Virtual puppies. For the children. (!?)

Read this.

Now think to mmorpgs. And no, I don’t mean those unexpressive pets that just follow you doing nothing ar all. I mean more complex, interactive virtual pet simulation that may even be functional to some parts of the game. With added discoveries to make by letting meet your personal puppy with the puppies of other players and have them interact together.

As Alice often says: I want.

One game already did a step (the NPC henchmen). Let’s see how long before someone else guesses the huge potential of something like this.

It would also be interesting to have a layered Virtual World, where the “parents” go to raid while the younger players can fiddle with more accessible toys developed specifically for that target. And maybe, then, even integrate these parts and let them interact on multiple levels.

Pokemon Online? Don’t tell it too loud or it could happen. Fear the mass market.

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Why build mechanics to affect everyone and not just the single?

Follow-up to a previous disquisition. Bringing it to more general terms. I was also thinking about building a page with the most brilliant quotes from blogs and forums, considering how I always need to spend time to track the old links and how I keep reusing wonderfully written (by others, like this one from Lum) passages.

Look, my point is rather simple. This is a wonderful piece from Lum that I already discussed here among many other occasions:

And now we come back to MMOs, where their particular form of pattern involves other people being involved. If you ask any dozen MMO enthusiasts which MMO they prefer the most (or, depending on how jaded, despise the least) and you will get a dozen different answers. Because the dirty little secret that designers don’t want to admit is that the actual game is completely irrelevant! No one cares, really, how well the pattern is crafted. Because what brings people back to MMOs isn’t the game, but the people within. No computer can come up with AI unpredictable enough to emulate your average bazaar shopper. Which is why, if you ask those dozen people which MMO they prefer, you get a dozen different answers. Because it’s where they are from.

So what does all this have to do with anything? Well, reading the links I started with, I read a great deal about the minutae of design theory. Gamers want their games to be hard! No, they want them to be easier! More casual friendly! More aimed at the core!

No, gamers are going to be bored. Because these things run on computers, and no matter how many pixels you cram into the pixel people, they’re still just pixels. Now, the community behind the games – they’re not quite as pixilated. And maybe perhaps that’s where we should be focusing.

I believe we can ALL agree that these games are more about the community than the content itself. The content is just an excuse, an hook so we can play together and have fun together.

It’s the accomplishment as a group that makes these games successful and not the solo quest you take from an NPC, go kill 10 mobs and come back for your sword+1. Then rinse and repeat.

So the point is: how can we focus the development on what matters and *support* the community so that it becomes the *center* of the game?

This is the reason why the mechanics should be aware that a guild exists and should involve it directly with dedicated content that is truly communal. I say this because I believe it’s the BEST way to support the community and let it thrive in a positive way. My idea is just an attempt to give the community more tools to have impact on the gameplay and make each member more involved into something that affects everyone and not just the single.

Why build mechanics to affect everyone and not just the single? Because if we agree that the community is what drives these game further and in the long term, we also agree that the game should put that community at the center and focus on it.

I don’t believe that WoW is an horrible game to trash and forget. But I do believe that on this aspect it is weak and lacking. So it’s a part of the game that has still a huge potential completely untapped.

How to save and archive FFXI patches

This sort of guide explains how to archive and store safely the patches for FFXI so that you don’t have to download and reinstall 700+ Mb of patches in the case you have to format the hard disk. If you are on dial-up (ISDN, in my case) you know how *painful* this could be.

Now FFXI has already an horrible installation. Yes, the game is huge and has a lot of content but if we consider the low resolution textures and the reused assets there’s really no justification for an installation that arrives at 6.75 Gigabytes. It’s just insane. I’m not sure about the causes but my suspect is that it’s a raw, direct port of the PSX2 version, so that they can keep updating both client without double work. It seems that the PC version is more like an emulator that parses the data file and makes them work as they are on the console. The result is that we have this insane installation as the consequence of a data format that isn’t really appropriate for the PC.

A confirmation of my suspects came after I (successfully) tried to save and archive the patches. I reinstalled the game recently, I have the original american version with Zilart included, plus Chains of Promatia CDs. So I had the game client updated to September of the last year, when CoP was released. Basically about a year of patches to download and apply. Which translates to about 3500 files for a grand total of 700+ Mb to downlad again and install.

The surprise was when (after more than eight hours of download) I finally zipped those files to burn them on CD once for all. With Winzip set on “normal” compression the final archive was barely above 300Mb.

Now my question: why Square doesn’t send these damn patches compressed and then expand the files when they are already on the PC? You know, it would “just” hugely impact the server load when a new patch is released and it would be a positive improvement for all those players that aren’t on broadband and that do not like to spend hours waiting the new patch to download. In particular when for each update there’s the need to rescan all the files. A process that takes alone more than *30 minutes* on a Ultra-ATA hard disk.

I guess this comes along the other inexplicable, annoying quirks of the game I listed at the end of another article.

Beside these “pointless” disquisitions. I have a rather simple way to save those patches so that you don’t have to redownload them in the case you need to reinstall the game. Unfortunately, this is possible only if you “plan ahead” to build the archive since you cannot save the files after the client is patched successfully. So if you want to save those files you need to restart from a clean installation and go through the upgrade process at least once (or save only the most recent patches that will be released in the upcoming months).

If you do this (or will do when you’ll have to reformat/reinstall), remember to install the original game, Zilart and CoP. I underline this because the three installations don’t start automatically and if you leave an expansion out you’ll have to redo most of the patching. So install everything in the proper order, launch PlayOnline and the update to the game. At this point the client will check all the files one by one (the 30+ minutes scan) and then start to download those that changed (at this moment, with all the expansion installed from scratch, it’s about the 3500 files I pointed above).

Those files will be stored in the game directory before they will be actually installed. In order to catch and save them you have to *stop* the updating process before the installation of the files happens. So I suggest to stop the update when only 10 or so files are left to download. When you reach this point and PlayOnline is halted, you should go on Windows start menu -> Search -> For Files and Folders. Here you select “all files and folders”, then in the “look in” field you select the directory where you installed the game and in the name field you insert *.tmp2 which is the extension of the files downloaded before they are installed. And press “search”. If you followed the instructions you’ll get an endless list of .tmp2 files. You go to the “edit” menu, press “select all” and then right click on the files. If you have Winzip you’ll have an option saying “Add to Zip”. You select it, give a name to the archive you want and, most importantly, select the “save full path info” checkbox. And press “add”.

The archive will be built and once done you can burn it on CD or put it wherever you want.

When you’ll have to reinstall the game you’ll just need to decompress the archive in the game directory (pay attention so that the files go in the right place) and launch the update from PlayOnline. After the scan is over the client will see that the files are already available and will install them directly without redownloading them. Which is exactly the goal of this guide.

I didn’t test directly if it’s possible but I believe you can then work with Winzip to update the archive with the latest files when a new patch is released. So that you can keep just one archive instead of one for each different patch released.

I guess I could upload the archive on the site and make it public as I do with WoW patches, but for now I think I’ll avoid the option.

I lost the install CD 2 and 3 despite I usually keep care and store safely my games. Thanks to eMule that wasn’t a big problem. Speaking about the utility of P2P.

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No support for voice chat to keep games under control

From an interview with Final Fantasy XI producer Hiromichi Tanaka, an interesting point about the support for voice-chat in mmorpgs:

1UP: Will the 360 version support voice-chat? We sure hope not.

HT: No, it won’t. The reason being is that we track player abuse through the chat logs, and if we removed the necessity of the chat log, it would be impossible to take action against abusive players.

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Eve-Online – The other way of making games

After the server statistics I pasted below I think it’s useful to take another, completely different example:

Does it look different? Eve-Online has seen a constant, regular growth of subscriptions from the release of its first expansion till today. The launch of CoH, WoW and other games didn’t affect it in the slightest.

What I find interesting and amusing is how this game is able to shatter all the commonplaces I use to hear. For example the commonplace that a “bad launch” is a disaster that cannot be recovered for a mmorpg. We have examples like Anarchy Online, Shadowbane and… Eve-Online. Often the poor results of the first two games are “excused” and ascribed to just the bad launch, not the game. Well, Eve-Online had one AWFUL launch following months of desperate beta phases. I won’t go in the details but I followed this game closely and I was in the beta since the August of the previous year (the game was released in May). I had high expectations about it and as I joined I was positively impressed. Then things started to go wrong all around. The devs decided to basically rewrite everything, from the netcode and the server backbone to the whole UI (which was redone completely 5-6 times just in the beta). From the second phase in September to the third only a week or two were supposed to pass. Instead the game was stuck for more than a month (with a release planned for early December) and when we finally were able to log in again the status was horrible at best. Nothing was working, the lag was massive and the game was simply unplayable. But aside these “details” the point was that the game was going downhill and the situation just became worst as the time passed and I was between those believing that the game was just going to fail at that point.

The launch went badly. The beta was used like a huge public trial version and only a few players decided that the game was worth something. One day before release the server were still badly lagged and most of the game just didn’t work or had the majority of the features planned removed and forgotten.

It couldn’t have gone worst than that. In particular if you add that the game had relevant problems with the distribution and never reached the shops in NA.

If we follow the commonplace at this point, it’s obvious how this game would be doomed. It would have been impossible to get players back if the commonplace was correct and valid as it was for AO and Shadowbane. In particular if we consider how the setting of the game is way less popular. Shadowbane seems to have fallen below 20k of subscriptions despite its supposed appeal and genre, Anarchy Online about the same and they are probably counting the free accounts. Both games don’t have much to say anymore. And Eve?

These are interesting times we live in. EVE now has more than 64 thousand subscribers, we are releasing more content faster and we have at least 5 expansions worth of features and content just waiting to be implemented.

Not bad for a sci-fi game where you cannot even see and move your avatar and where the whole gameplay is mostly about spreadsheets and slow paced interactions that bore to tears 99% of the players giving it a try.

How this could have happened? It’s simple, the subscriptions depend on the unique qualities of a game. Eve-Online has those unique qualities and was able to break completely the awful trends in both the development and game mechanics. You don’t hear from them planning for new games like Mythic, SOE, Wolfpack and everyone else is doing. Their whole team is completely focused on *this* game. All their resources, talent and work is going into a precise direction. They *believe* in the game and kept believing into it from day one when everything seemed to go wrong. Instead of trying to bail off they just kept working harder and now they see the result of that work and that attitude. Guess what? Now they don’t need to hype new games and promise they learnt from their mistakes. Because the fact they learnt is blatantly obvious from the quality that the game reached.

This is probably the best “Virtual World” we have out there. It’s not just a polished combat simulation like every other game out there. The players have an impact on the world. The PvP model is open and interesting and there’s a direct interaction with the environment. The players aren’t figures moving on a fixed background and growing e-peens. Instead they ARE the game, affect the game and create stories and dynamic situations. Give this a look. Recently CCP added the possibility to conquer and control entire star systems and build space stations. This doesn’t happen in a fucking private instance where noone can enter. This happens right in the world that everyone shares. That same world that just a few days ago reached more than 13k characters logged in at the same time.

The development follows this attitude. They know that in order to keep a “Virtual World” alive they cannot work on optional expansions. A “Virual World” is a cohesive effort, you cannot plan it as retared optional patches. In fact this is exactly what they are doing. They develop expansion but they are included in the monthly fee and released to everyone.

What I wrote not long ago is still valid and confirmed by the developers themselves. They didn’t paint themselves in a corner chasing that stupid model of the mudflation to excuse the production of more content. They don’t need that because a self-consistent Virtual World already implicitly holds a depth and a potential that are just endless. Thinking about sequels or exansions is simply ridiculous because you will already have so many ideas of cool new features to implement and integrate with the game. And you don’t have pass time to figure out what to invent next because your shoulder e-peens cannot become bigger than that.

we are releasing more content faster and we have at least 5 expansions worth of features and content just waiting to be implemented.

You might not have noticed a lot, but this is understandable. Small gradual improvements over a long period of time tend not to register and most of what we did was in preparation for KALI. Sounds strange doesn’t it?

KALI is much more than “more features”. KALI is a brand new code branch. Remember EXODUS? Remember the performance increases that client had compared to the old Castor client? That was because EXODUS was a new code branch where we could start large overhauls and even rewrites to major systems.

The main thing I didn’t convey in the previous blog was that KALI is so much more than just new features. It includes A LOT of improvements, performance increases and system rewrites.

They don’t sit on their asses and do not postpone the development of new features to different projects. They don’t need to plan sequels to realize the potential of their ideas and they demonstrated more than once how every part of the game can be expanded and rewritten in a RADICAL level. Constantly trying to push the potential of the game instead of sit back and surrender to the flaws. Or, even worst, keeping trying to work around them, gliding on the surface.

So let’s speak of those retarded common places that are so diffused. Let’s speak of horrible launches, let’s speak of the lack of retail boxes on the shops, let’s speak of the need to plan sequels in order to get new subscribers, let’s speak of product lifecycles.

I love how this game and this company are shattering every single one of these stupid commonplaces. Keep going and good work.

Since I was remembering the old times… How much I hated “Campion”, that stupid producer that I’m sure was responsible for more than one disaster in a way or another. I passed all the time in the beta arguing with him and receiving back retarded answers. How happy I was when he finally left CCP a few months after the launch (before they went independent and the game started to see the positive trend). And how happy I am NOW that I read that he also had to leave Turbine and MEO after having joined the last year as the producer (read on Gamerifts).

Keep that guy away from your games.

“Betrayal at Krondor” twelve years later

There isn’t much to say about Vanguard that isn’t about poking fun at the screenshots (orginal version here):

The first image is from Vanguard, the other four from “Betryal at Krondor”, one game (although extremely successful and loved at the time) introducing rudimental 3D environment with horrible rendered character images made of edited real pictures “splatted” on the screen.

That’s pretty much the same feeling you can have by looking at Vanguard’s screenshots today. The light of the world acts in a completely different way from the light of the characters, like if they mixed together two completely different engines. The result is that those models seem cut and pasted into the screenshot. There’s no depth in the figures and they really resemble to 2D rendered images. If you add to this the unnatural and unexpressive (albeit sort of realitic) faces you can see how all this looks like a patchwork of parts that don’t really belong one to the other.

And yes, the animations are essential as much as the models and textures. FFXI is a demonstration of this. You can give a completely different feel about a character just with the way it moves. The animations give personality and uniqueness. That particular feel and magic that only FFXI seems to have and that motion capture sessions will NEVER be able to offer, especially when everyone in the game will move *in the exact same way*.

See the last screenshot? The mountains have no textures and seem artificially added as in Vanguard, along with the 2D trees.

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A cesspit

EDIT- Updated.

Time to archive some stuff. This is a discussion on FoH’s boards about the awful faction grinding mechanics in WoW.
(complete thread)

Enjoy your endgame:

Blizzard’s desire to provide well designed high-end content will prove to be a breath of fresh air for the readers of this site. Unfortunately, I cannot go into much detail at this time but I can say that there are ideas being discussed for the hardcore, end-game player which are nothing short of groundbreaking. You guys, the fans of this site, know how discerning I am when it comes to “uber” content in a game. Trust me, you have much to look forward to.

They were able to hide the painful grind till level 60 to shove it back down your throat in all its splendor all at once.


Wouldn’t it be nice if you could raise your guild’s faction overall? It would be attached to the guild and you only get the benefit while an active member of the guild… Collective effort would not get wasted when people leave.

And this is a wonderful idea. So wonderful that you’ll never seen it implemented.

In WoW a “guild” is a shared chat and a tabard.

Getting faction for this shit is hardly connected to the endgame. The only thread between the two is the fact that you need some fire resist stuff for Ragnaros and it’s very easy for a guild to power a blacksmith to Exhalted and the other professions to whatever else is needed (some at honored, one at friendly I believe). I’m not complaining about the professions that really have holes in their makeup though, because I agree that theres a lot of stuff lacking. I’ll even grant people the fact that some things could be made somewhat less painful, but then again, this shit is supposed to be a grind. Tons of people have been whining about how WoW doesn’t have enough timesinks, so now they’ve implemented a couple. Remember that you don’t HAVE to do it, nobody is forcing you to grind your ass off or scrape your eyes out with a rusty fork.

Err, factioning up people for Thorium Brotherhood is purposely designed to be a guild effort and extremely hard. Yes, stealth-mining as a rogue is a horrible, mind-numbing task, especially now that the instance reset macro is fucked. But the point is that TB faction is one of those things that you only have a very few people at, and the entire guild throws their weight behind those people.

“Collective effort”? Hahahahaha.

Come on, WoW hasn’t anything collective into it. It’s just the greed for more phat leet to drive you further. You are just ready to stab your friend in the eye if that brought to a bigger e-peen.

“Collective goals”? WoW has yet to discover what that means.

What the fuck ever dude. What a crass, baseless statement no doubt grounded in many minutes of raiding guild experience in the live game. Don’t blame your guild’s, yours, or your perception of people’s motivations on the game. When you see people acting like kids at christmas telling you to check your mailbox because there’s a PURPLE BOOK in it, when you see a collective cheer go out that a gutgore ripper finally dropped, when big smiles go around when the long-suffering warlock gets his felheart robe, when every aurastone hammer or sorcerous dagger is met with guildwide glee — when any of these things happen you know people are looking out for eachother. If this is nothing you can relate to then I feel sorry for you and your sad little guild experience.

Nope sorry. It’s still egoistic-driven goals.

Truly communal goals are those involving not only a communal *process*, but also a communal *goal*.

If you need 100 players to kill a dragon that’s a communal process but the goal is still strictly personal and egoistic. You are there for your loot, that’s what the game is teaching to you. Sure, you can also be there for the fun or because you truly what to help your friends, but here we aren’t discussing a personal attitude, but the game mechanic. And the game mechanics NEVER give you communal goals. Just personal e-peens to grow.

The fact that the game FORCES you to group in order to reach your egoistical goal doesn’t make the community strong. Just selfish. Everyone will smile friendly at you till you can offer something to them they value. Well, I consider this AWFUL. It rewards egositic attitudes and I’ve seen plenty of drama and guilds collapsing just because someone else offered more phat loot.

Demonstrate that your guild can raid high-end content effectively and your requests for applications from new members will multiply for 1000. All ready to leave behind their friends to join the bigger guys where the phat leet is.

Again, please pay attention, I’m not speaking of the players, I’m speaking of what the *game mechanics* favor and encourage.

This game has yet to see truly communal activities where even the *goal* is communal. Not just the process. Give the players truly communal goals that will benefit *everyone involved* and not just the lucky guy winning the lotto or ninjaing the whole thing. That’s what would *truly* build a solid community and not the cesspit of selfish, whiny kids that WoW became.

What makes EQ’s / DAoC’s / FFXI’s mechanics different than WoW’s in such a radical way?

FFXI not much. The guild there is less than WoW. It’s barely a shared chat but at least you can equip and switch different linkshells. I don’t believe that the linkshells themselves are involved in any mechanics, so it’s not a good example.

For what I heard the missions in the two expansions could be considered communal goals. It seems there isn’t any form of phat loot to aquire at the end of the story and just the sense of accomplishment for being able to go through all that hard content. So it’s something you do together as a group and not driven by a personal greed. It’s not perfect but it’s already a positive model.

SWG and Shadowbane have towns. Those are communal goals because what you build is going to affect other players and the final result depends on the work of everyone and benefits the whole group.

DAoC’s RvR is both a personal and communal goal. Personal because you go there for the Realm Points, you gain skills and compete on the various ladders with other players. Then there’s the communal part that is about the real RvR. Guilds compete on a shared frontier, their performance affects everyone who goes there so the players become the *center* of the gameplay and do not just move on a fixed scenery. They can conquer keeps as a guild, upgrade them, defend them and organizing attacks. The “guild” is deeply involved on the mechanics, the guild itself gains points and is listed as every other character and you can also make alliances made up of different guilds. All this as a weight directly on the gameplay and what you do in the frontiers is again a shared purpose, a battle that isn’t personal but shared.

There are then the relics that go even beyond the level of the guild and become a *realm* effort. And here, again, you don’t go there for a personal greed but because you are contributing to a broader goal shared by everyone.

All this depends on how the game is built. The way the players can affect the environment and have an impact. In Eve-Online the corporation can conquer the solar systems and control them. These aren’t personal instances but part of the word shared by everyone else. They can build player-run stations in those zone and again impact the whole game world with their choices and action.

Again the players are at the center.

This is from The Escapist:

In the case of WoW, this has happened because Blizzard has taken the single player RPG, Diablo, and bolted the template over online technologies. If player vs. player combat is poor, or the capacity for self-creation is limited, then it’s because this was a game that took old standards of what makes a game successful and applied them to an entirely new way of interacting. The game is inflexible, focused on the individual and acutely reliant on content provided by the developers to keep us entertained. Sure, Bob is with you, and his dwarf looks funny, but you’re not exactly getting anywhere. There’s nothing unique here; you are, as one Icelandic games developer memorably said to me, “just queueing to be next on the theme park ride.” It’s empty, and you can’t do much to fill it up.

Communal goals require some impact. Because there’s the need to have an effect on more people or build something *together*.

There are already some examples out there but not many. You really do not need me to figure out what is a truly “communal goal” because, as I said, it’s just something to achieve or build where the *process* may be both communal or personal, but where the *goal* is shared. It affects and benefits a group of players.

The point is that in WoW the guild *doesn’t exist* at the level of the gameplay. I don’t know any mechanic in the game that is aware that there is a guild system, correct me if I’m wrong.

In DAoC not only you can conquer keeps as a guild, not only you can merit and realm points, not only there are statistics and alliances, but you can also get missions for the whole guild.

The point is that, in a way or the other, the game is *aware* that a guild exists and some of the mechanics revolve around it. I ranted a lot against Mythic because they didn’t go further on this path, but on WoW they are way behind.

Again, you don’t need me to imagine possible features with truly communal goal. You can just go to the first page of this thread and there’s a guy suggesting to link the factions to the whole guild. That’s one way to make the process truly communal and also a way to have the guild recognized by the mechanics in the game.

WoW needs this badly because, as the Escapist article says, from this perspective it is just dull and empty. The players have no impact and all is faked within instances that noone cares about.

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Tinfoil hats – A Camelot Vault parade


First Walt:

(about the classic servers launch) This is aimed at many of our former customers, not our current ones. Our satisfaction is high in the polls that we take of our current customers.

Then Sanya:

This new server type is meant for people who would otherwise not play DAOC at this time. I don’t expect that most people currently playing are going to do much more than roll on the new server out of pure curiosity. I DO expect that the people with active accounts who try the new toy will eventually go back to their “home” servers. And I hope that people who are reactivating just for this ruleset decide to stay.

This server is just an attempt to meet the needs of a niche group of players.

Let’s start the univocal Vault parade now:

May it be that the new servers lead to a significant decrease of total player numbers ?

It seems to me that Mythic failed with their classic server strategy to make players return to DAoC: I watched only a few people returning from other games to DAoC. The majority of classic server players are old players.

An other effect of the classic servers is that the old servers are really empty now and the social infrastructure has broken down there. This forces many players who want to stay on the old servers to quit the game pissed.

The interisting question is now: Is the number of returnees bigger than the number of players that quit pissed from the old servers ?

the answer is marginaly…

instead of 14000 before.. theres like 15000 now…

so 1000 people.. or roughly 8% increase in users….

but when the “newness” of the new servers slows down in a month or two…. and those that resubbed find they still dont want to play… then the real numbers will show.. and i can only see this entire thing hurting the game over all in the long run then actualy helping it

You also have to look at the trend. The numbers were trending down before. They are trending up now.

Time for another Sanya spin:

Doing great. Log in and try it!

* we’re working on a gorgeous new expansion with the long-discussed player mounts, and cool new champion levels and quests.
* subscriber numbers are up, and it’s August (typically a very stagnant month in the industry)
* we’re trying a new server type, based off player requests, and it’s been very popular so far
* we’ve radically tweaked requirements and encounters for the Trials of Atlantis expansion
* we’ve revamped the new player experience (older MMOGs have a tough entry hurdle for true newbies, but we basically built a ramp over that hurdle)

All in all, it’s an exciting time. I’ve been hanging around Mythic since December of ’99, and it’s been feeling like the old days with all the changes.

Noone does blink at that last line? Way to go with this: “the game hasn’t moved forward in the slightest, we have released crap expansion packs that nearly destroyed the game. Now we are happy if only we can offer a glimpse of the good old times. Ahh, the good old times.”

Back to the Vault:

Is that “slightly” even statistically significant? Does the increase have longevity? *shrugs*, don’t know.

And if it IS statistically significant, is Mythic willing to act on it?

It’s time to look more closely at the issue. At least for what is possible.

This is the situation on Lamorak (the new classic server) today:

As you can see the population has been as high as it could be (it caps at 3.5k) for a few weeks. Now it is slowly decreasing as most of us were expecting. We still cannot say where the number will settle down or if the downward trend will get progressively worst.

This is Merlin on its yearly trend. The monthly chart cannot be used because it doesn’t show how the launch of the new classic servers impacted the population:

The launch of the new servers is obvious. 1/4 of the active population dropped off almost instantaneously and there is no evidence that this trend will change. This should be already enough to demonstrate how Walt’s claim I quoted above was completely offtrack.

Now let’s see the overall trend of all the US servers:

“Subscribers numbers are up”. Well, this is true, the launch of the classic servers is noticeable. But you see a trend? Many players discussed about how to “read” the impact of these new servers. If the trend is positive, negative, or flat. Many agree that this choice stopped the downward trend, others believe that the trend has been even inverted.

Well, the graph (till today) shows something else. The launch of these new servers has been a little step up (~1k). But the slow downward trend doesn’t seem affected in any way. In fact, after the step up, the subscribers are starting to slightly decrease at the same rate they were before. Guess what? It’s absolutely normal when you refuse to radically solve the problems with just workarounds. Guess what? It’s all about temporary, short term solutions. And nothing really changes as the direct result of the same attitude.

Now lets go back at Sanya’s “brag points” I pasted above. It’s true that the subscribers numbers are up. But it’s also true that they are up BECAUSE of the following point she listed (the new servers are popular). So she just counts twice the same score. Instead it’s absolutely false that they tweaked ToA in a radical way, no need to explain here. Again the two previous points are a direct demonstation of how this is misleading. There wouldn’t be any new server (and consequently a rise of subscriptions) if ToA’s problems were radically addressed. Hey, maybe at this time there wouldn’t be even a downward trend to speak about.

Or is Mythic deliberately breaking the game with awful design choices in order to consequently remove them and use this as a self-constructed marketing tool? “Hey, the game sucks less than yesterday!”.

What a major selling point, huh? Speaking about ambition.

Yes, it’s true that August is a stagnant month. It’s probable that this week, with the launch of the new Emain, some more players will show around. It’s probable again that these numbers will hold along September. But what’s next? We are still considering positive trends involving just a couple of weeks. As we all already anticipated: short term good and long term bad.

As ToA largely demonstrated the disastrous impact of these choices comes in the long term.

But lets give a last look at the numbers. We have an overall increase of 1k of the total population. This while the three new servers alone arrive to hold more than 7k. Now, with this simplicistic but effective math, lets consider that 1k of those 7k is about returning players. Well, we have 6k that were just cannibalized off the other servers. Which seems about right considering how the population is fallen on all the other standard servers, like the example of Merlin I brought above.

So, we are still speaking of “a niche group of players”? It’s roughly 1/3 of the overall active population and it would be so much more if it wasn’t for the social ties and time investment that so many players have put on the other servers.

Imho, this is more than enough to rethink the attitude. Well, it should have happened long ago.

An old comment from Jessica Mulligan may also be appropriate:

Experience has shown us that once a player unsubs and leaves the game completely, it is tough to get them back. 10% recovery is considered stellar; less than 5% is more likely.

In particular when nothing really changed.

Finally, with Imperator in limbo, and the company having previously planned to have three games in various stages of production, are there any plans to begin work on a third project?

Sanya Thomas:

Yes, it’s definitely time for a *third* game. The negation of reality is a typical defensive mechanic. Things aren’t going well, so, instead of trying to do something to change the situation, we imagine fancy worlds where three, four, five mmorpgs at the same time are so absolutely normal and acceptable.

Let’s continue the parade:

I’m confused by people that think the classic servers are going to be a bad thing for the game in the long run.

Before the classic servers the “long run” was just a continuation of the same steady decline into oblivion that had been happening for months. Thats a good thing?

A matter of perspectives. If the alternative is Mythic doing nothing to the game, yes. The classic servers are an improvement. But if we compare this choice with the other possibilities that ARE available and that address the problems of the game in a radical way. Well, you can see how the situation is different and how the classic servers are negative and temporary workarounds that do not really improve anything.

The classic servers can be the “less worst” option. But if we change the point of view we can see how DAoC isn’t doomed to follow this pessimistic and narrow minded perspective. In fact DAoC is declining exactly because it is DRIVEN by this perspective and so the decline becomes just the consequence of the decisions taken.

It’s just about the possibility to still believe in the game or let it rot in the less worst way possible.

Is it a matter of a game that still has a HUGE potential to tap (as I believe) or a matter of keeping the game afloat as long as possible?

Overall population may be up minimally but when you look deeper what you find is you have 3 new servers at close to max populations and the rest are down by about 1/3. That’s not a situation that is going to be viable for very long. Mythic needs to do something dramatic to restore life to the older servers, but I have no idea what that could be. More clustering would just be putting a band-aid on a gaping chest wound.

Would it be a bad thing for them to focus on both populations for future content?

Well see that’s another bad quandry. Do they have the resources to do that? I don’t believe so and neither population is sufficient enough to fully support the game except as a unchanging shell.

Unchanging shell. That’s a pretty decent definition.

Keep in mind that the game isn’t just split between people who like TOA and play on the TOA servers and people who hate TOA and play on the Classic servers. Many people who did not choose to reroll on Lamorak, Gareth, and Ector dislike TOA intensely too.

I think just as many people are unhappy with the new servers as like them. People who are unhappy are disapointed that instead of fixing the game for them on the servers where they have put in all this hard work they just tell people the solution is to give up and restart over here because its easier for them.

As I have said in the past the better thing to do in my opinion was just to fix toa the way they should have a long time ago.

If they had done things like this I would bet money they would have got back almost as many if not more people as they did from making the new servers. They would not have alienated so many people as they have with the new servers they would not have caused population problems on the old servers.

Excuse me, where you see that Mythic has actually acknowledged problems in ToA? The classic servers were, once again, a way to avoid to solve those problems. In the exact same way they did not solve the buffbots problems and in the exact same way they are launching a “New Isle” to not solve the problems in “New Frontiers”.

Come on, we all know Mythic and what they are doing is always predictable.

You go ahead and keep on thinking that Mythic is going to solve the ToA problem with some kind of Grand Solution other than the obvious one right in front of you (rerolling). I’ll keep playing Classic.

I agree with Swoosh, they’ve settled for a slight short-term boost in players for a long-term decline (time will tell) – unless they fix the real problems with DAoC on the standard servers which go well beyond just ToA (class balance, bugs, customer service, etc.).

There is no way in hell a player with a real job, wife/kids etc had the time to sink into TOA and still be competitive in RVR. Getting ganked by people with uber TOA goodies was just no fun.

I honestly feel sorry for those that let mythic fool them into spending months of their time getting artifacts etc, hope you all enjoy playing by yourselves. LOL

Dont know how many times I have to state this, but here I go again; getting ganked can be fun if it lasts a while and you get a chance to take part in the events.

What isnt fun is getting nuked to ashes before you even realize that they are coming because the TOA increases the casting speeds and damage so high that 1200 hp and DI1 are gone before the cleric can heal you.

You dont get to react, you dont get to even realize what is going on – you just die.

I’d rather be stun-nuke-nuke-nuked than to get cut down like grass to a fully TOAed, ML10 RR5+ UberTwink that was PLed up from 20th in 2 weeks.

When I played the BGs on the TOA servers, it was a blast. I died more times than I killed but it was still fun.

50th lvl RvR on a TOA server is no fun because it is way too short and unbalanced between the haves and the have-nots.

I agree. DAoC fights are way too short. I have lagged, and when I got control back I was already dead. Losing is way more fun if you have a few minutes to do something.

I agree that damage is way too high and quick because of the ToA bonuses and a lot of stuff needs to be changed. Will Mythic make these changes now that they see how many hate ToA? Time will tell us but i think their time is running out.

One can easily discern the slope downward at the end of the graph. Mythic hasn’t solved the real problems with the game in fact I think they’ve done more damage than good with the new servers. They’ve further diluted the already thin active population on the original servers, something which they really needed to avoid. The real problems are related to balance yet for 4 years Mythic has ignored those problems. I’m not sure they will ever realize what they need to do to keep the game alive honestly.

A last note about the numbers. As you can see from the overall graph, the game strongly suffered the launch of WoW in November 04. But what the graph doesn’t show is that the progressive downward trend was already going on from many months before. In Febrouary of the last year the active players used to peak at around 36k. And this was already after some of the players left after ToA’s launch (end of October 2003).

Btw, after all this I expect Mythic to start to hide their numbers. That would be comedy gold.