Gamer Bob says: MMOs suck.

June 30, 2009

People often credit WoW’s success because, in part, it’s a little bit of everything for everyone (in theory at least), and while that’s a great way to get into the genre, if you really want to focus on any one aspect you soon find WoW is somewhat limited. Yes WoW has PvP, but it’s limited by WoW’s PvE side, Blizzard’s somewhat disinterest in expanding WoW’s PvP, and by the fact that the engine is simply not built for it. Messing around in the BGs or arena is all well and good, but if you really want to PvP you play a game like Guild Wars, DarkFall, or WAR, depending on how far you want to take it. Same goes for the economy; WoW has an auction house and mods built around it, but no one is going to confuse the economic challenges of EVE or ATitD with making gold in WoW. Even for PvE, which is (or should be) WoW’s main focus, other games distill the formula and offer more focused gameplay, like the all-instanced PvE of DDO, the hardcore raiding of FFXI, or the casual do anything nature of CoX.

If we were to break down the MMO genre by category (raiding, PvP, economy, questing, graphics, sound, hardware demands, ect), and rate each game on ALL categories, WoW would likely come out with the highest overall total, yet it would not be the winner in any one single category, making it the jack-of-all-trades or most ‘mass market’ game. This of course is supported by WoW having millions of subs while everyone else is trying to hit 500k (or far less when we throw in more niche games like DF or ATitD).

What’s interesting is that overall, WoW players have NOT progressed from the entry game of the genre into other, more focused offerings. Aside from EVE’s continual growth, the genre as a whole has not seen subscription numbers grow from the height of EQ1’s popularity (500k-ish), and whether a game hits its mark (LotRO) or slightly misses (WAR), subscription numbers don’t vary greatly short of the massive disasters (TR, Hellgate). There are more MMOs out now with 100k+ subscribers than prior to WoW’s release in 2004, but it would appear that the majority of WoW players don’t move on to other games and stay. If anything, they try a game for a month, leave, and either return to WoW or leave the genre altogether.

Tourist jokes aside (not that the tourist problem is a joke, mind you), I’ve come to this brilliant conclusion: MMOs are just not that fun for most people.

I know, shocking.

With all the time we spend going back and forth on how X game is awesome and your MMO sucks, or how game Y would be so much better with feature Z, the majority of gamers are telling of us ALL our games suck. The whole genre, garbage. And in a way they are right. Why in gods name would I pay $15 a month to complete 100 kill x mob quests when I could do far more interesting tasks in a single player RPG? Why would I grind up an imbalanced character so I can PvP ‘sometimes’ when I can just get a FPS for cheap and have all-access to PvP of all flavors?

The ‘why’ of course is because I like MMOs, a lot, but WoW aside (and hence more support for the ‘perfect storm’ theory), most people just don’t. Beyond the 50-500k that WILL buy into your product, everyone else is just not that interested in the core ideas behind the genre, and short of abandoning that core (like Guild Wars does, and perhaps even Free Realms), no matter what you do you won’t attract and keep them. It’s not about how great your questing is, or how balanced the PvP turns out, or what form of character progression you go with, those who are not into the genre just can’t be bothered with the basics, details be damned.

And as long as developers understand this and stop trying to chase those who don’t care, the genre will continue on its path of success or failure based on the details, rather then the core. There is plenty of money to be made off those who DO care, and that base is slowly expanding, it’s just not seeing the massive growth WoW lead people to believe it was capable of.

Blood Bowl: a nice turn-based surprise.

June 29, 2009

Most of this past weekend was spent playing Blood Bowl by Cyanide Studios, to the point that my fiancé calling me a crack addict because of my want to play it constantly. So in Eurogamer terms, the game is a 2/10, although I’ve now played it for too long to meet the high EG standards.

Top-notch journalism aside, Blood Bowl, in its turn based version (I’ve yet to try the RTS mode) does a lot of things right. For starters it looks great, which cements my belief that any new game released now must at least look decent, no excuse. We are beyond the point in time where developing 3D graphics is uber-expensive and only massive dev teams have the resources. If your game looks like trash today, it’s your fault.  Along with the graphics, the sound is entertaining enough, although the commentating tends to get repetitive after a while (but its good stuff the first 10-20 times around), and can be turned off anyway. Game balance, from the 10-15 hours I’ve played is also very solid. Each race has its preferred style of play (speed and dodging, strength and beating you up, trickery), and you must also change up your style based on who you are playing. The same plan game to game is also not possible due to the wide range of random elements.

For example, in my current campaign I’m playing as the humans, which like most humans are average at everything and generally don’t have any glaring weaknesses. When I play a fast team like Skaven, Goblins, or Wood Elves I try to play a more physical game and beat them up as best I can before trying to score in the second half. This means playing more lineman over receivers, and if possibly bribing the ref not to call fouls. Assuming things work as planned, by the second half the other team can’t field 11 players, and their best players are on the sideline nursing injuries. On the other hand, if I play a team like the Dwarves or Chaos, I try to score as often as possible and avoid a slugfest, and hopefully my guys last long enough to get 3-4 touchdowns before too many injuries happen. An extra Apothocary is a big help in those situations.

What I really like about Blood Bowl is that careful planning is rewarded, which is a huge key for a turn based game. If you go into a game with a plan, and have the pieces to make it happen, you SHOULD come out on top, but the game has enough random elements to always make it interesting. If you just go in and play it by ear, often times the other team will dictate the game and pull of a surprise or two. Planning is fairly deep as well, as you buy players and team-wide bonuses (rerolls, cheerleaders, apothecary), upgrade your players when they get enough points with a wide variety of skills or possible stat upgrades, and you must also work around the inevitable injuries your players will sustain. Teams also have an overall ranking based on the number of players/bonuses you have, and the amount of gold awarded before the match is based on a comparison between the two rankings. This gold can then be used to buy special players for one match, or extra bonuses, to help balance out imbalanced teams.

I’ve yet to try online play, though the game does have the usual matchmaking service, along with an option to play in a custom league with friends. I’m hoping this aspect is implemented well, as it would be great to play competitive matches versus other players online. Once I’m done with the campaign, I’ll hop online and see how that goes. Cyanide has also indicated they will add more races in the future, which should keep the game nice and varied.

With a cost of $50, I was expecting a top-notch game and not some indie ‘fun but small’ product, and Blood Bowl has really delivered. If you are looking for a solid, entertaining, and comical turn based strategy game, you won’t be disappointed here. Hopefully I’ll have a follow-up once I’ve tried the RTS mode, and online play.

Guess the asshole.

June 26, 2009

Every once in a while, we all pull a Eurogamer and get our facts wrong. It happens, most people apologize, no big deal. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we defend a company and help support their bullshit, going so far as to create misleading examples to further the cause. In most cases, others will point out the error, especially when its rather black and white in the case of technology and when plenty of examples exist of this already being possible. Hey, we all have a bad week every now and again.

But even on the worst of days it takes a special kind of person to insult a small company and their generous supporters when they go out of their way to donate to charity. We call those people assholes. Never mind that once again you got your facts wrong, never mind the fact that you feel personally threatened by an online playstyle so much so that you ban its mention from your site, and never mind that instead of actually owning up to the mistakes, you instead abuse your power and try to filter out those trying to correct you. That’s all fine, it’s your little place on the Internet. But come on, taking cheap shots at a charitable gesture to further some petty vendetta you hold? Classy, real classy.

CCP’s cruel joke.

June 26, 2009

I re-subbed one of my EVE Online accounts last night, and today I get a ‘Come back for five days free’ email from CCP about that same account. F U CCP.

Double F U  because I could actually use this for my other account, which since logging in I’ve discovered has the majority of my ISK.

Quick reactions to all the latest MMO-related happenings

June 25, 2009

Too many MMO-related topics flying around in my head and it’s going to take some time to sort it all out.

DarkFall: Aside from feeling like a euro in regards to the whole NA deal, the big ‘expansion’ patch is going to be make or break for many, myself included. Oddly enough, I can’t put down what I would need to see in order for it to be satisfying, but I’m sure I’ll know once the details are revealed.

WAR: LotD in its current form might actually kill RvR in WAR, but I’m not willing to go that far just yet after only two days. Day two was not a positive experience however. Only time will tell if the whole Bioware ordeal is anything major, but if nothing else, EA’s history with studio mergers is not good.

DDO: The new starter island is brilliant, and for whatever reason, I’m really enjoying the combat engine now while before I thought it was a weakness. I guess having hardware that can run the game maxed out at 80 FPS helps with the enjoyment as well, especially since Turbine has upgraded the engine since I last played. Still waiting for the Casualties static group to get itself together, but my fiancé and I are playing on the Argo server and enjoying it. Feel free to contact me in-game (Ssly Blackhand).

Aion: Does calling the game a good WoW-clone mean your insulting the game, or complimenting it?

WAR LotD: New RvR zone launches, RvR left off the invite list.

June 24, 2009

LotD officially launched yesterday in Warhammer Online, just not fully. Only the event-winning side had access for the first 24 hours, and the new dungeon was closed, leaving everyone to try out the various PQs and lair bosses.

The good news is the new PQs are interesting, with some nice variety if not overall challenge (hard to judge difficulty though, since we were running around in our LV-clearing group, so we are certainly not the target audience), the whole zone looks great, and the layout is both easy to navigate and could lead to some good RvR. The two lairs I saw were interesting as well, with one boss favoring ranged DPS too heavily for us, while the other we had no issue with. Don’t forget to jump in the water and get your buff!

The bad news is that Mythic launched a new RvR zone and prevented RvR from happening, since only one side had first day access. I understand why, and it WAS nice to run around uncontested seeing everything for the first time, but maybe that ‘first impression’ would have been that much better if we had actually been able to see the place in its intended, contested state. Still, it’s only a day, and I think for most just seeing new content and trying to figure it out made the lack of RvR acceptable. I also think the zone could lead to some very interesting RvR encounters due to its design and how the access mechanic works. Tonight should be interesting.

LotD does not address the core issue with WAR, that population balance more than anything influences who ‘wins’, but it does look like a nice diversion until that 3rd faction is added, and with the limited access restriction mechanic in place, perhaps population imbalance won’t be AS noticeable. It’s a bandaid rather than a cure, but perhaps one that will do its job until the cure is finally added.

Blizzard on WG: We did not want that PvP anyway

June 23, 2009

100+ vs 100+ player battles are apparently too difficult for Blizzard to figure out after only having 5+ years to work on it. Or, if you try to issue a pass like some people, it’s just technically not possible to support something ‘so successful’ that you have to scrap its original intent. I mean, that’s 200 players all in one space, how the hell can we expect the little interweb tubez to handle that MASSIVE amount of data? What crazy future do we live in that could possible support such an insanely high number of players?

Of course, actual facts get in the way. Like the fact that EVE laughs at 100v100, or 200v200, or even 500v500. It laughs because CCP has 40k people all on one shard, has 1200v1200 fleet battles, and has Jita going 24/7. But that’s spaceships, and all those players are just doing boring mining anyway, so let’s (as usual) ignore EVE, pretend it does not exist, and return to the safe confines of elves, pet collecting, and hotbars.

WAR has a cap in place for Fortress sieges, and its endgame capital siege is instanced. Of course, RvR zones are NOT capped, handle more than 100v100, and even the Fort caps are higher than 100v100. Not to mention it’s a newer game, has a better looking graphics engine, and the resources Mythic can throw at server lag pales in comparison to mighty Blizzard and their millions of subscribers/revenue.

Moving much further down the resources list, DarkFall, even in its infancy, is more than capable of handling 100v100 battles. Let’s also not forget that the combat engine behind DF is just a little more complex than WoW, or that the graphics are a bit higher, or that the directional sound actually matters, or that you know… about 10 guys in a basement made DarkFall when we compare it to WoW. But we can’t mention DarkFall, no no, that really scary fan base might use facts to counter forumfall heresy, and we just can’t deal with that in our little WoW bubble of rainbows.

No WoW fans, Blizzard has to instance Winter Grasp because it’s simple not feasible to handle SOO many players in one area all spamming 1-2-3-2-3. It’s certainly not because they don’t want to put the resources into actually addressing the issue, I mean, who does massive updates like that to such an old MMO (remember EVE does not exist) when you have your new MMO to fund. Your $15 a month for WoW is not going towards WoW idiot; it’s funding whatever new MMO Blizzard is going to sell you for $60 a box. You are paying now so you can invest in great gaming for the future; do it for the kids!

One could point out that this is just Blizzard doing it’s familiar song and dance, claiming “Horde vs Alliance is the core of our game” while doing everything to place PvP on the back burner, and we should expect nothing more from a PvE game. But then, it would be difficult to use that explanation when you launch a new $40 expansion without a single new raiding instance despite your massive resource advantage, but again, facts are silly and it’s much safer to stick with blind faith, put your head in the sand, and keep telling yourself it’s all going to work out ‘soon’.

Second year of blogging is in the books!

June 22, 2009

Ding, two years of blogging done!

I’m going to try and follow the format I used in my previous yearly review in order to make the comparison a bit easier. Like last year, the overall ‘Blog Stats” are up first.

Blog Stats 2009

Total views: 335,842

Busiest day: 11,852 — Thursday, September 6, 2007

Posts: 523

Comments: 5,393

Blog Stats 2008

Total views: 104,123

Busiest day: 11,852 – Thursday, September 6, 2007

Posts: 253

Comments: 1,658

Totals views are up (duh), and at a much faster rate than last year. When we look at the top posts the ‘why’ will become a bit more clear, so I’ll wait till then to really get into it. Perhaps not all that surprising is that the busiest day statistic remains the same, as 11.8k views in one day is a major outlier compared to any other day. I doubt we will see this change in year three, short of another major, major site linking the blog for some reason. Total posts are about on-par with last year, which I’m overall very happy about. It shows that even a full year later, my approach to the blog has remained consistent (one post per business day average), and that even after all this time, I’ve still got stuff to say that people consider worth reading. Comments are up big time, which directly relates to the sites overall increased traffic, and is perhaps my favorite statistic. The more people that comment, the easier it is to keep writing. Thanks to everyone for dropping a line, from my faithful regulars to the one-liner trolls.

Top Posts for all days ending 2009-06-22

The love and hate game, WoW style. -17,285

iPhone MMO, Field Runners, and a slow Friday – 9,437

Blizzard’s new focus for WoW, just as soon as Mythic finishes it – 7,259

EQ2, trial of the neverending download. – 5,982

Warhammer’s major problem, the players. – 4,767

Screen shot comparison. – 3,848

Level 4 missions in EVE, and my silly Rohk – 3,314

Burned out on WotLK already. – 2,902

Looking in the mirror; the sickness that was WoW raiding – 2,773

Help coming for low population servers in Warhammer Online – 2,526

Top Posts for all days ending 2008-06-25

The love and hate game, WoW style. – 16,875

Screen shot comparison. – 2,636

Looking in the mirror; the sickness that was WoW raiding – 1,918

EQ2, trial of the never-ending download. – 1,632

Throwing down the gauntlet, the great MMO challenge – 1,414

Ebolt anyone? – 1,230

Funcom to AoC players, GTFO! – 1,176

Can my toaster run AoC? – Concerned Walmart Shopper -1,143

Stuck in easy mode. – 1,059

Ghost town, population you. – 704

The BBC-linked post about WoW remains king, although its margin of victory is shrinking as the Google-feed Field Runner/iPhone MMO post continues to gain ground. The sad part is neither post is what I would consider real quality posts, but you can’t control who links you or when Google front-pages you. The “Screen shot comparison” post takes a dive from #2 to #6, but still gets half-decent Google-feed traffic, which is probably why it was able remain in the top 10 at all. The current #3 post is one that I actually enjoyed writing and think that it does brings something to the table, both for comedic value and because it’s a good reflection on the genre; copy/paste your way to financial success and design mediocrity. This is even more fitting with Aion right around the corner, a game whose current high-praise is that it’s like, a really good copy/paste job of WoW with lot-o-shiny. Sad what passes for the success formula in the genre in 2009, but at least we have niche titles for those looking for a bit more in their game. And just a quick note about the current #4 title: Fix your downloader SOE!

Referrers for all days ending 2009-06-22 – 11,315… – 11,015 – 4,346… – 3,159 – 2,914 – 2,701 – 2,598 – 2,097 – 1,386 – 1,338

Referrers for all days ending 2008-06-25 – 11,015 – 3,159 – 2,922 – 1,831 – 1,288 – 1,055 – 838 – 650 – 499 – 398

This is the category where I feel a major upset occurred, with Virgin Worlds passing the BBC as the #1 referrer. VW is my favorite ‘all MMO’ site on the net, and its ever-increasing popularity feeds traffic to all blogs that it links. The list remains somewhat similar to last year, with a few sites switching spots or being just edged out of the top 10. Surprising that the blog Overlord is no longer the top referrer out of all bloggers, but that’s what happens when a blogger gets traffic from games he no longer plays. Gushing with blind faith gets you noticed kids. One odd error is the stats for WoWinsider, as it somehow LOST 8 to its total. WordPress; free and easy, but not exactly perfect I guess.

Search Terms for all days ending 2009-06-22

field runners – 3,106

hardcore casual – 2,011

syncaine – 1,117

wotlk – 998

darkfall account – 762

warhammer online server population – 749

warhammer online collectors edition – 711

field runners for pc – 670

wheel of time mmo – 583

sandbox mmo – 536

Search Terms for all days ending 2008-06-25

Syncaine – 334

vanguard trial – 312

hardcore casual – 267

eq2 – 259

wow progress – 219

hardcore – 195

warhammer podcast – 132

eq2 trial – 119

sotnw – 92

switch mmo – 77

shadowbane reset – 70

The Search Terms, or “What has Google done for you today” category explains a little about why certain posts have seen their overall numbers increase. That ‘field runners’ is the number one term, over both the name of the blog and the author is a bit telling. That ‘darkfall account’ is so high on the list shows us one of two things: either DarkFall is huge, or getting an account required a lot of Google work. Care to guess which one is the real reason? Warhammer Online is next, with its biggest issue being one that many wonder about. Who would have guessed that population would be a problem when you hard-code two sides to go at it in an MMO… That expansion adding a 3rd side can’t come soon enough Mythic! Field Runners making a second appearance on the list shows just how much demand is out there for the game, and just how big a game for the iPhone can get. It’s a great version of tower defense, and anyone with an iPhone should already have it. Rounding out the top 10 are people looking for a Wheel of Time MMO (yes please), and those who are curious what the world outside of a themepark looks like. Combine the last two and I’m a happy camper. I also found it interesting that this year’s #10 has a higher total than last year’s #1 by a good margin, further reinforcing the fact that it’s only a matter of time before Google rules all of mankind.

Outside of all the numbers, the major events since the last review have been the release of a major surprise (DarkFall) and the solid but somewhat flawed WAR still trying to get itself where it needs to be. For DarkFall, the core of the game is extremely solid, and the ideas behind the game just work. It’s not surprising that a niche title of its type has some rough edges that need to be smoothed out, but despite all the flaws, the release of the NA-1 server is my most anticipated MMO event on the calendar. As for WAR, LotD will be a fun bit of content, but won’t ultimately fix the issue plaguing the game; the need for a third faction. Until that’s added, it’s hard to really remain excited about WAR’s RvR, especially now when it’s compared to DarkFall’s PvP. Still, with a third faction added, WAR will become a fun, casual PvP title that I could see myself playing 1-2 nights a week, if nothing else than to take a break from the ‘it always counts’ PvP of DarkFall.

Not really surprising is that ‘RMT is the future’ has once again not happened. Aside from the twist of failed sub games adding RMT (DDO, SOE games on Station Access life support), RMT is still ‘that kid’ in the MMO genre, and I just don’t see that changing next year either. The ‘free and pray’ model might work for shady products of dubious quality, or games that otherwise could not attract enough attention to warrant people paying for them, but it’s rather clear that if you have a solid title that you believe customers will find worth-while, you make them pay a monthly fee.

And that about wraps it up; another year of blogging is in the books. Hopefully everyone has enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, and I can’t wait to see what year three brings!

Back to DDO I go.

June 19, 2009

The Casualties (of whatever game we play) guild is trying to put together a static group for DDO, something I’m rather interested in. DDO is a tough MMO to crack, because it’s not only forced grouping, but also suffers more than most if you join a bad PUG group due to how the quest instances are designed. It’s not just about rushing from boss mob to boss mob picking up pixels, and if your PUG group is just trying to finish the quest asap, it’s not nearly as much fun. From that perspective, it’s not hard to see why it’s a niche game, yet from a pure MMO gamer perspective, that’s exactly what these games should reward, right?

I actually have a DDO account since the games beta, and had a good time in the first few months of live before my guild out leveled me and I sort of lost interest. I like it’s more active combat style, I like the overall lore/setting, and you can’t really go wrong using D&D rules. I resubbed that account last night, and after a good 3 hours of patching I was all set. To my surprise Turbine has upgraded the graphics engine since I last played, adding DX10 support. When maxed out the game looks like a brand new 2009 release, rather than a game from 2006, so hats off to Turbine for that. I rolled a fighter and played through the first few quests in the new starter area.

I’m going to mess around with a few races/classes just to get a feel for things while the Casualties group gets itself ready, hoping to test out the hireling system and see how far someone can really progress solo.

Homeless Sims: A good example of using the sandbox

June 18, 2009

I saw this excellent use of The Sims 3 thanks to Raph Koster’s blog. Great writing and use of screen shots, and certainly shows the depth a sandbox game can go if used correctly. Looking forward to future updates for sure.


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