Gaming News: Bioware’s Mystery Game, LOTRO takes hobbits to Isengard, Music games nosedive, Jagex beats patent suit, Activision closes more studios

blackfriday

So apparently this is a traditional week of sales in the US, which brings me to the picture to the left. What’s odd about this screenshot?  It’s from amazon.co.uk. Yes, I’m puzzled too.

In any case, keep an eye out for sales from your favourite US vendor (eg. steam, etc) this week. There does come a point when virtual shops become almost indistinguishable from any other type of online shop with the various sales, time limited offers, etc … which is of course the point.

CODBLOPS duly and predictable broke some sales records last week, despite reviews generally agreeing that it isn’t as good as the predecessor. I presume people are keen for their annual shmup purchase and if it’s disappointing will just whine about it until they get a chance to buy next years’. But it is interesting that the quality of the game doesn’t seem to affect buying decisions unless it really does dip below some kind of acceptable level.

Speaking of which, Activision now claim that Infinity Ward (the studio which made MW2) has now been successfully restructured which means that they have 3 studios working on Call of Duty games. But we don’t know which one will be tapped for next year’s episode.

A lot of MMO bloggers have been writing about Perpetuum this week, an EVE-like game featuring giant robots which is in beta and giving out beta keys at the moment. Interestingly, even the home page gives me an EVE vibe.

EVE itself has released footage of a rather stunning character generator that will go live alongside Incarna (the upcoming expansion that will allow characters to walk around inside space stations). I do still have my doubts about a game where in a standard starter guide, trying to scam other players is listed as a standard way for newbies to make in-game money.

Posts of the week are from Rhii and Alas, both on the subject of having to choose between friendship and progression in WoW. And this illustrates nicely some of the  structural issues in WoW which break up the community (not to mention stressing out players unduly) and which Blizzard has shown no interest in addressing by adding support for raid alliances or multiple guild membership. (ie. anything that would make it easier to be a member of multiple social organisations, some of which might be focussed on different in game objectives.)

The notion that if you want progression you need to pay for it by dumping your mates just reminds me of Fame (“Fame costs and right here’s where you start paying!!”). It doesn’t have to be that way.

Bioware’s Mystery Game

Bioware have been dropping teasers this week about a new unannounced game, promising to reveal all at the VGA awards.

Clues so far have been translated as:

Amazingly, people are attempting to sound somewhat excited about the picture of the man with the gun. I’d say it’s either going to be Mass Effect 3 (in which case they should have teased with a picture of Garrus without his top on) or … some shooter. Kotaku are guessing that it’s a multi-player spinoff of Mass Effect, but surely if it was a scifi game they’d show space or something cool?

I wouldn’t begrudge Bioware if they wanted to take a shot (sic) at a FPS. Good luck to them. But I don’t think they really get the whole PR thing sometimes …

We’re taking the hobbits to Isengard … in Autumn 2011

Turbine announced that the next expansion for LOTRO, The Rise of Isengard, is due next Autumn. It isn’t going to be a huge expansion like Moria, Turbine are moving away from that kind of update due to pacing issues. But it sounds as though there will be plenty to do.

Also they are due to release more raid content next year before that.

I think the pacing comment was very telling. Maybe players would prefer more piecemeal content releases rather than waiting around a couple of years for a big chunk of content all in one piece.

Music games face a downturn

Remember those halcyon days when Rock Band and Guitar Hero were the big thing? All in the past now, apparently gamers just aren’t buying the things in the same quantities any more.

Jagex beats patent suit

Jagex, developers of Runescape, won a patent suit this week and the CEO took the opportunity to have a snipe at the dreadful US patent system. I don’t have much to add except for yes, the US patent system is extremely awful and allows people to pursue frivolous patent claims which end up being very expensive to the defending party on very little evidence.

(I was surprised that the losing party wasn’t required to pay costs, I’d have assumed that to be standard.)

Activision closes more studios

Apparently if your last game wasn’t a huge hit, Activision loses interest. This week they moved to close Bizarre Creations (maker of Project Gotham Racing), although there is a rumour that Microsoft is among several companies interested in buying the developer.

They also closed Budcat Creations, a studio that has been working on Guitar Hero and Band Hero games (see above note about music games being down on sales).

Crafting in SWTOR, and help rename the Jedi Wizard

Lots of cool information about Star Wars: The Old Republic today this week from Bioware. Darth Hater reports on news about crafting and PvP battlegrounds in the upcoming MMO.

The crafting sounds very cool and interesting and different. You’ll be able to send your companions out to gather materials, craft items or engage in missions and different companions will be more skilled at different areas. This is already sounding like more of a RTS approach (puts me in mind of Starcraft) and I love the idea that you can come back to your ship and catch up on what they’ve been doing while you were away.

They also say that there will be ways for players who are more involved in crafting to get deeply involved and better rewarded for it, so I’m guessing that you will also have some options to specialise your main character in that area.

I find this all very intriguing.

The PvP scenarios also sound fun, with some similarities to the battlegrounds we all know and love from numerous MMOs. At least in the sense of allowing limited numbers from each side and being objective based (presumably you’ll get some points for kills too). I am also intrigued that they felt that banners, flags and points were too game-y, and guessing that they will use similar mechanics but better dressed up in terms of the story of that battleground. (Compare Wintergrasp to Arathi Basin for an example of using banners and defense points in a more immersive way, for example).

And finally, due to the epic amount of complaining from people when the Jedi Consular caster-y subclass was revealed and named Jedi Wizard (which is, yes, kind of lame), Bioware went back to the drawing/ writing board and thought up three alternative names for the subclass. You can vote on your favourite one here (and yes, there is an option to keep the Jedi Wizard!)

Alas, Jedi Psychiatrist is not on the list.

That ‘women in gaming’ post

There has been a lot of discussion on gaming blogs I read recently about feminism and gaming. Much of it valid and making good points (if couched in rather arcane jargon for a non-arts grad like me).

The elephant in the room with feminism and gaming

And yet no one seems willing to really deal with the core issue, which is that there is a strong gaming culture that really hates women. I’m talking about the cesspit that is xbox live chat. I’m talking about the smack talk on trade channels and the ease with which some PvP players talk about raping their opponents.  (Rivs discussed this in a post yesterday, and also linked to appletellsall who makes a poignant call for people to challenge this behaviour).

The fact that some faction leaders are wearing string bikini tops pales into insignificance compared with the shit that comes out of the mouths of many male gamers. And the horrible and unfriendly culture of many games. Games which in themselves may not be overtly sexist in any way – any way except for attracting foul mouthed yobbos as their core audience who think that the entire genre is their safe space to say all the things they are told off for at home.

It isn’t just computer games. Even when I was playing RPGs as a teen, there were stories going around about sexist GMs who thought it was amusing to have female character brutalised and raped in games. (When I say stories, I mean you didn’t have to go far until you ran into someone who’d experienced this.) A product of poorly socialised teenage men with a bone to pick? I don’t know. I only know that no RPG rulebook I ever read had rules for that or even suggested it. Players thought of that one all on their own.

So from early on, as a female gamer, it’s easy to get the sense that you are intruding on a male domain and a lot of people really really don’t want you there. In fact, gaming culture hates you. And all you wanted to do was just play games. The games don’t even have the decency to label themselves, “No women allowed!”

Now don’t get me wrong. I know there are many many male gamers who are far more welcoming, and I love you all (in a sisterly sense). I play RPGs and board games with and against some of them. I have played MMOs with many of them. I’ve commented on blogs written by many, and I even married one! I do in fact like (some) guys, although it will not stop me trying to stomp you into the ground if we should meet in a battleground.

But gaming culture has been toxic for far too long. Trying to change that is a long haul proposition, a journey towards recognising that “those guys” don’t own the hobby. We don’t need to feminise everything; neutral is a win compared to where we are now. It’s going to be a messy fight because the perpetrators will – correctly – see that what was previously their space is being invaded and cleaned up. Just it will benefit everyone else who isn’t them, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, etc. I have the smallest violin in the world and it’s playing for all of them right now.

How can it ever be viable to cater to the minority?

masseffect2stats

This week, Bioware released some statistics they had gathered about how people play Mass Effect 2. One of the things they showed was that 80% of games played featured a male Shepherd.

Now, riddle me this: if you were Bioware and had that statistic to hand, would you think it was worthwhile to keep offering the option of a female Shepherd in ME3? That’s a lot of voice work and artist work for only 20% of the player base. And unlike class distribution, which can be tweaked by making various class abilities more fun or more powerful, people either want to play a female avatar or else they don’t.

And yet, as a female gamer, I’m never going to be in that 80% who want to play a male character (OK, I have a male blood elf alt but BElves don’t count!). Gaming is so male dominated that I’m never  going to be in the majority of players, unless I swear off the games I love and switch to another genre. Any argument that says “Well, most players want more boobs on their NPCs and more bald pasty space marines as their PCs so that’s what we must provide” is always going to exclude me, because I will never be part of that ‘most.’ It will exclude anyone else who wants to be a bit different too. And since I don’t want to go and play Farmville, I pretty much have to grin and bear whatever the market wants to serve up to their majority male audience who have certain preferences in their power fantasies. That’s the reality for most female gamers, although we still have a non-negligent amount of gaming dollars/ pounds to spend.

I don’t for a moment think that Bioware will use these statistics to stop offering female Shep as an option. But I’d wonder if they were tempted to eye the bottom line, just a bit.

What would be so bad about catering to a wider player base?

I am sure that the sorts of things that female gamers typically ask for would benefit most gamers anyway. More crafting, emotionally engaging storylines, more non-combat activities, cosmetic gear, better housing and more roleplaying opportunities. No one would lose out if MMOs catered to a wider playerbase.  Game genres that are popular now won’t just disappear. For example, there will always be shooters. Even the drive towards dumbing down isn’t particularly driven by a female audience but more by common sense and market numbers. An accessible game doesn’t need to be a dumbed down one.

So why do people make such a crazy fuss whenever this subject comes up instead of saying, “Hey maybe you’re right. How can we make our games more inclusive so that you don’t always feel like an unwanted stranger?”

It’s because games are generally designed to appeal to the notional core male gamer. As soon as anyone suggests that perhaps all gaming activity should not be focussed on this marketing ideal, people who fall comfortably into that group will start to bitch like crazy. That’s a good thing, it means that the message is getting through. And yet, going back to the Bioware numbers, we cannot really argue that it would improve the bottom line. We’re asking for something that may or may not be financially rewarding for the developer and that’s a sticky wicket to be on.

Yet, what choice do we really have? Give up on gaming and go back to the knitting, sci-fi fandom, or some suitably feminine pursuit where we will be in the majority? We’re gamers. And this too is a game.

(For the record, I don’t think that WoW is by any means the worst offender. Which is part of the reason that it does have quite a strong female demographic.)

[Dragon Age] Season of the Witch (Hunt)

For any fans of Dragon Age Origins who have been living in a bubble, today marks the latest (maybe the last) DLC release for the game. It’s called Witch Hunt, is set a year or so after the end of DAO and … you’ll get to find out what happened to Morrigan. Not only that, but one of the three companions is the Dog. (Or /A/ dog, if your warden didn’t survive or you want to play a different character.)

Bioware promise the chance here for players to tie up the last loose end from the original game. What happened to Morrigan and her unborn child? Personally, I can’t wait to find out.

The original game had a pretty satisfying ending, so I don’t feel that Bioware have been holding out on anything or released an incomplete game. They’ve also been as good as their word about supporting the game with DLC – a mixed bag according to reviews but a nice collection of different takes on how a DLC should play out. (Surprisingly I can’t find a page reviewing all of them but the pick of the bunch seem to be Stone Prisoner, Warden’s Keep, Leliana’s Song). Do you want a quick gear hunt? A chance to play parts of the game through a different perspective? A prequel from the point of view of one of the companions? More golems?

If they have fallen down it’s partly because players expected the same quality from the DLC as from the original game. A tricky expectation to manage when the original was fully voiced (with the notable exception of the main character) and took years to develop. And the other reason is because when you are paying piece-wise for content, the price is always going to be compared against the original game and the original will always look like better value for money. You can buy DAO for about £12 on Amazon at the moment – that’s about 40-60 hours gaming. A 1-2 hr DLC can’t compare with that for price/value.

I’m glad DAO has done well for Bioware, it was a fantastically enjoyable gaming experience for me so anything that encourages them to do more sits well here. And then all that remains is the inevitable game of the year edition with all of the DLC bundled in. Maybe some DLC-bundles for the holiday season too for people who already own the original.

Anyhow, I’m looking forwards to Witch Hunt. Who is with me? And if you’ve played any of the other DLC, what did you think of them?

Gaming News: Lord British takes NCSoft to the cleaners, EQ2 goes free to play, Where will the social gaming acquisition madness end?, WAR comes to the Bioware forums

Lots of business news this week with some ludicrous amounts of money changing hands over ownership of social gaming developers and sites.

In other news, good luck to the folks at the new WoW shaman forum (totemspot.com) and new mage forums at Mana Obscura. You’ll likely see lots of class blogger names that you recognise on both fora.

Also if you are a keen reader of MMO blogs (I am going to assume this will apply to most readers, otherwise why are you here?), check out the new MMO Melting Pot. Their goal is to pick out interesting posts from around the web, with commentary. And they also keep tabs on podcasts et al. As of now, it’s very WoW-focussed.

Richard Garriot wins lawsuit against NCSoft

The sad story of Richard Garriot (aka Lord British) and his dealings with NCSoft finally comes to a close. This is more of an employment law story than a gaming one, but he claimed that he was forced to resign from his post as NCSoft Austin CEO and then to write letters claiming that it was a voluntary redundancy.

This matters hugely in terms of what sorts of payments he was entitled to on leaving. You tend to have more rights to redundancy pay et al if you are fired than if you choose to leave.

A court decided in his favour and awarded $28million in lieu of the lost pay. I’m always happy when I see companies which try to pull a fast one on employees nailed down by employment law, most of which doesn’t represent all that much protection for employees anyway. Hopefully others in the industry will take note.

Everquest 2 Extended

EQ2 is going to offer a free to play payment option, on separate servers from the current ones – I think I’m rapidly preferring non-subscription over F2P for games funded by microtransactions. Their plans confuse commenters who note that the F2P servers will also have subscription options which offer fewer options than the current subscriptions for the same (or higher) price.

I’m not all that certain that EQ2 will really suit the model, but I’m sure lots more people will at least give the game a try when the new options go live. And it’s another step in the seemingly unstoppable trend towards switching from subscriptions to cash shop payment options. Or at least adding different payment options.

This all seems very experimental to me at the moment. But the separate servers and unimpressive F2P subscription options mean EQ2 at least has plans to dissuade existing subscribers who play casually from immediately switching over and paying less. (Ideally you don’t want players to say ‘you know, suddenly my $15pcm subscription doesn’t look like such great value, I only play  a couple of hours a week …’)

Social Gaming Acquisition Madness – Disney buys Playdom, Gamestop buys Kongregate

Only a few weeks ago, Playdom bought Ralph Koster’s Metaplace. Now they in their turn have been acquired by Disney for the heart-stopping sum of approx $560mill; a little less than that for which the mouse house sold subsidiary Miramax earlier in the month. (note: you may have seen the figure $762mil around the place, that part is actually dependent on Playdom’s performance).

So Disney thinks that social gaming is a better bet than Hollywood, and they may be right. They certainly own a vast number of IPs that could prove fruitful for gaming purposes. But that’s a lot of money for a gaming studio that isn’t right at the top of its field. Or even second. The eMarketer blog has a pithy analysis, wondering whether this will go down in history as one of the notorious acquisitions of the decade. In comparison, EA’s $275mil for Playfish last year looks like a bargain.

US chain gaming retail store Gamestop bought PC casual gaming nexus Kongregate this week also. Kongregate is a great site, home to many great tower defence games, The Elements card game, and doubtless many others I haven’t heard of. They are very upbeat about the news in their blog, unsurprisingly.

But as a non-US person, I can’t imagine that Gamestop has a lot to offer me in terms of things to buy with tokens. This is a general problem with going from a bricks and mortar business into the internet – suddenly you are serving a worldwide population who really don’t care about your US based restaurant/ movie/ netflix rewards. It’s likely they’ll concentrate on the US customers, if driving people to their US outlets is seen as the core of their business.

Note: We see the same trend in twitter with their @earlybird offers. I haven’t seen a single one that would be applicable locally. I really think they should call it @usearlybird or just do internet based offers.

Zynga also have evidently decided that the mere 500 million Facebook users is insufficient of a user base and is exploring new opportunities with google, and also in Japan. They also annoyed players this week by shutting down one of their games, with no reason. (I assume the reason is insufficient profit but these games can’t cost all that much to run …)

In any case, with Disney switching from films into social gaming, Warner Brothers recent acquisition of Turbine, Gamestop looking to online social gaming rather than retail … there is a trend here.

Valve (with Steam) and Blizzard (with battle.net) must be laughing.

Warhammer Forums move to Bioware

Speaking of which, the Bioware social network has recently absorbed the official Warhammer Online forums. I love that if you get to the language option screen on the Bioware forum, they use the Canadian flag to represent English. I’m sure the Quebecois are thrilled to bits with that.

None of the blogs I read had much to say about this, I’m not sure anyone was actually fond enough of the Official Warhammer Forums to care. Besides, it isn’t as if they are going away.

In other Bioware news, Greg Zeschuk has decided that his previous figure of 1 million SWTOR players wasn’t enough. Now he says the sales target of all future releases is 10 million units if they are to be considered major hits.

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this. Over the lifetime of a very successful game, 10 million sales is viable. Or maybe he’s just inhaled too much of the Brighton sea air …

Starcraft 2 is live and on air

Starcraft 2 launched this week, and players and reviewers alike seem pretty happy with it. The press were not allowed to review the single player campaign before launch so I imagine there have been a lot of gaming hours poured into the thing. Kotaku report that someone finished the single player campaign in 16 hours.

Gossip Gamer has a cool visual guide to show the difference between SC1 and SC2. And meanwhile, I saved the Norad II in SC1 – go me!

Some guest posts on the way next week

This is not really news but I’m away for a few days next week so you’ll see some guest posts on the blog here. I think you guys will love them, actually.

Return of the Inflatable Sword

dragon age 2 header

So, last year at Comic Con, one of the things I missed was Dragon Age and the chance to have a play on it. In fact, I skipped the computer games entirely because my main focus was going was to watch TV and film panels.

This year is slightly different and I’m trying to correct mistakes, so, when I had a gap in my ‘schedule’ I decided to leave the Convention Center and check out Dragon Age II.  In fact, as I walked across the road away from the Convention I was even handed a ‘come play Dragon Age II’ postcard, so even serendipity was on my side. I kind of ignored the fact there was also Dead Space 2 in the same location, so sorry about that folks – it’s not my cup of tea so I didn’t pay it too much attention (though I did get an inflatable weapon from them also!).

Ah yes, the inflatable sword swag – something I brought home from last year. They had inflatable swords advertising Dragon Age and I assumed this was just leftover stock, so I grabbed another couple – but these are branded Dragon Age II, so they just must know how much we all loved them. In addition, there were some blood splatter tattoos advertising the game, and showing a good sense of humour about one of the things people (myself included) mocked about the original game.

I should say now, don’t expect any pictures of the game or gameplay – we signed enough of an NDA to cover that, but I did specifically ask about blogs and twitter and that’s all fine, I mean, they obviously want us to spread the word. There was a queue to get in to Dragon Age II, and no queue for Dead Space 2. Make of that what you will. 12 people were let into a room at a time to get some hands-on experience, plus a couple who could stand around and watch, which is the option I took, since I just wanted to SEE the game.

We were treated to a little overview first, explaining some of the main changes and how they’d all come from customer feedback from the first game. The graphics are sharper and use a slightly different style (I thought this would be fairly minor, but when you see the game in action it is genuinely a lot more beautiful!). Fighting is punchier and looks a hell of a lot more responsive – mages now have a cool death blow animation equivalent to jumping up and stabbing things in slow-mo, blood is less ridiculous but still flies around a lot, and some of the spell and fighting effects are just gorgeous – we saw a warrior and mage taking on some hurlocks and an ogre, each showing off their special attacks.

There’s a couple of big differences which I think will prove quite interesting, but obviously which we can’t really see in a short playtest. First of all, the hero is voiced! No more silence. Apparently, this is going to avoid situations such as a silent response to diatribe in a Landsmeet, and the little clip we saw of it was great, but it’s still a very hard one to judge. But, they do have it so you’re not just repeating a dialogue option, the options paraphrase what your char will actually say. Oh, and while we’re on dialogue options, they now have icons next to them that give you a hint how they might affect things (it looks like there are only a handful of icons to get used to though, and I quite like the idea).

Secondly, the narrative structure of the game has changed. The game covers a much longer period than Dragon Age, and is told by a couple of (not necessarily reliable) narrators – the tale of The Champion (that’s you, that is!) and who s/he was. This allows Bioware, and the player to play key points in the life of the character, with each being able to have a massive influence on the rest of the story. Your character escapes Lothering and heads north, and you know becomes The Champion of their new locale (Kirkwall, or something with Kirk in, anyway – sorry, this is all from memory). And the world is on the brink of war by the end of the time period being discussed. So you get to see how this Champion became who they are. I was dubious, but I quite like the idea now. Bioware said it helped them actually show a longer and more fulfilling timescale, and avoided things like an epilogue that just told you what happened years later, now we’ll be able to play so many flashback sessions that we get to see our character’s full story.

The section of playable game was chosen to show off some of the fighting and a little of the dialogue, but it was pretty short. I thought it definitely looked like the combat flowed more and I liked what I heard of the voices and what I saw of the new art style. In fact, there really wasn’t much I didn’t like about the changes and I’m now really looking forward to playing the game, due out in Spring next year – in perfect time for my birthday!

[SWTOR] Player housing, PvP, new video, and more from E3

Star Wars: The Old Republic, as befits the best funded game in history, has put up a strong showing at E3 this week. So here’s a summary of some of the posts and details.

Bioware are very keen to quell any rumours that the game will be a Massively Multiplayer Solo Game. There is going to be plenty of group content, battlegrounds and PvP, raids, instances, the whole shebang.

Now my perspective is that I decided that I wanted to play this thing after playing Dragon Age. Bioware have the ‘it’ factor for RPGs like very few other developers. So the rest of the information is gravy. But for those who have not yet made up their minds ….

But first for something completely different – an unrelated video

New out for E3, the Hope video, showing a battle between Republic and Empire forces on Alderaan (which looks a bit like where my friend lives in Southern Germany).

It looks phenomenal, it also contains no gameplay footage. So what to make of a trailer like this? Enh, enjoy it for what it is. They’re showing off the setting and some of the classes and combat abilities you might see in game. Although the Jedi/Sith get all the best moves, the Trooper (notionally the hero of this piece) looks pretty darned cool as well.

And a far more related video

If you have 30 minutes to spare, also check out the 30 min broadcast on G4 which does include some live gameplay footage. This link above didn’t work for me, but if you can either get to it or saw the show, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Let’s talk about some of the new features announced this week

The two big reveals during the EA session were that players will each get a ship, to use as housing, and that the game will sport some PvP gameplay via battlegrounds.

A ship of my own – whilst some commentators have been going nuts expecting space combat and spaceflight in game, it seems clear to me that this isn’t Bioware’s plan. Maybe in future, but for now, the ship is going to be a private base of operations for your character which can move from planet to planet (eg. as in KOTOR).

You’ll be able to customise the ship, invite friends round to see it, and intriguingly Bioware hint that each class will have a different type of ship. This makes a lot of sense, the game is heavily based on giving people lots of class specific content and who would expect a smuggler to fly the same type of ship as a trooper?

There has always been a disconnect in MMOs with housing between the idea that your house is your home base, and the notion that adventurers wander the world smiting evil. You don’t normally think of Sir Killsalot the questing knight coming home every evening to a cosy cottage with his favourite stuffed dragon head in the garden. And as the game worlds expand (via expansions and new zones), it seems even stranger to be going back to your original home every night.

Obviously magic portals can cover a lot of ground by explaining how these things are possible. But the basic problem that a wandering adventurer probably doesn’t have a permanent home is a storytelling and immersion issue. Having a space ship base in a space game resolves a lot of these issues. Your home moves with you, problem solved.

Battle zones! Bioware announced that players will be able to fight the opposite faction in SWTOR in battle zones (such as Alderaan, shown in the video). I’m not clear as to whether this is limited world PvP (ie. an entire PvP zone and people can drop in or out as they wish) or instanced PvP (such as battlegrounds or scenarios) but expect to hear more about this as the months go on towards release.

More interviews, more information

The fansites and official blogs are also getting more face time with Bioware and a chance to see a live in-game combat demo. Here are a couple of summaries of their experience/ chat, from Massively and Darth Hater.

One thing that comes out of this about classes. In the segment that the press saw, the Trooper acted as main tank, but it sounds as though all of the classes could fill more than one role. So the Jedi consular was healing but also on dps and crowd control. So was the smuggler (a stealth healing class, just what the world needs!). The Jedi knight was dps but also off tanking. And the Trooper was putting out a lot of damage as he tanked.

That probably gives us more idea about how the game will play out, and I like what I’m hearing. Massively also discuss crafting in SWTOR in their interview (it’ll be like WoW)

So, anyone feeling the Force yet?

[SWTOR] I find your lack of excitement disturbing

Slowly, slowly more information is being released about Bioware’s upcoming WoW-killer, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Last week, EA held a press event in London to show off a new playable species, their plans for class customisation and talent trees, and the Bounty Hunter. The link above also includes links to various press reviews of the demo. Most of which are notable for a tone of polite interest masking a lack of any genuine excitement.

Maybe people don’t want or need to get excited about their games any more. Maybe the journalists are so jaded from seeing demos and hype that they’re wary of piling on the plaudits for yet another game that will fail to meet its beta promise.

The writeups politely agree that combat looks fun, the demo story looks fun, and regret that much of the rest of what they saw is still in flux. Eurogamer has taken deserved flak (check the comments) for their MMO reviews recently, but Jon Blyth, reviewing for Eurogamer this time around does ask about plans for more alien races and gets the entertaining answer:

When I ask about others, I’m given an entertainingly evasive answer that they’d only be using humanoid races because love scenes get weird with blobs.

Love scenes get weird with blobs. Someone actually sat down and thought about it then? Hold me Garrus, Bioware are starting to scare me.

Today, the SWTOR Friday update announces their Advanced Class System, aka talent trees. This is Spinks’ lack of excitement. I don’t understand why my character has to choose between being dps or being a tank. Obviously I want to switch depending on what mood I’m in that night and what my friends are doing; or maybe that’s not obvious to anyone except me.

All I can say is that this fourth story pillar had better be absolutely knockout. And the truth is, I’m still so enamoured of the storytelling from Dragon Age and Mass Effect that if they are able to produce a massive version with several months worth of story based content, it won’t really matter if the gameplay fails to excite.

Thought of the Day: Addressing the whole of the player base

I mentioned earlier than Bioware apologised for the fact that their latest competition/ promotion was open only to people in some US states, and not the rest of the world.

I think the basic concept of the Bioware Bazaar is harmless enough, although you wouldn’t know it from the rpg.net reaction. Because no company EVER encourages customers to spam twitter and facebook in return for prizes, do they? (I’m thinking of those companies who got everyone spamming retweets in return for a chance to enter a draw for free iPhones or some apple related prize.) Frankly, if it’s going to happen (and it is), I’d rather see spam about games I like.

But it does raise the issue, why should companies treat their whole player base the same? And when are smartphone users who don’t have iPhones getting an apology from all those MMO developers who have special apps for iPhones but not any of the rest? (Hint: that’s almost as Americanocentric as anything Bioware did.)

Surviving April Fools Day

In the interests of allowing people to make total tits of themselves, I won’t post up links to any of the bloggy April Fools I’ve found so far until this afternoon. Feel free to suggest good April Fool links in comments.

(Big admission, I was going to write an April Fool about some big game company apologising for not including EU participants in something or other, because we know that never happens. But Bioware actually did that yesterday.)

Until then:

Guardian reports on Gordon Brown’s new electoral campaign

The Brown team has been buoyed by focus group results suggesting that an outbreak of physical fighting during the campaign, preferably involving bloodshed and broken limbs, could re-engage an electorate increasingly apathetic about politics.

In other election related news, BMW debuts its new Political Roundel Attachment Tag (PRAT) technology. They have some pictures of it on the homepage. (Thanks, Twoo.)

Kotaku is linking gaming related April Fools as they find them here.

Google introduces a new Animal Translator, bridging the gap between species.

A few more April Fools

Tobold reports that we’ll soon be able to play WoW on Facebook

And We Fly Spitfires has news of paid class changes in the works

TAGN reports on all the official Blizzard April Fools

Tanking Tips has news about a new legendary shield in WoW (about time too!)

Kill Ten Rats offers the one off chance to send ten dead rats to your favourite developer

Troll Racials are Overpowered has seen the light! He’s starting a new incarnation as a gnome paladin.

wow.com has had a change in direction to become Mass Effect Insider (or Leer at Taylor Lautner Insider?) (note: I will laugh if the Twilight stuff sends their hits through the roof.)

More from Bioware: They’ve announced a new 9th class for SWTOR, the Sarlacc Enforcer

Massively.com introduced new premium member services (Thanks, Wilhelm2451)

And props to Andrew Doull who totally had me fooled with his series of posts about Dwarf Fortress 2

As he says himself:

The typical reaction to falling for a hoax is outrage. I want you to put aside that emotion as much as you are capable of and celebrate another – imagination. If you fell for my story, it is because the seeds I planted fell on the cherished soil of fertile and optimistic dreamworld. This should be something you should be proud of. You have the capability to rise above the mundane and cynical, escape the clay around your boots and float away on boundless escapism. You are a gamer.