Tobold's Blog
Saturday, December 10, 2011
 
The Twelve Most Anticipated MMOs for 2007

I was cleaning up my bookshelf and found the February 2007 issue of Beckett Massive Online Gamer, with an article about the twelve most anticipated MMOs for 2007. They are:
  • Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  • Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
  • Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
  • The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
  • Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising
  • The Chronicles of Spellborn
  • Pirates of the Burning Sea
  • Hero's Journey
  • Huxley
  • 9Dragons
  • Last Chaos
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Online
I think it is safe to say that if you were actually anticipating the MMOs of 2007, you were in for a disappointment. Some of them never launched, some closed down, and the majority had rather limited success and went Free2Play. LotRO is still the best game on that list, and that one is Free2Play too.

My personal interpretation of the history of MMORPGs over the last years is that game companies saw the success of World of Warcraft, but failed to see that WoW, although far from being perfect, is a product of very high workmanship. Or "polish", if you want to use that term. Thus everybody thought they could get to a similar level of success with games that were significantly less well-made. And failed.

While this has filled some players with gloom and doom, I actually think that this phase of history is behind us. Star Wars: The Old Republic isn't a perfect game either. But nobody can accuse it of being cheap and not well made. During the beta I was positively surprised by the quality of the workmanship, lack of bugs, stability of the servers, and all that famous "polish".

I do think that EA is going to make a lot of money with SWTOR, and attract millions of players. Which moves the overall market forward from "nobody can make a successful MMORPG and WoW is just an exception" to "highly successful MMORPGs can be made if you invest a huge amount of money". 2007 was still the gold rush period of MMORPGs, and I'm actually happy that this is over.

Comments:
It's my opinion that MMO's were always meant to be niche games. The freak outlier that is WoW has skewed perceptions on what successful MMO's should and shouldn't be.

I also think polish has nothing to do with the above either. IMO Trion's Rift has polish I will match up with Blizzard's Wow any day and yet this is not going to get them the same level of success.
 
Economically, 2007 was the end of a gold rush of investor cash of epic proportions. All those MMMO'S were akin to people investing in real estate thinking everything they threw money at would increase in value.

Thus a slew of poorly made games, like the empty mansions in many places.

However, the world of connectivity also changed, and people now expect and want their leisure activities to be both massive and online, and to be continually patched, updated and improved.

I think that, thankfully, we are moving away from the buy it, use it, throw it away mentality of consumerism. MMMO'S are able to project that sense of long lasting value.
 
You do realise that if SWTOR is wildly successful we'll enter another gold rush.
 
Worth noting that of the games on that list, LotRO was far and away the most polished at release. And this year, we've seen Rift do pretty well (not WoW levels of success, maybe, but well by the standards of 'all games that are not WoW') again to a great extent due to a polished product nad smooth launch.

So if Stabs is right and we do see another gold rush, at least those rushing in will have concrete examples of what they need to do to succeed.

Of course, actually delivering a polished product is harder than just saying you intend to. It comes down to the old project management triangle - cost, time, quality, pick two. Not many developers have the luxury of unlimited cost and time in order to deliver perfect quality.
 
Vanguard is the best MMO on that list for my money. My second-favorite MMO of all time and one I still play fairly regularly.

Did Huxley ever launch?
 
Yes, it did.
 
The Chronicles of Spellborn

That was supposed to be pretty good
 
I also think polish has nothing to do with the above either. IMO Trion's Rift has polish I will match up with Blizzard's Wow any day and yet this is not going to get them the same level of success.

I think that polish is important but it's not the only important factor. IMO one of the reasons Rift isn't that big a success is because it's TOO similar to WoW. There are some slight variations but other than that it's pretty much "been there, done that". I thought it was fun until I hit 50 but after that it was just WoW all over again so I quit.

Now regarding SWTOR, there is a risk that it will fall into the same trap because most of it is just "WoW with lightsabers". What might be saving it possibly is the setting which is a bit different and the storytelling. Will it be enough? I have no idea.
 
Rift is polished mechanically, but has B movie story plus uninspired atmosphere and area design. It's a sort of min/max experiment - what's the least you need to do to get the maximum return? So I think we should hope that that noone else is going to be able to get away with that.
 
"I do think that EA is going to make a lot of money with SWTOR, and attract millions of players. Which moves the overall market forward from "nobody can make a successful MMORPG and WoW is just an exception" to "highly successful MMORPGs can be made if you invest a huge amount of money". 2007 was still the gold rush period of MMORPGs, and I'm actually happy that this is over."

I think you are right. But I too think that SWTOR will expand the market for MMO, like WoW did some years ago. A lot of gamers that neve played a MMO will come try SWTOR.

At the end, we will just have other jump at the MMO market that all other MMO will want get a piece.
 
"Star Wars: The Old Republic isn't a perfect game either. But nobody can accuse it of being cheap and not well made"

*raises hand* I can. That was actually the big shock I got out of the beta weekends. It's cheap and not well made.

I was shocked at how mediocre the graphics were, particular animations and how generally there are so many features missing we take for granted like a UI you can move.

And no, I don't mean the graphic style. WoW has an even more simple graphic style, but their graphics and animations are very well done. SWTOR's aren't.
 
The majority of the games on that that list were/are quality experiences. The problem was they tried to do too much differently than WoW.

The lesson to be learned from Rift, LotRO, SW:TOR...don't reinvent the wheel.
 
I profoundly had the same experience that Numtini did. For all the eye-bleeding amounts of money Bioware is putting into SWTOR, the models, textures, and animations suck. WoW, for all its age, looks much better. The models are better (especially the newer ones, like the new goblins and worgen), the textures are much better deployed and used, and the animations are top-notch. SWTOR's models and animations, in particular, are mediocre at best.

It's quite something to see in a game with such high expectations and built by a developer with such a high reputation.

I haven't actually played Mass Effect 1 or 2. Are they as bad in terms of models and animations? SWTOR doesn't look like much of an improvement over KOTOR, and that's just sad.
 
Sorry, I think WoW as a P2P subscription MMORPG gaining at its height of popularity close to 15 million subscribers an anomaly that will never be duplicated regardless.

I predict SWTOR will prove me right again in this regard. Which is a shame because it will be seen as a failure instead of being the success that it really was.
 
"SWTOR doesn't look like much of an improvement over KOTOR"

It doesn't need to, it's Star Wars.

WoW graphics have been bugging me for a while now for being, well, primitive.

Lotro were better but that was not even the point. Where the WoW background is well, older games (And let's not even mention that truly horrible terrible fokkking awful WoW novel I read). Lotro is Lord of the Rings. SWTOR is Star Wars.

It being a proper background (and the RP'ing actually existing in-game) made me like Lotro a lot better than WoW.

I expect SWTOR will be the same even if it does look like Kotor. Heck I still play tabletop DnD, NO graphics... Just give me a game with some depth in the storylines. I think I'll love SWTOR. Once I get a new PC.
 
That's an interesting list. I played LOTRO for a bit and enjoyed it. I also played POTBS and I thought it was fun, but only tried the pirate class, I need to go back and play the other countries.
 
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