Gaming News: Bioware’s Mystery Game, LOTRO takes hobbits to Isengard, Music games nosedive, Jagex beats patent suit, Activision closes more studios

blackfriday

So apparently this is a traditional week of sales in the US, which brings me to the picture to the left. What’s odd about this screenshot?  It’s from amazon.co.uk. Yes, I’m puzzled too.

In any case, keep an eye out for sales from your favourite US vendor (eg. steam, etc) this week. There does come a point when virtual shops become almost indistinguishable from any other type of online shop with the various sales, time limited offers, etc … which is of course the point.

CODBLOPS duly and predictable broke some sales records last week, despite reviews generally agreeing that it isn’t as good as the predecessor. I presume people are keen for their annual shmup purchase and if it’s disappointing will just whine about it until they get a chance to buy next years’. But it is interesting that the quality of the game doesn’t seem to affect buying decisions unless it really does dip below some kind of acceptable level.

Speaking of which, Activision now claim that Infinity Ward (the studio which made MW2) has now been successfully restructured which means that they have 3 studios working on Call of Duty games. But we don’t know which one will be tapped for next year’s episode.

A lot of MMO bloggers have been writing about Perpetuum this week, an EVE-like game featuring giant robots which is in beta and giving out beta keys at the moment. Interestingly, even the home page gives me an EVE vibe.

EVE itself has released footage of a rather stunning character generator that will go live alongside Incarna (the upcoming expansion that will allow characters to walk around inside space stations). I do still have my doubts about a game where in a standard starter guide, trying to scam other players is listed as a standard way for newbies to make in-game money.

Posts of the week are from Rhii and Alas, both on the subject of having to choose between friendship and progression in WoW. And this illustrates nicely some of the  structural issues in WoW which break up the community (not to mention stressing out players unduly) and which Blizzard has shown no interest in addressing by adding support for raid alliances or multiple guild membership. (ie. anything that would make it easier to be a member of multiple social organisations, some of which might be focussed on different in game objectives.)

The notion that if you want progression you need to pay for it by dumping your mates just reminds me of Fame (“Fame costs and right here’s where you start paying!!”). It doesn’t have to be that way.

Bioware’s Mystery Game

Bioware have been dropping teasers this week about a new unannounced game, promising to reveal all at the VGA awards.

Clues so far have been translated as:

Amazingly, people are attempting to sound somewhat excited about the picture of the man with the gun. I’d say it’s either going to be Mass Effect 3 (in which case they should have teased with a picture of Garrus without his top on) or … some shooter. Kotaku are guessing that it’s a multi-player spinoff of Mass Effect, but surely if it was a scifi game they’d show space or something cool?

I wouldn’t begrudge Bioware if they wanted to take a shot (sic) at a FPS. Good luck to them. But I don’t think they really get the whole PR thing sometimes …

We’re taking the hobbits to Isengard … in Autumn 2011

Turbine announced that the next expansion for LOTRO, The Rise of Isengard, is due next Autumn. It isn’t going to be a huge expansion like Moria, Turbine are moving away from that kind of update due to pacing issues. But it sounds as though there will be plenty to do.

Also they are due to release more raid content next year before that.

I think the pacing comment was very telling. Maybe players would prefer more piecemeal content releases rather than waiting around a couple of years for a big chunk of content all in one piece.

Music games face a downturn

Remember those halcyon days when Rock Band and Guitar Hero were the big thing? All in the past now, apparently gamers just aren’t buying the things in the same quantities any more.

Jagex beats patent suit

Jagex, developers of Runescape, won a patent suit this week and the CEO took the opportunity to have a snipe at the dreadful US patent system. I don’t have much to add except for yes, the US patent system is extremely awful and allows people to pursue frivolous patent claims which end up being very expensive to the defending party on very little evidence.

(I was surprised that the losing party wasn’t required to pay costs, I’d have assumed that to be standard.)

Activision closes more studios

Apparently if your last game wasn’t a huge hit, Activision loses interest. This week they moved to close Bizarre Creations (maker of Project Gotham Racing), although there is a rumour that Microsoft is among several companies interested in buying the developer.

They also closed Budcat Creations, a studio that has been working on Guitar Hero and Band Hero games (see above note about music games being down on sales).

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11 thoughts on “Gaming News: Bioware’s Mystery Game, LOTRO takes hobbits to Isengard, Music games nosedive, Jagex beats patent suit, Activision closes more studios

  1. LOTRO: I was wondering about the big chunks of content after one year vs small chunks every other month issue recently.

    One could also argue they have to deliver big chunks and small chunks in between. A zone sized chunk of Mirkwood size after over one year is not going to do it, so I hope Isengard is between Mirkwood and Moria size.

    Mirkwood, Lothlorien, Enedwaith have something in common. New zone, new reputation grind for 1-2 new factions and the final reward is a port to that zone and a new horse. Rinse and repeat till Mordor? DIKU at its worst.

    What I always found funny is that the very moment you get the port to the zone (unless you are a Hunter/Warden they get it earlier) you are done with the zone.

    • Big chunks, small chunks: has LotRO had much of either since Moria? There has been some interesting new tech for repeatable content (skirmishes, scalable instances), but Turbine seems to be relying on that rather than adding much content. Moria was exciting, but I never heard anyone say that you you would be missing much if you did not re-subscribe for Lothlorien, Mirkwood, or Enedwaith. And didn’t they promise to add more raids this past year?

      I took about 6 months off before starting the new Volume this weekend. It looks like I can catch up on all the new content from the past year in a long weekend.

      • I may be a bit biased but actually I thoroughly enjoyed both Lothlorien and Mirkwood – I think they both were strongly plotted, atmospheric zones and the skirmishes in the story quests really added a lot to the game.

        Also as a slower paced player, the smaller lumps of content gave me time to catch up with people.

        I’m still lazing through Enedwaith, not sure I like it quite as much as Mirkwood but it’s pretty and fun to explore. So for me, there’s actually quite a lot to be said for smaller chunks of content if it’s good quality. A more hardcore player would likely find they got more burned out though.

      • Mirkwood was strongly plotted. Lothlorien did not have much plot. It was wonderfully atmospheric, a higher-level Shire, but there was not a lot to do there except Fed Ex quests.

        My disaffection relates not about to size or the quality of the updates. Well, the size might factor in given the number of them. The choice is presented as “few big vs. many small,” and instead it has been “few small.” The big news in LotRO this past year has been their payment model, and this is definitely a content-development model that encourages occasional play rather than ongoing subscriptions.

      • Pace of adding content has definitely slowed but I also incline to think that thematically, LOTRO is a travelogue so it does kind of fit to stick with the piecemeal approach. Having said that, the wait between Mirkwood and Enedwaith was too long and the F2P isn’t providing much to existing players to justify the wait.

        Moria was an amazing expansion, but it’s also the part of LOTRO which thematically suits an expansion that large. But yes, we won’t see its like again. (I do think Mirkwood was worth re-upping for though.)

      • Before I get lost in details, you are right: Regardless of the quality and new stuff like the skirmish system, new content only trickles down since Moria.

        Each new book chapter can be done in one evening, and the whole Enedwaith takes no more than two days of questing.

        Then the repeatable dailies start – Grey Company should be almost Kindred by the time, the Algraig have only few quests and rise very slowly, as there is no other way to raise faction than through 3-4 dailies. Some more might be added in the late November update. Enedwaith is not much and it has an unfinished business feeling to it!

        Enedwaith does not have much story or atmosphere, and the grass there looks a bit odd (no kidding). But it is not as dark as the Mirkwood, a welcome change.

  2. The US patent system is disgusting. The patent office there gets paid per patent accepted so they tend to accept almost anything and let the courts sort it out. In addition there’s widespread jurisdiction shopping – East Texas is apparently a good place if you want to patent walking or some such nonsense.

    If the government had any spine we’d tell the yanks that their patents are not enforceable in this jurisdiction until they get things under control.

    In Neal Stephenson’s visionary novel The Diamond Age, the leading businessman of the future is a patent troll, running a multinational company that does nothing except investigate what could be invented and patent it, so they can monetise by suing anyone who makes anything. It’s the way we’re heading if someone doesn’t stand up to the US patent system.

  3. BLOPS (Heee. BLOPS BLOPS BLOPS BLOPS) was interesting on a couple of levels. Firstly, because the single player is kind of grim, even by MW standards. Secondly because the multiplayer changes gave me a horrible sense of Deja Vu for some reason I couldn’t place. Then I realised. It reminded me of a big MMO patch. New Raids! Re-Jiggering Class Balance! Except, y’know, I paid $109 for it.

    The music game sales going down is kind of an example of why I’m not so into the whole idea of Facebook games as the next big thing. Not that they aren’t the current big thing but the casual audience, quite reasonably, tends to actually get tired of things and doesn’t stick around forever and ever like the ‘hardcore’ audience does.

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