I get the feeling that people misunderstand me when I say that I hope SW:TOR is the death of the AAA themepark MMO. I’m not saying the genre would be better if people did not spend 300m to make an MMO game. I’m not saying that spending 300m to make a themepark is wrong. I’m not saying spending 300m to make Darkfall would be right.
Ok that last part I am sorta saying, but more on that in a bit.
Here is what I do know. I do know that spending 300m to clone WoW does not work. Or rather, I know giving BioWare 300m (or 80, or 500, depending on the report) to clone WoW is a waste of money/time/effort. I also know giving Trion 50m to clone WoW is meh. I know giving Mythic any amount of money to clone WoW is doomed. I know that Turbine is one step away from directly selling you the One Ring if it helps save LotRO from shutting down. And finally, I know giving SOE anything is bound to have it hacked, stolen, and made into something you can’t download anyway.
What I, or anyone else for that matter, don’t know is what would happen if you gave someone not trying to clone WoW 50m. Or 300m.
I know that if you have CCP focused, they produce greatness. I know that when they try to go too mainstream and attempt to sell you jeans or vampires, they get into a lot of trouble. And finally, I know they are at least smart enough to realize it and correct that course.
We have at least one example of an MMO that has stuck to its core, and 8 years later it’s as alive as it’s ever been, and the future is looking brighter than most in the genre. It’s not F2P. It’s not “oh that old dated game”. And it’s not “just naturally seeing burnout like every game always sees” (Sorry Raph).
And look, if you are someone who is actually interested in living in a virtual world that evolves but always retains that thing that originally attracted you, how could you not look at EVE and be amazed and wishing that was the case with your favorite MMO? (If you are someone who intentionally jumps from MMO to MMO every 3 months, a bus can’t hit you fast enough. No offense but fuck off.)
What we also know is that when you give someone like Aventurine a bit of money, they release an MMO that has amazing combat (best in the genre IMO), produces some amazing moments, and is rough around the edges (to put it nicely). It’s also a game lacking in a lot of areas. The economy sucks. Crafting is meh compared to the genre norm, but sucks compared to EVE. It was buggy. It sucks that the population is low. Lack of updates. I could go on.
The point is, that even with extremely limited resources, Aventurine still produced an MMO that did a lot more for the genre than SW does, unless you count teaching the world that voice acting is a complete waste in the MMO space, but I’d say EQ2 already did that in 2004.
Furthermore, who is to say that with 50m, someone, be it Aventurine or otherwise, can’t make a version of Darkfall that not only appeals to its current audience, but also others? If Excel Online can get 400k people to play 8 years after release, are you really going to argue against the fact that Fantasy Excel Online would have no chance at 500k+?
We don’t know because, thanks to WoW being what it is, all of the big money has been spent futile chasing that pipedream. That’s why SW:TOR is so significant. It’s the biggest, most expensive copy/paste attempt yet, and when (not if) it fails in spectacular fashion, one would hope the beancounters will wake up and try something else. The world can’t possibly be stupid enough to throw even more cash down that hole, can it? Because make no mistake about it, it is a hole. It’s NOT working. No one has come even close to what EQ1 did, let alone WoW.
And for all of you non-EVE/DF/sandbox players, for those who only really know WoW and its redheaded stepkids, how do you know you only like what WoW offers? Yes, you don’t like EVE because it’s Excel Online. And you don’t like Darkfall because it’s PvP-only. And you don’t like ATitD because it’s crafting-only. And Wurn is dated, etc.
What if someone spent 50m to produce something of Rift’s quality, but with a world and mechanics that were closer to UO than EQ? That the dev team had a plan deeper than “repeat WoW, but with this tweak”? That the community was more than just the die-hard oldschool UO people (if you believe that myth)?
Could you, just maybe, find a game that had more than a few months of solo content to offer you? Could you, possibly, get into something that got its social hooks into you along with its gameplay? Something that, 6 months in, was just getting started rather than scrambling to tack grind on?
Maybe if that was a reality, you wouldn’t need to keep looking into the future, hoping that ‘the next one’ is going to last a little bit longer. That you would leave not when the ‘Game Over’ screen came up, but when you decided it was time for a break. And when you returned, in a month, a year, or five, the core game that you loved was still there, only expanded with a whole bunch of cool stuff as well. And when you did come back, familiar names were there to welcome you back.
(GW2 Jesus-MMO note: Assuming GW2 really is significantly different from current-day WoW, and assuming GW2 really is an MMO in the ‘oldschool’ sense, GW2 being successful, along with SW:TOR burning, may indeed be that ‘trigger’ event, moving us out of WoW’s faded shadow and into a strange new realm of money being spend on producing actual MMO games.)
Edit: Screw 3-6 months, BioWare is attempting to kill SW now! 80-500m can’t buy you a single glance at the history of ANY PvP MMO? I mean come on; this is 100% amateur hour on the grandest stage. It’s your 1.1 update and you DESTROY the game like this? And then to cap it off, your response is that you are “investigating the POTENTIAL issues”? We all knew this was BioWare’s first MMO. Is this the first time anyone on that team has ever done ANYTHING, including playing for an EG-minute, related to an MMO?
Just shut it down already.
Actually no, keep it online for another month, I’m waiting for 1.2 with more anticipation than I have for anything not called DF2.0.