Archive for the ‘Activision’ Tag

The future of Dota 2?   Leave a comment

The issues surrounding Dota 2 are news to few and Valve have done something very unusual in creating this game. While it is the case that Valve have taken what were essentially mods and created full-blown games in the past, a practice now often seen in the indie movement, in this case they have taken a mod so deeply entrentched in a specific game and its world that controversy was bound to follow.

And, to an extent, I can understand the backlash by Blizzard, original DotA fans, Riot Games and others over this. It does seem a bit strange for Valve to take Dota 2 like this without getting a more workable response from the community as well as Blizzard. They only ever recruited the lead developer from the past 7 years, there were two developers before IceFrog, one of whom was the creator of what is the almost exclusively played version of the map. That creates a pretty strong case against Valve’s claim that they can register Dota 2 as a trademark.

Valve have a problem as it seems Blizzard are very willing to take them to task over the Dota 2 trademark claim and I think, as much as I dislike anything part of the great beast that is Activision, Blizzard are in the right about this one. The disappointing thing is that I have played the Dota 2 beta and Valve have a great products on their hands but I can’t help and wonder whether Valve’s aggressive push forward in developing and trademarking this while these issues remain was a bit more shrewd and manipulative that it might appear to some. Valve don’t normally have a reputation for developing something so polished, so quickly.

Certainly, Valve’s Dota 2 will come out in some form even if Blizzard wins its case and I have lost all ability to see Valve as the little guy fighting the big bad beast here because, as small as they are compared to what they now go against, they aren’t little and they should have forseen these problems. I just don’t trust Valve to throw straight dice in this. The questions I wonder are, if Valve wins this upcoming battle, will it affect Blizzard’s own DotA efforts or any continued development of the original Defense of the Ancients? With Team Fortress, Valve hired anyone and everyone who was part of the modding team and it wasn’t tied into one game’s world or mythology so deeply. IceFrog’s claim to the DotA trademark is suspect at best and the game is so bound up with Warcraft III that I can’t see Valve winning this one. At the end of it all, though, I am cheering for Blizzard on this one and I think it’ll be a good thing if Valve don’t get that trademark.

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm teaser trailer   Leave a comment

Sorry about the lack of a weekly summary last week, it’s been a busy week again.

I don’t like this whole “Kerrigan redemption” line they’ve seemed to have pulled. I think I preferred her portrayal as a wilful malevolence to what will inevitably be a much more sentimentally-portrayed and ultimately forgettable character.

This week in gaming.   Leave a comment

* SquareEnix are speculated to soon unveil a new Carmageddon game, after the cancellation of the series in 2005.

* The Witcher 2 will require an NTFS-formatted HDD (with 16 Gb for the game) due to the file size limitations of FAT32 and the large size of some of the game’s files.

* Dragon Age 3, despite the poor reception from gamers of Dragon Age 2, is on the horizon as BioWare starts looking for environmental artists.

* Gameloft’s CFO has argued that incorrect evaluation of market value has inflated the social gaming market and created an unsustainable bubble.

* The eagerly awaited open beta of APB Reloaded, set to start on the 18th May, has been delayed due to an unforeseen bug.

* On the subject of MMO Betas, Guild Wars 2 will have its own coming in the second half of this year.

* Despite the partial reversal of fortune for the beleaguered studio, Champions Online and Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios is to be sold by Atari.

* On the subject of decline, NCSoft has attributed limited marketing to its own decreased sales.

* CD Projekt Red have announced that The Witcher 2’s upcoming DLC will be free.

* THQ now argues that it rivals EA and Activision-Blizzard in size following the success of Homefront. Homefront’s mediocrity evidently didn’t damage it’s sales too badly.

* Sony Online Entertainment is offering free identity protection services to European customers who might have been affected by the recent hack.

* Honest Hearts, the first of three recently announced DLC packs for Fallout: New Vegas, has been released.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

* Valve Corporation have released beta authoring tools for Portal 2.

* Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games argues that the free-to-play model is the future of PC gaming.

* Cthulhu Saves the World has been approved for Steam release, the creators are hoping for a May release.

* GoG.com have announced a weekend long sale on Activision-themed RPGs, including the Vampire: the Masquerade games.

* Opponents of piracy are pushing a new US Bill to combat piracy. It won’t work, I’m sure.

* The US Navy have taken the fight against Somali pirates online in an MMO, something it’s been building since 2009.

* Valve announced that it has no plans for a Source Engine 2, preferring incremental changes in patches to massive engine shifts.

* Brink has vanished from the UK Steam storm, but Bethesda have been fairly tight-lipped beyond that they are looking into the issue.

* Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs looks at the future of the Halo franchise after the release of the Defiant maps.

* After the devastation of the PSN and SOE, Sony Online’s downtime should be only a few more days.

* Also in MMO news, NCSoft has announced that Lineage’s Western servers will be shut down on the 29th June. No new accounts can be created and remaining time will be refunded.

Piracy’s effects and the F2P model.   Leave a comment

I wrote an article a few weeks back on the conflicting claims about the effects of piracy on the PC games market. A friend then recommended to me a very interesting article by Tadhg Kelly in GameSetWatch, arguing that piracy itself can be a beneficial marketing technique and that building relationships with gamers is more profitable in the long term than viewing games development as what he calls a “content business” where the game’s content has value.

My intent here is to show several reasons to view his arguments with suspicion. I think that a certain model of game does lend itself to his view of piracy and that this model (the free-to-play model) has produced some excellent games (League of Legends and Bloodline Champions are two shining examples), some enjoyable, but ultimately more average, games (Champions Online or Dreamlords: Resurrection) as well as some really bland stuff that is often fairly ruthless in getting your money (a lot of Facebook games belong here). While I believe that the gems that this model produced has clearly justifies its existence (the majority of the non-World of Warcraft MMO market runs on this model), it should not ever become the sole gaming market model and that’s one part of what Kelly seems to be saying.

Before he talks about this though, he makes several assumptions to which I take objection and are contentious. He writes:

“[Most game developers are] seeing their business as a content business, where the content is the thing that has value. This is not the case.

The games industry, like all the arts, is about finding and interacting with fans, so that value comes from a relationship. As we slowly move into the post-platform, single-franchise future, understanding the difference between the two is crucial.”

His emphasis on content business and relationship are the crux here. He describes most developers as belonging to the former view, that they create a certain piece of content that has value and attempt to sell it whereas the ideal is the latter. I think there is both an overt and a tacit assumption here that I want to knock out.

First, the overt assumption is that games development is like creating a piece of art. While a lot of ardent games are art types will treat this idea as sacrosanct and often not even debate any of its critics properly, their belief extends exactly zero metres beyond the borders of people already keeping the faith. I would not defend the idea of games as art, even as I ardently defend their value and worth, because even if games could be art (which, in their thousands of years of existence, they still fail to be even as younger things like cinema and photography take up the mantle of art uncontroversially), I don’t want aesthetic concerns to ever override what I want from games: to be entertained and enjoy myself.

The more subtle assumption is that this view between games as a content business and games as creating relationships is presented as a dichotomy, that there is no ability to view games as a content business while building relationships with customers. I spoke in my last article on piracy of games like Gratuitous Space Battles and The Void where the designers did create an outreach to customers, but did not ever assume piracy to be a good thing. They did view their content as being stolen, but seized an opportunity to build relationships and encourage sales.

It’s clearly not the case that you need to abandon the view, as Kelly recommends, that there is value to your content. I find it borderline offensive, even, that a man whose work seems to consist largely in basic microtransaction-based Facebook games like Soccer Hero has the audacity to tell Ice-Pick Lodge or Positech Games that their work has no value.

Kelly goes on to make an analogy between the circulation and sale of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and sale of sequels in gaming. Piracy of originals, he argues, could raise awareness of potential sequels in which people are more likely to invest. He compares this to the higher success of the second part of Paine’s Rights of Man in terms of sales than the first part despite the necessity of familiarity with the first in order to understand the more successful second.

The problem I have with this analogy is that it simply doesn’t require piracy in the equation. Borrowing games, watching friends play games, playing them with your friends, these are what are needed and there is another strong argument against DRM within this, but not piracy. Paine’s first book was not widely known because of piracy of the text, but because people shared the physical medium of the text. Piracy never came into it.

Beyond this, he moves into another suspect analysis of the industry. He writes that the industry commits the “one shot fallacy” which is that developers seem to think of games in an atomistic sense. They don’t talk of games with sequel potential unless the game has been successful enough to merit sequels. My only response to this at what game industry is Kelly actually looking? Has he not looked at one of the overriding criticisms of Activision? Activision has long been criticised for only seeing games in terms of long-term exploitable intellectual property, it effectively tried to bury Brutal Legend because it didn’t think it would produce sequels, just compete with its own IP. This view of games in terms of sequel potential is simply not a healthy approach and Activision is the proof one needs of that.

Furthermore, let’s look at the sort of model he suggests, building social features into a game that requires purchasing features (such as support or extra content) after the game is already in the hands of the gamers. This is effectively the F2P model and that’s all well and good except the fact I don’t want every game having this model and neither do the majority of gamers. One of the key criticisms on Metacritic from users of Portal 2 was that it had an in-game store for a game that required a base payment.

I can take this further, one criticism a friend made of recent versions of Team Fortress 2 was that it now has boxes that contains items which you need to pay to unlock and get the contents. This is, in an otherwise great game, a rather awful feature. Even if this was a game where there was no initial payment, is that what we would would be happy with in every game?

Would we be happy where every game is freely distributed only to then get its money from you via social features and in-game quirks like the locked box idea of games such as Team Fortress 2 or Allods Online? It’s nice that the F2P model exists, but it occupies a niche, I simply don’t want every game to work on this model because the F2P model has produced a few gems and mounds of rubbish Facebook apps that I have to keep blocking.

Of course, the other part of this is that copying the raw install files for League of Legends or Bloodline Champions for a friend is not piracy, it’s legitimate distribution (unless I messed with the files somehow). What he describes as piracy is in fact, perfectly legal under the F2P model and not piracy in any sense of the word. Where it would be piracy is if I gave a friend an unlocked version of either game with all the characters unlocked already (apparently, with League of Legends, unlocking extra skins illegally was once possible). Something tells me that if I distributed genuinely pirated copies of Tadhg Kelly’s game, all the social features and extra content promised after the gamer started playing already unlocked, he might have a bit more of a problem with what I was doing than his article would suggest. That is piracy.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Sorry it’s a day late. Holidays created the delay.

Quick cap news

* South Korea has enacted a gaming curfew preventing gamers aged 15 or under from playing online games from midnight to 6AM. The curfew was passed unanimously.

* Gearbox has announced that any talk about Borderlands 2 not from them should be dismissed. It has stopped it popping up.

* Telltale has announced a release date for the remake of Hector: Badge of Carnage.

* An “ultra edition” of Super Meat Boy for the PC has been announced for release in the UK between and September.

* With its UK release, Mortal Kombat creator Ed Boon recalls the original game’s controversy nearly 20 years ago.

* THQ reports boosted sales for Dawn of War II Retribution after switching the platform from Games for Window Live to Steam.

* Ubisoft are offering free games with every purchase this weekend. It wouldn’t be too hard to purchase all the Ubisoft games worth having with such an offer.

* Fallout: New Vegas has little in the way of extra DLC so far, but that has not stopped a GOTY edition being prepared, it seems.

* An internal memo from Activision revealed a very strong optimism on the future strength of the Call of Duty series, good news for Call of Duty fans.

* Fans protested against certain aspects of Portal 2 on Metacritic. Personally, I agree that the in-game store is a bit of a low blow from Valve, but finds the criticism beside quite off the mark.

Main news

Lack of time means there’s no main news this week, but the upcoming week promises a full return to schedule and a review of Portal 2.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

Quick-cap news

* Epic Games will host a two day set of tutorials on the Unreal Development Kit at the East Coast Game Conference.

* Dungeon Siege III has been delayed, now releasing in late June.

* Hi-Rez has switched Global Agenda to a F2P model with those of us already having paid getting “elite agent” status.

* Funcom’s Call of Cthulhu-esque MMO The Secret World, announced four years ago, is officially on the back burner.

* Myst Online is now released as open source, fulfilling promises made as far back as 2008.

* The Call of Duty versus Battlefield 3 marketing war is estimated to end up costing US$200m. This truly is the war to end all wars.

* GameStop are opening a Facebook store. The new system allows sales and pre-orders done via the Facebook interface.

* It’s been reported that Apple has rejected PopCap’s experimental label, Unpleasant Horse, from the App Store on grounds of “maturity” issues.

* Multiplayer has, sadly, been ruled out of Mass Effect 3, but the details are looking good.

* Wrestling star The Rock wants to star in a Black Ops film adaptation. Given his last foray into game-based films, I hold little hope for great artistry.

Main news

Minecraft is leaving beta this year, with plans to release the final version on 11th November. This coincides with the release of Skyrim by Bethesda. Many may be disappointed by the fact that the final release won’t look much different from the beta (which itself is not a whole deal different from the alpha), but assurances are that development will continue. Other reports are that beta 1.5 will add weather effects.

Busy week this week, see you after the weekend.