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VirginWorlds MMORPG News
Host: Brent
VirginWorlds is a weekly news podcast covering Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, EverQuest, Guild Wars, City of Heroes, Eve Online, Vanguard, Lord of the Rings Online and many many more. The VirginWorlds MMORPG Podcast is the flagship podcast of the VirginWorlds MMO Podcast Collective found at http://www.virginworlds.com

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VirginWorlds Podcast #134.3
Sat, 22 Nov 2008 23:13:00 GMT [download/play]



-  Brent expresses his disgust with NCsoft
-  EVE expands and plans another
-  City building MMO, Cities XL comes onto the radar

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Episode #22 - Duration: 00:48:02 - Released: Thu, 3 Aug 2006 05:48:00 GMT
Episode #21 - Duration: 02:08:31 - Released: Tue, 1 Aug 2006 06:26:00 GMT
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Episode #16 - Duration: 01:09:42 - Released: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 05:27:00 GMT
Episode #15 - Duration: 00:48:41 - Released: Mon, 19 Jun 2006 06:41:00 GMT
Episode #14 - Duration: 01:02:45 - Released: Mon, 12 Jun 2006 03:01:00 GMT
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Episode #2 - Duration: 00:28:34 - Released: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 19:39:00 GMT
Episode #1 - Duration: - Released: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 06:21:00 GMT

Episode 134.3 Discussion Thread

'Totally Agreed' by Ardwulf
Submitted on 2008-11-22 21:48:46 CST
On the NCSoft/Tabula Rasa fiasco. Even if subs were that low, there are more options than just shutting the thing down, some of which could have made some money for NCSoft.


'support' by Token
Submitted on 2008-11-22 22:15:56 CST
This TR situation in incredibly frustrating. It was the same thing with Earth and Beyond and I know a lot of people who refused to buy Warhammer because of it.


'Disgusted.' by Belo
Submitted on 2008-11-22 23:18:27 CST
TR player since beta.

Can't even begin to describe how I feel about this, say what you want about SOE - but they don't do this. Back to MxO for me.



'I'm with you Brent...Disgusted' by Dathmar
Submitted on 2008-11-23 02:56:47 CST
I'll never buy another NC Soft product...I am done with them.
In about 2 years they have cancelled 2 MMOs...that is an awful track record.

I personally think NC Soft are damaging the MMO market by doing this - its like banks that go under...people start to lose confidence in investing money and with MMOs ...people don't want to investing time in something that might stop at short notice.

I agree on releasing both games.

Let NetDevil have Auto Assault back - surely any money is better than no money if you are never going to allow people to play it.
...you know the money NC Soft make from selling Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa might allow them to keep on a few more employees rather than sacking more people.

I think it won't be just players that will steer clear of NC Soft in the coming years...I think individual developers and development companies will be looking elsewhere from now on...which in my mind means Aion will probably be their last release in the western world.

Personally I am starting to think very carefully when I invest my time in a MMO now ....and I am starting to invest more and more time in games that have a strong "offline" component.



'SHAME ON YOU NC Soft!!!' by rocknerd
Submitted on 2008-11-23 03:58:38 CST
another vote in agreement. for shame NC soft. all the work, days, weeks, months and MANY years, not to mention the VERY recent re-tweaked gameplay in the form of adding the much touted FPS aspect to the game as well as many other patches im not able to mention as of right now in detail. but let me say this, i bought the game, played the free month and recently bought an extra copy for my brother because ALL of the recent changes and patches added to TR. thats one return customer coming back due to the hard work of the men in the trenches, the poor devs for TR as well as bringing a new customer to the fold. i can only imagine this is a microcosm of the larger current events of a game that, started out like EQ2. what i man by that is, look at ALL the turbulence EQ2 has gone through and it ended up in better shape than it started out in.

the devs (of TR as well as EQ2) listened to their hard-core customers and in the process was bringing new gamers into the the fold with their diligence, hard work and devotion to a game that had the balls to exist in this current climate of MMOs. they are to be commended!!! i think given some time by NCsoft, TR could have as much success as EQ2 or at least DDO like you mentioned. BAD money management if you cant afford to run a game with that amount of income.

i only hope the game doesnt disintegrate in some vault somewhere.

lets not forgot about gen. british though... how much of the blame should be placed on his shoulders? im not completely in the know as far as his rights to the property but could he not at least offer NC soft something for this IP to at least shop it around to other possible companies that may be willing to give the game a chance? look at hellgate london, at least the the folks at FSS attempted to get it into the hands of a savior, and that game has, at the very least, the ability to be played offline. when TR goes offline, it melds into the ether... if he has any say shame on him as well!!!

ive rambled enough, if you made it this far, cool. i hope the game will go on somehow.



'Eve in a box and ambulation' by Labrat
Submitted on 2008-11-23 05:27:33 CST
There is a interview with Torfi Frans on eurogamer about ambulation. It also has a bunch of screen shots. He doesn't give a date for ambulation, although late next year seems likely. So not in the box that is coming this march. That box will contain another new player experience, Tech III ships (customisable stuff) and the wormholes where the building blocks for said ship will be found. And moar missions, this time epic.

The interview can be found here:
http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=312618

Screens here:
http://www.eurogamer.net/gallery.php?game_id=1676&article_id=312505

Videos from fanfest are appearing here:
http://myeve.eve-online.com/download/videos/?type=7

And on youtube, here:
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=A8BB3B304350AA79

The video on the visual tech is quite interesting if you like that stuff.

Quantum rise stuff
The autopilot thing is the ability to say, I don't want to fly trough jita, so the autopilot works around it. Might give silly long routes though.

The certificates and medals are just ccp's take on the achievement kick. Certificates are automated skill check affairs, medals are player made. So expect 'unique' medals.

I'm not sure this post made the new Eve stuff clearer or more complicated. Oh well, fly safe.



'RvR and TR' by FarSpace
Submitted on 2008-11-23 18:21:58 CST
I know that many long time players of TR wanted playable Bane and it would fit the way the game was made better, not that they would take away the story line PvE but RvR I bet was they way to go, they had so mauch going for it already like can you imagine RvR and taking over bases, maybe they were thinking about it but thought it was to late and or whatever.


'I also agree' by Shawn
Submitted on 2008-11-23 20:06:06 CST
I was in pure love with Tabula Rasa at one time, but even though I branched out from the game, I came back because I realized how much I missed it. It's really a shame that the TR cancellation was made by some suits looking at graphs and pie charts at NCsoft top management. I used to be a big fan of NCsoft, being a GW and TR fanboy, but this is horrible for the company. I imagine they may lose more money from their newly-ruined reputation than they would have lost keeping Tabula Rasa alive. Word of mouth is a powerful thing.


'Will GW Survive GW2...' by Saylah
Submitted on 2008-11-23 23:38:48 CST
This behavior at NCSoft makes me wonder how long they'll hang on tow GW and GW2? Which ever one isn't cutting the mustard after a few months might be in for a shutdown. Like others have mentioned, they clearly aren't as forgiving as Sony in regards to keeping an MMO. As a potential customer for GW2, this is going to make me more likely to wait it out and see if GW2 has legs before investing the box price.


'Korean game companies don't belong in North America' by PeZzy
Submitted on 2008-11-24 00:25:13 CST
NCSoft's problem is that they are a Korean company trying to make inroads in North America. It seems like all their games are designed as throw-away, shallow games just like all those free to play Asian games. Then they charge a box-cost and a subscription fee, and wonder why their subscription rates are low. If Aion turns out to be a bust in North America, NCSoft should just stay out of the North American market.


'Subscription price' by Epicsound
Submitted on 2008-11-24 00:39:29 CST
I'm not sure why games that are lacking in popularilty don't try another subscription price. I would be much more likely to get back into TB if the price tag was $5 a month instead of $15.

I agree with the disgust for NCsoft. But save some hatrid for Garriot too. I wish they had left him in space.



'Harsh Reactions' by Seritaph
Submitted on 2008-11-24 07:58:07 CST
NCSoft continues to support "long-in-the-tooth" games like the original Lineage, Lineage II, City of Heroes and GuildWars. I have to think that they didn't make the decision in haste and that if they thought it was feasible to keep the game afloat they would. Also keep in mind the creative lead for the project, Richard Garriot, has left. Don't you think this has any impact at all? Where's his stick in the gut for abandoning your game?

We all love our MMO's and can get passionate about them, but in the end it's a business. They're in it to make money. I bet if they we're approached with a reasonable offer for the I.P., they'd consider selling it. However, don't expect them to go out and post the sale of TR on e-bay. There's also the possibility that Garriet still owns part or all of the I.P. and simply took his marbles and went home.



'pointless' by Token
Submitted on 2008-11-24 11:18:48 CST
@ Seritaph

You've completely missed the point. Everyone here knows too well it's business, we all understand the likely causes. Lets say you're right and we shouldn't be outraged or shocked or disappointed. How does that help? We aren't going to get the game back through the power of calm logical thinking. Also, we don't owe NCsoft a damn thing and their girlyboy mmo Aion can stay out of europe for all I care.



'NCSoft' by Sente
Submitted on 2008-11-24 11:18:56 CST
I have to make some comments about the NCSoft part after listening to the podcast:

NCSoft stated in an earnings call early this year that they would give Tabula Rasa about 1 year to become profitable and that it would need to do at least 8 million USD. This was their stated break-even to operating the game per year.

Since NCSoft only provides earning numbers in Korean Won it is a bit difficult to say exactly how much Tabula Rasa made in USD due to changing exchange rates. But my guess is that they made about 4-5 miliion USD during the first 3 quarters of 2008.

While I agree that they could perhaps found some way to keep it running I am not so sure they really wanted to do that due to Garriott and Austin.

Looking back NCSoft acquired Destination Games in 2001 and it became NCSoft Austin, HQ for NCSoft in US. They started with running Lineage for NCSoft in US and of course development of Tabula Rasa. Now, what is the result 7 years later?
Tabula Rasa, financial failure. Dungeon Runners do not seem to make so much money either. Lineage games running on a steady but low subscriber base.
They had a partnership with Spacetime studios (Austin) which they cancelled and they cancelled their own ongoing project in Austin.

At the same time, City of Heroes which they financed together with Cryptic has been making a profit - perhaps not huge, but still a profit. Guild Wars has most likely been a financial success; if that would be included in MMO "subscriber" comparisions it would likely be #2 in the West. It is defintely their most successful game in the West.

NCSoft transfers its US HQ to Seattle. ArenaNet is located in Bellevue, which is just outside Seattle.

I would say that NCSoft in Seoul probably has lost their patience and confidence with Garriotts and management in NCSoft Austin, putting those that has actually made profit for them in the West in charge instead.

Making the game (Tabula Rasa) open source or something like that may not be viable - the code may have dependencies to 3rd party products used. It may simply not be possible for legal reasons and due to license model and costs it may not be viable to use and run under a certain amount.

While I certainly do not like that Tabula Rasa is closing down (played it for many months and enjoyed it), I do not think that NCSoft is the evil MMO company that is going to abandon the Western market as soon as they get a chance.



'But will it effect NCSoft?' by shuttler
Submitted on 2008-11-24 12:01:36 CST
I'm pissed TR is closing, although will it make any difference to gamers playing NCSoft products int he future? Podcasters and bloggers might see it differently to the general gaming public, but I am not sure TR closing will effect NCSoft in the long run. When they bring out the next big title players will still play them and not stop because of what happened in TR.

Just about everyone who gets the free CoH time, L2, Aion beta and digital download will use them even if they feel bitter about TR. I wonder how many people will boycott NCSoft?

Don't get me wrong I am gutted about this news, having hosted Tabulacast and running Tabula Blogger for so long I invested a huge chunk of my life in to this game.



'Auto Assault' by Belo
Submitted on 2008-11-24 13:15:30 CST
@ Seritaph

I wouldn't be so sure. If I remember correctly, NetDevil approached NCsoft about purchasing the rights to AA, and they were rejected. The part that angers me the most is that NCsoft doesn't care at all about trying to save it, games have survived on far less than 17k subs, no it can't faciliate a 100 man dev team - but it is possible.



'asian business pride??' by rocknerd
Submitted on 2008-11-25 01:49:04 CST
u have to ask yourself how much of this TR going nowhere isnt because of the title above? i mean no racial disrespect only that asian culture has a lot of pride in their work, and i think that maybe the reason they WILL NOT let the game go is because if someone else bought the it and was successful with it, that would be a bad mark on the NC soft name. therefor they will never let it see the light of day again. i bet if Richard Garriott offered to pump some of his personal money into the project while they laid some people off and cut some of the costs somehow they might have kept it going a tad longer at the very least.

and how much of this is also garriott's departure? sure the games been on shaky ground, but maybe the whole time richard was there the NC suits kept telling each other, "lets keep this going, RG will make it right". then he left. what kind of message is that? and sure enough, 1-2 weeks later, its announced, TR is being shut down. if Richard had stayed at NC soft a little longer, we have to ask ourselves if the game would have stayed alive just a bit longer...



'Wow...' by RadarX
Submitted on 2008-11-26 09:19:14 CST
Brent your hate for NCsoft over that was...well rather delicious. I think as others have stated it really comes down to the money. While the game may be able to break even, this is a publically traded company and investors don't want break even. Especially in this world economy, being able to take expenses off the books no matter the revenue impact is probably going to improve their bottom line.

It's very likely this product just lost money. You have to at least give them credit for taking chances other companies won't. Guildwars, Auto Assault, Tabula Rasa...even Aion is a reach for the normal. NCsoft isn't going to pack up it's western markets, look at what they have NCsoft Europe doing. They can no longer rely on the Lineage IP's, they need something new but time may be running out for them.



'Good response and lots of good thoughts' by Brent
Submitted on 2008-11-29 03:32:00 CST
Thanks to everyone for chiming in on this.

Why am I writing this comment? Easy.. I jsut migrated the server and want to make sure everything is working properly.




'and I think you're right' by Brent
Submitted on 2008-11-29 03:33:00 CST
I think this very well may one of those embarrassment things where they can't stand the thought of letting someone else runt he game even if they're taking a massive loss on it.


'Being reasonable' by Macdexter
Submitted on 2008-11-29 14:32:24 CST
Just a few thoughts. Granted that the subscription figures that you gave are right, Brent, then I personally cannot see how in the world the decision to close down TR is reasonable at all. OK, they lost money, since the original development was more expensive than what came back to them so far. But the subscription would earn them more money than the operating costs would be. So in terms of lowering the loss it would be useful to keep it running and eventually enlarge the player base.

So either there is something missing in all our considerations or they are simply not patient enough and they want more instant return of investment. Which is not going to work in MMOs ever again for quite a long time, I shall think. You can have your niches but the mainstream MMO operation, where the huge money is, is occupied. That is something that must be obvious to any company planning to go for MMOs these days. Because of the amount of dedication that went into our beloved toons people are not very likely to change. They only change if they come across something that fits their likings way more, which is why only niches currently work.

But there is one thing to be learned from all that: in a market that is so heavily battled for, do not rush out games. TR has become a fine game during that year since release, but it was not in the beginning and this was one of the major issues concerning its success(-lessness). And they could not recover from that disaster. If the public opinion once is set in a negative way, it is even more complicated to lift off than it is anyway with all that competition.

I don't have a good feeling looking at the directions game development has taken. Constantly setting high hopes by publishing tons and tons of unrealistic, exorbitant press releases, everybody rushing to be part of beta programs and then, when they are finally released the games cannot live up to their expectations. I personally would prefer the players too to be more patient, relaxed and reserved. Stop hyping things before they are done. Only this way the industry will learn.



'Other possibilities' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2008-11-29 14:38:46 CST
Other possible reasons include not wanting to create their own competition, and wanting to hold on to specific talent that otherwise might migrate with the title.

Side note: I went thru NCSoft's quarterly financials for the past year. Looked to me like TR was on-track to gross 6.5-7 billion Won. Conversion rate USD to Won has been climbing during 4Q08, so the final numbers might be higher, but nowhere near what they were looking for, using Sente's $8million USD figure (conversion was hovering 1000 to $1 USD until around August, it's up to 1500 per of late).

Surprising to me was that CoH/CoV had 3 times the revenue during the year, despite no new box/shelf presence for quite some time.

Was there ever any indication of what NetDevil actually offered for AA? I'm curious how much was really on the table (yeah, I know, confidential trade info, but you never know.) In the case of TR, I doubt you could get serious consideration with less than 7 figures USD plus on-gping royalties... on the other hand, it's hard to imagine someone, somewhere couldn't sell a business plan built around acquiring an existing product with a proven history of $6 million annual revenue.

Random thoughts...



'Postscript' by DamianoV
Submitted on 2008-11-29 14:53:10 CST
Anyone else seeing TR boxes still on the shelves? Saw some yesterday at $39... right alongside Hellgate: London boxes, as a matter of fact... at the local Best Buy.

A little better sales/distribution management by major players might be in order? Selling boxes for subscription services that are in the process of shutting down is not good optics for the wider industry over the long term.



'retailers (off topic)' by Brent
Submitted on 2008-11-29 23:41:59 CST
I'm constantly shocked at how out of touch retailers are with the state of the online games they sell on their shelves. Additionally, has any one noticed that Target is completely incapable of getting a box on the shelf on release day? Can you imagine how many sales they lose because of that? They seem to get things like Spore and WotLK on the shelf, but over the years they seem very slow to populate the shelves. Cases I recall from the recent past: Fallout 3 and LotRO Moria, but the list goes on and on.


'Its the same in the UK' by Dathmar
Submitted on 2008-11-30 08:27:32 CST
Currently play.com are selling Asheron's Call 2: Legions for 14.99
and
Fury for 4.99
I have a local electronics store still selling Auto Assault for 9.99 !!

I still have my copy in the hope NC Soft offer the code back to NetDevil one day



'EU Retailers' by shuttler
Submitted on 2008-11-30 08:41:53 CST
I swear in the EU the retailer issues are even worse.

When a new SOE game comes out it is hard to get in the high street, ok they do have them but its not featured and the staff aren't really aware of the release unless they are into MMO's or if it's a console or Blizzard game.

Not necessarily the retailers fault probably the publisher?

I'd love for AA to make a come back or indeed TR to hang around in some way.

AA is an interest example though. Despite AA being canned and feeling sore for a little while with NCSoft I still bought in to TR and played it. I wonder how many others did that? Will we after time buy in to the next thing from NCSoft?




'Retailers and NCSoft' by Sente
Submitted on 2008-11-30 10:17:32 CST
Blizzard and NCSoft (GW, L2, CoH/CoV) are pretty much the only representatives for MMOs that I see on retailer shelves when I visit, with some occasional exceptions. Warhammer Online and Pirates of the Burning Sea are some recent exceptions, although I do not think they sold much of the pile of PotBS though.

SOE-made games I have not seen in recent years on the shelves at all.

---
As for NCSoft and cancelling games - personally, if they release some new game and it is something I like I will play it most likely. If they have done a decent job with the game while it was running and later cancelled it I would rather go with that than with some company that did a poor job with the game kept it running.

So far I have played 3-4 MMOs that have been cancelled - Earth&Beyond (EA), Auto Assault (NCSoft) and soon Tabula Rasa (NCSoft). While not an actual cancellation, I pretty much consider SWG NGE as a cancellation of the old SWG - it did eliminate the type of characters I was playing.

In 3 of the 4 cases I had played the game extensively, but I was not playing any of them at the time of cancellation. If I had been playing any of the games at the time they were cancelled and I had liked the game then I might have been a bit more pissed off.

Actaulyl I am surprised that we have not seen more cancellations of games during the past few years.

It is still the people you play with that forms an important part of the experience and as long as they are around somewhere I do not think I can be too worried about games potentially going away.



'retailers' by Token
Submitted on 2008-11-30 13:25:38 CST
SOE must have the worst sales team dealing with the UK, I couldn't find a box copy of Vanguard or EQ2 anywhere and I also wasn't able to find any kind of digital purchase method at the time. This restricts people to ordering a game from an online retailer, I just don't think ordering games online and having to wait for them to arrive feels right. I sent a mail to Alan telling him how hard it is to start playing his games.

I had a pre-order for Planetside with Amazon.co.uk and the release was going to line up perfectly with a 2 week holiday from work. They didn't bother to dispatch it for 9 days after release citing some king of supply problem, during that time I bought a 2nd copy from a shop because I didn't want my holiday ruined. So you never know when the good old shop will come in handy!



'A cheap TR' by scytale2
Submitted on 2008-12-01 18:31:44 CST
Seems I was lucky not to have wasted money on a knowck-down priced TR I saw the other day. I played the game in beta and later when they asked people back.

Basically, the game is good. it stands up well to competitors, but it needs a decent server population for its epic quests, which are too hard solo. So the best bits just weren't possible for me.

Comparing to every other MMO on the market, TR is no worse. It looks great, it is innovative to a point. It is no less fun than Warhammer.

So my evaluation is similar to one other. It's a cultural difference. The style of the game did not suit the company. Raking in lots of money for "Korean-style" titles kind of influences your view on a Western-style MMO. And sure, the culture of "keeping a game going for the meagre player-base" is anathema.