Sunday, September 9, 2012

we were just getting to the part where the shock sets in

Second day of the third anniversary celebration in Champions Online, and Sapphire's still...performing:

[Zone] Russian Spetsnaz@weewoozesty: note to self dont use headphones during a ingame event
[Zone #2] NightWalker@smartbomb32: that's not much of a show :P haha


To be fair, she's not much of a singer. I did make the decision to turn back on voice acting, and...it seems to be an overall game flaw. Whomever Champions tapped to do their voices...they're not...good.

[Zone #6] Lurimer@CloudsatDawn: phew missed it again
[Zone #6] Lurimer@CloudsatDawn: with her singing thats all you need
[Zone #6] Jaeger@DaedalusMachina: It's the top of the Hour! Time to go to !^&&^!( Lemuria


Yeah, and that's really telling, too: the fact that the player base would rather be anywhere else than within vocal range of the "singer" on stage? That's a handy tip to change your voice actress.

Another clip from Help chat on City of Heroes. This bit dates back to the day after hearing about NCSoft's move.

[Help] Max-inator: There is always CO or DCUO but they are not as good
[Help] Spider Vivi: F*** Those two, Don't ever mention them again
[[Help] Sugar Sparks: once you CoH nothing compares
[Help] Spider Vivi: give city of heroes to someone else, I put so much effort into this game. I can't. I can't accept it.
[Help] Spider Vivi: I f****** CAN'T
[Help] Operative Magnus: The second stage of grief, that is.
[Help] House of Whacks: floating belly up?
[Help] Otaku Assassin: Yeah. But contrary to popular belief, there's not a specific order to those stages of grief, and not all of them can be experienced in each case.


Whether it's mourning the loss of a love, a pet, a shared dream, or a game, grief is pretty much grief all around--some griefs are greater, some lesser, but the experience feels the same. I've noticed, though, that in addition to gamers getting very attached to their games, there's a perception that the loss of a game is somehow more relevant, more intense, more vital to life. If we take everything we know about adaptation and evolution, and rank it logically, gaming comes in pretty close to the bottom of the list. The basic survival needs trump just about anything else: breathing, eating, staying warm enough, staying dry enough, finding ways to keep the lights on and keep food on the table.

The thing about immersive games, though, from a psychological perspective, is that they can feel more real to us than working, than interacting, than getting enough to eat, to drink. Than moving enough to keep our bodies healthy and functioning. It's not just that they're easier to disappear into; but the very experience of walking around as someone else seems to disorient us. Our minds view our creations as ourselves, subconsciously (and on occasion, consciously).

This shouldn't be news to anyone at this point. Parents have let their children die because they wanted in-game experiences more. People have died themselves after multiple hours of gaming with no breaks, no food, no water. Granted, this is not the universal experience, this is the aberrant fringe, but it has happened.

In this light, what happens when our games die--when our virtual alternative selves die--can become, for some people, an emotionally equivalent experience to an actual death. This is key: while it's not the same thing, how it feels is what's important. Emotional resonance creates illogic, because at this point we aren't thinking, we're simply reacting. And we can feel as if we're reacting to a highly charged, intensely emotional event.

[Help] Operative Magnus: It still feels like a nemesis plot, to me.
[Help] Spider Vivi: it still feels like a joke, i can't think of it as anything else
[Help] Operative Magnus: Jokes are funny. This is not.
[Help] A Dumb Snowflake: Took the words right of my mouth, Magnus.
[Help] Screaming Patriot: When a company decides to pull the plug I guess thsi is how it feels. I don't blame the developers of guild wars 2 but I'm just not trusting NC Soft again
[Help] Spider Vivi: How do you make a company like NCsoft change its mind? Are we really that helpless?
[Help] Otaku Assassin: Yup. We are.


Maybe not. There was a lot of press after yesterday's rally. As I mentioned, Massively almost instantly put up their coverage (about an hour's worth, all told), and there's been a lot of mention on the 'almost-CNN' blog post of three days ago. But that's not the biggest news. Several authors and artists have banded together to save the game, with the most notable being the across-the-bow offer by Mercedes Lackey. To wit:
"I am going to make you an offer. I am a multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction author. And I will offer myself and my likeness to endorse and advertise, exclusively, all NCSoft products for a minimum term of five years and a maximum term of ten years, for no compensation or payment, if you will make it possible for the game and Paragon Studios (even in a reduced capacity) to continue to function, either once again under the NCSoft umbrella, or until a new owner comes forward."

"I had in mind something like this: Advertisements with a photo of myself, imposed over a transparent image of one of my more striking characters, both of us in the same pose. Text: 'I am New York Times bestselling fantasy author Mercedes Lackey. Creating fantastic realms is hard work, and when I relax, I like to play in someone else’s world. I play NCSoft Games. Anything else is unimaginable.' The tagline for the ad campaign would be 'NCSoft: anything else is unimaginable.'
Let that sink in for a moment. Lackey has rarely endorsed anything, so the simple fact that this is that important to her speaks volumes about both the game and the community. But she's not just throwing this on the table to endorse City of Heroes. She's offering--for a minimum of five years, not to exceed ten years--of free, uncompensated, total endorsement of all NCSoft products, both those that exist now and any that might be created over the next decade--her power as a bestselling author, and as a gamer.

That's huge. Though we have yet to hear any response from NCSoft.

[Help] Spider Vivi: Protest won't do anything. They fired the team.

This is the down side--NCSoft did fire all Paragon Studios staffers. Some have already found new positions, because staying afloat, in these economically charged times, is generally better than hoping for a distant alternative future job to circle back around. So at this point, even if NCSoft apologizes and hires Paragon Studios again--well, who's going to be left?

And each day that passes makes the likelihood of the devs and the coders and the support staff to be free and available that much less likely, overall.

[Help] Foremost in Battle: the economy is at fault people don't have jobs or money and so some of the things we love are lost

Sad, but ultimately true.

[Help] Ivory Scorpion: I dont know if its the economy. This is pretty cheap entertainment. I mean... REALLY cheap
[Help] Foremost in Battle: I thought this morning what it must be like as a dev to wake up and your last 8-10 years of work is over
[Help] Sugar Sparks: best $15 I ever spent on entertainment!
[Help] Foremost in Battle: it must be very tough
[Help] Screaming Patriot: Yeah I never dropped my sub
[Help] Foremost in Battle: some folks are working in the background to see if the game code can be purchased


As far as I know, the attempt is still ongoing. No word yet on whether it will be successful or not.

[Help] Nina Fury: yesterday was my birthday
[Help] Nina Fury: I got a year sub for christmas


Ouch.

[Help] Sugar Sparks: does this mean we will have to pay by the month until shutdown?

No. When everything was shut down, everything was shut down--points can still be used in the in-game store, but the store outside of the game is gone. I'm still wondering what's going to happen with the rest of my subscription--I had three or four months to go. That's between $45 and $90 of funds I cannot use to play the game, so what happens then?

[Help] Operative Magnus: I paid for a year sub with my tax return last year. Had a few months left, too.
[Help] Sugar Sparks: I'd pay an extra $5 or $10 a month if they'd keep the game going
[Help] Operative Magnus: I felt like something might have been wrong when they opened the euro servers to us. Like a fool, I stayed quiet.
[Help] Screaming Patriot: They didn't need the Free to pay model. The game was surviving on it's on. To me they could've down sized a few of the servers.. that were low pop
[Help] Eve of Gaia: it seems they didn't have enough paying subscribers - they went free to try to attract more ppl in & entice them to pay (content on free is restricted). It didn't work.
[Help] Celerin: The game was making money. Freedom was successful.
[Help] Screaming Patriot: Then what's the problem?


Near as we can figure, Aion. Aion tanked in the second quarter, but, because it still has millions of subscribers, as opposed to City of Heroes' hundreds of thousands, CoH got axed to make up the deficit. I don't think it was the right move, obviously, and that this point NCSoft might be, just might be, reconsidering themselves.

But we have no way to know for sure unless there's a press conference or contact from NCSoft directly, again.

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