I’ve had the privilege to partake a Neverwinter buffet this weekend. It’s more compelling than I’d assumed from character creation. Cryptic delivered across the board.
The level of polish that’s free-to-play is astounding compared to the landscapes of yesteryear. Voice acting is the norm for Neverwinter, bringing it into the new era of MMOs.
I’ve had faith in Cryptic since playing Champions Online, which remains the best superhero gameplay available (sorry DC) and full of concessions for roleplayers.
Cryptic’s interpretation of the Neverwinter franchise is similarly action-packed, an odd feel for a D&D game. It’s a daring decision that pays off: Reticulated targeting and timing-based attacks make Neverwinter a fusion of traditional sword-and-sorcery with physical combat. Facing and positioning matter.
Neverwinter is full of other pleasant surprises: an elegant interface (despite limited customization), convenient keybinds (we’ve finally learned that players use Q before 7), period-appropriate music and a breathtaking game world.
So why do I keep returning to Star Wars: The Old Republic?
We’ve seen Star Wars games by the dozens and MMORPGs by the handful. Even a Star Wars-based MMO is nothing new. The franchise alone doesn’t always sell games, which are inevitably judged on their own merit.
So what makes EA and Bioware think they can profitably challenge industry behemoth World of Warcraft and its competitors? Is the Force with them?
I tested Star Wars: The Old Republic this weekend, possibly the most ambitious game ever made. It was innovative and surprising, and takes the genre in new directions as promised.
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May the Force be with you,
The Star Wars: The Old Republic Team
I’ve been trying to compile a gameplay video for Spore for a buddy at work…sort of the JRP version of “try before you buy” for a game that can’t be rented.
It’s far longer than I originally wanted, and I cut what felt like a metric ton of content for the video, and much of what’s left goes really fast. But I’m trying to represent hours and hours of gameplay (which itself purports to loosely represent 4 billion years of evolution and progress). DISCLAIMER: This video includes none of the Galactic Adventures expansion, mostly because I felt the video was too long already.
Video editing credit goes to no less than four different applications, none of which I’m going to name because I’m unhappy with all of them — else why would I have needed 3 more? Credit for capturing goes to Fraps, and no thanks to Gamecam which, although has served me well in the past, has recently proven very unreliable to me.
Music credit goes to Eric Johnson for Cliffs of Dover, and Bear McCreary, the score composer for Battlestar Galactica, for two pieces called One Year and Prelude to War. (You’ll know which is which, I think.) All remaining audio was taken directly from the game itself apart from one quote which I’ll disown you if you don’t know. And for your old(er) timers, I chose the version I remember best from my childhood; no offense to the original, eh?
Without further ado, then, this is what I have so far of the Spore Gameplay Video. (There are still a few takes I think could be done better, but this is my first attempt at a video this cohesive, and I’m out of patience to keep tweaking without sharing.)
If there’s one thing Spore got right, it’s the creators. Even when I’m not playing the game, I still create several new creatures every week. Others delight in recreating automobiles from the 50’s, WWII planes, or famous landmarks.
It’s the only game of which it’s possible for me see a TIE Interceptor warp in and steal all my livestock…and then for me to go slaughter a tribe of Zerglings, trusting in my Orc allies to watch my back. Or to encounter the Mona Lisa displayed in giant relief as a prominent civic center on another planet.
Maxis continues the emphasis on user-generated content with their upcoming expansion, Galactic Adventures.
The expansion makes it possible for players to outfit their various creations as space captains, and beam down to planet surfaces to battle monsters, rescue princesses, collect artifacts, and wreak general havoc.
Who creates these adventures?
The game includes an adventure editor allowing you to create adventures in up to 5 acts. You can designate triggered events, dialog of NPCs, and parameters for any of a number of objectives, such as kill, collect, deliver, protect, survive, etc. Videos of the incoming expansion have shown shooting galleries, invasions, races, and arena tournaments all as just a few of the possibilities you’ll have at your fingertips.
The goal with Spore was to allow the average user to experience the power, awe, and wonder of a Pixar animator with just a few mouseclicks. For all the gameplay lacks, in that goal, they have succeeded.
Will Galactic Adventures be equally successful in letting the average user feel like a mighty game designer?
Only time will tell.
There are a few disappointments in the expansion’s parameters. A common complaint of Sporeans everywhere was not being able to beam down to planets in space phase. Galactic Adventures ostensibly solves that problem, but only for designated (randomly assigned) adventure planets. (There is also a ‘quick play’ mode for those who just want to play the adventures without the hassle of Spore’s space phase.) The remainder of your planets will still be experienced only from orbit.
I’m also disappointed in the interface I’ve seen for Galactic Adventures play mode. Only four weapons are at the player’s disposal at any given times, so hopes of designing grand adventures around the player’s ability to do a number of complex things at once won’t be realized. My greatest fear is that now matter how inspired our adventures, play will be reduced to mashing four buttons repeatedly.
But perhaps that only provides greater incentive to make play interesting and fun. Spore Galactic Adventures pledges to succeed where Neverwinter Knights and a plethora of map editors have failed; to make user generated content the primary mode of play.
So what kind adventures will you create?
“Thank you for saving me, Mario…but our princess is on another planet!”