Category Archives: polls

Overwatch Goes Live

Blizzard’s new game, Overwatch, launches today, or yesterday depending on where you live.  May 24, 2016 is listed everywhere on the promotional material, though the worldwide launch schedule was a bit more complicated than that.

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

Ovwerwatch launching in a time zone near you

I think it is live everywhere it is supposed to be on launch day as of the time this post goes up.  There is a press release from Blizz about it and everything.

I had to be educated on this worldwide go-live because, I must admit, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to the game.  Not that my not paying attention is in any way indicative of what other people have been up to.  The open beta was such a success that it got an infographic.

So many players in the open beta

So many players in the open beta

The reason I haven’t been paying much attention is… well… I suppose three out of four Google responses can help me out with that:

Back to this game...

Back to this game…

I wonder if people search on “Overwatch is bad” are looking for reasons to dislike the title or searching out people who don’t like the game?  I suppose that at least Overwatch isn’t dead yet.  Give it a few weeks.

Anyway, the game being bad isn’t one of the reasons.  I suspect the game is actually good, given what I have seen people writing about it.

No, it is more of the other three, where it feels something like Team Fortress 2, cast as a MOBA, for which somebody expects me to pay $40/$60/$130, depending on which edition, which adds up to totally not worth it in my book.  But, as noted previously, I am long past my FPS days.  If I don’t care enough to play the free ones, I am not going to pay to play one.

And then there is the fact that it is one of the few Blizzard titles not to appear on Mac OS.  That is a factor in our house because my daughter has a nice iMac.  She has been into TF2 off and on, which is available on Mac OS, so had her eye on Overwatch… right up until Blizzard said support for Mac OS was off the table.  Then she was pissed and will hear no more of this game.  She feels let down by Blizz.

Then there is the MOBA aspect.  Blizz has been making a big deal about playing heroes rather than classes for Overwatch.  So you choose a hero with a special set of skills and abilities, which sounds very MOBA-like.  I think I said something about that back when the game was announced at BlizzCon 2014.

But then there is also the MOBA monetization coming as well.  They haven’t started selling new heroes… yet… but skins are already available for purchase along with my least favorite aspect of free to play, called Loot Boxes this time around, where in you can pay money… and Blizz doesn’t go for that microtransaction currency stuff, they straight up value things in real world currency and bill your credit card directly… for random items.  I didn’t like that system when I was a kid and tried collecting baseball cards and nothing has changed my mind about it ever since.

Ah well, that might just be me.

So I won’t be playing Overwatch.  But it is a major launch from a developer who also happens to run an MMORPG, so seemed worthy of note, and doubly so since bits of Overwatch were salvaged from the wreckage of Titan, the MMO project from Blizzard that was cancelled a while back.  Also, it seems to be dominating the gaming news cycle right about now.

So will you be playing Overwatch today?

[A multiple choice poll appears above this line which gets blocked by some browsers]

The Warcraft Movie Approaches

We are just about three weeks away from the release of the long anticipated Warcraft movie… I mean, I was making silly guesses at possible actors more than six years ago.

It can take a long time for things to go from an idea in progress to an actual production in Hollywood.  But the day is finally coming.  June 10, 2016 is the big day.

And, I must admit, I’m not all that excited.

I will still go see Warcraft.  And, of course, Blizzard is happy to remind me it is coming.  They sent me a note about it.

Coming June 10, 2016

Coming June 10, 2016

It remains to be seen if this will be such a blockbuster that one would need to reserve tickets.  The trailer left me a little flat.  But that might just be my proximity to the franchise.  And Blizz is also putting some incentives out there.  If you go to the right theater chain… which isn’t local to me… you could win tickets to BlizzCon.

I have to drive past a lot of theaters to get to a Regal...

I have to drive past a lot of theaters to get to a Regal…

But if there is a Regal cinema near you, watch the promo to see what you have to do in order to win.

Meanwhile, Blizz is also using the launch of the movie to get more people playing World of Warcraft.  The link between the movie and the game is obvious to us, but perhaps not so to everybody.  So when you go see the movie you will also get a code for a digital copy of the game which includes 30 days of play time… if you go to the right theater chain.  Blizz has a post up about which chains will get you into Azeroth.

That seems like an odd box to include

That seems like odd box art to use

Here in the US the freebie is limited to United Artists Theaters, Edwards Theaters, and the aforementioned Regal Cinemas.  No break for those of us in a sea of CineMark, and AMC outlets, not to mention the local independents.

Blizzard even sweetened the deal for those getting a free digital copy by including Warlords of Draenor as part of the base package, an unprecedented move.  Generally the next expansion has to ship before previous content gets included in the base game.  Of course, that also means you have to call support if you have a copy of Warlords of Draenor you haven’t activated yet, otherwise you won’t get your free level 90 boost.

And for those of us who already have the game, who bought Warlords of Draenor, and who aren’t in range of any of the participating theaters in any case… well… we get some nice transmog items if we log in between May 25 and August 1, 2016.

Shiny movie transmog stuff

Shiny movie transmog stuff

It isn’t clear if you have to be subscribed or can log in your level 20 or under characters to collect.  I suspect that a subscription will be necessary, but I will likely subscribe by August in any case to get in on the build up to WoW Legion.

So the movie is coming.  Will you be going to see it?  Time for a poll I think!

[There is a multiple choice poll above this line, which gets blocked in some browsers.]

Market Saturation and the Cash Shop

In which I prove I can be both cranky and cynical at the same time.

I seem to have two standard sort of Friday posts.  One is a set of succinct bullet points.  The other is a rambling wall of words that never quite gets to a real conclusion.  This is Friday post is the latter.  You have been warned.

So the topic du jour lately has been Black Something Online.  I honestly cannot remember as I write this, and I have probably read the name five dozen times over the last two weeks.  So I suppose you can add “jaded” to the my blogging super powers.  (The missing word is “Desert,” but I had to tab out and look Feedly to find it.  Black Desert Online.  I kept wanting to write Black Diamond Online.)

Anyway, since it is free to play, the cash shop became an issue… once everybody was done gushing about the character creator at least… though there is some contention as to what the actual issue is.  Is it that the cash shop is too expensive or that people are too cheap or that the whole thing lacks ethics or what?

I think only Bhagpuss has spent much time talking about actual game play, and even he seemed to be tiring a bit.

But game play isn’t where I want to go.  I want to join in on the cash shop fun.

Random internet picture captures the morality...

Random internet picture captures the morality…

I have my own view on cash shops and free to play, which I generally sum up as tired resignation.  They are the reality of the MMORPG market today.  What started as an attempt to by troubled titles like Anarchy Online, Silk Road Online, and eventually Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online, to grab some sort of competitive advantage over their monthly  subscription based rivals quickly became the default method of operation.

Remember back during the pre-launch hype around Warhammer Online when Mark Jacobs said he was considering charging MORE than the then industry standard $14.99 a month for the game’s subscription?  Those not caught up in the hype dismissed the idea while even those who were looking forward to the game seemed to think that Mark had better have something pretty fucking special up his sleeve in order to that route.

He didn’t and that whole idea sank quietly into the swamp, foreshadowing the story of the game itself.

But that is sort of how things are today.  If somebody comes along and says they want to launch a fantasy MMORPG with a $14.99 a month subscription as the only option, you would be right to dismiss that as crazy talk.  The Edler Scrolls Online and WildStar certainly got schooled on that front, both admitting defeat in under a year.

Only three games seem to be good enough for that route, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, World of Warcraft, and EVE Online.  Basically, the new champion of the fanatsy MMO experience, the old favorite, and the odd-ball that doesn’t fit nicely into the genre.  And the latter two have the WoW Token and PLEX, so you can play for free so long as you can get somebody else to pay.

As a business model the “monthly subscription only” idea is nearly extinct.

But now the cash shop is the market default.  Free is no long a competitive advantage, it is now a requirement to even sit at the table.  Everybody is free.  Everybody has a cash shop.  And most MMORPGs seem to be able to eke out some sort of livelihood in that market… which is a problem in and of itself.

MMOs don’t die very easily.  They linger on and on.  They don’t necessarily attract new players or grow, but they figure out how to hold onto their core players and get them to cough up enough money to keep the servers on and development going.  EverQuest and EverQuest II still have expansions for their core base.  Star Wars: The Old Republic has gotten past hot bars and seems to be doing okay selling content… and the forcing people to subscribe to access it. (But a new Star Wars movie probably helped a lot as well.)  Hey man, whatever you have to do.  DDO still have levels to add and new classes to sell.  LOTRO has… erm… let me think about that… no more expansions… no more Euro data center… oh, yeah, Tolkien!

But the market has grown, there are a lot more MMOs out there than back in 2004 when WoW and EQII launched.  Go look at the list of games that launched back in 2004.  It feels like ancient history.  Battlefield: Vietnam! Half-Life 2!  Halo 2!  Katamari Damancy!  Pokemon FireRed & LeafGreen… on the GameBoy Advance!

Imagine a market when you wanted to launch a new shooter but people wouldn’t stop playing something that went live 12 years ago?  And not just a few cranky hold outs on old hardware who couldn’t run your game even if they wanted to, but the mainstream of your market.  This is sort of what SWTOR launched into and for all of its faults, it was in large part fighting for market share of an audience that tends to stay fairly loyal to their favored game for years.

We’ve heard and dismissed past estimates of how big the potential MMO market is.  People thought it was 100,000 players big or 500,000 or a million or five million or whatever.  Those estimates turned out to be far too low.  But there was an effective upper limit out there somewhere, a hard stop where the genre simply ran out of players willing to commit the time and effort that MMOs demand.  I don’t know how big that number is, but it feels like it has stopped growing and may even have begun to shrink.

This was another Mark Jabobs thing, that the MMO market was going to be bigger than anybody thought… which was true enough.  But maybe not as true as he hoped, as he has gone from ironically saying “MMOs are a niche market” to making a niche title because the market isn’t all that big after all.

So in a genre where there are only so many people who will even hear about any new MMO coming out (MMOs are no longer news unless EVE Online has another big space battle or WoW launches an expansion), a subset of which would be willing to commit the time that an MMO requires, and where a good number of those players are already in a long term relationship with their favored MMO, any new title shows up has a steep hill to climb for success.

I am therefore not surprised that any new MMO that comes along goes straight for the cash shop antics that piss a lot of people off.  Any MMO that launches eventually has to buy into the trifecta of annoyance with over-priced items (to harvest whales), lock boxes or random card packs (to prey on those with poor self control), and constant reminders about the cash shop and sales and what is new and hot (to cajole the rest of us to buy and keep buying) because that is what it takes to survive and they don’t yet have the luxury of a core audience that would buy things like expansions.

What does surprise me is that anybody thinks they can wander into the MMO market with a game that is a rehash of WoW (2004)… which itself was just a rehash of EQ (1999)… with a few cosmetic differences (as I noted, most of the non-cash shop things I have seen about BDO has been about character models) and some slightly different game play (which is true to anybody besides the connoisseur) and expect market success.  It boggles the mind.

Of course, there is no doubt a message in the fact that the last few attempts have been Asian imports warmed over for the western market.  Nobody who has to pay salaries in US Dollars or Euros seems interested in going there from scratch.  (And just on cue, EverQuest Next has been cancelled.  More on that in another post.)

The right move seems to be to go niche, stay small, and build a following around a specific vision, as with Shroud of the Avatar, Project: Gorgon, Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, or Star Citizen…  and then maybe gouge the whales on the real estate or spaceship market.  Even Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and its plan to farm the failed mechanics of the past seems to be a better plan in today’s MMO market than going for a release with broad appeal.

Of course, we have yet to see any of those titles… aside from Project: Gorgon, which may be the smallest of the lot… actually deliver on their vision in any substantial way yet.  We shall see if that ends up being a good path forward when… and if… those titles reach a salable product state.

So that was about a twelve hundred word stream of consciousness ramble.  But at least I linked out to a few people.  Hi blog neighbors!

I suppose I need a point of some sort to sum up now.  Let me see… here are a few.  Pick one you like.

(There is an oh-so-clever poll below this, which sometimes gets eaten by AdBlock, in case you don’t see it.)

I look forward to a few angry comments about completely tangential items that I brought up briefly along the way.  Early guesses include “BDO isn’t like WoW,” “LOTRO is doing great,” “Game X has changed/will change everything,” and something about Star Citizen.

Now when is WoW Legion going to ship?

My MMO Outlook for 2016

Here we are again with one of those end of the year posts I trot out every December.

This once hasn’t been as regular as some of the others, in part because it has become more difficult to write as time has moved on.

There was a time during the life of this blog where I was enamored to some degree with almost any new MMORPG on the horizon.  I remember the run up to Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic as being exciting.

But as time wore on, I was overwhelmed by what I will call “the great sameness” of every new MMORPG.  They all differ some in details… graphics, classes, skills… but they all started to feel the same.  It turns out that killing ten rats doesn’t feel all that different no matter how you dress it up.

My post last year was essentially what I was already playing, EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and EverQuest II.  Why run after the false promise of a new experience when you’re already invested in one that isn’t all that different in the end?

And of those three I am only still playing EVE Online at the moment, that being the only one that doesn’t fit directly in the generic WoW-influence MMORPG role.  Minecraft has filled the void on that front, judging from my hours spent with it since June.

So it is tempting to just skip this post.  Do we really need another “burned out on MMORPGs” screed?

The thing is, some seeds planted in the last few years might actually come to fruition in 2016.  Kickstarters, long funded and past due, might actually deliver something in the coming year.  Here is what I think might be available… and yes, I know you can play bits and pieces of all of these right now, but among the things beaten out of me over the years is the desire to test somebody else’s product.  I want a shipping, ready for public consumption version of your game.

Shroud of the Avatar


Lord British attempts to bring back the wonder of the Ultima series in a sandbox-like, full 3D environment.

Attraction: I have fond memories of the first half of the Ultima series.  Seems like it might be an excellent place to explore.  I backed it on Kickstarter.  I already have it setup in Steam.

Worries:  Might be too cash shop focused and who knows what Mr. Garriott will glom onto as a good plan.  He has had some odd ideas over the years.

Camelot Unchained

CamelotUnchained_450pxMark Jacobs attempts to bring back the wonder of Dark Age of Camelot and some of the interesting bits of Warhamer Online, without all that mucking about with PvE levels and what not.

Attraction: While I never played DAoC, I do recall a few fun PvP moments in WAR.  Mark has owned up to lessons learned and has skin in the game, investing some of his own money.  And I backed it on Kickstarter.

Worries: PvP works best if you have a regular group and I will likely be showing up solo.  Also, recent history has shown some nifty large scale PvP ideas defeated by the players just forming an unstoppable zerg mob.

Project: Gorgon


Eric Heimberg and Sandra Powers make the MMORPG that they really want, quirky and a bit different and quite pretty… and you get used to the ill-fitting name after you have said it about five thousand times.

Attraction: Quirky, pretty, fun world to explore that might just be different enough to not make me sigh in boredom a few hours into playing.  And I backed all the Kickstarters, including the one that actually succeeded.

Worries: Quirky does have its limits, and where are you left when that wears off.  As a small budget project, will never be as polished as WoW or the like.  Not sure who will run off to play with me.

Star Citizen


Chris Roberts promises to take every single cool feature from every space related game he has ever touched and meld them together into the most awesome persistent universe space game ever… and a single player campaign… and a first person shooter… and probably something else I missed.

Attraction: Love me some space games.  I  still log into EVE Online sometimes just to fly around and look at things.  Could be the game that steals me away from New Eden.  And I backed it post-Kickstarter, when it was at about the $20 million level of total funding.

Worries:  I don’t want to go all Derek Smart, but Chris Roberts has promised a whole lot of stuff.  I actually wish it was less.  That would make it more likely for 2016 if nothing else.  Also worried it will have an Elite: Dangerous level of difficulty just to do the most simple things, like undock and dock your ship.  Has very little traction amongst the people with whom I play regularly.



One of these things is not like the others… and kind of a long shot as well. Not an indie Kickstarter game like the previous four.  No, this is Daybreak’s attempt to leverage their work on PlanetSide 2 into something that will make some money.  And it has, selling a lot of early access copies.

Attraction:  It is actually pretty fun in a group.  Interesting combination of PvP, crafting, base building, and general survival.  And I own an early access copy.

Worries:  Daybreak will monetize it into oblivion, and they might have to based on the peak early access sales, lest Columbus Nova Prime be angered.  PvE version seems tedious while the esports aspects hold no interest for me.  It does need a regular group to be fun, and I am never great at making friends.  Suffers from all the usual PvP problems.

Other Candidates

I suppose I could put in a couple of comedy additions, like Landmark or EverQuest Next, but I strongly suspect neither will be much in 2016.  And then there is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, which Brad McQuaid is still hanging on to.  Another one not for 2016 I would guess.  Crowfall, which I did not back, seems like it has its shit together, but I would call that yet another one for after 2016.

So I am going to stick with those five.  Which will be the winner in 2016?  And will any of them end my new MMO malaise?


Or are WoW Legion and the EVE Online Citadel expansion all I have to look forward to in 2016?

Meanwhile, if you want to see how previous versions of this mostly yearly post have fared, here are some links.  A bit of comedy to be mined in those.


Can You Find Love with a Heart of Thorns?

Today is the day.  The easily predicted, even when ArenaNet was still denying it, expansion to GuildWars 2 launches today.  Today it is Heart of Thorns day.


I have no real stake in the game or its expansion at this point.  I played GW2 for a bit, but it never really hooked me.  It is very pretty, and there was nothing really wrong with it, I just never settled in and felt at home.  I think that was, in part, because a lot of people I knew who played the game got in, made a character, played up to level cap, and left.  There didn’t seem to be much hanging about for some, and while I do a lot of things solo in MMOs, I do like to have friends around to share the experience with, even if it ends up with us being involved with parallel solo play.

But it is a major MMO, lots of people do still play it, and it launching an expansion seems worthy of note here.

I have been interested in the reactions to the expansion as well.  They have not been… wholly positive.  I find interesting because it stirs within me my own conflicted view of expansions.

Part of me, of course, loves expansions.  Who wouldn’t want MORE of a game they already enjoy?!?!  I find enthusiasm for expansions easy to stir up within myself.

But in my gut and in the back of my brain and lurking in other dark recesses of my being, there is an aspect of me that believes expansions aren’t all they are cracked up to me.

When I am channeling that particular bit of myself, I am apt to say that EverQuest Ruins of Kunark was the only good expansion EVER.

Expansions, by there nature, tend to be dividing lines in the game, before and after points where the game changes, sometimes significantly.  Sometimes the changes are good, or at least not bad, but sometimes they are very disruptive and completely change your relationship with a game.

I hold Ruins of Kunark in esteem as it is one expansion that seemed to extend what we already liked about EverQuest without changing the game too drastically.  That is a rare case indeed, at least in my experience. (And I will admit to time perhaps distorting my view of Ruins of Kunark, but I’ve held to that opinion for a long time now. 2007 me seemed to be in full agreement with 2015 me.)

But I think of all the times that expansions… or the hype for expansions and the accompanying build up of expectations… changed my relationship with games for the worse.

As an example, I was totally a fan of Rift for a stretch, played through to level cap on four characters… including a mage type, and I never play those… and was totally down with their system and tight, well designed zones.  And then came Storm Legion, and the game just stopped clicking with me.  I gave it a couple of runs, but it just wasn’t the same.  The game had changed.  They opted for huge, sprawling zones, new quest mechanics, and a few other items that just broke the game’s hold on me.

Not that a game can’t get past that.  I’ve been back to World of Warcraft since Cataclysm alienated our group.  But each expansion brings change.  Mists of Pandaria was actually quite good in the end, despite my skepticism.   Then Warlords of Draenor kindled some hype in me again, only to crush it later by endless garrison labor.  And now we’re looking towards Legion.  Should we trust another expansion from Blizzard, especially one with a single word title?

Sometimes I think we might be better off without expansions.  Sometimes I think companies should just make their 1-50 or 1-60 or 1-80 level game and be done, moving on to the next game.  Maybe add some new classes or some new end game content, but otherwise let the world be.  Because expansions just add complexity, move your core user base further away from any new players if you choose to raise the level cap, trivializes old content, and otherwise bring as many problems as they may solve.

Or such is my dour mood this morning.

How about you, how are you feeling about expansions today as we see a new one launch?


Next WoW Expansion to be Announced August 6th, Just After Subscriber Numbers Get Released…

Blizzard has announced that they will be doing a big reveal of the next expansion for World of Warcraft at Games at Gamescom on August 6th.

Mana for a slow news day...

Mana for a slow news day…

So maybe August won’t be such a slow news month after all.  That will give people plenty to talk about, analyze, and project their wishes and dreams upon.

The venue is a bit odd.  Not to dis Gamescom, but this sort of thing is usually reserved for a BlizzCon keynote speech, when all the faithful are focused on their game of choice and it can serve as a lead-in to a whole range of panels to dig deeper into the details.

But really, it isn’t the venue we should be thinking about, it is the date.  Aside from an unfortunate correlation with a 70th anniversary (who will complain that Blizzard is upstaging that on purpose?) and my parent’s wedding anniversary (go ahead and upstage that, please!), the date seems set to come in just after we get the Activision-Blizzard quarterly results for the second quarter of 2015 and, most importantly, the WoW subscription numbers that will come with it.  That hits on August 4th according to the investor relations site.

For the first quarter of 2015 the subscription numbers were down to 7.1 million.  Now there is a rush to get the next expansion announced early in August, a slow news month, well before BlizzCon, and just after the quarterly report?

I love me a good conspiracy theory, and this one has all the makings of such.

Is Blizzard trying to drum up some good news and sugarplum visions of the future to offset bad news on subscriber front?  Is this Blizzard in a panic or not?

What do you think the subscription numbers will come in at?  Stable at 7 million?  6.5 million?  6 million?  5 million?  Less?  More?  Here, have a poll!

[Added after the post went live.]

I guess we know what the WoW panels at BlizzCon will be focused on at least.

Is Paid Early Access a Good Thing for MMOs?

We just had the launch of early access for H1Z1 this past Thursday and it was not an unqualified success.

H1Z1DisasterIt started with delays as bringing servers up and getting out last minute patches ran through the 11 am PST kick off target and well into the afternoon.  Then when things were finally up there were G29 errors and G99 errors and “you do not own this game” errors and “no servers visible” problems and the overwhelming of the login servers, which actually affected other SOE games.  And, of course, this being based on PlanetSide 2, the hacking seems likely to commence.

That was all exacerbated by the fact that SOE was clearly trying to make this a big deal, an event, and was hyping the whole thing up, making sure people who wanted to stream the game had access, and that there were hundreds of servers online, so the whole thing was rather a public spectacle.  I tried watching LazTel stream the game over at the TMC feed and every time I checked in there was an error on his screen.

And that leaves aside Smed riling up the carebears earlier in the week and the whole controversy over “pay to win” air drops that was brewing as well where, despite early statements on how H1Z1 would be financed through cosmetic items, things changed. Smed was taking a tough line in defending the air drop scheme.  (Plus air drops seemed to be having their own issues.)

anyone that wants to “complain” about H1Z1 being P2W shouldn’t buy it. In fact I encourage you not to. Let’s not let facts get in the way.

John Smedley, Twitter

Scathing quotation marks around the word “complain” there from Smed.  Feel the burn.

(Also, in looking at some older posts this past weekend, I see that I need to quote Smed rather than simply embedding his tweets.  He appears to go back and clean up his feed, deleting quotable items later on.)

Cooler heads were apologizing about the change in views on buying things like guns and ammo in the game on the H1Z1 Reddit, SOE’s favorite forum of the moment.

And then, I gather, at some point over the weekend, the game started working more reliably… or people gave up on it.   Either way, I pretty much stopped hearing about it, except for Smed on Twitter assuring people that things would be fixed and posting links to posts on Reddit detailing what the latest patch would include.  Maybe the Massively post More Boredom than Terror rings true?

Either way, I was happy I was only reading about it.  The whole thing seemed not ready for prime time.

Of course, it was “early access,” so that much is to be expected I suppose.  Certainly that is the line that Smed, and SOE, and their more ardent defenders will stick to.  SOE had to offer up refunds again, as they did with Landmark, for people who were expecting a bit more.

So SOE has themselves covered by that “early access” label.  But it does feel like SOE was trying to be on both sides of the fence.  The whole thing was built up like a game launch.  But is it reasonable to set those sorts of expectations, with that many people piling in and all those servers being put online, along with charging money for the box and running your cash shop from day one, for something a company is running under “early access?”

My own view is that if you are charging money and have worked to get a cash shop in the game, your ability to hide behind words like “early access” and “beta” is somewhat diminished, an opinion I have held since the FarmVille days, when Zynga products seemed to be in eternal beta even as they earned buckets of money.

Anyway, while what SOE does with H1Z1 is of some interest to me, I had no interest in being part of their “pay to test while we develop the game” agenda.  That is pretty much the same song I have sung about Landmark, which has been in early access for nearly a year now.

My cynicism on display

My cynicism on display

At the end of the day though, I have to ask myself how these sorts of early access routines affect my desire to play a given game.  And the answer isn’t exactly favorable.  I am happy enough to have passed on an early investment in both games, but the drawn out nature of even watching from the sidelines has diminished Landmark for me, while H1Z1 running through what looks like PlanetSide 2 problems… which PlanetSide 2 is still having two years after launch… makes me willing to wait for a long, long time before I will bother trying.  Add in the fact that pwipes will be unlikely after a very early point in order to keep the hardcore fans invested and sweet in both games, where it certainly seems like location will matter, and it feels like SOE is selling advantage on top of charging people to test their incomplete visions over the long haul.  Both make me less likely to buy in.

And at some point in the middle-to-distant future, we will be getting EverQuest Next and the current pattern from SOE indicates that it will go through the whole early access routine as well, which gets something of an eye rolling frowny face from me.  Certainly the way Landmark has gone and the way H1Z1 has started has not endeared me to the early access idea.

I am not convinced that early access is a good thing, even when it is done better.  Over in the realm of Lord British, Shroud of the Avatar is also up on Steam for early access.  It is still in a rough state, too rough at least for me to want to devote much time to it.  I log in once in a while to see what it looks like, but am otherwise biding my time.

However, I feel differently about Shroud of the Avatar.  I bid on the Kickstarter to get a copy of the game, which was expected to cost money at some future date anyway.  And, despite the real estate focus of the game, I feel less like I will be missing out by not getting in early, there being a whole campaign to follow.

So maybe it is just the type of games that SOE has been launching of late, where there is contention over location.  Or maybe it is just the way they have gone about things in the traditional SOE way, where there are intense moments of hype and energy followed by long periods of quiet.

I think early access has worked well enough for other games.  At least I can point and some good examples, like Minecraft or Kerbal Space Program, where early access delivered something worthwhile, made people happy, and kept on evolving.  But for MMOs I feel less certain.  Is there a good early access story for an MMO? Should we avoid judging based on SOE?  How about ArcheAge or Trove?

What do you think about early access for MMOs?


Anyway, at some point H1Z1 will actually launch, at which point maybe I will give it a peek.  Until then the eager supports are welcome to it.