So long, and thanks for all the hits Monday, Nov 30 2009 

Well, the posts have stopped for a reason… I’m going to close up this blog.

Overall, I’m pleased with the result: some good stats, and clearly people enjoyed some of the content. Some posts I’m pleased with, others weren’t so good.

But really, it was an experiment in attempting to put out content on a regular basis. I’m thinking of creating another one, but with a different theme/subject. Two reasons I’m closing up shop here:

1/ In the end, I think there are other blogs out there doing a better job talking about MMOs in general. Tobold, Biobreak, Keen… all great blogs and well worth reading.

2/ Time – I have barely enough time to play one game, let alone more and write a blog.

Still, it was much more of a success than I hoped for. Watching the blog stats climb from a few a day to hundreds was great.

Thanks for stopping by, hoped you enjoyed your time here.

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Say hello to my little friend Wednesday, Nov 11 2009 

Happy to see you...

Happy to see you...

One of my favorite things introduced into PvP by Warth of the Lich King. Cannons. Big, mother-freakin’ cannons. Above, Augustine defending the beach in the Strand of the Ancients battleground.

Boom!

I’ve been playing a lot of PvP and really enjoying it. Collecting some great gear and enjoying the randomness, choas and fun of player-versus-player. There are times when it can be frustrating, but overall great fun.

The future of WAR: does it have one? Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

WAR

WAR: is its days numbered?

Other commentators have picked up on EA’s further cuts to its workforce. Hit hard, the team looking after Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. Nobody really knows how many Mythic employees went, but the there is a good chance they got hit hard. I feel for those peeps. Really, I do.

I have to say it saddens me, even though I no longer play the game. It had such potential. I wuved the PvP, especially in the early tiers when the game was full of players battling it out. I liked the artwork and the lore.

But the game had too many issues – class balance, imbalanced server populations, quality control issues, middling PvE content – that killed it. What does the future hold for WAR?

  • Closing the game down – a drastic move, and this would be a real shame. WAR was a $70m investment. I’d guess the player base is well under 100k subs by now. That may not be enough for corporate bean counters. It would be a huge embarrassment to EA to have to shut it down just over a year after launch, but if the game can’t break even or return a modest profit, then EA would have little choice but to shut it down.  
  • Life support – consolidate the remaining servers and keep the remaining population of players happy until it dies a slow, quiet death. That seems to be EA’s strategy.
  • Free-to-Play/RMT– follow Turbine and the DDO model? I’m not sure the games mechanics would allow F2P. Opening up Tier 1 as “free” is a good move, but what else could they do?

The problem inherent with WAR going F2P

F2P would mean opening up all the Tiers and allow players to purchase items, mounts and other items. But is that even feasible?

The problem is that WAR never really had a great deal of vanity items to speak off. There’s no Lil’KT or Mr. Chilly. And $10 for a mount in WAR? I can’t see the players purchasing them. Could they offer potions and scrolls perhaps? Maybe… though that might destroy what little remains of the player economy.

The endgame does not lend itself well to the F2P model. It depends on large numbers of players coordinating to lock down objectives and take the enemies city. F2P appeals to the casual market, and I don’t see them investing that much time and effort into a complex and demanding endgame.

The endgame offers very little else. There are precious few instances/dungeons of note to turn it into a gear/raiding game.

Most likely future of WAR… my “hunch”

Well, putting on my “Monday’s Expert” hat I predict a slow decline with WAR being closed down sometime in late 2010 or 2011. A simple press release will come out announcing when the servers will be turned off. With Cataclysm and so many other MMOs coming out, WAR will find it hard to survive.

A real shame, but WAR reached for greatness and fell short.

Thoughts on MMO tourism Monday, Nov 9 2009 

david-bowie

I totally see Bowie playing a Warlock. Like, for sure.

[Song to the tune of Fashion, by David Bowie]

There’s a brand new MMO
but we don’t its name…
The players from WoW are
coming to play…
But the game is big and bland,
full of mobs and gear…
We grind up some levels and cancel our subs.

Fashion! Sub to WAR!
Fashion! Sub to Aion!
Oooooooh wa, fashion.
We are the WoW tourists
And we don’t plan to stay!
Beep-beep

I just can’t help myself.

I try the shiny, new MMO but I keep coming back to WoW. Is it a sickness? Has Blizzard brain washed me? Dear Gawd what’s wrong with me!!!!!

Yet again, another MMO has failed to inspire me… yep I’m talking Aion. I just can’t work up enough enthusiasm for the game. Unlike WAR which I played solidly for six months before giving up, Aion didn’t even make it past the month.

Ok! Ok! I’m the dreaded WoW tourist! However, I’m not concerned about the slings and arrows that may be thrown my way. I’ll continue to try new games, but I’m yet to be lured away from the “One True Game”.

We’re mad, bad, and dangerous us WoW tourists. We descend on a game like a horde of locusts and then, just as quickly, we’re gone. In recognition of this fact, I dedicate the above song to both myself as well as the other WoW tourists out there.

But to be frank, I don’t feel guilty. A succession of MMOs have failed to maintain my attention: that’s not my fault. If the developers can’t make a product that keeps me enthused, then the blame mostly lies with them. I will give a game as much time as it deserves. Really I will.

But still, what is it about WoW that is different to the other MMOs? On the surface there is very little difference between these games:

  • Generic fantasy setting
  • DPS/Tank/Healer classes
  • WASD/Action bar controls
  • 3D graphics
  • Professions
  •  Virtual economies
  •  PvP
  • Instanced dungeons/raids

Tick “check” for all of the above for WoW, WAR, DDO, Aion, LoTRO and the rest.

What is that makes a difference: is it quality, polish, content, story or game mechanics? Sure, if a game fails in any of these, then it will find it hard to maintain its player base. Still, that’s only one half of the equation.

The other has to be the strength of the games community. And I don’t mean the number of subscribers. I mean how passionate a fan base is about their game.

“Community” – a much abused word – helps sustains a games pollution. It keeps players engaged. I read several WoW related blogs and listen to podcasts such as “The Instance”, “WoW.com” and “World of Warcast”. When they talk about game content, I feel the urge to go see it in-game. Reading other blogs inspired me to create my own blog. I caught up with same friends last week who I meet via WoW, and we talked about life and WoW. I’ll jump on a forum and join an interesting WoW related conversation.

All of this is part of my “WoW experience”, and a great deal if it is generated by other fans of the game and not by Blizzard.

Like most players, I crave a community that “speaks my language”. A MMO with no community does not inspire me to stick with a game. For me, it’s a vital element.

That was my experience with WAR: as the blogs and pod casters started closing up shop, it felt as though the community was dying. That, as much as the problems with the game itself, helped fuel the mass exodus of players. As the most vocal players lost their passion for WAR, so did other players.

In my mind, MMO’s need two things: a solid game as foundation and an active fan base prepared to talk about the game. World of Warcraft obviously owes its success to being both an enjoyable and accessible MMO experience. But just as important is the passion and enthusiasm of the player base in writing and talking about the game. It’s a case of players inspiring other gamers to stay part of the community and continue playing the game.

That’s something very hard to replicate.

ZOMG! Avoid the slippery slope argument! Friday, Nov 6 2009 

buyKT

A widdle pet for only $10? Sold!

Blizzards decision to add $10 vanity pets to the game has stirred up the blogging community. Some are “meh”, others think it’s poor form and others think it’s inevitable. For me it’s a “meh” issue. Logging in last night just before my Ulduar run there was a fair bit of guild chat about it: consensus was it was “kinda cool”. Most people wanted the mini- Kel’Thuzad (Lil’KT).

How many players are willing to buy them? Hard to say, but this morning when I logged in to play the Auction House I counted two Pandas and one Lil’KT. “Gosh, that was fast” I thought.

Having spent a lot of time in other F2P games I’m surprised it took Blizzard this long to move into a micro transactions. I don’t see this as a desperate move by Blizzard, but inevitable given this is becoming the predominant industry trend. Big name “AAA” MMOs are adopting the model. Simply put, it would be foolish of Blizzard to ignore the trend.

Consider the following moves by their competitors:

  • Dungeons & Dragons Online- F2P with store. DDO has been a notable success, their actual paid subscription went up 40% after they went F2P.
  • Warhammer – tier one content becomes free (ie.e up to level 12) in order to attract more players.

Hmmmm… I can directly download DDO to my PC drive and start playing right now (and it’s a good game). I can do the same for a host of other MMOs. It would be foolish of Blizzard to ignore the moves of their competitors and miss out on the additional revenue. Why not get some of that action?

“Slippery slope argument”

Slippery slope arguments are a logical fallacy. One step does not inevitably lead to another.

Most of the criticism I’ve seen of Blizzard’s move falls into this category. RMT, or micro transactions will not be the “death” of WoW (whatever that means). Blizzards vanity pets are simply another signal of the changes taking place in the industry.

Heck, if they offered a cool looking dragon/drake mount for $9.99 I’d buy it. I don’t have the time to farm Onyxia for the rare mount. It’s very unlikely I’m ever going to get it. Now, if I can buy it for $9.99, I would. Why? For no better reason than I’d like my avatar to fly around on a cool looking dragon. What are those rare mounts but vanity items? That a player has to farm an instance for months does not indicate they worked for it. It means they have a luxory of time others don’t have.

Time is money. If I cant’ farm an instance for a rare mount drop – which neither detracts or impacts from the actual gameplay – due to RL commitments, then why can’t I buy it? Makes me happy, give Blizzard another ten bucks. Everyone happy.

Remember guys and gals, Warcraft is a franchise just like Star Wars, Transformers, the X-Files and Star Trek. The new pets are simply merchandise, just like all the other Warcraft related products out there. It just so happens they’re virtual and you can view them “in-game”. There isn’t a nerd out there without some collectibles related to their favourite franchised IP.

Saying Lil’KT is “ruining” the game is like saying Bobba Fett figurines ruined Star Wars.