Tenfold Hate

Electronic Arts Gets Their Bio Break
January 10, 2008, 12:14 pm
Filed under: 38 Studios, Blizzard, EA Mythic, MMORPGs, SOE

This week, Electronic Arts’ 620 million dollar acquisition of Bioware and Pandemic Studios was finalized. With this, Electronic Arts is now the parent company of what are arguably two of the finest computer RPG studios in the industry (Mythic and Bioware). What does this mean for MMORPGers?

With Bioware and Mythic having EA’s resources, this puts both companies in a position to go toe-to-toe with the big boys (namely Blizzard and SOE). This means both Blizzard and SOE will have to step up their game significantly.

I don’t think Warhammer will make as huge an impact on the gaming world as people are predicting, but you need only look at the trailer for Wrath of the Lich King to see that EA/Mythic has already prompted Blizzard to get off their self-assured keisters and get back to work–many elements of the next WoW expansion are clearly a response to WAR‘s RvR. And if Bioware’s undisclosed MMO is indeed a Star Wars-licensed RPG, it could very well deliver a killing blow to SWG.

With the caliber of product we’ve seen from Bioware and Mythic in the past, I could easily see them usurping Sony’s position in the subscription MMO market in the next five years and SOE moving even further towards mass produced, free-to-play, microtransaction, Asian-style MMOs if The Agency proves successful.

And the wild card in the next five years? Hands down 38 Studios. Even though they’re only in preproduction on their own undisclosed MMORPG, add up all the factors of that equation and I’d bet a substantial amount of money that they will be the studio that turns the industry on its ear a few years down the line.

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Can the Man Who Broke the Curse of The Bambino Save MMORPGs?
November 10, 2007, 10:35 pm
Filed under: 38 Studios, Gaming, MMORPGs

Allakhazam recently interviewed Sox pitcher Curt Schilling about the unnamed MMO in development at his company, 38 Studios. In every interview I’ve read thus far, he’s reaffirmed my confidence that he is someone as passionate about gaming as we non-World Series MVPs are.

If he were some bored jock looking for a pet project to throw cash at, that’d be one thing, but Schilling’s been a hardcore gamer before some of you young whippersnappers were even a protein stain in your Pop’s tighty whiteys. In the article he reflects fondly on his days of playing pen-and-paper D&D, Wizardry on his Apple in the eighties, his favorite memories from EQ, and balancing WoW with an MLB career.

My hope is that with a devoted gamer at the helm, the bottom line will be about quality, innovation, and fun versus simply “How many units can we sell?” I’m not a diehard Spawn or Forgotten Realms fan. Heck, I’m not even a Sox fan (go Bombers!), but I think it was an exciting move to pull two dynamic heavyweights (McFarlane and Salvatore) from across two different mediums (comics and fiction) to head up 38 Studio’s creative team. These two creating the lore and visual style of the game is probably a very good sign.

In the article, Schilling reveals that 38 Studios have “put together a core group of people who have all been in on the production of previous MMOs from EQ to EQ2 to WoW to Final Fantasy and many more.” He goes on to say their “premier title has a budget over 60 million dollars.” Schilling broke the Babe Ruth curse for the Sox once then did it again in 2007. Here’s to hoping he can work his magic on the increasingly humdrum world of massive multiplayer gaming. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have high hopes for this one.

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On the Horizon

I want to temper my recent rant about how disappointing 2007 has been game-wise with an optimistic look ahead. There are several exciting titles slated for the new year and beyond. Here are some brief notes on games to keep an eye out for, why I’m excited about them, and some of my reservations about how they could go wrong.

Age of Conan

Pros: I’ve always preferred Robert E. Howard’s testoterone-fueled pulp to fantasy swarming with prancing elves and unicorns. The glimpses I’ve had of this game so far have been visually impressive. Funcom may be on the road towards successfully interwining meaningful PvP and PvE for the first time in a top notch MMORPG. And c’mon, player-built cities and massive PvP skirmishes done right equal fun.

Cons: At Leipzeig and several other recent gaming conventions, Funcom seems hung up on stressing how “mature” this game is by talking about scantily clad women and decapitations. These things are all welcome components in a sword-and-sorcery style game, but they certainly don’t make a game mature. It will be complexity and depth of content that ultimately make this game mature, not throwing in gratuitous boobs and blood.

Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

Pros: Frankly, I can’t think of a better intellectual property for a first-rate MMORPG. The Warhammer universe is one I’ve been acquainted with since my pen-and-paper days in the mid-eighties and I’ve always admired the way they’ve blended traditional hoity-toity high fantasy (dwarfs, orcs, and yes, even elves) with the brutality and barbarism of the sword-and-sorcery genre. The screenshots and demos EA/Mythic have shown fans so far have been absolutely breathtaking, a near perfect visual transition from tabletop to computer screen. With Mythic’s experience with Dark Age of Camelot, I’m pretty much sold on the fact that they will deliver a winning PvP experience.

Cons: Instanced city sieges. I want my epic battles and PvP skirmishes to have some meaningful impact on the game world, not just be isolated, contained events. If my city is sacked by another faction, I want to feel the detrimental effects of it. If my guild sacks a city, I want it to impact the world in a significant way, rather than just receiving a “You Sacked the City” helmet +5. I have little doubt in my mind this game will be fun, but have my doubts as to how different it will be mechanic-wise from what we’ve seen already.

Pirates of the Burning Sea

Pros: It’s not just another fantasy MMO. There are naval battles and a player-built economy. Pirates are cooler than ninjas.

Cons: Avatars are important to me. Avatars and melee battles were added during a late stage of development prompted by fan outcry. I’m hoping off-ship activity in this game doesn’t have a “tacked on” feel, because I’m the type of player who will spend more time swinging around my cutlass on land than trying to sink clippers off the Barbary Coast.

Games in Development I’ll Be Following Religiously in 2008

A two-time World Series-winning pitcher, a popular fantasy author, and an acclaimed comic book illustrator and toy magnate form a game studio. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, I know. But I’m excited to see what 38 Studios and the brain trust of Curt Schilling, R.A. Salvatore, and Todd McFarlane have in store for gamers.

The CCP/White Wolf partnership is also bound to produce great things down the line. I’m not a fan of Eve Online, but CCP has certainly proven they think outside the box when it comes to game design. This coupled with the World of Darkness IP is bound to be good. I’m hoping for something akin to a Hammer horror movie that’s gotten in a train wreck with Blade Runner. Again, always good to see any studio stepping away from the typical fantasy fare and face it–werewolves and vampires take the cake over pirates and ninjas.

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