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.