Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
August 23, 2014, 11:19:38 am

Login with username, password and session length

Search:     Advanced search
Donate! | Subscribe! | Shop: Amazon

***IF YOU DONATED $50+ AND WANT A TITLE, READ THIS POST.***
*
Home Help Search Login Register
f13.net  |  f13.net General Forums  |  News  |  Topic: All Aboard the Flagship! F13's MMO Recap 2008 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Pages: [1] Go Down Print
Author Topic: All Aboard the Flagship! F13's MMO Recap 2008  (Read 28656 times)
UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
on: December 30, 2008, 06:10:56 pm

Without doubt 2008 will be a year long remembered in MMO circles. New MMOs launched, new MMOs flopped, numerous planned and existing MMOs died. It certainly wasn't a boring year for MMOs - a big change from 2007 - and revealed to anyone who cared to look that the MMO audience today isn't following the same rules they did in the past. It isn't "build it and they will come" anymore, it's "build it and they will come for the first 30 days and then god help you if you aren't up to scratch", meaning the MMO industry right now is kind of like a version of Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner's farmer goes bankrupt and has to sell the farm because he'd cleared valuable cropping land and built an expensive baseball diamond following a whimsical voice when he should have just harvested corn. Or maybe that's stretching an analogy.

Regardless, let's look at the "highlights" of MMOs across 2008, month by month.

January:
Things got off to an early start with P2 aka Perpetual Entertainment cancelling their Star Trek Online MMO and laying off their entire development staff. Following this news, P2's old PR company stopped suing them, probably out of pity for not being able to get STO off the ground.

Pirates of the Burning Sea (POTBS) launched, capitalising on the pirate-related enthusiasm everyone had in those heady days, while Shadowbane reset its servers and wiped all character information in a move that is pretty interesting for a supposedly persistent game. Fury releases an email calling all the people who no longer play their game LOSERS!. NCsoft drops Blackstar from its development list.

February:
P2 closes, as only seems right for a MMO studio with no MMOs and no developers. Cyan announces that Myst Online is "discontinued" by GameTap, just like it was "discontinued" at Ubisoft in 2004, meaning that Myst Online has died twice.

There was a complete storm in a tea cup over whether or not your local version of Age of Conan would let you see breasts and / or blood. Turns out it was yes to both.

EA resurrected The Sims Online as free-to-play title EA-Land.  Microsoft formally announced that the Marvel Universe Online MMO had been canned, making it the third time this particular IP had gone into pre-production before being killed off. Saga of Ryzom finally shuts down its game servers after months of threats that such a shut down could occur due to lack of revenue.

March:
The Shadowbane server is rebooted. Funnily enough, it didn't appear to bring back players past a short launch bump.

Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR) had its launch date officially delayed until later in 2008.

April:
POTBS cuts their number of servers from 11 to 4 (with an Australian and Russian server planned to launch) despite player numbers "being [mostly] in line with their projections".

EA kills EA-Land. The Sims Online had limped along since launch in 2002, but it really seemed odd to rebrand a game and get people excited (and paying for in-game items) only to shut it down. But hey, it was EA-Land shutting down, not The Sims Online, right?

May:
Age of Conan (AoC) launched. It got mostly positive reviews from professional reviewers, who apparently played up to level 20 on high-end machines. Those who got past level 20 (on the way to level 80) found a game that was full of problems, such as female characters doing 25% less damage than male characters because they had slower animations in their attacks.

June:
AoC shifts 1 million units despite these problems.

Richard Bartle reveals himself to be both prescient and unaware of fanbois when stating "I've already played Warhammer. It was called World of Warcraft." Face of Mankind: Rebirth, which aimed to bring a zombie MMO back to life, was aborted.

July:
Purely and simply, July belonged to Flagship Studios and Hellgate: London. HG:L launched in late 2007 to a fairly weak reception and failed to retain players. The news that Flagship was being shut down and that HG:L was going to be canned still came as a surprise to most though.

What was most interesting (and what appears to have hastened the demise of HG:L) is that Flagship had basically hocked everything, including the HG:L IP, in order to try to keep going. This let the creditors move in to take control, which appeared to be a surprise to Flagship. Despite some legal claims being thrown around, the end result was Flagship closing, HG:L being taken over by its Korean distributor and the announcement that the North American version of the title would be shut down in January 2009.

Biggest kick in the teeth to players? If you'd bought a lifetime subscription to HG:L (at $150), you would have actually paid more to play the game over its lifetime than a player who paid the basic $10 a month subscription fee and got nearly the same amount of extra features (especially since a lot of the promised subscriber features weren't delivered or were opened up to non-subscribing players to try to keep them playing).

August:
Of those 1 million boxes that AoC shipped, 800 000 were turned into subscribing players during launch. By August, this number had dwindled to 415 000, meaning that AoC, a game costing an estimated US $60 million and supposedly designed to keep players occupied for years couldn't retain more than 1 in 2 players over a three month period. A lot of the reasons for this were visible during the launch period. Turns out no-one cares about boobs and blood after launch day.

NCsoft dropped the axe in North America, eliminating 21 positions and cancelling a title or two. Bye bye Blighted Empire, we barely knew ye. It is likely these cuts came due to Tabula Rasa still failing to attract players... but the TR team was left untouched...

Fury shuts down. It only lasted a bit less than 10 months as a launched title. Losers.

After a small bidding war between a private company and a group of fans who wanted to buy and revive the game (SpiderWeb International Limited, the private company, are believed to have won) the Saga of Ryzom aka Ryzom relaunches. This is the third time that Ryzom has changed owners during its operation.

September:
Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR) launches, selling 1.5 million units to retailers.

October:
Mark Jacobs, the CEO of Mythic Entertainment, gets into an internet slapfight over comments made by Blizzard's Jeff Kaplan. Isn't he aware that he has WAR fanbois available for such things? Oh, and WAR has sold 1.2 million copies and has over 800 000 subscribed players. Exactly why 400 000 copies have been bought but not activated is anyone's guess. Merry Christmas for some people, I guess.

... or not. Despite a mostly successful launch (Europe aside) WAR is struggling under a host of design problems that has to be making player retention difficult. Free server transfers are announced, which is never a good sign so early after launch. 

Bioware announces Star Wars: The Old Republic which was the worst kept secret in MMO-dom.

Exanimus, a long-promised zombie genre MMO, takes a headshot.

November:
World of Warcraft (WoW) releases its latest expansion, which sells 2.8 million copies in the first 24 hours. It's the fastest selling PC title of all time. This happens despite a lead up that contained multiple in-game problems.

By the end of November, WAR has been through 7 rounds of free server transfers. Numerous reports exist of servers feeling empty of other players. Half the launch servers are no longer selectable to start a new character on. Almost half of players who stated that they were leaving WoW to play WAR have returned to WoW (and the figure is 68% for ex-AoC players).

And so you're back, from outer space / I just walked in to find you here with that look upon your face - space tourist Richard Garriott announces he is leaving Tabula Rasa (TR), a title that bears his name (it's Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa on pretty much all the logos). NCsoft waits a week and four days in his honour, then announces that TR is closing early 2009. So ends a MMO title with a development budget that may have exceeded US $100 million dollars.

In one of the weirdest MMO launches in history, Acclaim launches Chronicles of Spellborn (CoS) in Europe while also launching its closed beta in the US on the same day. So you've got a MMO that is live in one region, but still in beta in another, likely using the same version of client. Confused? I am.

Funcom lays off a number of employees from AoC. That special Australian / NZ-only POTBS server is planned to be closed after the Australian ISP chooses not to renew the deal after about 8 months of operation (although Flying Lab do indicate they'll open up a new server for Australians looking to make the transition to US servers).

December:
Someone announces that Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment hasn't paid their employees for over two weeks. For a company made up of several studios and with a title due out early 2009 (Stargate: Worlds) this is a bad sign. CME responds with a "start-ups suffer from cash flow problems all the time, can't you give a brother a break?" message. By the end of December, this period of non-payment had risen to 48 days on the site.

Funcom announces rolling server merges to try to get enough players together for AoC to keep its MMO status. Also, AoC will still - Funcom promises - be coming out on the Xbox 360, but they don't want to spoil the surprise by listing dates or times or anything more specific than it being "in production".

Cyan does the development equivalent of sprinkling cremated ashes from the mountain top and sends Myst Online off as an open source title.

--

Yes, this is a biased list. It ignores a lot of new announcements, hype and general fluff that surround a lot of MMO titles. Mergers and take-over have also been ignored. It is certainly focused more on the bad news than the good, but in 2008 the news was mostly bad. Unless you work at Blizzard. In which case, feel free to chuckle about how badly your competitors performed over your platinum-and-diamond encrusted keyboard.

It isn't a list to say that MMO industry is doomed either. The next few years collectively offer up an incredibly wide set of titles to choose from - DC Universe Online, Stargate: Worlds, Champions Online, Fallen Earth, Darkfall (ha!), The Agency, Star Trek Online etc etc - while a number of interesting MMO titles popped up in 2008 from unexpected sources (Wizard 101 and Dreamlords, for instance). A number of existing titles still appear solid in terms of player numbers and developer support. But it is a list to say that MMOs no longer survive by virtue of existence. It took the MMO industry a while to cotton on to the idea that the hard part of running a MMO happens after you get the game out the door; it is apparently taking a while to learn that you need to have a fun core experience in game when it goes out the door too. The basement dwelling MMO player who used to (and still will) accept any buggy grind in their MMO exists, but there are a lot more people playing MMOs today who actually want an enjoyable escapist experience rather than a second job. These people don't hang around after a buggy launch or in a title that doesn't encourage them to play for more than 4 weeks.

I know that devs don't set out to make a crappy game, but there is something rotten here when experienced developers are given huge budgets and turn out titles that don't retain players for long. Money seems to be poisoning the MMO well, especially since huge budgets require huge returns to justify the investment. 2008 shows numerous examples of this in action.

But all of this is good for MMOs. Probably not if you are / were working in the industry, but for the health of the whole: this blood letting was necessary. WoW's success had created a meme that if only you could spend that much money, you too could create a title that would attract millions of players. Now that AoC, WAR and TR have graciously proven this wrong, hopefully developers can start thinking about turning smaller budgets into more focused titles that do a few things very well rather than lots of things half-assed.

And, if not, it'll be all aboard the Flagship once again.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 05:35:02 pm by UnSub »

Morfiend
Terracotta Army
Posts: 5987

wants a greif tittle


Reply #1 on: January 02, 2009, 11:11:51 am

Fun read, thanks UnSub.
Furiously
Terracotta Army
Posts: 6725


Reply #2 on: January 02, 2009, 09:14:38 pm

I'd still say the most important part is making sure it's good before you release.
stray
Terracotta Army
Posts: 16724

has an iMac.


Reply #3 on: January 03, 2009, 12:07:12 am

Well researched for just a Timeline thing. Thanks.

I think DC Universe and Champions have a fighting chance to thrive at least, given that they're console titles as well. Other than that, things look pretty bleak until... maybe.. World of Darkness (and even that will probably just be a modest success at best).
Soln
Terracotta Army
Posts: 3957

the opportunity for evil is just delicious


Reply #4 on: January 03, 2009, 12:51:39 am

good write up, thanks.   

Implicit ownership of wrecks
UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #5 on: January 04, 2009, 05:26:28 pm

Thanks.

I could have added in more info about announced releases - the article included the news that STO at PS2 was canned, but doesn't mention that it was picked up again by Cryptic - but I felt if I went down that path I'd have to mention a lot of MMOs that were announced last year that had little / no info backing them up. SWOR was such a major announcement it deserved to be included though.

EDIT: sorry, the above was just writer's lament. Oh ho ho ho. Reallllly?

Signe
Terracotta Army
Posts: 17797

Muse.


Reply #6 on: January 04, 2009, 05:28:27 pm

Very nice article.  It made me remember just how quickly I forget things, too!

My Sig Image: hath rid itself of this mortal coil.
Tebonas
Terracotta Army
Posts: 5153


Reply #7 on: January 05, 2009, 12:17:23 am

Nice article, even if a bit biased  awesome, for real
« Last Edit: January 05, 2009, 12:24:45 am by Tebonas »
Nebu
Terracotta Army
Posts: 15647


Reply #8 on: January 05, 2009, 12:23:12 pm

Excellent summary.  I've passed this link to a few non-f13 friends and they commented on enjoying the read as well. 

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

-  Mark Twain
syd
Terracotta Army
Posts: 3


Reply #9 on: January 05, 2009, 01:34:24 pm

It's amusing but anything that was written about AoC could be applied to WAR too. It's amazing that there's such a disconnect between the developers and their games in not one, but two cases.
UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #10 on: January 05, 2009, 05:23:57 pm

Nice article, even if a bit biased  awesome, for real

Yeah, I hope I noted my biases at the end there   Oh ho ho ho. Reallllly?

I could have been more positive, mentioned some of the MMOs that were announced or minor titles that launched, but a big point of the article was exactly how much the MMO market contracted last year. A secondary point could have been (if I'd mentioned the announcement of STO, ChampO and a few others) that the MMO market is placing a lot of its future in existing IPs rather than developing original IPs.

However, I really think the major story of 2008 was the amount of money that was literally wiped off the map. HG:L, EA Land, Fury, poor launches for WAR and AoC - a rough count gives up at least 8 officially cancelled titles, at least 3 very shaky launches (should have included Chronicles of Spellborn in the article - oh well!) and the only real bright spots were WotLK launching and SWOR being announced (which is positive because it could be another title that would grow the MMO market among non-nerds - I can't see any other title doing that).

FatuousTwat
Terracotta Army
Posts: 2222


Reply #11 on: January 06, 2009, 06:02:56 am

I'm still pissed about Mythos poofing along with Hellgate. Fuckers.

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
schild
Administrator
Posts: 48464

The face of cool.


WWW
Reply #12 on: January 06, 2009, 07:39:30 am

I'm still pissed about Mythos poofing along with Hellgate. Fuckers.

While I'm pissed, I'm glad they have to start over. The movement and attack speeds and actual collision never felt right.
Nonentity
Terracotta Army
Posts: 2259

2009 Demon's Souls Fantasy League Champion


WWW
Reply #13 on: January 06, 2009, 08:12:11 am

I did like a lot of the ideas in Mythos that they were trying, but schild is right - it just didn't feel solid enough.

Maybe it's just the fact that it wasn't as brutal or as visceral as Diablo, but I don't think that's it. It was something having to do with the player unit's actual interaction with the world. It was like there was a thin layer of Astroglide between you and the playing field.

I go to a taco truck. I order three tacos. They cost three dollars. My Fiesta Name is Pendejo.

[20:42:41] You are halted on the way to the netherworld by a dark spirit, demanding knowledge.
[20:42:41] The spirit touches you and you feel drained.
schild
Administrator
Posts: 48464

The face of cool.


WWW
Reply #14 on: January 06, 2009, 08:14:05 am

It was also lacking soul and a reason to be there. Even if it all felt right, they just threw you into an uninteresting world in the same town as everyone else. At least over at Flagship they put you in a tutorial by yourself and told you all sorts of bad shit was happening. They established reason. Mythos did nothing but establish bland loot.

I admire what they're doing. I want runic games to succeed. They desperately need a creative person behind their games though.
Nonentity
Terracotta Army
Posts: 2259

2009 Demon's Souls Fantasy League Champion


WWW
Reply #15 on: January 06, 2009, 08:17:21 am

That's true - Mythos was pretty generic fantasy, even if they had a totally sweet gun class.

Regardless, I'm interested to see what they do next. They have a good team of people who can obviously make something at least technically sound, they just need some decent ideas.

I go to a taco truck. I order three tacos. They cost three dollars. My Fiesta Name is Pendejo.

[20:42:41] You are halted on the way to the netherworld by a dark spirit, demanding knowledge.
[20:42:41] The spirit touches you and you feel drained.
Xanthippe
Terracotta Army
Posts: 4320


Reply #16 on: January 06, 2009, 10:03:42 am

Nice write up.

I have one of those unopened Warhammer boxes.  Ordered it, never opened it.  Haven't decided to never open it.

Does that make me an optimist?  Probably just lazy.
Mrbloodworth
Terracotta Army
Posts: 15081


Reply #17 on: January 06, 2009, 10:47:37 am

You brought it up that it had shut down, again, but Face of Mankind should be back.

Today's How-To: Scrambling a Thread to the Point of Incoherence in Only One Post with MrBloodworth . - schild
www.mrbloodworthproductions.com  www.amuletsbymerlin.com
HaemishM
Staff Emeritus
Posts: 31107

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you and other troops you control.


WWW
Reply #18 on: January 06, 2009, 03:11:24 pm

No, it shouldn't.  awesome, for real

UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #19 on: January 06, 2009, 05:20:11 pm

You brought it up that it had shut down, again, but Face of Mankind should be back.

And Exanimus is "on hold for the time being" and Gods and Heroes is on "hiatus".

I made the decision that if it isn't active right now, it should be treated as at least a zombie MMO or as an outright dead one. Although you've made me realise I missed Ring of Ryzom / Ryzom shutting down in February only to relaunch in August.

EDIT: and for completeness, Spellborn's "live in Europe, beta in US" launch has been added.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 05:36:13 pm by UnSub »

FatuousTwat
Terracotta Army
Posts: 2222


Reply #20 on: January 06, 2009, 07:36:00 pm

That's true - Mythos was pretty generic fantasy, even if they had a totally sweet gun class.

Regardless, I'm interested to see what they do next. They have a good team of people who can obviously make something at least technically sound, they just need some decent ideas.

Are the people who made it still together? Or did they all go their separate ways after Flagship?

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #21 on: January 06, 2009, 11:10:12 pm

They mostly went off and formed Runic Games, iirc. Also, I think they intended to take what they learned from Mythos and turn it into a new title.

FatuousTwat
Terracotta Army
Posts: 2222


Reply #22 on: January 07, 2009, 12:33:24 am

Ah, cool. I'll have to keep an eye on that. Thanks!

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?
Yegolev
Moderator
Posts: 20460

I make poor decisions


WWW
Reply #23 on: January 07, 2009, 07:47:43 am

I think it's fantastic that Travis Baldree and his cohorts are now free of Bill Roper's neckfat and of a publisher that isn't associated with spyware.  The lack of anything other than game mechanics in Mythos was likely due to the environment it was developed in, so I am hoping as hard as I can that such (minor to me) issues are dealt with.  My personal bias is more toward mechanics of systems rather than atmosphere or story, but I can certainly appreciate them.  There's still plenty of appeal to the "this church is full of zombies HALP" introduction.

Why am I homeless?  Why do all you motherfuckers need homes is the real question.
"The majority of my posts, though at times somewhat sarcastic, have remained confined to rational on-topic discourse" -- GUESS WHO
"Wasn't trying to be incentive." -- Mrbloodworth
"My interpretation as a LAY PERSON was correct." -- Broughden
K9
Terracotta Army
Posts: 6765


Reply #24 on: January 07, 2009, 09:10:09 am

Good read, thanks.

I love the smell of facepalm in the morning
Rake
Terracotta Army
Posts: 84


Reply #25 on: January 07, 2009, 09:10:47 am

Wonderful article. Well done!
Riggswolfe
Terracotta Army
Posts: 6113


Reply #26 on: January 09, 2009, 07:58:04 am

the only real bright spots were WotLK launching and SWOR being announced (which is positive because it could be another title that would grow the MMO market among non-nerds - I can't see any other title doing that).

I'd say the Mines of Moria launch was a bright spot as well. It won numerous rewards and brought people back into LOTRO (including me) who were pleasantly surprised by the changes.

"We live in a country, where John Lennon takes six bullets in the chest, Yoko Ono was standing right next to him and not one fucking bullet! Explain that to me! Explain that to me, God! Explain it to me, God!" - Denis Leary summing up my feelings about the nature of the universe.
UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #27 on: January 11, 2009, 05:22:27 pm

Because Turbine doesn't actually release player numbers, it makes such things hard to judge. I'm not saying that player numbers are the only thing to go by, of course, but it works as an accountable metric.

UnSub
Contributor
Posts: 7960


WWW
Reply #28 on: January 12, 2009, 08:24:19 am

Another point of view that is being thrown around...

... but then I get to the "WAR is delivering on its promises" and laugh myself into a coma.

CharlieMopps
Terracotta Army
Posts: 837


Reply #29 on: January 12, 2009, 11:25:36 am

All these games have had the same major flaw (other than being unfinished at release)
They build them all with a static, liner flow to the gameplay. In LORTO you basically follow 1 road all the way to level cap. In WAR, there are 3 factions... each with a road leading to the level cap. I mean, literally, if you walk along this road killing crap... when you get to the end of the road your at max level. How much more boring can you make it?

EQ1 and UO had (in general) a main city that you could set up a group in and go out to do stuff. You could be fighting in a level 20 area and run into a level 40 giant... then have to run. Non-liner, exciting, mystery.

I don't think there is any way possible they could make modern MMO's even more grind-centric.

Oh yea, and finish the game before release.
schild
Administrator
Posts: 48464

The face of cool.


WWW
Reply #30 on: January 12, 2009, 11:27:39 am

Another point of view that is being thrown around...

... but then I get to the "WAR is delivering on its promises" and laugh myself into a coma.
I can say from first hand experience that no one should ever link to Game Riot (haha). No, seriously though. There's no editorial control or fact checking or anything like that over there. It's a free-reign community blog.
Xuri
Terracotta Army
Posts: 1120

몇살이세욬ㅋ 몇살이 몇살 몇살이세욬ㅋ!!!!!1!


WWW
Reply #31 on: January 12, 2009, 12:08:53 pm

No fact checking, huh? So it's just like the rest of the Internet, in other words?

Edit: I see your point: The-MMO-Crash-of-2008
« Last Edit: January 12, 2009, 12:13:18 pm by Xuri »

-= Ho Eyo He Hum =-
Pages: [1] Go Up Print 
f13.net  |  f13.net General Forums  |  News  |  Topic: All Aboard the Flagship! F13's MMO Recap 2008  
Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.10 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC