Cross Roads - by Julie Whitefeather
May 24, 2007 14:16:25

Hindsight, as the old adage goes, is 20-20. Opportunities are rarely seen until they have passed. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected 14 times before it was published; author Ray Bradbury had 800 rejections before he was published - Talk about short sighted!

There has long been a debate over whether the success of the Blizzard Corporation hurts or helps the MMO market. The idea being that, while the huge success of Blizzard brought MMO's into the media mainstream, they may have pushed other products out of the picture. But does the success of Blizzard really hurt the success of other MMOs? Richard Garriott, creator of Ultima Online would say no.

"Every year someone writes a big article about how the M.M.O. business has reached a new plateau and won't get any bigger. And then every year we seem to grow 100 percent. World of Warcraft is just the next big step in that process." - Richard Garriott quoted in War of the Virtual Worlds, NY Times.

Both the size of the market and its makeup has grown. Recently, I logged on to the beta of "Lord of the Rings Online" only to hear this conversation:

Player a: [having just answered a question] "No problem gramps."
Player b: "I hope this game doesn't become a retirement center."
Player c: "Would you rather it become a day care center?"

I recently joined an organization called The Older Gamers or TOG only to find a short article about it in the most recent edition of Massive Online Gamer magazine. Think of TOG as a guild that spans various MMOs and provides an atmosphere with one special limitation - everyone in it must be over the age of 25. My biggest surprise was to find that they have 14,000 members. This plus growing acceptance of MMOs as an alternative to other "main stream" entertainment brings more income per capita to the MMO Market. And THAT provides something very important - opportunity.

An opportunity for what?

In a word, creativity.

The CCP corporation that brought us Eve Online has shown us you don't have to have subscribers numbering in the seven figure category to stay in business. So successful are they, that they recently merged with White Wolf Publishing. They have shown that, even if you don't have profits that rival the gross national product of a third world nation, you can still be a success.

Yet when a new MMO comes out, the hew and cry of many players is "Its just another WoW clone." However, only a fool ignores factors that contributed to another game's success or failure. How often do you see a store in a strip mall open, close, and then another store open and close again in it's place? There is little more frustrating to a new gamer than a lack of accessibility. Yes there are exceptions. Eve Online, for one, has one heck of a high learning curve. Accessibility can sometimes be something as simple as not having to learn to use something other than the w, a, s, and d keys to move around. It can be giving players familiar features that they have come to expect. Dungeons and Dragons Online players are about to get pvp arenas, auction houses and in game mail.

This presents another opportunity. If you don't have to reinvent the wheel you can concentrate on creative solutions to the other developer's problem. And that, my friends, is what the developers at Warhammer Online are doing. While the developers at Blizzard go back and forth with the accessibility of raid content, debating endlessly aspects like "how many players should it require" the developers of Warhammer Online came up with a creative solution - public quests.

What is a public quest? Here is how Jeff Hickman, senior producer of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning explained it in MMO Games magazine:

"You can join a public quest at any time and have a blast. Play for 20 minutes at lunch, do a couple of stages and log out. Each PQ takes place in stages - usually from three to five - and anyone can jump right in and take part in them at any point in the quests."

Just genius, if Jeff Hickman says so himself, and I have to agree....

"The public quests (PQ's) are one of those things that passes my genius test. My genius test is simple: if you see something, and upon seeing it you go 'my god, that's blindingly obvious,' and yet you had never seen it up until that moment, then whatever it is that you've just seen was probably genius." - Jeff Hickman

And there is a good chance, that somewhere behind the closed doors of the Blizzard Corporation, their developers may have thought so too. They just announced that the next content patch will have not only another 25 man dungeon (which they said they wouldn't do at one point) but also a lot more content for players that have reached the level cap.

Whatever the result of this particular war, I know who wins - the players.

See you online,


Submitted by Brent on May 24, 2007 14:16:25 CST (comments: 2)


'Public quests? Agree' by Earley
Submitted on 2007-06-01 14:16:28 CST
Definitely agree that's a great idea, although not a new one at all. SEED Online comes to mind. It's a failed game for several reasons, but the WHOLE game was just a public quest and it was brilliant.

Also, in a fine point, Blizzard never said they'd stop making 25-player dungeons. They said they'd never make any 40-player dungeons again.

'I Agree But...' by Saylah
Submitted on 2007-06-05 20:22:29 CST
CCP has done great for themselves and even though EVE Online is a little over the top in the effort category for me, I can still acknowledge that it's a great game. The problem with creativity is that making games costs huge bucks - as in other people's money. So it should come as no surprise if those investors are more comfortable trying for a sure thing, versus taking on the risk of niche, different, creative. It's simple economics of cost vs. risk vs. reward. They're gaming companies sure, but businesses too.

Warhammer can afford to take on the chin if it comes to that, but alot of other game developers can't afford the risk. We've got some big examples in recent history. Ryzom does something unique. They get critical acclaim and praise for it but not the numbers. So what happens? On the auction block they go. Sigil tries something new, and leaving the flaws aside, they don't get the numbers and again, on the auction block.

So although as a player I want new and creative, I get why we don't have it. Not many investors want to bet on being the next CCP and end up being Ryzom or Sigil, when it's easier to try be WOW. Even if you only to a small portion of that, you're still in the game.

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