Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Warhammer's failing proves absolutely nothing about the things you think it does...

I was engaging Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual this afternoon on a very old debate we have had about WoW-clones and specifically whether or not we should attribute the clone issue as the reason for Warhammer Online's failure.

My position has been and always will be that Warhammer Online failed not because it was a WoW-clone but because they had a very mediocre execution of a very flawed game.

Or as I wrote on Syncaine's blog:
WAR didn’t “fail” because it was a WoW clone. WAR failed because Tier 3 and Tier 4 weren’t as much fun. WAR failed because it couldn’t support the whole server converging on one hotspot for PvP action. WAR failed because a two-faction system allowed one side to grossly outnumber the other.

Those are all design decisions that have nothing to do with WoW. There are certainly a whole slew of other failures as well but those I listed above are the big ones.

ANYWAYS– We’ve had this debate several times and I still maintain the idea that the reason these games fail is that, at the end of the day, they just aren’t as good a game as Warcraft.

If they were, then more players would stick with the new game. Not everyone, mind you, but certainly far more than the desolate wasteland that these games become after 3 months.
But all that aside, here's my real problem with WAR's failure. It's now the world's greatest excuse by everyone as to why NOT to do things. Or as I commented a bit further down in the discussion:
WAR is my great disappointment because it’s become a great scapegoat for many people.

Those who dislike PVP can point to WAR as to why PVP can’t work in an MMO.

Those who hate WoW can point to WAR as the reason why MMOs should stay away from anything remotely WoW-like.

But the REAL reason WAR failed has nothing to do with either of those things.
That's what really gets my goat about the perception of WAR's failure. It didn't fail because it had PvP. It didn't fail because it was a WoW-clone.

It failed because it just wasn't good enough.


ReadOnly said...

Hello sid67.

First, congratulations for your blog. It’s very good and I’m subscribed. But let’s go to the matter.

There are a couple of reasons about successing/failing of MMOs I haven’t read yet but I think they’re very important: the cost of change and the short trial versions.

First of all, is there anyone who thinks we can really know a game in 14 days? We can test 10% (or less) of the good content of an MMO in such days. No more. It’s ridiculous to think we can decide if we like a MMO in 14 days.

Second one: the cost of change. I know WoW history. I feel WoW lore. I get moved, and excited, with main events in WoWverse. Example: the Fall of the Lich King. Another example: I don’t mind if Aion World is turned upside down but I’m really excited about Cataclysm changes in Azeroth. Why? Easy: because I spent hours walking those lands. I feel identified with WoWverse and its characters. With this, it’s very difficult that any new game can attract my attention. And we also have our highest level PCs. A new game? A new char from level 1? Grinding again? No, thanks.

The thing I’m trying to mean is that maybe some games are as good (or even better) than WoW, but I knew WoW first, and now it’s difficult to change.

Scott said...

First of all, is there anyone who thinks we can really know a game in 14 days?

Absolutely, yes. I know within five minutes or less whether I like the game or not. Just because it's an MMO does not mean it takes a full month or I should "complete the game" before it suddenly dawns on me whether I like it or not. That's like the people who eat the entire dinner they ordered at a restaurant then summon the manager for their money back because "the food was unsatisfactory."

Now, it may take longer to grasp or understand the mechanics and subtleties of certain MMO's -- EVE comes to mind -- where perhaps that 10-14 day trial wasn't enough to fully understand the game, but again I can tell within the first few minutes whether I like the game or not. If the first impression is poor, I won't care to continue to learn if it has any fine points in its mechanics.

Your "cost of change" is interesting, though. I find it is mostly an attitudinal cost, and perhaps one mostly fueled by the time investment a player has put into his MMO of choice. However, it's also easily to refute simply from life experience. Kids might start with Barney but eventually grow tired of the same thing and move up to a new kid's show more appropriate for their age. In college we may be financially forced to eat Ramen noodles to the point we can never touch them again in our lifetimes. In MMO's look how many (former) EverQuest players love to put on the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, yet don't actually play the game anymore? They, like the world, have moved on. It's the natural way of things, whether you're in it for the casual adventure in that MMO world or if you're hardcore and only there to consume every ounce of content before moving on to ravage the next game. The only difference is the latter burns out and moves on far faster than the former, but the former does eventually reach that point and moves on. But not without first packing up his set of rose-colored glasses...

Anonymous said...

Horrible analogy, as unlike an MMO, your first bite will taste the same as your last. A better one would be summer camp or college. At first a lot of kids hate camp or are unhappy at college, but once they adjust to the new setting and realize what it offers, they love it. That's how something a little deeper than WoW works as well. EVE is a tough nut to crack initially, but for the right player, what it offers is far and above what WoW offers, despite the 'harsh' initial experience.

And like summer camp, if a kid is one to cry for mommy and ask to go home the first day, never to return, they are not the right person for the environment. Certain MMO games are like that, and while they might not instantly retain the 'I want it now' crowd, the good ones keep enough MMO gamers to continue.

Designing for the crybabies far too often means sacrificing in other areas (WoW is a prime example, but others exist), and it's sad that part of the genre has gone in that direction.

sid67 said...

And sometimes kids just get eaten up by the mosquitoes and find they'll never like Summer Camp...

I tend to agree more with Scott for the simple reason that I think it's a little presumptive to say that the reason a person doesn't like something is because they haven't played it long enough.

That's a bit like someone treating you like a child because "they know better" than you.

I think we need to respect the view point of the person making the decision.

We need to presume that they know themselves well enough and are intelligent enough to make these decisions for themselves.

I think Syncaine's viewpoint is one that stems from the concern that they won't understand or get the game. Particularly when their experience got better over time as they got deeper into the game.

But, the simple reality is more likely that they will NEVER get or understand your game. And they can figure that out for themselves within even a few hours.

Or back to Scott's analogy, they can tell after the first bite that it tastes toxic without having to eat the whole thing.

Now in fairness, I also don't really think that gives them the credibility to tell other people the game sucks. But I am certainly not going to begrudge them the opinion that the game was not for them.

ReadOnly said...

I only said I tried Warhammer and I left because I saw "another WoW" and I still have my WoW (the WoW itself) and I love it. That's the same reason why I tried EVE and I didn't leave.

Maybe high end content of WAR is better than WoW. Maybe high end raids or high end PvP move me more than I could imagine with WoW. But I'll never know. And that's because the two reasons I said: I saw only the same old grinding the first days and I still have my 80lvl PC in my beloved WoWverse with my beloved characters and stories.

Finally: I think having players with time invested in the game is a good factor for successing. And WoW have millions. If I made a WoW clone (as good as WoW or even better) I have to do an extra effort to pull out players from WoW.

Song7 said...

I know after one taste of a flavor of ice cream whether I will like it or not. It won't take more than one to know that I would rather have rocky road next time. But, this is not ice cream with a static, single flavor. This is an MMO with a lot of varieties and game play changes along the way. It took me one full week of playing Darkfall to like it and after 3 weeks I was hooked. Had I gone by my methods of choosing ice cream flavors I'd have given up after my first right click in the game.

I know that was a glib comparison but Syncaine makes a valid argument in this case. If we all make rash decisions and never accept a learning curve. We are doomed to a game with every possible option narrowed down to a click on a hotbar. That to me is not a game since I can click my mouse w/o the PC turned on for free.

I also see the argument Sid makes here and he is right WAR didn't fail because it had similarities to WoW, it failed because it's not fun. Plain and simple. The first 20 levels I played in WAR at release were so much fun. The servers were alive and the world PvP was what I had hoped for. But, after level 20 it was a boring game with very poor implementation of very poor game designs. No level of cloning can sway me to pay $15/mo for something that in the end is a drag to play.