I’ve just found out about the Sword Coast Legends game, planned for release later this year according to the official website. Reading the website it sounds like a remake of Bioware’s classic Baldur’s Gate game (indeed that game had an expansion called Sword Coast Adventures).
From what I’ve read so far it seems the game will emphasis the cooperative team atmosphere of tabletop RPGs with an optional Dungeonmaster to run the game interactively via a special ‘DM client’. The website claims this is a first, despite the fact that that Neverwinter Nights (2002, Bioware) had both cooperative multiplayer and a DM client over ten years ago.
The new Sword Coast game will use the newish 5th edition Dungeon & Dragons ruleset, I presume the first computer game to do so, since Cryptic’s Neverwinter is 4th edition and the elder Dungeons & Dragons Online uses highly-modified 3rd edition rules.
The emphasis on cooperative gameplay is a real positive, I’ve seen MMORPGs over the last 4-5 years trending away from any decent support for small group play. If you’re happy to play with random strangers, in largish groups (10-25) and to zerg-rush everything as quickly as possible then the genre still has plenty to offer but small group play has been increasingly neglected (WOW), made difficult by long-term bugs (SWTOR) or simply ignored at the design stage (ESO).
I’m less enthused by the wording of the rewards for the obligatory pre-order packs. The mention of ‘DM tilesets’ hints that the quest creation tool will have limited content, presumably so the developers can monetize this. That doesn’t work so well in my experience. Neverwinter (Cryptic’s MMO) gives you unfettered access to everything from the start, which is a great approach and has resulted in some sterling player creativity. Everquest 2’s Dungeon Maker in comparison is rather frustrating to use since it was lumbered with has an obnoxious collector mini-game, bypassable at least in part by store-purchases. Player content creation should be a community-driven attraction for others to play and keep playing your game, not a chance to squeeze extra cash out of the whales!
Ultimately the game may be a marketing tool for Wizards of the Coast, to get computer game players to experience an analogous setup to the tabletop experience (1-4 players plus DM) in the hope they perhaps buy some RPG manuals. I’m not convinced that will work for the masses but maybe there’ll be some crossovers.
I’ll be interested in looking at the game but will wait for the reviews. Pre-orders are a spreading evil in this gaming genre that I will happily continue to resist. The idea of the more expensive tiers including a digital key for you and some friends is quite a nice marketing ploy but the fact that the digital downloads require Steam is less positive. I have Steam (which I never use) but I wouldn’t want to tell others to create an account just to receive a gift code.