Tag Archives: Star Wars Galaxies

Han Killed Greedo With One Shot

Even in the worst Star Wars fan nightmare, George Lucas would not have Han and Greedo exchange a dozen shots over the table before one of them finally flopped over dead, not having experience any diminished capacity along the way.  Forget about who shot first, that scenario would be the real disaster.

Han going for his blaster

And yet, that is how it would play out in any Star Wars MMO you care to mention.  My experiences this past weekend indicate that the toe to toe, multi-shot blaster fight is, and shall remain, the norm.

Blasting away, two down and I'm barely scratched

Which is seriously making me reconsider my pre-order of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

The whole hit points vs. damage dealt routine just feels wrong in a game like this.

I realize that it is equally inaccurate in a fantasy MMORPG, but swords, armor, and magic lead to a much easier suspension of disbelief.  I can easily get past this in Azeroth, Norrath, Telara, or Middle-earth.  But there are six Star Wars movies and about three seasons of related TV out there showing people going down to one blaster shot all the time.

Including, of course, our friend Greedo up there.  As somebody else once quipped, the more important fact was that Han shot well.

For the most part, in the movies, only good guys, and the rare bad guy with one last act of defiance in him, generally survive beyond a single blaster bolt.

So I am trying to decide if playing a game where it takes 3-6 direct blaster hits to kill an NPC, all while taking as many hits yourself, is going to be something I can get past or not.

Star Wars – Impressions from the Weekend

That December date is coming up quickly.  It is just over a month away.

I am fortunate that my account is flagged so that I can play at this point.

So once I got the client up to date, I jumped right in.

As with everything Star Wars, it opens with the usual line about a galaxy far, far away.

Required item #1

Then, naturally, the Star Wars name/logo.

Star Wars? Ya think?

And once you have those two, you cannot skip the inevitable bottom to top text crawl of the situation.

There is conflict! Oh no!

These are the tropes of the Star Wars universe.  On the one hand they do seem a bit tired more than 30 years after the original movie.  But on the other hand, they do put you in the right state of mind.

And the game seems quite intent on placing you in that state of mind.  So it brings out the old stand-by smuggler.

We've seen his type before

He, of course, flies a ship… the fastest ship around naturally… that is of obvious Corellian manufacture and looks kind of like one we’ve seen in the movies.

I mean, it is about the same shape and all...

Naturally, there has to be a dramatic, last minute escape.

In reality the explosion would have killed us...

And then a narrow escape through very familiar “bad guy” ships.

Not the local bulk cruisers...

Which, of course, includes fighters of the usual configuration…

Fighters, 6 o'clock!

…and a manning of turrets to hold them off.

Scratch one fighter...

The bad guys are never happy about this sort of thing.

You and what... oh, yeah, that army...

All of which is wrapped up with the dramatic jump to lightspeed.

That was soooooo cool... in 1977

That is all exciting and good and puts you in the spirit of things.

Then things start to fall apart for me.  You have chosen your class.

9 choices there

And you get a quick intro into combat, but it becomes unsatisfying… to me at least… almost immediately.  Standing toe to toe and exchanging blaster fire just seems silly.

Bang! Bang! You're Dead!

Close combat like this makes sense in a fantasy game, where a sword fight requires you to get up close and an armored opponent might take several hits to die.

But here we have ranged energy weapons that ought to drop you with a single, solid hit.  Star Trek Online tried to cover this up a bit by giving you a personal force field.  But here blasters are either so weak or characters are so strong that the average player can take half a dozen hits without a problem.

Yes, you can use objects for cover.  The game tells you so.

Don't just stand there!

There is the usual corpse looting, this time for credits instead of gold.

I swear I thought he had a quest...

And experience points.  You cannot have a game like this without experience points it seems.

...or have you been experienced?

I did spend some time running around, doing a few quests, and trying to spot things that made the game different.

NPC interaction wheel

Honestly though, I couldn’t stick with it for a long stretch.

Fortunately, patching was quick and easy, so I did not have to wait to get into the game.  Not a lot of new stuff going in at this point I guess.

2.7 MB? Practically no patch at all!

And getting onto a server was no problem.  There are only a few from which to choose and there are no queues or anything to delay logging on.

All of this did give me a chance to get a small taste of what the first Star Wars MMO, Star Wars Galaxies, is currently like.  I will probably go back for a bit more between now and December 15, when the game shuts down for good.

I though it was important to have a feel for what had come before so that I could truly appreciate the changes and innovations that BioWare is bringing to the table with their Star Wars MMO.

SOE Finally Gets a REAL Server Status Page

Update: Since the change over to Daybreak Gaming Company, the server status page is now here.

I have long complained that what passes for server status pages for SOE games like EverQuest and EverQuest II have often displayed information with little relationship to reality.

This is something that seems so easy, and which competitors like Blizzard have done so well, that I have boggled at SOE’s half-assed approach to the problem.  I swear at one point the EQ status page was static HTML that somebody just updated manually… when they had the time.

Now though, that might finally be at an end.

SOE has launched their new unified server status page.

EverQuest II Status

The page is a huge step forward.

Granted, it still needs some work.

Currently it only displays the status for EverQuest II, EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, and DC Universe Online.  I suppose the Vanguard servers are touched so infrequently that assuming they are up is safe.

And the region data column seems to be only partially populated.  Test might pass for a region I suppose, but where is “live?”

And the sorting of the servers is obviously based on some database key not visible in the display.  Alphabetical sorting by server name would be appreciated.

But otherwise, SOE seems to going in the right direction with this.  I will have to check back on patch day and see if status and reality actually align now for SOE.

It is interesting to see that of the EQ servers, only Fippy Darkpaw and Antonius Bayle are running at a load level other than “low.”


SOE seems to be continuing work on the page.  They have now added more games and tinkered with the information displayed, including the freshness of any given status.

The Game List, Sept. 2

Logical sorting patterns still seem to elude them, but you cannot have everything I suppose.

Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!

As part of the discussion of the player reaction to the shutting down of Star Wars Galaxies, Bhagpuss brought up the fact that there were a couple of SWG emulation projects going on, and that this might allow people to continue to experience SWG after the December 15th shut down of the game.  They are, if you are interested:

They were once the same project, but branched over some sort of “tastes great/less filling”  argument.  Both continue along the line of emulating Pre-NGE SWG, which was what got them started in the first place.  That there will soon be no Post-NGE SWG has not changed that.

Emulation seems to live in a gray area in the world of MMOs.  Following certain guidelines, they are not really “pirate” servers engaging in outright theft of a game.  On the other hand, they do encroach on the work of others, so to say they are merely “private” servers does not cover things as well.  Occasionally somebody throws around the term “fair use,” but apparently only to show they don’t know what the hell the term means in any sort of legal sense and are generally engaged in something closer to “wishful thinking.”

This picture might actually constitute fair use

Still, where there is a will, there is a way… or at least a few people willing to give it a shot.

An MMO emulation project usually consists of somebody reverse engineering their own version of the server side software of an MMO.  When the server side emulation of the game is ready, the players then use the client from the original game to connect.  This is done by altering the client so that it connects to the emulation rather than the original game login server.

Such server emulators are available for Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and as we have discussed here before, EverQuest.

There are, of course, legal issues involved here.  And while nobody can ever really predict who will sue whom for what here in the US, the urban legend level consensus seems to be that if can avoid the following, you and your emulation project will be safe:

  1. Don’t Charge – If you set up an emulation of an online game and you charge people money to use the game then you are clearly attempting to profit from somebody elses work, as in the case of Scapegaming, which brought in 3 million dollars in revenue from their private WoW server.
  2. Don’t Use Source Code – Game companies do not make a habit of handing out their source code, but leaks do happen from time to time.  Taking advantage of such a leak can tee you up for a lawsuit.
  3. Don’t Violate DMCA – Ah, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, everybody’s favorite piece of legislation.  Circumventing security or encryption can get you in trouble here.  This was the other part of the Scapegaming case, the part that drove the award against them to $88 million.
  4. Don’t Distribute the Client – This is the part of the game that the end users needs to connect to your emulator, but it is also where all the copyrighted and trademarked material resides.

Following the above four rules will probably grant you about the same legal shielding that arguing that you don’t have to pay US income taxes because the statute behind it is flawed or the whole thing is an illicit conspiracy; which is to say, none at all.  Blizzard and Nexon, for example, quite actively go after any emulations of their game, though at least in the case of Blizzard I couldn’t tell you how you would do that without tripping over alleged rule #3.

But for some, life seems okay.  The EverQuest emulation community for example seems to have quite a few options, with everything from “real” 1999 style servers to happy solo-friendly romps through Norrath to new original content on top of the game, and Sony lawyers haven’t shut them down.

And, as an end user, as a player, these issues do not really come into play directly, except in the broader sense of there being a private emulation of your game of choice being available to you.  The companies in question are unlikely to spend time going after individual users when their goals can be accomplished by shutting down a server.

Except for one detail; the game client.

The game client is the one thing you need as an end user to be able to participate on these servers.

From what I have seen, a lot of the trouble of being able to play on these servers is getting the right version of the client.  EverQuest emulation, for example, seems to have a couple of very specific starting points, all of them older distributions of the game.

And for the Star Wars Galaxies emulators I listed way back at the start of this post, they will require a fresh, unpatched install from the original game disks.  No expansions, no compilations, no trial versions, no starter kit, no complete edition, no total experience, just the original distribution.

That original disk is a pretty rare bird already.  And you can bet if anybody tries to distribute copies of it LucasArts will jump on them right away.

So if you think SWG emulation is in your future, I hope you have that disk.

And if you don’t play on playing but have that disk sitting on a shelf somewhere, it might have some value on eBay at some point in the future.

Are you planning to play?  Or planning to sell?

Is anybody else planning to emulate the game?

And will LucasArts jump on these guys as soon as SWG is closed?

June in Review

The Site

I passed the 2,000 post mark earlier this month.  That is more than one post a day since I started, though size and quality vary greatly among posts.  I will have to find some way to see how many total words I’ve written.

This month also saw the breaking of the daily page view record for the site yet again.  This time around somebody linked a rather old post on Reddit.  Reddit is a new experience for me, I’ve never used it and have never before been linked there.  The traffic from the link broke the old record by about 10%.  The link also made Reddit the #1 referral source, doubling a month of VirginWorlds traffic in a single day.

The post in question is at the top of the list of most viewed posts for the month.  Yeah, that one.  A prognosticating octopus, cats playing patty cake, and now that.

This is the sort of thing I couldn’t make happen if I tried.

One Year Ago

Warhammer Online, whose game tips I previously mocked, was out soliciting user written game tips with the most boring video game related video ever.  Really, I was embarrassed for them.

Meanwhile, there were comical tips to be found in another game.

CCP was telling people that the steep learning curve in EVE Online was just part of the game, and Hulkageddon III was on the way.

FrontierVille came along, evoking the whole Oregon Trail thing… for which they recently were sued.  And a good thing to, as they are a bunch of lying bastards there at Zynga.  They never sent me my FarmVille magnet.

There was the big news from Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online going Free to Play.  I wondered is Lifetime Subscribers like myself would get the shaft in this transition.  But Turbine made me a perm VIP instead and put out one of those charts that seems to accompany these multi-level subscription scams structures.  But I was winning LOTRO lotteries, so I was happy for the moment.

In Pokemon SoulSilver I had beat all the gym leaders, but we were having Pokewalker problems.

Then there was Blizzard.  Where to start?  They were to the Summer of 2010 what CCP is becoming to the Summer of 2011.

They were selling WoW Gold straight from the main page.  Really.  It just isn’t what you think.

They screwed up the parental controls interface… in my opinion… along with compromising the security of it.

The whole RealID thing was just getting warmed up.

One of the accounts in our guild was compromised and the guild bank was looted.  That has happened a couple times since and is barely news any more.

And during all this, the instance group was working its way through the Burning Crusade content with our Horde alts, but we weren’t really feeling it.

Ennui had set in and our only hope was Cataclysm.  And there were plenty of offers to get us into the beta.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  3. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  4. EVE Introduces a New Currency – Aurum
  5. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  6. Monitize Your EVE Online App or Service… For a Fee…
  7. CCP – If The Players Won’t Create Drama, The Company Is Happy To Step In…
  8. The Slow Rise & Sudden Demise of LEGO Universe
  9. Trion – Those 600,000 Missing WoW Players, They Play Rift
  10. SOE Station Access Returns to 2004… And Then Some
  11. Star Wars Galaxies to Close in December
  12. And To Cap It Off, My Sentry Drones Barely Go *PEW* *PEW* At All

Most Common Search Terms of the Month

  1. world of warcraft
  2. how to catch zorua
  3. eve aurum
  4. how to catch zoroark
  5. guild names
  6. onyxia
  7. blood elf porn
  8. turbine points
  9. ancient gaming noob
  10. dire maul location
  11. guild name generator
  12. thorin

Notable Search Terms of the Month

draenei pokeball
[Will they fit?]

فار ابيض صغير

[More white mice]

10 most pressing world issues 2011
[This post is the first item returned for that search]

castle dollhouse plan
[Are they building something, or trying to produce a new TV series?]

eve online getting your bearings
[You can see exactly where you are if you jump off that cliff labelled “learning curve”]

what is the wilheim experience
[Sorry, this is the Wilhelm Arcturus Experience]

Spam Comments of the Month

You cannot post new topics in this forum…..You cannot reply to topics in this forum…..You cannot delete your posts in this forum…..You cannot edit your posts in this forum…..You cannot create polls in this forum…..You cannot vote in polls in this forum…

[And you cannot comment on this blog post.]

Most characters give little thought to their The guild names that make news such as Thott’s Everquest guild Afterlife Thott now runs the popular World of Warcraft site that bears his name are not the ones we remember for their names. Some guild names will make you smiles and other ones are just so cool that they deserve special recognition. Perhaps the ones that are most memorable are those that make a play on a band name.

[I think they were trying to make this look like a ping-back.  Linked to somebody’s Business Review site.  And they obviously have no idea how long Potshot and I spend thinking up guild names.]

wher exactly can I download pokemon black without paying?

[No idea wher, bro.]


Fippy Darkpaw is headed towards the next expansion, Scars of Velious.  Haven’t been back all month, but I keep meaning to visit.

EverQuest II Extended

This remains my main game for the time being.  Gaff and I have been on a lot and our guild is moving slowly towards level 40.  Getting the whole instance group to show up though… well… as I have said, there might be a reason we seem to have a hiatus every summer.

EVE Online

How to even summarize the last month of EVE?  My own experiences are so tiny in the backdrop of total forum war.

EVE is being hammered over a combo of bad turns.  There was the licensing fee for monetizing 3rd party apps which wasn’t really a bad thing, but was communicated so poorly… it was so vague that every negative “what if..” you could think of couldn’t be discounted… that it put the community in a bad mood.

Then came Incarna and the Noble Store and the new currency, which pissed some people off.  Then there was the pricing, which pissed off another segment.  Then there was the internal newsletter that talked about the possibility of selling things like special ammo and faction status, which really set a lot of people’s hair on fire.

And if that wasn’t enough to stir the pot, the rest of Incarna failed to impress a lot of people, me included.  Sure, the agent finder is good (though years late) and I want to try out the revised-yet-again new player experience.  But the Captain’s Quarters turned out to be amusing for a very short duration and turning it off to claim back the system resources it needed (or to make you system usable it you had an ATi video card) left you with the dreaded static station door picture.

Oh, and we got upgraded turret and beam graphics.  Mostly.  Don’t get me started on sentry drones again.

I cancelled my account 4 days into Incarna.  Not in rage over anything in particular, but because it brought nothing new to the table for me and actually made a few things worse.  I was not inspired to find something new to do in the game.

This who Incarna blow-up should make for an interesting “One Year Ago” post next June.  Now to see if CCP can fix it.  The CSM Incarna summit is even now going on.


I started playing the new Zynga game Farms & Allies or whatever it is called.  It is clearly another step in the evolution of games that Zynga has stolen created, building on FarmVille, FrontierVille, CityVille, and the work of Charles Ponzi.

You still do not actually interact with anybody else in real time, but you can attack other players and NPCs while you build your empire.  In a few more generations Zynga might actually be making “real” games, whatever that means.

If you’re playing, send me an neighbor invite soon, since my track record with Zynga is to get fed up with repetitive nature of their games in a few weeks time and leave, turning off all possible access I can with Facebook. (Because otherwise Zynga will flood you with messages.)

On the flip side, I stopped playing SOE’s Dungeon Overlord because I hit a point, not very far into things, where the only way I could figure out to continue the game was to spend money, and I frankly didn’t like it enough to do that.

I might have spent some money if I could have used Station Cash from my main SOE account, but Dungeon Overlord only accepts Facebook credits, which I am told are the Deutsche Mark of the Beast.

Other PC Games

I bought Gratuitous Space Battles on a whim.  I had a discount code and it looked interesting.  I may not have given it enough of a chance, but the space battles seem to be more tedious than gratuitous.  You set up the battle, then you watch the battle.  But I found watching the battle to be a chore… and I’m not all that sold on the fun of setting up the battle.  And yet I find practically the same mechanism in a game like Combat Mission to be quite engrossing.

PlayStation 3

The PlayStation Store came back online at last and I was finally able to download my free games as part of the Sony “make good” program.  I guess I should consider myself lucky, as I understand the PlayStation Network still isn’t fully operational in Japan.  After consulting with my daughter, we went with:

  • Super Stardust HD – An update to the game Asteroids.  Bright, shiny, loud, but not especially deep or engaging.
  • Wipeout HD + Fury – Mario Kart in futuristic hovercraft racers.  Bright, shiny, loud, and with a techno beat sound track, but Mario Kart.  Okay, there are a few race modes that Mario does not have, but we’re talking evolution, not revolution.

I wouldn’t have paid money for either game.  My daughter and I have played a bit of both, favoring Wipeout for the most part.  She likes the music.  In the end though, she downloaded the demo for Fancy Pants Adventures and probably spent more time with that than we did with the two free titles.

But the PS3 still makes a fine machine for watching movies in Blu-Ray or streaming Netflix in HD.  I think we stream more Netflix with it than all other uses combined.

Coming Up

We will see how the summer hiatus season affects the instance group and whether we will stick with EQ2.

I still have time on my EVE account, so I would like to spend an evening going through the updated Incarna new player experience.  Maybe that plus the new agent finder will make the expansion worthwhile to new players… and CCP might need some new players if they don’t get things settled down.

Then there is Star Wars Galaxies.  I grabbed the client.  I have All Station Pacsess or whatever it is called this week, so I am already subscribed.  I told myself I am going to take some time to visit the game one last time.  But honestly, I only played post-NGE and only for a short time, so I’m not actually all that invested and don’t really have any places I feel I need to visit “one more time.”

I’ll probably end up just running the tutorial and taking some screen shots of C3P-0 and Han Solo.

Not Knowing When to Let Go… A Class Action Suit to Save SWG

And the suit isn’t even aimed at saving the game, but merely to fight back against SOE shutting down those ever-so-effective internet petitions which have been springing up in the SOE forums and elsewhere in hopes of converting SWG to a free to play title.  You know those always get the job done!

Game Politics News and Kotaku are reporting that a group of 50 Star Wars Galaxies players are threatening a class action suit against Sony Online Entertainment because they claim that SOE is hindering their efforts to “save” the game from being closed.

Acting more than a few steps away from reality, the group is specifically suing SOE because they claim that the company has been locking petition forum threads (which along with poll threads, are explicitly forbidden by SOE’s forum rules) and banning those responsible, both pretty much within SOE’s rights and covered by the end user license agreement.

And the kicker is that SOE really has no control over keeping SWG alive.  LucasArts, which owns the Star Wars IP, has the final say on the subject, and they are never going to agree to anything but a full closure of the game, petitions or no.

LucasArts not only has a vested interested in supporting Star Wars: The Old Republic (and probably a contractual one as well), but they have a responsibility to protect the Star Wars IP and ensure that it is seen in the best light possible.  Letting SWG degrade over time, unsupported and with a population on the decline, does not serve that end.

Some seem to think that this is a nefarious plan to force SWG players to play SWTOR, something some are now claiming they will never do.  But a few subscribers (and few is the operative word here) isn’t the motivation.  It is protection of the IP and contractual obligations to EA and BioWare.

The writing is on the wall.  SWG is done, gone, will exist no longer after December 15, 2011.

Nobody wants to see their favorite game go away.  And people get especially attached to MMOs.  Emotions on the forums are running high.  But this whole assault on SOE is going to acc0mplish nothing.  There are more than five months left before the game goes away, use it.  Accept what is inevitable, make the time left meaningful, but be ready to say good-bye.

What Will The Weather Be Like For SWTOR?

For those who truly hate World of Warcraft and cannot stand to grant it even one accomplishment, the real reason for the success of WoW is encapsulated in the idea of the perfect storm.

The circumstances were simply right at that moment of time and big, dumb old Blizzard fell into their position of market leader due to circumstances beyond their control.  The changes, the flailing about, and the constant “dumbing down” of WoW only fuels the flames of the fire that keeps this theory on the boil in certain quarters.

And you will notice that “perfect storm” has a bad connotation in almost every usage, so no doubt refers to how Blizz destroyed the MMO market, one more slam against the current front runner.

I do not agree with this theory.  People espousing it tend to ignore the fact that Blizzard had a series of best selling games before WoW, so had a good reputation, and that the Warcraft franchise was popular.  A lot of factors went into the success of WoW, a topic that has been bounced around ad naseum.

But while the whole “perfect storm” thing cannot stand by itself, things were certainly working in Blizzard’s direction.

EverQuest, WoW’s spiritual ancestor and former market leader, had trained a lot of people on what a 3D fantasy MMO was.  There were a lot of EQ players and probably even more former EQ players by 2004 out in the market looking for something new.

Games requiring 3D accelerated video cards were common, and such cards were readily available and not too expensive, so the base of machines capable of playing WoW was much bigger at launch than it was for EQ back in 1999.

EQ itself had reached the stage of shoving unfinished expansions out the door every six months, while SOE was creating its own successor to EQ, EverQuest II, which wouldn’t figure out what it was about, in my opinion, until the two years later with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion.

So the market was ready, in a way, for Blizzard to come along with World of Warcraft.  And even with its own troubled launch, it still looked like a better deal than its competitors on the market.

Yes, that is a grossly simplified look at WoW’s competition.  There were other games out there like Dark Age of Camelot.  But things did seem, in general, to work to Blizzard’s advantage in late 2004.

And it is news this week that made me start thinking about what the market will look like for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and how things will work out when it launches late this year. (Or so they say.)

Certainly there are some immediate parallels with WoW in 2004, so much so that it is tempting to start forecasting the weather in search of another such storm.

More the SWG forecast these days...

What might we predict if we took today and projected it out to the SWTOR launch?

The Blizzard Conditions

Like Blizzard, BioWare is well regarded, has a strong following, and a track record of best selling, high quality games.

And while Warcraft is a popular IP, very few IPs beat Star Wars.  And this is not a new IP with which BioWare is working.  Their success with Knights of the Old Republic gives them credibility with the public that they can deliver a good Star Wars game as well as the leverage (or so I have heard) to tell LucasArts to “screw off” if they start telling BioWare what to do.

The market too seems to be aligning itself in favor of BioWare.

World of Warcraft – It’s Draining Subs

World of Warcraft is in the position EverQuest was in 2004, the undisputed market leader.  And like EQ, it is slipping into decline.  While it does not suffer from quality problems in expansions, it is still managing to alienate sections of its core player base.  Even my mom says Cataclysm is nice looking, but “meh” otherwise.  And by destroying the old game to redo levels 1-60, they cut the nostalgia cord with  their loyal fans.  Blizzard has the summer to come up with something new or they look to be in the long cycle of decline.  WoW will still be huge and profitable and highly polished for years to come, but things appear to be on the down slope now.

Star Wars Galaxies – That’s No Contract Renewal!

Then there was last week’s announcement of the closure of Star Wars Galaxies.  Of course, LucasArts is declining to renew its contract with SOE in order to support SWTOR.  The announcement said as much.  And while it is silly to assume that SWTOR will somehow automatically get all of SWG’s subscribers, it will be the only Star Wars MMO in town, so no doubt some of that population will come in for a look.  And those that come to look may stay because, unlike the mass of EQ players that went to EQ2, said “no,” and ran back to EQ, there will no “home” to which to return.

EVE Online – Unrest… but when isn’t that the case?

EVE Online is in chaos for the moment.  But when does it ever go for six months at a stretch without something driving the player base to howl?  And it is unclear to me if the echo-chamber of the threadnaughts represents anything more than the most vocal segments of the minority of EVE players than play the 0.0 segment of the game.  Still, EVE is a very interconnected game, so your empire space based mining corp would feel the pinch if null sec players stopped needing resources.  And EVE is a home for those who want a space MMO, and while SWTOR won’t be anything like EVE, you can be sure there will be some cross-over… and all the more so if CCP keeps stoking the fire or ire in the player base.

Rift – So Happy Today

Rift, the darling of late winter which bloomed so rapidly in the spring seems to be enjoying a stable summer.   The biggest selling point for a lot of people seemed to be that is was “not WoW.”  But it has started moving closer to WoW in difficulty and mechanics.  Will this flower be a perennial or merely an annual, shedding a chunk of its player base for the next “not WoW” thing?  Are the new trial servers an innovation or just a clever way to do a server shut down without doing a server shut down?  Will Rift be able to claim a sizable loyal core, or will its player base be tempted by something that may be even more “not WoW?”

Guild Wars 2 – When it Ships

Guild Wars 2, a serious contender for attention in this market now sounds like it won’t ship until 2012.  If SWTOR makes its own plan and launches this year, having GW2 out of the way will be an advantage.

Other Titles – Any High Pressure Systems?

What else will be coming out this year?  Diablo III and the next installment for StarCraft II represent all that Blizzard will have to offer.  They will steal some attention, but are really for something of a different audience.  There will be other games, many of them free to play, as well as expansions.

So What Is The Forecast?

Having taken a semester of meteorology in college, I know a wee bit about forecasting the weather.  And one of the truths of it is that a forecast gets more accurate the closer you get to the particular time for which you are attempting to forecast.  And accuracy only hits 100% when you are telling people what is happening right now for your current location.  The further away you get in time and space, the bigger the margin of error.

We are months away from a SWOTR launch and many things can change.

BioWare might need to slip the release into 2012.  Or, worse, they might really need to slip in to 2012 but get forced by EA to go out the door unready for prime time.

Blizz might figure out what it needs to do to get WoW out of its slow decline and restore growth.

EVE might stave off a player revolt (actually, it surely will, as such unrest is part and parcel of the game in my opinion) and introduce walking on stations in time to make space interesting enough to attract those who might not be sold on SWTOR. (Though that level of change would no doubt instigate another player revolt in the threadnaut echo chamber.)  Or EVE players might just stalk off to Perpetuum and be invested there when SWTOR rolls out.

Guild Wars 2 might launch this year.

Some other game, some sort of indie MMO with Minecraft-like powers of appeal, might show up and change the whole scene.

Heck, if we want to get wild in our speculation, SWG, riding a resurgence of interest based on nostalgia and its imminent demise, might start delivering enough dollars to LucasArts to make it think twice about shutting it down.  But I would rank that on the scale of “maybe the horse will learn to sing” as far as likelihood goes.

There is a lot that could happen between now at the launch of SWTOR.

And sometimes the weather throws you a curve ball.

That is this week’s forecast for Silicon Valley.  Rain is very uncommon in the summer here, but it happens.  And two hours ago that forecast had the picture for thunderstorms.  Even more rare those.

So, like the weatherman sitting here in late June and saying it is likely to rain in the fall, it is pretty hard to dispute the idea that a BioWare produced, Star Wars themed MMO with EA’s marketing muscle behind it is going to sell less than a million boxes in a short span of time.  Beyond that, you have to guess at what conditions will exist at the time of its release.

What do you think will influence the forecast for the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic?

Star Wars Galaxies to Close in December

As noted over at Massively, where they have an exclusive interview with John Smedley of SOE, Star Wars Galaxies is slated to be “sunsetted” (read “shut down”) on December 15th of this year.

In the interview, Smed gives the reasoning:

The decision to shut down SWG is first and foremost a business decision mutually agreed upon between SOE and LucasArts. LucasArts has a new game coming out, and the contract would be running out in 2012 anyway, so we feel like it’s the right time for the game to end.

And here we see an issue inherent in working with a popular intellectual property for an MMO.

Vanguard, which SOE own outright, may run for years yet, so long as it makes just enough money to justify its existence.  But there is always overhead from the owner of an IP, like there was with The Matrix Online.  And so that closed, no doubt in part because Warner Brothers was owed money every month for the use of the IP.

And Star Wars is a valuable IP owned by Lucas and guarded jealously.  Any licensed Star Wars product that is not a sterling success reflects badly on the IP, and SWG has had its share of troubles. (Rooted mostly in requirements laid down by Lucas after the fact, or so goes the tale of the NGE.)

And so the contract with SOE is coming to an end conveniently at about the time EA and BioWare should be close to launching Star Wars: The Old Republic.

As I said in a past prediction:

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.

And while I was not right on all the details, including the date when we would find out, the central truth remains:  Lucas will only sanction a single Star Wars MMO in the traditional EverQuest, 3D virtual world, monthly subscription sense.  SWG is clearly out because SW:TOR is coming online.

(And no, Clone Wars Adventures does not count, it is clearly a different sort of gaming, lacking that whole virtual world aspect for a start.)

So let the rush to nostalgia begin!

You have less than 6 months to go before Star Wars Galaxies is no more.

See the sites.  Take your screen shots.  Get ready to say “Good-bye.”

Maybe I’ll hold an SWG “Farewell Screen Shot” contest rather than another such contest for EVE Online.

But what would I give as a prize?  A SWTOR game card?

Raph Koster, who was on the team that created SWG, has his own thoughts on the end of SWG.

I Like Lists… Yahoo Has Lists…

So let’s visit Yahoo.

Or Yahoo!, as it is correctly written I suppose.  I always leave out the exclamation point.

Yahoo seems to have some sort of list in its top stories on the main page.  Things like Signs You’re a Green Hypocrite and such.  But once in a while something related to video games makes an appearance.

There were two such lists in the last week that I thought were interesting.

The first was the Most Overhyped Video Games of All Time.

You’ll have to go read their criteria and such, but the list was:

  • Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 (1982)
  • Diakatana (2000)
  • Enter the Matrix (2003)
  • Star Wars: Galaxies (2003)
  • Killzone (2004)
  • Wii Music (2008)
  • Too Human (2008)
  • Spore (2008)

I like this list for a few of reasons.

First, I bought that horrible, horrible version of Pac-Man on the Atari 2600.  I saved my money and spent it on the game.  $30 was some serious money back then.

It was so bad.

It was so very bad that we cannot let go of the disappointment almost 30 years later.

So bad that it is blamed for hurting the video game market.

So bad that it even has it’s own sizable entry on Wikipedia.

I think that game broke my relationship with the 2600 for good.

Then there is Star Wars Galaxies there in the middle.  An MMO that isn’t Warhammer Online being tarred with the hype brush.  Well, that is refreshing!  And SWG being called out for something besides the NGE!  It is a two-fer!

And Wii Music.  I’ve already been down on Wii Music Not sure how the hype really was, but the game itself… rubbish.

Finally, Spore.  So much hype.  So much copy protection.  Such a “meh” game.  Even the Zero Punctionation review of the game was probably the most mild review Yahtzee has ever done.

Still, is that really the definitive list of most overhyped games?  I mean sure, Duke Nukem Forever didn’t make the list, having never actually shipped, but I’m sure there must be some other worthy titles out there.

The other list that caught my eye was the Top Selling Video Games of 2010 so far.

I immediately took to this list because its focus was only titles that were released in 2009 and 2010, so the whole thing wasn’t weighed down by the various boxed versions and expansions for World of Warcraft and The Sims.  Or maybe it was just a consoles only list.  They didn’t say that anywhere… in fact they were pretty sparse on the parameters… but these titles don’t totally go against what you see elsewhere.  Have Sims sales dried up?

Anyway, the list for this year, so far:

  1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
  2. Pokemon SoulSilver (DS)
  3. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)
  4. God of War III (PlayStation 3)
  5. Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
  6. Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
  7. Pokemon HeartGold (DS)
  8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)
  9. Just Dance (Wii)
  10. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

My first reaction was, “Wow, that is a lot of Nintendo focused titles.”

Club Nintendo Indeed!

Nintendo seems to own us with 7 of the 10 titles on that list.  At least only two of them are Mario.

That was quickly followed by “Wow, that is a lot of Pokemon!”  If they hadn’t split them out, combined Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver would have been on top.

And then, I started to wonder how soon StarCraft II would break into that list.  According to that other source I linked, it is closing in on the Top 20 world wide, is already in the Top 20 in the Americas, and has the usual Blizzard momentum behind it.