Gaming News: First PS3 MMO?, Cataclysm Alpha, Lucasarts Execs resign, and Games Workshop sue Fan Site

The local news of course is that our election on Thursday produced a hung parliament. I was practically in the news myself when our demo for electoral reform made the front pages. I still think, “What do we want? Electoral reform. When do we want it? Now!” is not very catchy.

Free Realms for the PS3

Free Realms, Sony’s kid friendly MMO, will be demoed on the PS3 at next month’s E3 convention. It’s a fun, colourful game with plenty to do and see and also does not rely heavily on in game communication, so that might just be a very good fit indeed.

SOE have said a lot in the past about their goals to get MMOs onto consoles but this is the first game in their stable to actually make the leap.

I’m intrigued to see how this might work and how they’ll handle the pricing, but it’s a fun little game for all that and I’ll certainly be trying out the PS3 port. For research purposes only, you understand and not at all because I want a calico pet cat in every game which allows it. (You can train your cat to do tricks in FR.)

Cataclysm Alpha Test Begins

Friends and family alpha test began this week of Blizzard’s new WoW expansion. The client was leaked and fully data-mined and posted all over the web approximately 2s later.

The wow.com editors attempt to justify this by explaining that it’s all Blizzard’s fault for not paying attention to employee’s concerns (but we don’t know what these mysterious concerns might be). Or Blizzard could just sack anyone who leaks information that is clearly marked company confidential, like any other business would do. Assuming that it came from an employee, of course.

I’ll come back to this topic later. But it’s clear that either Blizzard fansites make too much money from printing leaked info to stop doing it, or else Blizzard just doesn’t have the goodwill from the playerbase which is what mostly keeps other NDAs under wraps.

Someone has managed to run WoW on an iPad

Gaikai have shown off their vaunted streaming gaming technology by demonstrating that it can be used to run WoW on an iPad.

But they don’t answer the most important question that this raises: is finger-turning worse than keypad turning?

Lucasarts President Resigns

This week several executives resigned from Lucasarts along with the company’s president. There is always a story behind mass senior resignations but in this case we don’t have much information on what is going on behind the scenes. It isn’t necessarily bad news for the developer, per se.

Lucasarts say that no current game development (such as Star Wars) will be affected, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? The fact that the company announced that they are searching for a replacement implies that he actually did resign rather than being pushed (when someone is fired, there is usually already a replacement lined up.)

Games Workshop sue Warhammer Online fansite

This was one of the more unexpected news stories of the week, and really should have all fansites on their toes.

The main fan-run bboard and community for Warhammer Online is called Warhammer Alliance. It has been up for months (maybe even years) before Mythic’s Warhammer MMO went live, and was bought out by Curse to be part of their fansite stable. Yes, that’s the same curse.com who host a lot of WoW addons.

And now, Games Workshop are suing Curse for trademark infringement among a host of other issues. The issue is the name of the fansite. They claim that Warhammer Alliance implies that the site is formally associated with Games Workshop.

Or in other words, Curse is in profit and GW wants a cut. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit goes, if Curse even attempt to fight it rather than just settling out of court. I suspect that Curse et al have a good case, but that the costs of legal action against GW could be prohibitive.

However, if I was involved with a fansite that had gleefully picked a game specific name without asking permission first from the trademark holders, I would be watching this one with interest. Anyone else think Blizzard might have a case to claim that wow.com infringed their trademarks if they get pissed off by  … for example … consistent leaks about new expansions?

What would it take for MMOs to work on consoles?

There’s been a great story this week originating from an article in Gamasutra where an analyst claims that 1/3 of people who intend to buy God of War 3 don’t currently own the console  to play it (PS3). I thought this was interesting because it highlights one of the ways in which consoles are different from PCs: backwards compatibility.

(Note: it may also mean that people say they’re planning to buy lots of games that they don’t actually buy. If you’d asked me last year I would probably have said I intended to buy Fallout 3. I still do … some day.)

A new console might not run your old games. So before people fork out for the hardware, they’ll wait to be sure that there are enough games out that they’d want to play to make it worthwhile.  God of War 3 may well be a console seller for the PS3, if it tips enough people  over the decision line. Upgrading a PC is a much more predictable operation, and can be done in pieces — ie. upgrade the RAM, upgrade the graphics card, etc. And when you do it, you know that your current favourite games will still run.

MMOs on Consoles

MMOs on consoles have been tried. There’s no special technical reason why it wouldn’t be possible to run one, assuming the net connection. But  you can look at how we play MMOs to see why it might not be that simple.

A lot of people play MMOs with their families. PC games generally assume one user per computer, so if you have multiple MMO players you’ll have more than one machine. This is not the console model. Consoles are sold as being family machines. You’d have one per household. If a game is multiplayer, that means everyone huddled up on the sofa with their own controller, playing via the same box and watching on the same TV/ monitor.

But having more than one person playing an MMO via console means that MMOs would need to work differently. Maybe you’d be running different characters in the same team. Maybe the screen would be split in two (sounds awkward though). But what you couldn’t really do is have one person raiding with their guild while the other went off to explore and do some crafting instead.

It might be that a true console MMO would simply be something quite different to what we have seen before. But in order for consoles to run MMOs the way they currently are, you have to break that one-per-household mindset.

Households like mine which currently have more than one PC, probably with a shared net connection (not doing this would result in divorce ;) ) would have to switch to multiple consoles instead. It’s not impossible that this might happen. I’m sure there are student households where there’s an XBOX in each bedroom.

It will however be a tough nut to crack to persuade the majority of users that they need another console and another monitor just to play with their family.

Which does beg the question: what about handhelds? And this is going to be the key market for console MMOs in my opinion. An iPhone, a DS, a PSP? They could be net-connected. They could run some kind of MMO.

I’d put money on this being where the revolution starts. And if I’ve finished Chronotrigger by then, I’ll be there with my DS at the ready.