Looking Back on 2014

This year was bizarre. Seriously the strangest year I’ve had in gaming in as long as I can ever remember touching a keyboard or controller. There were highs and lows like every year, but this year brought about personal paradigm shifts and even some which may apply to the entire industry.

MMOs

2014 goes down as the worst year in MMO history. Didn’t we say that last year? Let’s evaluate.

  • Elder Scrolls Online: Failed
  • WildStar: Failed
  • ArcheAge: Failed

Each failed for very different reasons, and each were completely avoidable by anyone who really understands what gamers want in a MMORPG. For the past eight years I have penned my ideas about making MMOs great right here on this blog. These have become my personal annals of MMO virtue. I look back at what we (you the readers included) have come up with and I cringe at what those who do this for a living create. Why are these two thing not aligned, and how can we change that? (I’m open to starting something, email inquiries welcome!)

The paradigm shift I alluded to earlier is that I am no longer stuck in the mindset that I have to play every MMO. I played TESO for a few weeks, Wildstar for a few days, and I never even picked up ArcheAge. I haven’t played a MMO for the past six months. That would have been completely inconceivable to me last year. I no longer feel compelled to settle for or try mediocrity. My standards are set for what I will put up with, and if something isn’t truly appealing to me then I’m fine sitting back and waiting.

Interestingly enough, I think I’m not alone in that. I’ve always felt I have a feel sense for the pulse of the industry. I feel many others are in the same mindset as I am, and that a huge chunk of the potential pool of MMO players is simply sitting here idle without a game to play. The real question now is how do you capitalize on that without waiting until 2017?

MMOs on the Horizon

The horizon looks bright. Very, very bright. But it’s still so far off.

  • Camelot Unchained – At least a year? Something beyond a tech demo should be playable in 2015. They’ve made progress, and our friend Mark Jacobs has been incredibly forthcoming and open with the community about where they are taking the game. They’ve said all of the right things. They just have to execute a high-quality product.
  • EverQuest Next – We won’t see it until 2016 at the earliest. For now it remains nothing more than a tease, but it’s EverQuest and I will drool over it incessantly until it’s here.
  • The Repopulation – Looks to be very much a SWG-type. I have modest hopes for it to rekindle some of the love I’ve had for sandbox games.
  • H1Z1 – Not a MMO, but they like to call it one. Perhaps it may mutate into some type of MMO hybrid. Nevertheless, I am interested. We should hopefully see this sometime early 2015.

Pre-Early-Alpha-Restricted-Unfinished-Half-Assed-Access

Oh the joys of whatever you want to call this crap. This has actually gone from being a neat way to build hype and mutated into a business model. I know exactly how it happened. I’m part of the problem. We the ever-impatient gamers buy ourselves into the ability to play sooner, and it all snowballed from there.

I’m torn on whether or not early access is inherently evil or simply executed poorly. Could the idea still work if handled ethically and with the player’s best interests at heart? I think so. Sorta. Maybe we’ll revisit this one in 2015 when the half-dozen already announced games with early access open their doors. For now, this model blew up in the face of 2014 gamers.

Console Games

The year for console gaming seemed fairly good. We had games like Dark Souls 2, Dragon Age Inquisition, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros, and several more. I even received my very own Wii U for Christmas (thanks Santa!) and will soon get a PS4 as well. I’m excited at the prospects of playing console games with Graev!

Indie Games

Remember when Indie games were like the under dogs and had unquestionable support from everyone? I think that’s starting to fade. Indie games are now more prevalent, and in my eyes no longer get a free pass. You can’t make crappy games and get away with it. You can’t screw people (early access) then walk away from a project. Indie game dev or big publisher dev, you’re both accountable to the players.

Lots of good indie titles came out in 2014. Everything from Divinity: Original Sin to Shovel Knight. Kickstarter has given rise to many opportunities. Great ones like The Repopulation and Camelot Unchained. Horrible ones like Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, and a few with the jury still out like Shroud of the Avatar. We shall see what 2015 brings the indie devs.

Other Games and Entertainment

Mobile Games

My faith in mobile gaming has increased this year. I’ve seen some amazing things on the iPhone and Tablet. Games like Hearthstone are coming to the iPhone in early 2015, and are already available on iPad and Android tablets. Other games like Seabeard have shown me that an experience matching or exceeding that of the 3DS is possible, but remains unexecuted. This year was a huge leap forward in progress for these devices — at least for my own personal take on them. I’m eager to see what 2015 brings.

Board Games

My love of board games and card games has increased this past year. I picked up several for Christmas including Ticket to Ride Europe, Dominion, Shadows over Camelot, Munchkin, and Small World. We’ve played through many of them already, and have enjoyed them all.

Personal Life

One of the best ways to pass the time during a gaming slump is to get engaged and plan a wedding. I got engaged in September, and I’ll be married in March of next year. I couldn’t be happier to find something that matters more to me than video games. She’s way more dynamic, much more sandbox, and has the best daily quests. Alright, I admit that was a wee bit cheesy. In a strange way she’s taught me to value gaming more. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I know that when I play games I have more fun. It’s kinda cool.

Coming Up

I have a few more posts planned for the end of 2015. I’ll look back at my favorite game(s) (this is going to be hard), announce my goals for the new year, and talk about a few upcoming games I’m excited to play.

  • What metrics are you tracking to arrive at “failed” for each of the mentioned games?

    Seems to be they all still have mass amounts of players and are pushing out content updates regularly.

    Players are the problem. Players like you.

    Players need to stop calling everything a failure, when in fact that’s not the case at all. If we keep it up, the word failure will be replacing with “nothing.”

    Of course, you have the magical answer and everyone like you knows *exactly* what players really want out of an MMO.

    But exactly zero developers do not.

    Got it.

  • I will assume one of your posts will be about The Repopulation. With the NDA dropped I am eager to share my thoughts with you… think it will be a great MMO for you once they get the game stable and playable.

  • I think you’re being a tad negative about this last year, probably coming from a platform of being too invested going in. Yes, WS, TESO and AA failed to become The Next Big Thing but so what? Huge movies, tv series, hyped bands, blockbuster novels – they bomb all the time. Always have done, always will. It hardly writes off the entire year for the ones that perform well and plenty of MMOs cruised through 2014 in good order.

    Personally I thought it was a good year. Several MMOs I was already playing came out with solid, satisfying expansions or major content drops, as did a couple I don’t play (EVE and WoW). It was a year of consolidation I’d say. I’m expecting 2015 to be much the same.

    What’s the problem with that? I’ve been enjoying some of these MMOs for 5, 10, 15 years now and with a bit of luck I’ll enjoy them for another 5, 10 or 15 years more. It doesn’t all have to be about novelty. Yes, I’d like a few new MMOs that operate much more along the lines you’d prefer but I don’t feel let down by those companies who go in other directions.

    That said, I do get the strong impression that a lot of bloggers who used to like MMOs are getting bored with them. Fair enough. Not everyone sticks with an interest forever. I’m still finding the genre as fascinating and satisfying as ever I did but then its about the only part of the video games industry (or indeed the entire games industry) that does interest me so its swings and roundabouts I guess.

  • It wasn’t that bad an MMO year for me. I got a bunch of friends to come back and play WoW with me and few more jumped on board when WoD released. It’s not perfect, but I’m still having fun with WoD and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface as far as stuff to do goes.

    The only one of those MMOs you mentioned that I tried was ArchAge. It just didn’t resound with me for some reason. I was willing to give it a try, but WoD was always on the horizon and I knew I was going to really dive back into WoW once it released. Plus, it didn’t have an invert mouse option and for me that is kind of a deal-breaker.

    I am looking forward to Camelot Unchained. I am still a bit skeptical about a “no PvE” game though. I look forward to EQ Next as well, but from what I have seen so far I think I might be disappointed. It seems like they are floundering a bit and it wouldn’t surprise me if they pull the plug again and do another development restart at this point. Based on what I’ve heard, I kind of wish they would. I don’t know if we will even be able to recognize this new concept they have for EQ Next as even being part of the EQ franchise other than by what it is called.

  • The three MMOs you mentioned were definitely disappointments, but failure might be too a strong word. Lots of people called SWTOR a failure but it’s chugging along nicely at a profit. I think this year was a good year for expansions to existing MMOs. Not to be too harsh but your whole MMO section comes off as pretty arrogant. “Why, oh why haven’t the professionals just done what I, the blogging armchair developer, want? Can’t they see?”.

    As someone who is always touting old-school MMOs, one interesting story of 2014 you didn’t mention here is Pantheon: Rise of whatever. Their Kickstarter was basically the original Everquest and it failed to get off the ground.

  • I haven’t played ESO and Wildstar, but Archeage was definitely a failure by any definition of the word.

    They let hackers and botters run every aspect of the game, a game with an elaborate interconnected economy where hacking has 10x more impact than it would in a themepark and ruins the game for everyone, as opposed to giving the hacker an isolated advantage. This was compounded by a PR trainwreck of epic proportions where Trion publicly and repeatedly showed their inability to deal with the issues.

    Then if it wasn’t for the hacking, the cash shop would have destroyed the game (although probably slower and less violently). You just can’t sell RNG boxes that drop expensive crafting materials in a sandbox economy-centered game.

    I could also add the insane RNG-based crafting grind for top tier items to the list of flaws, but I could still see the game working out with the grind if it wasn’t for the first two points.

    Yep. Archeage failed. Spectacularly. Definitely never looking at another game by Trion again.

  • Worst part of Trion being the publisher of AA is someone in a suit is going to look at that failure and assume it was due to the content of the game, when 99.9% of the blame lies with Trion and the F2P model. That more than anything else is why I hate Trion so much at this point; not only did they completely mismanage a pretty solid MMO, but also tainted the perception of other such games going forward.

  • I’m where you are. Have given up trying every single mmorpg released and waiting for the holy grail. So far the wait has been quite lengthy. I am also intrigued by the upcoming games you mention but I am admittedly jaded after having been beating about the head for the last few years.

    Camelot unchained. While a pure pvp/rvr game is not really my idea of the return to mmorpg greatness, I admire mark for his vision and not trying to be all things to all people. It does however have a serious shot at being shadowbane 2.0. Not holding my breath.

    EQ Next. Ah EQ. Love that game. If the graphics weren’t so horrible compared to modern games I would go back. I had really high hopes for Next but I was confused about landmark. And then they added combat to landmark and I got way more confused. As much as it pains me to say, I don’t hear much bout Next lately and I think Landmark is all we will get.

    H1Z1. It’s planetside 2 with zombies. Fun for a bit but not really mmorpg.

  • I am guessing Failed means Failed to be more than a 3 monther. In some cases the games failed to be more than a 3 weeker.

  • Yeah I still am unsure if I have changed and stopped liking MMO’s or the reverse, but it seems that I’m not alone.

    On the other hand we are in the heyday of PC gaming in general thanks to the large indie market. Between STEAM and other game providers I have about 200 games, many of which I still have to install, most of which were highly reviewed and I bought ridiculously cheap (which is why I cannot understand how anyone can’t find a game to play as I have the opposite problem of option paralysis).

    I agree with you that corporate game factories have corrupted the idea of alpha marketing. It is used as a disingenuous pseudo-kickstarting marketing scheme, usually recycling the now hackneyed claim of how purchasers will help guide the game’s development, but in reality using it a pass to shirk responsibility for their buggy and unfinished product while repeatedly cash-grabbing from their most dedicated fans.

    “Is it going to be a finished game? Absolutely not. If that’s what you’re expecting, DO NOT BUY EARLY ACCESS. The goal here is to let you in early and help us mold it into a game you want to be a part of for quite a long time.” – the Ghost of Stigmas Past

    😉

  • 2013 was a lot worse for MMOs then 2014 for me. This past year I went back and played EQ for awhile and now I am back playing EQ2 and loved my time in them both. If I had the time I would also like to go back and try out SWTOR. Have not played that in over a year but I would like to see what current changes there are. In 2013, I think I took a 9-10 month break from MMOs.

    This year I am hoping to get a PS4 since the number of console games I want to play are just stacking up. If only there was more time in the day.

    Happy New Year to you all.

  • @Bartillo The Repopulation is on Steam EA already but I strongly advise caution. As much potential as I see in the game it is still a very unstable build and has not been optimized at all. Lag is an issue and lots of bugs still like enemies attacking from inside trees and rocks. You can play the game for sure at the moment but there is no guarantee it will be smooth or stable.

    That being said… my god the crafting. The below link is a craftmap someone in the community has created.

    http://aena.at/craftmap/craftmap.html

  • @nuke:

    It looks interesting, but again people need to realize it will be a F2P title on release so buying now is still a wildcard.

    I remember getting excited by the crafting system in SWTOR prior to launch, which was followed by a significant simplification.

    Plus avoidance of any potential P2W features are still only promises.

    If it ends up playing the way it appears on the surface then I will likely give it a go.

    Buying off STEAM now will give one a GOLD Membership Package (according to this link https://www.therepopulation.com/index.php/news/180-alpha-4-steam-nda-lift-and-video).

    Here are the details excerpted with regards to membership Levels (https://www.therepopulation.com/crowdfunding/projects/the-repopulation-round-3/Membership Package):

    We are what is called in the industry a Free to Play (F2P) title. We distribute the game for free and you can play it at no continuing cost. Obviously, the game will not last very long if no one pays any money so we sell memberships with additional perks.

    We currently plan on offering 3 memberships with each membership including the previous membership’s offerings. The memberships are a one time purchase much like paying a box fee for a game compared to a subscription that is paid every month. The currently planned offerings for each membership is as follows.

    Silver Membership

    Additional Character, Inventory, Bank, Shared Bank, Mission, and Auction Slots.
    Access to City Council and Nation Leadership options.
    Gold Membership

    More Character, Inventory, Bank, Shared Bank, Mission, and Auction Slots.
    Ability become a city mayor and run a player city.
    Platinum Membership

    More Character, Inventory, Bank, Shared Bank, Mission, and Auction Slots.
    Ability to create a new nation.
    Memberships are offered as part of packages now, but will be available for future purchase upon release. You will be able to upgrade your membership as well with your existing store credit or newly purchased credit once the game is released.

  • @Gankatron I have to admit their F2P model is worrisome to me. They of course claim that the store will be cosmetic only and account wide items like bank and inventory. I will say that the cosmetic thing is a little believable because of how detailed crafting is and how you can alter the look and color of most items in game…. but I still always worry about F2P in general. I have started to come across player housing out in the wild and they are pretty barren still but I can see how they would sell special cosmetic pieces for housing… what you buy with cash and put in your virtual house has no impact on the way I enjoy a game.

    I am hoping that their F2P system is really just window dressing for a one time purchase model that most players will happily buy once they get a taste. You can download and try it out and technically keep playing but if you really want to get the most inventory etc you have to eventually buy a package.

  • @nuke:

    I wonder if the ability to buy the ability to be a mayor or create a nation is a bad omen? It isn’t that I have a problem with the concept of charging someone who will plan to become that invested in the game, as opposed to the general concept of gating content behind real money.

    Even so, I don’t have a problem if they sell content so long as it is comparable to the standard sub rates over time.

  • @Gankatron The mayor and nation access has always been planned this way since as far back as the first KS almost what… two years ago now. Normally I am not ok with blocking content in F2P games but that is more of a feature than content. I can still play the game if I do not get a membership and can still join a nation or town, just can not create my own. I think I can get behind a limit like that. That is very much like say Marvel Heroes in that you can choose to use the free starter heroes and the basic storage but if you want more you need to open the wallet. As it stands with MH I bought an Avengers pack a long time ago but have not spent a penny since and have had tons of fun.

    A big thing for me is the pressure to buy in the cash shop. If a game is constantly telling me to go to the shop to buy this and that or giving me loot drops in game that I have to buy keys for in the shop I stop playing. I hate that. It totally breaks the flow of the game and lessens my enjoyment.

    At this moment there is no cash shop in game for The Repopulation so we have no idea what it will be like and how it will be presented to players.

  • Archeage really burned me bad, the worst part is that it was a brilliant idea that was destroyed by greed ,mismanagement and incompetence.The game was overrun with hacks and cheats and Trion was just the the straw that broke it.

    Tried WoW again before Xmas, and am already bored of it again. Camelot unchained is pretty much my final hope in the Genre.

  • shhh… Return of Reckoning is working rather well… just saw their Tier 1 ORvR video, so many people having fun, just saying, too bad no one seems to have a mac client.

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