It is 2008 and we are rounding off the end of the year. 2 of the 4 “World of Warcraft killers” have been released, both failing miserably in my opinion.
The first, being Vanguard – Saga of Heroes, the game sounded so promising didn’t it. Flying mounts, seamless zones, character depth and variety. A lot of great promises, until of course the game was released. Now Vanguard is one of the many games I got into beta early on with, and when I first tried the game, I couldn’t get it to run at all. Now, my computer is no joke, it was a beast back then, and it is a bigger beast now. The game was just poorly optimized and it was in bad shape, I couldn’t productively test the game, neither could a lot of other players, so it was very surprising when I heard I heard the game was ready for release. I knew instantly the game was doomed, and reluctantly made my way back to kiss the hand of the king I betrayed, World of Warcraft.
Flash forward a year, a new combatant has made an appearance, several actually; Age of Conan, Warhammer: Age of reckoning, and Aion. So many to choose from, which one do I choose. And for a while, that was a difficult decision which kind of solved itself. I managed to get accepted to the beta for all of them, except Aion.
“This is great!” I thought to myself.
The Age of Conan invite came first, at a time when I just quit World of Warcraft again for the third and final time. Therefore, I had ample time to test this game; unfortunately, this game was not much to look at. When I first got into the game I didn't have much to work with. There wasn’t much customization options, a lot of the things were either disabled, or missing from the game, the most glaring omission was the entire female gender. In a game boasting about mature adult content up to and including sex, I figured they were just paying more attention to the models. Anyway, when I got into the game it wasn’t too bad, for the beginning anyway, the story was a little interesting for the most part. The game was very buggy but that was to be expected, it was beta. Patch after patch, I realized not much was improving, and then of course, the announcement that launch is right around the corner, I had to draw the same conclusion I did for Conan as I did for Vanguard, this game is going to fail.
The second and current invite is to Warhammer. I got invited into Warhammer a few months back, and while I can’t go into detail about the game. It is following the same trend. But Warhammer is the one that infuriates me the most. Mainly because of all the PR, the hype, and all the promises. I actually got suckered into hitching my wagon to this one. I actually bought Warhammer collector’s edition 3 months before I got invited into beta, pre-ordered in full. Which I never do, I had a lot of faith that this game would be a good game to play, and unlike Conan, after getting into beta it just confirmed my belief. What turned me off Warhammer Is not its condition in beta, but the fact that they drastically deviated from the games original design that sold me.
Now people may disagree with me, but cutting for classes is huge. And the removal of the cities is big as well, but the classes are bigger for me. I see it as a removal of options, 4 melee classes, 4 melee classes that I planned on playing at some point. Now people say, well you can play another class that is a tank, or melee DPS. Which isn’t the point. The original appeal of this game to me was balance, and the removal of 4 classes fucks that up. The original promise was 6 races, with 4 classes each, with each class being completely unique of each other, and while they all played differently, they all were equal and could play their roles. No race was weaker then another because they were all supposed to be strong. Well that was all shot to shit with 4 races being removed. And you don't have to be in beta to realize this, but I will wait for the NDA to be lifted before I go into detail about it.
Now the final game is Aion, and I admit, I don't know much about this games current state. But I attribute that to the game following the traditional Korean development style, which is make the game in Korea, launch it there, and then port it here and take very little to no input from the north American player base. Which is fine, it worked for lineage 2, I guess it can’t hurt Aion too much.
Anyway, my whole point of this blog is this, MMO’s seem to be going through this trend, of releasing unfinished garbage and having the consumer pay for it. I like to call it, paying to beta test.
“Paying to beta test” is when you dish out $80 for the box, and $15 for the sub, and then wait, while devs release patch after patch to get the game to a playable state. Vanguard is doing this, Tabula Rasa is doing it, and now Age of Conan is doing it. Warhammer however, is taking the high road, but not surprising us with it, they just figured they would tell is 2 months in advance that they plan to do it too.
Now I understand MMOs are persistent worlds, which are supposed to be constantly improved over the days, months and years to make the world even better then when it first was introduced. But that doesn’t mean getting the game to a state where it doesn’t crash, or where there aren’t any bugs that should’ve been fixed in beta, or so you can revamp the player model, that’s right change the entire model. Or promise to re-add shit that was originally planned like... oh let’s say 4 core classes, 4 cities and a level achievement system.
A lot of companies seem to think this nonsense is acceptable, and I don't know why more gamers aren’t outraged by this apparent trend. As much as people like to bash World of Warcraft, you all have to admit one thing; the game had a smooth launch. It was not buggy, it had all the original features and they weren’t talking about revamping any of the models. They had a queue problem but of course, they couldn’t anticipate how many people were going to buy the game.
Now I don't want to call Warhammer just yet, there still Is a few more months of beta left so I will sit back and watch its patch progress. And I won’t say the game will fail, because I seem to be 3 for 3 on that (yes even though I didn't talk about it, I did beta test Tabula Rasa as well) I will say, I cancelled my pre-order. And that is not because of the state of the beta, let me make that clear, it is because of the removal of the classes. That is too big of a change for me, and something I have to wait for launch to decide whether or not I still want to be a part of that game.
What causes these games to change so much when the eleventh hour approaches? They make promises, big ones, and small ones and then slowly start resending them. And just expect the fan base to stay loyal and accept it. And every time a promise is receded it is not because it was impossible to deliver, but more that they were trying to keep a deadline of some sort.
It will be a damn shame if Warhammer goes the same way Age of Conan did; don't get me wrong, I’m not saying the game is going to fail. I’m just saying, the gnomes will still be polishing Blizzards throne come September.
A lot of people blame the publishers for a rushed product, is that true, I don't know. I don't know why a publisher would want to rush to release an unfinished product, they can’t possibly believe it is a good idea, and they have to see what happens to the other unfinished products, I mean when it comes right down to it, it seems to be a global chant that gamers would rather take a game delay then an broken game. It doesn’t seem like anyone is actually listening though.
I really do hope that this isn’t a trend we can expect to keep seeing for every new MMO, it has been 5 years since I started playing MMOs, and only 5 games out of the many have gotten me to play longer than a month. Which is sad, I hope developers are watching and learning from the massive amount of mistakes. I’m sure these mistakes are expensive lessons to continuously relearn.
I hope MMO developers realize that MMO gamers aren’t looking for a game that lasts a month, we want something that lasts a decade.