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The Ebb and Flow of WoW

As predicted by anyone with a pulse, WoW subscription numbers (fuzzy definition as you’ll see below) are up after the launch of Warlords of Draenor.

World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet game room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

Warlords of Draenor had a day-one sell-through of 3.3 million copies. I believe that includes pre-orders, etc. To me the 3.3 million number is telling. The next sentence is wild and highly speculative without any claim to accuracy. I think 3.3 million is probably the rough number of North American players who can be considered part of WoW’s ‘core’ group of players, with probably 1 million of those drifting off late in the expansion cycle.

Let’s evaluate why their numbers surged.

People like new content. When there’s no new content subs go down. When there’s new content people come back and play. This isn’t indicative of a game succeeding or failing. This is indicative of people wanting something fresh to play.

Orcs are cooler than pandas. Warcraft hearkening back to its roots, pandering (not pandaing) to its lore and fans, works best.

The MMOs launched this year have sucked. While some of the MMOs (ArcheAge) had redeeming qualities, and others none at all (Wildstar), the collective result is a resounding “Blah!” People are/were desperate for something to play. WoD was the easy place to throw $60 for a month of something to do. It’s a SAFE bet. Few people are going to pay that box price and first month’s sub and feel cognitive dissonance. If anything, people are going to play WoW longer now because it rescued them from a state of suck.

Haters gonna hate. The “stop liking what I don’t like” crowd will roll on through. Ultimately nothing changes. WoW is successful. Business models are irrelevant. Good games sell. Good games retain players. Whether it’s 1, 3, 8 or 10 million players — it’s more than most games can say they hold on to longer than 3 months.

Now, promise me none of you will be surprised when WoW’s numbers fall in 3 months.

Why I’m Not Playing Warlords of Draenor

I’m proud of myself. A WoW expansion is coming out and I’m not going to jump right in and play again. Every time an expansion comes out I think, “Ooooh! I love Warcraft and the world and the story and it’s all so awesome!” Then I play and that magical illusion I create in my mind dissolves quickly. My thoughts turn away from Orcs vs. Humans and glorious cutscenes and imagining epic adventures. I start thinking, “Time to log in and get that loot. What’s my gear score?” My immersion is shattered and I quit a month later.

I’m going to avoid shattering my illusion this time and pretend everything is just as I imagine.

Speaking of Warcraft and fond memories, have you checked out Blizzard’s Looking for Group documentary? It’s an hour long but worth watching. They start right off by giving all the right props to UO and EQ for inspiring them to stop their current projects and go the route of an MMO.

My memories of WoW will always be better than what I’m actually thinking while I play the game. Realizing that, I can honestly say I love World of Warcraft. I just don’t love playing it.

Roleplay vs. Ruleplay

I’m always analyzing what makes players behave a certain way or more accurately the way in which people play MMOs. My latest thought process brought me to this idea of Roleplay vs. Ruleplay.

Players these days tend to follow rules laid out for them. Players are told to level up so they do. They are told to grind dungeons for gear then move on to the next dungeon, and so they do. Players are told to be the combative hero and center of attention. MMOs tell the player exactly how to play the game. There are parameters — defined parameters — controlling the extent to which a player can exercise conscious thought about what it is they are doing and why.

Older MMOs had fewer parameters or rules. Older MMOs required the player to imagine their own parameters, create their own rules, and the community created the way in which everyone jointly played together.

Throw an average player today into a game roleplay situation and their response will be, “What am I supposed to do?” People haven’t become less intelligent or less creative in the past 10 years. Humanity hasn’t seen a decline that drastic that quickly. The problem rests on the games and the ecosystem which has been created and fostered by developers/publishers looking to stamp our McMMO franchises. Start to change the games and the players will adapt to their surroundings.

When a player can choose their path, choose how to play that path, and have the freedom to cross paths back and forth, the entire experience becomes more organic and dynamic. Constrain the player to one path with every other player on the same route toward one goal or objective and much of that is lost.

I want to stop there because this topic can now split into several specific topics about specific ways in which players are encourage to Roleplay vs. Ruleplay. For now, think about the ways in which you as a player are being confined to a set path and how you might do things differently if given the choice of freedom. What role would you play, and how? Suddenly the game world becomes a virtual world full of possibilities.

Camelot Unchained is Looking Real Good

My excitement for Camelot Unchained is really starting to ramp up. Such a welcome change from the dismal outlook I’ve had on MMOs lately. Camelot Unchained is currently in pre-alpha testing. I think I get access to some version of Alpha based on my support of their Kickstarter campaign… I just can’t remember when or how I’m supposed to be getting that access.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Camelot Unchained would look rough. I’m not a graphics whore or snob (well okay maybe a little).  When I saw the screenshots from the P.A.T. I was actually shocked in a good way. Take a look.

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha1

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha2

Pretty cool right? I’m liking how they’ve progressed from that tech demo. I think the character models already look good and have a lot of potential. I’m starting to get excited to think about playing this game and rekindling that sense of a big world of territories ripe for the conquering.

You guys know me. I’m typically a PvE carebear. When it comes to PvP I’m reluctant to participate and always have been since I started playing online games. The only game to truly capture my attention from a PvP angle was Dark Age of Camelot. It’s all about the realm, the large group, and the server battling together rather than guilds or individuals or teams. It’s grand scale stuff. My mind is creating these types of experience already in the graphical style of what I’ve seen in Camelot Unchained.

Something else I want to touch on briefly is the way in which Mark and his team are promoting/marketing/etc., CU. I love the blunt and matter of fact way in which they talk about their game. I’m a fan of the “our game is not for everyone” tone. I’m a fan of letting your game speak for itself rather than having to create marketing materials or bs videos of a dev sitting there talking. As Camelot Unchained enters a stage when they can start actually sharing the game itself, I hope the team at CSE keeps it up.

EverQuest Next Lore: Shades of Grey

The lore of EverQuest is changing significantly with the reimagining taking place in EverQuest Next. Not all of the changes are sitting well with veteran players, especially as those changes kill off and radically alter the primary mythology.

Tunare, a well-known and loved Goddess and The Mother of All, is dead. She was killed by ravaners which are some sort of creatures of chaos (not Dragons like one o the panel transcripts stated). Things like these changes have brought significant change to the way in which veteran players are going to have to cope with the EverQuest Next lore.

Personally, I’m okay with the major change as long as what Steve Danuser, aka Moorgard, says is true about more new coming very soon. A lot of what we need to know in order to judge these changes hasn’t been revealed. We know nothing or little about the evil gods (my favorite) like Innoruuk, Rallos Zek, Cazic Thule, or Bristlebane. That leads into what is an interesting topic: The Grey Area.

The way in which Moorgard describes the religion system in EQN makes it seem like much of the world of Norrath is governed by how you do things rather than which things you choose to do. In previous EQ an NPC was good or bad. In EQ both NPCs could be considered good but go about doing their perspective of ‘good’ in very different ways (redeeming evil being vs. eradicating them). If you redeem the evil beings like someone from the Ashen Order would do, then The Knights of Truth might actually dislike you — by doing what one ‘good’ faction saw as the ‘right’ thing to do, another ‘good’ faction saw it as weak and now dislikes you. That example is still a little black and white for me, though. It’s still treating good and evil as universally recognized and acknowledged distinctions.

It sounds to me like EQN could easily adopt much of the original EverQuest’s faction system where pretty much any action you take influenced how another faction treated you.  I love that faction system because it’s not about simply maxing bars. It’s about interacting with the world and choosing who will and will not like you, and as a result what you can and cannot do.

The true test of how open EQN will be is whether or not someone can still be a Druid of Tunare despite Tunare being dead. Can someone still act in her name? Can I still choose to worship a slain god and have my choices influence the world, or will I be confined to the script of each public quest dynamic event rallying call?

As far as all of the changes go, SOE is fighting an uphill battle. They’re changing something people actually loved. If people thought the EQ lore was crap then everyone might actually welcome the changes to the story. That’s not the case. From my perspective, I’m okay with changing the lore and mythology as long as it ends up being as complete and interesting as the original.