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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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MMO Development Reaches it's Stale Phase

One month.

That's how long it's been (to the day) since I felt moved to write here. That's a long time. Now, I have been busy with work, so that means travel. Travel takes it out of you once you have done it for a while, but I digress.

The reason that I haven't been writing is that I haven't found much to be writing about. Sure I could do all kinds of theoretical babbling about games and what people want in game design. I'm probably not qualified to do that and so I'll leave that to the Ryan Schwaders (it's not babbling when he does it) of the world (Nerfbat.) I can speak with authority from the user's viewpoint. That is where the wicket gets sticky.

Here is where I am right now, and I have to believe that some of you are here with me. I currently have 4 MMO's installed on my gaming rig. Five if you include a particular beta which I can't talk about so for the sake of this discussion doesn't exist. The other 4 are EQ (yeah, yeah, I know,) WoW, LOTRO, and Vanguard. I have let my EQ2 sub lapse, but it's still installed.

Branyanu has been missing EQ so we reinstalled it and started playing it again. We quit not too long after the level cap was raised above 60, so I had a barely 61 Druid (Genda) and she has her 58 'chanter. After an evening wrestling with the damn game to get it to run without CTD on her system, we sat down to play. Our 2 hours resulted in a level change. Genda is now 60. It was also a stark reminder for me that you can't go home again. As much as we loved EQ at the time, everywhere we could hunt at that level was a ghost town, and there isn't much going on that we could see.

I'd probably enjoy getting going with WoW again. Once again, we had quit soon after the level cap was raised, so my 60 Orc Resto Shaman (Akhan) and her 60 Troll Hunter (Tarkheena) are behind the times. She's had enough of WoW, and I've learned not to press my duo partner too hard, lest I not have one. It's still just another fantasy MMO, although I do appreciate the "amusement park" style of design.

Vanguard. It's problems are well-documented. Programming-wise, it's still a mess. Maybe the server merges (from 13 servers down to 4) will help spur the community there and make it easier to find a group.

LOTRO. See WoW.

I've seen a little on the upcoming games in the pipeline, and there isn't anything revolutionary out there. Tabula Rasa looks like Guild Wars or DDO. AOC looks like a refined version of Lineage ][. WAR is like a cross between WoW (questing) and DAOC RvR.)

I am starting to think that the genre is at a standstill, and really has been since WoW. As a matter of fact, I am starting to believe that WoW killed PC gaming. Just go have a look at the PC games out there on the shelves, and tell me 10 good titles that have shipped since WoW that aren't ports to or from consoles. I rest my case.

I'm hoping that we see some new developments soon, although with what it costs to fund and develop one of these monsters, the irony may be that no one is willing to take a risk that big. And by not taking a risk, we aren't getting the benefit as gamers.

Hmm, I hear that UO just got a graphical face lift.

Naaaaa.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

38 Studios Enumerates Their Vision

Over at Ten Ton Hammer, they have a set of videos from the guys over at 38 Studios. I'd encourage you to head over and have a look.

There are a few things that struck me about the videos and the "Vision."

First of all, this vision is a lot different than the infamous Sigil "Vision (tm)." These guys remind me a lot of some of my friends that have been professional athletes. Supremely confident, focusing on the positive, and focused as hell.

This attitude, which is very evident in the videos, is indicative of one or many of these things.

1. Incredible hubris. These guys haven't done anything in the gaming industry, other than Brett Close, and he doesn't have any hands-on MMO credentials. Now, their rank-and-file development team is shaping up to have a lot of experience, but the leads don't.

2. Confidence in their ideas. I can see why this is, as they have ALL been incredibly successful in their chosen fields. Curt Schilling has had an amazing MLB career, R.A. Salvatore has been one of the most visible and read fantasy authors of our generation, and Todd McFarlane has made an empire of comics, figures, and custom illustration. Even though I am not personally a big comic reader I have been aware of Todd's work for some time. I've been collecting his Dragons figures for a while now. It's easy to see why they are confident that they can contribute to a really amazing new IP.

3. Confidence in their ability to execute their plan. Lots of other have been down this road. It remains to be seen if this part of their plan can be pulled off. A lot of people with more industry experience have churned out mediocre projects, or even projects that never got shipped. I think there are a lot of land mines on this road. I like their chances based on the collectives' refusal to accept anything but the best. I think this may possibly be the tie-breaker in their ability to do this, although it's SO easy to find yourself 3 years down the road and over budget and behind schedule.

I'd be interested to hear when you readers think about this. What do you like about 38's team? Their chances to do what they are saying they are going to do? Are they going to achieve "World Domination Through Gaming?"

Head over to TTH and see the videos. It's our first real taste of what these guys have in store.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

SOE Continues to Not Get It

So this is probably just a minor thing, but I wanted to share with you all why I want to continue to distance myself from SOE and it's products.

The links on VGPlayers to my forums have been broken for months. I had requested quite a while ago that they get fixed, and they didn't. It's understandable, as Sigil was in the process of imploding. Today, when Michelle Butler, the "community manager" for SOE/Sigil had requested on the fansite forum that we update our links, I again requested that the links get repaired. Here is the reply;

"I am told the links are difficult to modify and so they are staying like they are."

OK

1. If this is so, why did you ask us to check them?
2. What's so fucking hard about updating a link in your Dreamweaver page?

This is just another example of how SOE keeps it's "community" at arm's length, and has done NOTHING to repair the rift that was created by their dismissive dismissal (yes, I did that on purpose) of the Affiliate Program at the time of their takeover. There has been no communication from SOE to us other than requests for us to do tasks for them. No offers of help, no offers of support, no offers of content or anything of the like.

That's all fine. They aren't beholden to us. They are missing an opportunity for the community to help them repair their damaged reputation, and instead once again they go the opposite way.

We've all spent lots of time supporting their lousy game, and they can't even be bothered to fix a link page.

This is why SOE will never be World Class.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Change of Direction Here

As I've started to blog, I've noticed that in the blogosphere, the blogs I enjoy most are the ones that are written from the perspective of the industry in general, then specifics within the industry, then about specific games. In that order.

So what I've decided to do is to follow my interests a little more broadly, and make sure that this blog isn't just going to be about Sigil, SOE, and Vanguard. I'd like for the blog to be read, although that isn't the only reason I write here. The process is cathartic for me as well.

Going forward, I'm hoping to comment on the industry in general, community relations, community management, and the "next generation" of games in the pipeline. I'm most interested to see what becomes of Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, and whatever the guys over at 38 Studios (formerly Green Monster Games) are up to.

Thanks to all of you who have put this extremely humble blog on the map, even if it's only a pin-sized mark so far. I hope to earn your interest and participation as we go along.

As an aside, I have had the opportunity to visit London this week on a business trip, and I had a little slack time to enjoy the city. If you haven't visited the UK, or London in particular, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's expensive (it makes Manhattan and Disney World seem like a bargain) but it's an amazing and vibrant city. Of the cities in the world that I have visited, it's horned it's way closest to my heart and I can't wait until my next visit.


Here is a picture I took today, just one of many but I thought this was beautiful. It's a crest that is on the gate at Buckingham Palace, the Queen's London residence. The city is full of amazing history and art. I'm starting to ramble, but if you ever get the chance, visit London and the UK.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

With all the crap hitting the fan over at SOEigil the other day a lot of old laundry is being dredged up. In light of some of the things I have heard from former Sigil employees (when they were still Sigil employees) some of the things that I had heard about in the past but dismissed now seem to be given added credence if not corroboration.

In this post from The Safehouse in 2001, some of the same or similar types of observations were made about Brad McQuaid's management "style" as are being made today. In particular, this quote caught my eye;

Things weren't coming up roses at 989/redeye/verant. Brad himself had basically done no work whatsoever since Everquest's release, and many (including Kelly Flock) think he didn't do anything *before* its release. Brad thought of himself as infallible, and Everquest's incredible success, his millions, and his ferrari were all proof of his greatness. Being crowned a "Game @#%$" by PC Gamer didn't help either. His self-aggrandizement cannibalized Verant's customer relations for its entire existance. He insisted on being the sole point of contact with the public to promote his own name, and he did a miserable job.


Overall, it's an interesting post-mortem about how Brad allegedly left Verant/989/SOE back in 2001. If you look at that and also look at the recent posts to f13 and here, I think you'll see some staggering similarities. Where I come from, if something happens once, it's a happening. If it happens more than once, it's a pattern.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions on this one but to me it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brad McQuaid "Clears the air"

In this interview with f13, Brad McQuaid tap-dances around the reasons for his specacular failure, Sigil Games Online. He seems to lay a large part of the blame on Microsoft and it's "Zoo Tychoon" management team. Classic. Here is a little snippet where Brad justifies his decision-making on the story we broke here the other day;

f13.net: Right after the split and before the tragedy the other day, that's when people claim you started to be in the office... not quite as much. Can you explain why?

Brad McQuaid:: We need to back up a little bit. After we split from Microsoft - because obviously we couldn't ship the game in an unready state - we had to go out and do something. Find money to make the game that we could and all dreamed about. We cut a deal pretty quickly so that we could get into SOE's E3 kiosk. We ended up having to meet payroll and to pay the bills. We needed to raise money. We went out and found some people who specialized in venture capital and I worked with those people immediately following the deal coming together. I started working with them on putting a deal together to fund the game to completion and fund the company post-completion and to possibly start a second title. It was basically "get money that we needed." So I started working with these people, it was a learning experience - I'd never really been in the private investor/VC world - and we started that process. I was in and out of the office quite a bit. Demoing the game, showing it to potential investors and putting together the documentation. All sorts of stuff you have to do for that kind of money.

f13.net: So that time being out of the office was business?

Brad McQuaid: It was a bummer. Even going back to SOE, I want to make games. The executive producer side of things is more fun than the CEO business side of things. But it had to be done, right? So it was a bummer leaving a lot of that behind and it simply had to be done.


So I guess the only other thing I have to ask Brad is; When did it stop being you out of the office drumming up non-existent financing and start to become "a bummer?"

I guess my personal feelings about this whole thing are getting the better of me, but my bullshit detector was going off all through that story. What do you guys think?



read more | digg story

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Other Shoe Drops at Sigil

Today the other shoe dropped at Sigil. According to John Smedley,

"Today I would like to formally announce that SOE has acquired the assets of Sigil Games Online, including Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. As a part of this acquisition, we are bringing on approx 50 people from Sigil in order to insure [sic] that Vanguard continues to grow. SOE is dedicated to making sure that Vanguard is well taken care of and that we provide the same level of service we do for our other titles. In the near future we will come out with a publishing plan that will largely be driven by the strong player community that Vanguard has already built up. We plan on supporting Vanguard for many years to come, and you can expect many content updates as part of your subscription. Down the line we will of course be coming out with new expansion packs, but right now the focus is on making sure Vanguard is running the way it should be.

"We are also officially opening up forums. In the past, our deal with Sigil didn't allow for this, but as with our other games we feel this is an important part of communicating with the playerbase. You can expect a strong presence from our community team as well as the development team members. While we realize that Sigil had said they wouldn't open up general forums, at SOE we feel this hampers our efforts to communicate effectively with the players. We will continue to support the fansites in a big way, and will be contacting many of them directly to discuss what this change means. By no means do we want to lose the strong fansite support by making this change, but we do think it's important to have a forum for players to communicate directly with SOE.

"A few other items I wanted to mention:

1. Brad McQuaid will be consultant to SOE as a creative advisor for Vanguard. Dave Gilbertson will be the person directly responsible for the day-to-day management of both the Sigil Carlsbad office as well as Vanguard.

2. We do not plan on making any major changes to Vanguard. Any changes are going to come from the team itself. We aren't mandating any big changes to the game. We've learned a thing or two with our experiences with the NGE and don't plan on repeating mistakes from the past and not listening to the players.

3. We do plan on spending a lot of time cleaning up legacy issues with Vanguard and making sure the game's performance improves.

"By way of comparison, this team is approx. the same size as the EQ2 team and I feel like that team has done an amazing job improving EQ2 since its launch. We intend to do the same thing for Vanguard and it is our hope that the players feel like we're doing right by them."

Just for clarity, the Sigil team was near 100 before these actions were taken.

As far as the central forums are concerned, let them have them. They are already a festering sewer, and will only get worse. The funniest things I've seen through all this was one of the SOE forum slaves over there proclaiming "This is the place to come for answers!"

Yeah, good luck with that.

I have some seriously mixed emotions about this. First of all, some people that I know and care about lost their jobs. Some good people stayed. As the site admin for Vanguard Crafters, I can tell you that the crafting team was in a no-win position. They were going to cut the team in half, and there was no easy choice I'm sure as the crafting team was strong, in my opinion. Salim Grant and Justin Deebs ended up staying, and they are both exceptional in what they do. Losing Kurt Wagner and Daniel "Steve" Newman hurts though, as both of those guys had some skills that won't easily be replaced.

According to my sources at Sigil, some of the people who originally acted as boat anchors to the project remain, and they have less optimism about the ability of Vanguard to recover quickly as they would have had if some of the "disruptive forces" would have been removed at this opportunity. SOE is bound to make some mistakes as they sort out who they should have on the team and who should go.

Overall, I think the businesslike approach that Sony is going to bring, and the needed structure will help get the Sigil team back on track. As I have alluded to before, I don't think it's the working people at Sigil that got Vanguard all balled up, but the leadership or lack thereof. SOE's leadership should help the new smaller team get some things done.

This should be the extent of the drama for now. As the new smaller team gets settled in and the community gets it's feet back under it, we'll see what happens next. For now, we've lost some friends at Sigil. Here's to hoping that they find something better soon.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brad McQuaid Abandoned Vanguard, Sigil

This is the blog post that I hoped I would never write. I recently became aware of some "things" about the internal goings-on at Sigil, but for the sake of the people that I know that work there I've kept them to myself. Or should I say "worked" there. According to f13.net, "at approximately 4:30PM today, Sigil employees were told to meet outside. At which point they were terminated. On the spot." You can see the article at www.f13.net.

I was able to get confirmation on this tonight from a couple of very reliable sources. So the company has now officially been driven into the ground. Here is what most people don't know, outside of Sigil.

Brad McQuaid has been an absentee manager at Sigil for months. Not only has there been a leadership vacuum at Sigil, with the employees there left twisting in the wind, but I have been able to confirm that Brad hasn't even bothered to be at the office.

Since last year.

Reliable sources confirmed to me that Brad hasn't been at the Sigil offices save a couple of brief visits since December of last year. Whether or not he was supposed to be the creative force behind the game as we were lead to believe, he was the leader of Sigil and at a time when the game was under a deadline and his people (many of whom left promising or lucrative positions elsewhere to hitch their wagons to his star) were left to fend for themselves. That's right. When the shit was hitting the fan, and the game was under crunch, Brad went all Brian Wilson on his people. I'm not sure what the psychology of that was, or whether the producers there didn't want him around. Whatever the case, he wasn't able to show the leadership to rally the troops, or even to keep them up out of the dirt. To their credit, the people working at Sigil remained professional even in the face of the lack of professionalism from the top.

As a fansite operator, I can testify that Brad wasn't around for us either. As a matter of fact, Brad never showed support for the affiliate program. Whether you believe that the Affiliate Program was a good idea or not, the CEO of the company should probably support it. When we challenged Brad on his record of (lack of) support for the program, he let us know that he thought it was better spending his time posting on sites like FOH and MMORPG.COM, to evangelize the program. Evidently that took a lot of time, or it just wasn't possible to cut into his Hero-Clix schedule.

It would be amusing how fast the denizens of FOH are throwing dirt on Sigil's grave were it not so tragic for the lives and careers he's irreparably harmed. Irony at it's finest.

The bottom line for me is this;

I can't believe that the CEO of the company can't make an appearance at his own company for 4 or 5 months if to do nothing more than lend moral support. I have heard that Brad is worthless for anything important, and a lot of people probably found him an irritant. I know that most of my later interaction with Brad wasn't positive. His fansite presentation at E3 2006 left me cold. Jeff Butler had a ton of energy and told us a lot about his vision for the game, but Brad couldn't have looked less interested in being there. On one of my visits to Sigil, Brad was overheard telling someone in a customer/community position not to give an answer to a question, and if someone asked why, just to "tell them I'm eccentric." The best he had to contribute was dismissive. So Mr. Eccentric, how does it feel to have a mud-hole stomped in you by effing Turbine?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I'm pissed that I wasted 2 years on developing a community at my site for a game that is nothing more than a steaming pile of shit. I'm pissed that the good people (and good developers) that I care about at Sigil are now in the street, and Brad still has millions and Jeff Butler a job. I'm also pissed that the game was so badly mismanaged and allowed to get to this point. I'm also pissed that the good people at my site have dedicated so much time to help each other only to see this happen.

I truly hope that all my friends at Sigil will land on their feet. I also sincerely hope that no one ever gives Brad another cent to make a game or to start a company and put other's livelihoods at risk. It's evident that Brad lacks the skills, dedication, or maturity to handle that situation.

In the end, this game may someday be good. Tomorrow, when this news is announced a lot of the SOE haters will just jump ship, whether SOE had anything to do with this game failing or not. Fact is, it has (failed.) And fact is, it's not SOE's fault. The blame for this one falls squarely at the desk where the buck should stop. The CEO's office. The empty one in the corner.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Hate Being Wrong

But I've been wrong again.

According to Aggro Me, SOE has hired a former IGE exec as their VP for Asian Market Development. While talking to some people close to the situation, I was told that the situation is "just business."

I think it's bad business and here is why...

SOE has a public relations problem with it's loyal fan base. Yes, I know that we as a fan base can be a bunch of asshats, but still they keep doing things that alienate us more and more. The SWG debacle, RMT for fun and profit in EQ2, the snuggling up and now the hiring of IGE management. I see it as a big flying fickle finger of fate to all the people that have for years decried the existence of RMT in SOE's products, who have had to endure the ineffective counter-measures taken by SOE to rid the games of the cash influence, and now the tacit admission from SOE that they don't give a flying fuck at the moon about what we think. They have a number to hit, and dammit they are going to hit it.

It's our fault really. We've been loyal and faithful and continued to play and purchase their games. I guess they thought that was our way of saying we approved, or just telling them we are stupid. You can hardly fault them for drawing those conclusions, but I'm going to. Here's why.

While we can be a monumental pain in the ass, and we've done so much posturing and gesturing as a community we're really a bunch of pussies. And until we give SOE the FFFOF and tell them with our dollars, or lack thereof, that we are sick and tired and we aren't going to take it any more we can expect nothing but more of the same.

I've been railing against RMT for years. I'm just a lone voice in the wilderness. I know I don't influence anyone when it comes to this crap. I just wish there was ONE game where players could go and be insulated from that shit once and for all. Even if the game were only average, it would be nice to have a vacation from it. If people want to play games like that it's their business. I don't play EQ2 in part because it has Station Exchange. That's my insignificant way to take a stand. I don't play any other game developed by Sony either.

Brad promised us a continued stand in Vanguard against RMT, and they have been making a good show of it on the game. But Brad's good buddy Smedley has to have been the impetus behind this hire. Presidents hire the VP's right?

Well this is all bad, customer relations-wise. I can't imagine anyone seeing this as a positive for SOE and it's PR. I keep hearing that one of the strengths of SOE is it's PR machine, but seriously it's just the emporer's new clothes.

Here's to hoping that this isn't the camel's nose a little further under the tent. IGE is a corrupt organization that operates mostly off shore and isn't afraid to shake things up if it's in their best interest. They have some of the best spin doctors in the business.

I'm starting to think I was wrong. Maybe I'm on the wrong side.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Brad McQuaid Thinks you Screwed Up Vanguard

I was cruising through Fire of Heaven's web site today, and much to my surprise I came across this little gem from Aradune, AKA Brad McQuaid, regarding people's expectations and how much like EQ1 Vanguard might be...

Like I said, that message resonated with a lot of people in a positive way, but it also did harm in that those people who don't want another EQ 1 were turned off when they heard about Vanguard but not all of the details behind the game. There were and are also a lot of 'Vanbois' who spread the word that this game was not for WoW players and that people who like a more casual game like WoW were not welcome in Vanguard. In that sense, the messaging backfired and many people aren't even giving the game a chance.


So THAT is the problem with Vanguard. All the negative press and all the dunning that they are getting about the half-baked game they shipped is actually the fault of all the people who have been supporting him over the last few years, the "Vanbois."

I'm having a hard time deciding if this is Brad kissing FOH's ass or if it's just him being an ass. Either way, my opinion of Brad as a person, manager, and steward of this game just went down another notch.

Brad, first of all, if you feel like that, come to the community and post it. And no, FOH is NOT the community. FOH is the retard rickshaw and a place for pricks to stand around and flaunt their e-peens. The community is the people who actually bought your half-finished pile of steaming shit and are trying to play it, and the Affiliate community that is trying to help keep the group focused on the positive, but you don't have the time of day for. You have officially lost touch with your community.

Yes, I'm pissed. Brad, I think you owe the community an apology. If you wanted to start at vanguard crafters, that would be ok with me. Sense of entitlement? Fuck yeah. I've been paying for and operating a fan site for your game for 2 years, and I think we're entitled to at least as much love as you give those catasses over at FOH.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sigil and Shipping Early

There's a lot of howling out in the Blogoshpere about how we are being forced to play a beta of Vanguard. The basic premise of that is nonsense, since this is a game, and no one is making you play it. That aside, there are some reasonably cogent points that are being made that I would like to counterpoint.

The foremost among those is the one that asserts that we are de facto financiers for Sigil, since they have said that basically they would have preferred to ship the game later but lacked that option due to some financial realities. So let's review a few things;

1. Everyone loves to hate on Sony, and for some good reasons. I've opined on these pages that there are much worse options than Sony out there to help you with a game. On the other hand, let's just say I don't own any Sony stock, either. That aside all the "$OE" hatebois out there instantly ascribed all sorts of sinister motives from Sony for "forcing" Sigil to ship early. I'm not privy to all the financial inner workings of the Microsoft/Sony/Sigil deal. I do know a couple of things more than most. I'll get to that in a minute. Suffice to say that I don't believe Sony pushed this out the door, at least not for selfish reasons.

2. We all want deep, detailed, developed and polished games to play. We don't seem to want anyone to pay to make them though. Here's the reality of the situation; It takes 10's to 100's of millions of dollars to make a first class MMO. If it's your first one, even more. I'm not sure if or how much personal money Brad McQuaid has at risk here, but assuming it's a (relatively) modest amount someone needs to be financing this. As a community, there are a certain number of us who don't want to pay for anything other than exactly what we want. That leaves it to the Sony's and the Microsoft's of the world to capitalize these studios and get them up and running. When these companies try to recover their investments, we often characterize them as "greedy" or "only in it for the money." I don't know about you guys. I like my job, but if there isn't any money in it' I'm not going in tomorrow.

Problem is, MMO's always cost more to make and take longer than the investors are told. This may or may not be on purpose. The point is, Microsoft lost it's corporate patience, and when Sigil said they couldn't ship July 2006, Microsoft started looking for ways to divest itself. It found that way in early May.

Here's the deal... Name an MMO with a chance to ship completely developed and with a chance to survive, and one of a handful of very well heeled companies is behind them. Warhammer? EA. Conan? Microsoft. Tabula Rasa? NCSoft. I could go on, but you get the point. And who is the ownership behind Sigil and Vanguard? Sigil is. I believe they found some "Angel" venture financing for the deal (outside of one of these major companies,) allowing them to keep ownership and only having to contract with Sony for the parts that they lacked core competency to handle. It's a deal that makes sense, and the crux of it is that they are now in the position of needing to generate cash flow. If all that requires is the game shipping early, I think it's a relatively good price to pay. At least now, they don't have one of the 800 pound gorillas in the room. Granted, there is one in the next room, but all in all I think it was a good trade.