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, November 20, 2009

Stargate?! Still!

Well, a post over at Massively seems to indicate Stargate Worlds is still kicking. I hope so, on general principle - no game should make it almost out the door, only to fail at the finish line due to cash flow.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I was recently reading a post on Bio-Break about strategies to revitalize Warhammer. And I got to thinking about the shiny-chasers - you know, the gamers (I fear I may be one) who chase each new game, try it, become disillusioned, and leave, never to return. And I wondered about the chances of revitalizing a game, using strategies aimed at the gamers you originally lost. I think it can't be done that way. I think a game (an MMO, to be precise) gets one shot to get the hardcore gamers, and ninety-eight percent of them blow that chance. But it seems like we're now seeing some methods for revitalization that are working - moving to a free-to-play model, for example, brings in a whole group of people who won't pay $15 a month, but who might pay something. And it brings back a small percent, I think, of the original wave, who come because they can (it's free, right?) There's also the Eve method of revitalization, which isn't really a method, nor really a revitalization - they just keep going, and after a while people come because, let's face it, people like polish, and polish takes time, and if you just keep at it long enough your game will acquire polish (assuming any level of competence and assuming you don't completely destroy the game (Star Wars Galaxies, anyone?)) But I'm not sure that expecting the people you attract at the beginning of the cycle to come back is ever a good plan - but then, I'm not totally clear you ever wanted those folks in the first place - WoW certainly seems to do better with care bears.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

free WAR?

Well, not all of it is free, but apparently now you can play the first tier (12 levels, I guess?) for free. I may have to add this to my list of 'games I finally get around to trying out'!

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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, October 5, 2009

not dead yet, sir

40 years of Monty Python. Amazing!

Anyhoo, I'm really not deceased or anything. I just really haven't seen anything that caught my fancy. Tobold's recent post on the GENI of WoW was pretty impressive, and I was taken by the Free Realms demographics posted at Game Genus, and I see a few folks talking about Alganon (which is, I presume, a game where you get really smart the first half, then really dumb, then you die - doesn't seem like it'll sell very well to me!)(for those that don't get it)

So I'll keep watching, and waiting. Innovation will happen - it just may take another year or so....

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turbine developing for the console

According to an article on Tom's, Turbine has already spent 20 million dollars developing basic infrastructure for a new console-based MMO. That's serious cash, though it has to be noted a few million doesn't go as far as it used to. The article speculates they might be building new gameplay models which are console specific (which wouldn't be a terrible idea, considering how different consoles are from PCs).

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Monday, August 31, 2009

MMOs and Consoles: a Winning Combination?

Slashdot pointed me to an interview with Cryptic Studios' Jack Emmert, in which he says that Microsoft is holding up the 360 release of Champions Online due to not being quite sure how to handle it (vis-a-vis XBox Live). I wonder if this is another facet of what seems like the on-going 'MMO on consoles not happening' saga. I feel like, given the number of console owners, MMOs should be a bigger presence on them than they are. Of course, there's the complexity of development and all that, but given that "around 90 per cent of the game code is shared between platforms", it doesn't seem insurmountable. On the other hand, that article also notes the complexity of the rules to be followed from platform to platform, which seems to move us towards the xbox problem. Other places have also noted the problem with payment models on other console-based MMOs. I wonder if the console makers are shooting themselves in the foot, or if, given that "MMOs have the 'highest failure rate of any entertainment product'", they'll be just fine even if no MMO ever makes it to their door.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

more data, more data, more data!

Kill Ten Rats informed me that Edward Castronova (and friends) have published a paper (pdf) on the Economics of EQII, using actual game data. Lots of it:
The dataset is
a comprehensive capture of the actions and communications of hundreds of
thousands of players over time. This dataset contains more than 300 million
individual transactions: lists of thousands of items sold, with purchase amounts
and prices.

I'd like to draw your attention to that number again: 300,000,000 individual transactions.

With that kind of data I'm amazed the paper is only 24 pages.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

APB and worldwide fame

Slashdot posted a story about an interview done with the creative director for APB, the upcoming (forgive me) cops and robbers MMO. Edge magazine has the interview (it's in two parts - use the links on left to go to part two), in which they discuss gameplay mechanics, launch dates, and something he calls 'heat mechanics':
if a criminal has just been on a complete rampage, recklessly blowing stuff up and killing people, heat builds up until eventually we unlock him to every single enforcer on the server. It’s not part of their missions, it’s just that this guy has become number one wanted and everyone has the authority to take him down. That’s a fun mechanic from both sides; everybody who’s a criminal is going to want to reach that and if you’re on a mission for the enforcers you’ll see that guy and wonder whether you should break away get him.
It's an interesting thing to think about, if it works. The idea certainly sounds fun. The interview makes it sound like there's a lot of new processing going on, new algorithms, etc., so it may be that when players get in it'll all blow up, but let's hope not - new is good.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

I win!

It seems certain romance novel readers also think the video game market could do with a dose of originality. Specifically a dose of romance novel writing.
So you have high output with frequent, addictive variations on the same theme. You have episodic content. You have buyer lock-in. You have nimble adaptation to changing technology. Sound like the wet-dream fantasies of any industry we know? And to sweeten the deal, most romance readers are women. If videogame publishers want to extend their reach beyond the standard 18- to 34-year-old male demographic, they might want to form development teams with fewer gamers and more romance novelists.

You may remember my post back in January of 2008 concerning the idea of a romance novel mmo, and the various forms of gameplay available to designers of a game of that nature. I like that others are going there too. (Via Smart Bitches)

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

What are they up to now? 38 Studios edition

It's funny how conservative young people can be. Keen has a post up, noting concern over recent statements by 38 Studios in an interview with Joystiq about their recent acquisition of Big Huge games. In the post, Keen notes that he is concerned that the game isn't well defined, and that makes him 'uneasy'.

Of course, the trick here is that with RA Salvatore, they don't need a game at all. They could create an IP and go crazy with it on t-shirts, posters, etc. (gotta keep all the artists busy somehow - otherwise why pay them?) and make a killing. The story will sell - we know that. And so do they. So take as a given that the key element - the IP - will be successful.

Now it's gravy time. And here there is some legitimate room for concern. The game could be built just like every other game that's been built on a successful IP. I'm thinking here of movie games (E.T. on the Atari 2600, anyone?) But let's, for the moment, give them the benefit of the doubt - these are professional game makers. With nothing defined except for the fact that they will have an awesome and successful storyline on which to build a game, I think it's a bit premature to start worrying the sky is falling (will fall).

The other nice thing is that, even if the main game sucks at first, with the funds they'll have from everything else (those t-shirts, etc.) they should have time to hold on and make it right. I think that's the biggest thing people forget is that longevity is the biggest factor in making a good game (or anything else - everyone knows the first gen has bugs). With their plans for making money in a variety of ways, they should have the resources to take their time and polish it up to shiny. And because the IP should be good, at least we can expect any games to come out to at least have a credible story - that may not help the game, but it can't hurt.

Finally, the only way gaming, as a genre, is going to get better is by people pushing the envelope. So if they release 15 crappy games and one truly new thing, we'll all be happier than if they released nothing at all.

Patience, Grasshopper.

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Bank robbery in Eve Online

By now I'm sure you've seen news of the massive bank heist that happened in Eve Online. One of the people running the bank made off with the cash, and apparently triggered a run on the bank.

The thing I love about Eve, in theory, is that this can happen - these huge networks of trust are built, and can equally be destroyed. In reading the interview, it's fascinating to see how much the game, for the people running the bank, has nothing to do with 'the game' - they're playing a whole other game, and apparently playing it well.

I hope we see more of this, as new games are released - I think a mobile phone interface for the auction house is a start. Of course, economics is the easiest bit to make mobile, and I hope that's already a given for developers - now let's see some augmented reality apps, possibly using the GPS in your phone.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

EVE Online stats

Yay! More stats from Eve Online! A massive tome with lots of numbers!

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Original IPs vs. Established IPs

Slashdot pointed me to an interesting article at Ten Ton Hammer all about storytelling and MMOs, specifically whether using an established IP is better or worse than developing your own. They interviewed a number of gaming companies, and came away with a mixed bag of results. Basically, PR is easier with an established IP, but working within an existing storyline is harder.

Interestingly, 38 Studios has the benefit of a known story teller, which is benefiting them as an established IP would.

Some things I felt related to the fact that gameplay still isn't innovative enough - lots of people cited Lord of the Rings as being problematic, and others noted that in several established IPs the most powerful characters were already established. I thought that focus on the 'epic battle where the big baddie is vanquished' missed other options for great storytelling - Gandalf, for example, may or may not have actually destroyed the Balrog (I can't remember if the book actually says unequivocally that the Balrog was destroyed) - the key was that he managed to walk away, and protect the others. Basically it's the escort quest, only without the silly parts of the escort quest that relate to bad AI.

It's interesting, actually, to think about - the one assumption was that storytelling should be excellent, but the good guys should always win. But some of the best stories (Empire Strikes Back, e.g.) involve the good guys getting their tuckus handed to them.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jumpgate delay

Ars Technica says that Jumpgate Evolution has been delayed. Hopefully this won't be a major delay. I'm always a little surprised when things have to be taken back and redesigned - it would seem like inveterate gamers (which many of the designers seem to also be) would notice if a game isn't working. But I imagine you get in the zone, and you need someone to say 'but this isn't fun' - which is what I thought focus groups were for. Given that they have been demoing at events, I would have expected someone to pick up on this before now. But at least they're going back and doing it right. Now let's hope there's still cash to burn.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mission Architect

I'm sure we all knew something like this was coming: Slashdot pointed me to an article in Wired about the abuse of the Mission Architect in City of Heroes. The forums appear to have exploded (a post trying to clarify what was going on had 350 pages of responses).

What should be clear is that manually policing these missions will never work. I don't know what will, honestly - scripts to detect certain behaviour, maybe? In the immortal words of whoever said it first, 'this is why we never have anything nice!'

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free Realms

Oh - the Free Realms NDA apparently dropped, or so Keen says. But honestly, I don't have anything to add to what he said - polish is good, game is light and entertaining. I could see it doing very well - I might even log in periodically for the car racing and demolition derby stuff. If I don't have to pay.

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going meta

Mmmm. Tasty blog conversations. Cuppycake leads us off with a post on bloggers who actually work in the gaming industry, and whether their words are worth the (e-)paper they're written on. Lum follows up with a post on categories of gaming bloggers (and a nice list of people you should read), Scott Hartsman continues his thoughts (started over at Lum's) on his blog, Mobhunter weighs in, as does Nerfbat, and WorldIV, and Tobold responds to his location on Lum's list.

*spoiler alert*

No conclusions are reached. But there's some interesting stuff put forward. Which is mostly why I read (and blog).

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Friday, April 24, 2009

It could be the next big thing, based on some very old things...

You know, I was reading an article on Massively about Black Prophecy, and towards the bottom of the article they have a video of the gameplay (and let me note in passing how much I like YouTube's HD stream!). As I watched the gameplay, with its view out the front of your spaceship, I thought 'this is the most boring idea ever - who would want to do this for any period of time?' And then I remembered Privateer, which I absolutely loved, and which this game reminds me an awful lot of. Trade, space battles, and levelling - what else could you want? So I'm going to have to wait and see what this game ends up looking like - if it is, in fact, carebear Eve, it might do very well for itself. And if it's as good as Wing Commander (God I loved Wing Commander!) it might even be a great game!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stargate Worlds is still being developed!

In a recent interview with Gateworld, one of my favorite sites in the universe, Stargate executive producer Brad Wright said that the game was toast - "They had an opportunity and they got our support, and they obviously had significant funding, and it didn’t happen." The developers have come back saying "we're all fine here, now", noting "the lights here are still on and the development team is working hard every day to get this game built. Team members are in the office seven days a week to deliver Stargate Worlds. [...] unfortunately we had not recently updated [Brad Wright] on our progress or the impact from the current global economic crisis, and he was not fully aware of the continuing progress on our game." So in theory things are still moving forward. I think we'll just have to wait and see - I know I wouldn't want to be in a funding crunch right now, given the economy.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Number 200 is a funny!

So first, the post I was going to write - Kill Ten Rats recently had a post which made me laugh out loud, making the (real life) daily grind into an MMO daily grind. I won't give away the punch line, but it's really quite wonderful.

Now the post I'm going to write - as it turns out, this is post number 200 for the blog.

As you may have noted, I've been posting less. It seems a lot of gaming blogs have been shutting down, which isn't that surprising, since once you lose interest in your MMO of choice it can be hard to keep going. Creative Destruction, if you will.

I myself have been lurking, of late, just keeping aware of developments, and waiting for the next big game. I will probably be trying Warhammer in the next week or so, and I may have lots of free time this summer to do some gaming, although whichever game I choose will have to be better than TF2 (not better dollar for dollar, because it's simply not possible to beat TF2 in the value department, at least in my book - I only paid ten bucks for it). I may try Eve, or perhaps something new.

It's a shame I have no interest in City of Heroes/Villains. Their new Mission Architect stuff sounds amazing, and is really the best way to generate story lines. Of course, one wonders how far off the open source MMO is, with this development, but I still haven't heard anything but rumblings and lamentations that games should be open sourced when they die.

Anyway, to sum up, this blog isn't going anywhere. It may be quiet from time to time, but I'm always around, waiting....

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Slashdot pointed me to an article in the LA Times about a game based on the US attack on Fallujah. It's a fascinating concept, and one that I think has application for future MMOs. The level of realism (if the concept is carried through) makes this game a documentary, which seems like an oxymoron. But I think the closest parallel, the 'educational game', couldn't have the sense of realism, excitement, and... fun? I use a question mark because the LA Times article notes that "a realistic game about war that is fun is an oxymoron". If this goes through as planned, and works, I think there will be a real opportunity for some interesting new media projects in the future.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

I was gonna, kill the boss, but I got high

I swear, you cannot make this stuff up: a new anti-drug ad showing how your raid will suffer if you are high. (via Penny Arcade)

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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Cruising around the internets, I ran across Killed in a Smiling Accident's Guide to MMO Etiquette, Chapter 1, which made me laugh more than a little:

Seeing a stranger (enemy faction in a PvP game)

You may attack them, but you should wait for them to despatch any mob they are fighting first[...] If they are climbing a cliff, you should lower a rope, and offer them a chance to rest before engaging in combat, after checking whether they have six fingers on one hand.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Darkfall launch

Well, Darkfall launched, and it didn't go so smoothly. The only thing I could add to the comments others have made (Tobold has links to several) is that the game did launch, more or less when they said they would (although, to be fair, they didn't say it until fairly recently, but still). Hardcore PvP - I respect the idea - I've actually just gotten Team Fortress 2 up and running, and I love the mayhem. But it's not really the same thing. I'll be curious to see how it goes once people have had a chance to level a bit (or whatever you want to call it - skill up?). Given that I like some of the ideas they're implementing, I'm hoping they make a go of it.

I haven't looked yet, but I bet it's $15 a month, which would be a mistake. In going to look, I see the problems are pretty severe - the forums are closed except for a message saying 'we're working on it'. The webpage hasn't been updated since Feb 1, it looks like. Well, I guess I'll wait and see how it plays out.

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Fare thee well, Tabula Rasa

Poor Tabula Rasa - slashdot has reminded me that the final swan song is this weekend. It was a good game, as far as it went (I enjoyed it a lot more when I played it in January), and it's sad to see so much work just... disappear. I stand by my assertion that the game should be open sourced and left to the fans, but the game's website would seem to indicate a fairly... final... finale. "[I]f it is truly our destiny to be destroyed, we are taking them all with us."

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Non-combat roles in Earthrise

I was reading the Earthrise forums a few days ago, and ran across their great 'question of the week' forum, in which they answer (more or less) one player question each week. In reading through them, I ran across the one that more often than not is the one I want to know about: what are my options for gameplay that don't involve killing things? The answer is not as detailed as one might like, and it's not absolutely clear to me that they value non-combat roles as highly, but it's nice to see they're at least thinking about it. It would certainly be nice to have a SF MMO that isn't WoW with lasers.

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I'm a geek

I think I may have more fun tweaking my system for speed than I do gaming, sometimes. I just reinstalled my system from the ground up, changing the disks to a striped RAID configuration (a what?!?), because LotRO wasn't going fast enough on my system. I'm now re-updating the game client (and several gig later, it will finish, we hope - I'm a little fuzzy how 333/359 is 10% complete, though).

I'm enjoying Lord of the Rings, thus far - I just made it through the starter section, with the big quest at the end of it, which I found quite enjoyable. So far I haven't interacted with a single other person (well, one, but I'm trying to forget that), which isn't all that MMO-ish. We'll see if that continues.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

playing LotRO

So, despite all my whinging, I am really enjoying Lord of the Rings Online. I like the music, the atmosphere, the fact that it is, in some small way, related to some of my favourite books ever. I've got a dwarf now on Nimrodel, and he's up to level 5. Everything about the game so far seems like it's a little slower-paced, like you're actually expected to stop and smell the roses. We'll see if that continues.

I had actually been playing Tabula Rasa up to this morning, and finding it quite enjoyable. But I had one too many CtDs and decided to start the new game, since restarting the client isn't very much fun the 3rd time through.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

more Grr Argh

So I made it as far as the bit where the game tries to update itself in LotRO, and the process ran out of threads several hundreds of MB into the update. Which seems to have erased all progress made, as I'm back at trying to update 18,000 files. I hope this game is worth it. I honestly considered sending it back, and if I'd bought it from a Brick 'n' Mortar place I would have - tech troubleshooting is my day job, not what I do for fun.

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Grrr! Argh!

So I was feeling a little snarky when I was installing Lord of the Rings Online, and it didn't, IMO, have a dramatic enough installation. I know this is silly, and I knew it when I was installing, so I decided I wouldn't say anything about it. Then the installation failed miserably - I think my comp ran out of disk, and the install program didn't notice. So I uninstalled, and this time for whatever reason it couldn't quite figure out permissions in Vista, and I had to suffer through ugly error messages, Turbine's help system, and general Vista blech-ness. I don't know who to blame, honestly - I remember when everyone was having trouble in WoW with the whole 'run as administrator' thing, so it's not unique to Turbine, but it sure as heck killed my 'I have a new game' buzz!

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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Well, the cost of software (plus a month of gaming, I assume) fell below $10 recently, and as such I decided to give Lord of the Rings Online a try. To my understanding, there are at least a few folks I read who are playing (The Ancient Gaming Noob, for example, who says people are really nice and mature in LotRO, which appeals to me more than a little, I have to confess). I'm not sure when I'll kick off playing, as I've just gotten back into Tabula Rasa for the free 'last hurrah' before it dies. I've never played a game to its demise before, so I want to spend as much time as possible doing that before it all goes bye-bye. But I'm installing the game now, so I can get some nice opening cinematic love (and presumably, some serious updates that take a year and a day).

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Really? Zork?

Well now here's a concept - Massively pointed me to the website for a new browser based MMO based on the old Zork game. That's been a while. According to the website, Legends of Zork will see players "take up the role of a recently laid-off salesman and part-time loot-gatherer, as he explores the Great Underground Empire." Who knows? Could be cool.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Darkfall Online

Keen has a post up on Darkfall Online, which I found really exciting. I hadn't read much about the game, so when I found that it implemented some of the ideas I had concerning skills that atrophy without constant use, and a non level based system, I was very intrigued. Sadly, reading the backstory on the game makes me think it may pull a (insert pretty much any game that launched last year), and overpromise and underperform. I hit the big Beta Overview posted on The Noob Comic, and the game seems sensible enough, although I very much hope they get some organizations like Eve has to keep the game from being a chaotic free-for-all. Either way, given the claims I've seen that the game would go live this month, I guess I don't have long to wait!

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


I was wondering if 38 Studios had any new developments (I'm quite excited about anything involving a writer like Salvatore), so I cruised on over to their site to see what was up. Looks like they've hired a UI designer from Blizzard, and some other details like that, but nothing really big. I also had a look at their jobs board, and while reading a posting noticed this little tidbit:
Based in Maynard, Massachusetts, the studio is a fun, energetic place to work, where the company mantra, "How cool would it be if . . . ?" infuses the team with a commitment to passion, integrity, and innovation.
Where they heck is Maynard, MA? Sadly, it's not as 'in the middle of nowhere' as I had hoped - looks like it a suburb of a suburb of Boston. Why had I hoped it was in the middle of nowhere, you ask? Because I'd like to imagine someday I might live near an MMO that I could work for. But since I make it a point to never live near big cities, and I've yet to have enough cash to live in a big city (Paris excepted, amusingly), I need to wait for an MMO to be headquartered somewhere rural. I've a sneaky suspicion I'll be waiting a while....

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glad I'm not

I suddenly realized, while reading the latest Age of Conan newsletter, that I'm really glad I'm not a game designer. I mean, I love speculating about the next big thing, and coming up with cool concepts, and all that, but to actually have my professional reputation be tied to the success or failure of one of my ideas? That would be (for a significant percentage of MMOs) really depressing. I mean, even if I made what I considered a great product, odds are it would go down in flames. And that would break your heart, I imagine. At least the first time - I'm sure after a few projects go down you just move on.

Since I already mentioned the new Conan newsletter, I should mention that they have apparently added a swanky new dungeon, and upgraded their PvP. My personal favourite, though, is the zombie pets - if I'm going to have a game with minions, I darned well better be able to have undead minions!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

MMO Economics redux

Wow - Tobold just pointed me to a blog called the WoW Economist. This guy likes numbers even more than me. And that's going a ways. It isn't as interesting to me as secondary work using the data this guy is generating would be, but it certainly is good data.

Economics in WoW, and the other levelling games, is interesting - I remember this with Pirates of the Burning Sea especially, where as people levelled up the markets evolved. Of course, PotBS wanted to have a completely player driven economy, whereas WoW has a much more command-and-control economy, where, for example, items can have value one day, and be valueless the next (because they can no longer be traded). Economics on sharded games are also interesting, because what's rare on one server may not be on another.

I think, in part, that's what makes Eve Online so exciting - having an economy where every player has access to the market makes for a much more interesting economic game (and part of most MMOs is the economic game - the auction house in WoW wouldn't always be packed if this weren't the case - people buying low and selling high - hopefully to better effect than the real world of late). Even with a giant bug in their economy, Eve has had a tremendously interesting economic game.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

probably a bad sign...

Oh dear. Kill Ten Rats has pointed out that Ten Ton Hammer is running a pledge drive for workers at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, so they'll have cash for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that bodes ill for dev work on Stargate Worlds....

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Atari buys Cryptic

Whoa - didn't see this coming - Massively is reporting that Atari has apparently purchased Cryptic Studios.

Of course, Cryptic is responsible for the new Star Trek MMO (having acquired it themselves from elsewhere), and Champions Online, which I probably ought to look into - I've seen the name often enough, but haven't followed up. I'll do that now (why not?)

Oh right - it's the superhero MMO. Well, another superhero MMO, though this one is made more interesting by the possibility that it will be available on consoles as well as PCs. Not really my thing, but certainly people do play the genre, so we'll see what happens.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Stargate problems?

Massively is reporting that the makers of Stargate Worlds may be experiencing a cash flow issue (well, from the way I read the comments from Cheyenne Mountain, they definitely -are- having a problem). This news appears to have come out when a website, was put up. I think you can probably figure out the subject matter of the website....

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

real tax, fake money

There's a brief article on taxing virtual income (in the real world) up on the BBC. It doesn't cover a lot of new ground, but does give a nice background on the subject.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gaming Populations

Massively pointed me to some exciting number crunching going on over at T-Machine. The lengthy post looks at ways of measuring user numbers for MMOs, given the general secrecy concerning the numbers. There's a nice chart showing game populations based on several methodologies.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh boy! AT-ATs!

I enjoyed Star Wars Galaxies, back before the Change, and have often thought it was the best MMO made, in terms of appealing to a wide audience of casual gamers. Of course, it changed, and I haven't looked at it in ... five years? But that doesn't mean I don't get a little thrill seeing the roll out of content set on Hoth (from The Empire Strikes Back). So the pictures at Ten Ton Hammer of AT-ATs and such made me happy.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wheel of Time MMO?

Slashdot, which seems to be chock full of gaming news today, has an extended article on the plans for movies, games, and an MMO based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. If you aren't familiar, this is a series of books that has been going on for two decades, and although Jordan passed away, he left extensive notes which Brandon Sanderson will complete the series with. There's apparently around 4 million words in the series (based on a post Brandon made), so heaven knows the IP is ripe for plucking. We'll see how well the folks at Red Eagle can pluck.

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Garriot leaving NCSoft

Slashdot is reporting that Richard Garriot has left NCSoft. That sounds like bad news for Tabula Rasa. Or maybe not - I never really got why people care about individuals - especially now that the game is launched. In fact, given the state it was launched in, this may be the best possible news....

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm back

Well, I took a little break from the crazy Lich King overload, though I read there are scads of world events taking place, which I approve of. It's too bad they're so technically difficult to do - I had expected WAR would have a more fluid feel to its world, but everything resets there, too. Anyway, some non-Lich news:

APB has new info out, indicating they are actually listening to their players (well, possible future players, I think). I'm interested in this game from a technical standpoint, although I'm not sure the real world cops and robbers theme is my thing.

A post over at /random addresses the question of how to tell your teammates they suck. I don't think it quite goes far enough, as a little politesse goes a long way in my book, but it's an interesting read.

Jumpgate is reporting over 150K beta signups, for whatever that's worth. I'm in the process of signing up right now, and you can do the same here.

I was also reading up on Free Realms, which has posted a handy 'What is Free Realms' video that, I think, did a fine job of telling me that I was too old for it.

Finally, on a slightly unrelated note, I wish to point out the making of a Schadenfreude Pie, complete with cute children doing sinister laughs.

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Friday, October 31, 2008


Massively pointed me to a great video of Jumpgate: Evolution gameplay, which is really cool - I also like the way the people filming periodically compare it to Eve Online. There's other stuff on the video, but the Jumpgate footage is pretty compelling.

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WAR is now in phase three

So I tend to think of the way people deal with a new MMO release in the same way I think about culture shock - it runs in phases. Phase one happens before the game is released. Phase two would be your initial release run (or in the case of culture shock, the first two months of living in the new culture), and phase three is the hate phase. Those who survive the hate phase will mellow over time, the rest will quit/go home. We appear to be in phase three for Warhammer Online, as a number of bloggers have now decided it isn't fun anymore. To be fair, there's also the levelling question, although to my understanding this shouldn't be a concern in a PvP game. The theory there is that if you build stuff for levels 1-20, once people hit level 21 you either need to churn out more content, or they'll get bored.

Of course, some people blame the players. I respect this position, but it's not really realistic - people game to have fun, and either they are or they aren't. There is no try, as Yoda would say. It may be the game was marketed poorly, or it may be that gamers as a class suck, and this sort of game could never work. I doubt that, but I'll throw it out there.

It's a shame these games take so darned long to build, and cost so much. Now we'll have to wait another year or so for the next big thing. And then we'll do the whole cycle again.

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gaming blogs

Tobold reminds us that if you call your blog '[your name] loves [some game]' and then you quit [some game], your blog won't be good for much thereafter. Consider this a Public Service Announcement.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

attractions of the Lich King

As we approach the release of the new Warcraft expansion, I have to admit I feel the pull. There have been a plethora of changes since I played, and obviously more coming down with the new release. And I have to admit, it's an entertaining way to waste time. I suspect I'll be able to resist by inertia, but I certainly do feel the draw.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

multiple games at once?

There's a great post up over on Tobold asking 'how many MMOs are you playing concurrently'? The comments reveal about what you would expect - a whole lot of 'one at a time' and a few 'more than one', with several people noting (as I would) that it's the subscription that keeps them to one game at a time.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


I can't believe BlizzCon is here and gone! When they first started trying to sell it, I was huge into WoW. Now I can barely muster enthusiasm for [unnamed beta]. WAR seems to have stolen a little bit of thunder with their 750K announcement (and really, why else would you announce a weird number like that, other than trying to get WoW's thunder?) I'm a little surprised at the numbers, actually - I would have thought a huge number of people would have tried it out (or is 750K huge? Maybe WoW has screwed up my perspective).

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Glider, round one

Well, phase one of the Warcraft v. Glider lawsuit is over. Glider lost. But more interesting are the future legal issues. From the article: "At issue will be whether MDY broke the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act and whether [Glider software creator Michael] Donnelly will have to pay the damages from his own pocket." It's interesting, because the penalty was six million dollars, whereas, if the article is correct, only "100,000 copies of the $25 (£14) program" were sold - which would mean the total take was $2.5 million. Ouch.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some seriously tasty geekiness - and something I'd been wondering for a while - check out how Eve Online does their servers.

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Stargate Worlds Youtube Channel

Massively notes the existence of a YouTube channel from Firesky devoted to Stargate Worlds.

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Are we really dying of surprise here? Apparently Age of Conan is merging servers.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gender and Learning Styles - from Austin GDC

There's a pretty interesting article up over at Massively about the panel held by Sheri Graner Ray on the topic of learning styles, gender, and MMOs. Actually, the description conflates two topics - one, that people have different learning styles, and two, that women tend to have a different style than men. This is then applied to, for example, how to introduce a new game to people - how they will learn the controls, whether they will even pick it up, etc.

It's interesting, because one of the things I've noticed in the betas I've played (almost all of them, actually), is that there is no 'starter island' - first off, there is no 'how to work your character' explanation, and often there is no 'what do I do now?' Whatever happened to F1 for help?

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Colbert is Immortal

So did you see the Stephen Colbert interview with Richard Garriot? I love the fact that, other than the screen shot (which was really small), Tabula Rasa got no mention at all. I'm not sure how effective that was as marketing, but it certainly was amusing. I wonder if Garriot made it to space, or is still being held by the Russians?

Massively also did a post on this, with lots of link love.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Game Econ, more

You may remember I posted a bit back about a series Massively was doing on a theoretical game economy. Well, now part two of that series is up, and I'm afraid they've lost me completely now. I think the key idea of this whole thought experiment is that it's a closed loop system - there is a set amount of stuff in the world, and no more is getting in. It may change form (the copper in your level one copper shield might become a decorative copper insignia in your level one zillion sword of epic killing spree). And I'm honestly down with this idea. I just don't like the magical way stuff disappears and reappears - I would prefer the NPCs to be part of a fully functioning economy.

But I've said that already - on to part two, where the whole concept is built around a server's 'age', i.e. as the game is played the number of people at any given level will change, and the monsters and loot should react accordingly. Here again I feel that rather the game should be able to sustain those low level areas independent of characters. This may be because I'm such a fan of huge worlds. I would much prefer the AI does crazy stuff with massive numbers of NPCs to keep stuff interesting, than phasing them out in favor of higher level hordes once everyone is levelled up. Among other things, it interferes with the suspension of disbelief, if the village simply disappears.

As an aside, does anyone know why gaming companies aren't having massive AI battles for players to wander into? It's probably some sort of server load thing, isn't it. Argh! For better computers!!

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Monday, September 15, 2008


I think the big stuff happening right now in MMO-land is the Austin Game Developer's conference. Raph has some sexy statistics up (I love numbers!) from one of the presentations.

WAR is still, uh, WAR-ing. Seems like things are going pretty well for a game that's just come out. If this is true, kudos to Mythic for not screwing it up!

Conan seems to still be going along. I'll be interested to see if they can hang on once the big guys are both up and running (i.e. WAR and WoW III).

Looks like All Points Bulletin is hiring. I've been keeping an eye on this game - it has a few innovations I'm interested in seeing, even though I'm not sure I'm a cops and robbers type of guy.

Atlantica Online is still working towards release - they seem to be quite close to open beta. I'm not sure what to think about the idea of a turn-based MMO, but that's why I keep watching!

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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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Monday, September 8, 2008

Burning Sea resurgence?

I was over at the Pirates of the Burning Sea blog, wondering what they were up to these days, as I hadn't heard anything in a while. Turns out they planned it that way. In what was probably a very good move if you have the wherewithal to do it, they basically went underground while they fixed all the bugs and such, and are now (like, right now) going to start a new advertising campaign to bring people in. They're also hiring several of people, which is hopefully a good sign.

I have to say I found the game enjoyable, and that's impressive, given that it was the beta I was playing. I just didn't see it replacing WoW at the time, and I couldn't bring myself to do two subscriptions. And now I'm off gaming, for the most part - too much going on in RL. I really wish they didn't have the subscription model - I would love to be able to play some of these games more casually....

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game economics

Alexis Kassan has an article up over at massively detailing a theoretical economic model for an MMO. I have more than a passing interest in the economics of gaming, so I gave it a good long read. It proposes basically a game where there is no crafting, and where resources are fixed in game - no sudden influx of thorium to throw the game into an inflationary tailspin. It's a little odd to me how the proposal is phrased, seeming to indicate that the economy would only encompass players - it would seem better to set economic processes in place so that the NPCs are also participating, but in a totally rational way, so at least they wouldn't contribute to the crazy if some weird financial disease were to afflict the player base (gold sellers, e.g.).

I much preferred the way PotBS tried to do things (have chars construct all in-game items) - I was, however, sad that they seemed to not have NPCs participating in the economy, as I think that's the only way to prevent the character levelling from screwing up your economy. I've a sneaky suspicion that Eve Online is now mature enough that they can get away with a true player run economy, and I think the practices they perfect may become the ideal by which all others are measured. But, not having played, that's just speculation.

Given the epic fail happening in the (real) world economy right now, it's pretty clear that economics is tough. But games have it somewhat easier - their oversight can be 100% effective. But I think economics may be something only mature games (or games with a whole lot of time and money for prep) should do big. It's not tough - you don't even need a working graphics engine to do the economics, as long as you're planning well enough. But planning seems very often to be a big challenge, and if you don't plan it right, well, you have to bail out your virtual Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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big releases

Lots of exciting stuff in gaming, the biggest of course being the WAR Open Beta. I tried to get in a couple of times but so far, no luck - I don't know where my invite went - maybe my email ate it. At one point had 300K beta keys, then 7K then 10K. If they aren't making stuff up that means 317K people at least are playing the beta. Not counting the pre-order people. That's a whole lot of people. You can check here to see if they've opened more keys.

While the US launch seems to be doing ok, the european launch appears to have failed mightily. They even had to roll out the CEO for an apology. I quite enjoyed the Greenskin's reaction to the european fail, in which he quotes in full the wikipedia definition of anger.

Spore is also out the door, which is... amazing. I mean the fact that it was released, not the game - I haven't played the game, so can't comment. But given that I had decided it was going to be the next Duke Nukem, I'm really pleased it's out. People seem pleased so far. I may actually have to pick it up, as I think my wife might enjoy it.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

justify the grind

I was thinking about levelling in the context of rewards, and how players need positive feedback to keep them playing a game. And yet, real life doesn't have levels (heh - or does it?) but there's a sense of forward motion. How could one capture that to keep a game interesting without having to add levels every time you want to do a new expansion?

I think WAR may be onto one route, if what I've read about their combat system is correct. Making the combat a more skill-based system means that people can actually improve their combat skill (as opposed to just gaining skill points - I mean real hand-eye coordination type skill).

But then I got thinking about some of the other ways that we 'skill up', and how those skills require constant attention in order to maintain them.

For example: I have studied about six or so languages (not counting programming languages). Some of these (French, Japanese) I can operate in, with varying degrees of success. But the German I took in college, or the Greek I studied for a holiday? Those are gone. I might be able to get a cup of coffee or tell someone 'Good Morning!', but that is it.

If we envision this as skill points, it's very clear that when I was taking the class in German, my skill points were increasing rapidly. But as soon as I stopped using it, they started to go away.

Now, this is pretty basic stuff, and easy enough to implement in a game. If you were feeling a bit feistier, you could even have a second system that made your skills atrophy less quickly after you reach certain proficiency levels or after a long period of time (I doubt, for example, that I will ever lose my ability to speak French, whereas my Japanese, which I never really became comfortable in, requires constant attention).

You could also implement this in terms of physical skills (weightlifting, anyone?) and combat skills. More interesting might be various types of combat skills (versus, for example, Rodents of Unusual Size, and another against armed warriors).

An additional facet of this might be a variation on "Player Achievements". I had been thinking for a while that if you have earned the right to call yourself 'RoUS slayer' then shouldn't you be a mite bit better than the next guy at killing RoUSs? You know their wily ways, and you're ready for them when they leap at you from above in the fire swamp. This should grant combat bonuses. (on a side note, in the case of intelligent creatures who recognize you, they should either run away or call immediately for reinforcements).

This sort of system might also do away with the need for alts - your class is based on your education (heh - that's player class, not social class, though that's an awfully ironic mis-speak), so if you stop warrior-ing, and start wizarding, the change will happen organically. This would also allow Warriors who know a bit of magic, or wizards who carry a two-handed bastard sword, making every class individual (and making PvP a game of identifying what kind of enemy you're fighting during the fight.

Maybe there's already someone out there doing this. If not, I hope someone does!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

More WAR

...and speaking of Tobold, he's managed to do something I didn't really think could be done: make me think I should try WAR. The description of how groups work in WAR that he gives sounds positively exciting. A whole pile of folks have noted that public quests are one of those head-smack type ideas where everyone goes 'that's so obvious - why didn't anyone do that before?!'

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WAR NDA is off

Oh lordy - the NDA for Warhammer has apparently been lifted (at least, so says Tobold). I expect it's going to be tough to find folks talking about anything else for a while.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Stargate Worlds' AI

I've read multiple places now that the makers of Stargate Worlds hope to have a fairly complex battle AI. These plans were reiterated most recently in an interview. I've played a number of first person shooters, and to be honest I've never survived long enough to evaluate the AI. Of course, this will be different, as you'll see things from a different perspective, so maybe I'll live long enough to do better. I do know that I always found the WoW AI to be frustrating - if I set off an alarm, I expect the whole base to come get me, not just the one guy in my aggro radius. We'll see what they do, as this would be quite tough if you have 700 people running the instance at once....

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Warhammer set to release the day before my birthday!

So it seems really real now that Warhammer will launch on September 18th. You all know what you can buy me as a present now, don't you?

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back from the dead

...and I'm back! The move covered some 900 miles, and while I've been reading all the latest, I haven't been posting that much. There have been a few interesting developments, not least of which is that I get to play a new game I can't tell you about. Since my gaming computer should arrive with the movers on Monday (fingers crossed) that should keep me busy for a little while.

Let's see: if you haven't read it already, Tobold does a nice job using Magic: the Gathering to explain why games that require levelling will probably always add levels as part of their expansion. Let's hope some of the up-and-comers break the trend, as levelling, at least in the grindy-grind way, makes me sad.

As near as I can tell, in the past month Age of Conan has pretty much continued its downward spiral, at least as the blogs would have it. They continue to add content though, so at the point you play it your mileage may vary.

LotRO is prepping for their big Mines of Moria expansion, which will have some serious content, I have read. The trailer is online, and looks ... well... I'm sure it will be fun.

Honestly, I feel like most of the current gen of 'up and comers' still need some work. The stuff from 38 Studios I am very much looking forward to, but it sounds like another year before we even hear from them. The turn-based strategy games I want to look more at - they sound like they could be fun. We'll see.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

How many space combat games can we have?

An article on Massively talking about a forthcoming game called Black Prophecy made me think about space combat MMOs. I'm not sure how much room there is for them. I'm not saying the desire for a space combat MMO is zero - Eve Online would put paid to that - but I wonder if Eve hasn't cornered the market on this sort of gamer. To be fair, Eve has issues, by all accounts, so I suppose simply doing Eve better might reap a significant reward. We'll see how this new game does (I saw there was a beta signup - maybe I'll give it a run once I get my new setup in place (assuming the movers don't break my rig))

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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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Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I'm not sure what I think about the idea of a turn-based MMO - it seems... odd to me. Although, as a general, one often gives orders and then has to wait to see how they turned out, so if done like that it might work.

What prompted this was a story on Atlantica (which I think should be here, tho the site didn't work for me). If the site gets working I may check it out - I'm curious how they plan to do it.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

slowly, slowly

Well, it's looking to be a long, slow end to 2008. I'm excited about stargate, in a general sort of way, and I'm eyeing eve, but for the most part, I'm waiting on what's next. Maybe WAR will be all that and a bag of chips, but I doubt it.

Taking a look at, I see the upcoming releases list on their site as follows:

* Requiem ( Q2 2008 )
* Wonderland Online ( Q2 2008 )
* Zu Online ( Q2 2008 )
* Godswar Online ( Q2 2008 )
* The Chronicles of Spellborn ( Q3 2008 )
* Warhammer Online : Age of Reckoning ( Q4 2008 )
* Aion ( 2008 )
* Stargate Worlds ( Q4 2008 )
* Huxley ( 2008 )
* Darkfall ( 2008 )
* Earthrise ( 2009 )

I doubt the 2008 release dates for Stargate, and Aion sounds... not my style. I'll have to check out some of these others, though, in hopes something catches my attention.

One that does sound interesting is Earthrise - back before Star Wars fell so far down, I thought it was great that you could be on one side or the other, or you could be neutral. Earthrise sounds like it may have that option, though it's a shame that one side is clearly supposed to be evil. We'll see.

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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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Monday, June 16, 2008

throwing people out

I love this! Massively pointed me to this video, showing the ways you can kick people out of your private space in a web based game called Sociotown.

I'm not sure where I'm at with browser based games yet - I'm beginning to think they might be viable, though I'll be sad to see the high-end graphics go away. Of course, maybe the next version of our favourite browsers will have high-end graphic capability...?

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More data, more data, more data

The Daedalus Project just dropped me a note to let me know they have more MMO data, articles, and surveys available. One that caught my eye, just because it's so often a topic of discussion on MMO blogs, is 'what do players want?' With a sample size of 500 (but a not necessarily representative sampling), the top ten answers were:

# Quests (9%): More interesting quests. Quests with variable outcomes. Quests that involve trade skills. Quests that drive social interaction. Quests that utilize logic.

# Customization Options (8%): More customization features. Ability to look truly unique. Unique classes or races. Hybrid classes. Unique abilities.

# Solo Content (7%): Soloability and solo content.

# Storylines (6%): More lore and background threads. Interesting stories or plot lines. Active storyline.

# Casual Content (6%): More casual-friendly content. More content for small groups. Low-level content.

# PvP Content (5%): More opportunities for PvP. Well-designed PvP content.

# Crafting / Tradeskills (5%): Robust crafting and economic systems.

# Role-Playing (5%): More support and enforcement for role-playing. Tools for role-playing.

# Community Changes (5%): Regulate farmers. Ways to report people. More mature / honest / civil players.

# Social Tools (5%): Ability to build houses or social spaces. Group transportation. Collective player-created content. Social events tools.

No big surprises. There's also stuff on pets and crafting.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conan hits one million

Tom's Games is reporting that Age of Conan has shipped a million boxes in three weeks. Since I presume there's a 30 day trial inside, that probably means they currently have one million people playing. Minus Keen and Graev. And anyone else who stopped. I guess months two and three are more important. We'll see if they can pull it together.

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WAR Overwiew

Massively has a, erm, 'massive' overview of Warhammer Online, which links to the articles they've written on all major gameplay elements. In looking it over, I'm interested to see if it works - the PvP seems... complicated. But it may be that all the playtesting has led them to the conclusion that it needs to be. We'll see come release.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sci-Fi to make TV Show / MMO

I think this could either go very well, or very badly - Sci-Fi (the american cable television channel) will be making a massive online game which is accompanied by a TV show (or is that the other way around), according to console patrol (via slashdot). According to the article, "Sci-Fi plans on revealing more about the project later this year at the San Diego Comic-Con", which is when we'll find out if this is a good idea, or a colossal blunder...

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AoC etc

Well, the reviews for Age of Conan continue to roll - Tobold has done a good overview of the reactions (along with his comments on what, if anything, it will matter to WoW).

I have to admit that my most recent gaming has been Rock Band, rather than an MMO. AoC does nothing for me. WoW is pretty dead to me as well - I'm going to try to meet some commitments for running a few more evenings before I quit, but I think once I'm out I'm out for good. We'll see. I might be leaning towards Eve Online, but I might also just try new stuff - there should be a new round of betas to do, if I go looking.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

AoC et al.

It's been a whole week, and RL precluded pretty much any gaming for me. I see that others have been doing lots of Age of Conan, which is nice - I'm glad it's finally available for public consumption. I note that Tobold indicated customer service might be a bit thin right now, which would be shortsighted on their part if true, as these early days can make or break the game.

Outside of this, I note massively has an article on putting raiding on your resume, something I've actually done for this round of job searching (actually, the line reads 'massive/virtual worlds', but close enough).

There's lots of talk about the avatars being added to Eve Online. I don't think I can have an opinion until I've played the game. Of course, I guess I should play it before they add the avatars, as otherwise I won't know what's different. Happily, I should have time to mix it up now that my WoW sub is set to expire.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

WotLK news doesn't help

So this weekend a landslide of new info came out about Wrath of the Lich King. It wasn't enough to stop me from cancelling my subscription. If the folks I've been playing with lately can come together to do a regular run, I may do one more six month hit, but I haven't played in a long time, and don't know that I'll have time once we move this summer.

I may take a break from it until I see a game that makes me think there's hope on the horizon, or I may try all the free games and trials and such. We'll see. All I know is, all I see in WotLK is more of the same, which isn't working for me right now.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

research and exploration

Van Hemlock has a wonderful post up about how to work around the fact that all the hard work that goes into creating a new PvE area (dungeon, what have you) goes away as soon as people post a guide on teh intartubes. He discusses the system in Eve Online, where good stuff spawns randomly, and you have to hunt for it using consumable goods. He also talks about arcane research in Asheron's Call, which apparently used special andles keyed to your account name. Unfortunately, someone reverse engineered the system, and they killed it, but I enjoy the idea of arcane research - especially things like critical fails (you mix it up, and it kills you dead).

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Age of Conan

Well, rumour has it the NDA is off, at least for part of Age of Conan. Tobold has written up his impressions. I'm going to refrain from comment, as I'm not sure the NDA is off for everything, and I can wait until release - I'm pretty sure I don't have any earth shattering comments about the game. I will say that if broadband in the US doesn't get better internet delivery is DOA.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Time away

Well that was a busy week! I hardly even read anything. So going back to the reading, it seemed like Conan was on a massive PR spree. I'm sure you've already read enough about it at this point, so I'll point instead to the story that Turbine has picked up a bunch of cash - enough to do some interesting expansions, even. The story talks console, but I doubt it - at least not for LotRO - it doesn't fit, in my mind. Not that I've played the game, of course, so who am I to comment?

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Friday, April 18, 2008

WoW is the new Second Life

What's that you say? A conference in World of Warcraft? What fun! Apparently between sessions on virtual worlds and the like, they'll do raids. The swag bag apparently includes cash, and a pet. Cool!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

LotRO just 'gets it'

Massively is reporting that a new content release (Book 13) for LotRO will include fishing trophies for player houses. This is the kind of crazy, bizarre social stuff that I think all of the MMOs should be doing. If it's an RPG, how the heck can you RP without housing, dancing, whatever. WAR's comments that they wouldn't have dancing because of the grim nature of the game is bologna. 

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Monday, April 14, 2008


Massively has a post up on a new game called Saga, which looks (from the trailer) absolutely amazing. It's a Real-Time Strategy style game, in which you control armies in real-time. The post notes that this is what the author had expected World of Warcraft to be, which is reasonable, but I expect Warhammer 40K is a better candidate for the massive army control game.

All the same, it got me thinking about WoW, and what an interesting game it would be if, like in D&D, after a certain level you got a follower (or followers). In addition to making the PuG unnecessary and allowing for raiding (to an extent), the PvP could be amazing.

I kind of wanted Warhammer to be like Saga in their RvR play, at least, what the trailer says the play is like. From what I've seen I don't think that's going to happen. By the same token, from what I've seen of Conan nothing like that will be involved, though I don't think they ever claimed it would be. I expect what's going to have to happen is all the games now in beta will be released, and then someone will start developing a game which incorporates all the features they have, and that generation of games will be amazing.

Of course, it's an MMO, so in theory, they could re-develop. But I don't see any sign that, for example, Blizzard is going to make their game better, even though they could. Just milk it 'till it dies. It's sad, but that seems to be the way it works.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

woot! WoW silliness

If you haven't heard, it's time for more stupid level 1 stunts.

Mark your calendars now for the upcoming Big Red Kitty/Ratshag event: The Running of the Bulls. It will be Saturday, May 3 (Tres de Mayo?) at 4pm (server time - I think 11pm GMT) on the Cenarion Circle server.

This is what virtual worlds were made for!

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There are reports that Wrath of the Lich King has gone into alpha testing (NDA must not be working), and this has reopened the question of whether WotLK will be the same as BC - 10 levels, more content, and the old stuff gets abandoned and forgotten. There's a thread on the official forums where, between the usual crap, people make some good points about what could be done to make it better. I think Tobold pointed me to the original post by Random Battle, titled "abandoning content with gusto" which seems to sum it up admirably.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

beta tests 1

I was thinking about beta tests over the weekend. I've been in quite a number, several big name ones, which is vaguely surprising to me - I hadn't expected to find myself able to get into them, and yet it's worked out fairly well.

Obviously, the beta test is a necessary part of any software development project, and massive games are no different. It's the NDA, and the various aspects of communicating with the community that I find so interesting. I've been in betas where nothing worked, and that is clearly a mistake - if you know it's broken, you don't need a beta tester to tell you (that game closed less than six months after opening). But what's interesting is the betas where things mostly work, because those are the games where the beta testers feel like they have an idea of what the game will be like.

Of course, if you have an NDA, people aren't supposed to say what's happening, though at some point the NDA will be lifted, and you will have people talking about a game they played while it wasn't finished. On the other hand, they will also often be the most enthusiastic gamers.

I will confess - the people who hang out on the public boards before a game is released weird me out a little. The ones who beta test at least have a reason to be there, but the ones who have no idea what's going on, but are there anyway? Yeah. Yikes.

So I guess I have too many thoughts about beta testing, because this post is wandering all over the place, and I haven't even got to the part where the most prodigious posters on the boards will often not help the game in the slightest.

I'll post this, now, and maybe revisit the topic when I can break it into smaller chunks.

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Friday, April 4, 2008


I see over on Massively that there are lots of MMO films coming in the next few years. Oh dear. But, as with most things hollywood, I imagine people will watch them, even if they have no plot.

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Monday, March 31, 2008


Massively has a trove of good stuff this fine eve, but the stuff that caught my eye were their post on the good old days. First off, they've started a visual history of MMOs, which has some wonderful pics from days of yore. Additionally, there's a story about crackwhip, a superawesome website which is basically a web front end for a telnet session to a multi-user dungeon (MUD). I love text!

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define: game

Warning: Philosophy ahead.

OK - you were warned. There's an article up over on the New York Times about new 3D chat rooms with avatars, etc. WoW is explicitly mentioned in the article. But of course, in an online chat room there's no game.

But there are avatars. And a virtual world.

How many of the rules of the game have to be set down by the developers before it's a 'massive game' instead of a 'virtual world' or whatever the term of the month is? Because if the answer is nearly zero, these chat rooms, like Second Life, will qualify.

That said, I've never thought second life was a game. Or at least not a fun one. It has crafting. It has player housing. In fact, if they could open up some kind of facebook API it could even have minigames.

And let's be fair: why do you keep going back to your massive game of choice? Is it for the PvE? Maybe sometimes, but I honestly think the split is more often on the side of the social aspects of massive games. So what happens if you start with social, rather than with game? At what point does it become a MMORPG from the other side? Everyone is role playing in an online environment. The only question is the word 'game'.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Free Realms

A post over on MMOG Nation alerted me to some interesting new developments Sony will be doing on their new game, Free Realms. I've commented in the past that social networks and MMOs are destined to come together, and the developments noted in the game description seem to indicate SOE will be taking a big step in that direction. I expect a lot more to follow. Why, for example, are there so many sig generator websites that are semi-functional, when the gaming company could create a reliable one (or a reliable API...)?

Add a splash of MyBlogLog and you might have some really interesting stuff happening.

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rollin' with the poxes

So I can't remember if I mentioned it or not, but I decided to give the Pox Arcanum group in WoW a go. We're still getting things around - actually getting a group of five people who can run things together is quite challenging. But I'm hopeful things will work themselves out.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

review of Tabula Rasa

Tom's Games has a review up of Tabula Rasa. I think they've been playing it for quite some time, and the summation of the review seems to be 'meh'. What's interesting is that I think they are used to twitch games, and so the review is from a POV I don't see as often in these sorts of articles.

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