Tag Archives: MMO Outlook

Reviewing My 2017 MMO Outlook – What The Hell Happened?

Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

-Me, about a year ago

I guess it sort of turned out that way.  That might be my most accurate prediction of the year, really.  I mean, I started out the year playing EverQuest II and here I am at the end of the year playing World of Warcraft.  I still dabble a bit in Minecraft, but I am between projects on that front.  And then there was EVE Online.

Going around on the same ride

So in my MMO Outlook post for 2017 I listed out a dozen titles, games I had either not played or had barely touched, with an eye to trying something new.  And did I play any of them?  Even one of them?

No!

Still, I am going to say that this isn’t entirely my fault.  Yes, I have been in something of a state of ennui when it comes to our favored genre, but lets go back down that list from a year ago and see what I was up against.  How likely was it that I could even play these games?

  1. Project: Gorgon – Not done yet
  2. Albion Online – Went live, but didn’t appeal
  3. MapleStory 2 – Still only in Korea
  4. Star Citizen – Hahahaha… some day maybe, but not any day soon
  5. Camelot Unchained – Nothing to play yet
  6. SkySaga: Infinite Isles – Development ceased
  7. Lost Ark – Not yet released
  8. Sea of Thieves – Target is 2018 now
  9. RuneScape – Unambiguously playable!
  10. Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title – What test release are we at this week?
  11. Life is Feudal – Seems to still be slated for 2017 as I write this
  12. Pantheon: Saga of Heroes – Just a vision and some demos

Given that list and my criteria that the game must be in some form of viable, released, not hiding in some criticism deflecting “beta” or “early access” mode while charging for the privilege state of affairs, I was left with two titles out of the dozen.

And that was even with setting the bar pretty low for fan favorite Project: Gorgon, which I said I would play regardless of state so long as it was together enough to be up on Steam.

No joy there.

So of that list of a dozen I could have realistically played two of them, Albion Online and RuneScape.  I’ve played a bit of RuneScape in the past, I just never went back to it while there was nothing on the feature list that attracted me to Albion Online.  Again, differentiation in fantasy MMORPGs is a pretty narrow thing these days.

My metaphor for MMOs… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

So what they hell did I play in 2017?  I mean, besides EVE Online, Minecraft, and EverQuest II at the start then World of Warcraft at the end.

I actually did play a few other fantasy MMORPG titles.  Overall, this was what I played, month by month, on that front:

  • January – EverQuest II
  • February – EverQuest II at the start of the month
  • March – none
  • April – Glanced at LOTRO
  • May – Runes of Magic
  • June – Guild Wars 2
  • July – EverQuest II
  • August – LOTRO
  • September – very short bursts of LOTRO and Guild Wars 2
  • October – World of Warcraft
  • November – World of Warcraft
  • December – World of Warcraft

Nothing new.  Games I already had installed, save for Runes of Magic, and in which had some previous investment.  And none of them stuck for very long, save for WoW.

On the non-fantasy side, in addition to EVE Online, I played a little War Thunder and World of Tanks during the spring and summer, but not enough for it to be really noteworthy.

So that was it, which makes me wonder if I should continue the tradition of the “MMO Outlook” posts here at TAGN.  Is this sort of post simply a holdover from a time when new MMOs seemed full of promise, a tired attempt to relive past bouts of enthusiasm when I am fairly sure that the future only offers bland, “me too” alternatives that are barely alternatives at all in a world where World of Warcraft offers as much as it does?

Or is there something out there that I should be looking into, a star by which to navigate my online gaming obsession into the future?

Syp says he is “keeping an eye on” 44 different upcoming MMO and MMO-ish games, though for that number I’d have to consider it a pretty minimalist definition of the phrase.  But there are still things in the pipeline.  Hell, I could make an outlook post and just recycle ten of the twelve I had listed and call it a day.

Part of me thinks I should shelve the idea.  I have shown myself to be a creature of habit there being, to paraphrase the quote about Alexander, no vaguely interesting new worlds to conquer.   Cynicism is part of my makeup to be sure, and a conservatism and a strong sense of the past.  I still have more TorilMUD posts to finish.

But I have an optimistic side as well.  I want to believe there is something new and different and interesting and exciting possible, that somebody will turn a corner or find a new angle that will ignite a new spark in the genre.

We shall see how I feel.  It will likely be that or another post about pet battles.

Did you play anything new and different this year in the MMO sphere?  Is there something I should be paying attention to for the future?

Adrift: My 2017 MMO Outlook

As I noted in my ten year anniversary post, my own outlook as an MMORPG gamer has changed over the last decade.  I came to blogging in a time when the genre was growing and ambitions seemed unlimited.  We would get a continuous stream of newer and shinier things as MMOs expanded into new territory and conquered the world.

Now I feel like Estragon, nodding off as we wait for the promised future that never arrives.  To my mind somebody could do an easy parody of the song Little Boxes to describe the state of the genre.

There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all poor copies of WoW
And they all look just the same.

Stoking the embers of enthusiasm is difficult.  It isn’t so much “no new worlds to conquer” as “no new worlds worth giving a damn about” these days.  Differentiation seems like variations of the same over used tropes and standards.

Also, not done with the "Little Boxes" theme... picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Also, not done with the “Little Boxes” theme… picture by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

And yet I persist, sitting here at the end of the year, looking into the mists of 2017 and wondering if he will come.  Is there something out there that might spark the imagination and rekindle the enthusiasm for virtual worlds I felt back in 2006?  Or will I be sitting here a year from now writing about how, once again, I mostly played EVE Online and Minecraft while alternating between World of Warcraft and EverQuest II for my fantasy fix?

What is even an option for 2017?

Well, EverQuest Next is out, having been cancelled earlier this year after the traditional SOE “months of silence” indicator that it just wasn’t going to happen.  But I wasn’t even optimistic enough to put that on the list last year.

Blizzard isn’t going to do any more MMOs… not that I am sure we would want them to… but that is out.  And then there is the perennial list of “maybe this year…” titles like Star Citizen that probably won’t be anything more than tech demos and pre-release “don’t you dare criticize me!” tiny tastes of past promises.

Still, there are MMOs that may come out in 2017.  Time to fake some enthusiasm.  Plus there was a nice list over at Massively OP from which I plan to crib.   There are even some titles in which I am invested, allowing for a variety of definitions for the word “invested.”  So here are a DOZEN titles that I am going to throw out there as possibilities for me in 2017.  That is more options than any previous list ever!  Go me.

1 – Project: Gorgon

  • Gut Reaction: Why doesn’t this have a Wikipedia page yet?
  • Rationalization: I’ve paid for it, my peeks in have shown it developing nicely, it could be a thing!
  • Chance: 100% if it hits Steam or otherwise goes live.

2 – Albion Online

  • Gut Reaction: You woke me for this?
  • Rationalization:  Feels like the 2017 version of either ArcheAge or Black Desert Online
  • Chance: There would have to be some very special feature I overlooked.

3 – MapleStory 2

  • Gut Reaction: Ummm… Canada? Pancakes?
  • Rationalization:  Not quite sure how side-scroller and 3D fit together.
  • Chance: It isn’t impossible. I went and tried RuneQuest and was impressed, why not this?

4 – Star Citizen

  • Gut Reaction: Confusion as to how this made the list after what I wrote above
  • Rationalization:  I’m in for $30, but I have no interest in testing something that probably isn’t ready to be called “Alpha” in my book.
  • Chance: I mean, if it “shipped” for any rational definition of the word, I’d be in… but that ain’t happening in 2017.  I just want you to know that I am up for it if it somehow did.

5 – Camelot Unchained

  • Gut Reaction: slipping enthusiasm
  • Rationalization:  I probably like this game more in theory than I will in reality.
  • Chance: I am in from the Kickstarter, so I will play at some point, but nothing has really sparked my enthusiasm. Also, seems likely to miss 2017.

6 – SkySaga: Infinite Isles

  • Gut Reaction: *glassy stare*
  • Rationalization:  My Minecraft itch is already filled by Minecraft
  • Chance: Not sure that islands floating in the sky is really something I am missing, so very low

7 – Lost Ark

  • Gut Reaction: Raiders of the?
  • Rationalization:  A clicky action MMORPG might be an idea!  And at least it has a placeholder for a Wikipedia page.
  • Chance: Given that Diablo III is going to try to eke out another year at least with seasons, nostalgia, and a new class, it might be worth a try.  30% chance if it goes live, higher if it is on Steam and goes on sale.

8 – Sea of Thieves

  • Gut Reaction: Pirates!
  • Rationalization:  The urge to play with tall ships and cutlasses balanced with memories of Pirates of the Burning Sea… which were not all bad, but I also never went back and played it again either.
  • Chance: Dampened by the cross platform aspect, as the Windows version will likely have the horrible console interface. If I could find a compelling feature though, it might have a shot.  Oh, and it would have to ship.

9 – RuneScape

  • Gut Reaction: Didn’t I make an account for that at Thanksgiving?
  • Rationalization:  I did play a couple hours of it already and it did have a flavor and charm of its own.  The old grand dad of F2P titles, it has a huge following for some reason.
  • Chance:  It also had a somewhat odd control scheme, and the fact that I am only now recalling that I played it probably doesn’t bode well.  But it has at least fucking shipped already!  That raises the odds dramatically!

10 – Shroud of the Avatar: Unnecessary Secondary Title

  • Gut Reaction: Hey, didn’t I pay for this already?
  • Rationalization:  I am in with the Kickstarter, I have it up in Steam where it updates weekly, and I tried it a couple of times in 2015 when it was pretty rough.  Also, it was on last year’s list.
  • Chance: I’m in if they hit a “done” milestone, which seems semi-likely.  I’m just not sure what the game is about now.  2013 was a while back.

11 – Life is Feudal

  • Gut Reaction: Hrmmm… but that name…
  • Rationalization:  I long ignored it based on the name alone, but it does have some interesting ideas.
  • Chance:  Maybe… long-shot, but if it went live… I keep using different euphemisms for what is essentially “actually end-customer ready” I might be up for it.

12 – Pantheon: Saga of Heroes

  • Gut Reaction: Why Brad, why?
  • Rationalization:  Part of me wants to believe that 1999 can be recreated.  Maybe he can get Smed over to help now that he is at loose ends and really get the 1999 party rockin!
  • Chance: You know, if something ships… I’ll probably buy-in and play.  But despite the long demo videos, I am not convinced yet that something will ever ship… and 2017 seems like an extreme long-shot if it does.

So there are dozen MMO-esque games that I am going to lay out there and semi-sort-of commit to looking into if it doesn’t take too much time away from Minecraft, EVE Online, and EQII / WoW.

Which on that list do you think I should prioritize should the opportunity arise? (i.e. should it actually ship if it isn’t there already?)  Here is a Poll (which you may not see if you have an AdBlocker running):

Naturally I left the “other” option open, you can use that or add other options in the comments if my list is missing a key title for 2017.

And, of course, if you want to see how this sort of post has played out in the past, you can check out attempts from past years:

  • 2016 – I played none from the list, but most didn’t ship
  • 2015 – literally nothing I listed went live
  • 2014 – I played Warlords of Draenor, which was a gimme really
  • 2012 – Actually tried most of the items on the list
  • 2011 – Tried 3 out of 5 eventually, but then The Agency was on the list
  • 2007 LOTRO (shipped!)
  • 2007 Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (Didn’t ship)

My MMO Outlook for 2015

Another of those regular end of the year posts where I either try to reflect on the past or peer into the future.

I don’t do this post every year, but once in a while I am driven to it for one reason or another.  Last year it was because I could come up with five good candidates for what new things I might be playing in 2014.

Granted, one of them was a new expansion, Warlords of Draenor, rather than a new game.  But at least I had four potential new games.

Okay, three potential new games, since I had EverQuest Next on the list, and that was beyond a long shot even a year ago.

Or maybe really two potential new games, since Landmark, still burdened with the EverQuest handle at that point, was also on the list.  Sure, it was available to the public, for a price.  And I even played with it a couple of times.  But it isn’t even feature complete yet, so SOE calling it beta is purely a political move.

And that will be... December?

And that will be… when?

There simply wasn’t enough “there” there to call it a game.

But there were two potentials, two new games coming in 2014 that raised enough interest in me that I could imagine myself perhaps playing them.  The were The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.

And I did not play either of those.  I downloaded the beta for TESO, and while it felt like it had an Elder Scrolls vibe, an opinion based entirely on my few hours of playing Skyrim, which shouldn’t be viewed as being at all definitive, it did not really enchant me.  I was more interested in whether or not it and WildStar could pull off the monthly subscription model and last through to the end of the year without going F2P.  They made it, though things look grim for WildStar on that front.

So, in the end, I played one game on my list, which was just an expansion to a game I was already playing and which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.  I also played EVE Online, which passed the 11 year mark this year, and started in again on EverQuest II, another title in the double digit age range at this point.

I suppose I could throw War Thunder on the list, but that really isn’t an MMO in the sense I mean.  That, and World of Tanks are more lobby based battle match making games than persistent world.  I did take another shot at Star Wars: The Old Republic, but that passed quickly.  I’ve already spent more time in EverQuest II this week than I did in SWTOR all year.

So that was my year in MMOs  2014 was completely rooted in old standards.

And, as I sit here, it looks like that might be the way 2015 rolls, all old school.  Gaff, having patched up EQII and then balked at how dated it feels… and it does feel dated, though for me that is part of the charm… is talking a bit about Lord of the Rings Online.  But I don’t think LOTRO is going to win many points on the fresh-O-meter either.

I cannot, at this moment, bring to mind any new titles for 2015 that I might play.

Sure, I could go do a bit of research and come up with a few.  I know there has to be a few persistent, virtual world-like, MMORPGs slated for 2015, but I figure that if I do not know them without a Google search, then they are unlikely candidates at best.

Yes, I could put up a list like:

  • Landmark
  • EverQuest Next
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Shroud of the Avatar
  • Star Citizen

But I am not feeling it for Landmark really, and of the other four we might see something really playable (not just a badly branded open play test or bits and pieces) from Shroud of the Avatar or Camelot Unchained by next December, given the current state of progress.  Might as well just save those for the 2016 list.  I’m not really interested in doing beta any more.

So there it stands.  My likely slate of MMOs for 2015 appears to be:

  • World of Warcraft
  • EVE Online
  • EverQuest II

Not that such a list is bad.  As long as I am enjoying my time playing, it doesn’t matter if I am playing something new of something I started playing a decade back. And, at least in the case of EVE Online, it is an exciting time to be in the game as things are changing.  But after years of being able to name at least some new stuff coming in the next calendar year, it seems a bit odd to only be looking at the same things for 2015.

Of course, the golden age of the big MMO launch seems to have passed.  It has been a while since there was a list of strong candidates.  The market is too crowded, there are an almost unbelievable number of second or third tier titles, and going forward we seem to be entering the age of the niche title that focuses on a specific strength catering to a specific demographic.

Or so it seems.  I might have missed something.  Is there a new title coming in 2015 I ought to be excited about?  Is there one that you are excited about?

Addendum: And now that I have written this, Massively has a “what are you looking forward to in 2015” post with a list of titles… and most of the staff mention Landmark or EverQuest Next or both.  Their poll lumps the two together in a blatant display of SOE bias. (And the two titles together are still losing to Camelot Unchained, though Mark Jacobs is all over the comment thread, so he might have called out the cavalry.)

My MMO Outlook for 2014

There are three posts I have done around this time of year for most of the last few years.  There is the looking back post, which I did for 2013 a ways back.  There is the predictions/questions/whatever sort of bigger picture post which I posted on the first of the year.

And then there is a look at what might launch in the coming year that could be of interest to me.  I usually do that one first because it is usually the easiest.  The other two, theoretically, take some thought, while that post is mostly about emotion.  What upcoming game speaks to me?  What will I have to buy on day one just to play it?

This year though, I am just not feeling much of that emotional tingle, the burning desire to stomp around on some new world.  The list of potential contenders did not spring immediately to mind.  Still, I march forward out of habit if nothing else.  Here is what I have.

5 – EverQuest Next Landmark

On the list because… I felt I needed five titles… sort of.

Ars Technica Reports...

For specific definitions of “MMO”

I am mostly uninterested in Landmark because it is billed as a tool not a game.  Not that tools can’t be fun.  I’ve spent the last 15 years working on development environments of one sort or another… tools, in essence… and have had more than my share of fun in doing so.  But for gaming time, I am not sure I am in the tool zone any more.  Somewhere between Pinball Construction Set (or Adventure Construction Set) and the level editor in StarCraft, I fell out of the desire to build levels and such.  I am pretty much just a consumer of content now, at least when it comes to me leisure time.

That said, SOE seems to be on something of an “It’s a dessert topping! No, it’s a floor wax!” riff when it comes to Landmark, so my lack of interest could change when the people who paid to get into the early user guinea pig test cycles start reporting back on what it really is.  Until then though, it is a very unlikely candidate for me in 2014.

4 – WildStar

A step ahead of Landmark by virtue of it being solidly in the “it’s a game!” category.

Wildstar_logo

WildStar is also the latest attempt to break out of the stock MMORPG template with some change-ups to combat and movement and special development paths that you can select for your character. The latter are supposed to represent the different Bartle types,  though I recall Bartle himself writing a bit about such an implementation representing a misunderstanding of what he meant with his types.  Explorer types will want to try all options, as an example, not just the explorer path.  It’s what makes them explorers.  Or something.

Otherwise, it looks to be very much a product of the last decade of MMO development.  Will its “different” bits be different enough to make it stand out while its “same” bits remain familiar enough to not scare people off?  And can it struggle out from the massive shadow cast by World of Warcraft?  And will NCSOFT race to put a bullet in its head if it turns out to be a “3 monther?”

WildStar is a title where I have no real desire yet to be in-game on day one, but I wouldn’t discount it as a title I try eventually.

3 – The Elder Scrolls Online

Now we’re getting into more likely territory.

I'm skeptical about that date...

I’m skeptical about that date…

Despite the reports of boring sameness, seeming to be another MMO in the post-WoW mold, and the annoying official acronym change from TESO to ESO, I actually feel like I might want to play this one.  Maybe even on day one despite… or maybe because of… my prediction about it.  I am guessing it will be a disaster on launch day… well, more so than your typical MMO launch.  But sometimes being part of the disaster can endear a game to you.

Anyway, why am I even looking at this, give the combo of alleged sameness and the potential for day one catastrophe?

I guess that the key here is that I cannot imagine that the developers of this MMO could be so daft as to create a game based on the Elder Scrolls franchise without looking deep within themselves to ask the most important question: Does it capture even a bit of the essence of the series?  Because that is the vital ingredient here, the winning proposition, the thing that would make people knock over their grandmother to grab a copy of the game.  If they can come up with something that feels just enough like Skyrim, but lets me play with my friends, then they will prevail . The only issue I have with Skyrim is that I cannot play with my friends.  Solve that, profit.

Of course, if they fail to do that, they are toast.

2 – EverQuest Next

On the list because, as of a date in early August of last year, this has been the official “next game” for me.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Will Firiona Vie make it to 2014?

Even after several months of SOE trying to beat any enthusiasm out of me by almost exclusively talking up Landmark while relegating the actual freaking game to inane roundtable discussions on topics like whether or not female dwarves should have beards and what color barbarian toe jam should be rendered in, this is still the only upcoming MMO I am actually really looking forward to at this time.

Of course, part of that is no doubt the stunning lack of tangible information available about the game.  Between the inane, like the beards, and the broad stroke terms, like “sandbox,” and the promise of Storybricks technology and voxels and what not, there are huge gaps in which one can build castles in the sky founded on hopes, dreams, and aspirations that might not enter into the reality of the game when it ships.

But, even now, knowing all the gaps, it is still the game I lust for.

Which is a pity, because I cannot imagine it being in any sort of playable state in 2014.  Still, if it shows up, I am there.

1 – Warlords of Draenor

This one, this is the gimme.  The default choice.  The Meryl Streep nomination.

The New Expansion

The New Expansion

Unless something radical happens, this is the one game… well, expansion to a game, because frankly I couldn’t even come up with five NEW MMOs I would consider… that I know I will be picking up this year.  Maybe even the collector’s edition this time around.

Yes, I know, for every new feature in Warlords of Draenor there is going to be a dozen re-skinned or re-used items and that they are pulling out the time travel gimmick yet again and that we’ll be fighting a bunch of orcs… the same thing we do every night, Pinky.  I’m not even bursting at the seams, “gotta have it now!” excited about this expansion.  I’m content to let show up in good time.

But I didn’t end up back playing the 9 year old fantasy MMORPG (along side the 10 year old internet spaceships game) because they don’t know how to make a smooth, comfortable, playable game with plenty of attractive rides/treadmills for me to while away the hours on with my friends.  Yes, it isn’t the early days any more, or even the 2006 heyday of classic WoW, but I am back and have found I like it.  And I expect that I will like Warlords of Draenor as much if not more.  Go boring old me.

And Into 2014…

The new year is upon us, and what I say at the start of a year doesn’t always come to pass by the end.  At the beginning of 2013, where I lumped my predictions and outlook into a single post… hey I was in Hawaii at the time… I said I would “finish” Rift and and make it to tier 8 in World of Tanks.  Didn’t happen.  In past years I have also declared myself for such titles as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Neverwinter, neither of which ever gained a lot of traction with me.  So this is just the usual stake in the ground, declaring the lay of the land as I see it today, not knowing what tomorrow might bring.

And since, in looking back on these sorts of posts, I always seem to end them with a poll, I will keep with tradition, adding in a couple more titles that did not make my list.  Which of these will you likely play in 2014?

My 2012 Sorta-MMO Outlook

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?

My MMO Outlook for 2011

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

But it is Star Wars!

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.

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

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

Men in Tights

DC Universe Online is coming, and it is coming soon.

Very 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

Not a dye nor a floor wax

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

space bar... space bar!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

Not Terra, no no no

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

A really, really secret agency

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.

Other Factors

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?

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.