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12 Oct 2014

Guild Wars 2 Competition: The Winners!

Guild Wars 2 Swag

Remember this competition? After the craziness that has been early October, I’ve finally had a chance to chose some winners and send out some prizes! Apologies for the delay with this, but hopefully the winning entries will more than make up for it!

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First prize goes to Foxfire Daye from Gunnar’s Hold, with this fantastic Aetherblade combination!

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Second prize goes to Grizabella, with this haunting screenshot. Despite being from the EU, Grizabella plays on Tarnished Coast for the roleplay.

Aetriess, also from Gunnar's Hold, looks fantastic as a princess, and wins third prize!

Aetriess, also from Gunnar’s Hold, looks fantastic as a princess, and wins third prize!

That said, I couldn’t wrap this up without a few honourable mentions. Unfortunately I don’t have any more prizes to hand out, but these entries are too good to keep to myself.

Chokapika from Arborstone looks pretty in pink with her Quaggan companion!

Chokapika from Arborstone looks pretty in pink with her Quaggan companion!

Neala Wiverflower from Whiteside Ridge came up with this spooky combination - ideal for the return of the Mad King!

Neala Wiverflower from Whiteside Ridge came up with this spooky combination – ideal for the return of the Mad King!

Tiny Lotus from Ring of Fire is trying to teach her pink Moa how to fly.

Tiny Lotus from Ring of Fire is trying to teach her pink Moa how to fly.

I’d like to thank everyone who entered the competition – there was some amazing creativity on display, and a lot of throughout went into so many of them. Screenshotters, I salute you!

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23 Sep 2014

Death of a Super-Genre

The time of the full-fat feature-packed MMORPG is at an end. They are ridiculously expensive to produce, and are regularly met with scorn and disinterest by an increasingly cynical audience. The market has spoken very clearly – these are not the games people want to play. Blizzard’s decision to cancel Titan – an upcoming MMOFPS that didn’t have their full confidence – just goes to show how tough this is.

Publishers and developers are paying attention. Just take a look at the MMORPG release schedule for 2015 – there’s nothing for the traditional genre fan. It’s something I noticed when walking the floor at Gamescom, where all the big MMO stands were for games that had been out for months if not years. World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, WildStar and Guild Wars 2 on the Twitch booth. But nothing new or upcoming to carry the MMO banner.

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22 Sep 2014

Competition: Win Guild Wars 2 Swag!

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Firstly, an apology. I meant to get this competition up several weeks ago, but things at Chez Gazz have been absolutely manic. Anyhow, thanks to the generous folks at ArenaNet and NCSoft, I have a small collection of Guild Wars 2 swag from Gamescom that I wanted to share around! Here’s what’s on offer:

  • First Prize: Guild Wars 2 blank hardbound notebook, Living World mouse mat, and Mini llama item code.
  • Second and third prize: Mini Llama item code.

How do you win? Simple. I want you to take a screenshot of yourself and a Mini of your choice, looking completely co-ordinated. I’m going to leave it up to you how and where you take it, but I’m looking for imagination here. Be creative!

Here’s how to enter:

  • Email your screenshot (or a link to it) to gareth@gazimoff.com (that’s me!)
  • Use the subject line ‘GW2 Screenshot Competition’
  • Include your character name and server, so I know where it’s from!

The closing date is Friday September 26th at midnight BST. All entries received after this time will be redirected to the Inquest.

And finally, the small print:

  • My decision is final. Don’t like it? Don’t care.
  • Only one entry per person, one screenshot per entry. Please have mercy on my inbox. Multiple entries will be disqualified.
  • Because I have to send these out myself, I regretfully have to limit entries to EU only.
  • By entering the competition, you’re granting me the right to use the screenshot in a future post where I announce the winners.
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18 Sep 2014

The Value of Opinion

There’s a whole bag of controversy raging around the internet of late. Of subjectivity versus objectivity, of fact versus opinion, of divergence versus convergence. Who should write about games, what should they be allowed to say, what should even be considered as a game. There’s also been an incredible backlash that has pushed people out of gaming completely, and it’s been horrifying to watch.

Anyone should be free to have an opinion on a game and share it publicly – you, me, anyone. The tools are cheap or free. Websites should also be free to hire who they want for those opinions. Don’t like the opinion, or trust the person giving it? Choose someone else. The number of voices in gaming grows every day, and there’s no shortage of places to find them. But that’s a great thing – gaming culture is growing to include more than ever before. Yes, there’ll be growing pains, but there’ll also be new games to play, new concepts to unearth and new directions to take. Who doesn’t want that?

So that’s the short answer. The TL;DR. But if you want the whys and wherefores, read on.

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10 Sep 2014

The High Price of Founding

I have a concern, and it’s about the high price of MMO ‘founders packs.’ For a strong title that’s still early in development, it’s a great way to raise funds and bring in eager gamers to test the game out. But the status of being an early adopter comes with a cost, and it’s usually measured in dollars. I’ve seen studios charge as much as $150 to get into the alpha of a free-to-play title.

Fundamentally, that feels wrong. With an unseen and un-previewed title, the risk for buyer’s remorse is huge. More importantly, however, I don’t think it’ll result in the right mix of testers that will hammer content hard without trying to buy their way around a problem, usually through premium currency tokens. That might be the kind of game that the studio wants to make, but my experience tells me there are better ways to persuade players to part with their cash.

The most common strategy I’ve seen used is where higher prices are charged for earlier access. Pre-alpha costs $150, alpha costs $100, closed beta is at $50, and open beta is free. The bigger packs come with more in-game items and premium currency, but little else besides. It rewards those cash-rich players that can risk that much on a game they might only play once, while hindering the cash-poor but time-rich players that would be a great testing asset.

What would I propose? Glad you asked. Basically, it’s a blend of the existing methods we already see, and the best of Kickstarter. Crucially though, it also lets players trade up – if they like what they see, they can pay more, unlock more, and get themselves a bargain. It reduces the risk on the player, but rewards the developer as well. As an example, imagine there’s a steampunk sandbox MMO called Cogsworld, and it’s just about to hit alpha. Here’s how I’d see it playing out:

  • $20 – Tourist Visa: Limited to 1000 – The Cogsworld Tourist Office only hands out a limited number of visas every year, so grab one before they run out! A stipend of 200 Platinum Cogs is included
  • $50 – Resident: Limited to 2000 – Buy a green card and the city of Cogsopolis will grant you numerous perks, including 600 Platinum Cogs to get you started.
  • $100 – Nobility – As a member of one of the Cogsworld Nobility, you are always welcome. Your inheritance of 1500 Platinum Cogs will be waiting for you at the Bank of Cogsopolis.
  • $200 – Upper Crust – Part of the Cogsworld Elite, your family has amassed a fortune of 3000 Platinum Cogs. In addition, you will be sent a real-life pennant featuring the Cogsopolis Coat of Arms, and real-world versions of the Cogsopolis currency.

All of these are just rough examples – the costs are roughly what I’d charge, but the limits and rewards are completely flexible.

On top of that, I’d allow players to buy premium currency from an item store and exchange it for regular currency on the trading post, giving those cash-poor players a way to earn extra Platinum Cogs simply by playing the game at a rate that’s set by the market itself. Finally, all currency would be reset at the end of open beta, and reassigned to the original players as part of an overall server wipe. The ability to trade would also exist in the live game.

Having this run through beta will, in itself, generate some interesting data:

  • How much/how long does each bracket play?
  • Do players from each bracket drop out/give up at similar points, or is a group more committed?
  • When do players decide to upgrade their package, and what persuaded them to do it?
  • What bracket is more involved in the community, either championing the game or providing helpful feedback?

All of this can help the development team to understand if their actions have meaningful impacts on the playerbase. For a free-to-play title that’s reliant on those with large and small wallets, it also gives them a chance to balance out reception across the spectrum.

Here’s the other thing as well: as Cogsworld edges closer to launch, the limitations on those first two packs can be dropped, but the prices increased/adjusted to the final launch packs. Essentially, players are getting a discount for joining early, rather than being charged a premium.

That said, monetization is an ongoing discussion. Is this the kind of model you’d like to see more of, or would you prefer a different form of founders pack? Maybe you’re happy with the status quo? Whatever your opinion, sound off in the comments.

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