Friday, February 26, 2010

The Conundrum of Free To Play

An announcement today made me think on the subject of Free To Play.

"Dungeons & Dragons Online Reaches One Million Players"

(EDIT: Seems the correct wording should be "NEW" players...surpassing 1 million actually. Check the press release here...SOURCE)

Since switching to the Free play model, DDO has had a major increase in the number of players who log in, and are playing. But, how many actually shell out cash for either a sub or the various pay items? According to this news...the money sounds good.

"Dungeons & Dragons Online Revenues Up 500 Percent"

Most of all though; does it matter?

Think on this. Each person logged in is a potential customer; is that not true? When advertisers choose to show a promo for a product on certain TV shows, are they not just basing their theory on getting the most eyes to see the product in the hopes to sell more?

Same here for DDO. More eyes in the game equals more potential customers.

Now, lets look at some of the failing games (or games with smaller sub rates than I assume the company would like to see...) and how would they look with this model?
How about Warhammer Online, Age of Conan.. Would they have more subs or at least players with a potential to sell more? What about Hellgate: London or Tabula Rasa. Would they have survived under this setup.

Overall, could certain games benefit from this model?

Funcom is no newb to this type of setup for an MMO with Anarchy Online being a free to play...but with adverts (a little more bizarre, but still in that realm). Look how long they have been running now? Age of Conan is draining the revenues and finances of Funcom like a sieve.  So, maybe for Funcom to succeed they may have to walk that fine line again and figure out a new way to make cash.

A lot of Free to play's are not looked upon very well. Games like Runes of Magic or Perfect World, etc, all have quality issues. The games are not as well made as the financial powerhouses like AoC or WAR. Thus, could these commercial flops pull away from those lower quality games by going free? Maybe even pull players from those games. Last I heard, a million people have logged in to Perfect World at some point.

Could you imagine one million eyes in Warhammer...and how that could change the overall structure of that game?

I think we need to see how other "commercial" style MMO's that are not doing well in the sub arena would fare under a Cash Shop matter how much people hate it. I personally feel that if a game starts to flounder, then it is time to see how you can change your model to the free to play scheme, and see if you succeed.

Guild Wars 2 is set to be a buy once, free for life with special "purchases" later deal to pad costs. Even Star Wars The Old Republic has mentioned this method (though the audience is pushing for the monthly deal, which I still think is a detriment. SWToR poll on payment).

This much I can say. DDO has proven it can work, and quite well.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Age of Conan - Why no PvP love?

Over the last year or more Age of Conan has been taking strides to fix the overall structure of it's game-play to accommodate new players. In all actuality it has been a move to "fix" the original launch issues and at least make the game playable.

Balance, content, new additions of armor, crafting recipes and more have been put into the game.

What does that all sound like though? PVE.

Simply put, the direction of the game has changed since launch. It is now more of a casual friendly MMO RPG for PVE players than the original intent; "A Savage, brutal world...".

As of late, a sea change has occurred though in respects to how players are feeling about these changes. There is no doubt that the discussion of the changes have shown to be effective. So much so, that the game is receiving "Most improved" awards through some news outlets, population is holding steady and even rising on Xfire; players have been discussing their return to the game on the forums.
But, there is no doubt that the changes have not been enough for those players who respected Funcom enough to stick it out through their endeavors. Dissent and discourse has been the result of ignoring a half of the population (according to Craig Morrison, there is a 50/50 split of PVE-PVP players).

PVP players have started quite a few threads on the forums discussing that in reality, two years of Age of Conan has not brought any NEW challenge for PVP players, except the murder system. But, this system has proven to be broken and causes more heartache than adventure. The Siege mechanics, which was another form of high end group PVP is still in dire need of fixes due to lag and unplayability. The list goes on.

This thread describes it best..."It is quite obvious that the whole PVP department of Age of Conan is put on the back burner and is always the "last thing to work on".

Some of the concerns are:
  1. Mini-game maps - 2 years and the same 4 maps still exist since launch
  2. Battlekeeps - No change for 2 years running. New content was teased on testlive, then taken away and noted probably not until after expansion (6-8 months?)
  3. Sieges - hardware changes to help with DC's, but no fix for lags or certain criteria still causing poor performance.
  4. World PVP - Seems to take place mostly in one location, as most players are afraid of irritating guards which gives murder status...even if you were the one murdered.
  5. Glory - Part of the new renown system. Yet, takes twice as long to level as just sitting around and crafting.
  6. Arena's - Awesome idea. But, why would a PVP player do them when they equal ZERO PVP points?
It is quite obvious that after the change of Game Director, we can see that the focus of the game changed immensely. But, you may ask; does it matter?

We have the financials which show revenue for the game is still not quite there yet. But, since the new renown system has been added as of last patch (1.06), Xfire shows a major increase in activity bumping it into the high 40's (#48 today for example, which it has not seen since the 1.05 patch over 8 months ago). Discussion of the new expansion has people ready to return once that launches.

Could it be that forgetting a part of your player population and going for that PVE slant is more in line toward profit? Is PvP even needed? With the new expansion (estimates place it launching anywhere between April to June), and the core of that new game having over 85 to 90% PVE, maybe the expansion will give us the final answer.

We kinda miss ya PVP, but PVE seems to love us more.

Should Funcom be ignoring this population so long? Should more effort be put into PVP now? Or is PVE where it's at for Age of Conan? Voice your opinions.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gods and Heroes - Why it matters

I believe it was almost two years ago when I had a chance to beta test Gods and Heroes. A new MMO in the works by the fledgling Perpetual Entertainment. The game had a lot of potential. With a setting in an ancient styled roman empire. Satyrs walked in the fields, old columns from broken down buildings littered the fields of high grasses and wheat...

It truly had potential as it was something unique and different to see than the standard elf, dwarf high fantasy.

The potential lay within several features.

First, a Diety who you gained powers from when you leveled, which most games do not do. My son the other day for example asked why no MMO's had a feature like this. Gods and Heroes did.
Second, an NPC system that would allow players to build small armies for later skirmishes (as we can see in the image above). This also would allow for solo play if so desired. You had control of their gear as well, ala Guild Wars Heroes.

But, a beta schedule of two hours a day; Fridays and Saturdays, which during those times you were guaranteed a server outage, lagginess or various bugs breaking combat or quests; it just could not get off the ground.

So, the doors closed.

But, it seems the license and technology associated with the game has fallen into new hands.

Austin studio Heatwave Interactive have bought the rights to all aspects of the game. Even the tech to run an MMO from the ground up. You can read more about this here.

Gamespot news on Gods and Heroes acquisition.

I for one am pretty excited about this.

And this year is the perfect time to hear of Roman/Greek styled games. With a multitude (resurgence if you will) of Roman-Greco styled media. From Spartacus on Starz (a hit for that pay for station), to Percy Jackson in theaters now (the Lightning thief series) and of course, the ultimate remake...Clash of the Titans...done in full CGI glory.

Of course, this year also sees the launch of God of War 3, which has a lot of hype behind it.

Now is the time of the Greek tragedy. Lets see if this phoenix of an MMO can rise from the ashes and not be a tragedy of it's own fate no more.

Enjoy my slideshow of the few images I was able to capture from beta...


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The best new MMO may never launch

Reading news this morning, an alert came through about the latest information for Funcom. It seems they now are at a threshold in regards to the launch of their new MMO, The Secret World.

A link to Trading News has some dire reporting in regards to an MMO so fresh and new, yet full of a troubled companies woes. The report is called..."DnB Nor analyst says Funcom may need more funds before Secret World launch"

Several notes are included in the report which tells us where Funcom is in regards to their funds, thanks to this months financial report.

"Funcom's revenue has been constantly decreasing since the launch of its massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Age of Conan (in May 2009) and the company said it expects a further fall in revenue in the first quarter of 2010, without specifying an interval."

Thanks to a shoddy launch and then a takeover by another Game Director who changed the direction of Age of Conan, these all seem to be in line to make AoC a revenue killer.
The funds have slowly been whittled away, and monetary funds both on hand and intake all continue to fall.

As part of this, this next paragraph says a lot.

"No date for the launch of The Secret World has been set. The title is still under development. In his analysis, Thoresen has taken into consideration a launch in the fourth quarter of 2011."

That is a LONG way off for what could be one of the most exciting changes to MMO's since WoW launched it's casual friendly behemoth some 6 years ago.

The Secret World will incorporate Age of Conan's more action oriented combat, with no standard class system, no forced skills system, and a modern world setting with a horror flair. Thanks to the bad news, this just makes the game more of a hype and less of a want at this point. Especially with Guild Wars 2 and SWToR launching that year, it even makes The Secret World a game that could just be a flash in the pan by the time of release.

I had really high hopes for this game, and who knows...maybe the launch of the Age of Conan expansion could be the influx of cash Funcom needs. But, seeing the company continues to ignore it's player base and the population continues to stagnate, it may be a bumpy 2010.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Header changes - Of the moment...

Bear with me as I play around a bit with my header images.  If it is too large, let me know...k?

I like the idea of having my header image reflect my current games of choice.

For example the current one (which I will leave up for a week). I saw this image yesterday while browsing my gaming images folder. It was from Eye of the North for Guild Wars. I just saw header image potential there. EoTN, as well, really shows what we can look forward to in Guild Wars 2, with it's large open vistas and landscapes, and this image is just one piece that looks awesome. I have quite a few more coming.

I loved the previous image I had in the header which was from Rise of the Godslayer for Age of Conan. It was a render piece for a new zone. Looked incredible. But, AoC is not on my list yet, and will not be until the expansion. Let me tell you why.

The family made this choice for one major reason. We wish to start over. But, as a family, we have played through the intro several times, and are quite familiar with the Tortage experience. We figure if we wish to do it again, we want a new place to go to when we are done. Khitai, part of the new expansion, will fit the bill perfectly. As well, the intro zone will be new and fresh after a long hiatus, so we should have quite a bit of fun.

For now, we are learning and discovering Factions for Guild Wars. Our classes are still slightly weak in my experience, but learning to use what we have is a study in patience. I am already on my 4th do-over for skill layouts.
As for the others, my wife just loves her Mesmer. I am interested in how she is playing it, and will get to see that more as I move my Ritualist into a "healer" type role. I will be babysitting the players and will get to see what skills are being used more.
As for my son, he finally found the major issue with the Assassin. This class is powerful, but also quite weak in aspects of armor. Seeing the class is always in the front line, he also met his fate a multitude of times. We do not have a main tank class, so yes, he is getting ripped apart and dying....a lot. He was almost ready to throw in the towel (again).

But, it will take time for all of us to learn the aspects of these different classes and learn how to best mesh them together. I do not want to get to max level and then be done again, as I just do not feel like starting over again. I hope we find the right place to be.

So, it looks like the basis of todays post is starting again. As I have started blogging again, I also have redone the header, for a fresh start. Hmm. Is Spring around the corner?


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Gear Grind

About two weeks ago Age of Conan introduced a new "token" system for high level gear. Similar in feature to the token systems of most MMO's, Funcom basically took the easy way out. By doing this they also introduced a newer gear grind mechanic that most people are having issues with.

The problem lies in the fact that for a level 80 to matter in PvP or PvE, they must grind raids to get the tokens needed to gear up (or hope they finally get a rare drop). In so many words, if you do not raid, the game ends as there really is not much else to play for. You cannot earn gear in any other manner (supposedly some 6 man dungeons have a rare drop for these "tokens" as well...but imagine a 3-5% drop rate chance per group and for one player to gain the token...after running a near impossible dungeon in elite mode...and you get the idea.)
High level crafting offers no gear that is as satisfying as the raid gear, and thus a part of the game is locked off for those who would like alternate ways to "gear up".

Don't raid? Start anew or quit.

This got me thinking about gear in other styles of game.

Say the single player odysseys. You are guaranteed to find the pieces you need.
Titan Quest, Diablo 2, Sacred, etc...all have that action RPG gear drop random system. Talk about fun trying to find what you need. You are also getting so much of it, that you DO have a choice in what to wear or use.
Dragon Age also had an excellent drop rate on items. But, you could also "purchase" awesome items if you wished...just gather some cash.

Then look at Guild Wars. Thanks to the system being a skill based game, all gear hits a point where it is THE max (attributes have limits on the items and armor), and you only grind for "looks" and not the "stats". Their random system on drops is quite nice also.
Basically, just get out there, play, and you would eventually find some cool piece or weapon. And for armor, you needed to just make it to the next zone. Save up your cash, continue breaking down items for the rare resources, and make the armor you wanted when you finally got to the more difficult areas.


Why can't MMO's go to a random drop system? I have never quite understood this. I know some exist, but not like in single player games...or GW. I sure would love the capability to just craft the piece I wanted and not have to depend on a rare occurrence to happen.

This is why I miss the old system Age of Conan had in place. Why could they not just upgrade the visuals and have kept the "skill" based armor and weapon system? And as for their crafting...why can't they make the items worthwhile?

What is your preference? Do you like the fact you must raid daily or weekly to get the specific piece you want? Or would you rather have a randomizer in there with set attributes for the gear or have the ability to craft what you want?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guild Wars - Change of Venue

Our current MMO (if we can call it that..I call it an Online Action RPG) is Guild Wars.
We have been playing within the Nightfall campaign, an African themed setting, which I really enjoy. The visuals are great, the setting feels good and you have access to the "Heroes", which seem to work better for when you wish to solo or have a small group.
But, something struck us as we continued our questing.

It seems to be quite easy with the Heroes.

Also, while playing, my son took what we would call the "Easy" class....Warrior. Thanks to the best heal in the game (in my opinion) and being able to take a ton of damage, they seem to just be easier for those starting out. But, it also comes with my son's main complaint; they are boring.

My wife who has played a ton of Guild Wars was in for something new she had already played through Nightfall. So, I thought long and hard on this. I or my wife had NEVER played in "Factions", why don't we all START over.

Now, Guild Wars has something that most MMO's do not. A quick and easy restart for the game, thanks to the leveling system. With only 20 levels, it just does not seem as harsh to start anew.

So, we were off.

My wife is experimenting with a Mesmer. This class is unique in how it is mostly a debuff class and there for interrupts or to take down mobs without being a DPS'er. She has never leveled one too high, but she is really into the game right now, so she may be able to pull this off.
My son chose an Assassin.  I am worried as I know eventually that this class becomes a death trap. Easy to kill and not much of a damage maker. But, he is really good about staying alive so far.
I chose the Ritualist. I had never played one to full fruition, and wish to see how it works. I am enjoying the cross breed of pets/heals this class it could be fun.

None of these choices are conventional whatsoever, and eventually we may wish to say goodbye to these characters.
But, we have noted that each of us are having fun with these classes. And maybe that is the key to longevity. So, we will carry on, and see how we feel as we progress.

Hopefully will get back to you with more on this change of events. Cheers for now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Year of the Greek

Lately, Titan Quest has been my game of choice when I am playing alone. This title really grabbed me as the setting is one I enjoy. The Roman -Greco stylings seem to mesh for me. Tragedy, loss, love, war, and the Gods who manipulate it all.

It is interesting then to see that 2010 is turning into the year of Greek based media. From Spartacus on Starz which is turning into a household favorite, with it's over the top graphics, gorgeous ladies (Lucy Lawless as always...flawless), and of course the tragedy of the hero...truly awesome. The just released Percy Jackson and the Olympians, wherein a boy discovers he is the son of Poseidon (looks like a Harry Potter variation using the Gods). Also this year, Clash of the Titans...a total reboot actioner based on the old Harry Hamlin starring piece.

Oh My!

As to games, we have God of War III...but, not much else I have seen (except for a few RTS's maybe).
That disappoint mes. Luckily, there is still Age of Conan, where Aquilonia exists, which feels 100% Roman in it's visual qualities and style.

Luckily, there is another game though. It is a title called Mytheon. It seems reminiscent of Titan Quest, but is persistent and online. It has been touted as an MMO.

There is currently sign ups going on at the Mytheon website for closed beta if anyone is interested. As for the game, the website states...

"For too long, the gods have dominated the affairs of men. Zeus and his pantheon of Greek deities have ruled the Mediterranean, while Ra and his legion of Egyptian lords have held sway over the deserts of antiquity."

Good start. I also love me some Egyptian Gods, so that could be cool.

Anyways. The year of Greek mythology is really piquing my interests, so much so that I have a few books to read lined up in that genre to get me going.

Both by David Gemmell, these are fantasy based retellings of Greek/Roman historical stories of, again; tragedy, war, love, politics... all GREAT looking stuff.

So, my fix for some Roman/Greco should be satiated for now. I hope there will be more in this genre to explore down the road.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Less Twitter, More Bloggie

So...yesterday, I had a run in on Twitter with someone I do respect. My issue is when they get all up in arms because someone asks a simple question. I feel remorse for this player of MMO's and wonder why they become so sensitive to simple probing of their likes, dislikes, etc.

As MMO bloggers, it seems like this genre has a way to make people feel more emotional about their games, their play habits, and the way they approach the genre.

This is not the first time this has happened. All in all I think it has to do with the limited space for Twitter that causes more argumentative discussions than comparison talks about how we may feel about our gaming as a whole.

Thus, to alleviate this combative nature of Twitter, and it's short bursts of text being misconstrued...I will instead get back to my first love.


I have been pretty busy as of late, as my gaming has become pretty frantic with Guild Wars (with the family) and Titan Quest (solo).

I am actually shocked I am enjoying Titan Quest so much. As my wife calls it.."It is old school". But, thanks to the way the game plays, it has become a bit of a delight. Since I am enjoying it so much, I am going back to other games in that genre (isometric action RPG) like Legend:The Hand of God and Sacred 2 that have been sitting around not doing much of anything. I may actually enjoy myself again in those titles, as at the time I got them, I just did not seem to like that visual look or feel.

Guild Wars on the MMO front is proving to be another family favorite. I am unsure of what it is about GW or Age of Conan that we like so much. Maybe the more action oriented style? My wife started RPG's with Diablo 2 and Baldurs Gate (for the PS2; the action versions.), I think she requires a faster pace than the standard slow mo of WoW, EQ2 or LOTRO. My son is originally an FPS player (Halo, Call of Duty, etc.), so I think it also seems more in line for him if the game is fast paced. Also, since my son is more oriented on the combat side of things, other areas of MMO's like crafting and housing are not that big of a deal. He did enjoy EQ2's housing hard to say if he could enjoy it elsewhere. But, he never asks for those features in any new game we play.

But, like the person I noted at the beginning of my post who feels touchy about their games, we are just as emotional about our MMO's, and why we enjoy these particular titles. Luckily, there are enough of these MMO's to go around for all of action or slow paced.

Anyways, I think I have said enough for now. I think I need to get back to discussing games a bit a context where I can explain myself a bit more.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 5, 2010

I am NOT dead....

Contrary to what you may believe.

I actually am gaming quite a bit, been busy at work, and have started back to doing my second job... Network/PC support tech for my own company.

Last year I took a break from my own business due to the economy and thanks to Microsoft releasing a shoddy product...Vista. But, now with Windows 7 out, and being such a great piece of software and most of my old customers hitting their 3 year mark for the systems I built for them...I felt it was time to get back into THAT game.

It has paid off, as most of my original customers are ready to get new systems. Work is rocking.

But, How does that mess with me here? Well, I of course get less time to do THIS. I like to write here, but it is so hectic now, that I just do not get a chance.

But, I am hoping to rectify that by going to a weekly post.

I am still in Guild Wars, playing some Dragon Age (not much actually...will write about that soon), and just bought Titan's Quest. As well, Age of Conan has hit patch 1.06, which gets me itching to get in there and start working on Guild Renown and Raid Tokens to get new gear.

For now, my posting habits will be light as business booms and gaming is taking the rest of my spare time..

Stick it out though as I will return. Also, follow me on Twitter, as I am a bit more active there @Openedge1

Later folks