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Terra Bytes

My own personal musings, random ideas and insights at the MMO industry of yesteryear, today and the future.

Author: Sirocc0

Honeymooning

Posted by Sirocc0 Tuesday December 15 2009 at 7:18PM
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You purchase the game, install it and load up the patcher, you wait with baited breath until you get to character select from which you carve your very own avatar and enter the world.

 

You have now entered The Honeymoon Zone.

 

What am I talking about? Let me explain.

 

From my own personal experiences, I have found myself enraptured by new MMOs when I have first played them. Everything is new and different, there's excitement in the air, and the hype is steam rolling. Suddenly the game is not only good, it's the best thing since sliced bread and you can't wait to tell everyone and pass on this joy. Those people then enter the world and we continue the cycle. But then something happens, the beautiful bride you were ready to commit your gaming life to suddenly starts showing a few characteristics that we aren't too pleased with. Maybe the game is a grind fest, maybe there is little content in the later levels, maybe that odd crash you were experiencing now happens more frequently. Suddenly you aren't so positive on your opinion of the game, and dark doubts flash across your mind as you begin to wonder, is this game really going to feed my MMO hunger?

 

I used to be like that, and still am to some extent - but nowadays I withhold recomending a game until I have subscribed past the initial free 30 days of game time. When we are first starting out on our journey in an MMO we want to love it, and we want it to be a grand experience. I don't believe anybody truly enters an MMO trying to not have fun - even the most pessimistic of people will usually find some feature they like. But time and time again, as a gaming community we hype up the next big MMO, we label it "the WoW Killer" and when it doesn't live up to the developers promise and unfairly in some cases to the community's exaggerated ideas - we ditch it and start the whole process again with another game.

 

I'm going to briefly explore a few recent MMO launches over the past couple of years that suffered the Honeymoon Effect, and why it all went wrong.

 

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

 

The Hype

 

  1. Developed by Brad McQuaid - the most prominent designer of EverQuest.
  2. The game would become the true EverQuest 2.
  3. It would harken back to the glory days of EverQuest, and quench the thirst of the old school crowd.

 

The Reality

 

  1. Brad McQuaid sold the game to SOE very shortly after release, and had no more to do with development.
  2. The game was fraught with bugs, and was very system intensive, so much so a lot of gamers couldn't play.
  3. It was launched far too prematurely. A common problem in a lot of MMOs, but none have suffered quite as badly as Vanguard.

 

Warhammer Online: The Age of Reckoning

 

The Hype

 

  1. WoW Killer - This game was going to be WoW but better, and everyone wanted to be in from the ground up.
  2. Mythic were developing and they were the kings of PvP - set to become the best PvP game on the market.
  3. Solid IP that was a PR dream for marketing - "the King of Hype" Paul Barnett enraptured the fans.

 

The Reality

 

  1. Whilst the game sold well originally, the game was laden with many issues including the unbalanced classes and it inevitably haemorrhaged subscribers.
  2. Mythic whilst performing a class A job on the PvP of Dark Ages of Camelot, failed to replicate the same in Warhammer.
  3. Too many servers too fast meant a lot of servers were unpopulated, leaving people to feel the game was empty, and if an MMO gamer feels the game is floundering, they will jump ship quick.

 

Aion

 

The Hype

 

  1. The next Wow Killer, this was another game marketed as PvP heavy. Oh and you can fly too.
  2. Developed by NCSoft who have a good track record of designing quality MMO titles.
  3. Highly polished and well designed world.

 

The Reality

 

  1. This was really the same we had already seen, except we could fly.
  2. Bots and Gold Spammers were flooding the servers.
  3. The game was seen by many as too much of a grind.

 

Now the above games are not failures by any means - they are all successful MMOs on their own merit. I am not stating they are poor games either, as having played all three they all have some very strong points, I am merely highlighting that before release everything looks dreamy under the spell of the hype, but in reality things aren't quite so rosy.

 

It's easy to look back in hindsight and say they should have done a, b or c - but the fact remains that we as a community focus too much on hyping these games up so that they are never going to live upto our expectations, merely because no game ever could. What will be interesting to see is if Blizzard falls prey to this system with their next MMO, the unknown project will undoubtedly be hyped beyond belief, more than we have ever seen before because, hey, it's Blizzard - and whilst Blizzard have always delivered good games in the past, will they be victims of their own success, will people expect too much from them?

 

MMOs are works in progress, and are never truly finished but we need to give them ample time before we give an opinion - either positive or negative. I'm not suggesting people subscribe to a game they aren't enjoying merely because it might get better, but those initial free 30 days are crucial and developers know that. Some developers have been accused of fluffing the lower levels with just enough polish and content so you subscribe past the initial 30 days, only to be left with sour grapes when you cross the threshold into "No Content Land".

 

I've heard a lot of gamers talking of the sixth month period, meaning they won't buy a game during it's first 6 months of release because they have been burnt too many times, and feel they are paying beta testers most of the time. But should games really need 6 months of breathing room before we purchase them? Others say they will wait till the free trial is released, but in most cases that is nearly a year down the line from release, after initial box sales are no longer the main concern but retention rate. Should we have to wait for a trial? The final solution I have heard is using beta as a way to test the waters as to whether you like the game - but this method is flawed beyond belief and will be covered in my next topic as a whole new issue.

 

As I have mentioned before, I plan on playing Star Trek Online as my next major MMO and I am looking forward to it. But I am entering with a very sceptical eye, for no longer will I be fooled into buying into a product, only to find it half finished.

 

 

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