I made a bold prediction to a friend at the end of the Warhammer Beta that by the end of the first year they would have 1,000,000 subscriptions. I still have a level of confidence in that if they make some moves and continue to improve the game. Notice I said ‘a level’. Now that the dust has settled on yet another majorly hyped launch that went ‘well’, people are settled in. We have our new (and quality) Warhammer bloggers. Those of us that take the gaming generalization route always have a lot to talk about. And I want to talk about whats next.
Their aren’t too many major releases on the horizon in the MMO-scape but two have grabbed my attention. Bioware and the Star Wars KOTOR MMO, and the secret title by 38 studios, codenamed ‘Copernicus’. WAR done good if you like more of the same, but surely there is a company out there who wants to do better than just more of the same? Perhaps I AM living in a dream world. While my excitement level is tempered for Bioware and their MMO with their odd announcements of how it will play out as a single player game in a multiplayer space, I have decided to get excited about Copernicus. It is definitely a bit silly because we know nothing of the game, a lot about the founder of the studio, but even less of their intended design. What is the source of my excitement? Hope. After the break.
For all I know Copernicus will just be Yet Another Fantasy MMO with the same old purpose and mechanics with a different lore twist and an interesting art direction. If that is the case, if we have learned anything at all about the past few YAFMMO releases they can probably settle in happy with a few hundred thousand subscribers and make a boatload of cash, all the while not trying to be compared to WoW. There are a few things that I want (actually, NEED, to believe in) that can make Copernicus different. These thoughts are all easily dismissed as fairy tales but of all the upcoming titles, these are things I WANT to believe.
- Curt is already a millionaire. Millionaires tend to want to stay that way, which would point me to YAFMMO. However a developer working towards his mark in the gaming sphere, as opposed to keeping his $125,000/yr job, can have a little leeway and focus on making an incredible game instead of the same old revenue generator.
- Curt is a pro athelete. I say “is”, instead of “was”, because you don’t lose that drive as a pro. You get to being the best with a lot of hard work. When you are done ‘playing’, you don’t lose your competitive edge but transpose that into your other projects. Pro atheletes are self-programmed to win (for the most part) and here I am curious what the definition of winning is for 38 studios. Make money? Chip away at WoW? Create an experience unrivalled in the marketplace to perhaps change the way winning is defined in that marketplace? Receive critical acclaim?
- Curt is a gamer. Our MMO’s aren’t designed by gamers. Yes, the MMO ‘managers’ play other games to see how to make theirs compete on revenue and play style, but they weren’t gamers first. They were people with jobs in gaming. It is a big difference. Surely, Mr. Shilling in his years of gaming has had his own questions on why developers build in crap grinds and dubious mechanics into their products (hint: money) and perhaps because he has been on the receiving end of many of those unfun components he will set out to change the space, instead of capitalize on it.
I am curious what bean-counters he has whispering in his ear and who is calling the shots at the studios on the design. Are the advisors saying “hey, look at how WoW rakes in the cash! We can do that too with a twist!” or are they saying “look at where MMO’s fall short in the marketplace. We can build this thing to fill that role, be different and better.” The real problem here is that WoW has ‘educated’ gamers on expectations, and no one building behind WoW has the courage to move away from the model. Sure, they spin and twist tradtional mechanics and call them “innovations”, but what the MMO market really needs is a product to retrain the masses on what is fun, and what an MMO should be. It is definitely a major challenge. Is 38 studios up for it?
I am going to dare to dream that some of our best hopes for a change in the MMO scape lay with 38 studios, based on complete guesswork, suppositions, and likely unfair assumptions. Someone has to carry that torch for that dream, right?