Images and or events in the following blog may contain emotionally disturbing material. Read on friend together we can conquer these demons.
Well here we are friends at last. No more gab about my personal life or my wife we're into the stuff you care about (hopefully) mmo's and the companies that create them. I thought it would only be fitting to start then with one of the most talked about companies on the market.
With their reputation for buggy launches, overnight overhauls, broken promises, and poor customer service SOE has accomplished what many have not the alienation of their customer base. What was once a leader in this industry has now become one of the most despised and untrustworthy companies out there today. The very mention of their involvment with a game is enough to make alot of gamers turn away from a game altogether if not at the least be very nervous of what's to come. Today I'm gonna give you a quick overview of what went wrong, what is wrong, and what I think SOE needs to do to get back what was lost: the trust of the consumer.
This is a point of some conjecture within the mmo community. What happened that pissed off so many people. From what I can tell and have personally experienced it's a combination of things. But I'm pretty sure where it all started.
If any game had high expectations it was this one, and SOE's first mistake was they matched those high expectations with alot of hype so by the time this game was ready to launch hundreds of thousands of people were ready to join the Galactic Civil War. When the day came and we all wanted to get on....well alot of us couldn't. I personally took the day off to play and found the eight hour ordeal of trying to get on at the least a little exasperating. But we were willing to look past that because if we know one thing launch day in the world of an mmo is a provential nightmare for any game. After things smoothed out we were all quite content and having a pretty good time. The downfall came with 4 simple blows:
1. The Jedi Grind- When they came out with the force sensitive village the entire focus of the game went to earning your Jedi, or getting the right gear so you could kill one. Gone was the galactic struggle, and here we were thrust into some preverse reincarnation of the clone wars.
2. The Combat Upgrade- With this came their attempt to make the game more challenging and what we could once kill alone we had to kill in groups. We all came back and found we'd been wussified and that wasn't cool.
3. BUGS,BUGS,BUGS- If not their biggest mistake it is a close second. SOE did a horrible job of finding and fixing bugs. We were 1 year into the game and still complaining about week one bugs. One of the most famous of these was the always hated Imperial Hat Bug where you couldn't put your hat on to complete your uniform. (I wander if they ever fixed that?)
4. The NGE- The creme de la creme of mistakes where SOE lost close to half of it's existing population. This little overnight patch sent the community in an upraor and rightfully so. With the NGE came a more action oriented gameplay. Beter loot drops (Farewell economy). And the abiity to create a jedi (KOTOR anyone?). All of this and there were still bugs from week one sitting around. To this day people are still sour at SOE for this. There's even a "Disgruntled SWG Vets" forum thread on this site.
But friends don't think you're reading the rants and raves of a Star Wars fanboy we have other examples to look at as well. Remeber this little gem?
To say it simply this game defined the word repeatative. Not to make things any better was the ability to switch your skills to be what ever you needed to be so there's no need to group or ever buy anything. I think MxO became the first Massive Single-Player Online Role Playing Game. The one thing this game had going for it was an excellent storyline that you could play through from the beginning and watch it unfold. The SOE bought the rights to the game and the storyline just stopped, and a new one started that was pretty much silly at best. It was like they introduced supre powers to the matrix it was just plain weird. This game started with somewhere around 10 servers and I believe the lat time I checked was down to 3 or 4.
So here we are in today SOE stock with the gaming community has taken a serious hit, and we get the launch of another seriously hyped game:
I'm not going to take alot of time here as ther are some excellent Blogs already on the subject of this game, but here's the skinny. We are told that this game is the true sequal to Everquest with huge lands diverse races, an engaging crafting system, and the new addition of diplomacy. What we got were BUGS, BUGS, and more BUGS. Remind you of something?
From what I've gathered the game has already lost a bundle of players and is in the process of trying to merge servers as well as fix bugs and add content. Yikes that's alot on the plate. The devs asked recently that it's players be patient with them while they sort things out, and I ask Why should they? These people have invested time and money in updated rigs and software only to get a game that still needs alot of work. Shame, Shame. With the consistency of buggy launches why should one trust the next product you put out? On top of all of this have we heard anything from SOE's other older offerings? The answer is no. SOE hypes the new games forgets the old ones and are left right now probably losing some serious money.
The Road Back
Is this the end of SOE? Right now there's one mmo out there that has more oplayers than all of SOE's games combined (WoW duh.) To the dissapointment of many of you the answer is no. But SOE has alot of work ahead of it if they want to stay competitive in this market. Some of that work is already underway in my opinion with the great stuff they are doing with EQ2. Their latest expansion "The Echoes of Faydwer" is an excellent offering upgrading graphics, adding lands and content, as well as a new race. let alone allowing you to buy all the previous expansions plus the basic EQ2 all in one package for under $50. Not a bad start, but SOE should be investing in alot more of their offerings in the same way. MxO celebrated 2 years of existence and not a peep about it nothing new to launch and no expansion. That's just goofey. Maintaing the status quo of your games or drastically changing them doesn't show any commitment to the product or the people playing it. On a side note though I believe SOE has returned to the original stroyline in MxO which is another step in the right direction. One other thing they have going for them is
This game is a departure from the classic fantasy that SOE has beaten into the ground. It's a fresh concept with some new twists in setting as well as gameplay. What SOE needs to show me at least is that they can launch a fully functional game. If it's not ready delay it show some commitment to quality. Get behind Vanguard which sounds a little overwhelmed and get them throught his launch so they can start getting their people back. It's just launched there's hope for it! All in all SOE's comeback is going to have to start with a basic commitment to quality, and start spending some money on your products rather than taking it.
But in the end that's just my 2 copper.
Hope to see you next time. Thanks for your patience. Hope I didn't bore you.
Next week: WoW:Community or Sub-Culture.