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Default This is a bit long! Get comfortable first.

October 18th, 2006, 11:35
Hi All

I was surprised the other day to discover the shocked reaction of the locals at an “Xbox 360” forum I’ve been visiting, to the topic of monthly subscriptions for MMORPG’s.

It all came about because the beta for a new game called “Phantasy Star Online” has just become available for download on “Xbox Live”. Having had a look at it myself I was less than impressed;

Here’s an exert;
“But having now completed both its tutorials I found that its cheery chirpy translations were making my teeth grind and the sickly sweet selection of fluffy wuffy creatures I was expected to butcher had me reaching for a bucket rather than a power blade!

Select any enemy you like, stick a sword up its bum and what do you have? You have one of those cheap fairground prizes that we all used to drag home with us, which used to clutter up the place for a while before finally disintegrating and choking the cat!

(“But Mum…… You said that Mr Poshpaws went away to live on a farm!!!!”)”


Anyway I decided to post a thread asking what other forumites thought of it and the general consensus was more or less universal derision. (In as much as replies from about six people can be considered “universal”) but what really put the cat among their pigeons, was the thought of paying any kind of monthly sub on top of the already exorbitant price of a 360 game, plus the yearly cost of “Xbox Live”.

One fellow throwing his hands up in horror suggested that if all 360 games went down this route with their multiplayer content, he would be dropping the console quicksmart!

I appreciate that consoles play by different rules to PC’s, but I was really surprised that these folk were so shocked by the idea. After all many of them will have PC’s as well, even if like me it is only a laptop to surf the net. Which makes you wonder how short of living in a cave, they can have missed the fact that this has been going on since God was in short trousers.

I quickly jumped back on to reassure all that we were only talking about MMORPG’s here. Not games the like of “Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter”, or the “Call of Duty” series. Nor indeed upcoming blockbuster titles like “Rainbow Six: Las Vegas” or “Gears of War.”

There are of course next to no MMORPG’s on consoles, but I suspect that with the next generation consoles like the “360” and the “PS3” this genre will soon develop a huge Fanbase on consoles, but they’re never going to replace the kind of game which has traditionally found its home there.

I suggested that the rationale for the monthly sub pricing model went something like;
A MMORPG with a persistent and evolving gameworld uses a monthly fee to cover ongoing content and staffing. While a game which has a static gameworld (i.e. the servers might always be up, but they’re running from a limited pool of maps) doesn’t need one.

Of course a lot of people disagree with that pricing model (Don’t get Mr Corwin Started!) and personally I don’t like it having dabbled in many MMORPG’s over the years. (Particularly since in my current financial situation, it effectively excludes me in the event we do get them on consoles, because I can’t justify the ongoing cost.) But I do understand the logic of it.

While playing devils advocate to a degree and defending monthly subscriptions for MMORPG’s, I found myself thinking about one of the last ones I played before my PC went belly up. “Guild Wars.”

A game like “Guild Wars” flies in the face of this pricing tradition by ditching monthly fees and charging for an (presumably) ongoing series of add on packs which update the content. 9I know they’ve had one already. Praps it’s more by now.) The success or failure of this approach was touted as doubtless being an influence on developers in upcoming titles, so it’ll be interesting to see how it works out.

But you know what? I’m actually not sure that this “revolutionary” approach actually bears too close a scrutiny. The logic behind my doubts all comes back to that pricing model definition above, with “chargeable evolving content” v’s play across “static maps.”

“Guild Wars” claims MMORPG status and of course by strict interpretation (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) they are quite right to do so. But in actual fact there are of course major differences in the way that their game world operates.

A game like “Ultima Online” for example has a number of individual servers or “Shards.” Each of which is a complete gameworld in its own right, is maintained and evolves. Also some of the world’s evolution is dictated by the actions of the players themselves within that universe. (i.e. buying and building houses.)

Whichever shard you choose to play in, you do so alongside how ever many thousands of players from around the world have chosen the same server. It’s all happening right there in real time, so you can quest with anyone you meet and along the way you’ll see/meet/join up with any number of other players from around the globe all doing the same thing.

Of course this approach is not without its problems, for example having to queue to complete certain quests as other folk are already there ahead of you and some more modern MMORPG’s like “Anarchy Online” or I’m guessing “City of Heroes” (never played it.) address these issues with a different approach.

They keep the concept of the greater ongoing world, where any number of people can all get together for “hunting” and the like. But they introduce isolated “gaming envelopes” (for want of a better term) in which the player and any team he/she has pre-selected, can quest in their own environment to complete missions which have been generated for that individual or group alone.

What “Guild Wars” has done, (for those of you who haven’t played it.) is to do away with the “greater ongoing world” and concentrate solely instead on these individually generated missions.

The game runs around a number of “hubs” which is where the “massively multiplayer” bit comes in. In these “hubs” thousands of people can be online at the same time, meet, chat, trade with NPC’s or each other etc, but there is no questing or combat here.

The game has a certain number of missions/quests and when you fancy have a bash at one of these you travel through a “portal” either alone or with a team (of I think up to four) which you have recruited previously and then the instance of the mission you have selected, is one that is generated for your group alone.

The thing is that if you stop and think about this for a moment, you realize that these missions and quests are actually “Static Maps”! I’ll grant you that some of them are huge and all are beautiful, but none the less the implementation is the same in concept as an MP Map in say GRAW or COD2.

The “hubs” where your thousands of players might gather are really no more than staging areas where people tool up and group up prior to shipping out alone and in this you might well be forgiven for suggesting that what they are in fact are “game lobbies” albeit interactive ones, which are extremely cleverly done and very nice to look at.

It’ll be interesting to see how many “MMORPG’s” we eventually see on consoles adopting the monthly subscription model and what forms they might take.

After all it could be argued that “Test Drive Unlimited” could claim MMORPG status with its thousands logged in at once and a central character who “develops” in terms of what vehicles he owns and which clothes he wears. It does of course herald itself as an “MMO.”

Yet with only a certain number of those players visible at any given time and with linkups with friends and team mates being played effectively in isolation it might be more difficult than appears at first glance to definitively categorize.

A final point praps worth mentioning is that while the forumites I talked to might baulk at the concept of ongoing monthly fees, the phenomenon of updates and additional content for games being chargeable across the board on the “360”seems to be one happily accepted!

As an ex PC gamer I’ve been spoiled in this respect because “user mods” and user created maps and content for games ranging right across the genre spectrum are commonplace and free. Xbox live however does not have this advantage and console users pay for their new cars in TDU, or their additional maps in GRAW or (God forbid you should want some) their “horse armour” in Oblivion.

In the case of Map Packs this actually serves to create a “subcast” of players. Social pariahs who haven’t shelled out on the latest map pack and who can’t join many ongoing games accordingly. Of course this “subcast” has always existed for pc games, where not everyone keeps up with the latest maps and updates from the huge variety available in many games. But somehow it seems more poignant in a more enclose community like “Xbox Live.”

Speaking for myself, I did upgrade “COD2” but only because one map pack was free on “Xbox Live” while another came free with the “collectors edition” version of the game I bought. There’s still a third which is chargeable and which I don’t have.

But “GR:AW” is a completely different story. I don’t have any of the “map packs” for this and I’ve played a fair bit with a really nice group of people who luckily for me haven’t minded not playing the latest maps. But as guilty as I feel about being the heel dragger limiting them, the answer to the question, “are you updating and when” is frankly, “don’t know but it won’t be soon!”

If I have money scraped together I don’t want to be spending it on chargeable additional content for games for which I’ve already paid exorbitant sums. There are so many exiting titles about to be released that can’t possibly buy all the ones I want and THAT my friends, is where my “360” piggybank is pointed.

Bye for now

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October 18th, 2006, 11:49
Minions of Mirth is one MMORPG which has regular massive content updates and which charges NO ongoing monthly fees. You try out the free version, buy the full version and play on any available server, or your own, all for the one LOW price!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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October 18th, 2006, 15:00
Hi Corwin.

See, I knew I’d set your teeth grinding if I mentioned monthly fees!!

“Minions of Mirth” looks like fun, I liked the screenshots. No good for your Badger of course without a game capable PC, but great link for anyone who might fancy having a peek.

I know I shifted focus a little above, but I was just so surprised by the reaction of the “360” crowd I’ve been swapping posts with, to the existing pricing model on 98% of existing MMORPG’s and that got me thinking about “Guild Wars” and questioning whether it really was a MMORPG at all.

(Note: the above statistical reference to “98% of existing MMORPG’s” is off course “off the cuff” and should in no way be taken to represent the views of the management here at Badger Towers. We can confirm actually that 53.7% of all quoted statistics are in fact made up on the spot!)
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October 18th, 2006, 15:23
I am not sure what to think. On the one hand the X360 seems to be pioneering in 'micropayments' that started with the XBOX, and basically screw you out of 'points' (so it doesn't feel like money) every time you turn around. You have to pay for XBOX Live, for each new XBL Arcade game, for every little Oblivion thing, for maps and skins for *most* games, for advanced courses on Tiger Woods, and even for strategy guides and cheats in EA games!

So on that front I can understand some payment aversion! But on the other hand, I don't get it - despite the bitching, the X360 people are constanting paying these fees for everything in record numbers with no sign of slowing. So I think that this vocal minority is just the typical bunch of complainers who will whine and whine and claim that they'll take their toy trucks home if they get charged one more time … but then pony up and walk back the the game grumbling about something else …
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October 18th, 2006, 21:11
Well, the idea of ongoing content additions is nice. But rarely the truth of the situation. Most of the time the fees are sucked up by the company and every 6-11 months an expansion pack is foisted upon the subscribers at an additional cost. Sony has even gone so far as to charge for "adventure packs" which are nothing more than the content additions that a couple games put out for free.

Let's look at Star Wars Galaxies as a prime example of this. MMO's were still relatively new 3+ years ago with Anarachy Online, Everquest and the Grandaddy of them all Ultima Online (yes the Realm, Meridian 59, and GEnie service were before but this generation of mmos was started by UO). Sony rushed swg to launch and apart from a couple shallow quest lines and the Death Watch Bunker, never added content to the game. Some may argue that the hologrind and village were content but for the majority of the players there it was the start of the decline in the game as they were only ways to expedite players hitting jedi (which for the timeline should have never existed in the first place). Jump to Light Speed, the expansion that added space combat etc, was a promised inclusion for launch. Instead sony forced the original players to pay an additional fee for it. Then the next 2 expansions had nothing to do with the timeline but were marketing ploys to generate interest in episodes 2 and 3 which weren't very well done movies to begin with. Those few people left are still hoping and praying for the much promised content additions that were going to be rapidly introduced after the Combat Upgrade and then the NGE.

Everquest as far as I know (never played it beyond beta) never introduced any new content outside of expansions, Ultima Online as well. Beyond World of Warcraft what main stream western mmo added free content? I know Lineage2 has had what 5 expansions that were free upgrades for the player base but is that really considered a mainstream mmo?

The companies promise additional content all the time, but once they have you in and you become a part of the community they stop with content and proceed with nerfs and the addition of gamebreaking bugs. Then they turn around and charge you for an expansion, and charge you nearly as much as the original release cost.

PSU I will rent and play the single player portion then return. There is no way I will pay a sub fee for that especially over a console . I know smedley thinks that console mmo's are the wave of the future but until it actually happens I doubt it. I actually think that for all the (imo) bad that comes from World of Warcraft some good may come. That game has added a ton of content since launch and I believe that alot of players may come to expect that from other companies as well. This will force the other companies to finally start living up to the promise of content updates rather than mediocre expansions that can be completed in a week or two.
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October 19th, 2006, 11:27
Hello Severius

I was struck by your comment that “Most of the time the fees are sucked up by the company” and that promised ongoing content rarely actually happens. It made me wonder whether or not we know where the money getting “sucked up” is actually going.

While I was playing MMO’s, I justified the monthly fees in my own mind by putting them down to ongoing maintenance of the game, jumping on problems and having people online all the time in case the players ran into trouble. Also I suppose the implementation of ongoing organized events within the game.
Where there were updates I was expecting them to resolve gameplay issues, not so much to add physical content.

Trying to look at it from the Developers point of view, if an MMO gains an “add on” which perhaps adds a new island to the game world, containing “x” number of new dungeons and features and a smattering of new player classes, then it could be argued I suppose that it doesn’t seem realistic in this day and age to expect that this would come for free.

Let’s face it, other genres are rife with franchises which turn out soulless sequels year in year out, sometimes with little in the way of innovative progression from the last version and consumers greet them with glassy eyed glee, dipping into their wallets for the full cost of a “new” game like the good little sheep they are.

Chargeable MMO add on packs at least provide new and varied content. Is it really fair to expect MMO developers to provide us with something akin to the gaming version of the everlasting gobstopper at an ongoing cost to themselves?

If a company promises a feature as part of the initial package, subsequently fails to deliver and then has the gall to charge for it as an add on pack! Then this of course is behavior most foul and public flogging should be in the wind. But once again I find myself worried, about the actual degree of “promise” involved.

The hype surrounding some of these titles these days can start a couple of years before we actually get a sniff at playing the bugger! During this development time I would imagine that a stack of ideas for what will and won’t be included are thrown back and forth among the programmers, developers and publishers and content for the final release must surely be considered at best a movable feast.

But the problem is that these development growing pains don’t always happen behind closed doors anymore. Often they play out instead under the public scrutiny of the “fan sites” and magazines whose ongoing coverage can whip the anticipation level to fever pitch.

(I remember when Anarchy Online was in beta, reading a forum post from someone threatening suicide if he couldn’t get involved. While elsewhere I read a thread where someone requested a beta place to grant the last wish of his dying son!)

I’m not suggesting that companies don’t shamelessly encourage this coverage and use it to their advantage, of course they do. Stirring the rumor mill with exclusive development diaries, interviews and supposed leaks, all to build the interest level to the point that release day is a sell out and copies can’t be found for love nor money.

But if we choose to run with the rabid fan pack, taking the hype for granted and scooping up boxes from the shelves on release then we don’t do ourselves any favours. We should be enjoying the media build up, but taking it with a pinch of salt and relying on post release coverage to tell us what IS in the game rather than being disappointed by items which never made it.

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October 25th, 2006, 00:47
Originally Posted by Severius View Post
what main stream western mmo added free content?
I've only played the free trial so I'm not very experienced with it but Dungeons and Dragons Online adds free content. I could be wrong but it seemed like they add new stories. Also, I think they raised the level cap. Don't quote me on any of this though.
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October 25th, 2006, 01:26
They added a massive Solo mode as well.

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October 26th, 2006, 18:51
Well I justify the monthly fee of WoW by comparing it with my previous trips to the locale ale house (a lot cheaper I assure you).
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October 26th, 2006, 18:55
Originally Posted by Korplem View Post
I've only played the free trial so I'm not very experienced with it but Dungeons and Dragons Online adds free content. I could be wrong but it seemed like they add new stories. Also, I think they raised the level cap. Don't quote me on any of this though.
The problem with a D&D MMO is that it has got to be better then the games already out, and with NWN2 coming up with what looks like a lot of attention to all the real D&D rules, what are its fans going to be looking for?
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October 30th, 2006, 07:06
Hehe, the Badger has arrived here at RPGWatch, glad to see you're still the king of writing long, but somehow still entertaining posts.
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October 30th, 2006, 13:47
Y'Know I tell my fingers to stop typing….. but they just won't!
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November 1st, 2006, 22:50
A lot of great points Badger, and a lot to think about (not commenting on the length, but the depth and breadth of your thoughts!).

As far as MMOs on consoles go, I had some of the same thoughts when I first heard about FFXI on the PS2, and carried the idea over to the Xbox (back when there were rumors of an MMO on that system…Citizen Zero, anyone?). I wondered how either MS or any developer could justify charging a monthly fee for a game when you had to pay for access to Xbox's online functions anyway? Sure you pay for Internet access, but you get open access to multiple services on the PC - not so with the Xbox.

Granted, the PS2 didn't require a paid subscription for access to FFXI (as far as I know…never played it and don't own a Playstation), and the free, "universal" access to Xbox Live with the 360 makes it a bit of a moot point NOW, but still. That was just the one of the barriers I saw to MMOs on the consoles. The other major barrier was communication, but now with voice chat being integrated into some upcoming games, I can see fewer and fewer obstacles. The only real one left, in my mind, is the need for a keyboard in current MMOs. You just can't duplicate that level of control on a six- or eight- or ten-button controller. And if you are going to attach a keyboard and mouse to your console, why not just play your PC?

Subscriptions, I think, are still a major obstacle for opening up MMOs on consoles. Micropayments are the current trend, but already there is significant backlash when microtransactions are implemented poorly, or with a too-heavy hand. Lumines and the Godfather are two prime examples. Even MS is suffering some backlash as they appear to have "condoned", or at the very least, allowed this kind of exploitation of gamers.

In terms of the need for subscriptions in MMOs, I believe that a lot of the money goes to cover costs of bandwidth and hardware, as well as maintenance. The rest, if any is left, goes to fixing software problems, customer support, and if you are lucky, development of new material gets on this list so that updates can happen in a reasonable timeframe.

World of Warcraft *is* a bit of an anomaly in the current MMO market. The game is so insanely popular and is generating so much revenue that Blizzard, already hugely successful and with sizable coffers already in hand, can actually afford to pay a staff of developers to come up with regular, and FREE, content updates. You don't see that in many other games. The cost of expansions is essentially to cover the investment of time and resources for the content that is being released in that product, and to hopefully fund further content development. Severius is right. The promise of ongoing content, or even "Live Event Teams" is rarely fulfilled in the current crop of MMOs.

MMOs, I think (and this is purely supposition), are a bit unique in the market in that, the more consumers they have, the more it costs to maintain them. Any other retail product does not suffer this situation in nearly the same fashion, if at all. Just because everyone wants a particular car, or TV, or widget, the manufacturer does not see significant increase in maintenance costs - the only increase in costs that they probably see is those associated with increasing production to meet demand. And in this case, the manufacturer is just making MORE money. MMOs, however, rely on tradionally fickle resources - Information Technology - that has the bad habit of crumbling under pressure. A car manufacturer doesn't directly suffer (except for potentially lost sales) because their product is unavailable. People just wait, and expect to wait, until it *does* become available. MMOs have rabid fans screaming on the boards because they can't access "what they've paid for". Subscription models are a tricky thing, especially with a product that is ongoing and should have 24/7 access. (Have I beat this analogy to death yet?)

You are dead-on with regards to Guild Wars. The game is Massively Multiplayer (kinda), and it could be seen as an RPG, what with character development. However, its systems are pretty straightforward, and its environment, as you have noted, is static. There is no real crafting, and each of the instanced areas (I think "instanced" is the phrase you were looking for when you used the term "envelopes") is essentially a single-player map with multiplayer capabilities. It's very much like FPSs with multiplayer modes, except that the maps are strung together in the context of a bigger world, and there is an overarching storyline. The only thing massive about the games are the town, the hubs as you called them. The rest is multiplayer instances, with only small groups at that.

If anything, I see console MMOs taking on more of a model like Guild Wars - which is clearly successful. I read somewhere that it is one of the only NCSoft products recently that is even close to profitable (at least in the US - Auto Assault seems to have tanked somewhat, given the hype and expectations it received). Instead of monthly fees, you just pay for expansions, and the content, though somewhat static, is freely available in between content updates.

I, too, am surprised at the reaction you report from the 360 crowd. It seems they are perfectly content to pay to open up content, but if you mention "subscription" I suppose they get a little crazy…

I have no experience with Minions of Mirth. The screens do look interesting, but my experience with Free2Play games is that they are somewhat…less desirable…than those that require a monthly subscription. I don't count Guild Wars because its in the greay area of MMOs…it could go either way in terms of its classification. Granted, this could be changing. There are some F2P games on the horizon that may prove that a new business model is possible. However, its not that these games don't require income, they just generate it in other ways. In-game ads, or ads that run alongside the user interface, are just a few of the things I have read about. For me, the last thing I want with the immersive entertainment I get out of MMOs is to watch ads, or to see Pepsi, Nike, and Starbucks ads in the middle of Ancient Japan (for example).

I could write a whole other post of this length (too long already!) on what you say on game companies, hype and promotion, and the communities that they build. Don't even get me started on feature lists - I've played enough MMOs to know that no feature list is real until the game is released. Even then, a good portion of features come out inoperable or just plain bad in their implementation. MMOs do seem to be a bit unique in their manic need to pulicize the unique features of games that are still in development, however. My opinion is that the genre is still young enough that many conventions either haven't had the time to mature into standards, or the "massively multiplayer" component just adds too many possibilities and variables to the equation for one game to nail them down and make a set of features the "standard". Even long-standing genres have their conventional features updated and revolutionized from time to time, but there are some things you can count on in an FPS.

OK, that's more than enough for now. Keep the good posts coming. Been awhile since I thought this hard about a genre I enjoy so much, especially enough to actually put something down in writing.
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November 9th, 2006, 10:34
Hi rheric

Picking up on a couple of your points there, I think the answer to the question as to how MS or any developer could justify charging a monthly fee for a game, when you have to pay for access to Xbox’s online functions anyway, is that the two are not connected.

I mean if MS made “all” the games and as they are in turn also responsible for Xbox Live, I think it would be fair to suggest that they are hitting the console owners in the wallet once already for live access and shouldn’t do so again for a monthly sub for the MMO.

But 3rd party developers don’t get a slice of that “Xbox Live” pie, so I guess you can’t tar them with the same brush.

The other point I wanted to go back to was that you said;

“if you are going to attach a keyboard and mouse to your console, why not just play your PC?”

Well I think that’s a valid point but must just point out that many (yours truly for example) don’t have a PC and can’t afford the £1000 mark price tag of a system capable of playing the latest games. Not to mention the outrageous cost of the constant upgrading to chase the technology once you do have such a machine.

(I know all about PC World and Dell etc offering £400 systems, but I’m sure these couldn’t happily play the newest most system gouging titles. I can do this on my 360 without having to worry about my system specs. Will I have to turn down this and that setting, will it run at all..etc)

I for one would be thrilled to have a keyboard and mouse for my console because then there’d be nothing stopping developers from giving us decent RTS titles. I looked at a “Battle for Middle Earth 2” demo ( a game which the console media are heralding as the first RTS title to rival the PC versions in terms of playability.) and frankly after playing “Dawn of War” on my PC before it died, “BfME2” just feels clumsy and primitive by comparison.

Proper flight sims are the other thing that a keyboard and mouse would presumably open the console door to, another thing which I miss.

As a side issue by the way, you mentioned in game communications in passing and that’s actually another thing about gaming on the 360 which I’ve found quite an eye opener.

Unlike the pc where for the most part (at least up till a year ago when I was forced to drop out) in game voice coms are handled by choosing a third party application like “Skype” or “Teamspeak” and using it over the top of the game, “Xbox Live” has this function built right into its structure from the off.

Now you’d think that this integral voice coms system would be a staggering advantage wouldn’t you? And indeed the TV advertising for the “360” pushes this feature as a major incentive, touting scenarios where players fight and work together in sessions brimming with tactics and jovial banter.

But I’m here to tell ya that this has not been what I’ve seen so far in my “live” experience. (Which admittedly is only about 3 months so far.)

Looking at it first from a technical point of view, the crystal clear coms clarity in evidence on the adds, is unfortunately something I believe they refer to in advertising as “a mere puff.” The truth of the matter is that the quality of coms is somewhat below that of “teamspeak” and well below that of “Skype.” It’s fine once you develop an “ear” for it, but it’s quite simply not as advertised.

(Also there seem to be a number of technical issues and hurdles to be overcome, particularly when it comes to setting up in the first place and technical support from MS can be a mixed bag.)

The other “mere puff” here is that player interaction!

It’s certainly there if you look for it, but you have to be in the right places if you want in on the fun. It’s not enough just to register on one of the many forums out there whose members play together, because even among those like minded folks you can still find yourself playing in eerie coms silence.

Careful pruning of your “friends list” is required to ensure just the right crowd with a good balance of coms tactics and fun banter.

Conversely you can sometimes find yourself playing a game which leaves you wishing for a coms breakdown! Selecting the “quick match” option is generally a bad idea as it’ll whisk you straight to a public server, which will either see you playing in complete vocal isolation or bombarded with foul language and insults.

Any title can be stricken with this sad disease of course, but I’d have to say that by far the worst I’ve encountered so far has been “Halo 2” and in something of a culture shock for me, the worst offenders have been…. Dare I say it?…… players from the US of A.

I’ve heard this said before but generally put it down to bigotry and taken it with a pinch of salt. But much as I loathe to propagate national stereotypes, (Well…except maybe the French… we Brits have to insult them because it’s the law.) I can only report on my own experiences.

On which inflammatory note I shall stop typing and head quickly for the hills!!!

Badger

( I luv em to bits by the way! Americans I mean….. not the French obviously!!)
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November 11th, 2006, 07:45
There are some mmo games that you hear the death knell the very first time you read anything about them. "Auto Assault" was one such title.

Just wanted to add that, carry on…
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November 11th, 2006, 08:37
Just sidetracking briefly…..Did you have any experience of “Auto Assault” Sam? Because I haven’t, but I’ve often heard/read bad things about it but never straight from the horses mouth.

I remember back when I first got a PS2 (so about five years ago) there was a game which we either borrowed or hired for a few days called “Twisted Metal.” It was great fun, possibly because it was also that greatest of rarities…. A game which she who must be obeyed would play with me!

I’d assumed that “Auto Assault” was that kind of thing.
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November 11th, 2006, 11:01
No, I never played it personally. Just read previews and reviews.

It didnt seem like necessarily a bad idea I suppose, on paper anyway, just not one with any kind of mass appeal to the MMo crowd. Seems like a singleplayer game that was mistakenly put online. I played some Twisted Metal and Carmegeddon and such, not for very long, but Im familiar with the "road rage" style of armed or just murderous cars game.
They can be fun for a little while, but MMO dedication is asking a bit much.

I know that Auto Assault has far more depth than those types of rampage games, but I felt just from looking at the previews that they needed to focus more on the concept of the character itself in a post-apocalyptic world first and foremost. Then later after working on some levels, you get a vehicle that you build up and use for both transpo and battle, akin to the mounts of other games. Like "Mad Max" online or something, instead of the vision of solely running over and gunning down power-ups and mutants ad infinitum as the sole mode of play.
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November 13th, 2006, 22:02
Originally Posted by Badger View Post
I think the answer to the question as to how MS or any developer could justify charging a monthly fee for a game, when you have to pay for access to Xbox’s online functions anyway, is that the two are not connected.
Granted, the two are not connected, but in the mind of a gamer, they are - the money all comes from the same wallet. With a PC, you get Internet access that gives acccess to a much wider range of content and types of entertainment - with the consoles its for one purpose only, really - gaming. I just remember thinking, I have to pay to access the gaming service, I don't want to have to pay for that AND access to an online world.

…many (yours truly for example) don’t have a PC and can’t afford the Ł1000 mark price tag of a system capable of playing the latest games. Not to mention the outrageous cost of the constant upgrading to chase the technology once you do have such a machine.
Definitely agree with this point about PC ownership. Consoles make it much easier, and less costly. A few hundred (or several hundred) dollars (US) every few years is not even close to what I spend in a year on my PC. I guess I see my PC as a work/play tool, so it serves many purposes and "makes its money back". Plus, I would be the only one to play the console, so the investment in the PC is much more justified.

Some games are much better on a PC because of the keyboard/mouse combination. MMOs, RTS games, and simulators just work better. I saw a friend play BfME2 on their 360 - wouldn't touch it, EVER, considering how much I loved Dawn of War.
Careful pruning of your “friends list” is required to ensure just the right crowd with a good balance of coms tactics and fun banter.

Conversely you can sometimes find yourself playing a game which leaves you wishing for a coms breakdown! Selecting the “quick match” option is generally a bad idea as it’ll whisk you straight to a public server, which will either see you playing in complete vocal isolation or bombarded with foul language and insults.
I had a similar experience with communications over Live (when I had my original Xbox). Either I played in dead silence, was in chat with people from countries I had never even heard of, or flat out turned it off from all the trash talk. I certainly wouldn't want my kids listening to that kind of thing.

Also, some PC games are being touted as having integrated chat, especially in the MMO realm. Tabula Rasa is the one that I can think of right off, but I know there are others. I don't know if this is a good thing or bad…if it comes down to the fact that people EXPECT you to be on live chat, I may have to move to different rooms to play, which will make things difficult. And, I think that voice chat leaves too open the possibility for a break in the immersion factor of games. Playing a fantasy MMO with some kid who screams leetspeak trash over and over has zero appeal to me.

Any title can be stricken with this sad disease of course, but I’d have to say that by far the worst I’ve encountered so far has been “Halo 2” and in something of a culture shock for me, the worst offenders have been…. Dare I say it?…… players from the US of A.
No offense taken, and I agree 100%. Being an American doesn't change my opinion of my compatriots - there are a lot of idiots (and worse) out there, and they all seem to gravitate to specific titles on Live.

As for the whole Auto Assault thing - I only played it in Beta, but from what I hear it hasn't gotten significantly better since then. And I agree with Sam - its a single-player game poorly ported to the MMO realm. As far as I know, NCSoft has never made any money off it (and I suspect it will join the ranks of Earth and Beyond, among others, quite soon). It has its fun components, but as a whole, it was too shallow in the wrong places, and too involved in the wrong places.

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