December 2008

Requiem For A Gold Farmer

Julian Dibbell writes in Wired on the decline and fall of IGE.

At the same time, the so-called free-to-play model—no subscription fees, revenue derived entirely from direct sales of in-game items—has made inroads in the Asian MMO market and is being embraced by no less a gaming giant than Electronic Arts in the upcoming Battlefield Heroes. But both these models, in their blunt rejection of IGE’s third-party retail model, only underline what Pierce himself implicitly conceded when he sold out to Yantis: There is no future for his once-bright dream except in the dimness of what is plainly now a permanent gray market.

Darkfall: So Hardcore You Can Taste The Core. And The Hardness.

From this preview:

The only time that you can mouselook around you is when you sit down to rest. At any other time, the only way to check if anyone is sneaking up on you is to turn and look.

This is not all, though. If you happen to be a tall guy, like my ork, and you’re fighting someone shorter, like a goblin, you have to aim DOWN at the little fucker while he runs figure eights around you, which means that you have even less awareness of your surroundings.

You don’t get a big ass name on your head, so it’s quite possible to hide behind trees and rocks (not like in other games where some poor sap is trying to ambush you from behind a tree and you can see the end bits of his <really, really, really long guild name right here> tag sticking on the sides.

People and monsters aren’t particularly visible. It’s quite realistic in this sense. If you don’t know that they are there you really have to look.

Darkfall Online: proving if you’re a bad enough dude, you don’t actually need a user interface.

Can YOU Post On Message Boards? Then An Exciting Career In Community Management Awaits!

EM Stock of SOE explains how community relations is, like, rilly totally awesome, and, like, way cooler than you thought, right?

Do you know HTML and run your own website? It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. If you can create pages, manipulate graphics and write good text… you do some of what community professionals do every day.


Have you ever implemented and moderated your own message board or volunteer moderated on someone else’s board? That is incredibly valuable and applicable experience for this line of work. If you have, chances are that you know more than you think you do about online player behaviors and how to handle them. Knowing that stuff is half the battle for community specialists!


If you’ve ever thrown a contest on your site or ran fun activities for the people who frequent it…you’re again right on par with what community folks have to dream up on a regular basis for their player communities.


Have you ever played an MMO? Then that’s also a valuable skill for community relations! You’ve talked to people while playing, right? You’re taking the pulse of the community, and can report back on what they had to say! See, it’s really easy! You can do it!



OK, OK, you caught me, Jean-Luc, I made that last one up. But come on, could you really tell?

I realize that this is really a breezy recruitment letter for new forum moderators, but come on. If I wanted to write a post that was as blatantly insulting to community people as I possibly could, implying that they have no real job skills other than possibly being able to run a web browser, talk to people without drooling, and having a pulse, I couldn’t have done better. I mean, come on, it’s not like taking the pulse of your community has any impact or anything.

It’s EASY! Anyone can do it! ANYONE! Even you, and clearly we in the MMO industry think you’re an idiot. Just, you know, read the article.

Hey, I Can Answer That One! It Sucks!

Massively indulges in industry favorite pastime: nerd raging.

So, NCsoft, how does it feel to absolutely lie through your teeth to players and staff about Tabula Rasa?

You know, sometimes I wonder if some of the people who get access to posting things on the Intarwebs actually have, you know, held positions of any responsibility. Ever. I mean – come on. What did the author expect to happen?

HARD-HITTIN’ GAME JOURNALIST: So, NCsoft, you just laid off a dozen people, cancelled projects, and we’ve read in the Korean media that the entire future of your office may be in danger. Any comment?


PR FLACK: …You know, I never thought of it that way. You’re right. Crap. We’re doomed! Probably going to cancel our remaining games too, so stop sending us money. Damn. I’m updating my LinkedIn right now. Excuse me, it’s TEQUILA O’CLOCK. (falls under desk)

HHGJ: (shouts under desk) Is this going to affect Tabula Rasa’s patch schedule?

Of course Tabula Rasa’s future was in doubt. ‘Doubt’ being the key phrase. If it was ‘assured to be cancelled’ instead of ‘doubt’, NCsoft would have laid everyone off instead of, you know, paying them to work. Instead, the team was given a chance to turn grim subscriber numbers around. It didn’t happen, and the project was cancelled.


Note other key phrases: “grim subscriber numbers turned around” and “did not happen”. This decision wasn’t taken by NCsoft so much as dictated to it by the market. NCsoft’s subscriber numbers for Tabula Rasa were *extremely low* (Most estimates placed it at 30,000) which, while it might sustain a skeletal development team and a token server (as SOE has done for titles in its stable), has no hope of recouping its huge development cost. Generally, when that happens? Heads roll.

MMOs are not charities. Companies are not obligated out of duty to keep a game running for you and your 12 closest friends if no one else is playing it. Yes, it sucks that you can’t play it any more. Guess what: it sucks a little more that everyone working on it lost their jobs. And that has a little more meaning to me than nerd ragings that deny common sense market realities.

(1:22p CST edit) And just because I can, another point: if gaming media is going to put on their robe and wizard hat and LARP at being HARD HITTIN’ GAME JOURNALISTS, maybe they should, you know, try to find things out instead of lapping at the milk dish of public relations press releases. Take this exchange currently on Massively:

From our perspective, from the readers of Massively we just feel like there is a little bit of confusion. We spoke with Mr. Reid just two months ago, and the headline we used was ‘Tabula Rasa is Triple-A and here to stay‘. It just seems like it has been a quick turnaround in two months from ‘we have every confidence in this game going forward’ to ‘we have to shut the game down.’ Has something happened in the last two months that prompted this?


Mr. Swofford: My reaction is that definitely at the time we thought we had something good going on … we had the Operation Immortality promotion going, things were looking good, the team was working on the product. As David said, we considered it a Triple-A level product for the company. Things do change. I think he also said, and I’ll reiterate, that we’re constantly looking at projects. It’s not like you have them out there and you let them go for a while, we’re constantly monitoring them and weighing them against the success that they’re having against the current market.

I think things changed quite a bit since when you did that interview. Thank you for clarifying that – it’s good to be able to get that explained, there was definitely a sense of confusion on the site.

Well, gee. Let me boil that down into its operant parts:

Hey, your guys told us a couple months ago everything was hunky dory and nothing was wrong. Now you cancelled the game and made us look like chumps. Dude. WTF?


This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.

Oh. OK.

Thanks a lot, Woodward.


Is expecting investigative journalism of hobbyist bloggers too much to ask? Maybe, although I have to wonder how much “investigative journalism” it would have taken for someone to ask how long NCsoft could continue to support a $50 million dollar game that had about the same number of subscribers as a game that was developed using some string and spare copier paper down the hall.

But for crying out loud, if you’re going to just reprint press releases, don’t whine about how life is unfair when those press releases turn around and bite you on the ass when they become “inoperative”.