Paid Mods

Steam has once again made a move toward monetizing all things games and placing themselves smack dab in the middle to take a cut. Now the Steam Workshop is going to support “paid creations” aka paying for mods.

I’m not going to come right out and say that I am in blanket opposition to all paid mods. There are some mods that end up being better than the original game. In fact, some of the best games we’ve ever seen come straight from studios who started out as being mod developers. I support this 100%. Some mods are good enough that I have and would in the future donate to the creator.

Part of what makes mods so incredible is the that they are largely free. The people who make these mods are downright passionate about what they do, and they are doing so fueled entirely by that passion. What we see from them is a result of their own desire to create the mod, make a name for themselves, or do something fun. When you monetize modding, something special there is lost. Motivations change.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else's work for profit.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else’s work for profit.

Modding in general has often been what feels like an open-source community. People take mods and combine them with other mods to create the perfect modding packages. Sometimes mod devs would tweak someone else’s mod and create something new. Paid mods have only been available for like 24 hours and Steam has already taken down a mod for “using the work of other modders.” This is just the beginning.

Part of what feels so slimy here is Steam. I don’t like Greenlight, I don’t like their early access stuff, and I don’t like the idea of them creating a marketplace for mods. I don’t like the precedent. Personally, I hope it doesn’t take off. I hope most game studios will not allow their games or brands to be monetized in this fashion.

Good mods do not go unrewarded or unnoticed. There are many examples where mod devs actually get recruited to work at the company that made the game they modded. I’m torn between this feeling that mod devs should be compensated for their work, and a desire to never have to pay $5 to download a map mod for Skyrim. I can’t shake my gut feeling that says, “Keen, this doesn’t seem right.”

Update: Steam is also now removing links to off-site donations. You know those “If you like this mod consider donating to the creator” solicitations? Yep, gone. Looks like Steam wants their cut.

Nintendo Smart Device Games & Multi-platform Gaming Network

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Huuuuuuge news coming out of Tokyo this morning! Nintendo has formed a massive partnership with mobile gaming giant DeNA to bring Nintendo’s IPs to smart devices as well as develop a multi-platform gaming network spanning across PC, smart devices, Wii U, and 3DS. This news is INCREDIBLE for people like me and Graev who have always wanted Nintendo to finally get into some form of online service.

Nintendo has always been afraid of diminishing the value of their handheld consoles like the New Nintendo 3DS XL by releasing games on platforms like the iPhone, but with this multi-platform gaming network perhaps allowing all of these devices to interact in some way, it can only strengthen the power of their overall trend toward ‘mobile’ gaming.

Here are a few key notes from the announcement:

  • All apps/games will be new games (not ports) based on the Nintendo IPS and will utilize the characters, etc.
  • ALL of Nintendo’s IPs are up for grabs
  • The games will be designed toward “more premium experiences” on the smart devices (aka the higher priced games)
  • The multi-platform gaming network will be an”online membership service”
  • Nintendo gets 10% of DeNA, and DeNA gets 1.24% of Nintendo

I’m stoked. I love my iPhone 6 Plus, and I love my New Nintendo 3DS XL. If I can get nintendo games on my iPhone then I can ‘game’ more inconspicuously in places where busting out my 3DS is a little less socially acceptable than staring at a phone. I’m betting it’s only a matter of time too before Nintendo’s eShop will be available on their ‘online membership service’ allowing us to download these “ports” of games they supposedly aren’t working on right now. Give it time. It’ll happen.

I’m also really excited for the possibility that Nintendo may actually have something a little more like Xbox Live. It will be a platform that connects all players regardless of their device, and it will perhaps finally allow for the multiplayer experiences I’ve been wanting in my Nintendo games.

Keep Your Eye On Crowfall

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When it comes to community, crafting, and virtual worlds you can consider me a super-fan. I have written post after post since we started blogging in 2007 about UO and SWG crafting, relying on other players, creating virtual economies, etc.

There’s a new game on the horizon — a tiny speck on the horizon — worth looking at: Crowfall.

There aren’t a lot of details. Lots of little tidbits of info are dropping out there, and some bigger announcements are being teased. Their interview on MMORPG.com caught my attention. Here’s a snippet:

There are a ton of lessons to be learned looking at games like Star Wars Galaxies and EVE Online which had and still have success with their crafting and economic loops. From a very high altitude, crafters need to be able to: craft unique items, explore new recipes and profit from the results of this exploration, and create customized items for all styles of play. Crafters must have an audience to buy their goods. The loop between crafter and combatant has to exist! And, ideally, crafters need to be able to “mark” their product so that they can build a social reputation and a following.

The very concept that players can and will lose their items at some point is required, otherwise the game loop breaks. It is a very controversial topic for those who don’t like the potential of losing their items, and we understand that.  But sometimes you have to embrace ideas that may not be popular at first glance, because they open up amazing areas of gameplay that are otherwise not accessible.

They’re saying the right things. Some of the leads on the team have experience with SWG, UO, Shadowbane, and other older great titles. They’ve brought in Raph Koster as a consultant or sorts to weigh in on the project’s crafting side. Sounds to me like a team looking to hopefully make a game harkening back to the games these guys enjoyed — the same games I keep preaching about.

Here’s hoping!

Keen’s Most Anticipated Games of 2015

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Star Wars Battlefront

Uh… need I say more? It’s friggin Battlefront. It’s like Star Wars meets Battlefield. The original Battlefront games were quite fun, and with the advances in today’s shooters I’m excited to see what they come up with. I can see myself flying a snow speeder and roping some walkers. Want. Now.

The Legend of Zelda Open World

The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Greav has always been the diehard Zelda fan, but I’ve always enjoyed the franchise. The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is going to be my first real purchase of my very own Zelda game where I plan to sit and play through it all. The reason why is because of the change of pace. Nintendo is going with more of a larger open world similar to what we find in western RPGs like Elder Scrolls games.

Little else is known about the game except that there are going to be lots of side missions. Miyamoto has stated that he expects players will even forget what their main goal is due to being lost in how much side stuff there is to do throughout the world.

No Man’s Sky

Every galaxy, planet, mountain, creature, and pixel is procedurally generated. Everything is explorable. Fly from one planet and seamlessly enter the atmosphere and fly into space and land on the next. The video below will do more justice than I can showcasing what this sci-fi survival and exploration game will be like.

Honorable Mentions

  • Star Fox (Wii U) – Nice change of pace for Nintendo to focus on a game we haven’t really seen too much of in the last 10 years.
  • Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Huge and dangerous open world.

What’s on your list?

Keen’s Thoughts On Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha

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I finally got into Heroes of the Storm technical alpha a week or so ago, and after spending several hours going head to head with heroes, villains, and well-known characters from all of Blizzards IPs, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

First impression: Blizzard polish is (duh) amazing. They enter the MOBA scene years after so many others yet create a game that just ‘feels’ great. I don’t need to go into details about the UI being great or the game running smooth. The map is standard MOBA with a Blizzard flare (more on that in a moment). It’s all flawless, and that’s to be expected. Go watch a youtube video if you want to see more.

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Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

Gameplay centers solely around improving your team’s heroes faster than your enemy. Hero customization comes in the form of choosing talents and abilities that actually make the customization in HotS significantly better than most if not all other mobas out there. As you level you get to choose to upgrade abilities, and you have to make a choice of which ability will receive which upgrade. Upgrades may make an ability do more damage or gain an effect.

hots-arthas

As you play heroes more and win games you unlock new traits for them and gain experience to level those heroes up. This encourages you to pick a hero, buy it (yay cash shop?) and rank it up.

HotS also has mounts. It wouldn’t be a F2P or a Blizzard game without mounts. These can be activated by pressing Z and make moving around the battlefield when traveling a little bit faster. They can also be customized (more later).

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What makes Heroes of the Storm unique is the interesting gameplay twists. Throughout the match there will be timed events to gather things or beat the enemy team at performing a challenge. In the Halloween map ‘Cursed Hollow’ the goal is to curse your enemies by collecting the tributes. This curse makes the enemy creeps have 1 HP — a great way to push their base. Another map I’ve played had players entering into a goldmine (good ole classic Blizzard gold mines) to slay undead and collect tokens to spawn a boss that would fight for your team.

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The free-to-play component of HotS disappointed me. I hate games that only make certain heroes available each week. It’s like League. I prefer DOTA2’s method of giving you every hero. You’re forced to buy heroes and they ARE NOT CHEAP. Some range from $3.99 up to I think I saw one for like $10? It’s crazy. Yes, you can unlock them with the in-game ‘gold’ you earn slowly by playing normally. Other things like mounts, cosmetic skins, and the usual fair can be found. Blizzard clearly likes Riot’s business model.

Worth playing? Yep! Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun despite being a somewhat obvious cash grab. If you’re like me you’ll look to find the most value possible without paying a cent. I can have plenty of fun for free.