WoW vs EQ2 vs VG vs LotRO
Mar 20, 2007 18:37:16

The MMO forums and blogs are hosting plenty of heated discussions focusing on the swirling vortex of big name fantasy MMOs that dominate the scene today and in the immediate future.

Right now the big 4 in the spotlight are Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard, EverQuest II, and World of Warcraft. Eve Online, Guild Wars and Tabula Rasa are key titles on scene that have buzz around them as well, but those first 4 go head to head in the traditional fantasy MMO market while the other 3 fill other gaming needs. Let's take a look at the state of these core 4 and how they stack up against one another.

First, we should get WoW out of the way. Is no news good news for Blizzard? Since the release of the Burning Crusade the attention being paid to World of Warcraft has been limited to Outland guides, the new arena system and a few minor fix and balance patches. In fact, the small amount of editorial content written to date points to a decline in interest among many hardcore players. This is due to the 'more of the same' approach that Blizzard has taken with its long overdue expansion. The graphics are nicer and it is as polished as ever, but everyone seems very "ho-hum" about the whole thing. Even the most devoted diary blogs and podcasters seem to be casting about for something to keep the WoW fires burning. Unfortunately, Blizzard left a little kindling in the expansion but very little bonfire material.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II, which has maintained good subscriber-ship without becoming a mainstream success, has reached a level of polish equal to World of Warcraft, and people are starting to take notice. Fans of EQ2 are trumpeting its merits, and rightfully so. It has great depth of content and nice balance between the fast leveling curve of WoW and the grind of its predecessor. Like WoW, its established lore is one of its strong suits, but prior to the most recent expansion SOE hadn't leveraged it properly. The people at SOE have finally figured out just how important that familiar lore is, and they're putting it to good use. Still, the combat system leaves something to be desired. EQ2 has struck a perfect balance between the combat pacing and tactics of EQ1 and the hack and slash festivals that are the hallmark of the Korean MMOs (like Lineage), but somewhere along the way they missed the mark. World of Warcraft strove to hit that same sweet spot, and they nailed it perfectly. Where did EQ2 go wrong? What it is that Blizzard did right? Concrete differences between the battle mechanics in each are hard to pinpoint but the fun quotient clearly favors WoW in this case.

Then there is the new kid on the block. Vanguard, a monstrous and profound undertaking that is any but "another fantasy MMO". Or is it? The first thing that has to be said about Sigil is that the tendency to release an unpolished product has persisted through their transition from the EverQuest team at SOE. Much like EQ it has issues both small and moderately annoying. These issues are numerous enough that it adds up to a collection of flaws contributing to the widely held belief that Vanguard needed another 6 months of development. Despite these concerns Vanguard has a magic that cannot be ignored. This magic is not unlike the magic that its spiritual predecessor (EverQuest) captured. Much of this magic formula seems to be directly related to the lack of instancing in favor of an entirely persistent world. Oddly enough, some of Vanguard's strengths are related directly to modern MMO 'features' that Sigil left out. These include unlocked combat states, unbalanced class capabilities, and hazard-free penalty systems. It is counter-intuitive to imagine that making a game harder adds to the enjoyment - strike that, it is more intuitive than one might think because making a game more unpredictable and diverse is a positive thing. In WoW and EQ2 the possible scenarios and outcomes vary little. Open ended systems such as Ultima Online, Eve Online, EverQuest and Vanguard have received praise from dedicated gamers year after year. Maybe the magic doesn't have to be new game features, polish, or cool art. Perhaps players ultimately want freedom, conflict, and unprecedented random events that are memorable.

Later this summer Lord of the Rings Online will open the gates to Middle Earth. Based on the three titles already described, there seems to be little room left for another fantasy MMO, even one backed by the lore of Bilbo and Frodo. Out of these four fantasy MMOs LotRO is the only one with the luxury of a well known intellectual property behind it, and yet, Blizzard and Sony Online Entertainment have already proved that you don't need a familiar storyline to become a celebrated MMO. Further supporting that theory are past IP-heavy flops such as Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies and Dungeons and Dragons Online. The biggest problem with early play testing is the lack of any fresh ideas within the game play. The combat captures none of the strategical and tactical elements of WoW, nor does it have the freedoms of Vanguard. The character classes feel a bit wrong and clash entirely with the 'concentrated cool' found in WoW classes. Will the Tolkien lore be enough to push this one past its adversaries or will Turbine, a company in dire need of a win, bomb despite the licensing wizardry of its CEO?

And there you have it. More orcs, rats, and elves than any one gamer should try to swallow in a single year. Add on Age of Conan, Gods and Heroes and Warhammer Online and you have a recipe for a veritable clash of titans like we've never seen in the gaming world before. The First Person Shoot, Real Time Strategy and Adventure genres have never had so many cards in play at one single time, but this year we're going to see a lot of action in the MMO space and it will be exciting to see how it plays out.

Submitted by Brent on Mar 20, 2007 18:37:16 CST (comments: 15)


'EQ2 > WoW > VG = LoTR' by sifo
Submitted on 2007-03-21 13:44:51 CST
EQ2 > WoW > VG = LoTR - that's my opinion. I like EQ2 the best - my current favorite; tried WoW a couple of times and could never get swept away by it, I think VG and LoTR have enough flaws to keep them from being "huge"... whatever that is.

Warhammer Online looks very appealing though, I can't wait to try it!

'You say one thing, but' by Heartless
Submitted on 2007-03-21 14:04:31 CST
You say one thing sir, but the numbers say another thing. The Burning Crusade has now sold nearly one copy for every active subscription in the NA market. To say that any players are getting bored is just plain ignorance of the facts. It actually shows that players don't mind having the same fun, polished, and technically stable content delivered to them regardless of how long it takes.

My suspicion is that WoW is still growing faster than any MMORPG on the market. This shows the strength of the game. Anyone thinking that people will be leaving WoW in droves are just wrong.

Don't get confused with what is being thrown around on a few hardcore websites and forums. Those idiots have sung the same tune for every single game they have ever gotten involved with. They rush through the content and declare the game boring. Unfortunately for them, WoW is proving that far more players want an experience that is fun and relatively pain free :) This is what they have in WoW and they aren't going to be switching to any other game *cough* LotRO *cough* just because people claim it plays the same way.

'Opinion or Fact?' by brackishwater
Submitted on 2007-03-21 14:50:35 CST
Good points man, and I have to agree with you on the history of companies making games from already established lore/stories/movies. Theres too much that can go wrong, especially in the case of SWG.
I personally jumped to VG because the lore was original. I dont see myself leaving anytime soon.

'Numbers and Rhetoric' by Brent
Submitted on 2007-03-21 15:26:00 CST

Picture this: one million people go to a summer blockbuster in 2007 and enjoy it immensely. The studio decides to make a sequel to the movie for the summer of 2008. The audience will flock to the movie even if it is sub par. In 2009 the third installment comes out and the numbers drop off dramatically from year two. I probably don't need to expand on the point, so I'll move on to the second.

Let us imagine that Company A releases an MP3 player that becomes a massive success and sells 10 million units. Later they release an add-on for that hardware and 10% of their audience buys it, so 1 million add-ons sold.

Company B builds and MP3 player and sells 1 million units. They market a similar add-on that is purchased by 50% of their audience.

The number say that Company A had a better add-on because they sold twice as many units, but in truth Company B sold to a great percentage of their audience.

I do not have real numbers on this, but i'd love to see what percentage of active players buy each EQ expansion vs WoW players who buy the BC.

My point here is that when you're dipping into a bigger pond your numbers will be bigger. It doesn't mean the quality of the water is better than the puddle over yonder.

In short you are confusing a qualitative statement (made by me) with quantitative values. I don't remember saying: the BC is a financial flop for Blizzard. What I am saying is that the center of the donut hole is disillusioned with the product.

'The Burning Crusade' by Kanthalos
Submitted on 2007-03-21 19:41:54 CST
Obviously I can't speak for the 8+ million people who play burning crusade, but myself, I got to level 70 within two weeks and since then, both due to myself and frustration with my guild, I have been looking ever since for a new MMO to keep me occupied. I'm finding that I would rather experience something entirely new and fresh than upgrade my bow from +28 attack power to +33 for running an instance 6 times. That's just me, so I feel brent on that one, whether that was the point he was trying to make exactly or not. Not enough innovation in BC to keep me happy, enough said.

'WoW fatigue?' by Sente
Submitted on 2007-03-21 20:46:21 CST
Looking at the reported numbers for Burning Crusade, Blizzard sold 3.5 million copies in the first month. This does not include China and Korea. 1.9 million for North American servers and 1.6 million for European servers.
WoW has 8.5 million players now, it was about 8 milion not that long ago.
When they reached the 8 million mark, it was said that this was about 2 million players in NA and 1.5 million in Europe.

There are more MMOG options nowadays than a few years back. I think it is only natural that people will be moving around to other games every now and then, more now than a few years back. But people may also move back to older games or keep multiple games going. This is more feasible today than before and that will likely continue.

'WoW fatigue?' by Sente
Submitted on 2007-03-21 20:53:37 CST
Looking at the reported numbers for Burning Crusade, Blizzard sold 3.5 million copies in the first month. This does not include China and Korea. 1.9 million for North American servers and 1.6 million for European servers.
WoW has 8.5 million players now, it was about 8 milion not that long ago.
When they reached the 8 million mark, it was said that this was about 2 million players in NA and 1.5 million in Europe.
I would say that there is a fairly high number of active players that got the expansion.

While there are certainly a number of people getting tired of playing WoW, I am not sure that there will be a big exodus from WoW or a big influx to other MMOGs. Alternative to playing WoW may not necessarily be other MMOGs, it may be other game types or no games at all.
Just because many people got hooked on WoW, it may not necessarily mean that they will start to like other traditional MMOGs.

There are more MMOG options nowadays than a few years back. I think it is only natural that people will be moving around to other games every now and then, more now than a few years back. But people may also move back to older games or keep multiple games going. This is more feasible today than before and that will likely continue.
People may try LoTRO, Vanguard and other games, but could very well end up going back to WoW after a while. Time will tell.

'WoW' by Nezrak
Submitted on 2007-03-22 02:02:52 CST
Yea, it's about WoW ... again...

I'll tell you my little story.

I started my own guild -> merged with another one so we would have the required number of players to achieve 40 man raids -> had trouble even then to get 40 players -> recruited a bunch of "hardcore" gamers to fillup the gap -> cleared 1st instance with 40 men -> got stuck in the second instance 40 men (because it was hard etc...)

Before BC, I was totally burned out from end-game content... and I wasn't even doing that for a long time. I was exausted and the grinding of a 40 men raid was hard on me... getting always enough players in there, etc... managing the guild etc...

Now what does all this come in play ? I know that end-game content pre-BC was alot harder than now, yea, everyone was able to do it tho, because in a 40 men raid, you could have 10 ppl doing nothing at all except auto-attack and you could still (most of the time) complete the "challenge".

BC changed my end-game experience in something much more enjoyable, in the end, 10 men raids to start, 25 men encounter (small encounters, not an 8 hour dungeon).

So I think Blizzard may be losing some "hardcore" gamers in the end, but these hardcore gamers were the ones grinding pre-BC end-game content for a long time, and now that things are easier to manage, they feel "cheated"... I can understand that, but for me, it's a relief that will make me continue to play, and enjoy alot more my game time.


Now as for the "game experience" of WoW, true it's the same, with new maps/skins/dungeons/abilities/skills but they didn't change the overall game, and if you ask me, it's a good thing. If they had changed anything from the game purpose or something, they would have lost alot of players, and they wouldn't have gained much more players. Look at how SWG turned out ? not really good thing to tamper with game mechanic. Ppl who comes back to WoW, want to see something they know, not something new... it's already an old game, and you should keep that as an old game, just need to release expansion more often, and the people who love the game will follow, don't think everyone will wait another 2 years.

'LOTRO and WOW' by Dathmar
Submitted on 2007-03-22 08:52:40 CST
I must say I have played WOW since release ,stopped my subs a couple of times.
Went back to WOW with the release of BC but it didn't really hold my attention that much (perhaps some RL issues caused that...dunno) - but it doesn't have that ?? "something" for me...

With regards LOTRO - I think it will get a few (in few I mean about 500,000 +) people ( some from WOW)
but I must agree with Brent here -

"The character classes feel a bit wrong and clash entirely with the 'concentrated cool' found in WoW classes"

I have been playing the beta for a while now and I cannot find a class (yet) that I thnk - "Yer , I think this class is really good", as I did with some in WOW.
The "healer" class is...well stupid in my just doesn't seem right to be playing your lute as you attack a mob and to be honest - so far its a dull class., even the biggest fayboys I have spoken to agree.
I also think the "spells" / "combat moves" don't seems to be very dramatic ...which leaves me thinking...did that actually do anything ?

However having said all this...I am still going to subscribe to LOTRO as my second MMO as I still enjoy the game - you cannot argue with the Founder's Program....its such a good and brave move by Turbine and will attract many players (I think)

'LoTRO' by Sente
Submitted on 2007-03-22 13:43:48 CST
I must admit that I have not played all classes in LoTRO, but of those I have played only Captain has been quite fun.
I very much agree with Dathmars comment on Minstrel, although in a poll in a community I ma in Minstrel and Lore-master ranked highest among classes people would play.
Burglar has looked a bit promising, but does not quite feel as fun as WoW rogues, EQ2 scouts (I love brigands) or CoV stalkers. But it may get better later perhaps.

Two of the races does not work for me to play - hobbits and elves.

Did a little bit of monster play and that looked fairly promising, but Ettenmoors area looked much smaller than I expected it to be.

I will play LoTRO, but don't expect it to replace CoX that I currently play, rather complement it.

The combat moves/spells are quite toned down - I guess this is somewhat intentional to fit in some Tolkienesque mode. I prefer the visual clarity in that regard that CoX provides, but there it also fits very well with the comic book theme.

'Brent' by Heartless
Submitted on 2007-03-22 19:16:49 CST
You are spot on with your example about movies. However, you have to admit that Lord of the Rings didn't too shabby back to back TO BACK. World of Warcraft is to MMORPGs what Lord of the Rings was to the movies. That all translates into success.

The Burning Crusade has sold MORE boxes than there were active accounts from Blizzard's last numbers release. On top of that there are DIGITAL UPGRADES that Blizzard hasn't even begun reporting. It was something around 1.7 million upgraded accounts after the first day of TBC according to Blizzard. The Burning Crusade is a HUGE success and I still hold firm to my 10 million players by the end of the year for WoW.

I really think it is foolish for any developer to believe their game will pull people away from WoW. These players are in the MMORPG community because WoW was a stellar product from a respectable developer. That is a key point that many developers *cough* Turbine *cough* don't seem to get. They think they can just throw out a game with a brand name attached and the money will come rolling in. It won't. They are not Blizzard, they don't produce Blizzard quality products, and most of all they are trying to compete with WoW at a AAA level. It can't be done.

I'll let you in on a little secret. Everquest's business model depends upon expansion releases being sold to a core audience. The buy through is not that great.

Guild Wars is a very successful game. However, it's expansions have not sold nearly as well as the original game. Last I checked 2 million original Guild Wars, 500,000 Factions, and it trails down from there.

Without access to NPD numbers and with Sir Bruce on vacation we can't really get good numbers for Everquest. What we do have is reports from Blizzard that TBC is selling like hotcakes.

The last part of the equation is where WoW stands in a few months. My guess... and I'll put my name on it... is that WoW hits that 10 million mark.

'Polish' by darrenl
Submitted on 2007-03-23 12:06:20 CST
I would have to disagree with the quality statement regarding quality. Yes, Blizzard is known for its high quality games, no doubt...however, the other companies are starting to catch up. LoTR is probably one of the most stable and smooth beta's that I've been a part of...and the quality is approaching Blizzard levels, if not, it's already there.

One of the main messages from GDC was that devs have got to spend more time "polishing" their games. Not too sure yet if this is just lip service to the concept of quality, but if LoTR is any indication ( well as high props for PotBS), then they are delivering on quality.

'Lotro + region lock = bad' by hughnme
Submitted on 2007-03-26 01:17:08 CST
Lotro has been removed from the equation already for me if as I suspect from the wandering goblin post people from my region (Australia) will be blocked from playing with players from other regions (I’m a member of “the older gamers” and we have a large American contingent),if that were the case with the current mmo’s I’m playing it would be very lonely time indeed

'My two cents' by Gallatin
Submitted on 2007-03-29 13:22:54 CST
I absolutely disagree that LOTRO is polished, or has anything approaching the level of polish that WoW had in beta. LOTRO is a very pretty game until your character moves. Immersion breaks for me when characters start moving. The animations are awkward and it pulls me out of being immersed in the world. I wouldn't say Blizzard's animations are technically superior, but they don't break me out of the game world thinking "Oooh, that looked stupid". Like something as simple as the speed at which the horse legs move in LOTRO when you're riding from town to town. What horse runs like that? No horse has legs that move that fast. That's the kind of polish that's lacking all over the game.

The interface is squishy. I totally hear Ron Pardo at the Austin GDC talking about what's acceptable for your interface; the way your mouse moves, the way buttons respond, how much a user has to fight the interface to remain immersed in the world. LOTRO totally fails for me in that aspect. The buttons don't respond well, the icons are small, it's not easy to see the cool-down timer on the icons, the mouse definitely drags.

I'm not trying to be harsh. I'd love it if LOTRO was an acceptable alternative to WoW, but I think it completely lacks the polish necessary for me to get involved in the game.

'Stats' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-04-14 04:48:37 CST
Just a comment on Brent's film analogy. Basically films and sequels don't have pre-requisites i.e. you don't have to have reached a level in film 1 to watch film 2. In fact you don't have to have watched film 1 to watch film 2.

This means that although 40% of people at least have bought Burning Crusade, there are many for whom it is too high level. Re-EQ2 - of course this suffers from exactly the same thing. Echoes of Faydwer was a big success simply because it had L1 content, which everyone could take account of. My highest EQ2 character is L37 and very few of the expansions have had any content for me bar EoF.

Re- original poster - bang on with the article. There is clearly a "drabness" to the EQ2 combat system. They have been unable to clearly define the individual skills and purposes for skills in the same way that WoW (and interestingly Vanguard) have. This makes the game combat a lot less immersive and "plastic".

LOTRO - well we will see. I have grave reservations that this will do any good at all. It has acres of tediousness mixed with gems in its gameplay.

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