[NBI] Content: What should you write and how should you write it?

Welcome to issue 2 of my advice to new gaming bloggers. This is the part where I state the obvious for a paragraph or too, and then discuss  it so brilliantly that you forget it was obvious and you already knew it.

If you are a gaming blogger, you should blog about games from time to time. Preferably games that you are playing. You may see other bloggers spawn huge comment threads by writing provocative opinion columns or raising knee-jerk issues (ie. issues that are guaranteed to get a reaction), but before you throw yourself headlong into a flamewar frenzy, bear one thing in mind. What people really enjoy is to read opinions that agree with their own, especially if they feel that their opinion is a minority. There is probably a psychological phrase for this, but it makes those readers feel good about themselves.

I’m not saying you should write for anyone except yourself, but if you write about things that you enjoy in your favourite game/s of the moment, you will probably attract a readership who are in tune with that. If you write about a great time you had in the game, readers will remember why they also liked that game. If you write about how much you enjoy grouping in MMOs (I’m using Skaggy as an example because he posted this today), it reminds readers of why they enjoy/ed grouping in MMOs. If you write about the joys of soloing, you’ll please readers who connect with that too. So even if you are in a gaming slump, try to post more positive articles than negative ones. It’s good for your mental state and it makes other people happy too. If you read a lot of older gaming blogs, you’ll see that people like Tobold and Syncaine are careful to schedule some positive posts even when they are mostly feeling negative about the genre. It is a way of connecting to readers who also enjoy games, and if they didn’t enjoy games they wouldn’t be reading gaming blogs in the first place. It is also a way to remind people who game that you are ‘one of them’. This can sometimes get lost if you tend to use a more formal writing style, or focus on writing guides. None of those things are bad, but writing about your own positive experiences will always engage with readers.

You will never go wrong with a post that describes how you had fun in a game. I am sure it is possible to offend more people than you gain via your notion of fun, but I’ve never actually seen anyone do it. If the fun involves playing an underplayed class or much-hated-on game or playing style  then so much the better, because you’re also demonstrating to other people that fun doesn’t have to involve minmaxing or playing ‘the cool new hotness’.

Or if you want to write about how much fun minmaxing is for you, then that’s good too.

How much of yourself to put into your posts

Some blogs thrive on the personal voice of the writer. Others may use a team of writers, focus on curating links, or cultivate a more professional writing style. You should never feel pushed to reveal more of yourself than you feel comfortable with. If you want to write a high concept theorycrafting blog then there’s no need to write about how games affect you emotionally, especially if they don’t. If on the other hand you are an emotional person or want to use your blog to let off steam, a blog can be a good way to do this.

Warning: Do not blog about your guild or in game friends without thinking hard about how they might feel if they read it. Everyone else will LOVE reading about guild drama, it has a sort of car crash fascination, but getting it off your chest a) might not make you feel better and b) might get back to them and increase the drama. If you’ve thought it over and you’re OK with that, then go for it and send me the link Smile

Readers do like to get a sense of the person behind the blog, because that way they can build up a sort of relationship. I’m sure anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile will have a sense for my gaming interests and how I tend to play and think about games.The longer you stick at it, the more likely your persona is to end up embedded in the blog whether you mean to or not. Your opinions and attitudes will colour what you write about and how you write it. While it is possible to front a persona for the purposes of blogging, authenticity is what attracts readers. Be genuine. Don’t pretend to like something you hate. Don’t be afraid to admit you like something that you like. And don’t be afraid to write about why you like or dislike those things.

Topics that will usually get a reaction

This is just based on my experience. Don’t do this just to get a reaction, just be aware that if you want to write about these things it may happen.

  • Posts about feminism or discussion of sexy character costumes in games
  • Ditto for racism or portrayals of gay characters
  • Pictures of cute animals
  • List posts. ie. title is something like ‘X reasons to buy Diablo 3.’ (Please don’t make your entire blog into list posts.)
  • Posts connecting your subject to something currently in the news.
  • Posts about casual vs hardcore gaming
  • Posts about soloing vs grouping in MMOs
  • Direct attacks on other bloggers/blogs. Blog flamewars can be kind of fun, though.
  • Anything really negative about a fan favourite game (rabid fans have some kind of psychic way to find these things)
  • Anything really positive about Blizzard or Bioware

And a couple more ideas to get you going

Rowan has some advice on RSS feeds and blog lists. I rely heavily on RSS to source links for my link posts, and one of my fallbacks for post content is to look through the reader at what other bloggers have written and see if I feel inspired to reply via blog post to any of them. It’s polite to link to the post you are referencing.

I saw this in problogger recently, it’s a link to a google spreadsheet that will draw in recent articles on a topic of your choice. I thought that looked like an interesting way to generate some ideas so am passing it on here too.

[Links] Guild size, MoP and warriors, D3, The Secret World, Bad Kickstarters

The imminent release of Diablo 3 this week is likely to be the biggest PC gaming event of the year, which  has less to do with any gameplay innovations and everything to do with how slick the Battle.net interface is for helping people to play together. And nostalgia. It’s a good time to remember that one of the biggest factors that drives new game sales (based on unscientific personal observations) is word of mouth – and particularly in multi player games, this means knowing friends who plan to play and want to know if you are too. It’s worked very well for CoD and it will work for Blizzard too.

Anyway, on to the links. Let’s start with some links about Diablo 3 – you won’t  stop hearing about it from now on in so may as well get cracking.

Jaded Alt explains the D3 Auction Houses and how Blizzard is taking their cut (ie. charges).

On one hand the entire AH system appears designed to be bad. On the other, I can’t imagine Blizzard leaving money on the table.  This is a head scratcher for me. I really don’t know which way it will go. Either way there won’t be large quantities of transactions. $1 is a stupid price point for quantity and max listing of 10 isn’t much better.

Tobold writes some general tips on Auction House strategies in D3. Comments are entertaining because he dislikes paid for guides and discussions entail.

The Internet is full of get-rich-quick scams. And with the release of Diablo 3 next week, a lot of new scams are going to exploit player’s dreams of paying their rent by playing Diablo 3. Selling virtual items for real money sounds like a dream job. So scammers will gladly promise you the secrets of making $25 per hour, if only you buy their Diablo 3 secret gold guide for $19.95.

You could be excused for thinking that D3 was an auction house with a game attached, rather than the other way around. The AH is going to be used by such a huge number of people and I’m not aware of any UI Auctioneer-type tools to help analyse it, which means that any individual will only be able to track a fairly limited range of goods. So unlike Tobold, I could see the value for people in being in a community that wants to share information. I’m sure there will be plenty of free resources and communities around for people who want to do that. But why would you share information that is making you a profit? I think that like the RL stock market, there will be a lot of suspect ‘tips’ around. The surest bet is pick a class and sell magic find or gold find gear for it. (I may experiment with a gold finding farming set,  it’s less random.)

The Secret World held an NDA-free beta weekend so there’s a fair amount of feedback from blogs around that. People are generally positive about the game, it’s a modern day urban fantasy conspiracy setting and  it’s doing some quite different things, but I’m not hearing people say that they think it’s ready to launch next month. Which could be concerning, because it’s due to launch next month.

Gaming for Introverts has a really big TSW beta post.

Randomessa is drawn in by the beta .. or was it Illuminati mind control?

Sente also is converted by the beta.

Belghast is trying to decide whether the good parts outweigh the bad.

Personally I am looking for games more like EQ2, and less like WoW/Rift/SWTOR.  So all the extra fluff this game has, really appeals to me, and I can look past some of the awkward combat and cutscenes for the time being.

And Feliz at MMO Compendium has posted a lot of TSW screenshots.

Kickstarter has been the topic of some more discussion this week. I’m thrilled that Jane Jensen has met her target, and I think the way she has been engaging with the community is pretty much a model for how this sort of thing can work. I get the sense that she’s really enjoying the process, and that’s infectious. There are 5 days left to get in on this one if you are a fan of old school adventure games (Gabriel Knight being the more famous ones she’s written, and the next game sounds to be thematically similar.) They have announced that they will also definitely make a second game this year, making the $50 tier sound like a good deal if you are REALLY into old school adventure games.

But while it’s one thing to throw some money at an established name with experience in the field who you trust (to some extent) to come up with a product, other Kickstarters are more nebulous. The Pathfinder Online Kickstarter in  particular is a bit of a head scratcher – they’re asking for backers to fund their tech demo. (This game btw will never get funding to be made – I am pretty darned confident in that prediction.)

Ferrel at Epic Slant discusses his experiences with Kickstarter and has concerns about the Pathfinder one.

Vicarious Existence is even more cynical.

What this Kickstarter is really about ismarketing. Getting a tech demo developed on-the-cheap is a bonus, but the real focus is on showing publishers that there is a potential market for PathO.

Ryan Dancey compares himself in his blurb to ‘the Steve Jobs of MMO marketing’. Stopped laughing yet? The folks at rpg.net haven’t. (He’s been involved with large companies and done some good work but I’m not seeing it either.) What this says to me is that this isn’t even so much about marketing as padding out a resume with “have organised a successful kickstarter.” Having said all that, a Kickstarter should be very clear about exactly what is going to happen with any donated funds and backers are at the very least expected to read this and understand it. Caveat Emptor.

There is also an issue with their ‘stretch goals’ (ie. what they’ll spend the excess money on now that they’ve funded the $50k they originally asked for) because they’re not really assigning it to the same tech demo project at all, more to general funding:

Extra funding will allow us to bring more resources to the table faster. We may be able to accelerate our hiring plan, and begin the task of expanding the work we’re doing to create the technology demo into the alpha version of the game. And, of course, the more money we raise, the better Pathfinder Online looks to investors!

Since I play a warrior in WoW, I’m vaguely interested to read what people have to say about where they are going in the next expansion. And the word currently is … not looking good.

Malchome has been playing the beta and is  disappointed in active tanking for warriors.

The Warrior, Bear, and Paladin feel like all they did was take some of the survivability that was normally there and removed it and added some buttons to press to give it back on a limited basis with massive resource requirements.  Great so now we suck more by default and have to spend all our time gathering resources just to get our previous survivability back.

Zellviren agrees that active mitigation is a flop, in a two part post.

I’m now looking at a promising expansion in Mists of Pandaria, but wholly disappointing gameplay from my warrior. I didn’t reckon with the power of bad design and the impact it could have on such a good idea. Essentially, as far as warriors are concerned, “active mitigation” is turning into a nasty belly-flop where we’re potentially going to end up MORE passive than we are now.

Ghostcrawler actually posts a long reply to this.

We don’t think standing there doing nothing, or standing there trying to maximize DPS is going to be fun for tanks, so we want the attacks to translate into some amount of tank survivability. That’s the intent behind active mitigation in a nutshell.

Or people who want active mitigation could just go play another game with a more active combat mechanic style? For me, the best type of active mitigation in standard MMO is exemplified by interrupts. You do your tanking thing and if the boss starts casting its big attack, you interrupt it. Bingo, you take less damage because you used the right ability at the right time.  THAT is active mitigation. Anything that doesn’t involve the player reacting to the environment is just a more complex rotation.

But I’d be lying if I said that hearing all these negative things about my favourite class isn’t putting me off checking out MoP.

Dragon’s Dogma is apparently going to have something in it that sounds like huge multiplayer raids.

Rohan wonders if MMO decline, as shown by reduced subs, is driven by the move towards smaller guilds and raids. I’m not sure if decline is the right word when there are probably more people playing MMOs now than ever, taking F2P into account. But I do think he’s right that smaller guilds are less stable, all it takes is one person to leave and the guild may not be able to raid any more without merging, or recruiting, and before you know it, everyone is feeling unsettled and thinking about hopping to the next game.

Black Seven talks about the details of how the guild system works in GW2.

Liore joins the mass of SWTOR unsubscribers, and gives a post-mortem on her time with the game.

I like Bioware, I like Star Wars, I like “the fourth pillar” of story. Somehow, though, at the end of the day it all came together into something I’m not interested in playing, or at least not interested enough to pay $15 a month to play.

TOR Wars posts some shots of hats in SWTOR – they’re not as bad as LOTRO but …. some of them get quite close. There are some bounty hunter headpieces which are just awful that I’ll try to capture sometime.

Syp has been posting links to new blogs all week, check them out. He also has some advice on managing criticism and attacks in comments.

And Scary posts the best blogging advice ever.

You’re not going to like it, but if you still want to blog after this post, you NEED to blog after this post.

Yeebo describes how she uses in-game mail as post-it notes. Have there been MMOs that actually gave you some kind of a notepad for this kind of stuff?

Kadomi advertises a Pern MUSH, if you’ve ever been intrigued by the idea of MUSHes this sounds like a supportive kind of environment to check it out.

And now some more lists of links

A few people on my blogroll have been posting lists of links to posts this week. So this is a list of lists of links to posts.

[New Blogger Initiative] Join the bloggerati! Fame, fortune, flames await!

nbimedium

If you read many MMO blogs, you’ll see this logo popping up a lot during May because the gorgeous Syp (of Biobreak and Massively fame)  is organising a whole month worth of new blogger initiatives (NBI)  to encourage new bloggers to throw down with the rest of us!

There are at least 70 other blogs supporting the NBI, and I’ll get a link to the others later in the month so you can check them out. If you are interested, or recently started a blog and want to get involved, there is a bboard where you can sign up here.

We’ll all be aiming to post some articles giving advice to new bloggers – probably including advice we wish we’d had such as ‘never offer to buy the first round’ and ‘don’t go to bed with your boots on.’ If there is anything in particular you’d like words of wisdom on from me, feel free to suggest in comments. (Don’t ask about how to make money from blogs, I’ve never tried to do that so I’m the wrong person to ask!) And we’ll be spreading some link love.

So if you’ve always wondered about blogging about games, whether it’s one particular game that you love, one that you’re really looking forwards to, or general squeeing or ranting about games you love/hate, there has never been a better time to get started.

Why blog, and how I got started?

Blogging is a great hobby. You get to practice your writing, polish up your editing skills, spend lots of time thinking and writing about your favourite hobby, and make new friends. That latter may sound odd, but after you have been knocking around the blogosphere for awhile, interacting with other bloggers and writing comments on their posts, you get to know people.

I’ve also found that blogging means I enjoy games more, rather than less. It doesn’t feel like work, instead I think more about the games I play and why I like them. It doesn’t work like that for everyone – some writers find that analysing their games takes the joy away, and if that happens then you can stop any time.

Others find that they love writing guides to their favourite games to encourage new or inexperienced players to get involved. MMOs encourage community building and social gaming, even if a player prefers to be solo at all times in the game itself. I’ve seen many keen and insightful commenters who play solo, where I’d reckon that interacting with the bloggers is part of the social gaming experience.

And the other great thing about blogging is that instead of bothering the partner/cat/random facebook friends with details about your screenshots, character and the cool stuff that happened in game, you can talk to readers who are actually interested :)

The first MMO blog I wrote was about Warhammer Online, which was called The Book of Grudges (an inspired name, I still think) – my sister, Arbitrary, thought of it and co-wrote the blog with me. We started it during the hype cycle for WAR and stopped soon after the game went live.  I still have a soft spot for WAR, whatever it’s issues, we had a lot of fun playing it. We didn’t really have a blogging strategy, just we both posted short posts whenever we thought of something to say. This resulted in a blog which had loads and loads of short updates, BoingBoing style, which seemed to be entertaining for people. WAR also had a great blogging community and we threw ourselves into it, and many of the other WAR bloggers who got started during that time are still going now.

After that, I took a break for a few months, started playing WoW since Wrath had just come out, but I missed blogging. I did think hard about starting again on a new blog because it meant starting from scratch again with no readers. But this time I knew I didn’t want to focus on just one game, so I did it anyway! I knew that the WoW blogosphere was huge and unlikely to want much to do with me, but I figured “Hey, why not?” even if just me and Arb and a few old WAR blogging friends read, it’s something to do.

One of the nutty things I did when I was first getting started was write a polite rant about something one of the big WoW bloggers had written. If you read that post, you can see how my writing style has improved since then. But the thing which blew me away was that Matticus linked to me in his blog as part of a summary of reactions to his post, and replied. I wasn’t expecting him to even notice, I was just a two-bit blogger. But some of his readers came to check out the link and before you knew it, I had COMMENTS! (!)

So the WoW bloggers weren’t such an intimidating bunch after all. And this is what you’ll find with gaming bloggers in general, we do like to interact with new voices even when they disagree with us.

So you want to get started!

I’m not going to post a newbie’s guide to blogging right now, but the first thing to do is decide which platform you want to use. WordPress or Blogger are the main platforms people are using at the moment. I like WordPress, which is where this blog is located.

WordPress for Beginners

Blogger (it’s part of google so you can log in using your google account)

If you use Windows, I’d also recommend Windows Livewriter as a blog writing tool, although both WordPress and Blogger let you type your post straight into an online editor.

I also recommend reading other blogs, for two reasons. Firstly they’ll give you an idea what people are writing about, and secondly writing comments on other blogs and interacting that way will be one way to get involved and have larger blogs post links to you. Most bloggers have a blogroll to the side of their posts, mine is on the right hand side, which is a good way to start reading around.

And go sign up on http://nbihq.freeforums.org/index.php if you’d like to get involved, there will be a lot of advice and linkage around this month. Take advantage of it!

[Misc] EA acquisition rumours, Avengers Alliance, smart games, long games

Rumours spread quickly around the gaming news sites yesterday that Nexon may be interested in  launching a buyout of Electronic Arts. Nexon is a South Korean company best known for F2P MMOs like Maple Story and Dragon’s Nest. EA, as readers probably know, is an American company best known for a wide slew of AAA games and includes some fan favourite development houses. This is a pretty flimsy rumour, especially as it would involve Nexon getting involved in a load of different markets that are new to them. But who knows?

So yeah, what is happening to the gaming industry that this is even a rumour?

My interpretation is that although EA does hold a lot of market share (and mindshare), they haven’t been able to translate this into profits as efficiently as other gaming companies. They’ve also been seen as not adapting well to the death of retail and growth of direct download. So this is reflected in the share price, which is perhaps low enough to be seen as a good deal to a buyer who is better at monetising games. And that’s why some analysts are saying EA is vulnerable to a takeover; it may be seen as good value for money.That’s about as far as my analysis gets since I’m not much of a market person – any readers have any thoughts?

The magical online universes of EA games

One of the strategies EA announced recently was that they want all of their brands to become ‘online universes’. So you could interact with them via console, mobile games, PC, tablet, etc.

Play Battlefield, for example, on a console in the evening, a PC in the midnight hours, a smartphone on the commute and a tablet while at the office. All the data, all the progress and achievements, will carry from one device to the other, allowing the player to play “how he wants, when he wants and on the device he wants”.

No one who reads gaming blogs need really blink at this. After all, we’re people who read (or write) and think about games when we aren ‘t actually playing them, which is I suppose a sort of ‘online multiverse of brands.’ Anyone who has been in an MMO guild probably interacted via a guild bulletin board, which you might have checked from your smartphone or from work (during lunch hours, obviously). Sandbox games like EVE pretty well encourage this type of constant immersion and interaction, if only so that you can find out what’s going on when you aren’t playing.

So it shouldn’t be shocking if EA wonders whether people who love, say, Football Manager, might want to interact with it somehow during the day. It’s not the worst idea in the world ever. Why play Farmville on Facebook if you had a Football Manager game on Facebook you could play instead when you felt in the mood for a Facebook gaming fix (which I am mocking less now that I have found one I like, see below)?

However, as gamers it is a bit concerning because I wouldn’t trust EA (or any other developer) not to push incentives for playing the game on as many platforms as possible. Which is demoralising if you have the wrong type of smartphone or only want to play it on the PC in the evenings. If I buy a PC game, I expect to be able to beat it just by playing it on the PC. I certainly don’t want to feel forced to go outside that to find better stat boosts, or to feel at a disadvantage because I don’t have an iPad to play some spinoff game on as well. This online universes strategy could be used to gateway the most colossal grinds known to mankind.

Yet, again as MMO players, we’re pretty well used to being advised to go read guides, watch videos, use addons, and learn how to play our game of choice better from outside the game.

Ultimately, if the games themselves and their spinoffs on other devices are good, this could still be a fun trend. It just sounds ominous when EA talk about it.

Marvel: Avengers Alliance

avengers_fb

So, Avengers Assemble (as it is known in the UK) was released yesterday. We’re seeing it over the weekend, so expect some pictures of Loki here next week (le swoon).

Meanwhile, for my Marvel superheroes fix, I have been playing Marvel: Avengers Alliance on Facebook. Yup, I know I hate Facebook and all of its works, especially the F2P social games, but this one is pretty cool. It’s a turn based pokemon-style team fighty game, in which you collect and level up your superhero pals and go take on the forces of naughtiness and supervillainy. It has all the usual social paraphenalia, such as being able to go visit your friends ‘cities’ once a day to get extra stuff and needing some friends to help you boost various power aspects.

But I find the social side fairly low key in M:AA compared to your typical Zynga game, the writing of the various adventures is pretty good and the different currencies work well together to keep you focussed and interested. By this I mean, you need in game cash to help pay for levelling up and research, which you can get by sending heroes off on long missions on their own. You also need ‘shield points’ for levelling and research which you can get from your friends, and ‘command points’ to acquire new heroes which you can get from beating end of level bosses.

As per pokemon, there are different ‘types’ of heroes (tanks, scrappers, blasters, infiltrators, tacticians) each of whom are strong/ weak against other types, and some of your heroes will also have special bonuses. For example, flying heroes are immune to ground attacks, Asgardians (like Thor and Sif) are immune to fire and cold, armoured tanky heroes (like Colossus or Thing) are immune to bleeds et al. And you can use research to get better weapons for your character, who is a SHIELD agent.

The other feature in this game that I enjoy is the writing. Each episode is a self contained story which is part of the larger story arc, and I enjoy that all the characters have recognisable voices. Whoever wrote the game likes the comic characters, and that comes across well.

I haven’t actually felt the need to give them any money for this game, even though I really like it and would not begrudge them the cash. The F2P framework always makes me feel like paying is for losers. If it had a tip jar, I’d probably contribute.

And a couple more links

A proper links post will be coming this weekend, but for now here are a couple of posts about gaming in general that I found interesting.

Brainy Gamer takes issue with the argument that games are dumb, and is getting together a list of smart games. Here is his current catalogue of smart games as submitted by readers, see if you agree with the choices.

Keen ponders the length of games, and considers the point at which he gets exhausted with a game and can’t be bothered to finish it. I have definitely found this, and whether it’s to do with the length of the game, the style of the game (it can be hard to keep up with a very long storyline that has tons of characters, twists, etc), or simply mechanics that don’t grab the players, I think games can definitely be too long. Lots of Final Fantasy games end up in this category for me, even the ones I like.

[Links] Where are the links of yesterweek?

Liore wonders if one of the big themes in the gaming industry this year is animosity between players and developers. She picks out the Day 1 ME3 DLC and the GW2 pre-purchase in particular, but I also wonder if this increased animosity is “a thing.” Maybe it’s down to consumerism – I have seen the enemy and it is the capitalist system, etc. We could also ask “Can players and developers ever be friends?” when the object of one is to make money from the other. Maybe this is part of the appeal of Kickstarters. Zoso also writes about EA being voted worst company in America by some consumer website earlier this month.

Or is it that MMO players tend to really hate their game-of-choice’s developers? Chris@Levelcapped wonders what the real cost of making an MMO is in terms of player relationships, noting that Blizzard and Bioware have both had reputations in the past as well loved companies, before they entered the MMO field. (The history of Bioware’s relationship with consumers in particular is likely to be a case study in marketing courses well into the future. I actually really enjoy their more recent stuff, but there’s some real hatred out there.) Then again, I don’t think anyone really hates Trion.

Werit comments on one of the SWTOR story features which is that bits of your character’s story can happen unexpectedly when you thought you were just returning to your ship or zoning into the orbital station. It is actually really cool when you first see this, and realise that some of your story won’t be stuck in phased instances in the middle of nowhere. It gives things a real sense of omg this really is my story.

Milady wonders if there is anything she can do as a consumer to get the message across to developers that she really doesn’t want to play female characters who totter around in high heels and low cut tops, given that she still wants to play games like GW2 and Diablo 3. Realistically the answer is probably that there is no way unless you are willing to be very selective about the games you play   (eg. you could probably get through Skyrim without heels, Torchlight had pretty cool female characterisation, and not all MMOs use that character style.)

Zubon writes a thoughtful post about balance, discussing whether MMO fights are balanced around everyone in the group knowing the fight, and the difference between balancing for gear/dps and balancing for skill/ knowledge. My personal pet hate are fights that are balanced around using particular consumables  or resistance on gear (Final Fantasy games in the past have been dreadful for this.)

Gevlon has a theory that World of Tanks is rigged. I don’t pretend to understand the details of this since I always assumed the point of matchmaking was to be able to field reasonably matched teams, but you don’t expect your own stats to also be stealth nerfed/ buffed. He’s also thinking about what to do with all the ISK he’s making in EVE, and I think struggling a bit with the notion that there are lots of different viable goals and win conditions in decent MMOs, and there may not be a single right way to play.

Stropp wonders why you never hear about anti-PK corps in EVE.  My experience is that it’s very difficult for guilds which form to maintain the status quo/ law to keep momentum, plus there’s nothing you can really do to stop gankers coming back later or logging alts to keep griefing.

Rampant Coyote has some thoughts on crowdsourced funding and what it means for indie developers.

Should publishers be worried? Short version: Yes. Long version: Yes, and if I were them I’d be scrambling to redefine myself in the new paradigm.

Ardwulf explains things that frustrate him about Guild Wars. It’s a game I have never really been able to get into and I think he’s hit on some of the reasons why. In fact, I think I hit my head against that exact same mission in Nightfall a few times, and put the game aside. You know how sometimes you know something is a decent game but don’t feel very motivated to play it?

Kotaku report that the PS Vita is doing really badly on sales in Japan, which was probably predictable given the predominance of cheap games on mobile phones. Do you spend your cash on a specialist handheld games system or buy a smartphone and load up on cheap games?

Keen asks readers “what is your one MMO must-have?” and I’ll get in first with ‘must be able to run on my machine’ or ‘must be a price I’m willing to pay.’

Massively asks “Do kids belong in guilds?” which can be quite a sensitive topic in family friendly games. I imagine a lot of adult gamers would prefer not to hang with other people’s kids during their gaming time. Having said that, I’ve played in guilds with some smart, reponsible 15 year olds and as long as everyone is patient and sensible about things, it can work.

Predictions for MMOs/ Gaming in 2011

It is that time when we look ahead and try to predict what the year ahead may bring. Arbitrary and I have put our heads together to see what we can come up with…

In general, it’s going to be another huge year for both social gaming and mobile gaming. There will be more massive hits along the lines of Angry Birds, and both iPhones and Android will continue to be strong platforms. We’ll see the trend for Android to increase in popularity continue as more and more models come onto the market.

The debate as to what does or doesn’t constitute an MMO will continue. Facebook will continue as the platform of choice for social games, particularly on handsets, since it actually is handset agnostic.

The iPad will not really live up to the potential that the industry had hoped. Already we’re seeing that magazine subscriptions on the iPad are below predictions. There will be popular games, yes, but they will never come close to the popularity of the phone-based versions. So iPad owners had best get used to continuing to receive iPhone conversions.

I predict something big with Zynga this year. They’re huge, but they’ve not had much success in breaking away from Facebook. The desire to do so is still there … maybe they’ll even try to take over FB or merge the companies in some way. Whatever it is, it’ll be crazy.

E-sports will be a big trend this year in some form or other, as publishers try to find more ways to draw in the ‘core audience’ into more social, F2P type games. Expect at least one hugely successful multiplayer game, possibly on a console or on Facebook, with this kind of worldwide e-sports competitive ethos at its core.

One of the other big trends this year was for breakout indie games. This is nothing new, but Minecraft in particular has been a stunning hit. In addition, the various Steam indie bundles, more attention from PC journalists and blogs, and ‘pay what you want’ weekend offers have gotten more people to try them out than ever before. This trend continues, and we’ll see at least one successful indie MMO launch this year.

Interactive/ internet TV is going to be another big trend this year. Look for gaming on Google TV in particular (one area where Zynga may have their eye). And this is a platform that favours simple social games.

This year also marks the release of the Nintendo 3DS, the 3D version of the DS. Whilst it will sell well enough to be marked as a success, they will signally fail to persuade most users to upgrade. However nice the graphics, there’s unlikely to be a killer game that really uses the 3D. (If it played films, however …) This won’t be a good year for handhelds, losing more ground to the ubiquitous smartphones.

WoW/ Blizzard

This year Blizzard plays it safe with WoW. There won’t be any big features analogous to the dungeon finder. Patches will be more of the raid instance, dailies, extra minigames type of content.

Whilst some players will get bored quickly of Cataclysm, the strategy to draw in more casual players will work, by and large.

The balance of ranged vs melee is going to continue to be a big feature of this expansion.

The leaked expansion plans date the next expansion for 2010. I predict this is correct and we’ll hear more about the next expansion and about Blizzard’s plans to offer more frequent, smaller expansions. Wrath will soon be perceived as the golden age of WoW in much the same way that TBC was by the old guard for most of Wrath.

The big change for the next expansion will be a crafting revamp.

Blizzcon will be held in Europe.

Blizzard will announce their next game, currently codenamed Titan. It will, as expected, be a different genre from WoW. (Please take a moment to imagine what the WoW community might be like if Blizzard’s next game is a FPS. Heck, imagine what the Blizzard community for a FPS MMO might be like? Scared yet? This is why they will come back with a more player friendly version of realID.)

Other games

Guild Wars 2 will not release in 2011.

Neither will World of Darkness (Vampire).

Neither will The Secret World

The walking in stations expansion for EVE will release and will generate a flurry of ‘look at this amazing character creator’ posts. It will not substantially expand the player base, though and will largely be seen by existing players as watering down the current game.

Star Wars: the Old Republic will release and will fail to either gain a million subscribers or to be a game people want to play for 10 years (both predictions made by EA). It may even fail completely within 6 months. (I will still play it.)

Mark Jacobs will announce a new project, DaoC 2.

There will be more discussion about the F2P model as it applies to MMOs, focussing more on practical details of ‘what works’. People will pick their games at least as much based on payment models as anything else, to the point of having preferences for very specific flavours of F2P.

There will also be extended discussions in the blogosphere about how trustworthy various publishers are viewed as being. This is partly connected with games that failed in 2010 (do you trust this game to still be going in 6 months before you invest too much time into it?) but also with the way the F2P model has been implemented by companies such as SOE.

LOTRO will release their Isengard expansion which will be comparable in size to Mirkwood. ie. a couple of levelling zones, new instances, and a raid. They will increasingly be spread thin trying to keep both the lifetime endgame player base happy and the new F2P players who are more interested in lower level revamps.

2011 is a big year for RPGs. In fact, it will probably also be the biggest year ever for computer games in general.

Diablo III will release, will be a massive success. It will contain various features borrowed from WoW, and so the cycle comes full circle.

Dragon Age II will release, will be a massive success.

Mass Effect III will release, will be a massive success.

The Witcher II will release, will be a massive success (but possibly not on the scale of the previous three games, which is a shame.)

And not a RPG, but yes, Portal II will release, will be a massive success.

Whatever Infinity Ward does for EA will release, will be a massive success.

There will be at least one film tie in game that is actually good, and will be a massive success.

Microsoft attempt to clean up the Xbox Live community in some way, possibly involving an element of realID.

Gaming News: Pirates of the Burning Sea goes F2P, Jedi Sage in SWTOR, EQ2 Vampires, Betas for Rift and TF2, LOTRO F2P tweaks

This week will mark the release of possibly the biggest PC game launch of the year. It’s also a game which will be downloaded directly by a large number of players (possibly even the majority) and will no doubt be showing up in a lot of Xmas stockings and making a lot of gamers, both casual and hardcore very happy, especially if the developer is up to their usual standards.

I speak of course of Bejeweled 3 (subtitle – what else can we do with a 3 colour match game?).

Joking aside, I love Popcap and there’s no reason not to think this’ll be great. I can see me buying a few copies as presents for gamer-friendly friends/ family. Plus it’s something to do while waiting in WoW server queues for Cataclysm.

Speaking of which, Blizzard have released a final release trailer for the new WoW expansion. It’s called The World Reborn and is a flythrough of some of the new stuff – that elemental plane of air looks incredible.

In other news, EA have announced that they will be looking to cut down their game output next year. I thought they said that last year too.

The post that caught my eye this week was Larisa’s discussion about why she’s not doing anything special to prepare for Cataclysm. This in an environment where hardcore players probably have all the maps and quests planned out from various beta information already.

RPS have also, astoundingly, finally found a writer who likes WoW to write about it.

Pirates of the Burning Sea launches F2P

Ever wanted to be a pirate, sailing the spanish main? Well now you can do it without a monthly sub in PotBS, it’s a pretty game and a rather different setting to most other MMOs on the market. There’s also quite a sandbox economy/ PvP vibe alongside the quests and naval combat and most importantly, characters can have the best range of beards I think I’ve ever seen in a game. I liked the female customisation a lot also, the costumes are just that cool.

Jedi Wizard gets renamed

The unfortunately named Jedi Wizard class is being renamed to Jedi Sage in SWTOR, following an online poll.

They also have a developer blog up this week about crew skills and crafting in the game. One of the things I like is that they definitely have a notion of casual crafters vs hardcore crafters and that each type of player should be able to get something out of the system. So casual crafters should be able to fairly easily make gear that is on par (or slightly above) drops, but there will be better gear available to be crafted by players who want to put more time into it.

I’m rapidly thinking that the crafting in this game is looking like one of the big plus points. I’m also getting fonder of the graphics, it’s not fancy but it doesn’t need to be.

New vampire race for EQ2

Well, at least they aren’t vampire elves. Arkenor says what a lot of other people are thinking, which is wtf SOE? (I’m more puzzled that he thinks this is a step towards becoming more like WoW which wasn’t especially vamped out last time I checked.) Having said that, maybe people would like a bloodsucking race. It’s certainly been part of fantasy gaming since at least original D&D.

But if you do want one, hang in there because it’s being given as a reward  for people who remain subscribed between Dec and Feb. What we don’t know is how overpowered it will be compared to the other races – a usual tactic to ‘encourage’ players to want one.

Green Armadillo suspects it will show up in the cash shop as a buyable race sometime later.

Beta Watch: Rift and TF2

A couple of betas that we heard more about this week. Trion Worlds’ Rift has a beta weekend event this weekend. It sounds from the website to be a very classic WoW-like MMO but with some interesting twists and lore. It isn’t a typical fantasy setting and the races and background look quite fun.  It also looks very pretty in screenshots.  There’s an NDA up to stop beta testers talking about it too much but expect to hear more about this game as it nears launch. Might be one to watch if you preferred vanilla WoW to the current version.

The other game with some extra beta zing is Team Fortress 2, for which Valve have opened a public test server where you’ll be able to try some of the new patch changes and give feedback before they go live.

Tweaks to the LOTRO F2P setup

The December Producers’ letter for LOTRO explains some of the changes they have made recently, including removal of radiance and changes in some of the pricing. For example, Lonelands is now free to all players whereas at launch of F2P, you had to buy access to the quests in the zone.

There are also going to be cosmetic pets.

As a player, the main take home message for this is wait as long as you can before buying anything because prices are tending to go down and more content being made available for free the longer you wait.

And also, if you do buy something, do so because you want it at the time and try to be sanguine about the notion that prices are likely to change later on.