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The Lunch Break Blog

For those of us who would rather be leveling right now.

Author: cmagoun

Age of ... Bunched Panties?

Posted by cmagoun Wednesday August 20 2008 at 11:59AM
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In recent blog posts and on the forums here and elsewhere there is a hue and cry over the recent release of AoC. Every poor launch brings a cacophony of complaints that, "we are tired of paying for beta" and "the devs/publishers are big companies and they don't care about us", or "do they even play their own game?" and "get it 100% done and perfect before release".

Look, we all know software is complex and MMOs are the mostt complex software around. Add to that the fact that not only are you trying to create running computer software, but also trying to create content and a game's ruleset, and that's quite a bit to get "100% done and perfect". Held to this standard, no MMO would have ever been released.

There was nothing wrong with the releases of Hellgate London, AoC, Fury, and Vanguard. There was nothing wrong with the SWG NGE, or EQ2's revamp, or Enhancement Diversification in CoX.

Let that sink in... nothing wrong.

How can I say that? The companies in question did what they thought was best for them, or possibly what they thought they needed to do to survive. That might mean releasing "too soon" (too soon to gamers might have meant "just in time to meet payroll" for the company), or maybe making huge changes to core gameplay of a mature game. The companies thought they were doing what they needed to do to survive and compete in a tough business.

And... in most cases, the market punished them and rightfully so.

On the other hand, some games survive bad launches or game changes. Anarchy Online was a bad launch and it still exists today. EQ2 made major gameplay changes to character progression, crafting and combat and it is a better game than it ever was. As maligned as Sony is, they saved Vanguard and by many accounts, it is getting stronger with each new update. CoX is better because of the nerf that was ED. People are still playing Age of Conan.

There is a very fine line between a good change and a bad change, or a good launch and a dismal failure. There is a fine line between a "timely release" and "making people pay for beta."

You know what that line is? Simple. Do people like your game enough to put up with the crap associated with the messy business which are MMOs?

That's it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Does the good outweigh the bad? I am sure that the original EQ had issues during its lifetime. I remember problems logging into Asheron's Call when I started. Meridian 59 most certainly disappointed someone. Shadowbane was a clunky mess at times. Every game has issues, but does your game bring something to the table that overshadows those issues?

I bought Age of Conan, played a month, then uninstalled. Why? Because for me it brought nothing to the table that wasn't done better elsewhere. Someone else certainly feels differently. Good for them. I hope, whether they are paying for beta or not, they continue to play and support the game they like because if they do, that game will likely survive and get better and you will continue to like it. As soon as you don't enjoy it any more... cancel and move on. No need to howl and foam at the mouth.

It's just a game, right?

sigamon writes:

lol your a good comedian. nothing wrong with VG's or AoC's launch hahaha you funny guy you.

Wed Aug 20 2008 12:43PM Report
cmagoun writes:

Well frankly, time will tell about both of those games. Until VG or AoC closes shop, it doesn't matter what we think about their launch. What matters to the company is "Are we able to make money from this game?" and what matters to us is "Do we want to play this game (warts and all)?"

And yes, I am very funny :)

Wed Aug 20 2008 1:06PM Report
mike470 writes:

When a company promises features they should be in the game.  Bugs here and there are okay, but when the game doesn't have the features promised then it's a problem

Wed Aug 20 2008 1:48PM Report
Mequellios writes:

The only thing I didn't like about Age of Conan was that it was so solo orientated. Other than that, it was an awsome game. Just... not for me. I don't want to pay 15$ a month to play a solo game.

Wed Aug 20 2008 3:52PM Report
cmagoun writes:

Why? Do you feel you bought the game under false pretenses? If that is the case, then I agree. Otherwise, cutting features is an absolute reality in the software business -- I deal with it all the time. Sometimes you run into situations in which implementing feature X now is going to cause the project to be delayed unacceptably. Other times, the feature is simply impossible given the current status of the project (the design, the talent, who knows). In these cases, you have to go to your users and business sponsors and make the case. "Cutting feature X is necessary because..."

In the MMO world, I would expect development houses to be honest with their expectant flock of players, but I couldn't expect a programming shop to deliver every feature promised three years ago... because that just isn't reality. Things change as a complex project develops.

Take WAR's recent cuts, for instance. They cut some classes and some capital cities. Does this suck? Sure. But given a limited budget of time, money and people, it probably made sense to cut. They likely determined that the effort and cash saved in art, design and programming resources could be better used elsewhere. Now Mythic did the right thing telling people early, and I hope they intend to include the deleted stuff later.

Look, I am not defending bad decisions. I am saying the market seems to be working as intended. Companies make the best decisions they can and you vote with your subscription dollars. Companies that make good games get a little more leeway because their product is fun enough to endure a nerf, or an occassional CTD (CoX for me). Companies that make poor games suffer because the gameplay just isn't enough to forgive the issues (AoC).

Wed Aug 20 2008 3:52PM Report
cmagoun writes:

Sorry, that post above was to mike470... not Mequellios.

Wed Aug 20 2008 3:53PM Report
orodeon writes:

cmagoun features that were promised on the box were  ether not in or not working at all..   player citys for example wich was a HUGE feature..  were majorly broken when the game launched..   for example you couldnt go in most of the buildings without  getting stuck under the floor  crashing or just major graphics gliches  

 also after about lvl 50 there was almost no content..  most zones after the  lvl 50 mountin zone cant remember the name of it..    were nearly empty ...

to me thats just not acceptable for a game  with the level cap at 80

also saying nearly anything on there forum gets you banned..  i got warned for asking  about a crashing problem.. 

Wed Aug 20 2008 5:27PM Report
MortisRex writes:

Features promised on the box were completely absent. This is not a case of "market adjustment", "overhype", or any other euphemisms one might wish to apply. The bottom line is they printed lies on their retail box to sell games. They deceived and defrauded their customer base with false advertising.

Wed Aug 20 2008 6:40PM Report
Kaelaan21 writes:

I keep hearing this thrown around. "Funcom lied! Some features listed on the box were cut from the game!" Could anyone give a list of these features instead of copying and pasting from other people's threads/comments?

I know the player cities needed some work .. okay .. a lot of work after the release of the game. But that is exactly what cmagoun was trying to point out. Are you willing to play the game in it's current state vs. Need to get it out the door to release a game at all.

It's funny because I remember the same exact phrases used when World of Warcraft was released. They said there was going to be Battlegrounds! It was mentioned in the instruction manual even! Blizzard are a bunch of liers! They didn't include it at launch! Blah, blah.. blah... Same old garbage. Get's old.

People like to make a mountain out of a molehill. Anyone that has ever played an MMO in the past would of expected the player cities to be buggy and possibly exploitable at launch. Should expect them to get smoother as time goes on as well.

NOTE: Tried AoC for a month. Didn't like it because after Tortage the RPG element seems to go out the window and at that point exactly as a lot of people say, it offers nothing knew that someone hasn't done better already.

So, I don't play the game anymore. Didn't like it. But, there seems to be a lot of posts containing hate filled blind rage wanting FunCom to go out of business. Why? Because people feel stupid for posting uninformed fanboy comments for months? I dunno .. but personally... it's a game and I have quite a collection of coffee coasters. I think, however, that most of these hate filled posts lately are giving mmorpg.com a black eye.

Wed Aug 20 2008 11:57PM Report
sigamon writes:

the features on box said things like:

Drunken Brawling

PvP system

and some other junk but i threw the box away so i cant remember it all.

those two were big things for me which arent even close to being in game at all.

also the classes like demonologist were misleading. the website made the class sound like you get to summon a plethora of hell spawn to aid you. instead you get either a incubus or a succubus which both do the same crap and are useless except for the mana bonus. otherwise your just a fire/electrical nuker. im in love with demons so i was like OH YEAH!!!!!!!!! when i read about it, was horribly let down when i got to try it out.

the most fun i had was creating my characters. reminded me of CoH/CoV lol best part is making the toon. not to mention the mature content in the game is going away.  i remember some quests with maidens in distress had their boobies out for all to see. now they are covered in armor or clothes. WHAT GIVES i want some boobage with my blood and guts please. and swear words arent used at all after tortage pretty much, which is a bummer cause i likey da swearin.

also siege warfare is broken as hell and the guild cities all look the same no matter what government type your guild is. LAME

Thu Aug 21 2008 2:37AM Report
Reianor writes:

Yeah... right... Imagine a situation - U ordered pizza, but when it was delivered it had no cheese, and then u hear an excuse "well...we promised cheese, but we had no money for it, so we decided to sell pizza without cheese, so that someday (long after u're done eating your pizza) we can sell it with cheese". Is that normal to u?

Features get announced, game gets hyped, and then features dissapear never to be seen again... Users don't care if that had to be done to pay devs. Stealing to survive is still stealing, and cheating customers to survive is still cheating customers.

There's buisness and there's cheating - don't mix'em.

Thu Aug 21 2008 6:56AM Report
daltanious writes:

Besides many other things, I love in AoC that I can SOLO whole game.  No more endless hours spent just to get (mediocre) company for any quest. Great. And yet I cooperate decently, I'm not asocial.

AoC (have played for 2 months) has many big plus and many minus.

But the only thing I really hate with any company is when they PRETEND there are no problems! They completely IGNORE any complaints! All players for them are dumb ignorant asses. And Funcom is leader in this attitude. Only for this reason I'm not sure I will play again AoC.

Thu Aug 21 2008 7:11AM Report
mooni_q8 writes:

I played AoC for one month and here is how I find it

The game is missing a Priotorisation Committee

I think the game is lacking a committee responsible to set out priorities. The priotirisation committee should be responsible to choose which issue / bug / enhacment should go first and why. The priority in my opinion should go to setting out a reliable client that does not crash or cause any memory leaks. The second priority should be to address major client concerns and focus on solving them with the community.

 

Funcom should focus be customer driven

Many companys focus on providing the best quality of service and product to its customers. They focus on what they 'think' will make the cust4ers happier and interested in their game. However, they neglict a very important details, customers do not want a company to tell them whats best for them, but want the company to listen to thier demands and meet them. WoW for example, took the initiative of looking after customer demands and achieving them. WoW is also running a great forum modiration compared to AoC. Surely if AoC focus on thier customer's needs, many of the issue will be solved.

 

Melee Class vs Mage Class in PVP, this is where the combo system fails

Will the combo system is quite fun at start. But on the long term, how do expect a combo guy to perform with 4-5 clicks per ability against a mage with 1 click away from casting the spell? I would bet on the mage of course. There are many things concerning th combo system that should be looked at. Example, in WOW you can fear all mobs surrounding you saving you from instant death. in AoC, you have to click the fear ability click on few more numbers on your keyboard so it can take effect. That delay is for your enemy's advantage. Is the combo system fun? YES HELL YES for PVE but for PVP... I am not so sure.

 

Poor, poor Economy

I have played so many games, the best economy I seen was in EVE online. When it comes to AoC the prices are unpridictable, they drop down fast. There is no popular demand, items dont' sell in auction house. Selling to NPC is a waste of effort etc etc

In my opinion the main reason for this is simple, How do I expect from people to buy from the auction house if they dont have any money to buy anything at the first place. Money is very hard to get in the game. By the time you get money it would of been to late and people who are wanting to sell the stuff you wanted either quit the game or gave up.

 

Well, other than that the game is fun, PVE wise and if you have a super computer, you may survive. Also if you have lots of cash and can afford buying gold from Chineese farmers then, this game is for you :)

Thu Aug 21 2008 8:29AM Report
zonzai writes:

AoC was a crappy launch by any game's standards.  Save the "it's an mmo, programming is hard, we need money" arguments for people who have only played one or two other MMO's before.  They will believe you.

Thu Aug 21 2008 1:24PM Report
cmagoun writes:

zonzai: Umm... it is an mmo, programming is hard, and presumably, they needed money. It's not an argument; those are facts. Funcom failed and now they are being punished by the market. That's good right? Cancel, whine and complain. Heck, collapse into a fit of histrionics... that's what forums are for, right?

While I want to see better games with cleaner launches and less bugs, I don't want to see people screaming for perfect launches or cataloging every missed feature as some planned deception. You need smaller companies with foolishly grand visions to make games. You need MMO creators to take risks, to make promises they may or may not be able to keep.

And yes, you occassionally need them to fail, or have to cut, or have to prematurely release. Otherwise, I think the market will become stagnant with only the biggest money companies taking the fewest risks to produce the next big semi-casual-theme-park.

Reianor: People that purchased AoC have every right to be frustrated or disappointed or... happy for that matter. My point is that they probably did not lie and cheat you as much as they just failed. They made promises that they simply couldn't keep. Does that excuse them? Every buyer has to make that decision. I cancelled and will not return to AoC. Others still like the game. It's not a holy war; it's a decision, "Is this game worth it?"

An interesting question: Are you willing to play a game that has not yet reached its potential in hopes that, with your support, it will eventually do so? Would you pay to beta test if it were presented in the correct way?

For instance, the developers of the single-player combat RPG Mount&Blade sold their beta at a discount rate. As the game matured, that rate increased, but people that purcahsed early could upgrade for free. If I am not mistaken, this model generated enough money to allow the developer to work on his game full time and it is now approaching a commercial release. This game might have never seen the light of day otherwise. And it was nowhere near complete when this offer was make.

Certainly a monthly subscription to fund the development of a game is a little rougher to swallow. What if the developers offered a discount "still in development rate", or if they allowed you to prepurchase a lifetime sub at a cut rate during open beta? What if you could pay $15 and $5/month to get into closed beta? Would you do it?

Just curious.

Thanks for the discussion everyone, I am enjoying it.
 

Thu Aug 21 2008 2:44PM Report
streea writes:

When a console game is released that costs $50 and has no major game-breaking bugs in it... then nothing's wrong. If there is something wrong, you can take it back for a refund.

When an MMO like LotRO is released in an extremely stable condition, then nothing's wrong. Even WoW, which had monster lag and overcrowding issues, didn't have a bad release. These both costed $50.

But when you play the games mentioned above, pay your $50, get into it and realize that there are major bugs, broken skills, and a company behind it that treats their players like dirt... you can't return the game. And there is something very wrong with that. There's something wrong with buying something expecting a certain level of stability and responsiveness. And professionalism from the company.

Just because a company says a game is ready, doesn't mean it is. And just because you say a game is ready, certainly doesn't mean it is.

Thu Aug 21 2008 2:49PM Report
cmagoun writes:

streea: But my point isn't that AoC is ready, or a good game, or worth the money. It isn't ready. It seems like a good-enough game, but for me, not worth the money.

My point is that if AoC was some awesome, ground-breaking experience with something really new to offer the market, then I might be willing to overlook major bugs, broken skills and crappy customer service.

We're focusing too hard on if the game is stable and how "good" the release is. There are more variables than that. I have happily paid money for games less-complete than AoC because I felt there was something there worth paying for. I don't feel that way about AoC and I am not saying you should either. What I am saying is that the focus on "bad release" obscures the bigger picture which is "good game".

I wouldn't care how many bugs there were, or how many features on the box were missing if the game showed the promise of being worth what I paid, or even enough potential promise. It doesn't, but the buggy release is really only a small part of that.

Thu Aug 21 2008 3:09PM Report
RLSekulich writes:

cmagoun - I know you've gone on a rant about people and the missing features screaming... but if these kinds of things were in the game, it would make the game very different  and to these people more than worthy of being paid for.

As for your other comment, I probably would pay for closed beta access at a discounted rate if it meant the company would release a better product.  Anymore it seems to be the business model to release an early and unfinished product. 

If they can't get everything out there should be a line drawn of where to cut content as to not have glaring bugs and obviously missing content.  For example I've heard AoC's 50+ content was so minimal or not existent... they could have stopped the game's content at level 50 and polished the lower level stuff so that a more complete product was available on release.  This would also give them room for expansions.

Thu Aug 21 2008 5:16PM Report
sigamon writes:

someone pay attention to my comment :(

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