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Paul Barnett Re-Emerges

This holiday has been great on a number of levels. One of the better points – by virtue of having to exercise more… darn cookies – is that I’ve gotten to catch up on some of my favorite podcasts. Imagine my surprise when the I got to spend an audio hour with the illusive disappearing frontman of Warhammer Online: none other than the Great Brit himself, Paul Barnett, guesting on the Giant Bombcast.

Over the last couple months, GB (link) has earned a regular spot in my podcast lineup. The hosts are entertaining, well-informed, and just charismatic enough to set them above many of the other “general gaming” podcasts out there. On this episode, they were continuing in a series on the Best of 2010 and pretty much let Paul have the hour to himself, sharing his favorite games of the year.

I was pretty surprised by how different, and in my opinion worse, he came off here. For starters, his list was composed almost entirely of little iPhone games, like Angry Birds and Mahjong. Gone are the days of high aspirations, I guess. He gave a nod to Cataclysm because Blizzard “had this idea all along and sat on it.” I guess I can agree with that, in the same way that WAR realizes their PvE is crap and is “sitting on” their own fix. He also concedes that WoW is never going to be killed – from his own experience.

Without splitting hairs too much, the whole thing left me with the impression that Paul hightailed it away from the MMO scene as fast as he could and is setting up shop in the relatively safe waters of low-budget mobile gaming. There’s no 100-million dollar monkey on the back of his “secret project.”

In case you’re wondering, he doesn’t confirm what exactly that is. Early on he mentions that his list is composed of games he’s paid attention to in development. If the 9 casuals are the basis for this big secret, I’d have to ask “why bother?” Is secrecy such a huge deal in the iPhone market when every good game will inevitably see a swath of imitators anyways? These aren’t 100 million dollar projects we’re talking about here.

I also took a bit of umbridge to his characterization of Minecraft and its players. Not only does he feel “it isn’t any bloody good,” – but fun (???) – but that the players who stick with it “only like it because they’re snobbishly downloading texture packs and showing how clever and cool they are.” Worse than that, he claims that the people who’ve bought it only do so because “it justifies a version of gaming that you feel should be dominant. But, actually it’s not. Everyone’s buying Angry Birds.”

In his defense, he gives Notch a lot of credit for how virally he’s marketed the game. Still, as someone who enjoys the game – on a far deeper level than any “casual” game I’ve played – I don’t particularly like being characterized as a thoughtless, money-throwing zombie. Considering that Minecraft had such uptake in the MMO community, this kind of carefree banter is tantamount to pouring gasoline on an already rickety bridge. I guess it’s a good thing he’s in the iPhone scene now so the WAR team won’t have another fire to put out.

Anyways, I think you should give the show a listen. As much as I’ve found myself questioning Paul in this show, he definitely portrays himself as a very intelligent and experienced man of the industry. Plus, he pretty much seems like a nice guy behind all the antics. Head on over and give it a listen, see if this new, momentarily humble, Paul is still to your liking. Either way, I wish him the best of luck with this new project. Good games – on any platform – is a win for us all.

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  1. Game By Night » Is Anybody Really Happy the WAR Guys Are Back?

    […] had with the MMO world. Paul Barnett came off like a “facebook games are the future” –type back in December and was outright dismissive his former (and now future) customers. And Minecraft players, of […]

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