Bits and pieces; and thoughts from 3 years ago about the future of MMOs

Happy Sunday (and Happy Jubilee if you are the queen – seems a bit harsh of people to make two octo/nonogenarians stand around for hours on a cold and windy river, but what do I know?) This isn’t really a links post so much as a quick news roundup, some whining about Diablo, and a moment of insight where I realise that some of the stuff I used to post was pretty smart.

New games to get excited about, current games to get excited about

CD Projekt, best known for their work on The Witcher CRPGs, have announced that their next game will feature a Cyberpunk setting. In fact, it’s THE Cyberpunk setting for RPG players because they’ll be using the setting from R S Talsorian’s Cyberpunk RPG. So all you glitterboys, slicers, and fixers get your netrunning shoes on. I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it that this is super-exciting for any fans of the genre, and Cyberpunk should be a great match for the dark noirish stories that CD Projekt have shown they enjoy tackling in previous outings. It’d be nice if they would also let us play female characters this time around, but let’s not run before we can walk.

Rift announced its first expansion: Storm Legion. It will feature tons of new stuff including huge new continent, 10 more levels, new souls, a woman on the front of their expansion website who isn’t wearing much — yup, it’s all there. New expansions are generally a good sign for MMOs and the Rift devs have been earning their reputation for ploughing plenty of new content into the game all year, so things are looking good for Rifties. They do have a free trial up to level 20 if you want to try the game out.

An excellent new Humble Indie Bundle has gone on sale, featuring Amnesia: the Dark Descent, Psychonauts, LIMBO, and Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery , with Bastion thrown in as a bonus if you pay more than the current average (standing at $7.84 at the moment). It’s a feature of the indie bundles that you decide what you want to pay so if you’re feeling cheap, you could get the four main games for almost no money at all. They are all indie games that have garnered good reviews, especially Psychonauts if you are a fan of platform/adventure games.

In their ongoing crusade to make the always-online experience of Diablo 3 best in breed, Blizzard have now introduced autojoining the General Chat Channel when you log in. This has not been met with universal acclaim. While I find it annoyingly spammy and prone to gold seller chat, occasionally General Chat surprises you. I’ve sometimes heard people offer to help anyone out with hard bosses, which either is quite decent of them or else is a new cunning way to steal accounts – you pay your money and take your choice.

Personally my barbarian has reached an impasse with Izual in Hell Mode. Getting him down would require a serious amount of kiting given my current DPS and … I just don’t enjoy kiting on a melee class that much. So I shall be tooling around on alts instead, no point playing past the point of unfun. One thing Blizzard did get right though is the secret level (don’t click this link unless you want spoilers), which requires a special blacksmithing recipe and ingredients, all of which are rare drops in specific locations and may be farmed. Farming for this stuff with Arb has actually been pretty fun, for Diablo variants of fun. This is exactly what I was talking about when I was wondering why Blizzard hadn’t developed the farming side of the game.

So how DID soloing affect MMOs?

Milady reflects about MMOs evolving into an ‘always alone together’ singleplayer theme park  type of experience, and is nostalgic for a time when singleplayer and multiplayer experiences seemed to sit more comfortably side by side in MMOs. She wonders where players who enjoyed the multiplayer side of things will go if new MMOs tilt so far towards soloers.

The problem is that, although I can think as alone-together MMOs as a valid choice, especially for that demographic that can’t participate in the social part of them, there is no such choice when all are designed this way.

This reminded me of some thoughts I posted a few years ago about what might happen to MMOs if the proportion of soloers continued to increase. It was contentious at the time and attracted more comments than anything I’d ever written. Now I look back and – it seems prescient.

What happens if MMOs develop along lines such that most people are soloing most of the time? There’s no downtime built in where you might have to talk to people you didn’t know? There may not be enough of the more hardcore to form all the guilds those people might want to join? The people who would have been running those guilds are all going casual/ solo/ in small groups of RL friends instead?

Would a game like that really have much of a community at all? Is there any support network left for anyone at all?

Links for the weekend

 

  • Systemic Babble discusses the recently announced 3DS price drop, and the prices of games on mobile systems. What exactly happens to the industry if a new generation of gamers expects a good mobile game to cost approx $1?
  • How does it feel to be sidelined from a raid because (your raid feels that) your class just isn’t optimal for the encounter? Vixsin, who raids with a hardcore group, discusses her feelings about it. For many players, this comes close to experiencing discrimination in game. After enough other players think your class is more or less good, it gets treated that way regardless of the player. And on another note, Sacred Duty explains that protection paladins are overpowered in WoW at the moment. Again.
  • Another sale, another astounding humble indie bundle. These deals operate on a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ basis, so it’s interesting on that link to see roughly how much people pay. Linux users on average pay a lot more than players on other o/s, intriguingly. Maybe they’re more generous souls.
  • How can devs turn a good character into an evil one or vice versa in game? John Wick discusses the heel turn with examples from professional wrestling.
  • I mentioned the crazy Street Fighter x Tekken SDCC panel this week. Here’s a more thoughtful look at another fighting game from a fan – Scott Juster writes about Mortal Kombat and why it was so special for him earlier in his life.
  • Serrain writes a wrapup for the Planes of Madness event at Rift, over at Rift Junkies. He asks whether it dragged on too long.
  • Stabs takes an educated guess at how the RMT Diablo 3 Auction House will play out. And Gus Matrapa in Pretension +1 offers some advice to D3 fans on how to freak out about a video game.
  • Werit discusses the revamp of fortresses in WAR. They will now “house artifacts/relics which can be seized by the opposing realm.”  That’s a direct import from DaoC. Is WAR slowly morphing into DaoC2?
  • Jeff Vogel asks when players should have to make decisions about progressing their character from a designer’s point of view. He suggests devs shouldn’t ask players to make choices until they have enough information on which to base a decision. I’ve never liked having to make irrevocable decisions involving gameplay (such as class, etc) before I really know how the game plays or what I’ll want to do later on.
  • MMO Melting Pot continues to curate (it’s my new word this week)  great articles around the gaming blogosphere and post links along with analysis. Here’s one highlighting a post on Level Capped about whether the majority of gamers really are foul mouthed teenagers.
  • John Walker at RPS writes an intelligent, impassioned rant against all those mainstream media outlets who rushed to assign some blame to computer games like CoD for the shootings in Norway.
  • Anyone missed Larissa’s regular posts? Course you have. The writer is now running a new blog about film called The Velvet Cafe. This is one of her posts about what the audience can add to a movie. I’ve been thinking about this, because going to see Captain America on opening night in San Diego during Comic Con was absolutely awesome, and not just because the film was good and they gave us free swag (OK, the free swag helped.)