More NDA blues, and MMO evolution

I’ve been posting comments on various blogs concerning Warhammer, and I have to be careful not to let thoughts about the beta slip in to my comments. One drawback when that happens is I fear I sound like a WAR fanboi. I can’t offer an even assessment of the game, because I’m not allowed to talk about it. I can kind of talk around it, or comment on what Mythic’s released about the game, but even then I have to be careful. For example, Mark Jacobs released a video talking about crafting in WAR that I watched over on Keen and Graev’s site.

I want to talk about what he’s talking about, and my experiences with it, but ya know…can’t. So I sit here talking to myself about it, mumbling and hoping I remember what it is I wanted to say when the NDA is lifted at some point in the future. I’m not an unabashed fan. I have opinions and concerns and differences with some of their design decisions, just like I did with LoTRO and AoC. But with all three games, my opinion has less and less to do with execution, and more to do with my personal preferences in MMO gameplay. The execution in all three games is pretty darn good.

What I’m noticing about MMO’s lately is how much the design choices are branching into quite different game styles. For a while, everyone worried about post-WoW MMO’s just being clones. I have to say, from what I’ve seen of the the triple A titles released or in the beta over the last year or so (LoTRO, Age of Conan, and WAR), they’re definitely not clones. Each game is taking their own unique direction.

Mythic is iterating on the RvR idea, running public quests, and perhaps making PvP attractive by letting PvE players seeing it go on around them and see how much fun it can be to fight alongside your realm mates. Jeff Hickman did a great job explaining their efforts in an interview over on Big Download today.

I can tell you that my wife, who used to not be a PvP player, came into our game and enjoyed the crafting and questing. But because of how our game is designed, she was led near an RvR area, and she could look down into the battlefield to see what was going on. This kind of demystified it for her and she decided to try the RvR. She then spent the next two hours on the keep pouring boiling oil on people and having a great time. There’s no fear in it. Enemies can’t talk, yell or make fun of you. It’s the easiest PvP you’ll ever play, and it’s so much fun.

We’ll see how that plays out after release, but given how much fun some of my non-PvP-fan friends had defending relics in DAoC, I’m hopeful Mythic delivers on their promise for WAR. The Hickman interview gives you an idea how thoughtfully Mythic has approached their entire game design. NDA, bla bla bla, more to say eventually!

Age of Conan has the single-player storyline, mounted combat, the most serious fantasy-based FFA PvP seen in a while, and guild city combat. Definitely not trying to rip off Blizzard.

LoTRO just made a great game off a great IP. They included housing, more nuanced crafting, and all my friends who made the effort to PvP in Monster play said they did a good job with that as well. It’s perhaps the most WoW-like of the three, but it’d be tough for me to make an argument that it’s ripping off or copying WoW.

I don’t think any of them are perfect games. I can’t talk about WAR, Age of Conan has had a few stumbles (although Funcom should be commended for improving over Anarchy Online), and LoTRO has quirks. I think, though, that they’re all pretty solid games. Most of the complaining I see about the games in online posts has less to do with gameplay and execution than with game design decisions. LoTRO gets dinged because it doesn’t have Mythic-style PvP, or FFA PvP. Age of Conan has too much FFA PvP, or not enough open-world PvP, or the starting 20 levels are too repetitive. It’s easy to ding a game for what it’s not. Instead of complaining that these titles haven’t accomplished things that the developers never intended to accomplish, maybe we should be happy that three AA A titles can diverge pretty widely from WoW’s example, and try to extend the genre in new and exciting directions.

For a while, I think we all might have feared that WoW would stunt the industry as everyone tried to jump on their design bandwagon. I’m pretty sure I can put those fears to rest, at least for LoTRO, AoC, and WAR.

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8 Responses

  1. I don’t know Rick, if you look at LOTRO and AoC aren’t they very similar to WoW? All 3 (wow included) have heavy quest-to-level progression systems that we never saw until WoW. All 3 are about end-game PvE raiding. All 3 are designed around gear treadmills.

    Each of these games does something to sorta strike out on their own but in the end they all play completely the same. You can’t PvP to progress in levels in any of them. You can’t siege capital cities and literally claim them for your faction. You can’t attack keeps in the open world and claim them for your guild. There are no innovative changes to the questing system like Public Quests.

    That does not make them bad games – not at all. And just because I’m saying they are just like WoW doesn’t mean I’m implying that WoW stunted the industry by any means. WoW has grown the industry immensely and really paved the way for the success these “next-gen” mmorpgs are seeing.

    It’s nice not being in beta sometimes. 😛

  2. I thought you were in the WAR beta, Keen? Shoot, Paul Barnett leaving podcast requests on your blog definitely means you need to swap a beta invite for podcast time 🙂

    I’m going to disagree with you for the purposes of discussion, but yeah, I see your points about “heavy quest-to-level” progression. If I can quibble about that point, I’ll say that they adopted a good idea, but they didn’t stop there. Both LoTRO and Age of Conan try to provide more game elements than WoW, while utilizing the quest-to-progress model.

    We’re headed toward the old evolutionary/revolutionary discussion, aren’t we? LoTRO evolved from WoW, perhaps more than the other two, offering housing and better crafting while adapting WoW’s quest ideas to tell the story of the Ring. Age of Conan is evolving PvP (maybe more from DAoC’s model than WoW’s model) and evolving combat, while keeping the WoW quest model.

    WAR might tip toward revolutionary, but I think it’s too early to tell. In fact, I think I’ll grab your word and say that they’re innovating more than the other two titles along the points you mentioned (public quests, PvP to progress, sieging cities, etc.). Revolutionary is a big word.

    “In the end they all play completely the same”. I’ll take your word for it with LoTRO, I didn’t get to end game. In fact, I guess I’m not talking about end game for any of the three games mentioned. You might be entirely correct about LoTRO. Time will tell with AoC, if guild city sieges are enough to separate end-game from the WoW instance grind. I think we both know how different WAR will be in the end game, given our time in DAoC. Maybe there is a lack of vision for end game in LoTRO and AoC, or a lack of distinction from WoW, but both games tried to distinguish themselves in other ways during the climb to the level cap.

    I guess what’s surprising to me is more people aren’t copying Mythic’s end game ideas. They’re the only company that’s given me something fun to do once I capped out in level. I enjoyed WoW more during the leveling than I did once I reached the cap. I suspect the same could be true about LoTRO, because I don’t like to just raid and upgrade gear at the end. I don’t know that Monster play, crafting, and playing house would be enough to keep me coming back.

  3. “I guess what’s surprising to me is more people aren’t copying Mythic’s end game ideas. They’re the only company that’s given me something fun to do once I capped out in level.”

    My thoughts exactly.

  4. […] /slashrandom and Tobold are both finding that the beta NDA is cramping their blogging style. I guess that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about here … yet (she says, with pathetically not-yet-given-up hope.) […]

  5. “I guess what’s surprising to me is more people aren’t copying Mythic’s end game ideas. They’re the only company that’s given me something fun to do once I capped out in level.”

    And I agree as well. I never got to enjoy DAoC in its heyday, but on all accounts I loved my bit of time in the game, and can totally see exactly why WAR fans are so excited.

    Here’s hoping that if WAR’s take on how to make the elder-game really the best part works, other games will follow suit somehow.

    I’ve yet to play an MMOG that really got the end-game the way DAoC seemed to back in its day.

  6. I’m hoping Mythic can do it twice in a row. If they have an enjoyable end game, maybe people will deem it worth copying, instead of lucking on to something that worked with DAoC.

    I can’t remember where I wrote this (maybe over in the comments on Keen and Graev’s blog), but I also want to see a developer put a skill system like Eve Online into a fantasy-themed MMO. I think there’s a real chance to distinguish yourself in the fantasy MMO market with that approach.

  7. I hope they succeed too. Itd be neat to be in an entire world at DaoC style war instead of just one zone (lotro.. see ettenmoors, wow .. see.. wotlk) Cant wait for WAR 🙂

  8. […] /random is frustrated by the bounds of the Warhammer NDA, but I think you can read around the lines to know he’s excited about the game. […]

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