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Teala's Wickedly Cool MMORPG.com Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again...

Posted by Teala Tuesday November 13 2007 at 2:56PM
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All the Kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again...or could they?

Over the years I have played and beta'd my share of MMORPG's, from UO to Vanguard, and none have ever launched "perfectly".  Oh some have come close.  I think the smoothest launch of a game I ever participated in was for the game "City of Heroes".  That game was pretty much done when it went live and it had few to no hitches at launch.   On the other hand there are launches I have participated in that were nothing less then a gamers worse nightmare.   The game was as buggy as one could be, and just getting signed on...we won't even go there.   This brings me to the topic at hand.   Taking a game from the brink of total disaster due to a poor launch to a game that is considered by many gamers as a fun and very playable game.  And redeeming your game companies reputation from the toilet.

We've all seen our share of games that totally crashed and burned.  There was nothing that would save the game due to poorly managed teams working on and involved with the game and the lack of a mission goal for the game itself.   I think Asheron's Call 2 was such a game.   First mistake Turbine made was not making a sequel to the game Asheron's Call.  Instead Turbine decided to try to reinvent the wheel and re-imagine Asheron's Call.   All this did was cause many players of the original Asheron's Call to say..."huh...what's this?  This is not Asheron's Call, it isn't nothing like the Asheron's Call I am use to playing".   Because of this Turbine basicly alienated their current player base.  I understand where Turbine was going with this.  They didn't wish to drain their player base from Asheron's Call, they needed them to keep running, they were hoping to get players from other games to play their newly envisioned version of AC2.   However it backfired and backfired badly. 

It was rushed to market.  It was buggy, broken, and so exploitable that it was doomed before it launched.   Players were assured that the game that would go live after beta would be different and a much more stable and fun game with things they had not even seen in game yet.   This of course was an outright lie.   There was no miracle build or miracle patch and Asheron's Call 2 launched.  This not only alienated Turbine current fans of the AC IP but it also made other potential players step back and go "Whoa...what a piece of garbage...what is Turbine trying to push off on us." 

Now to be fair, Asheron's Call 2 had its good points.   It was a beautiful game graphically.  Way ahead of its time.   It had some very unique game play and one of the most unique races I have ever seen designed for a game - Tumeroks.  What a fun and original race to play in a game.  I always give kudos where Kudos are due and to the creators of the race known as Tummies to those of us that loved them...I will never forget the love, passion and effort you must have put forth on that part of the game in AC2.  You would be a serious asset to any game company.   You are brilliant!

However not even the lovable Tummies could save Asheron's Call 2 from the depths of the bad games abyss.  It was a poorly managed game whose producers totally lost their way and the game came crashing to a halt.   The players were told that Turbine could no longer keep the servers running due to lack of players.   So Asheron's Call 2 died a slow lingering and painful death.

Gamers knew this was coming...it was just a matter of time.  Good news is that Turbine was working on Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.   If they played their cards right...maybe they could redeem themselves as a game company.   Though D&DO hasn't been pulling in the subscription numbers(not because it is a bad game - its just a niche game) on the other hand Turbines LoTRO has been doing really good.   Why?  How could a game company come from the brink of disaster to being one of the better game producers on the market once again?

Simple.  Turbine learned from its mistakes and made an asserted effort to not have another AC2.  The launch of Lord of the Rings Online was a good launch.  The game was very polished and ready to play.   The graphics in the game is exactly what fans of Turbine come to expect.  Turbine does not lack artistic talent that is for sure.   Turbine redeemed itself and continues to make huge progress to draw more players to their games.

So we come to what I consider one of the worse launches ever of an online multi-player game - Anarchy Online.   This game was a total disaster from the get go.  There were massive problems just signing into the game.  There were bugs.  The game itself was unstable once you did get into it.  FunCom was in a bad place.   They had put their hearts and souls into their game and it was crumbling before their eyes.   Players were up in arms like never before.  The forums were on fire and I can just imagine what the guys at FunCom where thinking and doing at the time.   It must have been a game companies worse nightmare.

Now many people had never heard of FunCom prior to Anarchy Online.  FunCom had made some pretty incredible games prior to Anarchy Online so some of us were all ready huge fans of them.   Like one of the best single player adventure games ever made - "the Longest Journey".    This game was deep. It was graphically beautiful and way ahead of its time.  It won all kinds of awards and FunCom did a great job on this.   So I sorta had faith in FunCom that they'd do good...but things were looking so bleak.  How could a game maker that gave us the Longest Journey deliver such a poorly made game that was Anarchy Online.

Images below are from the Longest Journey.

   

The people working at FunCom were looking at a disaster in the making.  They had to work fast and furious to save their game.  Could they do it?   Could they put Humpty back together again and be looked at as one of the premier makers of online games?  It wasn't looking like it.  FunCom's people scrambled and even went outside their own company and hired consultants to help them get their game back on track.  Slowly Anaarchy Online rebounded.    The bugs were squashed, the game became stable and players started to come back and new ones signed on to play it.   FunCom didn't panic...they kept their heads.  They worked with their customers and did what it took to put Humpty together again.   Today Anarchy Online is one of the best online games - though it is dated it is still filling the spot that FunCom had envisioned and they continue to make the game better.  Like a good wine it gets better with age.  

So yes...under the right management and with people passionate for the games they make, it is possible for a game company to salvage themselves, and to salvage their games.   It takes heart, soul and a lot of sweat and tears and pure passion for the work you are doing.   Both Turbine and FunCom are two companies that people can look to as examples of what to do when things go wrong.  

 

ryotian writes:

another brilliant blog, props yo

Tue Nov 13 2007 5:21PM Report
Xix13 writes:

Very well done and interesting blog.  I remember the first time I tried AO and the thing wouldn't even load.  The second time I tried (about a year after that), it was so boring and ugly I couldn't get into it.  But the third time (after about another year) was the charm and, you're right, today it's a great game, one of the last remaining "sandbox" giants.  And it's one of the reasons I'm still holding out hope that AoC will bring us some gaming goodness.

Wed Nov 14 2007 3:16AM Report
Eridanix writes:

Good article. It demostrates that even if you are a well stablished company you should love what you do, in this case MMOs, and AO has become legendary... from the pit of disaster to the top of  classics in the genre... ~its nothing to do with you, smed~. Though im not a believer of AoC i expect it will do well.

Wed Nov 14 2007 4:51AM Report
ElRenmazuo writes:

That was not a game companies worst nightmare, it was Vanguard Saga Of Heros.

Wed Nov 14 2007 3:12PM Report
Teala writes:

Vanguard is not as bad a game as many have made it out to be.   So take your dislike for Vanguard to another place.   Thanks.  

Wed Nov 14 2007 4:11PM Report
LoboMau writes:

He was talking about the release of Vanguard! And that was a nightmare indeed...

Wed Nov 14 2007 5:42PM Report
Wharg0ul writes:

heh...if it weren't for Shadowlands, I'd probably STILL be playing AO.

SL was a mistake, IMO. Not only did they attempt to "tack on" a fantasy style game onto an existing Sci-Fi game, but it changed the viability of several professions.

Wed Nov 14 2007 10:45PM Report
AmazingAvery writes:

Nice Blog, well wrote too.

AO did have a stinker of a launch, but the commitment of FunCom in the situation you described makes me more content that they can deliver with the I.P. of Conan in Age of Conan.

The longest journey was a very cool game for its time and we can see that they are really good 'story tellers' which makes me even more so looking forward to the whole quest content in AoC.

Thu Nov 15 2007 12:57AM Report
Trimethicon writes:

I've been reading your blogs and I love your passion for the genre, which is unheard of outside of the professional gaming journalist community.  I guess you do what you do because you love it and it shows.  I for one cannot play any games other then an MMOG; I've tried - I have a 360, and for Xmas I also bought myself a PS3 - I love JRPGs like FF and the like, but single player games are so stagnant.  I have to have a living, breathing and persistent world in order to keep me engrossed in the game.  I need to see players running by and see people chatting to make the world believable.   

Great topic and timely too since 1up.com recently posted their impressions regarding the worst launches.  I too loved AC2 and to this day I still think that AC2 had the most unique classes; Tactician and the Hivekeeper.  I'm a self proclaimed MMOG aficionado, I've played/beta-tested almost every MMOG from AC1 - Zu Online.  I had a Ranger in AC2, I love bow wielding classes - maybe deep down inside I think I'm Robin Hood, I don't know…..lol.  Anyway, I had  a Lasher pet, a Dragon pet and we roamed the world.  But the rubber banding killed me, along with chat behind down for 2 weeks, yes, there was a lot wrong with AC2 but then again they got a lot right too, I find myself missing the game more and more these days.  I remember going thru Drudge Valley and getting the chills with all of the doom and gloom ambient sound effects.  I think if Turbine had just upgraded the graphics of AC1 and called it AC2 we would have had people complaining then too "this isn't a sequel, its just an upgrade, blah, blah".  The MMOG community can be harsh and unforgiving as well as close minded.  The MMOG genre needs Turbine, I think they bring a style that is unmatched.  I tried DDO, it felt confined - I need to feel a sense of exploration, I need to be curious about the world; "what is around that corner?, what is living in that tower?, etc.".  I am a massive LoTR fan, and I guess the MMOG just never grabbed me the way I was hoping, I've re-upped my sub at least 5x hoping the game would game me, but its not meant to be.        

I see that you really enjoy VG, I was in the beta but I never went retail.  Since that time I've bought a new pc, mainly to run Crysis (which was beautiful, but it didn't get my blood going), but the spillover effect has helped me max the visual settings in games like EQ2, Tab Rasa, etc.  But I would love to visit VG again, I have a Buddy Key from someone I know in the game, I've  been watching it closely and it looks like GU4 has been well received.  It has that "big world" feel like EQ and I like that.    

I could not play AO at launch, for me it was unplayable - most attempts ended in frustration.  But having spent a lot of time in mythical MMOGs back then I desperately wanted  AO to "work".  Sometime later I went back to AO and I just fell in love with it, it's complexity and sheer scope appealed to me on so many levels.  The diversity of the classes, the abilities, the idea behind nano technology being used for the multitudes of things the classes did, etc.  I think I played AO almost every day for about 10 months straight.  I left long not too long after SL hit, I forget why, probably burnout.  But I can still recite every word of the Bronto Burger song =0).

Its sad though that we as gamers can not expect MMOG launches to go smoothly and my concern is that future generations will come to expect/accept rocky and unfinished launches, since "it has always been that way".  MMOGs can turn around, I think they need to set realistic expectations early on and withhold key gameplay elements until they are sure that they will make retail.  I think its easier to attract new people to an MMOG versus trying to get players to come back if they feel they've been burnt.  I'll give games second chances, and MMOGs can grow and change over time - the day one experience may be quite different down the road.  Some devs listen.       

I want to see all MMOGs succeed, I'm not sure if we've reached a saturation point - we may have.  I think we'll see more and more casual MMOGs come out or what I call Social MMOGs start popping up.  Since that is an untapped market, and once those 10 million people start to leave WoW they'll start to look for alternatives but on the same hand developers are so afraid to branch out from the Orc/Elf, kill-loot-level gaming dynamic, in fear of having a $30 million dollar risk/failure on their hands that they won't take chances.  

Mon Mar 24 2008 4:01PM Report
Chainmail writes:

This game has been around for a few years now and it is the best mounted combat system ever. However, the rpg part outside of the battles is a bit lacking. In addition what made and makes this game great is all the mods available. The vanilla version is a bit bland imo, but once you add in some of the available modded texture packs and some other stuff it is great. Sadly, I think one of the best mods, the Lord of the Rings total conversion no longer works with the newer builds of this game.

Wed Aug 27 2008 9:32PM Report
Chainmail writes:

Lol wait a minute how did this get in here? I was replying to the Mount and Blade blog....

Wed Aug 27 2008 9:33PM Report

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