Will Heavy Metal Stem The Tide?November 16, 2008
It’s the least surprising revelation in the world that World of Warcraft’s latest expansion has sucked many players back in, in many cases taking them away from the folds of another MMORPG. Whether this is temporary, or whether players figure they can balance more than one MMO, is up for speculation. But many WAR players, who feel as though their game of choice is under siege from defections, mixed reviews and forum criticisms, are probably putting a lot of hope in Heavy Metal and the related 1.1 content patch.
Nobody can deny that Mythic’s been working overtime in getting us some much-needed hotfixes and content improvement since the game’s launch. The game is riding out its post-beta shakedown cruise through choppy waters, but for all of the negativity, even the game’s harshest critics have to concede that they’ve made some serious headway and shown a desire to act quickly but not rashly. The game as it is today is definitely removed from the Warhammer Online of September 18th — regional chat channels, a much-improved mail system, class balances, improved loot, more of an emphasis on open RvR, more choices in general, and the introduction of live events. Yet we’ve still got a ways to go before this ship breaks out into the calm waters of smooth sailing, and the question on everyone’s mind is whether Mythic will make it there before gamers’ impressions are set in stone.
No matter how much Anarchy Online improved, even to this day you will find people who judge it solely on its botched launch and the hell-ridden months that followed. EverQuest 2 likewise had less-than-desirable initial reports that created a stigma that persists even though current EQ2 players rave about how rich and well-featured the game’s become. MMO players aren’t big on second chances, no matter how much a game’s improved — just ask the dwindling population of Tabula Rasa or Vanguard. What sucks players back in aren’t reports of “wow, this game is a LOT better than it used to be!” but fond memories coupled with hefty content additions that are well-publicized.
Enter Heavy Metal — Mythic’s counter-offensive to Wrath of the Lich King, Mines of Moria and its own critical playerbase. This isn’t just an attempt to add back in a couple tank classes to balance things out somewhat, but a huge opportunity for game PR right as the holiday season hits (and people hopefully pick up a copy of WAR for friends and family at Christmas). It’s a chance for Mythic to point at themselves and say, “Hey, we started good, with faults, but look how much we’ve been able to improve in only three short months!” There’s no doubt that the highs of expansion fervor will eventually result in the lows of expansion fatigue, and with Heavy Metal and 1.1 lodged into gamers’ recent memories, they’ll have a place to flow back into.
Yet for many, this all is moot — you’re playing what you’re playing, and a content patch won’t change that. I sincerely hope that the community embraces the Heavy Metal live event and finds 1.1’s features to their liking, and I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more about 1.2 and 1.3 in the coming weeks and months. Players need to feel as if their MMO has a bright future ahead, not just a past, and if they have reason to believe so, there will be reason to plant deep roots and stay the course.
Thus ends my sailing metaphor.