[News Bits] DA2 DLC, How much do popcap want for that zombie?, CoH goes F2P, Diablo 3 followers for normal mode only, more on EVE

Apologies for a bits and pieces posts, there’s a lot of news out this week that I thought was interesting but not really enough to write a whole blog post about.

First DLC announced for Dragon Age 2

Arb and I are keeping a weather eye out for announcements about Comic Con 2011 since we’re going to be there (have I mentioned this enough times yet? :) It’s less than a month away now.)

Bioware chipped in this week with the announcement that they’ll be offering demos of Mass Effect 3, SWTOR, and Dragon Age 2 Legacy – the first DLC for that game. The SWTOR announcement is in a different link but I’m sure that was a no brainer anyway. We’ll be aiming to check those out, if only in the hope of picking up freebies such as the inflatable swords which have been on offer the last couple of years.

We don’t know much about Legacy apart from the title, but already starting to wonder whose legacy we’re talking about here, exactly. I would be quite curious to find out what happened to Kirkwall after I left in a blaze of glory skulked out in the night with my batshit insane blond boyfriend of doom. Surely the world can’t keep on turning without Hawke to set it straight/break it horribly??!

ArenaNet will also be demoing Guild Wars 2 at Comic Con this year, so hopefully we’ll be able to report on that as well. As well as snag freebies, obviously.

Is Zynga going to buy Popcap?

Venturebeat reports rumours that Popcap (makers of Bejewelled and Plants vs Zombies, amongst many others) is in talks to be acquired. It’s not known yet if it is true, but they naughtily bander Zynga’s name around as a prospective suitor.

I think the most depressing sentence in the article is:

PopCap is an appealing target for almost any game company because it has several extremely popular games that can be turned into franchises.

I suspect that a lot of us would rather have new games than Bejewelled 17: the slightly sparklier version.

City of Heroes (finally) goes free to play

This is good news! City of Heroes announces that later this year, they’re switching to a model which will allow players to play for free or go with a subscription model. It sounds as though they’re going with a LOTRO-type of approach where subscribers get some free currency to spend in the game shop (which has plenty of fun cosmetic costumes) as part of their monthly deal.

Here’s the side-by-side comparison of what subscribers get in comparison to F2P players. And again like LOTRO, if you have ever paid a sub for CoH previously you get some perks when the game switches over compared to a new F2P player (Note: F2P players are limited to 2 alts unless they buy more slots, it’s not clear to me if older players will be able to keep all their alts if they come back except for directly purchased slots.)

I’m happy about this news partly because it’s a fun game which I think will lend itself very well to this model, and also because I have friends who play and now it’ll be way easier for me to join them occasionally.

Followers in Diablo 3 are for noobs only

Anyone who thought Blizzard had caught the companion bug from Bioware and were planning to amp up the importance of  followers in Diablo 3 can think again. Apparently the main use for followers is to help new players in normal mode in single player (and get them used to playing in a group – although this may backfire once they find how annoying real people are compared to their faithful NPCs). They will become less useful in hard mode, pointless in nightmare, and not available at all in multiplayer.

They’re there to make the single-player, normal difficulty experience feel more cooperative and to aid in enhancing the story. These factors lose some importance in multiplayer and in the higher difficulty settings of the game, and as such, the followers won’t be as relevant there.

EVE and Microtransactions

The latest on EVE is that someone has leaked an internal memo about plans for microtransactions in CCP’s games. Eve News 24 discusses the cosmetic cash shop prices and the data in the memo.

One of the main reasons that I think long term players get concerned about some of these microtransaction plans is that there’s a point where you wonder how far game devs are putting profit above making fun games. And if your main concern as a consumer is to buy (and pay for) fun games, you’d probably like THAT to be their main focus.

Clearly it’s great if companies that make good products do well. But at what cost?

The other main issue – probably mostly for old dinos like me – is that we like virtual worlds because they’re separate from the rat race of the real world. It’s because the real world doesn’t have much effect on the game world that the game world can be relaxed and fun, and being relaxed and fun is important for being able to play. The more the game favours real world tilts, the less ‘fun’ it gets. It’s like the way people always seem to have more fun in betas, because they know there’s no major consequence for failure or not optimising.  Maybe fun is a minority interest.

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11 thoughts on “[News Bits] DA2 DLC, How much do popcap want for that zombie?, CoH goes F2P, Diablo 3 followers for normal mode only, more on EVE

  1. I am willing to lay down cash money now that if the CCP’s Vampire MMO ever comes out, it’s going to have a subscription fee and a cash shop for cosmetic gear.

    The cash shop will contain all the gothy, outre clothing.

    Also, all the leather trench coats.

  2. Non-VIP CoH players (i.e. any non-subscriber) will have 2 character slots (in total, not per server) plus any slots they gained through veteran rewards or simply bought. You can select which slots that should be, of course.

    By default today as a subscriber you have 12 slots per server and can gain up to 36 slots per server through various means (rewards or buying them) and that will be the same for the VIPs.

  3. we like virtual worlds because they’re separate from the rat race of the real world. It’s because the real world doesn’t have much effect on the game world that the game world can be relaxed and fun

    You’re first going to have to show me which games don’t overlap with the “real world”. Some are softballs, like “time”, which is obviously shared. But you also have to think about links between hardware requirements, internet access, and economic status. Think Bot Fighters (a mobile phone game) vs. World of Warcraft. Also think of cultural overlaps — ever seen someone speaking French in game? Fun, isn’t it?

    As brief as I can put it: There’s no way I play Sojourn MUD literally for days if I’m not a student in college, you know? I’m not exposed to it, I don’t have the always-on network connection to play, nor the “free” time at 2am to play.

    There’s a willful suspension of belief [sic] when someone goes virtual, but virtual is always about potential (sorry to trend Deleuzian here) rather than an alternative to the real.

    • “You’re first going to have to show me which games don’t overlap with the “real world”

      If you really don’t want to assume people have time and hardware enough to play computer games then I guess board games or storytelling games is where you start, and assume the majority of people could make 20 mins for a social gaming session.

      But we’re talking about computer games, so let’s assume a baseline of hardware and some available time. It is pretty easy to suspend disbelief in a virtual setting, even with minimal graphics, so it won’t need to be especially good hardware. I’m quite good at suspending disbelief, but not if game mechanics are constantly throwing RL in my face.

      But ultimately it’s easier to think of it as a continuum. Some games or types of games it’ll be easier for a player to immerse and shut the real world aspects out while they play, others it’ll be more in your face the whole time. You can still play Sojourn MUD without playing it for days on end, right? Presumably a game where power is related to time available is more immersive than one where it’s related to both time available AND RL money available. I did say minimal overlap, not none at all. I just meant a game where it’s easy to pretend it really is another world.

      • First, just to be clear, I never played Sojourn MUD for days on end. It was just that my /played there was the first I’d seen measured in days, which scared me. Little did I know how low that number would be relative to what I’d be playing in a few years… ;^)

        In my post, I was just trying to focus you away from virtual vs. real. It’s so much more interesting to talk about how the two interact, as they’re always interacting. The real world always has a direct effect on the game, since there’s really no distinction. Even a board game is highly situated culturally and commercially. What game? Where was it made? How was it made? What supply chains are required for it to be made and distributed? How was it marketed? What are the origins of its rules? Does it require literacy to play? Math? Logic? What types of logic does it favor? How is gender represented in-game? etc etc etc Those are interesting questions, but for me, MMOs raise some more very interesting and specific ones.

        So here, I wonder what’s lost by having cosmetic items in game? How does the ability to directly translate conventional cash into goods break your suspension of disbelief — and why? Why is a shirt purchased with traditional 1st world currency any more off-putting than one purchased with in-game only currency? Both require time to amass. Both represent work traded for consumables. Both sorts of goods accumulation represent very similar rat races. Why is it that a highly structured and controlled rat race in-game is more liberating to you than the rat race of a gameless life? What’s the benefit of keeping a mental distinction between the two? Is there a point at which the online rat race could become the drudgery and you’re excited about your job? Do anyone work at Starbucks to escape their boutique in Second Life? ;^) These are interesting questions with potentially enlightening answers, I think.

        The lack of virtual vs. real is largely the point of Edward Castronova’s work, but it’s a line of inquiry that’s worth extending. Sure, there’s a relatively minimal overlap somewhere, but that’s only a relative measurement. Dig a bit under the surface, and that perception of a minimum overlap is actually a heck of a deep interconnection.

      • I’m sure they would be interesting questions to discuss, but I’d feel out of my depth and expertise to go too far in that direction myself.

        I can only say that my experience is that it’s about escapism, and it’s easier to ‘escape’ into a virtual world if there’s less bleed through of RL currency. I find items which don’t fit with the in game lore (eg, most of the WoW pets) to be really annoying too.

      • Honestly, as a dino-communist gamer myself, I tend to agree. But then I think you shouldn’t suffer as a gamer because you don’t own an Alienware whatever either, and that developers should strive to code a client that works well with the widest range of hardware. That there’s, eg, no Linux WoW client bothers me too. ;^) (no, really)

        But then when I get upset with not just fancy mounts and vanity pets but Advanced Characters on UO or games like D&D online that sell XP accelerators (iirc), I stop myself short and try to remember the ways simply having $14/mth of disposable income to spend on the same game over and over means I’m pretty danged complicit already.

        Monocalypse #firstworldproblems indeed. Thanks for the posts and replies.

  4. Great news about CoH F2P. Been looking at the old box again lately and thinking, “I sure do miss this game, but do I miss it $15 a month worth?”. A little bit of waiting and it won’t matter. Hooray!

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