Archive for November, 2012
Jebus. I’ve never seen any project spew forth so many Kickstarter updates as the folks over at Greed Monger have been doing. Make no mistake, the constant communication is certainly welcome. KS has always been a place where people tend to question the involvement of the project owners: whether backers will be kept in the loop, or whether the project will go to ground with very few milestones announced, so it’s nice to see the GM team keeping the channels open.
So what’s in these updates? Most of them I haven’t been keeping up with, which is in-line with my M.O. in regards to unreleased products. I do most of my learning once the game is available to me, but I’ve been checking out some of the highlights this time, and have listed them here:
- They’re putting up screenshots. 99% are certainly a “work in progress”, but it’s proof that there’s something tangible there. They have screens of weather, day and night, some building placeholders, and most recently, early UI designs. I like the UI, despite some calling it “MMO derivative”.
- The parcel sizes were originally 20×20, but they’ve since updated them to 40×40. For some folks who have funded enough to get two parcels, that’s 80×40. They posted an image of what the original parcel sizes looked like for comparison purposes.
- There was a lot of updates regarding upper-tier pledges. At $2000, you could get a castle! I suppose that’s great for the “monocle and top-hat” set, but for us regular folks…meh.
- But we get horses!
- Since the GM team benefits from land sales, and since abandoned land returns to their control after a time, they posted an initial explanation about how that works. This is important, because someone will invariably pay for land, lose interest (and therefor, their land), and will return some day expecting to find it as they left it. QQing ensues.
- As their haul increased, they hired two new folks to help out with development duties.
- They put up an update about potentially renaming the game. I’m not a fan of the name “Greed Monger”, partly because I feel that it sounds redundant, and more importantly because I feel that it gives the impression that the entire point of the game is to OWN ALL THE THINGS! Sandbox games, to me, are about the player experience within the game, not about phat lewt hoarding.
- And last but certainly not least, this morning’s update mentions building…building. Some games offer housing, but they’re really restrictive, limiting you to “hooks” that serve as pedestals that you can build on. Apparently, GM will have an in-game blueprint tool that allows players to design their buildings using parts like walls, stairs, etc., based on skill and available resources.
This isn’t a comprehensive retread of their updates, which are available on their KS page, but again, it’s nice to see so many updates, with notable progress showing.
My interest in this project has grown accordingly. Other projects that I’ve backed that have had fewer updates have more or less fallen off my radar. I’m sure I’ll be surprised when I get either A) an update, or B) the project delivered, but I really don’t know where those projects stand. GM’s stream of consciousness updates are helping to maintain my interest, even though I’m not really diving deep into each and every one.
I wanted to write about PlanetSide 2, which just released yesterday, and I had originally penned quite a lengthy fan letter about it, but ended up trashing it because I recognized it as having been written during the “honeymoon phase”. Knowing me like I do, it’s a crap shoot as to whether or not I’ll enjoy the game by this time next week, so here’s a post that’s as objective as I can manage.
PS2 is a FPSMMO. You join one of three factions, and you’re unceremoniously deposited in the worst possible location for a player who knows nothing about the game to be dropped — a “hot” war zone There’s action all around: explosions, death, tanks and transports rumbling by, fighter craft and gunships overhead, and a metric fuck-ton of other players, both with and against you.
Your job in the game is simple: capture enemy-held points, and defend your own. And stay alive long enough to hopefully make a difference. That’s the game, in a nutshell, but it’s the road you travel that makes the experience. That experience is measured in terms of points (it’s more like an FPSRPGMMO in that regard), but PS2 is a sandbox FPSRPGMMO: you’re given the tools, and some high-profile options, but it’s up to you to create the stories. Will you be the sole defender of an outpost, sniping enemies from a secure location? Will you spawn a tank and and suppress the enemy defenses? Or will you be a grunt, charging across the field with 50 other players towards an onrushing force of 50 opponents? When all is said and done, the purpose of PS2 is to give YOU the experience that you can tell your friends about, whether you are beaming over a victory, or simmering over a defeat.
I like FPS games OK. I’d pick other genres over them when given a chance, and I usually avoid multiplayer FPS matches because of the reputation of their constituents as being difficult to enjoy. The good thing about PS2 is that the jerk quotient is diluted through sheer numbers (you’re actually more likely to encounter a d-bag on your own team than you will as an opponent). There’s so many people shooting at you or around you that nothing is personal. You’re just another target. On the flip side, though, everything is personal because downed players want revenge. Each knockdown is another mark in the rage column that fuels a greater desire to get back into the fight. Some folks may be coldly calculating the objectives as their goals, but I’d bet that for most, it’s the opportunity to reciprocate an untimely death that keeps people re-spawning.
So, some boring technical details, based on what I sussed out during my time last night.
As a new player, the key thing to remember is to stick with a swarm of teammates. There are so many opponents that lone-wolfing it will result in nothing but a quick trip back to the reformatter. Before you head out, though, check the loadout machines (the pistol icons) and study each option. Each class has it’s strong and weak points, naturally, so find a class you’d like to dedicate yourself to because as you progress, you’ll earn commendation points which can be used to grow your character. These point buckets are divided by class, and also by vehicle, so if you prefer to do nothing but buy vehicles all the time, that’s an option.
I played a medic for a while, and as much as it pains me to say it, medic is a good first choice for a new player for a few reasons. First, medics are essential. Second, medics get XP for healing and getting people off the ground (skull and crossbones), so you’ll be doing this a lot. You don’t have to worry about your accuracy at a distance, because medics work up close. When you see a team member with a green health bar over their head, they’re hurt — undamaged players have no visible health bar. I’d like to say that targeting a medic is a war-crime, but there’s a voice emote to call out enemy medics, so it’ll make you a prime target. Be warned!
I’d advise folks to check the game, even if you’re not a hardcore FPS junkie. Yes, there’s no tutorial. Yes, there will be people who play a lot, who level fast, and who are simply better than you, but I think the selling point of PS2 is in it’s population. When you’re in the middle of a group of other faction members, they’ve got your back: it’s in their best interest to keep one another alive because it’s more guns to lend to the cause. They’re also your meat shields (as you are theirs). Where they go, you go. Where they shoot, you shoot. And when the point soldiers explode in a fountain of rubble, you know to pull up and find cover. If you manage to get a kill, or even an assist, it’s a fantastic feeling…which is usually followed by a bullet to the head, but even that can’t take away how awesome it feels to be part of something on this scale.
Sometimes, we arrive at a destination sooner than we should. Under normal circumstances, discoveries or innovation arrives precisely when it means to, and the world continues on from that point.
But there are also a lot of instances when something is brought to our attention long before it can really be appreciated. One example is augmented reality or location-based apps. These aren’t new, and you’ve probably seen them in various incarnations on your smartphone. Some of them pair your camera with your phone’s GPS to provide a visual overlay displaying restaurants or points of interest, but in keeping with the theme of this site, we also have location based games like QONQR or Parallel Kingdom and soon, Ingress from none other then Google itself.
In these games, you have some sort of a task in a real geographic area of the world. You can change things up by taking a walk, or getting in your car and driving somewhere. You can collect things, fight things, and set up things in a virtual world based on where you’re physically standing with smartphone in hand. The more advanced examples will provide an augmented reality overlay like what you’d see in Generic Sci-Fi HUD Example #3761, but because most smartphones have a built in mapping app (at least the ones that work), you’ll see a lot of these games simply place their overlay on top of that.
The main problem with these games is that you can only stay in one place for so long before the “game” becomes entirely reactionary. You fire it up, tap some buttons to make stuff happen, and that’s about it. Ideally, you’ll be competing against other people in your area…which is great if you live in the urban sprawl, but if you’re like 99% of the rest of the U.S. and live outside the city, chances of you running into someone who’s also playing is fairly slim. Your only recourse in that case is that the games are technically “location neutral” by allowing the fruits of your running around to be contributed into a massive pool that benefits your chosen faction.
These games are designed around the notion that people are moving around far more frequently, and possibly much further, than they really are. It’s great when you take a weekend vacation to another town, state, or country, because you can really put the app to the test, but for those of us who mainly commute between home and work, there’s not a heck of a lot of daily variety to keep interest. But beyond that, when the game treats it’s players like a bunch of honey-bees who’s sole job is to collect resources and then throw them in a pile, one should question the MOTIVE that the game is trying to impart. What’s the driving force that makes people want to “play”? Character development is nill, and there’s barely any room for any kind of story progression, so unless the game is offering tangable rewards (hell, even a coupon to McDonalds would be SOMETHING), convincing people to log in after that initial “this is so cool!” phase is no doubt a herculean task, and a nut that has yet to be cracked.
Although people seem to be excited about Ingress, unless Google has some unheard-of plan to make it break the mold of previous location based games, I don’t see it being ground-breaking in any way. There are some whispers of being able to use Google Glass (those goofy looking, privacy destroying headset cameras) for this, but unless you want to LOOK like a character from a video game, while avoiding a beat-down from the general population that you’re filming, you’d best stick with a smartphone. Naturally, there’s a lot of people who think this is a “new thing” because Google is doing it, but at the risk of sounding like a hipster, folks waiting for an Ingress invite should check out how other AR location-based games tackle the situation. I don’t suspect Google’s will improve on it, aside from making it a lot geekier.
Remember a while back when I said that Guild Wars 2 was my “unicorn game”, something mystical that had never been seen before on this Earth?
I may have jumped the gun a bit.
I’ve been all over the map for a few weeks now, having scaled back my GW2 time significantly since before the Halloween events. Part of it has to do with the blah of the zones that I’m in; sorry, I just don’t “feel” them anymore. Once I got the gist of these dynamic events and everything, it became more mechanical than anything: hit the collectibles on the map for 100% completion, so the daily stuff that needs doing, move to the next zone. Meh. I can do that in any game, really.
Beyond that, the Wombattery has declined. Naturally, the all time high body count of just around launch could never be maintained. We Wombats have a known history of gaming promiscuity, and there’s really nothing epic about this game that would cause us all to nail our feet to the floor and repent our flighty ways. Some have found their home, which is like finding a home for a shelter animal; you’re always glad they’ve found a happy place. But the majority of folks seem to have gone their own ways, and once I got used to having so many people excited about the game as a whole, it’s really, really hard — damn near impossible — for me to care about playing in a vacuum.
GW2 is fun, and well built, and I never blame a game for my ADHD. I really thought this one was The One, but it’s not. I’d uninstall it for the precious space, but I bought my wife a copy, and feel that I need to keep it there on the off chance that she might want to play. I’m sure it’ll end up back in my rotation, as so many top-shelf MMOs do, but I can’t say when.
Thanks to MoxieDoodle, a new Kickstarter campaign was brought to my attention. It’s called Greed Monger, and it’s a game in which you apparently monger greed. I don’t know what that is, but according to the KS page, it sounds like an MMO for those of us tired of the incessant focus on hotbar-centric combat combat combat. The short list description includes an empty world – no shit, really empty, except for trees and animals and monsters – where you build all the things, including armor, weapons, and most importantly, housing. For $20, you get a plot of land (up to 4 plots!) and you decide what to do with it. Leave it open and charge players to hunt or harvest, or you can add a house and live life to the fullest, making furniture and decorations to sell through your NPC vendor.
The citied influence comes from Ultima Online, which was Sandboxious Maximus in it’s heyday, allowing many of the same perks as are listed above. I also detected a whiff of Star Wars Galaxies in there, but also an overpowering scent of Wurm Online. That’s kind of where I put the breaks on, so to speak.
WO is really one of a kind. It, too, is an empty world which allows players to buy land with real money, and to harvest the land to build houses, raise crops, domesticate animals, and so on. Each parcel is locked to the owner, so if you have a lot of trees on your land, you can prevent folks from taking them.
The idea is that sandbox fans will be so overcome with joy that they’ll link arms and skip down the rainbow road, buying up land and forming in-game towns where each person will bend to a particular task, and will share the fruits of his/her labors with the other players who make up the fair town. There will be hundreds of these player-created bergs, and inter-village commerce will flourish, and everyone will enjoy one another’s company, and learn the true meaning of cooperation.
In reality, there’ll be a land rush where those who get in early and pay the most set up camp in the most desirable locations, bringing along their friends to circle the wagons around the best resources. Anyone coming in later, or without a support group, will be limited to the dregs of the land, locked out of opportunities controlled by the land barons who are more interested in extortion than in creating a greater community. At some point, someone(s) will come along and find a way to specifically grief others through land ownership, and your plans to get your friends together to form a little hamlet end in frustration because you can’t find a contiguous area that allows you all to build nearby one another.
This is not just a Worst Case Scenario. It happened in UO – remember castles, which took up so much goddamn room? I’m sure SWG had similar issues. And don’t get started on my blood-boiling foray into Wurm Online. In each case, the plans look good on paper, when there’s no actual boots on the ground. There’s a lot of assumptions that people are going to both work together, and end up in conflict, but I think the grand plan is that it’ll be on a settlement-by-settlement basis, not a first-in-by-newcomer basis. Sure, there’ll be a lot of people who span the spectrum from kind and inclusionary, to total and utter douchenozzles, but this is the kind of design that’s has a built in allowance for a certain percentage of frustration. I can almost hear the shrugging going on – what do you want US to do?
OK, so it sounds whiney. It is, I admit. This game appeals to me. I like the idea of a game built around self-sufficiency, where you start with nothing and then achieve anything only through your own power. Working with others is additive, and beneficial for each and every one of you. But we’re not new to this. We know how “people” are. The prognostications above will happen, because they’ve happened before. It’s only a question of magnitude, and that depends on the opportunities offered by the game itself.
I pledged my money, enough for two parcels of land. I figure that one parcel was fine, but two is more breathing room. The chances of me expanding to three or four is pretty much nil, since three and four will certainly end up having to be claimed away from wherever I set down plots one and two, because someone else will abut my own property. Will there be enough people I know who buy into it, so we can make a go at starting a village? Perhaps. Will we all be able to find enough local property to not have to build around someone else’s planned settlement? It remains to be seen, I guess.
Virtual tabletops have only recently become big news, with two new players taking the field as Tabletop Forge and Roll20. They’re actually the latest offerings in a rather underground movement to allow older tabletop gamers the ability to reunite with one another over the Internet after years and responsibilities have forced them to far flung locations.
Wizards of the Coast, owners of Dungeons & Dragons, actually had their own VTT. It was more infamous than famous, because it languished and took on more forms than any single person can remember. At one point, it was to be a 3D affair, but the “end” result was more of a traditional, top down VTT system.
I put “end” in quotes because Wizards decided to finally give up on it, which is insanely sad. They’re rather stingy with their IP and licensing, making any VTT that wishes to support D&D subject to a lot of furtive glances and razor-walking so as not to wake the wrath of WotC’s Lawyers (level 1000 Elite Brute). WotC was actually in the best position to make a VTT, though: they owned an iconic system, had a massive stable of resources in monsters, stories, and sourcebooks, and were adept at making quality merchandise like their Dungeon Tiles, which seems like the perfect storm for a VTT system.
In a fit of delirium, WotC has allowed Game Table Online to take over the VTT. The work that was done on the WotC “version” was packed up and moved to the care of GTO, where was unpacked, debranded, and set up as what will hopefully and eventually be a game-system agnostic VTT. As part of their deal, GTO can’t market the VTT using D&D 4E (despite the product being specifically designed for it), but they can offer D&D 4E compatibility, which means you can get access to the Dungeon Tiles, tokens, and much of the 4E “feel”.
Sadly, this is quite possibly the worst VTT you can employ in your service. The entire potential was squandered – no, pissed away – by whatever excuses WotC can muster as to why it took so long, and why it ended up in the state it’s in. Again, it had the potential to define the genre of VTT software, but it kind of sat on the couch in it’s bathrobe eating Cheetos until it’s parents decided enough was enough, and kicked it’s half-baked ass into the street. Hopefully GTO has the source code and will improve on it, because as a dungeon builder it’s very strong, offering a whole lot of tiles to drag and drop your creations into existence. As a usable VTT, pretty much any other option is a better option at this time. Even drawing on paper and holding it up to a webcam.
Basic usage of the tabletop is free. However, many of the tokens and tiles are “buy to use” through GTO’s cash shop. I’m OK with that, because I think GTO is a small business, and they’ve inherited a pretty big clusterfuck. I’m sure WotC requires them to “pay for the privilege” of using the assets they were going to cram into the dumpster otherwise, and since they’re pro-quality assets, anyone who wants to make a go of it should go whole-hog and support GTO in their up-hill battle.