The next 12 months are going to be really big ones for gaming. Especially for MMOs.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
If you had asked me a month ago what upcoming game I am the most excited about, I would have answered without hesitation: “SW:TOR!” (And I would have tried to pronounce the acronym! Swoetor? Swetor? Swutor? Your guess is as good as mine.)
But Bioware has managed to dampen my excitement on the title. They’ve decided to be schizophrenic about gay people again. (This is an ongoing theme with Bioware. Mass Effect 1? Yay, lesbians! Dragon Age? Yay, Bioware loves the gays! Mass Effect 2? Gay people don’t exist, and, um, the idea of a gay male Shepard makes Bioware uncomfortable somehow. They’re fine with any other moral choice on the spectrum, but guys kissing guys is just too much. Dragon Age 2? They love us again! Mass Effect 3? That stuff we said about how Shepard just can’t be gay because it doesn’t fit our worldview? We were kidding! We love the gays!)
So during Gamescom, one of the SW:TOR developers was incredibly dismissive when asked about same-sex romances in the game. He just shrugged and went, “Nope.” The idea of romances in an MMO isn’t one that I’m sold on, but if you’re going to include them, you need to include everyone. If you want me to connect to my character in an MMO and potentially play that character every day for years, you need to let me decide who that character is. Don’t tell me that my character can’t be gay. (And really don’t tell me that my character can be gay as long as he decides to be celibate while everyone else is out there participating in relationships.)
Guild Wars 2
I’ve spent about two hours playing the original Guild Wars. It just doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe I should give it more of a try, though, because Guild Wars 2 is looking great. They’re trying to do away with the tank-healer-dps system, which would be amazing if they could do it and still make compelling gameplay. Waiting 30 minutes for a tank is not any fun (I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft and Rift.) and removing those roles would go a long way toward making spontaneous groups viable and quick.
I know, it’s not an MMO, but it’s an O, at least. And it serves a lot of the same purpose — playing a character while grouping with friends. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a beta invite.
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
My biggest gripe with the last two Elder Scrolls games has been that everyone is ridiculously ugly. But it looks like Bethesda has finally figure out how to make people that look like people, because Skyrim looks gorgeous. Breathtaking visuals, and hopefully the kind of depth and replay we’ve come to expect from an Elder Scrolls game.
Mass Effect 3
I’m frustrated with Bioware over the SW:TOR thing, but Mass Effect is easily the most compelling single-player game I’ve played in the last decade. I’ve played through the first game probably ten times, and it really never gets old. I can’t wait to see how the series draws to a close.
Currently, World of Warcraft has been losing my attention. I’ve been spending a bunch of time in Rift lately (and I hit level 50 this week!) but I don’t know if it has a lot of long-term potential for me. The gameplay is fun, but the art drives me crazy, especially the clothes. (If I wanted to look like a farmer, I’d play Farmville.)