By my posts and community involvement, you might think that the only game that I play is Lord of the Rings Online. While that’s almost true, I do venture outside of Middle-Earth occasionally to see what else the gaming world has to offer. For one, I’m interested in how other games approach certain things and what systems/strategies work better or worse than what I’m familiar with in LOTRO. Second, although I currently have no plans to stop playing LOTRO, I know that games don’t last forever, and I’d like to understand the landscape in case things start to go south. Lastly, the distinct possibility exists that there may indeed be a game out there that succeeds in replacing my current “number one” due to it’s sheer awesomeness, approach, or general “fun factor”. After all, LOTRO is a six year old game, surely somebody has seen fit to improve upon the concepts of gameplay that I know fairly well….
So far in my meanderings, I’ve been surprised by the lack of a game that is able to supplant LOTRO as my go-to MMO. I’ve tried out the likes of Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, Star Wars: TOR, Guild Wars 2, RIFT, and Marvel Heroes and while each of them has some strong points, none of them was able to hold my attention for longer than a few weeks. I’ve always found myself back in Rohan, Rivendell, or Bree. I might go into some explanations at some point, but for this post I’d rather focus on the much anticipated releases of a two MMO’s in 2014, and why I still don’t see anything on the horizon that’s going to draw me out of LOTRO.
When I speak of the two most anticipated (and hyped) games of 2014, of course I’m talking about Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online. Both were originally slated for 2013 releases, both were pushed back until early 2014, and both have been hyped almost beyond comprehension. In fact, TESO won the most anticipated game award at E3…in 2012, almost two full years before it will actually be released. Both have also opted for a subscription-based business model. As I look over the information about both games, I’m fairly underwhelmed. Below I’ll break down my reasoning by game.
Wildstar: Stylistically, this game looks like “WoW in space” to me. I enjoy a game with a certain amount of realism, and the graphics of Wildstar turned me off immediately. Which is kind of a shame, because some of the mechanics (ground healing/damage shapes etc.) sound very interesting. This might be nit-picky, but it looks like Wildstar uses the “green outline” approach to letting you know you’ve moused over a player or NPC (similar to GW2 if I’m not mistaken). Is that really necessary? At any rate, the combat looks very familiar, including skill bars that host a good number of skills. Any time a game touts “action-based” combat I cringe a little bit, imagining the endless mouse-mashing that usually accompanies such a claim. But in the case of Wildstar, it looks like they’ve maintained a lot of the type of gameplay that makes MMO’s great – a variety of situational skill rotations and a “holy trinity” style of group play. If there was one MMO in 2014 that threatens to cut into my LOTRO time, it looks like Wildstar would be that game. But still, those cartoons. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get past them.
Elder Scrolls Online: On the opposite side of the visual spectrum is the Elder Scrolls MMO slated for April 2014 release. At first glance, the world and graphics of TESO look amazing. The fantasy landscape of this game look to be much more in line with my visual preferences. The idea of being able to use any armor for any class is also quite appealing, and could make for some interesting hybrid builds. Unfortunately, from the small samples of play that I’ve seen, the combat system seems to be very much like Skyrim (which is the only Elder Scrolls game that I’ve played, so it’s all I’ve got to compare to). I say unfortunately because I was never able to get into the left mouse/right mouse style. It feels very “mashy” to me, and seems like you are very limited on skills. I know you can switch your weapon with correct keybinds, but without some sort of visual cue as to what my keys are bound to, I have a tough time switching to the correct weapon/spell. Nothing worse than pulling out a fireball when you need a healing spell. At any rate, I prefer the skill-bar style of rotational combat. If TESO is as “hack and slash” as Skyrim, I doubt that the combat will be to my liking.
Now, we come to the real reason I’m not excited for either of these releases. They are both requiring player subscriptions. Not that I’m necesssariliy against subscriptions, but they don’t work for my situation. First of all, allow me to rant for a second. If a game decides to go subscription only with their business model, then in my humble opinion, they have no business charging you up-front for a digital download. They’re probably going to make at least $240 off of you (if you only sub for a year), so that extra $50 is just because they can. What other subscription service charges you up front for the privilege of downloading their software? Spotify? Netflix? Anybody? Nope, just video games. /rant.
Why don’t subscriptions work for my personal situation? I’ve heard the arguments: It’s less than a dollar a day, just skip that morning coffee a few times a week! Well, that works, I guess, if it’s just me that I’ve got to be concerned with. However, in my family we play video games as a source of entertainment. I play, my wife plays, and my oldest two boys play. At some point, my younger two will also be old enough to play, but let’s just set them aside for now. If I play Wildstar or TESO, and the kids all gather ’round, and everybody decides that they like the game and that it’s going to be the new game that we play together, that’s….hmmm…$50/copy times four, plus $20/month times four, times twelve months….over $1100 for my family to play a video game. A VIDEO GAME. That’s why the subscription model doesn’t work for my situation. In fact, I’m a little put off to realize that either a) the game companies haven’t put this together yet or b) they have put it together and they don’t care because I’m not in their target demographic. In either case, it’s kind of disheartening. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a video game player is 30 years old. That means you’d only have to be slightly older than the average age of all players to be in a similar family situation to me. And yet, we’re being ignored as a target market.
So there you have it. I’m not excited about the 2014 releases because they’re not excited about me. I’ll probably give them a second look when they decide to open a cash shop and go free-to-play. It’s not that subs are bad, but choices are better.
Featured image by Kyle Mercury on Flickr