The state of the MMO Union is...free. Newzoo is set to release their 2011 MMO Games Market Report next week, overflowing with interesting tidbits about players and the state of the online industry. For those that don't know, Newzoo is a major market research firm that delights in video games almost as much as, if not more than, the players.
Major highlights from the report include a massive growth in free-to-play MMOs, surging to 47% of the MMO spending in the U.S., 53% in Europe, 51% in Asia, and a staggering 59% in emerging video game markets. We're talking over a billion dollars in each market, guys. But, spending is spread around amongst more games than it has been in the past, causing analysts to predict that we'll see many MMOs bite the dust as 2012 becomes a year of consolidation.
"The MMO games market is rapidly turning global. It has become increasingly important for MMO developers and publishers think carefully about which titles to publish in what territories and how to adapt the games according to local preferences, including monetization models that work best. Recent lay-offs and the sudden death of Lego Universe are serious warnings for the MMO games industry. Success will also strongly depend on how MMO companies extend their unique gameplay and IP across other game platforms, specifically mobile..." said Peter Warman, CEO of games market research firm Newzoo and co-author of the 2011 MMO Games Market Report.
Other interesting facts from the report, which can be found on their website starting on November 15th, include:
- Americans spend 26M hours per day in total playing MMO games.
- In 2011, total consumer spend on MMO games in the U.S. will grow 3% compared to 2010, from $2.5 billion to $2.6 billon.
-Different games dominate different regions. League of Legends (obviously) wins out in the U.S., while World of Tanks trounces competition in Europe and Shaiya leads the Latin American market.
- 84% of U.S. MMO gamers plays browser-based MMOs. Almost half of these consumers also play client-based MMOs.
- 37% of F2P and 35% of P2P MMO gamers prefer Sci-Fi/Space themed MMO games.
In 2009 there was a kerfuffle on the Star Wars: The Old Republic message boards when one board member pointed out that auto-filtering the terms gay and lesbian was not conducive to making those people feel welcome. That problem has been encountered a few times across various gaming online portals, message boards, and profiles. A moderator stepped in, closed that thread, and stated, "As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. Thread closed."
It was later reopened with an apology from BioWare. Since then we've had the Dragon Age series, confirmation of the third Mass Effect game allowing male-on-male romance (female-on-female was possible beforehand, though that is up for debate with some), and just recently we've had it confirmed that there will be no such romances in their upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, which will in fact feature a bit of romance, as it plans on being slightly more story-heavy in personal decision making. Thank you to both @Limeadesage and @SoulstitchMMO for bringing this to my attention.
First there is the video from BioWare Pulse that was recorded this past week, which served as an interview with producer Cory Butler:
Around the 3:00 mark starts the following question posed by a user on Twitter, as asked by Deeka Macdonald, "Same-gender romance in/out, or not decided yet in Star Wars: The Old Republic?" The response is, "Same-gender romances are not in Star Wars: The Old Republic." Topic shifted.
Further, in the message boards, Senior Community Manager Allison Berryman explicates a bit more, stating:
We understand that this topic is one that's very important to many of our community members, and we appreciate everyone posting their feedback. At this time, there are no same gender romance options available in the game, as was mentioned in the interview linked earlier. We know you're interested to hear more on this subject, and we will provide more information as soon as we are able. Thank you for your patience and for helping keep this thread on-topic and appropriate for the forums.
Since then the thread has moved. Twice. Three times, so far. This is apparently done when a thread gets too large, which is an indication of this topic's ability to get people talking. However, I have yet to see an explanation or reasoning behind this decision.
Considering this is licensed, I have seen bandied about that Lucas Arts is the one making this decision. Or those evil, fingers-drumming-together corporate types at EA (oh stereotypes). Or maybe they were just afraid of a higher rating on the game. Or, or, or.
As yet, there is no explanation forthcoming, and I doubt there's any one particular decision-maker calling this shot. After all, there is a bit of a history with Juhani in the first Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic game, who was first meant to be a lesbian, but due to glitches became bisexual in earlier versions of the game. Therefore, this all does seem a bit odd. There is precedent, and while 'gay' and 'lesbian' may not be understood in the same way in the old, old Republic, it does seem that same-sex romances are in fact quite possible. I'm also quite sure people better versed in the history of the franchise could mention one or two other instances.
I suppose at this point there will be conjecture until we get an official response. At which point there will likely be more conjecture anyway.
Last week was sylvari week on the ArenaNet Guild Wars 2 blog. What is notable about this, beyond just looking at how they redesigned a plant-like species so as to make them neither just sexy plant-women nor somewhat monstrous seeming ents, is that they revealed the following tidbit about their gender and romance:
Do sylvari have romantic relationships?
Sylvari fall in and out of love, just like other races do. They have a romanticized view of devotion, and they're curious about passion in all its forms. There are male and female sylvari, but none has ever produced a child as other races do. Because of this, traditional human-style gender roles have no meaning to sylvari, either in their society or in their romantic relationships. Often, a sylvari's ardor is expressed with courtly zeal--emotional, empathic, personal--and is not necessarily defined by gender.
There are a few things to unpack here, and it requires sifting through one other post, about their makeup both biologically and their myths.
One of the goals that has been discussed in the council room of GayGamer castle for some time has been sending out missives to all the clans and guilds that surround us and thrive in their respective worlds. The goal would be to have a massive scroll with all the guilds and clans who pledge to protect QUILTBAG folk and offer them a safe space to play.
What this means is I want people to email me. What should you email me? I want to know of guilds and clans that are either QUILTBAG-centric or QUILTBAG-friendly. Therefore, that email link should include the following information please:
Name of Guild:
QUILTBAG-centric or QUILTBAG-friendly:
Contact for the guild:
The reason I would like the last is because I wish to survey the guild a bit. Is the guild sensitive to trans people? Is their makeup mostly men or women, and if so do they foster the opposite sex? Raiding guild? PVP guild? Just casual, get-together-and-shoot-the-shit guild? These little details.
What will result is a list of guilds and clans, where to find them, and if they hold particular interest to people. The reason I have included QUILTBAG-friendly is because it's a big world, and some of you have surely found awesome clans and guilds that will allow us to coexist as much as create our own spaces.
Also, while I am aware of Proudmoore in WoW, treat this as if I know nothing of your game. With more and more games becoming free to play, or starting that way (League of Legends for instance), it might just be a list that could be used to find out a new game you wish to try.
So, email me.
P.S. When Diablo 3 releases, I expect something of this nature to be formed. Let it be so.
It comes as no surprise that Mass Effect 3 was not going to have multiplayer, as the most recent GameInformer has confirmed. The premise of the franchise thus far has been the story of your Shepard, so adding a multiplayer experience on top of that would seem to undercut that goal, as well as distract from other matters on which they could be focusing (does anyone like slapped together multiplayer that's not built with such in mind?).
That does not mean having a story that doesn't focus on one person in the future is out of the question. According to VG247, cofounder of BioWare Casey Hudson had the following to say:
We've been trying to think of a way that makes sense for people to experience Mass Effect with their friends. We haven't yet come up with a way to do that, so we don't have anything to announce at this time. But, obviously, multiplayer is something we want to do more of in the future as a company.
A lot of people say that they want to see an MMO, I think that kind of makes sense for this universe. Part of what you're trying to do is save the universe so you can live in it. That's part of the promise, I think, for any great IP. It has to be a world worth saving... I think Mass Effect has that quality to it. If you get rid of the Reapers and win that, wouldn't it be amazing to just live on the Citadel or just take a ship to Omega? That makes sense.
Of course, multiplayer for BioWare isn't wholly new, as I often used the function in Baldur's Gate to completely build my own party to try things. Then again, I can't speak to the experience when playing with others, so I suppose Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a strong indicator of what BioWare can do in that direction.
The larger question for me is wondering which worlds I would like to experience as an MMO, and whether or not that means much of anything. I was always of the mind that I would have preferred an MMO based off Blizzard's Diablo franchise, rather than Warcraft, but it's difficult to argue Blizzard didn't change the MMO landscape and do well with that particular name. In this case, Mass Effect does seem like the franchise to focus on rather than Dragon Age, as the former seems to be concluding soon, but there's still a lot to explore in the changing world of the latter.
Are there any other games/series whose worlds have entranced you enough to want to be able to explore it as an MMO, or seem like a particularly apt fit?
I've already discussed my fascination with games that allow me an alternate, pacifist route. Therefore, it's hardly a surprise that one of my friends showed me this World of Warcraft thread by Everbloom, who managed to reach level 85 with 0 kills and only 1 quest completed (the 1 quest was the "Invitation to the Argent Tournament" letter, which apparently autocompleted when she opened it--something she's appealing Blizzard changes). She accomplished this by focusing on her crafting skills, starting off mining and herbing, and then later with archaeology.
As the thread shows, many questions pop up instantly in the minds of WoW players. For instance, how much time did she spend in total? 10 days 19 hours 10 minutes, which is quite a few hours. How much gold? About 12,000, largely because she wasn't focusing on money (she has quite a few alts), and near the end-game content, she started giving the materials to her higher tier toons. How many deaths did her toon have? Twenty-five. Then, of course, why would she do it?
As she outlines in the very first post:
If you like to explore, and enjoy a challenge I really REALLY recommend this, I have been playing since day 1 on other characters and I even have an original Loremaster (you know, back when it was hard) and I saw so MANY new things with Everbloom that it really made it worthwhile for me to continue on with this character, and each level was a major achievement!
She plans on transferring her toon now to Antonidas, to join the guild [Peace Corps], which focuses on such goals, which seems to focus primarily on 0 kills. Considering the ever-changing field of MMOs, and Blizzard's own addition of achievements, it does make me wonder if this sort of player-fielded challenge will have any acknowledgment. Regardless, as long as there are players who want to try something new and set their own limitations, these manner of challenges will be present.
Of course, it should be taken into mind that her particular race/class choice was particularly useful, as a Night Elf Druid has both Shadowmeld and flight forms. There's also the fact that, as the thread further discusses, she has entangling roots to escape any aggroed mobs.
It's raining gay news! Or something...
Lucent Heart is an anime MMORPG ported over from Japan that seems to pride itself on two features. First, you create a character whose birthday determines your Zodiac sign, which then determines your stats, and seems to play into your abilities. Furthermore, it allows you to use a Cupid System to match up with a gamer and be in a relationship. You gain various boons in the form of buffs and enhancements if you quest and play together as a couple. Doing so can also result in in-game marriage (with the option for later divorce). As yet, the game only offers this in heterosexual pairings.
As of right now, it is still in a closed beta.
Gamania is holding a poll for the game's next update to see which features are implemented. It is using Facebook's new poll feature to determine among four choices: same-sex relationship/marriage in the Cupid System, smoother WASD, more emotes, and a timezone option for the Cupid System. The poll is right here, and does require you allow the Poll application access to your Facebook account.
Furthermore, Lucent Heart is donating $5 to Japan relief efforts for each fan who likes their Facebook page.
If you have any interest in keeping up with Lucent Heart, which looks charming in and of itself (and is free, so I may well check it out), their official page keeps up to date on its progress.
An admission: I'm a rather large fan of MMOs. From my early days on BBS MUDs and LORD, to my time with Sierra's The Realm Online, meandering to UO, and eventual tasting of most of the larger MMOs we currently see, I've been a fan of the potential they seem to promise.
The difficulty I've had has been with subscription models these days. It creates this self-inflicted guilt where if I am not playing my game, I am wasting the money on which I spend on it monthly. As someone who plays many games, enjoys writing about them, and wants to make sure he's aware of current trends in the industry overall, I don't want to feel locked in to an MMO that requires such.
Given such, I haven't touched WoW in years, for instance (depending on whom you ask, that may or may not be for the best). Instead, I've been much more prone to try out other models, and try to keep an eye on how they seem to be faring in this part of the world.
According to Massively, reporting on an interview with Charge-Shot, Runic Games Max Schaefer is making hints that he no longer believes in the sub-based model himself. He directly calls on the fact that WoW is the elephant int he room, and it informs his thought process, "I don't think really anyone can do [subscriptions] anymore because pretty much everyone that does subscriptions has one for WoW."
Before this year, the MMO on which I'd kept my eye most closely was Star Wars: The Old Republic. While I'm still interested, I'll admit to my attention instead being diverted to Guild Wars 2. I could wax poetic on why I look forward to what it promises, but I'll leave that for some other time (and you can read our GDC coverage instead); instead, I was grateful to hear that it would stick to the buy-in model they'd already used with the first game: buy the game, no monthly fee.
Naturally, this sort of model puts the onus on microtransactions. I don't mind those as much given a few principle rules: they don't make it difficult to progress in the game (which really does seem the route Dragon Age: Legends wishes to take with its store) and doesn't unbalance the game. From the example Guild Wars the first seems to have set out, extra character slots, using your own characters as henchmen, and other such features seem to be the rule.
Which makes me wonder, how much are subscriptions and/or various pay models affecting your own decisions as regards the ever-increasing (even if many are seemingly shovelware-esque) MMO landscape?
GDC is a week gone, but the fires are still stoked. I'd love to share with you all some juicy deets from the NCsoft presser, so I will! Drand and I sat down with NCsoft and ArenaNet to get the skinny on their next big thing: Guild Wars 2, an MMO sequel unlike any other.
Full details and gallery after the jump.
It's a bloody market. It's a life-changing choice. It's like picking someone to DATE more than anything...I mean you've got to consider things like longevity, end-game, fees, other players...Picking an MMORPG to play can be a tough choice. The market is saturated more and more daily with plenty of great options, for gamers of all types. There is probably a great flow chart in here somewhere, with lots of specific games you should pick and try and so on...but I'm a man of numbered lists, true to my nature I shall stay.
So let's go.
This week ArenaNet has announced a new class for its upcoming MMO: Guild Wars 2. What distinguishes it from the previous for class reveals (ranger, necromancer, warrior, and elementalist) is that this is a class we have not previously seen in the Guild Wars world.
Now, considering that ArenaNet's talk of this game is that the roles are decentralized, and that there won't be a class dedicated to healing, the fact that this looks and sounds like a tank class are deceiving. However, the abilities present are ones that either benefit the guardian solely, or confer abilities to their teammates.
What manner of skills? Spirit weapons, which aren't a usable weapon, so much as the spirit of one that floats alongside you and attacks, even having a powerful attack that can be used before they expire. Symbols, which can be used to benefit allies or damage enemies. Wards, whose ability I hope is self-explanatory. Then there's Aegis, which is understandably used to block.
This is in addition to their virtues, which are passive benefits. They can become noble martyr types by throwing away that benefit to protect other, more squishy teammates. Or aid them in laying down some smite. Y'know, that sort of thing.
The guardian also seems equally divided between offense and defense. There is a feel from the videos of the skills that while the guardian sounds like a great addition to any team, they are perfectly capable of standing on their own. I'll post my favorite skill I've seen so far below, but feel free to take a gander at the other four on the guardian's own page.
Bovidae had a fairly normal life in Mulgore (After all, happy Tauren come from Mulgore), but he never felt quite at home. While his brothers wanted to visit Thunder Bluff to take a gander at Aponi Brightmane, Bovidae was more interested in meeting Baine Bloodhoof, and seeing if his horns were really as large as everyone said they were. While he didn't exactly fit in, he still loved his home, his family, and (for the most part) his life. Then Deathwing came.
In the short time it took Deathwing to shatter Azeroth, Bovidae's life was similarly destroyed. The quillboar were riled into a frenzy, and attacked Camp Narache in an unsuccessful bid to destroy the Taurens. Though they were pushed back, there were heavy casualties, including Bovidae's parents. With nothing to hold him to his home, he decided to make his own way in the world, and maybe find love on his journey. First, however, there were lots and lots of pigs to kill.
And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!
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