Archive for March, 2011

Fall of an Empire: SOE Style

March 31, 2011

SOE went and cut 205 positions and closed 3 studios. I am not terribly surprised by this mind you, but I am saddened. I would have to say that more than half of my time spent in MMO-land had been within the confines of an SOE game. EQ and EQ2 have been comfortable homes for the majority of my MMO lifetime.

So what is going wrong here? Everyone knows that EQ was revolutionary for its time and it is no less than amazing that as many people still play this game after 12 years. EQ2 is a great game that has arguably one of the most robust crafting systems and player housing (guild halls too) as any other game out there. Free Realms has mass market appeal to the younger crowd and they have had no shortage of great IP’s with Star Wars and DC Comics to top the list.

In large part I believe that SOE is suffering from some form of Jekyll and Hyde syndrome where sometimes the company is SOE, but more and more the company turns to its alter ego $OE. It seems that gone are the days when the company was trying to develop great games, and it has turned into a company that just wants to rake in as much revenue as it can to hearken back to the good old days.

The company really needs to take a step back and consider what it really wants to do. What is the best way to profitability. I can’t imagine that the current business model is the way to go. It is unfortunate that so many people had to lost their livelihood, but maybe the company can get its bearings back again.

Like Green Armadillo, who wrote a great post about the same topic (no really, go read it, it puts mine to shame), I feel I am one of the few people who stopped playing RIFT. Right now I needed to slow things down a bit and play a game that has more to offer than frenetic public quests and diverse leveling. EQ2 is great for that. For taking your time and looking around and smelling the flowers.

I truly hope that SOE can really focus on the two projects they have in the tank. I’m not too familiar with Planetside Next, but I have a lot of anticipation for Everquest Next. If SOE develops this project I think it could be a great game…if $OE rears its ugly head…EQ3 will be the final nail in the coffin for this flailing company.

-Pid

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[SW:TOR] The Escape Pod(casts)

March 29, 2011

Damn PAX!

I was minding my own business, trying to ignore all things The Old Republic, and then I had the silly idea of going to PAX. Damn it. They woke a sleeping giant and now I can’t get enough SW:TOR info. I spent all weekend listening to podcasts about the game. There are a number of them and they are quite good. I would recommend listening to any of the ones listed below. They are all unique in their own way, but quite entertaining. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. TOROcast – They are a bit of an elitest group, but have been podcasting about TOR for almost 2 years, so they probably deserve to be at least a little.
  2. Corellian Run Radio – A very entertaining group of women who love their TOR!
  3. Anchorhead Weekly Podcast – one guy, one mic, lots of ideas
  4. Darth Hater – I met a bunch of these guys at PAX. They are militant about getting you TOR data!
  5. Mos Eisley Radio – They seemed to have a fair and balanced approach to the game.
  6. TORWars – Zany and a little off the wall, but quite informative
  7. TOR-Talk – No shortage of opinions here

I guess most of these can be found on iTunes if that is your preferred podcast source, but I encourage you to go check these out if you are at all interested in the game. They are all very informative, many are quite entertaining.

-Pid

Quote to Note – RPG Edition

March 28, 2011

Who put the RP

In the em em oh are pee gee?

Who put the ram

in the rama lama ding dong?

Who was that man?

I’d like to shake his hand

He made my baby

Fall in love with me (Yeah!)

Sorry, couldn’t help but butcher a song that came out before I was born.

Anyway, I was reading the newest copy of PC Gamer and I came across this quote from an article about relationships in RPG’s.

I prefer to think of roleplaying games as “people simulators.” They allow you to create an alter-ego of your own design, and to live a simulated life in a virtual world…

-Desslock, PC Gamer May 2011

He goes on to talk about how relationships and sex in the Dragon Age games are important, blah blah blah, but that opening line really struck a chord with me.

I am really looking forward to SW:TOR for this very reason. I am tired of MMORPG’s that consider RPG to only mean that the characters have a progression and “level up” in some way as they go. To me, RPG means just what Desslock thinks of it and I really wish there was more of that in the MMO’s today.

I really hope that BioWare is true to itself in this game and makes the journey to level cap a meaningful, memorable experience. I want some RP in my MMORPG and not necessarily a group of players typing “Well met traveler, wouldst thou like to travel with me and smite yon dragon?”

I know any raider or hard core pvp’er that might stumble across my site just puked, but I want to spend some time losing myself in this world. I want to stop and smell the flowers like I often say. I realize that this game is an MMO and BioWare made a point to showcasing that at PAX, but I hope that their idea of a story based MMO is all it’s touted to be because it is what I really need in an MMORPG right now.

-Pid

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

March 15, 2011

I have a number of pages of notes from a variety of the panels that I attended at the recent PAX convention. I hope to get some posts in about them as I did actually put forth the effort to write things down. On a side note, I am pretty sure I was the only person there at this convention that had a notepad and pen to take notes. Boy, did I feel like a nerd at a geek convention!

Anyway…

I attended the first demonstration of 38 Studios’ Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning. For those not familiar with 38 Studios, it was created by former Boston Redsox starting pitcher Curt Schilling. Apparently he is a huge gamer and routinely played during his baseball career. He pretty much took his life savings and decided to start a game design company. His ultimate goal is to make an MMO that will redefine the genre, and the development of this game (codenamed Copernicus) is underway.

In much the same way as Runic Games is running their business model, 38 studios is getting their feet wet in the gaming market by releasing a single player game set in the same world as their planned MMO title. This should accomplish both the goal of gaining much needed experience in the market as well as manufacturing some revenue to fund the bottomless pit that is the MMO development budget demands. Here we have Reckoning.

This is the only decent picture I could get…the lights were pretty bright.

The game itself is set in the world of Amalur and is being billed as a hardcore RPG with real action elements. In other words, it is similar to Oblivion or something of that ilk. They played a live demo of the game and here are some of the things I noticed about this pre-alpha game:

  • The character creation was pretty standard. You can choose from 4 races, 2 of which are human, a light elf, and a dark elf. During your character creation you pick a patron deity that has some impact on your character’s stats and abilities, but is nothing game breaking.
  • The game is set somewhere in the 10,000 year history of Amalur that NY Times best selling author R.A. Salvatore has written. Bob-o must be bored with writing best sellers and has written an exhaustive history for this game. The setting is the “Age of Arcana” and is supposed to be a time when magic is reentering the world after a long period of dormancy.
  • Your character starts off the game in a tutorial zone in which he/she has just been resurrected from the dead. (I hope they were going for unique with this since the folks at Trion already did that for RIFT.) Your character is the first success of this process and you spend your time in the tutorial fighting the unsuccessful attempts. On an interesting note, the tutorial voice is none other than Jim Cummings better known as the voice of Minsc in Baldur’s Gate 2.
  • Throughout the tutorial you will be able to test out the various classes. They showed off a warrior type class as well as a mage class.
  • As far as the class system goes it was a little vague, but it did appear that you could make viable hybrid classes that might share some of the abilities of the core classes.
  • The game has been designed for a multi-platform launch and the controls of the game were demonstrated using an XBOX controller. The devs touted the fact that this game will not require button combos in order to play which got a cheer from the crowd.
  • The combat animation is very satisfying and has been overseen by Todd McFarlane of the comic book Spawn fame. The devs mentioned that Todd helped develop the minute pauses in the animation to accentuate powerful moves within the game. I thought it would be rather weird, but it is quite pleasing once you actually see it. There does appear to be some form of finishing move type animation that is reportedly still under development, but every now and then (typically on the last mob of an encounter a la Dragon Age) your character will perform an over the top move to coup de grace an opponent. It was very neat the first time, but I can see it as being merely okay to a little annoying as it happens for the umteenth time.
  • The combat was impressive and the AI actually used tactical combat against the player as opposed to just running straight at the player in a swarm.
  • Much to the 38 Studios team’s surprise (it would appear anyway) when they explained that their inventory system would not require severe micro management it got a cheer from the crowd. There is apparently a way to sell all vendor trash with just the click of a single button…cool!
  • The loot is designed much like a Diablo type system where random combinations are thrown together. You may loot a sword that has frost damage or a shield that has a strength bonus and magic resistance from the same mob. I did note that the speaker used the term “addicting treadmill” when referring to the loot system. I would suggest to him not to use the word treadmill in any press announcements.
  • There are 3 types of crafting in the game sagecraft/alchemy/blacksmithing but they really didn’t go into detail about them.
  • The game is set in a time period 2000 years before the time of the MMO project.
  • The game is an open world game that encourages you to stray off the beaten path, and apparently there is a lot of stuff to do once you do. The game should be anything but boring.

All in all the game looked impressive for its alpha state. I would consider slapping some cash down on in based on what I did see. What I did find the most fascinating is the fact that the studio has developed an IP from nothing and is doing it on a scale I have not seen since D&D or Star Wars. I can only imagine that Salvatore and McFarlane have gotten on board to create something that is going to be so much more than a video game, but rather a franchise of books, toys, games, and anything else they can come up with. Good luck folks, because with all things in this industry it will either be a colossal success and a cash cow, or an utter failure and a bankruptcy waiting to happen. If I were a betting man, from what I have seen, I would lay money on the former rather than the latter.

-Pid

PAX East 2011 – Day 3

March 14, 2011

The happy-to-be-home edition!

Yesterday I attended the last day of PAX East. Despite being in a grumpy mood from lack of sleep and just plain being tired, I trekked though the expo one more time. I tried to look at some of the other things that I had overlooked. I watched a little bit of game play of Hunted: The Demon Forge. It looked great what I saw of it. It is a co-op action game with some pretty visceral combat and pretty good graphics.

One thing I did note on the day was the number of games/hardware vendors that were promoting 3D. Honestly I don’t understand the hype for 3D movies, so I really didn’t even think of paying any attention to it for video games either. Boy was I naive. A friend at the show more or less dragged me to a 3D game and shoved some glasses on me. This stuff looks incredible! I would suggest that if you are into action games or FPS games that you consider making the upgrade when the hardware becomes reasonably priced. It is truly a wild experience.

I went to one presentation yesterday that I was really excited for that wound up being a bust. The D&D Virtual Table is something that I have been interested in since it was rumored quite a long time ago. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties, the demo was not able to be performed. As with many modern software titles, the D&D virtual table needs to verify its credentials with a central server in order to use it. Unfortunately, the server was down. How embarrassing! I’ll try and write up a post of what I did learn from the Q&A though.

So what are my overall thoughts about the conference as a whole? Well I think this conference has the potential to be so much more than what it is. There is so much space in the convention center that was being under utilized and people were packed into such a tight area. I believe that the event was overbooked and there was not enough incentive to leave the expo floor to see some of the other attractions i.e. tabletop game demonstrations and such. On the other hand, people who planned ahead, knew exactly where they needed to be for the things that interested them. The show was a lot of fun when it worked, but the ridiculous long lines really made it frustrating.

Will I be attending again next year? That is a good question. I’m not sure. Like I said, when the convention worked it was great, but when it didn’t…blech. Perhaps it is the fact that I am getting old and I have a certain expectation of what a conference should be like or perhaps I am missing the point of PAX. PAX is supposed to be for the gamers, and not the exhibitors. I guess it is difficult to limit the number of people going when you want this event to be about getting the gaming community together. The problem is that in doing so it makes the overall experience worse for everyone there. Time will tell if TMS will have a presence there next year, but I am hoping between this year and next they make some improvements to PAX East. This event could be amazing and in its present form it is merely good.

-Pid

PAX East 2011 – Day 2

March 13, 2011

Just a quick post tonight. Today was a long day at PAX. I managed to get a ticket to the SW:ToR meet and greet. They had a bit of a SNAFU, but it worked out okay. BioWare bought me a beer so I can’t really complain! In any event it was nice to meet a couple of the team members for TOR.

I was in line with a number of guys from Darth Hater. They seem like quite a good lot. The site keeps growing and growing, so I can only imagine what it will be like once the game launches. It has really been pretty neat seeing them in action this weekend. There are about 8 of them here and they are well organized and goal oriented folk. I can see why they get stuff done so readily.

I did attend a couple of panels and I will try and give some info on them soon. One of the panels was for Guild Wars 2. This game really does look interesting  and I am actually interested in it now where before I was not. I am amazed with what a lot of these developers are planning for the MMO’s these days. We truly are not in Azeroth anymore…or at least we won’t be for much longer.

-Pid

PAX East 2011 – Day 1 (Caution: Image Heavy)

March 12, 2011

Queue to get into the main exposition hall

Today I made my first foray into the event that is known as PAX East. It was a cavalcade of freaks, geeks, and zombies?!? It was a blast to say the least. One of the booths was handing out these paper traffic cones in support of Plants vs. Zombies. (I forgot how fun that game is.) Here is the line to get in…sadly I was not leading the pack here. Damn inability to wake up early.

Expo floor from above

I got into the expo and made a bee line to the SW:ToR booths. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! The folks there released a new trailer for the game which you can find here. It looked cool as always. I was going to attempt to play a demo of the game, but the line to play it was immense and I wanted to do more than just stand in queue lines today. I did manage to get  a pic or two from the trailer as well as some in game pics.

Click on the thumbnails for enlargements. It is great to see HK in the game. He was definitely a fan favorite.

Later in the day Daniel Erickson showed off two of the worlds in the game. He showed the planet of Tatooine as well as Hoth. He was stressing the fact that these are vast open worlds and are by no means small. They did indeed look huge, but I’m not sure what they will be full of as many of the pictures showed a random NPC or PC in the screens, and a lot of nothing else. (Okay there was the occasional bantha.) Don’t get me wrong there were a couple areas that looked like they were bustling, but many of the others seemed sparsely populated. Perhaps they haven’t gotten that far yet.

I wandered around a bit and saw a number of interesting games that are soon to be coming out. There was a Duke Nukem Forever booth that you just couldn’t miss. In addition to all the props, there were three young women in school girl outfits posing around the site. I didn’t take any pictures, but they were definitely attracting attention.

The game looked stunning, but as far as game play goes I didn’t get my hands on it at all. Quite frankly I didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of testing today…I was just drinking it all in I guess.

I sat in on two presentations today. One was for the upcoming game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning from 38 studios (you know the one that has Curt Schilling, Bob Salvatore, and Todd McFarlane on the payroll). I sat in on it, and it was pretty cool. It is a single player game in the same world as the upcoming MMO project currently being called Copernicus. I’ll try and give my thoughts on the game once I get home.

The other presentation was titled D&D Edition Wars. This one was a little bit disappointing, but was interesting nonetheless. Essentially it was a bunch of old timer D&D writers/developers sitting around reminiscing about old times. Again, interesting but not what I had hoped.

Well I should get off to bed if I am going to make it to Syp’s Blogger Breakfast tomorrow. Ugh…6:30 AM will come around awfully early. Hope you all are having fun wherever you are; I’m having a blast!

-Pid

Let the Festivities Begin

March 11, 2011

Reporting live from Beantown! PAX officially opens in 58 minutes! Wish me luck!

-Pid

[DA2] The Reveries of Gore

March 8, 2011

I managed to get in a little bit of Dragon Age 2 before work today. Boy DA:O was a great game…I sure hope this one does not disappoint! From what I have seen so far it plays a lot like DA:O, but they have tweaked things a bit. For one, you can no longer choose your race and history. You are a human. That’s it.

Luckily you do get to choose from the three base classes of the game. Those are Warrior, Mage, and Rogue. It appears they have tweaked the classes a bit so that if you are cool like me and want to play a Meat Shield Warrior, you can play one and not gimp your whole experience like you did with DA:O.

You can customize your appearance a bit and give yourself a Rico Suave stache like this one! You can change your first name, but the last name will always be Hawke. Your family plays into the story apparently. I named my character al’Lan in honor of Robert Jordan. I have barely gotten into the story, but the game feels good. I can see myself settling into quite a bit of play with this game.

The visuals are good and the cut scenes are pretty bad a** looking! Here are a couple more shots just because they are cool:

Whoa Flemeth, who is your hairstylist?

This shot looks so much cooler than it really was, but I’ll take it!

Anyway, I have a night to play it before I have to worry about PAX, so this will be my last post about it for a while. I’ll keep you all up to date as I progress though.

-Pid

Tee Minus 2 Days Til Pax

March 8, 2011

I am flying out on Thursday evening for what should be a fun filled weekend! I am pretty psyched that I am going to be surrounded by so many people that are at least as geeky as I am! Sweet! This is going to be a brand new experience for me. I have been to conventions before, but none for hobbies. They have always been for career/work reasons.

So in addition to the Bloggers and Breakfast event that I am going to go to on Saturday, I was looking and the PAX site and found a few of the presentations that sound pretty intriguing to me. Here are a few of the items on the schedule that I am hoping to make:

Friday

  • Noon – Wyvern Theatre World Exclusive Demo of “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning”
  • 2 PM – Merman Theatre D&D Edition Wars

Saturday

  • 10 AM – IGDA Dev Center Turbine Keynote
  • 1 PM – Merman Theatre Geek Parenting
  • 3 PM – Cat Theatre Guild Wars 2 – Fantasy MMO Redefined
  • 5 PM – Naga Theatre MMORPG.com: The Future of Online Gaming

Sunday

  • 1:30 PM – Merman Theatre D&D Virtual Table
  • 3 PM – Merman Theatre Money for Nothing and Your Kicks for Free

If you happen to be around look for a 6′ tall, rotund guy in a NY Mets hat. 🙂

-Pid