Tag: Petition Update

Ember Update & Poster Art

(It’s late, so sorry for any typos. I’ll edit as I re-read, but I wanted to get this out there as promised, once we hit the 500 signature mark.)

Here we stand at 600+ signatures. More than twice what I thought we would get. It may not be enough yet, but its amazing and still growing. It’s nice to know there are people out there the still love the game as much as I do. Players who remember what it was like to gaze out on the landscape while a thumper signals ominous doom approaching and thinking “this game is unique.”

How we lost our way since that early beta…from the early PvP in OCT to the tiers and the constant chase of rare resources, or even the sheer mayhem of xp valley. You don’t have to remind me of what we’ve lost, or my role in it. I’m too painfully aware of what could have been. You all have lost a game you believed in, and I’ve lost a very personal dream. It was my goal to show that online games (I hate to call them MMOs) can be different from WoW…stand on their own, and give back some of the magic we thought we lost since we first played Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, EvE and yes, even WoW. I still believe that.

I’ve read all your comments since I started blogging about the lore of Firefall, its original vision, and the Ember teaser we put together. I’m deeply grateful to my friends Tommaso Renieri (recon and T.H.M.P.R. artist) and Laura Post (Aero!) for their help in creating the video. When I first finished putting it together I must have watched it dozens of times.

It’s from your comments that I know I am a controversial figure (to put it mildly). But I think you should also know that I feel a profound sense of responsibility for what happened to Firefall, and the gamers who believed in it. If you didn’t believe so passionately in the promise of the original game, you would not be so angry at me now for its failure to materialize. For my own anger, directed most often and intensely at myself, I’ve tried to channel it here: To allow myself a second chance which I still don’t quite believe I deserve.

Maybe I don’t, but you do.

You, who played for hundreds of hours, who lined our booths at PAX, who bought hundreds of dollars worth of founder’s packs and grabbed all your friends to play alongside you…you deserve that second chance.

But Ember is like Tinkerbell. She’ll fade away unless you clap and truly believe. That’s what we’re doing on change.org by signing the petition, we’re believing again. And maybe, if enough of us clap, I can give you my apology. My apology in the form of the game that you all signed up for in the first place, the one you deserve.

It won’t be easy. Even Blizzard had to cancel Titan and give us Overwatch instead as they too tried and failed to tame the elusive Shooter MMO. And yes, it will take years to do right. But to me, the years I would put in would be worth it, if I can see that game again, but complete and whole and with thousands of happy fans.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Anyone who tells you they can fund an MMO with a single kickstarter is full of shit. Even if you raise 1.5 or even 3M dollars, you’re an order of magnitude off base from what it will cost to complete. At least, that’s if you’re trying to create a traditional MMO. But what if there was a way to get there in stages, starting small and growing the game, perhaps episodically, funding each stage as you go. Companies that are most successful serial Kickstarters do this. Their first game raises tens of thousands, then hundreds, then millions as they prove they can deliver. Only, what I’m proposing here is funding a series of playable milestones over the course of a few years. Each funding milestone would build upon the last, and have higher and higher fund raising goals as it proved its worth. (I highly recommend spending time on kicktraq.com for those into heavy analytics)

Even then we’re going to have to run lean. Just like Matt Damon in The Martian, we’re going to have to shed “a little weight” off the MAV launch vehicle. First, no marketing except word of mouth. Every dollar has to go to development and keeping the lights on. Riot has a (famously) framed check for their first marketing budget for League of Legends, which they never spent, for just about $10,000. They didn’t need it. The game spoke for itself. That’s what we have to do with Ember too.

Second, we’ve got to run remote offices, people working from home, and temporary and contract employees instead of huge offices and a gigantic full time staff. We’d keep a very small, tight knit permanent staff to keep the vision of the game centered and do the key lifting.

Third, we’re going to manage our scope carefully. For example, starting small and proving each step as we fund and go. The first milestone could be to fund a prototype of resource gathering being fun, with a smaller map, a single frame, and our new T.H.M.P.R. MEKA and a couple of baddies that work together in interesting combos. Prove things: show we can procedurally generate waves and scenarios that are interesting by themselves. Next milestones would be more and more ambitious and expand the on all the previous ones.

Fourth, no overhauls, no wasting work, no huge revamps. This was the biggest mistake on Firefall and one that I’m personally done with. Some of this is unavoidable, for example if we have a badly received milestone, but at all time we have to stick to the true core principles of the game, and not drift over to “WoW with guns” again.

Fifth, listen and work with our players. How many times has the community shouted at the screen collectively, like an audience in a horror movie, about what to avoid, what was working, and what wasn’t? But who to listen to when the community itself is divided? Ultimately I can only tell you that I would have to decide what is right in those cases, but by looking at the original vision and values of the game and staying true to them. It also has to be the game I was dreaming of creating, or there would be no passion upon the creator to make it, and you would get lukewarm results. If you buy into the game as I describe it, and stay true to it, then your feedback can help us achieve that game.

So, these are some initial thoughts. I think we can develop these milestones in parallel to the tabletop game, which will also provide a lot of the backstory and lore of Ember. Since people wanted a place to discuss it, I’ve created a group on my other site, www.leagueforgamers.com, where people can post, follow each other and comment https://leagueforgamers.com/group/ember Please let me know what you think there. I’ll be responding actively.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this large, poster sized version of the art you saw in the teaser video. Use it. Put it on your website, print it out, distribute it as you will. Just link back to the petition, okay? https://www.change.org/p/crixa-labs-make-ember-a-spiritual-successor-to-firefall

EmberPoster

Delivering the Nostalrius Petition, My Meeting with Mike

What a strange road its been for legacy WoW servers. On April 15, I joined the Nostalrius movement to bring back vanilla servers for WoW. The petition was already at 100k signatures, and I promised that if it reached 200k signatures that I would personally send it to Mike Morhaime.

I never imagined that you guys would blow past 200k signatures in just a week, leaving me with a promise to fulfill. Well, yesterday, nearly six weeks later, I’m proud to have delivered on that promise, bringing a gigantic three boxes worth of signatures and comments to Blizzard HQ and directly to Mike Morhaime, the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment and my former boss.

Watch the video for more info and check out the pics from my visit.

IMG_0731IMG_0732IMG_0735 copy

Meeting with Blizzard Scheduled and Survey Update

Good news! Not only is the Nostalrius team meeting with Blizzard in early June, but I’ll be having my legacy server meeting with Blizzard CEO, Mike Morhaime, next week on Thursday. Blizzard has also agreed to accept delivery of the printed petition.

You guys did it! Nostalrius’ petition and YOU have made this possible, all 260,000 of you. While we are not guaranteed a vanilla or legacy server by Blizzard, its a very good sign that they have agreed to meet and at least talk about it.

Not to get our hopes up (okay fine, my hopes are up), but if we did get vanilla/legacy servers, a good number of you seem quite happy to help relaunch it by purchasing an optional legacy CE (collector’s edition) of the game:

Screenshot 2016-05-16 10.10.52

The basic idea is that legacy would be included as a bonus for being a WoW subscriber, but that you could optionally purchase a collector’s edition on top of that. I believe this would be an attractive proposition for Blizzard. We’ve seen how well remastered editions of older games have done for Halo, God of War, etc. and it makes sense to offer something that would be profitable for Blizzard and cover the costs of relaunching legacy servers. I don’t *quite* remember how many of the original CE for WoW were made, but I believe it was under 100,000 units. Even at those numbers, it was profitable.

Would this CE be digital of physical?

Screenshot 2016-05-07 12.00.25

Why not both? It seems the demand would be there to have both digital and physical goods available for this hypothetical collector’s edition of legacy WoW. We talked about what to include on Twitter, including a cool sculpted “Dark Portal” statue, skins for mounts, new pets, as well as a jokingly tongue in check “Sword of a Thousand Truths” USB stick, complete with a Randi cover that “brandished” the sword.

In any case, I believe this would be a great and fun optional idea for a vanilla/legacy relaunch. It may also be very attractive to Activision/Blizzard as it seeks new ways to revitalize and maximize profits on WoW. What do you think? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

Getting a meeting time nailed down. Help remind Blizzard!

[UPDATE: Thank you! You guys sent out hundreds of tweets! Mike and Blizzard now must know this issue is still very much alive. I’m taking down the auto-tweet link below, as I feel its done its job. But you can still tweet on your own. 🙂 I’ll be sending Mike another e-mail tomorrow. Thanks!]

WoW Petition Update:

As you know, I’ve got a tentative meeting set up with Mike Morhaime to discuss legacy server. Our first e-mail exchange below:

Screenshot 2016-05-11 09.48.16

I’ve since sent two followup e-mails to Mike. One last Friday and one again this past Monday. Mike is a busy guy, but I’ve yet to hear back about a definite date for a meeting. Nostalrius is also in contact with Blizzard and is also having some difficultly nailing down a time from Blizzard.

You can help.

I can’t give you Mike’s direct e-mail, and Blizzard no longer publishes a support e-mail address. So, we’ll tweet @Warcaft instead to help get this going. Simply click the link below to tweet out a message to Blizzard to let them know we want these meetings scheduled. Feel free to customize the tweet. TY!

[Auto tweet link removed. We sent a strong message. Rest is up to Bliz!]

Legacy WoW – Tweak it? Update it? Leave it the hell alone?

[Again, this is about legacy WoW, not about my tabletop game, Crixa. If the WoW posts and MMO posts get popular, I’ll separate them into a second tab on the front page so the posts can have their own section rather than be lumped in with my Tabletop posts.]

First up, petition updates:

We’re waiting.

Nostalrius is waiting on a definitive date for their meeting, and I’m waiting on my date to be booked with Mike. I sent Mike a followup e-mail last Friday and one again today. The last time it took about a week to hear  back from Mike before he agreed to a meeting, so I’m being patient.

Okay, now onto the surveys. Last week’s survey’s were fairly controversial. The first question was about whether or not to update the character models in a legacy server to the new models:

 

Charaacter Models

Current WoW has new models for players and some have asked if these models could be included in Legacy WoW. People were VERY split. Comments indicated that many thought that new models would detract from the vanilla purity and point of having legacy servers. Many voted for new models, but it became clear that it was coming from a “nice to have” perspective with only one or two saying they would not play vanilla WoW if the models were not updated. Many were concerned that asking Blizzard for any additional work was just going to make it that much harder to get them to agree to hosting a legacy server.

This lead to a much more interesting question:

 

changewow

When asked if Blizzard should change vanilla/legacy WoW on a relaunch, the clear majority wanted little, if any changes. In followup comments there were a lot of reasons that people gave. They broke down into a few categories:

  • Keep it simple. It’s going to be hard enough to convince Blizzard to do legacy without asking for any additional work.
  • Don’t mess up a good thing. People want vanilla or TBC, etc, just as it is. It’s the old systems that made it what it is and what we want to play again.
  • Bug fixes are fine. Nearly everyone agreed with this. Old exploits, game breaking bugs and such should be addressed.
  • Convenience features are the devil. LFG/Dungeon Finder, LFR, and other systems were seen, nearly universally, as contributing to the decline of WoW gameplay over the expansions and should be avoided in any vanilla/legacy server.

Personally, I would tend to fall into the “leave it alone” camp. Legacy for me is as much about preserving history and a piece of gaming culture as it is about playing the version of the game that we loved. Any changes beyond bug fixes would hamper both those goals. More importantly, designers love to tinker, and once you open the floodgates to “just one more change” you’re down a slippery slope that can cascade into bigger and bigger “improvements.”

A thought about convenience features: these really are the devil. With modern MMO convenience features, your UI starts to become the game. Instead of interacting with the immersive world around you, you are stuck staring at flat UI screen and clicking buttons. This is very convenient and fast, but it also removes a lot of what made MMOs cool in the first place–like an immersive world that felt real and lived in, and a sense of wonder and exploration that made new zones exciting instead of just another item in a UI list box. Once your primary interaction with the game is it’s UI instead of moving around that world and talking to other players and NPCs, you might as well be playing a single player game…and in my opinion not even a very good single player game.

That’s just my opinion. As I said before, I’ll be presenting all options to Mike that we’ve discussed. Blizzard has far more resources than I do to make accurate surveys if they like. My own informal twitter surveys are just there to draw out all the possible topics to discuss.

As usual, post your thoughts below in the comments! I’ll be reading and answering them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WoW Legacy Survey Info

[Note to Crixa RPG readers. I’m doing work to help convince Blizzard to try and restore original vanilla World of Warcraft servers. This blog post is not about the space opera RPG]

To update everyone on the legacy petition status, we have a bit of time. While Nostalrius and I both have separate meetings coming up with Blizzard, a definitive date looks to be at least a week or two away. Current status:

  1. Petition at over 253k signatures – congrats!!!! (can always use more: https://www.change.org/p/mike-morhaime-legacy-server-among-world-of-warcraft-community)
  2. Petition printed – DONE! Will be delivered when I meet Mike: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFAadmkAd7g
  3. My meeting with Mike – Awaiting scheduling (Mike ws booked solid for 2 weeks)
  4. Nostalrius’ meeting – Awaiting scheduling (see @Nostalbegins on Twitter for their status)

In the meantime, to prepare to discuss things with Mike, I’ve started collecting some (highly informal) survey data on Twitter. The one we’re talking about today are the surveys on progression servers and moving to new expansions from vanilla. Take a look.

Screenshot 2016-05-05 05.51.39 Screenshot 2016-05-05 05.51.14

The first survey on the left was a bit flawed. Since I can’t explain everything in a 140 char tweet, many people who voted for timeline based progression did so by accident, so I posted the second survey to clarify.

Basically what we are looking at here is a big question about how to handle expansions with vanilla or legacy servers. Only 15% wanted vanilla to never be upgraded. Anecdotally, I received many tweets (@Grummz, btw), that said TBC (Burning Crusade) was the sweet spot they would like to play.

It’s pretty clear that the majority of people want some kind of progression from vanilla thru expansion packs. Many pointed out that they would want the progression to stop at Wrath of The Lich King, as those people viewed Cataclysm as the beginning of the end of classic WoW. Cataclysm certainly is from the point of view of content, since they did away with much of the old content by then and reshaped the rest. Clearly if we want to play WoW as it was, we need to preserve servers that are pre-Cat.

Now there were two main ways we discussed moving from vanilla to expansions like TBC and WotLK: automatic and manual. Automatic is when the server you are on upgrades to the next expansion back at a certain interval (say, every 2 years), and brings everyone on the server along with it. Manual is when the vanilla server you are on isn’t going to change. If you want to play the next expansion, you would elect to copy your character to the new expansion server when it became available.

Automatic transition was by far the less popular choice. People pointed out that by automatically progressing the servers, we would a) end up where we are now at WoD and wishing we had vanilla again, and b) wipe out the historical content we were seeking to preserve in the first place (Naxx, etc.). It seems the only way automatically progressing servers could work and still preserve the past, is if we still kept servers around for prior expansions…which is, of course, what the second and more popular choice of “Manual” implies.

A manual expansion upgrade means that the vanilla server you play on would remain the same forever. If you wanted to go on to an expansion, you would need to transfer or copy your character to the next expansion in series. Now, there are open questions here. Are all expansions available at launch of legacy, or do you roll them out every 2 years? What happens to the population of a server when an expansion comes out? What happens to guilds who may find themselves split between servers?

The notion of being able to copy your character, rather than transfer it, is an important one to many people. Many felt that a one-way transfer would leave the prior, originating server, depopulated. By copying your character to the next expansion, you would have the option of playing on both. Your original character would still be tuned for vanilla, and your new character could progress in TBC with new gear etc. If you wanted to play vanilla content, you’d go to the vanilla server. If you wanted TBC content/features, you’d play on a TBC server.

Not many were concerned about guilds being split. Most seemed to think that guilds could self-manage this by either being large enough to maintain a multiple server presence, or by electing to transfer by a guild vote en masse. I tend to agree. I’m not worried about how guilds manage the transition. They will do what’s right for them.

The question of server depopulation is an interesting one. But I think it needs to be viewed in light of legacy not being the actual definitive business of WoW, but as a bonus feature. As a bonus feature, I’d be far less worried about a lack of payers on older expansion servers. The point is to offer it as an option, and only deploy the minimum number of servers needed to meet that demand and also preserve the historical importance of the game as a cultural icon. If vanilla servers start being collapse all the way down to one server when TBC launches, that’s fine. History is preserved, and the legacy option is preserved. The main game and legacy expansions will continue to carry the bulk of payers.

I do think that we should start with vanilla and keep it running for 1-2 years before introducing any expansions. This will give people time to level and appreciate the old content. It’s also a lot easier to convince Blizzard to try, since its just one version of the game to start with. If successful, Blizzard would likely be happy to release additional expansions over time.

I’m looking for thoughts and comments, so please leave them here! Twitter is also good for quick suggestions, and you can reach me @grummz.

Thanks and let’s keep our fingers crossed for legacy servers!