Why is Archeage failing at being EVE Online?

With the recent launch of Archeage in western markets, my friends and I have been discussing it’s merits and more importantly it’s failings. Archeage is what one friend calls a sand-park game. Meaning that, while it purports to be a sandbox game, it also tries to offer something to the World of Warcraft players of the world in terms of PVE (theme park) content.

archeage

This is one reason I think Archeage is struggling. Trying to be everything to everyone will only lead to a game with an identity crisis and no one wants to play a neurotic video game.

Archeage has been called EVE with Elves which is about right. EVE Online is certainly the best comparison in terms of game play mechanics, even if the settings couldn’t be further apart. EVE’s setting has an inherent design advantage that a game like Archeage simply cannot attain: Space. This design hurdle is one of the primary reasons for the recent missteps as well as the downright disastrous Archeage launch.

eve_online_screen2

I had heard my father say that he never knew a piece of land run away or break. – John Adams

Archeage, intentional or not, is a game about land and it’s finite existence. Trion being completely unprepared for even the number of players that had pre-ordered the game notwithstanding, many of the launch problems can be attributed to players rushing to claim premium land plots either for personal use or to resell later.

Within a day of launch, pretty much all land on the handful of servers was claimed. By then the queues were so long that patron players couldn’t get into the game for hours and those no-good free-to-play players might as well not try. One free-to-play player told me that, at the height of the queues, he logged in to the queue in the morning after breakfast and still wasn’t in the game when he went to bed that night.

archeage2

We’re now about 45 days removed from that nightmare. More servers have been added and the player base has stabilized. As far as I know there aren’t any queues worth mentioning, even for free-to-play players. Trion offered up free patron time to those who paid for patron status but couldn’t even log in to actually enjoy it. Everyone seems happy.

Time for a new wrench…

This week, Trion opened up the Northern continent (think nullsec for you EVE lovers) for settlement. I’m not sure it could have gone worse. For starters, a bug in the patch that released the northern continent prevented a large portion of the player base from being able to connect to the game at all. Not everyone mind you, just an unfortunate majority. However, even though half the population couldn’t actually log in, all of the new land was claimed within seconds of a castle being claimed. Imagine if everyone would have been online. Disastrous.

Now, before you start calling me a casual or a -shudder- socialist for thinking that everyone deserves a fair shake, take this in to account. It’s one thing to get beat out by another player who a) gets lucky or b) wants it more or c) has more resources. It’s an entirely different thing to get culled by a completely avoidable technical glitch.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I don’t play Archeage. I bought a founders pack and patron status but I have better things to do with my time than sit in a queue so I moved on. And since Archeage is a game about land and all the land is taken, there isn’t much reason to come back. I do have friends who play, however, and just about all of them were affected by the glitch this past week and as a result have no land in the north. Some of them are now walking away from Archeage and that brings me to the question of this post.

Why is Archeage failing where EVE Online has been so successful?

The first reason as I’ve mentioned above is that EVE doesn’t suffer from the land scarcity issue. If the player base grows beyond the current confines of the game, CCP can fairly easily add new systems. They’ve done so several times over the years and there is no reason they can’t continue to do so.

But I believe there is more to this question that simple land availability. Both Archeage and EVE are very complex games with myriad intricacies ranging from social structures, political intrigue and resource competition. But each game arrived at that complexity in very different ways.

eve

EVE Online was launched in 2003 and looked nothing like it does today. Certainly the game is prettier now, but EVE Online is very different in terms of game mechanics as well. The game we know today has grown, step by step, over the past eleven years. Each feature carefully crafted and tweaked to fit nicely into the game while causing as little disruption as possible.

Archeage, on the other hand, while leaning heavily on the lessons learned by CCP, came out of the gate with much of the complexity that EVE possesses today but without any of the historical data to anticipate how all of these features might behave together.

EVE has weathered it’s own storms over the years and ultimately came out the other side. Archeage may do the same, or it may suffer the same fate as so many other MMO games in recent years; a slow painful decline until Trion decides to shut it down.

Regardless of the future of Archeage, I hope the lesson that game developers take away is to start with simple mechanics and perfect each feature before moving on to new functionality. Even the most complex systems are merely an amalgam of many individually simple mechanics.

 

Ronald Reagan on Freedom

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” – Ronald Reagan

Louisville in the Slow Lane

Fiber OpticIf you’re like me, you’re still stinging from the tacit rejection of Google Fiber. Just last month Louisville was overlooked for the much coveted city wide internet solution while Kansas City, Austin, TX and Provo, NV all have existing Google Fiber projects in the works. Louisvillians had hoped to be among the cities considered for expansion. Sadly we didn’t even make the short list.

But who can blame Google for looking elsewhere when you consider our cities recent history with franchise agreements. As it stands now, Time Warner (once Insight and soon to be Comcast) is limping along on an extension of the old Insight agreement which is good until 2018 (I believe). The Mayor fought with Insight and then Time Warner to keep a customer service center here in Louisville as well as free internet for our Metro agencies/schools/etc which only amounts to a hidden tax passed on to customers by Insight/Time Warner. Just another “fee” line time with an obscure name for us to swallow.

On the brighter side, a request for proposals expired in January of this year looking for companies who might be interested in building out a fiber network for Louisville. Few details have been released about who responded or with what level of interest. But unfortunately, until the Metro Council changes our franchise agreement ordinance to allow for longer more attractive agreements, it is unlikely this RFP will bear any fruit.

Perhaps I’m bitter because of the apparent uselessness of my Councilman but I have little faith that the Council can get on the same page even for this measure that is clearly a benefit to all Louisvillians. Access to affordable gigabit fiber would open the door to new businesses as well as create opportunities for existing companies.

Add to that, a component of the RFP was a requirement to provide free or cheap access to underserved and impoverished communities within our city. It seems like a no-brainer but, like the current internet options in Louisville, this process is moving at a snails pace.

Our local government should be looking for ways to attract high tech industries and encouraging our current providers to expand and upgrade their products. But instead Louisville gets looked over again and again until we end up bring up the rear as we did with 4G/LTE.

Someone should tell the Mayor that it’s hard to be perceived as an attractive, high tech business location when you are one of the last major cities to adopt new technologies. He should show a little urgency if he wants to still be Mayor when we finally do get fiber.

If you are interested in getting fiber internet in your neighborhood, visit Louisville Fiber.

Taking Kentucky Back to our Roots

Kentucky has a long history with industrial hemp dating back to the late 1700’s. The Commonwealth led the nation in hemp production all the way up until the industry was snuffed out in the mid twentieth century. Worldwide demand for hemp is strong and growing however our great state cannot capitalize on that need because our Governor won’t stand up for Kentuckians.

Most people can’t remember a time when the cultivation of hemp was completely legal in the United States. For more than half of the 1900’s the industrious weed has been outlawed in some fashion or another. Knee jerk legislation in response to booming opiate use in the late 1800’s began the slippery slope. Then a push by powerful men in the timber industry, fearful that hemp would make a better pulp for paper products than wood, led to one of the hardiest and most useful crops being banned by the federal government.

This citizen cites this as a gross trampling of states rights by our federal government but they did not consult me in the early 1950’s (possibly because I wouldn’t be born for another 25 years) when the first mandatory sentences were enacted for cannabis (and hemp) possession/cultivation. As evidenced by current movements around the country where cannabis is now legalized or in the process of becoming legal, the American people believe the decision to outlaw or restrict substances like these is a state issue, not federal.

However as of this writing, industrial hemp, a plant proven to have a negligible amount of THC (the narcotic component of cannabis), remains a Schedule 1 substance in the eyes of the US government. Here in Kentucky, a law has passed legalizing the growing of industrial hemp however Governor Beshear says the bill (SB50) does not allow growth or sale of industrial hemp unless the federal government lifts the federal ban. Yet another example of how the Beshear administration obediently toes the party line set forth from Washington.

Isn’t it time our state leadership grew a pair and stopped cowing to the federal government on matters that are simply none of their business?

In Colorado and Washington state they have legalized cannabis, despite a federal ban. Here in Kentucky a law that would legalize the use of prescription medical cannabis is in the works, also despite a federal ban. Yet our Governor doesn’t seem interested in standing up to Washington regarding this harmless but incredibly valuable crop.

Thankfully, Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul have worked with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer to allow a handful of state sponsored hemp projects. As many other states around the country begin ramping up their industrial hemp production, Kentucky stands to fall far behind thanks to our slow start. We have our Governor to thank for that.

I think It’s time for change in Frankfort.

Deja… something

There is probably a word for what I just experienced but I don’t know what it is.

I was flipping through some old writing after finding a new market that seemed interesting. I stumbled across a story that is clearly labeled as written by me but I have absolutely no recollection of it. It’s not terrible though so I’m shipping it off.

Truly bizarre.