Category world of warcraft

This little rogue had to stay at home

Colin over at Massively has written a new Anti-Aliased post about dual-specs in World of Warcraft. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the system, at least not the way Blizzard plan to implement it, but I haven’t really figured out why I don’t like it yet. I’ll get back to that subject at a later point. But there’s one thing he writes, something that I’ve seen written across forums and blogs before, that I’ve always wondered about…

Groups will find that they can do dungeon easier with less people, as players will be able to switch across multiple roles. This means pure classes, such as the mage, priest, and hunter will also have a tougher time finding groups. Why take the hunter when you have a paladin who can do protection and retribution and has the gear to outclass the hunter in both cases? Certainly it’s bad now, but it can get even worse because now the paladin can fulfill both roles while in the dungeon, when the hunter cannot.

Seriously, what kind of people do you guys play with? I’ve played a “pure” class, a rogue, in World of Warcraft for the last three years or so. I do DPS, period. Even when the rogue QQing on the official forums was at its peak, when rogues everywhere were lamenting the fact that there were so many classes that would be chosen before them in raids, have I had to stand on the sidelines because of another player with another class taking my spot.

Really? Rogues might not be the insane DPSers they once were, but if you are playing with people that won’t have you in raids because of your class and the minuscule amount of damage difference between you and someone else, quit your goddamn guild and find a new, more understanding one. And if you don’t get into a PuG because of your class, do you really want to be in that particular PuG to begin with?

People keep whining about other classes making their own obsolete, but does it ever actually happen? Or is it just a typical example of misplaced QQ? The grass is always greener and all that.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The WoW tourist as a social being

Tourists, currently longing back to Northrend.

Syncaine of Hardcore Casual and Tobold of…well, Tobold’s MMORPG Blog have been at each others throats during the last couple of days, the subject being the always tricky (and somewhat infected) “WoW tourism”. I won’t go into much detail about my own stand on the subject, I’ll just say that I tend to agree more with Syncaine than with Tobold, but I can’t stay away from reacting one thing Tobold wrote in his latest post on the subject.

Back in 2004 the fans of Everquest claimed that World of Warcraft won out against the nearly simultaneously released EQ2 due to better marketing. It is possible that there are undiscovered gems out there few people are playing. But that argument falls flat the moment a game gets a huge wave of initial subscribers, who *after* playing the new game for a while decide that it isn’t for them. In that case either the gameplay is less appealing, or the quality of execution, the programming is inferior. Nobody would ever react with “Hey, this new game is more fun and runs better than WoW, lets go back to WoW”. A customer who leaves and goes back to WoW means the new game failed to attract him. WoW might be the standard by which he measured that new game, but obviously he was willing to try something else, and would have staid [sic] if that something else had had sufficient quality.

Simply put, I don’t agree. Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, the two games that often get brought up in this discussion since they did see a huge wave of initial subscribers that fell away rather quickly after launch, did have their problems which did make some people leave. Absolutely, there’s no use in denying that fact (I have written a bit on the subject before). What I don’t agree with Tobold on is that people would never say “this is more fun than WoW, let’s go back to WoW”. Because, trust me, that happens.

The question “why do people keep going back to World of Warcraft” can, of course, be answered by just stating that WoW is a better game than its competitors. Some would claim that people go back to World of Warcraft after playing another MMO because the new game wasn’t as polished, a polish which more or less no new MMO would be able to live up to since Blizzard have had 4 years to improve WoW. Some, who are more sceptical of the WoW tourism phenomenon, would say that the players that bounce back to WoW do so because they expect the new game to be World of Warcraft, just in different clothing. Tobold is going for the first option, Syncaine seems to mix the two latter.

I would like to add another answer to that question, an answer which would include people saying “this is a better game, let’s go back to WoW”*.  Syncaine is touching on it when he writes that

…most WoW tourists did not even play WoW at launch, but jumped on at a later (and more refined) time. Now you add in the first love aspect to the expectation that all MMOs look like WoW did to them for the first time in 2005-2008. No matter what new MMO game launches, it’s not going to meet those expectations, and hence will suffer the WoW tourist effect.

For a lot of people, World of Warcraft is their first MMO. When the first wave of players picked up World of Warcraft in 2004, they did it because it was another Blizzard game, the next part in the Warcraft-saga. It wasn’t because it was a MMO, even though of course people from EverQuest or Dark Age of Camelot decided to give it a try as well. World of Warcraft helped introduce people to the MMO-genre, but most of all it introduced them to World of Warcraft.

Which means that, when a new game comes out, not nearly all World of Warcraft-players decides to try it out. In the case of Age of Conan, many did, but far from everyone. Unless you were in a guild that was so disillusioned with WoW (some were, some are, some will be – as always) that you all together decided to jump ship, you probably left a lot of your friends behind – friends that are interested in playing WoW, not a MMO.

So the tourist arrives at the new game, fresh with 30 days of playtime. If he bought a gamecard for World of Warcraft recently, chances are that his WoW-subscription is still active. He plays for a bit and experiences one of the points mentioned above – he thinks WoW is better, he thinks the new game lacks polish, or he expected a new World of Warcraft instead of a brand new game. Or he could actually really like the new game – he loves to RvR, or he truly enjoys the more reactive combat system of Age of Conan. But back in World of Warcraft his friends await him. All his characters, that he has invested so much time and energy in, are there. He knows what he has and what he is able to get. The new MMO, even though he really enjoys it, is still a bit of an unknown – just like WoW was, once upon a time. So taking the step back to World of Warcraft is not really a sacrifice, it actually feels like coming home.

Simply stating that a player would have stayed in the new game if it was better, that going back to WoW “means the new game failed to attract him”, is not taking the social aspect of MMOs into consideration, or how personally invested in a certain MMO a player can become. During my time in various MMOs, I’ve found games that appealed a lot more to me than World of Warcraft, but I have still left them behind to rejoin my friends, to play together with them, to come back to a game I know. For the last couple of years, many of us have lived a large part of our lives in Azeroth. That is a bond that can be very hard to break, despite finding a new game that really appeals to us.

The same goes, of course, for someone migrating from Vanguard to WoW or from EVE Online to Dungeons & Dragons Online. It’s just that during 2008 we saw the extremes of all these cases. It’s a fascinating subject, no matter what the true reason behind the “tourism” we’ve seen lately might be. Hopefully it won’t harm the genre in the long run.

(* I of course acknowledge that I am hardly alone in reaching this conclusion. Check out the comments to Tobold’s entry quoted above, there’s some nuggets in there and several people reaching the same conclusion as me. And some flaming. No answer from Tobold himself, though.)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Why EZ mode ruined World of Warcraft (for me)

Awww, you big dragon you.

Awww, you big dragon you.

Back in the day, before The Burning Crusade, I raided 40-man content in World of Warcraft. Me and my guild, which included my girlfriend, mostly did Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, with Onyxia thrown in for good measure. We didn’t finish BWL, to this day I have yet to see Nefarian, but I fondly remember the yelps of happiness when we took down Ragnaros for the first time, or when we faced the Suppression Rooms and Broodlord Lashlayer after finally having beaten Vael (links to Wowwiki added for the people who didn’t start to play until after The Burning Crusade made the old raids obsolete).

We had tons of fun doing those raids, yet we weren’t even close to the top raiding guilds on our server – while the guild we were members of was still active, the <Dragonslayers> had BWL on farm status, finished (as far as I know) AQ40 and did get pretty far into Naxx before TBC was released. On a RP-server, that’s quite a big deal.  They were known as the most “hardcore” guild on our realm, while we were obviously “casual”.

But I never felt any agitation towards the Slayers. They got to see content I knew would never see and I was fine with that. Together we created the population on the server, a population of all kinds of players – hardcore raiders, casual raiders, level-capped non-raiders, RPers that never managed to get past level 40 because they were busy roleplaying in Stormwind…instead of being jealous of the people that had attained more than me I was excited about it, it was always fun to see one of their members wearing a new piece of loot that you had never seen before. I had 7/8 pieces of Tier 1 which I wore with pride – epic loot still felt incredibly special and inspecting someone that you knew raided AQ40 or Naxx was always exciting. It was something to be inspired by, even if you knew that you’d never get a piece of that particular cake yourself.

Read more

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

PvP, the community and nerd rage

The whole issue of PvP-based MMOs has been a hot topic on MMO-blogs since Darkfall’s release and people have been trying to nitpick and analyze the game’s coming success or downfall on how its community or technology will develop. Over on his blog, Brian Green wrote an interesting article about why PvP-games’ core problem is their community, calling it a deeper problem than “technical instability and insane design decisions”, relating the whole thing to his own experiences with working on Meridian 59. Most importantly, he brings up the paradox that a lot of players of these games will face sooner or later…

The players say want the opportunity to win big, which means they also have to have the chance to lose it all if they are fighting against other players. This ties back into the issue people often mention that players fantasize that they’ll always be on top, winning all the battles and getting all the great rewards. They never want to think about the times when they’re the underdog, coming back naked after being completely looted and having nothing left in the vaults to fall back on. So, it’s not just a matter of making the mistakes less costly.

The article reminded me of what one of my old CEOs in EVE Online once told me – “giving a person in my corp more power is not about giving him or her more responsibility to the group, it is giving him more power the ruin the game for others”. Corp theft is one of the reasons why corps in EVE are generally paranoid, a well-placed spy or a corp member going rogue and emptying the corp hangars or wallets can destroy the most well-structured corporation in a matter of seconds. It’s an integral part of the game, CCP even recognizes corp theft as a valid career in EVE, but people much more prefer to read about the more dramatic instances of hangars being emptied (like the Guiding Hand Social Club-incident) than actually seeing it happen to themselves. They want the game to be free enough to let it happen, yet they never want to see it happen in their own backyards. Players have cancelled their subs in a nerd rage for much less.

But EVE Online and Darkfall are two niche titles, despite both getting a lot of attention in the media and in blogs. Darkfall will probably settle down with a fairly small player base, that will either tear itself apart of start to organize itself in a way similar to how the corporations in EVE have done. EVE Online, even though it is successful and slowly growing, only has around 200k players (and can only accepts so many subs before the galaxy will start to feel too crowded for comfort). But 2008 saw two triple A-MMOs released, two games with a strong PvP-focus and whose communities helped to ruin their potential instant success – Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

Now, Conan and Warhammer did have their technical problems to begin with and the PvP was hardly completely to blame. Conan did sell very well at launch, boasting somewhere around 700k subs at the end of the first month (which is a huge number), with around 400k sticking around to August 2008. The number of players held by the game right now is up to debate, but figures around 50 – 100k have been mentioned in various places. Warhammer Online on the other hand seems to have around 300k subs according to an economical report from EA. That’s still a lot of people. But the fact remains that the two games, even though they have constantly been improving since day one, don’t have the best of reputation. Age of Conan never managed to get over the initial, and sometimes completely over the top, hatred that a lot of players spewed on it (and Funcom) – a lot of people complaining not only about the lack of end-game content, but also the lack of a proper PvP-system. Warhammer Online has also seen a lot of attacks from players, a lot of it directed towards open world PvP and public quests.

Let’s start out, for the sake of the argument, to leave the PvE behind. The public quests in WAR looked better on paper than they did when the first players had left the starting areas and the lack of end-game content in AoC in more or less irrelevant to a discussion about PvP. Looking at only the PvP in those two games, they suffer/suffered from the lack of open world PvP in WAR and the lack of a proper PvP-system in AoC (as mentioned above). And when it all comes down to it, these two problems have one thing in common – the community and its craving for rewards…

Read more

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

I’m in your game, stealing your subs

rogue

As predicted, Kaplan moving from World of Warcraft to the new MMO did stir up some new speculation in the MMO-blogosphere about what IP Blizzard’s next-gen MMO might actually be based on. Tobold didn’t speculate much, but did mention that there is a chance that it will be pretty raid- or achievement-heavy. Stropp did some more thinking on the subject and weighted the various options against each other, guessing that it’s actually a new IP in the works.

One of the reasons for Stropp’s theory is that Blizzard will be aiming for new subscribers, instead of taking subs from World of Warcraft.

I strongly doubt that either Diablo or Starcraft will be the subjects of the new game. Diablo is too similar to WoW in too many ways, and will be too much of a competitor. I’d think Blizzard would want to open up new subscriptions, not take from World of Warcraft.

Starcraft on the other hand would offer a different experience, but could still steal WoW subs. But the problem here is that Starcraft 2 is still in active development and will be for years to come. I doubt Blizzard want to jeopardize that.

Even though it makes sense, and even if I still believe that the MMO is based on Starcraft I am open for the possibility of a brand new IP, I don’t think Blizzard fear taking subs from World of Warcraft. In fact, I think that we might be jumping the gun a bit. Some have speculated that the new game will be revealed at Blizzcon this year, but I think it’s highly doubtful – I personally think that they will announce the new expansion, waiting at least another year before revealing what their next great project is, allowing the next World of Warcraft-expansion get as much publicity as possible.

I also think there are a few points to consider, points that Blizzard themselves are probably aware of.

  1. At some point, World of Warcraft’s popularity will peak. I’m not saying it’s happened or that it’s even close, remember that Wrath of the Lich King hasn’t even been released in China yet. But peak it will and at that point it will slowly start to lose subscribers.
  2. At some point, World of Warcraft will start to really show its age. It will celebrate its fifth birthday this year in the US, which in the fast-moving games industry means that it’s really starting to get old. Ancient, in fact. It’s still a great and popular game and Blizzard keep evolving it, but sooner or later it will hit a brick wall when the engine can’t go much further. At that point Blizzard have the choice to either update the whole thing, which has been mentioned by Kaplan in various interviews, or settle for what they currently have and just build upon that.
  3. At some point, another game will start stealing subscribers from World of Warcraft for real. It hasn’t happened yet, even though many of us did believe Warhammer Online would be the game that could seriously put a dent in WoW’s gazillion subscription numbers. Sooner or later it’s bound to happen, even though I can’t really see a currently announced game accomplish that (perhaps Star Wars: The Old Republic, but probably not).

The new MMO won’t be released in a long time. We’ll see Starcraft 2 (the whole trilogy) and Diablo 3 before that and World of Warcraft will at least get one more expansion before the next-gen MMO goes into beta. Taking the points above into consideration, I don’t think Blizzard sees anything wrong with stealing their own subscribers – it’s better that they do it than someone else. World of Warcraft, which will stay the top dog in the MMO-genre for a long, long time, will sooner or later start to lose its current subscribers, and I think that Blizzard will be there to pick them right up again with a new game.

Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo or a new IP – it really doesn’t matter. Of course, this is all speculation. Somewhere at the Blizzard headquarters is a design document, a formula, that reveals all their hidden secrets and plans. We need someone to break in and steal it and leak the whole thing to the press.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Tigole moves on to…what?

"When I snap, I kill him first." Jeff Kaplan, Leipzig, 2007.

"When I snap, I kill him first." Jeff Kaplan, Leipzig, 2007.

Jeff Kaplan, also known as the blue poster Tigole and Game Director of World of Warcraft, has left WoW to work on Blizzard’s upcoming, still unannounced MMO, leaving Allen Brack and Tom Chilton to deal with operations. It’s not really strange to see him go – it seems like Blizz has been phasing out him out during the last couple of months, getting ready to move him over to the new MMO full-time officially when the time felt right (probably around the same time as the community has gotten used to, and already fed up with, Greg Street/Ghostwalker).

It’s nice to see Blizzard making the move in the open, though. It proves that work on that mystery-MMO, which we’ve hungrily been waiting for information about, is in full swing and that they feel that they can be open enough about it to openly admit that Kaplan is involved with it (if there ever was any doubt that he’d be). Suddenly, the next Blizz-MMO is back in the semi-spotlight, and speculation is once again free to stir up the Interwebs.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what I will do after the jump. Speculate, that is, not stir up any Interwebs.

Read more

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Copyright © Don’t Fear the Mutant
Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

Built on Notes Blog Core
Powered by WordPress