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
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.
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 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.
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
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?