Well, this weekend was interesting, with Blizzard dropping several bombs on the internet and social media as they announced a new game and several expansions to existing ones. Where were you when Blizzard changed the world?
As expected, there will be a focus on Blizzard this week but fear not as I ponder the future of teaching humans and bringing them up to speed with the rest of us, and we look at PvP elements being injected into our single player experiences. Remember kids, don’t forget to save at every checkpoint – you don’t want to get “XenoGeared” (the process of never playing a game again after a having to play a 3 hour dungeon named the Tower of Babel that has no save points and an impossibly hard boss at the top that will kill).
Well, That Was Interesting
“Of course the reason that early homo sapiens couldn’t become astronauts is that everything we are and have achieved is built on the achievements of others. The defining mechanism of human development, of civilization, is language, and being able to store and pass on our accumulated knowledge through stories. (Professor Brian of BBC’s Human Universe) Cox’s beautiful phrase is that writing “freed the acquisition of knowledge from the limits of human memory.”
Despite the fact that Destiny really lacks a cohesive story it does bring a wealth of concepts and fiction to its world that offer a glimpse into a future that Bungie imagines. A future populated with humans who have been rapidly advanced by a being – The Traveler – from space, but the humans are fundamentally the same as we are now. There would be little to differentiate us as the short time span between their future and our now is too little of time for evolution to take place. The process is slow and not as efficient as we or The Traveler need it to be and sooner or later the process will need to be taken into someones hands. In Destiny it was the giant alien sphere’s “hands” that guided humans on a new course of evolution, but not one of a physical change – one of an educational change.
The humans in Destiny have been given their advance technology, but as Nathan Ditum points out “our ancestors from around 200,000 years ago had brains much like ours.” Now imagine “what if” we created a repository of all our accumulated wealth of information and knowledge and stored it in a ready and easily accessible location – say The Internet. With this new tool we are able to bypass years of research and study to advance our educations further than any generation prior, leading to advancements in other fields of research. Fields such as Neuroscience, Quantum Computers, and Life Extending Medicine which would all combine into an educational storm of advancement. There exist the potential within neuroscience to advance the way humans interpret memories and it is thought possible that we could upload other memories into our own brains. Using our extending life spans and powerful new computers and technology almost anything is possible, say even creating a giant sphere of our all amassed knowledge and sending it out into space to advance other civilizations.
Destiny inspired Nathan Ditum think more on the process of the human condition and it is great to see videogames inspire more people. Games are a way for us to experience other worlds and rules to expand on our own personal experiences and their ability to convey stories is only advancing. Books and movies inspired a generation of scientist to invent computers and go to the moon, now videogames are inspiring a new generation of thinkers to tackle Earths new problems. What inspirations do you take from the games you play?
“Whether or not it will work is still anyone’s guess with the game only 48 hours old and still much to learn about it. But by going with a “what is dead may never die” philosophy with the Titan, they may have just done something extremely clever, and may manage to craft the universe they imagined, just with a different kind of roll-out and evolution.”
Leave it to Blizzard to do something that would stun the world, but now seems like a no brainer after it happened. Of course they would re-purpose all of their development work on Titan into something new, but nobody expected it or thought they would. All we saw was “Blizzard Cancels Titan and Loses Millions!” and little else, and we really were stunned in a way. It takes a lot of restraint to cancel an MMORPG after years of development, but they knew that MMOs are out of fashion and did the right thing.
However, from a game development side the use and re-purposing of assets and concepts from a defunct game is commonplace with almost every major studio having stories of canceled content being used in a different location. Games after all are a great trick of behind the scene systems to switch events on and off, most of which are “Complexly Simple” (incredibly simple but hard to implement as a fault anywhere in the system could cause a chain reaction of faults down the line). The shocking nature of this entire event is the public way that Blizzard announced the death of Titan and shocked the world with a new IP – something they’ve not done in 17 long years (10 of which were soely dedicated to World of Warcraft). This was a calculated move, and I would imagine that Overwatch is what the multiplayer PvP element of Titan was or would have been.
Overwatch provides us many clues as to what Titan could have been, a near future Destiny-styled MMORPG that featured a “Pixar like cartoon style” and a multitude of classes to choose from. I suspect that the CGI trailer we saw was a cinematic for Titan as that quality of movie generally takes quite some time to make. How Blizzard kept Overwatch a secret from everyone should be applauded, nobody was teasing a new game from them let alone one rising from the ashes of a dead one.
Furthermore, three new games in three years? That is the surprise from a company that spent the last 10 dedicating itself to one.
Now to somehow accidentally tie the first to articles together into one article about multiplayer experiences, it is of course a clever magic trick to make you think there is more going on then there really is – like videogames.
Recent advancements in internet speeds have lead to the invention of a new genre of games named MOBAs – Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (really dumb I know, but the acronym is great). A genre that was spawned inside of the level editors commonly featured in Blizzard games like StarCraft and Warcraft 3. If you’ve not already heard, MOBAs generally feature two teams of five on opposite sides of a map with the single goal of destroying the other team’s throne, ancient, tree, object of power. PvP isn’t limited to just MOBAs, there is Hearthstone, Team Fortress, World Of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and so many more games focused on player vs player combat.
Well, humans respond differently than AI targets – as seen in TitanFall – and generally provide more of an engaging experience as humans are unpredictable and able to adapt to your strategies on a whim. Plus there is interaction with these players, even if it is limited as is the case with Hearthstone. It feels good to taunt a fallen foe or to commend an ally for their high level of play, something that feels hollow when a computer tells you that you’ve done well. Daniel Friedman points out that this is why so many single player games are adding in artificial PvP experiences like Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System and he even goes so far to describe the Xenomorph as a “level 90 ganker.”
As of now online only multiplayer games are the future – sorry Microsoft you failed your messaging – and players want more in an otherwise empty market outside of the big guns. This is why Blizzard has recently released Hearthstone with the soon to be released Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch, but there are many more games like Strife, Magic the Gathering, and Battleborn. Most of these games are also free with fluff items, skins, and other aspects serving as a way to supplement the normal price tag, which is a whole different topic altogether.
Business of Design
Federico Pistono at TEDxVienna
The 100% Objective Review
Looking for Group Documentary
Extra Study Material
Davis Cox talks about his experience with the arctic tundra from Texas in “The Long Dark Will Turn any Apartment into a Frozen, Lifeless Hellscape”
Chris Priestman explores a game where you do nothing, possibly created by nobody “A Videogame in Which you do Nothing, by a Designer who might not Exist”