Archive for 2012

Oh my… A Game of Thrones MMO

Sean Bean. Available for all fantasy based roles that involve a lot of brooding.

Sean Bean. Available for all fantasy based roles that involve a lot of brooding.

Well, colour me pleasantly surprised. A few days ago, via Rock, Paper Shotgun, I found out that developer Bigpoint are releasing a free-2-play MMO based on the Game of Thrones IP. I’m actually feeling surprisingly giddy about it.

Of course, it’s still early days and there’s absolutely no information on the official web site about the game but then that’s to be expected considering it likely won’t be out for another three years. Still, one can dream. Here’s hoping it’s less WoW-like and a little more EVE-like, focusing on political intrigue, deception and general backstabbery rather than leveling up and quest grinding. Fingers crossed for a sandbox type model too but, hell, that’s unlikely, so I’d just settle for something a little different from the norm.

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When Money Is The Biggest Motivator

Motivation is finishing the raid before your wife yells at you to get to bed

Motivation is finishing the raid before your wife yells at you to get to bed

It’s been proven that money is a poor motivator. Wait, let me caveat that. When it comes to motivating people into doing mindless, repetitive, physical tasks, money works perfectly well. Give someone more cash for every rock they shift or hamburger they flip and, lo and behold, they shift more rocks and flip more burgers. But when it comes to intelligent, cognitive and creative tasks, money is utterly worthless at a motivator. Once someone has enough cash to live decently (and reach the final stage in the hierarchy of Maslow’s needs if you want to get all brain sciency about it), then they look for other factors to motivate them, namely things like autonomy, mastery and purpose. This is why companies like Google give their employees a ‘free’ day each week to do with as they please and why the team at Bethesda made practically a whole new, better version of Skyrim when given a free week to do so as they wished after it launched.

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I’m Just Too Damn Weak Willed

Rift Warrior

"By the power of Grayskull....I HAVE THE POWER!"

So I cracked and resubscribed to RIFT. For three months. This is something I never do (I always pay monthly) but they offered me some cosmetic veteran rewards upfront if I did. I also bought some add-on upgrade thingy for £5 because it came with a rideable spider. And all of this is exactly why I hate the concept behind free-2-play subscriptions and cash shops. I’m just too damn weak willed to resist them.

Well, actually I have some other concerns towards F2P but my fundamental problem is that I can’t stop myself from buying stuff. Even though I’m not really not all that bad at controlling my purchasing urges in real life, when it comes to virtual goods for my favourite MMOs I’m just far too much a consumerist for my own good. The constant reminders, the little nudges, the appeals to my oh-so-not-inconsiderable vanity – I crack under the pressure. I’d buy these virtual cash shops dry given half the opportunity.

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Returning To RIFT

Rift Angel

I'm starting to wonder why I ever stopped playing RIFT

I’ve been playing RIFT again for just over a week now, ever since Trion launched the 1.7 patch which makes it free to play up to level 20. A great idea, in my opinion and very, very welcome. I rolled four new alts on a new server and am enjoying the game thoroughly. Chances are I’ll probably resubscribe for another month or two soon. I gotta say, I really like the free-2-try model as it combines the huge benefit that free-2-play brings of being able to play a game before you fork out any cash, combined with the discreet monthly subscription model – no cash shops, no wallet nudges.

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An Idea For A New Subscription Model

Rogue in RIFT

A screenshot of RIFT as, right now, it really is the only game I'm playing for free

I’m not a fan of free-to-play. Never have been, it’s unlikely I ever will be and, to be perfectly honest, my mind boggles as to why it’s so popular. OK, I get the money aspect of subscriptions but let’s be realistic here, it’s not as if F2P really is free. You still pay one way or another, probably the same amount as a sub eventually, quite likely even more. I mean, even before I could play a game like Everquest 2 or Age of Conan I’d have to shell out for the race and class that I prefer. And then more for broker access. And more for bank slots. And character slots. And bigger quest journals…

F2P also comes with all the headaches and distractions of having opportunities to buy extra items shoved in your face constantly and the driving motivation of developers ambiguously twisted. Give me an old fashioned, straight up subscription over F2P any day. Even if you only played two hours a week, it’s still great value, so much to the point that I think anyone who doubts it probably needs to re-evaluate their concept of value for money. Even playing only a single measly hour a week, you’d be hard pushed to find activities that were cheaper than $3.75 an hour. I guess you could go for a walk in the park… but make sure you don’t stop for a coffee on the way.

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MMOs That Badly Need Expansions


Not even a wolf riding a wolf makes me want to play Vanguard again

I’m a big believer in expansions for MMOs. Whilst free patch content is always nice and more than welcome, I accept that it has its limitations and that we can’t expect to get bundles of new stuff – new classes, races, game mechanics, locations and level cap increase – for frees (well, not unless you play EVE anyway). Perhaps most importantly though, expansions also help re-ignite MMOs, gaining positive attention and drawing in new players, helping them grow. There’s a reason why games like Everquest and Everquest 2 have survived for so long and kept me personally interested for years. I also wholeheartedly think that it the continuous and reliable release of solid expansions that stopped EQ2 from slipping off the face of the planet. But that’s another blog post.

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Is Balanced Worth Boring?


A reminder to all that WoW's colour palette should probably be avoided by those with epilepsy

Although it’s early days with SW:TOR and I’m still somewhat off to the level cap, I’m an avid PvPer and queue for Warzones almost constantly when I play it (they’re a lot of fun). Taking a breather and switching back to WoW Battlegrounds for a few days though highlighted something I always suspected: it’s ridiculously unbalanced compared to The Old Republic.

It’s no surprise really. SW:TOR is a new game and designed from the ground up to cater to both PvE and PvP and, whilst I’m sure there will be balance issues of some sort (it’s unavoidable really), the PvP is a lot less frustrating than, say, WoW and none of the classes seem to stand out as being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any of the others. At least not yet. Of course, it’s not perfect and you still have to deal with the issues of level divides and gear progression but, unless you play PvP specific MMO like League of Legends, I’m not sure it’s ever going to be possible to solve those problems.

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