It’s been a couple of years since I reported back on the 2010 Penny Arcade Expo. It’s 2012, I have moved to Ontario and since it was only a few hours drive, I decided it was past time to head down to another convention. This time it was Boston’s Penny Arcade East! Although I was initially very excited to make this trip, I find that even though I had a great time at the convention, I was left with a little bit of a disappointed feel when it came to the MMORPG scene. That’s not to say that there was a lack of MMO’s being demonstrated and showcased at the convention, there just wasn’t anything that stuck out in my mind.
The first title I came across was Funcom’s The Secret World. This MMO has three factions, the Templars, the Illuminati and I think the last was the Dragon. Although I admit I do not know much of the lore, it seems to be based in the current or near future time frame and is very similar to the standard MMO fare we have seen over the last couple of years. What I can say is they are coming along nicely. The combat seemed smooth and the graphics are very well done but the little that I was exposed to did not seem to be anything ground breaking. I am sure that there is some specials things about the game since there are some interested parties in our guild but on the surface, it did not leave an impression.
Firefall was there with a huge booth, lots of SWAG, playable content, give-aways and cool actors dressed up as characters in the game. I did not wait in the line up to try the game but it looks like a fairly well done MMOFPS graphically and the content they had available looked smooth and polished. I remember seeing them back in 2010 at PAX Prime and they have come a long way from that point for sure.
There were a couple of titles I had not heard of, such as Perfect World Studios' “Raiderz” and “Neverwinter”. I did not take much of a look at Raiderz but I did take the time to test out Neverwinter. Anything with the Dungeons and Dragons name is going to attract some attention for sure. In its pre-alpha build it looked good, ran pretty smooth and felt like I was playing a Diablo type game. What I liked about it was its simplicity. I only had around 6-8 abilities to use which made it easier to jump right in and play. Being an older gamer, I appreciate that. Talking to some of the developers; positioning of your avatar makes a big difference when it comes to attack and defence damage modifiers. Hopefully this will make combat more interesting and involve some player skill. When I asked about PvP, I was told it was on the menu but not implemented yet…
Speaking of player skill, TERA was there in its last real gaming exhibition before it’s release on May 1st. I did not take the time to play it but I did take a decent look at the game play from the sidelines and thought it looked good. It reminded me very much of AION or RIFT graphically. In speaking to one of the staff working the booth, I was told that you will be able to physically dodge spells, arrows and strikes from weapons which make me hopeful that player skill will be a large factor in the game. Supposedly this is the same for healing which will make life very interesting for whoever plays a healing class, as if line-of-sight wasn’t annoying enough!
Lastly, I spent some time hanging around Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic booth. I have to say that I was not expecting them to be there since their game was already released and I did not really know what they were going to sell. I found out that besides giving away codes for a social pet in game and some swag, there wasn’t much. I spoke to a few of the Devs about the much anticipated Patch 1.2 and got the “cheque’s in the mail” coming very soon response. They had a demo of their new Warzone which I did not bother to line up for but people seemed to be enjoying. Similar to my last PAX experience with TRION, I decided to show up at their after-party which was held at the convention center for some complimentary drinks and a meet and greet. This function was almost as disappointing as the 1.2 response… a plain conference room, all of the lights on, nothing flashy on the walls nor anything identifying that it was a Bioware or SW:TOR party. Like their strategy for the game post launch, there was no planning or creative thought that went into this party and I already regretted leaving the Saturday Night Concerts to attend. I have to say that the only positive thing I learned about SW:TOR is that patch 1.3, which is probably about 6 months or more away, will have a Group Finder/Dungeon Finder option which will probably help whatever community is left get to know one another a little bit.
If you feel that my review is a bit of a downer, you are correct. Don’t get me wrong though, I had an amazing time at the convention and saw a lot of cool stuff, met a lot of cool people and played a lot of cool games. If I would have to pick a highlight of the trip, it was getting to meet R.A Salvatore, the famous Forgotten Realms author. I asked him about his upcoming MMO project, codenamed "Copernicus". Although not very revealing, he stated, and I quote: "Reckoning is pretty, Copernicus is beautiful." Let's hope the gameplay is as good as the grahpics!
Unfortunately though, barely any of cool stuff I saw and experienced was MMORPG-PvP related which in some ways scares the crap out of me and in some ways doesn’t. What I did realize was that Arenanet wasn’t showcasing as they are consolidating their efforts into getting GW2 on the street. Let us hope that they are the light at the end of the tunnel and that there are other companies still developing great MMORPG’s with challenging and rewarding PvP and PvE who will be ready to pick up the ball that some of the more recent titles have dropped.