The Year I Fell Out of Love

I’ve never done reviews or predictions here. I’m not nearly timely enough in my posting to pull it off. That doesn’t mean I don’t mentally review the past gaming year, though, and this New Year’s brought the revelation that 2009 was the year I fell out of love with MMO’s.

I’ve gone through multiple stages of MMO burnout in the past, only to return with a vengeance to a new game/new world, but I suspect that’s no longer true. 2009 found me subscribing and unsubscribing twice to LoTRO and Eve (the closest current examples of the MMO design I prefer), and I don’t think I’ll ever play WoW again. I’m playing a lot of single player games and Team Fortress 2, and I don’t think I’m simply burned out in need of an MMO break any more. I might be done with MMO’s, unless something really interesting appears on the horizon.

MMO bloggers seem to be looking forward to Blizzard’s next WoW expansion, Bioware’s The Old Republic, and Star Trek Online in 2010. I have almost zero interest in any of them (TOR being an exception because of how much I’ve enjoyed Dragon Age, and I hold a shred of hope that Bioware will surprise me with TOR the way DA surprised me). I really don’t expect to buy or play Star Trek Online, and I can’t imagine ever returning to Azeroth. I had three good years in Azeroth, but I think I’ve exhausted that theme park. And honestly, I expect The Old Republic to be a similar theme park, albeit newer and shinier.

I don’t have the same sense of anticipation about new MMO’s that I once had. Maybe WAR broke me; I had so much hope for a DAoC-style game, and Mythic just abandoned so much of what I enjoyed about DAoC in WAR. It felt like it had been influenced far too much by WoW, and I have a fear the same will happen with The Old Republic. I’m still bitter about WAR, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to play the free trial to see what’s new.

The only game I can see myself perhaps trying again in the future is LoTRO. The new skirmish system in the Siege of Mirkwood expansion sounds interesting, and if they make the Book quests solo-able, that might be enough for me to give it another shot. I do enjoy my house, the crafting, and the huge world of Middle Earth, and there’s a lot I haven’t seen there yet; I’m not nearly as burned out there as I am with WoW. I suspect I’m going to have a long stretch of MMO-free gaming ahead of me before that happens, though. I just don’t feel the love any longer.

Restless gaming

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading lately, instead of playing games. I thought I was just burned out on MMO’s, but single player games are causing the same restless feeling I experienced with MMO’s. I’ll sit down at night to play, and no matter what game I choose, I don’t want to play it after about 20 minutes. Games used to be a way for me to disappear into the Sid Meier zone, where I could lose myself in an evening of play, and I loved that feeling. I’m chasing the dragon now, I guess, getting a “been there, done that” vibe, no matter what I choose to play. I hate that feeling, so after some TF2 I end up logging off and grabbing a book to read.

You know what I need? I need a punk rock MMO. In 1980, I was 14 years old. I got to listen to the punk vs. arena rock vs. crappy pop music/disco wars firsthand. MMO’s feel totally like arena rock at the moment. WoW is the Journey of MMO’s, and I can’t take it any more. And most things seem to be following in the WoW model, making the genre accessible and polished. I want an MMO that doesn’t want to be Journey or REO Speedwagon or Foreigner or Tears for Fears. Can I get a little Circle Jerks in my MMO, please? Because I really want to be playing MMO’s. I can enjoy a single player game, but too much single player is like going to restaurants by yourself all the time. I want the buzz of people around me, even if I don’t talk to them all. I want my MMO to be difficult again, or at least challenging.

I lived and worked in West Yellowstone, Montana (the west entrance to Yellowstone Park) for a couple of years, and I heard a statistic that said like 90% of the visitors to the park never get more than 100 yards from a road. That’s how I feel in the post-WoW era…as MMO players, developers never want us too far from the leveling path. That’s one of the things that pissed me off about WAR. I felt like the content was jammed together, like players couldn’t be trusted to travel through the landscape without signposts to content, like we’d need non-stop attractions to keep our attention. Theme park, right? I hate it.

I want a world that feels open, not a world that has billboards to content everywhere I go. I want more to do than just kill things or deliver things. I want to make things, sell things, collect things, display things…and useful things. I want to fight other players. Speaking of being mad at WAR, another thing that made me mad about WAR was the RvR overkill. DAoC, Counterstrike, and Team Fortress 2 are examples of why you don’t need to include RvR in every zone in three different areas with an overly complicated method of zone control. Those three games concentrated great fighting in a limited number of maps or zones, focusing on the quality of the fighting, not the making sure there was an RvR entrance just steps from any location in any zone. So instead of WAR focusing the people who wanted to RvR in a few meaningful areas, it ended up feeling like you were chasing fights all over the map, all over the factional areas. The fighting was diluted because it was so spread out. The PvE was jammed together, the RvR was too distributed. And they really needed a third faction. Ah well.

Eve’s got the PvP right. I wish Eve’s crafting model existed in other games. I like when players have to make everything. Putting all your good gear behind gated content bores the hell out of me. I guess I want a game like Eve, except with an avatar on the ground, harvesting stuff, making stuff, selling stuff, fighting for control of territory, not control of space. With a house. And a pony.

When did I start to sound so old, by the way? You kids get off my lawn.

Anyway, in my boredom, I picked up Chrono Trigger for the DS. My daughter is letting me “borrow” hers, so maybe some solid old school RPG action will get me through my MMO blues.

There’s a positive in my gaming doldrums, though; I’m getting a ton of reading and writing done for grad school. I bet you’ll never see a scientific study on the positive effects of too much gaming :)

Summer break

I didn’t intend to take the summer off from blogging, but that’s exactly what happened. Between work getting a little crazy (anyone else getting hit with budget cuts, wage freezes, hiring freezes, etc.?), spending a lot of time outside with my daughter, and taking a summer class for grad school, life has been about everything but blogging.

Plus, I can’t get too excited about any of the MMO’s that are out right now. I’ve beaten WoW to death, don’t really have the time to enjoy Eve the way it’s meant to be played, I was bored by WAR, grew weary of LoTRO, and there’s not much new to catch my interest. Ok, other than Champions, there’s like nothing new, right? And don’t mention Aion…that’s a definite “give it three months” game. I’ve had my fill of Eastern MMO’s lately, and there’s nothing new under the sun. I even tried EQ2 for a month, and while I liked it, it’s too many steps backward. I want to see MMO’s doing something new and different, or I suspect my malaise will continue.

So, is the problem the games? Probably not. I think I’m just toast on MMO’s after ten years of playing them pretty much nonstop. I still have the desire to log in to a persistent world and build characters…just not any of the worlds that are currently available. I’d gripe about the industry and lack of innovation and clone-mentality development (this is the Internet, after all…I can bitch with no justification, right?), but I don’t really think that’s true or fair. I think developers work really hard to provide good gaming experiences, and I think my inability to stick with one MMO has more to do with me than the genre.

Keen made some good observations about what he misses in current-gen MMO’s last month (yeah, I’m behind on my blog reading, sue me), and a lot of it rang true to me. He started by saying

When I think back at what we’ve lost, or have begun to lose, in the MMORPGs of today, I keep coming back to one thing:  The World.  We’re starting to lose that sense of a big/massive, open, true world that we can explore and live in as we develop or take on the role of our character

Yep. I think this is what disappointed me most about WAR. It’s a game that’s packed with content, and I found out I don’t enjoy that very much. It was a very linear experience, and I never felt a sense of isolation. There wasn’t a sense of danger, either…you could either survive the zone you were in, or you were going to die. There wasn’t much tension, like in Keen’s run across Antonica. And there’s definitely not that much open space.

I blame WoW’s success for that shrinking of the game world, although I think WAR went further than WoW did. The idea that a world has to be convenient after World of Warcraft is pretty pervasive. I miss the sense of distance in Everquest or even Dark Age of Camelot. Making a run from your portal area down to the enemy gates in the DAoC frontier was a hell of an online gaming experience, and WAR didn’t preserve that feeling. WAR’s like a convenience store MMO experience…you can get a limited number of things really fast, and some of them are enjoyable, but if you’re really hungry, you want something more.

I was thinking about resubbing to Star Wars Galaxies the other day, because I was remembering riding around on my speeder with my artisan/architect, surveying for good spots to drop my harvesters. I remember how cool it was to have so much space around me, and an encounter with another person out there usually resulted in some sort of interaction, even if it’s just a wave or another emote. Travel in WAR and WoW feels like commuting…there’s sea of people around you, but you’re not interacting with any of them. I miss the days of physical space and possibility and adventure.

I don’t know if the MMO market can support games like that any more. There’s so much pressure to deliver WoW-like profits, or even a tenth of WoW profits, that designing a world that’s more of a community-driven sandbox is risky. There certainly don’t seem to be any games like that in development, so maybe MMO’s have passed me by. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with current gen MMO’s…it just means that I don’t think I’ll be playing them very often.

So, instead of logging in to WAR and leveling characters through scenarios and RvR, I’ve been playing a lot of Team Fortress 2. WAR scenarios reminded me of my old FPS days, and I’ve been getting my scenario/RvR fixes through TF2. It’s easier to get in and out of TF2 matches, I don’t have to grind levels or gear, and it’s a brilliant game. Is it just me, or do you think Valve could make a TF2 MMO that’s more fun than WAR? Might just be me, and the burnout speaking.

Anyway, my daughter is playing Wizard 101 and Free Realms, and I have alts on her accounts that I’m playing, so I might hit up some of the folks I’ve seen playing those games and say hi (Tipa and Pete have both posted about those games recently). Other than that, I’m usually playing TF2, on the Gamers With Jobs servers when they’re hopping in the evenings, pining for the old days, the MMO frontier days.

Some WAR links and thoughts

There are a couple WAR blog posts that I wanted to comment on, and I figured since I’m referencing more than one, I’d just make it a new post here.

Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats is wondering about the value of a subscription to a PvP MMO. I was interested in this post, because his reasons for not wanting to subscribe to a PvP MMO over a PvE MMO is similar to my reasons for the exact opposite conclusion; I don’t have much interest in subscribing to a mainly PvE MMO right now.

Ravious says:

In PvE MMO games, like Lord of the Rings Online, there is that feeling of the developer updating “further along.”  When Turbine updates the game with a Book update (as opposed to just a balance, optimization, and bug patch) they push the story further down the road.  We get new quests that expand the storytelling of the world, new instances and dungeons, and sometimes even new regions.  There is the value in receiving the content, but I think the bigger value is knowing that over the next big rise there will be more.

Fair enough. I won’t argue that WAR’s PvE rivals LoTRO, or EQ2, or WoW. Instead of feeling like I’m missing out on great PvE, though, I’m happy that WAR is offering me something I can’t get in any of those games; unpredictable gaming on a nightly basis. I guess I’m bored with PvE and the sense of sameness that I get in every PvE game. The setting is different, the stories are different, but the encounters are too predictable for me. I don’t derive much satisfaction from beating PvE challenges. What really gets me excited is knowing a mob of enemy players is out there, and our encounters will be much more unpredictable than anything a PvE situation can provide.

Does that mean Ravious (or anyone else who misses greater PvE options than WAR offers) is wrong? Absolutely not. I’m glad that there are games available that cater to both preferences.

The next post that caught my eye was Scarybooster’s “Hot for WAR“. Scary is praising Mythic for their attention to their game and their efforts to continually improve it. Now, I fully expect someone in the comments over there to say “Blizzard doesn’t have to put in that much work to fix their game because they don’t release a game as broken as WAR!” I don’t think WAR is broken, for the record, but a sarcastic comment like that still has a ring of truth to it.

One of the reasons that I’m happy in Warhammer is precisely because of Mythic’s attention to their product. I think Mythic is a little more ambitious than Blizzard, and I appreciate their type of gameplay. We really can’t get MMO gaming like Mythic makes anywhere else in the genre. Eve is always an exception; they really have a unique environment with lots of opportunity for excellent unpredictable PvP. At the end of the day, Mythic’s RvR design is more exciting to me than the PvE available in LoTRO, EQ2, or WoW, and I appreciate Mythic’s attempts to provide a gaming experience different from other MMOs.

I’m not going to deny that I enjoy different things in an MMO than many other MMO gamers. I don’t like raiding or dungeon crawling very much. It makes me feel constricted, closed in, like my role is very carefully scripted, and varying from what you’re expected to do will lead to failure. Apparently, the way I enjoy PvE is quite different from a lot players who are unhappy with Mythic’s PvE. I happen to enjoy it very much, and I don’t find PvE leveling much different in WAR than the way I played WoW or EQ or LoTRO. I get quests, I run out and do my quests, I get tradeskill supplies while I’m questing, I do some tradeskilling before bed. For my money, I’m just as happy with WAR’s PvE environment as I was in Azeroth or Norrath, and my progress leveling in WAR is faster than it ever was in EQ or WoW or LoTRO.

I think that the blogging community has to start acknowledging that there’s a lot of different ways to enjoy MMOs, and quite a few different experiences available. Just because a game falls into the MMO genre doesn’t mean it’s going to be similar to other MMOs out there, and it’s quite possible that games are going to go far enough down their own game-design path that we end up disliking the final product, despite the fact that they all start off in a very similar manner.

I won’t try to convince people (like Heartless, perhaps, or Pete), that Warhammer is a good game, or a game they should be playing. I think we’re starting to see people with more specific requirements for enjoying an MMO, and people branching off into the games that best meet those requirements. I don’t think each MMO should try to be everything for everyone. I respect that Ravious really likes LoTRO’s books and the PvE it provides, and I think Turbine has done a wonderful job incorporating a story into their PvE group encounters. I completely understand players who love the product Blizzard offers, and the excellent challenges they provide for small group or raid group gameplay. For players who prefer Eve’s universe, or EQ2, or any other game that’s meeting their MMO gaming needs, I say right on. All we have to do is be happy with our game, and let everyone else enjoy theirs.

And for me, there’s no greater thrill in MMO gaming than seeing 20 or 30 realm mates running alongside me through a zone, looking for trouble, seeing a crowd of Destruction headed our way, crashing together like a scene from Braveheart or Lord of the Rings. I love it when a big fight breaks down into 8 or 10 smaller fights, rolling across the green grass of Avelorn, and the ebb and flow of the battle is frantic and unpredictable, ending in glorious triumph or bitter defeat. Keep battles, siege warfare, flanking manuevers from postern doors, tactics barked through Warband or Region channels, dozens of people switching focus and wondering if the defenders will respond in time, staving off an hour-long keep take attempt from a determined foe, or finally breaking through a spirited defense to lay claim to a keep…

That’s what I’ve found in WAR. That’s what keeps me happily moving through PvE, knowing that at any moment, I might have the opportunity for something epic, something magical created out of the efforts of dozens of players.

In DAoC, on the Percival server, it wasn’t uncommon to get smoked by an opposing realm and lie dead in the grass watching them swarm over the objective you had attempted to defend. Instead of opponents laughing at your corpse, though, or dancing on it, or worse (/spit, /slit, etc.), it also wasn’t uncommon to be saluted at or bowed to by the victors.

As much as players on Percival enjoyed their moments of triumph, we all knew that those moments were made possible by the valiant efforts of our opponents. Without skilled and dedicated opponents, the victory would not have been so sweet. Maybe that’s the difference between PvE raiding and RvR for me. When I’ve beaten a dungeon or a boss, I never go home thinking “Man, they put up a hell of a fight, they’re a really good player, or that was a really good tactic”. After a good RvR fight, win or lose, as I sit there grinning at my computer with the adrenaline still pumping through my body, I know there’s someone on the other side of their computer grinning as well. They helped make my fun possible, and I helped with theirs.

I think that’s the essence of Mythic’s RvR for me, and I won’t tire of it any time soon. And for the record, I’m not really a fan of individual PvP. There’s something about running into battle with a group of friends that creates a shared magic I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the MMO world.

If you get that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from big PvE encounters, I respect that. I’m just glad that Mythic gives me a chance to experience that in competition against other players.

Darren’s right, but I still don’t want to play WoW

Over at The Common Sense Gamer, Darren is talking about being pleasantly surprised by the WoW expansion, enjoying the finely-crafted brilliance of a Blizzard game.

I expected to hear reports like this from people who went to play WoW. Blizzard has given me no reason to doubt that they can produce excellent expansions for a game that I enjoyed for many years. However, hearing Darren talk about what he’s enjoying also reinforces my feeling that I’m done playing World of Warcraft, at least for this expansion.

Since this is a blog, this post is purely personal opinion, and sums up where I’m at with MMO’s after 9 and a half years of playing them, pretty much continuously. EQ, DAoC, SWG, WoW, and Eve have taken up most of my gaming entertainment since EQ’s launch in March of ’99, as well as brief forays into many of the other major MMO titles.

When I hear people complain about PvE in Warhammer, I do understand where they’re coming from. Having people disappear into instances removed some of the liveliness from PvE, I think. A lot of the time, without organizing groups within your guild, or talking up groups in Region chat, you’re left soloing your way through PvE content. For me, though, moving to WoW wouldn’t be any kind of fix for that situation. In fact, WoW would be like doing PvE in WAR, while subtracting the opportunity to participate in oRvR or Scenarios. WoW is a straight grind. Do quests, upgrade gear, do more quests, upgrade gear, only to top out at the level cap with nothing left to do but raid.

Here’s the rub, and probably where I differ from people who really enjoy WoW PvE. I don’t enjoy PvE raiding. It’s dead boring for me. I get impatient moving at group speed, instead of solo speed. I don’t care a lot about gear upgrades from dungeon crawls, because the gear doesn’t get me anything except the ability to do more dungeon crawls. All that time grinding, collecting, upgrading, rinsing and repeating, and I feel like I’m dressed up for a party that’s never going to occur. There’s a predictability to PvE raiding that makes me feel like I’m working.

I don’t mind PvE soloing, though. It’s pretty much how I’ve leveled in every MMO I’ve played (WAR being a very pleasant exception), and for me, there’s little difference between WAR solo PvE and WoW solo PvE. Well, beyond the fact that I did WoW solo PvE for three years, and I really don’t want to do any more. If I’m going to do solo PvE, I’d rather be doing it in Warhammer.

There are a couple reasons I’m content with solo PvE in WAR right now.

First, there’s a point to gaining levels; I get to compete against other players in ever-larger RvR tiers (note: if I enjoyed PvE raiding, there’d be a point to grinding PvE in WoW…but I don’t).

Second, if I don’t feel like PvE grinding in WAR, I can do scenarios or Open RvR. When I decide to do some WAR PvE, it’s because I want to do it, and I’m choosing it from one of three fun options for advancement. I don’t have that choice in WoW. It’s either solo PvE, or group PvE, and I’m tired of not having options.

Third, I’m actually taking my time, reading the stories in the quests, and having fun getting to know a bit about the Warhammer universe. Azeroth feels stale to me. That’s purely personal, and probably has as much to do with my WoW PvE burnout as it has to do with the worlds Blizzard produces. I’m not trying to say that the WAR universe is any better than WoW; WAR is just fresher for me at this point in time.

I’m posting this because I don’t think I’m alone. My blog has been pretty quiet since WAR released, mostly because I’m spending most of my free time enjoying the game Mythic created. It seems like most of the blogs I’m reading are talking about what’s wrong with WAR. I wanted to post what I’m enjoying, in case there’s a silent majority out there who’s also content with WAR PvE (alongside scenarios and oRvR), and doesn’t plan on leaving Warhammer and returning to old familiar grinds.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. You don’t have to like WAR PvE just because I do. I don’t have to convince you that WoW is dull and uninteresting, because I don’t believe that’s true for everyone. It’s true for me, but who the hell cares what I think? :) If you still get a blast out of playing WoW, I can remember back to my glory days and appreciate what you’re enjoying. That’s a chapter in my past, though. WAR is my present and my future, and I’m having a damn good time.

No WoW for me

Just for the record, I won’t be buying the Lich King expansion immediately. I’m having a blast in WAR, and I’m so so so tired of PvE in WoW. There’s nothing compelling to make me want to check it out. If I want to grind PvE levels, I’d rather do it in WAR where it’ll mean something, rather than WoW, where I’d level to 80 and unsubscribe again.

I’m not entirely ruling out buying it. I may pick it up at Christmas for my daughter, who still logs in to play with her army of characters, but I don’t think I’ll ever play WoW seriously again.

I do hope those of you who buy the WoW expansion have a lot of fun. It’s a great game, and I’m certainly not trying to knock Blizzard’s game. I played it for years, but I feel the same way about WoW now that I feel about EQ when DAoC was released. Those chapters are closed, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

I’m really looking forward to Tier 4 Warhammer with the Casualties of War! I see a lot of people breaking into T4 now, and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.

Presidential WoW achievement

America is officially “Working as Intended“.

Hype Night

The Greenskin asked “Where did the hype go?” about WAR. It’s a good question. I’ve been dead quiet here since WAR launched, and it’s mostly because I’m having an absolute blast. This is the most fun I’ve had in an MMO since…shoot, I don’t know? The glory days of SWG? Dark Age? It’s right up there with my favorite MMO moments.

I read plenty of blogs stating that WAR isn’t capturing their attention. I can understand why. I’ve seen this movie before.

When Everquest was king, and Dark Age of Camelot was launched, I heard the same things about Dark Age that I’m hearing about WAR now. The PvE isn’t great, you have to get to the end game to see what Mythic’s really done, EQ has better this, better that, bla bla bla. That’s cool. It was pretty clear to me that they were two vastly different games, offering very different experiences, even though they both belonged to the same MMO space. It’s ok to prefer one over the other. To me, MMO’s are like music. You might really like Pearl Jam. Or Toto. Or the Bay City Rollers. It’s not up to me to judge. Well, I can judge, but I can’t dictate your tastes :) As my wife likes to say, “Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinion.” Three guesses who she’s usually talking about. First two don’t count.

Yeah, WAR has some challenges. Wilhelm was disappointed with the early dungeon content. (Wilhelm, for what it’s worth, CoWs were checking out Gunbad last night, it sounds a lot bigger, multiple wings, I think you have to be 17 to get quests for it? Just have your tank grind scenarios for 7 levels and…wait, come back! Was it something I said??). Another challenge is leveling. Mythic’s balancing is off between scenarios and open RvR. I don’t think they thought through the replay-ability of zones without a critical mass of players available…or they at least made it difficult to be social and just talk to people in your zone to see if you could get a group together for PQ’s or PvE. I love the Open Group tool, that’s how I find most of my PvE/PQ groups…but dudes, you made it super-easy to group through a tool, but people can’t chat in the region to get together? Huh?

Personally, I’m not a chatter in General chat. I prefer the lack of bla bla bla in an Open Group model, but your game really should support chat to group and the Open Group tool. Yeah, Mytic is fixing it, but in hindsight, it should have been in there all along. Maybe Mythic was thinking regional chat was an obstacle to being immersed in the game?

Challenges or not, though, WAR is the game for me (at least until someone makes a game with the crafting/market economy and player housing/city building of SWG, the RvR of a Mythic game, the PvE of WoW, the territory claiming and offline training of Eve (no more levels!), and maybe hookers and beer).

I honestly haven’t been frustrated in WAR. When I don’t feel like doing Scenarios, I enjoy PQ’s. When I’ve had enough PQ’s, I’ll knock out some quests. I keep my ears open for good RvR, and jump out in the lakes when I hear something good is going on. The crafting is simple, but it’s a good diversion when none of the other options leap out at me.

I think maybe I’m more flexible than some gamers? Or more forgiving? I don’t go into the game and say “I’m going to do PQ’s tonight NO MATTER WHAT.” If I stumble on a group of people in a PQ doing a quest, I’ll ask if they want to do a couple more. If I don’t stumble on enough people for a PQ, I’ll do PvE with them. If we have fun, sometimes we’ll queue for a Scenario, or head out to RvR together if the call to attack or defend arises. If I can’t find absolutely anything going on, I’m usually perfects happy soloing. Hell, it’s what I’d be doing in WoW or LoTRO or EQ anyway!

It’d be easy to say that I have all these options because I’m part of a large guild, but honestly, I’m a quiet person. I don’t invite myself into guild groups all that much. I find that I encounter partners for PvE and PQ’s while I’m out in the world. I don’t know, maybe after leveling in like a dozen MMO’s since EQ in ’99, I’ve become a more patient person. I don’t feel like WAR is grindy at all. I’m playing very casually, and I’m level 25 on my main with a handful of alts between 8 and 10. If you choose to ONLY run Scenarios because that’s the fastest way to 40…well, I can understand where you’d feel bored. I’m having no trouble progressing without being Scenario-obsessed, though.

I think it’s like music. I enjoy this band. It’s got a good beat, I can dance to it. I give it an 8, Dick.

No, I’m not calling you a dick. There’s a capital D there. If you’re too old for American Bandstand and Soul Train, don’t take the Dick thing personally.

When I was growing up, I liked art rock. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. King Crimson. Fripp and Eno. Rush. Yes. Early Genesis, before Peter Gabriel left and the whole thing became Phil Collins singing about love. The man’s been married like 3 times now…stick to the drums, Petey, let Peter G. write the songs, k?

My point is, it’s a pretty specific music genre, and my friends who liked Black Flag or the Circle Jerks or The Allman Brothers or Cheap Trick thought my music sucked. Ya know, it doesn’t suck, you just might not enjoy it the same way I do.

I’ve been in absolutely epic RvR, both in Scenarios and Open RvR. Total nailbiters, last-minute victories AND defeats, heroic moments, saving group mates with heals a nick from death, being saved by team mates, heart-pounding, adrenaline surging MMO goodness. I can’t think of another game that’s given me this sort of fun, at least not since DAoC, and it’s exactly what I wanted to experience in WAR. I’ll hype WAR, but it’s going to fall on deaf ears if people don’t enjoy that kind of gameplay, or if they think that kind of gameplay falls off a tree each time you run into an RvR lake or a Scenario. I’ve had bad RvR runs too, but damn, I’ll take a few clunkers over leveling Yet Another Alt in Azeroth, or doing another 10 levels on my WoW main, just to be faced with the same cookie-cutter PvE raiding. Yeah, WoW dungeons are awesome, but seriously, compared to playing against real people, it bores me to tears. I’d rather play Bejeweled than run WoW raid dungeons.

I just don’t enjoy that band. It’s ok if you do. We can still get along. I’ll go to my concerts, you go to your concerts, and we can still talk to each other. I’ll still be your friend. And I’m not going to insist my music is better. It’s not. It’s just what I like. And I like it a lot! WAR friggin’ rocks. For me.

My turn: Warhammer Sales Predictions

I saw Syncaine take a stab at this, and he got the idea from Tobold. I’m well-versed in talking out me arse, so I’ll make a Warhammer subscriber prediction as well.

First, I’m going to take WoW’s number, around 10 million subscribers, and chop 6 million off the top. That’s my approximation of the number of non-US and non-European WoW subscribers. Well over half of WoW’s subscriptions come from outside those markets. Since I think WAR will mainly appeal to US and European gamers, I’ll say 4 million subscribers is the theoretical maximum Mythic could achieve.

Naturally, that assumes 4 million players drop WoW for WAR, and that’s obviously not happening. However, there are people playing other games that might give WAR a try, and there are people who have stopped playing WoW that are going to play WAR. I’ll pick a number out of me arse and say Mythic might attract attention from 2 million gamers…actually, that sounds high. That’s fully 50% of what Blizzard’s managed to do in the US and Europe, and that sounds optimistic to me, especially since WAR is focused more on RvR. True, RvR is not PvP, I’ve been banging that drum like crazy, but I don’t expect everyone to enjoy RvR even if they understand my points from a theoretical perspective.

I’ll drop to 1.6 million interested players. Not all of them will buy at once. I think we’ll see a little more than AoC numbers for launch and the rest of 2008…let’s say, 1 million users. Not all of them will keep playing after the first month. Naturally, there will be people who find it isn’t for them, they’ll return to WoW, or their other MMO homes.

Given WAR’s RvR-based nature, I don’t see as much future growth in WAR as we saw in WoW. It’ll be more difficult to join the game later and have the same game experience. I can see WAR selling another 600k copies in 2009, maybe into 2010. That puts me around the 1.6 million copies sold, and I’d guess the actual subscriber rate will be lower. 50% of that would be tremendous for Mythic…if they could get a million subs, I think they’d be thrilled. I’m expecting it to be lower, though. I’ll say that, given how much the potential market has grown since DAoC launched, they could expect to triple their DAoC subscriber peak, and get about 750k monthly subscribers for WAR. I don’t think it’ll last as long as WoW has peaked, though, and I’d suspect that number to drop closer to 500-600k for WAR over time.

And I think that’d be a huge success for Mythic. They’ll never get close to WoW numbers, just because it’s not going to appeal to the Chinese and Korean market the way WoW does. Plus, it’s an RvR-centric game.

Remind me in a year how wrong I am, lol.

WAR vs. WoW mathematics

There’s no shortage of online opinion about Warhammer: Age of Reckoing and how it’s going to perform against World of Warcraft. After listening to podcasts on my daily commute, though, something occurred to me.

I was surprised to hear that Van Hemlock didn’t play Dark Age of Camelot (noted on his very fine podcast, episode 11. Don’t worry about being late putting out your episodes, sir. I’m behind listening to them!). DAoC was a very early MMO, and perhaps easy to overlook. In a way, DAoC was compared to EQ in the same way WAR is being compared to WoW; an underdog competing against the reigning MMO heavyweight champion. Maybe, in the resulting fanboy heavyweight champion buzz, people heard all sorts of things that were “wrong” with DAoC, and didn’t get a chance to discover first-hand everything right about it.

I was mulling over the fact that one of the more prolific MMO game players/bloggers hadn’t experienced everything that was brilliant about the DAoC end game. Van Hemlock knew DAoC’s reputation. He understood on a theoretical level what it was that Mythic had accomplished, but there was no direct experience of the game. It made me wonder how many other MMO players are really in the dark when it comes to what Mythic offers to the genre.

I hope he doesn’t mind me using him as an example. I’m not attempting to critique him specifically; not at all, in fact. He handled his lack of DAoC experience with the grace and aplomb I’d like to see in other internet MMO message board posters. What intrigued me about his revelation was simple math.

Dark Age of Camelot probably hit their subscriber peak at somewhere around 250,000 players. That’s a rough estimate, I haven’t traced the lines on Sir Bruce’s chart to find the precise number. I’m going to compare it to WoW’s numbers, so perhaps you can understand why I don’t feel the need to research the exact number :) WoW’s peak is above 10 million subscribers.

Given DAoC’s 250k subscribers, let’s be generous and say that 75% of them spent significant time in RvR, the concept that Warhammer Online is built around. 75% of 250k is about 185k. Don’t make me do exact math, it makes me sad. Since I’m comparing it to WoW, so I could use the entire subscriber base, or just half, and it wouldn’t affect the numbers too much.

Let’s take those 185k users, with direct personal experience of RvR, and speculate whether those individuals are being taken at their word regarding what’s different between WAR and WoW in the various forum debates in the MMO world. For the other 9, 815,000 WoW players, how would they know if WAR’s a clone? If they’ve never played an MMO with an endgame like DAoC’s (and DAoC was the only one so far), how can they dismiss what they don’t know? How do you have the nerve to make the clone claim, when you’re talking out of your arse? (For the record, I’ve moved far away from Van Hemlock here!)

I know the answer, of course. Discussion forums encourage stupid, unfounded, strident posts. I guess ignorance of what made DAoC unique, and posting that ignorance, isn’t the real story here. For Mythic, the real story becomes how many of the 9,815,000 WoW players who didn’t play DAoC can play WAR with an open mind. Is it any wonder we’ve got Paul Barnett grinding the WAR organ while the monkey dances?

Why the WAR clone tag is meaningless

A light bulb went on above my head while reading Syp’s post about the inevitable WoW/WAR comparison. I had just finished up my evening of testing WAR, enjoying every minute. Gary Gannon’s intial WAR impressions (my previous post) were still fresh in my mind. Somewhere in the middle of Syp’s post, I realized what Mark Jacobs, Paul Barnett, and Josh Dresher have likely known for quite a while now.

It doesn’t matter if people compare WAR to WoW. It doesn’t matter if fanboy rage fans flames faster than an Los Angeles wildfire. It doesn’t matter if the games look similar, if Blizzard ripped off Warhammer, if Mythic’s copying WoW. Mythic is smart to stay above that entire discussion, and do you know why?

Because their game is going to make money. Serious money. A lot of people are going to have a blast in WAR. More subscribers than WoW? No, but who cares? WAR is fun, and it’ll be very profitable. And, most importantly for the folks at Mythic, I suspect, is they’re making the game they wanted to make. Their vision of how WAR would play will be fully realized. They didn’t have to copy WoW to be successful. They had different ideas, a different vision, and they’re going to realize that vision. WAR is going to be kickass fun for a lot of people. And it is going to make money.

I think Mythic has known this for a long time. I think they knew exactly what it would take to bring the game to launch, and I think they knew what was required to make a successful MMO, a different MMO. They know it’s no clone. They know what’s unique about their game. They’re confident, they’re happy with what they’ve made, and man, I hope for their sake they have a percentage of the profit :) It just doesn’t matter if people want to argue it’s a clone. It’s fun. It’s a winner. It’s a money maker. It’s Mythic’s game. And soon, for a lot of us, it’s going to be our game, too.

And for those who don’t enjoy WAR, or don’t enjoy it as much as WoW? Like Tobold, perhaps, who’s not a PvP fan, and enjoys the excellent WoW PvE content? Yep, they might try WAR. They might drop it in favor of WoW and the Lich King expansion, and to me, that makes total sense. Know why? Because WoW and WAR aren’t clones. Two games, both well-crafted, both with different goals, and it’s very likely that both will be very profitable. And who knows? If the WoW expansion fever wears off after a few months, maybe we’ll see players returning to WAR after leaving for WoW after trying out WAR. There’s a lot to like in WAR, and it’s different than WoW, and I think it’s going to be a great success for Mythic.

If you only have 45 minutes to review a game…

Dan O’Halloran takes on the very dangerous task of playing Warhammer for 45 minutes at Comic Con, and then attempting to write an article about it for Massively. It can’t be easy. Even with someone from Mythic attempting to point out all the highlights, there’s simply no way you can get a feel for a MMO in 45 minutes.

I want to give my impressions of the game from the perspective of a long-time MMOG player with little time to play these days and even less interest in PvP.

I think this qualifier probably set the tone for some of the commenters. I think it’s a setup to expect a negative article, and the entire article isn’t negative. I have issues with the way he phrased a couple things, but let’s not lose the forest for the trees.

Dan says his reasons for considering WAR, despite those above-mentioned objections, is his desire for “revirginization”; he wants to recapture the magic of his time in earlier MMO’s, before he perhaps became jaded from constant leveling.

I can understand that, but I don’t think 45 minutes is enough time to see what Mythic has developed to address that very common complaint of leveling treadmill weariness. Perhaps when Dan gets more time with the game, he’ll discover that Mythic has attempted to evolve PvE advancement somehwat. It’s no revolution…it’s a level-based MMO. However, Mythic’s take on PvE does advance what we’ve experienced so far in other MMO PvE. I hope Dan finds something to enjoy there. I definitely share his leveling weariness, but I’m enjoying Mythic’s take on things so far.

Dan summed up his dislike of PvP:

As I stated earlier, I’m not a fan of PvP. I hate the ganking, the trash talking and the very idea that my limited game time can be ruined by someone else looking to stroke their e-peen by ambushing someone else. Also, I suck at it. I don’t have the twitch skills or reaction times to prevail.

I can agree with his reasons 100%. I dislike open PvP for the same reasons. However, I was surprised to see him making these claims about a Mythic game. The reason I liked DAoC so much was the elimination of much of those PvP complaints. The enemy couldn’t talk to you, and therefore couldn’t trash talk. They could trash-emote, but I think most of us are thick-skinned enough to weather an unkind emote. Plus, I was lucky enough to play on a server where that kind of behavior would get you scolded from your own realm. Percival didn’t dig e-peen strokers.

Plus, Mythic’s PvP had a shared purpose, and it was always easy, even for a committed solo player like me, to find groups for RvR. I rarely got ambushed alone, and if I did (like, if I got whacked while running alone out to a keep or mile gate, trying to join my group), there was plenty of incentive to dust yourself off and try it again, and perhaps to run out there with a realm mate also trying to avoid the solo gank. And individual 1 on 1 PvP suckage (a trait I share with Dan, unfortunately) is somewhat ameliorated in a group PvP situation.

I’m expecting the same sort of attention to PvP detail in WAR. I can’t see any reason why Mythic would suddenly say “Let’s make this more like EQ Zek servers”. I don’t think Dan has to fear that type of PvP experience in WAR.

Predictably, Dan’s getting killed in the comments for not jumping up and down for joy after getting a little time with WAR. Let’s try to remember that he only had 45 minutes with the game, though. To his credit, he does seem recognize Mythic’s major goals for WAR.

While the PvE game looks like most other fantasy MMORPGs, the RvR game looks like the real winner. The fact that they train you to play the PvP endgame is big draw for me and the reason I will be keeping an eye on the title as it approaches its September release date.

There are nuances to the PvE game that you need more than 45 minutes to uncover. Mythic has definitely added some fun to leveling. Perhaps when Dan has more time with the game, he’ll spot those improvements. I can’t blame him for not noticing everything that’s new or different after such a short time with the game. I am happy that, as a person who isn’t a huge PvP fan, he’s interested in Mythic’s approach to RvR.

I think Dan’s biggest faux pas was this statement:

WAR strikes me as WoW mechanics wrapped in different lore plus a couple of new features.

Keen has already addressed that in the comments for the thread, and I agree with Keen that it’s a weak sentence. Calling it WoW mechanics is giving Blizzard way too much credit. It’s simple MMO mechanics, and Blizzard doesn’t own ‘em. Mythic was doing it before Blizzard, in fact. Each game increments what you can do within the MMO genre, but no one has re-invented the wheel yet.

I think Keen was right to ask if Dan felt the mechanics were the same because they were a clickable interface. It’s akin to someone saying that Battle for Middle Earth is just Warcraft III mechanics wrapped in different lore. Real RTS fans expect more in-depth comparisons, and so do we as MMO fans.

In fairness, though, no RTS or MMO fan can manage to gain enough insight in 45 minutes to give you that kind of depth.

I’d like to take away a positive feeling from the article; someone who’s not a PvP fan is intrigued by what Mythic is offering. And I hope that those of us who disagree with the “just like WoW” statements can take some time to offer reasoned arguments why we disagree, and can avoid “You’re wrong! You suck!” rejoinders. That’s not going to help win any new fans :) It’s difficult to see what’s different in an MMO until you’ve played it for a bit. There are going to be “Eureka!” moments for people playing WAR, but we can’t force those moments upon them. They’ll have to experience it themselves before they’re going to understand what those of us in beta (and who can’t talk fully about our experiences) are so excited about.

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