Archive for May, 2009

Everquest 3 Contrarian

Posted by Stropp on May 31, 2009 There's been a little discussion of late about the nature of Everquest 3. Tipa has been proposing that EQ3 will use the client/server model that seems to work so well for Free Realms. This model works by streaming data as the user plays, not by downloading a single large patch before playing. Ogrebears has taken the opposite viewpoint in that a hypothetical Everquest 3 would have a much larger data footprint than Free Realms which would make a streaming data model impractical (for a number of reasons.) [adsense_id="1"]So why are we talking about Everquest 3? Well, it appears that SOE have a new project in the works, and that this project has been the destination for a couple of high profile members of the EQ:OA and EQ2 teams. (Sorry, I read this the other day and can't find the article.) This would seem to suggest that the new project is something at least related to Everquest. However, I'm going to disagree with Tipa's premise. I don't believe that SOE are developing Everquest 3. I think that the effect that EQ2 had on EQ1 is reason enough for them to go for a new IP. Everquest 2 had a big impact on Everquest: Online Adventures. Players left for the new game and didn't come back when EQ2 wasn't what they had hoped for. (Some did come back, true, but WoWs arrival a few months later siphoned off a lot of disillusioned EQ2ers.) So with both Everquest and Everquest 2 now seeing a measure of stability -- a player base that seems fairly healthy and consistent -- why would SOE jeopardize this by releasing another sequel? But if the potential for destabilizing the existing playerbase is an issue, the other is lack of freedom. If SOE decide to go the EQ3 route they are constrained to follow the existing lore of both games closely. The alternative is to risk alienating the players who love the world and lore of Norrath. The big advantage of developing a new IP is that the developers can pretty much do anything they want, go in any direction they want. And the players get something fresh and new. Finally, as has been pointed out before, there's a perception that MMORPG sequels don't tend to do all that well. Having said that, there have been precious few sequels to be able to validate this, and (as I believe) it has more to do with managing expectation and execution rather than the fact of being a sequel. But, there's a perception of greater risk with sequels, and I'd have thought this would have been taken into account by SOE's marketing department. So I just don't think the new game will be EQ3 set on Norrath. I'm expecting something new. Of course, I also don't see how Hollywood can justify doing sequels and remakes of old movies and TV shows out the wazoo either. As just an aside, developing a new project is expensive. Given the current recession, perhaps this is a big part of why SOE have canned The Matrix Online, to open up some funds for whatever it is they are developing.

The Matrix Unplugged

Posted by Stropp on May 29, 2009

This was waiting for me in my inbox when I got home.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR STATION ACCESS SUBSCRIPTION PLAN – THE MATRIX ONLINE SERVICE WILL END ON JULY 31, 2009

Dear Station Access Subscriber,

We want to inform you that on June 1, 2009, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) will suspend commercial services of THE MATRIX ONLINE (MxO). However, SOE will continue to operate the game service and players will still be able to play MxO through July 31, 2009.  As of June 1, 2009, SOE will no longer offer customer support or provide updates for MxO. The removal of MxO from your Station Access subscription plan will not affect your Station Access subscription fees.

Between June 1, 2009 and July 31, 2009, all active Station Access accounts in good standing will be eligible to download a trial version of the current retail version of EverQuest®, EverQuest® II, and Star Wars Galaxies™ at no additional charge*.  To access the game software, just download the Station Launcher application here: http://launcher.station.sony.com.  To initiate the download of the Station Launcher click on the "DOWNLOAD BETA" button.  Once the download is complete the Station Launcher application will serve as your one stop shop for access to all of the identified online games.  In addition, SOE has recently added full Free Realms membership to the Station Access subscription plan, so if you have not yet tried Free Realms, we encourage you to visit www.freerealms.com to create a character and jump into the game!

We value having you in our player community and hope that you will continue to play our other great games.  During the last two weeks that MxO will be available, we intend to initiate a world-ending event and invite all our active Station Access subscribers with MxO accounts in good standing to participate in bringing Mega City down together.  We will go out with the same level of dramatic in-game event that has kept this game exciting over the years.  Get ready to jack in and become part of the final chapter of the story!

We appreciate your loyalty and commitment and look forward to seeing you in another SOE game.

Sincerely,
Sony Online Entertainment

So SOE is finally pulling the coppertops from the plug-pack.

Wolfram Alpha – Could It Be Deep Thought In Disguise?

Posted by Stropp on May 18, 2009 theanswer   I must admit, this Wolfram Alpha thingy is pretty smart.

Are They Finally Learning?

Posted by Stropp on May 17, 2009 I know it's probably too much to hope for, but there is a sign that some of the bigger MMORPG developers are finally learning that it doesn't pay to release a game in a half-finished, buggy state. Bill Roper who, since his stint at Flagship Studios, is the Design Director and Executive Producer for Champions Online announced that they are pushing back the release day for Champions from June to September. Roper made the following comment as part of his statement (via Massively):
It is critically important for an MMO to be as good as it possibly can be at launch.
A truer statement about launching a MMORPG has never been spoken. Of course Bill Roper has a pretty decent first hand experience of what can happen when the game that you've poured your blood, sweat, tears, and not to mention a pretty hefty chunk of your wallet into, is released before it's ready. Hellgate London, while it made a pretty good single player game, was terrible at launch for the MMO part of the game. The thing that MMORPG developers have to realise is that the market expectations have changed in the last few years. While some would like to blame the so-called WoW Tourist for the failure of some high profile games, the biggest reason for the failure of these games has been with quality and quantity of the game and content.  Put simply, players today expect more and better of the games they play than they did ten years ago. If you've been playing WoW with all its polish for the last couple of years, and the new MMORPG you've purchased is a buggy mess then why should you be expected to put up with that? And these days, the first days after release are crucial. One of the most celebrated messed-up launches was the Anarchy Online launch, at the time I heard it described as the worst launch ever, yet Funcom were able to fix the problems and deliver a fairly popular game that is still running. Now, there's not just a lot more publicity thanks to the Internet, there's a lot more choice for the gamer. If a game sucks at launch, players won't hang around waiting for the miracle patches, they'll just leave and try the next one, or they'll go back to the last game they enjoyed -- probably WoW -- and everybody will hear and avoid the game. So here's to the push-back of Champions Online's release date. While a push back hasn't always worked in the past, if the developers can fix the issues and avoid the pressure to release too early, we should be able to expect a better game in September.

Stropp’s World Has Been Kindle-ified

Posted by Stropp on May 14, 2009 Unless you've been hiding in a cave for the past twelve months or so, guarded by dragons, Martians, and giant robots, you have probably heard of Amazon's eBook reader called the Kindle. It's a marvelous little device that allows a customer to buy books from Amazon in an electronic format and wirelessly download them to read. In a lot of ways it reminds me of those 'pads' that were used a lot in the three Star Trek series, TNG, DS9, and Voyager. The Kindle is a step towards that future... not there yet, but going in the right direction. Just today Amazon has added a new feature to their Kindle store, and that feature is the ability for a customer to subscribe to and read a blog on the device. You can choose from a number of popular (and perhaps not-so-popular) blogs and purchase a monthly subscription for either $0.99 or $1.99 (price decided by Amazon.) So today at lunch-time, I signed up for an Amazon account, and added Stropp's World to the Kindle Store. It has been listed at $1.99 per month, and you get a 14 day free trial to see if you'd like to keep reading Stropp's World on the Kindle. If you do decide to remain as a subscriber, I will receive 30 percent of that price, which is approximately 60 cents. At the moment the Stropp's World listing is a little spare. That's because I set it up over lunch at work and wasn't able to set up the images properly. I'll look into that a little later tonight. The service also uses the blogs RSS feed so you should see the pages as they look in a RSS feeder. This is a beta service by Amazon however, so I'm not sure how it will turn out in practice. (If you have a Kindle and decide to subscribe, I'd appreciate a photo of the Kindle with the blog on it, you can send it to stropp at stroppsworld dot com, or if you could upload the images and send me a link, that would be great too.) Ironically, the Kindle is only available to US (or perhaps North American) subscribers -- I think this is due to the Kindle using a cell phone service) -- so I cannot subscribe to my own blog. I'm hoping the Kindle will be available here in Australia one of these days.

Blizzards Next MMORPG Will Be A New IP

Posted by Stropp on May 14, 2009 It's official, well sort of official; the news on teh Interwebs is that Blizzards next (I hesitate to say it's upcoming) MMORPG will be based on a new intellectual property, something I have previously speculated about. From a post by Zarhym on the official forums:

We have nothing to advertise for the new MMO because it's a shell of a game thus far. We've already stated it'll be a brand new franchise, which means the lore, art, and game play are being developed entirely from scratch. It's an overwhelming process, but a process through which we excel. Our track record supports this.

I'm not sure when, or where, it was already stated to be a new IP, but this is good news as far as I'm concerned. I was a little worried that Blizzard would base their new game on one of their existing properties, or worse,  licence a third party property for their game. (Though I think the chances of Blizzard going the third party route were pretty slim at best.) Despite the fact that I've seen some excellent sequels -- Star Trek XI a case in point -- I've believed that the Hollywood approach to milking a franchise for all its worth tends to do a dis-service to the fans. This comment does tell us one other thing too. The new Blizzard MMORPG is at least a couple of years away. I was wondering, since there had been a bit of noise about it recently, if there would be an announcement at the next Blizzcon. I reckon that's pretty unlikely now. There might be some teasers, possibly even some concept art, but I doubt we'll be finding out anything about the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk) for quite a while now. But if Blizzard is still so close to the start of this development (which I'm a little surprised about really) then we probably won't be seeing the game until late 2013, possibly even late 2014. Still, it will be fun speculating more about these and other new Blizzard MMORPG things as the release gets nearer.

Duke Nukem Now Never

Posted by Stropp on May 7, 2009 The breaking news from Rock Paper Shotgun and Shacknews, or perhaps rumors, is that 3D Realms the makers of Max Payne, Prey, and Duke Nukem 3D are closing up shop due to funding issues. That will put the final nail in the coffin of the Duke. It's a bit sad. I've played all the the Duke Nukem games, from the early platformers DN1 and DN2 to the big game itself, Duke Nukem 3D. Despite the on-going delays in the development of Duke Nukem Forever, I was still secretly anticipating its release. It's a little ironic really. If 3D Realms had simply pulled their collective finger out, and released the game when (or soon after) they had originally scheduled it, they probably would be in a better not-going-out-of-business financial situation now. They'd also probably have at least one more sequel to the game out the door too. A bit too perfectionist for their own good methinks. I figure the only thing that can save Duke Nukem now is if a third party buys up the IP and develops it themselves. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens.

The Sad State of Game Journalism

Posted by Stropp on May 6, 2009 I was reading a post by Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual about the Worlds Most Accurate Darkfall Review. He is referring to a fine piece of game journalism, a review of Darkfall conducted by a contributing writer (one Ed Zitron) and fully supported by the editorial staff at Eurogamer. It's a pretty full-on assassination piece. Zitron spends the whole review completely ripping Darkfall to shreds. From the graphics and gameplay choices to even the grammatically incorrect quest text. It seems he has nothing nice to say at all about Darkfall Online. It was given a score of 2 out of 10. And that would be okay, if he had actually played the game, and that was his honest (unbiased) assessment of Darkfall Online. So how do we know that Ed Zitron/Eurogamer didn't spend time reviewing Darkfall? You see, a month or so earlier, Eurogamer asked Aventurine for a couple of accounts so that they could do a review of Darkfall. Perhaps that was their mistake. If they had only bought an account anonymously, they might not have screwed up their reputation. That the reviewer was known to Aventurine allowed them to check the server logs for those accounts. A post by Tasos on the official Darkfall forums states that the first account had only three minutes of play time. The second had a bit more, two hours over thirteen sessions. (That averages to 9.2 minutes per session -- we do the math so you don't have to.) And to further complicate the issue, most of that two hours according to Tasos was spent in the character creator. That doesn't really seem long enough to conduct a review does it? Unless it's just a review of the character creator, that might be enough for a First Looks piece. But I think it's unfair of Eurogamer to call this a review. It doesn't serve their readers at all well. In fact, it seems there is a trend with the larger gaming sites to not serve their readership fair and unbiased reviews. It must be a couple of years now, but you might remember when Jeff Gerstmann, a well respected computer game journalist (and reviewer) was sacked by Gamespot because he wrote an unfavorable review for a game that was making Gamespot a bundle in advertising revenue. That incident whipped up a storm that revealed that the big game publishers regularly threatened to pull advertising if their new big release didn't score well in a review. Perhaps Darkfall didn't have a big enough advertising budget for Eurogamer. Now I'm not saying here, despite the snarky comments, that the review Ed Zitron performed would not have been the same if he had spent twenty hours instead of two playing the game. He might well have hated every minute of that twenty hours. However, I think the game deserved to be properly reviewed considering that there have been some favorable reviews published already, and that there seems to be a core set of players who enjoy the experience of Darkfall Online, despite some of the issues it has. I really wonder if we can really trust the big gaming sites to do the right thing by the readers. If I'm considering whether or not to buy that new release game, I'm going to want all the facts and not a little bit of opinion from the review. I do want to know if the reviewer liked the game, what made him grouchy, and what made him laugh. In the past, certain bugs have completely turned me off a game. If a reviewer can't mention those negatives and score accordingly, for fear of losing ad revenue, I might end up wasting nearly a hundred Aussie dollars on that game. On the flip side, if a reviewer doesn't play the game, but picks up all the negative comments online and merges them into a 'review' with a low score, I might end up passing on a game that I would otherwise enjoy immensely. How about you. What do you think about this? How much do you rely on the big gaming sites reviews when you're buying a new game? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

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