Passing MMO judgment

I few days ago a wrote a post about why I believe Warhammer Online failed to live up to it’s potential/hype, and Tobold took the following line and ran (out of context) with it:

Because unless you are a believer in the Eurogamer method of MMO evaluation, for most players a month or less is not enough time to fully evaluate a game, especially an MMO, and especially in it’s first month of release.

What he read from that line is that you must play a game X hours before you can determine if you like a game or not, which is of course silly. Obligatory Eurogamer shot aside, the point of the above is that real MMO fans should know more or less what to expect in the first month of any MMO, and given that baseline, certain reasons for leaving a game in month one just don’t apply IMO.

For starters, anyone who has experienced an MMO from the start knows that a games worst day from a tech/coding perspective is always day one. There is a very good reason the first month of any MMO is when you will see the most hotfixes and last-minute patches. It’s also the reason many MMO gamers today apply a mandatory 3-6 month waiting period to avoid just these issues. For everyone else, you make the conscious trade of polish and functionality for the rush that is a new MMO, regardless of who makes the MMO (Yes, Blizzards next MMO will also have issues in it’s first month, just like WoW did, the least of which will be massive server queues/outages in the first week/month, and you will see Blizzard apply hotfixes and patches at a pace not seen since 2004). The amount and scale of the issues will vary from title to title, but the fact remains the first month of any MMO is always a give and take between excitement and frustration. Anyone who leaves an MMO in the first month because of a server queue should not be considered an MMO gamer, and hence falls into the 60% “you don’t count” crowd. Thanks for your $50, enjoy your Xbox. (Not that this is an absolute, obviously if a title is released and has CTD or BSOD issues every 5 minutes for a month, then yea, you can stop trying to play it. But if the mailbox is a little laggy? Welcome to the MMO genre.)

And before someone brings up “You are competing with WoW today, not 2004 WoW”, please don’t. If a game is going directly at WoW, like RoM, then that might apply, and a game like RoM has to do something (F2P in this case) to separate itself. But does anyone really compare Fallen Earth to 2009 WoW in terms of UI polish, engine performance, or total amount of content? If you do, you’re Xbox misses you, or you should have just stayed with WoW in the first place (but I’m sure the FE devs don’t mind your $50, and the players appreciate you funding future content for them). For everyone else, you go into it knowing that while some aspects won’t be comparable to any MMO that has been out and patched for years, you know that the selling points of FE outweigh a fancy (and in WoW’s case, player made) UI or a list of 100 instances. WoW can’t compete with FE in terms of its setting and survival-style atmosphere, and if that matches up with you, fancy UI be damned.

Moving past tech/code issues, you have the fact that for any game doing something actually new, the first month is when those new systems/ideas are really put to the test. Something that works perfectly with 100 or 1000 people in a certain environment (beta) might not work as planned with 100,000 players, or might show flaws when player mentality changes and things start to ‘count’. The more your MMO is actually about being massive and multiplayer, the harder it becomes to predict player behavior on a large scale.

WAR is the perfect example of this in terms of its RvR lakes and PQs. In beta players populated them ‘just because’, and played for fun (silly notion that is), but once things started to count, they went empty and it was time to chain-queue scenarios. If you quit WAR because you found scenario chain-queueing boring (while subjecting yourself to it…), welcome to the 60%. (This should not be confused with Mythic’s inability to correctly remedy the Scenario/RvR/PQ problem quickly/ever. If you quit because 6 months later RvR still had issues, that’s a little different.)

The final point I want to make related to all this is about judging games in general. Readers here know I don’t find Aion appealing in any way, and actually wish death on the game for various reasons. I’ve also never played release NA Aion, so how dare I judge it, right?

Aion’s top selling point is that it looks pretty, and I can get that from a quick tour and screenshots/videos, plus I don’t find anime-lite a particularly enjoyable art style. I also know, based on its heritage and some quick research, that Aion is a massive PvE grind followed by a massive ‘PvP’ (PvE still, but shhh) grind. Then there is the fact that it’s end-game is doomed by design (fixed two-sided PvP with an exploitable PvE faction used to progress in PvP), so even if you remove all the other issues, that won’t change short of a real third side being added (the long-lost hope for saving WAR ironically).

The point is, after you’ve seen an MMO or ten, you don’t need to play one to get a good (but not perfect, as surprises happen) idea of what a certain title is trying to offer overall. Sure I can’t speak about the specifics of dungeon X in Aion as it compares to instance Y in WotLK, but let me know when my overall assumptions are completely wrong about either game and we can talk. Fairy wings don’t fix a broken endgame and an unappealing gaming style, just like a Deathknight and ten more levels of solo PvE don’t fix WoW getting easier and cheesier since 2004.

Amusing among all of this is that I almost skipped DarkFall because I know the general trend for overly-ambitious MMOs (especially PvP ones) is that they don’t work at launch/ever (sb.exe, Fury, current MO). It was only after Tobold reported that it was technically solid that I became interested, and obviously I’ve been impressed and very happy ever since. The day I read that Aion is no longer a soulless PvE grind and that it’s true multi-faceted end-game PvP is actually fun and again not a grind, perhaps I’ll take the free trial for a spin (assuming NCSoft has not AA/TR’d the game). And hell, if I read that Cataclysm has brought WoW back to 2004 in terms of challenge/design/focus, I might just have to dust off my orc warrior.

But don’t be surprised when come Cataclysm, I won’t be overly impressed with Blizzard recycling one raid instance and latching on another ‘grind to cap for one item’ tradeskill, even though I won’t be personally grinding out that tradeskill myself (odds are good I’ve already completed the one recycled raid in its intended form though).

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Aion, beta, Combat Systems, Console Gaming, crafting, Darkfall Online, DDO, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Fallen Earth, Mass Media, MMO design, PvP, Rant, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Passing MMO judgment

  1. Juzaba says:

    I think the Middle Ground is pretty clearly the right way to go here.

    True, the first month of any MMO is going to be ugly. Patches, lag, server issues, etc. Also, true that most gamers can get a sense of a game before dedicating 100 hours to it, especially if they’re well read and somewhat experienced in the genre.

    But at that same time, statements like “If you quit WAR because you found scenario chain-queueing boring …, welcome to the 60%” are pure falsehood, in addition to directly contradicting your later points. Gamers can tell when games are going to be bad, and they quit because they don’t like what the game is turning into, not because they’re a Wow Fanboi.

    • SynCaine says:

      My point with the WAR example is that the scen vs RvR gains was a simple mistake by Mythic (scenarios gave too much xp). That’s an easy fix, and one that was made (should have been made sooner, but yea). Plus no one forced you to grind scenario after scenario, many did it because “fastest path to cap” is a warped mindframe people have now thanks to WoW.

      I agree that if someone picks up on the fact that WAR’s RvR was nothing but zerg vs zerg (or zerg vs door) without a 3rd faction, that’s fine. But that’s not the same issue as quitting because ‘everyone’ is sitting in a war camp waiting for a scen pop.

      • Malakili says:

        |zerg vs. door

        Describes my experience in WAR perfectly.

      • Malakili says:

        To add, I think the important point is that if you really like what a games mission statement, so to speak, is, you should be willing to give it a few months to see if the developers can tweak things to make it a reality.

        If you are just there to be there at the launch of a new shiny MMO, and you quit after the first week, its not to say that you don’t have the right to say you don’t like the game, but rather, that you probably weren’t going to stay with the game long term anyway, because you weren’t there for any of the big things the game was trying to do.

        I think that is Syncaine’s point. Not that you need “100 hours” to evaluate a game, but rather that if you really believe in the product’s goals, you owe it to them/yourself to give it time to see if can be pulled off.

  2. Malakili says:

    Well, I think the good old Theme Park v. Sandbox strikes again. I read both your post and Tobolds and the issue really comes from the way you two approach games.

    Examples:

    Lets say I fire up EVE, and I’m a sandbox player. I die a few times and lose some time and money, the combat doesn’t seem all that great, and the game overall seems kind of slow paced. However, after a week you don’t think “well, I’m not having fun, I’m out” you probably think “Well, the part of the game I’ve experienced so far isn’t that great, but I’m interested to see how the player run economy, PvP politics, etc, plays out once you get involved with that, I’ll stick around and see if that makes the game worth it.”

    Lets say I fire up EVE and I’m a Themepark player. Same scenario. Only this time “the playing of this game isn’t fun, I’m out.” They don’t wait around to see about that other stuff, because they don’t care.

    The same in reverse though.

    Sandbox player fires up Lotro: Players for a week “This is all quests, I can see the loot treadmill train coming down the tracks, I quit”

    Themepark player fires up Lotro: “Hmm, this is all pretty decent quests. The combat isn’t quite as responsive as WoW, but I’ll see if I can make it to end game and see how the end-game content is, so I’ll stick around for a while.”

    The point is, if you aren’t playing a game of the type you normally like, you aren’t going to stick around long, no matter what. I’m willing to give a sandbox a bit of time to see if it shapes up, even if its lacking in some areas. However, if a theme park isn’t the second coming of our lord and savior ceiling cat, I’m out before the free trial is over.

    • evizaer says:

      Good comment.

      It’s a matter of player motivation instead of game quality. Clearly a player will give more time to a game in his niche than in another–it doesn’t matter at all how the game compares to WoW at any point.

      • Dblade says:

        It depends, actually. You all know I’m not impressed with EVE, but even with games i’m not impressed with I stick around to try and make sure I’m not basing it on limited content. A lot of people don’t really have a themepark/sandbox divide in terms of the MMOs they like-they leave a game because of specific features, or not being hooked.

        The problem is not “It’s a sandbox, I hate sandboxes, so I’m not giving it a chance.” the problem is the game sucks as a game, sandbox or themepark, and that’s why people leave fast. I think that if you have that mindset it is more preventing you from trying the game at all rather than trying it and ditching it at first opportunity.

  3. Nieco says:

    I always want to dust off my Undead rogue….

  4. WyldKard says:

    You’ve made some brief comments about Fallen Earth before, but the fact that its setting is aimed at a niche, you haven’t commented much on its gameplay. Care to post about your feelings of Fallen Earth’s PvE, PvP, and sandbox-style gameplay as it compares to Darkfall?

    • SynCaine says:

      https://syncaine.wordpress.com/2009/08/27/fallen-earth-some-beta-impressions/

      (Post was not tagged as a Fallen Earth post until just now)

      • WyldKard says:

        Thanks for the beta impressions, but did you play any more beyond beta? Any other thoughts about how it compares to Darkfall (the only other MMO I’d be interested in, ATM)?

        • SynCaine says:

          Only played FE up to the final beta, never bought the game as I was already deep into DF at the time.

          FE and DF are almost night and day though. FE is 95% PvE with a heavy emphasis on crafting your own gear out of the scraps you find in the wasteland, DF is all about clan vs clan PvP and territory control. Combat in DF is more FPS-ish, combat in FE is more traditional MMO combat with a bit of a FPS feel.

          I believe FE has a free trial, and if so you might as well try it.

  5. Pingback: The Context of Opinions « Ardwulf's Lair

  6. sid67 says:

    You make a lot of caveats about experienced MMO players knowing certain things but I think that’s a big assumption.

    If you consider that WoW increased the MMO pie by several magnitudes, then many MMO players only experience with an MMO is WoW.

    An elitist can sit back and criticize the WoW newb or tourist or whatever, but game developers shouldn’t make that mistake. Particularly if they are looking at this big MMO pie and trying to figure out how to take a bigger slice of it.

    • SynCaine says:

      “If you consider that WoW increased the MMO pie by several magnitudes, then many MMO players only experience with an MMO is WoW.”

      That’s kinda your problem right there. Not only is the MMO pie not significantly bigger, but there are not nearly as many MMO players as you assume WoW created. The WoW crowd (not MMO crowd) is bigger, and the number of gamers (not MMO gamers) who have played WoW is bigger. Say hi to the 60%, enjoy their $50, and lets correctly focus on the genre and it’s actual players. The foolish developers can keep trying to chase that 60% and going the way of Jacobs.

      • sid67 says:

        Ah… That’s pretty much the response I would have predicted. The “they aren’t MMO players, they are WoW players” argument.

        The rub is that you can’t pick and choose when to make these WoW comparisons. Either WoW is part of the MMO genre or it’s not. You can’t make the comparison when it’s convenient to you and then discount the millions of WoW players that aren’t included in your opinion because they don’t share your interests.

        Let me take that back – YOU can make that comparison. Any game developer trying to introduce a product to the MMO market cannot. Particularly any game developer that wants any slice of the WoW portion of that MMO pie.

        Imagine you are an MMO developer trying to attract investors. When you get to the part of your presentation where you are trying to quantify “how big” the MMO market is, do you include WoW subscribers? Or do you completely ignore the millions of potential users?

        I’m certain you could do ignore WoW subscribers and if your game really is not targeted at that market then perhaps you should ignore them. But the amount of investment you can attract is going to scale accordingly if you claim your potential market is maybe 250,000 users instead of several million. (i.e. Darkfall)

        That’s why that argument is completely irrelevant for AAA titles. Any big budget MMO can’t afford to ignore the WoW market. They HAVE TO include it and HAVE TO plan for how they are going to attract it. Otherwise, they’ll never get that big budget.

        Your whole argument boils down to this idea that devs should stop trying to chase WoW subscribers because they don’t belong in the MMO genre at all.

        Well… if that’s the case, why would any dev bother to invest any significant amount of money or time into the genre at all?

        That type of thinking only leaves room for the small independent devs.

        • SynCaine says:

          If the only thing those small indie devs will be able to create with their limited budgets are games like W101, FE, and DF, and we have to part ways with games like WAR, AoC, and Aion, gee, I think I’ll be ok.

          And honestly, if I’m a sane investor, and someone is pitching their MMO to me and telling me the player base in the MMO genre is 11+m players, I’ll ask exactly how many games have reached 1m+ subs, and how many games have tried. They will answer one (in the NA/EU) made it, and countless multimillion dollar titles have failed in spectacular fashion.

          I’ll then ask what MMOs have been successful, and at what budget/player range. They will list off UO, EQ1, AC, DAoC, LotRO, EQ2, etc.

          I’ll invest in that trend rather than taking a multimillion dollar shot at one outlier, but that’s just me.

        • sid67 says:

          “If the only thing those small indie devs will be able to create with their limited budgets are games like W101, FE, and DF, and we have to part ways with games like WAR, AoC, and Aion, gee, I think I’ll be ok.”

          Comical. You yourself don’t even play W101 or FE and yet they are to be considered a successful model for future MMO devs.

          But mostly what you are saying is that investors shouldn’t invest large dollars into the MMO genre at all because — well, they will fail.

          And I like how you label WoW as an ‘outlier’ but then in other breaths you constantly remind us how it didn’t innovate and just rehashed what existed in other games.

        • SynCaine says:

          I’ve played FE to get a general idea, and I’ve read enough about both to understand their strengths from reliable sources. I’ve also never played Aion, remember? You going to tell me I need to experience the wonder of that game to understand why it’s flawed?

          The genres history has clearly shown you don’t need a AoC/WAR/Aion budget to make a quality MMO, no. If those games are your ‘large budget’ games, I don’t know what you would call DAoC or LotRO, but ok. And clearly budget != quality, so again I’m not seeing the worry if someone is unwilling to drop 100m to clone WoW. Obviously you don’t need 100m to create a good MMO.

          WoW is an outlier in terms of sub numbers. It’s an EQ1 clone gone ultra-casual in terms of design, you know this.

          Anything else you need explained today? :)

        • Dblade says:

          Problem though is that it took WoW and its addition of players to the MMO playerbase to enable smaller devs to make those niche games. No genre can survive on it’s niche or small-budget titles.

          Take fighting games, for example. It’s like saying that it’s stupid to try to make games like Street Fighter 4 or Soul Calibur, and that if those were gone, we’d be fine with Guilty Gear or Arcana Heart. The big budget titles keep drawing people who will soon give the niche titles a try.

          Otherwise, the genre dies. Look at top-down shooters for an example.

        • SynCaine says:

          The MMO genre did not start with WoW, nor was that the first successful game. We had niche titles before WoW, we had big budget titles before, and most importantly, the genre was very profitable. If WoW disapears today I doubt CCP or other successful developers are going to start worrying themselves.

      • sid67 says:

        And by-the-by, I’m not saying that you are wrong when you say the WoW market is unattainable. You might even be right to call them out as another group altogether.

        I’ve maintained for a while that WoW is mostly comprised of Blizzard fans (not MMO or WoW fans). Because why I think you might be hard pressed to find another WoW player who has played another MMO — most WoW players have played some other Blizzard game (Starcraft, Diablo or Warcraft RTS).

        That said, I think MMO devs need to approach it ‘as-if’ they can take customers from WoW. The only alternative is the small indie games with little to no budget.

  7. Julian says:

    I think it’s sensible to say any given player nowadays could give any MMO a good 3-6 months to form an opinion about how -the service is maintained-. That’s fair. Give people time to iron kinks out, fix bugs, start introducing some content and so on.

    But I disagree on allowing the same period of time before judging the game itself. It’s grossly exaggerated. Most gamers by now can judge a game and what to expect from it, utterly nailing most points, in a matter of a couple of days after initial contact. A week tops, for the slowest gamers.

    • Malakili says:

      I don’t disagree for the most part, but I think the problem here is between people who are coming just for the “game” and people who are coming to the MMO for the bigger picture. Sure you can judge things like combat mechanics and stuff really fast, but if one of the big selling points of the game, like WAR, is this open RVR, I think its fair to say that if you came for the open RVR you would want to stick around past just judging the game mechanics to see how it plays out. In fact, I’m willing to put up with some game mechanics I don’t like if the game delivers on some bigger goals. The problem is, if you just play for a couple days say “i don’t like the combat” and leave, you aren’t really going to be a long term customer anyway, in all likely hood.

      I think that is what SynCaine is talking about with his “60%” I think the number is made up, pretty much, but there is definitely SOME percentage of gamers who aren’t there because they care much about the overall/longterm direction of the game and just want to try whatever is new. Its trying to snag those people, that Syncaine (and I), think is a waste of time, because you probably won’t get them anyway, and you probably also have to make concessions that the people who care enough to stick around long term will not like, thus alienating the people who you actually have a chance to win over.

      Hell, even a WoW developer came out recently and said “Don’t try to copy WoW, its a waste of time.” http://kotaku.com/5415767/blizzard-dont-copy-world-of-warcraft

  8. Fortuente says:

    I bought and played FE and I have to say I still feel very forgiving toward them for the technical issues. Getting an MMO off the ground is far from easy.

    However, I left because I realized its crafting wasn’t really all that fun and I am sick of overloaded quest journals.

  9. Ilcane Nero says:

    What happens when i’m “giving the game a chance”. “waiting for developers to fix the game”… and another game, one i’ve been waiting for a long time is released?
    Or a game i use to play got a new x-pack.Should i keep playing a game that, in its current form,i dont like?
    Am i part of the 60% if i quit and go back to a game i like with new features?

    And no, i’m not a WoW tourist. I am currently playing Darkfall after a 3 month time when i played DAoC after the big-clustering and the release of Ywain server. But honestly i got a lot of games to play, not a lot of time, i will not wait for developers to fix the game to my playstyle/liking. I tried with AoC, but after 18 months that game still have not real PvP at all.

    • SynCaine says:

      At the end of the day it’s your money, so while I would question why you would buy a game if another game you have been waiting a long time for is releasing soon, it’s your call. But really, if that’s the case, should the dev team try and fix the game for someone like you? What chance do they have of keeping you if in X months you are leaving anyway? So yea, if that’s the case, you are part of the 60% that buys and leaves regardless.

  10. X1376 says:

    I applaud you for the observation. They seems to be spot on. I am WoW player who left at the end of TBC, started to play EVE-Online and now plays relaxed WotLK expansion in WoW parallel to EVE-Online. As you say, Deathknight and 10 extra levels of solo play does not make the hole into the world. I have quite strong criterion nowadays: If MMO has only a content provided by developers, it had to be really deep and have lot of added extras to catch my interest. As it all eventually boils down to repetitious time sinks to fill out emptiness.

  11. Bhagpuss says:

    Repeating myself here, but there really is no reason at all that I can see why a person can’t enjoy, and play several different MMOs concurrently. Taking the two games used as contrasting examples at the top of this post, I’m currently subscribed to Fallen Earth and WoW and most days I play and enjoy both of them.

    Different MMOs fit different moods. After several hours grubbing up ragged synthetic cloth and scrap paper from piles of refuse strewn across a bleak wasteland it’s rather a welcome change to fly about on a snow-white griffon through a vivid primary-colored world.

    We aren’t signing up to a religion here, just having a bit of fun.

    And that 60% – where does that come from, exactly?

    • SynCaine says:

      Obviously the 60% is from the poll I conducted with every MMO in existence since WoW has been released.

      ITS A MADE UP NUMBER, LIKE EVERY OTHER NUMBER WITHOUT A SOURCE ON ANY BLOG.

      Come on people…

      WAR sold 1m+ boxes, first sub report they are at 300k. Math time.

      AoC sold 1m boxes, down below 300k subs (that might not have been official). Math time.

      Aion sold almost 1m boxes, first sub report will be… Do math then.

      • sid67 says:

        Actually.. just makes me think it’s the same group of people moving from game to game.

        Ironically, all this talk about canabilizing the WoW market and WoW tourists is a bit of a red herring.

        I think it would be closer to the truth to label that 60% as a more transient group that haven’t found a home they like well enough to stay.

        The simple truth is that most WoW players don’t even TRY to play other games. Want proof? Just start asking individual players in-game if they have heard of or played other games. Most don’t even know these games exist.

        So while I’m sure that transient group is made up of a lot of former WoW players, I think that’s more of a matter of who HASN’T played WoW than anything. I think the reality is that transient group is a lot of ex-everything players. (I.E. there are no WoW tourists because that implies people left WoW in the first place)

        • SynCaine says:

          If one out of every ten WoW players in the US/EU tried WAR, that makes up the 60% right there, so yea, when you ask WoW players about another MMO, MOST won’t know anything about it. But that’s just another reason why WoW is an outlier in terms of sub numbers, and not some new and untapped MMO gamers resource.

        • sid67 says:

          10% of 2.5 million US/Europe subs is only 250,000. I don’t know about your math, but that doesn’t add up to 60% of one million.

          And in my recent experience (I played Wrath and asked around frequently), the ratio isn’t even as high as 1 out of 10 players.

          That’s why I say it’s mostly a transient group of MMO players.

          Likely made up of ex-WoW players who are able and willing to try new games but can’t find one they consistently enjoy.

          If I had to point to a specific type, I would say that this group is best represented by players like Keen.

          Now I wouldn’t label Keen as either a WoW player or a WoW tourist. But he is open minded and willing to try new games, WoW is his one of his favorite MMO experiences, and he rarely sticks to a game beyond a few months.

          I think that pretty much sums up the 60% you are talking about.

          You need to remember that we have a different perspective out here in the blogosphere because we talk about it all the time.

          In marketing terms, we are what is called the ‘early adopters’ of MMOs. Presumably, if we all fell in love with a game, then others would follow our lead.

          That’s why I don’t think it’s a lost cause to go after those WoW subscribers. If the game is solid enough to retain the initial rush, then I believe it can attract other users.

          You like to point to history, but history also shows us that games HAVE succeeded in doing just that. EQ did it. WoW did it. And some future game will also do it. You’ll just be pulling your teeth out if it happens to be Blizzard again :)

        • SynCaine says:

          WoW has 5 or 6m US/EU subs.

          Other than that, it just comes down to whether you believe any of those WoW-only types will actually move on another MMO. I don’t, and so far, MMO history supports me, while it has cost many their jobs when they tried.

        • Ep says:

          Im in a multigame guild(8 years now)and see the same wow tourists play each new game then go back to wow after the first free month. We actually try to base our recruitment in new games with this cnsidered now. For me at least wow tourism is real and the more transient side of my guild tend to remain in each game for about 2-3 months.

  12. Ilcane Nero says:

    I don’t think AoC or WaR have 300K active subs. According to what i heard and read, from polls and numbers from MMO games that publish suscription numbers and online players numbers, the ratio online players/subscribers is 1/12 for games younger than 1 year and 1/14 for older games.
    The number of online players to be checked at primetime ofc.
    If that numbers are true the game i often play, DAoC have around 50k subscribers, just becouse it has 3500 online players at primetime.I seriously doubt DAoC has more than 50K subscribers.

    AoC and WaR must have between 20k and 25k online players online at prime time to reach 300k subs with a 1/12 ratio… Yep, math time

    • SynCaine says:

      Had, they HAD 300k subs, just like they HAD close to 1m subs in the first month (counting the first month that is included in the box). Of course that number is much lower now, but that’s more of a reflection on their overall game design (poor) than what the topic is here. LotRO had a ton of tourists at launch as well, and while they have moved on, a good chunk of the MMO gamer population stayed on because unlike AoC/WAR, LotRO ‘works’.

  13. Sifo says:

    I heard Tobold was a chick.

  14. Stabs says:

    I think Tobold’s beef with you concerns the fact that WoW has changed its nature which is an aspect you haven’t played.

    Originally levelling up was the main game, that’s trivial now. There were group quests in the wilderness, by and large those have been made non-elite and soloable. Raiding required a certain level of commitment, now people pug them. Elements that you probably never saw now loom large in most players’ daily experiences: daily quests, achievements.

    You really don’t know about this stuff if you stopped in 2006. You would hate it if you tried it I’m sure but saying you hate it without trying it is kinda superficial.

    Of course part of his beef with you is that you seem to imply anyone playing WoW is an idiot which is naturally going to annoy people.

    On the other hand I don’t really see what else you can do. You have your stance on MMOs and it’s a market dominated by WoW and most people say WoW is the best game. Having to sub to say it’s not would be kind of ridiculous.

    • pitrelli says:

      SynCaine talking down WoW players? Never!!!

      One of my problems is this ‘tourist’ word, now im sorry but I can play any game I want for as long as I want. If a game looks like it will interest me and I have the extra cash to buy it then I will, simple as that. If the game doesnt connect then its not a biggie, I’ve paid for the game and got some play out of it. There is alot of choice out there and people are free to try them, if they do and dont like them it doesnt make them any less of an MMO player.

      I agree with what you have written in relation to WoW, it has indeed changed the pacing and game style to cater for endgame, the levelling process is still fun if you let it be though. Perhaps Cataclysm will freshen it all up again.

      I’ve got two subs running atm btw with both Fallen Earth and WoW, both are good games in what they do and what they try to achieve. WoW is my main MMO but Fallen Earth is proving a very interesting distraction. Dont know if I will stay past the first month but Im enjoying it so far.

    • SynCaine says:

      Stabs all of the changes you mention other than achievements I’ve experienced in WoW, those were in place during BC, and since achievements are just a variation of the ToK from WAR, I don’t think I’m really missing a lot there.

      Which is exactly my point, other than seeing just how much easier WoW is now (PuG’ing a raid says it all to me TBH), and seeing some WotLK-specific kill ten rat quests, I know all I need to know about WoW to judge it at a basic level. You don’t see me complaining about specific raid bosses or such, do you?

      • sid67 says:

        I don’t agree with the thought that you need to play all these things to pass judgement on them.

        But I will say that the game has changed in a lot of ways AND that you don’t understand those changes as well as you think.

        I think the key phrase that I agree with from Stabs is “Elements that you probably never saw now loom large in most players’ daily experiences.”

        In other words, I think you understand perfectly well how the mechanics of these things work and can easily make your own decisions about whether these are appealing WITHOUT playing the game.

        But that said, I don’t think you fully appreciate the impact these changes have had on the psyche of the players involved.

        The achievement system is a good example in a way. Sure it’s a knockoff of the ToK but where WAR made it an innocuous little sideline, WoW has turned it into a measuring stick for progress.

        Or raiding. It’s not so much the “easier” aspect of it as it is the “accessibility” of it and the depth of it. And I’m not just talking about it just being more accessible to casuals. The 10/25 man versions means that each dungeon is actually available TWICE each week.

        Or phasing. Which provides a very nice seamless and individual user experience in a multiplayer setting.

        None of these are really radical changes, but collectively they add up and have a big impact on how players interact with the game.

        Now what all this adds up to is that when you speak or comment about certain new features that are WoW related, it’s obvious that you don’t fully “get it” in the way someone who has played it “gets it”. That’s not to say that you are wrong — but it does impact your presentation and credibility.

        Or put another way, you understand the mechanics of a thing but not the nuances. So when you write about it but get the nuance wrong — it undermines your position.

        Of course, you don’t need to understand the nuances of chopping off your hand to know that you wouldn’t like it.

        • SynCaine says:

          I’ve done 25 man raiding, and I experienced what going from 40 to 25 does for raiding in WoW. I’ve also done 10 man raiding. And I’ve seen raiding get easier between 2004 and when I quit (right before WotLK or so?). Like I said, I can’t talk about new raid specifics or bosses, but yea, I get how raiding works in WoW today, enough that I can very confidently say I don’t like it, and I really don’t need to give Blizzard $40 to confirm that feeling. If someone feels so strongly that what Blizzard has done since I quit is actually a huge step up, feel free to send me a copy (and some free time).

          Same deal with achievements and phasing. For one, I’ve seen phasing a million times in the medium it’s intended for, single player games. As someone who players MMOs for the MM and O part, what would phasing do for me other than annoy me and my guild? What does phasing add to the MM aspect of the game? It’s a sad system to just expands an NPC telling you you are awesome, even though you just completed the same exact brainless task millions of others have completed before you. It furthers the illusion that you are a special snowflake, while at the same time making sure you are in fact following the exact path a dev set for you.

          And that so many WoW players today log in to chase achievements is disgusting tbh. Why have actual content added to a game when someone can create a list of backtracking for you, awesome. I get that it fits into WoW and the style of game it is, and it fits that style of gamer perfectly, but yea, disgusting in the context of MMO content.

          You want real MMO phasing? Go take a player city in DF, or control a system in EVE. You want MMO achievements? Go earn it on the battlefield vs your peers, so when your name comes up people know they better bring their A game or get wiped. Or let me visit your player house and see the trophies of your actual accomplishments, not how many pets you paid $ for or how many instances you have crushed thanks to your gear/level being X times above the set challenge.

          So again, what incredible changes has Blizzard made to WoW that not only warrant a return, but have actually changed the MM aspect of the game in ways I can’t grasp from having read a bullet list and player experiences?

        • pitrelli says:

          IMO you just need to learn not everyone thinks like ‘SynCaine’ and respect there aint always a right or wrong. Its your blog and you are free to write whatever you want but it just seems you like to lord over other peoples opinions if they differ ffrom your own.

          The fact you find people chase achievements is disgusting I cant understand. Its an added extra and if people enjoy it then thats great, it gives people short and long term goals and although Im not an achievement whore I do think they are a fun addition.

          Your line about earning a rep and folk fearing names on the battlefield was a bit cheesy but it did make me laugh

        • SynCaine says:

          It sounds cheesy because you play WoW. Play something where player skill is a factor and a reputation can actually be earned and then come back to me.

          And yes, welcome to MY blog, land of MY opinions, where I’m going to voice MY opinion when I think something is wrong. Just because I say it does not make it an absolute fact. So when I say achievement chasing is disgusting, it means I find it disgusting. That X million gamers are giddy at collecting pets is up to them, have at it.

        • pitrelli says:

          ha ha’It sounds cheesy because you play WoW’ no it sounds cheesy because it is.

          I mean come on I can just see people saying ‘Oh no! here comes Syncaine destroyer of pixels and raper of the land…’ gimme a break

        • sid67 says:

          As I wrote above — I don’t think you need to understand the nuances of chopping off your hand to know that you wouldn’t like it.

          But that’s not the point. It’s a credibility thing. You miss the nuance because you haven’t played it.

          And when you miss the nuance, it strikes people as a bit off — which undermines your credibility.

          That’s the thing that people are noticing when they criticize you for not having played it.

          From there it’s just a slippery slope of bad conjecture that leads people to the idea that you would change your opinion if you played it.

          Not that you would. Because you don’t need to understand the nuance to know that chopping off your hand is bad.

          And therein lies the rub. You don’t need to play it to know something is bad, but people expect you to play it before commenting that it is bad.

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  16. Matt says:

    Since the topic of the week is criticizing Syncaine, allow me to chime in. I understand that this is YOUR blog, but welcome to MY opinion.

    The difficulty in having a discussion with you is that you present the MMO landscape in black and white. In your opinion, Darkfall and EVE are amazing, while WoW and Aion are terrible. We all know that it is not that simple, and I’m fairly certain that you do as well. Yet all ‘discussions’ with you devolve into mudslinging affairs with ad hominem attacks, made up statistics, dick measuring contests, sweeping generalizations, and apples vs. oranges comparisons.

    I don’t know. Maybe you simply enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, so the easiest way to promote that is to abandon logic and objectivity. Whatever the case, one thing you do well enough is ask tough questions (something that Tobold can’t seem to figure out, even with his ‘Thought for the day’ posts). Asking tough questions and being a skeptic is only part of the equation, though. It’s the easy part. Providing interesting insight while keeping an open mind is much more difficult, and it is something at which you fail miserably.

    The interesting part is that you excel at manufacturing controversy and pushing others’ buttons. It is very Ann Coulteresque. As a result, your blog is interesting despite your contributions to it simply because you’ve annoyed a group of intelligent gamers. The real value comes from the comments posted by those readers. People such as Evizaer, Derrick, and Bhagpuss have especially insightful comments, as do Brian Green, Sid67, and Malakili to a lesser extent.

    A specific question, Syncaine. You say that achievement-chasing is disgusting, and that Aion is a massive PvE grind. Is Darkfall not a massive resource-gathering grind? Do you not spend more of your time gathering resources and farming a small number of mob camps than you do PvPing in Darkfall? If not, what else do you do?

    • SynCaine says:

      I welcome all opinions (other than spam advertising).

      “In your opinion, Darkfall and EVE are amazing, while WoW and Aion are terrible. We all know that it is not that simple”

      Well for me it is that simple. Those are my opinions on those four games. I also think LotRO is a decent enough game, I think FE does some nice stuff, and I think EQ2 is bla. But yea, those four games are very black/white for me, if for various reasons.

      Now if it would be ‘nicer’ to write “I don’t enjoy Aion” in every post rather than “Aion is garbage”, I don’t disagree. But that’s just not how I express myself, and while I am 99% perfect, I just don’t really want to grind out that last 1%, you know?

      That said, I’m all for the discussion (because yes, I like to debate/argue), so I welcome anyone to bring up why Aion is not what I say it is, or why WoW is indeed not how I describe it with WotLK. But when someone says “achievements have changed the entire WoW landscape”, I mean sorry, I don’t buy that as a real change. Rather its a bright shiny list to distract the easily distracted from the fact that they don’t get content at a pace the rest of the genre enjoys on average. When that type of trending is set by the market leader, that might actually effect me, and hence some worry/disgust.

      You mention objectivity, but since when is that a requirement to write a blog? Anyone who has read two posts here knows I don’t like WoW, prefer a sandbox over a themepark, and don’t count the 60% (by MY estimation) tourist population as being anything but a $50 launch bonus and queue-creator. Now if that lack of objectivity makes what I write unreadable to someone, so be it. I write first and foremost for my own enjoyment, and I don’t get that from making sure I’m as objective as possible with every sentence.

      And if asking tough questions and being a skeptic is as easy as you infer, why can’t more people do it? Why does Ann Coultere have the following she does, while countless other critics/commentators dwell in obscurity. If it was so easy, why is it so rare? (Not saying I’m gods gift to blogging or anything, but come on now. It’s not some accident that my blog gets X readers a day, and others get Y. Clearly what I do here people find entertaining, and after my own satisfaction, that is the point. If I wanted everyone to agree with me at all time, I would write a WoW lovefest blog and never write a single negative word about another game. I’d then stab myself in the face and hope to bleed out before death from boredom set in)

      And yes, the comments people leave here are also a huge part of this blog, and whether I agree or not with them, I always appreciate them (which is why I never delete a single comment that is not spam). But again you sell what I do here short, because while they provide a response, it’s a response to what I write and the opinions I express. If this was a lovefest blog always cheering the genre onward without a single critical word, would that group you mentioned still be here providing the content they provide?

      To the DF question, no it’s not a mandatory resource grind like Aion PvE is, and it’s not the main source of ‘content’ unlike what some achievement fans sound like. It’s ultimately a territory control and alliance vs alliance game.

      The reason I personally spend as much time not PvP’ing as I do is because I’m a huge carebear at heart, and while the rush of PvP is something I love about DF, I also get all warm and fuzzy from working up my crafting and building up my bank in that setting (and “in that setting” is very key here). There are tons of players in my alliance alone that almost never PvE and are constantly PvPing, and that’s entirely viable as long as you win more fights than you lose. I could do that too, but that’s not my game style. (And for the record, the number of mob camps I hunt and the mob diversity is actually huge, and that again is thanks to my clan/alliance being as active as it is. Every city we siege is another collection of mob camps for carebear me to farm, and every PvP trip to a new area is in part a scouting trip for later PvE activity)

  17. Tobold says:

    The point is, after you’ve seen an MMO or ten, you don’t need to play one to get a good (but not perfect, as surprises happen) idea of what a certain title is trying to offer overall.

    Why do you make this statement about you and Aion, while simultaneously saying that it isn’t true about other players and WAR? I would assume that a player who spent $50 and WAR and played it for a month is making a more informed decision to stop playing, than you just looking at a screenshot of Aion and never even trying it.

    And then there is WoW, which as far as I know you stopped playing years ago. So while the rest of the blogosphere discusses how much WoW has changed in the last 5 years, and how it will radically change further in patch 3.3 and Cataclysm, you still talk about the loot bug the game only had in its earliest stage. Patch 3.3 will completely change the social dynamics of WoW, and I still think you’d need to play WoW 100+ hours after that patch to get an even remotely accurate idea of how WoW is today.

    It’s okay for you to refuse, and to keep judging games on outdated memories or screenshots, but doing so loses you the right to complain about other players not judging your favorite games carefully enough. Even Ed Zitron did more than look at a screenshot of Darkfall before wishing it to die.

    • Malakili says:

      I think his point is in fact, that you shouldn’t buy a game at all unless you are willing to put in the time to see if the game achieves its promises. You should, theoretically, be able to know enough about the basic game to know whether or you will like it or not before even buying it, so that by the time you’ve actually shelled out the cash, you owe it to yourself to wait and see if they game actually lives up to what it is about the game that you wanted. (For instance, waiting to see if Mythic fixed RvR, or in something like Champions if you quit before seeing the Nemesis system if that was your big reason for buying it)

      More to the point, however, is that Syncaine is saying that DEVELOPERS shouldn’t design their games to cater to the people who don’t share their vision for an MMO. So if you are Mythic, for instance, top trying to draw those million people in with smoke and mirrors that detract from the RvR experience, when you are trying to be an RvR game. The other people will leave anyway in all likely hood, and the core audience that actually wanted to play RvR gets hosed in the process. Everyone loses.

      I don’t even really know why I’m arguing this point anymore though to be honest. I realize that my MMO tastes are way outside the mainstream, and that isn’t going to be changing.

    • SynCaine says:

      If that player spend $50 on WAR and left because to him it was just a scenario grind, then no, he is not more informed, just like someone quitting because of a server queue is also not informed. The problem you and Ed share is that a little too often facts get in your way, and you just write something that is blatantly incorrect. Opinions are your own of course, but saying “Everyone in WAR just huddles in a warcamp chain-queueing scens” a month after release is wrong, they are not stating an opinion.

      And here you bring up the social dynamic of solo-hero WoW with a change that has yet to be released in 3.3, cute. Do me a favor Tobold, why don’t you tell me how radically WoW has changed since WotLK. Please tell me how radically different your average day in WoW is today vs the day before WotLK launched. Please tell me all the amazingly different things you are doing around Azeroth that I simply cannot grasp not having actually seen them on my own computer screen.

      I’m serious, please enlighten me of all the amazing and radically different things Blizzard has given you since I stopped playing just before the launch of WotLK. Because you sure sound like things are completely different in your comment, even though you and all the other WoW bloggers continue posting about AH manipulation of a kiddie-pool economy, running instance X for gear (sorry, tokens now, I forgot that radical change), and still running daily quests for rep/gold/achievements while worrying if your iLvl is high enough to tag along in a raid.

      In my 100 hours after 3.3, what am I going to be doing that is so radically different from what I was doing pre-WotLK?

      • Tobold says:

        Seems I typed the answer before I read your question. One word: Wintergrasp.

        If I was playing Darkfall, I would probably write blog entries on how I traveled the lands gathering resources and doing crafting, and you’d read it and say “Darkfall, what a boring game.” You can’t judge WoW on my description of my activities, because my activities in ANY game will always be boring to you. I just play differently. I don’t do PvP, but that doesn’t mean WoW doesn’t have PvP which is in several cases far superior to the PvP of WAR.

        • SynCaine says:

          It’s not just your blog I base some of my WoW impressions off, and my response to WG is below.

          But WG is not an answer to my question above, unless you believe WG is the ONLY thing that has been added since I left that has radically changed daily WoW life, and if so, that means Blizzard has added exactly ZERO to your personal gameplay that is radically different.

          Is that what you are trying to say here, that aside from a BG with vehicles WoW is the same game post-WotLK as it was pre?

        • sid67 says:

          I think what’s changed is the social dynamics. Blizzard has certainly taken a lot of steps to be more inclusive of the players who aren’t in well run guilds. The 3.3 patch that Tobold is pointing out is just more evidence of that approach.

          That’s really the point I was making about achievements. Not that people chase achievements to have achievements — but that your achievements are visible to the world and used as a measuring stick for progress.

          It’s that type of nuance about the game that your posts and commentary about WoW utterly lack.

        • SynCaine says:

          I get PUG’ing will be made easier and more instant in 3.3. What nuance does that add for me, someone who has never had an issue running an instance/raid in WoW before? If I bought WotLK today, how exactly would my perception of the game change come 3.3 if I’m still running similar instances/raids with my guild, only this time around we clear everything in the first run and are left to re-run the same content with one hand behind our back?

          And if that’s what you feel achievements add to the nuance of today’s WoW, you just traded epic gear linking and mailbox jumping with achievement linking, now with the ability to show off just how many pets you have collected/bought.

          So again, I’m still waiting for an example of a change since I left that would alter my opinions of modern-day WoW and somehow ‘correct’ my view of the game.

        • sid67 says:

          Oh, I think you would still hate WoW. In my mind, that’s never been in doubt. Because it hasn’t changed that significantly in a way that would be meaningful to you.

          Ironically, I don’t think this discussion is really about whether or not you would like WoW but whether or not you have the credibility to comment on it.

          That’s why I called it the rub in my earlier comment. You don’t have to play it to know you won’t like it.

          But you DO have to play it if you want to blog about not liking it and expect people to consider you credible.

          Which is silly, but I guess in some people’s mind there is the remote outside chance that you might overcome your bias and go ‘gee, this is better than I thought.’

          I don’t think that, but that’s the motivation behind these types of criticisms.

          That said, I have felt you have had the blinders on about certain innovations just because it’s Blizzard.

          The biggest one in my mind is Phasing. I’m not saying that WoW’s implementation of it is perfect, but I have always thought that the possibilities for coolness using that type of trick are endless.

          The reason I say that is because at the most basic level it’s about ‘perspective’ not sandbox vs. themepark. There is no reason a sandbox game couldn’t use phasing techniques to provide an individual perspective. The art would be in blending the shared and individual perspectives into something seamless.

  18. Xyloxan says:

    Although I’ve been playing WoW for 5 years I must agree with SynCaine that these days WoW is a caricature of the WoW from 2004. None of the expansions or patches (other than bug fixes) improved the game. It’s rather obvious that the only reason for Blizzard to release those extensions/patches has been to maintain the number of subscribers (i.e., cash flow). Nothing wrong with that. It’s business.

    • SynCaine says:

      That’s actually not fair either. I’m sure 3.3 will improve the LFG function in WoW. That it’s been 5 years and LFG has been abysmal in a game supposedly so focused on grouped instance and raiding is another matter, but sure, 3.3 will likely make that aspect better, just like Blizzard ‘borrowing’ the most popular UI mods and making them standard has improved the games base UI. Hell I’m sure the server architecture is better too, so rather than IF lagging because Blizzard had only one AH, WG makes everyone lag every 3 hours. No wait, they ‘improved’ that too.

      What I take issue with is this “You have not seen WotLK, so you have no idea how WoW plays today” crap. From all sources that I can see, people are still doing dailies (just in a new location, with perhaps a ‘new’ twist on Simon Says or 1-2-1-3 gameplay), still running instances/raids (it’s just now you can roll your forehead across the keyboard to ‘earn’ your token), and still ‘playing the AH’ in a game where gold is as meaningless and easy to acquire today as it was pre-WotLK.

      Oh, and you can look like Mr. T. I think that has been the most significant addition since I left, and man, was it hard to resist coming back for that and paying $10 for a pet.

    • Adam says:

      Lots more newbs running around in WoW. Good for them but those aren’t the people I hang out with.

      Of the 30+ old guildies etc. noone plays WoW anymore.

      They aren’t playing Darkfall but they also aren’t playing WoW. Right now its Aion or no mmo.

      Of the changes I’ve seen and heard from the 2 people I still know playing it’s all been a bunch of patching that has little shineys but the game just gets easier and easier.

      This in a game that wasn’t hard to start with….

  19. Tobold says:

    P.S. I just realized you never played Wintergrasp PvP, syncaine. Wintergrasp is keep combat done right, with war machines that actually move, and walls that can actually be destroyed. I think you would actually enjoy that part of WoW. And if you’d ever see it, you could explain a lot better why somebody having played both WoW keep PvP and WAR keep PvP might prefer the former over the latter.

    • SynCaine says:

      Awesome point, I’m actually going to go buy WotLK right now and enjoy the world PvP that WG brings.

      Oh that’s right, WG by Blizzards own admission was a failure and had to be removed from the world and tucked into an instance before the ‘every 3 hours’ lag fest drove everyone away.

      Now, while it was still around causing lag because 100v100 is ‘just not possible’ in today’s MMOs (don’t tell that to Aventurine please, or CCP, although CCP has been on 1000v1000 scales for a while now), what exactly was that radically different combat like? I mean such a great display of PvP must have been radically different than 40v40 AV pre-BC right? I mean it must have been different than one side smashing into the other without a care (if they were not afk farming tokens), and 1-2-1 winning the battle if you abused the correct PvE-tailored skill, right?

      • rev says:

        “what exactly was that radically different combat like? I mean such a great display of PvP must have been radically different than 40v40 AV pre-BC right?”

        Well yes, it’s sixty more radical, isn’t it? It’s not forty. You see, most blokes, you know, are used to playing at forty. You’re on forty in AV, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on forty in the BG. Where can you go from there? Where? With WG — all the way up to 100.

    • Malakili says:

      I can see why someone might like Wintergrasp better than WAR Keep PvP in terms of gameplay yes. However, gameplay isn’t the reason I was itching to play WAR. The thing that drew me to WAR initially was the idea of clan based Keep warfare. The actual battles were less the draw the the political side having to do with alliances, etc. The problem is the game didn’t deliver on that aspect AT ALL, and neither does Wintergrasp, (though in fact, Wintergrasp doesn’t claim to be going for that to begin with).

      Wintergrasp is just another minigame, and thats really not what I want out of “keep” combat.

  20. Adam says:

    Wait what?

    WoW and PVP?

    This is the game that you can know LFG teleport inside the instance now and never even see the outside world of a PVP server?

    “””Once all have successfully agreed to be ready … drumroll … you are automatically teleported into the dungeon itself. Goodbye, Meeting Stones !!! No more clicking individual players to summon.”””
    “””
    True/False?

    Trash game is trash. Talk about crapping all over the few remaining people doing outdoor pvp…can’t even camp a summoning stone.

  21. tariqone says:

    What is your point? You have no problem rejecting games you’ve never played. Your zero hours in Aion — which you’ve commented endlessly on — makes your beloved Eurogamer’s 9 hours in Darkfall seem like an eternity.

    I quit Aion after a week. But I buy most new RPGs, MMO or singleplayer.

    • Adam says:

      @tariqone

      That’s nice that you pay people to write lots of bad games for you.

      Hope you are not confused when they write more bad games.

      • pitrelli says:

        What makes a bad game? Its all down to an individuals experience in game and what they get out of it. Many think Darkfall is a crap game but their players would tell you otherwise.

        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        • sid67 says:

          Any game which costs more to produce than earns in revenue is a bad product. Or more accurately, any game which doesn’t provide a reasonable return on investment is a bad product.

          Other than that, you are right. It’s just individual preference.

          Of course, if you take the position that people vote with their wallets…

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