Just like everyone else I spent my weekend playing in the Star Wars: The Old Republic Beta. Or well, the part of my weekend that I could reasonably spend on gaming anyway. Time enough, it turns out, to get a Jedi Sentinel to level 18 and not much else. Unlike so many of you, I didn’t manage to try out all the classes, so I still don’t know what to play at launch. What has the world come to? Anyway, here are a few impressions in no particular order.
Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.
My first thoughts when walking into up a mountain slope in Skyrim where something along the lines of “All that wind and snow, it surely must be cold up here.” Pretty immersive to be sure. Nils, on the other hand, wondered why people weren’t wearing appropriate clothes for the cold, having his immersion broken in the process. He’s right, of course, but my ignorance of the weather-appropriateness of people’s clothing made me enjoy the game more. I see the same thing happening a lot with movies and books – the tendency to over-analyze the fun out of a piece of fiction.
I got to play a little bit of Skyrim this weekend. Not as much as I’d have liked, but enough to get a first impression. Reviewers all over the internet are either hyping the game to no end, condemning it as a shoddy console port, or both. I’m certainly not far enough into the game to give you any sort of actual review, but my initial impressions are mixed.
My steam tells me that I’ve now spent more than 100 hours playing Europa Universalis. That’s a lot for a game that sat in my account for basically ever, even when you discount the fact that I sometimes leave it on when I make dinner or something. One thing I realized some time into the game is that it doesn’t have an ending. Or rather, there is no win condition. Zilch.
If you’re not living in Germany, you might have completely missed this: The EULA for Origin (EA’s competitor to Steam which is required to play Battlefield 3, will be required to play Mass Effect 3 and is likely to be required to play Star Wars: The Old Republic) contains extensive liberties for EA to collect data about your PC usage and the content of your hard drive. YouTube videos can be found that show that Origin even looks through the folders of your steam installation and your tax software.
So you get Diablo III for free when you subscribe to World of Warcraft for a full year. Not a big deal really. Few people will take it and of those, at least half (probably more) will regret it because they won’t be playing WoW for remotely that long. A minority will save a little bit of money because of it. The meanings of this have also been discussed quite a bit in the blogosphere. Some say it’s a genius move, others say that it means Blizzard has no faith in WoW, Diablo III, or both. Me, I find the idea of getting two games at once that both require a lot of time to play a bit weird and I have no interest paying for 12 months of WoW anyway. Things could be quite different if the deal was reversed, though.
I’ve picked up two (more or less turn-based) strategy games recently – Heroes of Might and Magic VI and Europa Universalis III. Alright, I have owned EU forever but never managed to get past the hurdle of “oh my god, so many numbers”. Now that I’ve had someone to explain the game to me (which the tutorial absolutely failed to do), I actually clocked quite a few hours. HoMM VI is the newer game with a much larger budget and I loved some of the old ones to bits, yet I spend much more time on Europa Universalis. Let’s explore why that is so for a bit. (Or you could go read about pandas everywhere else. Your pick.)
I can’t possibly count how many video game characters I’ve played (and story protagonists I’ve read about) that had amnesia of some form or another. As Azuriel pointedly puts it “Amnesia is so cliche a plot element that merely saying it is cliche is itself a cliche.” It’s an easy way for game designers to explain why a character needs to be explained all that happens around her and why she needs to ask the most basic of questions. I’d say that there are other (better!) ways around the issue though.