WildStar – I can’t say it sucks, yet

August 20, 2013

TAGN beat me to posting about the WildStar PLEX plan. /agree

It works in EVE because EVE has a balanced economy. WildStar being a themepark, it won’t (feel free to bookmark this and come back 6 months into release and tell me otherwise).

What I do find interesting is that WildStar, being an NCSoft title, is going to charge a sub, while GW2, also under NCSoft, does not. Now sure, GW2 is a sequel to GW1, which was also sub-free, but Anet never set out to create an MMO with GW1, while they most certainly tried with GW2. Pretty clear message NCSoft is sending with this announcement; WildStar is not a 3 week vacation.

Whether it succeeds or not I can’t tell yet, mostly because I’ve not been following the game closely and I’ve yet to read anything convincing about it one way or the other.

Now that I think about it, that’s a huge compliment to the game actually. Past MMOs have been easy; be it SW:TOR (4th pillar of fail), GW2 (living world of static zones), TESO (“we reskinned WoW with the ES IP, yo”), or EQN (SOE, parkour, boss red boxes, countless design fails in a single presentation) those games and many others were/are/will be DOA. I can’t say that about WildStar yet. Congrats?


EQN: Leading off with your best

August 6, 2013

When someone states their MMO is doing something different from everyone else, which of the following innovations would you rather see:

WAR’s Public Quests, changing how you go about getting into a group to do group content.

Or

EQN’s “parkour”, adding an animation for going over (certain) rocks?

If you think the above example is silly and unfair, I agree, but I’m not the one in charge of putting together the agenda for the big EQN reveal, and that was one of the first items emphasized. Right after lighting, lighting, lighting, and lighting (which, btw, looked average at best, and won’t have any impact on gameplay, unlike say the lighting in Darkfall or Skyrim where shadows actually matter).

I bring this up not just to mock SOE, but to emphasis a point about “advancing the genre”. You don’t do that with fluff, which parkour very much is. You also don’t do it by fully voicing your quests, which is why SW:TOR was easy to declare DOA in 2010. When your big selling point is garbage, it’s not because you are hiding the really good stuff for later, it’s because everything else is even worse garbage.

Now yes, there was more substance to the EQN showing than JUST parkour, but apply the test; was anything else shown something that will have the impact of even WAR’s PQs? (Which is not a high bar, just one simple example) And if you come away with anything in the ‘Yes’ column, will any of those ideas actually work as fun MMO gameplay? A crazy new idea is still garbage if ultimately it’s not fun or outright fails.

Predicting when a new idea that impacts gameplay is going to work can be tricky. Identifying fluff garbage pitched as advancing the genre is easy, as is the reason why someone would present that over solid ideas or innovation.


The blogs reflect the genre

July 10, 2013

This post about blogging over at TAGN, along with the comments, is worth reading, even if you are only vaguely interested in the topic of MMO blogs. As the posts-per-day rate here has slowed over the last two months, it’s a topic I’ve thought about as well. This blog is almost 6 years old now (yikes), and I still don’t feel like I’m ‘done’ talking about the MMO genre. At the same time, something has happened to slow the content rate here, and not all of that can be pinned to changes in my RL (though that is a major factor). So what exactly is going on?

First, I don’t think the fad that is blogging is passing, if only because it never was a fad to begin with. Sure, blogging might have had its ‘time in the sun’ around the time the Warhammer hype machine was at its peak, but it was around before that and is still around after. So long as MMOs still somewhat resemble virtual worlds, they will be worth writing about.

What is happening is that the genre itself is changing, and right now the change is just not really giving us much to talk about. A little history lesson first.

When I was writing about WoW sucking before writing about WoW sucking was cool, a major reason for that was because Blizzard was shaping the genre, and the direction they were going in was not one I liked (or that works). I don’t really care about Blizzard/WoW now because they are non-factors. No one is building the next ‘WoW-killer/clone’. No one is taking a great IP (Warhammer) and driving it into the dirt thanks to the WoW taint.

Right now, everyone is basically in two camps. You are either in the EAWare camp, where you just believe MMOs don’t work, or you are in the indy camp, where you understand that MMOs work when they are virtual worlds rather than sRPGs with a login server, and that the market for THAT is not millions. There is no “let’s make a bigger/better WoW” camp, and so I no longer need to keep educating people about it. You’re welcome. When WoW goes F2P in 2015, it won’t be a surprise but rather confirmation of about a hundred posts I made in 2007/8. Feel free to look back and just leave a “damn, Syn right again” comment on each one. It’s the least you can do.

Where MMOs are going is both obvious and as uncertain as ever. It’s obvious because EVE is still crushing it and for good reason; it’s the definition of MMO design done right. If only someone had pointed that out in 2007… What’s really scary is that CCP might be doing its best work with the game right now, ten years in, so rather than decline like “all MMOs do”, EVE is still very much on the way up, with the only real question being just how high up it will go. I know I said the market is not millions, but CCP might prove me wrong in a few years.

The uncertain part is, spaceships aside, where does everyone else go? I think Darkfall: Unholy Wars is a much improved version of DF, and the patches Aventurine has been doing are hitting all the right areas, but the game and the company behind it have a long, long way to go before they reach anything close to current EVE/CCP status. The foundation is there, certainly, but the goal is so far away its borderline impossible to even think about right now. And much like EVE itself, DF doesn’t NEED 1m subs to be what it needs to be. The current population in the game is just right; fights can be found, but the world is not overcrowded to the point of game-breaking (as can happen).

GW2 continues to do what it’s doing, but nothing since the 3rd week has struck me as a reason to return. It’s just there, which since day one has pretty much been the issue with the game. Again, there is a reason Anet isn’t asking for a monthly fee, and it’s not because they are just that nice. Similar statements can be made about most other MMOs; it’s amazing SW:TOR has not been shut down, Secret World is what it is, and a few other titles are chugging along or milking the last bits for whatever is left (LotRO).

The genre is evolving and devolving at the same time. It’s evolving in terms of how games are made; Kickstarter being the biggest factor, but even having games on Steam vs requiring a box in a store is a big change for gaming, and MMOs in particular. A niche game for 50k gets made today if that 50k votes with their wallet strongly enough, while just a few years back this wasn’t the case.

It’s devolving in that we are returning to games based off what Ultima Online was trying to do (virtual world) vs what WoW became (sRPG). Designing your game for a target audience vs ‘for everyone’ is once again happening. Games with scale and longevity are being pitched. Catering to the lowest common denominator is once again seen as a negative.

The great unknown right now is whether the above will deliver or not. Will an MMO off Kickstarter release and be what it promised? Are all of the devs that today talk about “not being WoW” follow through, or are we just in another Warhammer cycle where people in white shades talk about bears but really just deliver a crappy knockoff?

And because all of this is unknown right now, we can’t really blog about it at length. The genre, and as a result, blogs covering the genre, are in a bit of wait-and-see mode.


The Tortanic band is still playing everyone!

March 29, 2013

There is a lot that can be said about this piece from Massively about SW:TOR, but it’s Friday so I’ll just get right to the good stuff:

Based on BioWare’s pre-launch metrics, the team expected players to get through the content in three or four months. This assessment might seem obviously wrong to an experienced MMO player, but we are talking about a game with extensive voiceover and literally thousands of cinematic cutscenes adding up to about 170 to 180 hours of content. So the devs anticipated that TOR would take more consecutive days to complete than the average MMO. But according to BioWare’s metrics, players were tearing through the content an average of 40 hours a week; some players spent more than 120 hours a week in the game. “Within four and five weeks, we suddenly had close to a half a million people at the endgame,” Ohlen said. “It was something we didn’t expect at all.” Players were unsatisfied and began to exit the game.

First, how laughable were EAWare’s pre-launch metrics? It’s almost like no one from that studio had ever played or even seen how MMO gamers have been approaching content since 1997. Then again, we are talking about the studio that ‘announced’ Sunday being the most popular day to play an MMO, so yea.

Second, even if EAWare was right and players did spend a few months watching cutscenes and listening to voiceovers rather than mashing spacebar, you still have everyone quitting your sub-based MMO after finishing the sRPG. No one signed up for SW:TOR because it would eventually have a fantastic ‘elder game’. (Hey EAWare, in the MMO genre it’s called an end-game. You’re welcome). This is the 4th pillar title, KOTOR 4-153 all rolled into one, right?

Finally, I love EAWare telling us their F2P MMO that is shutting down servers is the second-biggest sub MMO out. Yea, it’s so big that during an EA investors call, the former CEO had to downplay the failures of the title and try to convince everyone that dumping 300m+ into voice ac… err, building your terrible MMO engine (wtf…), was no big deal. I’m sure the good doctors that jumped off the Tortanic would also confirm how proud they are of this massive success. Selling hotbars was in the cards all along!

I secretly suspect EA has an internal competition in upper management about who can troll their fans better, and while SW:TOR has clearly been #1 since launch, SimCity the MMO was starting to make noise and this is the response SW:TOR came up wth. 7/10 troll rating in my book, but still not the 10/10 that is “SimCity was always an MMO, we just forgot to tell anyone pre-release”.

 


The good stuffs in the middle

February 27, 2013

Let’s talk a little about the history of the mid-game in the MMO genre.

IMO the mid-game is the time after you have learned the basics of the game (tutorial or beginning phase), and before you stop progressing or have outright ‘won’. Outside of the MMO genre, the mid-game is often 95% or more of the game. To use Skyrim as an example, the mid-game is after you finish the first, heavily scripted encounter, and lasts until you either hit the level cap or finish what content you intended to complete (be it the main quest or a set of side quests).

If we go back to 1997, one of the major appeals of UO was that it was essentially an Ultima game, but without an end. You paid more than just the box price because you got more than that over time. That was the deal. And in 1997, the mid-game in UO was 95% of the game. Getting a character maxed out took time, and was not a major ‘must have’ for many. A few skills to 100 was common, but 7xGM was something you took your time working towards, and whether you eventually got there or not was not a make or break moment.

Fast forward a bit, and at some point (not release), WoW become more about the end-game than the mid-game. The developers focused more/most of their efforts delivering content to those at the cap, and the players in turn focused more on just getting to the cap and the ‘real’ game than what came before.

As it usually does, at the other end of the spectrum sits EVE. With a built-in 15yr+ progression curve, not a single player has ‘maxed out’ a pilot. In a somewhat “only in EVE” issue, there currently exist some players who are reaching the end of worthwhile progression, having trained pilots for almost 10 years, and wondering how CCP will fix that problem. All other MMOs would love to have the ‘problem’ of someone worrying about progression after 10 years, but then EVE has always played on a different level.

I bring all of this up for a few reasons. The first is to highlight the importance of the mid-game in an MMO. Whether they are conscious of it or not, players like progression. They like it enough, in fact, to keep paying while they grow. The end of personal progression is, IMO, the single biggest cause of player loss. And it’s rarely called directly that, which is part of the problem. Players will end progression and slowly lose interest in the game, and claim ‘burn out’ as the reason for leaving without actually realizing what happened. But look back at your own personal history with the genre and see how often you ended up leaving when your own progression path either ended or become more trouble than it was worth.

Speeding players towards that dead end is a great way to tank your MMO, and the genre is littered with examples of just that. WoW once again clouds the picture because of its sheer mass, but it itself is an example. When progression was more extensive, subs grew. When it was cut or minimized, they stagnated or dropped (despite the fact that WoW has by far the largest social hooks in the genre due to its sheer size/popularity).

It’s also important to remember that not all players will reach your end-game. In EQ1, for example, most players never hit the cap back in the day. The vast majority of the community was in leveling mode, and that WAS the game. Yes, raiding and such was in the game, but it was a niche activity for the few capable of climbing the leveling mountain. Also important to note is that EQ1 expansions focused as much, if not more, on expanding the leveling game as they did on refreshing the end-game. Can the same be said for WoW expansions or the major content patches?

As a developer, it’s only natural that you will focus on the areas your players occupy, but that’s a vicious cycle. The faster you get players to the cap, the more will reach it. And taken at face value, it would be logical to assume that is where you should focus. It’s more difficult to step back and realize that, subconsciously, your players really enjoy the journey more than the destination. Raiding and other end-game activities being so cost-effective in terms of development also factor in; designing solid leveling content that will last is hard, throwing together another scripted dragon to be killed weekly is not.

Finally, a disaster like SW:TOR sets the genre back greatly because it’s a terrible example of attempting to create an interesting journey rather than a collection of end-game activities. For the clueless outsider looking in (and these are generally the people with money or the ones making the decisions, sadly), they will see that someone tried to create a great journey, failed miserable, and assume that creating said journey is the problem.

Luckily, we seem to be starting down a path where smaller, more focused products are finally being brought to the table, and their mark of success is not set to the impossible goal of WoW-killer. While certainly not all of them will succeed, they at least have a chance, which is better than the DOA expectations of titles like SW:TOR and their misguided 4th pillar or personal story.


Be un-massive for a reason

February 15, 2013

One of my least favorite parts of blogging is presenting a topic and having people directly apply it to the now. The best example of this is talking about item loss, and having WoW players say it would never work because of how many runs it takes for Rag to drop his legendary weapon. “Losing that to a gank would make me unsub!” Derp…

Yesterday’s post had a bit of that, with people looking at Skyrim and just inserting thousands into the existing game and declaring that it would not be fun. No shit.

The challenge in blogging here is to write enough detail to set people down the correct path, without spelling out every single step and turning each post into a novel. Perhaps the post yesterday was my fault for not providing enough of that detail, but honestly I’d much rather blame the readers. It’s not me, it’s you people.

Blogging mini-rant aside, lets continue down that path.

In the MMO genre we often debate just what the ‘massive’ part means. From solo-instances up to EVE’s null-sec mega-brawls, just how many people are involved in something varies greatly.

I think scale matters. Those EVE battles are epic almost on sheer numbers alone, and that’s important. It’s a bit like watching a sporting event in a giant stadium versus at a local field. Simply by having so many like-minded fans around you, the experience is enhanced. It’s one of the core principles of the whole genre, and often justifies the otherwise simple gameplay (like harvesting for example).

That does not mean bigger is always better. There are some advantages to an instances 5-man experience versus an open dungeon for all. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m designing the MMO I’m going open dungeon and making that work, but that does not mean the entire concept of the instances 5-man is total fail.

Skyrim the MMO would be very much that 5 man experience. But rather than going half-way like DDO, go full-blast. The entire game is small-scale. You can even select the scale. Want to play all the content as a duo? Go for it. 20 man guild? It scales to that as well.

“Cool Syn, but that’s not an MMO” you say? Bah to that! Are you honestly telling me you would not pay $15 a month to play Skyrim on a Bethesda server with your buddies, and that subscription ensured you get Dawnguard-like content updates and fixes but more consistently? Of course you would. I’d even venture to guess a few hundred thousand people would.

And here is the thing; Skyrim has a silly amount of content, so clearly Bethesda can do what EA and SW:TOR seem so incapable of, and that would make the sub model work. Even the broken systems, like magic, would be ok since you are playing just with your buddies. Want to break the game and ‘win’? Knock yourself out. Or maybe because the game would have a team supporting it full-time, those things get fixed. Either way, it’s not a game-breaker like some have suggested it would be.

I’m sure there are a lot of details to iron out here, no doubt. But I think the base concept is solid, and again, I’m surprised we have not seen a more solid effort made in this space (but I’ll just go ahead and blame the WoW-blinders as per usual).


Sky-clone please

February 14, 2013

I’ve been playing a good bit of Skyrim: Dawnguard of late. Quality DLC to a game I’m fairly sure I’ll never see all of, even without the recently released DLC Dragonborn. Skyrim will be on my PC for a while, and it really is one of the most enjoyable titles in recent years (not that you didn’t already know that).

I don’t know the exact development cost of Skyrim, but I’m fairly certain it’s less than the 300m+ of SW:TOR. And we all know why SW:TOR cost that much (voice), but hour after hour of great Skyrim content just continues to hammer home how terrible SW:TOR is in terms of using its funding correctly. On a lesser scale, the fact that Inquisition and I also burned through GW2 in under a month is something to consider. Not to say that small adjustments would have fixed the ills of SW:TOR or GW2, because… well 4th pillar/personal story, but those titles should have done a bit better in terms of retention.

Which brings us back to the question of whether a PvE-based sandbox could work? It certainly works in Skyrim, but would that translate online? Simply adding other players to Skyrim would not make it a better game IMO, so clearly changes would need to be made, but what are they?

Skyrim uses a good bit of zoning (caves, dungeons, forts, certain towns), so for starters those would need to scale based on party size, much like Skyrim currently scales based on player level. The open world could be pre-populated, with different general areas intended for different levels, while some special spots (dragon spot for instance) would bring back higher levels to those areas. Respawning could be old-school, like in EQ1, with higher-value targets coming back after long (24-30hr) downtimes.

Basically every other area of the game would need some tweaking, and I don’t want to break it all down here, but my point is that I believe it’s possible to make a decent PvE MMO just by tweaking what already works in Skyrim.

Yes, I’m basically asking for a Sky-clone MMO. Or rather, wondering why someone hasn’t done it already, considering Skyrim is very similar to Oblivion (a huge success), which was very similar to Morrowind, a game released in 2002.

 


Boxed in

January 10, 2013

I bet you are wondering why I’m blogging less huh? Yea, I figured you were.

Darkfall NDA is mostly to blame.

MMO genre being a pile of crap is another factor.

I mean, not only is there not a title out right now that I bother to waste time on (other than playing EVE Offline), but nothing is happening in the genre worth blogging about, and those that are blogging are not posting anything I need a response post to. It’s that bad.

So I fill my gaming time with random titles. 10 hours of FTL, a few hours of Witcher 2, beating Xcom, playing Civ V multiplayer, playing some Endor while waiting for its graphically updated version, trolling Steam in desperation, and right now, playing Skyrim again with some DLC and mods.

Skyrim is blog-worthy, but I’ve already done that, and other than stating once again that the amount of content in that game makes something as ‘content rich’ as GW2 look like pong, I don’t have much.

As for the rest? A post at most really, and I personally don’t even find those all that interesting to write or read. Just not much debate to “hey, FTL is fun for 10 hours, spend the $3”.

So while racking my brain for something to blog about, I’ve realized that if a game is not blog-worthy, it’s also not that memorable or ‘important’ to me. Take Xcom. Great, great game. I would recommend it to everyone. But I’d trade in Xcom for Heroes 6 and all its horrible flaws 10 times out of 10. Why? Because Heroes 6 stuck with me longer, left more of an impression, and I walked away with more thoughts about it than Xcom. Xcom was what it was, and I moved on.

I don’t know if that means Heroes 6 is better. I know it’s not better if judged hour-per-hour (in a pound-for-pound kind of way), but I was done with Xcom far sooner than Heroes, and in ‘total enjoyment’, Heroes wins.

And if I apply that thinking to the MMO genre, it explains why flawed yet deep games like Darkfall last for me, while ‘perfected’ shortness like GW2 is ultimately disappointing and a waste. Because unlike FTL, I’m not looking just to waste 10 hours in an MMO. That’s not my expectation. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s expectation if you are playing an MMO ‘correctly’, with a guild and digging into the social aspects and caring about the world rather than just your own person experience. For all of that to happen, you need way more than 10 hours.

Of course that last part is basically impossible in so many ‘MMOs’ today. SW:TOR is the poster child, but GW2 has a personal story as well, and so many of its praised design decisions help turn everyone into a helpful yet silence NPC/bot. Awesome for 10 hours, entirely forgettable long-term. It’s the reason the ‘new hotness’ in the MMO genre is just selling you a box. That’s all you get. The content in the box. Play it, finish it, move on. Other silent drones will replace you. Or not. It doesn’t matter to anyone but you (and the soon-to-be-laid of devs).

So until the drought ends, or the NDA drops, I don’t know how much I’ll be posting here. Dark times indeed.


The Niche is Real

January 4, 2013

Massively has linked to a video about 38 Studios. It’s worth watching. In the comments section, there is a link to an article about the entire thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, and perhaps even linked it here, but still, it’s worth reading (or reading again).

Not that I want to rehash the entire 38 Studios story, but I do want to bring up how much money was spent to almost-create a game that, by their own admission, was not fun to play. We are talking tens of millions of dollars, if not more than 100 million.

Along those same lines, SW:TOR cost north of $300m, and we know what $300m bought us in terms of MMO gaming or genre progression.

And at least according to EAWare, SW:TOR needed to cost 300m+ because hey, that’s just what MMOs cost to produce. Prior to closing, Curt and 38 Studios would have backed that up.

Darkfall 1 cost 10m or so to make (I’d link to the source video but lazy, find it if you doubt it). Now sure, DF1 did not have special celebrity guests mailing in voice acting, or the 100+ devs 38 Studios had doing… something. But even if you hate FFA PvP gaming, it would be hard to argue that the game did not delivered something that people enjoyed, brought some new things to the table (combat), and sustained itself for 3 years until DF2010 came along and… NDA beta in 2012/13 :grumble:

The thinking that MMOs are always expensive and in order to deliver anything you have to spend $100m or aim for the WoW crowd is not only outdated, it’s just wrong. Everyone (literally, everyone) who has aimed at being WoW has failed; either by shutting down or selling TheOneRing/Hotbars/Wings. And yes, plenty of titles that did NOT aim to be WoW have failed as well, but plenty is still better than all, and the financial impact of Dawntide never exiting beta are not on the same level as SW:TOR’s failure causing a studio to gut itself and the docs in charge to ‘retire’.

So as we roll ahead in 2013, I’m expecting/hoping we seem more titles in the 10m range. Titles that don’t feature add-nothing IPs, content designed for ‘everyone’, or the attempt to be WoW but with X (but yes, this will still happen, and the results will be the same). Rather, we’ll see titles that aim to get one thing REALLY right, and attract and retain fans looking for exactly that.

Furthermore, a return to titles that are actual MMOs. Games not designed to be consumed and discarded like far too many ‘MMOs’ today that wonder why no one stuck around after the first few months/weeks. They don’t need to demand 100% of your gaming time, but they do need to offer you limitless entertainment. No more ‘personal’ stories with a final boss. No more zones that you move on from after X hours. No gear tier X that is current for a few months until it’s replaced by Y. All of those things are anti-MMO design, and just because one titles remains profitable DESPITE them, does not mean they work or are needed. (Or make that and do what Anet did, just sell the box and call it a day).

I think Kickstarter is showing that such interest/demand exists. Whether anything of substance comes from Kickstarter is a separate issue, but what is fact right now is that not only are people showing interest, they are showing it in a very real way (with their wallets). This is not Turbine announcing 4m characters created as a metric for success; this is some indie title that has little chance of ever becoming a game getting a million dollars of support thanks entirely to word-of-mouth.

It’s far too early to tell if all of this is some fad and nothing will come of it, or if this is indeed the first step to getting the MMO genre back to what many of us remember it being (and when it was actually working). That said, it’s encouraging to see people attempt it, and even more encouraging to see many others support those efforts. Maybe as we begin 2014, we will be talking about which little MMO we are playing, rather than which dream might actually happen as we uninstall some title we just finished that called itself an MMO.


What 2012 was, and what 2013 will be

December 26, 2012

The good for me in 2012 was more of the same (EVE, LoL), while the bad was highlighted by disappointment (GW2) and delay (DF:UW). The MMO genre as a whole continued to struggle with its identity, from massive failures like SW:TOR to mis-marketed ones like The Secret World. WoW’s bleeding continued, although with fuzzy math thanks to Diablo 3, and MoP has fully transitioned the game from vanilla to… whatever it is now. F2P continued its comedy laugh track, be it from the reigning champ, wings factory SOE, to uppity newcomers such as Hotbar EAWare and pony-fun-time Turbine. So what will 2013 bring?

Well, more wings from SOE of course, thought how that will work in Planetside I’m curious to see.

Snark temporarily aside, 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.

It’s funny that in 1997, when UO was releases, it was understood that this was a title you experienced, and the locations and creatures were tools to further whatever you happen to be doing. The ‘end’ was what you made it, and the only sure sign of a ‘game over’ screen was when you moved on. Then came EQ1 and AC1, and while both titles had a beginning and end, the content was such that few if any ever reached it, and again the ‘game over’ screen only came when you decided it was time.

In 2004, WoW was a refined EQ1, and while the path to the ‘end’ was shorter and yes, more accessible, it was still long enough that most did not see it, and the formula still worked. You certainly could see the ‘end’, but it was always just beyond your reach, and the journey was of such quality that even at a very slow pace, you were happy to keep playing/paying.

Fast forward to more recent times and titles like SW:TOR, where not only do you know the ‘end’ from day one, the game is designed such that you see it shortly. Distractions may exists after you consume the main course, but they have little if anything to do with the reason you showed up in the first place, and those distractions are poor-at-best in quality. SW:TOR biggest crime was not its massive budget blown on voice dialog, or its second-rate engine, or even the fact that it’s from EA; it was the expectation that millions would still be around and paying for months AFTER having completed the game.

At least Anet realized this with GW2, and planned around selling just the box to most, and some gems to the diehards. The game still falls into the “play and finish” trap of too many recent so-called MMOs, but at least the here the problem is mainly in how the PR department marketed the game rather than what the devs and bean-counters expected.

Which brings me back to the main topic. I believe in 2013 we will see MMOs that succeed because they are MMOs, and they do contain the months and years of content that an MMO needs. These titles will be ‘niche’ when compared to WoW, but such a distinction is already outdated as everyone finally comes to grips with the fact that WoW has always been an outlier, rather than the standard. With proper expectations and execution, these titles should prosper, especially as general MMO tastes swing back towards something more meaty rather than flashy.

At the same time, along with ‘real’ MMOs, we will see more games with MMO-lite features like GW2, and hopefully like GW2, they will ship with payment models that fit that style of game. These play-to-consume titles will refine their own space, and will provide nice breaks when needed for both MMO players and gamers in general. Their success will be measured not in retention, but in reacquisition; did they leave a positive-enough taste in your mouth to come back when more consumable content is out for sale?

More direct predictions:

EVE will reach and retain 500k subs in 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

 


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