Dogfights And More: The Awesome Potential Future Of DUST

DUST 514 is still one of the most interesting experiments going on in the MMORPG sphere at the moment – a free-to-play MMO shooter that exists in the same world as, and theoretically interacts directly with, the long-running player-led space game EVE Online.

But Jester thinks that its future is much, much brighter. In a really interesting and frankly exciting post he looks at the ways that EVE and DUST could grow together, from trans-atmosphere fighters to entire EVE ships descending into the DUST sphere…

“Now even the possibility of what I’m thinking of is several years down the road. But suppose one of the DUST fighter types was trans-atmospheric, able to climb into low planetary orbit. And let’s further suppose that that’s where the eventual war barge is going to park. It’s logical: ships in space, MCC close to ground level, war barge in between. And over time, EVE players could be given the ability to pilot carrier-based fighters. I think this one is coming, too. Star Citizen is going to have it, and it makes enough sense that this was the basis of EVR, the game that CCP demoed at Fanfest.

If both games were developed in this direction, then it would be perfectly logical and possible for there to be EVE v. DUST player battles over the war barges, each player in the fighter type appropriate to their game.”

Read the rest of Fighter vs Fighter >>

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The Future Of WoW: From 25-mans to Combat Res

With Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, you might have expected the discussion in the blogosphere to be all about the here and now. But you’d be wrong.

As MoP looms, everyone’s suddenly talking about the far future of WoW – even the next expansion. From the end of 25-man raiding to the argument that we should get rid of combat resurrection, here are some fascinating thoughts on What’s Coming After:

  • Matthew Rossi at WoW Insider says – as a 25-man raider by preference – that he believes it’s time for 25-man raiding to die“Players won’t put in effort purely for its own sake, especially not while playing a game. There’s a reason relatively few of us have the Insane title. “
  • Matticus makes the controversial pronouncement that WoW no longer needs ANY combat resurrection abilities“This isn’t vanilla WoW anymore. We don’t need 40 people to run raids. I remember when combat res spells had no limits. Back then, those second chances were a necessity. There was only one difficulty level: Punishing.”
  • And Ceraphus goes point-by-point through the recent Blizzard Q&A to make predictions on gameplay and lore for the next couple of expansions“So Wrathion is looking ahead to the Burning Legion (possibly), sounds like we will see them in maybe a next expansion, so Sargeras coming to Azeroth would be right in line there.”

What do you think WoW’s future holds?

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From The Future – An MMO Post from 2020

I’m back, but I’m burning the midnight oil today on the Quick-Start Guides for WoW Patch 5.0, so here’s the last of our “MMOs Of The Future” guest posts – from Saif of Raiding After Dark, looking at a very plausible view of the MMORPG future in eight years’ time…

August 21, 2020

The subways into work this morning were all delayed so I tried to kill time shuffling goods on the game Market – I found a couple of good deals, but the data was tying up the spectrum. Everybody in the car was probably logged in too, so I switched to some resource gathering on my phone. Found some good nodes and left a few drones to farm, with a couple of my patented security bots in case someone comes poaching (I’m still selling those, by the way, if you want any.)

Work was difficult to focus on because we’ve been trying so hard to take the Citadel that I couldn’t let it go. I took the logs from last night to review in the SimSim during lunch. Which, by the way, if you haven’t been using it, is fantastic, you need to get it. Briefly – SimSim is a third party application that lets you review the logs in real-time with pause, rewind, and slow-play at any speed you want, and it gives you a free-roaming camera to see who’s doing what, where, at any point. It just reads the game files and reconstructs the fight, frame by frame. Amazing.

Seems like we could really use a bit of help figuring out how to move against a line of fire without cover. You think we’d know that by now. Yes, the other guild is way better equipped, but we have far more experience. I can’t believe we snoozed and let them take the Citadel in the first place. Maybe this humiliation will kick my guild’s ass into shaping up.

The Citadel also dropped some massive firepower into the other guild’s lap. Lucky bastards had a wall full of Stingers – do you know how much melee we have right now? It was a massacre. But we’ll get it. We’ve been top in our bracket for a long time, and it isn’t because we let some new scrub guild get ahead of us and stay there. I think I’ve found a couple of attack routes we haven’t used before, and I sent off the sims to our Officers for review, in case they hadn’t seem them.

Oh, and someone had tried to gank my bots, but my security drones got them good. I have some video I’ll link below – look at 2:34 when she freaks out as they come out of camouflage and snare her. Never gets old. I’m so glad they finally let us program our own drones. Designing them is well and good, but if every drone of every type behaves the same way, what’s the point? That was so stupid. nd that was lunch.

I know. I spent lunch hour looking at 3D maps of a match and watching security footage from a robot I dreamed up, all from inside a video game. I’m a nerd, let’s move on.

The afternoon was slow at work so I set out for some questing – I turned on the Augmented Reality interface and hit our office gym to earn some points, and then skipped my afternoon snack and took a walk around the block to cap off for the day.

I know a lot of people think the entertainment packages are the easiest way to grind out points, but I found the exercise package to work best for me, and I kind of got tired of the amount of advertising they sneak into the entertainment package. There’s a reason it’s so cheap, folks! Maybe next year I’ll switch to an education package and take up a new language or something. But for right now, the exercise package helped me loose 10 pounds so far, so I’m sticking with it.

By the time I got back to my office things had picked up again and I didn’t actually get home till 7 and missed raid. They were already locked in the instance, so I decided to go screw with the other Guild’s resource managers while they were busy in the fight. I sat down with a low-calorie drink (more points!), and started going after their bots.

It’s like taking candy from kids. I have a feeling they have a single guild engineer or they bought some cheap schematics because all their bots have the same basic configuration, and they’re so easy to take apart. I’ll bet fifty Points they swaps all into defense tomorrow! He’s so predictable. I ripped up at least six of his bots and never died. Win. Good luck making more buff food.

And! If I can keep this up, their defense won’t matter. They might keep repelling our attacks because they got lucky with gear, but worst come to worst, we can at least make sure they starve to death in a few days. I know a win by Siege is kind of lame, but they’re turtling so we don’t have a lot of choices.

Come out to play, guys, I promise we wouldn’t hit too hard in the open world when you can’t hide behind walls of Stingers. :-)

Right now, it’s either siege, we get lucky and they have a bunch of no-shows, or we go back and grind gear. And I know I don’t want to step into the PvE scenarios again till the next patch, I have a feeling we’ve seen every iteration of the procedural generator for this patch already by now since we tear them up so fast.

And in case you were wondering, yeah, the melee got slaughtered again. The kids were all sitting in the guild library just to recover some of the points they lost tonight. Joe was with an Economics program and looked like he wanted to strangle something. Reminded me of my student days – man, I do not miss those educational packages. But I guess when mom and dad are paying for game time, they get to choose your questing pack. At least that’s one good thing about sitting out on the raid, I don’t have to grind back points.

So, here’s hoping I can gank some more of their bots before they make it back to the Citadel! Maybe I should spend those points and build a new hunter/killer bot… though that might be against the ToS. Need to check on that.

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It Came From The Weekend – MMO Futures and WoW Standups

And rounding off our coverage of this weekend, here are the great articles we saw on other topics:

  • Not exactly a blog, but Leif Johnson’s editorial on the fading of the MMORPG genre at Gamespy is really interesting stuff“reflecting on the last decade, I think that’s less because I’ve changed and more because readily available information and fewer reasons to rely on our friends have robbed the genre of that dash of magic — a magic that may never return.”
  • Saxsy at I Like Pancakes tells a story of a dream, some might say a crazy dream – to perform standup comedy at WoW’s infamous Lion’s Pride Inn“Somehow, amidst the chaos that is Goldshire on Moon Guard, it worked. People had a great time. People who knew me told me it was hilarious. People who didn’t know me told me it was hilarious. One person even offered to RP a patronage relationship.”
  • And Windsoar at Jaded Alt considers her relationships with various MMOs, and how she enjoys them in various ways“If I decided tomorrow that Lord of the Rings was going to be my main, I think a lot of what I currently enjoy about the game would change. My relationship with LoTRO as a gamer would change, and likewise, my relationship to the people who I interacted with in-game would change as well. “

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Join The Discussion on Cross-Realm Zones and The WoW Black Market

Are you starting to get whiplash from all the no-warning announcements of how WoW is changing? Read on to get some context!

I’ll say this for Blizzard – they can do PR like no other MMO company. And they’re particularly good at the “They announced WHAT?” no-warning press release.

Over the last week, they’ve dropped two bombs on us – first, the news that Mists of Pandaria will feature levelling zones that are shared between realms, eliminating empty questing zones, and secondly, that MoP will also feature a “Black Market” selling limited numbers of items no longer available in the game.

Read on, and join us as we all try to figure out what it all means…

Cross-Realm Zones

  • Rapid Fire makes a case that these cross-realm zones won’t, in fact, benefit low population servers as much as Blizzard’s claiming“First off, if cities are exempt from this then my realm will still feel deserted because rarely are there more than 10-30 people in Stormwind (and I hear there’s even less people in Orgrimmar). This also means there’s literally 0 people in the other cities and in most zones and that that the Auction House feels a lot like the Neutral auction house, as in, pretty empty.”
  • And Big Bear Butt wonders just what the hidden purpose behind introducing this new technology really is“The idea is, you can have tons of space, but don’t open it up until the place is really jammed to capacity. People getting crunched in is better for overall business than a few people upset that they feel overcrowded. That’s why I think that this came mainly from think-tank discussions on how to entice and retain new players, not from a discussion on how to improve the game for the existing playerbase as a whole.”

The Black Market

  • Erinys at Harpy’s Nest addresses several issues around the new feature, including gold sinks and the memories that these items hold“Take Spike, my Iron-bound protodrake and favoured mount of Erinys. I got him when Ulduar was hard and every day I see people in trade chat making PuGs to go and do the achievements but that doesn’t take away from my experiences.”
  • And The Godmother of ALT:ernative considers the economic implications of the Market“I REALLY REALLY HOPE that everything you will buy on this AH will be soulbound. If it is, then I can see a lot of money moving out of the economy, and a move towards more competitive farming to obtain gold. I can also see a distinct increase in AH prices, and a need to farm pre-Expansion for gold as well as raw materials.”

And Finally

  • In an insightful post, Mushan asks just what the hell we’re going to call the new talent builds, anyway?“How will Larry tell Jim what his build is? Will he say, “Yeah man, I’m running with an ‘Evasive / Silence / Iron / Ready / Trans / Bind’ build for PvP, because it gives me a good amount of (whatever)?” I doubt it. That’s a lot to try to roll off the tongue.”

What do you think of these new features?

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2020 Vision: A Peek into the Future of MMOs

This is a guest post whilst Hugh’s away on holiday.

It’s around this time of year that we traditionally look at the new MMOs due out later this year. This summer promises to be an absolute corker, with Mists of Pandaria, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret world all competing for our attention – and our wallets. There’s also the games hovering on the edge of our vision, like End of Nations and WildStar. It promises to be a great future for MMO gamers.

Today I’d like to try a little bit of an experiment and push our vision of the future a little further. Instead of looking at the next year or two, I’d like to focus on the turn of the next decade: 2020. What will MMOs look like? How will we pay for them? Will we have indie or Kickstarter-funded MMOs?

I’ve had a stab at some of these questions with my own thoughts, but it would be great for you to play along as well! What do you think we’ll be playing in eight years’ time? Either sound off in the comments or blog about your own vision of the future and share it with us all!

Super-Sized Blockbuster Versus Niche Experience

Until recently I held the strong belief that the availability of tools such as HeroEngine and Red Door would usher in an explosion of new, niche concept MMOs. Since then my opinion has changed: I don’t think we’ll see anything other than blockbuster-tier MMOs for the foreseeable future. There’s one simple reason for this: World building is expensive and underrated.

An MMORPG is, at its heart, a role-playing game. That role has to sit in a game world, with a believable storyline that players can interact with. Moreso, the game world needs to have a geology and geography that makes sense, while being populated with indigenous flora and fauna that seem suitable for the location they’re in.

It’s this need to generate content – story, world, creatures – that necessitates a large team. While a small team can put a small world together, possibly releasing an MMO a zone at a time, a larger world will naturally require a larger team to develop. It’s because of the sheer amount of creativity required that I think we won’t see many small-scale or niche MMOs rushing in to use these new tools.

As a result, I can’t help but think that 2020 will look largely like 2012 from an MMO standpoint. Until it becomes cheap and easy to create vast numbers of animated art assets and written conversation, I don’t think we’ll see a take-off in the number of MMOs being developed. That’s not to say there won’t be any, but that indie developers will need to think around the problem. This could be through world generation algorithms (such as Minecraft), or through more of a sandbox than a theme park focus.

Telling Stories

I think that the brightest future of MMOs lies within their storytelling. Blizzard, BioWare and ArenaNet are all experimenting with different ways of presenting the story to players. Whether it’s phasing technology that changes the game world, intricate dialogue with powerful voice acting or redesigning the quest system, it’s become a major focus for developers. As a result, I’m expecting to see great things in the future, both in terms of the stories and settings we play in, and in how we’re drawn in to those stories.

I’m also optimistic that we’ll see a maturing of the genre, producing deeper content that invokes more passionate responses from us and forces us into making tougher decisions. I think that as writers learn more about the medium they’re working with and the audience they’re writing for, we’ll see greater confidence lead to more controversial and daring plot points.

Of course, I could be completely wrong on this point, and that we’ll see the same old stories continually churned out to fans that are there for the raiding and the PvP, and not the stories that surround them. Time will tell on this point, but I’d like to think that we’re there for more than just the pew pew.

The Changing Hardware Landscape

By the time 2020 arrives, we’ll probably have gone through one or two processor revisions and possibly three graphics card lifecycles. The PC you’re playing on now will have been replaced at least once and possibly twice. Displays will be sharper than ever, with hardware ramping up to power that increase in pixel density. Games in the future will look even more incredible than they do now.

We’ll also be taking our games with us. MMOs will feature substantial mobile components to keep us at least partially involved in the game, whether it’s on our smartphones or tablets. Blanket availability of low-cost wi-fi, cheap mobile data and fast networks will mean that checking on our characters will become as common as updating Twitter or Facebook. There’s even an argument to suggest that a future social network will only exist inside an MMO.

But while technology improves, I think it’s unlikely to radicalise our game experiences in the short term. I think it’s unlikely that computer generated speech will replace good voice acting. Better displays will require more detailed models and textures. A large chunk of a studio’s effort is going to be spent just keeping pace with development.

That said, I think there are some technology klunkers that will probably fade away. The big one is 3D. When factoring in the cost of a 3D-capable monitor and the required hardware, most gamers are just simply not interested. The other technology is the touch-screen desktop monitor which, while it sounds great in theory, leaves you peering at a smudge-ridden display in practice.

The Battle for Payment

By the close of this decade there’s likely to be at least one argument that won’t be settled: the best way to pay for our MMOs. Despite the period of economic uncertainty we’re experiencing, the subscription model still seems to be working for some of the more popular games. Likewise, the free-to-play model is winning gamers over, with former subscription games finding a surge in popularity after switching to this approach.

Will paying for content become the dominant approach, with paying for access becoming a rare exception? Unlikely, although subscriptions are likely to be reserved for MMOs that are sure-fire successes with a playerbase in the millions. For MMOs living with riskier propositions, the free-to-play model is likely to become the preferred option. As publishers warm to the idea based on existing MMOs, and buoyed by the success of Zynga, I reckon we’ll see more developers head this way.

I also think that as we see more developers embrace free-to-play that we’ll also see publishers focus more on providing common payment and account management systems. NCSoft and Trion are both prime candidates for this, but I also think that EA will look to leverage Origin as a payment and authentication system for aspiring developers. But these developers won’t just spontaneously start creating MMOs.

MMO Genre Encroachment

We’ve already seen single player PC games such as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations get thoroughly lambasted for requiring an always-on internet connection to play. Not satisfied with simple one-time activations, publishers are now forcing players to play on-line even though there is no benefit to doing so. Even worse, if a publisher’s DRM system goes offline then the single-player game becomes unplayable, as exemplified back in February this year.

In response to the understandable backlash from the PC games playing public, publishers are now looking to justify this draconian approach to digital rights management through the introduction of additional multiplayer features. Bullet-point features such as item trading markets, sharing of user generated content and drop-in multiplayer are all great, but not when they come with such a high cost.

As we approach 2020, I think it’s likely that we’ll see traditionally single-player games look to pilfer from the MMO genre in order to legitimise the need for an always online connection, where the game is tied to a player account rather than just a serial key. I’m not sure if it’ll work, but I have a feeling that it’ll end up dragging the MMO genre into the mud.

This was a guest post from Gazimoff of Mana Obscura – if you enjoyed this post, check out Mana Obscura for more great thoughts on MMO gaming as a whole!

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Should MMORPG developers build social media into their games?

Gazimoff starts today off with an intriguing proposal. He’s arguing that in order to counteract the “MMO nomad” phenomenon, MMORPG developers should be giving serious thought to integrating social media into their games – not just a equivalent, but allowing Steam messaging, Twitter, even Facebook, live within the game environment

“The problem with this approach is that MMOs tend to be developed as islands, with a dedicated community team working with journalists and fansites and building interest. I’m not sure this is a great idea, as publishing houses and developers can generate their own fanbases as well. While getting as many people as possible to play a new release might be a short term goal, the longer term has to be focused around creating a fan-based market for every new release.

So what would this longer term goal look like? It means developing social tools that connect the in-game social experience with the wider internet, but in ways that help to promote a sticky relationship with the developer. How many of us would like to be able to take chat beyond the smartphone, with desktop versions available? How about being able to link to Twitter in the way that Rift does, allowing you to send tweets and pick up messages while playing? What about using your Steam account to chat while playing Rift or Rusty Hearts?

I think that expanded social messaging, both instant and asynchronous, is one of the cornerstones of helping to build social experiences that go beyond one single game. I also think that it’ll become crucial as publishers move to a multi-MMO approach.”

This is a short but thought-provoking post. In a lot of ways, Gazimoff’s echoing and expanding on Cynwise’s recent musings on social networks and MMOs , but Gazimoff’s taking a very focussed, practical approach to the benefits that social media can offer both gamers and developers.

It’s an interesting vision of the future. Of course, the network effect could work both ways – whilst peers playing a game might push you toward it, they could also push you away from another game. I was strongly reminded of the theoretical future Charles Stross proposed in Halting State, where an entire infrastructure exists to allow players to “emigrate” between MMOs. But on the other hand, one of the most frequent complaints in MMO-land in the last year has been about the destruction of community – and a really robust social setup could allow communities to regrow.

Of all the social media, Google+ looks like probably the most appropriate setup for a multi-MMO social network to me, probably followed by the ancient social media site LiveJournal. Both offer the ability to segment your contacts by how and where you know them – offering a built-in way to include people in specific “guild” circles. Because, let’s face it, if games companies do go this way, one of the most important questions is not how to contact people, but how to avoid being contacted by them…

What do you think of Gazimoff’s vision of the MMO future?

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WoWBook? WoW+? Cynwise expands on WoW as Social Network

A week or so ago, Cynwise wrote a post talking about WoW’s evolution in the current era of the Internet, which touched on a lot of interesting points about social networks and how WoW’s design could evolve.

Now, that post itself has evolved, into a thorough look at how WoW and other MMOs can and should develop in the age of Facebook. After all, as Cynwise says, one of the big golden promises of the MMORPG was that you could play in the same universe as your friends, but thanks to guilds, servers, and various other impediments, the reality is far from that claim

“World of Warcraft’s infrastructure requires players to create accounts on specific, mutually exclusive servers. If I roll on Durotan, I cannot interact with players on Drenden or Moonrunner, and vice versa. Each server is effectively its own independent social network, limited in scope, much like old-school BBSes were. This made sense in 2004, but in 2012 social networks are broader, which is the whole point behind Real ID/BattleTags grouping. Warcraft is moving players towards a cloud-based existence, where your server matters less than your friends list. I personally think this is a good thing, because no matter how nostalgic I am for the old days of BBSes, I enjoy the present day reality of a global social network …

Let’s take a simple example, a player who wants to play both Horde and Alliance. She joins nice guilds on both sides of the same server and enjoys spending time with each group. But depending on which character she chooses to play, she either has to choose one social group or the other. This doesn’t have anything to do with guild perks or reputation – imagine a social network that forced you to choose between talking to one set of friends or another when logging in, and see how popular that would become. It’s not enough to be able to talk individually. “

I really hope that the poor, underpaid guy that Blizzard pay to sit and keep tabs on the MMORPG blogosphere (let’s face it, we know they must have at least one) spends a good chunk of time reading this post. I’ve never seen Cynwise’s central question – “How can WoW change to survive the post-Facebook age?” articulated so clearly, and whilst he doesn’t have a solid blueprint – yet – he does an excellent job of not only articulating the various problems but also proposing solutions for them.

And for the rest of us, it’s worth reading this post because it’s likely to be prophetic. Cynwise has nailed a key element of any future MMO that isn’t doomed to looking like a throwback – certainly, I’d be astonished if Titan wasn’t designed around social principles. And he’s doing some interesting thinking about not just directly Facebookifying WoW, but also translating the strengths of WoW via the things that make social networks great.

I’ll be interested to see how the conversation develops around this one!

How do you think MMOs will evolve in the Social Age?

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A plausible theory of HOW WoW will go free-to-play

It’s pretty clear by now that in all likelihood, the question is not if WoW will move away from a subscription model, but when. With the game’s age increasingly showing, more and more experiments in real-money trade happening, and higher-powered, newer competition filling the wings, it’s looking almost certain that at some point, the game will change over.

The question, then, is how and when – and how WoW will break away from the “one massive expansion every two years” model to smaller, piecemeal-purchasable content. And today, Gazimoff of Mana Obscura has clearly had his thinking wizard’s hat on, as he’s come up with a complete, detailed, and very plausible suggestion of the route to F2P, incorporating leaked information, lore knowledge, and general Clever Stuff

“The remaining question is how Blizzard will fund and deliver future Warcraft content. It makes sense to offer players a selection of downloadable content, but the traditional prerequisites of needing an earlier expansion pack before a later one can be played has to be removed. Capturing the Burning Citadel makes perfect sense for this.

Think about it. The place is probably littered with thousands of arcane portals, each linked to another world. Some of these portals might be working while others need repair. Either way, each one provides a method of providing a story and a chunk of content packaged neatly as a unit. They don’t even need to be part of existing lore, providing designers and story writers with huge amounts of creative freedom.”

It’s very plausible. Blizzard have in the past said that the current incarnation of WoW, at least, will end at level 100, and we’re closing on that now. Ashzara has loomed large as the likely boss for the next expansion for a while, and it’s pretty much certain that Sargeras is the last one. Gazimoff’s marrying of that lore with the requirements of an F2P game make a lot of sense. The only question is – can Blizzard really hold out for another 3+ years (6 months until the next expansion, 1.5 years, optimistically, for the one after that, and a year or so of play to ensure people who actually buy the expansion don’t feel cheated) before going F2P?

I’m not sure. What do you think?

Article Source: Mana Obscura at . Thanks!

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