Posts Tagged ‘news’

Lord Of The Rings Online Welcome Back Week

Need a way to make Lord Of The Rings even better? Create a musical version!

Need a way to make Lord Of The Rings even better? Create a musical version!

I got an unexpected email from Codemasters today telling me that my Lord of the Rings Online account will be reactivated for a week, from 10th May 10th until 17th May. As far I know this is for the European version of LotRO only and doesn’t affect US players as they already had a similar offer recently at the end of April.

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The Price Of Success

Yesterday Massively posted an article about how BioWare and EA not only expect 2 million plus subscribers for Star Wars: The Old Republic, their upcoming MMORPG, but also how they need at least 1 million to make it ’successful’. Anyone else getting a feeling of deja vu? *cough* Warhammer *cough* Online. Geez, I should really get that cough seen to.

This is not the job you're looking for

This is not the job you're looking for

The whole thing’s got me slightly worried. When a company talks about how amazing, large scale and grand their game is and then comes out with statements that it needs an entire country sized playerbase in order to even begin being successful, it just seems like they’re setting themselves up for a fall. In an industry were only one Western MMO has ever succeeded 1 million players, there isn’t exactly an achieveable precedent for setting such a loafty target.

By publically stating this goal, every critic on the planet is going to be watching BioWare and EA like a Korriban hawk. If the game doesn’t hit that magic 1 million number, the entire spin on the game is going to go from positive to negative and the result could be an unrecoverable spiralling downfall. We’ve seen it before with games like Vanguard and Warhammer and as soon as staff start getting laid off, the game becomes a dead duck in the eyes of the players.

Considering that BioWare/EA have also already starting discussing additional and further payment models, I’m starting to get the feeling (justified or not) that the main motivation behind the MMORPG is more money than anything else. Yeah, I know that’s the founding principle of any company but at least most have the good grace to try and hide that fact and let the product speak for itself.

I’m still looking forward to SW:TOR and will judge it when I play it but all of this talk about subscribers and payments is making me a little uneasy. I just want to play a game and for it to be fun. I don’t want to be thinking about money and its success as I’m doing it (or before it’s even come out).

Honestly, I can’t help but think that BioWare/EA would’ve been better keeping their mouth’s shut about it all. I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve.


Battlestar Galactica Online

A few days ago the news broke that Bigpoint, a German developer, will be launching a Battlestar Galactica MMO later on in the year. My immediate thoughts were that they were talking about a full blown sci-fi MMO like EVE or Jumpgate Evolution but it turns out it’s just a free-2-player browser based game.

Nothing I can say can be as funny as this photo

Nothing I can say can be as funny as this photo

I say just as if I’m sneering and, well, I probably am (I’m a MMORPG snob after all) because honestly I was expecting the usual Triple-A endorsement followed by months of hype, months of delays and then months of players realising the game hasn’t held up to their expectations and that it was actually rushed out the door like a pig in a tarted up prom dress. Yeah, I have no idea what that means either but I’m sure the imagery gives you the gist of my sentiments.

Upon further reflection though I think a browser based BSG game might actually be for the best. Let’s not forget Quake Live is browser based and it’s pure excellence in a Java app so there’s really no reason to dismiss this one before we’re played it. Plus, as much as I like the TV show, I’m not sure the Battlestar Galactica IP really has enough depth to stand up as a proper MMORPG. The story is pretty limited, there isn’t much room for exploration and most of the drama comes from tension rather than action.

I am skeptical about the whole “MMO” claims though and I imagine the game will turn out to be a fun little browser shooter that lets you compete in tournaments against a few other folk at the same time. No doubt Bigpoint are yielding the MMO acronym in its broadest sense and I’ll be utterly flabberghasted if we end up seeing a game that lets player compete and interact with thousands of other players in the same environment. In fact, if I had a hat, I’d promise to eat it.

LotRO Welcome Back Week

Welcome back weeks are always a great way to tempt old players back to long forgotten MMORPGs and yesterday I received an email from Codemasters offering me a free 7 days of Lord of the Rings Online starting Monday 8th March. Top it off, they’re also advertising a discounted 3 month subscription for only £17.97/€25.38 which isn’t a bad deal at all (although I can’t help but wonder why the Euro rate is the equivalent of £22.50 – Codemasters must be trying to exploit Jimmy Foreigner). As far as I’m aware, this offer is for the European LotRO only.

My mild mannered middle aged avatars always scare the crap out of enemies

My mild mannered middle aged avatars always scare the crap out of enemies

I was kinda tempted. For a moment. But I’ve decided again it and I don’t think I’ll be embarking to the land of Middle Earth any time soon. It’s a shame, I know. My big problem is time and I just never seem to have enough of it these days to squeeze in all of the gaming, blogging and wife-lovin’ that is required. Right now, I’m happy enough patronising my brother in World of Warcraft and fantasizing about returning to EVE Online. Plus, no matter how much I try, no matter how much I know that it’s a good game, I can’t help but find LotRO quite, well, dull.

That’s the problem with games based around strong IPs. It’s great for getting you hyped about a game and it’s great for providing you with a familiar setting but ultimately there’s only so many movies, books, comics, video games, action figures and decorated underwear that you can consume before you eventually become sick of the entire thing. If anything, I think that’s going to be LotRO Achilles’ heel.

So don’t expect to see Cromwell the Wonderful romping around Gondor anytime soon.

P.S. Dark Age of Camelot Europe is also offering a free trial until the 25th March to celebrate the game’s liberation from the evil hands of GOA. The game is now operated by EA-Mythic themselves meaning we should see up-to-date patches and proper customer support. Not that I ever had anything against GOA and their astounding incompetence.

EVE Online In The BBC News

The BBC News website had an article about EVE Online today. Apparently CCP employ an economic analyst to monitor the in-game economy and the daily transactions (all 1.2 million of them), watching the ebb and flow of commodities and looking for trends and possible cheating. It’s sounds like the perfect world for economists, one in which every minor detail is recorded perfectly, data mining heaven for the right sort of geek.

The EVE UI: Slightly less painful than being punched in the face

The EVE UI: Slightly less painful than being punched in the face

This particular geek with the lucky job (I mean that sincerely – stats are sexy) happens to be Dr Eyjolfur Gudmundsson and apparently he reckons the real world (y’know, the Physical Realm) could learn a lot from EVE Online. And if by that he means greed, backstabbing, dirty politics and corruption, then I hate to break it to him but it’s a lesson we’ve already learnt.

Of course he doesn’t though. He means that Planet Earth and it’s fragile banking system could benefit from the level of transparency available when analysing a game like EVE. Gudmundsson says “people do make the good choices when they have the right information” and that the lack of information is why we’re all in the mucky money mess we’re in now. I couldn’t agree more.

And on another note, this is exactly why EVE is outstanding and the perfect example of how it’s more of a “virtual world” than a video game. It offers a living, breathing, flowing economy, the likes of we we don’t see in most MMORPGs. It’s heck of a lot of fun, but it’s also the closest thing we have to actually escaping into another Matrix-like dimension. Plus it’s just bloody fascinating. The game has it’s own in-house statistician for crying out loud!

LFG Expo – MMO Fan Event

LFG Expo - Ultimate Geekage!

LFG Expo - Ultimate Geekage!

I received an email yesterday from Jonathon Stevens of Last Straw Productions, an indie games company, asking me to promote an independent MMO fan event he’s organising called the Looking For Group Expo. Being of a generous and easily flatterable disposition I, of course, agreed.

The expo occurs on June 25-27 and takes place in Minneapolis, which is apparently some sort of US city. I kid, I do actually know of Minneapolis due to watching the Minnesota Vikings on late night American Football, essentially Rugby for men too scared to play Rugby (ooh, I’m such a British bitch – meow).

The expo sounds like a lot of fun and offers everything you’d expect to find at a geek Mecca: contests, games, LAN parties, developer panels and live questing. I have no idea what that last thing is but I’m sure it will involve plenty of people making hilarious jokes about their quest journal being too full or how their “camping” a spot. Oh the chuckles.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend as I don’t live in the US and won’t be travelling there anytime soon but I wish Jonathon and the event all the best. I really admire someone who has so much passion for the MMO and gaming industry that they’re willing to invest so much time into organising a fan event. It sounds like a great expo and I’m sure it will do well.

P.S. He did offer me some free tickets in exchange for helping him out but, as I don’t live in the States, I couldn’t take him up on his kind offer.

New Zombie MMOZ (And How I Predicted The Future)

A few months ago I wrote about how I’d love to see a Zombie MMORPG and what I’d like to see in it. Today, my fantasy has been birthed as I just discovered that Jeff Strain, veteran Blizzard programmer and Guild Wars founder, has started a game development studio called Undead Labs in order to “create the definitive massively multiplayer zombie game”. I think I just pee’d my pants a little.

Information about the game is pretty patchy because, by all accounts, it’s just kicked off so there’s nothing to really know at this stage. Suffice to say, after checking Jeff’s resume, I feel comfortable in his hands. He worked on Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft 3 and was the original lead programmer on World of Warcraft before creating Guild Wars. Of course this is no guarentee that he will create a great Zombie MMO but it certainly stacks the deck in it’s favour.

However, no cloud is without it’s grey lining, and apparently this MMOZ will be for…um… “console gamers”. Confused much? Well, after reading his interview on Eurogamer it sounds like Jeff’s on a mission to reinvent the MMO console game, just like Bungie did with Halo on the Xbox. This won’t be your normal MMORPG then.

I still think my idea of an EVE like sandbox, tough-as-nails, zombie survival horror MMORPG would be awesome. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? Perhaps it’s still not to late to influence ol’ Jeff. Anyone got his email address?

P.S. If you’re wondering how I “predicted the future” on this it was, um, because I had an idea for a zombie MMO a few months before this was announced. Hence why I believe I had a premonition.

P.P.S. Big thanks to Andrew over at Of Teeth and Claws (a mighty fine blog indeed) for letting me know about this news!