15 January 2012

The News of the Week

We interrupt our regular Star Wars: The Old Republic programming for this weekly round up of some significant stories in the MMO world.  I'm going to try and make this a sort of "weekly" feature, more than likely occurring on the weekends, so I can sum up and comment on the big bits of MMO news.  Of course if there is no big news... well, I can always go on another SW:TOR UI rant. ;)  If you follow the industry yourself, you probably are already at least somewhat aware of these type of stories, so I will try by best to include my own perspective in order to make it worth your time.  Without further ado...

Bethesda and Interplay Settle Fallout IP Lawsuit 

Last week news came out that Bethesda and Interplay have finally settled their contentious lawsuit over the rights to publish an online game related to the Fallout IP.  Honestly I am just glad to see the matter settled.  Uncertainty is never a good thing, regardless if you are more supportive of Bethesda or Interplay in this instance.  At least now the matter is concluded and a way forward can be seen for a Fallout MMO.  That said, I'm not sure what exactly the future holds on that count.  On the one hand, you can look at Bethesda's most recent achievement, Skyrim, and say, "Wow, if only that were an MMO..."  On the other hand, Bethesda has little to no experience in the MMO genre and their RPG's are very free-form and to borrow an MMO term, "sandbox."  This isn't the place for a full-on "themepark vs. sandbox" debate, but the simple fact is that sandbox MMO's have not done well in Western markets traditionally.  Add that to Bethesda's lack of MMO background and it is easy to become skeptical about what a Fallout MMO produced under their guidance might look like.  But one thing is for certain.  War... war never changes.

South Korea Forces Blizzard to Remove "RMAH" from Diablo 3 

As I mentioned just a few days ago, one of Diablo 3's most talked about features is its "real money auction house" (RMAH) where players can exchange in-game items for real-world currency.  Well if you want to avoid this controversial feature entirely, move to South Korea.  Apparently the South Korean version of the ESRB determined that this feature amounted to "online gambling" and threatened to hike the rating of the game if Blizzard included it.  In response, Blizzard yanked the feature from the Korean version.  On the surface this doesn't have any direct impacts on anyone not living in South Korea, but it raises the question that if one country sees it that way, others might as well.  And before you ask, "Why would Blizzard care what Korea thinks?" remember that Starcraft is essentially the state sport in South Korea.  I doubt that this decision will set any kind of precedent that other countries will follow... unless they see a way to profit from it.  If classifying Diablo 3 as "gambling" allows some country to tax or otherwise extract more money from either Blizzard or the players, you better believe they'll do it.  It would be ironic if it were governments that got the RMAH concept killed instead of player complaints.

Star Trek: Online Engages Free-to-Play 

This may or may not qualify as "big news" depending on your point of view, but next week will mark the transition of Star Trek: Online to a free-to-pay business model.  STO now joins the ranks of several other high profile MMO's that have dumped their subscription fees in an attempt to generate more revenue.  If you have read my previous posts, you know that I am pretty negative on F2P in general, but that I think these "converted" F2P's are better than most.  That having been said, I still will not be returning to STO.  The game simply isn't fun.  I was there for the beta.  I was there for the launch.  I jumped back in for the ground combat revision.  It just isn't fun.  The best part of the game, the starship combat, becomes very redundant after a while.  And everything else about the game is just terrible.  Even the "new" ground combat does nothing for me.  And we aren't even talking about the total abuse of the IP itself yet.  Star Trek is supposed to be a universe about possibilities, about cooperation, about finding a way other than blasting everything with your phasers.  Whether you agree with this or even find it practical or not, this IS the basis of the Trek IP.  That is totally lost on this game as every mission is little more than a "shooting gallery" of torching enemy starships and ground troops.  The spirit of the IP is just... lost.  And please, don't talk to me about the diplomacy or exploration missions.  They are a complete joke and barely count as content.  So I will not be "boldly going" back even though it wouldn't cost me anything.

Just Food for Thought 

If you don't already read Tobold's MMO blog, I highly recommend it.  He doesn't do long narratives.  He doesn't do tons of screenshots and fancy media.  But I find his blunt, succinct posts to be excellent reading, and occasionally he posts some real gems.  A few days ago he quoted something from another blogger that is just SO true it blew my mind.  Here's the link to the original if you are interested in the context of the comment itself.  Why DO we play MMO's?  What are we trying to achieve?  Is it really that important to be that much better than the next person?  And if so, is it really that important that we make sure that other person knows we are better than them?  Just think about it next time you "pwn that noob," or insult someone for their DPS.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and I'll see you Monday.

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