Tag Archives | MMORPG

Dust 514: E3’s Most Ambitious Shooter

If you watched Sony’s E3 press conference, you might’ve dismissed Dust 514 as just another Playstation 3 shooter among countless others. And that’d be too bad, because Dust 514’s latest trailer doesn’t do justice to the crazy ideas that CCP Games is trying to execute.

Unlike most multiplayer shooters, whose individual matches live in a vacuum and don’t support any overarching goals, Dust 514 is tied directly to the massive multiplayer game EVE Online. By fighting on the ground, players try to capture planets on behalf of EVE’s major corporations. In other words, players’ actions in Dust 514 can have a ripple effect throughout the EVE universe.

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PS3’s Free Realms is the First Free-to-Play Console MMORPG

Strange, but true: Five years into the Playstation Network’s existence (and eight years after the birth of Xbox Live), Free Realms for Playstation 3 has become the first free-to-play massive multiplayer console game.

The kid-centric game, which first launched on PCs in April 2009, gives players an open world filled with minigames such as kart racing, fighting and cooking and fishing. Players’ experience levels are capped in the free version; the premium version costs $5 per month, $13 for three months, $24.50 for six months, $30 for a year and $35 for life. Virtual goods are also available for purchase.

I’m only half-surprised it took this long. On one hand, free-to-play MMORPGs are a lucrative market. DFC Intelligence, a market research firm, estimated last August that free-to-play games, which earned $250 million in 2009, could become a $2 billion industry by 2015. On the other hand, console makers spend years losing money on every system sold in hopes of making that money back on software. Giving the software away could be an unpalatable risk.

But the Playstation 3 is more than four years old, and now’s the time to experiment. Free Realms is another example of Sony’s kitchen sink approach, which to date has included Blu-ray movies, the Playstation Move motion controller, 3D and an expanding streaming video selection.

Free Realms itself isn’t my cup of tea — and actually, I haven’t been able to try the PS3 version at all due to server problems — but I hope the experiment goes well for Sony. Free-to-play MMOs have belonged exclusively to PCs for too long.

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Can Blizzard Build Another World of Warcraft?

As the most subscribed-to massive multiplayer online game in the world, World of Warcraft is a tough act for any game developer to follow, let alone the company that created it.

But in a recent earnings call, Activision-Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick revealed that Blizzard is indeed working on something new. He didn’t reveal much about the game, but said it will be an entirely new intellectual property, which means no Starcraft, Diablo or Warcraft branding. That’d be the easy way out.

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Four Lessons From Blizzard's Real ID Snafu

Blizzard became the target of its own flame war after deeming that its forums would soon require the use of real life names. The Battle.net community backlash forced Blizzard to backpedal, removing the Real ID requirement in forums for World of Warcraft and Starcraft II. However, Blizzard head Mike Morhaime’s language (“we’ve decided at this time”) leaves the idea on the table. Here are some things Blizzard should keep in mind if it wants to try Real ID in its forums ever again:

Anonymous doesn’t always mean “troll”

Maybe Blizzard didn’t consider the legitimate reasons a person might choose to remain anonymous: Teachers may want to escape from their students during leisure time, government officials might not want to be stigmatized as avid World of Warcraft players and some people just aren’t comfortable being identified online. I likened Blizzard’s Real ID push to Facebook because both services have a desire for their users to embrace a single identity, whether it’s online or in real life. But right now, that’s not the way things are.

The forums are important, warts and all

In announcing the Battle.net forums’ switch to Real ID, Blizzard’s attitude seemed to be “don’t use it if you don’t like it.” The problem is that Battle.net forums serve as a kind of instant customer service, where people can reach out to the community and to Blizzard itself. ¬†Changing the conditions on which that service is offered made people feel cheated. Which brings me to the next point:

Incentive works better than force

If Blizzard wants to shift people towards Real ID, it should take a page from Amazon, whose “Real Name Attribution” system for user reviews is not mandatory, but allows writers to collect badges for their work. Wouldn’t a reward system like that translate nicely to game built entirely on collecting loot?

Don’t test an angry mob

To prove a point, Blizzard forum moderator Bashiok revealed himself to be Micah Whipple, and outraged gamers immediately got to digging up as much embarrassing or otherwise personal information on him that they could. Whether the information is accurate or not is beside the point; this incident showed an ugly side to the Battle.net community that Blizzard was wise to pacify.