Thursday 21 October 2010

Into a Limbo large and broad.

I’m once again floating in MMO limbo, burning with a desperate desire to enter the gates of MMO heaven but finding myself relegated to a seemingly eternal wait for the next great harrowing of hype to come and misappropriate my time. World of Warcraft remains on the back burner until The Shattering begins proper, an event which has been greatly lessened in the minds of us here at KiaSA Towers once we came to realise that it wasn’t, in fact, going to be The Shatnering; our visions of upheaval caused by a hail of be-bathrobed William Shatners raining down with indiscriminate girdle-sundering destructive force on the cities of Azeroth have themselves been shattered. You can’t deny that Deathwing the Destroyer’s monologue in the latest Cataclysm cinematic would have had added gravitas if… it had BEEN… spoken in strangely… PUNCtuated… sentences. Beam… mE Up… Sindy.

Lord of the Rings Online in the EU continues with its ‘will we, won’t we’ teasing of players, like that one drunk uncle at Christmas who taunts his nieces and nephews with their presents for too long, to the point of driving them beyond caring any more. Of course, when they finally come to open their presents after all the build-up, they find themselves holding up the hastily wrapped contents of their Uncle’s underwear draw, much to the delight of their uncle and the eye-rolling looks of lassitude from the other adults present. Even if Codemasters do finally effect a change to LotRO over here in the EU, I have to say that I’m bracing myself for the big stained-underpants-reveal that they’ll be delivering the new Endewaith content and nothing more, this being due to their contractual commitments not being conducive to the free-to-play model.

I’m not technically allowed to play Vindictus yet because I live within the shadows of Europe, and apparently if the EU is not screwed-over and made to wait longer than the US for a game release then Zombie George Washington will rise up from the grave and destroy Seattle. Or something; I think it must be in an appendix of The Constitution somewhere. Apparently Vindictus is “Coming real soon” to the EU though, but Nexon definitely should speak with Codemasters on how to really string it out and get players not caring any more.

Honestly, there must be some sort of conference for EU MMO releases where staff go and sit in great halls and recite together the mantras of marketing “Coming real soon now”; “We’re sorry for the delay”; “You’re all valued customers” (they’re all trained to stifle their laughs behind their hands for this one); “We’re pleased to announce that we’ll be releasing to you a fraction of the content available to the US, and on a one-to-one exchange rate price!” (they’re taught not to rub their hands together and cackle with glee for this one).

In actual fact there really is such a conference, but it was delayed and has been ‘coming real soon now’ for the past five years.

The other games that I’m interested in at the moment are a year or more away from release, and I’m long past getting my hopes hyped up for a game that has nothing more than a few classes and races announced, along with more landscape flybys than a BBC nature documentary. What is it with landscapes? I think it’s fairly well accepted in the MMOsphere that, unless you’re a complete charlatan, you’re going to have some attractive scenery because there are now umpteen billion tools out there with a ‘click here to produce impressive mountains’ button next to a ‘click here to spawn a spoooooky forest’ along with the traditional ‘click here to generate a massive lake with histrionic levels of refractive lighting and no water physics whatsoever’. These scenery sneak-peeks slowly develop as the hype increases, progressing to ‘here’s a forest with some orcs standing around picking their bums!’ and ‘here’s a town that you’ll visit once in over five hundred hours of play time to hand in a pointless quest that sent you half way around the world for a reward of five copper and a pair of old socks!’. Maybe it’s just me, but I simply don’t find myself loading up a video flyby of the Forest of Dark Deathly Doom Darkly Death and thinking “Oh thank fudge – it’s a forest! I wasn’t sure. We weren’t sure, but this confirms it. And look, it has trees! With leaves. It’s okay everyone, it’s okay, the forest has trees! What? Yes, the trees have leaves too. What? Yes, there are indeed orcs standing around for no apparent reason. What? Picking their what? Oh, ahm, hard to tell because they seem to be buried in the middle of some sort of orgy of wolves suffering from tonic immobility. Yeah, looks really exciting, especially the leaves! Leaves on the trees, hoo, I was worried for a while there.”

Which is not to say that I’m not looking forward to Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but really it’s more of an eagerness to see whether they turn out to be great, rather than an expectation that they naturally will be great: it’s a shift in expectations that leaves one less disappointed when the majority of MMOs turn out not to be great. We’re long overdue some greatness in MMOs, however, so it’ll be good to finally get some hands-on with these games and see whether they can deliver it.

Several months after the US, of course.

Of course.

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