Thoughts on EGM's latest issue

Matt Barton's picture

There are some interesting articles in EGM that you should check out if you get the chance. The first is a thoughtful PC vs. console editorial, but the author's claim is (correct, I think) that whereas console and PC games used to be quite distinct, with the Xbox and now the 360, that gap has narrowed. In effect, Xbox gamers are playing PC games on their consoles. I thought it was interesting take on a hackneyed issue.

However, what really got me excited was an interview with Bioware concerning their upcoming Star Wars-based Star Wars: The Old Republic Online. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting giddy over this one already. If anyone can offer us a serious alternative to WoW, it's Bioware, the team that has consistently offered smart, sophisticated, and immensely playable CRPGs. What's more interesting is how much they're talking about story here. That's always been the weak spot in MMOs; gameplay quickly becomes about repetitive grinding for the best equipment, etc., with little thought to the story or characters in the game. Indeed, in these games stories and so on are almost completely irrelevant for most players. If Bioware is somehow able to address that problem, it'll be a true breakthrough.

I never played Star Wars Galaxies, but from what I hear, it wasn't that great. I'm almost positive Bioware's effort will be much better. My prediction is that it won't topple WoW, but may become a strong second or third MMO that will have great appeal for folks like us here at Armchair Arcade.

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Bill Loguidice
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I have that issue too. It

I have that issue too. It seems like a butt-load of new MMORPGs are coming for both console and computer in 2009. It will be interesting what among the sci-fi and super hero properties sticks with people. I think we may have another wave of MMORPGs failures, but it will be interesting to see if we can have more than one mega hit (as in WoW). Can the industry support two mega MMORPGs? Three? Time will certainly tell. I think three is probably the limit, with everything else being relegated to second tier, niche status. Right now though, there's essentially WoW and everything else numbers-wise, so we have a long way to go before we have even two.

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Matt Barton
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That's a good point...There

That's a good point...There seems to be only major MMORPG at the time. Ultima Online was replaced by Everquest and then WoW. I'm not sure what it would take to knock WoW off its throne, but I'd at least like to see a better distribution--more like 60/40 or 50/30/20. Right now the other games are so far behind it's incredible.

One thing could be that the more people there are, the better the game works...An obviously underpopulated MMORPG just feels so depressing.

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Rowdy Rob
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Star Wars MMORPG might be the ONE!

I'm not really a "Lord of the Rings" style fantasy guy, but I love sci-fi-style fantasy. Therefore, I'm actually psyched about the new Star Wars MMORPG! I think the Star Wars universe offers at least as much intrigue as the "fantasy" genre (WoW), but with added advantages that may make it the primo MMORPG! Here's why...

First of all, I only need to say it once: BIOWARE!

Second of all, the Star Wars universe has it's own built-in, uh, "asshat" protection (to use a Matt Barton-coined word). How can you be a Jedi if you're an "asshat?" These types will probably gravitate towards the "dark side," which means they will be in character. That means people like me can be cordial Jedis to our heart's content.

Third of all, it's Star Wars! Star Wars is a phenomenon, and it's pop culture, with a huge built-in audience of all ages! Much more so than the "fantasy" genre, in my opinion. This, coupled with the fact that Bioware has apparently tried to rectify the shortcomings of previous MMORPG's, and I think you have a HUGE potential winner!

I think this game not only has the potential to compete with "WoW," I think it will probably DETHRONE WoW! Thanks to the license, it has a HUGE advantage over other MMORPG competitors, plus it sounds like it's being done right! I may be one of the first to join in!

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Matt Barton
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I hear you, Rob, though I

I hear you, Rob, though I think you make want to re-think your "asshat" protection scheme. I can almost guarantee that there will be more jedi asshats than dark sides, since kids typically gravitate towards "the good guys," but of course there are good and bad people either way. The best way to ensure something like what you're talking about would be what SSI did with the knights (or was it paladins?) in their old Gold Box games. There, your paladin or knight automatically donated 10% of his or her total gold each time he entered a town. While the implementation was a bit wonky, perhaps, the idea was sound--force players choosing those classes (or races) to sacrifice. That way, the losers will reject it out of hand, and only ethically committed people will be drawn to that.

Also, I think fantasy has higher cultural prestige than Star Wars now, sadly. I think that's because of Lord of the Rings movies and Harry Potter, both HUGE. Star Wars, by contrast, has been raped by George Lucas. It just gets worse and worse each time that idiot monkeys with it. At least, that's my opinion. :P

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Rowdy Rob
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No protection against jerks?
Matt Barton wrote:

I hear you, Rob, though I think you make want to re-think your "asshat" protection scheme. I can almost guarantee that there will be more jedi asshats than dark sides, since kids typically gravitate towards "the good guys," but of course there are good and bad people either way.

It almost sounds like you're saying that idiots will inevitably dominate any MMORPG, and nothing can be done to stop them! I'd hate to see this happen with the "Star Wars" MMORPG. I suppose you can form a clan of some sort in most of these RPG's, where you only invite like-minded people into your group (I'm pretty sure I've heard you can do this in WoW).

That would probably help keep you from feeling left out, especially if you know some of the players on some personal level as well, which is why I understand why you encouraged people on this forum to join you in an MMORPG.

As much as I love the "Star Wars" universe (if not all the movies), I am somewhat scared to join an MMORPG for two reasons, even if it is "Star Wars:"

a) I will become addicted, and HAVE to play every night for hours at a time, resulting in a complete lack of productivity.

b) I will play it excessively for a few days, then lose interest and hardly play it anymore.

I suspect that the more likely scenario is "b." I'm more of a "binge" gamer, playing games in massive doses when I get the chance, then (after hopefully beating them), I set them aside. MMORPG's sound like you can't "beat" them, and if all I want to do in the mean time is chat, I can pick up the phone and call someone.

The main reason I want to give this game a chance is because it's Star Wars, which influenced me tremendously as a kid, and is a large reason I'm here typing this, as opposed to digging a ditch somewhere. Say what you will about George Lucas, but I owe him......

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Matt Barton
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Hey, Rob, I've heard that

Hey, Rob, I've heard that worry before and can quickly dispel it using logic.

A. If you like the game so much that you fear you will lose productivity time--good god, you're getting old. Everybody deserves to have some fun, and you can always turn it off if you really need to do something. It's almost like being scared to try a game because you think you'll love it. We're not talking about crack here! :)

B. I like to think of games as being worth more or less how much I play them. Most games are what, about $50? If you earn $20 an hour, that's 2.5 hours worth of your life to pay for the game--so you need to get *at least* that much recreation out of it. Ideally, it's something you'd want to play far more than just 2.5 hours, and the more you play it, the better the deal. But that doesn't mean you have to play it when you're bored of it!! What kind of crazy talk is that?

I liken it to people who go to a movie, discover about 30 minutes into it that it is a TERRIBLE movie, but they won't leave -- nope -- they say, "Well, I already bought the ticket, so I'm not leaving no matter how bad it is." What the hell? I never understood this. If the movie sucks, cut your losses--you're out $10, but it's YOUR choice if you also want to be out that extra hour or two.

It's very, very liberating to get into the habit of quitting things you don't like. Bought a book and aren't interested by the third chapter? Chuck it. Same for games. But never NOT try a game, book, or movie just because you think you'll like it--that just doesn't make sense to me.

Again, Rob, hear me on this--what if I had come to you when you were a kid and said, "Rob, do *not* watch Star Wars. If you do, it will change your life, and you will become a lifelong fan. Think of all the productive things you could be doing instead of talking, thinking, or enjoying Star Wars or related merchandise. Don't do it!!" Now, tell me seriously that you'd take that advice! No way, man. So, just remember that you are an individual and can make responsible choices; no game, no matter how good, can make them for you.

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Rowdy Rob
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Dispelling "Logic"
Matt Barton wrote:

Hey, Rob, I've heard that worry before and can quickly dispel it using logic.

A. If you like the game so much that you fear you will lose productivity time--good god, you're getting old. Everybody deserves to have some fun, and you can always turn it off if you really need to do something. It's almost like being scared to try a game because you think you'll love it. We're not talking about crack here! :)

Ok, there's some validity to your logic here, but as a "gamer," you know the same thing all gamers do: a good game can "absorb" you to the point that many other life tasks gets pushed to the wayside. That's what every game aims to do to you: make you lose track of your "real" life and get asorbed into the game world. If you're "on fire" in the middle of a good gaming session, it's hard, or at least very irritating, to switch it off for "real life." This doesn't happen to me as much anymore, thanks to my "advanced" age (as you've noted), but while I do miss that feeling, I also fear starting a gaming session on Friday night, only to suddenly realize "Oh, $&@%, it's Monday morning, I gotta go to work!"

As for your comment, "We're not talking about crack here," we may indeed be talking about crack! I have literally lost touch with a friend due to his involvement with one of these MMORPG's in the past (I think it was "Everquest," but I'm not sure). In fact, I just last week bumped into his daughter, who was working at a local store, and was surprised that she had grown so much (hey, she's actually working now)! I asked her about her parents, and she said "they're always on the computer playing games now." It looks like not much has changed in the years since I last spoke to them. It appears their daughter turned out OK, though, thank God.

Matt Barton wrote:

B. I like to think of games as being worth more or less how much I play them. Most games are what, about $50? If you earn $20 an hour, that's 2.5 hours worth of your life to pay for the game--so you need to get *at least* that much recreation out of it.

At the risk of being philosophical, I don't think a dollar amount (to use U.S. wages) is an accurate gauge of your free time. Yes, if you're working, you get paid a dollar amount, but when you're off work, do you put a price on the time you spend with your loved ones? The time you spend doing household chores? The time you spend smelling the flowers? If you start looking at life that way, you start thinking "I'm minus 20 minutes for washing the dishes, minus 1 hour for having an argument with my wife, minus 30 minutes for watching a below-average episode of 'The Simpsons,'" and so forth. Few people really look at life that way, and I don't think it would be good to do so.

If you make $20 an hour on your job, you can (according to your equation) "break even" at 2.5 hours of videogame play time. But what if you only make $5? That means you have to play the game 10 hours to break even! If you make $100 an hour, you only have to play the game 30 minutes to break even! Looking at it that way, videogaming doesn't make sense.

I've played even the junkier games I've bought for more than two hours before I gave up on them. Some of them were "bargain bin" games. Although it's hard to say these games weren't worth $5, I can say that I don't have fond memories of them. If I break it down hourly, I only made $2.50 an hour on a $5 game if I played it for two hours. As bad as those games were, I don't look at them that way.

I do have fond memories of many games (as do we all). It's not the fact that I paid $25 for a game and got a week (or more) of entertainment from them, it's the fact that I fondly remember the experience of playing them! I don't even remember what I paid for most of them, but I remember enjoying these games immensely. For example, the memory of the original "Prince of Persia"is still with me many years later, even though I only paid (probably) $25 for it. That goes for many other games. If there was a "money per minute" ratio of videogaming, NONE of us would be here on this forum!

Matt Barton wrote:

Ideally, it's something you'd want to play far more than just 2.5 hours, and the more you play it, the better the deal. But that doesn't mean you have to play it when you're bored of it!! What kind of crazy talk is that?

This might work for other gaming genres, but based on what I've heard about MMORPG's, they tend to work against non-regular gaming. If you're friends are there every night in WoW, it sounds like you will be compelled to participate regularly to maintain your position in the clique. You play a couple of hours one weekend, lay off for a week, and come back the next weekend, and now your friends are "Level 7" and you're still a Level 1! Now you're just a drag on the party, and they cast you out!

As others in this forum have stated, it sounds like MMORPG's can be "work" to maintain your character. It sounds like it's either addictive or you feel "obligated" to participate in some way. Yes, I could just chuck the game after a few unenjoyable gaming sessions, but what if I enjoy it, but don't want to play every night? It sounds like a non-crackhead gamer would be at a disadvantage in such a game.

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Matt Barton
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You make some good points,

You make some good points, Rob, but I haven't had the type of experiences you're talking about. When my friend Max started to play, we both made several characters and only played "our two" while we were both online (at least, that's how it was supposed to work). I guess it depends on how you want to work, but it'd definitely be possible to have a few friends and only play for a few hours every weekend, for instance. You can always make other characters for soloing or whatever.

I think you will end up investing as much time in this as you want. If you're having a blast, naturally you'll want to do it more, and shouldn't regret it. I tried to debunk the "lost time" attitude in my interview with that radio show. It's not like if you weren't playing that game, you'd be doing something "worthwhile," like tending the garden or searching for a cure for cancer. Besides that, if the game really engages you, that means it's a good game, not that you're a bad or lazy person.

A true "addict" is someone who starts missing work or classes to do something. For instance, a drug addict will be unable to hold down a job because he'll either miss work, show up unable to do the job, endanger other people, etc. I can't believe anyone would compare a real addict, like a crack addict, to someone who enjoys videogames. Indeed, the two are opposite--the gamer will probably be more likely to avoid drinking and drugs because then he'll be unable to play!

In any case, I'd never believe someone who said they didn't do X *because* of a game. Nonsense. If you wanted to do X you'd have done it. You're just using the game as a lame excuse. No game I know can force you to play if you don't want to. If you hate spending time with your family, for instance, the game becomes a convenient excuse, not a cause.

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