Morning Caffeinated! Blizzard, Bioware gone bad, Valve frustrated, and dying MMOs

Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for September 5, 2012. Topics include: Blizzard and BioWare aren't as bad as they seem; the MMO may be dying; and Valve shows its disdain for the PC hardware scene. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

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Good Morning, Shack. You may notice that your daily dose of gaming caffeine is a bit off the mark time-wise today and it is because I was doing some research late into the night regarding a topic that appeared in yesterday's column. I had queried readers about what studio they missed most, referring ideally to studios that had closed and no longer exist. One reader (EricZBA) commented, however, that he missed BioWare and Blizzard, noting that the companies aren't the same as the ones that brought us classics such as Knights of the Old Republic and Warcraft II. It got me to thinking a bit about nostalgia. I am currently on an old-game kick right now and I am enjoying such games as Total Annihilation, Mass Effect, Fallout, Assassin's Creed and BioShock because they bring back fond memories of a simpler time in games. There was no "always on" DRM, or forced multiplayer. But are these memories keeping us from appreciating the offerings from these developers now? The foundation games that launched the popularity of BioWare and Blizzard (and continued their success) were not without their flaws. But as with many fond memories, we tend to gloss over the bad and remember the good. You can theorize that once these companies became subsidiaries of corporate publishing monoliths like Electronic Arts and Activision that they lost their edge. I'll admit that I'm not a fan of Star Wars: The Old Republic, and others don't like World of Warcraft or Diablo 3, but by and large, I submit these companies have earned the right to make a game you consider a clunker every now and then. And to be honest, with the exception of SWTOR (although EA maintains it is still making money), just about every game produced by these two development powerhouses has been a commercial success. Whether we liked the game or not, there are people that still do, and if you got 10 hours out of a game you say you hated, you still probably got your money's worth. I now submit a challenge: Name one company that you feel has gotten better over time, and then support your answer. It should make for an interesting discussion.
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Valve is jumping in to the hardware scene. Yeah, we've had hints of it for months, from Steam Box rumors to wearable computers. But the new job posting for an Industrial Designer is the first time Valve has public offered its disdain for the current state of the PC hardware scene, making special mention of the lack of mouse and keyboard innovation. Valve has never been complacent, but they also like playing things close to the vest, but it is be fun to speculate. What does Valve have up its sleeve, hmmm?
* * * * *

A shrinking Tera

And another MMO is scaling back. En Masse Entertainment announced that they are scaling back the number of servers for its MMO Tera from 11 to 3. That is a pretty significant consolidation. With high-profile MMOs such as The Secret World and Tera falling on their collective faces, and previously mentioned SWTOR performing well-below expectations, is the genre going the way of the adventure game? Can Guild Wars 2, or even Rift, save the MMO from the World of Warcraft behemoth? Maybe big budget is not the way to go with MMOs any more as it carries too many expectations. Are there any MMOs out there that aren't being talked about that deserve mention? I can't think of one.
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Random bits & Quick hits: Rovio is done with Angry Birds. Now they are into Bad Piggies. No slingshots? What are you doing, Rovio? ... Hideo Kojima is "sick & tired" of the constant questions about Project Ogre and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. The apparent ire could be a translation issue, but stop asking OK? You'll know when you see an ogre in the game. Metal Gear Shrek, anyone? ... The Resident Evil 6 demo is coming out in two weeks, but the rumblings I am hearing is that the game is a disaster. Andrew really didn't like it at E3. Could a demo salvage perception of the game? I'm sure Capcom hopes so. Flashback: I was speaking on nostalgia at the beginning of the column and I told you what games I was playing again. If you could go back and play one game again as if it was new, what would it be and why would you recommend it. Have a good hump day, Shackers.
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 5, 2012 7:50 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Morning Caffeinated! Blizzard, Bioware gone bad, Valve frustrated, and dying MMOs.

    Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for September 5, 2012. Topics include: Blizzard and BioWare aren't as bad as they seem; the MMO may be dying; and Valve shows its disdain for the PC hardware scene. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

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      September 5, 2012 7:59 AM

      Telltale has gotten better. Sam and Max season 3 is definitely better than 1 and overall their games have just improved. Jurassic Park was a miss but The Walking Dead is the best thing they've done so far

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        September 5, 2012 8:17 AM

        +1 for Telltale

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        September 5, 2012 9:10 AM

        That's a great point. They've done some good stuff in the past, but The Walking Dead is just amazing!

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        September 5, 2012 3:33 PM

        I'd like to add Volition. Specifically the Saints Row line.

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          September 5, 2012 3:38 PM

          On another note Red Faction was headed in a positive direction up to Guerrilla, but completely lost it with Armageddon.

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          September 5, 2012 4:46 PM

          Technically you're wrong because nothing can ever top the Freespace series but Saints Row has definitely improved.

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      September 5, 2012 8:04 AM

      If you could go back and play one game again as if it was new, what would it be and why would you recommend it.
      X-Wing because it's amazing.

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        September 5, 2012 8:30 AM

        [deleted]

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        September 5, 2012 9:48 AM

        I'd probably choose that, too, or Wing Commander Series.

        I had so much fun playing X-Wing and the expansions. I remember being so excited when the B-Wing expansion was released, damn.

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          September 5, 2012 10:07 AM

          I never did play the imperial pursuit expansion. B-Wing was great though!

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        September 5, 2012 10:16 AM

        WoW, but I'd play it as it is now. The sense of exploration was just fantastic, and with the more streamlined quest progression they added with Cataclysm, it would be even better. I can't imagine how someone who is new to that game would feel going into it right now. Just so much stuff to do!

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        September 5, 2012 10:22 AM

        Single player? KOTOR

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        September 5, 2012 10:47 AM

        Psychonauts. Always Psychonauts.

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          September 5, 2012 12:53 PM

          Run Rasputin. Very fast.

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        September 5, 2012 10:50 AM

        EverQuest. Because it was fucking awesome.

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          September 5, 2012 10:52 AM

          yeah old EQ before every map, quest, item, and mob was documented on the web was fantastic.

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            September 5, 2012 11:25 AM

            Yup, was such a fresh experience.

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        September 5, 2012 10:53 AM

        Star Control II - because it owns

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          September 8, 2012 12:15 AM

          This x 10, still wish there was a sequel. I don't count what they released as a proper sequel, it tried to be charming but felt way too forced.

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        September 5, 2012 11:14 AM

        Medal of Honor, I was the best at that damn mp.

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        September 5, 2012 11:24 AM

        X-Wing for me as well.

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        September 5, 2012 11:27 AM

        Morrowind would be my first choice. It also would be nice to get another 6 years of gaming out of WoW if I could wipe my memory of it today and then reinstall.

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        September 5, 2012 12:49 PM

        Mario 64 because it blew my fucking mind

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        September 5, 2012 12:55 PM

        [deleted]

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        September 5, 2012 1:06 PM

        Mechwarrior 2

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        September 5, 2012 1:08 PM

        Thief. Or maybe Deus Ex.

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          September 5, 2012 1:10 PM

          Both of them because they did something I'd never seen before; they allowed you to approach the majority of your objectives largely how you saw fit. And the atmosphere in Thief was just incredible. I realize graphically it doesn't hold up today, but that's almost the only thing I'd want updated.

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        September 5, 2012 1:10 PM

        Toss up. Either Planescape Torment (because the ending is fucking amazing, especially if you beefed up the Nameless Ones intelligence), or KOTOR because it had one of the best "HOLY SHIT" moments in gaming history.

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        September 5, 2012 1:15 PM

        System Shock 1

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          September 5, 2012 1:18 PM

          This is also a fine choice.

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        September 5, 2012 3:19 PM

        Planescape: Torment one of the best games ever. I really grew attached to the characters.

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        September 5, 2012 3:23 PM

        Dark Forces: Jedi Knight.

        Huge spaces and the feeling of really being a jedi!

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          September 8, 2012 8:57 AM

          Hell. Yes. I'd even add the original Dark Forces. I must've played it over a hundred times. I miss DOS!

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        September 5, 2012 3:52 PM

        Grim Fandango - It's the first one that comes to mind because I still have very fond memories of that game and the characters

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        September 5, 2012 3:52 PM

        Deus Ex. and I would tell myself to make sure I get past the first level

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        September 5, 2012 5:08 PM

        Gotta go with Morrowind as well.

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        September 5, 2012 10:18 PM

        Homeworld. Because it is beautiful.

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          September 7, 2012 10:19 AM

          Homeworld was really ahead of its time.

          OK, story time: Before I actually had a full-time gig in games, I wrote about games as a side just for fun. I worked for a newspaper in Fort Lauderdale and I usually offered my writing to the paper first before offering it out as a freelance piece to gaming sites. I got an assignment from GameSpy to review Homeworld, which in and of itself was a fun experience, but being a writer, I always felt the need to do more.

          So I hope on the phone and call Relic Entertainment and ask to chat with Alex Garden, then head of Relic and one of the brains behind the game. Since I was still fairly wet behind the ears when it came to game protocol, it never dawned on me to go through PR first. I got Alex on the phone and told him I worked for a local newspaper and also wrote as a freelancer, then proceeded to ask him all kinds of in-depth probing questions about the game and development.

          In the end, Alex answered everything and I got a great side piece to go with the review that GameSpy ended up posting. Years later, however, when I finally met Alex in person, he told me he had gotten in a ton of trouble for giving that interview because it wasn't "cleared" first. No one from PR ever contacted me so I never knew, but it became something Alex and I would joke about when we chatted going forward. He'd ask "Did you clear this first?"

          Fun stuff.

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            September 7, 2012 12:19 PM

            Whoops. Yeah, pretty big mistake, there, but could have been worse. If you ever get to interview someone big like Peter Molyneux, you have to make sure you go through PR. They'll give you a list of topics that are out-of-bounds, price ranges for gifts to bring, etc. It wouldn't be the first time a Shacknews editor has made that mistake, though.

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        September 10, 2012 11:39 AM

        Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn - I believe it is hands down the best RPG ever made (console, PC, or otherwise) .. I know the favorite here on the shack is Torment, but I just honestly was more impressed and blown away by BG2.

        If we're talking multi-player - It would definitely be Thunderdome II MUD or the original MercMUD... man those were the days, online rpg'ing has only gone horribly downhill from there, EQ / WoW / etc. can't hold a candle to the originals.

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      September 5, 2012 8:06 AM

      For all of the games that I have played and love, if I could go back and play a title like it was brand new, it would be Halo. It's one of the very few games who's pace and feel made me want to marathon all the way through it.

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      September 5, 2012 8:24 AM

      I think I would put Platinum games as one that's improved. They haven't been around to long but have a nice diversity of titles and the only WiiU game that's even appears interesting on the launch titles list.

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      September 5, 2012 8:30 AM

      Jedi knight II: Jedi Outcast

      OR

      Republic Commondo

      It's both a tie and a coincidence they are both sw games.

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        September 5, 2012 8:33 AM

        Damnit, meant to respond to Haxim. God damn fat fingers.

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      September 5, 2012 8:37 AM

      The last Blizzard game I put more than 5 hours into before shelving : Starcraft Broodwar

      The last Bioware game I put more than 5 hours into before shelving : Baldur's Gate 2 - Throne of Bhaal

      For whatever reason I haven't been moved to invest much time into games like Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, Warcraft 3, Starcraft 2, etc. However I still play Valve games like Portal and HL2 repeatedly so I'll say that Valve has improved over time.

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        September 5, 2012 9:13 AM

        Mass Effect, KotoR and Dragon Age are all excellent games and nothing to be ashamed of. Most companies should be very happy just to have one of those under their belt.

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        September 5, 2012 4:13 PM

        What exactly DO you play? HL2 came out eight years ago, portal five.

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        September 8, 2012 1:44 PM

        I still play HL2 DM and still have some of the most fun with it compared to the mandatory bolted-on DM of so, so many games.

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      September 5, 2012 8:50 AM

      I would go back and play Populas"??" or Crescent Hawks Revenge...

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        September 5, 2012 9:16 AM

        I still have Crescent Hawks Revenge in the original box. I'd love to give it a shot but the thing is on 3.25" floppies! I want to see if that game was as brutal difficult as I remember it being. I was fairly young when I played it but I only got about 5 missions in until I hit a point where I just couldn't go further.

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      September 5, 2012 9:52 AM

      If you guys are in to turn-based strategy, I loved Empire, Wargame of the Century, and Empire Deluxe ...

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      September 5, 2012 10:36 AM

      I would go back and play "Dungeon Keeper" and "Command & Conquer". I really miss Bullfrog and Westwood.....they made such great games. One of my life long goals is to do a remake of Dungeon Keeper...

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        September 5, 2012 10:42 AM

        your creatures are getting angry | it is payday!! dungeon keeper would be my choice too. you know there are some open source attempts at remaking dungeon keeper. I always wanted to help out on a remake but sadly they sound kind of wierd.

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        September 5, 2012 10:45 AM

        I miss Bullfrog's Populous: The Beginning. EA said that they were going to remake it, but I haven't seen any plans for this. Only thing I've seen is that shoddy plays-like game "From Dust" which was garbage.

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          September 5, 2012 11:12 AM

          Populous, Dungeon Keeper and Magic Carpet are the kind of amazingly creative and well-executed gaming experiences that I feel like we're just not seeing anymore but are begging to be remade.

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            September 8, 2012 1:46 PM

            Did you ever play Populous: The Beginning? it was made in the era of Bullfrog's iso-pseudo-3d, kinda trippy in that way.

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      September 5, 2012 12:23 PM

      What, no one for M.U.L.E? Star Control 2, The Bard's Tale?

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        September 5, 2012 12:30 PM

        M.U.L.E. is awesome, but I feel like I could still play that today and have just as amazing a time with it instead of "playing it again as if it was new".

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        September 5, 2012 4:56 PM

        Check my history, fuck yeah..

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      September 5, 2012 12:35 PM

      MMO doesn't just stand for MMORPG these days.

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        September 5, 2012 3:40 PM

        IMO many should just take the "MMO" out of it ever since the push to single player friendly game play. The next best mmo on the scene will fully incorporate group game play. Kind of like some L4D of MMO's.

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        September 5, 2012 4:00 PM

        Very true, but the RPG is the most developed and the most popular. RTS and FPS are still in their infancy and it remains to be seen who will be the first to do it right AND have it resonate with an audience. The latter is key.

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          September 8, 2012 1:43 PM

          In my experience, PvP in MMOs wears out the game with too much need for "balance." The ever-elusive grail of Balance stretches games so thin that experienced players sit there waiting for the opponent to come into range first, while inexperienced players jump in and die instantly.

          You're right, what we need is true participation in MMOs, strong co-op and parties in the classical D&D mold, not just throwing spells at each other but at smart critters and demigods.

          Leave the PvP to MOBAs...hell, even they have strong solo/team play support in concepts such as the Junglers...

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      September 6, 2012 9:56 AM

      Wouldn't CD Project Red be a company that has gotten better? I mean sure they don't have too much to their name, but Witcher 2 is 30x better than Witcher 1 IMO, and Witcher 1 was awesome. Can't wait for Witcher 3 or that steampunk game. (and I hate steampunks)

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        September 9, 2012 6:27 AM

        I disagree. Witcher 2 was better as an action game, but not at all as an RPG. Having said that Witcher 2 was fucking awesome. CD Projeckt Red deserves the love.

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          September 9, 2012 11:29 PM

          I think I must be the only person on the planet who thinks that the Witcher 2 sucked. I really don't understand why everyone thinks that game is so awesome. I occasionally try and play it again, and I just can't stand anything about it. Which is strange, because there are very few RPG's out there that I don't like.

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      September 8, 2012 9:02 AM

      When I think of nostalgia and games, I think way back - Commander Keen, ROTT and Duke3D, Blake Stone, Wolf3D.. stuff like that. Then getting into Quake 2, Jedi Knight, and Unreal (not unreal tournament!)

      The first Unreal was so innovative. Smart AI, situational music, not to mention the engine and game mechanics. It remains one of the best, most immersive single player experiences ever.

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