Tag Archives: Cryptic Studios

Reviewing My Demands for 2011

This year I eschewed the traditional practice of making predictions and issued a series of demands for the MMO industry for 2011.

Why demands?

Well, when you make predictions and you are wrong, it is your fault.  If you make demands though, and the company does not live up to them, it is THEIR fault!  Ha!  Rather than scoring my own predictions, I get to score their behavior.

So it is time to review my demands for 2011, made way back on January 2nd.  I gave everybody until December 15th to meet my demands.  Now it is time to see who complied.

Blizzard:

Stop looking so damn smug.  Tell us what Titan is,  ship Diablo III, and add some more content to the top end of World of Warcraft.  I swear half the game is already level 85.  Oh, and another sparkle pony, but something a little less frou-frou this time.  And an expansion for StarCraft II.  Somebody has to sell some PC games this year.

See, this is what is wrong with Blizzard these days.  I threw a crapload of demands at them, six if you include “stop looking so damn smug,” and they barely made any of them.

To sum up, we still do not know what Titan is, Diablo III is out in 2012 somewhere, and no expansion for StarCraft II.  I mean, how tough was that last one?  Oh, and they still look damn smug.’

All we got was a new sparkly pony, the Winged Guardian Mount, and some more content at the top end of Cataclysm.  Not enough I say! Not enough.

Sparkle Kitty vs. Sparkle Pony

For this I decree that Mike Morhaime will have to come up with more public rationalizations about WoW subscription numbers, including at least one additional convoluted SWTOR impact denial.

Sony Online Entertainment:

Smedley? SMEDLEY!  Pull yourself together.  I know those PlayStation people are bossing you around, but you make money.  Certainly more than they make on hardware.  Refine what you have.  More server merges.  Reconcile EverQuest II Live and EverQuest II Extended.  Work on the PC controls for DC Universe Online because I am NOT hooking up a console controller to my PC just to play it.  And finish with the Agency already, you’re starting to embarrass us all.

SOE on the other hand, complied with almost all of my demands.  We certainly got server merges on a number of fronts, and some are still coming, including the merger of the Live Gamer EverQuest II servers into standard servers. EverQuest II Live and EverQuest II Extended were reconciled, with Live eating and then becoming Extended.

And they certainly finished up The Agency.  Ouch.

In fact, the only demand they missed on was fixing the controls for the PC version of DC Universe Online, and they were so busy launching, consolidating servers, and then converting to free to play that I guess they can have a pass on that.

For this I grant favorable portents for Planetside 2… provided they don’t pull an “Agency” move with it and string us along for several years.

Cryptic:

Just go free to play across the board already.  Champions and Star Trek Online.  Everybody else is doing it.  But don’t screw over the lifetime subscribers.  And when you go free to play, make sure you have something shiny and new to bring people back.  Oh, and Neverwinter, get it out this year and don’t screw it up!

Cryptic… Well, everything is either free to play or in the works.  They’ll be a month late on the demand in the case of Star Trek Online.

Neverwinter though… just where are you guys even going with that title these days?  Cryptic is supposed to be your company name, not your business plan.

I put a curse of market confusion upon Cryptic for Neverwinter… which they deserve just for choosing that name.  There are OTHER locations in Forgotten Realms you know.

BioWare:

Everybody is watching you.  You’re not making some single player game.  You’re making an engine, an engine that is supposed to take in money and deliver the joy of being in the Star Wars universe.  Don’t let those wankers in San Mateo make you ship early.  Meanwhile, since you guys seem to be in the MMO driver’s seat at EA, for now, don’t screw around with Ultima Online, but do something about Warhammer Online.  You’re bright guys, you’ll figure something out.

Wow, talk about delivering.  I am pretty sure they moved the early access back to the 13th of December just to be clearly within the scope of my demand.  And yet it is late enough that we cannot really tell if the engine is set to vacuum up money from Star Wars loving fans.

Plus they didn’t screw around with Ultima Online and they came up with a DoTA-like game reusing Warhammer Online assets and branding it as Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes.

Full points all around.  For this the force will be with them… for three months.  They are on their own after that!

CCP:

Will you put that drink down already?  EVE is still going, still making money, still popular, still unique, I get it.  And you are improving it over time.  But really, you’re starting to look like a one-trick pony.  What are all those people in Atlanta doing?  You don’t have to ship something new this year, but at least make us believe you’re really working on something new.  We’re starting to think you’re spending all that money you make on akvavit and exotic dancers.

CCP is the only company that actually responded directly to my demands.  CCP Manifest dropped my a note just 8 days after my post promising that we would all see amazing things from CCP this year and that my demands would be fully met.

And then, of course, Incarna hit, the player base blew up… more than usual…  plans were re-assessed, people were laid off, projects were set aside, and the summer of discontent basically loomed over the staff at CCP.

And then they refocused, shipped the Crucible expansion to mostly favorable reaction (it sure is pretty), and plans seem to be solid for DUST 514, with a release target (Spring 2012… which means by Christmas, right?) and a platform (PlayStation 3 works for me).

So I guess, in the end, they met my demands.

I would suggest that we did not need all the drama, but that seems to be one of the vital ingredients to any CCP operation.  That and alcohol.  I know they aren’t spending all their money on booze, but I suspect there is still a line item in the budget for it.

For this I grant an early Spring and no bankruptcy in 2012.

NCsoft:

Aion, City of Whatever, and Guild Wars.  Is that really all you have going in North America?  Well, there is Lineage II I suppose.  And what do you have on your to do list?  Blade & Soul?  Really?  Don’t bother.  And let Guild Wars 2 gestate to full term, which means don’t ship it in 2011.

I didn’t ask much from NCsoft, and they delivered.  No Guild Wars 2 in 2011.  Now the question is will we see it in 2012?

Your boon is the usual subscriber boost as you move all of your titles to free to play business model.

Trion Worlds:

Your big opportunity is coming.  Ship Rift at just about the time when WoW Players have finally wrapped up the high-end content and you could get… a stable half a million subscribers.  Okay, that isn’t WoW numbers, but history shows that most people just stick with their favorite MMO forever due to the social network they develop.  Hrmm… that is sounding like a prediction, not a demand.  Okay, go and get a half a million subscribers already!  By June!  With your shield or on it and all that!

Trion, you made it.  While you were out there claiming a million customers, I am going to take it as read that that meant more that half a million subscribers at one time.  And you even kept them for a while, thanks to Cataclysm backlash, a late ship date for SWTOR, and essentially no new competitors in your field.

For this you get favorable portents for End of Nations and a soft landing from the SWTOR effect.

Other MMO Studios:

Which of you is even poised to do anything in 2011?  TERA is going to be another Asian oddity, soon forgotten by the mainstream.  It was all that Aventurine could do to ship Darkfall, they won’t be doing anything else. Funcom won’t get The Secret World out in 2011, they’re more likely to cut more staff.  All of you other studios, select a champion and send it out to do battle.  Yes, it can be TERA if you cannot find anything else, but I’m telling you it is going to be completely forgettable.

Nothing?  Really, no small studio champion has arisen?

Fine, you’re all doomed to mutter about the success of Minecraft and Angry Birds.

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw:

When Star Wars: The Old Republic ships this year, review it.  I know, it is a muh-more-puh-gah, but this is Star Wars and BioWare.  I demand it.  We all demand it!

Alright, you’re absolved because of the late ship date of SWTOR.  But  I expect a review of it next year.

Dr. Richard Bartle:

You were awfully quiet in 2010.  And you’ve got your three level 85s in WoW now. (A very common claim these days.)  Go say something controversial.  Declare WoW dead.  Predict SWTOR will be a failure as a virtual world.  Make some news.  Do an interview with those people at Massively.  They’ll print anything you say.

Dr. Bartle was kind enough to comment on my original demands list that, while I found the past controversies surrounding his statements in the gaming press amusing (remember the “I’d Close WoW” headline or his positive view of Stranglethorn Vale), the whole thing tends not to be so much fun for him.

And he managed to steer clear of such controversies, despite my egging on certain members of the Massively staff.

So he gets a pass as well.  We can just hope that somebody takes note of his idea of how to break the current state of stagnation in MMOs and that he has a good fortune in 2012 as he attempts to educate us on the obvious.  I personally look forward to further education.

Scoring

What is there to score?

Okay, if you want to view my demands as predictions, I think I did okay this year.  But I did not really go out on a limb with anything either.  2011 was a quiet year in many ways, with titles being pushed off into 2012.

Now, do I go back to outrageous predictions for 2012 or stick with unreasonable demands?

Daggerdale – Atari has More Dungeons & Dragons Coming

Last August, Atari and Cryptic announced a new non-MMO, single-player/co-op multi-player was being produced.  It was titled, ever so originally, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter
By the way, I would like to throw out a few other Forgotten Realms locations that could have games based around them, thus avoiding more repetition of Neverwinter. (Or Baldur’s Gate, for that matter.)

Waterdeep maybe?  Zhentil Keep?  Calimport even?  The elves of Evermeet perhaps?

All fine locations.

Anyway, I received a note today about another Dungeons & Dragons game, again not an MMO, but featuring single-player and co-op multi-player action.  This time Atari has teamed up with Bedlam Games to create Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale.


And the first thing going for it is that at least it isn’t named Neverwinter. (Or Baldur’s Gate.)

But otherwise it sounds… well… a lot like Neverwinter.

Solo or Co-op Play
It’s up to you! Whether you choose to do battle in the mines of Tethyamar or skirmish on the Tower of Rezlus, you can fight solo, join with up to three friends online, or battle alongside a partner locally.

Questing
Explore Daggerdale’s main questlines to reveal its intriguing backstory, mysterious characters, and the richness of its world. Extended depth and experience reward exploration and side-quests.

Immersive Combat
Battle a wide range of enemies by engaging in intuitive pick-up-and-play melee, tactical ranged combat, or powerful spell casting.

Develop Your Character
Select a class, build your ultimate hero, collect loot, and earn experience! Select powers and feats to enhance and customize your hero as you level up.

Stunning Levels and Deep Exploration
A wide variety of perilous quests encourage you to explore Daggerdale’s richly detailed environments.

Multiple Game Modes
Unlock new areas and challenges in Campaign mode, or hone your skills and discover powerful new items in Freeplay mode.

Authentic D&D Experience
The detailed world of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons franchise has been painstakingly recreated for a rich, complex, and thrilling game experience.

It also includes the usual claim to be true to the spirit of the 4th Edition rule set, though it lacks some of the heavy-hitter name that Cryptic mentions prominently; R. A. Salvatore. (He wrote the story on which the game is based.)

Oh, it does have one more thing going for it that Cryptic’s Neverwinter does not.  Daggerdale is supposed to be out before Summer.  Cryptic is still living up to its name and still saying just “2011” on the Neverwinter site.

Anyway, it is clear that Atari is big on Dungeons & Dragons of late.

Daggerdale is slated for Windows, XBox 360, and PlayStation 3, though my experience so far in cross platform is that PC players get the short end of the stick.  And Daggerdale’s latest video doesn’t exactly have me wetting my pants in anticipation.

Not that it looks bad, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out either.

How about you?  Have you heard anything good about Daggerdale?

Or have you heard anything new about Neverwinter?

Cryptic Calls My Forgotten Realms Bluff

If you didn’t like the IP idea in my last post, why not just go with Forgotten Realms?

Is Forgotten Realms good for everybody?

(Quiet you Dragonlance weenies!)

As noted over at Massively, Cryptic announced their next project, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter

This is what Cryptic has to say about the game so far:

About Neverwinter

100 years have passed since the Spellplague consumed the world of Faerûn. Neverwinter, a once majestic city of magic and adventure upon the mighty Sea of Swords, is still being rebuilt from near total ruination. Even as new wonders of stone and iron rivaling ancient works are being raised by the hands of man, dwarf and elf, dark powers beyond reckoning vie for control of the land…

This is a world that promises death for the meek, glory for the bold and danger for all. This is the world of Neverwinter.

Neverwinter Nights Reborn

Continue the critically acclaimed adventure! The #1 best-selling Neverwinter Nights series of PC RPGs returns with an epic Dungeons & Dragons storyline, next-generation graphics, a persistent world, and accessible content creation tools.

Immersive, Imaginative

Enter a world ravaged by the Spellplague. Wrest victory from the claws of darkness and battle the greatest of civilization’s enemies in and around Neverwinter, a storied and ancient city upon Faerûn’s Sea of Swords.

Challenging, Complex, Classic

Epic gameplay and action rooted firmly in the best traditions of the RPG genre await those heroes courageous enough to brave the Spellplague and all that it has ravaged.

Build a Fantasy

Easy-to-grasp adventure creation tools empower users. Bring compelling quests to life and build challenging levels! Share creations with the entire world in-game. Become a part of the existing Dungeons & Dragons universe… Then build a new one.

Play Together or Die Alone

Encounter dangerous foes and perilous environments. Work with others, strategically, to overcome nightmares, demons, monsters, and beasts of legend.

World Without End

Neverwinter features co-operative multiplayer in an ever-evolving, persistent world where Dungeons & Dragons adventurers quest alongside thousands of other warriors, rogues, wizards and faithful avengers.

New D&D, Beloved D&D

Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience based on the acclaimed 4th Edition rules — a first of its kind!

A Legend Arises

Unprecedented character customization as only Cryptic can deliver. Imagine a hero, make a hero, become a hero.

Neverwinter is based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rule set and set around the Forgotten Realms location of  Neverwinter.

This is pretty much what I have been asking for.

I was just commenting on a post the other day regarding DDO and how Eberron doesn’t thrill me, but Forgotten Realms… now there is an IP!

We’ll see how the D&D 4th edition rule set gets translated… that is always a leap of faith… but it couldn’t end up that bad, right?

And now, here we are.

Certainly, there are aspects to this concept that interest me.

  • Forgotten Realms

My favorite D&D campaign setting ever!

He’s the man for Forgotten Realms fiction… but doesn’t he work with Curt Schilling?  How do you explain that one to the head man?

  • Cryptic Studios

If nothing else, I want to see the fantasy RPG version of their character creator.  That should practically be a stand alone game in and of itself.  And if they’ve learned other lessons, so much the better.

  • Content Creation Tools

Yes, there is the 90% crap rule, but if they can figure out how to promote the good stuff so we can find it, this could be worthwhile.

  • Did I say Forgotten Realms already?

Oh yeah, still excited about that!

  • Not an MMORPG

Interesting.

Jack saysI wouldn’t say MMORPG at all — Neverwinter is a cooperative RPG.”

So where will Neverwinter stand then in the grand scheme of things?  And how does “not an MMORPG” fit in with their statement under “World Without End” I quoted above?

Is this just positioning, a “Neverwinter is not WoW” message?

Will it be “not an MMO” the way Guild Wars and Dungeons & Dragons Online are “not” MMOs, lacking as they do the shared, persistent world?

Will it be a step closer to the Dragon Age segment of the fantasy gaming world?

Or will it fall closer to Diablo III and Torchlight II?

And how will we be paying for this game, whatever it ends up being?

I will certainly want to keep an eye on this new game.  We’ll see if my calls for a real Forgotten Realms MMO were a bluff or not.  And, if nothing else, I always like to see how the game that ships lines up with the first press release.

Meanwhile, the last time I was in Neverwinter, it looked like this:

Neverwinter Map – TorilMUD

Not exactly impressive, but that was the way things were back in the day when I played TorilMUD regularly, and I enjoyed it immensely at the time.

MMOs and The BBB

The BBB is the Better Business Bureau, a resource you may have heard of before.

Omali at Massive Multiplayer Fallout took a look at the Better Business Bureau web site to see what they had to say about various studios that produce massively multiplayer games.

I won’t spoil his post by repeating it all here, but there was quite a dichotomy in the ratings.  The BBB give letter grades from A to F following the academic model and most companies either got an A or an F.

Sony Online Entertainment and Blizzard Entertainment (Blizzard is actually one of the few on the list that are BBB Accredited) were among those getting an A.

Cryptic Studios and Mythic were both on the F list.

The only company in the middle of the pack was NCsoft, which received a C-.

And a pile of other companies have no rating at all.

Aside from some of the information in the profiles I’ve linked, I’m not sure that the ratings would affect my own buying decisions.

How about you?

Do these ratings surprise you, confirm your own views, or just represent another data point that may or may not affect your life?

STO Character Creator – Experimenting

Playing with the character creator for a while this afternoon, I did discover that you can, in fact, create a female avatar with large breasts wearing a tight, leather-like uniform.

Created in the name of science...

You know… if you like that sort of thing.

That does not mean, however, that you have to shake it in front of the whole bridge crew and make them feel inadequate.

Cryptic Does Dance Moves

Dignity should be maintained.  Waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care should be avoided… at least in that outfit.

Still, Cryptic appears to have dodged that “no hot avatars” problem that Vanguard seemed to have so long ago.  (Even the Vanguard team seemed to admit that to that at a later date.)

Star Trek Online Options We’d Like to See

Star Trek Online.  It’s coming.

Okay, so the myriad of pre-order and special edition options that Atari and Cryptic have announced so far (are they done yet?)  have certainly made the task of what to buy a little more challenging than is common for an MMO launch.

Still, we all have another choice here.

We can complain about how Cryptic and Atari have apparently gone off the rails on the bonus item front.

Or we can embrace change and encourage it towards it ultimate silly destination.

(Personally, I plan to do both, but that is another story.)

So in the interest of embracing change, I have begun to formulate a list additional pre-order, special edition, or other purchase option bonus features that I think Cryptic and/or Atari should look into.

That is what I have come up with so far.

What other options should Cryptic and Atari consider?

I’m sure I can think of more.

Or maybe I’ll go watch that fleet action video yet again and try to forget this.

Star Trek Online – More Desicions on What to Buy

We have already been exposed to the variety of pre-order options that Star Trek Online offers.  To get the item you want you have to purchase your pre-order from the right vendor.

Now Atari and Cryptic have announced another wrinkle in the decision process with their press release regarding the Collector’s Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition of the game.

ATARI PRESENTS STAR TREK™ ONLINE COLLECTOR’S EDITION AND DIGITAL DELUXE EDITION FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY

Special Packages Contain Exclusive Content, Collectibles, and Game Access

New York, NY (December 11, 2009) – Atari, Inc., one of the world’s most recognized videogame publishers, and acclaimed MMO developer Cryptic Studios™, announced today a Collector’s Edition and a Digital Deluxe Edition of Star Trek Online, available for purchase on February 2, 2010, for a limited time only. Both packages include exclusive content, collectibles and game access.  Right now, the $79.99 Collector’s Edition can be pre-ordered at GameStop.com and the $59.99 Digital Deluxe Edition can be pre-ordered at Direct2Drive and STEAM.  Both special editions are also available at Atari.com.

“True Star Trek fans are sure to appreciate the exclusive features the Star Trek Online Collector’s Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition boast,” says Jim Wilson, President and CEO of Atari, Inc.  “With extended content and one-of-a-kind collectible items, Star Trek fans and gamers alike can experience the full extent of the Star Trek experience.”

The Star Trek Online Collector’s Edition adds to the experience with such bonus features as:

  • Deluxe Packaging: Futuristic 3dX holography set in a high quality brushed aluminum finish.  Heavy duty construction with magnetic closures and nested compartments for all components.
  • Deluxe Manual: High-end, hardbound, art book, manual and disc case in a single, elegant package. “HD Printing” on over 40 glossy pages highlights exclusive art from the Star Trek Online universe.
  • Communicator Badge: High-quality cast-metal design based on the in-game badge model. Fully 3D sculpted with recessed burst and curved contours.
  • Guest Passes:  Credit card style buddy passes to invite three of your friends for a three-day trial of Star Trek Online.  Codes can be transmitted digitally or physically.
  • Red Matter Capacitor (in-game item): A unique item that charges up and delivers extra energy to all of your ship’s equipment for a short time.
  • “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Uniform (in-game item): Uniform Options from “The Next Generation” Series.  The timeless look worn by Picard, Data and Riker.
  • “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Uniform (in-game item): Uniform Options from the “Deep Space Nine” Series.  Gray shoulders on a black uniform, just like Sisko, Worf and Dax.

The Star Trek Online Digital Deluxe Edition offers such bonuses as five exclusive in-game items as well as the ability to play as a “Joined Trill” – a symbiote that grants you several lifetimes of experience.  The five exclusive in-game items include:

  • Original Star Trek Uniform Set: Three uniforms from the original series (blue, red, yellow).

  • Exclusive “KHAAAN!” Emote: An unforgettable moment from the second Star Trek Film.  This exclusive emote allows players to relive Kirk’s unforgettable moment of fury, with the timeless cry… “KHAAAN!”

  • Exclusive Klingon Blood Wine Toast Emote: Raise a glass like a Klingon!  Greet other players with an exclusive Klingon gesture –the blood wine toast.

  • Unique Registry Prefix: Give your ship the coveted NX prefix, seen only on a handful of elite Starfleet vessels like the Defiant, 22nd century Enterprise, and Prometheus.

  • Unique Ship Item: Automated Defense Battery. This Tactical Module grants any ship a passive 360 arc attack power with a short range.

In Star Trek Online, the Star Trek universe will appear for the first time one a truly massive scale. In this massively multiplayer online game, players can pioneer their own destiny as Captain of a Federation ship or become a Klingon Warlord and expand the Empire to the far reaches of the galaxy. Players will visit iconic locations from the popular Star Trek fiction, travel to unexplored star systems, and contact new alien species. Every moment spent playing Star Trek Online will feel like a new Star Trek episode in which you are the hero. Immerse yourself in the future of the Trek universe as it moves into the 25th century: a time of shifting alliances and new discoveries. As the Captain of your very own ship, it’s up to you to lead your crew on missions that span the galaxy.

Star Trek Online is a licensed product from CBS Consumer Products.  For more information, please visit: www.startrekonline.com

Now I had seen in various places most what came with the Collector’s Edition, though the Red Matter Capacitor is a new twist. (And perhaps skirting a bit too close to the last movie.)

The Collector's Edition

But the Digital Deluxe Edition?  A “Khaaan!” emote?  And I don’t get it with the Collector’s Edition?  And the uniform set from the original series?

What are they thinking, making the original series ship and the original series uniforms essentially mutually exclusive?  Did somebody pass out these bonus items by drawing them out of a hat?

I need that “Khaaan!” emote right about now.

And this is only going to get worse I bet when we find out what the European distributors are going to be handing out.  You just wait until we find out the French are getting a Joan Collins “City on the Edge of Forever” bridge crew member or some such.

I suppose we will all be able to identify who bought which version where on day one.

Cryptic, you’re making me crazy.