What’s Up

No, I am not playing Mass Effect 3. It’s taken a back seat to the tabletop project I mentioned earlier. I will absolutely get to it, however – but probably when the price has dropped a bit. As much as I liked the previous two, I waited until they were $20 to buy them.

The Guild Wars 2 preorder goes live on April 10. I’m totally going in on that. The Collector’s Edition is again a ridiculous $150, which seems to be the new price point for such things. The regular edition will be fine with me.

Spring Break is here. The Winter quarter was very trying, but Spring should be better. Mrs. Ardwulf and I are planning a little trip (which my G+ circlers will probably get updates about) to celebrate our anniversary (actually later in the month,) but I will have a few idle days (comparatively – I still have to work, but just having to go to work feels like a vacation,) at the end, which I plan to drop on an MMO.

I have done little more than check in on any MMO in about three months and haven’t even done that for probably six weeks. I have a standing offer from Bioware to check out SWTOR for 7 days free, and I may take them up on that. Or I may just play EQ2 or LotRO. Haven’t decided yet.

Out With the Old, In With the New

As players line up for SWTOR early access like tovarisches waiting for toilet paper, tonight marked as grand a farewell as could be arranged for an altogether more fearless and ambitious game set in the same universe. Star Wars Galaxies, whose chief liability was that it was saddled with the tiresome Star Wars IP, is no more.

Bioware’s $300 million behemoth will be off to a roaring start, of that there is no doubt. Perhaps it will have better endurance than I expect, based on how far I got in the beta. My inclination, today, is to be negative about it, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. What that bright side boils down to is that Bioware is the best thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. They have done their best both to produce an experience as high in quality as possible, and to conform to the market expectations mandated by their enormous budget. It’s a title that could take no chances, and does not. SWTOR is by no means a bad game, but that it exists as it does is a sad commentary on the state of MMO design. Eight years ago Star Wars’ place in the MMO space lie with a game too revolutionary for its own good, so innovative that the Lucas goons had to put a boot on its neck to force it to conform. That effort did not entirely succeed, and even to its last day it was a game far richer in possibilities than SWTOR will ever be.

Somewhere, lurking in the depths of the bleak ocean that is MMO development, there is somebody working on something that learns the lessons – good and bad – taught by Star Wars Galaxies. Someday we’ll have the game that does for MMOs what Skyrim does for single-player RPGs. But that day is not today. Today is SWTOR’s day, and as players warm to it, especially players who remember what SWG was and what it could have been, the thing to remember is that every cent they give it it is another cent worth of validation in the echo chamber that surrounds George Lucas that what was done to SWG, the stifling of innovation in favor of conformity and derivation, was the right thing to do.

New on the EALouse Front…

The absolute best take on the EALouse pseudo-scandal can be found HERE. I was going to link to the original, but it’s apparently been hacked.

UPDATE: Unhacked, apparently. Either that was the world’s most inept hacker or a scheme orchestrated by EALouse himself to make his “enemies” look bad. If he posts a back-scratcher, I guess we’ll know.

P.S.: The whole affair, along with the comments as well as associated reading of stuff like EA Spouse, and the history of this kind of thing coming up repeatedly with many companies, makes me again ask the question: what kind of freaking lunatic would want to work in the gaming industry?

Disgruntled e-Mythic Staffer Hates On SWTOR

A soon-to-be ex-employee of Mythic has started a blog talking (ostensibly) about why Warhammer failed and why SWTOR will suck. It’s interesting reading, although I’d take it with a grain of salt, and a couple of the points made are outright laughable, like there being no marketing campaign behind Warhammer. Maybe there wasn’t, as such, but the buzz around that game leading up to launch was immense, and initial box sales were huge.

Also interesting is the claim that Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online have more subs right now than Warhammer. I find that hard to believe, and Xfire’s numbers back me up. Maybe there are whole brigades of people still playing those old games faithfully on PCs too old to run Xfire or something.

The comments are equally interesting.

EDIT: Forgot to add the link. Dur.

Jedi Are Not Enough

Keen has a post up today about Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it sounds like he’s about where I am on the title, for different reasons.

I am not a really huge Star Wars fan. Sure, I loved the movies as a kid and as an adult looked back on them with immense nostalgia. But the dreadful prequel trilogy (while it did have its bright spots,) soured me on the whole property, now that I look back on it. In the world of computer games, I never played either KOTOR or did more than dabble in Star Wars Galaxies, so while the franchise may have a well-deserved rep for germinating solid video games, I was really never a part of it or indeed much interested in it at all. So in the end the Star Wars name really doesn’t do anything for me one way or the other.

My preferences in video games lie largely in the field of MMOs. I dabble with other stuff (mostly Rock Band, really,) from time to time, but the great majority of my gaming time goes into MMOs. And my preferences in MMOs would seem to help unsell SWTOR to me. Namely, persistent, seamless, non-instanced worlds, which it sure looks like SWTOR will lack, although I don’t think we’ve yet seen to what extent that will be true. Conventional wisdom says that the game will be very heavily instanced, but although conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong, Bioware has said nothing to disabuse us of the notion, and has shown us and said a great deal that implies heavy use of instancing.

As I’ve said in the past, I think instancing is a crutch used to plaster over holes in a game’s design. Ultimately, I think the practice is antithetical to what MMOs are all about: the shared virtual massive space.

But on the other hand, there’s Mass Effect. Back in the day when people were still speculating about what Bioware’s big MMO project was going to be, I was publically hoping that it would be Mass Effect Online. I really liked Mass Effect, and it certainly looks as though a lot of what Bioware did with that game will be heading into SWTOR. That alone is enough to make me interested. But it’s not enough to make SWTOR an MMO, at least by my definition, and while I would very much like to see and try the finished game, I’m not at all sure I’d stay interested in a SWTOR that’s not.