Tag Archives: MMO

A week of Games.

It’s been a funny old week for gamers.


We’ve lost and regained the loved/hated high street retailer Game in blink of an eye, with its future still uncertain.  Half the branches have been shuttered and the remaining portfolio is been split between the best performing locations of Gamestation and Game, with the business apparently being readied for a subsequent sale – prompting the return of GameStop to these shores?

In Sheffield, for example, we’ve gone from six stores to two – a branch of Game in the Crystal Peaks shopping centre and a Gamestation in the larger, presumably more expensive Meadowhall shopping mall.  What this means for me is that neither are now particularly near me and I’d have to make a special trip to two not-especially-pleasant shopping venues.  I see online and a couple of independent retailers in my future.  The Guardian‘s Keza McDonald has a great piece on Game, the market space now open for indy retailers and what it all means over at their Games blog.

The vultures, of course, have begun to circle…

On another note, embattled publisher THQ announced that they’ll be giving me what I wanted but in a totally roundabout way.  By all accounts, we will see another single-player action game in the “Warhammer 40K” universe but at the cost of their expensive and apparently too unwieldy 40K MMO, which has been shuttered. Developers Relic and Vigil are accordingly reducing headcount by over 100 staff – who would work in an industry that precarious?

Sony’s new console, meanwhile, may be called Orbis rather than PS4, will eschew any attempt to be backwards compatible and will eat any pre-owned disc that you attempt to put inside it’s ravenous, bio-mechanical, terrifying cyber-maw.

Or, if you want to be boring, the new console will lock games to PSN accounts, preventing trade-in and the second-user market which is even now destroying the video game business from within.  But I prefer my version.  It’s more Cyber.

Finally, in news which isn’t actually news to anybody who’s picked up a controller or installed a game to their hard drive in the last decade, EA are in the running for the coveted title of Worst Company In America…

Whatever you’re playing this weekend, you probably want to make sure it isn’t “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”…

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On community and the decent souls of “Everquest 2″…


Dying Boy Gets His Own Personal Virtual Wonderland Built by a Game Community in Just Four Days.

Oh dear, it appears that I now have something in my eye.  As you will too when you click on Kotaku’s story.

For all of the stories that we read about the games community, the negativity/griefing/trolling therein and the irritation we can all sometimes feel about the business of play, sometimes a story like the one above makes you forget about all of the foul-mouthed, 14-year-old Xbox Live anon-racists and focus on people doing great things for somebody that they’ll never meet and barely come to know.

Kind of amazing, really…

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Book review: “Halting State”, Charles Stross (Orbit)

A tale of virtual cash, virtual crime and real-life, big-ass swords...

Sometimes, it’s the cover that gets you.

In this case, with the pixel art, battle axe-wielding Orc and laptop-wielding geek, I knew that Charles Stross’ “Halting State” (Wikipedia summary contains spoilers) was for me before I ever cracked a page or read a word of prose.

That it arrived in my hands boasting a William Gibson jacket blurb certainly didn’t hurt, but the book is strong enough on its own to not require special pleading or cool design – it more than justifies the time that you’ll take to enjoy it, albeit with some caveats that you might like to take into account before picking it up/grabbing it at the library/downloading it to your totally futuristic e-book reader thingy (full disclosure – I read the mass market paperback.  Didn’t crash once…).

“Halting State” is set in a near-future Scotland, where devolution from the UK has happened,the European connected state ideal has been firmly embraced (…ahem) and follows three characters – Police Sergeant Sue, Forensic Accountant Elaine and MMO systems designer Jack – in alternating chapters as they investigate financial impropriety at a tech company administering an MMO game.

And this is where the major issue comes in for some readers – the narrative is told via the Second Person perspective, which causes many readers to run screaming for their bookshelf and the  comfort of the nearest third person novel to hand.  Simply put, if you’ve ever played an old school PC adventure title – “You are standing in a field.  A house lies atop a hill in front of you.  A mailbox sits to your left.  You are holding an Aardvark on a lead” – you won’t have any problems with the way that this story is told, but some reviews of the book really take issue with the successive chapters being told by a different character, mostly due to a perceived similarity in the character’s voices.

One’s Scottish and a copper, one’s a bean counter who likes LARP-ing and wielding big swords and the other’s a geeky bloke who’s forgotten more than we’ll ever know about gaming feedback loops – it’s not as if these guys are the same person wearing a different shirt.

Also, I’m at a loss as to how one might confuse Police woman Sue’s narrative voice – which ye ken is so Scottish that it might well radge some readers – with Jack’s over-caffeineated code monkey.  There’s not a great deal of cross-talk between them – it’s like saying that you enjoyed Tolkein but couldn’t tell when Gandalf was talking and when Merry was gabbling.

I digress…

The thing that I enjoyed most about this book was the plausible near-future which it conjures – it’s a book which posits a future with omnipresent internet connectivity routinely funnelled into our lives, where data overlays/Head Up displays tell you about bus times, drop a Google maps type app into your field of vision and tablets are kind of thing of the past (though I’m not sure that people would whole-heartedly embrace wearing the equivalent of VR goggles when out and about – the popularity of 3D movies is probably an indication that I could be very wrong about what people are willing to tolerate if it gets them fancy tech, though).

There are drone cabs, piloted by call-centre workers, the police use an all-seeing, all-recording interface called  CopSpace to record evidence, witness testimony and the like and there’s no escaping the digital future because it’s the digital present and everybody’s on board.

If there’s another slight issue with the plot, it’s the idea that the general populace seem to have completely embraced the geeky MMO space – I may be damning the Normals by assuming that some things are way too spoddy for them to ever contemplate, but I can’t see folks who set their Sky planners for “Coronation Street” and “Strictly Come Dancing” ever getting into the world of instances, DPS and guilds, although the MMO’s alluded to in “Halting State” do cover non-traditional subject matter, with the fictional football hooliganism sim “Steaming” being notably low on +10 armour sets, chaotic neutral mages and epic mounts.

Despite having a subject matter which might seem initially daunting to newcomers to gaming, the essential plot of “Halting State” – an impossible heist pulled off in a virtual game space and the various professionals whose expertise converges to solve it – isn’t that far away from the more accessible tech-thrillers of the late Michael Crichton or William Gibson’s recent spy-fi novels.  And on that basis alone, I really enjoyed it – I may follow gaming but I’ve never set foot in Azeroth and Stross does just enough to make the detail in his book be convincing without being so esoteric that it becomes off-putting.

Give this book a try if you’re on the look-out for something new to read.  I loved Cory Doctorow’s young adult novel “For The Win” and its take on the MMO games space and unionization – this is in a similar wheelhouse, albeit a more cynical and adult one where the hardest realities of capitalism butt heads with creativity in an oft-bloodied battle which gets into higher stakes territory as the story progresses.

TL; DR version – Do you like Iain Banks’ non-sf, ‘edgeverse’ stuff?  Read “Halting State”.

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Doctor Who MMO? Go!

Even in animated form, bow ties are cool.

Honestly, if you stop to breathe for a second nowadays, the BBC announce another “Doctor Who” video game tie-in.  It’s banquet or famine, people – we’re through the looking-glass!

Today’s announcement is “Doctor Who: Worlds in Time”, which is even now (as you skim these words) in open beta online.

As you can see from the header, we’re looking at cute anime styling and a cartoon art style than will be unacceptable to many gamers – but my arbiter of these things, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, is all over the aesthetic choices that the devs have made.

Check the game out at DoctorWhoWIT now…


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“Star Wars: The Old Republic” release date announced

BioWare and Electronic Arts’ attempt to carve out a chunk of the MMO space, “Star Wars: The Old Republic” now has a release date.

Hmm, your anger betrays your focus, oddly cute Jedi padawan...

Announced during Eurogamer’s London Games Festival, the game is scheduled to debut in the US on December 20th and in Europe on December 22nd.  Each retail copy of the game will ship with a 30 day subscription that can be continued via an array of subscription plans.

Will this game persuade some of the 11.1 monthly subscribers of “World Of Warcraft” to try a new game or will it draw new players to the MMO genre?  Time will tell, but if any property has a universe expansive enough to appeal to a wide variety of players, it’s this one.  Mind you, it’s not the first time we’ve had a “Star Wars” MMO…

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