More war, and Steam’s holiday sale being meh

December 29, 2011

Good times are here again!

And by good times I mean another war-dec. A random Corp has declared against us, and everyone in the Corp is pretty excited to bring out some PvP ships and see what happens. The guys had a small skirmish last night that ended in two wrecks, and we expect more action tonight as well.

In non-EVE news, has anyone else not been that thrilled with the Steam holiday sale? Each day I take a look at what’s offered, and each day I come away not impressed. Was it just a down year for gaming? For instance, I almost picked up Two Worlds II, but then thought about it and realized I’m most likely buying a lesser version of Skyrim, and I’m not finished with that game just yet.

Just seems odd, as I remember last year I picked up a good number of titles, and I was looking forward to the sale this year.

EVE: Ships, lots of ships!

December 27, 2011

Over the holiday weekend INQ-E went shopping and picked up a BPC of every T1 ship in EVE off a contract, giving all of us a nice big goal to work towards, along with hopefully a solid source of ISK. The purchase gives us a more direct “why” for our mining Ops, and gives everyone the opportunity to do some market scouting to identify which ships should be produced first, and where they should be sold. As our production machine gets rolling, I’ll track our progress and provide some commentary here. Tips from EVE marketing vets are more than welcome of course.

EVE-related blog post notice: If you would like to join us, comment here or shoot me an email. If you don’t have an EVE account, I’m more than happy to send a 21-day trial invite, and split the PLEX-related profit if you decide to sign up. Again just comment or email me.

SW:TOR – Unreal

December 24, 2011

This can’t be real life right?

First they LotRO us with “number of character created” (how many people are sitting on 8 character to reserve Hannn Solololo?), Xfire us with “hours played” (I wonder if people play a game more when it’s first released?), and then admit they have just over 1m accounts atm? What happened to all that 4m+ boxes talk? Are 75% of SW:TOR customers stuck at account creation?

critics around the world are giving the game high praise for dramatic, genre-changing innovations in the MMO category

Can someone please find whoever reviewed SW and thinks it’s genre-changing? What forum was EG reading?

Is it 3 months yet?

What 2012 may bring

December 23, 2011

Stealing a blog post idea from TAGN today (not that he invented it, but reading his sparked mine, so yea). MMOs in 2012.

EVE: Assuming the server is still up (bhahaha), I’ll be playing EVE. My last go with the game lasted a little under a year, although back then I was more or less ‘doing it wrong’ and stupidly burned myself out more than anything. Part of my motivation to start my own Corp was to avoid that fate. So far so good. And with CCP recently stating that more Crucible-like expansions/patched are in store for 2012, I think everyone playing with have plenty to be happy about. How Dust 514 fits into EVE, and how that game itself plays, will also be interesting.

Darkfall: Will Darkfall 2.0 come out in 2012? Is it vaporware? Is Darkfall itself going F2P or being bought by someone else? Or is Aventurine in a better spot now with some extra funding, and can finally ‘finish’ what they started? I’m hoping the latter is true, because Darkfall did a lot of things right (best combat system in any MMO, ever), and in its prime it was some of the best MMO gaming I’ve ever played. In a genre where voiced text is seen as significant, and where the ability to experience all of the content solo is seen as a huge plus, we need more games like Darkfall that actually do something other than rehash EQ1 with a bigger budget.

Guild Wars 2: I was not overly impressed with GW2 at PAX. I don’t believe it will cure cancer like some are convinced it will. It’s number three on my list for 2012. But with all of that said, it’s number three because the rest of what’s coming or is out is horrible, so here’s hoping GW2 is better than what I experienced, and actually brings something new and worthwhile to the table in 2012. Assuming it launches of course.

The rest: Will Dawntide every get itself together? Is that Pathfinder MMO a hidden gem? Will WoW go F2P before SW:TOR does? Is 38 Studio’s Copernicus EVER going to be released? Are we finally going to get details on how Blizzard is going to tackle the Farmville market with Titan? Are all of the horrible looking MMOs (FireFall, ArcheAge, Tera) really that horrible? Is it possible that everyone on the internet is going to be playing LoL by the time 2012 ends? Am I still going to be the #1 WoW blogger on the web?

We’ll find out in 2012 (except for that #1 WoW blogger thing, that’s a total lock)

LoL: Human stupidity proudly on display

December 22, 2011

I’ve not had a LoL post in a whole because my time with the game is pretty minimal of late (EVE+Skyrim=GG), but this thread about the Tribunal and people being banned is pure gold.

What always amazes me is just how utterly stupid people can be. Not only are they such scum that they get banned from a game like LoL by the Tribunal, but then they are stupid enough to ask why, and THEN they are defiant when given an answer.

Take this winner: “I don’t care, I won’t get banned”. Guess what shitbrick? You got banned. AND THEN YOU WONDER WHY?

Tard – “the 2nd time.. first time ok.. but 2nd time no.”

Not only stupid enough to get banned twice, but then stupid enough to suggest the second time was unjust.

Pendragon – Really? You say racist things and are surprised that you were punished?
Tard- @^: I say ‘**gga’ as a joke when I talk to my friends, I don’t mean it in a racist form at all. :l

Pendragon – Drawing pictures with wards….

Tard – I would like you to check out my 3rd ban. I think that after 2 bans, I learned my lesson and I didn’t troll anymore. I didn’t think my 3rd ban was reasonable.
Pendragon – Had I reviewed this case instead of the Tribunal, the outcome would have been: Punish // This is the most borderline one I’ve seen so far though, you’re on the road to never showing up in the Tribunal again. Keep it up!
Tard – Thanks! I try my best to not troll. Do I get subtracted suspension days? D: I WANNA PLAY ITS CHRISTMAS BREAK!

This one stands out to me. You got banned TWICE already for being a troll. You ‘tried’ not to troll after, but still did it enough to get a third ban. But hey, good effort? Wtf… It’s not like trolling is some race, where someone ‘wins’ and does not troll and the genetic failure that comes in last just earns ‘troll’ by default. Either you are a waste of space and troll, or you don’t. Black/white stuff here. And I would LOVE to know what constitutes borderline trolling, because I guarantee 99.99% of people would vote not to play with this guy if they saw it.

Tard – heh go for it. my account becomes unbanned tomorrow and it’s my first ban. honestly i’m just wondering what it was. If it’s anything regarding feeding or the like i’d say it was troll reports because i have never fed, bad games sure but feeding is wasting my time. My honest guess is probably downright vulgarity.
Pendragon – Had I reviewed this case instead of the Tribunal, the outcome would have been: Punish // telling people to go kill themselves, racism, general poor sportsmanship
Tard – edit: Worth it.

How is the above not a follow-up perma-ban?

The price of being in a pool of 15m or more I guess, but ugh.

EVE: Orca purchase, region chat

December 22, 2011

While one of my pilots trains to fly an Orca, I’ve been checking contract listing for the ship daily in the hopes of catching a deal. Such a deal came yesterday, as someone had listed a rigged Orca for 300m ISK, about 100m below the average price. After checking the listed a few dozen times, trying to spot the scam, I decide it was legit and fly a shuttle over to the region to buy it. The listing was in low-sec, but I did not see much activity along the way, and the purchase was otherwise uneventful.

I noticed the region was the same one a Corpmate had spotted as a potential relocation spot, due to a few high-sec systems residing in the middle of low-sec. It seemed like an interesting spot, and since I was out in that area already, I figured I might as well keep scouting and check it out.

I found more players in the high-sec systems, and after some quick profile checks noticed most belonged to the PURgE alliance, which happen to have a public chat channel. I joined it and asked about the region, getting some very helpful information, and ultimately coming to the conclusion that this would not be the best spot for us.

The fact that EVE is played on one ‘server’ makes a lot of the above work.

Contracts, for example, are somewhat similar to a global auction house, but not exactly. They cost a bit more than local market orders, require you to physically be in the region to place a bid/buy order, and generally only work for high-end items, package deals, or stuff that can ONLY be sold through a contract.

In the case of my Orca purchase, the ‘why’ for the price listing had me curious. Did the seller intend to type 400m, hit 3 instead, and did not notice the mistake? Were they just looking to sell the ship quickly, perhaps because their account was running out and they needed the ISK to buy a PLEX (I’ve seen more than a few great deals spring up because of this, which is just another example of PLEX creating ‘content’ rather than simply being account time)? How close was someone else from buying the listing before I got it (it was posted that day, only a few hours earlier)? Whatever the story may be, I got a ship that will benefit my Corp greatly, at a price I’m very happy about.

As for the region itself; if EVE had traditional servers, one could easily imagine an alliance like PURgE being on one server, while my Corp and the rest of our region being another. Short of a server transfer, we would never interact. Yet in EVE we did, if only for a brief 30 minutes to chat. After, I went back to my region, they stayed in theirs, and life goes on. Yet that 30 minute talk was very important to me, because it helped guide a decision (move or not), and likely saved my Corp from having a tough go of things.

SW:TOR – How is the end-game?

December 20, 2011

Random thought: What if the end-game in SW:TOR is awesome?

Most people right now are talking about the leveling experience in SW. The pace, the voice, the story, the mechanics, etc. And rightfully so in many ways. Pre-release, almost all of the SW hype was centered around the 4th pillar, story, and how SW had that BioWare feel. And of course this lead others, myself firmly included, to question just how an MMO is going to profit from producing a sRPG with a monthly fee.

But what if the end-game is awesome?

What if raiding is as good as it was in 2005-6 WoW?

For one, it should solve the whole 6-month-death thing, right? I mean while WoW launched with a great leveling game, it was the end-game that RETAINED people, and that retention in turn lead to growth (people not leaving + people coming in = growth. People leaving + people coming in = stagnation/decline, depending on the rates). So if we assume SW has a great end-game, it should retain people at the level cap, while still being a draw for new people to come in and join in. Pretty basic MMO 101 stuff here.

But SW is not WoW. Well it is, basically, but WoW was not voiced. And that allowed Blizzard to pump out content at a good clip (yes, believe it or not, back in 2004-6 WoW actually got frequent updates that contained new, challenging content that ADDED ON TO THE GAME. How strange that during that time the game also grew. No connection, I’m sure). BioWare will either have to keep spending more cash-per-content and continue voicing everything, or change the formula for the end-game. And honestly, who wants to listen to the same voice acting the 400th time they attempt a raid boss? Why even bother, right? But if you take voice acting out of SW, is it still SW? Is the game good enough in all other areas to still justify the $15 a month?

Another factor: Raiders don’t like leveling. Oh some do, but how many times have we been told that the WoW leveling game got nerfed to allow raiders and arena players to ‘get to the real game’ and skip leveling? If you skip the leveling of SW, what was all that 4th pillar talk about? And, far worse, if you start nerfing the leveling game ala-WoW to cater to that crowd in SW, what does it say about the whole approach BioWare took?

Finally, if the reverse is true, and the end-game sucks because too much focus was put on leveling (4th pillar for life, yo), and the mechanics that made leveling enjoyable are a train wreck for end-game raiding/PvP (tell me if you’ve heard that one before), wtf do you expect people to do once they hear the voice acting? This is a pay-per-month MMO, right?

3-6 months can’t come soon enough!

EVE: INQ-E’s first Corp Op

December 20, 2011

Sunday night Inquisition FiS Division had its first corp Op, a little mining trip into a .5 system near us to grab some Kernite. It was a good night overall, and left us with a few goals to work towards.

The thing I like about mining Ops is they are low key. You don’t need a ‘full raid’ to start, you don’t have to end at a specific time, people can come and go as they need, and everyone can come and contribute, be it a pilot with a max-trained Hulk or someone in a frigate with mining lasers. It’s also a safe, semi-afk, guaranteed ISK process, allowing everyone to chat and get to know each other. It’s a good example of EVE, generally regarded as a ‘hardcore’ MMO, being far more casual with some of its group content than most games. And while mining was the example here, frigate PvP roams or group missions are also possible, and just as accessible.

The Op also encouraged our members to at least train up to a Retriever, while I’m now training towards an Orca. It will be interesting to see our progress here in terms of mining yield. By our next Op I fully expect us to more than double our total haul, and that’s without the addition of new pilots. The more ISK we haul in, the bigger our Corp goals can get, which in turn opens up new ‘content’.

Another interesting aspect of the mining Op is that our resident market man, Dex, now has a new research project, looking into the most profitable ores to mine and whether or not it makes sense to refine them (I originally picked Kernite because it’s the highest ore in our area of Empire, but it turns out it’s not the most profitable at current market prices).

As EVE vets know and new players hopefully learn, EVE only stays fun if you set goals for yourself. My overall aim with the Corp is to provide some short-term goals for our members, while also allowing them to pursue individual interests. In addition to the short-term, I’ll also establish some long-term goals to keep us focused. Right now one long-term goal is to look into low-sec living, or at least living in high-sec that boarders low-sec. We will see how that plays out after the holidays.

EVE-related blog post notice: If you would like to join us, comment here or shoot me an email. If you don’t have an EVE account, I’m more than happy to send a 21-day trial invite, and split the PLEX-related profit if you decide to sign up. Again just comment or email me.

Life after the AAA MMO

December 19, 2011

Last week I wrote about SW:TOR being a bad business deal (something I also stated more than a year go). Today I want to continue that line of thought, focusing on why I want current-day AAA MMOs to go the way of the dinosaurs, and why that would actually be good for MMO players.

Back when WoW was thriving, one major advantage many attributed to the game was its cost. The barrier of entry to produce something as polished and complete as WoW was seen as too high for most.

One complaint I’ve had about WoW has always been that Blizzard is too slow with their updates, and that for a game making billions, it sure does not seem like that from a content or tech perspective. If WoW is making Blizzard a billion or so a year, it should not be a question of which MMO delivers the most content. Or which MMO can do things all others can’t. In every single example, WoW should be at the top, and everyone else should be following behind as best as their far-more-limited budgets allow.

And that’s simply not the case. Be it content, graphics, server tech, innovation, etc, Blizzard is not leading the industry, and certainly not by the margin their profits (and one would think, budget) suggest. Yes yes tech spending/development is not linear, we all know that, spare me the comment. But if you are suggesting that spending 300m results in as much content/tech as spending 10m, WHY THE HELL IS SOMEONE SPENDING 300M!?

Speaking of 300m, BioWare with SW:TOR is not killing it either. Total amount of voiced dialog aside (super-critical in an MMO…), what exactly is SW:TOR doing to crush ‘lesser’ MMOs with tiny budgets? Rift cost 50m to produce, is SW far more polished? Does it look/run better? Is the total amount of content dwarfing what Rift has? And really, was Rift even that special? Yes its launch was solid and some systems (souls, beta-invasions) looked promising, but server queues were still rampant (as they are now in SW), balance was still dicey, total amount of content was average, and we all know what happened with the 1.2 patch. No surprising Trion is giving out 30 free days to former players.

My point is that spending at the AAA MMO level seems to get players very little, and that if the entire segment went poof, the genre itself would not regress to the MUD days. You would still have studios like CCP embarrassing everyone else in terms of server/client performance. You would still have tiny studios like Aventurine running servers that can (and did) support more players than WoW. You would still have games like Glitch, Terraria, or Minecraft (games that are as much MMOs as SW is an MMO) actually trying something new and succeeding. The biggest casualties with the death of the AAA MMO market would be Chuck Norris and Mr. T, who would need to find new sources of income, and all those waste-of-space studios that aim to rehash WoW.


Why SW:TOR is a big bad deal

December 16, 2011

Note: If you read blogs in absolutes, this post is not going to work for you.

The discussion around SW costing 300m or not, whether selling 4m box copies puts it in the black, or why anyone should care, is pretty complex. Actually it’s impossible for anyone to cover fully, and that includes BioWare, given the amount of unknown or yet-to-be-seen factors. But the day facts stop me from blogging is the day this site shuts down and I return to WoW atop a sparklepony to become the world’s greatest Panda. So here we go.

Why 300m matters: If you love SW content, then you now know what it costs to make it happen. Whether it’s actually 300m, less/more, it’s a lot of money. You can’t make an indy version of SW and have it resemble anything close to the current game. EA/BioWare are playing with a very serious risk/reward ratio here. If they don’t hit it out of the park, SW is not going to be a small footnote on the balance sheet. SW is either a smash hit and hits the mark, or it’s ANYTHING BUT a smash hit and fails. The farther from a smash hit it is, the greater the impact of that failure. This is not only significant for EA, but for the genre as a whole.

And that big number, 300m or something close, is further complicated by two other very important factors.

Factor one: Voice acting does not get cheaper the longer you do it. You don’t build a voice acting engine, and all content after is easier/faster because the engine is already in place. Voice acting is pretty close to a fixed cost (depending on who does the voice, of course), and unless BioWare moves away from it, all new content is going to include that cost. What this means is that unless SW is a smash hit, BioWare can’t keep throwing money into a hole by producing more voiced content. No new content in a themepark MMO is one short step away from shutting the game down.

Another important aspect to voice acting is that it takes time. How much varies, but it takes time. And listening to voiced content is a hell of a lot quicker than producing it. For most players, they will listen once and hit spacebar the next time. That’s all well and good for most games, but is killer for a game expecting to keep you entertained long-term.

Factor two: The game uses the SW IP. This further cuts into profits, and significantly, compared to something like WoW. Blizzard is only paying Blizzard for the rights to use the Warcraft IP, while BioWare has to give George his cut. This again factors into the decision to make new content, or to even keep the game up. History is very quick to point out that when an IP-based MMO is not performing, it gets the axe rather than the out-to-pasture treatment. Again, if the game is a SMASH HIT, George is happy, Bioware is happy, and blasters-to-the-face rolls on. The moment the whole equation stops working, bad things happen, and quickly.

Why you should care: If you like SW, you should want more of it. And the only way you are going to get more of it is if you and a million or so other people stay subbed.  And stay subbed for a long time.

I love Skyrim, best single player game out in years, but whether I play Skyrim for a week, a month, or ten years, so long as I bought it Bethesda sees my “more of this please” vote and is one customer closer to producing more stuff I want.

BioWare seeing your $60 is not enough. BioWare entertaining you for 3 months is not enough. They need you to pay that $15 a month for a long ass time to make SW ‘worth it’. So if your attitude is “I know SW is not going to keep me for a long time, but it’s going to be a fun month”, know that you are basically making my point. I’ve never said SW won’t be fun-enough for some. I’ve never said the entire game is a giant pile of fail (at least not in any seriousness). What I have said, and again, what you state to support me, is that SW is a horrible pile of fail when it comes to being an MMO, and that exact reason is people playing it just for that one month of fun.

One month of fun would be bad enough for a regular MMO. SW is not a regular MMO. It’s the most expensive MMO ever, and it’s tied to a very pricey IP. It’s also potentially the make-or-break title for the ultra-pricey themepark model. If SW fails, you might not see another game of its kind.

And that last bit is why I’m rooting so hard against it. I want the AAA themepark model to die. It’s a complete waste of dev time, it teaches gamers horrible habits for MMOs, and it makes some devs (Mythic, Trion) do some incredibly stupid stuff instead of producing stuff I want (DAOC2, beta-Rift).

The above paragraph is of course all personal, but the stuff above that is not. Fact is, SW absolutely HAS TO BE A HIT, and not just by selling 4m boxes, but by keeping at least a sizable chunk of that base paying for MONTHS after release. If SW dips in popularity after 6 months, it won’t just get a slightly smaller dev staff and keep on keeping on. Nor will the genre as a whole. If you like AAA themeparks, SW might be your only hope.

Should be a fun 3-6 months, in-game or otherwise.



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