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MMO rants

I like to blog about things that I've found bothersome in current MMOs. So expect a lot posts about things I dislike and about how I feel they should be changed.

Author: beregar

How many chances does a company deserve?

Posted by beregar Saturday December 11 2010 at 7:46AM
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Today's blog entry ponders about how many chances does a game company deserve. What sparked this is the new project under development by a certain MMO company known best for its superhero themed MMOs. Unfortunatelly after the initial product their later releases haven't fared very well...

Note: Images are merely cropped screencaptures from the game's websites and their use should fall under the "fair use" clause. Please don't sue me. :)

Let's have a look at the games first

I played City Of Heroes from the start and enjoyed it greatly. In fact I have played it around 60 months over years. However eventually it came to a point where I was just not satisfied with how shallow the actual content is. Sure there are more customization options than in nearly any other game (characters, powers, UI) but there aren't that many noncombat activities and the core experience (aka missions) is formed out of linear instanced boxes that are mechanically boring. I do like instances and promote their use. It's just that instances are pointless or even harmful from the player's perspective if you don't use them to provide a customized experience.

I was in Champions Online beta pretty much since the moment it started and I was also one of the people who bought Champions Online lifetime subscription when it became available. Now I disagreed a lot with how the game was implemented but I still thought developers would see the "light" if I provided enough feedback and good reasoning behind it. Alas, this was not to be but luckily I managed to bail out and got a refund a few days before the game was released.

Then came Star Trek Online. This time I was skeptical and didn't even contemplate about getting the lifetime subscription. Sure the game had a few things that were very appealing to me such as a great character creator, graphics style I enjoyed, and automated teaming/public quests, but content wise it was rather boring and used the same "kill everything on sight in static boxes" model that previous games did. They didn't really utilize instances to provide mechanically interesting battleground and the only thing you could do within the outside world was slow traveling. Sorry but the good wasn't enough to outweight the bad. Content is the king.

The new project

Of course by now you most likely know the company in question is Cryptic Studios. I loved their first game but they tried to recycle the same formula with their later ones without really improving the core gameplay. Obviously it didn't work.

Their latest known product in development is called Neverwinter and it's a cooperative online game similar to Guild Wars. There will be an online hub of sorts (the city) but as far as I know the adventuring happens in instanced "dungeons". It is also going to use 4th edition D&D rules, and knowing Cryptic it will hopefully have excellent character creator. The best part of all is that it's going to have a tool called "Forge" which you can use to create own adventures for you and your friends to experience. All sounding very interesting to me.

Now I'm again in a position to wonder if I should trust Cryptic to pull this off properly. For me it all comes down to how mechanically interesting instanced adventures will be and how powerful and easy to use the Forge will be. If they end up creating a game with an online hub but the instances end up being static boxes filled with monsters, I know I will skip the game in a heartbeat. If the game lacks any sort of persistence regardless of the fact that the game is centered around tools that could provide it (instances) it's not a game for me. I also suspect it won't be a game for many other people either. After all then it will be exactly like City of Heroes set in a D&D setting minus the open world part.

On the tiny offhand chance that any of the Cryptic folks actually might read this: Don't screw this up. Look into adventuring games like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and combine them with PnP D&D adventures to provide mechanically interesting instances. Games like DA can pull off story with pure hack'n'slash because you are not likely to play the game more than a few times. You have made it clear yours is a cooperative online multiplayer game (OMG) so if you end up making it hack'n'slash with walls of text... gods help us all.

What do you all think. Should we give them another chance? Do you even agree with any of the points I made or do you merely think I'm full of crap? :)

- B

Hyanmen writes:

So uhh, let's say you give them 4 "chances", then give up.

A year later they release a great MMO in all standards.

You won't play it because you already gave them enough "chances"?

Sun Dec 12 2010 3:26AM Report
whilan writes:

In my opinion if the game looks like fun and it seems like something i'd like to play, then i'm going to buy it.  I don't care who the companies name is unless i'm going for remake of a particular game (ala Kotor>ToR, i really only want BW doing this and no other company)

As for neverwinter? well that falls into the same category, it's a BW game being made by cryptic. So i'm naturally weary of if they can stay true to the game.

But back to topic, how many chances does a company get? well until i feel they've done something wrong.  Like bait and switching or refusing to deactive my account (thankfully this one has never happen to me).  If they start tatics like this i will drop them and never come back.  But for a bad game? i'll drop the game for sure but the company can still redeem themselves if they make a good product later.

Sun Dec 12 2010 6:02AM Report
beregar writes:

Companies tend to be viewed by their reputation and it influences people's choices a lot more than one would think. If you read comments to the initial announcement you will see a lot of kneejerk reactions - including people who say they won't touch anything created by Cryptic. Original Neverwinter games were at least somewhat successful and some people are afraid Cryptic will end up ruining the "sequel".

How do you know it's a great game anyways if you haven't tried it? If people are not willing to spend money to actually find out if it's a good game that's a problem. This is no MMO after all so in all likelyhood there won't be public beta. Do you trust the judgement of game reviewers knowing they might not be interested in same things as you?

I would lie if I said their previous releases didn't have any influence on how I view their future releases but if you read my entry you should realise I hope they will succeed in creating something great. If you ask from me: the company deserves as many chances as it can get. How many chances does a company get? I suppose that's really up to investors. If the game fails will it be the end of Neverwinter game line? Maybe, maybe not. That's Atari's decision.

- B

Sun Dec 12 2010 6:03AM Report
beregar writes:

My previous comment was directed at Hyanmen's post. :)

- B

Sun Dec 12 2010 6:06AM Report
karmath writes:

One, and in some cases none. I havnt and would never touch a gpot game for example.

 

Far too many absolute shit underdeveloped monstrosities have been released and people have paid full price for them.

Shit has to stop.

Sun Dec 12 2010 7:40AM Report
Hyanmen writes:

"How do you know it's a great game anyways if you haven't tried it?"

I think their reputation has to be pretty damn bad for the media to not review the game.

If a game gets good reviews, I will check it out regardless of the company's prior accomplishments (or the lack of). I don't see why a good game should be missed because of bias against a certain developer.

Sun Dec 12 2010 10:25AM Report
dreamscaper writes:

When was the last time you played City of Heroes? The new moral alignment system, zones, and powers all add quite a bit to the game. Plus you have an entirely new 'faction.' I've been playing it for the past few days and have found it to be extremely fun.

Sun Dec 12 2010 12:10PM Report
beregar writes:

@dreamscaper. I played it last time shortly after release of Going Rogue. Sure they have a lot new story fluff but they didn't really improve use of instances. It's still all about wading through hordes of mobs in static boxes. So in essence they gave new stories but kept the old mechanics (in regards of instanced battles).

That is the nature of the City of Heroes and I can understand why developers don't wish to change it. I wouldn't change it to be honest. It would end up alienating existing players who like the system as it is. Clearly CoH's model works to people who still play it. So I rather wait for them to develop CoH2 - if they they ever get to that point.

I think I probably have to write a blog post about what I mean with "mechanically interesting" instance design. It's a bit like how I talk about "immersive quest design" and somehow people manage to translate it to walls of text. :)

- B

Sun Dec 12 2010 12:31PM Report
beregar writes:

@Hyanmen: Quote: "If a game gets good reviews, I will check it out regardless of the company's prior accomplishments (or the lack of). I don't see why a good game should be missed because of bias against a certain developer."

I know I will consider trying a game if there's a trial or a demo version floating around However in general I find that too often reviewers and I don't see eye to eye. It is easy to avoid games with universally bad reviews but what about those with mixed reviews? Or those praised everywhere but that end up being dissapointing?

I like to think I've learned my lesson and for example in the case of WoW I tested it first. Good thing I did, it's not a game for me.

- B

Sun Dec 12 2010 12:50PM Report
Metallia writes:

Lets hope Funcom gets it right this time with TSW... As sadly they did not in the US with AOC :(

Mon Dec 13 2010 11:47PM Report
kalakador writes:

i would change the question to... "in the POV of a game developer, how many chances you think a company deserves".... because if you just ask how many chances deserve a company... there will be people that like to drop a game before testing it... ¿inst it karmath?

Tue Dec 14 2010 9:11AM Report
stevengw writes:

gaming companies should stop being god and consult with their user base, or the users will vote with thier feet!

Wed Dec 15 2010 8:26AM Report
beregar writes:

@kalakador. I decided to choose the title based on some of the rather strongly worded forum posts I read. The title pretty much sums up what was said on the forums. I just examined the issue from my own point of view and hoped other people would express their opinions as well. :)

- B

Wed Dec 15 2010 12:32PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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