Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Developer Appreciation Week

OK, I planned to write this and post it much earlier in the week, but RL and GL got in the way. As it is, I haven't posted this often in a week since I-don't-know-when. So I guess last year Scary Booster founded Developer Appreciation Week to show his appreciation (of course) and encourage other gamers in the blogosphere to do the same. I don't know enough about individual developers to write bios, but I want show my appreciation for the teams that have brought me so much entertainment for the past year and the past half-decade. All too often, game developers are on the receiving end of a lot of criticism (to say the least) from many quarters of the gaming population (including me). In a given game: the PvPers want more battlegrounds or whine about this or that class being over-powered; players of said OP class don't want it nerfed; the crafters want a more robust crafting system; the Raiders want new challenges; the altoholics want more quests; PvErs don't want PvP affecting their play; the list goes on and on. All the while the techies, artists, and storytellers try to keep the hardware and software functioning under tremendous loads, keep player accounts secure, and keep the games fun for everyone.

I want to briefly mention Funcom and Turbine. I tried Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan this year; and while neither ended up being my cuppa tea, I did ring a few hours of enjoyment out of them. And the developer teams do their best to support the fans of both games.

BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT takes a lot of flak from many directions over World of Warcraft, a game held in contempt by a great many "serious" gamers, and one in which even fans often level tremendous criticism. But you've gotta hand it to the developers of the only true blockbuster MMORPG in the Western World. What other company, in the SIXTH year of of a game's existence, would go back and say that in the next expansion pack they were not going to simply add a new land or continent for purchasers of the XPACK, but completely revamp the original world for ALL players as well, streamlining the content so new players feel just as welcome as the veterans? The people at Blizz have a passion for the game that really does shine through the material.

TRION WORLDS. Holy cow! Rift was not even on my radar until mid-December, when many of my blog and Twitter friends got into the closed betas and couldn't stop talking about their excitement for the game. As far as I know, no one--not Sony, not Blizzard, no one--has managed to launch an MMO with the polish and poise of Rift. A visual style all its own, interesting lore, public group content, and a character specialization system (Soul Trees) that blows every other system I've seen out of the water. On top of this, attentive development and customer service teams that are going out of their way to keep players happy and having a blast in the game. Rift is my new shiny, and I think Trion has probably upped the ante for every new MMO that is released from here on out.

CRYPTIC STUDIOS gets my award for most improved game, Star Trek Online. A compelling game (IMHO) from the beginning, with both an excellent space combat system and decent ground combat and an awesome visual style, STO has shown steady improvement in the first year since launch. They are also the main reason you, Dear Reader, are still suffering through my meandering diatribes and stories. Trekkers are a hard crowd to please, and Gaming Trekkers even worse. By listening to one of the most rabid, nitpicky fanbases ever (topped only by Star Wars geeks) in the first year; despite initial hiccups, the STO development team has revamped the crafting system, redone interstellar "warp" space (I liked the original star charts, but great improvement), introduced ship interiors, added great content, and started  the most compelling series of weekly updates I have seen a game: The Featured Episodes.

FEATURED EPISODES deserve a paragraph all their own. Cryptic devs have outdone themselves repeatedly with every mini-series. They offer compelling storylines; mystery, suspense, even creepy/scary atmospheres; cameos of classic Trek characters; puzzles and branch-specific side missions. I love how each one has a teaser then formally opens with a title shot as my ship warps in to the local star system. The latest series introduced voice acting and moved the whole Star Trek story forward, reintroducing the mythical Iconians from The Next Generation as a new threat to galactic civilization. I have come to look forward to each Featured Episode the way I anticipated each new episode of TNG as a teenager.

Thank you, all those who have joined in the efforts to brings such great games to millions of people. It may seem seem trivial to some (as they sit watching Survivor, or the current sporting event), but these games allow us to explore worlds of imagination and wonder, to control or become powerful beings, to be the heroes (or villains) of our own stories.

THANK YOU!!

2 comments:

  1. i was thinking of acknowledging turbine and cryptic and my post, but it got a bit rambling, so i cut them out.

    however I think cryptic deserves a lot of credit for star trek episodes keeping that game alive, not to mention along with turbine, not being afraid of the free to play market stigma.

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  2. "Trekkers are a hard crowd to please, and Gaming Trekkers even worse."

    Oh god, so true. I didn't even think of this aspect when I was doing my write up. *sends even MORE props to Cryptic and the STO team*

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