The 10/10 Project: PlanetSide 2 (Day 3)

ps2First of all, I want to give a shout-out to a few other bloggers who are joining me on what a commenter called a “speed-dating” trip through MMOs.  Why I Game, Mama Needs Mana, and Nerdy Bookahs are also trying out 10 MMOs they’ve never touched, so give ‘em a read!

So next up on my 10/10 to do list was also the most recently released title that I picked: PlanetSide 2.  It’s at this juncture that we must discuss my history with FPS games.  I got hooked early on to Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, enjoyed Duke Nuke ‘Em 3D for a good while there, and even gave Unreal Tournament a run for its money.  But for me the FPS was never about PvP, just a different form of PvE, and as the online world started skewing more toward PvP in this area I gradually lost interest.  The last online FPS I played seriously was Battlefield 1942 (egads, was that really 11 years ago?), so if you’re assuming right now that PS2 has an uphill battle with me, you’d be right.

And I’ll go ahead and spoil the ending: My general lack of interest in FPSs and PvP led to a somewhat unenjoyable evening.  That’s why I give you the background first, because I don’t feel like this is a judgment against PlanetSide 2 at all.  In fact, it looks like a very polished (and pretty) shooter that gets you into the action quick and provides infinite scifi PvP.  It just wasn’t for me, and that’s OK.  My curiosity was sated and I’m glad I gave it a try.

So unlike most MMOs I’ve played, PlanetSide 2 isn’t big into (a) character customization and (b) tutorials.  I got to pick my faction (I went Vanu Sovereignty), one of like four heads, and a name… and was instantly thrown into the action.  And here I’m not talking about a “dip your toes into the water” type of action; it was more of a “two seconds after I poked my head out of the safety chamber I was fragged.”

The lack of overt instructions and weird placement of the UI (the map is on the lower-left corner?  Okayyy…) meant that I started floundering from the start.  But hey, mouse button means gunfire, right?  Might as well start spraying at everything that moves!

Well that did not end well, no it did not, not one bit.  Apparently friendly fire is a thing in this game, because PS2 started yelling at me to cut it out or it would lock my weapons.  “I’m not a griefer!” I yelled at the screen.  “I’m just an ignorant newbie who can’t tell the difference between all of the armor-clad goons running around in the dark!”

I guess you had to look for the (very tiny) symbol over the heads or the style of armor, so I stopped firing and just followed my teammates around while aiming in corners to put up a good front.  What were they doing?  I don’t know.  Were we capturing objectives?  I don’t know.  Why did we lose the facility?  I don’t know.  Did I just kill a bad guy?  I guess so.  Yippee.

So an average round for the game would be me running like a maniac, trying to kill someone, and almost always getting killed myself.  One of the reasons that I severely dislike FPSs is the first-person view.  It feels stiflingly claustrophobic, since you miss that peripheral/back view that you get from third-person perspectives, and I had to keep whipping the camera around like a jittery bunny to see around me.  That didn’t help with my nausea any.  Again, it’s a hazard of the genre, not PS2′s specific fault.

I did eventually jump on top of a tank and enjoyed a ride out into the middle of nowhere, at which point my driver disconnected and I realized that I wasn’t sure how to exit the tank.  After a quick trip to the keybindings menu, that got sorted out, and I took Mr. Tank for a joyride myself.  I definitely liked the feel of being in a vehicle versus on foot, although I couldn’t find any targets to shoot.

I wish I had better stories from this session, I do.  Truth be told, I just felt lost and dead.  I admired the visuals, the music, and little moments like air dropping into a facility, but I never felt like I was making a difference.

Will I play it again?  Nope.  Wasn’t expecting to, but always willing to be surprised and all that.  I’m sure this is gangs of fun for FPS fans, and SOE did seem to create a nice F2P title from the ground-up.

Five MMOs on the endangered list

473I think that City of Heroes’ (and to a lesser extent, Glitch and perhaps Lucent Hearts) shutdown has caused some people to pause and wonder which MMO will be next on the chopping block.  Not to get maudlin or delight in “failure,” but let’s be honest: We all do think about it from time to time.  Whether a game’s shut down because of a lack of players and funding or because there’s a legal issue or a studio closing, it can and will happen.

So what MMOs do I think are most in danger of being sunsetted?  Five titles come to mind:

1. PlanetSide

Honestly, there’s just no reason for SOE to keep this game running.  It’s the only title in the studio’s library that hasn’t been converted to free-to-play, it has a F2P sequel that just launched, and it’s pretty long in the tooth.  Maybe SOE will keep the lights on for the sake of the dedicated few that stick around (and keep coughing up a subscription fee), but I don’t see that happening.

2. Warhammer Online

It pains me to say it, but I really don’t think WAR is long for this world.  Mythic is helming a leaking ship with no apparent hope for its future.  BioWare’s siphoned off several of its devs, DAoC is really old at this point and not going F2P, UO is even older, there aren’t any new titles in the works that we know about, and WAR feels like a game that they’d rather you not notice.

The fact that Mythic has outright said that it’s just not financially realistic to convert the game to F2P speaks volumes about its future.  Then you add on the fact that the studio also said that its MOBA version of the game will probably never leave beta status because of a terribly small playerbase, and I just don’t see WAR pulling out of this tailspin.  It was a great if flawed game in many ways, but there’s no hope left.

3. Guild Wars

NCsoft isn’t known for its bleeding heart, and if it sees that most of the Guild Wars fanbase has made the jump to GW2, their accountants are not going to look at the continued cost of operating GW1 fondly.  Hey, maybe those are very minimal costs and why not.  But GW1 can’t have much of a future making money for the company, and that leaves me with a bad feeling about it.

4. Final Fantasy XI

This one might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out.  Not only is FF11 nearing senior citizen status in MMO years, but the studio is really desperate to make FF14 work.  Could it see FF11′s closing as a way to “encourage” the remaining players to make the switch?

Really, I have no idea what Square-Enix is thinking most of the time, and considering how volatile FF14′s history has been so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if the studio just tried to back out of the online space altogether.

5. Anarchy Online

Gah, it hurts me to even suggest this — especially considering I’ve just put it back on my computer.  But with Funcom’s recent staff layoffs and the rumors that it might be shopping around for a buyer, I have to wonder just how stable AO’s future is.  I mean, it’s not just old but there’s little left to draw new/returning players back in until or unless the team can pull off that graphics update.  And raise your hand if you think that’s honestly going to happen?

I don’t think all of these games are destined to be shut down in the next couple of months, I just think that these are the five titles I’m most concerned about right now.  Put them on the “endangered” list, so to speak.  What do you think?

SOE hits a single when it should’ve been going for a homer

Considering the rocky past year that SOE’s gone through — the layoffs, the death of The Agency, the hacked accounts, the sunsetting of Star Wars Galaxies — I was actually keenly interested in hearing what the company had in store for Fan Faire this  year.  Above E3 and Gamescom and the rest of the convention crowd, this was SOE on its home turf with a crowd of loyal fans who were waiting to hear that not all hope was lost.

SOE stepped up to the plate… and hit a solid single to first base.  Polite cheering ensued, but it was by no means the homer that I — and probably many fans — was hoping to see.  If anything, it seems to underline the point that SOE is still struggling hard (although not out of it by a long shot).

First, the good news.  EverQuest 2 players have much to rejoice about with a new class, an upcoming expansion later this year, and the ability to make player-created dungeons (color me interested!).  I think it’s grand that the EQ2 team continues to expand this into one of the most feature-rich games in the industry, and I’m still enjoying my slow-but-steady exploration of it.

SOE’s kiddy titles — Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures — seem to be doing okay, and so the company paraded them around as a shield for recent failures.  And it was pretty cool to hear something, anything about Vanguard’s development, even if it’s only two planned updates in the upcoming year.

Then there was Planetside 2, which was apparently the big announcement of the convention.  Its existence and development wasn’t exactly a secret, so SOE lost what would’ve been a shocking reveal, but the release of details, screenshots and a trailer went a long way too.

But to play devil’s advocate, it’s not as if PlanetSide is SOE’s most popular student.  It’s kind of been the “forgotten” SOE game for a while now — in fact, when SOE came back online after its extended outage and the company posted about what its lineup of games was going to offer returning players, PlanetSide was conspicuously absent.

So will PlanetSide 2 be a huge draw?  If it is, it won’t be for the namesake.  It does look nice, the three-faction war is a good idea, and who knows.  I just know that if I had to choose between a new IP or to sequelize one of SOE’s existing properties, I wouldn’t be picking PlanetSide above anything else.

More disappointing was the near-total lack of information about EverQuest Next.  If there was ANYTHING that SOE should’ve been drumming up at Fan Faire, it was the successor to its most popular franchise.  Instead, we got a screenshot of a face and… it’s going to look nice.  Maybe there really isn’t much to show right now, but considering that SOE’s future lineup is two titles and this is one of them, they need to get cracking.

The problem here is that SOE’s fan base needs something to rally around right now, and the company isn’t giving them much to work with.

I would’ve liked to have heard more about how the company’s free-to-play conversions (EQ2 and Pirates of the Burning Sea) are going.  You’d think that if they were financial successes, the company would be touting that like nobody’s business.  Maybe I missed it.  I dunno.

So it wasn’t a terrible convention, and parts of it — like the SWG meetup — was actually kind of charming.  I guess I was just hoping SOE was going to swing for the stars instead of merely hoping to get on base.

Tuesday Tidbits

signupsBecause sometimes you don’t want to talk a lot about one thing, so you spread the linguistic love around.

Apparently Funcom is laying off 20% of its workforce, a move that will undoubtably (further) shake confidence in the MMO developer.  What’s worse is that this will bump The Secret World’s development back a few month at least.  Past the tragedy of folks losing their jobs, this is disappointing because it seemed as though Funcom was starting to pick up a lot of good press and word of mouth concerning TSW, but a story like this will only infuse past rancor toward the developer (i.e. “Failcom”, etc.).  Here’s hoping TSW will rise to the surface nonetheless — it really looks like an intruiging title.

If I was still playing KOTOR 2 (which I am not — my interest tapered off, and now I’m waiting for Dragon Age for my next single-player RPG fix), then the news of the beta of the Restored Content Project would be of interest to me.  KOTOR 2 had to rush to ship by a certain date, which meant that the developer had to cut a lot of content from the end of the game, giving it an abrupt tone.  Players have since taken this cut (but available) content and been working at restoring it back into the full version.  Good for them.

Speaking of The Old Republic, apparently BioWare slipped (or did they?) and briefly posted a notice concerning testing signups for TOR.  It was quickly taken down, but there’s like a million hawks watching that game, so the news (and screenshots) are out, and the only question is if (a) this is real, (b) if it’ll be officially announced this week, and (c) how many catfights will ensue over getting into this beta?  This is notable because it will represent a milestone on the way to launch, and perhaps indicate that launch is closer than we suspected (for my money, I’m voting fall 2010).

And finally, because Sony doesn’t just want to keep us guessing with EverQuest 3, it’s now out that they’re possibly/probably working on Planetside 2.  I never played the game, and considering its small population, a lot of people didn’t, but there’s a rabid group of fans that continue to tout this game to this day, so I bet they’re in a tizzy over this.  I just have to wonder what SOE hopes to gain from developing a sequel to a low-pop MMO, if they indeed are.  I would imagine that a complete overhaul of the game, a la Ultima Online’s Kingdom Reborn, would be more appropriate and useful.