Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Not Dead Yet

Posted by Stropp on November 7, 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFXGwHsD_A Obligatory Python reference. Okay. So it's been a while. Reason being is that I picked up some work coding a Rails app for a startup (still going) as well as having to keep taking on bits and pieces of IT and other software dev work to pay the bills. But in the midst of all that I picked up where I left off with Rift way back when. When Archeage released I downloaded it, and played the FTP content for a while but the game didn't really grab me. I keep hearing how wonderful and sandboxy it is, but still... It might have been that Asian RPG feel which is something I've always had trouble getting into. I've tried a few JRPGs and hated them. And we won't mention the now defunct Wizardy Online now shall we? But Archeage requires the Glyph launcher, and on that popped up the entry for Rift, which went free to play some time back. So I set the downloader to stun download and logged in. First surprise. All my characters were still there. I have a few email accounts, and by chance had created Archeage on the same one I used for Rift. I also wondered if they had been removed, which while not likely, does happen from time to time these days. Second surprise. It was something like 1300 days since I had last logged in. Man! Time moves quickly, doesn't it? I didn't realise Rift was that old, it seems like it was just a year or so since I played. Third surprise. I was still in the guild. The Casualties of War website no longer exists, and I don't know if there are any other chapters out there, but the Casualties guild on Faeblight is still going. Not exactly strong, there's only three active members (now) including me, but still... woo hoo. BTW, if you are a former Rift player and CoW, you should still be on the guild roster, log in and say hello. So, in the four weeks since I logged back in I have been playing my Defiant Mage, Vroomfondel and have leveled here up from about 34 to 48. Almost ready to head into the newer Storm Legion (and Ember Isle) content, but still have to clean up the remainder of Shimmersand and Stillmoor before I do. Previously, Vroom was Elementalist/Pyromancer/Chloroplast. Banging out big damage as quick as possible. I did a bit of research and decided on a new role: Ele/Chloro/Necro with the bulk of points in Ele, about 13 in Chloro, and 3 (so far) in the Necro. It works by sending in the tanking pet, then laying down a series of dots, and finally Volcano. I can usually take a mob out in one round, but if Volcano doesn't finish off, then theres are couple of other DDs that I can use to do that. So far, it's been a reasonably good build, and I'm impressed how not glass-cannonny my mage is. And in the middle of all this, the Nightmare Tide expansion has launched. I haven't seen any of the NT content yet, that's mostly post 60 stuff, but I have been playing the Minions mini-game. It's a card deck based game where you get a bunch of minion cards, select some adventure cards and then pick a minion to go on the adventure. The better the minion does, the better the reward you get. Minions level up, I assume for better rewards, and you can buy new minion cards and extra adventure slots, and get new minions as rewards (though I haven't seen that yet.) Strangely enough, for such a passive addition to Rift, the Minions mini-game is very addictive. Anyway, I'm remembering how much fun I had in Rift previously. It really is a very good MMORPG.

Brad McQuaid: Morally and Ethically Bankrupt?

Posted by Stropp on May 5, 2014 I came across this item this morning on Wilhelms blog, TAGN.

The money- It's widely agreed upon by all parties that this project took in roughly 145 thousand dollars. A large chunk of that money, 35k, came from a single individual who promised another couple hundred thousand once he cleared it with his trust. Brad was having personal problems at the time and needed to take a cash advance from the project.

He took roughly three months pay in advance which equaled roughly 38% of the funds that were left. Brad thought the rest of the money would come in, but the trust supervisor declined without even looking into the project. Reason being, he didn't want to be sued if the start up failed. Brad admits that it was a mistake and wishes things worked out differently but the money is spent and there isn't anything he can do.

He then went on to express that he was sorry for how it happened and is planning on liquidating personal assets to put the funds back into the project.

Rerolled Forums -> Pantheon Oh For F*** Sake.

and a little further down

The contracts that were given to the devs were paid. Roughly 85k of the total funds went to paying the contracts. Some money went to the fees involved with starting the company. The founding devs were also given stock in the company. Payment for work didn't begin until Feb 2014.

Brad took 45k as his advance and it was for 5 months of work advance, not 3.

Rerolled Forums -> Pantheon Oh For F*** Sake.

To summarize:
  1.  McQuaid for the last x amount of time has been working on the Pantheon concept.
  2. He, without a lot of prep, put up a Kickstarter aiming for $800K.
  3. The Kickstarter failed.
  4. Visionary Realms (Brad's company) decided to go ahead anyway and try crowdfunding on their own website, without the protections of Kickstarter.
  5. They raised approx $145K, with $35K being from one donation. With an expectation of another $200k from a trust fund.
  6. Here's where it gets interesting: Brad decides to give himself an advance of 5 months salary ($45,000)
  7. The trust fund investment doesn't eventuate as the manager was a bit antsy about the risk.
  8. Visionary Realms runs out of money (whether it was before or after the advance, I'm not sure)
  9. Visionary Realms shuts down old website, goes to a new host, more bloggy website.
  10. Visionary Realms gets rid of paid developers
  11. Visionary Realms is now looking for volunteers to do the development.
Question: Does Visionary Realms still exist? A quick look on the new site doesn't seem to mention the company name. I didn't donate to the Kickstarter, and certainly not to the private crowd funding attempt. I figured if it couldn't get enough interest to fund under Kickstarter (which is a low risk crowd funding platform) then the game wasn't too likely to succeed anyway, and it was just throwing away money. How right I was. But a lot of people, including the trust fund guy, did believe enough in the game to commit a substantial amount of money to it.  McQuaid violated that trust by advancing himself  such a massive amount because he was having personal issues. And that's aside from the fact that he was paying himself a salary of $108,000 a year. Really? You're building a start-up and taking that much of a salary. Start-ups are hard work and low pay until you hit the big time. Until you get there, you need every cent. Don't get me wrong, everyone deserves a salary, but when the coffers are low it's smart to conserve. You also have to consider that (the rumors suggest) that the developers were not getting paid enough to pay their bills, and some were fronting some of the costs out of their own pockets. Wow. The guy up front is paying himself an extremely generous salary for the stage the business is in, and is underpaying his developers. Dude, that's morally and ethically bankrupt. Back when Vanguard/Sigil failed, McQuaid took a lot of heat for the way he acted. I wasn't impressed back then, but it's hard to build a business, and I was ready to consider that it was just bad business management coupled with a personal meltdown. Hey it happens. But this time, in very similar circumstances? Once may be an accident. Twice? Looks a lot like character. This guy has screwed his employees now, not once, but twice. Leaving them in the lurch and walking away with naught but damage to his reputation. Then he wants to use a bunch of volunteers to complete the project. Come on... Don't let him do it again.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Long Weekend Fun and the Problems

Posted by Stropp on April 24, 2014 Last weekend in Australia, it was the Easter 4 day long weekend. There's two public holidays, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and traditionally if a public holiday falls on a weekend, the Monday becomes the day off. So I took advantage of this to unwind a little, and what better way to unwind than to play some games. TESO, being the game of the moment, was what I chose, so I spent nearly all Friday*, Saturday, and Sunday arvo playing. I ended up taking most of Monday off, just vegging on the couch. All up some fun was had, and I ended up getting my DK almost to 15. There were a few things I decided to do.
  1. Run around the non-Glenumbra starting zones and get all the Soul Shards.
  2. Clear all the achievement caves/dungeons in Glenumbra.
  3. Explore all Glenumbra
  4. Get all the Glenumbra Soul Shards
  5. Do some leveling
Okay, so #5 was achieved, if somewhat slowly; as I said I hit Level 14 3/4. #1 and #3 also fully achieved over the weekend. Getting all the soul shards was fairly easy. I like how the achievement gives clues as to where they are. However, I haven't yet got all the Glenumbra Shards. I also didn't manage to clear out all the caves in Glenumbra, just got one left to do. This brings me to some of the negative points of the Elder Scrolls Online. Some I've mentioned before.

Mismatched Quest Levels

I have been finding that some of the quest levels are simply incorrect. There's a few quests where the level indicates the starting level, 8 for instance and I can start doing that at 7 or even 6, but when I get to the final boss I get completely trounced. So I go off to level up and come back later at level 8. Most I succeed at this point, okay, I don't mind that. But some I get trounced again. Hmmm. Level up another couple of levels. Still getting beaten. Come back even later. Same thing. What am I doing wrong? That's kind of frustrating.

Bots In Dungeons

As I mentioned I spend some time doing the dungeons. But to clear the dungeon and get the achievement, you have to damage the boss. That can be kind of difficult when there are a dozen PCs (all named aedw or dsfsads) standing around the spawn point that kill that boss in less than a second after spawn. There were a couple where it took 3 or 4 attempts before I was able to do enough damage to register for the achievement. I ended up guestimating the next spawn (fortunately not too long) and started swinging or firing before it appeared.

Gold Seller Spam

The chat channels, especially zone chat, are almost continually swamped with multi-line spam. The only option is to add them to the ignore list, but that only slows them a little. A few minutes later more spam bots are spamming. Some players are complaining that they have reached their ignore limit, which is around 90 I believe, and are asking Zenimax to increase it.

*Friday Night Downtime

The other issue that is a bit(!) annoying is the decision by Zenimax to do two scheduled maintenance periods a week, the second one falling on 9:30pm, Friday night for four hours. I understand the need to do maintenance, fix issues, and patch the game. But seriously, right in the middle of Australian/Oceanic primetime? It's one thing to do on a weeknight, but a Friday night? They did change this from Sunday afternoon because there were complaints, but it doesn't look like they really put much thought into the new time. Scheduled maintenance probably shouldn't be done on a weekend. It's why most maintenance times are scheduled for Tuesdays. Not-A-Weekend. Note: Eve Online is also guilty of this. Their maintenance is every night, for an hour, around 9pm depending on daylight saving.

Bugs

Actually, I'm not too worried about the bugs. There have been a few. Mostly not being able to enter a building or 'use' an object or NPC. They usually clear up, and in a couple of cases with quests, I just haven't got a particular quest item (there's no warning, it just doesn't work and I have to figure that out.) Overall, I agree with other comments about this being a pretty clean launch. Sure, there are problems, but this is software, there's always going to be some bugs. But this has been one of the best launches I've seen.

More Thoughts

There's no question that, so far, TESO is a successful game. There are a lot of people running around, lots of talk on chat (in between the spam) and the dungeons have lots of active and real players in them. Of course this can change, and we haven't reached the end of the free month yet for most people, or the three month time when a lot of folks drop a game or just stop playing. We will have to wait and see what happens then. The biggest challenge I think Zenimax faces now is to figure out how to clean up the bots and the spam without alienating their players. There was talk about limiting boss drops in dungeons using a timer to make it unprofitable for bots to farm boss loot, but this also punishes players who like farming. And there have been some bannings of players who haven't actually done anything wrong. It's probably that frustrated players clicked on the wrong player name to report them and ended up getting them banned. It's also possible that some players have been deliberately reporting players who 'offended' them or are doing it to grief. Zenimax has to be very careful here, they don't want to drive players away.

Next Weekend

So. This weekend is another public holiday weekend. ANZAC day, the Australia & New Zealand version of Veterans Day in the US is on the 25th of April. This kind of alignment doesn't happen too often, simply because Easter is based on a lunar calendar and changes date every year, but it's always worth taking advantage of when it happens (a lot of people are taking the three days off this week and getting 10 consecutive days off!) I'll try and clean up a few more achievements, finishing off the following.
  1. All the Glenumbra Soul Shards.
  2. Get the last dungeon.
  3. Find all the Lore Books (hopefully there are clues for those too.)
  4. Finish all the remaining Glenumbra quests (if I can).
  5. Move into the next area.
I've only dabbled with crafting, mostly because I don't want to spend any valuable skill points, and bag space is premium. I've stopped collecting most provisioning mats. I really need to go to the bank and do a spring clean of my bags. BTW, if you're playing TESO, give me a shout in the game. I'd be happy to hear from you. Happy Gaming. Cheers.

Elder Scrolls Online: First Impressions

Posted by Stropp on April 15, 2014 I asked the question about PC performance regarding The Elder Scrolls Online in my last post because my current gaming rig is getting a bit old and is starting to behave a bit crankily towards some of the newer games on the block, sitting on the front porch and telling them to get off the lawn. After a positive answer to my question, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the game. I didn't go for the super happy awesome edition, despite the Imperials as a playable race, it was a fair bit more expensive, and I didn't feel the need. It cost nearly (over?) 90 Oz dollars as it was. It was a pretty big download, around 22 GB, and I started it around 12:30am on Saturday morning the 5th April. I woke up about 3:30am to use the loo and checked and only 4% had downloaded. The next morning I was up at 6:30am and the total was now 8%. By the time I left for Oz Comic-con Adelaide at 7:30, it was sitting at 10%. It was looking like, at 10% in 7 hours, it was going to take 70 hours to download and would be complete sometime in the early AM on Tuesday. However, when I got home that night around 8pm, the download had completed. I can only assume it sped up when US primetime had finished. So I played a couple of hours. I didn't play at all Sunday night. After two full days of Comic con and standing in queues for most of it (worth it, got photos with Benedict Cumberbatch, Amanda Tapping, and Jewel State, and autographs from AT & JS, along with Corin Nemec, Nana Visitor, Connor Trinneer,  and a few others) I was completely wrecked and just wanted to lay on the couch. Over the next week I played sporadically in the evenings, but this last weekend gave the game some quality time. These are my thoughts.

Graphics

Can't say too much about the graphics. The game installed at the lowest settings, but at the native monitor resolution of 1920x1200. They do look a bit drab. But I haven't yet tried to increase the levels, so I don't think it's fair to grade TESO on graphical quality yet. On the upside, there's no jerkiness or frame rate problems  at all. So that's nice.

Bugs

I have been reading that players have been finding bugs in the game. That, frankly, doesn't surprise me, especially so close to release, but I haven't found very many at all at this stage. I have crashed to desktop twice, after long gameplay sessions, and there was one instance where I couldn't enter a building to do a quest, but after coming back to it a bit later I was able to get in. I haven't noticed the quest showstoppers that some folks have, or the huge lag spikes. There's been some lag, but nothing serious as far as I've seen. That might be my timezone though.

Servers

I'm on the North American Mega Server. This is something I didn't notice straight away. No server choice, everything is on a single shard.

Spammers

Every game has them. TESO has them in spades. They infest zone chat like cockroaches, and I've even been in-game mailed (reported.) I've been told that turning off zone chat just makes them mail you, but I'm not sure how they'd know. I have even been invited to a guild by one of these douchebags. I have read that the devs are cracking down on this. I really hope so, and I really hope they can be effective here. I have no idea how these guys could afford the cost of sub and account if they are getting banned. Are there cheap accounts available?

Quests

There seem to be less quests in TESO, but they aren't as simple as other games. While there are a few kill x of something quests in there, they're not all that common; and they feel more thought out. I've only started to get quests where there are choices to make that affect the outcome, but I'm not sure what the long term ramifications of those choices are, if any.

Character Advancement

Character advancement is done by both leveling and choosing skills. With every level you get you get a skill point. You also get a skill point for every 3 Sky Shards you find, and for completing some quest lines. I don't remember exactly how many you can end up getting, but apparently it's enough to really flesh out your character. You level your skill lines too. For example, Stropp the Redguard Dragonknight gets 3 class skills, a racial skill, a world skill line, skills for each of the weapon types 2H, 1H & Shield, Bow, and skills for crafting etc. Each of the skills is free but you spend skill points  to unlock abilities when they become available, or to morph existing abilities when they max out. All in all I like this way of doing things, but I would like some other traditional Elder Scrolls skills, sneak for example. You can sneak in game, which provides a bonus to attack for bows (I think) but I haven't found a skill for it which increases with use. Leveling is also pretty slow. It's taken quite a few hours for Stropp the DK to get to level 8.

Gameplay

Including combat here which is reasonably responsive. Fights don't last too long, if you're lucky, and are certainly far shorter than The Secret World, but they do tend to be tough level for level. Adds are scary. I've died a lot, when I've aggroed more than one mob, or when another joins the fray. Some are also tougher than their level. It's most frustrating when a quest event spawns three at the same time. Even at the same level it's almost impossible, I've gone away and come back a few hours later several times. Maybe it's my build.

Crafting

I haven't done too much of this. It's pretty basic stuff. Gather resources, refine them, use them to create things. One at a time (there's no craft all button yet.) There are a few other options such as research, but I haven't figured them out yet. The biggest problem with crafting is bag and bank space. It's quite limited, and costs a bunch of gold to expand. I watched a conversation last night, in between gold spam messages, where the players were talking about how many bank alts they had. In most MMOs I give crafting a try and then give it up because it is either boring or doesn't offer any value, the crafted items are inferior to loot drops: WoW looking at you! I'm hearing that, at least early on, TESO crafting has value, but the bag space issues will likely keep me from it, at least on a large scale.

Guilds

I haven't joined a guild yet. There are some advertising, but I haven't made the move. I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea as the game does seem to slant towards a more cooperative play-style. You can apparently join up to 5 guilds. Interesting concept. Not sure how this will work in practice. From my experience in WoW, guilds can be jealous things, demanding monogamy. Will have to see here.

The Forums

Da Da Daaahhhh! Most of the official forums I visit are pretty rank. Full of wretchedness and villainy. So far what I've read in the TESO forums aren't too bad. There's a couple of the don't like this game and why posts, but that's par for the course. There's no nastiness there yet. There are some sub-forums I recommend that have player written tips and guides. I have found these helpful.

Conclusion

Hopefully that wasn't TL;DR. I probably should have included some screenshots, but I'm at work right now with a quiet moment. A meeting I had cleared time for got pushed back to this evening, so likely no play tonight. These days I'm a little cautious about getting too enthusiastic early on. I'm quite aware of raving about a game only to drop it two months later. Will TESO have the same fate? That's hard to answer. I'm enjoying the game as it is, and want to keep playing. I was looking forward to playing tonight, which is a good sign, but meeting... At this stage, I think I'll ride out the 'free' month and take it month by month. As you know, these days it's not so much if I like a game, but if I have enough time to keep playing, especially if something other comes along. But in anycase, my first impressions of TESO are fairly positive. I reckon it's a winner.

Elder Scrolls Online Players, A Question For You

Posted by Stropp on April 4, 2014 I understand there are some bugs in the early release of the game, but the gameplay sounds interesting. I wanted to ask you, how are your computers coping with it? My gaming box has been struggling a bit with new releases lately. It's a quad core 6600 with 4GB and 1GB graphics card, about 5 years old. Will that handle TESO?

Asheron’s Call: End of an Era

Posted by Stropp on February 26, 2014 First of all, don't panic, Asheron's Call is not going offline. In fact today's announcement by Turbine appears to guarantee the future of the game, only perhaps somewhat restricted, I'll get to that in a sec. What is happening is that Asheron's Call is, after the February content patch is deployed, going into maintenance mode according to this forum post by Severlin. This means that any future updates will only contain bug and security fixes, and perhaps some minor itemization updates. But no new story. AC is unique in MMORPGs as it has each and every month since it was released on the 2nd of November, 1999 been given a story update. These updates have added new monsters, dungeons, items, and quests (though not always all of these each month.) I don't know of any game that has achieved that. So yes, sadly, it's the end of an era. Having said that, the announcement also states that the game is going Free for all active accounts, meaning that there may be no way to create a new account after this update goes live.

If we allow new any accounts the keys would be limited distribution. This isn't to drum up last minutes subs, it's because we won't have the capacity to ramp up the server hardware to handle a potential flood of players jumping into the game if it is completely open. -- Severlin

If you are interested in playing this game (or Asheron's Call 2) I suggest you create a new account, quickly, and start playing. You may not get another chance. There is also mention of allowing players to run their own servers, with the team working on that. It looks like there is a bit of work needed to separate account servers from the login servers. I imagine the code for various functions when the game was created was somewhat intertwined, and probably hasn't changed all that much (as code is wont to do.) With that news, the future of the game is assured. Even if Turbine take the servers offline at some time in the future, there should be enough private servers around to take up the slack. Of course this makes me wonder if the oft rumored Asheron's Call 3 is in the pipeline.

Kickstarted By An Angel

Posted by Stropp on February 14, 2014 Using Kickstarter presents one big problem. If you don't fully reach your funding goal, then you get nothing. Doesn't matter if you are half a million short or just one dollar. So as the Pantheon Kickstarter campaign is about to head into their final week, they are staring down the barrel at a shortfall of over $400,000. As Wilhelm at TAGN points out it is not impossible to reach the final goal, they just need some extraordinary help to get the >$45,000 a day to do so. Personally, I think the optimism has been strong with this one for quite some time. Even in the last few days, Visionary Realms have been announcing details of their stretch goals (at 2.5 million) which given the likelihood that the campaign would fail even at the half way mark, shows a certain amount of unbridled optimism. Good for them. With the Kickstarter campaign facing almost certain doom, I was wondering what Brad and the team would be doing next. The Tweety knows all:

mcquaid-twitter-1

 I kinda figured that the project would continue whether the Kickstarter was achieved. We've been seeing a bunch of imagery and details coming out of the team for a while now, indicating that there was already substantial time and effort put in. The above tweets and others like it indicate that Visionary Realms intends to continue fundraising, but now on their own website. I guess they could use a services like IndieGoGo, the big drawcard here being that you keep all the donations whether you reach your goal or not, and if you don't reach your goal you pay lower fees too! There's also the prospect of Angel funding. That's where an Angel investor steps in at the last moment to 'save' your business. But the big difference between this and crowd-funding through Kickstarter or Indiegogo is that the Angel is an investor. They now own some of the business. And they are not going to put up with any of the management crap that went on at Sigil/Vanguard. They're going to want a solid business plan before one cent is invested. This leaves Brad and Co with a few options.
  1. Continue to develop Pantheon with their own money and with anything they can scrape up via crowd funding on their own site.
  2. Reach out to the investment community for Angel funding, but this will require Visionary Realms to run as a >competent business with a management team; not just a bunch of developers.
  3. Try another Kickstarter, but with a smaller goal. (They could in fact run several Kickstarter campaigns over the course of the development, starting with a small one to get the basics, and a new KS for each current stretch goal.)
  4. Chuck it all in. This isn't as bad as it sounds. I've been dealing with business owners for a while now, and one thing that keeps coming up is to know when your business isn't working and when it's time to throw in the towel. As Kenny Rogers says, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, Know when to fold 'em..."
I think this all ties in with what I said the other day too, about Kickstarter being a place to do market research, to see if your game idea has enough merit to live. Are 2860 backers enough of a market for your game to not only survive, but thrive? Of course it's not that simple, especially in this case. I suggested in that post that perhaps the whole old school ideas being put forward in Pantheon aren't as desired by the gaming community as most think. But there are also other considerations here too. The previous failure of Sigil management comes strongly to mind, and I suspect there are a lot who haven't forgiven or forgotten that, and some who are just wary of Brad. And I think, given the recent actions by SOE in shutting down a number of their games, including Vanguard, means that they won't be coming to the rescue if it all goes pear shaped again. Vanguard was lucky, getting years more life than it would have had SOE not bought it out. I suspect that instead of ex-Vanguard players heading over to Pantheon en-masse after the announcement, it's had the opposite effect, showing SOE might not be the white knight to rescue a game in trouble, the next time. I do hope the Visionary Realms guys pull this off. I've long said that the world needs more MMORPGs, especially those that are out-of-the-box. But unless they find an Angel with fairly deep pockets, I can't really see this one make it to release.

Is Alpha Access A Smart Thing To Do?

Posted by Stropp on February 5, 2014 I have been reading a few comments about the Everquest Next: Landmark alpha and noticed that they seem to fall into two broad categories: Love It and Don't Love It. The love-it crowd are gushing about the game despite the fact that there are bugs and tons of missing features, while the don't-love-it folks are not happy because of the bugs and missing features and in some cases deciding that the game-play simply doesn't suit them. Note that this is an alpha release, the game is not even at the beta stage yet, so in my mind both sides are missing the mark a little. In a beta, it's generally accepted that the game is pretty much complete; the features are all in, coded at least, most of the art assets have been included, and that the story if any is also effectively complete. All that's left are the bug fixes and general tweaking. In some cases, network capacity is also tested. At least that's the gold standard for the beta test stage. But in an alpha, none of that is the case. The game is not only feature and code incomplete, there is a strong possibility that how the game plays can change. I seem to remember a case where a game went from sci-fi to fantasy (or vice versa.) The name of the game escapes me, does anyone remember that? And we all remember Duke Nukem Forever. That game changed engines several times along with art and story direction. It's entirely possible that Landmark will change substantially before it hits beta, so any exclamations of Wonderful! or Terrible! are somewhat premature. Having said that I reckon I'm a bit conflicted about the current trend of game developers releasing Alpha or Early Access versions of their games. Sure I can see the benefit to the developer. They get a cashflow during the development of the game rather than only once the game is complete. That would definitely improve the chances of completing the development. But it's also a two edged sword. There are gamers who expect any release, alpha, beta or final to be bug free and feature complete. Just note some of the comments made about Landmark over the last few days to see this in action. Get enough negative feedback and you could hobble your sales later. What happens if the game fails anyway? Not every software project is completed, game or otherwise. It's an unfortunate part of the software industry: projects fail. And they fail for any number of reasons. What happens if a game never makes it out of alpha, and the developer has spent the money from the alpha sales? Does this then become fraud? And for the gamer buying into an alpha. Well, I've bought a few games on early access through Steam, and gave them a shot. But after having done that a few times, I think now I'd prefer to wait at least until a late beta or even release. I have too little time for gaming these days, I reckon it's important to make it count. Having said that I did head to the Landmark page yesterday to check it out, after reading a bunch of posts about it. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it looks like the minimum system specs are beyond my six year old beastie (which is even struggling with framerates for games that once worked fine.) So it looks like I'll be needing a new computer before I get Landmark, or even Everquest Next. How about you, what are your thoughts on the early access trend?

Speaking of Pantheon

Posted by Stropp on January 24, 2014 Speaking of Pantheon, as I did in my last post, I have been keeping track of how the Kickstarter campaign is going. So far we're about 11 days into the campaign, about a quarter of the way there, and there have been just short of $202,000 of pledges made by 1630 backers. A quarter of the minimum funding at the quarter way point. As Wilhelm at TAGN observes (he has graphs, go have a look,) most Kickstarter campaigns appear to follow a reverse bell curve where they raise the most funds in the first and last few days of the campaign. It looks like, according to the graphs from Kicktraq (thanks for the link Wilhelm that is a handy site) that Pantheon is following a similar trajectory. Star Citizen to compare, with a $500K goal raised $2,134,374 from 34,397 pledges, and has continued its crowd funding efforts apart from Kickstarter and has raised over $37 million. That's over 4 times the original goal. Shroud of the Avatar, Richard Garriotts triumphant return has a $1 million goal, where 22,322 backers pledged $1,919,275, almost twice what was hoped for. Camelot Unchained raised $2,232,933 from 14,873 after asking for 2 million dollars, which is just a little above what they asked for. If Pantheon continues raising funds at the same rate, it might get its $800,000 from about 6,400 backers, but won't achieve even one stretch goal, and it looks like there's a lot of content and systems in those stretch goals. Here are some fancy graphs: [caption id="attachment_1915" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Pantheon Daily Backers Pantheon Daily Backers[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_1916" align="aligncenter" width="450"]pantheon daily pledges Pantheon - Daily Pledges[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1917" align="aligncenter" width="450"]Pantheon Projected Result Pantheon - Projected Result[/caption]   It's the last one that should be concerning the Pantheon development team. It shows that the projected result will be somewhere between $433K and $782K, which even in the best case is short of the goal by about $18,000. Now obviously you can't take this as gospel. There are a lot of factors that could come into play into the next 30 days. It's entirely possible that there could be a frenzy of pledging in that time that not only reaches the goal but hits some stretch goals too. In comparing the Pantheon Kickstarter with the others above, it shows that there is far less confidence in that game than in the efforts by Garriott, Roberts, and Jacobs. But why? Well, there's a couple of reasons I think. I suspect that, despite the nostalgia associated with old school MMORPGs, that a lot of players old and new have moved on. Systems such as forced downtime, forced grouping, and slow travel might be appealing to the hard core Everquest vets, but are they appealing to the gaming masses. We have to remember that 15 years ago, Everquest players were in the majority MMO-wise with 400K at one point, but all of these people have gotten older, got married, started families, and built careers. Waiting for hours for a boat (or a corpse run) aren't on the agenda anymore even if they do remember those activities fondly. That alone is going to reduce the pool of pledges. The other reason is historical. Roberts, Garriott, and Jacobs have a lot of successful games in their resumes, and they are considered legends of game development. Brad McQuaid has but one success, and that's his involvement in Everquest. And while Garriott and Jacobs have had recent 'failures' with Tabula Rasa and Warhammer Online respectively, they have a string of hits previously which build confidence. Brad however failed epically with Vanguard. When the game was released it was in a horrible state. While the game eventually reached the stage where it was actually not to bad, it should never have been released that early. However, lots of games, including World of Warcraft have been released early to initial poor reviews. What did happen was that Brad McQuaid completely dropped the management ball while running the show, being completely absent from the office for months; reportedly staying in his office with no contact with staff until he just quit showing up at all. This lead to the infamous parking lot incident where the entire Sigil team were asked to meet in the parking lot and then unceremoniously sacked. I wonder if this is the main reason that the Kickstarter campaign isn't doing all that well. This incident didn't happen all that long ago, and I have to admit that when I first heard of the Pantheon campaign, it was pretty much the first thing I thought of. Despite all that I kinda hope that Pantheon at least raises its $800K and that Brad gets another chance at his dream. If he has learned the lessons of the past then it could turn out okay. Will I pledge? Hmmm. Not sure. As I said in my last post, I'm not sure that Pantheon is the game for me, so I'll wait and see I think. How about you? Pledging or not?  

Games That Aren’t For Me

Posted by Stropp on January 24, 2014 It's easy to get caught up in the hype machine when a new game gets announced. The tendency for players is to 'own' the game, sometimes even before all the features are known, which is exactly what the developers want. Having players fully invested in an upcoming game is a sure way to make sales. Unfortunately this can have bad consequences, especially when the developers announce that features will be cut, or that the game will include or exclude systems that a player likes or wants. So it's important for players to recognise when a game is not for them. For me, there's a couple of 'recent' announcements where, after looking at them, I can see that the game isn't my cup of tea. Firstly, there's Camelot Unchained. The game actually sounded interesting at first, until I noted that it was PvP only, with no PvE. Don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy a little PvP from time to time, but not all the time. In the Bartle Test I rank as Explorer/Achiever/Socializer/Killer (in that order) so if there's nothing to do outside of Killer, then the game is not for me. Similarly, Pantheon. That's the big news at the moment isn't it? After looking at what Brad McQuaid is aiming at here, I have to wonder if this game is for me either. All the features, somewhat generic, seemed okay until I read about the emphasis on grouping. Brad does seem to be saying that in order to get anywhere I'll be forced to group. Now don't get me wrong, as with PvP I'm not against grouping. I do enjoy it, when with the right group. My Everquest 2 guild and I (with my Troll SK Bargearse) did lots of small group dungeoneering. But I often find myself playing in the Aussie timezones when my international friends are sleeping, so it is important to be able to do things by myself. And frankly, that is something I miss in modern MMOs that existed in my first game, Asheron's Call. I could run a dungeon solo if my character was powerful enough. Sure, there were the big dungeons: the Lugian Citadel, the Olthoi caves that swarmed with foes, but these dungeons were often filled with players too, meaning that a solo player could venture in and join others without necessarily being in a group. And then of course there were other the dungeons at Holtburg, Glendon Wood, the Drudge House, etc. There are a couple of other things about Pantheon that make me wary, but these don't really have much to do with the game-play; more about the management team, so not really the focus of this article, that's for another day. So anyway, if a game isn't for me then what to do? Should I bitch and moan about it? I have done that in the past. The early days of Star Wars Galaxies development the devs talked a lot about starting a Jedi, and being able to build your own light sabre. Man, was I looking forward to that. Towards the end, Jedi was off the table as a starter character, and faced the dreaded permadeath and being targeted by other players wanted or not. Boy, did that leave a bad taste. The same with Star Trek online when the devs announced that the Klingon PCs wouldn't be available at launch. I whinged about that too. Still, I reckon now that shows a bit of the old entitlement mentality, and if there's anything we gamers have going for us, it's that feeling of entitlement. Maybe in the old days when new MMORPG's were far and few between there was some justification for feeling that way, especially if the devs had made (somewhat grandiose) promises and had raised player hopes, but these days with so many games to choose from rather than getting bent out of shape it's better to follow or play something else. What do you think, do you feel that sense of ownership over an upcoming game entitles you to be upset when it turns out different than you expect, or not?

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