Carbine

Spring Cleaning: Old Post Drafts (Part 1)

All bloggers have a bunch of post drafts started that either get revisited and completed or sit in post purgatory, waiting to be further inspired or expanded. I hate letting those linger. I have a slew of them in my folder and for funzies decided to go through them and either finish them off or delete them. I have done a pretty solid job of not letting them hang around too much with the oldest one only backdated to 2014. For each I’ll list the title and the gist of the post depending on what I had in the body, and what I plan to do with it. The result will be a nice and tidy back end for I HAS PC. (Mind out of the gutter please)

“Stats Fun” (2/26/2014)

This entire post was in reference to one I read over at Kill Ten Rats that made my day – which in turn linked to an XCKD comic about germs. The basis was that in a world of seven billion people “one in a million” events happen seven thousand times a day. I found that very cool, and made a post saying that it was cool. That post had absolutely nothing to add to the conversation in any way, shape, or form and I didn’t complete it or continue it for that reason. That is why I am giving it the Outcome: delete here too. I didn’t even save the link on the draft, which is a shame, because I still remember how much I loved that post.

Here is a link to that comic though, Google found that easy. I sent it to a woman in my office who is a germophobe and a uses hand disinfectant often. She hates me now.

“Patent Trolls” (3/20/2014)

The entire body of the post was just a link to an article I read on the Economist about patent trolls that I must have felt strongly about one way or another, but I didn’t go beyond the link. I often email myself things as a reminder to think about them or revisit them and here is that same sort of style. I clearly wanted to do something with it, but didn’t, so now I am  Outcome:deleting it as a post that never was (or will be)

“WildStar – Over The Shoulder Shooter with RPG Elements?” (3/31/2014)

First off (to get it out of the way) yes, I know, it is called a 3rd person shooter. Someone corrected me on that on another blog recently – I do not know why I have a hard time remember that. The term always escapes me and I default to the less eloquent (yet truthful) “over the shoulder…” tag instead. I am working on it. This post started as a response to the first WildStar video I saw, and was yet again a look at gaming terminology and how it is inadequate. MMO, quite literally, is any game that is online with other people. There is no succinct or precise number accepted by the industry. “Massively” is not defined. In this post I explored that due to the action style of the videos I was watching for WildStar whether or not we could consider it more like Mass Effect than WoW as it definitely played more like it. I gave suggestions on some other, equally terrible acronyms such as MMO for marketers to use (for free!) such as:

  • LBOG (Lobby Based Online Game) – this would suit Diablo, Destiny, etc. quite well (and more accurate than MMO)
  • FPSRPG (First Person Shooter Role Playing Game – genre-bending! Great buzzwords for a marketing department)
  • OSORPG – I have NO CLUE what I meant by this one. Only Sometimes Online RPG? Hrmpf. Stumped here.

While the Outcome:delete here is obvious due to it being a bad post all around and the WildStar train has left the station, I do feel somewhat good that games like Destiny and The Division are showing that “MMOs” don’t need traditionally interconnected zones to be considered a world. I have argued for a while now that World of Warcraft could be better suited as a lobby based game and that I think it will end up there in a couple expansion cycles, once it is available on consoles. I feel more connected in the Destiny world than I have in a long time on Azeroth. I also, not oracle-like in that article said I would go play WildStar when it went F2P. It didn’t take a genius to call that at that time, trying to launch a hardcore sub game in a world of quality free-to-plays, even that early in its life cycle.

“MMO Connections” (3/31/2014)

I am a nostalgic fool to a fault. I get sad when I visit old places that have gaming meaning to me (in game) and even when I visit my old message boards from the EQ test days I get a lump in my throat. It’s odd, and probably unhealthy.  I can’t even really put my finger on it. My old WoW guild boards are gone, but they restarted them (only to see the guild look like it stopped raiding and growing, in “comfort mode” and they have new boards that I sometimes visit just to see who is there and what is going on. I felt so connected to so many people from my raiding days. I would literally spend 30-40+ hours a week with them – so yes, I miss them. I do have to let that all go sometime though. One a larger note, this is why I will probably never feel satisfied with any MMO again because I can’t dedicate that time ever again – and it is that kind of commitment that really makes a game special. I sorted out quite a while ago that it was me, not them that was the problem. (Them being MMOs). Anyway – back to the point, of which Nostalgia is strong.

This site, The Burial Grounds, was hosted and organized by an old guildmate of mine from DAOC. It was a great premise – when you were done your adventures with your online characters there were monuments for them. There are unique designs, banners, tombstones, everything, including where they lay (and shooting star backgrounds!). It also worked as a way to connect old gaming friends together as many people remember the character name more than the human being name (not judging). It was multi-game and I think a great, fun service. He stopped posting there in 2008 but I always thought it should be brought back to life as a great way for people to find old friends. Here is an example.

Due to my strong feelings about this, I am going to Outcome: Save and Finish this post at a later date. Maybe instead of waiting for someone else to retake up the mantle, I will!

“What Gets Measured Gets Done” (5/1/2014)

This was a post from WildStar beta where they rank your performance based off of stats. I lamented on a  I was 3rd in DPS (out of three), 1st in staying alive, and 2nd in healing. I received a bronze reward for this. It bothered me because I knew how hard healing was in Stonetalon Lair (at the time, in beta, anyway – when it was all hardcore) so on my action slots I took a heal over time ability to help take the pressure off of the healer on my rotation. This did make my DPS suffer a bit but I felt I should have been better rewarded by staying alive the best and also propping up the healer. Instead, the tunnel vision DPS guys get the glory. And the girls, apparently. I don’t even know if that mechanic is even measured in WildStar anymore and it isn’t like anyone is playing, right? I’m so sadface about WildStar – I really wanted to get through the main story line but it forces me to feel like I need to take Ritalin just to play longer than an hour. It is not working for me.The concept of measuring is still valid in MMOs in general, and has been debated to death and back to life again (post zombification?) and I have nothing new or exciting to add to that discussion in that post. Outcome: Delete due to relevance

There will be a few parts to this as an ongoing “feature” until I clean it all out. It is fun to look back before moving forward.

Half Pregnant

They say you can’t be half pregnant.  This is what slows me down from blogging, the thought that you are either in or out. I’m on the line. It has been awhile since I have posted and like most excuses reasons, they are varied and plentiful. It was partly time, passion, focus, desire and gaming. The Pie chart would look like this:

I know. Fancy. I still read a lot of blogs but I used to dedicate some serious time to reading and writing. Hobbies are fun and all, but I found new ones that also took away my time. At one point I thought I would shutter the blog on my anniversary (August 27th, Happy 7th!) but that felt really melodramatic and over the top. Especially for something that I have loved so long. If I set it free I wasn’t so sure it would come back, and being a nostalgic fool that would be hard to handle.

I have really stepped up being healthy. I get up at 5:00 am everyday, have a coffee, read the news, and then work out. I track my progress and stay focused. I have lost a lot of bad weight and added good muscle weight. I also have been focusing a lot on my diet. I feel happier, healthier, stronger and more satisfied with how I feel. I think it might add years to my life. I still drink beer and eat bad food now and again, but it’s in balance. This does seriously cut into my gaming time as I used to play late night when my wife went to bed. With a 5:00 am wake up time, I know that time is better spent with the sleep I need. C’est la vie, something always has to give!

And yet here I am. A burning desire to belong to Blognation ™ and to write, and to game (and think about gaming). Here I am, half blog-pregnant.

But I have been gaming!

The Everquest TLP servers have been amazing. I finally stepped away after getting multiple toons into the 30s as there is a promise of a bot-free TLP coming around Christmas time. One character logged in at a time would really take away the distractions of having every named camp perma-camped by AFK mages. It is a big problem. Also, the single person running full raid teams. I am looking forward to really playing it again once they launch that server as interdependence and team play was key in the core experience. The best part about EQ TLP is that they did modernize grouping and looting, while retaining a lot of the magic. I just do not want to invest more time in characters that I will be leaving behind, and preserve much more of the core experience when I go back. They haven’t announced whether or not you can transfer there (guessing no) but if that announcement comes that you can I may continue a bit. Either way, strange to believe that my time in Everquest actually isn’t over after all these years – and in many ways it is the only place providing a satisfying MMO experience.

True to my word, I am playing WildStar again! I said I would go back when it went F2P and I am there. I am really enjoying the story line and even the 5 man adventures. I do plan to take one Exile and one Dominion to cap to experience the story. It is a fun, furiously-paced game and in many ways is EQ-opposite but a nice spacey distraction when I have 30 minutes to play. They have fixed a lot of what made that game less fun and it’s worth playing now that  you can do it at your own pace. I will be giving them some money soon, as I do like supporting games that provide me with fair entertainment for my time.

I also downloaded Project Reality 1.3, which is now a standalone product. I am hungry for a FPS experience and this one was the best one out there, so I am going back. The download just finished last night (all 6+ gigs) and really looking forward to carving out some time to play. It is another one of those games that really need you to dedicate distraction free and focused gaming to get the most out of (and give the most in). Project Reality has provided the best platform for  memorable FPS gaming and it’s gritty realistic and rewarding of patient game play (and team play) is completely different from the other options out there.

EQ tore me away from The Secret World and although I am only playing it for the single player experience, there is a lot left to enjoy there and I also recently updated it. I am still at the savage coast and a ton left there to explore as well.

Feels good to write and good to be back to pluck away at things.

WildStar is Sinking

With NCSoft quarterly and full year earnings reports out the news is really, really glum for fans of WildStar.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I posted a lot about WildStar. It has decent chops. There just isn’t value in it for me as a subscription platform (or many, so it seems).

More charts in the link above!

What shows on that chart is a not-so-bad take of 45M USD (roughly adjusted) for the year. What it doesn’t show (but does in the link) is that it did 25M the first Quarter it launched, dropped to 14M the second quarter, and 5M in the last quarter. That is a huge decline. The truth is that the only thing that pretty much gets me back there is B2P – which is problematic for them because letting me back in doesn’t drive revenue. The only way a cash shop works in that game would be for cosmetics (and they have AMAZING housing – so that could fit. They also could have good outfits there). I would also consider going back for a $5 a month sub fee, or something that gives me value for the time I could put in. Again, this is personal to me. I want to see the game, I want to enjoy the solo levelling MMO experience on Nexus, I just need value from it. You just can’t have a sub fee only in a sub free world, unless you are established and are either WoW, EVE, or FF.

Other note of interest is how well Aion does, all things considered. Also, the decline of GW2, which makes sense with the expansion announcement.

Could anything make you go back?

7 is (Not) Enough

Warlords of Draenor launching is having a bigger than I expected effect on WoW subs – although as TAGN points out, things aren’t really clear where those subs are coming from. Besides, WoW subscriber numbers are like the old McDonald’s signs from back in the day that used to list how many millions were served. Eventually they switched it to “Billions and Billions” before dropping it all together. Seinfeld said it best – we get it, you have sold a lot of burgers. You kill a lot of cows. In Blizzard’s case, Orcs.

Still, 10 Million is that nice big round number we are all used to hearing from Blizzard before their decline from biggest subscription game in the world to less big but still bigger than anyone can imagine big. Even blognation who are often quick to pounce on Blizzard’s “decline” are checking out what our old friend has in store with this expansion. I wonder if there is a MMO subscription-based equivalent to Stockholm Syndrome. After all, what else is there?

Well, there is WildStar for one. And with millions flocking back to Warlords of Draenor, paying the $60 box price and resubscribing, how do we fight the exodus of the player base back to Blizzard? With a newsletter and 7 days free time! Of course no one is fooled on the timing and really it feels like putting a bandaid on a punctured jugular but truth be told we have no clue what impact this is having on WildStar (if at all). My more cynical side said long ago that the business model would have to change if they wanted to increase the regular playerbase and some of us suspected that it would be before Draenor dropped – but W* is doing the right thing – wait to see the impact 1/3/6 months and then decide how hard you hit your business model. For all we know with the layoffs and team exits they may be running profitable with the playerbase they have, and they may be satisfied with that.

Back to the 7 day trial – I had a couple of free trial posts back in 2009 and I still believe that it isn’t enough time or enough incentive to buy or resub to a game. This player says it best as well on the WildStar forum this morning.

 

To the average player coming back they won’t see the fixes and under the hood stuff – it won’t be that obvious because most have been away from the game. What will be obvious is server population and activity (which should be fixed by the mega servers, no?) even still, to give 7 days during the time where every WoW player is playing WoW (some of which may or may not be W* players) is a weak knee-jerk reaction. 7 days in a MMO is nothing, so expect that kind of result by offering it.

I do want WildStar to succeed and I will give them money (again) soon as they build a business model that I can support – whether that is B2P or F2P or a heavily reduced sub fee (I’d pay and get $5 a month value from the game. If I am paying $15 I’m back in WoW). Still, none of this discussion is anything new to WildStar fans or developers. They have a solid base of a game that needs bug fixes, and they need to decide what kind of game they want to be. The WildStar devs “are listening” to feedback about 40 man raids (hint: everyone but the 2000 people doing them hate them) but everyone who raided 40 mans before knew this would happen.

So my personal suggestion to WildStar is this: figure out who you want to be, and then figure out which business model supports that. While that sounds simple to do it really isn’t and design decisions need to be made with a goal or focus in mind that can’t just be “get more players”. Players are an outcome from the design decisions, not a design decision in itself. This 7 day free trial decision was poor timing, a poor offer, and not really well thought out.

Fly on the WildStar Wall

I finally got through the 2 hour and 15 minute marathon of the final WildStar Nation podcast. They add an extra special guest, Mattekay, who spent years working at WildStar. The podcast is a good listen, albeit a lot of profanity (more than normal) and they are having a few drinks along the way. It was a pretty funny sendoff.

Fly on the Wall

Credit: The Lovening (click to visit the direct site)

The fun is the insider information Mattekay has on it from his perspective and experiences working on and in WildStar.  As an ex-employee (who quit and wasn’t let go) I tend to go soft on the facts in case it is a bitter-ex syndrome – but Mattekay ‘s commentary seems pretty fair and balanced. He calls out a few things that (in his opinion) weren’t done well but it isn’t a scathing or dramatic “tell all” that we have heard in the past with different companies. It’s worth a listen (and there are laughs too!) especially if you are/were interested in WIldStar. A couple things that stood out to me:

  • Wildstar was never intended to be an action mmo – originally it was tab-targetting. I don’t mind action MMOs but they are more hectic and less relaxing to play, and I think there is room for both (although most lately seem to be moving towards the action elements). So they had to switch the entire design scope midstream and try to fit existing systems into a hugely different gameplay. I miss tab targetting. I really wonder how the game would have been with it.
  • Some big changes to the game team members learned of through hearing the leaders in interviews. That is funny to think, but not uncommon in the real world either. Communication in companies can be bad sometimes.
  • The typical tale of 80-100 hour work weeks that is unsustainable and leads to poor products. I have never agreed with that mentality and while not WildStar specific, I think its a problem that needs to get fixed in the industry.
  • One of the podcast hosts (Dopamean, I think, as Terry Bearstack. Long story if you don’t know.) brought up because everything is AOE technically, that you don’t get the feel of a big hit. There is no connection to the damage. You are just damaging air and hoping enemies are in that cone/telegraph. I agree heavily with this as I thought more on it.

There are a lot of stories and other anecdotal information, but it’s a great listen (and ESRB would be M for Mature). They also cover WildStar’s decline and some options to fix it – most of which has been discussed before but relevant and accurate.

I love the “behind the scenes” kind of stories and it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall in a lot of devs corporate offices to hear the arguments and decision making behind major decisions – especially ones that have major impact (40 man raids in 2014? With Telegraphs?) and the nuances of the company culture behind a lot of our beloved games.

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.

WildStar’s Fast and Dramatic Decline

I am getting the feeling my other report (Wildstar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline) was a bit too optimistic. Perhaps the sky is falling after all (at least on Nexus).

Be prepared for some hard hitting journalism today on the final day of Blaugust.

Exhibit A

First – the President of Carbine, Jeremy Gaffney, announced this week he is no longer the President. He announced this on Reddit and the official forums. The official title talked about how he is “taking on a new role” and if you read between the lines he doesn’t really share whether or not he was asked to move on or personally decided to. A snippet (and the link)

I have a personal “no bullshit” policy (which I think I’ve infused Carbine with as well), so let me give some context here without getti

“Focusing on family” is most often, in my opinion, a horseshit excuse you hear from executive types (usually departing with a forcible shove). 

He then goes on to share that he is  going to focus on family – he is a cancer survivor and I love his candor and openness. Having been through that it is really hard. His moving over letter is the type of thing WildStar fans have come to know and love about him. Gaffer was the man behind the vision, preserver of the style of MMO they wanted to build – a grindy, 1% focused, hard game a la World of Warcraft 2004. Him moving on is also the sign that that seemingly failed vision is now looking at a more causal focused game.

Exhibit B

One of WildStar’s best (and most popular) fansites – WildStarFans.net had it’s creator stop posting and updating. Players became used to visiting here for the latest and up to date news. Originally he left things pretty open and  said he was reprioritizing and focusing family (sound familiar? Isn’t that the hotshot excuse you hear from executive types when making up an excuse that the Gaffer talked about?) and was non-committal on whether he was still playing the game or not.

He did edit his farewell post and post that he was still playing – but he didn’t share any specifics if he was enjoying the game or if that had any part to do with it. Regardless – fansites and podcasts are the pulse of the community of the game, and bring the community together. When the most popular ones start going the way of the Rowsdower (equivalent to a Nexus dodo bird) then you know things are bad.

Exhibit C

I was listening to the WildStar Nation podcast this week (again) and the 4 hosts announced that their next podcast, #50 (they have been podcasting WildStar for a year) will be their last. This podcast was getting 30,000 downloads a month (which is 10% or 30% of the WildStar subscriber base depending on what numbers you like – WildStar isn’t sharing) and was usually the #1 downloaded WildStar podcast (stats were shared by them on various podcasts). It was a pretty somber mood from the guys (Haystack, Militus, Dopamine and Bear) and they were just honest that one of them had already quit and the other’s were having a hard time logging on.

They are funny guys and one of those tongue in cheek remarks was along the lines of “WildStar was able to kill a guild of 500 people in 6 weeks”. They had a guild and that is what happened. 500 gone / disbanded in 6 weeks. Craziness. I have enjoyed the WildStar Nation podcast more than I actually got to enjoy the game so sad to see them go. The truth is, again, the pulse of the community here. If the biggest fans of the game aren’t sticking around then who is?

Why Again?

While that question may sound like it is referring to us looking at why the game didn’t grab and keep the attention of the fans of the game and general MMO population it is actually also the answer.

Why again, would we build in barriers (40 mans, attunements) into a sub fee MMO while the entire genre is moving to easier and more accessible? Just to be different? Who said that is what players actually want?

That fun answer is that some players did want it – and some are now fighting WildStar for now switching to easier (making some attunements steps more reasonable, etc.) 5 mans are supposed to be fun and fast now, easily completable by 5 random strangers (not so in WildStar). Raids are supposed to have varying levels of difficulty so everyone can have the experience. Why are we designing games the same way we were playing them 8 years ago – when the games from 8 years ago that are still going strong have so drastically changed themselves to fit what gamers want?

Gamers don’t have the time to slog through “that” MMO – there have been reports that people need to grind for 3+ hours a raid night to just get enough cash to buy consumables and pay for repairs for that 6 hour learning raid. That prep is unacceptable these days – and it is really no surprise. Gamers pay billions of dollars annually to speed things up – look at Clash of Clans, for example. The whole business model is speeding things up. People do not want to go slower. Especially in a sub fee environment where the gating feels like it is just to stretch out your sub.

Add to that, they built in a cash shop where you could buy CREDD with real money to skip some of those grinds. And we all know that the only game that can get away with having both a subscription fee and a cash shop is World of Warcraft.

Suddenly my November F2P conversion  prediction is looking really solid. And that’s not to be a jerk – I’ll actually go play when that happens. There is a lot of Nexus I want to explore.

All of this also makes me think of ESO – a game I have never played. How is it faring? Did it find it’s niche? I wonder this because is there really any room for a newly launched MMO to have a subscription fee anymore? The falling (wild) star would indicate to me that there isn’t.

 

 

Ask and Ye Shall Receive (the 1%)

Below is an excerpt from a  post by Carbine Studios’ Jeremy Gaffney on why the 1% is important.

Here’s some quick philosophy on the subject (still in the office at 6pm Sunday so I’ll have to be brief):

We do believe in catering to the 1% (actually a few different 1%’s). We spend more than 1% of our time on them. Why?

Well, the 1% grew over time in the MMO market. It used to be that few people were at the end game stages of the MMOs, but of course as time passes the percentage of players there grows. And some who hated PVP as noobies learned they loved it, and some who struggled in dungeons took on veteran dungeons and learned to raid, etc. So that “1%” of people who do the hard end-game content has grown a bit (it’s still not pervasive per se; and the toughest raids are still only finished by a fraction of the playerbase).

Several factors apply:

1) The 1% are pretty vocal. If they report back to the 99% that the elder game sucks, guess what? Lots of people leave – why bother levelling up if no love was put into the very top content? (Well there actually answers to that, but I’ll leave it for brevity).

2) Over time, your “1%” content becomes easier – better loot drops, people get more skilled, level caps raise. So that percentage our of time spent actually over time does get utilized well.

3) We devs often ARE the 1%. If you make a game you don’t love, it’s pretty damn hard to make it good. We want a game we want to play too. There are a disproportionate amount of hardcore raiders/PVPers in the industry (and probably also in those passionate enough to post here or on other MMO sites for that matter).

4) There’s some magic involved. Picture a game with no nigh-inaccessible content. You can go anywhere the first month, there’s nothing left unseen. From one perspective, maybe that’s great – there’s no earning your way into Counterstrike maps, and that game’s pretty damn fun. But from another…I dunno, it’s pretty tough to have a mysterious, huge-feeling world when you can trivially do it all, and even in games I don’t want to or don’t have time to raid in I’d like to know there’s more out there. That’s arguable though.

………………. (some cut out, hit link above to read the whole thing………

Anyhoo, there’s tons more on the subject, especially as we do more reveals later this year on elder games, deeper dives on features, etc. Maybe we’ll muck up some of the execution (don’t believe so at the moment, but there’s lots to do still. I don’t expect or desire any “gimmes” from the MMO communities as a whole; there’s been enough hype in recent years in the biz that the proof HAS to be in the pudding for us and future games).

But strategically we have a set of goals that we feel passionate about. Opinions welcome.

Sounds sensible right? But what if by catering to the 1%, you actually only got the 1%?

NCSoft earnings report shows a converted income from WildStar of 27M in April, May and June. Since the game launched in June you can put that down as box sales. It’s 59.99 for a Standard edition and $74.99 for deluxe, so in the interest of best guesstimates let’s draw a line in the sand of in between – $66.99 – and that gives you ~400,000 in box sales. IF CREDD income isn’t reported.

I suppose the pre-order sales slump prediction was true.

Now, 400,000 is a LOT of boxes and if anyone felt the game was growing, or even held that number of players then it would be an unarguable success! Unfortunately, by all anecdotal accounts, servers are emptying – and fast. WildStar nation is moving their guild (already) from Rowsdower to a higher pop server (and spending $1000 in the process). I mentioned how empty things were. Even Syp, who is loving the fact that challenges are easy now that his server is empty is noticing the same thing. WildStar Nation who do a weekly podcast about the game use their best guess at 30% retention. It’s all guesses and experiences at this point – but no one has said, anywhere, that the game is growing.

The pessimist in me has a couple thoughts here – one, that my swift conversion to F2P will come true (that before I even played the game). The other is that that date will be on our around (or at least announced) by November 13th. Have to keep players once WoD drops, no? The pessimist in me (its a very small part, I promise) also thinks back to when I suspected that companies STILL make more money going box plus TEMPORARY sub fee for X months before the inevitable F2P conversion – and maybe Carbine is playing that card.

The optimist in me hopes that Carbine sticks to their guns and vision, and is happy with 130,000 subs and can focus on growing the game the way they always envisioned it – and that they can cater to the core they always wanted to. I still won’t play it that way, but I respect EVE Online and I don’t play that game either.

Unfortunately respect doesn’t pay the bills and who knows what the expectation and pressures are from NCsoft to Carbine. What I know for sure is that if it indeed goes F2P and/or B2P I will go and participate in the community. I’ll even support them with payments.

Either way – change will be coming to WildStar and whether it is good or bad will depend on what actions they take (something HAS to change) and what camp you are in when it is changed.

Rally Caps

Murf and I chatted about baseball not too  long ago, and I was recently treated to a 19 inning, walk off win marathon from my home team Toronto Blue Jays, against our dreaded rivals, the Detroit Tigers. It had a lot. A lot of intentional walks (the Jays lineup is down 3 starters so once you get past Cabrera and Bautista your pitcher is generally safe.) a  lot of bases loaded let downs (Jays had them loaded 3 times (often thanks to the walks – intentional or not)) and still couldn’t win until the 19th frame. Spectacular defensive saves (looking at you, Rasmus in centre field. you and your .219 average!) and all in all, a great way to spend 6 and a half hours.

Yup, you heard me. 6 glorious hours of baseball. And 37 minutes. Glorious. or something. On Baseball Canada Day.

That’s long.

After 17 innings the Tigers were out of pitchers and had to put in their starter for the NEXT day. How did the game end? What lead to the victory? Was it a clutch hit, or defensive error – what was it?

Rally Caps.

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Don’t mess with the Rally Cap!

The game was dragging, and then the camera pans and we see journeyman and underground fan favourite Steve Tolleson walking around the dugout physically turning around everyone’s caps. He’s doing it all by himself. That is the stuff of legends! He walks around, spinning caps, a tried and true baseball tradition. The Rally Cap. Not asking, not suggesting, just doing. The straight-back rally cap – a veteran move, compared to the less fashionable inside out rally cap.

And then they win.

Sometimes superstition works.

I know players put on their rally caps (save Vanguard petition) often when games are going to be shuttered and while and I pulled my pitcher (metaphorically) with my yesterday cancel of WildStar sub – I do wish it well, and hope to enjoy it again someday. I think it will be just fine with the subs they do keep and hopefully that is enough for NCSOFT to keep the F2P calls at bay.

Au Revoir WildStar!

Zero surprise to anyone that reads hear semi-regularly that I was headed down this path. WildStar has some potential and the business model is pushing me away further than the game itself. IF it was buy to play +expansions or free-to-play I’d be exploring Nexus. It’s neither and I don’t feel right paying for a game I am barely playing. Another time I’d be there. Just not in the cards.

I was looking forward to unsubscribing for the sole sake that perhaps because I am voting with my wallet they would take my feedback seriously. No, I’m not faking it with a “I’m quitting post” on the forums, I’m not bluffing. I actually did – look!

Easier to cancel than Audible!

They didn’t even care. Not even a “hey, why are you leaving?” exit survey. Just a click, and I’m gone. I mean, I’m sure they liked my money, but I guess they really don’t need it – or don’t want to know the reasons why. I find this shocking in the digital age (and I often do) that there is no cheap and simple to implement improvement survey so the devs understand what, if anything, is driving players away. Maybe they already know, or *think* they know, but another missed opportunity!

Money is why these games are made. However, until MMOs become less transactional, and more relationship based this industry is going to continue to pump out the same thing. Kickstarter is a nice start due to niche support options but you have things such as Star Citizen (which seems more like a professional money raising company, not a gaming company), Camelot Unchained, and the like. The best of the best when it comes to businesses and brands in general build a bond of trust and a relationship with their  customers who become evangelists for their brands. They take the time to build that relationship through their messaging, their support, and their connections with their customers. Want a simple and cheap example?

This company Grovemade makes iPhone cases out of reclaimed skateboards and other recycled materials. No two are alike.  My wife bought one. It cost $100 and shipping to Canada. When it arrived, there was a hand written note in it – that said “This one has an extra cool design in it – enjoy! I loved packing it for you  – Steve”. It made her feel individualistic (extra cool design) and personal (I loved packing it for you) and guess what happened one year later, when it started chipping? She bought another one. I suggested she spend $30 like my SURVIVOR case for my Galaxy s5 but no, it’s $100 bucks because she connected with that company.

Relationships are hard to build between a company and user in a game with millions of “customers” – I get it – but let’s put in some effort. The best thing going for MMOs is that the relationships don’t need to be that way, they can exist solely between gamers – and that will carry a lot of subscriptions a long way – but at some point the company needs to matter to the person as well. People love Blizzard and go to Blizzcon. People love SOE and go to (SOEfest? What is that called?) You need that dedication to survive. WildStar, by all accounts, does a good job of reaching out to the crowd (weekly podcasts, posts on forums, etc.) so kudos there where it is due. I just am boggled that after 8 years of development and a huge launch, with apparent Gartner Hype Cycle crashes that you wouldn’t want to ask people leaving exactly why.

For me, I could have chosen several.

  • I don’t get the same value out of a subscription fee payment
  • I can’t put in enough hours to earn CREDD instead
  • I didn’t find a guild or make bonds (my friends on my friends lists – guilds I were considering – outright vanished)
  • The game world left me behind – felt empty in the sub 20 areas I was adventuring in
  • The Dominion side seemed to have even larger population issues, but I enjoyed that side more

Not much they can do about that list, but if enough chose the first bullet point maybe they could use that when strategizing about a F2P strategy. The second through  fourth points would point to server mergers (or transfers). Maybe they wouldn’t act on that information but at least they would have it – and with information you can make decisions with more clarity instead of guessing or hoping you know the answer.

Best of luck WildStar and looking forward to the “return to WildStar for 10 days!” or free trial email to see if you were able to guess at and fix the things that lead me to leave in the first place.

 

 

WildStar’s Slow and Undramatic Decline

This is not a “the sky is falling” Chicken Little recount of what I see going on in WildStar- this is a general feeling and mood about the game. Read a lot  blogs, forums, and even fan sites and there is an underlying thought that subs are bleeding and the bugs and hardcore nature of the game is putting off a base population. More on why I think that later.

I chronicled my short history and love of WildStar here – a game by all accounts I should be fully engaged in yet barely logging in and my highest character is still (all together now) level 18. I will be cancelling my sub but I still have a couple weeks left to play. I’m not sure if I am even going to bother logging in. Here’s a link to the 13ish posts about WildStar since I started beta. Good and bad – mostly good at the beginning, less good now.

In three months I only opened around 21 of my boom boxes and I’ll have 70 or so waiting for me if I ever log back in – that 21 figure is a lot of fake too – some days I ONLY logged in to get my boom box. Silly that I am Over Rewarding myself. Even sillier, is that I think I have spent more hours listening to the guys at WildStar Nation at their podcast than I have playing the game live.

Aside: I don’t spend a lot of time listening to podcasts – I have my staple audio selection for the week (hour drive each day for work) and that staple is the Economist audio edition (nerd alert?), whatever book I have on tap for the month from Audible (Start With Why by Simon Sinek) and the WildStar Nation podcost. I typically save the WSN for when I cut my lawn. I have a riding mower and a couple acres, and its a solid hour and half on the John Deere. (nerd/hick yo!)

Back: The WildStar Nation Podcast – I was listening to one today (while cutting my lawn) and they were also speaking about the apparent decline of the game. One observation was when one of the casters was talking with someone from Enigma and when prompted, this was the reply from the player regarding what is going on with one of the top raiding guilds in the world, and the top progression guild in the WildStar world right now. This is a paraphrase (but a great excuse for you to go download their latest episode and listen!) – the raider said the guild LOVED the 20 man content – it was awesome. They attuned 70 40 man raiders and now are down to 40 – the bare minimum.

The future of 40 man raids is jeopardizing the game. Sound familiar?

That is when it struck me – WildStar is a game created by developers who claimed that they wanted to build WoW like it used to be, and not make the same decisions that “ruined” WoW. That seemed to be the boilerplate design of the entire game. And that is when it struck me. Rose colored glasses. In that link Arcadius talks about how nostalgia is a cruel mistress and he has a couple of his own links in that article to other bloggers who tend to agree.

“The trouble with nostalgia is that it’s a fleeting thing, and it’s something that’s better left in the annals of your mind.”  Me vs Myself and I

“That driving sense of nostalgia often doesn’t last long beyond the point when you return to the time/place/song you were nostalgic for.”  The Ancient Gaming Noob

(there I go linking TAGN again. I’m going to need to start paying him royalties. At least it is me linking Arcadius’ links!)

Bear with me here on this argument.

Is it any surprise that the games we are playing are underwhelming when they are being created by people who have their own nostalgia about how games are supposed to be designed – on top of our own nostalgia on how they are supposed to be consumed? Now look at a couple of the biggest Kickstarter excitements in MMO nation:

  • Camelot Unchained : DAOC nostalgia
  • Star Citizen: Wing Commander/Privateer nostalgia
  • Pantheon: Rise of the – bah, never mind (but still nostalgia driven..)

You get the picture.

Seems nostalgia could be as much of an enemy of game designers as well as the players. WildStar and present company included.

Yes, Still Playing WildStar…

.. and my highest character is only level 18.

This is where the sub fee can be frustrating – especially in a game branding itself as “hardcore” and not alt-character friendly. It is a long journey in WildStar and my limited playtime and wanting to understand WHERE to invest my time has lead me to a whole lot of levelling and not much playing. You could call those the same thing, but I am playing EXPLORATORY (what class/path combination) and not actually playing. I am already repeating starter, primary and secondary zones. There is nothing new.

Not only are their 6 classes but also 4 paths.  My highest level character, the Medic, is a Scientist as his path – and I am already loathing it. Because WildStar is “hardcore” my choice is to learn to love the path, abandon my character altogether and re-roll, or skip out on levelling the path altogether. It is a pretty big part of the game and none of those sound like fun.

Why not one free respec? How could that possibly hurt anyone?

I have a few more levels to get my Stalker to 15 and haven’t even started the Engineer yet. So far, I think the Stalker is the route I’ll take but I really did love the Medic (but not enough to start all over). It’s been two months and I’ve barely seen the game.

Yes, all of that is my “fault”. I get it. I could work less, or spend less time with my family, or pray for more rain. It is *my* lifestyle that probably doesn’t fit WildStar and it’s a shame that they don’t want people like me as paying customers. I’d guess you need a solid 10-15 hour per week investment in it to feel like you are in the groove.

Hopefully, there are plenty others willing to do the old grinds in the old attunement paths in the old ways. If you read the forums they are pretty doom and gloom about empty servers and bugs. Complaints that clearly this game was made by WoW designers – the kind of design choices that WoW has spent the last four years changing to be more customer friendly. The few friends I had on my friends list are long gone and the areas I am still playing in are completely dead – hard to find a helping hand for the harder group quests (reintroduced with WildStar, long gone in WoW..).

Again, this is my fault because not only did I choose the unpopular faction (Dominion) but I am levelling slowly, so what players are still playing are ahead of me. All of this on one of the three or so “Medium” population servers.

I am sure this sounds whiny, and it’s not meant to be. There are problems with WildStar for sure, but it is a fascinating world and play style that I certainly enjoy. Any whining you may be sensing isn’t whining at all – it is frustration that I can no longer immerse myself in an MMO like the good old days ™ and I’m just hoping for that feeling of belonging in a game and having fun with friends.  Since none of my old gaming friends are really playing, I need to make new friends. That’s a lot harder in an MMO now, with cross server instant-queues for group content,  empty servers for non instanced content, and less time to play than probably needed to make meaningful connections.

I have committed to playing through August and I really need to grab a main, find a guild, and take a run at it. If not, not only will I miss out on a world story I want to enjoy, but WildStar will lose another subscription.

The Sub Fee is the Bane of my MMO Gaming

I paid a lot of sub fee dollars to EQ, DAOC, and WoW, so please, don’t get all uppity.

I have spoken about this a lot. I am currently paying WildStar a sub fee. I have been travelling for work, and very busy with home and family. I get it – that makes it “my fault” (somehow).

My highest character is level 10.

I want to support the company financially, but at this rate I am paying $5 an hour. That in itself is entirely reasonable for entertainment (depending on the type) but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s not equitable. I am subsidizing every other gamer who can make the time to pay their 18 cents an hour. I am just as important as a customer to Carbine, no? I don’t mind welfare schemes when it has to do with survival and human decency, but I don’t like welfare in my MMOs.

The time/value sub loss rate – people like me who end up changing their minds – would at my best guess be a bigger loss than having tiers of sub fees based on some playtime parameters. For instance, I’d pay $5 a month and be limited to 15 hours, for example, gladly. And if I went over those hours, my renewal rate could go up to $10. And if I went over 30 hours, it could go to $15. And if I went over 30 hours it would then just stay at $15 because that is a heavy user fee and unlimited play.

Look, suddenly, more people are happy.

I have paid insurance for so many years and have never made a claim. It’s nice to have that safety though – knowing that if I needed a claim its there. Not the same feeling, paying an insurance premium in an MMO for hours you could use, if you had the time, but that you don’t get to bank if you don’t. Insurance is good in the real world, but I don’t like insurance style premiums in my MMOs.

It’s a fun game and I committed to two months – if I don’t feel like I am getting the value (price isn’t the problem..) then I’ll leave and Carbine will get zilch.

Until they go F2P, of course.

Guaging Success – WildStar Launch

WildStar head start drops tonight at 3am EST. Best of luck to their team and the players partaking in it. This will be interesting and fun to watch – there are a lot of eyes on WildStar.

This is also the first MMO launch I have been a part of since Warhammer Online (and we all know how that turned out!) I have pretty much played them all but typically wait 60 days – I enjoyed the WS beta that much and see the value in starting from launch day. I am looking to exploring Nexus and the secrets and treasures it has (code words for Kill Ten Rats and FedEx quests..) They have a lot of lore to chew on and I am excited to be a part of the story as it unfolds in all the theme park glory.

I won’t be up at 3am to wait in queue but I’ll see how it held up bright and early in the morning. For those who haven’t seen it, this is a nice feature set video that showcases WS.

At bare minimum, extra writing material for me as I play!  I have relaxed expectations and refuse to hop on the hype train. WildStar wild have no long term measurable impact on World of Warcraft – and that is ok. Back on Warhammer’s release I made a really silly prediction they would get 1,000,000 subs in year one (based off of the beta experience – which wasn’t replicated once live) and sitting here today I am realizing the expectations should be more fair (not just for WildStar, for all MMO launches.)

Some ideas if we can agree:

  • A base population that is sustainable and profitable.
  • Population growth. (see: EVE Online). It doesn’t matter if there are 100,000 users or 1,000,000 users – its a healthy sign if that increases over time. The pace of growth isn’t that critical either. Doubling overnight doesn’t matter if you are churning.
  • No major change in payment types (F2P conversions, cash shops, etc.)
  • An official forums that is raging with every Nerf left right and centre. A caring population is good, right? =)

The adventure begins! If you are playing, let me know what server. I still haven’t decided that yet. A final side note:  I have been listening to the guys at WildStar Nation and they do a great job capturing WildStar with a pretty objective and levelheaded approach. It’s a good source of material if you are looking to learn more about the game.

See you on Nexus!

 

Housing I Would Buy Into (or Rent/Lease)

Housing is all the craze and I’m loving the options. My first (and best) experience with housing in general was in DAOC. We had this nice, big, shiny Guild House! It had crafting, and portals, and trophies.. and was an awesome place where guildmates would spend downtime or whittle away at their trade skills. While there were limitations, it was something that was very cool, was ours, and it promoted spending time together in between the big battles.

I didn’t do housing in any other game – WoW was my predominant after DAOC and doesn’t have it, but I have heard good things about EQ2 housing, LOTRO, and even Vanguard (through Bhagpuss). I can’t comment on those, but I *can* comment on WildStar housing, and ask some questions about WoW’s upcoming Warlords expansion, and some general quirks and oddities about housing in general.

First off, WildStar housing is amazing. I can’t believe the level of customization available. Everything scales, and a pistol prop can quickly become a couch if turned and sized correctly. Your starter plot of land has enough for 4 FABkits (preset style plugins) and two backdrops (larger slots) and I have used a garden (that you can plant seeds into that find around the world) a relic garden (relic is a tradeskill collection item – so they actually grow there and you can harvest) a kiddie pool (funny) a couple party kits with bbqs and the like, and my favorite so far is the Moonshine Stein. You literally get a challenge to produce booze within a set time frame, and doing so successfully gets you a neon beer sign (that you can then scale, twist, and hang to your delight). Yes, you can even drink the stuff and get drunk. There is a fun line of functionality and coolness to items you can place around your yard and inside your house. The best part is you find housing items just by questing and killing mobs. There is also a whole tradeskill (architecture) dedicated to building housing items, of which I did not get into. I wish I would have taken more pictures of my house before beta ended, and I look forward to building a new one come launch. The more items your house has, the greater the rested XP boost you get. So its form and function.

WoW’s Garrisons look to be similar yet less customizable and more plug and play(ish). I only read the announcements and have not seen videos or followed it too closely, but both WS and WoW’s housing suffers from? Separation of community.

Listen, these housing ideas are cool but all instanced. The fun part of building them are completely awesome I agree – but it just further segments the community. I get it – there isn’t enough land in the world to make the housing – and there are some tools available (you can make your housing plot private, friends on, or public in WS) but its still segmentation. Why not make it easy? It isn’t that hard to do.

First off, have GUILD housing. Guild houses can be far more extravagant than typical homes and all guild members automatically get access.

Secondly, soon as you build your own house it automatically goes in the same instance as the Guild House. Each guild member does.

Voila. Now, instead of housing, you have  community. A neighborhood even. A neighborhood tied around a commonality (which is how most communities – digital or otherwise – foster).

If you aren’t guilded you build neighborhoods around “services” – crafting halls, transportation hubs, etc. You put some conveniences in that people want to be around, and draw them to that area and give them the opportunity to build their own communities. For even more fun you could build them around landmarks, statues, wonders of the world (planet) – anything to attract people around a certain area will give them the opportunity to build communities. The boat between continents in EQ, while crappy to wait for and too long of a trip, fostered an awful lot of friendships.

I know I am greatly simplifying a cause and effect but I also don’t think this needs to be complicated. Aligning personal space within community space is just common sense, right?

Does any game that I haven’t played do this better (or worse) than the ones I mentioned? I am genuinely fascinated to hear real experiences instead of feature set sheets!

40 Man Raids (Redux)

There is plenty of healthy debate about WildStar bringing back 40 man raids. This is also connected to a broader raid difficulty discussion. I will share my raiding experience and opinion. (Since you asked)

EQ – I was on the testserver and as such, raids were a server wide event for the most part – there was a third party board where people would ask for participants, and “hold” raids. Such a friendly environment! Someone would post they were doing a certain raid, at a certain time, and the rest of the server would respect and leave that raid/mob alone – or ask to tag along. There was no instancing. I only participated in a few here Naggy, Giants, and Plane of Sky. Raiding wasn’t the game back then – it was just part of the journey. Because there were no raid limits everyone was welcome – even if you weren’t max level (although appropriate level still).

DAOC – Does killing stinkin’ Hibs and Albs counts as raids? We did do Relic raids, and a lot of them (also on the testserver – Pendragon) but there weren’t really any PVE raids per se that I participated in.

WoW – 40 man raids of Molten Core and Blackrock Spire. I LOVED 40 man raids. Yes, it was a nightmare to schedule. Yes, you carried 10+% of your raid team sometimes. That level of teamwork, organization and persistence was an experience on its own. Notice I said “loveD”. After working on those for a lengthy time it was refreshing to learn they were moving to a more guild-friendly 25 team. At this point, our guild split up and we formed our own 25 man raid team and went a raiding.

Except Karazahn got in the way. A 10 man raid gating gear for 25 man raids? whhaaaaaaat?

And this is the point where I say – can we ALL at least agree, that to be sensible, all dungeons and raids should be a derivative of the base of grouping?

For example:

5 mans to start

10 mans to gear up

20 mans to raid

40 mans to heroic raid

80 mans to – well, no thank you!

Or at least a smart derivative to not break up teams. I hated 10 man entry raiding because the next step was 25 man raiding. This meant you couldn’t have two separate teams work towards that equal goal, and meet at it. You would have to run 3 teams (and sit 1/6 of your team on raid night) or run 2 teams with 25% subs – slowing the progression of gearing and practicing. This never made sense to me.

This can be done off of your base decision. If you want 4 man dungeons, have the next step 8 (or 12) and then 16 (or 24). This allows teams within teams to prepare and not be left out. I never understood what sense went beside WoW’s decision to do 25 instead of 20. Perhaps they felt it would be more “epic”, (which, I would argue is a shadow of epic comparison to 40 mans, and not really much different than a 20 man). Perhaps they had technical limitations that leant towards 25 (which also doesn’t make a ton of sense) or sinisterly, perhaps they wanted to slow the progression and make guilds and individuals make hard choices. Either way, that was the only option. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that decision was made. Among many other decisions.

WildStar is on the example path I have above (without the 10 man step) , and I like that. 5 man teams can run and improve into a 4 unit 20 man raid team, who can join up with another internal/external 20 man raid team to tackle the top content. No one is left out.

I appreciate the re-insertion of challenge into the group content (pre-release claims) and I am content knowing this game for me is about the journey – I don’t expect to raid, although I hope to prepare myself to fill in on a night where I may be needed. I love group content and mastering 5 mans and the like – that will still be a big part of my playing experience. I am one of the few who absolutely loved WoW Cataclysm (the 5s and 10s and yes, 25s (that should have been 20s)) and it will be very interesting to see how a WoW-trained world will respond in the face of actual challenge and adversity. I expect the backlash to be pretty large, and we’ll see if Carbine changes their course.

Refusing to Repeat Content

One challenge with all these fun beta and alpha tests (WildStar and Landmark, respectively) is that I don’t want to play too long or too far – because I know when the game launches, if I decide to play, I will have to do this all over again. Also, if the beta is a “doomed to fail” game, I also don’t play too far or too long – why invest the time?

Hitting my 40’s and realizing how precious and valuable my time is finally.

It’s a balance – “free” gaming time (for WildStar, since it is a sub) vs losing out on the launch experience. What if I zoom through the early levels, confident I already experienced it? What if they changed something?

Landmark is free, but as mentioned in other spaces why grind it out only to have to grind it out again when launch happens.

I thought I was outsmarting the process in WS because I played exclusively Exile during beta – so I could play Dominion (the other faction) at launch. I would still have a comfort with UI/controls/systems but a whole new world to explore. However, after playing with the Character Creator for the dominion side and the starting areas (briefly) I’m not sure I am digging the tone of the Dominion.

Dammit, I have preserved the experience I most likely won’t want to enjoy. (lots of guessing here… it hasn’t launched yet!)

Open beta starts on the 8th, and I encourage everyone to try it. This is going to be one of the largest launches of this year MMO wise, love or hate it.

As silly as this entire train of thought is, I find I am far less likely to play through until end of Beta/Alpha tests generally if I am not enjoying the experience, and/or if I *am* enjoying the experience. I don’t want to waste my time / waste the live experience, after all.

 

Flex Builds Ruining Immersion?

I am starting to feel that flexibility on my characters is hurting immersion. I am very flip-floppy on this subject so please help!

In movies and high fantasy typically a hero is “good at one thing”. Legolas has short swords/daggers but really, he uses his bow. And he is famous for it.

Luke Skywalker has a lightsaber, and uses that primarily.

There are many examples of this. Characters are identified by the way they look and the weapons they use almost as much as their personality and grander quest they are on.

I loved sword/torch in GW2 for Guardian – but I had to swap out another weapon mid rotation to maximize my DPS rotation. This just felt silly. My Guardian looked awesome with a torch and sword, press 6 buttons, swap to 2 handed sword, swap back. You don’t see that very often in movies. At least, not at the level of repetition required to get from level 6 to level 8 in a MMO.

WildStar, I fear, has the exact opposite problem. Everyone in the same class has the same weapon (essentially). It may look a little different, but Stalkers use claws, Warriors use 2H swords, Spellslingers dual wield pistols (and on). There is no room for customization except the look of the weapon. You can’t be a Warrior that uses claws.

I feel these things challenges role playing and makes other issues harder. I am assuming these are built in to solve animation and other technical issues.

I still like multiple spec options in gaming, but complete changes is just too much in my opinion (right down to skills in between pulls). There is no commitment to any sort of build or play style. My character is master of fire! and ice! and lightning! and earth! and swords and shields and staves and… and.. and.. (you get the picture.) If you are truly the proficient in all, aren’t you also the master of none? Don’t we want to feel heroic? Why can’t I fill a “role” using whatever weapons and/or look that I want? I feel as though the lack of this ruins the story potential. If I want to make myself a tank that has huge armor and a giant shield, I should be able to do that – regardless of if I want to dps or tank.

Specialization was more consistent for character building. I don’t want to go back to the old days where a healer just healed, and a tank just tanked. What I would like to see is the flexibility for us to create our own character and build them the way we want them to look (appearance wise), with the functionality of what we need them to perform. I know both WildStar and GW2 (among others) do this well with costume features, but that typically doesn’t work with weapons (the most defining feature). This does work in World of Warcraft (cross weapon transmog) if the attack animation is the same.

As I say this, I am reminded that perhaps roles are the issue. There are no tanks, healers, or DPS in Lord of The Rings. They just fight.

Then again, perhaps this thought line is just a portion of the lack of fluff that is missing in the engagement of the new MMO crop.

 

Wild On WildStar

Another beta weekend gone by with WildStar and some significant time was spent within the game. The extended weekend was helpful as I had both Friday and Monday off of work *and* my wife was out of town so it was a perfect storm of gaming.

The Medic

I got to beta-max level (20) on my Exile Medic  and level 10 on all other classes. This has created a small conundrum for me – I *love* the medic and levelling the class, but as I got higher I noticed a few issues that many are going to find at launch (without major tweaking – it *is* still beta after all).

Healing is a two way street. I hit heal but the tank/dps has to actually stay in the telegraph to receive it – very few are instant. So, running more challenging content I’d get off a clutch heal only to have the tank/dps rotate out of it. DPS and tanks are only used to moving out of the bad, not as well trained for moving into the good – years of training. This is going to be an issue with the Medic moreso than the other classes. They can hit from far way while medics are a melee healer. Also – everyone is jumping around like they are on crack  or Ritalin. (do crackheads jump around?). Wildstar is like GW2 and others that have active dodging – most players are taking this as the opportunity to circle strafe even when it isn’t necessary or important and is making healing harder. This is of course a PUG perspective. I am sure organized groups don’t face this as much.

DPS on the Medic is much more rewarding and smooth. Still learning and sorting out optimal rotations but it is a very simple system.  Some abilities are tied to actuators (points) and you build them (up to 4) and use them (1 or 2 at a time). Other abilities are off the actuators and purely cooldown based. Same premise for the healing. Hence the conundrum – none of the other classes spoke to me in the short time I played  but I am interested in sorting out a tanking class. The engineer felt clunky and I just didn’t get the feel of the stalker or the warrior. Tanking is going to be so much more important than healing in this game as you can negate most of the big damage if you are paying attention. That is the way the first 20 levels felt. I have to give them more than the 10 levels of test time obviously. Still – interesting take on how to find your class in an MMO world of all sorts of class options. That is for another post.

I mentioned in my first WildStar post that I felt 5 classes were too few – and it is feeling that way as I struggle to find my way with it.

The Levelling Experience

The Levelling experience was great and I really enjoyed it. Since I am leaning towards Dominion (I always play the pansy alliance side types) I figured I would only play Exile side quests to preserve the levelling experience when the game goes live. The questing is slick and the story is full of potential. A huge, mysterious planet once inhabited by an ancient race that has long left the galaxy. There are datacubes and lore points all around. While the writing is not supposed to win an Oscar it still adds some nice flavor and color. Check this gem out.

MY LEGS!

—————————————–
[The final dictated diary entry of an unfortunate explorer has a singular focus and is burned onto the broken, blood-encrusted screen.]

MY LEGS! Oh gods it hurts it hurts it HUUURTS why did I ever try that jump? Why did I think it was a good idea to – oh gods is that bone poking through the skin? And is that my – sitting on top of my – oh gods, it is. GYAAARGH! The pain the pain the PAIN why the stars did I come to this gods-forsaken planet in the first place?

Okay just – just calm down. Medishot… numbing pain enough… to talk. Legs… shattered. My attempt to reach the heart of the Sanctuary… doomed to fail. If you are reading this, turn back. TURN BACK before you take one lousy STINKING MISSTEP and plummet to the floor of this hellscape of a – oh stars the pain’s coming back. Too much to concentrate. Must reach… medishots. Belt. Where’s my belt. Oh, it’s on my – with the – oh no. Hey! Get away from that! I need it! Well… I will need it. If I can – why are you looking at me like that? Oh gods. Your eyes. Why are they like that? Please, I need help. Don’t – please, no – not my legs. Not my legs! What are you – don’t eat that! Gods – nerves must be – totally severed – or pain would be oh NO GODS NO THOSE ONES AREN’T SEVERED gyagharghGODS ALMIGHTY the chewing the chewing oh gods OH GODS HELP ME the horrible chewing and crunching and GYAAAAAAAAGHHHH –

[The remainder of the screen is filled with the autorecord AI’s valiant attempts to write out the sounds of violent predation.]

Picture a Morgan Freeman narration on that scene. All sadistic kidding aside, a lot of quests have tidbits like that – people getting lost (and dead) exploring the planet trying to find fame, riches, and/or sanctuary. It’s a nifty backdrop.

The Gear Mistake

I know WS has been in development for a long time and it is too late to make the move now but I believe  the way gear works will be frustrating for players – especially with WoW moving to a one gear system. In WildStar you have PVE-DPS gear, which is different from your PVE-SUPPORT (tank/heal) gear, which is different from your PVP-DPS gear, which is different from your PVP-SUPPORT (tank/heal) gear. In Warlords of Draenor gear is getting smart and changing to your spec. This makes sense instead of complicated storage and gear swapping issues when you can change specs on the fly.

I said this was a good idea in 2008 for Blizzard and am glad to see they are finally getting around to my old blog posts. Hopefully WS does too!

While levelling I did PVP, PVE and healed and dps’d throughout both. The experience would have been far better for myself (AND the people I was grouping with) if my gear fit the role I was playing. This is even more important in lowbie levelling where you are upgrading gear at a rapid pace. Doesn’t make sense to carry around four sets (and you won’t have the room anyway). Calling it now – once WoW WoD comes out Carbine will have to backtrack on this decision and make it work the smart way.

The Convenience Factor

Similar to the above – WS is awesome in that they give you action sets where you can literally change your specs in between pulls.  You have room for up to 8 standard abilities and you can choose how you fill your action bar. The problem here is that you can’t save a second set until you hit level 15. I don’t know when you get a third set. The workaround is that you take the time and click the button 20x to swap it out – but why provide a convenient option if you won’t let us save multiples?  I believe this will be a cash shop item when the cash shop is finally released. Sure, you can live without it, but why would you want to?

The Challenge

Levelling is slow in WildStar. It takes effort, but thankfully, there is tons to do.

The level 20 dungeon Exile will be retuned (very difficult to PUG) and money is sparse and repairs are painfully expensive.  The rewards are currently slim for the effort required which will make them avoided by the optimizer. The encounters I did (got through two bosses in a PUG, took us an hour to get those sorted) were fun but nothing you haven’t seen before in other 5 mans. Still, worth playing out. 5 mans are one of my favorite parts of MMOs.

At level 15 you can do your first adventure which is a choose your own adventure style dungeon. The Exile one is really fun. Basically 5 go in to an over-arching story line and group members vote what things to do – so you could have the choice to rescue the farmer’s daughter, kill a certain spy, or disable supplies. Each leg of the adventure has those choices – and in the Exile one there were 3 choice sets. Each played out in the same backdrop which gives custom options and running through the same instance isn’t so boring because of it.

Shiphand missions take you offworld but are scalable mini dungeons for 1-5 players. The first I encountered was an infestation of a moon station and it was really fun – but also hard to complete solo. Took me a few deaths to sort out what I was doing wrong. The story was fun, and it was a neat way to solo it out. Would have been more fun with a couple friends, but c’est la vie.

I also did a few PVP runs which was fun and fast while being familiar.

Housing

It is amazing, fun, easy, and very, very personalized. I loved finding things I could put in my house and on my plot of land through quests, adventures, and dungeons. Its an awesome feature full of personalization and creativity (there are a ton of manipulation of objects capability built in). There are going to be some awesome homes in WS and hopefully they keep cranking out the props to support it. There are functional things as well – I did a relic garden, which is a planet-harvestable resource. Sure it is limited to once per day (in game day) but every time I ported back to my house I could farm some. It was handy. I also did a garden, and planted some seeds I found in the wild. (I didn’t take farming, so I couldn’t harvest them). Finally I did a moonshine unit in my backyard and had to make a batch in challenge mode – and I won a giant neon BEER sign for doing so. Which I then hung on my Moonshine still. The possibilities are endless. You can have one home that all Alts can edit I am told so that is a big bonus.

The Pre Order

I pre-ordered.  This game is WoW-polished and on rails, with a heavy dose of phasing. It will be great for solo questers with a lot of areas to explore and the grouping options are plentiful and interesting. There is nothing here that screams innovation in the sense of world building or MMO gaming but sometimes its okay to just have a great game that caters to the masses. If you are comfortable in WoW, but want a different backdrop, this game will work for you. I am still not excited for the sub fee (and believe it will be gone at some point) but with the discount I got on the game I basically get two months free. If I eke out 30 hours of gameplay in those two months I get my money’s worth based on today’s single player campaign hours.

Besides, I can always cancel the sub fee and wait for the value to catch up or the time to play.

MMO Information / Stats

I love information and believe that all MMOs should be regularly publishing information that is only available to them. This would get rid of the “what ifs” and curiosities of the general population. It would also get rid of the mis-information. Is 50% of the “tanks” a paladin in the end game? Why *not* share that information? It seems most companies are overprotective of their population, class, race and spec mix – for fear that it would somehow influence the population base. The truth is, in the absence of true information players will just guess, hypothesize, and collect as accurate as they can – and still make their own conclusions regardless.

Just give it to them. Give it to us.

One of my favorite sites (now WRIP) was a WoW datamining site. This site wrote scripts to pull information from Blizzard’s armory site. Why make someone sort that out? Provide it! Worst case scenario is that players will jump to the same conclusions they would without the right information (anyway) – best case scenario, we have the opportunity to have a conversation based on facts. That site provided so much perspective that Blizzard refused to – why give the kudos to the individual? Let the company provide the 100% accurate information, AND get the respect and accuracy out there.

This site is interesting, thanks to it! And based off of this conversation, I definitely wanted to share!

http://watchwildstar.com/census

Obviously the information isn’t accurate as the game isn’t even launched, but interesting to see people’s intentions. ALSO it will be very interesting to see 6months in if that is a nice cross section of accuracy. I am thankful that Wildstar devs have previously shared beta weekend population stats and hopefully this is a trend that continues. I will respect Carbine that much more for it.

WildStar Pre-Order Sales Slump?

Not sure if this is a bad sign, or if they are just trying to pump up box sales. I always thought launch time was the best time to get a full pop of box price? I only have a free CURSE account (used to help manage my WoW addons back in the day) and I received this email today.

My big question is: How does this make people feel who already paid full price? As an FYI, curse had 300,000 keys to give away, so this email probably went out to 300,000 people.

Did you enjoy exploring Nexus during the Wildstar Weekend Beta Test? You’re in luck! Click here and use the code below to recieve 22% off your purchase of Wildstar from Green Man Gaming! Act now to redeem this offer and get to Nexus before it’s too late!*

XXXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXX

Already registered at Green Man Gaming? Simply log into your account and use the code to activate your Wildstar discount!

Not registered? Click here to register!

*This voucher is valid until 1600 UTC April 16th, 2014. Valid against Wildstar ONLY on PC Download from Green Man Gaming. Cannot be used in conjunction with another voucher. Offer may be subject to change.

The 22% works out to a $15ish discount before taxes, so you get a second month of sub fee technically free. This might be enough for me to justify the purchase, so kudos to good marketing. Still, my main concern is why they are discounting a HUGE launch, with big visibility – arguably one of the biggest launches of the year! Why discount that?

Ying to the Yang (Yo)

I have been playing EQ a lot. It’s a fun comparative after just playing WildStar for the weekend. I have recently spent time being nostalgic about starter zones in EQ, and decided it would be neat to try out EQ from a new player’s perspective. And that means starting off in Gloomingdeep Mines.

I rolled an Enchanter (one of my favorites) and was ready to experience the ‘new’ EQ.  Some of this is going to be WildStar comparative. EQ arguably does a better hand holding job through the early levels, with a methodical explanation of the systems available from hotbars to questing. Wildstar threw you in with a “oh, you know MMOs” mentality – whereas EQ treats you like you aren’t that smart. As they should! (no offence). I also found EQ is less chaotic, more focused. Do one thing at a time. As mentioned in my WildStar impressions – you need Ritalin. Too much going on too fast. EQ starting zone is much better paced. Challenge! What? I actually died a couple times pre level 5. You have to be careful. Even with a Merc. No such worry in WildStar, where you can play eating a sandwich while watching Doctor Who episodes and still move the levels along. One thing that gets harder to overlook is the graphics are so ugly in EQ. We all know this, but after driving around in the graphics equivalent of being in a Pixar movie, it’s hard to go to Hercules.

Think

Versus

And that might even be too kind. More like c64 era graphics. Anyway. Ugly. All that being said, I can’t recommend EQ to a new person entering the MMO genre, and I LOVE how slick WildStar weekend was.

I  hope some of the old vets still check EQ out. There are always people on (and I am really curious what kind of income it still generates).  The biggest takeaway I have from playing EQ again? EQ has more “flavor”. As a level 3 enchanter I can illusion into all sorts of things, from rocks, to other races.. there are a LOT of spells that are mostly useless you would think – but that adds so much flavor and immersion. I bolded that section because I read a great write up over at Murf’s (who also links to the original thought starter) about WoW class homogenization – and that is what WildStar, among a lot of other games, is missing.

Fluff.

Bear with me on that thought. I have read some tales that Elder Scrolls Online rewards people for going off of the beaten path, and those are the types of things that can make an average MMO great. Are the 14 spells my level 4 enchanter can memorize all used for “optimal” rotations? No. Do they provide opportunities for fun, engagement, roleplaying and gameplay? Yes. From my experience, those are the things missing out in today’s MMO offerings – they are so optimized there isn’t discovery or room for adventure. It’s kind of like taking art class out of elementary school curriculums because it doesn’t pay off in the end. But what is the world really like without art? What is any world without it?

While that is a very broad and sweeping generalization (admittedly!) I am disappointed in Blizzard’s decision to take innervate away from druids. Nerf it to hell if you like, but that has been one of the class defining abilities since launch in WoW (and I know, because I had a raid spot waiting for me because I was one of those rare druids in vanilla wow). Hunter’s mark? Oh, that hunter ability that also is part and parcel with what hunters are. Let’s get rid of that too.  There is nothing wrong with a little bloat – those things don’t have to be on hotbars, but leave them in the spell books – that way players can still play with them when (and if) they want to. Are they getting rid of that Eye of Kilrogg from Warlocks too? I am not trying to live in the past – I don’t even remember the last time I hit innervate when I played WoW. I just dislike the thought that anything unique (see: Shaman Totems in WoW, buffs, etc.) gets homogenized out.

Hell, what if McDonald’s got rid of the Big Mac?

Innovate like crazy. Move ahead. Just don’t forget the things that got you here (there) in the first place.

Here is a good example of how to do it right. Announced, and in testing, is moving Rogue and Feral Druid combo points to the player (instead of the target). This might address why rogues are the least played class in WoW these days (beating a dead horse – but they were once kings of single target DPS, homogenized out of it..) This is a good example of keeping the class core with combo points and fixing around it. It would probably just be a lot easier to drop combo points and give them mana, or rage, or focus – things they have already built systems around. But that would suck, right? Bland and blah is not the answer.

Girls Gone WildStar

Well, my first WildStar “Beta” weekend behind me! I don’t do reviews but I love chatting about games so I am going to do a pretty simple format and some random thoughts below. What did I learn? Let’s run some rankings/meters! These meters are not in any specific order or weighting.

  • Slick Rick Meter – 9.5/10. The game runs smooth. Animations are good and responsive. Barely any noticeable lag – which will make or kill this game with the telegraphs. Things have to run right.
  • Zoolander Meter – “Its hard to be ridiculously good looking” – 15/10. Everyone has the ideal body – the rock lobsters, space zombies, Alvin and the chipmunks – everyone except the psycho chincillas. They took badonkadonk to a whole new level (and there is no way to de-badonkadonk your character – the only thing you can change is facial features and colors. Your lady-characters are going to shake what your momma made you no matter what. Male characters are always pointing towards the beach.
  • Magazine Meter (subscription) – 3/10. There is nothing new here that would warrant paying a subscription in a sea of non-subscription games. The Secret World, Guildwars 2, etc. etc. etc. I am a bit puzzled here for all the good in the game what the motivation is. Does a dev team finally think having less people paying more monthly is a good model (which it is – if you don’t want millions of players for marketing fodder). Do the devs believe that the subscription will make the community stronger by keeping out tourists? Do the accountants realize that you still make more money getting 6 months of that sweet, sweet sub nectar before going F2P? We’ll learn all this (and more) – I am really quite interested in seeing how it plays out. Has NcSoft ever shipped a successful subscription title?
  • Cheers Meter (where everybody knows your name) 5/10. No community builders here, with cross realm LFGs for PVP and Dungeons in at launch. They do have the option to only group you with your server (for a longer queue time) so will be neat to see if that is ever used. They do have group quests when levelling so you see the familiar (LF1M – Sloppy Jehosa) which is a nice touch. We’ll see how long that lasts before starter areas empty and quests can’t get completed. (For the record, I like quests that require people to talk. Even just for 20 seconds.)
  • Dennis Rodman Meter (unique classes) 6/10. One weapon for classes. That’s it! If you are an Engineer you get a rifle. Forever. That’s it. Spellslinger? Two pistols. That’s it. And everyone your level will have the exact same ones. I didn’t really notice this (through the first 10 levels of all the classes…) but I am curious if that EVER gets old. They do look different. (different sizes of rifles, colors, etc.) Six different classes feels light, but may be a good play. The good news is (next bullet point). Even worse is I saw the end game raid sets (you tube it) and they all look like Macross Saga. Mechs!
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Meter (depth) – 9/10. There is a LOT going under the hood. At first, I felt that the game was actually perfect for consoles. As you level and grow you see  AMPs, abilities, and ability points – there is huge customization options (again, UNDER the hood). Everyone will be looking like they are driving a Tesla – but how it drives is entirely up to you (left hand side of the road, hovercraft, 6 wheels, you name it.)
  • Bartle Meter 8/10. They actually have you choose a secondary levelling path (Settler, Explorer, Soldier, Scientist) and I really enjoyed each of them (except the scientist. Scanning isn’t my thing). It adds a bit of flavor and side missions, with some perks!
  • Ritalin Meter (ADD) 12/10. Wildstar should come with at least one bottle. There is so much going on, so quickly, all around you – challenges popping up, secrets, excitement – danger – its a lot and mentally exhausting. This game is perfect to keep the attention of the Millenials, that is for sure. Screw strategy and tactics, strafe, disco, strafe, rave, circle strafe. Even when you don’t have to. Jumping should just be automatically on all the time. If you get lost, just click on the quest for arrows and distance. Who needs addons? (or quest text, for that matter).

There you go. Total random-not-important IHASPC score? 67.5/80 or 85%. a solid B- in terms of grade school. This is not a recommendation to buy (or not buy). I am not even certain if I am going to buy. I am interested in another beta weekend for sure. Good news is, the weekend with WildStar will spawn a few other posts this week as well.

Did you play? What do you think?

I *Have* Been Living Under a Rock [Wildstar]

If you look at my “About ME” section you will see I have spent a lot of time in a lot of games testing prior to release – from genre changers (EQ) to huge flops (Earth and Beyond, Horizons) and so on. A couple of years ago I stopped focusing on trying to get in on the ‘next best thing’ when my experience with ‘the next best thing’ was pretty generalized uninspired more of the same below average(ness) thing. Yes I just wrote that sentence in all of its run-on glory.

This has been good for my metered expectations – I try not to get up or excited about a game and it’s development because really, why? Pretty much it is a recipe for disappointment. And I’m not trying to be cynical about that, it is just kind of the truth. Marketing and Producers layer impossible expectations of what their game will include solidly bullet-listed but never realized in the way gamers envision them. This is ok and part of the sales/purchase cycle. How many people were let down with City of Steam, for example?

The wait and see approach works well. Let a game launch, with all the headaches, let the MMO tourists come and go, read some reviews from trusted blogging sources and fully and truly understand the value proposition – what the game does and doesn’t offer – and if I am looking to experience what it does have to offer – I am in. If not, I don’t play. I am not even being negative here – it’s just matter of fact stuff (that is actually partially funny).

I don’t know a lot about Elder Scrolls Online, except Syncaine (Hardcore Casual in the blog links) is actually positive about a theme-parky MMO and it is supposedly not all that Skyrim-y after all (which will disappoint some fans). I know there is a lot of mixed reviews on Wildstar being cartoony and WoW 2.0 which is either the best thing ever, or the sign of the apocalypse – depending on your WoW view.

In the interest of research and good “journalism”, I went and did some research and watch some Wildstar marketing videos.  OK – loving two classes in Wildstar. Not nearly excited enough to pre-order or anything, but definitely paying attention now. The Esper- (EQ Enchanter + GW2 Mesmer?) looks like fun, but really, the Medic looks the most interesting to me. I cut my teeth on being a healer, and the giant paddle-thingamajiggers looks like a blast to play. The targeting style seems unique and while the rest is WoW-Cowboys-In-Space (to take the easiest, most boring common conception of the game) is more of the same. It looks slick, polished, and positively familiar. That is also OK – we aren’t going for a revolution here (clearly).

As I researched I really started thinking that it didn’t feel like a traditional MMORPG. Since there is no targeting the old-fashioned way the gameplay looked more like an over the shoulder shooter with RPG elements. Twitchy is the name of the game here which could be fun like it is fun to jump into CoD. Just doesn’t feel strategic or RP friendly. The other shocker for me was the monthly subscription. My published position on subscriptions is that they make absolutely no sense – not that I don’t mind paying for an all you can eat style of experience, but $15 a month isn’t rooted in any sensibility. Why not $5? Why not $30? Because server space is so scalable (and cheap) there is no pricing model that a subscription has X input cost, so we charge Y to cover our expenses and profit. After a certain point, it’s all profit. Which is fine for those who game a lot, it’s a bargain. Everyone else subsidizes.

Anyway, predicting here of a swift move to F2P about as fast as SWTOR. There are too many options out there and I think the market is going to tire quickly at the thought of two subs (if they are still WoW players, the obvious target for this game) or people who left the sub model in the first place (ex WoW players, the other obvious target for this game). This isn’t disastrous and I am guessing that they already have a cash shop ready to go. They have a strange CREDD system (not unlike PLEX from EVE online)

But we’ll see. Perhaps for once NOT being on the cutting edge of what is new and coming can provide a winner for me. I don’t mind a quest-story based game with some levels attached as long as the characters are interesting, and Wildstar looks chock full of interesting.