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Matt Miller: My Year in Review

Column By Matthew Miller on December 24, 2013

2013 was quite the year for me. For one, with the closure of Paragon Studios and City of Heroes, it saw me return to where I got my MMO start, Cryptic Studios, and for the first time in my career as a designer I got to work on a game that I didn’t have a hand in the initial creation of, Star Trek Online. Fortunately the two biggest projects I had on STO, the Klingon and Federation Tutorials have been met with great success and positive feedback from the players, so that really helped me feel great about my decision to return to Cryptic.

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2013 could quite possibly be seen as the Year of Kickstarter. I backed the second Pathfinder Kickstarter, the Shroud of the Avatar game, as well as the Hex: Shards of Fate MMOTCG. Of these, I got into the Hex alpha and see some real potential there for a new breed of MMO. The rules of Hex are just similar enough to Magic: The Gathering that anyone familiar with that game will feel right at home with Hex, but they will also see how being completely digital expands what they can do with the cards and the game. Have a card that has a side effect of reshuffling your deck every turn? In a physical card game that would be such a pain to play with, but in Hex, that’s just par for the course. I can’t wait to see how the game progresses in 2014, especially seeing the PvE side of things. I know several people who are jazzed about the idea of CCG raiding in Hex, and I know I am too.

My friends tried to get me to play Mechwarrior Online with them back when it launched. I looked over the game and asked if the Locust was available to play and they said it wasn’t. I told them I wasn’t interested until they put that Mech in. Low and behold they added the Phoenix Project mechs in October, one of which was my beloved Locust. I’ve been playing MWO ever since, and am having a great time. I’ve made a ton of new friends in the game, and have moved on from the Locust into other mechs. I’ve watched the developers make some missteps with the community of late, but they seem quick to act to try and calm them, and doing an admirable job of it.

One of the other games that has been on my mind in 2013 is one that won’t even be completed until 2015, and that’s Star Citizen. Admittedly I was only half-following the development of this title, but I have a couple friends that were deep into it. Because of their tribal knowledge, I finally fully understood terms like LTI, melting, Veteran/Orginal Backer, and others. I think Star Citizen is a testament to crowd funding. Give players what they want and they will open up their wallets to let you know they want it. The average backer of Star Citizen has put in over $100 into the game (remember, this is a game that’s nowhere close to release), and I know I’ve put in more than that! Cloud Imperium games is doing a great job of building their community, and the idea of releasing the game in “modules” as they are completed gives the players a good insight as to how games are made. While I’m disappointed that the dogfighting module missed December like was originally planned, I think that they are doing the right thing by increasing the quality level, since the entire game is being scrutinized with every step they make.

Of course I can’t leave out City of Titans, the fan-fueled spiritual successor to City of Heroes. The Kickstarter for that game did amazingly well, outdoing even what I predicted it would. It just goes to show that players really miss City of Heroes and are willing to invest heavily into any game that promises to bring their memories of CoH back to life. I love the fact that they were able to Kickstart their funding and get what they did. Their success is virtually guaranteed because now the entire MMO community (as well as publishers) can sit up and take notice on how much the game was able to raise with really just the promise of an excellent experience. Now they have a big challenge of delivering on their campaign, and I can speak from experience that it’s easy to have the ideas; it’s the implementation of them that’s hard.

So how was your 2013? Did your favorite game end up being one you hadn’t even heard of in 2012, or were you caught up in the hype-train of a AAA title? Hope you all enjoy the holidays and I’ll see you all in 2014!

Matt Miller / Matt Miller is a 22 year veteran of the computer game industry and columnist for MMORPG.com. He was Lead Designer for City of Heroes over five years, and has "seen it all" when it comes to MMOs (but still learns something new every day). You can always reach him on twitter @MMODesigner.

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