Devs speak out: “MMOs are for the hardcore.” “Immersion makes people spend more in cash shops.”

For today, a quick look at comments made by developers which caught my eye this week.

Aventurine speak out

Tasos Flambouras, from the Darkfall team, had a Q&A session with Rock Paper Shotgun this week. One of the things he was talking about was the type of players who are attracted to MMOs.

When you play any MMOG, you’re making an investment, these are not casual games and they continuously evolve.

Nothing much to argue about there, you’d think. But commentators have interpreted this as meaning that MMOs are for the hardcore only. They’re right, of course. But it depends how you define hardcore.

Even the most casual MMO player has some kind of ongoing commitment to their favourite game/s and to their character/s. That commitment might go on for months or even years. Even if you just log on once a week to chat to your friends and solo a bit, that’s pretty hardcore compared to most gamers.

But it does go further than that. These are massive, complex games (even if old time players don’t think so). They reward time spent researching or looking up information online. The more time you spend thinking about the game when you aren’t playing it, the better. The more time you put in, the more you get out of the game – that’s been the traditional way things have worked, and it sounds to be the type of game Aventurine are proud of producing. So these are also games which have tended reward players for being more hardcore and challenge them as to who can be the most hardcore guy on the block.

Even if the competitive hardcore aspect was toned down (as is the trend), a casual MMO player would still come across as amazingly hardcore compared with the average gamer.

However, convincing Darkfall players that they’re more hardcore than everyone else has been one of Aventurine’s marketing strategies so it would be surprising if Tasos didn’t mention it several times during the Q&A session. He does forget his hardcore persona and go slightly off-message later in the article when he adds:

Darkfall is not the strictly hardcore game it’s made out to be. We have numerous casual players who enjoy the game as much or even more than the hardcore players. We were also surprised to find a healthy population of role-players during our events.

I’m intrigued as to what a healthy population of role-players is. If you are too, and like full PvP in games, they have a free trial on at the moment.

If a game world is immersive, players will spend more

MMO Crunch post about a report that shows how immersion affects buying habits in virtual worlds. (But they fail at linking to the actual report so I can only comment on their summary – which is that players spend more in immersive worlds.) This sounds plausible to me, although I was sad not to see the report because I’m curious as to how they measured immersion.

But another well known developer also spoke on a similar issue this week. Legendary Nintendo designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, answered questions in a video interview for IGN (partly transcribed by eurogamer.)

And then what happens is as the player begins to understand the world that they’re playing in, then they’re going to begin to think about ways that they can play within that world; they use their own creativity and their own imagination to tell the story or to come up with their own parts of the story, and at the same time they come up with new ways to play in this world that has been created for them.

So in a time when many MMO players have been wondering if devs are giving up on presenting immersive worlds, there are two different angles on why immersiveness might be THE single most important part of a game.

The first argument, straight to the bottom line, is that being involved in an immersive gameworld encourages players to spend more money. And the second, straight to the gameplay, is that players are more encouraged to play in immersive worlds.

So don’t give up hope yet!

Gaming News: What’s hot at E3, APB and the embargo of doom, WAR drops producer, Microsoft still has no sense of humour shock

Mourn with me now for the ongoing death-by-boredom of English football, coming to a TV near you on Wednesday night.

And in other news, another E3 industry convention has come and gone. So what did 2010 have to show? I’ve covered much of the MMO news here with a special SWTOR post here.

The two biggest stories of the convention, to my mind, are hardware related.

  • Sony and Nintendo are betting that we’d all like to see our gaming in 3D – the PS3 will get a compatibility patch for 3DTVs and Nintendo’s new 3DS handheld (no glasses required) will offer a 3D experience. In fact, if I had to pick one single news story from E3, it would be that everyone who tried the new 3DS said – in shock – it just works. And it will also apparently be able to show films in 3D.
  • Sony and Microsoft also showed off their respective motion controller technology. The Sony Move looks like a stick with a ball on the end, and Microsoft’s Kinect (the renamed Natal technology) doesn’t require the player to hold a physical controller at all, it picks up your actions as you move around. But somehow, despite giving a new XBOX to everyone at their presentation, Microsoft doesn’t seem to have captured the journalists’ attention.

Jon Shute blogs at VanHemlock about the various new hardware on offer, and concludes that neither of the two motion controllers seem to be aimed at the hardcore gamer.

The big three E3 presentations

Each of the big console manufacturers traditionally gives a big presentation at E3. The aim is to build up some excitement about their hardware, future plans, and what’s in store for their customers over the next year.

This year, I think Nintendo did the best job of capturing people’s imaginations. The 3DS wowed everyone who tried it. Their software lineup includes new outings for a lot of old favourite franchises (well, if you are a nintendo head anyway) including Zelda, Goldeneye, Kirby, Metroid, and Donkey Kong (yes really). There’s a strong lineup of software on offer for both of their consoles and as an avowed DS fan, I can’t wait to get my hand on a 3DS. I also look forwards to more DS RPGs and puzzlers. All very crowd pleasing stuff.

What Nintendo do extremely well is put the message across that their portfolio offers something for everyone. I’d be surprised if anyone saw that presentation and didn’t find at least one game or genre that caught their interest.

By comparison, Microsoft just can’t seem to get it right. Even when they have technology as potentially exciting as the Kinect, they somehow … miss the mark. Instead of a coherent ‘we offer something for everyone’ message, they just give the impression that they’re incoherent and confused. On the one hand, they’re chasing the 18-30 male gamer with a slew of shooters and a deal with ESPN to show premium sports on Xbox live. To hammer the point home, EA introduced a new Xbox loyalty program called ‘the Gun Club’ – I guess they won’t be including any family type games with that then.  … And then there’s Kinect with some dancing games which M/soft is trying to portray as the Xbox’s great white hope. It does not compute.

Then there’s Sony who are trying to sell people on the future of 3DTV – a rather expensive future given the current recession for sure. Their presentation leaned heavily on third party games, but what a great lineup. Sorcery – a magical combat game based on using the Move controller – sounds amazing, exactly what you’d want of a Harry Potter knockoff.

They also put one over on Microsoft by actually announcing prices for the Move. And also, whilst confirming that the PSN (online aspect of the PS3) will remain free, they plan to offer a premium service which will include extra downloadable content. I think we’ll need to see what’s on offer before people decide whether to go for this or not. The other big news from the Sony presentation is that Portal 2 will be available for the PS3, along with steamworks.

Some of the other games that caught my attention at E3 were Tron, Bulletstorm, Portal 2, the obligatory SWTOR and a whole slew of games for the DS.

No reviews for APB until a week after release?

All Points Bulletin, the GTA-alike PvP based MMO is rumbling towards release at the moment. And the developers decided that now would be a good time to demand that reviewers not release any reviews until a week after the release date. RPS state in this link that response to the beta has not been positive – I’m not so sure. Plenty of rpg.net players seemed to like it well enough.

In reponse to press complaints, Realtime Worlds produced another press release and moved the embargo forwards.

Whilst I understand that MMOs take time to review, the answer is glaringly obvious and is just to read impressions from several different sources – blogs, bboards, professional sites. A MASSIVE multiplayer game needs to be seen from a massive number of views, and most casual blogs also treat foolish press embargoes with the disdain that they deserve. Trying to get a blogger to not tell their mates what they think of their latest purchase is a fool’s game.

Drescher leaves WAR

I had hoped that WAR might be settling on an even keel but in news this week, Josh Drescher (the producer) got the boot. I wish him luck in future – I still do have a soft spot for that game, but it cannot be a good sign.

No more red ring of death

I cringe for Microsoft, I really do. There will not be a red ring of death (the nickname for the indication that hardware has failed) on future XBOXs because …. they’ve removed the red LED.

That’s a classic marketing solution to an engineering problem, by the way.