Not all MMO’s have to be McMMO’s

I’m reading this more and more about how certain mechanics in a MMO won’t work or how a certain type of game wouldn’t work today because it wouldn’t attract large number of players.  “That would be a niche game and just wouldn’t work”.

In yesterday’s entry smthin comments exactly how I feel.

“It is hilarious that people still think that making big $$ WoW clones is good business. This formula failed and failed and failed and.. 10000 fail. Last few years are filled with corpses of MMOs that thought they could copy Blizzard and make quick buck.

I also think there is a lot of ignorance about economics and investment in such projects. Audience you expect to attract with 5 mil investment is not same as with 80 mil.. Stupidity comes from people not gettign that you can make great cash from cheap projects and smaller audience. That is how original DAOC and EQ worked both were dirt cheap(especially DAOC that was purely ghetto) and made investors good return.”

Anyone want to contest that the past couple years have been full of developers trying to make mass-appeal non-niche MMO’s that are each failing?  Even the Asian market attempted to mimic a WoW feel and release in NA and failed.

I hate analogies, but I gotta do it.

There’s this amazing Mexican food chain where I live that is only present in the three surrounding cities.  It’s a restaurant that started locally and has decided to stay local.  Every day their lines are long and there isn’t a single resident in these cities that doesn’t know this awesome food.

They’ve been successful and started their own ‘finer’ dining experience.  However, they’ve still decided to keep it local and keep the quality high.

Then there’s the major fast food chains like McDonalds, Burger King, etc.  Their food isn’t terrible (although I don’t care for it) and millions of people eat it, it’s worldwide, it’s cheaper, etc.  However, there’s a big difference in quality.

No question about it, McDonalds makes more money and has more customers.  Does that mean this local place shouldn’t bother anymore?  Does that mean they shouldn’t have expanded or that they should stop opening new locations?

See what I’m getting at?  MMO’s don’t need a million subs to be a success.  MMO’s don’t need mechanics that will attract a million subs.   It’s no different from my analogy.  There can be the smaller businesses that do just fine with amazing quality and exactly what people want.  I’ve never eaten food anywhere that tastes like this local mexican food — their burritos are 100% unique.

So when someone tells me that I’m out of touch when I say that a company can bring back what worked in EQ and have a successful MMO today, I say it’s they who are out of touch.

You can make a MMO using the exact same model as EQ and it would be a success today if it was polished and finished.  Vanguard is proof of that.  Look at the following that game had before launch and the initial response it had.  It was only because the game was half finished and lacked polish that it failed.

Designing games to be the next big thing or designing them with the mindset that you want 10 million subs is destroying them.  It’s not helping the games or the industry to only allow McMMO’s the right to exist.

You do not make a 10 million subscriptions game.  You make a great game and 10 million people subscribe.  This is why EQ and DAOC did so well.

My next blog entry is going to look at what type of game we would have if EQ was modernized for today’s audience and lacked some of the harsher penalties.

  • Yeah, I’ve been saying this for a while now. Of course you also have to look at it from a dev point of view. These big budget projects get them paid well while working on them, and even if they don’t do very well, there is no doubting that a game like WAR looks pretty decent on your resume, because you have experience working on a project that size.

    The reality is, most niche games don’t seem to do well either. Darkfall is puttering along ok, but Fallen Earth looks to be crashing and burning, for instance. The reality is that in a super saturated market like there is right now, neither “niche” nor “AAA” MMOs are going to have a huge success rate.
    Success in the MMO industry doesn’t just depend on how good your game is, but also the timing of release, what other games are doing, etc.

    By contrast look at something like Call of Duty. They are going to sell a billion copies every year just by churning out a slightly different version of the same game. Its a much safer investment because all you have to do is sell the box. In an MMO, selling boxes isn’t enough, you have to keep people around month after month year after year, and that is no easy task.

    Now, like you said, a game that thinks smaller and operates on a budget is sustainable can definitely work and is probably preferable in many ways to the AAA MMO from a venture standpoint, but at the same time, its going to be hard for devs of a small game to make enough money such that they can work solely on that project.

    Ugh, the gaming industry, I’m so glad I got out of Comp Sci in my second year of college 🙂

  • @Mala: Bear with me as I respond point by point for easy reading.

    I would pin Darkfall and Fallen Earth’s problems not so much on being niche as having design flaws.

    A game can be niche and still be AAA. AAA describes the budget and resources, not the gameplay style. ie: There can be a AAA Niche game. This is actually what the industry needs and what I want to discuss tomorrow.

    Eventually someone is going to have to wise up and realize that there is just as much or more money, and less risk, on making the projects that aren’t McMMO’s. I would rather have DAOC or EQ on my resume than WAR. 😉

  • I recall a classmate being super excited about Vanguard coming out and killing WOW. Then the Burning Crusade came out and I never heard him mention Vanguard again. Vanguard did have a pretty cool trailer.

  • Both fallen earth and darkfall i am sure will do all right. FE seems to be able to support a dev team of 30-40 developers (the rest of their business went under sadly but not FE related). Same with darkfall.

    Eve dev team recently announced they only have 55 developers working on the main game.

    This basically goes to show you that you can be successful in the niche. Hell Horizons is still chugging along.

    I think when games like SWTOR drop tons of money on sht, 2/3rds of the money are going to fluff like cinematic or voice acting.

  • I was apart of a rather large Vanguard following that had more momentum behind it than any MMO launch since. It was highly anticipated and spawned several massive fansites and forum communities.

    Vanguard is only infamous today because so many people were wanting it to be great. In fact, I wouldn’t call EQ or its style a niche game. I would call Darkfall a niche game.

  • No-one’s saying that *nobody* should make MMOs for small, targetted audiences. The question is whether huge corporations should spend tens of millions making MMOs for them.

    We already have quite a few niche MMOs that take a long time to come to market and are barely fit to play when they launch. They struggle along, hoping to take enough money as they go to keep the ship afloat and maybe fix things up to the point where growth is a possibility.

    The poster child for the independent niche MMO is Eve Online, with Darkfall and Fallen Earth limping along behind. Then come the likes of Mortal Online, Xsyon, Gatheryn and really quite a lot of others. Some of them finally go under, like poor old Earth Eternal looks as though it’s about to, but many just struggle on offering something that their few, dedicated players can’t find elsewhere.

    Niche MMOs are a great idea in theory and I hope we see many of them. Just don’t hold your breath that any of them will have the production values or the breadth of the big, exciting new titles like SW:TOR, GW2, FFXIV, Tera, or Rifts, let alone the next Blizzard MMO or EQNext. NOr that any of the companies making those titles will ever have any interest in making anything that could end up with the adjective “niche” attached to it.

  • Indeed and I love that THQ are saying their 40K MMO will have a low break-even point and if they did get a Million Subs they would be amazed.
    I hope they stick to that as they push forward!

  • The poster child for independent MMO’s is actually DAOC. Why does everyone seem to forget that DAOC was and still is the epitome of what a quality game, starting from scratch, can become?

    Darkfall, Mortal Online, Xyson, Earth Eternal, etc, all give independent games a bad image.

    DAOC isn’t/wasn’t (I don’t know which tense to use here) niche. EQ really isn’t niche either. WTF is “niche” really supposed to mean now anyway?

    It’s like niche means “bad game by a company with no money”. In that case, I don’t want to play a niche game either.

    If niche means less than a million subs, the best games in history have been niche.

  • Yup, DAoC was only made by a small handful of people in a few years, and it still created one of the biggest innovative leaps in MMORPG history. It quickly grew to challenge EQ, but back then, neither EQ, nor any other MMO were really aiming for the big casual market, so they were all niche in a way.

    And actually, Darkfall is probably one of the few MMORPGs that is steadily growing since launch rather than booming and busting like AoC, WAR, Aion, and countless other WoW clones.

  • “It was only because [Vanguard] was half finished and lacked polish that it failed.”

    The central challenge today is that being finished and polished costs money. Remember how rocky Darkfall’s launch was (server stability, exploits), and how people (inexplicably in my view) complained about the graphics? These were not flaws, they were design features that allowed the game to be finished on a small enough budget to permit the devs to write off the WoW Clone market.

    If there’s one thing about WoW that actually has harmed the industry, it’s that the bar on quality and polish is now set to cost more than it’s feasible to spend on a niche-targeted game. You can try to build a game for $1 million and you can try to build a game for $100 million, but anything in between is dicey territory.

  • “The poster child for independent MMO’s is actually DAOC.”
    Thats wrong. Eve-Online had more than 300,000 sub’s as of 6th may 09. It was released back in dec. 03 and have grown ever since. DAOC “only” sold 250K copies back in 02, which they had untill 04. Then it gradually degreased to about 50k in 08. So saying that DAOC is the poster child for independtent MMO’s is wrong.

  • I want to play a niche MMO. I’ve tried everything from Darkfall to EVE… and Aion and I’ve even tried WAR again and again.

    The reason I keep going back to WoW is because of 3 reasons, each equally dependant on the other.

    WoW is very easy to “jump” back into. All these other MMOs, for the most part except WAR, require time and networking to get in a place where you can actually play the game. WoW is very easy to “pug” so it’s friendly to the on again off again gamer.

    It’s polished. Play Warhammer Online for a month then go back to WoW. You will be amazed just HOW polished and smooth WoW is. In WAR we just accepted graphical bugs as part of the game and common place, in WoW they aren’t. WoW just runs great. There are no technical issues preventing you from playing the game at any given time, save Tuesday morning.

    The last thing is social aspect. MMOs are about people. More importantly about friends. I want to play the MMO my friends play, even if I don’t think it’s the best MMO out there. So I need a MMO that can convince my friends to jump ship with me. After the horrid launch of AoC, WAR, and Aion, they wont leave WoW for anything anymore.

    I could find other online friends, but I’ve known these people for nearly 15 years. We met during the birth of online gaming and have been together since. Why does this matter? I think this is the average opinion… or needs… of the gamer today.

  • WoW certainly set the bar high, but I think its set it so high that one could also write it off as the unattainable; an anomaly.

    I don’t expect Blizzard quality from every game. I do expect games to be finished in that they’re not lacking 50% of their content for the game they’ve built (ala Vanguard).

    DAOC was rough by comparison to WoW, but it was polished enough and complete enough. There’s no reason that the same could not be accomplished today.

  • While i agree with your general sentiment Keen, i think you’ll be waiting a very, very long time for a huge, triple-A company to make a niche game. That plan just wouldn’t make it through the board room in these post-WoW days. That’s why i now have almost no interest in the Triple-A titles, because i know they will be built from the start with “ease of play” and “accessibility” in mind…which will force design in a direction that i just don’t like.

    I do, however, now look forward with a lot of interest on those small start-ups making the niche games, like Dawntide for example. I really think that’s the only hope for gamers who prefer the older-style games vs the new WoW-style games.

    And as usual, i disagree with your views on Darkfall, but no biggie. It’s not a huge game because complete FFA PvP is just not a huge market. But for the game it is, it is very solid. And the devs continue to make a ton of changes and updates to make it better and better. It’s one of the few truly niche games out there that have a sustainable population with potential to build on it. Compare that to say…Mortal Online. There is a true failure of a game.

    For a true old-style sandbox PvE game however (albeit with PvP included), right now my hopes are on Dawntide.

  • @Jordan: Actually, I don’t expect a company with money to ever make a niche game simply because of the word “niche”.

    Let’s get rid of the word ‘niche’.

    How about companies sit down and pitch to their investors that they’re going to make a great game that will attract veterans and new players alike. This game would do something that hasn’t been done in years, yet also something that started the chain reaction of MMO’s exploding into fame.

    Slapping “niche” onto that description doesn’t make sense anymore. I’m just about ready to vow never to use that word again.

  • @Keen

    The only people who can afford to make high quality games are those whose company heads have to report to Wall Street or a board of directors. Those people only care about the bottom line. If they can make 2% more money by being McMMO then they will. It also will offer less risk

    In order to get the game you want you are going to have to sacrifice something due to cost. The problem is the thing you are willing to sacrifice may be different from what I’m willing to sacrifice. You must sacrifice something because no major company is going to put the amount of money required into a MMO that doesn’t target the most players possible. So now we are splitting up the potential player base.

    Yes little guys can make a game, and they have been doing so lately. However I think you are delusional if you think we are going to see a much different game, with regards to refine/polish, than Darkfall at this point.

    I think the elder MMO gamers are just going to have to accept that WoW is the new platform for building MMOs and EQ is nothing but a distant memory, albeit a fond memory.

  • “I do expect games to be finished in that they’re not lacking 50% of their content for the game they’ve built (ala Vanguard).”

    Did this occur because they did too little work, or because they promised too much? If they promised too much, did this occur because they HAD to promise the world in order to get the attention and funding that they got?

    As to the word “niche”, feel free to replace it, but that doesn’t change the numbers. Normal investors don’t care if your game will “attract veterans and new players” or “do something that hasn’t been done in years”. They want to know how much profit they can expect, how soon, and the size of the potential market defines the answer to that question.

  • I agree with you Keen 100%. The problem is in the foundation and infrastructure of the business. A lot of these companies set themselves up with these huge multi-million dollar budgets, and unless they get “X” amount of subscribers then its a failure. Look at the poster child for movies – Waterworld. When you set yourself up already so deep in the hole you are only asking for trouble. We’ve already got analysts stating that “at the very least, the game[SWTOR]needs over one million players in order for EA to break even.” Come on.

  • @GreenArmadillo: With vanguard it was a number of things. Bottom line, they released 50 levels and had 25 levels of content.

    @Epiny: Right. But people are using it in response to mechanics though. When I mention mechanics from EQ, I get responses calling them “niche”.

    I do not feel that the word can be used to pre-judge something simply because there isn’t a current 11.5million subscriber game using them.

    Especially when we consider the past, 500k subscribers playing a game in 2001 was a LOT and certanily not niche. How can one look back and call the mechanics which dominated the market a niche?

    The market has grown. We haven’t had a game release with EQ’s style of mechanics (I’m not solely talking about death penalties either, for those who will jump the gun). We haven’t even seen the positive mechanics used. How do we know it’s niche if it hasn’t been done?

  • @Keen

    That’s true, EQ is only niche by WoW’s standards today. That isn’t fair because at the time EQ had the majority of the market while I guess Anarachy Online would have been the “niche” MMO of that time.

    I’m one of the few people who really got to experience ALL the content in EQ for the first 4 years it was out. I got to kill every raid mob, god, dragon, giant, all at the cost of 16 hour days in front of my PC. I loved… I love EQ.

    The thing that really made EQ great was it’s punishments though. We grouped because we had to. Anytime someone found a spot that they could solo and earn decent exp they would forsake groups for it. (quad kiting mages or monks solo’n Karnors) The trains, the long travel times, the death penalties, the slow leveling and the lack of server transfers all forced the community to work together in a productive manner.

    For a long time we had NO other options for MMOs so it was deal with the extreme penatlies of EQ or don’t play anything at all. Now we have more forgiving, solo friendly MMOs. I don’t just mean solo friendly as in you can exp by yourself, I mean in WoW you DON’T need a guild for anything. You can have zero friends and acomplish nearly everything.

    You couldn’t do that in EQ. So, in my opinion, I feel that the only reason EQs mechanics worked, and thus resulted in the community it had, was because it was so hard and lack of other options.

  • @Epiny: Tomorrow I’m putting up an entry where I discuss the positive mechanics of EQ. Definitely look for it because I think there’s more to why EQ worked than the death penalties and negative spins on grouping.

    You’re right though. The community was definitely forced. Such a negative word if one never played to understand what we mean. I wasn’t thinking back then “ugh I hate how I’m forced to be apart of this community!”. It was like “what a great community this is!”.

    Arguably one could say the end justified the means with how dang awesome the community ended up being.

  • Just to clarify/// my view of Niche game.. All of S2 games.. like Heroes of Newerth, Savage etc are niche.. small budget, small marketing, little distribution, small sales.. this is niche but still successful for their goals, budget and targets.

  • Another problem we face is that a lot of people expect McMMO quality on their games.

    A small niche games with a small budget isn’t going to have the same manpower to maintain and upkeep the game (which is a huge part of MMOs) the same way a McMMO can.

    The result of this is usually vast amounts of crying from the players who by now are accustomed to the flawless polish of their McMMOs. Exploits are going to be in effect longer, bugs are going to exist longer, balance issues are going to cause tears rolling longer, and lastly updates and expansions are going to take exponentially longer because of the increased maintenance time spent.

    I just don’t see anyone except a “hobby programmer team” putting together what you probably mean by niche game here.

  • I guess the question that needs to be asked then is why can’t a big company make a game with mechanics closer to UO, EQ, or DAOC?

    Who out there has the authority to say that this will not work? Who has the magic crystal ball to foresee that this will be niche?

    Why do all attempts at making games have to either be low budget games with shoddy design work (what many refer to as niche now) or McMMO attempts at being WoW?

  • “Anytime someone found a spot that they could solo and earn decent exp they would forsake groups for it”

    So very true, and so rarely remembered nowadays. EQ was, is and always will be my favorite MMO but let’s be honest about what it was like. Players complained constantly about almost all of the things that get held up now as positives. Not just the death penalty and corpse runs and losing your gear but the attritionally slow pace of levelling, being forced to group, the downtime (especially the downtime), the lack of maps, of any way to know who gave quests or what the requirements of a quest were. They complained about the UI, the speed of travel, the restrictions on binding, the unfairness of faction.

    You name it, they complained about it, loud and long and constantly unti eventually SoE had to close down their own forums because they were toxic and putting off new customers. When WoW appeared and offered an experience that was like EQ but with most of the difficult bits taken out, they were making what EQ players had been demanding from SoE for years.

    SoE made EQ2 specifically NOT to be EQ as well. They just made a hash of it and didn’t begin to get EQ2 back on track until Scot Hartsman came along, by which time the horse had bolted.

    MMOs aren’t like they are now because developers have played some sneaky trick on the veterans. It was the veterans themselves who demanded the games change. And now, as if in a fairy tale, they are regretting it. Be careful what you wish for because, as they say, it might just come true.

  • I found the article and the comments pretty interesting. I like WoW myself but that’s because it does have a lot of polish and it’s a fun game to play. Blizzard does quality and even with some of their more questionable business practices, I know that they will produce good, fun games.

    I know you’re not very happy with the F2P thing in LOTRO but I know that game is still going okay (well, they SAID it was doing okay but Turbine is not always up front about these things) and it didn’t have anywhere near the number of subscribers that WoW did. But it does feel different from WoW, in subtle ways. I know they modeled the game after WoW in some ways, but when you play it, it just feels different. And unlike a lot of more recently MMOs, the game was completely laden with bugs when it was released.

    I wish more companies would put that sort of effort into their games. I think it would give MMOs a better reputation.

  • @Bhagpuss

    I agree. Remember that Tigole came from EQ as one of the cutting edge raid leaders. He took the compliants from the EQ community and helped Blizzard build WoW around that. EQ was more or less a huge target research group for Blizzard.

    @Keen

    I look forward to reading tomorrow’s post. I also agree that I loved the EQ community and was never upset about being forced to group. My first character was a Necromancer who never got groups. Instead of complaining that the class needed to be changed so that I could group, and maintain the ability to solo, I picked a group friendly class. (Enchanter) I strongly believe that every feature in EQ only worked so well because of the harsh penalities, the cumbersome UI, and the lack of other options.

    For reference this is what the EQ UI looked like at first… and for the first 45 levels you had to open your spell book which blocked the little window in order to meditate. (which also required sitting)

    http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/65353/preview

  • @Epiny

    Many things changed in EQ as the game aged. Staring at the spell book was one of them. They also made the game somewhat more solo-friendly (increasing mana and health regen post-combat) and added instancing.

    @Keen:

    In regards to what you were saying about questing. I would like to see an MMO put the !’s and ?’s on the minimap and not in the game proper (hopefully no one already does this or I’ll feel silly), and have that be optional. I don’t really want do-hickies floating over every other NPC’s head, but if I get frustrated looking for a quest-giver, it would be nice to have the option to see them on the mini-map.

    I would like to see some light instancing. Not a new dungeon for every group, but also not having to wait by the entrance to Lower Guk waiting for a spot to open up.

    I’ve said some about what I want, but here is what I expect:

    I think that they will take the things I said I liked about EQ (the world, mythology, races, and classes), jack them up, and drive a McMMO chassis under it. They will have a few tweaks of their own I am sure, but that’s what I expect. And, while that is not perfect imho, I would play the crap out of that.

    Another thing that I think could be explored would be having the players choose from a number of options for death penalties (changeable at inns or cities). The tougher the option you pick, the larger xp bonus you get.

  • Too much fluff and not enough substance. Thats my issue with all the games released since EQ and Warcraft.

    I dont need voice acting, quests or amazing graphics. Spend development time on making combat fun and LOTS of content. Endgame needs to be there from the start, not a promise of it since we all know the first 6 months will be spent on balances and bug fixes.

    Make most of the dungeons with the best loot non instanced. It fosters competition and a sense of community. Have instanced areas for those times when everywhere is full but make the loot lower quality but still useful.

    Crafting and other distractions are a must. People like that stuff. Card games, board games and so on in the taverns, things to do when you dont want to hit things with a sword but you still want to socialise with people in game.

    If you want to copy something from Warcraft, steal their LFG tool. Every game should have it, you should be able to put yourself in a list for a dungeon group or just to specify you want to hunt a particular area.

    Make death meaningful. Not for the sake of being “hardcore” but if death means nothing, people charge around like headless chickens. People will remember the idiots far more clearly if they cost them xp or money. Likewise, people will add the intelligent players to their friends list. It will pay to have a good reputation.

    I could go on but that will do for now.

  • Actually I think one of the most positive mechanics of EQ was the death penalty. If you don’t understand why, I’m sorry. Try playing some pen and paper D&D and then come back here and say the death penalty in EQ was harsh.

  • I don’t have time to read the whole thread, but I skimmed and didn’t see it mentioned: Consider how the set costs associated with content creation have increased over the years, as the baseline “acceptable” level of VO coverage, texture resolution, and poly counts have increased. I think much of the problem lies there.

    There are a ton of small, indy/niche games being made these days. I’m nearly done with one of them, Trine, as we speak. I’d argue Lead and Gold, Mount and Blade: Warband, Shattered Horizon, and other small indy games such as P.J. Winterbottom go hear as well. Similarly, I’m in the Beta for Bloodline Champions, which I think will go in this category when it releases as well. But the scale of all these games is very small, in campaign size, or number of assets created, or in scope. That is, many of them are 2D or limited 3D, or eschew voice work, etc. On a related note, many of them suffer from crippled multiplayer due to lack of community.

    Even if you set out to create a smaller MMO, and your infrastructure and content creation budgets are reduced to match, you still have the fixed costs required to develop a full world filled with what is considered “the bare minimum” of polys, texture pixels, and sound. Those “bare minimums” have scaled outrageously in the past few years, which is also why many single player campaigns are so short these days.

    So I think any MMO that aspires to be considered an “AAA” game in terms of graphical and sound polish, is going to be required to aim for an unrealistically large subscriber population to earn back its fixed costs in a “reasonable time” (for the investors, who want short term profit, not long term potential).

    The only solution as I see it is to make a game with very limited scope (2D, very small world), or to make a game with very “crude” or stylized graphics by modern standards (like Love). The former nearly makes the idea of MMO irrelevant, the latter risks alienating too many buyers for anyone to finance.

    I think until fixed costs on the up-front asset generation comes down (due to better automation and streamlining of the content creation process), companies basically have their hands tied, and have no choice but to gamble on a smash hit that will dig them out of their pre-launch debt. At least in a genre that requires such vast asset creation as MMOs do.

  • @Sis
    I had posted something about that earlier but I ended up deleting it. That is why I basically feel that Darkfall is the best a small MMO can be as far as quality is concerned… quality of product not so much customer service. 🙂

  • I don’t know if I really buy that. DAOC was AAA and has stood up quite well. That same engine could be used with relatively minimal work. It looks eons better than Darkfall (which itself doesn’t look too too bad).

    I really don’t believe that our options are 2D or crap if it’s not an EA or Activision type company. Simply can’t be the case.

  • “My next blog entry is going to look at what type of game we would have if EQ was modernized for today’s audience and lacked some of the harsher penalties.”

    I know I have commented that if EQ reskinned their original game and brought it up to par to todays technology, it would be a huge success…just saying I said it first )p

  • I totally disagree. I don’t think DAoC was ever a AAA title. Mythic was a fairly small company who accidentally made a great game, based on how they handled expansions and WAR.

    Keen I think you under estimate the amount of work that would go into making an old game engine support the kind of game demanded by today’s players. You can’t just reskin a game with an old engine and expect good results. I don’t think it’s at all possible to just modify DAoC’s old engine for a current AAA title.

  • @Epiny DAoC was definitely an AAA title. It surpassed AC and might have even surpassed UO in subscribers when it was first released. Their one major bad expansion was ToA and that wasn’t even that horrid. They had one of the best expansions ever though in SI.

    Their problem with WAR was the received the project in I believe 2005 and released it in 2008 with only about 2.5yrs to work on it. That’s pretty lame. I have no clue why they released it so early and why they didn’t use DAoC as their template instead of WoW. That game failed on so many ways and so many of us in beta knew it had huge problems but were hoping they would pull it through, which never happened.

    My question is: Why, if you had two small studios in Turbine/AC and Mythic/DAoC that made very popular and good games, why can’t someone today do it? Why can’t someone make a good solid MMORPG that goes back to the pen and paper RPG as it’s basis? Back in 2000 companies could do it, why can’t they in 2010?

  • If you followed WAR development you could see where they wasted huge amount of money. As an example they hired a fucking orchestra to do their music… One of the great things that saved them money in DAOC was their armor and weapon models/skins.

    There are many engines floating around that one could use and license. You really do not need to spend 7-8 years developing everything from scratch. Sure there are costs involved but if you cut out most of the glitz stuff you save a ton of money. But the key, it HAS to be to approached as business, most such things fail because of feature creep. Add stuff once you have revenue stream.. things like housing, mounts, decent crafting system, trophies, siege engines etc it will also keep people hooked longer.

  • @Bhagpuss- sure, some EQ players complained about death penalties and corpse runs and the like, but most certainly not everyone. Some people reaize that a legitimate death penalty, although painfull to experience, makes the entire game better. Without it death becomes meaningless, which means you’ll really never experience “fear” in a game. Now some people don’t want to experience fear which is fine for them (and i believe you to be that kind of player based on your posts), but others need that feeling in order to become engrossed and truly entertained by the game. In other words the lows you feel in the game make the highs feel even better…if that makes any sense. Same can be applied to corpse runs and long travel times etc. etc. That stuff, for some of us, makes the game more “real” and epic.

    The question is, are there enough of us to successfully support a triple-a title. I think there is, but i don’t we’ll find out for a long time. Fortunately there are enough small start-ups out there willing to try to provide a game for those people…some with more success than others obviously but at least they are trying.

  • And i should add: we may find out sooner rather than later if a older-style (I won’t say more challenging as this seems to put the WoW fans in a frenzy) mmorpg will work as a triple-a title if large companies keep on pumping out WoW-wannabee games that fail miserably. Here’s to hoping.

  • @Damage
    So now I believe we are coming to different meanings on what AAA title means… does mean a successful game or a game that has a lot of money invested in it. I thought we were assuming it had a lot of money invested in it. At the time of DAoC’s creation is was relatively low budget. The game was successful, I’m not arguing that. I’m saying the game didn’t cost a lot or have the same corporate backing as say EQ at the time which was developed by Verant and then published and eventually bought out by Sony Online Entertainment.

    @Smthin
    Pretty much agree. If you were in WAR beta early on and had ever experienced a well run beta before you could tell that Mythic simply wasn’t listening to their testers. They made some changes and used those few as evidence that they were doing what their testers wanted; when in reality it wasn’t so.

    @Jordan
    I sort of agree. To me the death penalty wasn’t there after a certain point. Once you made friends with a high level cleric you always got a rez, which restored 96% of your experience lost from death. I played a max level Enchanter and when we weren’t raiding we were farming items to sell or power leveling alts needed for the guild. It was easy enough to earn the lost exp back by that, and when AA Abilities came out we just set the gain to 90% AA and would always keep our levels at a healthy padding. At the time that AA came out we could make 1.5-2 AA levels an hour through AoE parties.

    Keen, I’m not really using my blog anymore. I’m using yours since it has more viewers. :p

  • @Epiny
    The death penalty was always there for me. Could be because i never joined a large guild. Played in a few small ones when i wasn’t solo, but still had a network of friends in the game. But I never had a high-level cleric buddy i could call on at any time if i bit it. Also, AAs didn’t come along for quite awhile. And, not being in a large guild i didn’t have access to AoE parties.

    And even if you did have the cleric buddy, losing 4% exp in a game where the leveling curve was as huge as it was in EQ was nothing to sneeze at until you maxed out (which i never did even playing for 5 years). Compare that penalty to WoW or any other of today’s games and you’ll see what i mean.

    If i died I will say i pretty much always got a rez at some point, but many times not the 96% rez. also i always eventually got a recall if i died in a tricky spot. But sometimes it might take a day or more to get that recall or rez as i looked for people in the area to help me out. What did that accomplish? I was forced into meeting a lot of people in game which i probably wouldn’t have chosen to do on my own but in the long run was a great thing for me as it provided the impetus to create my own network of friends. That impetus has all but completely disappeared in today’s games unfortunately.

  • @Jordan
    I understand and before I joined a big guild I was in the same boat. My necromancer had some difficulties at the lower levels finding rez’s but my Enchanter never did, an Enchanter was everyone’s best friend. 🙂

    I completely agree about their being nothing pushing people into making lasting relationships in the new MMOs. Dungeon Finder in WoW allows for you to meet random people, but there is no reason or incenstive to stay friends with them past the 30 minute encounter. In EQ if you found a Cleric willing to rez you, an Enchanter willing to buff you, or a Necro willing to summon or track a corpse they often went on your friends list and you tried to network with them.

    You needed their skills, and so you were forced to make friends. In WoW you don’t NEED anyone.

  • Yeah, I spent a lot of time doing corpse retrievals on my necro back when they had to give you consent to drag. It builds connections for sure. Drag some warriors gear-laden corpse out of a dungeon and you made a friend for life 😉

    Also, as much as I hate having to sit around waiting for mana and/or hps, that gave you time for a lot of bonding in EQ. Or, if I was soloing, I got a lot of books read.

  • To clarify my points about increasing fixed costs: I don’t think that more money is required to make a good game – I just think it’s required to make a good game that meets the bare minimum of graphics sophistication that the players are perceived (by the companies) to expect. Also, to me, AAA means production values, nothing else. You can sink a ton of money into a game, and still have it flop in the market place – it’d be an AAA title, but not *popular*.

    Anyway, I don’t think you can tell an investor “we’re not really pushing the graphics at all technically, but we think enough people *won’t* be turned off by our crude visuals that we can get away with it”. You’re basically stuck making a darkfall, at that point, with all the limitations that come along with that model.

    And yes, you can push for stylized graphics, but again, you have to explain it to non-gamer investors who are going to wonder why it doesn’t look realistic. Just tell them you’re going for WoW cartoony, I guess?

    To be clear, I LIKE stylized graphics, and think it’s totally doable to make a great game on a low budget today, even without any drastic limitations of scope such as making it 2D. But I think it raises huge issues in terms of trying to sell that idea to players, investors, and the gaming media. I just don’t see getting the money required to make a full-featured MMO unless you can sell it as being an “AAA” title, with the huge fixed costs that come along with that designation.

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