Monday, November 17, 2008

Playing with Xfire

Well, that title really screamed to be made....

Anyways, this weekend and today I decided to review some of the games I have kept an eye on, and specifically those with changes this past week or two (or upcoming).
The charts allows us to note trends in the popular and maybe some less popular games, and come away with basic conclusions of playtimes.
A LOT of updates, expansions, content updates, etc. have been made to a majority of MMO's which are in the spotlight.

Please keep in mind, the reason we even look at these charts is they do show trends, not REAL numbers.
Make sure to keep that caveat in mind as we look at the scales.

I looked at a LOT of games, but at this point I want to note some I did not include.

Everquest 2, who DOES have an expansion coming soon (like tomorrow...lol). YET, I see no major spikes except for a huge dip last month which must have been a GU.
Due to it's niche, it seems to hold it's own in the scales and is about in the 90th-100th spot.
I will go back to them real soon as I would like to see if the new expansion causes any interest, or if the game has it's dedicated audience and is on cruise control.

Vanguard had a huge update a little while back. But, the game continues to nosedive (example from previous days it has dropped from #195 to #218...yea...pretty bad.)

I think we should probably just let it rest in peace.

Tabula Rasa. I really wanted to include this due to NCSoft's current issues, and having a minor interest in the game. As well, I could have included CoH/CoV. But, the games are low on my radar, and there has been nothing major as of this point on their games for updates.
I will note that Tabula Rasa ranks higher than Vanguard and CoH ranks higher than EQ2.
And as a side note, Lineage 2 is their best averaging subscription based MMO, resting in the 40's.

Finally, I did not include any Free to play's or Asian grinders. Our scales would look bizarre indeed. (For example, Guild Wars ranks #9, which if people accepted it as an MMO, would make it the 2nd most popular North American MMO.)

I mainly looked at current subscriber based games on the markets mind or having a real recent update and is popular. (I guess we could define this as "hyped")

WoW, WAR, LOTRO, AoC, DDO.

Most of these make sense...but, let me explain DDO being here before I continue.

Drastic changes were made to the game recently with Module 8, with the hirelings system (still kicking in) and DX10.
I am of the mind that people who are on the cutting edge of gaming are always looking at ways to see more horsepower.
DX10 games fill that bill.
The game has been a real major group focused system. Seeing the hirelings makes me wonder if this will also bring in more players who want to try and solo (/waves).

Finally the complete change to the tutorial area screams for a retrial as well.

Dungeons and Dragons (like Lord of the Rings) was a major IP boon for Turbine. Somehow the ball was dropped. If anything I would like to see a better game here. Turbine continues to disappoint me also, as LOTRO is one of the worst high profile games I have played (and note this is my opinion, so not a reflection on those who love LOTRO.)
DDO also did nothing for me, but I enjoyed it more due to better looking models and a better looking world feel to me.
But playing gave me no underlying theme. Like, no story or reason for me to be here in this big city

But, who knows what these changes hold. May just be the ticket to keep me and others around longer.
________________________________

Recently, Xfire has switched to a new display for their data. All charts now go on a weekly listing of numbers. This really helps us get a full overview of the changes depending on updates, expansions, etc.

Lets begin shall we?

World of Warcraft

The launch of Wrath of the Lich King really showed it's muscle.


As we look at the chart we can see the infamous dip for Tuesdays, and then how it scales back up for the weekend.
But, our newest chart, shows a MAJOR jump after the 13th. That is easy to guess.

WAR

The second best listing on Xfire of our titles to review.

But, we can see the major downfall from the 30 day turnover. The game had been noted to have quite a huge population...but...


Makes me wonder how much more this will continue to fall, or if this is finally reaching its set base. A lot of bloggers have corroborated this data of servers feeling empty...

The chart does state no change for 5 days though. So, this may be the spot WAR sticks to. Keeping a close eye on this.
My guess is that WAR is the #2 NA MMO right now.

Age of Conan

The chart speaks for itself. It has found a niche. I thought the change in the content from this past week would have brought it up more. But, it looks like Funcom took too long, and now has to live with the consequences.


This could change if they start to offer the free comebacks or trials. This will be interesting to watch as this and DDO are probably the most different MMO's on this list. Do people want something different if it is working well and offers a good game? Or are we stuck in an MMO rut, and all future releases will rely on WoW mechanics to make their game.

DDO

As I mentioned, quite a few changes. And we can see an upswing of time near the end of the scale...


It may take some time for their chart to grow, but the numbers are holding out ok and a little increase is a good sign.

LOTRO

This will be the one to watch. I feel their release of the expansion (just like EQ2) is a misinformed judgement. Why release it a week after WoTLK?


But we do see some upswing here as well. LOTRO does ok on the charts as we can see, and keeps a good set of subscribers...all die hard Tolkien fans for sure.

But, as an MMO, could it have had what it takes to attract players disgruntled with WoW?

I will keep an eye on this to see if Mines of Moria makes this game spike or not.
They have only ever reached number 14 on the Xfire charts, so unlike WAR or AoC who topped up at #5 and have had major sales, LOTRO never quite grabbed the players the same way.
Yet, the "dedicated" player seems to be more prominent in the LOTRO universe. Says something at least for the quality of the game for those players.

_________________________________

Like I said, I plan to review these once in a while as the Holidays close in. Will any game catch someones fancy?

Could Spellborn end up here? Will watch for that as well.

Should be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out.

Cheers

15 comments:

Brendan said...

It's interesting to watch, despite the fact that many will discount Xfire as a useful barometer.

My own sense of MMORPGs is that for the vast majority of them, the best time in terms of PCUs is the month of release, and you get a pretty good picture of what a stable playerbase looks like within 2-3 months of release. That is, either the game is doing well (in MMORPG terms) by having a stable base of 200k or more 2-3 months in, or it's tanking badly and will probably not recover (although it may stay on life support for quite some time, depending on who has the rights to the game). The obvious exceptions to this are WoW (which is kind of the exception that proves the rule) and EVE (which again was exceptional due to its very slow growth curve and very patient financing from Iceland's banks at the time when it was a very small game).

Looking at the current games, AoC seems doomed to have a small audience because Funcom didn't address issues timely, misled players, etc. That leaves a bad taste in the mouth for some time, despite AoC's many nice aspects. The latest changes are probably a case of too little too late.

LOTRO is a Tolkien niche game, but one with a small core of quite dedicated gamers. It will do quite well with its expac with this group, I think, but clearly it will be somewhat depressed by going up against LK.

DDO I don't have much of an idea about. I think it will be hard to win people back to that game as well, given its relative age and the presence of a lot of competition now.

WoW looks to remain as strong as ever with the new expansion being a major hit. The servers are seeing queues for the first time in years, and even my server, which is a medium popularity server, had a small queue yesterday evening. Blizzard knows how to play this game, it seems to me -- the game is as popular as it ever was.

WAR is a big question mark for me. On the one hand, it offers a PvP focused fantasy game which, for the time being, has its own niche. At the same time, the game is riddled with issues at the moment and is lacking polish -- what will keep more players in this game than was the case for AoC, I think, is that it fulfills a niche, whereas AoC did not. At least some people are willing to look past the obvious glitches, optimization issues, balance issues, polish issues and the like if they agree with the basic design of the game and enjoy a game that provides a PvP-centric experience. However, just how long these people stay is another story. WAR has and will bleed people to WoW with LK's release. The issue for WAR is how does the population look after the holiday season is done with, say in 2/09 or 3/09 -- has it rebounded by then, or not. I think that will be the key time to assess WAR's real "baseline" of players. And if GW2 releases in the first half of 09 (seems unlikely) that would also be a tough blow for WAR (because it's also a PvP game, basically) -- a later 09 release for GW2 would give Mythic more time to polish and fix WAR, and help it compete better with GW2.

In all, the MMO market is much bigger after WoW, but WoW is still the main player in the market by far. There appears to be among other developers a lack of originality (or perhaps a fear of it) that could suck people into a different kind of product -- so instead people seem to be focused on making renditions of Blizzard's type of product that aren't nearly as entertaining or fluid as Blizzard's version.

Openedge1 said...

I would have to agree with a majority of your comment.

AoC is doomed, yet if the discussion of the movie continues (I think set for an end of 2009 release) and is GOOD, it could renew interest. But, Funcom needs to get on the ball for this to happen.
I also read a recent post on another blog (which I will be discussing soon) that the xbox 360 version may be a go still...which would boost overall scrips...but, will that ever happen?
Of the titles listed, I see ore longevity in AoC...but only with continued diligence on Craig Morrison's behalf.

Agree with LOTRO, as the "dedicated" crowd will play. Wonder how long those extra 10 levels will last though.

DDO is an issue. There is discussion of a relaunch and the hopes to bring it back to peoples minds...but, it has a ways to go after such a disastrous launch.
Luckily the move to update graphics and add some extra additions like henchmen could do wonders.

WoW, no reason to discuss...it will be the one to dominate, so why even try to compete...

But, GW2 you mentioned, is my big question mark. With zero discussion going on for release, it will NOT be an 09 release...unless it is the end of the year, which COULD make it competitive during the holiday seasons...

But, NCSoft is hurting, and until I hear more, I try to push that out of my mind, as I love GW, and really want number 2 to come out...soon.

WAR is on my watchlist, as I think it is a niche game also, and will continue to drop for a while.
If it can stay above LOTRO though, then it will be profitable, and will continue to be a player in this crowded field.

Thanks for the comment.

Ardwulf said...

For what it's worth, anecdotal talk from within Vanguard implies that the population is still slowly trending upward. If an expansion/major update IS being planned, this could reinvigorate the game to a certain extent, but I don't think anybody has any illusions that it will ever be a 'hit' even by second-tier standards. At this point it appears to be to be 'comfortably treading water,' but some kind of substantial content addition is probably needed within the next 6-12 months to keep it there.

There's very little talk about LotRO in the MMO blogosphere, but the thing does indeed seem to have a very hard core of supporters who I'm guessing will be largely delighted with Mines of Moria. The expansion is going to contain some very interesting ideas, even if it's not remotely enough to get me back in, personally. I have too much on my plate already. I am happy for its success and wish its fans many years of fun ahead. Maybe when they bring Rohan into the game I'll take another look.

I strongly suspect, though, that LotRO's audience does NOT consist of many diehard Tolkien-o-philes, but rather people who were BIG BIG fans of the films and paid only passing attention to the books. For the serious Tolkien fan, there are many, many things in LotRO to find revolting, starting with the MMO formula itself as applied to a setting that it's doesn't fit very well. That said, LotRO is a very RP-friendly place as MMOs go, probably the best envirinment for that in the current marketplace.

I think WAR will indeed settle into place as the #2 MMO for the time being. I also think that server merges or major architectural changes need to be in its near future to maintain that for very long. (I uninstalled it over the weekend, by the way.)

Ardwulf said...

Oh, and I'm not sure if I've mentioned this at my place, but TR can now be found at Half Price Books and other remainder sellers for well under $10. This could actually be a big help to it, if they manage to get anything remotely resembling a marketing push out the door - even if it's only virtual.

Same deal with Vanguard, actually - the local HPB has it for $9.95.

Brendan said...

Yeah I guess I see it that way as well. LOTRO is not liked by many of the literary fans, but by more traditional RP fans and fans of the films ... as well as people who much prefer a PvE game and are burned out on, or otherwise dislike, Warcraft. It has a dedicated core of players, though, and Turbine seems pleased with it.

WAR will be #2 for the time being, I agree as well. The issue really is how long it stays there, and how low #2 really is (is it 300k? 200k?). EA's earnings release at the end of October was very carefully worded but seemed to indicate that 800k were playing as of that date, which would include subscribers and first month accounts. Clearly a lot of people have left the game -- you can tell that not by simply walking around in the game, but also by looking around in the guild -- people are leaving. The issue for WAR is whether they will come back, and I don't think we'll get a good sense of whether that happens until early 09 some time ... and we see what Mythic does with the game before then.

Scott said...

As far as LOTRO vs LOTR goes, in-game there are plenty of Tolkien lore nerds running around who are practically as knowledgeable as Turbine has made their dev teams on every line Tolkien wrote. The rest of us are just enjoying the game. I read the books in high school (been awhile) and they bored me to tears. The movies were great but not something I'd watch every week. Or even every month. The game has several, perhaps most, of the pieces to my personal ideal of the Perfect Traditional MMORPG. Not saying all the pieces are done quite the way I'd like them, but at least they're present.

I do find it interesting that Openedge prefers the world look of DDO. The characters do look good, and everyone looks a bit on the scruffy or unkempt side. Maybe that's an Eberron thing, I don't know. My LOTRO elf looks very pale and clean but show me an elf in any game that doesn't. My Man looks good except damn he has the cleanest face for a human. He could stand a bit of scruffiness. But the DDO world (ie. the wilderness landscapes and outdoor quests) all seem more low-poly than LOTRO, and its only some of the newer ones that have ambient fluff like trees waving in the wind rather than being stiff models. Like the game, but personally I'd like to see a marginally higher poly-count on the terrain and more ambience to the environment.

Openedge1 said...

@Scott

Nail on the head for the "dirtier" look. Maybe it is the more realistic feel of the look that gets me, than the shiny happy people world of LOTRO also.
The models just seem better, and the elves look more realistic in DDO than LOTRO.

As to "Lore Nerds" of LOTR, I think the people who watched the movie, and liked it are NOT fans of the game...due to the mismatch of the visuals.
The characters just look too wimpy compared to the movies.
Also, if you look on the various forums, you will find many a player touting their knowledge of the Tolkien universe, which leads me to the "Lorists" conclusion.

I will agree with the perfect pieces of a traditional MMO. LOTRO has that in spades with it's copycat mechanics of WoW.

But, I digress. Everyone knows how I feel about LOTRO, yet, I am willing to admit that Turbine at least got themselves a hit. It is mostly stable for most players (not me) and seems acceptable gameplay wise.

As to WAR, longevity is key in the MMO world. Vanguard exists thanks to having the "Station Pass", so it can live on life support, Lineage has a hardcore following.
WAR has it's niche, and may become the PvP game of choice...unless Darkfall REALLY exists (holding breath...still blue in the face), then WAR can probably kiss more PvP'ers goodbye.

Like I said, I will be playing the Xfire game for the holidays to see how these games are coming along..should be fun.

mbp said...

As a returnee to Lotro I was initially amazed at the timing of Moria's launch a few days AFTER WoTLK. Its almost as if Turbine have abandoned any hope of attracting any more players from WoW. On the other hand perhaps they are right. They two games seem to have very different styles and Lotro seems to have found a cosy niche among players that are not comfortable with WoW's more competitive view of things. In my opinion the Tolkien lore is nice but not actually a deal breaker - the more relaxed casual pace of the game seems to be Lotro's main selling point. Returning to my Kinship I notice that almost all the AOC and WAR departures are coming back for MoM.

Scott said...

Yeah it was kinda funny, even most (not all) of the hardcore PvMP guys on my server who were all WAR this, WAR that came back before their first month of WAR was up and they're right back in the Ettenmoors again which has been crazy packed (and therefore laggy) with multiple raids of players.

I don't know if Darkfall will pull the WAR PvPers away, but then again neither Darkfall's PvP nor WAR's RvR (or at least Scenarios) seem to have any meaning to it in the long run. Darkfall will be a free-for-all gankfest with the worst of the worst "XBL kiddie" making up the bulk of the population. Normal players might try it, the wolves will eat the sheep, and the sheep will leave. Just like UO before it, when the wolves only have wolves to prey upon the game becomes much less fun to them.

And I still say Mythic would have been better off making WAR with the PvE and RvR part of the game and NO scenarios, then make (or contract an experience studio to make) a Source engine third-person RPG "shooter" which is nothing but all the scenario maps. Play from Steam, free server software and SDK so players can set their own server rules, clan servers, and mod makes can go crazy making new maps.

Dichotomy of WAR solved; I'm a friggin' genius; send my millions to the following address... :)

Openedge1 said...

@Scott

LOL

We can tell who the true PvE'er is...haha.

Hate on the PvP crowd for sure.

But, I digress.

I DO agree about the shooter, and who knows...Spellborn may fill that niche with it's FPS styled combat system...(no dice rolls from my understanding)...

All "Skillz!"..

Turbine in my opinion wanted to keep their current base happy, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Should have hoped for more though...

Melf_Himself said...

Not sure why you want to discount free to plays unless you're doing this as a business analysis or something.

The fact that Guild Wars has ~ twice as many users per day as WAR is interesting. Also interesting is the fact that Guild Wars only has 50% more hours played than WAR - meaning that more people are playing it, and the people that are doing so are doing it in a more casual way than with WAR (read: good thing).

Openedge1 said...

@melf

Precisely.

We know that WoW is the Elephant in the room here.
I want to look at it as the games that either have major IP's or are suppose to be the money makers.

I also want to make sure we are looking at talked about games, or games with uniquity.
I.E: AoC and WAR due to it's hype, but as well offering some change to the standard formula of MMO's, or D&D and LOTRO due to the huge licenses that for some reason did not sell millions.

But, as I watch this, I will try to include other games...

If anyone has suggestions of what games they think belong here, let me know.

I do know EvE is enabling avatars (not sure when) and I wonder how that will go over..etc.

If anything, I mainly have my eye on the hyped, and why hype is not always the best thing.

Cheers

Scott said...

I like PvP just fine. REAL PvP that is. Not this clunky laggy shitfest that MMO's give us. That can be ok for awhile but I get bored of it quickly and there's no way I'd pay a sub for nothing but PvP.

FPS? Fine! Sports, racing, card, etc. games? Fine! (I suck at everything but the FSP, but they're still better overall *Player vs. Player* gaming than MMO's are capable of so far)

adingworld said...

It was interesting to see that pretty much all the games you presented numbers for had had about 4-5 hours of play per day for a player.

Are the ranks based on the hours or the number of players? If they are based on hours then more casual friendly games might be hurting in the ranks - depending on how many of those that are casual time-wise use XFire vs others.

What games to incliude of course depends on what type of analysis one wants to make.

Openedge1 said...

Some of the criteria I am looking toward in regards to Xfire...

An MMO.

A Western based MMO (US based and may also have a large Euro audience, and mainly considered a big money game (high cost of production for example), also the reason we may not discuss Asian grinders, Free to plays is we are looking for viability in this market)

Offers a subscription, i.e: pay to play of some sort.

Major IP or big budget company.

Besides piracy, I want to see why companies feel it is a better option to go with an MMO (and besides wanting to get som WoW pie), especially when so many are half baked lately.

Is the market so lucrative that everyone is really doing the right thing making and MMO?

I want to know.