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).