Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our Last Hope?

Often World of Warcraft has been placed on a divine pedestal, a model of perfection by investors, while the new game scrambles to gain any sort of traction in the community. I ask you to revisit this relationship, who really is the God and who is the mouse?

Many have given up on the MMO industry, and looking at the past couple of major titles it is very easy to see why.  Games have been hyped months before launch only to end up failing to live up to the millions of expectations.  When I tried to introduce Guild Wars 2 to my brother and friends, I was often met by a single, sarcastic response.  "Oh great, another one."

After discussing further, I realized how they had become disenchanted with the MMO industry.  We had Warhammer, DC Universe Online, Rift, SWTOR, Age of Conan, TERA, soon to be The Secret World, and now I was offering to them yet another MMO. Many would say that these list of games failed, while others would argue some merits of success in Game A or Game B. However, no one can argue that the industry has deteriorated in both innovation and complexity.  How awful is it when devs spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a game, and give us so little.  The developers of Guild Wars 2 have promised something different than a WoW-Clone, and with so many disappointing games in the past, it will be up to ArenaNet to provide the proof.

We cannot blame investors for looking at the creation of a MMO as a business.  Investors dream of  replicating the financial success of World of Warcraft, and this has led to the quagmire we are in now.  This replication has transferred over to the industry as a whole, and creativity has stagnated.  The cost of an AAA MMO is too much for developers to have risk in their investment.

ArenaNet has dared to try something different; a risky venture that has challenged the traditional features of games like World of Warcraft.  The developer's manifesto video was a call to the entire MMO community.  However, will we listen to their call?

I'm not sure.  Every attempt to change my friends' minds have been uphill battles.  Some have listened with critical attention, others have argued that grinding, treadmills, and the holy trinity are the only way for true salvation. (like what I did there?)  The numbers don't lie either.  Hundreds of thousands have pre-purchased Guild Wars 2, though, the specific numbers are quite obscure at the moment.  With these numbers we can only speculate the amount of players at launch, but maybe those figures don't really matter.  As word of mouth spreads, for good or worse, that number will grow or plateau.  Unless ArenaNet chooses to release the numbers of active players, we won't have an accurate measurement of 'success'.  It's not like we can just look at the number of current subscribers like other MMOs.

If ArenaNet fails, would you still have hope in the MMO industry?  Or if Guild Wars 2 succeeds, will we see innovation and creativity return to the genre? Or would it just offer a new era of GW2-styled clones?


  1. I have a couple of friends I'm trying to sell on the game, only one I talked to at any length. He had a distantly cynical air due to all those failed MMOs. I remember trying to explain the way bad habits are punished and how frequently people died, and he told me the healer wasn't doing their job *facepalm*

    I don't understand why the MMO genre more so than any other has it ingrained in people that there's only one way of doing things.

    I think the industry could do worse than an era of GW2 styled clones, but I imagine we will see a mix of copying and innovations. Even ANet incorporated ideas from other games. They took what worked and made it better, or took what players wish had worked and fixed whatever was wrong with it. And wile some decisions ANet made were for the sake of improving existing MMO conventions, others were based on their personal gaming philosophy. I think the smart companies will borrow the improvements but take a different philosophical approach regarding more subjective matters to reach out to other gamers and find a niche audience of their own.

    I just hope to spend years to come inhabiting ANet's virtual world in my free time. As long as I can play, that's my personal measurement of the game's success.

  2. If you go out in the woods today
    You're sure of a big surprise
    If you go out in the woods today
    You better go in disguise
    For every bear that ever there was
    Will gather there together because
    today's the day the carebears have their picnic.

    If you're gonna be a carebear... be a Grizzly Carebear!

    Numerous sites all around the interwebs have already extolled GW2 for the many ways it alleviates, or eliminates altogether, so many of the design flaws common to many MMOGs. For example;
    Hard as it is to believe, there are actually factions of the MMO community that deride many of these design decisions as being too "carebear." Where is the ganking and griefing? they cry out as they pine for "open world" PvP.

    But here's the reality that has been missed by so many developers up to this point in time... for every loud (very loud) 1337 masta ganker playing MMOs, there are 5 to 10 carebears who wish they had a "safe" place to play together against the nasty PvE mobs.

    Personally, I enjoy both PvP and PvE styles of play, but the reality is there are FAR more PvE players, and the vast majority of those would be classified as "carebears" (crafters, cooperative social players, etc) by the leet doods. What is perhaps not realized is just how many more potential players are out there in at least two very different camps.

    In camp one, players who are even MORE carebear, and want only to be left alone to PvE with their friends. These players haven't even dared to enter many (perhaps any) MMOs because the environment is simply too hostile.

    In camp two, players who consider the DIKU "trinity" based, stand in place and hit hotkeys style of combat to be a snooze fest and therefore can't be bothered with MMOs. Many of these folks play FPS games for the faster paced, more skill oriented combat. Folks gape in awe of the 13 million subscribers WOW once achieved, but that number pales in comparison to the sales numbers of titles like the CODMW series.

    It's my belief that GW2 will simultaneously pull from each of those groups, as well as from the enormous "carebear" contigent already very quietly playing MMOs.

    1. *Continued*
      It's true that no hard numbers have yet been released by ArenaNet concerning their pre-purchase and pre-order sales. Consider this;
      The pre-purchase numbers were already high enough that they had 48 named servers and lord only knows how many "overflow" servers for just the beta test, and had to bring more overflow servers online during Friday (the first night) of the BWE. They have already stated the current numbers are in the 6 digit range.
      Consider also;
      Hundreds of thousands have pre-purchased (paid in full, up front) for a game with NO announced release date. These are the hardest, of hardcore believers/followers of this game. That number will rise exponentially when the game is actually launched and the "casual" player base gets around to making their purchases. Once word of mouth/internet spreads even further (because let's face it, it WILL ... the game is beautiful, and fun, and presents something for everyone with it's several different styles of play) and you ADD players who are not currently playing MMOs... players who want more action-oriented combat, or who want a more cooperative and social PvE environment, or who simply do NOT want to pay a monthly subscription, and therefore are not currently even playing any MMO... well... will the game be a success isn't really the right question imo... what we should be asking is how long will it be before Mike O'Brien buys his own island?

      I've already purchased "gift" copies of the game besides the two for myself and Mrs ArcherAvatar, and the first thing I'm going to do is add 3 to 5 character slots to my own account, and once I get sorted which characters I will spend most of my time on I will be buying additional inventory space for them. The ridiculous reality is; I'm probably fairly conservative in regards to my plans for using the cash shop, and there are many, many players who will be extending their purchases to cosmetic items that don't hold much appeal to me personally.

      TL;DR version= Will the game be a succes? You're f***ing kidding me right?

    2. "Where is the ganking and griefing? they cry out as they pine for "open world" PvP."

      I guess they didn't hear about WvW, then? Plenty of ganking opportunities there, and the maps are big enough that they may as well be considered 'open world'.

      As someone who's been largely 'meh' about MMOs for almost three years now, GW2 is the first game that's actually got me excited about the genre again. I really hope it does well, and I would be surprised if it wasn't at least a moderate success, going by what I've seen during the BWE.

    3. I agree with all of your points Pai. I love the variety of environments in WvW, as well as the multitude of different encounters you can find yourself in. You can walk over a hill, only to discover there are twenty Green Invaders running towards you. You can adapt the terrain to your advantage, you can join zergs or form your own small groups. I personally have never had more fun PvPing in an MMO. I also agree with everyone so far, that Guild Wars 2 will be a success. However, I am shocked at how many people have not played the game, and have refused to look into the game further. You have to wonder how widespread that problem is among the community, and if it will have any impact on sales in the long run. Personally, my guess is probably not, but I have been surprised before.