Friday, December 10, 2021

You Know Faepunk Is Already A Thing, Right?

Unlike many people, no doubt, I didn't watch The Game Awards last night. I imagine I was fast asleep. I didn't check the times but this sort of thing generally happens after I've gone to bed.

Let's be honest. Even if it had been held in London at 8pm I wouldn't have stopped playing EverQuest II to watch it. These things tend towards the tedious even when you're invested, something I'm definitely not. Most of the games revealed are likely to be things I wouldn't play even if they turned up free on Amazon Prime or Epic, as some of them almost inevitably will, one day.

There's always a chance, though, isn't there? Something might punch through the wall of indifference. A few years back I got so excited when I saw the promo for We Happy Few I ended up following it all the way through development. I posted about it a couple of times and even added the lead writer's blog to my blog roll, where it sits to this day, although I stopped reading it a while ago.

And then, when the game finally released, I found I'd all but lost interest. That's the problem with long lead times. Developers need to build a following, work on name recognition, generate and sustain some kind of buzz but doing all of that, successfully, for the years it takes to bring a game to market, seems an increasingly large ask. It's no wonder so many rush into some form of Early Access. There are reasons other than fading finances for going short instead of long. 

I'm not sure there any good choices these days. New World was five years in the making. When Amazon kept delaying for one more round of polish a lot of people thought it was uneccessary. Nerves, most likely, following the studio's other failures. And now, just a few months later, most commentators would probably say they went too soon.  

Crowfall is in trouble, to no-one's surprise. Artcraft dithered and drifted and finally had to pull the switch and where are they now? Working on a new project because for sure the last one's failed. Two examples of teams who released before they were ready. One has the resources to pull out of the dive and rebuild to sustained success. The other is Crowfall.

But what's the alternative? Living death in a never-ending Early Access beta that sucks all life out of the game and the ever-diminishing number of players who still, occasionally, log in? That's where many projects end up. It's neither failure nor success but at least it's an existence, until it's not. 

Of course, there's the ever-popular option of never really releasing in any quantifiable form, while still having servers and sales and open days and who knows what-all. Is Star Citizen out yet? I know you can play it. I know people do play it. I have played it. Technically, though, it's still unreleased.

Or Camelot: Unchained? I seem to remember reading reports of battles, so someone's fighting someone... or maybe I just imagined it. Maybe we're all imagining it. Would it really make any difference if we were?

There are certain projects where my interest and enthusiasm stays high - Pantheon would be one - but they're few and far between and getting fewer and farther all the time. I kickstarted Ashes of Creation, twice in fact, one for me and one for Mrs. Bhagpuss, but that was so long ago she no longer even recognizes the name when I mention it and I no longer recall why I thought it was worth paying for in the first place. If it ever does launch it doesn't seem all that likely I'll be interested in playing it, other than for the traditional first impressions pieces I might write. Or it might be brilliant. 

I thought of it at the time as a pre-order but even though I like the concept of paying up front even I don't need to plan my spending years in advance. I've pretty much sworn off kickstarting mmorpgs for that very reason. They take so long to arrive, if they ever even do, it's hard to remember why you cared. 

Not that it's going to be a problem for much longer. Kickstarter's sudden decision to lash their fortunes to the blockchain for reasons described by as "vague" means I'll be having nothing to do with anyone who tries to get my attention through that particular platform. I might even delte my Kickstarter account, assuming I have one. I should probably check that.

With all that in mind, it was always unlikely I was going to find myself getting worked up over anything that happened in last night's Game Awards. And yet.

That pushes a lot of buttons. There's the Fae for a start. I wouldn't say I have a thing for the Fae but I do feel it's a strand of fantasy that's rarely been well-handled in this gamespace. I'd love to see someone get it right.

The duplicitous, alien amorality of the Fae, siphoned out of celtic legend into so many pop-culture standards, from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files to the Shadowhunters adaptation of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments, always seems to add a certain, wilding edge. I'd struggle to come up with an example of where it's been well-used in an mmorpg. 

The Secret World looked like it might be going somewhere in that direction but then it stopped going anywhere at all so it doesn't count. Rift used the imagery and the symbolism and did nothing in the least, tiny part interesting with any of it. New World seems to be playing with some of the tropes but to what end is opaque, as yet. All the others that come to mind can't seem to tell the difference between vampires, ghouls, fairies and elves. It's like they're all just there to give us something to kill when we go out murdering. It's not just not enough, it's not anything at all.

Then there's steampunk. We're still waiting for the first, good steampunk mmorpg. Know what the best thing about that trailer is? It doesn't mention steampunk once. Or any other kind of punk. It goes for the less triggering option - Victoriana. That's steampunk without either the steam or the punk. They have my respect just for that.

It is steampunk, though, isn't it? Look at that city at 1:36. That's the Nexus out of City of Steam, that is, the mmorpg that probably came as close to being steampunk as anything we've seen so far. Not that that's saying much. 

I did love City of Steam, though. Still do. Anything that reminds me of it has its thumb on one of those buttons I mentioned.

The voiceover's right out of City of Steam, too. It has that exact same elegaic, fin de siecle, everything just fell apart and we wish it was a week last Sunday feel to it. The whispersoft asmr tone and the RADA elocution don't damage the case it's making, either.

It looks great but of course it does. All trailers make all games look great. Well, most of them. It looks great in the right way, though. The costumes are delicious, the poses are dramatic, the scenery is fantastical. Best of all, the way the lead character holds that lantern high makes me want to go out and buy a litre of lantern oil. I have a lantern like that hanging up in the kitchen.

Anyone can make a game look good in a trailer but this one does have some gameplay footage as well. Pre-alpha footage, which is getting your excuses in first, only I'm not sure they needed to. The bits where players are doing stuff look... okay. I mean, they don't look amazing but they look solid enough. 

The mob designs stand out as not exactly the same as everything we've ever seen before, so that's a good place to start. I'm not sure what those things are they're using for heads but at least it piques my interest. Maybe we'll get to wear some of them as hats.

The setup sounds promising: a transport system collapses, leaving travellers stranded far from home. It's too dangerous to stay but no-one has a clue where to go. It's explore or die or, since it's an mmorpg, more likely it's explore and die, over and over and over again. That's pretty much what I usually do anyway, so it'll be nice to know I'm meant to be doing it, for once.

Is it an mmorpg, though? No-one's claiming that, are they? What they are calling it is a "Shared World" in which "You can play... solo or with friends and other players who you meet across the realms." Let's not split hairs. That makes it as much an mmo as any number of other things we've hung that bell on in the past. In my book, if you can play online, meet, talk to and group with other people there, who you've previously never met, it's an mmo. 

Judging by those gameplay shots with a whacking great shotgun in the center, it's also an FPS. MMOFPS is a thing, right? Maybe it's one of those. Not my favorite combat system but I think I'm over my pickiness about that kind of thing. Certainly it's not enough to put me off when so much else is pulling me in.

Oh, I just realised I haven't actually mentioned what it's called yet. How remiss of me. Just as well I'm only writing a blog post about it, not a press release, eh?

It's called Nightingale. I think that's a very good name. It means something and yet it means nothing all at the same time. Also easy to remember and to pronounce, which always helps.

The developers behind Nightingale are Inflexion Games, a new one on me. They're based in Edmonton, which is in Alberta, Canada and they say their purpose is "to create places". They have one of the more intriguing mission statements I've seen. It's worth a read.

Whether they can make a game that meets their somewhat ambitious standards is something I guess we'll have to wait to find out although not for too long if what they hope for comes true. The FAQ asks "When will Nightingale launch?" and answers "We're working hard to bring you Nightingale in 2022."

That sounds wildly over-optimistic, which puts it in line with just about every other predicted launch window offered by every mmo developer ever. Probably more convincing is the timescale for some form of public testing, whch is also "set to begin in 2022."

You can register on the website to express an interest in taking part when it happens. I have. If I get in and if the NDA allows, I'll be sure to report back on what I find.


  1. I believe Inflexion is a new studio composed of ex-Bioware people. *googles* Yup, here ya go:

    I watched all 3.5 hours of The Game Awards (30 minutes was "pre-show") and quite enjoyed myself, but then I do play a lot of offline and single player games. I can see why an MMO player would find a lot of it to be of little interest. I feel like every year they polish the concept and it gets better. Like this year they spent very little time on streamers and esports. Those types won awards but they were literally just announced as winners.

    Of course of that 3.5 hours probably 20 minutes was actual awards... but that's fine with me too. I'm just there to see all the games.

    1. I was reading Scopique's post about it, where he said something about how it's only an Awards show in name and they do their best to skip past the awards part and I thought "but the awards are the best part of those kinds of shows!" The whole part where they read out all the nominees and you get to guess whose name's going to come out of the envelope is the entertaining part. The boring part is all the clips they show of whatever it was the people got nominated for in the first place.

      It does seem weird to even frame it as an Awards show if the real intention is just to showcase a whole load of new games. Why not just do that and forget about the awards altogether, especially if that's what people are really watching for. Or maybe I've misunderstood the whole thing. Anyway, I found the various write-ups I read quite intereasting and they only took me a few minutes, so I'm happy!

    2. You need the awards to fill the studio with industry types, I guess. I dunno, I detest awards shows so maybe it's a perception thing that it seemed like there wasn't a lot of time devoted to them.

      And these kind of morphed out of the awful old Spike TV Game Awards from many years back, so maybe the awards are tradition.

      Don't get me wrong, they do give out awards and have talent come up to present the nominations and all that; they just saved all the ceremony for the "big" awards and stuff like "Best Esports Coach" just gets a mention. I just looked and there were 30 categories so presumably they gave out 30 awards. :)

      And there's music, too. Sting opened the show, Imagine Dragons performed, they had an orchestra play music from the Game of the Year Nominations as they gave that award. Though this was my favorite musical performance. You might know who Julie Elven is but I had no clue and I was transfixed by her voice:


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