Shades of blue

Back then I was on the ‘red’ side, now I’m firmly on the ‘blue’ side. Guess the player along with the game evolves.

Wise words from a wise man, minus the grammar fail on the original. The first part of that comment is wrong, I’m happy to report, but I would like to talk a bit about the part that I quoted. It was true in 2007, and it’s still true today. Sorta. My ‘blue’ is just not nearly as blue as others, as both Darkfall and Rift have shown.

Back in 1997 the ratio of the hardcore to the casual player was (random number) 1 to 20. A small minority even back then, but at least a countable percentage of the player base. If I had to guess, the ratio today would be something like 1 to 1000, if not smaller.

Even in a game like Darkfall, tuned to meet the needs of the hardcore faithful, not everyone is as ‘red’ as the original PKs of UO. There are a lot of casual (by DF standards) players, and the elite are in a few known clans. I’m very much in that casual crowd by DF standards.

In Rift, while we are not on the bleeding-edge of PvE progression or running a 24/7 Warfront guild (think original WoW High Warlord days), I’d easily say we are in the top whatever % of the playerbase, and I know time is the only limiting factor from server-first levels.

Part of that is the content itself; I’ve yet to see anything on par with original WoW raiding, or even v1.0 Scholo/Strath, but the major factor is, simply put, the average MMO player is far, far more casual today then those who played back in 97. So even though my MMO time has decreased over the years thanks to RL, my time drop has not been nearly as steep as the overall average for an MMO gamer today.

In 97 the genre was super-niche compared to what it is today, and what is popular and why clearly reflects that. What is interesting to watch, between games like DF maintaining player levels, EVE still growing, and now Rift doing well, is just which direction things are headed. Back in 2007-8 the direction was clear; more ‘accessible’ = more players, and it seemed that every major MMO at the time was scrambling to figure out how to best hand out shiny loot with minimal effort to players.

Farmville and Mafia Wars epitomize this style of ‘game’ design, where the only path is up and minimal effort leads to constant pats on the head. WotLK at release was also hailed as the savior for the casual player, finally opening up all that content that BC kept for the elite few. Raiding for all! Cata continued the trend with (by TAGN official reports) super easy instances and a semi-revamp of the already faceroll-easy leveling game.

We are seeing the signs of the Farmville fad fading, and more than a few players have remarked about how little Cata held their attention. At the same time, Rift is far closer to 2004 WoW in terms of content challenge than it is to the current game, and as mentioned more difficult (spare me the definition, you know what I mean) games like EVE and DF continue to expand and improve, without caving in and going down the Trammel/NGE path.

Perhaps, as the MMO fad itself fades from pop culture status (sorry Mr. T), we will continue to see games designed more towards the core user base rather than trying to convert Farmville players or attract the roving bands of tourists. Certainly we won’t see 97-levels, but hell, I’ll gladly return to 2004, where I can once again be a happy little bluebie.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Inquisition Clan, MMO design, Rift, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Shades of blue

  1. I think if WoW had kept on the path they set in WotLK, I personally would have been happier. (You invoked my name, you get my opinion.)

    WotLK has been my favorite era for WoW so far because, as a package, it offered a bit of everything in what seemed to me about the right proportions: Story, single player, group outdoor quests, solo content, instances, heroics, and raids. Hell, I even did the daily quests, something I swore I’d never do during BC. I’ve spent more time playing Lich King content over than I have the new stuff since Cataclysm shipped.

  2. Shadow says:

    “So even though my MMO time has decreased over the years thanks to RL, my time drop has not been nearly as steep as the overall average for an MMO gamer today.”

    Heh, wait till you have a kid, Mr. Newly-wed!

    Before I had my daughter, I was easily able to happily participate in most of the hardcore PvP, small-group scenario and city-push efforts of WAR. Post kid, despite my guilds understanding, it became a strain to have the tank unexpectedly go AFK because the baby was crying. As an adult, our time to game necessarily becomes less and less (until we retire probably), but none of those increments have been as significant as the time-loss from the responsibilities of parenthood.

    I’m not lamenting that reality, just stating it as an objective commentary on my reality, and that I’ve witnessed of others (like Snafzg).

  3. Dril says:

    “Rift is far closer to 2004 WoW in terms of content challenge than it is to the current game.”

    Normally I wouldn’t disagree as vehemently, but: bullshit. What’s challenging about RIFT, other than doing your tier 1 experts at the bare minimum of gear? I bet if you tried that in current WoW you’d find it pretty much exactly the same. Not to mention the fact that Rift’s levelling is piss easy for anyone with half a brain, and, if you choose the right soul combo, dare I say easier than WoW’s?

    Where this enthusiasm for RIFT has come from (especially after playing Darkfall fairly heavily) I have no idea, but it’s ludicrous to suggest that RIFT is in any way challenging.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’m primarily comparing my experience in the sub-50 dungeons to TAGN’s writeups of Cata instances. Science at it’s finest. Plus 2004 WoW leveling was half-a-brain stuff too. Half a brain is hard-mode in the current version, and Rift has more than a handful of interesting stuff along the way to 50.

      Can you faceroll to 50 as well, of course. But at least legitimate other options exist. Neither really compares to killing a goblin in Darkfall, but yea.

  4. Angry Gamer says:


    I don’t get the Red Blue statements… please help a noob.

    What I don’t understand is the nostalgia about UO and EQ. I mean we don’t look back to Windows 3.1 and say “that was quality UI sigh”.

    UO and EQ were great for their time but times change. The marketplace adapts and technology evolves. I love the fact that online games are so much better now. I LOVED Diablo and Diablo 2 when they came out. So much so that I KNEW, KNEW I SAY!, that an online game could not recreate Diablo fun.

    And then I noticed the EQ titles just kept coming. And Wow seemed to be big and get bigger. Then poof my wow cherry was busted and I bought into the craze.

    As far as the “hardcore” vs “casual” ideas. I have some thoughts…

    The hardcore meme really does not belong in MMOs really. (Whoa whut?) Really because pro hardcore First Person Shooters DONT PLAY MMOs!

    Yep that’s right people who play for real money and fame don’t come anywhere close to an MMO. So… what’s all the angst about “Hardcore” when it really does not exist in MMO’s. All of this Hardcore chest thumping is Illusory Superiority. (

    Nothing but wanabes and jock sniffers wanting to play like they are “da man” while logging on in mom’s basement.

    This is why Wow is in such a bad way right now. Wow has had the “wanabe hardcores” become a vocal user base. So much so like an amusement park on the downhill slide so they are actually MARKETING and TUNING entertainment to this player base.

    Meanwhile all the families don’t want to take their kids to where the teenage hooligans hang out. Hence yet another amusement park bites the dust.

    When the families don’t come you lose a lot of revenue and teenagers don’t have deep pockets.

  5. D506 says:

    I think you’ll find soon enough that Rift is just as unrewarding as WoW.

    Why? No stories. You keep talking about Rift in terms of comparisons with WoW, challenge level, progress made, etc etc.

    When you wrote about Darkfall, you told stories – raids on an opposing faction’s city, hiding out while a large gang roamed by, that sort of thing.

    Next time you play a long Rift session, sit a minute afterward and think ‘What did I actually do that’s worth writing about?’ and maybe ‘If I didn’t earn any stuff or experience, would I consider this time spend wasted?’ If you can think of something, I’d genuinely like to read about it and you might push me towards Rift a bit.

    • Jeff says:

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don’t need anyone coming in here and breaking the rationalization process. Rift is hard and Syncaine is good at it. Let it be.

      • Bhagpuss says:

        I could tell plenty of stories about my character’s journey in Rift. They’d be explorer stories, though, not political thrillers like SynCaine’s Darkfall tales. More like “what I did on my vacation”.

        Consequently, I wouldn’t seek to bore other people with them, but plenty’s happened already that I’ll be waxing all “remember when” about in five or ten years time.

        • D506 says:

          Actually, I’d be genuinely interested in reading that sort of thing. That’s something that would really make me look into this sort of ‘conventional’ style of MMO.

          SynCaine, on the other hand, I expect plays to level and to beat and to achieve. Sooner or later, you realize that’s all hollow. If you’re the type of player who ‘plays to win’ (like SynCaine) rather than the type of player that ‘plays to explore’ (like you) then you eventually realize you’re on a treadmill and not ‘winning’ anything.

  6. Saucelah says:

    There were a few ways to fix that sentence, and that probably wasn’t the best choice. If you want, you can pay me $30 an hour to proofread your blogs before posting. Minimum one hour per blog.

  7. bonedead says:

    I think that blah blah blah, bloopity blah blah. You didn’t invoke my name, you still get my opinion.

  8. Ob says:

    Darkfall is maintaining player levels? C’mon, be honest…More than half the people in my Rift guild were playing Darkfall, and while most of them loved what was there, they’ve all indicated that population (at least on NA-1) is currently dreadful. Wait, did you mean that it’s maintained it’s current all-time low consistently for the past 6 months or so? Ok, fine.

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