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 OOC: Another one bites the dust

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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

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Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

OOC: Another one bites the dust Empty
PostSubject: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeSat Nov 22, 2008 8:38 am

Some of you may have heard this already, but yesterday the MMORPG Tabula Rasa announced that it will be shutting down the servers three months from now. This move was foreshadowed by the announcement last week that Richard Garriot was leaving NCSoft to "pursue other projects" (this is the MMOG equivalent of the politican announcing he or she is going to "spend more time with their family").

This is food for thought, for a number of reasons. It is actually something of a rarity in the MMOG world. Even games that have in the past proved wildly unsuccessful initially are still around (think of the old WWII Online). Everquest is still breathing, for goodness sake, as is Star Wars Galaxies (god knows how). But TR lasted barely a year before they pulled the plug. Part of this is I suspect the usual story: choose your publisher wisely. NCSoft is only interested in mega-hits. Their Lineage titles have literally millions of subscribers, mostly in Asia. So they don't seem interested in a title that might one day aspire to settle in to the 100,000-200,000 subscriber niche (the one that EVE is quite happily occupying). Plus, as a fantasy publisher, they didn't seem to know what to do with a sci-fi game. After the initial launch, I saw little promotion of TR (apart from Garriot's shameless self-promotion of his space flight venture).

But it's a little saddening. It's the first time I've been involved with a game that has quit before I have! I kept up a subscription to TR and would drop in every now and then and I've always enjoyed it. The more I played, the more I got a sense of what the devs were trying to achieve. It had some of the best combat I've ever experienced in an online game, and some of the most atmospheric environments I've ever encountered.

The are offering all kinds of player benefits to current subscribers, chiefly 3 months free to City of Heroes (massive yawn) and free gameplay on their new title, Aion which is a--wait for it--fantasy-themed game where you get to play gods. Black and White meets City of Heroes. Even bigger yawn.

So the non-fantasy MMOG market just got a whole lot smaller.

Which has me now seriously worried for Pirates. Although it is starting to make me appreciate the wisdeom of FLS pairing with Sony's Platform Publishing.

However, it is starting to seem as if there really is no market for games that try to do something a little different. Clearly players who declare that they want something "new and different" are full of ##$@, because they end up going back to the same-old same-old orcs and elves routine.

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Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeSat Nov 22, 2008 6:08 pm

You're right that non-fantasy games have a hard time surviving, but then again, so do the fantasy ones these days... Age of Conan, and now Warhammer, launched high but are looking at rock-bottom numbers again only months later. Why?

Because those games aren't World of Warcraft. Plain and simple. No fantasy game has figured out how to successfully compete for the MMO market with such a polished, established game with so much content. LotRO does pretty well through constant content updates and a built-in fanbase, and Guild Wars did great because it was free-to-play, but other than those two, you're looking at failure just about all around since 2005.

Outside of the fantasy genre, there's not even that much that could be considered successful recently. EVE would be about it, but there is many an EVE player that would jump ship for a different game if it came along. Hellgate: London died an unglorious death due to poor management. Fury was fantasy, but PvP-only... and died super-fast. Granado Espada... I don't know what happened there, to be honest. They're still alive, but free-to-play now as a last-ditch effort.

Tabula Rasa wasn't doing any better than Pirates is, but unfortunately, TR's publisher was NCSoft, and NCSoft is pulling out of the Western development market for every game but Guild Wars 2. NCSoft is, as you said, very focused on mega-hits, but their financials haven't been looking so hot lately. Most of that is because they over-reached what they're best at - which is publishing and marketing Korean games. They gave Richard Gariott more money than God based on the premise that this is the MAN that gave birth to the MMO genre as we know it in Ultima Online... and he over-promised, completely rewrote his entire project, then under-delivered, and finally abandoned his own franchise... so of course they killed it.

Which is a shame, because although it wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips, it wasn't a BAD game. It was just a game with a very limited market. Like us in Pirates. But unlike us, NCSoft was having to support an entire development studio in Austin for a game that would likely never make enough money to recoup the investment.

Pirates is, fortunately, just being distributed by Sony, and Sony's not paying to keep FLS alive. FLS is doing for the love of the project and that's... probably about it at this point. Even if we are kind of the red headed stepchild of SOE, or even of the MMO world in general, Sony lets its games live on... indefinitely. I mean, is anyone even playing The Matrix Online anymore? Planetside? And Vanguard was dead for a year after launch before its resurrection. Even if FLS gets tired of going on, they'll likely just hand whatever the game already has done over to Sony to keep the servers running into perpertuity.

I'm not worried for Pirates. Always was going to be a niche game, and unsurprisingly, we are just that. Maybe a few years from now, we'll look a bit more like EVE in that we just kept plugging along... or maybe it'll be a ghost server. But the plug won't get pulled on us, I'm fairly sure of it.

MMOing is a hard market. WoW is only 4 years old now since launch. Development cycle on an MMO is about as long. A lot of the games we're seeing now were concieved back when WoW first shocked the MMO world. Everyone thought they could just do what Blizzard did and make a billion dollars. Whoops, they were wrong... and we're only now starting to reap the rewards of that. The publishers of these failing enterprises were expecting big bucks, and that's not what happened.

Personally... the saddest part of TR shutting down is that all you lucky bastards with an active subscription now have a guaranteed beta key to Aion, and I don't. *cries*
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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

OOC: Another one bites the dust Empty
PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeMon Nov 24, 2008 7:24 pm

Yes, the irony of the beta access etc. isn't lost on me. I'm the last person who would benefit from such a thing. If I wanted to be playing a fantasy MMOG I'd be playing one. And to judge from the chat on general, most of those currently playing TR feel the same way. I'm going to hang around there later on and see if I can do some recruiting for Pirates. And yes, you're right, it's departure leaves pretty much only SWG and EVE, with Star Trek coming up (and I have no great hopes for that). I guess what is really shocking about TR is that the plug was pulled after only a year. That's a ridiculous level of impatience in the MMOG industry. Ah, I need to stop thinking about it. I had an absolutely amazing session in TR the other night and to think that that gameplay will be no more. . .it doesn't bear thinking on.

It's really strange, actually. I just don't understand why it should be so hard to get a winning sci-fi game going. SWG was almost there, but they blinked and caved in to the fantasy crowd. I guess I also don't understand why so many people should be attracted to the same old formula with just new eye candy to differentiate it from others. But then I also never got what people saw in There's Something About Mary so clearly the times have passed me by!

MMORPGs have a definite life-cycle. Ridiculously high expectations lead to massive popularity and then I terrible morning after "I can't believe we slept together" kind of feeling.

From time to time I look through the charts at MMOGCHART.com and when I was looking at the one for subscriptions in the 70,000-700,000 range (hopefully Pirates will eventually make it into that group!) I was struck by the fact that only a few games don't fit this pattern. EVE has completely bucked the trend by showing slow and steady growth with no sign that it is plateuing. Second Life also, although it's plateuing. Plus, of course, WOW.

http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart2.html

I know a lot of people didn't like EVE. I picked up a subscription a year ago and have been dropping in off and on, not really seriously into it in the way that I am with Pirates. But clearly it is doing something very right.

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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeMon Nov 24, 2008 8:45 pm

I played Anarchy Online for 5 years even through it's miserable launch. It's a sci-fi game that won't seem to die. I have a permenantly active full account there though I almost never log in, benifits of being in thier ARK program.
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeMon Nov 24, 2008 9:04 pm

Deoiridh wrote:
I know a lot of people didn't like EVE. I picked up a subscription a year ago and have been dropping in off and on, not really seriously into it in the way that I am with Pirates. But clearly it is doing something very right.

I hear that they're finally adding the ability to be an avatar in ports... something we've been half-assedly doing in Pirates, but I think their plans for their space ports are a lot more grandiose. Supposedly you could practically live in them and forget the whole space shipping thing if you wanted to. Now that I would like to see.
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeTue Nov 25, 2008 11:18 am

Deoiridh wrote:
And yes, you're right, it's departure leaves pretty much only SWG and EVE, with Star Trek coming up (and I have no great hopes for that).
As well you shouldn't. Cryptic hired Bill Roper recently. The very same Bill Roper who single-handedly drove Flagship Studios into the ground with Hellgate: London, another game that didn't survive but a year. Frankly, if the man so much at sneezes at Star Trek Online, it's doomed. Unfortunately, he's the design director. That game is going to be a mix of epic tears and epic lulz.

Deoiridh wrote:
Yes, the irony of the beta access etc. isn't
lost on me. I'm the last person who would benefit from such a thing. If
I wanted to be playing a fantasy MMOG I'd be playing one. And to judge
from the chat on general, most of those currently playing TR feel the
same way.

I can has your beta access plz? *grins* Okay, not really, I think they're not even doing a real beta for Aion anyway. Preview events, a la Guild Wars. Blech.

I don't share your gut-level disgust at the fantasy genre, but I still find elves and orcs in most of its various forms hard to swallow. Right now I've got a trial account in WoW, and hate myself for it, but that's what my friends are playing and they're all amazed I lasted four years without touching it. I hate the setting, all that is cliché and generic, magical only for magic's sake.

Low fantasy I didn't mind; Age of Conan's setting was okay with me, but the content was lacking. Aion's story hasn't grinded (ground?) on me too much, what little of it I know anyway. Guild Wars got more and more cliché as time went on - the multiple races will probably doom the game in its next incarnation, but I hold out hope that Asurans, Charr and Sylvani will be more than repackaged Gnomes, Orcs, and Elves. But I doubt it.
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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
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Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeWed Nov 26, 2008 12:05 pm

Ah, I see I'm projecting entirely the wrong image here! I don't actually hate fantasy. In fact, I love it. I read a lot of fantasy, always have since my Aunt "bridged" me from my sci-fi addiction by introducing me to Anne McCaffrey. It's just that my gaming preferences tend to run in a different direction. In the first place, I'm interested in things that are different and outside the mainstream. This is what drew me to SWG initially. A very different vision of a progress dynamic that didn't depend on levelling, something that in fact looked a lot more like real life (where you have a bit of this skill and a bit of that). It's what attracted me to Pirates and still does--there's nothing else like it out there.

But for me I think it's also the kind of character you play. I was never remotely interested in City of Heroes even though I have friends who still play it. And from what I've read I am sure it's a really great game. But I've never been attracted to the whole superhero thing in the first place. Never was a big comics fan, and superhero movies, no matter how well done (I did like Batman Begins) just don't capture me in the way that really good sci-fi does.

And I think the basic reason is because what I enjoy in a gaming environment is the idea of being a hero. A situation where you may have all these skills and abilities that you don't have in real life, and which are a little exaggerated (the ability to sustain heavy amounts of wounding, for example!) but where you are still believably human and mortal. You are the center of your own action narrative (which is different than real life; most people live off to one side of their own stories, in my experience). But being a hero is very different from being a superhero. It's why I also don't really enjoy games where you are an all powerful mech or fantastically over-engineered super-cyber-soldier. Good old Gordan Freeman is still just a pretty basic human who is allowed to do some extraordinary things. And I think that's the reason fantasy games have never really wowed (excuse the pun) me; the character development turns you into less of an extraordinary mortal and more of an ordinary superhero. Which is why Aion doesn't appeal. It looks like it could be a well designed game. But I don't want to be a someone with god-like powers.

I get enough of that in my real life. . .Very Happy

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Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeFri Feb 27, 2009 3:40 pm

Thread necromancy! But considering, I think it's appropriate.

Just wanted to say RIP Tabula Rasa, I'm sorry to see you die when there are so few non-fantasy alternatives. However, this is one BAD ASS way to go out:

Quote :
We request that all military personnel begin fortifying defenses at every AFS base in preparation for a massive Bane assault. If enemy troop movements are as large as we fear, and the Neph are truly prepared to lead all out war against us, this may be our last stand. Penumbra has been informed of the situation and is standing by on the use of their last resort weapon. We can not afford to be complacent or uncertain, but if it is truly our destiny to be destroyed, we are taking them all with us.

And then the game's going to have a ginormous battle tomorrow night where everyone dies. That is really, really badass. If I still had it installed on my computer, I would go log in just to watch.
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeWed May 06, 2009 12:52 pm

This little lawsuit certainly makes me wonder what really happened to Tabula Rasa.

http://kotaku.com/5242413/why-richard-garriott-is-suing-ncsoft
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeWed May 06, 2009 12:58 pm

he needs the money for all his space ship rides alien
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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeWed May 06, 2009 1:03 pm

Marcus Villnius wrote:
he needs the money for all his space ship rides alien

Lord British needs his space buggy!
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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

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PostSubject: Re: OOC: Another one bites the dust   OOC: Another one bites the dust Icon_minitimeWed May 06, 2009 8:39 pm

Wow, this is one drama that just keeps going. I kinda wondered if there was something else going on. Most people, including myself, thought TR was being ditched because of low subscription numbers. But they are still propping up CoH, for goodness sake, which is virtually deserted most of the time. Seems like a lot of money, but stock in NCSoft, even in this economy (and hopefully by 2011) would have been worth a pretty chunk of change.

I still miss that game. It's odd. I was never wildly passionate about it in the way that I have been about SWG, EVE, POTBS, but it has stayed with me much more than many games I've played.

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