I played mostly (but most definitely not exclusively) games what could be called the AAA segment of the market, and mostly ones which use subscription-based business models (as that was my research area). During that time (the last 8 years) I must have, easily, bought and played nearly 20 or so different titles, for varying amounts of time. Some I played for a few months (before returning to World of Warcraft), some I played for several months, one I even managed for a year (though admittedly those last couple of months we’re very intermittent!). None of the games had the staying value of World of Warcraft for me during this time, which was my perennial go-to game when the subscription of the current MMO I was playing lapsed. For the most part I played these games during that all important (from a sellers perspective) launch periods, and I generally played out the first couple of months of launch, ate through the opening content, because dissatisfied and then left.
Several months ago it struck me when reading a gaming Blog about improvements in Age of Conan that in my classic “wow day tripper” actions, I’d never actually looked back to see if these games had improved over time. I’d happily returned to WoW a number of times (a game admittedly which in late 2010 itself finally lost its lustre in the face of very stiff and good competition for my time) but Pirates of the Burning Sea, City of Heroes, Eve Online, Rift, Conan, Aion, DCUO etc? Nope, hadn’t ever bothered to return.
Then I played Star Wars: the Old Republic (SWTOR) recently, and, after the initial 2 months, I decided; you know, this will be a great game in 6 months time. So I decided to let my game lapse and return to the game in about August time to see if they’d finally sorted out a lot of the bugs, problems and so forth. The idea being, I could see a great game, but I don’t like paying Bioware for being an alpha product tester, and let’s be honest, the (great) PvE story content ain’t going anywhere. In many ways this was very new for me. I’d never looked back before, I’d never about a game made a mental note to return. In many ways I played a game, and apart from WoW, when it was done, I never returned.
And so I hit upon an idea; to give all those other games I’d left years ago another go. Especially as a number of these games were now free to play, and many of them had now had over a year’s time to “get things right”. Indeed for me much of this was about whether the game designed, given the time and space after launch, and in some cases an entire couple of years, had finally managed to resolve the problems of their game which I had.
The weighted and considered answer?
Well, some games where better than others. Some games had altered, but not in a way to fundamentally change my impression of the game, and indeed for the most part the change in the game were at the very extreme “end game segments” where the designers had attempted to solve content issues or add in more material for their raiding community. For the most part upon my return to a number of games, very little for the new returning player at all had changed, which was indeed a huge disappointment.
Some games unfortunately haven’t stood the test of time and fail badly on the comparative product test. For example, I loaded up City of Heroes/Villains, took one look at it, and deleted it. Why? Its graphics, interface and story simply fail in comparison to DCUO which is way much more modern. I’m not a retro gamer really. I like remembering the great time I had on Bioware’s classic Baldurs Gate 2, but I’d rather play Dragon Age 2 or Mass Effect 3. In the same way, some games simply haven’t stood up to the test of time well graphically against their competition. For a number of games, like Age of Conan & Star Trek, the new player experience has hardly moved along since I last played it. There’s been much movement of end game content, but the basic problems of the game, which to be fair for Star Trek would entail a whole re-write of their ground based encounter systems, hadn’t budged an inch. Rift was an interesting difference as when I’d left Rift I’d left with my character as a relatively high level (40 out of 50), and so I was able to play through a number of interesting changes they’d put in the last year. In particular their Instant Adventure queuing system has been very fun. An instant queuing system to join a 20 man raid group which is tearing around the PVE content , slicing through multiple missions and gaining loads of resources? And is actually quite fun? Yep, that works for me. It’s kind of an evolution of the Public Quest system which Rift lent from WAR (a game, by the way, that I’d definately never return to…) which makes sure that there’s a continuous flow of players at the “Public Quest” (which was always the big problem).
In all, I was quite pleased with the results of my little experiment over the last few months, as in many ways it confirmed, and in some cases reinforced, my viewpoints of the games, but it also gave me quite a lot of insights as well.
I did try returning to World Of Warcraft for a little while, I should add. I lasted an afternoon. That was definitely a case of “never look back”. I may be back for the pandas (shudder)