Saturday, December 20, 2008

Crimson's 2009 game list

There are a lot of fantastic titles scheduled for release in 2009 and I for one can't wait to play them all. If I had to narrow my list down to five titles that I'm most excited about, it would look like this:

1. Guild Wars 2
Anyone that reads this blog could have guessed that this was going to be my number one most anticipated game. I'm so pumped for this game that this blog will most likely become a shrine to GW2 once it is released. Although there hasn't been an official release date announced yet, I'm confident that GW2 will arrive in 2009. I don't think NCSoft or ArenaNet can last another year without giving GW2 the light of day. I for one can't wait to welcome the new messiah of MMO gaming ;)

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Bioware has always made great games, and I know that TOR will be great as well. My only concern is this TOR will launch with EA's stench all over it's business model.
If any game can get my girlfriend interested in MMOs, it will be this one. I hope it doesn't release around the same time as GW2, because I may be 'forced' to play for the gf factor alone ;)

3. Diablo 3
I'm still drooling from viewing the trailer of D3. I know it's not an MMO, but I was a huge (and I mean huge) fan of Diablo 2. It does concern me a little bit that the game will not support LAN play, as D2 LAN parties were always a favorite of mine.
I have a feeling that Blizzard are saving their D3 trump card for the release of GW2 and TOR, so expect to see it in 2009.

4. Aion
If Aion has the gameplay to back up it's amazing looks and list of features, it will do extremely well. Openedge believes that Aion will not be overly successful in the Western markets because of the Anime factor and I'm inclined to agree with him. Won't stop me from playing it though. The character customization technology looks very cool and lets face it, who wouldn't want wings for their character?

5. Jumpgate Evolution
I've got a soft spot for sci-fi games. I enjoyed Eve up to a point, but I wished it was more like Freelancer. JE looks like it might just deliver on my expectations for a sci-fi MMO. I've signed up for the beta, and look forward to firing dual tachyon canons across the hull of some unsuspecting alien battleship ;)

So yeah that's my list. If by some bizarre and cruel twist of fate all five of these games were launched on the same day, you can clearly see my install and play order. Not sure if I would survive the day though... MMO pleasure overload...

I'd be interested to know what other people's top 5 most anticipated games for 2009 are?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gaming download revolution!

I used to always purchase my games over the counter. Whenever I would go shopping at the mall with my girlfriend, I used to disappear and she would always find me at the Electronics Boutique. It was my favorite shop in the world. That was until the day they screwed me over with Warhammer Online. Not only did EB charge $25 more for the retail version of the game than the digital download, they also messed up my pre-order causing me to miss out on the beta. Their customer service went something along the lines of:

"Sorry buddy, must of made a computer error. Would you like to pre-order WotLK now?"

I couldn't believe the guy would try and sell me another pre-order after he botched the last one (me not liking WoW didn't help). I was so furious that I vowed never to walk into their store again. On a side note, I also considered inventing the poisonous flaming shuriken and throwing it between the eyes of the try-hard nerd wannabee EB sales assistant. Luckily it didn't come to that... Unfortunately for me though EB has a monopoly in Australia, and if you don't buy your games through them, you don't buy games at all (another reason to hate them).

So naturally I turned to purchasing and obtaining games online. My first digital game purchase was the Orange Box for $30 US through Steam. I was so pleased with the service that I later bought Overlord for $10 and Left 4 Dead for $50 US. I'm telling you, the guys at Steam have got it all worked out. Their games are cheaper than the retail counterparts and they cleverly wrap the DRM software into the Steam service so that the player is never bothered by it. It's definitely the future of game sales.

Unfortunately Steam doesn't cover all the games I like to play, so I also checked out Impulse and Gog. Impulse had a nice little sale over the weekend where I picked up Space Rangers 2 for $4 US. Awesome game for the sale price btw. Reminded me of my old school days of Frontier Elite II.

Anyway, for the price of WAR and a one month's subscription, I have been able to buy these awesome games:
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Half Life 2 (including Episode 1 and 2)
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Portal
  • Overlord
  • Space Rangers 2
I've had more fun playing these than I did WAR and I didn't have to deal with hopeless sales staff or even leave my house. Naturally there is the overhead of the download itself, but if you have a decent net connection, it's not really a problem.

I don't think I'll ever buy another game over the counter, unless it's for a console which doesn't support online purchase (like the DS). If you haven't already, I recommend joining the digital download revolution!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Taking a chapter from the FPS book

Here's my game pitch:

Take Team Fortress 2 and swap all the classes for classic fantasy style classes (i.e. sorcerer, rogue, priest etc.). Add some PvE with a killer story line and set it in a Tolkien style universe. You now have yourself one hell of an awesome MMO.

Why you ask?

These are the following attributes that TF2 brings to the table, that MMORPGs have been failing to do for years:
  • Excellent physics engine
  • Balanced classes (and a large variety)
  • Large scale battles up 32 vs 32
  • Fast paced and stable combat
  • New items are obtained through achievement unlocks
  • Automatic battle balancing
  • The ability to call for healing when you need it ("Medic!")
  • Fun and enjoyable PvP with a very low learning curve
  • The ability to choose your own server at will
  • A friends list independent of the game
  • Can view statistics and achievements of yourself and others online
  • User created PvP maps
This is where I ask:

If an FPS can have all these features then why can't an MMORPG?

Is it because it's not feasible? If no, then why not?

Should these features not apply to MMORPG? Again... why not?

I believe that if an existing MMORPG implemented only three features from the above list, it would do extremely well. I worry that today's MMO game companies aren't looking outside the square when designing their games. All they want to do is make a better WoW clone. Well maybe it's about time they took a chapter from of the FPS book...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MMO character name recycling

One of the most annoying things about starting a new character in an MMO is trying to pick a name that isn't taken. All the best names always go in the first hour of the MMO game being released, and then everyone after that gets stiffed. I'm usually always left making characters with an obscurely spelt variation of the name I wanted, or have to pick some less attractive name. When I created my second character on Guild Wars, I tried to name her 'Crimson Starfire'. Unfortunately the name was already taken and so I had choose a variation of the name. I did however add that person to my friends list in the off chance I would see them online and possibly barter for the name. Four years went by and I've never once seen that person online! Me = annoyed!

I don't know who to blame more, the annoying guy who always takes the name I want, or the MMO game company for forcing over a million people to pick unique names. In a lot of the cases, games allow for multiple character slots and so one person can be holding on to 10 plus names. If that person goes permanently inactive, those names are lost forever into the ether of the interwebs. Seems like such a waste.

So as online gaming populations grow, it makes more and more sense to be able to recycle the character names floating around in this ether. If a player is inactive for more than 6 months, then I think their character names should be made available for re-use. If the player returns for some reason, then they simply have to pick new names for their characters. It does seem a bit harsh, but I think it's fair. If you choose to leave a MMO game for a large period of time, other players shouldn't be penalized for your abandonment. It's possible that losing a character name may cause the player to not want to return, so the inactive period would need to be made long enough to indicate that the player was never coming back anyway. The game company could even send out a courtesy email informing the ex-player that their character names are going to be recycled if they don't log in before a certain date.

Melf_Himself once comically said:

When I was born it was a very long labour. Apparently my parents had to switch servers until they found one on which there were no other 'Phil's...

It's quiet a funny joke, but sadly that's how MMO games operate. Seems extremely unrealistic to me, especially if the game was aiming to increase realism. This brings me to my other solution to the unique naming problem. Why not let the players name their characters what ever the hell they feel like, with no restriction on uniqueness. The player then also has to create a unique 'call-sign' which applies to all characters on the account. The call-sign can be made of tiny picture icons, different coloured text and what ever else would add to the uniqueness. When you add someone to your friend list, you add their call-sign. When ever they are online it shows their call-sign and the name of the character that they are currently playing. In PvP tournaments, it would be your call-sign that shows next to your stats. That way people can identify you even if you change characters. This would definitely solve the unique name problem and a few others at the same time.

I don't know... seems logical to me...