Daily Blogroll 6/25 — A Valiant Effort edition

Mark Jacobs leaves behind a tearful Mythic

Hey, didja hear the news? Mark Jacobs is leaving Mythic and Mythic is being merged into Bioware! Jacobs was the public face of Mythic for so long, I can’t think of one without the other, and I can’t think of an upside to his leaving for the game I once loved, Dark Age of Camelot.

Keen thought EA was past absorbing studios for their properties and then squeezing out the help. Snazfg urges people not to pillory either EA or Jacobs until more is known. Heartless_ said he knew it all along (I guess he did!). Ardwulf wonders if this means Mythic will be getting some Bioware resources (don’t count on it). Tobold suspects the merge came because Warhammer did not meet the goals Jacobs promised. Stropps agrees. Abalieno at Cesspit would have preferred this ended differently, with more learning and caring. Werit detects an air of schadenfreud among some of the commentators. And Scott Jennings reminisces about Mark and happier days at Mythic.

I don’t know anything about Mark or Mythic or EA, but I have been working in IT for thirty years and I know quite a lot about mergers. When a big company buys a smaller company, the executives of that smaller company either embrace change and become big dogs in the new company, or conflict with the new bosses and leave (always to seek out new opportunities). This news says to me that regardless of how Warhammer did or does, Jacobs almost certainly didn’t mesh well with EA, and now the big bosses are gonna do things THEIR way. Bioware is the new golden boy studio, so they get to raid Mythic, and they’ll be top dog until they slip up.

I just wonder what will happen to Dark Age of Camelot when the dust settles?

Speaking of Ages of Things Beginning With the Letter ‘C’, Age of Conan had an update yesterday and things went … pretty well, says Openedge1. So more power to them.

WAR and AoC came out around the same time. Both aimed to be the choice for WoW players who wanted better graphics and more PvP. Both were crushed when Blizzard released the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft. While WAR has kept steady on course with being the “WoW PvP alternative”, AoC has scaled back and focused on incremental improvements to their game play and growing their customer base gradually — the EVE Online model. No longer looking at WoW’s millions but just working on making a good game for its players, it might yet win where WAR has not.

In Darkfall news, looks like if you’re playing Darkfall now and want to restart on the new North American server when it opens, you’ll have to buy the game all over again. Keen is flabbergasted, and vows not to play DF at all, where he’d planned to give it a shot on the new server. Beau Turkey says hey, Aventurine is an indie developer and they need the money. What’s the big deal? Tobold lifts his rule against commenting on Darkfall by noting that Aventurine is the one company that takes their hardcore rep right into the “Company vs Player” realm.

So, you know, lots of stuff went down yesterday. At least we have WoW as the steady rock upon which we can stand and watch the turmoil swirl below.

Or can we? Spinks notes that Blizzard is trying to use social engineering to balance WoW’s tank classes. Trying to discourage guilds from using warriors to tank raids? Is that something a company should really be manipulating?

Lastly, Suzina at Kill Ten Rats takes Lord of the Rings Online’s summer festival maze as a metaphor for these sorts of games themselves. Players as the rats, and a grind of pointless accomplishments as the reward. Did I say pointless? Hey, she “… could get a new wall-paper for my house or a new fish-slap emote!”

The path to uberness, folks, is paved with cheese.

I have added a plugin that makes this blog look better on the iPhone, so if you ARE reading this on the iPhone — it looks better, and that’s why :)

Enjoy your Thursday and keep on gaming!

Daily Blogroll 6/24 — I Love Allergies edition

Nashuya in Aion

Yes, we’re back to the Daily Blogroll. Another allergy attack has left me asleep by 9PM, which really shortens the nights for me.

Is Aion too derivative to be successful? Tobold thinks so. In fact he wonders why people would pay full price (US$15/month) for a WoW-like like Aion when they can get the real thing for the same price, or a free WoW-like in Runes of Magic. He also doesn’t hold out much hope for Fallen Earth, calling it too much like failed MMO Tabula Rasa “just working less well, being less fun, and having less good graphics”. So that’s that.

Being a WoW-like doesn’t look like it will keep many away from Aion. Spinks thinks the beauty of the game, the storytelling and the PvP (as well as the third dimension with flight) will bring people in. Caliga of MMO Gamers has the rundown of the extra stuff you can expect in the collector’s edition, as well as an automatic pass into the beta.

Speaking of new games, Hudson has the latest round-up of the news Cryptic has been leaking about the state of Champions Online, due to be released September, same as Aion.

Having played both betas, I would go with Aion if forced to choose, but the Champions NDA prevents me from saying just why.

Syncaine at Hardcore Casual looks at Blizzard’s limiting of the formerly-open Wintergrasp PvP zone to 100v100 with some measure of skepticism based on other games (like Warhammer, Dark Age of Camelot, EVE Online, Darkfall and others) being able to handle much larger fights. Tobold uses some bad math to make the case for it being a strain on resources to keep it unlimited. (In a client-server architecture, resource use increase linearly, not geometrically).

Blizzard is using WoW as a money machine to support development on other upcoming titles. As long as the WoW ATM keeps spitting out million dollar bills, everything is FINE and it’s easier to limit players than add more resources.

The best thing about WoW, if you’re Blizzard, is that you can’t beat players away with a STICK, as Zubon Ethic found when he tried to sign back up. No matter how many roadblocks Blizzard threw in his way, no matter how much it cost him to do it, he was gonna play WoW again, dammit.

Lastly, if you’re not a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, I can only guess you’ve never seen any of them. To even start with why I love them would take a thousand words, so I won’t say more than: The very first anime I ever saw was Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind”. A friend sat me down and made me watch it, and he had a weird smile on his face. It was in Japanese, I didn’t understand a word of it, nor what was going on, but even just with the pictures and Jo Hisaishi’s amazing music to go on, I was blown away. When I later saw it dubbed in English, I was blown away yet again because the plot was just as amazing as the visuals.

For the past decade or so, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has had a deal with Disney where they would bring Miyazaki’s films to the US dubbed in English by major voice talents, uncut and unrearranged, exactly as how they were released in Japan, except in English. Since then, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle have had astonishingly wonderful US theatrical releases, and this summer comes his latest masterpiece, Ponyo, about a goldfish who makes a wish to be human — with disastrous consequences.

See it, you’ll love it.

Daily Blogroll 5/19 — Black Lung edition

Kasul and I head to a combat mission in our Tristans

In EVE Online, at my new home at the Sisters of EVE base in the Arnon system, with Mining IV, Refining III, and two Miner II mining lasers and purely selling in-system, I make about 27.5K ISK per minute of mining. If I processed the ore at my current level and sold it in the best market within seven jumps, I would make about 26K ISK/minute of mining, not including travel time. The question is, how many sessions of mining would it take to pay for the skills and equipment necessary to make refining more profitable than just selling the ore straight with no additional skills going toward mining? EVEMon has me at about ten days to having the skills necessary to fly a ORE Retriever mining barge… EVE is the first game I have HAD to play with a spreadsheet open.

Speaking of which, new EVE patch is out today. Just bug fixes, but they do install a new version of DirectX? Why? Doesn’t Microsoft keep my computer’s DirectX updated with their updates?

Anyway, on to the blog roll.

And because I’m en EVE noob, I’ve been poring through the back posts of the most famous noob of them all, Wilhelm of the Ancient Gaming Noob where he notes that the 1.6m skill point boundary where the 100% skill point bonus disappears used to allow an exploit where you would start a new really long skill just before your noob time expired, and it would stay double experience for the duration. Well, they nerfed that, but the exploiters still win.

Remember Pirates of the Burning Sea aka EVE of the Caribbean? The pirate-themed historical trading MMO was based around three-realm RvR but never really struck a spark in players. Via Massively comes the news that Flying Labs thinks players are having fun the wrong way, by farming mission objectives that give the best loot. This has gotten to the point that that’s all people do, similar to the old problems with Warhammer’s scenarios and more recently with City of Hero’s Architect missions. Rather than making missions more fun or identify player perceived need for those particular rewards, FL is removing loot from mission NPCs….

I dunno. Sounds dodgy to me at best. I get that the rewards were not intended, but PotBS is a pretty brutal game to begin with, on the same scale of complexity with EVE Online, but with more punishing PvP, when I played.

Speaking of balance between realms and Warhammer (weren’t we?), Keen talks a little about Warhammer’s new “Land of the Dead” expansion which will solve all the issues with realm wars and give people reasons to fight the good fight for their king. Or will it? Due to Warhammer’s two-sided conflict vs Dark Age of Camelot’s three, one side can dominate a server so that the other side perhaps NEVER gets a chance to try the new content, since it can only be reached by the leaders in the realm war. Keen points out that DAoC’s three-sided conflict kept all objectives in play all the time, and I remember DAoC’s version of LoD, Darkness Falls, as often changing hands a couple of times nightly. It was FUN.

We reported last week about Thom Terrazas leaving Vanguard to become the new executive producer of EverQuest, following Clint Worely’s departure for an unannounced project (EQ3…). Nostalgian Lazaretto of Complete Heal happened to mention this on the Vanguard forums and … oops … Nobody had bothered to tell the Vanguard players that they were suddenly without a producer. And hilarity ensued.

Saylah hates Free Realms. She hates the idea of it. She hates zoning. She hates instances. So why is she a level 7 chef with a satchel of food? It’s those damn addictive minigames is what!

Ogrebears, one of EQ2’s most renowned bloggers, left the game a couple of months ago to play WoW instead. Since he seemed to be back in the fold for his Norrath Street View project, I asked him if he was back. No, no, no. He will never play EQ2 again, and this is why. Hold on, are you sure you want to be playing MMOs at all?

Via Massively, a complete writeup of Mortal Online, the upcoming all PvP, all the time, completely sandbox, do what you wilt shall be the whole of the law, kind of game. Like, you know, Darkfall. Players in Spellborn were very much looking forward to Mortal Online whereas they were pretty dismissive of Darkfall. Probably because they haven’t had a chance to try Mortal Online, yet. Serious PvP MMOs are a different breed. Many people had just come off Darkfall or The Realm Online before Spellborn, were headed toward Mortal Online, and probably were thinking about what comes after that already.

After waffling a bit over tech support issues, wondering if he would continue to play Age of Conan or if this would be his time to quit MMOs forever, Openedge1 is loving the upcoming patch which fixes combat and is wonderfulness in a box, so Viva le Conan!

Syp wants MMO NPCs to man up and solve their OWN problems rather than snare unwitting players to solve them — and like as not just ask the next person who comes along to do the same thing! The real problem is one of respect. Ever tell a child to go do something just to keep them busy and out of your hair while you’re doing something? Well, MMO worlds are populated entirely with people who just want players to go away and will tell them ANYTHING.

Let’s all send good thoughts Crookshankz’s way as he camps Emperor Crush in EverQuest’s Crushbone. Mmmm…. and get that nasty inky assassin, too!

Hudson and about a million others reported that the Champions Online launch has been delayed until September. I have to admit I was looking forward to this game until I found it was modeled after the WoW quest model — you know, get all the quests from exclamation-point decorated NPCs at a quest hub, follow the quest helper to clearly marked areas on the map where the quest may be completed, complete the quest and return for xp? Sorry. I’m done with mindless quest grind MMOs. Way to be heroic.

I was REALLY looking forward to it, too.

Lars at MMOment of Zen would like to take EQ2’s mentoring system and expand it so that your level would be automatically set in accordance with whatever zone you happened to be in, so you would never actually outlevel content. That sounds… cool! At least if the rewards (xp, AA xp and loot) still scaled back to be useful to you at your actual level.

And that’s about it for today. Keep gaming, and if you are flying in EVE or mining in Free Realms, FRIEND ME!

Web Log 4/24 — Friday is Free Day edition

Penny Arcade starts off Freeday Friday with a little bit of snark about the Chronicles of Spellborn payment plan. While it’s true that you can now use a credit card like for every other game… I think trying to figure out their Coins-based plan is a fun game all on its own, don’t you?

Reported everywhere is Lord of the Rings Online’s second anniversary promotion. Free to try again, 25% experience bonus on kills that stacks with all other bonuses, tokens you can trade in for cool stuff, etc etc. The xp boost is very nice, anyway. I haven’t seen what the tokens trade in for, but I have my suspicions I have a lot of Blueberry Tart recipes in my future.

Tobold talks about the new Free Realms trading card game and why Free Realms can never come close to challenging WoW. Is there anyone who really thinks ANY game will challenge WoW? I mean, when you have WoW itself becoming a minigame portal with Peggle now joining Bejeweled as super casual games you now need not leave WoW to play… WoW, like Facebook, isn’t a game so much as it is a platform.

The Original Runic Games Fansite has a pretty good summary of Taylor Balbi’s GDC impressions of Torchlight, Runic Studios’ first Diablo II/Mythos-esque single player Action RPG and seed for their future MMO. Torchlight is said to be released this year, which will keep it out of the path of the Diablo 3 juggernaut expected within the next two years. I want to play them both!

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual has a little bit of fun with the braggarts and whiners of the Darkfall Forums. A little more respect for the fellow fans of hardcore impact PvP? These are the elite killers, you know.

Since Planetside and Tabula Rasa blazed the Shooter MMO trail and showed just how profitable the unholy fusion of first person shooters and a level grind could be, MTV Multiplayer went out and asked massive shooter devs from The Agency, APB, Earthrise, Combat Arms and CrimeCraft how they planned to put this relatively new sub-genre back on its feet.

Syp from Bio Break takes time out from not sleeping to marvel at how Mythic is taking more and more ideas from its previous MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, to patch perceived flaws in its current MMO, Warhammer Online. Three sides? Yes, please. FOUR sides? OMG awesome! Bringing the RvR dungeon of Darkness Falls forward is a good first step. I had loads of fun there in DAoC.

Beau Turkey of Spouse Aggro writes about how MMOs begin to understand that there is more to gaming than a desire to wade through gore.

OMG, is that an Elric Melnibone/Michael Moorcock/Blue Oyster Cult reference? Yes. Yes, it was. Watch the video as E(l)ric Bloom talks about the plot of Moorcock’s Elric series, then BOC swings into Black Blade…

I just wanna be a lover, not a red-eyed screaming ghoul? Hey, Beau, this song is ABOUT YOUR POST!

Lars from MMOment of Zen thinks that writable books in EQ2 are a good start, but they could do so much more. Commenter Tholal points out that Ultima Online has had these features for years, going on centuries now. Hey, where are the friggin ULTIMA ONLINE BLOGS? How are we supposed to KNOW these things?

And lastly, it’s Bio Break’s Syp again with six ways to leave a bad pickup group. I’ve tried them all, but #6 is by far my favorite.

See you Monday!