Posts Tagged ‘MMORPG’

This post continues the discussion I began in “Chillin’ at the OK Corral;” In that post I re-evaluated both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic based on their pre-launch claims concerning the revolutionary transformation they were about to unleash upon a helpless planet earth.  Since their release, the Massively Multiplayer Game environment has seen some interesting changes over the last year or so.  What might these changes indicate about the fate of existing MMORPGs and ones still in development?

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Looking back over some of the posts on the blog I see that I wrote several anticipating the releases of The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, including one called “Everything we know about MMORPGs is about to change. . .or is it?” which looked at the way both games were claiming to bring revolutionary innovations to the genre. Given that both games have now been out for a while and I’ve played both of them it seems only appropriate to ask: how well are we coping with the Revolution?

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Star Wars: The Old Republic

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I’ve been encouraged lately by the thought that even though the world of game design has, on the whole, proven stubbornly resistant to learning from its mistake (mainly due to a collective memory that makes an ADHD ant appear to be a fount of oracular wisdom) some improvement is nevertheless possible.  I’ve been quite impressed with the Bioware’s preparations to try and ensure that the launch of the massively hyped Star Wars: The Old Republic will not be an unmitigated disaster.

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Along with the predictable cavalcade of Viagra ads and missives from prominent Nigerian businessman asking me to help them take care of an unexpected financial windfall, my e-mail today included the following piece of news from Sony Online Entertainment:

Dear Star Wars Galaxies™ Community Member,
We write to you today to inform you that on December 15, 2011, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) and LucasArts will end all services (MMO and Trading Card Game) for Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). The shutdown of SWG is a very difficult decision, but SOE and LucasArts have mutually agreed that the end of 2011 is the appropriate time to end the game.
We are extremely grateful to all of the SWG fans. We have had the rare opportunity to host one of the most dedicated and passionate online gaming communities and we truly appreciate the support we’ve received from each and every one of you over the course of the past eight years.
In recognition of your incredible loyalty, we are extending special Fan Appreciation offers to the current SWG community. We also plan to go out with a bang with a galaxy-ending in-game event in December and hope to see you all there. The details relating to these offers and events as well as the timeline and specifics regarding the discontinuation of the service, are provided below.
Again, we want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our player community for making SWG one of the best online communities in gaming history.
Sincerely,Sony Online Entertainment & LucasArts

Now in some ways I’m not surprised.  I haven’t played Star Wars Galaxies (which first launched in June of 2003) since 2006.  I’ve written in some detail about how much I loved the early version of the game, a love only surpassed by my dislike of the so-called “New Game Enhancements and my disappointment at watching the game turn into a shadow of its former glory.

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Reflections Occasioned by a Five-Year Anniversary

My very first experience with MMORPGs probably ruined me for life when it comes to appreciating other online games.  I played around a bit with MOOs and MUDs but wasn’t really into the idea of online gaming during the Ultima Online and Everquest period.  I did play what was then called World War II Online (now called Battleground Europe, and still going despite being the most punishingly unrewarding (which, according to the masochistic logic of most gamers, doesn’t mean it wasn’t/isn’t fun!) game I have ever played.  EVE is a game of checkers by comparison).  My first experience of a large scale MMORPG was therefore Star Wars Galaxies.

It was 5 years ago, in November of 2005, that Sony Online Entertainment scrapped the first version of SWG and implemented the New Game Enhancements (NGE).  I stuck it out for a few more months, and then joined the horde of rats scurrying down the anchor chain.

When I started playing SWG I was utterly and completely hooked, sold on the idea of virtual worlds from the moment the tutorial (an embarrassingly primitive affair which featured the now infamous “dancing Imperial Officer”) dumped me outside the spaceport in Coronet on Corellia.  I hadn’t even got my bearings when there was a peal of thunder and it began to rain.  That is exactly how long it took me to part with my immortal soul.

Naively, I assumed that SWG was like every other MMORPG out there in its basic mechanics.  It wasn’t.  Now is neither the time nor the place to rehearse the reasons for the game’s self-mutilation that left it little more than a WoW wannabe. . .  Oh hell, who am I kidding, any time is the perfect time to discuss such idiocy.  In retrospect, after playing several other MMOs of various kinds, I’ve come to realize that the reason SWG made such an impression on me is not simply because it popped my MMORPG cherry, but because it was trying to be a kind of game that is still strikingly rare in the MMORPG marketplace: an adult game.

What follows is part reflection, part elegy, part rant, all in memoriam for one of the most promising MMORPGs never to last the distance.  But my purpose is a serious one.  SWG‘s failure raises numerous issues, but the central one is an issue that still plagues the MMORPG industry: the unwillingness of developers to stop pandering to those players who want childish games.

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Guild Wars 2

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When the iPad was announced earlier this year I wrote a blog entry that was generally sceptical of the device’s overall potential to revolutionize anything; nevertheless, I was still interested in its possibilities as a gaming platform.  At the time, I wrote this:

Apple will in all likelihood need some breakthrough application that really takes advantage of the size and scale of the device (since no significant new functionality was demonstrated) to allow people to do something that they couldn’t do before.  Alternatively, it will need to allow people to do something they could do before but much more efficiently.  Note:  much more efficiently.  I have a hard time seeing how anyone will part with the amount of money needed to get the version with reasonable storage and connectivity if it only does some things a little better than is possible at the moment.

This breakout app that helps to redefine the iPad hasn’t happened yet as far as I’m aware.  No one who has showed me their iPad has yet done the “but what you really need to see is this” move that made me jealous of any number of people with iPods and then iPhones.  Of course, I did underestimate basic human nature.  In fact, lots of people will part with a lot of money to get something that only does things a little better than other devices (and in some cases a lot worse: seriously, have you used the “keyboard” on this thing?  Better yet, watch a proud iPad owner using it: they grin with that kind of “No, this may look painful but I’m really having a lot of fun” look that is vaguely reminiscent of the way elephants look when trying to have sex). . .simply so they can have what most other people don’t have. . .yet.  There is a word for these people.  Posers.

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Pirates of the Burning Sea

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In an interesting development last week, the MMORPG Pirates of the Burning Sea announced that it was going to transition to a Free-to-Play model.  Appearing on the same day as the release of the Power and Prestige expansion (that, among other things, allows players to run for Governor of the various ports in the Caribbean,  to set taxes for other players, and adjust port expenditures on defense and economic infrastructure) the announcement took a lot of players by surprise.  There is currently no timeline for the change from a subscription-based business model to that of F2P but Flying Lab Software (FLS) has made it clear that they have been working on this for the better part of a year, that the infrastructure is in place, and they expect the change to take place quite soon.

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