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Archive for October, 2011

Would You Play A Rezzed Game?

Posted by Stropp on October 26, 2011

For the last few weeks over at Massively, The Game Archaeologist has been excavating Asheron’s Call 2.

This has been an interesting series of articles, and interviews. Of course we all know AC2 is defunct, having been shut down by Turbine years ago, but one comment in todays final article has got me thinking.

Markus Fuhrmann: The last fansite operator

Thank you for your Game Archeologist column and digging out Asheron’s Call 2! It was my very first MMOG, and I played it on Abendgrau (German server) for a long time. I have some real good memories on it.

I’m admin of the very last AC2 fansite, Lost Company, and I’d like to invite you for visiting us. Now Lost Company is the only site for the AC2 veteran. Let’s gather all the AC2 fans together and show Turbine we want this game back!

No doubt, there are players who would like to see AC2 revived, and for a company like Turbine who owns the Asheron’s Call IP, it would be easier to do than resurrecting The Matrix Online where SOE has long lost that IP.  Are you one of them?

Of course we have to take into account the changes that have taken place to the genre since the game was canceled, improvements to graphics, sound and music, even server technology since that time. For some people low quality graphics is a deal breaker, others don’t mind at all and just need good gameplay.

It’s been quite some time since I last did a poll. I’d like to see where you all stand. Would you come back to a game that has been raised from the dead? Would it depend on the game being rezzed?





CCP Layoffs

Posted by Stropp on October 23, 2011

The CCP layoffs have gathered a bunch of commentary over the last few days.

Tobold suggests that this means the company is in trouble, and that they will be gone within the next couple of years.

Others think that CCP isn’t in strife at all.

The truth, very likely, falls between these two extremes. I doubt that CCP will fold. In fact I think this is highly unlikely, but of course I am not privy to any of the company financial records, and don’t know for sure.

The facts though are that CCP has layed off a large number of people in its US office. They have cut back on development of the White Wolf property. They are also experiencing a downturn in subscriptions, possibly due in part to some poor customer relations decisions and by not focussing on what makes their core product great.

So yeah. It’s likely they’re not doing so well financially.

Their demise (and the demise of any company) depends on how early they deal with the financial issues. If CCP have acted early, and it appears they have, then they are likely to weather the financial problems they are facing. That’s why I think CCP and Eve will still be flying in 2013 and beyond.

It’s horrible for the staff being fired, and no-one wishes that on anyone especially at this time of year, but the worst thing a company can do (sometimes) is to not make the hard and horrible decisions early. No employer wants to let go of 200 people, but closing down the livilihood of 800 to 1000 is even worse.

Still, that is no consolation to those who now have to find a job in a tough economy.


Posted by Stropp on October 22, 2011

Pandas eh?

Panda excitement is in the air, but Blizz appear to still feel the need to bribe players into a 12month sub with the promise of Diablo 3. That’s $180 for a game (D3) that will cost sixty or seventy. I hope there’s 12 months of content in the panda expansion.

BTW, the Panda is an endangered species.

Is this a sign of things to come with WoW?

Fallen Earth: Back To The Apocalypse

Posted by Stropp on October 16, 2011

It wasn’t exactly an auspicious return to Fallen Earth.

Now that Fallen Earth has gone free to play, I figured it might be a good time to see what has changed and how the game was handling the whole going free thing.

After spending a while patching the game to the latest version, I logged in and created a new character, and was immediately popped into the tutorial. So far so good. I did the tutorial missions without any problems, and then was given the option of choosing the starter town. This is where things fell apart. I dropped from the game, and then upon logging in found myself stuck at the character select.

It turns out that the servers couldn’t handle the huge number of players coming back to the game, or the new people attracted by the change to F2P. The devs did some quick magic to lower the number of players allowed in, and that got the servers back up an hour or so later.

The next problem I had was that once logged in, I couldn’t get out of the town chooser area. The first time this happened, a GM ported a bunch of us out to the towns we wanted. In my case that port worked, but I couldn’t get any quests. Turns out that some new characters were bugged, and needed to be deleted and recreated. I ended doing this twice until I got a playable character.

The other odd thing that the stuck players reported was a game dropout that put them in a long canyon. This happened a couple of times to me too.

I did finally later in the evening manage to login and start playing. I also spent a few hours today playing an old character. I’m looking forward to spending time in Fallen Earth again.

Still, it seems the change to free to play isn’t quite as straight-forward as the devs would have hoped.

Side Effects

Posted by Stropp on October 8, 2011

If you read Tobold’s blog you would have seen a post a few days ago where he lamented the loss of his Facebook account. It’s in Facebook’s terms of service that the name you use must be ‘real.’ And by real, I guess that means the one on your birth certificate.

(I wonder when Stephen King will have his account banned.)

Today, Tobold posts about one of the consequences of that banning. He used Facebook Connect to add some social functionality to Castle Empires Online (aka The Settlers Online.) This linked the game to his Facebook account via an app, and now he cannot access that game until he removes the app. Of course he cannot remove the app because he can’t log in to that Facebook account.

No Castle Empires Online for you. Catch 22. That’s some catch, that Catch 22. It’s the best there is.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve recently noticed a number of blogs sporting a comment section that is basically a Facebook widget that requires a guest to login to their Facebook account in order to comment.

Aside from the questionable practice of forcing someone who may not want to have a FB account to have one to comment, or to have every comment they make replicated in their FB feed, the bigger issue to me is the loss of control the blog owner is giving to Facebook. No longer does the blog own the comments, they are now Facebook property. And if Facebook decides for one reason or another to ban that blog, well, what happens to all those comments?

This Tobold Facebook banning has brought another issue to mind.

Blizzard now has a policy of linking their various games together in the same account. Your World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, and soon Diablo 3 games will all be linked together, if you use the same Battlenet account.

Now what happens if in one of those games you do something against the terms of service and get yourself an account ban. Do you lose access to every Blizzard game linked to that account?

And hey, it might not even be you doing the dirty deed. Account hacks are not unknown, and folks have been banned temporarily on that basis. So your WoW account is hacked, and Blizzard shuts you down for two weeks while it investigates. And during this time you don’t have access to SG2, or D3 to fill the gaming gap. Nice.

That’s why it’s been my policy for some time to not do things like use Facebook Connect. If a game offers an update service such as tweeting achievements, fine. You can turn those off in game. But a game should never be disabled by the failure of an optional third party service. That is unacceptable.

This is also why I create a separate Battlenet account for each of my Blizzard games. I have used different emails for both WoW and SC2, and I’ll be creating a new email address for Diablo 3 when I buy that.

The world is rushing headlong towards a completely connected state where everything is linked. Don’t get me wrong, this can be very useful and save time by simplifying online life, but the problem here is if one link fails, does it bring down the rest?

Is anyone considering the side effects, or building in redundancy?

Recommendations: Here’s A Thought

Posted by Stropp on October 6, 2011

Nice little quote of the day at Biobreak.

I wish the thousands of factions and villages I’ve helped in the past would forward a letter of recommendation to the ones I’ve yet to visit.

Here’s a thought. If a hero has built up a formidable reputation why don’t the villages with problems come and seek the hero out?

Rather than wandering the world anonymously like Kung Fu, or Bruce Banner, and then proving his worth time after time, wouldn’t a heros fame spread across the world in such a way that people come to him to solve their problems.

Kinda makes more sense than some random NPC standing in front of their house fretting about their rodent problem. Wouldn’t they at least look for an exterminator?


RIP Steve Jobs

Posted by Stropp on October 6, 2011

I just heard on the radio that Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the force behind Apple’s recent wave of innovative products, the iPhone and iPad, has passed away at the age of 56.

There are going to be hundreds of testimonies to Steve Jobs popping up shortly, giving details of everything the man had done in his too short life, but I just wanted to talk about how his work affected me.

You see Job’s and Wozniak directly influenced the path my life took.

I was in high school in 1981 happily working my way to a career in electronics. I was planning on studying for a degree as an Electronic Engineer at the time, and was quite the keen hobbyist.

But in 1981, the school purchased two Apple 2e’s and put them in the annex to the physics lab.

The competition was immediate. Most of the guys interested in using the Apple’s during recess and lunch sat there playing games, and to be fair I did that too. But I ended up taking the manuals home most every night, and poring over every detail of the electronics and learning how to program. I spent as much time in the computer room as I possibly could.

I ended up writing two programs.

One, the second project, was a clone of the arcade game Defender.

The first was a practical joke on another student who was trying to get a program that broke copy protection on games. I wrote a simple little 6502 program that accessed the floppy drive and spun it up, while printing “please wait” on the screen. That’s all it did. I had this guy on the hook for two whole lunch periods trying to work out why his games weren’t being cracked, until another student whom I told about the joke, let him off the hook. I would have had him going for a few weeks if I could!

Anyway, that experience led me to the love of programming. And from there my parents purchased my first computer a Vic 20, and the rest is history, a 27 year (so far) career as a software developer.

Thanks Steve.

Mass Effect MMORPG? Somewhere Around 2020 If At All

Posted by Stropp on October 1, 2011

There has been a bit of speculation of a Mass Effect MMORPG on gamer forums and blogs for a little while now, much of it with little evidence that such a thing is likely to ever happen.

That is something I would like to see. Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 have been among my favorite games of the last few years. I really enjoyed both of them (except for the scanning mini-game in ME2, uurgh.) I reckon the backstory for the ME universe has some real possibilities, and once the trilogy has been tidied up there will likely be some level of aftermath for players to inhabit.

Anyway, I digress.

Industry Gamers asked Greg Zeschuk about the possibility, and he responded to the query with, “You never know.”

While this is great news for MMO lovers and fans of the Mass Effect series, who want more SciFi in their gaming, I wouldn’t start looking at upgrading your PC just yet. The release date is not likely to be for many years yet.

  1. SWTOR is shipping late this year, and will likely tie up resources for 12 months or more. The first year or two is critical, not only for fixing bugs and developing the expansions, but for the company to learn to run a AAA MMORPG.
  2. Bioware have to complete and ship Mass Effect 3. I don’t know what the release date is for ME3, but it won’t be this year, and will possibly be mid-2012 onwards.

So it’s likely that if Bioware do decide to develop MEO (like the acronym I came up with there?) development won’t start until 2013. With the long development times of big MMORPGs, you’d expect it take at least four years, that puts the earliest release date for Mass Effect Online at early 2017.

Of course, it is also way to early to get excited about a Mass Effect MMO at all. “You never know,” is not exactly a, “Hell yeah, we’re already planning it out.” And even if the Bioware doctors are keen to do MEO and have all sorts of great ideas for it, that doesn’t mean that they’ll get approval to do it. They’ll need approval to start, and funding from the bean counters at EA to even start spending money on the planning process.

And EA will want to see how SWTOR does before they commit money to MEO.

If we look practically at the other issues involved, even getting the approval to start planning could take a while, then it’s not unlikely that a Mass Effect MMORPG would have a release date closer to 2020.