Tag Archives: Carbine Studios

WildStar Shuts Down

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

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

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

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

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

Others saying farewell to WildStar:

WildStar to Succumb at Long Last

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

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

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

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

NCsoft Sale by IP – Q2 2017 – No WildStar mentioned

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

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

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

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

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

Coverage and reactions:

WildStar Survives Another Day by Going Free to Play

Back in January one of my least controversial new year predictions was probably this:

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

The issue seemed in doubt when the NCsoft Q1 2015 financials were released and amongst the data it was revealed that WildStar was officially doing worse than City of Heroes was before it was shut down.  But Carbine appears to have dodged that bullet for the time being (though they were very touchy about the business model subject for a while) as they announced today that WildStar would be going free to play this autumn… provided it doesn’t tank even further… a possibility when you tell be subscriptions will be optional in a few months… and simply get shut down.

Wildstar_logoFor me the biggest surprise was that Elder Scrolls Online went for the free to play option first, given the dev team attitude about monetizing things in-game.  But then they had the big console release coming up and subscriptions are even more out of favor on that front.

But when it comes to WildStar, I have never really been a fan of the game.  I was skeptical of a team that left Blizzard in 2005 because they felt World of Warcraft was doing it wrong even as it was becoming a popular sensation.  I was dubious that their CREDD plan … which allowed Carbine to claim that they were offering up a “hybrid” model since you could play for free if you bought CREDD with in-game currency… would make an iota of difference, or that there was any evidence that WildStar could build up an economy that would support a PLEX-like scheme.  And I was somewhat exasperated at their near tragic misuse of the Bartle types for their path system.  Also, the graphic style did nothing at all the encourage me to play.

So, yeah, I wasn’t really all that interested when it was announced, it clearly wasn’t my thing when it launched, and going free is unlikely to change my mind.  There are simply too many other things I would rather play ahead of WildStar on my list.

But for those who enjoy the game, at least it will be around a while longer.  As I have noted, the conversion from subscription to free to play usually brings about a happy time, a resurgence of interest, and the joy of populated servers… at least until that dies down and the whole thing descends into the usual in-your-face cash shop focused lockbox monetizaion hell that is the standard for MMO F2P games these days.  A mixed blessing indeed.

The question, of course, will be just how free is “free” really going to be.  Well, there is a FAQ posted, because there is always a FAQ somewhere with these things.  And Carbine does seem to be serious on the free thing, emphasizing it throughout the FAQ, summing up with this paragraph:

We place no restrictions on any of the game’s content. Every zone, every dungeon, every raid, every battleground… they’re all available. All players will be able to create characters of every race, class, and path while choosing any tradeskills they like. Characters can achieve level 50 and path level 30, just as they can under the current system.

The nudge to get people to subscribe… which is being called a Signature player or some such… is the usual set of perks and restrictions on various aspects of the games.  The list from the FAQ is available after the cut because it is a bit long to stick in the middle of the post.  Saved for posterity, because we know how these things can change.

So another bow to the inevitable in an MMO market crowded with competitors.  Moment noted.

Continue reading

Carbine Studios in One Minute

A quick round up of the history of Carbine Studios, makers of WildStar.

(Direct link to video)

One thing that always strikes me about the group that started Carbine is that they left Blizzard in 2005, long before WoW peaked, many months before the first expansion, and even before the game really settled down and worked out some of the early annoyances and rough patches.  Now, more than 8 years down the line, when many other aspirants to the WoW throne have launched and stumbled, here they are at last.

I did think the partabout “paths” in the video was more than a bit off.  Carbine did not interview anybody, they just used the Bartle types and said as much.

WildStar Launches Today

Yes, there has been beta and open beta and a headstart for those who pre-purchased the game, but all that is in the past now.  Today is the official launch day for WildStar.  Today the game goes live for everybody and anybody can wander in off the street, buy a copy, and start playing.

Wildstar_logo

Well, you can start playing is you can get into the game.  I thought I saw somebody mention a server queue time estimate of 3 days over the weekend.

But, if you’re going to have a problem, being too popular is one to have.  And the team at Carbine is trying to do what they can, even offering free realm transfers.

Granted, your options are from specific, high population realms to specific low population realms, but at least you have an option.  How often are realm transfers even a thing this early in a game’s lifecycle?  Sure, it was understandable back when EverQuest launched, but server transfers tend to be a post-launch item for most games, coming along when things start to go south.

Of course, the team at Carbine has had a lot of time to consider what ought to be in a game at launch, the founders having been made up of 17 former Blizzard employees who left the company back in 2005 to make their own MMO.  Fortunately… or maybe unfortunately from some points of view… they didn’t lock themselves away to develop their game, but paid attention to what has come to pass in the industry.  So along with the Blizzard polish, they have some other twists, like the combat system and the paths mechanic (which I think represents a misunderstanding of what Bartle meant by his types, but whatever) as well as some older ideas like their PLEX-like CREDD and the whole now very retro monthly subscription fee thing.

The question now is, will it work?

Lots of people seem happy with the launch, aside from the whole “help, I’m stuck in a queue!” issue.  Blog posts I have seen so far trend towards very favorable… but that tends to be the case for most launches, unless something is horribly wrong.

Even my pal Gaff, who has worn out his most recent return to WoW, is quite enthusiastic on the subject.  Some actual IMs from him:

wildstar is worth the money

already, in my experience of 3 hours or so, a seriously cool mmo

very polished, huge, great graphics, smooth

combat system awesome, more like diablo with just a few buttons

lots of depth

be ready for stupid queues right now though

I do have to take that with a grain of salt though.  He does get enthusiastic about games early on.  There is a history of him finding a new game, telling me all about it and at just the point where I plunk down the money and log in, he stops playing.

So his enthusiasm hasn’t lured me yet.  I am content with what I am playing now and don’t feel the need to drop $60 on a box to start up another $15 a month subscription.  As Forbes put it, that is asking for too much commitment, at least for now.

We shall see how things look a few months down the road when things have settled down and the first blush enthusiasm has been dampened by the realities of the game.  Will WildStar be able to hold on to its initial subscription base and maybe even grow over time?  Or are we past that even being a possibility these days?  Is holding on to enough subscribers to pay for the transition to free to play the only thing we can hope for in the long run of MMOs now?  Is the first wave of players more like the last round of financing?

[For those scoring my F2P attitudes at home, this post counts as a tie, as I both eschew the idea of paying $75 up front to play the game AND I complain about the idea of it going F2P.]

Reviewing My 2010 Predictions

Oh yeah, I made a bunch of crazy predictions back in January, didn’t I?

For some reason last year I changed my predictions format from a set of paragraph long generalizations to a series of one line, very specific (well, mostly) guesses at the future.  I think I was pressed for time and the humor muse had not bothered to visit.  Plus it was always hard to score those paragraphs, especially since I seemed to insist on points. (I have accounting in my background, I must quantify everything!)

Now, of course, we’re here at the end of the year and I have discovered the flaw in my plan; I need to go figure out whatinthehell I got right or wrong.  And there are like a bunch of them, some of which I have not bothered to pay attention to and others about which I really didn’t give a damn in the first place but was trying to get to a 200 point total for some maniacal round-number reason.

Anyway, what’s done is done.  Next year I think I am going to go back to big predictions and a pass/fail model.  Or something.

I started on this Thanksgiving weekend and, because of apathy, I haven’t found all the answers yet.  Fortunately, other people have started posting their prediction results, so I can crib from that a bit.  Plus I’ll make you, the reader, correct my mistakes.  How about that?

So let’s see how good that cold medication was last December.  What did I predict?

Predictions for Blizzard in 2010! (5 points each)

  • StarCraft II – Will ship second quarter 2010 – Missed by 27 days, 0 points
  • Cataclysm – Will ship fourth quarter 2010 – A pretty safe guess, 5 points
  • Cataclysm – Will beat WotLK’s 24 hour sales record – Yes indeed.  I do wonder how much digital pre-orders helped.  5 points
  • Diablo III – Will not ship in 2010 – Another safe one, in my opinion, 5 points
  • New MMO – An announcement at BlizzCon with the usual Blizzard mystery build-up – Nothing at BlizzCon, 0 Points

15 out of 25 points

Big Miss – RealID and Battle.net focus?  I’m not sure those were that big in the end.

Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)

  • Planetside – Dead by December – Still alive… barely… but I always thought that The Agency had to come online before it went. 0 points
  • Norrath – Official details about the next Norrath based MMORPG some time in 2010 – We artist conceptions and some vague information, so I’m claiming 3 out of 5 points
  • Norrath – The next Norrath based MMORPG won’t be called EverQuest III – Do we have that in writing? No? 0 points
    EverQuest II – All digital distribution after the February expansion – I don’t see Destiny of Velious listed at Amazon.com, so I’m taking this as a yes. – 5 points.
  • EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing – And so it was.  I should have predicted it for EQII as well. – 5 points
  • The Agency – Won’t ship in 2010 – Saying The Agency won’t ship is like betting against the Cubs, and no, the Facebook game does not count – 5 points
  • PlayStation 3 – SOE still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – The put Free Realms on the Mac, but no PS3 support yet.  They’ve been talking about stuff on the PS3 since E3 in 2008 at least… go listen to VW Podcast #125… and still nothing.  You guys at SOE work for the PlayStation people now, right? – 5 points

23 out of 30 points

Big Miss – A free to play version of EQII

What will EA do? (5 Points each)

SWTOR – Not in 2010, no no no. – Another safe bet – 5 points

WAR – Won’t die in 2010, but won’t magically spring back to life either.  It will just trudge on with enough resources to keep it going and improve it slightly, but not enough to change anything dramatically. – Vague enough for 5 points

10 out of 10 points

Big miss – Umm… Lord of Ultima?  Was there a UO expansion or something?

Turbine predictions (5 points each)

  • LOTRO – Next expansion, announced in 2010, will be the Riders of Rohan! – Isengard, not Rohan – 0 points
  • LOTRO – Riders of Rohan will feature real mounted combat – 0 points
  • DDO – Continued success under the free to play banner with a push into some overland content – vaguely fulfilled – 1 point
  • New – We’ll hear about Turbine’s next project in 2010. – Not so much – 0 points

1 out of 20 points

Big Miss – LOTRO going free to play

CCP Predictions (5 points each)

  • Station ambulation – Still just a myth in 2010 – Again, like betting against the Cubs – 5 points
  • Dust 514 – Not for 2010 – What was that? – 5 points
  • EVE – Two Content Releases, don’t we always get two a year? – Well, we got 1.1 expansions – 2 points
  • EVE – Tech III ships will finally become common enough that you might actually see one now and again. – I have one and, while flying it, have ended up at a jump gate with another, is that common enough? – 5 points

17 out of 20 points

Big Miss – What was the big CCP story this year?

Runic Games (5 points each)

  • An inexpensive expansion will be released for Torchlight to keep funding going for Runic’s MMO – Nope – 0 points
  • Runic will give us some concrete details about said MMO – Nope – 0 points
  • That MMO won’t ship in 2010 – Well, they didn’t announce it, so 0 points
  • But said details will make some pundit say, “Wow, that’s what Dungeon Runners should have done.” – 0 points

0 out of 20 points.  I thought they would move faster than they are.

Big Miss – Multiplayer Torchlight, sort of the interim step between the first game and the MMO.

NCSoft (5 points each)

  • Aion – Going to seem like a replay of Lineage II, popular in Asia, less so in the west.  Still, it will have enough customers to keep going.  Given how readily NCSoft shuts things down, that will be saying something. – Um, I can’t even answer that – 0 points
  • GuildWars 2 – Not for 2010 – 5 points
  • PlayStation 3 – NCSoft still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – I guess I can let that old SCEA/NCSoft agreement die now – 5 points

10 out of 15 points

Other Titles (5 points each)

  • Darkfall – Will continue walking the tightrope between hardcore PvP focus and giving players something to do when they aren’t actively engaged in battle.  Slow growth with at most a single server added to the game for 2010. – Sounds vaguely right, but SynCaine will correct me – 5 points
  • Star Trek Online – Won’t disappoint Trek fans, but we’re all co-dependent on the franchise after years of reckless treatment by the studio.  We’ll all still be there after the first 30 days playing with our pre-order bonus items.  The rest of you people though… – I stopped playing, so there is a big claim I missed – 0 points
  • Hero’s Journey – It was best of show at E3 in 2005, but it will still be a no-show in 2010. – Like betting against the Twins – 5 points (Amusingly, Simutronics now has a somewhat whiny entry in their Hero Engine FAQ about Hero’s Journey, saying that the work for it is all in the Hero Engine so stop bugging them about it already.  Anyway, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the eventual showcase for their work, pretty much the make or break I’d guess.)

10 out of 15 points

MMO Industry

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

  • Mark Jacobs – No word here – 0 points
  • Richard Garriott – Some awful Facebook thing – 2 points
  • Bill Roper – Still at Cryptic doing… something – 0 points
  • Brian Green – Umm… The Fae’s Wyrd was a project, right?  – 2 points
  • Scott Hartsman – Rift, about which so many are talking of late – 2 points

6 out of 10 points

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

  • Aventurine – no announcement
  • Carbine Studios – no announcement
  • Red5 Studios – Firefall – it is an online, co-op shooter, so not really a traditional MMO –   5 points
  • Simutronics – no announcement
  • Turbine – No announcement

5 points

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

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

Isn’t there some Canadian sovereign territory at Disneyland?  No?  0 points

Spurious Logic Random neurons firing for the following guesses.

Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010.  WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark. (5 points) – erm… can’t really say yes to that – 0 points

“Yahtzee” Croshaw will review exactly ONE muh-more-puh-gah on Zero Punctuation during 2010, and it will be Star Trek Online.  He won’t like it (duh) but the Trekkie humor will be too much for him to resist doing a review. (5 points) – Nope, 0 points

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

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

Nothing – No cast announcements yet.  IMDB puts it as a possible 2013 release – 0 points

0 out of 20 points

Total Points

My first pass, hand-waving total is 97 out of 200 points.

Not bad for my mix of obvious slam-dunks and way off the reservation guesses I suppose.

Now, I will look to comments for corrections and will post an updated score once people point out that I was really wrong about those 97 points and that my total should be much lower.

So correct me already.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a less intensive set of predictions for next year.

2010 MMORPG Progdictionations

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

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

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

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

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

Not Nine, Just Six

Polar Bear in a Blizzard

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

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

Every Station but PlayStation

Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)

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

Electronic Arts and Science

What will EA do? (5 Points each)

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

Turning the Turbine

(5 points each)

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

Glory to the CCCP!

(5 points each)

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

Leading by Torchlight

(5 points each)

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

NCSofties

(5 points each)

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

Other Titles

(5 points each)

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

MMO Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spurious Logic

Random neurons firing for the following guesses.

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

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

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

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

Total Points

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

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

Check back in December 2010 to see how I did.

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