Diving under the wave of hype
If you read this blog with any regularity, it may have seemed as though I hadn’t the faintest clue that any new games are coming out soon, or that I don’t care about them. That’s not true.
I just don’t care to surf the hype-wave anymore, at least not this year.
Don’t get me wrong: that hype-wave is a lot of fun. Riding that wave last year, for Warhammer Online, was what led directly to this blog and to the dozens of new friends and acquaintances I’ve made in the last 12 months. Some of whom I even like. (Boom-tish!)
Seriously though — the MMO game hype-wave is fun. It’s also frustrating as hell, and it tends to lead to unreasonably high expectations that can only be dashed by reality when the game actually comes out. No game is as perfect as they ever are in our anticipation- and excitement-fuelled imaginations. If I were into torturing metaphors, I’d say hype is the rocket fuel of the imagination but re-entry to reality can really burn. But I’m not, so I won’t.
So, although I’m well aware Champions Online is winding up for its Big First Day in School Launch and offering interesting EatMe/DrinkMe deals like lifetime memberships and guaranteed access to the Star Trek Online Beta, that’s one reason why I’m not winding myself up into a frenzy over it. Same goes for the various other games due out Real Soon Now (TM) like Fallen Earth, which I beta tested for a while earlier this year.
Which leads me to the other reason: I’m tired of game-hopping. I’ve been game-hopping for the last 3 years, never spending much more than 3 post-launch months in a game, with a “long” stint being the 8 months I devoted to my return to SWG back in 2007-2008. Part of the reason for that is that I’ve been beta-testing games like a beta-testing byatch. Starting with Vanguard in 2006 I think I’ve tested just not quite all the major MMOs released in the last few years — major to me, anyway — like DDO, Vanguard, LOTRO, Pirates of the Burning Sea, WAR, and so on. And that’s not counting the beta tests I’d been in before we moved in 2005, like EQ2, DAoC, ATITD I (not major but honourable mention), Horizons, WoW, CoH, etc etc. (Whoa — maybe I’m the kiss of death!) The only ones I’ve not been in and have actively avoided, once I realised I was burning out, are Champions and Aion. (So by the Kiss of Death theory, they should do really well.)
That’s not so much because I’m a bandwagon ho but because I actively enjoy testing games — breaking stuff and reporting on it and giving feedback on mechanics and systems in order to make a game better or more flexible or more robust, that’s just plain fun for me, and pre-open beta testing communities are usually a lot of fun and very creative, which I also like. Since I’m not a content locust to begin with, I don’t really care that I’ll have “seen the content” before launch, and besides I have a really high tolerance for repeating content (as my ridiculous numbers of alts in every game that allows them proves). And I’m a 30 to 40-something female and that, let me tell you, has been a write-your-own-beta-invite ticket in the last decade. You 20 to 50-something males are a dime a dozen, but we real girls-with-boobage players are as rare as the mythical unicorn. Maybe it was just blind luck, but I still think my demographic theory has merit. Hell, I’m in a beta test now I can’t mention yet, though that was a last gasp application before I realised I’ve burned out a bit on testing.
After the last few years it’ll be a change for me to stick with a game for more than a few months, and right now EQ2 is that game; yes, I’m aware of the irony of saying “right now”, but if one thing holds true among MMO gamers it’s never say never. EQ2’s special merit with respect to my own playstyle is, of course, that it has a lot of stuff for crafter-type playstyles and that it’s huge. And, while it’s not really a sandbox game, it’s big enough and the rails aren’t as ubiquitous as they are in other games — and I’ve discovered I enjoy being off the rails most of the time. EVE would be a very strong contender in terms of suiting my playstyle if I weren’t so damned nauseous every time I’m in space, which is kind of a problem in a game where your ship is your avatar.
All of which leads me to wish the early-adopters and the open-beta players and everyone else a very hearty “have fun” in whatever game you’re playing that’s launching soon — but I won’t be joining you just yet. I’m pretty sure I’ll try Champions Online at some point, and I may even give Fallen Earth a spin (the FPS interface really galls me, but it had some very nice touches elsewhere, and it certainly has a unique atmosphere). I’m keeping tabs on various things in various stages of development (ah, Stargate Worlds…) but for the rest of the year I’m going to sit on my hands whenever I see a beta application come across my screen and I’m going to avoid game launches because they tend to have many of the same issues that burned me out on betas — unstable clients, endless patching, reams and reams of bugs. There’s only so many bugs one can eat before one needs a break, and I’ve reached that stage.
I am firmly hoping ALL these good, decent, and halfway-decent MMOs do well, whether I care to play them or not, because it’s my totally subjective belief that the more games manage to turn a profit and survive (or god forbid, thrive), the more we can show that the WoW billiontymillion income stream model doesn’t have to be the only viable one, and the more we can start to see MMOs come out that cater to niche audiences and that experiment with different game models, payment models, whatever. Then maybe we’ll see smaller, indy, innovative studios come out of the woodwork. More options = more good for the industry at large. Whether this is objectively true or not, I just can’t convince myself that 20 WoW-clones constitutes a healthy MMO industry. (Nor do 20 remakes constitute a healthy film industry — link courtesy of @dlangar of Of Course I’ll Play It.)
So go forth and try out new stuff! Have fun! Blog about it! I’ll be reading and watching from the sidelines and waiting until at least 3 months have passed post-launch before I try any new MMO at all. Unless, of course, someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. (EDIT — which, irony of ironies, they just did. DAMN YOU BETA GODS!! I’m not sure I can gather up my courage and refuse this one…)