Thursday, January 31, 2019

Not a Bang but a Whimper

I got on Rift the other day, in the early evening. Alas, I felt I was the only one there.

I went around the Defiant's capital city, and much to my chagrin I found only one other person hanging around. Surely, I thought, this is a mistake, so I went out into some of the low level zones and barely encountered another soul.

Well, if Gamigo thought they were going to get an active MMO, they've gotten quite a wake up call.

Even Wildstar and Marvel Heroes were more active than this before their shutdown announcements. (As is ArcheAge, which is often linked to being not long for the world.)

But this.... This just makes me sad.

You can say that the Trion's P2W strategy killed Rift, but what truly seems to have driven a stake in the game was selling the game to Gamigo. While I'll freely admit I could have logged in at just the exact wrong time, but it was truly disheartening to see what was a vibrant game turned into an empty shell.

It feels like only yesterday that Rift was in it's Beta, and disaffected WoW fans were leaving Cataclysm and giving the game a very serious look. I remember getting a Beta key and poking around the starter zones, thinking that although there were Beta issues the game seemed incredibly polished with a really good story to build upon.

And now... Well, I don't see much future for Rift. The dragons have won.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Okay, who thought this all the way through?

"Bother," said Pooh.

There's a lot that's interesting about the Elsweyr expac for Elder Scrolls Online, but one big part of the expac is, to be quite frank, a head scratcher: the new class, Necromancer.

It was as if the devs had never heard of the Main Questline, or Molag Bal for that matter.

I mean, the devs do know that you're fighting the undead (among other Daedric nasties), right? Why on earth would you want to create a class that is exactly what you are currently trying to remove from Tamriel?

And what would the (so-called) "Good" Daedric Princes (among them Meridia and Azura) think about your devotion to re-animating corpses?

At least if you cast Necromantic spells in cities you're going to run afoul of the law, but that's a minor consolation to throwing a monkey wrench to the entire game's storyline.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

You Know What this Game Needs....

...A Battle Royale mode!!

No, not WoW or SWTOR or any other game I've played regularly, but rather Black Desert Online.

Of all the complaints that I've heard about BDO --mostly centered around the Pay2Win nature of its cash shop*-- I haven't heard the need for a Battle Royale mode. About the closest there is to a Battle Royale mode in any MMO is Outlaw's Den in SWTOR, and you can tell when someone is trolling for people to show up in Outlaw's Den just to gank them by the wheedling they do in zone chat.

But this, in BDO? Really?

If there's a game whose setting almost directly implies Battle Royale, it's Age of Conan's Hyborea. "Every man for himself" is pretty much a credo that you find in a lot of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, and by extension a Battle Royale mode would work well there. You'd also need to add a few extras, such as Mad Wizards or Atlantean Artifacts, to make it more truly in Conan's vein, but at least the game world/players would be receptive of the idea.

This announcement, however, just implies "cash grab" and I can't see it lasting very long.

*Which seems to be much more of a theme on Asian MMOs (and Rift) than on Western MMOs, which focus primarily on accessories or clothing.

EtA: corrected a grammatical error.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

News and Notes for the New Year

I haven't intentionally gone silent after the New Year's Day, but work and family conspired against any updates until now. It's not like I've stopped playing games --I've played quite a bit, thankyouverymuch-- but my traditional blogging time has been taken up by other items. However, I did want to mention a couple of items that were MMO related.


Bethesda had a major announcement on January 15th, announcing the next ESO expac to be the home of the Khajiit, Elsweyr. I kind of expected the expac to be a homeland territory, given that Summerset and Morrowind covered the Altmer and Dunmer, and I also knew that Black Marsh was already covered as a purchasable DLC. The addition of dragons, however, did catch me by surprise.

And, to be honest, I was really amused.

Although the name Elsweyr is pronounced "Elsewhere", it's a space away from the name of a settlement of Dragonriders of Pern*, whose places are known as weyrs. Between the obvious naming similarities and the references to dragons, I can only imagine that we might see a surreptitious homage to Anne in the expac.


After the brouhaha at BlizzCon with the Diablo mobile game announcement, I noticed that a ton of "Blizzard is dying" "WoW is dying" "Activision is killing Blizzard" videos popped up in my YouTube feed.

I'm not one to say that the sky is falling, but I'm sure that to some hardcore fans, Activision is the new EA.** Between the disaster of the Fallout 76 release and Blizzard's internal and external problems, it seems that no AAA developer is immune these days. I've said for a while now that a lot of these problems are brought on by the incessant need to post upward trending quarterly results for investors, forcing development houses to push out games that aren't ready.

Another way at looking at the drive for more profit is to view Bungie's split from Activision in that light. Bungie feuded with Activision over the "annualized schedule" of releasing major expacs/updates annually --the annual CoD release concept brought to the Destiny platform-- and by maintaining complete control over the game Bungie can release new content when they feel an expac is ready. Why the annualized schedule in the first place? Well, Activision wanted to keep profits up, and annual release schedules guarantee (more or less) steady sales. Activision blamed their latest slow quarter on Bungie, which Bungie didn't take too kindly toward. And now that the split with Bungie has been announced, investors have launched an investigation into whether Activision engaged in securities fraud.

From a developer's standpoint, Bungie's split with Activision made perfect sense. From an investor's standpoint, however, a company they invested in --and expected to generate regular profits-- is losing a major franchise after having shuttered another major franchise (Skylanders), along with (supposed) poor performance of one of the jewels of the company (WoW). So it's not a big surprise that investors are now upset.

If this were any normal publicly traded company, I'd start to expect layoffs to "stabilize the bottom line". But this is still Activision Blizzard, so I have no idea whether the Blizzard side will finally start standing up for itself against Bobby Kotick. I'd not necessarily count on it, but I'm surprised that Activision let Bungie go, so you never know.

As 2019 rolls on, stay tuned. I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard from these events.

*By Anne McCaffrey. Some of the behavior behind the first two books, Dragonflight and Dragonquest, don't hold up in today's world vs. the early 70s when the first two books were written. Dragonflight was, in fact, three novellas published separately and then put into a single book.

**And we'll have someone pop in with a comment about how much worse EA is in three... two... one...

EtA: Corrected the name of Elsweyr. That's what I get for typing while tired.