The MMO genre really has been terrible for a long time

TAGN has a post about the PC Gamer 50 most important PC games, which includes five MMOs (UO, EQ, EVE, WoW, Second Life). As noted in his post, all those MMOs came out prior to 2004, which basically tells you everything you need to know about the genre today.

As I was thinking about it, what post-2004 MMO would you put on the list if you had to pick one? WAR for killing the genre? SW:TOR for being a massive flop at release? FFXIV for its disaster launch with 1.0 and rebirth with 2.0? GW2 for…?

It’s tough right? And what’s crazy is this shouldn’t be that hard, not having to go back as far as 2004. So much has changed in gaming in 12 years, and yet here we have the MMO genre without any major leaps forward (and a lot of steps backwards, from WoW’s current state to the now-dying F2P model idiocy). No Kickstarter games that have shattered the mold (yet, hopefully), no niche releases that have picked up major steam, no big releases that moved us forward. Just more WoW-clones or small titles that had a few decent ideas and a whole host of flaws or issues.

What’s even more crazy if you think about all of this is that even today, the MMO genre is young compared to genres like FPS, RTS, RPG, or TBS, yet again while those genres have moved forward, the MMO space has not.

Posted in Guild Wars, MMO design, Rant, Uncategorized, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft | 9 Comments

Warhammer Online killed the MMO genre

Sensationalized blog title for all of the clicks!

Except not really, because WAR really did kill the MMO genre, at least in terms of being a mainstream genre similar in popularity to say RPGs, Sports titles, or FPS. Now don’t worry, that’s not actually a bad thing, but more on that later. First lets travel back in time and, with the power of hindsight, explore why Mythic killed the genre with Warhammer Online.

Prior to the release of WAR in Sept of 2008, the general view of the MMO space wasn’t whether a title would be successful, but how much money it would print. WoW was in its prime with TBC, and wouldn’t see its design take a turn down the ‘accessibility’ death-path until WotLK in Nov of 2008. And while WoW was king, other titles were still going strong. LotRO wasn’t a joke back then, for example.

WAR however was a different beast pre-release from anything before, and anything since (for those not around back then, take what is happening with Star Citizen today and multiply it by ten, if not a hundred). From the insane hype generated by Mythic (oh those bears…), to the fact that here was a title from the developers of DoAC, (arguably one of the greatest MMOs ever), using the Warhammer IP (the greatest IP ever, fact), it wasn’t just a case of printing money, but of ‘killing WoW’ and being the best thing of all time. Stack on top of all of the above that, initially, WAR was fun as hell in beta (in large part because the limited beta hid the later flaws oh-so-nicely), and you had a hype train running at light-speed.

Then release happened and not only did the train come off the rails, but it crashed into the town known as “the MMO genre” and burned it down. A lot of the hype from Mythic wasn’t real (hi bears), the game was horribly flawed in terms of end-game (a key strength of DAoC), and we had that whole ‘WoW tourists’ thing that didn’t help either. Mythic wasn’t able to put the fire out in any of their post-release updates, WAR was never ‘fixed’, and would ultimately get shut down.

Why WAR was so flawed is a point of contention to this day. I fully believe it’s because the vision that Mythic started with was highly tainted by trying to make WAR more like WoW late in development, rather than releasing DoAC 2.0 with a WAR skin (that game would still be online today). But even had WAR been a better-designed MMO, it still would have ‘failed’ in the eyes of the masses, because no matter what it wasn’t going to ‘kill’ WoW, or even rival it in terms of subs (12m). That 12m number is a pop-culture bubble effect as much, if not more, than a testament to WoW’s design at the time, and it wasn’t going to happen again for WAR.

We still saw big-budget releases after WAR, but none of them came close to the hype, the expectations, or the big-eyed dreams of WAR. SW:TOR cost a lot more, had a more popular IP, yet prior to release the ‘hype’ was to maybe retain a million subs, later scaled down to 500k (and it failed to do even that). WAR was the last time anyone seriously thought of an upcoming title as a WoW-killer, and with its burning destruction, so went the genre as a mass-market vehicle, as did the idea that MMO blogging could become a really big deal (whatever that meant).

But as I said at the beginning, the genre ‘dying’ in terms of the masses isn’t a bad thing. The mass-market is more WoW-clones, and not only do WoW-clones not work, who amongst our niche today even wants that? As for blogging, more page views are nice, sure, but again, who really cares? So long as posts get comments and a decent discussion going (and they still do), do any of us really miss developers sending us hype care packages or providing exclusive interviews? I don’t. (Though I do miss the millions I made off pimping Darkfall, I must admit. Fueling the old Ferrari is a real pain these days. 1%er problems are still problems, yo.)

The MMO genre was always going to be a niche market so long as it stayed true to the core ideas of living in a virtual world. That not only isn’t for the masses in terms of complexity and design, it simply takes more time than the average gamer is willing to dedicate to one title. And again, that’s totally ok. We don’t need games with mega-budgets and 12m subs to get quality titles and keep good developers employed. Maybe we gotta shell out some cash early via Kickstarter, or buy into Early Access, but is that really so different from pre-ordering a $75 collector’s edition of WAR and ultimately being disappointed even though beta was awesome?

2016, even with the expected slate of interesting titles, won’t be a rebirth of the genre in terms of returning to the pre-WAR days. That time is never coming back, and not only am I ok with that, I’m outright happy about it.

PS: Mark Jacobs very briefly had a blog he put up during the pre-collapse days of WAR titled “The MMO genre is a niche market”. The joke behind the title was that Mark was once told by some venture capitalist that MMOs would never be a huge deal, and here was Mark, releasing a mass-market world-beater title in WAR. Irony is a cruel mistress.

Posted in Age of Conan, Aion, Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Rift, Star Citizen, SW:TOR, Uncategorized, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft | 10 Comments

Sadface blogs

The annual “start fight, get humiliated, ragequit but not really” post is out from Tobold, at a new record of just 17 days into 2016 this year. His thin skin is getting thinner with old age I guess. It’s pretty wonderful this time around too. Not quite “SynCaine is evil” on the outrageously dumb statements scale (and certainly no “CCP will go bankrupt in 2013” idiocy), but still plenty of delicious tears to harvest all around.

My favorite part about Tobold over the last few years is he has regressed into your classic middle school bully. If he thinks he has found an easy target he will act tough for the crowd, but the first time he gets hit in the nose the tears come out and he turtles up. Rinse repeat over and over again.

And lets not get ourselves confused, he not only asks for this, he begs for it. Go back over those F4 posts of his and tell me that’s not the case. Why do you think he is so proud of his “I can insult you on my blog, but I’ll delete your insults or replies” stance? Because he wants this attention, both at his blog and others. How is he both offended by what he is crying about in that post but also doesn’t read said blogs? Can’t have it both ways inferno-man, so stop lying and just admit you crave the attention. At least, until reality hits him and he is the clown everyone is laugh at. Then it’s ragequit post time.

Actually I take it back. Tobold isn’t just a pre-teen bully, he is also that teenage girl on Facebook who posts “Having a bad day :sadface emoji:” without context, just begging for “Are you ok?” replies and attention from like-minded fools. Well here you go princess, another post just for you. Think of it as a ‘thank you’ for all the entertainment you have inadvertently provided us in 2015, plus 2016 is already off to a strong start!

Posted in Blogroll, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Clash of Clans vs Boom Beach

Now that I’m fairly close to the ‘end-game’ of both Clash of Clans and Boom Beach, it’s interesting to see the differences in the two games, and how the game and business models works for them. CoC is very much the ‘hardcore’ choice, while BB is far more casual and forgiving.

I’ll start with BB. Progressing in BB is easy for a large number of factors. For starters, farming is much easier. It’s all or nothing, and getting nothing doesn’t set you back nearly as much as failing in CoC. On top of that, if you get even halfway decent, you can do a full clear of your map (or as much as you need) in one go, giving you a guarantee to start your next upgrade. Once you start that upgrade, you also don’t care if you get attacked because you have used your resources and aren’t saving up for anything. It’s very easy to make solid progress in BB playing for 30min every day, or even every other day, and that doesn’t require deep strategic planning and knowledge.

Beyond farming/progression, the group activity in BB are Operations, which are almost raid-like in that it’s your guild vs the computer (rather than other players). Operations do require some skill to make a significant contribution, but even a poor attack helps the group. Also since you only get one attack, and we don’t start Ops more than once every few days (due to Intel requirements), participating and contributing isn’t a huge time demand either.

This is not to say BB is a game without skill or depth. I’ve been playing for over a year now consistently and still feel challenged and see room for improvement. It’s a great game, with a great business model (you absolutely never feel the game pushing you towards spending) that can be enjoyed even at a fairly casual pace.

Clash of Clan’s, a game I’ve now been playing for well over a year straight, is far more demanding and difficulty, with far more depth. For me it’s the ‘better’ game, but that’s because I do have the time to invest in it, and because I absolutely love games that reward the effort you put in.

Farming/progression-wise CoC is much harder than BB. For starters, even successful farming is much slower progress, and unsuccessful farming can actually leave you deep in the negative in terms of progress. You need to know the right farming composition to use, pick the right base to attack, and then execute the attack properly. Even with all of that, you need to hope you find a base with a decent amount of loot, which either takes more time hitting ‘next’, or you lower what you are willing to settle for. If you plan to boost and do multiple attacks, you are looking at an hour or more to maximize your time, and even after that hour you might not reach the goal you were aiming at.

Defending against attacks in also far more important in CoC than BB, because losing a lot of resources in CoC means you need to do more farming, and the more resources you have, the more you can lose. It’s also much harder to use all of your resources at the same time compared to BB, so you generally always have something to lose, meaning if you don’t play for a day, it’s going to sting. Finally, setting up a decent base isn’t as easy as it is in BB, and the meta changes in CoC far more than it does in BB. In short, once you reach the upper levels, progressing in CoC is a far more serious time and effort investment, and ‘stalling out’ is very much a possibility.

The group activity in CoC is Clan Wars, which is a PvP activity that makes farming/defending seem easy in comparison. The meta is always changing in clan wars, and at the higher end planning attacks is both time consuming and rather difficulty, requiring a lot of game knowledge and pinpoint execution. You also get two attacks, and with how we war, this requires that you, at a minimum, play twice in 24 hours to execute your attacks. Plus if your attack is poor, it’s basically a waste, rather than a trickle of progress like in BB. We war twice a week, so that’s at least four times a week you are required to do more than just check in with the game. I easily spend multiple hours every war, both watching others attack, filling troop requests, and planning out my attacks. I love it, but it is a time commitment on par with playing an MMO full-time (it’s not top-end raiding in terms of time though).

For me CoC is the ‘better’ game, but I love both, and for me they work perfectly together. CoC is my ‘serious’ mobile game, while BB is far less so while still providing solid entertainment and that sense of progression.

Both games are made by SuperCell, and I think it’s very interesting to see these two games, that on the surface look like clones of each other, play so differently once you get into them. I can see the merits for both styles, and I can also see how both games have remained so insanely popular year after year. Finally it’s refreshing and reassuring to see two of the most successful mobile games both use a non-abusive form of the F2P model that respect the player. Make a good game, and you won’t be forced to sell hotbars or other garbage to your players to keep the lights on, what a concept huh?

Posted in Boom Beach, Clash of Clans, Inquisition Clan, iPhone, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Back to Mount and Blade

The more things change…

I’m still grinding out the story in The Witcher 3, but holy cow is it tough sledding, and at this point 95% of the entertainment is seeing how far down the derp trail this game goes.Example:  A deadly force is chasing your daughter, quick, put on a freaking comedy play (zero funny jokes during that btw) to help you find this character, who will help you free this other character, who once freed will tell you he doesn’t have any information about your daughter… Has ANYONE played this game past Bloody Baron and enjoyed it? No? Ok, didn’t think so. GotY everyone…

Anyone back to games that hold up past 10 hours and things that make sense even if you do rub two brain cells together; Prophecy of Pendor has been updated to version 3.7, and the change log looks impressive. I was going to stay away from M&B because of the upcoming Bannerlord, but I don’t think that game is coming ‘soon’, so screw it, back to PoP I go.

Posted in Mount and Blade: Warband, The Witcher | 9 Comments

Steam is only 15% of the PC market?

Via Polygon, here is a lot of great data about Steam via Steam Spy.

First of all, Steam is only 15% of the market? If the number was 50% I would still think that’s a bit low, but 15%? What is wrong with you people, catch up already! Of course, major titles like LoL or WoW aren’t on Steam, so that 15% number is a little misleading. I bet if you took out the top, say, 20 titles, and then redid the percentage, Steam would be a much bigger factor.

Second, GTA:V and Fallout 4 dominated the year in terms of revenue and copies sold, which also isn’t a surprise, even though F4 has only been out for a few months and hasn’t seen a significant discount yet. It was nice to see indie titles like ARK, Pillars of Eternity, Cities: Skylines, and Darkest Dungeon make the top sales chart. Everyone who bought H1Z1 to put that drek on the chart though? Shame. Shame. Shame.

 

Posted in ARK, Fallout 3, Random, Steam Stuff, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

This War of Mine review

This War of Mine is a unique gaming experience, and one I highly recommend to just about anyone. It’s also a hard game to review, because in terms of pure gameplay, while TWoM is solid, that’s not really the driving factor behind the recommendation.

TWoM has you controlling 1-4 people in a war-torn city, with each day broken up into two phases. The day phase confines your people to their house, where you have them do things like cook/eat food, build improvements, rest, or talk/trade with visitors. The night phase allows you to send one person out as a scavenger to a number of locations around the city for supplies, with each location having its own set of challenges, loot, and danger. The game ends when either everyone dies, or you survive enough days for the war to end.

Characters can die in a number of different ways. They can be killed by other humans while out scavenging, from being wounded in combat and not treated properly (bandages and rest), from hunger if you run out of food, from untreated disease due to cold weather, or from depression. One core aspect of the game is balancing against each of those factors. You need supplies, so someone has to go out and scavenge, even if the site is dangerous or requires you to steal supplies. But a bad run can depress the house, or get the one good scavenger you have injured and unable to help for a few days. The downward spiral can occur in a number of ways, just like a recovery can be performed in multiple ways (trader comes at just the right time and you have enough extra stuff to trade for what you really need, or you pull off a great scavenging run, or your homegrown food is ready at a key moment, etc).

Another balancing act is how you upgrade your home/base. Core comforts like beds or music keep everyone content, but producing alcohol means more high-value items to trade. Investing in food production pays off long-term, but can you take the hit early on for that gain? Weapons are important both for scavenging combat and for home defense, but they won’t help you much if your people are sick or hungry. Some scavenging sites require you bring certain tools, but producing those tools takes resources, plus valuable bag space.

What really makes TWoM great however isn’t the gameplay alone. That’s solid, especially how it keeps the survival aspect intact (until you really master/win the game, you won’t hit that phase after survival that is all too common in most ‘survival’ games), but the games atmosphere and ability to pull you into the setting is what is so expertly done. It’s almost impossible to play the game and not feel depressed often, and I say that as the highest of compliments. Whenever you think things are going well, something tragic often happens. You almost never truly feel safe or comfortable, and when things to really wrong (someone dies), its a huge punch to the gut. I think the game truly captures what it would be like to be a civilian in a war-torn situation.

The biggest key to fully enjoying TWoM however is to not give up. Don’t reroll and start fresh the first time something bad happens. Much like the people in the game, press on and try to make the best of things. Mastery of the game (knowing the locations, knowing the build order of everything, knowing how best to take advantage of trading and certain events) is when the game ends, honestly, but there is plenty to learn and deal with for at least 2-3 long games if you stick with them.

Highly, highly recommended.

Posted in Random, Review