Tag Archives: Sarcasm may be evident

Spring is Coming Early for Rift Prime

In which we may again tread into how the seasons are measured.

A little over a month back Trion World’s put out their producer’s letter for Rift in which they were explicitly eyeing the seemingly evergreen fields of video game nostalgia with a mind towards making a few bucks on the idea.  Leave it to Trion to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon only after Blizzard began lumbering in that direction with WoW Classic.  We may not be in Azeroth anymore, but the influence of that world can always be felt across the genre.

Anyway, the plan was for something called Rift Prime, a nostalgia server set to follow the well trod path that EverQuest has been going down with increasing frequency over the last decade.  As with the well honed EverQuest model, the basic plan put forward back then would be a server with vanilla content (with some adjustment to the easier to access dials and switches to make the current state of play seem a bit more retro) that would unlock expansion content over time, and which would be available only to subscribers… excuse me, patrons… which would allow Trion to remove much of the cash shop gimmickry that otherwise pays the bills on the standard live servers.  All of this, and some other vague statements, were slated to become reality in “Spring of 2018” according to the producer’s letter.

While you may have noticed the rising tide of sarcasm up to this point, let me assure you I was, and remain, in full approval of this idea.  While I’d be interest to know whether the idea of Blizzard soon taking up every last seat on the nostalgia bus or the building backlash against lockboxes might have set Trion on this path, that is mostly idle curiosity.  That it is happening is the the real thing, the coin of the realm, and I am on board with it.

And spring seemed like a good time frame for me last month.  I was still enamored with Azeroth and pet battles and what not, and expected to remain so for another few months or so before tiring of it.  The launch could have been quite a while coming, as late as the front half of June, as we will recall from the Landmark Spring launch that came about on June 10, 2016.  Massively OP tried to make that something to complain about, but in the northern hemisphere summer is generally accepted to start on the solstice, not on June 1st.  A cabal of astrophysicists and calendar makers have made this a thing.  Trion just had to get there between March 20 and June 21st.

So when yesterday I saw the announcement that Rift Prime would launch on March 7, 2018, my second thought was, “That’s not spring!”

A springing tiger mount does not change that

I know that seems more than a bit pedantic, especially in California where is can get “spring-ish” in February, but I have been trained by years of working in software that an estimate like “spring” generally means as far into spring as you can get away with… like June 10th… the same way that “the middle of the month” means any day save the first or the last of a given month and “in a future release” means a point in time somewhere before the heat death of the universe.  Nothing is ever early.

This mattered to me because, as noted, I am still invested in WoW right now and I hate to dump a game I am enjoying for some new variable.  A bird in the hand is worth a pig in a poke and all that.  And few things can rain on playing another MMO than currently having fun playing WoW.

My first though was, “Oh, hey, that’s my birthday.”  I’m not sure if that is a sign or not.

Anyway, I am as ready as I can be I suppose.  After the producer’s letter I went and got the Glyph launcher, now considerably more trim since it let go of its Steam aspirations, figured out my login credentials, downloaded and patched Rift, then actually logged in.  So I am ready on that front.  I still need to buy my way into patron status… subscribe… to get access to Rift Prime, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

But do I want to play?

As mentioned, still being invested in WoW is an issue.  I’m on the downside of the usual WoW high and, while not ready to walk away just this minute, it wouldn’t be a tragedy if I did.  It might be better if I walked off still hungry for a bit more Azeroth.

Meanwhile, to get in on day one of a new server can be a special thing in and of itself.  And Rift’s world, or at least the initial content from launch, was made up of a set of very well designed zones that I really enjoyed the first time through… and the second and the third and the fourth time.  So I am good there.

Not everything will be as it was.  As the Rift Prime FAQ points out:

RIFT Prime will not be an exact copy of launch RIFT, and certain features that were added to RIFT to expand gameplay or improve quality of life will be available from day one. These include: Dimensions, Looking for Group, Looking for Raid, current Warfronts, and Wardrobes.

Instant adventures is off the table however.  That’s okay, IA was something of a “keep people busy while we get some new content out” sort of thing.

The server will also have level scaling for zones, so if you wander into a lower level zone you haven’t finished up, you’ll be scaled down to the level of the content.  No running about one-shotting everything.  Good as well.

There will be a cash shop, but it won’t offer gear or bags or lockboxes for the RMT currency.  There will just be cosmetics, mounts, and services available.  However, if you already have Rift Credits on your account… I have a bunch left from the F2P transition…  you won’t be able to use them.  There will be special Prime Credits for this server, though when the server closes any Prime Credits you have will become normal Rift Credits.

The FAQ says that they expect the server to run for at least a year, which after so much exposure to the mighty mountain of expansion unlocks that come with an EverQuest retro server, seems like a very short time horizon.  but Rift just doesn’t have that much to unlock.

And maybe a year is good.  Honestly, I am not interested in going into Storm Legion or beyond, the zone design there being the antithesis of the what I enjoyed about the launch zones.  So that would leave me playing for a few months before wandering off.  I don’t need a server to last more than a year to get what I am looking for.  And if it is a success, the shorter duration will likely lead to more such servers.

And, of course, Trion is selling a special Rift Primogenitor Pack in their web store for $30, which gets you the following:

  • 30 days of Patron access for the purchaser
  • 2 voucher codes for 15 days of Patron access each (30 days total). Invite your friends to play, apply it to your alts or use the time yourself!
  • A mount out of the ordinary: Armored White War Tiger
  • A title exclusive to Prime players: Primogenitor
  • Cloak of the Void
  • A new Prime portrait frame

Essentially, if you buy it all just for yourself, you’re getting two months of Patron access for about the same price as two months of Patron access, with a few goodies thrown in to sweeten the deal.

So I am leaning in favor of this.  I am not totally sold, but I have two weeks to decide.  And since I am crashing from my typing binge, I’ll close with a poll about this:

There is a poll above this line which, if you don’t see it, might have been eaten by ad block or Firefox or Russian troll bots.

The Corrupt Developer Career Path

In which we see how logic is useless with bad data.

This all started innocuously enough with Wolfshead angry about life as video game developer.  His ire, deflected momentarily from his usual target of Blizzard, was aimed at the video game industry itself and the fact that being a game dev can be a really crappy career choice.  The pay is low, the hours are long, job security is fleeting, and there is a long line of gullible young people willing to take your place if you try to buck the system.

This is not a new tale.  Having lived close enough to Electronic Arts for them to be covered by the local paper regularly, word of how shitty the video games industry can be is something I have been aware of since at least the late 1980s.

Fun created here… on an Orca graveyard!

Wolfshead called it an example of  the “worst excesses of capitalism,” by which I assume he means supply and demand.  Seems legit.  Oversupply usually lowers pay and working conditions while scarcity tends to raise them. That is the whole “invisible hand” that Adam Smith was going on about indicating that you should look for work elsewhere.  Sort of an invisible middle-finger.

Oddly though he also went off on progressives who run operations where life is not intolerable, which comes off a bit muddled and counter to his main point.  He rather ironically denigrates people who care about fair trade coffee, then turns around and says gamers need to demand better working conditions for developers.  Progressive ideals are fine when they benefit you I guess.  I expect him to follow up with a post calling for fair labor video games.

But the net message is that being a video game developer can suck.  Another brick in the wall that should block you from ever wanting to work in the video game industry.  You go down that path despite the reality, not because of it.

However Gevlon was having none of it, even doubling down when challenged.

In Gevlon’s world, nobody does anything without getting compensated.  Young developers don’t line up for crappy pay, long hours, and no job security simply for passion or to follow a dream.  That whole “do what you love” is bullshit.  If you go there, there has to be a payoff!  These young developers go into the video games industry intent on lining their pockets by becoming corrupt developers!

Artist concept of the decision process

This whole idea fails the sniff test almost immediately.  It smells like bullshit and defies the logic Gevlon himself lays out.

First, if money is actually the REAL motivator, as opposed to the dream of working in the wonderful fantasy world of video games, then there are a lot better ways to go about it than risking your career, future employment options, and possible legal and tax complications, by becoming a corrupt game developer.

A developer could, for example… and I realize this is a huge stretch… get a job elsewhere in software development.  There are many jobs in software available.  Most of them pay better than the video games industry.

Basically, ample other opportunities exist.  You do not go into video game development as an individual contributor with an eye towards making bank.  And doing so with the idea of essentially creating a criminal enterprise is absurd in the extreme.

It isn’t as though there are no corrupt devs.  Stories do surface now and again about somebody taking advantage of their position.  But those are more matters of opportunity rather than somebody’s career goal.  People are weak.  Oh, and their careers got ruined once they get caught.  Like a lot of segments of software development, video game development is a small community and word gets around even if you don’t make the front page of Kotaku.

That leads us to one of the key arguments against this corrupt developer proposition; the lack of news stories about this.

If being a corrupt developer was a career path people going into video game development were actually, consciously pursuing we should be seeing a lot more news about corrupt developers.  His argument pretty much needs this to be taken seriously.

Where are all the stories?  Please, post links in the comments if I am wrong, but I’ve got nothing.

We know all about Kickstarters taking your money and running and about game companies over promising and under delivering.  Players complain incessantly about price gouging by greedy companies  But the biggest developer “corruption” story of the last few years was an unsubstantiated allegation that a indy developer used personal contacts to get a better review.

The stories just aren’t out there and the only way you can explain that away is by turning the whole thing into a conspiracy where management and the industry are in on the corruption and we enter the realm of Dinsdale where players are paying off companies.  At that point companies are working against self-interest allowing corrupt devs, since even Gevlon insists that protecting the integrity of a game is vitally important and why would they share the booty with line devs in any case.

Well, that, and the fact that the number of game developer positions where being corrupt would get you paid is probably pretty limited in and of itself.  Further evidence that people don’t go into this industry with corruption in mind as a career goal.

The only real evidence that Gevlon can produce to support his theory is that bugs in code exist and some of them take longer to get fixed than he thinks they should.

That has an easy response.

Gevlon, as I have noted elsewhere, is an ignorant amateur outsider when it comes to software development in general, and all the more so when discussing the situation involving any particular video game, so his determination as to what should be easy to fix and how long it should take carries exactly zero weight.

This is not an insult, but a statement of fact.

I am an ignorant, amateur, outsider when it comes to treating cancer.  It seems like you should just be able to cut that shit out and be done with it.  Also, Jesus, doesn’t radiation give you cancer?  And the chemicals in chemotherapy were derived from mustard gas!  Why would you use that on people?

So if you see me hanging out the oncology department at your local hospital, feel free to discount any advice I might give you.

The difference between those two situations is that I know and admit that I am the ignorant amateur outsider and Gevlon does not.  He thinks his assessments are meaningful.

They are not.

Which leaves him with very little to support his hypothesis besides his idea that people don’t spend time doing things that do not bring them the greatest financial benefit.  At that point you have to start asking why he spends time blogging.  That is giving something away for free, something that has value.  Imagine the page views his posts would get from enraged fan boys on a site like Massively OP!  He doesn’t even run ads on his own site, so he fails by his own logic.

To summarize:

  • The alleged financial motivation to become a corrupt developer is nonsensical and counter productive; there are easier way to make more money and people do value things besides a paycheck.
  • Positions where being a corrupt game developer would pay off are extremely limited; real money trading has to be involved somehow.
  • No substantial external evidence exists that anybody is pursuing this career path in any numbers; where are the news stories?
  • The remaining evidence offered lacks credibility; Gevlon is not in a position to know and his own logic argues against him.

So while I would not deny that corrupt game developers may be out there, it seems more like something subject to occasional circumstances where opportunity arises and not a career path anybody set out on to offset the poor pay offered by their chosen industry.

The burden of proof lies on Gevlon to prove that that the situation is otherwise and so far he has failed completely on that front.

Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?

A staple of MMO blogging is going on about the good old days, and no days were gooder and older at the same time than classic EverQuest.

EverQuest

I will stop for a second and define “classic” EverQuest as a time somewhere between late beta and the final days of the Planes of Power expansion.  Legacy of Ykesha changed the world too much in my opinion.  But if you’re down with Frogloks, the era was certainly dead with Lost Dungeons of Norrath, which made instanced dungeons a thing.

And in that time frame, the classic era, EverQuest was at its most popular, as millions of players passed through the game and as many as 550,000 were subscribed at once.  Most popular has to mean best product, right?  That number is how we know that we aren’t just suffering from selective memory that is editing out the bad bits.

So there have been calls to return to or recreate that era… probably since that era… to bring back all sorts of things like the harsh death penalty, simple classes, spells every five levels, mandatory grouping, open world dungeons, steep level curves, travel time, contested raiding, mobs that chase you right to the zone line, and probably dozens more that I cannot think of at the moment.

And yet, despite that, SOE quite deliberately moved away from that list.  It was as though some old school fans made a list of things that made the game great… that list I just started on myself… and the company said, “You like that?  Well, it has to go then!”  So we got instancing, easier levels, solo quests, a light death penalty, mercenaries, the Plane of Knowledge, player vendors, and some of the most awkward looking mounts ever to grace a video game.

The time seemed ripe for a successor, somebody to get back the essential hardships that molded a generation of MMO gamers.  But who would take on this task?

Mark Jacobs had EverQuest in mind when he said he wanted to take the “suck” out of MMOs.  But his game, Dark Age of Camelot, was really about realm vs. realm combat and not the Diku raiding and level grind on which EverQuest was built.  So I don’t think we can count that.

SOE themselves offered up EverQuest II, dreaming of it being the successor.  But EQII was build on a base of ideas that seemed to largely revolve reducing customer calls and quieting a few persistent complainers on the forums.  Having played EQ and EQII at launch, I gave my impression of what SOE’s “lessons learned” must have included.  EQII was many things, but it was not a successor to EQ.

Blizzard, of course, brought out World of Warcraft shortly after EQII, and it has dominated ever since.  Openly based on EQ, it sought to make a kinder, gentler, and more colorful version of the game.  It embraced a solo, no-fail, low penalty path through the game, the sort of attributes we now derisively ascribe to millennials.  That couldn’t have possibly been the real successor, and even if it was, they have screwed it all up since then.

Then there was Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the Brad McQuaid attempt to get back to all that was good and right about MMOs, the REAL sequel to EverQuest.  While people blame poor execution on its failure to stick with anything beyond a tiny audience… and, at the time, making MMOs was hard and you had to do all the grunt work yourself… but I still feel he strayed from the true path.  I mean, how many of the fans of the game would go on about how “pretty” the game was to look at?  When was “pretty” ever an aspect of EverQuest, unless the word was paired up with things like, “ugly,” “awkward,” “dated,” or “strange?”

A few spiders were left for us

Oh, the textures!  Classic EverQuest!

And he couldn’t leave well enough alone when it came to the 1999 formula and had to add new things like diplomacy.  So, in the end, not really a successor, as it never attracted enough of those it was alleged to be for.

Meanwhile, in 2006 SOE itself decided to try to farm this obsession for classic servers and rolled up what they called a “progression” server.  It was popular, so popular that the had to roll up a second one.  The two servers, The Combine and The Sleeper launched in June of 2006 and opened up later expansions as the raid bosses for the current expansion were defeated.  A flawed interpretation of 1999, and driven at the pace of raiders who would defeat bosses in short order, it became a staple of the game after free to play, when a subscription was required to wallow in the nostalgia provided.  To this day the servers remain popular, with the latest one, Phinigel, showing high loads on the server status page at even odd hours of the day.

Who is playing at 5am?

Who is playing at 5am PST?

While Daybreak has finally realized the potential of such servers… the first couple of attempts were launched with fanfare and then largely ignored by the community team… and while they do hint at an untapped desire for such an old school experience… they are not really successors in any sense of the word.  Also, the experience they offer is tainted by things that did not exists back in 1999, like crude maps and a quest log.

But for a long time… over a decade really… that was pretty much the only option available for somebody seeking the old school experience.  By 2006 WoW had fully dominated the market, and who wanted to knock-off an MMO that peaked at 550K subs when there was one driving to 10 million subscribers world wide they could blatantly copy.

It took the death of the big budget MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic implosion), the death of the subscription-only MMO (The Elder Scrolls Online or WildStar, take your pick), and the cancellation of any future plans for Norrath (EverQuest Next gets cancelled) to really get to a point where the industry could even consider not copying WoW and reflect on the origins of the genre and where it first really succeeded.  Even Blizzard is having to acknowledge that their “good old days” are not today, but at some point in the past with the whole Nostalrius thing.

So we have entered the era of the niche revival MMO.  We have Camelot Unchained seeking to relive Dark Age of Camelot in some way, Shroud of the Avatar as some sort of 3D vision of the Ultima series, Crowfall… um… doing whatever it is doing, and Project: Gorgon just getting weird, because why not!

And in this time, it seems like somebody could go back and copy the 1996 Sojourn MUD/TorilMUD flavor of the classic DikuMUD mechanics and make another grouping and level focused MMO in Unity pretty easily.

Yes, I know we already have Project 1999, but having to be able to find a copy of EverQuest Titanium seems like a pretty high bar for entry in 2017.  And then there is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Brad McQuaid’s next run at an EverQuest successor.  But I fear that he will be tempted to stray off the true path yet again.

Isn’t there somebody else out there that could rebuild a vision 1999 for us?

I mean, unless this whole nostalgia thing is just bullshit and the last 18 years of the MMO market has actually reflected what most players really want.  In which case, never mind.

NBI 2016 – The Worst Question Ever and Other Bits of Filler

Here we are, half way through June and I have finally gotten around to writing something for this year’s Newbie Blogger Initiative event.

NBI_Logo_450Why the delay?

Well, I’m lazy.  The event is being handled… differently this year.  Everybody was supposed to get on something called Discord for the event, which I declined to do because at this point I don’t want yet another communication channel.  We are also in the fifth turn around the NBI mulberry bush, and every year I think I have dispensed all the dubious advice I can come up with already.  Also, did I mention I am lazy?

Oh, and a bunch of people have already written some excellent stuff, which I would link to if that information wasn’t locked up in Discord or whatever.  I guess it is all in the Twitter stream, but I am not going to go pick out every post from that.  Laziness has already been mentioned.

But then I received a summons.   I got an email notification that there was a message waiting for me over at secret underground NBI headquarters.  Could this be the call to action?  The moment of inspiration that gets me to join in the event?  So I went there immediately and found this:

Houston, we have a permissions problem...

Houston, we have a permissions problem…

That at least woke me up however, and here I am.  So what do I have to add besides a bit of curmudgeonly bile?

Um… sorry, that’s all I’ve got.  But let me direct it onto a specific topic.  I want to talk about what I consider to be the worst question you’ll get as a blogger, gamer, podcaster, streamer, or the like.  And that question is:

Where do you find the time?

You’ll know you’ve truly arrived when you have been asked that question, or one of its many variations.

Part of what I hate about it is that, as questions go, it seems pretty innocuous.  Or it can.  As I noted, the question (sometimes presented as an implied question with a statement) can come in many forms, such as:

  • I wish I had as much free time as you.
  • I wish I had time to do that.
  • Do you have a social life outside of this?
  • How do you do all this and still have a job?
  • I would have to neglect my wife and children to do all this.
  • Don’t you have a life?
  • Are you some sort of basement dwelling troglodyte that you have time for this?

Those are all variations on the same question.  Some are more aggressive than others, but they all sum up to the same thing, that there is something different or wrong with you.  The implication is that you either possess some secret to having extra free time (which you are not sharing) or that you are neglecting some part of your life that you should not.

It is, when you think about it, a somewhat hostile question.  It annoys me when people ask this question, in all its variations, because I see the implications even if the person asking doesn’t.

What makes that question even worse is that it pops into my mind all the time.

I read about somebody who runs an alliance in EVE or leads a raiding guild in WoW or who plays multiple MMOs or even somebody who has a regular weekly group , something I used to be able to manage but which is off the table now, and I seem to automatically think, “I wish I had the time…”

I think that even though I know both the implications and the real answer.  The question still pops into my head unbidden.

But at least knowing the real answer keeps me from putting it on comments on other people’s blogs… most of the time.

So my meager contribution to NBI 2016 is sharing the answer with you.

Everybody finds time for the things they really want to do.

It is that simple.

In our world of the 24 hour clock and life and responsibilities, time is a constraint and, because of that, we will pick the things that are important to us and prioritize them.  There is no magical way to extend the day, so we use the free time we have to do the things we want to do most.

You will find the time to do anything you really, really want to do, and all the more so if it is something you enjoy and that makes you happy.  If all you can do is wish you had the time to do something, you’ve prioritized that something already and it didn’t make the cut.  The “fucks budget,” if you will.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t people who neglect important aspects of their lives, but if your assumption is that anybody who has time to do something that isn’t important to you is doing so, then you are wrong.

Let’s see, what can I tack on to the end of this post to distract from that rather bland bit of so-called wisdom.

Hey, there is this post about why you should read blogs.  It is short.

Bhagpuss has a post about blogging that links out to other NBI posts.  Go read that.

Oh, and there are the actually new bloggers in this year’s NBI.  I had better link to them… I was at least able to find that list… so go visit them.  Now!

Hrmm, this year’s list isn’t all that long, is it?  And no EVE Online bloggers, and I know there have been a few new EVE blogs that have popped up lately.  I guess the word didn’t spread far.

Well, go click on everybody on the list twice I guess.  It won’t take you long.

And, since I haven’t even crossed the thousand word mark yet in this unisightly ramble, how about I link back to all my previous NBI posts from past years so you can wade into the shallow puddle that is my wisdom on the topic.  Here we go:

My dedication to the event over these last four years has been pretty low, but there are a few bits of sage advice in all of that… and links to other blogs.

In the end, I really only have the same advice I hand out every year.

Be the blog you want to read

And even that seems a bit “duh” to me.  Why would you be anything else?

Anyway, who else should I link to here?  It is, in the end, all about the link whoring.

Addendum: See, even Syp doesn’t have all the time in the world.

The Fountain War – Not Winning Fast Enough and Other Issues

A week ago I wrote about the Kickstarter for the Fountain War novel, my desire to see a project like this successful, and a few of the problems I felt the project faced.  They key items, as I saw it a week ago, were speed, money, and The Mittani himself.

On the money front, the project has at least clarified why it is asking for $150K.  This is the breakdown that has been offered:

  • 60% Author Expenses (normally covered by a publishing house)
  • 20% Publishing and Distribution (including editing and proofreading)
  • 10% KS and processing fees
  • 5% to Merchandise
  • 5% to Marketing

The bulk of the money amounts to a $90K advance for the author (assuming they get exactly $150K) so he can take time off from his day job as a consultant and focus on the book.  Whether or not you feel Jeff Edwards rates that sort of advance, that is the plan as it stands today.

As for The Mittani, the project has at least removed some of the more obviously Mittens focused rewards.  You can no longer pledge $200 and expect to go on a roam with The Mittani.

Like I said, being in space with Mittens is special

Seeing The Mittani in space… you can’t even buy that now…

However the project still has his name stamped all over it, something guaranteed to raise the ire of many in New Eden.  Using that name for the original news/propaganda site, depending on how you view it, got it a certain level of attention that it might have otherwise struggled to attain, but it came with baggage that is now hindering this project in a way that it might not have had they been able to work out a way for CCP to at least nominally take the lead in this campaign.

And then there is how well the funding is going.  After a full day they had hit the 10% mark, which was a lukewarm start.  Not fatal, but nothing to write home about either.  A week in though, looking at Kicktraq, the campaign is hovering around 20% of its goal and does not appear to be going anywhere fast.

Today's early morning mark...

Today’s early morning mark…

Right now the project needs to bring in over $4,600 a day to meet its goal.  Yesterday it brought in $666.  The day before it was $475.  That is not the path to success.

And while these problems persist, more storm clouds have appeared.  Over at Reddit the EVE subreddit has become something of a hotbed of activity against the project.  There have been outraged posts about the project.

The Jeff Edwards AMA had to be moderated, quickly going from “Ask Me Anything” to “Ask Me What The Reddit Moderators Think Is Okay.” (AMWTRMTIO?)

And then there was the general ban on new threads about the book because The Imperium was sending out pings with links to Reddit threads about the project, including the AMA, which is against the Reddit rules. (This is vote brigading; though I never once saw a ping that explicitly said I should up/down vote something, I suppose that could be inferred.)  So we will speak no more about the project there unless it is something official from CCP… or, judging from what I have seen since the ban, critical of the project.  Posting about the project is apparently okay so long as it is clear you’re against it.  It isn’t like there is much of that, but if that is all you get, that is all you see.

And so goes a vocal corner of the EVE Online community.

Then there is Gevlon, who makes the claim that there is a non-zero chance that he killed the project, though he is still annoyed at his fair weather friends on Reddit.

But perhaps the most troubling thing to come up so far has come from the team running the campaign itself.  They have released some sample excerpts from the book, which you can find linked on the project page, bonafides of the fact that there is actually working already going on.

They aren’t objectively awful or anything… they are certainly better than anything I could crank out.  But they are… well… how do I even put this?

In one sense we all share New Eden together as a joint venture and what we do and how we interact weaves the story of the game.  That is the over-arching view of the EVE Online.

However, on a more personal level, we all experience the game in our own way.  Some of us just push buttons to make things happen, it is a game on a screen and nothing more.  Others immerse themselves in New Eden, imagine ourselves really undocking from a station and flying through space.

And how that does or does not play out in our minds is uniquely our own very personal experience.  It lives inside of us and no matter how many details we wrangle about… are the ships fully automated or do they have crews… if they do have crews, how big are they and should we care about them… how do skills really work and how am I learning them… or what is it like in a capsule and how do I really control my ship… or even when we come to some agreement, the sensation within us as to what these things mean are likely nowhere close.

So my vision of boarding a ship… injecting my control capsule into the hull so that I may take command… doesn’t really align with this description:

Captain Darius Yaaah lowered his body into the pod, feeling the warmth of the semi-liquid amniotic gel enfold his limbs and torso. He gave a final encouraging nod to his bridge crew as the door of the armored capsule swung down to enclose him.

I mean, I can see this as perhaps an accurate representation of somebody’s view of what taking control of a ship might mean.  And for a novel about a war that takes place on an individual level some sort of transition in and out of a ship is required.  I get that.  But I have never once in over nine years of playing EVE Online sat down and considered that my capsule is more like something from The Matrix than, say, Star Wars.

And, in having to take that in and reconcile it against the story my brain has been concocting by itself for most of the last decade is… distracting.  It is, in a way, like Tom Cruise being cast in the lead role of a film version of a favorite book.  Tom Cruise does many things well… nobody can sprint on screen like he can… but becoming a character is not one of them.  Meryl Streep is amazing because she disappears into so many roles, becoming the person she is playing.  Tom Cruise is generally just Tom Cruise thrust into the middle of a story.

And it goes on and on, my brain stumbling over every variation from what it has built to make the New Eden experience a thing.  A bridge crew?  Getting into the capsule after getting into the ship?

Piling on top of that is the decision to sanitize the book.  I understand that, when it comes to individual names, perhaps the story can do without Pedobear69 or whoever.  But when the plan includes retconning the CFC to make it The Imperium during the war… I’m not sure why you can’t say “clusterfuck” for an organization but can have dialog that declares an operation a “giant fucking trap” elsewhere… and my brain is going to trip over that and mentally try to correct for it every time.  But I am somebody who shouts revised sentences or correct pronunciation back at audiobooks in the car when they trot out and awkward turn of phrase or say something wrong, so this might be just a “me” thing.

Still, I do wonder if I, as somebody close to the story being told, am going to be able to read the resulting book and not find a mental burden to get through or end up feeling alienated from it due to the way it had to be put together to work as Jeff Edwards’ vision of the war.

I do like hearing tales of the Fountain War.  In fact, this week’s Asher Hour podcast has former GIA head Endie as a guest and includes a few “now it can be told” tales from the war.  Great stuff.  I could listen to that sort of thing all day.  And I would pay for a lecture series by Andrew Groen about null sec wars after having seen his presentation at EVE Vegas.  But I am feeling a little queasy about the novelization at this point.

All is not dark clouds though.  I was told specifically that this kickstarter campaign will succeed and how this will come about.

Vince Snetterton (Has anybody determined if this is the same person in comments on various blogs as Dinsdale Piranha or somebody else with very similar views and an appreciation for the same Monty Python sketch?) responded to a comment of mine over on Rixx Javix’s post about the whole affair explaining that, when he has a moment free from telling CCP how to run EVE Online, The Mittani will merely tell his followers that they need to pledge some cash or they will be kicked out of The Imperium.  Looking at the coalition tallies, there are over 42,000 characters in The Imperium.  Call that maybe 5 characters per actual forum account… a surprising number of people only have one or two characters, and past surveys have put the ratio at 2.5 character per real life person… so maybe 8,000 people total.  You just need to get them to pony up $20 each and op success!

The logic behind this is that the pilots of The Imperium, being a solid block of non-dissenting robots, trained by either by being “forced” to pay $10 to join the Something Awful forums or by being required to click on participation links in fleets, will obediently and without complaint do what Mittens tells us.

So pretty much a done deal then.  I will see you all at the mandatory spontaneous demonstration of support when the goal has been achieved!

Hail the Fountain War Kickstarter campaign!

NSA Unable to Tie Your Guild to Al-Qaeda

So many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions.

ProPublica Article, Word of Spycraft

One of the stories floating around at the moment is a report from ProPublica, The Guardian, and the New York Times about the various security agencies in the US and the UK conducting surveillance and collecting data on players inside games like World of Warcraft and Second Life.  You can read the ProPublica story here.  It has links out to the other two sites.

That the various alphabet soup of agencies were interested in online games as a potential communications channel for terrorists has been known for a while now.  (At least I remember this coming up a few years back. Oh yeah, this.)  But now, with the documents stolen from the NSA by Edward Snowden, we are getting a sense of how much effort went into this and what sort of returns were achieved.

Cutting to the chase: A lot and not very much at all.

The Hellscream Dream

Garrosh Hellscream would have gotten results

There is that quote at the top of this post for starters.  The article goes on to talk about ongoing efforts to infiltrate groups, recruit informers, and steal data to allow the various agencies to discover the real life identities of players.  The government even went to the private sector to fund studies of online games, which eagerly jumped to get on the government funding teat, and yielded up such gems as the fact that “players under age 18 often used all capital letters both in chat messages and in their avatar names.”

Meanwhile, the results seem rather modest.  The agencies discovered that a wide swath of the population plays online games, including people who might be potentially be recruited by various parties.  But while there were plenty of “We’re in!” sorts of memos about getting data, documents showing that intelligence collected lead to terrorists, or any plots thereof, seem to be missing… or were never there in the first place.

Our government(s) in action.

I do find it interesting that Second Life seemed to get such focus.  The tales seem to spin around World of Warcraft, Xbox Live, and Second Life, at least two of which were/are very popular.  The security agencies seemed to believe the media hype of a few years back that Second Life was the future and that we would be doing business, conducting conferences, and attending concerts in a virtual world.  Remember those days?  Somebody at the CIA must have read Snow Crash as well.

On the flip side, there was no mention of EVE Online.  Of course, Glenn Beck showed us that EVE is controlled by the CIA through Goonswarm, so they may be diverting attention from that, right?

Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX

In which I attempt to set a record for insulting the most gaming industry professionals in a single post as I meander towards a conclusion you probably saw coming a mile away.

The business model announcements last week for WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online have gotten a lot of people writing about subscriptions and free to play.  The subscription-only model, declared dead and buried after SWTOR got through with it, is now generally cast as a proposition that is all downside.  Any perceived benefits of subscriptions are illusory, or so says the man who failed to make it work.  So he ought to know I guess.  Just don’t disagree with him, he gets upset.

But then WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online inexplicably threw in with the model.  And the question of the day became “What the hell are they thinking?” as people declared en masse that they would never play a subscription only game.

My completely uninformed opinion is that the TESO team is just hopelessly naive, though in an endearing sort of way.  Down there at the Hunt Valley end of the MTA light rail line, life is good, the air is clean, and the atmosphere just fills you with hope that it is still 2001 and you can launch an MMO that is simply better than the original EverQuest and have a winner.

Cynics… whose outlooks have no doubt been shaped by the industry… have opined that the ZeniMax Online team has an evil plan to launch as subscription, cashing in to the maximum amount possible, only to be ready to swap to a F2P model as soon as the sheep realize they are being shorn.  Then it will be flying pig mounts, pinwheel hats, and hotbars for sale all day every day, with regular in-game pop-ups to remind you of the latest currency specials.  Because fuck immersion… as far as I can tell only about 6 people on the internet believe there is such a thing… and these are just video games, so why not turn them all into a carnival midway?  Just crank the crap volume to 11 already and be done with it.

In my world view… and really, the only thing driving my world view in the regard is the TESO team’s seeming lack of understanding as to what drives the popularity of Elder Scrolls games… hint: It isn’t the availability of something like Barrens Chat… the team at ZeniMax is planning a picnic on a nice green median strip in the midst Interstate 83 and are going to get hit by a semi-truck while crossing the blacktop.

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

Irony demands that it be THIS truck

(Picture stolen from the EVE Online Facebook page, where they were encouraging people to suicide gank this truck, and then cropped and edited.  Don’t view the full-size version. Like people my age, it only looks good at a distance, if at all.)

And then all the subsequent drama will be the result of an emergency team trying to stitch things back together while the aforementioned cynics nod their heads and point out that it was all a setup.

We shall see how that works out.

And then there is the WildStar team at Carbine.  What the hell are they thinking?

You could easily assume that they, too, were just another start up in a self-contained reality distortion bubble where “we can make a better WoW” seems like a reasonable proposition.  They have the experience, the talent, and they have thrown in with the monthly subscription model.  Easy to dismiss as either misguided or, again, hatching an evil plot to bilk players out of money for boxes before jumping to a F2P model.

But then there is the whole CREDD thing.  The PLEX comparison is obvious, but just as easily dismissed due to the nature of EVE Online.

These guys aren’t dumb though.  Right?  This isn’t SOE with its seeming blind spot as to the obvious next question the moment they announce something.  Maybe they have a plan, maybe they feel they can build a player driven market with EVE Online-like participation levels.

And maybe, just maybe, they have their own model where running multiple accounts gives you a serious, tangible advantage in-game.

Because it is that, plus the advent of PLEX, that could be driving growth in EVE Online.

Think about this.

In EVE Online I think we can all agree that playing multiple accounts gives you an advantage.

And that has been the case for quite some time.  Even when I started playing the game, way back in 2006, you were only really serious about your internet spaceships if you has an extra pilot in space.  Multi-boxing was common.  And hey, if you enjoyed the game, then one or two additional accounts wasn’t a huge stretch.

But then along came PLEX back in 2009.

EVE Online was growing before PLEX.  It continued growing after PLEX.  But I do wonder what impact PLEX had on growth.

Because after the introduction of PLEX, it was suddenly viable to run more accounts, so long as you could use them to create enough ISK to buy PLEX to pay their subscription.  Having two or three accounts gave way to having five or six or ten or a dozen.  Seeing formations of mining ships clearly controlled by a single person became more common.

Pretty blue lasers

One fleet, one guy

In fact, CCP has expressed concern about the rising price of PLEX at times.  A single PLEX was selling for over 600 million ISK earlier this summer.  That concern has always been couched in terms of being concerned with the in-game economy.  And it is hard to deny that CCP takes the in-game economy seriously.  But I have to wonder if there isn’t also some concern around the out-of-game economy; specifically the bit that pays the bills that keeps payroll going and servers humming.  Because, while some players play for “free” by buying PLEX, every active account is still paid for by somebody, and nothing says “winning” more than an always increasing subscriber base.  Grow or die, as they might say on Wall Street.

Is that what the WildStar team is hoping to achieve with CREDD?  Because if it is, they aren’t convincing me.

I have been through this before, but I would be hard pressed to name another MMORPG where the player base is as invested in the in-game economy as in EVE Online.  And the in-game is what drives PLEX and enables it to succeed to the point that it likely contributes noticeably to the subscriber base totals.  And WildStar hasn’t said a thing that makes me think that they can manage that.

So I am throwing in with the conspiracy group on this one.  Carbine must be making a cynical cash grab with this “buy the box and subscribe” plan up front, while readying the transition to F2P once the sheep are well and truly shorn.

Did I use that metaphor already?  I can’t help it.  I have seen sheep shorn, and they always come out looking pathetic, cold, and pissed off, in the same way certain MMO players do when their game makes that F2P transition.

Anyway, there is no other logical explanation for Carbine’s plan aside from a complete loss of grip on reality.  And the TESO team will probably claim they own that and sue.

But it sure has given us all a lot to talk about.

Oh, and Brian Green’s hair continues its complete and total migration towards his chin.

I felt I needed just one more insult to secure the record.  Did I make it, or do I need to bring up the NGE?