cash on red.

And now a16z has showed up on the scene with $40 million to fund a new game with a very specific set of requirements, essentially an offer they could not refuse.  Your shareholders would shred you if you said no to that.

This is not how I think anybody wanted this to turn out, but here we are.

So I was thinking about how things might have gone different, who might have bought CCP and how that might have run.

And, of course, the bonus question right now is who might buy Pearl Abyss, as they seem to be in a situation where investors might be pushing for that.  The whole blockchain thing might just be them trying to look more valuable by grabbing onto a trend.

Anyway, here are some possibilities that came up for CCP.

  • Gamigo

Put a steak through my heart right now.  But I figured I would get this one out in front right away because of the stable of MMOs they already maintain.

Gamigo would have been an extremely unlikely option back in 2018 because the Gamigo business plan is to acquire titles at fire sale prices from collapsing ventures trying to eke out something for their investors, and CCP was, and remains, a viable concern.  I don’t know what Gamigo paid for Trion’s assets, but I am sure any bid for CCP would have been a tithe of what Pearl Abyss was offering.

So we were never likely to see EVE Online end up in the maintenance mode merry-go-round with three developers and some IT support keeping it running for so long as it made some money.

That could still come to pass at some future date, given enough bad business decisions, but we are far from that point… I hope.

  • Daybreak

There was some speculation about this off and on at one point, and there was a history of acquiring stray MMOs at one point, though they all had to be put down when the place was spun off from Sony.

But when Smed was running Daybreak it might have been an interesting bond.  Smed was an EVE Online player back in the day, in SpaceMonkeys Alliance as I recall, a longed for a big PvP title success.  That was kind of his thing.  Columbus Nova… excuse me, Jason Epstein… was unlikely to write a check as big as all that in 2018, though, as we saw, he would have only needed about half of the $425 million to get there.

  • Enad Global 7

As long as we’re mentioning Daybreak, we might as well bring up the company that bought, then ended up being run by, Daybreak.  I am not sure what they were up to then, or if they had the money, or if CCP would have made a good addition really.  But I don’t think they’ll be in the market for Pearl Abyss now either.

  • Paradox Interactive

I am being a little silly here, but hey, they own the White Wolf stuff now, once a property of CCP.  Why not get the rest of the package?  I also continue to harbor a fantasy about a Stellaris or Crusader Kings like strategy game based on the New Eden IP.  It would be some interesting cross-pollination.

However, as deals go, this one creates new problems without really solving any existing ones.  Still, I can dream.

  • Nexon

Another company that does online and mobile games.  It also had the financial wherewithal to purchase CCP in 2018, so might have been a decent alternate candidate.  They have global reach, could have handled Japanese and Korean localization, and were not looking to CCP as an out to cover it with shareholders.  That latter bit is probably why they were not in the running.  They didn’t NEED CCP the way Pearl Abyss did.  Still, it might have been an interesting and somewhat less dramatic acquisition. We would certainly be talking a lot less about CCP and blockchain I bet.

  • Activision Blizzard

They only acquire things that are proven money spinners and, like a lot of companies, are not too keen on things they didn’t invent locally unless they can project a way to farm it for a lot more dollars than EVE Online is ever going to make.  The Activision side of the house buys only known winners and the Blizzard side of the house just wants more people working on their current IPs.  CCP would not be a good fit for either.  So they could have bought CCP, but it probably never even occurred to them.  And if they did, EVE Online would be somewhere between Diablo III and Hearthstone for revenue.

  • Electronic Arts

I mean, there is a bit of a history of them buying a couple of MMOs.  They own Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot.  But they bought those two when they were riding high and it seemed like MMORPGs were the coming thing and EA had stuttered when trying to jump in with a couple of its own titles.  How they failed with The Sims Online remains a case study.

But that was all more than 20 years ago and the EA today is not the EA of that era.  When they are not directly marketing FIFA loot boxes in children’s toy catalogs their board is probably trying to figure out how to get Sony or Microsoft to spend $69 billion acquiring them.

  • Microsoft

Maybe?  There is a relationship there, if only through the fact that EVE Online runs on Microsoft SQL Server as its database.  There could be a bit of marketing in that.  And Microsoft, as noted above, is willing to pay $69 billion for Activision Blizzard, so what is a few hundred million compared to that?

Microsoft is not acquiring companies because its position is in any peril, it is spending billions for them because it wants to secure exclusive content for its platform.  Yes, they had to swear on a stack of corporate charters that they would continue to make Call of Duty titles for the Switch and PlayStation, but there are more possible titles in that deal for them.  Those other platforms will get CoD, and the XBox will get a half dozen more exclusives to beef up their online store and convince you to buy their hardware.

CCP doesn’t scratch that itch in any way for them.  World of Warcraft probably wasn’t a selling point on the deal, not running on XBox, just a nice to have, so EVE Online would generate no interest unless the business apps unit was interested in it as a way to market Excel and SQL Server.

  • Sony

Again, there is a previous relationship there.  CCP has done games for PlayStation, including the infamous DUST 514.  But, to paraphrase a dead French guy, companies have no friends, only interests, and CCP hasn’t done anything of interest to Sony in what is almost an eternity in fiscal quarters.  If you don’t have something on the PlayStation 5, you might as well be selling carbon paper to them/

Also, Sony got out of the MMO business back in 2015 when they sold SOE.

  • Tencent

There is the server in China connection and maybe that would have been of some interest to Tencent, but CCP was still pretty small potatoes back then.  Like Activision, Tencent is looking to buy into winners.

No, I am putting Tencent in here because it could be the answer to the bonus question as to who buys Pearl Abyss now that they appear to have played out all of their options for making shareholders happy.  Tencent has the capital to make a deal and might like the titles.  It could happen if Pearl Abyss can just show some spark of promise with one of its ventures.

  • Square Enix

A real wild-card, and also for the bonus question.  In thinking through who might be big enough to swing the deal yet small enough for the deal to actually matter to their business, Square Enix came to mind solely based on their own blockchain obsession.

Pearl Abyss has invested in blockchain, they have CCP making a blockchain game with $40 million from a16z, there is some alignment there that, if they could swing the deal, would reinforce management’s line of argument while giving them a few quarters of breathing room to come up with some other idea to placate investors.

  • Others?

That is what came to mind on a Sunday afternoon. (I asked the AIs later, but they didn’t come up with much else.)  I am sure there are other possible suitors, companies out there that want to be players in the online games market and have the capital to buy their way in.  You might argue Amazon Games, for example.  But Amazon overall has a pretty strong bias against things not invented there and a work flow process that might break CCP if it was forced into that mold.

So who could have bought CCP?  And who might buy Pearl Abyss?  Because if we don’t hear something about that in 2023, I am putting that acquisition on my predictions for 2024.

Seasons and Season Passes Come to New World with Fellowship and Fire

A new update landed in New World yesterday, along with some changes that did not particularly surprise me.

Lots of fire, but how do you draw fellowship?

There is a FAQ about seasons and passes that goes into the objective details, starting with “What is the season pass?”  To which they give the reply:

The Season Pass introduces new ways for players to earn meaningful rewards, just by playing New World. Players will earn Season XP, level up, and unlock rewards as they progress through their seasonal activities. Our goal with seasons is to consistently provide something fresh for every type of player.

I think many of us are familiar with seasons in one form or another.  WoW, Diablo III, and Pokemon Go all have their forms of seasons, as a way to reset… especially for PvP… and to recharge or give people another chance to start fresh.

A season pass however, that is another thing altogether, a paid entry into content that real AAA level games… titles like Call of Duty or Forza Horizon or any number of other titles… sell up front to cover coming DLC and other special in-game items.

So as soon as I saw those words I knew money was in the mix.

But that isn’t going to get me at all worked up, though I am sure somebody somewhere is even now muttering the words “cash grab” or something like it.

Part of it is that if you read the details, you will see that there is indeed a paid track for these season passes, but that there is also a free track.  You get better stuff if you pay, and if they’ve done it right it will be stuff that their biggest fans will feel they just need to get, but you have an option and you can probably ignore that person who has moved on to muttering “pay to win” or something like it.

I am personally not to worried about it, though that is in part because my investment in the game is pretty low.  I still think they made a lot… A LOT… of very avoidable mistakes that anybody with experience in the liver service games industry… or even just software with live customers in some cases… should have seen coming from a mile away.  Nor have they corrected all of them.  But I’m not here to police every video game.  I have other things to play and, while our group enjoyed its time in New World, I am not sure there is much enthusiasm for a return.

I am also not worried about it because the game is also facing an economic reality.  They have long since spent all the money our $40 box purchases brought in… and if they haven’t spent it Amazon has allocated it elsewhere, like into shareholder pockets… so they need some ongoing revenue to help sustain the game.  You would be surprised how expensive even “maintenance mode” is in a live service environment, and the New World team is actively developing new content.  And it seems to be working initially.

And as a change, a significant change, in their business plan, looking for revenue beyond cosmetic items in the game shop, so it feels worth noting.  A year from now, or five years from now, this might be the inflection point, the change where everything started getting better for the game… or worse.  We shall see.

And then, even as I was finishing this up, word started going around that Amazon was laying off some people from the Amazon Games group.  That is what happens when revenue isn’t high enough… or when tech companies are afraid of a recession so they try to lay enough people off to turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  One of those.


The New World Brimstone Sands Update Launches Today

Time to see where all that listening got Amazon Games I suppose, as today marks the launch of the Brimstone Sands update to New World.

Brimstone Sands

A year and a couple of weeks after the launch of New World Amazon Games is back with their first expansion-like update to the game.

The hallmark of the update is the Brimstone Sands zone, from which the update takes its name.  Pegged as being 2.5 times the size of the Everfalls zone, it features new territory to control, new mobs to fight, a new story line, an new expedition (dungeon), a new weapon, new Heartgem abilities, and, as mentioned so prominently in the post I highlighted earlier today, new architecture.

In addition to the new zone, there is also a revamped starting experience which includes:

  • Optimized Quest Flow – Quest flow through zones has been optimized, with NPCs who move around with a story that takes players through each region of the game, unlocking side content to pace out the experience.
  • New Quest DynamicsWe’ve added a variety of new quest dynamics, from wave events to tracking and traversal challenges, puzzles in the ruins, unique interactions with the world, and dynamic events players will encounter.
  • Streamlined Story – We’ve revised onboarding to stay focused on the central storyline, introducing the legacy of King Arthur in Monarch’s Bluffs and a curse and famine from the sorceress Medea in Windsward. Players will still converge on the Hermit Yonas to start on the path to becoming Soulwardens, but the Yonas quests have all been consolidated in Everfall. The Hermit himself is now more mobile, while the story and quest flow vastly improved.
  • Zone UpgradesWe’ve also added a lot more character to the zones and settlements in Monarch’s Bluffs and Everfall, with new enemies, new major locations, and new challenges in the quests and open world.

The are also a pile of quality of life fixes:

  • Adjusted XP curves for multiple gameplay aspects:
    • Character Leveling: Greatly reduced character XP required after level 20.
    • 140% reduction through Level 45, then 160% reduction through Level 60.
  • Town Projects: XP rewards have been reduced by 75%.
  • Faction Missions: XP rewards have been increased by 125%
  • Lore Notes: XP rewards have been increased by 200%.
  • Gathering: XP rewards have been increased by 200%.
  • POI Discoveries: XP rewards have been increased by 200%.
  • Gathering Trade Skills: XP rewards have been increased by 125%.
  • Corruption Portals: XP rewards have been increased by 150%.

That is actually a pretty common feature of MMO expansions, reducing the requirements needed to get to the new content.

There is also a huge list of things marked as “fixed” for this release in the patch notes.

Now the question is whether or not any of this makes the game worth returning to.  I know some people have gone back… enough that the collapse of servers down to the bare minimum has come back to bite Amazon.  There are long queues and, while they have handed out free server transfers, that always requires coordination with friends and guilds and what not and most people just try to stick where they are unless they have no attachment to anybody on the server.

Our group is not currently tempted, but we’re just getting into Wrath of the Lich King Classic and will probably remain there into the new year.  However, it will be interesting to see how others react to the update and whether or not it gives the game the legs to be sustainable.


Quote of the Day – No Lessons Learned from New World

Listening is fun. Listening makes people happy because they know they’ve been heard. Listening works. And listening makes you successful.

-Scot Lane, New World Game Director in a guest post at Venture Beat

The title of the post from which I drew that quote is New World: What we’ve learned during our first year, and it is one of the most anodyne and self-serving posts I have ever read.

Like that post, an ad for New World

Sure, it is up on VentureBeat, which has incredibly shallow journalistic standards.  Vacuous and self-serving is practically their brand when it comes to guest posts.  But this post sets a new standard for vacuous.

This post made me mad.

Not hot headed, rage mad, but the cold, irritable sort of mad that comes when somebody thinks you must be some kind of idiot, that you’re such a mark that you’ll believe whatever they’re selling to the point that they aren’t even putting any effort into the sale, they’re so sure you’ll just buy it.

I don’t want to over-sell my anger.  I am not on a mission here or anything.  But I felt the need to note this down in order to remember it.

We can start with the quote I chose, which is the most quotable bit of text in the whole thing and really the theme of the post, how much they are listening.

And with a post focused on how well they listen, how much fun it is to listen, you might think it would be filled with example of their listening prowess… and you would be wrong.

It isn’t devoid of examples.  The post goes early on to mention how the game changed from a crafting/survival game to a full fledged MMO based on feedback.  That is actually a solid example of some sort of listening, though the post-launch experience tends to argue for the fact that the team didn’t know what they were getting into.  As I noted before launch, they went from possibly being a big-league Valheim with server rentals to pay the bills to another MMO.

They sold a lot of boxes, but I am not sure that counts as a win in the long term.

Then he quickly goes into the easy wins that were based on feedback.

Things like easier leveling, accessing inventory while running, removing orbs (keys), low-cost fast travel, increased run speed and many more have all come about based on player feedback.

I never experienced half of those during the months we played (no listening then) and the other half were being asked for in beta and took a long time to get into the game, and all of them were pretty trivial to implement.

The lesson doesn’t seem to be “we listen” but “eventually we listened when things were going badly and we needed some quick wins.”

Then there is the third example of listening, which is in the big finish section of the post under the heading Adapt and Improve where it is explained that people thought the architecture in towns was too monotonous.  This was the bit that the author said kept bothering him.  So they added some buildings that were not of the same style.

That was the closer, the point on which the whole post landed in the end; buildings were too same-y.  And that was where my anger began to seethe.

What a waste of an opportunity.  What a way to demonstrate the lack of listening.  What a whole bunch of nothing.

Now, I didn’t expect somebody from the team would come out and remind people that they went from 900K people online trying to play the game (and largely failing due to server queues) to 20K six months later, or that their attempts at fixing game and economy breaking exploits either caused more problems than they solved or rewarded the exploiters and punished the rest of the game, or that as the game population collapsed that they merged servers so quickly that returning to the game is a chore.

But I did kind of expect that a post about listening would include a bit more concrete evidence of actual listening.

Oh well, making me happy clearly wasn’t the point of the post.

No, with their new Brimstone Sands update launching today, this was a puff piece to cast the illusion that everything is (and always was) fine and dandy and problem free in New World because they did all that listening.

I am sure those that are coming back will enjoy the new architectural options.

My character is still broke, stuck behind a pile of grind, and on some server somewhere behind a long queue.  Any desire to return is overwhelmed by that and the memory of how little the company actually did listen when they were making bone headed changes to the game.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.