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Starwars - The Old Republic: 24,367 Keys Remain

Posted by Ozzallos Monday November 14 2011 at 3:56PM
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Seriously?

That little statistic was taken straight from MMORPGs very own beta offer page. I don't know what the figure originally started at (25k?) but the number of beta keys being offered is high. Absurdly high. In fact, it's so high that I don't ever recall any other game posting so many "beta" keys and still maintain the facade of beta. With a launch date of December 22, 2011, I think we can safely assume beta is all but done and even stress testing is by and large a done deal. So what does that leave us?

Marketing.

Twenty five thousand Metric Ass-tons of marketing. Bioware and Lucas Arts have taken the advertising beta to a whole new level, if not elevated it to a fine art with this tactic. How do you combine a subscription game that you're supposed to pay for at the store with the hands on word of mouth usually associated with free to play gaming? Exactly like this. You let everybody and their goddamn brother "beta" your game for a taste test, shut it off a few days before the release date (all the while enduring the 'will you delete my character?' rants in the official forum' and then hopefully sell the real release as if the game DVD were pressed into gold disks.

What am I saying? This is Starwars. Even if the game was merely World of Warcraft with Light Sabers (ahem), it would still sell like it was pressed into gold disks based on fandom alone. Normally I'd say that advertising betas- especially one of this magnitude -are a double edged sword, but here? Since the guarantee to sell is already there, an advertising beta is only icing on the cake and thus receives my Evil Genius in Marketing Runner Up Award for 2011.

It'll also be interesting to see how many of those keys actually get used between now and then as a slightly non-scientific barometer of future sales. About the only drawback I can see here is that it reeks of needy attention. It all but screams "Please, please please make our Christmas a profitable one?"

Lego Universe Crumbles

Posted by Ozzallos Monday November 14 2011 at 2:15PM
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Now this one I didn't expect, but in retrospect, it should have been fairly obvious in the coming: Lego Universe is closing its doors .  Per the official FAQs, Lego Universe will go dark January 31, 2012 at midnight (EST), barely making it past a year of up time. Ouch.

Quoting from the website, "All current subscribers (1, 6 or 12 month plans) who still have active subscriptions on December 31 will receive a refund for any remaining game time remaining after December 31 as well as free play from January 1, 2012 until January 31. For example, if you purchased a 6-month subscription on September 1, 2011 (which would expire on February 29, 2012), you would be refunded $16.66 for the 2 months following December 31."

Honestly, we should have seen this coming and more than likely filed this failure under "mistargeted demographic." How is that? Sure everybody knows legos are kids toys, but realistically, who is buying that $100 Pirates of the Caribbean ship or the slightly pricier Star Wars Millennium Falcon? How about the $400 Death Star? Better yet, who's it for?  Something's telling me it isn't Timmy eight-year-old shelling out four hundred bones for his hobby, nor is he the one with his Visa card in hand ponying up for a monthly subscription.

Hell, even slightly more juvenile fandoms like Harry Freakin' Potter are still going to set you back $80, so I gotta be asking Lego Group, who the hell is buying this crap and why didn't you target a game for them? Rhetorical question for those really feeling the need to answer it. Drawing on my own experience, I was more than willing to give the game a try until I realized the target audience and all that followed. A hyper restrictive chat filter. Gameplay with the depth of a muddy puddle. A comparatively short experience to end game. For anybody with the actual means to pay and play- that is to say, not borrowing dad's credit card to hop on the computer -Lego Universe was a huge stoplight. I'd even be willing to bet that the gamer demographic playing their console titles is a bit older than they realize.

Of course, Lego Group has their own take on why Lego Universe failed. When asked why they are closing down, they reply: "We love LEGO Universe too! Seeing you in the game was a really great experience for us and we’re going to miss everything that LEGO Universe accomplished. There are still lots of fun free games on lego.com and you can still share your memories of the game with other explorers on our message boards."

That's code for "we fucked up".

Sure the game might be offically dead, but don't despair. DC Universe has proven there is life after insolvency and something tells me this would be a perfect game to chuck down the free to play toilet. With a few changes of course.

Like respecting the people who pay your bills.

The Rules of MMORPG Fail

Posted by Ozzallos Tuesday November 1 2011 at 4:03PM
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The MMO has been around for a while now and has had its share of success and failures. Possibly the most annoying aspect of covering the MMO genre is that the failures continue to fail for the same reasons. Even though hindsight is supposedly 20-20, these developers can't seem to graps the obvious so here's a simple guide for the intellectually deficient amongst them.

Rules of MMORPG Fail

1) Your RPG fails.
We'll start with the simple stuff first because the genius brain trust out there can't seem to quite grasp the concept of the ROLE PLAYING GAME. No, idiot, this term is not reserved for your first person shooter, nor should you tack it onto your Real time strategy in a sad attempt to capture a larger market segment then your sad title deserves. Sure, you could argue that they are taking on a "role" and therefore your game is "roleplaying"  ...And in the process, piss on the nearly three decades worth of actual role playing games better than your own. Take my word for it, this descriptive doesn't apply to your title so stop diluting our tried and true genre with your crap or we'll visit your office in the middle of the night and rape your keyboard.

2) Your MMO fails.
Massive? Please. Set the way back machine to shut the fuck up, because apparently your definition of massive is 90's multiplayer Quake over a 64kbps modem. Hey, yeah, Unreal called. It's calling itself an MMO now too. And Counterstrike. And OMFG, your battleground can contain 32-64 people? REALLY? That's like, revolutionary! ...On a console five years ago. Look, people, We know you  desperately need the market share, but massive- literally and figuratively -you ain't; nor are you fooling anybody. Or maybe it's just an attempt to massively overcompensate? In either case this failure ties into failure number one when a developer attempts to float a clearly unmassive game (Yeah, Nexon, that's right) by its players.

3) Your world fails.
Your world doesn't just fail, it utterly fails. Seriously, nothing says incompetence like that flat piece of plywood you call a world, let alone subdividing said excuse for a world into isolated areas like so many self contained kitty litter boxes. By the way, you know what's in a kitty box, don't you? Crap. Specifically the crap you're attempting to pass off as an MMORPG. What, did your polygon budget for the week run out just creating houses that you can't actually walk into? Oh wait! You can enter those... Through another instanced portal. Hell, people; your environment doesn't even have a light source. That's called a "sun" for those just joining us, not some disembodied source of illumination. Do you know how much fail it takes to forget the sun? About as much as it takes to fuck up that sorry excuse for a minimally detailed environment you expect us to run around in.

4) Your Plot fails.
Here's a clue for all you lobotomized morons out there failing at MMORPGs world wide: People generally don't play role playing games just to walk hours on end from point A to B and kill five salamanders to earn XP. Certainly, experience indicates progression, but seriously, are you that stupid enough to think that players log on to your game just to accumulate an arbitrary expression of advancement? Gamers play RPGs to- now follow me here, because this one's tricky -Role Play. WTF?! No, seriously. Intrinsic in the very meaning of role playing is the fact that an environment conducive to that goal is required (see failure #3) and likewise, an overarching story. Why are these people even running around your MMO? It's sure as hell not get XP. If you treat your RPG like a great piece of fiction, they will come. That means plot, adventure, heroes and villains. If you don't invest in a story, all you've created is a slower, eye gougingly boring 3rd person shooter. In other words, we hope that when you go to Hell for making this game, it looks a lot like your pathetic excuse for an mmo.

5) Your Auto Pilot fails.
We already know you put the absolute minimum of effort into your world lore, but to completely devalue it takes skill... And a Quest Auto Pilot. Above all else, the addition of a quest autopilot that automatically walks you to your quest goal makes it quite evident that you as an MMORPG designer are lazy and need to get off your ass. Does the quest objective description really need to be so obscure that goddamn CSI Miami has to be called in just to decipher where the hell the objective is? I mean, is adding basic navigational instructions like "South of here under the giant tree stump" too much to ask? More importantly, the addition of an autopilot all but encourages me to simply click past what is more than likely a useless wall of text and minimize your game while the my character is routed to its destination in the background, since I've got got more important stuff to do IRL. In fact, that's what I'm doing right now. Plot? What plot? I just skipped over that obvious attempt to sugar coat your badly constructed grinding content so I could get to the more interesting parts faster.

6) Your Gender-Locked classes fail.
Really, what gave  you the bright idea that limiting user choice was a good idea? Especially here? Let's see, I'm taking a guess at... Yeah, laziness. Somehow I'm thinking that not everybody wants to be feminized into spandex clad female rogue or frilly dress priestess. And apparently your little gender skewed world doesn't include strong female tanking classes since those somehow all became guys. I mean, is neutering yourself to have less users becoming habit forming or something, because I'm pretty sure their are guys who just want to be guys and guys who don't want to stare at the ass of another guy while grinding. Likewise, some women just want to kick ass and take names... Or quite possibly want to avoid the fallout associated with being a female in an anonymous hormonally driven teenage male world. Laziness is really the only one I can think of here, folks. Or maybe just a marketing stereotype asshattery.

7) Your manufacturing scheme fails.
If you could manufacture fail, your MMO would be a brand name known in every household like some 'as seen on TV' appliance. Occasionally people like to take a break from grinding fifty bat spiders to collect ten bat wings to be turned into Joe the guard for an arbitrary number or token piece of gear. Normally that outlet takes on the form of some sort of side profession in which players can create food, gear and other stuff. Too bad the difference between their stuff and yours is built on a foundation of suck. Your items are built on top of previously manufactured items which are in turn built upon yet other items, each with their own intrinsic chance to fail along the way. Failing usually means you loose most of the components involved, forcing you to start over again with a piece of fabric tied to a turd. And why can I normally get drops that are better than anything I can produce at the same level? Really? That level three wild boar just burped up a sword of +3 pwn and I'm still limited to making these rusted pieces of shit at the same level? Come on. The new trend lately is to have your pets do the manufacturing, which we all know is just another excuse to screw gamers over at the free to play altar. Thanks, but I can sacrifice small NPC pets in the privacy of my own home without paying you to do it for me.

8) Your NPCS fail.
There is a land where zombies walk the very earth... A land where brainless automatons occupy villages once thriving with life. A land where where communication is all but impossible between your player base and the inhabitants. A land-- Let's just cut to the chase. They're your NPCs, jackass. Its night time and these people apparently never sleep since they can be found twenty four hours a day, seven days a week standing in front of their house; rain, snow or shine. If they do move- and that's a BIG if -it's usually along some very abbreviated racetrack without much in the way of real pathing. And hey, how about those monsters? Like how human and beast NPCs seem to coexist in perfect harmony until your player arrives on scene. Apparently the they have a deal worked out with wildlife to kill player and only the player on sight because, you know, that's the way things work in real life. Simply put, your NPCs are mindless robots with maybe a sentence or two worth of interaction before they become little more than discarded scenery... Just like we'll all be discarding your franchise.


9) Your Character Delete fails.
Who here has just spent the last half hour perfecting every detail of their character appearance, only to roll it up and find out that it just doesn't look the same in the real game? That's not a crime. It happens. What is a crime is goring to delete and reroll that character, only to find out that it won't be really be deleted for the next seven days. Even worse, it'll be tying up your very identity, forcing you to have a ready list of backup names. And hey, it's it fun to continually roll up names like 'TestXII' and fill up character slots just to avoid this failure. It's good to know that your company thinks so little of player intelligence that they simply can't type in a key to confirm the deletion and maybe recover the character on the back side if it becomes absolutely necessary. But that would be too much work for a lazy company like yours, wouldn't it? Wouldn't want to get in the way of those paid character slot profits!

10) Your Combat fails.
As if your MMO wasn't already one huge bucket of suck you just had to go spread the icing on the cake of fail. Cardboard NPCs. Houses you can't walk into. Hell, a world without the sun. Its tough to improve upon perfection, but you found a way. Autopathing wasn't enough to completely divorce the gamer from the MMO experience, so you took it a step further. Why should your users actually have to interact with anything during combat? Just let them click on an enemy NPC so the game can walk them over, set the parking break and automatically smack the hell out of it until random numbers fall off it! Why bother the player to actually play the game when you can automate everything, including the battles! GENIUS! Now I can minimize your game during travel and battles! About the only thing that would make this better would be to program in auto farming features at the cash sho-- Oh, wait. They've done that? But seriously, guys; Auto combat simply removes another aspect of player interaction and that translates to one less reason to play your MMO. How you ever thought this was a good idea was beyond me, but my suggestion would be to take whoever thought of it out back and club him to death with a rusty Mosin Nagant.

 

DC Universe: Failure to Launch

Posted by Ozzallos Tuesday November 1 2011 at 12:41PM
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If there's one rule I cling to like my guns and religion in the world of MMOs, it's that a franchise will not go Free to Play unless it absolutely has to. No matter what the developers will have you believe, F2P is not the next generation of gaming. Cash is king and in the world of business it's better to have your cash up front and now via subscription than possibly maybe later if you feel like it in a cash shop. What does this have to do with anything?

Holy crap did DC Universe fall on its own sword.

Anybody who played the beta with a critical eye saw the problems going in. Absolutely gorgeous game. Outstanding audio. You couldn't ask for a more immersive universe. But actually playing the game? That was like walking across glass and dancing in salt afterwards. DC Universe really had only two major problems: First, the aformentioned gameplay. They tried the cross platform thing and it failed hard since you ultimately have to program the game down to the lowest common denominator, and the denominator was a console gamepad. That single decsision ensured anybody playing on a PC would all but gouge their eyeballs out as they attempted to cope with a UI designed by a lobotomized monkey.

The second problem is purely speculation, but I haven't been wrong yet when it comes to this game: DC Universe tried the advertising beta tactic far too early for its own good. To be fair, they attempted to correct a lot of the issues that were plaguing the game, but their biggest failure was doing so in what was close enough to a public beta not to matter. Essentially, this game needed a real beta for much longer, not to fix all the crap in what was more or less open beta only a handful of months to launch. Word of mouth and the UI problems killed this game before it even got off the ground, and the server populations confirmed it every step of the way.

So where does that leave us now besides "I told you so?"

Normally its my belief that a game that goes free to play deserves to go free to play, meaning that it harbors some critical deficiency that the dev tried to pass off on you the player and bled out for it. DC Universe, I'm not so certain. One thing I will respect this franchise for is that they tried with this game. It should have been a hit in every other respect save for a bad marketing call. In fact, I'm certain I would be happily shelling out a subscription if they had made this game for a PC and not a console, and for a picky bastard like me, that says something. So yes, it deserved to go free to play, but not for the normal reasons most other games go free to play (sloth, impatience and avarice primarily).

Mark this day folks. When DCUO goes free to play today, I'll actually recommend you give it a try. This is one MMO that had a considerable amount of time and effort invested in it, only to be screwed up by some monkies in the marketing department. Who knows... It may still be an excersize in fusteration to play, but I guarantee at least the initial 'wow' factor until that sets in.