Monthly Archives: January 2017

Daybreak Games Is Shutting Down Landmark, Will Not Refund Users or Provide Offline Access

Daybreak Games has announced plans to shut down Landmark on February 21, 2017. Users will not be able to access the game after this date, and they will not receive a refund for their purchase. Daybreak has openly stated that they have no plans to release or license the software for users to create their own servers, and will not authorize the operation of private servers, implying that they may take legal action against operators of private servers.

Released into a pay-gated Alpha test in 2014, Landmark was intended to be a voxel-based sandbox MMO in a similar fashion to Minecraft(but with pretty graphics and more precision). Landmark utilizes the same technology that was being used to develop Everquest Next, a project that was ultimately canceled shortly after Sony Online Entertainment was acquired by the investment firm Columbus Nova.

When Columbus Nova acquired Sony Online Entertainment back in February 2015, the games department was renamed as “Daybreak Games Company”. Daybreak Games Company underwent a significant restructuring, laying off a significant portion of their staff, and canceling or modifying existing projects. Within the first two years of acquisition, Daybreak has shut down Planetside and Landmark, and canceled Everquest Next.

The intent of these executive decisions seem to be for the sake of short-term profitability. Creating an MMORPG, especially one as ambitious as Everquest Next, requires a massive amount of capital to create. As Everquest Next promised technologies and features never seen before in the genre, there’s a very high chance that it may not have turned out as expected.

In addition to the significant cost in creating a MMORPG, the PC MMORPG market has been declining in recent years. Returns on new western MMORPGs have been very poor, as we’ve seen with games such as Wildstar and Star Wars: The Old Republic. In the AAA western market, we’ve seen a large shift towards competitive, match based titles that carry the potential to become popular esports. Currently, most upcoming MMORPGs seem to be coming either from eastern countries such as Korea and China, or from indie developers with limited funding.

In terms of profitability, there’s often a much better ROI when investing in mobile games, as they require very little development cost in comparison to PC MMORPGs, but still carry significant earning potential. Mobile gamers are generally much more tolerant of game-changing microtransactions than PC gamers, and have much lower expectations regarding the depth and quality of games on the platform.

Overall, Columbus Nova is likely not willing to take the financial risks associated with creating a high cost title such as a MMORPG. Their goal seems to be to squeeze as much revenue as possible out of existing titles, while significantly reducing costs to improve profit margins. While this works great for short-term returns, it does raise questions about the distant future of the company. How will their revenue look when their existing titles inevitably lose popularity due to development budget cuts, and competition from other games? Daybreak Games seems very risk adverse when it comes to developing new products or maintaining failing ones. While capital investment is inherently risky, pocketing profits instead of reinvesting it in the company seems like a recipe for failure.

Currently, Daybreak Games publishes and manages the following games:

  • H1Z1: King of the Kill
  • H1Z1: Just Survive
  • Planetside 2
  • Everquest
  • Everquest 2
  • DC Universe Online

Link to the official announcement: https://www.landmarkthegame.com/news/important-news-about-landmark-2017

 

 

 

With Markets Surging, Bitcoin Network Experiencing Transaction Delays Due to Technical Limitation

Bitcoin’s price has risen from $750 to $1060 in the past month, which has created a huge surge in activity. Unfortunately, this activity has caused the network to stagnate, with many transactions taking several hours to confirm.

Unconfirmed transactions continue to pile up as the network cannot keep up with new transactions. Source: blockchain.info

The source of the stagnation stems from a technical limitation of the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin’s public transaction record, known as the “blockchain”, is made up of a series of blocks published by different entities through a process known as mining. These blocks are created at an average rate of one per 10 minutes. The size of each block is capped 1 Megabyte, a limit originally created to prevent malicious entities from creating unnecessarily large blocks, which could make the blockchain too large for most users to download and store. This limits Bitcoin to approximately 3-4 transactions per second, which is insufficient for it to fully replace credit card networks or other transaction methods.

This limit is beginning to limit Bitcoin’s growth as a currency. While Bitcoin provides enormous potential, such as protecting people from hyperinflation in countries such as Venezuela, and providing a secure and private transaction protocol, the 1 MB cap is preventing it from seeing widespread adaptation. Bitcoin recently adapted “dynamic fees” which adjust the fee that someone sending Bitcoins pays to have their transaction confirmed in a block. As traffic continues to rise, fees continue to rise, as users are competing for limited block space. If fees grow too high, it eliminates Bitcoin’s feasibility for day-to-day transactions.

I recently purchased a bit of steam wallet funds with Bitcoin to test the network. With a fee of 0.12 mBTC, the default fee with the wallet I used(approximately $0.13) I’ve been waiting over two hours, and lack a confirmation. The transaction can be viewed here. The transaction was sent at 2:48 AM central US time.

Currently, as of 4:53 AM US Central time, there are over 26,000 unconfirmed transactions waiting to be confirmed in a block, with a size totaling over 13 Megabytes, meaning that it will take over two hours for the system to catch up, assuming no more transactions are sent. However, at the current rate of transactions, the size of the queue only grows, meaning wait times do as well.

Solving the Block Size Limit Problem

Unfortunately, the block size limit cannot be adjusted without creating a “fork” in the network, essentially splitting the network, and hoping everyone agrees on which is the “real” Bitcoin network. Since Bitcoin is a decentralized currency, it’s very difficult to get the community to reach consensus on a network fork. There are many different proposals on how to solve the issue, and it is a very controversial issue within the Bitcoin community.

Some advocate a 2 Megabyte cap, as it is a small change, but many disagree because it’s simply kicking the can down the road, and we’ll see the same problem happen later. Some advocate increasing the cap, and creating a determined schedule at which further increases to the cap occur. Many disagree with this because it makes dangerous assumptions about growth in internet infrastructure, and the ability for large blocks to be reliably transported. Some support a dynamically scaling block size caps based on median block size, although some worry about the potential for this to be abused.

Ultimately, the only way that Bitcoin could undergo such a significant change would be for all of the industry leaders, such as exchanges, transaction processors, and mining groups, as well as a significant majority of users, to agree on a specific change and date of implementation(at a specific block number). Even once an agreement is made, such a change would likely take years, as developers of custom Bitcoin applications will need sufficient time to refine their code base to support the new changes, and test thoroughly.

One effective way to reduce risk when implementing a fork is to schedule it for a block several months or a couple years in the future, but only on the condition that a given percentage of blocks mined within the past few months of blocks contain a marker in support of it. Since blocks can contain non-transaction data, miners that support a given change to the network could contain a specific marker indicating their support.

Overall, Bitcoin has enormous potential, but the community and industry will have to find a way to address the transaction size issue in order to create a widely used transaction medium. If Bitcoin fails to improve it’s capacity, it’s possible that an alternative cryptocurrency could fill a niche for smaller transactions. This ultimately would depend on major Bitcoin payment processors such as Bitpay or Coinbase providing support for alternative currencies. While it’s unclear what the future for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will hold. What we do know is that they carry significant potential, and that any sort of prediction is pure speculation.