It’s Not A Pipe Dream

The gaming industry is so bizarre. I’m looking at news articles this morning and chuckling to myself at everything I see. Peter Molyneux has lied about Godus (to the utter shock of no one) and already moved on to his next game about social media and emotions. Valve apparently forgot that in a voting system people tend to do whatever it takes to get those votes. All around us are Kickstarters, early-access titles, and paid alpha/beta tests.

We’re inundated with false promises, half-baked ideas, and incomplete projects. Every day a new ploy to manipulate how people pay for games is being concocted. What happened to saying you’re going to make a game, making it, then selling it? The industry went from selling complete games to giving them away for free, and now they sell ideas for games that might be in the future. Seriously, what the flippin flyin friar tuck is going on?

I’ve said it a dozen times, but I’ll say it again: I’m willing to pay money for video games. I like my video games to be what was promised, finished, and playable. Why is this exchange of value — such an elementary and fundamental concept — so lost to us?

I can afford to pay more than 99 cents for a game. I’m willing to pay $59.99 + tax.  I don’t want to buy experience boosts or items in a cash shop. I’m willing to spend time killing monsters, exploring the world, and actually playing the game. I don’t need extravagant never-been-done-before ideas to get excited about a MMO. I’ll happily take what was done 15 years ago in a simple game like Ultima Online, or EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, or Star Wars Galaxies. I’m even willing to pay $15/month for continued support and development of the game. I’ll even buy bigger expansions and pay full-retail.

Again, I know I’ve said all of that before. Yet every day we slide a little more. Every month there’s a new early-access or F2P debacle. I’m trying hard to vote with my wallet here. I can’t think of a single time I spent money in a F2P cash shop. I’ve resisted buying early-access games I really want because I don’t want to support that model. I just hope we can somehow see a return to the days when people want good games and developers make good games and both sides are happy. Pipe dream? I really, really don’t think it is.

What If The Journey Never Ends?

What if you could play a MMORPG where ‘the journey’ never ends? Whether it’s leveling or some other form of character progression what if you never ran out of new things to do and ways to progress? What if you never hit that wall or crossed that line where you felt like you reached “end-game?”

I’m trying to envision an MMORPG where players can keep leveling and moving on to new areas, or go and experience new adventures, without ever stopping the forward motion they felt from the first day they started playing. Content never dries up, monsters keep getting harder as you progress, etc.

One of my favorite things from EverQuest was how long it took me to level up and “finish” my character. I spent about a year leveling up my main character in EverQuest. Sure, a lot of that was lost to being an altaholic, but I did take a chracter from level 1 to 50 between March 1999 and March 2000. That journey took me an entire year. The very thought of taking a year to level up in an MMORPG in 2015 almost seems taboo.

I remember always having a new area to look forward to. By the time my character reached anywhere close to the max level for an expansion the next one was already presenting me with another six months or more of journey. What if that same kind of never-ending journey came back, or was reworked somehow so that players never, ever, capped out? I think I would like that.

Vertical vs. Horizontal progression is a factor here. The new buzzword/desire is horizontal progression. I think some element of vertical has to exist for this to really be feasible. Vertical progression gives a sense of ‘I was there and now I’m here’ gameplay. Progress that way is more evident, and as we saw in yesterday’s comments a lot of people can get attached to their character and do not want to lose that sense of progression.

I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas for how this idea of the never-ending journey can be done, and whether or not you’d play a game where the end-game did not exist.

Would You Play An MMO With Wipes?

Would you play an MMO with regular wipes? I would! The idea of a fresh start can be exhilarating. A wipe is like a chance to do it all over again differently. Everyone is once again on the same playing field, and the fate of the server is unknown.

The idea of wiping a server regularly would really work best in a game that emphasizes the journey, and not one where the journey is incredibly long. Regular wipes in a game like EverQuest would not have made sense. Regular wipes in UO, however, could work. Narrowing things down slightly more, wiping in a sandbox emphasizing survival and the world itself over individuals would have even better results.

In a way, although it’s not a true ‘wipe’ per se, WoW ‘reset’s every major expansion. Someone starting on day 1 of an expansion can probably catch up to someone who never stopped playing for ten years, but it’s not quite the same in a themepark due to the world not being influenced by the reset.

Playing an MMO that wiped regularly could be fun. I’m trying to think in what ways this could work. On one hand I love the idea of regularly have that reset to give me the ‘fresh start’. I love it. On the other hand I wonder if after a while thing would get old and the depth might go away. The MMO would have to focus so intensely on the world itself rather than character progression, and move along at quite a fast pace.

This wipe/reset mechanic could be incorporated into the game’s design and not simply be a complete wipe, but that becomes gimmicky and shallow if not committed to fully or done without finesse. I’m just rambling now, but I’m trying to brainstorm ways in which a world can radically reset — characters and all — without progress of some kind being lost. Think that one over and share your ideas if you come up with any.

Blizzard Rumors Once Again

Rumors are usually something best left alone, but when it comes to Blizzard rumors they might as well be true. The most recent rumors have made their way to Reddit and are worth a read if you enjoy Blizzard games as I generally do.

Hearthstone is doing incredibly well.  As I have often said, I think this is a great path for Blizzard and any company to take. I think Hearthstone is brilliant and I’m eager for it to come to iPhone. The fact that Blizzard is profiting so much from Hearthstone and outsourcing WoW art asset creation does lend credence to my insane notion that they are slowly phasing out WoW in favor of games like Hearthstone.

Gutting the Diablo 3 team is no shocker as the game itself has seen growing pains and failed to really gain the traction of other Blizzard titles. What’s surprising is that the staff are working on a Starcraft game with Left4Dead, Dayz, and Smite elements. I have no idea how that will all combine together into anything feasible… but I imagine how awesome it might be to play as a Marine in a FPS scenario against other players taking control of zergling and hydralisks.  That could be a blast!

The news that Heroes of the Storm might not be doing so hot, or at least expected to do so hot, saddens me. I like it a lot more than DOTA and definitely way more than LoL. It’s not even out of beta yet and if the rumor is true it might end up being scrapped before it ever begins — Blizzard has done it before (SC Ghost).

Lastly, Overwatch’s business model is being tossed around. I’m convinced it’ll be some sort of TF2 F2P meets B2P (hows that for acronyms?) which will make stupid amounts of cash. That will surprise absolutely no one.

I wouldn’t mind if the rumors all came true. I’ll be sad about HotS but otherwise seems like a direction I’d be happy to see Blizzard go.  Now, any news about Warcraft 4?

P.S. WoW expansions and all that yada yada.

 

I Hope Massively Shuts Down

Massively is shutting down — hopefully. [Update: Confirmed it is shutting down.] If I just caught you off-guard then allow me to explain why I won’t be disappointed and even look forward to the day when Massively is gone.

My biggest issue with Massively, and why this is personal, started back when they were still in their infancy. Some of their writing staff (who I will not name, but they know exactly who they are) thought it would be a good idea to post columns and discussion topics taken almost 100% straight from this blog. That’s right, they cut and paste and completely ripped content from me. It took several emails to their managing editor at the time for them to respond with a simple, “I’ve spoken to the writers and they won’t do it again.” I don’t like thieves.

Syncaine, a fellow blogger, often openly criticizes massively for what I consider my second biggest issue: They have ‘mass media’ opinions. In other words, they’re often full of crap and have no idea what they are talking about. The clickbait and deleting topics when they are wrong rather than retracting is one thing. But for the most part, their writers have no experience with the subjects they are writing about, and often I wonder if they even play the games.

Massively is mass media. Game devs love the eyes it brings to their press releases. Massively loves the ad revenue the game devs bring them. It’s a relationship rarely designed to actually benefit the real gamers unless you seek nothing but ‘mostly accurate’ (and oft spun) news. What bothers me most about this is that Massively breeds ‘argumentum ad populum’ or ‘appeal to the masses’. It’s the fallacious argument that just because lots of people believe it then it must be true.

Massively gets attention because it doesn’t question (unless questioning brings more visitors and revenue). Game devs will fly massively ‘reporters’ out to their HQ or give them exclusives because they know that Massively will deliver the message on-point. Think about it: Would you rather have your game seen by 50,000-100,000 people and have the message be the one you crafted or have it seen by 5,000-10,000 people and have the article be from someone who will give an honest opinion? That’s Massively vs. K&G and other blogs or smaller outlets. I do not mean to villainize game devs or Massively for doing this — it’s business. It makes sense. However, as a result, sites like Massively grow to become the aficionados and given incredible amounts of respect for having so much developer interaction. It has always felt like a ruse to me, but that could also be because I wrote for IGN for a few years and I know exactly how that relationship works. That’s why I left and started this blog.

As always, I want to make sure something is made clear. A few of Massively’s past writers had some passion and experience actually playing the game they purported to write about. For example, Karen Bryan did a nice job writing about the family side of gaming, and I know she was always passionate about EQ2. I won’t condemn all of the writers at Massively, but most of them probably haven’t even played more than one MMORPG, if that.

So I picked on Massively a lot. That’s because they’re an easy target and topical. I can think of plenty more sites just like them. They straddle the line between news and opinion, and their opinions are forced to change to align with what will bring more eyes to their news and exclusives.  It’s frustrating to see hundreds of thousands of people turn into sheeple and believe what they read because they saw it on sites like Massively.  That’s why I won’t shed any tears when the big ‘gaming journalism’ sites topple.