While the year has seen some huge release within the mmo industry
Games many were looking forward to and expecting to see greater success but unfortunately disappointed for a number of reasons. Now these mmo’s could have been great but unfortunately they’re subject to some of the worst decisions in design and management possible.
So yeh, I’m calling it now. 2014: the year of Dumbass Decisions
First up is the end game design of ESO that had an alternative advancement system that strangled all joy and interest from the game. A lot of mmo’s do have these alternative advancement systems that let you continue to improve your character but nothing as annoying, as restrictive and as game breaking as Veteran Ranks.
The first issue was of course the only way of attaining these ranks being completing and endless tide of quests from the other factions. The rest of the game gave experience through a variety of means but here there was none gained through kills, or dungeons, or rifts or any other content. It was a ridiculously restrictive system that bored the ever-living shit out of me. Levelling an alt class or faction then meant going through all of the same boring material again as well. It wasn’t even mostly that good, adequate but hardly the type of material you ever want to do again.. Or even once for that matter.
It’s funny but I probably would have gone through a lot of the other factions content eventually anyway but being forced to do it and being forced to do it in an increasingly difficult system where you had to optimise and thus omit any interesting class decisions was the death toll.
Another issue that resulted was that it continued to restrict playing with friends and guilds. The levelling game is hard enough due to the amount of phasing and differences in quest parts that stop group play but you can usually still look forward to max level where there is a breadth of content to try together. ESO said screw that and kept up play restrictions through these endless veteran ranks. Quest restrictions, dungeon restrictions and a few other issues that meant a longer solitary and soul crushing grind to the end.
Then after this was the impact it had on AvA with veteran ranks and the gear allowed giving a huge boost to a character’s abilities. The difference was massive and resulted in rather unbalanced fights and huge grinds to catch up… If you did.
They have reversed a few of these issues now. Difficulty has come down a lot. Dungeons more flexible with levels and experience gain from ranks now coming from a lot of different activities but it went on long enough, and annoyed too many till the point of people leaving instead of continuing with that ridiculous grind.
The pre-release push for hardcore raiding was an EXTREME-ly self-absorbed approach with Wildstar and the promotional material was rather amusing. The calls from many about its viability was EXTREME and yet these critiques and cries went unnoticed or unheeded and what resulted was quite frankly, a train wreck. It was a game that did have some good points but this focus on the hardcore end game meant most of it wasn’t fleshed out or polished enough.
The process for getting ready for raids, attunement, was prolonged stupidity. Yes, let’s make silly grinds and restrictions for enjoying the content people want. Then there was the 40 man requirement for raids which is no longer that viable. Sure WOW could do it, even if they aren’t any more due to the huge population numbers but from a new and a little niche mmo title that barely gained a decent population at launch… Well, we all saw the result.
Even the dungeons themselves were more tedious and twitch based than difficult. All about instant coordination which for me on a larger ping was all more frustrating than fun. And the rewards from these were completely borked as well. You needed to run the absolute best run possible to get anything decent which meant people immediately giving up at the first problem during a dungeon run and of course being elitist assholes for the rest of the time. With the way they were designed it meant those that had completed it were unlikely to go back and help others too.
I actually think a hardcore dungeon based game could be fun. Tera does pretty well with this after all but with many of the design decisions, the mechanics not matching the content and of course the 40 person requirement it left people feeling rather annoyed instead of interested.
I’ve ranted about the Guild Wars 2 “living” story update model before, a few times actually and it continued to be a system that disappointed. Now as much as I rage against gw2 it’s actually because I like the game yet hate the way it’s been managed after release. The living story is the crux of that rage.
I tend to imagine that if they weren’t so focused on it we would have gotten more world changes and new events to enjoy. We would have more pvp development, maybe more and better designed dungeons, some more fractals. A range of new cosmetics to find. Maybe some actual housing. But no, we get entirely superficial content of achievements about grinding widgets and whatchits all wrapped up in a few bland story instances. It’s just seems so far removed from what I originally wanted for gw2. We did see some bigger changes, some new maps but it is nowhere near the fun of the original vision.
The story is absolutely terrible too with characters that are mostly bland and idiotic, with stories and plot points that make noooooo fucking sense. There are glimpses of something larger and more interesting but the way it is being told belay very little of this which is a shame because I enjoy the world and lore of Tyria.
Worse of all is that it has all mostly been temporary content throughout. Go away from the game and you’ll completely miss it. Not that I felt like playing much of it anyway but for those starting out or those coming back they would have completely missed it. The could have so much more content to enjoy. I look at the development of other mmo’s and over 2 years in I would expect far more than this but no, they keep peddling this idiocy instead.
World of Darkness
I’ll say it right now. The management of this White Wolf I.P was criminal. They had a great background there, a niche but cult property to use and of course an idea that might have been rather interesting. We need some more mmo’s with varying themes and I think another modern times one would have done quite well, and with the interest in the supernatural of late it could have gotten a decent following but no, CCP decided to kill it in order to support its projects that are shit (dust 514) and uncertain (Valkyrie).
Now it isn’t unheard of for companies to shelve games during development. Blizzard announced the end of their Titan project this year as well yet that seems ok. It wasn’t shaping up to be a great title. World of Darkness never got a chance to work. The ideas were never truly realised and the development never progressed due to CCP’s mismanagement of the project, appropriation of staff and resources and of course, just never giving it the attention it needed. It was a team and project that was cannibalized to support eve then used as the scapegoat when issues occurred.
It is admirable that they wanted to refocus on the eve universe but dust has been a disaster so far, failing to meet expectations by a huge margin and I’m still rather sceptical about what CCP can actually do with Eve Valkyrie. After all, Elite dangerous has already beaten them to the market and star citizen is a behemoth waiting behind it. Eve can’t last forever either so it seemed to me that World of Darkness would be their future
As is expected from the top spot and well, nothing in particular just everything about its management. I have no idea whether the blame is on XL Games or Trion for this one. Probably a combination of stupidity, greed and indifference from both companies resulted in this good ship of fail. It started reasonably well and the experience was fun but even from release you could see the issues spreading further and further through the game.
The cash shop and ftp system was at the crux of it all and also just an overwhelming amount of greed at the expense of the games many interrelated mechanics. It started off with the tax certs, the currency for paying housing being in the store which meant those paying money at the beginning were able to get large swathes of land and of course many missed out. There was issues with lock boxes, item duping, purchased regrade Scrolls, changing items stats to make cash shop items better and of course the great archeum tree debacle that drastically changed the economy. They were just never afraid to implement an item or change regardless of the carry on effects if it meant making money.
There were many issues with apex, the real world money to in-game game mechanic. It was exploited heavily for gold and a few other things. Of course this got fixed as it cut into their profits but so many issues remained. The main issue with all this though was that, through apex you could officially pay for power. The labour pots helped to but apex was the bigger issue. You could afford to buy, craft and regards to the better gear. You could get the best materials and this had a noticeable real world effect on the PvP elements.
The Levelling of exploiting was massive as well. Exploits of teleporting everywhere which made untold amounts of wealth from trade packs and guilda stars. Exploits around combat, exploits to see things they shouldn’t like the exact timers, exploits for automatic auction house bidding and exploits to grab unclaimed land before legitimate players. The botting was massive too, just everywhere in large numbers and very little moderation around it.
It was a game plagued with hacking and yet Trion seemed to do very little about it. There were a few larger cases of bans but then there were also cases of high-profile users, twitch streamers and even a guilds recruitment video where you could see hacks being used yet no punishment occurred. With being a ftp game as well it was incredibly easy to create mule accounts to do illegal actions and gold making activities and then funnel it towards the main character. Trion did try stopping this but then it mostly seemed to hurt legitimate players who had sold items and got that gold taken away by Trion and yet items purchased with exploited gold remained in their hands.
Aurora was the dumbest shit ever. Huge log in issues screwed over a lot of guilds that could have owned a castle and now it’s almost impossible to win the castle siege due to shitty balancing of walls and other mechanics. It is also a mechanic that rewards a lot of gold to the owners too increasing the wealth of these guilds.
Another recent case of Trion being Trion is them outright lying about a 10% discount in stores with pre-order packs, not delivering on that promise and then lying about ever making such a claim. Of course it was proven wrong.
After all of this I think the worst thing is that they neither have the capabilities or the interest in solving most of the issues unless of course they might harm earnings from the cash shop. And I think XL games, the developers can’t be assed either and have been busy developing their next scam instead of supporting the title.
It is honestly the worst managed mmo I’ve ever witnessed. Levels of dumbassery unheard of in this year, the years before and probably of any years to come. It is a black mark on the industry and on Trion that I hope they learn from… Or that we do and never support such blatant disregard for players again.
I think for the runner up in all this I would have to say Early access that’s too Early. Getting in and being able to help shape a game is rather admirable but this can be done in other ways rather than paying hundreds of dollars. I also see many of the experiences offering this lately and yet, what you get in to play is nowhere near a game just yet. Landmark is the prominent game for this that has been in what they call alpha for going on a year now. Yes they now say beta but come on… really?
I’m also unsure just yet if such a thing is even good for the genre. MMO’s are a type of game that needs people to be invested for longer and yet with this model they are splitting the playerbase by large amounts of time and I see many burning out on a game before it even launches. And come one, do we always need to have everything about a game ruined before it even comes out. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. And come on… lets lower the price of these a little, after all we are paying for the lesser experience and helping you cut costs on QA staff.