So when I started this blog, I promised you all that I wouldn't bore or burden you with events from my real life. This blog is about MMO's and I intend to keep it about MMO's. So I will only explain my extended absence with a single sentence. Suffice to say that my real life prevented any kind of substantive blogging for the past month or so. All is well though and I am happy to get back to running my mouth about all things MMO and hopefully you all will be happy to be reading it again. I am not going to rehash month old stories as by this point I'm sure you have read a hundred different opinions on them by now. But to get back into the swing of things, I thought I would give some "quick hit" comments on some things that were of note to me over the past month.
Star Wars: The Old Republic Subscription Numbers
I've made no secret of the fact that SW:TOR was a disappointment to me, so bear that in mind as I opine. While I do not "fear" for the long term future of this game, I believe it will not be nearly as successful as MMO enthusiasts (and EA/Bioware) wanted it to be. It is a wonderful single-player interactive story. But as an MMO, it just completely fails. The 1.2 patch was a step in the right direction, but this game needs a LOT of work to be a better MMO. The game mechanics themselves are a classic example of why World of Warcraft remains the king of MMO's. You can't out-Blizzard Blizzard, and that's what Bioware tried to do. Why play SW:TOR when if you want that style of play, WoW does it better in almost every conceivable fashion? Its only saving grace is the individual character stories, which as I have commented before, are not enough of a hook when you have to redo all the same planetary arcs and side quests in order to experience a new class story. So I think SW:TOR will "stabilize" in the one million subs range, but have a high degree of turnover. People will come, play a story or two, then leave, and new players will take their place. Building a long-term, stable community is going to be difficult.
On that note, I am preparing my next extended post on the topic of Bioware. Between SW:TOR and Mass Effect 3, I have come to some realizations about the company that I would like to share with you and get your opinion on. So look for that probably early next week.
The Guild Wars 2 Freight Train to Disappointment
This is another issue I've commented on in the past, but now that ArenaNet is ramping up the GW2 hype with their beta weekends and stress tests, I'm seeing it all over again. So consider this yet another plea to the GW2 fanbois... please temper your expectations. While I have every confidence that GW2 is going to be a fine game and a worthy addition to the MMO marketplace, I also have every confidence that it is NOT going to be the "messiah" that saves MMO's from the "cookie cutter WoW clones" that its ardent supporters are convinced that it will be. Every game has its supporters and every game has its detractors, but GW2 seems almost unique in this regard. Its supporters are utterly convinced that this will be the greatest MMO of all time and completely change the genre. People have said the same thing about every major MMO release all the way back to WoW. The odds that this time it will actually happen are slim to none. So please folks, do yourselves a favor and calm down. The only thing you are doing is setting yourselves (and the game itself) up for major disappointment. It could turn out to be a really great game, and I think it will be, but if it fails to meet those expectations, you could end up doing a lot more harm than good in the long term.
And on that note, I have another extended post in the works on a topic related to this. Specifically, why fans of a particular game are so concerned that their game succeeds and your game fails. It's not enough to be the winner, everyone else has to lose.
The Secret World Enters Beta Territory
If you are a reader of mine in the past (thank you!) you know that The Secret World is the MMO I've been looking forward to for this year. I purchased the lifetime subscription option and am I strong supporter of the game. That said, TSW finally opened its doors to large numbers of people this month by starting pseudo-open beta weekends. They are technically "closed" in the sense that you need a key, but keys are so easy to get that pretty much anyone who wants in can get in. The experience is limited currently to one faction and one questing zone. So far it seems the majority of feedback is positive, with the usual assortments of gripes and concerns. I will reserve more specific opinion for a later date, but I will say one thing specifically bothers me, and it goes back to Funcom's history.
While I did not play Age of Conan, from what I heard the starting area (Tortage) was highly polished and well constructed while the rest of the game was lackluster at best. The beta for AoC was limited to Tortage specifically so no one got to see the "disappointing" parts of the game. Well... by limiting the TSW beta to an introductory area, Funcom is raising the "ghosts" of AoC in the minds of players. Showing off a highly polished area when the rest of the game might be lacking is the classic "bait and switch." Now I don't know what the rest of the game looks like. It might be fantastic, it might be pathetic. There is also still a month until release so future beta weekends might show more of the game. But at this moment, it is troubling. Funcom cannot afford "strike three" (AoC and Anarchy Online having two of the worst launches in MMO history.) TSW must launch well to have any chance, especially with the subscription free GW2 looming. So please Funcom, show us you are confident in your product. Show us more than one highly polished zone.
Well that should get the ball rolling again. I'd like to take a moment to thank any old readers coming back. Thanks for keeping me on your reading list and coming back. And thanks to any new readers picking me up for the first time. I hope you like what you see and will be back. I will be back this weekend with my news roundup, and as I said today, I have two major topics already lined up for next week that I'm looking forward to sharing with you.