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The Madness of Lord British December 1, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment.
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14 comments

Oh the wacky things that come out of the mouth of Dr. Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux!

(Please note/respect his name change)

The first image from the Portalarium site

Now maybe the press is just catching him at the wrong moments, but I am having problems parsing the meanings of his statements of late.  He seems to be all over the map.

About a month ago he was scolding EA and Blizzard for “letting” Zynga have the casual market, which seemed to me to be like scolding Peterbilt for letting Daihatsu beat it in the Kei car market in Japan.  And on thinking about it, since he is all about the whole casual game scene at the moment, he seems to be complaining that EA isn’t in a position to kick him in the ass yet again.

Then he starts talking about his ultimate RPG game, all the while hinting that if only EA would hire him back and give him creative control, (or at least just let him use the name and IP) he could banish elves and ninjas and make the Ultima franchise great again.  But that didn’t sound very casual.

This was followed up by the big interview over at Industry Gamers where, after comparing himself to Tolkien, he goes on to say that gaming consoles are doomed… we MIGHT see one more generation… and that the future is in portable devices, which coincidentally happens to be a platform he is targeting.  At least that seemed to be clearly self-serving in a Bobby Kotick sort of way.  I can grasp that, especially when I recall him saying at GDC 2007 that MMOs were the way to go… because, of course, he was making an MMO. (He’s done with MMOs now.)

On top of that, add in the background noise of one of his manors going up for sale, which includes some stunning amenities, winning his lawsuit with NCsoft, where his last big effort, Tabula Rasa  went live 4 years ago and closed 16 months later, his space faring ventures, which gets played up a lot, the rather limited focus of in his company, Portalarium, with its loathsome twitter feed, the big output from which appears to be online Poker and Blackjack, and how he runs the company via robotic interface… and an appearance with Martha Stewart

and…

well…

…you start to wonder how seriously you should take the guy these days, at least when it comes to computer games.

You cannot take away what he has accomplished.  The Ultima series of games was huge and innovative and influential and in ways remains unmatched to this day.  But even that series seemed to be faltering until Ultima Online came along.  And since then his efforts on the gaming front seem to have dissipated.

Thus while the thought of EA bringing him back and, say, teaming him up with BioWare to produce the ultimate Ultima RPG is a great “What if…” scenario, it seems only just slightly more likely to happen than EA handing Richard Bartle a pile of money to create the ultimate virtual world.

So if he is serious about building his dream RPG, it seems like it will have to be in a land besides Britannia.

All of which still leaves me in kind of a “what the hell?” state of mind.

Would you want to play Mr. Garriott de Cayeux’s ultimate RPG even if it wasn’t set in the lands of Ultima and he had to place himself in game as… I don’t know… Seigneur Cayeux sur Mer?

Would you play it if it was only on Android or iOS?

Would you play it if it involved talking to trees?

Has anybody checked the color of his urine lately?

Things I Hate About Twitter – The Babbling Company Feed September 20, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
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7 comments

There are companies that do not get it.

Seriously, when I follow your company on Twitter, it is because I want to get updates about what your company is doing.

This is especially the case when the big name at your company invites people to follow with the promise of company information.

Okay, wow, cool, Richard Garriott‘s company, Portalarium is on Twitter.  They are going to tweet about their games in the works and more!  I’ll jump right on that and follow!

Only they are not really tweeting anything about their games.

Portalarium tweets since September 8th: 38

Portalarium tweets talking about Portalarium products: ~2

They actually tweeted this twice:

I submit that, technically, this is not really “about” their game at all, just a come-on to try and get people to download it and play.

I realize that some poor schmoe has been given the job of engaging with the community.  I realize this person must have a tough job, since apparently the company has given them nothing to talk about.  But this sort of crap is… well… crap!

We are not stuck in a god damn elevator together, you do not have to make conversation to pass the time.  If you have nothing to say, don’t say it!

Okay, yes, their twitter profile says, “Sharing interesting infobits on topics of interest to our company and employees and our industry!”  Which I guess makes Mr. Garriott the person to blame here.

And the fact that the main thing on the front page of their web site is the text:

Home of
Hall-of-Fame Game Designer,
Richard “Lord British” Garriott

along with what must be at least a 20 year old picture of gaming’s most famous space tourist should have probably tipped me off as to what I should expect.

Picking on Mr. Garriott June 28, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Humor.
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19 comments

I used to feel a bit bad for Richard Garriott.

I used to think that perhaps the press was emphasizing the whole “Richard Garriott in space!” angle a bit too much.

Every story about the guy in the last five years or so has featured a picture of him in a space suite, regardless of the topic actually being discussed.  It often seemed a bit of a distraction, or an unnecessary implied comment on the man.

The headlines might as well read something like, “Crazy Space Guy is going to make Facebook Games!” or “Garriott to sue NCSoft once he Returns to Planet Earth!”

But then I started to follow him on Twitter.

And, aside from a Twitter feed that is a bit of a yawn fest (nice run there on Sunday, 4.52 miles in an hour is better than I could do these days), he does seem to emphasize the whole space thing quite a bit.

His Twitter pages lists his activities in this order:

  • Space Explorer
  • Game Developer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Philanthropist
  • Visionary
  • Explorer

And, of course, for his avatar, and the background picture of his Twitter page, he has a picture of himself in a space suit.

So every message from him has him in a space suit.

Congratulations Mr. Garriott.  May you and your bride find happiness.

Meanwhile, we’ll all be working out a joke involving you, your wedding night, and a space suit.

Or maybe that is just me.

Maybe the “crazy space guy” angle of things and the “ground control to Maj. Tom” subtexts are all just a product of my own imagination. Maybe it is me projecting these thoughts, and it is not some wry commentary at all when I see a story about his plan to make a poker game on Facebook and it includes the inevitable picture of him ready for outer space.

Am I alone in this?

Anyway, carry on with the space suit pictures.  It seems that this is something important to the man.

Reviewing My 2010 Predictions December 24, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, Diablo III, Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Facebook, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
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9 comments

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 January 1, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, Diablo III, Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
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8 comments

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?

2009 MMORPG Progdictionations January 1, 2009

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Humor, lego, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
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11 comments

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.

Scoring My 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations December 8, 2008

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, blog thing, entertainment, Humor, Misc MMOs, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

Back on January 1st, 2008 I posted ten MMORPG predictions.  These were meant to be outrageous, humorous and not very subtle jabs at some of the tepid, obvious, and vague predictions being made elsewhere about the state of the industry and its future.

But now the year has nearly passed and it has come time to do the accounting for my predictions.  I am not going to copy and paste the whole set of predictions into this post, but I will maintain the same titles and order, so you can compare the results to the original 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations list.

For the predictions, I am going to score each one out of a possible 10 points, so a prediction that is right on the money gets 10 points, while something completely wrong gets 0.  With a total of 10 predictions, that gives me a possible 100 points.

How close did I get?  Time to score the list!

1. Age of Conan

Funcom managed to avoid becoming major campaign issue in the 2008 US presidential elections.  Still, the boys from Oslo managed to screw up quite a bit without excess negative publicity, angry mobs, or government intervention.  I am going to give myself 4 points out of 10 just for predicting bad things happening with the game, even if they only led to layoffs as opposed to the complete dissolution of the company.

2. The Agency

The Agency did disappoint, if not in exactly the way I predicted.  It did so by simply not shipping.  Didn’t this game have a December 2007 ship date at one point?  Anyway, disappointment is disappointment, so I am going to be greedy and give myself 3 out of 10 points here.

3. BioWare

BioWare, EA, and LucasArts actually admitted that BioWare is making an MMO, and they even gave us a name.  Star Wars: The Old Replublic will be coming some time in the next decade or so it seems.  I was sure they were going to mess with our minds on this for at least another year on this, so 0 out of 10 points for me.

4. Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

Nobody appears have picked up Rome Rising.  Not Mythic.  Not SOE.  Nobody.  0 out of 10 points.

5. Pirates of the Burning Sea

The first three words of my prediction, “While launching slowly…” were right on the money.

I think that gets me 3 points, one for each word.

The rest of prediction was garbage.  There was no surge of subscriptions in the UK, Spain, or France, certainly none large enough to influence gaming PC sales, nationalism in the three countries was not set afire by the game, and the summer of 2008 saw not one of these countries at war with another.

3 out of 10 points total.

6. Star Trek Online

The ghost of Gene Roddenberry may very well have possessed Daron Stinnett and taught him the true meaning of Star Trek, but a fat lot of good it will do anybody unless Daron passed that information along to somebody at Cryptic Studios, the team now working on Star Trek Online.  There was no return from the brink for Perpetual.  And so it goes.

Still, Star Trek Online is still alive and may still be able to prove (or disprove) that life in the 25th century is as dull as dishwater.  That fact alone has got to be worth 3 out of 10 points.

7. Tabula Rasa

My prediction that General British would be ganked in Tabula Rasa was completely turned on its head when Richard Garriott, in a surprise twist ganked NCSoft and fled the scene… hell, he fled the planet, at least for a while.  If only he had ganked them in a theater and had then fled to a warehouse so I could tie in the whole Lincoln/Kennedy thing.  Okay, maybe “ganked” is too strong a word, but nobody is coming away from Tabula Rasa smelling like a rose.  So there was some drama remotely related to something tangentially connected with something I predicted.  1 out of 10.

8. Vanguard

Brad McQuaid remained completely silent in 2008.  I have to give myself 0 out of 10 points on this one.  Honestly though, not having to read any more forum posts from Brad makes it worth being wrong.

9. Warhammer Online

I said I was not going to quote the original post, but I think I have to for this one.

Scared straight by the Conan debacle, Warhammer Online will slip further into 2008, and will only ship after the US presidential elections and the short war in Western Europe. While getting decent but not extravagant reviews, it will get a significant subscriber boost from players leaving other MMOs. This timing will allow Marc Jacobs to declare success immediately.

I am giving myself 8 points for that part alone.  My ship date prediction was a lot closer than Mythic’s first few guesses (not to mention being just six weeks off from the election), WAR certainly got a boost from people leaving other MMOs, and Mark Jacobs has not been shy about declaring success.

Mythic did not, however, adopt the “Mythic Ticket” subscription plan I predicted.  But given the end of the WAR launch euphoria, I have to imagine it might start looking like an attractive idea.  Plus, you cannot beat the name “Mythic Ticket.”  It makes “Station Access” sound like a low end cable TV package.

8 out of 10 points.

10. World of Warcraft

Blizzard shipped Wrath of the Lich King before the end of 2008, it was a huge success, it dwarfed past game sales records (also set by Blizzard), piled up huge revenues, and perhaps even saved PC gaming for another year or two.  I heard that a display of Wrath at a Best Buy in Ohio tipped over and the boxes fell into the shape of the Virgin Mary, which in turn healed everybody in the store.   I fear Tobold is going to have to keep his current job, as Michael Morhaime, Frank Pearce, and Rob Pardo are secure in their positions for the time being.  0 out of 10 points.

Total Score: 22 points out of 100

And a very generous 22 points at that.

But that is what you get when you go for outrageous and specific, which is why so many yearly predictions are tepid, obvious, or vague.  Some people prefer to be mostly right than patently wrong.  And since I set out to be patently wrong, I take those 22 points and as a condemnation that I was not outrageous enough in my predictions.

I will have to remedy that with my next round of MMORPG Progdictionations, coming January 1, 2009.