Friday, December 17, 2010

All is NOT lost

Just a simple hiatus is all.

This is not the first time I have taken a break due to enjoying my current gaming fascination. Lately I have been addicted to the Hall of Monuments grind in Guild Wars. Basically, if I am occupied, then I usually blog less.

Hard to not blog with all the news as of late, though. Major upheavals  for Final Fantasy teams (specifically the failure know as FFXIV), the patching woes of Warhammer Online and their need to push customers away, and Age of Conan still thinking it is a viable game by introducing new PvP changes, including removing PvP features and adding new ones...even though Craig Morrison has specifically stated "AoC is not a PvP focused game".

But, lets just get this straight. A majority of the time bloggers always have a "focus", if you will. Whether it is to highlight their game time, specifically when it is a new game. They need to rant and rave about a particular game. Or they want to discuss mechanics. I have not needed to vent as much.

But, how many just talk about their current game, especially one as old as Guild Wars, just to chat? Sure, sure, Guild Wars 2 on the horizon means more discussions will be had about the upcoming gameplay. But, I think I will hold discussion on such mechanics until we have a chance to play.
I also have an ARG website for The Secret World, which I hope to hear more of soon. Disappoints me that it has been too quiet on that gaming front. Really was quite a bit of work I put into the site, yet the game seems to be in "vaporware" mode.

As to my X-Fire stats...not much there. I expected some major changes due to the launch of World of Warcraft's expansion. But, nothing happened. Well, maybe some small budging, but no major drops or advances. I think the after Christmas game time should show us some good numbers though, so I will plan on a post about that at a later date. Changes in who is buying or receiving MMO's as gifts as well as scrips ending for some players..

So, I am NOT gone...just waiting for something major to happen. For example, Rift is coming. Wintersday is underway in Guild Wars (always fun to watch their game time on X-Fire during their special events), and of course subs ending for those who bought year long scrips to Age of Conan for the Godslayer package deal should prove to be interesting come time for financials for Funcom.

So, for now, just relaxing, gaining my Hall of Monument points and getting ready for that next blast of news..


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MMO's - Entertainment? Service? or Nightmare.

Bear with me. The dullness of a simple database discussion is needed here.

Lets start small. What about "email". We send and receive email through a server. The server stores specific bits of that data, and makes decisions on where this data goes. Now, this in it's simplest form is a database.
Now, what happens if we lose or delete an email? Why we go to the server where tools exist to retrieve that email.
What if we forget our password? Simple. Server handles this as well.
The email server stores all of this data for you, so the user can just do what they want to do. Send and retrieve email.

You are a single entity to that email server, and it treats you separate from all others on that server. Your data is YOUR data.

Now, lets move on to what we really enjoy. Games. If I play a single player game, I have several choices in how "items" are handled. Each single player game keeps track of various data in their own "databases". All of the information pertains to me. It is installed on my computer and is MY data. I am the individual playing this game.
Now, If I lose an item, I either have the choice of saying "that sucks" and moving on, or as most games allow, a save from a previous session that goes back and lets me retrieve said item.

It is MY data to do with as I please.

As we can see, each system is unique in how it does things. But, we still can break a game or an email down to a simple database style structure. You store and retrieve data as needed for your session...whether playing or emailing. But, one clear piece is shown at each turn.

It is all individual. It is UNIQUE to me.

Now, of course, extenuating circumstance exist where this data CAN be lost. Server crash, corrupt hard drive data, backup overwriting the data...but, no matter what, a good system has ways to fix this and have a chance of retrieving what has been lost.

Thus we come to an MMO.

MMO's are another uniquity in its form. We entrust our "stuff" with the company we have purchased our time or game from. They, of course, have some form of "database" to store the multitude of information that is transferred back and forth with that companies servers. We ASSUME that the data on their servers is ours and ours alone.

Like email, transactions that take place between a user and a server, we do things one after the other and that data is stored. As we "accomplish" things in an MMO, we assume that information is held in place by some "database" and is stored for me. If we have the luck of the roll of the dice, we may get an item in that game. The server has to decide WHAT item and HOW we will get it.  This server should then store that data in some format.

This is all based on the assumption of how a game should work. I am not a GAMES programmer, but I AM a database programmer.

All data is individual. Records exists. Record are overwritten, changed, etc. But, no matter what, I can retrieve some form of that record. It is a unique record...period.

Did any of that sound like fun to you? It does not to me. Thus, our experience should be seamless within the gaming world. Entertainment should be the keyword. I should NOT be thinking of how that games database works or how it is storing my data.

If I play a single player game, never save my spot, and then lose something...hey guess what? That is MY fault. I only have myself to blame. If my fun is ruined, I only have myself to blame.
If I play a game where all of my information is saved somewhere else, I entrust them to keep me safe. All of my data should be easily accessible and retrievable for MY use.

I expect my MMO experience to be a service. Thus, I can be entertained and feel safe in the knowledge that I do not have to worry about my "stuff". That company I am paying is "saving" my spot in the game...or I assumed.

Thus, we come to Guild Wars.

Entertainment? Service? No. Nightmare? Yes.

I need to ask a question. Why should a database make a backup of all existing records as ONE file? Why is there not an individual tracking of players? Basically NCSoft has made it abundantly clear that Guild Wars saves the "worlds" data and not the individuals.

Look at sub based MMO's. Each keep individuals intact. The world is "static". They do not need to worry about the "world" as they can rebuild the world if it ever dies (crash? deletion of important information for that world?). The PLAYER is the responsibility of that company.

Is it because Guild Wars is free from fees that, customer service consists of the basics. I mean the barebones minimum. They can ONLY help you get back your general account data (username, pass)...but, they are limited there.
Need to change that ID which is attached to an email? Too bad. Especially if you use the super duper cool NCSoft master account. You know, the tool that was to keep you safe? The tool that last year was noted to have a bug allowing others to login and have access to other accounts by accident? NCSoft of course never owned up to this, but many had proof of this action.

Anyways, none of this matters. Everything you do in the world of Guild Wars is kept in that worlds data. No one is an individual, no matter how cool your name is; no matter how cool you are not individualized. Your data is mixed with others data, thus individual retrieval of information is lost.

This is just bad service.

Now, information could be kept on the client side, but as we know, there are those shady types who would find some way to manipulate this and make themselves rich or whatever.
Is it a cost barrier to the "free"ness of Guild Wars that does not allow individualization?

Lets look at one example of how this issue could have been handled.

There was a story from talking about a specific users issue of being "hacked". Check that story out.
"I go to the mailbox and happily find all of my gear and materials"
A happy ending. But, how is this possible? In what way does WoW work, that Guild Wars does not to allow such returns?
Item creation tools. Guild Wars has sworn they cannot do this. It is most likely handled by the server randomly.
This is all well and what about restitution of sorts? Money to help a character along? Also, cannot be done.
As explained to me by the NCSoft rep "The gold on the account that hacked your account was removed in such a way that we cannot give it back to you the player".
So, this sounds to me like tools exist to REMOVE stuff from the world. Just, no way to make it.

So, we come down to the last of this little tale.

Guild Wars offers a great gaming experience. But, safety is not a concern of the staff.
Many questions exist still on how my account was taken. But, even more disturbing is the lack of help that is offered by NCSoft staff in getting the player back to a normal state.
No offer of item retrieval. No offers of restitution from the criminals. And even worse, no offer of changes to help you become more secure. For example, you are not allowed to change the ID associated with your Guild Wars account, thus leaving the ID that was used in the first place vulnerable to more attacks.

With Guild Wars 2 on the horizon, this brings even more concern. With our current lack of security in Guild Wars original, what is to stop hackers from continuing to ruin the play experience of the purchaser? Guild Wars 2 is also a free offering, and items will play an even more important role in that game. This type of policy of ZERO help to the player will bring that game down pretty fast. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have read "Oh, NCSoft is publishing GW2? Count me out".

I am not sure if I will be counted when GW 2 launches, as a player either.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Guild Wars - All your stuff belong to us

The inevitable happened. I was horribly hacked. The game? Guild Wars. The Support staff? NCsoft.

The resolution? Unacceptable.

Wednesday night at around 11 pm EST, I logged off a very fruitful and awesome session of Guild Wars. I leave for bed, safe in the comfort that I have accomplished another step in my goal of building the Hall of Monuments, gearing up for Guild Wars 2.
I had been hard at work for about a month now, tackling various goals of gaining mini-pets, making VERY expensive armor, and completing missions I had never finished before.

Life was good.

Then I was violated.

At around 7:20 am EST, Thursday, Nov. 11th, 2010 - Veterans Day, I go to log in to Guild Wars. Ready for a full day of fun as I have the day off. My password does not work.
I check my caps lock, and it is ok. I type it Does not work. I quickly check my email to see if any changes have been made to my password...someone trying to get access? Or have I been banned?

I log into my NCsoft master account just fine, and proceed to use their built in password changer. Please note, to change your password for Guild Wars, all you have to do is put in your new pass...and you're done. Compared to Aion, which asks for your old pass, then a new pass...which I feel is a better system. So, password in hand, I log in.

And my Elementalist is just in underwear. AGHHHHHH

I proceed to go into the game and check the storage. Tons of missing goods. All of my standard mats which had full stacks, empty. Tons of rare mats, like 2 Sapphires, 150+ Steel Ingots...gone. A stack of black dye (9 of them) GONE!!!

And so much more. Every character has had at least one piece of armor destroyed or major runes taken off. This includes Heroes. Even a stack of Stone Summit Badges, a memory from my launch days when everyone in my huge 100 member guild would give them to me as a joke; gone, Gone, GONE.

So begins the painful process. I enter a ticket, with a heavy heart, to NCsoft support. Thus the odyssey begins.

In my days of playing, I have never had a "hack" like this. Especially with an account so full of stuff. WoW had an issue with an unplayed account two years ago. We did not have much there, so I did not care. Blizzard proved to be VERY helpful by restoring cash and goods. then they proceeded to ban my account for non-payment by the hacker. That was never resolved.

Like I said. Didn't care. It was rectified, and if I wanted to, I could get this taken care of.

Moving on. I entered my ticket about 30 minutes or less after the login. Explained the issue. Noted the most glaring concern. Why did I not get an email with my password change? I could not login until after I changed my password that morning. And after I made MY change, I got an email. So, how between the hours of 11pm and 7am did I not get the email?

About 6 hours later, and no answer, so it was time to elevate. I hit the phone number, got a response and got told I owned my account (go figure). They elevated this to another person.

About 4 hours later an answer on my first ticket. Seems no one has accessed my account except from my IP. WTF? They also show no password change between 11pm to 7am. How is this possible?

I explained how this could not be. I checked my router for access logs. No go. They noted keyloggers or virus...I scan; nothing. So, how was this possible?

Next update comes almost 2 hours later. Seems they caught two people from Germany using IP spoofing to login to my account. But, here comes the worst part of that response....

"While I would like to replace your items, the Guild Wars Support Team does not have the capability to replace characters or items, whether they are lost through the actions of unfriendly players, deletion accidents, or through other means."

This doesn't make sense.

Now, I will not bore you with the back and forth on this. There was a lot. The password issue has not been resolved (NCsoft says no password change took place?). Anyways, two more replies of me pleading and asking for clarification of their policies. For example, how can items "magically" appear for Birthdays, or Runes or Dyes be tracked in sales for pricing...yet, they cannot track my stuff.

Note...tracking or "returning" is never an option here. All NCSoft kept saying, especially with this final doozy of a reply is...

"Although I wish there was a way to restore or compensate for your losses, there are no tools, executables, or buttons to accomplish this request."

This of course leads to many questions. Does Guild Wars just create items out of thin air then? Is there a preset number of items in the world (which could make sense...but, then if something is used up, how is it replenished?). Why can't NCsoft (since they caught the hackers) go through their inventory and return what can be found, or said cash equaling lost goods?

What has BEEN proven is that the NCsoft websites and services are a very insecure, unsecure and non-safe environment for your data and your virtual goods.

Thanks to some awesome Tweeters, I will be getting some things back (Thanks to Longasc and Avery, who have offered platinum and items)...but, the feeling of losing years of memories is like a house burning down. You can't those goods back, but insurance does cover those costs of replacement.

NCsoft takes your money and offers no assurance of your safety.

Now, I am sure you have lots of questions on what happened, so please send the comments my way. So far, the ticket stays open, with a request of elevation. But, I fear it is gone, never to be returned.

Out of all this, I fear most for Guild Wars 2 and accepting this companies refusals to offer any help to recover from such damages down the road.


Monday, November 1, 2010

X-Fire: Charting a Course

It has been a while since I have looked into charting the numbers of X-Fire for the MMO's we love (or love to hate...).
In case you are not aware, I call this the X-Fire game. If anything I think we can see how popular an MMO may be by using X-Fire and these game "results". The "game" part is important to remember, so as always I must deliver this with caveats, as many take issue with these results.

"The results here in no way equal a major scientific fact, and if anything shows a "trend" among gamers on the X-Fire network, who number in the millions, who may play an MMO in the list".

I add this caveat as I am sure some will take offense at these results...specifically fanbois of said games that are doing quite poorly. There are a few shocking results here when we compare them to past numbers.

Like Nielsen ratings on TV, the numbers given are an average of how well a game may be doing based on a specific set of results, or sampling.

Lets look at the Nielsen's. Boxes are placed into homes, and surveys are sent out to get an overall "ad rating" for TV shows based on a set number of viewers. For example, last notation is that "25,000 total American households" (WIKI) have a box. The number of U.S. television households as of 2009 is 114,500,000. So, we can see this percentage is pretty small compared to how many actual TV's are in use. Yet, ad prices and even the success or failure of any given show can be calculated based on this result. X-Fire I feel can work the same way (if major ads were used in these games, or the success or failure of a game was based on how well it did in the "ratings"
The Nielsen system uses a share result which usually helps set advertising prices. Like this share result, I created a system based on using the most popular game at the top of the list, and creating a calculation which helps average how many subs a game may have. That game, of course, is World of Warcraft.
Again, a warning with this. The numbers have changed since that time, and a new calculation needs to be done. So, today I will not do the "sub" calcs. Instead, we will just rate games in popularity based on their X-Fire result.

If you would like more of the history of the X-Fire game, here is an old post (which we will use as a comparison tool for how the games are faring) from March of this year. If you want to play the X-Fire game at home, by all means, head to that post, look at the calculation and see how your MMO is doing.

For now, lets get this started. A lot of games to cover. I will put the games in order of lowest rated (worst in the results) to the best of the bunch.

Champions Online

I really enjoy starting with this one. First up, we recently received the news that Champions Online is going "Free to Play". As I continue doing X-Fire charts, I think once that "switch" takes place, this will jump up in the charts. Next, it sits with my opinion that MMO's that are not "Medieval" fantasy and is not EvE or an FPS (like Halo or CoD), just does not rank well. Another note will be the number of players, as we will see further on. That number is not too bad, just that when they login, they don't stay logged in very long. 
That is sad.
So, out of the games I am charting today, CO sits at the bottom of the barrel.

Everquest 2

This will be the last time I place EQ2 on this chart. 
It seems that there is an issue with X-Fire that when playing EQ2, the times either drop or will not calculate. I blame the klunky game client for this and not X-Fire. The client also has been noted to not add to X-Fire and has to be forced to show up in timings.
Another theme to note here may be that the "old farts" who play EQ2 just see no need for the X-Fire software...but, seeing that EQ2 has a free to play client now, this did not make sense to me. Most younger players will try an MMO if it has a free component.
Unless the game really is not doing that well.
So, instead of starting an overall flame war about this, I will blame the game client, as it has been corroborated that the results just don't work. 
To see this in action, head to that previous X-Fire post and you will see the old results have EQ2 sitting higher at 293 players and #101 on the chart. The game should be much higher than that now...but is not. So, not playing nice means "bye-bye EQ2" from the rankings.

Star Trek Online

Talk about a major drop in the stats since March of this year. Cryptic had put out a press release at the time I did those calcs, stating over 100k players. Now, it looks to be a third of that (maybe a little more now that calcs have to be changed). Overall it IS dropping. 
I will guess that if Champions Online jumps after the F2P IPO, that STO will follow suit. So, good to have this here for reference when the time comes.
I really think it is not expensive for Cryptic to run STO, and it could be profitable at this point...but, until I can do new calcs, I am not even sure how many are playing. 
At least it is not below #100 on the chart, and that to me looks good.

Warhammer Online

I should be shocked at these results, but I am actually not.
Mythic and Warhammer has had a lot of crap happen to it this year, and these results really show how people react to their mess.
From the billing fiasco earlier this year, to the EALouse blog hate, all the way to a total redo for the game coming this year...the game has no sense of direction.
Disappointing to see it cut almost in half since the March results where it had 621 players and was #67 on the chart.
Maybe the RvR packs can bring this game back up? But, I feel the damage is done, and it will not recover much further.

Age of Conan

Where WAR exists on the chart, there is Age of Conan just always a little ahead. Would that have anything to do with a more fleshed out and less buggy PvE playfield?
But, it sure is not far ahead...with 2 more players? LOL Whats important to note here is the minutes played. The jump is pretty big, and shows the AoC players do not mind staying logged in just a little longer.
Funcom has been resting on it's laurels since the Rise of the Godslayer expansion, where they had a hefty lead in the charts. Check out the results from May just before the expansion launch.  WoW. 994 players and Ranking #42.
This goes to show that it is not a good idea to just let your MMO sit and hope the expansion keeps the player occupied. Unless your World of Warcraft that is.

Dungeons & Dragons Online

Still going at a decent clip, especially for a game meant for the casual player, DDO still keeps up. Especially seeing that the game was near death before going Free to Play. As can be seen from the March results as well, DDO has been keeping players running dungeons consistently. Only dropping a hair since those early results.
Nothing else to note here, except, great job Turbine.

Final Fantasy XIV

This one makes me want to laugh. There are several key factors here. First up is just how low on the list this game is, especially seeing it has just launched. Next, how low the "Highest" is. #37?. Look at all the other games in this chart, and you will see that at one time or another they have all been much higher than FFXIV ever got. Sales seemed to be dismal here.
Release your game unfinished, with no idea of what your community wants or cares about and reap the reward of low uptake.
Can this game recover? Maybe when it hits PS3, which will not chart here.
Good Luck Squeenix.

And now the top three I am charting...

The Lord of the Rings Online

Turbine has to be one happy camper. Talk about some great stats. Note the "Highest" result of #9? That was it's BEST EVER rating on the X-Fire charts. All thanks to Free to Play.
Turbine has proven that the Free to Play model can work for a "commercially" released game. And you do not have to be a low quality Asian Grinder to make it work.
Most everyone knows I am not a fan of LOTRO, but I AM a fan of what Turbine does for it's customers. All win there.
Keep it going...oh and take that cash you're making and hire a UI artist who understands DPI and an animator who knows how to use motion capture.


Ah yes. The game so many say failed...yet, X-Fire says different. Now, of note, based on March results, the number of players has dropped, and minutes played is lower. It still is consistently in the top 10 though.
Keep in mind, from all indicators, there has been a loss in the number of people using X-Fire, and this may show a lower result for all games. Time will tell.
This much I can say. Has no one ever wondered why Aion does NOT have a trial? Looking at these results can give us a good reason why.

Guild Wars

This will be the first AND last time I will show Guild Wars, the original on these charts. But, lets get this straight. Guild Wars 2 will be a MAJOR hit. With over 6 million sales alone in GW1, and the curiosity of the current player can it not be. And to top that all off, trying to play with the conventions of the standard MMO like GW1 did, GW2 if even having half of the changes they discuss, I would be remiss in thinking it would have the FFXIV fate.
These numbers also show what happens when you use a Cover charge model of buy in and play for no fee. Also, throw fun and exciting events, like the yearly Halloween extravaganza in GW, you can't lose.
I played during this time, and of note, the number of people wearing "purchased" costumes was huge. Can you imagine how much they made off the "Special" costume packs they sold?
There are very few MMO's that can say they compare to WoW in "subs", and even though GW does not have subs per se, they have the playerbase...eager to game and pay.

Now, I know a lot of games are missing. I realized when I started this endeavor, that it would be large. Especially with so many MMO's out there vying for the players cash. I will look to include some others since I will be dropping two off this list. EvE is one I wish to include down the road (thanks Ardwulf).
I am still working on the calc system now as well. WoW recently announced 12 million players, and as such, the percentages for X-Fire need a redo. Hopefully I can include that next round.
I will always watch Sunday numbers, as it is the highest listed day for MMO play times, so I will try and do these each Monday (wish me luck)

Any questions, let me know. For now...Enjoy!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The X-Fire Cometh

So, sitting back and pondering my blog...I came back to my old posts on X-Fire stats.

I have not looked at the numbers in a while, and feel it may be time to review how things have changed over the months. So many changes have taken place in the MMO world, that it may be time to see how this is affecting the stats or trends of those games on X-Fire.

X-Fire has always polarized so many people. Usually it has a negative connotation from those whose games seem to be failing on the X-Fire charts, while others can look at the numbers for what they are; trends of players who load the software.

With the changes...specifically with The Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest 2 and the upcoming F2P of Champions Online... it could prove to be interesting to see how these games have progressed on those charts.

Here is my current goal. The games that will be looked at are commercial titles. The list is...

  • EQ2 (please note, X-Fire has been known to be broken with this game...and the numbers may not pan out)
  • Age of Conan
  • Warhammer Online
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online
  • Champions Online
  • Star Trek Online (as this may go Free)
EDIT: Need to add Final Fantasy XIV to this list. Knew I was missing a game I wish to watch.

Note, there are a TON of games not on this list. I may touch on a game here and there, if requested. Vanguard will, for example, be ridiculed once. WoW just does not need to be here.
Also, note, I will not be looking at non-commercial Vindictus, Cabal Online, Mabinogi...etc. Their releases do not match the criteria of "big companies" trying to profit...both on box sales as well as subs.

The games I am watching the most are: Age of Conan and Warhammer due to their less than satisfactory retention of players; LOTRO due to it's change to Free to Play (or as coined at Ardwulfs excellent blog by Winged Nazgul - "Cover Charge"); Champions Online and it's upcoming change to F2P.

Like I said, other games are welcome, so please let me know what you wish to see.

Stay tuned and CHEERS!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Good Openedge - The Free 2 Play Model Can Work

Just read the report on the GDCO 2010 conference for Turbines report. You can catch the news here.
Turbine GDCO Report
"At GDCO, the studio [Turbine] announced that revenues from Lord of the Rings Online have doubled in the past month since switching to a free-to-play hybrid model."

Everyone knows how I feel about LOTRO, as I have stated in the past...the game is just not that good. Period. I could sit and point out the many flaws in gameplay and style, and most would even agree.

But, when it came to them changing to Free 2 Play, I was on onboard, and had even stated I could see their business doubling thanks to this change. Looks like I was spot on for that.

If Turbine has one thing right, it is how to treat their customers and how to make a game profitable. They pulled a rabbit out of their hat with DDO, and took a chance with a grade A (according to many) MMO and converting it to a less popular style of monetary arrangement in many MMO circles.

Most associate Free 2 Play with low quality. But, LOTRO is not too low quality wise (just in the aspect of character models and UI...which I understand has been tweaked some, but still needs work) , and Turbine took a big chance. Especially with the type of community that LOTRO exhibits, the belief was going F2P would be it's downfall. If anything, I applaud their move and am glad they have made headway. I hope they use this money wisely and apply it to a better animation engine and model designers, along with UI creators who understand DPI.

This leaves the window open now. Can this model succeed if done right? Want an example of NOT doing it right? Head on over to EQ2X and take a look.
You can't inundate your customer base with charges left and right. Also, there has to be a way to earn the same goods that can be bought in your store. Do this or alienate a large audience.
SOE's move to place the new "free" audience on other servers was genius...until they saw that their core audience wanted more people to play with, and saw an emptying of their pay servers...ouch. In so many words, don't separate your audience if you don't have a large audience to begin with.

So, is Free 2 Play the way to go all the time?  I still feel some games cannot work like this.

Take Warhammer Online. So many think it needs to go Free due to it's low populations. I disagree. The niche it inhabits does not bode well for a cash shop. Buying into a PvP oriented game is a big no-no to me.
But, the game could do with some price "tweaking". Changes to pricing structures for their "Tiers" is a start. Then charge for aspects that can be earned. Horses and Mounts could be one piece. New addons like their upcoming RvR packs is another.
The fact that PvE is taking a back seat to their PvP also means F2P would be disastrous. To top it off, their PvE is so broken to begin with...more work would have to be done in that arena before a F2P model could even look WAR in the eye.

PvE gameplay is 100% congruent to Free 2 Play in my opinion. People will be willing to buy what they need or want. But, you must offer some way to have the player gain these same items...just make sure it takes them a long time.

I welcome our new pricing models and hope it leads to more innovative ways to pay and play.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bad Openedge - We don't need your stinkin' MMO

Let me say this upfront. All MMO's seem to live by the "Give it a few weeks or months before playing" mantra.

Why should this be?

With the recent release of Final Fantasy XIV, I just have to ask..."Why?" Was your previous MMO already dying for customers? If so, was it your intent to make a game they could easily go to and continue their life? If NOT, then why not look at what the market has shown and improve upon this?

Or is this a "name only" money grab?

We all know for a fact, this industry is looked upon more harshly now than in the past. Any MMO player worth his salt is saying "I want a change". Graphics are one thing, but gameplay should be foremost. Make your game obtuse and far away from the norm, you alienate a core audience. Make your game different, but not well fleshed out in terms of content or playability, you will roast on the flames of the haters.

When your main player, an Eastern audience and players of your previous MMO, are saying things have gone awry...then be prepared to be left behind. When you formally ask reviewers to "wait" 3-4 weeks to have their say...prepare to be skewered.

I pity Square Enix's decisions. I do not doubt that down the road after all of the bugs and issues have been rectified, the PS3 version will most likely sell very well. But, as a current or next gen MMO, FFXIV leaves a lot to be desired.

Sure, I could wait a few months and come back. This excuse is getting old though. And should I be accepting of content that is there to get players through solo style? Should I accept menus that pull me out of my world to make decisions? Should I have to speak to a rock to get quests to do, that are available for set amounts of time?

I say, if you don't want to put in any effort to make a good game that could turn the industry around, then I don't need your stinkin' MMO.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Why now?

I could go on and on about this for hours.

But, I think now is a good time to return. The past year has been quiet it seems in the MMO industry. No major releases (except for one), no major upheavals or changes (except for one)...

But, that is changing.

With a shutdown of a prominent title (APB) and the release of a major name (Final Fantasy), I guess there needs to be an intemperant voice among the masses.

Why did I leave (again...)? I don't wish to discuss it. Really. Why should I? What remains to be seen is how the blogger universe will handle me returning.

So, for now...keep an eye out, as I may eventually have something to say.

Like an Anthony Bourdain of the MMO bloggerverse...Will I be "Good Openedge" or "Bad Openedge"..

Friday, September 24, 2010

Could he return?

And what does he have to say about the industry??

We are personally...very scared.

Friday, June 4, 2010

You know I wanna...

But, it will not happen.

Lord of The Rings Online going free with RMT is the best move for an MMO in today's market. Especially an MMO that was considered AAA.
It shows the market can handle another option. DDO proved that. WoW's price setting schemes need not be the norm. Turbine can actually come out as a leader of a new way to price.

Turbine...I applaud you

Monday, May 24, 2010

Warhammer Online: Rank and VILE!

Something that interests me in Warhammer Online is the multiple ways to level the character. You not only have a main "rank" (your level in most other MMO's), but you have the RR or Renown Rank, and Influence.
Influence is not too important to your character as it just tracks progress through the TIER system. In PvE, influence is gained by completing Chapters of stories in the Public Quest system. The RvR Influence is by completing Tiers in Open RvR (you gain no influence for Scenarios...or not enough to really care about).
You get some ok gear, but that is about all the Influence meter offers (that I know of...anyone want to enlighten me on this?)

So, my two focuses have been Renown and standard Rank.

Now, here is an example of how my character looks in the "rankings" system (on the Realm War system from Mythic, which allows you to track characters, not unlike the Armory for WoW).

Note my RANK and then you see RENOWN.

This post is all about that smaller number...the Renown. Renown basically tracks your "PvP" level. The higher it is, the more you have PvP'd (RvR) and of course, you have gear to show for those levels, as some of the best stuff is Renown gear.

This past weekend I racked up an amazing 18 hours of gameplay working on this Renown (if not all became a blur on my 7th siege of a keep). All of that gameplay consisted of one type of RvR; the Open RvR (ORvR).

Awesome you say?

Well, the fact that I was at the end of RENOWN 20 when I not so awesome. I basically gained a level and two 18 hours of play.

The true definition of grind...THAT is Vile.

ORvR consists of several measures to gain Renown points (RR). You take Battle Objectives (BO) and Keeps. The keeps can garner the most points, as not only will you take the keep, but will be in combat with a lot of the opposite faction. You can also defend keeps, but only gain major points in either style of gameplay by winning.
Order was definitely on the short end of the stick the whole weekend. Destruction could field two or even three Warbands of 24 players each...while Order had...One.

Now, mind you, this is Tier 3. This tier has been known to bring grown men to tears, and as such, most players head to the Land of the Dead (LoTD) (this all has been discussed in my previous post) to quick level to Tier 4, where balance is somewhat restored. But, during this time, you gain no Renown, as LoTD is PvE, which goes towards standard Rank.

Another way I could gain this RR faster is through Scenarios. But, thanks to the new patch this weekend, it seems Scenarios were NOT going off. I was able to compete in TWO Scenarios the whole weekend.

And do not start me on population issues.

But, back to the difference between the Renown Rank and the standard Rank.
How competitive can a player be if that Renown rank has not increased when they enter Tier 4? And why is it that the main style of play that is the most enjoyable is so unforgivable to the player who wishes to PvP.


To play what I want though, I must endure hours of long, hard work to stay competitive, and that may be an issue going forward.
I have mentioned many a time that I am strictly a "Casual" player. But, WAR seems to need more than I can offer it. 18 hours is just a little to much, no matter how much fun I had. Definitely adds up to cause home issues, that I do not need.
When I saw my Xfire times (a good reason to use Xfire, so I can babysit myself), and had played as many hours as I work a full time job, I was dumbstruck.

Warhammer is extremely fun, but is turning into a job more than an enjoyment...and that may have consequences down the road.

This week, I plan to pull back that focus on the RR, and instead play some PvE with my wife, and maybe some scenarios if we can get them. The wife had already seen the effects of ORvR, and lost taste for it pretty fast. She loves the PvP, but the "siege" style system of takeovers and major battles were not for her. I understand, as for her to even like PvP to begin with is major, as she truly hates it in other MMO's. The fact she is willing to do some Scenarios is great.

Time is ticking, and I am unsure if I can reach max level (let alone crank up that RR), so, I may have to go back to "enjoying" WAR and not working a second job for the Empire.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Warhammer Online: Wrong Server? I choose you...

I have been pretty quiet here as I have been playing like a loon in Warhammer Online. The game really has me captivated, and I enjoy the RvR. Being I am NOT a PvP'er, this has really become a major change of pace.

But, there comes a time in every game where you find out (especially being new to the game) that you made a bad decision.

That Decision? Choosing the wrong server.

Of course, at the time I started, the game was bustling. Numbers were up compared to previous months (even the last year). I had no issues getting into groups, and RvR was prevalent and meaningful.

Several things happened. Billing errors, down times and other concerns like websites being sued, etc. all bringing down populations.

Then I also hit Tier 3.

I am currently on the Iron Rock server. To get an idea of population there, head to Warhammer Census. Though not a perfect tool, it DOES show an alarming difference between Iron Rock and the other servers that are active. To be precise, the most active is Badlands. In the tier I am in, there is almost double the number of players on Badlands than on Iron Rock.
The Tier 3 Scenario's (SC) and Open RvR (ORvR) have been slim pickings for me. I can never get an SC to pop when I play in T3 (but, this is of course me not playing in Prime Time either). If I can play evenings, I join Warbands. But, they are never quite full. When that happens, Destruction comes through and steam rolls those teams when Order attempts to take over a keep.

This had been noted by many players of the game about the Tier 2 and 3 doldrums, but I did not think it would hit such a wall. They lured me in with the super fun PvP, and then finally took it away from me at that next to final tier. When I am playing, if I do not mix up PvE with RvR, then WAR becomes a major drag.  All PvE = snooze fest.

Now, it has been told to me through the forums that I should move on, grind PvE and get out of T3 as fast as possible through the last content update WAR had, Land of the Dead (LoTD). But, as I said, PvE could get boring. LoTD luckily is more fun than standard PvE due to so many areas to fight in, dangerous mobs to contend with and a neat looking zone to boot. But, this also leads to a gear discrepancy when I do hit T4. But, I can hide in RvR lakes, and hope I can muster some Renown levels to get my RvR score up and get the gear.

I am at a crossroads. I do not have much longer before I take a break from WAR and head to Age of Conan. Mythic offers no character transfers for new I sit stuck on Iron Rock. I could start anew on Badlands...but that then puts me back to square one again.

Do I take it on the chin and just muddle through until time is up, or do I have another avenue I do not see here?


Friday, May 14, 2010

Things the NPD MMO poll wanted to tell us..but we're afraid to ask.

Big ole title, for some big ole fun.

Recently released, Massively has the info on a poll by the NPD group. Basically the poll is a piece of a larger puzzle of MMO players and their likes (or dislikes). You can check the info here [SOURCE].

The poll is very specific and toward a certain group of players. As noted, the poll is called "What former World of Warcraft Players are Currently Playing". The sample size is rated at 19,000 players. This makes me wonder just how many were polled that were FORMER players (is that 1%, 10%, of actual size of former, etc.), and many other numbers come to mind. We at least know 68% were Male and the age group.

But, there is a lot that is not noted in the article, and I wish to help YOU, my informed readers know what the poll is REALLY telling us (than just what this select group is playing NOW).
  • A Large group were once Final Fantasy XI players (thus the reasoning for the title being so high on the list, as most will go back to what they are familiar with)
  • The noted need for something else to be either CHEAP or FREE (Runescape, Guild Wars, DDO, Toontown)
  • A large number of boys like their Super Heroes (Both Champions Online and City of Heroes/Villains make showings on that list)
  • EvE ranks lower on this list, and helps with the debate I constantly have that Sci-Fi just does not rank highly for MMO players, and Fantasy is king (SWG is at the bottom there...but that is more likely a case of a bad game)
  • Why is Everquest 2 not on there at all? (either it is usually these players skew older (search Google for "average age of everquest 2 player" get 31+), or no one really likes the game like some want to believe)
  • Maybe PvP does NOT sit well with MMO players, like many wish to believe? (Aion, WAR, EVE and DAoC ranking so low)
  • Dangit people...upgrade your COMPUTERS already... Calculators and Toasters do not good PC's make (Runescape, GW, Second Life, Treasure Hunt, Toontown and more)
  • These players are easily entertained with Cartoony Games (playing WoW, Disney Toontown, Champions, Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Hunt)
  • A dedicated group of players want some naughtiness to their game (Second Life and AoC having high showings)
I may have missed some, but these are the main points I pulled from this report. Do you have any specific data YOU can pull from this report? Let me know.

PS: This is still part of the fun of analytics, and as such, this is truly in jest...but, you gotta admit, there is a lot there that makes sense. So...enjoy and comment away.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gaming the Xfire - Latest Update

Wow. What a weekend. Major disturbances in the force of the charts really made me feel that we needed a post to discuss the latest movers and shakers on the Xfire charts.

I will be referencing an article I did at the end of March, thanks to a press release from Cryptic and their newest MMO, Star Trek Online - STO (SOURCE). The data was sound, and we had something to base some numbers off of. The Xfire charts hit a home run, and calculated almost precisely the number of subs STO had, compared to the statement by Cryptic.
As I make notes and do the calcs, just refer to the previous article if you have any questions in how it relates.

The reason I wanted to do the new numbers is that starting this week is, of course, the Age of Conan expansion launch; Rise of the Godslayer. I think this will have a major impact on a lot of MMO's. And as you will see, it really made some adjustments. This will also allow us to see how people are feeling about the new expansion, and how subs "could" be affected.
As well, several other news tidbits made some changes to sub counts. For example, STO had a free return for old subs and introduced a new free trial.
Warhammer Online had another blow struck against it as well, thanks to a set of court papers being filed by Games Workshop against the fan site Warhammer Alliance.GW really has nothing to do with Mythic and WAR, but it is the same IP. The issue is that so many think it DOES relate to WAR and EA/Mythic...and thus, we see what the outcome is of this latest wound. Watch them bleed...

Lets start with some OTHER surprises first.

Lord of the Rings Online
This was really interesting. Especially seeing that Codemasters was offering a "Free Return Weekend". But, it looks like other games are in the spotlight and took the stage away from this critical darling and fan favorite.

Calcs show that subs dropped a bit.  1518 x 120.05 = 182,235 subs. Previously LOTRO had 213,689. This is a considerable drop. I will keep track of this, and see if it is ongoing or just a fluke. For now, looks like age is catching up to LOTRO.

Another interesting change here. Now, mind you, Aion is STILL a top 10 game, so it does not affect it too much. But, it is also a bit of a drop.

If we do the Calcs, we get - 3662 x 120.05 = 439,623 subs. Last check we had 463,873.
Again, a sizable change. But, I also know that some numbers will be down. Why? HELLO, summer on the way, warm weather. We are bound to see these types of lower numbers. But, it is still interesting.

Age of Conan
Not so surprising. But, I am assured that Funcom has to be one happy camper right now. The numbers continue to rise. Lets take a look.

Very nice. 994 x120.05 = 119, 329 subs. This not only is above the previous articles numbers (81,274), but as well, I did a post discussing the rise May 3rd, and they had roughly 110k players (War of the Failures).
If Funcom can launch Rise of the Godslayer tomorrow, and not have any MAJOR concerns, they could be the comeback kid of 2010.

Warhammer Online
While Funcom may be the "Comeback Kid", WAR and Mythic are the kid being bullied on every corner. Talk about several weeks of pain for these guys. And this past week culminating in another hit with the Games Workshop court order against WHA (Warhammer Alliance), it looks like things are growing worse. Talk about being put on "life support".

These are actually some of the worse numbers for WAR since I started watching Xfire several years ago with Age of Conan's launch. 535 x 120.05 = 64,226. That is a drop from the previous article (74,551) and as well from last weeks post (War of the Failures, calc'd at 70k).
All I can say is if the new patch does not hit by at least next week, servers will be critically empty. Since I am still playing, I saw a weekend of a low number of scenario's being done and as well, we started some alts in the Elf region, and was able to flip the whole zone in Tier 1 to Order with just the 3 of us. Yes, 3 people took a whole zone....
Here is a prayer for ya WAR...I hardly knew ye'

Dungeons & Dragons Online
Well, this could only last so long. We see a minor drop in numbers here.

The calcs say 766 x 120.05 = 91,958. Not too bad. But, last post had DDO at 111,647. So it looks like interest is waning a bit. But, there is no doubt that Turbine still has to be enjoying some great cash flow off this title. Those kinda stats are not anything to laugh about. And having two games doing decent numbers probably doesn't hurt either.

Star Trek Online
Give something away and they will come. Free time for old subs, new free trial...all adding up to a small rise in numbers.

Mind you, this is NOT a rise from my last post, but a rise from what happened after the first 30 days. STO had fallen to close to 200 to 300 players and was in the low #100's and had even fallen at one point into the low #200's on the charts.
Todays calcs put them at 527 x 120.05 = 63,266. And as we can even see on the charting, it was at #92 previously, but shot up to #88. I expect this to rise a little bit more. But, overall, STO did not do well, and that is too bad. It looks gorgeous thanks to screenshots from @Longasc (on Twitter), but must be missing some appeal to a majority of MMO players.

Like I said, this was quite a bit of a change for a lot of titles. Not sure what is up yet, and as the summer progresses, I expect more drops. But, some titles I think are hurting (WAR, STO), but we may see a return on Age of Conan. I wish them luck tomorrow.

Ok, thats it for this week. Watch my Twitter account if you want more info.


Monday, May 3, 2010

War of the Failures

Lately I have come to the realization that two of the biggest failures of 2008 are now two of my all time favorite games.

Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

But, a battle royale is coming next week between these two newer generation MMO's. Age of Conan will be releasing their new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer. May 11th to be precise. Why does this create a field of war, when these two games are not so much like each other?

Originally both games were heavily PvP oriented. But, Warhammer took a different approach by making it all about the large open Realm vs Realm combat. Age of Conan went for a guild based "siege" mechanic (I do not want to argue semantics here either. We all know WAR has sieging, but AoC definitely does not have factional PvP...yet.) and one on one dueling. WAR had scenarios and AoC had CTF style arena based 6vs6 style combat.

Age of Conan took a different direction eventually in late 2009, focusing more on a gear grind based PvE system, but still having PvP. Just, it seems to me that PvP really has no "purpose" when you kill for the sake of killing. WAR though has always focused on a "sides" based system. When a particular "faction" has won the day, rewards for all in that "faction" or realm was included. Age of Conan is the every man for himself or his guild fight. WAR is for Order or Destruction being in control.

Differences abound, but the similarities of these two games could not be more adequate.

These games were truly failures of their time.

Both games were hyped beyond compare from their respective game directors, and were not quite up to what was stated about them. Both games opened to acclaim by many and sold as man copies as to try and compete with that powerhouse known as WoW. Both though slowly degraded and were denigrated for many broken systems they had in place.

Eventually the mighty two toppled to where today they each struggle to keep themselves alive.

But, a sea change is on the horizon for one game. Age of Conan  has started to gain a larger following. Reviewers of games and many a blog have touted the games turn around. Sales of the expansion have been brisk. And as noted on Xfire, growth is hitting the game before the expansion launch.
Recent numbers show Age of Conan at roughly about 908 players on Xfire. In a previous post from last month, ( The Xfire Game ), AoC was at 677 players. This is important, as using the calc system I discuss in that post, Age of Conan is hitting around 110k players / subs per month. (As I must always note, these estimates are part of a game, using the Xfire tracking system, and are not 100% accurate, but do give a good glimpse of popularity).

WAR had made progress as well with the game, but continues to live with setbacks. Servers were closed overseas. A Large billing fiasco made Mythic the brunt of bad news. And finally a most recent newsletter makes mention of a mechanic that has not existed in the game since launch, having Order and Destruction characters on the same server...which has led to speculation of more server merges.
Using the same Xfire gaming system for sub counts, we also see what effect this news is having on Warhammer Online. The previous count (from March 29th) had WAR at roughly 621 players. This converts to about 75k subs. The game is now hitting 590 Xfire players, or around 70k subs. (Note, this number is interesting, as many a quote has suggested that roughly this many were affected by the billing fiasco...but, that is speculation. I may discuss that more on Twitter later).
Seeing I am playing WAR, I can also feel the difference from when I launched to now. Less Scenarios opening up, less full ORvR groups...basically a feeling of more emptiness.

My thoughts are that when Rise of the Godlsayer launches, that even though WAR and AoC have been neck and neck on will start a larger tumble for WAR. The number of players will fall, and unless something drastic happens soon, WAR could see an end to it's glorious rebound.

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment. I will be opening wide the comment floodgates today as well, so feel free to "express yourself".

Monday, April 26, 2010

I just gotta tell ya...

When the urge to write comes upon me, I just have to get it out...get it out of my head and onto the web.

As I am doing a writing project for work, I feel the need to intersperse those moments of thought with what has been happening in the household for the "Family who MMO's" (I think that is a permanent tagline now, and I had better trademark it!).

As well, it will give me a chance to talk about my two favorite MMO's and the latest news for them.

First up is Age of Conan.

We still have it on our schedule, so that when the expansion hits, we would get back into the game. News just arrived that it is finally on its way. Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer will launch on May 11th.

A great way to celebrate their anniversary as well for AoC, as it launched in May two years ago.

We plan to play it smart though. There will be no reason to jump right in, as we all know how Funcom is when it comes to launches. They have proven that they really cannot get anything off the ground without some major hiccups. I would prefer not to be a 30 day hater like I was two years ago. So, we will wait and see how this rolls. The bonus is thanks to the "endless trial" we can at least see how the game is performing and what discussions are taking place in Global about how others feel before buying.

Based on my Xfire watching though, I can see a bit of excitement for Age of Conan and the expansion as people are logging in more. This past Sundays performance shows an increase in players in the game using my calc systems. Close to 90k players actually.

Quite good for AoC.

There are quite a few deals, including a pre-order directly through Funcom and your account if active. You get a discount (the package is touted as $29.99, but 5 bucks off if purchased now). You also get a special pet and some other goodies. They also have various other packs including mounts, points to use in the game (token system) and more. Log in HERE to see information on these specials.

Next up; Warhammer Online.

I need to say this. I LOVE this game, and I am having a blast.

I was actually gone for several days and we missed some game time last week. As well, I missed the news that Mythic did a formal apology for the screw ups on billing.

For those who did not hear (all two of ya), Mythic had several problems where people were billed multiple times (some up to 20 times) for their sub.
Anyways, I will not go into the details, so here is the letter of apology. This basically explains what they will do for those affected by this error. The rewards are really incredible. And not just that, but for all players, they have a huge jump in XP for PvE and RvR renown. This really has helped, as we logged in this weekend and gained 3 LEVELS. We reached level 20 and bought our horses. Excellent.

Now, all news was not good. Warhammer servers are being shut down in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other locations in Asian countries. What does this mean? Hard to say. I have the theory still that a rough population of 65-75k players can keep a game running (look at EQ2 or Star Wars for examples of games still running with low pops). Will this affect WAR? Hard to say right now. Progress is being made on the next update which will enhance RvR, and will have quite a few changes which is almost a mini-expansion.

I will hold my thoughts on this for now. From the looks of it, the billing fiasco did not hurt WAR on Xfire (the calcs have put the game back where it was before the fiasco).

Now...playing WAR and why it works for the "Family who MMO's"?
We are just not an end game kind of group. We like the journey, pure and simple. Many complaints have been lodged at WAR on the end game becoming a huge grind for no particular reason. I.E: Like ALL MMO's.
For the Family, we just enjoy the variety of things we can do. We will cue up for Scenarios, go questing and doing the Public Quests for the rewards. It all adds up to doing something all the time. So far, we LOVE to login and play, and that is the key.

One of the nice things about WAR compared to most MMO's...less wildlife and more humanoid based mobs. I really felt this while playing this morning. As I moved from one zone to the next, I was always fighting something human like. As I am Order, it would be Chaos, Orcs, or even demons like the Blue Horrors, etc. If i had to kill boars ad nauseum (looks at LOTRO and sneers), I would kill myself.
Spawn rates is another nice feature...especially in some of the Public Quests. You have barely enough time to recoup, and the next spawn is in. Keeps you moving. And speaking of the of health and action points works quite well. Combat is faster than say WoW or LOTRO or especially EQ2 (the last time the family went into EQ2, the slow combat REALLY ruined the game for us).

Will this fun continue? I think it will, as we all have a feeling that getting to 40 will be a goal. We want to do it, and it helps us feel like we have accomplished something. If I could count how many games disappoint before we finish or get to max, it makes me happy to then realize games like WAR or AoC exists.

We purchased another 60 days (time cards), and will see how we feel when that time is up. For now, the time in game has went over a 160 hours, and we keep racking it up.

There. Have I told ya enough now? Ok...better get back to work now. Cheers to ya and Game on!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sparkle Ponies are just like Cigs and Alcohol

Please read the fine print:

Riding a Sparkle Pony may cause lung cancer. As well, Sparkle Ponies may harm unborn fetuses.

But, most of all, Sparkle Ponies DEFINITELY impair better judgement.

You have been warned....

(DISCLAIMER: World of Warcraft and Activision have been know to cause nausea when taken literally. At times a rare ailment may occur, and people may actually continue to subscribe to said game if not taken properly.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Do NOT Support Capitalist Greed

This is real simple today. Make today a day YOU donate to a worthy cause, and let Activision / Blizzard NOT get your $25.00 buckos.

All I ask is that if you feel the urge to take $25 bucks of your hard earned money and throw it away on a "Virtual" pet in World of Warcraft that is owned by another company that you will have zero claim to, but the company who DOES own it will allow you to ride on it, as long as you continue to pay them another $15 bucks a month of course...

Please instead, click on one of these links, and take that 25 bucks and put it to greater use.

American Cancer Society
Aids Healthcare Foundation
Muscular Dystrophy
Children International
Ford Foundation

Or any other foundation or cause that you feel deserves it.

The total charge for this horse being offered by Blizzard costs maybe a weeks worth of wages of one to two developers. The overall costs to Activision/Blizzard after it is launched...minimal. Yet, the amount of money being charged is over $10 more than a monthly fee to the game. The money they earn on this could feed one nation for a YEAR. And, as I have stated, ownership of that product is ZERO. You must pay to continue to own the product. If you stop paying, you have lost that $25 until you pay another $15 again to regain ownership.

Lets put our money to a better use shall we?

Thank you

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Warhammer Online: Your money or your sub mister...

So, the days are winding down on the huge financial debacle from Mythic/EA/Bioware this past weekend.
I personally was NOT affected. I also took action and did not let them get me. I cancelled the credit card on file and cancelled my sub.

I WILL use time cards though.

Thats right. I am NOT leaving.

And really. Would I have left if this happened? There is no doubt it is upsetting when something like this takes place. Many people were hurt by this (bouncing checks, late bills, true embarrassment, like one story of a Father who could not pay for his kids lunch at Pizza Hut on Friday thanks to this). But, for myself, I know it is an "error". Companies make them, and at the same time, they can rectify them.

How many were truly affected?

Mythic was quick to try and get this fixed. It was not perfect. The payments did not get charged back until after the weekend, leaving some stranded, etc. But, the company DID make every effort to help.
They personally faxed banks, made calls, and did what was possible, for what I assume is a small team.

But, should they be forgiven? I, for example, am out 16 bucks for an overnight of a new Credit Card through my bank. I am 100% ATM/Debit carded. I do not use checks. Luckily, I also have a backup account. Many others were not so lucky. The pain and suffering is insurmountable for some.

If anything, the lesson here is to avoid giving Mythic your info, and using Time Cards. Now, Mythic needs to make a decision on what to do. They have been quite silent since this started. Will there be some type of "lets kiss and make up" situation at hand? Free game time maybe?

Eventually someone has to fess up, and something needs to be done. If my meal is bad at a restaurant, they make sure it is fixed. If my cable bill is screwed up, they make amends. Mythic is no different. They NEED to make those arrangements.

The silence right now to many is deafening. Should Mythic or EA be talking yet?

The next two weeks will help me decide though.

Can I enjoy a game from a company who has not decided just how important it's customer is yet?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Warhammer Online: Class Act

Currently I have been messing around with the various classes on the Order side of Warhammer Online. Since I am relatively new, I figured I needed to gain an understanding of what I like.

I have several solo characters who I will use to grind when the "Family who MMO's" is not playing. For the family though, I seem to be the one who gets put in a particular role. During this playtime, one thing became abundantly clear.

I was attempting to play as I normally played most MMO's.

In choosing the classes, which I have a good variety of to pick from, I followed my hearts desire, and what I was most familiar with. The healer classes.

If anything, the Archmage should have been my opportune class. All previous MMO's had me as the healer type, the one who always kept the "Family who MMO's" safe. But, I had to redirect my efforts this time.

Last nights game session proved to me that maybe I should not always be looking out for them, and instead try to make it an overall system of defense. Maybe it is the fact that in WAR the heals are not powerful enough to heal both yourself AND the group. You either focus on one or the other. As well, if you follow the Archmage path, then you must have a strong group around you who can keep you safe.

This was not the case in scenarios last night. Lets just say I have never been dead so much in any MMO.
Maybe this was a one time deal? Maybe I could learn to work around this? But, I really feel if I am not twinked out in armor and talismans, I will spend more time kissing dirt than kissing the sky with the healing love.

Now, keep in mind, we started new characters, as we wanted to try an alternate group, and I already have other characters I could play. But, so far, my wife enjoys being a tank class (Swordmaster) moreso than a DPS and my son loves his DPS (Witch Hunter) more than tanking.

So, where does this leave me? This morning I decided to solo level a character up, a Warrior Priest. Now, this class is still heals based, but with an advantage.


I spent time doing quests and after reaching level 4 (quite quickly I might add), I queued up for scenarios solo. Now, again, was it the group? This time I do not think so.
I watched as I was being pummeled by a Choppa, and was able to keep myself healed, and doing damage...massive the same time.
I then noticed they stopped attacking me, and went after the Archmage in the group. Maybe they thought they were not making headway with me (they were not...hehe). I started to heal the Archmage while still attacking that same Choppa (I wish to also note, he was rated "Challenging").

The Archmage lived. I got the kill. And I was happy again.

I guess I can still be the one who "helps" others. But, maybe I need to be able to do some of my own damage as well. I just could not get to grips with the concept of the Archmage. But, for the Warrior Priest, I truly felt like I could contribute.

Sometimes we need to step out of our norms and try new things. We may be surprised.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Age of Conan - Second Chances

Some games just deserve to get a second chance. Companies at first make a mistake, then try to rectify it.

Some have great results (I am quite content with Warhammer Online now).

But, some people are just too bull headed to know when to at least stop bickering and get to gaming.

So, we need your help. Age of Conan has made leaps and bounds in gameplay since it's initial launch, but there are those who let the launch continue to keep them away.

I went back after launch, and was quite happy. It is a good game now.

Well, those of you who also have went back, need to go tell Pitrelli at KillThatCheerleader. He has a poll up, and is looking to find out which game he should go back to try. Age of Conan is there and ready for your click.

Head there now, and let him know, it is ok to go back, as sometimes, yes, that girlfriend may have cheated on you before, but learned her lesson, and will cook for you EVERY DAY (while rubbing your feet, clipping your toenails and bringing you the beers).


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Warhammer Online: WAR Report

What do these images have in common?

What is the one thing I find in Warhammer Online that I really do not see much of in other MMO's?

Why are these images important to understanding why I am really enjoying this game?

A constant "Grouping" factor.

I have played in more "group" based Scenarios, PVP and PVE than any other MMO since I first started playing MMO's.

The dread of LFG all hours of the day got to be an annoyance in most MMO's I have played. Of course, Guilds are one way to avoid this, yet the commitment needed is beyond compare. Then hours of the day that we play can cause concern. Or lets say someone has outleveled you, etc.
So many ways that grouping just does not seem to work in most average MMO's WORKS in Warhammer.

Some people complain about the PvE being plain in WAR. Some people complain about balance in RvR in WAR, or PVP in general. These do not seem to concern the "Family who MMO's", because, we are actually having fun doing what we do.

Ok, now that is out of the way, I guess you may have figured out how we feel as a group in WAR. Basically the balance of what to do has really shined for us.
One minute we can be grinding a PQ (Public Quest) with others to raise our Influence bar. The next, we have entered a scenario to work on Renown. Or we may stray into the Open RVR and get a bit of fun fighting Destruction, or taking a Keep. And if none of this is going on, we can still do kill quests, a bit of crafting or gathering, and still be having fun.

There is not a total bed of roses here, as some concerns still are glaring to say the least.

The server we are on seems to have a very dedicated group on the Destruction side, who seem to work well together, while the Order side can be a bit lame. But, we are learning how to work through this.
Issues with the lag on the servers can cause some weird issues. Floating players, mobs who disappear and reappear across the field from where they were killed, and skills not firing off immediately, causes a bit of..WTF??
Yet, each night, these seem to not cause concern, as we all will look at the clock and say.."Wow, it is past bedtime."

Did we get our moneys worth? Sure did. Will it last? Hard to say...

For now, I am savoring the fun. I am enjoying the deep lore of the game (so much so, that I bought a new Warhammer novel). As long as I am entertained, it is worth the meager amount I have paid.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Xfire follow up - Questionable?

Well, it looks like there was quite a bit of discussion on my Xfire stats vs subs post the other day.

Tipa at West Karana took it up over on her blog about how the numbers may be "questionable" for certain games, like EQ, EQ2 and even WoW.
Example: When I did a calc for WoW, I noted that they have a new sub rate of over 6 million players. This is difficult to fathom, as most of the stats have been mainly for the "West" and does not include any Asian or Persian countries.

Could WoW really have 6 million in the US alone?

No. I do not believe this. Just like my EQ2 numbers may also be misinformed.

There does seem to be a commonality in all games that are older and numbers being skewed somehow. For example, I do not question the stats for STO, WAR or AoC...not even Aion. Yet, all of these games have launched recently. EQ2? WoW? At least 5 years old.

So, could age have some factor in numbers being skewed or even 100% wrong?

Could there be a recurring theme of actual data and recent launches compared to numbers and older titles?

Lets take another game we know about that is a recent launch and see how it jibes with the Xfire data.

Free Realms.

Hmm. 8 players on Xfire. Now, doesn't this add another conundrum to the stats issue. Could this be due to the fact it is mostly "younger" players whose computer has been set up by a parent, thus why would that parent load Xfire. As well, is the Free Realms player a "pro" at gaming or even understand or NEED Xfire? Or does it have something to do with the free part?

What I think we may need to note is there is going to be a select group of games that we can track this way, and that not ALL titles will work. Many factors will go into playing the Xfire game.
Take this example of how issues may affect our numbers here. Just look at STO. It was but a few days ago there was a drop in numbers, almost to the point of being zeroed out. Seems some outage on the server or with Xfire caused this problem. So, for those days, my numbers would have been wonky. But, as we can see, this week STO has normalized again.

If I continue to play with this, we may have to accept the fact that the game must be a "commercial" subs based game (which throws Free Realms, Runes of Magic, etc, out), must be less than 3-4 years old (I would say at least launched in 2007 or later, thus no more EQ2 or WoW for example) and the data has to be consistent for the week; No weird outages or buggy reporting by Xfire for the whole week. Finally, as a little fun, I will only report on some games if they decide to do an Xfire contest to see how many people are logging in due to prizes or giveaways. Funcom and Turbine have been notorious for this in the past, and it really makes the numbers wonky.

I really think this will be fun to watch for NEW launches. I would like to see how some games do when first opened. Final Fantasy XIV launches this year (according to most rumors...). How will they do here? Right now FFXI does about 30k subs according to the Xfire game. Yet, it does not meet our criteria, thus these numbers are most likely skewed.

So, for now, all we can see in the Xfire game is a bit of fun with some newer games that hopefully gives us a glimpse of how well they are doing.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Xfire Game

Last week, a small group of us had a Twitter-scussion over the validity of Xfire as a tool beyond the mere use as a glorified chat program.

Xfire has the capability to track players time in games of their choice. Though not perfect, it does give a glimpse of these players (people who load Xfire)  favorite games.
As far as MMO's are concerned, I feel it can be used to do more in respect to players and times.We can also track sub numbers for MMO's in a general capacity. This would be more in line of "paying" commercial based games, by either a large distributor or game developer.

So, a while back, I posted an article (2008) which took a noted news story about the current World of Warcraft population in the US and created a formula to help see how many players can be calculated in all other MMO's based on that formula. What happened is a pretty close and accurate picture of players in various MMO's, and since that time I still have been able to use that formula to this day. Check out the article to see a more in depth discussion of that calculation.

This really took flight when last week Cryptic noted just how many people were playing Star Trek Online. When I saw this, I thought it was time again to try the formula. What happened was a pretty scary comparison that was almost completely accurate to their posted numbers. Cryptic noted a 100k player base. I did my formula and got 96k almost 97k. This of course was based on a Wednesday reading. Sunday numbers are usually more accurate as this IS the busiest day for all MMO's. So, I thought, maybe we need to really do an in depth analysis using Sunday numbers.

Now, I never claimed that the numbers are 100%, accurate, They are a pretty close representation though of what has either been discussed by news pundits or forum goers for total subs of some MMO's. And if a company ever announces their numbers, as seen by the Cryptic count for STO, it can garner a pretty darn accurate calculation.
Since a lot of companies do not release this data, the "Xfire Game" has really become a good way to see just how well this works.

Today, I will do a run of the Sunday count for Xfire for several games being discussed lately. I pick these for the very reason we need a tool like Xfire and my calc. These companies have not, or do not release their numbers. If they do, it is rare.
As well, I will add Aion, as eventually we WILL get numbers (NCSoft does their numbers about once or twice a year), and of course STO, since we did get a report recently.

Lets see how they fare.

Star Trek Online
We will start here. As we KNOW how many are playing thanks to Cryptic's recent announcement of over 100k players, it will be a good jumping off point to see how our calc is working.

The calc rate is multiple the number of Xfire users x 120.05. Using the calc system we see - 980 x 120.05 = 117,649 subs. Over 100k. Interesting.

Next, I want to show a game that we know has a large population based on reports from NCSoft. Now, of course, most forum goers or blog gurus call this game a failure. I would beg to differ, and I believe Xfires data shows this.

Our calc system states...3864 x 120.05 = 463,873 subs. Basically almost as much as Lineage 2 had been stated to have at one point and time (over 600k in 2007). And as always since it's launch, in the top 10 on Xfire. Now, I am sorry, but this does NOT take into account how many of those subs are gold sellers...

Lord of the Rings Online
Over and over it has been stated that LOTRO is a good "200k" sub game. I for one believe it, and Xfire really corroborates this.

Calc says? 1780 x 120.05 = 213,689 subs. Still a good sub rate and steady. Wish Turbine would just come out and tell us. For me, I think a company should be proud of that many players in todays MMO market. Since I have been doing these calcs, LOTRO has consistently done this number of players...except when they release an expansion, then there is a jump.

Age of Conan
A lot of discussion has been traveling the blogosphere as well as the forums that AoC has progressed beyond the old days, and is a more stable game. Some servers look busy according to the forumites, and Funcom has been able to keep it afloat (though financials have said otherwise). How do the Xfire stats look?

677 x 120.05 = 81,274 subs.
If we read the report for Funcom in their financials, they state "stabilization". This Xfire data corroborates that. They continue to hold this area in the Xfire ratings AND have stabilized in subs if Xfire is to be trusted.

Warhammer Online
My new favorite. Recently Bioware has made comments about the Mythic division and how WAR is actually "profitable". How many subs does a profitable game need? What does Xfire say...

621 x 120.05 = 74,551 subs. Could it be possible that with 4 servers and 50k plus players, any MMO could be profitable? Seeing Age of Conan has held to this area and is still afloat, I may not doubt it now. Especially if we watch Age of Conan with the expansion and new financials report. How will these numbers increase? I will watch these two games closely. They are thought to be case studies of failures for their time. Yet, I also feel they are also the most improved games over time, unlike some others on this list.

Dungeons & Dragons Online
This is a unique case, and I want it here to show how Xfire can still help us figure out what is considered a paying customer, compared to a freebie player. Recently Turbine has stated that they have "1 Meeelllion players" (note the pinky held next to my cheek as I say this..). In so many words; Turbine. The leader of misleading statements.
If we read further into the press release this came from, we also see these words..."paid subscriber base has more than doubled"....AHA. DDO at one point...before the "Free to Play" model, was noted as either having 25k or 50k players subbing. What does Xfire say they have now?

930 x 120.05 = 111,647 subs. So, 1 million players, yes, but I still say 100k plus subscribers paying a monthly fee. Now, this also does not take into account how many people pay for extras (and are not subbed). I still will say it. This hybrid model that DDO has is truly the way other games with low subs should go. We are guaranteed that Turbine is turning some very nice profits right now.

Everquest 2
I always wish to throw this one in there. This game is hard to pigeon hole, because we hardly see or hear about this game, and I always wonder what SOE needs to keep a game afloat. I always want to include Vanguard also (to show what a real failure looks like)...but, for now, EQ2 is good, as we know they have a dedicated playerbase, but not a huge sub lot (at least based on what we know and see).

293 x 120.05 = 35,175 subs. Now, is this really profitable? Has the game been out long enough to make back it's money? I guess it does help that they force players to repurchase EVERY expansion every time they launch a new one (almost 40 bucks a box every 6-8 months). Maybe all along EQ2 has made it's money off of the two-boxers and those who purchase new expansions at launch. For now, low player rates, but dedicated players keep EQ2 afloat.

The argument I keep hearing is Xfire cannot be used as a valid tool for these numbers. I will continue to disagree, as these numbers clearly show a lot of matching data with what we know about these games. We can never be 100% sure, but if I need to know how well a game is doing, I can look at Xfire and get a rough guesstimate.
The Calc I have continues to show some interesting data to this day, and as long as we have this tool, I will continue to try and use it to help me see how well these games are doing.

If you are ever worried about if you should play a game depending on if there are enough players to group with, etc, then try Xfire and see if it is doing well there.