It’s all about the beta

I heard Michael Zenke talking to Julian Murdoch on one of his recent MMOG Nation podcasts, saying that he’s got MMO ADD and that he’s really only excited about MMO’s that aren’t out yet, and he hopes that he’s not let down when WAR comes out.

I understand his concern. Those of us who have played MMO’s since EQ (or earlier) tend to look toward the next great thing with anticipation, hoping to recapture the magic of our first forays into online worlds. In the recent past, for me at least, and it sounds like for Michael as well, the honeymoon period for a new game gets shorter and shorter. It’s not that the games are bad, at least not all of them. I still feel like LoTRO is the best MMO I haven’t really played. I just couldn’t muster the energy to level out of my 20’s in LoTRO. Age of Conan caused a massive “Meh” reaction. I’m in the WAR beta, and excited about the WAR release, but is that only because I can’t currently play it? Am I going to become bored with WAR once the time to actually play arrives? Will I switch toward anticipating the next big game?

I’m wondering about this, because I just signed up for the Jumpgate Evolution beta. Instead of putting time into Eve Online, I’m signing up to test a game that’s not even out yet. Instead of giving Vanguard a shot (one current MMO that I haven’t even peeked at, mostly because I think they should be giving out a free trial after their nightmarish launch), I’m playing Civ 4 and Team Fortress 2.

The WAR beta is in a non-testing period, which is good because it’s summertime and there are plenty of other things to be doing with my time. It also gives me time to re-evaluate exactly what I’m looking for in a game. During the MMOG Nation podcast linked above, Julian mentioned that he plays MMO’s because he’s an explorer. He enjoys traveling through new virtual worlds, and he gets excited about experiencing a new one. That’s pretty much how I’d describe myself as well. I’m not an end-game player (except DAoC, which had, for my money, the best end-game of any MMO), I’m not a dungeon raider, I’m not much for static groups. I’m an explorer, I’m a crafter, and I really enjoyed the shared PvP experiences of DAoC and Eve Online.

I guess I’m getting pretty specific about what I want from an MMO, and I think my patience is short with games that aren’t going to provide good gameplay experiences for my tastes. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, but I find myself wishing that there was a different type of MMO available, and quickly tossing aside those that don’t meet my desires. Perhaps that’s the WoW effect, simplifying things I didn’t want simplified (crafting, the economy, meaningful PvP, no housing). Whatever it is, I find myself looking forward, hoping for something breathtaking on the horizon, instead of enjoying what’s already available here and now. I might be fooling myself, or maybe I just need the industry to shake things up a bit.

Is anyone else doing this? Looking forward to future games, more than playing current games? Are you feeling blah about an MMO you’re currently subscribed to, just killing time until the next big thing arrives? Does Team Fortress 2 feel more satisfying than any MMO?

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7 Responses

  1. Was DAoC your first big MMO?

    I ask this, because it’s often the case that one turns to “forward-thinking” when all they really wish for is to be able to go back to that first love.

    Getting past that is hard too. It becomes about just having fun in any world for as long as you can and knowing when it’s okay to move on.

    People think MMOGs NEED to last for years, and ideally that would be how they are. But it’s entirely feasible and positively okay if you as a player only get a few weeks out of them before you realize it’s not for you.

    It sucks, because then it becomes like any other game genre… you always find yourself waiting for the next release. This is a familiar pattern as a console gamer. New awesome game comes out, you play it, beat it… and then wait for the next one.

    It’s doubly painful for an MMOGamer because we see few quality releases each year and so there’s always that HOPE that one game will last a player AT LEAST a year before feeling the urge to try something new.

    But don’t feel bad if nothing does that… it’s natural.

  2. Ahah! I did wonder why a couple of my friends resurfaced on WoW and made cryptic comments when I asked if they were bored of the WAR beta already.

    If it’s in a non-testing period that explains everything 🙂

    There’s a lot to be said for exploring lots of MMORPGs and then moving on when you get to a boring part. In the hope that somehow a developer will figure out a way to make the endgame more fun.

    And I agree with JoBildo that people seem to think a MMORPG has to last for years … I bet the average player’s subscription is less than 18 months.

  3. @Bildo – No, Everquest was my first big MMO, although I played MUD’s for a long time before that. I was in EQ for about 18 months before DAoC released.

    I think you and Spinks are both correct about MMO’s not needing to last for years, and sometimes we stay past the point where the game is fun. Mostly, for me, that’s when I’ve made good friends and I enjoy their company.

    Bildo, I don’t think I necessarily want to return to a specific game, but I do think that I’m looking for the feeling of those games. Shoot, maybe what I miss is being surprised by an MMO. EQ and DAoC were revolutionary in the community sense, at least for me. It multiplied my MUD experiences by a big factor. I remember busy days on our MUD’s would see 100 people logged in.

    Hmm, that could be it, actually. There were only a few websites were people gathered, it felt easier to get to know the community (now people are spread out across lots of forums and websites), answers are easier to come by (we used to ask questions on forums, now we look up answers at Alla’s and Thott).

    So no, I don’t necessarily want to return to EQ, or to DAoC, but yeah, I do want to be surprised by a world again, and to feel that early sense of community again. You can’t go home again, right? Maybe I just need to consign that to nostalgia and spend my time enjoying the genre as it matures.

  4. I agree with you Rick, I know from previous experience that the anticipation and speculation for a game before it is released can cause huge disappointment when the game comes out, Fury is a perfect example; it was such a cool, neat idea that somehow got totally warped ad muddled and came out awful. I had been waiting for it for some time and cried myself to sleep for a week or more after I actually played it. Shortly after I signed up for WAR beta and it starts again…
    Anticipation is half of the fun and perhaps sometimes all of the fun in the case of a shocker.

    At the moment I am not playing any mmorpgs. I have tried out of couple in the past few months but none matched WoW and I quickly dropped them. I played LOTRO for a few months but after hitting the level cap there was really nothing to do. I think Hardcore Casual made a post a while back about what would happen to the mmorpg community if WAR failed, and I know for me If WAR fails then my life as an mmorpg gamer could be over because looking at the horizon there is nothing that is interesting to me besides it.

  5. I’ll have to go dig up Syncaine’s post, because I missed it, and I’ve been thinking the same thing. I don’t think I’ll be going back to WoW, even if WAR doesn’t grab my attention. Maybe Eve, or maybe it’s time to hunker down and wait for Something Completely Different in the MMO world.

  6. Rick,

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your original post.

    I used to play MUDs in the 90’s too, and my first MMO was EQ (we share a similar background). Like you, my bar has lifted. I have expectations I want my next favorite MMO to meet.

    I want to be surprised, or …something. I can’t put my finger on it, because it could be any number of things that will hook me into what I will consider the “next best thing”.

    I have good memories of EQ, but I’ve long past thought about it and decided I would never want to play an MMO grind of EQ’s proportions again.

    I am confident I will be impressed again by some future MMO game though I’m not holding my breath for Warhammer.

  7. I was listening to Brent from Virginworlds and Michael Zenke on Michael’s MMOG Nation podcast (the most recent one, 12?) talking about Shadowrun, the tabletop setting, and how they’d love to see someone do that correctly.

    The fact that they ultimately feel it probably won’t be done, or done correctly, in an online format, sounded a lot like what you’re talking about, wanting something more, something that eludes us in the current generation.

    I think Warhammer will be a good current gen game, but yeah, when it comes to the mysterious “something” we’re missing, I guess I’m not holding my breath either. We’re on a plateau, and there’s another mountain to climb out there still.

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