So far this year I have done predictions and a forecast of my own likely game play pattern for 2020. It is time for something more upbeat here on the first Monday of the new decade.
The problem is that I am a bit of a pessimist by nature. I am a product of my environment and have been part of too many rosily optimistic ventures that have been about as well grounded in reality as that of the gnomes in South Park. Four out of five start ups fail because they cannot satisfactorily answer that second section. If I never hear another exec wave away objections to a vague plan with a quote from Field of Dreams I would be quite happy.
So even in a post predicated in optimism I feel the need to stay somewhat grounded. No miracles. No “just be good so you get a million customers” sentiments. Which, of course, makes this post a tad more difficult.
World of Warcraft
Just make Shadowlands not suck? I’m already off track. See, this is going to be difficult. Hrmm…
Okay, maybe get this whole level squish thing right? I am warming to the idea of being able to run an alt from 10 to 50 through which ever expansion I choose. But I also wonder about the itemization and how it might make all those parallel experiences lose any uniqueness when it comes to equipment. Also, I know they said they thought about this, but still make sure the favorite of running old raids is still viable at level cap. And whatever you do, don’t make mobs scale based on ilevel. That went so badly in BFA. You could literally screw over all new players… unless the plan is to force them to buy character boosts, which is something not included with the Shadowlands base expansion. Please don’t do that either.
Class rework. Make classes great again or something. WoW Classic has shown how well simplicity can work. It was imperfect, but the designers can work from that. At one point I had seven different classes at level cap. With BFA only two of them were any fun to play.
Again, a place where I could go crazy with pie in the sky wishes, like wanting Blizz to develop fresh new content on the WoW Classic platform. But that just isn’t going to happen, so I have to reign myself in.
Given that, I want a path forward to later expansions. I don’t know how Blizz is going to do it, but if five years down the road there are not classic experiences availabe for The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, I will be angry. That is the Cornetto Trilogy of WoW.
What the best path forward will be remains to be seen. Separate fresh start expansion servers? Transfers off of WoW Classic to expansions? Expand WoW Classic into the new content? No matter which way they go somebody will be pissed off. And I suspect that Blizz will end up needing to create a version of the client for each era, which will no doubt lead to them bitching about having to keep a total of four clients up to date. But this is a gold mine and will pay for itself if worked correctly.
All I want is vision. Of course when CCP is talking about vision we complain about all the little broken things they ignore, and when they work on tactical items like balance and all the little broken things we go on about a lack of vision.
That said, I still think the lack of a longer term vision for the game is hurting EVE Online. As I have opined before, people who like space games tend to be the type of people who get caught up in vision and the promise of the future. Making sure the NPE doesn’t drive people away is a good goal, but it doesn’t spark any sense of adventure or wonder at the possibilities. As lame as player made star gates ended up being, just the idea of them and what they might be was probably worth something. We need a vision. And visions are cheap, though it does help if one goes with a vision that has some grounding in the possible.
There are so many things I would like to see done with EverQuest, not the least of which is a redone modern client. I would happily take all the old content, doled out in annual increments, named EverQuest III or whatever, if they could just throw together a client that ran even half as smoothly as WoW Classic. That is probably too much to wish for, but if somebody like Pearl Abyss bought the Norrath part of Daybreak… hell, I’d take a Black Desert Online looking version of EverQuest too.
More in reality-ville, I honestly think the best I can hope for is ongoing annual expansions and maybe a new special server now and then. Oh, and a heroic insta-level character boost that goes higher than level 85.
The other Norrath franchise is strange because it is both crazy insular and focused on its core audience while being, at times, deeper than the ocean. And the team is still not afraid to try new things every expansion.
So while my main wish might be a more comprehensible game… I don’t know how, as a new player wandering in off the street, how you even get started in such a way as to make the game stick… part of its charm at this point is its level of incomprehensibility. I write what might seem like angry posts about the crazy level of effort that sometimes goes into getting things done, but that is what keeps me engaged. However, I have no idea how somebody gets the wiki together. I look at the flow of some of the signature quests and wonder how long it took to figure out some of those steps. It still struggles from all the same problems, like too much old, outdated, and opaque content, odd, confusing, and sometimes archaic mechanisms to guide you places, the strange focus on the potency stat over all others, and way way too many skills.
With all those problems I cannot come up with an simple or realistic change. I mean, I kind of want a Station Cash sale, but I am pretty sure there are still burnt fingers in accounting from that.
So I guess my wish here is to keep on being weird?
Lord of the Rings Online
Even more than the Daybreak team, Standing Stone Games feels like a group that doesn’t have a lot of slack for ambitious projects that won’t either bring in money, like an expansion, or that are required to keep the game viable going forward, like a 64-bit client. So asking for a better patching mechanism to replace that “let me inventory all your files on the fly then go grab the files I need and copy them over one by one” isn’t going to make it.
Neither is some of the new content I might like. One of the oppressive aspects of the MMORPG genre is the “moving ever forward” aspect of it. So we’re never going to get, say, an alternate leveling path that would bypass Siege of Mirkwood. Wouldn’t I love that?
So down in reality-ville, maybe fix the legendary weapon system? That is a serious mill stone around the neck of the game, an awkward, demanding, do I really need to go back to a settlement and reforge this piece of crap again mechanic that they should have let go of when we passed out of Moria.
That, however, probably won’t be enough to get me to go back and play. So maybe a special rules server? I realize that one of my predictions this year was that SSG would go that route and do it badly. But that doesn’t mean I cannot wish they would come up with something fun and new and interesting.
The MMORPG Genre
I realize that, as somebody whose wish list so far is made up of a set of games, the newest of which launched in 2007, I am not your ideal customer. Or I am exactly your ideal customer as I will clearly become invested in your game and stick with it long term.
If the former is true, stop copying the games I already play and do something new that will attract a different target audience. I’ve made it pretty clear with my dollar votes that I am not going to run off to play your game due to the graphics being 43% better or the elves being 19% sluttier.
If the latter is true… well… same story I guess. Why would I put in the work to get invested in your new version of WoW if you are mostly retreading the old version with some minor variations? Again something new.
Of course, the problem is that anything really new likely won’t fit nicely into my internal definition of what an MMORPG is or should be. So, really, I have nothing here. But I felt I needed to explain why.
Just curate. You know you want to. You’re effectively doing it already. Just admit that there is, in fact, some bar a title needs to clear in order to find a space in your store.
I get it. I get that having the biggest pile of games is a marketing point. But I could illustrating the 2008 mortgage lending crisis of the with Steam. It started out with quality, but then over time, to keep things going, it became necessary to mix in a lot of low value shit that kind of ruined it for a lot of people… like indy devs with actual quality titles who haven’t a hope in hell of getting noticed.
Honestly, I think the biggest rock that the Epic Store could throw at you is that your service is ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound bag. It is hard to navigate and filled with things people don’t care about. And once Epic gets a store that worth being something beyond second place, they might go there. Steam is safe for the moment because Epic doesn’t have the critical mass to be anybody’s exclusive. Steam is the only place you can have almost everything you want. They even got EA and Microsoft to bend to their will and admit last year that they need Steam.
So Epic is trying to poach exclusives to make themselves matter until they can get a quality critical mass. At that point they can start talking about what a huge pile of garbage Steam is. Yes, I know EA tried that back when they introduced Origin, saying that they would be the Nordstrom to Steam’s Target. But EA is rampant capitalism dressed up as a video game company and couldn’t back up their words.
I tend to ignore pretty much everything else in gaming, unless it becomes a meme or so popular that it is getting a lot of press. So maybe something that would distract for my MMORPG obsession for a bit?
Anyway, we will see what the year brings.