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MMO Licensing Part 3: New Kids On The Block

No no no, not the band. I’m talking about the newest licensed MMO’s to hit the shelves. Namely Age of Conan (AoC) and Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (WAR). These two games have been highly anticipated. Age of Conan came out a couple of months ago and made a big, but short, splash. Warhammer just came out and has a lot of potential to make a lasting splash.Age of Conan

Age of Conan really pulled you in with the first 20 levels. it had everything a licensed game should have. Good gameplay, an interesting and involving story line, boobs (seriously it’s rated Mature for a very good reason and it was different. Combat felt different from most MMO’s, I felt more involved in the combat and the story. The story even made you feel like you had choices, none of them were very real but it at least made you able to role play your characters attitude. For 20 levels I thought this could be my PVP (Player Vs. Player) MMO. For the first time in a very long time I was enjoying fighting other human beings. I was slaughtering those biatches. I was the anti-griefer, writing wrongs throughout the realms of Hyboria. Life was good. Then I hit level 20 and ventured out of the newbie experience and into the “real game”. Suddenly it all changed.

Gone were the immersive story and cohesive landscape. Replaced by a ragtag collection of quests which might maybe form into an over all story arc. However that story arc was a pale imitation of the opening story. I never felt like I was in control of it. It didn’t help that everthing was instanced and the world felt small, cramped and confusing. I didn’t feel comfortable in the new world I’d found myself in. The PvP combat was still fun but the nature of the new areas and the higher level characters made it more dangerous and it was definitely not the same. I lost interest in the game.

Age of Conan pulled a lot of players from WoW, the thing is half of those players went back after a month. The problem with Age of Conan isn’t the initial execution, it’s the lack of follow through. In the begining it gives Lord of the Rings Online a run for it’s money in story telling, then it just drops out.

Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

Warhammer is a based on a roleplaying system. A roleplaying and miniature game system that’s been around for quite some time. There are actually two time periods that Warhammer the pen and paper game takes place in, the swords and sorcery time period and the far future time period (known as Warhammer 40k). This game is swords and sorcery. Warhammer takes a lot of the complexity out of the game. Unlike Dungeons and Dragons online there are no stats to worry about. You simply choose your class and hit the ground running.

The biggest complaint I have about WAR is that the story is a little light. It doesn’t really suck you in and it’s not very well connected. WAR does do a couple of things to make up for this. Probably the biggest of those things are the public quests. Public quests are triggered by area and every player in that area is part of the quest. They usually start with kill X number of bad guys in the area, then destroy some stuff then kill the big bad guy. There’s an XP reward and a chest that drops. Loot in the chest is rolled on and you get a bonus to your roll based on your contribution to the battle. It turns out these are a lot of fun and helped pull me into the game.

WAR is a different approach to a licensed game. Instead of trying to place you solidly in the story they simply give you feel of the world from the game. The classes are different and again reflect the game it’s based on. The real meat of the game is the RvR or Realm vs. Realm.

The company behind WAR is Mythic Entertainment (bought by EA during the development of Warhammer). Mythic was one of the first companies to really challenge EverQuest in the MMO arena. When Mythic released they’re first MMO Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) they put a focus on battles over frontier keeps. Unlike previous PvP experiences this was meant to be large scale massive battles. Capturing keeps, using siege weapons, the whole ten yards. In the early days DAoC was excellent RvR and at best mediocre PvE (Player vs. Environment). Still that was the first game I reached level cap in and I loved it, right up until the dreaded Atlantis expansion, but I digress.

Mythic has returned to RvR in WAR and it’s going to be what keeps a lot of people in the game. There are keeps to siege and bad guys to kill. The causes of order and destruction clash on the battle field and it’s often tough not to get caught up in the action.

So Mythic got things right by keeping the feel of the pen and paper game but adding their own twist. More companies need to look to this model. Some games aren’t fit to be story driven like LotRO and this approach could do a lot to improve them.

The Wrap Up

Basically we’ve got one game that did it right and one game that made people think they’d done it right.  Hopefully WAR can steal some of WoW’s thunder and prove to the media that other games can make an impact. There are plenty of successful MMO’s out there, just none that have caught nearly the attention WoW has. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Next up (I won’t promise when because it took me over a week to get this part up) I’ll talk about Star Gate Worlds and Star Trek Online.

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