Quiet week for me last week, but mostly because Real Life got particularly busy, and I was extremely distracted by all of the news coming out of E3. This year was, for me and for many of us, a special E3; the old energy seemed to return, and for the first time in years there was real excitement and a boatload of information flying across the wires. Between work, preparing for TyTy’s (my youngest) 1 year birthday, and all of the videos and news coming from LA, I really had no time to write!
To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to much for this calendar year when it comes to MMOs. I’ve slowly been succumbing to the temptations of a console (other than the Wii, which is really for the kids); possibly a PS3 in the future for our household, as it’d be really nice to have a Blu-ray player as well.
I’m still not looking forward to much this year, but, so help me, 2011 is looking like a killer year. There are so many games to which I’m looking forward, I’m going to be fairly absent during the nights of next year (I generally log in after everyone is asleep). The Missus will be less than pleased, I’m sure.
Here’s what’s going to destroy my marriage next year (in no particular order), and why I will probably let it:
Star Wars: The Old Republic – A good amount of new information, and, of course, there was the new cinematic. Some information about player ships and PvP came out, and while it’s nice to see more about what the game will include, I can’t say this is particularly surprising. Everyone was making a huge deal about it when all I could think was, “Yep. That makes sense.” Based on what BioWare has stated in the past, none of this should have been a significant surprise. However, based on what they’ve said, I also don’t think these mechanics are going to play out exactly as everyone hopes they will. I see a “Jump to Lightspeed” going on here – no, you can’t really do Star Wars without space, but I don’t think we’re going to see fully fledged space combat at release. I hope I’m wrong, though.
The cinematic did it’s job, though – it got me completely pumped and sold me on the game, all over again. Even though I know the game won’t be as good, if this is the thematic direction BioWare is headed, I’m sold. If they even come close with the gameplay, I’ll enjoy my time in TOR.
Warhammer 40K: Dark Millenium Online – I’d heard that this was in development, but it was nice to see something. Unlike others, I’m not bothered by the “neon-shaded butchery”. I actually played the tabletop game, and I can say that, while they never tell you how to paint your models, Games Workshop was no stranger to bright colors on their battlefields. There was certainly encouragement for creativity in your selection of colors, and I actually like that the game uses some of that. Not all of us need brown-grey to dominate the landscape, just to feel “gritty” and “real”.
I reserve all other judgements and thoughts until I see more about the game. The trailer was nice, and the fact that its 40K means I am excited (and will at least try it), but until there is more information, I just can’t comment.
Final Fantasy XIV – I never played Final Fantasy XI, but I’ve always thought that these games were simply gorgeous, and that I should have at least tried it. The grind (even if it is only perceived) kept me away from FFXI, as did the requirements for grouping (I just don’t always have the time!). I don’t know yet if there won’t be as much grind in FFXIV, but it seems like they’re trying to address these issues, and the Massively interview with Hiromichi Tanaka actually got me more interested. There are some really great ideas here – the skill system, the guildleves, and the treatment of non-combat professions as viable choices – all have me watching this game closely.
The Agency – SOE’s been very quiet over the last year or more when it comes to The Agency. A while back, when the game was first announced, there was a lot of talk about the game, and then they went underground (no pun intended) and we heard almost nothing. The trailer they released during E3 was a great comeback.
Clearly, they’ve been working on the game. I like the new direction for the visuals, though I can’t say I dislike the cel-shaded look of the original designs. The Agency, for me, is closer to what I’d hoped for from APB – a game where I can jump in for some quick, action-packed, TF2-style fun, but also have character development and some story. I also love the idea of having a team of operatives working for me, even when I’m not logged in (I seem to remember hearing that they will email/text me if I allow SOE access to this personal information – which I will!).
Vindictus – I tried Mabinogi (my only experience with Nexon) for a short spell, and I will say one thing: I loved the combat system. I was pretty disgusted with the spam-tastic insanity of the beginner areas, and never got much farther than that. I also didn’t enjoy the “cutesie” feel. I’ve always thought about going back and looking again, but now Nexon has given me exactly zero reasons to ever go back – Vindictus looks amazing!
Reading through the hands-on article over at Massively got me very interested. I don’t usually go in for the ultra-violent, hack-and-slash games, but I’ll make an exception for Vindictus. I love the idea of destructible environments that can be used during combat, and that players will actually be affected by hits from the larger creatures (I’ve always hated that we just stand there taking hits from Giants, when we should get tossed around…). “Real physics” in the game look like they could be a lot of fun, and visually, the game looks stunning. I’ve read that Vindictus and Mabinogi are very different beasts, but Nexon’s approach to strategic combat and detailed, deep systems has me looking forward to this game.
Rift: Planes of Telara – Not only does this game look breathtaking, but the implied flexibility in character creation and development makes it worth paying attention. I was initially intrigued by Trion World’s initial sales pitch for Rift (then called Heroes of Telara); they were talking up the “server-sided” nature of the game that allowed GMs (or whatever they’re calling their in-game team) or the game itself, to build a more dynamic world with very fluid events. Basically, because a good portion of the game logic exists on the server, as opposed to standard MMOs that have nearly all of it on the client machine, Trion can make changes to the world anytime, and all the players in that area will experience those changes. Rifts seems to take many of the standard MMO systems and build on them, combining the dynamic world with enough familiar game mechanics to make it a natural choice for MMO players.
Black Prophesy/Jumpgate Evolution – These two are somewhat interchangeable in my mind, as much as the developers may dislike that classification. Hands-down, one of my fondest gaming memories is Tie Fighter. It still ranks in my top 10 single-player games. The company that can create an MMO with Tie Fighter/X-Wing space combat is looking at a winner; it looks like both Jumpgate Evolution and Black Prophecy are shooting for this. The fact that both will support joysticks is reason enough for me to check them out; I’ve been looking for a reason to break out the joystick, but haven’t found a flight sim worth my time.
Massively (I seem to be linking to them a lot in this post – they did have great E3 coverage!) has nice write-ups of their hands-on with both games.
LEGO Universe – I’d like to say, “This one if for my kids”, but I’d be lying. Bald-faced, out-and-out untruths.
I love the LEGO games – Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones (though I probably won’t check out Harry Potter for me, my older son, the Bean, is very interested) – and LEGO Universe looks like it takes these to the next level, and beyond.
Wow. Talk about pure, unadulterated fun. This is one I can play with my son AND log in just to have some no-pressure fun. Definitely on the “Must Buy” list.
Lord of the Rings Online, Volume 3 Book 2 – Man, Turbine just keeps giving me reasons to stick with LotRO, my one true love. A new area to explore, especially one where Turbine has more flexibility, is a very welcome addition (I loved Forochel, though it was a bit grind-ish towards the end). Housing and Legendary Item changes. A new hobby. DirectX 11 (I just moved to Windows 7). And, of course, the continuation of the Epic Quests.
All in all, this year’s E3 didn’t bring a whole lot of new games to my attention; but it certainly did solidify my interest in several titles, and renewed my interest in others.
I’m not sure where I’m going to fit all of these in, and keep up with my current games, but I’m sure I’ll manage. Also, the number of “freemium” or Free to Play games on the list above should be noted – this may not be the direction for the entire industry, but it’s certainly found it’s place; and the fact that I’m not paying a monthly subscription means a game is more likely to remain installed on my hard drive, so I’ll jump in every once in a while when the fancy strikes me. Those companies will eventually get some of my money, which is more than they would have gotten if they’d used a traditional subscription model. Developers need to stand up and take a long, hard look at this fact – I’m not alone here.
I find myself caught between looking for the depth and breadth of gameplay that I’ve loved for so many years of MMOs, and acknowledging that I just don’t have the time to get involved with every game in which I’m interested, to the extent that I’d like. I think developers are recognizing this as well; the MMO market, while still a relatively niche market, is becoming increasingly crowded. We only have so much time in a day, and if they want our money, developers need to make games accessible without the extreme time commitments.
A big part of me cringes to say this, but it doesn’t make it any less true.