What Happened This Week: 5/22 – 5/28 Edition

I saw an interesting thread over the past week. It asked “would you rather take one million dollars if it meant never being able to play Guild Wars 2?” My answer was an absolute yes. Now, I loved Guild Wars, even though I got bored once I finished the leveling and storyline quests, and I never bought the last two expansions and I occasionally enjoy player vs player combat, but not to the level of being competitive. That being said, I’d take a million dollars to not play any specific video game, even if it means not having a chance to try Duke Nukem Forever. I could use that million to pay off my car, buy a house, get into a great college, and pursue my career at the expense of what? An experience that will last me maybe a year?

I would hope that everyone would agree with me, with the exception of those of you who are filthy rich and wipe using one million dollar bills that didn’t exist until you purchased the US Treasury and started printing them. Even once you factor in taxes being taken out, you are still looking at all of your financial burdens (house/several cars/college loans) being taken care of.

But enough about money, let’s see what happened this week.

1. Warhammer Online Free? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Now that Age of Conan is going free to play, a move I’ve been suggesting since 2009, the attention is being turned to Warhammer Online making the move. As much as I’d love to see WAR go free to play, I don’t think such a move is feasible anymore. From my monitoring of the Warhammer Online forums and looking at the game’s history, Mythic may have neither the manpower nor the support to make such a leap. Changing payment systems requires a lot of resources from a business and mechanics perspective, changing systems around to accommodate a cash shop, conceptualizing and balancing said cash shop to not throw the game off balance, etc.

You have to hand it to the Warhammer Online community though, those that have stuck through for this long are a very dedicated group. They understand that there is likely no big update coming to be their savior and turn the game around. In the US, WAR has dropped to two servers and continues to bleed like a stuck pig. As much as Mythic has done to improve the game since launch, the major factor has always been too little, too late.

2. I Prefer My Softs NC’d Rather than Ubi’d

I recently attempted to redownload Rainbow Six Vegas from Direct2Drive, only to find following the six gigabyte download and installation that I could not activate the game. “Unknown error.” After clicking on the link to the support page, I was told to submit a question. Upon clicking that button, I was greeted with (what else?) an error message. Could not access the page. So no way to validate my copy, no way to contact ubisoft. I purchased Vegas for $3 on Steam as part of the $13 Rainbow Six collection on sale today, figuring Steam will offer better activation coverage.

Speaking of activation, I finally got around to reactivating my NCsoft account. I haven’t touched my account since before NCsoft implemented that authentication system, so my computer was not authenticated. Turns out, I also forgot my password reset answers (spelling issues). I sent an email to NCsoft’s customer support after shaking off several months of too-damn-lazy syndrome, and got a response the next day, notifying me that my account was reset and I would have to set up new reminder questions and a new password. So I’m all set for the Aion welcome back week this Thursday.

3. Phasing Vs Exclusion: Telling A Good Story

The problem with telling an ongoing story in an MMO is that you have one of three options: You can make a story that has no impact on the world, and impress very few. Who cares about the story when they know major characters will never die? Then, you can take the more accepted route which involves phasing. In Runescape, in the quest While Guthix Sleeps, around six major characters to the series die. This doesn’t include the multitude of other quests where major characters die, are incapacitated, or are enslaved by the enemy. At the same time, I’ll see different NPCs than someone who did not complete the quest, even though were are in the same room and can see each other. Finally, you have world events. World events change the world for everyone. They remove quests, add in other quests, and move NPCs and training spots around. In Tabula Rasa, for instance, world events lead to the destruction of two major player bases, leaving behind smoldering ruins. In World of Warcraft, the most famous world events occur during expansion releases. On the other hand, you risk excluding players. The Matrix Online was the worst offender, because unless you started from the day the game launched and never missed an event, you were out of tune with the continuing story and had to rely on a text based “what you missed” to be filled in. Not as good as seeing it live, definitely a disincentive for players.

The best approach is probably a hybrid of world events and phasing. Phasing for the small stuff, and world events for the big stuff. For an MMO like Runescape, world events are just not feasible with how the story relies on the player doing quests. Many can’t be randomly removed because that would create too many broken links.

4. Some Thoughts Regarding Marvel Universe Online

In addition to comments about my mentioning of Superman, when picked up on my Marvel Universe article (No Customization, Ever), I had a good amount of people knocking on me for bashing the quality of the game before release, and more recently I had people asking why I haven’t talked about Runescape’s upcoming Freminik Sagas update being similar. For those who don’t play, the Freminik Sagas are part of an expanding idea to have players take roles of other characters in the Runescape Universe. This is to allow the player to witness events that took place previously in the game’s lore, without requiring factors like time travel or intervention.

I haven’t mentioned Runescape because I particularly like the idea. It worked when the player took control of Zanik in the Chosen Commander quest, and it will likely work here too. My problem with Marvel Universe Online is not an assumption on the game’s quality (and I’ve pointed out several times that I would absolutely play it), but that my issue is with the game being advertised as an MMO, but not to the MMO crowd. If you’re trying to net the crowd that does not play MMOs, and calling your game an MMO, they won’t bite. The same happened with All Points Bulletin, when Realtime Worlds said “hey, it’s not really an MMO, it’s a shooter online!” The MMO core lost interest because it wasn’t an MMO, and the shooter core who aren’t keen to pay a subscription lost interest because of the added “fees.”

Now, MUO is cash shop supported, and hopefully features a lot more free content than Super Hero Squad. So when people ask me why I’m so untrustworthy of Gazillion Entertainment on this one (aside from looking at Lego Universe and Auto Assault, that is), I simply tell them for the same issues I had with All Points Bulletin. MUO is an identity crisis waiting to happen.

5. How About A Star Trek Diplomacy Single Player Game?

I’ve always said that if you want gripping story, go play a single player game. Now, in the case of games like Runescape, the actual story mode is indeed single player. I may have opened up the western half of Ardougne, but the guy sitting next to me still hasn’t cleared the rubble pile or killed the leader of the Trolls, Dad. I stopped the invasion of Varrok by a powerful necromancer, but the guy sitting at the Grand Exchange selling rune platebodies hasn’t even heard of the guy (in context of the game) yet.

So I’d love to see a good Star Trek game that features combat, but also relies as heavily on diplomacy as the television series does. I want to have my own crew, have them live out their lives, and encounter stories that can take place entirely on board my ship. I want to have a video game become popular and have to figure out why everyone is playing it and how to stop it. I want tribbles to invade and have to turn my head as I flame broil the furry, and adorable, cretins back to the hell they spawned out of.

In short: I want a story driven Star Trek game, and Star Trek Online doesn’t have the structure to provide that. It’s my money and I want it now!

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