Miscellaneous News about Gaming, TV and Movies

Today’s post will touch upon some of the news in the entertainment industry that have excited me in the last few days and weeks.

We’ll start off with the important gaming news:

Warlords of Draenor announced

My favorite MMORPG, World of Warcraft, just announced its next expansion: Warlords of Draenor. Without wanting to spoil too much, the story will feature an element of time travel and bring back some of the most interesting characters of the Warcraft Universe, with arcs going back to Warcraft 2 being revisited and maybe altered forever. Added to the new story and the new continent to be discovered, there will be modernized character models and a raised level cap. I’m looking forward to the new expansion, because Blizzard has an excellent track record of adapting its games and it has breathed new life into the almost 10-year old MMO.

Next Gen is here… well almost

The Next Generation consoles have launched in North America and will soon be spreading to Europe and also Switzerland. I have no plans on getting a new console for the moment because they’re still extremely expensive and bound to be plagued by bugs at the start. Also, the set of games are not yet that appealing to me. It will be interesting to see how many of the multimedia function the XBox One offers in the US will make it over the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, I’m doubtful that any of it will make its way into European living rooms until late 2014. The Playstation 4 is cheaper and as an owner of its predecessor, I might give a shot as soon as the first PS4-only hits have come out.

Doctor Who Anniversary

This Saturday, BBC is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its cult show “Doctor Who” with the day of the doctor, a special episode featuring some very interesting special guests. While I have only seen one season of the Doctor, the series is an integral part of today’s pop culture and has influenced so many shows and books out there. Being on air for 50 years (with one or the other break) is a major accomplishment and will be rightfully celebrated. It runs on BBC One and BBC One HD at 20:50 CET

Catching Fire

Also happening this week is the Switzerland release of the second Hunger Games movie: Catching Fire. I missed the hype the first time around, but after reading the book over the summer (my review), I’m excited this time around. The stunning Jennifer Lawrence will reprise her role as Katniss Everdeen and is joined by an all-star cast including (but not limited to) one of my teenage favorites in Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Academy Award Winner Philip Seymour Hoffman and Woody Harrelson. I hope the movies lives up to its role models.

There are other interesting movies set to be released in the next week, with the new Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine” opening in Switzerland tomorrow as well. “The Hobbit – Desolation of Smaug” is only three weeks away as well. Winter is a great time for the movies, even though the summer blockbuster season is more important for the studios.

Don Jon

And to end the post, a short recap of Joseph Gordon-Levitts wonderfully funny movie, Don Jon. I saw the movie a week ago after waiting for it for much of the calendar year and it didn’t disappoint. Being a big fan of its writer, director and star, I walked in with high expectations. Don Jon is a movie about a New Jersey playboy with a porn addiction, who falls for a perfect 10 (played by Scarlett Johannson). Of course, his problem doesn’t sit well with the dream girl. Mr. Gordon-Levitt delivers an unpredictable story with wonderful shots, interesting characters and funny dialogue. Scarlett Johannson looks amazing and plays an amazingly superficial character, while Tony Danza and Brie Larson shine as members of Don Jon’s family. The appearance of Julianne Moore leads the movie on the right track to its fitting ending. All in all, the movie is definitely among my favorites this year.

Okay, that’s it from me for the week. Back this Friday with the overdue 24th chapter of “An Elusive Hero”. Have a great Wednesday and please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

The Joy of Role-playing in MMORPGs

 

 

 

The last post in my four-part series about MMORPG touches on a topic not only applicable to the genre, but to any game played: Roleplaying or the art of immersion.
I mentioned in my post last week that I wish for a world geared more towards player creation and less towards the tedious repetition of tedious tasks to progress a character. The character of Laurenar in “An Elusive Hero” is partly based on my experiences roleplaying in MMORPGs.

When playing MMORPGs, I always play on RP servers. This allows me to immerse myself much more into the world the developers have created. While this kind of servers are supposed to be reserved for role-players, reality shows that they are still a tiny minority even on the most dedicated servers. Nonetheless, they do exist and I believe many players could enhance their experience by joining in on player created plots. Why?

The most important reason is immersion. When I play a game, I want to be involved in an epic story and to immerse myself in a world far away from reality. Roleplaying a character adds a new wrinkle to just hitting wild animals with a sword or magic spell. It allows players to craft a unique character and to be much more involved with the game. Unfortunately, many players I know always belittle role-players, not seeing the extra dimension it adds to a game. As an example, I remember playing a character disguised as a tailor. I had a lot fun talking to other players who were unsuspecting of my secret identity as a spy for group of alchemists and warlocks. With this specific character, I didn’t even feel the need for many elaborate plots to have a bit of fun using the game engine and our imagination.

Many players just think role-players talk in a weird way and waste their time in game by not following the endless grind for better gear or domination. But for me, it is a wonderful way of taking what a game engine makes available and making the most out of it. At the moment I’m participating in an event, which spans over weeks with players creating different experiences from day to day. On some evenings players gather around campfires to talk about our characters backstory and motives, while on the next day a meet up with a rival guild is staged fight on a battleground. The third event in the series might be a spy mission with other players trying to stop us from getting to their base. All of this is often done in parts of the world which haven’t been visited in a while and which add to the fascination of roleplaying. It isn’t bound by level restrictions. You can participate with a brand new or with a maxed-out character.

Getting into roleplaying a character is easy. Like with writing, think of a suitable back-story and some grand motivation for the character. Try not to make your character a queen or an unbeatable warrior, but make them interesting. How about a warrior, who acts as a diplomat? Or a mage starting out his journey on becoming the next Harry Potter? Or maybe you’d like to play your rogue similar to James Bond with a smooth charm? After you’ve thought about how you want to play your characters, go seek out other role-players and see on what kind of journey you can embark!

These are my thoughts about roleplaying. Have you role-played a character before? If not, why not? Would you give it a try? Let me know in the comments!

As always, please like, share and subscribe for my eternal gratitude!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

 

The recent Developments in MMORPGs

I talked about my experience with the genre of MMOs last week. Today, I want to look at some of the developments and changes within the immensely popular genre. There are some fantastic games on the horizon and older games such as World of Warcraft still have a huge player base (even though it’s smaller than before). In the last 8 years I’ve played MMORPGs, many new features and changes have been introduced in various games. Some have made games better, some have made them far less enjoyable.

I find the direction many large RPGs have taken in making everything available to solo players very disappointing. In most games today, many tasks are easily accomplished alone and developers try to make all content available to everybody. I understand that some of these thoughts are especially made from a business point of view as publishers want to bind players to the respective franchises for as long as possible. Another reason is the fact that most players have already reached maximum level in older games, leaving the world unpopulated and empty in earlier stages.

But if nothing requires a group to complete, MMORPGs become similar to single-player roleplaying games, but trapped by the conventional tools of of a completely different genre. As an example, single-player games can offer meaningful choice with different paths to follow and different endings, while MMOs have much less room to differentiate, often only able to change rewards or the physical appearance of players. The greatest strength of the genre is the ability to bring like-minded people together. When there is no incentive to group up, most gamers tend to go at it alone. I find this a worrying tendency.

In the upcoming Elder Scrolls Online, everything will play out on a huge mega server, which is a development I’m looking forward to seeing in action. In The Old Republic, many players quit quickly after launch as their home servers became empty as many subscribers gave up after the initial free month. This forced Bioware to merge servers a short time after release. In World of Warcraft, server communities have eroded thanks to the fact that battlegrounds, dungeons and raids have become available as cross-server features to minimize wait times. Unfortunately, this takes away some of the benefits of having everything play out on one server. Unfriendly and mean players cannot be easily called out anymore, while unskilled and new players get less support when starting out their journey. Hopefully, this mega-server technology can combine the best of the two worlds, offering a lively and full world with less waiting involved, while keeping the ability to punish and help players as a community.

The most interesting development however are the changes in business models many games have gone through. With The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online two games I have played are free-to-play with the option to subscribe, while Guild Wars 2 uses the buy-to-play model with a pay shop. World of Warcraft is still entirely subscription based, but offers various trial modes and a pay shop for cosmetic items. The Elder Scrolls Online will also be a subscription-based MMO, while Everquest Next is expected to be either buy-to-play or free-to-play with no subscription fees.

Both models have their merits with free-to-play losing the stigma formerly attached to it. The Old Republic has been far more successful with the new model and Lord of the Rings Online has managed to survive for years. It offers players the meaningful choice between investing either their time or their money for features. As the generation of Dark Age of Camolot and Everquest players has grown up, this choice has become more and more important and attractive to gamers not able to spend all-nighters chasing down the biggest bosses anymore. The downside of the free-to-play model is the imbalance it can create between paying players and free players. This of course helps the publisher earn more money.

I still believe the patches in WoW to be the largest and most polished around. I never regretted paying the subscription fee for countless hours of entertainment they have provided me with. On the other hand, subscription models encourage the development of features designed to make players stay on longer without really being extremely innovative or even fun. As an example reputation grinds or the gating of content behind other goals come to mind.

Currently both models have their place in the genre. Guild Wars 2 has so far struck a fairly good balance between earning money with the sale of the game, having a pay shop without excessive benefits for paying players and the ability to continue to develop their games with patches and updates. I cannot say which model will take over the future, but it does seem like customers are becoming more reluctant to spend money on subscriptions, especially with the variety of free-to-play options out there.

What are your thoughts about the recent development of the genre? Do you prefer are singular payment model? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

MMORPGs: My experience with the genre

As I’ve written here, MMORPGs are among my favorite genres of gaming. Today is a good moment to talk about the four MMORPGs I’ve played in the last one-and-a-half years and which elements I’d take from each. Next week I’ll follow-up with a second part featuring what I think has changed the genre since I began playing the games in 2005.

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