Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Honeymoon over already?

Muckbeast definitely hates Bill Roper. While I can't say who is responsible, I must say the stats and abilities of Champions Online confuse me, and seeing that a respec costs $12.50 from the Champion Online item shop makes me think that this might be deliberate. Spinks asks whether Champions Online is on the ropes. Bootae can't stand leveling in Aion. Keen doesn't like crafting in Aion. Syncaine warns that by buying Aion you support clones over innovation. And everybody complains about the chat in Aion, which is full of gold spam.

And I'm sitting here thinking "Boy, that went fast!". While Raph Koster probably would say that his universal curve of MMO growth technically still fits, the timescale of that curve obviously has changed a lot this decade. Games like Everquest or World of Warcraft took years before they peaked, the games of 2008 and 2009 peaked after a few weaks, and then often declined rapidly. It has become so bad that companies nowadays only release the number of beta applicants, and then you'll never hear subscription numbers. Anyone know how many people play Aion and Champions Online (not counting Asia)?
Well, I would NOT count out Aion due to a few of us jaded MMO players.
We have all been there and done that, so we will be the most critical of this mess.

But, according to Xfire, there are still a lot of players (ranking #4 since launch, and has not moved from that spot), and I expect it to hold up there for quite a while.

Aion on Xfire
I dont think subscription numbers have been released for either game. I do know that Aion topped sales charts for september (which isn't all that surprising).

I'm gonna go ahead and take a wild guess that you can take whatever that number is for september sales and say that 88% of those september buyers are still playing after 1 month.

So yeah theres my guess, based on absolutely no information other then 88% sounds like a good percentage to me.
But then again, why would we assume that there ever was a honeymoon?

With new games, there's no need to stay quiet about the bad parts of the game, because the size and thus value of the player community is not large enough to justify any effort to maintain it by staying quiet about the bad parts. Also, the personal investment in time and effort is still relatively low, so the sunk costs fallacy has not kicked in yet.
How can you have that first month+ of 'new MMO smell' to hook you when the new game is falling over itself to be familiar?

It's funny that we point at new and 'confusing' systems as a flaw, and then turn around and ragequit because what we are playing today feels exactly like what we played yesterday, to the point where some are trying to mentally trick themselves into believe what they are playing is actually fun.

From my viewpoint I'm happy of course. The sooner the clone genre can kill itself with one failure after another, the sooner Xbox Joey can move on to the next pop sensation and we can get back to real MMORPGs.
Subscription numbers are hard to get nowadays, and even then they don't have much meaning (Second Life still got high subscription numbers, but is anyone playing it?).

For 'activity' trend indications, I most often refer to XFire reports, although it only covers a fraction of a game's player base).

XFire tells me following:

WoW: #1 (max: #1), 56465 players/day, played hours/day look stable

Aion: #4 (max: #4), 9583 players/day, played hours/day slowly declining

WAR: #57 (max: #4), 720 players/day, played hours/day look stable

Champions Online: #87 (max: #25), hours/day rapidly declining (from 6k to 1.5k hours/day)
Aion is a nice game that is the best current new MMO.

There are many been-there done that moments - but that are also lots of - wow this is so neat moments there.

It is full a mini-games - how do you glide and land at the optimal spot - how do you maximize your aether extractions with a flight time of 40 seconds and 12 second flight extension pots that have a a cooldown of 20 seconds - that right there is a fun puzzle.

Picking herbs is faster for larger level differences but you are less likely to level it - another mini optimization game.

What can you buy at the AH to resell.

Most importantly it is full of people - I have been missing this for so long - having large throngs of people all in the same zone - questing having the same goals.
If Cryptic is charging real world money for a Champion's Online respec then they are finished as a game developer, period. Seriously, they will be out of business before 2011.

= # # =
If Cryptic is charging real world money for a Champion's Online respec ...

They sure do. See this review of the Cryptic Cash Shop

Oh, and = # # =, if you use the Name/URL check box instead of the Anonymous check box, you can put = # # = in the Name field, leave the URL field empty, and not appear as "Anonymous" and more in the header of the comment.
Nothing has really been released that is innovative and fun. Aion is similar to WoW and Champions is similar to City of Heroes.

We also have way to many choices for games now so we don't have to suffer through it if we don't like it. In the days of UO and EQ and really even WoW there were only a few other choices and most of those were crap.

Now you not only have a bunch of choices most of them are fairly good.
Fallen Earth and Darkfall seem to have started small and be working their way up.

I think some games are victims of their own hype trains.

[Paul Barnett voice: best, excitingest, funnest, amazingest thing evaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!)

... then it isn't.

Also the triple A games simply haven't been all that good.

You said it yourself Tobold WoW sets the new standard. Buggy, crashing games that we played back in 2002 we mock now. And go back to a game that delivers.

I'm playing Eve and DDO both over 3 years old and rock-solid in terms of performance and polish.

I'm looking forward to seeing how SWTOR does. If it releases rock-solid in terms of performance and polish I think it will buck the trend. If we have to sit in queues all evening because when we got in it crashed it will bomb.
It's funny how every blogger who returns to WOW seems to feel the need to say "I told you so" when another MMO doesn't live up to hype. I think they need to validate the many hours spent running the same dungeons over and over. It's similar to the PS3 vs XBox 360 fanboys arguing.

Don't get me wrong. I bought Aion and uninstalled it within a week. Not for me. I beta tested CO and was not impressed. These 2 games were definitely rehashes.

What we need is innovation, and as polished as WOW may be, Blizzard just doesn't take chances. Diablo 3, Starcraft 2? Both probably nice games but nothing new. I'm guessing their new MMO will be WOW 2.0 with a new setting and a pretty new graphics engine.

There some games like Eve and Guild Wars which have tried some different things and succeeded. There are many that have failed. There are some now that are trying (Fallen Earth, Darkfall).

Also, subscriber numbers don't tell the whole story. You can be a game like Eve which doesn't have huge numbers but enough to make money and continue.

I look forward to seeing all new games because eventually one is going to take a NEW idea and really make it happen.
If Cryptic is charging real world money for a Champion's Online respec then they are finished as a game developer, period. Seriously, they will be out of business before 2011.

That was my first reaction but apparently what wow calls respecs are paid for with in-game currency, these cash shop respecs are what Wow calls account services and delivers via microtransactions.

In other words they're not doing anything WoW isn't they just picked terribly unfortunate terminology.
When EQ launched, even when WoW launched, the number of people willing and able to jump on their personal internet soapbox was far fewer than the number today. Combined with people's willingness to complain about products/experiences they don't enjoy versus those that they do, and the expansion of the genre such that a million or more people might play Aion or Age of Conan in their opening weeks, it doesn't surprise me at all to see some public backlash against these games.

Moreover the type of people you pointed to who are most disappointed and vocal about it are those that have the longest and richest histories with this genre of games. They have expectations for MMOs informed by years of playing the now traditional Diku style MMO, and perhaps they've grown weary of it. Someone new to the genre, drawn perhaps by Aion's polish or CO's setting and character customization, might find the same old MMO fresh and exciting. Look at FPSs where every year we are treated to another round of games that make evolutionary improvements over their predecessors.

In any case I doubt the strength of the correlation between the reaction of prominent bloggers and actual subscriber numbers. Even among the more well intentioned, the lure of schadenfreude makes me skeptical that the cynicism is a reflection of the quality of the games or the satisfaction of most of the subscriber base.
I think counting how many player subscriptions a MMO has does not mean its good or bad. WOW has a lot of subs, but is it because its the best game? No not really, I play it but I still get angry once in a while. The problem with wow is that it is a game that a 5 year old on a crappy computer can play and at the same time a 50 year old can play. I know a few friends that play WOW just because it can play on there work laptop. That does not mean that a game is good.

So you look at it another way, if you have more people playing but you have 10x the servers to play on does it make a difference to the player? WOW has a lot of players, but also has a lot of realms to play on, at the same time LOTRO which I find is much better when it comes to PVE has less players and less realms.

Going back to yesterdays blog about casual/hardcore, I think WOW has kept and grew a bit because of the fact that it is now to casual mmo friendly and its getting to the point where its pissing of hardcore fans. So if a new MMO comes out that is marketed to hardcore fans then there will be less Subs, but better quality players. This still doesent make the game worse then lets say WOW.
I dunno. Aion and Champions Online have topped sales charts through september, and pretty much dominate the Steam sales charts as well. The single biggest problem quoted from Aion players has been overcroweded queues.

It's easy to find bloggers that are pissy because they've been playing MMO's for ten years and these games aren't fresh and new and exciting enough for them (I'm often one of them. :)). But there are 10 million WoW players out there whom have never played another MMO, and for them, these games give them exactly what they want - a familiar game in a new setting.

People were throwing dirt on AoC's grave a few months after it released, and yet here it is still doing well.

This really feels like a case of maybe sitting too close to the trees.
I've been playing Champions Online, and enjoying it so far. There is a lack of content, but hopefully it will survive long enough for those gaps to be filled. As for the paid retcons - Cryptic have already given out 2 free retcons, and no doubt will do so again after a major patch. If you don't think it's worth the money, don't buy it, simple as that.
Im still playing and will pay for my first month sub in a few days. Taking it casually -but playing more then usual- i have a level 28 cleric right now. Due to time constraints i skipped crafting and alt-ing completely. I like the role of healer (which is new for me), its easy to get into groups. Grouping is relatively frequent, since a lot of the quests are not soloable. And in the Abyss section, grouping is what will keep you alive a bit longer.

Ill probably play Aion casually till Cataclysm.
If you think Cryptic is going to keep giving out free retcons with the same frequency then I have a bridge to sell you. Keep in mind it has been almost a month since the last one, and they release a major nerf patch almost every week.

It would be easy to blame jaded bloggers for what ails the recent crop of MMOs, but that would completely ignore the real problems.

I am an MMO blogger, but I am primarily an MMO developer. I hate seeing what is happening to a genre that once held so much promise. What happened to the virual world aspect? That's practically gone.

People are throwing out MMOs and making the same mistakes over and over again. Not enough content. The same painful "kill 10 rats" mission/quest grind. Knee jerk nerfs. Disgusting greed.

MMOs have the potential to make great money. Just make the game fun. You don't have to be greedy and try and screw people with $12.50 respecs.
While the bloggers complaining are hardly a mark in favor of Aion, I repeat Tempest's statement; What most of us say is an awful way of gauging casual opinion.

I'm still personally enjoying the game, and there's still some staunch defenders of the game saying the game is what it said it would be. Although I don't know how much effect the defenders have, it still seems relatively well received, and I don't expect it to crash down quite so soon, though there aren't overcrowded queues anymore (What that means could go either way though.)
Still way too early to call don't you think? If all we have is MMO blogging rumours then I am definitely going to wait it out.
My take on Aion (and similiar asian games) - they are all the result of a huge misinterpretation.

Confucius once said: Grinding SUCKS!

But sadly it was writen down as: The Grind must SUCK!
Honestly, I'm enjoying Aion for what many would call 'the grind'.

I don't see why every MMO has to make every single person happy.

Aion is marginally more challenging than WoW. Trash mobs can actually kill you if you do dumb stuff, right from Level 1. Which I love. The element of danger is back.

Despite what everyone says about it discouraging grouping, grouping still happens. At least for me it does.

And 'the grind' is all about hanging out in a group, talking, joking and having the odd bit of fear as a pull goes wrong and suddenly everyone has to pitch in to get everything under control again. That hasn't happened to me in WoW in years.

The people I find who are leaving and QQing are generally the people who want everything handed to them RIGHT NOW. They can't stand that they have to wait before they can get their shiny epics or be the uber leet ganker who's going to smackdown all the lowbies in the abyss.

Since most of those people are leaving, it's an extra bonus for those of us who want a bit more time spent working at things before we get the reward, making it mean so much more, since we don't have to put up with their idiocy.

I don't think Aion will ever be as big as WoW, and that is exactly the reason it will have players.

Also I think the 'WoW tourist' thing is a bigger issue than most people give it credit. Most games today have to survive the wow tourist influx and then survive when the tourists all go back home again.

If it can survive that, then it probably is worth your time.
You can fully respec with ingame currency in Champions, there is no need to buy it.

Also, they stated the next respec is coming with the release of the celestial powerset.

Personally I don't understand their philosophy about not letting high level players experiment, but I guess they want you to make your hero, and not the flavor powerset of the patch.
Omg, I was going to say exactly what Beltayn said!
about CO:

well, I never have to pay for a respec. It costs ingame money.

and I still having a blast :P
What I find interesting is how traditional RPGs work very differently than MMORPGs. In traditional RPG, we have so many RPGs having similar/same things (e.g.: turn-based battle system, similar stories of saving the world, having typical characters, a bit of romance here and there, etc) without being judged as "clone" simply because by the time you play the new RPG, you pretty much finished the old RPG. You've bought the old RPG, you've bought the new RPG, money has been made by the developer.

When it comes to MMORPG, the "WoW tourists" either are still playing WoW or will come back to WoW if they don't like the new MMORPG (e.g.: Aion) because of being judged as "WoW clone". You've bought the old MMORPG, you've bought the new MMORPG, but money hasn't been made by the developer because of subscription loss.

I personally can't see it like that way at all, though obviously many people see that way. Aion offers aerial combat and PvPvE features that aren't offered by WoW. Aion might have similar/same UI, quest style, whatever, but it isn't "WoW clone" because the lore is different, the goal of the game is different, the style is different, and so on.

I'm not commenting to defend Aion or attack WoW. I'm speaking in general where nowadays players often are being very harsh when critisizing new MMORPGs by constantly comparing to older/popular MMORPGs. But no matter what, it's not easy to please these people. When being offered by something that is totally new and different, people get confused and fall back to their "comfort game" of the old MMORPG that they're playing. But when being offered of something that is familiar, their attention is focused on how it's being a clone rather than looking at the differences (may it be better or worse).

So the question isn't really whether honeymoon period of Aion is over already or not. But the real question is whether there will be any new MMORPG that can actually grab people's love. With WoW being a very big and easy fall back "comfort game", it's a gigantic task to create a successful MMORPG these days.

WoW is like Mc Donald's. Even when you open a new burger joint that offers better tasting burger, it's not easy to make people stop buying Mc Donald's just because of how huge it is.
"peaked after a few weaks" is one of the best typos ever. Yes, these games have been very weak.
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