If you thought paying for levels was bad…

Next thing you know, they will be handing them out for free.

Oh wait…

free levels

Of course, not all levels were created equal, but there you have it.

Now if we could just convince Sony to give us free levels in Vanguard. I mean, the double XP is nice and all, but I really just want to be able to wander the world unfettered at this point.

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Gutted.

Man…I have to be honest, the SOE apocalypse is gut wrenching to watch. I’ve read through the Vanguard closing thread on the forums, and that was some of the most painful shit I’ve ever read. Yes, there are one or two people being assholes, but even with them, they can’t quite get it right because it hurts too much.

The Reddit AMA that happened today is even worse. Think its bad when adults lose their virtual homes? Try reading from the 14 year old girl who has just heard the news. Smed says he will get it worse than everyone though:

Two questions from my 9yo daughter about Free Realms closing down: “Do you think if we played Free Realms more they won’t shut it down?” and “Why?”

[–]j_smedley[S] 30 points 3 hours ago

First off – I have to go home after this and tell my 12 year old daughter Rose that her favorite game is going away. I assure everyone out there that I will catch more grief from her than anyone else. She easily plays the game 20 hours a week (ok stop judging me other gaming parents.. it’s a friendly game for kids). It makes me really sad to shut down FR, but the truth is we need our resources elsewhere right now.

And with that one answer, Smed set virtual fire to the other games. The speculation was already pointed in the direction of EQN, and that all but confirmed it. Now the mob is not only mad that their home is getting shuttered, but any hopes Sony might have had about reeling them in elsewhere just got axed. EQN is going to have a long and bumpy road to success, if it gets there at all.

Perhaps the most amazing thing that came out of all of this was the almost-white-knight-charge of Brad McQuaid, who immediately dropped everything and offered to buy back the IP and the game. The answer:

bradwhiteknight

Damn that was ballsy of him though. I hadn’t planned on giving to the Pantheon kickstarter, but I think I’m going to have to do so now, just as a gesture of thanks for making the effort.

Of course, all of this is just a bit two faced, and I admit that. Its been a good six months since I’ve logged into Vanguard, and it never really grabbed me the way I thought it would last year. The progression was just too damn slow. So on the one hand, I am a contributor to the shut down. I should have put more money and time into the game than I did. And why should I be upset that Vanguard is going under when I was such a lukewarm follower of it? Fair points I guess, but still…

It hurts. And unlike Warhammer and some of the other shutdown titles, where a day or two of nostalgia has been enough, I’m going to have to fire up Fraps and make this exit count.

Because I do love Telon and the vision and the game. I love that this is the last great achievement of Keith Parkinson before his passing. I love that this game had the balls to do things that no other game after it has even dared to attempt. And also, like all of us at some point in life (I suspect), we can fall just as in love with someone or something based on what we hoped it might be as we would based on something that was already what we wanted it to be.

Bleh.

Druids and Reindeer and Telon, Oh My.

So I have ventured back into the land of Telon – the locale for Vanguard: Sage of Heroes.  My sandbox has been here all along, right under my nose.  Telon does not hold your hand, can only loosely be said to have “quest hubs” and generally teaches you early on that even roads are not safe: a lesson not taught by MMO’s since early in the life of WoW.

 

First things first: Vanguard has aged well.  The silver lining to releasing a game that most computers couldn’t even run way back in 2007 is that the game still looks phenomenal today.

 

ScreenShot_00001

 

So we’re not talking about a game where you have to squint and ignore the decidedly low calibre background to have some fun.  And second of all, the world is still tremendously large.  The scope of the zones is massive, particularly when you consider the three continents and the zones of pure OCEAN between them all.  If you want to go get lost in a fantasy world – I’m not sure what better place to do it in right now than Telon.

 

To further open the sandbox, Vanguard dropped all the racial and class restrictions.  So go ahead and help yourself to a Dark Elf Paladin or a High Elf Necromancer or even a Goblin Ranger – you deserve it.   And you can elect to start either on the beginner island (Isle of Dawn) or in your racial home town – unlike some other Sony MMO’s you may have heard of.  And if you do elect for the starter island, when you are done – take a boat ride to any of the three continents – your choice! – to continue your adventure.

 

ScreenShot_00004

 

Of course there are some downsides.  There is an actualy death penalty, and not just a few durability points on your equipment.  You will lose some xp.  Recover your tombstone (and with it any non-soulbound equipment) and you will recover a very large chunk of it.  I’ve been just irritated enough with it not to go blindly running into anything, but not so irritated that I have rage quit over it.

 

So far, its been a magical return.  Vanguard was certainly a lumbering beast of a bad game back in the day, but you know what?  Sometimes reindeer really do know how to fly.

 

ScreenShot_00002

Peering Into The Crystal Ball For 2013

I’ve been pondering the new year a bit.  Predictions aren’t terribly fun (for me anyway).  Looking back to last year, I am still stunned at how quickly TOR crashed and burned, both within the gaming sphere and for me personally.  I was schlumping along with my rifle and my companion one day and the next day I just looked around and went…man, is this it?

 

Certainly doesn't *look* very epic...
Certainly doesn’t *look* very epic…

 

So I thought maybe instead, I would record everything I am looking forward to in the coming year.  Then I can come back next year with some wisdom and hindsight and laugh and make obscene hand gestures at myself for how dumb or idealistic I was.  I get to write the schtick that so many people seem to eat up, but nobody gets a face-full of pie but myself.  A win-win.

 

I Am Looking Forward To:

 

Hearing More About ArcheAge Online and Possible Release Dates

 

With Russian and American publishers confirmed (but not yet disclosed), we know this wide open sandbox title is headed our way.  We don’t yet know when, thought it’s debut in Korea occurred yesterday.  A few computer done translations of the website yielded no new information, other than there was a brief server outage today that players are being compensated for, and that there are several contests wrapping up and starting off.  And that they are offering, out of the gate, a 10 hour free trial.   That last is interesting – it is rare for new MMO’s to give away trials when they are so desperate for sales.  Its an indication of the game’s confidence level.

 

no place like home

 

For those who don’t know any thing about ArcheAge, you can read some of my previous posts on here.  The sandbox elements are what draws me.  The manga/eastern style is probably off-putting to some, but I enjoy the stylized, over-the-top caricatures that it brings with it.  (Nobody seems to get that the whole point of the style is self-depreciating, but that’s a rant for another time I suppose.)  In particular, the idea that your character is comprised of you choice of three of ten skillsets is quite welcome.  Imagine Rift, only you can combine any three souls from any of the classes.   Mostly though, everything about XL Games screams quality, polish and dedication (much like Trion as well I might add).  I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing more – and, hopefully, getting a chance to play it myself.

 

Expanding My Tier 10 Garage

 

I qualified for my free t-shirt by virtue of the fact that I knew from late in Beta that I was going to concentrate most of my time and energy on the American Heavy Tanks line, followed by the Russian Medium Tanks line.  So I already had a T30 in my garage when the changes went down to the US Heavies.  The end result was that my T30 became a tier 9 Tank Destroyer, I got a free copy of the T34 tier 8 premium, and I have the much-in-demand T110E5.  With the addition of tier 10 tanks for every category though, I have been working on getting that T30, along with my T-54 (tier 9 USSR Medium) up to the top of the stables as well.   I am very close.  The T-54 will be wrapped up in the next two weeks, and the T-30 will be done in the next month or so.  I’ve taken a good hard look at what two lines I want to work next, and decided to put my energy towards the two Russian Heavy lines, culminating in the IS-4 and IS-7.  I’ve been saving my Free XP for quite awhile, and I have enough to skip the miserable KV-4 and head directly to the underrated ST-1.   And the IS-3 is getting me XP like I would have never believed.  As much as I have enjoyed (and done fairly well with) US Heavies, the IS-3 fits like a glove.  I have an 85% win rate in it, and it doesn’t look like a First or Ace class Mastery badge is all that far off.

 

Top to Bottom, Left to Right:  T11oE5, T110E4, T-62A, IS-4, IS-7
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: T11oE5, T110E4, T-62A, IS-4, IS-7

 

In other words – in a year’s time, my garage of tier 10 tanks will have expanded from one – to five.  Already I’ve started the process of looking at potential Clans for Clan Wars, even as Wargaming announces that they will  be spending a significant amount of resources to expanding and polishing that portion of the end game.

 

And that’s not all.  I’m also halfway through tier 8 on US Mediums and German Heavies as well.  I could end the year with more than I bargained for.

 

Nostalgia:  Vanguard

 

One of the things that I really thought I wanted to do is take some time, perhaps one night a week, or one weekend a month, and visit some familiar places.   But the more I thought about all that I had played or recently played, the only one I really had a passion to go back and visit currently is Vanguard.  The Druid class in the game is one of my all time favorites in terms of gameplay.  And the world of Telon…well, it has the late, great Keith Parkinson’s fingerprints all over it.

 

I’m curious to see how the game has fared, what the leveling experience is like (I’m in the lower 20’s if I remember correctly), and if they finally fixed the stupid log in bug.  It was still active two years post-launch.   I generally get nostalgic for Vanguard this time of year.  It was at this time that I was playing it, and enjoying the seasonal flying mount (Randolph the Flying Reindeer, of course).  After a few months though, our little group lost its tank, and EVE beckoned with a free trial.

 

The odd thing about Vanguard, is that as I recall the interviews Brad McQuaid gave about the vision of the game, back in the day, at that time, I said: “No way would I ever play a game like that – too hardcore for me.”   Now though, I look beyond that to some of the things he wanted to implement, and think, wow, how sweet would that be?  Things like having the global chat channel only open to Psionicists, and not at 1st level, but as a later passive ability.   Or that Druids would have high end abilities to control the weather, able to force rain on the server itself.   And even some of those abilities that were implemented – like the Bard crafting its own songs as its slate of abilities – are a breath of fresh air in stale MMO diatribes everywhere.   Many of the things that Vanguard wanted to pull off – boats, housing, diplomacy, detailed crafting systems – are things that are surfacing also in ArcheAge.  Assuming we get it here in North America this year – doing a compare/contrast would be a fairly interesting exploration.

 

Battlefield 3

 

Don’t tell my regular Monday night gaming partners…but my interest in BF3 is waning quickly.  After a year of blazing good times in it, and after several expansions, I’m mostly frustrated these days.   I’m done with servers with 1500 spawn tickets, which invariably end with one team spawn camping the other for the last 500 kills.  And I’m just not all that interested in the latest expansion.  If it weren’t for some new maps to hopefully breath some fresh air into the game, I probably wouldn’t buy it at all.  I’ll be curious to see how long this lasts, and what the future brings.  It may be that Nostalgia night replaces Shooter night in the HZero household in 2013.

 

Star Trek Online

 

I haven’t logged in since before Christmas.  My guild, whom I was enjoying time with, had stalled out in the building process for our Starbase, and queued a bunch of projects that were dilithium only – and I don’t spend dilithium on things that I can use in game items and currency on.   So I had nothing to do really, other than grind my diplomacy level, and that got old after awhile.   I am watching  closely for the three year anniversay, in high hopes that the Ambasssador Class will finally make it into the game.  And for the release of whatever season finally allows us to use all these bridge officers I have stashed in every corner of my UI and inventory to crew the half dozen ships that are in dry dock right now.  The game is headed in the right direction for sure, but for right now, I’m just not as interested.   But I think its still one of my long term committments – so I’m curious to see how I feel about the game when it nears its four year anniversary!

 

Smaller Questions…

 

Will the small indy developed sandboxes of Dawntide and Project Gorgon be revived?  I’d like for them too…

Will some unexpected MMO suck me in this year, much as STO did last year?

Will we finally see some information on Titan or Everquest 3?

Is there any chance of me logging into TOR in 2013?

Will Wildstar be the unmitigated failure I think it will be?

 

Only time will tell.

2011 Predictions Review

Yeah, I should have done this awhile ago, but I didn’t, so tough cookies.  Not that I predicted anything earth shattering last year for 2012 (get it?) but I had the usual mix of success and failure (last year I got 2 out of 5 correct).

 

1.  We will finally get some news about the World of Darkness MMO from CCP /White Wolf…lets add a part B  to this that reinforces my point – we won’t see a beta for this in 2011.

Not only was there absolutely no more information, the website I linked was not updated at all, and so we clearly did not see a beta for it either.  CCP’s struggles this year have been well documented.   As a gamer, former Atlanta resident, and guy who pulled every card he could trying to get in the door at White Wolf years and years ago, it saddens me to see that company down in the dirt, and its IP virtually untouched.  And its a huge loss for CCP, in a time when wizards and werewolves and vampires and such have never been more popular or mainstream.   I’m not surprised the MMO is not out, but I am shocked that no move has  been made to profit from the IP.  Heck, even a half lame Facebook game would have generated some revenue at this point.  +1 for me.

 

2.   2011 will show a decline in the number of WoW subscriptions.

On target.  A 2 million subber drop.  This was of course, part of a series of posts and thoughts that Cataclysm would be, not a giant failure, but simply the high water mark of the game.  And so far that has been very true.  +1 for me.

 

3.  Star Wars: The Old Republic will launch in April.

Missed it by a mile.  But we all knew that.  A month or so after writing this we got the unofficial word that TOR was definitely not delayed, since no release had ever been announced.  And the thread with the spring release date disappeared into the ether.  With all we know now, no amount of cash recoup by launching early would have saved the game if they had launched in April.  In fact, there’s good evidence that the game was nowhere close to being done at that point.  TOR has had a reasonably successful launch and (so far) first month, but its hard to shake the feeling that for a project in development for six years, with the resources they had at their fingertips, that it falls short of what it could have been.

 

4.  Vanguard will go F2P.  Okay, this is more of a hope than a prediction…I think that the addition of DCUO to the Station lineup will probably help make this possible.

You can maybe score this one as a halfway.  The success of DCUO’s transition to F2P, as well as EQII, have Sony clearly interested in investing a bit in Vanguard.  New updates are incoming, and the general feeling is that its only a matter of time before the game transitions.  But…it didn’t happen in 2011, so no love for me.

 

5.  Cryptic Studios will finally reveal what this is.  Because its copyright 2007, and it makes me itch.

Not only did they not reveal what it is, they basically went belly up and the concept art, and indeed the entire website, that the link pointed to last year, no longer exist.  I still believe it was a deal with Chaosium to produce an official Cthulhu MMO, for a number of reasons.  At this point though, its likely that we will never know.

 

So there you go, 2 out of 5 again.  I am nothing if not consistent…at least as far as my predictions are concerned.  On to the other 2011 thoughts I had:

My most anticipated release was a toss up between Rift and TOR.  I opted to pass on the Rift release, only for the one reason that I had played it so much in Beta that I was tuckered out.  I came into it a few months later and it became the first, and so far only, MMO that I have ever capped in.  Unless you count WoT.  TOR’s launch I was there for in the sense that I had a preorder and was in from day one.  But in truth, I have played precious little of it due to real life complications.  My highest character sits still at level 18.  So I guess it really was a toss up after all.

My least anticipated release was DCUO and that was pretty much true.  I am already 100% on board with what my least anticipated will be for next year too.  Seems I have a keener eye for what I don’t like than what I do like.  But you may have already noticed that about me.

My most desired Beta was TOR.  I got in, but so late in the process I really hate to count it as being in Beta.  :-p

My most desired industry change was to create something between F2P and $15 a month.   Thought there have been some nice transitions in the last year, I’m still waiting for that change.  The truth is that most of the F2P models leave out the part of the game that would make it fun for me (ability to have alts, housing, flexibility in character building) and so I never explore the F2P option, so they never have a chance to sell me on other things.  As successful as F2P has been…it missed the boat somewhere along the line.

 

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at 2012 and what is to come.

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.

Holiday Malaise

I have it.   And as usual, its a chain reaction.  I’ve been swamped at work, with some major things going down, that probably won’t be resolved fully for another month or so.

Artwork by Dale Wicks, visit his site and see his other awesome prints!

And once I get hit at work, it pushes my game time.  In part because I have less time to play, and in part because by the time I get home, get family stuff done, and hit my usual playing time, I can’t bring myself to do much more than stare at the computer screen.  I’m either so stressed or so exhausted that its hard to get over that hump.  It helps having a good corp in EVE that I can just log on and chat with.  Even if I decline to do much of anything with them, they understand, presumably because they’ve been there before too.  (The two month long long marathon to Cruiser V/Med. Turret V/Weapon Upgrades V/Hull Upgrades V doesn’t help either, esp. coming after the corp required two week long starbase gunner training.)

So the best way to break malaise is with something new and exciting and shiny right?  I’m sure the two weeks of Conan will pass pleasently, but unless I stumble into a good guild, I don’t think I’ll be resubbing there at the moment.  Honestly, I’ve contemplated two paths.

There's no giant yellow question marks or red dots - how do I know which way to go?!

One is Everquest II.  Its still by far the only fantasy MMO that has “the complete package.”  Fun crafting, solo and group adventuring, housing, and tradition behind it (I get goosebumps and flashbacks when I hear the main theme redux on the loading screen).  And I have a waiting guild invite.  It would mean either transferring my character or starting fresh (tempting here is the new box version at Best Buy – start a new account, with two months free, and all expansions, and 500 Station Cash, for $20).   I could also go the Access Pass route, tempting because this is my favorite time of the year to play Vanguard (Randolph the Free Flying Mount!), which still has my favorite class to play out of any game out there.  Plus, Pirates.  On the flip side – if I start a new account for EQ2 , it won’t be linked with my Station Pass sadly.  And none of it is really new – so will it help my malaise?

The other option is a pretty oddball one, but it might just work.  I missed the glory days of DAoC.  And I still kick myself for it.  WAR is really nothing more than a stripped down kiddy version of DAoC.  I asked around on the forums and it seems there might be a few guilds left kicking over there that would be willing to take a complete noob in and help him level and show him the ropes.  The downside is that population is down, and so finding friends to just go explore and grind with might be difficult.  As one responder said to me “Most people PvE to powerlevel. Almost no one does it for the content anymore because everyone has done it.”  So there is the inherent frustration – what will be new to me will be ho hum to all others.  I don’t suppose I could convince some one out there to go in with me to make for a better experience for us both eh?  Normally I’d drag my brother in, but between EVE and FE and WoW he’s got his hands full already…

So there’s my dilemma in a nutshell.  And what good is having a blog if you can’t share your dilemma’s and find aid for your DMD (decision making disorder)?  Even if you don’t respond, if you’ve made it this far, I feel better just knowing that through transference I might have a chance at another saving throw to overcome this Paralyze status ftw.  ::wink wink::