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My 2012 Sorta-MMO Outlook December 22, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter, Path of Exile, Torchlight II, World of Warplanes.
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At about this time last year I wrote a post about my MMO Outlook for 2011.

There were six games I was looking forward to in 2011 that were… mostly… in the traditional MMORPG, virtual world, shared experience with thousands of fellow players mold.  The real question was on which of the six would I be able to focus.  It seemed likely that I would only have time for one, so there was a choice to be made.

Two of the candidates were pushed out into 2012 (TERA and Guild Wars 2), one was cancelled (The Agency), and two I played in beta (DCUO and SWTOR) and decided to pass on.  The choice ended up being Rift, which is where the instance group is playing currently.  Despite my “Oh no, not another fantasy MMORPG!” initial reaction, and probably because that was exactly what it was, it filled the niche for our group.

Sitting here now and looking out at 2012, I find that the MMOs I am looking forward too… really aren’t traditional shared virtual worlds.

There is a shared experience in each, be it cities, towns, lobbies, or chat channels.  But the actual world in which you adventure, those are instanced.  You an your group are on your own and you will never run into anybody who is not on the guest list one way or another.

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 was actually on my 2011 Outlook list, but it fell out of 2011 and there seems to be some risk of it falling out of 2012 when it comes down to it.  That is certainly Zubon’s prediction!

The game is certainly the most traditional looking of my choices for 2012 when comparing to other MMOs.  The original Guild Wars was fully instanced with just cities available as locations where players could interact with the population as a whole.  But the people at ArenaNet never claimed it was an MMO.

This time around they are stating that it is an MMO with a persistent world, with dynamic events, described as being scalable and to “encourage impromptu group play,” seeming to be the primary draw in that regard.

And, of course, it will solve all the problems from which current fantasy MMORPGs, and their players, suffer.  Or so one might be lead to believe reading some of the fan comments.

Still, the game does appear to be trying to break some past trends while keeping its subscription-free business model.  (Hey, Guild Wars was free to play back in 2005!  What trend setters!)  That ambition alone, along with the no subscriptions, is probably enough to get me to buy the box.

But I also own two Guild Wars boxes, and it was never sticky enough to get me to stay, so we’ll have to see how they do this time around.

Diablo III

And now we get into the items that are either Diablo III or very much like Diablo III, and where any MMO pretense starts sliding away.  No shared virtual worlds here.

I will, almost assuredly, buy this game.  But the true key to this list is whether I will play it with other people.  While I played a lot of the original Diablo with other people, Diablo II settled down into an almost all solo affair.  Part of that was the syncing of maps, where joining up with somebody would redo the random elements of your world to match theirs and your maps would be gone.  And part of it was the scaling difficulty levels in Diablo II.  Back in Diablo, we would sometimes just play in the same game but in different areas just to be chatting and such.  In Diablo II the monsters all scaled up as people were added, so three people running around solo wasn’t a viable option.  You had to stick together.

Then there is the group size aspect of things.  Diablo III, like its predecessors, will be limited to four players.  Given our regular group runs five people regularly, and can get expanded up to eight pretty quickly, this means it will be a game played on off-nights, which means no regular group.

So while I might play Diablo III, it may just get the treatment I give most games I play solo, which is a mention or two and a summary.  Unless Blizzard loses its roots and fails to capture what made the Diablo games great, in which case it likely be one complaint post and silence ever after.

Torchlight II

Torchlight II is clearly trying to be the Diablo III you want versus the Diablo III Blizzard is going to give you.  It will offer LAN play, server options, up to eight players in a game, PvP games, 100 levels, pets, fishing and so on.  Look at the comparo chart.

All done by a team that includes people who made the original two Diablo games.

The problem, for me, is that Torchlight, as solid as it was, did not capture the “feel” of the Diablo games.  Much like one of my early and often complaints about WoW, it has a very cartoon feel to it, in the Team Fortress 2 sort of style.  It failed on the atmosphere aspect of the Diablo essence, though it certainly had the simplicity part down.

So Torchlight II certainly gets past the group size issue and has many things to recommend it… and I will almost certainly buy it.  But will it end up being a side game I play solo, or something the whole group can dive into?

Path of Exile

I wrote about Path of Exile the other day.  This is another entry in the Diablo-like category.

If I can summarize the game badly, it is attempting to be Diablo 2.5 with a Guild Wars world and a free to play business model.  All of which may be very good things indeed.  Rather than the lobby system, it will have shared towns ala Guild Wars, where you can group up and then go out and adventure in instanced zones and dungeons all with Diablo style clicky game mechanics.

The problem is that while I give it high marks for graphic qualities and capturing some of that foreboding feel of Diablo, it hasn’t really grabbed me.

Now, to be fair, the game is in closed beta and has a ways to go.  And I haven’t played all that much.

It could be a contender, but I get the feeling we won’t be talking about a go-live date for quite a while yet.

Neverwinter

Honestly, I don’t even know where Neverwinter is going these days.  It started off sounding like a LAN party D&D adventure with five player groups.  Perfect.

But times have changed, Atari has been a pill, Cryptic has been bought up by Perfect World Entertainment (who is also Runic’s publisher for Torchlight II), and things seem to be bending to become a free to play MMO style game with the addition of Cryptic’s usual player created content system being added on.

All of which sounds fine on the surface.  I have been known to pine for an overland Forgotten Realms campaign MMO.

However, my experience in software development shows that things that start in one direction and then bend to another often fail to come together as well as one might like.  Ask me some day how the multi-server, no single point of failure, custom voice banking app development environment aimed at financial institutions with over a billion dollars in assets worked out when after launch it was decided it should become a canned, fits on one box, minimal configuration necessary, to be sold to the low end, price sensitive credit union and local bank market.

And only ask if you’re buying the beer.

Okay, maybe it won’t be that bad.  It is a multiplayer game that is now going to be integrated into a more MMO-like environment.  Cryptic has done the MMO thing a few of times now and has no doubt learned a thing or two.  It could go smoothly this time!

The real killer for this though is that it is not likely to be shipping in 2012.  Go Zubon predictions!  It is already slated for “late 2012,” and we know how that works out.

World of Warplanes

Finally, the “one of those things is not like the other” entry into the mix, World of Warplanes. (Not to be confused with World of Planes, which sounds sort of similar.)

I will play this.  It will be free to play, free to download, I will try it.

Yes, there are many questions, like how will controls work.  Somewhere at the simple F-15 Strike Eagle from my Apple II days end of the spectrum seems more likely than the IL-2 Sturmovik “so many damn controls I can’t keep track” end.  This will piss people off.

And it will probably be much like World of Tanks as far as business model, where money buys faster advancement, gold planes, and special ammo.  This will also piss people off.

My only real hope though is that it will capture the fun of World of Tanks in airplane form.  For all of its faults, I have fun playing World of Tanks, which should be the key metric, right?

So What Will It Be?

My list last year was in search of a single game out of six that would stick.  That, as I said, came to pass, with Rift being the winner.

This year it looks likely that I will play all of the items on my list, at least if they manage to ship in 2012.  The distinct lack of subscription fees certainly help on that front.  Six boxes to by at most, and maybe just three really, since three of the games seem to be going the online free to play route.

The real question is whether any of them will make it into the regular group as a title we play together.

As with last year, I am going to end this post with a poll.  This time around though, it will be multiple choice.  Which of the games on my list will you play if they are available.  I included a “none of the above” option, but only click that if you do not click anything else.

What else might come along in 2012 that I should be looking for and which fits in the sorta-MMO or MMO genre?

Comments»

1. bhagpuss - December 22, 2011

Not interested in The Secret World? That’s supposedly due in Spring 2012. I’m almost certainly going to give that one a try.

Or Planetside2? Beta apps opened today and I put mine in. I never played the original (god knows why since I have played virtually every other SOE game) but this one looks pretty interesting.

Then there’s Wildstar. I’ve already put in for the beta of that and other than GW2 it’s the MMO I’m most excited about. It just oozes style and I’m afraid I’ve always valued style over substance more than I should.

On the periphery, how about Otherland? Or the Curt Schilling MMO (name escapes me)? ArcheAge? (probably not next year). I’m sure there are more.

In the end, though, there’s only one MMO I’m waiting for. One that I’m anticipating more keenly than any other. One that I’ll drop anything and everything else to play. EQNext, of course. Everything else is just a time-filler until then.

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2. Wilhelm Arcturus - December 22, 2011

Secret World… not so much, though that has as much to do with the company making it as anything.

Planetside 2… sorta. I will likely play it, but I have reservations as to it making 2012.

Wildstar gets under my skin a bit, mostly with their “Bartle archetypes” which, to me, only demonstrates that they didn’t understand what he was talking about. You cannot make an explorer archetype, for example, because a real explorer will want to play all the archetypes, not just the supposed explorer. But that is just my annoyance, along with my general contrariness to anything people fawn over before they have actually seen anything real. (Which could apply to Guild Wars 2 as well, though I still want to try it.)

In the end, the list of games I am looking forward to in 2012 might have something to do with having too many MMOs to play already.

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3. pockie - December 23, 2011

I don’t know if you’d consider it an MMO, or whether you’re a BattleTech fan, but Mechwarrior Online is also slated to be released in 2012. F2P game with persistent effects on the BattleTech universe, depending on your faction’s victories. Gameplay might be similar to World of Tanks, though hopefully better. Since you enjoy World of Tanks it could be fun, although I think that 2012 release is also a bit shaky given how little they have right now.

http://mwomercs.com/

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4. lyranthe - December 23, 2011

I’m supprised the marketing of the secret world would put you off it. I think thats one of those things that make me play it even more.

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5. What 2012 may bring « Hardcore Casual - December 23, 2011

[…] a blog post idea from TAGN today (not that he invented it, but reading his sparked mine, so yea). MMOs in […]

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6. HarbingerZero - December 23, 2011

The tricky thing about MWO is that you have a player base three decades wide, and unlike Star Wars, there is no central trilogy to help bring them all togeter. Each decade has its own very distinct idea of what MWO should look like and what factions should be in it.

For me, I’m curious about Diablo III, and as someone who never played Diabo II, that’s saying…something. I don’t know what yet.

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7. Wilhelm Arcturus - December 23, 2011

@Lyranthe – Not the company marketing it, the company making it. FunCom has yet to make anything I’ve been interested in playing. They seem to have ambitious visions that do not match what they deliver. If the player base has not imploded in anger and frustration six months after launch, I might look into Secret World.

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8. nadia - December 29, 2011

I voted for other – The Secret World. I am also holding off for a few months before playing it because I can’t justify to myself the time ‘wasted’ learning to play a new game but I am keeping an eye on it. I love the setting, looks quite unique.

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