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Role Playing (Games) Businesses

The Quest To Build a Better Warcraft 196

Red Herring tackles the rush into virtual space, talking about the MMOG goldrush and the business consequences World of Warcraft has had on the games industry as a whole. Though sometimes it doesn't seem to fully understand the difference between a single player game and a Massive one, the article still touches on a number of important points. Lots of folks are looking to cash in on WoW's success, and they're importing or licensing every Massive game they can find to get on the bandwagon. "The problem is that no one knows what the next WoW killer will look like. Creating a hit video game, which combines strong characters, a compelling story, and top-notch production values, is part art and part inexact science. Making a hit game can be much more difficult than producing an Oscar-winning movie. After all, the hit video game must be compelling enough to keep players coming back for more." Even if a lot of their conclusions are odd, and they call Puzzle Pirates silly, it's worth a look. What do you think it's going to take to crack Blizzard's deathlock on the Massive genre?
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The Quest To Build a Better Warcraft

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  • by Apple Acolyte ( 517892 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @03:39AM (#18021124)
    Give me an MMO with the quality of WoW and a higher caliber of people to play with, and I'm there.
  • by Ksempac ( 934247 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:04AM (#18021202)

    Creating a hit video game, which combines strong characters, a compelling story, and top-notch production values

    Compelling story ? Strong characters ? We re not talking about MMO games here...MMO aims to the "lowest common denominator" between players to attract as much people as they can. WOW did it so well that they managed to attract people who hardly ever played video games before...and that's also why hardcore gamers tend not to play WOW.
  • by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:14AM (#18021250)
    You don't need FedEx quests, level grinding, and fairytales to have an MMO. All you need are lots of players interacting online. Yet for some reason the major studios don't get this. They feel that every MMO needs dumbassed level grinding, quests, etc. The same stuff we've seen over and over. There's no reason why a game as simple as Team Fortress Classic couldn't be an MMO.

    WoW dominates the "traditional" MMO market right now. It's foolish to directly compete with WoW unless you have a strong IP, huge marketing budget, and gameplay that makes players to give up their WoW timesink for your timesink. Most startup MMO companies lack at least two of those things...

    But you have a chance if you create an online game that appeals to other gamers. What do Half-Life 2, Halo, and Gears of War have in common? They're shooter games and they're best-sellers, yet no one has created a successful FPS MMO. That market is a potential long as devs steer clear of the traditional MMO crap.

    Imagine a MMOFPS similar to Guild Wars. No monthly fee, but frequently-released expansions. There would be a co-op campaign where you and your party fight the baddies and advance through the game's storyline, all while gaining access to new weapons/skills. Add in some arenas for on-the-fly PvP combat, territorial conquest zones, and a some sort of guild structure. Now you've got yourself a game. Simplified, I know, but a competent studio could easily pull that off.
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:16AM (#18021256)
    "World of Warcraft" is the MMORPG.
    On the issue:
    Building a World of Warcraft successor is easy. Look at what they do, copy it and do it better. Improve the things that aren't good and add the things that are missing. Generally the japanese do this sort of things when it comes to electronics. It's the very same way people could build an iPod killer. It's just that somebody still hasn't built a single device that can compete with it on the most simple specs (large memory, video capability, ease of use, decent looks).
    Same goes for WoW. Look at the game. Play it. Aside from Monopoly sucktion it's advantages are very real and obvious.
    1) Runs easily on older hardware without looking like crap.
    2) Runs on Macs and plays nice with mac users. (potential universal opinion leaders when it comes to nice gaming and fun stuff)
    3) Takes 90 seconds for the most ultimate n00b get into.
    4) Slowly reveals it's complexity bit by bit without overwelming anybody at any point.
    5) Has a powerleveling 'grind option', but not an omnipresent one.
    6) Has an optional powerquesting stance.
    7) Is beautyful and content laden enough for all who just like to run around and are not to interested in 5 or 6.
    8) Has a super addictive end-game that even amplifies the underlying 'diabolo collectors habit' subnote of the entire career in conjunction with strong multiplay / competetive play.
    9) Has subtle Humor made by the actuall builders, doesn't take itself so serious - important if your offering a full-time imersive VR.
    10) Builds on a world that is not and doesn't have to be realistic or even plausible when considering distances between regions (this is why LotR online will fail. The Shire is 25 minutes away from Mordor - how weird is that?)
    11) Dedicated company and team with sufficient cash and corporate strategy backing. Blizzard made a decision and came through with it all the way. No half-assed stuff. And, look, a miracle! They've got a game that works and people like! Unbelieveable!
  • by Negatyfus ( 602326 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:33AM (#18021334) Journal
    Well, you know. Games like PlanetSide [] has proved to be not very successful. Fact is, many people want the traditional MMORPG gameplay.
  • Re:Game engine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Negatyfus ( 602326 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:01AM (#18021410) Journal
    That's an easy comment. Name some of these technical issues that you mention. It's not perfect, but I can't for the life of me think of any severe problems.
  • Re:Second Life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by discord5 ( 798235 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @05:49AM (#18021660)

    I had a look at Second Life recently and I think that it (and the systems which will come after it) will appeal to a much broader market than games like Warcraft.

    Second life is essentially a chatclient to spend real money on virtual goods (or for the few who actually build stuff make real money on virtual goods).

    The problem with second life is that for many people there is no reason to "play" it. There is no real objective to the game, eg. you don't get to slay dragons and rescue the princess, you don't get the rarest of rarest of items that increases your stats so you can brag in your guild about your latest armor or sword, you don't have that rare drop to fit on your brand new spaceship you use to pirate.

    Many people play MMOs in a really competetive fashion, or for the challenge, or because they're addictive. I don't really see any of these qualities in second life. It's basicly a market of virtual goods, and they're making a lot of noise because they're selling baked air, everyone knows it, and appareantly everyone

    The broader market? I dunno, I've met a lot of different people in WoW. Ranging from the immature adolescent ("lolol i'm so l33t") to the student with time to waste ("I raid every evening, have calculated the best uber stats for my character, troll forums, and somehow have to get a passing grade this year") to the adult with spare time ("My kids play this game, and this is a great way of keeping an eye on their online activities, and it's fun too" "I'm single and bored on weekday evenings" "My wife has another headache"). I think that WoW and Second Life have all of these groups as well, but that the WoW player is in it for the gameplay and the Second Life player is in it for the chat.

  • by code-e255 ( 670104 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:02AM (#18021712)
    Although some people don't like the leveling treadmill, all those artificial time-sinks keep the people playing for a long time, and that's what MMO companies want.

    What would be so great about an MMO Half-Life or whatever? As far as I know, the HL dedicated server already allows you to create a server with hundreds of players, but either the server can't handle the load, or people's connections aren't good enough to make everything appear smooth. In RPGs it doesn't matter if you're lagging a bit, but in an FPS, even a slight bit of lag can make the game unplayable. Internet technology isn't quite mature enough for a "real" twitch-skill MMOFPS.

    Also, imho, in FPS games can have too many players. If you've got too many people shooting rockets and sh*t all over the place in a very small area, the quality of gameplay just deteriorates as you don't really have much control over winning. And if you'd have huge outdoor maps like in PlanetScape, you end up with loads of bland, uninspired terrain and no real exciting maps like in traditional FPS games.
  • by Ryunosuke ( 576755 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @06:08AM (#18021738) Homepage
    you've hit the nail on the head. WOW is basicly the poor man's mmorpg. It's dumbed down enough that casual players can play, pretty enough to capture said casual players, and occasionally has some end game stuff for the "raiders". one of the reasons why Eq2 (my personal favorite) will never ever be #1 is that they never dumbed down anything in (besides removing the shards early in the second year). Eq2's leveling and tradeskilling is a bitch. Wow's isn't. I played wow for 3 months, and I felt as if I was accidently leveling at times. WOW is the lowest common denominator of mmorpgs. It attracts and keeps more people than a lot of the "harder" ones. I know more people playing WOW than Guild Wars, City of Heroes, and Eq2 combined. A shame Vanguard is a pay to play beta, or it could have given wow a run for its money. no big deal, though. An eq3/Wow2 will eventually take over and we'll have these threads all over again ;)
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:14AM (#18022908)

    Building a World of Warcraft successor is easy. Look at what they do, copy it and do it better.

    Yeah, and then all you have to do is convince WoW's 5 million+ players to give a rat's ass.


  • Re:Game engine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edremy ( 36408 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:26AM (#18023074) Journal
    I'll mention one that has been driving me nuts lately- "stuck" monsters. It's not at all uncommon to get a mob stuck into the terrain such that it is completely immune to all attacks but can hit you from almost any distance. You'll see it 30 yards away swinging a sword and a big "-500" and "DAZED" appears over your head. The only thing you can do is run away and hope that it can't kill you in time. Sometimes these guys are stuck below the terrain so that you can't even see where they are- you just aggro them by accident and suddenly your health is falling.

    Then there are the "You don't have permission to loot that corpse" bug, the numerous quests that are so buggy that nobody can complete them (Like the one in the dungeon in Terrokkar that if someone fails on the attempt it requires a server reset before it will ever work again) and so forth. These are probably scripting rather than engine bugs, but still.

    WoW is remarkably polished for a game its size, but it's by no means bug free.

  • Re:Game engine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Thursday February 15, 2007 @10:47AM (#18023398) Homepage
    I don't think he was talking about bleeding edge graphics, but rather about the GAME engine. Quest system, stats system, combat mechanics, spell/resist mechanics, talent specializations, interface customization system, etc. The flexibility of their GAME engine means they can easily create compelling content.

    Visually what has been compelling to me about WoW was not the special effects, but rather the artistry. They have beautiful, vibrant, imaginative, and colorful landscapes, buildings, characters, monsters, and spells. These things are not very well aided by the graphic engine (which generally keeps it to the basics), but are amazing nonetheless. As a result, the hardware needed to play it is less than other games which are less visually interesting, where they get hung up on bump maps and dynamic shadows, and other things which are nice only in a peripheral way, and don't really contribute that much to the enjoyability of the game itself. Kinda like a typical focused-primarily-on-cgi movie, which is beautiful but boring.
  • Re:Game engine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Thursday February 15, 2007 @04:22PM (#18028926) Homepage
    I'm sorry, no. Blizzard has never been all that for engines. They're good because of artistry and patience. An engine with great *support* for character animation is meaningless without good character animation. Blizzard has time and time again taken new genres and made the best game in the genre not for any particular technical improvement, but by raw force of quality gameplay and artistry. StarCraft, Diablo, WoW - all of these looked, technologically-speaking, primitive compared to their peers. The point is that Blizzard pours so much hard work into their games that they always succeed beyond expectations. StarCraft's 2D isometric engine looked archaic next to it's contemporaries like Total Annihilation... but the storyline, artwork, voice acting, and solid gameplay made them win. There is very little in Blizzard games that we haven't seen a hundred times before - but Blizzard gets it RIGHT.

    WoW is just the same thing - take an established genre, and make the perfect game within it.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"