My Cup Runneth Emtpy

Long story short, which will probably be long anyhow, the month of February is my busiest month of the year for 3 years running. It seems losing those 2 days doesn’t equate to actually doing 2 days less work.

So while I’m fortunate to have a position that not only pays well and pays overtime, my family/sanity is my bartering price. And that is a very steep price to pay.

I’m still popping in a game here and there but nowhere near enough to actually decompress. My bus commute is about 45m each way, so I read my RSS feeds to keep abreast. Twitter is useless really, since it’s too fast and I have no time to digest.

The good news is that next week I’m on another vacation – a cruise once again. No internet, just the sea and a gin (or 3). Maybe the month of April will bring some more room to breathe again.

I Spent Some Money

I put in about $20 into Marvel Heroes and the same into TSW this week.  When I’m looking for mobile games, I prefer to buy a game rather than scum it.  I’m far from a whale but a few bucks here and there just seems to make sense.  Cripes, I spent more on coffee in a month.

I think Zubon hit the nail on the head here.

If I like a game and I want more of it, I’ll pay for it.  I would ask the same if I was selling a product.  Anyone who thinks they should be getting a game for free for eternity… wasn’t that what the 90s and pirating was all about?

Daybreak

Crazy work is keeping me from posting much of value lately. And sleep, or lack thereof.  But being tired helps me not think, which is oddly relaxing.

Daybreak Shenanigans

That Sony sold off SOE makes sense. They are restructuring and have zero presence in the PC market… so you knew something was coming.  So quickly after the Joystiq news is what threw people off.

That the new company cleaned house? Also not surprising. That’s the first thing that happens in all takeovers. Either they move the HQ or clear off the top. I honestly can’t think of a single takeover where this didn’t happen.  I’m sorry people lost their jobs but there’s just something really weird in the gaming field where everyone is a temp worker.  It’s the main reason I am not in that field.

On the other hand, I despise nearly every single decision SOE has made in the past 10 years. They have super dedicated folk, granted, but the top level decisions have been borderline criminal.

EQ2’s F2P conversion was worse than SWTOR. Wilhelm has quite a few posts, and I think Bhag does as well.  It was a joke and they’ve rebuilt the model multiple times over the years.

Nearly everything about Planetside2 makes my eyes bleed – they had to nerf actual content and force people to the cash store to make money.

Landmark is the breaking point for people buying alpha at stupid prices.  People paid hundreds of dollars to test a system, play it for a few weeks, then stop playing altogether.

EQNext is a pipedream people actually believe will launch.  I’m serious here.  Anyone, who in their right mind thought that this game would ever leave the drawing table, at any point, I have a bridge to sell you.

H1Z1 is the straw that broke the internet.  Great concept, Smed decides to put in $ based actions, again in alpha, where it was clearly listed it wouldn’t happen, even the week before.

SOE deserves everything it got. For all the quirky innovation the folks on the bottom tried, someone at the top gave a call to Bobby K and asked “how can I squeeze more blood”.

The good news from this is that great people are going to find jobs elsewhere because they have a good standing.  The bad news is that not enough people got fired.  The worrisome news is that a new company is coming in, and will be asking some tough questions.   Should be interesting to see what happens in the months that follow.

Marvel Heroes – Back at It

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

Every MMO, and quite a few mobile games, have hooks.  These are incentives to keep logging on, if only for that small reward and nothing else.  It usually takes me a bit to realize I’m in that loop, where the daily activities are identical from day to day.  When that happens, I move on.  It happened rather quickly with SWTOR, unfortunately.  WoW hit that last week.  And what with my work life putting in nearly double normal hours, any respite is welcome.  But hey, you can only run that hamster wheel so long.  My rogue is at 100 (so 3 characters now) and he is way less fun than my Monk or Druid, as all the “uniqueness” and flavor has been squashed.  Too bad.  Still, he’s as old as the game and still max level, so I have that going for me.

What’s Next

I had to look through my steam library to see what was next.  Due mainly to my time constraints, I need an in-out game.  Where I can drop it, or I can play a small session.  While I want to get back into The Secret World, you can’t have small sessions.  It’s on the list though.

I did pick up Endless Legend off some good online reviews.  That game is superb.  I’ll write a post about it shortly.  The downside to that game is that it’s a “one more turn” game.  The first night I had it, I think I looked up at the clock and it was 2am.  So, not something I can handle right now.  You should give it a try though, it’s really quite amazing.  An iteration on Civ5, and a whole pile better than Beyond Earth.  The only downside I’ve found so far, is that the AI isn’t aggressive enough on the military.  They are for everything else though.

Hack and Slash

While Darkest Dungeon looks cool, and Isey has me sold, I have a thing about buying alphas.  It’ll have to wait.  I do have Diablo 3 and my brother seems to be pretty active.  I had a Crusader int he last season, who got to GR35, which was sufficient for me to consider it “done”.  From that point, I had all the gear I wanted, it was more about rolling perfect stats.  And that’s a grind I don’t need.

Marvel Heroes seems to always be there though.  The patches are insane (like 1gb per, all the damn time).  Sure, there’s less variety in the environments than D3 but each character plays differently, and there are dozens.  The grind to max level has a synergy with other characters, so you have an incentive to level other folks.  It’s a loot pinata, with a ton of stats on everything, so you can usually find some upgrade as you move along.  And I like it’s F2P model, where if you sink in tons of time, you can unlock a fair amount as well.  Or spend a few bucks to unlock some bonuses.

 

marvelheroes

Plus, there have been so many additions in the nearly 2 years since launch it’s hard to recognize everything.  Plenty of end-game activites, legendary quests, terminals, raids, group missions, uniques, crafting, legendaries, cosmic gear, team ups, rune words, enchants…crazy.  You see the gear slots above on the left around Rocket?   When the game launched there were 8.  Just so many ways to customize.

Anyways, with only a few minutes to spare, the game has a decent return on the fun.  I’ve spent a few bucks in the past, and I’m sure I’ll drop some more to reward the team working on the game.  Fun deserves some reward.

Time Is…

Depending on your point of view, a commodity, a luxury or an barrier.

I have trouble thinking back to a date where I had too much time. I guess in my early teens. I started working at 15 and after 2 years of that ended up working 40+ hours a week ever since.

I’ve never been strong on vacation as the money earned had more value. I wasn’t eating dirt growing up but we we lower middle class. I learned to make do with only little things. I remember a time where I was putting money aside for a big expense. I ended up eating tomato soup with rice and bits of chicken for a month to meet the goal. What time I had was spent being frugal and looking for better opportunities.

Today I am rather well off on the finance department. I don’t live like that’s the truth mind you, still quite frugal and rarely buy anything outside of basic need. 2 boardgames and a NAS are about it for the year. 

What I gave up for that is time. It’s almost a luxury now. I count things in time instead of money. I would honestly rather have more time than money. I could spend more time with my kids, with my wife and just on myself.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. Many people feel overworked or stressed, like the clock is always running fast. Pretty similar feeling. If you’ve ever worked a crunch deadline, then you’re familiar with the feeling of just living on the edge of zombie/robot/human. You also know it isn’t sustainable and the long term effects are never positive. Once the crunch ends, the system shuts down for a while.

So I’m there now. Super crunch, little time for anything other than work, finding happiness in the smallest of things with the family (which while great is sad) and a light at the end, knowing what’s waiting. You almost don’t want to reach that point because it’s worse than the crunch but you need to get through it to get back to sanity.

I do love games and their ability to make me think of something else than the above. That small refuge is getting tinier every day and that stinks.

A few more weeks and it’ll pass. Back to some sense of normal.

Blizzard Rumors

So first some light reading, all speculation from an inside source.

The gist being

  • Low faith from the senior execs in Heroes of the Storm
  • The next WoW expansion is near complete, with a boost to the art department
  • SC2 is done with no release date
  • Overwatch has no business model
  • Hearthstone is raking it in
  • D3 dev team has been assigned to another project, in the SC universe

Blizzard’s only response so far is related to D3, in that the team continues to support the game and there is no mystery project.

Heroes

This one is reasonable.  HotS is coming into a heavily saturated market, where there are 3 front runners – LoL, DOTA2 and SMITE.  There are dozens of other MOBA games as well.  And they all share the same thing that HotS doesn’t have: free to enter and feature complete.

$40 for a beta entry is high.  There’s no trial to see if you actually like the game, so I am guessing that Blizz has had significantly lower demand than expected.  WoW, HS and SC are all top of pile products.  They lead the industry and have more or less since they launched.  It would be naive to think that HotS could unseat the top 3 in a fell swoop. Prospects should be tempered.

WoW

While this is also reasonable, the timing seems off.  Blizzard takes ~8-10 months to polish a feature complete game.  Math-wise, that would be another release near the holidays.  My bet’s on a Burning Legion expansion, given the hints so far, though my guess there’s a fair amount of story to go.   Still, there are how many Warlords dead?  Blackhand is next and that’s before 6.1 so we’re well over the 50% mark before the first major patch.

Plus, Blizzard tends to make a very, very big deal about expansion announcements, and then proceed to wait over a year for release.  Would be quite a shift if this rumor were true.

Starcraft

The silence on this is quite odd.  The last part (zerg) was well received, and is quite popular.  It’s a game that doesn’t make money outside of expansions though, so an odd choice to not have some release/hype around the next one.  It’s not like we’re looking at a month to go, as the Blizz PR machine hasn’t even started and it typically runs for a few months.

Overwatch

No business model?  I would guess this to be false as business models aren’t a last minute decision, due to the design implications.  Expansions with characters or single character sales seems like a rather obvious decision.  I don’t even see a decision to be made.

Hearthstone

This being top of pile?  Yeah, I can see that.  It’s #4 in Twitch.  Only available on Tablets and not phones, so the actual mobile numbers are hard as hell to find.  It’s leagues beyond it’s closest competitor.

Diablo3

D3 today is a very solid game.  I think Marvel Heroes offers a similar experience.  You’d be spending more on the latter though, as it’s F2P and not B2P.  That would also mean that it’s making more money (at least more than 0).  D3 a year ago had an auction house and the RMAH was running at a decent enough pace.  Blizzard made a cut off that and they shut off the tap.  I’d be curious to see where the metrics are on that.

D3 can only make money on expansions.  Free content in between expansions doesn’t make money.  From a business perspective, Blizz isn’t really in the “more than 1 expansion” market.  It would make sense, based on historical evidence, that Blizz is simply in maintenance mode.

Conclusion

While there’s a lot in here that seems reasonable, it’s a period of the year of typical gaming studio silence.  There’s nothing off the wall, which makes for the worst kind of rumors.  If there’s any truth to it however, it would seem that we’re in for a pretty big flurry of Blizzard announcements before E3.

And The Sound Goes Down

Surprise to few, yet to many, AOL has decided to shutter the Joystiq line (Massively and WoW Insider included).  While I’ve had issue with the overall quality of WoW Insider for some time, Massively filled a needed niche that I am struggling to find elsewhere.  It’s not my place to argue metrics, but I find it hard to see how parts of the service weren’t turning profitable.  It’s not like the market is saturated, though perhaps it is stale.

Joystiq proper… that’s a site I had near the top, along with Kotaku (though that’s more top 10 lists of late), Rock/Paper/Scissors and Polygon.  ‘stiq took the high road in the gamergate debacle (which triggered from a Kotaku article), so it’s hard to see a link there.  The boycott fallout though… that’s a potential cause.

It did take a beating over it’s review practices and assigning scores on early releases.  That was enough that they had to issue an apology and change the way they issue reviews from that point forward.  It was clear in that message that they were going to forego hits by taking that stance, as the majority of traffic about a game was on or near release date and had a very short tail.

It’s speculation at this point, as is most of the actions that AOL takes.

History

The good news is that in the 10 years that it was around, it made a solid space for itself and for gaming.  The start was a little rough, but what wasn’t 10 years ago?  There were some really odd patches, then some true moments of brilliance, as occurs in any new scene.  Sera’s soapbox rants are a particularly interesting highlight for me (she’s with Turbine now as a community manager).  It would seem that many of the authors on all the various streams had found a footing outside by some point.  Or at least those that wanted to stay in the field and not simply stick around for the fun of it.

For the highs and lows of gaming, it seems like Joystiq was always around to report.

Community

I think the overall reaction to this has been sadness.  One, clearly for the authors themselves who are now out of work.  It was bad enough last year when there was the big cuts but to shut it all down just seems like kicking ‘em when they were down.

Second for the service that was provided.  Joystiq proper has alternatives, yes, but Massively certainly does not.  WoW Insider, since mid-MoP, really hasn’t provided any tangible value aside from their daily Q&A post, or their lore articles.  Even with 10m players, the secrets of WoW are gone.  MMO-Champ and WoWHead (and a half dozen other sites) had simply removed the curtain.  But MMO news…that’s a tough one.  Maybe MMORPG.com can take some slack (even with an interface from 1992).  I know a few bloggers post there.

There does bear mention to a few folk who are happy with the closure.  One in particular, whose circular arguments are so asinine, you’d think they were written by a teen and not a graduate.  But hey, they are one of the web’s largest hypocritics (hates shill streamers & watches streams, hates F2P & won’t buy games, hates early access & buys into each of them) you can’t really expect a whole lot of consistency.

But in all communities, you’re going to have some bad apples, you just need to move past it.

What’s Next

Hopefully the majority of the authors can find alternate work.  I’m really hoping that Rossi had alternative career plans aside from a love of WoW and dinosaurs, as I think he’s been around WoWI since the start.  Fingers crossed that Syp can continue his blogging activities and perhaps transfer some of those post streams to his own site – it’s always an entertaining diary read.

I’m curious as to the ripple effect, or conversely, the void effect that this closure has on the news market.  It would seem that MMOs themselves, due to the past 5+ years of general failures of all launches, are turning back into a niche they once were.  Large multiplayer games without any persistence seem to be taking the stage, or at least taking a piece of the pie.

To those that have written on the sites and can no longer, I do want to say thank you for your efforts.  They have provided entertainment and kept me abreast of a market I truly enjoy.