Tag Archives: Tabula Rasa

CCP Makes $66 Million in 2011, Talks IPO, and Hires David Reid

CCP announced that 2011 revenues for the company were $66 million, up from $59 million in 2010, and that the player base for EVE Online stands at more than 400,000 subscriptions, an increase from the “nearly 360,000” reported in their 2010 financial statement.

2011 was quite a year for CCP, with the double whammy of the Incarna expansion features disappointing a large segment of the player base and the realization that they were over-reaching their financial abilities juggling EVE Online while developing both Dust514 and a World of Darkness MMO.

The former ignited in-game protests and a confrontation with the CSM that lead to a refocus of development and eventually to the much heralded Crucible expansion this past fall, while the later lead to layoffs and putting World of Darkness MMO on the back burner.

A tough year and quite a bounce back from a precarious state.

I was a little bemused to see that their new chief marketing officer was David Reid (now officially @CCP_Pokethulhu.) formerly of NCsoft and Trion Worlds and famous in my mind for the “Tabula Rasa is Triple-A and Here to Stay” interview, given just before they announced the game was going to close.  That interview and other weasel words that have come out of his mouth in the past tends to taint anything he says in my mind.  That is my bias however, and may be unfair.

But when he says things like, “the company has been excited to embrace new models, in addition to the traditional subscriptions offered by EVE,” I start to wonder which side of his mouth he is speaking from at any given moment.  Did he not get briefed on the whole Incarna, Noble Exchange, gold ammo rumor fiasco?  Did he think he was just speaking to investors and that EVE players might not read his statement?

Granted, he is not saying that EVE specifically will be embracing new models… well, except in China I gather… but would you think after the summer of protest the company as a whole might be more circumspect on the subject.  Again, he might just be saying what he thinks potential investors want to hear, since Free to Play and items stores are still hot stuff and the CCP CEO is talking bring the company public with an IPO.

The IPO thing is a bit a jolt as well.  Coming from Silicon Valley and having been through the IPO thing a couple of times, you only go public for two reasons.

You either need a cash infusion to finance an expansion of the company and the new projects that come with it or the founders/investors want to cash out. (Or, in the US, if you have more than 500 stock holders or people are transferring enough of it around that the SEC makes you go public.)

Now, given that they had to cut back on staff in 2011 and put the World of Darkness MMO on hold, this could be a play to expand operations so that the company can afford to do three things at once.

Or this could be a large investor who wants to get their money out of the company.

I suppose we shall have to wait and see.

Anyway, at least bankruptcy seems to be off the table.  Now to see how 2012 progresses and if we will get an answer to one of my 12 questions for 2012.

Lord British: About Tabula Rasa… and Ultima 8…

“since Ultima Online was a fair time back and Tabula Rasa had its troubles, it makes perfect sense that people would go, ‘I’m cautious as to what my expectations are.'”

Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux, EuroGamer Interview III – Exodus

As noted at Massively (thanks Syp), the interviews with Lord British continue over at EuroGamer, this time focused on what went wrong with Tabula Rasa and Ultima VIII.

Not his best work

I swear, I thought he was done.  He sounded done.  He probably should have been done.  But apparently he was not done, and I’m on the Ultimate RPG train, so I am going to stick with it!

Anyway, Lord British takes full blame for both games not being up to par.  Sort of.

“Too bad, spilt milk,” he rued, “I get the blame – I get the appropriate blame, I’m the top of the food chain. It was my decisions. But that’s my excuse or rationalisation.”

And then he does go on to rationalize… or rationalise.

Essentially, it was the same problem in both cases, being forced to ship before they were done.

With Ultima VIII, the big problem was, in his view, the sports-game-centric mentality of EA, which insisted that they ship the game when they said they were going to ship.  This lead to a giant miss in the market according to Lord British.

…if we’d really just finished it properly – even the movement, the jumping that was in the game – had we done it less hacked and more accurately, we would have had a Diablo-style success a year or so before Diablo.

There but for the EA mindset, they could have beat Blizzard and their hugely successful Diablo to the punch.  I wonder if Rob Pardo is going to publicly scold him now for ceding the hack and slash RPG to Blizzard ala something Lord British said recently.

Missed opportunities though?  Was Ultima VIII really a potential competitor to Diablo?  I never made it to Ultima VIII, so I couldn’t tell you, but it seems unlikely to me.

And then there was the tale of NCsoft and Tabula Rasa.  According to Lord British, the team blew the first two years of work and had to start again from scratch, something about which NCsoft was not happy.

And whenever you start a game that is two years out of position, you’re basically already up a creek, if you know what I mean. Because what the company is not going to do is forgive the two years and forgive the millions of dollars that have already been spent. You basically are two years late and what’s taking you so long – let’s get the game out.

I’ve read more detailed insights into what transpired.  To say NCsoft was impatient is a bit of a simplification.  And from the outside it looked bad as well, what with Lord British in orbit while Arieki and Foreas burned.  15 months was all NCsoft could put up with before closing the game down.  And, in an all time class move, they fired Lord British while he was in space.  I wonder if that was a first.  He should have that on his list of accomplishments.

All of this wraps up with another mention of Lord British’s goal of the Ultimate RPG, his company’s current venture, Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale, and the previously mentioned new development processes and dedication to modern platforms such as Facebook and mobile devices.

I guess he felt the need to clear the air on past issues… though Ultima VIII was shipped more than 17 years ago, so it might be time to just let go… and he did steer clear some of his past strange statements.  He managed to stay pretty much on message while trying to explain away what went wrong with these two releases.

I’m just not sure that the end message (big bad companies made me do it) was all that helpful or if he needed to bring this up at all.  I think he would have been better off if he had stopped at the previous interview and his professing great fondness for EA, an expression somewhat undone by this interview.

My List for Obama

A lot of people seem to be coming up with lists for the President Elect (until tomorrow) about what they think he should focus on or do upon the assumption of the mantle of the President of the United States of America.

I read a couple (in print, so no links) this weekend that sounded remarkably like whiny posts you might see on the Blizzard or SOE official forums.

With the door open like that in front of me, I decided to make my own list of priorities for the new president.

Things I want answers to:

In addition, I’d like to see full Warren Commission-like investigations into the closures of Tabula Rasa and Auto Assault, the ongoing development of Hero’s Journey, and who was really behind the NGE.

With the answers to those questions, I think we can all rest easy.

Or did I miss something important?

December in Review

On Events in 2008

I sit here on the final day of 2008 looking back and saying, “WTF?”

Pirates of the Burning Sea set sail, but foundered.  Excellent ship to ship combat turned out to not be worth a monthly fee.

Age of Conan should have launched in March because it came on like a lion, but is now more like lamb in size and competitive vigor. (Or maybe a salt marsh harvest mouse.)  Folks in Oslo have since been heard saying things like, “Third time is a charm!”

Warhammer Online screamed “WAAAGH!” in September, but within six weeks the Mythic team was trying to consolidate its population rather than adding new servers, something that Mark Jacobs himself had previously said would be a sign they were in trouble.  Not that Mr. Jacobs is now saying they are in trouble, but I just love that quote as an example of things not to say. Meanwhile, even some WAR fanbois have changed their mind on the game.

Tabula Rasa, after a statement of support by NC West President of Publishing David Reid, was declared untenable just weeks later and slated to be closed at the end of February 2009.  The Bane issued a press release declaring total victory over the humans while General British, Colonel Blackthorn, and Major Miscalculation fled into space.  A blank slate indeed.

Sony Online Entertainment talked a lot about cool upcoming products, but shipped no new games.  Aside from two expansions and a lot of small content additions, the big headline of the year for SOE seemed to be, “EverQuest and EverQuest II: Now with RMT!”  While I won’t argue with Grimwell’s declaration of success on that front, the reaction seemed to me to be mixed.

All the while the Wrath of the Lich King seemed to be getting lukewarm support at best over the summer with many a blogger picking apart individual features or weighing the whole and declaring it “too little, too late” after nearly two years of waiting.  Then, as the day approached, people began filing back into Azeroth after their summer vacations in other lands.  On the ship date Wrath broke previous sales records set by The Burning Crusade, pushed WoW to a new subscriber peak (sure, just half a million people… small when compared to 11 million, but still more than almost any other subscription based MMO you care to mention has total.), and was generally declared wonderful by those who have enjoyed WoW in the past.

So screw convention wisdom, I’m going back to wild and crazy predictions.  Diablo III will generate more revenue than Toyota when it ships and StarCraft II will cure cancer and lead to the reunification of Korea.

The Site

I cleaned up the right hand bar quite a bit.  The most obvious piece that is missing is the counter for Feedburner.  I originally put it up there to encourage people to subscribe to the site via FeedBurner, since it offered some statistics.  However, most of the people who read the site via RSS use the WordPress.com feed, so the counter was displaying about 10% of my RSS readership.  Since WordPress.com has since added some minor stats about RSS, I decided to just remove the counter.  The FeedBurner feed is still live and will remain so, there just won’t be a link to it now.

One Year Ago

December 2007 seemed to be a busy time for the SOE.  First there was the whole “moving a whole guild from test to a live server” brouhaha.  Then there was the rumor of SOE being purchased by Zapak Digital Entertainment.  And, finally, there was the deal with Live Gamer to take over transactions on the Station Exchange servers, at which time Smed himself said that this did not mean that they were going to open the flood gates of RMT on any of their servers not currently served by SOE’s own Station Exchange RMT plan.  All of which I wrapped up in one post.

The yearly EverQuest Nostalgia Tour was off to the usual activities.

I put up my predictions for the “Next EverQuest II Expansion,” which I have yet to score.  I will have to get a post together comparing The Shadow Odyssey with my own guesses.

The Saturday Night Permanent Floating Instance Group was finishing up Blackrock Depths.

Dr. Richard Bartle brought up the “why so much fantasy” question for its regular beating to death.

I was interviewed over at World IV.  So far that is the only interview I have ever been asked to do.

I lost my first battlecruiser to pirates in EVE Online.  Meanwhile, after pissing away a lot of ISK on invention, I was not getting a lot of results.

And I bought a new gaming computer full of Quad Core goodness.

New Linking Sites

A big holiday thank you to these sites who link to The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Please take a minute to visit these sites, one of them may be your new favorite blog!

Most Views Posts in December

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  3. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  4. Howling Fjord Quest Night
  5. Best MMO Expansion in 2008?
  6. Do You Name Your Ships?
  7. 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
  9. Five LEGO Video Game Titles I Want
  10. The Name Generator (which has nothing to do with #1)
  11. Is There Hope for a Science Fiction MMORPG?
  12. The Way Questing Used To Be

Best Search Terms

world of warcraft hot to get out of gnomergen
[A lot of people are]

which mmo
[A question that plagues so many of us]

new lego emperor
[That is what we all seek!]

Spam Comments of the Month

ignorant christmas wallpaper cell phone :PPP
[Not a random string at all!]

I use WoW code all the time as it saves time!
[added to my Know Your WoW Code post and linked to a gold seller.]

Deleted Comment of the Month

Die in a fire you ‘tard.
[Like almost all of the really hateful comments I get, this came from an EVE Online player.  The game inspires passion, both good and bad.]

EVE Online

EVE Has been quiet for me this month, not so much out of a lack of desire to play as a lack of time.  The first half of the month I was busy shipping a product before the holidays, and then came the holidays.  Still, I ran a mission or two, hauled freight when needed, kept production going, and brought in another pile of ISK.  Still no freighter though.

EverQuest

I have not played ANY EverQuest.  There has been no 2008 EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.   EverQuest II might be old enough now that it is suitable for nostalgia.  That certainly fits what I have been doing there.

EverQuest II

In Norrath I have been mostly involved with the adventures of Reynaldo Fabulous of Freeport, a swashbuckling berserker who has been cutting a swathe through the original level 1-50 content in EverQuest II.  With the support of his friends and his guild he has managed to get to level 52 and remain fabulous.

Lord of the Rings Online

The call of Moria seems to have hit Gaff.  Having a lifetime membership means I can pick that game up any time.  However, now he is talking about starting over on a new server.  Damn his eyes, I finally have horses on all my guys on the old server.

World of Warcraft

Holiday commitments and illness has kept the instance group from playing as often as usual.  Still, we are banging away in Northrend and expect full victory in Utgarde Keep any day now!

Coming Up

Santa delivered more than just LEGO kits to our house over the holidays.  There were also a few Wii and DS games that I will mention in future posts, though it seems at the moment that Cooking Mama II is the surprise DS hit with my daughter.

And, of course, tune in tomorrow for my predictions for 2009.  I’d better start working on them!

Scoring My 2008 MMORPG Progdictionations

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.

September in Review

The Site

The site passed the one year marker.  My post with all sorts of data about the past year seemed to be well received and many very nice things were said.  Thank you again to all who left a comment on the anniversary.  This gives me a new filler item… er… topic I can introduce to the monthly round up.

Of course, recently, WordPress.com seems to be having some problems with comments.  Judging by the amount of spam comments I have had over the last few days, it may very well be load related.

I did get a nice surprise in that my observation about the unmentioned icon update that was part of EverQuest II’s Game Update 38 got linked in the Town Crier.   They also linked my “Naked” post in the Town Crier.  Together those two links generated a lot of traffic.

One Year Ago

Our WoW instance group started up.  We’re all the way to Zul’Farrak.  Is that a lot or a little?

One year since I started up EVE Online… at least for the first time.

New Linking Sites

Most Viewed Posts In September

  1. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  2. Tabula Rasa Beta Forum Access!
  3. Why Isn’t LOTRO More Fun?
  4. Tabula Rasa: The New Auto Assault?
  5. Tabula Rasa Pre-Order
  6. What Is A “Tank” In EVE?
  7. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  8. 38 – The Iconic Update
  9. Views on the G15 LCD
  10. Naked Zones
  11. A Year of Living Noobishly
  12. EVE, ISK, and RMT

Best Search Terms of the Month

wordpress faerie theme
[Ummm]

Rainbows Unicorns
[Shoot me now]

will i ever found a nice house
[Not if you play WoW]

Outgoing Link Connection

Both Scott Adams and I linked to the Wikipedia article on cognitive dissonance this month.  This wouldn’t be quite so interesting except as I was writing up my monthly summary I was looking for a way to tie in the concept again because it is one of my favorite oddities about human behavior.

Anyway, just so I can link it again, here is the article on cognitive dissonance.

Scott Adams’ post on why economists are resistant to cognitive dissonance is here.

Most Persistent Spam Comment of the Month

A spam signed by a “John Campbell” offering me a work from home job that pays 3000-4000 USD, GBP, or EUR per month.  The reason I keep seeing it is that Akismet is not sure that it is spam, so I keep having to moderate it over and over.  Oddly, or perhaps not, it always gets sent to the same posting on the site, over and over and over.

EVE Online

Lost a few cruisers, mined a lot of ore, and trained, trained, trained.  EVE feeds an obsessive compulsive need within me when it comes to training.  It is very rare for me to let any time elapse without a skill training.

EverQuest II

Aside from our adventure in the Court of Innovation, I have not had much time to get in and play EverQuest II.  One of our original guild members came back to the game.  He left before Desert of Flames came out and seemed to be pleased.  He has even declared the fae race, which I persuaded him to try, not as bad as he was afraid they would be.  Fae glide FTW!

Lord of the Rings Online

I have been back to poke around in Middle-earth a couple of times since the weekly instance group moved back to WoW, but I haven’t done anything serious in game.  I’ve just explored a bit more and taken some goofy screen shots of dwarven mining carts.

Tabula Rasa

I played in the beta some, but I do not feel compelled to actually play the game when it comes out.  There wasn’t anything really wrong with it, it just isn’t something for which I would drop one of the other games I play.  I will be interested to see what pricing plan they eventually announce for the game.  It is getting awfully close to the release date to be keeping that a secret.

Wii

We have been going Gamecube gaming crazy on the Wii over the last month.  So much so that we already broke one of the el cheapo Gamecube controllers I bought on eBay.  A special thanks to the guys at the GameStop over by Westgate Mall who went through every single used Nintendo Gamecube controller in the store to pick out the best one for me.  I did not ask them to do it, they were just that serious about the game play experience.

World of Warcraft

The return of the Saturday night instance group to WoW.  Three out of five of us are in the process of moving across country, so we haven’t hit every Saturday night, but we have managed to all be on together at least twice.  We will soon be moving on from Zul’Farrak.

Podcasts

I was not on any podcasts.  I broke my run of being on every non-prime, even-numbered episode of Shut Up We’re Talking, as #10 was recording last night and I wasn’t there.

I did get a mention on Warp Drive Active #14, where they took on my question about tanking in EVE.  A good listen, though I have to say that my handle is not pronounced “While-hem.”  I’ll send my German mother-in-law along and have those two saying “Vill-Helm” with Teutonic perfection.

Upcoming

I have a busy month ahead with an ISO audit coming up at work.  Nothing but fun there!  Still, I have a series of Wii related articles to finish up as well as the usual report on the instance group.  And, at some time near the end of October I will be able to fly the Hulk in EVE Online.  Expect some unoriginal and bad Marvel Comics related pun at some point.

Tabula Rasa: The New Auto Assault?

Just look at some of the reviews and impressions showing up since the lifting of the NDA and you start to get a very familiar vibe.

People think that Tabula Rasa is fun, very action oriented, and that you can get past any barriers to play, like the controls, pretty quickly.

But overall it lacks the depth that would keep them playing over the long haul, at least at $15 a month.

Is the industry going to learn another harsh MMO lesson?

If one action MMO dies… well it could have just sucked.

If two falter… two points are all you need for a trend line that allows you to jump to a premature conclusion.

Are action oriented games just not suited for a $15/month subscription plan?

Check out these posts to find out where I am coming from:

I would write me own set of general impressions about the game, but in the end they wouldn’t vary much from any of the above:  Interesting, fun, not deep enough to keep my attention long enough to be worth a subscription fee.

What do we have to do to get something fresh that will stick in the MMO world?