Hype can be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to MMORPGs. Most of us have found ourselves completely caught up in a hype whirlwind a time or two during these last couple years of newly-released MMORPGs only to find ourselves disgruntled, disappointed, and looking elsewhere for our gaming adventures. Star Wars: The Old Republic, anyone? Guild Wars 2? Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn? Defiance? Ragnarok Online 2? Neverwinter? That’s not to say any of these games are horrid, mind you, but let’s face the facts– a lot of folks were disappointment whether it was ten days after launch or six months. Games don’t always stack up to their hype.
It’s enough to turn once-avid MMORPG fans into explorers of different genres. I have a number of friends I used to play World of Warcraft and SWTOR with who’ve left the MMORPG genre for single player games, MOBAs, or stopped gaming altogether. Burnout happens, hype for new games happens, disappointment happens, and the combination of the three? We’re talking hurricane-strength winds.
Naturally, gamers who have been burned a time or two have began looking at the next few MMORPGs on the horizon with a great deal of questions. “Is this the game that will make me love MMORPGs again?” “Will these raids be as awesome as TBC raids?” “Will I be able to keep my friends playing this one?” All completely valid questions. Also naturally, we tend to compare games in development with one another as well as with games that are currently out on the market. Two games that are receiving a ton of buzz, a ton of criticism, and a ton of comparisons are WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online.
Both games are sort of getting developed in the same time frame, so it’s natural we’ve started comparing the two. Both games are currently undergoing closed beta weekend testing. The scopes of both games are considerably large, especially considering NCSoft is publishing WildStar and TESO is, well, The Elder Scrolls. Both games will have subscription-based models which is garnering a lot of attention. 2013 has definitely been the year for free-to-play MMOs, and to have these two giants both have sub models is risky to say the least. Will both games fail in their business models? Will one fail where the other succeeds? Now that’s where the speculation fun begins.
The MMORPG community is an opinionated bunch. Hop in any active game’s general/world chat and you’ll see conversations about how much WoW sucks, how much every game that came after WoW sucks, and how TESO and WildStar both are either the game that will cure the “sucky MMORPG” flu or make it a worldwide epidemic that will kill us all. Gamers take their speculation and opinions seriously, after all. Still, there’s something to be said for the argument at hand. The games are vastly different, aren’t they? Why should one fail and one succeed to begin with? Can’t both succeed?
Part of the reason why the community feels that one is doomed and the other isn’t is because they’re vastly different. TESO is working with an extremely strong premise. Skyrim is friggen’ massive. Avid fans of the franchise feel that the Elder Scrolls name alone will guarantee a win for TESO and that the ways in which the game’s story will be brought to the forefront are exactly what the MMORPG scene needs. Folks are tired of the “run from quest hub to quest hub” model and TESO is getting rid of some of that and encouraging players to poke around in bushes and stuff for new quests instead.
TESO is also presenting itself as mighty appealing for fans of crafting, exploration, roleplaying, hybrid playstyles, open-ended character builds, map-wide “zerg” style PvP, and remnants of single player RPG gameplay inside an online universe. These are all pretty cool things to have in an MMORPG, but there are a lot of questions the opposing side has every right to ask as well. The largest question is, “What about endgame?” This question pretty much doomed SWTOR‘s subscription model and is one of the reasons many players left behind other games that launched with a ton of hype. TESO shares a lot in common with SWTOR, actually, and while this may mean good things for fans of franchise-based MMORPGs, it may also lead the way to disappointment. An MMORPG has to launch with a strong endgame.
There are members of the MMORPG community who are also shaking their heads at some of the directions TESO‘s development is going in general. Cyrodil sounds pretty nifty on paper, but any Guild Wars 2 WvW vet will tell you that large-scale PvP matches aren’t a whole lot of fun unless there is more to them than simply mowing over huge groups of players. Strategy, teamwork, and incentive are vital to any type of lasting PvP feature, and when PvP is tacked on instead of developed alongside the game those three requirements never seem to meet the bar.
Some folks are also dissatisfied with how closed off the developers have been regarding revealing new information about The Elder Scrolls Online. We haven’t publicly seen a ton of info which leads people to believe that development itself is seriously lagging and that endgame will suffer as a result. We haven’t heard much in the way regarding endgame at all, and for players who are used to looking forward to raid teams, this comes as a disappointment even during this early stage. TESO may have The Elder Scrolls name backing it up, but a huge portion of the MMORPG community needs more than a name to instill faith in what they play.
On the flip side, we have WildStar. Carbine Studios is doing pretty much the opposite here with information reveals. The public knows a ton about WildStar in comparison to TESO. We know everything from how leveling will work to how many raids and endgame dungeons we’ll have to some of the exact abilities that each of the classes will have. The developers have treated the game like an open book in some regards and have even disclosed closed beta patch notes as a result of discovering some were leaked. This philosophy has helped increase the publicity of the game and has brought in a large amount of fans.
It also helps players decide if WildStar‘s the game for them. All the combat videos we’ve seen tell us how involved endgame raids might be and how challenging group encounters should be. This is great because any MMORPG does best when it launches with a lot of hype and draws in tons of players, but also keeps a large number of those players. Early opinions count, and the more players that stick around because they have that endgame goal in mind, the more attention the game will garner as a whole. Comparing WildStar‘s endgame with TESO‘s currently is kind of, well, impossible, and that doesn’t look good in a lot of players’ eyes who love teamwork and the adrenaline rush of raiding.
Interestingly enough, other aspects regarding WildStar seem to be almost opposing TESO thus far. TESO is trying some new things with questing and story-based leveling while WildStar still has a great deal of “kill X” types of quests. A large portion of these quests were completely redone in order to embrace a progress bar-type system, but just from watching gameplay videos and the like it’s easy to tell that WildStar is extremely objective-defined while TESO is more exploration-defined. There will be a lot of exploration in WildStar undoubtedly, but it seems to be of a different pace from TESO.
Whereas TESO can be compared to SWTOR in a lot of ways, WildStar seems extremely similar to World of Warcraft in a lot of ways. The graphic style is very similar, as is the tone of the game, the flavor of races/factions, the rigid trinity system, and the entire endgame setup. For some, this is the allure. Players who were once hardcore WoW raiders but have drifted from game to game dissatisfied for years may be close to finding a new home in WildStar. For others, it’s 100% a negative and something to shy away from completely. For those players, the hope of a loosely-defined endgame in TESO may be a winner.
It’s all rather interesting when you think about it. These two games with very similar time tables and subscription model plans seem to be facing off while on equal footing, but in reality, they’re so different that the opinions about both are almost guaranteed to be split. There are a few MMORPG fans who plan to eagerly try both (okay, I might be one of them…), but for the most part, each game seems to have a set fanbase that’s entirely separate and that hopes for different things. Frankly, that’s okay. The only way that either game will succeed with the subscription model is if it manages to form a solid community and keep it that way as post-launch development continues.
So, the big question remains. Will both or either live up to their hype? That’s impossible to say at this point, obviously, but based off the fact that each game is promising features that are completely different and that cater to separate playstyles, I would venture to guess that both will launch successfully. What happens after that will depend on many factors. Endgame and post-launch development are the big two. It’s completely possible that TESO will end up with a unique endgame that throws new ideas into the fold, but it’s also possible that it will remain a niche game. WildStar is also at risk of becoming a niche game, of course, simply because of its WoW-factor and concentration on raids.
Both games have the capability of being that fresh and exciting game that breathes new life into the MMORPG genre, and that says something. There’s a pretty big hype whirlwind hovering above all of our heads, but where it lands is totally within our hands– and the developers’, of course.