I believe it goes without saying that the most improved MMO of the year was Age of Conan. I dare say that even the naysayers cannot argue this point, as plentiful as they are. Unfortunately, most of those who still knock the game only tried it at release. And even then, they most likely quit shortly thereafter, having never returned. Regardless, they still knock the game, most likely never having reached level cap, and definitely clueless as to the leaps and bounds the game has made over the course of the last year.
Creating an MMO with great game play is a challenge, let alone one with a lasting impression that has plenty to do at level cap. These days, MMO consumers are typically spoiled by the quick and easy, thanks to Blizzard, Mythic, and a few other companies. If they don’t get what they want immediately, they move on. Why? Because they are used to games that are polished over the course of three to five years. They just don’t want to wait. That being said, a game should be on solid ground at release, and admittedly, AOC was not.
This can be the kiss of death, as spoiled gamers love to go on and on about the games that they hate. Personally, I find something (or many things) that I love in all of the games that I test or play, but most people just love to be negative when it comes to MMOs. Sadly, these are the first people to put WoW on a pedestal. While I won’t argue that World of Warcraft is a great game, it has turned into an arcade game of sorts, and is now an amusement park thanks to the merger with Activision and the loss of Jeff Kaplan. But I digress. My point is that if you don’t have a solid release, gamers will never let you escape their constant abuse, no matter how great the game turns out to be in the end. We’ve seen this time and time again on mmorpg.com and other sites. If someone posts anything positive about ANY game, they start in with the bashing, even though they are playing something else and five games postmortem. Granted, this does not encompass the entire spectrum of MMO players, but it is the loudest (and brattiest) bunch. Hell, my site is based on me bitching about games.
MMOs have a responsibility that other games do not. They are required to grow as time moves on. There must be content additions, changes, tweaks, expansions, and unfortunately nerfs. This being said, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when looking at the most improved game. Remember that any game can improve greatly, no matter what year it was release, so if SOE had pumped $10 million into Vanguard last year, even it could be the most improved game of 2009. I think in the end, it comes down to the bulk of the changes, as well as the amount said game is changed. Without rambling on further, this prize definitely belongs to Age of Conan. For me, especially if there is a bad launch, the most improved game is always going to be the one that is finally able to become what players would have liked to see at launch.
When the game was released in May of 2008, word spread quickly that the game was deep, cinematic, beautiful and polished. Unfortunately, the farther into the game that one got, they found this was not entirely true. Yes the game was beautiful. In fact, it is in my top 3 for most immersive MMOs. But, in the end, the higher one’s level got, the more the game began to fall apart. Especially when it came to the grind. Most players didn’t even make it to 80, quitting in the mid 50s. And, of those that did, most quickly disappeared. The game managed to maintain a loyal following, but only with painstaking changes and periods in which the customer base started to believe that Funcom was completely ignoring them. Even I, in the beginning, thought that Funcom had turned a deaf ear to it’s paying customers, but now I see them as one of the few developers that actually listens to and communicates with folks.
Read the rest of this post at The Angry Guild Leader