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Hrothmund's random ramblings.

Tune in, you never know what you may find here!

Author: Hrothmund

I have been thinking about this for quite some time now, and have come to the conclusion that there definitely is a way to create a game that draws on the strenghts of the instant gratification provided by DotA and Demigod and the character development and the social aspects of MMORPG titles. You may think that my first sentence is a paradox in itself. How can a game provide the 'instant leveling and itemization' of DotA and still give us that  same attachment and prolongued character development we've come to expect of MMORPG titles? The answer is not simple, but the final result lies in the creativity and courage of the development team that would set their sights on such a hefty goal.

The risk involved in developing a game that would not fit the norm in terms of what MMO-gamers have grown to expect is of course much greater than developing a super-polished EQ 4.0 with whatever niche 'would make the game unique'. The developers would really have to be driven and work arduosly to find an open-minded publisher to publish and market their game. This is a monumental challenge faced by anyone in the MMO industry who decides to champion a truly unique title. I could go on forever about this, but I won't as I do not want to discuss the business side of things, but the gameplay mechanics and design that would make a 'DotA MMO' possible.

The greatest challenge for a 'DotA MMO' is how character development and general gameplay mechanics work. One of the main appeals of DotA is that you can simply log on to battle.net, join a game and in thirty minutes control a stupendously powerful hero with the best equipment possible. An other hook is that you are playing against a team of five other players, and in DotA you truly do need teamwork to win a game against a similarly matched team. The design is quite wonderful in my opinion. What sets DotA apart from WoW battlegrounds, open-world pvp and Guldwars, is that at the start of every game every hero starts off at level 1 without any items at all.  Its quick to jump into and easy to disengage from.

In an MMO setting, we are faced with the opposite premise. When you go out to engage in PvP, be it a battleground, scenario or just open-world pvp, the way you have developed your character and the items you possess are 'constant' and in many cases the most important factor in deciding the outcome of the bout. I understand many of us think this is perfectly fine and want to keep it that way, but what if there was a way to weave the strenghts of both approaches together? I think there is, and the solutions in large are already live in currently released titles. However, a successful MMO also has to include a solid PvE experience, so balancing the PvP game is not enough.

To create my 'divine blend', I would utilize two main tools, the setting of the game, and two seperate game modes that are interconnected and in some cases interdependent. I would whisk the setting away from the murky forests and pointy ears of the fantasy genre to a scifi 'space-opera' setting, where two or more powerful, space-faring factions would exists in an everlasting galactic war. The two game modes would be 'avatar' and 'character' mode.

Think of avatar mode like this, it is an option that enables level one characters to instantly jump in to PvP and PvE content and play against or together with the high-level, maxed-out characters, or anyone to take a break from playing their character and just jump in for some instant fun. In short, there are vehicle spawnpoints throughout the game, in PvP and PvE areas that allow you to jump into a level one vehicle, which you can then quickly level up to a point where it is on par with charcters at the designed level range for the zone. Naturally, as an avatar you could not explore all of the content,(This is to promote character development.) for example end-game raiding could include avatars but the spawnpoints for the vehicles could be level restricted. This would make it great for real life friends and communities to play together without having to worry about being geared up or at the maximum level.

I mean how many times have you introduced a friend to an MMO to have them quit a few weeks later once they find out how much work they have to put in to play the same content as you?

The real challenge is balancing the avatars. My original concept was to have avatars be constricted to a single task only. You are either a damage dealer, tank or possibly a shield/platform/transportation for player controlled characters. In any case the amount of abilties and development directions an avatar would have would be extremely limited. Also, the same sort of 'from zero to hero' development as in DotA would not be possible. Avatars would most probably need to be restricted to around ten levels of development with two to six upgrade slots.  There are too many things that would need careful consideration for me to go into; do players get experience from avatar play, can characters gain perks to their avatars through characater development, how will itemization work for the avatars, etc.

What I really want to know is what you think of the basic concept; human controlled avatars that are not restricted by character level fighting alongside and against 'normal' player characters. I think that with the proper attention and a lot of love from the developers, a game like this could be a humongous success.

What I look for in a new MMO, and why so far I have been disappointed.

Posted by Hrothmund Friday April 3 2009 at 11:02AM
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I want to be awed again by a new MMO. I want to log in for the first time and be blown away, and still retain that initial excitement after the first couple of months of playing. Only two games so far have exceeded my expectations in this manner before, Everquest and World of Warcraft. Sadly, I dont see a new game with the pedigree of those two titles hitting the shelves any time soon.

WoW wasn't a revolutionary game in terms of gameplay mechanics. In fact, it didn't offer nearly any completely unique experiences to MMO veterans. However, the quality of the implementation of the key features and mechanics, the extremely well thought-out game world and atmosphere, and the slightly infantile look that appealed to the young and young at heart so well made this game a success. It was what Super Mario World was to Super Mario 2, a prettier look, better gameplay mechanics and a more straightforward, some may call it simple, design. Needless to say, it worked, and worked well.

Why is it, that today no developer has found a similar recipe for success?  Especially during this unideal economic situation, I would think innovation and creativity would be something that development executives would promote to their teams. If you want to succeed, a WoW-clone will not do it. However, I think many developers have lost track of the big picture when they do produce an original title. There is a reason why WoW is successful, one of the main reasons being that it is easily approachable and caters very well to the casual player. If you go with a new design feature and take it to an extreme, no matter how well it is implement you will lose a large faction of your player-base.

You've got me there, I've put forward some pretty conflicting arguments. My opinion is, if you want to create an extremely successful MMO you have to have those new, exciting and creative features, but they have to implemented with that 'Blizzard polish'. Easy and fun to learn, difficult to master. There is nothing more addictive than being able to develop your  skills/character relatively quickly, and then being thrust into competition with thousands, if not millions of toher players on a relatively even footing. After all, even in the world of MMOs, the natural competitive drive within us all is what drives forward in developing our characters and skills.

To sum it up, what I want is next-gen technology, contemporary game-play features, state-of-the art technical execution/stability and and overall bang-on game design that combines all of these features into a gaming experience that rewards you immediately, sucks you in the game world and provides unparalled longevity when compared with other titles.

Yes, it is a lot to ask, but hey I'm just an other crazed consumer voting with my wallet, and devs/publishers, there's a bunch of us highly critical gamers out there, who will not support an other mediocre title in any way.

A Popular MMOFPS, is it even possible? Part 1 - Multiplayer

Posted by Hrothmund Friday March 6 2009 at 11:24AM
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I am waiting, and probably will be for quite some time to come. You see, what  I am anticipating is not going to solidify in the near future. I am waiting on a solid MMOFPS, a 'WoW' of MMOFPS titles, if you like.

No, I am not writing about a juiced-up Planeside, or Tabula Rasa with real-time targeting. I am not interested in a manga inspired cliche Japanese styled titles like Aion, and Stargate Worlds, a re-skinned Tabula Rasa from the looks of things,  does not interest me. In fact, no currently announced title holds my attention.

What I am looking for is a cross-breed of Gears of War and Counterstrike, with a persistent, non-instanced, game-world, where skill, reaction time and the use of terrain decides the victor, instead of gear and character level.

We are finally at a point where connectivity in the western world allows for a FPS game of epic proportions. Imagine massive PvP battles with thousands of player created characters engaging each other, faction-based and neutral NPCs. Imagine a brawl that combines the best parts of Unreal Tournament, Lake Wintergrasp and a Gears of War boss encounter. Imagine a battlefield containing hundreds of mini objectives, deformable terrain, and interactive objects. This is all possible with today's technology.

I know most MMO players do not engage actively in PvP, but by integrating PvP into the core of the game, and making it not only meaningful and rewarding but also entertaining, I think it i is not impossible to have over nine tenths of a game's population taking active part in PvP battles daily.

Why do millions of players play FPS titles each day? The addictive mechanic behind these games is quite simple: every time you defeat an opponent, you know there is person behind a keyboard somewhere in the world cursing his fate. The games are also easy to learn, but difficult to master. 

Top-ranked players in FPS games hold a respect unmatched by many other types of games. They are the top dogs because they are better than you, not because they have a faster machine, better gear or are in a top-guild. In the world of FPS titles, you earn a spot in the top clans only through personal skill, instead of gear or character achievements. This translates to a much more competitive and matter-of-fact community when compared with MMOs.

FPS titles are also very casual gamer friendly, playing a few hours a week is enough to maintain your ranking and skill level in most games. The magic here is that you don't neeed to spend months to be able to play with or against the best players. The top players can quite often be found playing on public servers, this means that no chasm exists between the elite and novices, an effect which separates the community in MMOs.

The learning curve is much steeper, novice players will effectively be nothing more than target practice for the veterans. However, there are also more immediate rewards. When was the last time you took down an end-game raid boss at level one in an MMO? This is possible in FPS titles, there is nothing better to boost your confidence than fragging one of the elite.

In short, if a developer succeeds in integrating this sort of instant action and immersion into a persistent game-world, I do believe the title will be noticed by the gaming community. However, to penetrate the market, this MMOFPS has to get everything right. All aspects, including controls, game mechanics, itemization, graphics, sound, UI, voice communication, connectivity and game balance have to be top of the line to provoke mass interest. There are so many quality FPS games out there, that a MMOFPS with a monthly fee really has to be something special to gain mass popularity.

To summarize, I am waiting, and admittedly drooling, for one MMOFPS to rule them all, one MMOFPS to find them, one MMOFPS to bring them all and in the extremely competitive gaming market, bind them.

PS: I'll follow-up this entry next week with my perspective on how to make MMOFPS PvE stimulating.

The eternal woes of a raid leader.

Posted by Hrothmund Monday February 16 2009 at 1:13PM
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Slacking, ninja AFK, whining, "OMFG LOL"! If you are a raid leader, all of those terms are probably familiar to you.


It seems that no matter how carefully you choose your raid-team, prepare them for the coming encounters and try to establish a good raiding morale, there will always be that small minority of semi-afk asshats whose only intention is to ruin the evening for everyone who has allocated time from their personal schedules to take part.


This is the same demographic of people that didn't put in enough effort at practice in your football team and cost you that last minute touch down at the state finals. This is the same group of people that don't pay for their public transportation tickets, making the cost rise up for everyone. These are the same bottom-feeders who don't put on deodorant, because the guy in the next cubicle uses so much aftershave, nobody will notice. Yes, I am talking about the people who accomplish nothing more during a raid than picking their own nose and proceeding to eat the boogers. Needless to say, I detest slackers, noobs and asshats in my raids, and will not hesitate to kick one for their first offense.


Why, you may ask? Aren't MMOs meant to be enjoyed, not taken too seriously! I have heard the "I love scratching my butt-crack, eating Doritos, talking to my best friend Duane who lives in the next trailer and filing my fingernails while I raid! There's nothing wrong with that, I play the way I play!"-argument before. I have to disagree, and not only because I don't find smearing Doritos crumbs all over my ass appealing.
If you don't have all night to raid, these pocket-billiards-playing, dandruff smearing mongrels will slow you down every single "OMG SIG LOL" break they take, every time they hold up the raid with their ninja AFK or moronic questions, not to mention every time they die like the mindless scum they are, lowering your raids performance.


Their 'hilarious' exploits also provoke the closet-asshats, who are abundant in every raid, to come out in droves, sometimes causing a domino-effect of doom, spelling an end to the raid. If they are not muted on TeamSpeak or Ventrilo, you will be constantly reminded of why choosing Beavis and Butthead as one's role-model is a flawed idea. The downside of muting them, however, is that these dead lazy couch potatoes are simply too lazy to type, and too stupid to realize they are muted, so they will constantly be asking questions in your vent channel, thinking that the next thing someone says is a direct reply to them, even if someone happens to say something along the lines of "LoL I go pee".


Many of you might think I am an elitist jerk, and in a sense this might be true. However, at work I am used to people either performing or getting fired, and since I play only around nine to twelve hours a week to relax, my tolerance for immature behavior, blunt stupidity and indifference is extremely low. On weekend raids, my good friend Jack Daniels is there to comfort me and give me the support I need to tolerate these people. This helps a lot. The bad thing about good old Jack is that he is sort of bad influence on me, and if he is around for too long, alas, I turn into an asshat myself! Life is complicated, go figure...
 

WoW, does it offer anything to people seeking a challenge?

Posted by Hrothmund Friday January 30 2009 at 12:03PM
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WoW has been taking quite a beating from the community here, and one of the most common qualms has been that the game offers very little to experienced veterans seeking challenging game-play experiences. I have to disagree. In my opinion WoW offers the best all around gaming experience of any MMO out there, starting from the extreme casual and user-friendly content to the extremely challenging end-game raiding and single-player achievements.

"What, no way that's bull!" I can already imagine the Vanguard, EVE, and SWG and EQ 'veterans' mubmling out loud. Again, let's take a look at the facts. WoW is a game you can play at the beginner, novice, dedicated and 'hardcore' levels and stil enjoy the game, no matter your play-style or time constraints.

Let's get started with content aimed at novices. When you start the game for the first time, the menus are pretty much self explanatory, making it very simple to log in with your account and create your first character. As you log in, you are greeted with a short animation that scrolls through your starting area while a narrator briefs you with a short history of your race. Once the animation stops and you encounter the default in-game view for the first time, the tooltips, hints and tutorials make it very easy to get acquainted with the user interface, game mechanics and general orientation within the game. In fact, most individuals with some basic IT skills will be working towards completing their first quest in under a minute. So in short, getting started in WoW is extremely clear-cut and suer-firendly.

How does the casual gamer cope with the later content WoW has to offer? Very well, in fact because of the level of difficulty for single player questing and survivability in the appropriate areas for your level, many people find it almost too easy to level up character. Indeed, leveling up should not prove to be difficult for most players, however skill comes into play if you want to level up quickly.  Once you reach level 80, there are a multitude of things to do. You can gear up in instances, work on your faction reputations, focus entirely on PvP or even take a step forwards and try heroic instances and ten man raids. All of the end-game content I feel is extremely accessible to the casual gaming crowd, even the raid instances are accessible due to the toned down difficulty of the early encounters. The only encounter that I could see as a little bit of a stepping stone is Malygos, but in my opinion it is still easier in the ten man version than Magtheridon in TBC, for example.

What about the 'veterans', the 'hardcore' gaming crowd then? Well, the end-game content becomes quite challenging when you start attempting to complete the encounters while fulfilling the requirements for the most demanding of the achievements. Only under 3% of the active player base has completed the hardest accomplishments, although the current end-game content was dubbed as entry level by Blizzard and has been live for two months. Also, if you are into PvP, there are some really great players out there to compete with, just make sure you select the correct battlegroup when joining a realm.

All-in-all to play your character as effectively as possible is not a cakewalk, even in top guilds you will see a difference between the people who put in their full effort, and the loot-mongers who are just along for the ride. To all the MMO veterans out there condemning WoW as a dumbed-down cartoony grindfest, please do some reasearch before giving WoW the cold shoulder. By research I mean trying the game out for yourselves and actually experiencing the end-game content, instead of browsing through the countless anti-wow sites and posts out there and listening to your like-minded friends. You can tell me how easy WoW is after defeating Sartharion with three drakes up in normal difficulty.

 

The large corporations do not care about us, what can we do about it?

Posted by Hrothmund Monday August 11 2008 at 3:30PM
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I am tired of hearing the continuous cries of injustice every time a game is released a few weeks or months ahead in one region of the world when compared to another. This happens; we are talking about for-profit companies trying to generate revenue here, not game creators bowing down in front of their public to earn a few pats on the back. The people behind their screens writing angry messages to game publisher for not launching at the same time in their country when compared to another are missing the big picture. MMORPGs are not worth crying over, big business does not care about MMORPG customers, they care about the bottom line. Caring about the bottom line means catering to the US first, or whatever market they project will grant them the largest amount of revenue or profits.

 

The American market is still the number one retail market for most consumer products, so until we Euros start spending some major €€€, we should not complain about 'being left behind'. Then again a hyper-consumer market like the US spreading globally is not a very good thing for the planet, so I am not about to urge my fellow Europeans to consume more. Waiting a few months for a game is not the end of the world. Consuming the same amount of fossil fuel per capita as the US does is. The benefits of such a short-term profit seeking and consumer driven market are most probably very short-lived. I love America, the freedoms it provides to its citizens, the natural beauty of the country and most of all, its people. This does not mean I agree with every aspect of the American lifestyle. I am very munch against instant gratification, the lifestyle American media is promoting at the moment.

 

There are many short-term benefits for a consumer based society like the US(Like lower prices for everyday items, more diverse product availability, and better rights and services for consumers.), but is instant gratification really worth changing this planet, and I don't mean ecologically either. What I mean are strip malls, frivolous lawsuits and the same US based brands spreading throughout the world. Do we really want to get to a point where after paying tens of thousands of dollars or Euros for an exotic holiday, we find out that the destination looks exactly the same as home sweet home? I don't. Unfortunately, this is already happening and in the worst cases has already happened. I am native Finn who has lived in both the US and Ireland and sadly, the large indoor shopping centers and strip malls of all three countries sport so many of the same outlets and products that when you are in one, it is very difficult to know which country you are in fact in. (Well the daft Irish do drive on the wrong side of the road.)

 

Now don't perceive this as an anti-American rant, it isn't. I don't like Nokia, Sony, Toyota, DHL, Virgin or any other mega conglomerate buying out companies globally and sticking their ugly logos everywhere. Note, the companies I just listed are all non-American. Things will change; it could be in twenty years we will go buy our home appliances at Gome, a highly successful Chinese home appliances outlet. Why exactly is this bad? If we globalize to the point where all economies are extremely similar and the same companies service every part of the world, the economy will become extremely homogeneous. This, inadvertently will lead to monopolies being formed and placing the consumer at the whim of these mega companies.

 

Now, the tone of my post may look like it is written by a communist hippie who is planning a firebomb attack on the nearest McDonalds, but it isn't. I just ate at McDonalds a few hours back, I own a luxury sedan, live in an apartment much too big for my needs and buy every stupid gadget that gets my nerd-genes whizzing, and that would be most of them. I do feel this way, because I believe the global economy is becoming too uniform, many large 'competing' mega corporations own large chunks of each other already. Corporate acquisitions and large-scale mergers are becoming more and more commonplace.

I firmly believe that in twenty or thirty years we will see the forming of fewer than ten or so titanic corporate clusters that will control the economy more or less as they wish. As these remaining corporate giants 'battle it out', I project only two or three will be left standing in fifty or so years. Once these last 'competitors' are forged into one global entity, what the corporate system has produced is something very unlikely, a system more akin to communism than capitalism.

 

Now the above may be more fiction than fact and more science fiction than fiction, but then again, not completely impossible. I want to see more small businesses, favoring of local products and less profiteering and selling out. Is this impossible?

Money is hard to resist, but is it really that important? We are a generation that needs to make very important decisions, do we want to make our lives easier and more convenient at the expense of the planet and future generations, or will we make a stand and try to carve out a different future for human kind? Now, before commenting on my opinions, please put some thought into this stuff, most people don't, they just drone on with their lives.

MMORPG.com blog feature currently in ruin thanks to viral marketers and 'advertisers'.

Posted by Hrothmund Wednesday July 23 2008 at 10:22AM
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Something needs to be done, really. MMORPG.com staff need to step up with moderating these 'user blogs'. Most of the entries these days are either copy pastes done by gold farmers with links to their unsafe websites, or posts by paid community representatives advertising their particular game. I don't think this was the intended use of this feature. Oh well, could just be me.

I am not interested in reading about events or features of a bland and uninteresting free-to-play grindfest. If I wanted to play one of your mediocre time sinks, trust me, I would be.

And the gold farmers, oh the gold farmers! Sometimes these morons post three entries in a row, composed of back to back copy pasted articles from the same website. Why are the accounts not banned and the blog entries removed? I am sure MMORPG.com does not want people clicking on links to websites that are not only promoting services that are against the TOS of most games, but are also horrenduous security risks.

When the blogging feature was first introduced we had numerous interesting blogs with either monthly or weekly entries with well written and original content. These days, you can only wish. I can only hope something is done quickly before the blogging community that once existed on this website is completely destroyed.

DotA - possible blueprint for point and click PvP MMO?

Posted by Hrothmund Thursday June 19 2008 at 4:07AM
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I'm sure many of us are familiar with Defense of the Ancients. For those of us who aren't and have the patience to do a little self-study, here's a link to the Wikipedia article about this insanely addictive Warcraft 3 custom map. DotA in essence is a minigame, where two teams of five players try to defeat the opposing team by using a hero picked at the beginning of the match to assist the continuous waves of computer controlled creeps that set out from each base to raze the opponents town.

Most of the action, however, is spent trying to kill the heroes controlled by the enemy players. Killing an enemy hero gives your team the opportunity to have a man advantage for the duration of that hero's resurrection timer.  This is a perfect time to destroy a tower or an other structure, as the opposing team is somewhat ill-fitted to counter your team's attack. Basically, most matches are won with coordinated teamplay and a strategy comprised of a good mix of 'pushing' (focusing on attacking the enemy structures) and killing enemy heroes.

Some might even argue that a good DotA player is more worried about staying alive and being aware of where the enemy heroes are than attacking the enemy base. I won't spend more time explaining the gameplay mechanics and strategies, but if you were able to follow my line of thought you should have a good idea about how a game of DotA works. There are a lot of details which I didn't cover, if you want to find out more about the game http://www.dota-allstars.com/ is also a good source of information.

DotA is immensely popular, and has become an official event at many e-sport tournaments over the years. The first version of DotA predates WoW and EQ2 and yet still the map is only gaining popularity. There's a good reason for this. DotA is a bit like the WoW of custom RTS game modes. It is extremely well balanced, addicting and has a high replay value. A typical game of dota lasts around an hour, and depending on how your team does, the instant gratification level is extremely high. No matter what the outcome, a balanced game of DotA is something I will definitely enjoy. No wonder some people have dubbed the game 'the ultimate RTS'.

With the wondrous display of fanboyism over, lets get back on subject and examine the possibilities of an MMO with DotA like gameplay. I am aware there are some titles out there that already feature simplistic point-and-click gameplay. However, a DotA MMO would need to be based on PvP, I was thinking something a bit like the RvR approach from DaoC/WAR. I don't think such a game exists at the moment.

I will not go into detail about any distinct features such as world structure, classes, PvE, level cap, itemization and so forth. A lot of hard work and thought would be needed to transform a one-hour, level 25-capped custom map into a full blown MMO, of course, but my question to everyone here is, if all of this was pulled off with flare by a developer, would you be interested in the final product? I most definitely would!

There is already a standalone game in the works utilizing the DotA concept, Demigod by Gas Powered Games, however it will most probably not include any MMO elements besides an interactive lobby and ranking system. This is something I will probably have a look at, but to me it seems like the developers ignored all of the potential dimensions a standalone title could expand into. To me it looks like they are only recreating the same game and polishing it up with some eyecandy.

To conclude my little write-up, I would like to know your thoughts on this. Do you think we could see a DotA MMO in the future?

AoC is out and a disappointment, Kil'Jaeden is down. Does this mean success for WAR?

Posted by Hrothmund Thursday June 5 2008 at 1:53PM
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I do not want to be drawn into the AoC flamewar, but I will say my piece about the title.  Simply put, the game to me was a huge disappointment. I am sure some of you are loving the game, as I first did when I started out in beta. Unfortunately for most people, this infatuation will be quite short-lived. This of course is a matter of opinion, but I guess if your idea of an enjoyable MMO is nearly no end-game content and next to no longevity due to the extremely boring game mechanics and poor class balance, have fun with AoC, you deserve it!

Now, if you want to argue with me about AoC, drop me a PM or something, but please, for the rest of my write-up, let's assume the game is nowhere near to what the hype promised.

That done, I can get down to business. AoC is a let down, TBC WoW is 'finished', 'on farm', 'beat' or however you may want to put it.  This means  that out of the three promised  'big-hitters' for 2008 only one title has not revealed its hole cards. This title, of course, is Warhammer Online. The situation in the 'MMO game' could not be better for WAR.

AoC defeated itself by being sub-standard and WoW is losing the interest of its subscribers as all of the PvE content has been completed. A strong showing by EA-Mythic could potentially tip the scales in the MMO market to the direction many of us have been hoping for, away from WoW. Yes, I know Wrath of the Lich King is not that far away either, and the next WoW expansion will most definitely bring back subscribers, but I still think that if WAR lives up to everything Mythic has 'promised', it could be 'the next WoW'.

Why so? World of Warcraft has opened up MMO gaming to a whole new customer base, the casual gaming market. Before WoW, more or less the only people playing MMOs were the hard-core gamers, or what the general public refers to as nerds, geeks, etc. Look at how things have changed! I mean,  Mila Kunis plays WoW, as do many other celebrities.

Hell, my 36-year-old boss plays WoW and he is raiding Sunwell while managing to hang on to the ripple of social life he has left after fathering two children. I think that's amazing! Could you have been considered a 'hard-core' gamer in EQ or UO if you played less than two hours a day on average? I seriously doubt it. Not to stray too far off subject, I think I have maintained that WAR has a much larger potential customer base today, than WoW did at release.

In fact, it couldn't be easier for WAR to succeed. The only real competition out there is WoW, and if Mythic manage to pull everything off bigger, better, harder and stronger, the game will be a huge hit, no doubt about it. After all, the Warcraft universe is more or less a carbon copy of the Warhammer universe. There has been speculation as to whether the first Warcraft title was intended to be a Warhammer game, but Blizzard opted to release it under 'their own' IP due to not reaching an agreeable contract with Games Workshop. Nobody knows for certain, but one can't miss the similarities between two franchises.

All in all, if Mythic comes up with a game that is as enjoyable to play and as easy to pick up as WoW, but offers that 'next-gen' experience and upgrades all around, they have a winner. With the sad state of late MMO launches, I genuinely hope EA-Mythic breaks the norm and releases a title that meets and exceeds the expectations of the masses, instead of crawling under them like a drunken Sigil employee after the release of Vanguard.

 

Can MMO's be successful eSport titles?

Posted by Hrothmund Thursday May 8 2008 at 12:53PM
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Electronic sports, ten years ago people found the phrase more of a joke than a reality. Things sure have changed since then! Today, even mainstream television sports broadcasters are including eSports in their programming and the competitions have transformed from darkly lit lan parties to major entertainment events. Gaming is chique now, which means there is more money out there for online tournaments and live gaming events.

Since I've brought this issue up, the World of Warcraft arena tournament must obviously be mentioned. I think this is a novel idea. Now people who really take the game seriously have a chance at covering their gaming costs just by being good at the game, and possibly even turning their beloved hobby into a profession. When WoW was released, a circumstance such as this seemed more or less impossible.  Even if the arena system had been implemented into the game upon release, the class imbalance was far too great to warrant a cash prize tournament. Now though, it looks like professional gaming is finally hitting the MMO scene.

On the other side of the board ther are the big PvE players, like Nihilum and SK Gaming(Which admittedly do have PvP teams as well.) who are trying to establish themselves as the first ever professional PvE guilds in the world. Yesterday, Nihilum offered a live raid broadcast from their Sunwell Plateau raid, making it possible for people to peep into how a dedicated raid team completes PvE content. The event was sponsored by two companies, so most probably some sort of compensation arrangement was in place. Nihilum and SK Gaming both have commercial sponsors,  so in a sense they are already being paid to play WoW. It will be interesting to see how this 'professional PvE guild' phenomenon takes shape in the future. I can only imagine the top guilds in the world becoming more and more professional as the time passes. It is hard to tell whether there are sponsors out there who are willing to take their money and sponsor a fully professional PvE team.

My post is extremely WoW-centric, but let's face it, in terms of PvE WoW is 'the game' right now, and the popularity of the title ensures that the largest PvP events in the world will take place in WoW as well. This brings up an interesting point. Let's pretend the MMO player-base was more equally divided between the currently released titles. Would guilds suchs as Nihilum and SK Gaming be able to get sponsorship deals for their PvE teams? Would there be a world-wide pay-to-play arena tournament? I doubt it. Sure, maybe the big PvE guilds could go multi-platform and compete in many titles at once, but I think the public would not be as interested in following up guilds that play 4-5 games with 800,000 subscribers each as they are now in following the top dogs of WoW that has amassed over ten million subscribers world-wide.  You can debate about the merits of WoW as a game, this is a matter of opinion, but there is no arguing that WoW is the only game in the world that gives guilds the opportunity to turn professional.

What needs to happen then, for MMOs to take the final step into the esports domain? My opinion is that a few minors changes to the policies of developers and publishers will do the trick. I think Blizzard is only now realising there is a huge potential to increase their customer base by turning their game into an eSports title. WoW has gradually been building up to an official ranking system. First of all, the arena and honor systems allowed PvP contestants to finally prove just how good they are. There is no arguing against the official rankings. Now, with the advent of the offical WoW armory, the gear of every player is visible making unofficial ranking sites able to rate guilds by their gear level. I don't think we are far away from Blizzard launching their own World of warcraft PvE progress site. When world first kills will be officially recorded and published by the game developer, as subtle as the change sounds, the PvE 'game' will finally be solified as a competative event giving PvE guilds a new sense of credibility.

I am not sure whether we will see WoW breaking the mold as the first true eSports MMO, but Blizzard surely does have the know-how to do the job. Looking at Warcraft 3 and Starcraft, if not Blizzard then who? We will just have to wait and see.

One thing is for certain. There are already several fully professional raiding teams in the world, earning a pretty comfortable living. These are of course the in-house game testers.(Yes, I acknowledge testers have tasks beyond just playing the game and that many of the play tests bring in employees from all branches of the developer.) Even though Kil'Jaeden hasn't been killed on the test realms or in the public realms, he most probably has been downed by the Blizzard test team. This leads me to wonder if in the future PvE eSports teams will get access to raid content before the 'regular' gaming public, just like professional athletes get their hands on new equipment before the masses. In my opinion 'league realms' could be quite a feasible system to cement MMO gaming as professional gaming medium. The casual gamers, or the amateurs would then have to wait their turn and see whether they can live up to the pros after seeing  the pros in action on ESPN. Most probably we are still years away from anything like this being possible.

Please let me know your thoughts regarding this issue, I'm quite interested to see what others have to say about this. As a little postscript I'd like to add that I knowingly ignored the subject whether PvE esports competition will have a negative impact on the lore/RP aspect of MMORPGs. If you want to discuss this, please do so in the forums or write your own blog entry regarding the matter.