The Grouchy Gamer

Yeah, I'm cranky. That's kinda the point...

Tag: SOE (page 1 of 3)

Good Night, Vanguard

So it has been a really long time since I have been in this chair.  Writing a blog post that is.  With where I work, it’s best to be silent and thought a fool rather than open my mouth and remove all doubt. Vanguard Collector's Edition This  way I don’t accidentally say anything that gives away any company secrets accidentally.  So I have been silent.  I would imagine that this blog has fallen off most if not all of the blog readers, what with me posting every 3 or 4 years lately.

It came to my attention today that at 8PM Central tonight, Vanguard was closing down for good.  I knew it was happening.  Honestly, I had thought that it had already happened.  But when Nick Parkinson posted a Vanguard box as his Facebook avatar today I had to ask why.  And he let me know that today was the day.  I’ve long since stopped playing Vanguard.  I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for most of the ten years it’s been online.  I still thought about Vanguard from time to time through the years.

I’m having a ton of mixed emotions to be honest.  Vanguard was the game where I went from being just another gamer to just another gamer with a fansite.  The time that I spent on that site was incalculable.  I was working at a job that kept me on the road a lot and whenever I was in an airport, or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a hotel room I was working on that damn site (vanguardcrafters.com). There were volunteers that I was never really able to do much for if anything who put in that kind of time too.  Moderating, writing, and managing was my job.  The volunteers also did a ton of moderating and also maintained the always-under-cyber-attack wiki.   Vanguard was going to be my next game home.  At it’s peak the site had about 60,000 users.  Even after the game was obviously failing I kept the site open for a while and it was one of a small handful of sites still running farther into Vanguard’s life.

The stuff that happened with Brad McQuaid is well documented both here and elsewhere so I won’t beat that dead horse again.  That is, other than to say that it floors me that there were still people throwing money at his Kickstarter campaign in spite of what we know about his business challenges.  Thankfully for them, there wasn’t a critical mass of people foolish enough to get it funded.

The time that I did get to spend getting to know a lot of folks at Sigil really was a highlight of my gaming life in a lot of ways.  I really believe that without that experience I wouldn’t have ever come to work at Blizzard, even though what I do isn’t related to game development.  Those countless volunteer hours prepared me for how to work with, and how to speak to game developers.  I’m thankful for all of the access that I was granted to the developers at Sigil and for the opportunity to work not only around them but also with them in many ways.  I went to E3s (the old ones) and lunches and dinners with my friends at Sigil.

That team has long since been scattered to the wind.

To all the folks in community at Sigil (Cindy, Nick, and James in particular), and all of the development folks (especially Salim and Justin) I thank you.  You guys were always open, friendly, inclusive, and fun.  Those experiences literally changed my life.

As of this past June I have been working in the game industry for 4 years.  My career wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for my Vanguard experience.  So thanks to all of you who have read my rantings or my news articles or my fansite.  I miss you guys.  And I’m thankful for being able to spend all the time together we did.

MMO Elitism and You!

ElitistLast week, Wolfshead’s thoughtfully written and nicely crafted article about Why the MMO Industry Needs a Real Cataclysm set me to thinking.  First of all, I don’t have nearly the industry pedigree that he has.  Second of all, he took an idea from mid air and fleshed it out with cogent arguments.  Third, it was thoughtful and passionate.  Good on him.  Let me tell you why he’s wrong.

He’s not wrong for the same reason Tobold says he is in his rebuttal Blizzard and McDonalds.  Tobold’s rebuttal is also well written and uses an analogy that is very apt to rebut the ideas that Wolfshead presented.  Don’t misunderstand, Tobold is right on, but his analysis is different from mine and is largely from the company’s point of view.

I wanted to address this even before Tobold did, but his article got me wanting to post.

Let’s look at this from a player’s point of view first.  Then I’d like to address the evident contempt that is out there for Blizzard from others in the development community.

First Wolfshead starts out with a section called The Farmville Curse.  I couldn’t agree with him more on that point.  Those aren’t “MMOs” and I think I would say that Facebook games in general are pushing the definition of “game” to it’s limits.  I have no argument with him there.

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SOE Management – Why So Clueless?

So it’s baseball playoff time, and I’m enjoying a game on TV when I get an email.  It’s from SOE.  They want to make sure that I know they are closing about half of their SWG servers.  Yeah, OK, I know that.  And they want me to know a couple other things.  To quote;

In accordance with the server closure date, the Free Character Transfer service has been extended through October 15. 2009. Between September 15, 2009 and October 15, 2009 at 4:59 PM PT all characters on the affected servers are eligible for a one way, one time Free Character Transfer* to any of the remaining thirteen (13) Star Wars Galaxies servers.

Cool!  Free character transfers!  That’s always good, especially when the server you are on may be one of the soon-to-be-obsolete variety.  Duh.  But there is more;

After October 15, 2009 at 5:00 PM PT, any characters and their associated items and structures remaining on the identified servers being closed will no longer be accessible on your Star Wars Galaxies or Station Access account.

Ouch.  OK, no longer accessible? You mean deleted, right?

But wait!  There’s more!  And this is the really good part!

To access the Free Character Transfer Service, you must login to Star Wars Galaxies with the character you would like to transfer. You will be notified that your character qualifies for the free character transfer service opportunity when you login. Eligible characters may also enter “/freects” to begin the transfer process. Only one character may be transferred at a time. Please read and respond carefully to each question and answer entry you type. All Character Transfers are considered final and cannot be reversed.

This means that there is no way to transfer your characters if you are currently unsubscribed.  I say currently because the nature of MMO subscriptions is that people come and go, then come back again.  Tarkheena and I have resubbed to SWG three separate times.

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Blizzard Proving Willing to Make the Big Change

When we are talking about the events in MMO history that have caused a company to become reviled among the player base, the Star Wars: Galaxies NGE is frequently brought to the forefront.  SOE still hasn’t lived down the whole debacle.  It’s not even entirely clear that it was their idea, as I hear a lot of people who should know such things point their fingers at LucasArts.  SOE would still be to blame for the timing, just days after an expansion shipped that a large percentage of their player base paid for. SOE or LucasArts, it’s hard to argue against that event being the nail in the coffin of SW:G’s hopes of world dominance.

With that as a background, Blizzard announces this week that they are going to make sweeping changes to their Goose in the hopes that it will continue to lay Golden Eggs at the same or an increasing rate.  For the most part, other than the Horde getting screwed with gobby’s as a race when the Alliance is getting effing Werewolves, the player base looks at it and says a collective; “Hells yeah.”

What’s the difference?

Well there are many and fundamental differences.  I won’t rehash what SOE did too much other than to say that they changed the fundamental nature of the game, some even say the genre.  Blizzard is continuing it’s tradition of changing and rebalancing classes on a continual basis, but overall the fundamental game play will stay similar.  There are going to be a LOT of new features in Cataclysm, but most of them are net-new stuff and won’t likely be viewed as take-aways.  Blizzard is also giving us something that no other MMO company in my (admittedly faulty) memory has done, which is to go back and try to make the old, tired, and trivial content usable and playable again.  I think this makes a lot of sense, because you can redevelop and area and make it good a lot faster than you can go and make new areas, and adding new stuff doesn’t address your abandoned content problem.

I don’t know how the Cataclysm is going to work out.  I am willing to be they will sell a ton of it, but it remains to be seen how the whole things comes together.  A lot can definitely go wrong.  Blizzard’s track record suggests it probably will be mostly solid.  We’ll see, I guess.

For now, I have to say that I’m impressed that they are willing to take a chance and do something bold.  This is certainly bold, if nothing else.  I hope it works out for them. There’s nothing I want more than a dilemma about whether I should be playing WoW or SWToR, or even Copernicus, if that is out during that time frame.  Choices are what it’s all about. It’s going to be a while before we find out if this is a good one for Blizzard.

That’s NOT Brad McQuaid

I think someone fooled my friend Darren over at The Common Sense Gamer.

As most of you know, I started off my online “career” doing a fan site for Vanguard.  During that time, I got to read a LOT of Brad McQuaid’s essays, posts, and manifestos.  After a while, I got to where I could easily recognize his style.  So I was surprised today to see that Darren posted about how Brad was popping back up with a couple of posts on his blog at bradmcquaid.com.

Here’s what Darren and most of you probably didn’t know.  bradmcquaid.com’s domain registration expired in February.  What you also don’t know is that on a flyer, I took a shot at picking it up when it expired.  I didn’t get it.  It was scooped up by;

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SOE Still Can’t Get Out of Their Own Way

I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but…(long)

You gotta love our heroes over at Sony Online Entertainment.  Even when they have a good idea, one of their other ideas comes along and screws it up for them.  The latest example is that of the Station Launcher.  One day long ago, SOE said to itself; “Self, wouldn’t it be cool if we had one launcher for all of our games?  That way not only could the customer launch any SOE game they owned from it, but we could use it to market all of the games that they DON’T have every time they launch a game.”  Solid thinking, that.  Hard to argue that the Station Launcher is a great idea.  Hell, it even got me to subscribe to Station Pass not too long ago.  But that is all changing now.

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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part Three

This is the third and final installment in this series.

After E3, Sigil actually started to market Vanguard.  There had been a cover story on Computer Gaming World, but now there were trickles at other web sites.  Also in 2006, the beta began to grow.  At least Sigil tried to grow the beta.  I was in beta starting with stage 1.5 (which was right after friends and family) and there were a couple more stages after that.  One startling thing was this:  Sigil put the number of active players on the front page of the sign-in.  Even after thousands of people had been invited to the beta it was very rare to see more than a hundred people signed in.  This is when I started to get worried.

Before too long the beta leaks started.  I saw them at several different sources.  All of them had one thing in common.  Beta leak stories were not positive.  I’ve been around long enough to know that those types of leaks are not going to come from your happy customers.  One thing about the leaks made them hard to ignore.  They were right.  At this time we (the beta community and the public) didn’t have much of an idea about what was going on behind the scenes.  I was starting to get the message, though.  I decided not to fund the database development for VC, because it looked like I would be throwing good money after bad.  Why did I make that decision?

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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part Two

In Part One, we left off with beta under way and some signs of trouble.

As beta wore on, it was obvious that there were issues with how the game was developing.  Months into the beta, only the continent of Thestra was on line.  None of us had seen Kojan or Qalia, or tested any of their content or systems.  Wholesale changes were being made, and behind the scenes, the designers were getting antsy.

I got to know the crafting design team pretty well during this time, as well as the community team.  I can tell you this;  my impression of them was always that they were a confident, competent, and likable group.  They were always pushing forward and evaluating and trying to make the game better.  They were not afraid to throw out what they had done if it didn’t work and replace it with something that did.

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A Vanguard Retrospective, Part One

Sigil Games OnlineOne year ago today, Operations Manager Andy Platter asked everyone to come out to the Sigil parking lot and fired basically everyone who worked for Sigil Games Online.  Sigil, who was to be the savior of the TRUE MMO fan, would be laid to waste.  The next day, about half of those people would be hired by SOE to work on their newly-acquired property.  Brad McQuaid would be put out to pasture, presumably at a nice stipend, to not mess with any of their games.  I’m going to attempt to chronicle some of the events leading up to and following that day, and see where Vanguard is now.  This is mostly going to be written from the perspective of a community manager/fansite operator, because that is what my involvement was.  This is going to be a little long, even broken into three parts, so be forewarned.

January, 2002 – Brad McQuaid leaves SOE and his position as Chief Creative Officer to found Sigil Games Online.  According to McQuaid at the time, he left SOE because of his lack of day-to-day influence over what was happening there. According to other accounts , McQuaid had already well-overstayed his welcome at SOE.  In the article linked above, it’s already a foreshadowing of what are reported to be issues that came to the forefront at Sigil.

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John Smedley, I’m Counting on You

This past weekend, Tarkheena and I started playing Star Wars Galaxies again.  Yes, you read that right.  Before you get too mad at me, I know that in the past I’ve pointed at SWG as an example of everything that is wrong at SOE.  I’m not taking that back.  SOE most assuredly DID screw up with SWG.  The NGE (New Game Experience) was a horrible miscalculation, and their timing (2 days after an expansion) couldn’t have possibly been worse.  I won’t go into all the reasons why it was a bad idea here, as it’s all been hashed and rehashed before.

The thing is, now I’m having fun.

Since I now am the (slightly ashamed) owner of a Station Pass, I resolved to try it out.  Tark and I ended up getting our old accounts out and giving all our houses and stuff to the new guys. So they are slightly advantaged (we had resources, but not a ton of cash, er, credits) vs. someone starting fresh.  Let’s be honest; no one is really starting fresh.  I haven’t seen the game in a box on a shelf anywhere, so unless you happen to be using the Station Launcher and see it, you really can’t buy it.

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Sony Station Pass – The Shame

Desperate times call for desperate measures. This past weekend I actually did sign up for the Station Pass. Now, I’m not going to be spending a lot of time in Matrix online. I do own Everquest, EQ2, SWG, and Vanguard. And I played, or tried to play all of them this weekend at least a little bit. For some reason, I can’t get past the character select screen in SWG. I’ll leave it to the fine folks at SOE tech support to get that straightened out, and I’ll let you all know how that goes.

I can’t believe I have even gotten to this place. You all know I don’t love Sony, but I’m just so bored with MMO at this moment that I feel the need to have access to more than one. Since I recently canceled my WoW subscription I had that $15 in my monthly budget just burning a hole in my pocket. So I figured what the hell. The impetus behind this is really Tarkeena. She gave me one of her guilty looks and asked me “so guess what I did.” Usually that involves a surprise purchase or the introduction of a decadent dessert into the house. I didn’t smell chocolate, so it had to be a purchase. In this case, she had upgraded her account to Station Pass. So of course I immediately did the same.

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SOE folded into SCEI

Well isn’t that just the way things go. I go a week or so without posting, and then there are three things I want to post about the same day. I’m not Tobold, so I won’t give you a well-thought-out (if erroneously reasoned) post about th

SCEI

e subject. Apologies to Tobold, I just couldn’t resist.

It was announced today that SOE will now come under the umbrella of SCEI (Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.) where honestly it rightly belongs. This means that SOE is no longer a part of the same division as Sony Pictures, but is instead in the realm of the PS3 and a gaming-only culture. I think this can be good for SOE depending on how cultures blend between the two (management) groups. If I were John Smedley, I might start polishing up my resume though. I don’t see why they would have the need for old Smed once this gets all done.

You can find the text of the official announcement here.

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