Tag Archives: MMO Closure

The Last Days of Palmont

The end of days has come for a few.  As announced by EA back in April, four of their online game get the chop tomorrow, including Need for Speed World.

Palmont is one of the fictional cities in the game, along with Rockport, and I had an idea about putting together a photo montage of sorts in the spirit of The Last Days of Pompeii. with the various automobile bound citizenry in terror of the coming apocalypse.

Palmont Police

How will they protect Palmont now?

Unfortunately, my meager artistic skills and lack of any real motivation conspired to push that idea so far past the back burner that it fell behind the stove completely, never to be seen again.  So my memorial will have to draw upon screen shots I have already posted.

Patrol Cars go Flying

Patrol Car apocalypse!

Already posted because it is a pain to take a decent screen shot in Need for Speed World, a fact I was reminded of when I returned to the game.  After the announcement back in April I ran out and downloaded the client.  Then, after figuring out which account EA had merged my old account into… seriously EA? Either use the same account to start with or be so kind as to drop me a note when you’re fucking with my user credentials yet again… I logged in, determined to soak up the last full measure of the game before it disappeared.  I had but three months left!

And then I logged off about 45 minutes later, never to log back in again.

I cannot say that the game never changed over its just shy of five years lifetime, but I am not sure it ever changed for the better.  It was a free to play game that went through all of the gyrations seemingly required of such titles in order to maintain its value in the EA lineup.

It started with the usual boosts for experience gain and cash rewards along with race-focused power ups and the sale of special RMT-only cars, some of which would be hard not to characterize as pay to win, but quickly moved towards a focus on card packs, which were just lock boxes by another name.

Meanwhile, game play didn’t go very far during the life of the game.  At one point levels were required to unlock content, but that was revamped and content… in the form of races courses… went on a rotation when it became clear that too many active courses meant that people spent a lot of time just waiting for others in their bracket to join.  So levels just ended up unlocking stickers for the car customization, as the race match making algorithm used car stats and not levels to bring people together.  Though even that was iffy at times, and during a slow time you could find yourself matched up against impossibly better vehicles.

And, of course, there were the cheats and hacks that plagued the game throughout its life.  Every race wasn’t so marred, but it happened often enough that if you played for very long you could see the patterns.  For example, I chose to avoid multi-lap races after some time as a hack that allowed a player to add a lap to the race, yet be themselves exempt from that extra lap, was becoming ubiquitous.  It became more of a race to see who could use the cheat first.  So that and flying cars and warping cars and cars with collision detection apparently turned off made random match maker races a particularly unsatisfying way to play the game.

But the most damning aspect of the whole thing was that there simply wasn’t enough to do.

The world felt small one you drove around it a few times.  Driving around in different cars could be entertaining, yet lonely.  As with the real world, we’re all together on the road yet along in our personal spaces.  Road races, as noted, became frustrating hack fests.  And the game was simply broken at various points during its history, with races simply out of action for days.  Drag races, added in later, were not even as exciting as the real world variety.  Police pursuits were good for a while, but the police AI had clear patterns you could spot after not too many runs and, after a certain point of escalation simply piled on so many resources that they could drag you down by sheer mass of wrecks.  And the daily gem hunt became a predictable pattern, unless you bought one of the gem hunter vehicles, in which case it was degraded to following a nav system in your own town.

Fairway Roadblocks

Yeah, that road block isn’t going to be very effective…

For me, the desire to log on was generally snuffed out when I felt I had done it all.  Achievements… not the best implementation, but not horrible… which came late to the game extended at least one run with me, since they promised me a special car if only I would log in and do something 180 days in a row.  But I was quickly out the door after that.

Which is not to say that Need for Speed World did not have its moments.

Just roaring around at high speed had its appeal.  Destructible terrain added some spice to things.  Nothing like mowing down a row of parking meters.  The controls were simple, but responsive enough and got the job done.  The selection of vehicles… which included some retro rides that appealed very strongly to me… actually got me to give the game some money.  I will miss my collection of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs.  And the car customization tools, while a bit clunky, gave players a lot options to run with.  There were a lot of very well done vehicles on the road.

Because who knows what TAGN stands for, right?

Not really a good example…

And races, when hacking was absent, could be quite fun.  Potshot, Earl, and I spent some time racing together in the game, and I actually managed to capture one of my favorite wins on video, complete with me bouncing off a Subaru to take the lead in the last corner, with Potshot and I in a pair of Porche 914s.

So good times were had.  And while in the long run the game really didn’t have enough there to keep me invested, it will be a bit sad to see it go.  I am not sure what else out there might really replace it.

I have read a bit about The Crew, but am seriously put off by anything with the Ubisoft name on it.  They seem quite keen to punish their paying customers for not hacking their games.  I use Steam. That is already the DRM solution in my opinion.  So then requiring me to use their Uplay DRM on top of that seems to be asking a bit much… too much for me to consider giving them any money.

I have also heard good things about Project CARS, but not enough to invest in the game.  It is on my Steam wishlist, but the last Steam sale didn’t see it hit the price threshold that would get me to commit.

So there we stand.  Tomorrow is the last day for Need for Speed World.  The last chance is here, and I am not sure I will bother to log on one final time.

Posts I have done about Need for Speed: World.

Videos I posted from the game:

 

A Farewell to Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures

No.  No more kids games.  Kids don’t spend well and it’s very difficult to run a kids game.  Turns out Kids do mean stuff to each other a lot.

John Smedley, Reddit AMA

Back towards the end of January, SOE announced that it would be closing down four of its titles this year.  The closures were set out with the following dates:

While some at SOE have, in the past, expressed a desire that MMOs should never die, the financials and resource constraints companies face do not always support those ideals.  Smed said, it wasn’t a cost issue… and then turned around and said that it was, in fact, a cost issue:

This isn’t a big cost issue. The real problem is maintaining the code bases when we update our authentication or security updates. It’s really that simple. The costs scale with the userbases. It’s just getting prohibitively expensive in terms of time to maintain these games.

So today we say farewell to the first two titles on the list, the two titles in the SOE lineup aimed at kids.  As you can see from the quote at the top of the post, it seems unlikely that SOE will try that focus again.  So goes the myth of the kid with daddy’s credit card that was so popular some time back.  It turns out that they don’t spend money.

Oh, and they are mean to each other.  I guess that fits the stereotype that WoW problem players are all 13 year olds, though I would not discount the 18-24 year old demographic when it comes to excelling at obnoxious behavior.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures seems like a natural for closure.

SWCWE_Logo

It was tied in with a TV series that has since ended… sort of… Netflix might revive it.   But as a game, it struck me as little more than a shared lobby for mini-games in the hour or so I spent on it on quiet Sunday afternoon.  A vehicle for selling Jedi hats.  I am sure some will miss it, but it never seemed to me to be a high point in the history of SOE.

Last Day...

Last Day…

More like a bone thrown them by Lucas because they were yanking the Star Wars Galaxies license just before Star Wars: The Old Republic went live.  I hope SOE made some money from it to fund other things, though I doubt they would be closing it if it was bringing in a lot of money.

Still, SOE gave people their fill of Jedi hats during the last days of the title.

Dear Clone Wars Adventures Players,

As previously announced, we wanted to remind you that game services for Clone Wars Adventures will be discontinued the evening of March 31, 2014. We have had many incredible experiences with you in the game – from insane battles to unbelievable memories – and we thank you for all of the great adventures and support over the years.

On Tuesday, March 18th, most items in the Clone Wars Adventures Marketplace will be reduced to 1 SC each for you to enjoy over the last couple of weeks. For more details, information and FAQ, please visit SOE Customer Service.

May the Force always be with you!

Best,

Sony Online Entertainment LLC

Out in style I suppose.

And then there is Free Realms.  This was the big experiment.  This was the high quality, family focused, designed as free to play from day one experiment.

FreeRealmsLogo

A lot of people were excited about Free Realms.  Even the “What is Free Realms?” marketing blurb sounds exciting.

What is Free Realms?

Free Realms is a free 3D virtual world where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want! Jump in straight from your web browser! Once you create your character, you’ll be in and playing in just a few minutes.

Decorate your house, then invite your friends over for a party! Teach your pet a new trick or dress them up in a sweet costume! Battle enemies as you search for lost treasure or duel other players, mine for gold, cook up a meal, or race your car! When you’re ready for a different kind of challenge, play a wide variety of fun minigames, jump into the trading card game or check up with your friends on your profile page. Free Realms is the place to join up with your friends to discover, explore, compete, chat, share achievements and just have fun! In Free Realms, YOU RULE.

YOU RULE, until the bank forecloses.

The game ran into its own “gotta pay the bills” problems not to far into its life, and the velvet ropes vision that Smed put out there had to grow more restrictive in order to shake some coins out of the players.  I am sure that SOE’s problems with Station Cash and “triple Station Cash” offers did not help.  And when they were offering lifetime subscriptions for just $30, I suppose that was a sign that the cow wasn’t giving enough milk.

Is that a squirrel or what?

Still not sure if that is a squirrel

Still, Free Realms was interesting. (I think Tipa kept track of it best.)  It came out on multiple platforms, starting on Windows and then moving to Mac OS and then eventually to the PlayStation 3.  Amusingly, while PlayStation support was announced early on, the Mac OS version came out first.  My daughter played it on the Mac, though support for the game was a bit spotty.  After the third time SOE support responded to a problem with “delete everything and install from scratch” we decided that maybe it was time to move on.

We also tried it on the PlayStation, but since you cannot share accounts, that meant that anything my daughter had was gone.  So that did not gain much traction.

It also seemed a much deeper title than its Star Wars stable mate, which probably made it just that much more expensive to maintain.  And then there is the engine problem.  SOE seemed to be all over the map developing games on different engines, which leads to support and maintenance issues over time.  We have seen with the whole Landmark and EverQuest Next thing that SOE is moving towards consolidation.

There were no cost reduced hats to celebrate the end of days in Free Realms.  The last producer’s note was from back at the closure announcement.

Hi everyone,

Usually I’m in here telling you about cool new developments in the Realms. Today is a much different day for me. I’m deeply saddened to announce that we will sunset Free Realms on March 31, 2014.

Free Realms has truly been a labor of love for SOE (even our own president’s kids are huge fans and active players of the game!). In a nutshell, the game has reached a stage in its life cycle where players are growing up and moving on to other games.

When we first released the game in 2009, it was one of the very first free-to-play MMO for kids and teens, and we couldn’t be prouder of everything we have accomplished together in the game. While today’s news might be a disappointment, we’re sincerely excited about what’s to come for the game before we say goodbye, including player celebration in-game events and more!

We will share details on the upcoming activities and sunset soon, but we wanted to give you plenty of notice so you can truly enjoy your remaining time left in the game. We thank you for all of the memories we have made together in the Realms!

Steve George

Producer, Sony Online Entertainment

And so the end of Free Realms will be marked.

As for kids MMOs, Smed might have a point.  While Club Penguin still abides, and WebKinz continues to shift its model away from real world toys into virtual world goods, other online titles aimed at kids have faded as well.  Gone are Toontown Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and Fusion Fall.  It isn’t an easy market and it competes with a lot of other entertainment options for kids.

And then there is free to play in general, which one of the original Free Realms team was talking about recently.

So today is the day.  And the clock keeps on ticking down for Vanguard and Wizardry Online.

Remembering Warhammer Online

Well, today is the day.

As was announced back in September, Warhammer Online is slated to go off-line today.  I gave some thought to returning to the game for one last look, especially when Mythic said they were letting people back in for free.  However, various changes to the account system at EA over the years since I last played rendered my account unusable.  There would be no return to game for me, no joining in the last countdown, no final farewell as a mass of pixels and database entries faded into memory.

So, instead, I thought I would collect together a list of posts from the time frame when I was actually playing the game.

The instance group in Warhammer

The instance group in Warhammer

No speculation.  No beta posts.  Just what I wrote from the time the head start came online to when I let my account lapse.  That totals up to 18 posts in just over two months .

  1. WAR Goes Live! Sept. 14, 2008
  2. WAR Unleashed Sept. 19, 2008
  3. Not Enough Tanks in Nordenwatch Sept. 22, 2008
  4. WAR on Gold Sellers Sept. 23, 2008
  5. Tips About Tips Sept. 29, 2008
  6. Some Tips are Lies Sept. 30, 2008
  7. The Failure of The Surge? Sept. 30, 2008
  8. Dwarf Collector’s Edition Head Oct. 1, 2008
  9. The Instance Group Goes To WAR Oct. 2, 2008
  10. Chicken as Chicken Oct. 4, 2008
  11. Five WAR Quest Log Gripes Oct.  7, 2008
  12. Ride of the Twilight Dandies Oct. 9, 2008
  13. Wanted: Order Players – Bounties Paid Oct. 10, 2008
  14. The Siege of Mandred’s Hold Oct. 16, 2008
  15. New Classes, Alts, and Grinds Oct. 20, 2008
  16. Screw Job in the Altdorf Sewers Oct. 23, 2008
  17. The Storming of Stonetroll Keep Oct. 30, 2008
  18. WAR’s Trumpet Fades Nov. 19, 2008

There are, of course, a lot of other posts here on the blog that mention Warhammer Online.  If you go to the categories list on the side bar, you will see I have 93 posts tagged for the game. They range from predictions to discussion pre-release to the age of recriminations after most fled the game to EA Louse to occasional notes as to what was going on with the game, including an unsuccessful attempt to turn the assets into a MOBA.

There were various attempts to lure people back into the game, from free offers to Mac client support to opening up tier 1 as free to play.  But the magic was gone.  The game lingered only as long as it was contractually required to.  That requirement runs out today and there will be no such game available tomorrow.

And so the game is reduced to memory.  We talked about, argued over, defended, blamed, and went around and around on this game, not because it was what it was, but because it wasn’t what we hoped it would be.

Somewhere along the line in the last five years I managed to lose the directory with screen shots from the game.  After the cut, you will find pretty much all I have left… uploaded to the blog… condensed into a single gallery.

Continue reading

Farewell to Paragon City

Tonight at midnight Pacific Standard Time, City of Heroes will be shut down.

Or sunsetted.

Or whatever it is they have chosen to call it.  But it will be gone all the same.  The heroes will be told to hang up their capes and move on with their lives.

CityofHeroes

CoH will join Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault, and Dungeon Runners, on the list of closed NCsoft MMORPGs.

The closure was announced back in August, which galvanized a chunk of the CoH player base.

SaveOurCity-450

Those players protested, created petitions, and questioned whether NCsoft was exploring any alternatives besides simply closing the game.  Even as time ran out there was hope of a Disney miracle.

But, at this point, it does not look like there will be any last minute reprieve.

The appointed hour approaches.

Among other things, CoH is another former subscription MMORPG that looked to boost its bottom line by going free to play.  However, we are now in an age where free to play is the norm.  Subscription only MMOs are now the rare breed. “Free” is no longer the inducement it once was.  And so, while reportedly still making money, CoH became a very small percentage of NCsoft sales, being folded into the “other” category for the last quarterly report.

I think if City of Heroes had been more core to the NCsoft corporate story, the way EverQuest is to SOE, we would have seen a lot more work on the part of the company to keep it around.  However, from NCsofts point of view, CoH might seem like Cryptic’s game.  A game that NCsoft published, then bought out, which was never a huge source of revenue for them, and was always something of an outsider.

Heroes are ever loners.

It is Lineage that is to NCsoft what EverQuest is to SOE.  It is core to their culture, popular in their home country, and still bringing in a lot of money after 14 years.  City of Heroes is just something in the “other” category, soon to be struck from the list altogether.

And so it goes.

How soon until there is a private server?  Somebody must be working on that.