Wii U

As you no doubt may have heard, Nintendo announced their next console: Wii U.

The short of it is this… pretty much a Wii on steroids.  Better processors, better memory, better graphics, embraces HD, wiimotes and the balance board are supported as are all Wii games.  The early word is that it will beat out the 360 and PS3 for power, but don’t expect that to matter too long as Microsoft and Sony will probably launch their new consoles a year after this and put it to shame… unless the market decided to go sideways instead.  I mean, it’s very possible that the next Xbox will be the same as the 360 but with better processors, memory and graphics (and maybe 3D) with an integrated Kinect over a separate peripheral.  Sony could do that as well.  Iteration over innovation.

But then you get to the other part of the Wii U: the controller.


Aren't you a little big for a game controller?


Yes, that is a screen on the controller.  The obvious bits are that you can use it like a tablet and surf the web, and you can also use it as a main display (freeing up the big TV for other activities if needed), it even has a stylus for drawing, but it can also be used as a secondary screen.  Immediately many people pointed out it could be used for maps or inventory or other bits of a normal game that could be shuffled off to this second mini screen.  I started trying to think of other things…

How about an Aliens game where the pad if your motion sensor?  Even just as a large controller with extra touchscreen buttons and virtual keyboard, MMOs become much more possible.  A flight or driving simulator where one player controls the action while another player with the pad navigates, does damage control and performs other duties.

So many lost hours...

My best idea yet?  Dungeon Keeper.

In the original game, you play the overlord of a dungeon.  You set up traps and other things to run your dungeon and protect your treasure room from the heroes who come seeking to steal your loot.  It was great fun.  But with a setup like this, you could have one player being the hero on the main screen, hacking his way to fortune and glory.  On the tablet you have the second player, the overlord, playing the RTS similar to the old game, laying traps and scrambling to react to what the other player is doing.

Really, any game that requires one person to have hidden information from the other players would work beautifully.  The only shame here is that thus far word is that only a single new controller will be supported and so card games and board games played local multi-player may be out.

I’m excited for the possibilities… now I just need some people out there to make games like these.  Just in case, I’m going to start putting away a couple bucks per paycheck so that I can afford this when it comes out.  For once, I actually might want to be an early adopter.

Stuff on the Net III

Here is a comparison of game graphics 20 years ago versus today (XBOX 360). The sad thing is, even though the graphics are prettier now, I had alot more fun playing the games back then. Many of today’s games have such crappy playability and replayability.

Even I have my limits when it comes to TV… I’d have passed on this one too, 1999’s Heat Vision and Jack.

Want to be a grunt? Plaguelands reports that you can do just that in Sony’s PlanetSide game. You can play up to rank 6 for free, at which point every time you leave the game you’ll be annoyed with a website filled with “subscribe now” propaganda.

The Future of the Game

I’ve probably ranted about this before… but of course that won’t stop me from doing it again.

What’s wrong with EverQuest?

Honestly, if you enjoy the game as it is, nothing. Sony has laid out a path of developement for their virtual world that they are progressing down, and if you enjoy the places it goes then EverQuest is a happy fun place. If you don’t though, EverQuest is, as the popular phrase among other ranters goes, dying.

The Real World, you know, the one we live in, is huge. It has a vastness that most people never bother to try to comprehend. But if you are one of those people who try, you’ve looked at this planet and seen what the 6 billion or so people on it have done. Cities, towns, farms, roads… there are really very few places that are truely barren of human life. Places in the Arctic and Antarctic come to mind, as do a number of deserts and other places. Now consider that 70% of the planet is water and has, realistically, no population of humans.

In the world of EverQuest, much of the game is like the oceans. If you run from Qeynos to Freeport, which is 6 to 8 zones, you’ll likely run into maybe a dozen people. These are zones that at one time housed a hundred or more. 10 to 20 people per zone, and on many servers with the East Commanlands Bazaar, 100 people without breaking a sweat. The game is empty.. at least until you get to level 65 and start raiding, then you have 500 people vying for the same 3 to 4 zones and encounters.

EverQuest has become a land of raiding and high end gaming. There is little place for the truely casual player anymore, the slow and steady explorer, the quiet dreamer. If you try to play the game that way now, starting at level 1, you’ll quit in 3 months, guaranteed. Its just… lifeless. Now, if you powerlevel, and race to 65, you may play for much much longer. This is where the “game” exists. However, step away from the dozen zones built for the “high end” game, and you’ll find it just as empty.

Sony has nurtured a game that has expanded with its players, but it hasn’t grown. Arathur in Qeynos still says the same things he said 5 years ago. The same quests are still there, some are even still broken. Sony had lived under the impression that the game is better off going to new lands than to dare alter the existing game. Its true, players get angry when content they either remember fondly or have yet to experience disappears, but these angry players don’t quit. Verant understood this. While they did give up the Kunark expansion that nearly doubled the size of the world, they also gave us “Bloody Kithicor” as the once benign Kithicor Forest turned into a place of vile evil once the sun has settled beneath the hills, changing a zone for levels 1-10 into a place filled with wandering level 30-40 undead. Ask any player who played during that time, and they’ll recall it. Ask any player who started in the year or so after and they’ll have heard of it. Only 2 or more years later is it possible for a player to play the game and not hear of “Bloody Kithicor”. Verant developed player lore: stories that lasted long beyond their occurance. Sony hasn’t done that.

In the history of game expansions, EverQuest was always expanding. From Kunark, to Velious, to Luclin, to the Planes of Power, to Broken Skull Rock, to the Lost Dungeons of Norrath, to the Gates of Discord, and looking forward toward the Omens of War, only one expansion didn’t add new lands. The Lost Dungeons of Norrath added camps to existing zones, and dungeons off those and more existing lands. You didn’t need a port, or to ride a boat. It was the old world brought to life again.

Right now, there are zones in EverQuest sitting empty that are a part of storylines gathering dust. All they would need to do is resurrect those stories, revamp a zone or two, add a zone or two, add a dozen instanced dungeons, and the players would come back to the old worlds. The travel paths of old would be alive again with the footfalls of adventurers. Mayong Mistmoore could return to power and take his seat in Castle Mistmoore evoking the resurgance of evil in the Faydark. The frogloks of old Sebilis could begin to rebuild their armies in earnest, gathering strength from the growing darkness in their halls. The gnolls of splitpaw might stumble on to an enormous power, strengthening them and spilling out into the Karanas.

Everything that Sony needs to revitalize the world of Norrath is within their grasp… but the catch is, you can’t revamp a zone for only the players who pay. If Mayong returns to power in his castle, you can’t have the new Mistmoore available only to those who buy the new box down at Besy Buy or who order it online for digital download. Free content seems to be a bad word at Sony. But free content could save them.

EverQuest has peaked. At this point, the only thing they can do is retain customers. New customers (true new customers, not someone’s second or third account) will be few and far between. Players entering Norrath now are presented with an enormous empty world. The social aspect is gone at the lower levels. So eiher you suffer in a world of silence, or you have a friend who helps you catch up to the “real game”. And many new players, and players new to gaming, don’t want that… they want to experience the game, not have it handed to them. The only way EverQuest will ever gain customers again… free content. A revamping of the world so that it isn’t so empty and lifeless below level 65.

City of Heroes, World of Warcraft… there is blood in the water, and they smell it. These games are making large worlds that are vast beyond their borders, designing games to be enjoyable and populated at all levels. In City of Heroes, for example, even when you are level 43, from time to time doing missions you’ll be forced to travel back to Atlas Park, the lowest level zone in the game, for a door mission, or to talk to a contact, keeping you connected to the rest of the world.

EverQuest needs to change, or it will, as they say, “die”.