LOVE pre-play impressions

Sitting here watching the love tech alpha on my 37" LCD screen. It's just a flythrough of the world that loops over and over again, showing of scenes form the game and the engines dynamic day and night cycle.

It's really different from other games. It's astonishing that it's made by one person. Really impressive, check it out if you're on a PC.

The first Real virtual world

Oh alright, virtual worlds have been around a long time. But never as alive as this. One of the largest MMOG's in the world, Eve Online, is getting a sister game from the same developer. The game, Dust 514, will feature shooter gameplay in the same world as Eve. That's right. Games in different genres played in the same game world at the same time. Even if the games themselves do not interact directly the indirect possibilities of cross game effect and not to mention news has the potential to be amazing.

This could really be the first MMO world that might live on, with the games coming and going. A true perpetual world.

Accessability 2

A lot of core gamers and core game developers are, more or less, opposing accessibility design for the reasons that making a game accessible "dumbs down" the game or "makes the game shallow".  Players and developers pushing for accessible games claim that this is not the case. Well let's just set the record straight with some quick analysis: Accessability does dumb down gameplay and does make games more shallow.  But, this is only true for a very small part of the target demographic. This is only true for the power- or core-gamers that fully learn the micro strategies of playing a game and then use that knowledge to play on a macro strategic level. For these players games will become to simple or shallow and certainly dumbed down if we make the games more accessible.

But how many are the core gamers? We have absolutely no idea. But paying core gamers we do know. Very few games, ever, have sold more then 10 million units. But games aimed at the hardcore crowds do tend to sell close to ten million (close in the millions that is, Halo 3 sold 7 million I believe). That means that there are about 10 million core players that really don't need more accessible games. Doesn't that make accessability pointless? No. Certainly not.

How many paying players are there? We don't have a clue. What we do know is that the previous generation of home consoles (dominated by the PS2) sold over 200million units. Even if every single gamer bought two consoles that still 100million home consoles... On the handheld side the GBA sold about that many units alone. So for every core gamer there are about 10 less then core gamers actively paying for consoles and games, maybe just not as much.

This is the crowd that developers are aiming for when they're focusing on accessibility. This does not mean that all games should be accessible. After all, selling 10 million units of a game is plenty. But selling hardcore multiplayer shooters alone as the industry is doing today is simply incredibly stupid from an economical perspective. No wonder the Wii is selling so well, what else are these gamers playing? Online games some of them for sure (like the 11 million current subscribers to World of Warcraft).

So have no illusions, games are a low entry entertainment. Most gamers don't want to learn how to play a game. They don't want to compete or be the best. They simply want to play. Sound odd? Think about why PvE is more popular then PvP in MMO's or why Multiplayer didn't explode before the instant respawn became standard or why coop shooters are doing better then deathmatch shooters.

Next time I write about accessibility I'll adress what low entry entertainment really is and how to focus on it.

Capturing the Online Games Market

As I posted about earlier the web 2.0 applications are forerunners to a new type of game development market that is opening up online. Namely online games of which the flash games are currently most famous and seems to be the default platform in the foreseeable future.

Two large companies are apparently aware of this development as Ubisoft and Garage games have both already started delivering for the platform. While Garage games game platform is a closed network that relies on a plugin download they already have advanced 3D games up and running. Visit InstantAction and have a look.
Ubisofts upcoming Heroes of Might and Magic: Kingdoms might be delivered through flash, but it is to early to tell will HOMMK.

Time will tell but if I were a large publishing house today I'd try like hell to push Adobe to release open GL or direct X support with flash.

Read the previous post for more on the point.

Another line of work

So, after encouragement from Ole Herbjørnsen at Funcom, I've started playing World of Warcraft again. This time with the aim to max level a character and analyze the various systems I find on the way.

Now I've played WoW at least four times before. And the start of this character was no different, it was boring. Really boring. But then at around level 15 something previously unknownst to me happened.
I was enjoying myself!
Not the actual gameplay though, the fighting and grinding was still boring. But I started enjoying traveling through the world. The world itself in WoW is quite beautiful with it's five year old graphical style and the vastness and continuity of it really got to me. But instances and fighting... Let me give you an example:

Last night I had planned with a few of my friends to play Wailing Caverns, a horde instance in the barrens. It is the second instance for players playing the more colorful horde side of WoW.

But after dinner I found myself procrastinating, a lot. Even doing dishes!
Eventually my girlfriend Caroline prodded me:
"Weren't you supposed to play an instance with the guys?"
"...yes..." *sigh* "do I have to?"
"erh... I'm not sure you should pay for this game."

I did play WC, I did enjoy doing something with the guys. But I'm glad I have a few hours yet before I have to do it again. The basic gameplay in MMO's has got to change. Not many people can actually enjoy the one-click combat.