April 28, 2011

My current games of interest and comparing and contrasting based on what I know

It's been a week since I last posted on this blog. I got my mind caught up in other things honestly, so I ended up neglecting this. I do need to keep a steady pace on these instead of the typical make a blog and forget it for several month stretches that I normally do with blogs, so in a vain attempt to keep my topics relevant, this topic will be a compare and contrast to two games that I've thought about getting and which one actually has more of my interest and why. Which two games you might ask? The Old Republic and The Secret World or TOR and TSW as they are often abbreviated as.

TOR is obviously the more mainstream game that has the greater attention of the masses. And why shouldn't it? BioWare and EA have been banging their chest about this game for several years now, making a lot of bold claims about it since the project started and honestly, I think they've fallen short of delivering on. On the other hand, TSW is Funcoms little gem that you hardly hear anything about yet they are talking about more innovative features and actually demonstrating them in a genre that has actually been stagnant now for almost a decade. It's unprecedented and has my greater attention, so let me analyze why.

Now, before I proceed, I am not fangirling or hating on one product over another. I am analyzing this from the prospect of which will offer the greater innovation and entertainment value. I am not a Star Wars fan, in fact my personal view is it's a quaint little movie with a brow beaten tone of good must always triumph over evil through Deus Ex Machina that has garnered phenomenal success. I do feel the creator and such has garnered more praise than he actually deserves, especially considering he completely 180'd on his views and beliefs not long ago, but then that's not the heart of the issue.

Originally, when I saw The Old Republic being talked about, the first thing that popped in my head is "It's going to be World of Warcraft with a Star Wars skin" and to this day I am sad I was proven right, especially with the people who adamantly refuse to believe it even though BioWare themselves have basically admitted it was. But that wasn't something that was going to detract me. I have played BioWare games, and though I find them incredibly dull and boring, the story, sometimes, actually intrigue me when I am not being bludgeoned by a 50 page novella from the first contact NPC.

But the thing is BioWare pretty much promised the universe, but so far what I've seen delivered is pretty much an almost bite for bite copy of World of Warcraft with talky bits and a Star Wars skin. Grant it, I will probably try the game out and play it, and it looks beautiful (realist retards not withstanding). I can give BioWare that, but everything I've seen and everything as it stands looks like I will be playing the exact same game (names as well) as what Blizzard has already done, and the real kick to the stomach I think that TOR fans are still smarting about is that one of the BioWare devs pretty much said that you have to basically be WoW to succeed.

Now, the basics out of the way the other problems I have with TOR is that basically it also sounds like they are going the retard route and making it super solo able. Now I know for some of the casual market, that's like a godsend and they feel that they will somehow sully themselves by being forced to intermingle with people. For quick cash, of course, this is a brilliant design choice. But for long term this is damnably embarrassing and damaging to the longevity of your product.

Another thing that already irks me that I discussed in a previous blog post is that the customization choices, no matter how many hair styles and faces I can choose, will be limited based on actual equipment that is worn. This is 2011 now, it should be standard practice for MMOs these days to offer wider range of customization. I mean seriously, an MMO about to celebrate its 14th anniversary can claim greater customization and choice than your MMO, there is a major goddamn problem.

But I think the major crux of my problem is that it seems that they are promising 50 levels of content, of course, but so many planets which to me strikes of we will end up being rushed through them all which means we will probably end up blowing through content like Kleenex. Naturally, this is the way theme parks work, a confusing introduction with a big BS middle that is only there to get you to the even more confusing ending. They promise a lot of stories, but honestly, WoW did to, and the constant requirement of promised voice talent either means a lot of content will have corners cut during development for patches, or the content patches are going to be so far and few in between as it would be better to close your account down until several updates have gone by. Theme parks require constant maintenance because their systems rely on new things to be introduced regularly to keep players interested, and I honestly do not think BioWare is up to task on that.

Now, on the flip side of things, I will say that The Secret World has gained a lot of my interest. I still haven't jumped on the band wagon, yet, but some of the things I've seen from the GDC videos and read and actual demonstrated game play actually intrigues me of the actual prospects of the game. Now admittedly, FunCom hasn't got that great of a reputation due to Age of Conan, and their launches tend to be rockier than a mountain trail. So there is always that specter looming over the launch of TSW. However, that is something I will give a pass to their past as I look more at what the potential could hold, and as long as developers and such learn their mistakes and do not regress like other game companies have in the past, then I can see a lot of potential.

Now, comparatively, TSW is not a big name game, nor does it have a huge pedigree IP behind it and finally it doesn't have a big name backer behind it either to make it sound huge. In fact, one could say that TSW is relatively a huge unknown in the market, but it's trying to do something different, at least from what's been presented. Now, I will not even pretend this game isn't going to be Theme Park, but because everything points that it will be heavily Theme Park, but I am liking some of the ideas and premises that are being discussed in videos, interviews and on their very website on what is going on with TSW.

First and foremost, the big plus; My characters appearance will not be dictated by the gear I will wear. This is a huge, huge bonus to me, especially if the customization and clothing choices will be exceptionally varied and allow me to create an in-game persona that will be unique from everyone else's character. This alone could offer up some very deep and varied crafting systems, but it's a wait and see as not a lot has actually been shown in that department. Of course, I must confess, the current animations I have seen look stiff and that does worry me a bit on the huge promise. Hopefully they will spend time to make them more fluid. The art looks really good, it's just the animations that worry me at this time.

Another thing that has me interested is the fact they are introducing game play elements from more single player games into the meta game as a whole, for instance environmental effects that cause events or additional effects to happen. For instance, using a car alarm to summon zombies or a gas can to ignite them like how it was done in Left 4 Dead. Now, I've played a lot of MMOs, but I've never seen that mechanic before in an MMO. It's possible I didn't play one that has it, but as far as I am aware, none do. That alone opens up the floor to a great host of possibilities for the greater game as a whole, and I hope that FunCom expands greatly on that aspect of the game to be used in all manners of encounters and strategies.

Another thing that I liked and was intrigued about is they seem to bluntly be trying to not bludgeon players with lots of wordy things and such and a few lines of dialog and letting the players themselves get interested in the story to seek it out and discover it for themselves. They want to tell the story through the game play, in short, you won't have a novels worth of text to scroll through or several points of useless dialog. Even though they are making the NPC conversations talkies, they say it won't hurt their feelings to skip because the actual story will be told in the game world itself as you play, through various clues you find and environmental things. This has huge potential to add in some tangential learning into a game about the events and such in the game, which also boasts another intuitive feature I am hoping pans out like they say.

They are calling this feature Investigative Missions. Now, in traditional MMO quest logic, as everyone is aware, you get a quest and you have an objective or bullet points to complete. Reading of the text is rarely required. In fact you are often led along to the next objective quite openly so you don't really even have to strain yourself to figure out where to go. TSW is boasting that Investigation Missions will actually require players to do some research in order to solve them, and the puzzles won't be obvious. That means actually using your internet browser and google to look up things to get an idea of what might be going on. Now if this bit pans out well, then this will be an awesome game play type. This will actually make players want to be a part of the game world as a whole and not just travelling from objective to objective in the end.

Another mission type that the name escapes me now is what they described as a Deus Ex style stealth mission game play system. In short you have to stealth through a mission. But unlike a modern MMO where you get a button that magically fades you out, how I understand it you actually have to be mindful of enemy sight as well as environment around you. Things that make noise could alert critters towards you and so forth. This sounds very innovative, especially for the MMO market that has relied on everyone just basically disappearing in a brightly lit glade since the days of UO.

Anyways, those are my basics on what I am seeing for the two MMOs that have my interest, one not so much, the other gaining more as more is revealed. I will undoubtedly try out both. I am hoping that more is different about TSW than has been shown, and that I will be surprised. I hope for a deep crafting system in a game, as well as a potential housing system, but those are wishes and I won't pretend they will be offered. They've talked about sand box elements and I do hope for more information on a lot of game play features. Of course, morbid curiosity makes me wonder if TSW will go AoC's route with allowing topless females (dirty minded girl). I think about the only thing that could catch my interest more in TSW is if they told me I could make a werewolf character. It's definitely a game to keep an eye on if you are interested in MMOs, and hope for the best. I am sure many will take that to mean I am fangirling all over TSW, which I am not, it's just it is promising things that actually sound different and interesting, and I am hoping it delivers to dig the MMO genre out of this rather deep hole of stagnation.

As far as TOR is concerned, I am not really looking as much towards it as I use to. I knew it would be a WoW clone though I secretly hoped they would do something different. But when my suspicions were confirmed my interest waned fast. I wanted to really like TOR and I really wanted something to knock WoW off its pedestal, but honestly, I don't think TOR will hold my interest more than a few months after its initial launch. And that's really sad to me. I know people will undoubtedly buy it and "like" it because it's Star Wars. That's a given, just like people bought and liked Star Trek Online, because it was Star Trek. But I think BioWare has an enormous hole they need to climb out of.

Anyways, that does it for this blog. Leave commentary here about it and such, or ask questions and I might answer them. Until next time. :)

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