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Foes of Rome: Gods and Heroes and the Competition

Posted Mon, Oct 08, 2007 by Darkgolem

Foes of Rome

Gods and Heroes and the Competition

By Darkgolem

Gods and Heroes is in many ways a unique MMORPG.  Its showcase feature is the minion/squad combat system it has.  This system promises to bring a whole new dimension to playing MMORPGs.  Gods and Heroes also is the first game steeped in the culture of ancient Rome.  Coming with this setting are all the interesting legendary creatures of this time, centaurs, cyclops and all the rest.

But are these features enough?  Can Gods and Heroes lever these unique features into something more than any other MMORPG?  The market for MMOs is undergoing a change, as World of Warcraft starts to lose players, other games fail, and other games come into the market.  A MMORPG which comes out in the next few months has the potential to be huge, if it can attract enough of an audience.  There are a lot of former World of Warcraft members who may be looking for a change.

The Competition

There are several new games, asides from Gods and Heroes, which are going to be filling (or are filling now) the online role playing game “niche” over the next year or so.  All of these games offer different features, and a comparison of these games might give an idea of how well Gods and Heroes measures up.

Tabula Rasa

Faunus CombatRight off the bat, Tabula Rasa has an advantage, in that it is out before the other games mentioned here.  If anyone out there had some money burning in their pocket, they are tempted to pick up a copy of this game.  

Another plus to Tabula Rasa is its relationship to NCsoft.  NCsoft was responsible for City of Heroes, City of Villains, and Guild Wars, all which were at least adequately successful.  Since NCsoft has been successful before, it stands to reason it can bring success with Tabula Rasa.  However, NCsoft also created Dungeon Runners and Auto Assault, so it might be a stretch to say the company has the “midas touch”.

Finally, Tabula Rasa is, perhaps not unique, but part of a smaller group of games which focus on science fiction rather than sword and sorcery or similar fantasy settings.  This has both the benefit of having the interest of a small group who like this setting specifically, and the detraction of repelling those who don’t like that setting specifically.

In my estimate, Tabula Rasa will hit a certain number of subscribers, and stay there without losing much or gaining much, for at least two years.  Some games do that, City of Heroes did, and so did Dungeons and Dragons Online.  This portion of the market will not be going to over to Gods and Heroes, unless Gods and Heroes grows so much that it’s still dynamic in that time or so.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

This one gets a lot of buzz from some people.  When I look at it, I try to see what is unique about it.  Anyone who likes the Warhammer miniature battle rules (and that is a LOT of people) will have some interest in this game.  Considering how much one miniature costs in the tabletop Warhammer game, they probably can afford this game.  However, aside from the niche crowd for Warhammer (again, a big niche), I can’t find anything here to differentiate it from previous games.

The graphics will be better, because it’s a newer game.  There will a little more complexity to the classes (professions), and so on.  But I try to think about how one might feel about the game after about 3 months of play.  I feel looking at it that a certain portion of players are going to look at it and say “I bought World of Warcraft 1.5”, whether that is a fair assessment or not.

One thing that I note that is unique and I like a lot, is the Tome of Knowledge which seems to be an self updating personalized lexicon for each character.  That is very cool.  I don’t know that that is enough to make this game truly dynamic, though.

Pirates of the Burning Sea

This is sort of a wild card to me.  Pirates of the Burning Sea is, if anything, new.  With ship combat, pvp, a player driven economy (but not crafting, instead ownership sort of like Grand Theft Auto developed), and a variety of ways to fight, it seems to be almost its own class.  Whether that class by itself is a good or bad class remains to be seen.

New games (in the sense of new concepts and ways of playing) suffer from issues with bugs and problems sometimes.  Vanguard had new ways of doing things, such as the card system for interaction, and it got a bad name in some ways because of problems it had upon release.  Pirates of the Burning Sea will definitely had a big following of people who like the new style of this game, but whether it keeps this crowd or not is almost entirely dependent on how these features pan out.  World of Warcraft had some similar qualities, especially in how big it was, and it worked out great.  Dungeons and Dragons Online did too, with it’s all instanced dungeon, but suffered the problems of how quickly content was developed.  With Pirates of the Burning Seas, the success of this game is a crap shoot.

Age of Conan

Goddess FountainThis game is getting some buzz.  But in the long run, the only thing I have seen about it that is different is, to some extent, is it’s genre.  AOC has all the things other games have, classes, fighting, an so on, but the Hyperborian world is a bit different than others.

I do not predict this will be enough to scoop up and keep a large portion of the MMORPG market, however.  Because the genre does not allow enough variety from place to place.  Sure, you will have some snowy places and desert places, and so on, but the story of barbarians and various decadent (and otherwise) civilizations at each others throats isn’t one that will hold players for long.

Don’t get me wrong, I own both of the Conan the Barbarian movies, I have read all the books in the genre, and they are all sorts of cool, but the things that captured me for these stores does not seem to me something that will carry over to the game.  I expect that AOC will last a year before starting to suffer a steady attrition in subscribers.  Let us remember that I did not like World of Warcraft, and that game was (and is) a titan among MMORPGs.

In Relation to Rome

Gods and Heroes is facing some competition from some of these products coming out above.  Personally I think that Tabula Rasa will already have settled into its player base, lost a few beginning players who tried and did not like it, and found a steady group of subscribers when Gods and Heroes comes out.  The remaining players out there will choose between the other titles listed (barring any delays in release).  I think a lot will go to Warhammer Online, especially WOW players looking for something new, and end up leaving after they get bored with a game that (to me) appears much like what they left.  Pirates of the Burning Sea will take some of those in the market for a new game, and then either become huge, or more likely, take a solid share of the market for a time.  Age of Conan will be a less enthusiastically growing game.

Gods and Heroes will have some luck with this.  A lot of casual players will come to Gods and Heroes, because almost certainly soloing will be big with the minion system.  
The players who want a sword and sorcery MMORPG will end up in Gods and Heroes too, simply because all the other options will seem stale or done again.  It will take a while for this to happen, since people will be trying Warhammer Online and Age of Conan too, but eventually they will “come to Rome”.

How long will Gods and Heroes last?  Hard to say, but if the product Perpetual is creating is able to grow new content, then it has the potential to not only be a success, but be a solid competitor in the MMORPG market.

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