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Keen’s E3 Wrap-up

E3 can be summed up in one word for me: Expensive.  The past few E3’s have really left me feeling… not disappointed, but wishing there was even more.  This year, two new consoles and a ton of games were announced.  Both the Xbox One -and- the PS4 look great to me.

Kitty MarioLike Graev, I really don’t participate in the console bashing.  I want fun games; I buy consoles with fun games.  I own a Wii U, and I will eventually own both the PS4 and Xbox One.  For now, I’m sold on the PS4 being the first of the two consoles I buy, with the Xbox One coming as soon as I can squeeze a few hundred more dollars out of my paycheck.   My reason for going PS4 first?  Microsoft lost me when they took their emphasis off gaming.  It’s that simple.

Nintendo was my overall winner based purely on what excites me the most. I think Nintendo is really trying to prove they understand that everything they do should be catering to their fans. Just look at the list of games they showed off:

  • Super Smash Bros.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team
  • Yoshi’s New Island
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
  • Mario kart 8
  • Sonic Lost World
  • ‘A New Title’ developed by Monolith
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Legend of Zelda: WindWaker HD

[Read more…]

Titan delayed until 2016

wow escalation

It’s like they were trying to tell us something…

Okay, so maybe I was wrong about Blizzard wanting to use the natural lull to wrap up WoW and hype their next game.  In usual Blizzard fashion, Titan is rumored to be delayed until 2016.  And by delayed they mean 70% of the team is reassigned and they are starting over. Didn’t we all see this coming? Pretend you did. This reminds me of Ghost; when Blizzard was going to release the console game at the end of the original Xbox’s generation (not to be confused with Xbox One) but decided not to at the last moment and completely cancelled the game.  Most of the reasons why Titan is delayed are likely technology based, but part of me hopes deep down they want to make a truly different game.  They probably realized there’s no such thing as a WoW killer, and the more people try and label the next game a WoW killer, the more it solidifies WoW when players come running back to resubscribe.

But really, what the heck are they going to do with WoW?! Now I’m positive they’re going to really mix things up and go F2P or some new hybrid model.  Do they need to? No, but people are realizing that WoW is old and they’re wanting to move on and do something new.  Blizzard has to provide their players with a reason to keep playing, or create a new reason to attract large numbers of players.  Either some amazing changes to WoW gameplay, and amazing expansion packs (*cough* Burning Legion *cough*), or a shakeup.  WoW still has millions of people more than the next game, but I can’t imagine they’re really okay with the numbers dwindling without a plan to gather them all up and funnel them into a new game.

The only thing I know with absolute certainty now is that World of Warcraft is going to get bigger before it gets smaller (google: define escalation).  I was looking forward to a conclusion rather than the temptation to return when the next huge evolution of WoW inevitably drops.

Rift F2P

Rift is going free-to-play on June 12th.  To me this was never a question of if Rift would go F2P, but when.  Rift’s numbers are declining as all games do over time.  To be honest, they made it quite a long time for never quite being a true blockbuster success; much longer than most.  EQ lasted forever because it initiated a paradigm shift.  WoW is still doing relatively well for the same reason.  Rift is/was just another good game.

Trion’s big marketing strategy with this F2P transition is to clearly state that players are getting complete AAA MMO experience for free.  You only have to pay for certain things like boosts, mounts, gear, and expansion souls.  All story, all level, all raids — all content is free.

That’s a great strategy, and really the only one I believe can possibly work for a true “AAA F2P” MMO (if such an oxymoron exists).  Let’s look at their execution.

rift free to play

All content in Rift will be completely free.

Subscriptions

Having a sub to Rift gets you boosts.  Whether they’re slowing everything else down like SWTOR, I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  As a Patron (their name for a subscriber) you can get bonus mount speed, more reputation, more tokens, more currency, loyalty rewards, and those types of things. It’s the whole “you want to pay money to not be at a disadvantage” trope. Will it be enough to get people to subscribe?  Personally, I don’t see the real benefit.  I’d rather buy these as I want them individually.

Selling Gear

Here’s the big one.

“We will also have gear for sale. Our guidelines for gear on the store are generally as follows: The best gear in the game must be earned and high-level items on the store must also be available to be earned in-game.”

That is vague; I can interpret that to mean you can buy the best gear in the game.  All X are Y but not all Y are X type of logic.  Regardless, it’s pay-to-win unless your definition of winning is to only have the best stuff instantly.  If I can buy the second best stuff right when hit max level, then jump in the next day with the second best gear and start earning the best, that’s winning to me.

This whole conversion is going to do really well for Rift.  I’m absolutely positive that they will see more people playing, and more revenue as a result.  However, F2P is a short-term strategy for MMOs.  Trion forfeits Rift’s credibility and sense of being a genuine AAA game.  Transitioning to F2P will do very well early for the game, but it will expedite the end even if it only makes people consider there being an end, thus that in and of itself diminishing their future possibilities.  Rift’s love group is being served with the realization of the game’s mortality, and I’m confident that the long-run will suffer as a result as those love-group-players lose their desire to stay and start looking for a game without a future dictated by altering design to earn the most money.

I’ll give the game a shot now (I was going to anyway since Raptr gave me 30 days free AND the expansion free…) and maybe give the game a bit of coverage from a ‘how does it play free’ perspective.  That’s precisely what Trion is hoping thousands of people will do.

Mark Jacobs gives us all the details on his upcoming MMORPG: Camelot Unchained

I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Jacobs this past week about his upcoming project which was just officially announced today.  Mark is diving once again into the realm (pun intended) of MMORPGs — more specifically, three faction RvR — with Camelot Unchained™!

The setting for Camelot Unchained™ is once again the medieval Camelot setting focusing on what Mark calls a “re-imagining of the lore” like they did with Dark Age of Camelot, where the world of legends has come to life and needs to be rebuilt by the players.    The three factions are Arthurian (Camelot), Viking, and Tuatha (based on the old legends/stories about folks like Lugh, Nuadha, etc.).    Here’s the kicker: Camelot Unchained™ is entirely focused on RvR with very little to no PvE.  All progression comes from RvR.

I wanted to dig deep to really get at the heart of what Mark is trying to do with Camelot Unchained™.  I told him on the phone that my post isn’t going to outline features or repeat the same info everyone else has — I want the raw emotion, the purpose and the thought process he’s going through as he prepares to embark on what is shaping up to be a massive undertaking.  Our conversation was one of the best I’ve ever had with a developer.

camelot unchainedTo better understand just how dedicated Mark is to the idea of making a PvP game, I asked him about whether or not he thinks he might scare some people off by creating a game entirely about smashing skulls, taking territory, and playing against other people.  Mark was extremely candid (as usual) and said that he is well aware that PvP scares some people, but he’s not making a game for them.  He knows this game won’t be for everyone, and he’s not shooting for numbers. He’s not looking to launch a game to contend with WoW, or even to be the next big thing.  He has humble aspirations, and tells me if they achieved niche status then he considers that a huge success. “Numbers don’t matter. I know we’re not going to appeal to everyone, and I don’t care.”

Mark told me his team’s design philosophy is, “What is going to make the most fun RvR game?”  He’s making a game for the people who love RvR, who love PvP, and who want a game dedicated to providing that experience, and that experience alone.   In fact, he quoted what will be a slogan during development:

“RvR isn’t the end-game — It’s the only game.” – Mark Jacobs

To accomplish this goal, Mark is abandoning the idea of a mass-market vehicle.  “We’re bringing back arrows.”  He said that with such conviction that I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a fact or a metaphor.  Turns out, it’s both.   In addition to actually having ammunition, Mark’s goal for Camelot Unchained™ is to bring thinking back into the mix.  He wants you to value every arrow in your quiver, think before you cast a spell, and decide if going in to your death is worth it.

Mark said they’re going to get away from the soccer match between six-year-olds; in other words there will be meaning to your actions and you won’t be keep swapping and instantly getting back into the fight to contend meaningless, frivolous objectives.  He put extreme emphasis on making people play the game, not the system, and once again emphasized it should take intelligence to play.

The game will be class based and have some form of alternative leveling system.  Mark clarified that personally, he likes skill-based systems, but over the years he has learned that RvR players (he specified RvR, and said they are different from ‘PvP’ players) like classes, and they like filling a role.  “We’re putting the ‘R’ back in Roleplaying,” he said.  Going along with roles, crafting will play a central role in Camelot Unchained™.  All gear comes from crafters.  Players can dedicate their entire play-time to crafting to the point of opening shops to sell their wares.  Yep, there will be open-world housing.

Camelot Unchained MMORPG

Alright, that’s the gist of the information Mark gave me that he’s allowed me to share.  I know that was a lot to take in (going through sensory overload myself), but I hope you read through it all because I want to hear what you think.  Personally, I think it’s bold; but that’s Mark Jacobs.  More than anything else, I love his approach to making the game niche and I have nothing but respect for -any- developer who realizes you don’t need WoW’s numbers (or gameplay) to be a success.

Knowing who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there are three things very few developers ever understand.  After talking with Mark for a few hours, I think City State Entertainment has those down; whether or not they get there we’ll have to see.  I’m rooting for them, and I encourage anyone else with respect or excitement for what they’re undertaking to do the same.  Look for their Kickstarter coming in March.

TESO Should Focus on PvE

The big news of the day is The Elder Scrolls Online (TESO) cinematic trailer.  Let’s take a quick look, and then I want to offer up my thoughts.

We all know about trailers. You can buy into them a bit, but you have to really watch yourself; if you loose control you might actually believe the gameplay will be anything like that Legolas ninja shadowstalker sniper.  It’s never going to happen in our lifetime.  Nevertheless, it was quite exhilerating to watch and imagine myself in such a position.  This trailer shows me that TESO will have some money behind it, and they’re not goign to spare any expense with the hype and marketing.

Clearly this trailer showcases the three-way alliance PvP.  (AvA?)  What I want to know is just how central this PvP conflict will be to the rest of the game.  Is this going to be a huge focus?  Is the PvP what they want to drive everyone toward?  I think that would be a mistake.

In my opinion, they should focus on creating an amazing and innovative PvE experience in TESO.  PvP has ruined more games in the last ten years than it has helped, and we haven’t received any innovations or PvE.  I have a feeling that the game is currently on a trajectory to try and capture some form of RvR 3-way conflict market.  If they do that, and fail to pull it off perfectly, it will be a superficial/shallow themepark mess.

Here’s hoping that TESO doesn’t focus on PvP.  Yep, I said it.