Sunday, September 2, 2012

A bad launch - GW2

Hobo was trying to get me to check out Guild Wars 2 when he visited earlier this summer.  I managed to be away from home during launch and I figured I would peruse the internets and find out if people think the game is good or not.  I like fantasy genre roleplaying games and I have never tried an MMO other than WOW so I am a good candidate to give it a go.  Unfortunately it looks like GW2 is going the way of Diablo 3 upon launch - lots of fun gameplay and total failure in terms of player to player communication.  It is not a good sign when players feel the need to justify your MMO's total community failure by saying that it is a good single player game.  After reading a few more reviews I decided that GW2 is not going to get my money, Free to play or not.

Awhile ago Ziggyny posted about his extreme frustration with recent game launches, MMOs in particular, when players are effectively beta testing a product that doesn't work.  Civ V needed major mechanic overhauls to be playable, FFXIV was a unmitigated disaster, and D3 and GW2 launched without functioning player communication... in games that are pitched as primarily multiplayer!  There is no arguing that game companies regularly ship games that they know aren't ready to get the revenue booked and plan on patching in necessary changes later but I don't think that shoddy games getting launched is a new phenomenon.  Old games had all kinds of terrible decisions and game issues but they just never got fixed!  The big change in the past few years is that player expectations are far, far higher than ever before.  The cost and time committment to a company to meet or exceed modern player expectations is extremely high and that means that the temptation to launch and let the players figure out what needs most to be fixed is ever rising.

What this all means is that players are incentivized to ignore a game at launch when it is likely to be buggy and wait half a year until the biggest issues are fixed.  This strategy also gives players time to avoid games that never manage to stop sucking like FFXIV and focus only on the games that get quickly upgraded like CiV or D3.  This has big drawbacks however for player community.  Many players are simply going to play at game launch regardless and waiting for six months in will often leave a player without a community.  This isn't an issue with CiV and its ilk but it is a major issue with games like D3 or GW2.  Barring me somehow convincing my entire gaming community to ignore a game for half a year I am not going to be able to arrange a 'wait for the sucking to stop' strategy.

Thankfully Blizzard has a stable platform on which to launch expansions and a solid history of smooth WOW launches so I won't have to worry about that for Mists of Pandaria.  I did kind of figure I was done with WOW when I quit eighteen months ago but it looks like there is some sort of interest left.  I want to see what it is like and I particularly want to play again if they fix their 'questing on rails' fiasco from Cataclysm.

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