The trouble with games these days...
Being a freelance (with the emphasis on the "free" portion) gaming journalist... albeit, a lapsed one, ("forgive me Editor, for I have sinned... it has been over two years since my last submission") one gets to choose when one works or not. However, because it has been so many moons since I last thought about putting text to e-paper, I had never really explored the reason why I hadn't been inspired to write about the gaming industry's recent efforts to entertain us.
So when I stopped by Ferrago to see what the team was up to, it suddenly hit me. The games being released, for the most part, did not inspire me enough to want to play them... let alone review them. The most recent game I enjoyed was Big Huge Games' Rise of Nations. That's it. Masters of Orion 3, I think, ended up being the new release killer for me, and now, I stop by to see the new releases, and all I see are sequels and remakes, lumped in with the occasional new approach on an old theme that makes me think "...meh".
Am I really THAT jaded? Even worse... could I really be THAT old? If you're wondering if I even still play computer games any more, I am happy to say that I do - and often, still at least four hours a day minimum, but if you're of the console generation, you'll certainly be horrified to know the types of games I've been playing.
Do you realize, that the most frequently played games I enjoy are a minimum of 2 to 3 years old? I'm still playing Everquest, of course, and if you had read my reviews (back in the day), you'll be happy to know I'm still a huge fan of that game. But lately I've been playing Stars!, a very dated yet still thoroughly playable space strategy simulation (one that the aforementioned MOO3 could have learned from). I even play the original UFO: Enemy Unknown. But now, as the release date for the sequel to my beloved (addiction) game, Everquest is but a scant three months away, I wonder... where is the originality? Where is the gameplay? When will developers realize that pretty does not equal GOOD?
Let's not even touch on the recent rash of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games. True, some will insist that Worlds of Warcraft will be the messiah for that genre, but in a world where revenue generated from keeping players playing and paying is more important, it seems that creating a world that you as its developer want to live and play in falls way behind the importance of the bottom line.
Only two games on the horizon interest me, isn't that sad? Nick McCrea's article on MMORPGs mentioned the faults of SW: Galaxies perfectly, and effectively has had the effect of making me refuse to shell out another red cent for a MMORPG without glowing reviews (and I still haven't forked out the cash for City of Heroes [despite some very positive feedback]... what can I say, I'm allergic to spandex). But I'm not referring to reviews on release, I'm talking about the reviews from people who have been playing that game for over three months... and when they say "it's getting better and better" I'll think about that first free month. However, new MMORPG purchases to date since SWG? Zero.
Getting back to those two games, the first one is, unsurprisingly, Worlds of Warcraft. Simply because if Blizzard ever do make a bad game, it'll get fixed. I love Blizzard, even though trying to get in touch with their PR rep is like shaving with a chainsaw (amusing at first, but ultimately bloody). But before they release Diablo 3 or Warcraft 4, or Starcraft 2... I'd like to see their attempt at creating a persistent world to play in.
The other, less obvious title, is a little nugget called "Vanguard: Saga of Heroes". Despite, what I think we can all agree is a stunningly unspectacular title, (after all, VSOH doesn't have the same panache as the other titles I've played and suffered through, UO, EQ, AC, AO, et al.), what Vanguard does seem to have, is a development team who are not only as passionate as Blizzard about making quality games, but also have the distinct advantage of containing a large number of the original creators of Everquest - a marginally successful online game that has been compared to Crack Cocaine in terms of addictiveness... one that I have thoroughly enjoyed for the last five years (I'll leave out the number of nervous breakdowns suffered during that period). Stay tuned for more ramblings from this writer on those two titles.
As far as untapped genres (after all, how many different types of "a_small_rat" can you kill), World War 2 Online had so much potential - yet didn't deliver the goods - however, to all you game developers out there, I promise you there is a huge market for an MM Online multi-theatre war simulator. Being able to switch from Tank Gunner, To Fighter Pilot, to Infantry man would be totally riotous... providing of course... it works.
As a final note, I hear Steve Jackson Games is working on an, as yet, unannounced online game. I'm hoping that said unnamed game has something to do with Cars and Rocket Launchers... only time will tell.
I'll leave on a prayer... a prayer to the gaming gods: "Inspire me again".