Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
 
Fake news

With everyone already expecting and being warned of April Fool's fake news, I didn't even try to go for believability today. Instead I'm using the opportunity to toy with fake news as a writing style.

The question today is not whether anyone is fooled, not even whether the hypothetical games presented here are likely to ever become real. The questions are whether you would play these games: PvE EVE and Blizzard's Pokemon MMO. And whether these fake news are a glimpse into a future of MMORPGs in which games become more and more casual. Would we really be surprised if the next Blizzard MMO was even less hardcore than World of Warcraft? Is there a way to break out of the seemingly solid correlation of more casual equals more subscribers? Is hardcore forever damned to be niche, or will the pendulum swing back one day because extremely casual players are less likely to spend a lot of money on any single game?
Comments:
I expect Blizzard will try to cater to as many people as possible, from the most casual of players right through to the extreme hardcore. They'll expand upon their WotLK strategy, in that they'll make content accessible to as many as possible, but will add extra hardcore incentives and rewards in the form of special achievements and 'hard modes'.

Personally, I'd be interested in seeing a situation where everyone starts out ridiculously powerful, and gear rewards actually reduce stats to the point where the 'best' gear can only be acquired by the most skilful players, and not those that invest the largest time commitment. Can't see it being very popular though!
 
One thing that Blizzard always gets blamed for is catering to casual players in the extreme.

One thing that Blizzard never gets credit for is turning casual players into hardcore players. It's surprising how many people I know that have entered WoW as completely newbies and ended up PvPing and raiding on a fairly hardcore level.

It would be possible and somewhat predictable for Blizzard to take the industry growth option and make a game that is even more casual, with the possibility of alienating some of the no-longer-casual players that WoW attracted.

A somewhat more interesting move would be for them to make a game that is for the same audience WoW attracted, but takes into account how that audience has matured. If Blizzard made a few increasingly-hardcore MMOs, and managed to retain 80% of their playerbase each time they released the new game, It's conceivable that they could bring that mainstream audience to the edges of niche gameplay. Imagine a 5mm+ PvP mmo made by Blizzard and populated by the generation of gamers that WoW initiated.

I doubt this is likely to happen, but it's certainly the outcome that would blow the most minds.

Mike
mikedarga.blogspot.com
 
One thing that Blizzard never gets credit for is turning casual players into hardcore players.
..and then turning them into casuals again. ;-)

It would be possible and somewhat predictable for Blizzard to take the industry growth option and make a game that is even more casual
It's called Wrath of the Lich King, you know.

A somewhat more interesting move would be for them to make a game that is for the same audience WoW attracted, but takes into account how that audience has matured. If Blizzard made a few increasingly-hardcore MMOs, and managed to retain 80% of their playerbase each time they released the new game, It's conceivable that they could bring that mainstream audience to the edges of niche gameplay.
And this one was called the Burning Crusade.
 
After all teh blog PvP is time for some reasonable discussion.
I think that mass market MMO's are here to stay and that isn't necessarily bad.
Sure, my favourite game is no longer that because it was dumbed down to the max, but it is actually good that gaming arrived to the masses.
Blizzard will be king of the hill in the foreseeable time and they will be catering for the mass market, so the next MMO will also be neons and butterflies regardless of the setting. That will create a even bigger critical mass of players and some of them will want to go more challenging games thus making niche games more viable. Also with technology evolving it is expected that the cost of development will lower allowing independent developers to create solid products. This will be good to everyone.

I'd like to add that the latest WoW Tourist debacle is an extension of the casual vs. hardcore debacle. Everyone involved in the discussion trolled a bit and there are no good guys/bad guys here. I do believe that discussion stemmed from the huge numbers of players that after trying the game instead of saying "i like _______ best" or "i don't like this game" felt the need of bashing the game in every medium possible. That was terrible for WAR and now many players who would give the game go don't do so due to the bad PR or the smallest bugs turn into "crap, they were right all along." Anyway, we're all gamers here (for only gamers write/read gaming blogs) so we must bury the hatchet and just play games. I for once appologize to everyone I trolled in this blog including the owner, Tobold.
 
My guild leader has been threatening to quit WoW for Hello Kitty MMO for ages: http://www.hellokittyonline.com/ . The even less hardcore is already here.

In my opinion the future of MMO will be to have more differentiated content in one game, more episodal content, and to have some authorized way to link in game success to outside game success. None of this is exactly new.

The first is also already happening. We see another tier of heroics added, and I wouldn't be surprised if more soft attunement type barriers would be added. Example; having to clear 4 wings before the final boss becomes available and having to kill sapphiron before malygos becomes available.

Episodal content also isn't new. Runescape is often taken as an example here, and WoW seems to be speading up the release of content patches.

I see the inside to outside link in two ways. First is the ability to pay your way to better gear. The second is the emergence of professional paid tournaments for gamers. This may be a large leap to some people, but if you compare it to your real life soccer/football leagues it is not that far at all. There is definitely large sums of money spend on gear here, and large sums of money made.

It sometimes surprises me how much "wow is to easy" discussion is going on. When Burning Crusade was released it was the opposite. Blizzard commented on that one that it had been a bit to much. I am sure they will adjust this time also.

Some of my favorite april fool jokes have always been the ones where some huge equipment upgrade was promised. If I would have made one, it would probably have read that the first guild to conquer the content of 3.1. would be getting some pointless reward.
 
Yes the hardcore is always doomed.

And we are the hardcore.

The contradiction that I am thinking about is just how do you keep a game casual friendly and add expansions? All expansions add complexity--which is the enemy of casual. I don't know how you would add expansions to, say World of Pokemon and keep it as simple as possible.

Then again I have clue what the various Pokemon games did as they extended the franchise or if those ideas are portable. (Add to that wouldn't be expectation for WoP to be at least as deep as the current gen of Pokemon.)
 
It's difficult to determine, people want challenge, at the same time they will find the easiest way around that challenge. No one would play a game where you log in and they just give you items. I've just finished reading the chapter on play in "The Future and its Enemies" by Virginia Postrel, one chapter is "Fields of Play" and how important play and games are to our lives and even economies and being happy. And that people enjoy overcoming challenges.

Part of it is the challenge has to be the right level where it only pushes you a little farther. That is where games have always failed, they were too hard for many of us. And the "medium" or "easy" setting was too easy. So either it's impossible or unchallenging. This is why I never played video games growing up. None were made at my difficulty level.

I think there will always be challenge, but maybe more and more difficulty levels, such as how the extra achievements in WoW encourage people to try things differently.
 
I have to say, a Pokemon MMO could be fantastic.

That said, many people are surprised by how in-depth Pokemon is. There's several hidden statistics that govern how your Pokemon level up, not to mention breeding for specific moves, growing berries . . . it's very kid-friendly, but under the surface there's a very deep and hardcore world. Seriously, it could make a great MMO, where the crazy people grind EVs (effort values; essentially, level up your pokemon on defensive pokemon to level up your defense) and battle as many other people as possible while the kids are just happy to catch Pokemon and maybe participate in a few fun fights here and there.

Furthermore, because PvP is essentially PvE on a larger scale (finding a few wild pokemon vs. full-party Pokemon battles) you wouldn't have the giant PvE/PvP balancing gap that Warcraft and other games have.


Honestly, I'd totally subscribe unless they really nerfed it down to be kid friendly, but I doubt they would; they only add more and more layers of barely-visible complexity each generation, despite cranking out more merchandies, movies, and silly features (contests).
 
By the way, the general public doesn't want challenge, it wants fun.
If they tell you differently they are lying.
The next big thing will be the game which tricks people into thinking they overcame a challenge while they done a trivial (for a gamer) task.
It's a very hard thing to accomplish: if too hard the masses won't adhere. If too easy, nobody wants to ride a bike with trainer wheels.
Blizzard seems to know that balance.
 
Hardcore tends to drive game development, because those are the first adopters and they create buzz. Just look at Madden -- it couldn't be more mainstream and it sells millions of copies each year, but it caters to a hardcore crowd in terms of detail and options and the way it attempts to simulate NFL football. Grand Theft Auto adds complexity with each new sequel rather than going the other way. It's bigger, there's more to do, etc.

I'd argue that even The Sims now caters to a hardcore Sims audience. Casual Sims players don't need all the expansions.
 
10 years ago the average person watched 5 hours of TV a day. That is the average person. Now lets assume that instead of watching TV they played video games. 5 hours a night is considered "hardcore" by most current standards for playing a video game, however I personally don't watch any TV.

So while playing video games for 5 hours and watching TV for 5 hours would seem hardcore, simply replacing that TV time with video game time could still be considered a casual hobby.

I think as time goes on and our lives begin to focus around the Computer more than the TV it's not at all unreasonable to think that MMO's will be able to maintain fans with a more hardcore approach. I think the Hardcore community will grow along with the casual community, though the casual group will always be a larger number.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Yes, hardcore is subjective. If I played tennis 8 hours a week, I'd be a hardcore tennis player. Eight hours a week in an MMO is almost casual, though.

I guess the difference between 5 hours of tv a night an 5 hours of an MMO a night is the difference between 5 hours of different tv shows vs 5 hours of watching Law and Order.

I think those of us who play 20+ hours of games a week are a bit desperate to define that as something other than abnormal, yet most people don't devote 20 hours a week to anything other than work or family. Anything we do 2-3 hours a day outside or work, family, and sleep, does seem to be a bit obsessive.
 
Why whenever people try to have a reasonable and polite discussion we don't pass the 10 to 15 comments but if I write "you're all WoW tourists so go play your crap commercial game" it will go up until 30-40?...
 
Welcome to the Internet, Wyrm. I think you just discovered the origin of trolling. :)
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool