Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 02, 2009
 
The story of the elephant sculpture

Once upon a time there was a sculptor who made an elephant sculpture. It took him years to make, and the effort of many helpers, because his elephant sculpture was huge, and of exquisite craftsmanship. Every single wrinkle in the elephants skin was sculpted to the finest detail, and all the dimensions were so realistic that the sculpture was almost life-like. Once he had finished his sculpture, he proceeded to sell it. And because the sculpture was so well done, it achieved a high price at an art auction, and sold for 11 million.

The other sculptors saw that, and thought that they could earn such big money too. Obviously the public wanted elephant statues, so they all started making elephant statues. Only they didn't have the patience of the original sculptor, and wanted to get rich too. So their elephants were much smaller, of inferior craftsmanship, and not life-like at all. Some were rather roughly hewn, others decorated with gaudy stones to distract from the lesser quality. But when these inferiors elephant statue copies were put up for auction, they didn't sell all that well. Some didn't sell at all, so bad were they. Some attracted initial interest before the auction, but when the buyers saw the inferior quality, they only bid 300,000 for it, and the other sculptors were much disappointed. "Oh!", they cried, "the original sculptor was lucky that he made his elephant statue just when the market wanted one. Sculpting is dead, nobody will ever get more than 1 million for his sculpture."

Meanwhile the original sculptor was back in his studio, making a sculpture of a tiger. A huge sculpture, and of exquisite craftsmanship. Every single hair of the tiger's fur was sculpted to the finest detail, and all the dimensions were so realistic that the sculpture was almost life-like. I am sure that once he is ready and puts it on the market, he will get more than 1 million for his new sculpture. You see, the public didn't yearn for an elephant sculpture at all, they just appreciated the size and great workmanship. And all the imitators would have better spent more attention to detail than just copy the basic shape of the elephant sculpture.
Comments:
I completely agree.

Blizzard is the one true master craftsman. Remember when Warcraft III was delayed for years because they weren't happy with it.

I'm expecting a non-fantasy, non-sci-fi genre. Maybe post-apocalyptic?

I expect SWOTR to be good as well. Bioware has a strong track record.
 
Well played, sir.. Well played.

I totally agree with you. The sculptor is definitely making a Tiger and it will sell well because of it's craftsmanship.

I would take the analogy a bit further and even say that the sculptor had many fans before he ever made that elephant.

After all, everyone loved his Monkey and Rabbit as well.

And so we are fans of his work, whether it be Monkeys, Rabbits, Tigers or Elephants because we know that the sculptor does good work.

In other words, the people are fans of the sculptor -- not of elephants.
 
Such is why Bioware will be successful with SW:ToR I think.

Great post.
 
Interesting analogy.

I already know that your going to get "but wow was buggy and unplayable when it was launched" in response to this.

Can there be another mmo with 1 million + suscribers? Of course there can.

The potential mmo consumer market is ever growing. People who say that theres no chance that another mmo can grab up a million players, frankly, don't know what the hell they're talking about.

It's just a matter of it being able to pull in those potential customers....pulling in casuals...pulling in F2P players...pulling in people who have only played WoW...pulling in people who maybe have never played mmos before.

Sure it might not happen now, tomorrow, or in the next year, but the potential is there.

Look at F2P games like Runescape with millions of active players. Hell, look at Free Realms. It has what now 5 million regular players? Sure the appeal there is that, duh, it's free but that shows that the potential market is out there. Give those people something that interests them and there is no reason a large majority of them wouldn't drop say $5 or $10 dollars into an mmo. It's simply a matter of being able to tap into it.
 
Meh sorry for the double post but just had to add this in.

What people often forget when talking about WoW's success is how strong the brand name was that WoW had at it's back.

Warcraft was an immensely popular game and Blizzard practically had a cult following. Simply by being "Warcraft" they were able to catch people who never would have even looked at mmos prior to WoW being launched.

With that said, another mmo could definitely catapult itself off of a similar brand name.

Star Wars is the obvious one here. I already know people who wouldn't even give WoW a chance but will be playing Star Wars. Chances are they'll stick around too simply because it's a universe they want to be in.

Bioware, much like Blizzard, has a cult following behind them and we are definitely going to see an influx of consumers who like Bioware products and will pick up TOR without ever playing an mmo before.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens though.
 
Most interestingly, he didn't try to craft a second elephant.

Btw: My guess for Blizzard: They will try and perfect Eve Online ;)
 
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I agree with you Tobold, but I don't think you need inferior craftsmanship for the imitators to draw the conclusions you suggest. Their elephants could have been perfect imitations and they'd achieve the same result.

Audiences appreciate innovation and originality. They also appreciate polish and quality. Just bring one side of the equation to the table and you get a mediocre return on investment. Put the two together and you have a phenomenon.
 
Don't you remember what a miserable bug/queuefest it was at launch? It took years to get that alleged Blizzard polish.

I think it is you who has selective memory here. When WoW started its beta in September 2004, I had already played over half a dozen different MMORPGs, from UO, to EQ, DAoC, SWG to FFXI, and some in between, and was a bit burned out. Nevertheless the WoW beta managed to grab me in the first 5 minutes. There was never any doubt that this was going to be a great game.

When WoW finally came out, it certainly *did* have a couple of annoying bugs. But to call it a "bugfest" is excessive. Compared to the other games launched before, most notably Anarchy Online, which was completely unplayable at launch, the launch of World of Warcraft was extremely smooth. Yeah, sometimes you got stuck while looting, and had to relog, but so what? The smoothness of launches did improve since 2004, and you're unfairly comparing the WoW launch of 2004 with your standards of launches for 2009.

But the polish, the attention to detail, and most of all the impressive size of World of Warcraft compared to other games all were already there at launch. Just look through my archives to read my impressions back then.
 
There is at least one other elephant sculpture out there as huge as the "original" one (which isn't even very original). Some might argue that it is even more beautiful.

The trouble is: It is actually harder to get there because this sculpture stands in the middle of a jungle and is not easily accessible for masses of package tourists. The sculptor of this huge and beautiful elephant (for some reasons only known to himself) even fails to advertise his work of craftsmanship and doesn't set up roadsigns at the entrance to the jungle.

I'm sure there are a lot of other hidden gems and other beautiful statues in the jungle as well. But the masses will flock to the tiger sculpture once it is revealed in the center of a busy town at an early evening with 24 Hollywood stars and 500 paparazzi in attendance.

Kyff
 
Very well written, nice little story there :) I enjoyed reading it!

Oh and I agree :)
 
All I have to say is that this is simply a brilliant post.

Now.. I need to print this out and shove it in my boss' face.
 
You forgot about the sculptors who suddenly started to attach trunks and bimbo ears to their rhinos and unicorns, breaking their legs in the process.

I surely hope your prediction will come true rather than Syncaine's. You both have good arguments for your respective cases. Your vision is just one I'd rather see happen than his.
 
Excellent post, Tobold.
 
I'm not a WoW player but I think Syncaine has backed the wrong horse here. I think that even if Blizzard brought out a turd they are virtually guaranteed 11 million people are going to try it and they would need to screw up monumentally to lose more than 90% of them.

I think a more interesting question is whether or not WOW 2 will manage to exceed 11 million ongoing subscribers. This is not a foregone conclusion because even if you believe that nobody makes mmorpgs as good as Blizzard (an assumption I am not altogether convinced about) the world has changed. There is a lot of competition out there and a lot of it is very high quality. Even the business model has changed with te arrival of high quality free to play games.

I also think that the demands of the player base have changed. I don't think they will settle for an updated version of what has gone before. If Blizzard want to do it again I think they will have to innovate, I don't think that polish and craftsmanship alone will suffice this time.

Sometimes I think that a day will come when a whole lot of people suddenly wake up to the fact that they don't want to play mmorpgs any more. The arrival of a successor to WoW might just be the trigger that brings about that realisation.
 
I certainly wouldn't bet against the elephant, but I do wonder if whatever Blizzard comes up with next will fit into our notion of what an MMO is right now.

There are lots of facebook games with millions of players, after all. At some point it has to stop being about the numbers.
 
It isn't about pure numbers, it is, as always, about money. A million players of a Facebook game don't equal 15 million in monthly subscription fees.
 
I agree with you Tobold, the game will get over a million subscribers from the fact Blizz will do some kind of joint account.

People already pay their monthly fee for WoW, increase it by half and throw in the new MMO people will pay it and get a choice of what to play if it is radically different.

As for others copying the WoW model, players are much less tolerant of bugs/lag and general issues than they used to be as they set WoW as the benchmark. If the game does not meeting their expectations within a month many go back as we saw with AoC/WAR.

The problem is many MMOs with potential get labeled as failures because of this which is kind of a joke as their launches were much smoother compared to WoWs launch with all the bugs/server down time.
 
Agree on the 'Bioware stands a chance of making a good Bantha'. Proven track record, etc.

The story did make me remember another case of an innovative game that stormed the markets. Anyone remember when Magic: The Gathering was new. And making truckloads of money? So much even, that CCGs sprang up everywhere, some good, some dismally bad...

How many of those are still alive today? M:tG itself obviously. Yu-gi-oh? There's definitely not all that many.

Point is, everyone keeps saying there is a lot of room for growth in the MMO business, but I dare doubt this is so. Any long-term industry needs to draw in new people, but how many people are still there that can be drawn into MMO's is definitely an unknown, and it could be that most people who like MMO's, or could like them, are already playing one.

But, you will say, look at all those F2P games! That's a potential of millions more that can cough up their hard-earned dough every month to play online... Well, not really. It's the same mistake record companies make when they say every downloaded album is an album less they sell. Not so... There are plenty things that I will happily give a shot if it's free, but in order to get people to pay for it, that's a whole other level. After all, did the music business recover when Kazaa was killed off? Or will my Dungeons and Dragons pals suddenly be interested in paying for an MMO because Bioware makes one? I strongly doubt it.

I for one would not be too amazed if the number of new people that actually can be drawn into MMO's is slowly drying out.
 
My money is on Blizzard, I just respect there pedigree to much.

Their pool of bored ex players is massive and that gives them prepared subscription base to mine for any new titles.
 
The MMO environment is too fractured now (compared to 5 years ago) to capture and hold 1 million subscribers in the first 6 months.
 
Think... what is the one thing that WoW has that none of these other MMO's have? YOUR FRIENDS.

By being the biggest first, they have almost a guaranteed fanbase of people that play WoW together simply because that's where they play together.

MMO's are social games, and the one thing that Blizzard has that holds thrall over their players and keeps them playing WoW is that their friends play WoW.

@Michael: Blizzard the one true master craftsman? Hardly. But they certainly stand somewhere near the very front of that exalted crowd.

@Bigeyez: I would not put it past the realm of the possible that Blizz's next MMO just might be F2P.

@Tobold: Awesome analogy.
 
Great post.

People tend to forget just how unique WoW is even 5 years later, by today's standards!

You may be burnt out on it, but even then you have to marvel at the size, detail and seamlessness of the world (nothing comes close), the richness of the lore, the well defined characters and story.

Nothing comes close - and I am saying that as someone who does not play WoW anymore because I've done it all.

And it certainly true that the copycats forgot the copy the main characteristc of WoW that made it succesfull - quality, richenss and details. And it is maybe not that they forgto to copy - they could not copy it - because it's not that simple. You can't just sculpt another statue of David - you got to be Michelanglo to do that.

Hail to the King!
 
The biggest flaw I see in this is that you are saying no MMO before or after WoW has been within reach of WoW's design/execution, which I think is completely off.

A game like LotRO (for example) had a better launch, better engine, better IP, reputable dev, and a comparable amount of content, and yet the tourists still left after a month. You are telling me WoW is orders of magnitude better than LotRO for the casual player looking to do some solo-hero fantasy PvE? Even if you want to say WoW is the better game, it's simply not THAT much better.

The problem with the analogy is even if the WoW elephant is indeed worth 11m, the LotRO elephant is not some super-cheap knockoff worth 1/20th of that.

The WoW elephant was sold during the dot.com boom, and you had three 20-somethings bidding against each other using their $250 Yahoo stock, pushing the final price a lot higher than the LotRO elephant solid a few months later after the crash. Two quality products, yet due to timing one sold for 20x the price. (and because the product in question here is an MMO, word-of-mouth and 'my friends are playing it' factor in far more than the usual pop hit, so the snowball rolls faster and gets much bigger than things like the pet rock or Macarena)
 
@ Syncaine

While I agree on what your saying about LoTRO, at the end of the day what is it percieved as? A WoW knockoff.

To fit in with Tobolds analogy; Sure it may an elephant of equal craftsmanship of the original, but it's still another elephant.

The problem is that developers try to do what WoW does (and yes they do things better then WoW a lot of the time) but never ask "What am I doing thats going to make a WoW player drop WoW for my game."

And thats the big question. Why would a person who is completely content with WoW drop the game, leave their friends, and abandon their character(s) for a game that is very similar?

For some games, story could be the answer here. Thats definitely what Bioware is banking on. With that said, a well known universe/lore didn't make LoTRO the next million subcriber mmo. It's all up in the air as to what may happen.


----

Changing the subject a bit, I've always been amazed at the sheer lack of marketting effort placed behind some mmos.

Using Aion as my example here lets look at it's marketting push. Aion advertised itself through all the normal videogame outlets, mags, websites, etc.

But what did Aion do to reach the casual/non gamer community? Nothing. Not a single TV ad (correct me if I'm wrong) No ad deals with mainstream non videogame only retailers. I don't even think there was a single word on myspace about it. (lolmyspace i know)

Then look at a game like Halo 3:ODST. It has one of the best ad spots for a game in recent years. That ad was aired on mainstream television channels to people who probably never played a videogame before. It was plastered everywhere on the net from myspace to MSN.com to yahoo.com, including of course every videogame news source. Everytime a Halo game is released it's not just a videogame release it's an entertainment release.

Look at WoW's advertising. Like Halo, WoW isn't just advertised on videogame outlets. It's on mainstream tv and mainstream websites reaching people who aren't part of the "gaming world".

Games like Halo and World of Warcraft are known, and I have to stress this part, by people who never play/look at/care about videogames. Thats how well exposed they are to the mainstream consumer. By just having that exposure they can draw upon a much larger potential market then the game that targets only "gamers". When a Halo gmae or WoW expansion comes out we see news reports on the 9 o clock news about them.

And people wonder why mmos (or other videogames for that matter) can't garner success out of the regular videoame market?

The big console devs/publishers have already figured out that a solid game without SUPERB marketting to back it up doesn't make for an instant sales success.

You can make the best game of the century, but without a good enough marketting push behind it your not going to be breaking any barriers. Your not going to get the 10 million copies sold in a week that GTA and Halo get and last, but not least, your not going to get any more then the average 300k sub if your an mmo either.
 
A game like LotRO (for example) had a better launch, better engine, better IP, reputable dev, and a comparable amount of content, and yet the tourists still left after a month.

And why don't you consider LotRO successful?

I've read on your blog a hundred times that you don't think it's fair to measure the success of other MMOs to WoW. Particularly in the context of subscriber numbers.

That comment implies that if the tourists leave, then the game wasn't successful. But the tourists are just that – tourists. And they will ALWAYS be tourists because they are Blizzard fans. Not just WoW fans, but Blizzard fans.

That's what LotRO really lacked: the Blizzard brand. WoW doesn't have MMO players, they have Blizzard gamers. The LotRO brand is strong, but that by itself isn't really enough.

In fact, for some people, it works against them. Historically, games based on a well known quality IP suck. It is to the point now that I won't even buy a game that uses an IP that didn't originate as a game.

Why? Because most devs that get the license are just angling to use the license to make a quick buck. The Blizzard brand, by contrast, has a pedigree that says they make good games.

Quality and execution aside, the games they make are simply fun. And yes, I'm sure we can all think of reasons why the game doesn't feel fun NOW -- but that doesn't change the fact that we at least used to think it was fun.
 
If LotRO is another WoW elephant, what does that make WoW compared to EQ1? WoW in no way was successful because it brought something totally new (another animal) to the MMO genre. Part of it's success is it took the EQ1 elephant and, after seeing the genre shape itself over the years from the original big three, Blizzard did what they do and copy/pasted from those games to make WoW. The idea that LotRO did not achieve what WoW did because it was too similar and yet another fantasy MMO goes against what made WoW what it is in the first place.
 
Syncaine, you have an idealized view of LotRO, because you played it at a stage (both in terms of content you were experiencing and development progress of the game) where it used to shine most. Again, I will resist the temptation to rant on reasons why it went downhill, because no one wants to read that (at least here). I'll just remark, that in the polish department, it's in a much buggier and shakier state now, than it was in its launch year.

Was it, even in its best days, a weaker game than WoW? Sadly, yes, I have to say now. Was it "that much" weaker? No, of course not. But that's irrelevant. I think there is just no "middle ground" in the MMORPG market, no way of hovering around a million subs. You might cite EVE, but EVE is unique in its own space (pun!). For everyone else it's "WoW-sized" or "niche-market". And all that matters here, is if a game is better than WoW or not, without any excuses or future promises. Just plain better.

LotRO was never better. It was, as so many others "just like WoW, only without features X and Y". In this case, just like WoW, only without PvP (Ettenmoors being the worst of both BGs and open-world, without the best of either) and talent trees (every time someone equates traits and talents, a kitten cries). A beautiful elephant, but one without a tail or tusks. It was (mind you, past tense) a game with a lot less grind, which was a welcome "addition" to the genre, and attracted people for a while. Until they ran out of things to do (and I'm not telling my own tale here). Ultimately, people tried LotRO, and found a game that was pretty similar to WoW, but not as deep and had less stuff to do. Some stuck around for the lore, the atmosphere and the generally friendlier community. Others left.

WAR "failed" because it didn't stick true to its own vision and thus turned into a game divided against itself. AoC "failed" because, well, it launched in a broken state. Ditto Vanguard. Thing is, you can't name a single game, that would have been released in a perfectly executed, feature-complete, content-rich state to subsequently fail. Maybe WoW was not that game either. But that's where it set the mark to, and competitors keep failing, because they fail to realise and accept it. A game needs to be released, which is better than WoW. Not "mostly like WoW, but slightly lacking here, not quite working there, but with minor feature X added on top" - no, better. It must be more fun. Now - not at some later point, when you stick with it and give the devs the chance to improve it. There are no second chances in this market any more. You have this one opportunity, this one impression you can leave with the WoW tourists. If you impress them enough, if you're more fun (by a margin that will justify leaving habits behind), they'll stay. If you tell the same old story, they won't.
 
I think one of the things that held ?otro back for me was the way skills worked in combat. Almost every skill hits on your next swing, so it's like there's no such thing as an instant attack. It makes combat feel laggy and is similar to the feeling I got from WAR. Aion is really the only example I would use as a game polished to the level of Wow because for the most part it works just as well.

I am looking forward to Lotro's next expansion though as they are apparently reworking the combat system so that skills will interrupt your auto-attack. Also, being able to interact with NPCs while mounted is a long needed feature coming as well.

I think Darkfall was a new animal, but the problem is it was so roughly sculpted that it's practically still a boulder.
 
Great story and I do agree with you about Blizzard being the best of the breed.

They are a purebred game company that has quite a long history of successful titles.

It's easy to imitate success, easier to criticize it but very difficult to emulate.
 
@syncaine

It so happens I jumped over to LOTRO for the past month. And IMHO you're wrong. The only advantage LOTRO has over WOW is the IP (love those acronyms!).

Turbine's engine is decidedly inferior to Blizzards in smoothness.

Quests are much more annoying, especially all those escort quests where the escortees can't even handle a single MOB by themselves.

The game simply does not flow as seamlessly as Warcraft does. Frequent loading screens even within the first couple of zones!? come on!

Tobold's analogy does break down in, at least, one respect. The elephant sculpture can only be owned by one person.
 
I love the analogy. Lotro still doesn't have battlegrounds, only has half the world size of WoW at launch, and just reached about as many dungeons as WoW had, most of which aren't up to WoW quality. Don't get me wrong I love lotro and I want it to succeed but next to the first elephant it isn't quite as well built in many ways yet. Nor is it different enough to make it something other than an elephant. Now those other two games you mentioned probably are but no guarantees.
 
@Garett: Actually, LotRO's attacks are neither "on next swing" nor in any way laggy. It's just that swing times are actually implemented as actual swing times, not just cosmetic animations - the attack begins when you see it begin and it connects when you see it connect. The "hidden cooldown" system also makes it an actual player skill to accurately interweave auto-attacks with skill-attacks; someone who just spams his keys will perform worse than someone who as developed a feel for the combat.

Most players with a WoW-background never got it, and if they "rework" it out of the system now, LotRO-gameplay will lose its last unique perk. Once again, a shame.
 

A game like LotRO (for example) had a better launch, better engine, better IP, reputable dev, and a comparable amount of content, and yet the tourists still left after a month. You are telling me


Having played both WoW and lotro I have to agree with other here, other than story lotro doesn't match up at all. And apparently most people don't read the story part of things anyway. There isn't nearly the content. You could (even before super-duper-bonus-refer-a-friend xp level at least four characters to level 60 without seeing more than a few hours of the same content in WoW) until recently you couldn't get to even 50 without duplicating half the content in lotro.

But the biggest difference I see - and the one thing I miss most about WoW is the silliness. Whether it is big over sized hammers, the glowing armor, the not-so-subtle pop culture parodies, or something else there are many reminders that "this is a game, don't take me too seriously" I think there is a huge market for a game that doesn't take itself seriously like that - and yet doesn't make light of its players either.

Lotro puts itself squarely into the uncanny valley as well. Thats not appealing to some people.
 
I'm getting really tired of your blind fanboy belief that WoW at release was of more exquisite craftsmanship than any mmo that has come since. It wasn't.

It is more polished NOW (after 5 years of additional development) than almost any game when it releases, but you need to compare release to release if you want to be fair.

Your analogy would be more apt if the sculptor continued to visit the purchasers house for 5 years and improved the statue over time, polishing off the rough edges and adding new details. People who already have this elephant look at the new elephants and think "why would I want that rougher elephant when I have my shiny polished elephant already?"

The fact that their elephant was once rough doesn't come into it, nor does the fact that the new elephants might one day equal or surpass the polish of their current elephant.

The simple truth is that WoW launched at the right time, with more polish than most MMOs up to that point (I'd say CoH was more polished than WoW at release, but was a niche title so it didn't matter) and certainly far more polish than its direct competitor (EQ2), allowing it to grab a hefty market share. It then grew that market share based on it's casual friendly nature and pop culture references that made it feel relevant to the population at large.

New games entering the market now can match or even exceed the original production values of WoW and it just doesn't matter -- they're too late. People are happy with their WoW elephant, why get a new game?

Blizzard's next game is going to suffer from the same thing. I don't doubt that they'll SELL a million or more boxes, but I doubt they'll retain a million or more subscriptions. If they do, they'll just be cannibalized from WoW.
 
Wonderful analogy. But unfortunately, it's a lesson that none of the industry insiders (other than the leader!) seems to understand.

This is an efficient market - the money goes to the game with the best "Return on Investment" for its gamers (in this case, the return is FUN, and the investment is DOLLARS).

Take the BEST game costing $15 per month.

If the 2nd through 20th best also cost exactly the same $15/month.... well, where did you brilliant marketers THINK people were going to go? Customers might dip their feet in your game to see if it is the new BEST, but when they discover it isn't, they will go back to the tried and true.

Now... if those "cheap elephants", as Tobold puts it didn't cost as much, they might have a better Return on Investment than "the BEST". e.g. If its 1/2 the fun, but only 1/3 the cost, its got a better Fun to Cost ratio! Tada - instant success for cheap elephants.

So, if you're an inferior craftsman, either reduce your prices, or start making higher quality products that can actually rival the best. Simple as that.
 
For me a wellknown IP is a negative point in most games. It was okay for WoW, because the Warcraft Universe wasn't all that well fleshed out back then. You just knew a bit about one past war and even that one was not described fully. There was lots of space to realise whatever they wanted without being strangeled by the IP. The Tolkien-IP is another matter entirely: It already was ridiculous detailed, the game had to sneak itself into it somehow and the developers had to focus more on what the story allowed them to do than on what would be fun. Another example would be Star Wars. The Star Wars Universe is somewhere inbetween those two, but I still think it doesn't fit. Having seen the films and read many of the books I still don't feel even the slightest urge to play a game in that universe. It was fitting for a space opera, but for my taste its way too simple and black/white for an MMORPG-world. I would be interested in a newly created science fiction universe, but I don't really want to see Han Solo again and if anyone ever mentions Jar-Jar Binks I'm gonna get the rabies.
Long story short: I have never seen an wellknown IP help an MMORPG and in some cases it even actively kills my interest. I also was never drawn by the warcraft-IP, I just knew that Blizzard always made very good games, so I had a look at WoW.
 
I'm getting really tired of your blind fanboy belief that WoW at release was of more exquisite craftsmanship than any mmo that has come since. It wasn't.

I must have missed the part where I was forcing you a gunpoint to read what I write. So if you get tired, may I suggest not reading what I write?

Unfortunately you are a prime example of why we are condemned to stagnation in MMORPG development. You think that everything has to be either black or white, and you think WoW is bad, so anyone saying anything nice about it must be a "blind fanboy".

Is it "blind fanboy belief" to state that WoW shipped with 8 races and 6 newbie zones, all of which were very different from each other, while Aion shipped with 2 races and two copies of the same newbie zone? And if I'm such a "blind fanboy", then why did I write hundreds of posts on this blog complaining about everything WoW does wrong?

I think the one who is blind here is you. I can see clearly, and I can see shades of grey. I can see what WoW does right, and what it does wrong. I can see what other games do right and what they do wrong. And craftsmanship and size are certainly areas where WoW shines. But because everybody is as blind as you are, they all think that its just a matter of luck and timing, and nobody goes down the much harder path of hard work and professionalism, learning from what is there, and making a better game at the end of it.
 
A lot of people (still! 5 years on!) love to gloat about the fact that WoW had queues and server lag and other such painful issues at launch due to the unexpectedly huge influx of players.

I was there. It was bad. I was on a badly hit server (Blackrock) - not the worst, but it was the unofficial Aussie server and it was seriously overcrowded.

But you know what? Everyone who was raging about the server issues back then was raging because they were LOVING the game and were desperate for things to settle down so they could play it uninterrupted.

THAT is the sort of reaction that I've simply never seen from any MMO since (and I've played almost all of them). Modern launch rage tends be more "wtf, this game simply is not finished and does not work" than "wtf, hour long queue to get on and then the server lags like hell?"

THAT is why I still maintain that WoW WAS "of more exquisite craftsmanship" than any MMO which has followed in these last five years since.

And that is also why I think Tobold is going to win his bet with Syncaine. :-)
 
Not to act like a fanboy, but Tobold just pwned Graktar...

It's pretty funny reading this now. Fresh out of school over two years ago I got a job designing games at Ubisoft, and after 15 months was unceremoniously sacked.

The primary reason I got sacked was because I hated the design process there passionately. While I do acknowledge the faults WoW has, I can also deeply appreciate the amount of work that goes into creating the different gameplay for each class, balancing that gameplay, etc...(They did so many things right I can't list it all...).

This is because Blizzard's design process is about reiteration. They try low level gameplay, does it work? Is it awesome? If it's not great then let's try something else.

At Ubisoft however, the design process consisted (largely) of power point presentations importing pictures from google and a bunch of ideas with very little ACTUAL testing of these ideas.

The problem with this of course, is that ideas are largely difficult to interpret into gameplay without actual testing and going back to the drawing board etc...An idea is an idea, you need to implement it to see if it works, if I tell you I want to make a game about jumping around, eating mushrooms and smashing my head into bricks to break them, no matter how well I describe it...you get the point.

What separates blizzard is they actually look at what they are doing, with a fine tooth comb. And they don't rush to release something because they want to make a quick buck. This may be a shameless piece of info for me to release, but once it was announced GTA 4 would be delayed, they rushed AC1 out as fast as possible to take advantage of the lack of competition.

Oh and Tobold you missed the point of the people who make crappy elephants, they do so at low cost because their market research has shown them that the bulk of the videogame purchasing market can't tell the difference between a good game and a bad game. And they're right.
 
A very apt and eloquent analogy. I look at Blizzard's elephant as both a blessing and a curse in the sense that, through WoW we see what MMORPGs are capable of, but on the other hand, everything that comes after it are burdened by its shadow. I often ask myself, what would be the state of things if WoW never came into being? Would all of the failed MMORPG experiments to come after it fared any better? Would they have been created at all, since many are just poor clones of WoW?

At least I have hope that the industry is learning from its recent mistakes at just trying to copy WoW without investing the proper effort. I hope Bioware can sculpt an elephant that's as beautiful and as polished as Blizzard's. I hope that APB and The Secret World are an entirely different beast; beautiful in their own right. I would hate to think the MMO renaissance started and ended with Blizzard's one elephant.
 
Graktar: Your analogy would be more apt if the sculptor continued to visit the purchasers house for 5 years and improved the statue over time, polishing off the rough edges and adding new details. People who already have this elephant look at the new elephants and think "why would I want that rougher elephant when I have my shiny polished elephant already?"

But this is exactly the question you have to ask. Even everything else aside (i.e. how polished the elephant was when first sculpted), the question is all that matters now. Comparing your new elephant with how that "first" (in before "WoW was not the first!") elephant looked 5 years ago, trying to explain that tusks are not really needed and promising to carve a third eye on its forehead a few years later .. just won't do.

Again, your sculpture has to be better than the WoW-elephant is now. Either that, or you're content with servicing a niche of fetishists of a particular animal-feature (that's not meant to be naughty, so clean your dirty minds there!).
 
At Facegriller: I disagree with your logic.

Warhammer could be free as far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't go back.

And if I could choose between playing Lotro or WoW, with WoW being cheaper, I'd still play Lotro.

I AM looking for the best RoI, but my time is more important than those 15$ a month. I want a game where I don't need to stand around for long getting groups, where I can jump in and play and have fun.

Hence why WoW worked so well. Getting groups for dungeons was a pain at times, but usually went smooth and there's enough solo content anyway. Lotro had lots of solo-content and I was in a good guild that helped me out when I couldn't get a group.

So for both of them, I hop in and play. Great!

What I won't do again though is a game where I need to spend ages before I can do something fun.

So as far as I am concerned, it won't matter if the Bioware MMO costs the same or less than WoW or any other, as long as it's fun from the get-go...
 
This was an excellent "blog" post Tobold. It is concise and makes a contentious point by an accessible metaphor. People can engage with it on a number of levels ("WoW isn't an elephant. It's a Rhinoceros!" or "Equating game quality and critical reception to sales is fallacious. Read the monthly top ten on Metacritic and compare to the top ten on the NPDs. QED." Well done.

To take my own stab at modifying your metaphor, perhaps it would have been more appropriate to make the object of attention a play. A theater company finely crafts their grandest production yet, hiring the best actors and building the most elaborate set pieces. They open to a boisterous public and critical response but they are still working out the kinks. As the run of the show proceeds though, the actors grow into their roles and the quality of the production continues to grow on a monthly, even weekly basis. They grow so popular they take their show on the road, playing in all the biggest cities to sold out crowds worldwide.

The point of my feeble attempt is to get at the living nature of MMOs; how success, even WoW's, isn't built over night. WoW of 2004 isn't the same game as WoW 2009 and the EVE of launch is nigh unrecognizable to the EVE of today.
 
you know what WoW has that other MMO's don't?

(among other things)

it is the only game that i know of, that can take a dedicated single player gamer and get them to actually enjoy MMO aspect of it. I've been playing ever since I got an access to computer and the very first computer games (which was a long long while ago) the closest I came to multiplayer experience that was enjoyable - was playing Doom against other people.

I have tried Ultima online and it didn't grab me. I watched a friend play EQ, even tried to create a character - it didn't grab me. WoW did.

and I can guarantee you - I'm not the only person with above (or similar) story.

Until there are MMO's that can grab as widespread range of people as WoW (or to be honest, any blizzard game can), it will not be as sucessful as WoW. Sorry.

P.S. I miss Bullfrog Productions. To me, they are an equivalent of Pink Floyd of gaming. If the same team that made Original Dungeon Keeper would have tried to create an MMO - I think they might have given Blizzard a serious run for their money.
 
Heyo. Victor Stillwater here. :)

Just read this wonderful parable (I guess you could call it that) and thought it was a nice story. Would it be alright if I repost on my blog with my comments? :)
 
I'll subscribe to LOTRO when Turbine wakes up and allows Hobbits to be Champions, because that is the only race/class combo that really interest me.

= # # =
 
You know, I've been playing Combat Arms a lot lately. I've been on and off for over a year, but I keep going back. Finally, I checked out some of the other FPS games out there and even did some research into Combat Arms.

Nexon claims to have over 2M players for Combat Arms. It is a F2P game, but I see a whole lot of people playing with gear that they had to buy with cash. Some of that gear costs $30 US dollars to aquire. Most of it has a time limit and has to be purchased over and over.

My point is that people like a good game, period. Combat Arms takes the best of the FPS genre and does it right. Good graphics, good character control, instant gratification rewards, and even a good dose of humor.

The game has its share of problems, but people like it. Enough to pay the cash shop the equivalent of a monthly subscription (sometimes more).

Good design and attention to the details will win every time, no matter the originality.

Lord of the Rings Online is a flop with a regurgitated story that people are willing to play out. Without that rehashed story, no one would be playing it. The character creation screen and its options alone are enough to chase players away.

Today's standards? Please, there are no current standards for anyone to follow. Unless building a game cheaply and quickly as possible is your idea of a standard.

The only standard that there ever should have been is a quality experience that keeps you coming back for more.

Instead, we buy into all the uber hype for the latest trash the market is willing to feed the players.

Whatever Blizzard's next game will be, at the very least, I'm sure it will be more colorful than the boring hues of gray and brown we keep getting from everyone else. And that alone is enough for me to try it out.
 
Apologies for my previous comment, I must have been mistaken, I will remove it from the list.
 
P.S. I miss Bullfrog Productions. To me, they are an equivalent of Pink Floyd of gaming.

Dungeon Keeper 2 -still- resides on my current retro PC and I play it for at least a few hours every week or so. Even though it is dated graphics wise, there are some developers out there who would do well to look at the dynamics and execution of the gameplay in DK2. I always get a chuckle when Disco Inferno starts playing....every single time. And the narrator...simply brilliant!
 
Hi Tobold,

The "elephant" metaphor is not entirely appropriate because MMOS take a lot of time investment. It is not like you could play two of them at the same time.

Using your analogy few people would be able to own two sculptures - not because of the price but say sheer size. One would need to toss a sculpture to make room for the other.

A lot of hatred/fanboism can be attributed to a sense of being forced to make a decision - or having a decision made for you - feeling locked into a situation.

If you like another MMO you know that as long as people play WoW they won't play your MMO - thus there is potential for you MMO not doing that well, thus your experience may suffer. I think that explains a lot of the nerd rage.
 
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