Cat Context 28: E3 Postmortem, Console Premortem, and Free-to-Play with Syl

This week on Cat Context, we declare that consoles are dead! No wait, that’s just what crazy Liore says. They’re probably not dead at all.

E3 was last week and we talk about our favorite moments, favorite consoles, and what games caught our eye, including The Division, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, and of course Final Fantasy XV. Elly tries to explain why someone would still buy an Xbox right now, but Aro is not buying it.

And later, Ellyndrial and Liore sit down with Syl from MMO Gypsy to talk about free-to-play and why it might not be so bad. Do game companies have an obligation to protect players from their own worst instincts? Does the free-to-play model encourage migratory player populations?

Also, a defense of Sega Dreamcast! Debating which console controller is the best! Talking plush Angry Birds!

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial.

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Liore’s E3 rundown
* Syl’s site at MMOGypsy.com
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

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RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)
Jun18

RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

I had kind of fallen into one of my “off again” phases with RIFT shortly before the free-to-play announcement, and of course being a grump I certainly wasn’t going to log on again after. In fact, I wasn’t planning on logging into RIFT at all, but as is so often the case my friends are terrible enablers.

One of them IMed me late last night and said simply, “Hey, did you know you can buy the space horse with F2P credits?”. For over a year the space horse, a.k.a Nebula, was the thing I coveted most  in RIFT. Was it worth relenting on my grump stance and checking out the game’s changes? For a horse that looks like it’s made of space? Um, duh.

The first thing I noticed — thanks to the big pop-up and tickertape rain — was the new loyalty system. What was previously sold as veteran rewards on a special vendor is now available through loyalty tiers. Loyalty was granted to subscribers based on their activity, and can be earned in the future by buying and using cash shop currency. To be fair you get perks sprinkled throughout a loyalty level and a bunch of stuff at the end, and the gifts seem to be everything that was on the old veteran reward vendor plus funky new things like a pet gift box and hats. Apparently I’m already halfway through the “epic” loyalty tier.

2013 06 17 23 14 12 RIFT 500x289 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

Speaking of the cash shop, I have to admit that I’m pleased with the amount of credits I received in the F2P switch as permanent subscriber and one of the suckers who got the Storm Legion 12-month package. I had almost 12,000 green diamond thingies, worth about $60 on the store, and mounts ranged from 200-1200 in price. The selection of items in the shop is pretty much the usual — mounts, pets, costumes, dimension stuff, cosmetic changes, and so on.

A new set of gear is available for players every 10 levels, going up to a tier below whatever is current. Someone on the official forums worked out that it would be roughly $50 to buy gear from level 10-59, although why someone would spend money on level 20 pants totally escapes me.

2013 06 17 23 29 45 RIFT 500x271 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

The new cash shop also seems to have replaced the lingering post-event vendors. Applicable items can be bought with the pre-requisite event currency (for those who participated but forgot to buy things) or green diamond thingies. This new system enabled me to buy my pretty space horse, so I recognize the hypocrisy in what I’m about to say, but I hope event items aren’t available for cash until after the event is over.

I like spending a week or whatever collecting special currency for event items, and it will honestly degrade the value of said items to me if someone can come along at the same time and plop down $5 for an instant horse. Honestly, I feel sort of bad for people who went through the huge grind during Summerfest to get Nebula, particularly as it was a grind I opted to skip at the time because it seemed so heinous.

2013 06 17 23 43 43 RIFT RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

Akylios balloon pet

But now is not the time for sombre reflection — now is the time for ponies. I spent just over 800 green diamond thingies for the space pony, and then picked up an Akylios balloon for another 200. Judging by the prices that’s roughly $6 for the mount and $1 for the pet, although thinking about it that way makes me feel awkward. The remaining 11,000 or so credits are unspent. I’m not sure if I’ll get anything else, or at least not for a while.

2013 06 17 23 40 03 RIFT 487x500 RIFT, We Meet Again (F2P Edition)

the pony in question

So, in conclusion, ponies are nice and the RIFT F2P conversion seems to be pretty generous for long time subscribers. Meridian and Port Scion looked quite busy, although the quality of General Chat was much, much worse.

Logging on again did remind me of one thing — I truly have loved RIFT, in a way that was previously reserved only for World of Warcraft. It’s a great game, run by what I think is still a great company. I’m sorry to see that they had to resort to free-to-play, but on behalf of me and my spacepony I wish them nothing but the best.

EVE Online Carebear Chronicles

The slow rate of posting around here for the last couple of weeks is not a sign of anything except my vast enjoyment of EVE. What little spare time I have had lately has been shot into space, where, at least for newbies, there seems to be an endless number of things I COULD do at any moment.

Inspired by both my enthusiasm for the game and the $5 starter packs on Greenman Gaming, about a half dozen of my old WoW guildies have also joined in. I think one thing we all like is the slow pace of the game, or at least the fact that one can easily choose to play it at that pace. There admittedly is not a lot of game to the PvE game, but that seems to suit many of us quite nicely. I can come home after a long day and watch a movie on one screen* (or work on an article or edit the podcast) and space truck on the other one. Add in friends to chat with, and EVE starts to remind me of retro raids in WoW, where the goal was more to hang out and do stuff rather than paying strict attention to everything on your screen.

Of course, I suspect to many people I’m playing EVE wrong. Carebear! Casual! I am very guilty of all charges. In fact my corp just recently decided to engage in faction warfare, where half of space becomes our shoot-on-sight enemies, and I opted out because it would.. affect my most profitable trade route. I am officially a space wuss.

To be fair, the thing about a sandbox game is that one gets to do what one wants. EVE is my first sandbox, and honestly I found the whole thing pretty overwhelming for a couple of weeks. Finishing the tutorials reminded me vaguely of graduating high school back in the day — the world is your oyster, so what are you going to make of it, huh? HUH? ANSWER QUICK. Anyone who knows me will be unsurprised that I ended up in station trading/hauling, and now my version of PvP is more exploiting someone who posted a typo in their buy order than shooting at things.

I did invest in a second account (look, don’t judge) to train up logistics for future battles, but it’s a long training time. Until then, I will be happy carebearing it around for mad ISK.

* If you like sci-fi stuff, watch Orphan Black! It’s legit good.

Notes from the E3 2013 Press Conferences
Jun10

Notes from the E3 2013 Press Conferences

I didn’t start out yesterday intending to watch all the big press conferences at E3, but Mondays could use a little pleasant diversion and joining in the snarktacular on Twitter was just too much fun to resist.

I’ll mention what I thought were some of the highlights of each of the big presentations from Xbox, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony, but there was one common thing that each presentation had and that’s tablets as a companion gaming platform. Well okay, calling themselves “next generation” repeatedly, and tablets as a companion gaming platform.

Ubisoft in particular seemed fond of the idea, and the gameplay demos for both Tom Clancy’s The Division and Watchdogs featured a tablet player showing up to help the main hero out of a bad situation. Apparently we’re all going to own gaming tablets in 2014? I’m pretty sceptical.

But enough! Here are some of my notes from the shows as they happened:

Microsoft Xbox
* The Forza Motorsports dude declares that the latest game is “the end of AI — now you have a learning agent in the cloud”. First, dude, that is still AI. Second, you know who else had agents in the cloud? Sim City. Pass.

* Also, apparently the game will have “driveatars”. Twitter immediately points out that “avacars” would have been pithier.

* I get bored and start doing work. (Sorry.) By the time I get back it turns out that one of the Microsoft fellows made a joke that referenced rape on-stage while playing a fighting game against another presenter.

* Some Xbox suit declares their love for indie games, and then talks about Minecraft. Even Notch is underwhelmed.

* The presentation ends off by announcing that the Xbox One will be initially priced at the vaguely ridiculous $499. I declare to Ellyndrial on IRC that consoles are dead, but he pretends to not hear me.

EA
* One of my biggest annoyances with EA is that they’re pretty terrible and yet keep buying lovely studios like Bioware and Popcap. I’m reminded of this when their show opens with a look at Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, which is a .. wait, third person shooter? I’m not sure what to think.

(ed: Upon reflection I think this is actually a genius move. They could be making the third person shooter genre appealing to a totally different and currently untapped audience, with less emphasis on bloody violence and more on cute little plant characters.)

* First inexplicable celebrity sighting! It’s Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad and he’s here to tell us about the Need for Speed movie!

* Dragon Age 3: Inquisition has fan favorites Morrigan and Varric in the preview, and isn’t being released until Fall 2014. That gives me over a year to come up with an excuse to buy it while still boycotting EA.

* Second inexplicable celebrity sighting! Drake comes out to tell us that as someone who appreciates the fleeting nature of our time on this earth, he totally recommends playing the new FIFA. #yolo

* The Battlefield 4 dude attempts to coin “levolution” which, I’m sorry, is just not happening.

* EA closes out with the somewhat surprise announcement that Mirror’s Edge 2 is in the works. Nice, but overall the show was underwhelming.

Ubisoft
* Aisha Tyler is back and she’s awesome!

* New game The Epic Quest for Mighty Loot is described as a “capitalism simulator in an open world” and I just about knock over my coffee trying to get to their website. Sadly, everyone else has the same idea and the site is down.

* The third racing game segment of the day is for The Crew, which while it looks like the most interesting car game so far frankly at this point if it doesn’t have driveatars or avacars I’m just not sure I’m interested.

* Holy shit Aisha Tyler is a tall lady.

* They start talking about some Rabid Rabbits “television show that you can play like a game”. Wait, isn’t that just, like, a really crappy game? Modern synergy is irritating.

* Ubisoft ends with a gameplay preview of a new title from a familiar franchise, although they don’t say which one. The game looks awesome, with a grim post-apocalyptic setting, co-op multiplayer, and good interaction with the environment. And then — whoah, it’s PvP with other roving gangs of players! And it’s open world! And it’s.. Tom Clancy’s The Division?! I have never said this before today, but I want a Tom Clancy game.

Sony
* The final presentation of the day, and I feel like Ubisoft has the unofficial Best in Show award locked down. I mean really, next gen consoles are dead, right? As if agreeing with me somehow the show starts almost 20 minutes late.

* They start out with the Vita and PS3, and I give Sony grudging respect for not totally abandoning their current living room system.

* Finally, we see the PS4 for the first time and it’s.. a box! A black box! Well that wasn’t surprising at all.

* I start to zone out as the guy on the stage talks about the PS4 as an entertainment ecosystem (ugh), where there’s movies for GAMERS and television for GAMERS and music for GAMERS. It’s entertainment — for gamers! Like games. Only not.

* Ooh, PS4 allows for self-published indie games. Hey, there are the guys who made Bastion talking about their new game Transistor. And someone from Vancouver’s own Klei Entertainment playing Don’t Starve! And Octodad. And, oh my god, OddWorld Inhabitants. (Also Outlast by Red Barrels.) Even I have to admit that PS4 is looking great for indie titles.

* Sony talks about a bunch of games that I don’t really care about but many people do, namely The Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XV, and Kingdom Hearts 3.

* This is going long, and ugh, they just brough yet another executive to come out and talk about something. Wait, what?
*BOOM* Playstation 4 will not have disc-based DRM, which means you can share your games and buy used ones.
*BOOM* There are no always-on requirements for PS4, not even, as they gleefully point out, every 24 hours.
The crowd goes crazy (which is slightly unprofessional, yes?), and Twitter explodes with glee.

PS4 used games 500x242 Notes from the E3 2013 Press Conferences

*BOOM* Playstation 4 will start at $399. Drop the mic, the show is over. And with that, Sony won E3 2013 and possibly killed Microsoft’s console dreams.

I started the day thinking consoles were dead, and ended it seriously considering a PS4. Oh E3. See you next year.

Cat Context 27: Mo’ MMOs, Mo’ Problems

This week on Cat Context we’re all about MMOs, including Pandaria, EVE Online, Defiance, RIFT, and the empty shell that used to be Titan.

MMOs have been back on our playing schedule and in our hearts lately. Arolaide discovered that WoW’s pet battles are just the niche gaming she was looking for (and cute as heck), while Liore went in the opposite direction and started life as a Space Trucker in EVE.

We also talk about what Blizzard will have to say for themselves at Blizzcon in the wake of Titan’s “reset” and Liore and Ellyndrial will make a few more faces at RIFT’s F2P transition. Also: getting shouty about WoW’s outdated dwarf hair textures! Elly tries to make Defiance happen! A lot of awesome tweets and voicemails from listeners!

As always Liore is joined by the most excellent Arolaide and Ellyndrial.

Grats to @gamer_lady for winning this episode’s listener prize, a copy of the Humble Blendo Bundle. Send your questions or comments to podcast@lioreblog.com, tweet @Liores, or leave a voicemail over your browser and be entered to win a copy of Hotline Miami on the next podcast!

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Forbes on Titan undergoing massive changes
* Liore talking in-depth about RIFT’s F2P move on the MMORPG.com podcast
* RIFT’s F2P matrix
* ZAM’s list of made-up lingo in Defiance
* Warcraft Pet’s comprehensive guide to pet battles
* Syl’s site at MMOGypsy.com
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

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SUBSCRIBE TO THE RSS || SUBSCRIBE TO iTUNES || LISTEN ON STITCHER

(Don’t forget to leave 5 stars!)

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