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Sunday, September 1, 2013

PAX Prime, who phoned in what?

A strange series of events lead to me getting a ticket to Saturday and Sunday of PAX prime this year; the last time I visited PAX, Valve was demo-ing some game called Left 4 it's been quite some time. That said, while some of the panels I visited were interesting (more on them in another post) I found I had mixed feelings about the games being shown off.

So this year at PAX Prime there are quite a few smaller, indie games out there which was nice to see. The big names were also demonstrating a mix of new IPs and old ones. I found myself amused as I walked through the EA section and on one side of me players were playing Battlefield 3 4 (no really, it looks identical) while the others were playing Titanfall, which to my eyes appears to run on the exact same engine. That said, Titanfall is an interesting looking concept and I was very glad to see "PC" on its platform list....admittedly, this is likely because it appears to be running on Frostbite 2 and thus is easy for them to port over....I am under no illusions that EA is suddenly hopping back onto the PC gaming bandwagon. So a new IP and an old one; though I also admit that some of the changes for BF4 look very promising, like the return of Commander mode, so BF4 is not entirely a "rehash" in my mind.

Ziggs gloriously guarding the entrance
Down the hall a few steps was Wargaming, showing off World of Warplanes and Tanks; neither of which especially interested me. The games were fun, but around tier 5 for both they turned into a heavy grind and I lost interest. Warships sounded interesting enough, but was not being shown.

Not far was Wildstar...this one made recent waves when they announced a subscription fee, and apparently they are also going to have a system similar to EVE's PLEX; so players can buy time and sell it for in-game currency. While the animation is interesting in a cartoony way that reminds me a lot of Torchlight, the game did not look so amazing that I felt compelled to pre-order. I like that they want to have 4 classes to appeal to the traditional 4 types of gamer, but I am not confident that they are going to succeed yet. That, and I think they are being either overconfident or foolish in having a subscription fee out of the gate; WoW is losing subscribers, but they are still the 7 million pound elephant in the room, and I think games have mainly been successful in pulling people away due to various forms of free-to-play.

Another game that caught my eye was Strife, a new MOBA from the makers of Heroes of Newearth. Strife is their attempt to make a MOBA with a less-toxic community by starting from the ground up; players will queue for roles instead of a blanket queue, they won't have to communicate as much with the enemy team or even their own, and characters can be played multiple ways (which frankly I think is a pipe dream; there will always be an optimal, WoW taught us this). For it's "newbie friendly" appeal to work though, Strife needs to remove the barriers to entry that the MOBA genre has, or find ways to teach players as they play the game by telling them what they are supposed to be doing at any given time and why. I don't condone the venom that MOBA players can throw at each other, but part of that frustration seems to be due to players having to teach the game to newer players over and over again. I kind of hope they succeed, but I am not sure how they will; the game looks almost identical to League of Legends in terms of art-style and general feel, and I am not sure that the promise of a "possibly" nicer community will draw people away.

In terms of rehash...Ubisoft is mainly flying Assassins Creed Black Flag; which is essentially just a sequel to a game that was likely meant as a this point, as much as I love the series, I am getting tired of the endlessness of the story. 2K was mainly showing off X-COM Enemy Within...which is just an expansion, but to an admittedly fun game so I am hopeful. WB games was showing off another Batman game...not that it is good or bad, but it's just more of the same. They did have some game called Dying Light, which looks like Dead Island + Parkour. Could be interesting, but I think the zombie genre is well and truly saturated.

I also noticed that hardware companies and Twitch were almost as prevalent, and frankly things like special mice and headsets didn't much interest I can't much comment. They are not my cup of tea, but their presence suggests to me that people like them.

I will have more in the near future, but I will say that it is definitely the PAX of the MOBA, with at least 3 in attendance (Strife, Dawngate, and Guardians of Middle Earth). I just hope some of them DO something with the genre; because in a way it looks like everyone is repeating the same mistake MMOs made with WoW. They try to fight with the massive player (in this case, League of Legends) and try to outdo it at being itself...and inevitably fail.

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