Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In response to Richard Aihoshi’s:F2P or Not F2P

Here is the original article: Richard Aihoshi’s:F2P or Not F2P

I was going to comment on the forums, but the writing demon took over my keyboard so I decided to write a full article on it.

I have been working on a project for F2P and a virtual currency series. I feel that long term there will be certain changes and effects on how we spend money on the internet and predict that there will be one universal online currency one day. I've been doing ALOT of research, to the point that it is killing my gametime, but again this supposedly is fun to me. I read Richard's stuff alot, some stuff I agree with and some I don't. I take a "take what you can and leave the rest" attitude in whatever I do; especially in gaming, journalism and culture.

I saved an article that ingame advertisiing would reach $1 Billion by 2014. HERE

So the big powers that be in the advertising world and the game companies are going to throw millions of ads in our face between now and then while we are bashing someone head in. Big deal. Again, one this I do agree with is that games is a HUGE business. However, the western world just doesn't seem to love (many like, but don't love) the game that you feel that is clawing at your pockets every chance it gets. It's just not fun, I'm sorry. I don't mind seeing an ad, but don't take away from the experience, that happens with TV and quite honestly, I hardly watch TV but will watch an uninterupted DVD with in-movie advertisiing. Because it doesn't take away from the movie itself.

The clearest way that a community or society speaks is by patronism. If you notice the top 10 most popular games on MMORPG.com are listed as follows. 7 pay to play games, 1 free to play, 1 free to try then subscription and one unreleased. I don't think that ST:TOR is going to be free to play. And the sole free to play game, imo , is by itself a great game, I ran it for a few months before I moved on. You don't see any f2p games in the hype column either. This community has spoken and not even said a word. They spoke with their time and money, which is univeral in any language.

The Gamer Society that I know like to have their costs up front, know what they are paying and hope they know what they are getting. I particually do not like to be coaxed into a situation with words such as "free" just to be stuck with costs to progress ON TOP OF the time I am spending to progress (grinding, leveling, pvping etc) in a game. I would like to say, "Ok, this is what I'm playing, what I want to do in this game and this is how much it's gonna cost me." Very simple math that doesn't have me looking for my credit card and have to balance a checkbook every time I want to get a new ( Insert Macguffin here ). I feel that in F2P games, for my time and money this game better be worth it. Some are, mind you, but most are not and I can say for myself I am tired of getting burned, I'm very wary these days. Most AAA rated MMO's except for a chosen few, are subscription based, we are paying for quality and I will never mind that, I am sometimes even wary of them.

Free to try is a powerful tool, it gives people the chance to fall in love with something before you have to marry it. And yes, when we put down a credit card number we are commiting to a monthly charge and in some cases it's not easy just to close an account. There is an individual that has had some problems in cancellling his Chronicles of Spellborn account and that is a nightmare. I for one liked the method they used, to play the game until a certain level then "poop or get off the pot". That worked for me and I left that game uncommited.

On DDO going online, the game was losing customers slowly but surely. I interviewed players from all stages and it was a split, half was going to continue or start playing the game and the other were quitting or not going back. The dichotomy there was plain as day, whether they stay long term only time will tell. That is the only thing inevitable in that scenario, time will pass and people will speak without saying a word. I personally think that it was very shrewd on what turbine is doing, they see the effect of f2p has on many other games and are trying to capture that market share. When I figured out that if I was going to play DDO, then I would be paying 15 for VIP then having to spend money to open content, I changed my mind. You can't bleed me dry, it's one or the other, I'll pay your sub or buy content. Sorry, I work off a budget.

I for one am investing in a few F2P games, one of them is Free Realms. I have a 3 year old nephew who I love dearly, sometimes when I watch him we play Free Realms and Spider Man: Web of shadows (he loves it). Where SOE gets my money is through, "Uncle Frank, I want to race a car." I promptly buy him a racecar of his choice. "Uncle Frank, can we do this" and out comes my credit card again for a monthly sub. Yeah, it's only 5 bucks, but I feel a little resentful that I have to pay $5 bucks AND get pinched for every othe crazy whim that a little 3 year old has, AND THEY HAVE A MILLION OF THEM!

Wizard101 is doing the exact same marketing scheme. That's how they get to the parents wallets is from the big pair of ___ eyes that you just can't refuse. Children have been always been very successful on weaseling money out of adults, And game companies continue to exploit it. I don't mind, I'm never cheap when it comes to familt, although if it was just $5 bucks or even $15 bucks it would be ok, because it's quality time and the costs are capped. For everything else there is the word no.

Today China banned the use of virtual money for trading in real goods. So that blows my Universal Virtual Currency theory right out of the water. But you also have to consider, why did the Chinese government (china the home of RMT) shut down a mulit-billion Yuan business? Was the fact that people were using that money to gamble, were people getting ripped off, laundering money? Were Chinese workers being mistreated and forced to work in bad "sweatshop" like environments? These are all activities surrounding the RMT market. Obviously something wasn't right there and The Chinese Government has spoken.

The game that is courting me now is Ryzom, I dl'd it for FREE, I get a 21 day trial and only $11 bucks for a sub. Thank you Boo Turk-aye! WOW that was a good deal and I am getting alot of game for $11 dollars. The game is very good quality and has alot of things that most F2P's don't have, for one is a content editor. I also have friends in LOTRO that are beating me up to go there, "cmon we have a big guild" they say. But even at a price of 9.95 for the software and 9.95 a month, I can't commit. I am happy with getting something free and trying something new for once.

So I don't knock getting something for free, just make sure everything is on the up and up. Don't hit me with hidden fees, don't lock content behing the cash shop, don't let millions of bot in to spam the trade channel, don't give me terrible customer service, don't force feed me stuff that I need to buy to advance, if I want it I will earn it. And don't tell me that I go to work to earn it, I go to work to pay my bills, whatever I have left over goes to my interests.

Don't tell me that something is inevitable, that means I don't have a choice. There are many things that I don't have a choice such as rent, food, heat, electricity, family and sleeping. I have a choice when it comes to my methods personal fun, being books, movies or games. And for those I let my time be the judge and let my money do the talking, for everything else I have a blog.

Any questions or comments feel free to email me.

Play safe,


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: Trine, Fun with Physics.

Trine is an downloadable action platform game , that pays tribute to Lost Vikings and Earthworm Jim. Developed by Frozenbyte and Nobilis, Trine is set to release this month, you can download the demo at this site and pre-order on Steam and Gamesplanet. This review is subject to change and we be revisited once the game is on full release. And if you have a complaint about reviewing a demo, people review a beta, it's the same thing. The demo gave me just enough to make a lasting impression.

Using physics in a fantasy based setting, the player navigates through different screens or "rooms" where you can use three different characters, the knight, the wizard or the thief. Each comes with different abilities that interact with the environment and other characters abilities as well. Using these skills to defeat enemies, collect items and solve puzzles to progress through the story. The 3 Amigos are switchable at any point using the 1,2 or 3 button on the fly, taken into consideration they are still alive. Energy potions, mana potions and experience pots are bountiful but not all easy to get to. I found the most useful character for me, was the thief.

Equipped with bow, arrows and a grappling hook, she nimbly jumps and swings over most obstacles. Most useful in rooms with pits, snares and suspended platforms she can hook onto almost any reachable surface to quickly get you past some unreachable places. Her weakness is the fact that she has no hand to hand melee abilities but can shoot from afar. For most brawling and bruising I would use the warrior.

Tough ole bugger he is, comes equipped with a sword and shield that can hack through most breakable barriers and makes use of skeletons and other nasties rather quick. He's heavy in full platemail, so if he falls on something most likely it's dead; I guess that's a simple law of physics. If you are the hack and slay type then he's your frontman unless you need to solve a puzzle that needs some finesse, that's when your wizard comes in handy.

The wizard is the most interesting of the three. He has to abilities from the start, he can use levitation to pick up any loose object in the environment, and there are A LOT of loose items lying around. The levels are setup very interactive. And if you don't have a crate handy, then he can make one out of thin air with his second ability. Very cool!

The graphics are rich and colorful, painstakingly designed by the developers. I felt like I was pausing at every screen and room just to take in the background. From glowing vegetation, moving clocks and bright windows I never felt as if I was looking at the same background twice in a row. I don't recall in the hours that I played that I recognized anything from room to room. Frozenbyte did an excellent job by creating an incredibly vibrant and alive environment.

Graphics: A

Character design is simple enough, however if you pull in friend to coop with you, that opens up more interaction between characters and environment. Looking at some gameplay video, it seems to speed up the game and flow through the puzzles faster. With the exception of the wizard and the thiefs grappling hook, the knight and thief are simple creations of the theme, easy to use and very necessary with the mechanics. Although I can see further expansions and additions of new characters with different abilities to interact with old ones, there is a ton of room for growth here.

Character design: B+

The mechanics of Trine is where it shines, we saw how fun physics could be from games like Halflife. And how Valve innovated those mechanics in Portal, where you were able to fly, jump and make yourself dizzy with a gun that didn't shoot. Trine ties that together with on a side scrolling game play that never gets boring, ever. You find yourself dropping boxes for weight, swinging fist-like hammers to break walls and occasionally having your character pole-vaulted across the screen to either land on someone or simply get to the other side. Some of the puzzles can be real brain teasers that require multiple character abilities to solve and I wasn't able to get to all the goodies stashed around the rooms. I'm just not that good yet. Honestly the controls were very easy to use W,A,S,D and left and right mouse click. Also, you're never at a point that you cannot see what you're doing because the screen moves with you back and forth, your cursor is where most of the action takes place from.

Controls and Gameplay Mechanics: A

Now I'm not going to get into detail about the story, that's for you to find out. Sorry, no spoilers here. But it is narrated between loading screens and during gameplay from someone who sounds like he should be narrating a children's story on TV. A soft, soothing paternal voice that get's you interested right away from the start. Trine has a good story so far that I haven't heard in its entirety and I'm sure that I'm not going to get it all in the demo. So I still score the story that so far is very interesting, original and well told by our trusty narrator.

Storyboard: A

You can download the demo for free, which is a plus. Any good game usually comes with a no-risk demo and this one is actually good. I don't know how far it takes you because I kept on dying and have to restart a leve. There are savepoints that you can continue from and that you can resurrect characters from, once. If you run out of people then it is going to be very hard to finish the level, and if you are staring down the barrel of a bunch of skeletons with just the weakly wizard, good luck. If you lose all three then you have to restart. However, once this is released this month, first for PC then downloadable for PS3, your spending a whopping 40 bucks. This is a pro-polished game from an indie-developer and well worth your money. I feel that $40 is fair and if it keeps these new developers creating this type of product, then I am defiantly going to invest in a game that I feel will be around for awhile. I can't wait to play this with a friend or two, it's a blast.

Price: A

It's easy to see why Trine won Gamespot's Editors Choice Awards for Best Downloadable Game from E3. This is a well made game both graphically and creatively. It's not the first and only platformer to ever use physics to solve puzzles; they just do it really well. The replay ability of this game is yet to be seen and cannot just be judged by the limited demo, but from what I have seen so far this one is going to be a hit. I'm almost sure that the full scope of Trine will be when you play co-op via the internet and that will be the judge in the long run. Most platforms suffer from lack of replayability because once you beat it, you beat it. Unless the makers of Trine can capture that addictive quality and that air of competitiveness like the old Mario Brothers games I can see it having a problem with staying power. But for the experience and the addition to your gaming library I definitely would recommend it and you have to try the demo for yourself.

Game Player Average: A, for A must play.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aion, World of Warcraft’s Pretty Girlfriend.

This is a text only version of the original post: HERE!

I have a pretty girlfriend, that's beside the point. When we go places together it's interesting to see people's reactions. First off, I have been called handsome, but I'm nowhere near a pretty boy. I am a large, bald, tattooed and angry looking New Yorker. My lady on the other hand is the upbeat, attractive person that makes people smile; I am the one that scares the guys away. However, in certain instances my intimidating looks come in handy, and others her bright smile and big brown eyes wins people over. The point I am trying to make is that everyone responds to different visual images diffently.

This brings me to Aion's strongest point, the graphics. More importantly, the character creation, which is the most creative I've ever experienced in an MMO. I participated in Closed Beta 1 and just tonight finishing up closed beta 2, I leveled an Asmodian (darker race) to 11 and was suddenly bored. I am a hardcore leveler, and was forced to stop just when my character just got interesting. So I decided to mess around with the character creation tool. Another thing about me, I have a soft spot for goblins, yes, goblins. So…I made some … goblins.

Insert size matters here

I was very happy with the results, yes he's tiny and packs quite a punch. So I leveled him to 11 as well; fun, fun, fun. I watched a few people stop and check me out, even got a few LOL's and a few complimentary whispers. It's funny how people will react to something visually, other players were happy with my goblin. So, I made more…

Goblin 1 here

I couldn't make a green one as Elyos (light side) but I was able to make a red one. I didn't have the time to level him to 11 as well, but I did see people stop and look in the starter zone. I was onto something!

Goblin 2

Let's touch on the mechanics of Aion, I'll just say it is superior to most games just considering the flight aspect and a great combo system that they have in place. It is what Age of Conan wanted to do, but couldn't quite nail it. NCSoft did, and quite well. Along with certain movements it feels almost like Streetfighter except I don't have to make those moves, it just helps certain chances of hits, blocks and dodges. No longer is it just mashy-button til death mode, this time I really have to react. I am impressed.

Visually, the game is head and shoulders above almost all of the mmorpgs on the market. The game actually feels "alive", I had spiders coming out of trees, huge birds in the skyline and the water effects almost look real. Aion, is very clean and very "pretty", most mob designs contain over 3-4 different colors and the human realism in character design is stunning, unlike WoW. Also the transparent minimap is a plus to have as well.

Insert eva here.

WoW, does suffer from too cartoony, exaggerated graphics, but it has that gritty masculine quality that most macho players (like me) respond to. However, content wise…my vote goes to World of Warcraft. Aion has the same addictive feel to it but doesn't pack the lore punch that WoW does. Face it, many people already knew the WoW story from the original Warcraft series, and Blizzard did a bangup job bringing it to a massive scale.

Aion, unfortunatly is lacking that punch, the lore is basically good vs. evil angels. Paradise Lost, Dante's Inferno and even The Prophecy. Stories have been written and re-written about the classic tale of the heavenly Chosen Ones and The Fallen. Been there, done that. I read a lot of the quests and wasn't too enthralled on what I was reading, plus the dialog is really small so it was hard to read a lot of the material. The cut scenes are nice and give quick visual details on the plot to the quest you are on, especially the Ascension quest. Very cool.

I like the game, but I am not knocked over by it. I've done the same thing in WoW and FFXI, level up to the end, grind for the best gear and kill other players. Again, been there, done that and I have the T-Shirt. My advice to my readers, If you are done with WoW, totally finished, burnt out and kaput, and don't mind repeating the same steps; or if you are playing an older MMO and need something new. Then Aion is a very visually pleasing game, and one worth trying out. If you are 'tweening games or a story driven immersion player like Beau Turkey, then I would keep playing the field and keep an eye out for other titles that are on the horizons.

I have a hunch that Champions Online is going to be a big sleeper hit this fall, that's what I'm holding out for.

Until then…

Play safe,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Tabula Rasa: When loyalty pays off.

A friend of mine who follows my blog sent me this article posted on the Aion Beta boards. Reading it gives me a new respect for NCSoft the way they handled loyal players of the failed Sci-Fi MMORPG Tabula Rasa. This was the brainchild of billionaire game designer and eccentric Richard Garriot, who I will go more into detail in a minute. As posted by Ayase, Community Manager of NCSoft:

As a dedicated Tabula Rasa subscriber, you were promised a cornucopia of Aion benefits:
Aion beta event access
Aion preorder benefits
30 free days of Aion, including digital client
To be specific, you will receive all the same benefits as someone who has preordered the Aion game:
Access to all closed and open beta events
Headstart access
Character and server preselection access
Several in-game digital items, including the Dark Cloud Hat, Amulet of Lodas,
and the Ancient Ring of Wind
For complete details on the preorder benefits, see http://www.aiononline.com/preorder.
You will also receive 30 days of Aion game time and the digital client.
An access key for all of the above has already been applied to your NCsoft Master Account. If you haven’t done so already, all you have to do is log in to your NCsoft Master Account and activate your code! The next beta event is this weekend, starting on June 19, 2009.

Not only did NCSoft go out of its way to actually create an in game ending for players of Tabula Rasa now they are giving them a $65.00 value at retribution for “stick-to-it-ness.” A $50.00 retail game and a month free of playtime is extremely valuable in game-time, not to mention that people are stealing money from other players to sell in game time in exchange for realspace money, :::cough:::EVE::::cough::::

At the announcement of cancellation NCSoft also made Tabula Rasa free to play before the imminent shutdown in February, which seems to be the norm for companies that are shutting down servers for an MMO they deem as a financially failing proposition. As we have read recently The Matrix Online is suffering the same fate, it makes me wonder if SOE will do the same for the players as NCSoft did for the Tabula Rasa, crowd? I’ll keep an eye on this and keep you posted.

The ending sounded quite interesting as quoted from Gamasutra.com, “Will become overrun by an unstoppable tide of alien enemies, with humanity's only response being mutually assured destruction.” They also were rewarding a 2,000% increase in experience gain so players could level faster. I didn’t get that from Hellgate:London. X( Boo…

Now they give them a new beginning, Aion. Which is starting its second closed beta phase today, players of the Aion Beta will get to try out the dark Asmodian race from level 1-10. I will be in on that beta and you can look me up through Inktomi or Panzer, my tanking class that I am looking to make when Aion goes retail at the end of the summer.

Back to Tabula Rasa, I was reading a post on the MMORPG.com forums from
Aryslan, seems there is a petition posted on the internet for players to sign to bring back Tabula Rasa. I think the return is unlikely because there has been a case filed against NCSoft by Richard Garriot who is sueing NCSoft for over $20 Million in lost stock options. Mr. Garriott was fired on the heels of the announcement of the shutdown of the game he worked to create while he was while he was still in quarantine from his space flight. “Ok, I know that you are busy killing of spacecooties, but YOU’RE FIRED! Oh and by the way SELL ALL YOUR STOCK NOW!” I understand about this case was a timing issue and he was forced to sell stock when it was down, I feel that he may have a case, however all the details you can read in gamepolitics.com.

I’m really not clear of all the legal mumbo jumbo surrounding the case and the details of his contract with NCSoft, but the chance of Tabula Rasa returning is slim and none, and slim is out to lunch. Don’t feel bad, there was a Hellgate:London Revival planned that was stomped by a legal snafu between Hanbitsoft and Namco Bandai, so I just resolved to move on to the new game of choice.

Kudos to NCSoft for extended customer support for loyal subscribers and great focus on customer retention. Grats to Tabula Rasa fans that stuck it out, and on that note I’ll close with an old saying; “When a door closes, a window opens.” And out that window is Aion, see you in the beta!

Until then…

Play safe,


Friday, June 12, 2009

EVE Online Players Rocked Again By Financial Crime

Modified Text only version, original can be found at: http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/Inktomi/062009/4003_EVE-Online-Players-Rocked-Again-By-Financial-Crime

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.” – Michael Douglas,1987

Tsk, Tsk, Tsk or should I say, Isk, Isk, Isk. Reported today from various websites “Xabier”, member of Dynasty Bank, a player run financial institution has embezzled 200 Billion Isk of players invested funds. Dynasty Bank has recently released a statement to players and has since the realization of the crime has stopped taking deposits according to Manalapan. Who posted on Eve online forums today “ What we DO know is that he has missed a dividend payment on a personal bond, and his bio now states “Thanks for all the fish”. According to my handy dandy Virtual Currency Chart the EVE Isk is worth .0000004 of the US dollar.

$80 Thanks for all the fish? So for every $1, I can buy 2500000.00 in EVE Isk, what does that really mean? It means that Xabier stole a whopping $80 in USD.

Now wait, I’m not discounting player efforts and what I have read about EVE, money is not easily made. Often by mining that takes a very long time, in certain star systems it can also be very dangerous. People have been known to fall asleep mining only to wake up with their ship destroyed. So the ISK has some value ingame, nevertheless 200 billion is still a lot of money to active players. Although I read in certain articles that the ISK can fetch much higher values, how does that work? Is the VCC accurate?

But to become a virtual criminal for $80? Just To lose all those relationships, playtime, your account and to live forever in the hearts and minds of all MMORPG players as a total loser, it doesn’t seem worth it. Most likely he’s got it scurried away somewhere, which is a tactic used by many white-collar criminals. Case in point was last years Wall Street Scandal involving Bernard Madoff that made off with over $60 Billion in investors money. And he is going to rot in jail for the rest of his life for it, but what is the downside for players that commit virtual crime?

Not the first time…

That EVE players have been rocked by white-collar crime such as ponzi schemes and theft. August 2006, one of the largest online scams in history took place when “Cally” stole over 700 Billion in ISK that according to Ars Technica can be worth $170,000.00 USD. I am a little confused on how that can happen. Is that according to the trading value of the ISK compared to the USD at the time? I don’t have any data going back that far to compare. I suggest reading “A Deadly Dollar” by Jim Rossignol.

Don’t trust a Guiding Hand.

2005, we read about a band of mercenaries infiltrating a Alliance and robbing them of over $16,500. The Guiding Hand Social Club took a year to plot and plan the downfall of Ubiqua Seraph. Taking a year to fulfill this “assassination” contract out, placing agents at every level within the target corp. “Istvaan Shogaatsu” Someone should hire the guy who masterminded this all, that takes time and patience. Those are skills that would be invaluable at certain levels of government. These were a list of materials stolen from Mirial:

- Modulated Deep Core Miner II BPO
- Covert Ops Cloak II BPO
- Armageddon BPO
- Prophecy BPO
- Malediction BPO
- Arkonor Crystal II BPO
- Scordite Crystal II BPO
- Numerous lesser tech II BPOs

- A few billion ISK in minerals.
- 717 million taken from corporate wallet.
- Two billion taken under the guise of a loan from the executor.

Our net gain from this massive heist is roughly estimated at over 20 billion ISK.

What is this all worth in real-time money?

BoB, spelled backwards.

The Spy Game has been a longtime profitable “ingame job” in EVEspace for years. We all know of the famous GoonSwarm takeover of Band of Brothers soveriegnity space. The leader of the Mittani in his interview with Nick Breckon of Gameshack quotes on the metagame intailed in spyops, Communication becomes a game in itself. "I'd get 20+ [reports] a day and, at one point, had 35 separate Trillian windows open," he explains. "AIM for Americans mostly, MSN for the Euros, and ICQ for the Russians."

This hit could of partly be caused by the fact that Band Of Brother’s was once help out by dev’s from EVE Online themselves. Which was a pretty big scandal back in 2007, reported from kotaku.com . “The concern is that Band of Brothers (and possibly other large alliances) have received ill-gotten assistance from the Developers or GMs in the form of blueprints, ships, etc...People care about rampant cheating by those whose job it is to STOP cheating. By conveniently ignoring this issue, you are only reinforcing the belief that CCP has something to hide.”

I am not criticizing EVE or the players, I am going to look at the developers and the GM’s of EVE that do not have a system in place to govern players or protect people from this type of behavior. At least investors have the SEC and the NASD to look over the shoulders of Wall Street, without them Wall Street would be a very bad place. Even with laws, people do still commit heavy duty financial crimes. I was reading an excerpt from the book Virtual law By Benjamin Tyson Duranske and in one article he states that “real world financial institutions can guarantee some or all of the virtual world applications.” Is CCP responsible for the loss of players funds? I’m sure they have plenty of laws in the EULA protecting them from lawsuits from characters from what happens ingame. But where does that leave you? The player in the Wildest of all Wild West Shows in Space, is it caveat emptor or buyer beware, with the explanation of don’t “QQ” EVE is a hardcore PVP game.

In my opinion, if EVE went RMT but kept the player driven economy, offer a realtime bank with fees and some financial safety then new players might be more comfortable with starting a new game that is as dangerous as EVE puts off to be. Look, I don’t mind being on either sides of the PVP coin, I can appreciate a good pirate every now and then, corporate or otherwise. But to put my trust a banking system and innocently be ripped off, it’s happened in real life for years. No thanks, I’m not going to tolerate it in my funtime.

Play Safe,