MMO Showdown – The Concludening

Glenmorangie was involved ...

Glenmorangie was involved ...

Our online adventures have come to a close, and we thought it would be a good time to reflect upon our experiences, and gather our thoughts on the MMO genre as a whole. We got a bottle of good whiskey and perched our laptop on the windowsill (see here for the reason for this). The resulting conversation covered considerable ground, touching on our plans for the PCG Showdown, our love of Max Payne, gaming and capitalism, Yu Gi Oh Abridged (“Fucking birds!”) and our hatred of Halo. For your benefit we’ve only included the relevant bits. For context’s sake the links to our previous experiences are below.

City of Heroes

World of Warcraft

Eve Online

For the discussion itself, venture beneath the cut, if you dare…

Dante: Let’s get it out there, what did we think about MMO’s beforehand?

Ludo: Grinding, endless existential grinding.

Dante: Having no goal to move towards beyond being bigger and more badass.

Ludo: So where’s the appeal? It’s got to be about the teamwork, rolling with a posse, dominating your foes. Being in a group, being in a guild.

Dante: We didn’t get to do that much.

Ludo: But when we did it was awesome, in CIty of Heroes, with that guy.

Dante: -blue demon guy.

Ludo: With the horns.

Dante: Yeah that was fun.

Ludo: But why was City of Heroes more fun? It’s basically the same as WoW, press 1, 2, 3. Rinse and repeat.

Dante: For a start, it’s a lot faster than WoW. You don’t level faster, but fights are faster, your powers recharge faster and your powers look cool.

Ludo: That is important actaully, I liked smiting people.

Dante: Also, you’re actually saving people from the bad guys. Every NPC in that game was doing something.
There are guys sacrificing citizens to dark gods on hidden rooftops and stuff.

Ludo: Not just local wildlife wondering aimlessly about the place. It’s less obviously a game in that respect.

Dante: More immersion.

Ludo: I mean, not MUCH more. But something at least. Also I think the quality of the character creation is important in the early game, it really ties you to your character, before you’ve even killed anything.

Dante: The starting models in WoW are horribly generic, but you make them look good with the loot you grab, that’s the temptation.

Ludo: But that’s just making the player overcome the unimaginative design that’s imposed on them in the first place.

Dante: Yeah there was nothing appealing about the starting area, or the character design.

Ludo: We might’ve just picked a bad starting area.

Dante: That’s the thing though, we put 6 or 7 hours into it. It doesn’t matter what rumoured treasures lie past level 70 or whatever. If the first 6 hours can’t tempt you then the it has failed.

Ludo: Harsh, but true.

Dante: This has been WoW vs. City of Heroes so far.

Ludo: Yeah, that’s because Eve is WHACK.

Dante: You’d better explain what you mean by that.

Ludo: I mean, it’s crazy.

Dante: True. It’s like the devs have never played a game before, and have constructed this immesnse work of art, but have made a load of elementary errors. Error number one being it’s really confusing all the time.

Ludo: It feels intentional.

Dante: It is like Elite in many ways.

Ludo: Without the docking … fucking docking.

Dante: That game has its own economy, vast guilds, full armies battling constantly.

Ludo: Yeah, it sounds great. But you get in there and it’s just loads of menus. And while it’s technically an MMO, a consistent world of which most of the players are human, it just doesn’t work like the others.

Dante: It’s an MMO, it’s just not an RPG.

Ludo: Deep.

Dante: You’re only limited by money and time. You could sit mining forever and become the most poweful guy in the game eventually.

Ludo: But you’d be mining then wouldn’t you. You don’t want to do that. it’s the most boring thing in the world. Why would I spend my spare time doing that?

Dante: Some people like it, but then some people like World of Warcraft.

Ludo: The odd thing is that I’d be more likely to put money and time into Eve than anything else.

Dante: Yeah I think it’s because there will never be an Eve 2.

Ludo: Eve 2: The Evening.

Dante: I’ll let that slide. They’ll just keep revamping the engine, it could just go on forever. You’ll always have time to become strong in Eve. In comparison City of Heroes is on the way out.

Ludo: And it feels to me as though people are waiting for something to replace WoW. I think that’s why Conan sold so well initially.

Dante: I don’t know what the WoW killer will be. It could be WAR (Warhammer: Age of Reckoning).

Ludo: I’m excited about it actually, as a Warhammer fan, it presses all the right buttons.

Dante: There’s going to be guild at Rock Paper Shotgun, and PC Gamer guild going. There’s communities in place already – communities I’d be interested in.

Ludo: Getting in on the ground floor, with a load of like minded people to chat with and quest with. Surely that’s what the MMO is really all about. That stuff could be awesome.

Dante: Though we’ve put some 20 and a bit hours into MMOs, it still feels like we’ve only really dipped our toes in. At some point we’re going to have to get properly involved.

Ludo: WAR could be the one. Meanwhile: anything else you’re looking forward to?

Dante: Star Trek Online.

Ludo: *Shakes head slowly*

Dante: Yeah, you’re right. Champions Online then.

Ludo. Word. Champions Online could be the shit.

Dante: Shall we wrap his up?

Ludo: Yeah, we’ve run out of whiskey, and we still have to beat God of War 2 on hard mode.

Dante: Okay, let’s do it.

Ludovician McIronfang

Ludo: Ludovician McIronfang

Dante - Hieronimous Dante

Dante - Hieronimous Dante

Man vs Horse out.


26 Responses to “MMO Showdown – The Concludening”

  1. 1 Mike
    September 21, 2008 at 10:52 am

    One thing that distances me from the probable greatness of WAR: having to pay for it.

  2. September 21, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Interesting series! I’m in the same boat: never played an MMO, but suspicious from everything I’ve heard about them. This has intrigued me but confirmed some of my suspicions. Thanks for the insight! I think I’ll never play an MMO as long as it’s so expensive…

    Here from RPS, btw.

  3. 3 emptymindedgirl
    September 21, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    These reviews are based on the limited abilities/gameplay allowed by “trials.” I found myself laughing through the World of Warcraft one.

    Yes, I’m a longtime WoW devotee. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try other MMO’s (past, present, and future). I spent years in EQ then moved onward into Asheron’s Call, Everquest 2, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars Galaxies, Eve Online, Age of Conan, The Matrix Online, and the list goes on and on up to and including Warhammer Online (2nd waste of money ever on an MMO next to AoC). So it’s not as if I’m just biased.

    Every single MMO I’ve played has been practically the same in that they are all total crap at the start (and trials are even worse due to limitations) and build into something better (usually). What sets some aside as being spectacular (As EQ was and WoW is)? The community. Warcraft is the only strong MMO on the market that 1. isn’t buggy as shit and 2. has a massive group of dedicated gamers. For me, it’s the community that makes a game great.

    And yes, when WoW declines and another game of equal or greater playability steps up as the new frontrunner, I will probably be found playing that game. Achieving goals in a game with 24 of your pals is great fun.

    PS: Overall, I thoroughly enjoy your blog! Keep it up!

    {my ever-so-rarely-updated gaming blog: http://alese.wordpress.com/}

  4. 4 Samer
    September 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Star Trek Online will be AWESOME.

  5. 5 nox
    September 21, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Yea your not gonna run into to many higher lvl’s in the starting area in WoW, and you usually have to ask in the general chat if you want to form a group. Most of the people just wanna grind it and get out of the starting area. I never played CoH but most of the people I knew that did play it haven’t played it in awhile. I tried EVE and yea… the learning curve on that game is crazy.

  6. 6 xmido
    September 21, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    mmorpg is milking the rpg genre to make u play online for as long as possible without reason or context, so u pay monthly fees. giving the company a constanst income. its like selling crack. its makes u feel good. but mmorpg is not good game design. i like videogames coz they r interactive. i like books, movies. both have an end. videogame design have changed. i like games that u play through the story. an art form. an interactive work of fiction. i dont like to make my own story. i like to play the story. i am here to escape reality, not live in it. people keep playing mmorpg until reality hit them. that y there is sites like wow-detox.

  7. 7 Iceblade
    September 21, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    It’s a shame you guys didn’t take a liking to WoW. I am also guessing, based on the numbers, that a lot of people have had a different experience. WoW was the second MMO I tried (I tried a trial of EVE Online but disliked it). I was in the beta for WoW and got to about level 10 or so, and those first 10 levels made me want to buy the game. I cannot tell you what makes WoW so fun (if I could I’d probably be earning lots of money), but it’s damned good whatever it is.

  8. 8 Sean
    September 21, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I think you guys should give a month into EVE, it really grows on you once you start getting noticed by player run Corporations (guilds) which ultimately end up being a great guide with the hard stuff and a great starting path at just how deep and immense the world of EVE is.

  9. 9 Ital
    September 22, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Just so you know, you messed up your links in the first post.

  10. 10 Ital
    September 22, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Incidentally (and sadly), I still maintain that the WoW-killer will simply be World of Starcraft. Eventually.

  11. 11 HellRaiser785
    September 22, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Why the disdain for Star Trek Online? You guys seem to have had the most fun with City of Heroes, would it not be reasonable to assume that the developer would attempt to put a similar or greater amount of fun into STOnline?

  12. 12 fan of elite
    September 22, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Some interesting stuff, and man am I glad you guys saw WoW for what it is.

    Anyways I love how you guys commented on exactly what made me play eve-online. It was confused beyond reason, it made my head hurt, and verythign seemed way to complacated!

    but after playing a bunch of mmorpgs, eve was still there going “try me try me try me”

    Also being a fan of sci-fi and elite it was a final sell I desided to give eve a shot.

    So I log into the game again… hmm ok I got this market thing down… buy some guns… buy some ammo…armor plates… afterburner… ok got guns,armor, and speed, awesome. PEW PEW PEW.

    Then one day I log into the game 3 weeks into my eve trip and WHAM, would you like to download the optional expansion patch? the what? uugghhh… ok? …

    downloading.. wait the expansion is free? OMG awesome! well I’ll do some reading…

    holy shit eve-online is the 3rd largest mmorpg at 260,000 players? what city of heros has only 60,000 left? what one server? (never thought about it before that really :P)

    huh whats this trinity thing… oh my patch is done…

    logging in…

    HOLY… S****….MONKEYS! the graphics suddenly without my knowing took an 8 year leap! FOR FREE! I check my cerdit card to make sure, dear god awesome. so I check online for more info! ambulation? walking in station? plantary combat? tanks? jet fighters in the future of eve?

    it’s a sci-fi wet fantasy.

    huzzah! I was sold just the fact that eve is so whack, so big, so different, so forward thinking, I had to learn I had to become the best, I had to just be part of this epic universe, a place where my name could really be known.

    So yeah I hope that wasn’t too confused I didn’t make an outline for this post 😛

    so yeah eve… wow whack is the best word for it, and that’s why it’s great. still hard to believe it’s in 3rd place with such a “small” number, WoW is a whore isn’t she?

    oh and eve is in space I mean come on dude it’s SPACE. how could a sci-fi junkie saw no to that?

    oh final note, the music is badass.

  13. 13 Cataclysm
    September 22, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I am a long time player of WoW and admit Blizzard have not kept the “old world” up to scratch. You must remember you are reviewing the first few hours of a 4 year old game.

    I level alts frequently and still find 1-20 pretty dull, but 20-40 is much better. 40-60 can feel a bit tedious and slow (normally because you’re so eager to fly past content to get to level 60) From level 60-70 the game feels alot more “new” and at level 70 is basically a totally different game.

    I have tried EVE a couple of times and both times found it mind numbingly boring after the character creation and initial 20+ quests.

    I found myself spending 80% of the time on “auto pilot” flying from one system to another (sometimes a chain of 9 systems) for a quest to kill a few pirates or collect an item to take all the way back.

    I also found on EVE no one socialises at all with anyone who is un-guilded, you very rarely even hear any General channel speak.

    Your point about EVEs learning curve is correct also, you go from destroying 6 ships at once, to getting beaten around by 20 very powerful ships for a quest.

  14. 14 Dante
    September 22, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Ludo wasn’t shaking his head because he had something against Star Trek Online, he was just reacting the unbridled geekery of me mentioning it.

    It actually really interests me, because the license means it’s going to have to be different to what’s come before, it simply wouldn’t fit if it was another WoW/EQ clone. It also has a solid developer behind it, and a lot of nifty ideas being banded about, one to keep an eye on, I think.

    Socialisation is clearly where the main appeal of MMORPGS lies, but as trial players were weren’t really allowed to do this (except in Eve, and through a loophole in City of Heroes), one of the main problems, I think, is that we were so far behind everyone else. Nearly all new players looked to be re-rolls focused on leveling up.

    This is one of the reasons we’re debating getting into WAR when our internet is delivered on wednesday. Because we’ll be in on the ground floor from the start and, with the RPS and PCG guilds, we’ll be able to socialise from the get go.

  15. September 22, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Good to hear Dante. Thanks for the very in-depth comparison to both of you. I came looking mainly because I’ve never played an MMO before and was wondering how an MMO produced by Cyrptic Studios stacks up to the big guns out there. If STOnline is going to pull me away from my standard gallery of FPSs, RTSs, and TBSs, it will have to avoid the grinding and time-wasting that you saw in WoW and Eve. If I’m going to be sucked into the world of MMOs, it’ll have to be because of fun, varied experiences and strong community functions.

  16. 16 Ludo
    September 22, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Star Trek Online is exciting actually, because some of the ideas they’re talking about are really different and ridiculously ambitious. To be able to run your spaceship and purchase different crew members as upgrades, to run actual landing parties and meet alien species would be fantastic. If they can actually pull that stuff off and make it deep and convinving then we could be in for a treat.

    I am reluctant to get excited about it though, so far it’s had a very convoluted development cycle, and was on the verge of getting dumped at one point. It’d be interesting to know if Cryptic have started all over again or tried to incorporate the old assets into the game they’re trying to make. Either way, if anyone can pull it off, Cryptic can.

    Regarding WoW. We always guessed some people would be irritated by the article. WoW fans are understandably dedicated, but it seems that Blizzard are only interested in serving those dedicated fans, probably because there are so many people signed up already, they might feel they just don’t need the fresh blood.

    Dante mentioned this briefly, but it’s important. We saw a less than 1% of WoW. The game is vast, but we did these articles to see how these MMO’s would stack up to our preconceptions of the genre, and WoW didn’t do anything to challenge those preconceptions in the time that we played it. In any other genre if the first 6 hours were dull then there’s no way that I’d play it to the end (unless I was reviewing it). If the first 6 hours of Baldurs Gate 2 were like this then I wouldn’t stick around for another 40, and Baldurs gate doesn’t charge you to continue playing.

    In the meantime we appreciate all the great comments, folks, keep ’em coming.

  17. September 22, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I went into EVE knowing it was special. I left EVE because it wasn’t special enough on a personal level. The actual gameplay mechanics are really not all that different from WoW or CoH, and I want something more than that.

    Yes, good job with the player-run economy, but the vast majority of my time is still rather boring.

    It doesn’t really help that I’m also very used to real-space physics, courtesy of Battlestar Galactica. EVE’s more like a giant ocean than deep space.

    I’m going to keep looking for the immersion that I desire. If EVE can bring more realism, beyond just characters in stations, but to the gameplay itself, I’d come back. Perhaps something as ‘simple’ as being able to aim at particular areas of a ship, Tactics style.

  18. 18 Ludo
    September 22, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    David, you might want to keep an eye on the upcoming Jumpgate: Evolution, which supposedly gives you more direct control of your ship, with more direct combat. It does come from the team that brought us Auto Assault, though, so its quality is not assured.

  19. 19 Vincent
    September 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    The only thing (unfortunetly) that will kill WoW is time…in time their lack ability or ambition to improve the engine like EVE did will make them as outdated as UO and therefore die.

    But there is a WoW killer, not in numbers or money but in concept. A game that will kill the Everquest model. The grind, the kill x amount of rats get reward rinse and repeat. This game will take all thats great about WoW, the guild wars, and conquest, all thats great about Shadowbane, the free/open PvP, and combine it, while leaving out boring ass shit.

    Up to recently it’s been called vapourware because its been development for almost 10 years. It was ready for release after 4 years but the developers decided to restart development because of graphics and other problem. Beta sign-ups began end of august and the game should release by end of the year.

    (WAR is just a revamped WoW)

    This game is Darkfall.

  20. September 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    My thoughts exactly.

    Oh, I did want to mention real quick, I wish you guys had also done a day of Dungeon Runners, and compared it to WoW.

    It’s what I play to control the urge to lootwhore, it’s free (otherwise, very very cheap), and it doesn’t take itself seriously.

  21. September 22, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Nice set of reviews. I took a break from Eve to play CoH and had a lot of Fun but in the end it was like other MMO’s except flashier and easier to get into. I also had friends to help me out in CoH so that made things easier. WoW a played a toon on my Nephew’s account and was struck by how incredibly banal it seemed. It was like all the things about video games in general and MMO’s in particular that annoyed me all rolled into one game! Eve on the other hand was like the Mother of All Games. A friend and co woarker who got me into MMO’s beta tested it and called it a massively mining Space Simulator/ excel with Graphics. Lack of a full bodied Avatar and slow pace kept me away from it. After playing other Sci Fi oriented games including, Anarchy Online, Neocron, Starwars Galaxies and the Matrix Online, I figured I would give up on MMO’s altogether. Then I said WTF I might as well try Eve (14 day trial and all that).

    So I read their Forums looked at the various guides and installed it. The complexity really brought it home for me. I played Elite many moons ago and ship customization reminded of my favorite Game Series Mechwarrior. Things were fairly slow and predictable like another MMO, with the NPC missions etc. Then I joined a Player Corp and things really opened and went to a different level. Preparing for the “big move” to 0.0. Moving Assets through hostile space, getting to know who the main players (as in Groups) were and who not to piss off preparing and defending Convoys and the stakes were huge! not merely protecting yourself form NPC no no you were protecting your stuff and your friends stuff. Stuff you NEEDED in order to survive in Lawless space, Guns ships and Ammo tools etc.

    Once in 0.0 with my corp it was up to me to parlay my social skills and gaming skills so that when my alliance fell apart I was not stranded and left with nothing but I found a new home with new players and ended up involved in.. The Great War…fighting the Ebil Goons and their Lulzy ways. Everyday was a fight for survival, and PvP could really get your heart pounding n ways I thought no mere video-game could do. Thats because in Eve their is always a price, a danger, a risk and Reward, when you get blown up (your ship) or Podded (your “Rez” clone). I’m always finding new way to make money, take money and blow up things. New ways to fit my ships so I’m not in the Cookie cutter variant so I can have that extra “edge”. and Of course the social aspect of a Single shard world, then game is nothing and worthless if you don’t go out and hookup with other players, players that you depend on and that depend on you. Your Corp-mates are not generic characters built to run a script in the next Raid, and your enemies will hold Grudges and your name and deeds will remembered, your reputation may even precede you. this is the closest thing to a Virtual World that is even worthy of the comparison. But it does take time. It is hard. It is not for those who want the answers handed to them, that golden Min-max build and uber lewts at every turn. I daresay despite your saying that it would take too much time, if it interested you at all you will be back……

  22. September 22, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    If you’re out to give WAR a try, do note that with the huge sum of people attempting it right now (as with any new mmorpg) it is insanely laggy, has a queue that can keep you waiting hours, and has constant crashes – straight back to desktop. You may want to hold off an week or two to prevent these massive negatives to influence your critique.

  23. 23 Ludo
    September 22, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    @Threv: There was something thrilling about the idea of these dangerous fabled 0.0 zones where there is no security, only the chaos of the free market and the big guns. As I mentioned in my comment on the Eve post, it’s the people who play who decide how the game plays out in those areas, scripted quests go out of the window, and are replaced with something a lot more interesting. I often wonder if the Eve devs ever really suspected their game would become what it is today.

    @Empty: Good point, it’ll probably take us at least a week to decide whether to go Order or Chaos anyway. I foresee many arguments on that front…

  24. 24 Guidance
    September 23, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I have played all three mentioned MMO’s, however I haven’t progressed in EVE very far because of the confusing menus and yes steep learning curve. WoW ended for me after about 5 to 6 hours indeed. I found my body being placed in a cave where I couldn’t get out of after resurrecting. Very annoying and dull. Also one of the things was the camera and freedom of movement in WoW is limited. In CoH you don’t have a limitation really where to go (of course you are kept from high level areas until you are ready for it, but you can wonder around several places and jump on anything). Jumping is a joke in WoW, the fact that every village is surrounded by inpenetratible woods. Confinement all around.

    Champions Online will just be a cellshaded version of CoH. Look at a trial in about a month when Issue 13 is activated and you can create your own missions and story arcs. I would still put my money on CoH whenever.

    Looking for teaming in CoH, call on me anytime: N’Gat

  25. 25 good stuff
    September 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm


    Congrats to test all this games EvE is different it is true

    In other so called MMO, you fellow an adventure … but every body follow quite the same way. It is what I will call a “parallel adventure” in the same world.
    It is like “SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING”, you make the same things that others, perhaps before, perhaps after … but the world will never changed because of your actions.
    The good side is that the goals are clearly identified. You have only to find a good “raid/group/team” and you fellow the red line.
    WoW is a good computer-RPG with a chat in order to speak with other peoples who play at the same RPG.
    And WoW is a fabulous RPG, full of incredible fights against huge oponents.

    So why EvE is different … EvE is closer to “Second Life” than any other MMO. EvE is not a RPG EvE is only a virtual world.

    If you have no personal goal, you can stop playing EvE because in this case it is fabulously boring. If you are afraid of dying, you can stop playing EvE because death is painfull.

    In EvE there are giant players who control huge territory, In EvE there are tramps who only try to win some ISK in order to buy an acceptable afterburner for their last ship.
    EvE is the only MMO where players write history.

    Two different kind of games, two different kind of drugs … at the end there is only 0 and 1 on a hard drive somewhere on earth.

  26. 26 Tesh
    September 24, 2008 at 12:08 am

    I’m a wee bit surprised you didn’t try Guild Wars. It’s a different breed of MMO, but its success, both critical and financial, proves that the subscription model isn’t the only game in town. The ability to jump right into PvP with a level-capped avatar is another thing that makes the game more interesting.

    In another direction, Puzzle Pirates is perhaps the best of yet another breed; that of the “microtransaction” model. They started with sub servers, but it’s their “doubloon” servers that have proven to be the bigger hit. Their solid skill-based game design is worlds ahead of the mindless loot treadmill that most MMOs espouse.

    Wizard101 is the newest “tween” MMO, and takes things in another direction. Combat is based around a gard game of sorts, and while there are plenty of things they do that are typical to MMOs, just the fact that they are trying new things out is heartening. I also wonder where Free Realms will wind up, with its focus on alternate progression models.

    The multiplayer dungeon crawl model (the Ultima Online>EverQuest>WoW pedigree) isn’t the only way that MMOs can work, and ultimately, I think that it’s one of the most rudimentary models possible. The genre is fairly stagnant, and curiously content to be so. These games are designed to rake in the addiction subscription money, rather than to really make use of the potential inherent in an online persistent world.

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