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MMOs and Gaming, part the Fifth.

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Guess who's got two thumbs and homework he should be doing?

That's right.






Eeeenteresting things, from a customer service standpoint.

It's kind of ironic that long-desired, truly good moves have been accompanied by some truly boneheaded business decisions, but taken as a whole, I suppose I can consider it a net positive.

SE actually launched a play-test server. And official forums some time ago, but I'll address both concepts here. So, not only do the players now have a (theoretically) direct line to SE in terms of voicing their grievances (and some notable successes in the voicing), but a place to see what kind of changes are in store for the game so they can voice those grievances with some modicum of intelligence (in both the military and literal senses of the word, ideally).

Considering that the FFXI player base has, up until relatively recently, been given the mushroom treatment for the better part of a decade, this is a significant change.

And, unfortunately, it's been accompanied by the new requirement to shift your POL account to an SE account, presumably for some sort of billing/security reason on SE's part, which wouldn't have been so bad if they hadn't completely fucked up the billing system by requiring people to go through the notoriously dodgy Click & Buy. Which I've done, and I don't especially like, and I can see why people are upset with it, but SE at least had the common sense to realize what kind of customer outcry they were facing and extend the transfer period until they could implement a recurring billing option of their own, rather than working through third parties.

Now, from a gameplay perspective, the level cap is getting raised to 95 soon, and we'll be leaving Abyssea. I'm not sure how the bulk of the players are going to handle leaving god-mode behind, really. Sure, people will still be spending significant amounts of time there, working on Empyreans and whatnot, but still...

If nothing else, I get to test my theory that SE intended Abyssea to bring the general populace of the game up to a certain gear level, and launch new "endgame" content from that plateau. Won't really know until they release the final level cap increase, of course, but this will give me some idea of what to expect.

Given the sorts of attitudes and abilities I've seen from the players who never succeeded prior to Abyssea... In some ways, I shudder to think what the future holds for FFXI. Lots of complaining, I'd guess, unless SE caves and produces content easy enough for the lowest common denominator to handle without overmuch difficulty.

The future of MMOs in general though... I've been thinking about that a little too.

See, the recent discussions over TOR led me in this direction; what role will graphics play in the future of MMOs?

If TOR succeeds with what are frankly last-gen (if that) graphics, then one of the fundamental tenets of AAA gaming will be called into question: Better graphics = better sales. And by succeeds I mean attains and retains a player base second only to WoW. So, call it two million plus.

I've said it before; system requirements can be the bane of an MMO's success. If you make a game that the average PC can't run well (*cough*FFXIV*cough*) then your potential player base shrinks.

But, in theory, it doesn't have to be that way.

This part, however, takes the onus away from processor speed, and puts it on connection speed.

I am speaking, of course, about cloud gaming.

Now there's a technology with potential applications in the MMO genre. Machine too weak? Doesn't matter. Play your new high-end-graphics MMO on your iPad. Or Android. Or 5-year old budget laptop. Just so long as you're playing on a high-speed connection.

Now, if we take OnLive as an example, they recommend 5 Mbit/s connection speed, and pretty much require 2 Mbit/s connection speed.

Average connection speed in the United States as of 2011?

5 Mbit/s.

On a side note, Delaware leads the pack on a state-by-state basis! Woohoo!


So... At the current rate of improvement, I'd expect to see it become fully viable pretty much everywhere in the modern world to have a cloud-based MMO with top-notch graphics be certainly possible... well, technically right now, but I'd expect that they wouldn't want to start development until the average global speed (still only 2 Mbit/s) came up a bit. Or they could start now, and just operate under the likely-correct assumption that by the time they're done, speeds will be almost universally high enough to support the service.

The real question at that point is whether the advantages in market size and graphical performance across that market as a whole would offset the increased overhead in servers. Depending on the game, and the company... I suspect it might.

I expect the Blizzard could pull it off if anyone could. They're rather like the Apple of gaming, in some ways; they produce largely derivative material, with little originality, but they package it very well.
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