25 March 2012

This Just In: Yes I'm Alive Edition

Fear not, insomniac denizens of the internet.  Xintia is still alive and kicking.  But I actually have a pretty good reason for not posting about MMO's this week... I've been busy PLAYING MMO's!  What a concept, right?  I know, crazy talk.  Sometimes you'd think that just ranting about games can be a hobby all to itself.  Who needs to actually play them when you can just complain about them instead?  But enough about all that.  Time to talk the news from the past week.

Bioware "Caves" to Fan Pressure, Will Look at Revising Mass Effect 3 Ending 

This may not be MMO related, but I thought it was a huge story none the less.  Since the release of Mass Effect 3 earlier this month, one of the most discussed issues about the game was its ending.  I am not going to get into the details of it here, as to avoid spoilers for anyone who has yet to complete it, but suffice to say that a very vocal contingent of players was upset with how Bioware ended the game, and consequently, the series.  There were blog postings, Twitter rants, and online petitions galore.  In the past, these efforts would amount to very little and gaming companies rarely took much notice.  Well scratch that idea.  Bioware announced this week that they will look at possible changes to the ending of Mass Effect 3.  This has to be the first time that I can think of where a major gaming developer is considering changes to a game of this magnitude.

There is a plus side and a minus side to this, from my point of view.  On the plus side, it is always a good thing when a company takes the feedback of its customers seriously.  If enough people really are upset about this, and taking substantive action, then it behooves a company to seriously examine the issue and consider changes.  On the minus side, the cynical part of me is wondering what this "new" ending is going to cost us.  I am not a big fan of DLC for single-player games.  I expect it in MMO's, that's part of what I pay my subscription for.  But I've got a sneaking suspicion that Bioware (or their EA overlords) will insist on charging us a fee to see the "real" ending for the game.  Maybe they won't, and maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt, but in the mad dash for money, I am afraid that the new "standard" that is REALLY being set here is that game companies will start charging to see the "real" end of a game.

World of Warcraft is NOT Dead, Jim

Despite many among The Informed wishing for its demise, Blizzard's king of the MMO jungle looks to continue its reign at the top of the MMO food chain.  CVG Magazine is reporting that Blizzard is confirming its fifth expansion for the game, and is already planning for more beyond thatSome observers, myself included, had speculated that WoW had perhaps one more expansion in it beyond Mists of Pandaria, but it would seem that Blizzard still believes that the "Old Lady" has plenty of life left in her.

Again there are two ways to look at this.  On the one hand, it should not be surprising at all that Blizzard is going to "milk" this cow until they absolutely can't anymore.  Despite its recent losses, WoW remains the undisputed king of the MMO market and none of the "WoW killers" or other pretenders have come close to usurping that throne.  On the other hand, WoW is really showing its age from a technical and design perspective.  Compared to more recent releases, the limitations of WoW's engine and design philosophy are becoming more apparent.  In short, the game itself is becoming obsolete.  How long can WoW maintain its dominance by sheer momentum alone?  How long will people continue to play it when it becomes more and more obvious that more modern releases have more to offer?  Much of WoW's dominance is based on this "institutional momentum," and that can only carry you so far.

ArenaNet Talks (Cash) Shop on Guild Wars 2

I will admit at the outset that I selected this story because I have a more personal point to make about it, but I'll get to that in a minute.  Last week we found out that a new round of invites had gone out for the Guild Wars 2 beta, but it is still closed at this juncture and only a small portion of the million recent sign ups were invited.  But ArenaNet also took time to talk about the microtransactions that will be offered in the game.  GW2's system has analogies to EVE Online in that in-game currency can effectively be traded for the currency purchased with real-world money.  As both CCP and ANet contend, this helps to cut down on third-party "gold selling" and its negative impacts on the game. 

It's hard for me to say how I feel about this system in and of itself.  While there may be similarities to EVE there is also a significant difference in that GW2 does not have a subscription where EVE does.  GW(2) is rather unique in the MMO market in terms of its business model.  You must pay for the "box" itself, but nothing beyond that.  So it is not "free to play" in the traditional sense, but there is also no subscription.  In that sense I don't really have a problem with them charging for costumes and account services.  One of my big gripes for years with Blizzard was the insane fees they charged for account services on top of the subscription.

But the other reason I selected this story was to make a personal point, so pardon me while I hop on my soapbox for just a minute.  Every game has their fanbois and their haters, that much is a given.  But some groups of fanbois (or haters) are just so much more obnoxious than most.  I'm afraid that is the case with GW2 and their fanbois.  These folks give "Twi-hards" a run for their money for the most absurd, blind "cheerleaders" in the world.  If you listen to the average GW2 fanboi, this game is going to solve world hunger, end global warming, and cure AIDS, Ebola, and cancer... oh, and totally revolutionize MMO's as we know them.  Really guys, you need to relax.  GW2 is going to be a fine game.  But a "savior?"  You are only setting yourself up for disappointment.  Temper your enthusiasm just a wee bit, please?  Yes it tweaks the conventional approach to questing.  Yes it (tries) to get away from the hard and fast rules of "trinity" mechanics in combat.  But unless the final product is much more than what we've seen so far, GW2 is not truly breaking any new ground here either. 

Ok, so there will be more posts coming this week!  I already have two more on tap that I know I want to get out.  I'll have an update on my RIFT "Project Delarre," and I will have my impressions of TERA based on my experience in the beta test I participated in this weekend.  In the meantime, may we all continue to have more time to actually participate in our hobbies than simply to write about them!

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