Friday, July 30, 2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic: More than a Music Video

Watch the video first:

So, that was a video about the music of Star Wars:The Old Republic right? Sure, but we also learned some other bits of information from the in-game video that was included.  First off, let me just say that the musical score is going to be great, but that's expected when it comes to Star Wars. IMHO, there wasn't even a need to add new music; that is how great the music of Star Wars is.

Is that Hoth that I spied in the video?

Also there are clips throughout the entire video showing various vehicles and "mounts" sitting idle. Towards the end of the video, we get a glimpse at a character riding off into the sunset on a speeder bike. This means we will most likely see "mounts" and possibly other ground-based vehicles in the game.

Plus there are glimpses of spaceships everywhere, which we know are confirmed to be part of the game and should be getting details on in August when the next PC Gamer magazine hits newsstands.

And there is definitely one thing this video confirms: the combat still looks fucking terrible.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guild Wars 2 level cap will be 80 with no leveling curve

Simple enough:
Our goal with Guild Wars 2 is to flatten out the leveling curve, keeping progression simple and straightforward. We expect everyone to make a reasonable amount of progression with each play session. It shouldn’t take days of playing before you feel like you have made any progress, and you definitely shouldn’t have to kill a bunch of creatures or do a bunch of repetitive tasks just to see what’s over that next hill. We want our progression to keep up with your play style. If you’re a causal gamer who plays for a few hours here and there, why should you feel like it’s going to take you a decade to finish your character? If you’re a hardcore player, why shouldn’t you be able to blast through the game with skill and speed, trying to experience every last bit of content?

So how did we accomplish our goals, you ask? Good question! First off, we set the level cap for the game at 80, but we made the time between levels rather short. Instead of taking longer and longer to reach each level, it takes about the same time to go through each level. It’s pretty simple; if we expect you to level up every few hours, then why shouldn’t it be that way all through the game?
And there is a pretty chart that explains it even better:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What is EverQuest II Extended? Good fucking question.

Everquest II is going free 2 play.  No, I'm not kidding.  Go read the FAQ.
Extended provides access to premium subscription-quality content through free and optional paid membership levels. Powered by an all-new web-based download application, new and veteran players alike can experience all the excitement and depth of EQII's content without a daunting installation or a massive download. Players can register within minutes, download the client to join other people in an epic journey, and launch into adventure in a fantastical online 3D world. Extended is the ultimate MMORPG experience. Excitement with every breath and adventure around every turn is now available for free!
Basically, its a new game that is free 2 play, but will offer premium payment options. It somehow ties into the subscription based Everquest 2.

This takes me to my pet peeve with free 2 play games: they are too fucking hard to understand. A chief example is Dungeons and Dragons Online. I spent more time trying to figure out what I could or could not achieve without paying instead of just playing the game. Everquest II is sounding about the same and players are likely to be confused, especially when they try to wrap their head around how it ties into the subscription game (now known as Everquest II Live).

I like the idea and the direction SOE is taking this whole free 2 play thing, but I'm not sure tacking it onto all of their current franchises and games is the way to go. As always, SOE will be interesting to watch.

Scratch that, this is going to be a fucking riot.  Just read their proposed plans for providing support to players:
The self help knowledge base will be accessible to all players regardless of their Extended membership status. As clearly outlined in the membership benefits matrix, customer service is only provided to players who have made a real money transaction in EQII Extended or at least have a Gold membership.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More than a one-day story

First, see this post on Reddit.
Next, read the news story.
Last, when you are playing Starcraft 2 tonight, remember this guy and his friend who will now be playing alone.

matdevdug, your friend is more than a one-day story.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Amalur is a failure

First, watch this:

Next, read this: Amalur? 38 Studios, you just failed.

Look, I want to give 38 Studios the benefit of the doubt.  I want to believe they've assembled this great team and haven't squandered this opportunity.  However, I just can't do anything but laugh after seeing a video as terrible as the one posted above.

The setting is so generic fantasy that it makes Star Wars look like science fiction.

Brooding dark voice?  Check.
Too much plate armor?  Check.
Oversized, unrealistic weapons?  Check.
Skeletons? Check.
Over-sized boss character incoming at end of video? Check.

What a fucking disaster this video is.  Not only is it highly disappointing to watch, but it fails to say a single thing about the game itself.  Plus it doesn't even bother to explain a single thing about the world of Amular.

This was 38 Studios big reveal and it failed; hard.  Amalur, just another generic fantasy setting that fails to impress.

Pro-tip: if the majority of a video game trailer features bylines with "John Doe, X, from game Y" , people may perceive that as the current game being unable to stand on it's own merits.

Further evidence abounds, check out the comments over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
Choca says:
July 23, 2010 at 11:25 am

The trailer looks bad.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guild Wars 2 Will Succeed

For a primer, read my Guild Wars 2 Will Fail post from yesterday.

Guild Wars 2 (GW2) starts with some strikes against it, but it also starts with some potential.  First and foremost is GW2's business model.  The game will be free to play after purchasing a retail copy similar to the first Guild Wars.  This alone separates the game from the throng of games that will be dependent upon monthly subscriptions when GW2 comes to the market.

Secondly, GW2 is changing up some of the foundations of the Diku model.  The biggest change here is the removal of dedicated healing in the game.  Each individual player will be given self-healing skills that will account for the majority of healing in the game, both in solo and group play.

Next, GW2 is easing the limits on how a class defines a player's characters. The various classes will have a core mechanic, but their available skills will be based on equipment, race, and a set of personal healing abilities.  For example, a warrior wielding a 2-handed axe will be played much differently than one wielding a 1-handed sword and a shield.

The third change that comes to mind is the fact that death will not be immediate in GW2.  If a fight is winding down and a player is struck down, they become disabled.  During this disabled period if the player manages to kill a creature, they receive a second wind and can go on fighting.  Anyone that has played Borderlands will be familiar with this mechanic.  This lessens the sting of death and builds the perception that the player is a hero, not just some schmuck that was wiped out by a giant rat that added into a fight (a rat the player could cleave in two with a single blow!).

Guild Wars 2 is also aiming to shake up the game world with live events.  Think of this as Public Quests version 2.0.  Public Quests were easily the best feature of Warhammer Online and GW2 is taking them to another level by building the entire world around them.  If a player is in a village and see's all the villagers dieing due to poison that was dumped into their water supply, they can investigate and find the water pipeline into the city is being attacked and poisoned just outside of town. Beat the bandits causing the problem and save the village.  This is just an example of a couple stages of a "public quest" that will be featured in GW2.  This system has great potential and its only weakness is that the events will recycle themselves, so at some point it may feel like the players accomplished "nothing".

I've outlined some of the changes GW2 is attempting, but the game is still very much a traditional affair.  The core of the game will be familiar to anyone that has enjoyed MMOGs over the past several years.  Arena Net is being very careful to make this clear.  They talk a lot about changes, but also concentrate on making sure everyone knows they are not rewriting the book.  They don't want to rewrite the book and are being honest about that fact.  I wish other developers, creating very similar games, could follow Arena Net's lead in this regard.  Adding one new feature doesn't make a AAA MMOG "ground breaking". 

Looking at the reasons I've presented for failure and success, its interesting to note that they are in two very distinct categories.  The reasons for failure are all conjecture: its a 2, its making changes, and its got heavy competition in the fantasy setting.   The reasons for success are almost all related to the way the game will play: healing, death, and a living world.  I'll let you be the judge, but the reasons for success sound a lot more worthwhile than those of failure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guild Wars 2 Will Fail

There are plenty of examples that sequels do not work in the MMO market.  Ultima Online 2 was the original victim of what I like to call the terrible 2s.  Asheron's Call 2 shutdown on December 30, 2005 while the original Asheron's Call still thrives to this day.  AC2 never matched the original and in my opinion was actually a pretty good game.  The list continues with Everquest 2 which never matched the original Everquest and was thoroughly trumped by the monster that is World of Warcraft.

Everquest 2, out of all the 2s, should have been a right to print money.  Everquest was the undisupted champion of the early graphical MMOGs and Everquest 2 was the expected front runner of the "next generation".  How terribly wrong that general consensus was.  World of Warcraft taught everyone that the Everquest "idea" was wrong and that Everquest never was "right".

This all sets a stage where upon the new 2 in the neighberhood, Guild Wars 2 (GW2), is set to fail.

If being a 2 wasn't bad enough for GW2, it is also "a high fantasy world with multiple races" (like my new tagline?).  GW2 will have to compete with the Everquest 2 slaying World of Warcraft and it's record-breaking expansions.  Star Wars: The Old Republic will also be major competition for GW2 as they are the top two upcoming AAA titles in the MMO market (Star Wars being more fantasy than SciFi by miles).  Not to mention the plethora of free 2 play fantasy offerings that are quickly eating into the AAA marketplace. Fantasy is saturated!

There are other concerns as well.  GW2 is doing away with the holy trinity by removing the dedicated healer from group play, softening the blow of death by allowing second chances after a characters health is depleted, and moving towards a more action inspired combat system.  All of these may be equally positive things, but they are all "different" enough to cause concern in a genre that is averse to change.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to doom and gloom all of the upcoming MMOGs.  Specific to Guild Wars 2, come back tomorrow for the reasons why Guild Wars 2 will succeed.  Honestly, Guild Wars 2 is looking to be the only AAA competition coming any time soon.

Update: 23 July, 2010 - The Guild Wars 2 success post has been posted.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PC gamers with keyboard/mouse dominate console gamers with controllers

Filing this one away in the "no shit, Sherlock" category, Gizmodo has an interesting article up about why Microsoft aborted a project that would have allowed PC and Xbox gamers to play together on the same servers.  Basically, half-assed PC gamers easily dominated the constrained controllers that top-talent console gamers were using.
I've heard from reliable sources that during the development they brought together the best console gamers to play mediocre PC gamers at the same game... and guess what happened? They pitted console gamers with their "console" controller, against PC gamers with their keyboard and mouse.

The console players got destroyed every time. So much so that it would be embarrassing to the XBOX team in general had Microsoft launched this initiative.
I've had similar results with my old roommate with Halo. I couldn't win at Halo for shit playing on the Xbox, but once it was on the PC and we did a grand rematch with our normal Friday Halo group, I dominated as a PC gamer with mouse and keyboard. And I've never been very good at FPS games!

Just one more reason to be a proud PC gamer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amalur? 38 Studios, you just failed.

Update:  Obviously I missed the fact this article was about the single-player game, but my statements below stand as they are still releasing a fantasy MMOG.

USA Today's Game Hunters are running an article about Curt Schilling's 38 Studios and their upcoming MMO project.  In it, we get word from R.A. Salvatore (an accomplished author) on the lore for the game world:
Salvatore, who has written numerous books based in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, is tight-lipped about Amalur, but says that he has created a Tolkienesque 10,000-year-long back story: "I think we can say that we are talking about a high fantasy world with multiple races."
And with that statement, "we are talking about a high fantasy world with multiple races", 38 Studios has just fucking failed. Really? Another fantasy MMO? Seriously? Really? In a world where we have SW:ToR (Star Wars has always been more Fantasy than SciFi) and Guild Wars 2 and Tera and a hundred other fantasy worlds with multiple races?

Maybe this is a little harsh and premature, but I have this nagging feeling we aren't going to be as "blown away" as they are expecting. I will be amazed if this is received by the MMO blogosphere as anything more than "oh, another fantasy MMOG".

MMO websites are big business

MMO-Champion has been acquired by Curse.  With this acquisition, Curse is now the largeest MMO portal in the world and MMO-Champion will be adding some 7 million eyeballs to their readership (or so they claim).  My initial sneaking suspicion is that Curse won't gain that many new eyeballs, as a large portion of traffic to MMO-Champion probably already visits Curse on a regular basis, especially considering both are very heavy World of Warcraft portals.

Either way, I suspect a lot of money exchanged hands in this deal. sold for a reported $1 million and I would wager its traffic statistics were on par with MMO-Champion.  I would be interested to get the details of the sale.

Fortunately, Curse isn't some scum-sucking company like ZAM (who purchased WoWHead).  And all I know is that MMO websites are big business and I'm sad all the sites I've volunteered for and poured my sweat into over the years missed the money train.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alright Valve, I see your free game. I raise you

... err wait, I can't raise against a FREE GAME!

Valve is releasing a free game on Monday via Steam. The game is Alien Swarm. Read about it here or see the blurb below:
Two years ago Valve hired the talented team behind the popular top down co-op mod Alien Swarm. Since then they have been busy working on the Left 4 Dead Series, and now Portal 2. However, we never forgot about Alien Swarm and the team has spent a lot of time bringing the game to Source in between their contributions to the other Valve projects.

On Monday, July 19th Alien Swarm is going to be released for free via Steam.

In addition to the game, Valve will also release the complete code base for Alien Swarm. This includes updates to the Source engine SDK and full Steamworks integration. If you’ve ever thought about developing a mod on the Source engine with Steamworks, this release provides more insight and examples for using Steamworks in game production.

Please visit for more information.
Oh Valve, I love you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Have MMOGs changed the single-player gamer in me?

I've been playing a lot of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as of late and I'm coming to realize something: playing MMOs has damaged my ability to enjoy single player RPGs to a degree.  I find myself playing Oblivion with the console up and entering cheats to get items or to reset my status with the in-game law enforcement.

I find it annoying that Oblivion asks me to run from shrine A to town B just to pick up a head of lettuce, some yarn, and a soul gem.  I can cut that trip out and just dump the items into my bag with the console commands.  And I don't feel the least bit sad about doing it.  It doesn't hurt my enjoyment of the game one bit.  I really don't want to run to town and hope I find a vendor with the goods I need.  I just want to get on with the story, not waste time grocery shopping!

After playing Ultima Online for a couple years, I could still go and play a game like Baldur's Gate II and enjoy haplessly doing side quests and any number of annoying single-plater things.  However, I started to notice I wasn't enjoying exploring every inch of single-player RPGs as I previously had in my glory days of Super Nintendo greats Chrono Trigger and Playstation wonder Final Fantasy 7.  I was starting to need single-player RPGs-on-rails.  Games had to lead me from A to B and cut out a lot of the normal bullshit associated with RPGs.  I realized that I was only fooling myself.  No one would care (I know I wouldn't) if I cheated a little to get through the parts of single-player games I didn't enjoy or just ignored things that distracted from beating the game.

A decade and thousands of hours of MMOG gaming later, I guess online gaming has damaged my single-player appetite for good.   Playing through the handful of single-player RPGs I snagged during the Steam holiday sales over the past year, I have no patience left for anything that doesn't get me closer to finishing the game.  Especially when we are talking about games like Oblivion where powerful command line tools are available to make the experience better.  I can pretty much cut what I don't care about from the game and get to the best part: finishing the damn game. 

This is all quite ironic considering that MMOGs rarely have an end of which to reach.  Sure, there is a max level and end game goals, but they aren't really win conditions.  The next time I walk into town, I could be meeting a player that I will spend the next year playing with.  I could be one group invite away from a new guild.  There are a lot of possibilities with MMOGs and the most important factor is the presence of other players.  Playing Oblivion right now would be immensely boring if another player entered my world and played the way I did: we'd both be gods.

I think the point with MMOGs that resonates most with me is that there are dozens of other players slowly slogging through the same hell that I am.  If I have to kill X and then run to town Z to get A and then trek it back to town F, I can feel secure in knowing there are tons of other players that have or are doing the same.  I may even have an underrated victory if I find myself being more efficient than other players and fitting in quest Q on the way to town F.

There is an underlying sense of  competition in any multiplayer game.  Knowing that I am doing something legitimately better than another live human being is wonderfully powerful.  Knowing that I am doing worse than someone can be provocatively motivating (or just as easily soul crushing).  Without that competition, I lack the drive to care about the details and will do whatever is necessary to enjoy my single-player experience.  Though, some days while playing an MMOG, I sincerely wish that Basterd Sword of Slaying was only a tilde away from my grasp.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Part II : Star Wars: The Old Republic beta leaks

Apparently some people are angry that I posted a link to some supposed beta leaks for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:ToR).  Generally I agree that linking to beta leaks is poor form, but I felt the "ask me anything about the beta" post on Reddit was laid out well and free of the general "OMGz I'm in the beta and you arz not!!!" style that makes beta leakers so annoying.  Eventually we learned that the supposed beta leaker was not in fact a beta tester and was simply answering questions with information available elsewhere.

So, lets do a quick run down of what we learned from the "not really beta leaks" posting.
  • Individual story areas are instanced and vary based on your character's own story.  Areas for your story are designated by green energy fields, while areas not involving your story are marked by red energy fields.
    • We already knew this from playtests at E3.
  • Combat is based on fighting multiple enemies at once instead of one vs one fights.
    • We already knew this from playtests at E3.
  • The cover system works well and is central to combat for some classes.
    • We've known this since the first video about the cover system was released.
  • Enemy NPCs follow your character as they run through an area.  Some aggro at a distance while others have a buffer zone where they simply watch your character; get too close and then they attack.
    • Pretty much the standard behavior for NPCs in RPGs; MMO or not.
  • There is no PvP, spaceships, or space in the beta yet.
    • We already knew they weren't revealing their PvP aspects yet and have announced little to nothing in regards to space/spaceships.

In conclusion, we learned nothing.  Some fans who haven't been keeping up with the game may have found a few gems (like the red or green energy fields), but overall it is obvious to me the beta leaks were not from a beta tester.  I'll let you know when the real beta leaks start and we get to see something amazing like space flight or a combat system that doesn't suck.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Blizzard caves, no more Real ID on forums

Blizzard has caved on the idea of having players post using their real life names on the Blizzard forums.  Details are laid out in a posting by Blizzard's CEO, Mark Morhaime.
I'd like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We've been constantly monitoring the feedback you've given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we've decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.
Bad ideas are bad mmmm k?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Star Wars: The Old Republic beta leaks

And the original post has been removed.

Update: 10 July, 2010 - Adding to the drama, apparently the beta leaker was NOT actually a beta tester and was just making it all up; summed up nicely by this picture from a Reddit moderator:

With that out of the way, does that mean we can repost what was said in the thread? It's not truly beta leaks and for the most part was really just covering what we already knew (ableit explained a bit better).

Update: 11 July, 2010 - Part II of my beta leaking has been posted.

Monday, July 05, 2010

World of Warcraft going Free 2 Play?

Is it possible that we may see a free 2 play World of Warcraft at some point in the future? That is the question being pondered in a piece over at PC Gamer:
The rise of the free-to-play western MMO hasn’t gone unnoticed at Blizzard, developers of World of Warcraft, the dominant western subscription MMO. Speaking to PC Gamer at their studios in Irvine, California, World of Warcraft’s lead designer, Tom Chilton, explained that “at some point, it may not make sense for us to have a subscription fee.”
We all know that WoW was a game changer as far as MMOGs were concerned and with every expansion or change it continues to be one. If WoW was to make the switch to free 2 play, it would become something even greater than a game changer. It's legendary status would be cemented and the genre changed forever.

With that said, I don't see it happening anytime soon and when and if it does, it will be long after WoW has peaked and the money train has moved on to another Activision Blizzard title.

Friday, July 02, 2010

June 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

June was an interesting month for my gaming.  I came into the month with no set "Game of the Month" and no plans to play anything specifically.  Then Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers (DotP) was announced for Steam and shortly released.  Also, a mid-month Steam sale on Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion took a chunk out of my wallet.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for June below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers

Cost: $9.99
Played: 20 hours
3-words: casual Magic fun

While I didn't enter the month with a game of the month in mind, I ended the month with a winner in DotP.  My three word description really fits the game.

Casual:  DotP is all about getting in and playing Magic the Gathering.  Some rules are simplified, the decks are pre-constructed, and the game is dead simple to operate.  However, this can be a negative for anyone looking for a more hardcore Magic experience.  I suggest those hardcore players look at the official Magic the Gathering Online.

Magic: any current or past fan of Magic the Gathering will immediately identify with the game.  It is a solid representation of the game mechanics. The only part missing is the collectible aspect as card lists are set and there is no real collecting to be done, but that's OK as its not the focus of DotP.

Fun: this is a subjective term as some players just don't like card games and there is nothing here that will convince them to like them.  But for those players that do enjoy card games, this is probably the best casual PC card game available.  There are no booster packs to buy, decks to construct from scratch, or proxy cards to tape together.  DotP is about getting to the fun of playing.


Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

I started my journey in Oblivion as a Wood Elf with the customer Heartless class (yes, I named a class after myself!).  I've spent a few hours wandering around and enjoying the game.  There is quite a bit to do without actually doing anything.  It can be annoying sometimes, such as when you are trying to talk to someone and inadvertently steal the cup in front of them prompting a little run in the with the town guards, but once a player gets used to the game it is a fun game.


Total spent this Month: $18.49
My Value Rating: Excellent

For $18.49 I purchased two great games which are aiming to give me a couple hundred hours of playtime.