Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 14, 2012
 
Innovation is necessary, but not sufficient

Ionomonkey is worried that by not buying The Secret World we, the players, are sending a bad message: "We’re saying: Guys! Don’t bother innovating too much or giving us anything other than swords, elves and dragons. Don’t change too much the formula either. We want our ability bars, our kill ten rats quests and our raids. We’re going to scream we want different so just switch the furniture around enough so we think we’re getting something new."

I think he got the message wrong. Players are not clamoring for more elves and dragons. They are clamoring for games that are fun, polished, bug-free, and have flow. The Secret World didn't fail because it had innovation, it failed because it relied on innovation to make up for its various shortcoming. If Funcom had made the same game, just with elves and dragons instead of zombies and Cthulhu, it would have flopped even worse.

Innovation is a good thing, but it isn't sufficient. What people appreciate about Guild Wars 2 is not just the innovation (which in part isn't actually that original), but the excellence of execution, how well everything works together. If you can make a game that just works, you can think about doing it in a different setting. But just having an innovative setting and some half-baked new game elements that don't fit together well won't create a smash hit.

Comments:
As it happens, I do want my ability bars and my kill ten rats quests. Those are part of why I choose to play what we could call traditional MMOs rather than other video games.

And personally I am not all that bothered about polish. If anything I prefer some rough edges. Most of my favorite and most loved entertainment and culture comes out of an indipendent/diy sensibility and rough edges are not just expected but welcomed.

I like The Secret World a great deal. The reason I'm not playing it now has nothing to do with any technical shortcomings. It does, however, have a lot to do with the fact that I am much more interested in spending my leisure time in a light, bright, colorful and largely happy imaginary world than a dark, brooding, disturbing one. So in my case at least it very probably would have made a difference "if Funcom had made the same game, just with elves and dragons instead of zombies and Cthulhu".

Although I'd pass on elves.
 
The counter-argument would be: if you can make the game that works, what incentive would you have to innovate on the setting front? It is an unnecessary business risk most of the time.

I do agree with the your premise though, and always hate the "it's your fault" argument. We're consumers, not investors, not charity workers, not R&D assistants. You are allowed to want both an innovative game AND fun game without it being hypocritical, just like you can want a cheap, good steak (or whatever).

And none of us were responsible for Funcom's outrageous sales expectations, so most of this is moot anyway.
 
The question is:

Would The Secret World have been more successful using GW2's business model?

I honestly think that a lot of MMO players came out of SWTOR and were subscription-fatigued, either going back to WoW as a safe pair of hands or saying "Never again".

GW2's gameplay innovations only work in the context of a b2p game. You mention excellence of execution but my experience of launch has been pretty bumpy to be honest. Like many, I forgive Anet because I am not paying anything for downtime.
 
TSW didn't fail because it's a bad game. Sales are not a foolproof measure of quality, there are a lot of other factors involved that determine success. Continuing to claim that a game sells only because it is better than the competition is foolish.

Some reasons TSW tanked:

- Too expensive. Full price + sub is viewed as very expensive these days

- Too niche. Fantasy is popular, especially amongst gamers. Conspiracy theory is more niche, although I guess TSW could have tapped into the "Urban Fantasy" genre and failed.

- Too high expectations. 200 000 for an mmo isn't bad, but Funcom expected, what, five times that many sales?

- A true beta, and not a demo. There were bugs in the beta all the way up to release, and they were fixed. But players aren't expecting betas with actual bugs these days. I played the Mass Effect 3 "beta" right before that game was released, and that was no beta at all - it was a limited feature demo which worked flawlessly. The only game that can get away with a true beta these days is WoW.

- Advertising could be better. There was advertising, and it was hyped, but I was much more aware of GW2 than of TSW until a friend sent me a beta invite in june. And I live in Norway! (I don't think that makes me a fanboy - Funcom hasn't got a very good rep here either.)

- And the big one, Guild Wars 2 launching right after. GW2 is cheaper and fantasy-themed, and had a huge amount of hype. I didn't play in the beta, but nobody cried about the bugs there, so I'm guessing it was a "modern-style beta", ie a demo.
 
Providing a good product certainly is a top priority (polished, bug free etc) but the thing is, TSW was not buggier than, say, GW2. Nor did it lack things to do.

The sad reality is that while people scream and moan about needing "innovation" and how "the industry is completely stale", the moment something brings them out of their comfort zone, they react badly.

In that sense, lono is correct. What do you think the industry's reaction will be? Convincing the stockholders to put money down on a project that (a) isn't part of an existing IP and (b) tries to do things differently will be impossible. Let alone splurge on the next "innovative project" to make sure that it has a mirror-shine polish.

This is why we can't have nice things, ever.
 
I didn't play in the beta, but nobody cried about the bugs there, so I'm guessing it was a "modern-style beta", ie a demo.

I did play the beta weekends. True there were very little bugs (for the mainstream players, those who ventured outside the most obvious areas did find bugs and scenary errors).

But it was an actual beta, in each beta weekend visible features changed based on feedback left by players on the forums. It created a lot of additional buzz as Arenanet because a lot of players felt that they "actually listen to the players".
 
TSW was not buggier than, say, GW2. Nor did it lack things to do

Personally I found TSW to be sub-par in both combat and graphics, and far inferior to GW2 in game flow. In the beta the "things to do" mostly involved a lot of variations of very slowly killing grey zombies in a grey town / landscape.
 
I'm currently playing GW2 and enjoying it.

If they lowered the price off the secret world to €15 and without a subscription, I would probably give it a go.

With GW2 going no subscription and SWTOR going F2P subscriptions seem to have become impossible to pull off.
 
That's bad design, I agree - but the not overall design. Killing zombies goes extremely quick if you happen to pick up an aoe builder and an aoe finisher, and slowly if you pick one of the weapons that mainly have single target attacks in the inner wheel.

For grey town - here it's down to vibrant, colorful fantasy vs dark, moody horror again. Kingsmouth reeks of atmosphere, if you're in the right mood.

The combat system is pretty boring at low levels, it comes into its own only when you have a big pile of ability points spent. This is unfortunate, but it's not much different from WoW. I'm currently playing around with a low level warlock, and my god is the combat boring. Spam shadowbolt, next target, spam shadowbolt, repeat. With corruption I can get in some multidot fun with actual risks, and at level 10 I got to turn into a demon, but...the demon form can't use corruption, so it's back to sb spam ad infinitum...

The great strength is investigation missions, which are thickest in Solomon Island. Unfortunatly you can play for several hours before finding the first one, but that's just how mmos work.

Graphics in TSW are very good, but again, not vibrant fantasy colors. Don't mix up "shiny" with "good graphics".

TSW is fantastic at what it tries to do. But it's just not what enough people want to do.
 
"Personally I found TSW to be sub-par in both combat and graphics, and far inferior to GW2 in game flow. In the beta the "things to do" mostly involved a lot of variations of very slowly killing grey zombies in a grey town / landscape."

Which is, of course, a valid opinion.

But these things are aesthetic and design choices, not bugs and polish. And the combat does pick up when you start accumulating more skill points and its true strength emerges - the horizontal progression and the vast customization.

I think you're proving lono's point. If it doesn't have vibrant fantasy settings with flashy combat, dragons and elves, the attention something gets is the fraction of MMO X that does deliver on that front. And guess what, your next MMO will also have a vibrant fantasy setting. And the next, and the next...

Again, people feeling more comfortable with something familiar etc. etc.
 
I've been trying to send that message to Activision for years by never buying any CoD games, but somehow I think they can't hear me over the sound of their other customers.
 
I agree with "excellence of execution".
 
I don't want radical innovation. I like quests, I like having action bars with abilities, I love Elfs and Dwarfs and every medieval weapon/world...

I have seen all medieval movies but I only seen the very best of sci fi or drama or comedy...For me the only reason to play TSW would be to have elfs and dwarves.

I also don't understand why the hell people are moaning toward innovation..if you want to create a new game genre go ahead and name it MMOXXX whatever you want..why you so much want to destroy traditional MMORPG?

You are burned up with MMORPG and because of that you want MMORPG to be past and its place to take something "new" that you hope it will make you feel like the first your first MMO.

Elfs is not your problem...action bars with abilities is not your problem..kill ten rats isn't either..you are burned out after so many years. Either try a different genre or stop playing for a long time.

Funcom just thought that the loud minority on forums and blogs are the vast majority of players and tried to make something different than the typical sword and board MMORPG. Even in swtor the majority of people play a melee class with a "sword" and "charge" and martial arts
 
I agree with most of what you said Tobold. Personally, the reason i am not playing TSW is that during beta the game was unplayable on my computer. simple as that.
 
I think TSW DID fail because it is a bad game. Word of mouth in MMO's is extremely important, and so is building a good reptation.

I have not played TSW, I am neutral to the setting, and I have zero interest in trying TSW if you even gift wrapped it for me. The most important thing is that I have not heard a single person extoil the awesome virtues of TSW on any blog, forum etc that I frequently visit.

Every positive comment I've read is followed up by a "BUT" then a whole gammult of negative things. That I think is the MAJOR reason TSW failed.

Same goes with GW2. Granted that before the game came out and before the Open Beta weekend's they had lots of good will from fans following the game. But despite having no subscription fees, and despite all that good will, if they had a game akin to TSW, they would have failed miserably.

Look everywhere on the gaming internets and you'll find the general consensus for GW2 is that it is fun. Sure they have their problems and some haters but again, almost every thing I've read (even the reviews which we gamers love to hate) all say GW2 is fun. No qualifiers.


SWTOR didn't "fail" because they didn't do elves and dragons. I would even go as far as saying they didn't fail because of the subscription fees. I can safely say that since I got to lvl 30 on a Commando, that SWTOR failed because gameplay was repetitive after the initial first 20 levels.

Let's compare SWTOR vs GW2.
- Vista vs Holocrons. Lots of jumping and exploring to get to them. Completely optional content. But Holocrons got harder and harder to obtain and I found myself spending a few hours just to get to them. Even after seeing how to get to a holocron on youtube it would still take me countless tries to get to some of them.
The result being after level 20+ I gave up on them completely. Vista in GW2, some are hard to reach, some easy, but once you know the path to reach it, it only takes a few tries at most.

- Quest Hubs. Both games have many quest hubs, but GW2's concept of lowering your level to make all content challenging is very very key and something I forsee most future MMO's adopting. I had many experiences in SWTOR where I outleveled content in a certian areas and there just was no point going back to complete them. Similarly not having to constantly look for quest givers is a HUGE boon to exploring an area.

Bottomline is GW2 developers concentrated on making the leveling game fun. And even if I dropped GW2 after a few months, you can be sure that I'll be back paying full price for the expansion because isn't that why we play computer games in the first place? For fun?
 
I mostly agree with Iono: i remember all the SWTOR comments that would criticize it as WoW with light sabers and then list all the required WoW features it was lacking.

AAA MMOs need most all of the AAA (essentially WoW but some Rift & GW2) features. Which is probably prohibitively expensive, let alone does not leave any budget left for anything innovative.

If you want innovation, you reward success but also minimize the cost of failure. MMO players clearly do not do that. If innovative products also take more [initial] marketing, then why would you be innovative?
 
Agreed Ulrik, imo funcom nailed it atmosphere and graphics-wise in Solomon island. It *is* the world seen through the eyes of HPL (although he would have made all monsters invisible and instead provided descriptions of them, in sentences that go on for pages...). When playing in this world i feel more engaged and immersed than in a cartoony and shiny pastel coloured "dream"-land with hopping bunnies (although i think i saw these in tsw too). But thats me, and the "masses" want otherwise and they dont read HPL either. I hope that funcom can make an income and keep tsw running, after adjusting expectations. If they keep aiming straight at the niche i think it may work. Btw ive played quite a bit of gw2 lately and really cannot fathom why gw2 combat and character development is considered vastly superior to tsw.
 
I've been playing both... and it may seem like heresy, but TSW is not an inferior game.

I think TSW has a more static world but superior quest structure and storytelling. GW2 has a more dynamic environment (at least the first time through) but more kill-ten rat quests.

Character building (stats and skills) in TSW is head and shoulders above the GW2's class system, although the open system does force a certain normalization of mechanics. Some of the GW2's classes have amazingly inventive (Mesmer, I'm looking at you!) mechanics, but pvp and endgame balance is going to be... as problematic as any other class-based mmo.

The big failure is the payment model. It doesn't concern me that much, as I plonked down for TSW's Lifetime subscription (only second time I've ever done that), but I can see that being a real issue to a lot of gamers right now.


 
emyln: "I think TSW DID fail because it is a bad game. Word of mouth in MMO's is extremely important, and so is building a good reptation.

I have not played TSW, I am neutral to the setting, and I have zero interest in trying TSW if you even gift wrapped it for me. The most important thing is that I have not heard a single person extoil the awesome virtues of TSW on any blog, forum etc that I frequently visit."

I find it odd that you're so sure it's a bad game without having played it. And if you haven't seen people praising it, then that's because you haven't been looking. It is a great game. I loved it. I'm only not playing it now because for some reason one of the patches caused my keyboard to misbehave in-game and because I had no one else to play with (and playing an MMORPG, even a great one, by yourself is boring).

No, TSW failed for 5 major reasons:

1. The beta turned far too many people off. Despite the fact that it was an actual beta (not a demo), far too many people played it, didn't like certain things (bugs, latency issues in combat, etc) and as a result never bought the game, even though a ton of issues were fixed in time for launch. Those people then spread terrible word of mouth across the MMO internet space and the game lost untold more sales.

2. Too little marketing/advertising. Hardly anyone I knew in real life, even big-time gamers, even knew this game was coming out. That didn't help.

3. The box cost + subscription. People just aren't willing to pay $50 and a subscription for anything less than WoW these days. Funcom shoulda seen that coming.

4. Funcom's expectations were far too high. They should have targeted and budgeted for 100,000-200,000 players instead of a million.

5. It was too different. MMORPG players are notorious for complaining about the "same old" but when they get something different, they run away screaming. TSW is about 2 years ahead of its time in terms of its aesthetics, mechanics and setting.

The nail in the coffin was the combat system. It opens up too late in the game for most people and Funcom didn't spend enough time polishing it. I actually found it quite engaging for the most part, but I understand the complaints as well. For me, the strengths of the game far outweighed the weaknesses and I consider it $50+ well spent, no regrets.
 
Innovation is much more than new or different.

By definition, innovation has to increase the utility of the user, for example, going from an ox cart to a car.

TSW is a spooky ox cart without the traditional ox cart dwarf and elf trappings, hence its failure to appeal to exiting players and inability to woo the "early adopters" of cars.
 
"TSW is a spooky ox cart without the traditional ox cart dwarf and elf trappings, hence its failure to appeal to exiting players and inability to woo the "early adopters" of cars."

Riiiight. Because stealth and investigation quests aren't innovative at all.

You never actually played the game, did you? And I'm sure you'd consider GW2 the pinnacle of innovation, since players are responding to that pretty well.

Sigh.
 
I just played an action mission in tsw (leisurely, it took about 1 hour to complete). A big difference i noticed between gw2 activities, is that it is so much more memorable: from the voice acted intro (sofar all excellent in quality), sprinkled lore, to the progression through the mission. And as someone said in an earlier post on this blog, tsw combat is actually *deliberate* as opposed to, for lack of a better term, mindless (which can be fun too, if in the right mood). It does however favor the "playing alone together" (or small group) mindset (which is just fine by me).
 
And I'm sure you'd consider GW2 the pinnacle of innovation

TSW has quests. Yes, there are investigation quests, but you still have to go to an NPC or click on an object to receive a quest. In GW2 only the main story quest works like that, the rest of the activities is location-based. I don't think TSW is "more innovative" than GW2.
 
Missions in The Secret World always start at an object or an NPC, but the main missions are all of them more like a WoW quest chain than a single quest. The objectives continually update as you complete a section, and they can get quite long. The closest thing WoW has is the dungeon quests in Cataclysm, like the chain in Blackrock Descent.

TSW missions are divided into three to five tiers (story missions nearly thirty), but even the usual missions often have something like 20 steps.
 
"
Innovation is a good thing, but it isn't sufficient."

while I agree with that completely, I think you underestimate the significance of theme somewhat. an awful lot of MMO players DO in fact want fantasy/sword&sorcery settings and want them still. TSW has the kind of grimdark theme going on forever and it's a reason why longterm players don't stick around in that world. it's not a 'home'.
 
I just got my copy of GW2 in the mail 2 days ago, bought it off Amazon because I am in Kuwait and I pay for my internet by the mb. (10gigs a month for 17.5 dinar)

GW2 is innovative in the way that WoW innovated on EQ/UO. It took what other companies had tried and made it better. I wasn't going to pick up GW2 but some friends told me it wasn't a MMO to miss. After playing it I feel like it took the best parts of WAR/DaoC/Rift/FF14 and made a new MMO. I really like it so far.

None of my friends recommended I try TSW...
 
GW2 is not even close to being bug free. I have had several story missions that couldn't be completed as an Elementalist. I have also seen numerous world events bug out, including skill point challenges in starter zones. Bugged events in starter zones in particular aren't very forgivable IMO, given the lengthy beta period.

The counter-argument would be: if you can make the game that works, what incentive would you have to innovate on the setting front? It is an unnecessary business risk most of the time.

Companies keep churning out WoW-clones expecting a WoW-killer. It hasn't worked yet. If they actually aspire huge player numbers + revenue, innovation is probably a must.

Some reasons TSW tanked:

- Too expensive. Full price + sub is viewed as very expensive these days


Just in December 2011, 2 million players were willing to buy SWTOR for $60 knowing it had additional subscription fees. Funcom themselves expected around 1 million sales. Most MMO tourists are not put off by box costs, though they may not stay long.

I also don't understand why the hell people are moaning toward innovation..if you want to create a new game genre go ahead and name it MMOXXX whatever you want..why you so much want to destroy traditional MMORPG?

Traditional MMORPGs tended to have more open features than the theme park MMORPGs of today. They also tended to be aimed at the hardcore and not the casual with all that that entails. Stories about the good old days flood the internet. The MMORPG is dead, long live the MMORPG.
 
Just in December 2011, 2 million players were willing to buy SWTOR for $60 knowing it had additional subscription fees. Funcom themselves expected around 1 million sales. Most MMO tourists are not put off by box costs, though they may not stay long.


SWtOR and GW2 are the reasons TSW priced itself out of the market - SWtOR gave people cold feet, and gave fuel to the "I'll wait for F2P"-sentiment. GW2 promised that you didn't need to have a subscription to play a triple A MMO. The market can change a lot in half a year.

None of this would be apparent to Funcom while they worked on the game.
 
To be honest I've never even heard of the Secret World and while I love all things Cthulhu, I absolutely detest anything with a subscription model.

My guild is full of people strapped for cash, so we only venture on free to play lands and have done so successfully for over 10 years. Sorry Secret World, but unless you become free to play then you'll have to keep your secrets to yourself while we invest our time in GW2.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
TSW has quests. Yes, there are investigation quests, but you still have to go to an NPC or click on an object to receive a quest. In GW2 only the main story quest works like that, the rest of the activities is location-based. I don't think TSW is "more innovative" than GW2.

We're not going to be able to quantify "innovation." We're just discussing whether TSW is innovative or not, period. And it is. The argument was that innovation is more than "new and different," that is has to offer something more than what we already have. TSW does.
 
Yeah, but Ionomonkey argues that players should support innovation even if it comes packaged in a sub-standard game, just for innovations sake. Thus my title, Innovation is necessary, but not sufficient. People aren't going to buy a flawed game, just because some parts of it are innovative.
 
"argues that players should support innovation even if it comes packaged in a sub-standard game.." The problem with that statement is that TSW is not a sub-standard game. The combat is excellent, bugs are few and far between, the graphics are decent, and the story, voice acting, and atmosphere are awesome. The only real issues is that the code is resource heavy and can cripple low-end machines.

What puts some people off is the genre and the fact they have to think to get through some of the stealth/investigation quests... and as in my case, they hate poetry.

 
SWtOR gave people cold feet, and gave fuel to the "I'll wait for F2P"-sentiment.

I concede the latter, but not the former. Overwhelmingly, people posted comments about SWTOR lacking features like group finder or lacking endgame content. Not something an inexperienced MMOer would think to complain about. And if you're experienced you probably heard of or took part in overhyped launches that failed to meet expectations: Aion, AoC, WAR, FF14. All of which sold hundreds and hundreds of thousands of copies. People have had reason to have cold feet for years. Yet the same thing repeats endlessly.

I don't believe that suddenly, SWTOR is released, a game where an EA representative said the thing they're most proud of is the voice acting, and everyone feels burned.

I feel TSW is just a niche market game, and sales reflected that. Proximity to GW2 launch certainly didn't help either.
 
It was mostly the F2P thing I was talking about.

SWtOR went F2P in half a year, which I think made a lot of people feel that they "wasted" their subscription money.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool