On second thought, the hobby horse seems very reasonable

December 13, 2012

Pay to Travel, Turbine style.

It’s going to be a really sad day when LotRO shuts down, because this kind of entertainment is almost priceless, and I’d hate to rely solely on SOE to provide it.

(This is the part of the post where I mockingly predict the next ridiculous item Turbine will sell, but I just can’t do it. After a $50 hazing implement and P2Travel, what’s left? BiS gear sets for $7000? $5 Hotbars? $6 for a token that promises not to sell your credit card info to shady Russians?)

Darkfall: Beta blues

December 12, 2012

Darkfall Delay; part 72,343.

First off, massive points for announcing the delay minutes before you are set to go live. There is trolling, and then there is AV. Just next level stuff that gets forumfall to exactly where it needs to be; on the bleeding edge of suicide (get it). The delay sucks, but at least beta is going to start Monday (hahaha).

Having the beta sucks a lot more though. We live in a world where everything in an MMO is known and well documented before the game even comes out, so it would have been fun to have everyone go in blind for DF:UW. Especially because DF is a virtual world rather than a generic themepark, so things like city locations, farming spots, and builds matter more here than knowing the layout of the next zone in something like GW2.

Having this beta and letting organized guilds pre-plan everything is also going to take away some potential fun. Pre-beta, everyone was going to scramble and take cities they believed would be worthwhile, but that very well could have ended up with powerhouse guilds in below-average cities. That would have resulted in motivation for sieges and conflict. The pre-release meta-gaming was already great fun, with alliances spreading misinformation about their plans and where they will go.

With beta, all of this will be known, and so the most powerful alliances will grab the best locations, while the have-nots will have to settle for lesser spots. That right there will reduce conflict, at least initially. A pity.

Another pity is what day one will look like now vs in a no-beta state. Without beta, day one would have been a wild scramble with unpredictable results. With beta, organized clans will be following a tight script for success, while those less organized will instantly fall behind much further than they would have otherwise. The scramble would have been a chaotic mess of fun. The script execution will be doing what needs to be done, which is important and ultimately leads to what we want (winning), but short-term is a lot less fun.

Of course things could be a lot worse. Instead of a delay, Aventurine could announce that they plan to sell UI elements for $5 apiece in the cash shop, or mount skins for $50. They could have announced the addition of a new race, the pink anime bunny from outer space. Or a RM auction house. Or that they plan to add a new gear tier a week after release. Or that they have downgraded their graphics engine to EQ2-quality. Or just done basically anything that SOE has ever done.

Now that would be worth raging about. A delay? Welcome to Darkfall.

Kappa Sigma Turbine

December 5, 2012

Forumfall loves to bitch about Aventurine. It’s basically a tradition at this point, and it’s pretty well deserved considering DF2010 is (maybe) coming out 12/12/12. Like how hard would it have been for someone from AV to just provide a quick “don’t worry, first person view is in DF:UW”? Not that hard. And then we got the first role preview video, with 3/5 skills shown. Why did you not just show all 5? Because :AV:

But the MMO genre being as wonderfully entertaining as it is, you only have to take a small step back to realize :AV: or :CCP: is still god’s gift to gaming compared to SOE or Turbine. The latest pants-head development to fall out of the clowncar is the $50 hobby horse in LotRO. As others have mentioned, if this was an April 1st post it would fail because it would be too obvious, but no no, Turbine is serious.

Now sure, LotRO is already a F2P MMO, so the bar is meh high, but even at that level this is good stuff. First off, the ‘mount’ just looks stupid, in Middle Earth or otherwise. If it was a free drop for new players as their first mount, people would call it cyberbullying new players by making them ride around on something that looks so insulting and is often used as a hazing ritual. That Turbine wants $50 for it must be some social experiment (I think the question is “How many LotRO players would pay to get kicked in the balls?”), with the ultimate joke being on said players.

Because let’s make no mistake about it, LotRO players will buy this, just like WoW players got in line to buy a sparkle pony. We are not talking about the EVE playerbase that turned back CCP and Incarna here with the Jita Riots, we are talking about a F2P playerbase who already purchase The One Ring in their shop, and subject themselves to the game perma-spamming them to buy more every two seconds. Furthermore, if you think this is the only time this is going to happen (or even worse, that you think THIS is the START of a slippery slope…), let me introduce you to EQ2, a game basically funded on F2P dummies buying fairy wings, magic carpets, or whatever the SOE brain trust has devoted 90% of their development time and effort to. The only question left unanswered here is what will Turbine call the panda expansion for LotRO?

Bonus points to former MMO blogger Tobold for this gem as he attempts to defend Turbine:

Let me get that straight: You would rather that Turbine makes no money and shuts the game down than allow them to “break your immersion”? Sounds extremely selfish to me.

Because it’s either hobby horse or death people! That’s the only option in the MMO genre. Nothing else works. Providing a consistent, quality service and charging for it is for suckers. Massively successful games with a huge playerbase like EQ or LotRO are doing it right, and you are all just way behind the curve.

Never change F2P people, never change.

How to look senile (FBW Thursday edition)

November 15, 2012

Former MMO blogger Tobold is having a rough year. First his EVE prediction is set to be confirmed as idiotic in just over a month, the industry has nothing for him to play and banished him back to the tabletop, and ‘soon’ the reality that Darkfall is coming back for round two is once again going to haunt everyone’s favorite thin-skinned, hyper-sensitive whipping boy.

Of course, a track record a mile long of simply being wrong does not stop him from posting. He is very tackle-titan-Gevlon in that regard, though with less blog-editing-after-the-fact. Today’s troll bait, which embarrassingly I’m going to bite on (in part because, as is most often the case over in dream land, the commenters that don’t get filter out beg for my opinion), revolves around keeping/losing subscribers.

Much like predicting EVE shutting down because “financial reports don’t lie”, it seems the old man’s memory has also lead him to forget which MMO he is talking about here. Because I’m pretty sure making a post about losing subscribers over the last three years, with examples such as WAR, AoC, Aion, LotRO, SW:TOR, and WoW itself around, picking the hardcore niche PvP MMO from an indie studio that remained a sub MMO all three years and with an increased staff is launching a sequel ‘soon’ is a poor choice.

But what do I know. I’m pretty terrible at this predictions thing, having been totally wrong about SW:TOR 4th pillar in 2009, GW2 lack of progression dooming it, WoW with WotLK, LotRO selling its soul, Aion being Aion, Rift 3.0, Tobold rage-quitting blogging yearly, etc etc.

So let’s keep his little post in mind 6 months after DF:UW releases (so 2035), so we can all link back to it and write glowing posts about how Tobold was right about something in the MMO genre. First time for everything right?

Or, after said 6 months, we can link back to it much the same way we link back to the EVE prediction, and have a little fun while DF:UW is down for the expansion patch. Assuming, of course, Tobold is not on a rage-quit cycle.

Also how is he still screwing up FBW, posting this on a Thursday?

Bernie Madoff was a great investor. Used the wrong payment model.

November 8, 2012

“I think there will definitely be failures within the next 12 to 24 months. Many who are entering the market right now are doing it as almost a money-grab. But subscription is dead. [Star Wars:] The Old Republic was the biggest possible swing for the fences. There is no longer any argument over whether that can be done.” – Craig Zinkievich, COO of Cryptic Studios

Do you think Craig said/wrote the above with a straight face? And if so, do you think he really believes it? It would take a pretty epic level of stupid, but then this is someone from Crypic, so I’m kinda 50/50 on it.

On the other hand, Craig is right. The ‘argument’ that sub games can be done is indeed over, mostly because it was never an argument to begin with. Pretending WoW, EVE, Rift, etc don’t exist must be nice, but probably not helpful in terms of sanity. Maybe Craig will also consider the argument over once EA shuts SW:TOR down for good. Time for a new ‘6 months’ meme I guess.

“I suspect that if you’d launched Fallout 3 as a free-to-play title rather than paying $60 for the disc it would have had equal or greater success.” – Someone working on games not as successful as Fallout 3.

“Riot Games’ Brandon Beck sees the matter differently. As a co-founder of the company that created League of Legends, Beck is at the top of the West’s biggest free-to-play success story, and perhaps the most compelling example of a free game that rivals the experience of the very best $60 AAA products. However, he stops short of proclaiming a free-to-play Uncharted as inevitable – it’s an easy thing to say, but actually making it work would be a daunting challenge, with higher upfront costs than the typical free-to-play game.”

Great stuff right? The failures in the pack telling the ones who are successful how to do their job. How about instead of making F2P ‘awesome’ games like Star Trek or Champions Online, you make outdated and ‘dead’ model games like Fallout, Skyrim, or Grand Theft Auto? Maybe then you won’t get bought out?

This really hammers home a major problem in the industry today; devs think their shitty game doing poorly is not because they made a shitty game, but because ‘market conditions’ ‘payment model’ ‘timing’ ‘toothfairy’ etc. Try making a good game. I’m pretty sure more than enough people will drop $60 for it. Or if you want, try making a good game that is worth playing longer than a month, and I’m sure people will be willing to pay the measly sum of $15 a month to do it.

Or yea, keep making SW:TOR, Star Trek, Champions, WAR, LotRO, DDO, etc, and keep thinking it’s not the game sucking that’s the problem. The magic future where people pay for crap is coming.

Update: Magic future already came? Zynga made a lot of money selling trash games? Magic future is over now? Zynga is worth a buck? Damn.

So close Craig, so close.

The magic future should be here any minute now

October 12, 2012

The Massively comments section giveth once more:

My favorite part of F2P is how most people perceive converting to that business model is a failure when the two MMO’s on that spear headed the movement, LOTRO and DDO, saw revenue increases of 200-500%.Doubling your revenue will be the cancer that kills the industry apparently. – wakwazu

Yay regurgitating a (very old) PR release. It must be true.

Do NOT quote numbers that have NEVER been claimed and are not true. I am a long term shareholder in Time-Warner and I can for certain tell you that is and has never been the case. The gaming arm of Time-Warner has been losing money every year since the Turbine acquisition (look it up in their public documents) and has only been kept from complete disaster from their one-off titles, not their MMOs.

Turbine only ever claimed the doubling of revenue in their first quarter following F2P, when they still had long-term loyal customers. Now that they have completely alienated that base, they have never said anything about their revenue again since that time and choose to talk about their users (of which 90% don’t spend a dime on the game). Now Turbine is dealing with a shrinking paying customer base so they come up with increasingly more expensive expansions ($70 for Riders of Rohan) with less content than a typical expansions would hold.

Turbine may be making more money on F2P than they did on P2P, but it doesn’t mean they are making money. There is a big, big difference. – Stock


Well at least LotRO improved overall after going F2P, actually making money or not, right?

In the case of LOTRO specifically though, it is my personal opinion that WB’s greed spoiled the game after it went F2P. The in-game ads are garish and too numerous, “lockbox” drops too frequent, and the final nail in the coffin (for me) was the selling of improved stat gear (better than what crafters could create) in the cash shop. For me, LOTRO is a prime example of a great game sliding too far down the F2P “slippery slope.” – Eve

Clearly just one rogue opinion everyone! Surely LotRO players overall love immersion-adding in-game ads, The One Ring in the item shop, and being reminded to pay every few seconds. Sounds like the LotRO I originally hoped for back in 2007, that’s for sure!

But then, I’ve sorta forgotten what the um… mainstream MMO market is like, since I’ve been playing ‘niche’ titles like EVE for so long. Oddly I have a feeling Goonswarm has more active members than all the players logging into DDO today, and CCP is making money off EVE while LotRO is not, but still, EVE is niche yo, so it’s really apples to oranges.

Or rotting graves to fine wine, but whatever. Much like repeating “F2P is the future” every year, repeating that EVE is a niche game compared to… something will surely make it true eventually.

The long list of mass market MMOs that everyone is playing

October 2, 2012

So if you did not pick up on the fact that yesterday’s post was a long-winded setup to tell you that EVE is the best MMO ever, you are either new here or not paying attention. Also if you are someone who likes to dismiss EVE because it’s a niche MMO in a genre full of mass-market MMOs, this should prove educational.

Let’s cover the niche part first though, since it’s pretty easy. WoW is an outlier with millions of subs, so I’m going to put it aside for now. Yes, EVE is niche compared to WoW, but based on that logic GW2 selling 2m boxes is also niche because 12m subs > 2m boxes. Same goes for SW:TOR, LotRO (who had a lovely “come play with millions of others” ad campaign pre-release. How’s that working out for ya?), or… actually any MMO not called WoW in the NA/EU (silly Asia).

So WoW aside, how do the 400k subs (I know I know, it’s just one guy with 400k accounts, and he buys PLEX in-game so even he is not paying anything, but let’s pretend for a moment that somehow magically those 400k subs still somehow count as 400k x $15 per month for the sake of CCP’s revenue) stack up to everyone else? Well no one has 1m subs, so now we are talking thousands rather than millions.

A whole slew of ‘mass market’ MMOs are now F2P because not enough people found them worth $15 a month. SW:TOR, which will soon join the F2P fail-ranks because it could not keep its 500k or bust target, cost more money than any MMO before it, and EAWare famously stated that if you are not spending $300m, you can’t compete with WoW. I guess if you DO spend $300m+, you can’t compete with EVE either. In fairness to EAWare EVE probably cost somewhere close to 300m to develop as well. Well 300m Yen anyway.

GW2 just launched and rewrote the whole MMO formula, including that nagging issue of having to pay to keep playing, because really, who likes paying when you can get the exact same thing for free? Not surprisingly GW2 sold fewer copies than Skyrim though, another “buy the box and play forever” fantasy title. To be fair, Skyrim is in the more mass-market sandbox genre, while GW2 has to carry the heavy burden of being a themepark. Also the NPCs in Skyrim are more helpful and less likely to go poof after a month, and the dynamic events don’t repeat as often. Both games do feature loot piñata dragons, meh combat, and nice visuals. I’ll be kind and not compare the main storylines.

Rift is still a sub-based MMO, and it’s a mass-market themepark. It has fewer subs than ‘niche’ EVE if various data sources are to be believed, and somehow if Trion retained half a mil subs I think we’d here about it. Plus get back to me when Rift has 400k subs at its ten year anniversary. Hey only about 8 years to go, but to be fair when EVE launched it had way fewer subs too, so maybe Rift will grow much like EVE has. Maybe. That said, out of the last few years, Rift is the only major MMO to actually stay a sub-based MMO for a year+, so it would not be totally unreasonable to call it the most successful launch since… WoW?

So I ask, what ‘mass-market’ MMO are people talking about when stating EVE’s 400k subs is ‘niche’? I thought we got over the whole “WoW or bust” thing in 2007? Or are people really still thinking the ‘MMO market’ is 12m strong, and surely the NEXT title is going to hit that mark? Because if you do I’m sure EAWare has a spot for you on the team! Or maybe Funcom. Or Mythic. Wait is Mythic still a thing? No, why, what happened? Didn’t they have that huge surefire IP and mass-market MMO that was going to crush WoW? (I hate you whiteshades.)

And once you realize that 400k subs is not niche, but near the top of the not-WoW market, you can reasonably set expectations for design and market size if you are actually aiming to design a game that is intended to be played beyond the first month. You know, an MMO. Or what the old folks called an MMO before Anet came along and ‘fixed’ it for all of us.

Furthermore, if you can’t make $18m in yearly revenue work for you and your dev team (100k subs for a year, and assuming zero box sale money), you are doing it wrong. Probably to the tune of $300m wrong that leads the head doctors to call it quits because people pointed out that you delivered $300m worth of garbage while helping to shut down a game people loved (which may or may not have had more players than SW:TOR currently has actually playing).

But seriously, $18m a year is not peanuts, and I don’t think retaining 100k people for a year is asking for the moon. Hell, maybe would call that hyper-niche and laugh while they go back to their 1m+ subs MMO not called WoW, so it must be easy! And look, if EQ1 got 500k people back when you had to use a rotary dial to login, I’m pretty sure a team of devs can make something today to get 100k. Or 50k and try to survive off $9m in revenue. The horror.

Or you know, keep pumping out those ‘mass market’ MMOs all the kids are talking about. The ones just crushing it in terms of numbers like… WoW. Release in 2004.

Yea, those!


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