Oh, the Controversy!

Pundits across the board must have had some soul-bearing New Year’s resolutions. No longer will they toe the line. They will say what they have to, goddammit! It seems that this was also the week to strike. The surprising thing is that most MMO blogs around the ‘sphere have been pretty tame when it came to 2011 predictions and 2011 posts. It has been the big gamesites that are deciding to no longer be kept down by The Man.  In no particular order:

The first is from the biggest site of the bunch, 1Up.com, where Kat Bailey writes that EA/BioWare’s upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic is about four years too late. She fears they are roping themselves in a corner in at least three ways. Money is the big thing because their “success” bar is ever raising until they launch. Voice-acting is also worrisome because it might cut down on new content delivery. Finally, the gameplay itself is rather uninspiring in that conventional pull-wandering-mobs, stand-and-deliver way. It doesn’t feel very inspiring at the moment. According to Kat, there is no “too little” as BioWare is bleeding over a hundred million into development… it’s just too late. She hints that it might end up a “niche” MMO (like just about any non-World of Warcraft MMO), but that is something they can’t afford.

The second is from our friends at Massively, where the staff gave their impressions of the RIFT beta events so far. Of the five, none of the impressions are overly positive. Only Justin’s (Syp) and Beau’s give much of a warm, fuzzy feeling. I love Massively because they are honest, and this article pulls no punches. I am sure Trion World’s marketing would have rather had another coat of journalistic gloss applied. The most honest impression was from Jef Reahard who gave RIFT one hour and five sentences. For him, the game was so similar to every other quest-driven MMO (a.k.a. theme-park MMO) that there was no reason to play. That was his deadpan, honest impression.

Finally, someone over at Ten Ton Hammer had an original (read: non-plagiarized) thought, and took a huge swipe at all those dirty pundits by proclaiming the subscription business model was going to continue to dominate. The author states that money for the developer, consistency of service, perception of quality, game balance, and value to the consumer are all well in the subscription-based game’s favor. In other words, they are better at everything except being free. Unfortunately, the author wrote this way too objectively when it is clear it is all his mere opinion (especially the made up numbers). It will be interesting to see what all their F2P advertisers think of this one-sided article.

What is most interesting are the reactions. On blogs, people seem to accept that these are just opinions. We might be journalists to some, but we don’t offer the word of Eru. On the bigger sites, readers seem to hold these “journalists” to some sort of higher standard. I am not sure it is warranted. Opinions are wrong, and people are only human… but the brutal honesty can be refreshing.

–Ravious
how can you tell that a lawyer is lying?

5 thoughts on “Oh, the Controversy!”

  1. I had argued over the use of the word “news” on the old Massively site (the new site seems to have lost that moniker)…and that is where I drew the line of their “opinion” pieces.
    Now that Massively has moved toward a more “Op-Ed” style of writing, I have not had issue with their opinions anymore.

    If you advertise yourself as news, it should be the straight dope. But, of course FoX News does the same thing…so, should we just accept that all opinions are the news now?

    All I DO know is the opinion pieces sure do make for some good traffic, and today is a great day for ad revenue for Massively, TTH and 1up!

  2. Ooh; I’d already read two of those, and just caught up on 1UP – I feel so on-the-pulse now. ^_^

    The TTH piece didn’t impress me sadly, for the reason you gave and the simple fact it was entirely to simplistic. There was no mention of the B2P model (= Guild Wars) and – even more significantly – no mention of micro-transactions in subscription games; I don’t see how anyone can write a serious article on this topic in 2011 without considering the growth of MT in subscription games and it’s impact on player perception of them.

    I’m pretty much where Kat Bailey is on TOR speculation, but I wouldn’t like to call success/failure either way. On the one hand it’s just hard to foresee a game of that stylized art direction & that trinity gameplay being a B I G success in this day & age, but on the other hand it’s a game I’m eagerly anticipating for other reasons – so maybe it does indeed have some x factor that will overcome.

    As a bystander, the Massively article simply reinforces my own marginally-informed opinion – and makes for interesting fireworks!

    My own prognostication is that DCU reviews are going to be the next big turmoil; it’s a big licence from a big company with gameplay that’s incredibly divisive in terms of both enjoyment and divergence from the genre norm. Plus sites have been decidedly soft on assessing other recent shallow (to the point of folding/F2Ping in their first year!) MMOs that offer quite dreadful value for the money asked – there’s got to be a breaking-point looming.
    I can easily see some high scores rubbing shoulders with some outright hatchet jobs, over the next few weeks.

    P.S. Jef Reahard was absolutely right to post what he did in an “impressions” piece – first impressions are, by definition, impressions too!

  3. I’ve been bigging up Rift every chance I get. I’ve pre-ordered and paid my six-month sub for b9oth myself and Mrs Bhagpuss. And I agree completely with Jef Reahard.

    In his first and only hour he didn’t get out of the tutorial zone. Both the tutorial zones are abysmally bad. I hated them both. They give the worst imaginable introduction in that they bear virtually no ressemblance at all the game you find once you get to Freemarch or Silverwood.

    They are both unremittingly, relentlessly, mindnumbingly linear. They are deeply unoriginal even for the genre. I found myself literally unable to force a second character through either of them, losing the will to go on in less than five minutes. I sent Trion some blisteringly negative feedback about the tutorial zones while I was going through them for the first time. I can’t reallty overstate how terrible I think they are.

    When you get to Freemarch or Silverwood things are still not as they should be. If you follow the quest prompts the awful, soul-destroying linearity continues. That, however, is something that happens in most MMOs and I just say no. The second you arrive in a real starter zone you should immediately go off-piste, run around, grab all the quests you see but don’t do any of them yet and go exploring.

    If you take control of your character at this point (the first point you are able to do so) you will find that there’s a proper virtual world there that you can live in vicariously in the form of your character. It’s like being in Telon or Norrath. Just like that.

    I hope Trion listen to Jef. I really wish they’d drop the entire tutorials and start everyone off in the actual starter zones, preferably with a Rift invasion under way. Because there may be a lot of people like Jef who just won’t have the patience or the interest to get through those tutorials before giving up, and they will never find out whether they would have enjoyed the actual game.

  4. @Bhagpuss
    I think the reason why you don’t like the tutorial is because you are a veteran player. The tutorial was design to show a newbie the basics of playing the game while at the same time explaining some of the lore. I think the tutorial does a good job of achieving those goals for newbies. However, a veteran player would find such hand holding quite annoying and would prefer to skip the whole mess.

  5. So maybe what Trion needs to do is offer a chance to skip the tutorial for alts like some other MMOs.

    Personally, I found the Defiant starting zone quite all right for an introduction and was impressed by the polish of the tutorial help tips that popped up. I also managed to defeat this monstrously huge elite mob at level 2 (ah, the love of OP cleric heals) just for fun, so that was pretty thrilling.

    Back to the main point of the post:
    Eh, I’d like them (meaning journalists, bloggers, whoever) to specify whether it’s opinion or news-fact reporting. When it’s the first, it’s fine to be subjective. If the latter, then at least I’d like to see them -attempt- to be objective.

    I’ve enjoyed the Massively Soapbox and Daily Grind articles for what they are, editorials and opinions seeking commenter discussion.

    First impressions are trickier. If it’s just -individual- impressions, then fine, be subjective. If it’s as part of a preview or review, then I think it behooves at least a little bit of pro and con type of objective analysis.

    There’s generally very little need to be controversial as well as subjective though, unless that’s the point of the article like Soapbox. Jef Reahard is the former. I see very little point feeding what is akin to trolling, and am staying away from that flamefest.

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