The year 2011 has ended and we have started with 2012. The past year has been interesting in a few ways for me, but perhaps more in areas outside of MMO gaming. While I have been writing a couple of blog posts the past year (123 according to WordPress) I must say that I have felt less inspired when writing posts for large chunks of time.
I used to hop around quite a bit in different MMOs, but this year it has settled down a bit – the past few months I have been pretty much exclusively playing City of Heroes. The year started out with a few other titles though:
This game in theory had a lot of promise, or at least there was a picture painted that this could be an interesting and fun sandbox-style SciFi MMO. Closer to launch it showed many signs that this was a potential train wreck to be launched. I bought the game knowing that very well though, mainly because I wanted to support a non-mainstream developer, in case they had some good ideas.
The launch was indeed a train wreck and I was a bit disappointed looking more into detail of some actual gameplay elements – not as inspired as I had hoped it would be, not in areas I liked anyway. Even if the performance and bugs were sorted out I do not think I would have enjoyed the game anyway, so that was it for me.
The current state of the game seems to be that the game still has some quality issues and that they have started a transition to a “free-to-play” model – no new accounts can be created from December 1st and this will be in effect until the “F2P” revamp is completed some time in 2012.
Played this in the early parts of 2011. The open sandbox world was quite fascinating, but also consumed a lot of time. In the end I decided I did not have the desire to invest enough time in this game/world for it to feel worthwhile. Not sure if I will fo back to this particular game, but would definitely want to try something in the same sandbox spirit as Wurm.
Not a big fan of the Star Trek Universe, but I did enjoy creating my own races to play and making up some background and story for my characters. I played STO primarily a bit in the first couple of months of the year and also ended up playing on the Klingon side mainly – very much enjoyed playing my Klingon-sided engineer type (but my own race). I was very enthusiastic about creating missions with the Foundry also initially, but ended up now being anything completed. My inspiration for creating soemthign for the Star Trek universe ended up a bit lacking, although I did look into Klingon material (including the language) a bit as part of the research.
I will probably revisit the game when it changes its payment model.
Visited the geme a couple of times, mainly playing one character. I am a life-time subscriber, so the cryptic points keep piling up in the game. It has been ok to visit a few times, but for my spandex fix City of Heroes works so much better. At some point I should try out the content I have not treied out yet, but I have had difficulty building up enthusiasm to do so. Which is a shame perhaps.
A very hyped game in the early part of the year, which also is a well executed and polished game. I did avoid reading about the game consciously precisely because of all the hype and in late April/early May jumped in and tried the game. I liked many things with it, although I found the combat a bit annoying with the global cooldown timer and the skill trees which quickly cluttered up multiple hotbars. The soul system was nice, but I would have liked a different skill progression model within these souls.
Unfortunately for me, I signed up with a 6 month subscription. In June, after around 1 1/2 month of playing the game I quite quickly lost all interest in logging in and playing the game anymore. I had a brief attempt later in July to get back into the game, but could not muster up enough interest to keep playing. This was very similar to my play experience with LOTRO, which played out quite similar – although in that case I had pre-ordered and played in beta also. Lesson learned – do not sign up for a long payment period initially with a subscription-based fantasy game.
My only major visit into mobile MMO gaming and this on my Eee Pad – the screen is too small for my taste on a phone for these games. Was very fun to play for short periods of time, but after a while I lost interest. Still have the game installed, but rarely visit it any longer.
Bought this game for PS3 shortly after launch, primarily to see if there could finally be something MMOish to play on the household PS3 – which primarily is used to watch blu-ray movies. Dropped it quite quickly – not a DC fan and it felt like you had to be that to appreciate the content. The controls were really awkward to use also.
Reinstalled the game again on the PS3 after the “F2P” revamp and I thought the game was better now from a UI/control perspective – but could not find that much enthusiasm for the DC content. Maybe I will play it more – maybe.
My very first MMO. I jumped back into the game just prior to its 10th anniversary and I have had a pretty good time in the game, with some nice people. Still, the combat mechanics are quite different from what I appreciate nowadays, being too much auto-attack dependent. Funcom does not seem to spend much resources on the game currently, but have indicated that when the conversion to new engine for the game (same one that Age of Conan and The Secret World uses) is done _and_ they have done a profession revamp, they will do a relaunch effort for the game.
The graphics engine revamp is what mainly has been talked about, but I think the profession/combat revamp is just as important for the game, if they get it right. A new graphics engine can get people to come back or to try the game, but it is a profession gameplay revamp that may potentially keep them in the game. I have not played AO since I decided to focus on City of Heroes, but I hope to get back into the game at some point – hopefully Funcom gets to the point where the new engine and the revamp will be done during 2012.
A quite polished fantasy/steampunk title from big Chinese MMO maker Perfect World. Same as Rift, this game is very well executed – just not something I could muster up continued interest for.
A SciFi space shooter kind of MMO. The initial PvE storyline part of the game had me hooked and the space combat is very well executed and fun. But the story part ended abruptly and then it was mission grinding and/or PvP. While some mission were quite enjoyable it became a bit too repetitive for my taste, so lost some interest here. Should get back into the game again at some point – if they have more of the story-oriented content that the game started with I would love to play that.
Signed up for SWG again when I heard the announcement that they were going to shut down the game. Manged to play a bit in the game, primarily with some new characters I created. Really loved some parts which I remembered from the old days when i played the game, but also remembered why I ended up playing my particular combination of professions originally (ranger/creature handler) – that was one combination that did not feel grindy to me and which also supported scratching my exploration itch back then. It was not quite now.
I would have played the game longer, but a credit card related issue stopped my access to the game prematurely. I do not like the way SOE handled the shut down of my access; but at least my memory of the game is less coloured by what its current state was.
Bought this when it was on sale from Steam, after a brief visit in beta. Looking at what Heatwave had eleased before Gods & Heroes I am not quite sure why they decided to with a traditional MMO route, perhaps someone thought they might be able to make some easy money on a game that was in beta when the original game company went belly-up. This was another of those game where I really could not muster up enough interest to keep playing (and paying).
This is my main game and in the past few months my only game, pretty much. This part will be very brief here; most posts end up being about this game anyway. For good and bad, City of Heroes has evolved quite a bit over the years and at the same time been the same as well. The community aspect is important here, it is a game that feels like “home” to me more than any other MMO. It is the one game that I can be fairly sure to get a happy greeting from someone else when I log in and where most people I end up interacting with (friends or strangers) are for the most part friendly and nice to each other.
Other stuff, not gaming
A lot of other things has happened in this year, but not related to MMOs. In August I changed employer, after working for more than 12 years for an American software company. I really liked my actual job there and the collegues I worked with, but it was also a position that required a lot of travelling to other parts of Europe, and a few times to Middle East. During very long periods I only saw my home area/town/country on weekends and impacted how I my non-work life was handled.
With my new employer I can do a similar job to what did before and enjoyed, but also pretty much work so I can get home every day, instead of staying in a hotel room. It is a great company and a great group of new collegues.
My general fitness have had its ups and downs in recent years, but not stayed at a good level. In the past 11 months I have done a better job though with continued improvement and am in better shape now than a year ago, and also lost perhaps 17-18 kg. Still more to be done, but feels quite good.
I have not been playing Star Wars Galaxies for perhaps a month now, partly due to that the people I was going to play with were doing other things. But I decided to log in to the game tonight. However, I was met by the message that I could not update the game and login until I had activated/purchased a subscription – which is not possible anymore.
Logging in to the SOE account I cannot see any option to activate SWG – in fact there was no information at all that I had an SWG account even – except in the payment history.
Last transaction was slightly before the middle of August, which would be paying the subscription to just a few days before the subscription cutoff date of September 15th. The credit card that I used to pay the subscription with was cancelled about a month ago – I had forgotten that I had used that one for SWG. I can understand that SOE won’t extend the subscription if the transaction fails, no problem there.
But I would have expected them to send a notice or some indication that the transaction actually failed – I have not seen anything like that from them. At least then I could have fixed the problem and pay them for the 4-5 days that was remaining to September 15th. This is my guess what happened anyway, but since there is no information in the account pages that is only a guess.
An small patch was made to Star Wars Galaxies (barely noticed the update), but the impact is significant as the following post says:
- Everyone logged in will earn Double XP, Double GCW Points, Double Heroic Tokens, Double GCW Tokens from Battlefields and City Invasions, Double Pet XP and Loyalty, Double Duty Mission Tokens, Double Chronicles XP, Double Chronicles Silver Tokens, increased chance to earn Gold Chronicles Tokens, increased RLS chance, increased chance to catch real fish (instead of junk loot and collection fish) and bonus Restuss Commendations!
- NOTE: The RLS chance has been increased to 5 times the normal value.
Fan Faire 2011
- The Fan Faire 2011 items are now available to be claimed in-game.
I noticed this when I created a harvester deed and saw the significant chunk of XP that this provided, much more than it used to do. Not sure for how long this is in place, or if it is permanent until the shutdown. It will certainly make the game less grindy.
Last month when I saw Massively’s article about Star Wars Galaxies’ 8th anniversary it raised my curiosity what the status was for the game nowadays. I felt that maybe I should try it out again, since had been a few years since the last visit (and that was a brief one as well). Then came the news about SOE closing down the game in December, at which point I felt that now I must play the game again – there was no option really.
I am a pre-NGE player; I started playing Star Wars Galaxies shortly after release in summer 2003 and in my first round played actively until January 2004. For some months after that I played FFXI primarily until I went back to SWG during autumn and winter of 2004. After that I stopped playing for a while, due to EQ2 and WoW.
I did jump in back into the game briefly right after the NGE happened, to see what it was about. My main character back then (master ranger/master creature handler/pistoleer) was no more. Back then I was quite disappointed with SOE and did not touch the game for some time. A brief re-visit maybe 2-3 years later did not do much for me, because the client kept crashing on me.
With this I want to emphasize that I am not bitter with SOE or hold a grudge; the NGE was six years ago – many popular MMO titles today have not even existed for that long. There is no point in looking at what the state was at Publish 25, but rather see the game for what it is now – today.
As a lot of other bloggers have added their take on top 10 MMOGs inspired from the thread at F13.net, I decided I’d put in some comments in the same spirit here. I don’t read those forums normally, so I did not jump in and register. I found the different motivations people wrote more interesting than the actual order and who put in their votes – I am sure there are a couple of celebrities in the game world there judging by interest sparked for this particular list, but I did not notice.
The motivations are interesting since it shows in my opinion it is a bit difficult to get some coherent criteria that everyone would agree with, making such list pretty much useless (as it also says in the original post) for anyone outside to get a good view of what game is better than another.
Worth noting is that the only game in the top 10 that is actually reasonably new is Lord of the Ring Online and 7 of 10 are fantasy MMOGs.
My own top 10, which is pretty much all MMOGs I have played for at least 2 months:
- City of Villains/Heroes
This is the game I played played actively the longest (almost 19 months and counting), mostly on villain side. It is not the most feature rich game, but what has been implemented usually works well. Best character creator I have seen so far, separation of looks and character abilities, good variety in powerset selection, great mechanics to enable people to team with each other and good fun fast-paced combat in groups.
It gets a bit grindy at times (big hurdle around level 30) and there is a lot of similar content. Good content updates that comes at regular intervals without extra cost. I have loads of characters in this game and enjoy most of them. Played witha good group of people here which definitely contributed to the enjoyment of this game.
- World of Warcraft
Second longest game I have played, spent around 11 months, got 1 character to top level, which was 60 at the time and a bunch of alts in 30-50 range. Fun to explore, solid content. Main reason for staying that long was the guild I was in and when that fell apart my interest in the game pretty much vanished. Among the least amount of annoyment factors in a game that I have played, which is one reason it is high up in list. Decent mixture of skills in the different classes.
- Final Fantasy XI
Spent around 8 months in this game. Loved the concept of jobs and subjobs, did not like that some combinations there where pretty much forced in practice. Hated the camping. Loved the cutscenes, some of the story line and the general feeling of a dangerous world. Fighting my first dragon there was a rush like I barely had in any other game. I loved the beastmaster job. Did not really like the forced grouping in certain areas at certain levels, which which was abonus for the beastmaster – that did not really apply in that case. Had good fun with the BCNM fights (Burning Circle Notorious Monster) I was in. The linkshell I was in was good at the beginning, but after the general maturity and common ground with the other members faded, the interest in the game also faded.
- Everquest 2
Lots of features, some nice storylines and mixed graphics – some great some so-and-so. Loved Brigand and Coercer and had some decent fun with some other classes also, highest got to mid 40s (brigand). Have played the game in 4-5 periods, total time perhaps 8-9 months. Too much master spell farming and grouping for XP for my liking.
- Star Wars Galaxies
Mainly for the game as it was during the first 5-6 months, to a bit after player cities was introduced. This was a time where many higher level creatures could be considered dangerous. Loved the skill-based structure, hated the grinding necessary for some of these skill trees. Hated the one character per server restriction. Loved the versality in classes, crafting mechanics although did not like htat you pretty much had to be a master crafter to make any money on your work (and the grind to get there). Ended up as a ranger/creature handler eventually and I loved the pet handling, collecting pets and raising them and go hunting for material that I sold later. Player cities was an intersting concept, but I thought it actually destroyed a bit of the game and later changes destroyed it more. Never was interested in getting into Jedi.
- Anarchy Online
My first MMOG. Spent perhaps 10-11 months in total there over multiple periods. Have all the expansions, but has not really touched much beyond the original game content. Had plenty of alts, only a few got above level 50. Due to real life circumstances (i.e. work), my first 10 months in the game was mainly a couple of hours each weekend, the only time I was home in Sweden. Great mood setting in some areas and good fun back then. Cannot really back into the game nowadays though.
- Tabula Rasa
The game has not been out after release for 2 months yet, but I also played some in beta. Great combat and immersive environment, good storyline. Crafting is a bit crappy at the moment and some of the mission bugs gets annoying. Playing it with a good bunch of people, which adds to the fun. If I make this list again in a couple of months I suspect this game will be ranked higher. I just need to put some of the games I played for a longer time ahead of it, the postion is rather low due to the short time it has been around. A couple of months from now it may be in top 3.
- Earth & Beyond
My second MMOG and the first game in space, played for maybe 9-10 months. I loved the concept of a changing world and the grand story arc and the first 30-40 levels had some nice missions and story lines in addition to the story arc. Combat with space creatures was fun. Crafting was ok, trading part (a chat channel) was horrendous. A lot of the time towards level 150 was one of the worst grinds I have had in an MMOG, which lowers its position.
- EVE Online
Wanted to really like this game and have a complement to Earth&Beyond initially. Played in two periods, totalling maybe 2-3 months. Never got into a company I liked and after a while space felt a bit empty. I like a number of the game mechanics and it is a bit stimulating, but not so much fun after a while. Probably would have worked out better with a good company.
- Lord Of the Ring Online
Pretty game environment, some of the start quests and the main story arc was good. After a while it felt really uninspiring and grindy, quests, combat and pretty much everything except the environment itself. Highest character got to mid/high 20s, loremaster. left after about 2 months, even though I had bought a pre-order with 6 months subscription.
Some of the positions here is pretty much impossible for me even to agree with myself and if I am asked again in a short while some of the positions may change. And if I was asked about a list of games I would like to play now and order them, it would be a quite different list. It is a rather futile attempt at comparing my enjoyment and frustration at different periods in time when it comes to MMOGs.
Do you play one MMOG, or do you play multiple ones? If you play only one, is that due to lack of time for multiple games, lack of multiple good games to play or simply lack of funds to play multiple games?
MMOGs are becoming more “casual friendly”, which can mean many things. But one thing may be that you do not need to invest a huge amount of time to feel that you get something out of the game – no 4+ hour sessions required, but anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours could be perfectly ok. And also better opportunities to group with friends without necessarily keeping all characters in complete sync.
As this trend continues, which I think it will, the time factor could both introduce more people to MMOGs who previously did not have enough time for them and also provide more options to play multipleMMOGs for those that want that.
There are more and more MMOGs coming out in the market. Some may be crap, but overall the choices for MM playtime are increasing.
Costs may potentially be a bit prohibive with the subscription model that is quite common, but is still not that high compared to other forms of entertainment. Still, lots of free-to-play type games are also introduced, which at least also gives a lower cost of entry, even though the total cost in the end might not be lower.
With all of these trends it would seem quite natural that there will be more people playing more MMOGs and perhaps with less overlap. Many MMOG players would agree that the “people factor” and the socializing in game is an important factor for the staying power of a game.
So why are there then a distinct lack of community tools cross game servers of even cross games? In some MMOGs I cannot even chat with someone unless they play on the same server and even in the same faction on that server. Any interaction has to be through outside means, be it web site forums, voice chat tools and other means.
There are some games that provide a bit better facilities in this regard, for example the SOE games (EQ, EQ2 and SWG at least) allows chat and friend lists to work cross server and cross game. Same goes for City of Heroes/Villains. It is a good start, but is far from what could be done.
A problem here is of course that there are no standards in use here on how to implement and integrate community tools in the MMOG space, at least none that I have seen. And companies may be a bit cautious about letting in the competition or open potential malicious entry points into their environment.
If you use Microsoft Office at work, chances are that you use Outlook and that you have a contact list in there with work related contact at the very least. You may use facilities to synchronize this witha PDA or mobile phone so you always have that info available to you.
So what if you could have friend lists in the MMOGs you play that not only covers specific characters that some persions play on a specific server in a specific game, but all MMOG you play and have played and which could be accessible from any of the games you play? Or from your guilds or your own web site perhaps? Same goes for chat functions of various kinds, info about characters etc.
This is not really something new – in other areas different community tools are available. In the online gaming space there a companies like NCsoft, who are building an online gaming platform, according to their investor reports. This seems to include a couple of different community tools which are already there in the platform and then games can be developed to take advantage of that platform. This is mainly aimed at more casual and less massively multiplayer online games than the MMOGs, but is still a noticeable effort.
Community sites like Guild Café and Curse also try to provide some soem cross game facilities and there are tools like XFire to provide some help to keep track of friends cross games. But this is still many separate efforts and not much around to bind them together or to move information between all these efforts in a seamless or close to seamless way.
My guess is that Raph Koster’s Areae is working on something along those lines, with the talk of combining the worlds of MMOGs with “web 2.0”. They have not provided extensive information yet on what they are up to, but I definitely suspect it is about supporting community building efforts blended in with the game environments.
Personally I am glad that while there is still room for lots of improvements in this area for games to work on, the various online communities that already exist do a significant part to facilitate the socializing parts. One that I am a member of, The Older Gamers, have been a great place to keep in touch and meet (virtually mostly) new people.
Is taking the lore and story lines from other media and adapting it to the MMOG sphere a successful approach?
There has been a few attempts so far – Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Lord of the Ring Online comes to mind. The two former mainly coming from the movie business and the latter from fantasy litterature.
The Star Wars and Matrix efforts have probably less than the expected playerbase today. Lord of the Ring Online seem to be do fairly good at least, but I think it is still to early to judge.
There are some more coming up, like Marvel Universe Online, Star Trek Online and Stargate Worlds and probably a few more which I do not know about of have forgotten. Then we have some that might fall somewhere in between, like God & Heroes which is based on perhaps primarilyRoman mythology but likely have used some creative freedom in adjusting the stories to adapt to the gameplay.
Where am I going with this? I must say that I am a bit sceptic when it comes to media cross-overs like this, in particular when there is a strong control factor in favour of the non-MMOG medias. I think this has been the case with Star Wars Galaxies and is a situation that Turbine faces with Lord of the Ring Online as well.
Just as most movie adaptations of books often tend to be a bit of a disappointment for readers, this can probably happen when moving to MMOG space from other media as well. A key here I think is when moving story lines and lore to MMOG space is to continue to develop the lore in that space, together with the previous media. The MMOGs cannot just adapt to fit within the frames of the existing lore from the other media, it must be developed further in MMOG space.
Lucas have a quite strong control element in what happens with the Star Wars brand and I am not quite sure they have been that interested in moving the lore and developing it in the MMOG space. This is by far not the only problem SWG have had, but I think this has been a contributing factor to the troubles the game have had.
For Matrix Online I think there was an effort to develop the lore within the MMOG space as well and that game has still not been doing well. But the lore cross-over factor is just one factor.
I think the longevity of LotrO might potentially be a problem as well. JRR is not around to help develop the story line and while there is much material to work from, Turbine is still restricted in fitting it in the existing litterature. It may last for a while, but I think it may have trouble sticking around for as long as other games with original lore. Ultima Online has been around for 10 years, Anarchy Online for 6 years and Everquest falls in between. All of these games will likely be around for a couple years more. If they are shut down it is not because of the lore, but for other reasons (outdated graphics and game mechanics comes to mind).
Of the later coming games it seems that at least Stargate Worlds and Marvel Universe Online are going in the direction of developing the lore within the MMOG space, which I think is a good thing and that these games may end up successful also in the long run.
Will this be different for different markets also? In the Western hemisphere PvE and lore focused gameplay have had more success, while it is more PvP oriented in the East and possibly also less focus on the lore. Going for existing players/customers, the cross-ver development is probably being more important in the West. But will it be for future potential players/customers as well?
What do you think?