December is done and 2010 along with it. Seems like a lot of people are happy to see 2010 go, but the last twelve months of gaming here in Kae-land have been pretty good.
New MMOs in 2010
There were four MMOs scheduled or rumored for 2010 that I was keeping an eye one.
Star Trek Online
The game launched on time and pretty smoothly. At least smoothly enough that I don’t remember encountering any problems eleven months later, unlike Anarchy Online’s launch which I still rememberyears later.
The game had a larger flood of launch players than I expected, but it seemed like that initial wave passed through pretty quickly. Say what you will about Cryptic, but I do like their single world architecture. Not only do you not have to play the server-coordination game with your friends, but there’s also no drama over server queues or merges.
For such a new game, not quite a year old yet, STO has made a lot of improvements. Cryptic has added a diplomacy system (months before I expected them to), several new sectors of content, revamped the crafting system (twice, although more work needs to be done on it), updated sector space, done two month’s worth of weekly episodes, and done an excellent job of following through on their promises of transparency with their Engineering Reports. They’re also close to releasing a user-generated content system, the Foundry.
Of course, Cryptic has caused a lot of drama and made a lot of mistakes this year as well, but I have to give them credit for their responsiveness. The Star Trek team has been especially good at gathering community feedback and then acting on it. Daniel Stahl has done an excellent job since taking over as Executive Producer, and I’m very optimistic about the future of the game.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Even with all the new information this year, my expectations haven’t changed much.
I like the emphasis on story. Going fully voiced will be an interesting experiment to see how players react and the impact on adding content. I’m sure I’ll buy this even if I don’t subscribe past the first month just to see for myself how Bioware did. Besides the original Knights of the Old Republic was one of my favorite games on the first Xbox.
One thing has changed though, I’ve been surprised about how poorly Bioware has managed the hype for the game this year. In 2009 they’d been doing an excellent job of keeping people excited for the game without letting community expectations get unreasonable. I can’t say the same about Bioware for 2010. It seems to me like the backlash I was expecting to follow the game’s launch has already started.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
My expectations for Cataclysm were set at “wait and see.” That was where they stayed right up until the expansion launched. Despite my general lack of enthusiasm, I did end up buying it. I blame Twitter.
I played through the Dwarven starting zone again (up to level 11) to see what the old world was like now and came away pretty disappointed. It was different, but it was just streamlined a bit and not the Azeroth shattering new experience I expected.
I also started a Worgen Mage and I’m about halfway (just judging by levels) through their starter area as well. I have to say, it’s fun so far but it’s not living up to the hype. That’s the tricky part of this. There’s a lot of hyperbole out there about how amazing Cataclysm is and how fantastic the new zones are, and I don’t think that the game lives up to it’s reputation.
Who knows, maybe I’ll change my tune once I finish the starter area. December just hasn’t been a good month for me to spend enough time with any MMOs.
DC Universe Online
DCUO was supposed to release in November, but SOE pushed it to the beginning of 2011. I think this was smart for two reasons: Cataclysm was scheduled for December (duh) and they listened to the feedback from their beta testers (something more developers should do).
I said back in January that I would wait until I’d had a chance to beta the game and make a decision close to launch of whether or not I’d play it. Well both of those things have happened, and I’ve decided to give it a pass. The reasons for that decision deserves a more in-depth treatment than I want to go into just now, so let me just say that there’s nothing that DCUO does for me that I can’t already get from playing either Champions Online or Arkham Asylum.
At the start of 2010, there were three MMOs that I was playing regularly and/or subscribing to: Lord of the Rings Online, EVE Online, and Champions Online. (I’m thinking of making a New Years Resolution soon to boycott the use of the word Online in MMO titles.)
Lord of the Rings Online
Whew, what a year it’s been for LotRO and Turbine. It started out as my favorite MMO. I was (and still am) in a great Kinship (which it still is) and was having lot’s of fun in the game. Then came June 4th and the Free-to-Play bombshell. I was completely blindsided by the announcement. Maybe it’s because I played on Landroval, which was always one of the most populated servers, but I had never considered the possibility that Turbine would go the DDO-route for the game. Eventually, after the shock wore off and I was able to look at the details, it really didn’t seem like the F2P change would have a huge impact on my playing experience.
Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be quite correct. My minute to minute playing experience is mostly the same as it ever was, and I’m not paying any more to play the game than I was before, but the level of store integration into the UI really started to get to me. Between the alert that shows up anytime I do something that earns Turbine Points and all of the little gold buttons that link to the store (of which there are three on the crafting panel alone), I’ve found that my interest in logging in and playing as dwindled down to nearly nothing.
I was doubtful that I would still be subscribed to EVE by the end of the year. I did end up stopping the subscription on my second account, and would have canceled my primary except that it renewed before I got around to it. That’s not totally a bad thing as I’ve continued to train skills (towards no particular goal) and I’ll get a chance to try out the new character portrait generator when it comes out. Regardless though, I’m definitely letting the account lapse in March when the current six month cycle is up.
My plans to have this be my other primary game besides LotRO turned out to be true until I go my first hero to max level in March. After that, I played with some alts and returned for the Serpent Lantern Adventure Pack, but my playtime has dwindled down quite a bit this year. I have to be in a certain (rare) mood to enjoy re-experiencing content, so once I’ve been through the game once my playtime almost always declines (which is true for me in all MMOs).
Mass Effect 2 was my favorite console game of the year. Great story, great graphics, and much improved combat over the previous game.
Red Dead Redemption was my second favorite console game, and one I almost missed. I hadn’t paid any attention to it at all until Scott from Pumping Irony asked me if I was getting it. I’m glad he did, because it turned out to be a really good game and the first Rockstar game I’ve ever finished.
Star Wars: Force Unleashed wasn’t new but I’d skipped it on release because of poor reviews. I ended up picking it up after news that a sequel was going to be release, and it turned out to be surprisingly good. So good, actually, that I was able to add it to my very small list of completed games. Ironically, based on several trusted sources, it seems like the sequel is a stinker. That’s too bad, but at least it got me to buy the first one.
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions turned out to be a disappointment. The game was way more linear than I wanted it to be and has ended up in my limbo games stack. These are games stacked up next to my 360 that I feel I should finish but probably won’t.
Fable 3 was also a disappointment and will likely be joining Shattered Dimensions in limbo soon. It’s really too bad considering how much I loved playing Fable 2.
Minecraft! Minecraft! Minecraft!
I’ve played and enjoyed a lot of PC games this year, most of them acquired via Steam sales, but the stand-out PC game for the year for me has been Minecraft.
I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy this game. I’m usually a shallow gamer. Good game-play is important of course, but no more so to me than the good graphics. Generally when a sequel to a game comes out I stop playing the older version, even if I don’t enjoy the new version as much, because it just looks better. What can I say.
If you qualify as a Crafter or Explorer personality type, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you do end up liking it, come check out the multi-player servers I’m running.