Will Star Trek Online suffer the effects of the WoW Tourist?

First let’s define “WoW Tourism” I believe that this term was first used by SynCaine I cannot find the exact post but he is the first one I remember using the term. WoW tourism is the phenomenon that occurs when a new MMO has massive initial sells then after the first month looses a large percentage of its subscribers back to WoW. Now I am not sure that this is exactly what happens but that is how it is going to be defined.

The first time that this phenomenon was really observed in the wild is the release of Age of Conan, it initially sold over a million copies of the game now it is sitting well under 500k subscribers. Shortly after that Warhammer online released to critical acclaim and sold over a million boxes now it sits at 4 servers and some claim it is on life support. Then Aion sold millions of copies and lost a lot of its subscribers. I think it is holding onto more than the others though.

Normally I would say that Star Trek Online would be a niche title like EVE or Darkfall due to its sci-fi setting. But with it being one of the most popular IPs ever and it having a huge non gamer following that goes way back before video games even existed I think it has potential.

Initially the game will pull in some huge numbers and pull them from the same places that WAR and AoC pulled them from. The MMO player that is looking for a new home the “WoW Tourist”, they will announce over a million copies sold and promptly loose 3/4 of those subscribers. Then something strange will happen, they will start to gain subscribers again and these will all be new people to the Genre they will be the people that see it on the shelf and think “HOLY CRAP A NEW STAR TREK GAME” they will then quickly purchase it and not even realize that it is an mmo may not even know what an MMO is. A few hundred thousand people will purchase the game this way and a large percentage of the people will stay with it for a long time.

My final prediction for the game after one year will be around 300k subscribers. So to answer the initial question, yes it will suffer the “WoW tourist” effect but it will recover from non-wow players.

Buy Star Trek Online

Where did the seamless worlds go?

When the second generation of MMOs (DAoC, AO, FFXI, and Shadowbane) was being release this was one of the biggest selling points for these games. Big open worlds and no zones, at the time this was one of the big complaints about EQ (King of the mountain at that time). So all of the developers were working on ways of making a game that did not have small zones like EQ.

DAoC actually accomplished its goal of making most of the world seamless. The only times that you zoned were into dungeons and the capitol cities. When they added an expansion you would have to zone in to it also. But the world was big and alive. You could actually walk around the capitol cities they existed in the game world. This really added to the feeling that you were in a real world and felt real.

Then out came the 3rd generation MMOs (EQ2 and WoW) EQ2 stuck to its guns and continued the zoning thing the zones were huge but you still had zones. WoW on the other hand has a pretty much seamless world there are zones but only where they make sense. Wow’s system is very similar to DAoC and I personally believe is the right way to do it.

Now come the current generation of games and the first one out of the gate is Age of Conan. Age of Conan decided to go extra heavy on the zones. Then WAR is released and what do you know every zone is instanced. We also have the recent cryptic MMOs that don’t even try to hide that the entire game is instanced.

Now that the history lesson is over, why are they doing this?

Developers will tell you it is to customize the experience for the player, it is make the story better, or even reduce lag. But the real reason is Laziness! That is why. By making everything instanced they are able to dynamically allocate resources based on load and it saves a ton of money and time doing it this way. Every server can load any instance, it is really a very cool technology. But it is killing immersion in games.

In WAR the map and the physical world do meld well together through most of the game. But when you get to the end game and you do a city siege all of the cool siege weapons that you have been using just disappear and you zone into the city. You are not trying to break the walls down you zone into it and fight over some flags. Then you fight some PVE battles and in the end you really had no effect on the real world. Mythic really screwed the pooch on city sieges they should have been epic but they ended up being and epic PVE zerg fest.

Now to the game that prompted this entire wall of text Star Trek online. The entire game is instances which would not be so bad if they were large, but they are not. What kind of space has small zones? Space is huge the zones should be huge. They should all be connected by space it should be seamless. Cryptic really missed the entire premise of Star Trek

Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

How the hell can you do any of that if there are 30 other people in the zone with you? There should be expanses of empty space with random encounters and planets to explore. How can you make a Star Trek game without exploration? HOW?

By making the entire game instanced. They were lazy and decided to make it on the Champions Online engine because it was easy. But don’t worry you can customize your ship like nobody’s business.

Developers stop being lazy and make a real game. If you want to even try to compete with WoW the world needs to feel like a world.

2010 Predictions

Everyone is doing it so I thought I would jump in and make some predictions for the New Year.

Here they are

  1. WAR will stop loosing subscribers and start a slow and steady climb up. It will get a huge infusion of players when an expansion is announced that introduces a third faction
  2. Aion will continue to lose subscribers and will settle at about 200k it will merge servers and will release most of the features in its visions trailer. The first features to be released will be the graphics enhancements and player housing.
  3. WoW will not release Cataclysm and will bleed subscribers as people burn out and run out of content. Most of them will go to F2P games
  4. Star Trek Online will be just like champions online nice opening numbers and people will quickly quit because it does not have any content.
  5. Mortal Online will release and will not totally suck like Darkfall did
  6. Syncaine at Casual Hardcore will burn out on Darkfall and his post will turn into DF hate posts as he switches to Mortal Online or FreeRealms he will deny ever loving DF and delete all of his DF love posts.

And a few long shot predictions

  1. WAR or/and Lotro will go F2P
  2. Everquest 3 (Different name Norrath Online) will be announced and this will be the WoW killer (2011 prediction). It will also be F2P with a subscription option
  3. We will see no AAA titles released this year
  4. Star Wars Galaxies will be shutdown

There you go!

Paying for crap!

Syncaine wrote a very good post on his blog Hardcore Casual and while I do not agree with him most of the time he is right on the money this time. People bitch and moan about something in a game but continue to pay for the game they are complaining about.

People cry for a new ideas and new franchises but when a company tries a new idea they just pirate it and then bitch when developers start gimping the PC version of the game. If you want new ideas you need to take risks with your money and purchase them.

Mirrors Edge was probably my favorite game last season. It was fresh and original just what every one was asking for. But no one bought it and I doubt that EA is going to put the resources into making another one. Be we did get 2 more Call of Duty games since then. CoD is a great franchise but is more of the same and I don’t think we need 1 a year.

If you want publishers to take more risks you must give them money for trying. If you want PC versions of the game to be better than the console version you need to buy it and stop pirating. The gaming industry exists to make money.

Strange Feelings

Lately with all of the new news about the new World of Warcraft expansion Cataclysm I am getting this strange urge to go back to WoW. It is really weird. I am all excited about Champions Online and wham! out of nowhere I want to play WoW. I have not played since before WoTLK and there is ALOT that I have not experienced.

I know I will try it again after the new expansion because it will be sweet to see all the new zones.  But I want to revisit the zones before they are gone forever. I think blizzard planned it this way to get people like me back for a few months.

We will see. I will try to hold off until at least the first month of Champions is done.

A baby seal walked into a club…..

I really hope this is a joke. But Wilhelm2451 over at The Ancient Gaming n00b just posted about some one at PETA protesting about killing virtual seals. These people need their head examined.

Three things that are wrong with current MMOs

1.  Quest Based Advancement

All current major MMOs advancement is based on completing quest. This started with WoW and that trend has continued. In the beginning of MMOs this was not the case. UO did not have any real quests and while Everquest had that in its name questing was not the main way to earn experience. Everquest relied on the camping mechanic, stay in one spot and kill lots of things for hours. The quests were a way to get loot not advance your character. Every game after that point used this mechanic in some way. They all tried to stop the camping problem but none of them were very successful.

Then the “Next Generation” of MMOs were released, these were World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 both of these games brought quest based advancement as the main way to level. There was still some camping involved but most experience was gained through completing quests. Now every game that comes out tries to take this to the next level and does it wrong. The problem with quest based advancement is that you spend to much time getting to and from the quest objectives. They are really just running exercises. They are all the same, go here and kill this, go here and talk to him. Camping has pretty much disappeared entirely.

A middle ground should be reached where camping is still an option. Camping was a good way to build community because you get to talk to your group mates instead of running around trying to find the last sick bear. I think they should mix up camping and make more instanced dungeons for groups. Maybe make them random with a token system so that you can pick what you want. This way they could make some generic story lines and make some really cool instances. DDO does this very well. You could also combine the questing and grinding by giving out xp rewards for killing 1000 spotted owls. They would need to bring back static spawn points to make this work. Players need a wide variety of play options and each one needs to be about equal to keep a play type from dominating the other.

2.  WoW

The Juggernaut World of Warcraft is going to destroy MMOs. Every game since WoW has followed them. Just like EQ before, it sets the bar and is the game that every new game is judged against. The problem with this is it is not a very good game. It is not revolutionary. It looks like crap. The classes are all generic. It is really a casual EQ. But it has become so big that any game that does not manage to get 1 million subscribers is considered a failure. Before WoW EQ was king with 400,000ish players. This is what every one strives to be and if you got half of what eq had you were considered a success. No one can ever dream of getting half of what WoW has. They would need 4 million players to reach half the numbers that WoW has, and I am not sure that it would even be considered a success then. WoW was a fluke and will not be duplicated for some time to come.

The industry is striving to reach an unreachable goal. They are coping WoW to try to reach that goal. Any new game that comes out should hope to get over 100k and budget every thing for that many people. Expecting to much really hurt WAR and forced it to do server merges not even 6 months after release. It did the same for Age of Conan.  A subscriber base of 100k will bring in $1.5 million a month. If you can’t claim success with that kind of revenue you are aiming too high. When publishers start aiming lower they will start to see more chances being taken and with those chances we will get the real innovations that are needed to take this genre to the next level.

3.  Casual Players

I happen to be a casual player I play maybe 10 hours a week. Casual players are what made WoW so successful. But what makes WoW push the boundaries of game design are the hardcore players. They are the ones that eat through the content and demand more. They are the ones that find the bugs and exploit them. They make the guides, websites, and plugins that really make the game. Because of them we get interesting instances and new content. They are the ones that complain on the message boards and test the new changes. They are the raid, guild, and group leaders that make a lot of instances and raids possible for most players.

They play to be the most uber player on the server. With out them the game would go stale and die. I do not think that you should have to be a hardcore player to get the items that you want. But the games MUST be made for these people. The raids must exist the new content must be put into the game to keep it fresh and growing.