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Posts with tag lordoftheringsonline

The "punctuated equilibrium" of WoW content

Relmstein has posted a quick analysis of what he calls the "punctuated equilibrium" of WoW content patches. In evolutionary biology, there's a theory that species change not gradually over time, but in quick bursts of dynamic change. And Relmstein applies this idea to WoW's own population changes-- the playerbase seems to grow in quick leaps when brand new content is introduced, but slows down and even falls off when standard bugs are being fixed, or not much content is being patched.

What's really interesting, however, is that Relmstein then compares WoW's changes to the effects that content schedule has on other MMO releases. Lord of the Rings Online and Guild Wars (which are WoW's two worthy opponents) both released during downtime (after Burning Crusade and after the vanilla release, respectively). And on the other side of the spectrum, both Vanguard and Everquest 2 tried to go directly up against new WoW content, and, as Relmstein says, got steamrolled.

So looking towards the future, it's not hard to see what might happen. Wrath of the Lich King will make a big splash for sure, both bringing lots of players back, and maybe even bringing new players (who played Warcraft III and want to see Arthas) into the fold. Games like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online may try to go up against it, but it wouldn't be a good idea-- they'd be better off waiting until about a month after the expansion, when many players have reached 80, seen what they can see in Northrend, and Blizzard is confined to bugfixes and small content updates. Of course, a WoW content break isn't all these games need-- they still need to be good games by themselves. But placing themselves in this downtime between new content will give them a much better chance to woo more players away from Azeroth.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions

WoW's "worthy competitors"


The Houston Chronicle has a short piece up about what they call WoW's two competitors: Lord of the Rings Online and Guild Wars. Interesting choices -- LotRO is, obviously, an MMO based on Tolkien's famous books, and Guild Wars is actually not an MMO in the traditional sense at all -- there's no monthly fee, and the whole thing works a lot more like Battle.net does, where you can play a hero both in a solo game and in an online environment (not surprising, considering the developers used to work for Blizzard).

While both games are reviewed well, neither of them quite matches up to our favorite game. But as I'm sure lots of you know (I'm guessing that most of you have played either one or both-- I've only played Guild Wars), each game does have some elements that could give WoW a run for its money. Most interesting, LotRO is planning to put player housing in a future patch, and Guild Wars, on its latest product page, advertises "no loot stealing, spawn camping, and endless travel."

So while these aren't really "competitors" in the grander sense of player numbers (I'd say WoW's biggest competitor this holiday season might actually be Halo 3), they are definitely biting at WoW's heels in terms of features, and specifically targeting WoW's players with promises of what we've wanted for a long time. Other game companies are clearly getting better at figuring out how to attract the audience that World of Warcraft did, so it seems Blizzard's biggest challenge, from patch 2.2 to Wrath of the Lich King, will be to try and stay ahead of the curve of newer games and their new features.

[ via WorldofWar.net ]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Wrath of the Lich King

New professions: Music, woodworking, or something else?

Recently we talked about what kind of quest you would make if Blizzard gave you the opportunity, and since reading Tobold's suggestion yesterday about a new woodworking profession, it got me wondering about what new professions would work well with the existing system. Like jewelcrafting, any new profession should cover items or functions in the game that are not currently craftable. I know many people are just dying to have your current profession improved, but think for a moment if you could start over with a clean slate: what kind of profession would you design?

To give you an example to get you thinking, I did some searching and found this suggestion for a music profession which would let players create their own instruments and play their own music -- something I hear Lord of the Rings Online implements very well. (The clip above features a LotRO player using his keyboard to play "Dust in the Wind.") In addition to this, "song-spells" or enchanted instruments of some kind could give a benefit for anyone in range to hear them played, such as a short-term buff or heal-over-time, or else a debuff for enemies within range, such as a short charm or a lullaby. Some have suggested that a "Bard" class would be able to do this, but to me it seems that the "singing" mechanic suits a secondary skillset better than a full-fledged class and also opens it up for more people to learn and use in different ways. What's your opinion?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff

Is real money for game items in our future?


No, this isn't something Blizzard is telling us -- they're still out there fighting with the issue of people buying and selling gold. However, Jeffrey Steefel, executive producer of Lord of the Rings Online, who seems to think that in the future, how MMO's handle the secondary market of gold, item, and character sales is going to have to change. In an interview with Eurogamer, he says:

But, we all know that something will happen in the next two to five years to business models in general, so we're paying attention to what's going on [with the secondary market]; watching what's going on with Sony Station whose servers support and manage this.

Does Steefel have a point? In the long run, is the only way to fight the secondary market to legalize it and integrate it with our games? But even if you look at Everquest II, where Sony provides an official method for selling gold, items, and characters for real cash, there's still a secondary market. And I've got to say, if Sony's method doesn't stop secondary market gold sales, I've got to wonder if any method of legitimizing the trade will. And while we wait to see what Steefel decides to do with Lord of the Rings Online, we can watch Blizzard approach the problem in their own way -- in the courts.

[Via Joystiq]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Economy

BBC reports on upcoming WoW competition

Slashdot is linking this morning to an article that BBC has posted today which gathers views from several game developers as they talk about what comes next when you have a behemoth such as the World of Warcraft dominating the MMO-verse. While somewhat light on new perspectives, it's just further showing that developers really do have to account for WoW when considering their existing and future software offerings.

Though the article talks with people behind Star Wars Galaxies, Lord of the Rings Online, and the upcoming Age of Conan, I find that Slashdot commenter JanusFury sums it up best with, "Instead of complaining about the lack of a strong competitor to WoW, how about making one?"

What's on your MMO horizon as a WoW-killer? Does anything coming up, or existing on the market now, have a powerful enough hook to pull you away from the World of Warcraft? Obviously, if you look at the included image, you know what I'm waiting for.

[via Slashdot]

Filed under: News items

UK Court: videogame ideas can be copied

The terrific Tobold points us to this article about a ruling in the UK's Court of Appeal that has ramifications for our whole industry. The judge there says that ideas behind computer games can be freely copied-- it's only the source code and the graphics that cannot. Tobold ties this directly into connections players have been making between Lord of the Rings Online and WoW-- the two systems have lots of similarities (the UI layout is almost exactly the same at first glance)-- and says that Blizzard, for example, would never be able to sue Turbine, maker of LotRO.

Of course IANAL, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a groundbreaking ruling. While graphics and the code are undoubtedly covered by copyright (because you can clearly look at them to tell whether they're identical or not), it doesn't seem like gameplay ideas would be-- game designers have always borrowed popular ideas from each other, going all the way back to the idea of experience points and hit points. Even something like Madden's "Playmaker" feature can be copied-- while other companies can't call their feature "Playmaker," they can definitely use the analog stick to direct plays.

Besides, if you ask me, Blizzard has nothing to worry about, especially from LotRO (I hear Turbine couldn't get the rights to the movies, so while you may see the Treants or visit Lothlorien, it won't be anything you recognize from the films). The magic of Blizzard's game is in the design and the polish of how it's put together. Even they borrowed familiar MMO ideas to try and improve on them, and I'm sure they have no problem with Turbine doing the same thing.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Lord of the Rings Online: Future Competition for WoW?

With usage statistics showing World of Warcraft so far above any potential competition, you've got to whether any game could challenge the top spot.  The last major MMO release, Dungeons & Dragons Online, saw a slight drop in my guild's raid attendance for a week or so, but then everyone lost interest, and was playing again.  (More recently the single-player game Oblivion seems to have caused a heavier attendance drop across the realms - though that may eventually play itself out as well.)  While a true test of Warcraft's dominance of the market is bound to come eventually, questions remain - when and from where?  Well, the developers of Lord of the Rings Online are aiming high - with a target of a million subscribers.  Though this is still significantly less than WoW's six million subscribers, it's a big jump over the next nearest competition (Final Fantasy XI, with an estimated 650,000 active subscribers).  With continued technical problems plaguing Azeroth, how many people are simply waiting for the next big MMO to hit?  And is Lord of the Rings Online going to be the one, or yet another passing fad?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

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