Wednesday, December 20, 2017

You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone...

"Don't know what you got till it's gone
Don't know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It's just this song
And it ain't easy to get back
Takes so long"
--Cinderella, Don't Know What You've Got ('Till It's Gone)

In the eight years since we've started PC, I've watched the MMO market change quite a bit. Sure, some things never change --WoW being the 500 lb. gorilla of the MMO genre the chief among them-- but the MMO genre as a whole has changed quite a bit.

Looking back, I can say say with a high degree of certainty that I entered at the high point of the MMO genre: WoW was at the height of its popularity, other MMOs were doing well for themselves, and there were new MMOs on the horizon in Rift, SWTOR, and GW2. DOTA 2 wasn't released for a few years, and MOBAs in general hadn't exploded in popularity.

Of course, it wasn't exactly a true Golden Age.

There was the disaster of Age of Conan's release, and the bait-and-switch promise from the Tortage into zone into a standard grindy MMO. There were also the bugs --lots of bugs-- and the perception that a fairly significant number of people were there for the nudity.

Speaking of train wrecks, there was also the Warhammer Online MMO, which didn't last long and was mercifully shut down shortly thereafter. Perhaps AoC and Warhammer were a harbinger of things to come, where some of the MMO population was looking for the Next Big Thing that would displace WoW at the top, and whatever they found never measured up.


In light of all of the changes in the MMO genre over the past 8 years, I've put together a few "awards"

The How is this MMO Still Running Award: Age of Conan. Over 9 years old and reduced to just two servers, this MMO is still active and has a few players. (I occasionally run into one or two out in the wild.) I've speculated that if AoC shuts down that Funcom loses the Conan license, and given that Funcom has devoted all of their "Conan" resources to Conan Exiles, there may be some truth to that.

The It Keeps the Mathematicians Busy Award: Every WoW update. While theorycrafting is its own cottage industry in MMOs and MOBAs, it seems that every WoW update --no matter how small-- is overanalyzed to determine optimal rotation and class emphasis. The latest hotness in BGs and Arenas can change with one little tweak to a cooldown*, and raids can live or die based on healing changes. WoW's size has an impact on the amount of heat generated by the theorycrafter set**, which is why I chose WoW over other MMOs.

The Wednesdays at the Pub Award: LOTRO's band concerts. When the mini-Reds were a few years younger, Fridays at 5 PM were required online time for LOTRO. A band on the Gladden server would play every Friday at 5 PM EST by the western entrance to Bree,*** The devotion the mini-Reds displayed to these regular concerts is not surprising to me, as I've seen regular crowds around toons playing music throughout LOTRO. This is part of why LOTRO is still an active MMO and gets full marks for immersion.
I still wonder how those Hobbits all
got in sync.

The Wrath of the Fanboys Award: Rift. When Rift went F2P, Trion said they were going to "do it right" and not be slaves to a cash store. Of course, by the time I got back to checking Rift out, the cash store was present and heavily hyped, which pissed off the long time players to no end. That and several other moves by Trion to keep the game afloat has generated even more dislike by the fanbase than the random "This game SUX!!!!1!!" comments you still see from SWTOR ex-players who were salty about the lack of WoW-style endgame on launch.

The I Need a Shower Afterward Award: TERA Online. While a strong argument could be made for Age of Conan and it's nudity,**** TERA gets the nod for this award because of the Elin. Every time I login to TERA just play out in the field for a while --because the gameplay is very good, lack of coherent plot or writing notwithstanding-- after about 10-15 minutes an Elin toon wanders by and reminds me why I find the Elin so disturbing.

The Taking Physics a Bit too Far Award: ArcheAge. The more I watch the female toon animations in ArcheAge, the more I'm convinced that the developer staff kind of missed the point with "breast physics". The amount of effort put into breast physics in ArcheAge and other Korean MMOs shows that the dev staff likely spent a lot of time conducting "research", because breasts --especially larger sizes-- do move like how they designed it in-game. But here's the kicker: that movement is for only some types of breasts, and they have to be bare or skintight covered breasts, not breasts covered in more normal fitting clothes or armor. Giving breasts covered by armor or even hidden by normal clothing the same movement characteristics of bare breasts simply makes the breast physics in ArcheAge look, well, weird at times. And far more obvious.

The Will They Ever Learn Award: Wildstar. The entire modus operandi behind Wildstar was that they were going to take the Vanilla WoW experience and crank it up to eleven.# The thing is, the Vanilla WoW experience was fine enough as it was without trying to outdo it. Wildstar was, in effect, doubling down on the belief that the harder and more grindy the goal, the better. And that didn't exactly go over quite so well for Carbine. Wildstar is still alive and kicking --still putting out new content, at least-- but I'm not totally convinced that Carbine learned their lesson. They may look at Blizzard's decision to create Vanilla WoW servers as a challenge, rather than the correction they so desperately needed to their design philosophy. Some of their ideas were fine, but others were a bit too much.
Yeah, whatever gave me the idea that they overdo
it in Wildstar??  From

The Pride Goeth Before a Fall Award: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Cataclysm was a complete reboot of the original two continents of Azeroth, the Old World. Sure, there were five new zones, but the revamp of the Old World brought back a ton of old subs and pushed WoW's subscriber base to new heights. Looking back, nobody saw that those few months of returning subs were the high point of WoW's subscriber base. Blizzard's decision to revamp Azeroth was deemed to be worth it despite the major story holes that the revamp created. But my belief is that the same major story holes basically shut the door on new players picking up the game and starting from scratch.## And now? Blizzard no longer releases subscription numbers in their quarterly statements, ostensibly because they have better means of tracking the profitability of WoW, but likely because subs have fallen to the point where WoW has fallen back to the pack in terms of subscriber base.

The No Clue it was Coming Award: Employees of Gazillion Entertainment, the publisher of the now extinct Marvel Heroes. Much has been made of Gazillion's financial problems --and the hiding of the same-- but the extent that management went through to hide these problems from the development staff to the blindsiding of the staff by the company's inability to pay for paid time off when the company fired them all still makes my blood boil. I've been in that situation when the company looks like it might not meet payroll, and it sucks. A lot. And my ire goes to management not leveling with the staff. We're all adults here, treat us like one.

The You Must Learn Patience, Grasshopper Award: The stereotypical "Go" Guy. We all know this person that was so easily skewered by Crendor, because we've all encountered the Go Guy. This is the Warrior that wants to speed pull all of the trash in the first area of Halls of Lightning and yells at the healer for not keeping him upright. Or the Jedi Guardian who just has to jump off of the platform in Cademimu because it was taking too long for the elevator to arrive. Or the Agent yelling "SPACEBAR!!!" in chat because the group wasn't moving fast enough. Ironically enough, WoW created instance speed runs just for the Go Guy to test their mettle, but that hasn't exactly rid normal instances of the purveyor of timeliness.
Ah, narration by Worgen Freeman.

And lastly, The Golden Trinket Award: To all of the people who would stop and help a new player, or a player needing an assist, or a player struggling along. All of the people who reach out and assist others, play well, and encourage players to find a home in their chosen MMO world. All of the people who treat each other well, both in chat and in the world###, and make the MMO genre a better place.

*I've seen it happen where people picked up Hunters and then dropped them from BGs based on an update in a WoW downtime.

**I know that the SWTOR raiders/PVPers will argue that theorycrafting is alive and well in their part of the MMO world.

***The last I checked, they're still there, playing away.

****Even the succubi and incubi are nude, which actually gives them an unnerving appearance. Unlike, say, WoW succubi, you can look at an AoC version and not get it out of your head that this succubus is something totally unnatural.

#Please please PLEASE tell me that someone gets the Spinal Tap reference.

##Add to that the rise of the MOBA, which peeled away players from the WoW subscriber base, and you've got problems.

###Well, PVP notwithstanding. Being mean to the other faction is kind of the point, there.

EtA: Fixed a grammatical issue and a sentence structure in the Gazillion area.

EtA: Fixed another grammatical error, which leads me to believe I shouldn't be writing at Midnight.

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