The wait is over. Today, LucasArts and BioWare finally force unleashed the first details on their joint MMO production, and it sounds like the best thing that could possibly come from Star Wars and gaming's unholy union aside from a Jar-Jar killing sim where you blast Jar-Jars with a Jar-Jar launcher*.
The game will take place a few hundred years after KOTOR 2 caught fire and skidded off a cliff to an eventual -- and undeniably painful -- halt, and will cast you as a jedi, sith, or something else that you probably won't bother with. As with any BioWare title, MMOTOR will focus on story foremost, spicing up the MMO genre with BioWare's top-notch storytelling prowess.
And oh will there be story content. According to BioWare president Greg Zeschuk and CEO Ray Muzyka, the game isn't KOTOR 3, "it's KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. There's that much to it."
"It's a whole galaxy. It's a galaxy of Star Wars," they added.
In order to make such an ambitious story possible, The Old Republic will saddle you with single-player RPG-esque companion characters. You can change and manipulate them, and they can assist you throughout your adventures. As such, the game will "allow players to carve out their own epic stories," with your actions affecting the entire game world, as well as your characters' morality.
Even crazier, every class and faction configuration will have its own storyline. Lead writer on the project Daniel Ericson even claimed that his latest progeny could feasibly be played like a single-player RPG. There's that much story.
“If you’re a BioWare fan, you’re going to get everything you ever imagined from an extension of KOTOR,” he said.
We couldn't want this any more if it came with a ticket to beautiful women and infinite money island**. How about you?
*The alt fires are lightsabers and Hayden Christensen.
Being a blight upon the 99.8% of the gaming industry that enjoys making money, it's not too surprising that piracy has a place at gaming's Bad Guy table, where maniacal cackles flow freely and glasses are always half-empty. However, when one of PC gaming's great beneficiaries, the PC Gaming Alliance says piracy isn't so bad -- just misunderstood -- well, jaws drop.
That's exactly what happened when we heard about PCGA Pres. Randy Stude's plan to plant a money tree in piracy's apparently fertile soil.
"Let's monetize every one of those pirates, and let's advertise the hell out of them," Stude told Gamasutra.
Fearing that the big cheese had finally snapped, we nearly missed his explanation, wherein he said that such monetization should be "blatant." For instance, he noted, developers could plaster six times the number of in-game ads around unauthenticated versions of a game. The end result: pirates get an "inferior" version of a game, while developers rake in cash from ads.
"Don't throw [pirates] off [of the server], but show an ad every time a new level loads. The [paying customer] gets a billboard, a passive, less-aggressive ad than [pirates] are going to get," Stude added, demonstrably sane.
So those of you who play but don't pay, if Stude's grandiose plan were enacted, would you willfully download Far Cry 2: Viagra Blue Edition, or would you finally change your ways?
(Yes, PC gaming news has been kind of WAR-heavy lately. For those who don't play WAR, and can only wonder what it's good for, skip to the bottom of this article for something fun.)
Warhammer Online may be on a collision course with Blizzard's 18-wheeler, WoW: Wrath of the Lich King, but Mythic doesn't plan to flinch out of this game of information super highway chicken.
"Let’s start with what we know is some truly exciting news. I’m happy to announce that in December, the Black Guard and the Knight of the Blazing Sun will officially be part of WAR," said Mythic CEO Mark Jacobs in his first Warhammer State of The Game.
"When they were cut from the game launch plans earlier this year, I said that the Black Guard and the Knight would be part of WAR only when they were great and deserved their place alongside all of WAR’s other compelling classes."
"I also said that we would not charge any additional fees for this new content or put it in a separate expansion pack; that’s not how we operate. We’ve kept to that plan and with the introduction of these two classes, Mythic shows that once again we are happy to keep giving players more value for their subscription dollars than any other MMORPG developer."
New classes? For free? Sure, the classes were set to be in the original game, but we're pretty ok with this.
As per usual, the NPD Group kept its giant, cyclopian eye glued to videogame sales for the month of September*. However, as per never before, the Group also decided to compile its weekly retail PC game sales into a colossal monthly communion, full of surprises and intrigue.
Hot Wheels: Beat That set the standard for September, issuing forth a challenge to all other games. 17 games did, in fact, beat that, with at least two unquestionably better games also beating it, but in reverse.
Spore and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning took top honors, selling 406,000 and 274,000 units respectively. NPD, sadly, did not divulge digits for any more of the 20 games listed.
It should also be noted that NPD only covers retail sales, so any sales generated by Steam, Direct 2 Drive, or other such outlets do not count.
PC Game Sales (September)
1. Spore / EA Maxis / $50 (Average) 2. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning / EA Mythic / $49 (Average) 3. The Sims 2 Apartment Life Expansion Pack / EA Maxis / $30 (Average) 4. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Collector's Edition / EA Mythic / $80 (Average) 5. Spore Galactic Edition / EA Maxis / $79 (Average) 6. World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest / Blizzard / $37 (Average) 7. Crysis Warhead / Crytek (Publisher: EA) / $29 (Average) 8. The Sims 2 Double Deluxe / EA Maxis / $30 (Average) 9. World Of Warcraft / Blizzard / $20 (Average) 10. Spore Creature Creator / EA Maxis / $10 (Average) 11. World Of Warcraft: Burning Crusade / Blizzard / $28 (Average) 12. Civilization IV: Colonization / Firaxis / $29 (Average) 13. Warcraft III Battle Chest / Blizzard / $39 (Average) 14. Civilization IV / Firaxis / $27 (Average) 15. The Sims 2 IKEA Home Stuff Expansion / EA Maxis / $20 (Average) 16. Diablo Battle Chest / Blizzard / $39 (Average) 17. StarCraft Battle Chest / Blizzard / $20 (Average) 18. Hot Wheels: Beat That / Activision / $15 (Average) 19. Crysis / Crytek (Publisher: EA) / $38 (Average) 20. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky / GSC Game World / $39 (Average)
Jump past the break for overall software sales, with games included. (Exciting preview: Apple fails.)
EA has certainly taken a turn for the less-reviled as of late -- a sudden change that can be attributed to risk-taking, trouble-making CEO John Riccitiello. However, even creative greats like Picasso, De Vinci, and Batman were only human, and all humans have breaking points. For Riccitiello, that point was seemingly first-person run 'n' rebel Mirror's Edge.
"I was totally convinced that game needed to be third-person and not first-person, because I wanted to see Faith," Riccitiello said.
“I was really wrong about the third-person thing,” he continued, citing the highly anticipated title's finished form.
But even with titles like Mirror's Edge under his belt, Riccitiello's heart is clad in a business suit, and some "creative risks" -- like Tim Schafer-Jack Black collaboration Brutal Legend -- give him palpitations (the bad kind; not the blood-pumping, required-to-survive kind).
"I have seen it," Riccitiello replied when asked if EA has considered publishing Brutal Legend. "I am well aware of what the game is. It’s a very significant creative risk."
"Sometimes significant creative risks end up being some of the world’s best products. Spore was also a significant creative risk. So was The Sims. Portal, BioShock. But so was [the relatively poor-selling, high quality Tim Schafer title] Grim Fandango."
Well, that was quick. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Blizzard COO Paul Sams claimed that Warhammer Online was no 18-hour raid boss. The battle's over, and the spoils of waaaagh clutter Blizzard's side of the field.
"The good news is that we've seen a significant number of people, well over half, that cited Warhammer as their reason for leaving - they've already returned," Sams said over the deafening roars of BlizzCon.
But, regardless of whether the game's a direct competitor or merely Led Zep to Blizzard's Beatles, Sams handed out Warhammer Online's participation ribbon with an air of humility -- hedging his bets on the MMO's future success.
"I think Warhammer is best positioned to succeed out of the various products that have come out thus far since World of Warcraft has come out. It seems to be a good game, certainly a great company, Mythic and Mark [Jacobs] over there and his team, they're very, very talented," he explained.
"But I think without EA they would have struggled as well, because EA fortunately for them has a lot of money and so they were able to put forward a lot of marketing dollars and were able to support the huge infrastructure that they require for these kinds of games. It's a tough road and as I said, if we had not had the benefits of the trust of our customers because of the years of delivering for them, I think that we could have been in trouble a few times. There have been big challenges and mistakes that we've made and we've been fortunate enough to get by them."
So MPC readers, who's pocketing your subscription money at the end of each month? WoW or WAR?
"Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Fable 2... uh, LittleBigPlanet," I nonchalantly listed, sliding my scroll bar up and down a ludicrously large list of games that'll begin hogging shelf space next week. Instantly, a deafening shout of "OH! LittleBigPlanet!" flew straight and true, right into my unsuspecting ears, from the other side of a view-obscuring television. "You're so buying LittleBigPlanet!" My friend's voice continued, registering at somewhere around War-crime on the decibel scale.
Yeah, LittleBigPlanet's kind of a big deal around the gaming scene's more console-y bits, but what's it mean for PC gamers? Well, in these parts it's not quite a revolution, but it's pretty damn close.
Over the past couple years, "user-created content" has crept onto many game developers' billowing lists of PR-friendly buzz words, and with good reason. Whether it's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's character creation system or Spore's, well, everything, people love to spill their creative frustrations onto videogaming's canvas. (And drawing new Mega Man levels on graph paper is so nineties.)
Now stop! Take your finger off the scroll wheel; the comments section isn't going anywhere. Yes, PC gaming gospel states that we must fling ourselves into Internet forums, kissing the ground, and praising mods -- and games like Oblivion and Spore did not invent user-created content -- but guess what? Mods are old news, no matter how crazy-awesome they might potentially be.
Why? Consoles. Consoles. Consoles. Like it or not, aside from a few shining examples, game design has parked its heart in simpler interfaces and ease-of-use. PC gaming, its cash cow now six feet under for a number of reasons, simply isn't worth the effort these days. As a result, real mod support -- sloppily attempted in only a single console game -- watched its bungee cord snap as it plummeted right off developers' priority lists. After all, mod tools don't just appear out of thin air; they siphon extra time and cash away from other areas of development. When simple user-creation tools can offer a menagerie of similar (but less versatile) powers to a wider range of people, mod tools sadly get kicked to the curb.
Continue reading to find out why this trend might not be as awful as it sounds.
Xbox Evolved -- a site claiming to have first broken the news that the Xbox 360's hard drive would be optional, way back in 2004 -- has heard from "incredibly reliable" sources that the Xbox 360's all-too-quickly approaching successor will be forward-compatible.
"Forward-compatible," the avant garde cousin of "backward-compatible," apparently refers to the Xbox 361-plus-infinity-plus-one's ability to act as a performance-enhancer for Xbox 360 games.
"This isn’t a side effect of textures being cleaner and upscaled resolution, this is a new animal completely," reads the article. "Imagine playing Gears of War 3 on your Xbox 360 it looks and plays good right? Well imagine that the year after it comes out you go out to buy the next Xbox and it looks even better, it plays even better. Features in the new controller are utilized with the game, the graphics do not only look sharper, but the draw distance is better, the speed is better, framerate, and there are even new features, perhaps even levels via DLC for the game on the third-generation Xbox."
"GoW3 is of course an example of what this could mean, past the forward-compatibility information, Xbox Evolved has not been given any other information about the next generation of Xbox."
So yeah, it's just like a PC. Get a new machine? Old Game X gets a new coat of paint. And while we certainly think this sounds like an interesting feature, we hope Microsoft doesn't get too caught up in new features to remember little things like focus-testing.
You didn't think escaping the three least popular letters in the alphabet would be that easy, did you? Today, Ubisoft Forum Manager "bukowski113" confirmed Spore DRM's "The Empire Strikes Back," placing yet another title under SecuROM's much-maligned rule. According to his forum post, Far Cry 2's DRM will work as follows:
You have 5 activations on 3 separate PCs.
Uninstalling the game “refunds” an activation. This process is called “revoke”, so as long as you complete proper uninstall you will be able to install the game an unlimited number of times on 3 systems.
You can upgrade your computer as many time as you want (using our revoke system)
Ubisoft is committed to the support of our games, and additional activations can be provided.
Ubisoft is committed to the long term support of our games: you’ll always be able to play Far Cry 2
In short, it's more or less unchanged from Spore's variation on the theme. We'll be buying Far Cry 2 anyway, though. After all, we just enticed a bunch of readers into taking up their pitchforks, so we feel we've done our part in the protest. DRM is bad and should be hated!
Think Spore is too short? Think Spore is too long? Think Spore is just right? Well it doesn't matter what you think; EA is putting Spore on a McDonald's diet, and the game won't stop expanding until it is the Space phase. Today's highly expected declaration -- which slaps release dates on a "Cute and Creepy" parts pack and an add-on for the aforementioned Space phase -- is only the beginning.
The Cute and Creepy set, not mincing any words, will include roughly 100 parts of both kitten-copyingly adorable and kitten-crunchingly horrifying varieties. For a mere $19.95, you can help break the record for world's fastest expansion pack when Cute and Creepy launches on November 18. It also works with Spore Creature Creator, making it the first expansion to cost more than the title it's expanding.
On the other hand, the Space pack sounds more akin to a real expansion pack. Slated for release during spring of 2009, it will see "players' space faring creatures... beam down from their spaceships to explore new planets and earn rewards for completing challenging missions" as well as "a new Adventure Creator will allow players to build and share online their own custom missions."
We were hoping EA might expand some of Spore's less-awesome stages, but hey, at least EA's heralds aren't shouting the joys of Spore: H&M. Yet.