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The Council of Gaming Elders

I had a very interesting dream last night. I was evaluating the current state of MMORPGs and decided that the current state of affairs had gone on for too long. Our beloved hobby and industry was degrading past the point of recovery. I took action into my own hands and called a Council of the Gaming Elders.

I was standing in a dimly lit room with a solid round wooden table in the center. A chandelier with glowing blue flames hung above. There were 6 chairs. As I stood at my seat the other Elders entered, each announced by a low voice. First to enter was Mark Jacobs. He stood next to the seat at my right — the table in front of his seat embossed with the realm triad from Dark Age of Camelot. Next to enter was Raph Koster stood by his place marked by a lightsaber crossing a crafting station and house. Steve Danuser was next and took his place by a lore book.  Dave Georgeson entered next and stood near his place marked by a map. Last to enter was Mike Morhaime who took his place next to a seat marked with golden coins.

Once all of the Elders had entered, we sat together in unison. I began the meeting by stating that I had called them all there to discuss how we can restore these games to their true potential. Each of them possessed talents necessary for restoring MMORPGs to their previous state. What followed was an enlightening discussion and meeting of the minds. Each Elder brought up ideas and we began to craft the perfect game… the game to restore balance. It ended with the Elders departing, each committed to bringing their resources together to make this game (which we completely planned out) happen.

I don’t know why my mind chose these people. Mark Jacobs is an obvious one because he has become a friend and I value his contribution to PvP and the MMO community. Raph Koster is someone I’ve always thought of as a virtual world connoisseur. Steve Danuser is someone who gets the idea of a living world and I like his sense of lore and continuity. Dave Georgeson because he is attached to EverQuestand I respect him as a person and his career. Lastly, Mike Morhaime (who surprised me since I thought this would be Chris Metzen) because of his position over WoW.

The game we designed was ideal. That’s the general impression I get. I remember only minor thoughts I was having during the dream. This perfect MMORPG was some sort of mix of every game these Elders had worked out. I was in charge of the vision and I know that I felt like this was the true spiritual successor to every ‘great’ game I remember playing from 1996-2004.

I woke up feeling like I had accomplished some great work. For a moment I was even anxious to go play this game. If only…

Keen’s Christmas List

The first wave of holiday shenanigans is over, and it’s back to the grind for another few weeks before one begins. As part of our usual posting this time of year we like to put up a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. This year we are going to do something a little different.  Instead of showcasing a bunch of games we’ve likely already reviewed, I’m going to share what’s on my personal Christmas list. These are things I want but haven’t yet purchased or received as a gift.

Board Games

This year is going to go down as the year of board games. Last year, and much of the earlier part of this year, Graev and I started collecting and diving into the world of dice and meeples. Board games have provided a much more imaginative and at times deeper ‘gaming’ experience than video games. While our video games have become more shallow and repetitive, board games are growing in complexity and offering all sorts of adventures. Clicking on any of them will take you to Amazon where you can learn about the games and read reviews (very helpful actually).

Shadows Over Camelot

7 Wonders

smallworld

munchkin

Other games on my list include: Dominion, The Settlers of Catan, and various expansions to all of these games.

Video Games

Here’s a category I’m really quite sad about this year. Usually I have at least 4-5 strong titles on my list, but this year my list is smaller and I’m not positive about some of them. I really, really wish EverQuest Next or H1Z1 were out so that I could put a Station Pass on my list, or some Station cash. I just have no reason to buy any of that yet. I think 2015 will be an easy year for PC gaming.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire
dragon-age-inquisition

assassins-creed-unity

Pretty simple list this year. I’ve tossed in the idea of an iPad if anyone is feeling particularly rich this year, but otherwise this is it. I benefit from having a Birthday in February, so anything I miss or that releases just after the new year carries over quite nicely.

I’m also, for the first time ever, in this weird mindset of wanting non-gaming things. I’ve spent the last week pouring over my wedding registry and spending way more time in Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Macy’s than I ever imagined I could possibly stomach. I find myself wanting spatulas and towels…

What’s on your list this year? Did I forget anything? Please let me know so that I can get my list out there to the people who are starting to form a mob threatening my life if I don’t tell them what I want.

Social Progression vs. Gear Progression

In yesterday’s entry I hinted around the idea that players often want the newest gear because they want to look ‘cool’. I’m not necessarily speaking to just the aesthetics of the gear itself either. Many people want the latest and greatest for the ‘standing in town on the mailbox’ effect. It’s the idea that people are inspecting them, drooling over their gear, and wishing they could be just like that cool guy wearing the newest items.

Gear Progression is about being able to go past the gate standing between you and the next tier of content. It’s the treadmill. Gear Progression is the mechanism through which MMOs halt the speed at which players consume content. The actual stats on the gear and what it adds to your character matter far less to people than what they feel from being the “best Paladin on the server.” Such a notion does not imply that you truly have the skill, but rather you got the items to drop for you first. You are the cool guy standing on the mailbox and that makes you the “best.”

Once we understand that people seek Social Progression over Gear Progression we can begin evaluating other ways in which players can achieve the social side without having to raid or run on one type of treadmill. Social Progression can be weaved throughout a game. What if players sought after being the maker of the finest weapons in the land, or provider of the rarest gems, or the guy who has the coolest new pets following him around? These social transactions can take place all around us in a virtual world and achieve the same level of goal setting and progression as raiding without the need to always go through raiding.

Outlandish Gear

wow-tier-17

World of Warcraft started the whole crazy gear trend. Gear in raids has always been more elaborate, but when it comes to massive shoulder pads, flaming eye-hole-thingies, and ridiculousness, WoW remains king. The preview for Tier 17 (sheesh) was revealed by Blizzard today. Is it outlandish (pun intended) enough for you?

paladin-original-cats

Paladin from Dark Age of Camelot

The point of today’s post is not necessarily to discuss WoW latest fashion trends. I’m thinking about gear in general. On one extreme there’s WoW. The other side of the coin is realism with basic chainmail, leather, etc. It’s plain. There’s something authentic about it, especially if wearing it matters more than looking cool in it. More on that tomorrow.

I like somewhere in the middle. I remember the raid gear in EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot. Those looked just cool enough for me. Ornate enough to stand out yet at least within the realm of fantasy believability.

What do you prefer? Do you prefer the glowing eyes and flaming swords or the realistic metal?

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.