The MMO dark age is ending

February 29, 2012

Former MMO blogger Tobold (I still say I won that bet) is polling his readers about how long it takes them to hop in/out of an MMO. It’s a funny read as usual, especially the comments.

A comment a made over at Keen’s blog applies here, so I’ll just copy/paste myself:

MMO blogging would sound a lot different if the year was 2004, and we were thinking back on the last 7 years of the genre, rather than 2012 and the last 7. Hopefully the 2019 7 year review is a bit better.

And what we see over at a casual site like Tobold’s is exactly this; WoW players bored of WoW. And they believe that the MMO genre is only that; solo-hero themeparks that you level through and then grind gear with bots/randoms. It’s sad really.

Of course those who have been playing MMOs, who know the genre goes a wee bit deeper than Azeroth, understand the fundamental flaw here. Long-term, themeparks are boring, but themeparks (as they stand today) are borderline MMOs at best, and so it’s not surprising that players don’t stick around for months on end in what is essentially a single player game. SW:TOR is blatant about this, but its peers are not all that different. I love Skyrim, but long-term it can’t compete with an MMO no matter how great of a job Bethesda has done, and Skyrim is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played.

And before you suggest that it’s the players who have changed from 2004 to today, take a look at MMOs that have remained MMOs. EVE is 8 years old and doing better than most. Darkfall is three years old, and despite not getting a real update in about a year, still has an active population and a sequel/overhaul on the way. Wurm Online has its population (with a recently added server). Are people really going to be that surprised if GW2, assuming it delivers, retains players beyond the 3-month themepark burn? Looking outside the genre, how long has LoL been the most popular game out? How many people are STILL playing Counter-Strike or some older version of CoD/BF?

The belief that today all players only stick around for a month or three, regardless of the game, is blatantly wrong. Certainly a subset do, as Tobold makes pretty clear, but that’s just a case of aiming at the wrong target audience. That the recent crop of MMOs, cloned from WoW, are only worth playing 1-3 months, and attract the Tobolds of the world, well, yea, that makes sense. People burning out from SW:TOR in weeks rather than months was predicted by anyone with a clue years ago.

Assuming the themepark trend is finally past us, and the realization that WoW is an anomaly based as much on timing/luck as design has sunk in, the MMO genre should return to being an interesting place going forward.

David Reid hates themeparks

February 28, 2012

Via JesterTrek, RPS has an interview from CCP CEO Hilmar Petrusson and new CMO David Reid about EVE, Dust 514, and other stuff. Nothing terribly interesting in terms of details, but I was fully entertained by Reid’s rather obvious hate for themeparks now that he has left Trion.

Some fun quotes:

That might be unique in the industry, with World of Warcraft taking a dive last year. Eve is the one game that has grown every year since it launched, the only one.

One of the things that’s distinct about Eve and CCP, in comparison to standard MMOs like WoW , is that you’re getting a lot that’s the same from those other companies but Eve year after year continues to add new elements and gameplay. It’s not just zones or monsters, there are new play patterns all the time.

It’s easy to forget, against everything else that’s out there, with everything being sharded, how shallow those experiences tend to be and how meaningful action in Eve is compared to another game.

Although, that’s interesting to think about; that the question is even worth contemplating for a moment, speaks to something about this game and community. This is really different from selling platinum in Rift.

You make a good point; how many fantasy MMORPGs with tanks, healers and DPSes can the consumer base swallow at one time?

The notion of, at its core essence, of what an MMO is; a game that allows for persistence and massive socialization, yet I still as an individual have a unique identity in that universe… it really feels like this is something that hasn’t any cap in sight. I don’t know if I’d want to invest in the next great fantasy MMORPG, but I wouldn’t want to put my money anywhere else but in this sector.

That last quote, about what an MMO is all about is spot on. Granted its coming from a PR guy, but at least someone is saying it.

I think I actually like this Reid guy. He should start a blog.

Blogging is srs bsns

February 27, 2012

This is one of those “it’s a comment but it’s too long so it becomes a post” deals, in response to Keen’s post about hype/excitement. I’m likely near the top of people who have criticized or at least taken a cheap shot at Keen for getting too hyped up about a game. In my defense, there is a Friday every week.

There are a few things that play into all of this. The first, and really central point, is that following/playing an MMO is closer to a religion than a hobby (or should be). When you are all-in on an MMO, it dominates your time, and the better the MMO is, the more time it takes up. And in a ‘real’ MMO, the more time you put in, the more fun it puts out. Before the casual ‘solo-hero’ revolution, MMOs were as much about WHO you played with as WHAT you were doing, and the ‘who’ only mattered if they stayed logging in month after month. “Guild hoppers” were the tourists of the genre before we had enough titles to allow tourism, and neither term is one you want associated with you.

Under that approach, someone who is in/out of a game in 1-3 months is unhelpful at best, and a ‘problem’ at worse. Combine this with the religion thing above, and if Keen hyped and then left your MMO of choice, that can rub people the wrong way. This effect has noticeably decreased as MMOs become more content rather the community focused. In SW:TOR, does anyone even notice if someone else stops playing? Is it even possible to notice? At least in Skyrim Steam shows me who is playing while I’m playing.

Another aspect is one that Keen mentioned; the pre-release talk about features that likely won’t work as written/hyped. Rift is one example that comes to mind. Pre-release I believe Keen made a statement that thanks to the soul system, you can build any character you want in Rift. That was simply not true, and if someone (me) wanted to make a point of Keen creating unrealistic hype around a game, that was a great example.

At the same time, Rift’s soul system is a hell of a lot more flexible than the other members of that clone army, so the spirit of what Keen wrote is still sorta true, if just stated incorrectly. If you don’t get hung up on the exact wording (although really, what fun is that?), you get the point and move on. If it’s Friday, or you just hate Keen, you don’t (unless Tobold has a PvP post up anyway).

Experience is also a factor, both with MMOs and blogging itself. When you are new to MMOs/blogging, everything seems fresh and new to you, and you truly believe you are sharing revolutionary ideas/thoughts, and you sorta believe the devs because hey, why would they lie? As you progress towards bittervet gamer/blogger, and go through multiple releases that fail to not only live up to expectations, but outright lie about features/goals, you stop trusting words/hype and consider anything pre-beta as a maybe (or in the case of Rift, even beyond).

GW2 is a good example of this right now. ArenaNet will tell you that GW2 has an active combat system. If the only MMO you have played is WoW, that’s sounds true-enough to you. If you played UO, or AC-DT, or Darkfall, it’s not exactly as ‘active’ as ArenaNet tries to paint it. Now it’s the job of PR to create hype, so not-really dynamic content like rifts in Rift are called “The most dynamic content ever”. They are lying, but it’s their job to lie. Since bloggers don’t get paid (other than me, buy Darkfall), just accepting the PR release and running with it opens you up to skepticism or ridicule, especially if you can already spot the hype just on what they have released (GW2 will have ‘massive’ battles, limited to 300 people. 300 is not massive if you play EVE. It is if you play WoW).

The final piece here is being the ‘white knight’ for a game. Not only have you bought into the hype, but you also defend the game from all criticism and refuse to believe that flaws exist even in just the facts released (GW2 non-80s being able to contribute meaningfully in WvW for example). This not only comes off as silly, but also reduces the value of your otherwise solid insights. You might have made nine good points, but if your tenth is clearly a copy/paste belief in PR spin, it’s the tenth point everyone will focus and comment on.

With all of that said (told you it was too long for a comment), I still read Keen’s blog because it is entertaining, and the ‘white knight’ aspect has been toned down big time over the years. When you blog for as long as he has, you are bound to write a few things that you later look back on and shake your head. So long as the head-shake posts are far and few between, and you own up to them (everyone with WAR), the blog remains entertaining and the author credible (whatever that means in the MMO blogging world).

EVE: The loot goes out FIRST!

February 27, 2012

I feel like it’s been forever since I did an INQ-E update, and some interesting stuff has happened. Overall the Corp is progressing forward, with our more veteran players hitting their stride and new pilots continuing to sign up. Let’s see if I can review/remember some past events.

One thing we are doing more and more of is scanning/exploration. In addition to finding wormholes, and are also taking advantage of Grav sites as alternatives to mining high-sec roid belts, and some pilots are also clearing anon sites in hopes of getting an escalation and a rare drop.

Entering a wormhole always brings the potential for disaster. While most of the time the space is quiet, it only takes one night to set you back a few (hundred million) ISK. We have had a few such nights.

The first was an epic fail all around. A few of us entered a wormhole to farm some Sleepers, and in the excitement of seeing a LOT of sites, we did a very poor job of scouting the rest of the area. Oh and we also forgot to bookmark the exit. Yup.

When the ‘welcome party’ arrived, they were not only able to destroy our ships with a seriously impressive fleet, but we also got podded since we did not have an exit to warp to. A very expensive lesson learned that night.

A different night, but the same “farm sleepers” goal, ended differently, but still poorly. We were farming away in a quiet hole, complaining that the nano drop rate was killing us, when the final site of the night dropped eight of those highly prized ribbons. As it was very late when we were wrapping up, no one was really thinking and we all just warped to the exit to leave. As this was a C1 wormhole, the last of our four battlecruisers collapsed the hole.

Our loot-filled Noctis was still inside.

While Dex did eject and then self-destructed his pod, it seems someone came along and, instead of entering the empty ship, decided to blow it up, with the ribbons not surviving. Moral victory…?

Not that all of our trips into WH space end in disaster. Last night for instance was very successful. We scanned down a C3 WH that appeared quiet, and inside scanned down multiple Grav sites. Grav sites in a WH contain all ores, including the highly prized ABC ores. Not only that, but the amounts are staggering, including a 35k Arkanor rock.

We put together a ‘cheap fleet’ of Retrievers and Ospreys and got to work, with an Itty V doing the hauling to an Orca sitting right outside the WH. While our average yield rate was much lower than when we mine in high-sec (hulks + orca buffs), the value of Arkanor more than made up for it, and mining in a WH was a nice change of pace. It was also pretty cool to see such massive asteroids floating around, especially of ores that we normally only see tiny rocks of, if at all.

On the PvP/war side of things, I was pretty surprised someone did not war-dec us over the long weekend. It seems we have bloodied up the local thugs in Amarr space, at least for now. I’m sure that won’t last forever, or perhaps we will go out and look for some trouble ourselves just to keep things interesting. Funny how as soon as I have a hanger full of PvP-ready ships of all sized, the wars stop.

On a final note, blog reader Victor Stillwater has a new EVE-based venture going at his site. If you need some PR work done, he is your man.

As he made reference to in his email to me, it is interesting that EVE has a meta-industry going, where out-of-game content is paid for by in-game ISK. EON does this, EVENews24 does it, and now Victor is giving it a shot. It will be interesting to see if his idea takes off. Best of luck man.

EVE-related blog post notice: If you would like to join us, comment here or shoot me an email. If you don’t have an EVE account, I’m more than happy to send a 21-day trial invite, and split the PLEX-related profit if you decide to sign up. Again just comment or email me.

SW:TOR is the most entertaining MMO of 2012

February 24, 2012

Oh the game sucks. We all know that. But this is without a doubt the most entertaining and hilarious thing I have read all week. (hat-tip Massively)

“You can tell when things are going really well in the game,” Zeschuk explains. “The amount of forum chatter drops. People don’t go to forums. They just play.”

Less forum posts = more subs huh?

Next Greg is going to tell me this is a clear sign of positive growth and retention. Wait he did:

“The playing of the game is off the charts.”

Not off the chart yet, but not exactly far, far away either.

Oh, but don’t worry, they also have metrics to give us such amazing stats like:

“You learn things like Sunday is the biggest play time of the week.”

Holy shit no way!? Damnit I better schedule guild events on Sundays. If only I had known this back in 1998! Thank you SW:TOR metrics, thank you!

Ah but the amazing train is just getting started. Did you know:

“our average peak play time is mid-afternoon, because East Coast is getting off work, Europe is off work and in their peak, and as Europe goes down, North America goes up.”

Is he kidding me with this stuff? Peak time is when people are at home and able to play? What?! How is that even possible? How is mid-day while everyone is at work not peak time? Are you telling me people are not playing when they are asleep at night? No wonder people don’t show up for my 1pm Wed events. Now I know! And with this new-found knowledge, I’m off to dominate EVE. Haha, damn fools won’t know what hit them when I strike at off-peak hours. I’ll be regarded as a modern-day Sun Tzu. Fear me!

“The amount of respect we have for people like Blizzard who run these games effectively has gone up even more.”

Has WoW forum chatter also dropped? Has anyone informed Greg that WoW has been stagnant/declining for a while now? He might want to stop chasing the dying MMO before he finds himself $300m+ deep into it. Oh wait…

Crack is whack kids, crack is whack.

But BioWare, please, don’t stop giving interviews.

GW2’s perfect storm

February 24, 2012

Ah back to blogging. Odd how even a few days away gets me twitching.

I have an EVE update post coming, but wanted to get these GW2-based thoughts out first.

Queues in GW2 WvW: Honestly it’s the second best solution, and the best (be CCP) is technically impossible for the rest of the industry. If one assumes GW2 will actually perform like an MMO, and not die after the first 1-3 months, populations should stabilize and people can move around until the odds of hitting a queue are low, or the queue itself is short. I would much rather sit in a 5 minute queue during prime time to get into WvW than get in instantly to some pre-packaged 10v10 or 40v40 instance of non-factorism. That said queue rage will be epic the first week of release, and the tears will be delicious.

As for the rest of the info/videos released from the press beta weekend, none of it really changes my mind about GW2. I’m still looking forward to it, and I still expect it to be decent. I think GW2 will be a fun 3-6 months, and then something to wander back to during slow gaming times, but I just don’t see it raising the MMO bar going forward or becoming a stand-out, must-play MMO long-term (unless the WvW ranking/competition aspect takes off, then the game might be somewhat of a massive-scale arena PvP hybrid game, which would be interesting).

With that said, I do think ArenaNet is going to benefit from a bit of a perfect storm situation. The last year+ in the MMO genre has been one failed release after another, and the latest and biggest, SW:TOR, is even more disappointing than even I had expected. Along with new failures, WoW itself has not stagnated, but gotten noticeably worse (linear idiot-proof questing + ‘hard’ raiding; good job interns). On top of all that, shockingly, the themepark model does not have the legs more traditional MMOs have, and so whether you are playing a failure themepark or not, the whole formula has grown stale for many/most.

So here comes GW2, the first AAA MMO in a while that is not a direct copy/paste job of WoW. For many ‘casual’ players, it will be the first MMO in a long time/ever that is not a hotbar smashfest, that has PvP as a feature rather than an afterthought, and that is more massive than a four-person insta-queue silent loot collecting trip (sorry, silent but fully voiced loot collecting trip). That alone will make GW2 special to MMO players that just don’t know a whole lot about the genre (but oh god prepare for the forum idiocy as WoWbies ask for a DF and welfare epics), much like WoW was special for so many because even the most basic stuff, like seeing another player in a city, was something new for them.

The bitter-vet in me knows GW2 ‘active’ combat is semi-active compared to Darkfall, or that their ‘massive’ maps are blips in EVE’s scope, but I fully understand that bitter-vet status is rare in the grand scheme of things, and that it’s not the AAA space that is really going to push the genre forward in significant ways. Hell, I’m just happy GW2 is not a copy/paste WoW. That alone is (sadly) worth celebrating in the AAA MMO space.

Small fish in a big pond

February 20, 2012

Assuming he sticks with the game, Gevlon will likely have a very different take on this post in three months than he does now. You’re not in Azeroth anymore buddy, and while EVE certainly has its fair share of weaker players, the one-server setup ensures that, eventually, you will bump into the good ones as well. Assuming you become something noticeable anyway.

Quick GW2 note: When they said 4 WvWvW maps, they meant two right? One unique and three copies of the other? It’s more ‘fair’ I guess, but a little boring. Also ArenaNets version of “absolutely massive” is quite different than mine. Nice crippling lag at the gate too.

Final note: Going to be a busy week for me work-wise, so blogging will likely be a little slow.


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