Crash To Desktop – 8/16/2009

Posted by | August 16, 2009

A Very Sad PuppyWelcome to Crash To Desktop, where I abuse my editorial privileges for your amusement. I’m Nelson Williams, and thank you for tuning in. Did I mention you can follow us on Twitter? You can, and you will, or we’ll shoot this puppy.

As you know, World of Warcraft is currently at the top of the MMORPG scene, and may be one of the most popular and profitable games of all time. It holds a position of dominance so strong, so secure, that the shockwaves will rock the entire gaming community when something finally kills it.

World of Warcraft will die, make no mistake. As gamers, we swim, oblivious, through waters strewn with corpses and bloated husks gutted out by time and abandonment. Even those games that haven’t been cast aside by their company parents or the players that give them life eventually wither, fading into a gray dusk of irrelevance. Gaze upon the dry parchment-face of Ultima Online, and know this truth. Even hallowed Warcraft, king upon a mighty throne, will fall. The only real question is how.

The assassin’s cut that finally bleeds out Warcraft’s user-base from the game’s veins will not come from Warcraft’s secret twin. No matter how much Warhammer Online, or Lord of the Rings Online, or Online Online tries, Warcraft is powerful in its way, refined and reforged by both time and testing. It represents a formula designed with potent auguries, then laced with the latest in chemical additives to strengthen the final concoction. Blizzard’s sorceries are strong and their elders are wise. The dev team drops what doesn’t work, fixes what’s broken, and changes the game itself as time and technology dictate. They have years of experience, a small country’s worth of users, and enough raw cash to hire game studios to just create the Next Big Thing, only to crush anything threatening that emerges before absorbing its vital parts into WoW’s endlessly enlarging mass. What company can match such a force? What product could hope to compete? None. There is no contender for the throne amongst the family, no rival to seal its usurpation with daggers in the dark.

When Warcraft dies, it will spill out its last upon the hands of a stranger. Where a fantasy level grinder can’t compete, something else will. Something bizarre and unexpected, completely out of left field.

My guess? A small town sim.

No combat, no blood, no levels, no orcs, no swords dropped from the corpses of dragon lords. Just a simple life among a few thousand other users, in a little town off the main road where the field-grass grows tall and the woods echo with the yells of kids chasing each other between their bramble forts.

Oh, but this little town has everything. If you’re the conversational type, there’s the diner, where you can socialize, or the town hall, where business gets done. Houses bought, land purchased, permits decided and issued. You can even take someone back to your place, where upstairs and away from prying eyes the hair comes down and the clothes can come off. Did I mention you can choose, build, and decorate your own house? Of course you can. Got to keep up with the neighbors, after all.

The competitive types will want to look into the sports leagues. Over at the gym, you can get into a solo game of one-on-one basketball, shuffleboard, pool, or whatever. The local teams can compete against each other on the football field, the baseball diamond, or even just with a quick tug-o-war match. Maybe even step into the boxing ring and see who has the quickest jab.

Crafters and merchants will find plenty to do in town. Most everything used by the residents is built by somebody in town, and if you can’t find a buyer within city limits, why not ship the goods off to the next town across the way? Furniture-making, tailoring, gourmet meals and treats, maybe even a little backwoods booze. A customization system lets you add that personal touch (and a small stat boost!) to your creations.

Questers will find odd, perhaps very odd, jobs to do around town, either offered by the folk or by the town hall. Of course, you can expect a storyline or two, hidden away in the nooks and crannies. Small towns always have their secrets. Follow the stories to collect various unique items, earn reputation with the people of the town, unlock new locations, or just immerse yourself in the lore of the little place you call home.

The outdoors types will enjoy hunting, fishing, or hiking around the town. Maybe they’ll even discover a few secrets of their own, like an abandoned mine, or an old amusement park that was left to rot in the woods after a terrible accident.

Then there are the contests, fairs, get-togethers, dances, holiday celebrations, and town-wide garage sales. A little something for everyone. Safe, simple, good fun.

That’s what I see in the future. I see a game dressed up in a nice shirt, straw hat, khaki pants, and Warcraft’s blood.

In the News…

The Pokemon World Championships went down this weekend, with over 350 players competing for titles and prizes. That’s just part of the 150,000 known league players, and a sliver of the nearly four-million people who picked up the latest installment in the Pokemon saga, Pokemon Platinum. Card game or video game, Pokemon is still big business after all these years. The LA Times has the story.

The 36th annual Siggraph conference recently hosted an exhibit that uses virtual reality techniques to put viewers in the bodies of various animals by translating their unique senses into human terms. Surround sound and projection screens were used to mimic senses like a bird’s vision or a whale’s hearing. Read more about it.

Across the pond, the Daily Mail is running an article about how the younger generation is spending so much time with their computers and games and loud rock music and such. We’ve all seen this before and I wouldn’t even bring it up, save for one horrible, wonderful word. Screenagers.

The Last Word…

That’s my column for today, I hope you’ll all take it back to your message boards and spread the link around to several thousand of your closest friends. We here at Vox are also looking for suggestions, comments, and anything else you might want to send us that isn’t ticking ominously or on fire. Got something on your mind? Try out the Contact Us link at the top of the screen.

In the meantime, enjoy this footage from the Pokemon World Championships. And as always, save early, save often.

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