white wolf

EVE Evolved: EVE Online’s CCP Games is gambling with the livelihoods of employees

Last week we broke the story that EVE Online developer CCP Games is backing out of the virtual reality games market, closing its Altanta office and selling its VR-focused Newcastle studio. The long-held Atlanta office was acquired in the merger with White Wolf in 2006 and has been hit with several rounds of layoffs over the years, with a major hit in 2011 after the Monoclegate disaster and another 2014 when the World of Darkness MMO was cancelled. The Newcastle studio was the development house responsible for CCP’s VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie, and both Valkyrie and CCP’s new VR game Sparc will now be maintained by the London office.

Around 100 staff were laid off in the restructuring, roughly 30 of whom worked in CCP’s headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland. Though we were informed at the time that these changes would not impact the development of EVE Online, it since became apparent that more than a few non-development staff were cut. In addition to the EVE PR staff and others that were stationed in Atlanta, all but two members of the EVE community team in Reykjavik have also been let go. There are reports that several GMs and the localisation manager for EVE have departed too, and the mood on twitter from staff in Reykjavik recently is best described as sombre and a little shaken.

In this extra edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into CCP Games’s history of taking risks with staff’s jobs, look at some of those affected by the layoffs, and ask whether there is more fallout to come.

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Indie vampire fantasy MMO Shadow’s Kiss has already reached its Kickstarter goal

Still bummed over the loss of World of Darkness and Revival? Shadow’s Kiss may be for you. Last year, we covered the vampire fantasy MMO when it set up shop on Patreon. This week, it’s landed on Kickstarter proper, with all the accoutrements vampire fans will expect.

Shadow’s Kiss is a game of darkness, adventure, passion, and horror, set in the fictional city of San Cipriano. The game casts you as a vampire (or possibly other supernatural creature…) who goes on quests, faces off against other supernatural factions, and gains items of power to rule the night. While Shadow’s Kiss incorporates many of the classical elements of a Massively Multiplayer Game (MMO), it also seeks to innovate, especially in ways that make for an interesting gaming experience within a society of vampires and supernatural creatures. Parlay and diplomacy are critical parts of the experience, including building your influence in vampire society through intimidation, bribery, and seduction. You cooperate or compete with other players to rule the various aspects of the city, including law enforcement, organized crime, and the media. Your rise to power, and your story, are built around your Rogue’s Gallery, also known as your Cast of Characters, which are the allies, enemies, thralls, spies and blood dolls you’ve acquired through questing and exploration.”

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Perfect Ten: EverQuest’s EverExpanding franchise

When Daybreak announced last year that it was cancelling the highly anticipated EverQuest Next project, the series’ forward momentum lurched to a halt. This wasn’t helped by other EverQuest entities that have been retired over the past few years, leaving only the two aging flagship MMOs to carry on the legacy of the franchise.

For franchise it is. It might be fuzzy in people’s memories (or simply absent from them), but there was an era where EverQuest was the MMORPG at the top of everything, and Sony Online Entertainment wasted no time in capitalizing on its popularity. Spin-offs, sequels, and alternative versions spawned into being, creating a library of EverQuest games.

In fact, there are more than enough to fill up a full list of 10 titles — and then some! So today let’s look at some of the lesser-known entries in EverQuest’s ever-expanding franchise and muse about what might come to this series in the future.

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Massively Overthinking: That moment when your MMO looks like a ‘fire sale at an exotic pet store’

Massively OP Podcast listener John recently sent us a really great question that saw Justin and me sharply divided in terms of our responses, so naturally, we decided to kick it to the whole team and the readers too.

“When you walk through a city in WoW, you very rarely see two adjacent characters riding the same species of mount,” he wrote. “I just walk by, thinking, ‘Unicorn, griffin, dragon, wyvern, skeleton of a horse, motorcycle, floating-on-a-cloud, mammoth, turtle, rocket, sparkle pony, rancor, miniature TIE fighter,’ and so on. Once there’s a cash shop, special instance rewards and PvP mounts, a flood of new (and increasingly implausible) mounts hit the scene. It makes it hard, for me at least, to imagine that I am in any kind of a coherent setting. Why not add an optional checkbox for ‘Traditional Mounts’ that would cause other people’s mounts to render as normal mounts for their race? Everybody else would be able to see what they want to see, and cities wouldn’t look like a fire sale at an exotic pet store. I also propose the same solution for people who find female gear too revealing and impractical: Give me a ‘Sensible Armor’ checkbox as well!”

Why not indeed? Let’s hear it!

(With apologies to Trove, whose screenshot I just had to use above but is actually wholly justified in being wacky.)
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Paradox Interactive is making a World of Darkness werewolf game

Those still licking their wounds over the years-old demise of the World of Darkness CCP MMO can howl with delight that IP-owner Paradox Interactive is further exploring the franchise in an upcoming werewolf title.

Paradox announced this week that it is facilitating the creation of a Werewolf: The Apocalypse adaptation. The game sounds like a single-player experience, as the gamer will take on the role of a werewolf warrior attempting to “save the world with fang and claw.”

Cyanide Studio is handling the actual development of the game, which will come out on both consoles and PC. It may not be the game that MMO fans had hoped to see, but it is still nice to see Paradox utilizing the license in some way, shape, or wereform.

CCP Games sold White Wolf and its IPs to Paradox Interactive back in October 2015 following a failed attempt at producing a World of Darkness MMORPG.

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Perfect Ten: The worst-squandered IPs in online gaming

There are always going to be differences in opinion about what should be done with an IP based upon a franchise. That’s just natural. The same core universe could be used to make a sprawling sandbox with weak combat but a robust non-combat market and profession system, or it could be used to make a combat-focused experience that focuses on energetic fights, nifty story moments, and little else. In both cases, even if you don’t like the end result, you can understand exactly why the IP was used for this.

Our column today is not about those games. No, this is about games that completely failed to make use of their licenses to IPs, produced totles that did not in any way logically follow from the license that was given, or otherwise took pure gold and turned it into something… less than gold. There’s room to debate whether some of these IPs would ever make good MMOs, but boy, the uses we have were pretty bad.

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A World of Darkness documentary is in the works

Production has already begun in Stockholm, Sweden, to create a two-part documentary that looks at the history and phenomenon of the World of Darkness franchise. The documentary makers have promised exclusive interviews and never-before-seen footage from White Wolf.

White Wolf CEO Tobias Sjogren says that this documentary should take fans on a fascinating journey: “The tumultuous history of the World of Darkness, Vampire: The Masquerade, and White Wolf is something akin to a rock n’ roll soap opera mashed together with a Shakespearean tragedy. It’s more than just a story about a game or a company, but also the fans and how this thing helped shape and affect their lives. This is really their story and we believe that needs to be told.”

It will be interesting to see whether the documentary touches at all upon CCP Games’ canceled World of Darkness MMORPG. CCP shut down the game and its development studio in 2014 and subsequently sold White Wolf to Paradox Games in 2015.

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Perfect Ten: MMORPGs for mature audiences only

As with mainstream movies, it seems that the MMORPG industry has settled comfortably into the PG-13 zone for its approach and themes. Sure, there’s a bit of blood, skin, and the occasional foray into adult themes, but for the most part these games are playing it safe by not pushing too many boundaries. After all, why limit the potential size of your audience when you’re trying to draw in as large of a group of gamers as possible?

Of course, not every MMO out there deigns to appeal to the family market. Every once in a while we get a game that pushes well into the mature or even adult-only rating territory with edgier content. It’s an uphill battle to get these games out, sometime: World of Darkness and Revival both promised a super-gritty world yet were torpedoed well before launch.

Today we’re going to look at 10 games that don’t just accept mature content as a part of the gameplay experience, they embrace it fully and have earned an M or AO rating from the ESRB. Parental guidance from here on out is suggested.

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CCP’s 2015 finances included year-over-year revenue decline for EVE Online

Hat tip to marketsforISK blogger croda for digging into CCP’s 2015 financials, which were released to the public at the end of March. The good news is that CCP posted record post-tax profits of $20.7 million in 2015. Even if we exclude the one-off sale of the World of Darkness franchise, it was a record year for the company, particularly since 2014 saw heavy losses.

The bad news is that studio revenue is down 16% since 2014, thanks largely to a decline in EVE Online, whose revenues are down to their 2009 levels. In fact, croda extrapolates a 16% subscription dip for EVE.

EVE Online Revenues in 2012 were $64.1m vs $53.7m at the end of 2015. That is a fall of 16%. If we dangerously assumed that the proportion of Plexed accounts stayed constant then that would indicate that Subscriber numbers have fallen 16% to 340,000 and that they still represented 75% of revenues leaving the Plexed accounts to represent 25% (=$53.7 x 25% = $13.4m). At $20 a shot per month that would indicate 56,000 Plex accounts and so total players at the end of 2015 of 396,000. And then add in however many Trial Players there are were.

“Alternatively, we could merely observe that in 2009 EVE Online Revenues were $51.8m and in 2010 EVE Online Revenues were $57.4m. We know that the Subscribers in 2010 were 360,000 (China was not around back then) so that indicates that the above 340,000 subscriber number is in the right area.”

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Paradox and Obsidian are plotting something big at GDC

Update: The new game is called Tyranny, and it’s not VtM-themed — full update and PR/trailer at the end of the post.

Paradox Interactive is plotting a big press conference tonight at GDC to “highlight a number of forthcoming projects for the year.” If that’s not ringing any bells for you, recall that Paradox purchased White Wolf and all of its properties from CCP last year — including World of Darkness’ assets and the Vampire: the Masquerade IP. Both Paradox and partner Obsidian teased giving the IP “fresh blood,” and the big players are lighting up Twitter this week with even more teases, like this one from Paradox VP Shams Jorjani.

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Three staffers depart EVE Online after huge financial year for CCP

CCP Games staff have now seemingly confirmed on Reddit that EVE Online is about to become three people poorer. EVE is losing Lead Game Designer CCP Scarpia, Senior Game Designer CCP Ytterbium, and Technical Designer CCP FoxFour — the first two at the end of March; the last in June. The departures appear voluntary. CCP Ytterbium says that his own move won’t cause undue problems with the Citadels release. He also lets the community have it in regard to bashing other devs:

“You guys seem to bash anyone that touches Sovereignty or capitals. We know you guys care about your pixel spaceships, we get it. The care of the EVE community is what makes the game special in the first place. But seriously, bluntly, this shit has to stop, because it can be seriously destructive to people working in the game industry.”

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EVE Evolved: Three things you don’t want to miss in 2016

In the previous edition of EVE Evolved, I looked back at some of the big highlights EVE Online throughout 2015. It was a year that revolutionised practically every aspect of EVE‘s day-to-day gameplay with a flood of updates, that broke the stranglehold the game’s largest alliances had on territory, and that seriously advanced the in-game storyline in an awesome direction. It was also a year of new beginnings for developer CCP Games, with the studio releasing the rights to World of Darkness, securing a $30 million investment in its VR labs, and making a deal to bundle its upcoming VR dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie with the retail model of the Oculus Rift.

As we close the book on 2015 and begin writing the first chapter of a new year, it’s an appropriate time to the look forward at what’s to come for EVE Online in 2016 and speculate on what awesome stuff might be just over the horizon. The Citadel expansion is just months away and will let corporations of any size carve out their own little corners of the galaxy. The Drifter invasion of known space and the recent Upwell Consortium storylines will continue to play out in live in-game events that you won’t want to miss. New server hardware will be a welcome improvement as the game may finally be growing again, corp changes will help newbies get into the game, and new PvE features will encourage activity again.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I look at three big things happening in EVE Online in 2016 that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

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Working As Intended: The MMOs we lost in 2015

It’s become tradition to fare well the MMOs that sunsetted in the preceding year, but that wasn’t always the case. At the beginning of 2015, in saying goodbye to 2014’s sunsetted games, I tried to put that into perspective.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about how Vanguard’s early stumbles foreshadowed the changing MMORPG industry. In January 2007, when Vanguard lurched its way to launch, the genre was barely a decade old; it was booming, and it had never suffered hardship on a massive scale. In the west, we’d seen only three “major” MMOs sunset (Motor City Online, Earth and Beyond, and Asheron’s Call 2), and only one MMO, Anarchy Online, had “gone F2P,” though we hadn’t yet thought to call it yet because it was such a rare and new thing. In fact, it wasn’t until 2008’s first big wave of AAA, post-World of Warcraft MMOs launched and mostly flopped that MMORPG players gave much thought to the future of the genre and how WoW had reshaped (and possibly broken) it. Maybe not even then.

In 2016 and in 2015, sunsets are increasingly common, a result of market oversaturation, business model struggles, and changing gamer tastes and investment options. Let’s revisit the games we lost in 2015 and consider what their sunsets portend for the year ahead.
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