Tag Archive for WoW

iWoW

About a month ago, I gave my thoughts on if WAR was the WoW killer… since then, in the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering a few things, a few aspects as to why no game in the near future is going to be a WoW killer.

The number one reason… Apple.

Face it.  Apple is growing.  I’m a diehard PC, and I’ll never switch to a Mac because, 1) I hate the desktop for the Mac OS, and 2) there are no Mac exclusive softwares that I desire.  Of course, I could come to eat my words if somehow Mac manages to overtake the PC, but I really think that is unlikely.  However, Mac computers are becoming increasingly popular in a number of areas, and one of those happens to be in people who like gaming.  In fact, a number of people I’ve known through gaming over the years still have a PC they use for gaming, but they use a Mac for their day to day stuff.  Mostly Macbooks.  And the main reason is because they also have iPods and/or iPhones and those devices work more seemlessly with a Mac than with a PC.  They aren’t incompatible with PCs, but there is no doubt that Apple designs for the Mac and then ports to the PC.  Why wouldn’t they?

A set of data I would like to see are the sales figures and subscription numbers for people playing World of Warcraft on a Mac in the US and UK.  The reason I’d like to see those numbers is that right there, immediately, you have a defined set of “MMO Players” who cannot play WAR, or AOC, or LotRO.  They couldn’t play Vanguard or EverQuest II.  They could play EverQuest, but the game only went up to the Planes of Power expansion and its only minimally supported, and its on its own servers so you can’t play with your EQ PC playing friends. (Arguably, this makes the Mac version of EQ better than the PC version, because they are frozen in time at the point when, in my opinion, the game was at its best before they mudflated the game into oblivion.)  But Mac owners can play WoW, and they play on the same servers as everyone else and with all the same expansions and everything.  And realistically, its the only “successful” fantasy MMO on the Mac.

So that, basically, in a nutshell, is why I think you can’t really kill WoW.  At least, not until some other new fantasy MMO decides to support the Mac.

And yes, before anyone says anything, I realize you can dual boot the new Macs and play any MMO… but not everyone wants to dual boot, not everyone who buys a Mac wants to install Windows on their machine too.  Many of them went Mac to get away from Windows, they want support, not work arounds.

Is WAR the WoW killer?

Let’s be honest… asking if any game is the killer of any other game is stupid.  No game in MMO history has ever killed any other game, simply because very few of them are actually dead.  And of the ones that are, most of them killed themselves by not being very good.

However, that said, it is possible that a game could, by releasing and being similar to an existing game but different enough to warrant another game, steal enough of the population of the original game that the original game might be declared dead on a technicality.  And by that I mean that the numbers officially shrink to the “die hard fans of the game who will never ever leave until you wipe their hard drives with powerful magnets and rips their keyboards from their cold dead hands” population who will stay and new subscriptions will be few and far between, if any at all.

Warhammer Online, in that respect, is not, and will never be a World of Warcraft killer.  As similar as the play styles of the game may be, through interfaces and other measures, the bulk “goal” of the games are different.  In WoW, no matter how many arenas and battlegrounds they release, PvE raiding is the ultimate goal of the game.  Not hardcore raiding necessarily, but with Wrath of the Lich King’s supposed focus on 10 man scaled instances allowing raid groups to play through the same content as a 25 man raid but with lesser difficulty (tuned for 10 instead of 25) and reward, it is clear that WoW is primarily a PvE game.  WAR on the other hand, by all beta accounts, supports PvE fairly well, but the end game, the goal, is really the PvP/RvR aspects.  That change of focus in the late stage game, from WoW’s PvE raiding to WAR’s RvR conflicts, will appeal to entirely different groups of people.

If WAR is going to kill anything, its going to be Dark Age of Camelot that it steps on.  From all accounts, this game, WAR, is taking many of the best elements of WoW (UI ease of use, etc) and applying them to the best elements of DAoC (realm versus realm conflicts) and then throwing in a few new elements (Public Quests).  Looking at the features list of WAR, and perusing the screenshots and videos and information pooring out after the NDA lifted, unless you are a die-hard fan of DAoC’s lore or have a PC that can’t run better than DAoC, there seems to be no reason not to ditch DAoC for WAR.

So… is WAR the DAoC killer?

Blog Banter: Does Everything Need to be AAA?

Welcome, welcome to the 7th installment of Blog Banter, the monthly blogging extravaganza headed by bs angel! Blog Banter involves our cozy community of enthusiastic gaming bloggers, a common topic, and a week to post articles pertaining to said topic. The results are quite entertaining and can range from deep insight to ROFLMAO. Any questions about Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

Topic: Does every game need to be a grade-A blockbuster title?  Would you be willing to play more average games or should every game shoot for the 10.0 rating?

The problem with aiming a game for a rating is that ratings are subjective.  What one person, or one group, considers to be a 10 out of 10, another person, or group, might consider to be only a 7, or worse.  As huge of a success that World of Warcraft is, there are in fact people who don’t play it.  There are *gasp* people who don’t like WoW.

The main issue I think that shooting for “WoW numbers” causes is that it fails to properly manage expecations.  (If you read my blog long enough, you’ll see that managing expectations is a common theme in most things I talk about.)  If you have a game that is set in a genre that even given the “best” game it could possibly be is likely to only attract 200,000 users, if you spend money like its going to clear a million or more, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Personally, I like seeing a variety of games come to market rather than seeing one game or game style dominate.  As Richard Bartle infamously said, “I’d close WoW.” or something to that effect.  The question of this month’s topic is misleading.  Would I be willing to play “more average games”?  Who decides what is more average?  I just want to play more games, to have more options.  If companies dump all their cash into less games seeking WoW or GTA numbers, then no matter how “good” those games may be, I think the industry and gamers on the whole will suffer.

So, no, I don’t think every game needs to be a “top of the line” title.  I think they need to approach each game as unique and manage accordingly, so that variety can flourish, because variety is better than dominance and stagnation.

Check out these other Blog Banter articles! Zath!, Delayed Responsibility, Silvercublogger, Crazy Kinux, Gamer-Unit, Unfettered Blather, MasterKitty, Game Couch, XboxOZ360, Omnivangelist, Lou Chou Loves You.

Going back to Azeroth…

… nah, I don’t think so.

There are many reasons I stopped playing WoW.  The first and foremost was that there were so many blasted servers that after the initial scatter, and then several re-homes, of all my previous-MMO friends, I ended up being invested too much in a server where few of them played, and I didn’t want to start over again, again.  Then the friends I did have on the server I was on stopped playing, or did move servers and started over.  I tried making new friends and joining new guilds, but frankly everywhere I ended up was full of one of two kinds of people, 1) hardcore, you must play now, fanatics who wanted everyone to be on all the time and either farming or raiding, or 2) people who were so casual that the guild was little more than a chat channel while everyone played alone together, soloing their way to glory.  Then when Battleground turned into nothing by a grinding gear-fest, I lost my last reason to play.  I wanted to PvP, but I didn’t want to spend the time, effort, or money required to gear up enough to be able to last more than a few seconds.  And the game supports no method by which you can PvP against only similarly geared people.

Despite my distaste for how things ended, World of Warcraft has remained installed on my PC even though my account is cancelled.  But not anymore.  I’m just removed it and I’m never going back.

For one, I’m going to be picking up Warhammer Online, and I’ve put myself in with a fairly organized group of people who don’t seem to be hardcore slave-driving raid-mongers nor solo-only chatoholics.  For another reason, you need only see the direction WoW has decided to continue heading… and by that I mean into silliness.  With the next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard is putting motorcycles into the game.  WoW has always been a pun filled humorous type game.  Even back in its origins at an RTS game, humor was embedding in the voices of the units (if you kept clicking the same unit over and over again they eventually got upset with you and demanded you stop touching them), but WoW has always been a step further.  Mostly, the things in game could be easily ignored, or avoided.  Or, most importantly, they were things you sought out, saw, and then went back to not seeing them.  Funny names and odd sites are great fun when they pop up from time to time.  But this is different… how often do you see people on mounts?  Your answer is probably like mine, “All the time.”  So now, we are going to have motorcycles riding around all over the place.  Not being a flying mount, they will probably be unrestricted, meaning you can ride them around the old world.

If they really wanted to put motorcycles in the game, have them be funny, but not have them be ubiquitous, they could have put in a gnome somewhere, with a motorcycle, who will help you build one.  It would be a series of quests that would give out a couple rewards, but ultimately give out a motorcycle mount, limited uses (10 or 20), non-repeatable.  Of course, people would cry about not being able to keep the mount, but a few people crying is better than unleashing the World of Motorcyclecraft, in my opinion.

With that, I’m done.  And I’m never going back.

The Instance and The Bench

Reading this post over at Clockwork Gamer got me to thinking about why raiding in most recent MMOs never excited me.  Back in my days of EverQuest, when I would lead raids, I often would take anyone and everyone who showed up.  Some of my “raids” were silly, intended to train people for raiding.  I took five groups into the Mines of Nurga (before they revamped the zone) and made them form up groups, main tanks, pullers, heal team, etc.  Just like a huge raid, but everyone was around level 30.  Many of those same raiders would show up later when I started doing Epic raids, smaller hits for pieces to Epic Quests.  Places like The Hole, City of Mist, etc.  Of course, I also lead some dragon raids, and some Hate and Fear, Chardok, a few bits in Velious, and even some Planes of Power raids.  It was all great fun.

The only raid I never got off the ground was the Plane of Sky.  The reason for this is that the islands in Sky gave out random numbers of keys, and the zone had a very very long respawn time for most spawns.  In order to take a large raid to Sky, you needed to use complicated corpse summoning to get from island to island.  It was easier on a small raid, but small raids, due to the difficulty of the zone, needed to be very regimented, certain amounts of certain classes.  I’m sure its not so hard now.  Sky can probably be single grouped, or even done as a duo.  But “back in the day” it was much more difficult.

In EQ2 and WoW (and other games), raids are often (always) instances, with caps on how many people can go.  One thing I never like to do is bench people.  If a personal is capable of surviving the raid, I’ll take them… I mean, seriously, I did raids in EQ with 90 people.  Of course, in EQ2 and other more graphically intensive games, I couldn’t imagine 90 people being in the same place and having the game be even playable.  Even WoW can struggle.. just try going to the auction house in Ironforge. (I might be showing my age here… is the auction house in Ironforge still crowded?)

I seriously don’t like the idea of raid caps.  Having 25 people show up to fill 24 slots… I’d rather not.  Over in this thread at the Nerfbat forums, I put forth the following:

I’m all for removing hard caps on content. I realize that a developer may want to design his content to be optimally experienced by 5 people, or 25 people, but it really sucks as a player to keep running into the wall because I have 6, or 29, friends and we have to repeat content not just for the loot, but simply so people can experience it. Game devs should consider ways to remove hard caps and instead reward soft caps. Design the content for 5 people, but allow any number to go in, however have the reward scale upward as you approach the “optimal”. That way, people who want to min/max content for the best possible reward can do so, but also people who just want to play can experience it as well without having to jump through extra hoops just to play with their friends.

I’d love to see a game at least give that a shot.  And I wouldn’t even mind going back to the flagging model of EQ, where you could bring any number of people to the raid, but only X number would get the flag.  You’d still have to repeat the content, but at least you could repeat it with the entire raid group instead of playing musical chairs mix and matching your raiders in order to be able to do the raid with only X number of players.

Maybe.  Someday.  Perhaps.

Evolution versus Revolution

The first thing to note when talking about Evolution versus Revolution in games is passion.  If a player is passionate about the game he plays, he will strive to make everything about a new game sound as if it is only “more of the same” with some Evolution thrown in.  If a player is passionate about the forthcoming game, he will strive to make everything sound as if it is all Revolution over the old games and that nothing is “more of the same”.

I’ve read a number of posts claiming that Public Quests in the upcoming Warhammer game are a Revolution.  But it all depends on how you look at it.  On one hand, I can see the Revolution aspect because it is encouraging random social behavior in a PvE environment, which most games actually tend to discourage through spawn locking and quests being individualized.  (Its good to note here that while in World of Warcraft, only the quest holder gains the rewards of a quest completed, from the beginning, City of Heroes has always rewarded group members for assisting in completing another person’s quest by giving them a chunk of exp as well as many times giving them badges and/or enhancement rewards.)  But, on the other hand, the Public Quest system, to me, looks like someone took Alterac Valley from World of Warcraft’s Battlegrounds, made one side entirely NPCs and tweaked the mini-quests in the zone.  In fact, WoW could easily implement Public Quests that way, by taking Battleground style content and making in PvE, assigning rewards based on participation, similar to what they do now in their PvP versions.  Whether you see the item as Evolution or Revolution, in my opinion, seems to be dependent entirely on how hard you are chomping and the bit to play Warhammer.

And Warhammer isn’t alone here.  World of Warcraft wasn’t Revolutionary either, except in its broader market appeal, which could be considered just an Evolution of the trend seen in games that came prior: UO, EQ, etc.  But plenty of people do consider WoW to be Revolutionary, either for that reason or because it was finally a fantasy MMO “done right” or some other basis.

The real question, rather than if something is Evoltionary or Revolutionary, is “Is it fun?”  Looking at Public Quests, it addresses the one thing I have found a problem with in games since EverQuest: encourages people to be social.  WoW has its raids, but outside that, you and four friends can do pretty much everything in the game.  In fact, you can play the entire game from level 1 to level 70 without ever talking to or grouping with another person.  In my experience, WoW is the most “silent” game I have ever played.  People don’t talk, people don’t do pick up groups… most of the social activity is based in and around guild raids and battlegrounds, both of which in many cases are a minority of the players yelling at the majority of the players to do things.  So, I probably will pick up Warhammer, but I’m not expecting it to be some huge revolution in gaming… just an evolution backwards toward players actually playing with each other more.

Going Home Again

A time or two I’ve threatened to return to Norrath. Not the shiny new Norrath of EverQuest II, but the original Norrath of EverQuest. The thing that was always holding me back was that when I left there was little to do but raiding. Sure, there was some group capable stuff, but the two most recent expansions (Gates of Discord and Omens of War) seemed to focus so heavily on raid and trial content that the future seemed to be filled only with grinding and gear and raiding. When I left, I left for City of Heroes and to join the World of Warcraft beta. Since then a number of games have come and gone, but recently a bunch of people from my old stomping grounds decided to start back up in the original MMO marketplace monster.

It was fairly easy to reinstall and patch up, even bought the latest box that unlocked the seven or eight expansions I’d missed and started up my 21 days of free play.

Just a quick side here… if a game is going to sell a boxed expansion and offer 30 days free to new players, I think they should offer that 30 days free to existing/returning players too. Would it really kill them to do that? If they really believe their game doesn’t suck, I’d have to hope that retaining returning players after a free month would more than make up for the loss than trying to convince people who quit to buy the expansion AND resubscribe. Anyway, maybe I’ll do another post on that later…

Its really amazing how different games are. To anyone who has the attitude of “they’re all the same” I would really suggest playing WoW for a month, then playing EQ for a month. Its not just the look and feel of graphics and art… the game controls are different. WoW has quest indicators and an accept/decline interface, while EQ still retains the “spoken” quests, keywords, and passive acceptance where technically you are “on” any quest you read about, in game or out, with no limit to how many you can be working on beyond your ability to cart around sacks of quest items. And as I’ve mentioned before, EQ tends to be a more player-lively game. In groups, people actually talk to each other. WoW is so quest focused that people grouped together are usually doing exactly the same thing and often there is little reason to talk, not to mention that the gameplay requires more clicking and button pressing, and combat moves more rapidly, there’s just no time to talk in WoW until you get back to town.

So far, I haven’t gone adventuring into all the new lands, Ishiro Takagi is still just 65 (ding! 66!) after all, and been living in the Silent Fist Retirement Home for Monks for nearly four years. But it feels good to be back… as a bonus, I think I’m going to subscribe to the Station Access which will let me play EQ, EQII, Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars Galaxies, and even The Matrix Online (which I doubt I’ll go back to unless someone can convince me its improved greatly beyond the trash I saw in beta). The future looks to be full of MMO gaming…

Embrace Your Niche

If you have been keeping up with MMO news in the last couple months, I’m sure you’ve heard some part or some version of the saga of Perpetual. First they had Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (you might still be able to find pre-order boxes on sale at Best Buy), then they got Star Trek Online, then they cancelled Gods & Heroes (if you find the pre-order boxes on sale at Best Buy, don’t buy them), then they lost the Star Trek license. I’m sure rumors will be plentiful about who is going to land that albatross in the coming weeks, until something gets announced for sure.

In the mean time, over at Elder Game, Eric, who worked on STO for Perpetual, gives out advice for whoever gets the license.

I couldn’t agree less. I mean, Eric is a game designer who has worked in the industry and I’m just some schlepp gamer (who also does happen to be a programmer, but only for data warehouses and time management software thus far), so obviously you should believe me, right?

Every point he makes is valid under the assumption that, as he says himself, your intent is to:

Make a game for WoW players who kinda liked Star Trek. That should be your target audience. Trust me, it’ll be fine.

And that’s where I diverge, and the reason I say I disagree with his points. If you follow me around the Internet reading the posts I make on message boards and comments I put on other people’s blogs, you’ll see that I have a gentle disdain for WoW. That feeling comes from the fact that I find the game to be highly polished but bland. I played WoW for 2 years and in that time I can honestly say I didn’t hate it, but I can also honestly say that I didn’t love it either. The game just sort of happened, and its that level of mild pleasure without displeasure that has helped WoW hit the numbers it has hit. And while it is wildly successful and Blizzard executives laugh as they frequently drive truckloads of cash to the bank, it isn’t the only way to do things.

Games like WoW are not inherently bad. In fact, to a degree they are good because they expand the market place, but not every title should or even can expand that market place. As much as people tout the polish of WoW as the key to its success, the reality is that it was and is a perfect storm of game and license. WoW has “9 million subscribers”, which isn’t entirely accurate because some of the asian countries don’t do traditional subscription models, and I’d wager less than half of those are in the US, maybe even the US and Europe. Asia has been big on Warcraft for a long time. But how big is Star Trek in Asia? Do they play Star Trek RTS games like they play Starcraft and Warcraft?

For me, I’d rather see whoever gets the Star Trek Online license embrace their niche and not make a WoW clone set in the Star Trek universe. And while I do agree with Eric that they’ll have trouble making a game that is true to the previous work and pleases all the fans, they shouldn’t just ignore them and make WoW. Can you imagine a game with player created and controlled capital ships, with a captain and officer crews, away teams and engineering staff? Star Trek Online shouldn’t aim for WoW… they should, in my humble opinion, aim for a mix of Puzzle Pirates and The Sims with some Dark Age of Camelot style RvR thrown in, and the only non playable race in the game should be the Borg because players, even chinese gold farmers, have too much personality to be Borg.

Update: Since I wrote this, Eric has gone on to elaborate his opinions. And it doesn’t change my opinions at all.

Hello 2008!

Last night we said goodbye to 2007, and good riddance. Not that 2007 did anything wrong, but come on, who wants some old year hanging around when we’ve got a nice shiny new year sitting right here!

Looking back 365 days at the welcoming of 2007, lets examine how my predictions and premonitions worked out…

First, I’m still using electronic billing for everything but my garbage collection, so I can look forward to another smooth date transition as again I won’t be writing enough checks to accidentally keep writing the wrong year on.

Next, I said I’d eat better… and I have… a little… I get salads when we eat out sometimes, and I’m eating more fruits and veggies. Overall, I’ve shed ten pounds that I’ve managed to keep off in the last year. Yeah, I’m still pushing the needle on the scale over to the “hefty” side, but it doesn’t go as far as it used to. Another few years of this and I’ll be positively svelte!

Onward… MMOs and computers… I did actually cave and got new PCs for the wife and I. I did buy the WoW expansion, and messed around with it. I played the Vanguard beta, and it sucked. I bought a Wii. I bought a 360. And I am, in fact, pretty much done with the PC as a gaming platform, sort of. I canceled all my MMO subscriptions and nothing on the horizon is blowing my skirt up. I apply to every beta that I can and I participate in those trying to help them make a better game, but in the end they all end up not interesting me enough for me to make the buy. The MMO I’m most playing right now is actually Urban Dead which is about as far from WoW as you can get without actually dialing up a BBS to play TradeWars 2002 (which is officially 6 years ago now… where is my intergalactic trade federation? huh? when I see a Presidential candidate address that issue, I’ll know who to vote for). For my fantasy gaming fix, my bi-weekly group has continued to meet and our campaigns progress quite nicely. They may not be massively multiplayer, but they sure are more fun than the current slate of MMOs.

Lots of superhero books did come out, almost all of them for established comic book characters, and I didn’t finish any of my own projects.

I said that the business front was “looking pretty good”, my exact words. The key word here turned out to be “looking”. I’ve come to realize that a person whom I have always believed was only smoke and mirrors is in fact only smoke and mirrors, in a manner of speaking, his machinations and manipulations in the end are much ado about nothing. I keep pressing the Escape key, but I’m still here.

So… what does 2008 look like from here, the first day of the year?

S.O.S.

Same Old Shit, ladies and gentlemen. I suspect in 2008 I will write even less checks (garbage company might start taking credit soon), I will manage to drop another ten pounds (at least), I will continue to play betas but not buy MMOs (I’m pretty sure all the games I might buy will get delayed to 2009 anyway), I will play console games (the ones I already play and new ones coming out all the time, why, the Christmas season alone has produced a good eight or nine games I don’t own that I want to play), there will be more superhero books and business will continue to “look good” while actually being anything but (although, this year as new budgets are approved and hiring goes into higher gears I’m actually working with a recruiter, the only one recently to actually get me interviews).

New resolutions? I resolve to actually rake the yard (provided Georgia lifts its burn ban so I can dispose of the leaves myself, bagging sucks). I resolve to finish building the bar (we have the cabinets, now we just need to put them in and make the counter tops). And I resolve to stop buying crap I don’t need (seriously, I spend too much money on stuff when I should focus on convincing other people to buy it and then lend it to me). I’d make more resolutions, but then I will feel worse when I fail to do them all.

Oh, and if somehow Fred Thompson actually becomes President, I’ll eat my hat… and then I’ll begin weekly posts about how he should just round up Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell, Jack Ryan, Ray Levoi, John McClane, and the Law & Order guys and go straighten out all this Middle East stuff. But that is the extent of my campaign promises…

So, welcome 2008! Please don’t hit me in the junk!

Choices That Matter

Reading up my morning blogs, Tobold has thrown down a decent shot at the missing “good vs evil” elements of WoW. He’s right, of course, the design of WoW can be described as “colorfully bland”, its vibrant and exciting, but strip away the artistic elements and both sides are the same. Kill those guys, collect these items. Later on, they even share all the same quests in the “neutral” settlements and can choose the same side in the Burning Crusade’s faction division.

I’ve got high hopes for Fallen Earth. For one, a sci-fi apocalyptic MMO that works would be awesome. But beyond that, having had a chance to talk to the developers at this year’s Dragon*Con, they plan to have 6 factions, arranged around in a circle each one will have an opposing faction, two semi-allies, and two semi-foes. And they are working on making the factions matter. Since they can take over and control/influence a town, it will be important to help your faction win and to assist in the defeat of other factions.

Realm vs Realm was what attracted me to Dark Age of Camelot, sadly I found the PvE game (which was the only way to level up at the time) to be boring, repetitive, and exactly like EQ, which I was already playing and I just wasn’t inspired to start over. Had I gone to DAoC later when they put in battle grounds and other things the game might have stuck. World of Warcraft’s stabs at it had left me wanting. The battlegrounds were predictable and short, and not overly fun when raiders beat up on the non-raiders with their superior gear. The open PvP in WoW was a joke, and the tower stuff they added in Burning Crusade was great for about a week or two… then it devolved into a bizarre cooperative dance, each side letting the other side win, trading back and forth. Capturing was better than holding, so its better to let go and recapture, for both sides, that it is for either side to hold it, unless they have a strong desire to withhold rewards from the other side while reducing their own reward gain.

I really want to play an MMO where things I do, things everyone does, really matter. And the first person to suggest EVE Online will get bitch slapped. Call me when they allow me to get out of my ship and walk around the space stations and planets.