WAR, SW:TOR, and the ‘death’ of the MMO genre

God, where to start with this debacle?

My anger at WAR has actually increased since leaving the game, for a number of reasons. When I left the game I thought it had a good base and was just missing a few obvious items, items I assumed were cut or left out due to shipping early and, once added, would ‘complete’ the game. The big item of course is a third faction (if not more), but also other stuff like a true Darkness Falls-like dungeon, small group RvR that mattered, and reasonable combat balance. Last I’ve heard none of this has happen.

Then you read the above, and even from people who worked or are still working on the game, no one really talks about the true issues. You are bitching that EA did not run WAR TV commercials? Are you kidding me? You sold a million boxes; I don’t think advertising was the issue. I think it had more to do with everyone leaving after a month when they realized your game was three steps back from what DAoC was. Oooh no the character models are ugly, that’s the problem! Really, jesus…

From the shit-show job of collision detection (again, good idea, horrible execution), to the ass-backwards city capture system, to the cool-yet-horrible classes (hey lets have a melee guy who can dish out top-end dps while also heal and buff himself, ya! And lets have game-breaking crowd-control in a PvP game, ya! Especially because we saw it work SO WELL in DAoC, ya!), WAR is so full of baseline fail it’s embarrassing, and now, given a glimpse behind the scenes, we see the monkeys are still flinging poo and crying about issues that have nothing, AT ALL, to do with why the game really failed.

Now the reason WAR gets to me is because all Mythic had to do was release DAoC 2 to have a huge hit, and the Warhammer IP on top of that would have just blown it out of the water (especially if you expand the setup from three sides to however many races you include from Warhammer, since, you know, they all hate each other and have reasons to fight and at times team up). Then you hear that they did have DAoC 2 in pre-development and canned it to focus on making WAR more WoW-like, and it’s enough to inspire murder.  Toss in that EA actually let Mythic do it’s thing, rather than be old EA and take over control, and yea, everyone making decisions related to that game can straight up DIAF.

All of that brings me to this conclusion: I’m all set with MMORPGs being ‘mainstream’. From Blizzard showing that more subs = less content development + $25 reskin jokes, to AAA failures like Tabula Rasa, WAR, FFXIV, EQ2 (when compared to EQ1) etc not only bringing nothing worthwhile from all those millions spend, but actually failing to even reach the baseline levels that games with a fraction of their dev budget reached. I’m just waiting for the day when some idiot with a big title at a big company declares the genre ‘dead’ and we can go back to 300k being a big deal, 100k being a success, and 50k being totally viable. God knows we will at least see people with a clue making decisions, and hey, we might actually get content updates that are worth a shit more than once every three years (and most likely for free at that).

And I’m hoping that ‘death’ arrives with SW:TOR. If even half the crap about that game is true, it’s going to be an E.T., bury-copies-in-the-desert-sized disaster. Nothing, and I mean nothing released about that game has interested me in the least, and the very basis for the game (dev-driven story) is a joke when you consider what MMOs are all about. Yes, please spend 300m+ creating a Dragon Age-like Sci-Fi game (at best) with a monthly fee that you expect me to replay over and over with a different class to hear all of the sound-bites and sure-to-be-awesome MMO-game plots and stories (that, lets be honest, they will vary only slightly, with the majority of the stuff repeating exactly like in DA:O). THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT. Oh and Starfox-based space combat, that too!

Just release already so it, and the AAA attention for the genre, can die its long-overdue death.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, Mass Media, MMO design, Perma-death, PvP, Rant, SW:TOR, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to WAR, SW:TOR, and the ‘death’ of the MMO genre

  1. Snafzg says:

    I think all this pretty much goes to show just how mismanaged and effed up the MMO industry is. You could get away with craptastic development back in the day because there were so few competitors and the industry was so shiny and new.

    Seriously, who could complain about EQ1, UO, or DAOC coming from text-based MUDs or other inferior online games?

    Now we’re grizzled vets who are getting more than a little bored with the glacial pace of progress in this genre and we have established titles to fall back to when new releases fail to make a stellar first impression.


    That’s the MMO motto these days and I think we’re getting kind of sick of it.

  2. Mark says:

    I doubt TOR will be the failure you want because there are plenty of people out there like me who want a game just like that. After getting some beta time in the game looks pretty awesome so far for those who want to play it. It sure seems like it will be more of a single player game with group content so I can understand the questioning of a monthly fee. But until I get more time in it I will give Bioware the benefit of the doubt.

    Otherwise I agree with the majority of what you are saying, I really do wish WAR had been DAOC2. It would have been a far better game.

    I agree the wow clone genre needs to die but there is room out there for more than one game that fits that market. The problem now is every game that comes out tries to get in on it. We need more games from studios like Adventurine, Icarus, and even Starvault. Granted in some cases the launches need to be smoother but it seems the smaller studios are the only ones who will try to make something different.

  3. Ob says:

    You enjoyed Dragon Age, didn’t ya? Can’t remember, thought I remembered a decent review/post back when. Anyhow, my whole thing with TOR is, I’m not going into it expecting an MMO. Bioware can tout it as such all day, doesn’t matter to me, it’s just semantics. I’m thinking of it as, at best, MMO-lite. In my mind, it’ll be sorta like KOTOR 3, with heavy instancing and optional multiplayer/grouping tacked on. Obviously, if we all enjoyed the same sorts of things, the world would be a pretty bland place. But I just can’t help NOT getting excited for it. Again, not as an MMO, but just as a game. I love Star Wars. I love Bioware. I love a well told story in an rpg. I loved KOTOR. I can’t wait! Do I expect to sub for more than 2 to 3 months, tops? Nope. But I think I’ll have some good fun while I do. Did you ever play KOTOR? If not, you should give it a try. One of, if not the best, stories I’ve ever seen in an rpg. And E.T. level disaster? C’mon, Bioware deserves a little more credit than that. From what I’ve seen, I’d hardly call TOR merely an attempt to just cash in on an IP/make a quick buck tying into a series of movies. Whatever, I hope you find the magical game you’re looking for someday, diversity is good for the industry and genre.

    • Paragus says:

      You think SW:TOR is fostering in some sort of diversity? LOL. The combat is the same uninspired garbage we have seen in every other MMO. Everything about the game is 100% generic with the exception of voice acting. If you took the Star Wars out of that game there would be nothing at all with any redeeming value.

      Of course they are trying to capitalize on your feelings and milk the IP. It’s the same exact thing we see over and over again and it keeps failing at every turn. Movies and books do not make good MMOs. It’s the same thing Holloywood does with turning games into movies that usually shit all over it.

      Conan, Warhammer, D&D Online, The Matrix, Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings…. the list goes on and on. Story is not going to keep people paying a monthly fee. If they wanted to spend 150-300 million telling a story they should have made a movie instead, they would have had a better chance to get a return on their investment.

      • Ob says:

        Where do I mention TOR fostering in diversity, exactly? Read my post again. I’m not going in expecting an MMO. I’m going to play it as a single player, KOTOR-type sequel with optional grouping. I also mention that it likely won’t be worth subbing more than a coupla months. When Bioware made KOTOR, were they milking the IP then? Afraid not. It’s a really good game. Are a lot of people going to play because it’s Star Wars? Obviously. Is that the only reason anyone is going to play? Hardly.

    • elleseven says:

      Agree with all your statements. I just recently downloaded KOTOR1 for $10. It is still awesome. The story was great. Most fun I’ve had playing any game in a year. The book Fatal Alliance based on the upcoming TOR game, was a blast to read and
      showcases some of the classes that will be in the game. The online comic based on the game is great too. Bioware is doing a great job promoting it.

      I can’t really say if a $15 monthly fee is justified for the game yet.I mean how can anyone till it’s out and we’ve tried it. But I will try it.

    • SynCaine says:

      “Do I expect to sub for more than 2 to 3 months, tops? Nope.”

      Hi you just described WAR, expect with a 300m budget and not whatever WAR cost.

      And DA:O is exactly my point, I loved that game, FOR 40 HOURS. And then, when the ‘replay’ value was a few slightly different quests with 95% of the rest being the same, I moved on. EA still got my $50, I still got a fun game.

      EA is not looking for $50 with SW:TOR, they are looking for $15 a month, per month, for years. Think about how fail that is when looking at what we know about the game.

      • Paragus says:

        There is an old interview with a Bioware or EA guy who said they need to SUSTAIN 1 million subs for this thing to pay for itself. There’s no way this is going to have that kind of lasting appeal.

      • Ob says:

        Hence why I mentioned that I won’t sub more than 2-3 months. Doesn’t matter to me in the slightest that EA wants my cash beyond that. Doesn’t matter in the slightest whether they crash and burn after that. I’m not sure why you’re thinking about it so much. Other than pointing out how fail it will be. Ok, fine.

  4. Bhagpuss says:

    To quote Travis Bickle “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”

    I can’t say I’d cry if we went back to the days of 500k subs being a big deal. It won’t happen, though.

    What will happen is that the tools needed to create MMOs will decrease in price and technical complexity and there certainly will be viable MMOs at the 50k mark. There are now. Some of them might even be quite good.

    EQ2 is a great MMO, though, and I say that as someone whose favorite MMO ever is EQ1, and who was incredibly disappointed by EQ2 from beta through to 18 months after launch. It’s now got the best non-combat content anywhere and truckloads of it. The fighting is still rubbish, though.

    • Mala says:

      Its more or less what happens to any hobby I like that becomes popular, I have to quit because it gets all shitted up when suddenly everyone is participating. Maybe thats a me issue and not an industry issue, and thats fine if so. Still, I tend to have a natural aversion to anything popular, and insofar as the MMO genre has become popular, its driven me away.

  5. Jason says:

    The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.

  6. Torcano says:

    You know whats really messed up? Just before reading this post I was on another tab reading up on that ET-burying thing. Coincidence, or not?

    The question is, did you happen to read Tobold’s post on the Rise of the Video Game? Perhaps there was a bit of subconcious memory resurgence going on.

    • SynCaine says:

      The E.T. thing has been used as the benchmark for epic fail for years now, if that is what you mean.

  7. Torcano says:

    I honestly hope SWTOR does well. I can only hope that Bioware realizes they can’t just make MMO-KOTOR and makes a true AAA MMO that at least rivals WoW if not innovates from it.

    And in other news, anyone see Tobold’s troll-strike on his own blog? Blatantly flaming EvE/Darkfall incongruously and ridiculously, trying to say that adding ‘dungeons’ means they are copying WoW’s themepark approach. I’m not joking, that’s literally the deduction he made.

  8. Sleepysam says:

    Feels good to bask in the warm glow of some good old fashioned hardcore casual rant. Very good. And, I totally agree with the assessment. DAOC 2.0 – somebody will make it, someday. Law of averages and all that?

  9. skarbd says:

    War is a good game and gets better by the quarter, unfortunately it has a lot of baggage, due to the games 1st 6 months. It’s taken nearly 2 years to put it straight.

    I as old school DAOC player, who ran opted groups, I prayed for DAOC 2 (in a Warhammer skin), but once I heard we didn’t have the 3rd realm, was obviously nervous.

    Unfortunately Warhammer only really suits certain people. If you want PvE, there are a lot better games out there for that fix.

    The trouble is, everyone will be focus’d in on this storm and not on the next set of updates, because it makes for interesting reading.

  10. Brindle says:

    Man do i agree with your analysis of the rant. When I read it yesterday I was dumbstruck by his biggest complaint that the art team was not allowed to make ‘dancing’ emotes for the toons. Man, if the game just had had dance emotes all would be great with both the game and team. WTF?? seems like he is the one with no clue on how to get a multimillion $$ game out on time.

  11. Sean Boocock says:

    Making video games is hard. Making current generation, big budget games is even harder. Making a current generation, big budget MMO is perhaps the hardest task of all in the industry.

    Post mortem, armchair design is easy. Shitting on developers without any context for the circumstances under which the game was made is even easier. Playing analyst for a day and conflating personal preference with market realities is, if not easier still, at least as paltry as the previous.

    Reading through the linked blog and discussion therein, the accusations do not reflect well on anyone. I doubt any sort of cohesive narrative will emerge from what amounts to office gossip. What I’ve gleaned from it is confirmation that there isn’t a playbook for making games. You don’t follow a recipe to produce “Triple AAA MMO”. Developers resemble trade guilds of earlier centuries, closely guarding best practices that they’ve learned through years of trial and error. I’m continually amazed that games get released at all given the challenges involved and I fear for the future of the industry if it continues to stake developers’ futures on 50 million dollar plus projects that have to be hits.

    • SynCaine says:

      Please, making games is hard. Compared to what? Designing medical devices, processor architecture, curing cancer? Especially when history shows the first three MMORPGs (UO, EQ1, AC) got more right than EQ2, WAR, AoC, Aion and others combined.

      As for the linked blog, I suspect most of it is true, given that neither Sonya nor Lum have denied it, instead opting not to talk about it. The office drama parts don’t interest me much, that happens at any company (and the sooner people realize it, the further they get in their career), but what is interesting is that seemingly, no one really saw the issues with WAR (Unless the whole Dawn of Camelot issue had a stronger influence then what is written, which is the only excuse that makes sense in my mind.)

      • Joseph says:

        Compared to armchair design. In other words, compared to playing games.

        • uckethea says:

          Exactly, making comments on games/movies/music after the “masses” have declared not worth playing/seeing/listening to is possibly the easiest situation to be in. Let alone having put yourself there to boot, like this guy = cake walk.

          He barely stuck his neck out on swtor. We’ll see if he recants this after it’s released. Somehow I doubt it.

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  13. GV says:

    I agree with Syncaine, but I saw the SWTOR mess long before it became popular to hate on it. The MMO market has be stagnating since WoW.

    This Louse debacle couldn’t have come at a better time. Just last weeks people were raving at the incredible success of Minecraft and the way it has schooled all the AAA publishers at their own game.

    I hope that these recent events are the proverbial “slap-in-the-face” to finally wake these guys up (not just MMOs, but AAA publishers in general). Seriously, one man… ONE MAN – Markus Perssons, is averaging $100,000 per day with zero marketing dept, zero graphics dept and pretty much zero overhead. He’s knocked the game out of the park because of smart design, period. I seriously can’t think of a better learning moment for these people.

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  15. klappsn says:

    starfox-based space combat would be great.

  16. Ben says:

    I want to read Sean Boocock’s blog! Do you have one?

  17. Solidfaith says:

    “From Blizzard showing that more subs = less content development”

    It is a strange universe which you occupy, in which an expansion as huge as 4.0.1+Catalysm means “less content development”.

    “I’m just waiting for the day when some idiot with a big title at a big company declares the genre ‘dead’ and we can go back to 300k being a big deal”

    There’s this elephant here, and it is sooooo big… keep waiting though ;)

    • Dracon says:

      The elephant just got bigger, as Blizz brags that it has attracted 12 million subs for WoW! When games attract 300k, they will get lost in the shuffle.

      And… Patch 4.0.1 offers more content than ever. Long-time players have to rework all their characters as if they just started — without investing in Cataclysm. And I ain’t talking about the Barber Shop.

      Buying Cataclysm will get players even more content, which I don’t have to enumerate.

      • Loire says:

        Lord knows having the entire game turned on its head and having to rework your character is content amirite?

  18. Loire says:

    One thing I can say about FFXIV, is it’s failure is not due to being a WoW clone like say WAR. Essentially FFXIV was released in the same state of completion as FFXI was 10 years ago, the difference is the MMO market is flooded with players who aren’t used to this level of incompleteness. They played WoW post-Vanilla and think they know what a game should be like upon release.

    FFXIV is a worthy successor to FFXI and if it happens to get off the ground it will be a great carebear MMO. I know I sure as hell enjoy it, although I am missing Darkfall more and more.

  19. Zubon says:

    Nothing, and I mean nothing released about that game has interested me in the least

    Friend SynCaine, you must see the disconnect between your disdain and market failure. That you or I do not subscribe to WoW does not stop the millions. SW:TOR may or may not do well, but its appeal to your preferences is of limited meaning. If you can get inside the head of someone who has spent more than $1000 on WoW and explain why SW:TOR will not appeal to him, then you might be on to something. “Basically WoW, but set in Star Wars” sounds like a dream to more people than have ever played DarkFall or A Tale in the Desert.

  20. Quent says:

    Re Dracon’s comment: Long time players have to rework their characters as if they were just starting? It took about four hours to ‘rework’ my fifteen characters. Bliz hoked up the interface a bit and blanded things out a bit more.

    I’ve played WoW on and off (mostly off) for years and I can’t believe people aren’t simply exhausted with it by now.

    Whatever the faults of SWTOR, at least it will be something new.

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