I think 2009 was a good year for games, even MMOs. Sure WoW is still on top, Warhammer continues to struggle, there’s not been any revolutionizing innovation in the MMO genre, but I don’t really care about any of that. All of the games I started the year playing (EVE and LoTRO) I still enjoy, and I found a new game (Champions) that I like an expect to be playing through the whole of 2010. (more…)
Last month I talked about the four MMO’s I was trying (Aion, Fallen Earth, Champions Online) or re-trying (Age of Conan). Of the four, I’m only planning to continue playing Champions Online. Along with LoTRO and Eve, this leaves me with two lifetime and one monthly subscription (actually two 6-month subs since I have two accounts on Eve).
Age of Conan
I let Age of Conan expire last week, and this retry marks the least amount of progress I’ve ever made in the game. Generally when I retry the game I create a new character and get about halfway through Tortage. This time around, I barely got into Tortage. I may go back if something huge changes with the game, but I’m not sure anything would make much of a difference. The graphics are good and the combat is fun, but I just don’t have any interest in the world or the story.
I cancelled my Aion subscription yesterday. Aion is still playable until the 29th, but I doubt I’ll spend any more time on it. Every time I’ve sat down at my PC recently to play a game, I’ve found myself launching Champions Online instead.
I think the shine on Aion rubbed off during beta when I hit the mid-teens. I was especially disappointed to find that flight was not intended for exploration or travel. I’m aware of the lore reasons, but Aion is not based on a movie or book series, the lore is there to support the gameplay not vice versa. The queues and faction locks just served to keep me from trying to rekindle my interest during the initial launch. Even still, I might have spent more time with the game except that most of the people I know playing were scattered across different servers, and I found it difficult to decide where to roll. One thing I know I didn’t want to do was reroll and go through the 1-10 experience multiple times.
Of the games I’m cutting, Fallen Earth was the most fun for me, and I seriously considered staying subscribed just to play off and on and support the developer. In the end, I decided to let the subscription lapse because Fallen Earth and Eve both fulfill the same need for me and I’m much more invested in Eve. I also prefer the slower pace of combat in Eve.
Of all of the games I’m dropping this month, Fallen Earth is the only one that I see myself coming back to at a later date.
Most of my playtime the last few weeks have been spent in Champions. There are definitely some roughs edges in this game just like there are in Fallen Earth, but nothing that interferes with my fun, and having fun is my primary criteria for what I play. I’m not planning to post a review of the game as its already been thoroughly discussed on other blogs. If you want some links, the best overview is Syp’s Bio Break posts about the positives and negatives of the game. I’d also recommend checking out A Ding World, Bullet Points, and NecroRogIcon for other bloggers who are playing the game.
I’m having a bit of a self-control problem lately with all of the games releasing.
First I bought a lifetime subscription to Champions Online, partially on the strength of the beta play that I experiences and partially on my satisfaction with the LoTRO lifetime subscription. Still it is a bit of a gamble, but I wasted more than $200 on my last trip to Vegas so I’m sure I’ll get over it if Champions turns out to be a disappointment. I also had pre-ordered Aion in a moment of weakness from Steam a while back and I recently bought Fallen Earth on the strength of some Twitter comments from Syp, Werit, and Pete. Oh yeah, and I resubscribed to Age of Conan for a month.
So that was just the MMOs. I bought Arkham Asylum a little while back and I’m still working on finishing that (about 60% done I believe). I also splurged on Steam and bought Osmos and Majesty 2. Osmos was a great demo and a fun little game (think the 1 phase of Spore), and Majesty 2 is a nice little strategy/simulation game that I hadn’t given any thought to but bought on a recommendation from Jeff Green.
Hmmm. Maybe I should get off Twitter, it seems to be costing me quite a bit of money.
Of all of these games, I’ve primarily been playing Champions Online. You can find me @BlueKae in the game. I’m really enjoying this game and I’m in the progress of re-making my CoH heroes.
My resub month to Conan is both to see if I can play long enough to get out of Tortage, which I’ve never done, and to check out the game on my brand new machine. So far I’ve played less than an hour.
I played Fallen Earth a bit today, about two hours. I’m not sure that one’s a keeper, since the graphics are a bit rough and I’m pretty shallow in that regard, but I’m going to give it the full 30 day try. My one problem so far is I bought it from Steam but the Steam client won’t launch it. Fortunately I can go down the the updater buried in the Steam folders and launch it manually, but I’m not really happy with that workaround.
LoTRO and Eve are both in a holding pattern for me right now. In LoTRO I’ve logged in once or twice you see what it looks like in DirectX10 on my new machine and to make sure my house is paid up. In Eve, I’m playing the log in, update training queue, log out game. I’m sure my mood will change eventually and I’ll get back into both games, the trick is not to stress out about it and try to force myself to play. After all this is gaming, not work.
Of the six (holy crap six?) MMOs that I have active subscriptions on (2 monthly, 2 lifetime, 2 initial free months, wow yeah that’s six), Aion is the only one I’m not playing. See I’m 35 years old with a wife, a kid, and a job, so my evening gaming time is very precious to me and I don’t want to spend it in a 2-10 hour queue. I’m in no rush though, I’m sure Aion with even out eventually and I’ll play when it does, unless it takes longer than my 30 day free period. If it takes more than the first month for the servers and queues to get to a sane level, I’m not sure if or when I’ll resubscribe.
Beyond the multitude of MMOs that I’m dabbling with, I’ve played a bit more Arkham Asylum and it just keeps getting better. The primary worry I had with that game was hitting a wall at some boss battle and giving up on the game. So far all of the boss encounters have been pretty decent, although Killer Croc was a bit of a let down until the very end. Actually the only time I’ve gotten stuck was one of the predator rooms where there were 6(?) armed henchmen and all of the gargoyles were booby trapped, so I had to get used to playing a bit differently.
So, if I can just get another 10 hours added to the day, I’ll have time to play everything I want to.
Petter from Don’t Fear the Mutant is trying to review Aion, only problem is he can’t get in to play because of server’s being locked for population balance and queues.
I’ve been trying to get on and create a character myself, which I was finally able to do, but I didn’t play much because of rubber banding and other issues caused by the heavy server load.
So, how much of this should be chalked up to “Its just an MMO launch,” and how much should be considered a failure of planning on NCSoft’s part.
NCSoft has to have a general expectation on player levels based on beta testing and pre-order numbers. They also have to be aware that there’s going to be an initial wave of players that always swamps MMOs at launch. To make the best impression, surely they want to make sure there are enough servers to handle the load. However, if they over invest in servers now, what happens in 30 days once that initial wave of players goes back to their old games or moves onto something else. I’m sure NCSoft doesn’t want to deal with the same issues Mythic had both from a technical and PR perspective.
Beyond the queues and performance is the problem of population balance both by faction and by server. This is a PvP game, so balance between the two sides is extremely important. It is also important that the overall server population level is high enough that there are enough people to participate in PvP at all levels.
So what’s NCSoft to do? They can either setup queues and use server and faction locks to manage the launch and deal with the resulting frustration of players, or they can ramp up capacity and then make adjustments again later depending on what happens at the 30-60-90 day marks. Mythic tried scaling up Warhammer, but they had a hard time shrinking to adjust to population drops after the launch wave passed. If I were running NCSoft, I wouldn’t like either option. Like with the Kobayashi Maru there’s really no way to win.
I think the better idea would’ve been to avoid the whole issue by changing the game architecture to be something more like Guild Wars, Champions Online, and Eve Online. A single world for all players with instancing of some type. That eliminates any issues with population balancing (except having one side being too popular) and makes the hardware scaling transparent to players. With this being a port of an existing MMO from east to west, I imagine that changing the server architecture wasn’t an option but I wonder what impact this will have on the game long-term. Games can recover from poor launches, but its difficult at best to do, and NCSoft hasn’t shown itself to be very patient with it’s titles in the last year.
Update: Chris at Game by Night has some of the same questions.