Night Falls

Unfortunate Bonus Round

This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule.  I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time.  By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website.  Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff.  Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later.  For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion…  were the face of the Everquest franchise.  They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.

Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride.  After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I?  When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces.  I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One.  After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?

Night Falls

Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same.  As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play.  Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in.  At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit.  As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us.  Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.

The problem is…  we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community.  Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence.  For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise.  It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved.  I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.

The Survivors

This has been the month of senseless corporate action.  First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment.  I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony…  allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”.  They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company.  Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote?  Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community.  The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder…  likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.

All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind.  They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone.  Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office.  Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do.  It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions…  but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love.  Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter.  I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.

Extreme Gardening

Istanbul was Constantinople

SOESignGoingDown The strange news keeps happening this year, as yesterday we found out that the ever ubiquitous Sony Online Entertainment…  is no more.  As you can see from the picture swiped from twitter…  they wasted no time taking down the trappings of the old world… and are now ushering in the name Daybreak Game Company.  All of this happened because the great Sony mothership sold off SOE part and parcel to a technology investment firm.  The Columbus Nova Technology Partners owns several companies somehow connected to the tech industry, be they websites, applications or hardware manufacturers.  The mix of companies is rather bizarre with the only two that I recognize are the once king of media streaming Rhapsody and the task site Fiverr.

What will this mean for gamers you ask?  Quite honestly I have no clue.  I initially thought this was going to be a technology grab as they would gobble up and sell off parts and simply discard the rest.  However it seems as though CNTP has held several of the companies in their portfolio for awhile now, so maybe they have a much longer ranged end game.  Hell for all I know someone in the company was an Everquest fanboy back in the day and has always wanted to own the company behind the game.  Essentially this isn’t the end of the world for SOE fans, and it is far too soon to make any predictions.  If you are old enough to remember… SOE has not always been SOE.  Once upon a time was a smaller company called Verant Interactive… and even before that Redeye Interactive.  The ever outspoken Smedley took to twitter and had this to say…

answering a few questions people have emailed me
1) All our games are still up and will continue to be despite our new name.
2) Yes, we want to bring our games to Xbox One in addition to PS4.
3) Station Cash doesn’t change at all (though we will be rebranding it soon here).
4) We’re still making Everquest Next 🙂 nothing has changed.

Extreme Gardening

ffxiv 2015-02-02 21-10-55-14 For various reasons, be it Tam moving across country…  or Pax South… or simply a lack of the right roles we have struggled to pull together our Monday night raid proper to work on the Second Coil of Bahamut.  As a result last night was our first time working on Turn 6 in what I believe is over a months time.  It seems as though once the fight started we remembered much of the fight and were able to pick up essentially where we left off.  For those unfamiliar with the encounter, the boss is a giant Ochu, aka those angry tentacled plant things.  Rafflesia has a ton of mechanics that you have to deal with…  for starters she throws down bulbs that become expanding briar patch rings.  On our first attempts we tried dpsing these down but quickly realized that the goal was to focus down only specific ones.  As such we simply started making sure the center of the room was clear of briar patches, which means the rest of the room is very full of nasty spikey bits.

The hardest part of the fight is the “devour” dance.  Every so often she marks a target to be devoured, and then will turn to eat that player sucking in everyone else that happens to be in the frontal cone.  How we started mitigating this is by having that player run through right before they are to be devoured…  then that player and the tank dash through as the devour happens.  When it works right no one gets eaten… when it works badly…  well potentially everyone can get eaten.  Last night more or less was us cleaning up this process, and then later getting players with the “drop of honey” debuff purposefully devoured to cleanse them.  I was proud as hell of the progress we made because after a single night of tries over a month ago…  we still managed to come in and finish out Turn 6 in only three attempts, giving us plenty of time to move on to Turn 7 last night.

Statue Tag

ffxiv 2015-02-02 21-24-03-40 Turn 7 means getting to play with a very angry Lamia named Melusine.  Some of you might remember the boss name from Final Fantasy V, but far as we can tell there is no actual direct correlation as far as mechanics go.  As the sub heading goes, this fight is in many ways a game of statue tag…  in that she periodically casts an ability that causes three players at a time to turn whatever is standing directly in front of them to stone.  Now one can avoid freezing anyone by turning off the edge of the platform… however there are these huge lumbering adds that in theory need to be frozen in place by a player with the debuff.  This means from the moment it casts you have seven seconds to get into range of a statue and freeze it in the right place.  A few moments after placing a statue, she will pick a target in the raid and give them “Cursed Shriek” that functions much like the frontal cone “Cursed Voice” except it is an AOE that can literally hit the entire room.  The player with shriek then has to run behind one of the frozen giants and LOS the raid.

ffxiv 2015-02-02 22-06-25-84 This would all be relatively simple if not for the fact that she is picking targets in the raid at random and dropping a big assed fire AOE on them.  This means that at all times players should be spread out to avoid taking damage from multiple AOEs at the same time.  As a result when the Shriek goes off, it will inevitably freeze some players.  Thankfully the petrification fades on its own… but while stuck there you cannot react to anything.  There were a few times when I got frozen… and then got the cursed voice debuff…  forcing people to run out of my frontal cone because I could not aim the ability away from the raid.  To make matters worse…  she starts lighting up sections of the round platform we stand on… turning them into a field of angry damage over time death.  So as all of this dancing is going on… we also have to watch placement on the floor.  All told… we did pretty damned well last night on our first night of attempts.  On our best try we managed to get her down to 19% before things fell apart largely because we were not prepared for the final phase.  I have a feeling next Monday we will take her down and move on to Turn 8.