What? That's too bad. AOEO is actually one of the only decent Free-To-Play titles that I've found which offers a wide variety of fun RTS gameplay and more impotantly sane pricing for pay-to-play content. I've always wondered why they've failed to really give it a good push and continual advertising to bring in new players. Saying its not cost-effective to keep creating content is defeatist and it seems insulting to players to allow an online title such as this to "die on the vine" so to speak. Plenty of MMOs with much greater "work:content" ratios have been able to continually update with new content, much of it free, over YEARS. Hopefully, they will reconsider - or at least, let the players know what would be needed to continue development (ie We need 25% more people purchasing at least one Premium Civilization Unlock per month etc..).
Everything you've listed is right, and a reason that I was very interested in TSW. Sadly, it has a number of overarching flaws that are severe enough to make it unpalatable for me, unless they're fixed.
First is the horrid monetization scheme. This game commands a standard monthly fee of around $15 USD. That by itself would have been great if it would have given you complete access to all the in-game content. Sadly, this is not the case. Despite the full sub fee, there is a "Cash Shop" that contains a huge amount of in-game, mostly cosmetic content. From clothing, to pets, titles and more the entire thing is exceedingly expensive. Paying $5 for a single "coat" item, in a single color is just about the norm. If you wanted that coat in other colors? $5 again. Titles and pets routinely are above $10 and break $20, as are "outfits" of multiple clothing pieces. When special in-game events and whatnot, like Halloween's update etc... arrive, much of their content is in time sensitive extra things to buy in the Cash Shop - if you wanted that special kitty cat pet, you couldn't earn it, time to take out your wallet before the chance to throw more money at the game is gone! Even worse, nearly everything on the store is on a PER CHARACTER fee, NOT account-wide! They've even done such things as removing unspent "bonus points" when October came, usable on the store in lieu of cash, given to those who purchased the game early and whatnot, which I've never seen done before in any MMO! Their store and implementation is more expensive, restrictive, and worse than even many Free-To-Play titles, and that's saying something!
Especially when one of TSW's key features is its clothing/customization system, this is totally bloody unacceptable. As a roleplayer, its even worse as huge amounts of content is gated behind an additional paywall, when you're already paying $15. Some may say you don't "have" to buy any of this, but it is in game content that many people would enjoy and it adds up to simply being a tax on people who enjoy the cosmetic aspects of the game. I could very easily say that "You don't HAVE to PVP/raid or have PVP/raid reward gear look badass" and it would be equally as viable. The greatness of a monthly subscription MMO is supposed to be the fact you pay for your "ticket to the all you can eat buffet" and choose what you wish to enjoy. TSW makes this a horribly painful process and makes you feel that your $15 monthly fee (or even your Lifetime subscription, should you have one, that doesn't even include any "free cash shop point stipends"!) is simply the first in a long series of charges. So much of the "cool stuff" is going to be gated behind yet another paywall, with such egregiously horribly policies, and that leave such a sour taste in my mouth that I can't enjoy the remainder of the game.
Not quite as bad as the above is the unfortunate cut corners that really can impact enjoyment. For instance, there are 3 general "types" of weapon skills in game, "Melee" (Swords, Hammers, and the like) "Range" (Pistols, Rifles, Shotguns) and "Magic" (Blood Magic, Chaos Magic, Elemental Magic). Your skill in these dictate what weapons you equip, abilities you have etc... Put some Ability points into the Sword skill wheel, and you'll have abilities for your action bar, and Skill Points will give you passive bonuses and generally allow you to equip better swords. Those who choose "Melee" or "Ranged" weapons and equip them, pretty much have use animations that make sense. You equip a sword, when you use the sword attacks, the graphic for your equipped sword will be used in the animation for the attack. However for Magic, this is not the case. The "Magic weapons/focus items" have no presence in the attack animations at all! For instance, all Blood Magic weapons are books - big heavy tomes. Do you hold them? Open them? Do they float around, glow or anything? No! In combat or out, Blood foci simply are stuck to your upper back, unmoving, while your character uses an empty-handed combat gesture that is unchanging from newb to max level. It looks silly as hell that there is no "ready/combat" stance versus "holstered" stance and the items aren't actually used in combat at all. Chaos Magic foci are giant discs and masks, again stuck to your upper back forever. Elemental Magic has "voodoo dolls" stuck to your hip. They could very easily make the combat experience much more fulfilling and even keep the empty handed gestures if they just made the focus items actually DO something in combat - float off the avatar etc.. but no. 1/3 of your "schools" of combat have these stunted, awkward lack of animations. Similarly, there is an issue of holstering. You are intended to always have 2 types of weapons equipped and their abilities for a normal "build", but these items simply "pop" in and out of reality; use a sword attack and BOOM, the sword is on your hip. Use a Blood Magic attack and BOOM, the book is stuck to your upper back. You will only be lucky enough to see both at once, provided you chose a pair of weapons that didn't occupy the same slots. If you have Sword and Dual Pistols, you'll never see them both on your character as they made them both "hip" holstered. Since beta people have asked for dynamic holstering, Magic weapon combat animations, and generally an upgrade to animations that work, yet these cut corners persist while users are told "We have more fun stuff you can buy on the cash shop!" With the addition of dynamic holstering (or providing a "holstering grid" for the player to choose where any items would be holstered on the body!) and providing actual combat animation for Magic class weapons, this could all be fixed for a better game experience!
Another cut-corner comes in terms of clothing. The clothing system was supposed to be the big draw of TSW. "Armor" is a selection of invisible talisman, so the emphasis on clothing and customization was huge. Clothing went into "slots" of the body which would enable such things as allowing a coat to be layered atop chest armor etc... players were told they had to give up HUGE amounts of customization at launch to make up for this system working (ie no body morphs at all, even different heights. Pretty much you could customize skin tone and facial features. Nothing else because they wanted everyone to be exactly the same to make clothing "fit" easier). Then we come to find out that they implement the "multi-slot" clothing slot and make the rewards for completing a "deck of skills", leveling up in your secret society and other "cool stuff" fall into this category. "MultiSlot" effectively gives up all those clothing slots and instead is simply a single skin/model that the player's head is glued to. If you put on a multislot outfit, it means you can't take off the Head piece, the Coat, the Chest, Legs etc.. items by themselves, but everything is binary - its either on, or off. It was infuriating to see, after they lauded their own system of "clothing socketing", that they decided it was just easier to basically drop the player's head on a fixed body instead. The boards lit up with tons of request to say "Why can't we take the gas mask off and still wear our Illuminati uniform" and all sorts of other things, but sadly so many of the major "cool" outfits, including the ones provided for the Lifetime subscribers (which is horrendous - its an outfit that obviously has discreet parts including a T-shirt, leather jacket, jeans etc... that users would easily want to mix and match as they like, and SHOULD be able to do so) these one-off horrid skins, instead of taking the time to design outfits into the pieces and slots they advertised as being a major draw of the game.
To fix this, all they'd have to do is design every "multi-slot" option to be able to broken down into its component parts and equipped piecemeal, and change "Multi-slot" to "outfit"; a setting that would quickly equip all the pieces in an entire outfit or set, but still leave the player a chance to decide after they are all equipped, which ones he wants to remove. Ie. the "Outfit" setting for the "Illuminati Initiate's Uniform" will equip "Illuminati Initiate's Jacket", "Illuminati Initiate's Shirt", "Illuminati Initiate's Pants", "Illuminati Initiate's Gas Mask" etc... and every other item the player has that is part of the Outfit (as well as displaying any missing pieces, so the player can know what they need to find). Then, the player could discretely go to the "head" slot and deactivate "Illuminati Initiate's Gas Mask" to remove that graphic, while the rest of the uniform remains. The technology to do this is all ready in game and has been there since launch! Yes, it would take a bit of work to go back and rework the "MultiSlot" catastrophes, but hey - they did them wrong and cut corners the first time. Fix the mistake and don't make it again, everyone will be much happier!
TSW has a great premise, but the implementation in several areas leaves much to be desired and falls on its face even compared to earlier Funcom entries such as Conan and Anarchy Online. I'm highly disappointed. With a bit more attention to detail and a load less cash shop greed, it could have been great. If things have/will change, I'd be willing to look back, but I'm really, really skeptical that the issues I note above will be changed sufficiently to stop blighting my experience of the game.
Great overview so far! I'm very interested in the advancement of crafting; I really hope that Tailoring and Blacksmithing will include more RP/Fluff/Decorative clothing and uniforms for instance. However, there are 3 relatively big issues I'd like to see amended regarding crafting in MoP. F
irst, I want it to be THE BLOODY END of the whole "Do a daily every day, get a token, turn in 3-5 of them to get a single recipe" paradigm, a la Cooking and Jewelcraft. It makes some professions seem like pointless grind (A bigger issue, I want to see Dailies reworked from 1x/Day to 7x/Week, like Dungeons have been). The other professions where you had to turn in a reasonable amount of materials for patterns was a much better setup. That, plus allowing some recipes to be found through other content/adventuring, without a horrible RNG setup (ie. I liked going to BRD with a high enough Engineer to learn the repair bot plan, but I HATED having to grind and hope you got lucky for Jeeves pattern by killing enough mechano-gnomes).
Secondly, I'd like to ensure that all crafting professions are perpetually useful. Professions tend to fall into 2 categories: "We make stuff you wear or wield" and "We make stuff that is consumed or augments stuff you wear/wield". The latter, like Jewelcraft and Enchanting are always useful as you'll need new JC and Ench for each new piece of gear. However, if you're a Tailor, Leatherworker or Blacksmith, if you get that moderate drop from a dungeon, heroic, or raid, you won't need that stuff crafted for you. Those professions need to constantly be updated with new equipment with every new tier of content, so these players will have something useful to sell - in addition to their sockets/leg armor/spellweave (which admittedly, are helpful but they're not the core of the profession).
Lastly, I'm really happy to hear about the Inscription Staves/Offhands BoA Rare>Epics. Since Classic and Burning Crusade, I worked really hard (even after Lich King was released, I went back for materials I needed ) too ensure my Master Swordsmith Blacksmith could craft himself a Lionheart and Fireguard and upgrade them sufficiently. I REALLY hope that MoP is bringing back "Crafter only, self bonuses" with upgradable uber gear for your speciality; even better, if these items are account wide. I've kept Blacksmithing through thick and thin and I've love to be able to outfit myself with custom Blacksmith only weapons and/or armor again, which stands near the top of the food chain in a given tier of content similar to my Lionheart Executioner and Blazefury of old!
I too really enjoy RTS , including base-building, but I generally hate micromanagement. I don't feel like a general if I have to order every space marine to shoot the "correct" target - these are highly trained troops, they should have some understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, role in combat, and more. StarCraft and other hyper click-fests don't feel like Strategy or even Tactics to me, but just another sort of twitch muscle memory based game. I'm very pleased that End of Nations is going another direction as it shows some real innovation in the genre.
It is important to note that besides Petroglyph and their RTS experience, the big developer/publisher for this title is Trion Worlds, of RIFT fame. They're known for being very swift to update, giving tons of free content to the playerbase, listening and responding to players at a level unheard of with most AAA MMOs, and respecting our wallets. They're one of the very few "player focused" MMO publishers/developers that aren't treating the populace like money-filled washrags, and on that alone I can recommend that players check out End of Nations. The game is looking to come together great according to previews such as these.
Trion Worlds provides a much needed foil for most MMO-developing/producing companies around. Where others are finding new ways to monetize, sell everything under the sun, and basically squeeze every last cent out of a potential or current paying customer; damn the game experience regardless, Trion has gone the other way.
Where WoW and other titles require $25+ per character for a server transfer, Trion allows RIFT players to move servers for free, ever 3 days! RIFT doesn't have expensive minipets and mounts that you can only get through purchasing them from the "special store" at $25 each (I was onboard for this when it was related to charity at least in part, but otherwise its just a moneygrab for a fully sub-fee MMO like WoW). Several times over their year of operation they've even allowed players to get significant savings on their subscription fee... I pay $89 per YEAR - that is HUGE savings... plus I even get free Veteran Rewards in game as soon as I pay for the content (ie. If I've been subscribed for 6 months month to month, I get the 1, 3 and 6 month rewards as those months come about and I pay for, but at the start of the 6th month I pay for year subscripton, I instantly get the 12 and 18 month rewards instead of having to wait for 18 months to actually pass, because I've already paid for them in advance!).
On top of this, Trion has launched RIFT with an understanding that they needed modern features - for instance, the UI was fully alterable at launch and after the first patch XML/Lua mods were out of "beta" and available. Trion also provides the most content per patch of any modern MMO and the fastest patch schedule around; there is always new content just about every month! Live events, new dungeons, PVE, PVP, crafting (as seen above) and they even recognize Roleplayers as fully worthy of having features created with them in mind, such as validating an actual mechanic-based in-game marriage! There is a wealth of content for just about anyone in RIFT!
It really starkly contrasts Trion to EA/Bioware's handing of SWTOR - a MMO with a huge budget and tons of hype behind it, being so dramatically underwhelming in every way compared to Trion's management of RIFT.
Trion seems to really be betting on player experience and its both refreshing and sadly so rare these days. They aren't creating time and money sinking grinds to cover for their lack of content. Even in this article where they mention they "We don't want our dungeons to be so hard that one player can screw up the whole group and make things erupt into drama" this is a HUGE paradigm shift - many other MMOs want to do anything to make their game more like "work" so that you play longer and their meager content offerings "last longer" because only those who play the game like a second job can grind long enough and be dedicated enough to succeed.
I have the utmost respect for Trion thus far and I believe we should all support them financially to show that player-experience focused MMOs, not money grubbing "Wring every cent out of them, and then find new ways to twist the screws even tighter" bullshit can and should thrive. I also look forward to End of Nations, their project partnered with Petroglyph to create a MMORTS on a huge scale
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