Tag Archives: Richard Bartle

Friday Bullet Points From the Empty House

Summer must be coming to an end because the new semester starts for my daughter next week.  She and my wife left Wednesday morning to drive up to Oregon to get her moved into the dorm and settled, while I stayed behind.  It took about a day before working from home and having nobody to sync up with on meals before all structure fell away from my existence and I began to live like the cats.

My wife will be back tomorrow to help return me to a more normal cycle, but until then it is time for another nap.  But before I snooze, a few items that came up of which I wanted to take note.

  • Designing Virtual Worlds

On Monday this week Richard Bartle announced on his personal blog that he had asked for the rights for his 2003 book Designing Virtual Worlds to be reverted to him and he has now made it available as a free download in PDF format.

Something like the book cover

I actually found out about this via a tweet from Raph Koster:

Naturally I grabbed a copy as soon as I could.  Even if you are not interested in the design aspects, the book includes a run down of the history of virtual worlds from MUD1 up into speculating about the launch of EVE Online.

As is noted constantly, the whole thing predates the launch of World of Warcraft, but is still remarkably relevant 18 years down the road.

  • Men Who Play Women

Nick Yee’s group, Quantic Foundry, emailed be about the release of a new publicly available report on the genders people choose to play when they have an in-game avatar.

home of gamer research

Among the findings were that while only 9% of women play male avatars, 29% of men play female avatars.

The report goes on to try and explain why men play female avatars and comes up with some good points.  But I suspect that the fact that so many games hyper-sexualize female avatars plays into it a lot as well.  The game designers are very much in on the objectifying of the female body.  I would be interested to see if there was any variation in the numbers between games that are all in on boob bounce physics and titles that don’t go down that path.

  • Esports in Asia

Niko Partners, which covers the video game trends in Asia, has a new report on the size and trends in esports across Asia, which makes up 54% of the global market.  While the full report will set you back $5K, the intro page has some tidbits about the market that you might find of interest.

  • EA Making Loot Boxes Suck Slightly Less

In their quarterly earnings call EA said that they were seeing more engagement and more spending when they let players peek at what was in a loot box via special “preview packs,” which you could open before committing to buy.  These were apparently received very well by the community and a lot of players who otherwise had not purchased loot boxes spent money on these new packs.

EA has literally discovered that if you tell people what you’re selling, more people are likely to actually buy.

  • More Bonus Skill Points in EVE Online

A quick one to slip in because it is time sensitive.  CCP has a skill point login event going on this weekend.  For Omegas that log in  and claim the rewards on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there is 50K skill points in it for you.  For Alphas, it is just 15K, but that is still better than nothing.

  • Reminiscing About EverQuest and EverQuest Next

Finally, last week aLovingRobot had Jeff Butler, one of the original EverQuest team members, on the show where they chatted about EverQuest Next, EverQuest, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the early days of SOE, and the MMORPG market.

aLovingRobot’s channel has more than a few videos dedicated to the history and lore of EverQuest and related titles, so if the subject interests you, then you can certainly find some more to watch.  There are a number of names from the past that appear in the series.

Hat tip to Feldon for finding this.

Quote of the Day – On Existence Before MUD1

There wasn’t anything before MUD1…

Richard Bartle on MUDs, from the Birth of MMOs interview

That is the best I could do in trying to extract an inflammatory, out of context quote from the article. (Hey, it inflamed at least one guy.)

That aside, the linked article is an interesting read, though you may already know the tale of how we got to World of Warcraft and beyond from MUD1, plus the whole Bartle Types thing.

And the article ends up with something of a “But what of MUDs?” theme, where it is pointed out that the very limitations of MUDs make them easy to use.  It is all done in text, so it is much easier to whip up a virtual world when you do not have to worry about art assets, something that lead to an explosion of MUDs during the late 90s.

As for an audience for MUDs.

Sure, they’re not going to have the success they once had if people have been conditioned to judge graphics as being the mark of a good game. They will still appeal to connoisseurs, lovers of language and people with vivid imaginations, though.

Somebody will play them.

Left unanswered: How are today’s MMOs impacting MUDs?

I know I have seen changes in TorilMUD over the years that have clearly been because of what has happened in games like WoW, things that would have been anathema a decade or more back.

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.”


(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?

2009 MMORPG Progdictionations

The New Year is upon us again, a time when we frequently assess the past 12 months ended up handing us and examine what the next 12 might bring.

Last year I had no plans to make any predictions until I read some of the vague, wimpy, or tepid guesses at the future that some of my fellow bloggers had posted.  They seemed to want to be right versus being interesting.  For me, being right is perhaps a third tier goal.  I would much rather stimulate some thought or discussion on what might come.  But I am a fan of Robert Cringely, so what can you expect.  To do that you have to go outside of the easy answer and be wrong.  And if I can make a joke or two along the way, so much the better.

So I made my 2008 Progdictionations.  I scored myself at 22% at the end of the year, which was higher than I expected.

This year, the blogging community has some more interesting predictions up (and here, and here, and here, and here), but I am caught up in the predictions thing now, so I have to display my ignorance again this year.

Of course, sometimes the hardest thing is pushing the envelope and coming up with a prediction that is outrageous.  I got to the end of some of my guesses below and they did not sound so far fetched.  That still doesn’t mean any of them will be right.

So let’s see how far off-base I can get.

1 – Private Citizen British

Fresh from his out of world experiences, plus that trip to the space station, Richard Garriott will start a new studio, (Mid-Point Games, somewhere between Origin and Destination), and begin talking up some “New Ideas” ala Gary Hart.

He will point to what he learned making Tabula Rasa and inspiration that he gained in the zero gravity of space, looking down on the Earth from on high, though it will later be discovered that his oxygen mix was a little off during his last few hours in space.

He will then wave his arms a lot in an attempt to articulate his vision.  He will actually use the word “vision.”

That will be his undoing.

He will make no real progress selling his ideas in 2009 and will have to settle for being merely successful, rich, famous, and smart this year.

Of course, I thought this was going to be outrageous and amusing when I wrote it a couple weeks back, but then I read yesterday that Garriott is already throwing his hat into the ring.  My prediction stands however.

2 – Bartle’s Test

Dr. Richard Bartle will stun the massive gaming community by making controversial statements about a popular MMO and will actually mean what he says.  He will not give follow up interviews with Massively to clarify his position nor post comments to blog sites to correct misinterpretations of his statement.

This will confuse the community greatly.  Massively, Joystiq, and other sites will run their own articles explaining what Dr. Bartel really meant while Dr. Bartle himself will eventually resort to posting to his own blog and various forums imploring people to take what he said at face value, as quoted, and to please stop trying to soften his message.

3 – Age of Anarchy

Funcom, bedeviled by problems with the Age of Conan release and still dragging along Anarchy Online will decided that costs can be reduced by taking the next logical step in server merges: Game merges.  Age of Conan and Anarchy Online will be folded into a single game.  Depending on which client you log into the game with, you will either be playing in a gritty universe of the future or in a vision of Robert E. Howard’s Conan world.

Age of Conan players will benefit from a sudden influx of stable if somewhat non-canon content while Anarchy Online players will get more cleavage options and DX-10 support.

This will give FunCom some financial breathing room and allow CEO Trond Arne Aas to speak with confidence about their next massive title, The Secret World.  Mr. Aas will say that FunCom really learned a lot from their first two MMO releases and won’t make those mistakes again.  He will then remind people that his last name is spelled with two a’s and one s and not the other way around.

4 – EverQuesting

The 10 Year Anniversary of EverQuest will be a big deal in 2009, with another Living Legacy-like promotion and special events, so be sure to cancel your account early in 2009 so you can play for free.

The 2009 EverQuest expansion, Realms of Valor, will have a huge boost in the level cap, taking it all the way to 100, and will include a series of planned raid progressions (because you know they won’t all make the ship date) that will be hailed as the best ever in game all based around a huge new overland zone.

There will also be off-line player sales along the lines of the broker in EQ2, an improvement in the minion system so that a guild can fill a whole party with minions to round out a raid (it will be awkward for guild leaders, but will work well), and at least one method of advancing your character while off-line.  Not experience, nor AAs, but maybe skills or some other new character attribute.  It will be very slow, but will only work while you are subscribed, showing that SOE is trying to tap some of that EVE Online training magic to keep subscriptions going.

Finally, this will be the last EverQuest expansion to appear in a box on store shelves.

5 – Call Your Agency

Sony Online Entertainment will continue to talk about The Agency, FreeRealms, and DC Universe Online in 2009.  We will hear cool things and see exciting trailers, but no actual games will come our way.

Maybe, just maybe, we will see The Agency in November/December of 2009, but everything else is further out in the future, especially the new Norrath-based title they will announce.

By the end of the year, the reason for these delays will leak out.  It will turn out that SOE’s new masters at Sony Computer Entertainment are insisting that all SOE game launches include a  PS3 version on day one.  They can launch PS3 and do PC later, but PS3 must never be a delayed release.  This will hold up all new game launches while SOE works to align its skills and tools.

6 – Elves of the Burning Sea

Flying Lab Software, in an attempt to revive the subscriptions of its flagship product, will introduce a new server type that will replace the nations currently represented in Pirates of the Burning Sea with fantasy creatures.

The factions will be elves, humans and halflings, dwarves and gnomes, and goblins, orcs, and trolls filling out, respectively, the old French, Spanish, English, and Pirate factions.  Cannons will be replaced on ships with ballistas and catapults (except on the dwarf/gnome faction, who will get gun powder), the artwork will be update over all, and a “new” new hand to hand combat system will be introduced to accommodate the anticipated on-deck melees.

The freedom of the new environment will allow Flying Labs to tune the game more for fun than reality.  The server will end up being their most popular and they will have to do a server split to keep up.  This will all lead to another round of blog posts on why fantasy seems to rule the genre.

7 – LEGO Dalaran

The team that did my favorite LEGO project of 2008, LEGO Booty Bay, will get back together in 2009 and do a magnificent LEGO rendition of Howling Fjord by mid-year, but will top this effort with a intricate model of Dalaran done in LEGO bricks.  WoW Insider will be on the ground for step by step coverage of the construction that will inspire more LEGO-Azeroth construction projects.

This may or may not inspire a LEGO Azeroth video game.

8 – Station Cash Balance of Payments

A prediction that I made on Shut Up We’re Talking #40.  Any current SOE game that does not get Station Cash is at its end development-wise.  SOE is not going to turn off any game that is making money, but expect resources to be drawn off to new projects.  Then will begin the slow decline into oblivion.  As economic conditions tighten the purse strings, expect the end of PlanetSide to be announced at about the same time The Agency is expected to launch in a thinly veiled “here’s your new shooter” marketing plan.

9 – Star Wars Galaxies to Take A Bio

We will find out in 2009 is that LucasArts is only willing to sanction a single Star Wars based MMO running at any given time.  SOE has known this all along and this is part of why they did not bother going to LucasArts with their Station Cash idea.

Seeing that BioWare is set to launch a Star Wars: The Old Republic… well… some day… the sense that time is running out will grip Star Wars Galaxies.  There will be a resurgence of subscriptions as a wave of nostalgia washes over the old hands while along with an equal surge of tourist who want to see the game before it goes away.

This enthusiasm will not last as long as SWG remains on the scene, thanks to BioWare’s creeping pace, and Galaxies will go quietly into the night a few months before SWTOR launches.

10 – Dawn of Darkfall

Dakrfall will ship, though what is available on day one will be a subset of the over-ambitious feature list they have promised.  It will even enjoy some modest success, enough to keep Aventurine going through 2009, while suffering the usual round of “just launched” MMO issues and patches.

It will not be the second coming of Ultima Online nor EVE Online in plate armor however, and Aventurine will have 2009 to figure out how to fix the problem that plagues cut-throat PvP; that a ready supply of victims tends to dry up once the hard core players settle in and take over.

Aventurine will walk a tightrope between keeping subscriptions up and pleasing their hard core followers who will cry out at any dilution of the unforgiving nature of the game.  Failure to find the sweet spot will mean closure of the game by the end of 2010.

11 – Hero’s Slumber

Darkfall shipping will make Hero’s Journey the vaporware champ of the MMORPG genre.  It will not ship in 2009.  I consider this a “gimme” prediction so I will at least get one thing right when I do my accounting at the end of the year.

The fact that Simutronics cannot ship an MMORPG on its own development engine will continue to be the source of much snarkiness.

12 – Blizzard is Smarter Than You

And me too.

There will be lots of tuning of World of Warcraft along with some small content additions, but nobody is expecting an expansion this year, are they?  Blizzard has proven that they can take their time and succeed beyond the wildest dreams of their competitors. This will continue to be an eye-opener at SOE who insisted on EverQuest expansions every six months for so long.

Diablo III and StarCraft II news will come out and there will be lots of whining and complaints.  StarCraft II, when it ships this year, will top the charts and be embraced fully in South Korea.

Information about Blizzard’s new MMO will be released in 2009.  It will lead to a blog firestorm of “Blizzard is run by idiots” style posts, all based on the faulty premise that Blizzard needs to develop another MMO in the mold of every other MMO or that the hard core edge that bloggers represent are the ideal target market.

Overall, Blizzard will continue to succeed despite not doing what a small number of vastly less successful pundits tell it to do.

13 – The New Guys

Red 5 Studios, Carbine Studios, and 38 Studios will all provide a lot more detail on their MMORPG projects this year, but it is going to be a tough climb for all three of them as they will need to prove that what they are creating will move the genre forward in a significant way to be taken seriously, as the fantasy MMORPG market is saturated by games that seem a lot like WoW (whether they came first or not) and WoW.

Maybe, just maybe, one of them will break the mold and go beyond WoW in a significant way, but my gut says no.  Nothing we will see from them in 2009 will set a fire in the MMORPG market.

38 Studios has a lot of talent well versed in fantasy and how to make a current MMO.  That path seems, in my mind, to lead refinement of the way things are, but not a change of the genre.

And then there is Carbine, founded by some guys from Blizzard, and Red 5, founded by some guys from Blizzard.  Would I believe that a company founded by some guys from Apple would be able to beat the iPod or the iPhone based on their resume?  I’ve already see that start-up.  The answer is no.

Innovation will come from elsewhere in my opinion. (Maybe MetaPlace will become a talent incubator for the next generation?)  We might see three successful, Lord of the Rings Online to Warhammer Online sized games from these studios, and they could be a lot of fun, but they won’t be different enough to spark enthusiasm.

14 – Heroes and Champions

President of NCSoft West, David Reid, will mention in an interview that City of Heroes is doing well and is here to stay.  The resulting panic and exodus from the game will cause NCSoft to announce just three months later that City of Heroes will be closing by the end of 2009.

This will turn out to be perfect timing for Champions Online, which will be delayed until the Fall of 2009, to scoop up the remaining City of Heroes players to what many consider to be City of Heroes II in any case.

Later David Reid will mention that his marriage is fine, causing his wife to leave him, and that his position with NCSoft is secure, leading to his termination by the end of year.  When asked about his health, he will wisely have no comment.

15 – Tobolderized

A Cult of Tobold will surface in 2009 with the publication on Wikia of Toboldipedia.  This “Wiki of Love” will have the goal of categorizing, summarizing, and linking to all of the posts on Tobolds blog.

By mid year, however, there will a philosophical split between inclusionists, who seek to cover ALL of Tobold’s work, and exclusionists who seek to expunge Tobold works that they consider “non-canon” and which reflect, in their opinion, badly on Tobold.

By the end of the year there will be a ToboldWiki competing with Toboldipedia, and full scale war will erupt between the two sites when one publishes a picture they claim is of the actual Tobold.  The other side will declare it a forgery (it will turn out to be SOE’s Brenlo wearing Groucho Glasses) while a third faction will arise at this point and declare that pictures of the anointed one are heresy and will work to destroy the other two factions and their sites.

A bemused and somewhat disturbed Tobold will find that he has no influence at all over any of these groups and, after a futile attempt to get them to “stop all this nonsense,” he will just ignore the whole thing and go back to his daily writings.

Looking Forward to 2009

With all that in store for us, 2009 should be an interesting year.  Did I miss something?  Am I even more off-base than I think I am?  And to which Toblold camp do you belong?  Let me know.