Friday Ramblings

Today I’m going to catch up on a lot of random things I haven’t commented on throughout the week.

EverQuest Next Landmark

SOE is having their huge Year of EverQuest kickoff event in San Diego.  Smedley just tweeted that Trailblazers should stay tuned for the next five hours.  Whether that’s more cryptic hype or legit I really have no clue.  I’m going to pretend it means that when I get home from work today I’ll have an awesome game to play.  By the way, if you are a Trailblazer and want to join the best gaming community out there you needn’t look further than right here!

A bunch of us have huuuuuuge (read: gigantinormous) plans for Landmark.  I’m excited to jump in and blow up their feedback system with all of my opinions.  When the NDA drops, I’ll give you all the unfiltered details.


I played briefly last night because a bunch of people in the KG Community are playing.  I logged in to my 52 Sarnak SK and 32 Ratonga Brigand and immediately remembered why EQ2 is still one of the best MMOs out there.  The world is awesome, the races are awesome, the classes are diverse, and there’s so much substance (always has been) to everything.   I was totally lost by the 4 hotbars full of abilities, though.  I don’t think I’ll devote much time to EQ2, but it’s nice to see it still thriving — lots of people were online running around and chatting.

ESO & WildStar

Random thought for the day about these titles: I think they are being overshadowed by indie games and other companies giving the players more of a voice.  My excitement is dwindling.  I have more to say on both but I’ll save it for full posts.

Cross-Promotion between Pantheon and Shroud of the Avatar

I thought it was interesting to read in a press release that McQuaid and Garriott are giving cloaks in each other’s games for people who back both games.  I think both the relationship between the two devs and the idea of linking two unrelated MMOs was something worth mulling over.

Mythic makes mobile games…

The studio once responsible for Dark Age of Camelot now makes F2P time-waster games.  Dungeon Keeper sounds good on paper.  A F2P game about carving a dungeon out of rock, building traps, and defending it against other players is pretty cool sounding.  Look deeper and it’s full of pay-to-win and screams money-grab.  I guess that’s Mythic: 2, Beloved IPs: 0.

I’ll add more in the comments as I try and make it through the day.

  • The idea of paying to get into an alpha is an exploitive cash grab, and then they also expect the purchasers to be bound to silence with an NDA. In in my eyes once you buy it, the product is yours to do with as you please, as it has in effect it has gone live in the marketplace.

    I suppose why not ask for it all if people are willing to shell out the money, but I prefer it the less parasitic old school way, where one offers to help a company playtest their early release for the opportunity to get a first peek, and out of courtesy uphold an NDA.

    Such practices are in effect selling an unfinished game, and naturally not wanting the consumer to tell anyone else any details about the problems pertaining to their unfinished product.

    I dislike that this lack of responsibility on the part of devs has become an established practice in the industry, especially as it feeds off of players’ genuine enthusiasm.

  • ESO is going to be an amazing flop. I’ve not heard anything really positive about it.

    WildStar I’m still really excited for. The gaming is shaping up real nice from all the beta stuff I’ve seen, and we’ll be getting more info about raids and large-scale PvP Warzones (the ones with customizable bases) soonâ„¢ sometime in February. As for other companies giving players more of a voice, I’m not so sure about that. A lot of kickstarters for new MMOs/RPGs have been popping up, which always involve lots of listening to the players. Plus a lot of those are aiming to be sandbox style games, which by their nature I think involve a lot more player feedback. But WildStar was never said to be or developed as a sandbox game, it is definitely a themepark game. But the devs know that andd they are taking in a lot of player feedback from the beta, I’ve been really impressed at how in-touch they’ve been. A lot of the Carbine employees even chat in Twitch streamers’ chat channels in the evenings and answer questions and chat with the players which is really nice.

    And speaking of themepark, I am really loving EverQuest 2. Downloaded it on a whim after stumbling across Massively’s weekly Everquest 2 stream on Tuesday. Been playing a lot of Star Trek Online but wanted something a little less instanced and more social to play as well. EQ2 looked like a lot of fun and I was chatting with the people there who were answering questions about it. I was expecting it to be more like the first Everquest I think, but it is more themepark than sandbox. It’s like a nice balance between EQ and WoW. I can solo when I don’t have time for groups and I have a nice crumb-trail of quests to follow, but there is a lot of freedom and encouragement to wander off on your adventures and meet other players. I spent half an hour last night collecting butterflies on my Froglok Paladin (which is my new favorite MMO race) only to stumble across a giant boulder that randomly started attacking me. I slayed it by the skin the of my teeth, got a nice treasure chest with a ring for my troubles, and then wandered off into a weird cave I had found. Got stomped by some Orcs and had a laugh. I also spent an hour earlier that day just socializing with someone who randomly approached me and started chatting it up in-character. It’s really reminded me of why I love MMOs in the first place: it has a great sense of adventure…

    …which in turn has me excited for EQN and EQNL now. I was only half-following these games, but now I’m definitely more interested just because of how positive my EQ2 experience has been so far (and that’s only been half a dozen hours). Won’t be in EQNL alpha since I can’t afford to drop money on a game that early – and I also don’t like this huge surge in games being sold in alpha states – but I’m hoping to get to play once it hits beta. If I enjoy EQ2 enough I’ll probably end up subscribing to that all-access service they’re launching in April (and probably play DCUO again too).

  • ESO just got out of my list…Selling access to race in a subscription game is …..(can’t find a word for this, or my comment will be deleted). When I feel the need, I ll start up skyrim again, install an awesome mod and play it. ESO is in blacklist right now…also, in case people forgot about..

    “just having one small monthly fee for 100% access to the game fits the IP and the game much better than a system where you have to pay for features and access as you play.” – Matt Firor

    “We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.” – Matt Firor

    “We feel that putting pay gates between the player and content at any point in game ruins that feelign of freedom.” – Matt Firor

  • He’ll be eating those words when it goes F2P. There is no way I see this surviving the year with a subscription pay model.

  • @Gankatron: They are offering full refunds to anyone not completely satisfied with the Alpha, including those who feel their systems can not run the game. That doesn’t sound very exploitive to me.

    @Jadawin: Nope. No one who can claim responsibility at least.

    @John: I’ve seen a lot of inconsistencies with ESO. Personally, I won’t be jumping aboard the ESO train unless a lot of my friends do.

    @TheRedComet: I think I’m in agreement. I see it F2P within a year if they don’t start changing the way the public perceives every single word they say.

  • Offering refunds is a good sign.

    Considering Smedley made that announcement of full refunds after I made my original post I can only assume I was directly responsible for SOE’s action; let’s put that assumption to the test, Gankatron feels SOE should give him a free trailblazer’s pack and a vegetarian hotpocket. I’ll keep you informed as to the results.

    I guess the market will bear what consumers are willing to pay. Paying $100 to the SOE corporation to alpha test their F2P without even giving back any station cash does come off as a cash grab aimed at their most enthusiastic supporters, but if future whales want to start paying in as soon as possible then it is between them and SOE.

    It will be interesting to see if SOE honor’s Smedley’s no question full refund statement “then let’s keep it simple. If people want a refund, they get it.” I can only imagine that Founder packs will start selling well as people will now intend to buy them, play the alpha, and then ask for refunds.

    I can’t quite recall, but there was an online statement prior to release of SWTOR promising early access features for those that brought the most expensive early access packs, which in the time leading up to immediate release a high profile BioWare rep simply reneged on (it might have had something to do with boxed Collector’s edition purchasers and not actually being able to play as early as Origin dl standard editions, maybe someone else will remember). There didn’t seem to be much recourse for those that bought the original expensive edition at that point.

    I wonder if Smedley’s Twitter statement is legally binding and codified somewhere in the online purchase agreement, and also if purchasers prior to his statement today will also be allowed to have full refunds after they are done playing the alpha?

  • @Romble:

    That is a terrible precedent, and I fully understand the reviewer’s anger at EA destroying the IP with their monetization pit tactics.

  • Still waiting for Landmark alpha to begin. I really enjoyed the 2 hour stream tonight and wish I had gone to San Diego for the community event. Missing the event solidified my choice to go to SOE Live, though. The Year of EverQuest is just beginning!

  • I am currently debating if I will watch another movie while waiting for the launch or if I will just head to bed and get up refreshed and ready to go. Decisions decision decisions

  • I got my answer from Smedley’s Twitter feed:

    Jeffthevet ‏@Jeffthevet 4h
    @j_smedley @Niinami89 @ReedViews Is your no question full refund statement legally binding and detailed in the online purchase agreement?

    John Smedley ‏@j_smedley 2h
    @Jeffthevet @Niinami89 @ReedViews just contact CS had they will take care of you. If that’s not good enough don’t buy it.

    Jeffthevet ‏@Jeffthevet 8s
    @j_smedley @Niinami89 @ReedViews So no. Used car salesmen conduct sales on the basis of verbal agreements, not reputable corporations.

  • Followed by:

    Jeffthevet ‏@Jeffthevet 5s
    @j_smedley @Niinami89 @ReedViews A basic rule of business: Do not trust a sales pitch that the salesman isn’t willing to put into writing.

  • I believe we should all agree in principle when making a purchase a customer should not be satisfied with a verbal agreement in lieu of an actual contract of warranty, especially when no direct personal relationship exists between them and the seller.

    In science one says data doesn’t exist until it is published, and the same principle is in effect here.

    This promise should give them a nice initial bump in earnings, especially as it is a F2P game, but what happens if a significant portion of alpha purchasers do want a refund and all that profit is about to vanish due to a single tweet? It is at moments like this we see the mettle of a political person put to the test, and more often than not there is an excuse, a plea for sympathy, then followed by saying in effect “too bad”, and at this point what is the consumers’ recourse?

    Mr. Smedley is not a long term friend of your family, nor a salt of the earth farmer selling turnips out of the back of his pickup truck, but a mouth piece for the Sony Corporation. There is no reason to take a stranger on his word based on a tweet, especially when he has refused to formalize it in writing, followed by the statement “If that’s not good enough don’t buy it.”

    It should be patently obvious that the reason he doesn’t want to formalize his verbal promise is not due to the lack of sufficient legal resources to accomplish this task. I imagine if he should so desire he could have his promise rapidly drafted by legal and then cut and pasted into the online purchase agreement in short order.

    His reluctance is more likely purposeful avoidance of the legal implications of committing Sony to the spirit of his tweet, which in turn should serve as a warning that he realizes the positive outcome he is selling may not actually come to pass. After all what is the harm of including his promise as a formal part of the purchase contract if there truly is a 100% chance of SOE honoring it?

    I am not sure if Mr. Smedley realized how unprofessional tweeting a satisfaction guarantee would be without any legal contract in place to ensure it will be carried through in the future. I will assume that there are people in Sony marketing and legal departments that are aghast at his promise of unconditional refund.

    We will see how many people will choose to recoup their $100 after playing through the alpha, and then plan to jump back into the open beta, I mean why not? If this becomes a common occurrence Sony and its stockholders will have him to blame for throwing aside sure profit for the risky promise of a double down payoff.

    Maybe he is a gambling man and thinks it is worth the risk, maybe he has such unwavering faith in his product that he doesn’t perceive the risk, or maybe he just has a plan B in place in case it doesn’t work out where apologetically says no? Of course he could also decide to end the alpha on short notice in effect keeping both their profits and his promise.

    My point is that regardless of what may be his motivations, the consumer should feel absolutely within their rights in requesting any non-formalized promises be detailed in writing; that is just good business sense for both the consumer and the provider.

  • I think you are underestimating the cost and logistics of making changes to legal documents. I often represent financial institutions and I am continually surprised at the glacial speeds with which they move in response to anything that is not a cookie cutter circumstance. I think he probably understood that his organization was incapable of making such a change quickly enough to have the substantive impact they wanted from the change and so he made an executive decision.

    Second, as a consumer if you have to rely on the written terms of an agreement in order to reap your benefit of the bargain…aren’t you already screwed at that point? Particularly when you are considering the product and price point in this instance. Companies breach contracts all the time. They even do it intentionally. The legal term of art for it is “efficient breach.” The question is, is the perceived cost of actually keeping the promise more than the perceived cost of breaking it?

    Also, as far as I am aware there is no difference between the enforceability of a written contract and an oral one. The only difference is the difficulty in proving what the terms are. Of course, that is an oversimplification. However here, the entire world has seen what Sony has promised to do…if they don’t do it…well, that is just business as usual, right?…written term or no. Did you read all of the written terms of the offer for alpha? I doubt very many people did. I guess you could really get into the weeds and argue about whether this is an oral modification of the written contact and whether or not the parol evidence rule would allow you to present evidence of of it, but that goes to my point above. If you are relying on the written terms to get your benefit of the bargain, I don’t think being out $100 and being less than satisfied with a video game purchase is really going to justify the cost of enforcing those terms. Written or not.

    All that being said, to me the question is one of risk. Is trusting what a company puts in a written contract more risky than what they promise on their twitter feed? I don’t particularly think so. If I made such a promise and you told me to put it it writing, I might react the same way he did and tell you that you can take me at my word or don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  • In terms of the cost and logistics of making changes to legal documents, this is exactly what Sony legal personnel are hired to do. Their costs are part of running the organization. I would indeed be inclined to believe that inclusion of a 100% satisfaction money back guarantee would be straightforward as there isn’t any flexibility in the interpretation of his criteria “100% customer satisfaction” or “full refund”.

    Your second point concerning being screwed if a consumer has to depend upon the enforcement of a legal contract is more of an apologist excuse for not bothering with formalized contracts at all than a legal argument. Pretty much every contract a consumer enters into with a corporation is likely to be cost prohibitive for the customer to pursue individually if violated, but that is one reason class action suits exists, and if we are talking about 10’s to 100’s of thousands of breached $100 contracts I am going to have to believe that a legal firm somewhere in the US would be interested in picking up the case if only out of the kindness of their charitable hearts.

    As far as the difference between a tweeted promise and a written contract, perhaps that is best left for legal experts with more training than you or I to spell out, but as a word of advice if in the purchase of your next car the salesman says in front of a group of onlookers “No problem, sign right here and I’ll make sure you get free heated cup holders” even as a legal layperson I still would advise you to get him to put it in writing.

    In any case whereas everyone recognizes the legal implications of entering into a written contract, I have no idea about the legal merits of tweeting to just trust him that everyone will get full refunds if they are not satisfied (maybe it was the cough medicine talking?).

    Even a basic seller’s service (eBay for instance) defines term of a sale and doesn’t allow for a “You can trust me and if not don’t let the door hit you in the ass” option, and this brings me back to the farmer analogy; in his role as the President of Sony Online Entertainment, Mr. Smedley should be expected to conduct the business of his corporation on more professional terms than tweeting proposed changes to the current purchase agreement while having no actual intention of taking steps to formalize it.

    A wounded pride argument (your “door hit ass” defense) against not trusting the seller is again an apologist one at best, and certainly has formed the basis of many business deal gone sour, and if legal recourse was then pursued I would fully expect a lawyer to ask the most basic of questions “Didn’t it occur to you to get this in writing prior to paying the seller for their services?” It seems that we might have different responses to that query.

    Arguing the pro’s and con’s of enforceability of tweeted promises and even your interesting dismissal of the value of consumer purchase contracts in our society glosses over why the President of a major corporation would specifically refuse to put a promise of a full refund based upon consumer satisfaction down in a contractually binding form; it certainly wouldn’t work the other way around with consumers tweeting promises to pay Sony at the conclusion of the alpha if they were 100% satisfied. There should be no double standard here between protecting the rights of corporate or individual financial interests.

    So if you are involved in a future business transaction and the seller says don’t worry just trust me, my advice is don’t as there is a motive behind why they refuse to commit to their promises when formed into a legally binding contract, and bruised pride is likely not the reason.

  • Again, for me the question is do I trust what a company puts in a written contract more than what they promise on their twitter feed?

    In this case for me the answer is no. For you, the answer is yes. I honestly don’t know if that makes you more gullible or me, but in any event I think you are overanalyzing this to a high degree.

    Also, I was not intending to imply that this was a good business decision, “professional”, sound policy or apologize for Sony. Rather, it seemed that you thought putting something in writing gives you something of benefit in this instance, but, class action lawsuits aside, I disagree based on the practicalities I previously described.