Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Blizzard Giving Us Great Coffee And Cherry Pie

Posted by Stropp on June 9, 2010

From WoW-Europe: As part of the upcoming Cataclysm expansion, Blizzard is adding a new Battleground to World of Warcraft called Twin Peaks.

It’s a Warsong Gulch, capture the flag style area for 10×10 players. I’m not sure what level we’re talking about, but given the area is the Twilight Highlands, players will probably need to be a higher level before Twin Peaks kicks in.

Given Blizzards penchant for peppering World of Warcraft with pop culture references there’s bound to be a few referencing the 1980′s TV show of the same name. At some point we’ll simply have to hear, “She’s dead… wrapped in plastic.” Will there be a diner that sells great coffee and cherry pie, or a wierd red velvet room with a dancing backwards talking dwarf?

I’ve got that series on DVD. I might have to have another look.

2010 Prognostications

Posted by Stropp on December 25, 2009

225px-Nostradamus_by_CesarIt’s kind of an expected activity for bloggers these days. At the end of each year, we make a bunch of predictions for the coming year and review the ones we made last year. But since I didn’t actually make any predictions last year, there’s only one thing to do.

Make some predictions for the coming year, 2010.

I did consider writing my predictions in some form of abstract poetry like our friend Nostradamus (pictured right.) After all, anything written in an abstract and obtuse manner can be interpreted as 100 percent correct after the fact. But really, where’s the fun in that? And writing poetry isn’t really my forte — There once was a man called Enis…

So time to put on my silly hat and on to the prophetically predicted prognostications.

Prediction 1: The release date for Star Trek Online will be pushed back from the initial February date at least once, possibly twice.

Reason(s):  Not many modern MMORPGs or their expansions actually make the first release date. There’s always more to do, and beta testing often reveals serious problem that need to be corrected.

Probability: 90%

Prediction 2: Blizzard will release Cataclysm late in the year around November, or early 2011 in February.

Reason(s): Based on past experience, these are the dates that Blizzard releases their expansions.

Probability: 80%

Prediction 3: The Star Wars: The Old Republic release date (the rumoured October 2010 date) will be massaged in a similar fashion as the date for STO, but I expect that EA-Bioware will announce and push for a November 2010 release.

Reason(s): EA are going to want a successful MMORPG on the streets sooner, rather than later. Since the rumours (apparently coming from EA) so far indicate a late 2010 release for SWTOR, I’m expecting an announcement sometime around June. The rumoured October date may be announced, but I expect that will be pushed back to late November in time for Christmas stockings.

Probability: 50%

Prediction 4: Corollary to Predictions 2 and 3: Blizzard will wait until EA-Bioware announce the release date for SWTOR and then announce the Cataclysm release date to be around the same time.

Reason(s): This appears to be a standard policy at Blizzard. For the last few years, when a threat to World of Warcraft’s dominance appears, real or perceived, Blizzard times their expansions or major announcements in an attempt to steal their competitors thunder. Some of this might just be unfortunate timing, but it’s happened a number of times. SWTOR is a very high profile game with a good chance to become at least number two in the MMORPG space and give Blizzard a run for their money. I’d be very surprised if Blizzard doesn’t try and slow them down, and releasing Cataclysm (which is effectively a reboot of WoW) will throw a huge monkey in Bioware’s wrench.

However, if Bioware don’t release late 2010 or early 2011, Blizzard will be forced to release Cataclysm well before SWTOR and that won’t have as much of a negative effect.

Probability: Very High if Bioware intend to release SWTOR in 2010.

Prediction 5: The micro-transaction model will be applied to more existing games.

Reason(s): A bit of a no-brainer this one. In some ways 2009 was the year of micro-transactions for Western MMORPGs with Dungeons and Dragons Online proving that the model not only works, but can re-invigorate a game that was previously struggling on the subscription model. I expect that we’ll see the DDO model adopted more and more for other games that haven’t been as successful as the developers have hoped and there will be some MMORPGs announced in development by Western developers intended to be micro-transaction based.

Probability: 100%

Prediction 6: In 2010 the MMORPG communities will be rocked by IP type lawsuits with far reaching implications.

Reason(s): I pretty much hate making this prediction, but based on the increasing number of patent troll lawsuits in other technological arenas, there’s a good chance that there will be one or more lawsuits in the coming year that will be won by the trolls, and may result in either the termination of a game or the radical modification of game play to comply with the IP requirements. In fact there is already a case going on initiated by a company called Worlds.com that has serious implications for MMORPG companies.

As an aside to this, it’s also possible that there will be at least one lawsuit between two MMORPG companies. This could be between two of the big players (which is less likely) or between one of the big boys, possibly EA or Blizzard, and one of the smaller players in the market.

Probability: 70%

Now for some long-shot predictions.

Prediction 7: Turbine will announce that they are going to move Asheron’s Call to a free to play, micro-transaction model. This will cause fuss in the AC community, but Turbine will sweeten the pot by creating a new client for the game.

Reason(s): AC is still being supported by Turbine with new content each month, so they haven’t consigned it to a maintenance status. Coupled with the increased interest on the tenth anniversary, Turbine will see an opportunity to reinvigorate the AC franchise.

On the other hand they may just announce Asheron’s Call 3.

Probability: 10%

Prediction 8: Blizzard will announce the name and details of their new MMORPG.

Reason(s): It’s entirely possible that Blizzard will announce the details of the new game sometime in 2010 simply because there’s a lot of interest. I’m giving it a lower chance of happening because the game isn’t expected until 2014ish and Blizzard don’t tend to make early announcements. It may happen in the coming year or two, but there’s a better chance of an announcement in 2012.

Probability: 10%

Prediction 9: SOE will announce Everquest 3.

Reason(s): There was some buzz a while back about SOE working on Everquest 3. It was apparently mentioned in the last chapter of a book on MMORPGs by someone at SOE. Personally, I’m skeptical. I’m not sure SOE will want to risk damaging the EQ2 population and diminishing that game.

That said however, there would definitely be a contingent at SOE pushing for a new EQ, and there’s a possibility that SOE will act (or has acted) on that push. EQ2 is now five years old, and it would take three or four years to develop EQ3. If SOE have been working on EQ3 for more than a year, there’s a good chance it will be announced this year for release sometime in 2013.

Probability: 20%

Prediction 10: EA will announce the next Ultima Online MMORPG.

Reason(s): This is a real long shot mind you, but there have been a few attempts at getting a sequel to Ultima Online. Ironically, the original sequel UO2 was canned because someone thought it would negatively impact on UO. Now, after 12 years of UO, a sequel won’t be nearly so bad for the game. You can be guaranteed someone at EA has thought about it.

However, given EA’s recent sackings, and their consolidation of their interests, it’s highly unlikely that such an announcement will be made this year. But I did want to make one really really way out prediction.

Probability: 1%

So there you have it. My Christmas-time predictions for the next 12 months. Fortunately I’m not taking or placing bets on these ham and turkey induced prophecies as things rarely turn out the way anyone expects. About the only thing I can guarantee will happen is that the MMORPG industry will continue to change and mature. But whatever happens, it should be interesting to watch.

A Cataclysmic Weekend

Posted by Stropp on August 23, 2009

Certainly in more ways than one since my little household companion is spending the weekend at the vets with them attempting to bring a high feline fever down. Some of the conversations I’ve had with the vet make me wonder if she isn’t the veterinarian version of House in regards to our discussions of diagnostic techniques. Good news is the fever has dropped a bit, bad news is that they’re not sure what’s causing. Worse news is likely to be the bill!

But apart from puns about cats and cataclysms, there has been a lot more been said regarding Blizzards announcement during Blizzcon about the Cataclysm expansion. The weekend is usually pretty quiet on the blog front. A lot of bloggers seem to post less frequently on weekends (including me) but this weekends annoucement certainly put the cat among the pigeons… sorry.

The big news was that the rumors that leaked a couple of weeks about turned out to be true. Apparently the Blizzard guys weren’t too happy about that one. No one likes to have their thunder stolen (although, that does seem to be the Blizzard M.O. in making major huge annoucements and releases when other game companies are making theirs, perhaps they’ll  know a little how it feels now) but the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the rumors took the edge off.

Myself. I was taking the rumors with a grain of salt like many other bloggers. I did however post a bit of conjecture about the nature of the Cataclysm expansion a little while back that was more than a bit tongue in cheek. In that I said that the Cataclysm would destroy old Azeroth allowing Blizzard to have players start at a high level instead of having to go through all those old levels. Probably the biggest surprise of the weekend’s announcements is that they are going to do just that. Well, not exactly that. Some zones will be apocalypized, The Barrens, Darklight Woods, but they won’t be upping the starting level as far as I can tell. BTW, are they destroying Stranglethorn Vale? If not, I hope at least those loose pages of the Greenhills of Stranglethorn end up getting consumed in the destruction!

The one thing that did occur to me reading all the news from the con was that it seemed an awful like Blizzard was heading down the path of the New Game Experience (NGE) that SOE went down with Star Wars Galaxies. (I did see that Genda had the same thought.)

There seem to be some substantial changes that are going to be made to the game, revamping old zone not withstanding, especially concerning changes to the game mechanics. This isn’t that surprising really. Blizzard have made changes to how everything, damage, healing, have been calculated before and this doesn’t seem to be something they would shy away from. As Genda said, it’s a brave move, but not so much because of the changes, but because they are happening in the context of so many other changes.

The most surprising thing to me was the announcement of the new level cap being 85 instead of 90 or 100, and the addition of the new Goblin and Worgen races.

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years regarding how Blizzard seem to be focussed solely on a vertical progression with World of Warcraft by simply adding to the level cap and adding more and more endgame raid content.

Personally I think its a positive sign for the long term health of World of Warcraft that Blizzard are looking at adding horizontally to WoWs progression. If the game only ever added levels, at some point it would become too daunting for new players to start, and for existing players to create alts. That can’t be good for a continued business plan.

As for release dates. It’s probably too soon to speculate, but in the past Blizzard have announced the expansion around six months before the planned release date which ends up becoming a twelve month time frame. Wildly guessing, I expect an initial date will be for second quarter 2010, with the game actually releasing sometime in November.

Of course, if Star Wars: The Old Republic ends up announcing a firm release date, Cataclysm’s date will be announced shortly thereafter to be in close proximity to Bioware’s release.

Now let the Cataclysm speculation and analysis begin!

What do you reckon?

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