Canary in a Coal Mine

First off I love The Police.  My favorite band, seriously!  So I know the song’s directed at a chick who can’t deal with real life.  But somehow… it seems appropriate to my current take on MMOs.  Or rather, my attitude to what MMOs have evolved into.

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live you life like a canary in a coalmine…

Now I started playing MMOs with EverQuest.  One of my best friends and I played it for a good year together and had a friggin’ blast!  It was a great experience, a new experience.  We joined a guild of kind-hearted folks – Sacred Order of Unity.  Yea not the best name, but good folks and a long overdue shout out to Caloak and Nimble. 😉

Anyway, I split EQ for Anarchy Online when the later came out.  I had a sweet gig going with a Bard in EQ, I loved twisting and killing a dozen mobs at once via kiting.  But even though my best friend stayed in EQ, I needed something different.  And Anarchy Online was the first SciFi MMO… awesome!  Unfortunately it was also the first megalag fest ever.  For as cool as it was, the lag was crippling.

BTW, my friend stuck with EQ for a long while afterward and hit the higher-end 50+ content.  EQ had hellacious leveling requirements and the death penalty was NASTY.  Made the game play a lot more exciting, and frustrating, than what MMOs have now.

Shortly after Anarchy Online, an intersting fantasy MMO came out… with Realm vs. Realm comabat!  Keeps and seige and holy shyte!  So there I was in DAoC.  Found a great roleplaying guild, Glastonbury Irregulars, one of the premier roleplaying guilds in fact on Nimue server. About a year went by, and the original crew of the guild faded away as they are want to do.  When the last of the original members left, I was handed guild lead.  The following year was a long drawn out fading of the guild.  A brutal affair in retrospect.  The remaining members were a great crew, but only a handful, and we tried in vain to keep the guild afloat but eventually new MMOs came out and GI (DAoC) dissolved into the ether.

Lesson = when it’s over, it’s over.  Don’t try to keep it going, it’ll just drain your will to rez.

Some of our crew stuck together and formed shards on Planetside and Star Wars Galaxies.  Planetside wound up being a long term, on-and-off affair, easily the longest MMO run we’ve had.  By my account, we were in Planetside for a good 5 years.  But SWG was the true renaissance of Glastonbury.  Roleplaying was reignited, and Stash really made that guild shine and prosper.  Oddly enough though in my case, I had actually purchased a second account for the game… but wound up ditching it early on for real life reasons.

Lesson = when RL calls, you go with it and don’t hesitate to drop a game.

Shadowbane came and we had a good run.  Awesome concept for an MMO, but oh lordy the bugs and server queues were just too much to deal with for long.  First in a long line of subpar MMOs that I left early with no regret.

Lesson = buggy games, no matter how cool a concept, are not worth spending time and money on.

I think that’s about the time that MMOs started becoming something different… less long-term endeavors and more of a run of buggy, blatantly cash-cow business turds that were plopped out to try to get people to subscribe to them.

Then came World of Warcraft.  Best MMO ever?  I dunno, I quite after 4 months.  Loved it up to the point that the Honor System went in.  I had no problem dropping it after HS.  Beforehand, I could be out soloing and run into a Alliance faction character, and have a good 1v1 PvP encounter.  Our guild would go out together and have some pretty good PvP runs.  As soon as they changed the system though, it became a huge PK fest, zergs of level 60’s farming 40’s in lower end zones.  To me, this was way too much BS to deal with as a level 43 struggling now to reach epic level.  Drop?  Aye, and how.

Lesson = No matter how popular a game is, if you think its sucks, it probably does.

Since then it’s been a cavalcade of subpar MMO endeavors… Vanguard was a jewel.  What a turdburger.  Hellgate: London actually wasn’t all that bad, but the PvE line was much too short.  Age of Conan was pretty awesome, until I reached level 40-ish and just became utterly bored with it.  Didn’t even bother getting into the PvP aspect of AoC.  Just couldn’t keep playing it when the content dropped out.  And that’s really what MMOs should concentrate on – content, content, content.  You can play a single-player RPG and have 50+ hours of immersive content, and get your $50 worth no problem.  But why… WHY… keep subscribing to an MMO at $15/month when the content is crap?  Or the game mechanics suck?  Or the end-game is boring?  Crafting?  Um, not for me, thanks.

Lesson = If a game developer keeps telling you everything’s going to be better after release, or if a game seems too good to be true, it’s probably false.

Even roleplay has a limit.  You need something more to the world, the mythos, the content, to keep roleplay up.  Otherwise it’s just Real Life or Sims.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to roleplay – when the environment is conducive to it.  But when the game for all intents and purposes is over, it’s over IMO.

Nowadays it seems like MMOs are developed for about 6 months of content.  Maybe that’s just my gauge.  But the last few MMOs have been like that for me.  I must caveat this with an important personal point. While I do play alts, I tend to focus on ONE character.  I rarely play alts to any level of consequence.  So my time line in an MMO is fairly linear.  I play one character to max level, experiencing the content appropriate for that character.  Then the end game or end of content comes around.  And then… ?

So this finally brings me to Warhammer Online.  I hit 40 with my main recently.  It was completely uneventful.  I enjoyed leveling my main, I had an idea of what I wanted him to be before the game released, played him through and enjoyed the class thoroughly.  I enjoy playing him in RvR, even though RvR has been mostly a amoebic lurching forward and back with little tactics involved.  I wish RvR was a little more like Planetside, with more tactical opportunities.  But that’s a symptom that in general, the end-game in WAR is lacking.  It’s extremely repetitive.  Fort/City raiding is attrocious.  What’s worse is that as I said – leveling my main was actually enjoyable.  There was actually a good variety of things to do in order to level up, PQs, scenarios, RvR, basic quest/hunting.

But once you hit 40… it rapidly becomes repetitive.  You have to farm dungeons for wards in order to be viable for Fort/City raids.  RvR – even though Mythic made it much more complex and varied by increasing the zones – is still just a back and forth leap frogging of BOs and keeps.  Without being able to use group tactics and terrain pinch points and such to mix it up, it’s the same as DAoC’s RvR.  Even by limiting CC and such there’s still the RPG element that allows for imbalances to be exploited.

I’ve been listening to some podcasts that have also foretold the coming drop off.   I think the writing’s on the wall for this Engineer.  I’ve been loosing interest in WAR at an exponential rate since hitting 40.  Now I rarely log in.  I’d still like to play WAR and have good RvR experiences – be able to log in after work and havea n enjoyable night’s worth of gaming.  But… I hear the chirping plea of a waning yellow avian angel…

Canary in a coal mine?  Sure, OK.

Oh yes I cut her from my heart, like a big loud stankin’ fart… to her I shall never return… I met my match, and I got burned…. – Early Cuyler, Squidbillies

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5 Responses to “Canary in a Coal Mine”

  1. Shan and I never hit max level in the WAR but still we were bored with it. We both love pvp, but somehow in WAR we never really felt engaged in it. PVE? Sure we love that too, give us some quests and we’re off and running. But the pve in WAR just never pulled us in. There were never any moments of “just a few more minutes, I really want to do this before I log”. Nothing but the guild kept us in. And much as we love you guys we just couldn’t really make ourselves log in anymore.

    I know WAR is still popular with a lot of people. But for us, something fundamental is missing. If I could put my finger on it and tell you what it was I could create my own game and make a bunch of money. I just can’t put a name to it. Whatever it was, Shan felt it in EQ. I felt it DAoC. We both felt it in EQ2 and WoW for a time. But not really ever in WAR.

    Maybe it’s the characters, maybe it’s the lore, the people or a combination of all of it. For some reason I was pretty attached to Aorail, my Pac/Mend healer in DAoC. She was almost a child of my heart. Arylian in EQ2? She’s still with me now. I might play other toons while she remains hidden and neglected but she will always be my ‘main’ there. Ashleen and Arylian in WoW? Neither of those will ever be deleted. Ever. Even Caryne in Vanguard, I cared about her a great deal. But Caryne in WAR? Yeah, delete her. No big attachment there.

    For what it’s worth we’ve gone back to EQ2. It may not be the perfect game but there’s new content to explore and old friends who still play. Will we try other games? Sure we will, I have no clue what yet though. Nothing coming up is really catching my attention so far. When the Glastons dip into a new game we will most likely take a look. But WAR is just not the game for us.

    At least not right now. Never say never right?

  2. Meh, that post is so long I could have written a blog post. Heh..Stash gave me access to blog here and I still haven’t. Too chicken. I can’t write worth a damn.

  3. This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

  4. I agree, there’s something missing – maybe a combination of things that don’t quite mesh. I totally understand not having much character attachment. There just isn’t enough individuality in WAR, it’s like you’re playing on of those RPGs where the main characters are set and you just choose which archtype you want to play. It’s probably the lack of character customization & lack of variety in gear.

    But the funny (or maybe ironic) thing is that after a week or so hiatus, I dropped in last night and had a pretty good time in oRvR. Ah well, we’ll see how much longevity WAR’s end-game holds I reckon. I’m cautiously optimistic but not holding my breath either. 😉 A new batch of MMOs is arriving this summer and there are always those that fell by the wayside that still hold some entertainment, like your EQ2 I’ve dropped in to CoX and might poke into LOTRO again. Gotta love those 14 day trails. 😉

  5. The RvR isn’t as good as in DAOC, not by a long shot.

    I blame the warband for making it to easy to scale up into 24 man groups. Which destroys the smaller group play, since now it’s all about the warband.

    The minimum unit is the warband.

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