I played Eve-Online for some considerable time. What I’ve realized is that online massively multiplayer games seem to share it’s simplistic graphics requirements. I remember there being (at one point) a big stink about the game finally dropping support for 10 year old graphics hardware. This works fairly well for Eve. Even a complex battle, the number of polygons required to accurately render them is small and the universe backdrop is the only pretty piece of art.
Unfortunately, the results are less pretty for other massively online games — games where you get up close and personal with other player characters or non-player characters (NPC). I talked about this some in my review of Fallen Earth. I thought of this because the various one of the game news sites I read pointed out that Aion and Everquest are making themselves (now) free to play and the article was accompanied by both a piece of concept art and a video of actual gameplay. For comparison:
Clearly and unsurprisingly, it’s easier to make concept art than to render things well in-world. I understand the need to include as many people as possible, but I’ve come to dismiss MMO games outright as I expect the graphics to be fairly basic … which lowers the immerse quality of the game for me. In Eve-Online, the games mechanics made the graphics almost secondary, but in a full blown fantasy story, the visuals become more important and have a larger role in the dissatisfaction of the game.
Now where am I going with this? It certainly isn’t an earth-shattering thought so far. Well… I got a surprise yesterday. My Fallen Earth Review attracted a rather large comment. This guy has obviously made a bigger effort in his review and for some reason he chose to post his review to my blog. He can’t be expecting any compensation for it. I don’t even see any suspicious links that might accidentally elevate his own website. Heck, he even talked with the Better Business Bureau to complain about Fallen Earth — with extra points for slagging both the BBB and Fallen Earth!
There seems to be a rush to bring some properties to free-to-play. There are obvious successes. Valve announced that revenue for Team Fortress 2 is up many fold since free-to-play started. It’s worth noting that Team Fortress 2 is not an MMO. Fallen Earth, in particular, went free-to-play after failing (going bankrupt) and being picked up by another company and re-launched. It seems by our friend’s post that this did not go smoothly.
I suppose there’s two ways to separate someone from their money. If you make enough noise (often advertising) and/or have a cool idea (regardless of competent execution), you’ll fool enough people for enough time to make a buck (usually, if you’re good at that sort of hucksterism). You could always just make a really good game with a really compelling experience… but who’d want to do that.