Closing out 2013. 2014 predictions

December 30, 2013

2013 ends much like it began for the MMO genre, with a collective ‘meh’, and this blog overall has reflected that both in post volume and the number of posts about MMOs vs other games.

My most played MMO this year was Darkfall: Unholy Wars, and while I had a lot of fun with the title for a good number of months, right now it feels far too much like an oversized arena PvP game than a sandbox MMO. Character progression is short, top gear is trivial to horde, and if you don’t PvP for the sake of PvP, you don’t have much else to really do. I’ll see what AV does with the title in 2014, but right now I have little reason to log in.

I played some EVE online, but wormhole life is not something you can’t do without serious dedication, and I just couldn’t find the will to do that consistently. I’m currently out in low-sec with the alliance, and looking forward to jumping into some fleets there. Ultimately however I need to figure out a big-picture goal, either for myself or the corp. We’ll see if that happens in 2014.

I started 2013 playing UO:Forever with Keen and crew, and while that only lasted a few months, it was fun going back to early-days UO. Some aspects aged very well (PvE, housing, the worldly feel), others not so much (combat, PvP), and ultimately I drifted away because I had accomplished what I wanted, in large part thanks to the server setting character progression to Panda-WoW speed. A lesson that sadly the genre is still learning and trying to come to terms with.

So yea, 3 MMOs in 2013, one a sequel to a title announced in 2003, one a title launched in 2003, and one a title launched in 1997. Sums up the genre pretty accurately IMO.

Let’s look back at my 2013 predictions, shall we?

“I do believe 2013 will be the year the MMO genre figures itself out, and a clear distinction is made between games that are ‘real’ MMOs, and titles with MMO-lite qualities that we consume.”

Nope.

Might as well make the same prediction for 2014. It’s going to happen eventually… right?

“EVE will reach and retain 500k subs in 2013.”

Didn’t hit 500k, but did increase to just under 400k. Edit: Yes it did. Got this one correct without even knowing it…

“SW:TOR will shut down or go skeleton crew by 2014.”

Didn’t shut down. Does sell you hotbars. Recently released a Starfox mode as the big update. 50/50?

“LotRO will directly sell you The One Ring and a chance to play Sauron.”

Skeleton crew didn’t get around to Sauron, but you can pay Turbine to skip half the game, so… 50/50?

“DF:UW will actually release and exceed the first year of DF1.”

Yes and no. Yes because it launched, the launch was solid, and the game fixed a lot of the core issues DF1 had. No because the fixed issues from DF1 exposed more core issues with the game, and those remain as 2013 draws to a close.

“GW2 will have 9 tiers of gear by the end of 2013.”

I honestly care so little about GW2 and even reading about it is terribly boring so I can’t comment on this. Has it happened? I know you can pay for high tiers of harvesting tools, but what else?

“A bunch of MMOs will have kickstarter campaigns. Few will actually make it, almost all will be meh.”

No kickstarter MMOs launched, did they? I know some got funded, others failed to reach their goal, and nothing that I saw made me go “yes, that is brilliant, take my money and do that”, so I’ll call this one a win.

On to the 2014 predictions:

EQNL will have everyone loving it the first month of release. Shortly after just about everyone will be asking “now what?” and drift away.

EQN will continue to attempt to copy/paste from my design docs, and will continue to SOE them into failure.

ESO will have a big launch, followed by a quick death (F2P). I’d like to pretend that THIS massive themepark failure will teach the industry to stop, but if SW:TOR didn’t, nothing will.

WildStar won’t suck. Just throwing a dart here, as WildStar doesn’t interest me personally, but what little I know about the dev team, I like. If they stick to their ideas/goals post-release, I can see WildStar being a solid ‘niche’ MMO. We might even be calling it “themepark done right”.

The GW2 train will continue to roll, although with less steam and more heavy-handedness towards the cash shop. Such is F2P life.

LotRO will continue to provide us with amusing stories, perhaps selling you a character 3/4th of the way into the game, or something equally dumb. 50/50 on being able to play Sauron. 75% chance you will be able to buy the One Ring in the shop.

CCP will go bankru… haha just kidding. Best MMO out will continue to play chess while the genre learns checkers. 450k subs in 2014. Edit: Since we are at 500K already and this isn’t WoW, raising this to 600k.

WoW will bounce back with the next expansion and have a strong 2014. Now that the interns are back to being interns, and the real devs are back from failing to make anything with Titan, WoW will prosper. It will also help that 2014 won’t offer it much real competition (Unless WildStar draws away a significant portion of the raiding crowd, which is a possibility). WoW will end with more subs in 2014.

Did I miss anything?


Clones making clones

December 23, 2013

Around this time of year, most blog authors will do year-end posts (hopefully I’ll get one up as well, but no promises), and I think a trend we will see this year was that 2013 was pretty blah for the MMO genre, and that 2014 isn’t looking much better. To say the genre has been in a rut of late would be an understatement; the two most ‘successful’ games (in terms of interest, design, and countless other factors) are still WoW and EVE. Those games were released in 2003 and 2004. A decade ago.

Ten years is a long time. It’s long enough that someone who was 15 when WoW was released is now 25 and (hopefully) working. They might even be working at a game studio, perhaps on an MMO. And like Keen posted about here, maybe all they know of an MMO is WoW and its clones.

Furthermore, how many MMO players today have solid experience with an MMO that’s not a WoW clone? I don’t mean they tried something different and left after a month; I mean how many players today have actually made significant progress in non-clone MMOs? Is it a million? Compared to the tens of millions of clone players?

All of the above wouldn’t be a problem if the average clone was somewhat successful, but for the most part they are not, and I don’t get the sense that the average MMO player is happy about the situation either. Again, how many ‘year end blog posts’ are going to be glowing with praise for 2013 and pumped for 2014?

I think the two factors above, clone devs and clone players, are the core problems with the genre; the ‘talent’ to produce something different, interesting, yet still enjoyable and playable is generally lacking. But how do you learn what makes a good MMO? You certainly don’t go to school for it, and what few books exist, how many of them are really relevant? Playing different titles works to an extent, but if you can’t correctly see what works and why in certain titles, it’s only going to take you so far.

The MMO genre is also more difficult than say, making a shooter, because the more things your MMO tries, the more human nature plays into it, and on top of limited knowledge/experience in MMO design, how many developers can correctly analyze what the masses will do with feature X or function Y? If you look around, the answer to that is few, oh so very few.

Finally, as if the above wasn’t difficult enough on its own, players are also the genre’s worst enemy. More and more these days we are seeing people asking for X or Y, because they are sick of clones, yet on day one those clones get gobbled up only to be dropped in a month or three. Worse, players ask for X and Y but don’t understand why what they are asking for is going to doom their game. As inexperienced as the average dev appears, it’s far worse for the average player, and yet far too often we see devs listening to said players to ‘give them what they want’.

The genre is a mess. An ugly, complex, recycled mess. Happy 2014!

Edit: And now the post has a title…


And now some real dummies in action

December 21, 2013

Steam Winter sale is happening now, and Valve has tied the pointless-but-cracklike trading card system into the sale. Card prices have jumped as people chase nothingness. Fools!

That said, my account just hit level 15, so I’ve got that going for me. (Feel free to donate to the cause; Syncaine on steam, friend+send your cards today!)

Speaking of dummies, this post from Forumfall made my day (read the thread, then click the link to see an older thread. Just be careful, the dumb is strong on Forumfall these days).

Some background: When AV first added scraping, if you had half an understanding on how economies work (or your MMO understanding doesn’t consist of Runescape) you assumed it was bugged and the rewards it was spitting out were going to get reduced by a few orders of magnitude. Because :AV: scraping remained unchanged for months, smashing a game economy already lacking any significant sinks. Welfare epics were more difficult to acquire than endless wealth in DF, and that’s not an exaggeration.

The most important issue the original MVPs tried to address was that broken economy to try and give anything in the game a semblance of meaning, but much like the “scraping is fine idiot!” and “let’s wait for inflation to happen guyz!” aping that the linked post shows, any serious changes were spammed away, and because :AV:, the MVP forum is now basically the general forum thanks to AV inviting everyone in, with every ‘logical thinking’ ape spewing garbage. (There is a thread right now that is 13 pages deep; on page 12 the apes reached the conclusion made on page one…)

The above is a trend (devs listening to dummies) I’ll get into later, because the more I think about it, the more I believe that is why the genre is a dump right now.

PS: The irony of this posting directly following a post about Jester is not lost to me. I can only imagine what would happen if the CSM (assuming they cared enough to understand DF basics) got a glimpse of the MVP board. Heads would literally explode.

Edit: Forgot my favorite part. Ladies and gentlemen, the new definition of meta game:

Meta game is GvG AvA not mob farming and dueling, so logging in for a siege is meta game and farming to be able to have gear for that siege is meta game too.


Smartest dummy I know

December 16, 2013

Jester is a bit of a weird bird (and I say that with upmost respect).

On the one hand, he is that rare player that is worth hundreds if not thousands of subscriptions in EVE. He is exactly the type of player you want if you are a dev; he gets people excited for the game, he knows his stuff, and he represents the game and its players in an excellent light. On top of that, he is a top-level player of a game where being anything above average means a great deal, and his overall knowledge of all things EVE is amazing, as is his ability to communicate it via his blog.

On the other hand, dude is a complete doe-eyed MMO newbie outside of EVE.

He was excited for GW2 for all the reasons most of us saw as your typical PR fluff (living world, action combat, basically that whole manifesto of lies), and then when the game came out went through the expected non-descript cycle with the game and moved on, despite thinking it would play out different for him initially. (I’d provide links but lazy).

Now, he is looking forward to ESO thanks to that… interesting PvP video they recently released. The Keen and Graev comments section is a good reflection of what most thought of the video (and the game overall). I just find the contrast amusing; here is a man who is such an expert at the most complex MMO out, yet that same person buys into the terribly produced hype of themepark MMOs.

Maybe that whole Jester/Garth thing isn’t just a blog gimmick…


This perfectly sums up a few games

December 16, 2013

Favorite part was finding a fountain in a chest and placing it outside. What a pretty fountain it was. After that I lost interest. Not sure if there is more interesting stuff out there. – Fabrulana at TAGN

SotA, EQNL, etc.

(Yes, blatant content theft on a Monday morning)


LotRO: Still creeping towards inevitability

December 13, 2013

Better hurry, LoTRO is selling lvl 50 characters ‘for a limited time’ everyone…

Aside from “Lulz, LotRO”, the question I have is when will Turbine just fully embrace P2W for the game? They keep creeping towards it one update at a time while still trying to convince people that’s not the model. Why?

P2W works, both for companies and for players. Why not become the first ‘AAA’ MMO that fully embraces P2W in the west? Sell raid-level gear, maxed characters, gold, boosts, teleportation; the works. Let someone who wants to only experience the story quests do so by paying to remove the game/challenge aspects. If someone wants to PvP without worrying about characters or gear, let them pay for that as well. Want to just wander around the environments? We have a cash shop item for that!

By creeping towards P2W but denying it at every step, you only piss off both sides. P2W players aren’t getting what they fully want, and P2W haters have something to bitch about every patch. LotRO has long since stopped being about keeping the lore pure, or being WoW in the LotR setting.

Embrace what we all know you will eventually be anyway LotRO.


BG1:EE complete, on to BG2:EE

December 11, 2013

I think I finally understand why people play through Baldur’s Gate multiple times. When the game initially came out in 1999 I played it, but at that time my hardware was such that it was pretty painful (oh those load times), and I never finished it. When I got it off GOG.com and modded it, I did finish it, and part of my hesitation for buying the Enhanced Edition was I wasn’t sure if it was going to be that fun again. Having just finished BG1:EE, I can safely say that yes, going back through it again is indeed very enjoyable.

A lot of that is the content itself, as it’s fantastic and has held up amazingly well. What jumped out to me this time around is how flexible the game is. While it does have a main quest line that you must complete, it doesn’t dominate the game, and often you can elect when to move it along in between everything else. All of the side content is optional, and while you need to complete some of it to gain experience and items, WHAT you complete and when is totally up to you. What class your main character is, and how you build your party, also changes things more than in most games of this sort.

In short, BG1 is a sandbox RPG, but it’s not the open and sometimes almost pointless ‘sandbox’ of a title like Skyrim. In Skyrim you have entire sections of the game that never even comes close to touching the main storyline, and you also have a lot of ‘stuff’ that is almost completely outside the general events happening. In BG1, even the side stuff generally connects to the main plot, so you always feel like you are working towards the ending, rather than just running side quests. Not sure if I explained that well, but hopefully you know what I’m getting at.

The above is how I’m now playing BG2:EE (yea, picked it up at full price, wallet vote and all that), and it’s just as enjoyable. I identified the party members I wanted to bring along this time, and a somewhat general order for content up to the point I’m most familiar with. So far, I’m loving it.


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