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Teala's Wickedly Cool MMORPG.com Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

Immortality Is Just A Click Away

Posted by Teala Thursday November 15 2007 at 3:22AM
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The year is 2075.   Today is the day, you've made the decision, and now all it requires is a click of the mouse and immortality will be yours.   You've put a great deal of thought into your choice of cyberverses you'd consider to live in and you've narrowed it down to just one.   With the help of a AHCG, short for advanced human cyberverse generator, you've created the perfect body that will be you in the new cyberverse.   You're not afraid...you've nothing to loose.  Your body is ravaged by a new strain of DNA Virus 3, and you've been given a year to live.   So there you sit in the reclining chair.   A thin mesh metallic like membrane covers your head.  Attached to it is a small remote transmitting unit.   This thin membrane known as a DCMU, short for dynamic cerebral mapping unit, will use the latest technology to map your brain down to the last electron.

There is one catch though...when it is done your brain will stop functioning.   It  will stop functioning because you've decided that anything is better than death, and well, you've been told that when you start your new life it will be in a new world, in a new universe, and you'll just simply wake up in it and thought you had been asleep when you traveled to get there.    You'll awaken in a universe as vast as the one you are coming from, only this universe fits into the latest Intelecron Quantum Processor, which is about as big as a scrabble tile game piece.  All the physics of your real world will be present in this world.  You'll swear you are still made of skin and bone.  You'll breath, you'll sweat, you'll cry, urinate, have to eat, drink, sleep and even be able to conceive a child in this new universe.   Your old human body will be cremated and that will be that.  You'll have joined the 2 billion other people who have all ready uploaded their mapped brain, their very soul, to one of a dozen cyberverses available.

In this universe you can never die.   Well, not really, because you can be killed, however the strategically placed soul stones throughout this universe senses your passing and when you die in the new universe your body turns to electrons, and is reformed at the closest soul stone.   So for all intent and purposes, in the new cyberverse you've chosen to live in, you are essentially immortal just as long as the memory crystal and Intelecron Processors don't give out at the same time.  If one goes, it can be replaced and life will go on.  If they both go...that cyberverse and everyone, and everything in it, will just blink out of existence.   For a death it would be quite painless because it would happen in a nano second.  

Your arm relaxes and your finger is poised to click the mouse button.   Images of the new cyberverse you'll be a part of in a matter of hours fade in and out from a 3D holographic viewer in front of you.   It is a cyberverse based loosely on a late 20th century computer game known as EverQuest.   Only this EverQuest Cyberverse is as real or will seem as real as anything you've known except...there be dragons there, and elves, and orcs...and you.  You close your eyes and click the mouse button...you fall asleep as the click activated the sedative that would put you to sleep forever on this world....

Sounds too weird huh?  Will this really be possible in the future?

Scientist seem to think so.   Studies are underway to map the very neurons of the human brain and even deeper with new technologies as they become available.   So in essence they say they'll be able to map or "Transferring of 'the immaterial essence of an individuals life, the individuals total self, and immortal part' of an individual to some digital format."  - upload your soul.  

Scientist have even gone so far as to say this is how the human race will travel the stars.  It won't be via spacecraft navigating worm holes, or racing through the heavens at the speed of light or faster, but ships that carry virtual cyberverses in them in which live the future colonist of a distant world millions of light-years away.   The theory is that if you could transfer peoples souls into this digital format they could live on in a cyberverse until the spacecraft reaches its destination.   In the cyberverse they'd not know how long of time had passed because the cyberverse coding could basically reset everyones internal clock to make them think they had been asleep for eight hours, when in actuality they have lived a thousand life times as they traveled millions of light-years through space.

When the spacecraft eventually finds a suitable world for the cyber colonist, in the cyberverse, in the real universe as we know it, then their souls will be re-transferred into human clones that are created via an invitro method of conception from frozen embryos on board the spacecraft when the time is right.  All this will be automated.   Once the clones are ready to receive their new souls the cyberverse colonist will be uploaded to their new bodies and voila'...the human race colonizes a new world millions of light-years from home.

However, one of the other reasons scientist are looking into this is for the very survival or the human race in the near future.   They fear that eventually the Earth will become over populated and there won't be enough resources for the projected 20+ billion people.  So the question is what do you do with all the access people, there is no way to feed them all and it could cause the extinction of mankind.  You create a cyberverse and stick them in it!  That's what you do.   Today people spend thousands of hours immersed in online virtual worlds and this would just be the next step into feeding their addiction.   So scientist figure it will not be hard to find volunteers who'd gladly upload their soul into a cyberverse if it meant living on in a world of their choosing - be it a fantasy based one ala EverQuest or  a sci-fi one based on the Star Wars Universe or one of a dozen others that will be available.

Sounds almost to surreal, or too ZOMG, for this to ever become a reality, but just remember this -   people once thought the Earth was flat, and that we never fly, or walk on the moon.   Twenty four years ago the Internet was born, and who would have thought that millions of people would be playing and adventuring together in virtual online worlds?  Movies have been released that touched on the subject of realistic cyber worlds like the Matrix.   So just think about it.  Think about the possibilities...think about the ramifications both ethically, morally, and spiritually - and ZOMG would a guy choose to upload his soul into a cyberbabes body, or what about the female that chooses to do the opposite.   This kinda possible future drums up hundreds if not thousands of questions of what uploading our souls will do to the human race on the whole...and what if "immortality were just a click away"?

 

Wish to learn more, here is a link to more info on uploading your soul.

All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again...

Posted by Teala Tuesday November 13 2007 at 2:56PM
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All the Kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again...or could they?

Over the years I have played and beta'd my share of MMORPG's, from UO to Vanguard, and none have ever launched "perfectly".  Oh some have come close.  I think the smoothest launch of a game I ever participated in was for the game "City of Heroes".  That game was pretty much done when it went live and it had few to no hitches at launch.   On the other hand there are launches I have participated in that were nothing less then a gamers worse nightmare.   The game was as buggy as one could be, and just getting signed on...we won't even go there.   This brings me to the topic at hand.   Taking a game from the brink of total disaster due to a poor launch to a game that is considered by many gamers as a fun and very playable game.  And redeeming your game companies reputation from the toilet.

We've all seen our share of games that totally crashed and burned.  There was nothing that would save the game due to poorly managed teams working on and involved with the game and the lack of a mission goal for the game itself.   I think Asheron's Call 2 was such a game.   First mistake Turbine made was not making a sequel to the game Asheron's Call.  Instead Turbine decided to try to reinvent the wheel and re-imagine Asheron's Call.   All this did was cause many players of the original Asheron's Call to say..."huh...what's this?  This is not Asheron's Call, it isn't nothing like the Asheron's Call I am use to playing".   Because of this Turbine basicly alienated their current player base.  I understand where Turbine was going with this.  They didn't wish to drain their player base from Asheron's Call, they needed them to keep running, they were hoping to get players from other games to play their newly envisioned version of AC2.   However it backfired and backfired badly. 

It was rushed to market.  It was buggy, broken, and so exploitable that it was doomed before it launched.   Players were assured that the game that would go live after beta would be different and a much more stable and fun game with things they had not even seen in game yet.   This of course was an outright lie.   There was no miracle build or miracle patch and Asheron's Call 2 launched.  This not only alienated Turbine current fans of the AC IP but it also made other potential players step back and go "Whoa...what a piece of garbage...what is Turbine trying to push off on us." 

Now to be fair, Asheron's Call 2 had its good points.   It was a beautiful game graphically.  Way ahead of its time.   It had some very unique game play and one of the most unique races I have ever seen designed for a game - Tumeroks.  What a fun and original race to play in a game.  I always give kudos where Kudos are due and to the creators of the race known as Tummies to those of us that loved them...I will never forget the love, passion and effort you must have put forth on that part of the game in AC2.  You would be a serious asset to any game company.   You are brilliant!

However not even the lovable Tummies could save Asheron's Call 2 from the depths of the bad games abyss.  It was a poorly managed game whose producers totally lost their way and the game came crashing to a halt.   The players were told that Turbine could no longer keep the servers running due to lack of players.   So Asheron's Call 2 died a slow lingering and painful death.

Gamers knew this was coming...it was just a matter of time.  Good news is that Turbine was working on Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.   If they played their cards right...maybe they could redeem themselves as a game company.   Though D&DO hasn't been pulling in the subscription numbers(not because it is a bad game - its just a niche game) on the other hand Turbines LoTRO has been doing really good.   Why?  How could a game company come from the brink of disaster to being one of the better game producers on the market once again?

Simple.  Turbine learned from its mistakes and made an asserted effort to not have another AC2.  The launch of Lord of the Rings Online was a good launch.  The game was very polished and ready to play.   The graphics in the game is exactly what fans of Turbine come to expect.  Turbine does not lack artistic talent that is for sure.   Turbine redeemed itself and continues to make huge progress to draw more players to their games.

So we come to what I consider one of the worse launches ever of an online multi-player game - Anarchy Online.   This game was a total disaster from the get go.  There were massive problems just signing into the game.  There were bugs.  The game itself was unstable once you did get into it.  FunCom was in a bad place.   They had put their hearts and souls into their game and it was crumbling before their eyes.   Players were up in arms like never before.  The forums were on fire and I can just imagine what the guys at FunCom where thinking and doing at the time.   It must have been a game companies worse nightmare.

Now many people had never heard of FunCom prior to Anarchy Online.  FunCom had made some pretty incredible games prior to Anarchy Online so some of us were all ready huge fans of them.   Like one of the best single player adventure games ever made - "the Longest Journey".    This game was deep. It was graphically beautiful and way ahead of its time.  It won all kinds of awards and FunCom did a great job on this.   So I sorta had faith in FunCom that they'd do good...but things were looking so bleak.  How could a game maker that gave us the Longest Journey deliver such a poorly made game that was Anarchy Online.

Images below are from the Longest Journey.

   

The people working at FunCom were looking at a disaster in the making.  They had to work fast and furious to save their game.  Could they do it?   Could they put Humpty back together again and be looked at as one of the premier makers of online games?  It wasn't looking like it.  FunCom's people scrambled and even went outside their own company and hired consultants to help them get their game back on track.  Slowly Anaarchy Online rebounded.    The bugs were squashed, the game became stable and players started to come back and new ones signed on to play it.   FunCom didn't panic...they kept their heads.  They worked with their customers and did what it took to put Humpty together again.   Today Anarchy Online is one of the best online games - though it is dated it is still filling the spot that FunCom had envisioned and they continue to make the game better.  Like a good wine it gets better with age.  

So yes...under the right management and with people passionate for the games they make, it is possible for a game company to salvage themselves, and to salvage their games.   It takes heart, soul and a lot of sweat and tears and pure passion for the work you are doing.   Both Turbine and FunCom are two companies that people can look to as examples of what to do when things go wrong.  

 

SOE - Why They Will Never Be Top Dog Again

Posted by Teala Sunday November 11 2007 at 3:28AM
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So...want to know why SOE will never be the powerhouse producer of MMORPG's ever again?  Simple.  They never were to begin with.   Back when Verant announced the creation of EverQuest the online gaming community had one game they were infutuated with at the time - and that was Ultima Online.   Ultima Online was a 2D top down online virtual world.   Verant on the other hand was about to release a 3D over the shoulder virtual world where players could enteract with their virtual environment like never before.   Verant needed a publisher...and in steps Sony Online Entertainment. and the game EverQuest was born.

Now when EQ went live it was the only 3D MMORPG on the market.   There was no other choice for gamers at the time of EQ's launch.   Asheron's Call from Microsoft wouldn't be launched for another 8 months.   So SOE quickly gobbled up the online gaming market and EQ was a huge success from the very start.   Again this is simply because SOE was first with a 3D virtual world that players could run around in slaying orcs, spiders, and draqgons.   Even after Microsoft's Asheron's Call was released and offered another choice, many gamers decided to stick with EQ because they all ready were established in the world of Norrath.

A couple of years pass, EQ grows to about 400k subscribers simply because there is no other MMO on the market like it.  Dark Age of Camelot comes along.   It is semi-successful and even takes some of EQ's subscribers away.  Now we have not 1, not 2, but 3 choices in the 3D MMORPG market.  EQ, AC and DAoC.   SOE cdoesn't have to comply with the wishes of their player base...what other games is there to play?  So SOE thinks hey...its OK to do what we wish...we have no serious competition.

Things are starting to change.

More and more MMO's are launched and each one eats a little more into EQ's hold on the players of MMO's.   EverQuest is still huge in the North American market.  However in Korea, there is Lineage by NCSoft that claims to have 2 million subscribers.   People can't even imagine a game with that many subscribers and debates about the real numbers pop up on various gaming websites all over the internet.

Now during this period from about 2002 to 2005, lots of MMO's get launched and most crash and burn and EQ is still Big King Rat errr...dog on the block of the MMO world in North America...until...

...well two things happened, one in late 2004 and one in late2005 that would forever change how the online gaming community would see SOE for presumably years to come.   One...a game company named Blizzard launched what was to be the most successful MMORPG ever created to date.   Do I even have to write the name of that game...I suppose I better for people who may have never heard of it before(how I do not know!)...that game was World of Warcraft or simply known as WoW by its fans.    WoW not only changed the number of people who played MMORPG's, but it literally changed the very way these games would be made and marketed.  The very core of MMO game play was redefined by Blizzards game and it would have a serious impact on almost every game that existed before and those soon to follow.

SOE saw the numbers, other game companies saw the numbers and were astounded by the sheer popularity of the game WoW.  Blizzard announced 4 million subsribers were playing WoW.   How could this be and how could Blizzard do it?   To be honest...Blizzard had a ready made fan following with their Battlenet crazy fans who grew up playing Blizzards computer games like Diablo, Diablo 2, StrarCraft and the World of Warcraft games.   Blizzard merely tapped into their own ready made pool of fans.  It had really nothing to do with WoW in general.  It had everything to do with the fact that Blizzard knew what their fans wanted and expected from them and Blizzard delivered it.  Blizzard gave them a vivid. colorful world based on the Warcraft series to play in.   They then polished and worked with their fans who beta tested it pretty thoroughly to make sure that the game they released to the general public was actually fun to play and ran as smooth as possible on even the lowliest of computers.   Then to top that off Blizzard did something no other game company ahd ever done before or scince - they had no NDA(non-disclosure agreement) and this by itself showed the confidence Blizzard had in their game.  Again, Blizzard knew their fans, it listened to their fans and it delivered to their fans the game their fans wished to play.    Blizzard did their homework in other words and they actually worked with their fans to help make their game a huge success.

Back to SOE.   SOE had launched two other games since EQ, boith which were considered somewhat successful.  Star Wars Galaxies which at one time had upwards of 250k subscribers and Planetside which peaked at around 150k.  Bother these games came out long before WoW, 2 years in fact before WoW.   SOE before WoW was still big dog on the block claiming to have a million players playing their games.   Then came WoW.

As I stated, SOE saw the numbers, took a step back and thought..."How can this be?"  "Is WoW really that fun to play?  What did Blizzard do different then we have done in the past and why didn't we ever see those numbers for our games like EQ and what the hell happened to Star Wars Galaxies?!  It should have brought in 10 times that amount! Star Wars is one of the most popular and well known IP ever created!  Why didn't it work?"

As stated...Blizzard knew their market, they knew their fans and they delivered what their fans wanted.  SOE didn't get it then and they don't get it now.   It isn't the fact that WoW is a better game...it is that Blizzard had way more fans then SOE ever did!  It really is just that.  Blizzard tapped into their own fan base!  They didn't need to steal EQ's players, or Dark Age of Camelots Players or Asheron's Call players or anyone else's player base for that matter.   All those 4 million subscribers that Blizzard claims to have playing WoW...most are totally new to MMORPG's because EQ still has decent subsriber numbers, EQ 2 has decent subscriber numbres, so does DAoC and many other online games like Guild Wars and such.   So WoW didn't draw from existing players, WoW pretty much brought 4 million new players into the MMORPG market.  SOE doesn't get it.

Because SOE fails to get it and thinks WoW must be the answer.  What did SOE's higher ups decide to do?  They decided to shake up their own games and the rewrites started.  Remember  I said two things occured in late2004 and then late 2005 that would forever change how gamers saw SOE.  One the game WoW and two what SOE did to the game SWG and it's loyal player base.   First SOE decided that WoW's formula for success must have been the basic core of the game itself.   WoW isn't exactly all that complicated to play and SOE decided that their games were to complicated and well that must be why their games were failing to draw in the numbers.  So SOE starts copying the basic WoW design.  First game title to be hit with massive rewrites and redesigns is Star Wars Galaxies.   Without telling their fans of their intention SOE and Lucas Arts decide that SWG needs to be more like WoW.   The secretly start rewriting what is to be called the New Game Experience.   All the while they are telling their fans they are working on making the existing game better and they even release a new expansion called the Trials of Obi Wan.   This seemed like SOE was still working on the game the fans of SWG grew to love.  It was a huge sandbox style game that was unlike any otehr game out there.

SWG had player ran cities, an extensive crafting system far beyond what was offered in other games, mounts(creatures as well as speeders), FPS(first person shooter twitch) space craft combat(a first for any MMORPG), great character customization, skilled based character development, player ran economy,  it was Star Wars to a point...maybe not just like Star Wars the movies...but it enabled its players to feel as though they were apart of the Star Wars Universe and those players were addicted to it.   Why did the game fail to garner larger numbers?  SOE refused to listen to their players for the most part.   Unlike Blizzard that knew their player base and knew what their players wanted because they listened to them and took their suggestions and opinions to heart...SOE does not.    SOE to this day still refuses to listen to their players especially when their players passionately beg them not to do something to the game that will change the very core of how it is palyed and that is exactly what SOE did in late 2005.

The unleashed what become known to the gaming community at large as the biggest gaming blunder and debacle that had ever been seen.  The unleashed the redesign of the game Star Wars Galaxies and it was called the New Game Experience - NGE for short.

Players of SWG learned this was going to be unleased just two weeks, two weeks, before it was to go live.  That also meant that the exapansion(Trials of Obi Wan) people had pre-ordered was basically incompatable with the new version of Star Wars.   Remember players thought all was well with the game of SWG s it was and that it was cool.  The NGE had not yet been announced - yet.  The people running SOE basically thumbed their noses at their loyal player base of SWG and said you can either like it or leave it, we know better then you and this will get more people to play our game.  SOE had decided to WoW'ify their game.   Totally rewriting the core of the game from the ground up, destroying the very sandbox that made SWG such a great game.   Instead of listening to their players who were loyal to them and their game SOE refused to listen and the mess that was the NGE was released, with a now non-working expansion made for SWG before the NGE - bugs and all.

If SOE had listened to their player base from the get go instead of trying to turn SWG into some psuedo version of WoW - SWG would still have a decent size player base upwards of 300k or more players.   As it stands now it has less then 50K according to people in the know.

This was the turning point for SOE and their games in my opinion.  This one little act by SOE and Lucas Arts hurt SOE's chances to be the online game company it should be.   SOE's reputation for thumbing their noses at their player base was all ready in the toilet with some of the things that took place with EQ, EQ2 and Planetside - but the release of the NGE upon the SWG players put them over the top of being listed as one of the worse online game companies next to Turbine and Artifact Entertainment.   After the NGE there was a huge migration from SOE's SWG and other games - like EQ2.    

People could no longer trust SOE.  SOE showed little or no respect for their player base, unlike Blizzard, and this has forver since been their bane.   Will SOE ever gain back the confidence and trust of online gamers in general?

Highly unlikely.

Because once again SOE's true colors are showing with their latest producers letter on their recently acquired title Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.   When SOE acquired the game from Sigil, rumors spread like wild fire that SOE was going to pull another NGE on the game because Vanguard didn't pull in the numbers SOE was hoping for.   Those rumors were quickly squashed by the head of SOE John Smedley who told gamers that Vanguard would not undergo any real changes and that they would stick to the initial vision that was Vanguard and that they ahd learned their lesson from what had occured with SWG and the NGE and they'd never do that again...until...well until again must be after Vanguard because it seems that they are still up to their same old tricks - again.

See buried between the lines of the recent prodcures letter is tall tell signs of SOE's true intent for the game Vanguard and with SOE's recent acknowledgement that they did secretly make changes to one of Vanguards most popular classes - the ranger(which brings back memories of the class rewrites of the SWG/NGE) - and the other little things being said by the current producer and developers and the fact that they have basically mocked their fans in a recent podcast and are not really listening to their fans despite them saying they are(but they are going to change the game anyways) smells of an NGE is indeed in the works for Vanguard.   Only SOE is trying to do it a little bit at a time.  That way they think they can minimize the damage of unleashing it all at once as they did for SWG.   Phew...now was that a run on sentence or what?  :)

What am I trying to say with all this?   Simple...SOE might have been the big dog on the block in 1999, but it is 2007 and their days of being the leader in the MMO market have come and gone.   SOE will never be the game company Blizzard is until it realizes one thing - its your fans stupid!   They play your games!  Know your fans.   SOE thinks they know their fans but  they don't and they refuse to get to know them and try to become more trustworthy of them, they, SOE, plays some kind of twisted game of  "we really know what is best for the game and well our players...our players have lost touch with what an MMORPG is so we'll humor our player base, tell them we're listening all the while we'll do exsactly the oppisite and our players can either like it or leave". 

....and this is why SOE will continue to slide down hill into the abyss of  mediocrity and bad MMO's for ever more.   Am I saying SOE should be totally doing everthing their fans ask of them?  No...but when your fans threaten to leave a game in mass numbers or cause a huge ruckus on your own official game related boards or game fans websites errupt with bad reviews or commentaries regarding SOE's total disregard for their fans and their games(I mean come on there is a thread dedicated to players that hate SOE on this very website), that means one thing...SOE refuses to learn form its mistakes and its the same old same old for them and this means they'll continue to drie players away instead of drawing them in and keeping them.  SOE reputation is about as low as a game companies rep can get and it doesn't look like it will get any better with their current plans totally disregard the wishes of the fans of the game Vangaurd.

What needs to happen if SOE is ever to regain their reputation and start drawing people to play their games and trusting them again.   SOE needs a change at the top, the bottom and the middle.   They need a new mission goal and new management to go along with it - plan and simple.   The current people in charge of SOE are the reason why the company is in the mess it is in with its players and until new poeple are put in place that understand its all about the players(your customers!) who play your games SOE will never be top dog again.

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