More of that “end of year” stuff we bloggers are required by law to do.
Next year looks like it has the potential to be a banner MMO year. Lots of stuff is coming out and much of it looks to have some serious potential.
The real question is, what should I spend time with and what should I skip.
There is only so much time to play, and MMOs have a certain “Hotel California” aspect to them… at least for me… I can check out any time I like, but I can never leave. (I was exploring EverQuest yet again this fall. See. I was first playing that in March 1999.)
My current MMO baggage is pretty heavy already.
There is World of Warcraft. The instance group has returned to Azeroth. It is also the game, because of Macintosh support as much as anything else, that I play with my daughter. So it is unlikely to fall by the wayside completely, even if the instance group decides it wants to try something new.
And after WoW, there is the every changing hierarchy of “other” MMOs that I play in addition to WoW, the most prominent of which are Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest II, and EVE Online, but which could, given the right whim or pang of nostalgia, include a half dozen other games.
So realistically, out of the MMOs coming out in 2011, I can probably pick up and play one seriously.
The problem is picking which one. There are a few to choose from and they each have their own appeal.
Here is my list of MMOs to consider:
Star Wars: The Old Republic – The De Facto Choice
Star Wars: The Old Republic is at the top of the list for 2011. How can it not be?
I mean, it is Star Wars from Pete’s sake! Star Wars! We’ve already covered the ratio of Star Wars to Star Trek in terms of literary popularity.
I have even created a category for it in WordPress already in anticipation of its release next year.
Which assumes that it will actually come out in 2011… and that it will be playable.
EA has a history of “gun to the head” ship dates, so it seems likely to hit the shelves in 2011, but you never know when they might suddenly learn their lesson on that front.
And I am going to guess that BioWare, shipping its first MMO, is going to face a set of unexpected (by them) issues at launch that will gum up the works good and hard, a situation that won’t be helped if EA kicks SWTOR out the door prematurely.
Plus the whole thing is going to be on the Hero Engine, a platform as yet unproven in a real world, subscriptions in the six figures and up environment. Danger, danger, danger.
None of these are deadly sins, especially if the game is good.
EverQuest was in all sorts of trouble on day one, but was so different (yet familiar) that we all rode it out and stayed subscribed in numbers well beyond the expectations of the EverQuest team. With SWTOR though, a possible forced early launch with a noob MMO crew on an untried third party platform presents a series of real risks. And if the game doesn’t stand out as delivering a unique experience, failure is a distinct possibility, especially to a cynic like me.
On the plus side, it is Star Wars, it is BioWare, it is an MMO. If I had to make my choice today without any additional input, this would be the game I’d take.
DC Universe Online – More Super Heroes
DC Universe Online is coming, and it is coming soon.
January 11th (1/11/11, I guess they couldn’t wait until November) will see the release of Sony Online Entertainment’s entry in the super hero MMO genre.
This is the only game on my list I have tried as part of a beta, primarily because I haven’t really liked super hero games up to this point. I spent more time creating characters than playing them in both City of Heroes and Champions Online.
DCUO seems to be less about costumes and more about action. Exciting, frantic, quite visceral action. It has a very arcade-ish in feel… which it probably should because it is clearly a console game.
This is all a good thing, except when it comes to controls on the PC. A real console controller (which is to say, not a Wii controller) has a second analog stick to control the camera. As Yahtzee said in his review the other week, “The camera is like the working class. If you cannot control it, it will plot to destroy you.” And the camera in DCUO seemed hell bent on doing me in, mentally and physically. Having to try to fix the camera angles while running around like crazy fighting was a serious annoyance.
Camera control issues aside, small doses of DCUO were enough to satisfy me. I could not see myself playing this game for a stretch of more than an hour. It is fun but can be almost exhausting.
Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. And if I wanted a game that was both an MMO and very much unlike anything I was currently playing, DCUO would not be a bad choice. I just cannot tell if it was something I would stick with over time or not.
A key deciding factor: How much will Station Cash play into things? Given how SOE decided to present the whole Freeblood race in EQII, it could be a deal breaker.
Rift – Mr. Familiar
A lot of people seem interested or excited about Rift – Planes of Telara… or Rifts of Telara… or just Rift. I’m not really sure what the official name is at this point. Anyway, people whose opinions I respect are writing a lot about it.
And it is being made by people with solid track records who have proven they can do good things. Reports about the game, now that the beta NDA has been dropped, tell a tale of a polished and really good looking game, with some special twists to help it stand out in the fantasy MMO genre. And then there is Wolfshead with a recipe for fixing the game. It is never too early to start on that.
Unfortunately, my dance card is kind of full when it comes to the fantasy MMO genre.
One of the things Rift has going for it is the latest and greatest version of Public Quests, which sounds like it is working great in the beta. Unfortunately, Public Quests were a also a key differentiator for Warhammer Online back in the day, where they also worked well in beta. Will Rift fare better when it goes beyond the self-selecting beta crowd and has to capture an audience that will need to buy a box and pay a subscription fee?
And then there is the soul mechanic, which has described as multiple mix-and-match talent trees so you can have greater character differentiation. Again, sound great in theory, but we’ve all seen diversity packed up and put away because there turns out to be one “optimum” talent point distribution for a given role or task and all else is considered crap. Maybe the team at Trion is wily enough to have avoided this… or maybe showing up with the soul that gives you a pet will mark you as a loser as surely as showing up in a WoW dungeon finder group with the title “the Explorer” will. We shall see.
And while I have enunciated what is probably the most pessimistic possible view of what these features portend, I still have to ask what Rift really has going for it that would draw me in and keep me playing.
Guild Wars 2 – Return to the land of no jumping
I really like that logo.
Logo aside though, Guild Wars 2 is probably a reach, given I could never really get into the original Guild Wars.
I own it. I actually own the original and one of the expansions.
I like the idea of it. Not so many levels, emphasis on group adventures.
And there is the subscriptions model, which is “Buy the box, play forever.” You have to love that.
I’ve installed it a few times and have tried to get into it, but I never stick with it.
The scenery is gorgeous but I find the character models off-putting. I have mocked Darren about his complete aversion to any anime-like Asian character models, but I kind of see his point here. And you have to look at your character all the time, so if you don’t like how they look….
That and the space bar doesn’t make you jump. This is one of those trivial things that suddenly becomes annoying when you can’t do it. I watch our instance group when we travel across zones and several of us are practically addicted to jumping. We jump at the crest of every rise, over every obstacle, on every down slope just to see how far we can go. So when Potshot and I last played Guild Wars it almost caused us physical distress not to be able to jump.
Okay, those are, admittedly two lame reasons not to play a game. But I could never find some huge bonus to the game that would off-set those two things that I couldn’t get in a game where I didn’t mind the character models and I could jump. So Guild Wars lost by default.
Still that is yesterday’s news. I hope.
Guild Wars 2 could change all of that. They’re keeping the same no-subscription model, which everybody loves, the heavy instancing, which I don’t mind, and trying to simplify skills a bit, which is probably good, while working with a new “quests not from a guy with an exclamation point over his head” model of events for players (if I read it right).
On the other hand, they’ve upped the level cap from 20 to 80, no doubt to capture the achiever types, and while they promise it won’t be a grind, I find that hard to swallow. Either levels have value, in which case you are automatically encouraged to push towards level cap, or they are not, in which case why bother with them?
And of course, like Rift, GW2 is yet another fantasy MMO, which isn’t exactly what I need.
Plus it might not ship in 2011.
So I am probably unlikely to go here unless I get an ironclad guarantee that the space bar will let me jump.
The Exiled Realm of Arborea, TERA Online – The Pretty Face
TERA seems to be lurking in my periphery. I saw it back at GDC. The person in the cube next to me at work has TERA screen shots as his desktop patterns. Tipa just tweeted the other day asking who was looking to play it.
But what do I actually know about TERA? Well, it looks really nice in screen shots and demos I’ve seen. But it is still another fantasy MMO. What does it bring to the table? Here is a marketing quote for the game:
TERA is the first true Action MMORPG, providing all of the depth of an MMO with the intensity and gratification of an action game. Players fully control their characters using the game’s dynamic battle system. Player actions can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as six allied races try to work together to protect their lands from marauding monsters, underworld dwellers, and evil scheming gods.
TERA raises the bar, setting new standards in the gaming industry. It is a visually stunning world with graphic quality above all other games in the industry. You will experience a new ground-breaking gameplay system where stereotypes of traditional MMORPGs will be broken. You will have full control over the attacks and the fate of your enemy. No more ‘pointing and clicking’ and playing combat relay with the enemies. Furthermore, not only do you control the action, TERA is also set in a world where the players will dictate the flow of the economy and individually impact the community environment.
Well, I suppose I should be thankful that they didn’t talk about the oft-mentioned “fourth pillar” at least.
And while I have probably been influenced by the beta, but it sounds like it might play a lot like DCUO.
Or maybe not.
Some of the superlatives are hard to digest. What does it mean to have full control over the attacks (who else has control over my attacks in other games… we are talking about my attacks right) and the fate of my enemy? Does that mean I can force them into indentured servitude and make them go do my trade skill harvesting? Can I make them quack like a duck?
And remember, setting new standards can include standards for failure.
This seems an unlikely bet for me, but what I don’t know about it could fill a book. I’ll look for some beta reports to see how much of the marketing is empty hype.
The Agency – The Covert Ops Hero’s Journey
Oh, The Agency.
The trailers sure look good.
But does anybody think this is going to ship in 2011?
I’ve been on The Agency hype and silence ride a little too long to put money on it.
There are things that can sway which games I might try over the next year. The ongoing reviews and reports from the various betas and the like will certainly influence me.
The instance group is also a key factor. The five of us represent a wide range of interest in the genre. At one end, there is Potshot who plays more betas than any of us and myself, who keeps a candle lit for the MMOs of the past. And at the other end of the spectrum we have Earl and Bung who are pretty happy with WoW as our weekly vehicle and who really only have time for one game in any case.
If one of these games ends up being a must play for Potshot, I’ll probably go play as well. If any become a must-play for Earl or Bung, the whole group will probably migrate over for a while.
And if group sizes in a given game go beyond the WoW limit of 5, there are other potential players would would come along for the ride.
What Will It Be?
I am sure I will end up playing at least one of these games in 2011, I’m just not sure which one yet.
How about you. Which of these are on your must-play list? If you had to pick one, which would it be?
And did I leave MMOs off of the list that I should be considering? What other logos should I be clipping from game sites?