Category Archives: MMO’s We Follow

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?

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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.


Guild Wars 2 Revisited: Defying Classic Conventions

guild wars 2 combat
So I’m super-enjoying my gentle return to the beautiful, yet (of course) corrupted and war-ravaged lands of Guild Wars 2. Some things I’ve noticed by virtue of a “beginner’s mind” are:

Tons of tones in character creation. I’ve puzzled in recent months why Elder Scrolls, Rift, and Pillars of Eternity don’t give you more choices. What’s wrong with smoky purple thighs?

Auto-level matching in an area. It’s so nice get matched up to the content. Less worry about this meta-issue.

Auction House. I gave up on auctions in Elder Scrolls at the end, and was just vendoring everything. The GW2 trading post is a web app spliced into the game UI, and there are so many bids that you can sell everything almost instantly, plus get all proceeds in one lump instead of opening twenty mail items. It’s almost overly easy, but still a relief.

Megaserver And Maps. I was worried a few years ago that megaserver architecture would ruin immersion, but the benefits of the many outweigh the friendship of the few. The dynamic GW2 maps are also brilliant and surely the envy of other MMOs.

Community. I’ve been really impressed by the GW2 forums and community, especially when the game should be in low ebb before an expansion launch.


A Game World Unplugged


I seem to be going down the same old road of disconnection from the Guild Wars “world”, though. The main design goal of GW2 is to throw MMO design conventions on their head, that is–to kill the traditional quest hub and move all quests out into the roads, ruins, and hills, increasing the world immersion, ironically.

Some of these random quests are fabulous, like using a cow-launcher to get to an overlook, or failing to save a traveling caravan from a bandit attack, leading to a new dynamic quest to strike back and retrieve the stolen goods from those bandits.

The exploration in Guild Wars 2 is also a joy, and I’ve spent oodles of hours working on map completion.

The primate mind works on the principle of dominance, which is why this principle has been golden in art and design for thousands of years. This principle works for all art, novels, and the zones and NPC quest givers in World of Warcraft. I haven’t found a Goldshire in Guild Wars 2 yet, nor a Gandalf.

In Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci used his sfumato technique to render a beautiful backdrop of hills, woods, and bridges. I wonder how many people care about that landscape.

Would six million people visit the Mona Lisa each year if we removed the Mona Lisa completely, leaving only a beautiful, intriguing landscape, ripe for the plundering? No. You get the picture.

The result is lots of well-made and voiced NPCs, but they are still generic (to this kitty).

After completing quests from these NPCs, you’ll also get personal letters and notes from them via the mail. The notes are brilliantly written, and the writers have done their jobs well. The problem is that after you get twenty mails, they all start to look the same, and you know you’ll never see these pixels again. There is no point in remembering those names.

So it’s the principle of dominance. The human brain (or at least this kitty’s) needs a few solid lifelines to focus on. I remembered that I originally quit Guild Wars 2 because I’d completed the level 30 story quests. I was grinding at level 35, and my next story quest was level 40.

I just lost the lifeline at that point. What happens if you tell your ten-year-old kid he can’t read another chapter of his favorite book until ten weeks from now. He’s going to go read another book, and that’s exactly what happened with me.

This time I plan to keep going. Removing the Mona Lisa from the picture is better than removing the Mona Lisa’s nose and flashing notices in the middle of my screen letting me know the feature is now on sale in the game store.

Plus, I love my guardian’s quirky swooping Owl Attack. Hoo hoo.


World Of Darkness: Risen From The Grave

vampire bite vintageOne year ago this month, the World of Darkness MMO project was cancelled by CCP games.

Today, Matt Firor at Zenimax Entertainment announced they’ve purchased the rights to make World of Darkness using their Elder Scrolls Online platform.

“We’ve always loved our vampires,” Matt was quoted as saying. “We’ve decided to devote 100% of our resources towards making a great vampire MMO. All development content from our current Fallout Online project will be converted into just one vampire zone: the sewers of New York.”

This makes total sense, because the sewers of New York are probably radioactive anyway. And who needs another post-apocalyptic survival game, really.

The zombies have eaten up the genre, and it’s time to move on. Modern corporate culture resonates instead with sex, violence, and profiting from sucking every drop of life out of anyone you can oppress for your benefit.

So it’s finally going to happen, and this kitty is quivering in her collar with excitement. Finally an MMO developer with real chops has seen the light in the Darkness, and a seraph will rise from the epitaph.


Weekly Wyrm: Feb. 21, 2015

Last week I wound up Rift for a while. I have a raid-ready set of gear. I joined a large guild full of really nice people. I also successfully healed several expert dungeons as a Chloromancer for the guild group. They said I was really good!

Those were all of my goals. It’s time to focus on the novels. In recent weeks, I polished off ten years of work on my first two manuscripts. My second book is even better than the first, I think. I brought in more thoughtfulness and philosophy. It’s up to the readers to give the final verdict.

Now I’m trying to finish my third book so I can publish the trilogy all at once. I can’t publish only the first two because the second book throws such a tragic ending and cliff-hanger in the reader’s lap. It’s The Empire Strikes Back on crack.

The third book resolves the main romance arc (not the overall main story arc, which ends in my manuscript for book five, concerning vampires), and also addresses big questions in my head about love and desire.

Is it a good idea to hold love above all things? What sorts of love exist, and how can fictional characters be properly tortured by these sorts of love? Fiction writers are sadists at heart.

I shy away from too much horror. It’s a fantasy, after all. I don’t like books to be too depressing. We have real life for that. We also have old school, when things were more grim, when we had plagues, wars, and fires that destroyed entire sections of cities.

Actually, my books have a stereotypical world-ending plague, lots of fires, and the greatest war of all, the one between good and evil, so never mind.

On that topic, I’m also wanting to get back to the elven spiritual path. I want to read poetry and spend more time in the woods. I’m house sitting out near the mountains in a few weeks. I might have to take a few long walks.

The motivation to make this post was to try Tumblr’s new “EMBED” feature for HTML and Javascript. Surely this can’t possibly work on this free WordPress blog, but if it does, then the GIF files will show below. The question in this kitty’s head is: Why hasn’t anyone done a cats and dogs MMO? Would it be so much more boring than pirates and wizards? You heard it first here on Kitty Kitty.

(Ok, it looks like they give you a link if the script fails. So there you go. As if boys needed more encouragement to act like animals.)

http://thinkthroughtheheart.tumblr.com/post/68887226991/10knotes-kiggor-what-if-your-friends-acted