If you are a fan of Wildstar, well, you might want to soak it in while it lasts:
The above graph is from NCSoft’s Q12015 report, which you can read here. Supposedly, “sales” does refer to all revenue brought in by a game through every channel, not just box sales. Reddit user “yeahreally2” summarizes as follows:
Company-wide sales are down 20% from the last quarter of 2014 from 235 billion won ($215 million USD) to 188 billion won ($172 million USD). Net income is down 43% from last quarter from 62 billion won to 35 billion won. NCsoft notes that income was high in the 4th quarter of last year “due to year-end promotions”. While NCsoft’s sales beat the forecast from Daewoo Securities (179 billion won), its operating profit and net income did not.
Guild Wars 2 performed slightly better in this quarter than last, probably boosted by the expansion hype exceeding Daewoo’s forecast by 3 billion won. Wildstar’s sales declined from 5.5 billion won ($5 million USD) in the previous quarter to 2.5 billion won ($2.3 million USD) in Q1. This is a 50% decrease in sales from the previous quarter, and is only slightly better than Daewoo’s projection of 2 billion won ($1.8 million USD).
I suppose it should not be particularly surprising given all the layoffs last October, but still… damn.
By the way, this was what the quarterly report looked like for City of Heroes at the end:
In other words, City of Heroes was making 2,855… units to Wildstar’s current 2,593 units. And NCSoft axed CoH the following quarter. So if Wildstar makes it to its own one-year anniversary, it will be quite the birthday present from NCSoft.
I enjoyed the graphics of Wildstar, the housing, the general tone, and the hoverboards. I was even playing with friends there for a little bit. Trouble was that the gameplay wasn’t all that fun. More involved than WoW? Sure. Also more exhausting, especially when every mob in the world has a telegraph you need to circle-strafe out of. Plus, I got stuck playing a class I didn’t actually find all that fun.
Hmm. Where have I heard that before?
I wouldn’t say this was the most amount of people I’ve been around, even at a convention, but still:
Place was packed, in other words. To be expected.
I didn’t actually stand in any lines, as while playing the new GW2 expansion sounds somewhat fun, waiting two hours to do so does not. The line for Overwatch was… well:
I missed a chance to meet some of the Wildstar devs at a local bar, but I’m not too tore up about it. We’ll see if any similar opportunities present themselves.
Keen has another post up lamenting the stagnant nature of modern MMO game design, while suggesting devs should instead be using ideas from games that came out 15+ years ago and nobody plays today. Uh… huh. This time the topic is mob AI and how things would be so much better if mobs behaved randomly dynamically!
Another idea for improving mob AI was more along the lines of unpredictable elements influencing monster behavior. “A long list of random hidden stats would affect how mobs interact. Using the orc example again, one lone orc that spots three players may attack if his strength and bravery stats are high while intelligence is low. A different orc may gather friends.” I love the idea of having visible cues for these traits such as bigger orcs probably having more bravery, and scrawny orcs having more magical abilities or intelligence — intelligence would likely mean getting friends before charging in alone.
The big problem with dynamic behavior in games is that it’s often indistinguishable from random behavior from the player’s perspective. One of the examples from Keen’s post is about having orcs with “hidden stats” like Bravery vs Intelligence that govern whether they fight against multiple players or call for backup. Why bother? Unless players have a Scan spell or something, there is no difference between carefully-structured AI behavior and rolling a d20 to determine whether an orc runs away. Nevermind how the triggers being visible (via Scan or visual cues) undermine all sense of dynamism. Big orc? Probably not running away. If the orc does run away, that’s just bad RNG.
There is no way past this paradox. If you know how they are going to react based on programming logic, the behavior is not unpredictable. If the behavior is unpredictable, even if it’s governed by hidden logic, it is indistinguishable from pure randomness. Besides, the two absolute worst mob behaviors in any game are A) when mobs run away at low health to chain into other mobs, and B) when there is no sense to their actions. Both of which are exactly what is being advocated for here.
I consider the topic of AI in games generally to be one of those subtle designer/player traps. It is trivially easy to create an opponent that a human player could never win against. Creating an opponent that taxes a player to their limit (and not beyond) is much more difficult, and the extent to which a player can be taxed varies by the player. From a defeated player’s perspective, there is no difference between an enemy they aren’t skilled enough to beat and an unbeatable enemy.
You have to ask yourself what you, as a hypothetical designer, are actually trying to accomplish. That answer should be “to have my intended audience have fun.” Unpredictable and tough mobs can be fun for someone somewhere, sure, but as Wildstar is demonstrating, perhaps that doesn’t actually include all that many people. Having to memorize 10+ minute raid dances is bad enough without tacking convoluted mob behavior outside of raids on top. Sometimes you just want to kill shit via a fun combat system.
Themepark MMO players enjoy simple, repetitive tasks – news at 11.
Tobold has a post up talking about the fate of the subscription model. Namely, that while TESO and Wildstar devs are heroically trying to swim against the F2P current, the hard numbers and future MMO releases paint a different, more bleak picture. As somewhat hilariously pointed out by commenter Mike Andrade in that post, this sort of subscription analysis appears to be a Tobold yearly August tradition, but nevermind.
Both Gevlon in the comments and SynCaine in a post come out of the gate with a rather blistering one-two retort: 1) maybe recent sub games are floundering because the games themselves are bad, and 2) where are all the F2P successes then?
Granted, SynCaine moved the goal-posts a bit by specifying “day-1 F2P,” when the facts of the matter are (likely) that subscription games that have made the F2P transition are only still online because of said transition. In other words, SWTOR and LOTRO and Aion and DDO and STO and TSW (etc) are perfectly valid examples of F2P success stories by virtue of those games still being online and profitable. That all of them would prefer the giant piles of initial subscriber cash isn’t really saying anything about the long-term sustainability of the model itself. Why would any of them start off F2P if it’s possible to not leave that money on the table?
But if we’re looking ahead, I suppose ArchAge and SOE’s flagship EverQuest Next being F2P might be potential candidates day-1 F2P success (however that ends up being defined).
The subscription counter-example a lot of people have been using is FF14, which frankly shocked me in terms of subscriber numbers. Apparently there are 2 million of them? If legitimate, that would rocket it past all non-WoW MMOs to be one of the most successful subscription games of all time. Of course, it sells for $15 on Steam every three weeks, there’s a sizable console market for the game (something not many MMOs can achieve), and it technically got a do-over that allowed it to “launch” with years of content instead of the normal zero. But still! That’s impressive.
Okay, actually FF14 has two million “registered accounts,” which is sort of like subscribers in the same way F2P games are “free to play.” Still, subscriptions! 500,000 people log on at least once per day! For now, anyway.
Ultimately, I think a lot of the subscription game musing is sort of missing the point. While there are subtle pressures involved when you look at a subscription game – worrying about getting your money’s worth even if $15/month is pocket change normally – I agree with people like SynCaine that say if a game is worth it, you’ll pay the money… to a point. Because when you are talking about MMOs, the quality of the content itself is almost a tertiary concern to retention. Don’t believe me? Then tell me how a game like WoW can get away with having zero new content from September 2013 to today and “only” lose around ~10.5% of its population. It’s the people, stupid. Yeah, there’s an underlying game space that needs to be entertaining enough to collect everyone in one spot and having fun during downtime, but how long is anyone really subscribing to a single-player game? You can have the most entertaining base game in the world, but if nobody is making those sticky social connections – perhaps because they already have social networks elsewhere – then they are just going to leave in three months anyway.
Frankly, the biggest issue with subscriptions are companies whom vastly overestimate their own popularity, and otherwise set themselves up for failure. If you budget your MMO such that you need 500,000 people paying $15/month just to survive, you’re going to have a bad time. The lower that floor is, the more space you will have to grow the audience later. Or, hell, just maintain the people you have currently.
So while I do not believe the subscription model itself is going anywhere, I do think that it’s only going to be particularly sustainable to those games which have tightly-wounded social pockets. Creating said pockets out of thin air is incredibly tough, but that’s not going to stop games like TESO and Wildstar from at least capitalizing on 6-12 months of bonus revenue they would not have otherwise had if they went with B2P and/or F2P.
Ever come back from an extended videogame break – be it vacation, work project, family thing, etc – and just have no interest in anything whatsoever? Or perhaps more paradoxically, have so many conflicting interests that you end up spending your entire free time with procrastinating activities? I have just blown a solid three hours that could have been more productively used progressing through any number of games. Instead, I’m talking to you guys and playing Dungeon Keeper. You know, that almost universally reviled app from the studio that no longer exists?
I’m actually kinda a big deal in that game. The highest ELO bracket is 3200 and I’m 3500+. I don’t actually know where that puts me rank-wise, especially because the designers were dumb and allowed people to farm rank at super-low levels for several months, but at least I’m legit.
In any case, this post was not an elaborate ploy to humble-brag about my Dungeon Keeper prowess. Rather, how do you guys bootstrap yourself out of a post-break gaming slump?
I logged into Planetside 2 for long enough to remember why I hate-love that game (fun gunplay followed by 10+ minutes of camping empty bases) and my Wildstar log-in didn’t last much longer because, hey, Medics still feel terrible. Do you pick a game at random and just plow forward? Do you have an old standby? Or do you just give in to the ennui and take a nap or whatever?
With great reluctance and a heavy sense of resignation, I took GreenManGaming up on their 22% off coupon for Wildstar. Day One purchases are for chumps, and that goes doubly so for MMO releases, but… well, if all your friends are jumping off bridges, you might as well join them. Attempting to apply that game code resulted in this:
Repeated attempts eventually got through but we’ll see how it all goes down this weekend. Will my friends stick around in this game (not likely)? Will I find an agreeable method to fund my subscription entirely through in-game gold (possibly)? Will there be many, exhaustive posts detailing everything I find wrong with the game (indubitably)?
Still, this is what you guys pay me to do, so I will trooper on.
So I have been “in” the Wildstar beta for a while now. My motivation to play it has been pretty low though, for a few reasons. First, the strong NDA meant that really even hinting that I was playing it could revoke not only my own beta pass, but also that of the person who gifted a pass to me. Second, I find myself growing increasingly stubborn when it comes to overcoming (or even learning) game mechanics/designs that I find annoying.
Before I get into that though, let me frame my experiences. On the whole, I fully expect Wildstar to be a great themepark MMO. The art style is bold and gamey, but also fun in a well-made way. Wildstar sort of doubled-down on the whole “floor AoE effects,” but it works on an intuitive level pretty quickly. Games like The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 had the same floor effects thing, but the relative rarity meant it always felt gimmicky rather than integrated. When you’re applying Expose Weakness from Stealth to every enemy in a long column and your other three attacks all have cone targeting however, you get into the positional mindset pretty quickly.
Speaking of stealth, I picked the Stalker, aka Rogue, as my first class because stealth mechanics are one of those things that can inadvertently break games or otherwise indicate how serious the designers take mechanics. I can’t say much about long-term viability since I never got past level 10, but I can tell you that Stealth lasts indefinitely and has no cooldown outside of combat. Compare that to the Thief in GW2 and draw your own conclusions.
Overall, combat is fun and visceral in that ineffable WoW-like way. Attacks have punch. The world is pretty populated with things to click on and interact with. I chose the Scientist “path,” which means I need to have a camera bot go scan stuff in the environment occasionally. Worlds look like worlds, with hills, mountains, and secret paths. The general game attitude is WoW meets Borderlands, especially when it comes to the Level Up prompt. You can double-jump. And so on.
It’s the little things though, you know? It’s one thing to have a Twitter-length quest text, but it’s another to have that and make it hard to read the dialog boxes. Who the shit thought it’d be a good idea to put most of them at the top of the screen? Then, you’ll get ambushed with Challenges out questing, which have universally been “kill X mobs in Y amount of time.” Every time it has happened, I stopped looking around at anything else and tunneled my way to the finish line, only to forget what I was doing afterwards. Which isn’t a big loss given the lack of quest text, I suppose, but I sorta felt like the content was on a conveyer belt and I had to act on consuming it immediately. The fact that you can click on your quest list and get a directional arrow plus rangefinder means you don’t really need to even understand where you are or what you’re doing anyway.
Then I leveled up, unlocked a slew of new Skills, and have since leveled up twice more without having encountered a Skill Trainer to actually unlock said Skills. “Ah. This is still a thing, then?” Hell, I don’t even know how I would go about looking for a Skill Trainer. My Stalker is currently logged off in what I assume to be a quest-hub city, and my cursory tour of the place has not revealed a Skill Trainer. Do I spend 30% of my meager wealth taking a taxi to the capital (last known location of a trainer)? Or do I continue leveling and hope that I’ll eventually run across a trainer in the next half-dozen levels? And who the hell thought this arbitrary bullshit was worth fishing out of the garbage can of bad MMO design?
Seriously, if your Trainers are glorified Skill vendors, it’s not worth implementing them. Maybe if each Skill required you to practice on a training dummy or otherwise integrated into your game’s fiction somehow, then it would be worth it.
I understand such complaints might seem pretty weak and hyper-specific, but that’s where my head is when it comes to MMOs these days. I have abandoned all pretenses that any specific MMO is ever going to be the MMO, or that I even want one to be, so it’s getting difficult to muster up enough cares to dance around their various idiosyncrasies. Given how the beta is getting turned off this week though, I’ll put some more time into it and see what develops.
I am not entirely sure whether it is due to my age, experience with MMOs, or perhaps a combination of the two, but the naming conventions in these games are becoming increasingly obtuse.
In the beginning, or near abouts anyway, there was HP. Then there was Constitution, which affected HP. Or perhaps Endurance, circa the Fallout series. Then it seemed to be Stamina for a long while. Now it is Vitality, or straight-up Health, or even Grit, or whatever. Strength seems to be pretty consistent over the years, but Dexterity can be all over the place – Nimbleness, Precision, or split into Perception and Agility. I was browsing this fan page for Wildstar and slowly blinked at the attribute names. Here are the main six:
Pop-quiz hotshots: what do any of those mean in-game without looking it up?
Personally, I know what somebody means when they refer to someone “having a lot of moxie,” but I wouldn’t be able to define it off-hand, let alone venture a guess as to what it would do in-game. Hell, the only time I’ve ever heard the term used for anything in a game was during the brief period I played Kingdom of Loathing (which has a Moxie stat). In Wildstar, it will apparently depend on what class you’re playing as to what the stat does: it’s Critical Chance and Critical Severity Rating for everyone aside from ESPers, for whom it increases Assault Power. Meanwhile, Insight raises Deflect and Deflect Critical Rating for most, and Support Power for the heal-y types. And good luck with figuring out Tech, which can be Assault, Support, or Deflect increases depending on class.
I mean, I get it. Maybe the designers want to thematically set their gaming world apart from what came before. Perhaps there is a concern that theorycrafting from one game will carry over too easily to the next. Who knows, maybe game companies have actually trademarked attribute terms and it’s actually illegal to use them.
All that I know is that, to me, stats in these games have become unmoored to any ready understanding of them. Dungeons of Dredmor made a tongue-in-cheek point by including 29 different stats on the character sheet, but I’m no longer going to be surprised if Savvy or Caddishness shows up unironically. I mean, Moxie for god’s sake.
I find this entire scenario a problem for game companies because my ability to care – let’s call it Tolerance Rating – is approaching zero. I enjoy numbers, theorycrafting, and so on. I do not enjoy translating foreign languages, or having to otherwise refer to some sort of cheat sheet just to see if what item I picked up is an upgrade. But maybe attribute names were always goofy and arbitrary, and that I specifically have simply accumulated too much game-lore detritus.
In which case… I’m apparently in for a bad time.