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GamingFocus: An Update on the World of Video Games

By Jerry Yu’19, Technology Reporter

E3. Gamescom. G-Star 2018. We were promised quite a few new games and gaming devices, and by now, most have been delivered. Here are a few noteworthy events in different game genres:

Fallout 76 Launched. Bethesda? Hello? IGN gave you 5/10!

On E3, Bethesda announced the new installation to the vastly-popular Fallout franchise. Set in post-apocalyptic West Virginia after a devastating nuclear war, this game is expected to be “the online prequel where every surviving human is a real person...the largest, most-dynamic world ever created in the legendary Fallout universe.” This game turned out to be large and lonely. With some 20 people spread across a massive map comparable to that of Fallout 4 (an entire city), players hardly see any useful multiplayer interactions, and all the quest-givers are wandering robots, dead, or AI constructs. No humans. There is no talking, no combat, just walking around and bad stories.

Battlefield V Launched. Better than Fallout 76. Thanks, EA marketing team.

Battlefield V actually turned out to be a great, but incomplete, game. DICE tried to hide not being able to be as productive as BF1, so they announced the Tides of War service, where live content is to be pushed to players (imagine “Seasons” in Fortnite, LoL, or R6S). A member of the EA marketing team, meanwhile, tweeted that players “shouldn’t buy the game if they don’t like it” to angry fans after the overly politically correct trailer featuring disabled British female frontline soldiers in the frontlines of WWII. Sales were down by 63% percent compared to its wildly successful predecessor BF1, and EA has to fire a few people and put everything on sale for 50% to save the day. However, unlike Fallout 76, it had great reviews. YouTubers like JackFrags, LevelCapGaming, and Angry Joe all quite positive about the gameplay innovations, while IGN giving it an 7.5/10 score despite the fact it is unfinished.

Columnist’s Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: What a AAA should be. Nice job, Ubisoft.

Grand, majestic, and most importantly, fun. That is what you’d expect from a new Assassin’s Creed installation. It is set in the Peloponnesian war over 2400 years ago, a decades-long struggle between Athens and Sparta. The player has much freedom in experiencing the social, political, and warfare both on land and sea. Experience over 60 hours of storyline placing the hero/heroine in a conflict of money, patriotism, and family conflict. It is beyond an exciting war game--it is a thoughtful recreation of ancient Greece that we can enjoy fully. Overall, an exciting open-world RPG experience, but the sound is the only drawback to the game.

Columnist’s Opinions: G-Star 2018 and the future of MMORPGs.

Many would claim that MMORPG is almost dead, when, in reality, it is more alive than ever, and what it needs is a shuffle. The Korean creators, for years the powerhouse in MMORPGs, are losing their Western audience. NCSoft’s popular PC titles like Guild Wars 2 is facing decline and even shut-down, while Blade and Soul’s dueling-focused PvP lacks innovation and its art style more sexualized than aesthetic. Long-anticipated new Korean releases like Bless, meanwhile, completely flopped in the West due to mediocrity and greed. I think that the main reason why these games are not gaining much force is that they are designed based on a similar formula. These companies focus too much on player looks, while the stories and worlds are flat and linear, with no exciting explorations awaiting the players. MMORPGs are very different from AAA games that release every year, in that players pay less attention to the graphics and more to what they can actually accomplish in an “alternate reality” over years of devotion, and the developers have to roll out new content, new maps, and new classes for the players to explore for existing games, instead of completely new games.

Meanwhile, Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online is beginning to see long-term success. In its fantasy world, Tamriel, players are allowed to freely roam and form organizations, or fight for one of the three kingdoms in the lore. Story-telling works differently in these games: as players join one faction, they will fight for the faction for control, and their decisions actually matter to not only their experiences, but also the entire game world, and millions of other players. Meanwhile, this game offers players infinite opportunities by opening up the “class” system with warriors, mages, and healers, replacing it with open skill trees players can customize to create heavy-armored mages, swift combat medics, or tanks with bows and arrows. After the Morrowind expansion, the player base is reported to be over ten million, making it a direct competitor to the juggernaut in the genre, World of Warcraft. Based on the old Elder Scrolls series, this game managed to take tradition to a new level. Maybe that’s where Bethesda went.

Armed with similar ideas, indie developers are flexing their muscles as well, after game engines and powerful computers are no longer exclusive to the richest companies. Star Citizen raised over $100M and has recently opened a free trial to its first working planet (they crafted each planet, unlike No Man’s Sky). Crowfall, an Indie Game of Thrones-inspired MMORPG, meanwhile, raised over $1M and is experimenting on its fantasy world featuring endless power struggles and territorial wars. These games take the concept of player freedom to a new level, as there are no more storylines, and players are free to bond, trade, form governments, wage war, and write their own history. An issue with the story-driven model is that developers have to constantly update new content, and it requires more and more resources to continue, compared to putting the continent in eternal war, and sitting back to do balance patches and art overhauls.

It is becoming more and more obvious what the players want: better combat systems, fairness, skill-based gameplay, and player choice. Developers should pay attention to what the players really want, and try their best to deliver a game that fits the players’ desires. The market should no longer follow Vanilla WOW’s patterns of questing and grinding, but allow the players more freedom in an open world they can truly conquer.

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