The recent shut down of Rockstar's Vancouver studio hits me a little bit harder than other studio closures over the years.
For one thing, I thoroughly enjoyed Rockstar's most recent entry into the Max Payne universe. Max Payne 3 had its share of technical issues and literary inconsistencies, but Rockstar managed to stayed true to the grim atmosphere and emotional dread that carried itself through the previous two Max titles so well. The emotional dread that I like to describe as "half a mind in the grave of despair and insanity, while the other half floated away on alcohol and painkillers" Cheesy, but it works for me, I don't see Max as a realistic, rounded character but rather a psychopath with a righteous streak.
The studio closure also hits me harder than usual because it hits close to home, in a very literal sense. I live in Vancouver and have been delighted to see the technology & gaming scene grow over the years. This feels like a major step backwards for Vancouver's gaming scene and I hope it does not become a trend.
The release of Tera is right around the corner, and one of the most discussed issues surrounding Tera has been the sexualized nature of the player models and clothing. One of the greatest risks to Tera is rejection by the North American gaming community due to this subject matter.
North Americans take pride in enlightenment of sexual equality, demeaning acts or speech towards women can result in the loss of money, respect, and employment. When players were exposed to the highly sexualized female clothing designs in Tera, disgust and ridicule poured out in protest against depicting women in such ways. “The armors do not cover enough to be protective,” we said. “Fighting in high heels and lingerie is impractical,” we said. “The women’s figures were impossible,” we said.
Yet for all of this touting of equality, women in North America still make less money than men, still sit at lower levels of the corporate ladder, and are expected to tend to their appearance and figure much more than men are.
The real problem here is not Tera’s depiction of women. The real problem is our delusional sense of sexual equality; Tera smacks us in the face with an overstated, hyperbolic representation of our real sexual dimorphism, and we, believing ourselves to be well past that, are stunned that we are not.
If you read anything on the internet that is remotely related to MMOs, no doubt you have experienced the fanatics, the trolls, and of course the incoherent, oftentimes all neatly packaged into a single person.
What drives much of the flaming and trolling on MMO forums is the close-mindedness of the people. The close-minded fear new ideas that they don't understand, much as young children fear the unknown of darkness. They fear new challenges, because new challenges carry the risk of incompetence and failure.
Some close-minded people are perfectly happy and content with what they've got [insert their current MMO] perfectly willing to stay at their current level of enjoyment because to seek greater levels of fun, to try new games, is to risk dissatisfaction, wasted money, and time.
To have an open mind is to understand that our judgment of a game, no matter how well informed, does not reflect the actual experience, too many variables are involved, too many factors, and too many unknowns, no one is capable of perfectly predicting how they will feel about a game prior to experiencing it.
We don't often see open minded people posting in comments and in the forums, because they understand that they do not have perfect, universal, objective judgment on the topic. No one does.
Everyone runs into MMO lulls here and there, when old games fall out of favour and new ones are still in development. A large number of players continue with their de facto game regardless of their obvious lack of interest, whether this is by habit, lack of self awareness, or peer factors.
Take it easy with your MMOs, re-evaluate once in a while the reason why you're still playing. Often we get into such schedule and repetition that we fail to notice if we are even having FUN when we log in. If a game stops being fun, leave. The unsubscribe button doesn't bite your head off, regardless of what the companies tell you.
Been playing The Old Republic lately, and I find myself strangely attached to the side missions in SWTOR.
(For your fancy display pleasure, weapon racks!)
Found myself collecting all sorts of weapons and armor in Skyrim that I have no reason of keeping. Funny how the habit of collecting junk carries over from massively multiplayer games into single player RPGs. I still remember vividly an entire vault full of crafting ingredients and old gear in my past MMOs.
(Mannequins! Bonus points for identifying the two sets of armor on display!)
Designers at Bethesda are clever enough to further enable this hoarding habit of gamers, by providing weapon racks, shield racks, and mannequins to play host to all of my neat little sets of gear.
Seems every year MMO enthusiasts have something new and ground-breaking to look forward to. At the same time, we continue to be disappointed by the MMOs that do get released. What’s the big deal?
Is this a vicious cycle of marketing overhype resulting in unrealistic player expectations? Or is the MMO industry truly stagnating in its product offerings and innovations? I for one believe players are simply expecting and demanding too much, both in terms of amount of content and the level of polish. MMO features and content volume have ballooned to a point where developers cannot be successful in every dimension, and the bubble will have to pop eventually.
One thing we can already see is a push for studios to differentiate their games but at the same time stay familiar to players. We’re seeing a much more diverse mix of settings, such as sci-fi with Star Wars, modern supernatural with The Secret World, space western with Wildstar, martial arts fantasy with Blade & Soul, and of course the good old sword & magic fantasy with the likes of Guild Wars 2 and Tera.