Gaming Massively

Saturday, December 19, 2009

D&D Offline?

So in a bit of 'stupid IP laws screw with us all' drama, it seems the people who own the D&D rights are suing the people who licensed the D&D rights and made an MMO out of them. If they prevail, the game would be in what could only be called 'a world of hurt'. Depending on how acrimonious things get, this could probably go either way - the rights could be re-licensed, money change hands, and things continue, or, if the two companies decide they really hate each other, we could see D&D Online go away. This would seem to be a very good reason to create (or own fully) your own IP when you create an MMO.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Stargate news

So it looks like we get a shooter instead of an MMO. Not perfect, but a good use of something that's already been developed!

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Friday, October 16, 2009


There's an article up at Ars which is rather timely (for me), all about how Dungeons and Dragons Online has gone free to play, and how that business model is working out just fine for them. It's timely because I just downloaded the client last week, and if I ever get free time again I hope to see how the game works out.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Tabula Rasa, Player Ownership, and the Open Source question

So Tabula Rasa is going to be killed. There's something especially sad about watching a game you beta tested die (sounds like I may get to do it again with Conan before too long).

As always when a game is to be shut down, a wealth of articles proposing various ways of saving the game come out. This time is no exception, and I'll grab the one at massively as an example.

The usual idea with these things seems to be 'if players like the game enough to want to save it, they can all pool their money (which would have gone for subscriptions) and save it'. Of course, if every good idea only required cash, the world would be a much better place. To even begin to save the game, you would need people with particular skill sets to arrange the move to a player-owned game, and people with an entirely different set of skills to keep it going once the transfer had been made.

It's very difficult to separate the idea of 'player owned' from the idea of 'open source', not because they aren't different, but because they would behave so similarly. So, for example, with open source when you have a problem with the software, you generally go to the community and ask a question. There are three or four helpful people, three or four assholes, and several hundred people who might help if they knew anything at all about your question, but they don't.

Given what I've seen of MMO customer service, this part sounds workable, or possibly even better, than what you get with your paid service.

Of course, the trick with an MMO is that, in addition to supplying the software, the folks holding the game in trust have to supply some fairly hefty back-end hardware. This costs real-world money, and means that, despite the fact there is no longer a company to yell at, people would still have to cough up some maintenance fees (shall we call them 'subscription fees'?) And this is where I think things might break down.

On the other hand, there is the possibility of making this work, despite the high end hardware requirements. If you could get enough tech people interested in creating an open source gaming server platform, you might be able to have the servers supplied by the developers of the back-end. Additionally, because keeping costs in check would be such a high priority, the gaming servers would have a much higher incentive to be as efficient as possible. Whether the open source community could create a server platform that is more efficient than the gaming servers already on offer by commercial companies is debatable, experience would indicate that exposure to so many more developers would lead to a better platform than any closed source platform.

The other reason this might work is because you could open the server platform to other games. Creating a simple front end (or even a complex front end, though simple would be better) and allowing other games to access the same server technology (and hopefully, the same servers) would allow you to maximize server load, and hopefully thus use the equipment as efficiently as possible, and draw in the maximum number of paying players to keep the servers running.

If, as the massively article suggests, Tabula Rasa is breaking even, it might theoretically be possible to keep it running while transitions to a more sustainable business model took place. But the challenges of creating all the teams necessary to promote and develop the game (software and hardware) long-term are daunting, and I don't know if the gaming world is ready, or willing, to embrace the kind of changes that would be necessary to pull off a TR save.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Free stuff, quid pro quos, et cetera

Eating Bees made an interesting post this week, detailing the rights and responsibilities, as she sees it, of game reporters / bloggers who come to events and get free stuff. Geek Critique offered up a reporter's response to her post, and she has now responded, as well as expanding on the original themes.

There's so much meat in the discussion these two are having. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, like when I used to roll with the serious blog academics. The initial post raises all the points about ethics that you might expect, and unfortunately probably doesn't help the bloggers who claim to be uninfluenced despite having received something for free (I'm thinking of Tobold here, e.g., and you should totally read his posts on the topic if you haven't), simply by creating the impression that there's a quid pro quo. The response, happily, addresses that.

I haven't given a lot of thought to the idea of community managers, because I've never worked in gaming (I don't know that I could - I have a very negative view of gaming companies' treatment of their employees, which may or may not be accurate), and I'm not a very serious gamer. But I think now I have a better idea of where they live in the whole circus that is this particular variant of the entertainment industry. And that is another reason why the posts are so darned interesting.

OK - I'm out of blather - get to reading their posts, already!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

crazy news!

Wow! I turn my back for one second, and all kinds of news breaks! Flagship Studios goes under, and apparently citibank will have the rights to hellgate:london? And then WAR announces major cuts to the game at release.

It's a tough call, what to do when your game isn't ready. You need money coming in, but you're going to alienate people. Frankly, I expect they made exactly the right business decision - people are waiting for WAR, and they'll probably pay (regardless of how much they scream right now). So get something out there (that works) and add the rest.

Obviously the mistakes were in announcing the rest before they could actually be done. Don't any of these companies have a project manager? Or someone capable of telling them 'no, we can't do that in 12 months'.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TV Shows and MMOs

Massively has pointed out the latest on the Sci-Fi Channel's upcoming TV Show/MMO. It will be Sci-Fi (no real big shock) and set on an alternate universe Earth. They then point to an article on Joystiq which asks whether or not this can work. The article rightly points out the challenges of creating the show, though I feel it misses the possibilities a bit - for example, does the show have to be weekly? Does every episode have to be game driven? Obviously I think the answer is 'no'. Sci Fi isn't my first thought in high quality self-produced content, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, for the moment.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Earth Eternal and VC

I don't really know anything about Earth Eternal, except that it will be based on a 'browser-based massively multiplayer 3D game platform'. I didn't realize the CEO of Sparkplay Media (the game's maker) kept a blog. Today I learned both, and a little bit about Venture Capital as well. It seems the company got some funding recently, and the CEO made an interesting post about his experience with VC funding, versus his expectations.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

It's a good thing I'm slow on the draw

If I were a faster poster, this would have taken two three blog entries. But now it only takes one, which says that Age of Conan is coming out in May, not March, not 2007 (both of which were previously announced release dates).

I suppose it's a tough line to walk, trying to steer between delaying beyond the time your money runs out, and releasing a product that just isn't ready. It's especially tough with a game that you know will change again as soon as you release it, but by the same token, these are well known problems in IT, and in the end the problems are much the same - users want lots of features, programmers can't deliver them all. So you choose the important ones to get out the door, and put the rest in the next release. So why people seem to be getting their release dates so completely wrong, given that this problem is well known, is beyond me. The only thing I can say is that getting your dates wrong on an IT project is not unique to the gaming world.

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Friday, January 18, 2008


Finally, finally, finally I'm at a level in WoW that I can actually run something with my guild. Tomorrow, if the spirits smile on me, I'll be in Zul'Gurub with 19 of my guildmates.

It's been an interesting, frustrating climb to level 58, and has shown me one of the major weaknesses of the game mechanics World of Warcraft uses: once people are done with a section of content, they're done pretty much forever. Even though, for example, Black Wing Mountain has fun content that is certainly replayable, people have moved on - they're in Outlands now, and for the most part they are not coming back.

I don't know what the solution is - others have suggested the only game that would be totally replayable is PvP, or that PvE stuff should scale (to each according to their abilities, if you will). I like the idea of a PvP where everyone is equal, so a guild could run it together, but I know there are other opinions on that. Either way, the company that solves the endgame problem will most assuredly be very successful.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Romance Novel MMO?

We discussed further this morning the idea from a couple days ago for a 19th century MMO. Things like skill trees (gambling, drinking, flirting, driving and riding), action bars (flirt, simper, rap knuckles with fan), PvP (duels, boxing, racing).

It leads to a question, though, about how to escape the fact that if the game designers are themselves gamers, and primarily male, and the gaming audience is primarily male (the daedalus project suggests mmo gamers are 85 percent male), how do you execute a game based on a genre that appeals primarily to women (according to the Romance Writers of America, 78 percent of readers are female). Something like this represents simultaneously a huge risk, and a huge opportunity. If you build it, will they come?

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

holy cow

That's a lot of money:

Activision and Blizzard have said they will form "the world's most profitable games business" in a deal worth $18.8bn (£9.15bn).

The BBC has full details.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Star Trek craziness

Well, I never held much hope for it, but news that Star Trek's MMO has been purchased and repositioned is still something of a shock. It's funny how the most valuable IPs can be abused in this fashion - it's why I never expect any of them to do anything. Large players are only too happy to throw together any crap thing under the assumption it will sell regardless, and Star Trek has certainly been a victim of that. It's funny - Star Trek has, to my mind, one of the most well developed background stories, something I've asserted again and again was part of the key to success for an MMO. And yet I just can't believe anyone would make a good game out of it. Oh well. Still plenty of time for the new owners to prove me wrong.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

something for n00bs

Massively pointed me to an article on How Stuff Works titled How World of Warcraft Works, which is an overview of massive game technology, using WoW as the example game.

This isn't exactly what I had expected when I clicked through. I had expected a tutorial for people who hadn't played massive games before.

Given that WoW is now doing TV ads (with Mr. T and William Shatner), some sort of primer is probably going to become necessary. I learned the game by watching someone else play, but I imagine the ads are targeting an audience that doesn't have that experience (or rather, more likely, they're targeting the parents of an audience that doesn't have that experience). As the industry matures, instruction may become less necessary, but right now I bet there are a lot of people looking for serious guidance.

Actually, that was my experience with Tabula Rasa. Obviously I know more or less how an MMO works, but the details are important, and I found the intro section simply didn't offer enough guidance on those details. At least, I assume there were details I was missing - the alternative is that combat was really terrible, and I find it hard to believe that the main point of the game wasn't polished.

A game doesn't have to be dumbed down to have a good tutorial - one of the NDA games I've played has a very good tutorial, I thought. But if you want to bring in people who find your game through a flippin' TV ad, you better have something!

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