Thursday, May 24, 2012

E3 potpourri

Just some random, stream of consciousness thoughts on the coming E3:

Like someone else said on the Penny Arcade forums, isn't it funny/sad that the things most people are looking forward to from Square-Enix are its Eidos offerings?

Prediction: Microsoft's keynote will be barren.  Kinect + media apps + already announced exclusives = yawn.  I'm hoping that they're lying and will do something regarding the NextBox/Xbox 720, but I'm not counting on it.

I hope that Ubisoft unveils a new Splinter Cell.  And, I hope it refocuses on stealth.  Playing Sam Fisher as Jason Bourne is fun, but I wanted more stealth capability in Conviction.  Not being able to move bodies was a grievous oversight.

Apparently there's a rumor that Sony will have a megaton announcement during their keynote, and that it has something to do with the cloud.  Some people are wondering if it's tied with Valve/Steam.  I'm wondering if it has something to do with rumors of Sony and Microsoft talking over the last few months.  Maybe some Azure?

I can't help but wonder what Bioware will show.  Likely the Mass Effect 3 apology DLC, but what else?  Their new post-ME IP?  Something Dragon Age related?

I'm curious on the JRPG front.  I haven't played a JRPG I liked in ages.  Will Final Fantasy XIII Versus finally materialize?  Anything actually worth playing in the genre?

The Wii U both intrigues and frightens me.  I can't help but wonder about the tablet controller's accessibility.  The Wiimote is already a barrier.  The tablet looks orders of magnitude ("Pop pop!") worse.

I got 38 problems but a game ain't one

Holy crap, a blog post!  First, the usual professional update:

Paying work has slowed, I've had issues receiving payment from one client, and I'm busy cleaning up code/finishing writing code on the first of my personal projects.  Naturally, I want to change its look, because I suck at design, so, yeah, more delays there.  Good times.

Now, to the meat of this post:

We're entering silly season for video games.  There's a whole bunch of corporate things going on, and E3 is a week+ away.  I figured that with everything going on, a couple posts would be apropos.


38 Studios.  The company that's taken 6 years to make a mediocre adventure game and a still-in-development MMO, both of which look like they have Azeroth envy.  Is it a shock that they're going under?  That they wrote a bad check for the $1.1m loan payment they missed?  That what employees are left haven't been payed since May 1, and that their health insurance ends tonight at midnight?

Nope, not really.

For a time, it seemed like every studio wanted to take the MMO crown from World of Warcraft.  The problem is that they didn't take the time to see what made WoW special. 

For one, pedigree.  WoW was the continuation of a very popular brand.  What's more is that the original developers were vets from Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.  They had working experience in the genre. 

Second, a massive, public beta.  WoW became a part of the gaming culture even before it was released.  Popular entities like Penny Arcade were salivating over it at the time, which made it more than just another game.

Third, a good deal of luck and timing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Trying to become the "Next X" is a fool's errand.  How many game companies have tried making the next WoW?  Remember Warhammer Online?  Age of Conan?  Anarchy Online?  SWTOR is hemorrhaging subscribers as I write this, and that's a Star Wars game from Bioware!  Even WoW itself lost a significant number of subscribers after its Wrath of the Lich King expansion. 

What's worse in 38 Studios' case is that, like I said above, their world of Amalur looks very similar to Warcraft's Azeroth.  The architecture, the environments, the people, the creatures - it all looks like WoW 2.0.  Don't take my word for it.  Check it out below:

Off the top of my head, I can see Orgrimmar, Teldrassil, Loch Modan, Gilneas, and Stormwind analogues.  This could be a drinking game.

So, let's recap:

38 Studios decided to put almost all their eggs in the MMO basket.  A genre which, over time, has proven over and over to be a bad investment.  Despite seeing the multitude of failures from other companies - both with original and existing IPs - they refused to change course.  Their one game to date, after 6 years of being in business, is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, an admitted side project which sold 400,000 copies, and is, by all accounts, decent but not memorable.  In order to differentiate themselves from other IPs, they make theirs look like an updated WoW.

... who was in charge here, again?

I feel for the employees, but man, the people at the head of the company were idiots.  I'm sure the Rhode Island taxpayers must be thrilled.