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Tales from the Neighborhood: The Second Act of MMOs

Columns By Jessica Cook on August 25, 2015

The Second Act of MMOs

If you’ve ever wondered whether the game blogosphere is fickle and occasionally cyclical, consider the case of WildStar. The game launched in June 2014 to much fanfare, but seemed to quickly fall out of favor. The game’s buzz died down, the population dropped, and many bloggers wrote it off as an MMO that never quite managed to hit its potential.

Fast forward to the present day, more than a year later. The WildStar team has announced their intention to move to a free-to-play payment model in the Fall, and recently released a beta with the new model and a number of updated systems. There are new mounts, new housing items, a new character creator, and even completely overhauled zones. In response… suddenly everyone is talking about WildStar!

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WildStar’s Second Act

A game that was commonly ignored six months ago (fairly or not) has suddenly become the latest hot title in MMO gamer circles on blogs and Twitter. Who says there are no second acts in the lifecycle of an MMO?

Granted, players are current in-between patches in World of Warcraft and A Realm Reborn (a title that also knows a little something about second acts). But from the perspective of this blog observer, people seem to be quite enjoying their return to WildStar and it bodes quite well for Carbine’s official F2P launch later in the year. F2P conversions are often marked by a sudden influx of players who don’t stick around very long, but a successful lead-in will certainly improve WildStar’s chances of finding a more dedicated playerbase.

But you don’t have to just take my word for it! Syl from MMO Gypsy writes about how she is so surprised to find herself subscribed to two different MMOs  -- WildStar and FFXIV -- in a year that was supposed to be slow for players. Even beloved blogging curmudgeon Bhagpuss is back on the WildStar love wagon, with an excellent post on how despite being marketed as “good” and “evil”, in fact both factions have terrible morals.

If you want to catch up on all of the recent and upcoming changes to the game, Mercury from Light Falls Gracefully shares a detailed first impression of the PTR beta and the improvements to the new player experience in particular. As for the impending F2P payment model, current subscribers should read Moonshine Mansion’s examination of the upcoming loyalty program and how it may be giving loyal long-term subscribers short shrift.

Around the Blogosphere

Of course WildStar isn’t the only game that has MMO bloggers typing. The Blaugust initiative, where bloggers write 31 posts in the month of August, is in its final week. Although some authors have understandably tapped out by this point, it looks as though a strong number are on track to successfully complete every post. (Only 7 more days, awesome Blaugust-inians!)

The Final Fantasy IV team recently celebrated the game’s second birthday with a 14-hour marathon live stream on Twitch. James from Goobbue Crossing summarizes the content updates that were doled out over the 14 hours. The information includes many details about the upcoming 3.1 patch, a first look at the new pet battle RTS mini-game, and a number of quality of life changes.

Fallout Shelter was a smash hit on iPhone and iPad, so fans of the franchise were understandably excited when the game was released for Android devices on August 13. While most bloggers seemed pleased by the game, or at worst indifferent, C.T. Murphy had a much different and more negative reaction. In his review he throws the game on his “burn pile”, calling it “nothing more than a glorified timesink”.

Hearthstone’s new expansion, The Grand Tournament, launched on August 24, and the new random elements have caused some players to criticize the game as being more about RNG than skill. In An Age’s Azuriel admits that Hearthstone is not the most strategic digital CCG out there, but he uses a real in-game example to show that even with the simpler gameplay there are still plenty of opportunities to maximize one’s chance of success with clever moves.

Do you back games on crowd-funding sites? Are you satisfied with the results? Paeroka from Nerdy Bookahs asks that question as she looks back at her own history of backing campaigns. In retrospect Paeroka is generally pleased with the games that resulted from crowd-sourcing or early access purchases, although she admits to being pretty risk-averse in her spending decisions.

There has been a lot of discussion lately on MMO blogs and social media about the interaction between players and World of Warcraft developers in particular, with a focus on potential “entitlement” and just plain rudeness. Alexandria Mack writes a succinct but thorough blog post on the matter that seems to echo most people’s thoughts: even if WoW developers don’t give enough information, or announce things that you personally don’t like, they’re still a real person with real feelings and deserve common respect.

And finally today, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be an indie developer who is preparing for one of the largest consumer-focused game conventions in the world, blogger Talarian has you covered. He writes about the last-minute crunch to get his company’s game Eon Altar ready for the PAX Prime show floor, and the “exciting but terrifying” feeling that comes with knowing that soon complete strangers will be trying and judging all of your hard work.

And that’s the news from the blogosphere this week! If you see a blog post that you think should be highlighted here, leave a link in the comments or let me know on Twitter at @heyitsliore.

Jessica Cook / Jessica "Liore" Cook is a longtime MMO blogger, fan, aficionado, and community goodwill ambassador. She hosts the MMO podcast Game On, and writes the weekly column: Tales from the Neighborhood. You can read more at www.lioreblog.com.