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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NEW BLOG SPACE! Please change your bookmarks

Hey everyone,

I've decided to go ahead and host my own blog instead of using the Blogger deal. It's much more flexible and it will be a better solution going forward for me and hopefully you all will like it too.

You can find me at www.thegrouchygamer.com. Please head over there and have a look. I would really appreciate it if you would register, too. I'd like to get an idea of how many of you are reading.

Looking forward to seeing you in the new place. This space is free, so I'll keep it here indefinitely for you to reference should you want to.

Take care, see you on the new site!

Friday, October 26, 2007

EA to "Align Costs With Revenue", Heads Sure to Roll

In an article today on the Destructoid Blog, it was reported that EA has asked all business units, specifically including EA Mythic and their Redwood Shores Studio to "Align costs with revenue". It's been reported that some of the remaining UO staffers have already been let go, effective Thursday. More cuts are expected through attrition, "performance management," and layoffs according to the article.

This is a major problem when a big company like EA purchases smaller studios which then become business units. If the whole of the business is suffering, then the smaller business units have to bear some of the pain, whether the shortfalls are theirs or not. Ironic that this comes on the heels of the suspension of the Warhammer beta until December and the announcement from the head of Mythic that (paraphrased) "EA has been a great partner, and hasn't meddled in our business." Hope you got the new memo, man. The rules have changed. Again.

This is becoming more and more of a pattern, as major publishing houses get their camel's noses under the tent, and before you know it, the whole damn camel is inside there with you. I'm predicting that the "publishing" relationship that SOE has for the upcoming Pirates MMO is a precursor to SOE eventually owning the IP. You read it here first. Well maybe not first, but most recently.

Is there any chance that a major MMO can come to market any more without the involvement of SOE (customer? fuck you.), MS (It's over budget, cancel it), NCSoft (Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa; are you fucking kidding me?), Blizzard (Sorry, we're too busy printing money to make any more MMO at the moment. Maybe after Starcraft II is entrenched we can think about it), or EA (Hmm, can we make John Madden into an MMO?)? There have to be more ways than these to get a salable product to market.

I sure as hell hope so. And to those displaced by this most recent display of poor business acumen in the MMO business, my heart goes out to you. You guys are some of the best people I have ever met and you deserve better. Maybe some day you will get treated correctly and have the stability and creative influence you deserve.

Best to all of you.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

WoW is Still THE Fun MMO Out There

I blogged a few weeks ago about how I was trying some new things and some old things in the MMO world. After trying out a lot of different games, I've come to the conclusion that for replayability, content, gameplay, and plain old FUN, World Of Warcraft continues to be the best option out there.

I resubbed to WoW a month or so ago, and I've been leveling a Warlock. The lock himself isn't as nuanced or complex as say, an EQ Necromancer, but he's still got that same vibe to him and he's a ton of fun to play. I haven't really played him in PVP yet, but I'm looking forward to that. I think that's based on the frustration that Locks created for me when I was playing my Shaman a lot. The cool thing is that when I go back to instances now, I have had to learn and adapt to a completely different playstyle then I had been used to before. For reference, most of my playtime is spent in a Duo with my wife and her Fire Mage. The two make a surprisingly effective duo. We don't have much healing (health stones) but we can burn stuff down, my VW can tank, and we have CC in a couple of different forms.

Our trip back to EQ was ruined for me when we got through with the noob stuff and at around level 20, all the sudden it was duo or nothing. We rarely saw others around in the areas we would hunt, and I suspect that most of the people still playing are either max level or their twinks. Not conducive for reinsertion into the world.

LOTRO just failed to hold my attention. It was like WoW with a different art style. I did like a few things about the game, but overall I hold to my contention that if you want to be like WoW, you had damn well better BE WoW.

I have been testing Warhammer Online, and I can't really comment on that at this time. I can tell you that I like it and it's different from the other games out there, but you already know that or have figured that out for yourself. I can't play that at the moment because of what is reported here at Slashdot.

CoX games feel like a grind for the grind's sake. Lineage ][ is awesome, as long as you don't mind competing with gold farmers for every spawn and being practically compelled to buy Adena (Gold.) EQ II always made me feel claustrophobic, and the population that was never what I had hoped it would become. Branyanu and I were talking last night about how much we missed the old SWG, warts and all. Sure it shipped incomplete, and sure there were some content problems, but it was a world, and you could do almost whatever you wanted to in there.

One of these days I would love to talk with you guys about which (oversimplified) side of the design argument you come down on; Sandbox or Amusement Park. I find myself enjoying the Amusement Park (WoW) a lot right now and longing for a Sandbox like Star Wars: Galaxies of old.

I'm not sure how much longer WoW will hold sway over me, but just in the last few weeks we've had Brewfest and Hallow's End and their attendant quests. No one else has done as good a job as Blizzard in keeping things changing in the world on a week-to-week basis. When my Lock gets to raiding levels and we start into that world again, I will be interested to see if it continues to hold my interest. For now, I'd challenge you guys to convince me that there is something out there that is more FUN to play right now than WoW.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Warhammer Surpasses 400,000 Beta Applicants

Over at WarhammerOnline.com, they have a little ticker that shows how many beta applicants they have for Warhammer:Age of Reckoning. As of this writing, the number actually shows 416,853.



I find this interesting, as I am not aware of having this kind of beta interest since World of Warcraft. Now, I'm not saying that this is going to be another WoW. Far from it. I don't think it will ever get close to that kind of subscription number (currently over 8 million players worldwide, according to Blizzard.) I do think it's an indication that people are looking for something, anything to hitch their wagon to.

At the Austin Game Developer's Conference this week, Gordon Walton of Bioware gave a speech about the 12 lessons on making MMO's in the "post-World of Warcraft" era. In an article on Gamasutra, these 12 lessons are summarized.

I'm of two minds regarding his assertions. I do believe that his pragmatic view of the current climate is mostly right-on. I think he misses the point on a couple of his points. First, in "Lesson 4," he asserts that people will only play MMO's until the solo content runs out. While that may be true in the beginning to middle of the game, I'm yet to see an end-game that effectively supports solo play. So his point is not exactly correct, as if it were there would be a lot fewer subscribers still playing WoW than there still are. Second, in "Lesson 9," he says that characters on canceled accounts should be deleted to make more "name space" for new players. Sure, if you never want people to resubscribe. I just resubbed to EQ, of all things. Had my 3 or 4-year-old characters not been there I would have turned around and immediately canceled. I don't think this is a good idea.

The reason I brought up these subjects together is because I believe that to have 8 million subs, you have to have a perfect storm of the game, the community, and the brand. No one else has all the ingredients to do that. The only ones close are SOE, and they lack the reputation and community support.

WAR has a chance to be a great MMO, although I don't think this means anything like 8 million subs. I'm encouraged to see some excitement for the upcoming MMO titles. I don't see any of them unseating WoW or becoming the legendary "WoW-Killer." From what I am reading about WAR, I think it has a chance to become a strong contender for market share.

For now, WoW is safe. I don't believe that the "WoW-Killer" is in the pipeline.