26 August 2013

Personal MMO History

One of the hot topics in the recent past was the announcement that both WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online will be employing a business model based on subscriptions. The former also offers an alternative payment method similar to PLEX in EVE Online. Bhagpuss has a very good post about how payment models generally do not matter all that much.

I'm a member of the apparently increasingly rare breed of gamers that likes to devote all their gaming time to one game, so a subscription is great in terms of value for money. -- Shintar

Since I agree with this statement entirely, I am more than pleased by this shift away from a misleadingly named F2P model. While I am not that interested in TESO, WildStar on the other hand leaves me hopefully optimistic – at least judging by what has been revealed so far about both games.

Considering the commitment and devotion I deem necessary for real MMO gaming, it should not come as a surprise that I have not played that many MMOs up to now. I am not a very creative person and I find describing aesthetics and art design (in video games) rather difficult. The following is a chronological overview of my experiences with different MMOs.

This was the first ever MMO I played and the one I played the longest. I was deeply invested and the decision to abandon ship so to speak did not come easily. I still think that WoW is the most polished MMO where everything feels natural and in place. Some people are pondering a return, but I am not one of them – even if Blizzard were to revert the game back to a state that I would enjoy. To quote Shintar yet another time: “I think I hit a "point of no return" in WoW, having been disappointed too many times... even if Blizzard changed it into the perfect game for me tomorrow, I'd still be suspicious of it”. Maybe I will revisit my old characters when WoW goes F2P at some point in the future.

It must have been about a year after LotRO launched that a friend gave me a trial pass to test the game. The world Tolkien created has shaped the fantasy genre in numerous ways and the opportunity to enter that world, to be part of that gaming experience – developed with adherence to the lore – was a dream come true. The brutal reality, however, was that I felt almost immediately repulsed by the game. There was no sense of awe or wonder upon entering and I cannot quite point my finger as to why that was. It might have had something to do with the character models, particularly with their movement and with the UI. Everything just felt clunky and out of place. I wanted to give the game a chance so badly that I pushed on until I simply could not take it any more. The level of polish was miles behind what I came to expect. WoW had certainly spoiled me. My wife and I tried again some time ago (long after LotRO went F2P), but we could not force ourselves to like it. My wife is usually very calm and thoughtful, but she ranted on for quite some time about how unfathomably bad that game was and how she was at a loss for words that our friend actually bought a Lifetime subscription.

This is my current MMO and I have been playing it pretty much since launch. The game feels very clean and everything falls into place quite neatly. The level of polish is second only to that of WoW – just ignore the many, many, many bugs. Despite what the haters claim, this game does not suck and its drawbacks are primarily rooted in the limitations of the Hero Engine and certainly do not lie in voice acting or in story-driven content. In fact, it is voice-acting more than anything that has spoiled me yet again for future MMOs. I do not even want to imagine reading quest texts again. Nevertheless, the transition to F2P has hit my commitment and my dedication to SW:TOR very hard and I seriously dislike the direction the game is heading in: more and more daily hubs and an overemphasis on the Cartel Market. I do not know how long I will keep on p(l)aying.

TERA prides itself on introducing action combat to the MMO genre and I felt like giving this idea a try after the game went F2P mainly due to Liore’s positive comments. I have about 14 hours of played-time over the course of a weekend and I can safely say that this is not the game for me as I have come to realize that I genuinely dislike action combat in MMOs. More importantly, however, I simply do not care one bit about the world. I have no prior relationship with the IP and the whole setting feels very generic and exchangeable. This post offers some reasonable explanations as to why TERA is not that successful among western gamers.

This is part of my summer project. I created two characters shortly after the game went F2P and I did have a blast for some time. However, while the game does have potential, especially regarding the soul system, it also suffers from the absence of a compelling IP or lore. There is just no immersive reason as to why players should care about the world, its inhabitants and their conflicts. One thing I will say though, is that RIFT’s F2P restrictions are very unobtrusive, which is in stark contrast to SW:TOR.

WildStar is my new hope on the MMO horizon, though I am only hopefully optimistic at best. The video footage looks quite appealing but who knows what the actual gameplay will feel like. The game seems to be whimsical enough to make me care. However, Syl already adequately demonstrated that the developers have clearly misunderstood and misinterpreted the Explorer archetype. While I do have plans to give it a try when it will be released next Spring, I cannot help but feel a bit uneasy about their intentions.


  1. Well well...what is this, a new MMO blogosphere neighbour? hello and welcome! :) I see you've already grasped the concept of linking around the block because that's how I found you. I'm intrigued now by the way - from the heart of Europe? where is that?

    Always great to read new voices - I hope to read more of you in the future!


    1. I appreciate the praise. It means a lot coming from you. Thanks :)