Tobold's Blog
Sunday, December 30, 2012
 
End of year contemplation

So we all survived the end of the world AND the Christmas holidays, and the year 2012 is nearing its end. I haven't been blogging much recently, being busy with family and playing Deus Ex. As most of my readers read my blog from their office computer, reader numbers during holidays are traditionally down anyways. So I was contemplating what to do with my blog in 2013.

I've already removed the "MMORPG" from my blog title, and general interest in MMORPGs is down by half from a peak in 2009. 2012 wasn't a great year for the genre, most games failed to meet expectations, and then switched to some sort of subscription-free business model. Guild Wars 2 was probably the best MMORPG of 2012, but failed to revive the genre. I don't expect any major breakthroughs in 2013, we'll probably get a few passable games, but nothing revolutionary.

There is a clear trend which I would call the democratization of games, where games move away from complicated time-eaters and move towards accessible games that are playable in short bursts. More Angry Birds, less World of Warcraft. More iOS and Android, less PC and console. The number of people playing computer games goes up, but the average hours played per player and month go down. And as much as some hardcore players will decry this, it is probably a rather healthy trend. At least if we want to end up in a society where the access to video games is less restricted than the access to assault rifles.

But the move away from MMORPGs and the lack of innovation in the genre leads to me not having much to write about. What do you write about yet another sequel or game which works nearly exactly like a previous game? We are at a point where getting your quests automatically instead of having to click on a guy with a golden exclamation mark counts as brilliant innovation. Where the biggest social development is making resource nodes non-competitive so people stop fighting over them. And where combat and the flow of gameplay haven't fundamentally changed in a decade. How do you blog about that without becoming as repetitive as the games you are covering?

I am still planning on using this blog as a public diary of the games I play, both on computers and with pen & paper. And I will write commentary to the game news that piques my interest. But I will probably move away from a daily posting schedule. Which in my experience will result in less readers and comments. But as the blog is approaching its 10th anniversary, with over 5 million visitors over the years, and over four thousand posts, I don't think I have anything left to prove.

Comments:
Sounds like a good plan, please stick to it!

I've personally experienced the decline of the MMORPGs since 2009, and your commentary on the topic has really been valuable. After few of your D&D posts I decided to form a D&D group myself. It's been great! We've all WoW retirees and have lot's of fun together. Our GM creates boss-fight type of phasing and blends the quests/lore easily and creatively. WoW is a literacy which allows our D&D group to play as it does.

I'd suggest you a theme: post-MMORPG exploration. Your D&D posts have been a great example of this. Of course you don't have to use a simplistic "post-MMORPG" label, but you get the point. What MMORPG veterans could do next?
 
I think the MMORPG industry lost some lessons about storytelling, social/multiplayer, and how they fill entertainment hours. The earlier WoW experience was a simpler one that a lot of people shared together as they were playing the same game. It was far more memorable then before the never-ending introduction of endless side-quests and mountains of achievements that pulled the player experiences apart. Guild Wars 2 started in this personal track, and ultimately could transform into much of a connected experience.

For me, this year saw a lot of strong stories, such as Resonance, Vessel, and Botanicula. They didn’t take long to finish and importantly I think most people who play could see the entire story without a skill/twitch challenge in the way. No doubt all of these titles were made by far fewer people, cheaper and more likely to be on a tablet next year.

Maybe the short, accessible games are the breakthrough?


Many thanks for all the posts in 2012 :)
 
The curious thing about this "democratisation of games" is that is is led by the general public of softcore gamers and that the erstwhile hardcore of "serious" gamers appear to have become followers rather than pioneers. Of course it may be that there really is some new "hard core" frontier out there but I am too old to have heard of it.
 
It's time for a new type of MMO.

Sure, Guild Wars 2 is fun but it's too close to WoW to keep me busy for a long time.
 
I thought 2012 was a fantastic year for MMOs. My lowest point with the hobby came about 3-4 years ago, when Mrs Bhagpuss and I ran so short of ideas on something to try we even ended up playing WoW for three months (quite enjoyed it too - a classic three-monther if ever there was one, though :P).

Since then things have gotten a lot better and 2012 was a truly great year, I thought. I haven't felt this fired-up over the hobby since I began back in 1999.

Now if someone would just start putting out some real MMOs with classic MMO gameplay on Android...
 
I think it's been a good year for players to work out who actually likes MMOs and who would prefer to be playing something else.

But the main thing is to play games you enjoy and blog about why you enjoy them! Happy 2013, and thanks for all the writing this year.
 
I was going to point out that the term MMO has shot up sharply over the last couplr of years - and to back it up, I see several posters referring to MMOs when a couple of years ago they would have spelt out MMORPG.

/tldr; I don't think simple analyses of Google Trends tell you much (and I doubt whether Google make it easy to analyse them properly- not for free anyway).

Anyway, Happy New Year all, whatever games or other activities you will be engaged in during 2013.
 
Thank you for all your blogging. It's been a pleasure to read your words. No matter the frequency, always grateful.

Happy new year, dear Tobold.
 
I would like to echo thanks for your writing and offering your point of view. I enjoy the D&D posts and hold out hope that I haven't hauled around all my old books and figures for 30+(!) years for nothing.
 
"I've personally experienced the decline of the MMORPGs since 2009"

Funny this as there are more MMO RPG's players ever than before. The audience has changed, thats all. And this audience doesn't include us "old vets"

Btw Tobold, the trend in 2013 for MMO's is sandbox. We'll see how well that plays out, a desperate solution to the content problem.
 
Teut, I don't know if that is strictly true, or how you can really tell.

With all these FTP games they often rack up a huge number of accounts, it's not really apples and apples to compare that to a time period where every game wanted $15/mo. It sure seems like you are either a bit player or you are Blizzard. I have a hard time believing that a genre that has seen contender after contender go down, and a champion that is well past its prime, is healthy and growing.

 
II don't mean accounts, I mean active users. There are MMO's with 3x as many active users than WoW has subscribers in the area.

Add all other f2p active users and you quickly see how large the market has become. Its a matter of choice. Not everyone can afford to pay one or more subs monthly.

Yes, in our western mind we had champions come and fail. But dont you see the argumentation? We call champions the games where we hope it finally replaces WoW. But is this a measurement of success?

In our western eyes it might be. In the markets eyes this is entirely unimportant to beat WoW. What counts is profitablity.
 
What counts is profitablity.

Which is exactly why everybody looks at WoW. It is the most profitable game out there, with up to half a billion dollars of profit per year. I don't believe any Free2Play game is anywhere near that, even if some have millions of players. Having 3 times as many active users as WoW isn't much help if you have an ARPU of less than $1 compared to WoW's monthly subscription fee.
 
Where the biggest social development is making resource nodes non-competitive so people stop fighting over them.
Is that the case? Resources and items don't strike me as top tier social developments : while they aren't ignorable, they seem very second-rate changes to how players interact when communicating. The Secret World's use of seriously-difficult challenges for even normal users (several missions involve transcription of morse code) was by developer admission intended to encourage solo players to talk, and to an extent they do despite the available online guides. What about the blurring barriers between servers, to either the small amount in World of Warcraft or to the larger amount in Guild Wars II (when it works) or The Secret World (where it's not impossible to use the LFG tool to get a native German speaker)?

"At least if we want to end up in a society where the access to video games is less restricted than the access to assault rifles."
I'll note that actual 'assault rifles' are National Firearms Act of 1934 weapons, and for practical legal access, require police chief permission, a 200 USD/transfer tax, a time-consuming and invasive background check including fingerprints and photography that usually clocks in over three months, and must have been made and registered before 1986. That's on the federal level in the United States: many states simply ban them completely for civilian use, as do most other Western countries. That's on top of the typical criminal and mental health background checks required on non-NFA firearms. Contrast to video games, which the Supreme Court has held (in an admittedly divided decision) to be protected speech.

I can believe you're intending it an example, and/or confusing the term "assault weapon" (depending on definition, only banned on the state level in CN), but this sort of bad reporting has lead to a massive level of voter ignorance.
 
I wasn't talking about the current legal situation, but the reaction of the media to the Newtown shooting: The condemnation of video games was universal (in spite of the fact that there was first some misreporting of the shooter having been a Mass Effect fan, and then it turned out that the shooter's favorite game was some Asian game with swords instead of guns), while limiting his access to a Bushmaster was controversial.
 
Except that the Bushmaster in question was not an "assault rifle", and any civilian "assault rifle" Bushmasters are near-impossible to find, entirely different models conveniently made by the same company, and otherwise not a relevant matter. Nor was it an "assault weapon", a dramatically different sort of gun that would still have been illegal for the shooter (or anyone else under the age of 36) to possess in the state. And, of course, the shooter ended up stealing the guns he did use, after trying to legally buy guns and then refusing to undergo the background check necessary for a legal purchase.

And there's been rather serious critical reaction -- even in the national media, by more progun folk than myself -- not exactly favorable toward LaPierre's blaming of images on TV, interactive or otherwise.

My apologies for this nitpicking, but it's not exactly a trivial difference to gun owners.
 
A realistic way and good Story line would be a good for an MMORPG game since Online games today are very much similar.

Dragon Nest Blogger. ^_^
 
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