Gameus Interuptus

Some nights things just want to work out. For whatever reason my intermittent Comcast disconnect issue was being very consistently disconnecting last night. When it finally did finally stabilize, I tried logging into STO but was still getting disconnects in Cryptic’s games. Or maybe it was my connection being flaky enough that it was causing problems for a game while being fine for streaming video from YouTube. No idea.

Despite my short time in game, I did hit a milestone. Bryn Aev was promoted to Fleet Admiral, that’s level 60 and the current level cap in the game. Granted it was just as result of assignments completed by duty officers aboard the U.S.S. Vyrael, but I’m sure he played an important leadership role in their success. Or could just be Starfleet politics. Despite hitting the cap, I still have a few more missions to complete in the Delta Quadrant before Season 11 arrives, not that there’s a date for it yet but I’ll be surprised if it’s not planned for October some time.

GameClient 2015-09-02 21-20-43-98

Since my internet connection wasn’t cooperating, I tried playing some KSP but my head just wasn’t in the right place for that either. Mostly because I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to fast forward to the transafer window for sending the Kerbol Explorer to Jool and didn’t have enough time to really finish the mission preparation. Instead I crashed on the couch and watched part one of the two part season finale of Dark Matter (which got renewed along with Killhoys which I like a bit more) and went to bed before midnight. It made me feel like such a responsible adult.

Cryptic Connection Woes

Blaugust 2015 Day 31

My multitasking experiment has hit a speed bump. It’s hard to rotate through three MMOs when two of them are having connection issues. According to the Neverwinter community manager, Cryptic is having an issue with their ISP. As someone whose been on the phone with Comcast twice in the last seven days and having a technician come out Thursday to check the wiring both inside and outside, I can sympathize. At least they’re taking care of players and extending active events.

I didn’t play any games last night. Yesterday’s Golem Arcana write-up took longer than I expected, and I burned quite a bit of time on YouTube and Reddit, but I did get some LotRO in on Sunday that I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post. My return to Middle-Earth had made Wininoid nostalgic, and we got together with a pair of low level characters (Loremaster for him, Champion for me) and completed the post-tutorial quests in Comb. I hadn’t done any of those since the last revamp was done. I don’t expect I’ll spend a ton of time on alts though, as my main goal in LotRO for the multitasking experiment is to get my hunter, Brynulf, back to the level cap, and more importantly experience Isengard and Rohan.

Tonight’s plan will be to check in with STO and Champions and see if I have any luck. I’d at least like to review my completed duty officer assignments and schedule some new R&D projects. Failing that, I’ll probably end up in Kerbal Space Program again. I still have a Jool moon lander to put in orbit and dock with the Kerbol Explorer 1.

Cryptic Layoffs

I was dismayed yesterday morning when I popped into the STO Reddit  while taking a work break and the top link was to a rumor about layoffs at PWE and Cryptic. I immediately checked Smirk’s Twitter to confirm it and then looked at the feeds for Laughing Trendy, Thomas the Cat, Tacofangs, and ZeroniusRex to see if they were affected too. According to Massively OP later in the day 18 people at Cryptic were laid off in total, PWE’s offices were apparently hit much harder.

Of course the arm chair developers came out of the wood work in the comments on most of the sites I looked at. I saw a great Tweet from Elijah, one of the hosts of Priority One Podcast, that summed up my response perfectly:

There were way too many people spouting off with opinions completely divorced from reality. I read several comments from people saying that Cryptic should never have let PWE buy them which shows complete ignorance of the history of the company. Atari sold Cryptic to PWE, Cryptic didn’t sell themselves. Regardless, if PWE hadn’t bought Cryptic then, they likely wouldn’t be around at all now.

I do understand the impulse to try and rationalize a reason though.  Layoffs suck. Change is difficult, all the more so when the change is caused by an outside force. I known as I’ve experienced them myself twice and I’m a corporate software developer which is a much more stable industry than games development.

Regardless of the reasons, assigning blame doesn’t help people find jobs, and in my experience doesn’t make those who were let go or those who survived the cuts feel any better.

So I wanted to wish the vest of luck to Smirk, Positron and others now having to find new jobs, I hope they all land at places that they enjoy as much or more than their old one. Good luck also to those still at Cryptic, I hope that they’re not getting squeezed with more work to make up the difference.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Oh, Cryptic…  Of course the same day I say nice things about them in reference to character names, they have to make a major gaff (regarding forum names). This especially disappointing since they were just starting to get some positive buzz for Season 6 after all of the lock box drama.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of drama on Twitter from fellow Star Trek Online players that I follow. I got especially curious when I read a few things about names (which I’m a tad sensitive about still). Apparently the website maintenance that took place the night before was not actually maintenance in the normal sense, but a cut-over from Cryptic’s old infrastructure to their parent company’s (Perfect World Entertainment). This included requiring anyone who wanted to use the website to have a PWE account, especially to use the forums.

Not long after Cryptic was sold to PWE by Atari, an option appeared on the game’s launch and website allowing you to choose whether to login using your Cryptic account or a PWE account. I know a few people went ahead and merged or created PWE account because I remember them complaining on the forums about problems they were having afterwards. I had avoided merging my accounts and dreading the day when I would be forced to, because everything was fine with my Cryptic account and I didn’t want to tempt Murphy by touching anything. I treat cellular phone and cable services the same way. In my experience, any change no matter how small likely results in multiple calls to customer service.

So the merge was now being forced. The official PR statement claimed that this was for the players’ convenience, which is laughable. I think it’s much more honest to say that merging benefits the PWE IT and CS staff since they won’t have to maintain Cryptic’s old systems. Which is fine, just don’t try to sell me something claiming I’ll benefit when it’s really a zero sum (or net loss in this case) for me and you that benefits.

Anyway, regardless of the reasons why, the merge has happened. Despite the fact that there’s been a major loss of functionality for the forums, my major issue with the merge way PWE handled the transition. There was zero warning beforehand that I’m aware of. The only message I found about it was on the STO forums, posted on the evening of the 19th.

Now I understand that there are always difficulties when transitioning from one system to another, I’ve done that kind of work myself in my day job and there’s always unforeseen issues.  Which is why you have to over communicate and make sure that there are extra staff on-hand to help support users. Neither of which PWE did.

The biggest hitch in the transition process appears to be display/forum name conflicts. It appears from the FAQ that Cryptic/PWE went through and reserved any account and display names that weren’t already taken for existing players so that they could get them during the linking process. But this wasn’t communicated well enough beforehand and somehow many players ended up with a new PWE account and got a message that the display name they wanted (their old Cryptic forum name which supposedly was reserved) was taken.

Losing a forum name probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but there are some players who are extremely active on the forums. People like Foundry authors and podcasters have spent a lot of time building a reputation on the forums which is now basically wiped out. In several cases (most?) they’ve lost their forum names and either had to tack a number on the end or go with something totally new, plus the old forum posts have all been converted to archived posts so people’s posting history is gone as well.

Now, I’m not very active on the forums, so I wasn’t much affected by this, but after my recent experiences in TOR I’m very sympathetic to the loss many of the forum-active players are feeling. Hopefully it doesn’t kill the podcast community for the game.

Ironically given how little I used the forums, I actually got to keep my forum name and I owe it to Torchlight 2.

I happend to create a PWE account a few weeks ago so I could pre-order Torchlight 2. I’d had a lot of fun during the beta weekend and decided to buy through PWE because they were offering beta access to Neverwinter Nights and I always try to buy games direct from the developers when I can (a habit that also saved my $10 on Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion). I was afraid though that signing up would cause conflicts with my Cryptic account, so I used a different email address but still picked the same display/forum name. Apparently I did this before all the reserving was done in preparation of the Cryptic merge, which saved me some of the problems others have had.

I had really hoped that when Cryptic moved from Atari to PWE that we wouldn’t see the publisher causing problems for the development team.

Roper Leaving Cryptic

So this little bit of news just came across my Twitter feed: Bill Roper is leaving Cryptic (or the Champions version). It was only a few weeks ago that Craig Zinkievich resigned as well. Does this mean bad things for Cryptic?

Of course there’s a lot of speculation about an exodus of people from Cryptic, and what it might mean for the company’s future. So far, I think all of the personnel changes have been very positive. I’ve been much happier with Champions since Shannon took over, and while I was happy with Zinc’s tenure at STO, I’ve been even more impressed with Stahl.

Like anything that happens within a private company, we’ll probably never know for sure. Personally, I’m much less concerned by this than I was by Zinc’s departure. First, Roper left his position as Executive Producer of Champions back in March and Shannon Posniewski has (for whatever reason) done a much improved job. Second, Bill has been a lightning rod for bad press since he started as Cryptic. A lot of that is fallout from the failure of Flagship Studios, but the launch day nerf and Vibora Bay announcement also contributed a lot of bad PR. So, while his departure may impact whatever Cryptic has in development, I don’t see it having any impact on their released games. Deserved or not, Roper’s name comes with a lot of baggage attached, and it can only help Cryptic not to have to deal with that anymore.