Monday, December 31, 2007

Tag: 2008 Predictions for 2008

I am going to try something here, in the manor of chain-blogging. I'm not sure if that is what it is called, but here's the idea: I will make some predictions for 2008 and then pass it on to another person. That person will then make up the next set of predictions before passing it on. The goal? 2008 predictions by the end of all the tagging.

The rules are simple: no limit on the number of predictions per person, tagged bloggers can elect to pass, and links to the before and after predictions in relation to the current blogger. I will try my best to tally the score and see how many we get.

Scorecard:

Me - 10
Grimwell - 11

Total = 21

My Predictions:

1. 2008 will be a year of announcements for MMOs. 38 studios, Bioware, Zenimax, Red 5, and many other studios will all announce their MMO projects. Some will come out of left field, while others will just confirm current rumors.

2. 2008 will be a year of launches for delayed games. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Age of Conan, and Pirates of the Burning Sea will all finally launch. WAR will be the only big success in the group.

3. 2008 will NOT be a year for micro-transaction or RMT based games. RMT and micro-transactions will take another hit as WAR launches and proves the monthly subscription model is still king of the hill for revenue. RMT and micro-transactions will turn a profit, but only in accounting terms. The model will barely break-even in economic terms.

4. 2008 will be a year of web-games. Already popular web-games will continue to grow. New web-games will launch. None of them will challenge the revenue generation of monthly subscription or box sale titles. All will be susceptible to any sort of web 2.0 wrinkles.

5. 2008 will not be a good year for Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). SOE is closing out 2007 in grand fashion: developer scandals, buyout rumors, and reportedly falling subscriptions. Two of which, the buyout and falling subscriptions, have been denied repeatedly. Tack this onto SOE's shift in revenue models and 2008 doesn't look pretty. Grimwell, I await your response :)

6. 2008 will be a Dark year. Dark Age of Camelot will feel increasing pressure this year as WAR launches and replaces the Realm vs. Realm gameplay model with a newer and fresher version.

7. 2008 will be a Cold year. Wrath of the Lich King, World of Warcraft's second expansion, will launch late in the year. It will be successful, but will fall short of the success of The Burning Crusade. China will not see the expansion until 2009.

8. 2008 will be a year of MMO podcasting. MMO podcasting has picked up over the last couple of years, but 2008 will bring it into the limelight as more commercially driven entities enter the market. Unfortunately, popularity will remain in the hands of the "weekend warriors", not the commercially driven podcasts.

9. 2008 will be a year of lawyering. From the RIAA chasing grandmas with MP3s to IGE's potential criminal investigation, 2008 will be an unprecedented year for lawyers entering the online-circus. Expect to see some major court cases develop over the year, but don't expect them to finish before the year is out.

10. 2008 will not be a good year for Gax-Online. This is a personal pick. The dog and pony show holding up Gax-Online will finally realize they have become what they've always chastised, sending them into a cataclysmic tailspin. Or, they'll sell out the second someone offers them half a donut and a cup'o'joe.

Tag: Grimwell, Ethic at Kill Ten Rats, and Tobold. Oh, and Mr. Freeman.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Some Team Fortress 2 Ownage

I've had some good luck playing Team Fortress 2 since I was kicked off one of my favorite servers the other night. On my new servers of choice I am quickly becoming known as "that guy", because I play very upfront on a server that likes to play "lets set up a camp and farm these newbs". As these screenshots show, my play style usually prevails.

TF2

TF2

A couple notes:

1. I prefer to play on 32 player servers for the map ctf_2fort. It provides more action and prevents a lot of the quick wins from occurring. On the other maps, I prefer to stick to 24 player servers. ctf_2fort is the only map that I feel comfortably holds 32 players.

2. Instant-spawn sure beats waiting twenty seconds between deaths, but it sort of defeats the purpose of capture-the-point maps.

3. I try to mix up the classes I play. I usually run as a medic for a few minutes to start a match and get a feel for where people are playing. I then focus on playing an engineer offensively, which can really piss people off, while mixing in a few rounds as the other classes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kicked?

It amazes me what can get a player kicked off a gaming server in Team Fortress 2. However, the situation that ended my Team Fortress 2 night early, will never amaze me.

I play on a server run by a "gaming community" fairly regularly and the rules are simple: no cussing or abusive language, no bashing "community" members, and no firing through the starting gates. I have no problem with these and never will, but I decided to break one of them anyways. I called this "gaming community" out for the bunch of unskilled noobs that they are.

Honestly, I was having the worst round of my Team Fortress 2 career, but that was a byproduct of what was really happening on the server. The situation was simple. The "gaming community" had all of their regular members join the same side, team up, and destroy the opponent.

Not so bad right? It is their server, their time, and they have a right to play together. I can go play elsewhere. Yes, I agree.

But, when I called them out for stacking the teams and that it is sad that their "gaming community" would stack teams against random public players, I was kicked. No cuss words, no dirty language, just a straight out call to balance the teams.

To me, a split would have been obvious and may actually show someone that my "gaming community" can do more than just steamroll a random group of players. 10 out of 12 (12 on each team) players were community members on one team. That is easily enough to win every round within seconds without even trying. It is a simple "run to point A, then to point B" (on a capture the point map). However, it is also enough to divide equally amongst the two teams and provide a fair game.

But, fuck everything I just said. I am just whining. Bitching up my latest storm. Fuck me for thinking that sportsmanship has a place in a competitive game.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas! I hope everyone got what they wanted.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Why Is It So Hard To Believe?

Is it really that hard to believe that SOE could possibly have been sold to an Indian gaming company? I am going to present some ideas that should make people think twice about SOE's denial.

Prior mergers and moves:


1. EA scooped up Bioware out of nowhere.

2. Blizzard and Activision merged out of the blue.

3. Mythic denied any buyouts. A month later they became EA Mythic.

4. SOE and Sigil repeatedly denied Vanguard being bought out, before SOE promptly bought the rights to Vanguard.

Items of note in the current SOE buyout rumors:

1. Smedley first denied the buyout by posting on a 3rd-party site, EQ2flames. No, he did not choose his own blog, the official EQ2 website, or filter the information through his community managers. Nope, he posted a denial on the most prolific Everquest 2 rumor-mongering website on the net.

2. The parent company of SOE, Sony Pictures, has been all but quiet on the matter so far. A denial from them would put this to rest quickly. Is it so hard to believe that Sony Pictures may have tried to keep this under wraps until after the holidays?

3. The "rumor" post was spread across several reliable, multi-national news agencies. Also, it spread quickly through several financial-related outlets.

4. SOE hired a former IGE bigwig to head up international relations. He just so happened to have recently visited India. Of course, this lends credibility to the idea that SOE may be working on a deal in India, not necessarily being sold.

5. The reported sales price of $300 million is questionable if the reported revenue of SOE is $150 million yearly. However, this wouldn't be the first case of an online-based company being bought for significantly more or less than their current revenue value.

6. Lastly, if the recent report on MMORPG subscriptions holds any weight, most of SOE's online games have been bleeding subscriptions.


Yes, I like to stir the pot.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Breaking: SOE bought out?

Having done a fair share of research for my Economics courses, via The Economic Times website, I was quite surprised to see news about Sony Online Entertainment pop up (via Virgin Worlds).

Apparantly, Zapak Digital entertainment, an India-based online gaming company, is set to buy out Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) for around $300 million.
This acquisition is in line with the future plans of Zapak Digital, which is planning to enter the gaming space in China by early next year. “This makes perfect sense for us, as around 80% of content in the gaming industry is manufactured internationally. Buying out Sony, will not only give us access but also expand our reach in the global market,” said a senior Zapak Official.
Now, lets all put on our tinfoil hats for this next quote.
The major expenses in the gaming industry is on content and marketing, and Zapak aims to reduce the cost of publishing a game by buying out those studios and relocating them to India
If that reads correctly, SOE may be moved to India? Now wouldn't that be a Christmas gift for all involved!

UPDATE: John Smedley, as always, denies everything.
This story is completely false. We aren't for sale

No idea who made this up. We are in discussions with various companies in India about bringing our games to this growing market but that's it. We aren't for sale.

Smed

Friday, December 21, 2007

That Perfect Gift

Getting that perfect gift for a significant other is hard. Really hard. However, when that gift is found, and a little effort is put into kicking it up a notch, the feeling is awesome.

No, I won't share who this gift is for or what it is (they can wait until Christmas), but rest assured I feel like I just scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Going Gordon Freeman

Dear Criminals,

My Top 10 MMOs

Via F13. (read the rules if you are going to post your own top 10). Now onto my list, with some explanations following each choice.

1. World of Warcraft - Millions, yes millions, of subscribers. Penetration into non-gaming media on a large scale. To me, there is no argument against WoW being #1.
2. Ultima Online - Developed before there was a real market, didn't copy anyone, and remains a unique experience. Oh, and player housing!
3. Star Wars Galaxies - Included for POTENTIAL. This was billed as the first game with the POTENTIAL to attract a million players. Sadly, it proved there are no sure things in this market.
4. Guild Wars - First mainstream title to go completely against the grain of the subscription model. Proved that it can be done, but more importantly, it can be sustained in the long run.
5. Dark Age of Camelot - Showed that timing and smooth launches are equitable to success in the market. Plus, DAoC proved that the little guy can get it done with a smart plan.
6. WWII Online - MMOFPS? Yes.
7. EVE Online - Another POTENTIAL inclusion. The game itself isn't spectacular, but the design behind it is begging to be turned into something great.
8. Lord of the Rings Online - I compare LotRO directly to Star Wars Galaxies. There are no sure things, even when the developers play it extremely safe. Lower than expected, only because THERE IS NO FUCKING MAGIC IN LORD OF THE RINGS TURBINE!
9. Everquest - Only mentioned for being brave enough to bring 3D graphics into the genre.
10. MUD 1 - The literal "birth of online gaming" can not go unmentioned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not Forever Away

The development team behind Duke Nukem Forever, the poster child for vapourware, will supposedly be releasing a teaser trailer tomorrow.
Developer 3D Realms has publically stated on their official forums that a teaser video for Duke Nukem Forever (in development since 1997) is expected to release tomorrow.

As series co-creator George Broussard put it, "After seeing the teaser we thought it was something we should share with all of you and while it's just a teaser, rest assured more is coming." He went on, "Tomorrow, Wednesday the 19th, around noon CST, we will release the first teaser trailer from Duke Nukem Forever."
And all I have to say to that is: I've got balls of steel.

UPDATE: They were serious.

Monday, December 17, 2007

StarTrek.com Shuts Down

I'm a Star Wars fan, but I've enjoyed my fair share of Trek over the years. Unfortunately the glory days of Trek are gone and CBS has deemed the StarTrek.com website unworthy.
Goodbye from the STARTREK.COM Team

Sadly, we must report that CBS Interactive organization is being restructured, and the production team that brings you the STARTREK.COM site has been eliminated. Effective immediately.

We don't know the ultimate fate of this site, which has served millions of Star Trek fans for the last thirteen years.

If you have comments, please send them to editor @ startrek.com - we hope someone at CBS will read them.

Thank you for your loyal fandom over the years. It has been a pleasure to serve you.
Oh well, I never actually visited the site. However, in the day and age of EVERYTHING.COM, I find it weird to be talking about a major Sci-Fi .com shutting it's doors. Honestly, can it be that hard to make StarTrek.com into a profitable venture?

I Could, but I'm Tired

It simply isn't worth the effort. SOE caught red-handed.

Yes, I'm letting this one pass by.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Perfect Day

The Green Bay Packers won.
The Dallas Cowboys lost.

Oh, and I received my grades for the Fall semester. Another perfect 4.0. Once again, for the sports fans, that is a 4.0 cumulative GPA over four semesters.

The best part of this 4.0 is my Micro-Economics grade, which was hovering towards a high B, low A at the end of the semester. I needed a near-perfect score on my final exam to come away with an A overall. Fortunately, I owned the test like a fat chick on a twinkie.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another Mythos Update

Mythos has just pushed another great update out the beta door.
FEATURES
* Guilds have been added! Speak to the Guildmaster in Tulin's Hope to start one at a cost of 5 Gold.

* Hardcore Mode has been added, for extra challenge! In Hardcore, when you die - your character is gone forever, so be careful!

* Elite Mode has been added. In Elite mode, monsters are faster, more aggressive, and tougher. Champions appear more often. You can only sell items for half of regular price.

- Note that Elite and Hardcore players cannot party or trade with players who do not match their setup, to preserve the economies of these different play styles.

* Re-specs are now allowed (although not in Hardcore or Elite mode) - speak to a Skillmaster in Stonehill or Tulin's hope. Re-specs are free from level 1 through 5, and above that, cost starts at 1 Gold and increases from there. There is a maximum of 3 re-specs beyond level 5

* Quests are now Trackable - check them in your log to view them onscreen at all times

* Maximum Questlog size increased to 8 quests.

* Hardware Mouse Cursors! This should make mouse response lightning fast. Hooray!

* Achievements system has been added - complete goals to earn equippable achievements that give you extra bonuses! Unlock a new achievement slot every 10 levels

* Emotes - there is an emote button above the chat pane that will show you the options

* Zivia's Puzzle Box!

* Party Finder – post your party and description and meet some new friends! You can also post yourself as looking for group to the list.

* Ignore List is now account-based and actually saves.
There is a bunch of other, smaller improvements as well.

Speaking of hardcore, Grimwell has started a Hardcore Challenge. Now, as mentioned in my comments on his site, I will probably be starting a hardcore adventure in World of Warcraft. However, with this update to Mythos, I am probably going to shift my plan of attack. I would much rather be part of a real hardcore mode than a self-policed hardcore mode. Plus, I want to get some more Mythos time under my belt!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CCP Tries To Explain Themselves: Fails

Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, EVE Online Software Group's director, has a lengthy post trying to explain the Best Bug Ever.
Shortly after releasing EVE Online: Trinity at 22:04 GMT on Wednesday, 5 December, we started receiving reports that the Classic to Premium graphics content upgrade was causing problems to players by deleting the file C:\boot.ini, which is a Windows system startup file. In some cases the computer was not able to recover on the next startup and would not start until the file had been fixed. In this dev blog I want to tell you how this happened.
He goes on to answer a few questions.
Why doesn't Windows protect its system startup files?
That's a good question, one that I have asked myself in these last few days and wish I knew the answer. But of course I'm not going to blame Microsoft for our mistake. Windows doesn't protect those files and therefore software developers must take care not to touch them. We should have been more careful.
I have to take offense to this answer. The question that needed to be asked: why was a file named the same as a critical Windows system file knowing full-well that EVE Online (like most games) will be played and PATCHED on an account with administrative privileges?

This could of been Linux and an fstab file with the same outcome; a PC that doesn't boot correctly. It baffles me that someone this high up in the company would even attempt to answer this question and state "I'm not going to blame Microsoft". I'm sorry, Dr. Erlendur S. Thorsteinsson, but it sure sounds like you are saying part of the blame goes to Microsoft.

Of course the answer to why the file was named boot.ini:
The answer is really "legacy"; it has been like that since 2001 when the file was introduced on the server and later migrated over to the client in 2002, so this file has been with us for over 6 years. We are reviewing all filenames and changing the name of any file that conflicts with Windows.
Or as I like to call it: lazy-assedness.

Reading through the comments, many EVE Online players are giving CCP props for full disclosure. Unfortunately, CCP really doesn't have a choice at this point in EVE Online's life with all the other drama that has swirled around the game.

The entire post details a breakdown of the most basic principals that guide any software project, from a Hello World! to Google. And I can't believe they DON'T have a single machine setup in their testing environment that mirrors what someone would be using at home (Windows XP installed on a single drive, game being played and patched on an administrator account).

All told, in the end, 215 users seem to have been affected. That is 215 too many.

Exams Are Done

I have finished my last exam for the semester. I can now play games again. I know everyone is dieing to know if I kept my 4.0 GPA, but I won't know until sometime later this month. It will be close, but Micro-Economics may have played the role of spoiler.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not always perfect.

Monday, December 10, 2007

500,000

The Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) beta sign-up counter reached the half-million mark today and with the talk lately of "beta invites as an advertisement" I wanted to make sure one of 2008's most anticipated titles doesn't get left out of the mix.

However, unlike the Lord of the Rings Online 1,000,000 beta invites, WAR only tracks actual sign-ups, not "e-mail addresses we have in a database somewhere".

Don't get me wrong, the counter is a pure marketing move on EA Mythic's part, but it is the sort of marketing that is somewhat truthful. WAR has a huge following already and EA Mythic has no need to bolster the hype by "stretching" the numbers.

The question that remains, is how many testers are in the beta currently, and how many more will be let in when the beta restarts in late December? Age of Conan recently dropped the bomb that they had invited 10,000 players, out of 100,000+ sign-ups, but as this article questions: how many are actually online and playing? Those are the numbers many of us would actually care about.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

OMG Parenting

Recently, Dr. Phil attacked the problem of MMORPG addiction in teenagers. Surprisingly, he hits the nail on the head to solve the problem. Instead of blaming the game, he correctly points out that the parents need to control the situation and their child.
Dr. Phil is baffled. "Four hours a day? It's ridiculous!" he says. "Mom, you've got to step up and shut this down. Once she's at a point where she can play the game instead of being absorbed in the game, then perhaps, she can attempt to go back to it."
Holding parents responsible for what they let their children do is great and all, but the really important question I want to ask is: does this mean the mainstream media is shifting away from the "blame the games" mentality?

Friday, December 07, 2007

My Head Hurts

This is about the most random blog post I've ever found. So random, that it makes my head hurt, but in a good way. And it all starts with a time machine:
So I invented a time machine in the year 1962, and I went back in time to kill this guy that caused the world to end in 1984.

And I was just about to take my shot when this second Time Traveller Guy suddenly showed up on the roof next to me and asked me to stop.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tabula Rasa: Why all the delays?

If anyone plays Tabula Rasa and wonders where their subscription payment goes, this video may just hold the key. Or maybe it will help us understand why Tabula Rasa was delayed so long. Either way, opening a beer will never be the same.



What do you expect from someone who requires that their name comes before a game's title? All we need is for Mr. Garriott to show up on MTV to show off his crib...

...oh snap!

Best Bug Ever

The latest EVE Online patch seems to have come with a wonderful side effect for Windows XP users.
After a large number of PCs stopped working following installation of the new Trinity patch for Eve Online, developers CCP were able to confirm that the patch deletes the boot.ini file from Windows XP machines. What this means is that XP users who downloaded and applied the patch within the first few hours (the patch has now been taken down) cannot reboot their PC.
This, along with other FUBAR moments from CCP, really speaks to a poor quality assurance process and a lacking sense that any of the management at CCP has control over the EVE Online project.

Secondly, I don't understand how there are not safeguards in place to prevent such a disaster from going live? The split-second a programmer typed "delete boot.ini", warning bells should have gone off that the code needed to be triple-checked for accuracy. More cowbell maybe?

Fortunately, the problem is easily fixed for the tech savvy. However, knowing that the most addicted EVE players were probably the first to download and install the patch, I have to wonder how many of them ran out to the nearest PC hardware store to start swapping out parts. Actually, I LOL in real life just thinking about that, because at one point in my life I may have done the same thing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Passing On Pirates

I am officially passing on the Pirates of the Burning Seas beta. I have recieved an invite to beta and was graciously asked to participate in a fairly significant manner as either the PvP or Economic representative on the official Boarding Party, a collection of player advocates that helps promote the game and funnel community issues to the developers. Unfortunately, I have final exams incoming followed by a marathon of work to get done if I want to actually enjoy my time off over the holiday break.

From all accounts, with the NDA being dropped, Pirates of the Burning Sea is shaping up to be a good, but lacking overall game. The consensus seems to be: avatar combat and leveling sucks, PvP and the economy are sweet, and the British are over-powered. Pretty much what I expected out of the game.

It is a bit disconcerting that the game has been delayed a long time due Flying Lab's decision to finish their implementation of avatar combat. Originally, the game was planned to be ship based only, with the ability to move an avatar through the port towns. However, that all changed and now there seems to be a fairly grindy, land-based aspect to the game that I've yet to read a good thing about.

In the end, PotBS is the wrong game, at the wrong time for me. Had it released already, I would no doubt be playing it. But now, I have my sights set on Warhammer Online. In the interim, World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, and Call of Duty 4 should hold me over until I get my chance at WAR.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blizzard and Activision Merge

Big news today: Blizzard and Activision Announce Merger.
Activision and Blizzard have said they will form "the world's most profitable games business" in a deal worth $18.8bn
This could mean a lot, but most likely this is just an "on paper" company. I am guessing that each company will stay seperate and produce their own titles in the same manor as they have been doing. Some resources will be brought together, but I can't see any major changes out of this.
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