Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Standing Stone Jumps on the Bandwagon

Following the lead of other MMO companies that are reliving their early days, Standing Stone is creating Legendary Servers for LOTRO.

The idea is to start with only the up to L50 --the Shadows of Angmar quests-- are unlocked, and slowly unlock new areas over time. Like Rift Prime, the Legendary Servers are only accessible by subscribers (VIP Members) or lifetime VIP members.

While some items will be old school --no PvMP play or legendary weapons (at the start), for example-- other items such as the available classes and races are current. So yes, you can play as a High Elf on the Legendary Servers. And if a zone was reworked over the course of time, the reworking remains intact. I suppose that is a good thing, because having to go back and put back in klunky zone layouts and quests (such as Mines of Moria before the reworking several years ago) would have been labor intensive.

It's not a Vanilla server in the same vein that Rift Prime or the upcoming WoW Classic were, but that's fine. Standing Stone is more interested in recreating the feel of starting fresh in LOTRO's story, without any of the temptations of zipping along and bypassing everything to get to the current state of things.

It's also a way to entice people to subscribe to experience the Legendary Servers, for a relatively low amount of personnel and server costs. Now, just as long as Standing Stone isn't on their last legs....

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

And the Gods Laughed

No more than a month ago I thought that Rift Prime was doing well enough that Trion has kept the server going for the time being. In retrospect, I should have likely not invoked the Gods of Irony, because there was some pretty eventful news surrounding Trion.

Trion, developer of MMOs such as Rift and NA publisher of ArcheAge, has been sold to the German company Gamigo. While sales or spinoffs of games and game divisions isn't unheard of in the video game world*, what is more unheard of is what happened after the sale was announced: Trion laid off almost all of its staff.

That has happened before in the game world, when boardgame company Avalon Hill --best known for games such as Diplomacy, Civilzation, Squad Leader, and other wargames-- was bought by Hasbro. Hasbro's representatives at the time expressed displeasure at the loss of the AH staff**, because they thought they were getting the entire TAHGC staff, but I chalk that up to the owners of Avalon Hill, the Dotts, being greedy asshats.***

So why Trion laid off its staff is currently an unknown, I can't imagine that Trion's staff knew that it was coming to that degree. After all, the Rift Prime server just released the Storm Legion update, and there were still livestreams scheduled even as of last week. Obviously, all of this is going to come crashing to a halt while Gamigo takes over assets, but given that Rift Prime is still in existence (as of this morning, at least) the Rift portion of Trion is still hanging in there. They even set up the Autumn Harvest event on servers as of last week, so Trion's staff was planning on being in place at least.

As for ArcheAge, Trion was the publisher, so basically Gamigo takes over the publishing portion of that arrangement.

But what portends for the ex-Trion staff? Its entirely possible that Gamigo hires them on as a third party, or they'll simply take the assets and then change direction. I perused the games that Gamigo currently has, and I don't think they have a game out there like Rift. I'm only vaguely familiar with Aura Kingdom, and most of the others seem to be MOBA, PvP, or strategy oriented games. Even the games listed as "MMORPG" don't really fit what we're used to in AAA MMO space. I raised an eyebrow when multiple game descriptions include "an engaging story" while at the same time emphasizing the eye candy in the toon pictures.

If this is the sort of game that Gamigo puts out, then I'm not sure how exactly Rift will fit in. ArcheAge will fit in much better than Rift, for certain. Even Devilian would have fit in better in Gamigo's lineup than Rift, to be honest. If Gamigo tries to change Rift to match its other game titles, I'd imagine that Rift would become unrecognizable to its current and former playerbase.

So here's wishing the best of luck to the Trion employees who were laid off.

EtA: I've done some more digging on Gamigo, and apparently they are a "maintenance company". They purchase F2P games and then amp up the cash store and P2W purchases to a level that would have made the "old" Rift P2W controversy tame by comparison. No new development, just a bit of fluff, and that's pretty much it.

About the best thing for Rift would be that some company with deep pockets and a love for the game would step in and purchase the game from Gamigo, but things look pretty grim for Rift.

As for ArcheAge, all bets are off. They do fit in with Gamigo's lineup better, and their development house is separate from Trion, but I've no idea what will happen there. I was working on a "Fun With MMOs" post on ArcheAge, but I might shelve that entirely. Or maybe I post it with the caveat that "this will likely be obsolete by the time you read this".

EtA: And here is the link to the official announcement from Gamigo AG. Here is one very pertinent part of the article: "It is expected that the Trion Worlds acquisition will add on gamigo group level revenues of at least USD 18 million in 2019." I have no idea where they're expecting those revenues to come from --outside of Trove, which according to the forums is apparently Trion's most profitable game-- without adding tons of cash shop items and P2W items. I could also see them attempting to sell some of the assets as well, or even license the game engines to other companies.

*For instance, there's Standing Stone, that was formed from ex-Turbine developers, that bought the assets to LOTRO. And even Activision-Blizzard itself was spun off from parent Vivendi into the "capable" hands of Bobby Kotick and his fellow investors.

**I can't find the reference to it, but it was in the Usenet group that followed board games,

***They were arrogant enough to try to sue software developer Microprose for its release of the wildly popular Sid Meier's Civilization in the mid-90s, and they actually lost that lawsuit. The net result, however, was that both Microprose and Avalon Hill were financially weakened to the point of being sold off. Both, ironically enough, to Hasbro.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reacquainting Myself with My Inner Min/Maxer

I suppose it doesn't come as much of a surprise that I've been focusing my attention on The Elder Scrolls Online a lot lately. I'm still working my way through the main questline, and dying quite a bit in the process.* The enemies aren't exactly that difficult per se, but I'm typically a "set the rotation and forget it" sort of player, and being forced to swap in and out different attacks in the slots is still a new thing for me to handle. Prior to ESO, the most I'd do for weapon/ability swapping would be to switch between a bow and melee on Age of Conan, and that was mainly done to aggro the mob I want to take down rather than engage close in and have several mobs jump me at once.**

After loading up on shards --and getting the skill that allows you a low percentage chance to fill empty soul shards after zapping an enemy-- I'm happily out questing for a much longer time than what'd be normal for someone who does tend to die an annoying amount of times. And that's a good thing, because it prevents all those deaths from disrupting the flow of the storyline.

I'm still not completely sold on the personal storyline, but I will give props to several of the side quests and zone quests. And I'll also give major props to what Zenimax did in The Rift --the Pact storyline, anyway-- with one of the NPCs from an earlier zone. I wasn't expecting that questline at all, to be sure, and I thought Zenimax did a good job of working that questline.***
And Sheogorath is as mad as a hatter.
But you knew that, right?

One thing I am having trouble with is the number of skill points I have. I'm trying to avoid spending the skill points in areas that don't directly affect my combat abilities, but I'm currently sitting on 7 unused skill points and frequently that goes over 10 until I find a few slots to use them. I'm not exactly sure where I got this embarrassment of riches, but were I not busy working on quest progression, these skill points would have found their way into non-essential slots, such as crafting.

I think I'm going to have to slow down my playing and start reading up on skill slot optimization, something I've not had to do for an MMO in, well, years. ("Hel-lo, Elitist Jerks!! I hear one of your people is now on staff at Blizzard. I guess that makes your work all the more legit, I suppose.")

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've some reading to do....

*Action oriented combat isn't my forte, especially when you play enough and your hands and wrists start to ache.

**AoC is still the only MMO I've played where I have to worry about being overwhelmed by more than one mob at once. Most other MMOs I've played may have that in spurts, particularly if you're undergeared or underleveled for the area, but you can be at the right level/gear in AoC and simply be overwhelmed by two mobs of three enemies each. And even if you manage to survive that, it's also likely that a third mob will wander in due to the overlap of aggro areas, and that's definitely the end for you. AoC was definitely designed for a lot of players in a single zone at once.

***Sorry, I'm not putting up details, because spoilers.

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Quick Friday Read

I came across this recent post from Eurogamer about how BioWare completely changed the RPG genre with Baldur's Gate, and found it too good to not share. It's full of the "we had no idea what we were getting into" moments, along with how the game was so incredibly massive for its time. Nowadays, it'd be considered fairly small, but I remember playing the game and having to constantly swap out the 5 CDs that the game came with. I got used to hearing the very specific mechanical sound of the CD player that meant "Hey, I found something relevant", and when it requested a new CD I felt the urge to cheer.

Fun fact: Dynaheir (above) was
voiced by Jennifer Hale. Yes,
Jennifer "Fem Shep" Hale.
From and
BG itself.

While I do think that BG2 improved upon everything that the original BG had, were it not for that first Baldur's Gate the entire RPG industry would be completely different, and likely dominated by Final Fantasy clones.

But for me, the best part was finding out the inspiration for Minsc and Boo, which while a bit more mundane than I expected I still found amusing.

From the site,
as well as Baldur's Gate itself.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How Do They Keep Cheating the Reaper?

Age of Conan has another limited time server in place, this time with a PvP ruleset.

The Saga of Blood opened on September 27th and will run for a "limited time", with a battle royale slated for the end of the server's life for the people at the top of the PvP leaderboard.

How Funcom keeps AoC alive I've no idea, but AoC has outlasted both Marvel Heroes and Wildstar, and will likely outlast one or two other MMOs out there before finally bidding the MMO world adieu.


In other news, I've kept plugging away at the Elder Scrolls Online, and I've become very acquainted with respawning using soul gems as I've worked my way into Skyrim territory (playing as a Dark Elf). I think the dodging that I need to do isn't quite up to my skill set, given that my fingers ache after a long session these days.

I've not gotten down to "old man Redbeard" levels yet, but I can see that time approaching in the future. I do have to wonder, however, whether Blizz's changes to WoW to make the game easier to play have less to do with the price of entry and more to do with the aging of the player base.

Just a thought.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Fortnite's Big Break

You know that you've "made it" as a politician, celebrity, or sports figure if you're skewered on Saturday Night Live.

For the uninitiated, Saturday Night Live (or SNL) is on the US broadcast network NBC at 11:30 PM on Saturday nights and lasts until 1:00 AM Sunday morning. Yes, it's a live show, and it began in October 1975 and has been on television ever since. The cast is constantly evolving as people join the crew, stay for several years, and move on to do other things. Stars such as Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Amy Proehler, Will Ferrell, Sarah Silverman, and many others got their big break on SNL.

Well, I knew that Fortnite was big, but not SNL type big, until tonight. Guest Host Adam Driver is the "dad" in the Fortnite skit:

At least I've never been that bad in video games, but I can attest that my own dad would have been that bad.

Between myself and Ancient, I guess we've got the "old man" aspect of video games covered....