It’s that time of year again – time to recap my 2011 predictions!
World of Warcraft: A mind shift that the game’s best days are behind it.
I imagine my man Evan would disagree with me but I feel this has happened. There are a few reasons:
First is SWTOR. It’s hard to judge this factor because SWTOR is so fresh and shiny at the moment and we’ve seen countless games come out swinging and then fall off but I think the IP and staggering initial sales will push SWTOR to terrirtory uncharted by the Rifts and Aions of the world. We all know that every time a new MMO comes out the cries of WoW’s death get kicked in to high gear and I think most people would agree that SWTOR is the biggest threat WoW has faced. One of the things I did in the build up to SWTOR was keep an eye on the MMO-Champion forums every day as the various public betas progressed. I was curious how a fairly WoW centric community would react to the release of a challenger like SWTOR and it was fascinating. Slowly but surely as people got to try the game the sentiment towards SWTOR picked up incredible steam a community that started out as heavily “I doubt I’ll play SWTOR, too much going on WoW” shifted to “I’ll juggle both” to “I’m going to leave WoW for SWTOR”. SWTOR’s voice acting and production values are going to raise the bar in the AAA space and the fact is WoW will for the first time feel a generation behind. Where WoW was an evolution on EQ I think ten years from now we’ll be able to identify SWTOR as the next evolutionary step after WoW. Time will tell, but I think SWTOR is a real threat to WoW.
There are other signs that WoW is past its peak: The response to Cataclysm has been mixed. Some feel that game has lost its nostalgia factor in a changed world, the lore nerds feel that with Arthas down they’ll never quite feel the same about raiding never mind how some of them disagree with the directions Warcraft lore has been taken. Other people just aren’t excited about Mists of Pandaria. Some people hate the idea of Pandas (some love it), I personally worry about what the Monk class is going to do to balance (a hybrid class that sounds amazingly unbalanced from a design perspective – auto healing? really?), while others can’t get excited about an expansion without a central boss to go after. Mists is going to be different, but I’m not sure how the fan base is going to react.
Another thing with Mists is the removal of talents. The talent redesign in Mists is essentially a concession by Blizzard that the talent system as it was designed in vanilla doesn’t work (in their opinion). You basically will not be able to customized your character any longer, the new talent system is the most stripped down iteration you could dream of. I wonder if this is where WoW jumps the shark and goes beyond the common denominator. Will Mists be the expansion where WoW gets too easy? Not just easy, but too simple. What does this new talent and class system offer the min/maxer?
So. For the WoW prediction I will give myself the full point.
Bllizard MMO 2.0: Leaks through 2011 and is announced late 2011.
I was wrong. No points. From what I’m hearing we won’t see a launch of Titan in 2012, but maybe we’ll see an announcement? Is the project even on course after the recent team departures? Has the game taken a Warcraft Adventures -> World of Warcraft type of course correction? We’ll see. But I won’t be predicting much for Titan in 2012.
Blizzard MMO 2.0: Is an MMOFPS
While I still think I’m right (duh), we know nothing on Titan.
Planetside Next is announced. Launch will be delayed to 2012.
Swish! Nailed this one. Game was announced and expected to launch in 2011. Was eventually delayed to 2012.
EQ Next: Slow build up to an announcement. Will be a WoW clone
So. There’s been the slow build up, but no announcement. And the early EARLY indications I’m getting from SOE is they expect to bring in sandbox elements and it might actually be a refreshing departure from WoW Diku. One can hope. But I don’t get the points here.
SOE and F2P. Blunders abound, EQ2′s best years in the rear view mirror
I’ll take full marks here. They didn’t exactly commit out and out blunders but it wasn’t a pretty year for SOE. DCUO going immediately to F2P, partial F2P conversion of EQ2 followed by a late year conversion to full F2P and the release of a different type of EQ2 expansion that the community doesn’t quite know how to take yet. F2P might reenergize EQ2 (I really hope it does, I think it is a brilliant title) but we will have to see. SWTOR’s production values and the issues it causes WoW likely impact EQ2 the same or even more.
SWTOR: Huge commercial success at launch. Game will be found extremely linear with limited replay value. Players will find end game the same old same old. However new players and vets looking for a fresh coat of paint will bring a strong sub base.
I’ll take a half point on this for the commercial success of launch. We’ll see numbers in a week or two and they are going to be unheard of, likely including WoW’s launch. The only hard data I have to take this half point is the preorders and the retail tracking services peg TOR’s North American sales at just south of a million. That’s before Digital Downloads and usually Amazon does not report in to these services. So. 2.5 million sales anyone? Another million out of Europe. Asian plans to likely be announced within 3 months. Oh yeah. Go buy yourself some ERTS quick.
The other aspect we’ll see. I still think replay will SOMEWHAT be limited but now that I’ve actually played the game I think it won’t be as bad as I originally thought. I have a blog post coming up that will explore replayability and pacing in SWTOR soon.
Closures. Vanguard dead, WAR 0 dev resources, lots of closures all around.
I’ll take half point here. It was a year of closures for sure. SWG (close to home, I’ll miss it), Lego, Global Agenda, The Agency cancelled. Lot’s of bad news and lost jobs in the industry. A sad year for the genre.
Rift. A success with MMO vets, game will end the year with around 500k subs. Will be viewed as a WoW clone but will carve a niche.
Full points. I think I nailed this one right down to the final subscription numbers. Rift sold well (~1-1.5M range) and I think Trion will be happy with their investment. I think Rift hit just when WoW sentiment was starting to shift with some vets and they flocked to Rift looking for a slightly more old school Diku-MMO vibe. Sadly patch 1.2 (lowered the difficulty of some content) drove a few of those folks away, but despite that there’s still plenty of pie left for Rift. They need to announce an expansion very soon to compete in the post SWTOR space I think. 2012 will make or break Rift.
The Design Gods currently wasting their talents on Facebook will wake up and begin work on a AAA product. I’m looking at you Mr Koster, Mr Garriot et all. This one might be more of a “I wish it would come true” but I’m sticking by it
One day… one day. In all honesty it sounds like Richard Garriot might be starting to get the itch. We can only hope.
So out of 10 points I landed 5. Not bad, this guessing business isn’t easy.
These days I do most of my screenshot uploading via the auto uploader in XFire which ends up putting the screenshots on my xfire profile / screenshot area. The problem with this of course is that the worst possible place to keep screenshots you want your friends to actually see is an xfire profile!
So periodically I’ll go through my xfire folder and upload some updated shots to Flickr so people actually see my screenies. Today I added the following:
World of Warcraft – Mostly shots from my recent return.
Warhammer Online – Assortment of guild event shots.
Everquest 2 - Some old-ish raid shots from when I was playing 2-3 months ago.
Again – if you want to follow my screenshots the best place to do it is in my XFire screenshots page.
I haven’t been posting much on this blog lately and its not just the hecticness of the Christmas season that is to blame.
No – I am in an MMO rut. One of those really bad MMO-depressions that hit everyone at one time or another. I’m feeling burn out in three different games and that is really making it hard to focus on any MMO or getting much of anything accomplished. I spend the time I have available to play games thinking about the three games that are haunting me and eventually I get frustrated, give up and fire up my Playstation 3.
The three games I am torn between at the moment are World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online and Everquest 2. I really want to enjoy at least one of them but splitting my energies between them is not working out for me. I’m also having specific issues with each of the games that is really preventing me from saying THIS IS THE ONE, THIS IS WHAT I AM GOING TO PLAY.
With World of Warcraft I can’t exactly place my finger on the issue. Its a lot of ‘been there done that’ (I’ve leveled so many characters from 1-50 I don’t even want to think about it) with a side of ‘everyone is bigger than me’. With WoW I have a sincere desire to hit 80. I.REALLY.WANT.TO.RAID.WOW. The journey is really killing me though. I’m an accomplishment driven gamer to a certain extent and there is very little sense of accomplishment in the early and mid game of WoW. I’m old school MMO – and WoW doesn’t offer much to my kind in the early levels. I haven’t given up on this yet but something has to give or I don’t see this happening for me.
In Warhammer Online there are a few issues. The first and foremost is that for the first two months (plus beta) of the game being out I was one of the primary people behind the 4th largest guild in Warhammer Online. And let me tell you – guild officers in guilds this large work their asses off for you – go kiss your guild leader now. It was a lot of work and I fell in to the trap of running events and attending to administration with 100% of my game time when I should have said “no, instead of leading a keep raid on Wednesday night I’m going to do something I want to do – Other Officer XYZ you run the Wednesday Keep Raid”. I genuinely love my role in Aureus Knights and I have no intention of stepping away from it to any extent but next game we start in I’ll be doing more to spread the work load around.
Warhammer Online itself is a game with flaws – that actually isn’t fair to say because what game isn’t with flaws? But with WAR there are a few things that stand out that make the game difficult to fully embrace as a main game. I find the PVE lacking. Now when most blog-commentators point out the PVE factor they say the game doesn’t have enough raiding or dungeons or whatever and I actually am not talking about that. I think the dungeons WAR does have now are great (public quests being integrated in to dungeons is truly game changing for MMOs and I expect to see it in many future titles). No when I talk about PVE in WAR I think that the questing is just damn boring. It is a fairly linear solo experience that just isn’t rewarding once you’ve done it to level 30. It just offers so little – and I’m a huge PVE gamer.
The second flaw that nags at me with WAR is that the best way to advance your character (in the widely accepted opinion of min/maxers and now the community has fully embraced it) is to scenario grind. One of WAR’s greatest strengths is that it allows you to experience several different facets to advance – this is the sphere system that Vanguard promised (but didn’t especially deliver on) on crack. In WAR you can advance your character through PVE Questing, PVE Public Questing, ORVR or Scenario RVR. Awesome, bang up job… good stuff. Right, until after the first month everyone realized you could get more XP and PVP XP (Renown) by doing nothing but scenarios and do nothing but scenarios they did. Even on some of the busier servers now the world is a ghost land as people sit in war camps queueing for scenarios.
So I don’t know – WAR is fun. There are some fun classes and the Open World RVR is amazing when the sides are balanced or are balancedish. But there really are some nagging flaws. It just won’t click with me.
That brings me to my gaming-love. Everquest 2. EQ2 is now 4 years old and I’ve been fairly dedicated to the game for around 3 of those years (having started in early beta and taking a break pretty early on and then coming back with a vengeance) and I think I’m finally hitting the end of the “primary game” cycle with EQ2. You know that point you reach after the peak of playing a game where you start to look back from the end game and think “how much longer can I beat up on the same tried and true content?”.
I can’t really point to any particular mechanic in EQ2 that is a causing my doubts about the game. Arguably The Shadow Odyssey, the expansion just released for EQ2 is a dream come true for me – it is primarily group based, it is based on the mechanics of my favorite Everquest 1 expansion (Lost Dungeons of Norrath) and it offers a tonne of highly replayable game play that is engaging and at times plain difficult. So I have no excuse here – I can only think of being at that point in the MMO life cycle where enough is enough, you just can’t do game XYZ as your primary game any more.
So I’m not sure where that leaves me. This blog post obviously didn’t help me answer any questions as I’ll be concluding here in a few lines feeling no better about where I am at. But I know many people have been here before – do you have any strategies for coping with burn out like this? I think my medium term future with gaming involves a whole lot of single player experiences on the consoles – maybe I’m just overdue for a bit of a genre break.