Gaming news: Zombies in Black Ops, FFXIV released, MSoft wants Second Life, Recettear and Minecraft huge hits, Skaven in WAR

So, yesterday was Eurogamer which bore a surprising resemblance to a bunch of gaming zombies wandering around a huge exhibition hall, half of which was full of demos of Assassin’s Creed II.  Arb and I will talk more about our Eurogamer thoughts next week.

  • Things I saw which caught my eye were:
    PS3 Move. I saw a few demos with the Move and … they looked fun. I don’t think my living room is large enough or tidy enough to justify a purchase but it did look cool.
  • Dragon Age 2. Now with less blood spatters but still with some so you know which game you are playing. We cheered when there was a closeup on the blood spatter.
  • Indie Arcade. Didn’t have time to look at all the games, so focussed on a bizarre passive aggressive game which kept telling you to stand away from the computer and not press buttons. Also a fun explory/ platformy game where I amused the guy standing next to me by falling off a cliff and exclaiming, “Oh! I guess that’s not how you use the stairs.”
  • Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Absolutely adorable, and looked pretty fun too.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Reminded me of Uncharted 2, mostly down to the graphics, gameplay and camera angle.

In a press release about SWTOR, Bioware revealed more information about the smuggler. It’s sounding increasingly as though the smuggler IS Han Solo rather than just being inspired by him, and one of the latest reveals is that there is a wookie companion.

Also in gaming news this week was another spat between Bobby Kotick and whoever. I’m getting bored of following these arguments but they seem to get a lot of gaming press. I imagine it will be EA’s turn next week.

Gaming post of the week is Unsubject’s admiration of DCUO’s courageous and brave brave marketing decisions. The game is due to be released in November and we still know virtually nothing about the gameplay – it doesn’t bolster confidence.

Zombies in Black Ops

Activision revealed that Call of Duty: Black Ops will feature a multiplayer zombie mode. Apparently it will involve “brand new zombie experiences”. Your guess is as good as mine.

I don’t pretend to understand where it makes sense for a franchise that has always been fairly solidly based on well researched real world settings to go all zombie on us but zombies are cool, right? (Maybe the new zombie experience is that you actually get to play a zombie!) The game is due to launch on 9th Nov.

Another shooter which is drifting away from being too realistic is Medal of Honor, from which it was confirmed that references to the Taliban were dropped this week. Instead they have been renamed as “Opposing force.” Personally I think they should have just reskinned them as zombies.

Final Fantasy 14 launches on PC

September 30th marked the launch day for FF14.

Feedback I have heard so far has been positive, but keen to point out that the game harkens back to an older style of MMO than recent WoW fans (for example) may be comfortable with.

Microsoft interested in Second Life

The Escapist reported this week on a rumour that Microsoft has a bid in for Linden Labs, noting that LL laid off a lot of staff recently and is known to be in some trouble.

They think that Second Life would fit in great as a virtual world for xbox players. I’m not sure about that one myself, but it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it if the rumour is true.

Minecraft and Recettear show good sales

You may notice on the right hand margin of this page that I’ve included both Recettear and Minecraft under the current list of games we’re playing. (Arb is playing Minecraft, I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I will!).

We think they’re both ace, and so do lots of other people.

RPS reports that Recettear has sold over 26k copies, which is pretty darned good for a little indie PC game relying mostly on word of mouth, a near zero marketing budget, and digital downloads.

However, Minecraft makes that look paltry by apparently taking in $350k profit per day.

These trends all bode well for the indie market. With every awesome game that gets successful, players will be more and more willing to try another one if the word of mouth is good. Both of these games are excellent value for money –- obviously there’s no guarantee either will be up your street but both have demos and it won’t be hard to google a review online.

Skaven in Warhammer Online

Werit writes about (Bioware) Mythic’s announcements of their plans for WAR. Plans which include playable Skaven … sort of. Players will be able to control Skaven, but not in a way that replaces their main character.

I’m a little unclear on the details but it sounds as though players will be able to assume a Skaven role in PvP but there won’t be any supporting PvE for the rat people. Werit compares this to monster play in LOTRO which, to be fair, is enjoyed by a lot of people.

Gaming News: Gamescom News (GW2, Diablo III et al), Skaven for Warhammer Online, Age of Empires goes F2P, Blizzard sues private server, 90% kids in the US play online games

It’s been a week of new trailers and press releases, as opposed to actual news.

One of the more interesting forum snippets that Player vs Developer picked up is that the majority of F2P players in Dungeons and Dragons Online don’t reach the endgame. I’m not surprised by this, given that the free to play model encourages more casual players who’ll tend to be less engaged with a game and probably more likely to drift away if it gets grindy. And also that we know that even in WoW, most casual players don’t get past level 10 in any case. But I also wonder how much of this is the model that allows you to unlock content for all alts at the same time. So once you have bought a few low level instances, you might as well level a few alts through them because … hey, you’ve already paid.

There are also rumours that Realtime Worlds (devs for APB) have found a buyer. Hopefully more news on that shortly.

Bits and Pieces from Gamescom

I thought the Best of Gamescom awards were quite interesting this year in that although Star Wars: the Old Republic was nominated for both best game and best online game, it didn’t win either. Guild Wars 2 won best online game of the convention, though. And that’s via voting from people who were there and tried the demos. I suspect that to be more of a judgement on the demos than anything else, but I really think that the Best of Gamescom category should be made up of games which already won their own categories. And maybe they should make the developers have a steel cage death match fight too.

Also any voting in which Gran Turismo 5 wins out over Kirby’s Epic Yarn is not reflecting my personal tastes so is largely irrelevant to me ;)

Blizzard turned up with some more information about crafting in Diablo III. Comments have noted seeing similar elements to WoW, but I suspect that’s missing the point. Or maybe it is the point. I’m looking forwards to hearing more about D3 at Blizzcon, it’s probably going to be the biggest ever PC game when it does launch. They also commented in interview that Cataclysm needs a couple more months before release.

Arenanet brought a video of Guild Wars 2 gameplay.

(edited to add: Yarr suggests in comments that people might find this to be a better and more informative link.)

There is also a Portal 2 trailer.

THQ also ruffled the Warhammer 40k fans by noting in interview that their upcoming MMO would not allow players to play as space marines from the beginning. I don’t really get why people are upset about this since inquisitors are way cooler!! *ducks the flames* but you probably won’t be able to play those either.

Bioware Mythic mention skaven, fans go wild

Mythic discussed future plans for WAR in an interview this week which mentioned ‘an RvR pack’ which would involve skaven but not as a standard race that players could play from level 1.

They expanded on this  in a chat session. There will be a new PvP zone, new renown ranks to earn, and a focus on open world RvR. We’ll expect more announcements on this fairly soon.

Age of Empires to go Free to Play

Microsoft is planning to release an online version of their popular RTS, Age of Empires. And it will use the free to play/ freemium model.

Apparently there will be levelling and quests and incentives to team up with other people. It will be quite interesting to see how this works out for a RTS game and why they aren’t going the battle.net route of matching opponents instead.

I suspect it’s easier to make and balance a cooperative game. And also, they’re keen to provide some permanence for your capital city which means that it can’t be nuked while you’re offline.

Blizzard sues private WoW server, wins $88mil

So the story is that someone was running a successful private WoW server, with a F2P type model. Blizzard found out and sued them. And was given a huge punitive award by the courts.

Lum notes that the private server had more players than most other MMOs out there, although I think that since it was F2P that most of them probably weren’t paying, or else registered to see what it was all about but didn’t play much. What is real is that the owner earned $3 million from the private server, and with that kind of money on the table, you can see where the incentive lies. And also why Blizzard pressed for a large award.

The question on the table is whether this indicates a large latent demand for WoW to go free to play. I suspect there probably are plenty of people who’d love to pay their way past bits of the  game they don’t want to play, and lots of others who think it would work out cheaper for them with a F2P model.

The kids are online

A report this week based on a survey of 5000 kids across the US showed that over 90% of ‘tween’ kids (8-15) play online games. My first reaction is to be surprised that 90% of kids in the US have access to game capable PCs or consoles and internet connections, so I’m assuming this survey is based purely on those in families which do have these things.

I mean, who gives an 8 year old an iPhone anyway?

More worrying was the facebook statistic:

Facebook is now the favorite website among tween (8-11) boys and teen (12-15) girls.

This is interesting because Facebook’s policy states:

  • No information from children under age 13. If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us. If we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from a child under age 13, please contact us through this help page.”

Yes, you can play facebook games through someone else’s account, but … I wonder. Or is it just that it’s the easiest website for kids to remember and to tell surveys if asked to name one?

EQ2 Extended in Open Beta, has a bumpy ride

The free to play version of EQ2 is now in open beta, so feel free to go try it.

But don’t buy anything (who buys anything in a beta? Honestly, people!!) if you already have a subscriber account, because you might accidentally lose everything. I’m sure SOE will figure out a way to give all the stuff back and fix the bug, but that one is pretty epic.

Having said that, it’s great that people actually do buy stuff in the beta because it helps to find these sorts of bugs.