Bad News Day

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Goodbye Everquest Next

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Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

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The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

FPS Evolved Genre

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Thoughts for Motiga

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One of the aspects of Pax South 2016 that felt strange for me, was the complete and total lack of Motiga and Gigantic.  I cannot fully express how much of my experience this game was in 2015.  I had a great time hanging out with the Motiga crew thanks to Lonrem brokering a connection, and then kept dragging people to the booth to play Gigantic.  It felt like the sort of MOBA experience I had been looking for.  When I played a tanky character, it felt like playing an MMO tank.  When I played a ranged character, it felt like playing a really good ranged shooter.  I feel like hands down they were the belle of the ball last year, and when I heard about their layoffs in december, and the fact that they were not on the roster for 2016… I started to get concerned.  Since coming back from Pax last year I have been lucky enough to have access to all of the alpha and beta events, but I have to admit I didn’t really play much of it.  For the longest time it just played lousy on my then Geforce 750ti video card…. and now that I have at least upgraded to a 960 I am wondering if maybe it would perform a little better.  As of yesterday however I am really starting to worry for the folks at the company, because according to a Gamasutra article the just underwent some pretty significant staff reduction in a last ditch attempt to get more funding to finish the game.

Now that the NDA has lifted I don’t have to worry quite so much about how I talk about Gigantic.  I really need to reinstall the game and see what its current state happens to be.  The biggest problem  that the game had was that its back end systems were not quite as polished as the front end game play.  Matchmaking was a big issue, and the fact that in order to get valuable feeling matches… you realistically needed to hang out on testing ventrilo and and form some sort of a custom game.  The last time I attempted to boot up the game I sat in a matchmaking queue for thirty minutes and then finally gave up.  My friend Rae apparently has played it more recently, but ran into a pretty elitist player base… with her catching shit for not doing the right thing at the right time.  This is one of those games that is so damned close to really good…. but I worry that maybe they missed their window by a year.  I’ve always said that in order for this game to be really popular it needed to be first to market, since it is essentially launching an untested IP.  The awesome thing is though, that the characters…. well… for lack of a better term have character.  They are interesting and are animated in a way that they spring to life.  This game has what League of Legends has… but so many other games in the MOBA genre have lacked…  personality.  I really hope that they can pull this off, but as always I worry about the folks that were just let go.  This game deserves its time in the sun, and I think it will flourish on consoles….  quite possibly more so than on the PC that already has a fairly entrenched first person MOBA genre.  The critical date however is that they HAVE to beat Overwatch to launch, or they are pretty much toast.  Even thought those two games are vastly different in feel… players are still mentally lumping them all together in this “fps evolved” genre of folks taking the FPS template and doing new things with it.

Overwatch Beta Returns

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Speaking of the 500 lb gorilla that Gigantic has to beat to market…  as of yesterday the Overwatch Beta is back on, and with it has also returned much gnashing of teeth as more folks failed to get in.  At this point I am pretty much resigned that I will not likely get to play until open beta testing at some point.  For a brief period of time I thought that maybe I had access, because in the launcher the install button suddenly started showing up for me.  The only problem being that it was grayed out, and not clickable.  I am guessing this was a temporary glitch because later that evening when I popped into WoW to do my garrison gold farming… it was back to hiding the install button again.  The truth is…  even if I had beta access I probably would not be playing it much.  My recent return to Elder Scrolls Online has taught me that… maybe I am just not a good beta candidate these days.  I absolutely blame the almost two years of regularly ESO testing for my diminished desire to play after getting to the veteran ranks.  I quite literally had burned myself out on all of the newbie content, so that the thought of alting my way through it again just felt painful.  I poured my heart and soul into that testing experience, because I wanted that game to be the best damned game it could be… and honestly judging it today through very clear eyes…  I think it turned out pretty great.

I want to be able to walk into Overwatch and have the game feel free and exciting, and be able to experience the new player rush along with everyone else.  Sure I would love to be able to play the game when the whim hits me right now, but I am not going to be the sort of hard core tester and bug reporter that they really need right now.  In this sort of game, balance and gameplay statistics are key… and they need a sheer volume of data to sift through to be able to shape their design decisions.  So for me… who is going to maybe play the game once a month…  I am not exactly a great resource and if you replaced me with someone who is going to stream the game every night… you would be far better off in the end.  I’ve developed this aversion to playing games before they are officially released.  Now granted… I still do regularly…. but I have begun to learn my lesson.  Torment: Tides of Numenera for example is absolutely available to me to test because I backed the project…. but I have zero desire right now to do so.  I want to play the finished version of the game, when it is “ready for primetime” and not have to sift through crippling bugs.  Maybe my tolerance for “broken games” is less than it used to be… or maybe there are just so damned many things that I want to be playing that spending my time on an unfinished product feels like a waste.  In any case… I am a bad beta tester, and will continue to be super happy for those who are getting invited and enjoying their time playing games like Overwatch.