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MMO Extinction Level Event
December 15, 2011 7:04 PM   Subscribe

"The subscription model is dead." says John Smedley, head of Sony Online Entertainment, and creator of EverQuest. Are people willing to pay $15 per month to play a computer game that isn't endorsed by Mr. T? Bioware is betting a rumored $135 million, the most ever spent on a video game, that the answer is yes. Star Wars: The Old Republic launches on December 20th.

Unlike the last Star Wars MMO, which started off de-emphasizing Jedi, and emphasizing a player-run economy, the new one is basically WoW With Lightsabers. Nearly one million preorders in the US alone suggest a hit...

...but the MMO landscape is littered with games that had initial spikes of attention, but failed to capture subscribers and converted to free to play, such as: LOTRO, DDO, STO, AOC, APB, DCUO

Almost every game that's gone free to play has reported substantial revenue increases, but can you really make your initial investment back selling pet boars? This all comes at a time when the big blockbuster AAA computer game appears to be undersiege from piracy, iPhone games, and social games.
posted by tastyhat (104 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The subscription model is dead," says guy whose job it is to find a way to compete with a massively dominant subscription-based game.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:06 PM on December 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


It looks really bad, and I can't wait to see Bioware take a bath on it.
posted by codacorolla at 7:07 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know. Human psychology is weird.

My friend lives in a building with a swimming pool and sauna. He likes them both and never uses them. I visit. I use them. If I lived there, I probably wouldn't.

I paid to play City of Heroes. I played a lot. It went free. I tried it out again, thought "Hey, this is just like it was, not some crappy watered-down version. Bravo." And promptly stopped playing.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not being much of a gamer myself - does "free to play" mean that you may actually have to pay for the game, there just isn't a recurring subscription fee?
posted by XMLicious at 7:14 PM on December 15, 2011


Frankly, the "pay for better content" model, like they've adopted for DCUO totally sucks. It means the game is crowded with all the freebie players, and the perks for paying extra really aren't worth the extra money. Like one of the perks, I think, is extra space in your inventory. Dubious at best. Once they went free to play, I stopped. (The fact that Skyrim got released shortly around that time is pure coincidence.)
posted by crunchland at 7:14 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


XMLicious: It varies a bit, but generally the model is: This is sometimes broken by games which have very big items to buy in the cash shop, or limit too much of the game behind paywalls, or basically require a subscription to play, but over time, it seems like models are getting more humane, not less.
posted by tastyhat at 7:20 PM on December 15, 2011


World of Warcraft is still a success, isn't it?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:21 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not being much of a gamer myself - does "free to play" mean that you may actually have to pay for the game, there just isn't a recurring subscription fee?

"Free to play" (aka freemium) == no upfront cost; but there's some sort of in-game mechanism (anything from skins to better characters to hats to more areas to even bullets) that you have the "option"[1] of paying for. Depending on the game, you could be at a severe disadvantage if you don't pay up, or you could be just like everyone else.
posted by ConstantineXVI at 7:22 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, okay, that's what I thought it meant, thanks... I was confused by the bit in the OP about whether you can "make your initial investment back", now I see that it's referring to the game publisher selling boars.
posted by XMLicious at 7:26 PM on December 15, 2011


SW:ToR is the same but probably just different enough to peel a not insignificant chunk of WoW's player base (1 mil subs, maybe) just by virtue of the IP. The interesting ones to watch will be Guild Wars II and the Secret World(?), which are much more radical departures.

I have said before and will say again that one of the ace's in Blizzard's hand is that WoW is perfectly playable, even for the end-game raiding, on hardware that has no business running video games. Rift and Guild Wars II won't be playable for some current WoW players. I would dearly love to see their user hardware profiles.
posted by Decimask at 7:31 PM on December 15, 2011


I gave up on EVE Online when I finally got sick of choosing whether to watch progress bars for skills go from left to right or getting killed/griefed/ambushed while trying to do the equivalent of going across the street to the store to get a carton of milk. I really gave that game a decent chance - but with 5% amazingly cool fun and 95% frustration and boredom, it was just not worth it.

The only game-oriented subscription I'm at least reasonably ok with is my Xbox Live account, as I feel I'm at least getting something out of the deal.
posted by chambers at 7:33 PM on December 15, 2011


Secret World has been in development for quite awhile and Funcom does not have the best track record. I'll be surprised if it's successful based on that alone (although to be fair, Anarchy Online IS still up and running, which just astounds me).
posted by curious nu at 7:34 PM on December 15, 2011


Oh, and in the "littered with fallen foes" list, don't forget to add Warhammer and.. whatever the hell NCSoft put out after Lineage, I forget. Aeon or something?
posted by curious nu at 7:36 PM on December 15, 2011


Honestly, I think Blizzard has just set the bar too high for other developers. They had a great, great reputation for making great games. Warcraft, Warcraft 2, Warcraft 3, Starcraft, Diablo, Diablo 2 - those games were good, and they just kept getting better.

We were playing Dark Age of Camelot, which was one of the best MMORPGs of it's time, when WoW came out. Everybody knew WoW was going to be awesome. It was, and it got better. It's continuing to change, maybe not for the better, and subscriptions have dropped since their peak - but its still a fine game. It's relatively bug free, and balanced as well in terms of PVE and PVP.

Here's what you have to have to beat Blizzard:
1. Less lag, less latency, less server lag. Good luck with that.
2. Better graphics AND better animations - not hard to do, but now you have just cut the bottom half of your market out of the game.
3. Better lore and questlines. Good luck with that. I suppose it's possible. But not really.
4. Better PVP. I honestly don't know how you achieve better PVP, if I even know what that means. Dark Age of Camelot had more robust, immersive PVP, but the balance was AWFUL. And getting to PVP was a chore in itself, there was no way on earth you were going to go solo PVP unless you played an Albion Infiltrator. World PVP is intrinsically unbalanced; set piece or Battleground type PVP is intrinsically homogeneous. It would be a minor miracle to design a better system than Blizzard's at the moment.
5. A larger, more immersive world. Again, Good luck with that. It's do-able, but it will take resources.
6. A more interactive world. Changing environments. Player based, reactive environments. Theoretically do-able, but difficult. Good luck with that.
7. More content, more things to do than WoW. Do-able, but a very tall order out of the gate. WoW has had years to develop new games within its game.

You'll have to have a better product than WoW to beat Blizzard. At this point, that's going to be hard to do. Next to impossible without a HUGE investment.

Skyrim and other non-online games can certainly make their mark, but you won't get the revenue that comes with a subscription game.

Niche games like League of Legends have extremely devoted followings, but the market is smaller than WoW.

WoW has the advantage of being many, many games rolled into one. It just works. The game paradigm works and the marketing and revenue paradigms just work. Any this point I think people will have to wait until WoW ossifies and cuts its own throat. That won't happen soon. Eventually, sure. But not soon.
posted by Xoebe at 7:37 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I worry because that is a lot of money to put into a game that, I think, will completely flop. I don't look forward to seeing what that does for Bioware's other projects.

What's the original source for the $135 million cost? It sounds much too high.

World of Warcraft is still a success, isn't it?

Yes, but WoW is barely recognizable today compared to it's initial offering. They've had years and literally billions in revenue to pump into the game since then.

Even $135 million won't be able to compete with WoW in its current state in terms of pure content and gameplay features, and that's what most people are going to compare it to.

Really, WoW is now so far ahead of other MMORPGs that I honestly think it killed the genre. There's no use playing catch-up there. The only way to get around it is to offer an unique and innovative alternative, and it doesn't appear Bioware has done that.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 7:39 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


My friend's kid was completely distraught when LEGO Universe announced it would shut down. Like, Santa and the Easter Bunny died in a blimp accident kind of distraught.

It's too bad that MMOGs need to take in $2-$3 million/month to make their numbers, because it would be cool to have games that could be targeted at a smaller audience.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:42 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's crazy how long it takes an established MMO to actually die out. They're still putting out EQ1 expansions, though I get the feeling StationCash is the only thing keeping it alive. Seeing as EQ was released in 1999 it's easy to imagine people still raiding WoW in 2030.
posted by Lorin at 7:43 PM on December 15, 2011


It's probably entirely psychological, but I prefer just paying a monthly fee and not having constant links to the in-game store throughout the game. Sure, all these games are just (varyingly) well-designed engines to suck money out of our wallets/purses/money clips/currency glands, but I'd prefer the publishers at least pretend to be interested in giving me a good time while they suck me dry.

I'm still talking about computer games.

It's tough. I can't quite tell if it's the model I don't like or just that it's mostly employed in games I don't much care for. Battlefield: Heroes was a fun distraction which I immediately quit as soon as I saw their payment model. It's the same deal with a lot of games on the App Store, which are free or cheap and come with a load of In App Purchase options. I'd much rather cough up a higher fee up front and just not deal with IAP at all.

But I appreciate that developers need to find a model that gets them enough money to live and keep building (hopefully) better games. Like I said, it's tough.
posted by dumbland at 7:46 PM on December 15, 2011


You don't have to have a "better" product than WoW, because people disagree about what "better" means. For example, you say "better lore," but I, for one, don't care that much about lore, and we would probably disagree on what "lore" even means.

I think that whatever "beats" WoW (whatever that means) is the one that offers a completely different engagement model, because I think WoW has fully mastered its niche -- you're insane to offer a subscription-based fantasy MMO with wizards and orcs and trolls. You have to do something different. THAT subscription model is truly dead.

Fortunately, it won't require a hojillion dollars to experiment and try to figure out what that means, although it's a hell of a risk for a small operation.

Is Star Wars different enough? Don't know. I wouldn't try it, not now after the previous failures and the state of the market.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:47 PM on December 15, 2011


UO's still doing just fine, and it came out in '97. When I worked on it word was it was running at 80% profit. Figure it has about 50k subs right now at $12.99 a month... that kind of math starts to explain why EA's willing to sink so much cash into an MMO again.

I worry about TOR, because the Austin dev community can't absorb anything like the number of people they'll shed if they can't justify immediately staffing an expansion team. The expected end-of-contract people will be bad enough.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:48 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


subject_verb_remainder: Yes, but WoW is barely recognizable today compared to it's initial offering. They've had years and literally billions in revenue to pump into the game since then.


Yeah. I had this discussion with a friend while we were kicking around the SW:TOR beta. TOR does a pretty good job of cloning the WoW model and then going off and doing something with it, but there's so many little things that it falls down on, and they're things that WoW didn't have to start with and probably could not have effectively developed without the large, established community.

For instance, after the Dungeon Finder tool from WoW, it feels archaic to go back to spamming a chat channel (politely) for group requests.

Trying to compete with WoW by being a better WoW than WoW seems like a thoroughly lost cause. Like you say, someone has to pretty much change the game.

I'll happily stop typing WoW now.
posted by dumbland at 7:51 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It looks really bad, and I can't wait to see Bioware take a bath on it.

The Internet is full of this sentiment, and it depresses and mystifies me. Why do people want TOR to fail?
posted by Jick at 7:51 PM on December 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: you're insane to offer a subscription-based fantasy MMO with wizards and orcs

Sure, but what about SPACE-Orcs and SPACE-Wizards?
posted by dumbland at 7:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The game that will beat WoW is the one that doesn't have quest after quest making you do stuff like "bring me 20 wombat ears. Now, kill 28 black werebears." I mean, really. Zzzzzz...
posted by crunchland at 7:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My bet is SW:TOR wipes out RIFT and other struggling subscription MMOs, takes out a small chunk of WoW's pbase, gets declared a "success" on the basis of client-sales, goes Free2Play in a year's time.
posted by kithrater at 7:54 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never understood why people always talk about beating WoW or whatever is dominant in some arena. You don't have to beat WoW to still be successful.

And I hate how EA is exploiting the Bioware name now. TOR is understandable. The newly announced Command and Conquer: Generals 2? No fucking way. What's next, Bioware Presents Madden 13?
posted by kmz at 8:05 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I want to see it fail because pre-release media indicates that they killed off the Jedi Exile off-screen, and made Revan into a mid-tier encounter. I know hating new media based on how it treats nostalgic favorites is a stereotypically nerdy thing to do, but I loved those games, and the writers of "The Old Republic" just tossing the main characters aside doesn't bode well for their handling of the material.

As far as the industry goes, there's Bethesda and there's Valve. Those are the 2 AAA game developers left. Blizzard and Bioware are rapidly being subsumed into the undifferentiated corporate protoplasm of their parent conglomerates.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:12 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


TOR just isn't interesting enough. The voice acting is different, having a few choices to make is pretty good, but everything else is WoW without the WoW polish and diversity. (I only got up to level 10, but I'm just not willing to give the game more time.)

If Guild Wars 2 doesn't live up to its promises, I'm done with MMOs for a while.
posted by Huck500 at 8:14 PM on December 15, 2011


I gave up on EVE Online when I finally got sick of choosing whether to watch progress bars for skills go from left to right or getting killed/griefed/ambushed while trying to do the equivalent of going across the street to the store to get a carton of milk. I really gave that game a decent chance - but with 5% amazingly cool fun and 95% frustration and boredom, it was just not worth it.

See, there's a game I'm straight up addicted to (for reasons I can't really explain). I will no doubt pay to play it again at some point -- though the last time I had the craving, I just took out another trial for a quick taste. But if it went free? I would play it a bit, but it'd "always be there" and then I wouldn't. I know this about myself.

I'm now imagining a parallel universe where Minecraft first came out as a subscription-based MMO. Now that would be an addiction.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:15 PM on December 15, 2011


Free got me back to CoH and I've been playing it a whole bunch since I restarted and am even thinking of buying new stuff - since I can.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:19 PM on December 15, 2011


I played the last one. I played a droid engineer. I made circuit boards for droids. Yeah.

I think Ralph Koster's ideas sound amazing. They just aren't that fun though.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:19 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, I played the hell or of Dungeon Runners, an early fremium MMO. I eventually gave up because they gave out epic loot during trivia contests. A 25 year old beating 12 year olds at trivia isn't just easy, it is sad. I had so man epic items I just dropped them on the ground sometimes.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:23 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, but what about SPACE-Orcs and SPACE-Wizards?

This is what Mythic Entertainment should have done instead of WAR. Instead of trying to do what would (ironically) be interpreted by much of the potential player base as just a grittier WoW, they should have gone for an MMORPG (MMOFPS?) based on their 40K franchise.

As someone who played WoW for years and has kept an eye on it's development since, I very much doubt it is going to fall to any of the competition - at least, not before Blizzard's new MMO ("Titan") comes out. What I think we're going to see is more companies content to settle for a smaller but steady income stream and a greater tolerance for niche markets (heavy PvP, MMOFPS/MMORTS hybrids, etc.). Instead of trying to do all that WoW does slightly worse, take one slice of what WoW does and do it vastly better.

And for Christ's sake, take one page from WoW at least and get a sense of humor. One of the killers, I think, is the fact that most of the MMOs coming out have all picked up on the ugly grey-and-brown color fixation and humorless GRIIIIM that afflicts most FPS titles as well. Part of WoW's power is that it doesn't take itself tremendously seriously all the time - this lends it the ability to flexibly incorporate epic battles and drama with lighthearted silly stuff and thus appeal to a broad range of player personalities.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:37 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have two subs that I still pay for. Each month on my credit card. Star Trek on line and City of Heroes. I very rarely play them. But I'll be keeping them. Why? Because I want to. I was in beta for both. I feel that I'm helping the people keep their jobs. I want to think that my small payment every month keeps somebody in a job. And I may be wrong. Oh well. It's my money to spend.
posted by Splunge at 8:39 PM on December 15, 2011


they should have gone for an MMORPG (MMOFPS?) based on their 40K franchise.

It's coming soon.

I'd still like to see a Shadowrun MMORPG.
posted by the_artificer at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone comes out with a better MMO than WoW, Blizzard will just roll out their next MMO, which they've been working on for years with zero reason to launch it.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:44 PM on December 15, 2011


Yeah I paid for UO and WoW for a long time and never played. I was in the beta for UO and as far as I'm concerned I was the first on the server on launch. I posted a description of te box contents on a mailing list I was on and an origin employee replied that I had gotten it the same day they same day they shipped somehow. Then my card expired and I never bothered to go back. I played UO, asherons call, everquest, anarchy online, WoW and Sims online. I still think Sims online was the most fun, I got to build a strip club.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2011


I feel that a lot of the really visceral hate for TOR is fanboyism (and the comments above even here reinforce that).

TOR is a strong offering. Yes, it mimics WoW, but it isn't a WoW clone. WoW in its own right mimics Everquest, which in turn mimicked ROT MUDs.

It does do its own thing and the things that are its own thing - it does them well. Space combat is idiot proof and the companion system is enjoyable. The story flows from your character class and not your character race and while it has a number of cliche moments, it feels more replayable than even the best in its genres (MMOs and Action/Adventure games).

WoW won't be 'killed,' and anyone thinking that it will be killed off by a competitor is smoking a lot more crack than they need to. WoW's subscriptions dropping off are, IMO, a direct consequence of Blizzard taking their A content team (which was working on WoW) and moving it to their new 'titan' project and putting their newest team (we will call them the D Team) on WoW. The dropoff in content quality is remarkable, noticeable and jarring. WoW won't be killed, but it's certainly capable of committing suicide.

There are two companies with content teams that are capable of delivering content of the quality of Blizzard's A and B teams - Bioware and Valve. Additionally, you could put a handful of individual designers (Rob Levine jumping out at me right now, but I'm sure there are more) in that class, but regardless - this is the first time that a first-class content team has taken on the MMO since WoW's launch.

I haven't been this excited or eager for an MMO since WoW.
posted by Fuka at 8:50 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Xoebe: Niche games like League of Legends have extremely devoted followings, but the market is smaller than WoW.

Ahem.
posted by JauntyFedora at 8:50 PM on December 15, 2011


I gave up on EVE Online when I finally got sick of choosing whether to watch progress bars for skills go from left to right or getting killed/griefed/ambushed while trying to do the equivalent of going across the street to the store to get a carton of milk. I really gave that game a decent chance - but with 5% amazingly cool fun and 95% frustration and boredom, it was just not worth it.

Yeah, see the trick with Eve online is that you have to play with other people or you die pretty quickly. Even in empire space where it's supposed to be relatively safe.

I currently have 3 accounts in eve online. At one point when I was playing a lot I was able to basically play for free by buying game time with the in game currency. I've been playing for almost 6 years and that's a lot of time to spend building a character(s). Honestly, I will be paying CCP until the day they close up shop.

As far as the subscription vs. microtransaction debate goes for eve, ccp tried that earlier this year and the players revolted. Occupy jita or something like that. There were also other internal issues going on with CCP over stretching their resources trying to simultaneously develop three games at once. Now every month I seem to be "winning" the eve lottery and receiving 5000 nex(the currency you buy with real money to buy in game clothing) to spend on the clothing that costs more than a battleship. So it seems for eve at least the subscription model isn't dead.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:52 PM on December 15, 2011


> Fuka: I haven't been this excited or eager for an MMO since WoW.

The last MMO I really got into was UO. I'm not a SW fanboy; I saw the original trilogy in the 80s and liked it, and am kind of meh on the new films. But I am pre-ordered and hoping to get into the Early Access program mid-day tomorrow, and am equally excited by the idea of a Bioware MMO. There is something to be said for an online game with some meat, and not just grind systems.
posted by ellF at 8:55 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The companion system removes a ton of the craft grind from the game. Additionally, it's fun.
posted by Fuka at 8:58 PM on December 15, 2011


The OP is making my head hurt. Isn't Bioware betting all that money that the answer is yes? The post says no! But Bioware wants people to play the game!
posted by Justinian at 8:59 PM on December 15, 2011


I pre-ordered TOR after playing the beta. I played LORD, muds, UO, EQ, DAOC, AO, WoW, and some others but those were the high points.

I like TOR. There are some design and story issues, but it's star wars. I get a saber and I get to deliver one liners after stabbin is done or sometimes before and during.

I was sold the moment my friend and I laughed so hard over voice chat that we caused feedback and spilled drinks because of our characters dialogue with an NPC. That happen a lot in any game before TOR? Not that I recall.

Is TOR gonna unseat WoW, change the world, or do anything else noteworthy? Probably not. But it's a decently fun game that's got pretty good voice acting and writing. With lightsabers.
posted by envygreen at 9:09 PM on December 15, 2011


Justinian: Ack! I know when I rewrote that sentence, I needed to reverse the second clause. But apparently I forgot. Boo on me. Must be the first FPP jitters.

If any mod wants to edit that to say "the answer is yes", go for it.
posted by tastyhat at 9:10 PM on December 15, 2011


Given how the most fun I had in CoH was to make up crazy super heroes and go rampaging through the sewers from level 2-10 over and over, I'm in. Time to resurrect Mr. Maximum!
posted by Scoo at 10:10 PM on December 15, 2011


The Internet is full of this sentiment, and it depresses and mystifies me. Why do people want TOR to fail?

I think it might be the perception that Bioware's recent offerings have been safe, lazy, low quality cash-ins where gameplay, story, and world building seem to have taken a distant back seat to hoyay, cosplay, and giiglesquee.
posted by fleacircus at 10:11 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm old and cranky and burned out and hate pretty much everything, thus it's mystifying everyone I know (myself included) that I'm actually enjoying SWTOR. The story is good enough to keep things moving and a lot of the conversation options do lead to different results or reactions. I play my Sith character like wiseass evil Norm McDonald.

Downside is it's ruined everything in the genre for me. I tried to check out Everquest 2's Free to Play and you mean I have to read quest text? I don't get to shoot lightning out of my hands as a dialogue option? Pass.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:13 PM on December 15, 2011


My bet is SW:TOR wipes out RIFT and other struggling subscription MMOs, takes out a small chunk of WoW's pbase, gets declared a "success" on the basis of client-sales, goes Free2Play in a year's time.

RIFT is really fun and gorgeous and I wish more people would give it a shot. They've done a really good job creating a game that you instantaneously understand if you come from WoW, but is different enough in story, crafting, PvP and world events (where teamwork isn't necessary but totally appreciated and everyone benefits) that you get engaged and motivated to keep playing pretty quickly, a place where I find many MMOs to suffer.

I was 10 levels from peak when I had to give up on it, but I heard end-game wasn't good yet. If I were ever to get back into an MMO again it would be that one.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:38 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been playing TOR for a few days now. I pre-ordered the first day you could, which is something I never do. I'd played WoW for a few months (didn't make it to level 40) and dabbled in a few MMOs but this is the first one I'm really into on day one. Well, day -7 due to early access but they had such a big pre-order push there's going to be hundred of thousands of people playing before the 20th.

The reason I jumped in so early and ventured out of my genre comfort zone wasn't the IP. I've learned to distrusted licensed Star Wars games. I got into this game because of BioWare. Even their missteps are better than most of the games out there.

I like it so far. It is a very WoWesque experience in the way the game plays and controls, but at this point that's like arguing against mouselook in an FPS. The stand-out difference between TOR and WoW is the storytelling, in particular the class-specific storylines and the fact that everyone you speak to has a full voice-over. Those voice-overs are what make this feel like a generational step up from WoW.

There are times where it feels like the other MMO's I've played. Other times, I'm on a plot mission and I'm playing a modern KOTOR, just with a chat window in the corner. That's what makes it worth playing.
posted by thecjm at 10:45 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be nice to see other MMOs on the Mac. WoW comes native on a Mac, and there's a City of Heroes client, but so few others do. I'd play RIFT or SW:TOR if you could play them on the Mac without either a VM or a full Bootcamping.

And I think the CoH client is built in WINE or something similar.

until that gets fixed a bit, I'm going to be playing WoW.
posted by mephron at 10:45 PM on December 15, 2011


"I think Ralph Koster's ideas sound amazing. They just aren't that fun though."

It's Raph, not Ralph, by the way.

I've had a very strong non-professional interest in this space since the development of UO, which I followed very closely. I bought UO the week it shipped, and did the same with EQ and WoW.

I've never played these games that much, mind you...I'm a very strange person in that I'm a lifelong gamer who doesn't actually play games that much. I'm more interested in video/computer games as an object of study.

Anyway, I have huge admiration for Koster and I think that he's gotten a little bit of a bad-rap. UO and Galaxies were very successful on their own terms and it's only in the context of excessive expectations and WoW that they could be judged negatively.

That said, Raph's style of MMOG is never going to be as popular as a WoW because Blizzard reduced MMORPG to its essentials and turned the dial to "11" on the few things about MMOGs that have the widest appeal intersecting the greatest reward compulsion. What people don't like about WoW is what makes it so successful. Anything that makes it more interesting will make it less successful, by necessity. And Raph, along with other people like him, are interested in MMOGs that are interesting.

Eve is extremely interesting, in fact, and extremely successful as long as you're not judging it by WoW standards. It's certainly not a business failure.

(BTW, here I'd like to refer people interested in MMORPGs to Richard Bartle's player types and to the academic virtual worlds blog, Terra Nova.)

This whole notion that free-to-play is the only viable revenue model for this industry segment is just dumb. All that we know at the moment is that free-to-play is a less risky model for those trying to compete within WoW's space. It doesn't mean that no one could possibly repeat what Blizzard has done, and it doesn't mean that no one could do what Blizzard has done in terms of subscription revenue by offering something comparable but differentiated enough to build the market at least as much as it is competing with WoW.

And, frankly, I'm willing to go out on a limb and predict that Star Wars: The Old Republic will be that competitor. I don't think it will be as as successful as WoW. I do think it will be more successful than any other MMORPG other than WoW. (Also, be aware that this discussion elides the Asian market, which has a lot of relevance but is still arguably qualitatively distinct.) And I don't think that in the medium to long term, TOR will be successful because it's taken a big chunk of WoW's customers. Rather, what will happen is that its player base will be about half customers new to MMORPGs (or were only briefly and very casually interested in WoW), one-quarter people who switch to TOR from WoW, and one-quarter who subscribe to both (either simultaneously or alternately). In other words, their success will be largely from growing the market.

There's all sorts of reasons why this makes sense, not the least because of the huge investment and deep pockets that no one else has or could match (besides Blizzard).

But what the industry needs to figure out—and not just the online gaming industry, but the whole game industry—is that it really has moved into the Hollywood production model and understand what that means. It means that every game can't be the Summer Blockbuster and that if you are aiming for that, you're either going to strike it rich or you're going to lose a ton of money. It means that if you want to make that lost money back, you have to find other ways to do it than from the equivalent of first-run, domestic releases. And mostly, it means that there's a comfortable and viable market segment for releases that aren't trying to be blockbusters and don't require that kind of investment...or risk.

There are a lot of possible MMOGs, including RPGs, that haven't been realized and which could be profitable given good design for a well-understood, limited, market segment. Eve is a good example of one of these segments. They wouldn't require a free-to-play model to be viable. In fact, my gut instinct is that most wouldn't be viable for FtP but would be viable on a subscription basis.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Old Republic looks well-crafted (if derivative), I'm definitely in the market for a new MMO to fiddle around with casually (although I must admit the sub fee is offputting, especially with Guild Wars 2 around a nonspecifically sized corner), and I've enjoyed almost everything BioWare have done in the last few years. I just can't bring myself to care about Star Wars. I couldn't even bring myself to care about Star Wars enough to finish downloading the beta.
posted by emmtee at 11:17 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's Raph, not Ralph, by the way

You are right. I fuck that up every time. I knew him as Designer Dragon.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:18 PM on December 15, 2011


Ad hominem, if I was to type something like -==[UD, would you be able to complete it?

Anyhow, it is interesting to chart the various theories, attempts and failures/successes in this gamespace. There's an interesting idea here about an IP (pathfinder, which I must confess I am not familiar with) planning to gain traction by severely limiting the playerbase , and only increasing it in monthly increments. Crazy enough to maybe just work? Who knows, but it's certainly novel.
posted by Sparx at 11:30 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


2 hour queues to get into SW:TOR today. I don't think "severely limiting the player base" is that new an idea.

Yep, a joke.

Maybe it's antithetical to an MMO, but is there such a game that has done away with the idea of a character being fixed to a particular server/realm/shard?
posted by dumbland at 11:41 PM on December 15, 2011


dumbland, there's any number of MMOs with a single, universal server. EVE online is just one.
posted by Sparx at 11:47 PM on December 15, 2011


There is a grain of truth in what has been said. The subscription model really appears dead in that WoW has that market. WoW has as much of that market as can reasonably be captured by any one MMO. The remaining market share of subscription MMOs is either taken by existing stable games such as Final Fantasy XI or have remained untapped due to there not being enough money in it to create a game good enough to capture that market.

The open markets are a mixture of free/premium play and microtransactions. The downside is that these games attract a younger segment and range from not nearly as refined to outright dismal. At the same time, there's a certain attraction to this market both for the lack of cost and for the optional extras.

Runescape uses a free/premium model. There is a free world, a complete if somewhat small MMORPG world which has offered a relatively steady experience over years. The free worlds get a limited amount of content updates. Premium servers are more than that. Premium players can play in free or premium worlds, they have a vastly larger world to explore and play in, and they have a significantly larger variety of activities and skills. On top of all that, Runescape plays not entirely unlike what Ultima Online would have been without open PvP, although the fighting part of the game leaves a lot to be desired. It's also well known for a very young and dismal user base.

Maple Story uses a micro-transaction model. All worlds are completely free, there are no subscriptions possible. However, players can buy "points" usable across all games by the same publisher, Nexon. They do the same with other games such as Dragon Nest and Dungeon Fighter Online. While this sounds like a dubious model, it has been rather profitable. It also benefits from having a very strong presence in Japan and its home market, South Korea. In fact, you'll find no shortage of South Korean games go by the micro-transaction model. Zynga is a relative latecomer to the idea, they simply took a foothold in one of the best possible platforms.

Ragnarok Online runs a mixture of these platforms. They have a "VIP Server" which has earlier updates, increased gain of experience and items, and a far better reputation than the free server. Meanwhile, they also offer a micro-transaction service for items with in-game impact. They had originally run a long open beta to get people interested in the game, then went to a full P2P model before eventually taking the micro/premium route. Part of this was due to the success of the model for other games, but part also includes the competition from "private servers" which have pirated the game resources and run a server emulator.

This brings me back to P2P as a primary model. The free market segment is still pretty small, but there's quite a few people who want an alternative to WoW. A game that isn't that good and remains addictive is also prone to being replaced by another not so good and addictive game. WoW is high fantasy while there's a serious lack of sci-fi MMO games for the mass market. EVE is really a niche game, so it's not going to suffice. SWTOR has the best chance of anything so far. Aion had the disadvantages of being high fantasy competing directly with WoW and being a South Korean game with a less intricate knowledge of the US market. While it started off with a bang, it just didn't stick. SWTOR has every possible hallmark of a successful challenger. Bioware is a known and respected gaming company similar to Blizzard's position before WoW. They're pouring in enough investment to ensure the game starts off strong. They are competing in a similar market but aiming at a group who wants something differentiated from existing products. Above all of this, they're using a very well known brand which draws vast attention from day one.

Smedley comes from the disadvantaged point of being with Sony Online Entertainment, a company with such a bad reputation in MMOs that free would be considered too expensive for no shortage of players burned by them in the past. He also is part of a company which managed to run a Star Wars game into the ground, no easy feat. The "Combat Upgrade" was one of the most maligned revisions to an MMO I can remember. This site has charts showing the subscription numbers (Subscriptions 150k-1m on the left hand side.) The "Combat Upgrade" was in mid-2005, coinciding with an over 25% drop in subscriptions. While the "New Game Expansion" later that year tried to recover players, it was also a failure which Smedley himself staunchly defended at first. Even after backtracking, the damage was done and the game has never been the same.

In short, the subscription model has a barrier to entry so high that it appears dead. SWTOR is going to be the best challenge to that notion. From a personal point of view, I predict they'll be a success. Not a WoW-killer as has been touted by many other games in the past, but a strong competition which could easily take a chunk of the market and hold on to it very well.

Any company not interested in investing 8 or 9 digits should stick to free/premium or micro-transaction. There's serious money to be made in that realm still, and it's absolutely not too late to get a piece of that very large and tasty pie.
posted by Saydur at 11:51 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


dumbland- Runescape is the first game I can think of which offers multiple shards/servers where characters are not locked in whatsoever aside from free/premium distinction. Many other games with micro-transactions have paid transfers which permit a character to be moved from one server to another. However, this is a permanent transfer and usually one of the most expensive premiums running in the realm of $20+.

EVE is unique in that it has a single extremely vast server, leading to far more competition for resources. That's a central game mechanic and it couldn't run any other way. It's one reason the game is very popular amongst a particular crowd, yet entirely inaccessible to a different crowd.
posted by Saydur at 11:55 PM on December 15, 2011


"dumbland, there's any number of MMOs with a single, universal server. EVE online is just one."

I think he meant where your character can move between bounded (identically playing) servers at-will (to avoid the queing for a server problem, as well as the playing-with-your-friends-who-happen-to-be-on-another-server problem).

I understand why for path-dependency reasons WoW and others are like this. I don't understand why the "independent world server" model would require the characters to be coupled to it. Well, okay, for game economy reasons, maybe, though my instinct is that those implications aren't insurmountable and possibly would lead to an ultimate benefit.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:01 AM on December 16, 2011


I think he meant where your character can move between bounded (identically playing) servers at-will

D'oh. I think you're right.

Well, okay, for game economy reasons,


I think you're right again. It may be solvable problem, but it's fluid and you should, realistically and, dare I say it, economically, choose your battles.
posted by Sparx at 12:14 AM on December 16, 2011


restless_nomad: I worry about TOR, because the Austin dev community can't absorb anything like the number of people they'll shed if they can't justify immediately staffing an expansion team. The expected end-of-contract people will be bad enough.

Don't worry too much. There are game companies in Austin that are waiting patiently for the exodus, because, for example, we can't find qualified programmers in the general population. They have some 400+ people who may be happier elsewhere.
posted by hanoixan at 12:57 AM on December 16, 2011


No, I've never been an Ultima Dragon.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:46 AM on December 16, 2011


I want to see it fail because pre-release media indicates that they killed off the Jedi Exile off-screen, and made Revan into a mid-tier encounter. I know hating new media based on how it treats nostalgic favorites is a stereotypically nerdy thing to do, but I loved those games, and the writers of "The Old Republic" just tossing the main characters aside doesn't bode well for their handling of the material.

I have no idea what any of this is, but I definitely would rather see Bioware kick serious ass. I don't play MMO's, but they gave me Dragon Age, one of the most well-written RPG's I've played in a LOOONG time. I support any company that will give me well-written characters and a compelling storyline. As much as I am loving Skyrim, you can definitely see where Elder Scrolls has never been a series that's about great dialogue, compelling characters, or a riveting story. That's fine, since there's room enough in the world of games for Skyrim, but it's nice to have RPGs that emphasize a different aspect of gameplay.

I enjoyed Mass Effect and KOTOR. My gaming experience would be far poorer without Bioware. I actually fondly remember a multitude of characters from the Bioware universe. The one and possibly only character that sticks with me from Bethesda is the Adoring Fan.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:58 AM on December 16, 2011


And don't know what Smedley is really spewing here. What he really should be saying is that:

"Sony's subscription-based MMORPGs are dead for a multitude of reasons."

He sounds like he's trying to spin the idea that their failure to make a hit MMORPG after EQ is, ya know, due to market forces beyond Sony's control. And not like, the fact their offerings sucked balls.

Sony continues to repulse.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:04 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I found out about a game called World of Tanks where you just drive around in tanks and shoot at each other. Pretty ridiculous looking.
posted by delmoi at 2:11 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I finally got sick of [..] getting killed/griefed/ambushed while trying to do the equivalent of going across the street to the store to get a carton of milk.

Quit buying milk in Tama.
posted by ryanrs at 3:17 AM on December 16, 2011


No, I've never been an Ultima Dragon.

That's cool. At least we know you're not Felicia Day in disguise.
posted by Sparx at 3:24 AM on December 16, 2011


No, they all have to succeed wildly, or recent titles by sci-fi writers won't come true!
posted by clvrmnky at 6:34 AM on December 16, 2011


I was ready to hate SW:ToR until talking to people who were playing in beta, until I wound up pre-ordering. I'm playing now in the early launch and it's quite fun so far. Lots of detail to the quests, each class has their own storyline, there are lightside/darkside choices to be made, etc. The skills are fun and varied so far, the music is great, the graphics are nice. It's sort of like the best of early SWG with a little bit of Tabula Rasa and a much better execution of instant-instances (mostly for story arch stuff).

Just wanted to give that shoutout to the people hating ToR who haven't even played it. As for SOE, they can go suck a fat one. I have played many of their MMOs and while the games are usually good (until CU/NGE type shit), the customer service and dev beat-downs are systemic across them all.

Anyway, back to work while I sit here and twitch, waiting to get back to Hutta with my Bounty Hunter. :)
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:38 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else eagerly awating what CCP is gonna do with the Vampire MMO? It's still so early, but that might actually be able to get me to play a MMO for more than a couple months.
posted by utsutsu at 6:52 AM on December 16, 2011


I was in the last round of open betas for SW:ToR, and I can confirm that it is essentially an improved WoW with light sabers.

Or, I assume there are light sabers later in the game, my Jedi character started off wielding a stick of some sort. Apparently you don't get an actual light saber until later.

And I'm going to confidently predict that SW:ToR will flop.

Not because it's a horrible game, it isn't. It is better than WoW in a great many ways, calling it "WoW with light sabers" misses the fact that Bioware put in a **LOT** of time and effort really improving WoW.

The problem is, it's still WoW-ish, and if a person is in the market for a WoW-ish game they'll just play WoW.

And, despite the improvements, they've essentially copied WoW as much as possible without getting into trademark or copyright infringement territory.

It remains a gear grind of a game. You start with shit gear and the only difference between your Level Whatever Jedi and someone else's Level Whatever Jedi is your gear. Player skill is a non-factor. Customization in any way other than gear is a non-factor.

One thing that always puzzled me about the obsession people have with WoW PVP is that, in essence, it's a gear competition. Given characters of the same class and level whoever has the best gear will win, always. There's no point in actually fighting, you may as well just compare your gear and declare whoever has the most/best purples victor.

As in WoW loot is color coded, and the color codes are identical: grey for vendor trash, white for stuff you can use but isn't that great, green for magic items, and (I never saw any but I presume) blue for good magic items and purple for really rare magic items. And yes, many items are bound, and they're all leveled.

And, for my money, it's a stupid approach that barely makes any sense in WoW and makes no sense whatsoever in Star Wars.

In WoW you can, sort of, justify the idea that your pants make you smarter based on the fact that they're magic pants. In any non-fantasy setting that makes no sense at all.

Worse, in the Star Wars setting it makes no sense at all. Luke didn't get to be a better Jedi, then go questing to find a rare blue light saber. Han Solo did not throw away his old blaster when he made Level 21 and could finally use the really sweet Level 21 blaster he found earlier. Star Wars was not a gear focused setting, it was not about the characters looting Nerf Herder Pants from fallen enemies and putting them on to improve their stats. And yes, there are Nerf Herder pants in the game, I found some and they improved my Wil or something.

I think the failure of any non-WoW MMO to really thrive is directly due to the fact that they seem to think the only way to thrive is to copy WoW, and that's a losing strategy.

I won't be buying SW:ToR. If I wanted to play WoW I'd start my account up again. I wanted to play a nifty Star Wars game, and unfortunately what they made was a WoW clone with a Star Wars skin. And that's not something I'm all that interested in playing.
posted by sotonohito at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear John Smedley - The subscription model is not dead just becasue your company has put out crappy games that no one wants to pay for. Or poorly marketed games that no one wants to pay for.

DC Universe Online didn't go free to play because the sub model died, it was because everyone left because you could honestly reach level cap in two days if you tried (it took me almost two weeks of casual play each night with a group). Smedley is a competitor, so of course he'll try to talk down the rival. Also, Smed - you have several games still running subs, so why not convert them all if you're so certain?

I preordered SWTOR, and I've been playing it for three days now. It's not a radical departure from either a BioWare RPG or many MMOs, but the blend together really makes a great game. That's not even counting the IP, which just serves as the cream on top.

Is it perfect? No, it has its flaws, but on the whole, it's satisfying.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:04 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, WoW is free to play up to level 20.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:05 AM on December 16, 2011


Is anyone else eagerly awating what CCP is gonna do with the Vampire MMO? It's still so early, but that might actually be able to get me to play a MMO for more than a couple months.

Unfortunately, CCP downsized and laid off a bunch of people and that project was sort of backburnered. Development still continues on World of Darkness, with a reduced team and some cuts to the game that they claim won't affect the meat of it, but it seemed kind of unconvincing.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:06 AM on December 16, 2011


You start with shit gear and the only difference between your Level Whatever Jedi and someone else's Level Whatever Jedi is your gear. Player skill is a non-factor.

Actually, no. Player skill is a definite factor. And in response to player concerns about the potential for it to be a gear grind - BioWare insisted that the best PvP gear is only going to have about a 10% advantage over the best crafted/modded gear. So there's a slight advantage if you're all geared out, but it's definitely not nullifying player skill. Skill is going to determine that outcome, because combat is often more fluid than in many other games. My bounty hunter weaves her flames around and shoots while running, for instance. You can jump on others. There are a whole lot of nuanced elements in the game.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:13 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


if a person is in the market for a WoW-ish game they'll just play WoW

I cannot imagine any world like ours where this is a completely true statement. Not all gamers who are in the market for a thing are in it for the same reasons.

WoW is not faltering because people don't want WoW-style MMOs. WoW is faltering because they replaced their original devs with less-experienced, less-creative devs.
posted by Fuka at 7:17 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


WoW does everything right for a fantasy RPG, except for story-telling. Yes, the story and Lore in WoW is very well written, but you are on te outside looking in, nothing you do changes anything. Kill an important NPC and he respawns. Save the town from an evil demonic boar, and he also respawns. There are virtually no dialog options either. And adding that to an MMO is basically impossible, or at least no one as found a way to do it.

Even single-player games often fail at this. Dragon Age did an excellent job but your options were limited. Skyrim gives you more options but the effects are rarely felt (oh, you stopped the war and saved the village from a dragon? Well, it won't change any NPCs dialog text or reaction towards you; this is imo Skyrim's biggest flaw).

No game truly gives you the freedom that RPGers are looking for. For example "A locked door" can be picked and opened stealthily, but you should also be able to bash it down, or even barricade the occupants on the other side and set their building on fire. Until some company comes along and manages to make a huge open game with the most astounding amount of options ever, no game will beat WoW. WoW has the combat and levelling game locked up, now we need someone to come along and claim the "immersive storytelling" throne, and no one has done that yet.

This is where RPGs need to go to get to the next level. Really good single player games like Kotor, Planescape: Torment and Mass Effect excelled at the single story line concept. What we need now is a game that enables the player to choose and craft his own story, with the proper consequences for NPC reactions, dialog, and quests. Skyrim is a step in the right direction, but is far too incomplete; maybe with the right DLC, patch, and user created Mods it will get there, who knows. And once someone can figure out a way to do immersive story-telling in a grief-ridden online world then we will have a new MMO king, until then we have WoW.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:25 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, CCP downsized and laid off a bunch of people and that project was sort of backburnered. Development still continues on World of Darkness, with a reduced team and some cuts to the game that they claim won't affect the meat of it, but it seemed kind of unconvincing.

The upside to whatever terrifying money-crunch happened within the walls of CCP HQ is that they have attacked player complaints in EVE with an energy that hasn't been seen in years.
posted by tylermoody at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2011


The upside to whatever terrifying money-crunch happened within the walls of CCP HQ is that they have attacked player complaints in EVE with an energy that hasn't been seen in years.

True, EVE has had a clusterfuck of a year and now the team seems much more responsive and focused. But some of us don't play it, and WoD was on our radar.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:40 AM on December 16, 2011


@cmgonzalez I'm not at all sure I can agree that player skill is a factor.

My five year old spent a lot of time playing SW:ToR, he had no trouble killing things simply by clicking on them. I don't really think he had much skill going for him.

As for gear grind, the fact that that the game focuses on finding better gear is pretty much the definition of gear grind.

I get why they decided to go for the gear grind model. Player skill is a something not everyone has, and not everyone is willing to spend the time to acquire. Look at the number of people who play chess, or StarCraft, both games based entirely on skill, now look at the number of people who play WoW which has no skill component. You get more people playing the non-skill games.

And, the gear grind model is a great example of a skinner box in action. People get hooked on that stuff. Leveling is a reward, as is finding cool gear. And the research on skinner boxes shows that random rewards produce more addictive behavior than predictable rewards.

Put a rat in a box, train the rat to push a lever to get a treat. The rat will push the lever only when he wants a treat. Change it so that the rat gets a treat every five pushes, and the rat will still only push the lever (five times) when he wants a treat. Change it so the treat is dispensed every X pushes, where X is a number between 2 and 10, and the rat will start obsessively pushing the lever.

Same goes for WoW and it's leveling and gear. Maybe the next monster will have a cool drop, maybe not. You won't know until you kill it!

So WoW combines ease of play, anyone can get into the game and play pretty well after only an hour or two of trying, and an addictive skinner box essence. Very effective.

But not what I was hoping for with SW:ToR.
posted by sotonohito at 7:44 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always maintained that the game that will finally unseat WoW is one that is basically WoW with real money.

Free to play, technically, but gear degrades over time, and the only way to repair it is with game money. Which is available by killing monsters, but (on average) not quite enough to fully repair your gear. A 90% payout, same as the slot machines give. So you've got to put in real world money to keep your gear fixed. BUT, just like with slot machines, some monsters pay out bigtime. Maybe you'll get lucky and the next monster you kill will be a jackpot monster and you'll get back a crapton of money.

And, of course, just like the slot machines it isn't that every monster you kill provides 90% of the money needed to repair your gear from that encounter. That 90% payout means that, on average, you get back 90% of the money you put in every time you pull the lever. But the average is accomplished by having several lever pulls pay nothing, and then having a medium sized payout every now and then.
posted by sotonohito at 7:51 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem is, it's still WoW-ish, and if a person is in the market for a WoW-ish game they'll just play WoW.

Nope. I'm "in the market for a WoW-ish" game in the sense that I've played WoW for four years. I spend a lot of time playing video games, and they're all mmos. I'm cancelling my WoW subscription and moving over to SWTOR, and most of my friends in game are as well. I think SWTOR is (a) going to be a huge success, and (b) won't go F2P anytime soon.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:54 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, I assume there are light sabers later in the game, my Jedi character started off wielding a stick of some sort. Apparently you don't get an actual light saber until later. ... And I'm going to confidently predict that SW:ToR will flop.

You get your lightsaber at level 7-ish (current level cap is 50). Level 7 requires maybe three hours of gameplay, while Bioware says that a single classes story arc is about 200 hours of game play. I'm going to guess you didn't give the game much of a try.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2011


Whoa! Guild Wars 2 is exciting news!
posted by Mister_A at 9:08 AM on December 16, 2011


I haven't played anything since FFXI got boring (but it did take many years for that to happen for me).

For at least a certain type of player, all you need is to capture their imagination, with the idea of inhabiting a favorite world. I don't think the payment model is as critical as people's stake in your world.

What disturbs me a little is how quickly all the elements of world-building and story-telling, etc become 'color' that embellishes a common mechanic with basic roles you just can't get away from. I don't think it matters what you call the tank or how the tank accesses his/her tanking ability. You'll still have people looking for a good tank. I think the biggest danger of mimicking WoW would be evoking that empty feeling of realizing how little any of it matters.
posted by ServSci at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2011


If Guild Wars 2 ever comes out I'll eat my socks.
posted by Talez at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2011


The problem is, it's still WoW-ish, and if a person is in the market for a WoW-ish game they'll just play WoW.

I don't agree with this either. I still have guildmates from Dark Age of Camelot, and picked up a few in WoW. We played a lot of WoW, but want something new to look at. The SW beta was fun enough. WoWish? Of course. Not as good as WoW in a lot of ways? Of course.

But I enjoy a game because I like the people I play with, and most of us were finally tired of WoW after giving Cataclysm several months as a last hurrah. I don't know if TOR will be a huge success. But it will be successful.

Also RIFT really is cool. But I had trouble making the leap from tier 1 to tier 2 (level 20-25ish?). There just weren't enough people in the environment.
posted by Glinn at 9:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing that always puzzled me about the obsession people have with WoW PVP is that, in essence, it's a gear competition. Given characters of the same class and level whoever has the best gear will win, always. There's no point in actually fighting, you may as well just compare your gear and declare whoever has the most/best purples victor.

I totally disagree with this. If you don't know how to manage your abilities and don't know what to anticipate from your opponent you will lose no matter how good your gear is. You can ask any of countless dead players I beat to death with my fishing pole in Wintergrasp.
posted by the_artificer at 10:13 AM on December 16, 2011


@cmgonzalez I'm not at all sure I can agree that player skill is a factor.

My five year old spent a lot of time playing SW:ToR, he had no trouble killing things simply by clicking on them. I don't really think he had much skill going for him.


There's not a lot of skill involved in the early PvE of most MMORPGs, WoW included. End game PvE content is another thing entirely, though. Gear is hugely important in WoW, but skill becomes substantially more important if you're trying to progress through the latest raid.
posted by drklahn at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2011


@monju_bosatsu I mostly played the smuggler arc. But I'll admit that I put in, perhaps, 5 to 7 hours. My son thought it was the best thing he'd ever seen and he played a lot more than I did.
posted by sotonohito at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2011


There most certainly is a skill component in WoW. Not sure why you think otherwise.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2011


@Brocktoon Ok, there's skill. But it's a skill that takes around relatively little time (probably between 10 and 15 hours total) to acquire. It's a skill in much the same way running a copy machine is a skill, yeah you can't just walk up having never touched a copier before and do it. But no, it isn't something that takes much actual skill at all.

That isn't a slam against WoW, just a simple fact of the game.

Some games are very much about player skill. Chess is one example. In the video game world I think StarCraft is an excellent example of an almost entirely skill based video game from the same company that makes WoW.

WoW is on the low to none end for skill. I shouldn't have said that there's no skill involved, there's skill involved in just about everything, but it's a skill that takes only a few hours for the typical player to pick up.

Also, and this is the important part, skill isn't a major factor in who wins PVP stuff. Grab a person who has done PVP for only a week or so, another who has done PVP for years, give the more experienced player a character one level lower and with no purples, and the less experienced player a character one level higher and with all purple and we both know who will win.

Yeah, my five year old would lose even with that advantage, because there is a tiny degree of skill.

And, as I said, that isn't really a slam on WoW. In fact, I'll argue that it's why WoW is so staggeringly successful, even/especially when compared to the other Blizzard flagship property: StarCraft. WoW is quick to learn and the amount you have to learn to play well is relatively low. StarCraft is quick-ish to learn and the amount you have to learn to play well is enormous. Perhaps not quite chess or Go level enormous, but perhaps not.

the numbers show which model is more successful in terms of getting butts into chairs and monthly subscriptions paid:

WoW has ~10 million subscribers at around $15/month. It peaked at closer to ~13 million.

StarCraft 2 sold a total of around 4.5 million copies at roughly $60 once. And it's estimated that of those 4.5 million sales only around half a million people are still playing even though it's free to play. I doubt very strongly you'd get even 500,000 people playing StarCraft if it had a $15/month subscription.

This isn't to say that StarCraft 2 is a flop, 4.5 million sales is a success in the gaming world. But it is to say that you get more people playing a game that has less skill involved. And WoW requires very little skill which makes it wildly successful.
posted by sotonohito at 11:50 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the Guild Wars 2 devs was answering questions on reddit yesterday.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2011


T’Rain is the game that will beat WoW, because it has a way to let you easily transfer your online treasure to real-life cash.
posted by crunchland at 7:38 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Okay, I fixed the post to say "the answer is yes". You can always use the contact form to get (usually) very quick response for a problem like this.]
posted by taz at 10:11 PM on December 16, 2011


My favourite MMO is certainly FTP with optional premium goop, but Fitocracy is the exception to the rule; for the most part I loathe the "free to play" games, because they're balanced around nagging you to buy stuff with real money as you play.
posted by rodgerd at 10:25 PM on December 16, 2011


Grab a person who has done PVP for only a week or so, another who has done PVP for years, give the more experienced player a character one level lower and with no purples, and the less experienced player a character one level higher and with all purple and we both know who will win.

One of the interesting things about EVE is how much it rewards high-level strategy and planning. For example, on a recent campaign, a dozen players in my alliance spent a week cataloging the enemy's infrastructure. This was before the campaign was even disclosed to the general membership. Even small-gang skirmishes usually involve several scouts poking around an hour beforehand.
posted by ryanrs at 3:25 AM on December 17, 2011


Yeah, I automatically except Eve from statements like that one. Even one on one, superior pilots often defeat inferior ones having superior equipment.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:42 AM on December 17, 2011


As evidence, I present the 80 billion ISK officer-fit ratting Titan that died to a hac gang. Thirteen officer mods!
posted by ryanrs at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2011


@ryanrs Yup, EVE has a much higher skill requirement. And you'll note that it currently has 360,000 subscribers vs the 10,000,000 for WoW.

There are people who like high skill games, and those games are profitable. But there's a lot more people who want to play the low skill games.

High skill games just have a naturally lower player base, which is why most of the MMO designers are shooting for the lower skill approach that is exemplified by WoW.
posted by sotonohito at 9:06 AM on December 19, 2011


Well... PvP, yes. Skill required. But there's no reason why Eve couldn't have a couple of million career care bears working the mining/processing/manufacturing grind, limited courier work and low-level ratting, where the principle trait required would be patience rather than skill, with no real consequences for suboptimal play. It would still be complex, of course. But you could do it with a poorly-fitted ship, no real understanding of equipment options and strategies, or market sense, or a sensible training queue.

I suppose the big difference (if the commentary on WoW is correct; I don't know, never having played) is that you can experience The Big Shiny on WoW without much in the way of skill, whereas TBS in Eve (PvP) requires skill, and you're more likely to encounter the high level drama/scandal the same way non-players do: by reading about it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2011


GRAR. Principal trait.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:30 PM on December 19, 2011


I definitely would rather see Bioware kick serious ass. I don't play MMO's, but they gave me Dragon Age, one of the most well-written RPG's I've played in a LOOONG time. I support any company that will give me well-written characters and a compelling storyline. As much as I am loving Skyrim, you can definitely see where Elder Scrolls has never been a series that's about great dialogue, compelling characters, or a riveting story. That's fine, since there's room enough in the world of games for Skyrim, but it's nice to have RPGs that emphasize a different aspect of gameplay.

Speaking of the two: Skyrim’s Success Hasn’t Changed Plans for the Next Dragon Age
posted by homunculus at 3:04 PM on December 20, 2011


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