Tag Archives: The Agency

Warzoned Out

The Warzone Extraction event has a bit more time to run but I am done running the sites.  I have “finished” the event in that I have collected all of the guaranteed rewards.

Warzone Point Count – Also, drones engaging Eosian Safeguard

The boosters obtained at 20, 70, and 170 points were not of much value.  The cerebral accelerators though were at least useful to speed up the training of an alt or two and could be sold on the market.

The big reward at the end

There is a summary of the event over at The Nosy Gamer that reflects my own thoughts to a certain degree.

I also went in with something of a sub-optimal fit for the event, a Heavy Assault Missile armed Drake with a passive tank.  While it was able to handle the task, for the scale of the sites it was big, slow, and awkward.  I could have built up a much more efficient ship for the event, but I would have likely spent more on that than I earned on the event.

Still, it could handle things, I just had to be patient.  The only real tactical problem that came up was when a Sleeper force including two Wardens showed up.  The Wardens are the armor repping Sleepers and they will rep any ship you attack.  I had to kill them first because they could out rep my attempts to kill the frigate because the damage application issues hitting such small ships with HAMs plus their resists let a single Warden out-rep my damage, while launching drones with frigates active was mostly an easy way to lose drones.

The Wardens were big enough however that I could kill one while the other was repping it.  However, their tactical behavior consistently led me to a difficult spot.  Unlike the other ships webbing and scramming, the Wardens felt no need to hang around within my missile envelope, limited to 25km with the short range HAMs, even with my max missile skills.  So I would kill one and then damage the other just before it wandered out of range.

Then I was a bit stuck.  Being webbed I couldn’t catch it and it could keep the frigates around me alive with its reps.  So the only option was to risk drones.  The remaining Warden was well within drone range, 60km for me with skills alone, so I launched them and sent them after my repping nemesis.  Then it was a race.  As soon as the drones set on the Warden all the frigate Sleepers would drop me and go after the drones.  The drones had to kill the Warden quickly.  Fortunately the Sleepers would concentrate on a single drone which, when it started taking armor damage, I would recall.  The frigates would chase it back to me, then return to assist the Warden, and which point I could re-launch the damaged drone to rejoin the fight.

Once the Warden was down it was time to recall drones again and finish off the frigates with missiles, the go after the bigger ships, generally culminating in chasing down that one Sleeper battleship that liked to get out past 60km while I was blowing up his friends.  Even from that range he would keep neuts on me, so I never had and cap handy to use my prop mod.  On the other hand, he didn’t web me either so I could eventually catch up even going only 196 m/s. (I inevitably used all the speed boosters that dropped just to catch up a little faster.)

Again, as with any PvE event you can repeat, the first couple of times you learn the ropes, after which it becomes a matter of applying what you learned, quickly devolving to simple repetition.

The event itself had a couple of problems to my mind.

First and foremost, it was a bit of a death trap.  After running several events under the banner of The Agency that were easily soloable with any combat ship… I did Lucky Strikes in a stealth bomber a few times… putting up an event where you’re going to get scrammed, webbed, neuted, and killed in short order unless you have just the right sort of fit seems like a good way to make people mad.  If you didn’t have a passive tank or had weapons that needed capacitor, you were in trouble.

And, yes, New Eden has always been a harsh place.  But when you set a pattern of events by The Agency being fairly easy, litter sites around high sec, and encourage players to go get them with only a vague warning, then you’re going to kill a lot of player ships.

Be warned though; you might encounter some resistance while searching the wrecks! We advise you to bring some firepower.

Searching on “Eosian” over at zKillboard tells the tale, even leaving out the low and null sec players who got zapped by other players while they were neuted, webbed, and scammed.

CCP will be CCP I guess.

Speaking of which, the second issue that will be familiar to any long term player because it happens every time; the event NPCs were not visible on the overview.  Even the default “All” overview had to be fixed.  I expected this and reacted in the usual way, manually adding NPC types as they showed up.  But I am sure more than a few newer players were surprised/alarmed/blown up because of this.  It would be really cool if CCP could do something about this some day.

Finally, there is the big issue for me, which is SKINs, and the fact that I didn’t get any.

I blew up well over 200 Sleepers during the event and never got a single SKIN drop.  I knew there were some to be had.  Not only did CCP mention them in the event announcement, but the SKIN list in-game showed four Valkyrie SKINs not available in the PLEX Store; SKINs for the Merlin, Moa, Naga, and Scorpion.

Valkyrie SKINs listed

As an economic venture I could have spent my time elsewhere for better return.  As a fun activity the event wore out and became repetitive after a couple of days.  So, for the most part, I kept going to see if I could get a SKIN drop, and I never saw a one.

Fortunately others did get SKINs, as they were all up for sale in Jita.  The Merlin SKIN seemed to be the most common drop.  There were many listed on the market and I was able to grab one for under 6 million ISK.

Merlin SKIN for me

The Moa SKIN was a bit more rare, and thus more expensive, but I grabbed one of those as well.  The Naga and Scorpion SKINs however seemed very rare indeed, with only a couple on the market last I checked.  That put them beyond my SKIN splurge price.  I might have grabbed them anyway if I flew either hull regularly, but since that was not the case I let those two slide.

Anyway, so goes another in-game event.  With the coming of the Life Blood expansion, part of which is a change to The Agency event structure in an attempt to make it into something where people group up to complete them, I do wonder if CCP is going to make the error of excluding solo players from events.  We shall see with the first post-expansion event I suppose.

Addendum: I uploaded some screen shots to the post and then forgot to add them in.  A further gallery of Warzone-y things then:

Running some Warzone Extraction Event Sites

eve online warzone extraction wtf?

-search string that brought somebody here

Easily the most popular thing I have posted so far this week… or month… is the announcement about the Warzone Extraction event in EVE Online.  Google has sent many people my way, a pretty sure sign that the mechanics of the event aren’t clear to people.

EVE Valkyrie laughs at your confusion

So I figured it might be worthwhile to share what I learned running through some of the sites.

This event is in the structure of The Agency, and as such events go, you get tasks under The Agency icon to complete, each with a 20 hour cool down before you can do it again.  This time around there are just two tasks.

Warzone Extraction Tasks

One of the tasks is to complete a site, the other is to destroy 20 sleep ships, and they are worth 10 and 20 points respectively.

The sites themselves appear on your overview like the sites from previous events.  The sites seem a bit more sparse than some past events.  I had to go hunting for sites and rarely saw more than one in a system, with two in a single system being the max I noted.  The sites appeared on my standard travel overview without having to add anything.

Warzone Extraction sites

When you warp to the site you will land near a ship called the Quartermaster.  Sometimes, but not always, an alert will pop up with a message from him.

Message from the QM

There is also an acceleration gate there. When you activate the acceleration gate it sends you off to a pocket along with another message.

All the instructions you’ll get

When you land there will be some large collidable objects present.  If you have hidden them on your overview you (because they can be annoying and generally don’t mean much) you will have to change that or navigate by just eyeballing the wrecks in space.  There are five ship wrecks labeled Alpha to Echo and a station wreck.

Objects in the area

This where I got a bit confused because the very first site I tried also had a container visible.  I checked it and it was empty, so I moved on to find another site thinking it had been done.

Container confusion

However, I later discovered that if the site is still there it isn’t completely done.  But what do you do?

In the end I figured out what you have to do is approach each wreck.  When you get withing ~2,500 meters of a wreck it may give you a message.  The message might be about a container being discovered.  At that point the container will show up on your overview.  It might be at the wreck or it might be at the station wreck that is also on grid with you.  Once a container popped up in both locations.  I am not sure why.

In the container is the trinary relic that the quartermaster is looking for.  You can toddle over to it, loot the container, and you’ll be set for the Quartermaster’s Request task.

Off to collect the relic

The relics have their own wee bit of lore.

Tell me about the relics

The other message you may get is “Sleepers incoming!” at which point you’re going to have to fight.

I had read the post over at The Nosy Gamer about what to expect from the Sleepers that attack, the primary item being that they will use energy neutralizers on you to drain your capacitor in addition to warp scrambling and webbing you.  As I noted on a comment over there, for the unsuspecting capsuleer this might turn Warzone into Murderzone.

With this in mind I went out armed for bear with a passively tanked Drake I had sitting around.  It was the Clown Car entosis fit, but I swapped out the entosis module, cloak, and RLMLs for HMLs and a Auto Targeting system.  Later I changed out the HMLs for heavy assault missiles just to get more damage.  Fortunately meta HAM launchers are dirt cheap on the market.

The assault of the Sleepers is keyed to the security level of the system you are in.  In a 0.9 system I drew a pair of Sleeper frigates that went down to a single heavy missile volley.  They barely touched my capacitor.  Down in a 0.5 system I got frigates, destroyers, a cruiser, and a pair of battleships which combined to drain my capacitor in seconds.

Sleepers on the overview!

Of course, because this is a CCP event, the NPCs weren’t visible on the overview by default, which is why I brought the auto targeting system.  I had enough capacitor for it to activate for a few cycles and it targeted the Sleepers for me, at which point I could add them to my overview settings.

Of course, this being CCP, even the names were messed up on the first night when you tried to add them.

Wait, what?

That has since been fixed, though you still have to add each class of ship… frigate, destroyer, cruiser, battleship… to the overview separately.  The overview conspires to murder you.  That seems to be one of its functions.

Anyway, at that point, webbed, scrammed, and capacitor empty, you’re committed to the fight.  You will be mighty unhappy if you were depending on modules that required any power.  Rail guns and lasers won’t fire, repair modules are useless, and you won’t be scooting away with your prop module.

Resigned to your fate

My Drake was way over-tanked and never dropped below 88% shields, so I could just sit there and blast away at things.  I chose the Warden first, as it will rep other ships.  Then I hit the frigates, as they will aggressively go after your drones.  Once they were gone, it was out with the drones for the cruiser and then the battleships.

The short range of the HAMs was not a limitation most of the time as the Sleepers stay within web and scram range for the most part, which keeps them in your damage envelope.  There was one Sleeper battleship that pulled range on me and seemed to be able to neut me out to almost the 75km mark.  That put him way out of HAM range, which was 25km for my alt.  But that also meant he couldn’t web or scram me, so I decided to let him be rather than chase him down in a slow slog without a prop mod.  I was marginally faster than him, but it looked like it might take me as much as 15 minutes to close into shooting range.  Screw that.

The wrecks yielded boosters from the event… the damage and speed boosters were of value, but the tank boosters were for active tanks which, given the neuts present, wasn’t much good at that time… as well as Sleeper components to sell on the open market.

Interestingly, there were NPC buy orders up when I got around to selling those components.

The Emperor Family bought my stuff

I don’t know if this is a standard thing or if CCP foresaw the market getting saturated because of the event and decided to put a floor on the price.  I suspect the latter because I saw a lot of much lower buy orders out there.  That about off-set the drones I lost, the ammo, and the HML launchers I bought then traded out.

Anyway, that is getting ahead of myself.

Once you defeated the Sleepers and loot their wrecks, you’re ready to go.  If you’re feeling diligent and have not yet approached all the event wrecks you can do that until you have been to Alpha through Echo.  I have had Sleepers appear on two wrecks in a site.  But if you’re set, you just motor to the acceleration gate that is close by and activate it.  That will take you back to the Quartermaster.  Approach his ship and put the relic in it… it acts like a cargo container… and you’ll get credit for the site.  If that event task is active, you’ll get 10 points.  It if isn’t you seemed to get squat.  Such is life.

If you need to blow up more Sleepers then it is off to another site, but first you might want to repair, especially if you’re drones are damaged.  Fortunately there are publicly available citadels all over New Eden now, so you can just warp to one, tether, and wait a bit while it refills your capacitor and repairs your ship and drones.  Then you’re ready to go again.

I did both of the tasks which was enough to get to the first prize from the event, a support kit from The Agency.

Reward unlocked!

The reward was another event booster, of which I already had half a dozen.  So far I have just seen boosters and Sleeper drops.  There was a promise of SKINs somewhere, both fantastic and new, but maybe I just haven’t hit one yet.

Potential rewards: Fantastic new SKINs, useful Boosters, Skill Accelerators, valuable loot, and more

Warzone Extraction Event announcement

Anyway, in summary:

  • Warp to Warzone site
  • Take acceleration gate
  • Fly to wrecks
  • Collect relic and/or kill Sleepers
  • Take acceleration gate
  • Give relic to Quartermaster

Also:

  • Be passive fit – Anything that needs cap might not be available to you
  • System security influences Sleeper difficulty I got the full monty in a 0.9 system so nevermind

And, to follow up, a few screen shots from various points during the event.

 

 

 

The Agency Warzone Extraction Event in EVE Online

CCP has a new PvE event up in EVE Online starting today.  Part of the framework of The Agency, this one is called Warzone Extraction and is meant, in part, to draw attention to the EVE Valkyrie Warzone expansion coming later this month.

EVE Valkyrie Represent

As is the standard procedure with such things, event sites will appear on your overview.  This time around all you have to do is warp to them and loot some wrecks.  Of course, there is a warning that hostiles might show up, which pretty much means that NPCs will be arriving to shoot you.

There is already a post up over at The Nosy Gamer about the sort of NPCs you’ll face and some cruiser fits that Alpha Clones can fly if they want to attempt the sites.  It is probably worth reading that post before you dive in.

The event itself runs longer than the standard event in The Agency framework so far, kicking off today and running through until October 3rd, giving people two full weeks to run the sites.  Possible loot includes boosters, skill accelerators, and SKINs.

CCP will also sell you some Valkyrie Warzone SKINs for selected battleships.

Addendum: I wrote a post about running Warzone Extraction sites

The Alpha Strike Destroyer Prize

I ran through the remainder of the Alpha Strike event to get the A3 Destroyer package and, as noted in the comments on the previous post, the prize is a Sunesis destroyer.

Unfit Sunesis in Flight

A flimsy looking ship and an interesting choice. If CCP had given people one of their racial destroyers, it would have had to choose between two damage types.  Also, it would have required an Alpha clone to train up the racial destroyer skill.

The Sunesis only requires Spaceship Command I to be trained in order to fly it and it has boosts to all of the key weapon systems.

Sunesis Bonuses

Turrets, missiles, drones, and even a scanning bonus.

The down side is that if you lose this, you’re pretty much back to where you started, needing to train up your racial destroyer skill to get a similar ship.  You can find a replacement on the market… CCP gave one to every subscriber back before the Ascension expansion introduced Alpha Clones… but they are a bit rare on the market and cost 10-20 times what a racial destroyer will cost.  And I have to imagine they are kill mail bait as well, being rare.

It might be better for an Alpha player to sell the Sunesis and use the resulting ISK to buy the skill and fit a racial destroyer.  Or a few racial destroyers.

In addition to the Sunesis, capsuleers who accrued the 50 points over the course of the even also received a Damage Control I module and a module appropriate to their empire.  For more Amarr pilot, a special heat sink was provided.  Heat sinks allow energy weapons… lasers… to fire more rapidly.

Amarr Destroyer Package

My Caldari pilot got a Ballistic Control System with his Sunesis.  That improves the rate of fire and damage application for missiles, a Caldari specialty.

Caldari Destroyer Package

So CCP did keep your empire affiliation in mind even while handing out the unaffiliated destroyer.

While the event seemed short, running just a week… it ends on September 5th, so is only available through the end of today… I was able to pick up the necessary 50 points on two characters fairly easily.  The most common daily requirements were to run combat missions or kill ten hostiles NPCs, a pair that is easy to combine, or to mine a certain amount of ore or run a mining mission.   Only the industry goal, which required the player to build a module, was a bit of a pain.

I threw my Amarr Alpha clone at it by sending him to the career agents where he started off with his rookie ship before picking up a Punisher to finish things out.  He already had a Venture available for mining as noted previously.

Punisher on a mission

My Caldari character is an entosis alt who happened to be sitting in high sec in a Clown Shoe Nereus, a cheape hauler fit out for maximum shield regeneration (600-800 hit points a second) so as to make it tough for a solo interceptor to just zip out and kill.  I pulled the entosis module and the cloak, fit a mining laser, and threw some cheap combat drones in the drone bay and ran mining and combat missions semi-AFK.

The Nereus absorbing little hits

Overall the event seemed doable over the weekend. I was done by Saturday but ran another day of missions with one character just to see if anything else might unlock if I pushed my points a bit further.  However, either there wasn’t anything else or I didn’t push far enough.  I am going to guess the former.

At 66 points out of 50 I had enough

I am still a bit indifferent to the whole structure of The Agency events.  But they are not really aimed at me either, so perhaps that is fine.  Still, they do feel like The Temp Agency.  We shall likely soon see what CCP has in store next for The Agency.

New Eden and The Temp Agency

The Agency has come to New Eden!

Wait, what?

No, not that Agency, though probably about four people even recognize that graphic these days.  No, The Agency is the latest event in EVE Online.

Welcome to The Agency, not a spy MMO

Unlike the never realized SOE spy MMO, or past events in EVE Online, The Agency here lacks for any background lore that I can detect.  The announcement page about the event gets straight to what it is, but not why it came about in the game.  CCP Falcon must have been too busy watching Game of Thrones in his disturbingly symmetrical sitting room to get to that.

Lacking for official lore, I went and made up my own.

The Agency appears to be the capsuleer temp agency for New Eden, existing for those pod pilots who can’t be bothered to maintain a relationship with their local mission agent.

And it is a temp agency with an advertising budget!  You cannot get through logging in without seeing its logo on the launcher, the character selection screen, and of course in the UI once your in game both on the neocom and up what I will call the “info corner” of your screen where you see navigation and star system information.

If only the CSM election could get such penetration into the game, right?

Every day you get some tasks you can pick up and complete.

The Agency menu of tasks

Some of them are easy, while others are oddly specific… or exclusionary, if you choose to look at it from that direction.  I logged in with an Alpha account I have been training up… just in case I need such a thing… and saw The Agency trying to tempt me with running a combat site in a Tech III cruiser.

My Alpha in his best ship

Not only can’t he fly such a ship, an Alpha can’t even train the skills to fly one. (And such ships are called Strategic Cruisers elsewhere, so yet another terminology thing with the game.)

Of course, he could train for it if he was an Omega clone… which is to say a subscribers… and there just happens to be a sale on subscriptions currently.

Hey, here is what you need! Help offset the current decline!

Of course, even if he subscribed, he could train up in time to complete that task as the event only lasts through August 1st… making it a temp temp agency of sorts.  Maybe he should load up on PLEX and buy skill injectors.

Meanwhile, The Agency is like any temp agency in that they make it difficult to get paid.  You don’t get ISK for running their task but tokens that you can use to buy things in the company store.

You also get a 30 minute booster applied to your character when you log in… so if it is useful, you had better undock and take advantage of it quickly.  Of course, it isn’t likely to be all that useful.

A Speed Boost only Asher could love

At least the booster seems to affected by your skills, so I got about an hour of boost out of mine, even though I did not undock.

All of which makes me sound pretty cynical I suppose.  I’ve been told it is a genetic disposition in my family.  But my main characters… the ones who could, for example, fly a Tech III cruiser… are out on a deployment in null sec space where hostiles abound.  And I likely won’t be back before the event is over, so I won’t be able to participate directly. (Though I’ll be looking for some of those reward SKINs on the market later.)

Pulling out from my own issues, if this gets people undocking from stations and out and blowing things up, then it is likely a good thing for the game.  It just doesn’t feel quite like other events.  Who knew I needed the lore so badly?

Anyway, if any of this confuses you, CCP is holding a live developer demo of the event tomorrow, July 20th, at 19:00 UTC.

Can SOE Keep the EverQuest Next Excitement Going?

For fate strums a mournful tune
For those those campaigns peak too soon

-Stomper (aka Arrowroot of Arrowshirt), Bored of the Rings

Companies get reputations for reasons.  They aren’t always for good reasons, and sometimes those reputations are far more about perception than reality, but once you get a reputation, it tends to stick.

And Sony Online Entertainment has a… colorful reputation.

They have lots of fans, certainly.  I count myself among them.  And for many, the simple fact that they made EverQuest cuts them some slack on things.  They also saved and fixed… such that they could… Vanguard, kept EverQuest Mac going for free, and anybody who starts talking about player housing in MMOs and doesn’t bring up SOE should… well… stop.  They have also been pretty good about trying new things.  Has any other company tried as many subscription options or come up with anything as enticing as SOE All Access (formerly Station Access)?   Who has anything like Player Studio? They have done many good things.

But a lot of people only remember the bad.

SOE has done its share of that as well, enough so that it sometimes becomes difficult to expect anything beyond the worst.

And it isn’t just “they screwed up my favorite game,” though that is a big one.  SOE owns the industry crown for single change alienation of a gaming population with the NGE in Star Wars Galaxies.  That happened nearly eight years ago, but if you put John Smedley in a room with some gamers, somebody will bring up the NGE and still be angry about it.  Smed did a Reddit AMA last year to talk about PlanetSide 2.  The NGE came up, of course, and that question ended up being the one with the most up votes, because NGE hate is like a living, breathing being at this point.  The NGE is a particularly ugly monkey on Smed’s back, to destroy a metaphor.  I am pretty sure he could arrange world peace, limitless cheap power, and a decent nickel cigar and somebody would still be asking about the NGE.

SOE also has a reputation for acting first, then realizing the implications only after the story has fled from their grasp, leaving damage control as their only option.  There is, as a minor example, the Station Cash for Subscriptions fiasco, that smacks of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to.  And for letting the narrative escape, few stories can beat the ProSieben.Sat1 debacle, where the whole affair managed to get summed up pretty quickly by a cartoon showing SOE selling an 8 year old to a shady guy with a van.  Once a child molester is a key metaphor for your plan, you are in trouble.  That took a lot of back peddling and changes to bring the flames down to a merely manageable level.  And this remains an extremely sore spot today with SOE’s European “customers,” coming up again immediately after the EverQuest Next keynote presentation, largely through a failure to convince those players that there is any benefit to them at all from the change.

And then, probably far down the list for most, maybe past “recent UI models all seem to be console oriented,” there is SOE’s hot and cold marketing messages.  And the poster child for this has to be The Agency.  Before it was killed in 2011, The Agency had been the on again, off again darling of SOE.  In 2007, in SOE Podcast #19, Brenlo was talking about builds for the game and nearly slipped and said a ship date.  At SOE Fan Faire, people who saw the game were excited and the vibe seemed to be that it would ship soon.  Then it faded from view and nobody said a thing.  And then it popped up again.  And then it was gone.  And then they made a Facebook game.  And then they killed the Facebook game.  And the web site got updated.  We would hear a bit of news, then nothing.  Finally the whole thing was cancelled and that was that.

An extreme example, sure.  There were clearly problems with the project.  But the external messaging was a mess, and not exactly uncharacteristic.  There have been years where it wasn’t clear if EverQuest or EverQuest II we going to get an expansion until very late in the season.  They announce new projects, like Station Launcher, then let them die on the vine, falling out of date while still up on the web site.  The SOE web sites tend to have out of date items on them on fairly regularly.  And SOE’s ad campaigns have had their questionable moments.

What exactly was the message here?

What exactly was the message here?

Even EverQuest Next has gone through an odd cycle.  It was announced, we saw artists sketches, possible parameters were discussed, then we were told to forget all about that.  And while that reflected the realities of the project… and was handled in a tolerable manner… there is still that history, that reputation.

So when I see EverQuest Next building up a huge amount of momentum, being talked about all over the place, and generally able to bask in the rapt attention of the MMO gaming community, I can only wonder to what extent they can keep that going.

While there was a lot to digest after SOE Live, everybody who wants to will be able to review all the panel videos, tease out all the facts, hopes, and dreams, read and/or write opinions about what they have seen, and generally come up to speed on what has been released to the public.

And then what?

Well, we have the so-called EverQuest Next Round Table over on the official site.  So far that seems to be a series of polls where the answers are pretty much foregone conclusions and links to a special forum where people can argue about their choices.  However, the forum dev tracker either isn’t working or the devs are busy elsewhere.  So there are nearly 60 pages and more than four thousands forum posts around whether races should have class restrictions, all based on “I want” and assumptions with sand castle strength foundations, and featuring the same small cast of characters battling over the same ground endlessly.  I think you have as much chance influencing the game by going to a bar near SOE headquarters after hours and expressing your opinions at anybody who looks like a programmer.

There is the EverQuest Worlds mobile app, which seems to be built around SOE’s slightly-behind-the-curve obsession with Facebook.  The reviews are predictable.

Not really what people wanted

Not really what people wanted

And then there is some activity on Twitter.  A few key people saying things now and again, while supporting player StoryBricks is out there driving a whole emergent AI discussion that carefully says it is not necessarily EverQuest Next focused, pointing people towards relevant threads on Reddit, and retweeting things on the topic.

But otherwise, things are starting to slow down.  The initial buzz of excitement has faded a bit.  A whole bunch of stuff is out there and those interested have run through it.  Now we’re waiting for SOE to build on that foundation.

Which brings me back up to the title of this, can SOE keep the excitement around EverQuest Next going?  What should they be doing?

And what shouldn’t they be doing?

And, finally, should they even worry about it?

Reviewing My 2011 MMO Outlook Eleven Months Later

Back at the end of December 2010 I wrote a piece that summarized the key MMOs which were slated for 2011 in which I had some interest.  There were six games on that list and I was pretty sure that I could only invest myself into one of them.

Here we are about 11 months later and I think the results are about as solid as they will ever be.  I thought I also might get in the first year in review post, but somebody beat me to it by hours.  Oh well.

So in something like reverse order, let me review those six picks for 2011.

The Agency – Gone …and Mostly Forgotten

A really, really secret agency

Even back when I wrote the initial piece on the subject, I was skeptical that we would see The Agency.  There had been a strange hype and silence roller coaster going on with the title for too long for me to pin much hope on it dropping in during this calendar cycle.

And then the word came down.  The Agency had been cancelled by SOE.  It is gone and given its rocky progress (as seen/interpreted from the outside) it isn’t coming back.

All of which pretty much made my choice for me.

TERA Online – The Exiled Realm of Arborea Remains Exiled

Not Terra, no no no
TERA Online was always a long shot for me in any case, but how can you ignore a game that puts out statements like this?

TERA is the first true Action MMORPG, providing all of the depth of an MMO with the intensity and gratification of an action game. Players fully control their characters using the game’s dynamic battle system. Player actions can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as six allied races try to work together to protect their lands from marauding monsters, underworld dwellers, and evil scheming gods.

TERA raises the bar, setting new standards in the gaming industry. It is a visually stunning world with graphic quality above all other games in the industry. You will experience a new ground-breaking gameplay system where stereotypes of traditional MMORPGs will be broken. You will have full control over the attacks and the fate of your enemy. No more ‘pointing and clicking’ and playing combat relay with the enemies. Furthermore, not only do you control the action, TERA is also set in a world where the players will dictate the flow of the economy and individually impact the community environment.

That just reads like a desperate plea for help/attention when I say it out loud, but that might just be me.  I had to stop following them on Twitter because they would tweet well beyond the amount of information they had to share.

In any case, the release date for TERA Online has been pushed out to “Spring 2012” for Europe and North America, which put it out of reach for this year.

Guild Wars 2 – The Game Changer?

space bar... space bar!

Still the best logo of the bunch.

And for those fans closely following the dev reports and press leaks, Guild Wars 2 is the MMO that is going to fix all of our current MMO woes. At least that was the way it felt for a while this year, where it seemed like you couldn’t kvetch about any MMO without somebody popping and and commenting how GW2 was going to solve that (and every other) problem.

I remain skeptical.  It isn’t that I do not want it to be true.   It is more that I expect the game will probably find its share of new problems while discovering why some things have been done the way they were in the past.

Just like real life, two steps forward, one step back.

Unfortunately, one of the old school problems ArenaNet is having is getting to market.  One of my caveats for the game was that it might not ship in 2011.  If I were writing a 2012 MMO Outlook… and I just might… I would probably say the same thing, since it seems possible that it might not ship in 2012.

So a Guild Wars 2 was non-event in 2011.

DC Universe Online – A Rags to Slightly Nicer Rags Story

Men in Tights
At last, an MMO that actually shipped in 2011!  It went live on 1/11/11/

Granted, it has been through some rocky times since, but it has since made the transition to a free to play business model, which has shown some increase in the fortunes of the game.  As Smed tweeted last week:

Really happy with how DCUO is doing. Here are some interesting facts

DCUO’s playerbase is growing at 6% a day.. great to see all the new players!

700% increase in daily revenue (47% PC / 53% PS3)

More than 85% of daily log-ins are returning players.

Additional character slots and the Vanguard of the Heavens character skins are the two most popular marketplace items

Good for SOE.  I hope it lasts.  And I haven’t seen anybody beat Smed over the head for his quote earlier in the year about the expectations one should have for a subscription MMO.

The downside, for me, is that it is a superhero game and I am not really a superhero person.  And so my first update on the outlook list came while DCUO was still in beta.  I tried it.  It wasn’t really for me.

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Just Barely in 2011

But it is Star Wars!
Here we come to the more recent tribulations.  Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to squeeze into 2011 with less than two weeks to spare.  John Smedley said [citation needed] that he thought SWTOR was going to be the last big subscription MMORPG.

He may be right.

But even if he isn’t, I hope it is the last one that fails to learn from the past.

Oh, sure, SWTOR has learned a lot from looking at other MMOs.  It is an utterly conventional MMORPG in the World of Warcraft sense of the term.  It is an easy to learn, easy to level up in standard themepark that guides you through a linear story line like… well… a BioWare game.  Story as fourth pillar and all that, though I have to wonder how big of an improvement giving me choices during a dialog really is when I end up tasked to kill ten rats no matter what I choose.

Well, it will be successful, at least for certain definitions of success.

It will be hugely popular on day one, which will be December 20th.  And to accommodate the rush there will have to be literally hundreds of individual servers in Europe and North America, most of which will have long queues.  It has to go that way because despite saying they want a smooth launch, EA wants to sell boxes before the end of the quarter.  So I have my doubts that there will be any throttling on that front.  And once somebody has the box, what kind of PR disaster would result from saying, “We would like you to wait for a couple of weeks before you start playing.”

So I predict that this will be the same old story.  Crowding, queues, angry customers, more servers, dispersed population, and then the usual problems of “Hey, I want to play with my friends, but we’re on three different servers,”  followed by some “Hey, my server is really empty” when a significant portion of the initial crowd hits level cap.

Anyway, my experiences in the beta and the way that the game is trending, which is to say down the same old path, made me cancel my pre-order.  I won’t be playing this is 2011.

I will be interested to see how EA and BioWare handles the server issue.  I hope they have a good plan in place and can execute on it.  But I also hope this will be the last huge fuck up hurrah for shards.  There are other options and the idea of server communities is grossly overrated in my opinion.

I will also be keeping an eye on how they handle the content question, whether they buy into Smed’s quote or whether they go the downloadable content route and sell any new content in addition to charging a subscription fee.

Plus, I want to see how soon they even get some new content online.  There might be six months to a year of work just making the game run smoothly if history is any guide.  And the bar they have set for content… fully voiced and such… will make it even a taller order than it would for other games.

So I will check back in six months and see what has happened.

Any bets on the price of a box in June 2012?

Rift – Comfortable Familiarity

Not a dye nor a floor wax

The twist here is that SWTOR is at about the same point in beta that Rift was when I said I was not going to play at launch.  Waiting half a year served me well.  The box price dropped to… well… free if you caught it at the right moment.  And everybody who rushed in early spotted key game play issues that Trion went on to fix.

So you can see how I might be keen to replay that plan.  I have benefited from all of you people pre-ordering the game and playing it on day one.  Thanks for clearing the path for me!

Well, I had another objection to Rift.  Another damn fantasy MMORPG when I was literally up to my ears in other choices.  And then the other choices pretty much stepped out of the picture.  Cataclysm grew dull, only part of the instance group was invested in Middle-earth, the Sony hacking shut down killed our momentum in EverQuest, EverQuest II didn’t fly for a number of reasons, Dungeons & Dragons Online didn’t click with the group scouts, and why get invested in Guild Wars when Guild Wars 2 is just around the corner and is going to solve all MMORPG issues known to man?

Plus nobody else seemed to be clamoring for a superhero game either.

So there we were at the start of autumn wondering what game might suit us.  Then faster than you can say “Deus ex machina,” Rift went on sale again.

And so we are in Telara, which actually seems to be sticking for us.  I think the whole group has logged in outside of the usual group play hours.  A few of have alts, are working on crafting, and are generally enjoying the game outside of the regular group.

It is similar enough to other titles to deliver what we want while being different enough to keep us interested.

Rift became the one game on the list that I was able to play… for one reason or another.

We will no doubt be playing Rift well into 2012.

What will happen after that… well… we will have to see what else is new by then.