And the winner is…

Instead of jumping into Darkfall or Fallen Earth, I resubscribed to Eve Online last week. Three things influenced my decision. First, I already own Eve, and my wife and I went out on the $50 I would have dropped on a new game. Second, the videos from the Alliance Tournament on CCP’s Youtube site made me miss the game. Third, I kept saying to myself “I want a game that does what Eve does”, and, well, duh.

I’m still keeping an eye on Darkfall and Fallen Earth (leaning more toward Fallen Earth right now), but I might wait for a price drop, or at least wait out my rekindled desire to play Eve.

There’s also a pretty good chance LoTRO’s latest offer will get me to pay $30 to subscribe for three months and get the Siege of Mirkwood expansion for free when it’s released at the beginning of December. I have the client downloading in the background now, and I’ll play it this weekend, taking advantage of the 25% xp bonus on top of a couple months of rest xp. Free is good.

There’s plenty of competition in the MMO space these days, and Turbine and CCP pulled me in with a combination of good marketing, good value, and top-notch games. I have a couple stories to tell about my latest Eve experiences, and I’ll probably be back with a LoTRO update after the free weekend is over.

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Hell yes. Quit yer bitchin’.

Syncaine, I’m in total agreement. Eve’s skill point system is far from a handicap for new players. In fact, it’s the newbie-friendliest advancement system in any current MMO.

I posted almost a year ago that Eve Online is a casual mmorpg, and I still believe that. It offers the most accessible, most laid-back mmorpg experience possible, if you choose to play that way. The strength of Eve is that you can play it any way you want. Clearly, it’s not just a casual game. You can be an absolute min/max spreadsheet-creazy hardcore PvP lunatic in Eve as well, which is one of CCP’s great achievements.

However, Syncaine’s exactly right. You can fly alongside friends who have been playing for years almost instantly, definitely by the time your 14 day free trial is ending. There’s no other mmorpg on the market that offers that kind of flexibility. You can fulfill a variety of useful roles, depending on the needs of your friends, with a minium amount of training time.

You want to be immediately equal in strength to people who have already been playing for months, or for years? Go play Team Fortress 2, or any other FPS multiplayer game. You don’t want to play an mmorpg. People who think the skill point system in Eve is a handicap haven’t carefully considered what you’d have to do to catch up in any other level-based MMO.

Why is it ok for level-based mmorpg’s to make you advance to the end cap to play alongside your friends who have already been there for years, but Eve somehow gets attacked for what turns out to be a better, more flexible, system? If I wanted to start playing WoW now, and play with my friends from the Well, it’d be months and months before I’d be high enough level and geared properly to actually make a contribution.

I’d like to see Eve’s model used more widely in MMO design. I’m hoping whatever they do with the White Wolf IP has a similar skill system.

I’m not going to repeat all the things you can do in Eve at a very low skill point level, because Syncaine already covered it in the post I linked to up above. I did want to say I’m in complete agreement, though. Well said.

License to print money?

For years following the release of Everquest, the prospect of developing and releasing a massively multiplayer online game based on a licensed intellectual property (IP) was viewed as a project fraught with difficulty. Star Trek MMO’s were discussed, development was begun and stopped, a game was never released. Star Wars:Galaxies famously underperformed expectations (although I think they did have some great mmorpg ideas). The Matrix did poorly.

There was plenty of scuttlebutt on MMO forums about the reasons for the failures. People wouldn’t want to play in a licensed IP universe if they couldn’t play Han Solo or Boba Fett. Everyone would want to be Kirk (or Picard, preferably, Kirk’s corset looked uncomfortable in later years), no one wanted to be a red shirt ensign. With the successes of Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, and World of Warcraft, creating and developing your own milieu seemed a much safer endeavor.

The first MMO based on a licensed IP that didn’t seem a disappointment was (I think) Lord of the Rings Online. Turbine has quietly built a goddamn good MMO, and their method of having players shadow (get it? Shadow? I kill myself) the storyline through instanced quests was a great way to make the players feel involved in the unfolding events of the books.

Age of Conan, while not a game that grabbed me out of the gate, certainly has the potential to be another successful MMO based on a licensed IP. Warhammer seems like it also has a lot of potential for success. I know I’m enjoying the heck out of the beta lately. I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of 2008, we’ve got three successful AAA MMO’s based on licensed IP.

What’s the difference? Have MMO developers matured, and figured out how to offer players a compelling place in a known universe? This is the second or third trip around the MMO development block for Turbine (Asheron’s Call, AC2), Mythic (DAoC, Imperator…*cries*), and Funcom (Anarcy Online, plus they make great story-based adventure games). Of course, the “we’ve got experience, we can make a game based on licensed IP” argument breaks down with SOE and SW:G. And SOE and The Matrix.

Hmm, trend? Has Sony touched another licensed IP since those two disappointments? Did their failures lead them to only work with new IP, and are they going to miss the boat as three other experienced developers bring MMO gamers into familiar universes?

Another licensed IP that I’m very excited to see is the CCP/White Wolf World of Darkness project. Experienced MMO developer, cool universe…more win? God, I hope so. Someone get Ryan Verniere drunk and make him start talking on camera, please.

Anyway, I hope we’re over the “MMO’s based on licensed intellectual property can’t be successful” BS of a couple years ago. A good game is going to sell, regardless of whether you can actually be Darth Vader or Neo. A good developer is going to let you have fun in the universe you’ve come to love, even if you’re just being yourself