Holy hellions, Batman, 2012 is off with a bang.
Too bad about SWTOR and the LEGO Universe, but Guild Wars 2 might actually ship this year, and there are some other exciting things brewing. Tera Online might emerge unscathed from its legal machinations and make its promised launch date of May 2012. Blizzard is making a 'casual' MMO (with product placements)...
But here's what I'm waiting for...
- The lore is wide-ranging and accessible, if you're one of those people who has paid attention to mystery schools, secret societies, fairy tales, monsters, alien conspiracies, black ops, and the like. Basically 'everything is true' in a rich 'what if?' environment. Tied into history, popular culture, etc.
- The game is set in the modern-day world, and takes advantage of all the amazing beauty of this planet, its cities and its citizens. The details and how they are leveraged are really incredible-looking.
- There are threee factions - the Templars (England), the Illuminati (New York)and the Dragons (Seoul). The initial experiences are very different depending on the chosen location.
- Visually STUNNING, based on the Dreamworld engine used for Age of Conan. Feels like a quantum leap.
- The game takes an alternate reality (ARG) approach by embedding the game with puzzles that must be solved via research online. Building information literacy, of course, and mimicking the skill development that all we digital denizens need. (BTW, here is a podcast I did recently on this topic...)
- Character classes are thrown away in favor of a flexible abilities system. It works a bit like a card-based game like Magic: the Gathering - the player has the option of selecting 7 active and 7 passive abilities and can re-organize them at will. There are also templates that allow the player to map abilities toward certain configurations (like the Monk, a healing/magic using hybrid). But the player is never locked in. So if I want to tank today and heal tomorrow, I can do that with the same character.
- The creation of characters seems to have some of the fun aspects of creation in games like City of Heroes/City of Villains. Many of the characters portrayed in the trailers are female, too, and cute/powerful without the mega boobage and bare assed armor we progressive women balk about. Clothing is customizable and stat free, but your abilities also progress with equipment and items.
- Players affect the environments via their actions.
- There are various mechanisms for rallying players into group pursuits.
- Quests involve exploration of the world to uncover what needs to be done, and NPCs lead players through the locations.
- The developers (Massively) are based in Norway and were also responsible for Anarchy Online and the Age of Conan. The interviews make it clear that this game has been really well thought out.
- This one is for Ted - the algorithms for NPCs and monsters are based on population mechanics rather than respawning rules. I'm not sure how that's going to work out, but it sounds very interesting.
- The learning curve is well managed with in situ introductions to the game mechanics, lore and skills.
- PvP is well supported. Guilds are called 'cabals'. Encounters involve all 3 factions.
- Quality writing and voice acting! Cut scenes that I might actually watch! Clever/funny dialogue! OMG!
Also, don't forget that DiGRA (the Digital Games Research Association) is holding its semi annual conference in Tampere, Finland (where all the very cool kids are). They need papers and reviewers, so get in touch!