Tag Archives: Blockchain

This American NFT

Sometimes the beams get crossed.

I listen to podcasts, but not very many gaming related ones anymore.  That was something from the 2006 to 2009, after which it faded for me.

I still listen to podcasts, though I am not sure they are what we would have called podcasts 15 years ago.  Basically, every radio show now offers an recorded version of their show for listeners, and so I listen to a number of what are essentially professionally produced shows that just happened to be available via iTunes.  Are those really podcasts?  That word evokes a raw, amateur era of the format for me, but I suppose it is the medium and not the quality that counts.

Anyway, one that I listen to regularly is This American Life, which I have listened to since some point back in the 90s, back when I had to commute and just seemed to spend a lot more time in my car listening to the radio.

This American Life

Then I stopped driving so much… and then the show ended up on iTunes so I can listen to it at my leisure at home.

This week’s show, The Reluctant Explorer, was an odd one because it actually involved something I’ve written about before, NFTs.

In it, the creator of what is now accounted to be some of the first NFTs with the site PixelMap.io back in 2016, is convinced to bring his site back up and change the pricing because there is now a big market for NFTs.

He becomes very wealthy, very quickly… but is suspicious of the people who prompted him to jump into the market and whether or not he was used.  Despite now being independently wealthy, it is down the rabbit hole to find out who was behind all of this, who really made out on the deal.

It is an interesting tale with some nice, simple explanations of NFTs and examples of how new examples on the market make money for some people, and how late comers almost always lose.

There isn’t a pro/con result at the end of the show.  Ira Glass is just there to help tell the story and draw together relevant details, which includes consultation with lawyers about what is going on.  But, right now, there aren’t laws or legal precedent to cover a lot of what is happening in crypto.

If there is a message in the whole thing, it is that NFTs don’t seem so bad, as long as you come out ahead and can convince yourself that everybody knew going in that it was a pump and dump scheme.

The Trainwreck of 21st Century Lord British

Once, long ago in the history of the blog, I wrote a post about how people seemed to be picking on Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux, largely because the fashion at the time seemed to be to use the silly space suit picture of him whenever he came up in a news cycle.

#winning

Of course, he seemed to be headed towards self-parody with his own photographic choices, like this image used on his Portalarium site

The first image from Portalarium

I cannot explain that moment of sympathy.  It certainly evaporated quickly enough when just a few months later I wrote a post with the title The Madness of Lord British.

There was a lot going on in that post, with lots of links out (some dead, you may need the Wayback machine to find them) to his dubious behavior, strange ventures, and odd ideas, including comparing himself to Tolkien or declaring consoles dead or how he was even back then running his company remotely with some sort of wheelie robot video presence.

It was also the kickoff point for his “ultimate RPG,” something he went on about for some time, trying to wheedle permission to use the Ultima brand from EA by saying nice things about them in the press (but not by, you know, actually talking to EA, who were busy tarnishing the Ultima brand with some garbage called Ultima Forever.)

Then he tried to get into bed with Zynga because Farmville and Facebook games were in the middle of imploding.  He eventually left that behind and jumped onto Kickstarter and used that trend to fund Shroud of the Avatar based largely on his reputation, work, and goodwill left over from the Ultima series of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Kickstarter was a success in that it met its funding goal, but as we knew even then, for a project trying to be an MMO that is just a marketing campaign, a publicity stunt to try and bring in more funding from other sources.

There was an attempt to emulate Star Citizen‘s successful ongoing crowdfunding by selling virtual land and castles as well as actual blood and other Lord British related items.  That was modestly successful at best.

Shroud of the Avatar did eventually “ship” in March of 2018 after some time as an “early access” title, however it was rough to the point of primitive for a game in the second decade of the 21st century, a strange mixture of awkward design and poor aesthetics, that I described as “retroist hobbyism” for lack of a better term when I was playing it.

It wasn’t a failure, but it also wasn’t what many people expected or wanted to play.  Lord British walked away from the title before it was done, transferring it to Catnip Games, though it wasn’t really clear he was all that in involved for quite a while before that.  It carries on as a dubious, low key title, a disappointment to many who expected a revival of the Ultima series, with a small and defensive team trying to eke out a living from the title and its connection to Garriott.

When Lord British walked away from his then flailing “ultimate RPG” I figured that was his last hurrah.  As I commented elsewhere:

This is a man who had the wealth and status to rest on his laurels, consult, speak on panels, and otherwise be a developer emeritus of great regard.

He made video games, got rich and famous doing that, got even richer by selling out to EA, lived in a castle, and got to be a space tourist. He could have called it a day 20 years ago and just spent his time being Lord British for fans now and then and we would have envied him, we would have aspired to be him.

But, as with pro sports stars, if something has basically been your whole life, it is hard to walk away.  So he has carried on, trying to recreate the success of his youth and living off of the reputation that gained him.

And that has been his downfall.  I have no idea what he is like in person, but his public persona has been one of self aggrandizement… he set himself up as the “father of the online gaming industry” at AGDC in 2004 back when he was promoting Tabula Rasa, much to the chagrin of Mark Jacobs and others who had online titles in production long before people like Raph Koster helped make Ultima Online a thing.

He has a history of badmouthing EA for all the problems that occurred after he got richer by selling Origin Systems to them. (Except when he was briefly praising them.)  And he also blames NCsoft and the people there for the failure of Tabula Rasa. (There was an Ultima 8 and Tabula Rasa double blame feature.)

He believes he is the best game designer around, calling the ones he worked with in the past “lazy”  (remember, that includes Raph Koster), and takes all the credit for anything he has touched.  He only made an exception for Chris Roberts when it comes to game designers, and that was clearly because he wanted to draft off of Star Citizen‘s crowdfunding success, a cringe worthy “notice me senpai!” moment.

And all along the way he has been a font of bad advice.  He has a history of grabbing onto a trend in gaming and telling people that is the best way forward just as it tanks.

Still, I foolishly thought he was done, so was both surprised because of that… but not surprised because of his history… when I saw the announcement yesterday that he had thrown his hat into the ring and declared he is making a blockchain MMO.

This is doubly ironic in that this follows on UbiSoft backing away from its NFT schemes and CCP declaring that NFT stands for “Not For Tranquility” when it comes to EVE Online.  Even as gamers are pushing back hard against crypto monetization and studios are realizing that they are alienating their core customer base by attempting to embrace it, Richard “Lord British” Garriott de Cayeux has decided to open his mouth wide and piss straight into the wind.

Words fail me.

Well, except for expletives.  I had plenty of those.

I have, for the last 20 years, found a way to excuse everything he has done based on fond memories of games he coded himself back in the 1980s.

No more.

This is the most contemptible, tone deaf, obvious cash grab in an industry long accused of cash grabs.  This raises the bar on cash grabs.  For years to come I predict I will be saying, “Sure, this move by X was bad, but was it as bad as the Lord British blockchain MMO?”

I am not a fan of Star Citizen, but this announcement has made Chris Robert palatable by comparison.  I don’t believe CR will ever be able to deliver on all, or even most, of the promises he has made, but he is selling a dream and has something tangible in alpha and has managed not to get bored and wander off mid-project.  If you were to ask me if you should buy a spaceship in Star Citizen or give money to Lord British, I’d say knock yourself out with the spaceship.

With other celebrities, I might suspect that somebody had just promised them a dump truck full of money to use their name.  But here we have somebody who has had an independent existence of bad ideas over the last two decades, a history that looks like a series of attempts to cash in on his name and whatever the latest trend was.

He has shown us who he is enough times already to know that this is authentically him trying to get back in ahead of another trend hoping to recreate the fame and fortune of his youth.  I am sure he is using somebody else’s money, but I am equally sure he sees glory and riches for himself in this move.  He is not being used, he believes he is using the investors.

Lord British is dead to me from this point forward.  In the hierarchy of people and companies whom I have vowed never to give money to, anything associated with Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux is now at the top of the list.

Seriously, I am now willing to give EA the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their history with him.  It makes me think of the Churchill quote about the devil:

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

That is where Lord British stands with me today.  He has now shit on his reputation so thoroughly that he is beyond redemption in my eyes.  Everything he has touched since Ultima Online has been a trainwreck.

Other coverage:

CCP Says Blockchain is “Not For Tranquility” for Foreseeable Future

While we remain intrigued by the technology, for us, NFT stands for “Not for Tranquility”. Overall the EVE IP will continue to push the boundaries of digital economies and virtual worlds – and we will continue to explore that outside of TQ.

-CCP Hellmar, dev blog

Pearl Abyss and CCP have been the focus of a minor controversy over their apparent eagerness to embrace blockchain, crypto, and things like NFTs over the past months.

I do want to make it clear that the controversy is entirely of their own making.  You cannot hype up crypto at every quarterly earnings call, introduce NFTs into the alliance tournament, and have the official EVE Online Twitter account retweeting about the CEO meeting with crypto investors about the game and then wonder why people think you’re serious about blockchain and crypto.  This was not some fantasy conspiracy theory dreamed up in the community.  It was absolutely the result of the actions and messaging of Pearl Abyss and CCP.

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

CCP is always specifically mentioned or part of these events, and CCP has but one video game title out there, EVE Online, so the conclusion one jumps to isn’t exactly a huge leap.

So this morning we got a dev blog post from CCP Hellmar, the handle of CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar, who has been out there helping stir up the controversy.  It went as follows”

Blockchain and EVE Online

2022-04-11 – By CCP Hellmar

There has been a lot of speculation around blockchain technology, NFTs and cryptocurrency and what that means for the future of EVE Online, so I wanted to address it.

At CCP, our mission is to have the EVE Universe outlive us all: EVE Forever. One huge part of this is exploring new technologies and new possibilities – something EVE players know that I’m always fascinated by. This philosophy is rooted in EVE Online’s inception; when we created EVE, it was seen as too radical and ambitious, yet here we are about to celebrate EVE’s 19th anniversary.

Many of us at CCP have been following the new frontier that has been developing around blockchains and cryptocurrencies for the past years. We’ve read your feedback and we also see what you see – blockchain tech has both a lot of untapped potential and a lot of work needed before being ready for EVE-scale games.

On that note, we have no plans to add blockchain technology into EVE Online’s global server Tranquility for the foreseeable future. For the coming years development for Tranquility will focus on building exciting new opportunities on top of the robust foundation that has been laid over the past two decades.

While we remain intrigued by the technology, for us, NFT stands for “Not for Tranquility”. Overall the EVE IP will continue to push the boundaries of digital economies and virtual worlds – and we will continue to explore that outside of TQ.

Fanfest is a month out and personally, I’m very excited – It’s been 2.5 years since our last in-person meet, in London during the EVE World Tour. I look forward to seeing many of you in the flesh again and talk about EVE and our future!

CCP Hellmar

The “foreseeable future” is not “never,” but it does at least leave us safe from the scourge of crypto for now.

My prediction from last month, based on the behavior and statements from Pearl Abyss, CCP, and Hilmar in particular, about a coming of a pay to earn announcement at Fanfest seems to have been proven false.  At least it won’t be something blockchain based, if it comes to pass at all, and that makes me happy.

But we also know that statements from CCP have an expatriation date.  We learned that with skill points and how they went from a promise that all skill points in the game would come from players to the current state where skill points generated out of thin air are for sale in the web store.  They boiled the frog slowly, but it ended up cooked all the same.

So the price of a blockchain free New Eden is constant vigilance.  Hilmar didn’t write this up because he’s our pal, he wrote it up because players were getting angry about all of his flirtations with blockchain technology and that seemed to threaten the company’s bottom line.

And that is always the final determination.  If Pearl Abyss and CCP think crypto will hurt their revenue, then they will not bring it into the game, so when they start talking their crypto talk again… and they will… we need to keep letting them know how we feel about it.

Related coverage that does not simply repeat CCP’s statement:

The Bored Ape Victorieux Luxury Yacht Club of New Eden

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

-Maya Angelou

I’ve written a bit about how Pearl Abyss has been talking about embracing blockchain and pay to earn in their quarterly earnings calls.  I have even made a rash prediction that we’ll be getting some sort of pay to earn scheme announcement for EVE Online at Fanfest in early May.

A voice in the wilderness, I know.

But CCP has already toyed with the crypto idea, making NFTs part of the Alliance Tournament back in November.  They were not IN the game, but they were OF the game, and CCP’s slow pace of work means they often look like they have cleverly boiled the frog in hindsight.  This was likely the first step towards crypto in New Eden.

So my eyes have been on EVE Fanfest and what we might expect to see from CCP there.

But then GDC happened up in San Francisco last week, and it was full on “Crypto is the next big thing, jump on board fast!” panels and pronouncements.

The Blockchain Game Alliance – GDC 2022

I am borrowing that image from Jason Scott, who posted it to Twitter.  I hope somebody will put together a score card to see how many of those company’s still exist in five years.

Of course, the Atari logo is in there.  There is no bad idea that the owners of that name won’t jump on.  Likewise UbiSoft, though at least they create games that are popular, making them a stand out on the list.

A bit surprised to see AMD at the top center of that image, but I guess they make good money selling video cards to crypto miners rather than gamers.

Anyway, I am willing to let the market decide winners and losers on this one, as it did when MMOs, Facebook games, and VR were the next big things at GDC in past years.  Just because some new idea is hailed at the conference doesn’t mean it is a good one, and it certainly doesn’t mean everybody who jumps on board with some half baked idea is going to win big.

Out of GDC came a tweet from the account of Eden Holdings about a meeting with CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar being a favorite moment of the conference. 

Hilmar in the middle of the crypto suite

Of course, Eden Holdings is all about crytpo and the metaverse and has a bored ape avatar. (Have you not heard about the Bored Ape Yacht Club?  Lucky you, though that probably makes the title of this post doubly confusing, as it references that and a specific ship in EVE Online that I am almost certain you’ve never heard of.)

Eden Holdings Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Also mentioned in that tweet as being a part of the meeting was Yield Guild Games, whose profile says the are about Play to Earn, NFTs, and the metaverse.

Yield Guild Games Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

There was also Delphi Digital, an investment firm into advancing the understanding and development of digital assets, that last being shorthand for crypto and NFTs.

Delphi Digital Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

And, finally, there was also BITKRAFT Ventures, another investment firm into Web3, which is another way of saying crypto and the metaverse these days.

BITKRAFT Ventures Twitter Profile – Mar 29, 2022

Quite the little get together, Hilmar and various crypto proponents all huddled in a suite talking about their favorite digital asset fantasies… and how much money it will earn them.

So why am I bringing this up?  Am I stalking Hilmar and his crypto pals?  Am I that obsessed with crypto?

Not really.  The GDC stuff just came through all of the usual gaming media I have been following for years.  I don’t follow any of these accounts on Twitter, except for Hilmar, and he barely tweets anything.  He certainly didn’t have any comments on GDC.

No, this came to my attention because the official CCP EVE Online account retweeted this particular item.  Not the CCP Games corporate account, but the account dedicated to the game EVE Online.

And why do you boost a message about a meeting between the CEO and some crypto investors on that account?  Because crypto is coming to EVE Online maybe? (Edit: The EVE Online twitter account has since undone this retweet.)

Am I reading too much into one retweet?  Probably.  Somebody on the community might just be instructed to retweet anything that mentions Hilmar.  He likes the attention.

But there is that CCP history to deal with, their ongoing experiments with boiling various frogs, and that quote up at the top of the post.  Are they showing us who they are?

The best outcome I can imagine from this is that they might announce another title that is focused on crypto at Fanfest, leaving EVE Online alone to suffer from resource depletion as their new venture follows the path of every new title they have released since 2003.  It will still hurt the company, which will be bad for EVE Online, but at least it might not ruin the game.

The other route, in which they try to bolt crypto and/or play to earn onto EVE Online, ends less well.

EVE Fanfest may be interesting for some of the wrong reasons this year.

Related:

An EVE Online Play to Earn Announcement is Coming at Fanfest

This is a prediction, not a statement of fact.  But it is a prediction based on evidence provided directly by CCP and Pearl Abyss.  That doesn’t mean it is a sure thing, but it seems likely.  Very likely.  And I like to make predictions, so I’ll revisit this post after EVE Fanfest to see how it played out.

To start with, where is this prediction even coming from?

Yes yes, we’ll get to this soon enough…

Well, Pearl Abyss has been talking about blockchain and pay to earn (which I guess is sometimes pay2earn or P2E… so I’ll go with P2E to shorten it) for a while now.  One need only go back to their Q4 2021 earnings call to find them directly saying that blockchain and pay to earn are in their future, with direct reference to CCP and how smart both companies are about running economies in video games.

Given that CCP has exactly ONE video game, EVE Online (NetEase runs EVE Echoes, CCP only gets to advise there and the bigger worry is that CCP will take bad ideas from it), it isn’t exactly hard to guess where CCP’s economic reputation will come into play.

But maybe that was just all for the market.  I mean, EA was out there talking about blockchain and NFTs one quarter, then went somewhat quiet on the whole thing the next.  Gamers have been pushing back on the whole idea.

That is where we get into something a little more concrete.

Back on March 9th CCP introduced a new for cash pack in the web store that would sell players a fully fitted Retriever mining barge.  This made some of the player base angry, and the CSM put out an open letter that very same day asking CCP to remove the pack from the store and to not create any packs like that in the future.

On the evening of March 18th, nine days after the introduction of the pack and the publishing of the letter from the CSM, CCP responded with a reply to the CSM open letter thread and said they were listening to the community and had removed the pack from the web store.

This made me wonder if things like the open letter, the complaints on Reddit, or the Twitch Blackout protest might have swayed CCP.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it did not, or at least it did not have sufficient impact.

First, there is the timing of the post, which not only came after business hours in the US… and coming up to midnight in Iceland… on a Friday, which is when you publish things you hope people won’t read, but it was preceded by nine days of silence on the topic.

And, as it happens, nine days was how long the login event promoting the mining changes ran.  So it is not outside the realm of possibility that the pack was supposed to come down once the event ended in any case.  CCP had a timer on it when they were presenting the pack offer to players after they ran the new mining career agent missions.  So it sure seems like the pack was going away already.

Finally, the response came in the form of a reply to a post, many message into the thread, on the forums, which is also a good way to post something to say you have responded while ensuring few people will ever see it on accident.  Important things get dev blogs.  Even Incarna got dev blogs about the situation.  The forum is reserved for things that are not important to the company.

The evidence suggests that CCP was not listening and did not do anything in response to player outrage or polite CSM requests.  They carried on with the plan and ignored any input, which is a familiar theme for CCP.  Redline XIII probably lost his partner program membership for nothing… well, he kept his self respect, which is not “nothing,” but the influence on CCP seems minimal at best.

CCP wasn’t necessarily lying when they wrote, “We hear your concerns about the Prospector Pack,” but that doesn’t mean that they changed their plan one iota.

I know, cool story bro, but what about this P2E prediction, where did that come from?

It comes straight from the statement that CCP buried in the forums.

One of the topics for Fanfest is a new project that we’re in the middle of developing, that will transform these and any future packs – a paradigm where packs of this type will be supplied by players, ensuring that any ship we offer to new players through sales, will have origins from actual player work in New Eden: Made for new players, by veterans. This feature will also not only supply each ship from the player base but allow the community to influence which ships will be put in these packs.

That isn’t exactly a “Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the candlestick” level of admission, but it does set some parameters.

There will be an announcement at Fanfest.  At least that is an easy read.

There will also be more packs.  Again, evidence that CCP was not listening at all, they refer to future packs.  Now, they soften that with the word “any,” as if to put some doubt behind the idea that there will absolutely be future packs, but the whole paragraph is a non-sequitor if there is no plan for future packs, so you can safely cross out “any.”  There will be more such packs.

But these new packs will have the contents supplied by players.  And you know what players aren’t going to do?  They aren’t going to build and fit ships for free.  CCP will need some way to incentivize players to build ships and modules and whatever, or it simply isn’t going to happen.

The best way would be to put up buy contracts for specific hulls and modules so that the ships in the packs would come from the player economy and not be created out of thin air.

Even if the contracts reward just ISK, that still completes the loop for a pay to earn scheme.

But I hear you ask, “Isn’t that how the EVE economy works anyway?  What makes this different?”

To start with, rather than producing hulls and modules out of thing air, it will be for ISK, which is how it works in the game already.  But CCP will be opening up their own special ISK faucet to make the program go.  That is new.

And, of course, CCP will turn around and sell the hulls and modules, along with some skill points and PLEX added in of course, for real world money.  So even if you aren’t earning real world money, you do get a sense that this hull or that module has a cash value.

Now, that is the simplest version of their proposal I can imagine, and as a P2E scheme it only rises above mining ore and selling it on the market because CCP is going to then sell it to other players for cash.  It becomes an RMT transaction, which sort of gets it in the ballpark.  And it has an impact on the player economy.  If, as an example, CCP decides that it is going to make another Retriever pack from player stocks, so sets a buy price of 50 million ISK, that is the new price for that hull.  Why would you sell one for less if CCP might pay you that much.  And CCP’s price always has to be higher than the market price, or why would you sell to them?

The thing is, that is just my guess, and my most simple, straight path, easiest to implement one at that.  CCP may not do that, probably won’t do that.

CCP may not pay out in ISK, but in PLEX, which has closer to real world value.  You can buy PLEX for cash in-game or via the web store, and it can be turned into game time or a second training queue or buy things from the in-game store such as skill extractors or hypercores.

I think if CCP pays out in PLEX, then we’re safely into P2E territory.

But what if the plan is for something beyond ISK or PLEX?

As I stated before, I have no idea what the plan really is, but we still have the Pearl Abyss statements I linked to above where they seem all in on blockchain and P2E.

I certainly don’t think CCP is going to pay out in real world cash.  The first rule of business is to never give the customer their money back except as a last resort.  But letting players earn some sort of cryto currency, which they could roll up on their own, that has a theoretical real world value, they could go there.

It might even work… for a while.

The key problem with P2E with crypto is that supply eventually outstrips demand.  As we have seen with Axie, if the money seems at all reasonable, people will swarm in to make some and the market eventually crashes because there are not enough customers to absorb the boost in production.

With some sort of buy order mechanism acting as a limiter on supply, it can be metered out to fit the existing demand.

Of course, solving that one problem… and I won’t claim it actually solves the problem, it merely mitigates it somewhat… will still lead to the whole thing modifying player behavior elsewhere.  Humans get really weird when money comes into play.  I’ve lost a billion ISK ship before, and it stung, but I still undocked it and put it in harms way knowing the possible outcome.  But if I had put down $20 of real world cash for it, would I be so cavalier?  How about if I could trade that hull for some crypto?  It would change my perception of the risk.

Anyway, that is all speculation.  I am not making any sort of prediction down to that level of detail.  But it certainly sounds like we will be getting some sort of P2E announcement at EVE Fanfest… in Iceland… in front of a hall filled with the games most ardent fans.

I do hope they will stream it live, because I want to tune in and watch that in real time.  I expect it to be a real, “No sir… they’re saying Boo-urns” sort of moment.

Related:

Pearl Abyss Promises a Blockchain Economy while CCP Prepares for EVE Fanfest

A couple of things dropped for EVE Online yesterday.

First up was the Pearl Abyss Q4 2021 earnings call.  The company recorded a bump in overall revenue, though that bump had little to do with video games.  Revenue on the gaming front was down some in Q4, which is never a good sign, that generally being a high point for many titles with people having time to play and most titles running holiday events.

This is all covered in greater detail over at The Nosy Gamer, but I do want to pick a quote from the end of his post, in reference to the “play to earn” idea that the crypto bros have been pushing so hard.  Pearl Abyss has bought into that and foresees greater profits with crypto, finishing up that thought with:

We will shortly communicate with you in different stages about what we are currently preparing for. Our company and CCP Games both have operated MMOs for a long time and we do have the knowhow to maintain and manage a sustainable economic system. So we are confident we can create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Leaving aside skepticism about CCP’s hamfisted, war ending manipulation of the New Eden economy and the myriad of issues that rightfully hound the flawed to the bone blockchain concepts (a presentation given at Stanford on that if you’re interested in more on that), it is readily apparent to anybody paying attention that even blockchain focused companies can’t create a stable blockchain ecosystem.

Bitcoin, which doesn’t suffer from the rampant theft, rug pulls, and scams of Ethereum and its smart contract brethren, isn’t a viable financial instrument due to wild fluctuations in price and service costs and slow transaction times, unless you really need to secrecy it provides and are willing to pay the premium required.  Everything else is worse than Bitcoin when it comes to stability, so how to you build an stable in-game blockchain ecosystem on top of that?

Hint:  You don’t.

Talk about not being able to read the room.  Have they not seen how badly this has gone for Ubisoft or how even EA is backing away from the crypto idea?

Now, I’ll grant that PA hasn’t actually done much on the crytpo front, so it isn’t like I expect it to be in EVE Online next week.  But they do keep talking about it, as does Hilmar, they keep bringing up CCP when they are talking about it, there was that NFT “experiment” during the Alliance Tournament, and it isn’t like CCP has some other game besides EVE Online right now that has any value, much less an actual economy.  There is still time to walk away from this very dumb idea, so maybe cooler heads will prevail.

We shall see.

Then, as part of the run up to EVE Fanfest, CCP did a live stream to announce things the are working on between now and then, followed by a dev blog to sum up/clarify what was mumbled or misstated on the stream.  Seriously, former CCP Dev Carneros pitched them softballs from a list of obviously prepared points and the CCP team seemed quite unprepared to speak coherently to about half of what was brought up.  CCP Swifts enthusiasm can only carry you so far.  It was not their finest hour.

We’re on a road to somewhere…

The highlights were:

  • Mystery Mining Adventure

Now that they have re-created a long career climb to mining perfection again via mechanics like waste, they’re going to introduce a new player experience to put people on that path.  One career agent made redundant, only five more to go?

  • Orbital Warzone

CCP is going to make player owned customs offices (POCOs) harder to defend in order to try and spark some conflict on that front.

  • Another Graphical Update

Literally their words, copied from the dev blog, and not me being snarky.  We’re moving closer to being able to create reflecto-porn on spaceships.  Not quite there yet, but you’ll be able to see structures and explosions reflected in that shiny Amarr gold trim.

  • Together We Compress

They are trying really hard to make it seem like you need to play the Guardians Gala event in order for them to unlock compression, but they are putting it on the test server tomorrow, so that seems like an empty threat.  This version of compression is not supposed to be as bad as mindbogglingly awful first run they put on the test server back in December, but we won’t really know until it lands there.  Some details:

  • Compression becomes a more social ability. The Industrial Command Ships (Rorqual, Orca and Porpoise) are getting new modules, which will enable all nearby fleet-mates to instantly compress their own materials.
    • This remote compression will be available at long ranges – over 200 km is possible.
  • As frequently requested, Gas and Moon Ore resources will become compressible, using these new modules.
  • The Porpoise will be able to compress Gas and Asteroid Ore, and both the Orca and Rorqual will be able to compress all resources – Gas, Ice, Asteroid Ore, and Moon Ore.
  • Compression will continue to be loss-less.
  • The capacity of Jet-cans will be doubled to make it easier for high-volume miners and haulers to work together more efficiently.

We’ll see how it looks soon I guess.

  • The Glorious Battleship

Having pushed the price of even basic battleship hulls past the 300 million ISK mark with last April’s industry changes (and don’t get me started on the price of faction battleships), CCP has decided to run with that and try to make them worth the extra ISK.  To get there they plan a role bonus that will make armor plates 50% more effective, shield extenders 100% more effective, as well as making it easier to fit an MJD when you fly one.  We’ll see if this has any impact on the PvP combat meta, but I bet it makes mission running in battleships a lot easier.  The joys of balancing PvP and PvE.

  • Crab Season Approaches

They want more capital ships to undock, but won’t make them cheaper, so they are making the CRAB beacons, introduced back in October, cost less.  You need to undock a capital ship to use one, so there you go, more capitals undocking.

  • Bolstered Bulkheads

CCP is going to roll back the nerf to capital resistance modules that landed with the Surgical Strike update in April of 2020 by half.  That and the industry updates of April of 2021 made people dock up their capital ships.  Never mind carrots, we’re now just happy that CCP is hitting us with 50% less stick.

  • Rorqual Hotdrop

Rorquals are getting a conduit jump ability akin to what blackops battleships got last June, allowing them to jump a small fleet.  CCP envisions people taking a very expensive capital mining platform on “mining adventures” with this change.  I nominate this as a candidate for and “unexpected outcomes” award when players get their hands on it.

  • Blueprint Changes

CCP would like people to use dreadnoughts and are thinking about maybe changing the blueprints so they don’t cast 8 billion ISK to build and fit, but they haven’t actually committed to that.  Still, after many months of players going on about this problem, it is nice to hear CCP at least acknowledge that the issue won’t go away by insisting producers will eventually step into line with their grand economic plan.

  • Structure Changes

We have complained about Upwell structures enough that CCP feels obliged to do something.  They haven’t said what, just that it is on the list.

  • No More Quadrants

They couldn’t keep that theme going, so they’re giving up the idea.  The New Dawn age of permanent scarcity quadrant was the last one of those.  They’ll get into their new plan at Fanfest.  As the banner says, a new era approaches.

And then there was a push for Fanfest.  I am wondering how that is shaping up, as early bird tickets, which used to be limited in supply and generally disappeared quickly, were still being mentioned right up to the last day they were available.

Anyway, that is my roundup.  No doubt you can detect some cynicism on my part, though I will say that I think CCP’s two years of “all stick, no carrot” handling of the game warrants a bit of that.  Add in Pearl Abyss and Hilmar talking crypto and CCP removing that presentation about World War Bee I mentioned last week from the press site, and I feel like cynicism is still on the mark right now.

Related items:

It’s the End of the Metaverse as we Know It

It certainly feels that people talking about “the metaverse” have taken the universality aspect of of the “meta” prefix a bit too literally as the word “metaverse” is rapidly approaching the state where it means whatever the speaker thinks it mean in that moment.

Of course, we’ve been down that path before.  I remember when “MMO” meant a game with specific characteristics, like hundreds of people in a shared space.  Now it pretty much means any online game where six or more people can interact in some way.

There is the grand purist metaverse vision which says, as Bhagpuss so astutely put it, if there is more than one then it isn’t the metaverse.  That is the online ideal of sort, the place of Snow Crash and Ready Player One, where everybody goes or has a presence… though if you’ve read either, the actual real worlds they exist in are dystopian nightmares, so no wonder everybody is so keen to strap into their VR gear and get away from it all.

We’re probably never going to get there… or I hope we’re not… though we certainly seem to working hard on making the real world something to escape.

But this past week VentureBeat hosted a Summit on the whole Metaverse idea.

VentureBeat presents

It was preceded by a Facebook gaming summit… now Meta, but we still know who they really are… which has moved big towards the whole metaverse idea despite some skepticism within their own ranks, which I  covered previously.  While technically not directly part of the metaverse event, it covered a lot of the same ground, so it might well be counted as day zero of the whole thing.

Facebook has been on the metaverse idea for a while, as this now more than two year old trailer for their Horizon product indicates. (For some reason this ad was making the rounds this week as though it was new.)

At that point they were very much locked into the idea that VR would be the domain for the metaverse.  Also, legs were clearly not a thing.

However, on the first day of the summit, which was all Facebook, I listened to somebody from from the Oculus group tell the audience that the metaverse would need to be on every device, phones, tablets, laptops, consoles, as well as VR.

The same person also mentioned that when he joined Oculus, before they were acquired, everybody who signed on was given a copy of Ready Player One, which is somewhat telling I suppose.  In Snow Crash the metaverse seemed more like something the dispersed internet evolved into.  In Ready Player One it is run by an evil corporation.  So I guess they were already on board with being bought by Facebook before it happened.

A more disturbing trend to me has been the union of the concept of the metaverse and the crypto blockchain NFT demographic.  This has nothing to do with video games and everything to do with money.  Venture capitalists have found they can extract money from a crypto investment much faster than a traditional startup so have been pumping and dumping to their heart’s content.

Essentially, the word “metaverse” has become shorthand for “NFT vehicle”  for some so, while the Oculus guy didn’t mention them, Facebook is all in on the idea, while other speakers, such as Brendan Greene of PlayerUnknown fame, who helped establish the battle royale genre, spoke about his new project, Project Artemis, a world sized metaverse, which will be on board with the NFT train.

Because somehow over the objection of the developers who actually have to do the work, execs and finance people have seemingly embraced the NFT idea as the way to move assets between games in order to create a single metaverse out of everybody’s own pocket virtual world.

However, I will say that, for the most part, the summit wasn’t over-hyped on the whole crypto NFT thing.  There were certainly crypto proponents on the schedule and who sessions were about how this is going to be great once more people jump on the bandwagon.  But there was also some recognition that NFTs needed to win people over, something that had not happened yet, though I did hear one speaker go on about how if gamers weren’t going to get on board with NFTs then they would just find another demographic, leaving gamers behind.

I am not sure who else they are going to get to buy into it… well, I have a guess… but Ubisoft, which has literally bought into NFTs, is certainly finding gamers unwilling to invest in NFTs.  They feel that gamers just “don’t understand,” which is the most common crypto scammer talking point around.  We like to point out how bad Activision and EA are, but Ubisoft is literally the worst and has been for more than 20 years.

Honestly though, while I signed up for the whole event, I would guess that I checked in on maybe half of the sessions, and some of them weren’t all that interesting.  There was, for example, a pleasant man from Helsinki speaking about industrial applications for VR and the metaverse and I just took my headphones off and went on with something else.

The only session I was completely in for was the one featuring Raph Koster, who got the last 20 minute speaking slot at the end of the whole thing.  I teased him about that on Twitter, though he spun it as getting the last word.  Still, they gave some guy 30 minutes earlier in the day to talk some nonsense about The Matrix and promote his book, so I was feeling a little defensive of Raph’s place in the order of things.

But I need not have fretted even a bit.  Raph came in strong with that last session, with a short slide deck, which made him stand out from most of the presentations.  He was there to talk about how we even get to a metaverse, where you’re able to move from one world to another across vendors, a issue he framed as a social problem.  There are standards to be agreed upon and rights and ownership and all sorts of things that need to be sorted out before we start thinking about walking between WoW and Fortnite, which seemed to be the interoperability metaphor of the conference.

Many of the issues that need to be resolved have been under discussion for ages at this point.

He didn’t come up with any specific answers, but blockchain and crypto did not enter into it his talk, those not being solutions to any of the current problems facing the metaverse.

I did stick around for the post-game summary by the GameBeat staff, who were cool on the NFT idea, which surprised me a bit since their parent, VentureBeat, seems keen to cover all things crypto.  But, then their audience is more investors and VCs, and crypto is what investors want to head about now.  You have to give your audience what they want, even if they want garbage I suppose.

The whole thing is up on YouTube on VentureBeat’s channel if you are interested.

As noted, Raph is at the end of day two if you want to watch his 20 minutes. (Also, seeing Raph live, Playable Worlds might want to update the promo pic they use of him, which must be from 2006 given how much gray hair he has now.  Why not play up his age and experience rather than trying to keep him looking forever 35?)

The site also did decent summaries of some of the sessions on their site, which are a little more detailed that the presentations.  I’ll link to a few of the more interesting ones:

Those last two are interesting for specific definitions of the word, like if you want to hear the crypto side of things try to rationalize why the metaverse needs them.  I think that quote about leaving gamers behind is in that last session.

Not everything at the event was worth hearing, but it was the place to be if you wanted some insight into what the people… mostly money people… want to hear about.  The GamesBeat team kept things going, though occasionally the slipped up a bit.  I think they were about done with the event when this poll popped up.

Yes? No? Both? Neither?

So it goes.

And, while we’re on the topic of the metaverse, interoperability, and NFTs, I figure I should toss in a video that cam up last week.  It is 30 minutes of a developer going through the issues, one by one, about how NFTs don’t solve any of the problems that need to be solved for the metaverse.  It is just shy of 30 minutes, but it is pretty to the point.

I’ve seen all these points before, but it is nice to have them summed up in one video.  He also has a follow up video because the crypto bros came after him with the whole “but we want to be able own/trade independent of the developer” scenario, which he also picks apart pretty well.

However, if you really want to dig into the NFT/crypto thing and have two hours to spare, I highly recommend this video from Folding Ideas.

It is essentially a documentary look into where cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and NFTs came from, what they really are, how badly designed they really are, who is making money on them, and how the scam really works.  Spoiler:  It is all based on the greater fool theory.

I don’t think there was a lot shockingly new to me in that video, except for the cost, and the variability of cost, of blockchain transactions, which would make the whole thing a non-starter for any legitimate enterprise.

Seriously, you would have to be insane to use crypto for your business unless it is a scam.  Any CEO of a legitimate company that says they are seriously considering NFTs is throwing out a buzzword to boost their stock price or doesn’t understand how they actually work… though you cannot rule out both being the answer.

Anyway, the video did nicely tie together a lot of different threads and I felt it was well worth the time, so much so that I listened to it twice. (While doing some quests in EQII.)  Hat tip to Massively OP for linking to this video.

Addendum: If you prefer the written word to a two hour video, then there is David Rosenthal’s Stanford talk that he reproduced on his blog, which gets down into the details of crypto and how it goes so very wrong.

The Mail Bag Returns with Another Round of Headlines

I did a mailbag post back in mid-December just to display the sort of email and press releases I get on what was once the main blog email account.  It isn’t anymore, but it was during the peak of the blog and blogging, and nobody updates anything on the internet it seems, so I still get notes there daily.  The whole tale of that is in the post I linked.

I decided to go back because since the holidays there has been a bit of a surge in a couple of topics, and they probably won’t surprise you.  These are basically all of the unsolicited email subject lines for the last month that landed in my old inbox.

  1. Touchcast Launches MCity, the World’s First Enterprise Metaverse
  2. Gibson Brands Acquires GWW Guitar Case Company: Sets the Stage for Future Integration, Innovation, and Growth
  3. ESL Pro Tour StarCraft II Schedule Revealed for 2022/23
  4. E:Alert: Original Gaming Thriller “First Person Shooter” Premieres Today on Tubi
  5. Product Review: Lowest price entry-level Xbox on the market
  6. Display Social, Acquires 2 Companies- forms multi-billion dollar metaverse company
  7. Security 101. Don’t Bash Your Head Over Unsecured Credentials
  8. Expert Interview Opp or Guest Article: Managing NFT’s From Creation to Sale
  9. PR: Bitcoin electricity consumption is 8X that of Google and Facebook combined
  10. CryptoDragons Metaverse is starting on December 25
  11. Crypto company TacoCat announces new advisors
  12. Ho-ho-ho: Adult company selling cryptocurrency designed dildos for the holidays
  13. PR: NFT sales surge past the $4 billion mark in the last 30 days
  14. PR: USDT dominance among stablecoins plummets to 49% in 4 years
  15. How OpenSea’s Auction Valuation Confirms Independent NFT’s Role in Blockchain: Intv. w/ CEO of NFT Gaming Marketplace
  16. Expert Interview Opp or Guest Article: Metaverse Explainer
  17. Review/Feature: The Book of Greatest Leadership Quotations
  18. Evanescence, Grim and Umphrey’s McGee and More Go Meta with Soundscape VR
  19. GKIDS Releases Opening Scene for Mamoru Hosoda’s BELLE – In Theaters This Friday
  20. How to Become a Gaming Influencer – Tips from CEO of leading gaming influencer agency
    PR: 23 NFTs Sell for Over $1m in the Last 30 Days
  21. Story: new game let’s kids build the metaverse
  22. PR: CryptoPunks Generated Nearly Half of Top 10 NFT Sales in the Last Month
  23. NEW PRODUCT: Dreo’s Air Purifier Dusts The Competition
  24. Shure Debuts New Look and Even Better Sound For Its Award-Winning SRH840 and SRH440 Headphones
  25. RESEARCH-NFT launches attract 50x more bots than hype sneaker sales
  26. Prime Video Releases Official Trailer and Key Art for THE LEGEND OF VOX MACHINA
  27. Federal regulations cracking down on internet privacy laws
  28. PR: Energy consumed by one Ethereum transaction could power over 100,000 VISA transactions
  29. PR: 257 NFT artists have generated over $1M in sales over the last 30 days
  30. [STUDY] Gaming addiction causing tech-related health issues
  31. Cute but demanding tactical masterpiece! Gem Wizard Tactics is coming to Nintendo Switch and Xbox
  32. PR: Bitcoin Treasuries Account for 7.2% of the 21 Million BTC Supply Cap
  33. PR: MicroStrategy and Tesla Command 80% of BTC held by top 10 public companies
  34. Accessing the Blockchain Can be Too Expensive for Some Developers – Web3 Visionary Explains How to Change That
  35. Blue Tiger Wins TWICE Picks Award for World’s First Solar-Powered Bluetooth Headset
  36. Almost 10k petition EA Sports to honor John Madden on next Madden NFL cover
  37. Intv. w/ XR Cinema CEO: VR Expert Weighs in On the Rise of Metaverse & Virtual Reality
  38. Almost 70% of People Can NOT Distinguish Gmail’s Real Login Page From A Scam – Can You?
  39. Physical release of Comic Coloring Book: Complete Edition for the Nintendo Switch console available now
  40. Activision Blizzard’s games ranked #2 & #3 most popular in gaming community
  41. PR: ETH average transaction costs 33x BTC costs in 2022
  42. Nooie Launches Versatile Smart Camera Featuring a Detachable Base
  43. Calling All Sonic Sculptors, the Legendary Brand Maestro Emerges with Five Pedals for Endless Exploration
  44. XGIMI Expands Versatile Halo Series With Smarter Halo+ FHD Portable Projector
  45. Study from Marmalade Game Studio finds one in four have developed mental health issues since Covid
  46. Connect Tolkien-like fantasy world with the 1920s and see what will happen. Pendula Swing is coming to Nintendo Switch
  47. PR: The average price of NFTs hits $50K in the last 30 days
  48. Reminder: 01/20 News Advisory – Doomsday Clock Update – Major Announcement on Clock’s 75th Anniversary
  49. PR: CryptoArt Market Cap Hits $2.3 Billion With Over 2 Million Total Sold Artworks
  50. [News] ZOAN Announces €100 Million Virtual Land Sale with Photorealistic Metaverse Cornerstone.land
  51. Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard to dominate the metaverse, says GlobalData
  52. Intv. W/ Crypto Creator & Expert – Microsoft To Enter The Metaverse After Purchasing Blizzard
  53. BREAKING: Doomsday Clock Set to 100 Seconds to Midnight, Scientists Call for Action to “Turn Back the Clock”
  54. Highrise City Playtest starts January 27th – New Feature Video and Screenshots released
  55. My Friend Peppa Pig Launches on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X
  56. Call of Duty collectibles incoming from Koyo & Activision
  57. Join awe.live, submit an Auggie Nomination, get your Super Early Bird registration and find out what’s new in the XR community
  58. Gibson and Jake Kiszka -Guitarist in the GRAMMY-Winning Rock Band Greta Van Fleet- Celebrate the 61st Anniversary of the Iconic SG Guitar
  59. Intv: Is Meta increasing accessibility to NFT creation a good thing? NFT Expert Explains
  60. NFT Expert Available on Meta Considering Adding NFT Component to Facebook and Instagram

As you can see, NFT, crypto, and the metaverse continue to trend, though they have somehow managed to all mean the same thing thanks to the crypto scammers pushing their “ownership” agenda.

I am genuinely sorry I didn’t get a press release about the “rave” that took place in Decentraland, which was the saddest, most 2003 online event I have seen in ages.  But the pathetic nature of the video when compared to, say, concerts in Fortnite, haven’t stopped the cryto bros from trying to spin it as amazing.

That is practically a self-own… or yet another demonstration that crypto bros don’t know what they’re talking about.  That ain’t no Ariana Grande concert.

Probably the most interesting on the list… or at least the one I decided to go look at… was #40 about popularity in the gaming community.  It at least has an infographic, even if I am not exactly sold on their methodology.

The top six out of the 23 listed

The least inspiring was the the setting of the Doomsday Clock (entries #48 and #53) by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists because they didn’t actually change the setting… it was set to 100 seconds back in 2020… so the whole thing was, ironically, a bit of a damp squib.  I also feel like the name of the organization has become misleading.  While some towering atomic scientists helped found the whole thing… Einstein, Teller, and Oppenheimer were among the group… the whole thing has been trying to find its way since the end of the Cold War and, so far as I can tell, isn’t exactly the domain of many atomic scientists any more.  It would be more aptly titled the Bulletin of the Poly Sci Majors.

Also, they apparently bought a mailing list with some really out of date and/or inappropriate addresses.  Nice move Einstein.

Anyway, that is all I have.  The inbox has been cleared again, we’ll see what trends continue to find their way into it.

Predictions in the Face of 2022

We’re here again at the arbitrary start of another year.  I remember a time when New Years Day was a day of optimism, a day of resolutions about making yourself a better person.  Now… now I am reminded of a Life in Hell comic where Bongo prays every night for tomorrow to be better than today despite the fact that his prayers are never answered.

2022 is what we get

So, yeah, welcome to the new year.  It is an even numbered year which means national (but not presidential) elections in the US and some sort of Olympics… I think we get the cold kind this year, but they’re in China, so time to celebrate repressive regimes I guess.  I’m sure the year will be just dandy.

I am going to go with predictions this year, after having taken a year off with questions for 2021.  As I always point out, I have a history here, checkered and/or dubious and mostly wrong.  But as my boilerplate for this post says every year, I’m fine being wrong if the discussion is interesting.  Anyway, past events:

I was tempted to run with questions yet again, but I made a bold prediction back in 2021 and promised that I would include it in any New Year’s predictions post, so let’s get straight to that.  You will probably be able to tell from the tenor of some of my predictions that I am not exactly in a happy, optimistic, “everything will be great” sort of mood.  So be it, maybe the new year can step up and prove me wrong.  I would be happy enough to let it do so.

1 – Activision-Blizzard will drop “Blizzard” from the Corporate Name

I made this call back in August, when things seemed really bad for Blizzard, and committed to making it a prediction, so here it is in the first spot.  There was a possibility that they could have straighten up and fixed their issues, but I have such confidence in the indelible nature of corporate culture… every time somebody says “we’ve always done it this way” they might as well add “because this is who we are” to it… that I remain unsurprised by the company’s inability to clean house effectively.  Even when they admit that there might be a problem, it is all they can do to keep from fighting that idea, pushing back on the state and, by proxy, all the complaints against the company.   If you cannot candidly admit there is an issue then you cannot fix it.

And the problem has damaged their brand, damaged their income, and alienated them from a chunk of their once loyal fan base.  Meanwhile, Activision, having finally figured out how to milk the Call of Duty cow year round, doesn’t really need to be dragged down with all those problems which, outside of Bobby Kotick’s connivance, seem to be focused just on Blizzard’s team.

The prestige of leading the Blizzard brand has already been downgraded over time.  Morhaime was CEO, Brack was President, then it was Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra were “co-leaders” of the studio… until Oneal left because the company sill pays men more for the same jobs.  I think Ybarra became Office Manager at that point.

All of that points to the Blizzard brand not being as big of a deal.  The only counter to this slide in the brand is how Bobby Kotick has taken center stage of late in the company issues.  It is possible that his bad behavior, and endorsement of the bad behavior of others, could draw enough heat directed solely at Blizzard so far.

Overall though the trend for Blizzard has been to be third of three when the quarterly reports come out, so even if the Blizzard name isn’t gone I’ll give myself a small partial credit win (2 points) if the company name is officially Activision Blizzard King by the end of 2022.

2 – No WoW Expansion in 2022

I am going to go out even further on a limb when it comes to Blizzard and suggest that the disruption they have been facing and the need to retool things a bit to look better when compared to FFXIV are going to slow down their development process even more than usual. As such I think we’ll be seeing the largest gap between expansions in the history of the game as the next expansion wanders out into 2023.

3 – The Arthas Hail Mary

Wrath of the Lich King Classic will be announced to great fanfare.  This will be the big 2022 announcement for the WoW franchise, and it will be as stale as you expect.  While I love the whole retro server scene, and WotLK as well, there is a reason that Daybreak doesn’t put out a press release every time an EverQuest progression server unlocks a new expansion.  And it will be tainted by the same things that hurt Burning Crusade Classic, like a special deluxe package with a horrendous mount to single you out for ridicule.  It will be more popular than whatever is going on with Shadowlands, an admittedly low hurdle, but it won’t launch until Q4 so we won’t see any financial impact during the 2022 calendar year. (Q4 financials won’t show up until February 2023.)

4 – Immortality is Overrated

Diablo: Immortal will finally ship in time for summer… after all, NetEase is the one doing the work here.  It will get a lot of hype from the company because WoW Classic and Hearthstone updates can only carry so much water for them.  It will be briefly popular, because we do in fact all have phones, combining as it will everything Blizzard promised (something like Diablo) and everything fans feared (cash shop from hell), but the Q3 2022 financials will only mention it in passing.

5 – Activision Will Settle with the State of California

The cost of fighting on multiple fronts… the company is being assailed in various ways by the government, its employees, customers, and shareholders… will wear the company down because none of it is good for business.  Somebody on the board will eventually force the issue and make the company do something to make these problems go away… something besides denial, platitudes, and union busting tactics, which has been the Activision tack so far.

Riot, which played the same game for years, largely due to being able to turn a big profit for Tencent even as the fight went on, eventually settled and agreed to pay out $100 million, $80 of which went to compensate employees and contractors mistreated by the company.  The state is tenacious and the price of fighting eventually becomes more of a burden and it will make sense to simply not be discriminatory jerks as a matter of policy going forward.

As a public company Activision, and with Blizzard development seemingly moribund in the face of the crisis, won’t be able to diddle as long as Riot.  A year of this will be too long for stockholders.  The company will have to pony up double what Riot did, so they will have to write a check for at least $200 million in penalties and compensation, agree to mandatory training for management (though everybody VP and above will just have their admins do the training for them, so no change there), and agree to let the state keep an eye on the for a few years.

6 – Bobby Kotick Will Remain in Charge at Activision

I feel I have to remind people now and then that these are predictions, not wishes, and this is one of those times.  Bobby owns too much stock and is in too deep with the board, which has backed him all the way, to lose his seat.  Any sense of irony is completely lost in the executive suite, so the fact that he knew about and endorsed what was going on that caused the company so many problems won’t disqualify him from continuing to collect a huge compensation package for running the company.

7 – Enad Global 7 will Announce Marvel Universe Online

Maybe they won’t call it exactly that, but there will be a new MMO from them based on the Marvel IP, which Daybreak had the rights to make before EG7 purchased them, that will look suspiciously like DC Universe Online to those who know where to check.

And it will be on the PC and consoles and it will be kind of a big deal when it ships.  But I’m only saying they’ll announce it in 2022.

8 – H1Z1 Will Remain in Limbo

Of all the titles in the Daybreak portfolio, none must be as vexing for EG7 as H1Z1.  It sold a ton of copies, it was huge for a season or two, and it was the type of brand that Daybreak always dreamed of creating.  Then Daybreak screwed it up and has spent a few years now trying to catch that lightning in a bottle again.  And with Fortnite and PUBG out there still making bank, there is always that hope for a comeback, yet the chances are so sketchy that the company can’t bring itself to actually invest in it.  They simultaneously know it won’t happen and yet still believe it could.  So they’ll keep talking about H1Z1 in 2022 yet do nothing new.

9 – LOTRO Old and New

There won’t be a console release for LOTRO, but there will be news.  We will find out that, in order to support current generation consoles, the game needs to be re-written, a process that will end up with there being an old LOTRO, the current game, and a new LOTRO, for PC and consoles.  This will put old LOTRO in semi-maintenance mode, with limited updates and no new expansions, while the team focuses on the new LOTRO.

10 – Nothing New in Norrath

And that won’t necessarily be a bad thing.  Despite being the foundation of the company, EverQuest and its younger sibling will just continue on as before, with an expansion each in Q4.  EG7 talks up the original IPs it owns, but it only sees potential in the popular IPs which it has licensed.  EverQuest Next, EverQuest III, or EverQuest the small group RPG, those are all still dead until Amazon or Netflix wants to make a Norrath streaming series.

11 – Ji Ham Confirmed as CEO of Enad Global 7

His acting career pretty much demands it at this point.  The search for a suitable candidate will come up dry and he will be the default choice.  Things could be worse.

12 – CCP will Circle the Wagons to Defend Against Player Feedback

The last year has demonstrated that CCP will stick to its own pet theories when it comes to the game, ignoring player feedback by covering its collective ears and repeating over and over that everything is fine, that the players don’t understand, that the company can dictate the correct way to play, and blah blah blah “I can’t hear you!”  Angry players should be ignored, where “angry” is defined as anybody who disagrees with the company line.  Nice players agree wholeheartedly with everything the company says.

To further support their position 2022 I predict that we will see the company start cutting back on the data players have been using the assail the company.  The Monthly Economic Report will cease to be published.  The data feeds that EVE Offline uses to create its PCU charts will be turned off.  The current online player count will disappear from the launcher.  Dev blogs will be more message, less substance than we’ve been used to.  Then CCP will be able to control the message without having their own data constantly contradicting them.  How can you say “EVE is dying!” if you don’t have any data to back it up?

13 – New Eden Economic Times

To make it abundantly clear, scarcity is not the new reality, this is a temporary phase and it will end.

-CCP, December 2020 Economic Outlook

While taking measures to silence dissent, CCP Rattati will continue to lead the charge against the economy.  The tenants of their economic outlook from 2020 remain unchanged.  They were:

  • Abundance breeds Complacency and Scarcity breeds War
  • Predictable Inputs lead to Stagnant Outputs
  • Autarky is Anathema to Free Trade

And while they appear to have had the opposite effect… scarcity ended a war for a starter… CCP will continue to fixate on the idea that if they just keep putting the screws to players and making them poor and miserable that we will all snap to and play the game the correctly sooner or later.  The idea that the game should be fun, that players might not want to fret about losing ships they can no longer afford to replace, or that the economy is the critical aspect of the game will not enter the company’s philosophy in 2022.  More of the same, the economic beatings will continue until subscriber numbers improve.

14 – New World on Consoles Announcement

One of the odd things to master in New World has been the UI, which is decidedly different that the WoW-centric UI conventions of the MMORPG genre.  It isn’t bad, though it sometimes seems a bit awkward, but for the most part it just takes some getting used to.

And then I started playing Forza Horizon 4 and 5, which is a title designed to play on Windows PCs and XBox consoles, and some similarities clicked for me… the New World UI is setup to be playable on consoles (in a way that, say, LOTRO is completely not).  They have minimized the keys used for many things, movement and positioning can all be done via the analog sticks, special combat moves map to buttons, the main attacks… I guess the shoulder controls.  It all pretty much fits.

This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious for some of you, but to a non-console player it didn’t spark until I had another cross platform title in my face.

Add to this the fact that Amazon seems fine letting Steam host its front end and the XBox or PlayStation store aren’t likely to get in the way either.

The official stance is that there is no plan for consoles, but it sure feels like it was made to be on consoles, so that might just be Amazon playing coy after getting pestered for five years about when the PC launch was going to happen.  As with above, the announcement only is being predicted, though I wouldn’t be completely surprised by a Q4 2022 ship date.

15 – New World Store Update

New World did very well on box sales in 2021, and I am sure they plan to repeat that on consoles as well, but the in-game store will still change in 2022 as the pressure to keep bringing in cash begins to mount.  Those AWS servers don’t pay for themselves.

The store has been entirely focused on cosmetic gear, the one in-game store item that seems the least objectionable.  It is kind of expensive to my mind, but some people seem to be buying the stuff.  I see it around Windsward now and then.  But it won’t be enough in the end.  Every MMORPG with a cash shop goes down the same path in the end.  So before the end of 2022 I predict that at least three of the following will be available in the cash shop:

  • Premium Housing
  • Fast Travel Tokens
  • XP Boosters
  • Faction Boosters
  • Trade Skill Learning Boosters
  • Learning Speed Boosters for Weapon Mastery
  • Cosmetic Items with Stats
  • Mounts
  • A second character slot on your server

16 – Crypto Mania will Continue and yet Yield Nothing of Value

UbiSoft, EA, Pearl Abyss, and a host of smaller studios and studios started for the express purpose of jumping on the bandwagon, will continue to talk about crypto, blockchain, play to earn, and NFTs.

And it will all net out to nothing a year from now because, despite the bleating of the crypto bros and the sheep following them, there is really no upside for a studio like EA to hitch its titles up to somebody’s block chain and give up income when there is nothing crypto could do that they couldn’t already do… or haven’t already done… themselves.

And the downsides? Whoa Nelly, if you think lock boxes look like gambling, I am pretty sure when they become NFTs with the intent that they can be bought and sold for real world money that even the government will suddenly agree that it is gambling.  Even skirting that, there are tax implications for “play to earn” if it gets too lucrative… and that will fall outside of the studios hands… that make the whole thing a nightmare.

The UbiSoft test case will fall flat because they will end up having to impose such restrictions to stay within the law and away from expensive entanglements as to end up not achieving any of its promise, and no studio with live games will see fit to follow suit.

17 – Metaversary Rhymes

Then there is the whole fairy tale metaverse aspect of crypto that people are on about.

The main item here are the crypto bros who think NFTs are the future and will act as transferable tickets for virtual goods so that you can buy a car in Need for Speed and drive it in Forza or Mario Kart.  That ain’t gonna happen.  Leaving aside the complexity of getting different studios with different motivations needing to get together on some sort of agreed upon standard for… well… literally anything anybody would want to move from game to game, no studio is going to buy into that.

Any game that makes money selling cars, using the example above, wants you to buy their cars.  That is how they make money.  If you can just bring all your Mario Kart stuff into Forza Horizon… again, leaving aside the huge elephant in the room issue of standards… Forza loses.  So Forza isn’t going to join that venture.

And we’ve been to the internet, right?  How long do you think it would take for somebody to mass produces knock-off cars for a buck that could be used in all those metaverse titles?  This is a dead end as there is no upside for the development studios that would need to implement it.

So this will go absolutely nowhere in 2022, despite the myriad start ups jumping on board the bandwagon trying to milk a bit of that sweet venture capital by throwing around buzzwords.

18 – Non-Fungible Fiascos

Even with the above pair of predictions I know that some company’s won’t be able to help themselves and will stick their hands in the fire and get burned.  I predict crypto/NFT/play to earn nonsense will at least get an official announcement and plan for the following titles (2 points per correct call):

  • EVE Online
  • Star Citizen
  • Black Desert Online
  • Final Fantasy XIV
  • Wild Card: Some Gamigo Title

I am not saying that any one of them will be implemented… player push back will be huge… but the blue sky press releases will go out.

19 – Chapter and Metaverse

Meanwhile, there is the other metaverse story, where Mark Zuckerberg, who apparently missed out on Second Life, wants to create a VR world that he controls.  He is so bent on it that he renamed the company Meta… and totally not because Facebook has a horrible reputation and he needed to distract from that.

In his metaverse there is none of this NFT movement nonsense, because you won’t ever leave his domain once you strap the VR headset onto your face and log in.  In Zucktopia you will see what he wants you to see, which is generally the right wing propaganda that pays top dollar.

The problem is that you can’t goose-step around with your neo-fascist buddies if you don’t have legs, which means all torchlight rallies will be limited to less than a dozen people.  Limitations of the platform I’m afraid.

And so this too will go nowhere in 2022.  At best we’ll see some more creepy demos with uncanny-valley Mark Zuckerberg… and I leave you to decide if I mean his avatar or himself… talking up his dystopian future where all the bad parts of Facebook will be injected straight into your eyeballs via a VR mask strapped to your face like something reminiscent of Clockwork Orange.

20 – A Better Metaplace

The year started out with me poking at some of the vague statements that Raph Koster was making about his own multiverse plan, wondering at how his new company was going to address some of the more obvious issues, like who would be paying for all of it.

But that was me quibbling over details.  Here at the dawn of 2022 I don’t know anybody else I would trust as much as Raph to speak of a future vision of virtual worlds.  Most of the metaverse talk is castles in the sky, next to which Raph seems to be a guy with wood, nails, and a hammer, ready to build something real.

So, to try and turn this editorial into a prediction, I am going to say Raph Koster and Playable Worlds will deliver something tangible in 2022.  Not a complete product, but enough to get past the vague teases that have gone before and cement the company as serious in a sea of pretenders.

21 – Non Starters

I have to have a couple of gimme predictions on the list, so lets run down the quick list of things that won’t ship in 2022 (2 points per correct guess):

  1. Crimson Desert
  2. Star Citizen
  3. Squadron 42
  4. Camelot Unchained
  5. Pnatheon: Rise of the whatever will get us a headline

Extra Credit Guesses

A bonus 10 points each if these come to pass

  • CCP will go really overboard on defense and decide that electing the CSM is a bad idea, since that process tends to fill the seats with people who have independent ideas.  Instead, taking a cue from Blizzard, they will let players apply to be on the CSM, picking the candidates that most suit the company needs.
  • Meanwhile, the WoW Player Council will be a one-time production.  After a year of shooting down ideas from the current council, Blizzard will thank members for their service, declare the whole thing a wonderful success, then not ask for applications for a new council as the team goes off to do whatever they were planning to do in the first place.

Scoring

As I usually do, each prediction is worth 10 points if I get it correct, with partial credit available.  I have already marked some of the predictions with “points per correct call” for multi-title guesses. With 21 predictions, that is 210 possible points.    Extra credit predictions don’t count against my win percentage, which I assume will be very low, as it is most years.

Again, I want to remind some readers that these are predictions, not wishes.  My wishes for would be sunshine and lollipops compared to what I have laid out above.  This is just what I think could happen after having been through both 2020 and 2021, a pair of years that saw fit to try and beat any cheery optimism out of me.

Which isn’t to say I don’t want to hear any contrary positions.  As I said at the top, discussion is an aspect of the whole thing and  I expect to be right on 30% of these tops, so in disagreeing with any one of my predictions you are more likely to end up correct in the end.

Anyway, the coming twelve months will reveal the truth and I’ll be back in December to count up the score.

Watching Week One of Alliance Tournament XVII

The Alliance Tournament has returned, having been on hiatus since 2018, with ATXVII officially kicking off this past weekend.  It came out during some of the between match discussion that this was in large part due to the efforts of CCP Aurora.

Alliance Tournament XVII

I spent some time watching the first weekend of matches, though being on the Pacific coat means that they tend to start while I am still asleep.  I do want to say that I am happy the AT is back.  While I have my reservations about it and while it has not been without controversy, it does represent an aspect of the game that a segment of the player base enjoys, and in a sandbox game we’re all better off if groups can thrive in their part of the field.

That said, in watching this I am reminded once again what an abysmal spectator game EVE Online really is.  It can work for a streamer where you can see their modules and overview, but from a third party perspective viewing a battle it is tough to get anything from what is being displayed on the screen.

Though, honestly, that might be a true reflection of being in such a battle where the visual of the game are often just so much chaos, where the brackets merge and overlap into an unreadable mess at times, and where the overview is often the only thing delivering useful information at a given moment.  At that point as a viewer the match depends a lot on the announcers, and even the best of those can be wrong or off the mark in a game as complicated as EVE Online.  Of course, when so many matches are pretty much decided in the first 30 seconds, maybe complexity isn’t the biggest issue.

As usual, there were some interesting matches and some complete wipes.  I think the second match for What Could Possibly Go Wr0ng might have been the best morale wipe.  They went in with an artillery Maelstrom core against LAZERHAWKS and just got stomped.  One of several 100 to 0 results.  But I had just been thinking about arty Maelstroms because, as I am coming up on a decade in null sec I have been looking back at some old posts, and the Maelstrom based Alpha Fleet was the first doctrine I flew in way back then.  Greetings from 2011.

Probably the most exciting match for me was the second Goonswarm match against Deepwater Hooligans.  GSF got wiped in its first match, going down 100 to 16 against Psychotic Tendencies,  so everything was on the line for the second match.

I was away from my keyboard and missed the first five minutes of the second match, only pulling it up to find GSF down 55 to 18 with only two ships left on the field.  It seemed like things were a foregone conclusion.

This does not look good

And then ren taka and Dirk Stertille managed to rack up a series of kills as the clock counted down, knocking out both DWH Eoses .  If the Golem could have held on a bit longer it might have been the end for the Ishtars.  But it could not, and its explosion seemed to call the match.  But then the Navy Scorpion did kill one of the Ishtars and the score got close again, sitting at just 72 to 79 in favor of DWH.  But Dirk couldn’t hold out for very long, and with less than a minute left in the match the Scorpion exploded and that was it for the match.  Goons knocked out early once again.

The final score for GSF vs DWH

That was probably not the absolute best match of the game (the Fraternity vs The Network match was something else) but it was a good one and one I was invested in.  I bet all my channel points on Goons twice and lost twice.

It is interesting to see what comps were popular this year.  There were a lot of command ships on the field.  The Sleipner is usually pretty popular, but the Eos and the Nighthawk saw a lot of usage.  There were also multiple attempts at battleship heavy compositions to try and bring as much damage to bear early in the match as possible.  That worked a few times, but the mobility of command ships seemed the better choice in the first week.

All of which is a reminder of the esoteric nature of AT fleet comp theory crafting, where both teams are limited to ten ships and have a 100 points to spend on hulls in a pricing scheme setup by CCP.  This leads to a very tight balance between hulls and fits and pilot skill to create a winning team, and the teams that spend the most time testing fits and practicing tactics tend to stand out as the tournament progresses. (And props to Arrival for putting a 22 billion ISK Barghest flagship on the field. The AT took place in TQ in the UUA-F4 system so you can see all the losses on zKillboard.)

So it was an interesting weekend for round one.  We even got to see some teams secure prize ships as this time around the top 16 teams will all walk away with at least a few.

Marring all of this a bit was the whole turning kill mails into NFTs thing that CCP announced at the last minute, which went over like the proverbial lead balloon.  Hilmar was out on Twitter hyping up the NFT aspect and meeting quite a bit of push back.  The big defense for him was that these NFTs were less environmentally harmful than competing NFTs, with the tech bros he contracted with throwing links to dubious charts in his wake.

It is one of those things where I understand somebody like the CEO of Electronic Arts saying that NFTs and blockchain are the future of gaming.  He is just jumping on the hype train to try and juice is stock price (and thus part of his compensation package) even as he admits in almost the next breath that he doesn’t know what his statement even means. (And even if they have no real benefit and plenty plenty of downside for video games.)

But Hilmar and EVE Online have a pretty small audience so it isn’t clear to me what benefit he thought he was bringing to the company by diving in with NFTs, which is currently little more than a haven for scams right now, and block chain, which represents the favored currency of criminals globally.  This might be taking that “Be the Villain” ad campaign a bit too far.  That 10% cut of all sales transactions for the kill mail NFTs seems more like an accounting encumbrance than a benefit.

But he was all in on VR to save the company too at one point.

Anyway, we’ll see what becomes of that in the long term as well I suppose.

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