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PAX 10: LOTRO/DDO make free-to-play actually work photo
PAX 10: LOTRO/DDO make free-to-play actually work
by Sean Carey

When talking about MMOs in the US, free has become a dirty word. Despite the fact that microtransaction driven business models have achieved a large degree of success in Korea and other Asian markets, the “F” word here continues to denote a failed game in the eyes of many. This is not a fickle perception -- for most western MMOs in recent years, the conversion to free-to-play has been a signpost clearly indicating that the end is near.

However, the fine folks over at Turbine feel that with Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online, they’ve found a way to break the cycle. What’s been under-publicized here is that the evidence so far bears them out. DDO has not only increased the number of active players since adopting a modified free-to-play model, but has also generated much more revenue in the process. They’ve got great hopes that LOTRO (which adopted the same model effective yesterday) will see similar success.

I talked to a few members of the Turbine team during PAX and got some solid insight into what it takes to make the “F” word attractive to western gamers, along with a few glimpses at what’s in store for LOTRO.

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PAX 10: FireFall looks fab, frenzied, free-to-play photo
PAX 10: FireFall looks fab, frenzied, free-to-play
by Sean Carey

If you’re not familiar with Red 5 Studios, I can’t say that I blame you. FireFall is the first major project they’ve announced since they formed. That’s not to say that they’ve been idle -- the game has been in development for nearly 4 years, and they’ve been reaching out in a major recruitment effort for years to draw top-tier talent to their banner.

After catching a glimpse of the fruits of Red 5’s labor for the first time at PAX, it’s obvious that there’s no shortage of either talent or ambition behind FireFall. It’s a massive online shooter that offers skill-based combat, a squad/clan support structure, multiple classes, a dynamic world that responds to server-wide events, and all the loot whoring you’d expect from a team with a strong MMO pedigree.

Watching the tail end of a public demo on the showfloor, the crowd that was gathered outright cheered when the presentation ended. Later, I spent some time with Red 5 CEO and former WoW lead Mark Kern for a hands-off demo of the game, and I’ve got to agree with the PAX masses on this one -- there’s a whole messload of potential here.

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PAX 10: Comic Jumper Impressions photo
PAX 10: Comic Jumper Impressions
by Sean Carey

Twisted Pixel is a development studio on the move. Less than two years ago, no-one knew who the hell they were. Then came The Maw in January of '09, and many people immediately took notice of the charm and clever design at play. Fast forward to July of '09, and the release of the widely popular 'Splosion Man during Summer of Arcade pushed their thumbtack of relevance squarely into the map.

The studio is looking to capitalize on the momentum that the success of their last two titles has generated. They've recently moved from the middle of nowhere Indiana to Austin, they continue to draw high-quality talent onto their team, and they're making plans to expand into a two team operation. It's just like they say in Vegas -- you never leave the table when you're on a heater.

After spending some time talking with Twisted Pixel's Mike Wilford at PAX and getting my hands on the full build of their latest, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, it doesn't look like their luck's running cold anytime soon. I cannot wait to play this game in October.

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5:00 PM on 09.01.2010

DtoidAustin NARP: game on at Game Over

The Lone Star state can be a big lonely place without good people, good food, and good games to get you by. Thankfully, all of those things came together in August as Dtoiders from San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin made a Scott...

Sean Carey

4:00 PM on 08.30.2010

You keep using that word: "trial and error"

Words. They're like tiny nuggets of enriched uranium. They hold great power and potential energy, but they're also extremely fragile and unstable. When harnessed correctly, they can galvanize people behind a concept; when han...

Sean Carey



Review: Star Wars: The Battle For Hoth photo
Review: Star Wars: The Battle For Hoth
by Sean Carey

It’s a documented scientific fact that the fastest way to send a Star Wars fanboy into anaphylactic shock is to casually insinuate that The Empire Strikes Back is somehow not the best movie of the series. This is why it surprises me that a decent tower defense variant of the Rebel stand on Hoth has never surfaced before in video games -- with waves of enemies, trenches, and the ubiquitous Imperial Walkers, it seems tailor-made for the treatment.

With Star Wars: The Battle For Hoth, the LucasFilm gang made a wise decision in licensing. They entrusted their franchise to Fluffy Logic, the folks responsible for the well-received but mostly overlooked tower defense game Savage Moon on PSN last year. Before we discuss how successful the results were, I think it’s important to get all the obligatory Star Wars puns out of the way up front, don’t you?

Is The Battle for Hoth a metric tauntaun of fun? Does Fluffy Logic have the chops to show us where it’s AT-AT, or are the claims of quality Echo Base-less? Will SW:TBFH get a chilly reception, or prove once again that there’s no business like snow business? Read on for the official review; I’ll be proactively punching myself in the kidney for you all over here.

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Diving deeper into Sid Meier's Civilization V photo
Diving deeper into Sid Meier's Civilization V
by Sean Carey

True hardcore devotees of the Civilization franchise are like long-time heroin addicts. They’ve got a need for a specific kind of fix, and they will do whatever it takes to get it. They also accept no substitutes; when Civilization Revolution released two years ago, the faithful treated it with the disdain that a heroin junkie does a methadone clinic. I never understood that reaction. It’s a bit like the guy who asks you for money for food outside of the convenience store, then turns his nose up when you bring him out a freshly baked muffin instead of cash.

That being said, I’ve played every Civ title with the exception of Civ III, and I too found myself jonesing more than a little bit for a full-fledged return to form for the series. Ben PerLee recently got a hands-on demo of Civ V, and I agree with the lion’s share of his impressions. However, after spending the better part of a week main-lining a preview build of the game myself, I can say that the changes to the game do dramatically alter the experience. Hit the jump for another whiff of that sweet new Civ smell.

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Review: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night photo
Review: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night
by Sean Carey
I clearly remember the sense of fascination and wonder I experienced the first time I scored a strategy guide for Metroid back in the late 80’s. Seeing all of Zebes laid out on the pages at once was a joy for me, and I would take it with me to school or on family road-trips. With no NES to play on away from home, I would project myself into the pages and mentally practice the routes I would take when I played the game next.
 
When I first launched Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night on my iPhone, I had a rush of that yummy nostalgic feeling hit me. The game is navigated from a zoomed out perspective where you move from panel to panel within the castle as if you were an Alucard miniature on top of a Symphony of the Night strat-guide. There’s no doubt that this game is packed with elements designed to appeal to devotees of the franchise.
 
The big question here is whether or not Castlevania Puzzle’s gameplay experience is equal to the huge amounts of fan service on offer here. Read on for the official review!
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Review: The Red Star (iPhone) photo
Review: The Red Star (iPhone)
by Sean Carey

Proof that Obama’s socialist agenda is progressing unchecked, a port of 2007’s under-exposed hardcore PS2 title The Red Star made its debut in the App Store this past month. Sourced from the graphic novel of the same name, the game is set in a futuristic Soviet Russia where technology and magic both exist. Part side-scrolling beat-em-up, part top-down bullet hell, the original was praised for forcing varied play and for maintaining a steep challenge.

This port looks absolutely stunning; games like this and Chaos Rings are showing that developers are finally beginning to learn how to successfully leverage the iPhone hardware for graphics. Featuring melee, ranged, defense, and magic functions, the iPhone version requires the same amount of strategic consideration as its progenitor, and the difficulty is still through the roof.

Regretfully, as good as this game looks on the iPhone, it plays badly in equal measure. 

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Pipe dreams: Real choice and consequences photo
Pipe dreams: Real choice and consequences
by Sean Carey

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

There's this game in the back of my head that I've always wanted to play. It's full of choice and causality in infinite variations, and decisions have true ramifications that ripple and manifest for the remainder of the game. In it, a player can interact with other characters any way they want, and the characters will respond organically; the nature and consistency of your approach to them results in dynamic relationships being forged over time, for good or for ill.

I think the desire for this non-existent game first began back when I was playing both tabletop RPGs and videogames consistently. Dungeons and Dragons gave the potential for infinite variety, but the group I played with only cared about hack and slash, which defeated the purpose for me. I didn't want my experience to have to depend on another player, and it also lacked the visceral involvement of controller-based gameplay. On the other hand, videogames gave me control, but the choices and consequences were woefully limited by comparison.

Time goes on and still I dream of this game that combines the myriad freedoms and authentic interactions of tabletop gaming with the single-player immersion and immediacy of feedback that only a well-crafted video game can provide. Wish as I might, I still have to face the facts: it's a pipe dream. Real choice and consequence will never exist in videogames as we know them. 

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The HR Helper: How to fire a gamer photo
The HR Helper: How to fire a gamer
by Sean Carey

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

Don't fret, The HR Helper is here to make it all right! We've collected best practices from around the business world to help you trim the fat from your talent pool; don't settle for sub-par performance and geeky Joss Whedon references in the break room.

This month's tip comes to us from World Wide Widgets, Inc. of Philadelphia, PA. Their method for removing pesky controller jockeys from their ranks is efficient, effective, and shrewd. Once we read it, we here at The HR Helper just couldn't wait to share it with you. We hope the case study below helps you to help those undesirable elements in your workforce to finally reach their kill screen! 

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4:00 PM on 05.19.2010

Competitive online gaming still hasn't crawled out of the MUD

Modern competitive online multiplayer gaming is in many significant ways unrecognizable, when compared to its ancestors. In the 30+ years since the pre-internet days of its infancy, it has changed so dramatically that it a...

Sean Carey

4:00 PM on 05.03.2010

A little love for baby steps

Humans tend to perceive progression mostly in terms of notable milestones. As we age, we don't register the minute changes in our skin, our muscles, or our metabolism even though we see ourselves in great detail on a const...

Sean Carey

4:00 PM on 04.14.2010

All the world's a bonus stage

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a who...

Sean Carey

4:00 PM on 04.07.2010

Don't fear the Farmville

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole,...

Sean Carey

3:00 PM on 03.21.2010

Something about sex: It's only obscene if you ain't got that green

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole,...

Sean Carey