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Ultima X Odyssey - Wisdom In Cancellation?

simoniker posted more than 9 years ago | from the second-time's-a-charm dept.

PC Games (Games) 43

Thanks to Corpnews.com for its discussion of the history of the Ultima MMO franchise in the content of the recent cancellation of MMO title Ultima X: Odyssey. The author argues of the cancellation: "This isn't a surprise. No, really. More fundamentally, all this points to the fact that somebody in EA's headcheese department is scared stiff of potentially sapping subscribers from the only truly successful title [Ultima Online] to come out of the company's development sweatshops." He claims: "Furthermore, all this comes at a time when the amount of 'surefire bets' in the industry seems to be dropping exponentially. Miniscule subscription bases for former hot-ticket games like Horizons and Shadowbane, coupled with disappointing numbers for Star Wars Galaxies - at last count, the game widely predicted to crack the MMO industry open and bring in a new rush of players... make it easier than ever for suits to pull the plug on projects which require millions of dollars to even hit the shallow waters of beta." Where does EA go from here with the online Ultima franchise, given that this is the second cancelled online Ultima title?

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43 comments

Was cancelled for good reasons (4, Interesting)

TreyBastian (791395) | more than 9 years ago | (#9618702)

Being an old Ultima Online Vet I have to say it was cancelled for good reasons. Ultima Online was once a Great Game that turned into Diablo II with the Age of Shadows Expansion Pack. What it apears to me is that the developers are trying to revive this once great game. The new publich coming out even prooves the effort by balancing the Player vs Player system.

Re:Was cancelled for good reasons (2, Informative)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619824)

How is this modded as funny? It's true.
I quit playing Ultima Online because Age of Shadows completely fucked up PVP. Essentially, if you wanted to be able to compete at all, you had to have lots of gold. Something that simply wasn't true before AoS. With AoS it ceased to be player vs player and became item vs item.

I took about a year off from UO then started playing on free servers. I HIGHLY recommend any and all disgruntled UO players looking for a free and better alternative check out UOGateway [uogateway.com] which will allow you to simply and easily connect to player run servers; many of which are highly professional, highly popular, and fuckloads of fun. I'll never go back to EA's twisted version of it.

Madden? (4, Funny)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 9 years ago | (#9618791)

What about EA's sports franchise? Isn't that still a profit center for EA? Or is that losing money as well?

Re:Madden? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9625432)

You're a fucking moron.

Just give up already. (5, Funny)

bluemeep (669505) | more than 9 years ago | (#9618923)

They've tried generic fantasy ganes, generic sci-fi games and completely off-the-wall longshots. Only one of them even remotely pulls it's weight and that's because it's one of the major milestones of the industry. Just save us all a lot of grief and quit hemorrhaging money on MMOs already.

Hell, give up on online play completely. Throw some cash at a few promising single player games! They still exist, after all. All of these project cancellations have really hurt my already shaky opinion of EA -- to the point where I might just make a concious effort to avoid their titles. But if some of the developers under their wing can cook up something really outstanding with their full support (and negligable meddling), it'd go a long way towards turning that opinion around.

I'm sure there's a Madden Online joke in there somewhere...

Re:Just give up already. (1)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619817)

The point is, in much of their offline content, you're just looking at playing against AI, that bugbear of the sequels press release. People are so blase about 'improved AI' being stamped on games that the only realistic alternative is to use real people. I don't speak from experience but rather from reading stories here, that most MMORPGs have fundamental flaws, and the genre is very much still in its infancy. Unfortunately due to the cost model involved, you really don't get that many chances to do it right.

Re:Just give up already. (1)

bluemeep (669505) | more than 9 years ago | (#9624737)

AI alone isn't the be-all-end-all of offline play, though. I'll remember a game that had an incredible story far longer than a game that has baddies that run for cover slightly more intelligently.

MMORPG success? Ha... (3, Insightful)

hoferbr (707935) | more than 9 years ago | (#9618949)

Are the companys finally realizing that there aren't enought hardcore gamers to sustain all MMORPG titles?
Half of the MMORPG currently in development are doomed to vanish after six months of relative success.

Obvious really. (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619176)

They still can have new games and they should before the old stuff gets "real old". But what they need is a new game that enhances the "network effects"- more and more players playing the "same game".

So it has to be compatible with the existing game. e.g. even if it's a new world with different rules etc, the players can be migrated between them, (and probably communicate with each other between worlds - pick the right cost- heck link the "Ether resistance" to the CPU/bandwidth usage if you want) e.g. wormhole/teleport or whatever. Let them retain their attributes and some of their stuff (you could force them to leave behind some items- can't take everything back in the old world).

If you want you could even force them to spend X gp/credits/USD/items etc to travel between the worlds. Or make it a quest or something. Come up with a story.

Maybe some things become transformed into other things during the transfer (greater risk/chance of arbitrage opportunities if you do that).

If lots of players move to the new world, then you can retask/reassign the resources for the old world for the new world.

It is better for you to risk cannibalizing your old game than for SOMEONE ELSE to cannibalize yours.

Perhaps I totally don't get it coz I'm not an MMORPG player or designer. But I don't see why my idea is any worse than frustrating their _developers_. Good developers/artists want to see their work become reality, bad ones are relieved if it never does :).

Cancel stuff enough times and they'll make a new game - for a competitor.

Maybe MMORPG games suck? (1, Redundant)

delus10n0 (524126) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619220)

I've never really liked them, but I got to play Horizons in beta testing, and I hated every second of it. There's absolutely nothing engaging about it, nor is there a desire to progress forward. A lot of us have what you call "jobs" and are unable to dedicate 5+ hours a day to an online world.

I also beta tested for Planetside, and while it was more enjoyable than Horzions, it still didn't catch my interest.

I guess I'll never understand how people can tolerate EverQuest. Ugh.

Re:Maybe MMORPG games suck? (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 9 years ago | (#9639467)

Horizons is not exactly a shining example of what an online RPG could/should be.

In many ways, Everquest isn't, either. It, like Ultima Online, just arrived on the current scene fairly early and got a lot of attention. It was also more polished than games like Meridian 59, The Realm, Dark Sun Online, and some others that aren't coming to mind currently.

If you ever want to get at the core of what a MMORPG could/should be doing to be fun, find a MUD that you like, if you can. Most MMORPGS are patterned after MUDS, at least partially.

I still say that the best online CRPG I ever played was Ultima Online pre-alpha. It had levels, it had orcs and skeletons, and it was buggy. I had a blast playing that. The E3 pre-alpha was pretty good too, though they introduced the stat cap, and that sucked.

MMOs more like TV shows than movies (5, Interesting)

servognome (738846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619300)

The execs are learning the differences between single player games and MMOs are similar to those of movies and TV shows.
Single player games are 1-time experiences similar to movies, you play the game, you enjoy it, then the next game with better graphics and physics comes along and you play that. You can have tons of titles co-exist. Far Cry isn't killing the customer base for Doom 3 or half life 2, in fact people look forward to see how can they one-up what far cry did.
Contrast this with the persistant experience of MMOs. Its more like a TV series like Friends or the Simpsons. People invest lots of time, they form relationships with the characters, they even alter their life to accomadate the schedule. In this scenario there are limited titles that can co-exist. By their nature you can't have a bunch of "hit" MMOs. Once an MMO has claimed a consumer base, its very difficult to convert them.
Even followups to popular MMOs can fail (much like TV spinoffs) AC2 wasn't able to fully capitalize on the popularity of AC1. I have a number of friends who will quit MMOs altogether, or take a break, when EQ1 gets shutdown. They don't consider EQ2 to be a continuation of their EQ1 experiences.
Just like every TV exec came up with their own version of Survivor, most of which have been cancelled, most of the MMOs that will come out are doomed to cancellation.

Re:MMOs more like TV shows than movies (2, Interesting)

MikShapi (681808) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619453)

Excelent point, too bad I don't have any mod points today :-(

I'd like to take your insight a few steps further though. Specifically the bit about us being able to invest our time&money (and hence pay for) multiple single-experience titles (like movies or single-player games) but no more than a select few ongoing experiences like TV-series or MMO's, and even that we take a break from or completely quit once we don't have the time to shell out.

What that amounts to is that the MMO industry is significantly smaller, market-cap-wise, than the single-player industry. Given the market forces have time to do their thing, the MMO industry will find itself with budgets that compared to single-player games is much like a TV-series budget compared to a hollywood movie budget.

But can games we'd want to play be made for significantly smaller budgets? I guess we'd be able to answer that in a couple of years, by simply checking if anyone is still making these titles or not.

My personal opinion though is that any kind of product that requires:
A. A huge public to use it in order to break even and start generating profit
and
B. Immense investment in time from its subscribers
(Much more than the weekly 45 minutes we need to watch a TV series) - something people, especially the kinds with obligations, or families and kids, or ways of using that time to make money will not reluctantly give away.

and an optional:
C. Applies to a very limited public (which is computer-literate enough to actually get as far as finding out that MMOs exist and what they are)
and
D. Is in an industry with immense competition and huge corporations that can afford to lose tens if not hundreds of millions on the entire project.

Making an MMO thus has slim chances if any of generating money and is a bad bad bad business idea.

If EA had any financial brains (which they do but seem to be all clustered around the sports-game table, whereas their mothers-in-law seem to be running the CRPG/Adventure side of things), they'd re-hire Richard Gariott, give him a stash of money to buy a 3D engine that can handle a huge continuous map like Morrowind and tell him to go make a game with it. And not interfere or ax it until it's in retail. But hey, what do YOU expect from a mother-in-law?

But hey, that's just my 2 worn-out cents of frustrated rant.

Soaps & sitcoms (2, Insightful)

LondonLawyer (609870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620256)

I disagree that MMO is necessary "a bad bad bad business idea". I do think the approach is still wrong.

It's unrealistic to imagine that a large and complex online environment can be built, provided and maintained for a large player base without costing the developers big bucks. The automatic reaction is to charge players to buy the game and then latch onto them with a monthly fee. Games are pushed out the door early to try to claw back cash from the initial purchasers and suffer because players don't perceive their end of the deal as value for money. When I've paid the equivalent of a regular game just to be able to pay the monthly subscription and I need to keep an internet connection all the time I'm playing, I'm going to want to be seriously impressed. MMOs seem to me to have too much to live up to in terms of expectation (and this is compounded by hype) for them to be able to deliver. Look at SWG as a case in point. The approach is too geared towards providing a product in the form of a game and not focussed enough on providing the service to justify the monthly fee.

Where does the money come from to support a soap or a sitcom? In part advertising, in part merchandising. How does a soap or sitcom develop the following which these revenue streams depend on? Mostly because they are provided at low cost, often because they start small and low budget. Nobody paid a monthly fee just to watch Friends but the cost was bundled with a package (cable subscription, whatever) which allowed you access to the show. It grew huge. Same with Buffy. Same with most any big TV show you can think of.

These things need to be bundled together as packages which can be subscribed to with minimum front-end cost to the subscriber. They need to bring in advertising and merchandising to subsidise the cost as much as possible. They need big network names to get on board and turn them mainstream. I don't think that day is too far off and I think predictions of the imminent death of online gaming are premature. There will be plenty that fail (as with TV) but the few that are successful will eventually be huge.

Re:Soaps & sitcoms (2, Insightful)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620401)

Ok, ok enough already. You've made your points. I agree, MMO's are more short-lived. However, I believe the whole concept is being approached the wrong way. I believe the problem isn't in the MMO's, it is in the corporate model.

Actually, I'm surprised that no one here has suggested an open community development effort. Why not create open standards, engines and objects. GPL and copyleft everything. Let Google handle the who's who and rankings. Then stand back and watch the MMO's grow.

Who knows, maybe that'll be the next "web"

Re:Soaps & sitcoms (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9624860)

Actually, I'm surprised that no one here has suggested an open community development effort
These games exist, there's MUDs & MUSHs [mudconnect.com] that are open sourced. The underlying concepts of MMOs are based on what goes on in MUDs/MUSHs.
Where things get complex is when you throw a 3D world graphics engine, artists, support staff for couple hundred thousand users, and equipment on top of everything.
The business model the companies have is to gamble and try and get a hit game. If you get one you're in the money for a good 5-6+ year run. A $15 game with 200,000 subscribers is $36 million a year, not including expansion packs, and only incurring upkeep costs.

Re:Soaps & sitcoms (1)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 9 years ago | (#9627737)

I say, let the users develop and support it themselves. Run it democratically. Use distributed computing and peer to peer clients. Involve the academic, W3C and the open source communities.

Perhaps I'm being idealistic, but I think it's better than being unrealistic. Personally, I think the business model will never really work. After all, no one is ever really happy living in a company town.

Re:Soaps & sitcoms (2, Informative)

MikShapi (681808) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620451)

Agreed, however I think you're missing the important point here.

The ENTRY PRICE you pay for a sitcom is a few bucks a month and 45 minutes a week.

The entry price you pay for an MMO is a few bucks a month and an inconceivably disproportionate amount of time a week. It's the latter element that more and more people realize as the real price of an MMO, and are consequently unwilling to pay it.

That's why quite a few people I know who played MMO's for a while just quit (and I doubt if they'll be coming back). Most modern MMOs highly reward people who literally live in them, and "punish" those who elect to spend "only" a few weekly hours. Use the decaying housing regime in UO as an example to that.

Another point - "older" MMO's are now provided free of charge on the net. UO 1st-gen servers and the like. Think of how OpenOffice affects the sales of MS-Office97-level suites, or how free Linux distros affect the sales of circa-98 desktop OS's.
That doesn't help bring in money to the producers of new games. And there's no corporate market out shopping for MMO's.

You'd be hard-pressed to convince me to invest in an MMO business opportunity, be I a CEO of a VC firm, CEO of microsoft (I fully understand MS's rationale to jam out of this market), or just a guy with a stock portfolio looking for places to stick my money in. (currently, the last being my case).

Re:Soaps & sitcoms (1)

LondonLawyer (609870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620923)

The entry price you pay for an MMO is a few bucks a month and an inconceivably disproportionate amount of time a week. It's the latter element that more and more people realize as the real price of an MMO, and are consequently unwilling to pay it.

I understand MMOs to be more than just MMORPGs. Granted many RPGs are heavily skewed towards powergamers but I'm not convinced this holds true for MMO games where skill is more of an issue. Shooters, fight games, racing games, space sims for instance. There are of course other ways in which your fun can be spoilt but I think that's more down to other players than a game design intended to penalise the casual gamer. I'm not even sure all MMORPGs necessarily have the bias you claim.

What I'm thinking is a single subscription for a bunch of online games where you can choose what you devote your time to and how much time you devote. Bundle it with other content like film and music and any other online goodies that might bring in the crowds and you start to get a package that is sufficiently broad to have mainstream appeal. The presence of older MMOs for free on the net suggests the availability of low cost fillers for such a package. If the selling point is convenience and reliability (i.e. service rather than goods) and the entry point is priced low enough, there may be many average-Joe MS users who are prepared to pay to get a minimum hassle offering. That opens the market for casual gamers up and allows niche offerings to grow and develop as their user base expands.

I see it differently (1)

Jaeph (710098) | more than 9 years ago | (#9624546)

MMORPGs are just like horror movies: most are derivative of the first one to come out, and have gotten quite stale. Sure, each may bring a neat idea to the table or have a cool bit scene that we like, but the later ones grow stale more quickly.

Basically, game has been done before.

-Jeff

P.S. I do think there's hope: I once told someone if you took the character generation and gameplay of City of Heroes and combined it with the content, world, and economy of FFXI, you'd have a fantastic game. Most games out have some neat bits: hopefully someone (blizzard?) will combine them.

Re:I see it differently (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9625157)

MMORPGs are just like horror movies: most are derivative of the first one to come out, and have gotten quite stale.
This is exactly like television, everything is derivative to the point of annoyance. How many "multiple choice your way to millionare shows" were there, now we have reality TV on every single channel. There are like 6 shows with hot chick/guy picks who they want to marry out of a group of hot chicks/guys. 10 reality dating shows, one even hosted by a loser in one of those marriage shows! Oops sorry went on my reality show rant there. Friends was a seinfeld clone, and law & order or one of its siblings is on every night it seems.
I once told someone if you took the character generation and gameplay of City of Heroes and combined it with the content, world, and economy of FFXI, you'd have a fantastic game.
The problem is would combining just those two things make people decide to leave the games they are playing? We are talking about people who have invested several thousand hours in a game, have a bunch of friends who may or may not leave. Just look at UO, a 2D sprite game that is still popular because people don't want to leave.
The MMO market is saturated, the cost to get a customer has gone way up, thats why some companies are cancelling their games. Although many are still making the gamble because once you get somebody hooked they are in it for years, providing steady revenue. With the dozens of generic MMOs coming out most of them are going to fail miserably.

Shit or get off the pot (2, Insightful)

Osmosis_Garett (712648) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619315)

EA has been dangling its toes in the online market for too long. They've taken a few strange steps in that way, and have not supported sure fire winners (Hello, EA Sports on XBOX LIVE? Cmon, even I'd buy an XBox to play that).

UO was published by Origin in the right place at the right time, and that sort of success is very hard to mirror. EQ has done it, as has DAoC to some degree. There is also Ragnarok and Lineage (1, not 2) to remember, so don't even begin to suggest that there isnt money out there to support these games. a subscription of about 20,000 is the magic number that these companies are aiming for to break a profit, and with a bit of imagination and a bit of risk, thats not a problem.

Re:Shit or get off the pot (1)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619830)

(Hello, EA Sports on XBOX LIVE? Cmon, even I'd buy an XBox to play that).
Better start saving, EA and Microsoft embraced on stage at the recent E3, signifying exactly that.

Take that, bandwagon! (5, Insightful)

pommaq (527441) | more than 9 years ago | (#9619820)

Why does each and every publisher need to have some grandiose MMORPG in their line-up? It makes no sense - the market is small, the maintenance costs are high, and with the treadmill setup everyone's using there really isn't room for more than one MMORPG (sometimes not even one, since most of them want you to put in at least an hour or two a day) per potential user. Totally senseless, it's been like that since the start, and I can't help but chuckle condescendingly every time a new UO/EQ clone goes down the toilet. Love seeing that herd mentality get punished, even if it probably means tighter budgets and less risk from the EA mooks in the future.

Now, if you really have to make a massively multiplayer game, why not try some new ideas? Raph Koster's word is far from law, games like Puzzle Pirates have shown that level grind isn't the only way of doing things and that it's possible to have a vibrant online community without levels, without requiring you to be unemployed and/or a college student to be successful, and without beards and dwarves. The MMORPG scene consists 99% of me-too games and we really don't need any more of those. So, I'm not crying over Ultima X. Its predecessor was revolutionary in many ways and deserved its success, but honestly - what would this game bring to the table that wasn't already there? Creativity, please!

Re:Take that, bandwagon! (4, Insightful)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620102)

Why does each and every publisher need to have some grandiose MMORPG in their line-up? It makes no sense - the market is small, the maintenance costs are high, and with the treadmill setup everyone's using there really isn't room for more than one MMORPG (sometimes not even one, since most of them want you to put in at least an hour or two a day) per potential user.

I agree that the market is vastly over-saturated. However, there are reasons why each publisher can be easily convinced that an MMORPG is worth the risks:

* Very, very good antipiracy protection -- you're selling a service, not really the game.

* A subscription model. Aside from making more money per year than a per-copy game, it's easy to get people "subscribed".

* Good, free AIs. Oh, there are disadvantages to having humans running other NPCs (such as out-of-context behavior), but major advantages. People are smart, understand commands in English and can organize tactics. They can become friends (and hence increase the value of the game). If there is competition, there is generally tough competition out there -- in most single-player games, it's possible to beat/out-manuver all the computer AIs.

* A channel to make more sales. If you have a strong media channel to your customers, you can freely push ads to other products that you're making.

* A predictable revenue source. If you have sales numbers for each month, you have nice, predictable numbers to work with to show investors and whatnot.

* Greater freedom from deadlines. If a developer doesn't have to finish all of a game by a deadline -- he can build another country while being paid by revenues from initial sales -- he has the ability to work on a project that is uniquely his for a long period of time.

* Planned obsolescence. There is now a lot of video game content out there. Every person that is still spending time playing Tetris or Pac-Man or Super Metroid is not buying new games. Unless you can somehow springboard new sales from the old, having people continuing to play your game is *bad* -- it means that your market is less interested in buying your next game. I can play a fifteen-year-old videogame for most systems today. With an MMORPG, once the other players are gone, the game is "gone", and a player has nothing to do but buy the next product from the publisher.

* Gambling mentality -- the nature of MMORPGs has shown to exploit well addictive personalities. Vendors love addictive types of people -- they will do a marvelous job of shoveling money into the company's pockets forever. MMORPGs generally have no "end", continually have new content, and generally do a good job of forcing people to *start* playing a little bit per time period, making it easy to play a *lot* per time period without an effort of will.

Re:Take that, bandwagon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9620593)

Greater freedom from deadlines. If a developer doesn't have to finish all of a game by a deadline -- he can build another country while being paid by revenues from initial sales -- he has the ability to work on a project that is uniquely his for a long period of time.

How is this different from releasing expansion packs for normal single-player games? Plenty of successful RPGs, strategy games, and FPSes get expansion packs before they get sequels. Sometimes the expansions fit seamlessly into the original world, as is the case with Morrowind. I fail to see how the MMORPG situation is different or special in this regard.

Re:Take that, bandwagon! (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 9 years ago | (#9639549)

Single-player games can be played alone and can be played quite successfully without any expansion packs. Any multi-player game and/or online game adds immediate pressure upon the game player to buy expansion packs just so they can join games with all their friends using the new expansion features. MMORPGS capitlize on this phenomenon brilliantly.

In other words, with a game like Morrowind, you might get one fan of the original game buying the expansion. With Everquest, you get one fan who buys the expansion, and then 5-10(or more) of his friends or guild-mates who also have to buy it just to keep going on adventures with him. Works with some non-MMORPG multiplayer games like Diablo II as well.

pretty obvious (0)

truffle (37924) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620225)

It should be pretty obvious that UO is not going to become a better game any time soon. If EA had any truly ambitious plans, they would have photoshopped some screenshots for us by now. The whole "work on UO" think is FUD, I just can't figure out how they've justified not firing people.

The sapping subscribers argument in this article is pretty dumb though. It should be clear by now that anyone who is playing Ultima Online is either not interested in 3D MMOs or has the cash to be willing to pay for multiple MMO accounts. You don't skip four major fantasy 3D-MMOs if you are a 3D-MMO player. UO-X was clearly in competition with EQ/DAOC/WOW/FF11 and had no relation to the play experience of UO-X.

It's clear that EA thought that UO-X would be a money loser. How do you lose money on an MMO? You spend $X on development, you spend $Y a year on your live team (since MMO dev is continual), and you make $Z in subscription fees over the first two years. If $Z $X + 2*$Y, you lose money. So, I'm guessing EA probably did some market projections. They decided, we can be ready to enter this market in about 3 years, and it will be so fragmented by then, and we're sufficiently unconfident in our ability to produce a competitive title, we'd better kill this thing.

Re:pretty obvious (1)

truffle (37924) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620314)

Oops slashdot doesn't like less than signs, the formula was $Z less than $X + 2*$Y, you lose money.

Re:pretty obvious (2, Informative)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 9 years ago | (#9623202)

I just can't figure out how they've justified not firing people.

Easy, they hired other companies (like Liquid Development) to do the work and just told them their contract is over. The company stopped working on UXO and worked on another of the numerous projects they were hired to work on. There's noone who could be fired over this.

Here is how they did it. (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9624457)

When they moved from Austin to CA a few months ago, most of the UXO team did not make the move/where not offered the op to move.

They didn't fire anyone/let anyone go when they announced this because they ALREADY did it.

Horizons (2, Interesting)

Kyrthira (666470) | more than 9 years ago | (#9620392)

Sure, Horizons has lost some of its player base. A new MMORPG -always- loses some of its player base after a few months, as some get bored and move on to other things.

Some of the recent dropoff was due to the layoffs that occurred in the staff. Now that they've consolidated, they're working a little more on communicating with the players on what they want to see. One of the biggest problems was that the dev's never listened to the players, and they're at least trying to fix that now. There's talk of server consolidation, which may help some of the problems people mention with the population being too sparse.

As for the problems some seem to have with the game? I was online earlier, trying to help one player who mentioned in a public channel that even through three ISPs and now cable internet, the game still ran slowly. After pinging and tracerouting the HZ server and finding nothing, he made the certain conclusion that it was the game. Several other players with similar hardware configurations did -not- have this problem. When I pointed this out to him, he pointedly ignored me.

Sometimes, a game doesn't work on your computer because of your hardware configuration, settings, etc. These people that yell the loudest are only aiming for attention, they don't actually want to help fix what's wrong.

Re:Horizons (1)

Naffer (720686) | more than 9 years ago | (#9621087)

You're absolutly right, the horizons dev never listened to the players. They should never have released the game when they did. Every beta tester (myself included) knew that the game wasn't ready, yet it was released anyway. They tried to make statements like "We don't want you to see all the content in the beta" but what they meant was "We'll start making content sometime soon hopefully."
The result was a game that was wholely uninteresting at launch, save for the mildly amusing dragon class, which quickly got old.

Re:Horizons (1)

Kyrthira (666470) | more than 9 years ago | (#9621426)

Now the devs -are- listening. Some of the changes will probably stay -- who's ever completely happy with a game? -- but at least they seem willing to listen and make other changes that we want.

I got in about two months after release, and I've played since. They've made some pretty serious changes since I joined.

Horizons Will Die and MMORPGs will not make money (1)

Shihar (153932) | more than 9 years ago | (#9628071)

I hate to burst your bubble, but Horizons will always be a bottom of the barrel game just scraping by on the margins. More likely, they will tank within a year or two.

Horizons runs purely off of the Everquest model. Now before you get your panties in a bundle over me calling Horizons Everquest, realize what the Everquest model is. It isn't the silly little features an experienced MMORPG player recognizes. It is the basic and fundimental game play. The fundamental gameplay of Horizons is the same as Everquest. Spend many hours killing shit to level and gain loot. Whatever else Horizons offers, it can not be argued that is at its core the game play offered.

That sort of game play is appealing only to a very small portion of the gamers market, and it is utterly without appeal outside of the gamers market. Most people can not afford to spend even a single hour a day playing video games. They sneak on when they can and that is all. MMORPGs have utterly failed to recognize this. In the current crop MMORPGs time is directly proportional to power and fun. Few working people, for who shelling out 50 dollars and then 15 or 20 more a month is no big deal are willing to play a game where they are always stuck on the bottom and deprived of the most interesting aspects of the game. It doesn't matter that some consider it 'fair' that people who blow more of their time should get a greater reward. 'Fair' isn't going to pay the bills. More importantly, this idea of fairness is shortsighted and limited to high school kids and the unemployed. Fair or not, working people can not be so wasteful with their time.

MMORPGs need to come up with a new paradigm. They need to develop a model that follows the idea of a cohesive and permanent world, yet doesn't require massive amounts of time to enjoy. How they do it, I don't care. The solution is probably as simple as eliminating leveling and making it twitched based so that any idiot who can play Quake can do a decent job in an MMORPG. Then make the game play based around something other then mindlessly slaughtering NPCs. Maybe you still slaughter NPCs, but do it in an interesting way that doesn't instantly get boring. Maybe the NPCs are inclined to attack villages and people need to defend them. Maybe there is a constant war. Who knows and who cares. I'll leave it to someone else to figure out. Whatever the case, they need to change the very nature of the game play so that it reaches a broad audience. Maybe they will never reach out and get the people who loved Sims, but they should be able to get the working person who has the time to play a little Unreal Tournament 2004 every now and then.

MMORPGs should be accessible to the average gamer, not just high school students and the unemployed. Do this and not only will numbers go through the roof, but you can charge more. I see lots of bitching and moaning about 10 dollar a month charges. Make a game available for people with jobs and credit cards for who 20 dollars a month is pocket change, and then the real money will start to roll in.

Re:Horizons Will Die... (1)

Kyrthira (666470) | more than 9 years ago | (#9629719)

Get my panties in a bundle? What, like your comments bother me and I'm going to go run in a corner and cry? Everyone's entitled to their opinion. There's no need to be rude about it. I don't really agree that it's like everquest, but I'm sure you're thinking of different aspects than I am. I don't look at hardware and engines and such. I play to craft stuff.

Maybe the game goes under in a year. Big deal. I've played and enjoyed it, I like it, I'll be sad to see it go if and when it does. Until then, I'll talk about it as I see fit.

I won't pick apart your opinion because I see no point in it. Let's just say I don't agree, and leave it at that.

One thing. You want a game that people can just pick up and play, a little here and there, an hour at a time? City of Heroes. I'll let you do your own investigating on that.

I work at a video game store, so I hear why people don't like online RPG's. The number one problem is you have to pay a subscription fee. They won't be more likely to purchase the game if the subscription costs more!

Worlds of Warcraft... (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 9 years ago | (#9624153)

Star Wars Galaxies... the game widely predicted to crack the MMO industry open and bring in a new rush of players

I don't think we've seen that game yet. I think it's coming this year though: World of Warcraft

Star Wars, breaking things open? (2, Insightful)

e.m.rainey (91553) | more than 9 years ago | (#9625052)

Since when was STG suppose to be the big thing?

Yes I was excited about it until I found out that I couldn't be a Jedi (a 0.002% chance is not good enough for me). And to add insult to injury, once a Jedi dies, it's dead FOREVER!

FAT CHANCE, buster! My dollars go to City of Heroes and DAoC now.

Re:Star Wars, breaking things open? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9627746)

Actually, they've changed the Permadeath for Jedi to just 200k XP loss. Painful when you consider that each starting skill box is 2.5 million XP and goes up it adds up quick but it can be regained with some work.

Also, once Publish 10 hits anyone who wishes to be Jedi only need to take the Jedi Trials which will allow you to progress from your normal character, to a force-sensitive one, to a full Jedi. However, it's been said that they're planning on this taking longer than grinding out the 32 professions necessary to unlock at this point.

Just wanted to clarify this just in case anyone was interested.

New development funding model (2, Insightful)

Doctor Cat (676482) | more than 9 years ago | (#9625968)

I think instead of this "old school" model of "put in millions or tens of millions up front, then ship a boxed product that's real slick and flashy"... The huge risk in this area, coupled with the player's being not only willing to accept continual upgrades of the software with new features and art, but actually wanting it... These two factors suggest to me a model where a publisher makes a number of FAR less expensive prototypes, and then picks out the one or two that players are going nuts over and people are swarming in to play, and decide "THAT is where we're going to add five or ten million bucks worth of art and finish the job".

Hmmm, I think I need to send some emails to some other people I know in the industry. :X)

EA Needs a Good Idea (3, Interesting)

gamerdave (757845) | more than 9 years ago | (#9626288)

There will always be failures in an overcrowded market, but for those that get it right, MMOGs can still be very lucrative under the subscriber model. Although people love to hate it, SWG has been very successful and reached a quarter million players much quicker than EQ did, and continues to grow. FFXI and City of Heros are also doing well, and WoW stands a chance of breaking all previous records. I still think MMORPGs have a bright future, but developers will have to think creatively to avoid becoming casualties in what is, at the moment, a sort of gold rush.

why start development in the first place? (2, Interesting)

startled (144833) | more than 9 years ago | (#9627272)

"This isn't a surprise. No, really. More fundamentally, all this points to the fact that somebody in EA's headcheese department is scared stiff of potentially sapping subscribers from the only truly successful title [Ultima Online] to come out of the company's development sweatshops."

Sure, but unfortunately for EA, none of the higher-ups were "scared stiff" of dropping a few million dollars each on TWO separate, canceled UO sequels. Both canceled for the same reason, no less. Way to learn from your mistakes, guys.
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