Sunday, 24 June 2012

We don't have to licence it to love it.

I have recently quit playing TOR, seemingly much like a lot of people if the numbers are anything to go by. While the Old Republic has been far from a failure, you get the feeling that it was nowhere near the success that both Bioware and EA were hoping for. Hell they are already talking about going free to play with it. I am now wondering if we have seen the last of the licenced mmo’s.

I mean why pay a fortune for a licence, like Star Wars, when not even that can guarantee you a vast player base. The last big licenced mmo, DCUO, went free to play in the space of months. Perhaps it wouldn’t have gotten quite as much initial interested, but they would have been able to save themselves on the licencing costs and given themselves a lot of scope to do what they wanted. Hell I think that Rift proofs this, whilst they don’t have TOR’s (current) user base, you don’t hear talk of them going free to play.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The company that could (and the one that couldn't)

Playing Everquest 2 is never boring, not only because it’s an amazing game, but also because the game is made and published by Sony Online Entertainment, a company that likes to keep things interesting for its players by committing one PR/communication blunder after another. For example, there’s the ProSiebenSat.1 fiasco that happened a couple of months ago, or the sudden removal of the ability to fund subscriptions with Station Cash. Whenever SOE does something stupid, there’s a lot of drama, and they end up apologizing to their players, and announcing a ‘light’ version of their original plan.
Then, there’s Square Enix. A company that makes brilliant games, and sometimes also horrible games. Just about two years ago (has it been that long?), I was a part of the alpha/beta community of Final Fantasy XIV. And although we all loved the Final Fantasy brand and we really wanted this game to be a huge success, everybody knew that the game was going to fail. It was incredibly boring, the UI was awkward, and the game ran bad even on the best computers. The testing forums were flooded with thousands of negative comments, and ideas on how to improve the game. Square Enix ignored them all, and released the game anyway. They had to admit failure and apologize, and since then they have been working very hard on improving the game. Later this year, FFXIV 2.0 is going to launch. Is it going to be any good?
So we have two companies here. They’ve both failed to communicate with its playerbase. They’ve both made mistakes, and apologized for them. One made a great game that’s still going strong after 7 years, one made a horrible game that basically died even before it was released. Still, I have a lot more faith in the company that made the horrible game. Why? Whenever SOE does something bad, they apologize to their customers but do it anyway, just in a ‘lighter’ version. When Square Enix does something bad, they apologize to their customers, and make things right, even if it takes them two years.
Being a trustworthy company is not about never making mistakes. It’s about doing something with your mistakes, and about being honest with the people that pay money to use your product. I sincerely hope that FFXIV2.0 is going to be a huge success. As for Everquest2, I’ll be transferred pretty soon to the ProSiebenSat.1 account services, and I’m starting to think that maybe this is a good thing. 

If sex sells I don’t seem to notice.



fish[2]Being a bloke, I have to admit that I never really gave sexism in games any really consideration. I mean the most sexist game that I have ever played is probably Bayonetta, which is so tongue in cheek that even the wife was laughing at it. Recently many of the people I follow on Twitter start talking about sexism in games, and it has gotten me pondering on my attitudes (most of the people I follow on Twitter are games journalism).

There are a couple of things that really kicked off the thought process. The first is the trailer for the new Hitman game. The trailer is OK aside from one thing, why are the enemy in it dressed as sexy PVC clad nuns, when they could just as easily been generic army men. The second being about the new Tomb Raider game and how they are making young Lara Croft a stronger character by having her fend off an attempted rape. Being honest I did watch the Hitman trailer and the only thought I had a was why are sexy nuns attacking him, it was a bit nonsensical. However looking back it does seem a great deal like they put the sexy nuns in purely to ensure a few more views.

Likewise the Tomb Raider trailers is essentially a couple of minutes of Lara Croft being brutalise, which is intended to  shock in itself . However what was more shocking was that the game director then came out and said that as this is Lara Croft at the beginning of her adult life, her nearly being raped will make her a stronger character in later life (the game is essentially a prequel). The implication being that no woman can be strong unless she has gone through some pretty damn rough times.

Do I abject to a game showing an attempted rape? If it is handled with maturity and consideration then no I don’t. Whether this will be the case with the new Tomb Raider game remains to seen. Though I do think that if video games are ever to be taken seriously, or be seen as an art form, they need to explore the darker aspects of life that films and novels handle so well.

Regardless I think what shocked me the most was how remarkably unshocked I was. Had these issue not been raised, I am not sure I would have batted an eyelid at them. Much like the “Booth babes” that many game conventions have. Yes I understand it is a very misogynistic approach to attract people men (either gamers or games journalist) to your game, to the point were they are banned at PAX. However again I just accepted that sexist PR and advertising exists and didn’t give it a second thought.

I beginning to think that I am so blinkered towards games that I struggle to think of things outside them. So when I see a Hitman trailer with gun totting bondage nuns in it, I am focused on the game that I don’t consider how it looks to the rest of the world, especially non gamers. I am beginning to think that games have desensitised me not just to violence (that’s for another blog), but to the sexism that is seemingly ingrained into games. No wonder video game industry struggles to sell to the female market.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Why can't I play the way I want

I have started playing the Max Payne 3 multi-player, and I have to confess I quite like it. In what seems like a multi-player world full of gruff military men staring down iron sights, the sideways diving slomo silliness is different enough to be refreshing. It is far from perfect but the once the action gets going, or should that be slowing, it is a lot of fun.

However, while it is different from a game-play point of view, it borrows a few things from the COD franchise. Some good (small maps/team size) and some bad. It is the bad that I want to rant, erm talk about. Loading into the multi-player I am greeted with the options of playing deathmatch, just deathmatch. I don't like death match, never have. I always like objective based play. Looking at the lists it seems that the more advanced modes are locked until I play enough deathmatch to unlock them. This is one of the main reasons why I do not play Call of Duty games, because they always make me play hours of beingkilledmatch before getting to the Capture point stuff that I enjoy. It saddened me that Max Payne had followed this approach.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Just playing the games.

Some times I go through phases where all I want to do is share my opinions about games in the form of blogs (that's how QuestHard was born) when I am in this mood I literally begin forming thoughts about a game as it loads and have even been known to jot down first impressions as I play through something but then, like now, I go through phases of just wanting to play stuff and give no real thought to its technical or stylish choices or performance. 

Oddly I think that I got into this mood by playing Diablo 3. Everyone was talking about it when I picked it up and I began to feel like there was nothing new that I could offer in the way of opinions. I did however throw my thoughts out there but felt like I was doing it out of habit more than desire. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

You have to weather the Blizzard of sales to get to Hell

I have just had an enjoyable evening playing Diablo 3 with my wife. We have already finished it once and are trying different characters. Tonight we notice something different. Looks like the general chat is now fixed, so people can now talk across games, much like mmo players can talk across servers. This discussion again was not far off what you would expect mmo players would talk about. People trying to sell things, chatting about character builds and just waffling on in general.

Obviously I have no objection to this, and though the game is actually just 4 player co-op, it adds  a level of life to the game that I sometimes missing in single player (and quite often in multiplayer shooters and the like). Much has been made of Blizzards DRM in Diablo 3, insisting that you must be connected to the internet at all times, and while we have had a few log in problems, it hasn’t bothered me that much (I simply played something else). However on these evening we had half a dozen spam messages from a company selling in game gold. These were the sort of message you usually see in mmo’s as well, offering to give you thousands of in game currency in return for a few pounds.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Diablo 3 - 18 Hours in.

I'm on the home stretch in Diablo 3, just a hop skip and jump away from the final fight and so far I have not formed a real opinion about the game. After 18 hours of my time has been dedicated to it you would thank that I would either have stopped playing or declared my everlasting love for it.

The game is enjoyable as a dungeon crawler and possibly it's the fault of the class I have chosen (Wizard) but I don't seem to be getting very many of the ever entertaining 'drops' that everyone else talks about constantly. The plot has failed to assert its self on me and the multi-player that I have experienced so far has lacked balance.

On the other side of the coin though I must admit that the 18 hours I have played has not seemed a chore either. I have listened to podcasts and music while I have played and the game has been a wonderful companion.

I never really took to Diablo 2 but Torchlight was a real obsession for me for a while so this one not quite hitting the mark has made me rub my  hairy chin and ponder my tastes and gaming styles.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

A TOR of boredom

In the last week and a half I have played one 40 minute session of TOR, after which I got bored and turned it off. The quests seem to have gotten a little less interesting,and slightly more generic, though still very well voice acted. However it is not this that is putting me off. The gameplay itself has always been the weakest part of the game, and even that the quests are still far from poor, they are not as engaging as they are earlier in the game. This is especially true of the class quests.

I am in the unfortunate position at the moment where my next payment for TOR is due on the 08/06/12, and I honestly can’t see me playing anymore. In most mmorpg’s you grind to gain levels, however in TOR I have been grinding to get to the cool story bits. And while the story is now far from bad, it is not quite great enough to make me want to do the grind to see it. It reminds me of the TV show Lost (stick with me, I am going somewhere with this honestly). I watched the first season and loved it, but the first few episodes of the second season were bloody awful and I stopped watching it. However I would still like to know what happens to the characters in the end, however I have no intention of watching the best part of 5 series of a tv show I might not enjoy, just to find out how it resolves itself.