Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Time to Roll the Dice

I realize that for a lot of people the High Holy Days of Geekdom already happened, as San Diego ComicCon wrapped up on July 22, but for me this week is the big week.

Gen Con Week is upon us.

Because you can't have enough dragons.
(From gencon.com.)

I'm going to be having a lot of live streams running in the house during Gen Con, catching up on the action.

Here's a short rundown on some of the live stream channels:

The Gen Con Team Main Page -- Contains a broadcast schedule and links to the Official Gen Con Twitch Pages

BoardGameGeek TV on Twitch at Gen Con

Geek and Sundry on Twitch

Twitch TV Search on Gen Con

YouTube Search on Gen Con 2019 livestream

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Nexus Blues

The other day, Lewis Burnell published an article on Ten Ton Hammer entitled I Miss Wildstar.

It's been 9 months since Wildstar shut down, and Lewis makes the argument that the MMO should have been allowed to live, particularly when he believes that the game was --in his opinion-- "one or two patches away from greatness."

I can't disagree with the need for a couple of patches to fix some persistent gameplay issues in Wildstar, but I'm not convinced that Wildstar would have survived even then.

Sure, Wildstar did a lot of things right, such as the storyline and even the overall gameplay. People who played around with the in-game housing loved it*, and the cartoony graphics evoked a classic WoW-esque feel that more "realistic" graphics designs in other MMOs don't.

But Wildstar had... issues.

The game released at the tail end of the big MMO boom, when the massive herd of MMO players would try a new release out, invoke the WoW mantra "the game begins at max level", and proceed to rush through the leveling content only to find the end game content locked behind some truly Old School raid attunement. This led to the bizarre combination of "there's nothing to do" and "it's too hard" from different parts of the player base.

Wildstar also promised updates at a pace that proved too good to be true, which meant that people who were promised an everflowing font of "stuff to do" never saw that happen.

Therefore many of those same players, who played Wildstar in the Summer of 2014, were more than happy to put aside their dalliance with Wildstar and return to WoW when Warlords of Draenor was released in November.

The "return to WoW after trying something out" was pretty much a theme of the MMO era up through Legion's release, but was most telling in the reactions to the original releases of Age of Conan, SWTOR, ESO, and of course, Wildstar.** All of those had issues in addition to a fickle initial player base, but only Wildstar lingered far too long in the strict subscription model before switching to F2P in an attempt to save the game.

Finally, Wildstar had the misfortune of being run by Carbine, which if the comment in the Kotaku article I linked to above is true, was very poorly run. When you piss off your parent company, that's one thing, but when you piss off NCSoft as your parent company, you're kind of screwed.

To answer Lewis Burnell's article, I miss Wildstar too. And yes, I think it could have hung in there longer, fixed several issues, and had a much longer run than it did. Hell, Age of Conan is still going on and I have absolutely NO idea how they're managing that, given how few people I ever see when I'm logged in. But I also realize that Wildstar's demise didn't have as much to do with Wildstar itself as the MMO market circa 2014 and how Carbine Studios was run.

I realize that Wildstar as an MMO is probably dead, but I don't necessarily think it's the end of the intellectual property. But we'll see, I suppose.

*I never took advantage of it, so I'll never know.

**Rift was an odd duck out, because the people who populated the original Rift release were those who didn't like the direction Blizz went with WoW in the removal of skill trees and whatnot, so Rift went on their merry way for quite a while with a devoted fan base.

Monday, July 15, 2019

It's Been a Month Coming....

I post about loot boxes and gamer burnout and crunch, and I get views but no commentary.

I post about LOTRO's potential successor, and the comments come out of the woodwork.*

So, what'll happen when I mention about some of the updates coming out tomorrow in SWTOR?

Such as quality of life improvements to F2P and Preferred players, such as an increased credit cap, an extra quickbar, and free Medical Probe/Quick Travel?

Oh sure, SWTOR fans have been discussing this for almost a month, but still these changes will make the F2P and Preferred lifestyle more bearable. Now about that bank space thing....

I kid, I kid. But on FB you'd think that people were jumping off of tall buildings because they couldn't remove their helmet without paying a few Cartel Coins for the privilege. But I do have to admit that it is better than the "This game sucks!" and "We want KOTOR 3!" and "What, this pile of trash is still around?" that I see in frequent comments about the game.

Trolls just gotta troll, I guess.

*Relatively speaking. It's a pretty quiet place, here.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

There's Enough Room For Only One of Us

Well, the big news of the last day or so in the MMO world was that Amazon Studios is now developing the "new" LOTR MMO. Of course, that's the same MMO that Athlon Studios was creating, and now the "based on the literary world of JRR Tolkien" MMO is being developed by the same people that are bringing you the new Middle-earth streaming series. The latter is presumably set in the Second Age, so that makes me think that the "marching orders" for the new MMO are to be set in the Second Age as well.

After all, between Sauron and his minions (and depending on when in the Second Age, Black Numenorians) and the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, there's plenty of space there for a two faction MMO set in the Second Age. Or even the First Age, for that matter.

But this news doesn't necessarily bode well for LOTRO. When Athlon was running things, I kind of shrugged and figured that LOTRO wasn't necessarily in danger. But now, with Amazon's financial might, LOTRO could be in trouble.

And this comes right when there's an optional 64-bit LOTRO client out there, which warmed my heart to no end.

Hey Bioware, how about a 64-bit client for SWTOR? If LOTRO can do it, surely you can....

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Nice Way to Check out Azeroth

I suppose you know they're out there, but I was shopping over at Target the other day and verified that yes, Blizz still has 60 Day Wow Subscription cards for sale at Target.*

And yes, they're $30. However, if you're like me and has a spouse who works at Target, you can get a 10% discount. I believe Best Buy has a nice discount too, but I don't know what that translates into with the 60 Day WoW card.

Still, 10% off a $30 60 Day card translates into $13.50/30 days, a better deal than a 3 month subscription price ($14) but not as good as the 6 month price ($13).

Of course, that does come with the catch that you have to either work at Target yourself or have a family member who does. But hey, I know how I can keep my costs down and still peruse WoW Classic without any excessive breaking of the bank.

*Alas that Target didn't really work out in Canada, as apparently they tried to keep things similar to whatever company they bought out rather than basically transport the Target experience to Canada itself. After all, based on traffic across the US/Canada border that's what people wanted, and I'm still scratching my head why Target's management thought otherwise.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Just One More Time....

When I wrote my last post, I honestly didn't know that Jim Sterling would create his latest Jimquisition taking on gambling mechanics. And that it'd be released today.

And that I'd be so pissed at the game design that Torulf Jernstrom talked about inside the video.

Oh, I knew on an intellectual level that it existed, because a lot of it is "modern marketing" amped up to an extreme level, but the brazenness of the major dev houses is really galling. And here I am, falling for that trap, because I'm thinking "yeah, I have to login to ESO so that I can get the daily reward" in much the same manner that a long time ago I discovered I was on an addictive precipice in smoking the occasional cigar.

This is not good.

On the flip side of it, now that I recognize what is going on, I can adjust my habits as much as I can to walk myself back from the ledge.

But for those who have fallen off the precipice, there's no going back.

They can't stop.

And the video game industry is happy to oblige, because they can make a ton of money off of these people.

If nothing else, the overall amorality of the video game industry toward this situation will be their downfall. Here, I was thinking that self righteous moralists shifting blame from everything from teen suicides to mass shootings onto the video game industry might have an impact, but the reality is dawning on me that the video game industry is setting themselves up for a fall by this behavior.

It's not too late for the major dev houses to walk all of this crap back and get rid of gambling mechanics in their games, but that window is shrinking. I'd imagine that the EU is going to crack down on them in the next year or two, and that potential player base is large enough that the dev houses can't ignore them.

Or they could try, but if there's one thing that the investors in today's market want, it's a maximum amount of money. And if the EU says jump, the investors will push the dev houses into finally saying "How high?"