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Role Playing (Games)

Beating WoW At Its Own Game 383

Posted by Zonk
from the shadow-of-the-collossus dept.
The BBC has up a short piece on the hopes of game developers and investors to 'beat World of Warcraft'. Representatives for the upcoming Age of Conan, recently-released Lord of the Rings Online, and Star Wars Galaxies all discuss what it's like competing in a post-WoW world. Funcom game director Gaute Godoger has a point when he says, "The industry so needs competition to World of Warcraft ... We need other strong games that can make people understand that there's more to it than WoW." The article discusses some of the features each of these games offer that differ from WoW, and theorizes a bit on where the MMOG genre will go next.
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Beating WoW At Its Own Game

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  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday May 07, 2007 @10:58AM (#19020891) Journal
    Due to everyone playing WoW, there will be no first post for this article.
    • Re:No first post (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thc69 (98798) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:12AM (#19021127) Homepage Journal
      Fuck no! We do NOT need games more addicting than Warcrack.

      Links about WoW addiction:
      http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/WOW_widow [yahoo.com]
      http://soulkerfuffle.blogspot.com/2006/10/view-fro m-top.html [blogspot.com]
      http://wowdetox.com/ [wowdetox.com]
      http://wowrecovery.com/ [wowrecovery.com]
      http://deletewow.com/ [deletewow.com]
      One out of many particularly sad stories: http://www.wowdetox.com/view.php?number=13640 [wowdetox.com]
      • Re:No first post (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Knara (9377) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:39PM (#19022653)

        Perhaps the real point here is, "people who have problems with addiction shouldn't engage in behaviors that can, *for some people*, be addicting"?

        I mean, comeon, I like a self-reinforcing, carrot-stick game well enough, but lately I can't get around to playing it. The game (or any game) on its own isn't nefarious. But, I suppose we have to villianize it *somehow*, right?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          and this probably isn't a good idea for those 'addictive' personalities right?

          WOW Credit Card [worldofwarcraft.com]

          too damned funny. But it really cements the notion that WOW is in it's own league among other games, no?


          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by C0rinthian (770164)
            Your spending will earn you gametime. It's brilliantly evil, and is actually a Credit Card 'Reward' that I can honestly say I'd use. (Unfortunately)

            But I could never, never take that thing out of my wallet with a straight face.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        The game is not the addiction. The escape is the addiction. I've seen a woman's three kids wind up fucked up because she was J.Random IRC slut who would blow off taking care of her kids to drive eight miles to get laid because she had no self esteem. This is likely the result of some childhood abuse; a truly disturbing percentage of children are abused... And of course, whether she abused her children physically or not (I rate it unlikely, but what do I know? She was more the cut-herself-in-the-bathroom typ
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ryan Amos (16972)
        WoW seems to have managed to take care of that itself with the new expansion. It drove enough players to realize "this game is stupid and takes too much time" that people are quitting in droves.
  • Do some research (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danbert8 (1024253) on Monday May 07, 2007 @10:59AM (#19020903)
    The article refers to the Star Wars Galaxies updates as minor fixes and modifications that made players happier and expanded the player base. A simple check would have shown that after every major overhaul, experienced players left in droves and were replaced by noobs. Then to top it off it touts adding creature handling as a new feature (neglecting to add that it had existed long before, but they removed it). Surprising that SOE finally admitted maybe people liked raising animals, and put a feature people wanted in a game.
     
    Yes, I rant, but being an avid fan of SWG before the Combat Upgrade, I can tell you that SWG is no longer the game it was. And then it was beaten while it was down with the New Game Experience which turned it into an action game instead of an RPG. Poor SOE, if you want to release a new RPG, do it. Don't replace what people were playing with something else, ESPECIALLY if they are paying a subscription.
  • I love how the Star Wars Galaxies guy tries to excuse their massive screwups by saying SWG was one of the first MMOs and that "their wasn't a manual then for how to do them"

    Hmmm... didn't SW:G come out after Dark Age of Camelot which was a nice MMO that was based around the concept of "Do Everquest but make it fun"?

    Maybe the SW:G team could have spent some time with the Everquest team to help them avoid making the exact same missteps?
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      SWG's excuse is bullshit; if they claim they had little material to base upon, you'd expect them to be atleast as playable as those "few" MMO's that were there. They didn't even succeed at that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Remus Shepherd (32833)
      SWG was in the third generation of MMOGs. Everquest and 10six were the first generation of 3D MMOs. (There were dozens of 2D and text games that qualified as massively multiplayer before them, Ultima Online being the most well-known. Call them the zeroth generation.) The second wave included DAoC, AC, and AO. None of them hit it big, and some were laughingstocks like WWIIOnline. The third generation is when MMOGs really got rolling, with CoH, SWG, and Lineage. WoW is in the fourth generation, and has
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Remus Shepherd (32833)
        Gah, I keep forgetting Meridian 59, which was 3D and predated Everquest by a few years. It was one of the few early MMOs I never played.

        Anyway, Wikipedia has a good history of MMORPGs, [wikipedia.org] although they only define three distinct generations. I think the popularity of games like Lineage and the visibility of games like SWG caused the WoW phenomenon, and should be seen as the fathers of the current generation of games.
      • by Avatar8 (748465)
        I agree with Hubbell. Your facts are off. If I were to speculate, I'd guess you just started playing MMO's a few years back.

        Here's some reading to catch you up.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_MMORPGs [wikipedia.org]

        Everything I see it mention of which I have any knowledge is correct to my recollection. I heard about Meridian 59, but I didn't enter the MMO world until UO when I started in October 97 I beat tested AC, DAoC, AO, SWG, Guildwars, Lineage, Shadowbane, D&DO and a few others. UO, WoW and LotRO are

        • I wrote about MMORPGs for a gaming site in 2000/2001, and played almost all of those early games, so I have a little experience to base all that on. I also posted the same link you did about eight minutes ahead of you.

          But yes, my initial post (somebody mod it down, please) was based on memory, and my memory was faulty. AC was released almost simultaneously with Everquest. Lineage actually predated Everquest in Asia, although it didn't reach America for a few years. Everything else I wrote (especially th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd (701)
        In my opinion, DAoC did pretty well, and continued to do so until some dumbass decided to replace the grandparent's "do Everquest, but make it fun", with just "do Everquest" when they added EQ-style "rare mob" camping in the Trials of Atlantis expansion. Things went downhill from there, almost immediately players started looking for somewhere else to go, but until WoW, didn't find anywhere else. Mythic didn't realize how angry their playerbase was with them until WoW was released and their subscriber base
    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      Yes, saying SWG was one of the first and they had nothing on which to base it is utter crap.

      I cannot remember what year SWG came out (2000? 01?), but what I do distinctly remember is that Raph Koster was in charge of development and production overall AFTER he left the Ultima Online development team where he'd been for about two years after retail release (release September 1997).

      If Raph's experience in developing and launching UO (by all means one of THE first MMO games) wasn't good enough, then what be

    • by ubrgeek (679399)
      I'm confused: Why wouldn't MUDs be considered the first MMOs?
  • Some suggestions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:03AM (#19020965) Homepage Journal
    In case any MMORPG developers are reading this, some suggestions:

    1. Either make me pay a monthly fee, or make me pay for the client, not both. Charging for both makes it seem like you're not convinced I'll want to keep playing. By all means have a CD distributed in stores at a price that covers costs; it's just the phenomenon of paying $50 for the chance to pay another $10 that doesn't make sense.

    2. If you can't make the client free, make it transferable, so I can sell it if I decide I don't want to keep playing. There's no way I'm going to spend $50 on a game I may not even like, if I can't resell it to get back some of the cash.

    3. Include Mac and Linux. I don't run Windows and won't run Windows. There are millions of us, and we have very few MMORPG choices right now, so it's an easier niche for you to get into than the more saturated Windows market.

    4. Make it possible to play the entire game in cooperative mode. I have zero interest in deathmatches.

    5. I prefer SF to fantasy, yet most RPGs are fantasy. I guess it's easier to artificially limit the players and work around plot issues when you have magic around and a lack of fast long distance transport and communication technologies.

    6. Don't riddle the game with spyware and have an abusive EULA. Yeah, WoW got away with it, but that's no excuse.

    7. Don't require bleeding-edge hardware. My next machine is probably going to be a laptop with Intel graphics.

    Generally, the idea I'm presenting is to try and go for the potential players who are not being served at all by the current online gaming market, rather than to compete to steal customers who already have a choice of a half dozen games they could be playing. You know, try to be the Wii rather than the PS3.
    • by idesofmarch (730937) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#19021165)
      Sounds to me like you are suggesting they cater to the market of one - you. Maybe you did not mean it that way, but have you read what you wrote? It is all "me me me."
      • Sounds to me like you are suggesting they cater to the market of one - you. Maybe you did not mean it that way, but have you read what you wrote? It is all "me me me."
        I think his suggestions are very good. I'm a Mac user and don't have a bleeding edge computer, and I'd prefer to not have to pay for the client if I'm paying a monthly fee. I'm sure there are many others in the same boat as GP, even if you are not.
      • by metamatic (202216)
        Well, I haven't done any extensive market research, so I can't talk with any credibility about why other people aren't playing MMORPGs. I just know that I have broadband, I have all my computers and consoles connected to it, I play video games several times a week, yet I haven't played any online games except Animal Crossing and Clubhouse Games on the DS. I figure there must be other people kept away from MMORPGs for similar reasons to me.

        Oh, and I forgot one:

        8. Make it so you can play for a couple of hours
        • by toleraen (831634)
          8 - WoW is one of the most "Casual friendly" MMOs out there. You can just log in, solo for 20 minutes, and log off. With the "rested" xp bonuses, it makes leveling up as a casual player very easy. I haven't played in over a year, so it might have changed...but that's how I remember it. I had no trouble reaching ~level 50 with minimal time invested. If you want to raid for epic loot, then you're looking at a significant increase in required time to play.

          Dig around, there are MMOs that meet all 8 of your c
    • 7. Don't require bleeding-edge hardware. My next machine is probably going to be a laptop with Intel graphics

      WOW will run on less than cutting edge hardware. A friend of mine is a WOW player, and while I'm not sure what what the exact spec of his machine is, I do know that it has onboard intel graphics and that he bought it second hand for sixty pounds when another friends workpalce sold them off.

      On a slight tangent, I've been saying for a while now that one of the things that could help invigorate t
    • Ditto. My roommate and I are both long-time Eve players. Recently he's been getting into Vanguard and wants me to try it. It looks great, but...oops...it requires vertex / pixel shader 2.0. From my perspective of having a pretty nice video card that handles all my other games (including Oblivion and F.E.A.R.) on high settings without issue, that's a load of crap. And it's $50, even if you buy it online and download it, no physical media involved . So essentially, this is a $200+ game just to try, plu
      • by tibike77 (611880)
        I'm a long-standing EVE player myself (including several RL friends in the same corp).
        All I can say is that what the grandparent post wants, he gets it almost 100% in EVE.
        Point-by-point, here is it.

        1, 2 and 3.
        Client is freely downloadable. LIMITLESS number of 14-day trials available (upgradeable at any time to full accounts), characters NEVER get deleted (theoretically, they should be eligible for deletion after 6 months of inactivity, but no purge was ever made and it's not planned to ever happend).
        You onl
    • Re:Some suggestions (Score:5, Informative)

      by toleraen (831634) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:59AM (#19021905)
      1 & 2 - Several MMOs have trials that you can play. Just off the top of my head I know that EQ1 and WoW have free trials, I'm sure there are others. I think I played EVE for some period for free as well.

      3 - If there actually were millions of Linux using MMOGers out there, they'd make a client. But there aren't (not trying to troll, just being realistic). Cedega/Wine has several MMOs running as a secondary option.

      4 - I don't remember ever playing any form of deathmatch(pvp?) in any MMOG. PvE is the focus of most MMOGs. PvP is usually a side game you can participate in if you choose.

      5 - Are you saying that warp drives and ansibles are somehow more realistic than a teleportation spell? There are plenty of Sci-Fi based MMOGs...SWG, AO, EVE, TMO, etc.

      6 - I think WoW is the only one to ever actually do it. Are there MMOs with tons of spyware all over?

      7 - I've played several MMOs on my crappy laptop with Intel Graphics, including WoW and EQ, among others.
      • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:38PM (#19023797) Homepage Journal

        If there actually were millions of Linux using MMOGers out there, they'd make a client. But there aren't (not trying to troll, just being realistic). Cedega/Wine has several MMOs running as a secondary option.

        I won't lie, the Linux and Mac gaming market just isn't there in force yet. However, I don't look at this as a hindrance to entering the market; I look at it as an opportunity.

        Linux and MacOS is growing. Especially with Microsoft's feeble latest attempt at an operating system, I think that more and more people will be looking at it as a viable home computing platform. Those people are going to want games. There just aren't that many available yet, especially in the MMORPG market.

        If I were an MMORPG developer, I'd be jumping on this chance. I'd use as many cross-platform libraries as I could, and that would be one of my major selling points: Whether you're using Windows, MacOS, or Linux, you can play our game. You might make a mediocre dent in the Windows market, probably trailing behind the 800 pound gorilla of WoW. But you would virtually own the MacOS and Linux market for these types of games.

        As those markets continue to grow, so does your game, and the market for Windows-only games shrinks. Even Windows users may start preferring it because they can play with their friends who are using Macs and Linux boxes, not just the ones who are beholden to Uncle Bill. Also, as a development company, you gain experience at developing cross-platform games, so the games you come out with in the future will likely be better than other's who are playing catch-up to the new world of multiple OS's out there.

        Personally, I think developing games only for Windows is a really bad business gamble. You're basically betting your financial future on Macs and Linux not gaining any market share in the future. I think that's extremely short-sighted.

        Oh, and just as an added note, don't forget that in the case of an MMORPG, we're not talking about developing the whole game for multiple platforms, only the client. The primary function of these clients is simply to display graphical representations of network data efficiently and prettily to the user. A very powerful and popular cross-platform graphics library already exists (OpenGL) that will handle the lion's share of this work. In my opinion, if you're a graphics application developer and you're not using it, you're being pretty stupid. As for the back-end server software, unless you plan on selling it or otherwise distributing it, you're free to lock yourself into whatever platform strikes your fancy.

    • Re:Some suggestions (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kleedrac2 (257408) <kleedrac.hotmail@com> on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:23PM (#19022395) Homepage
      Wow ... you sound exactly like I did 2 years ago before playing WoW :) ...
      1. I think it's fairly obvious now that the retail box is to pay for the time and effort of developing the client and the monthly fees are to cover bandwith and server maintenance.
      2. Allowing you to sell your account leads to the sale of high level accounts which denies them money for having that same player buy the box new and level on his own.
      3. More than a few MMOs these days do have a Mac client. Plus if you're die-hard against Windows Cedega supports quite a number of MMOs as well.
      4. I've played a few MMOs and with the exception of Guild Wars none of them focused on PvP ... it was always an option.
      5. Yeah there's really not a whole lot they can do about that. Most RPGs in the non-computerized world are fantasy as well. Just the nature of the beast. That said look into Hellgate:London coming soon. :)
      6. Spyware? I assume you're referring to the WoW check for hacks? I wouldn't go so far as to call it spyware. Especially when it doesn't talk to Blizzard unless it finds something worth reporting. As for EULA's ... come on man ... what software doesn't have an EULA? Freakin' Linux has an EULA ... less restrictive yes ... but it's there.
      7. I played City of Heroes on my notebook with Intel video. WoW is currently playing on a 3-year-old machine. You can't crank the graphical settings but these games don't require "bleeding-edge" hardware.

      Hope this helps :)
      Kleedrac
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        1. I think it's fairly obvious now that the retail box is to pay for the time and effort of developing the client and the monthly fees are to cover bandwith and server maintenance.

        The fee for the client is mostly to encourage subscriptions, IMO. Once someone has invested $50, they're not likely to subscribe for a month and then drop it, or they'll have wasted $60, not $10. I think the pricing is determined by how to maximize revenue, not how to cover specific costs -- though it's important that subscripti

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Suzumushi (907838)
      I'm sorry you got moderated as a troll, because I wholeheartedly agree with you. Particularly, the pay for client and subscription con. I didn't start WoW until the client came down to $20, because I could justify it as the first month's subscription cost.

      I also agree on the necessity to design for lower end machines. I think the reason WoW is as popular as it is is mainly a function of how it can run on such a wide range of machines.

      Lastly, as much as I hate spyware and invasive anti-cheat programs...

      • by Kleedrac2 (257408)
        Wow you still use yahoo? Crazy. Responding to your last point however, the anti-spyware/anti-cheat modules are designed to stop people from ruining the game, not making an ass of themselves. The spammers, while I hate them probably more than you do as I'm running an addon called WIM which makes whispers appear in their own window, while an annoyance, aren't ruining the game. What the AS/AC modules are for is people who would try to ruin the game by allowing their characters to do things they shouldn't b
      • Actually the spam you receive in your chat windows is from a 'rogue' add-on (actually relatively easy to write), and the warden check for external programs and not for add-ons.
    • by grimwell (141031)
      Sounds like Anarchy Online [anarchy-online.com] is what you are looking for. Free client download and free to play. If you want to explore/play their expansion areas, then you'll need to pay. But the original area is large enough to keep one's interest for 30 or 40 levels. Even after that there is still enough content to keep one interested but the expansion areas offer better equipment&xp. The game is well established and well populated. Cedega does support playing AO in Linux.

      Another free to play game is Last Chaos [aeriagames.com].
  • by quanticle (843097) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:07AM (#19021031) Homepage

    From the article:

    For instance, LOTRO rewards the repetitive actions often required in online games. In return for slaughtering large numbers of one type of creature players will become more powerful or gain a fancy title to demonstrates their prowess.

    In this way, he said, LOTRO hopes to avoid the "grind" that afflicts the middle ranks of those adventuring in WoW.

    How does this system eliminate grinding? It seems to me that it would exacerbate the grinding problems as players would grind even more in order to get the additional power and titles conferred by grinding mid-level mobs.

    • by Avatar8 (748465) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:47AM (#19021693)
      It all depends upon your definition of "grinding."


      IMO grinding means killing monsters for no reason except experience and money.

      "Farming" is killing monsters repeatedly until the item you want drops.

      "Kill counts" are the number of monsters you must kill in order to complete a quest. Some consider this grinding, but I do not since it has an end and a purpose.

      From what I heard (never played it) EQ required grinding just to reach the next level.

      I feel that WoW successfully did away with the senseless grinding. There is absolutely no reason for any character to ever have to grind by my definition. There are always more quests to do at your level; they may not be in your race's zones if you think that linearly, but they do exist. If you're trying to get a certain piece of gear (or getting gear to sell) then you'll be out killing specific mobs for quite some time and gaining money and XP to boot until you get that gear. Still, you have a purpose and there is an end point.

      I beta tested and bought LotRO (even though I posted here and elsewhere that I wouldn't: the idea of a pay once and never again fall back game for when I [rarely] don't feel like playing WoW was just too tempting). LotRO reminds me of Ultima IX: Ascension. It's a very linear story with lots of little branches. You are free to go and do whatever you wish, but the main story will not progress until you complete the chapter you're in. I have experienced only one instant where I felt grinding was necessary. I was about to complete a quest that would take me out of the current zone. I knew I hadn't defeated a certain boss, but I could not do it by myself or at my current level. I went and killed a few more monsters to get the last 15% of my level, went and killed that boss and then went to complete the zone quest. (I was rewarded as well since two excellent items dropped off that boss.)

      Still if I had looked for a fellowship or just accepted that I didn't finish a quest in that zone, I could have continued on my way without grinding. I have a few RL friends that simply weren't on at that time, so I doubt I'll ever have to grind like that again.

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday May 07, 2007 @01:25PM (#19023559) Journal
        So basically you're saying that LOTRO's lack of grind is... well, the same as WoW before it.

        Well, I'm not arguing with your assessment of either. It's just silly nevertheless to hear the LOTRO creators make such claims as that they're beating WoW by eliminating grinding (when WoW didn't require any either) or that titles for the number of creatures killed are what turns grind into non-grind.

        It's blatantly silly. If anyone despised WoW's "collect 25 murloc heads... and only 1 murloc out of 20 has a head" quests and considers those "grind", then adding a title for number of murloc kills doesn't turn it into non-grind. If anything, it just adds insult to injury. The _last_ thing I'd want, when I'm bored out of my skull killing those murlocs... and yet another one was headless, is a message to pop up telling me that I got some title for a million murlocs killed. Not only it wouldn't make it magically "non-grind", it would be a reminder of all the points before when I grinded murlocs for some dumb quest.

        Basically I'm used to hearing silly boasts from people making yet another "X killer" (where X can be WoW, iPod, etc) or "beating X at its own game", but this kind ranks not only as silly, but as... clueless. If the best they can come up with is "I know, let's add some titles", then they're truly and completely clueless. They didn't actually look hard at what they're copying, what works, what doesn't, what's not what the players want, and what they could design otherwise. They're taking wild guesses at something they don't even freaking understand, and hoping WoW would just have a heart attack so they can claim the kill.
      • How is "gather 10x livers of generic monster" where generic monster drops the livers 1% of the time, which is followed up by "gather 20x hearts of slightly tougher generic monster" where slightly tougher generic monster drops hearts 0.5% of the time not a grind?

        They even have monsters that are extra-hard and give extra-low exp/loot. They call these monsters "elite" to trick players into thinking they should go after them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        I don't see much difference between repetetively killing for exp, and repetetively killing for a quest whose reward is exp. Either way, you're killing the same monsters over and over. While it is nice to at least have the quest as a guide for when the killing is over, all it really amounts to is grinding with an extra bonus exp reward at the end. Farming is nothing but grinding when you've reached the level cap, and as far as I'm concerned they are the same.

        There are lots of good quests in WoW. Any inst
    • by MaWeiTao (908546)
      That statement doesn't make much sense to me because I found with LOTRO that the only way to earn a reasonable amount of XP is to do quests. Although, I will add that approaching level 16 I've had the impression that I seem to be getting a more usable amount of XP from fighting random mobs, compared to early levels where it felt like I was earning nothing.

      I can appreciate the emphasis on quests, but the biggest issue I have with that is the absurd amount of traveling required. It gets exhausting having to r
  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:11AM (#19021111)
    Seriously. Turbine has had one real success-- Asheron's Call. Its sequel bombed spectacularly, D&D Online is basically a Guild Wars with a monthly fee, and while LOTRO is barely out of the gate, its questing and lore structures are as turgid as its source material (which is great if you're a Tolkien fan, granted).

    Star Wars Galaxies has gone from 'flawed, but promising' to 'what has science wrought?!' over the course of its existence, a stunning reversal of the usual trend to launch with missing content and patch in later, to launching with missing content and tearing most of what's left out later. Servers are ghost towns, good going there, guys.

    Anarchy Online has had more ups and downs than a roller coaster (abysmal beta, spectacularly awful launch, promised lore/television/multimedia tie-ins that failed to materialize... and a free year of basic play offer to bolster subscription numbers), but at least Age of Conan has some interesting gimmicks planned for it.

    WoW may be simplistic compared to its predecessors and competitors, but it's been as well-produced as any other Blizzard product-- that is to say, polished to an eye-searing shine. In order to pull the same thing off, their competitors will need to get out of the 'launch first, patch later' mindset, which will absolutely require the trust of the people that fund the projects. Without that element of risk-taking on their part, there's no way that any development team will be able to pull the same thing off. All of that development and polish takes time and effort, which are fueled by money... and the precedent of shipping something that runs, rather than something that shines is still much stronger than WoW's literally phenomenal success.

    • by quanticle (843097) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:21AM (#19021265) Homepage

      WoW may be simplistic compared to its predecessors and competitors, but it's been as well-produced as any other Blizzard product-- that is to say, polished to an eye-searing shine.

      I've found that to be the case with most Blizzard games. They don't do anything particularly innovative (Real Time Strategy existed before Warcraft, MMORPGs existed before WoW), but the level of polish on a Blizzard game is far above and beyond any other game in the same genre.

      Heck, look at Starcraft. That game is still being sold and played, despite approaching 10 years of age. Reason: the game was simple to understand and play, and the races were far more balanced than in any other game of that time. Nothing really new or innovative, but the overall execution was of high quality, ensuring continued success.

      • Starcraft was the only RTS game that had unique races and still had balance. War3 is light years away from being balanced. It is unlikely we will ever see another balanced RTS as it is it becomes harder and harder to do with every new unit and ability. War3, with its 4 races, was doomed from the offset. There are just too many things in the game now to ever find the balance SC has. The problem compounds even more with technology restrictions as well. SC pretty much had infinite units, which contributed to t
    • by Avatar8 (748465)

      In order to pull the same thing off, their competitors will need to get out of the 'launch first, patch later' mindset, which will absolutely require the trust of the people that fund the projects. Without that element of risk-taking on their part, there's no way that any development team will be able to pull the same thing off. All of that development and polish takes time and effort, which are fueled by money... and the precedent of shipping something that runs, rather than something that shines is still

  • by quanticle (843097) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:13AM (#19021141) Homepage

    EVE Online is one of the largest MMORPGs out there. Its also possibly the only successful science fiction based MMO game. Given these two characteristics, combined with the fact that EVE's developer team is much more hands-off with regard to player-to-player interaction, I'm surprised that EVE was nowhere to be found the article.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      EVE is often ignored in discussions of MMORPGs because it is precisely the antithesis of what is popularly regarded as "smart" in the genre:

      - It's not fantasy, but fantasy is the smart move because it is easier to understand and create; everyone knows the "ground rules."

      - It's not warm or cuddly. You can be 5 hours in and get (metaphorically speaking) lured into an alley, have your throat slashed, and everything you own taken from you. (Scan-probing pirates in missions, anyone?) That's not smart because it
    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      I was unable to locate any data newer than June 2006, but at that time EVE was 1% like several others while WoW was 52%. I don't consider that "one of the largest."


      http://www.mmogchart.com/Chart7.html [mmogchart.com]

      Anyone know of any newer data?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AlexMax2742 (602517)
      It's because EVE Online is about as exciting as a spreadsheet 90% of the time mining asteroids or doing PvE quests, doing or reciving a one-sided gank 5% of the time, being in a slideshow of a gigantic fleet battle 4% of the time, and being a victem of an in-game exploit (Well, it's only an exploit if YOU do it, when a huge corp does it it's AOK, and you're not allowed to discuss GM decisions in the forums, so any kind of peer review is doomed to be inherantly either fabircated or not taken seriously) the r
  • by Metaphorically (841874) * on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#19021161) Homepage
    A massively multiplayer game needs to have numbers of players that are... massive. So dislodging WoW from the lead spot takes a lot more than just a great game, you have to reach those players. If there are 8 million subscribers on WoW then how many more are out there to be reached? The $15 or so per month doesn't sound like a lot to most of us, but that's on top of having broadband available, having a decent computer an having the leisure time to spend on a game. The claim that they're making Conan "for adults" sounds fine on paper but other adults think it's odd that I have the time to commit to World of Warcraft. Finding the millions of adults interested in spending the time and money on an immersive game is a huge challenge. It's a lot harder to do than getting people to read the original stories.

    I wonder how the numbers of players they need compares to the readership for the works they're based on.
  • The success of WoW (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:29AM (#19021387)
    It's quite easy to explain why WoW succeeded where others have failed.

    First and foremost, they had an already existing background world. That started it off well. Warcraft has a LONG and quite well known world. Not with movie goers, not with bookworms, but with computer players. That sets it apart from SWG and LOTR. Yes, both have a large fanbase, but those aren't necessarily gamers. WoW had a gamer fanbase from the start.

    Second, it's easy. Sorry, dear WoW players, but that game is easy. Easy. Easy. I know a five year old who's leveled to 60 without any real difficulty. But that actually meant that it was one of the first MMORPGs that drew the attention of people who're not hardcore number crunchers and grinders, who don't first of all consult a billion pages about the game to find out whether spell X or spell Y is in situation Z more appropriate.

    It was basically the mix of having a good player base at its start and being easy enough that people who got invited by those who knew its name (i.e. the "old" Warcraft players) didn't get bored with the detail work.
    • by Tadrith (557354)
      Yes, leveling to 60 was easy. Hell, leveling to 70 is easy.

      But... that's not really where the real game is at. It's almost like the entire process of leveling up is merely a training session for you to get to know your character so that you can move on to something actually difficult. It allows you to acquire a very close understand of your character and how your skills and abilities work together.

      The real challenge is the so called "endgame" content. Yes, there's plenty of people who will also trash this c
      • Well, it might be that I've been playing MMORPGs for about 10 years now (kinda scary, I wasted a good deal of my adulthood...), but WoW is no challenge for me. Sorry. Yes, that includes the various raids. Some bosses require an attempt or two 'til you get used to his specials and timed attacks, but generally there are no surprises.

        That's not to say it was different in other MMORPGs. And I also don't claim that this is a bad thing. It's quite relaxing and sometimes I ponder going back to WoW. In contrast, ra
    • WoW might be easy on the surface, but if you want to get right down to it if you want to be the best of the best it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Take it from someone who plays PvP. Skill is a requirement if you want to win. Sure, it's easy to level to 60, even 70, but that's the tip of the iceberg that is WoW.
      TLF
  • by MeanderingMind (884641) on Monday May 07, 2007 @11:50AM (#19021745) Homepage Journal
    ...don't.

    You need only look so far as Diablo and Diablo 2 to realize that when it comes to addicting grindfests, Blizzard is king. Attempting to take Blizzard down on their home turf is a ridiculous goal, and one that should be abandoned by any MMORPG hopeful.

    I can't say I pay attention to subscription numbers, but to my knowledge the most successful MMORPG outside of WoW is EVE. EVE also happens to be fundamentally different from WoW.

    The problem with these companies is that they're trying to make "WoWLotR" or "WoWConan". They see WoW as a formula they can copy and make money from. What they fail to realize is that the "GTA Clone" strategy doesn't work with MMORPGS. Even if you were able to make a game as good as WoW was when it launched you're still 2 and a half years behind on new content updates, balance tweaks and cosmetic upgrades. Even if you can make the game as good as WoW is now, you still don't have the 8 million strong playerbase. Your game literally needs to be significantly better than WoW straight out of launch.

    No, you can't beat WoW at its own game. You can wait for it to eventually fade and then stab it when its weak, but that's a long ways off yet. If you want a successful MMORPG, it needs to be different from WoW. It needs to do the things people wanted from WoW but didn't get. I doesn't even have to be in a fantasy setting. I know I'd enjoy a Dynasty Warriors MMORPG, were it done right (we probably don't have the technology to make that as awesome as it could be, sadly).

    In summary, trying to beat WoW at what WoW does best (it's own game) right now is like trying to beat an olympic athlete in a marathon when they have an 8 mile head start.
    • Good points - and I'd like to expand on one of them. If you make a game like WoW, you're guaranteed that you won't be as successful as WoW, because every last WoW player who has at least one character that is level 60+ won't be interested to starting from scratch in a game that is similar to the one he/she is currently playing.

      You want to beat WoW in terms of player base? Make a better game that fixes its most glaring problems (PvP being one of them, easy mode another, no player content another). That's the
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I see these games, with their bump-mapping, realistic shadows and high-poly models. One or two screenshots is all I need to know that I don't want to play them. Game designers need to realize that graphics are more about art than technology. I don't care how realistic the shadows are, if I'm forced to walk around in some drab, grey world, carrying generic swords taken out of some cheap Maya Model Pack.

    The quality and imagination of the artwork in World of Warcraft is one of the main, and often-overlooked
    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      Excellent point! (If I hadn't already posted, I'd mod you up 2 points.)

      Most people miss the difference between graphics and artwork. I missed it myself until a few years ago.

      People asked me why I never played EQ. My knee jerk reaction was "I hated the graphics." They came back with "What? The graphics are awesome." Technically, yes, EQ graphics were awesome: high polygons, high shading, decent models. It was the artwork that I didn't like. I despise most games that try to look realistic... and miss, terri

  • WoW, aside from being a well polished, easily accessible game has more going for it than fun gameplay. WoW has become a social community, many of whom spend time talking on Vent, many of whom are college roommates or friends who all play together and actually keep in touch, not only through facebook or myspace, but through WoW. WoW is a social game and to say that other games are going to pull away users...well I just don't see it happening.
    • You can't move for the WoW refugees who are sick of the endless raid. But I think it says a lot you name facebook and myspace. Like it or not, WoW is the 12yr olds MMORPG, and that loses its appeal if your not 12 anymore.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday May 07, 2007 @12:15PM (#19022217) Journal

    The oldest first, Star Wars Galaxies. Yes its launch was bugged, yes bugs took for ever to fix and yes SOE changed the nature of the game, in my opinion ruining it, with the CU and the NGE. Yet it remains one of the most ambitious titles. Player controlled economy with all equipment obtained through crafting NOT looting, yes this could mean that a new player who wasn't socially capable enough to find existing players, had a hard time getting the money to buy the equipment. I personally have helped plenty of newbies to get their decent starter kit. SWG had a nice community. It also remains alone in allowing you to combine classes as you saw fit. Sure, this did lead to some people trying to spec out uber combat classes and to wich SOE made the fatal mistake of them upping the high level content to those specced out players. Yes the doc-buff was the death of grouping BUT it tried.

    A typical SWG quest, oh wait, nobody bothered with them because although some had nice writing the XP and loot sucked and so why bother, RPG for the story? Not in MMO land mate.

    Everquest 2 too tried. FULL SPEECH! Read that again and realize that in 2007 NOT ONE SINGLE MMORPG EXCEPT EVERQUEST 2 HAS SPOKEN TEXT FOR ITS QUEST GIVERS. 2000 called, they want their text bubbles back. It also tried a new crafting system and upped the stakes in the graphics department. It didn't work. EQ2 is a nice enough game but it is also evercamp squared. A typical EQ2 quest goes like this. Kill 20 X, turn in, Kill 20 X, turn in, Kill 20 X, turn in, Kill 20 X, turn in, Kill rare spawn that only spawn on days with no y.

    And then SOE changed the game again, the running animation now looks like an old fashioned slapstick and the death penalty was made so light it barely matters.

    Next, there is WoW. A little known MMORPG that is managing to hang on somehow. Blizzard is to MMORPG's what Microsoft is to desktops. It does nothing new, it copied everything it does from everyone else and still it absolutly dominates. Does it have less bugs? No, read the forums, did it have an untroubled launch? Like hell, does it have excellent customer service? Still read the forums.

    Its gameplay is a throwback to the orignal everquest with absolutly nothing new added. And yet. Something is right. (something is also wrong, but I am coming to that).

    EVERY single SOE game has an engine that is claimed to be future-proof wich is why your computer right now will choke on it. Apparently nobody at SOE realized that a future proof engine is of no use unless the game itself has a future.

    The WoW engine is NOT futureproof. Blizzard used an engine that computers of that day could run. Its relativly low power is hidden masterfully by their choice of art direction (hint to SOE, you need some) and it works. To a point. I am not alone in simply NOT like the graphics after prolonged exposure. It is worthy to note that of all the major MMORPG's in the west WoW is closest to the korean ones in the lack of being able to customize your avatars basic looks. Well I say avatar, WoW players tend to think of it as toons.

    WoW is Everquest Lite done decently. It says a lot about the MMORPG market that this is high praise indeed. What turns people off sooner or later is that WoW copied everything from everquest including evergrind and evercamp. These things I could have done without.

    A typical WoW quest goes like this. Loot item from X by killing it. Oops that one didn't have it, kill another, and another and another and another (repeat for several hours).

    Next, another SOE title. Ambitous, certainly, trying new things, absolutly. Bugged, oh hell yes. I am talking offcourse about no other game then Vanguard.

    More races then any other game and although a cynic might claim most are just color variations, they do have different starting areas/stories. More classes as well. An extra gameplay option in the form of diplomacy. A future proof engine (hint looks great, won't run) and lots of potential. And bugs. Lots of bugs. Basic stupid bugs that

    • Oh and another sad comment on MMO's, this is the one and only MMO to have women who run using their hips. If nothing else, Vanguard will go down in history as the first MMO ever to have a good walking animation for the females.

      Haven't seen Vanguard, but have you seen Guild Wars? The females in GW are very well-proportioned and well-animated. GW may have the highest 'pixellated boobie rating' of any MMOG out there, with excellent and attractive character designs.

      This is important if, like me, you choose your character build based on what kind of backside you want to watch running across the landscape for hours on end.
      • I have the same basis for choosing my character, IF I am going to spend ages looking at it, it better have a nice ass.

        Yes I have played Guild Wars and yes it does look nice. If I remember right it even has boob animator for the female hunter. NICE!

        Sadly it the basic gameplay just never grew on me. The constant need to juggle your spells/skills around based on the area you were going into just got tiring.

    • by Avatar8 (748465)
      All what? SOE games? Looks like that's all you covered. Yes, you seem to be an expert on Sony's many shortcomings and foul-ups.

      All MMO's? You fell way, way short.

      I haven't played them all by any stretch. I'd be impressed at someone who did and was able to maintain the job to afford all of them. :-)

      I received most of my experience from beta testing.

      • Ultima Online - played 1997-2005
      • Asheron's Call - beta
      • Dark Age of Camelot - beta, played one month
      • Star Wars Galaxies - beta and the "return to SWG" free 10
  • FunCom and Blizzard come from different planets as far as culture and ethos, and IMHO its why FunCom will always be a second rate game company. (The industry will probably never forget the absolute disaster that was the AO rollout. I was personally one of the thousands in line waiting for a full refund for that atrocity). Unlike Blizzard, FunCom sticks to release schedules and predefined featuresets (among many other problems) which will always result in buggy gameplay and cut corners.

    What we have now in
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Monday May 07, 2007 @02:36PM (#19024817) Homepage Journal
    ...but not in terms of what the industry is actually willing to do.

    WoW goes about as far as it's possible to go while still having what is very largely a static environment. Blizz are in the process of phasing in what essentially amounts to zone-wide games of domination, (if your faction holds all 3 or 4 castles in the zone at once, all players in your faction get a 5% damage bonus) but that still isn't what a vocal minority of players have expressed that they want.

    What I've heard said minority in the playerbase saying it wants in terms of world pvp is a scenario where regions can literally be taken by one side or the other. In other words, although Hillsbrad for example might start out neutral/contested, there could be a scenario where Alliance players could invade it and it could literally become an Alliance zone. At the moment, zone allegiance is static; it never changes.

    The problem with this sort of thing however is that there are technical issues with regards to implementing it, and that said technical issues are mostly above the industry's preferred pain threshold; especially considering that they involve introducing things that are radically outside the current paradigm. (At least from what I've seen) The other incentive for Blizzard NOT to introduce such things is that even though some players generally do want them, such players are a tiny minority. Most players are firmly addicted to ovine repetition such that if Blizzard *were* to start introducing genuinely innovative/novel aspects into the game, it'd probably scare the sheep away. That's something Blizz really don't want to do, because given that the sheep are the overwhelming majority, they're also where Blizz consistently will make most of their money.

    If you look at the differences between WoW and UO in particular, what sets WoW apart isn't what Blizzard added to the model anywhere near as much as what they took away. UO was a lot more open-ended; yes there were dungeon crawls, but there was also a much more thorough economy, a somewhat more diverse reportoire of trade skills, and there were player created and run towns in some places due to the player real estate. In other words, the game wasn't only about "Go to X location and kill some monsters, or X dungeon and kill some more monsters there, or X set part of the map and kill other players there."

    The real problem though, now that I look at it, isn't with the development industry. It's with the players themselves. If WoW has proven anything, it's overwhelmingly that players want an extremely narrow, object-oriented game environment for the most part. They need objectives spelled out for them extremely precisely. Maxis actually found out the same thing with The Sims; most human beings simply don't have the initiative or the intelligence required to set their own objectives within the game environment, but instead require the game designers to do it for them.

    So yes...UO in particular and other games as well have showed us that there's a lot more to it than WoW, but what WoW itself and players' response to it has overwhelmingly shown is that neither the design industry nor the playerbase itself for the most part *wants* more. If Blizzard have any overwhelming talent, it is a talent for identifying and isolating those elements of fantasy which the gaming public want, and then regurgitating said elements back to the gaming public in an utterly McDonaldised way. They did this with both D2 and Starcraft as well as WoW. The end result is a game which is massively horizontal, rather than vertical. There's no depth whatsoever; it's based around literally mind-numbing repetition, but even though nearly the only two activities include killing monsters and finding gear with which to kill yet more monsters, the sheer number of different monsters and loot in themselves make the game sufficiently superficiallly interesting that you're able to at least temporarily (depending on your degree of intelligence, which thankfully for Blizzard, is minimal in the ca
  • by Onan (25162) on Monday May 07, 2007 @04:05PM (#19026365)
    Mac versions. And not bad ports, not Wine hackery, not months- or years-delayed half-efforts. Blizzard has always mantained mac versions as first-class citizens among all their products: full feature and performance parity, full interoperability, and synchronized releases. And this has served them incredibly well.

    There are somewhere between fifteen and twenty million macs in use right now that are recent enough to run WoW. Even though these are people who have not chosen their platform to maximize the number of games available to them, let's say that one in ten has at least some interest in gaming occasionally.

    That's about two million potential customers for whom there is very little product competition. A market that size is about a quarter of WoW's total playerbase, and far larger than most games ever see.

    Blizzard is one of the few companies that has been bright enough to catch on to the value of making big-scale games for this incredibly ripe market, and I suspect that it has been a big contributor to their success. With luck, a few other big game authoring companies will figure out this trick as well.

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"

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