It is all about the time sink

The time sink game is all I’m playing at the moment. It has many levels and challenges.

I have three writing mini-projects going at once, a few games to try to play, and a family to look after. The three writing projects have deadlines which are looming so I really should be doing those with all my spare time, but I find them difficult to write them without spending large blocks of time. When I write I need a good 1-2 hours of time to get anything new written. I can review my own work in much smaller time blocks, but there is only so much review that can be done before it is called procrastination. New text needs thinking time.

A pc game however can be 30 minutes to 1 hour if I know what I’m doing (like WoW), or need a heap more (like 2-3 hours) if it is a game which is new to me like Elder Scrolls, EvE, Star Wars. I guess I could go play D3 too if I wanted some hack and slash fun, and D3 is the game I’ll fall back to when all else fails.

The writing is all based around pen and paper role-playing games (for a Deathwatch mini-module and a fan made Ars Magica supplement), and I’m enjoying the process of trying to create something for a critical audience. Writing for your own sake is easy, writing for an audience who will read, review, editorialise, and point out incongruity is much harder. That could be part of my hesitation too. The projects are not commercial things, so I’m not targeting a commercial level quality, but still thinking it has to be better than my typical notepad scrawl.

determined-space-marine

As far as computer games go, WoW is still interesting to me. I have some gripes which will come out below, but as I write this I’m really just mouthing off about an errant kid who I like, but pissed me off recently.

I think it is interesting that WoW Insider has announced cut-backs to their blog staff across all games, and wow is significantly affected. That would not happen if the revenue was flowing well, and that is telling about the users of these games, and the market in general. Even though the subscription rate is ok-ish the players themselves are not putting up with any kind of silly or boring content anymore. I think repetition will be the next thing that MMOs have to have less of to keep their audiences, and that will be a huge problem for almost all the theme park style games. Players want more content, more often, with no drop in quality or they go elsewhere. They might return when the new content drops, but almost all the players I speak to are not willing to wait. They go elsewhere. And they should too.

WoW and Guilds

Well there is a doozy here to tell. Many of our raiders either left for greener pastures, were removed for being painful, or left for life reasons. That then caused another round of departures, as others had to ponder leaving too. Then some of those greener pastures were not as good as advertised, so those people began looking around again. Because I’m fed up with being treated like a revolving door, and fed up with the whinging, a few were told they were not welcome back. I think most people would support a player making the “right” call for themselves, and forgive a lot of how that was communicated or made. We’re all human. I think a Guild has to also make the “right” choices too, and that means sometimes enough is enough.

This was not a great time for our guild, but also not unexpected at this stage in the game. The downtime between expansions is always crappy for guilds, with only the strongest ones staying focused. Add in some continued drama, a few people who think they are special snowflakes, and you’re left with very little to do. There is no lever by which a player can be controlled (such as an employment contract for compensation) so “managing” difficult people is next to impossible for any prolonged period.

That leaves us with a guild of social players and no “serious progression” raids happening. Frankly I’m glad that some of the pains-in-the-arse players are gone. I’m sad that we lost great people too, and even more so that it might lead to others leaving. At this point though it is not something to fight, but something to accept. I want players to be having fun, and that is far more important than rubbish about which guild you belong to, or she-said-he-said malarkey. I am glad it is “over”. I’m glad that the people who are staying will not have to wonder why such stupidity is tolerated. It is not tolerated anymore.

I can now login without having to think about somebody getting shitty about some illusory problem. Finally, no dramas from World of Warcraft. Yeehaw! I do not even understand why in hell some people require the input that they do; it is like they are not adults at all.

I’m even happy that the people who left are getting what they like from their game time. It is good to think that people can go somewhere and be happy, and it is very possible (and even a certainty in one case) that a problem only existed because of the people involved. Dissolve the problem relationship permanently, and the fun comes back. More power to them. I hope they’re all killing digital monsters, and looting wonderful pixels.

I’m really not having a go, just talking through what happened. I’m sure the choices were not perfect, nobody makes perfect choices all the time.

Bygones are bygones. – TyphoonAndrew.

An aside – Wow characters can only belong to a single guild at a time, and therefore changing guilds is also inevitable. Why can’t WoW have more than one formal method to organise players. Cal them battle units, corps, whatever, but allow a way that players can stay in a guild they like, but also advance and be managed in another set of organisations. It might help players who have dual loyalties. We can cross-server raid all sorts of junk, but cannot organise characters in the same way in-game. I think that is a functional gap.

walking-frozen-township

ESO Beta

This weekend I was given a ticket into Elder Scrolls Online Beta (thanks T!) and it looks like a reasonable game. As my friend told me “think of it as a good single player story, not as an MMO” and its a great game. There was an NDA which I briefly skimmed while downloading the game so rather than say anything questionable, I’ll just say that it is similar enough that I knew what to do, but was a little different. Graphically it will challenge some computers. This is not a game which will run well on a low spec machine.

Where is the value?

If I were to think about value for money when playing time sinks I not subscribe to Wow, Eve, ESO, or any other subscription game. I’d get back into Star Wars, or something like it. It’s free and has plenty of content I’ve not played. Or many of the other games out there that are free to play. I do like the idea of not having a wow subscription for a while to save up for something else. Perhaps it is time to pause my membership for a few months.

I’ve also got a 7 day trial of EvE sitting waiting, but I cannot bring myself to login just yet. It looks fantastic, and honestly I’d be playing more just to look at the pretty space pictures than actually want to do space battles. I don’t think that alone is worth a subscription cost. In fact a video of beautiful space scenes rolling in the background would almost be as appealing.

That’s not weird. Is it? Happy killing, TyphoonAndrew

Halo_Wars__shield_world_Matte_by_JJasso2

Thinking about the in-game store

It was going to happen. I don’t like at all what I’m reading. If you’re “pro” any side of these features then I’d warn you that I am not before you read on. I’m angry about this, and strong language follows. Continue reading

Piss off Perfect World, your sales spam sucks

Perfect World, the trickster parent company behind a few MMO games that I have looked into (most recently Neverwinter) are offering a 15% discount on a store purchase.

rippoff-zen-perfect-world

Geez thanks. I can spend money to play your essentially free game. In the case of Neverwinter I’ve barely moved beyond the starting beach and you’ve already got offers for my wallet. Sheesh.

Piss off Perfect World. I hate getting “offers” like this in email and I am slightly obsessive about avoiding this junk. My SWToR account email regularly gets special offers from those folks, despite the fact I have not logged on for other six months. Maybe you’re just trying to make a fair dollar, and it is certainly plausible to offer, but it stinks to me. My inbox is not a place I want borderline spam for games that are dead to me.

I intend Free-to-Play to be free. Continue reading

Warcraft subscribers drop

Aside

Blizzard revealed that it has lost 1.3 million subscribers to its flagship game World of Warcraft in the first quarter of 2013, a 14% drop.

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrggg, run in circles, fleeeeeee, who’s got the lifeboat and flares? Quick, set something on fire!

Yup WoW’s numbers dropped again. I think any current subscriber will agree that the population is slowly dropping and it is making some things harder in-game. Other things are fine. Blizzard to their credit have added more ways to play with previously divergent groups, which helps players get to content but is in no way going to reverse the trend that the player base is dropping.

  • Is it the end of the world? No.
  • What can we as current WoW players do? Not much. Keep having fun and playing. Just because something is less exciting for most people has never been a reason I’ll like it. Like sports for example – I’ve always thought that chasing a ball was a somewhat futile endeavour.
  • Are new games the culprit? I don’t think that is a major factor, but maybe a small one. D3 didn’t much dent the population for long. Neverwinter might be worth a look, or many of the free-to-play games arriving soon. Such is the way of things.
  • Could you play the same game for years and years? No, eventually I think I’ll leave. At the very least I’d consider returning for a new expansion, but everything has a ending. Just accept it and enjoy.
  • Somebody pointed out that if the rate continues then the game is really dead by late 2014. Um, yup, could be true. So what?
  • Will Titan and the next WoW expansion line up to help Acti-Blizz keep the revenue rolling in? Yes, I’d bet a coffee on that. That makes sense, and that is something that we should be expecting. They are a company for pity’s sake.

I still like the game, its fun. Factually this tells us something that we already knew. Emotionally this tells me that I don’t care, but is a little depressing to see in black and white. No biggie.

(snark) Is it possible that WoW will become hip when the subscriber numbers get so low that only hipsters are playing it, and then only playing ironically? Well maybe, but those hipsters would need to stop playing SWToR first; ironically.

Or was it Age of Conan / Warhammer / LOTR / Rift / etc.. that killed World of Warcraft and it has just taken this long for it to finally die? Dumbass.

Via – Warcraft numbers plummet; 14% drop in Q1/13 – Boing Boing. Continue reading

Hearthstone looks interesting

hstoneBanner

The new thing from Blizzard is a digital card game named Hearthstone. I think it is great to see effort by Blizzard to expand their breadth of game styles into new areas. These type of games do attract players with different needs and this is especially attractive as it is both free to play, and will run on many platforms including the iPad. This is a good strategy in my opinion for diverging their interests, which on the whole will help keep the company stronger (as long as it is a good game).

Be warned the promo video does not demonstrate the gameplay, for that check out the main website or the MMO Champion link below. Continue reading

SW Free to Play to 50, hmm nope.

emailheader_freetoplay

These two lovely NPCs would like to see you soon, alas I’ll use ToR as a boredom relief mechanism, and not any time soon.

I got a promo email (again) for Star Wars TOR’s free to play re-launch. The all new payment model based upon getting cash for extra raids and novelty items, rather than monthly subscription.

Sorry SW, this ship has sailed. I am too far into WoW’s Mists of Pandaria to switch to a game even though it will save some dollars per month. Perhaps when WoW’s Tier 14 is old and cleared, and the Diablo shine has gone I’ll try SW ToR again – but all that tells me is that I will try Star Wards when I’m bored, and that it has no true draw on my aspirations beyond being better than playing a facebook or iphone game. And yes, that is meant as an insult when you consider it was a huge MMO with very large aspirations and a darn healthy budget.

WoW’s draw is still stronger despite the shitty grinding of Valor on dailies.

The game had potential, but what I saw on login was a very similar experience to the re-grind of every MMO (including Warcraft) and therefore I choose the devil I have invested in, rather than starting out as a newbie. I can see why players do like it too, as it has a a very reasonable level of detail in the leveling stories, and feels very Star Wards in nature.

What did it for me (or didn’t do it) was the lack of breadth in choices (like not being able to alter class specialisation) and the vast gap between the promise of “no grinds” which was made very early on in the dev hype cycle and what I saw in the end. It did some great things (like crafting/gathering by npcs, nice logical professions, reasonable level rate, and some of the quest mechanics were good).

So close, but not now. Happy Killing.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

I think they’re taking the piss out of us MOO types, but that might be ok as it looks entertaining and I liked the satire in the video.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

In Mighty Quest For Epic Loot, your goal is to defeat as many castles as possible and to protect yours from being successfully assaulted. Go on an adventure to loot bigger and well-defended castles to get the resources you need to build your own lair with a unique combination of creatures and traps in order to prevent other players’ heroes from beating it. And there might be some special castles much harder for you to take on…

Game is taking registration for Beta now.

Freeloaders in SW ToR

Star Wars: The Old Republic

It’s old-ish news now that SW-ToR is going free to play, where a freeloader can get almost all the content, and the raiders pay our way. I started thinking about what it might mean. For me its a win-win that is very attractive – I plan to freeload on it.

As a positive the populations on the servers will increase, and that may assist with keeping a sense of community and an economy flowing. Having five times the players in a zone is a great thing when you are looking to “live” in a setting.

What I don’t understand is how the “all but raids” free play will generate revenue. Tobold posted a similar thought, and the comments seems to think this too. So what do the SWToR Devs know that we don’t?

My thought is perhaps the raid content will soon be the defining feature, and the next set of raids will be good enough to act as a revenue stream. If the devs can create compelling raids for raiders there is an angle. They might be so good that people play for fun for free, but pay for raids. That would be a big call. Raiding in WoW is considered good enough to generate revenue, and a segment of these serious raiders are likely to be targets for that strategy if it is right. An advantage is that money is no barrier to entry to the rest of the game right up to raids, so many people can have high level characters who are raid ready. A disadvantage is the raid history so far, so the content will need to be amazing, and then also well communicated to the wider community.

It does ignore though that there is an opportunity cost of a free game, where the time spent playing is not played elsewhere. Free is not enough for some players when they miss out on something that is valuable, even when it costs money (I’d rather eat good food that costs something, than free junk).

Or if not raids then what else? Vanity gear and pets? Rubbish. Sure they get money, but its still not enough to keep the game floating for 1-2 years.

Pay to win model where good gear is purchasable through a backhanded cash sale? Even worse, and would be a kick in the guts to the subscribers.

Old Republic to Refer Friends and/or Play Free to 15

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Two very interesting new options in the Star Wars The Old Republic game which were previously hinted at are to be live:

Both “features” are items which a few MMOs have in play, and in all likelihood these measure help add new players to the player base. It is a pretty exciting change for SW ToR and one that may increase the server pops a little. I think the recruitment drive could have happened a lot earlier, but conversely the free to play change (to level15) is something that owners may not wanted from day one, as it removes the initial splash of revenue from box purchases.

I’m interested in what effect this has, and how the current player base feel about the move?

The key free trial blurb:

Free Trial participants will experience the opening adventures of each of the eight character classes in the game. Players will explore their classes’ Origin World, and may even have the opportunity to visit their faction’s Capital World! Additionally, Free Trial players will have the chance to face off against other players in Player-vs.-Player Warzones, or join up with friends and play through a Flashpoint.

Players who have previously participated in one of the Weekend Pass Free Trials or the Friends of Star Wars: The Old Republic Trial are also eligible to join this new free trial!

For the Recruit a Friend rewards:

Active players that have passed one billing cycle can invite up to twenty five (25) of their friends to take part in a Friends of Star Wars: The Old Republic trial. During this free trial period, invited friends can play levels 1-15 with no time limit, explore each of the four Origin Worlds, and experience the opening adventures for each class as they start along their epic journey.

You can earn the exclusive Kurtob Alliance Speederby meeting the following requirements:

  • Referred one or more of your friends through the Friends Trial Referral Form.
  • At least one of your friends purchased the game and paid for a recurring monthly subscription or redeemed a Game Time Code.
  • You must be opted-in to receive emails from The Old Republic.
  • You and your friend’s account must not be banned.

All players who have already referred a friend through the Friends Trial and meet the requirements listed above will be retroactively granted a Kurtob Alliance Speeder via in-game mail.

  • Level: 25
  • Quality: Artifact
  • Requires Speeder Piloting: Rank 1
  • Speed: 110%
  • Excellent protection against being knocked off

All in all interesting. Continue reading

A Game of Thrones MMO

English: Logo from the television program Game...

Just announced is “The Seven Kingdoms”, a free to play browser based MMO based upon the Game of Thrones setting is in development. I get why, but I’m really more interested in how large the budget will be.

To get return traffic for MMOs there needs to be a fair budget, even if the scope is straight pvp only the cost to do it well will be significant. To capture the audience from the Warcraft and Star Wars players the features will need to be present too – unless it’s not that style of MMO. Perhaps the creators will go deliberately in a new direction and not try to shadow/copy the big few. I look forward to how the MMO resolves representing the politics of the setting. Continue reading