Ensemble Goes MMO

Ensemble Talks MMO Plans on Next Generation concludes their whirlwind tour of Dallas by talking with Ensemble Studios, learning from executive producer Patrick Hudson that the developer is investigating expansion into the massively multiplayer marketplace, though nothing is certain at this point:
The idea was proposed to Ensemble right after Ultima Online came out. 'Why don't we do an MMO?' At the time, Ensemble was in no position to be thinking about it. But Fischer persisted ever since.

"After we shipped Age III," Hudson says, "We started diving up the studio to do more games than we've ever done, and get beyond Age of Empires." A small team was put around Fischer to start working on a prototype.

"And that's where those guys still are." Hudson says. "A pretty small group, just noodling away on ideas, a long way away from anything substantive and shipping anything, that's for sure. But it's fun to explore."

"It's always been a risky kind of market to look at." Hudson admits. "And then you see WoW come out, and turn the industry on its head, and you start to reevaluate. 'Wait a minute, there's a true business case out for a game like this.'"

"Maybe it's not crazy to go spend thirty or forty million bucks to actually make one of these things." Hudson points out, "At some point, they'll get tired of WoW and want to play something else."

"We haven't settled on anything," Hudson cautions. "It's safe to say we won't be chasing the fantasy genre. It seems like there are so many coming out. [We're] still pretty far out from even thinking of taking that prototype to a greenlight phase."

As for monthly subscription fees: "Yeah, I think that's the business model we mostly believe in," Hudson says. "There could be things that come along and change our mind, but there's a lot of people trying different things... If anything, WoW is charging too little, not too much."
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51.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 19:00
51.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 19:00
Apr 4, 2006, 19:00
 
unless it is a horridly bad case of consolitis

*cough*DeusEx2*cough*

50.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 18:34
Prez
 
50.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 18:34
Apr 4, 2006, 18:34
 Prez
 
What console-like leftovers?

I must admit first off that I do not own the game. The console-leftovers that I have heard about on several forum threads are the ridiculously huge font (designed for 640x480 TV's) ,and the horrid console-like interface. From what I have heard from PC-gane centric fans, those are far and away the biggest complaints. Most everyone loves the combat, and I'm sure I will too when I buy the game.

I personally don't base my purchasing on how console-like a game is (unless it is a horridly bad case of consolitis); I was simply stating that every criticism I have heard thus far from PC gamers deals with issues arising from concurrent development on PC's and consoles.

I'm not looking to start a PC vs Console argument, believe me.


This comment was edited on Apr 4, 18:36.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
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49.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 15:35
Kxmode
 
49.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 15:35
Apr 4, 2006, 15:35
 Kxmode
 
I wouldn't play the Xbox 360 version if it were free. This is a PC game. There is a difference. The biggest flaws in Oblivion's PC version seem to pertain to the console-like leftovers. No offense to console owners - that isn't what this is about. Not one console game I ever played would even be on my top 20 list of best games ever. That is just the kind of gamer I am, and most of Oblivion's audience as well.

What console-like leftovers? I've played Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion all on the PC and each game felt like a PC game. I haven't seen anything that makes me think it's too "console" like. The combat system is less daunting than Morrowind PC. So is this your complaint, the combat system feels to console-y? I'm sorry but I don't want to have to hit like 15 keys to perform a spell or swing a sword. Are you talking about the communication system? To "UI" driven? It keeps things simple. When you speak you zoom into the character and everything is paused in the background. I like that.

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48.
 
bandwagon jumpers
Apr 4, 2006, 15:16
Kxmode
 
48.
bandwagon jumpers Apr 4, 2006, 15:16
Apr 4, 2006, 15:16
 Kxmode
 
RE: The idea was proposed to Ensemble right after Ultima Online came out. 'Why don't we do an MMO?' At the time, Ensemble was in no position to be thinking about it."

Patrick Hudson: Why don't we do an MMO?
Ensemble: A MM-what?
Patrick Hudson: A MMO. You know like Ultima Online.
Ensemble: Oh one of those things. It's a fad it'll never work.
Patrick Hudson: You're right of course. I have another idea for a game. Age of Empires... a RTS.
Ensemble: A RT-what?
Patrick Hudson: A RTS. You know like Warcraft.
Ensemble: Ooooh, that's a profitable game and kids seem to love it. Yes. Let us do one of those.

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47.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 14:49
47.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 14:49
Apr 4, 2006, 14:49
 
I can't comment on the PC version since I didn't play it. However, a few guys from work are playing it and they're also complaining about the game's bugs and chuggyness, which I'm not seeing on the 360, with the exception of some gameplay bugs.

I did play Morrowind on the PC, as well as most games out there since 92, but I'm getting pretty fed up with spending $500 for a video card that's going to be outdated in 6 months. I think the 360 version of Oblivion feels a lot like the PC version of Morrowind, except it has better graphics. My only problem with the 360 version is that aiming is more difficult with an analog stick than with a mouse.

46.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 14:36
Prez
 
46.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 14:36
Apr 4, 2006, 14:36
 Prez
 
I wouldn't play the Xbox 360 version if it were free. This is a PC game. There is a difference. The biggest flaws in Oblivion's PC version seem to pertain to the console-like leftovers. No offense to console owners - that isn't what this is about. Not one console game I ever played would even be on my top 20 list of best games ever. That is just the kind of gamer I am, and most of Oblivion's audience as well.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
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45.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 13:38
45.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 13:38
Apr 4, 2006, 13:38
 
Thank God for the modding community. They are actually making it playable. I pity anyone playing the 360 version.

How come? It runs faster and doesn't suffer from hardware incompatibility issues. Plus it had to go through testing by a governing body that can deny the game from being published on the platform (that doesn't happen for the pc), so it just plain works. And as a bonus, it's running on a $400 box instead of a $1000 box with a $500 graphics card ($1500 total).

And with xbox live, you can get the mods, so there goes your only argument.

44.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 03:13
44.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 03:13
Apr 4, 2006, 03:13
 
Well.... it sold over 4 million copies, because it was also the first one that came out on the consoles and I believe is part of Xbox's Greatest Hits (which means it's 20'ish bucks).
I would like to see the Sales for Morrowind BEFORE it was released on the Xbox. Not to mention just for Morrowind and not the GOTY edition, and also if that included the 2 addons for the PC version.

But at least Bethsdasoft is releasing them for both systems still.

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43.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 01:47
43.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 01:47
Apr 4, 2006, 01:47
 
What's funnier is, Oblivion will likely sell a lot more than 6 million copies this year alone.

Thank God for the modding community. They are actually making it playable. I pity anyone playing the 360 version.

Avatar 19028
42.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 4, 2006, 01:43
42.
Re: No subject Apr 4, 2006, 01:43
Apr 4, 2006, 01:43
 
What's interesting is that it used to have a usage based fee for Ultima Online. Once they offered monthly fees, everyone switched. No one else has bothered with usage fees since.
I started playing the week after launch and I was paying a monthly fee. I think you may be thinking of some other game, 'cause it ain't UO.

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41.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 22:56
41.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 22:56
Apr 3, 2006, 22:56
 
Dev you are the one who needs to do research...

As of January 2006, it has sold over four million copies

That's from wikipedia about Morrowind, Oblivion's predecessor, and it was from an unknown series as far as most gamers are concerned. It's very possible for Oblivion to sell 6 million, I don't know about it's first year but stranger things have happened. Oblivion has a series fanbase now, it's a launch title for a console currently full of mostly ports and it's a huge PC fan favorite.

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40.
 
Re: I'm so full of it.
Apr 3, 2006, 22:36
40.
Re: I'm so full of it. Apr 3, 2006, 22:36
Apr 3, 2006, 22:36
 
Hudson the wonder dog is making a MMO now?!? Man, everyone is making a MMO these days.

39.
 
I'm so full of it.
Apr 3, 2006, 20:22
39.
I'm so full of it. Apr 3, 2006, 20:22
Apr 3, 2006, 20:22
 
"Maybe it's not crazy to go spend thirty or forty million bucks to actually make one of these things." Hudson points out, "At some point, they'll get tired of WoW and want to play something else."

Ultima Online. How long has that game been around? Sure, it's not as popular as it used to be, but I knw people that still play it.

Charging more for WoW would definitely turn it off for me, or, dare i say it, send me skulking to private servers. There's a median point when a company gets from 'Let's keep it right for the players, and keep them happy, while making enough to cover our costs', to 'Let's just bend them over, and not even bother with a reacharound.'

You want me to pay 20 bucks a month for an online game? Tell you what. You A.) Make it with graphics better than Oblivion, or the new Crytek engine. B.)NO LAG. At all. Ever. C.) Fully interactive worlds, with carefully designed limits so you don't have killjoys intentionally messing things up. D.)Keep the farmers out. E.)Multiple Endgame scenarios that will keep me enthralled. F.)Mini-games to take the grind tedium to a minimum. G.) Don't allow EA to produce it. H.) Full character progression. Like aging. If you want to keep all of those nifty uber-items you've collected? Have a 'family' system. Father starts out as a young warrior, progresses through the game, gets old, and passes his gear onto his offspring. [Just somethin I thought would be neat. You end up with super-powerful family heirlooms that you have to learn to properly use and maintain.]

Tall order, right? So is trying to charge me more than 15 a month.

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38.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 20:07
Dev
 
38.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 20:07
Apr 3, 2006, 20:07
 Dev
 
War: Hahhhahaahhhahh. You must be smoking.

Halo 2 (the game where MS made the first ever quarterly profit on the Xbox, up until then they lost money every quarter on xbox division) only sold 7 million copies in its first year. No way does a RPG have that kinda draw compared to an FPS.

1 million sure. 6 million? Never, not even with xbox 360.

You need to do a little research on what games sell that much before you start throwing out numbers.

Lemme throw out another 6 million seller. The Sims. And that was because it appeals to a ton of non-gamers.

37.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 19:10
37.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 19:10
Apr 3, 2006, 19:10
 
I think it would have to be an option, either pay by hour, or pay per month, so that the power players don't get stung with unrealistic bills.

One of the last gaming services (Engage Games) that tried to do hourly billing failed miserably. Which was a damn shame too, they had some fun games. Pay-per-hour used to be the dominant business model, when almost nobody had a connection faster than 33.6k, then people got sick of it. Now that broadband is big we might see a return of pay-per-hour, at cheaper rates than before. But I wouldn't hold my breath.


36.
 
No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 19:02
War
36.
No subject Apr 3, 2006, 19:02
Apr 3, 2006, 19:02
War
 
>Not for me, Oblivion was the death of Warcraft and its singleplayer.

What's funnier is, Oblivion will likely sell a lot more than 6 million copies this year alone.

And developers will *still* scream that massively multiplayer is "the only right way to go".

How many companies will have to die and how many products will have to blow up in their faces before they realize that massively multiplayer is small fry in the gaming industry?

35.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 19:01
35.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 19:01
Apr 3, 2006, 19:01
 
What's interesting is that it used to have a usage based fee for Ultima Online. Once they offered monthly fees, everyone switched. No one else has bothered with usage fees since.

I've read that Puzzle Pirates has some servers that are basically pay-per-play (though it sounds like you can do basic stuff for free), and that that has been very successful for them. Maybe the problem is that MMORPGs are usually targetted at hard core people. I'd be more willing to play one if I could just play a little bit here and there without paying the same thing as some guy who hasn't left his house in a year because he's just been playing the game.

34.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 18:38
Prez
 
34.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 18:38
Apr 3, 2006, 18:38
 Prez
 
Yeah, some people don't care for GW. But I was wondering to myself how much different an existing MMO today, say WoW or Everquest, would have to be made in order for it to fit the GW financial model (pay for the product/free online) and the GW server model (Huge player hubs or shards, and instanced missions for groups).

Surely a MMO that you and other non-GW fans would like could be made within those constraints. The resulting game might have entirely different themes, mechanics, and gameplay from GW but still be similar in contrstruction. I'm surprised it hasn't been attempted.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
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33.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 17:41
33.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 17:41
Apr 3, 2006, 17:41
 
Prez the problem with Guild Wars is it's successful but it's not for everyone. Me personally am still forcing myself to play it and enjoy it. I would almost go as far to say that it has a niche market.
One of the biggest draws to MMO's for myself is the social aspect along with exploration and having a good time. Not to mention the game isn't all that beginner/user friendly. Both in UI/Commands and Character/Gameplay wise. My biggest fear is not finding a good character to play (been through 3 already in Guild Wars) and enjoying the game. Not to mention there has been pretty much 1 steadfast rule of MMO's that Guild Wars seems to miss. If I am level 9, and going against level 3's, I should be able to annihilate the level 3's with no problem. Not to mention in the MMO's that I have played I useually team up with someone I don't know and become friends/guildmates from there. I really think Guild Wars missed the boat on this unless you already have friends etc from another game to set up a clan/guild/whatever with.

As for monthly fee's well, I can't think of alot of things that offer the entertainment value per dollar as an MMO. The only thing personally that I can think of that comes close would be music.

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32.
 
Re: No subject
Apr 3, 2006, 17:39
32.
Re: No subject Apr 3, 2006, 17:39
Apr 3, 2006, 17:39
 
Then when your friends ask what you are doing, you could say "I'm playing GOD." Which isn't all that far from the truth...

Sounds like Spore. Let the users make the content.

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