July 22, 2010

Guild Wars 2 Will Fail Test

There are plenty of examples that sequels do not work in the MMO market.  Ultima Online 2 was the original victim of what I like to call the terrible 2s.  Asheron's Call 2 shutdown on December 30, 2005 while the original Asheron's Call still thrives to this day.  AC2 never matched the original and in my opinion was actually a pretty good game.  The list continues with Everquest 2 which never matched the original Everquest and was thoroughly trumped by the monster that is World of Warcraft.

Everquest 2, out of all the 2s, should have been a right to print money.  Everquest was the undisupted champion of the early graphical MMOGs and Everquest 2 was the expected front runner of the "next generation".  How terribly wrong that general consensus was.  World of Warcraft taught everyone that the Everquest "idea" was wrong and that Everquest never was "right".

This all sets a stage where upon the new 2 in the neighberhood, Guild Wars 2 (GW2), is set to fail.

If being a 2 wasn't bad enough for GW2, it is also "a high fantasy world with multiple races" (like my new tagline?).  GW2 will have to compete with the Everquest 2 slaying World of Warcraft and it's record-breaking expansions.  Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be major competition for GW2 as they are the top two upcoming AAA titles in the MMO market.  Not to mention the plethora of free 2 play offerings that are quickly eating into the AAA marketplace. 

There are other concerns as well.  GW2 is doing away with the holy trinity by removing the dedicated healer from group play, softening the blow of death by allowing second chances after a characters health is depleted, and moving towards a more action inspired combat system.  All of these may be equally positive things, but they are all "different" enough to cause concern in a genre that is averse to change.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to doom and gloom all of the upcoming MMOGs.  Specific to Guild Wars 2, come back tomorrow for the reasons why Guild Wars 2 will succeed.  Honestly, Guild Wars 2 is looking to be the only AAA competition coming any time soon.

June 12, 2010

Steam Sale Success for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

The game of the year edition of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion went on sale this weekend via Steam for $8.50.  It's a steal of a deal and I couldn't resist picking up a copy for myself.  

There is always a question of how successful these fire sales on Steam are.  To provide some anecdotal evidence to their success, I present the previous 7-days of game-play tracking via Raptr for Oblivion.

As can be seen, there is a pretty good spike following the start of the sale this weekend.

While hours played are not easily equated to sales, and factoring in the sales price, it is tough to determine what revenue this generates for the game developer.  However, a cursory glance tells us there are plenty of players playing the game and that has to warm the heart of any developer!

June 11, 2010

May 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

And we're caught back up. May 2010, the month I lived out of a hotel, but still only managed to put in 15 hours of gaming.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for May below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

Cost: $9.99
Played: 14 hrs
3-words: Hack, slash, win!

Torchlight is a shining example of how to make a game.  Developed on budget, by a small and dedicated team, it delivers everything one would want in a Diablo-clone.  There are monsters, loot, and random dungeons galore. 

I spent 14 hours hacking away at the game.  I came to close to beating it while seated in my hotel room, but the end boss did not fall until I returned home in June.  Even with the end boss downed, there is so much more to accomplish.  There is a never ending dungeon in the game, so a character can level forever (I assume).  Or if it fancies a player, they can retire a veteran character and start a powered-up new character with the retired's equipment.

The combat is smooth and clean.  The various classes and abilities are simple to use and graphically brilliant.  The monsters can get repetitive, but when players are killing hundreds of them per level, its an acceptable mark against the game. 

I highly recommend Torchlight and it can often be found on sale for anywhere between $4.99 and $9.99.


Civilization 4

I originally planned to put some time into a new Civ4 game during May, but Torchlight quickly won out.  I'm not sure, but I think I may have burned myself out on Civ4 after only ~30 hours.


Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases in May.

April 2010: What I Played/What I Paid

As promised over a month ago, I am finally catching up on my What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying post (subbing d's for ing's, past tense and all that).

April, as a month in gaming for Heartless_, was as exciting as watching the Detroit Lions play a random High School football team. 

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for April below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

BioShockCost: $13.39 (Steam Holiday Sale)
Played: 2 hours
3-words: Better price = $13.37

Don't let the total playtime fool you.  I liked Bioshock, but between a bugged out Big Daddy and failed game save backup forcing me to restart twice, I just didn't make any progress.  By the time I turned around, April was over and I was scheduled to be out of town most of May.  My poor laptop just couldn't manage Bioshock reliably enough to provide a good play experience.  I've shelved the game for completion and commentary at a later date.

Upcoming Game of the Month  for May: Torchlight (because it runs like a dream on my laptop!)


Allods Online

I stuck in an hour playtime with my Melee Healer in Allods Online in April.  I still enjoy the game and wish I could dedicate more time to it.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I continued my enjoyment of BFBC2 in April playing a few games.


Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases during April.

June 10, 2010

June 8, 2010

Duels of the Planeswalkers to release on PC via Steam June 15th

Just a quick note.  Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers appears to be hitting Steam on June 15th according to this tweet from Elaine Chase

It can be pre-ordered here.

June 2, 2010

SOE + Star Wars + MMO = Star Wars in Free Realms?

After the NGE debacle, no one could have imagined that SOE would be allowed to create another Star Wars MMOG. We were wrong; we were very, very wrong. SOE has announced a new game, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, coming fall 2010.

However, SOE seems to have learned a lesson with the success of Free Realms: casual and micro-transaction supported games can work. Visit their website or watch the video below and it is immediately noticeable that the game is not aimed at the hardcore or even core MMO gamers.

It will be interesting to see how this is received and whether the MMO blog'o'sphere will start writing the obituary for SOE's core franchises like Everquest.

P.S. Unlike many others, I liked the Clone Wars animated movie.

May 30, 2010

Thank You Posts On Developer Boards Are Rare and to be Commended

While sifting through dozens of complaints and suggestion threads at the official forums for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers I came across a rare find on any game developers forums: a thank you post. Not only was the poster saying thanks, but also providing valuable feedback. For this, I commend the poster. Below is a sample of what was posted:
First of all, thank you for making M:TG Duels of the Planeswalkers. This game really brought back the joy of M:TG for me and my friends.

What we love about it:
  • (Xbox specific) The friend chatter while playing the game (even being 1800 miles apart)
  • Being able to play again, without investing a lot of money and time rebuilding digital collections
  • Ease of logging in, picking a deck and getting playing
  • The smoothness of the game; in my opinion overall it runs very well
  • The decks being relatively balanced against each other
  • Every player, for the most part, has access to the exact same pool of cards

May 29, 2010

5 Years of Blogging

Five wonderful and insightful years ago I started this blog.  I had planned a larger post talking about the "future", but like this five year milestone time has gone by faster than I could ever had imagined.  Five years ago I was single and without a care in the world outside of whether my Internet connection worked at home.  Today, I'm married, a father, a belated college graduate, and newly promoted at a company I would never have imagined working for.  Change, as they say, comes whether we wish it or not.

Yet, one thing has remained constant over the past five years: this blog and my gaming.  In retrospect there are a lot of things  I would have done differently, but looking back there isn't a single thing I would want changed. 

Without rambling any further (the kid has gotta be put to bed at some point), I present to you a repost of my first post.

The date: 29 May, 2005. The time: 20:24 or 8:24 PM EST for those of you in the civilian world.

This blog has officially started. It has been a process of thought pulling at my mind for a while. I play these games we call MMORPGs, but I don't even know if "play" is the correct word to describe it anymore. I live and breath these games. They are more than an escape from my mediocre life. Fun is no longer the driving factor. Social interaction with like minded nerds and geeks; people whom live through their in game characters as though it was version 2.0 of themselves.

I don't want to hear these gamers speak in foreign Orcish or Elvish tongues. I want them to speak English and call me newb, l33t, or dude. I want role playing that is a real person, embodying a real in-game character. I don't want to know how much you can pretend. I want to see who, what, and how you can do things in game with the class, race, or skills you have chosen in our game of choice.

Ah, the game of choice! Room for debate among the flooded market of MMORPGs and the denizens that inhabit them. From baseless flame fests on the far reaches of the most bizarre gaming message boards; to developer's beloved Customer Feedback Forms. Well known to players that have ever hit cancel on a B-rate MMORPG subscription.

That is what brings us here. The game of choice, or should I say games of choice! After all, it is entirely possible to enjoy the splendor of more than a single MMO at a time. While you risk the chance of losing that significant other, the admiration of your pet, and standing in your real life social circle, you obtain the chance to be the darling of your online world of choice.

Whether its a heroic conquest, a diabolic scheme, or simply a comical battle cry; overnight stardom is possible!

So friends, let us journey down this road. Unafraid of the naysayers! Fearful of the sun that will burn our skin! And most of all, damn proud of what we choose to do with our free time. We are the many, the proud, the MMO gamer!

May 26, 2010

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers coming to PC via Steam

From Tobold's blog:
... Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers will be released via Steam to the PC. While DOTP is in a way a "Magic light" game, I am nevertheless highly interested in this.
Like Tobold, I am a long time MtG fan and former hardcore player. However, the days where I have the time to build and maintain competitive decks are gone. What I've needed to spark my interest in MtG again is a more casual approach that is PC based.  That is exactly what DotP delivers. I plan on giving it a try in June.

May 18, 2010

Frozen Synapse is Fucking Brilliant

Since my son was born I've tried to cut back on my cussing.  Generally, I reserve using the F bomb in post titles for only momentous occasions (like Spore's DRM debacle).  Today however, I will gladly drop it in praise of Frozen Synapse, a game you need to see to understand.

Frozen Synapse fell into my email box as part of their "buy 1, get 1 free for a friend" campaign.  I had originally became interested in the game in part because of this Rock, Paper, Shotgun post.  Now that I've had some time with the game I have only one thing to say: this game is bloody brilliant. 

The basic premise is that players take turns moving soldiers around a battlefield. The catch is that its simultaneous turn-based: both players make their moves and then let the actions play out at the same time. This allows the game to be played over long periods of time or quickly in succession. Player A can make their move and submit it to the server whether Player B is online or not. Player B is free to return and make their move whenever they are free.

Once both players set their action (known as the planning stage) the outcome is played out. Various game modes determine the win conditions. Some are to destroy the enemy; while other modes focus on rescuing hostages or defending/attacking zones on the map.

As can be seen in the video above, the game is simplistic in it's graphical approach. This allows it to run on almost any set of hardware. My aging laptop that can barely play Torchlight in netbook mode can steam right through a match of Synapse.

My only gripe currently is the poor performance of the central server. However, that is due to over-popularity of the beta. Sometime this week a new server should be in place to help the issue.

This game is brilliant and I recommend it to anyone interested in the video. Oh, and just search Youtube for gameplay videos as beta testers can instantly upload games after they've been completed from the in-game menu. Pretty snazzy stuff.

May 15, 2010

Lifehacker has impeccable timing

Lifehacker is one of my favorite websites.  Not because of the great writers, but because of their timing.  Everytime I need something, Lifehacker finds out and posts something useful.  I swear they are spying on me.  First it was a detailed Thunderbird tweak guide, then Dropbox hacks, both published within days of my installs of both.  The list goes on.

The newest example is a post today about GameSave Manager, a tool that backs up saved game files for over 400+ games. It was not a month ago that I gave up playing Bioshock after losing my save files during a reformat of Windows 7.  This was after already restarting the game one time because of poor planning.  Oh, and I was making backups the old fashioned way, but the one day the backup failed is the day I decided to reformat!

Also, recently I lost several hours of progress in my save game for Mass Effect.  After that incident, I implemented my backup scheme for saved games by syncing the folders to Dropbox.  That way I have saved files on all the computers I connect to Dropbox with.  It works wonders for Civilization 4 games since I am usually manually saving them. 

However, it is annoying to have to add other games by hand to my backup scheme.  Even more so when it takes five minutes on Bing to find out where the actual saved game is stored in Windows 7.  GameSave Manager takes care of all the prep work and then makes it easy to restore from the backups it makes.

Lifehacker, again, saves the day.  <3

May 12, 2010

Linux Gamer's Rejoice! Steam coming to Linux!

With Valve's recent release of Steam for Mac, hints were found that an underlying Linux client was also in the works.  Phoronix has the news that an announcement is imminent from Valve about a native Linux version of Steam.
... Valve is preparing to officially release the Steam Linux client from where they will start to offer Linux native games available for sale. For all those doubting our reports that Source/Steam would be coming to Linux, you can find confirmation in the UK's Telegraph and other news sites. An announcement from Valve itself is imminent.
While this doesn't mean every game available on Steam will work with Linux, it does mean native Linux clients can easily be used for games such as Unreal Tournament 2004 and World of Goo. Also, this lays the groundwork for popular Valve titles such as Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 to head over to native Linux.

I've always been a proponent of gaming on Linux. I still feel Linux is by far the best operating system available for anyone that wishes to learn how to use a computer. Gamer's naturally fit the learner description, but far too often Linux gaming was over the head of even the most tech savvy gamers. Steam on Linux eliminates A LOT of the hassle and brings some great AAA games along with it. I am excited to see where this goes.

I may even be bothered enough to put Linux back on my main desktop with a dual boot with Windows 7.

May 7, 2010

Civilization 5 to use Steamworks

Quick post to note Civilization 5 is going to take advantage of Valve's Steamworks.  Slashdot has the article:
"2K Games today announced that Civilization V will be using Steamworks for online matchmaking, automated updates, downloadable content and DRM for the game. Steam's Civ V store page is also available now, revealing some new information about the game. There will be an 'In-Game Community Hub' for online matchmaking, communication and for sharing scenarios between players. While including Steamworks might put some people off, it might also indicate better online gameplay than in the previous Civilization games, where it was almost impossible to have a good game without playing with just friends."
Personally, I am more likely to buy a game that features Steamworks than those that try to use something like Gamespy. Steamworks, ironically, works and that is an important feature of any game for me.

May 5, 2010

Lack of updates

Real life is alive and kicking for me, so I apologize for the lack of updates.  I'll try to get my monthly "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" post up sometime soon.  Otherwise, expect a quiet May around here.

April 29, 2010

I hate the iPad, but this is pretty cool

For the record: I hate the iPad.  It is the epitome of everything that is WRONG with Apple.  With that said, Small World has been converted from boardgame and has been released as an iPad app by Days of Wonder.  This is the same boardgame developer known for Ticket to Ride, Battlelore, etc.
Small World for iPad is the first digital adaptation of this award-winning fantasy board game. It enables two players to face off against each other and vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate all of the zany fantasy characters that inhabit Small World. Sitting across from each other around the iPad, players use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other players' races off the face of the earth.
While this isn't the first boardgame to make it to iPad, it's the first one that caught my attention. Small World is a great game and the graphical styling is perfect for a touch tablet.

While I don't want to give up my real board games for virtual ones, I realize my shrinking group of board game friends can not keep the fire alive. Virtualization of board games allows me to enjoy them across the Internet in an official capacity (yes, I realize the above app is not Internet based, but other board games are). I am excited about the future of touch tablets filling a niche in the board gaming market.

April 28, 2010

Guild Wars 2: Elementalist

The Guild Wars 2 news keeps on rolling.  Today we get our first look at the Elementalist class.
The Elementalist channels natural forces of destruction, making fire, air, earth, and water do her bidding. What the Elementalist lacks in physical toughness, she makes up for in her ability to inflict massive damage in a single attack, dropping foes from a distance before they can become a threat. Yet, despite her incredible offensive potential, versatility is what makes the Elementalist truly formidable.
This game sounds better with each post.

April 27, 2010

Guild Wars 2 Manifesto

Just a quick post to note that Arena Net has a MASSIVE blog post up about Guild Wars 2.  You literally need 30 minutes to read over and savor this thing.  Here's a sneak peak:
It’s time to make MMORPGs more social

Guild Wars 2MMOs are social games. So why do they sometimes seem to work so hard to punish you for playing with other players? If I’m out hunting and another player walks by, shouldn’t I welcome his help, rather than worrying that he’s going to steal my kills or consume all the mobs I wanted to kill? Or if I want to play with someone, shouldn’t we naturally have the same goals and objectives, rather than discovering that we’re in the same area but working on a different set of quests?
Go. Read. Now!

UPDATE: Arena.net has offered up another screenshot for getting the word out about the GW2 blog!

April 21, 2010

Old is New Again: Nolan Bushnell rejoins Atari

Apparently we've entered a timewarp: Nolan Bushnell rejoins Atari.
A little more than two years after Phil Harrison left Sony to join Atari in a surprising move, it has been announced that he has left the company. His replacement: Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell.

"I am very excited to be reacquainted with Atari at a time when it is poised to make interesting strides in key growth areas of the games industry," Bushnell said in a statement. The company and its iconic brands have always been important to me, and I look forward to further guiding them at the board level."

Bushnell was one of two cofounders of Atari back in 1972, but was forced out in 1978 after a management dispute. He went on to architect what parents have come to know as one of Dante's nine circles of hell, the Chuck E. Cheese chain of restaurants. Joining Bushnell on the board of directors is Tom Virden, who Atari describes as "a seasoned executive in the online leisure, technology and travel businesses."
I'm not really sure how to take this news as it comes with no other announcements about any games or upcoming projects. It will be interesting to see if Bushnell has any measurable effect on the once proud company he helped build that has been down on it's luck as of late.

April 20, 2010

Battlefield Updates: Bad Company 2, Heroes

 Free 2 play Battlefield Heroes has announced a new map, new game mode, and new jet pack widgets.  Rock, Paper, Shotgun even has a post about it:
In this fast paced game mode you and your allies must capture and hold the rocket and keep it from enemy hands. Jump in with gusto or rocket fuel and make sure your enemies do not get the upper hand and claim the rocket for themselves.
For the non-readers, here is a video:

Meanwhile Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is gearing up for a patch tomorrow. The PCGamer Blog has posted the entire set of patch notes here and I've coped it below for posterity.
* MP - New Server browser
* MP - Added 15 second spawn timer for Conquest/Rush gamemodes at the start of round to prevent high end machines getting the upper hand before other machines load in.
* MP - Crash fixes relating to ALT+TAB at different times throughout the game
* MP - Hang fix when trying to connect to a full server multiple times
* MP - Deletion of soldiers now possible through the account pages in game
* MP - Removed screen flash during loading
* MP - Added support for colour blind players
* MP - Fixed crashes relating to faulty server banners
* MP - Servers closing during connection no longer cause the client to hang
* MP - Auto team swap reflects correctly in the scoreboard
* MP - Fixed scoreboards when switching teams before spawning
* MP - Rush scoreboards fixed
* MP - Veteran ranks no longer display as "12"
* MP - Isla Innocentes MCOM building fixed where knifing the fence would destroy the building
* MP - Logout/Login button correctly reflects the player status
* MP - Added minimum number of players needed to start a round (you can play and take objectives but you will get no score until 4 or more players join the server)
* MP - Isla Inocentes welcome message on the loading screen now fits the text box area
* MP - Reduced the brightness in Russian vehicles
* MP - Medic gadgets now display correctly if the defib is not unlocked
* MP - Server filter options are remembered
* MP - Punkbuster filter now works as intended
* MP - Scroll bar no longer overlays the Join Server button in the friends list panel
* MP - CANCEL server refresh is implemented
* MP - Zooming in on a friendly using the SAIGA no longer causes the crosshair to disappear
* MP - The chat no longer displays the incorrect player name when appearing
* MP - FoV switches to the default value of 55 when entering vehicles to prevent graphical glitches caused by wider FoV settings. The custom FoV returns when exiting vehicles.
* MP - FoV no longer causes the UAV station to rotate
* MP - Fix to correctly display the unlock progression at the end of round
* MP - Chat functionality will no longer freeze after writing a partial message at the end of round
* MP - One account can no longer connect to the same server multiple times
* MP - Squad Death Match is correctly named during loading
* MP - Server browser no longer gets a bad FPS when filtering Conquest
* MP - Server info banners correctly clear between displays
* MP - Setting display settings which the system hardware can not handle no longer makes the game unusable
* MP - Correct camera collision for vehicles' heavy machine gun
* MP - Game no longer crashes if the player sends a message in the loading screen
* MP - Trying to join a full server no longer causes the game to hang on Please Wait message
* MP - Most server filter options are remembered it doesn't remember the setting in dropdowns
* MP - Kit/gadget loadout saved between sessions
* SP - Fixed crashes when patching and trying to resume a campaign (there is now a message that you need to re-play the latest mission from the beginning)
* SP - Fixed a crash after the "Upriver" mission end cinematic
* SP - Supply create at "Resupply at Flynn's create" objective now supplies weapon ammo
* SP - Hang fix when reaching the objective "Destroy Enemy Zu23"
* SP - Fixed hang after "Storm Cockpit" objective
* SP - Changed melee attack raycast to be detailed
* SP - Game no longer crashes when transitioning between SP_03B to SP_04A when installed in Polish
* SP - Game no longer crashes when killed by the first two enemies in the trenches on SP_01 when installed in Italian
* SP - Updating to R7 will invalidate your single player save game. If you update you will need to play your last mission from the start. If you do not update you will not be able to play multiplayer.

Server changelist

o Punkbuster is required ON for ranked servers
o Ranked servers cannot be started with a password
o Autobalance message goes to text-chat instead of in the middle of the screen
o Added weapon balance tweaks to a number of weapons - we are eagerly awaiting feedback!

April 19, 2010

Diablo III Development To Start Over From Scratch?

Disregard this entire post, it was based off a posting from 2005, back when Blizzard originally scrapped Diablo 3's development to reboot it the first time. Nothing new to see here.

Yes, I made a mistake.

April 14, 2010

The Exodus of Infinity Ward

Infinity Ward creates blockbuster game. Activision fires IW executives to avoid paying them. The ex-IW executives formed Respawn Entertainment and then signed with EA. Now, more of IW's staff leaves, likely heading to Respawn. Caught up? Good, because now its time for a history lesson with Uncle Heartless_.

Blizzard North was originally an independent company. It was established in 1993 under the name Condor, founded by Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik. The company was purchased and renamed by Blizzard about six months before the release of their hit PC game, Diablo, in 1996. Diablo proved to be incredibly successful, and their 2000 sequel, Diablo II, was even more successful.

On June 30, 2003, several key employees left Blizzard North to form the new companies Flagship Studios (8 moved here) and Castaway Entertainment (9 moved here). The Blizzard North exodus continued on with around 30 employees leaving the company in total.

Flagship Studios was founded by Bill Roper along with Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and David Brevik, the original developers of Diablo and former high level Blizzard North executives.

Castaway Entertainment is based in Redwood City, California. The company signed a publishing agreement with Electronic Arts in March 2004, but has yet to produce any products.

For everyone thinking Infinity Ward is doomed and Respawn Ent. is the next coming of game development Jesus, I ask what company you would put money into today: Blizzard or Flagship Studios or Castaway Entertainment?  It takes more than a few developers to make a game and good corporate culture doesn't disappear over night.  We're not talking about Shigeru Miyamoto or Will Wright here.

April 10, 2010

Warhammer's Billing Debacle

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) recently had a little 'oops' moment with their billing system that caused many players to be billed several times for their monthly subscription.  Some players were charged for over $500 dollars.  Normally this is an isolated issue, but the most recent update on the Warhammer Herald confirms it was widespread:
As you may be aware, recently some customer accounts were billed multiple times unintentionally. We regret any difficulty this event may have caused you, and we remain dedicated to resolving the issue with our vendors and customers.
This is about as bad as it could get for WAR, a game still considered down and out in the MMO industry.  WAR has enjoyed some success thanks to their endless free trial and I suspect that is where the majority of their new players come from.  This faux pas won't inspire anyone interested in subscribing to trust Mythic with their credit cards and not everyone is willing to enter game time cards every month to keep on playing.

However, I really don't want to talk about WAR right now.  More interesting to me is how rarely we see such a problem as this.  Off the top of my head I thought about the things I have on "set and forget" payment methods online:

1. eBay fees
2. Phone bill
3. Cable and Internet bill
4. Netflix
5. Donations to favorite websites

None of these has ever had a billing issue with multiple charges.  And if one did, I doubt it'd be to the magnitude that was seen with the WAR charges.

Also, I wonder how long it would take me to notice.  I certainly wouldn't see it right away as I use credit cards mainly and my credit limit is high.  At the end of the month, I would notice on my credit card statements, but if it wasn't several identical charges I may glance over it.

This is a wake up call I guess to online payment methods and keeping an eye on charges.  It's easy to say "its your own fault for not paying attention", but how many of these services make it an inconvenience to customers who do NOT use automated online payments?  To me, its half customer ignorance and half trends towards automated systems in favor of human powered systems.

With automation comes consistency and speed, which reduces some errors.  With reduction in error, comes reduction in support requirements.   This really puts everyone in a bad place, because when it comes to money its not acceptable to hear "it'll take 3 days to fix" which leads to lost customers.  Yet, the costs to have better support isn't justified for the 99% of error-free time.

I'm wandering now.  I'll forget all of this once the WAR billing fiasco is over and done with.  But just maybe I will pay more attention to the next credit card bill or when my wife is reviewing it, I won't just go "sounds right to me honey!" before staring back at the computer screen.

April 7, 2010

@Massively Math Fail

197,000,000 million users have signed up for Dungeon Fighter Online according to this article over at Massively.
No -- that's not a typo in the title. We didn't get attacked by a swarm of ninjas who knocked us out on the "0" button or anything like that. Nexon has announced that Dungeon Fighter Online has hit a worldwide total of 197 million registered players since launching in South Korea in 2005.
Too bad the rest of the stats provided don't pass the common sense check:
Nexon had a few other impressive numbers to sling about as well. Up to this point, players have killed more than 1.6 billion monsters, invaded over 25 million dungeons and engaged in PvP arena combat over 28 million times.
For those of you breaking out your calculator watches, let me do the math for you.

With 197 million players and 1.6 billion monsters killed, that means each player has killed an average of only 8 monsters, over almost 4.5 years.

Every time a player logs in, they spawn their own unique dungeon, meaning that 173 million players are registered that have never played the game.

Lastly, every person that registers for a Nexon account is registered for all of Nexon's games, inlcuding Dungeon Figher Online, whether they actually play or not.

It is horribly apparent the numbers don't match up and Nexon either

a) screwed up the numbers
b) stooped to a new low of public relations misinformation in the MMO numbers game

I'll let my educated readers figure out which.

April 3, 2010

March 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

My March gaming was a battle.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for March below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

Battlefield: Bad Company 2Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Cost: $49.99 (Limited Edition)
Played: 30 hrs
3-words: Full of destruction!

My game of the month was Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

I am a fan of the entire Battlefield series, more so than any other shooter series, and Bad Company 2 fits right into my playstyle. It's a first person shooter first and foremost, but it offers class-based team play that allows weaker FPS players to enjoy success.

I spent the majority of my time on hardcore servers where bullet damage is increased and some of the UI elements (map, target marking, ammo count, weapon info) is hidden. The "normal mode" works fine, but it can be frustrating sometimes when it takes a dozen bullets to take down a target. Also, normal mode encourages the use of only the high damage weapons and abilities; making a lot of the weapons completely worthless. In hardcore, all weapon types play a role as speed and accuracy, but lower powered weapons are still lethal.

As with Battlefield 2, I find myself playing medic in BFBC2 a lot.  I am not a horrible FPS gamer, but I'm not that great either.  The medic class in the Battlefield games has always been a balanced option between killing and support.  This hold true in BFBC2 and with a focus on squad play, I am able to rack up the points keeping my squad going.

I've really enjoyed my 30 hours in the release version of BFBC2.  Sure there has been some server and punkbuster issues, but most of them existed for less than a week.  It has been smooth sailing for the latter half of the month.

Game of the Month for April: Bioshock 


My /Played  section is a bit short this month.  I put most of my time into BFBC2 and had a mid-month lull when I took over a week off from gaming.  I hadn't intended to take the week off, but between watching Lost (in the middle of Season 2 via Netflix) and a non-sleeping 6 month old, it just happened.

For the record, I did play some LEGO Universe, but I am not allowed to talk about it due to the NDA on the closed beta.  Also, I am still engaged with Allods Online, but just didn't find any time to log in this month, which is fine as I do not have to pay a monthly subscription to keep my Allods account active.

Civilization 4

I put another hour into Civ4 this month. I was sort of inspired by reading up on Elemental, a 4x game that will be launching later this year.


Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases this month.