There has been a rumor going around, semi-confirmed, that Blizzard is working on a next-generation MMO. Speculation is going wild because no one has really said anything about it other than a couple of references to the fact that it exists. So what is the potential next property from the market leader in MMOs?
According to Massively there is a rumor that it’s a potential blockbuster, possibly Starcraft Online. According to the article this information was leaked through an Asian partner company to Blizzard. Smaller MMO and gaming studios around the world were heard to say; “well, sh*t.”
Once again, video games are being vilified in order to advance the agenda of a special interest group. The Sierra Club of New Mexico proposed a “Sin Tax” on video games and televisions, with the proceeds going to fund “outdoor education programs.”
I won’t go into what I think about “education programs” per se, other than to say that it’s probably a way for a lot of the club’s members to earn additional income without any accountability to results. Money from taxes without accountability is always a bad idea in my mind, but that isn’t all that is wrong with this.
I’m getting more interested in what is going on over at 38 Studios. I’m still maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism, as you would expect from me. All the same, there are subtle signs that things are going OK over at 38. I’m hoping to find out more background when I do an interview with some of the principals over there for 38fans.com (I’m going to be doing a little writing for them as well. Trying to make sure that I spread myself as thin as possible.) More on that later.
Here are the things that encourage me right at the moment…
The holiday has come and gone, and we’ve had a chance at my house to settle into our post-holiday gaming habits. It’s significant because around the holidays we tend to game a lot with the kids, and that generally means console gaming. There was a whole lot of Rock Band, Mario Kart Double Dash (Best 4-player game EVER), and the like during the holidays. Now, as Tarkheena and I settle in to our regular gaming routines, I wanted to recound what PC gaming we are pursuing and what is being cast aside. With that in mind, here is the first edition of the Grouchy In-N-Outs (name subject to change.)
EVE Online – OUT
In Brief – As Tarkheena reported in the EVE post, I canceled my EVE account last night. I’ll still log on between now and the drop-dead date but only to check on training. The next level of training is going to take several weeks, so I’ll let it do that while it’s not on my dime. I’ll probably resub at some point, because I DO like the game.
My Take – In today’s world of choices for MMO players, this game just didn’t stand up to the comparison. The ramp-up is steep and things go really slowly at the outset. There is a learning cliff instead of a learning curve. It’s interesting enough, and if I had a long-time group of friends who all moved there together, I can see how this would be a really great game. That didn’t happen though.
Genda has been bugging me to write a post about this for a while now, but I am NOT the blogger in our house. However, Tipa brought up a point about something in a response to the post about Vanguard and it got me motivated to speak up so here it is.
Pretty much gibes with my reactions from my first weekend playing VG. One thing of note: The character models were the worst I have ever seen, especially the nonhuman ones, which were exactly like if you had chopped off a normal person’s head and grafted a fox’s, or a wolf’s. Tragic.
Character creation is my bag baby! I have to say that I picked up City of Villains recently and played the 14 day trial. THE MAIN reason I did it was the character generator. TALK ABOUT CUSTOMIZATION!? I was in ecstasy. I must have played with the character generator for a couple of hours just tweaking different parts of my costume. I don’t know what it is…maybe it is the fact that I’m a girl. But I literally zoned everything else out but that. The game sucked just as much as it always did (no matter what anyone says…it isn’t my idea of an MMO). But every time I would see someone else in the game, it would trigger a “OOOOOHHH!!! I could do something like that but different” and the next thing you know, I was out there creating a new character. CoH and CoV were a dream come true. I have always said to my best friend (another gamer girl) “It’s my fantasy…don’t f’ with it!”. I LIKED having my Everquest avatar be a tall willowy redhead with green eyes. In reality, I am a 6’3″ brunette with brown hair and eyes. But my fantasy as a little girl was always to be Cinderella with the long golden hair or to be an Irish lass with flaming red hair and flashing green eyes.
It seems that Santa was good to World of Warcraft. Possibly due to the lift the holiday season would give, Blizzard announced that subscriptions to WoW have surpassed the 10 Million mark world-wide. They also gave a breakdown of where those subscribers are for the first time that I can recall. According to Blizzard;
Interest in the game has remained high in all regions, with thousands of new and returning players signing up through the holiday season. World of Warcraft now hosts more than 2 million subscribers in Europe, more than 2.5 million in North America, and approximately 5.5 million in Asia.
So fully 55% of their market is in Asia, which uses a different subscription model than in the US and the EU. They also had a section in the press release defining what they count as a subscriber;
World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.
It seems like gaming is growing up. In an article on 1UP they report that the ESA (the Entertainment Software Association) has started a PAC (political action committee) to make contributions to candidates that are sympathetic to gaming issues and hopefully less likely to start the unenlightened witch hunts that have been characteristic of some of our heroes in Washington.
According to the article, financial contributions from the PAC will be forthcoming;
The ESA’s action committee plans to hand out somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000 worth of contributions to national-level candidates in 2008 — an amount roughly equivalent to the spending done by similar groups representing the film and music lobbies. Because of legal technicalities surrounding corporations and campaign contributions, the theoretical cap for any donation made directly by the ESA to a single candidate would be $5000.
So as promised, I gave Vanguard a little more thorough going-over this past weekend. I wanted to see how it performed and what the state of the game was. I had an idea what to expect, but I wanted to keep an open mind about the overall game and see where it stood. My observations follow.
First of all, I now know how much machine it takes to run Vanguard at full resolution and highest quality video settings. I have just built a new gaming rig with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 processor (2.66 Ghz), 2 GB of ram, an ASUS gaming mobo, BFG 8800 GT overclocked graphics card, and a 22″ LG wide-screen monitor. With that gear, I was able to run Vanguard at it’s highest settings. It wasn’t without complaint from the machine. I don’t know if more memory would have helped, but each new area I entered caused a high level of hard disk activity, along with the attendant hitching. Once the are and it’s inhabitants were loaded, it ran pretty much like a champ.
The world does look great. The art direction for the world (as opposed to the character design) is wonderful. There are items that still look a little “plastic” for my taste, but overall the feeling of the environment is very good. The characters still look stilted and the running animations are pretty average, at best. There is nothing to distinguish the races one from another, something World of Warcraft did pretty well.
I’m letting my resub to Vanguard Lapse.
Most of you know that I’ve been involved with Vanguard in some way for almost 5 years. I still own a fansite for the game, and I have spent a lot of time getting to know some of the guys who work(ed) there at SigilSOE. I WANT Vanguard to be successful and to thrive.
A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of the free reactivation of my account by SOE to try the game out again. I hadn’t played since late last April. I was anxious to see if all of the reported improvement in the game made it any more fun or playable.
I was lucky enough this year to get a chunk of money this Christmas from Tarkheena to build a new gaming rig. My old rig was getting, well, old. So as you can imagine, this was a welcome gift. I took advantage and built a nice value gaming rig with a dual core Intel and an 8800 GT graphics card. All of the games that were balky or wouldn’t run before seem to run pretty dang nice now.
One of the games that didn’t run well before was Hellgate London. Among it’s other well-documented failings it was a sort of a system hog. I could play the single player mode before if I turned down all the graphic options. Once I had my new rig built, I decided to reinstall the games I’m playing or playing with right now. Wow, EVE, COX, TF2 and the other Valve stuff, Tabula Rasa, and Hellgate. All of that other stuff went right back on my computer with no hassle, but Hellgate was a pain in the ass.
For about 8 months now, I’ve been telling you what I can get substantiated about the demise of Sigil and what led up to the spectacular failure that was Vanguard’s shipping. I hate to publish without some substantiation. There have been some other things that I have heard from people that worked there about what happened that I have never blogged about or even talked about with Tarkheena.
Over at Fires of Heaven, former game designer Vince Napoli, known at FOH as Teclisen lets loose with a torrent of information that hasn’t been discussed publicly up until now. I’ve been dying for some of this stuff to see the light of day, and now that he’s spilled at least a good-sized portion of the beans let’s do a little postmortem. Not something for the kids to read, probably. The complete post follows, broken out and commented on.
So the moment that I knew was coming from day one came yesterday. Branyanu summoned my EVE character to Nafrivik and started giving me all her stuff. And her stuff is quite a bit considering how long we played (not that long.) Several ships, items, and several million ISK.
Tarkheena was canceling her EVE account.