Playdom To Acclaim: It's Not You, It's Me

After purchasing Acclaim 3 months ago, Playdom shuts down everything they run… um… somewhat abruptly.

We regret to inform you that all Acclaim games will no longer be in service effective August 26, 2010

ACCLAIM COINS

  • Any unused Acclaim Coins can be reimbursed by emailing transition@acclaim.com (please include your Acclaim username).
  • Must be from the email address used to register your account so we can verify your identity.
  • *9Dragons players only:  We will refund any purchases made within the last 30 days.

OTHER GAMES


Check out other Playdom games at
http://www.facebook.com/Playdom

Probably the most abrupt studio closing in quite a while.

If you’re a 9Dragons player your strategy for porting your game account to the new owners? Um… screenshots.

The Client Is In The Compiler Of The Enemy

Beware gemstones bearing gifts.

Diary of a Second Life trainwreck:

Late 2006: Enterprising programmers begin trying to reverse engineer the Second Life client, with Linden Lab’s blessing. This work is promptly leveraged by equally enterprising and far less moral programmers to introduce content dupes which devastate the Second Life economy.

January 2007: Linden Lab releases the source code for the Second Life client, and encourages its community to help with further development.

“We feel we may already have a bigger group of people writing code than any shared project in history, including Linux,” says Rosedale. While this is often elementary code, it means, he says, that “we have an army of people waiting to work on this.” Adds CTO Cory Ondrejka: “Why wouldn’t we leverage our community and give them the opportunity to make Second Life what they want it to be?”

Over the next couple of years, a few projects move forward, including a client specifically designed for BDSM aficionados who want to give other people control over their freedom of movement and clients that are designed to connect to alternate servers or “grids”. Black-hat programmers also continue to release clients that are designed to copy content, crash servers, harass users, and other such charming uses.

May 2009: A new alternative client, called Greenlife Emerald, is released. It quickly becomes very popular due to a rich set of features which aren’t present in the official SL client or most of its derivatives.

October 2009: Greenlife Emerald adds a new feature: a simple physics model which causes the breasts of female avatars to ‘jiggle’ in a somewhat realistic manner when the avatar moves.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jq28xLie5gw

In a complete coincidence, Greenlife Emerald immediately becomes the most popular client in Second Life.

As Emerald (as it is renamed due to Linden Lab insisting its “Second Life” trademark be removed from most third-party applications) becomes ubiquitous, rumors begin to swirl of its maintainers’ roots in the darker side of the SL hacking community. Prokofy Neva, SL commentator/scourge, frequently rails against Emerald’s creators, beginning with those rumors of black-hat association, and moving rapidly into everything from showing how the client itself is evil to how the developers kill her chickens (this makes sense, really).

February 2010: Linden Lab releases the next iteration in the Second Life client, Viewer 2. It is generally seen by most as bloated and difficult to use. Most SL users continue to use Emerald.

April 2010: The “Wrong Hands”, a group of “social engineers” associated with Woodbury University who previously engineered an infiltration and data dump of a group of users who roleplayed privacy-violating superheroes, release a Youtube video of members interrogating Fractured Crystal, leader of the Emerald project, who unashamedly admits to being involved in black-hat client projects.

The Wrong Hands then release files taken from Emerald’s web host which attempts to show that Emerald is trying to track IP addresses and geolocation data for Second Life users. Also included are emails between Emerald staff and Linden Lab, attempting to show a pattern of collusion.

Almost immediately afterwards, Woodbury University is banned from Second Life. Members of the Wrong Hands immediately claim a conspiracy involving Emerald and Linden Lab is responsible. Left unspoken is the assumption that thanks to most of Linden Lab’s customers using Emerald, Emerald has undue influence within Linden Lab by definition.

July 2010: Hazim Gazov, author of, by his own admission, a black-hat Second Life client, publishes proof that Emerald is encoding information about its users’ computers into textures that are uploaded into Second Life, which can then be harvested for further data mining purposes.

Karl Stiefvater, a well-known 3D programmer at Linden Lab (known as Qarl LInden) is laid off, and immediately joins the Emerald project, further blurring the lines between Linden and Emerald.

August 2010: Emerald uses a feature of the Second Life client – the initial welcome screen that is actually served from a web server – to embed dozens of hidden links in Emerald’s welcome screen to Hazim Gazov’s web server. Given that hundreds of thousands of people use Emerald on a daily basis, this is effectively a denial of service attack on Gazov. After initially claiming that this was simply a practical joke, the head of Emerald who was responsible for the attack resigns and turns over control of the Emerald project.

Today: Linden Lab removes Emerald from the list of approved third-party clients and sends an email to all users warning them not to use Emerald.

Late last week, we discovered a denial-of-service attack that was being served through the widely distributed Emerald third-party viewer. This is in direct violation of our third-party viewer policy (part 2, section d, paragraph iii).

We have removed Emerald from the list of third-party viewers, and are now in touch with the Emerald team to discuss what can happen next. We did this to do our best to protect the safety and security of Second Life users. We will not tolerate a viewer that includes malicious code, nor will we tolerate development teams with a history of violating users’ trust or disrupting their lives.

We take privacy, safety, and security very seriously, and we will act to the best of our abilities to protect it. We have not yet disabled logins via the Emerald viewer, but will do so if we feel the software and the team behind it is not able to meet the standards we’ve set. While Emerald is currently the focus of our attention because of what happened recently, all third-party viewers are held to the same standard, and must comply with the third-party viewer policy.

Wagner James Au, noted SL blogger and former Linden, estimates that now half of all traffic within Second Life uses the Emerald client.

Prokofy Neva, whose years of invective against Emerald was essentially proven correct, goes on to assert that the act of writing computer programs is corrupt by definition.

OMG NEW MMO WTF BBQ

Oh, and it's 4th edition D&D, so all the mind-numbing MMO parts are already baked in!

Cryptic finally announces new “Online Multiplayer Game” Neverwinter.

To commemorate, Cryptic COO/guru Jack Emmert gives an interview to Massively where he rediscovers the joys of scope:

I’d say what we’re trying to do, and having learned from Star Trek Online and Champions, let me tell you my philosophy before STO and CO. Coming out of City of Heroes we launched to great acclaim, we got a lot of publicity, everybody loved it, but we didn’t have crafting and we didn’t have PvP. All there was to do was fight. Over the years everybody pinged us on this. We added PvP and didn’t really gain any subscribers. We added crafting and we gained roughly ten thousand subscribers for three months and then it went back down. So in the grand scheme of things, what I learned is, if you didn’t have a feature at launch, you might as well never have it. Whatever you’re going to have at launch defines you as a game.

Coming into the launch of STO and Champions, I made sure we had something for everyone. Here was the problem. By following that philosophy, nothing was polished. We ended up having lots of half-done features in some quarters. What I forgot was, inasmuch as a consumer or a player, if it isn’t there at launch it might as well not be there, well if it’s in half-done or half-done well, that’s what you get remembered for. The fact that STO and Champions have gotten better since their launch, we’ve added content, we’ve fixed bugs, we’ve responded to players, all that stuff isn’t as important or as forceful as that initial interaction with the game. So we have a very different mindset here. Right now, whatever we do, it’s got to be the best possible quality we can. One of the ways of doing that is to focus your content. Make sure you understand what we’re making.

So if you don’t understand what they’re making, you should make sure you do.

WH40K: You Didn't Really Want To Be A Space Marine

See? See? I'm the 47th Tyranid from the left. That's me, baby.

The new Warhammer 40K MMO from Vigil and THQ hasn’t seen a lot of discussion. Well, in time honored fashion of science fiction MMOs developed in Austin, some of the beans were spilled by a company executive in an interview.

They were not very good beans.

It has a lot of the same qualities of WOW in terms of ease of use and how the interface is. I want to say that if you play WOW, you’ll be able to jump into Dark Millennium Online really easy.

But you won’t be able to be a Space Marine right away, because that’s a very unique class, if you know the universe. The road there is a great road, and they are in the game.

*blinks*

*blinks again, slowly*

NO YOU STUPID GIT, YOU DO NOT RELEASE A GAME AND CALL IT WARHAMMER 40000 AND NOT LET YOUR PLAYER BE A SPACE MARINE! DO YOU MAKE A MODERN WARFARE GAME AND TELL PEOPLE THEY CAN’T SHOOT A GUN? NO, YOU DO NOT. DO YOU MAKE A STAR WARS GAME AND TELL PEOPLE THEY CAN’T PLAY A JEDI? NO, YOU DO NOT. FOR GOD’S SAKE PEOPLE, LOOK ONE STORY DOWN. STOP WASTING MONEY ON ARTSY-FARTSY DESIGN-IS-LAW BULLSHIT AND LET PEOPLE BE A GODDAMN SPACE MARINE THE SECOND THEY INSTALL THE GAME… NO, LET THEM BE A GODDAMN SPACE MARINE WHILE THEY INSTALL! I WANT TO BE WAVING A GODDAMN CHAINSWORD WHILE FILES ARE COPIED TO MY COMPUTER! BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT WARHAMMER 40K IS, YOU STUPID CLUELESS CORPORATE GIT, NOT A FUCKING SURVEY ON HOW MUCH BETTER YOU CAN CLONE THE WOW UI THAN EVERY OTHER GAME THAT CLONES THE WOW UI. IF YOU DO NOT LET ME JOIN THE ULTRAMARINES WITHIN TWENTY FIVE SECONDS OF INSTALLING YOUR STUPID GAME THAT SAYS, AND I QUOTE, WARHAMMER 40K ON THE BOX, I WILL TURN YOU OVER TO THE ECCLESIARCHY FOR A MINDWIPE. FOR GOD’S SAKE WHY DON’T YOU JUST SAY YOU ARE ONLY LAUNCHING WITH THE IMPERIAL GUARD AND THE KROOT AND EVERYTHING ELSE IS A GODDAMN CASH SHOP ADDON TO BE PATCHED IN LATER I HATE YOU ALL GWWAAAAARRRRRGGHHHHHHH

OK, I feel better now. How about you?


Regretfully necessary edit:

Note to all the people being blind-linked here. The rest of you can ignore this!

Hi. My name’s Scott. Welcome to my blog.

– I was being funny.
– I work in the MMO industry. Most of my blog entries relate to MMO business decisions and the pros/cons thereof.
– I do not actually own a single Warhammer miniature.
– I specifically was parodying a “nerd rage” rant.
– More specifically, I was pointing out that making “spehs mahreen” or whatever other cute slang term you use for that iconic image of Warhammer 40K not something you can immediately play will be about as popular with the non-fanatic community (i.e. NOT YOU) as making a Star Wars MMO where you have to unlock the ability to be a Jedi.
– I actually have a number of friends who work on WH40K at Vigil, all of whom IMed me 5 minutes after this went up to laugh about it. It was a JOKE. I really don’t want to be THE IMMORTAL GOD EMPEROR in an MMO.
– I did, actually, nerf your 47th level Holy Asperger’s Paladin Of Elven Light. U mad?

APB: How To Blow $100,000,000.00

"Just walk away, venture capitalists. All you have to do is just walk away."

If you ever wanted the answer to the question “how to spend $100m on an MMO” (are you listening, Bioware?), the UK is the place to be this week, or at least to review the damage. Three sources from Britain analyze what is, if not a neutron bomb, at least a very explody one, with game industry recruiters already combing the wreckage for cheap ‘acquisitions’ of talent.

First, apparently from within the bunker, an anonymous commenter left a very detailed, very caustic comment on the British gaming blog site “Rock Paper Shotgun”

No team sets out to ship something anything less than perfection, but projects can evolve in ways that no one seems to be in total control of. All that said, it was pretty clear to me that the game was going to get a kicking at review – the gap between expectation and the reality was huge. I wasn’t on the APB team, so I played it infrequently, during internal test days etc. I was genuinely shocked when I played the release candidate – I couldn’t believe Dave J would be willing to release this. All the issues that had driven me nuts about it were still there – the driving was poor (server-authoritative with no apparent client prediction, ergo horrendously lag intolerant), combat impact-less, and I found the performance of the game sub-par on what was a high-spec dev machine.

But the real killer, IMO, is the business model. This was out of the team’s hands. The game has issues, but I think if you separate the business model from the game itself, it holds up at least a little better. A large scale team based shooter, in big urban environments, with unprecedented customisation and some really cool, original features. The problem was that management looked at the revenue they wanted to generate and priced accordingly, failing to realise (or care) that there are literally a dozen top quality, subscription free team based shooters. Many of which, now, have progression and persistence of some sort – for free.

Nicholas Lovell, at GamesBrief, comes right out and calls APB “a massive fail“. Well, when it kills your company, yeah.

Back in the summer of 2009, Dave said that with 100,000 to 200,000 players the game would do alright financially. I estimated that each player would have to spend £500 on the game for the investors to make their money back with those figures, which seemed unlikely to me. (That was when I thought the company had raised $50 million. It would be $1,000 based on $100m of investment.)

But 100,000 players, which I imagine seemed a laughably low target to the management of RealTime Worlds, is 10x the number of players who have even bought the game.

APB is turning out to be the games industry’s own Heaven’s Gate.

Lovell analyzes APB’s sales numbers and comes to the jarring conclusion that APB sold less than 10,000 units, which would, given its budget, easily make it the most ridiculously disastrous MMO launch of all time. Adam Martin, in his post on the subject, believes the number to be closer to 100,000 based on his sources, which brings it from “ridiculous disaster” to “unsustainable disappointment”. He goes on to contrast the discussion from within and about Realtime Worlds with his own experience with Tabula Rasa:

The professionals: you’re getting burned out, chewed up, and spat out. Your lives are being wasted.

The investors: you’re getting screwed. You write it off as random failure, and you can afford it, but you’re shying away from “games” as a result, leaving good profits behind on the table.

The inexperienced, the mediocre, and all those people who don’t actually MAKE the game, but do get to ruin the process (rockstar-designers, producers, marketers, directors, managers, etc) : you’re doing great. Your lack of skill hasn’t held you back, and the company will often go bankrupt before anyone gets around to firing you for incompetence.

Why yes, the game industry DOES make you that bitter and jaded. Especially when you watch $100,000,000.00 go circling down the drain.

Nuclear Launch Detected Against WoW Private Server

Eighty Eight. Million. Dollars.

A judgement was just entered in a lawsuit Blizzard filed against Scape Gaming, which ran a “unofficial” World of Warcraft server. Apparently they made $3 million off of it! They have to give it all back, though. Along with.. um, $85 million in damages.

Gamasutra notes that Scape Gaming apparently out-Blizzarded Blizzard in RMT:

The original complaint said Scapegaming would ask for “donations” from players — but these donations were in exchange for virtual items ranging from $1 to advance characters two levels, to $300 for a pack that included a collection of rare items.

The judge’s order said Blizzard “submitted satisfactory evidence from third-party PayPal Inc. showing that Defendant’s PayPal account received $3,052,339 in gross revenues.”

The order also said that Blizzard submitted satisfactory evidence that showed Reeves’ website (Scapegaming.com, currently down) hosted 32,000 users on a given day in June 2008. That same month, there were over 427,000 members of the Scapegaming community, and Reeves, who goes by a number of aliases including “Peyton,” said that 40,000 people play on Scapegaming’s servers every day.

The court took the size of the community, 427,000, and multiplied that figure by $200 “per act of circumvention” of a copyright security system, and came to the statutory damages amount of over $85 million. It’s unclear if Reeves, who didn’t respond to the suit, would be able to pay the award to fulfillment, or if the defendant would appeal the ruling.

420k users… that’s the size of most second-tier MMO subscription bases. Kind of humbling that World of Warcraft thieves make more than some actual MMO devs.

Jas Purewal at Game/Law has more analysis:

$88m in damages is a pretty crippling blow to bring against an individual and I would guess that, unless Rees is a wealthy individual living in the US (or she manages to win an appeal against that award – seems unlikely), then actually recovering anything like that sum of money may be difficult. However, the sheer size of the damages award certainly should send a clear message to other WoW private server providers (particularly any of those who have moved in on Scapegaming’s territory since the lawsuit began).

Which leads us to the last point for this post. What this case shows most strongly is that Blizzard views private servers as a sufficiently significant problem to merit lawsuits – particularly if other private server providers are earning anything like the $3m that Rees made from Scapegaming. Couple that with the fact that there are clearly other private server providers out there, and it suggests we will see more of this kind of action from Blizzard in the future.

Whoops. Time for a new business model. I suggest “not stealing things”.

Bill Roper Gone From Cryptic

Guess he didn't have the lobes for business.

From the Star Trek official site:

After two great years, Chief Creative Officer Bill Roper is leaving Cryptic Studios.

I would say something about how two years isn’t enough time to really stamp your influence on an MMO, but, um, 2 years is all Star Trek Online had in development (the license was acquired from Perpetual in mid-2008 and all development done to that point was scrapped). Champions Online’s development cycle wasn’t that much longer – although it’s unknown how much of Cryptic’s Marvel Online survived the transition to Champions, if you assume the project was largely rebooted with the Champions IP acquisition, that game, again, had a 2 year development cycle.

I don’t think it’s really that revolutionary a statement that two years just isn’t enough time to kick an MMO out the door, no matter how much engine work you’re cribbing from another project. And while both Champions and Star Trek had strong box sales (with over 1 million in the case of Star Trek, depending on how you parse the usual fishy PR), both have also suffered greatly in terms of retention. Cryptic’s willingness to resort to DLC early and often to supplement their revenue stream hasn’t helped (although an open user revolt of Champions users caused a turnaround in one instance). Cryptic is still slogging away at updating both games (including announcing an upcoming scenario editor for Star Trek users) but second chances aren’t an easy sell with burned MMO players.

So, given Hellgate’s path to greatness (or lack thereof), I’d say Bill Roper did indeed have a chance to leave his mark on Cryptic’s titles. In any event, with the only-barely-an-open-secret Neverwinter Nights Online announcement from Cryptic and Atari (now Cryptic’s owner) soon to be on deck, we should see the return of Jack Emmert. I can hardly wait! And you can hardly wait, too! Really. If you think otherwise, he’ll correct you.