As good as it gets?
Mar 24, 2009 21:19:36

By Julie Whitefeather

"What if this is as good as it gets" - Jack Nicholson as Melvin Udall

Like Melvin Udall, there have been many times I have reached the level cap in one game or another and said to myself, "Is this as good as it gets?" The answer to that question, at least insofar as MMOs are concerned, is as about as subjective as they come. In this case the old adage that goes "one person's trash is another person's treasure" holds truer than ever. Back in 2007 Richard Garriott called end game in WoW "a system of inventory management" and labeled it the "harbingers of failure." No matter what the cause, whether insufficient return on investment, or insufficient understanding of the market by investors, last month Tabula Rasa joined the sad ranks of another MMO that shut off the servers for good.

And it all gave me pause for thought.

The initial thought was that Rob Pardo would certainly be justified in calling Richard Garriott and yelling "nyah, nyah, nyah" into the phone. Beyond that, however, even though Abraham Lincoln once claimed that "you can't please all of the people all of the time" game developers often have the unenviable task of attempting to do just that.

There are some developers and CEOs, like John Smedley, who have made a very good success of finding a niche market by keeping some of the people happy all of the time. Not all developers are lucky enough to have publishers or CEOs that have that outlook on business. Some developers have the unenviable task of dealing with executives who are still busy trying to please all of the gamers some of the times - and end up playing a constant game of "carrot on a stick" dangling the latest in game event or new character class in front of players in an attempt to recapture lost market share. Every now and then someone comes along who forgets that trying to make a game that is a "WoW Killer" is "just crazy talk" as R.W. Harper put it in the interview in No Prisoners, No Mercy show 25 - just ask Brad McQuaid and those people who worked for him when he was at the helm of Sigil Games.

But in all this there is a saving grace.

Times being what they are, the economy has created an environment in which the "free to play" label is no longer the pariah it once was. Initially it may have been a case where "free to play" was very much like some looking for a date to prom after everyone has been asked - under some circumstances any choice is better than none. But even if the economy is what brought many players to the table, the quality of free to play games is changing. To continue the metaphor, it's as if the young man who took his date to prom found out that even though she might not be the prettiest date on the dance floor, he suddenly discovered her delightful sense of humor and found out she is one of the most fun dates there. The more I see of some of the latest free to play games out there the better they look. More and more I find myself looking at some of the monthly subscription fees and saying to myself...

This isn't as good as it gets.

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Mar 24, 2009 21:19:36 CST (comments: 0)


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