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Archive for June, 2012

Mission Statements and visions

June 28, 2012 3 comments

I was browsing a game  company web site looking for info about a particular event when I read what seemed to be their mission statement. This got me thinking what other mission statements are out there, as this is the ultimate guideline for how to act for a company representative.

That being said, I struggled to find a clear mission statement on a number of corporate web sites – a mission statement would be a single sentence, maybe two, that defines the reason for the company to exist essentially – their ultimate purpose. Many companies have one, but not all of them have it available on the web site.

Anyway, a few of the mission statements/goals that I actually found, sort of:

  • Dedicated to creating the most epic entertainment experiences…ever.
  • To make people in this world happier. The ultimate mission of CompanyName is to make each and every one on Earth happier. That is, to make people’s lives more enjoyable.
  • CompanyName’s mission is to attract and retain customers by providing top quality online entertainment. CompanyName does this by establishing and nurturing a trust relationship with customers both in terms of quality of content as well as quality of service.
  • Our ultimate goal is to maximize shareholder value.
  • We are gamers dedicated to creating the best online worlds for players of all ages.

Do you know from which companies these statements were found? They come from SOE, NCSoft, Blizzard, CCP and Perfect World Co, although in a different order than listed.  A few notes:

  • No-one mentions games explicitly.
  • Two out of five mentions “online”. Not all of them do online games exclusively, of course.
  • Two or perhaps three depending on interpretation mentions customers/players.
  • Two refers to entertainment
  • One mentions shareholders

There is one statement and sentence here that triggered this blog post in the first place and one which I find a bit worrisome – the one mentioning shareholders and that can be found on this website. To be fair though, this was under the headline Investor Relations. But also under the company profile something similar was mentioned: The Company plans to continue to explore new and innovative business models and remains deeply committed to maximizing shareholder value over time.

I used to work for a company in which some people were very focused on quarterly results; not so much on customer value and relations. I have also seen other examples where the wrong incentives were in place so that focus were simply put in the wrong place.

Perhaps there are other items of guidance, but shareholder value should not be near the top of such a list, IMHO.

Categories: MMO Games

New LEGO MMO in development by Funcom

June 28, 2012 5 comments

Just saw this press release from Funcom: FUNCOM TO DEVELOP MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAME BASED ON LEGO® MINIFIGURES.

So it seems Lego wants to have another go at the MMO/online market space after the closed down LEGO Universe. Presumably with some learning experience and perhaps a better understanding what they need to do to succeed here.

I would also imagine that it could also help that joint venture between to companies from Scandinavian countries (Denmark and Norway) as corporate culture backgrounds and values may be reasonably compatible.

Categories: MMO Games

Champions Online forums revamped into PWE forums

June 27, 2012 Comments off

Earlier today it was announced that the Champions Online forums will go through the same integration process as the Star Trek Online forums and adapt to the PWE common forum structure used for all the other PWE games.

Since the functionality is different and also different account systems are being used there will be a bunch of things lost in the process, such as

  • Author names on old posts
  • Post counts
  • Custom avatar pictures
  • In some cases, display/forum names. Name rules are also more restrictive, so some names ae not possible to have in the new forums.

Naturally, this upsets people, in particular those that post a lot in the forums. Once the new forums are up it is only possible to login to those through a PWE account. Today the Cryptic account credentials are used and it is also possible to use either PWE or Cryptic login info when logging in to the game.

For such a merge/transfer there is obviously more benefit for the company than for the players.

Categories: Champions Online

From Millennium City with love

June 26, 2012 Comments off

I have had a few days off and through a stroke of bad luck, also managed to get sick right before and during this time – so I am spending a bit more time at home than originally planned. This resulted in a bit more MMO play time – which all ended up with Champions Online. Revisiting the game as I mentioned in a previous post triggered an urge to explore the game once more. It also triggered some of the memories why I spent a few months almost only playing Champions Online for a few months, almost 3 years ago. I find it quite exciting to be back in the game again, despite some dark clouds and concerns.

When Champions Online was originally released there were a number of little details that were obviously improvements from the state of the game City of Heroes was back then, including easier respecs, traval power available at an early stage, more customization options, including power colour customization, updates to the sidekick/mentoring system etc. Some of these have improved in City of Heroes as well after Champions Online was released and later Champions also introduced some additional/mission features from City of Heroes.

A Big Axe is always a winning concept

When I look a bit closer to Champions Online now I do see a few other bits and pieces where the games have influenced each other – custome sets in the store is one thing. The Titan Weapons powerset (in City of Heroes) and Heavy Weapons framework (in Champions Online) also have some similarities – not sure which one was first here.

I have been dusting off some of my old characters, going through a list of 15 characters mainly in 20-30 and teen levels – plus also tried creating entirely new ones. The new ones ran through the tutorials and early content.

One thing that striked me here is that in Champions one seems to have had the approach to refine existing content, to make some of it better. Much of the early content seems to have gone through this approach. While there are many things to recognize there are also differences, sometimes major and sometimes more subtle. Contrast this to Paragon Studios approach, where they either leave an area as-is pretty much, or revamp it significantly – although Champions have had revamps also.

This results in that I think Champions feels more consistent and is perhaps also the simpler one to understand the different game mechanics in place  and thus more accessible for a new or intermittent player.

There is also a lot of choices for a new player in various areas – basically all content is available for free and there are 10 different archetypes available to all players, plus another 13 archetypes that can be bought if you are not a subscriber – included for subscribers. It is also possible nowadays for free/silver players to buy a freeform slot, although that costs a good chunk of money ($50 per slot).

A new meaning to the term “high level player”?

But in the end it is one important question to answer – is it fun? I would say it is a definite yes to that question!  A lot of the content that is available in the game today is something that I did not play or try out when I had initial active period – most of it was not available yet back then.

So pretty much all adventure packs, the comic series and Vibora Bay is all somewhat new to me, plus of course the alerts and some of the content in Monster Island and Lemuria that I did not try out at all even in the beginning.

And getting attacked by henchmen from my nemesis on one of my higher level characters reminded me of the Nemesis system, so it was a nice surprise because I had forgotten  about that.

The Apocalypse is near in Vibora Bay

As with most things you end up doing too much of the content may end up becoming stale and repetitive – it may be that for some that has been around and active all the time. For me that has just reacquainted myself with the game content it feels refeshingly different from the playtime in City of Heroes – which after 6 years for me has become perhapa a bit stale and repetitive…

There is also a charm and fun factor which you cannot really find in any other MMOs outside of this genre. That is the fantastic creativity exposed by many different players in terms of costume creations. In the past I have considered the Champions costume creator perhaps technically superior, but the one in City of Heroes one that has been easier to create characters, at least certain types of characters.

For specific character types and attributes I still think City of Heroes is better. But looking at what people play with and have created I think there are many other character types in which the Champions costume creator is definitely superior. Pretty much everyday I see some amazing creations.

My main worry here is that I will end up playing too many alts at once, so that I play much of the same content too many times in a short time. We will see…

Categories: Champions Online

Two MMO beta weekends

June 22, 2012 3 comments

Prior to this weekend I spent some time in The Secret World beta weekend #3 and prior to that I also tried out Guild Wars 2 for the first time in a beta weekend. Both games have some good and bad points and I will be playing both of them, but for different reasons.

I had not thought that much about it prior to playing both games in beta weekends, but it became more clear to me why I may play either of the games.  Each game seem to provide some neat features and for me those may complement each other well.

From a technical perspective The Secret World provided the best experience of the two games, since it ran smooth without any issues, besides 1 or 2 short lag spikes during the weekend. For Guild Wars 2 on the other hand I had a number of technical issues during Friday and Saturday of that weekend, including locked up game, being disconnected a couple of times, not able to zone due to unavailable login server, a complete freeze that forced me to reboot the computer and terrible performance occasionally (screen frozen for 1-2 minutes, moved again for a few seconds, then frozen for 1-2 minutes etc). I am glad the release of Guild Wars 2 is still some time away, because they will need to do some tuning I believe.

Age of Conan seems to be popular in Seoul

Both games have art styles and environments that I quite like, although I felt it was a bit easier to like The Secret World actually. For Guild Wars 2 I did end up liking it, but I also kept thinking how one of the superhero/comic book MMOs would look like with their painted art style. I think that could work really great actually.

Combat-wise Guild Wars 2 wins – fights in the game had a similar feel that I have had and enjoyed from both City of Heroes and Champions Online – quite visual and fast paced and a fun feel to it. I cannot say I get the same excitement in the same way from The Secret World – it is not bad, but neither is it extraordinary. Then again, for me the setting in the game should not be so much to beat up darker powers in straight-up fights, but find other ways to approach matter at hand. Creating suitable ability builds to exploit their weaknesses if you have to fight them is part of that view. So I am not that concerned that the combat is perhaps not top notch there.

In a way The Secret World is for me more of a game where you may have to out-think your opponents or handle your obstacles – Guild Wars 2 is a more hands-on world when it comes to problem-solving. The way the environment can change from time to time and a bit different events happen looks like it can work out to keep things resonably fresh and fun in such sessions. I was also impressed with that the scaling of events for one, a few and many players seemed to work quite well.

I think I will play The Secret World more when I feel I will dig more deep into the world and explore, while Guild Wars 2 feels more suitable for quick and short/semi-short sessions with action. I like to have both and it seems both games can complement each other in that regard. The Secret World feels much more to have discovery and exploration, while Guild Wars 2 despite the dynamic events system still provided a feel of guided path with all the markers on the map “Action and event here! Get your achivement points now” and all those counters for various things which you could not really avoid seeing. Thus TSW will likely be the game to play for the exploration itch and GW2 more when one want to pick and so something right now.

Neither game seem to have good enough costume/character creation/modification options though, like in City of Heroes or Champions Online. While Guild Wars 2 technically had more options to choose from of the two games, I had challenges in both to get my characters to look in a way that I liked. The results were ok, but not more than that.

From a story perspective it remains to be seen how it works out. I think The Secret World will be more dependent from a game experience perspective to deliver a good story for the character to follow. This may possibly be more linear that what has been outlined for Guild Wars 2, with its Personal Story. However, for the that part of GW2 felt more like a “personalized story” and not necessarily a personal one. I actually ended up stopping to play some characters quite early because the dialog, voice and actions of my character in the story elements did not fit with my view of what the character should be.

I suspect that for Guild Wars 2 I will have to experiment a bit to find suitable character combinations from a story, gameplay and looks perspective.

In short though, I look forward to play both games – they both complement each other I think and also coves a fair amount of what I have been enjoying and looking for in current MMOs.

A surprise Champion

June 18, 2012 1 comment

This weekend I had pretty much planned to play a bit in The Secret World beta – and this I did, more about that in a later post. However, I also ended up playing another MMO which I had not planned at all to play – Champions Online. And I had a great time playing it!

First of all, I am a lifetime subscriber of Champions Online. Except for one character which had done some occasional visits into the game, most of my characters have between 700 and 900 days since their last activity. A post at Massively about Champions Online getting a new executive producer triggered my curiosity to see what the state of the game was, after also reading the state of the game for June 2012.

Logging into the game again was frankly a bit overwhelming – there were quite a few changes that came with the On Alert update, plus a number of changes and additions that had been made prior to that as well. Millenium City looked a bit different in some places.

With the crafting/gear revamp the crafting seems to have been simplified and actually become more meaningful – gear now can have slots and in these slots one can fuse in modifies that improve a stat of your choice, essentially. All the old gear can still be used, but it is only new gear that have slots and these seems generally to be a bit better than the old ones.

Old crafting material can be converted to the new crafting material (cores) in a single operation – this includes any old material in inventory and in the bank.

Plenty of people visiting the Power House

For freeform characters there seem to have been some changes and updates to how powers and stats work – there are now one primary superstat and two secondary superstats to choose from. In addition to the power selections there is also a kind of talent trees called specializations which one can assign points into.

Alerts is a neat new feature which is essentially a quick team through a team-up teleporter/dungeon finder tool. There are a couple of scenarios (e.g. bank heist, MC mayor held hostage, 2 minute showdown etc) and also a rotation of villains to encounter in each scenario. Objective are pretty simple and the whole event maybe takes between 2 and 10 minutes. Successful completion provides a reward and a boost for 1 hour of some type, e.g. XP or resources (cash).

I played a number of alerts and I typically waited less than a minute each time for a new alert to trigger. There is not a huge amount of variation though, so it is hardly something one would play all the time – more something to jump into from time to time.

2 minute showdown Alert – defeat Black Fang and henchmen in 2 minutes

In the past weeks I have played a fair amount of time in Age of Conan also and there besides being quite different games in terms of setting and mechanics, there is also a more general difference. In Age of Conan I do not often see more than a few players in a session. In Champions Online there were people around all over the place. In particular in Millenium City, but also in some other zones I visited. Age of Conan is a larger game in terms of game world, so it is perhaps more understandable. Still, Champions feels more alive. I have no clue how many people are actually playing Champions Online nowadays, but it certainly feels quite active.

 

Categories: Champions Online

The Repopulation Kickstarter campaign reached its goals

June 17, 2012 Comments off

The Kickstarter campaign for the MMO The Repopulation has reached its goals of $25000, with about half the time left for the campaign. Congratulations to the dev team!

With that much time left the team will be working on figuring out some stretch goals over the weekend, to be announced in a few days. The dev team is also open to suggestions, so feel free to submit ideas to them if you have any.

Categories: The Repopulation

The Secret World beta weekend #3 started

June 15, 2012 2 comments

It is now time for the 3rd beta weekend for The Secret World. This time another zone is opened up, The Savage Coast, along with two dungeon instances (Hell Raised and The Polaris). All three starter areas – London, New York and Seoul –  and the three secret societies are also available to play.

They have not mentioned anything that they have unlocked any more skill tiers, so that might or might not be in place. Judging from the previous beta weekend, anything not mentioned is probably not there yet.

I will probably have a look at the other starter areas/hubs and see if anything has been updated/changed with the character creation and starter experience. Probably also try a few things that were not quite there yet. Possibly try to run one of the instances, depending on time.

I am still a bit torn between trying out and testing things vs waiting to experience it at launch first. But I will not be able to stay away completely from the beta, unless the servers go down in flames, or something similar.

Categories: The Secret World

The Repopulation is almost at its Kickstarter goal

June 14, 2012 2 comments

Indie SciFi sandbox MMO The Repopulation started a Kickstarter campaign about 2 weeks ago. This campaign is going quite well money-wise it seems, with 18 days to go they are at this time of writing about $1800 short of their $25000 goal.

What strikes me as interesting here is that there is not really a huge number of backers, less than 300, but a fair amount of those backers have put a sizable amount of money in their pledge. There are 6 persons who is backing with $1000 each, the average pledge is over $84 and median pledge at $50. And this for a title that will have a “free-to-play” business model.

I think this may be a good indication that there should room for smaller games and not every MMO title need to have a gazillion bucks budget to reach any success and it is not all about player numbers. If you can manage to hit the sweet spot for your target audience there is a good chance that it can be profitable even with smaller player numbers.

Personally I have put an above average amount in my pledge and it seems that there are many people who used to be Star Wars Galaxies pre-CU fans have noticed this title and are putting in their support for it. I would not want an exact replica of SWG (there were a bunch of bad parts also), but for 2013 this game is at the top of my list so far for games I am looking forward to.

Categories: The Repopulation

The beautiful wilderness of Hyboria

June 10, 2012 1 comment

In the past 3 weeks roughly I have spent a fair amount of MMO game time in Age of Conan, reacquainting myself with the game and the game world. Overall is has been a nice experience so far, althoug the game seems to be a bit end-game focused from my perspective.

One label which I would like to put on Age of Conan is kind of how I would like to sum up my view of the game world, and that is “Everyday Epic“. Spectacular landscapes and vistas and violent, dirty and tough action which the participants could sing praises about their bravery in the nearest bar. But it would more be boosts how they smashed the head of a vicious bandit or some ugly undead creature, than slaying a big dragon or something.

The characters are not necessarily heroic, they can curse, cheat and threaten each other. Characters, be it NPCs or player characters carve out their piece of glory in a rough world and make it perhaps feel more spectacular than it may be.

I kind of like that fantasy setting, more appealing than some high fantasy setting with elves strutting around. And yes, no elves is a definite plus.

Read more…

Categories: Age of Conan