Spoiled for choice?

Why am I not excited about the release of Star Trek Online? It’s in open beta at the moment — for all that “open” apparently doesn’t mean “open” at all — until the 26th, and is set for launch on February 2nd.

I’m not anti-excited about it. That is, I have nothing against Star Trek or STO, and in fact I’m sort of looking forward to it. But not. While I welcome the arrival of pretty much every new MMO, because more is better in terms of choices, options, playstyles, payment models, and generally keeping the industry going and growing… it’s not the jumping-up-and-down, frothing at the mouth excitement it used to be. Which is probably a not such a bad thing; I don’t look good in froth.

Still, thinking back over the last couple of years, I think the last game launches I was really excited about were Vanguard and Warhammer Online. Vanguard was going to be my game to end all games, especially with its separate crafting sphere and blah blah blah we all know how that ended up. (I could say more but I won’t, because I have some major, major issues with how things were done in the crafting sphere both before and after launch and the person who did them is now in charge of the whole shebang (I think), so I’ll just keep my mouth shut. Bygones.)

As for Warhammer Online, I’m starting to think my excitement was less for the game and more for the fact that I also discovered blogging and a pretty cool blogging community alongside it back in beta. It’s easier to hype yourself up if you’re writing hype-y articles. I dunno — these things are always differently-tinted in hindsight. Warhammer did have a lot of potential, but ultimately the crappy crafting — among other things — killed it for me.

Yes yes, I know, for lots and lots of you a game’s crafting environment is very subordinate to everything else and I shouldn’t leave a game because it has crappy crafting. Different strokes, okay? I don’t give a stuff about combat systems if the crafting is absent or sub-par. It’s why I’m not playing LOTRO, incidentally. Though maybe I should revisit. It’s been a long time since beta and maybe it’s different now.

In any case, when LOTRO launched just a few months after Vanguard, we were still playing the latter and hoping it would somehow salvage itself. A year later, I watched the Age of Conan launch from the sidelines, mostly because it was apparent even before launch that the computers we had at the time wouldn’t be able to handle the game without having fits. Oh, and earlier in 2008 we let Pirates of the Burning Sea pass us by too; we’d beta-tested that for a while and while the beta was fun (and we’re nerdy enough to enjoy doing bug reports), it was fairly clear the final version wouldn’t be for us; another weak, weak crafting system/environment, among other things.

The came Warhammer Online. That was exciting for a few months, especially before and just around launch. After that it all kind of went downhill.

In 2009 we had Champions Online, Aion and Fallen Earth. Yes I know, other stuff launched, but it wasn’t on my radar. Non-MMO-wise there was Sims 3 and that’s turned out to have a limited appeal in the end too. Oh, and Dragon Age — I did froth about that, didn’t I? Well, I haven’t played it since my last post about it and my char is still stuck, probably forever, in the mage tower section.

I expected to be interested in Champions Online, especially since there was quite a buzz about it… but when the day came I really wasn’t. Cryptic’s shenanigans with lifetime subs and other stuff didn’t impress me, but that in itself wasn’t it. I just wasn’t very interested. Even less so in Aion, though I’ll admit it looks very pretty from what I’ve seen in the screenshots. Fallen Earth might have been a contender — we beta-tested that one too and I enjoyed it very much — but I’ve discovered in the last year or two that I’m serially monogame-ous when it comes to MMOs. I can’t play more than one at a time. And the pull of Fallen Earth wasn’t enough to drag me from EQ2.

It’s not that EQ2 is better-than-anything-else great. It’s a good, solid game and has been vastly improved over the last few years, but it does have its drawbacks, Uncanny Valley char art being one of them and chunky performance even on pretty decent machines being another if you want graphics that don’t look like they were made by Fisher Price. (“Let’s make the processor do all the work, there’s no future in graphics processors anyway!” Really? I wonder who’s kicking themselves now.)

Is it MMO lassitude? I don’t think so. When I have time to play I enjoy that playtime and I don’t wobble about sadly wondering what to do with myself. (Piece of advice: if you don’t know what to do every time you log on, it’s probably time to not log on for a while.)

I just don’t feel all that excited about launches anymore. Maybe I’ve been burned by the hype one too many times. Hey, at least I picked nice big hype-juggernauts to get burned by, right? (Vanguard and WAR — pay attention you at the back!) Maybe I’m just older, wiser and much more cynical. Maybe the fact that I’m blogging makes me keep up with gaming news more than I used to (which is true) so that what I see about upcoming launches is more than just the Yay-rah-rah! hype and also includes potential downsides. Eh, but then again — the potential downsides are always the same: lag; disconnects; non-working mechanics; lag; broken systems; lag; disgustingly ugly UIs; lag. The execution may change somewhat but launch plots are always the same.

When I’m excited, that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. It’s part of being part of launch. The problem is I don’t really care about being part of launch anymore. These days I don’t even really care about trying out all these new MMOs even though there are literally dozens to choose from.  A few years back the buffet selection would have looked a lot leaner, that’s for sure.

Have I become truly spoiled for choice? I mean spoiled in the nasty sense, not in the indulged-child sense, though that probably applies too. With so many new MMOs coming out, maybe I don’t need to get all excited anymore.

Gotta go. I just noticed that the launch of CitiesXL totally passed me by!

30 thoughts on “Spoiled for choice?

  1. STO has zero crafting in as far as I can tell, but then I’ve only been in “open” beta for a couple of days. And last night’s attempt was crippled by a three hour queue of traffic on the motorway with me stuck in it desperate for a widdle!

    I too wanted Vanguard to be the One MMO To Rule Them All – I loved the diplomacy system, the gathering system but hated the crafting with a deep abiding passion that bordered on the pathological. Didn’t fart in the right place? Well, that’s your Axe of Noobishness buggered then. Gah!

    1. There’s going to be crafting but it’s apparently unimplemented at this time. Whatever that means. 😉

      That is to say, in space you can find various forms of loot that are to be used for crafting. You can’t however craft anything with them yet (at least, that was true as far as I could tell, as of the end of Closed Beta… I haven’t checked since Open started). So we really don’t know what the crafting system will be. It isn’t very promising though that it’s been put off like this.

      1. The “crafting” was implemented in closed beta foolsage, very much near the end.

        But it is not really much crafting and it was not intended as crafting as seen in other games.

        You collect anomalies loot, bring some equipment you have along with it, go to a certain NPC and voilà – you get an improved version of your equipment. That is it.

  2. PS: Still hooked on Echo Bazaar though. Can I get an action refresh by selling them my soul? Some days, I’d consider it!

  3. While it’s possible that you’re spoiled for choice seeing as gaming is more mainstream these days, there’s also the possibility that you’ve become more discerning between the info that’s being fed to you through media pipelines and the potential realities a situation might actually have in store for a game.

    🙂

    Personally, I’m inclined to believe you’ve become more discerning, or at least less prone to hype machine death rays.

    We know how hype machine death rays can be, right?

  4. I think it might just be that the games coming out aren’t appealing to you. It isn’t all MMOs, just we’ve had a slew of … unexciting ones.

    I was thoroughly unexcited by Aion and CO too. Either the genre is wrong, or the look is wrong, or the feel is .. I dunno… wrong. But I know I’m not done with virtual worlds is the thing.

    1. I really wanted to like CO. The combat was undeniably pretty stellar, but the world was fairly terrible, to be brutally honest, and there simply wasn’t much content. Within a month I had done everything there was to do. No, literally… I had a max-level char with hundreds of PvP battles under my belt, had done literally every quest in game, had maxed out crafting, etc.

      Aion just didn’t grab my interest at all. It’s pretty, sure, but… meh.

      Going backwards, I enjoyed WAR at first but got frustrated with the poorly implemented realm war rules; stuff like the uneven treatment of claiming keeps and the broken systems that made it harder for one side to make headway, combined with the abuse of scenarios… burned me out. It had potential but just failed to pull everything together.

      Age of Conan was really pretty, and the combat was interesting, but… the PvP was poorly balanced, and there was a real lack of content. The first 20 levels in Tortage were excellent and of very high quality all around, and then after that the game suffered a drastic drop in quality. It was seriously like playing a different game; broken quests, texture problems, lack of content, horrible crafting… it was painful to see the later game fall apart so badly after such a very promising start.

      I still like MMOs in theory… I just don’t have any I want to play right now. I liked EQ2 but it never fully clicked with me; I got frustrated with the new direction LotRO’s headed in since Moria; and I really don’t want to go back to WoW yet again. Luckily there are good single-player PC games, and some fun console games to feed my gaming habit in the interim. Assassin’s Creed 2 was AWESOME, and I’m looking forward to Mass Effect 2 soon.

  5. Maybe cynical or realistic would be better words than spoiled. I think a healthy dose of cynicism is always a good thing to combat fanboyism and nostalgia. It doesn’t sound to me like you should be too worried. You’re still enjoying EQ2 and you have a very clear idea of what you do and don’t like in MMOs. That puts you well ahead of a lot of MMO players.

  6. Lotro is a great game, much better than in beta… but the crafting IS crappy, no doubt about that. I have yet to try an MMO that has good crafting (I’ve never tried “Tale in the Desert” or EQ2 or a number of other ones. Vanguard was interesting cuz you could cut down trees. But other than that.. yeah. I hear SWG used to have neat crafting. Not sure on that one though.

    1. Eh. It as simply “click to combine.” What made it interesting was the materials you used varied in quality so when “good stuff” spawned you hadda make sure to harvest as much as possible then save it until you had “everything” at best quality. And then you made a template and tossed it all in the factory and came back a week later.

      So.. no, not interesting, just an exercise in patience after the grindfest to “Master” of your profession.

  7. I’d rather be spoiled with many choices than stuck with a few unappealing ones.

    That’s not to say I disagree with your post, just that I find I prefer this age of increasing choice, even if it means I don’t get all crazy excited about any one of them, or devoted to a long term relationship with one. I never really wanted that anyway from my games. They are something I tinker with for fun, not something I get paid to do.

    1. I’m definitely not complaining about choice. I’m just wondering where my bounce-around zomg excitement went in the last few years.

      Maybe I’m just getting old. 😛 Or wise. Or something.

      1. Aye, and I find it in gaming on the whole in myself. There are a lot of good games I want to play, and little time to do so. As such, my enthusiasm is far more diffuse, being spread across so many points of interest.

        Well, that, and I’m old. Or something. 🙂

  8. I think I’ve become a little cynical too. SWG was my 1st mmo and it was really a case of loving the people I played with, not the game itself.

    Swapped to EQ2 when it came out and I loved the game as well as the people, but still the people 1st.

    Beta’d several. Tried several. Still kept coming back to EQ2. It “works” for me, I guess you could say.

    Haven’t tried or beta’d a new one in close to 2 years now. Nothing’s excited me.

    Of the ones on the horizon….. STO kinda maybe simply becuz I love ST. But I love Star Wars more, so… holding off until SW:TOR. I’ll try to beta that one and if I like it, then I’ll probably make the jump. If not… EQ2’s still sitting here as “old reliable.”

  9. It is simple, if you don’t like the world, you won’t like the game. Even if it rocks. For example I never ever would have played Champions Online, as “Superheroes” don’t appeal to me as much as the generic fantasy stuff.

    Regarding crafting: After Ultima Online I have not seen any game where crafting was meaningful. It was mostly implemented in the same way, but in the Levelquest style of games it is mostly a superfluous addition as you can get gear that never breaks anywhere. EVE is the exception. The last contemporary game I can think of where it matters.

    The other thing is, can you not imagine a new exciting world where crafting might be vastly different or non existant?

    I personally believe a really cool virtual world needs crafting and an economy to thrive. But not every MMO needs or should be a virtual world. STO is a space combat simulator with a wacky ground combat part tacked on for example. But it is great for short strolls into space, it definitely has its own feeling and niche. It probably is not what many hardcore trekkies were hoping for and the game definitely has issues and is rushed. 🙁

    1. That’s a good point. At the very least, to be “world-like” to me, a virtual world needs a player-based economy, not one where loot is the basis for exchanges. That said, even with crafting & 100% player economies you *still* have never-ending resource spawns.

      In fact, the whole never-ending nature of loot or resources is both one of the best and one of the worst aspects of most of the MMOs I’ve played.

      Course if stuff really were finite (as opposed to gated by level or gear) you’d probably have game_Armageddon within a few days. 😉

      1. There are ways to make real scarcity matter. Of course, they tend to rely on decay and/or equalizing mechanics like monsters who attack player strongholds… or even permadeath. People tend to dislike it when the game fights against the hoarding gene.

        In other words, it’s not so much a limitation of game mechanics, it’s a limitation of the audience. *shrug*

      2. Limited resources are a fascinating idea and one I’ve wrestled with many times. I keep coming back to the conclusion though that asshats will ruin any economy with truly limited resources.

  10. STO took me by surprise really. I’m not sure its going to be an award winning MMO, but – well – I think you have talked before about getting lost in games right? That’s one of my favorite things to do, and STO does a good job of providing that so far (I still have days that I miss Vanguard for that reason too). But I definitely am not as neck deep in the “can’t sleep excited” part of pre-launch as I ever was with WAR.

    Anyway, STO probably won’t do much for you. There is zero crafting, and if its this tacked on, you know it won’t be very fulfilling.

  11. EQ2 is ever my fallback game.

    When all the shiny new games turn out to be overhyped pieces of unimaginative tat, I always know Norrath will take me back.

    I’m trying hard to like STO, but I don’t think it will be able to keep my interest for very long.

  12. I think it is a sign of health to not get overly excited about new MMOs.

    Really, new MMOs are really at the stage someone would be when they just got their driver’s license:

    Competent enough to drive by their own – but a really good driver? Probably not. Only experience will give them that. Getting a driver’s license is just a proof that you are allowed to practice driving on your own to get better.

    And new MMOs is in a similar position – they will most likely fall short of any of the old experienced MMOs in many ways; but they can become really good as long as they think about what they are doing.

  13. Having followed your blog for a while now, I never cease to be amazed that you even tried WAR. It just seems like a terrible, terrible fit for the way you play. Almost zero emphasis on crafting, all about combat, all about fighting. When I think Ysharros, those are not things that come to mind.

    I’m with you on the main message of the post though. I’m in no way hyped about ST:O, I wasn’t really hyped about Aion (I played beta, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me), CO I really liked, but found it lacking in depth. Global Agenda, while it sounds fun, is MMO-lite, and it’s system sounds too similar to Hellgate for me to get fully behind it.

    The only two games I’m looking forward too on the horizon (and that horizon is distant) are Lego Universe and SWtOR.

    /shrug

    Otherwise, I’m super-happy with WAR and a little EVE on the side.

  14. I think it has just been a lousy crop of MMOs for the past year or two. We all got excited about Warhammer Online because of Casualties, and WAR itself was underwhelming. Casualties continues to be a good thing. Fallen Earth is the only vaguely recent MMO that seems to be (1) living up to expectations and (2) good.

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