Tag Archives: MMO

Never Buy An MMO On Steam

ffxiv screenshot
This has always been my rule, to avoid issues. Two days ago I broke the rule and bought FFXIV:ARR on Steam. This stupid kitty is already paying the price.

Today I bought the expansion (Heavensward) on the SE website, and they refuse to register the key they gave me. I have to buy the expansion and all subsequent expansions on Steam now, apparently, or re-purchase the main game.

This might be my first real problem with a game purchase, unless you count Daikatana (nearly unplayable), or the original (nearly unplayable) launch of FFXIV, for which I paid full price. Congratulations, Square Enix.

I went to FFXIV this week because I finished Skyrim plus Dawnguard. I’d planned to try Elder Scrolls Online again, since they are adding nameplates and making grouping “less painful“, among other things.

(The wording of the Massively article title is appropriate.) So I cleared 55GB of space on my SSD to install ESO, and 55GB was not enough. I’d totally forgotten about the 100% voice-over.

A 100% voiced MMO is like watching a badly lip-synced animated movie based on a book that was never published. It just can’t get the lore and characters across. Elder Scrolls has the in-game books, but they are mostly disconnected anecdotes.

If no connections are made or reinforced in the player’s mind (building on what he or she already knows) then an opportunity is lost. Imagine a novel that stops and tells little stories on the side periodically about random people elsewhere in the setting.

It’s going to be hard to read, even if lusty Argonian maids are involved.

Even the most silly side quest can strongly develop the characterization of a place, a race, or a character. All content should tie into the main stories or characters somehow, some way, just like in a well-crafted novel.

I’m having fun with FFXIV:ARR so far. It’s quirky, creative, story-based, and greatly improved. I can play any classes and jobs on one character. They have nameplates. They have a functional Auction House.

FFXIV originally launched with a far worse auction system than Elder Scrolls, but the (replacement) devs had the sense to fix the issue, instead of stating that they will never, ever add a real auction house (Elder Scrolls).

Despite repeated player crying, begging, and quitting since launch. I’ve seen a few players say they won’t come back unless there is an auction house. That’s just one of the tick boxes for this kitty.


Skyrim/Dawnguard Writer’s Reaction


I really enjoyed Skyrim after installing the right mods. Dawnguard was a very impressive DLC. My overall impression of Skyrim was that I wished the companions were fewer and better, and the story was more about my character and choices. Dawnguard nailed all of that.

The character of Serana was excellent in her role as a vampire storyline sidekick. This is a really effective plot device, also used to great effect in LotRO with Nona (and then abandoned, inexplicably.)

Serana’s comments and banter add great flavor, although she sounds too sweet and mild. This is surprising because the voice actress, Laura Bailey, also does Jaina Proudmoore in WoW. Jaina’s more commanding, arrogant tone that would have been more appropriate for a vampire princess hundreds of years old.

The transformation of the player character into a vampire, the childe of Serana (the option I chose at the end after taking Castle Volkihar) also has a silly zero seriousness.

“Oh, you want me to make you a vampire? Ok, if you’re sure! Get ready!”

It was the same as getting married in Skyrim. Maybe the devs were targeting the lowest common denominator, which is apparently a ten year old playing a Nintendo game. In both cases, some sort of meditative ritual quest wouldn’t have killed them to implement. Maybe their enormous pantheon became the problem.

Another observation is that Skyrim overall focuses heavily on the vampires, werewolves, rogue, Daedra, and werewolf factions, while neglecting the good and light factions. I really enjoyed the spiritual path quests in Morrowind (Tribunal, Imperial Cult). Maybe I somehow missed the Skyrim priest and paladin-themed quest lines.

Skyrim as a whole was a scene of universal violence and corruption, with everyone trying to kill everyone else. The moral grey areas are fertile ground for great writing, but the darkest shadow can only be found by contrast with the brightest light. I kept waiting for the titular “Dawnguard” to flesh out and ascend to greatness and holiness.

You get new skills, a new and powerful transformational form, and new combat modes for being a vampire, but you get nothing for being a Dawnguard. The imbalance is awkward.

I’ll probably play ESO when I transfer my backup hard drive to my main PC, something I’ve been putting off for a year. For now the kitty will see what FFIV brings.


Elder Scrolls Online: Nameplates Coming

skyrim mod

While playing Skyrim, I miss my ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) high elf Templar.

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of ESO. Most reasons I left the game I know are still in place: no real Auction House, only four classes with a very limited skill bar, and a super-obtuse UI that’s difficult to navigate.

I’d almost forgotten about the missing nameplates.

I remember when the ESO devs were showing off their game pre-launch, practically thumping their chests proudly at their amazing non-existent interface. Apparently they hadn’t noticed how much players don’t like their interface.

SkyUI – the super-popular interface-fixer mod for Skyrim, has over eleven million downloads. That’s a shocking number, apparently about one download for every two copies of Skyrim sold on all platforms (22 million) worldwide.

Last month the ESO devs actually announced they are planning to make the ESO interface a little less painfully opaque. They are planning to put back nameplates, which have been gone since beta. (I saw them – they weren’t glorious, but they worked.)

Apparently it only took two years of begging from players (I was one of them early on) and even a Change.Org petition!

I’ll probably give ESO another try in subscription mode as soon as I finish Skyrim.  I miss my elf, and I miss open world cooperation.  ESO has a strong focus on open world coop, i.e. Delves.

In the Orsinium preview last fall, the Creative Lead said public dungeons are a place they want to get more characters to, so they increased the experience rewards.  I love public dungeons.

Rift also has excellent grouping, public and otherwise, but I’m not ready to return yet.  Archonix put out a producer’s letter this week.

Rift has introduced login rewards, and intends to roll out multi-core and 64 bit client support this year, along with new souls, and new Carnival content.


Hearthstone


In other news, Blizzard announced a major change to Hearthstone – new ways to play. Casual and ranked play will be broken into an official tournament division using only the most recently released decks of cards, while a “wild mode” will allow all cards from all sets.

I think it’s a great and needed change for various reasons. The players get a lot more new cards. The devs are less constrained, so they can do more creative things.

The game is free, so the amount of money that players spent on the retired cards (Naxx and GvG initially) in “standard” mode is not that much money over a two-year time period, unless they spent far too much in the first place. The real catch is the amount of money needed in the future to keep up with the pace.


Gaming Stocks


Stocks today (Friday) are giving up on their attempt to rally from Bear mode, and are dying in a fire. Even companies announcing great results this quarter (Google, Facebook), are being pummeled (down 4% and 6%).

That’s not wild mode – that’s crazy mode. Blizzard’s stock is continuing to get killed, and I’m now back to break-even.

I sold my Electronic Arts last week at break-even after they reported lackluster results, and the stock dropped 8% in one day. So I’m happy enough to see it drop another 10% this week.

I also sold Alibaba last week because I realized it’s a liquid trading proxy for China, and it no longer trades on its own merit. So that means I have to play that game, so I’m looking for the chart of the China ETF (i.e. FXI), to break out of the downsloping pattern before buying back into Alibaba as a proxy for China.

I’m just holding Activision-Blizzard and Microsoft until hell freezes over. Blizzard debt is even more of a potential albatross with the rising interest rates (I think?) but clearly no one else understands characters and can create new IPs and cross-marketing like they can.

The Electronic Arts CEO was going on (in their conference call) about Star Wars Battlefront’s great visuals, and how they are trending for a younger demographic. Apparently their new direction isn’t working well for them, since they drastically missed their revenue estimates, which actually fell from last year according to Zack’s.

So happy Friday! This went longer than expected, so next time I’ll try for an update on my game project. I’m programming this weekend. Last weekend was art.

I’m puzzled a little trying to make elves look like elves, and not like humans with pointy ears. If anyone has a genius observation, I’d love to hear it! The below portraits need a few touches still.

Professor Aspen is supposed to be an homage to Professor Snape (Alan Rickman, who passed on last month), but the semblance isn’t exactly brilliant.  The elf naming needs research and decisions.

elf ports


Weekly Wyrm: Trion Livestream, Devilian Etc.

Devilian Screenshot

This week I finished part one of Life is Strange, got halfway through Act 2 of Diablo 3, went from level 35 to 55 in Guild Wars 2, and played some Devilian Beta.

I’m not motivated to advance past level 30 in Devilian. The beta characters will be wiped before launch, which is expected by the end of the year. So I focused on watching the Friday official livestream.

Drewcifer (producer for Devilian NA/EU) mentioned not wanting to launch against Star Wars, and also implied a reluctance to go against all the current big releases this month in November.

Since Star Wars ep. 7 is December 18, and Battlefront is this coming week on the heels of Fallout 4 and Black Ops, this kitty guesses Devilian in 3-4 weeks after Thanksgiving.

Drewcifer said a new super-momentous producer letter will be released in the coming days, to be discussed next Friday on the next livestream. So I’d guess we get a release date.

Trion also mentioned some new team members on Devilian. I’ve started working on a newbie guide, but I’m just trying to learn the game myself at this point. So we’ll see.

Anyone can supposedly join the beta this weekend by buying the $20 starter pack.

Victoria Voss said if you’re interested in streaming Devilian, please contact them via the forums, and they will help you get set up.

Drewcifer said there was nothing they can do about the gender-locked classes, which is the most criticized feature at this point. The devs said there is no chance of doing opposite genders for each class, but they mentioned a possibility of adding variations of classes with the opposite gender.

More classes are coming to Devilian in the coming months, which is more than Elder Scrolls Online can say 18 months after launch. One new class was previewed recently, and it’s a great addition to the female selection.

The two current female options are cute and cuter, so the bad girl theme is a really good idea, as is melee. For the sake of the game, a wizard or ranger type for the guys seems even better.


Rift


In the Rift livestream, the devs mentioned they are bringing the Sparkle Quest back, along with Rift patch 3.5, which will include Fae Yule. Last year’s Sparkle Quest was a weekly where you did all sorts of Rift content, and you could get a random piece of tier gear.

This time will not be a weekly that turns all players magically into insane hamsters. You can only do it once for a tier 3 piece. You’ll be able to choose if you want DPS/heal or tank gear. It’s still random between those two types. No weapons this time. Only armor and accessories.

Patch 3.5 will also bring upgrades to PvP gears, PvP convenience improvements, and a button on the crafting panel that lets you jump directly to the correct component to buy in the store. Now that’s some seasonal joy!

Also, all mounts can now be made amphibious, but they still need to be unlocked. The devs went to great efforts to do this, and they need fat paychecks for their NorCal rent. Trion is also hiring, but they apparently need lots of senior and director people.


Personal



This week I was also reading and uploading new versions of my books to stamp out typos. It’s depressing that I made so many mistakes in my final attempt to be perfect. The editor has been flogged.

At least two succubus-focused reviewers may be looking at my books soon, so I’m also marketing more towards the succubus theme at this point. I’m advertising for that on a super-secret bad girl blog.

It’s secret, but I have 750 followers on that blog. How does that happen? Believe it or not, video games are not the most popular online topic.

Today I tried to make sushi. I made the rolls ok, but the rice tasted horrible. I’m still burping up that fake crab leg crud. The sweet potato roll was more promising. I’ll try to do better next time, senpai.

Happy Friday, and happy gaming.


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?