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15 Oct 2013

Mister Sparkles Mini: The Winners (Part 1)

mister sparkles competition copy

Wow, a lot of you really wanted to get your hands on a Mister Sparkles Mini! And thanks to the kind folks at ArenaNet, I’m able to share even more of them. I’ve chosen five winners this time around, and one of those entries will be the basis for another competition.

That second competition starts later on this week and will run till the end of the month, so keep your eyes peeled if you weren’t lucky this time round. But before I announce who won, here’s some ideas that came close…

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10 Oct 2013

Free to Play: Myth or Miracle?

It’s become almost a perennial tale: an MMO in distress makes the switch to free-to-play and becomes instantly successful. But, without hard numbers, it’s been difficult to appreciate just how much a difference it can make.

That has now changed. In a great interview with Daniel Tack at Forbes, Rift Creative Director Bill Fisher revealed some fascinating figures. It’s worth reading the entire article, but the headline number is staggering: revenue increased five times. That’s difficult for any developer to ignore.

It gives rise to a number of follow-up questions. Was the uplift a momentary surge or sustained growth? What does the average revenue per active player look like? How reliant are they on a certain subset of players? Has the change improved Rift’s long-term fortunes, or was it just a blip on the radar?

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9 Oct 2013

Pew Pew Pew! Weeeeeeeee-oooow!

Over a year ago, I was drinking an ice-cold lemonade in EA’s Gamescom business suite. Across from me sat Jeff Hickman, VP for Live Services and head of Star Wars: The Old Republic. BioWare had just announced the switch to a hybrid free-to-play approach, and was planning an aggressive update schedule.

During the interview, we also discussed the state of SWTOR’s space game. I mentioned that I was a fan of the old X-Wing and Tie-Fighter series, and was hoping to see something similar in the MMO. Hickman wouldn’t be drawn on any plans, but told me that he had a dedicated space team working on “interesting things.”

As we wrapped up, I shared a promise with Hickman: I’d subscribe just for the chance to dogfight in space once again. Today, some 14 months later, BioWare finally revealed the Space game.

I’m a man of my word, and I’m going to stick to what I said. Later this month, I’ll be resubscribing as promised.

For the Empire!

(Note: I previously put the meeting at Gamescom 2011, not 2012. I’m an idiot.)

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8 Oct 2013

Upgrade Season

w7u

Just over two years ago, I built a PC that would be able to play the ‘next generation’ of MMOs. It was a silly notion considering that, at the time, I didn’t have an idea what next generation truly meant. I just wanted to build something that would provide obscene frame rates without leaving me penniless.

It’s a strategy that worked. I’ve gone from WoW: Cataclysm, to SWTOR, to TERA, to The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, all without a hitch. I’ve managed to run them on high settings and capture stunning video. Whatever game I’ve wanted to play, my hardware hasn’t held me back.

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4 Oct 2013

WildStar: Rocket-Propelled Narrative

WS_Settler_Scientist03

I’ve started a new writing gig, working over at MMORPG.com as their WildStar columnist. I’ll be there every week about the latest developments in Carbine’s upcoming MMO, and I’ll also be active in the comments to answer questions and dispel myths. One response in particular leapt out at me speculating about how immersive the lore would be following changes to questing systems.

From my own experience, World of Warcraft was superb at providing a sense of story. There was a deep lore that had built up over the previous three games, which the quest designers could then draw on as they filled Azeroth with content. When it first launched, I was sure to read every scrap of quest text and really immerse myself in the tales surrounding each location.

When I moved on to Star Wars: The Old Republic, I was expecting something similar. BioWare had a reputation for being great storytellers with the Mass Effect Series, and I was looking forward to something similar in MMO form. I wasn’t disappointed either – the levelling experience was huge amounts of fun, even though I found the combat a bit too similar to Warcraft.

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