Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alganon - No Soup For You!

Remember that episode of Seinfeld with the soup guy, where basically if he didn't like something a customer said or did he yelled "No soup for you!", and out they went? Typically, you wouldn't want to run a business that way. Especially when there are other bigger and better soup kitchens in town. Especially when you have a reputation for customers finding bugs in their soup. And especially when you only have a declining few dozen customers who stroll in each day.

With my morning coffee in hand, I looked to see what was new over at the Alganon forums. There's been a continuing post on what people would like to see in game. One mentioned they weren't posting much anymore waiting to see what developed. Another member added to that and Derek Smart responded with the following:

Wow, how rude to a customer. Might as well have said "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Just as a background, the poster above has been with the community a long time and has been extremely supportive to the point of picking up several one-year subscriptions. While he certainly shouldn't be shown preferred treatment, he should at least be treated as a customer, as we all should, and not expendable trash.

But unfortunately it didn't end there. A couple community members posted that they thought the response a bit inappropriate. Their posts were respectful, well thought out, and in no way inappropriate. I left to run some errands, and when I returned they were deleted. Now I've seen some posts in the past that warranted deletion. There was one fellow who created an account called "QOLSucks" and you can imagine what sort of posts those were. Ok, I get that. But if you want to keep even the slightest hint of negative posting off the forums, then it needs to work both ways, you know?

There were some responses of upset members who had seen the posts and questioned their deletion. But then many of these posts were also deleted. I did manage to catch a couple posts before deletion. There is no valid reason to be deleting this stuff.

Well, anyway I guess I have to admit defeat at this point and throw in the towel. This is above and beyond even my tolerance level which is much higher than most. Mr. Smart stated he's only there temporarily. Maybe once he's gone it will be safe to come back.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DDO - Guild Airships!

Turbine announced their summer update will focus on an entire revamping of the guild system, including the addition of guild airships. The ships will function similar to the guild halls in EQ2, where you acquire amenities such as an auctioneer. There also will be a navigator npc that provides transportation. After the update, guilds will gain status through player actions unlocking additional amenities and rewards.

I've already been tempted to fire up DDO to see how things have progressed with all the changes this past year, but this sounds much too cool to pass up. This will be a great opportunity for guilds to gain new players, giving the unguilded a little more incentive to join up.

The spring update comes next month, which includes a bunch of nifty new dungeons. But guild airships!! I have to see that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Alganon Needs a Community Manager

In my long years of gaming, I've really developed an appreciation for the great Community Managers of various MMO's. They handle the angry posts with grace, patience, and wit, while conveying a genuine affection for all the players. And they relay information from other folks in the company who don't have the temperament for posting on the forums. For potential new players coming to the forums looking for a general idea of type of community present in an MMO, a great CM can really set the tone for the entire forum and the game.

I've been part of the Alganon community for four years. So having a prior long-term connection there, it's a little easier for me to not take the recent shenanigans that seriously. But if I knew nothing of the game and the people involved and just started reading the forums, I'd be really put off and wouldn't be playing.

I've stated before that I appreciated the candor that Derek Smart initially expressed to the players. It was great to finally know what was going on and what direction the game would be taking. And it was great to hear that someone actually wanted to fix the game instead of leaving it broken while adding more broken new stuff on top of it. But he shouldn't be posting anymore. They desperately need a Community Manager.

In reading his posts as well as the subscriber posts over the last few days, this is not is not a direction in community I like to see. His more recent posts have been along the lines of, "If you don't like the game, leave. Any negative posts will be deleted and the poster banned with no warning!" (yes, he did boldface those words) I've been reading the posts and have seen nothing ban-worthy. I have never been part of an MMO community where negative posts are deleted and users banned. I mean seriously, what the heck? Foul language, yes. Name calling, yes. But negative opinions?

This in turn has changed some of the posting styles of some community members. For some there seems to be a need to get on his good side as they join in on snide remarks against the negative poster. His display of preferential treatment to certain players who agree with him or impress him drives the wedge further. And if I hear one more gushing "I really like you, Derek!" grrr. What was already a niche game may become even more niche.

I think he's well intentioned with wanting to help the game and I still appreciate his effort in "getting er done". But he needs to hire a Community Manager pronto to moderate with a kind, gentle hand and stay off the forums. They need to contact Sandra Weathers for advice. She knows how it's done.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Aerrevan Beta Testing Beginning Soon

In my continuing search for MMO's off the beaten path, I recently discovered Aerrevan, created by The 13th Hour Studios located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They just wrapped up alpha testing a few days ago and are about to enter beta. So keep an eye on their website over the next couple weeks for anyone interested in signing up.

Aerrevan will consist of humans, elves, and orcs, on the continent of Lurris. At some point in history, a huge meteor crashed into the continent bringing with it excess amounts of something called Aer. This stuff begins to accumulate in your body and if you don't periodically cleanse yourself of it, you will begin to mutate. Two separate great mages rose to power, one working toward ridding the world of Aer, while the other wishes to harness its power for use.

The world is 100% seamless and there will be zero loading screens. They are introducing some sort of dynamic npc conversation system. You can communicate with npc's as you would other players. They are programmed to understand the English language and will respond back in meaningful ways. There will be no classes. You just choose which skills you wish to use. There will be player run shops, which you can hire shopkeepers to run for you.

The most important aspect to me and the first thing I scanned for was that there would not be forced pvp. You can pvp in hostile territories where you will receive a warning upon entering. And you may also be subject to pvp if your guild is at war with another guild. Pvp is not based on the three races, but rather which of two great mage alliances you choose.

There will actually be two types of guild structures, depending on whether or not you wish to participate in pvp. The first is referred to as a "guild". The guild and its members will follow one of the two alliances. Guilds will be able to take control of towers and capital cities. They also are subject somehow to corruption, which requires much responsibility from the guild leader to manage. Not sure exactly how that will play out, but sounds like a stressful job. For the pve players, rather than guild, their organization will be referred to as a "battlegroup". These are for players who have not chosen an alliance. They function as a guild, but they will not be able to take control of territories as the guilds do.

The screenshots look very pretty, but there are only concept drawings for character models. I discovered the site in a very roundabout way. Considering they intend to release this year, they definitely should be doing some advertising. And I'll definitely be keeping my eye out on this one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

SW:TOR - One Million Needed to Break Even

I caught this article over at Joystiq where EA management has reported that earnings are somewhat depressed due to development costs of SW:TOR. But they are hopeful to recover expenses when the title brings in over two million subscribers and will need at least one million to break even.

While it's not as lofty as the three million that Warhammer was expecting, that seems to be an awfully high expectation. But then again maybe they are just referring to the initial box sales rather than continued subscribers. There is a high interest and a lot of sci fi mmo refugees looking for a new home. And it's made by BioWare, which is enough reason for many. It looks great from what I've seen, but so great that it probably won't run well on my system, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Still no word on the official pricing model aside from the statement that the plan will "be more of the traditional business model with maybe some twists as well."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alganon Didn't Fail Because It's A WoW Clone

There's a bit of bantering going on over at Gamusutra between Derek Smart and one of the recently departed QOL team members (**edit-more than one now**), who stated "I'm very sorry if this next comment makes things rough on Alganon's players. They are the one's we built the game for, so I've avoided statements like this is the past, but: Yes. The game Alganon failed. It failed because despite being fun and all original work, it appeared and played too similar to World of Warcraft. I failed because I did not realize that was a "deal breaker" for so many people."

While I realize the similarity was constantly discussed, when you talked to people who played and left in frustration it had nothing to do with any similarities. The game at release was mostly unplayable. Constant disconnects and crashes, mobs warping, broken game mechanics, tons of bugged quests, and as low end as the graphics appear, it requires a pretty decent system to play well. And as the months progressed and much of the bugs were worked out, where many could remain logged in and start to enjoy the game, it became apparent there wasn't much content beyond 30 and lesser still after 40.

Then add to this mix the crafting. The interdependence wasn't much fun, and even less so with a dwindling population causing more frustration for players. So how do they address this? They added an interdependence requirement for the gathering skills as well which now required rare components from other crafters just to raise your gathering skill.

Seriously, I wondered if they played their own game. But I think Derek Smart gets it. He's stated the game failed because it wasn't finished and he intends to finish it. Yeah I know people don't like him and he's said some abrasive stuff in the past. But to be honest, after all these months of the community getting the runaround and given very vague answers on the forums, his directness is refreshing. He has ruffled a few feathers on the forums though. His prior games seem to be of the boys' club type and guys speak differently when women aren't present. Alganon has a large percentage of female players. Give him a few months with us and maybe you'll have a kinder, gentler Derek Smart.

I've also noticed a different posting style from the other devs. There almost seems to be this tension lifted and there are more lighthearted responses in their posts. So whatever has been happening behind the scenes, it seems to be positive.

If you read the entire Gamusutra comments, it reveals a heck of a lot. Too much to go into detail here. But I've come away from it with a little more understanding and hopefulness in Alganon's future.

Monday, March 15, 2010

DAOC - Into the Labyrinth

In case anyone has ever wondered where Aspendawn originated (okay I know you don't care, but I'm telling you anyway), it was in DAOC. With so many alts, I was running out of name ideas. I had been using some form of Aspen in my last names for some time. I was creating an Avalonian Theurgist and wanted Aspen somewhere in the first name. Since Aspen was already taken as a first name, I turned to my baby name book that I use for mmorpg naming inspirations. When I saw Dawn in there, it just seemed appropriate for my fair-skinned, redhead and so Aspendawn was born. And being the gushing girly girl that I am, someone complimented me on my name and so it stuck.

DAOC's most recent expansion involves a dungeon called The Labyrinth. My other half's Friar had begun the new quest line involving the minotaurs' arrival which quickly turned into group quests. One of the nice things about group quests in DAOC is they often can be done with two or three. In order to complete the same quest, he needed an Albion partner, so Aspen came out to play.

The Labyrinth was huge and we got lost often. The first quest chain was the typical back and forth kill or click this type. But it did have a really neat finish when we realized we'd been duped and made a mad dash to the King's throne room in Camelot where a big battle ensued. That part was really a lot of fun. And the platinum earned wasn't too bad either.

On another note, for anyone returning to DAOC or thinking of trying, I've come across a blog, Back to the Dark Age. Going back through all the posts, it's been a great refresher course on how things work. They also have a great section entitled While you were Mezzed, where you can click on whatever class you left behind to see what changes have been made to them via patch notes.

And for nostalgia's sake, I'll leave you with this Mythic Memories video, where certain developers talk about their experiences in DAOC.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alganon - The Plot Thickens

Derek Smart posted to clarify some of the speculations going on. He was more forthcoming with behind the scenes goings on than I expected, but the games direction itself is still a bit uncertain.

It was made clear that HE had fired David Allen a few weeks ago for insubordination and acting against the interests of the company, and also fired one of his buddies. Mr. Smart was brought on board in December to help move the game along. But David wanted to continue doing his own thing and would not recognize Mr. Smart's authority even after he was promoted to president and David Allen was demoted. Yeah this whole insubordination and recognizing authority stuff does seem to confirm some of the bad rep.

But anyways, there were some positive things. All paid subscriptions will be refunded 100%. He also stated the December launch never should have happened and was a huge mistake, and that "this whole WoW look-alike rubbish is gone". He's asked the artists to throw it all out and come up with their own unique look for the game's ui.

One comment that was a bit confusing was that "EVERYTHING that was added to the game - when it should have been about fixing the game, tweaking it etc - has been disabled/removed on my orders." Honestly, don't know what that means.

There are many more changes coming, but he did not have time to go over them all at this time. He closed the post with a comment that Alganon would not be Quest Online's only game.

So there you go. The drama can't get much better than this.

Alganon - Uh Oh

David Allen has left his second failed attempt (first being Horizons) at making an MMO, and now Alganon is in the hands of the notorious Derek Smart. I say notorious because Mr. Smart doesn't have the most stellar of reputations when it comes to interacting with the gaming community. Here's a quote from one particular interview, "Sometimes when I get online, and it's quiet, and I see something that attracts my attention, I'll post just to piss these guys off. That's why I do it. Because I'm in a good mood that day, I go in there and I start trouble."

There goes the neighborhood. Personality issues aside, he is held in high regard as an indie developer.(*edit - in certain circles)

The Alganon members didn't receive the courtesy of receiving this information on the official forums, but rather through This should get interesting.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Establishing Roots in Midgard

While initially I thought I'd be spending the weekend leveling my mauler in DAOC further, there were more pressing issues calling of them being housing. Even though I'm not sure how long my stay will be, I just couldn't resist. I spent nearly two hours Saturday evening riding through Hibernia and Midgard housing zones looking for that perfect spot. It had to be waterfront and close to the market. Finally, I settled on a plot. There are four sizes of homes and the cost and maintenance of three of them were reduced drastically from last time I played. For new players, however, the costs are still high but definitely doable in a month or two of play time.

During my Saturday session of gaming, my partner in crime a couple feet away kept looking over to see what I was up to. Eventually, the nostalgia wore him down and he started the DAOC download. His tutorial perspective was different than mine though. Unfortunately, he has succumbed to the leash-led zombie masses and was heard grumbling "Why the $@*& can't they just show me where to go and why the $@*% is it so dark here?" I thought his stay was cut short as he logged out frustrated.

Meanwhile, I logged in all my old high level toons. Several of them had received respecs and I had no clue where their points were spent previously. And trying to find information on how to spec wasn't very successful. Unfortunately, Mythic never had any official DAOC forums for players to share information, and there are very few outside sources these days to find help for DAOC. One of my favorite classes back then was my valewalker and fortunately her spec hadn't been reset. So after about an hour of dragging skills to hotbars and hoping I was using the right ones, I took her out for a test drive.

I picked up one of the instanced mission quests, headed in, and kicked some serious butt. My other half returned and did the same with his friar, his prior favorite. So it looks like he'll be sticking around awhile as well as I now have a house neighbor.

Surprisingly, I've been seeing over a dozen members online in my old guild. One of them was a familiar face who coincidentally is just playing for the ten free days as well. And alliance chat has been busy with lots of activities scheduled, which is great to see.

Funny thing about nostalgia. When I returned to EQ1 I realized my memories were sweeter than reality and I just couldn't play it anymore. My return to DAOC is just as sweet as I remembered. It's such a great game with so much to do and definitely deserves more players than it has.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Return to Camelot

Early this week I received in my mail box the most recent Warhammer update. I usually read the whole thing to see if there's anything that would interest me in coming back to play. At the bottom of the letter the topic turned to Dark Age of Camelot. Any returning players can play free for 10 days. Also, everyone gets the last two expansions for free now.

With my interest in STO already dwindling and the addition of a death penalty not helping that situation, I thought this might be as good a time as any to revisit DAOC. The most recent expansion included a minotaur race and mauler class, playable across all three realms. To get back in the swing of things, I thought it would be best to start from scratch and go through the tutorial.

I played on the Gaheris server, which is the only completely PvP-free server. Playing here here also allows you to have characters in all three realms--Albion, Hibernia, and Midgard, which also means access to three times as many quests as you can freely travel throughout the realms. Loading up my account, I had forgotten how many alts I had played here. You are given 10 character slots in each realm, and I had a whopping 27 alts, with 8 of them being max level. I have never had anything close to this number of alts in any mmo. There are about 45 different classes which is enormous. Some of them do have some similarities. For example, there are three different ranged classes from each realm--the scout, ranger, and hunter. But they each have completely different skills along with strengths and weaknesses. And then there are some classes that are completely unique to that realm with no similar counterpart.

I had one slot available in each realm and decided to go with my favorite, Midgard. I love the viking structures, the music, and the entire realm is a bit dark and brooding. You can almost feel the chill in the air and I have this temptation to curl up in my chair with a hot cup of coffee as I play. Although I'm usually not a fan of furries, I was going to try the minotaur. But there was no female option, just a big, brawny male. That only left the norsewoman for the mauler class, which was my typical racial choice for Midgard anyway.

So on to the tutorial. This was not a quick 15 minute affair. My weekday play time is limited, but I did play each night throughout the week and only just finished it up Friday evening. For those used to not reading quests and just wanting to follow the mini map to git er done, they may be disappointed. There is a very small map with red dots giving you a general idea of where to go which does help. But quest npc's are not highlighted once a quest is completed, so you do need to read up on who gets what.

Actions aren't always quick jobs some might be used to. You may need to click and type /use for some things. You may need to click on your icon in your quest journal, which then puts it in your inventory, which then must be clicked on again. This is an older game, so the functions are older style, but nothing that can't be picked up on fairly quickly.

In the tutorial there are three different towns or quest hubs. One of the quests takes you into Demon's Breach which is a dungeon accessible by the tutorial of all three realms. On a typical server, this would mean your first exposure to PvP. But here it just means a chance to come across other players and say hello. Loot drops are great here and it's worthwhile to stick around a bit.

You will finish up the quests at around level 11 where you'll receive a complete set of armor as well as a mount. Now if you weren't reading your quests in the first hub, you will be left wondering what you're supposed to do now that the quests are finished. But if you were paying attention, you'll know you need to head back to the first quest hub and speak to the channeler. Even though he's not highlighted, he will offer a quest and whisk you away to your first real town hub just outside Jordheim.

Once here, your quest options can be overwhelming. And considering your quest journal is very limited, you need to pick and choose which area to focus on for quests. You can stay in town and follow the town quest progression. You can head into the city and pick up your Epic quest line, which can be soloed for most levels. You can do the quest lines in the Undercity, located under Jordheim. This was always one of my favorite areas for questing. You can head to the Shrouded Isles for a change of scenery for questing. There are task dungeons which can be done over and over if you like the grind method of leveling. There are dungeons to be explored that are very much soloable if you don't have a group. Often the barkeeps in the towns will tell you where to go based on your level.

There is a new quest line in the city involving some dragonslayer. Since this was completely new to me, this was the area I decided to focus on. Now with a little more play time this weekend, we'll see where this leads me.

Dark Age of Camelot definitely isn't an mmo with linear progression. If you need to be told specifically where to go and what path to follow, you will be frustrated. But if you like the freedom to explore and have the world completely open to you, the PvE options here are just tremendous. be continued...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

VIE - Virtual Island of Entertainment

Just earlier today I was blogging about the lack of social features in games correlating to fewer females playing, and I came across this:

"enVie Interactive™ announces the development of a new game that targets the most underserved market in the gaming community: women. This massively multiplayer online social game (MMOSG) caters to women looking for an engaging online game that speaks to them."

Speak to me! It goes on to say, "VIE is an online playground for adults that offers stunning graphics, unique customization and the ultimate entertainment experience to a market that has been virtually ignored by the gaming industry. VIE offers an ongoing series of episodic content, unique shopping experiences, high fashion, art design, and intimate encounters, all in a tropical island setting. It provides a mature audience the opportunity to escape and indulge in mysterious adventures at their leisure."

High fashion and intimate encounters? Bwow-chika-bwow-bwow

And it appears there could potentially be some real life benefits! "VIE supports the theory of Productive Play allowing gamers to explore and expand their creative and artistic sides as well as their social interaction in a virtual world. Reports show that people who engage in Productive Play are actually more productive in their real world lives."

Despite my silliness, let's just say my interest has been piqued and I did sign up for the beta.

Maybe it will actually speak to me.

The Loss of Community

It's hard to find positive posts lately on the Star Trek Online forums. The amount of rants filling the pages is overwhelming. Most of the rants are directed at Cryptic and what they aren't doing right or aren't doing at all.

But I came across one post in particular where the poster had ended his subscription in large part due to the community. The zone chat is pretty horrific and has been one of the worst I've seen anywhere. For some reason I had envisioned Star Trek attracting more of role play community, or at least a more mature one. While that was part of the poster's issue, his main beef was lack of response from anyone when auto grouping. I had positive experiences in beta, but once the game went live, players just stopped talking when grouped. I've made a point to speak in every single auto team encounter, whether it's just "hello" or "thanks for the team." Pretty close to 100% of the time I get nothing back. It made me wonder where all the loud mouths from zone chat are. Do they only speak in community zones? Or maybe they just never leave the zone or team up.

There were several responses, however, indicating that many are in voice chat with their fleets or friends and pay absolutely no attention to the chat tab. And so their solution was to join a fleet. While I agree a guild/fleet can make all the difference in one's gaming experience, unfortunately many will never bother to pursue that route when their first impression is such a lack of community.

But I can't imagine every single person I teamed with who didn't speak was in voice chat. I'm sure some just want to get the quest done and not be bothered, while others may not even speak English since we're all on one server. But whatever the reasons, the silent treatment most are receiving combined with the obnoxious zone chat is very discouraging.

When I think of games that I consider to have great communities, I place LotRO at the top with EQ2 following behind. What those mmo's both have that's missing from most others is non-combat social activities. LotRO has a wonderful music system and I always stopped to enjoy any impromptu concerts. Often I'd strike up conversations with the band when they were done or with other listeners as we gave them a round of applause. Then there are those wonderful festivals and fairs, which both games offer, with EQ2 having a slight edge. Add to that the housing and guild halls, and there are just so many opportunities for socializing and meeting other players.

When you see these type of activities in an mmo, you also see more females. And when there are more females, the community is nicer. Yeah, yeah I know I'm stereotyping. I know there are some women out enjoying Darkfall ganking with the best of them. But in general, when I notice a higher female population, I notice a nicer community. And there is a distinct lack of females in STO. Our guild of 60+ in EQ2 has more women than men playing. In my fleet in STO, there were four of us out of 90 members.

The new crop of mmo's just completely overlook this aspect of gaming. I know budgets are tight these days when making games. But they're really missing an opportunity here. Without the foundation of a good community, they're just an empty shell of pew pew.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Alganon - The Big March 1 Patch

Well the patch didn't come. This was to be the content patch that included new dungeons as a result of the Dawning event.

What did come, however, as the official announcement regarding their new subscription-free model. They are calling it subscription-free rather than free to play because there will still be a purchase price. Their hope is that this will minimize the troublemakers and help maintain some social maturity in game.

They are adding a Tribute Market System as their method of real money transactions. Those of us with prepaid subscriptions will have Tribute deposited into our accounts following the official relaunch in mid-April. Along with items typically seen in ftp such as mounts, pets, and equipment, they also will be selling study time. Currently, longer term subscribers would have had an advantage due to the study system. However, those with padded wallets will now be able to buy their studies rather than wait. Also, it appears items such as mounts will not just be purchased outright. You will need to continue to pay for them in the form of maintenance.

Also coming with the April relaunch will be a redesigned starter experience and new starter areas, along with a collection of dungeon instances.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of it yet. It's still over a month away, so I'll have to wait and see what sort of pricing structures they have. But I am disappointed the studies will now be tied to how much money you have rather than how long you've been playing. That was probably the biggest let down of the whole thing.