The Future:Up there with the rare air

Few people can predict the future with any degree of certainly.  Every now and then someone comes along like Steve Jobs who predicts that the future is mobile application and has the power to help make it true.  As for myself, the only thing I am sure about (other than death and taxes) is the old adage – you can please some of the some of the time, but the only thing you can do all the time is piss some people off.

If you ask Disney’s CEP Bob Iger about the future of gaming he will no doubt tell you Social Gaming (read Facebook games) are here to stay. In fact he recently told Seeking Alpha (via Worlds in Motion) that Disney is shifting their assets from console games to social games.

“So, we’re going to continue to console games. They will primarily be Disney-branded, not all Disney-branded, and they will in most cases be derivative of product that’s been made for other segments of the company, like our motion pictures. So I guess, as you look at our strategy, you’d see a blend of investment and some reallocation of investment from the console side to basically this multifaceted side. Also, it became pretty clear to us that game playing and social networks is real, here to stay.” – Bob Iger, Disney CEO

Now we are certain that it has nothing to do with the fact that Disney spent over three quarters of a  billion dollars on Playdom (“563.2 million, plus performance-based earn outs of up to $200 million”)

There is no doubt, no matter what kind of games we end up playing, they will reach us through digital downloads. Even Ubisoft, infamous for their “always connected” DRM (if you disconnect from the internet while playing the game it quits) is using Steam for their release of the movie Tie-In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (maybe they have seen the hand writing on the wall but we doubt it). Will Wright (the man who created Electronic Arts’ 800 ton single player gaming Sims series) not only agrees, but believes retail used game sales is their ticket to oblivion:

“To some extent, as the retailers come up with policies like used games, they’re actually putting their foot on the gas pedal to oblivion. And that ultimately is going to make the game industry digital about as fast as it could possibly be,” he added.” – Will Wright, gamesindustry.biz via gamespolitics.com

Mr. Wright also feels the industry is in for some evolutionary changes…

“I think we’re in the Cambrian explosion of games, where all these weird new life forms are popping out for the very first time and filling these niches that are appearing dramatically,” Says Wright. “And of course a lot of the old, established things are going to be dying off pretty rapidly, even the major life forms. But more than anything else, I see this being the healthiest thing that could happen in the industry.” – Will Wright, gamesindustry.biz via gamespolitics.com

After we interviewed Dr. Richard Bartle on No Prisoners, No Mercy Show 46 we were left with the impression that the truly innovative advances in gaming will come from the smaller studios. One look at the video below will have you believing that the future will come from a company that is now part of NCSoft – ArenaNet. Listen to the trailer below you will hear the following words:

“We founded Arena Net to Innovate, so Guild Wars 2 is our opportunity to question everything; to make a game that defies existing conventions. If you love mmos you’ll want to check out Guild Wars 2, and if you hate mmos you really want to check out Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars 2 takes everything you loved about Guild Wars 1 and puts it into a persistent world that’s got more active combat, a fully branching personalized storyline, a new event system to get people playing together and still no monthly fees.”

 

What? Can it be true? All that and no monthly fees? Not even microtransactions? It sounds fantastic until it reaches the following words:

“As a structure the mmo has lost the ability to make a player feel like a hero. Everything around you is doing the same thing you are doing. The boss you just killed respawns ten minutes later. It doesn’t care that I’m there.”

“We do not want to build the same mmo that everyone else is building. In Guild wars 2 it’s your world, it’s your story. You affect things around you in a very permanent way.”

Wait. Did the woman on that video say PERMANENT? You bet she did.  The first thing I thought about is the first thing Keen from Keen and Graevs’ Gaming Blog pointed out  and that is the very structure of Guild wars 1, where the entire world is instanced except for the cities.   It is this very characteristic that dulled the appeal of Guild Wars for me.  At first I doubted their ability to do all the trailer promises and still not be instanced. Then I thought about the phased technology that Blizzard used in Northrend. This is the technology that allows the same persistent world appear different to two players depending on where they are in a story line. Will Guild wars 2 make use of a similar technology?

We here at NPNM really want to give ArenaNet the benefit of the doubt. 

Then I remember that ArenaNet is a studio that is owned by NCSoft. Suddenly names like Auto Assault (closed 2007), Tabula Rasa (closed 2009), and Dungeon Runners (closed 2010) comes to mind. This is the same company that was sued by Richard Garriott for $28 million dollars because they waited until he was in quarantine after his space flight to wrongfully terminate him. 

Then I read this article by Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires. When I got part way through the article, this paragraph grabbed my attention:

“Unfortunately I’ve seen and heard a lot of these sorts of claims before. Funcom was going to revolutionize combat and we got a couple of combo buttons. Sigil was going to revolutionize factions and diplomacy and we got an in-built card game. Blizzard was going to revolutionize questing and we got floating exclamation marks. Mythic was going to revolutionize PvP and we got battlegrounds queueable from anywhere. Not that any of these mechanics aren’t fun or good in their own right, it’s just they’re hardly turning the entire genre on its head. It’s evolution through tiny footsteps, not giant leaps.” – Gordon, We Fly Spitfires

Nobody is saying that Guild wars 2 will fail.  If ArenaNet can deliver on their promises they really can set the industry on its ear.  Still I can’t help reminiscing on all the wonders of gaming that Paul Barnett promised us when he was the front man for Warhammer Online – yes it is still there but not exactly going strong is it? If ArenaNet doesn’t deliver, these are the words that will come back to haunt them:

“…and puts it into a persistent world”

But if they do deliver…yes dear readers if they DO deliver, then there is little doubt that we will all be looking back on the days when we USED to play mmos the old fashioned way, and Guild Wars 2 will be up there with the rare air.

See you online,

Julie Whitefeather

update:

Our own Sister Julie had questions about ArenaNet’s Dynamic Events System vs. Public Quests as we all saw in Warhammer Online.  It seems Randomessa has done a detailed examination of the public quest issue here. I don’t have a ruler to wave around but it is a detailed analysis of claims versus performance to be sure.

[posted for Julie Whitefeather by The Webmaster]

8 Responses to The Future:Up there with the rare air
  1. Zed
    August 12, 2010 | 6:30 pm

    I’ll say the same thing I said to Gordon.

    GW2 is not based on phasing, where different players see the world in different ways. In GW2, everyone sees the same persistent world in the same state; it’s just that state is different depending on what players in general have done.

    http://guildwars2.com/en/the-game/dynamic-events/dynamic-events-overview/

    The dynamic event system is essentially a set of public quest chains that can branch and interlink and change state. If a given quest chain starts in state X and players succeed at it, the quest chain proceeds to state Y for the whole world. If they ignore the quest or fail it, the quest chain changes to state Z instead. Many or perhaps all of these state changes can be reversed, or the quest will be cyclical in some fashion; in any case, every quest chain will eventually be able to get back to its initial state in some fashion. But because there are no static quest givers you have to talk to, there is no requirement that the game world should be in any given state in order to adventure in general. There will always be something you can do, some event you can participate in to change its state to one that’s more beneficial for you (or just to get XP, gold, and karma.)

  2. We Fly Spitfires
    August 13, 2010 | 6:58 am

    Totally agree, Julie.

    Sometimes I enjoy hype, sometimes I don’t. To me it depends on my personal subjective and emotional involvement in the game or franchise and also how factually accurate the trailers or information are. The thing about the GW2 trailer is that it doesn’t give a lot of fact or evidence and instead just presents a lot of statements about goals and attempts. That, to me, is a sure fire way to disappoint people as they’re likely to imagine something totally different than what actually ends up being delivered.

  3. Sr. Julie
    August 13, 2010 | 8:54 am

    Hi there Gordon,
    It seems like the marketing departments of most companies take their job to mean “whip the communmity into a frency. Back in grad school when I studied marketing a large part of the job was to make sure the product meets the needs of the consumer and not try and force the consumer to adopt what the product is offering. The hype starts early any more and leaves me feeling like I should say “and WHEN is your release date?” Some time in 2011? Thats fine contact us is in January. I hope they can deliver on the promises in the trailer because NCSoft does not have a good track record.

  4. Sr. Julie
    August 13, 2010 | 9:16 am

    @ Zed,
    It sounds one of the Devs is going to have to go alot further toward enlightening the community. Here is my problem with what you are saying about the dynamic event system is that it just sounds like a reworking of the public quest system used by Mythic’s Warhammer Online, and then revised by Cryptic’s Champions Online. Some questions that pop into mind:

    1.) If a “quest chain starts in state X and players succeed at it, the quest chain proceeds to state Y for the whole world” this sounds like it will preclude players who are not there at the beginning of the quest chain from particapting, or participating fully.

    2.) If there are no “static quest givers” there must be some substitute, some way to convey information. Otherwise you end up with the same situation as Ultima Online with players entering the world saying “And what do I do now?”. This must also be balance. A complete sandbox with no guidance at all can be just as much a disaster as leading the players around by their nose in a completely linear fashion.

    ArenaNet can give the process a name like “Dynamic Event System” if they will, it sounds like the public quests system. The concept sounds like Warhammer Onlines system that didn’t work out so well for Mythic. Perhaps I am not seeing the trees for the woods here but I don’t see how public quests can deliver all that was promised in the trailer.

    Again, I hope ArenaNet can succeed and we welcome anyone from their team that would care to enlighten our readers and listeners. However, as I mentioned to Gorden above, NCSoft does not have a very good track record right about now.

    Maybe that will change.

  5. Randomessa
    August 13, 2010 | 10:47 am

    Interesting you should compare Mythic’s Public Quests to Arenanet’s Dynamic Events Sr. Julie, as I just so happened to have posted a bit of a comparison hype-wise, and addressed some of the concerns about the similarities (and the perception of the failure of Public Quests as a design feature) there.

    As to your questions:

    1) Anyone can participate at any stage of the event and be rewarded for their participation. Yes, if you miss the first part of the event, you simply miss it; but since missing the first part of the event does not exclude you from participating at any stage (or reaping rewards), this is not the same as in other games where if the quest-giver is killed, nobody else can do this or that necessary quest and cannot progress. It does seem clear that GW2 is going to be a completionist’s nightmare, but that’s what ArenaNet means by “dynamic world” and “things won’t be the same every time you log on.”

    2) The way information is conveyed is visually and aurally. In the examples given in the Dynamic Event overviews and Q&As, if something is on fire, it’s *on fire*, and people will be running around screaming for help. If centaurs are attacking a village, you can *see and hear* them attacking. ArenaNet has a blog up about the hours worth of voice acting they have put into the game to convey all this information and make it possible to interact with the world based on what it is telling you, sans quest boxes and exclamation points.

    Kill Ten Rats has the skinny on what happens when someone plays GW2 expecting exclamation points and how things actually work in the open world (I could not find the original source with a quick google): http://www.killtenrats.com/2010/05/20/guild-wars-2-events-de-compartmentalizing/

    @ Gordon: The reason the trailer seems to promise a lot of things without more information is that it is a visual presentation of a manifesto ArenaNet already posted months ago on their site, and subsequent blog posts that delve into the details of the mechanics they are referencing in the video. The video merely shows without telling what ArenaNet *has* been telling, via interviews, posts, and Q&As for the past several months. That’s why people keep linking you to the ArenaNet blog: most, if not all, of your questions will be answered there; the video is just a demonstration of what they’ve been saying. Fans read the posts and said, “hmmm, what’s that like in action?” and the video is the response.

  6. Sr. Julie
    August 13, 2010 | 5:05 pm

    Thanks much for the information Randomessa. The article you wrote (very good by the way) has been added above as an update. If everything development system works the way you detail, and your links do, and still do it in a persistant world, it may indeed by the future of mmo gaming.

  7. Webmaster
    August 15, 2010 | 11:04 am

    while the whole concept sounds exciting, and the artwork is fantastic, I intend to take it all with a truckload of salt. What keeps coming to mind is that ArenaNet is owned by NCSoft and as sister points out in the article, this is the same company that (pending appeal of course) cheated Richard Garriott out of $28 million dollars.

    Mind you I also bear in mind that just because someone at the top of the company does something that doesn’t make everyone who works for the company or subsidary respoonsible.

    The Webmaster

  8. It’s just a fad
    August 16, 2010 | 11:44 am

    [...] serious case of the “willies”.  This is why we get more than just a bit jumpy when a developer comes along with  “We do not want to build the same mmo that everyone else is building… it’s your story, You [...]