A comment on Free To Play

Reacting briefly to some stuff I’m reading online:

1- Free To Play is still the place where MMORPGs go to die. It’s the place of decline and of slower death, where companies put their game so they can squeeze some more dollars out of it.

2- Free To Play is not currently proven as a successful model. I still need to see projects that make a real profit that includes the entire initial budget. Why? Because this is the model that is usually seen as “successful” for a MMO that started with normal subscriptions and then moved to F2P. Like SW:TOR. Free To Play is “successful” after a failure already happened.

3- I’d like to see numbers and statistics. How many players log in at least during a month, and then again next month. Then take these accounts that are active from month to month, and find the average of what they are spending in the span of 6 months. I want to see if they spend more, on average, than 14.99 * 6.

4- No one out there has even started to think about the only reasonable thing that the market is truly asking: LOWER monthly subscription fees. Because I do believe F2P is only competing with subs NOT BECAUSE OF THE MODEL, but because it’s cheaper. You, usually, really do get more. But I’d really like to see if F2P continues to be successful if monthly fees were lowered to be more acceptable.

5- I’ll repeat point 4 to clarify it: F2P is not demonstrating to be the better model. It is demonstrating that you are more successful with a bigger playerbase that pays less, than a smaller one that pays more. You get the exact same result by keeping monthly fees and reducing them.

6- Guild Wars 2 is very often mentioned by the media as Free To Play. It is not. You pay upfront. It’s a whole lot different.

7- MMORPGs like World of Warcraft don’t deserve monthly fees. Because they are producing EXTREMELY SLOW UPDATES from month to month. In the old days patches were frequent, weekly if not daily, and you could see that the game was making progress. It was an ever evolving thing unlike single player games. These days there’s zero progress (no work on systems, only on small amount of “content”). So no, you don’t deserve to be paid monthly.

8- In general, it’s not that the monthly fee is obsolete. It’s that the MMORPG genre has been killed and in a definite decline. We got glorified single-player. No one wants to play monthly for glorified single-player. Free To Play is on the rise because the quality of MMORPGs became lower and lower.

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Final Fantasy XIV: Queerdom

Brief commentary from my 1st hour:

– The installer PRETENDS 20Gb free, but the client is barely 9Gb.

– No fucking way to scale the UI. This is utterly ridiculous that something like this wasn’t properly addressed. You can scale between 3 sizes on individual panels but THERE’S NO FUCKING WAY to do it on the chat window, which also CAN’T BE MOVED AT ALL. And also scaling the individual panels doesn’t let you scale pop-up windows and messages. So you end up with an half assed UI. It should have never come out of beta in this state.

– I actually like a lot the neon-style of this UI. But it is only used for some of the UI elements (health bars, pop-up numbers, onscreen names). Other panels like character info, inventory and journal are of a completely different style and very ugly.

– Character creation isn’t that good. Not many choices making real difference, and visual style overall is something you either like or not.

– Ooh, first and last name. I like that. You finally don’t have to try a million of names because they are all already taken. I picked K’rul Azathanai. Shortly after the game complimented me for how “it rolls off the tongue”. I laughed for the involuntary humor.

– The intro thing couldn’t be duller and slower. Even the camera panning around is so slow as if they’re trying to make you fall asleep before you can actually take control of your character (and it will take a while, a long while).

– Animations are really bad. They don’t have animations even for when you fall down from a jump and start moving (so no interpolation in general). Movement feels jerky, visually. Probably animations in general are the worse thing in the overall presentation of the game. It feels really “floaty” when moving around, as if the character is only gliding over things. GW2 wasn’t very good, but this is much worse.

– The engine really makes my GPU hot. This is usually a “good” thing since it means it depends more on GPU than CPU. It’s a good thing that the settings don’t have a big effect on the overall look. Graphic is pretty, drawing distance is quite wide. But the engine feels still somewhat rough. Still a decent enough performance with other players around. So I guess with decent and recent hardware it looks good and performs well even in bigger battles.

– I guess there was lag. The movement of other players around goes in short burst instead of being smooth.

I crashed.

– I was able to get stuck very soon. Completely stuck in geometry when I tried to look around some ruins.

So, in general this is a kind of quirky MMO that you either like for its queer style or not. It doesn’t seem to do anything relevant, so it’s just an old style kind of MMO that looks fresh and queer.

I’d give it a “6”. It’s “playable”. It’s queer. You are going to like and enjoy it mostly because its style. Otherwise it has nothing to offer that seems different. But at least it’s that style that gives it something different from another generic MMO without any personality or flavor. More flavor that GW2, for example. But GW2 is superior in its engine, mechanics and content. Only blander.

I use queer in its “strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular” meaning.

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MMORPG evolution: the 4th generation

The first of the next generation of MMORPGs is, obviously, the imminent Final Fantasy XIV. See for yourself:

We received a lot of requests to create a method to raise and lower the visor on the warrior artifact helmet.

With the simple flick of your wrist, or by typing in the /visor command on your keyboard, you too can raise and lower the visor on your helmet!


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EverQuest Next: Recap

Using a forum post to clarify my position, and this will probably be enough for quite a while.

Calelari: HRose, do you ever plan to make your astounding game design genius available to world and actually do something? This constant pissing in everyone’s cheerio’s was tiresome years ago. Now it’s just sad.

On another forum someone wrote: “It always amazes me how people who have been looking forward to the next big thing and getting burned by it for like the last FIFTEEN YEARS keep getting suckered in by… the next big thing.”

Or: “So far they’ve been vague enough to make people think of grand possibilities, but the likelihood of those possibilities coming to fruition is slim at best. Like EQ’s planes, back when it was in beta they were giving interviews and mentioning the elemental planes and how awesome characters could get to them and find these amazing places. They basically made it sound like Planescape. What got delivered was not Planescape. The planes were just dungeons.”

I’ve been saying some hard facts clashing with pipe dreams and pies in the sky. The hard fact is that this announce showed no real game, it only tickled players’ fantasies and relied on imagination to complete the idea of a game that isn’t there.

I simply stated:

1- At this point the game can’t be judged (positively or negatively) because they only showed suggestions, instead of a real game.
2- This is practically Vanguard dev team being recycled.

While #2 isn’t a definite condemnation, it’s a good reason to keep expectations and hype low, and skepticism high. Those NAMES are names one should identify with OLD AND TRITE AND DERIVATIVE, because that’s what they’ve concretely done in the last decade (or more) regardless of fancy claims. Vanguard was through the roof with the hype, at the time. It also was all about “suggestions”, smoke and mirrors that never became a concrete game. I just have a longer memory than the average forum guy and not easily distracted by commercial ads.

The UGLIEST sign about EQ Next is that they only hinted at things like voxel and total destructible terrain while COMPLETELY AVOIDING all the concerns and side effects that such features bring up. As always in these cases, it’s more important to look at the side they don’t want you to see, than the side they show you enhanced with sparkly effects.

The piss in the cheerio’s already there. I just warn you before you eat them. Or at least spare you a couple of years of hype that will eventually come crashing down. Just as usual.

Everyone’s attention is probably better spent on something else (at least for a while).

EverQuest Next: Pie in the Sky

I was waiting the announce of EverQuest Next and I’m seeing the hype is now rising quickly.

My comment at this point is: “Too thick vaporware, didn’t see if there’s a real game in there.”

Slightly longer version: I remain curious about it, but what they showed is a spiked tech demo that can’t help understand what the actual game will be.

It’s curious that something similar happened with Brad McQuaid’s Vanguard, on different premises but with similar patterns. What is in common is that now the big public out there has an idea of the game entirely built on fancy expectations. SOE didn’t show an actual game, they showed suggestions about a possible game. Smoke and mirrors. Every potential player out there right now has his own personal idea of how the game will work, making it coincide with a personal ideal. Which has probably very little in common with how EverQuest Next will concretely work. Wishful thinking.

Roll back seven years ago, when Vanguard’s hype started to rise. Thankfully I have a site with hard memory:

Your report becomes: “Vanguard will be wonderful because it will be the game of your dreams”. And the game of your dreams cannot be bad, right? This is the sense of your article. A failing-proof slogan.

As long we deal with dreams we can be happy, but someday this EverQuest Next will have to launch. It will need to put fancy ideas into a coherent, pragmatic whole. That’s when all the different ideas people right now have of the game will have to crash down into one.

When you announce something you should announce something concrete. You should put the foundation of your product on the hard rock of solid ideas motivated as a coherent whole. Stuff you can touch and that surprises your target public because of its reality. Here instead we just have vague fluff thrown with a vague gesture just so your imagination fills the rest and makes of it whatever you like. It’s not a real game, it’s not a concrete thing.

Hence, EQ Next can’t be judged at this point. We know nothing more than before. We just saw some fantasy-style models moving within Planetside 2’s engine, and that’s it.

Seven years ago Vanguard claimed being a third generation MMO. I remind everyone that in 2013 we’re still stuck at generation 1.5.

Edit: The parallel with Vanguard wasn’t far fetched at all. Here’s what I found out:

Fun fact: EverQuest Next big guy (Darrin McPherson), aka Lead Designer, was Senior Game Designer on Vanguard, before moving back to SOE.

My primary focus has been the development of the Vanguard combat system and the design of our adventuring player character classes.

Before Vanguard he was at EA working on Earth & Beyond.

Same for Jeff Butler, who’s Creative Director on EQ Next. He was Co-Executive Producer and then PRESIDENT (of Sigil) on Vanguard. At least he was also an old timer of Everquest who moved to Vanguard with Brad McQuaid.

Anyway these are the real guys making this new game. Both of them coming straight from that amazing piece of game design and astounding success that was Vanguard. In leading positions on it, and even more prominent on EQ Next. An industry built on merit.

Oh, Moorgard too is back. Coming straight from that other astounding success that was Kingdoms of Amalur.

At this point I wonder why they didn’t hire Brad McQuaid too. He would fit in perfectly.