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Archive for November, 2008

Sea breeze or tree hug

November 30, 2008 1 comment

In an early mission in the Guild Wars Factions campaign, our guiding NPC Master Togo discovers a mark on the ground after defeating the enemy (paraphrased):

Togo: “It is the mark of Shiro Tagachi”

My character: “He who turned the forest to stone and the sea to jade?”

Togo: “The very same”

This dialog stuck with me, since I wondered what fairy tale or story about Shiro this was, or if it was just meant as an expression. It was not until later in the campaign when I got to visit the Kurzicks and the Luxons that I realized that it was not empty phrase.

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Categories: Guild Wars

Should MMO publishers compete with the same games?

November 29, 2008 4 comments

Today the different online game services we play are generally provided by one publisher for each game. If there are different publishers for one game they have generally split up the market into region, each one covering a certain territory.

But why should it be that way? What if the game developers instead let any number of publishers that fulfilled some conditions run the same game? Say that Blizzard let some other publishers run World of Warcraft as well and there would perhaps be 5-6 publishers in Europe, all serving all or most of the continent.

In this case the publishers would have to make them more attractive to get more customers – different payment models, bundles with other games they publish, bundles with other media, family specials, guild specials etc. If a customer does not like the services (or lack thereof) of a publisher, but still want to play the game they would switch.

Now, the switch would not work out in practice unless the game provided support to migrate a character or account to a different publisher and games would need to be better to support integrating with social network and game portal environments. Neither is a bad thing, but there is little incentive to provide such support at the moment.

We have so far at least come to the point where the game developer and the online game publisher are different companies in a number of cases. But so far each game publisher has pretty much had a monopoly on providing the game access. Markets have been more open or are opening up in a number of other service areas, why not online games?

Categories: MMO Games

Spellborn release details and more delays

November 26, 2008 4 comments

Some more details about the somewhat European release is up on the RCOS web site. It seems that November 27th will be the release date for 3 countries, with a fourth country in the day after and an additional 7 countries a week after tha, on December 5th. For anyone that wants to try the downloadable option that will not be available until December 5th.

The delayed release for the 7 countries (Benelux + Scandinavia + Finland) seems to be the fault of publisher Mindscape and which have failed to inform Spellborn people about this delay.I don’t mind waiting another week and I feel sorry for the Spellborn people if the publishers behave like this, covering up their problems until the last minute.

Not a way to build confidence and to some extent Spellborn will take some of the heat for that. This is the first time I recall see that Spellborn actually also points fingers towards the publishers. I think they at this point may be frustrated and perhaps a bit annoyed with a number of issues that may be due to issues at the publishers, but they are taking the heat for it in their forums. I feel sorry for them and hope it will work out better eventually.

Mr Tagachi lost his job

November 25, 2008 4 comments

I have not written so much about my play time in Guild Wars lately, but I have been playing when work allowed, which has mainly been during the weekends in the past few weeks. Primarily this has been with my Ritualist (Tarixus), who has been trying to save Cantha from the evil master Shiro Tagachi.  He has definiately become a favourite along with my Necromancer and I have quite enjoyed going through the Factions storyline.

I have seen comments about the Factions campaign being considered the weaker one. In terms of delivering the main story I think I would agree with that – I found it to have a number of pieces which did not quite fit together for me.

But on the other hand I think the landscapes that the story has taken the team through has been great, I think that is a quite strong part of Factions. Well, except perhaps some city areas.

Anyway, today was the time for the final mission, Imperial Sanctum, where Tarixus and his team were to fight Shiro Tagchi in a direct confrontation. This turned out to be a bit tricky, which is what would be expected from the finale of the story. 

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Categories: Guild Wars

Acclaims more European Spellborn territory

November 24, 2008 Comments off

It seems that Acclaim is picking up handling a few more countries for its Spellborn distribution. It is good that someone will handle those countries. But, this is not really for the better unless Acclaim joins the other European publishers in their shared pool of servers for the European countries. And drops any idea of IP blocking, regardless of region.

First peek into Spellborn

November 23, 2008 9 comments

Yesterday and today I have played a bit in the open beta of The Chronicles of Spellborn. As such this is just basically a few first impressions and observations about the game.

Installation was pretty straightforward, client download was a bit more than 3GB and the installer ran fine. Upon loading the game it started up in Windowed mode, 1024×768. The first choice is to select the universe to play in – for the open beta six were available, all international and a 50-50 split for PvP and PvE universes. I choose a PvE universe here.

 

Archetype selection

Archetype selection

Then it was time to create a character. First was the choice of archetype, which is either Warrior, Rogue or Spellcaster.  I started off with a Spellcaster.

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Will Spellborn publisher block you?

November 22, 2008 2 comments

I was reading in the Spellborn forums, including the discussions on the potential blocking of players. While Mirage the PR Manager had said before that no IP blocking would be done by Frogster and Mindscape I read the following from community manager Banshee:

No, you cannot import game and play on European servers. 

If you live in the countries covered by Frogster/Mindscape/French publisher, you can play only on EU servers. If you are not living in those countries, you cannot play on these servers. 

If you live in territories covered by Acclaim, you can play only on Acclaim servers. If you are not living in those countries, you cannot play on these servers. 

If you do not live in either of those countries, you will have to wait till we come up with some solution, but you won’t be able to play neither on EU, neither on Acclaim servers – at least not on 27th of November.

Generally at the moment IP is checked when creating an account (with automatic redirection if IP is not valid). I cannot tell you at the moment how exactly that will work with in-game IP blocks, but likely they will be some measures in place as well.

I can accept that they might want to limit the countries involved in the open beta, since they will probably not use all the server capacity that they will have for release and maybe want to have some better control from where people connect due to that. But this sounds like there is some restriction going to be enforced going live after all.

I can only think of that this is because Spellborn actuallty has four different publishers covering European countries (Frogster, Mindscape, Acclaim and some new French publisher) which is dividing up the map of Europe and elsewhere between themselves, regardless of the concerns of the natives. Maybe their contracts with Spellborn were set up only specific countries were specified and they now have to figure out how to divide the money from any players that are not coming from these countries. And until they have figured that part they will pehaps block players from other countries.

This is quite unfortunate and bad that is an issue raised at such a late stage. I still hope that any blocking now is only temporary and until it is sorted out with the publishers how they will split the money. After that, let anyone play wherever they want.

Anything else may just hurt the game in the end and it is not what Spellborn need.

The slate will be wiped

November 21, 2008 2 comments

Today NCSoft announced that they will close down Tabula Rasa at the end of Februari 2009. It does not come as a big surprise, early this year NCSoft did say thet they would give the game about a year and that it would have to make about 8 million USD for that year, which was their break-even point for operating the game.

Tabula Rasa has not quite made those numbers. I’m sorry to see the game go away; I played it in beta for a while and about 7-8 months from release and to large extent I did enjoy the game. But there were some annoying issues which never got fixed and pretty much everyone else I played with disappeared after a while. But given the less than stellar inital results I do not think they had that much resources to work with in the first place in the past year and they did some quite nice things in some updates. 

WIth NCSoft operations focusing more to the region near ArenaNet in the US I guess the people that have worked on Tabula Rasa may be at risk of losing their job or relocate, I guess. Not a nice situation to be in, so I hope that works out.

For those that want to try the game a bit before the end NCSOfts says that the game will be free to play from January 10th 2009 until the end.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

Spellborn will have open beta

November 21, 2008 Comments off

It seems that there will be an open beta for Chronicles of Spellborn after all, although a fairly short one. It is restricted to the countries for which there asre assigned publishers (Frogster and Mindscape), i.e. German-speaking countries, France, Benelux and Scandinavia+Finland.

Being in one of the “lucky” countries I will certainly spend some time this weekend to try it out.

The uncertaintly and concern about having different publishers and potentially some kind of restrictions or blocking based on where you are located does get a lot of negative comments on the TCOS forums, so I hope they drop the idea entirely or make it reasoably easy to bypass if you want.

A quote from Mirage, PR manager for Spellborn as least give some slight hope.

“For European Territories (except UK) there will NOT be any IP blocking.

Mindscape and Frogster will NOT do any IP blocking.”
Still a concern in Europe what restrictions they may place on UK players, but it at least seems any restrictions put in place by the not-delayed publishers will not be based on IP address.

Spellborn release news again

November 19, 2008 4 comments

There was finally some news about the Acclaim side of the Spellborn release. Unfortunately that says that the release for North America and the other countries and regions that Acclaim is responsible for will have a later release date. This later release date is specified as “January 2009”.

One of the reasons that was given for that Spellborn would be released in late 2008 was that the North American publisher they had signed up had asked for a fair amount of time to be able to prepare for the launch.

In April Spellborn announced they had signed a letter of intent with a MMOG publisher in the US, which would publish the game provided that they were given 6 months time to properly introduce the game to the US audience.

In August it was announced that Acclaim was the US publisher. In September the release date of November 27th was announced. It was confirmed for Europe and they said the intent was to have the game released at the same time in North America (they were waiting for a confirmation from Acclaim).

Now when there is only one week left a new release date is set for the Acclaim version of the game, which is the same version as everywhere else, as said in the announcement for the new release date.

Acclaim have had since April to prepare, that is more than 7 months. The release date has been public information for more than 2 months and probably was communicated with Acclaim before it became public.

My guess is that Acclaim did not really much at all, if anything after signing that letter of intent. They possibly set a web designer to put up a page for the game when they had their press release. Their web page pretty much have been the same since that press release in August.

Maybe they have been pressed for time because they slipped up, but it would have been nice if they actually told people that long before. They certainly will not get my vote of confidence as it is now.

To add to the issues here, since Acclaim will handle UK in Europe this will also be delayed. With entirely different publishers for different regions in Europe and probably no scheme in place between the Acclaim and Frogster (any other publisher also?) this means a number of players may or may not be able to play together since they may be locked out from certain servers:

Regarding German version, it will be multilingual, but it is likely that UK players won’t be allowed to join the servers linked to the non-Acclaim version of the game. We still are gathering details on this and official announcement about it will follow on some later date.
(Quote from community manager Banshee)

This may mean that there will be English versions of the game outside UK, but that there may be problems for people in UK to play with friends in other countries.Some people semmed to guess that they would do IP blocking, but I certainly hope that they won’t do that and perhaps just have different serial codes for those that buy the game. But it would be much more preferable if the publishers could sort out among themselves how to split the income from players rather than let the players take the hit. That would still likely be less complex than the cross-charging telco companies has to deal with.

There is a number of UK people I have played with in different games and I would hate to see that if we would like to play together this may be problematic. And there are also people from other countries in Europe I play and have played with, so there is no obvious choice what to choose from that point of view.

But I think I will start on a non-Acclaim English-speaking server, assuming that can be sorted out with others to play with. Acclaim certainly do not get my vote at the moment.