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Keen and Graev’s Podcast Episode 4

PodcastIt’s time for another installment in the Keen and Graev Podcast! We’re up to episode 4 now and it feels like only yesterday that we first sat down to begin recording our first episode. This Episode’s timing was perfect with the launch of Halo 3 so you can expect to hear all about our adventure as we begin our quest to obtain the coveted game. Along with Halo 3 we have some interesting discussion on in-game advertisements and a new section on looking back at the classics. As always our Podcast is available right here from our Blog.  We hope you enjoy the show!

Episode 4 Notes:

Introduction

Console Stuff

  • Halo 3 – Our adventure at midnight, impressions, and rabid fanboy discussion.
  • Saints Row 2 – Hallelujah!

PC Gaming

  • Metaplace – For the real gamer? Discussion on what it is, what it might become, and Raph Koster’s new MMO.
  • PotBS Release date – Yo ho ho!
  • Warhammer Online – In-game ads? No thanks.

Looking Back at the Classics

  • The Realm – Our first MMORPG and how it paved the way to the future.

Looking For Group: Slaughter Your World

A buddy of mine gave me the link to this absolutely hilarious animated comic from Looking For Group. I honestly haven’t been keeping up with their comics at all but after this I’m definitely going to start. In the video a homicidal Warlock goes into a village bringing destruction to these people all while singing his version of a song from The Little Mermaid. If you don’t like cartoon violence and graphic homicidal Warlock’s then go ahead and skip this one. 😉
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcbazH6aE2g[/youtube]

Get off my porch! LOTRO Housing info straight from the Devs

Lots of information has begun to leak out about Lord of the Rings Online’s next step in game development.  Book 11 is on the horizon set for an October release and the one thing on everyone’s mind is player housing.  For a long time we’ve known just the basics about what we can expect from housing.  I’ve done my best to keep you all up to date on what we know so far, which makes me excited to share with you this little find on TenTonHammer.  It’s an interview done with developers asking just a few questions, but this time we’re actually starting to get some o the juicy tidbits from the Devs.

To get right into it, the usual question was asked about housing sizes and how that would all work within these player neighborhoods.

“I was running through an early demo of it in one of the dwarven neighborhoods,” Steefel said. “Whereas a house would be a small house that you would recognize, the kinship hall looks like the big church in town – a giant central building, whether it’s a church or the city hall. That seems to be the scale of kinship houses over regular houses.”

When asked if players would be able to actually walk through these neighborhoods:

“Correct, it’s not a cul-de-sac,” Steefel confirmed. “It’s not an apartment house – it really is like going into a town. There will be multiple instances of that type of town – they’ll all be different from each other because the players will make them different from each other. There are four types of towns based on the four races, and they’re located near the major social centers for those races. So, for example, the Dwarven housing neighborhood is located in Thorin’s Gate, right near Thorin’s Hall. It feels like it’s in the right part of the world.”

“It really is a whole other town that you go into,” Mersky echoed. “There are opportunities to hang out, to do things with other people. There’s large seating areas for people to congregate at. What we’re hoping people will get a sense of when they come in here is that, first of all, yes, I can get a house, I can customize it, do the stuff I would expect to be able to do to make this house really feel like mine – increase the persistent space that belongs to me and that I can share with friends. But we hope that people start to see that, wow, this is a whole other town. There’s a lot that can happen in here over time – this is the beginning of something that has a huge opportunity for growth. Our plans obviously include how that growth actually works.” 

Fantastic news!  I am very pleased to hear that housing is being taken a step further than just instanced neighborhoods.  Having player neighborhoods be referred to as “Townships” and creating the atmosphere essential to a community is really going to set this apart from other housing implementations.  Kinship housing could very well add an additional element to the entire game.  When asked if Kinship housing will have crafting stations, teleporters, and usual guildhall stuff the devs had this to say.

“We’re still playing around with what we want to do there,” Steefel responded. “It’s going to be fairly sparse in the beginning; not because we can’t, but because we’re trying to figure out what’s the right balance between locating those kinds of resources in the town that is a neighborhood as opposed to towns that are out in the landscape. As far as things that a kinship has access to- special teleportation, special crafting nodes or special crafting workbenches or things that only that kinship has access to – we’re not going to launch with that. Not that we can’t, but we really want to see how the puzzle pieces fit together. It’s a lot easier to add than to subtract from a system; especially when you’ve got it live in front of an audience, because people tend to get attached to what is there.”

“What we do have, however, is the ability for you to teleport back to your house from anywhere in the world,” he continued. “Similarly for kinships, to teleport at any time back to their kinship houses. There are other benefits that you will derive elsewhere in the world from owning a house that we probably won’t talk about yet, but that’s something we wanted to make sure is there too.”

The interview went on to say that functionality in towns will be limited at start.  They want to make sure they having the housing mechanics down before they “throw everything at the players at once.”  While I do not agree necessarily that limiting the development is being done on our behalf, I can still appreciate their cautious approach when implementing something of this magnitude.  I will say this though, if the developers want to avoid a nasty case of the “But you promised”‘s, then they had better make good on their word that adding functionality to towns will make it into the game eventually.  Far too many times have we been given a portion of what was to come and watch as the devs never make whole on their promises.

Player housing and Townships have great potential.  I’m almost afraid to use the world ‘potential’ because it has been the source of much disappointment over the past year.  Many potentials have been met with coming up short of the goal.  I’ll instead say that player housing and Townships are moving in the right direction.  As long as the addition of housing and townships adds functionality and more than mere fluff to the game then Turbine will have hit a home run.  Don’t make it cheesy and lifeless like chicken-play; something that nearly no one ever participates in.  Make it an enormous focal point of the game.  Have guilds aspiring to fill their halls with trophies and useful functional gameplay elements like crafting and portals.  Make the player housing into something that has more value than a mere achievement in the Deed log.  Work the entire game around it so that it has the air of quality.

Much to look forward to over the next couple weeks!  I’ll keep you guys updated on what I find as we begin the move into the next phase of LOTRO.

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Will Warhammer Online have in-game ads? It could happen.

With the lack of new information coming from Mythic, it’s time to dig back into the archived quotes and find something juicy and interested to talk about.  Electronic Arts is famous for their in-game advertisement blitz.  Every new game seems to have advertisements in one form or another.  Most noticeably so far has definitely been Battlefield 2142’s billboard approach.  According to EA the billboards having Intel Core 2 Duo ads is supposed to be more immersing.  I call bullship on this one.  The ads were intrusive and downright awful to look at as you drive down the streets of Minsk in your tank.  I think what’s worse than the ads is the data collection.  How often players look at an ad, when most players are looking at them, where the players live, and perhaps even more is open game to these supposed “secure and risk free third party” agencies.  Now how does this affect Warhammer Online?

Back around June of 2006 EA acquired Mythic Entertainment (for those of you not in the loop at all, Mythic is making WAR) and assumed control over the Warhammer project.  To many this opened the door of questioning as to whether or not Mark Jacobs would condone the placement of ads anywhere in Warhammer.  So far I haven’t heard anything new on the subject but I found this quote back from December of 2005 to be worth further investigation.

Folks,

Another subject near and dear to my heart. As far as advertising in WH goes:

1) In-game advertising, not a chance.

2) Load screen advertising – Not likely. The only reason I’m not saying not a chance is that quite frankly, we haven’t even discussed the possibility. I think it is also not a chance but I don’t want to eliminate the possibility 100% (instead it’s 99.9%)

While in-game advertising can be effective according to recent studies and while there is an argument that in certain types of games it can actually add to the realism or while it can be used to defray costs, I’m really dead set against it for WAR. When I play games the last thing I want to see are adverts. Here in the States (not sure what’s it like elsewhere), we have adverts everywhere we go and I for one am tired of seeing them.

So before Mythic became the property of EA, Mark Jacobs wasn’t completely 100% against the use of adverts in his game.  He did say that he is tired of seeing them and, not to be too harsh on him, he did make us comfortable back then that we weren’t going to see them.  So now that EA is calling many shots where does that place us?  Instead of a “not likely” are we moving up to a “possibly”?  It would seem that right now we know nothing for sure but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.  Do ads in any form belong in-game?  I don’t care if it’s a loading screen or a billboard – if it’s in my face while I’m playing the game then it’s in-game.  I don’t see this as necessary in any way and would begin to question my monthly fee if such ads were introduced.  The purpose of advertisements are to increase revenue.  If I’m playing your MMORPG then I’m already contributing just about all I’m willing.  I’m never, ever, going to be influenced by your in-game ads.  It’s that simple.

What are your thoughts on the whole adverts in games?  I strongly believe that they do not belong in any form.  I won’t up and quit a game or stop looking forward to Warhammer if I learn there are loading screen ads but I will be likely rant about it for months.  Is it a deal breaker for you?

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Our adventure to obtain the coveted Halo 3

In last night’s blog entry I said that Graev and I would be headed to Gamestop at midnight to pick up our copy of Halo 3.  At about 11:30 we left the house and stopped by Jack in the Box for a Diet Coke because what’s a midnight run without a nice cold beverage?  Making decent time we made a straight shot to Gamestop and pulled into the big shopping center at about 11:45 thinking that maybe in our city there would be a couple dozen people.  As we got closer it make clear we were wrong.  Horribly, horribly wrong.  There were easily 200+ people standing in line with about another couple dozen standing around loitering in the parking lot.  For HALO 3?!  I guess it’s a popular game and I did mention lastnight that I felt it was somewhat a cult following but this was ridiculous!

So we roam the parking lot still in our car and at this point it’s nearly midnight.  The doors open and we watch as 4 guys maybe in their late teens or early twenties walk in, buy their game, and walk out.  Suddenly one of them thrusts his game toward the sky declaring at the top of his lungs “Halo 3!!! IN YOUR FACES!!” and points at the line which was quickly met by the profanity and cursing from the remaining 190+ who are still waiting patiently.  Several more outbursts followed by people standing on cars shouting glorious praises to their Halo 3 games were about all I could handle.  We decided that no game was worth this regardless of the hype.

I can understand passion for a game and I can understand excitement about a games release.  I’m one in a sea of many who camp outside stores waiting on consoles or games (like Warcraft 3 Frozen Throne) and I love to share excitement with others.  It seems though that these Halo crowds are just a bit bizarre!  It’s almost brought a trendy feel to gaming to see these people who probably have never played any other game in their life get so excited about a pass-time that I’ve been involved with for more than the past decade.  But hey, to each his own and even Halo fans deserve their moment of fun.

This morning we woke up and decided to head out at 8:30am to Chik-Fil-a and get ourselves some chicken-minies and of course another Diet Coke for breakfast.  We then casually made our way to Gamestop (ohhh how I loathe thee Gamestop) and waited until 9am for the store to open.  Once it opened we went inside, picked up our game, and we were out within 3 minutes.  So IN YOUR FACE to the guy lastnight who probably camped out 15 hours to get his #1 spot in line!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I overheard the store owner talking with the employees that they brought in $10,000 dollars in sales lastnight alone but had 1,000 trade-ins thus having only 10% profit or something like that.  I’ll never understand this system of Scamtsop, err, Gamestop.

More to come on our first impressions of Halo and our adventure in our Podcast which is set for release this afternoon!

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