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Epic Slant Press is a small publishing company based in North Carolina that currently focuses on books and games. Positivity is the driving force that guides each and every project that the company takes on. The team strongly believes that with a positive outlook anyone can achieve great things. Epic Slant Press strives to support small and local businesses, aid fellow entrepreneurs, and donate a portion of all profits to charities and good causes.

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MMORPGs meet big business

Treasure ChestI am not a naive person in general. I work for a mult-national and I know that they care more about the bottom line than they do about me. I guess you could say I’m just really sick of shareholders dictating every part of my life. I’m also aware that we can never go back to “the good ole days” but I really do long for a time when MMORPGs weren’t a big business. I miss the fact that I was once a niche, fringe player-type. Before World of Warcraft money was important but it came in behind a lot of other priorities. When did being profitable start being “not good enough?”

Before I continue this little rant I should say it came about because of the layoffs at SOE. I’m a bit cheesed off at the company and I am sure that is no shock. I routinely dislike everything they do above the trenches. Their community personnel and developers work tirelessly and only end up cut off at the knees by the executive staff. All in the name of shareholders of course. I kind of thought the layoffs were a bit of a sick joke for April Fools but I suppose I should know better. It wasn’t that long ago that they had a round of layoffs why would now be different? The EQ2 staff wasn’t hit hard this go but any loss is a loss. After all, the live team just keeps getting smaller and the limits of their ability to generate content is starting to show.

This morning I read a great piece over at Player vs Developer that really got to me. Green really talks about the identity of his character and how much it is wrapped up in EQ2. I really feel the same way. Ferrel was made and forged in Norrath. Norrath, quite honestly, contributed greatly to what kind of man I am today. I’ve made life long friends there, learned lessons about how to deal with other people, how to manage and despite all that I just don’t want to be there these days. I feel horrible about it too. It is like I’m punishing the developers even though they’re not guilty. I can’t change how things are but I just miss the days when Varant was a garage company.

I’ve been talking about Rift a lot lately and so have numerous others. What makes me somewhat sad is that I’ve seen the mental shift about that game starting from a player standpoint. The honeymoon is already over and players are now considering whether to stay or go. It is if almost all of the good that Trion did has been dumped already. I am not a fan boy but I do take exception to people basically comparing this MMORPGs first month with that of all the others after WoW/EQ. Nobody can convince me that Rift isn’t about the smoothest launch in five years. I thought I’d take a moment to compare and contrast why I’m playing Rift over EQ2.

EverQuest II (aka why I’m not playing)

Classes – The hype is true when it comes to the state of classes in EQ2. They’re a train wreck. They all play the same, there are far too many, and to be honest some are boring as heck. I’ve never said this but I think it is time to come clean. I absolutely hate playing Ferrel in EQ2. The templar class bores me to tears anywhere but on raids. Soloing is nightmarish slow compared to other classes and grouping usually just means I swing a hammer now and then while I wait to refresh reactive heals. I feel as bored with EQ2 Ferrel as I was with EQ1 Ferrel. Once more I’m a one trick pony with a lot of passive benefits.

Combat Pacing – The combat pace is EQ2 is atrocious. This is not an exaggeration. The other night I was working on some boring chore killing wurms in Velious. I was two boxing with my paladin because Ferrel cannot solo time efficiently. My paladin Folf, who has his mythical and better than average gear, engaged one wurm. I fought it until he was out of mana. I then left Folf and Ferrel on auto-attack, tossed up my reactive and walked off to cook dinner. It took minutes to kill one mob. Minutes guys! I know some classes can do it faster but my paladin/cleric combo can’t. You can skip explaining to me how I need to learn to play. Lets just all agree that combat pacing in EQ2 is slow if you’re not a DPS class and then still might be so.

Station Store – I’m done with RMTs. I know they’re the wave of the future and that they’re “better for players” but I’m done. I’ve given them the chance and I know well enough that no company would switch to them from subscriptions unless they could make more money. SOE is squeezing us left and right in EQ2. All the cool armor textures go to the store. So do all the great mounts. Nothing that changes my power level shows up there which I appreciate but these were items that I used to get for the price of my subscription. I’m either paying RMTs or a subscription. I’m not paying $15 a month and then RMTs on top of it.

Rift (aka why I’m playing with it)

Live Team – At PAX East I sat with Scott and did a lot of listening. One of the things he said to me was that the Trion financiers think that laying off your dev team after release is a bad business decision. Obviously that isn’t a contract and could change tomorrow but for now I’m tired of bare bones development teams and this company isn’t doing that. If Scott says they want a large team I believe him and I have to support a game like that. It means my issues will be addressed sooner and I’ll get more for my money.

Class Freedom – I keep reading about balance for Rift and people going off about it. I don’t get it. You can play any combination you want. You have huge freedom in your point choices. Of course it won’t be balanced! That is what you trade for freedom. The good news is if you really want to min/max you can pick the flavor of the month and play it. If you’d rather play something that suits your tastes and is 5% less effective you can. They’ll tighten up the souls but expecting balance out of a game without absolute classes is insanity. I also like that I am not stuck as a healer when I’m not healing. Thank god for that.

I like the Rifts – I’ve never seen so many people talk negatively about something so awesome. People are out there blogging about how boring and redundant rifts are. Compared to what?! Rifts are redundant and boring compared to WoW where other than the rare phase shifting nothing ever changes? I mean come on! Each individual rift is familiar, yes. No two invasions go exactly the same. It is a change of pace and darn it I like it!

In this case I have to vote with my wallet. For now the Trion business model gets my money.

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3 Responses to MMORPGs meet big business

  1. Starseeker says:

    I feel bad about the SOE layoffs, when things go bad its those working hardest who get hit. My first MMO was EQ1, My second was EQ2, they have basically been my only mmos, with some side trips to AOC, Vanguard, Aion and Lineage 2, for a month or two.
    My best stories and memories come from EQ2. The reason I don’t play EQ2 (on top of your reasons): I don’t feel like they care about me as a customer. I feel like a number throwing money into a black pit called a cash store. I see the game degrade, and feel only disappointment knowing the talent is there to make it great, but the corporate backing is not. Velious had no soul, and it was the last straw for me.

    The reason I play rift (besides that all my friends do): Trion seems to genuinely care about me as a customer. They are open about what is going on (admitting to having a security breech anyone), and it seems that they are more in sync their corporate branch is aligned with their development branch. They have a goal and a vision besides how to best nickle and dime their customers.

    SOE gives the impression they don’t care, Trion gives the impression they do. Really both companies could be either way but it’s all about perception of the customer.

    To the devs that just got laid off – I hope you find work quickly :)

  2. I may be lucky in my EQ2 class choice because the playstyle for a Dirge is very similar in solo and group content – stay alive, stab stuff, and make the group generally better just by being alive and present. Tanks and healers obviously have to do very different things, while ranged DPS (and melee with more positional attacks) play very differently when you take aggro out of the equation with a real tank.

    As to Rift, I’d say that about 80% of why I’m not there at the moment is that I missed EQ2 after spending a number of months away to the game to see where the dust was going to settle on the EQ2X model. The one thing within Trion’s control that I’m not entirely happy about is the power of passive group healing. I sometimes found that Rift groups would devolve into a stalemate of sorts, where the zone boss couldn’t really kill anyone because of all of the Bard/Chloromancer/Justicar splashes amongst the DPS, but killing the boss would take forever because their HP scales with players present. It’s possible that the new five target cap (and moving one of the Bard AOE heals down the roots) has solved this problem, but I still feel like splashing Justicar is a no-brainer for solo builds.

    • P.S. I’d put the over/under on time til I’m back in Telara somewhere around 2 months, plus or minus depending on how much time Velious takes me and some other potential detours.