A little later, we’ll be talking about a virtual world to a “Time Travel” theme, which will send customers through differently themed worlds. Like, “Now you’re in Roman World! Through that door is Dinosaur World! Take the trolley to Wild West World!”. I don’t know about you, but this seems more like a theme park than time travel. I think I’d keep waiting for the killer robots to spring out from behind the bushes.
What’s the CENTRAL ELEMENT of any time travel story? It’s the ability or at least desire to change the way things happen. Without that, it’s NOT time travel and it’s NOT a time travel story.
I know, I know — you’re going to point to Fred Hoyle’s 1966 novel “October the First is Too Late”* (of which a totally legal excerpt is here). I maintain that even Sir Fred never considered that book a time travel story, even though it was superficially about an Earth fractured in Time.
On to the games, I guess.
It wasn’t too long ago that “virtual worlds” were the big thing. Everyone would have an avatar as personal to them as their name. Instead of meeting face to face, we’d meet in a virtual world and have adventures. Like MMOs, but with fewer monsters and more shopping. Most of these virtual worlds are long gone, but Second Life and Project Entropia remain.
In Project Entropia (now named Entropia Universe), you harvest sweat from monsters until you earn enough to go to a dance club and shopping mall on an asteroid that someone named Neverdie bought for $100,000 of real money. Now Neverdie & co have gone into business for themselves with a new world called “Next Island” with historically themed areas, and located in the Entropia Universe. The game is nominally free to play, but given Entropia Universe’s tagline is “The first virtual universe with a real cash economy”, I’d expect players will find themselves spending.
Not that that’s a bad thing — F2P games only exist as a genre because some portion of the players spend money to play them. The word “free” has long, long since lost any meaning.
Electronic Arts amps up the evil
I DO understand that game developers need to make money. Devs make great games, we players buy them and eagerly bring them home and play them, we have fun, everyone is happy. It’s a partnership of sorts. Everyone is in it to experience the joy of participating in a collaborative art form.
Well, of course, that’s not reality. Reality is, get some marketing hype going, draw up some concept art, send out a million press releases to all the gaming blogs that are so desperate for content that they will change some words but otherwise pass the PR straight to their readers. Get some overworked slobs to ship a game, fire them all, and if the game is a hit, farm out the sequels to a development house that will work for pennies. If the sequels are hits, buy the development house so you can fire all their people, rinse and repeat.
Anyway, that was traditional AAA game development, from what I hear. Now, with the Internet, it’s possible to pass the pain onto the players. Make a gamer stay connected to the Internet, and you can watch everything they do. They can’t play illegitimate copies, sure, but they also can’t play it without a net connection. Now you can make a player keep paying for the game, long after they’ve bought it.
This isn’t some sort of future dystopian angst; this is how the world is now. All the big studio heads are behind it. The games we play will require net connections, require buying DLC to finish, and get exploited annually with shovelware incremental sequels.
I’m sure Bioware is working really hard to make SWTOR a great game, but their ten year plan for the game ALMOST CERTAINLY involves making players pay heretofore unseen amounts above and beyond their subscription price to fully experience the game.
Massive Attack has a great, though abbreviated, review of last week’s first beta event. They can’t say very much because of the NDA preventing all discussion of the event which is, of course, utterly pointless. The NDA only stops the people who care enough about the game to respect the NDA from refuting all the bad things openly posted by the people who don’t care if they get banned from the Beta.
I’d like to be able to write a nice, long post about the good and bad things about the test, but I can’t. Since I do care about the NDA, I won’t link to all the places that broke it, but a little searching will turn them up.
You can read all about the weekend from the dev’s viewpoint from Executive Producer Scott Hartsman’s blog entry about it.
World of Warcraft
Everyone’s loving Cataclysm!
Anyway, got rantier than I wanted to be. Best cool off with some Star Trek Online :)
* I first read “October the First is Too Late” in an old, ragged paperback edition that my Mom had. She probably got it from Norman, a family friend. He was a true hippie, back when that meant something, and he had a hippie wife, Gloria. I guess Mom had expressed an interest in a SF book he was reading once, and from then on, Norm gave his old books to us as he finished them. Mom would read them, and then I’d read them. I probably read this book somewhere around 1970. Afterward, I read all the books by Fred Hoyle I could find in the Uxbridge Public Library. I write this to remember.