|(This is what shows on the launcher program now for COH)|
|Even the Amazing Aluminum Man can't overcome the power of Server Crash!|
|We managed to crash one of the more popular servers. Twice.|
|I like cars, I like computer games, and even I could have told you this was going to fail|
Now I work in Corporate America so you're not going to find some slam attack on that here ( plus the villain in this case was Corporate Korea so that wouldn't be right anyway). However, with "in the cloud" being the catchphrase of 2012 this scenario illustrates the dark side of turning things over to an invisible server: what happens when it goes away? I liked City of Heroes, it made money, it was well known in it's industry/genre and held by a good-sized company in that industry and run by a dedicated, passionate staff - then someone in a position of power changed their mind and it goes "poof" with 90 days notice!
Now if we're talking about a simple online storage situation you might just move your files elsewhere, but what if there was less or even no notice? What if a lawsuit was involved and froze the servers? What if it was something a little more complex than simple file storage, like, say, iTunes? What if it was an integral part of a game you play a lot, like 4th edition D&D?
|Captain Transylvania awaits the end of the world in Atlas Park|
More recent games though, are less immortal. I cite 4th Edition D&D as the main example of this trend and it's the most extreme but it's not the only one. There were ways in which 4E was MMO-like but it was not that it went to level 30, used powers with a cooldown-like structure, and had a taunt mechanic - it was that the rules were treated like a MMORPG code-base and were patched with a monthly release schedule that invalidated chunks of printed material dedicated to learning and understanding the game! There are large sections of some books that are not current because of this. Thankfully all of the current mechanics and fluff are included in the character builder and the compendium - but what if that goes away?
The original 4E character builder was a downloadable application that was replaced in 2010 by an online-only version to combat piracy and hacking of the original. The rules compendium is still online only. Ironically enough I decided to start paying for DDI to have access to this stuff about the time CoH announced that it was going away (and about the time the last 4E books were being published) as I figured $10 a month was reasonable for that kind of support for a game when I was running two campaigns of it regularly. Having multiple CoH accounts dropping off made it a lot easier to justify too since that game went fee-less for the last 3 months.
So as of right now for something I like and find useful for a hobby of mine I am paying a monthly fee for something that is entirely cloud-based, controlled by a single corporation that has already begun working on a replacement version of the thing I like - it's sounding a little familiar. It's popular, by all accounts, but I can only see the numbers going down in the near future. Now one might argue that since there was no replacement for CoH that this is a better situation but contrary to that I think a replacement product almost demands the termination of support for earlier versions of that product. My only hope here is that the new-for-2012 statement by WOTC that they want to support all versions of the game includes the continuation of online support for 4E. If not, well, then what?
I find the character builder program essential for playing 4th Edition. I'm sure there are some out there who play without it but I would bet they are a tiny tiny minority. It is a huge benefit in understanding how characters work, how they are different (both mechanically and fluff-wise) and in just getting the math right. If that becomes unavailable then how would we play? Would we still want to play? I suspect the answer is no.
|Assistance is not new - dependence is new|
|I'm not kidding - this was in Dragon in 1983|
|So was this|
|M&M in Hero Lab|
|ICONS character folio|
How do we avoid this potential issue? Well, for one thing lighter rules decrease the need for a character builder and online support. There's a builder for ICONS of all things, but it's mainly handy for instant generation of random characters and producing a nice neat character sheet. Hero Lab has a module for Savage Worlds too, which is another one I don't really see a need for but might be handy for a DM in some way. I saw a post online somewhere wishing that the new Marvel game had a character builder, and they don't really even have rules for that in a traditional sense, why on earth would you need a builder for that game? You just need a blank sheet - "here, fill in whatever you think looks good and send it to your DM" - it would just be a form-fillable PDF! So the less the game relies on complex interactions between elements like ability scores, skills, feats/advantages, powers, and class features the less you need a builder, and the less likely we are to hit a technological expiration date a decade or so down the road.
This is not just a factor with tabletop RPG's and MMORPG's. A lot of current Xbox games have a large online component - for every Skyrim you have several Call of Duty's - in 5 years will you be able to go back and play Modern Warfare 3 with your friends? Locally, sure, if you still have the game. Online? I wouldn't count on it, just like the original Xbox was removed from the company's proprietary network, the 360 will drop off too one day. Much like the rest of this discussion, many people won't even notice, but some will.
|Well it WAS "Xbox Live Enabled" - not so much anymore|
|Are these iOS or Android?|
I know I've rambled on a lot here, but the end of one hobby kind of spilled over into another hobby and I thought it was worth some discussion. One of the things that kept me out of MMO's for a long time was that I didn't like the idea of spending money on something I didn't own. I eventually moved past that and now I've been hit in the mouth with my own original misgivings - if you don't control it someone can take it away from you. I don't like having my toys taken away for no good reason, so I know I will be more cautious about my level of investment/involvement in these kinds of things. Hopefully it will be handled better in the future.