A Very Late 2012 Predictions Review

It dawned on my today that I never reviewed my 2012 predictions.  Probably because I decided not to do them for 2013, and promptly hid from myself the fact that I had done them last year.   But what the heck, after yesterday’s deep trip down memory lane, something light is called for.

 

1) FunCom will be FunCom…they will release a conceptually brilliant game long before it is ready, and oblivious to whether or not they have enabled their target audience to consume it

 

Well, The Secret World was clearly made for a certain target audience, and I would certainly consider the genre-bending TSW a conceptually brilliant game.  And they released it before it was ready.  None of this is surprising, and this counts as mostly a hit.  But…I think they did a great job prepping us for what kind of game it was and how it was going to play out.   This is a niche game and that was pretty clear in all counts, from the setting itself to the way characters were built, to the investigation and puzzle quests you encountered early on.  The only real headscratcher is why it wasn’t F2P to begin with –  I guess they needed a cash influx.  And I’m surprised they have not embraced more of the successful F2P options from other games – TSW would be the perfect game to introduce something like STO’s lockboxes or TOR’s cartel packs into.  But maybe scoring the latest pair of hotpants for your virtual Barbie doll is the most lucrative way to go.  How should I know?

 

2) Guild Wars will ship to much acclaim and joy, and find its niche…and then promptly fall off the radar, as people complete is PvE campaign in the course of a week and are left with nothing but hardcore PvP or the next $50 box drop.

 

Yes and no…GW2 apparently anticipated this and has made moves to put some emphasis and elbow grease into their dungeon system.  The end result seems to have pleased some people.  I’m not sure how big of a slice of the PvP pie its taking though.   I can’t imagine its all that much, or games like Darkfall and Camelot Unchained (or Defiance and PlanetSide 2 for that matter) would probably be crying and shaking their fists.  Still, I gotta call this one a miss.  There is plenty of PvE space to explore and the game is reasonably healthy – not to mention it is arguably a bigger success than its predecessor.

 

3) World of Warplanes Beta will come winging our way at some point during the year.  My guess is that it will not be nearly the success that World of Tanks has been.  Primarily because the inclusion of joystick support indicates that the basic keyboard controls are going to be awkward, and lets face it, that’s what most people use.  Again..that whole “know your target audience” mentality.

 

I actually have been in WoW since Alpha – it just took me awhile to find the invitation in my spam box.  :-p  And we are still under NDA, so I can’t tell you anything about this prediction really.

 

In other, completely unrelated news, I am considering downloading War Thunder.

 

ETA:  The NDA was actually dropped a few days ago and I missed it.   So I can be less subtle now – World of Warplanes is a mess.  It can’t decide if it wants to be an arcade shooter or a flight sim, and the parts of the World of Tanks model that were “adopted” in are problematic as well.   End result – people who came for arcade are frustrated, people who came for a flight sim are bored, and people who came from WoT are quickly in over their head.  Sign up and give it a try for yourself, but for my two cents, its a crash and burn.

ETA AGAIN: Turns out, they manage to fix World of Warplanes at the 11th hour, and I freaking love it. Who knew?

 

4) Dawntide may not survive another year.

It didn’t.  The website is still up but the game is all but dead.  Its a shame too, it was a very well designed sandbox.  I would have loved to live in it a while.

5) Sony will find a new flagship.  They have to, right?  I’m shocked that Everquest 3  took so long to get off the ground, even in whispered rumor form.  To be the advance they want it to be will require a full development cycle, which means we are looking at another 4 years probably before it hits.  So part B is this: I fully expect Sony to pick up distribution rights to ArchAge Online.  They have shown no qualms about bringing other people’s developments into their fold (Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea).  Pairing this with a PlanetSide 2 launch would mean fresh blood in the Sci Fi and Fantasy domains.  That’s not to say that ArchAge comes out way in 2012, but I think it will find a home in this time period (call that part C if you will).

ArcheAge found its home with Trion – a good move and I think AA and Trion both will profit from it (and word is it will hit this year).  Sony let PotBS go, and seems to be relying solely on PS2 as its flagship game these days.  Star Wars – The Clone Wars Adventures (“the other Star Wars MMO”) got a quiet makeover while nobody was looking, and now it really is an MMO instead of just being an ambulated amalgam of minigames.  Much to my son’s chagrin, when he started a new trooper character and had to quickly learn how to shoot his way through droids, follow maps and quest points, and do all this if he wanted to get to some of those minigames that he knows and loves.  Quite honestly, I wonder now if EQ3 will ever see the light of day.   Call me a doubter at this point.  But don’t call that a prediction.  Please?

6)  Titan will lose its codename and we will began to get some information on it.  Quite frankly, my belief is that if you’ve been holding it in your backpocket for over four years, without even giving a hint of what it is, its just as likely rotten eggs as it is a hit.   But I’ll be curious to see what’s been rattling around in the heads of Blizzard and whether or not this is the time to unveil it.

Everything I said about Titan above is what leads me to believe that EQ3 is in the same boat.  The drivel of information is tiny, and both those games have been in development for over a full cycle now.  Entire MMO’s have been conceived, incubated, and birthed in the time that we’ve been waiting for information about these two.  That can’t mean good things, because as I’ve learned over the last few years – if its ready to talk about it, companies will trip over themselves doing so.  And if its not, they will do and say anything to put a sheen over the fact that its ugly as sin or broken as a wagon with square wheels.

Most/Least Anticipated and Biggest Fail.

WildStar still looks terrible – but it didn’t launch in 2012.  And it turned out what became my biggest anticipation became my biggest fail – and its one I haven’t said one peep about.  Mechwarrior Online is terrible.  The game will be good one day, like, a year from now.  But they took money and made promises, and its going to be a long time before they deliver.   And they did a great job getting lots of people to part with their money by promising all sorts of grand things, like launching 8 months ago (the game is still in beta) and giving us tons of mechs (I think they might be up to their original twelve now).   And the game itself?  The UI is so bad  – or rather so nonexistent and uninformative, that you might as well be doing freeform roleplaying  on your neared RPG forums.   You will have no idea what’s wrong, how much armor you have left, why you missed, what your heat level will change by, and where anyone is.   And good luck communicating with your teammates.   Oi.

And Guild Wars 2?   Well, I have no real beef with it.  But I also just can’t seem to get into it.  It bores me.  And I hate that I have to go running back to the capital city every couple of levels for a new storyline quest.   And the races, outside of humans, are fugly and awkward to watch.  Okay, so maybe I have a few things against it, but overall its a good game.  Its just not my cup of tea right now.

Anyway, there is your 1300+ word wall of text for today.   Enjoy.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll have some screenshots to balance it out!

Quote of the Week

This time of the year really heats up for me, vocationally, so I apologize for the lack of posts.  I still have another post on Project Gorgon to pop out, and some other things floating around, but they will just have to wait.  For now though, I got  a chuckle from bhagpuss‘ comment on TAGN’s latest EQ2 nostalgia offering:

 

One thing you could never accuse SoE of is consistency, which is almost top of the list of why they’re my favorite MMO developers.

 

I thoroughly agree with SOE’s inability to handle any sort of consistency, but I’m not sure that is quite what endures me to them.  I suppose its the almost puppy-like sense of enthusiasm and the way in which the entire group seems to consist of “FIRE, AIM, READY” people, which is very much part and parcel to my personality as well.

Nefarious Payment Schemes

There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately.   Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon.  There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome.  And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting.  I don’t disagree with any of that.  I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.

https://i1.wp.com/nebsfunworld.com/images/uploads/arcade04.jpg
7000 tickets? Yeah, you can get any thing from those first 3 boxes on the top left.

But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that.  Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.

It requires deep investment by the players.  So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.

It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it.  You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results.  That end game prize will continue to elude you.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions.  Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme.  It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.

Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities!  Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.

Well I do.  So lets just get it out in the open:  where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding?  You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better.  The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in.   The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time?   The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?

Where’s the angst over that?  Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.

EQOA Is Closing Its Doors

First I got the email, and then I went immediately to see what Stonee had to say.  I agree with most everything he has to say.  I do commend SOE for giving us the rest of the month free.  I’m on the road until Friday, but you bet your boots I will be firing up the PS2 this weekend.

 

My first thought is wondering if there is a way I can rig the TV to take some screenshots.  There are so many places and things I want to capture before the place goes into the dark void of internet land.  (Wonder if they are wiping the servers or if  they might be willing to sell them…probably not, copyright info and all that jazz.)   Anyone have ideas on that?

 

Anyway, there is some grief there, but I’m holding it at bay with the simple thought that this game lived far beyond where I thought it would.  And that I had literally years to play the game and never did.  But then I hear the distinctive sound effects of the game (which I will be recording no doubt) and it shakes me a little.  The opening music, the confirmation “bloop” and so on.

 

And…I’m already wondering where I should be when the lights go dim.  For some reason it seems important to decide where to park my character when the game ends.  My old guild all jumped their characters into the volcano outside Klik’anon.  But I chose long ago to eschew that tradition.

 

Qeynos Prison seems appropriate symbolically – my characters trapped in bits and pieces, like Moriarty on the holodeck.   And because I spent so much time grinding there.  But then Highbourne cavernous secret cabal area under the main city was one of my main haunts.   And of course Darvar Manor was the social hub of the game when I was playing.  Or maybe I end where it all begin, the gleaming towers of Fayspire.

 

Anyway, I have some  time to decide.  If anyone wants to join me at the end, that would be neat.  The game deserves more of an ending than a few lonely old veterans solo at their favorites haunts, that’s for sure.

 

When I started the game, I chose Ferran’s Hope server, simply because the name appealed to me.  And perhaps that’s what hurts the most right now.  When the servers shut down, hope is gone.  I will never ago set foot in the land of Norrath as it existed 500 years before Everquest.

 

But perhaps its also a chance to explore what is, to me, the “future” Norrath, as it exists *in* Everquest.    Maybe hope is not gone after all.

 

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight, I’m getting all sappy.   I’m sure I’ll have another post on it later.

Should Vanguard Go F2P?

This started as a comments discussion on The Ancient Gaming Noob’s page about EQ2’s move to F2P, and is quickly expanding.  And my general rule is: your blog, you get the last word.  Its a reasonable assumption, and I think Wilhelm made his points well.  But I want to continue to expand my thoughts on the subject.  And here, I get the last word! Bwahaha!

@HZ – But you’re missing the point. That there is little in the way of downside is nice, but there is no real pay off likely for investing in Vanguard. And without a pay off, what is the point?

Do you really believe that if Vanguard went to this new model, that it would attract enough new players to not only pay for all the work and additional overhead, but would also make a profit on top of that.

…Vanguard, like a lot of games, has a small, loyal following, but it is never going to have more than that. Be happy that SOE keeps it alive at all.

…The game is not poised for success, lacking only in customers. It is a basket case and, having gone back to play it again in April, it still feels about like it did on day one.*

I don’t really care at this point whether or not Sony keeps it or tosses it, because I’m not a subscriber, and I won’t be unless something changes.  Not that I hate Vanguard (there’s few, okay, maybe no MMO’s that I just plain hate) but its not worth $15 a month – primarily because of the lack of playerbase.  This was, as I see it, the same problem that DDO faced before it went F2P.

Basically the quote above makes three assumptions to reach its conclusion.  We’ll take them one at a time:

Assumption #1:  Transitioning Vanguard to F2P requires a significant investment of time, money, and energy.

I believe this is a false assumption.  What resources are needed to make Vanguard F2P?  We can be reasonably certain that Sony did not decide to make the jump to F2P for EQ2 until they saw the success of DDO.  And DDO’s success was not certain until signaled by Turbines willingness to move LotRO to F2P.  That move came less than two months ago – and EQ2 F2P is already up and running as an Alpha, with Beta coming in 3 weeks time.  If Sony can roll out an entire reboot of EQ2 in that time period, there can be no real argument for what little work would need to go into Vanguard.  Even with far less developers supporting it!

Assumption #2:  Sony would only undertake this venture if it guarenteed profitability for Vanguard

The game is on the ropes, and we all know that.  Current players on the official forums have noted that the game has even less developer support than Matrix Online did before they axed it.  It looks like there may soon be a server merge down to one server, etc.  But Sony – well, say what you will about them, they have a long history of keeping games afloat long after their profitability has passed as a gift to gamers.  A good example would be EQOA.  The PS2 variant of Everquest that I cut my MMO teeth on in 2003 is still up, running, and live.  You cannot in any way convince me that there are enough people there for the game to be profitable, yet it trudges onwards.  So what does Sony have to lose in Vanguard by making a change?  Is it somehow possible that Vanguard would make *less* money if it went F2P?  I can’t imagine that it would.  And even if it did – Sony is already losing money on it, so, what’s the big deal?

Assumption #3:  Vanguard is still only a half-completed game, without the polish and content of DDO

Whew.  I’m not sure what to do with this one.  It was buggy at times when I last played, which was GU #4, but that was over two years ago, and even then, it wasn’t buggy enough that I cancelled my sub because of it, and I CTD more often in EVE than I ever did in Vanguard…

As for content – the one thing I never lacked for in Vanguard was content.  Our little group of three actually was divided for awhile on what content we should be tackling because we had so many choices.  Some of the dungeons, in particular the outdoors one for level ~15 on Qalia, was magnificent.  And you already have prebuilt avenues for revenue in the game – player owned housing, player owned boats, flying mounts, etc.  Each continent is really self contained for quests, etc.  So you could even limit the game that way as well.

So I cannot in any way characterize the game as a basket case.  It works, it works well, and its fun to play and gorgeous to look at.  Furthermore, I can’t imagine that DDO was “poised for success” when it went F2P.  The complaints about DDO were numerous and serious enough that its one of the only major MMO’s that I’ve never tried even on a trial basis!  Amazing isn’t it how those complaints were reduced in light of opening the gates for free play?  We can easily blow downsides out of proportion when we can’t find ways to work around them or live with them – and that can only happen if you are playing the game.  With Vanguards content and player options, I would think there would be enough upside there to entice players into at trying it – not unlike many people’s feelings about DDO when it made this transition.

Bottom Line:  I don’t buy into the assumptions.

I think there are some reasons why Sony decided not to go F2P with Vanguard – probably biggest among them being whatever Live Gamers contract they had for the Exchange in Vanguard.  Perhaps they are still thinking that the games hardware requirements are too steep to intice a large audience.  This may have some truth to it, but I think the game’s requirements are no longer as steep as they once were, given the advances in graphics and core processors in the last couple of years.   But I could still respect that as a legitimate concern in the process.

I think another reason is that Sony didn’t feel like they needed to test the waters, because they felt Turbine had already done this for them.  So they went ahead and jumped in the deep end of the F2P pool.  That may come back to haunt them later on.  Ultimately though I think that this is an issue of corporate shortsightedness.  There is nothing to be lost really by making Vanguard F2P, but they don’t think they will lose anything from EQ2 either.  That too, may be problematic.  Why?

From my viewpoint this is kind of a loss for Sony.  Their flagship game, that I have spent over $100 on this year just made a move that will insure that I don’t spend any money on it next year.  While their game that I would enjoy shelling out for a silver membership + some cash shop upgrades continues to remain out of reach.  The loss for Sony is our gain though, for the time being.  I fully intend to play the heck out of a free EQ2 this fall.  And who knows, maybe if  successful, it will entice them to open up Vanguard as well.

* TAGN is one of my favorite bloggers.  I’ve used his comments as a jumping off point for this post, but I have respect for him and do not intend this as a personal attack.

Last Gasp for SWG, PotBS?

Is it just coincidence that Star Wars: Galaxies and Pirates of the Burning Sea are both offering up a full month of free time right now?  Or is something else lurking behind the emails sitting in my inbox offering me more free time than Sony is usually want to give for teaser sessions?

Is this SW:G final stand?

SWG is, overtly, rolling out some new PvP content that they want people on board for – but all the extra items and goodies they are offering with the free time highlight player housing – something more of an investment (and PvE nature) than PvP is.  In other words, they want the full spectrum of players on board.  Free play lasts until March 1st.

PotBS is highlighting their server merges (down to 2 from 5).  Trust me, I know from first hand experience how desperate the player base was for this.  My mid 20’s privateer regularly got invited to fleet battles with 40-50th level players, because they couldn’t fill their quota, and one more ship, even a small one, might be enough to tip the balance.  Interestingly, there is no word in the email of economy changes and updates, which are the core of whats wrong in Pirates.  Free play lasts until March 5th there.

On the one hand, this makes sense.  For those disappointed with Star Trek Online, and there are some, they need a fix.  Offering them a SWG, with its similiar high profile IP makes sense, as does offering up Pirates, a game that admitedly, offers game mechanics very similar to that offered on STO.  Covering this month gives them a chance to hook the disaffected, and perhaps those disaffected will stick around and bring in some of those that will not stay around past the free month of STO.

Beneath the surface though, lies the fiscal reality of Sony.  Sony is only just now getting back onto its feet after a year of losing money.   Giving a free month now means they can track how many people will stick around past the free time for the last month of their fiscal year, which ends March 31st.  If the free time doesn’t boost numbers by a certain amount – will that mean that they get chopped?

For me personally, I’m not sure a return to Pirates is in order.  The underlying frustration with the economy is not solved by more players – at least, not in the short term.  The only way to acquire ships abover level 25 or so is to join one of the pre-existing guilds, and even finding new ships below that is dicey.  Meaning that playing anything other than a pirate (with their ability to capture vessels) is frustrating.  With a larger player base things might turn over (it takes *alot* of players to build a ship, especially the high level ones), but not unless those players are sticking around long enough to build their economic empires.

Star Wars, on the other hand, is intriguing.  I really only stopped playing SWG because I wanted to participate in the launch of WAR, and I’d really like to give it another shot.  Crafting and economics were fun, space combat was good.  Population was – sparse and irritating.  But I’m sure the server mergers have helped.  I seem to remember somewhere though that since I didn’t transfer the characters, I’m going to have to start from scratch.  Only one way to find out…