Loading... January 16, 2006

By John Hoskin -

Welcome back to the work week, compliments of coffee, slow traffic and enough MMOG goodness to keep Kim il Jong from getting to level 60.
Our editorial staff take a long or short, hard or soft, look at the Hardcore versus Casual dilemma that game developers face. If you make a game too easy players won't stick around. If you make it too hard you limit your market. Just think, the original EverQuest would be considered an incredibly difficult, hardcore game by the standards of today.

I think everyone in the industry has just assumed that the number of users in World of Warcraft came out of the gate hot and just continued on an upward trend since release, with the number of concurrent users ramping up in relation to the number of subcribers. It appears that this hasn't been the case, even with the announcements of three, then four and now five million subscribers. Blizzard posted an interesting comment in their forums recently,

" We wanted to let you know that we are aware of the performance issues some players have been experiencing recently, including: realm queues, slow character-list retrieval, authentication delays, and loot lag, and keep you informed of the steps we’re taking to alleviate the problems. During the holiday season, thousands of new players created accounts and many players reactivated their dormant accounts, pushing our daily concurrency to the highest levels we have seen since World of Warcraft launched. This increase in concurrency increased pressure on our systems, causing the issues listed above. "

It's an interesting comment in that they admit they have server problems, but what is more interesting, at least to me, is that they made the statement that the holiday season pushed their concurrent user levels to a new high beating the old record set at launch,

"... our daily concurrency to the highest levels we have seen since World of Warcraft launched..."

So, in other words, concurrent users had never gone past the numbers seen when the game was first released until the latest holiday season rolled around. Remember, this isn't total users, but the number of users online at one time. I suppose this makes sense. The original players were hard-core MMOG fans who played 24 hours per day. As the servers continue to fill up with more casual players who spend less time playing each week, then less servers are needed on a per capita basis. Blizzard's game design has not only created a game that appeals to more MMOG players than any other competitor, but it appeals to those that play casually. The end result is that Blizzard can spend less on infrastructure per capita than the games created for the hard-core crowd.
It doesn't appear that the highly publisized games like Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and Dungeons and Dragons Online will cater to the casual player, in fact, at last year's E3 the Vanguard developers made it clear that the game was built for the hard-core player. Auto Assault probably has the best chance of digging into the casual player market, but it delivers a very unique gameplay experience that may not translate well to the mass market.

"In order to accommodate the further growth of our player base, we have plans in motion to open a new World of Warcraft site a few months from now. This will allow us to bring a large number of new realms online for the new players, as well as any players who join in anticipation of The Burning Crusade. In addition, we will begin to replace our current systems with the newest top-of-the-line components, with the goal of further increasing performance across all realms."

How many MMOG players out there expect that WoW will add 1,000,000 subscribers in 2006, partially due to the expansion? If World of Warcraft hits six million subscribers, which I expect it will, then Vanguard, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Auto Assault and the other contenders would need to have a million subscribers.
I just don't see this happening, but perhaps you do. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please send your thoughts here.

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Game Movie: Rise of the Living Dead III - WoW Style
Here's what's new on the network! [Ed: Some of the best commentary on the Hardcore versus Casual player issue you are ever likely to see is free for the reading today.]
  • Guild Wars: Balancing Challenge and Fun

    "This week's editorial takes a look at the balance between casual and hardcore gaming in MMORPGs. How well does Guild Wars do at catering to both crowds?"

  • Vanguard: Saga of Heroes: Just What Exactly Are You?

    "When asked what your playstyle is in your favorite MMO, how do you answer? Terms like hadcore, core and casual are tossed around left and right in the gaming community, but what exactly do they mean? Raya and Lady Sirse take a look at just this in an effort to help you figure out what you are."
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online: The Hardcore versus Casual Debate

    "DarkGolem takes a look at today’s casual-friendly gaming environment, and discusses ways in which games like Dungeons & Dragons Online can keep the challenge of a game alive without diminishing the fun. "
  • Lord of the Rings Online: Casual Game, Hardcore Fun

    "Shayalyn discusses old-school games such as EverQuest, and the ways in which current games have changed to meet the needs of casual and time-limited gamers. How will Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar devs meet the challenge of making a game that’s casual-friendly, and yet compelling and deep enough to appeal to hardcore players?"
  • Auto Assault: Casual versus Hardcore

    "This week we look at the differences between the hardcore and casual players and how Auto Assault caters to each group. Is there enough content for both? Will one set of players affect the fun of the others? These questions and more are looked at in this week's editorial, Hardcore vs. Casual in Auto Assault."
  • Auto Assault: Human Faction Skills

    "We have a new skill listing up today covering the Human faction skills. Faction skills are shared across the different classes of that faction. Some are shared across all four classes while others are only shared by two. So go ahead, and find out what those crazy Humans have came up with in their battle against the perils of the wastelands."
  • Auto Assault: Roadstop Comedy Club Part 1

    "We bring you a new weekly feature called the Comedy Highway. Each week a brand new humorous article is posted for your reading enjoyment. This week we start with a brand new series called the Roadstop Comedy Club. I won't spoil all of the details, but it's about a crazy man who's been given a second chance as a comedian at the local rest stop."
  • Comparing the Big Names of VOIP

    "We examine why voicechat is the new rage among MMO gamers, dispel some of the frustration and stigma that prevent some gamers from joining in, and also which spoken word solution deserves the right to run in your MMO social circles."
  • EverQuest 2: Guide to Races

    "The EQ2 Guide to Races has now been updated!   Not sure if you like those new fangled SOGA graphics?  This will show a comparison for the original EQ2 character models versus the new SOGA models."
  • Vanguard: The Role of the Community in MMOG Development

    " There are two things that define an MMOG: its game mechanics, and its community. The game mechanics are what cause me to initially choose one game over another. I'm looking forward to Vanguard because I would like to see the challenge put back into games. I want a game where tactics are important, I want tough penalties so my accomplishments mean something, I want choices, and Vanguard seems to promise this. Looking at the various games I've played, EQ remains one of the best--because it offers players more choices. Even today, with all of the "handholding," even with all the things that frustrate me, I still find EQ by far and away one of the best games out there. As a caster, the spells I have memorized can make or break an encounter (what do you mean I only have eight spell slots? I have pages and pages of spells!), and this, to me, is a large part of what makes it so fascinating."
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online - 10 Days in Stormreach

    " Being a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I knew I was going to buy Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) when it came out, so I preordered a copy when it was available.  I received the 10-Day Beta pass, and after installing the client, logged on to play. "
  • Guild Wars - Armor 101: Crafting For Beginners

    " Almost all the major MMORPGs on the market feature a crafting system. Allowing players to have a hand in building their own equipment, crafting is a popular addition the standard role-playing video game. When done well, it adds a new layer of depth and involvement for players. "
  • Vanguard: Cindy's Wedding

    " In the same year that Charles, Prince of Wales, married his long-time sweetheart, Camilla Parker Bowles, the Vanguard community had its own fairytale wedding. On December 17, 2005, our own princess, Cindy Bowens, eloped with her Spanish prince, Kumar Daryanani, better known to us as Destral. "
  • EverQuest 2: The Kingdom Awaits - What to expect in the EQ2 Expansion

    " KoS brings us lots of new goodies; quests, zones, armor, rewards, etc. For those that are already in the upper levels, having new places to explore, and fun new things to do, is very exciting. One of the worst things about MMO's is getting burned out on content too quickly, and keeping expansions coming regularly is always a welcomed move, however, is it a little too soon? "
  • EverQuest 2: Lore and Legend Quests Updated

    " You know you want to complete these... read on."
  • World of Warcraft - Travel Routes Guide

    " Many towns aren't situated along the same flight route, making it a little tricky to navigate the flight route system at times. It's not pretty, but here's what towns link to each other with flight routes, by faction and by continent, so you can figure out the fastest way from point A to point B. I encourage you to check out the Transportation Guide for more info on the various forms of transit."

Now on to the real world. You can't make this stuff up.

As always, thanks for visiting TenTonHammer.com,
-- John "Boomjack" Hoskin

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