Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No MMO on my play list

Today I officially removed Tabula Rasa from my playing list. I looked at the icon this morning, and just decided a big NO to clicking it.
I just do not feel compelled. I wonder if it is the thought of it shutting down? Or was it the same over and over combat mechanics that killed it for me?

I miss Fantasy though, and that may be the issue.

Luckily I have Deadspace filling the Sci-Fi itch I get once in a great while (and of note..Deadspace is truly an AWESOME game, and I am duly impressed with the sound and controls...but more on that at another time)

So, back to the MMO issue.

I am debating starting up my DDO account I have waiting for me. I think the Hirelings are live now, and this was one of the items I wanted in effect when I played.
I also have a 10 dollar discount to Amazon, and I am debating getting a 60 day card for Age of Conan again.
I think I will wait on Conan to get DX10 first. I have a huge guild waiting on me, so getting players there for grouping is not an issue, but I really want to see the effects in their full glory. Several videos are about showing the sun rays effects and real time shadowing with blur for combat...very cool stuff.

But, I could also just not play any MMO for now, and continue on the wonderful Xbox 360 games I have. There is a ton of those..
Deadspace, Infinite Undiscovery, Prince of Persia and Star Wars: Force Unleashed.

With 2009 looking drab for the MMO genre, luckily there are several MMO's left to occupy my time. So maybe I should not rush starting a new one yet?

Anyways, back to the work grind...and if I miss it...Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Filing suit follow up

Seems everyone is discussing the bit of news from yesterday in some manner.
MMOExperience, Tish Tosh and Broken Toys, with more to follow I am sure.

Worlds.com is throwing around a bit of weight with a patent that could really change the face of the MMO genre.
Broken Toys gets quite meaty with the subject, explaining about a legal system in the big ole state of Texas that seems to be unfair to many of the defendants of various cases.
This could explain the NCSoft reasoning of becoming the first target...
As he notes from another site..

“Being a foreign defendant in Texas is not a pleasant thing,” he said of NCsoft, which is primarily a Korean company. “The juries are, many would say, biased towards American plaintiffs and have a propensity to offer high damages. Some defendants might view them as an unfriendly jury and it might make the defendant more likely to settle.”

Ouch. But, lets not forget about the monetary issues NCSoft is feeling at this time. And worse how at this time in the Economy, and how a frivolous suit like this could lead to closure for a company if costs skyrocket.
Tish Tosh notes..

"NCSoft is over a barrel, at least Stateside, and makes for a much easier target than Blizzard"

How true.

But, this started me down the path toward finding out if there is any alternative means to running an MMO without the features noted by Worlds in their patent.
Could this change the way MMO's charge fee's? Could costs go up if all companies have to pay the license fee?
Or could these offerings be "Not for profit", and the companies offer alternative means to make cash. Like offering voice chat, and then suggesting alternate means to type (which would bypass the main gist of the patent)?
If a player uses VOIP in game, and say XFire to talk by text...how does that affect the patent lawsuit? And the server/client is say...free?

Mind you this is one of the two patents though. This patent was filed in 2000.
This explains about a virtual space and tracking the location of an "Avatar" and rendering objects to display to that character in a 3d space.
Yea..in so many words, ALL MMO's.
But, the date has issues with "Prior Art" for MMO's, with Lineage being noted by Adingworld in my previous post's comments hitting in 1998 (which covers NCSofts butt).

This patent is more bothersome


Filed in 1996, this one is more encompassing, and includes location data and communications.

Crude drawings accompany this patent, and it seems to be precise in how it works. And unless NCSoft can show some alternate means of communicating this data on their servers, they will be toast.

There is no doubt this will change everything. I may have been more precise in my predictions than I thought when I stated 2009 would be "The year of the single player game".

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another nail in the MMO genre coffin

Not only was 2008 a dismal year for the MMO with so many mediocre titles released and major failures and shutdowns...we can add this little bit of cancer to grow within the bones of the MMO world.

Worlds.com announces a patent lawsuit against NCSoft.

We need to look this over very carefully. As is noted, this can have a far reaching scope due to the patent being argued.
We are talking everyone from NCSoft to SOE to Blizzard can get hit with this little ditty.
What is worse is going after ailing NCSoft sets the "precedent" for future lawsuits. Because if NCsoft loses, then so does all others who have this capability.

Client/Server communications for the reason of online communication can have implications, where if the suit is won on Worlds part, then prepare for ALL MMO's to pay licensing fee's of some sort.
This may not hurt the big boys, but Turbine, Funcom, etc...well, there we have a problem.
And then some may look at the future of any MMO in development, and maybe weigh the cost versus return, which as we can see, if your game does not start with "World of.."...your Shucks out of luck entering this genre!

So, does anyone believe that if this is won that several "In development" titles may be put on the shelf?

Time will tell, and who knows...this could run on for a while. All of us who are interested in MMO's though should watch this one...and pray for NCSoft, as 2008 was a bumper year of loss for these guys, and this does not help one bit.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Weekend gaming wrapup

And a quick hello.
I have returned from some time off, and boy, lots of cool stuff going on.

First off, for Christmas, I got the very fun Infinite Undiscovery for the 360. While not being a killer title for critics, it did have some overall good reviews.
It has some issues like really bad voice acting, yet it DOES have a good story for playthrough. And as combat and mechanics go, it is an excellent RPG with fast paced realtime sword and magic play (you cannot even pause for health, etc.), and a minor crafting system that gets the job done.
Puzzles require some thinking, and overall visually it looks great and the controls are spot on.
Not bad for Square Enix first major exclusive 360 outing.

Also, since Christmas vacation started, Silent Hill finally came to an end. With a VERY frustrating end boss (thanks Danshir, you were not kidding) and getting the crappy ending (I think there were a total of 5 different endings...), I was not pleased at the outcome.
Lets just say, be a good person within the game and keep a moral center...prepare for a not too happy ending. I do not get that, and overall was ticked off. I took it back over holidays to sell. Figure thanks to the youtube generation, I feel no need to play though again for my endings, and instead watched the videos online.

But, thanks to Silent Hill being done, we moved on to Deadspace. Some things of note.
The game is VERY fun. You gain more ways to take control of the situation with various sci-fi like items (for example, using a Stasis module to slow down time to kill off creatures is quite satisfying). Puzzles are good and again another visual treat here. EA really went all out to make a new IP, and this is very impressive.
But, with that comment, let me say...whoever keeps calling this the "Scariest" game, really does not know horror.
The creepy factor is top notch, but it is more like Doom, in that it goes for the cheap scares, droppping stuff on you, things coming to life in front of you and jumping in your face.
But, there is no doubt, that along with Resident Evil and Silent Hill, this new franchise goes on my list.
This only leaves Alone in the Dark, for horror games, so, it also goes on my list to buy soon.

This past weekend saw the launch of Fusionfall. For Christmas, my son got a PC for learning to type and what not...but, also we plan to play a few games together.
Basically the Cartoon Network universe is setup for an MMO.
Install was easy, character creation wortked quite well, and in no time, my son was in and rocking.
Visually, I was impressed that a browser based game could look this good. The animations were well done, and the use of various characters who were quite recognizable, equals a better MMO than most of the available titles in the genre.
I will probably join him to play this. We will be setting up Xfire on his system to do voice also. More on this as we progress.

As for Tabula Rasa, I am still on hiatus. But, I plan to get my son up to speed, and may start a new character there. But, I am unsure if I will continue my main. The game really does start to get more boring as you progress, and I have just not felt inclined to log in. And with so many great single player games, I may just say goodbye to TR.

Otherwise, the holiday has been "Movie Madness" here, with Hellboy 2, The Dark Knight, Resident Evil (the new CGI movie, which for what they have done, is not too shabby), Hancock and tons of Netflix to watch, truly some great stuff...I have enjoyed all of these so far..and more to come.
And of course, the Doctor Who Christmas Special broadcast this past week, and that is queued up to watch soon.

Anyways, I hope everyone had a good Holiday, and will be talking at you soon..

Cheers

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from "the wife"

Happy Holidays to all ya'll that read this sh**, er, stuff, I mean that hubby writes all the time . I thought I would take just a moment to say hey and that I wish happiness and joy to each of you and yours during this incredible magick season. May peace, love, harmony and lots and lots of pleasure be yours.

Blessed Be, Shalom, Peace, Merry Christmas, and everything else.
X's and O's
~Shanncolt

Tabula Rasa - Post 20 blues

And so it came to pass....

Level 20 is here. And I am forlorn.

I am not compelled to login right now. I have a mission that I am working through (Tocastra Prison...something like that), and basically, it is brutal.
But, also, I hit that wall that always comes at level 20. The compelling need to go on starts to waver.

I start to think "Why should I even play?". The game will end in February. There is still not that many people on to form any friendships with or start any groups. I never have enough time to do these big dungeon runs like Tocastra.

And of course...the grind. It felt harsh for level 19, what will the next 10 levels be like? And if I do not finish the particular mission, I am pretty much stuck in progressing the story.

And why progress. There is not an outcome?

This makes me think of how Star Wars will be with it's Bioware'd story focus, Will the game end with chapters? Will it be like Guild Wars where there is a story with a beginning and end (which I love).

I have enjoyed Tabula Rasa though, but it is not the game to end all games for me. It never pulls you in fully. But, mechanically it is sound with some awesome crafting that I got excited to do all the time as I leveled. And the capability to progress solo even though the spawns were ridiculous..well, that was important.

I wonder how TR would have been with Henchmen?

Anyways. I am sure it is the lull before the holidays. I have quite a bit of work (when it rains it pours. Year end is my big money maker...even when the economy is down...how awesome is that?)...and I am not keeping regular hours, so morning game time will be small for a bit. Evenings are filled with Silent Hill, where I have progressed enough that I think I am almost at the end. And then I have Dead Space waiting for me (the wife is really excited over that one...), plus some movies will be making their way to me for Christmas..

Yea...gonna be crazy. Anyways, I will be off for a day or two for the Holidays..
Wish you and yours the best...

Cheers

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend gaming wrapup

Besides working my butt off transferring several websites to a new server, I also worked on some game time.

Right now, my main focus has been Tabula Rasa and Silent Hill.

Silent Hill has gotten even more difficult, and this is just on normal. The problem arises from the minimalistic approach to heals and ammo.
I have went into two boss fights now with no weapons to speak of but a crowbar and a knife....lol.
Frustration ensued. Yet, the compelling playstyle, and the ability to learn the methods of the boss attacks, well that has been a console game staple for years.
And it makes for some fun as you try to continue on...no matter how many controllers you break.
The story has started to come together, and I have left my sleepy town, and entered Silent Hill proper (and as anyone who has played the series knows, I have progressed to near the end, and the true meaning of what has happened is taking shape.)

Tabula Rasa has me almost level 20 (about 3/4 of the way in). Just this morning I went on a base takeover with several people...which to my surprise are starting to show up.
The game is offically free at this time. Anyone can sign up and play and download the game as well.
More info here.
I may reach my goal before the 26th, and that would be excellent, and the right step to getting to max level before closure.
More people on should help with the issues of mass spawns.
The funniest thing I have seen so far came up yesterday when everyone has decided that they will never play another NCSoft game.
There is no doubt that NCSoft is going to take it on the chin...hard.
But, that was not the funny part. The funny part is how many believe Darkfall will be the most innovative game to date, and that it will be the next MMO they play.
I am amazed at how many think DF's setup is a good idea.
Time will tell on that one...but, I know I would rather gouge my eyes out before touching that game.

In my web travels, I stepped into Tobolds Sunday Thread real quick to read topics. And it still seems that some believe Age of Conan will close within the year.
If a company can run a game free for several years, how is AoC not a success in even pulling in 100k for them?
If a company like Turbine can continue to run DDO, or SOE can continue to run...well, all their games, how is it that AoC is a target for fail?
Some things that fascinate me are
1. They just announced a D20 PnP RPG for AoC
2. As well, a strategy RTS styled boardgame is being released
3. A movie is still on track for 2010. I think the game will be finished by then as well.
4. Development still exists (however small) for an Xbox release.
Finally, the consensus has been that the game has done a complete 180 since launch for stability and content...with more coming by the end of December, early January.
The game is available through Steam, Direct 2 Drive, and on sale in various Brick and Mortars (a note of 9.99 was stated at Target).
Finally, the European audience seems to be much larger for Conan than the US.
The hatred seems to be inline for Funcom just like an NGE type of attitude, and it confuses me.
People scream "A game needs 6 months to get it's footing", but no one is willing to give the game that time.
I am still of the mind that AoC has more potential than some of the wannabe's out there.
But, I guess time will tell.
With comics, book reprints, board and PnP games, movies, and the game constantly bveing worked on, I am not of the mind to write it off like a Tabula Rasa or Auto Assault or even an AC2.

Well, back to the grind. Holidays are around the corner, and uh...I am NOT done shopping...argh! (long story)...but, I did get the house gift (which the wife and I do every year). This year, we have replaced the Refrigerator...woot. Nice sleek black model coming tomorrow.
Anyways, cheers to you and yours, as we all enjoy the season..

Later!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SOE Helps the Big 3 Car Industry

A spokesperson for SOE made this recent announcement.

"In light of the issues with vehicle development, and the economy, we at SOE have found the solution for the Automotive Industry."

The new Vehicular RMT system. Noted to be implemented, with no warning, sometime in January (maybe February).

New fluff items for your car (like Puffy Dice for your mirror, or how about extra gas when you need it most, say every 10-12 miles?) all implemented with a new form of cash called "Bailout Bucks".

"The big 3 can keep their vehicles streamlined, and for the manufacturers, there is no need to keep the cars up to date and running smoothly. We do suggest turning off vehicular shadows for better performance after spending your hard earned cash on Bailout Bucks...but it will be worth it."

The spokesperson was noted to brandish a leather wheel cover with the drivers name on it as one of many new perks.

__________________________________

Who knows how much they could have taken the consumer for with this type of deal.

Ford? You listening?

Tabula Rasa - Deployment: Earth

The arrival of deployment 15 went out today (was probably yesterday, but when I logged in this morning, I got a nice update).
Some changes to visual icons and what not, including the FPS mode (which for some reason does not work like I saw on PTS and not like I thought it would) were in this patch.

Of course the biggie is the chance to go back to Earth.

I have not investigated this very much, and it is a high level feature, so I may never see Earth. But, for the longest time they have teased on the login screen with a cool post-apocalyptic style screenshot of Earth. Devastated, with various blue lights shooting up into the sky.

As more data comes out, I will post about it. The fact so many were playing this morning with no clue about the features for Dep. 15, it is really sad.

Anyways, I hit level 19, and am on my way to my goal of level 20 before the 26th.

If I have a chance, I will post some screenies later...and as always, good gaming.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Turbine starts the downsize

Announced today, another MMO developer takes a cut.

Turbine announced layoffs in the QA and Accounting areas of their offices. This is almost along the lines of the Funcom layoffs.

I am assured that most could see this as an issue with the recession, and this could be possible. Yet, with the recent launch of the expansion pack, sales should have been brisk, especially so late in the year.
Add to this a steady player base, it is unclear why they felt the need to do this before Christmas even.

As noted by the Turbine rep.

"As part of this transition some of our talented colleagues will not be with us going forward."

But, as another commenter noted...

"is it not counter-productive to sack your talented colleagues in order to achieve your strategic goals?"

Again, this takes me back to the SOE argument. Turbine, don't you have a dead weight MMO sitting around to shut down instead, and put your 100% focus into the one which IS doing ok?

This begs the question of what happened with the recent influx of cash Turbine received. Where did this money go? What exactly is a private company doing? The worst part is their privacy, as no one really knows what is going on behind closed doors. This can lead to frustration on a perspective customers part if they believe (based on what type of impression this layoff gives) the company may not be around for long.

We know why Funcom did their layoffs. AoC really messed them up. Yet, they only laid off their American brethren, while the European offices are doing fine.

This is quite odd at this point, and I question their motives, and of course we must ask the question "Are the games really not doing that well"? It has been noted over and over that Turbine is profitable. If so, why these layoffs?

This is really sad for the genre as a whole, and hopefully the economy starts a turn around. Otherwise, the only MMO choice will end up being WoW.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Everquest 2 - RMT A Success?

I am confused.

I have been reading over the latest news from MMOExperience about the RMT system, and then the thread over at the EQ2 forums.

According to Grimwell

"The initial response to Station Cash has been a success for SOE"

Really?

Then why is a thread for feedback on the system full of "I quits" and hatred?

Who decided it was a success? Was a database showing a list of people opening the RMT window considered a success?
How many people really cannot live without these fluff items that they must pay SOE more than a Station Pass?
And then XP and AA potions? Really? Easy ways for the affluent to power level?

Almost like Gold Buying.

So, I ask, who is this a success for?

Corporate greed?

I can hear the commenter's now...

"SOE has to make money"

Duh.

But, had they not found one way to do this? Station Pass? They also already had one server doing this. Was it the more populated server? They thought others wanted it?
I think I noted this on another comment section or forum post.
If SOE needs money, they have quite a few dead weight MMO's they could drop (Vanguard, MxO, PoTBS).
And want to make more money on your best MMO? Try to improve the core gameplay and engine.

But this... this just smacks of greed, pure and simple, and so many agree.

SOE, have you finally taken the last step over that edge?

Not only Stargate, but Doctor Who as well.....

At least that was the plan...

Originally there was a minor discussion that Robert Carlyle was announced as a choice to replace David Tennant on Doctor Who.
Anyways, as of this week, that has officially been debunked thanks to a interview with our next Doctor...(and of course the awesome SG news)

David Morrissey

Several tidbits have been released...
For example, the link above shows the next episode of Doctor Who for the Christmas Special.

The title?

"The Next Doctor"

Also, in one interview, Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies made a quotable about Morrissey.

"Anyone playing the Doctor has to be capable of anything - action, heartbreak, comedy, wielding a sonic screwdriver - and David Morrissey's got that in spades."

Now, if any of that is not enough, how about this little teaser trailer then...



Yea...this looks good.

PS3, Silent Hill and Tabula Rasa

So, in case anyone has missed this little bit.

The Playstation 3 is dead. The games available (major exclusives like Little Big Planet and Valkyrie Profile) are selling dismally.
Sony as a whole does not understand it's market by promoting Video Downloads instead of the Blu-Ray player.
The Home network, while a cool concept, is just Second Life, except it has been hacked already while live.
I think we can at this point declare the Wii the winner of the casual market and Xbox 360 the winner of the hardcore gamer.
Seems the PS3 does not fit any "niche" or cannot find it's footing...

I almost bought a PS3. I am glad I did not, and decided to wait.

Patience is a virtue indeed.

Silent Hill: Homecoming - OMG, how hard is this game?
The combat is very unforgiving, and, as has been noted, westernized.
Meaning (besides development being given to a western company) you have full control of the main character. The strange camera angles are gone, and you have full visual acuity around you.
Yet at the same time, the AI is more brutal. Situations more dangerous.
Each creature has a special guard like ability or attack. You must learn these moves, or else suffer horribly.
First aid drinks and heal kits are few and far between. And the boss fights are next to impossible to avoid damage.
Weapons are always limited so far. Guns are a "Only use if you must" item, due to ammo situations. Some creatures are even somewhat immune to bullets.
The first time you are attacked by any creature you have never seen, be prepared to reload your save. They attack swiftly, and smartly.
Speaking of saves, ARGH, too few to speak of.
Yet, the creepy factor is high, the story intriguing and combat is fun, though fraught with controller throwing moments. I have not felt like this since Ninja Gaiden on xbox.
I beat that sucker though and felt the wave of victory wash over me, so I must persist here as well.

Tabula Rasa has become my morning game. Perfect, since no one is on at any time, but hopefully that will change.
For now I can just run around, try to complete quests or missions, and finish the zone.
My calculation is to be level 20 by the time the 26th comes around. Then my next focus will be to get to level 40 by the end of January. But, if I reach 35, I should still be ok to try and hit 50 by the end of February.
I am not worried if I do not, but it would be cool to max just one character in any MMO besides Guild Wars.
Not much to report here, except that I continue to find ways to complete missions even though the spawn rates are nasty. The Divide is still quite the pain. I can only imagine what the next area will bring.

Anyways, looks like I have my hands busy, and will hopefully be able to get to my Xfire charts by the end of the week (that is proving to be fun to watch...especially with the RMT announcement for EQ2...seems some drop is occuring. Will this be a trend? Some sure are miffed about it...)

Monday, December 15, 2008

And my day is COMPLETE - Stargate

With this bit of news, I am in a tizzy...MAJOR TIZZY!

Over on Zap2it, a TV ratings and news outlet, a major bomb was dropped today.

As has been previously noted here, this is the final season of Stargate Atlantis. The show will go into "movie" mode like it's predecessor.
But, another series had been announced, but not much else was being told.

Today, we got the scoop, and it is a WHOPPER.

Robert Carlyle Passes Through 'Stargate'

That's right. The same gentleman I spoke of earlier that starred in the BBC series Hamish Macbeth, and is one of my top 5 actors (with Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, David Bowie and Ian Mckellen), star of movies like Trainspotting, Angela's Ashes, 28 Weeks Later and more (duh...Full Monty...WOOT), is set to enter the SG universe.

This is major for several reasons..

An award winner for multiple series overseas, and being in cult like movies, his introduction to the series also brings it to a new darker version of SG.

As stated...

"[Carlyle] brings a depth, intelligence and complexity to his roles, which will fit perfectly with the fresh, new reinvention of this franchise," says Mark Stern, Sci Fi's head of original programming."

""Stargate Universe" will take a somewhat darker tone than its predecessors, "SG-1" and "Atlantis." It centers on a group of soldiers and civilians who are forced through a Stargate and wind up on an ancient ship in the far reaches of space."

I am still all choked up over this. I have watched this guy for ages. And now to see him in a US based mainstream show is a leap in the right direction for others to discover his talent.

Real quick...

Suggested Robert Carlyle viewing...

If you like the 3 musketeers and have watched Eli Stone on TV, or have seen Hackers and know Jonny Lee Miller (who also starred with Robert in Trainspotting) also check out Plunkett and Macleane (starring a cute little Liv Tyler as well)..

Of course, the totally zombified Robert in 28 weeks later (considered better than the first movie by many).

Dead Fish along with other mega talent Gary Oldman.

Forumla 51 for some goofy Samuel L Jackson fun (this movie is best viewed with brain off, and more for laughs)

And as an added bonus, Robert also starred this year in the return of 24: Redemption.

Aww, this guy works so much, and is a huge talent. All I know is the SG universe got just a little more interesting adding an actor of such caliber.

Dinner, a Demo and Delights

Well, after the final recovery, the weekend comes to an end. I enjoyed a wonderful Dinner for my Birthday Friday night, with a reservation at a place called "The Flying Frog Cafe"
With an eclectic mix of Indian, German and Southern cuisine, it was a delight.
But, the main reason we go? One food stands out..

Kangaroo!

Yummy. And it taste like...FILET MIGNON...(bet you thought it was chicken)..

I usually do a set of tastes, with the Kangaroo. I also accompanied this with an Indian Curry and a Lamb Chop.
Yum.
The wife had a German platter, and has learned she loves German, especially something called a Pojarski sauce, a mix of paprika, heavy cream and Cognac...excellent.

For my present I got a wonderful series from a while back, called Hamish Macbeth, when BBC America first launched. The best part is an actor by the name of Robert Carlyle. Search out some major stuff from this guy. He is most famous though for Trainspotting and Angela's Ashes. Also, note, this series is pure Scottish, and I tell ya what, having a clear DVD copy (originals were on VHS), I can actually understand it...well, most of it...hehe.

Another treat this weekend was the release of a new RPG single player Demo for a game called Drakensang.
If you have plated NWN, NWN2 or Baldurs Gate (the originals), then you are in for a treat. With great visuals, faster combat, more specs and attributes than you can shake a stick at, this game delivers.
You can tell how much the game will involve, and for a demo, you get a good chunk to play around with to start.
I like the fact the controls are MMO oriented for movement, which means...yes, the 360 controller rocks. Another aspect for me is proper font sizing, where the 42" LCD Hi-Def TV is usable in the living room...in so many words, I can sit back on the couch and play.
This is a german release, and as I have found out with Witcher and AoC, any games developed overseas seem to have some sensibilites I enjoy.

Finally for the weekend, and for the Birthday, I got some other special treats. Silent Hill and DeadSpace.
We are horror fanatics, and it showed, when we sat down for 5 hours straight and played Silent Hill to start.
I will post more on those games later.

For now, hope everyone else had a good time, and now back to looking at what everyone else is discussing...

Cheers

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tabula Rasa - Playable Until *Feb 28, 2009*

That's right.
Seems my account was reactivated after canceling, and has become full play.
It has been rumored that anyone that had a "paid" account in the past has already been given the free time early.
Someone noted this in game the other day, so I decided to check it out this morning, and sure enough...I can play until the end of days ("I'll be back" /end Schwarzenegger references....).

As to my game time, after my complete and utter fail at several missions due to spawn rates, I still thought to myself that I could possibly do instances or kill mobs to level to hopefully become more powerful and try again with the failures. I figured I had (originally) until the 26th of this month still.
Persevering, I ended up having to cross the great Divide to reach my one goal (this is what the zone is named after...a HUGE valley that rips through the landscape that has proven to be difficult due to spawn issues)..and saw the one Boss I kept dying on.
Packing in my armor recharge and setting my heals to a quick button, I decided to charge in again.
Using EMP I drained his armor. As soon as this was eliminated, I used my LOGOs lightning skill, and a Sonic shotgun to keep him off his toes. I switched to Chaingun to rail some major damage.
I kept on top of this, while healing, and had him in a spot that I was semi hidden from the wandering Bane.

Down he went...

A big ole smile hit my face and I even yelped out loud (luckily my son was in GoW2 killing some nasties...hehe).
That was exicitng.

And then I realized what my goal was.

I was totally enjoying the game, and I was going to find a way to keep going even though players are limited for groups.

This makes me think of how many games like this that were failures at first, that people just got so upset at, and decided to never give it another chance?
It is ok if the game was not to their liking, but I am having a war of issues on one forum regarding the AoC hate.
The constant bickering between the fans and the haters roars on.
What's amusing is each time the hater always states an issue they hated, that does not exist anymore.
From ganking due to no consequences (even though they could have played PvE instead of whining, and now the Consequence system is in) to no content (when multiple new dungeons and quests and even one new zone has been added) to performance (major strides have been made to eliminate all crashes and performance in FPS has jumped tremendously).
All problems that are not a problem now.
There is no doubt that the change in gameplay after the 1-20 hike is jarring. Yet, this gameplay is the EXACT same gameplay in any other MMO, which again becomes amusing. Then to top it off, the game does offer some unique mechanics with the combat system for melee, and the questing does stray a bit, especially in certain zones.

Same with Tabula Rasa. I think if people would have just let go their hate (just like the SOE hate...that still is mind boggling over the NGE), they may have found that a lot of their issues have been resolved in TR.
Again, if you did not like the game overall, there is no hope.
But, like myself, if the main issues you had with a game has not been fixed in all the time it has been out (LOTRO still to this day has not fixed some major complaints that were discussed all the way back in Closed Beta), then you have every right to rail on it...especially if you kept giving them chances.
But, to not go back due to a bad launch, and think that the same issues exist after six months or even a year, is ridiculous.

I will mourn TR.
But, for now, I get full play time, and I will make every minute count toward my goal of maxing out!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sales, Xfire and...oh yea...Birthday

First off, let me get this out of the way. I am now officially a 46 year old hippy aging rock star.
I can put myself along the lines of the Stones, Sting, Led Zeppelin, etc...

But, I ain't making no comeback..lol.

To celebrate though, later I will pop up some of the instrumental work I have done over the last year, and give you an idea of what is inside my head when I play music.
I sometimes miss what I did in the old days, but I also played during the hair band era, and really, does anyone listen to that 80's stuff? (oops...sorry Wifey, as she indignantly looks at me, and pops in her Bon Jovi CD.)
If I have a chance, my mother sent me an old .45 (yes, REAL VINYL) of the single we released in my old band. I thought any of that material lost, but I have the exclusive A/B side love from happier times...
Then computers took over..

Enough about that, today I have more fun with numbers.
It seems some do not enjoy crunching and research..yet, thanks to it's mathematical equations, and coming up with formulas...it is like music, which is it's own math heaven.
I am mostly interested in how the popularity of some titles relate to their sales and subscriber base, and it gives us a birds eye view of the overall structure and health of the MMO.

Luckily I ran into a nice post on MMORPG (which now eludes me...if I find it later, I will post it...old age I guess...) that has a good breakdown of the equation of XFire users compared to player base numbers.
It is quite impressive, so lets look at how the commenter came up with his data.
His argument was in regards to Age of Conan, which so many joke has roughly 10-30,000 users. People are like that (not unlike a certain person reviewing the game, and when prodded noted he had never PLAYED the game...and to top it off, his review was picked up by Kotaku and plastered all over the net....stupid people...)
But, he wanted to show that even though numbers are not good for the game, it also is not of Tabula Rasa proportions.
For his calc he stated this...

"As of this moment:
* Xfire for WoW = 362,977
* 11,000,000 / 362,977 = 30.3
That gives us a multiplier that we

can use against the AoC number, assuming that there are statistically
as many people running Xfire with WoW (as a percentage) as those who
run Xfire with AoC. Xfire for AoC = 3,687 3,687 * 30.3 = 117,734"

Which I noted started to skew some numbers horribly, with LOTRO having almost 2 million players...as the times were markedly skewed thanks to hours of people playing the latest expansion.

Then he showed this method, and it really worked...

"Using the same logic, but this time with the reported number of users:

* WoW = 11,000,000 / 91,628 = 120.05
* (www.xfire.com/games/wow/World_of_Warcraft/)

Using 120.05 as the multiplier...

* AoC = 942 * 120.05 = 113,087
* (www.xfire.com/games/aoc/Age_of_Conan_Hyborian_Adventures/)"

Why does this seem more feasible? Lets take this equation and apply it to other games.

Guild Wars = 8,236 * 120.05 = 988k overall players within a month period (would be subscribers...)

Ok, so Guild Wars is tough due to the non-sub system they use...

Lets move on...

WAR = 4,284* 120.05 = 514k subscribers...

As we can see here, WAR seems to be in line with how many people have bought the game, and still continue to play according to various evidence.

EvE Online = 3,612* 120.05 = 434k

Is this possible? Could EvE possibly have more players than once thought? It has been noted as one of the 250k+ games.
If we go to Wiki, the last noted data is
"As of March 31, 2008, Eve Online has 236,000 active subscriptions and 45,000 active trial accounts."
It could very well be possible that growth in the subscriber base along with trials going could equal a larger base.
If we look at anecdotal evidence, for example in 2005, CCP noted 60k players. So, we have seen roughly a 4.6% increase in players. So, maybe 1.5 % growth per year. So with almost a year under their belts now, it could be possible to see maybe another 50k? Maybe more?

This one is still questionable, so lets move on.

LOTRO = 2,296 * 120.05 = 276k (always rounding up here folks...)

This still shows the calculation to be workable. So, actually, the numbers still look about right.
It has been noted many times that LOTRO is a 250k game, and this shows that data to corroborate.
It is disappointing it has not grown though is my only issue. The market share is flat for this game. No loss, but no gains either.

But, like everyone says...who cares, it is profitable.

Everquest 2 - 413 * 120.05 = 50k

Interesting set of numbers here. Is it possible the population is that small? With a minimal number of servers, this could be true. Lets say on average 1k-2k per server at any given time, and then average it over a 30 day period, this could be true.
It has been discussed before, and has actually been a sore point (even with Grimwell, who got into an argument with Mr. Woodcock, another number cruncher, when he stated they had less than 100k players...and Grimwell called him a few choice names, and said it is not so, but never gave real numbers.), and even wiki has absolutely no notation of subscribers.
Just for the heck of it, what if we used the first way of calculation noted in my post, based on minutes...

Everquest 2 = 2003 * 30.3 = 61k...

Still about the same area. Quite low, but quite possible.

Interesting to say the least. And it looks quite accurate based on various evidence of sales/vs players, discussion on forums, and popularity.

At least SOE got a good bump thanks to their new expansion Shadow Odyssey.
The latest month end sales charts for November just showed up with this little goody...
  1. World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King / Blizzard / $36 (Average)
  2. World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Collector's Ed. / Blizzard / $50 (Average)
  3. Call Of Duty: World At War / Treyarch / $50 (Average)
  4. Spore / EA Maxis / $48 (Average)
  5. Fallout 3 / Bethesda / $49 (Average)
  6. World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest / Blizzard / $34 (Average)
  7. The Sims 2 Deluxe / EA Maxis / $19 (Average)
  8. Left 4 Dead / Valve / $48 (Average)
  9. The Sims 2 Apartment Life Exp. Pack / EA Maxis / $21(Average)
  10. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 / EA LA / $49 (Average)
  11. World Of Warcraft / Blizzard / $18 (Average)
  12. The Sims 2 Mansion & Garden Stuff Exp. / EA Maxis / $19 (Average)
  13. Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy / Her Interactive / $20 (Avearge)
  14. EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey / Sony Online Ent. / $40 (Average)(Average)
  15. Far Cry 2 / Ubisoft Montreal / $50 (Average)
  16. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack / Blizzard / $29 (Average)
  17. BioShock / 2K Boston, Australia / $14 (Average)
  18. Spore Creepty & Cute Parts Pack / EA Maxis / $19 (Average)
  19. IGT Slots: Little Green Men / Masque / $20 (Average)
  20. Assassin's Creed / Ubisoft Montreal / $11 (Average)
Cool. And with the RMT push, who knows...SOE could continue to stay profitable, thanks to a VERY dedicated player base..

Anyways, thought this looked pretty good, and quite workable. I will probably come back when a new game charts (Spellborn? Anybody even heard of that game? Acclaim who?) and see how this compares.

Final caveat. This is North American audiences...maybe UK and AU as well. It is strictly pay for games (why I will probably avoid the awesome and great selling Guild Wars from now on.)
My main reason to do this is simple. 2008 proved to be a bad year for MMO's, and I still wonder if this market is tangible, or if developers are just throwing money out the window.

We will see...and please comment on your thoughts..

Cheers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why are some games "Niche"

Seems to be a battle of words raging in one particular post here, that I thought maybe we should bring it to the front.

What makes an MMO a "Niche" title.

First, I will state, I never came up with this wording, yet it seems from the comments that others believe I did. I am using it based on how I feel that title is doing and what it does well.
Others can use it as they see fit.

But let me define what it means to me.

What exactly is a Niche first...lets define that.

"a position particularly well suited to the person who occupies it"
Ok, so it refers to a person and a place it occupies. Can it even be used for a company in that respect?

"recess, recession, niche, corner (a small concavity)"
This seems to place it in an corporeal form.

So, if we look upon these, a Niche for an MMO to me would be...

"A game that has settled itself into a small place, and is unique to it's position"

I look at it as doing something particular that garners a group of favoritism among it's base...

Whether this is good or bad, is also subjective.

The MMO genre for example is it's own Niche. It does something well, and that is create a world that more than one person inhabits to play together if they wish.

Hmmm....interesting choice of words...

So, then how do particular games get placed into their own "niche" away from the overall reaching MMO title.

I put it back into this definition of doing something specific well.

This is why I have placed some games into this title.

If the game does not have a wide reaching collective use, then it is "niche".

How does this work?

Lets take a genre within the game to start. Why is Sci-Fi more niche, than Fantasy?
You rule out certain audiences as you enter each genre.
Fantasy has a wider scope due to everything from Fairy Tales from young children age, on up.
Are you more likely to read a child a book about Snow White and the Dwarves or about Aliens?
Sci-Fi seems more grim, more hardcore due to words that are not always accessible.
Will the child understand what a truth spell is for example? Or Pentothal?
Science Fiction has always tried to sound more erudite.
Fantasy uses a more simplistic approach and morals system as well. Usually we know who is good or who is evil also. Black and White, yet Sci-Fi can be further reaching with gray areas of who is right and who is wrong.
This is not to argue black or white situations do not exist in Sci-Fi, but to give an example...
We watched an episode of Stargate last night, where an alien asked for help. This alien has taken the lives of humans before.
The humans though have found one type of serum that helps the alien lose the need to feed on humans.
Cool...
Yet, now the aliens have taken on an alternate disease due to this serum.
Was it right for the humans to do this? And is it ok for them to let the aliens die?
Now again, this is not to say this cannot happen in Fantasy as well.
But, you are guaranteed that the majority of Fantasy has these black and white lines. We know who is good, and who is evil (even though using WoW as an example here, people state that there is not a line...I beg to differ...example: Eating people is not a moral high ground in our moral society)
I could go on about things like bombs and guns, and how this reflects today's society, and as such, we as a people tend to stray from that reality to enter a world where magic lives when we look for escapism...blah, blah...
Instead, try a search on why science fiction versus fantasy shows fantasy wins in sales.
Read this little tidbit to get an idea of why some believe this is so...

And this gets to the other crux of a niche. Big sales vs "Niche" sales. Some believe that just because something sells more than something else does not make the lesser product niche.
This goes back to defining a small location, or a particular spot.
Some games do not sell well in various locations...this makes them niche.
Some games do not sell well due to subject matter (sci-fi)...niche.
Someone said...is Runescape niche? 1 million players. I think not..
Lets look at it this way...
Is Runescape easily accesible? Yes.
Does Runescape do well in more than certain locations? Yes.
Can you be Casual or Hardcore? Yes.
I would not call Runescape niche.

Then why would a game like LOTRO (yep, here it is) be a niche title?
Lets try to look at this based on what we know of the game.

It is a Fantasy. People love fantasies...right?
It is like WoW, the largest MMO available..right?
It has other features like housing, dress up, etc...right?

So, why has LOTRO gained this connotation?

Placing itself into a particular place in the genre itself.

When we look at WoW, and take away the Fantasy trappings, we still have a multitude of mechanics, which makes the game a far reaching title for players.
PvE, PvP, Casual or Hardcore, Raid? No Raid? RP? You name it...many mechanics within a single genre.

But, again, LOTRO can do these.

But, limitations exist.

A player cannot PvP right away. There is no factional PvP except in specific areas.
As has been noted by many an LOTRO player, a large percentage of the base is Casual. And the game does Casual well.
I found this post which explains the niche ideal of LOTRO better...an explanation of the type of player in LOTRO.

"- Lord of the Rings fans (people that loved the books and probably liked the movies).
- People that couldn’t care less about shiny gear. Most of the comments I hear about people’s gear is about appearance attributes such as matching or looking silly rather than looking god-like or powerful.
- Casual Social types: people that enjoy small groups of friends that play semi-regularly and solo on occasion.
- Explorer types (Middle-earth is large and thanks to the rapid expansions by Turbine, there always seems to be new areas cropping up here and there).
- People that enjoy horizontal game play where you can get things which do not necessarily make you more powerful or advanced (eg: houses) along with the vertical, achievement type at which WoW excels (eg: leveling, “gearing up,” etc)."

So, it is not so much how big the population that makes a game niche, but how it delivers the end product.

This much is noticeable though...Niche games does equal low populations.

This is how the discussion of niche started.

WAR is another good example of a niche game. It looks like WoW, plays like WoW, but where does it lose the WoW moniker of far reaching, and why does it not have a million scrips or more?

Forced PvP.

A game that put's limits on your gameplay is definitely niche. It puts you into a "small recess" and does not offer an alternative way to do the game.

Thus niche equals a smaller player base.

So, when asked about Guild Wars, some believe it is niche.

Why?

It does PvE, PvP, Casual, Hardcore, Grouping, No Grouping....

And has the audience to prove it is not niche. At 6 million in sales...this is not a small little game trying to gain recognition.
It is not a "little corner" of the market like Eve Online.

And this is where the total argument goes to niche or not niche. What really defines a niche market. We can say all MMO's are niche, yet a large segment of the market has made them mainstream. Yet only a few are really mainstream.

So, in the future when we discuss Champions Online as niche (Superheroes, a very dedicated group, nerdy, and not widely encompassing) or Jumpgate (no avatars?) as niche...it makes sense.

Until LOTRO opens the Rohan area as full on PvP, or with large scale battles that people can join or avoid, and increases it's player base...it will stay niche.
Until WAR opens a PvE server alongside the PvP server, it is niche (swap those for LOTRO).
Until Age of Conan lowers entry requirements for hardware to the game, it will stay niche..(of course, hardware can catch up to AoC, and it could become mainstream...time will tell for that game...how about that Xbox 360 port also...MAJOR mainstream...)

Do you have a reason these are not niche? What game is called niche right now, but has mainstream written all over it.

Let me know...

Fable 2 - Awesome game...but GOTY?``

Huh?

How did THIS happen?



I am very surprised. I really love this game, but I also believe it had some quirks that would have taken it out of the running.

The nominees were

-FABLE 2
-FALLOUT 3
-GEARS OF WAR 2
-GRAND THEFT AUTO IV
-LEFT 4 DEAD
-METAL GEAR SOLID 4:
GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS
-RESISTANCE 2

There are some good titles here as well. Weird...

But, hey, I am all for this, with the hope of more DLC's and development..

BTW, on Fable 2 DLC's, seems tomorrow's was pushed back 10 days....DAMN!

Tabula Rasa - I need a Group Hug

Well, it was to eventually happen. I have hit a snag in the fun of Tabula Rasa. It deals with something that has been discussed before...

Spawn rates.

Now that I have entered the Divide, the mobs are not only more powerful, there is more of a variety. Due to various invulnerabilities, I must continue to switch weapons to attack, stay on heals, and run around like an idiot basically.
And not more than a few moments after you have cleared out that mob?

Here they come again!

So, where does this leave a game that the population is almost non-existent? Well, leaves me in a heap o' mess! No one is around in these zones. OUCH!

I am unsure of why the spawn rates continue to be set for a larger population. As well, this may have been the issue with the game when the servers were fuller. No mobs for missions, equals disgruntled players due to low spawn rates.

This game had really progressed though in fun and stability. But, this is what happens when a game is just a niche. Populations dwindle or are too small to deal with certain quests. Areas empty out, and players who start are left wondering why they even play.

This was argued in a previous post, as someone stated in comments "What is wrong with niche?"

This is what is wrong with niche....

Look at WAR, thanks to it's RvR bent, has empty zones, issues with getting groups for specific PQ's, etc. LOTRO with it's focus on forced grouping for specific storyline quests forces the player to find a guild...or else (and I have seen posts by players whose guild of course is too high level, and not wanting to go back to help the player). AoC thanks to it's high entry system needs leaves a large population not even willing to TRY the game due to worries of performance..DDO languishes with no grouping for earlier areas thanks to low populations.

This is why my argument still stands that 2009 may not be the best of years for MMO's thanks to such a large group of niche titles. They will be fun at first when everyone tries the game...then the game loses that luster. The new shiny if you will, will become dull. Literally.

I guess for now, TR needs to be put away (or I can just continue to grind small mobs...how fun is THAT?) until the January free play. I really can't wait to see this game full of people.

But, I sure do dread 2009 for this genre....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Age Of Conan -Technology is the driver

If it can be said, right now the most advanced graphics in any MMO (short of EvE Online) is AoC.
New techniques for shading and the way the graphics card is used (for example, part of their engine is a licensed piece that has also been purchased by both Turbine and NCSoft) help bring the game's visuals above other titles.

But, with Funcom's release, they also had a major setback in the cancellation of the DX10 module.

That will start to change, as coming in the next patch to Testlive is the DX10 settings that has been spoken of.
What is also noted on the latest ATI driver release (8.12 here) that the push is on for stability as well as some major visual quality changes.

Under resolved issues for the ATI driver is...

"Age of Conan DirectX 10, may intermittently become unresponsive during
game play" *Resolved*

This is the next step then for AoC's evolution.

I have noted before that for some games, technology is the driver for sales. Thanks to such advancements in hardware and the cost becoming very reasonable (the ATI 4870 has hit $199.00, which runs AoC at a perfect 60FPS with all the goodies on), games like Far Cry 2 and Crysis are becoming more of a reality to a standard PC user.
They also fly off shelves mostly in part of not being good games, but thanks to new technologies inherent in the engines.
Of course, the horsepower has not always been an advantage with DX10, as Crysis has shown some horrible performance for one...

But, good news is coming. Far Cry 2 recently had benchmarks done at HardOCP, which show better performance in DX10 than DX9.
This is important as it was one of the major componenets of Vista that was to drive sales. It failed horribly though.
This right here shows there may be cause to finally upgrade to Vista, especially with the right hardware.

Another argument was cost, but now I can build a system between 600-800 bucks that will run these games in DX10 perfectly.

Price is not a problem.

So, back to the issue at hand...Age of Conan.

I honestly believe one driving factor for sales was the DX10 moniker.
New technology is key to advancing how much we are able to leave our realm of reality and enter that fantasy world we wish to inhabit.

More realism will bring a player closer to enjoying that world.

Of course, bragging rights is another. Everyone wants to show off their rig. The fact that most review sites use AoC now as a way to test the newest hardware in gaming and for gaming purposes shows it is one of the titles being watched.

Adding the DX10 is just another hop on the evolutionary chain of computing power.

Now, if this works, then we could see another surge in populations (of course if server merges do not get going soon, it may not matter much).

I really think this is one of the reasons AoC survives though. Technology, and some innovation in how the game is played (cutscene quest givers, more realtime than most combat, and non-gear reliance are a few) help keep this game afloat.

Now, as content continues to get updated, and the merges take off, and then DX10 comes into play, AoC may outlive everyone's expectations...

All thanks to technology first and foremost...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How is 2009 and the MMORPG genre?

Well, lets take a look.

Spellborn - Supposedly to be out now, still on hiatus in the US, AU and UK. This will most likely be a "It will launch when it launches game"

Stargate Worlds - This website says it best. Unsure if this is a true website, the rumor is "clarified" by CME (the developers of SGW) at Ten Ton
"At Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, we have always been upfront with the media and our fans that we are a start up. Like many start ups, we face the same cash-flow issues that all pre-revenue companies face. We have maintained a core of dedicated investors, but the new economic realities are forcing us to seek out additional sources of funding and that's what we're doing."
Lets hope the employees stay long enough to get the game out.

Aion - A hit in Korea, spells doom for the US. North America does not take kindly to Anime based MMO's and any perceived grind is blamed on the Asian MMO. Can it break through this stigma to help the failing NCSoft get it together?

Hellgate London and Tabula Rasa - The genre grows smaller as these two shut the doors. How many more will follow in 2009?

Champions Online, Darkfall, Jumpgate - ALL niche titles. Can any bring in a huge market? Darkfall is being toted as the Second Messiah of MMO's due to it's hardcore PvP, which is it's downfall. Superheroes are such a small audience And, as has been proven, Sci-Fi usually equals fail for an MMO, especially one with a basis on vehicle combat (Auto Assault ring any bells..?)...oh and it is the same developer btw...

Runes of Magic - Free, independently developed, WoW 100% clone...yea, this one will survive...does not mean it is any good...

Ah yes...no need to leave the current field, as greener pastures just look irradiated and dead to the genre...

I call 2009 the Year of the Casual Single Player game...indeed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

RPG of the YEAR?

This list is mildly shocking. Take a gander. This is posted every year at Voodoo Extreme.
Last year it was the Witcher if I am not mistaken...
This year is pretty easy for the winner. What I wish to share is the #2 here, THAT is the shock..

Who woulda thunk it?

RPG of the Year?

Fallout 3 - 2116
30.60%
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures - 1779
25.73%
Mass Effect (PC) - 886
12.81%
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - 874
12.64%
The Witcher Enhanced Edition - 664
9.60%
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning - 302
4.37%
Fable II - 293
4.24%

(Now waits for the fevered explanations of those who are also flabbergasted and why this happened....)

X-Fire review - trending popularity

If we were to take the scales from the X-Fire charts, we can get a pretty good idea of popularity of the various Western based MMO's, and actually create a chart.

Like, for example, we all know WoW is #1 in sales and players. But, can we guesstimate how popular the other games are using this methodolgy?

Lets take a look.

#2 - WAR - Easily the second most popular MMO.
We have heard rumors of customers leaving, yet the latest patch added in two of the missing classes, and the times being played correspond to it's place in our chart. It's popularity still places high on the list, and makes WAR the #2 most popular MMO.


#3 - LOTRO - No matter how much I do not want to admit it, based on the X-Fire chart, and thanks to a new expansion, LOTRO gets in at #3 for popularity. The return of customers who originally bought the game, and lifetimers overall add to time played.
Well done Turbine.


#4 - Age of Conan - Still charting, and being consistent, this is pretty good. There have been new issues with the merges, and some slow response on the next patch. But, there is no doubt that there is a group of people who want their game to be a little different. I still have confidence in them. Now, if they would just speed things up ..


#5 - Everquest 2 - Well, thanks to some brisk sales of their latest expansion, they have made some huge leaps on the X-Fire charts...actually up 20 spots from when I last looked upon them..
This easily drops them into the top 5 Western MMO's


Note, we did not include Guild Wars here, due to one issue. They are not subscriber based, and that is what we are looking at. If we were to include them, they are by far the second largest MMO. But, we also question the MMO connotation, so for our purposes, we will note that WoW and GW are the two most popular fantasy online games. Here is hoping Guild Wars 2 proves to be a powerhouse like it's predecessor.

Now, this makes for our top 5. I do want to include a couple here that I have discussed in the past, and wanted to follow up on.

Dungeons and Dragons Online - The game has seen an upswing, which may be due to the new module that was released. I also have noted in the past that new technologies drive players to some games. With the addition of DX10, I think this also drives new players in.
So, with the upcoming henchmen system (hirelings) and the continued support of the DX system, who knows...maybe this game could do a turnabout (I also want to note that since release, all new content and updates have been FREE, with no expansions or costs associated with this...nice move to help drive new business)


Tabula Rasa - So, what happens when you announce the closure of your game? Bye Bye customers (even though the game is not scheduled to end for another 3 months...OUCH!)



Thats it for now. I am hoping to see a couple of more titles here soon. I may look at the Asian Market and check on games like Cabal, Shin Megami and later Spellborn.

Cheers

Weekend gaming wrapup

Weekend took an interesting turn as I put some major hours into Tabula Rasa, hit level 15 and set off for the Divide.
I put in more time into Shin Megami, yet, due to lag and disconnects, I started to feel a bit of grind and boredom there. I still have it loaded, and will watch to make sure that when they patch up, I get back in.
Also, I finally put Lost Odyssey on the "Sell it" list. I think for myself, turn based games have become a thing of nostalgia, and really do not hold up well in today's fast based gaming world.

Tabula Rasa grabbed me totally when I went into the Crater Instance. The instances are set to scale according to players and levels. And it was a winner. I did about an hour run there, finished my Wilderness Targets of Opportunity, which completes the first zone for missions.
I now set off for the Divide, a more war torn zone, with some wildlife that is a major pain.
I did cancel my game (which ends on the 26 of December), and noted my disappointment the game is going away. I also asked why they felt the need to cancel instead of lowering the price, or offering a Guild Wars buy and play system. Even micro-transactions would be awesome.
Anyways, I plan to return when the free time kicks in again though. The game has been great fun, and I will try to get as far as I can in my time alloted.

That was it for the weekend. This week on Dec. 10th is the new DLC for Fable 2 and the patch to fix a few errors. That will get me back to that game.
Excited.
Who knows, maybe Acclaim and TCoS will become less "in the dark" this week, pull their heads out of their asses and get the CB out for Spellborn!

Maybe?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chronicles of Spellborn - Just some simple advice

Try not pissing off your future customers by discussing a release date, then taking it away as one publisher (Acclaim) needs time to get the servers prepared, then for the new date, deciding not to release the code just yet to said publisher, and delaying it again, only to have that final date be screwed yet again, but go ahead and release your code to all other distributors but the one you originally promised to hold the code for...

(Is that a run on?)

Now, this is assuming it IS the developers fault.

If not...

Try not pissing off your customers by delaying a game they are waiting for as you are not quite prepared, yet, then on the new date, having issues applying said code to the servers, so you create a story about the developer who decided to state code issues (even though Closed Beta code by that developer was stated as being ready to release), then when you reach the delayed date, having silence on your website, until almost the end of the day in North America, to announce the developer did not release the code, oh but the developer announces the code is released for other countries.

While I am at it, for leaving a shitty website to advertise the game, go get some training on website development Acclaim!

Also, Customer Service would help as well..

Otherwise you incur the wrath of the forum poster!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chronicles of Spellborn - Dec. 5th, do you know where your Spellborn is?

EDIT: Well, seems some news finally came down the pipe from Acclaim (and yes, no spell check was used from the CM...hey Tipa...think someone needs a hand there)

"The EU version has launched. We have not recieved the code. So there is no launch planned for today."
_____________________________________________

But, France and the Benelux countries have their client.

Cool.

So, what is the hold up Acclaim? Or should we still blame the Developer?
Yet, the client HAS been released overseas.

This was the noted hold up according to Acclaim. The developer has not delivered the client, and as such...no client, no play schedule.

This still looks like a PR mess, and Customer Service screw up on someones behalf.

Good luck guys.

And now to make things even worse...the first review, from Eurogamer.

The Score? .................8/10....

ARGH!

Shin Megami Tensei - Just like the old days

Thanks to a tip from West Karana's comment section, Pete S. noted that free keys were being given out for the new Asian MMO, Shin Megami (ok...Megaten for short)...

Basically an online version of the console based titles, it truly matches to the originals in so many ways.

I have played around a bit, and as Tipa noted, we did not sign an NDA and my notice of being accepted into Closed Beta also did not state an NDA as such. So, just some minor impressions (even though it is CB, we should at least have a rough outline of the game right now).

Graphics - Spot on Megaten. It totally reminded me of the PS2's first release, Nocturne.
A slight glow surrounds the visuals, and the details look almost cell shaded, or water colored in some aspects.


For characters, you do not get much in the way of selection for models, clothing, hairstyles, etc. Luckily it does seem that a lot of options IN the game are available. (Saw one player who had a suit that looked very Tron like).

A few niggles are like the movement of the models which seems overly slow. There is not anything in the way of a run, and it is also reminiscent of the PS2.
The other issue was the fact that when you start the game, you have a limited selection of resolutions. 1024x768 and 1280x1024 was all. Luckily, a little investigation turned up an options file in the game folder with a .txt extension. I was able to change this to 1920x1080 for HD viewing on my living room LCD. This then presented an issue with "Teeny" font. You could read NOTHING. I lowered this to a 1440x900 HD resolution and now things are legible and the graphics scale to widescreen properly. A nice bonus, and a good start.
Hopefully fonts may be selectable or scalable down the road.

Mechanics - This includes combat. First off, I did what I always do, and did a test to see if the Xbox 360 controller can be used for the game.
Right off the bat you find out you do not have a lot of control of various options, but you can reassign key commands. For some reason though, quests would not reassign to my quest log key command (the J key or "START" on the controller). It kept opening the alignment window (yea..."alignments"...more on that in a few....)
Anyways, a little finagling got my basics down pat. I reassigned certain skills to the face buttons, assigned heals, etc. More testing is needed to see if this will hold up. For now, I have as much control as I need.
There is a lot of things to track in the game. Not just the basic skills for your weapon attacks, but attributes, special attacks...it is mind numbing, and AWESOME at the same time.
You do not choose a class as well, you specialize in areas to use the type of weaponry and skills you wish.
Combat is a real time affair, and reminds me of Star Ocean from Square Enix, with chosen skills being used to attack, block, counter, and magic..and even guns.
Due to some server issues though, this did not seem overly responsive, and this could be an issue if they do not iron it out. High latency will kill a game like this. But, the concept is sound, and new and unique, and has me intrigued.
Another aspect from the original games is the demon capture (more like parlay or threaten...lol).
There is so much, that I do not want to make this a huge post about it.
If you want more in depth coverage, check out this mini review.

One aspect which I have not touched on yet, and is really important for me during my current gaming is...

Story - And it is there. From the start you are given an assignment, and near the end of this, a cutscene. As well, you can make decisions. which will later play into the "alignment" aspect.
The dialogs are cutaways like in Age of Conan, where you move to the character taking up the screen.


As well, some discussions require you to make choices, which will most likely lead to movement in an alignment field. From Good to Chaos and a Neutral, where you start.
Since I have just started, I have not had much chance to investigate this yet. But, this alone makes for an interesting choice in an MMO.
Most MMO's if they do have sides, are chosen by the player right off the bat. But, with this mostly Single Player aspect being used in a full out MMO, proves to be a unique turn.
I am interested to see how this progresses.

The game is not without faults.

Quest tracking is pretty bad. The quest log itself is pretty useless. I had to go back several times to ask a question of the quest giver to get an idea of how to progress.
The mapping is horrid as well. Using a computer like grid to display a map, and small icons barely lit up, and you can mouse over these for descriptors...but overall poorly done.
Some may say "It is CB", but, this always drives me nuts, when the game is already released overseas, so a lot of these issues may continue to exist.
I know they are setting up servers and testing, but the lag and disconnects have been rampant. And this is not even stress test.
The popularity of the series will see a huge influx of players for sure. Already I have seen tons of people, so it is off to a good start. The lag issues could be painful as they progress. Hopefully Aerie can adjust to a popular title, and have the manpower and skill to pull this off.

Even with the faults, what we have here is something that strays from the norm. Some similarities exists (in training I had to kill 3 creatures, yet I can skip that, and since I have been out of training I have been doing unique quests), but with total control of your character and the path they follow (class and alignment), it will be surefire fun for the going price...FREE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tabula Rasa - So, how is it going?

I have been having a blast actually.

I am level 13 and halfway to 14 now. I play about 2-3 hours a day and so far enjoy the various missions and the crafting, which has become an addiction.
Sitting and picking modules to remove from one set of armor to place in another set has been awesome fun.
Upgrading weapons is also a treat.

Another thought occurs to me though, that in knowing the game will close gives me that impression the story will "end". This has been one pet peeve for MMO's for me, and maybe this makes it feel like I have a goal. I am progressing to end game, but not to raid or have PvP battles, etc.

Just to reach...the end.

The Deployment 15 patch has reached the PTS, and this includes both FPS mode and Earth as a playfield. I tested the FPS mode, and it is spot on, and works well. I did not know if there was a way to get to max to see Earth, but then I decided not to do this. Lets leave it a surprise.

Maybe this has been what is missing, as most MMO's have so much information on the game and how to complete quests, or do this or that task on a wiki or website...that the mystery is gone.
I think my break really helped me focus down to what is "fun" in an MMO, and hopefully I can ride this out when I go back to any other Fantasy MMO.

Too bad this game will be gone, but maybe it is for the best.
Hopefully, NCSoft's Aion is a hit, or else, we may see the beginning of the end now for this company!

Darkfall - So does it really exist?

Over the last few days I have been reading an interesting site.
The Noob Comic website which has been quite the fun site for comics has a little hidden area on their website.
In this area one of the writers for Noob Comic has been discussing his misadventures in Darkfall.

Located here
, the page has been updated on a regular basis for the last 3 or 4 days.

Basically Darkfall had been noted at one time to be "Vaporware", yet the last two months has seen a flurry of activity complete with a closed beta going.
Readers believe it to be the holy grail of PvP, complete with FPS mode or 3rd person real time combat, loot on death mechanics, and large scale battles.

Yup, believe that when I see it....

Anyways, the writer states...

"Aventurine have lifted my NDA obligations to allow me to post screenshots and comments as a preview of the game. I've been playing in beta for the last couple of weeks. This NDA lift is limited exclusively to what is posted here and I cannot otherwise give additional information, discuss the game, etc. etc"

The discussions of the game are quick little write ups with some humor and attitude thrown in, some great screenshots (this has also been an issue, as the graphics look dingy at times in some videos that are traveling the net), and some insight on how this game is progressing.

Now, just how long will it be until this launches? And please be careful doing any research, as this shows a tendency to up the hype machine from various forum posters, and some blogs.

Pretty scary how people think Darkfall = Christ.

Enjoy the posts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Witcher - Official Xbox 360 and PS3 trailer

The announcement is official. A redo of the Wticher for consoles. Available in autumn of 2009.

I WILL be buying this...

Enjoy the vid

Tabula Rasa - gone, but Face of Mankind returns

With the doors closing in Feb of 09, what is a poor Sci-Fi player to do?

Seems someone is taking up that mantle.

Face of Mankind makes a return.

Originally released in March of 2006, the game has seen some financial difficulties. It closed doors in 2007. It tried a relaunch in June of this year, but this fell through as well.

What the issues are is unknown at this point. But, luckily the original developers have found a group to share in the games relaunch.

Nexeon Technologies has taken the mantle of the game to have servers available.

The technology does look a bit old, but has a visual likeness to Tabula Rasa. Some scenes from a video that follows looks like it may take place on Earth, and is a "real time" combat engine in First or Third person. One reading of the game even stated having apartments, and a full crafting system.



Guess we will have to see. But, it does have my favorite price tag.

Free.

Interesting NPD sales numbers...

This is a major shock, and I have been trying to understand how this worked out.
Basically one of the titles on the list is not known to carry a very high "Brick and Mortar" awareness...

Anyways, the latest charts have showed up, and Kotaku has posted the top 10...

Most are predictable...BUT...

1. World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
2. Left 4 Dead
3. Call Of Duty: World At War
4. The Sims 2 Mansion & Garden Stuff
5. EverQuest II: The Shadow Odyssey
6. Spore
7. Fallout 3
8. The Sims 2 Double Deluxe
9. World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Collectors Ed
10. The Sims 2 Apartment Life

Yet, no LOTRO!

..........................how interesting.