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Role Playing (Games)

World War II Online Reloaded - Can MMOs Be Rehabilitated? 32

Posted by simoniker
from the back-from-the-dead dept.
Thanks to FiringSquad for its article revisiting the state of PC MMO World War II Online, as the writer asks: "Three years ago I uninstalled World War II Online and lamented a good idea gone bad. Now I can barely force myself to write this article for fear of losing Maastricht to a British counter-offensive." With FiringSquad's original review stating "the vast majority of you will simply feel cheated", things seem to have changed, from the same reviewer's perspective: "Somewhere along the way, World War II Online got good. The game isn't so much better than it used to be because the graphics got some sprucing up or because of new weapons. It happened in the community." Can a keen, well-organized community and post-launch patching rehabilitate an MMO, or will a sub-optimal launch doom it?
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World War II Online Reloaded - Can MMOs Be Rehabilitated?

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  • by Donjo (797935) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:41AM (#9728947) Homepage Journal
    I play SWG right now and I can barely stand to play on the live servers because of the constant whining and bickering. The forums are un-bearable. I play test center now and it is like playing a whole new game, people help each other out and it is like the game used to be on live servers back at launch.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:46AM (#9728977) Journal
    I like it when the lame people disappear so only the serious are playing the games. Of course, it costing money helps, because chances are only the serious fans are going to pay to continue playing, and since they are paying, they are going to go the little extra to keep it going. hopefully.

  • Both Ways?. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DruidBob (711965) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:56AM (#9729022)
    I've played a few; Asheron's Call(AC), which I still log into now and again. AC 2, which I don't touch for fear of plague DAoC, didn't get into it much. Star Wars Galaxys, which I played for a while then stoped. Yo-ho-ho Puzzle Pirates, play and love. Now the last three I have all stoped. I didn't like the people in AC 2, and frankly they had it right with the orginal. DAoC had problems with my computer at the time (or vise versa) so with a frame rate of about 4/min. I tossed it into my bottom desk drawer never to be seen again. SWG was fun, but people were spread out, I didn't get to know many and without a comunity hold I ended up quitting. Now AC 1 has some great people, I probably added about 30 people to my messenger lists because of that game. Many times I'd find myself logging in just to talk to people. now YPP (Puzzle Pirates) is a game all about community. Unlike the previous 4 games; had less fan-fare, started small, wasn't in a retail box, and started with many problems. Because of the communities in AC and YPP I stuck with those games, the lack for me in the others killed the fun of them. Really, would you play a solo game for over 80 hours total (a long rpg game length)? So the community does matter, it is the lifeblood of MMO games. And like YPP a game can have a small release, but can build a comunity later.
  • by mikew03 (186778)
    Can someone please tell me which MMORPG did NOT have a sub-optimal launch?
    • by Qetu (732155) <adolfo.nieto@gmail.com> on Sunday July 18, 2004 @05:59AM (#9729928)
      City of Heroes? [cityofheroes.com]

      I have only read and heared good things about that game. If i had a job i'd probably play it. :P

      IMHO, in a MMO, the community is what makes it or breaks it. After all, it's the interaction what you pay for.
    • Thats something alot of people forget when they blast every single new MMORPG. Ultima Online took a long time for all the bugs to get fixed. I first played UO years after its launch. I participated in the Neocron beta test after getting free CDs for it at GenCon. For a beta, I didn't think Neocron had a whole lot of problems. (By the way, Neocron was the cyberpunk MMORPG with naked strippers.)

      I'm really looking forward to World of Warcraft. I haven't heard too many bad things about WoW beta so I'm crossin
    • by Liquidrage (640463) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @02:14PM (#9731970)
      COH had a very good release. Server's were very good, login and regestration were no problem.

      DAoC had a very good release. I experienced no hiccups but some did. Overall it was more like an A- release.

      EQ's release wasn't that bad really. People make it out to be worse then it was. The 1st 3 days of release had as much downtime then uptime due mostly to the login servers. Overall though, it didn't go that bad.

      Horizon's launch went smoothly. Mostly because no one was playing it.

      I would say all of those at the least had acceptable launches. With CoH being nearly flawless (even though I don't care much for the game itself) and DAoC being good enough to be what I would call optimal.

      SWG, AO, WWIIO, all had horrible launches with more problems then should be acceptable.

      What sets the top from the bottom apart the most was that the client and server source code was stable in the top list of games. Where DAoC and EQ had problems were in there login servers being overloaded. DAoC was able to handle it a little better (but of course it was two years later).
      Where as that bottom group all had bugs that crashed the client or the server with regularity. That to me is not acceptable in a commercial game. I can understand being a victim of popularity, and thankfully it seems like that side of things have been addressed for the most part. I cannot understand releasing a non-stable codebase in a commerical product.
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RogueyWon (735973) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @03:24AM (#9729582) Journal
    This is a tough one. On the one hand, I can understand the phenomenon the article talks about. I've never played WW2 Online, but I remember the publicity when it launched; easily horrible enough that I never felt any inclination to try it. I'm sure this dissuaded a lot of other potential customers from ever picking up the game. I'm also sure that a lot of those who did pick it up dropped it again after a month (obviously, I don't know for sure, but I'd guess it gave you the first month's subscription free when you bought the game, as most MMORPGs seem to).

    However, those that were left after the initial exodus were probably those whose interest in the game was deep and genuine enough that they were prepared to stick with it through the initial difficulties. Once the problems start getting patched out, it's easy to see these players forming a pretty deep bond with the game. However, what I'm less sure about is whether a MMORPG which suffers a terrible launch can then draw in new players at a later date. Obviously, there's going to be a certain word-of-mouth effect surrounding the people who still play the game; many of them will try to sign up friends. However, this alone won't be enough to have a huge effect on the player-base.

    The other approach to drawing in new players after a horrific launch is to release a massively hyped expansion. Witness SW Galaxies and the forthcoming space expansion. With Galaxies, they may well have some success, because the pre-release interest in Galaxies was like nothing I've seen before for a MMORPG and I know the number of players who lost interest when it was announced there would be no space combat at release was pretty large. Whether this will actually work in practice and whether the technique can be adapted by other games without the huge license to support them remains to be seen.

    Developing a MMORPG is a huge risk for a developer, as demonstrated by the number we've seen cancelled before release lately. It's a difficult market to break into, not least because of the relatively high initial costs for players when the game is released. (On a side note, I have NO sympathy for those who claim a MMORPG shouldn't charge both a purchase charge and a monthly fee. Developers need to do this, it's simple economics. After the years spent developing the game, the developers will almost certainly need some hefty cash-flow straight after release just to stay afloat, hence the box-costs. The monthly fees then pay for continuing support). With some recent MMORPGs such as FFXI proving that you CAN do a good roll-out, patience for sloppy MMORPG releases is at an all-time low. Sure, it's possible you can recover if things go pear-shaped, but why take the risk?
  • Size matters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MMaestro (585010) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @04:10AM (#9729697)
    To an extent, yes a well developed and very active (not to mention LISTENED to) community can seriously help a development of ANY game not just MMOGs. Its like all utopian experiments. Sure when you did it with 20 or 30 of your most hardcore believers its gonna work at least for a period of time. But as you add more and more people the chances of someone breaking down eventually gets to the point where someone will ALWAYS be a jerk/waste water/hit another person/etc.

    The same thing with gaming. Everyone talks about how Counter-Strike can be a really awesome and strategic game 'when you play on a well moderated, private server'. Thats like saying 'Iraq is a really safe place if you stay inside a military bunker in the Green Zone.' You may think 'oh well thats just one or two bad cases' but there are roughly 50,000 players playing the game at any given time, do you REALLY think that my bad experiences won't be replicated by other people?

  • my 2 cents (Score:4, Informative)

    by dd3123 (797979) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @06:38AM (#9730021)
    I've played a lot of MMOGs and I can honestly say, none of them held my interest for long. Perhaps its because I've been spoiled on WWIIOL and nothing comes even close to what it does. Did WWIIOL have a really bad launch? Yep. No one disputes that at all. But CRS (the developers) have quite literally taken on the likes of a pheonix, rising from the ashes of destruction to produce IMHO a brilliant game. Despite claims by other companies, WWIIOL *IS* the largest battlefield. No zones. No loading. Once you are in, you can fly, walk, swim, drive across all of europe. Hop in a HE-111 bomber deep within Germany, fly to England and bomb some factories in a raid, and pray you don't get shot down by scrambling fighters. Anyways, I wont bore you guys with another review, as most of the community feel that the firingsquad review was quite fair. There is a free trial at filefront (14 days) and obviously I highly suggest you join the war and see why this game has survived, and grown for 3 years despite the disaster launch: http://files.filefront.com/3406002;/pub2/World%20W ar%20II%20Online/Official%20Demos// [filefront.com]
    • Re:my 2 cents (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I was one of the many that bought WWIionline when it first came out, needless to say i was dissappointed. but after casually following the game for about a year afterwards, my interest peaked yet again and i played on one of them 14-day trial thingys, needless to say, i was hooked thereafter.

      the interation between the Devs (CRS) and the community is one that other MMO companies should establish. the devs very regularly post and interact with the players in the game, and on the forums, thats almost unheard
    • > Hop in a HE-111 bomber deep within Germany...

      Are you now able to enter/exit vehicles, or are you still stuck as whatever you spawn? And have medics been added yet? One of my biggest problems was bleeding to death regardless of the seriousness of an injury, and being unable to ditch a badly damaged plane.

      This is one of the reasons why I love BF1942, though it's quite a bit more of an action game than WWIIO's attempted sim.

      -lw
      • Re:my 2 cents (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        We looked long and hard at medics and ultimately wnt to add them, but for gameplay in a realistic sim, you have to realize that by the time you need a medic, you're not firing your rifle much more. It does make for a brutal but hinest game. We leave the power ups to the arcade shooters.

        Gophur
        Producer
        WWIIOL
  • Anarchy Online... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    had a horrible launch, but through patching it became better, and more popular game.
  • by fallingdown (709840) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @08:30AM (#9730256)
    I think that games like Eve Online, Meridian 59 and the other smaller MMORPGs have all proven that attentive developers and a dedicated community can keep any game alive. That's the benefit of the monthly subscription model. Even games like Anarchy Online - the game that everyone cites when they talk about bad launches - can not only survive but thrive if the developers make an effort to build community.

    Games are complicated to make and MMORPGs are even harder because of the added technical, socialogical and (in-game and out) economic hurdles. Since gamers have proven that they are willing to wait around for the developers to work the bugs out, the practice of releasing an MMORPG at the point of minimal stability has become an industry standard.

    It's also the reason that these games will never reach main-stream acceptance. Only a bunch of geeks would be willing to put up with this sort of behaviour.

    I've played quite a bit of City of Heroes lately and what really makes it brilliant is not so much the game play (which is good) but rather the way the game is being managed. First - and this is the key to their success - they avoided "feature creep." City of Heroes does one thing - combat - and does it very well. It's tight, fast and resonably balanced but that's it - that's the entire game. No crafting, no economy, no loot, No PvP. THey've avoided 90% of the trouble most other MMORPGs get into by making the choice to put it in at a later date. I'm sure that each of these areas will be added eventually, but in the form of expansion packs and additional revenue.

    Next, they planned a staggered release. Rather than delivering boxes to all the stores at once and throwing open the servers, they let the pre-order customers ( read "the hardcore") start three days before the official launch. THen they staggered the delivery of the boxes to retails over the period of about a week. SO there was no real launch day rather they planned and executed "launch week."

    Cryptic Studios ( the developers) also did a very bright thing by lopping off a good bit of the game (levels 41-50) and patching it in to the game about 6 weeks after launch as it's first official content patch. Most of the player population couldn't get near level 40 in that time period so patching this bit in later gave Cryptic a chance to focus on the the newbie experience for launch and polish the high end game for later. It also made them look good by adding a good chunk of content just a few weeks after launch.

    I could cite a few more examples suffice to say that I consider City of Heroes the first true "second generation" MMORPG not because of any game play or technological innovation but because they're the first MMORPG to look at the predecessors and impliment the lessons learned.

    If WWIIOL and the other troubled MMORPGs had been managed so well, I'm sure they would have no trouble surviving.

    • by Psychochild (64124) <psychochild&gmail,com> on Sunday July 18, 2004 @09:25PM (#9734608) Homepage
      I think that games like Eve Online, Meridian 59 and the other smaller MMORPGs have all proven that attentive developers and a dedicated community can keep any game alive.

      Thanks for the compliment. I think. ;) (I'm one of the devs on Meridian 59 [meridian59.com].)

      It's suprising how often people forget that online RPGs change, especially since that's supposed to be one of the bigger selling points. Many online games change radically as the game gets older and more content is added. The Meridian 59 you can play today is rather different than the game you could have played back in 1996 thanks to 7 updates to the game. Especially after we finish the new client upgrade [meridian59.com], the game will be more modern.

      The biggest problem is that most game reviewers don't really pay much attention to a game past launch. Most of them are stuck in the mindset of single-player games, where you want to review the game as soon as possible after launch, then you ignore it. It makes some sense; who wants to read a review of Warcraft 2 these days? Yet, a review of Meridian 59 might still be of interest to some people, since the game has changed. The same reviewers that eagerly want to review the newest sequel won't even pay attention to the latest expansion to an online game. (It's even worse for those of us that don't put boxes in stores, since it's often not seen as a "real" expansion [or even a "real" game!] without the box. Yet another reason why you have to pay $40 in the store in addition to a monthly fee for the majority of games.)

      I've been marginally involved with an upcoming site that is looking to change how games are reviewed. A new perspective on how to review online RPGs should help solve some of these problems.

      As for City of Heroes, it is a good game. I'll counter your assertion that focusing on one aspect is a good thing, however. While the combat is fun, it ultimately comes off as very shallow. Many games have had to endure complaints that there's a "lack of content" when they've trimmed back the game to plan for a more stable launch. The novelty of the superhero genre and CoH's highly customizable character costume creation system gave the game a bit extra time, in my opinion. Initial success is one thing, but retaining customers is very, very important to the long-term health of the game.

      It's also interesting to note that the publisher of CoH, NCSoft, is a very experienced online game publisher. NCSoft has plenty of experience to share, and they've hired on some of the more experienced US online game developers.

      Some more information for those interested.

      Have fun,
      • I'll counter your assertion that focusing on one aspect is a good thing

        I agree that CoH is shallow. I played up until level 24 and stopped because the level 24 game is the same as the level 1 game.

        That being said, I still maintain that what makes CoH brilliant is not the game itself but rather the execution. Cryptic/NCSoft has taken the opposite tact from every other game out there. Rather than release a feature rich, buggy game with the promise of fixes down the line, they've instead released a tig

  • WWII Online (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moose4 (182029) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @07:37PM (#9734122)
    As somebody who just left WWIIOL last month because I got a bit burned out, I'll back up everything the reviewer said in his article. WWIIOL is dated in a lot of areas, but the days of the botched release are long, long behind it. CRS has a pretty good relationship with most of the playerbase, as well.

    The interesting thing he barely touched on is that the warring armies--British and French on one side, German on the other--have command structures completely staffed by players. For example, I played in a squad called 3CD (Third Canadian Division). 3CD and its internal subunits were part of the Corps de Cavalrie, 1re Armee, Armee Francais. At each intermediate level, there were player COs, XOs, and subordinate officers, all the way up to a Supreme Commander for each side, Allied and Axis.

    CRS codes the org charts for each side into the game, to a point. But the leadership positions are staffed by players who volunteer to take the time and do it. And it's on those players' shoulders that much of the success or failure of an entire "army" rests. Army CinCs probably spend more time out of the game working on "administrative" things than they do actually playing...it's practically a second job.
    • The WWIIOL Phoenix (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mittermeyer (195358)
      WWIIOL is a unique situation in that you have a developer-run outfit that deeply believes in it's vision and runs a tight enough ship to keep it afloat through the tough times.

      Moose4 has it right, the players create content by running the virtual army organizations and attacking each other with different tactics and combinations of equipment. Since the terrain is immense and varied every attack is different even using the same tactics because the ground changes and situations change. And if you get bored

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