Archive for the ‘General’ Category
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.
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:
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.
- Continue to develop Pantheon with their own money and with anything they can scrape up via crowd funding on their own site.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
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?
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:
Pantheon Daily Backers
Pantheon – Daily Pledges
Pantheon – Projected Result
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?
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?
Posted by Stropp on
December 12, 2013
I bought a Galaxy Note earlier in the year and started buying novels and such on the Kindle app. A few days ago I bought two novels as eBooks that I already own in paperback format. (The reason being that I moved house earlier in the year and have less space so physical books are somewhat limiting. And the paperbacks are in boxes in storage.)
In the same way, I’ve also got on Steam at several times the last couple of years and bought (usually at a huge discount) some games that I also already own. Some of these were updated for modern PCs, but not all. Again, the reasoning was that it was too hard to go searching for the old disks, especially since some of the games were under $5.
Now with the twentieth anniversary of Doom, I feel tempted to hit Steam and buy that.
Of course, with Doom that was never on CD, that was a bunch of floppies and not many modern computers have those any more.
But this has got me wondering, what do you do?
Are you happy to buy a game, or any product for that matter, more than once; or are you someone who steadfastly refuses to buy anything a second time (unless it’s physically broken?)
Posted by Stropp on
December 10, 2013
It’s been a while, so I thought I might let you guys know what I’ve been up to.
Aside from working, busy there, I’ve been getting a little gaming time in over the last few months.
I have pretty much cooled off on this one. Still occasionally get the urge to play but it doesn’t last long once I’ve logged in.
I’ve been playing more Terraria than anything else. Mostly just digging and exploring and getting nuked by the imps once I’ve reached the Hell layer. I probably need to set a few goals to gear up before those layers.
I’ve done a little bit of Neverwinter. I have run into a snag with one of my characters by having completed all the quests up to level 15/16 by level 14 and now can’t effectively beat the L16 bosses in a quest. And I’m not sure how to level without just grinding.
It doesn’t really capture me either. It just feels too linear.
World of Warcraft
I resubbed to WoW the other day, just out of boredom, and from reading Wilhelm Arcturus’ account of his return to Warcraft. I started the patching process and got to playing but ran into driver problems. After updating the video drivers I found WoW started crashing my ADSL, probably due to the updating process. It crashed when updating when not playing, and also while playing.
I’ve had this happen once or twice before with other games updating or downloading, but with WoW it seems a lot more persistent.
I’m thinking seriously of a new computer, mine is six years old and no longer effectively plays newer games. (Bioshock Infinite crawls like a snail.) I’ll probably update the modem at the same time.
I’ve spent a little on Steam sales over the last few months too. Bought a few early access games: Godus, some of the Zombie survival ones, and some others. The good ones seemed to also require a better PC, some didn’t catch my attention, and others were perhaps too early access for me. Those look like they’ll be good but not yet.
I started Wizardry Online when it first came out. Didn’t really care much for it back then, but I was curious to see if it had improved.
The worst thing was the slow typing quest text. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there had been little of it, but it went on, and on, and on. So much so that the devs had a in-game joke with one character repeatedly interrupting for more text. Ugh.
It’s also very very empty.
Other than that, I’ve been doing a little reading. Slowly getting through A Dance With Dragons. About a third to go. It was hard getting into this one, but I’m hooked now and progressing faster. I like that some of the earlier characters are getting some time again. I was feeling like I missed Arry. Tyrion just keeps getting in deeper and deeper. But no expectations. Red Wedding anyone?
It’s been a tough year business wise. Really hard getting new clients. It feels at times nothing is working, but now it appears some of my efforts are paying off. I spent $4K on a marketing program for tech businesses which has been brilliant and I feel like things are happening because of it. Still just got to keep at it. And looking forward to the Christmas break. I’ll still be available for work but I might leave the alarm off in the morning.
As I mentioned, I’m strongly considering a new PC. I just have to decide if the budget will cope with it, and how much to spend. The place I’ll be buying from has a number of models, but I’m deciding between a hex core with 16GB RAM and a hex core with 32GB. Frankly the 32 is very tempting, but budget might dictate the 16Meg instead. And of course, if I want 32 later it’s just an upgrade (maybe just a couple of extra sticks.)
Anyway, enjoy your holiday break and always remember: Winter is coming.
Posted by Stropp on
December 10, 2013
It really comes as no surprise to read that the NSA has been infiltrating online games looking for information and to recruit ‘agents.’ Spy agencies have been going where people hang out for decades in order to reach their recruiting goals. It’s just that a recent Snowden revelation has exposed the truth that everyone has known for ages, or at least suspected: that spy agencies have been recruiting through World of Warcraft.
Still, I wonder if Blizzard could help them out a little. Be patriotic and all that.
With the upcoming expansion, good ol’ Blizz have been fiddling with the looking for group tool again, to make it easier for group leaders to filter out players they don’t want.
Could they include a “Looking For Spook” option and give the NSA players the ability to filter on people willing to spy on other players?
But on the other hand, I wonder how the NSA folks have the time to spy and recruit anyway, what with all the raiding going on.
Posted by Stropp on
July 18, 2013
I wasn’t too impressed when I heard the XBox One announcement earlier this year. A lot of people weren’t, especially about the DRM, always online, needs to connect one a day ‘features’ that Microsoft were promising.
Well, the inevitable backlash that followed caused MS to backdown on a bunch of this stuff, but there were a few features that concerned me that are still there.
The Kinect requirement in particular.
It turns out the XBox One won’t work without a Kinect. I think it’s part of Microsoft’s agenda to force the entire world to wave their arms about like demented Macaulay Culkins that is in play here, but to me, I think this is completely unnecessary. I’ve been happy to turn on my 360 for 7 years now (wow, has it been that long?) using the remote, or by simply pressing the button. Have these options been removed now? Is this the Windows8ification of the XBox, removing useful features to force a new paradigm?
For me, where I live there’s not much space. It’s pretty cramped. My furniture currently obscures some of the Xbox, and there’s no room to get up and wiggle for the Kinect, let alone workout to the Prancercise game. (Sorry for inflicting that on you.) I’ll just be leaning back on the couch with the controller thank you very much.
Apparently, the Kinect option also listens for the users voice commands even when the console is turned off. Game Politics wonders if the Guv will use it to spy on XBox users even when the console is switched off. NSA paranoia is everywhere these days. For good reason. Lord, protect us from those who think they know what is best for us.
Luckily, I always turn my XBox off at the switch when it’s not in use. Need to save all the power I can these days, the bills are getting ridiculous. Sorry NSA boffins, no video of me prancercising in the nuddy, or audio of me musing on the meaning of life, or cussing out the utility companies.
Still with all these downsides, I’m very tempted to get one. Maybe not at launch, that will depend on budget and time, but perhaps sometime in the near future after release.
When the 360 was released, there was one game that was the seller for me, the main reason to buy the console. That was Oblivion. This time Forza 5 is the bait in the trap.
And maybe I’ll experiment with the Kinect. Try sticking some Bluetack over the microphone. Duct tape the camera. Then waiting to see how long it takes the secret police to turn up on my doorstep.
I wonder what the weather is like in Guantanamo this time of year?
Posted by Stropp on
July 16, 2013
Wilhelm has a post up at TAGN where he makes the following observation:
MMOs have become pizza. They vary a bit from vendor to vendor. You might not like the ingredients from one, and another might not keep their place very clean. But they are all round and share about the same set of toppings and what not. And if you like pizza, you will probably find a place that suits you.
The purpose of Wilhelms post is to share his past ideas about Pizza, err, MMOs; but tangentially my brain works. And it provides a nice little stepping point for an idea that’s been circulating around that confused maze of neural pathways that is my head for a little while now.
I like Pizza. Quite a lot actually. A good pizza is something to behold, and it’s probably one of the most popular takeaways/deliveries here in Australia and has been for years.
But, I don’t want Pizza every night. I like variety. I love Indian food too. Add to that Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Sushi, BBQ Chicken & Chips, and all sorts of cuisines. I have wide tastes in nearly everything. But I find if I indulge in anything too much I get sick of it, and sometimes simply can’t stand the thought of it anymore. That’s only temporary of course, and I find myself coming back and ordering Pizza again, but usually months later.
So, what’s the point of all this? As Wilhelm says, MMORPGs these days are Pizza. Nearly every MMORPG running today operates off the same principles, and has the same features.
It kind of reminds me when I was growing up. Adelaide during the 70′s and early 80′s didn’t have much variety in fast food. There were the Pizza places, Chinese restaurants were popular, and the standard fast food joints (fish and chip shops that specialized in fried food, and some Yiros places.) It wasn’t until the mid to late 80′s that we started to see the cafe culture arise, and other styles of food become popular enough to support a restaurant culture. We’re still slow. Up until a couple of years ago, there were only a few sushi places around, but now they’re popping up everywhere.
The MMORPG scene started off at the opposite end of the spectrum. Every early MMORPG was different. Sure the basic principles were the same, but look at games like UO, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars: Galaxies… Same principles, but different games, different styles.
Look at what is popular now. Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, Rift, Guild Wars 2. Same principles, yes, but mostly the same features, same styles, almost the same games. There are some outliers here, I think the Secret World is one of those. It’s style and progression system are different, but the game itself doesn’t vary that much from what has come before.
So here we are. The MMORPG genre has homogenized into a collection of games that are essentially variations of World of Warcraft. Rather than each of the early MMO games branching out and developing their own sub-genres, they instead merged, publishers and developers driven by desire to emulate the massive success of World of Warcraft; but none of them near as successful. Simply because, to stretch the analogy, WoW is still the most popular Pizza place, despite reaching for the lowest common denominator to gain the biggest possible market share. Don’t forget Pizza Hut and Dominoes make terrible pizza, but they’re still extremely popular.
Another thing Wilhelm noted was that there aren’t any MMORPGs scheduled for release, or update this year. Too be honest, I haven’t been following the up and comers, but I don’t remember the last time a year went by without at least one major release. Is the MMO bubble bursting? Are developers finally realizing that there are too many Pizza places now in the market?
I do hope so. I’m sick of Pizza. I’m in the mood for Mexican.