It seems to me everybody needs a gameplan for the months of August and September. I am looking at all the options the game starved player will have in the next couple of weeks. Guildwars 2 is due roughly in a week, World of Warcraft will publish their 5.0.4 patch at exactly the same date and Vanguard went free to play this week. Of course there’s my current favorite game “The Secret World”. Aside from that, I am also working on getting my business as a website and blog designer going, which indeed takes the majority of my time. I also have a one week trip to Rhode Island coming this weekend.
With me working hard, I don’t have that much energy left to play. I’ve played in the earliest GW2 beta weekends, but skipped the last one and the recent stress test. There was the fear of spoiling my fun, but also dwindling interest. It looks like I am not the only one with this dilemma.
Ever since it became obvious that Vanguard was bleeding subscribers, the majority of us have waited for it to go free-to-play. Now it’s here and I feel no desire to play. Obviously the same reason applies here as well. So many things to do, so little time.
Which leaves the Pandas. I unsubscribed about 5 months ago, planning to return when MoP goes live. I’ve pre-ordered my wive’s copy of the game, but had no desire to order one for me. (A couple of weeks back she expressed some interest in Guildwars 2, but all offers from my side to let her play in a beta weekend were rejected.) Thus, this will remain a divided house when it comes to gaming. However, I am still fully involved in WOW when I hear the occasional blow by blow account of her raids or other exploits.
And there we have it, my gameplan:
- Form a strong, stone wall type defensive game of website, blog and plugin development. No prisoners.
- Once the defenses are secured, liberate yourself with an easy passing game full of riddles and puzzles. Show your opponents the secret world. Add some running plays to mix it up a little.
- If things get boring or the front lines are dug in deep, try to open things up with a reverse run by Guildwars 2. Don’t hesitate to use the tight end.
- WoW and Vanguard remain benched until somebody gets hurt or once couple of weeks have passed.
Now that I think of it, the football season starts in three weeks, which could slow me down, too. — Not really. I am German and I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to football. The above gameplan is complete fantasy and I apologize to all true fans of the game.
In case you haven’t seen my company’s logo, or aren’t subscribed to Scarybooster’s Scary Worlds. Here it is one more time:
I got those nice football strategies through flickr from Avinash Kunnath. Find the originals here, here and here.
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So we are talking again about the free-to-play model, after SWTOR has announced they’ll be using it soon for their game. Syp started this with a simple list of various free-to-play models and others have thrown in their opinions. Ocho elaborates a bit more on the various pay models and Sente looks into the cost side of the business.
Guess I’ll throw my opinion in as well. If I look at my own gaming habit I see a couple of things, and I can assume being the average Joe, that many other games will do exactly as I do. I more or less have a gaming budget, as I have already dissected a while back. So does everybody else. That’s the MMO market, the sum of the budgets of all players.
Back in the days of Everquest and Ultima Online, that market was small, since so many people
- didn’t know about MMOs
- didn’t have the hardware
- didn’t have friends who played
- just found the game to hard.
Along comes Blizzard and blows up the market size from a wild guess of 1 million players for EQ and others to 13 million at its peak, say 15 million to add in the other games, hell make it 18 million. They were able to do this because they pulled in the player base from other Blizzard games and at some point it started to snowballed.
It’s different nowadays. Remember, each player has his budget. And there aren’t that many people left who don’t know about MMOs. There are probably only hardcore MMO deniers left. Each new game, in order to gain traction has to chip away from other games’ player base, or has to find a way to bring in their own fans. But that gets them usually only 1-2 million subscribers like Rift’s and SWTOR’s numbers show. SWTOR actually pulled in the Bioware fans, many of them solo offline gamers, while Rift probably had to steal their subscribers elsewhere.
So what’s a smart company to do if it’s so hard to get new people to put down $15 each month and other players hand their money to Blizzard or Sony? Answer: what every business man does, they ask for less. I think there was a company who actually had $9.95 subscription rates. But that didn’t fly. And even smaller rates won’t work to well, because the cost of handling those transactions eat up the money.
And that’s why the folks running the business end of the MMO’s had to come up with a way get their share of the market. Instead of having somebody play 30 days for $15, they end up with somebody playing 10 days and paying $6 (see what I did here?). The players love it, since they have so many games to pick from. By the way, that’s what it looks like from the players point of view: So many games, so little time. And many want to play them all.
In the end all those free-to-play models are business vehicles to be able to offer smaller pieces of the market to the buyers. Sony’s 3 day pass comes to mind. With F2P you get somebody to pay $20 for in game currency now and recharge 4 month later. However, one reality seems to be that many players have a main game where they are subscribed to, and many others were they drop by every now and then, leaving traces of money behind.
Makes you wonder if F2P is the right way to divide that market into more equal pieces. Plus, the $15 a month Blizzards have to let them chip away.
Photo by: Images_of_Money
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I feel the itch. Now that free-to-play has been announced for the game, it looks like a couple of former players are already returning, in hoping the community will grow quickly. There’s been some activity among the bloggers regarding Vanguard, too: Ardwulf’s Lair has a couple of articles and Bhagpuss @ Inventory Full has some honorable mentions as well.
I have to say, I’d like to return, too. A few days ago, I signed up for another Vanguard trial. This screen shot is the result of 2 hours of playing a bard. Vanguard is one of the MMO’s I regularly go back to, when other games turn sour on me. I just love some of the games mechanisms: You’ll eventually have to decide if you want to skill up one weapon over the other: long- or short sword, piercer or a mace. At some point you won’t have enough skill points to keep them all maxed. My bard can “compose” his own songs. In combat there are skill combos and situational abilities I need to act on.
I am usually not much of a trade skill kind of guy, but I often do the basics and come back to it every now and then. The trade skill sphere has some interesting concepts. Your trade skill level is independent from your adventuring level. You can only advance through work orders, which will not produce any usable goods. You can make usable items, but they won’t advance your skills. You have your won set of trade skill gear and tools. The same is true for harvesting.
The game has a third sphere, diplomacy. To make it short, I’ve never been using it much, but it does have its own rewards.
The world of Telon is huge. Three massive continents offer enough room for content, cities, dungeons and places to just go Ooooh and Aaaah. You can have flying mounts and you can build your own ship to travel oceans and rivers.
Vanguard is certainly old school (now without corpse runs), but you will respawn elsewhere and have to run back, if you want to continue working on your current goal. Mobs will respawn on your way, if you don’t hurry or if you were in way to deep into a dangerous area. Grouping is often recommended.
There’s more to the game, like nice race and class selections or meaningful NPC factions. But I’ll leave that for another time, to be discovered as I get further into the game.
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It’s been three weeks already? Time flies when you are having fun. And I am certainly having fun getting back to Norrath and Everquest. I’ve made a few characters on the brand new “Vox” server, while hardly looking at my old ones. I just don’t think I’d be able to play them very well at their level. Creating new characters gives me time to relearn the game and to get familiar with the changes since I left. Besides, new characters are fun, at least for me.
For the F2P start SOE created “Hero’s Journey”, a guide and a set of achievements through the leveling process. It took me a while until I found out about this, but once I noticed it, all was good. It leads you through the Crescent Reach zone and all other zones of that expansion. It gets you great gear along the path. If you are going to restart, I recommend to do just a few steps in the tutorial, just enough to get you 3 pieces of armor, and continue with Hero’s Journey.
Not following Hero’s Journey lead me to the level 10+ armor quests and my first encounter with the old competitiveness of the game, namely kill stealing. Old Everquest hands will know that loot rights and experience gain for a kill go to the player or group who do the most damage, not the person who tagged the mob first. Which of course happened to me, trying to kill tarantulas in the Desert of Ro. They are kind of rare and all of a sudden, the tarantula I just had engaged was dead. Some higher level shaman had killed it and continued to clear out the area without giving others the chance to finish their quests.
Lots of drama has ensued over this in the past and obviously will continue. This extended into raiding as well, since dungeons and raids were not instanced. Guilds and players had to compete for the kill. I could already experience my dose of hardcore behavior while visiting Project 99 a while back, and just hope this doesn’t extend into the new end game. Time will tell.
But now to the nicer sides of the game. You can notice much more cooperative behavior among the players than anyplace else, even if you take the competitiveness into account. Players offer buffs in the Plane of Knowledge and asking for buffs is accepted as well. Group play happens, although with the limitations of not having a LFD tool. But the players are far more willing to group up and share. Experienced and higher level players will run up to you and hand you loot, or just offer it for free in chat. And as it used to happen, valuable loot that nobody in a group or raid wanted is often offered to the public in general chat.
Speaking of POK, since F2P players can’t sell their goods in the bazaar, they have to rely on /auction chat. Which gives the already humming Plane of Knowledge even more traffic and there’s some hope it will become like East Commonlands, the market place of old. However, it seems to slow down a bit, as subscribers offer their guild mates to sell their gear through the subscribers traders.
So far, I haven’t run into killer issues with free-to-play. Most of the gear on my old characters is unusable, due to having bad augments, but that’s more of a bug than intention. There is a limit on the amount of money a character can have and there is no shared bank. F2P players can’t send mail or parcels. This limits the ability to transfer items between characters, but nothing keeps you from creating a second account and using it to hold a few bags. The number of bags is limited, which initially seems like an issue, but in the end, with a bit more organisation, you’ll get by.
I am a bard of old. I did crowd control in Solusek A and Karnor’s Castle and I charm kited in the Plane of Nightmares. So I asked in the bard channel what instruments are now in easy reach for my level. The answer made me cringe: Use the instrument modifiers that come with your defiant armor. Modifiers not even half the strength of your standard store bought lute or hand drum. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be to much of a surprise, with leveling now being so easy, there isn’t much need to squeeze out an edge through 10% more damage output with you drum. At least they confirmed that the higher run speed coming from a better drum is useful.
And lastly, something I am far from mastering, yet. The game mechanics of the solo and group game are much more dynamic than modern games. Even though, you can chat a lot while on auto attack, you still need to pay attention to what’s going on. Roaming mobs for instance. Crowd control. Managing pets and MERCs. Your focus is not on what button to push next in your spell rotation, but you look around and react to what’s going on. This might be a bard specific thing, but I had to be on the lookout with my beastlord as well.
Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun so far. I am still rediscovering all the old places like the Ry’Gorr Fort in Eastern Wastes or Warsliks Wood. I am not expecting to stick around for 6 years, though. Probably more like 6 weeks and then on and off. Which is the great thing with F2P. No need to go through subscribe/unsubscribe. Just play.
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Vanguard SOH producer Andy Sites just announced in his Producers Letter that Vanguard is going free to play this summer. No hard time lines have been set, yet. It is planned to have a subscription and item shop model similar to Everquest, Everquest 2 and DCUO. Sony Online Entertainment has also put a transition team together that consists of developers familiar with the Vanguard property and the world of Telon.
This move has been expected for a good while now, fueled by the announcement that Everquest Classic is going free to play as well.
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Zatozia, the new community manager for Vanguard Saga of Heroes introduced herself today to the community. She’s been with SOE while it was still Verant and is a self proclaimed dinosaur within SOE. While it’s not unusual that game personnel and community managers change, it’s somewhat special with Vanguard, since it is on my F2P-or-die watch list. The recent announcement for Everquest to go F2P did make me check on Vanguard more often.
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