I took a look through my screenshots folder and came across this picture from Warhammer Online. It’s from a public quest in the high elf area, probably tier 2 (can’t remember right now). I had completely forgotten about this fight, where you had to protect the ballistas from a horde of charging orcs, but seeing this pic made me resub straight away. Warhammer Online does have a lot of problems and some of the design choices Mythic made still don’t sit right with me. But there are times when the game shines and I’ve always been a big fan of the RvR – both in scenarios and open world fights. I can at least hope that the months since I cancelled my subscription to it have brought enough improvements to the game to keep me interested this time around.
Loving The Sandbox, Missing The Fantasy
[caption id="attachment_1547" align="alignleft" width="184" caption="I pwn noobs in space."][/caption] I do love EVE Online, even if some online drama and paranoia over the last week or so made me wonder if I really have the energy to move to 0.0 right now. Application has been processed, roles dropped, assets liquidated and jump clones prepped (more or less) but seeing the true paranoid face of EVE's political alliances and corps is putting me off. If I do the move I will end up in one of the most volatile areas of the cluster as well, straight into a war that will probably spiral ...
A Grand And Pretentious Love Declaration To EVE Online
In this special edition of the EVE Blog Banter, CrazyKinux himself asked "[w]hether you've logged into the game every day since its launch in 2003, or you've taken one or several sabbaticals from your capsuleer career, you've always come back to New Eden don't you. Why is that? [...] To put it simply: Why do you love EVE Online so much?" The EVE Blog Banter invites an enthusiastic group of EVE Online bloggers to address--within a specified time period--a common topic related to EVE. The resulting articles may be short or long, funny or serious, but are always great fun to read! Direct ...
I’m In Your MMO, Reviewing Your Beta
Last time there was any talk about how to (or how not to) review MMOs was around the whole Eurogamer vs Aventurine debacle (often called "Zitrongate" after the reviewer). This was obviously a deep and traumatic event for some people, especially Darkfall fans that still can't stop taking cheap shots at Eurogamer (despite them doing a re-review of the game). To me, though, the question has crept back into the front of my mind, as I'm currently reviewing two MMOs at the same time. [caption id="attachment_1524" align="alignright" width="154" caption="Ensign 418 of 666, codename "Squid", at your service."][/caption] As I mentioned in my ...
Tag warhammer online
Today I realised that I’m stuck in a rut in the MMOs I currently play. I have no idea what skill path to go down in EVE, I generally just train whatever I can stick into the daily queue and then add a longer skill at the end of it, and even though I still enjoy Ryzom and completely adore my guildies there I don’t have a project in it except leveling and trying to make enough dappers to buy an apartment. Having projects is very important to me, it’s a great way to keep my interest up.
I also realised that I have another problem with Ryzom. Even if I do find a project to keep me occupied, I’m not really sure that the game will be around for much longer – I guess the pessimism that’s so rampant in the community finally managed to rub off on me. A few days ago the team behind Shadowbane announced that the game was shutting down and reading the official thread on the subject was quite depressing (I do recommend reading at least a few pages of it though, it’s fascinating while being incredibly sad) and I really don’t want to end up in a similar situation any time soon. Every MMO will, sooner or later, go down the same route, the only question is if I actually want to get 100% involved in a game that is standing on what just might be the brink of disaster.
It’s a tricky situation. If I look at the MMOs that interest me at the moment, almost all of them can be considered dangerous territory – Vanguard has always teetered on the edge of the abyss, Star Wars Galaxies might go the way of the dodo when The Old Republic launches, Ryzom has had a very bumpy ride since launch…I managed to get two of my friends to try out Runes of Magic, but they’ve both gone back to Warhammer Online now (I’m personally holding out until Land of the Dead drops). World of Warcraft is the most stable game on the market, but I have no interest in going back.
What to do, what to do? Should I just bite the bullet, take a chance on Ryzom, hope that everything works out? Or should I try to find a more stable game that might just save me from the general rut I’m in right now? Or should I just give up on MMOs for the time being, spend more time with my Nintendo DS, and just wait for that perfect game to launch?
I’m bored and grumpy.
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.)
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…