Gaming News: FF 14 Open Beta, Stardock blames Elemental launch for layoffs, Red5 announce Firefall, Duke Nukem, $100 XBox live predicted

We’re heading now towards the last few gaming conventions of the summer season. PAX was this week, and so expect to see more articles imminently in the gaming press about various demos. The Escapist’s article on the Torchlight 2 demo caught my eye (in a ‘when can I play this’ kind of a way.) The most fun trailer out of PAX so far has been the SWTOR/ KOTOR one – a little unexpected information there about what happened to Revan for any fans of him/ her/ it. And HK-47 who was the real star of the game.

EQ2X continues through open beta and SOE are evidently paying attention to feedback because they have now opened up the ability for bronze (ie. free to play) customers to buy access to the various different races and classes which had hitherto been locked to subscribers. They’re selling races in packs of three, and classes as single items. I think selling classes in matched pairs would have made more sense – what happens now if someone wants to defect to a class they don’t have access to? Arkenor takes a look at the marketplace (cash shop) to see what else is on offer –- bear in mind the game is in beta so these could change.

LOTRO opens up its doors to Free to Play customers next week also, so expect to hear more about that too.

Another story which caught my eye this week: Jason Kapalka, one of the co-founders of Popcap, gave a talk at GDC Europe on the ethics of social gaming. He thinks social games are “kind of evil right now,” and although Popcap isn’t 100% evil free, they’re trying to put fun above monetisation. If I ever get bored of Plants vs Zombies or Bejewelled, I’ll let them know.

And if anyone is curious, SC2 sold 3 million copies in its first month. Not bad, but Cataclysm can beat it – come on WoW fans, don’t let the RTS players win!

Final Fantasy 14 has a rocky open beta

Square Enix opened their doors to the muddy hordes of open beta testers for Final Fantasy 14 this week, and may wish that they hadn’t. Everyone agrees that the game is beautiful – well, everyone who was able to download the files and play the game – but I’ve also seen a lot of feedback to the effect that it looks and feels like a console game.

Pete@Dragonchasers likes the beta and shares some tips.

The Final Fantast XIV Core crew have a really good post on how to figure out if it is the game for you.

Elemental has a rocky launch too, Stardock lays off employees

Anyone been playing Elemental? It’s a 4X fantasy themed game that was released recently by Stardock, and has been plagued by reports of being severely bug ridden to the point of large parts of the game being unplayable.

A lot of people were looking forwards to the game, a lot of people have been disappointed. The Stardock CEO even published a statement acknowledging that the launch had been disastrous, taking personal responsibility and promising to do better in future.

Darren@Common Sense Gamer picks up on news from the forums that because of the poor launch and poor sales, Stardock are now laying people off.

It’s all very unfortunate – at the end of the day if you sell a faulty product then this is what happens. But he’s lucky people aren’t suing and asking for their money back.

Red5 finally announce their new project

Another project featuring ex-WoW developers, Firefall is going to be a team based online shooter in a futuristic setting and is due out towards the end of 2011. And naturally, it’ll be free to play.

Duke Nukem Forever

2K have announced that Duke Nukem Forever is due out in 2011, courtesy of Borderlines studio Gearbox Software.

I personally doubt many people still care about Duke Nukem Forever (but I expect all of them will reply to this post :) ). The game is mostly notorious for how long it has been ‘in development.’ Whilst you can just about get away with this if you are Blizzard, I’m not so sure it applies here.

$100 pa for xbox platinum live? analyst predicts yes.

I wish people would pay me to predict that prices will go up. Michael Pachter thinks that $100 is the next big price point for xbox live. This of course followed Microsoft’s announcement this week that the console online service would be increased by $10.

He thinks they will reinvest some of the money in providing new services. Although I agree that any notion of a tie up between the xbox and itunes is very far fetched – I don’t think Apple operate that way. But who knows. I’m mostly amused by the phrase, “the next evolutionary step in subscription options.”

And it seems odd to me that in an era of free to play pricing models, Microsoft is so attached to bundling services which players may or may not want.