GUIDES

Black Ops 3 announces the annual pre-order beta dates

As usual with the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, there will be some multiplayer beta dates for those who’ve opted to pre-order the game. Today, Activision announced what those dates would be.

On PC, the multiplayer beta will run from 26 August to 30 August (presumably inclusive of those dates, though the press release isn’t absolutely clear.)

The actual maps and modes to be included in the beta haven’t been revealed yet, because, while it would be simple for them to do so, drip-feeding information like this ensures that Activision get to keep Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 in the news more often.

However, they are generous enough to mention that the beta will allow players to “[use the] new momentum-based, chained movement system, find the perfect Specialist to fit their play style [and] get a feel for the new multiplayer maps.” Again though, only if you take the fairly hefty risk of pre-ordering.

 

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Life is Strange Episode 4: Darkroom nearly developed

The fourth episode of the rather excellent Life is Strange will launch on 28 July, Square Enix has announced.

Darkroom, as this penultimate episode is titled, starts the episodic adventure rapidly moving towards its conclusion. The mystery surrounding Rachel Amber’s disappearance is coming into focus, but with the disastrous storm of Max’s dreams approaching, there’s not long left to figure out what’s going on.

You can see the launch trailer (which doesn’t seem particularly spoiler-y to me, though I haven’t played the third episode yet) below. It’s actually rather good, managing to get some tension across without explicitly spoiling anything. Or, well, not that I could see.

Life is Strange‘s fourth episode launches next Tuesday.

 

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SKYFORGE PRODUCER SAYS CURRENT SERVER INSTABILITY IS ‘NOT ACCEPTABLE’

If you were hoping that Skyforge had left its earlier server issues behind and a glorious new future awaited it free of queues, disconnections, or lag, we have some bad news for you. Another rash of server problems have hit the game, and producer Aaron Biedma wrote a brief letter to the community last night stating that the current state of the servers for the game is simply unacceptable.

Fixing the problem will require setting up additional server hardware and upgrading both the game’s client and the server software to provide greater stability. Of course, the process of upgrading all of this will result in more instability and maintenance, so it’s one of those “big picture” things. Still, if the net result is that Skyforge can move on to a better and less server-crippled state, that’s a net positive.

And if you don’t think so, maybe you’ll be soothed by the promise of “special in-game gift[s] to thank players for their ongoing patience and understanding as the team weathers these growing pains.”

 

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CAMELOT UNCHAINED’S JACOBS OFFERS PROGRESS REPORT, PRAISE FOR HIS DEV TEAM

Camelot Unchained’s traditional Friday update has been published, and CityState’s Mark Jacobs has a lot to talk about on the heels of the recent beta delay announcement. He says that less than 50 of the game’s 22,000 backers opted for a refund after the news, though a handful of those were higher end pledges. The good news is that those limited rewards will be made available again to founders.

Further good news takes the form of Beta 1 backers being granted access to extended alpha as of today.

This afternoon’s update also recaps CityState’s recent livestreams, and Jacobs says that work is proceeding “quite nicely on all tech fronts, from our stance editor to our animations, particle effects, etc.” Finally, Jacobs praises his dev team for its work thus far in building an engine from scratch and staying under budget. “Maybe it’s time that I began to emphasize the great progress a small, underfunded (by typical MMORPG standards) and young (well, not me) team has made on delivering not only an engine, but a game, albeit in the early stages; and a standard for treating our backers that is, IMO, the best in the industry,” he writes.

 

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Per-Player Revenue (ARPU) for MMOs

ARPU for 10 Major MMO Titles, per SuperData Research

It’s a fascinating article. What jumps out to me is that the ARPU’s are significantly less than a monthly subscription of $15 – the closest was World of Tanks (WoT) at 30% of that amount.

My guildee Sujitsu tweeted a hilarious set of conclusions based on the above table:

@taugrim So what I’m seeing here is #1 gold rounds, #2 hats, #3 costumes, #4 skipping play time, #5 A better Skywhale..

As CrossleyColor tweeted, Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is technically not a pure F2P game, given that it’s buy-to-play (B2P). The $3.88 figure for GW2 is probably based on post-purchase spending, because the $60 purchase price would jack up the monthly ARPU.

One of the big questions raised in the article is whether it’s best to go for quantity of players versus ARPU. Of course, in an ideal situation, the answer is both. To date, World of Warcraft (WoW) is really the only title that has had both a high active player base (7+ MM) and high ARPU ($100+ annually). Although I believe that the WoW phenomenon is not reproducible for a new MMO, by Blizzard or anyone else, as the market has evolved and shifted dramatically over the past decade.

League of Legends (LoL) has been enormously successful at scaling its player base, so even though Riot Games is #10 in the list, they’re generating significant revenue and the industry consensus is that they are killing it in terms of profitable growth. It is interesting that the $1.32 in monthly revenue per active player must be sufficient to more than cover all the costs of doing business: game development, marketing, production environment hosting and bandwidth, etc. As TriumphSP tweeted, this article didn’t provide those costs.

GW2 is in the top 3, and I credit ArenaNet for devising a monetization scheme that does not punish players who opt not to pay, after the initial purchase price. Both paying and non-paying customers have a positive experience in GW2.

I’m not at all surprised to see WoT top the list – Wargaming has done a very savvy job of designing game mechanics that incent players to fork over real money:

Easing the grind for new tanks
Developing crews that are highly skilled
Acquiring a monthly subscription for 50% higher income and experience
Sadly, being able to pay for bullets that are superior at armor-piercing, and while these can be paid for with in-game credits, the extent to which you can accumulate in-game credits tends to be correlated with how much real money you spend
Any F2P developer designing their monetization schemes should take a long look at what Wargaming has done, because many of the above concepts could be modified and applied to non-shooter games.

The WoT community often strongly defends WoT as a high skill-cap game – which I agree with – and that it is not Pay-to-Win (P2W), but the reality is paying real money does provide advantage relative to non-paying players.

I will confess that I’m what the gaming and casino industries classify as a “whale” – I’m in the low single-digit percentage of customers who accounts for 90+% of the revenue. I’ve been averaging over $30 per month playing WoT. As a full-time working stiff, spending the money is worth it to me to ease the grind. After the initial purchase $60 purchase price for GW2, I averaged over $10 per month, mostly to buy gems to sell for in-game currency to pay for gear-related improvements.

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Thirds of the Top-Rated Players in WildStar 2v2 Arena are Inactive

I’ve been wondering how accurately the WildStar PVP Leaderboards reflect the current meta and player activity, so I compared the 2v2 Arena Leaderboards from September 25th and October 10th.

You can find my analysis in the following spreadsheet document:

There is a summary tab with calculations and two tabs for the Leaderboards. I sorted the Leaderboards by name – you can easily move between the tabs to see the changes for each player.

Here are my conclusions:

The highest number of active classes who gained rating or joined the top 250 on October 10th were Warriors (16) and Medics (13), followed by Espers (9), Spellslingers (8), Stalkers (5), and Engineers (3)
A whopping 65% of the 250 top-rated players in 2v2 are inactive. Meaning they have either stopped playing WildStar or they are still playing but not participating in 2v2 anymore
Point #1 should be no surprise to anyone, given the recent changes to PVP stats to decrease damage and increase healing. Warrior/Medic was always a good comp, but with the current meta they faceroll most other comps. The Medic is durable, can kite effectively, and can heal even when out of Focus (i.e. they are un-OOMable), and the Warrior has high passive mitigation, strong burst, and is difficult to sustainably peel/CC. The longer TTK has made life harder for Stalkers, although in my experience the top-end Stalkers in a dual DPS comp are still very dangerous, if they spec to strip shields and coordinate their burst. I’ve never been able to understand why Engineers aren’t played more in 2v2 – in particular heal-soak Engi/Medic is a strong comp.

What is alarming about point #2 is that even with cross-server queues for BG and Arena, the PVP queue times outside of prime time are very high – as Lewis B discussed in his recent article The WildStar Ghost Town – and during prime time PBGs still take 5+ minutes to pop. As a comparison, with World of Tanks (WoT), the queue pops for Random Battles in under a minute any time day or night.

I love WildStar’s action combat system – it’s the most skill-based and engaging of any MMORPG that I’ve played. That said, the dwindling population has a direct impact on me: I have to worry about queue times and the likelihood that the queues will get longer.

On top of that, I’m very burned out by the RNG runes system, where the rune colors are randomized. In most games, when you get a purple drop in PVE or PVP, you rejoice. In WildStar, you hold your breath and pray for decent runes. To date I’ve purchased approximately 55 pieces of 1800 PVP gear, and it’s been a very frustrating and unrewarding experience. Players have said “wait until you can re-roll runes in Drop 3″ but that doesn’t solve my problem now, and I face other 1800-geared players who got their PVP gear prior to the RNG system being introduced for PVP gear. After my 4th purchase of an 1800 weapon resulted in another non-upgrade from the 1800 weapon I’m using, I finally gave up and unsubbed from WildStar last weekend.

This is a tough time for WildStar. The community is hoping/praying that Drop 3 will turn the game around. Since WAR and AoC in 2008, I have yet to see a game that hemorrhaged subs in the first 3 months make a meaningful recovery. Some folks point to SWTOR, which transitioned to F2P, but that game has not only an epic combat feel but one of the most valuable IPs of any genre.

Over the past week I’ve been playing ArcheAge (AA) and shaking off rust in WoT. I doubt I will stick with AA as the leveling process is bland and there are no BGs to enjoy, practice, test specs, and gain leveling experience. I really appreciate AA’s flexible build system, and on paper I found a class that suits me well: Abolisher, which combines Battlerage/Defense/Auramancy for a durable MDPS build that has CC and can counter CC. That said, my Abolisher is only level 15 and the road to 50 is many hours of tedium. Folks have told me AA’s endgame sandbox PVP is worth it, but I’ve never played a game that I disliked while leveling and loved at endgame. If the game can’t pull me in during the leveling process, the shoe doesn’t fit.

WoT has thankfully reminded what a (mostly) skill-based game with a very active population looks like, and I’m continuing to try to play at a Super Unicum (2900+ WN8 rating) level without gold ammo. It’s a fun goal :)

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