Daily Blogroll Oct 11: Can’t break the NDA edition.

Star Wars: The Crayon Republic

So yeah. I’d have a better screenshot, but somehow I’m the only person who did NOT get into the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta weekend. But I have MS Paint, and I’m not afraid to use it. Doesn’t matter. Game is going to be a hit — that’s not even in doubt. You can kill stuff with light sabers. Kiss a wookie. Visit Alderaan before it went to hell. And even though the game is set three thousand years before the events of the movies, everyone still wears the same frickin’ clothes.

That vest and farm boy shirt? Smugglers don’t mess with something that works! Seriously! Three thousand years pass, the galaxy convulses through light and darkness a dozen times over, and almost nothing has changed. By the time Han hooked up with Chewbacca, wookies and Corellians probably get paired for life at birth or something.

Well. On to the blogroll.

Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 11: Can’t break the NDA edition.

Daily Blogroll Oct 10: Columbus Day edition

Creativity can be deadly

I realized today that I have no clue whatsoever what the term “MMO” means anymore. I gave it some thought and came up with “An MMO is an online, real-time game where other people affect can your game.” That’s pretty vague. Clearly there are games which call themselves MMOs and can be played as if they were MMOs, or as if they were solo RPGs. I don’t know. I just know the old definitions don’t work.

Take World of Warcraft and the current flavor of the month, Tiny Speck’s Glitch. One is the most popular MMO in the world (well, if you don’t include World of Tanks, though the developer does). The other is a super casual browser-based game where you can’t even kill stuff. The two games share almost no features, yet both are MMOs. I give up. If you can play your game and can see another player when you do so, it’s a MMO.

Which is going to make writing these Daily Blogrolls SO EASY. Checkers? Is it online? MMO.

The blogging world has changed quite a lot since the last time I was doing these (and work crushed my free time). People are leaving drops of content all over the Internet, on Tumblr blogs, on Google+, on Twitter. I’ll still be pointing out great posts by the bloggers in my blogroll, but I’ll be trying to collect some of these other far-flung bits of wisdom as well.

Before I get started, an update on my MMO gaming: DDO on Sunday nights, D&D fourth edition on Thursday nights, and Glitch. Driver issues have killed EQ2 — I can’t play it. I’ve been poking around in Rift. I’ve started working on the Saint’s Haven quests in Dragon Nest. Mostly Glitch for MMOs, though.

Beau Turkey has done a heck of a write-up on Glitch, btw.

Fighting giants in DAoC beta

It’s been ten years since Dark Age of Camelot went live? Wow. I remember calling it “EQ Lite” based solely on the screenshots they released in the early rounds of beta. When I got into the beta myself, I realized just how impressive an achievement the game was. Yes, it clearly had been influenced by EverQuest, but it was its own game and would become one of the influences that would form the mechanics behind World of Warcraft.

It would be physically impossible for anyone to spend more time in a game than I spent in DAoC. Scott Jennings, Mythic’s one time DBA, has a wonderful post from Matt Firor, DAoC’s original producer, one what it was like to ship an MMO before the market was crowded with hundreds of them.

It was a different world.

Star Corsairs

After taking the world by storm with his sandbox browser MMO Golemizer, indie MMO dev Dave Toulouse is set to unleash his second game, Star Corsairs. It’s an updated take on the old space exploration / trading games of the 80s (most notably SunDog) combined with the mining, ship construction and PvP of EVE Online. And maybe a smidgen of Star Castle. Explore, take on missions to protect the Federation, construct your own starship, blow stuff up, free to play. I’ll have more on Star Corsairs when I’ve played it more.

Donate, and he’ll name a star after you.

Speaking of indie MMO development, Andorov posted an excellent list of 15 important steps to wild success in indie MMO development.

Rule 4: Create a good company and MMO name. Recruiting for Joe Schmoe’s Awesome MMORPG is going to be a lot more difficult than Excelsior Games’ Islandia: The Re-Islanding. Most non-visionaries (which I may also refer to as dumb f**ks or DFs), though talented, are simple folk and easily impressed.

Lucent Heart, the “zodiac-inspired” dating MMO, not content with merely connecting up guys playing guys and guys playing scantily-clad girls, is about to unleash dance battles upon the world, says Anjel Syndicate.

Create your dance from dozens of dance steps, re-create music videos, and .. well, if a collection of Minstrels can do System of a Down in LotRO, I suppose a bunch of angel-winged schoolgirls can do Thriller in Lucent Heart!

See ya tomorrow!

Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

Dragon Age Legends

One thing you gotta say about Dragon Age Legends: like the single player games upon which its based, in Dragon Age Legends you Get. To. Kill. DRAGONS. (Warning: link goes to Facebook). Unlike, say, Dungeons and Dragons Online, where I have yet to kill a dragon. The one you see in the tutorial is little more than a tease. It’s fighting a mind flayer, though, and we HAVE started killing those in our static group, but the name of the game isn’t Mazes and Mind Flayers Online now, is it?

Mazes, though — we’ve had more than our share of those.

Facebook RPGs like DAL (“The first real game on Facebook“) and Treasure Abyss (“Hey, we were here ages before those guys!”) have kept me sane when I haven’t been able to play any deeper games.

More game stuff after the break.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll 5/13: Truth in Advertising Edition

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 :(