I have seen the future, and it is Niche

October 24, 2009 at 5:58 am | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Straight to the meat on this one.  No rambly introductions.

Niche gaming.  It’s the future.

Done.  Dusted.

Now for the rambling explanation bit.  We all know the history of MMO gaming:

First there were MUDs.  Then, skipping a few million years of evolution, we had the First Three; Ultima Online, Everquest and Asheron’s Call.  After that came the Dark Ages (of Camelot) which only ended when Blizzard said; “Let there be World of Warcraft”.

And then, pretty much as Fukuyama predicted, history ended (ok, Fukuyama was talking economically and philosophically.  But the point holds.  Just).

Many publishers saw the success of World of Warcraft and decided they deserved their own 9 million subscribers, since when we’ve had plenty of high profile games that have clamoured for our attention and our monthly subscription.  But none have attained anywhere close to the same success, and many have just fallen by the wayside.

World of Warcraft’s Right Place, Right Time factor was very, very high.  Previous generations of MMO games had raised the profile of MMO gaming to the threshold of mass acceptance.  No longer was it geeks who desperately wanted to be Gandalf, it was regular gamers playing a hardcore game style.  Blizzard tipped MMO gaming over that threshold.

Because of the brand loyalty that World of Warcraft engenders, it’s likely that the only game that will take over from World of Warcraft will be its own sequel.  It is highly likely that no game in the future, including the much announced “wow-killer”, will ever have that many subscribers.

This is no bad thing.  The fact that there are 9 million subscribers to a game means nothing to me when the server can only hold 50,000 gamers at any one time.  As a player, all that matters to me about numbers is knowing that there are enough players on the server to allow me to interact in a meaningful way.

Of course, to the publisher it’s a different matter entirely; those 9 million subscribers are needed to recoup the initial development costs, as well as generate new content.

This is where Niche comes in.  A smaller enterprise with lower overheads can not only survive, but prosper if it chooses its niche well.  Concept and imagination cost nothing, and when allied to effective use of budget, both players and company are on to a winner.  Modern development seems to be all about the bloat; small companies must learn to live without it.  Eve continues to go from strength to strength, whilst the big boys just seem to go from one failed product to another.

Furthermore, by requiring a smaller playerbase in order to draw a profit, developers can step away from the formula, the MMO-by-numbers, that we see so often nowadays, and actually attempt to innovate.

On Planet Hawley, I can only see win.  Because more choice is good, and gives us more chance of finding that one game that really, really feels like it was made for us.

I’d much rather have a number of games I hate with one I love, than a world of bland desperately attempting to offend no-one.  I don’t have to play the games I hate; that’s the beauty of consumer choice.

That’s the beauty of Niche.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Instancing versus Solo questing

Wotcha everyone,

Life is easy in World-of-Warcraftville.  Pay a thousand gold, get a dual spec.  And then rub your tummy in glee at the thought of being able to have one spec for soloing, and a second for group/raid/instancing.

I did.  I got a dual spec as soon as I could afford one with Shaman Herewerd, and I’ve never looked back.  Talent specs make such a difference to a hybrid class that having the ability to easily and quickly swap between a Restoration spec for healing groups and an Elemental spec for when I’m alone and need to kick out some damage has meant that I’ve continued questing, when previously I might have put Herewerd in a box, only to be brought out when needed for healing purposes.  Yes, the alts have suffered as a result.

But now Minstrel Hawley is at maximum level, and things are different in Lord of the Rings Online.

Lord of the Rings Online has a trait system, but it’s much simpler and easier to organise.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less complex in min-maxing terms.  And trait setups make a huge difference to gameplay.

One of the first things I did at level 60 was change setups from a more damage-based setup to one that is designed around healing, and getting the most for my healing buck.  The upshot is that solo combat is at least twice as long as it previously was.  Having said that, I now feel more like a healer, rather than a rubbish dps class that could heal.

When it comes to changing trait setups, I’m lazy.  I set up what I think is a good set of traits, and then adapt my playing for the situation.  I find that easier than sitting in front of a Bard scratching my head whenever I’m off to do something different.  Considering that one of my gaming mantras is “Evolve or die” (especially useful when visited by El Nerfo, the evil wind of change), it would be a bit daft of me if I couldn’t adapt to each situation presented to me, regardless of my trait setup.

Yes, some situations are more difficult than others.  But now Hawley is level 60, it’s time to spend most of my time in groups.

If I want the solo/levelling experience, I have many characters to choose from.  Including that potentially (probably) evil Rune-Keeper alt of mine.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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