Semi-Annual Blogroll: Sheep may safely graze edition

The SOE sheep live in danger

I work a full day in the office, then strap my laptop to my back, pedal home and work a full night as well. It’s called crunch time, this is the third month of it, and work people pay me to do is taking priority over writing which nobody pays me anything to do. If I were working on a game, I could excitedly drop hints about it, but the only way you’ll see what I’m writing is if you need to be bonded. Or you happened to be a bond agent. BUT! If you ARE, well, we’ve got something pretty amazing for you this summer :)

On the plus side, that picture is part of my commute. One of the bennies about biking to work is that it’s more acceptable to just stop by the side of the road, outside someone’s house, and start taking pictures. If someone popped out of a CAR and started snapping shots, well, people would stare.

The Great Sony Hack of 2011

Big news these last couple of months has been the hack attack upon Sony’s PlayStation Network as well as Sony Online Entertainment’s customer data servers. This was a crime, perpetrated upon Sony and SOE by criminals, and they have essentially turned my PS3 into a brick, made them the object of a million rants and they are costing themselves and their partners thousands of dollars each minute the service is unavailable. It’s just a tragedy.

I feel Sony, though, is drawing this out needlessly. Sony has the best engineers in the world. I can’t believe that they couldn’t have saved their forensic data and plugged whatever security holes were used to break in in more than a couple of days. I don’t think anyone on the outside has any idea why Sony has floated May 31st as a “go live” date. I just don’t know.

But I worry. I worry about SOE and their games. SOE just recently had some pretty massive layoffs. After a strong start, their latest MMO, DC Universe Online, tanked on the PC. That can’t be good with such an expensive IP. Now that game is looking at a month and a half of nobody being able to play it. PC players have already abandoned it, and PS3 players will be playing some other game. So, DCUO is likely dead now. Vanguard’s handful of players can’t be expected to stick around, so that game is dead. SWG only had until SWTOR came out to live, anyway; ironically, pre-NGE SWG might have been different enough from SWTOR to co-exist. Anyway, SWG – dead.

Free Realms — unknown. I played it for awhile, but the constant money grubbing turned me off. I think kids will be happy to return to it after a delay, where adults might find something better to do. Plus, it had only barely launched on the PS3, so it’s ripe for a relaunch. Clone Wars Adventures – minigame portals like CWA can survive global thermonuclear war. They are the cockroaches of gaming.

Anyone who plays EQ is there because of all the games available to them, EQ is the one they want. It will survive. EQ2… and its F2P cousin, EQ2X… will survive, but look for massive server mergers; perhaps EQ2 will finally fold into EQ2X.

For the games in development, Planetside Next and EverQuest Next… I can’t imagine SOE will have enough revenue to continue serious work on these games. They have to focus on rebuilding their money properties right now. I feel SOE’s best hope is to separate from Sony, lose the mandate to put their MMOs on the PS3, and focus their efforts on a couple of really high performing games. I think it’s long past time for SOE to become Verant once again.

Skype is Microsoft’s new MMO!

The US Navy, via a program at the Naval Postgraduate School which I have totally visited (yay Monterey!), is soon to launch an online, collaborative brainstorming tool called MMOWGLI, which stands for “I Bet I Can Come Up With A Silly Acronym, Leveraging the Internet”. Anyway, “players” will be presented with some real world scenarios and will be able to collaborate with others on possible solutions using a graphical tool. Which is great; all the armchair admirals will finally be able to make their voices heard. Someone at work, when I mentioned this, said in response to the initial scenario of dealing with the Somali pirates that are harassing shipping off the coast of Africa, “shoot them all”. That could be an option!

I think it’s a great idea. I just hate that the term “MMO”, which we’ve come to use as shorthand for MMORPG – massively multiplayer online role playing game – being applied to any online activity involving more than two people. And what I hate more is the professional gaming press jumping on that same bandwagon, when they should really know better.

The worst are those places which try and explain that MMOs are games like WoW, except for this one. Kudos to that writer for also trying to compare it to a MUD, which it isn’t.

My old WoW guild

WoW loses half a million players, attributes it to a rounding error

So, news comes that WoW has lost a small percentage of their user-base, a marginal number of players that would total more than the active base of any other subscription MMO in the world.

Upshot is, their two year expansion cycle just isn’t working for them any more. People chew through all the new content in a few months (if that), and then drift off to other games, like Rift.

All these years, Blizzard has told us that this is how long it takes to come up with an expansion’s worth of quality content. It can’t be rushed, hurried or scheduled. It’s done when it’s done. But, now Blizz feels it actually could churn the stuff out a lot faster than that if it wanted to. It’s vowed to push Diablo 3 out the door sometime this year, instead of somewhere in this decade, their previous estimate. There’s a new sense of urgency coming out of Irvine, and I feel it’s long overdue. World of Warcraft IS the elder game now, and it has to move fast to keep relevant.

It’s not about the money — they have record profits, and if they ever feel they need more cash, they can add some more mounts to the cash shop and make an achievement for buying them all. For Blizzard, it’s about remaining the game that people think of when they think “MMO”.

We Heart Lucent Heart!

Masively Multiplayer dating sim Lucent Heart’s latest North American beta, “B.F.F.”, starts today. So here’s your chance to find your best guy or girl online, team up and kick some bully butt. I can’t say enough about this game. Everyone should play it. WoW-killer.

A fan who won a contest will be cosplaying at E3. So if you’re there, get a picture taken with her. Remember, if you’re lucky enough, you too could someday grow up to be a booth babe. It can happen!

Argh, so soon?

Time to hit the road and go to work. I miss blogging :(

Daily Blogroll 1/16 — Lazy Sunday edition

Yeah, I like TV. I can say that now; for years I refused to watch it. Rotting my mind and all. But having just come off a marathon 30 Rock Season 2 bender, I find I really want to get back to playing MMOs because they are LESS addictive than television. With MMOs, you chat with people, group with them, make friends. With TV, it’s just sitting with the cat and a bowl of popcorn on a lonely couch. So, you know, on the scale of pathetic leisure time activities, MMOs are way above television.

But I still like it! The GOOD shows, I mean. Since you and I like only the good shows, I don’t need to list them, but I think we know Brennan and Booth are gonna get together.

In MMOs, though, well… we’re not in Azeroth anymore. Unless we are.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll 1/16 — Lazy Sunday edition

Daily Blogroll, 11/30 — Worst Case Scenario edition

World of Warcraft’s forthcoming Cataclysm expansion (1 week away!!!!) is still setting fire to the blogroll today. Hey, if all a MMO has to do these days to generate some buzz is destroy the world, well, I have a couple candidates who could use some devastation.

I logged on to Vanguard yesterday evening to check on how my characters had fared in the big colossal server merge last July, and was shocked to find that whenever it was I last logged into the game, there had been no patches since. For a game that has had zero developer support in eleven months, the community there still seems vibrant and positive. You just can’t kill a good community.

You know? Forget EQ Next. EverQuest doesn’t need another reboot. EverQuest players are never going to jump ship to a completely new game, anyway. Why not VANGUARD Next? Come on, let’s start a petition or something.

Crunchy hot blog stuff after the break.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll, 11/30 — Worst Case Scenario edition

Quick Shots… WoW, Vanguard, STO, EQ2

I logged into Ironforge and pressed the screenshot button. Didn’t move, didn’t turn. Three sparkly ponies! Suddenly my epic mechanostrider seemed rare and unusual.

Vanguard may be the only game I have ever played that lets you make such elaborate ships. I believe Ultima Online let you make them, and I know Darkfall lets you, and of course Pirates of the Burning Sea and Florensia have ship building as a big part of game play, but does any other game let you launch your ship and then walk away, leaving it docked in the world?

Folks on Twitter were saying the new Nimbus-class Deep Space Science Vessel in Star Trek Online looked a lot like the Battlestar Galactica. My fingers tripped over themselves logging in to see. This weekend is a discount weekend in STO so I was able to afford the new DSV skin; I had to sell some trash loot to afford the base ship in game. I told my bridge crew to get the hell out of their bunks and report to the new ship and we took it out for a spin in Earth orbit. Very nice. Then Longasc came by and we all transferred back to the USS Monterey, a recon science vessel, because, who flies a DSV?

Anyone seen a sparkle pony? My nightmare HELL HORSE is feeling a little peckish.