Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Archive for July, 2010

I’d Do It. Wouldn’t You?

Posted by Stropp on July 31, 2010

So it looks like Richard Garriott has come up trumps in his lawsuit with NCSoft… at least for now, I saw somewhere that they’ll keep fighting.

Good on him. Garriott was treated abominately by NCSoft who sacked him and tried to weasel out of their obligations by pretending that he resigned voluntarily, as determined by the jury at least.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. In reading the comments made on other boards, I’ve seen a couple of commenters complain that Garriott deserved this fate because he chose to go into space to satisfy a childhood dream shortly after the launch of Tabula Rasa, the ‘failure’ of which caused his sacking. The inference in these comments is that Garriott abandoned the players and the game to satisfy a selfish whim.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen these comments. A lot of people were miffed about it, even before the launch of Tabula Rasa. (Personally I think they were just jealous.)

My question to these commentors is, “Huh? If you were offered a once in a lifetime chance to go into space, spend time on a space station, and view this big blue marble we live on from orbit, wouldn’t you take that opportunity?”

I sure as hell would. Even if I was two weeks from release of my game, I’d delay the launch until I had launched and come back… hopefully. Man, if I got the call up on the day before, I’d be there.

Selfish?

Maybe.

The one thing I know, is that we are still a ways off widespread access to space. I’m not counting the suborbital flights that are just on the horizon, as marvellous as they are. Even low Earth orbit tourism is at least 10 to 20 years away, and with high launch costs, well outside affordability for the average millionaire. By the time LEO tourism becomes even marginally affordable, I suspect that even those of us in our 20′s and 30′s will be too old to go up. Those of us in our 40′s will likely be pushing up the daisies. Unless of course there is a Technological Singularity in the next couple of decades, then all bets are off.

So why shouldn’t Garriott, or anyone else for that matter, if they are given the opportunity to do something like that, do it?

Wouldn’t you?

LotRO Allowing Players To Mod The UI With LUA

Posted by Stropp on July 22, 2010

There have been a lot of factors put forward for the success that World of Warcraft has seen over the years. The amount of polish Blizzard put into the game, the casual friendly nature of WoW, even good timing. To be sure, I think that all of those have played a part.

But I also reckon that one of the factors for WoW’s success is the ability of players to modify the user interface using the LUA scripting language.

The original World of Warcraft user interface was pretty ordinary. But over the years, players have added thousands of mods that make nearly every facet of the game easier to manage. Sure, some of the mods have made some activities too easy, so Blizzard has effectively nerfed them. The Decursive addon comes to mind here. But for the most part, lots of mundane activities have been made more manageable.

It looks like the folks over at Turbine think this too. Massively have posted about the recent announced that they are going to open up Lord of the Rings Online to allow players to create LUA based scripts. The only restrictions so far are no botting or macroing.

I reckon this is a great idea. User interfaces are not easy things to design and I think you can see this in a lot of games, not just MMOs. They can take a long time to get right, and aren’t always suitable for all players. A bad user interface can dramatically reduce the amount of time a player will put up with the game. By allowing players to mod the UI, not only does Turbine extend the life of their game for some players, they have access to thousands of amateur user interface developers and can do what Blizzard have done over the years — take the best ideas and incorporate them into the game.

I’ve always been at a bit of loss as to why other developers haven’t done the same. It’s certainly worked for Blizzard, and you’d expect with so much copying of Blizzards look, feel and gameplay elements going into other MMORPGs, that UI modding would be copied too.

If this initiative is successful for Turbine and Lord of the Rings Online, then perhaps we’ll see more in future games.

http://www.massively.com/2010/07/20/turbine-expands-on-lotros-lua-scripting

Schilling Announces Amalur. Just Another World of Warcraft Clone?

Posted by Stropp on July 21, 2010

The news is out. 38 Studios have announced the real title of the long in development Project Copernicus, and it is called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

So just some initial thoughts.

  • I’m not taken so much by the name. Kingdoms of Amalur sounds pretty generic to me, but that may just be the result of seeing so many MMORPGs with similar names.
  • Speaking of generic, and quoting through Heartless_ of Heartless_Gamer, RA Salvatore says that he has created a Tolkienesque 10,000-year-long back story: “I think we can say that we are talking about a high fantasy world with multiple races.” I tend to agree with Heartless_ on this point. A high fantasy Tolkienesque world? Why?
  • YAHFWLG? (That means Yet Another High Fantasy Warcraft Like Game?) Are we going to see Orcs and Elves yet again? Paladins? Warriors? Mages?
  • Generic World of Warcraft clone comes to mind.
  • I’m definitely disappointed by this announcement.

Look. I don’t mind fantasy games. In fact I quite like and enjoy them, and love Tolkien, but High Fantasy has been done to death. It’s time for something different.

The crazy thing is that there is so many other fantasy styles out there. I loved The View From The Mirror (Amazon) and The Stone Mage and the Sea (Amazon) series’ by Aussie authors Ian Irvine and Sean Williams respectively. There’s not an Orc or Elf in sight. They’re just wonderfully conceived fantasy worlds. Robert E Howard created the richly detailed Conan universe, and while that particular world is claimed by Age of Conan, there is nothing stopping anyone else using those concepts in a game. And then of course, there is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series from which to get some inspiration.

Remember when the Mad Max and Terminator movies came out? (I’m showing some age here) They quickly became cult classics. And suddenly Hollywood starts releasing a whole lot of B-Grade post-apocalyptic movies, some with Robots From The Future and some without. Many of these movies are lost in time, and best left there.

Sometimes I feel this way about MMORPG games. EQ, a success, spawned WoW, a megahit, and suddenly the bad B-Grade copies start popping up.

Now to be fair, we don’t have too much detail on Amalur yet, and 38 Studios might actually be doing something quite radical with the design of the game. But frankly, this initial announcement doesn’t give me much hope that this game will be, as the USA Today article says, a breath of fresh air.

It feels like more of the same.

Update: It looks like I am mistaken and Amalur isn’t Project Copernicus after all. It turns out that it’s an action RPG that 38 Studios are developing called Project Mercury, which I hadn’t heard about before. This other USA Today article gives more details on that. My apologies to 38 Studios. Thanks for the tip Longasc.

Stropp on Facebook

Posted by Stropp on July 16, 2010

I had forgotten that I set up a Facebook account for this blog a while back, in fact it was quite a long time ago that I did set it up. I think at the time I had seen how a Facebook profile could provide a better rounded experience for blog readers. Instead I ended up focussing on Twitter for the whole social networking thing.

But just recently I’ve received a few eMails from Facebook telling me that I have a few friend requests pending. So I hopped in a little while ago and approved the requests.

Of course nothing is ever as simple as that, and I spent a little while setting things up properly, for instance adding the profile picture, likes, and some info about me (my gaming persona) and the blog. I also have an unpublished fan page for Stropp’s World, but I need to work on that a little more before I do publish it.

I was even lucky enough to get the vanity URL, http://www.facebook.com/stropp which I expected to be taken. If you’d like to friend me on Facebook, that’s the link to click on as it will take you straight to my profile. I’ll try and accept your requests as soon as I can.

Power To The People

Posted by Stropp on July 10, 2010

Power To The Players

There were a few people who didn’t think that Blizzard would back down over requiring their forum posters to use real names through Real ID, but it appears that they, in fact, did. Mike ‘Nethaera’ Morhaime posted on the Blizzard forums saying that, at least for now, real names would not be required.

It does appear that the response from the World of Warcraft player base gave the folks at Blizzard quite a surprise. Up until this post the very few blue responses, from WoW Europe, were along the lines of, “Hey we hear you, but this Real ID thing is set in stone. Tuff cookies…”

I suspect that for once the number of players saying that they had cancelled their subscriptions over Real ID did actually match up with reality, or came close to it. My guess is that someone took a look at the account cancellation graph after three days and saw a spike far above norm. I’d love to know actually how many did decide to leave the game.

It just goes to show that the only real way that a consumer can effect change in a company policy is by voting with the wallet.

Now the big question for Blizzard is if they can regain the trust of these players enough to win them back.

Real ID Is A Golden Opportunity

Posted by Stropp on July 8, 2010

Blizzard’s completely insane move towards destroying their customers privacy might actually be a golden opportunity for other MMORPG publishers.

All they have to do is get all loud and vocal about how they’ll never violate your privacy and how they respect your right to be anonymous. Add a few humorous adverts poking fun at Blizzard, and I’m sure they’ll capture more than a few of the players quitting World of Warcraft over this issue.

Mr Developer, this is called a Unique Selling Proposition, something I’ve been learning while doing my business planning. It means that in order to do well in a market, you have to offer something that the other guy doesn’t. In this case, a respect for privacy and anonimity is something you can show that you do better than Blizzard.

Now You Have To Use Real ID If You Want To Post

Posted by Stropp on July 7, 2010

Wow! Just wow… and no that’s not a pun.

I get up this morning and check my feeds before heading out and what do I see?

Blizzard has decided to force users of the official forums to use Real ID. That’s right, if you want to post or reply to a post on a Blizzard forum (World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Battlenet) then your real life details will be available for the world to see. Unsurprising, the thread linked to above is huge, and the other on the WoW forums is the longest ever.

That’s a game changer to me. In a previous post I stated the reasons why I will not use Real ID when playing WoW, so there is no reason to go into them again now. But suffice it to say, this is making me think twice about resubscribing to WoW for Cataclysm, and even about buying Starcraft 2 in the first place. At the very least I won’t be posting to the official forums again.

There’s always a silver lining though. The owners of unofficial WoW and SC2 forums will probably find that membership on their sites improves as people who don’t want their personal details posted online migrate over. If you own such a forum, now might be the time to put a bit of polish and shine on it.

Hopefully the amount of people on the forums against this will bring Blizzard to their senses.

Themeparks Vs Adventure

Posted by Stropp on July 6, 2010

Wolfshead has just posted his second post on The Emasculation of MMOs. As usual his arguments are very well thought out and contain a lot of good points about the state of the MMORPG genre. However, I really do think that he doesn’t truely understand people and their motivations.

Early on he states.

I daresay the majority of people who enter MMOs today would prefer to be immersed in a virtual world of adventure than deposited into a theme park of amusement and fun if offered the choice. Sadly, that choice is not available in today’s market. Instead the player just follows along the predetermined storyline that the quest designers lay out in front of them. Never questioning, never deviating from the golden path.

I daresay that he’s right that some people who enter MMOs would prefer the adventure, but the majority? No, unfortunately humans love the easy way.

Just look at the number of people who go on, lets say, an adventure camping trip as opposed to going to Disneyland for their holidays. The theme park attendee numbers vastly overwhelm the wilderness sandbox folks. Despite the absolutely amazing things you can do in nature (an off the trail horseback ride in Alaska’s Denali National Park with just me and the guide was one of the most marvelously memorable things I’ve ever done) the sad fact is most people will spend all their holidays staying in motels and going to Disney and Six Flags. If they ever do something adventurous, it will probably be only once.

It ends up being simple economics. All companies, not just game developers, will go to where the market lives. And, the bigger the company, let’s say Blizzvision, the more compelled they are to reach the biggest market possible. Hence Blizzard will continually refine World of Warcraft to meet the expectations of casual gamers who want their games to be fun, and not an adventure.

This is also why the big game developers aim for the status quo of MMO design. They’re after the casual segment. They can’t afford not to aim for the casuals.

The good news is that there are plenty of small niche adventure businesses out there that target the much smaller market. The guide who took me on the cross country horseback ride was in the process of packing up for the winter and moving down south. He targeted a small niche market out in the boonies that made him a good enough living to run that business on half a years revenue. Would he have made more money offering pony rides in the Disneyland carpark? Maybe, but the risk of being put out of business by the big company would have been higher.

In the same way, there are game developers that are targeting the niche MMORPG market. CCP for example with Eve Online. It’s no Blizzard, but it’s happily making good money running a sandbox game that players love.

Perhaps that’s where the immediate potential for change in the MMORPG market lies. The niche developer, not the giant game publisher.

And, one other thing. I’ve also been to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and other theme parks, as an adult. They were fun and engaging and I had a great time.

So are theme park MMORPGs. What’s wrong with fun?

Things That Make You Go Hmm

Posted by Stropp on July 1, 2010

I was reading a little about how one of these copyright groups in the US was suing tens of thousands of unnamed individuals who downloaded the Hurt Locker and Uwe Boll’s Far Cry amongst others and a single thought occurred to me.

Someone downloaded a Uwe Boll movie? Inconcievable!

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