In Which I Post Snow Pictures

I got one of those little handheld video cameras for Christmas, and I’m happy to report that even its still pictures are better than the rubbish that my phone tries to fob me off with. So, now we’ve had the first proper snow of the year, I could hardly resist taking a few pics. As a Brit, the weather is one of my favourite topics at any time, but when it snows it becomes the only subject to talk about.

A Winter Wonderland in my back yard.

A Winter Wonderland in my back yard.

GamersFirst Café Claims : Making Moola, or just Making Mocha?

I was reading an article on Massively a little earlier about GamersFirst’s new merchant site. My interest, hey, where are you going??? Sigh. OK, well I hope you come back once you’re done over there.

Yay, you came back!! Right, where was I? Oh yes.

My interest was piqued largely because GamersFirst is the publisher of Fallen Earth, which is quite good, and APB, which is also a game that exists. That, and the quite extraordinary claim that appears below.

GamersFirst Premium Cafe Service

“GamersFirst’s Merchant Center : Two great ways to make money!”

Well, that sounds good. I quite like money. Tell me more!

Way 1: “Sell unique game items to your online visitors. Whether this is your first time selling game items or you already offer hundreds of game products, we have the right items for your customer demographics. We offer several great games in all key genres and many market-proven game items for each of them. Our team of experts will assist you every step of the way. Getting started has never been so easy.”

Way 2: “Sell unique game items and exclusive game perks to your café customers. For a limited time enjoy FREE access to our Premium Café Service. Offered only to gaming cafés this service provides every PC in your café an undisputedly superior gameplay experience than is possible on a home PC. After you’ve attracted players with your exclusive café benefits, upsell them on unique game items to maximize their gaming.”

Hmm. Those sound quite similar. In both cases, you’re reselling in-game items, but method 2 requires you to own a café.

Hold on. “this service provides every PC in your café an undisputedly superior gameplay experience than is possible on a home PC.”??? How wonderful!!! And this miracle can be achieved at no cost to your café (for a limited time). But what is stopping me from taking whatever is causing this superior gameplay, and using it on my home PC, bringing about a universe-threatening paradox loop? How is this free scheme creating undisputedly superior gameplay experiences, and why is nobody disputing it? I feel a dispute coming on, but first, lets try to figure out what this scheme actually does.

Once you’ve signed up you will have access to our exclusive Premium Café Service as well as our entire catalog of game items and currencies at bulk purchasing prices. Premium Café Service gives your café a distinct edge over both your competition and home PCs. The most loyal and valuable players will be drawn to your cafe, and from there you can choose to sell them their favorite game items for maximum player value and cafe profits.

All that is necessary to get started with Premium Cafe Service is a set of basic network details so we can connect your entire gaming cafe to our premium network. Since this this is an absolutely FREE service, there is nothing to pay. You simply need to set it and forget it.

Your players will have the best gameplay experience possible at your cafe. You can use this to your advantage to attract more players and to also raise prices. You are free to choose how to include Premium Cafe Service in your business model.

I see. So when you say “undisputedly superior gameplay experience than is possible on a home PC”, you just mean that the players might get a discount on your item shop. That’s not really what gamers are talking about when we talk about “Gameplay”. I believe you may be trying to confuse us by using buzzwords. In fact, that entire passage I quoted seems like an attempt to flimflam cybercafé owners into signing up for a service that is only free for a “limited time”, getting much-needed promotion for their stable of MMOs. Most of that stable, it might be said, should have been put out to pasture some time ago. This program is not going to allow you to sell customers their “favorite game items”, unless their favorite game items are inside GamersFirst games, which, when you put it like that, doesn’t really seem all that likely, does it?

Unlike our competitors, we don’t enforce any price point restrictions on our merchants. You are free to price them as your market dictates without any outside interference.

Well, that’s sure putting gamers first, GamersFirst. I don’t really trust the whole reseller part of the MMO market. It feels like an unnecessarily holdover from more traditional and material forms of trade. In an MMO, I already have a direct relationship with the manufacturer, so why would I want to buy through a middleman who would be extracting profit for themselves? More to the point, why does that make sense from the point of view of the MMO developer? I can see the benefit of selling cards in Walmart, so that relatives who are not internet savvy can get a present for their MMO-loving kin, but selling ingame items or subscriptions through a 3rd-party website seems utterly counterproductive to me.

It is ALWAYS supercreepy to listen to discussions between middle-men, as it is we who are usually the commodity and resource being discussed. Regular folks aren’t really supposed to look at merchant sites like that, where being able to overcharge us without oversight is seen as a positive. We might also wonder why home owners are being promised an undisputedly inferior gameplay experience to the cafe folks. Fortunately, I don’t imagine that claim has any more actual truth to it than the one it logically follows from.

Anyhows, there’s no deep meaning to this post. Marketing people write meaningless and deceptive guff that looks insane to anyone outside its intended audience. I just enjoy the irony of seeing it done by a company called “GamersFirst”.

The GamersFirst Merchant Site.

Star Trek Online – In the Breen Midwinter

I did a little video a few weeks ago about how I was working towards earning the Breen Chel Grett Warship in Star Trek Online. Simultaneously, I was also trying to earn our fleet a Chel Grett hologram for our Starbase. I am proud, and incredibly relieved, to say I managed to complete both tasks today.

Star Trek Online Christmas Breen Chel Grett Starbase

The starbase hologram project took 250 of each of the Q’s Wonderland resources. I mostly gathered them through doing the Christmas duty officer missions, but an fair amount of snowman fighting and snowball digging needed doing as well. A modest task for an active fleet, it was a race against time for me to get this done before the end of the winter event. Failure would have meant it would sit in a project slot until next Christmas, preventing any other decorations from being queued.

Less painful was my daily trip around Q’s icetrack. 25 day’s worth of Q’s autographed pictures were needed for my own Breen Chel Grett Warship. A high price, perhaps, but rather cheaper than any equivalent Admiral ship. I stuck with my task, and so it is that I now own what is undeniably the coolest ship in Starfleet.

Star Trek Online - Breen Chel Grett Warship
Tactical Stations : Level 4 and Level 2
Engineering Station : Level 2
Science Station: Level 3
Universal Station: Level 1

The Chel Grett Warship is more or less a high end escort-vessel. I love the manoeuvrability, but I’ve never been a huge fan of tactical bridge officer skills, and I’m missing not having more science or engineering abilities available. Nevertheless, this is a ship which packs a punch.

As I’m trying to go for the complete Breen experience, I’m using the Breen Absolute Zero set from the Breen featured episode series. One of the Absolute Zero set bonuses improves transphasic ammunition, so naturally I’ve gotten my hands on some transphasic mines, and I’m using my old favourite, the Breen Transphasic Cluster Torpedo. Alongside that, I’ve decked it out with some Polaron gear I’ve been saving. All in all, I’m finding it a pretty effective set up, though I’m sure it would do yet better in the hands of a tactical Captain.

All in all it’s a quite excellent ship which plays very differently to my other top-end rides, and it’ll be coming out regularly, I’m sure. My heart does belong to my Caitian Atrox Carrier for now (I must get around to showing that off in a post soon!), but sometimes it’s nice to Captain something that doesn’t fly like a brick.

A New Year’s Wish

Content, confused, weirded out, and all manner of things concurrently. Such is the way on New Years, as the old fights to remain relevant in the face of the new.

I can only hope that you, and I, find ways in the coming year to make sense of everything, and build upon what we already have. I have quite the laundry list of things I want to accomplish in 2013, and it’ll be a bloody good year if I manage a quarter of them.

As Stan Lee would say, “Excelsior!!!!”. That means “Ever Upward”, and that is where I have faith that the trajectory of your life, and mine, are headed. And if anything stands in our way, we shall glare at it until it jolly well budges. Damn right too.

The Secret World goes subscription-free!!

As 12/12/12 12:12 hit (though an hour early, as they were going on Norway time) a bombshell hit. The Secret World, inspired no doubt by the success of Guild Wars 2, is going subscription free. Like GW2 you still need to buy the game, but beyond that, you can play without further costs if you so choose. But is it safe?

Of course it’s perfectly safe. No one’s entirely sure how it works.

I don’t like to contradict anyone in a hat as splendid as the Stationmaster’s, but we do have a fair idea of how it’ll work. It’s a pretty generous deal by the looks of things. You get the full game without limitations, with none of the punitive nonsense you get in some F2P games (Looking at YOU, SWTOR). Going forward, we’ll be paying for content DLC, or what we used to call “game updates”, though some of those will still be core to the game and free to all users.

You can still sub if you want to, of course:

New Membership Available

For those who want to get the most out of their Secret World experience we have an optional Membership available. Being a monthly subscriber, for the same cost as before, now gives great benefits. For being a member you get the following:

  • Time Accelerator (Clickable item which increases experience gain for defeating monsters by 100% for 1 hour, 16 hour cool-down – only usable by Members and Grand Masters)
  • $10 worth of Bonus Points (given out every month)
  • Item-of-the-month gift (given out every month)
  • 10% discount to everything in the in-game store

The Grandmaster pack includes all these benefits and gets an additional 10% discount to everything in the in-game store, for a total bonus of 20%. So being a Grandmaster is better than ever!

Through the month of December we have a special offer where we give 30% off on the first purchase on the 3, 6 and 12 month Membership plans.

Not everyone will have the choice of course. Some people paid $250 for a lifetime Grandmaster membership. It turns out that all they really got for that was the opportunity to lose the choice of whether to play for free or not.

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. In these times where games go F2P or subless within a year of launch, Lifetime subs are a terrible idea. We shouldn’t buy them, and companies should not even be offering them. Lifetime subs are a gamble, and the odds on it paying off are getting longer every year.

Anyhows, for everyone who didn’t buy a life account, this change is a 100% positive no-grumbles thing. At least it is so long as it attracts enough new players to compensate for all of the folks, myself included, who will now cancel our subscriptions, and simply buy the updates when they come along. That sounds like that’ll work out a lot cheaper, and will free my limited gaming funds for keeping an eye on an extra MMO.

There’s an official FAQ on all this over here.

Update from Twitter, where we’ve been having quite a discussion on the topic of lifetime accounts. This is a rough paraphrase of what I’ve been saying there:

For me, the decision to get a lifetime sub is based on whether or not I think that’ll get me most value for money. So it’s always bizarre, when an MMO suddenly goes F2P, to hear all the folks saying they go lifetimer as a form of charity, so they don’t mind. I only wish I could afford to be so charitable. My buying decisions have to be based on personal economics. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that lifetimes are a bad deal. If you care about getting a bad deal. You might not, it seems.

Yes, lifers now get $10 of shop credit a month, but shop items are not what lifers thought they were buying when they signed up. If some lifetimers like what the bait has been switched for, that’s great, but that does not mean that all lifers are obliged to be happy about it, or that we shouldn’t point out what is a fairly shady move.

I suspect it’s partially due to a peculiar psychological affect. Humans tend to value money less once they’ve spent it. You shrug your shoulders and move on, and that is certainly very healthy for the temper, but it is not a good way of encouraging companies to play fair with us. For me, it’s very clear. I have $150 more than I would have done if I’d gotten a lifetime account, which I can use for other goods and services.

At the very least, customers deserve to be told, at the time of purchase, what their lifetime subscription would be turned into in the event of the game becoming subscriptionless. Surely we can agree on that?

Star Trek Online – The Fastest Game On Ice

By Q!! It’s been a while since I made a gaming video, but I suddenly got the urge today. Star Trek Online’s Christmas event is well underway, and Q is welcoming all comers to his Winter Wonderland. Therein, you can if you’re feeling energetic, decide that you will undertake to win a footrace on his icetrack on no less than 25 separate days during the holiday season. If you do, you’ll earn a rather lovely Breen Chel Grett Cruiser.

Let’s join Arkturos Reh, as he takes his daily trip around the icetrack! If your bandwidth can handle it, I recommend using the little button at the bottom to whack it up to HD.

Edit: Turns out I’d totally forgotten how to edit videos, and forgot to switch the output to widescreen, leaving ugly black bars and wasted space everywhere. After an overnight re-upload, the situation is rectified!! Huzzah!!

City of Heroes – Epitaph for a Spelling Bee

I heard within the whisp’rings of a bee:
a city proud and free that strove for good.
A Paragon that showed us what could be,
Yet now dark void remains where it once stood.

In hero sleep, and villainous slumbers,
As rogues dream undecided in their turn.
Not forgotten in their countless numbers,
I’ll miss you, Bee, and one day you’ll return.

Edit: Folks keep asking me what this is all about! Briefly, NCSoft shut down the still profitable City of Heroes MMO this week, shattering a thriving community for reasons that remain indecipherable. It was a damned shame. Spelling Bee was my favourite hero in Paragon City, famous for his battlecry “It’s Time For Plan Bee!!!!”, and many other bee-related puns which gave me literally endless glee. I really will miss the little chap. Until another Superhero MMO comes along in which he can be reborn.