Devilian: Trion Livestream 07/31

Yesterday I watched the Trion livestream for a few hours, which attracted a crowd of about 500. Trion showed off their new Warfront for Rift, which looks fun and different.

You’re attacking and defending back and forth, trying to beat the other team’s time and use nasty environmental traps to your advantage. I took a few casual notes on the Devilian part of the livestream, and here they are:

  • No really, Devilian is an MMO more than a Torchlight or a Diablo.
  • Trion is still planning on a Q4 2015 release.
  • Devilian has great writing with humor, and that’s part of what made it a great game overseas. Trion just hired a well-known writer (who the Trion devs didn’t want to name yet) to tweak and work the translation to English from Korean (among other things?) I really want to see this. Claims of great writing put a lock on playing this game.
  • This is an M-rated game.
  • A big game change from the Korean is making sure PvP is skill-based and not gear based. (Pay-to-win gear-based power in PvP is common is Asia.)
  • They also showed a cosmetic Corgi that seemed to have storage, and clarified that Ginno Games (maker of Devilian) actually had the Corgis before their Trion alliance.
  • There is a polar bear mount, tiger, and some sort of floating wind serpent mount.
  • All character classes sit on mounts differently and have different dances.
  • The character classes will be staying gender locked, despite a lot of debate. It’s just as easy to make an entire new class (which is currently happening) as to make a new gender for one of the existing classes.
  • Trion’s F2P design goal in general: When a player buys something, they should want to buy. They shouldn’t feel forced to buy. The golden rule is shortcuts, cosmetics, and convenience.

This month is Blaugust, which means some bloggers will be writing every day this month. This kitty is a Nanowrimo veteran, so I’ll stick with novelist snobbery. I’m looking forward to reading a lot more blogging, though.


Rift: Game Is In Great Shape, Announcement Coming (+ Gaming Stock Commentary)

In response to player concerns today about the future of Rift, community manager Ocho had this to say in the forums:

“So let’s get to some facts:

  • The RIFT Dev team is the largest Dev team I’ve ever worked with in almost a decade of working on triple A MMOs.
  • The team has grown over the last year and a half, and hiring for the team continues.
  • Population in RIFT is strong, lots of people play RIFT and lots of new people continue to start to play RIFT.
  • Profits from RIFT are certainly reinvested in RIFT. AA took 0 devs from RIFT. None, nada, zilch.
  • RIFT is in zero danger. We’re really excited about the future, right now is a great time to be playing or working on RIFT. …
  • We’re not only reusing old content, we’re also developing new content. Keep your eyes out over the next couple weeks, we might be announcing something.”

– Ocho

This is great news, since this kitty has also been a little worried.

This week I capped my rogue alt, and I continue close to picking up a few pieces of raid gear earned for my main by weeklies and dailies instead of raiding. I’m also enjoying the creative and quirky nightmare saga story.

The second act released yesterday. The return of old classic characters doesn’t bring much life to them (so far), and we mostly see them as generic quest-advancers. The third act of the saga also supposedly forces you to do a lot of PvP and NTE dungeons.

I disagree with this design, even if it’s to justify the epic weapon you can theoretically get when it’s all over. There are two main types of players:

  • Players for whom this is just same-old grinding to pad out the saga.
  • Players for whom this is horrible and will spend an entire weekend trying to queue for PUG DPS and beat five dungeons, or queuing PvP and hating Trion the entire time.

Just doesn’t seem like a winning scheme to me.


Video Game Stocks


Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft (MSFT) both had solid earnings reports this week, so hopefully these will be long term for my paltry little portfolio, and I can ease up on my nine-month quest (right before the stock market goes off a cliff, possibly.)

How can Microsoft compete with Apple and Google? By uniting your PC in an ecosystem with your other devices and monetizing by applying what they’ve learned from Free-To-Play video games. I plan to buy a Lumia soon. My Samsung tablet completely fails to recognize my Windows 7 PC.

You’ll also be able to stream XBOX to PC with Windows 10, or stream console-quality games to your PC without an XBOX using the cloud, which Microsoft demonstrated yesterday.

If you need any more good news for Microsoft, China announced this week that it will now allow game consoles to be sold in China after a 15 year ban. This is probably more better for Sony and Nintendo.

My third tech pick is still Equinix (EQIX), a cloud pipeline and data center owner. They are allied with Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, which I hope will eventually win against Amazon’s huge cloud. Who wants to trust Amazon with their entire corporate business and security if the other choice is the Microsoft on your PCs?

I also still hold AT&T (T), which is now FCC-approved to merge with DirectTV, with an expectation of leveraging their scale to produce their own competitive over-the-top video streaming service like everyone else.

Nvidia’s (NVDA) stock continues to head into the abyss with PCs and chips, although the stock is super tempting as it dips below $20. The future of virtual reality in video games and in general might see Nvidia as a big player.

As TAGN reported, Blizzard (ATVI) announces results next week on 8/4, followed by an announcement of a new expansion a few days later on 8/6. Interesting.

In the last two quarters, Blizzard reported strong results and the stock popped. Both times I sold and took small profits. The stock might pop again, but right now Wall Street seems to be in a mood to sell any stocks after their results hit print.

Especially if a stock ran up into its earnings announcement.

I would not be betting on Blizzard’s stock to be higher the day after it reports. If ATVI sells off hard, it might be a buying opportunity, especially if the Wall Street boys aren’t completely up to speed with the expansion deal.

Also, if Blizzard is announcing their expansion earlier than normal at Gamescom, then maybe they are saving something even bigger for Blizzcon in November?


Rift Update 3.3 Today: A Casual Bonanza (And Some Stock Market Commentary)

Last week I jumped back into Rift, and I’ve had a good time running dungeons and doing warfronts. I earned the Arch General title for PvP last weekend almost too easily. The old rank 50 is probably trivial these days.

Rift’s 3.3 patch launched today and nose-dived into a crash though. The servers have been down for hours. The silver lining is a 50% compensation bonus to XP, PA, Favor, and Prestige through Sunday.

I’ve never used the word “bonanza” before, but I’m super impressed by this update. Trion is even focusing more on characters and story, bringing that all-important focus to both the new storyline and the new Tarken Instant Adventures.

Cosmologist Mann even has a wonderfully written backstory woven into the update notes! Here are the high points of the update:

  1. New Nightmare Saga storyline starts (new chapters are planned bi-weekly.)
  2. New planar crafting with new crafting rifts.
  3. New featured instant adventures in Tarken Glacier.
  4. New daily rewards and partner-finder for Chronicles, just like for dungeons and warfronts.
  5. New PvP equipment bringing PvPers, like crafters, closer to T2 raid gear.
  6. New shared bank vault.
  7. New awesome dimension stuff (haven’t looked at this yet).
  8. More wardrobe stuff.
  9. Easy-mode tiers for raids.
  10. L60 boosts are now in the store, no need to buy a pack.
  11. Mysterious Travelers have begun appearing throughout Telara. Where did they come from? What do they want? Only time will tell. (A new expansion coming?)
  12. Lots of other stuff.

Full patch notes here.

Trion is clearly favoring casual players with this Rift update (unless the story is brutal and requires grouping, extreme soloing, or raiding, a kick to the face that’s still possible).

Trion is also living up to their mission statement before Nightmare Tide launched: of providing legitimate ways of advancement (almost to parity with raiders, at least close) for all play styles.

I hope it works for them, because it’s the ideal in this kitty’s opinion. While the Rift population seems a little thin, the morale around town is relatively good on the surface. Maybe the kids are off playing Hearthstone and Trove.

If you haven’t played Rift in quite a while, this week might be a good time to jump back in for the XP bonus. I just hope it stacks with my subscription bonus.

There is also a deal to get free patron time by logging in this weekend, but I’m not sure how that works.


Personal – Video Game Stocks


In the last couple weeks during the China crash and Greece fiasco, I bought back into gaming stocks with Electronic Arts, and that has already paid off very well.

I also bought Microsoft on speculation at the breakout from the bottom of the most recent three-month pullback, which started last April after a big jump on good results from Microsoft’s growing cloud business.

Microsoft is really risky, but Sony just plain crashed due to reasons related to debt and borrowing. I can’t get back into Sony. News can’t get worse right now for Microsoft, so maybe it will be better from here.

Why didn’t I get back into ATVI (Blizzard)? I might if it breaks out of its normal plateau pattern. I believe in Blizzard, but the problem is also its debt combined with stagnant revenues. It has a huge amount more debt than EA (due to the Vivendi deal I assume.)

I’m trying to nibble into a position in FXI Hong Kong during the China market collapse right now, which puts me into Tencent, which is a Blizzard investor. I think I said I’d never do Tencent or EA, so I’m officially a hypocrite supporting the evil F2P/cash shop empires in video games.

While I’m skeptical of EA’s sports franchises, in a climate of increasing game company competition combined with ease of entry, I have to like the lock on Star Wars and those sports.

According to Dow Jones Newswire, EA hired Jade Raymond from Ubisoft last week. She’s supposedly helping to develop a Star Wars game that’s different from Battlefront due out in November, as well as leading a team to create a new IP.


Sympathy For The Devil: A Look At Devilian

Devilian characterToday I signed up for the Devilian beta (I think), navigating a number of broken buttons and website errors.

Trion’s ship looks creaky, with lots of hate in recent Devilian commentary. Devilian is Trion’s new effort to bring another Asian MMO to the west.

A lot of gamers will never play another Trion game after the bitter free-to-play experience in Archeage. I’ve always thought the best of Trion, but they’ve fallen.

Like angels.

I spent some hours watching videos and reading articles on Devilian. This Korean action RPG seemed random at first, maybe a gap-filler in Trion’s game stable. This is far from reality. Scott Hartsman has a plan.

(And so does Celestrata aka Sara Brennan from Turbine, who apparently now is a Trion employee. Congrats!)

As Trion’s spokesperson said in the Gamespot interview with Trion, the “hook” for the game is the social content. The dungeons, raids, guilds are very robust, along with world bosses, guild alliances. There is an aggressive gift-giving system. It pays to be popular.

MMORPG mentioned an Abyssal Tower Tournament. This massive tower has 100 floors, and each level of it gets progressively harder. The farther you go within, the more loot and rewards you get. It’s competitive PVE, with the people who get the farthest and the fastest getting the most rewards on the leaderboards.

I love public dungeons like this. There are also Rift-type events that spawn landscape monsters.

MassivelyOP reported that Scott Hartsman was deeply impressed with Devilian’s social features. So it seems Devilian plans to succeed with the same formula that helped Rift succeed: a heavy emphasis on grouping up both planned and unplanned.

Scientific studies show that grouping up releases pleasure chemicals in the brain, which is devilish in itself, Manugo-esque. It’s no accident that the Trion team identified these strengths of Devilian and chose to publish the game. I hope it’s successful. (And I hope I can get a beta invitation so maybe I can write a new guide.)

Here are some more features of Devilian, gleaned from the above linked sources as well as an excellent post by DMKano in the MMORPG forums.

  • Similar to Diablo 3, but is first and foremost an MMO.
  • Quest driven game with a story-line.
  • You can spec many ways to customize your character.
  • End game has alternate advancement.
  • Your equipment can also level up later on.
  • You can break down loot and use it to craft.
  • You’re a devilian–a half-human, half-devil shifter.
  • Guilds can level up and bestow perks on their members.
  • Guilds can form alliances to fight world bosses or defend against enemy guilds.
  • Yes, there are guild wars, completely consensual.
  • Rift-style instant adventures called eternal hunting grounds.
  • You are surrounded by 100s of players everywhere.
  • Mounts and pets.
  • Socketed gear is similar to Diablo.
  • Collectible card deck system that gives passive bonuses.
  • Can be played casually (i.e. 15 minute popcorn) to hardcore.
  • 4 classes – Berserker, Elementalist, Assassin and Gunner
  • Each one has three specialization trees.
  • PvP 20v20 and 3v3 matches.

This game might appeal to me. I liked Aion for quite a while. It doesn’t take much to ruin a game for me though. I quit playing Guild Wars 2 when I found out my main (Guardian) was destined to become a ‘Dragonslayer’ (the new advanced class.)

Imagine if every western game featured giant pandas because EVERYONE loves pandas. Pandas sell games. Everyone wants to fight huge evil pandas, right?! That’s how I feel about dragons.

Devilian has only four gender locked classes, and apparently it puts a hundred players on the screen at once, to underscore how generic you are.

This is concerning, but maybe it’s par for the course for today’s action RPG players. I wouldn’t know. The release of Devilian is planned before end of 2015. We’ll have to wait and see.

I’m still cheering for Hartsman and Trion, in any case.


More Reading


Devilian Official Website
MMORPG Player Write-Up On The Korean Beta (Recommended)
MMORPG Article


Weekly Wyrm: Achievement Complete

game screen

This week I’m working on my fantasy RPG, because last week I finished the final edit of my fourth novel, wrapping up eight months of working almost every minute of every day. My novels are epic length (130k+ words). I’ll start publishing this fall.

So I think I’ve written the same amount as Tolkien at this point. I have five books–a trilogy and two one-offs that expand on the most important characters and settings (Earth, Tartarus, Elysium, and Heaven). These add to my published short stories.

My novels aren’t pure genius, but they aren’t crap either. They’re *so* much better from having been written all at once.

All five novels have had 10-30 full re-writes or revisions over fifteen years. I took two years off work. I tortured, maimed, murdered, and enslaved a respectable number of characters who had perfectly nice lives before I came along.

I invented my own language–Demonic.

Instead of using a profound Tolkien knowledge of linguistics to create Demonic, I channeled the syllables from an Atlantean spirit guide named Neemoo. So don’t make fun of my Demonic language, because Neemoo is just a boy, and you might hurt his feelings.

Do I even read novels anymore? No. I’ve read a thousand works of fiction, but almost none in two decades. I was busy writing for like 10,000 hours.


*Must* You Use The Product To Be Good At Making It?


I was thinking today that I don’t agree with Linda “Brasse” Carlson‘s hiring strategy, as discussed in a previous post here about Trion’s livestream, where Linda and company were talking about getting hired at Trion.

Linda wants to hire people who are passionate about video games, but that seems like only hiring carpenters and plumbers who are passionate about “houses”–i.e. passionate about living in houses, decorating houses, a nice patio for barbecuing, a foyer to die for, raising a family in a house, and enjoying the fruits of houses.

Was Howard Roark (Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) passionate about office buildings? No. He was passionate about designing and building buildings. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the stuffed shirts who lived and worked in those buildings. He just wanted to cut the crap and reach for his vision.

Gamers often lambaste devs with the suspicion that they don’t even play their own games. That’s probably true most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t raise the roofbeams like nobody’s business.

There are too many metaphors to even start supporting my point, and Linda Carlson’s point is probably more complicated in terms of human resources. Walter White (Heisenberg) also says no, and video games seem a lot like methamphetamine.


RPG Writing Ruminations


So this week I’m back on my video game project. I’m posting a screenshot here of my interface so far (open in a new tab to see a larger size). The game is playable except for combat, which needs a lot of (boring) thought about strength and intelligence and spells, and worse of all, animation.

Animation is a pain, precious.

I’ve made some important and interesting changes based on my observations of what worked and didn’t work in recent games I’ve played, mainly Pillars of Eternity. I wanted to write down my thoughts in a mini-developer diary.

The first companion characters in Pillars (Calisca and Heodan) are my favorites, and yet Pillars throws them away. This is a mistake. So why are these characters my faves? What qualities do they have, which the later characters don’t show, at least not right away?

Love-at-first-sight Bonding. I’m starting to wonder if the first people you meet in a game world form a special bond in your brain. It’s like being born into a new world, and your mind grasps onto the first friendly face you see. That’s why the first characters are so important.

Of course, the most important character in the story is you, the player.

Calisca and Heodan have strong goals. In the Pillars opening sequences, this means survival against an immediate threat. My Jedi master of writing, Jack Bickham, stresses the importance of the immediacy and realness of the threat. Pillars nails this.

Goals are imperative for NPCs. We can do better than “sure I’ll come along, why not, safety in numbers, I wouldn’t mind–”

Calisca and Heodan have inter-character conflict. Right away Calisca and Heodan are at odds over which path to take. You decide, and there are consequences. The only way this amazing starting survival scenario in the cave could be stronger is if your decision develops your own character a little more.

Conflict is super-important not only to create tension and move the plot forward, but also to develop characters with emotion. So I need to hit these important points with the NPCs. Conflict, goals, and the first characters you meet are highly important. I re-wrote the beginning of my game (again) because of these observations.


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