The MMORPG Monthly Fee . . . Is It Worth It?

4 10 2009

WOWDouble$15 bucks a month . . . should I pay it?

Time and time again I will see people become somewhat interested in an MMORPG, only for them to turn the other way once they hear of a monthly service fee.  Now not all MMORPGs these days have a monthly fee.  Many of them, like the highly acclaimed Runescape and Maple Story, all are free to play and download (of course they charge for in game items or better graphics).  Nevertheless, people cannot seem to wrap their heads around why they should pay for a game after they have already payed for it once.  At one time I thought the same way.  Why should I shell out money to this company for some unknown reason, when I already put down $50-60 on the original game box?  Where does all this money go to?  How will I benefit?  Until you answer these questions, you truly never will know why you pay that monthly fee.  Of course, these are the same people that don’t have any idea how much upkeep it takes to run a smooth online role-playing game.  It is a necessary evil, one that is tough to deal with at first but gets easier as time goes on.

Probably the number one reason why MMO companies need that $10-15 dollar fee is to maintain servers and the patches that come with them.  When dealing with thousands of people, or even millions if you are talking from Blizzard’s perspective, you need a strong hardware line to support all of that data.  Without it, all that work you put into building your character would be as dust in the wind after a week or so.  Even with all that money that Blizzard gets (hundreds of millions per month), they still continue to struggle with lag issues and other maintenance problems that come up after every patch.  Technology has advanced quite a ways in the last few decades, but we are still not at the point where complete lag-free online game-play is possible.  It will only become possible if people continue to donate to the cause.  It may seem lame at first, but paying a monthly fee for a game you are enjoying shouldn’t be that hard to swallow.

/PLAYED

Another thing people take for granted is the amount of time they are giving to these games.  Now, a simple question.  How long does your average video game last these days from beginning to end?

Ten hours? Twenty hours?  Maybe thirty to forty if it has a decent multi-player setup or a quick premise with lots of replay value.

That is absolutely nothing compared to the amount of time one puts into a “single” character within most of these MMO worlds.  After playing both Asheron’s Call and World of Warcraft I noticed a shocking statistic.  The average amount of time per character was between fifteen and twenty days played.  Now multiply that by 24 hours and you have a lot of freakin’ hours.  And even though that may seem like a lot of time, that is nothing compared to what some of these MMO junkies put in.  It just annoys me to see people complain that they are bored with a particular MMO, when they don’t realize they have put in between 600-800 hours into it.  Damn, if I put that much time into a game I’d probably be bored with it too!  The difference is that you are spending a hell of a lot less money by playing an MMO than you would with the dozens of short single player experiences in this day in age.

I believe that people have just become ungrateful and have taken for granted the amount of enjoyment that an MMORPG gives them.  The genre may not be for everyone, that is a given.  Some people don’t like grinding out levels for hours or running the same quests over and over again to get that one unobtainable weapon; especially when they realize it will become obsolete by the next expansion pack.  Those that play MMORPG’s are players that enjoy a great story, have a broad imagination, and enjoy playing with other people.  Sure some online games may have a crappy player-base, but those couple of people that become your “allies” in these games more than make up for it.  Some of the players that I befriended throughout my MMORPG times have actually become my friends in real life.  Amazingly enough, people have even met their future spouses in these games.

VoidHole

In the end, great MMORPGs can paint a pretty picture, but it cannot get there without the pastels and brush; two things that the player and the host company must provide.  Just remember that there are hundreds of MMO’s out there, some free and some not.  Each one gives you a trial period, which can generally last between two weeks and one month; plenty of time for you to decide whether or not it is the game for you.  So ultimately yes, it is worth paying that fifteen or so a month to keep your favorite game running.  Just don’t be like the people on most game forums and gripe about every single thing you don’t like about said title.  If you don’t like the game anymore then don’t play it anymore, nothing is forcing you to turn that game on time after time except your own addictions.  Just take a break every once in a while.  After all it’s just a game . . . that you pay a monthly fee for.

Though it doesn’t seem so bad now does it?

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World of Warcraft Patch 3.1 (Dual Spec/Ulduar) Now Live!

15 04 2009

ulduar1

To think I wrote a rant just a few days ago about the lack of stuff to do in this game; I guess Blizzard heard me.  Patch 3.1 arrived today, to the glee of millions of bored MMORPG fanatics.  Things didn’t go smoothly though, since a majority of the servers were down till as late as 9 PM EST.  Nevertheless, Blizzard has apparently fixed the problems, since I am now able to get online.  Now to go over what’s new with patch 3.1:

  • Ulduar raid, with both 10 and 25 man versions
  • Ground mounts can now swim
  • Argent Tournament – A new PvE battle zone in which you help particular factions fight for their respective cities (rewards you with weapons, tabards, mounts, special items, etc.)
  • Dual Specialization (Finally!) – A 1000 gold fee is required at the beginning, with standard costs implemented afterward — Free respecs rewarded when you first log in
  • Some minor Wintergrasp changes (more NPCs, vehicle tweaks)
  • New VoA Boss
  • Talent tree revisions for all classes

All in all some major stuff taking place here — which is fine by me.

See you all in game!





Retro Review: World of Warcraft

9 04 2009

wowbox

World of Warcraft (PC)

Original release date: 11/23/04

Note: Review was written in 2004, though my feelings have not changed over the last four years.

What objectively defines a role-playing game? The debate has been stretched out as far back as I can certainly recall. You could say they originated in the form of classic, traditional style story-telling similar to that of Final Fantasy. Perhaps it is based off of an intricate setup of mechanics relating to the battle system and health display. Even the debate to conclude if the Legend of Zelda series is an RPG genre title continues to be heard echoing throughout the halls of the gaming realm. No matter how many ways you look at it, a role playing game should let you define what your character is. And I can assuredly say that only one table of the genre gives you the maximum customization possible, with plenty of addicting pulls along the way. All of which deriving from an expansive atmosphere and creative vision that has hit a mark others have so miserably missed.

Welcome to the World of Warcraft

It is an MMORPG at its finest and the first of such to intrigue me in such a fashion since Asheron’s Call. As previously mentioned, it is the obsession you have while playing the hero or villain you have created in these games that overshadows the pre-defined protagonists of its single player predecessors. Freedom and exploration shape the incredibly expansive world that Blizzard has implemented; with so many things to do I may not leave my basement…erm room for quite a while. This is all due in part to the excellent talent system this new installment portrays. Even though each new level will earn me so many points toward my basic attributes, you can use the implemented skill tree to help shape your little avatar any way you desire. What helps root these techniques are distinct classes and races that you can select when commencing your adventure. Want to be an elven druid and have all types of shape-shifting abilities? Or would you rather be an evil troll with the pet commanding gifts of a hunter? What brings these classes into unison is the sense of war flowing through Azeroth’s divided lands, all which take place between the Alliance and the Horde.

Throughout histories and lore findings it is apparent that the huge world is sectored into two major plains of good and evil. Elves, Gnomes, Dwarfs, and Humans coincide to meld the Alliance, while the Orcs, Trolls, Undead, and Tauren form the Horde. Aside from appearance each side will let you experience a different end of the land, with unique enemies and quests essential to both. The most surprising element from these class characteristics is the contested battles that can take place. Nothing more fun than seeing two or three members of differing allegiances swarming into a smaller town and wiping out the newbies, then being able to call upon members of your respective guild to try to thwart the threat to your zone. While it all looks well and good on paper, the player vs. player combat is still a little dry. Primarily deriving from the fact that victory is placed heavily on levels. Even if you are just five or six levels under your opponent, you will most likely be whiffing at wind and shooting into space. Regardless, since this is an online game, why not take advantage of the fact that there are thousands of people playing alongside you. So go “gank” the poor bastard and dance on his corpse with a little help from your comrades.

What truly sets World of Warcraft apart from virtually every other unappealing MMORPG out there? Think of a battle system played in real time sequences with a real sense of strategy and tactics built in, all brewed into a heaping mound of exploration. Swords, maces, staves, wands, and hell even guns are all accessible as you continue to grow in strength. From these weapons you can gain different magical imbuement and techniques to apply to them in combat. I personally play a hunter and setting up traps, sending your pet on the opponent to lure them in, and then unleashing a flurry of arrows on their ass are all part of my daily outing. Meanwhile, as I am out earning my experience, I am also earning my income by way of mining and blacksmithing. The more you use materials applicable to your hobby, the better results you will have, and trading back and forth at the auction house afterwards is a blast; kind of like E-Bay but without all of the negative feedback and crooked salesmen.

No matter how sugar-coated and glamorous an MMORPG turns out, there will always be skeptics who put it down because of the constant need to be in a group. Well, there is good news for all of you soloists and loners out there…you do not need to party up to progress! Unlike the tedious FF XI, you do not need to spend hours waiting around for parties to find you and help you complete an objective. Everything comes gradual and there is an area in the world correlating to every single level. So many in fact, that you will be second guessing yourself where to head next. Each zone is more breathtaking than the next and the quests relating to each will allow you to explore these territories as much as you’d like. Though there are times you will grow weary of completing mission after mission, the challenging and non-pointless enemies are a blast to fight, with an AI that is dead on. No mindlessly walking into cliff-sides or repeating attack patterns here, instead your antagonists know when to mix and match techniques, as well as when to back off and flee. Everything seems so realistic and fluid that the sheer brilliance of it all is what manages to sky-rocket the value.

What helps fit the final piece of the puzzle are the resplendent visuals and atmospheric sounds that encompass the mystic world. Watching a disgusting ogre burst into flames compliments to your immobilization trap and then seeing the fire spread even more thanks to a monumental crimson flame attack from your fellow mage is as impressive looking as it sounds. The detail on monsters and humans alike are extremely creative and the environments are incredibly articulate and vivid. I can safely say that anyone with a non-crappy video card, that unfortunately I currently possess, is in for a treat. Complimenting the range of colors and impressive conjurations are accurate sounds all surrounded by over world themes ranging from mellow to heart-pounding. And depending on your enthusiasm toward every situation will certainly affect the experience of the game-play.

All in all, there really is nothing like World of Warcraft within the gaming world. With online games you always have people to meet, new places to visit, and the understanding that the run through does not end until you want it too. There is something here for everyone and this is, without a doubt, why it has earned the recognition it has deserved. It is exciting to know that more and more people are catching on to why these titles are so special. And it is the lore and deep quest system that allows you to enjoy your protagonist better than any other available role-playing genre available. Amazingly even though it has only been out for two months, the game has exceeded my expectations by a landslide. The minuscule faults occasionally present are completely overshadowed by the quality and execution of an RPG that will definitely be on the market for a while. So go out and purchase it already…

And enjoy what I believe is the true representation of an RPG.

Verdict – 9/10