Too Much Chaos

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  No its okay… I promise I won’t be grumpy, ranty Bel today.  Quite honestly my initial rage over the horrible infrastructure of Final Fantasy XIV is over for the most part.  I said many things in my anger yesterday, that I wish I could take back… namely had a few choice fights with friends.  Today’s post is my attempt at an apology.  Hopefully I will be able to mend whatever fences that berserker Belghast tore down in the process.

Dealing Poorly

Yesterday at the time I wrote my post, and subsequent posts I made on the Stalwart guild forums… I was a very pissed off Bel, filled with lots and lots of righteous indignation.  I had to vent out that anger in the only way I felt was safe to do it… with my words.  The problem is that has long lasting negative repercussions as well.  My words tend to have a lasting effect long after the anger that caused them has subsided.  So this morning while I am pretty chill about the whole situation… the reverberations of my anger are still bouncing around.

As a young adult I had issues with anger, namely because I didn’t feel like I really could express it.  I felt like I had so many expectations on the way I should act and behave,  so as a result I would keep packing down the frustration and rage somewhere beneath the surface.  I guess I had hoped that it would just fade away.  The problem is it never really did and there was a buffer of only so much crap I could take before it would all come spilling out in a torrent towards whoever was the last person who pissed me off.  The “last straw” never ended up being someone worthy of my rage… just the last unfortunate soul who ended up adding something to the stack.

Then all these frustrations would come spilling out in a pyroclastic blast targeting whoever happened to be in the way.  I remember there was an incident I am not proud of at all… where a friend had been picking on me about something… working a sore nerve over and over.  The kid was not a bad kid, nor did he really mean what he was saying… but it finally reached a point where it had built up over the course of a few days and I just snapped.  I ended up picking him up and next thing I knew I had thrown him down a flight of stairs.  Thank god he was okay…  but it was at that point I realized that I could actually hurt someone with my anger.

Too Much Chaos

Basically at that point I realized that I could no longer afford to keep packing the powder keg and holding in every little bit of anger… because when it finally exploded I really had no control over the direction the explosion would occur.  For the most part the idea of venting more often has worked for me… but at times there are just things that I can’t vent about.  So lately I have been packing the powder keg once more… and the accumulation of little frustrations and anger here and there that I just could not react to have been building.  While I don’t really think of myself as an extremely ordered person… I feel like I can only really handle so much uncertainty and chaos in my life.  I am good at dealing with small variations in my daily life… but for the most part I need the majority of my routine to remain unaltered.

The last month has been a combination of so many chaotic situations clashing at one time.  Firstly my work environment has been insane… until Monday morning we had 61 active projects divided up among 3 employees… myself included.  The bulk of these projects involve me juggling my time in a way so that I get just enough done… to keep from pissing any one business unit off.  Every single one of these projects is some business units “number one priority”… so quite honestly I take a lot of the chaos on myself to protect my team mates from it.  My thought has always been that if I could keep them focused on individual tasks… and me working on the random occurrences we could get more done than if all of us were being interrupted constantly.

Added to this… my home life has been a mess lately as well.  My wife is a school teacher, so the last month and a half has been entirely about the preparation for going back to school.  This involves accumulating materials, with our weight loss finding clothing, and finally all of the responsibilities of day to day living shifting back onto me.  She literally ends up working 80 hours per week once you factor in all the after hours work… so as a result during the school year I pick up the slack with household chores.  But each year there is a massive adjustment period as I try and deal with her being in a state of chaos as she gets used to going back to dealing with school work 24/7.

On top of this our weekends have been pure chaos lately as our neighbor… decided within two weeks to get married.  So my wife was pulled in a completely different direction just as the height of the back to school crap was starting, in trying to help out with the planning of that as well.  Additionally I got put in a position where I had to photograph my very first wedding.  All of which were things I just could not say no to.  Now that the wedding is over… the neighbors daughter has had to have emergency surgery… so the chaos continues on in helping deal with that.  I say neighbor but they are basically our family…  when I had the massive bleed out incident a few years back… she was the one that cleaned up the mess while I was in the emergency room.  Likewise any time anyone has ever gotten hurt… we have been the ones that got called and rushed to the hospital.

Finally… we have the Final Fantasy XIV launch.  With all the rest of this chaos in my life… I just could not take the one sanctuary I had left…  my gaming world to be thrown into a disarray as well.  So yesterday I blew up in a whole bunch of directions when I finally reached my peak of crap I could deal with at one time.  Quite honestly I think I made myself sick in the process… and after I had exploded out my rage…  I just felt woozy and sick to my stomach.  I had essentially done what I have tried not to do… I packed the powder keg and let it explode on its own.  All of the things I could not react to… because I had to be a “good guy” and take it in stride… just came pouring out and the failed game launch became my target.

After the Storm

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So as I said… this is my way of apologizing to the people I offended yesterday… and the ones that got in the path of my rage.  Since I spent the last two days complaining about the Final Fantasy XIV launch… I felt like there was a point that maybe I had not given enough time to.  The game itself is extremely good, when you can get into it and actually play.  Last night after much frustration, a group of players managed to make their way through the login lottery and we pulled together a dungeon group.  At a point in the main story arc, you are lead through the three level 15ish dungeons available to players:  Satasha, Tam-Tara Undercroft, and Copperbell.  This is going to be a point of content for some players… because the main storyline quest halts until you have run all three.

I had not been able to do any of the quests, and there were various other members of our party that were missing one or two of the later dungeons.  So as a result last night we just ran the entire quest chain back to back.  I have to say… I am surprised at just how well our group managed.  The marauder is a seemingly extremely capable tank.  Essentially I used a combination of overpower and the cross class gladiator flash skill to hold AOE aggro on multiple targets.  There were many cases where when pulls were timed correctly we could get single mobs, instead of chaining large groups.  The dungeon style was somewhere between Burning Crusade “Crowd Control Everything” and Wrath of the Lich king “AOE Roflstomp”.  Essentially they felt just about perfect.

Basically in each of the dungeons there was a golden path you could take..  that would get you from point A to point B the fastest… or there was a more indirect route that would lead you past a large number of treasure chests along the way.  We chose to take the more winding path and while most of the chests gave us potions or crafting materials… we did manage to get a few pieces of pink gear in the process.  The dungeon design as a whole felt extremely solid, and I look forward to seeing the later ones as the difficulty ramps up.  I hope soon to run the same three dungeons, but this time as gladiator to get a feel for which tanky class I like better.

Really Damned Good

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Basically the problem with FFXIV is that it really is amazingly good.  The game lands somewhere for me between World of Warcraft and Rift… in that you have a WoW like world… that happens to be filled with lots of random events and various event style quests that you can do.  Additionally everything scales downwards… and as a result you can continue to do all of these events as it will sync your level.  When we stepped into the dungeon last night… it synced us all down to level 15 without any player intervention.  The only negative about their system however is the fact that you actually lose abilities… rather than just scale them downwards.  Everquest 2 used to do this same thing… and it was extremely frustrating losing an ability that you had come to rely on.

It is that the gameplay is really great that makes the poor infrastructure at launch all that more of a tragedy.  I have teetered back and forth on the edge of whether or not I would be playing this long term for some time.  Ultimately I want to find a way to mix in playing this and playing Rift at the same time.  Tonight for certain I will be back in Rift, as there are lots of things I want to do there… and the worst part about playing FFXIV has been the absence of all my guildies from Rift.  I think tonight I either want to kill many rifts, or try and do a dungeon.  I have not tanked in Rift in ages… and I want to dust my spurs off and get back in the action there.

Anyways where I was going with this…  was that I hope my rants over the last few days do not permanently sour people against Final Fantasy XIV.  It is a really solid game if you can get past the infrastructure and just play it.  My only suggestion would be to wait until the server problems have worked themselves out in the next few weeks before taking the plunge yourself.  Since dungeons automatically scale, you will likely always be able to find support for the early dungeon running.  The world is amazingly populated despite all the issues logging in.  I think more than anything, they have had a far bigger response than anyone ever could have imagined from a re-launch of an originally failed game.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get out the door and on the road.  Lots of crap to do today… and lots of issues that need to be dealt with.  I plan on playing Rift tonight, because quite frankly I miss it.  Now that the madness and the anger over not being able to play FFXIV has subsided, much of the “omg I have to log in” has as well.  I feel like I need a chill night of just piddling around in Telara.  I hope you all have a great day, and that this midpoint in the week goes smoothly.

Login Lottery

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  I am up roughly 30 minutes early today, so here is hoping I can still ramble out something vaguely intelligible.  I am going to warn you… today’s post is going to be pretty ranty.  If you are susceptible to that sort of thing you might simply skip it.  Additionally if you are one of the legion of Final Fantasy apologists that seems to have sprung up on the forums…  you might also want to skip the post.

Login Lottery

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The above animated gif pretty much displays the last three days of trying to play Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn.  I have gone through this process hundreds upon hundreds of times attempting to play the game since Saturday evening.  Originally I accepted this as being a weekend problem that they could not fix while the united states data centers were in “weekend” mode.  However we have now had a full work day in the US and as of last night the problem is still present.  Ultimately what I take the most offense to is the fact that I have no real hope of logging in unless I waste my entire evening following the above sequence of events for hours…  hoping to finally win the login lottery.

I find it completely inexcusable that a game like this does not have an actual queue system.  To the best of our knowledge the upper bound of the queue is roughly 500 players.  Sunday evening we saw a few queues in the 400s so we are guessing that 500 is the nice round number it is set to.  You would think that you could simply just spam away at trying to login until you saw a queue… and you would be wrong.  At three points last night I got into the queue… and all three times I was in it only for a few minutes before being returned to the dreaded 1017 error.  While we have not reached the category of “worst launch ever”, I have to say they are taking the cake for the most incompetent infrastructure already.

The Root Cause

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This the sanctuary hub in the middle of the Central Shard near Gridania.  This is the sight you see at almost EVERY single city or hub in the game… players afking en masse.  Since the ability to log in at any given time is uncertain, players have taken to NEVER logging out as a way to combat this.  Since the logins are strictly locked to a specific number of players on the server at any given time… we end up competing for a smaller and smaller number of slots on a nightly basis.  Apparently it is standard eastern mmo practices to NEVER idle kick a player from the server.  As a result US/EU players are abusing the hell out of this and simply leaving their game running 24/7.

Essentially the crisis we are playing under is the epic conclusion of a bunch of really poor game decisions.  If they implemented a 15 minute idle kick that alone would likely clear up almost all of the issues.  Combine that with a real queue that you could functionally wait in knowing that eventually you would get into the game…  and it would lower a lot of the aggression of players.  Right now based on the temperature on the forums and social media in general… we are reaching a point where we the players want blood.

The Apology

Yesterday Naoki Yoshida issued an official apology… and quite honestly it is falling on deaf ears.

On behalf of the FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn Development Team, I would like to extend my deepest apologies to those Early Access participants who have had difficulty using the NA/EU data centers.

In response to a variety of issues, we have conducted emergency maintenance several times over the past few days. The first instance, which was conducted six hours following the beginning of early access, was for the purpose of addressing the errors 90000 and 3000, which were first discovered during phase 4 of the beta test.
Our server team then began taking measures to improve the performance of the lobby and duty finder servers. The subsequent emergency maintenance was necessary to implement their changes.

This maintenance proceeded as planned, and afterwards we verified that the stability of instanced battles and the duty finder was much improved. However, we then discovered that certain lobby servers had been improperly configured, and we were forced to conduct another brief maintenance to resolve this issue.

Although we have successfully addressed a number of serious issues in the past several days, we have nevertheless decided to implement login restrictions for the time being due to the extremely heavy load being placed upon the servers. In this way, we can ensure that the maximum number of players can play the game without risking a server crash. I know no one wants to wait to log in, but I hope you all understand why we believe this precaution is necessary.

Once again, I would like to sincerely apologize to all our players who have been unable to enjoy Early Access due to the tremendous congestion, the ensuing issues, and the frequent maintenance.

Everyone on the development and operations teams is dedicated to providing the best possible experience for our customers, and we will continue to do our utmost to resolve the remaining and any future issues.

FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer/Director, Naoki Yoshida

Essentially this apology while reasonably sounding… says absolutely nothing.  There is no course of action that they are taking to improve the problems.  Instead they say they are continuing to throttle the server logins… without showing any signs of doing anything to fix the root problems within their game.  What makes this all the more heinous is this is the second life for this game… a second chance to make it success… and so far they are squandering it with some pretty horrible support practices.

Right now I expect some sort of compensation for the head start that wasn’t.  We preordered with the expectation of being able to get in and play and that simply has not been the case for a hell of a lot of players.  This is just not an acceptable practice and I expect that the preorders should receive some sort of compensation for the lost head start time.  Essentially if you cannot log in during non-peak times… you cannot play period.  Ultimately my choice is either to join the problem and never log out… or to give up on being able to play at all.  Last night I finally gave up because at that point I had wasted two and a half hours clicking the 0 key over and over trying to log in.

Wrapping Up

Here is hoping that they pull their heads out of their collective asses and get some competent infrastructure staff on board that can fix their issues.  I wish to god the game were not enjoyable, otherwise I could simply write it off…  however when you ARE able to get in it is rather fun.  Ultimately it was the multi-classing that sealed the deal for me… and I am quickly falling behind my friends that can log in and off peak hours and play.  I just hope they fix something…  because right now the current state of the game is ridiculous.

Bad Launches

Good morning you happy people… it is the beginning of another work week and I still feel sore as hell from the weekends adventures.  The odd thing is my thighs are killing me… and I am guessing it was from all the random times I had to squat down to take a shot throughout the wedding festivities.  I still need to sift through the photos and cull it down to a final set of “wedding pictures”.  As I just reached up to scratch my forehead… it appears that the sunburn is starting to peel… so I have that itchy mess to look forward to over the next few days.

Pre-launch Problems

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The above animated image pretty much sums up my experience with the weekend pre-launch of Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn.  Essentially I got to play a bit before the wedding madness started on Saturday morning, and then at almost every point afterwards I received some form of an error trying to log in.  Essentially I think all of the issues encountered can more or less be chocked up to the poor infrastructure we have seen at various points during the other tests.  Almost everything about this weekend could have been reconciled if they had the forethought to include an actual login queue system.

Sure there is a sort of queue that exists, but the highest number in queue my friends and I have seen is somewhere in the 400s… which leads me to believe that the queue is limited to something ridiculous like 500 members.  This leads to the very fun process of spamming a character login only to get the ubiquitous 1017 error stating the world is full.  That is hands down the most frustrating part about the whole experience.  It seems like complete blind luck as to whether or not you are going to make it in.

Bad Timing

Ultimately another large portion of the failure that was the FFXIV head start, was the fact that they were holding it entirely over a weekend in North America.  Normally pre-launches begin on a Thursday night and continue on through Friday… at which time they can begin to see what the scaling issues are going to be like and adjust accordingly.  Holding it on a weekend essentially means that all infrastructure resources in North America are closed for the weekend.  I feel as though if they could have thrown a few more servers at this issue a lot of the problems would have been resolved.

Instead the game team and infrastructure resources are operating on a significant time lag.  An example is that Sunday evening… at what would be 8:30 am Japanese time… they managed to stabilize the JP servers.  As a result I was finally able to roll a character on the Japanese network of servers and at least spent a little time before going to bed playing around on Ultima.  My friends think that this morning we will see the EU/NA servers stabilize similarly.  I still question whether or not they actually care about customer service, but that is part of a much larger issue.

Bad Launches

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So far this is probably the worst game head start I have experienced.  Normally when a game launches, we get a few blissful days of stability during the head start as only the pre-orders get to play… and then can chill out for the first day as the servers burn around us knowing you already have characters that are pretty far into the game.  Quite honestly this is the first time that I can remember ever experiencing large periods of not being able to play the game at all… during a head start weekend.  Lots of head start experiences have been riddled with lag or other issues… but the game was at least partially playable.  During the entirety of the weekend I got roughly 2 hours of gameplay.

One of the things I found interesting however is that while talking to friends over text and mumble… I did not realize just how subjective a launch experience was.  For me I herald the launch of Rift as quite possibly one of the smoothest I had experienced.  However talking to one of my friends… he remembers tons of issues during that launch.  This lead me to crawl back through my forum posts and blog posts from the time… and I literally found no mention of any issues brought on by the launch.  Did I just not notice the issues because I was enjoying myself… or did I really not experience the problems that he had made note of.

So this makes me wonder… how many of the bad launches I have experienced are purely subjective?  For example, I considered Guild Wars 2 an extremely solid launch since it was playable for me the entire time… albeit I spent most of that time on the overflow shards.  However the simple fact that we could not really play on our “real” shards made it an extremely frustrating experience for certain other players.  Do they consider that launch a failure… whereas I consider it a pretty solid success?  Additionally I struggled with massive amounts of lag during the SWTOR launch, but my friends consider that to be one of the more successful launches to date.  It felt like a rocky start to me, and as such I got extremely frustrated by it.

King of Bad Launches

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So far the two worst launch experiences I have played under are both from the same company.  World of Warcraft has gone down in history as the rockiest start.  I can remember the game being more or less unstable for a solid month.  I remember almost always being able to connect to play the game… but functionally the server side lag made it next to unplayable.  There were times I could level without issue… so long as I never attempted to loot anything I did not already have in my inventory.  Likewise the launch of Diablo 3 was essentially an unplayable mess for the first few weeks and constant error codes.  I had far less forgiveness in me around that launch, because after the rocky wow start… they should have had better preparations in place for another blockbuster success.

The thing is… at the launch of WoW more or less the gamers dealt with not being able to play the game… because it was in so many ways leaps and bounds ahead of what else was currently on the market.  It was “worth” waiting for.  I feel like companies simply do not have the luxury of time to fix their problems.  I posted a complaint about the Final Fantasy launch over on G+ and immediately people brought up the failure that was Diablo 3.  Gamers tend to hold a grudge against the games that floundered and while some of them will develop a short memory and return to your game happily once the issues are resolved, there is a certain percentage that will never again trust your company.

With these catastrophic infrastructure failures… I feel as thought Final Fantasy XIV has roughly a weeks time to fix everything and get the servers in a relatively permanent state.  The roughest part is the fact that this is occurring during the pre-launch and we are not even seeing the final launch day crowds.  Right now every one of these frustrated players has the opportunity to log into amazon, or green man gaming and cancel their preorder.  I know of a handful of players who have done just this.  The rough reality is that other than the Final Fantasy diehards, the title is just not good enough overall to make the masses wait to play it.  There are way too many other games on the market, and many of them without the subscription fee.

Wrapping Up

Here is hoping that the next few days see massive improvements in the stability of Final Fantasy XIV.  Right now I am extremely disappointed and this probably goes down as the worst pre-launch I have experienced.  The next few days will determine if it can compete with Blizzard for the worst launch category.  Hopefully they can throw enough hardware at the problem to fix it quickly.  I hope you all have a great week, and that you were able to get in more playtime than I have to date.

Wedding Daze

Good morning folks… I return once more to my morning posts and am doing so in an extremely groggy fashion.  Before I went to bed last night I took some Motrin PM… and while the box says you should be prepared to sleep 6 to 8 hours… it seems as though my body wanted more like 10 to 12 hours.  As a result my thoughts are not entirely cogent, and I am spending a good deal of time just staring off in random directions searching for some purpose.  I just finished probably the worst sausage roll I have ever had, and now it is time to make words happen.

Wedding Daze

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Yesterday one of our oldest and dearest friends got married… and since for the most part they were trying to do the wedding on the cheap and quickly…  I got tagged to take the wedding photos.  If you read any of the posts leading up to yesterday, you could tell I was extremely nervous about the prospect of being responsible for recording a once in a lifetime type event for a good friend.  I would have simply hired one of my friends to do it… but I wanted to make sure that the family had full access to all of the photos without having to worry about re-ordering through someone else.  Ultimately I will write up a letter saying it is okay to reprint the photos and then they can take them literally anywhere to get larger photos made.

At this point… my everything hurts… literally.  Yesterday was a lovely day more or less, but an extremely hot and humid one.  The wedding was slotted to be outdoors and in an area without much shade.  Our friends decided to get married at her parents house… and they set up a nice makeshift altar… and were planning on having people seated on straw bales.  Again I have a massive problem with the concept of straw poking me in the ass when I am attending a wedding, but I understand the idea since straw is relatively cheap.  To make it a little bit more palatable they covered the bales with various vintage bed sheets.  As the photographer however I was literally on my feet from roughly 10 am until 1:30 pm or so when we took the final photos.

Respect Thy Father

After yesterday, I have a brand new respect for my father.  Essentially all of my life I have been attending weddings as my father shot a fair number of them each year as I grew up.  When I got into high school, I would attend them as his assistant, manning a camera from the balcony or some other stationary position getting long ranged shots of the key members of the ceremony.  So I grew up having the big moments of the ceremony ingrained in my head.  The only problem is… I am not my father… I just don’t enjoy taking pictures of people, nor do I really know the first thing about how to light them properly.

However even more than that… I simply do not have the juggling skills he always did.  The photos you take before and during the wedding are the easy part.  Sure I had to spend a lot of time running around to get the right angle at the right time and kneeling a lot to get the right shot… but this was all like riding an amusement park ride since the flow of the ceremony dictated a certain time frame.  Getting people to cooperate after the wedding was finished… that was the pure hell.  Everyone wants to derail the proceedings… and as a photographer all you care about is trying to get everyone to stand together in the right number of groups for the correct pictures.

While they don’t seem to care about getting the right shots… they most certainly care about them when you are done with the pictures and months later they realize they were left out of the pictures.  The key problem yesterday was the extreme heat and total lack of shade where the altar had been set up.  Everyone wanted to sneak away and get out of the wedding clothes.  It was 94* with pretty high humidity and next to no cloud cover to speak of… as a result everyone was having to combat the heat while wearing stuffy clothes.  Ultimately after making it through the family shots, and the brides family it was decided we all needed to take a break and since most of the grooms family was already eating… we would ultimately have to wait until after they finished.

Dehydration

In part the “waiting for them to finish” was a call I made because quite frankly I myself was in pretty bad shape.  I opted to wear a black shirt… since the inevitable sweat would not show on it… but in the heat that just made everything worse.  I allowed myself to get rather dehydrated over the course of the day, and at one point while taking pictures I kept bordering on blacking out from what I can only assume were the beginning stages of heat stroke.  My vision would go completely blank for a moment then recover… to say blacking out would be a misnomer I guess… since my field of view went completely white as thought I had just seem a huge explosion.  There was a wheel barrow full of water, and I downed three of them to try and catch up on my water consumption… but quite frankly it scared me more than a little bit.

Like I said above… I have a new found respect for my father because he always made this look so easy.  He would expertly juggle the distractions of the family members and burn through the photos in what felt like record time each time.  All the while doing this wearing a suit, even when the photos were taken outdoors in the heat.  I guess a huge difference is that my dad always had my mom there as the manipulator in chief… lining up the shots and making sure the right people were standing by waiting.  My wife was taking her own photos, but since neither of us are really good at dealing with human beings… we lacked that role of someone greasing the wheels and making sure everything was rolling along smoothly.

Ultimately I have a lot of respect towards both my parents and their ability to make the process of photographing a wedding appear effortless.  Ultimately we got the job done… and got all of the shots I thought we needed to make the family ultimately happy when they go through them later.  Now begins the hard process of culling down 1038 shots I took yesterday into a narrative that tells the tale of the wedding.  Encountering some technical difficulties this morning, as I realize that a Google album has a maximum of 1000 photos.  Essentially my normal process involves uploading everything to Google and then deleting out the photos I don’t view as “keepers” until I have a nice visual story to work with.

Wrapping Up

The order of business for today is to recover… and right now I am planning on planting my ass on this comfy couch for most of it.  I will be spending my time in a mixture of Rift and FFXIV and trying to do as little as humanly possible that actually “matters”.  I walked away yesterday with a pretty decent sunburn and I am hoping as the day goes on the pain fades.  Right now it is manageable and I can ignore it more or less.  Hoping you all have a great rest of the weekend… and you too can do as little as humanly possible that actually matters.

Defense of Subscriptions

So it is neither morning nor Saturday when I sit down to write this.  I am about to cheat massively at my one post per day thing… primarily because tomorrow is going to be pure hell.  I have to get up and around early because I have a wedding to photograph for a friend.  I am completely terrified at this prospect but I figure I will make it through one way or another.  However with all the mess going on tomorrow I simply will not have time to do my leisurely two hour jaunt through blog post land that I normally do.  As a result I am writing up my post on Friday… and since I am impatient I am going ahead and publishing it today as well.

Defense of Subscriptions

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Over the last few days since the joint announcements that Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online will be subscription based, I have seen a lot of negativity floating around the blogosphere.  You have one camp claiming this is the revival of subscriptions, and a diametrically opposed camp claiming this is a fluke and long live the free to play revolution.  Personally I can see a place for both in the game industry and I feel like we will see lots of both in the future.  Subscriptions are not going anywhere… because quite simply put high quality games have high dollar amounts associated with them.

Most of the games we now think of today as heralds of the free to play “revolutions” started their lifespan as a full functioning subscription based game with a $60 box cost and a $15 a month subscription fee.  This is the case for the Turbine games (Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online), the Cryptic games (Star Trek Online, Champions Online), the Sony Online Entertainment games (Everquest, Everquest 2, Vanguard, etc) and the new darling of the free to play market… Rift.  Each and every one of them experienced a decently long period of selling boxes and racking up monthly service fees before ultimately converting over to some sort of a freemium model.

Purely Free to Play

I was brainstorming with my friends, and quite honestly we had a hard time listing off significant MMOs that have launched as free to play.  There is a whole string of poor quality Asian market games that are too long to ever mention.  The only game I can really think of that does not have a subscription fee or box cost associated with it is Neverwinter.  Dragon’s Prophet to some extent is in the same boat, but it is still technically in open beta… and was also an Asian market transplant with a good deal of the costs simply being regionalization.  Neverwinter is most definitely a sub par gaming experience, with a good deal of incident costs hidden into the system and at least for me… overall forgettable gameplay.

As far as buy the box we have Defiance and Guild Wars 2… both of which appear to either be struggling or at least having a good deal of growing pains.  Trion has recently set about a massive restructuring of the company that involved dissolving the offices that supported Defiance and pulling that staff into the main offices in Redwood.  Guild Wars 2 has also going through a series of changes trying to deliver content at a more frenetic pace to try and keep paying customers glued to the screens.  Additionally with each update comes a slew of items that can only be acquired by unlocking the in game loot boxes.

My main issue to date with the Defiance and GW2 experiences is that while they are rolling out regular episodic updates… they are essentially throw away experiences and are only available for a limited time.  Defiance is really too young to fully judge, but they are about to release their first real DLC pack.  It will be interesting to see just how much content that adds to the game.  Guild Wars 2 on the other hand, seems completely tied to the concept of an expiring series of “living story” events.  In neither case are they really expanding the game on a regular and permanent basis to add value to that initial box purchase.

Paying Initial Cost

Rich game worlds with hundreds of hours of content cost an extremely large amount of money to develop, produce, market and ultimately distribute.  While I was disappointed when Wildstar announced its model, because ultimately it meant the cost of entry was just too high for someone like me… that only casually had interest in the game in the first place… I fully understood the decision to have a subscription.  Box costs and subscription costs help pay off the excessive costs of game development.  It has been said multiple times that the average blockbuster game costs far more than the average blockbuster movie.  Additionally the development of the game is a much longer drawn out process that someone has to bankroll until it finally sees a profit.

Lets take Elder Scrolls Online for example and try and work through some hard numbers.  Please understand that I am creating a pure guesstimate based on what I was able to pull together from Google.  Zenimax Online studios is in the Baltimore Maryland area, so there are certain broad assumptions we can make based on average costs in that region.  According to Wikipedia they moved into their current offices in 2008, and based on the E3 PS4 presentation, Elder Scrolls Online is slotted for a first quarter of 2014 launch.  That means that Elder Scrolls Online will have in essence been in development for roughly six years at the time of launch.  Please understand I am trying to just pull together some rough figures, it might have entered development before that and potentially after that.

The Hard Costs

Over the course of those six years, if you figure an average of 100 employees made an average of $45,000 a year… you get $27,000,000 in salaries alone.  Some employees will make more, likely some employees will make less.. and over the course of those six years you would have had significantly fewer than 100 and likely now in pre-launch mode significantly more.  From google we can see that the average price of office space in the Baltimore Maryland area is around $17 a sqft.  For sake of coming up with a figure we are going to say their offices are likely around 30,000 sqft, so taking that over the course of the six years you have $3,060,000 in rent.  Factor in a leased digital internet line ($300/mo), water ($400/mo), electric ($1000/mo), and gas ($400/mo) you have a vague guesstimate of $151,200 in utilities over those six years.  Finally if you figure roughly $3000 in computer equipment for each employee, you are at roughly $300,000 not factoring in ANY servers at all.

So far in things I can quantify you are talking about a guesstimate of over 30 million dollars on only a very few factors.  There are so many factors that we just cannot come up with a number for.  For example it was said that Star Wars the Old Republic took roughly 200 million dollars to develop… and that a majority of that was voice acting time.  This is something I simply cannot come up with anything sort of an estimate on.  All the voice acting rates I found online were so widely varied that they were meaningless especially when you consider the names that folks are getting are the Steve Blum’s of the world that are sought after for damned near every gaming project on the planet.  I don’t really know how detailed the voice acting is for ESO, but every demo I have seen to date gives me the impression that the game is fully voiced… which would lead me to guess bare minimum 100 million on the hundreds of hours of voice talent.

I’ve heard before that it costs roughly 1/3 of the total cost to develop a game… the rest of the costs go into marketing and distribution.  So at this point we are already sitting at around 130 million not factoring any tool licensing costs, or server infrastructure and network costs.  If that represents only a third of the total costs of the project… no wonder games NEED to sell boxes and charge a subscription to break even… let along fund future development efforts.  Essentially a AAA game experience is really damned expensive.  If you figure a company receives at most half of the $60 box cost… it would take selling over 3.5 million boxes just to make up for 100 million of the cost.  The reason why that $15 a month is so important is they are getting the entire portion of it.

Someone Has to Pay

Ultimately if we want nice games… someone has to pay for it.  Either these huge gambles can be paid off in box costs and monthly subscriptions… or they can be financed on the backs of a handful of “whale” players.  But ultimately there is no such thing as a free ride.  Game development and game infrastructure have large fixed costs that simply cannot be justified away by a players desire to not spend a dime.  We have nice free to play experiences in essence because players that came before you… paid for the cost of going there first.  They helped to pay off the loans that these companies I am sure have to take out to bankroll this kind of protracted effort.

AAA game studios simply cannot afford to build games out of the goodness of their hearts.  They have to pay ultimately hundreds of people just like you and me to build and support the games.  These are not nameless faceless corporations… they are businesses just like the one you likely work for… with a human resources department, and social security tax deductions and payrolls to make.  This is a real job for someone, and we can’t expect them to get some beer and pizza and knock out a game in their free time.  Overall the game industry pays some pretty shitty wages as compared to the IT industry as a whole.  I know for a fact that I make well more than any of my friends that currently work in the industry… and have pretty much since my first job out of college.

It is almost expected that part of the benefits package for these folks is the fact that they “get” to make games for a living.  Thing is though… they had to gain their skills the same way all of us did, with lots of hard work and sweat equity and now they work in an industry with next to no job security… because it all hinges upon the whims of whether or not gamers like us ultimately purchase their product.  So ultimately… all of these things factored in… I have ZERO problem with the concept of buying a box and paying a monthly fee when it is something I am committed to.  My friends in the industry need to eat, and pay rent, and survive on a day to day basis just like I do.

Free to Play

The free to play model seems to work extremely well at financing the daily upkeep and expansion of an existing game.  I think it has been the savior of a lot of games that have filtered their way out of the popular consciousness and were no longer drawing in active subscribers.  It is awesome being able to fire up an account you haven’t played in years, and revisit old characters.  While you are there more than likely you will spend at least a little money on the game.  Essentially it is the model of “some money is better than no money”.  The thing is, like I said above each and every one of these games that we vaunt so highly as free to play successes all had their time of box sales, expansion sales, and monthly subscription fees to pay back the excessively expensive development costs.

Do I get frustrated when a game that I have purchased the box for… and paid multiple months worth of subscription fees goes to free to play?  Hell no… because while I might bitch and moan on a regular basis about various aspects of gaming… I LOVE the games I play.  Whatever helps a game I have cared about succeed is ultimately going to be good for me personally in the long run.  The games that reward me in some way for being there in the early days and helping pay off the huge debt a company brings with them after a game release…  I love those even more.  But I go into their free to play conversion knowing that ultimately they will be better off in the long run with incremental sales.

Additionally players who start at the beginning of an MMO will always have a tangible lead on players that start later, especially if the game converts to free to play.  You have a head start in the economy before it stratifies, likewise you understand the lay of the land and where to acquire the best stuff.  When Rift went free to play my account had so much stuff unlocked thanks to longevity of play that a starting player would not have had.  For the explorers you get the feeling of actually discovering things before they are common place and on every website.  So while you might have had to pay for the box and subscriptions, you are getting something for your trouble that no one will be able to take away from you.

The games that did not have a box fee and a subscription however have to claw their money out of you somehow.  So while I get annoyed at loot boxes and item purchases and artificial gates to my gameplay… they are just trying to survive however they can, because ultimately at launch they were millions and millions of dollars in the hole at day one.  I feel like launching as free to play is going to forever doom a game to jumping through coin slotted hoops as you play the game.  Rift right now is the best player experience but I feel like it is only that way because they had two years and an expansion of relative success to pay off and fund a fully functional staff during all that time.

Wrapping Up

So if in a few years time… The Elder Scrolls online… that I have used as an example all the way through this post… decides it is beneficial to it to go free to play.  I will greet the change with open arms, knowing that ultimately this is going to be the thing that keeps a game I hopefully will love healthy and open to the public.  Going to go ahead and wrap this up, and likely get it posted.  I hope you guys have a great weekend and that I can survive tomorrow.  Sorry for breaking my own rules and cheating a bit by double posting on a Friday… but expect that I will have a normal post on Sunday.

Lucian Arrives

Good morning my happy people out in the land that is digital.  I am feeling a bit better this morning, so I must have managed to get a decent amount of sleep for once.  Quite honestly I think a good deal of my issues right now stem from the fact that my allergies are going into overdrive.  Normally bit late August things have calmed down a bit here in Oklahoma.  However all of the rain we have gotten seems to be kicking all the things into overdrive.  Dear summer sun… why you no kill these weeds?

Lucian Arrives

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Yesterday was mostly about League of Legends for me and some of my friends.  The champion Lucian finally was available, and this was something several of us had been anticipating.  Over lunch Rae and I both played him a bit in a 1v1 game to test out his abilities.  Overall he feels like a much less tanky Graves, but with a few more murdery tricks up his sleeve.  When we played him he felt extremely mana hungry…  but apparently early in the day yesterday his Q was costing double mana…  which could very well account for this.

He seems to have the same slowish building period that Graves does, but once he has a fair amount of gear his attacks become extremely potent.  I know later in the evening Tam played a few games with him and really liked the end result.  The Champion spotlight does a pretty good job of outlining his abilities.  Personally when I played him I was constantly out of mana, because the cooldown on his abilities is far shorter than your mana pool can ever support.  Essentially he feels like a bottom lane champ I could maybe get used to playing.

Seeking Bot

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To this point… pretty much all of the champions I really enjoy playing have been top lane champions.  Currently my favorites are WuKong, Darius, Garen, and Riven… all of which are primarily suited to the top lane…  though I feel like Riven would do fine mid.  Essentially the problem is… when playing with my friends I tend to always hog that one position of the map.  While no one has complained… I just feel like I should branch out a bit and try and find something I enjoyed on the bottom lane.

As a result I have been playing quite a few 1v1 custom maps to play with various champions, and see which ones I could get used to.  Early on Graves was a champion that Tam suggested I might like, since he played a lot of him early on.  I enjoyed playing him, but I was prone to rushing things and engaging way before my items and abilities would support it.  So he was a champion I played for a little bit while I was finding my own play style, but never really returned to.  Lately I have dusted him back off and realized that I do really enjoy him quite a bit for what he is.

Additionally I had picked up Jayce when he was on sale some time ago but never actually got around to playing him.  I have to say I really like him as a bottom lane champion and the tool kit is especially useful once the laning phase is over.  The Shock Blast / Acceleration Gate combo seems extremely good at harassing other champions in your lane since you can poke at them near the turret with impunity.  So far my favorite one of his attacks is To The Skies!… at one point last night I finished off a champion and stole the blue and red buffs with this little quick pounce.  Essentially any champion with a “pounce” attack is a champion I like.

So combined with Lucian, that at least gives me three champions that I like on the bottom lane.  I feel like there are probably more I should try.  I picked up Kennen at some point because I like ninjas… but have never really played him much.  The problem is… because of my dislike of mages… I tend to shy away from AP champions.  Building AD feels natural to me… but the AP items all feel odd to me.  I feel like this is a thing I need to get past at some point… but ultimately right now the ranged champions I enjoy are the ones that are also ADCs.  The problem is that I have pretty much exhausted the AD ranged champions that I like.  Ultimately I will have to get over the hurdle and start digging into some AP ranged champions to add some variety to the bottom lane.

Realm Reborn

 

This weekend begins the official head start for Final Fantasy XIV and I am climbing down off my fence and giving it a shot.  Quite honestly a good chunk of what changed my mind was the fact that Green Man gaming has a 25% code(GMG25-OGRUH-7SM8H) that you can apply which takes down the Digital Collectors Edition to a level I am willing to gamble on.  Additionally there are going to be a large number of House Stalwart folks giving it a shot.  For me at least this is going to be mostly a weekend game.  I still planning on playing Rift during the week because there are a number of things I want to do there.  Additionally the guild is still pretty active and I love the vibe we have built there.

Final Fantasy is not really a primary game for me… the job system is really interesting… but it is still very wow like overall.  Quite honestly… I know that this game will have worked its way out of our systems well before the First Quarter 2014 release of Elder Scrolls Online.  I am under no illusions that this is the type of game that is going to hold the attention of our guild for very long… but it might be enjoyable to explore for awhile.  Being brutally honest… the majority of folks will have burned through whatever they wanted and gotten bored of it within the first month…  but for a few people it might hold some meaningful long term gameplay.

With the ability to do all the jobs and all the professions on one character… I really plan not to alt at all.  Belghast Sternblade will be my only character far as I am concerned.  We are settled into the Cactuar server, and I am really hoping Square pulls their heads out and fixes the server capacity issues we experienced last weekend.  I was finally able to get in and register my head start code yesterday, so hopefully that is a sign that they have gotten a number of the kinks worked out.  Overall the gameplay has been enjoyable, but we have struggled with infrastructure problems that never should have made it out of alpha testing.

Unfortunately this weekend I am not really sure how much playtime I will get.  Friday night we have a wedding rehearsal, and Saturday morning I am photographing a wedding while my wife is a bridesmaid.  Then Saturday night we have a baptism to attend.  So that pretty much fucks both Friday and Saturday, leaving only Sunday to do anything enjoyable.  My hope is that between the Wedding and the Baptism… we can run any errands we need to run so that Sunday we do not have to leave the house at all.

Wrapping Up

Well I have rattled on more than enough and now it is time for me to get my ass out of this house and on with the day.  I hope you all had a good week and that you have a far less busy and annoying weekend ahead of you.  I am nervous as hell to be honest… I have never shot a wedding.  But this is a favor to a friend so I am sure I will muddle through as best I can.  I am just not one for portrait photography… people tend to bore me as subjects go.  But she was happy enough with the family portraits I shot for her…  so here is hoping she will also be fine with my wedding photos.

Fear the Reaper

Hey look, it is morning again… and once again time to push random thoughts into Live Writer.  I wish to god I knew what the hell was up with my sleep patterns.  Last night I started attempting to go to bed around 8:30, but I still tossed and turned and woke up half a dozen times.  I feel slightly less zombified than I did yesterday… but it is still not that great.  I am beginning to suspect this is all thanks to my friend allergies, and then fact that I have been stuffed up for weeks.  Maybe tonight I will try taking some Benadryl before hitting the sack.

Elder Subscriptions

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Yesterday I wrote a rather long ramble about how the subscription model is something I am only wiling to pay these days, if I am really committed to a given game.  I provided for an example the fact that I would be more than willing to pay a monthly subscription fee for the Elder Scrolls Online for example, whereas I simply am not for Wildstar.  At the time of writing the post at 6 am… I did not realize that at 4 am that same morning it was announced that ESO would in fact be a subscription based game, and be charging something along the lines of the standard $15 a month “wow rate”. 

The thing that I am comforted by is the fact that they seem to understand that for a subscription fee you have to give a kind of “premium” access.  In the age of free games being really good, and easily accessible… you cannot simply allow players access to your game for the monthly fee.  You have to sell your players on a service… that you will provide regular updates to them for free as part of that monthly commitment.  The original interview that announced the information leaked a handful of details to this fact.

  • 30-Day Free Time when you purchase the game, and then a monthly fee to play.
  • $14.00 / €12.99 / £8.99 per month.
  • Discounts for setting up multiple months at a time.
  • Game card support.
  • Promise: new content every 4-6 weeks.

The last part is going to be crucial.  So many game developers have promised regular content updates.  Some of them deliver for awhile, and then taper them off over time.  Not to pick on them… but The Secret World was supposed to have monthly episodic releases… yet a little over a year into the game we have had 7.  Granted there are multiple mitigating circumstances, namely the loss of most of their staff…  but still very few companies have ever actually delivered on the promise of regular content updates.  To the best of my knowledge the only two that have really excelled at it are Trion with Rift and Arena.net with Guild Wars 2.

Elder Scrolls promises to provide us a massive game world to explore, with two decades worth of land mass…  literally every area we have ever explored in an elder scrolls game.  But we all know that there will be a string of players that has burned through every inch of that content in a single week of playing.  The success of this game will be to provide a constant stream of updates, and at a frequent enough pace to keep the players always engaged in the game and not gobbling up content in a purely episodic manner.  That is the problem I currently have with The Secret World, the content is infrequent enough that I stop playing while waiting on the next “issue” to release… only to come back and gobble it up and then leave once more.

I feel like the trick that Elder Scrolls has up its sleeve that we are really not even fully capable of wrapping our heads around.. is that fact that it will be a fully fleshed out MMO experience launching on a console.  Currently DC Universe Online is the best “MMO” experience that console gamers have, and at the end of this month Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn will be joining it.  However both of those are limited to PlayStation 3 players only.  ESO will be launching on both the PS4 and XBone and will be adding a completely different dynamic to the sink or swim equation. 

Elder Scrolls in general is already massively popular among console gamers… so it will be interesting to see just how many of them are willing to pony up a monthly subscription fee to continue that experience.  To me it feels like the console market is relatively untapped territory… and it could be the thing that ultimately pushes ESO over the top.  There was a lot of gnashing of teeth among the PC gamers that we would be getting a watered down experience since ESO would be launching on the consoles as well… but I look at it in a completely different light.  If we want regular content delivery… we ultimately want Zenimax to make as much from this game as they reasonably can to keep funding constant development time.

It will be interest to see how this all plays out in the end.  I have been shocked at just how civil the discussion has been on the Bethesda forums.  Sure there are a handful of doomsayers explaining how that ultimately this will lead to the end of Elder Scrolls as we know it…  but the majority seem to be taking the announcement of a subscription model well.  Normally that forum is a wretched hive of scum and villainy… that is known for its completely outrageous demands.  My hope is this is a sign of how the Elder Scrolls community as a whole will take the announcement.  Ultimately this is the community that Zenimax has to lock down as far as a subscriber base, not necessarily the roaming community of nomadic gamers.

Fear the Reaper

 

Another surprise from Gamescom yesterday was the announcement of the new Diablo 3 expansion…  Reaper of Souls.  What is so surprising about this to me… is the fact that Blizzcon is only a few months away.  This is the type of announcement I expect Blizzard to hold in reserve for their own convention.  This does however provide them a little bit of momentum and building anticipation as they move towards November.  I will admit… this cinematic had me dusting off my Diablo 3 account and playing some last night.

Like many of my friends… I ultimately lost interest in the game once I finished the main storyline.  We beat the game and then retired our characters completely.  For me at least it has always been a problem with the click to move control scheme.  However thanks to regularly getting coaxed into playing League of Legends… it feels a little less foreign than it did… and as a result I rather enjoyed playing my little monk last night.  Overall I was a much bigger fan of Torchlight 2 than Diablo 3… but returning to it now it feels better than I had remembered.

Ultimately my one major problem with the game still remains.  I hate the fact that I have to play on their servers, and as a result have to deal with server lag while playing essentially a single player experience.  Most of last night things were going peachy… however there was one moment when I died due to a massive lag spike and went from full health to dead almost instantly.  This is at the end of the day the most damning strike against the game.  There should still be a “Lan” mode… even if you have to dial home every so often to save character data… the bulk of the interactions should be happening independent of the server.

I still feel like a complete sucker, that a pretty trailer got me to break out a game I had not played in over a year.  I have always been a fan of the blizzard cinematics, and this is no different.  They always manage to tell a compelling tale for whatever they are choosing to show.  Overall I really don’t much care for the design of Malthael…  but he does seem sufficiently creepy to carry the role of bad guy for another Diablo 3 chapter.  WoW Insider has a rundown of the features… that include:

  • A new Crusader class, wears heavy armor as a tank, buffs/debuffs friends and enemies, not unlike Diablo II’s Paladin
  • Reaper of Souls will officially by Act V of Diablo III
  • Level cap raised to 70
  • Paragon level cap removed
  • All classes will get new spells as they progress to level 70
  • Something called a "multilevel Legendary item"
  • Substantial updates to the loot experience, "Loot 2.0" as named by Blizzard — you’re more likely to pick up items tailored to your current class
  • Overall loot reduced, not picking up as many items not needed by your current class
  • New Crafter: Mystic — re-roll stats on items, gives chance to create better gear
  • Two new endgame modes/activities: loot runs and Nephalem Trials

My hope is that the overall experience is far less forgettable than Diablo 3 was for me… and this will add features to the game that make me want to play it more often than you know… once a year.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap things up and head into work.  Yesterday we got the new washing machine installed and I was able to do the loads of laundry that had gotten wet and soured due to the flood.  Things feel like they are mostly back to normal.  At some point we need to rent a carpet cleaner and try and get rid of the massive water stain in our bedroom, but that can be done later.  The rest of my week will be focused on getting read for the wedding I have to photograph on Saturday.  I hate weddings…  so here is hoping that sitting behind the lens of a camera will make it less heinous.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope your weekend is going to be far less busy than mine.

Wildstar Woes

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  I am trying to muster the “oomph” to do another days post.  For whatever reason since the “flood” happened, I have not been sleeping well at all.  I assume it is all the noise from the air mover fan we have had pointed at our carpet to try and dry everything out.  Luckily at this point… I think the carpet is completely dry so here is hoping that turning it off tonight will render a full nights sleep.

Wildstar Woes

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With all the recent strife caused by our washing machine and the subsequent damage… my morning posts have pretty much been dominated by that.  However in the gaming world there was quite a little shake up… at least as far as the twitter-sphere is concerned.  Monday Carbine announced the business model for Wildstar… and it was shockingly subscription based.  I think most of us in the blogging circles had been expecting Wildstar to launch as a free to play or some sort of hybrid model.  Instead we are getting a full subscription game with an implementation of the PLEX system from Eve.

Essentially all players will have to do one of two things to continue playing.  Either they will pay a monthly subscription fee, or they will purchase and consume a C.R.E.D.D. on the open market that another player has purchased speculating that they can sell it for enough in game currency to make it worth their while.  EQ2 also has a very similar system to this with the Krono, and it seems to work well enough at removing large sums of in game currency from the market.  The big negative however is that mere mortals are unlikely to ever possess enough currency to buy one of these subscription tokens.

In the games I have played that have them they usually start off reasonable enough shortly after the program launches… but over time it continues to trend upwards gaining in game currency value.  For example when I bought my first Krono in EQ2, they were selling for 500-600 platinum.  However the last time I sold one, I was able to get almost 1000 platinum for them in a few months time.  Additionally the REX token in Rift launched at around 600 platinum and now fetches roughly 1500 platinum depending on the server.  Essentially it is constantly pushed out of the reach of anyone that is not an auction house baron or a habitual gold farmer.

Killing Casual Interest

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Essentially in my experience there is really no way that anyone casually interested in a game like this can afford to buy the subscription tokens from the market.  They are stuck with subscribing to keep their access turned on.  For me my interest in Wildstar has gone from passing to pretty much dead zero.  All thanks to the announcement that there will be a subscription attached to the game.  Don’t get me wrong… I love subscriptions in games that I am really interested in.  I will happily pay a monthly fee to support the game and gain buffet style access to all its features.  But I am simply not “really” interested in Wildstar.

The problem is… in my large circle of gaming friends it seems very few players actually are.  There are a bunch of us, that likely would have picked the game up were it a “buy the box” or free to play model.  We would have given it a shot, seen what it was like in close up and maybe for some of us… it would have clicked.  But the fact that I know there is both a box cost and a reoccurring subscription fee really makes the game something I don’t want to take a chance on.   In a world where most of the games I have been playing… are free to play… that subscription fee seems like an awfully binding commitment.

Ultimately I will be sitting in the wings, waiting for the eventual switch over to free to play.  That seems to be the thing to do these days… and what started off as a way to bail out a sinking game seems more and more like an actual business model.  It feels as though there is the initial 6 month money grab of subscriptions… then a planned deployment of free to play to catch the players like me who were only casually interested in their net.  If this is really in fact a business model, it seems like a very disingenuous one.

There are players who are supremely devoted to the subscription business model.  One of my good friends Liore, has gone through a whole arc as a game she deeply cared about… namely Rift went free to play.  While she has softened to the idea of the Rift free to play implementation… since arguably it is likely the most player friendly one on the market..  she still is not a huge fan of the “death of the subscription”.  When a game company sets out to do a 6 month money grab then convert to free to play… they risk alienating all the players that are extremely pro-subscription.

Of Subscriptions

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I guess at the end of the day… my problem is not that Wildstar has gone subscription at all.  It is that Wildstar is not interesting enough to me to make me WANT to pay a subscription for it.  Granted I have yet to play it at all… so maybe the proof is in the play style… but right now having only received the publically available information I am just not interested enough to commit to it.  Additionally I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Science Fiction MMOs.  I enjoy the hell out of them for a short period of time… but the scifi genre in general seems to lack the hooks to keep me there for long.  Granted that would probably all change if a Mass Effect or Fallout MMO were ever to release.  However I highly doubt either of those would happen, and quite frankly after SWTOR Bioware should farm out the “MMO” portion to someone more experienced.

Getting back on track… I don’t see anything fundamentally flawed with the subscription model.  I pay a subscription to Rift, even though it is the best free to play model out there.  I do it because they reward me in so many ways for doing so.  Similarly I used to pay a subscription to EQ2, Lotro, DDO, etc… all of which are free to play games… because the subscription gave me something more than I could get otherwise.  Ultimately this comes down to a case of me just not being that interested in Wildstar.  The main issue with the subscription model is it turns off the revenue stream from players like me that might have bought the box if there were no strings attached.

Ultimately right now there are entirely too many good options for a player to play for no money outlay at all.  It used to be that all you could play for free were a handful of subpar eastern games.  Now you have games like The Secret World and Rift at your disposal… both of which are games I would happily pay a subscription fee for… but don’t have to.  Essentially Carbine is asking players to take a gamble on their game… by buying the box and paying a monthly subscription and I feel as though a lot of players just are not willing to do that any longer.  This is simply my point of view based on the “temperature” from both social media and blogs in response to the rather “shocking” announcement of Wildstar’s payment model.

Grain of Salt

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Essentially you can take everything I just said today with a grain of salt.  Just because I was shocked that Wildstar did not go free to play… does not necessarily mean I am opposed to the subscription model entirely.  For example… if Elder Scrolls Online were to come out tomorrow and announce that they were going to be subscription only, it would be equally shocking.  However I would care far less, because ESO is a game I am already 110% committed to playing at launch.  From the moment it was announced I have been figuratively been like Fry begging them to “Take My Money!”.  The difference is.. ESO is a title I deeply care about and have been wanting to play literally since the first time I played Morrowind.

I had played Daggerfall before, but with Morrowind I was already used to the MMO construct thanks to lots and lots of Everquest 1.  All the while I was playing the game I kept thinking… man this setting would be so much more enjoyable if I could play it co-op.  So I have been 100% sold on the concept of an online Elder Scrolls game since that moment.  Each additional TES game.. has made me want the ability to play it with my friends even more.  When I heard that Zenimax was working on an MMO, I hoped beyond all hope that it was the Elder Scrolls setting.  At this point they could charge a $200 box fee, and $20 a month subscription… and I would likely still figure out some way to play it. 

I feel however that this level of buy in from an MMO player is extremely rare right now.  We are literally deluged with really good options that cost us next to nothing to play.  The MMO climate is nothing like when WoW launched or even when Warhammer Online launched.  Players are not looking to ditch their current game for something new… they want to dip their toes in the water first to make sure they like it better.  Having both a box fee and a subscription fee sufficiently raises that barrier just high enough that a good number of players, myself included will not commit to the game unless we are completely sold on it.  For an unproven brand, from a publisher that is notorious for selling their games short (NCSoft)… it just seems like a massive hurdle to cross.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap this up and get on the road.  We are taking delivery of the new washing machine today… so I am only working a half day.  Essentially I need to get to work and do a full days work in 4 hours.  I hope you all have a great day and I hope everything goes smoothly with the delivery and install of the new washer.  Last night was a bit of a mad dash around the house to try and clear room for the folks to move it into place. I think I am as ready as I will ever be.

Fishing for Pants

Good morning all you people out in digital land…  I am slowly attempting to wake up.  Last night I crashed around 8:30, that was the point at which I just could not go on any more.  I slept like crap the night before last, and spent all day yesterday dealing with various things around the house… so by that time I was just falling asleep in my chair.  Here is hoping that a combination of coffee and writing will rouse me from my mental slumber.

Towel Trick

Yesterday was pretty much a continuation of damage control for our little flood that happened Sunday evening.  I stayed home from work in the hopes of having someone come out to repair the washing machine… or at least advise us that it was kaput.  One of my wife’s friends had given us a phone number of a repair lady that she had used in the past, so at 8:00 am on the dot I left a rather detailed message.  At this point I went about doing as much damage control as I thought I could.

Previously we had used essentially every towel we had in the house to soak up the water and attempt to prevent additional damage.  As a result we had a massive heap of soaked towels.   I took them out Sunday evening and placed them laid out on the concrete around the pool in the backyard.  My thinking was that the heat of the concrete combined with the wicking effect would suck he water right out.  My theory may or may not have worked… but at some point the neighbor boy that mows our lawn came through and… rather thoughtfully picked up all the towels before mowing.  However this means he deposited them stacked in a heap on one of our lawn chairs.

So of course as I came out yesterday morning they were all still soaked, but thankfully not moldy yet.  First order of business was to lay them out as flat as I could… but this time I decided just to drape them over every piece of lawn furniture we had.  By noon the majority were fully dry, and the last few were just mildly damp.  So I dumped the remaining ones in the dryer for a few minutes to finish drying them.  Yes I realize the absurdity of drying essentially dirty towels… but my whole idea here was to try and keep them from molding while we were down a washing machine.

Fishing for Pants

One of the big problems ahead of me… was the fact that the load we were washing was still sitting in the stagnating pool of gain infused water in the washing machine.  I had to find a way to get these out and dried so I pulled the wicker basket we keep in the bottom of the closet as a clothes hamper and lined it with trash bags.  Then I began the process of fishing for pants.  The water had turned a dark murky color in the hours since the breakdown… and quite honestly finding the clothing was a bit of a challenge.  But with perseverance I dumped each and every soaking garment into the bag lined basket.

I hauled the mess out into the backyard and proceeded to wring out each of the garments all the while not getting the mess of water on myself in the process.  This turned out to be a bit more of a juggling act than I had planned… and at this point I am pretty sure that my hands will permanently smell of Gain detergent…  but I guess there could be far worse things to have infused into your skin.  It was a bit like playing Tetris with wet clothing trying to figure out a place to have each hanging by itself without overlapping.  I thought briefly about going to the store and buying a couple of hooks and a clothes line…  but we really did not have a good place to string one up.  That might be something we need to remedy.

Sunday night we had a wet/dry vacuum that a neighbor had brought down, but when we were finished extracting the liquid from the carpet, he took it back down to his house.  So there I was, with a bunch of Gain smelling murk in a dead washing machine that I really needed to extract.  I roamed around the kitchen and found a pitcher that we don’t really use… and that combined with a Rib Crib cup served as my vessel for bailing out the washing machine.  This was an annoyingly tedious process and I essentially extracted roughly 3-4 gallons of liquid from the machine.  I finally got it down to just a little bit in the bottom… at which point I employed a bunch of dollar store knock off “sham-wows” we had laying around. 

Spending Money

That did the trick and the washing machine is essentially as dry as I can possibly get it.  Essentially at this point I had given up hope on the machine repair lady coming out and making this a simple task.  After talking to my father… his theory was that the pump motor had seized up since that is what happened to their last washing machine.  I was fine with this theory… and it generally meant that I needed to pick up another washing machine.  The same neighbor that brought down the vacuum works at Lowes, so I decided it was time to go visit him.  My ultimate hope was that they could have something delivered that day…  albeit a grossly unrealistic hope.

Essentially they were running a special this week on a Roper Washer and Dryer pair, for $299 a piece.  Roper is a sub brand of Whirlpool and is essentially more than likely manufactured here in Tulsa at the Whirlpool plant.  We have had a Roper refrigerator for 15 years and counting… so it is a brand that I am very familiar with.  Essentially it is a no bells or whistles functional machine, and that was perfectly fine for me.  My niece inherited the Roper washing machine that my wife’s sister had and it is still going strong.  So I decided to go ahead and just pick up a new washer, in hopes of having to delivered and installed quickly.

My basic theory was this…  if a new unit is roughly $350 after you pick up the hookups…  it would cost me at least $100 to have someone come out and look at my current washer.  So do I throw money at a seven year old admittedly bargain basement washing machine… or do I just save that hassle and buy a new one.  The earliest they could have one delivered was Wednesday afternoon, so I latched onto that before that day filled up.  So on top of wasting all yesterday messing with “the flood”, I am going to also have to take on Wednesday afternoon.  Quite honestly at this point I just want it done so we can go on about our lives.

Television Recycling

Since the day was already shot… and I was too hot and grumpy to go back to work at this point and play nice with the people that want me to do stupid things.  I decided just to make the day into a “whatever needed to get done” day.  For a few weeks I had been hauling around in the back of my jeep a load of clothing intended to go to Goodwill.  Since I am down 55 lbs and my wife is down roughly 40 lbs… we had a lot of clothing we could no longer wear.  So like always we go through a mad cleaning frenzy and bag it all up with the intent of donating it to Goodwill.  The problem is… I didn’t actually take it to Goodwill that weekend and as a result I have had eight bags of miscellaneous clothing in the back of my jeep for almost a month.

The main reason why I had not taken it yet was the fact that we also had a 27” CRT television.  So I packaged I went through the house gathering any additional donate-ables and cleared room in the pile that had shifted greatly for the television.  I get to the donation center… and start unloading everything… and the nice man working there informs me that they cannot accept CRT Televisions.  I guess when the HDTV switch happened… they were absolutely flooding with them… and quite frankly they do not sell in any of the centers.  It makes sense but was not something I thought about ahead of time.  Hell we used it as our bedroom television until recently when we went through the cable upgrade.

What was awesome of him however… is that he told me Best Buy would take the television and recycle it.  So I finished unloading everything into his bin, got a donation receipt and headed over to our local Best Buy.  Supposedly they were giving 50 Best Buy points for people turning in their old televisions… which is next to worthless in their rewards pyramid scheme.  So I went inside and inquired at the front desk where I should bring my television.  They pointed to a corner up at the front of the store… so I hauled it in and set it down in the approved cubby.  I guess I could have asked for my points bounty, but at this point I was hot and tired and could give zero shits.  Finally I was able to go home and chill out for a bit.

Wrapping Up

I’ve rattled on enough for one day…  but this essentially covers the bulk of my “day off” from work.  Looking forward to having this entire mess past me.  Wednesday they will deliver and hook up the new washer, and once that is done I will start the laundrypalooza of trying to catch up and wash all the crap that got stranded in the process.  I have it all neatly packed in a few empty steralite boxes… which admittedly it felt a little silly to be folding and storing dirty laundry.  Anyways…  I hope you all have a great day, and that your week has been going better than mine.

The Flood

Good morning all you people out in digital land…  I am trying to wake up enough to string cognitive words together.  I did not sleep much last night, and I will go into reasons later… but suffice to say I am exhausted.  In addition I have a royal mess to deal with today, so I likely will be staying home.  Hopefully once I have a schedule for the day I can catch a cat nap.  Here is hoping that my old friend coffee will be enough to keep me going until then.

The Flood

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Today is the first day back to school with kids for my wife, and as a result the weekend was fairly stressful with her trying to prepare for everything.  During the summer I pretty much get a break from doing a lot of the household chores, but with the school year starting back up it is once again my job to take care of those things as she stresses out over lesson planning and grading on the weekends.  Previously there was a load of clothing that we had started but not finished… so I started that up again.

Once finished I noticed that a pet bed had come apart in the wash.  So I picked up the pieces and started a second load… this time of darks… since that tends to be the load we absolutely must do each weekend.  I went along about my business and an hour or so later I went in there to check on the progress… expecting to swap it into the dryer.  As I was walking towards the washer I noticed that the whites were wet… but it didn’t dawn on me until I was further down the hall what was happening.  Essentially the laundry room, parts of the closet, the hall, and our bedroom were soaked in water as apparently instead of draining out the water drained all over everything.

The Aftermath

So I hollered up at my wife, but while she surveyed the scene she was still in “I am freaking out because of too much school work” mode… and simply could not take in additional information at the time.  One of the positive side effects of owning a pool, is that we have a ridiculous number of beach towels for when people come swimming.  So I got into the closet, pulled out all of the beach towels and started sopping up the water.  This got up the bulk of the water, and I gathered those up in a trash bag and took them out into the back yard to hang up.

One of our neighbors brought down his wet/dry vacuum and got up the rest of the water as well as much from the carpet and pad as he could in the bedroom and closet.  Finally I brought down my big fan from my office upstairs and set it up pointing at the floor and turned it on high, hoping that the air circulation would dry the carpet the rest of the way.  After that it was pretty much just up to time to see if it would dry out.  My jeans were in the washer load when it blew… and it apparently did not make it all the way through the rinse cycle…  so since drying them out over night was not really an option I ran to the store and picked up another pair so I would actually have something to wear today.

The Denouement

The big air mover fan… made an odd kind of white noise… and all night long I kept waking up thinking I heard something strange.  I am fairly resistant to change, especially in my personal space.  The addition of a really loud fan on the floor beside my side of the bed was a rather disturbing change, and I ended up waking up every thirty minutes to an hour as the night went on.  As a result this morning I am feeling completely sapped.  The good news however is that the carpet is dry to the touch…  there is still a dark spot which tells me it is not completely dry.  We will leave the giant fan running for the next few days hopefully drying everything the rest of the way.

I emailed my boss to let him know what had happened… so my day today is pretty malleable.  One of several conclusions will happen.  We have the phone number of a reputable repair service, and I plan on calling them at 8 am.  Either after explaining what happened they tell me that they think it is easily fixable… like a clogged drainpipe or they tell me that I most likely have a dead washing machine.  So we either have the repair woman out…  or I go to Lowes and buy a new one that is on sale… and hopefully am able to do so early enough to arrange for same day delivery.  I believe Lowes will deliver, install and haul away the old unit… and we also have a line of credit there for such situations.

The Subligar

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So since everyone on Mumble was playing Final Fantasy XIV… I continued on yesterday.  The above picture is the result of questing around level 10.  Essentially I had picked up all of the pieces… thinking they looked odd but not really noticing it much… until I finally picked up the pants.  This is in fact a matched set of the level 10 quest gear in the “Lemon Lozenge” area of the game…  yes that is what I called Lima Lominsa.  The leather harness thing was a bit sketchy… but it looked okay-ish with my poofy red pants… that and I had gotten used to the occasional “nipple chest” from Rift and GW2.  The pants… well I wasn’t paying much attention and I picked them up…  despite warnings from my friends about the existence of the “Subligar”.

Turns out this is a running joke since FFXI but having to wear it… it doesn’t feel terribly funny.  Personally I find this kind of armor completely bullshit.  I am sure this is some dev’s odd kink at work, but too often this is what women have to wear ALL the time.  At least when I started my next set of quests I was able to upgrade to something that covered me.  Maybe I am an odd duck but I feel like armor should you know… be protective.  There is nothing heroic feeling about having to wear a pair of underwear while fighting monsters with a big axe.  If people want this crap in game… that is fine… just don’t make it a quest reward.

Ultimately after playing for about 10 minutes… I downgraded all my gear to my level 8 set… which realistically was only a few points of defense difference.   What was so disturbing about it was… that my previous set was this really amazing “leather plate” appearance, with a unique chest piece graphic apparently for marauders… then in the course of a few quests go to lemon yellow panties.  I posted a picture on G+ bitching about it… and was essentially met with a chorus of “QQ More” from the women… since this is pretty much every game experience for them.  I totally get that…  but no one should have to wear armor like this period.

It used to frustrated the shit out of me when I would find a nifty looking pair of plate pants… only to hand it to a female character and see it turned into a shiny metal bikini.  I am completely fine with the irony of having the tables turned… but remember I am one of the guys supporting you.  Make the assholes that dressed their companions in SWTOR in the Slave Girl outfit wear this… not someone who farmed for days to try and get proper Jedi robes for Kira.  Once I could solo it… I literally ran “The Esseles” a good 50 times until I got the orange moddable robes to drop so she could have something decent to wear as I leveled up.  Anyways rant about skimpy clothing over.

The Game

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I am in a really odd place about Final Fantasy XIV in general.  There is a lot about the game I am enjoying greatly.  Then there are other things that bug the hell out of me.  I honestly do not know at this point if I will be playing once it releases or not.  I have not had this much trouble deciding if I actually like a game or not since I played Guild Wars 2.  There are many aspects that I really dig like the whole jobs system… but so much of the game is just messaged really poorly.  Essentially you have to have some ancestral knowledge from other players to keep you from screwing your character up.

For example…  DO NOT SELL ANY ARMOR EVER!  I did… I regret it.  So something I did not realize… when you switch classes later you go back to level 1… and a ramification of this is that you will not be able to wear any of your armor period… other than the starter gear.  I sold mine long ago… thinking I would not need it.  As a result I had to run around buck naked in the Gridania starter zone until I could hit 5 and actually equip some gear.  Luckily I pretty much have every set of gear from that point on, but to the best of my knowledge based on what I am seeing from the vendors… there appears to be no way to rebuy that level 1 equip-able gear.

So much of the game feels deeply foreign to me… as though they set out to purposefully buck the western MMO traditions.  The game is at its core exactly the same as a World of Warcraft type MMO… just nothing is called by the right names, and nothing actually works in the same ways.  Essentially most of my time playing has been building this translation matrix of figuring out what a thing is called… and what it means to me.  I guess to some extent… that intrigues me… that the game can be so similar at the same time as it is completely foreign.

Like I said… at this point I seriously do not know if I will be playing this at launch.  If I do it will likely be a weekend thing.  My friends were wanting me to rush through the content… so I could get to some point where they needed a tank.  Really though I was far more happy to piddle aimlessly than to try and push through the quests to reach a point that they were already at.  I tend to out-level my quests by a large margin.  I am still afflicted by my desire to kill everything in sight… and that seems to be a super effective means of leveling.  The only mission type that seems to piss me off are the ones that involve using some emote on a target.

I guess at this point I have to say that I begrudgingly enjoy this game.  There is something about it that is charming, and despite all the jacked up characteristics… like the Subligar… there is enough here that I find enjoyable that I could see playing it.  I just am not sure if I could ever play the game seriously.  I definitely do not have the same admiration of all things Final Fantasy that it seems to take to really be 100% committed to this.  I guess I will see how I feel about things after the head start weekend next week.  That will ultimately determine if I play or not.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to prepare to call the repair woman and see if I can get an assessment of the situation.  If not… I will go to Lowes and see if I can get a washer delivered today.  I hope you had a much better Sunday than I did, and that you have a great start of the work week.  I am going to try and take a nap after I deal with these phone calls so that hopefully I stay fully functional.  Hopefully the carpet finishes drying as do the towels out in the back yard.