GOG.com – Just because they’re awesome.

GOG.com looks to be making some social moves against Steam and its competitors. Check them out. They’re about the only digital download games service with heart and integrity.

GOG.com looks to be making some social moves against Steam and its competitors. Check them out. They’re about the only digital download games service with heart and integrity.

Accidental Death in MMOs

I was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings Online and played for about a year and a half from ’97 to 99′ or so. As in many MMOs, there’s a certain amount of regard for players who can survive many levels without dying. On the other hand many players consider those players “care bears”, a derogatory term for someone who avoids danger to stay alive. One thing that has always bugged in me LOTRO is “real-life-happens accidental death”.

I was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings Online and played for about a year and a half from 2009 to 2010. As in many MMOs, there’s a certain amount of regard for players who can survive many levels without dying. On the other hand many players consider those players “care bears“, a derogatory term for someone who avoids danger to stay alive. Regardless, one thing that has always bugged in me LOTRO is “real-life-happens accidental death”.

“Real-life-happens accidental death” occurs when someone interrupts you, while in game, and you leave the game without thinking if your character is safe – you come back to find your character has died.

Seeing as I ended my LOTRO time in Spring 2009 or so, it might seem strange I’m talking about this now, but here’s what happened: I keep having urges to try it out again. LOTRO is a game with beautiful visuals and relatively engaging characters and gameplay. But there was always the endless grind that kept me from re-activating my account. So, as it happens, Turbine recently announced they were going free-to-play in Fall 2010, and I suddenly had an urge to try the game out again.

I booted up the game, selected my character, was somewhat annoyed my usual name had already been taken, played through the intro, leveled up my character to max before I left the intro instance, thirteen levels or so, and proceeded to die because I left my computer for  a “real-life-happens” moment – somewhat knocked at the door – and I was dead.

This was all in the span of four hours of intense, focused gameplay but, having stayed away from the game for a year because I couldn’t stand the grind, there was no way I was going to put myself through even the intro again witth the chance of repeating that same kind of accidental death. I canceled my subscription on the same day I had renewed it.

So, it all got me thinking. Dying is frustrating when it’s not by your choice. So much so that people lose a lot of their passion for the game the first time they die. They might come back but that drive is no longer as intense as it was. Eventually they fade away along with their subscription fees. Shouldn’t the game companies think of at least some safe guards on accidental deaths?

An MMO is a game. A game is not real life no matter how much we want it to be. So some features to accommodate a real life while playing the MMO would go a long way to retaining long term players.

How about this: What if, when first attacked, if I am non-responsive and proceed to be non-responsive, a feature kicks in which assumes I’m idle and causes enemies to ignore me? Or maybe it teleports me to the nearest safe spot. Or something.

How about something more creative: What if suddenly some key NPCs come to my rescue (running from over the next hill or teleporting in) and prevent me from dying. Then they run back off into the distance and disappear.

Anything is better than enduring a “real-life-happens accidental death.” You have to accommodate your players who live in real life. It’s costing these companies real money.

Left 4 Dead 2: Second Impressions

Now that Left 4 Dead 2 is actually out it occurred to me I should write my second impressions on Left 4 Dead 2.

Now that Left 4 Dead 2 is actually out it occurred to me I should write my second impressions on Left 4 Dead 2. My earlier first impressions were quite negative. I still haven’t bought the game and I still don’t think it’s worth what they’re asking. I would pay max $29 for it.

But, Left 4 Dead 2 grows on you. I was wrong about the “shock” sound of the shotgun. Turns out I was using the assault shotgun. Its sound sounds more reasonable as you play it. The normal shotgun sounds like the old one. The AK-47 is especially satisfying for a machine gun.

I’ve also gotten used to the extra things like acid or those guys that sit on your head. I guess I just have to learn the tricks.

Speaking of tricks, here’s a quaint little rhyme to help you deal with hunters.

When I see a hunter,

This will be my creed:

Duck and swing, duck and swing,

Until I make him bleed.

Left 4 Dead 2: First Impressions

Left 4 Dead was and still is a great game. We’ll have to see how it’s sequel lives up in the long run. I will say this. It’s not worth more than around $20.00. And the price of $44/$49 on Steam is ridiculous.

I’m a big fan of Left 4 Dead. Small “f” fan I suppose. Not fanatical. But I do enjoy a game and the game impresses.  The atmosphere is nightime-horror. The weapons satisfy with a grunt. The zombies careen and scream in a dazzling chaotic mess. Left 4 Dead is an achievement in its own right for making so much fun and enjoyment with such simple and repetitive gameplay mechanics.

I’ve spent my first few minutes with Left 4 Dead 2, playing through the opening two levels in the demo, and something is missing. The characters are decently involved. There’s more humour. There’s more random babble which is nice when the game is getting oldish but the dialogue still changes things up. But there’s a little bit of soul missing.

I’m not quite sure what the je ne sais quoi is that is absent. The shotgun was my first disappointment. Instead of a hearty, full-throated blow of a shot, it seems Valve went for a “shock” sound. Something akin to a panic moment sound. A short burst of sound that might come in the midst of a silence to scare a movie watcher. It’s a little odd. The pistols are odd, too. They look like pimped up things. Zombie movies are B-movies. There’s not supposed to be any big budget guns in here.

Also annoying is the limit on how much you can shove enemies away. There’s a reload timeout which you have to wait if you use it too much. There was no need for that in the first and there’s no need for that in the second. It’s annoying and pointless.

On the plus side, there’s a lot of variety and, while the graphics engine is clearly the same engine, it’s been tweaked and things look very nice. Of course, you can get away with murder in the dark. Not so much in the daylight which L4D2 uses.

Left 4 Dead was and still is a great game. We’ll have to see how it’s sequel lives up in the long run. I will say this. It’s not worth more than around $20.00. And the price of $44/$49 on Steam is ridiculous.

Hey, Ubisoft, I bought PC Prince of Persia, the one without DRM.

You lost the magic of Sands of Time and you had no idea how to get it back. You deserved what you got.

When Prince of Persia launched, Ubisoft said they were trying it without DRM, and delivered this snarky comment along with it,

Youre right when you say that when people want to pirate the game they will but DRM is there to make it as difficult as possible for pirates to make copies of our games. A lot of people complain that DRM is what forces people to pirate games but as PoP PC has no DRM well see how truthful people actually are. Not very, I imagine. Console piracy is something else entirely and Im sure well see more steps in future to try to combat that.

Community Manager UbiRazz

Perhaps the “Razz” in “UbiRazz” is more indicative of what the “community manager” role is all about. Getting the community up in arms?

Now, this happened a long time ago and I didn’t have anywhere to write about. So I’m writing about it now even though I bought this the day it was released.

Barring UbiSoft’s arrogant behaviour, and yes I will apply the community manager’s behaviour to Ubisoft, they did two good things. First, the lack of DRM. Second, the PC version of Prince of Persia was released at a $29.99 price point. That’s about the maximum I’m going to spend on a game unless it’s an 9+ rating and I know I’m going to like it (I bought the Sands of Time trilogy at full price).

So, I bought it. There. You happy now Ubisoft?

Maybe you shouldn’t be so happy because the game isn’t all that great.

It’s technically sound, which is why industry critics gave it a decent score. Good visuals, new art style, good sound, decent gameplay. But isolated analysis like that isn’t what game are about. Take a look at Metacritic’s user rating.

So, I took your bait, I bought your game, and you did two good things, no drm and price point, but then you released an average game.

What does that say to your users?

It says your no-drm and price-point were gimmicks to sell a poor game.

Nice try, Ubisoft.

You lost the magic of Sands of Time and you had no idea how to get it back.

You deserved what you got.