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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

MMO Development Reaches it's Stale Phase

One month.

That's how long it's been (to the day) since I felt moved to write here. That's a long time. Now, I have been busy with work, so that means travel. Travel takes it out of you once you have done it for a while, but I digress.

The reason that I haven't been writing is that I haven't found much to be writing about. Sure I could do all kinds of theoretical babbling about games and what people want in game design. I'm probably not qualified to do that and so I'll leave that to the Ryan Schwaders (it's not babbling when he does it) of the world (Nerfbat.) I can speak with authority from the user's viewpoint. That is where the wicket gets sticky.

Here is where I am right now, and I have to believe that some of you are here with me. I currently have 4 MMO's installed on my gaming rig. Five if you include a particular beta which I can't talk about so for the sake of this discussion doesn't exist. The other 4 are EQ (yeah, yeah, I know,) WoW, LOTRO, and Vanguard. I have let my EQ2 sub lapse, but it's still installed.

Branyanu has been missing EQ so we reinstalled it and started playing it again. We quit not too long after the level cap was raised above 60, so I had a barely 61 Druid (Genda) and she has her 58 'chanter. After an evening wrestling with the damn game to get it to run without CTD on her system, we sat down to play. Our 2 hours resulted in a level change. Genda is now 60. It was also a stark reminder for me that you can't go home again. As much as we loved EQ at the time, everywhere we could hunt at that level was a ghost town, and there isn't much going on that we could see.

I'd probably enjoy getting going with WoW again. Once again, we had quit soon after the level cap was raised, so my 60 Orc Resto Shaman (Akhan) and her 60 Troll Hunter (Tarkheena) are behind the times. She's had enough of WoW, and I've learned not to press my duo partner too hard, lest I not have one. It's still just another fantasy MMO, although I do appreciate the "amusement park" style of design.

Vanguard. It's problems are well-documented. Programming-wise, it's still a mess. Maybe the server merges (from 13 servers down to 4) will help spur the community there and make it easier to find a group.


I've seen a little on the upcoming games in the pipeline, and there isn't anything revolutionary out there. Tabula Rasa looks like Guild Wars or DDO. AOC looks like a refined version of Lineage ][. WAR is like a cross between WoW (questing) and DAOC RvR.)

I am starting to think that the genre is at a standstill, and really has been since WoW. As a matter of fact, I am starting to believe that WoW killed PC gaming. Just go have a look at the PC games out there on the shelves, and tell me 10 good titles that have shipped since WoW that aren't ports to or from consoles. I rest my case.

I'm hoping that we see some new developments soon, although with what it costs to fund and develop one of these monsters, the irony may be that no one is willing to take a risk that big. And by not taking a risk, we aren't getting the benefit as gamers.

Hmm, I hear that UO just got a graphical face lift.