I enjoyed writing a series of Gaming News posts on Sundays through the latter half of 2010, but did become very aware of how the gaming news cycles work and how non-news (like whatever random musings Michael Pachter pulls out of his hat) end up becoming headlines.
So I’m going to try to focus this year on stories that are actually news or have some interesting commentary that relates to current gaming news. Feel free to send me links during the week if you see anything you’d like to suggest! All contributions will be attributed.
Best Roguelikes 2010
Any fellow fans of Roguelike games out there? Andrew Doull posted the results of his Roguelike of the Year poll (981 people voted!)
Winner by quite a high amount, with a total 39% of the vote was ToME so if you are a fan of the genre and want to see what’s hot at the moment, go check it out. It’s F2P of course. No, wait, I mean it’s freeware, you can play for free and if you like the game and want to support it, you can donate.
Kinect ships over 8 million units, coming to PCs ‘soon’
According to Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s CEO), they have shipped 8 million Kinect units so far. Winextra (the link above) do some figure checking and conclude that MSoft have actually sold 2.5 million units, the 8 million figure is the number that they have shipped to suppliers (figures for how many of those have sold are not actually in yet, they might all have done). In any case, this is an astounding figure for a controller which is still not very well supported with games and requires a large amount of room space to even set up.
I’m still hoping to see someone take a shot (sic) at making a Kinect based shooter, I think out of all the current genres that would benefit from being able to drop the controller, it’s sports/ dance games, FPS and ‘point and click’ adventure games that would benefit the most. But really the ball is in the developers’ court at the moment. There are probably some awesome things that could be done with it, as soon as people can imagine them.
And my gut feel is that the biggest Kinect application, in the end, will not actually be a game. Maybe it’ll just be people using it for controlling the TV, maybe Kinect Avatar will spark off a whole new slew of virtual world mania, but this way of interacting with technology is only going to grow and spread.
However, I still find it creepy to think that my computer might be watching me. It’s bad enough with the cat.
One thing you will notice if you read professional gaming blogs/ sites is that there’s a strange cosy relationship that they sometimes have with developers. I’m not sure at what point money changes hands, but this is why you’ll see exclusive interviews, screenshots etc on sites that you normally would not touch with a bargepole (Ten Ton Hammer with your annoying popups, I’m looking at you).
The guys at Rock Paper Shotgun went head to head with this culture this week when they published exclusive screenshots from another site WITH ATTRIBUTION and got threatened with legal action for their pains.
Standard internet posting etiquette usually states that it’s ok to quote other sites as long as you link back to them. We normally consider this polite. But how does that fit in with the idea of exclusive screenshots? I think swiping exclusive screenies should probably be off limits but there is also a point at which you have to say ,”the internet just doesn’t work like that.”
John Walker at RPS commented, “”But really, the idiocy of publishers giving out adverts for their games like precious, secret jewels has got to end. It’s self-defeating, and it’s deeply tedious for the readers of every other site/mag in the world who want to know about a game they may want to play.”
It’s certainly tedious for readers to be directed all around the houses for information rather than just being able to pick it up from their favourite news feed. In fact, I’d rather be able to pick up my gaming news straight from the official site and my pet bug is developers (Mythic used to do this a LOT) who publish all their news as exclusives on random news sites rather than on their own.
LOTRO revenue triples since they went F2P
In an interview with Ten Ton Hammer (podcast interview, no transcript), LOTRO’s executive producer reports that revenues on the game have tripled since it went F2P.
That’s great news for Turbine, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any figures from Codemasters to be able to compare the EU numbers (or see how much of an advantage Turbine had from launching their version several weeks in advance). So we can assume that they’ll continue to do whatever they are doing. More bizarrely marked horses for all!
Perhaps not such a great result for players who don’t particularly want to be spammed with inducements to check out the cash shop, especially if they are already paying by subscription.
Rage Quit Jane offers another analysis of F2P players, “Thanks Suckers” (for buying expensive shiny cosmetic stuff for real money and keeping the game going). The bloodsuckers she’s talking about are the new EQ2 race which is being sold at a premium to people who want one now, and will be offered free to subscribers in a couple of months time. Or maybe she’s just talking about SOE.
The complexity of pre-order offers
A couple of pre-order deals that made my radar this week are the slew of Rift pre-order special deals, and Dragon Age 2 announcing a DLC which is included free if you pre-order the signature edition – ie. only if you PRE-order, as opposed to last time where you got the DLC free if you bought a copy that wasn’t second hand.
Hawley ponders on this trend in more detail, nostalgic for a time when you could just go buy the damned game and not feel that you have to check every possible pre-order combo to make sure you got the best deal.
I think this is one of the downsides of F2P. Not everyone enjoys the process of shopping or having to waste brain cycles figuring out how to get the best deal on something commodity based like a game or book or film. Whilst it leaves a gap in the market for blogs or websites that can do the analysis for you, it isn’t really fun.
Obviously for studios it’s all about the bottom line, but I wonder if making a simple process (buy box and play/ log in and play) into one that involves complicated buying decisions is really a good thing.
Melee vs Ranged in Cataclysm, round 2, and 3
I mentioned a week or so back that I thought there was some imbalance between ranged and melee in Cataclysm instancing. Just to show I’m not imagining it, here are a couple more authoritative views, from raiders.
Paragon got the world first kill on some heroic raid boss last week (has anyone else totally lost interest in the world firsts?), and published a note together with the kill shot on their website.
Dropping out melee characters in favor of ranged ones has been a recurring theme throughout this whole raiding tier, but we hope that it’s over now with only the end bosses and Sinestra left. Here’s to hoping next tier of raiding won’t favor ranged by design. Maybe even go wild and give some incentive to bring in melee, too.
(Incidentally, it’s a sign of how mature a guild Paragon are that they decided to use the publicity which they knew they’d get from a world first kill to highlight imbalances they saw in the game.)
Karuki at World of Ming also writes a very well written, heartfelt post about the woes of playing a melee class (Death Knight in this case) in Cataclysm heroics and raids.
My experience is with heroics at the moment. And I’m getting pretty good now at staying alive *flexes at heroic Stonecore* but the cost is spending more time out of melee range and being more cautious of the mobs. Which is fine, but won’t make the numbers look good.
Also an ex-guildie of mine, who is one of the finest melee dps players I know, isn’t pleased with how dps warriors are working out at the moment. So that’s something to look forwards to.
Reactions to Rift
Out of all the reactions I’ve read about Rift and the Rift beta/s, these two caught my eye. Caveat: I think it’s a very fun game.
Abalieno @ The Cesspit sees connections between Rift and Warhammer Online, in terms of the game engine, the programmers, and other themes, and doesn’t think Rift compares well.
Wolfshead writes about how he thinks combat in Rift could be improved. I don’t think there’s even a remote chance that they’ll redo the combat system at this stage in beta, and it’s not broken in any case. But I really enjoyed his analysis of how combat is the main way we communicate with the game world in MMOs these days.
And one of the reasons I stick with WoW and keep coming back to it is that underneath everything, Blizzard made the basic combat experience very snappy and fun. PvD is wondering though whether some of the WoW classes/ specs are edging a little close to each other in play style these days.
“Any fellow fans of Roguelike games out there?”
Oh geez. I played a lot of SoujournMUD myself, but I couldn’t get my classmates to stop playing Angband. I’m afraid I may have lost just a few hours to the game myself… ;^)
“for buying expensive shiny cosmetic stuff for real money and keeping the game going”
Good heavens, yes. I installed LOTRO last week (then removed Pando) and couldn’t believe all the junk they were selling. And I thought moonkin pets were ethically dubious. Everything from bonus XP to gear to abilities, iirc. I was suspicious when UO started selling “starter characters”, but this F2P stuff really takes the cake.
There’s no getting around the fact that real-world money influences virtual world gameplay (because there is no separate-but-equal virtual world, only potentialities (I’ll stop before I poorly wax Deleuzian)), but the crassness of the cashola is disturbing.
At that link…
“You are supporting your game and hey that is a good thing. I do not want to see my monthly fee go up from 15 bucks so if you go and spend some extra money they will not raise those prices and the game will keep on running for a little while longer.”
This is a painful misread, isn’t it? Perhaps the bonus swag will help keep a game that might be canceled going, but it’s not necessarily going to keep subscription rates down. You figure out what the market will bear and maximize profit. That’s a company’s job. If higher subscriptions plus pay-to-play swag gives the largest profit, guess what? There’s potentially a correlation, but hardly a guarantee.
So Paragon drops melee in favour of ranged? What if those bosses had dropped melee gear? This is one of the reasons why I don’t like raid guilds.
Again, I’m not sure why people are suprised. Except for maybe a third of IC, Melee DPS has always been hardest role to play. Alone and unloved in a twitchy world of fire, 360 cleaves, enemies that fly out of your reach, inconvient target swapping and trying to find that spot on the dragons rear ankle where you didn’t hit by their cleave or their tail. Which always struck me as kind of unheroic.
I think the key difference now, though, is that melee no longer does the best DPS. You used to bring rogues and those weird OT dps warriors because they could pump out the hurt if they did manage to stay alive. Now that rogues and the rest are around the middle, why bother?
Ooh yes T.O.M.E. is absolutely brilliant – it’s no longer Troubles of Middle Earth, Darkgod has changed it on account of IP stuff, but the whole thing is… swoony.
Have been playing it on and off for years – it’s one of those hidden gems of the gaming world IMO.
Speaking of roguelikes, I’ve been totally hooked on Dwarf Fortress. Certainly worth a look. Best roguelike I’ve ever played. It’s a little different, but it’s depth is truly amazing.
(buy box and play/ log in and play)
Hey, if that’s all it is, say like Guild Wars, I’m all for it. The item shop *and* subscription nonsense annoys me to no end. Single purchase gaming for me, thanks.