HotS: Shut up newbie

March 24, 2015

First, we have one spot open in our CoC clan, “Supreme Cream!”. If you are at least TH7 with lvl 2 dragons and a functioning brain, feel free to apply and just mention the blog. Also the Boom Beach Task Force has two open spots as well; Hardcore Casual. No requirement on that as BB is more casual than CoC, so the braindead are welcome!

Moving on, a few follow up points from yesterday’s HotS post:

If HotS is your first MOBA, I would expect you to enjoy it, but that has more to do with you finally playing a MOBA rather than specifically playing HotS. Imagine if your first-ever MMO was current-day LotRO. You’d enjoy it more than a seasoned MMO player because all of the normal MMO stuff would be new to you, and only after some time would you come to realize that LotRO is a pretty poor MMO.

MOBAs until LoL were the hidden gem of gaming, and the core ideas behind the genre are solid and great. There is a reason DOTA was such a popular WC3 mod for so long, and why LoL today is the top game out year after year. The model works long-term, and HotS doesn’t appear to destroy that model (it does, but that’s not something you will notice immediately). Much like I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in someone telling me LotRO is amazing because you can group with other players to complete quests, people who haven’t played a MOBA before saying HotS is a lot of fun should be taken in the correct context. Not saying you’re wrong, but… you’re kinda wrong.

The “Blizzard wasn’t aiming at LoL” argument. This goes back to the Hearthstone discussion about that game being a bearly-top-50 mobile app. Old Blizzard didn’t release niche products; they made niche products/genres mega-hits and mainstream. If the argument for New Blizzard with both HS and now HotS is that New Blizzard is just aiming at a little slice of the pie, that alone shows how far Blizzard has fallen. Also I’m not sure investors on the stock market would agree that Blizzard is the little guy just hoping to attract a niche audience to one of its ‘different’ titles.

I think it’s more accurately to say that with both HS and HotS, Blizzard simply missed the mark and created two sub-par games. Games that area very easy to pick up, but also very easy to put down due to a lack of depth, a quality previous Blizzard titles always had. And with both games not having a box price, and business models that rely on long-term retention (and continued spending as the dev teams continue to work on them, although I’m not sure I’d call the Hearthstone support ‘work’), that’s a big problem.

Shorter games: I haven’t played a HotS game under 20 minutes yet, while I believe the average ARAM in LoL is less than that, and I’ve personally had plenty end in 15 minutes or less. The surrender time in a ranked game is 20 minutes as well. Worse still, every game so far in HotS has taken that long regardless of what is actually happening. Very close game in terms of kills? 20ish minutes. Complete faceroll? 20ish minutes. It’s almost like what you do in the game doesn’t matter, which linking back to Hearthstone, is perhaps the New Blizzard design mantra? Creating games where player action matters as little as humanly possible?

Same for the community; don’t confuse people not caring to flame you because actions don’t matter with somehow the actual community being better. Let’s not even get into the whisper spam from bots/hackers that doesn’t happen in LoL but is rampant in HotS already.

Where HotS is facing an even bigger challenge than Hearthstone is that we have direct comparisons to other games. People got very upset when I compared Blizzard’s mobile game to the top mobile game out (oh how crazy of me!), but at least there they are very different games. HotS is a very poor LoL, and there is no denying that. Regardless of how much you try to explain the ‘Blizzard twist’ on HotS, it’s a MOBA. And in the MOBA genre, updates are expected to come quickly and with solid depth. Mechanics get tweaked, skills get adjusted, and new heroes are released. Blizzard can get away without updating Hearthstone for months (as is currently the case, in the last few months exactly two cards have been tweaked and NOTHING else has been done with the game), but that won’t fly in the MOBA market, especially when said MOBA is already a kiddie pool of depth banking mostly on a gimmick rather than core gameplay.

That rapid update requirement is going to be a big problem for Blizzard when HotS underperforms, especially after you take into consideration how slow in general Blizzard is about updating anything. How big is the HotS team going to remain when things go south? And how quickly will whatever players the game has left begin to jump ship when the updates slow due to the dev team getting cut back?

HotS is shaping up to be a rather beautiful disaster, one that will be fun to watch unfold.

 

 


Crowfall: The MMO genre is a niche market

February 24, 2015

Don’t you wish someone :cough: could have said in the past that Fantasy EVE would be something a few people might be interested in? Bet that guy’s blog is an awesome read…

Self-pats aside, the Crowfall Kickstarter is live, and perhaps will be fully funded by the time I hit publish on this blog. The money is rolling in fast, really, really fast. Again, funny how the ‘niche’ that is more ‘hardcore’ PvP-based MMOs works when you give people something above terrible to wallet-vote towards.

For me the best part of the kickstarter is it doesn’t come across as promising to be everything to everyone. The goal here isn’t to create an ‘accessible’ ‘mass market’ MMO. This is a game aimed at a niche (people who like MMOs for the sake of playing an MMO, not logging into an sRPG with global chat), that will build on the core ideals of the MMO genre before the genre went into the toilet and became a series of poorly-disguised cash-grabs and F2P failures.

Which is not to say Crowfall is guaranteed to be amazing. It could very well suck if basic stuff like combat or progression is poor. Making an MMO is hard; making an EVE-like MMO has shown to be impossible for all but one studio. But my money, quite literally, is on the team behind Crowfall to get it right, or at least more right than most others.

Now the wait begins, though hopefully alpha does hit this summer, which isn’t THAT far away.


Games Workshop hates money, and me

February 18, 2015

I recently tried the Warhammer conversion mod Warsword for Mount and Blade, and it was a pretty wild 24 hours in my brain. Right after installing it I got that amazing rush of “omg this is going to be awesome” that not only Warband provides (btw, I think Warband has crept up into ‘best game ever’ territory for me), but here I had Warband AND the Warhammer IP (which IMO is the greatest fantasy IP out, miles ahead of LotR or Game of Thrones).

Some high points: The major races are represented and actually look decent. Lizardmen look like Lizardmen, Orcs are bigger greener humans, ogres are huge, and goblins/dwarves are actually small. I didn’t think that was possible in Warband. Races also have race-specific gear, so you can’t put undead armor on a human, or have a non-goblin ride a wolf mount. That’s a cool touch. It’s especially cool because the various companions you can recruit are from all the different races, so you need to travel around, fight different races, and visit different racial cities to gear them up.

The stuff the mod does clearly pushes the aged engine to its limits, from the size of the map to the units and armor skins. And as I got further into it, the rough state of the mod (in forever beta) hit me again and again. Script errors were common, and I have a strange and game-breaking bug where the factions eventually all declare peace with each other and never go to war. That, along with other issues, is why I can’t recommend the mod, and why the situation drives me nuts.

Games Workshop, the owners of the Warhammer IP, must hate money. They must be allergic to it. Because how in the holy hell do we not have a Warband-like game using the Warhammer IP? Everything, literally everything, about the IP is perfect for a game of that style, and the amount of DLC you could sell (factions, unique heroes, item packs, unit skins) would be insane. And assuming the game was Warband-like in quality, I’d buy it all up. Every $5 unit skin, every $5 item back, every faction for $20. All of it. If you told me tomorrow someone was releasing a fully working, cleaned up, bug-free version of that mod for $200, I’d drive the money over personally.

I understand why GamesWorkshop won’t release a turn-based, straight up copy of the tabletop game in digital form ala Bloodbowl; even if the game was sold for $50, that’s the cost of one larger figuring, so you don’t want to cut into those sales (Bloodbowl is discontinued in figurine form). I get it. It blows, but I get it. But would a more real-time game like a Warband hurt figurine sales? Because that’s the only reason I can think of why this hasn’t happened already. That or again, a pure hatred for making money.

Need to stop typing now because thinking more and more about this is really getting under my skin.


Quick thought about the next Fallout game

February 16, 2015

The next Fallout game from Bethesda will hopefully be a two-to-five hour, linear, on-rails ‘aim for you’ shooter with a bit of story, but most of the story will be comic relief rather than a more series take on a post-apocalyptic world.

Wait Blizzard isn’t making the next Fallout? It’s still Bethesda so I don’t have to massively lower my expectation and will still likely get a game that reflects previous quality deliveries from the studio? Sweet.


LotRO: You’ll never see Mordor

January 22, 2015

Let’s talk about LotRO!

Actually let’s not talk about the content of LotRO, because why make everyone suffer, but instead let’s talk about how things have gone for the game overall, and specifically under F2P.

Spoiler alert: LotRO is a third-tier (at best) MMO right now, and F2P is in part to blame.

In 2007, prior to release, LotRO looked like a serious ‘WoW-killer’, and that term wasn’t a joke back then. The pre-release advertising for LotRO said you should join “the millions of other players”, which shows you what Turbine expected out of the title. Also back in 2007, Turbine wasn’t yet in the SOE/Trion bin of developers we love to watch fall on their face; they were respected thanks to Asherons Call and even DDO (while DDO wasn’t a breakout hit, it did well-enough, and not being a huge failure is actually a compliment in the MMO genre).

Plus yea, it had the freaking LotR IP, easily one of the hottest IPs in gaming back then. License to print money really, just like the Sims or Star Wars! :rimshot:

LotRO at launch was solid. No, it wasn’t a WoW-killer, not even close, but it wasn’t a bad MMO. Unlike WoW, it took its lore very seriously, had solid storytelling, and back then did a bunch of stuff different-enough to hold its own, at least for a bit, and the numbers reflected that.

Then for a bunch of reasons, it got worse. Major mistakes were made, people left, and overall Turbine was slipping towards the Turbine we know and laugh at today.

The game went F2P, and, much like with DDO, Turbine released a big “congrats to us!” press release about how awesome F2P was for the game. F2P fans STILL link to that thing (can’t get to it now, someone link it for me please?) as evidence of F2P working, and more than a few people still hold that time as if it were a reflection of today or even the last few years.

Only it didn’t work, because between that press release and today things are very different. There was never a follow-up “F2P is still awesome!” press release. Turbine had a bunch of layoffs. They started to get desperate with the game, to the point of basically selling you The One Ring in the cash shop, among other typical F2P model garbage cash grabs like ad spam and immersion-destroying fluff. LotRO no longer has expansions, and the big outstanding question now for the game is whether the story wraps up before the game goes offline. (Easy money is on offline)

Saying that F2P ‘saved’ LotRO is wrong beyond the fact that the game is still online, and we don’t know if LotRO would still be online if Turbine had kept it as a sub MMO. Most likely not (and of course no one still with Turbine would admit to it anyway), especially given what Turbine became, but unless your ultimate goal with a game is to scrap by for a bit after gutting your studio of employees, LotRO isn’t an example of success; it’s just another example of the F2P price; you get a short-term bump at the cost of any long-term hope.

The real problem is that when talking F2P MMOs, there are no examples of success. The current “hey it worked!” example from some is SW:TOR, a game that originally EA hoped would have 1m subs, then later cut that to 500k, and despite having by far the largest MMO budget and a ‘can’t miss’ IP, still didn’t produce a game good enough to even get that. F2P hasn’t ‘saved’ SW:TOR, as the game still isn’t close to meeting expectations, nor has it risen above mediocrity (I believe it has 1m ‘active accounts’, which is a joke when you consider all of the above). Again, unless ‘success’ in F2P land is “the game is still online”, SW:TOR isn’t a success. It’s not (yet?) at LotRO-levels of failure, sure, but being better than that is still a long way away from success.

And SW:TOR is the BEST example of F2P non-failure that I can think of. If we use EQ2 as the example here, it’s not even a conversation, to say nothing of what effect F2P had on ArcheAge, or the AA-before-AA example, Allods (which as far as I know, is the only MMO to partly move from F2P to a full sub option, which was well-received).

This conversation would be far more interesting if we had even one FFXIV-level example of F2P MMO success (asking for EVE longevity or just WoW overall success is asking way too much), but we don’t. We never have, yet some still tout the model as the new or current formula for success. The ‘formula’ hasn’t yielded a single positive result people. Not. A. One. In what other industry is something that has never provided successful given so much credit? Literally banana land going on here, but that is the MMO genre.


Pay to play, pay to spawn item

January 16, 2015

One item I want to address today in light of Smed being Smed: Since the beginning of time, you have been able to pay another player real money to get something in a game.

In UO I could buy a fully maxed character, a huge house, a powerful item, or a ‘fluff’ thing like a broken water tile with real money. The same is true for basically every single MMO. If you want to spend money instead of time to get something, you could always and still can do it. In some games this requires more effort, or the ban risk is higher, but its an option in EVERY SINGLE MMO.

And because the above is 100% true, this also means that every single item and account in an MMO has a real-world money value. That you may not be aware of what the value is, or that it even has a value, doesn’t change the fact that it does. That’s just you with your head in the sand, and pretending everyone else is also right there in the sand with you is beyond silly.

Now, the new-ish trend in games, and in MMOs in particular, isn’t the ‘money for items’ exchange, its the ‘money to dev to spawn item’ exchange. That is new, and that is how you go down the Pay-4-Power trail.

The only thing I can give CCP money for in EVE is account time (and cosmetics via Aurum), be it direct (pay my sub) or indirect (PLEX). I can’t give CCP money and have them spawn me a ship, ammo, skill points, or anything else that has direct power. I can give SOE/Smed money and he will spawn guns and ammo for me. That is the critical difference. That’s why people are pissed off, and rightfully so.

Especially because it’s one thing to make a Pay-4-Power game, which itself isn’t the end of the world. Plenty of games are exactly that, and can still be fun games whether you do pay and go all wallet-warrior, or don’t pay and see how far up the hill you can climb. But the worst thing a P4P game dev can do is lie and pretend the game isn’t P4P.

If you embrace what you are and are honest about it, players can make an informed decision, and don’t feel that they are supporting liars who think the players are too stupid to know what they are playing.

Smed taking a piss on every H1Z1 player and tell them its just raining is probably not how SOE wants to be represented, is it?*

* Answer: 50/50, because SOE.


Smed being Smed?

January 16, 2015

SOE being SOE is well established, but do we now need a sub-category for them with Smed being Smed? I think we might. I present you exhibit A:

“We will NOT be selling Guns, Ammo, Food, Water… i.e. That’s kind of the whole game and it would suck in our opinion if we did that” - Smed

Right now, in H1Z1, you can PAY to have an airdrop fly by that can drop guns, ammo, food, water, which in my opinion makes the whole game suck. Oh Smed.

But don’t worry everyone, Smed is fixing the airborn lottery lockbox by reducing the chance to get the good stuff. Because the only thing more fun in an ‘MMO’ like H1Z1 than paying for a random lottery chest, is paying for a random lottery chest with really shitty odds to give you what you are paying for. Because who doesn’t love paying to get junk? Certainly not SOE fans!


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