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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