Friday, March 30, 2007

Spoiled Rotten...tomatoes??

Man...I've got to get off the sauce with these titles.

Anywho, there was an interesting post over at MMO Gaming by Brandon that I think I'd like to discuss. The premise of the article is that MMO gamers are spoiled when it comes to their genre. Spoiled, because of our high expectations for change within the MMO space. We think that the genre has stagnated, that it is offering nothing new, and that if we were just patient and wait, the changes we want will come...eventually.'s an interesting theory and it may be true, but I don't think the correct word to use is "spoiled". Being spoiled implies someone asking for and getting everything that they want...and clearly this is not the case as far as the players are concerned. MMO players are clearly not getting all they want, nor will they ever get all that they want, therefore, they cannot be "spoiled". What they are is frustrated at the perceived rut we are in, and there very well may not be any rut at all...we just may be seeing a disconnect between what is expected and what can be delivered. MMO gamers can bark at the moon until they are blue in the face, but there are financial implications to every feature they want...and every MMO cannot be everything to everybody. So we get into this mismatch when a player gets into a game and then says, "Why can't they have X, Y and Z in here?! We need it or I'm looking elsewhere".

We've also go to understand that players put a lot more time and money in MMOs than any other genre out there. Over the course of a two year subscription, a typical MMO player would have spent $410 on a game ($50 box + $360 for subscription at $15/month). The amount of hours varies for each player...but multiply your typical length of time by your local minimum wage to put a value on it if you want. It adds up to quite a bit over the course of two years. Now, a typical FPS game runs for the same box price with no subscription and the typical length is about 10 hours. So, there is an obvious investment factor to MMOs that FPSs do not have and I think that MMO devs should listen to those investors.

I do admit though...sometimes these "investors" act like unitards (the term"asshat" has been put away for a while to be reused at a later date). There are better and more constructive ways to address developers than how we already are. Right now, it seems like we approach these professionals in a very unprofessional way. Calm, rational discourse is not really the typical characteristic of the MMO "mob personality". Gotta change that.

D out.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Anatomy of Discourse

So, interesting night last night. Before I settle in for whatever gaming experience I'm going to give myself for the night, I usually give my site one last look for traffic and also check my emails for any comments on my ramblings. I had one from Brent in my Fruit Salad article. "Oh" I said. I really didn't think much of that post when I wrote it so I wondered what attracted Brent to it....cause all he wrote was "All I have to say:". I cursed his name for being so cryptic (/wink) and went to check it out. Apparently, a fellow blogger had an issue with something I wrote at the tail end of the article...specifically, I said this:

...consoles are on the rise and this worries me. I see the console gamer culture much like the WoW culture...translate, I don't like it very much. So yeah, it worries me to hear the words "MMO" and "console" used in the same sentence. True, it opens up the market and makes more money for game developers...but it also opens up the door for more asshats and battlenet kiddies in my games. I like them where they the nice, controlled environment of WoW...where they can be studied. You get MMOs and console gamers together and they'll get out...and our hopes for an asshat cure from those studies will be lost.

Looking at the above, which was part satire, part serious and part crap, I may have brought the ol' foot down a bit too hard on this type of gamer. Se7en was calling me on it. He thought he was taking a jab at me and I really don't see it that way. I honestly have no problem when people call me on anything I say long as you're not, well, and asshat about it, and he wasn't. Se7en could have just as easily been very nasty and caused drama, etc, etc....but he didn't. I could have easily done the same...but I didn't...and Brent, being the gentlemen and community hub that he is, came up the middle with a response of his own. That, ladies and gents is how ideas flow and why I love doing an MMO blog.

It's true, MMOs going to consoles is doubt about it and I've accepted that. Actually, I'm very curious on how well Age of Conan will actually do on the 360. Still, when I think about it, it still irks me as being the wrong move for some reason. I don't know, maybe it's because MMOs have always been a PC genre and I can't get my brain around the concept. Strategy games are still mainly a PC genre, and they fall into the same kind of mental block for me. You don't see big strategy releases like Supreme Commander or Command and Conquer 3 making big announcements for the 360 or, gawd help me, the PS3...because they just wouldn't work on that platform for me. I have a very hard time picturing getting into an MMO on a 360 with a controller in my hand, and then pressing X-Y-Right-Left-UP-DOWN-UP while doing the Chicken Dance to perform a special move a-la Mortal Combat. Am I making any sense? If they don't do that, then they're going to simplify the control scheme and then it just becomes Gears of War with elves and weapon stats. It's coming, I's needed, I know...but I'm not getting warm and fuzzy about it. Drink the koolaid Darren....drink the koolaid.

Now about the asshats. Yes, the majority of MMO players and even WoW players do not fall within this category. It's a character flaw of mine that I have a very low tolerance for the type of person who screams "NOOB!!! PWNED!! L337!!" in vent and then goes on a homicidal rant about why a +33 str sword sucks compared to a +34 str sword. It's just not 13 year olds, I've heard 20-somethings start this stuff. I just have to ignore these people a bit more and keep telling myself, "We have no problem here...we have no problem here....".

D out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oh gawd my eyes....the goggles do nothing!

So I was taking a look at Site Meter for the site yesterday, you know, to see who's jumping in and to also see if there are any new faces taking a peek. I was doing this at work...important point. There were the usual sites visiting (thanks guys) and some google search links...and there it was, a new site taking a look. Well, I clicked it and I couldn't find the close button fast enough.

Nothing like a little gay porn site popping up at work to get your heart rate going.

[Edit: And that would be an "oh gawd, I'm going to get fired" kinda heart rate...not a "oh porn" kind of heart rate. I know some of you were thinking that...sickos :) ]

Vanguard keeping us in the loop

I got to hand it to Brad and his team...they sure do like keeping the players in the loop on what's happening in Vanguard.

Two things. First is a new page over at the official Vanguard site called "In the Works". The page gives a nice overview of short term and long term goals for the dev team. It also gives a top 10 list of bugs and issues they are looking into. As Borat would say...very niiiccce.

Second, Brad himself posted on the forums again. In keeping with the last format, this one is quite long as well. This one is from the TelonCast forums. Once again, he goes over the past, present and future of Vanguard. They are coming around the current realities of the MMO space post-WoW I think...and good for them. It would be nice to see a more serious post-WoW MMO out in the market, and I think Vanguard can pull it off. Here's an interesting piece from it:

"We have a LOT of cool stuff planned (city building, mounted combat, ship to ship combat, better AI and more interesting dungeon layouts and population, eventually user generated content and a more dynamic world, and so much more)"


One thing though...despite Vanguard's current unfinished state, the Sigil team gets good marks for community communication.

D out.

A Fruit Salad

When I think fruit salad, I think of a mixed bag of stuff....but since I used that title already, I now feel the need to get metaphoric.

First up is a follow-up of the IP blocking issue brew-ha-ha over at Turbine. Turns out that they've removed the blocking of IPs for North America, so now customers can play on EU servers with their friends if they want to. However, they do recommend that you stay in your own region for the best play experience and service. Who are we kidding, it's only a matter of time before a group demands to have zero ping across the Atlantic..."We're paying customers damnit!!". Anyway, this will be good news for those who have friends in the EU.

I recently noted that I missed the LoTR end of beta event. Luckily, Fosef over at Gamebunny has been kind enough to give a brief summary of what happened that night. Makes me regret missing that event. Just as a note...that bluish dragon you see in the screen shots looks very much like the ones I had to kill in some PvE quests during my Monster Play stint.

Something interesting turned up at CuppyTalk yesterday. If you read her blog, she recently asked for schooling advice. Me being the high-tech geek Engineer that I am, gave my advice...buuuuut, a lead EQ2 programmer from SOE named Don also chimed in and gave her some great advice. That was very kind of Don to take the time to post this information. If you're interested in someday being a developer/programmer, go over there and read what he says. I'm sure Cuppy is geekin out over that post :)

Lastly, there is a huge article over at Gamasutra that goes into how to make MMOs more appealing to a mass audience. For those that just want a summary, you can find it once again over at Gamebunny. More appealing to the mass market? Hmmmmm....isn't that what WoW did??? One of the more amusing tidbits of the article reads:

"On the other side of the PC gaming coin, non-subscription retail games face increasingly grim prospects as customers turn to pirated software and parasitic games such as the aforementioned World of Warcraft, which more than one executive has blamed for slow PC game sales. And they appear to have a valid complaint: retail sales of PC games have fallen every year since 2001, while revenue from subscription fees has skyrocketed." First, WoW didn't come into the market until 2004 so it can't account for anything PC sales wise before that. Second, according to NPD (gamepsot news source), game sales for 2001 broke records. 2002, sales where down but according to NPD, that was more due to console sales. 2003, it slumped. Fast forward to 2006 and reports are that the PC game industry is indeed quite healthy. True, down from 2004, but nothing I would describe as "grim prospects". The pirating of PC games and the link to sales is a load of crap...always has been a load of crap, always will be a load of crap. PC gamers are not turning to pirated games...period. If they are, its a very small group of people and I doubt it would even dent the bottom line. Jeesh. Most of the "decline" in sales have been from box stores like your EBs or Best Buys....the NPD numbers do not even account for digital distribution of PC games which is expected to double this year alone. So, once again the "PC gaming is dead" drum is being beaten...please stop it, thanks.

He is right though, consoles are on the rise and this worries me. I see the console gamer culture much like the WoW culture...translate, I don't like it very much. So yeah, it worries me to hear the words "MMO" and "console" used in the same sentence. True, it opens up the market and makes more money for game developers...but it also opens up the door for more asshats and battlenet kiddies in my games. I like them where they the nice, controlled environment of WoW...where they can be studied. You get MMOs and console gamers together and they'll get out...and our hopes for an asshat cure from those studies will be lost.

D out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Well...not really...but I think the blog-o-sphere is the only place left where you can say "fire!" and not have the black helicopters come and drag you away. Plus, I'm starting to run out of titles for some strange reason. Carrying on then....

Actually, before I do carry on I had an interesting comment from my last article. I did one of those visual writing comments regarding the amount of MMO "goodness" coming out in 2007. One of my readers and fellow blogger Cuppycake seems to feel that there is a lot of "MMO mediocrity" coming out in 2007 and she got me thinking...way to go Cuppy :) 2006, I think we all can agree, was a very dry year for MMOs with the only new thing really launching was DDO. For 2007 we have 5 or 7 high profile MMOs launching, most of which are fantasy based. Cuppy is not the only person really feeling "meh" about the offerings for 2007, the MOG Army guys Garry and Ryan are kinda projecting that vibe as well. Personally, I don't think it's going to be that bad of a year...actually, I think 2007 will be the year that the MMO reaches a maturing point. I think the MMO genre is now reaching a point where it is establishing standards for itself, i.e. UI layout, death penalties, exp curves, quest expectations, PvP etc. All the MMO companies are putting all of these expected standards into their games and choosing a handful of new features and innovations to excel on. I think this is a good thing and after 2007 we'll start seeing the real innovations coming out of the industry, with even more standard features included from the 2007 games. It's the great circle of MMO life we're seeing here.

Switching gears completely, Spellborn is starting to make a bit of a ruckus right now. A couple of really good features that are being introduced in this one:
  • No stats for armor. Actually, you can add stat increases to your armor by adding modifications called sigils. This is kind of like the slotting feature that BC brought to WoW. There whole drop system and crafting of new armor looks really interesting.
  • No big raids...thank Zeus!! Presently, no MMO has broken away from this end game grind for gear we call raids. It's starting to become a relic and this whole raiding concept needs to be revisited. Looks like Spellborn is first up to bat with this reevaluation of the raiding end game.
  • Combat is more action oriented than other MMO offerings right now. Their system kind of reminds me of Guild Wars, so there is a certain strategy to setting up your skills.
Damnit! Due to the way they're approaching this game, I'm going to have to put this one on my radar.

Lastly, for those that are interested, here is the current schedule for the LoTR beta. I unfortunately missed the end of beta event yesterday and as of today, the beta servers are dark and won't be up again until the Open Beta starts. Hope to see everyone in there on the 30th.

D out.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vanguard, LoTR, EVE...and a partridge in a pear treeeeee

OK....sorry about the partridge thing, I'm feeling a bit punchy this morning. A couple of things before I go completely nuts here. Apparently, I'm still playing Vanguard...I have no idea why, I just am. If you're looking for me in the Hilsbury server, look no further because I moved to the Gulgrethor server a couple of weeks ago. I've joined a guild as well and am now a level 19 Ranger, name Belmirus. The game has improved by quite a bit since my review three weeks ago. Vanguard still isn't quite there yet though and probably won't be "there" for another 3-4 months. I'm going to keep playing though. I'll probably do yet another review (....jeesh...), maybe at the end of the summer or early fall.

LoTR Open beta for those that pre-ordered is just around the corner and I'm really excited to fully start this game. One thing I'm not looking forward to though, is going through levels 1-15 again. When the open beta hits this week, this would be the third time going through those levels and repeating that It might be slow going for those levels because the exploration drive just isn't there after the second time for me. Once that's done, watch out. I think I'll end up making a Captain as my class because, well, being a Captain of Gondor is just too cool to give up on. I figure LoTR will be a nice casual break from Vanguard's style, but I have no idea which game will win out in the end. LoTR has a head start due to it's polish, but Vanguard is making some headway in that category...but it still has a long way to go. I have a couple of friends playing Vanguard right now, and one of the bad things about LoTR coming out is that I don't want them to get too far ahead of me in Vanguard. Bah....damn you 2007...why must you be so full of MMO goodness...(/emote Darren shakes fist in the air).

With more LoTR news, this article seems to be making the rounds. It's quite a long read and the the amount of effort put into this article is amazing. The article is about Turbine's recent announcement that basically says that those living in North America will not be able to play with any friends they may have in EU. From a purely selfish point of view, I'm kinda "meh" about this...simply because I don't regularly play with anyone from the EU. From a community PR point of view, I can see how this would be a big deal...especially for guilds that have members around the globe. I'm still munching on the details of what he asserts in the article...and I may comment on them later. The article is definitely worth the read.

Eve Online has now rolled out Revelations 1.4 and voice chat is one of the big features. I must admit, I don't play Eve anymore...I canceled about a month ago (...there just isn't enough PvE stuff in there IMHO, or I just plain suck at the or the other). I'm sure all those in Eve are adjusting quite nicely to the new voice chat feature. I know I'll be heading into Eve again in the future, so this will be a nice addition to look forward to.

So...that's it. Oh, Silent Hunter 4 is still I think this single player purchase was worth it. There are lots of bugs in the game right now though. Oh....and the manual SUCKS! There are sooo many undocumented details in this game, it makes me sick. Example: Did you know that you could not load torpedoes while you're in silent running neither! I can only say that WWII would have turned out a lot different if sub commanders where given this stupid, wimpy manual to fight the Axis with. My thanks to the community over at Subsim for all your help so far...great bunch of guys over there.

D out.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Mixed Bag 'O Stuff

So, as the tittle suggests, this post is a bit of a mixed forgive me for being all over he place on this one. First, is it just me, or is it gotten really quiet in the MMO world all of a sudden. No "real" news to speak of really...which leaves dimwitted bloggers like me (...ok, only me..) with very little to comment on. It is just me? OK, as you were then....

First up is a great interview over at MMOG Nation with Marc Jacobs. I've been reasonably impressed with the information coming out of the Warhammer camp as of late. In this interview he goes over some of his favorite features of Warhammer as well as some comments on the relationship with EA. Marc seems to be quite taken on their implementation of RvR, and honestly, that's the feature that I'm looking forward to on this game. I've gotten over the T for Teen thing, but I'm still not seeing a reasonable justification for the absence of a death penalty. Don't get me wrong, I'm still getting the game and trying it out, so it's not a deal breaker by any means...I just think it's not a good design decision. Marc also brings up on how expensive it is now to develop an MMO. He's certainly right and this does contribute to the early release of many MMOs...the most recent being Vanguard. We've heard a lot about "polish" in MMOs from developers during GDC...I'm just wondering if they've got the cash to do it.

In the category of "Pirate Love", Ten Ton Hammer has got a video preview of Pirates of the Burning Sea. I really didn't see nothing new in the video gameplay wise...but I did get a better look at ships and I also got a better feel of their quest system from the preview. You know, one thing is starting to bug me about combat in PotBS. When you watch a pirate movie, or any movie with sword play (Princess Bride or Pirates of the Carribean for example), the sword play is very fluid and fast. When I look at the combat in PotBS, I don't see that kind of sword exchange. Why can't they implement a continuous, smooth fencing action with special moves in between? This may very well what is in the game, I just haven't seen it in the video previews that I've seen so far. What I see so far is a lot of special moves with long pauses in between swings as recharge timers charge back up. No no no...blades of the swords should always be in contact as we see in most movies about pirates.

Tobold has put up another great blog post about peer pressure in WoW...specifically about getting to 70 quick and staying with that "inner circle" to see raiding content. I got that feeling from WoW as well...not just in our guild, but on our server in general. I can't really quantify the feeling, and maybe it was just me. I knew who the first ten people would be to 70 in my guild just from the way they played in the past. I also knew that those people would form a sub-group and hit the raid content first, leaving some of the other "casual" players scrounging for groups. This seems to be happening to a lot of guilds game wide. It looks like guilds are having a hard time transitioning from the 40 man raids to the 10 and 25. This is the way Blizzard designed the BC end game, and now I'm thinking it wasn't such a good idea. They should have just stuck with the 40 mans.

So, I got my copy of Silent Hunter 4 last night and played with it a little....and I guess it's a good game. The tutorial missions are not very good and kind of leave you out there to learn on your own...which is ok, but not very newb friendly. The graphics are really, really nice and the sound is good too. This seems to be quite a hardcore sub sim, although you can configure the realism to suit your needs...I just need to tweak it to find my happy place. I took a look at the career mode last night and I was hit in the face with a recon mission that involved me traveling from Hawaii to just off mainland Japan. Wow, looking at the map, that's quite a bit of traveling to do. So, that kind of turned me off a bit. Going to keep playing it and see if I can figure this game out. As my only single player purchase of 2007, I'm hoping that it can deliver a nice change of pace in between MMOs.

D out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's in an IP?

I've been mulling over the question on whether I not I would be playing, or even interested in, LoTR Online if it wasn't Lord of the Rings. It's an interesting question and brings a larger question to mind: Does the IP have any effect on the success of an MMO? If I answer this question, I'm sure I can figure out whether the IP of Lord of the Rings has anything to do with me being interested in this game. Right?

Well, let's take a look at the current "big" IP MMO offerings that we have now:
  • Star War Galaxies
  • Matrix Online
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online
You might argue that WoW and EQ2 should be added to the list as well just due to how deep their lore is...but those two have only touched gaming and have not branched out to other media forms such as movies.

Now realistically, none of those titles are really doing that well. Correction, none of those titles are doing as well as they should be, given the weight behind the IP. Star Wars Galaxies has been plagued with controversy since the NGE "issue". Matrix Online is dying a slow death with a low subscriber base and lack of new content. DDO, although filled with new approaches, stumbled at the starting block with not enough content, low level cap and a non persistent world. So far, not a very good track record for MMOs with big IPs behind them. They seem to be suffering from the same curse that Star Trek has with single player PC games (...ironically, Star Trek is also getting an MMO...uh-ohhhhh).

Now, let's take the IPs away from these guys and pretend that they are just MMOs with a given set of features and gameplay mechanics. Let's also look at the first three months of subscriber numbers and use that as a popularity or "buzz" measuring stick. This will be rough, but bear with me.
  • Matrix Online: first 3 months: 50, 000 subs
  • SWG: first 3 months: 275,000 subs
  • DDO: first 3 months: 100,000 subs
Of course, these are estimates by looking at the MMO charts at Now, if I've read the graph right, SWG is at the top of the "buzz" meter and took off pretty quickly when it was launched in 2003. That makes sense really, since it's arguably the most well known sci-fi IP in existence. DDO is in second place and again, not surprisingly. D&D is a niche market and really wouldn't have the same type of broad base appeal of a Star Wars title. I would argue that a lot more non gamers would pick up a Star Wars MMO than say a D&D MMO. Not sure if thats what these numbers point to, but it would play a factor. I'm not surprised that MxO took third place because I honestly don't think it's a strong enough IP for an MMO. I personally think that people have a hard time getting into playing a Neo like character. The whole Matrix world is a bit harder to relate to from an RP perspective IMHO. I don't know, maybe if Matrix had 25-ish years in the public conscience it would be a better MMO fit, but I just can't see it for some reason.

So, from the numbers I would say that the IP did carry the title during its first three months of release...but then what happens? Well, for MxO and SWG, gameplay issues started to trump the IP. The honeymoon for each of these guys was anywhere between 6-12 months. So the lesson here is that no matter what your IP is, if there isn't a game behind it, you're setting yourself up for failure. We just haven't seen this in MMOs by the way. Single player PC, XBox and PS2 titles are filled with strong IP games that just ended bombing due to poor game design.

Now, I guess for LoTR we can expect the same kind of thing when it hits the market. For the first three months we're going to see the IP carry the game to somewhere in the 200, 000 subscriber base area (my guess by the way). Six to twelve months from then, we'll start to see what people really feel about the game, myself included. At that point though, this is where my expansion theory either sinks or swims. When the honeymoon is over, LoTR has got to release an expansion that sets the tone for this game. It can't afford to release a BC like expansion where it's more of the's got to be something that will grab hold of the players like a vice grip. It's got to be something that will get non-LoTR players involved as well. If it fails to do this, I see it heading the way SWG is right now.

Now, am I playing LoTR because it's Lord of the Rings? Yes. Am I only playing it for the IP? No. Same could be said for WoW...yes I played it because it's a Blizzard game, but it wasn't the only reason I played it. If you stripped Blizzard and Warcraft from WoW, I would have still played it for the many reasons I've already expressed on this site. Quality, gameplay, atmosphere are all factors in the game for me. Seeing Frodo and Strider are really kewl but they're really the nice shiny bow and wrapping paper over a nice box filled with candy....mmmmm, candy.

So, it looks like IP does play an important part in a game's popularity...but a game has to do more in 2007 than "drop a name" in order to be successful. We'll have to revisit LoTR next year and see how the manage what can be described as an IP Curse.

D out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Walk the Quality Plank...YARRRR!!!

I wanted to direct everyone to the latest Dev Log over at Flying Labs (the creators of Pirates of the Burning Sea). Specifically this little blurb really caught my attention:

"This build is not only the milestone build (the culmination of the work of a single milestone), it just so happened this was the “feature complete” milestone so this build contains basically all the features in the game. (Because no one can resist, I’m sure another small feature or two or ten will show up against great protestations from QA, but the big stuff’s in.) The milestone we just began is the “content complete” milestone. After that, it’s just polish, polish, polish."

That's right folks, they're starting to communicate quality milestones to the now the page has really turned hasn't it. Since the release of a the much covered WoW and it's expansion Burning Crusade, the new industry buzzword is now "polish". We're going to see this word used a lot to describe at what phase an MMO has reached in it's quality development. Game companies that don't say that they are "polishing" their game will be the odd ones out...they will be looked at as if they're growing a second head. "Polishing" is to MMOs as "Family Values" is to doesn't really mean anything, but gets people on your side without lifting a finger. I tend to believe Flying Labs when it comes to the polishing statement, because I have more than one source telling me that they're on the right track for a great game. So...onward guys. Polish away. For the other guys...please don't use "polish" too much. With the MMO market getting really crowded in 2007 the last thing you want to do is cry wolf on quality.

There is some more information on LoTR Online for those that are interested. What they're thinking about for PvP could prove to be interesting:

"The PVP is centred around Monster Play but right now we don't see ourselves creating PVP servers where you can run riot in the Shire. The Monster Play area is isolated but very large and we hope to add campaign and other PVP options to this area. From a design point of view areas like Helms Deep should be consumed with PvP combat. Or mounted combat - hopefully - in Rohan would work very well with PvP. And what about Mordor? Or Moria? That could be the ultimate PvP dungeon of all time. So nothing has been decided yet and we are keeping an open mind. But we want to project the lore."

The options for PvP in the areas of Helms Deep, Moria and Mordor would be sweet. Mounted combat in Rohan would give a great dimension to the game as well. We'll obviously not see these until an expansion hits, but I like the way they're thinking. Of course, for this to all make sense, I would think they would have to introduce evil races. I've always thought that yes, LoTR Online has a great base at launch, but its the expansions that will make or break this title....looks like these tentative plans for PvP will build upon that solid base.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pirates and a Yo Ho Ho

Back fresh from a nice long weekend, hence the no post Friday from last, we're back in the saddle again.

We're all still feeling quite a bit of fallout from GDC 2007. There has been so much information coming out that I'm having a bit of a hard time keeping up with it all. The MOG Army guys have put up their latest video offering in Ep.56 and they've got some good content in there...I was specifically drawn to the Pirates of the Burning Sea stuff that they showed off. As usual, and because it his turn, I blame Brent (Virgin Worlds) from putting this game back on my radar and now I'm putting the MOG guys on my list for making it a "must buy". A curse on all of your houses I say. Seriously though, this game is looking to be very good indeed. The features that are sticking out for me are the PvP ready world and the Naval combat...both combined make me really want to get my hands on this game. Now, I've said this before that I'm really not a PvP kind of guy, but Pirates seems to set the right tone for me in terms of implementation...even more so than Warhammer at this point. Players can perform PvE missions to destabilize a port and make that port ripe for the conquering. The sea around the port also becomes a huge PvP zone in which to conduct large naval battles. Saaaaweeeet. PotBS is supposed to come out in June 2007.

Another game thats starting to get me thinking is Stargate Worlds and already it's starting to worry me. They've indicated that the leveling curve will be relatively shorter than found in most MMOs today. This is to encourage players to enter the PvP part of the game as well as role alts to experience new content as it's put in. I'm still munching on this "quick" leveling implementation that they're proposing. I'm not exactly sure why its bothering just does. Maybe it's because I'm use to a leveling system and thats what I expect, but I don't think so. I think I may be equating "quick leveling system" with "quick content", or "easy mode" gameplay in which you're just blasting through everything with relative ease. I always shake my head when I see people rushing through content just to get to level x first. An entire game in which I'm shaking my head at everyone who plays just points to a sore neck. We'll see...but a little red flag went up when I heard that. Everything else about the game sounds really good. Once again, Virgin Worlds has a great interview in show 60 with the latest and greatest on StarGate Worlds. Also, there is a good overview over at Ten Ton Hammer.

Thats it for now. Man...I've still got a list of topics I need to discuss regarding GDC and other things, but those can wait for another post.

Oh, Silent Hunter 4 should be out this week. I'll give a really short blurb on what I think about this one. This may be the only single player game I buy in it's a big deal.

D out.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Vanguard Backlash

I've been stewing about about the post that Brad McQuaid put up recently, giving his take on the current state of Vanguard. It gives a good look into this guys mind. From what he says in this post, his heart is in the right place for this game. Although my impressions of Vanguard are a bit mixed, one thing I think I've been consistent about is Sigil's high commitment to this game...and this may be the deciding factor over whether this game will succeed or not.

A recent Broken Toys article asserts that the MMO industry has turned a quality corner. What I mean by that is since the release of WoW, MMO players now expect a certain quality level in their games....and why shouldn't we. Since the financial model of most MMO companies count on monthly payments as a revenue stream, quality out of the box translates directly to bottom line. If players get a buggy game, they vote with their monthly subscriptions. This is a something Sigil is aware of from a business perspective, but with all of the feedback they're getting, other MMO companies must be taking note. As we saw from comments from GDC, the message is polish, polish, polish. The big question is whether or not other MMO organizations have the cash to polish their games.

What it looks like right now is that MMOs are skipping part of their quality processes, or are making high risk quality decisions that come back and bite them in the ass later on. I don't think thats the case for Vanguard. For Vanguard its the simple case of not reaching a "Feature Complete" on many project and design milestones. True, they had to get the game out due to financial considerations but now they've got to reap the whirlwind. It's obvious that other companies don't want to go through that same kind of pain...interesting times indeed.

Given this recent post about their plans, I think they are learning that though lesson that I mentioned back in January. They're looking at teleporting options and the current XP penalty for people who don't want to corpse run, as well as other issues. Looks like they're close to the formula that most gamers are expecting of their games these days. Given all of the fantasy titles coming out this year, its going to be interesting to see where Vanguard settles.

D out.

Free weekends abound

Two of the most original MMOs that never really caught on are having account reactivations this weekend, Auto Assault and DDO (Dungeons & Dragons Online). Auto Assault is giving theirs from March 16-26, and DDO is having theirs from March 16-18. If you haven't visited these MMOs for a while and want to try them out again, then this is the time to do it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Non-MMO excitement?

First and foremost, I'm a gamer...a gamer that really loves MMOs and the MMO community...but a gamer none the less. However, there is a single player game coming out this month that has got me kinda excited, and that would be Silent Hunter 4.

Its been a loooong time since I've played a sub simulation game. I have very fond memories of staying up late at night hunting for ships to sink. I think the last one I played was 688(i) Hunter/Killer by Jane's Combat Simulations (ahhhh, Jane's...where fore art thou).

Why would I buy fact, why did I pre-order it? Glad you asked, oh mainly MMO audience who is about to lynch me. Little back story. Waaaay back in my gaming career (/laf...gaming "career"), there was a game called Gunship 2000 by Micropose. I played that game until my eyes turned inside out. One of the features I loved was the fact that you progressed in military rank from Warrent 1 to General ( least I think General was the highest). You also got medals. Added to that, you usually had a couple of wingmen with you on missions and you got to promote them and give them medals as well. As your wingmen increased in rank, they got better at their jobs and therefore, were of more valuable to you. I loved this concept....being able to assign ranks and medals and actually creating value in your wingmen. I also waited in heavy anticipation after each mission for that next rank to be given to me. It's almost MMO-ish and maybe this game was a big influence on my love for the genre. Silent Hunter 4, the men in your sub increase in rank and grow in skill as you complete missions. I've been waiting for a game with this feature in it for a while now, and it looks like this will be it. I'm not too sure if the player character increases in rank and you go, nor do I know if you get medals and such, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. The graphics look really spectacular as well. It'll be a nice break from the MMO world for me and I'm really looking forward to getting into a sub again. I know its seems kinda "gamey" with ranks and medals, but Gunship 2000 brought a certain value to the men you commanded in your squad. We really don't see that anymore in flightsims, RTS or even MMOs....everything on the screen is a disposable drone. Oh's hoping that this game brings back that feature that I've been missing. concludes my non-MMO musings for this month. You can now put your pitchforks away.

D out.

Bye Bye CGW and Massive

Son of a....

This was a big surprise to read last night. There are other sources to this story, so it looks to be real enough as I'm writing this.

That's a really is. Massive was the only computer gaming magazine that I subscribed to and it was very well done. It wasn't full of the flash or fanboi BS that you see in most other magazines. Their articles were funny and informative and I really enjoyed reading them. Every other printed computer magazine out there right now is crap...crap, crap, crap, crap. OK, fine, there may be a good one out there, but I'm not going to stick my hand into the outhouse "honeypot" just to retrieve a gold ring, if you know what I mean.

My only hope is that someone will see this value and pick them up. My guess is that someone sees what I see in this magazine...I just refuse to believe that we won't be seeing them again.

D out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Star Gate Worlds info

If you take a listen to Game On/'s latest podcast, you'll hear some really great information about the upcoming MMO Star Gate Worlds. I usually don't pimp's podcast because, well, it's usually lacking in quality...but information is information.

My wife and I are really big Star Gate fans. We've watched all of SG-1 and are just starting to watch the season 2 DVD of Atlantis. This IP has huuuuge potential (...there's that word again...) and just might be the one to watch if you're desperate for a sci-fi MMO.

My wife is usually a good test indicator for high quality games that hit the market. Her favorites of the past and present are: the Civ series, the Sims series, Diablo II, and WoW...and that's it. Those there are some of the biggest hits in gaming history right there. I've tried to get her in other games, but she usually says "meh" after a few minutes and goes right back to those ones. Word of advice to Cheyenne want her as a beta tester.

D out.

Death of the Sword and the Wand?

For the life of me, I can't remember where I read this but there has been some rumblings about how much more mileage the fantasy MMO has left in it. For 2007, here are some of the big MMOs that are coming out:
  • Warhammer Online
  • Age of Conan
  • Gods and Heroes
  • Lord of the Rings Online
  • Vanguard
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea
With the exception of Pirates, all of those are fantasy based games. Mark Jacob's in the Past, Present and Future round table during GDC said this:

"the first thing that we can learn from wow is: never ask me again ever if the market is saturated and it can't grow any more. We’ve heard this for ten years. Every journalist asked me, so is that it, 10,000 is that it? With UO. With Everquest... same thing. Camelot. City of Heroes. All I kept hearing still from journos is 'is the market saturated'. There will be another World of Warcraft. I don't think it'll be Warhammer. But there will be one, and it will expand the market."

You know what, I really want to agree with him...but I can't given the steady stream of fantasy titles coming out of the industry. I should agree with him because we've seen people make statements like "...all you'll ever need is 64K of RAM...", that's being off by several orders of magnitude. What makes me not agree with him is that the MMO industry is stuck in a fantasy rut right now. Games like Tabula Rasa, Star Trek Online and Star Gate Worlds are far from proving themselves to be the savior. I don't see them particularly opening the market anymore than it is right now, and some of these are titles we won't see for some time.

WoW brought in most of its players due to its low barrier to entry...lets face it. Sure, it was very well polished, but you can't bring in those numbers with just polish....there's got to other factors and usability is one of them, fun is another. So, in order to grow the market even more there has to be a game that is even more polished, more fun and is just as easy or easier to use than WoW and I don't think that will happen. Why? 1) Money, 2) Time 3) did I say money??? Right now, the only company that create the WoW killer is, ironically, Blizzard because they've got the resources to do so. So, the only company that can grow the market is also Blizzard and they won't do it with another fantasy title....that market is tapped out and burnt out as of the end of this year. I'm really hoping that the industry sees this as well and starts innovating again....I mean REALLY innovating.

So, with the saturation of the market with fantasy titles, and Blizzard clearly in the drivers seat for expanding the market, I think that after 2007 the new frontier of MMOs will be sci-fi. You can bet that the wheels have already been turning over at Blizzard to capture that market. I for one welcome our new Blizzard overlords.

D out

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Vanguard defence

Its going to be a relatively light blogging day for's insane here at work. Still, there is the Ep2 podcast as well as the Vanguard blog review below, so be sure to check those out and post your feedback.

Speaking of Vanguard, I picked this little tidbit from the Virgin Worlds news feed. I'll have more to say about it later, but for now I think Vanguard is a case study of "biting off more than you can chew". I really think the Sigil guys thought really big, which isn't a bad thing, but there are consequences to thinking outside your own scope.

I think I've said this before...Vanguard could have easily just shipped with one continent and it would have been fine until the next expansion. Just think what state Vanguard could have been in if they just developed content for Thestra, worked on class design, graphic optimization etc for 5 years. It would have kicked ass.

D out.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ep2 - tcsgamer Podcast - Vaguard: Sega of Heroes Impressions

All done.

You can take a listen to tcsgamer's 2nd podcast. I think the production value of this one is a bit better, but it still weird talking to myself.

You can find it here.

Feedback is welcome and appreciated. Enjoy

D out.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Vanguard: Sega of Heroes Impressions - Post Release

OK, so I think I'm pretty much ready to start my impressions of Vanguard. As promised, this "review" comes with TCSGamer's second know, for those of you who are too lazy to read. I'll put a separate Podcast post as soon as I have it completed, which should be later tonight (it's recorded...just got to put bells and whistles on it).

Now a couple of things we need to cover before I get into the meat of this stuff...this is not really a review. This more like a set of impressions that I have had over the course of the game from Beta 3 (I started on December 21/2006) all the way to now, post release. I've got to be honest, nothing much has changed from my beta impressions save for a couple of things which I will go over here. I'm hoping that there is enough here to give some of you an idea of whether or not this game is for you.

I've got to admit...this has probably been one of the more difficult games to judge and as of today, I'm still not completely sure what I really think of Vanguard. As of this review, I'm only level 16 and not 20. I think that it would have been at least another month for me to get to 20 in this game with my play style...and I know you're all eagerly waiting for my impressions to come out (yeah...riiiiight...)

That all being said, lets get on to the nitty gritty.

My System:
AMD 64 3500+ Processor
nVidia 7900 GT Video card
2 Gb RAM
and so on....

Getting into the game

How easy you get into Vanguard or the "newbie" experience of Vanguard really depends on where you start off. From what I've gathered, if you start off in Thestra, you seem to have an easier time with the progression in the beginning than in the other continents of Qalia and Kojan. This is also what I can gather lately out of some of the forums available...some areas simply aren't complete compared to others in the game at this point in terms of content. Of course, they are constantly updating content so this won't be the case for very long.

If you stick to Thestra, you'll find it pretty easy to be introduced into the world of Vanguard. You pretty much have your standard newb quests of kill this..get that. You'll find yourself getting up to levels 6, 7, 8-ish pretty quickly. Another thing you'll notice as you level is that getting a level means quite a bit in Vanguard. When you do level and get more spells, there is a noticeable difference in the power that you get. I like this. It gives me more of a sense of accomplishment when I see and feel a real difference in my character's power. I hope Sigil keeps this model for as long as they can.

You're given quests for all spheres within the game when you start out: adventuring, crafting and diplomacy. Each of the introductions to these spheres is very well done and I really had no trouble getting the hang of either of them.

State of the Game

As of this writing, Vanguard just put in its first content update and they called it...well, Update#1. The following day of the patch, they put in a "Restart" patch to balance some of the classes....again. Since I've started playing, there have been 11 patches to the this should tell you something. Essentially, Vanguard is still in beta right now and will probably remain so until we only see patches once a month or quarterly. I'm not really pleased with the current state of the game to be honest...even with the really nice additions from Update #1. The game is still kinda clunky and classes seem to be tweaked almost weekly, so you can't really get into a good rhythm I find.

So, as of today, keep that in mind when you purchase the game. If you have a high tolerance for a good game with bugs, broken quests and questionable performance then go get Vanguard.


Honestly the graphics in Vanguard really don't appeal to me that much. I guess I've been spoiled with the lush graphics that I found in Lord of the Rings Online. Vanguard is supposed to be state of the art when it comes to graphical prowess and I find myself saying "meh" quite often to a very dull looking world. The colors they use for foliage, and rocks , trees etc, just look wrong for a state of the art game. OK, I know I said that the game is essentially still in beta so yeah, lots of the textures may still be undergoing changes...but still, my first impression is not a positive one even when I keep that fact in mind.

The facts are that this game may look really good in 2-3 years and thats really a shame...because I want to enjoy this game now, not in 2 years when I may have a better machine to run it with.

The one thing about the graphics that really bother me is everything that has to do with your player character. From the combat animations to the the jumping. Ohhhhh God the jumping....I look like a frickin school girl every time I jump. W....T...F!! On the good side though, the creatures in the game are AMAZING. We went into this troll cave and the amount of detail they put into these trolls was spectacular. If Sigil put as much detail and love into the player avatars as they did the'd be a very happy man.

Sound of Muuuuusic...lalalaaa

The only music set that really stood out to me was when I was in the High-Elf area...everything else really grated on my nerves. If you recall, I have a crazy theory that music should be "seen and not heard". I know, it sounds weird but hear me out. Music in a game should blend into the visual experience and never be noticed. It should enhance the gameplay and set the tone for areas of the game. In Vanguard, except for the high-elf areas, the music hits me right in the face...I always notice it and I find myself going into the options to turn it off. It just seems like the music does not fit what I'm seeing sometimes...its kinda hard to explain and I may be waaay in left field on this impression. Shutting up now.

The rest of the sound effects are ok but they fall kinda flat. You have your regular "woshhhh", and "clang" noises of swords and bows. You also have keying sounds that give you an audio cue that one of your defensive or offensive chains can be fired off. Its kinda a mixed bag of stuff here in the sound F/X area.


Questing is OK and really follows the standard MMO template. There seems to be a good balance of solo, small group and group quests in Thestra right now. There are reports that the other continents are not so lucky.

One of the more memorable parts of Vanguard so far have been the group quests. Achatlan and the Troll Caves so far are the only ones I've really done so far and both have been very memorable. I've only had the pleasure of one asshat group so far in Vanguard, and the people in the game are very much like those you'll find in EQ and EQ2.

Other Spheres

I really didn't get too hot an heavy into the other spheres of crafting and diplomacy in Vanguard. I only got up to level 6 in crafting and about level 9-ish in Diplomacy. I don't think thats far enough to really comment on these areas of the I won't. There is lots of places you can go to look up other peoples impressions of both crafting and diplomacy.


The atmosphere of Vanguard is well done I think. I really believe that the developers over at Sigil where going for a very grand high fantasy game and they achieved it. You feel as if you are in a very large world that is full of danger and adventure and the whole design of the game seems centered around that concept. No other game to date has really given me a feeling of being a big world and I must congratulate and thank Sigil devs for pulling that one off.

Some of the starting areas such as the Wood Elf or High Elf areas are just great and are oozing in culture and architecture. The Vulmane area gives that native/nature feeling to it and pulls you into the back story right away with both the quests and the environment that you find yourself in.

From what I experienced, Sigil put a lot of thought into how to make the player feel like part of a big world, however; the game still has those parts that feel unfinished. If you're paying attention, you can be pulled out of this big world by some of the consequences of releasing this game too early.

The Future of Vanguard and Final Thoughts

Now, if you've read through this whole thing you've probably got a slight negative vibe from this review and honestly, overall, thats not how I feel about this game. Actually, I feel very neutral about Vanguard right now. There are some moments that I've had in the game, such as the troll cave, that I've said, "wow...this game is good". There are some moments where I think, "why am I playing this buggy piece of crap". There are moments in between as well. I guess thats part of the problem...the highs are not outweighing any of the lows of the game.

Another weird thing is that when I'm at work, I'm not thinking of going home and playing Vanguard. It's only when I'm playing it that I'm thinking, "yeah, I should be playing this game". I liken Vanguard to my exercise routine. I never really like getting up and going to the gym...I only like going to the gym after I've been there and I say to myself, "I'm glad I went". It's an odd feeling to have for an MMO.

Now, I've said this before...Vanguard has a TON of potential to be the next big adventure for a lot players. It's interesting, but I once read that the term "potential" is an unusual compliment because it comes with an expiration date. At one point or another, "potential" is transformed to other words like "disappointment" or "waste of time". It can also turn into "genius" or "wow...awesome". I'm wondering what Vanguard will turn its potential into and what the expiration date on its potential will be.

Now, should you get this game? If you are a big fan of EQ or EQ2 then I would say yes, you need to get the game and take a good look at it. If you have no patience for buggy games AND are a fan of EQ or EQ2, then I would say wait for another 6 months or so.

I still hold the belief that this game will turn out to be a pretty big deal in a couple of years. One thing is for certain...the guys and gals at Sigil are working very hard to realize this game. I just want to let them know that this gamer appreciates the hard work they've put in so far. I wish them luck and all the best for Vanguard.

D out

Play Within Your Game

Over the last year or so there has been quite a bit of talk regarding the "next big MMO" to come out. Translation: which MMO is going to beat WoW. This is, of course, the wrong approach to take when you're trying to create an MMO that people will find fun. If you're main goal is to beat WoW, you essentially create that which you are trying to beat...which, you can never really do, so in the end you loose. I've come across this myself in life, particularly in sports where I'm trying to play a game, say basketball, and I continually get beat by the same guy. Over time, you start just to concentrate on beating him instead of playing your game...never good. The big phrase in my current golf game right now is to "play within yourself". The second you start to play beyond your capabilities or think of the other guy, you're screwed.

I'm very encouraged by the news coming out of some of the leading minds in MMO design. Some of their thoughts of what they're learning from WoW seem to be on the right track. I'm hearing things like " where WoW isn't". To me, this points to developers leaning towards playing to their strengths and not solely concentrating on beating WoW. I agree, they should definitely take what works in WoW to evolve their own game play....but they should put the cookie cutters away when they sit down at their design meetings. I know, its a subtle difference, but its a big one as far as I'm concerned.

As much as some don't like to admit it, we're not going to see a ground breaking MMO for some time to come. Nothing out there, on my radar screen at least, represents something so amazing that it will change the way MMOs currently work. We've seen one gendre changer already in WoW, so its unlikely that one will come along within the next couple of years. This is a kinda shaky prediction, but there it is. The best that MMOs can do now is to a) play within themselves, b) don't think of WoW when you design, c) apply evolution , not revolution to your game design.

D out.

Mark Jacobs Interview = awesome

I absolutely love it when this happens...I really do. Every once and a while, information comes out about something that makes me rethink my positions on a whole host of issues. This usually ranges from gaming, to politics, to name it. So, what has got my juices flowing this time? Well, GDC of course. My main two sources for GDC information right now is of course Virgin Worlds and MOGArmy. These two sites are polar opposites of each other and yet they compliment each other very well.

Brent just put up show #57 and in it was lots of content, more than I've seen before (he scares me sometimes /wink). In the show, he has an awesome interview with Marc Jacobs. Now Marc is the man at EA Mythic, who is currently developing Warhammer Online. I've expressed some concern over the T for Teen ratings well as the death penalty...or lack thereof. Here's what Marc had to say about the rating:
  • the T for Teen "thing" is blown out of proportion.
  • if they go M they could do more, but he never really had the intention to go M
  • M brings with it a certain amount of controversy with it, which they really don't want to deal with (...given Hot Coffee and the general hyper sensitivity over bewbs in the non-gaming public, I don't blame him)
  • they do have some dark elements in Warhammer, but he doesn't think that arterial bleeding and decapitation necessarily brings a compelling and lasting element of game play. You don't need to have gore everywhere to make the game fun and interesting.
  • He relates gore in an MMO to long text in the MUD days. When you go through long text in a MUD 2, 3 or 4 times, you tend to skip through it and it just becomes background noise you need to move through. After seeing you 1000th decapitation, will it really still matter to you?
  • He wants to design and ship a game that can be played by the widest possible audience. He doesn't want to turn away people from his game just because a small group of fans want more gore.
  • Games Workshop has seen everything that has been done, and they seem to be very happy with what Mythic is doing with the IP.
He also addressed the overused Wow question:
  • all games are derivative
  • gendre breaking games are very rare, so yeah, there are similarities to WoW...just as there are similarities to UO , DAoC and EQ.
  • he believes in evolutionary steps within the MMO space (hey! That sounds familiar)
  • Warhammer IP was created 24 years before Blizzard. They are drawing on 24 years of Warhammer "stuff"...
He did not address the death penalty...and thats fine as I'm sure they will at some point. Yes, its still a sticking point for me given the nature of the game. With one of the pillars of my concerns addressed (yes...he convinced me that the T rating is the right move...thanks Marc and Brent), this game is now off of my semi-stink list. Yes, I'm sure Mythic is now breathing a sigh of relief.

Also, I expressed some concern about some of the level of hype coming from Mythic. The answers that Marc gave where very good, honest, every even keeled and factual. He got very passionate when asked about his favorite part of Warhammer, but not to the extent that turned me off...actually, it got me excited about the game.

Anyway...I've got a ton more ideas floating in my head right now that can probably fill 5 pages worth of blogging, but I'll let them stew for a bit.

D out.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Great Preview and herding cats

Came across a really nice preview over at Gamespy regarding Pirates of the Burning Sea. Great thing about this preview is that it gives you more than just a " looks really good", there is actually some very good material regarding game play. If you're interested in this game at all, go take a look.

Take a look at this. I heard about this a couple of weeks ago and I got a shiver down my spine....and not a good one. You know what this reminds me of a Simpons's episode (so many things in life do. Remember that Simpson's episode where this car maker (his brother I think) decided to create a car for the common man...that common man being Homer. It was funny as hell what he made, but suffice to say it did not go over very well. I get that kind of feeling from this project with a just a hint of the "herding cats" metaphor given how many gamers have signed up for this. Time will tell and I wish them luck...

D out

Correction: Inconsistency of the Anti-Hype

Orestus, a level 70 Druid over in the good 'ol state, county and universe of WoW has pointed out a major flaw in my argument from my last article that needs a closer look.

So, here's the story, if you go to and do a search on "World of Warcraft", you'll see a couple of'll see Burning Crusade and of course the original. If you click on the original and if you click the reviews tab you'll see the release date, 11/15/2004 and the latest review date of 8/22/2005 which is what I quoted on the original story. Now, here's where I messed up...if you then scroll down to the bottom, you'll see the original review of WoW which is dated at 12/03/2004. So, WoW was reviewed a little under a month originally with a follow up some months later.

So, I find myself in a bit of an "eat crow", sorry about that guys/gals. I'm going to correct those dates right away on that entry. No excuses...I read all of the reviews I mentioned in the listing, but I just missed those links to the older reviews at the bottom of the reviews themselves. Lesson learned.

This does have a positive spin on it of course...I do expect 1UP to take another gander at Vanguard in about 6 months time. Perhaps all of the issues that the reviewer saw originally will be worked out and the game will be as it should have been at release.

I don't know...I'm still not comfortable with reviewing an MMO one month after release, especially one that is this big. It's almost like going up to a feeble old man and kicking him in the nuts. We know he's crippled, so why add to the pain...?

My thanks to Orestus for noticing that. Its great to have readers that care enough about the blog to point out this stuff to me. And always...always point out stuff like this to me...I'm not the kind that's afraid to make mistakes or correct them.


D out.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Consistency of the Anti Hype

[Edit: Premise and dates..heck even the title has changed for this article due to an error on my part. The new dates have spawned a new issue that I have with MMO reviews in general.]

Well, I was looking more into the reviews at and I came across something really interesting:

1) Everquest II:
Release Date: Nov. 8/2004
1Up Review: Dec. 1/2004
Score: 7.5

2) City of Heroes
Release Date: March 17/2004
1Up Review: June 14/2004
Score: 8.0

3) World of Warcraft
Release Date: Nov.15/2004
1Up Review: Dec. 3/2004
Score: 8.9

4) Lineage 2
Release Date: April 27/2004
1Up Review: June. 11/2004
Score: 6.5


5) Vanguard: Sega of Heros
Release Date: Jan 29/2007
1Up Review: March 2 /2007
Score: 3.0

The average lead time for these guys is about 2 months given the corrected dates from the original reviews. Now, Vanguard seems to have been given about one month below average of this sample..which is about right for 1UP.

Now, as I was sitting here saying "ahhhhh shit...wrong dates you idiot", something else hit me as I was looking at the new dates...."This is still not looking right to me". Why are MMOs being reviewed 1-3 months after release. Not just at 1UP, but on other sites as well. Take a look at for Vanguard, EQII, City of Heroes to name a few. For MMOs, this type of release then review just seems a bit off for the gendre.

I consider MMOs to be a really "special" breed of game and there is a pattern of development that they usually follow. From a feature perspective, very few of them are really done at release and are constantly being patched...much more so than your typical single player game. So why are they being treated like a single player game? EQ2 is not the game it was in 2004, neither is why aren't we giving MMOs 6 months, 8 months of leg time before the press gets in there and "reviews" an MMO. Impressions, opinions I can deal with...but scored reviews a month after release on a dynamic game like an MMO?? I don't doesn't sit right.

How long do you think an MMO needs before it is reviewed?

D out.

Countering the Anti-Hype

Wow...this is quite the beating for Vanguard.

They gave Vanguard a 3.0 score, with users giving the game an average score of 5.6. Now, as you know, I don't give MMOs scores...especially one month after release, so I obviously think that 1UP giving a score at this time is kinda silly. Regarding the score itself...well, its a bit on the low side. OK..OK, its waaay on the low side. Other 3.0 scores from 1UP include: Dance Dance Revolution Universe (Xbox 360), The Shield (PS2), Dave Mirra BMX Challenge(PSP) and Zoo Tycoon African Adventure(PC). Ummmm...I don't think Vanguard really belongs there.

Regarding the content of the review itself...most of what Scott says is true regarding the game: bugs, stability, high-system requirements, hardcoreness etc, etc. We all know about Vanguard's state when it launched and to be real, its still in beta. I loath that this is the case for Vanguard and if I saw Brad, I'd give him a stern talking to regarding quality control. In which he's give me a lecture about the fiscal realities of the MMO industry...then we'd just stare at each other for 3 hours without blinking.

Now, the review is pure negativity, so take it within that context. There is no balance within the article at all...its just a pure hate-on for Vanguard. Not too sure how far he got into the game, nor does he mention it. The article is extremely short on content and does not break down the game into its finer points....I don't know, maybe Scott had a bad day when he wrote it. One thing though, what he says does represent some of the player base and it is what's stopping Vanguard from being a AAA title it needs to be....and Sigil knows it.

D out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

New LoTR review/podcast, GDC, Vanguard and the brickwall

Lots of stuff to cover today, hence the really cramped title of this blog entry.

First up, Lauren over at Mystic Worlds has put up her review of Lord of the Rings Online in the form of her third podcast. The review is very well done and anyone who is interested in this title should take a listen to it. We all have lots of really good information of what this game is about, so now is the time to take a good hard look at LoTR to see if its for you or not. If you pre-order it, you can take advantage of the $9.99/month price, plus an invite to the Open Beta. The good thing about the Open Beta invite is that you get to keep your character after launch...good stuff. This is all stuff most readers already know, but its always good to reiterate what this game is offering.

Well, most of our community's big hitters are in California right now getting the scoop for us at GDC. This includes Brent from Virgin Worlds. Ryan, Gary and Todd from MOGArmy and a whole host of others (I think even Wilhelm from Ancient Gaming Noob will be there). So, expect the news to come in hot and heavy. I'm expecting some really good video from MOG...they do some excellent work and have really stepped up the pace when it comes to the media outputs from their site. I know that Brent has been working very hard on some site enhancements and also has lots of interviews lined up as well. I wish I could be there...oh well, maybe next year.

Vanguard had a "special" treat for subscribers this weekend in the form of double exp. I was logged in for some of the afternoon and most of the evenings to take advantage of this. I'm not really a gung-ho player at the best of times, so I only gained about 2.5 levels...which is pretty good. So, I'm sitting at level 16 for my ranger right now...not bad. I mostly finished off quests and tried my best to finish off Achatlan, but failed miserably. Oh, and I actually had my first "shit group" in Vanguard. It comprised of the perfect mix of clueless people (minus me of course) who had no idea of to play an MMO, or how not to pull aggro off of every mob around them. The good news, after I quickly dropped those asshats, I got into a really good group and we cleaned the place up. It's irritating though...all I need is one more quest item drop and then I'm done with Achatlan.

Tobold recently put up a blog entry ("My World of Warcraft Crisis") that I really related to and I just wanted to mention here. Looks like he's hitting the equipment carrot brick wall that WoW is so famous for. I'm not going to beat a dead horse because I've talked about WoW's game design issues at length. Still, it got my attention and I thought that I would bring it up here. I feel your pain buddy...I feel it.

On my Wow front...I'm very close to canceling my account. I'm sure that once LoTR Online hits that I will pull the trigger and put this one to bed. Don't ask me why I haven't done it yet. I'm also very close to canceling my EQ2 sub for now. I haven't played that one since I started playing Vanguard...but we'll see. Oh yeah...if you're wondering how my Old Stomping Ground experiment is going, well, its not. LoTR, Vanguard and learning C++/DirectX has been keeping me quite busy. I will not admit failure yet...after all, I resubbed ( that even a word???) to take a look at Issue 9, which has not been released yet. So, I still plan on taking a look and reporting back here.

That's it for now. Have fun kiddies :)

D out.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Vanguard Update #1

Looks like the first content update is coming to Vanguard on March 6th. Details can be found here, but here are some of the goodies that are going in:

Dozens of new weapon models
Six brand new NPC races to battle
Two new mid to high level adventuring areas
Nine dungeons with revamped art and/or lighting

Thank goodness they are updating some of the weapon models. One of the things that bug me about Vanguard right now is everything visually related to the player-character models, i.e. movement, weapons, combat animations etc. The aesthetics of everything external to your character looks great, so I'm happy to see that they are working on the character aspect of the game.

It's going to be a 2-3 more weeks before I submit my impressions of Vanguard via a blog review and podcast. That will put me at about 6 weeks playing...or there abouts. I personally feel that this is not enough time for this game, but I'm sure its enough time to get a good impression of what this game is about from levels 1-20-ish.

D out.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

My MUD, WoW-down and Warhammer 40K

Back in 2006, I made a little "skill development" new years resolution to relearn C++ again. Well, I've reached, what I think anyway, is a milestone in that goal. I've created my fist miniMUD-ish program. It's not much. For details on what the project is, you can go here. I'm still needing to put the bells and whistles in it, and some other loose ends to tie up...but it basically works. Going to keep working on it, adding new features and maybe get some graphics in there once I learn the ins and outs of the DirectX API. Sorry for the technical/ non-MMO/resolution stuff...but reporting that here somehow keeps me on track and honest.

Well, I don't think I've logged into WoW for about 3-4 weeks and I really feel no urge to do so. I think the WoW train has lost it's steam...for me at least. With LoTR on the horizon, Vanguard and EQ2, I think I have all of the bases covered for my MMO enjoyment. I'll probably be canceling my account very soon. I'm sure I'll be going back to WoW at some point, but for now, the game has zero appeal for me. I know...I's weird, but sadly true.

Some good MMO news coming out of THQ and Games Workshop regarding the developing of a Warhammer 40K MMO. Exciting news I think, since it's a departure from the slew of fantasy titles that are coming out this year. It'll be a welcome breath of fresh air. Not very much in the way of design details, but we'll need to keep an eye out for this one. Going to be interesting to see the how the the two Warhammer MMOs compare in terms of subscriptions numbers and such. Regardless, multiple wargasms are being had by Warhammer fans with this news.

D out.