Could this summer be a gaming slump?

The past four days have been downright awful.  At first I thought I was just burning out on Lord of the Rings Online so I tried EQ2.  The feeling of boredom returned so I tried Battlefield 2142 (in case it was a MMO thing).  No, Bf2142 was boring as well.  Then I tried a few console games, more LOTRO, and about four other games before I realized this was a familiar feeling.  I’m in a gaming slump.  But why?!

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately browsing message boards, official sites, and fansites for the upcoming games I am interested in playing.  Pirates of the Burning Sea and Warhammer Online are definitely in the forefront of this list for obvious reasons.  So as I was browsing the boards this afternoon it came to me – could this be a self inflicted slump?  Could I be subconsciously tossing aside great games because I know something better is being developed?  You know the feeling, right?  A huge title you are looking forward to has about 3-4 months more until it launches and you know you’re going to drop everything and play that title for days straight.  That anxious waiting turns to anxiety and then … the dreaded slump.

Right now as I write this I am going over in my head what I could possibly play to get me out of this rut.  I want to play a MMORPG but I don’t want to resub to something old and on it’s way out.  Heck I would love to play more LOTRO if I could just get past that sick feeling of “Ugh this could take 3 more weeks to hit level 50”.  I would welcome any advice on how to get over this literal hell.  At this rate the summer is going to be very hot and very slow.


MMO’s and End-game. Why?

I received the inspiration to finally sit down and write my opinion on this yesterday afternoon as I was browsing various websites. The topic kept coming up over and over again and not until I was watching Paul Barnett’s famous “what Warhammer Online is about” did it finally sink in that I needed to speak my mind. Discussions abound on MMORPG End-game and what it’s “supposed to be like”. There are polls, reviews, articles, assumptions, presumptions, and all forms of “tions” about what this content is “supposed to be”. Why aren’t more people stepping up and asking themselves why?

Since World of Warcraft more players than ever have been obsessed with finding the “end-game” content. No I don’t credit WoW with creating raiding or battlegrounds pvp – in fact I really don’t credit WoW for making much more than an in-game mailbox for the masses. But enough of WoW and back to my point. There are games that focus(ed) on end-game. The original Everquest focused mainly on the raiding and titled that their “end-game”. Dark Age of Camelot had RVR with a twist of PVE. Star Wars Galaxies… nevermind. My point is these games steer you toward one goal and that goal alone – finding the end. With our genre now as big as it is things are only going to get worse.

In the words of Paul Barnett the most important thing if you’re going to have a subscription based MMO is to have an unending war and perpetual struggle. If you’re reading this article I am going to assume you play MMO’s. You all know the feeling then when you reach level 50 and ask yourself “now what?” The journey to the top was fun and it gave you a sense of purpose and adventure but why did it stop? The answer is “end-game”. With the current leading MMORPG’s on our market we have definitive stopping points. If you’ve done all the instances and somehow managed to get all your gear congratulations. But then what? Wait for the developers to add another instance that you can do over and over again for more gear? To do what… do it all again? Well you’ve found your end-game and if you enjoy it then more power to you. But I say no thank you.

I want to play a MMORPG where my character is only restricted by my imagination. I want to level or progress my character through a world and feel like my adventure never for a moment stops. I don’t want to reach, for example, level 25 and say “I’m half way to the last level.” That’s complete rubbish. I want to look at my character and see the reflection of my efforts. I want to see his armor or his abilities and say “look how far I have come”. When I log into the game I don’t want to feel like I am just another level 50 with the same gear as the guy who did the same instance as me. I want to log into a world where the developers have done their darnedest to make me feel like I am part of their living and breathing world.

There are a few games coming out that just might have what I am talking about. Warhammer Online is promising the unending war that Paul Barnett spoke about. Right from the start you’re going to be part of something big and you’re going to have purpose. There are thousands of pages written with story and concepts just waiting to be implemented. The wars and battles, if delivered as promised, will be never ending struggles for dominance. Characters will evolve and become stronger as you spend more time with them in battle. There’s not going to be someone who one day shows up to the battle wearing “all purples” with absolutely no skill or renown who can out perform everyone simply because of the luck of his drops or the size of his guild. Aside from the direction the game is going the mechanics behind it are simply amazing. Read more on my blog post about Paul Barnett and bears.

The other game coming out is Pirates of the Burning Sea. Sailing the open seas with your crew and worrying about nothing but yourself (if that’s what you wish as a Pirate) is possible. If you want to be part of the English Royal Navy and hunt other players who have decided to live a life as a Pirate then you can do it! The economy is completely player driven and this is the key to the whole thing. With a completely driven player economy supported by PVP the players will decide the direction of the game. Will Pirates be shunned in ports or will the players choose to have dealings with them? With a letter of Marque from the queen will you put a stop to it? It reminds me of SWG (good thing or bad.. hmm) when the features section of their website says you will be able to set up workshops in ports. Perhaps even set up shops? There’s not going to be raids or “end-game” in PotBS because it’s simply not possible! You’re not going to one day say “okay I have nothing left to do” because the game is perpetual and there is no designed end! It’s a living breathing world that limits you only based on your own imagination.

My message to developers out there is simple. Design games the way they should be made. More so, please develop MMORPG’s as they were intended. These games should be ever-evolving and changing immersive Worlds. Do away with the treadmills of levels and raids for gear. MMO’s should challenge both imagination and skill while still providing you the never ending opportunities for adventure.

Addition to our Leveling Guide!

Every so often I like to update the leveling guide as I learn more about Lord of the Rings Online. To give our readers an additional option to our Leveling Guide Keen and Graev proudly present our LOTRO Level Guide Map. This map features highlighted regions of Middle-Earth and a brief description of where you can quest and at what level. This map is not all-inclusive and I am certain I missed a few things. As always if you come across something inaccurate or missing feel free to leave a comment. Additions are always welcomed as well. We hope you find this useful to you in your adventures.  Enjoy. 🙂
Level Guide Map

Keen and Graev given a PG Rating!

As usual I like to read the postings of my fellow bloggers out there and I stumbled upon this interesting little website on Cuppytalk. All you do is enter the URL to your blog and it returns a “movie-like” rating of G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, etc. According to the ratings we used the word “Shoot” 3x and crap 1x. Shoot I just said it again! Crap! Shoot! Bah I give up. 😉


Pirates of the Burning Sea in league with SOE

Well by now it’s old news for those of you following the Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS). Sony Online Entertainment has joined forces with Flying Lab Software to form a publishing partnership. The whole deal is being filed under what is called “platform publishing”. Russell Williams from Flying Lab Software explains it well.

So what is “Platform Publishing”? It’s a partnership program in which SOE and an independent developer work together to release a game. It’s very different from SOE’s main publishing efforts, where they develop the games internally (i.e. Everquest 2, Star Wars: Galaxies). Instead the developer makes the game, SOE publishes it, and together we divvy up the various responsibilities.

Here is the breakdown:

Flying Lab Software
• Game Development
• Community
• Customer Support
• Server Operations

Sony Online Entertainment
• Billing
• Launcher
• Retail Distribution
• Localization
• Marketing

Now to me this sounds too good to be true. FLS retains complete ownership and control over the game while receiving the benefits of a major publisher from SOE. In return SOE receives minor revenue and… that seems to be it. According to FLS, since they funded the entire game themselves, SOE will receive only a small portion of the profits which leaves FLS “strong and independent”.

With the latest big news from SOE being the acquisition of Sigil’s assets and the exposure of their whole deal turning out to be nothing more than a facade things are definitely shaky when MMO fans hear the words “SOE” and “partnership” in the same sentence. Personally I won’t buy into the cynical doomsay. I really do believe FLS when they say they are truly in control. A small and truly, in the grand scheme of things, unknown company like FLS has nothing to gain by lying to their prospective player base. Right now PotBS has huge competition and future competition. Lord of the Rings Online is only three months into release and major titles like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online are just around the corner in 2008. The very last thing these guys want is a failure.

I haven’t really spoken much about my plans for PotBS and that’s because honestly I am scared. I am really building this game up in my mind to be amazing. With the various stories you can choose for your character, fighting styles, ships, amazing crafting system and more, this game is on the verge of being the best of any MMO I’ve dreamed of playing. Just imagining myself sailing as the Captain of a pirate crew in the vast ocean in a completely PVP conquerable world gives me chills. Can you imagine the fear on a player merchant vessel as your sails come into view just over the horizon? The adrenaline rush you’ll get as you come about and unleash the fury of your irons into the broadside of another ship. The prospects of attacking ports with other ships and pillaging the outposts of enemy nations all for the sake of personal gain. Who can say no to their crafting system? A completely player driven economy right down to the player-made rum!

So you can see I am already completely sold on Pirates of the Burning Sea. I want to play this game. I want this game to be amazing. This whole deal between SOE and FLS can be a good thing guys. It has to be…