Are SOE fanboys/girls blind to the sucky-spectrum?

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, as usual, and one of the new ones out there is Shut up, We’re Talking which is hosted by Darren and Tami from The Common Sense Gamer and Cuppytalk respectively.  Both are writers for their own long running and very well respected blogs about the gaming industry, leaning towards a specific focus on MMOs.  Both of their blogs are awesome, as is their podcast.  Still, I feel compelled to chime on on some of their recent talking points.

As I’ve been catching up on their past shows, I’ve noticed a tendency to ask, “why, oh why, does Blizzard have the most popular MMO out there.”  They are both EQ2 players that have moved on from WOW.  A lot of times they will talk about how EQ2 has actually added more, since it’s initial horrible launch, to the game than WOW has.  They seem genuinely surprised and at a bit of a loss to explain why EQ2 hovers at around 350K users while WOW has recently hit the 8.5 million mark. 

Well, I have thought about this and I think that what turns me off about EQ2 and also turned me off on EQ1 and Vanguard is the crappy derivative art direction of the game.  I think there are different types of gamers, certainly MMO players deserve a whole classification unto themselves.  (Goal oriented, slightly neurotic, narcissistic, addictive personality, etc.)  And different types of gamers have different turn-ons and turn-offs. 

As a gamer, I really appreciate good, inspiring art direction in a game.  I like the eye candy.  When people say that the graphics in EQ2 are as good or better than WOW, my jaw just drops.  There’s no way you can compare the two.  EQ2 aims at a photo-realistic representation of relatively generic texture maps on uninspired models with limited animation.  WOW takes standard race and class archetypes and stylises them (much like the Asian MMOs tend to do) and then in a way that I can only view as “lovingly”, hand craft the textures and model elements together into an iconic representation of the total character.  In short, the WOW graphics have personality while the EQ2 graphics look like they were cut and pasted out of illustrations from fairy tale books for children and were then colorized by Ted Turner for mass consumption.

When people say they don’t understand why people don’t want to play EQ2 as much as WOW I just remember my recent spin with the Play the Fae trial.  So I get to play a freakin’ Fairy?  Not a stylized minotaur, or a noble Night Elf or insidiously evil Blood Elf but the new OMFG, kickass, PWNage race I can try for EQ2 is Fairy?  A Fairy that seems to average about five frames of animation per action compared to the smooth movements of its WOW counterparts?  I just don’t get inspired by this.  I realize this may not be a fair comparison.  I could have just bought the game and played any one of the other EQ2 races, but having seem them in action on a friends computer, I don’t want to join the other 350K users doing so.  I’d rather “punish” SOE for be uninspired and drab by not subscribing to this game and sticking with WOW for now. 

I almost wonder if there is some kind of color-spectrum that people who actually marvel over these EQ2 graphics cannot see?  I would call it the “sucky spectrum” because EQ2 is just riddled with it.  I’m not even going to go in to how much of a horse of a computer you need to even get the graphics turned up in the game just to realize this “sucky-ness” in all of it’s glory. 

I think the thing that WOW, and Blizzard as a company, has always had is their presentation.  Sure there are other RTS games where little guys mine resources and kill each other.  Sure there are other MMOs with more races, classes, and levels to grind.  And sure other RPGs have more depth than the click-and-kill philosophy behind the Diablo games.  The thing is, none of those other companies have the sense of style that Blizzard has.  For these three genres, RTS, MMO, and action RPG, they are unrivaled in their presentation and the sales and subscription numbers confirm it. 

Perhaps Blizzard’s games don’t have the depth that some gamers seek in comparison to their competition.  Surely Supreme Commander has more unit types that Starcraft1/2,  and it can display more units in a game, and it has that crazy cool zoom-out feature.  And maybe EQ2 has added more content than WOW for the casual gamer as well as more races and classes.  And maybe games like KOTAR really showed what an action RPG can do with story depth. 

I recently read, in a book for teaching signing to babies, that 90% of what we learn throughout life comes from visual stimulation.  Maybe for podcast listeners and audiobook fans this is not quite accurate but still it means that for most people, what we see is paramount to our interface with the world.  Blizzard builds the most pleasing, consistent game interfaces out there which is probably a big part of why they’re number one in each game category of which they are competing. 

Granting you all of this, maybe Blizzard is like Andy Warhol, creating pop culture games that appeal to the masses but lack the depth and soul of some of their competitors.  Unfortunately or maybe fortunately for me, I am, apparently, one of the masses because I don’t want to have to get over the crappy interfaces, the “hard-core-ness” of the unnecessary complexity and/or difficulty, or the lack of zing and eye candy in games like EQ2.  Maybe I’m the one who is color blind to the spectrum of light that makes people think these games are awesome, but I kind of doubt it.  


13 Comments to Are SOE fanboys/girls blind to the sucky-spectrum?

  1. Byrd's Gravatar Byrd
    July 13, 2007 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    You are obviously a Blizzard fanboy who thinks that WoW is gods gift to MMORPG’s.

    Get a clue jerko.

  2. Rob's Gravatar Rob
    July 14, 2007 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    One man’s graphical ‘personality’ is another man’s saturday morning cartoons.

    There are a great deal of people that play MMO’s that prefer a more realistic experience, even at the cost of a more powerful computer. And there’s even more that don’t give a damn one way or another about graphics, as long as the gameplay is of a style they enjoy. The main reason for WoW’s success (imho), is that it’s a massive single-player game with multi-player options. The guys at Blizzard knew what the majority of the MMO playerbase wanted in terms of gameplay (i.e. very solo-friendly). They didn’t cater to one man’s ‘Vision(tm)’, or even to a niche of players, as some games do, but even those games have players that enjoy them as well, so any opinions of those games are just that, opinions.

    In the end, players are going to play what’s fun, and as indicated by their subscription numbers, WoW is fun for a lot of people. But to say that it’s more successful than other games because of its graphics is, in my *opinion*, one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever heard.

  3. Mikes's Gravatar Mikes
    July 17, 2007 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    “I almost wonder if there is some kind of color-spectrum that people who actually marvel over these EQ2 graphics cannot see? I would call it the “sucky spectrum””

    I’d make some kind of witty put down, but after the above quote it really would be like kicking a cripple after they’ve fallen out of their wheel chair.

  4. RadarX's Gravatar RadarX
    July 17, 2007 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Your statements seem to teeter from intelligent to foolish and only hover in the middle…

    “They seem genuinely surprised and at a bit of a loss to explain why EQ2 hovers at around 350K users while WOW has recently hit the 8.5 million mark. ”

    This statement proves you have absolutely no clue where the current EQ2 subs are. It doesn’t match anything anyone is even speculating.

    I will agree with you the art direction of WoW and EQ2/VG are in completely different directions but as Timothy Burke pointed out on Terranova last month behavior is entirely different in WoW vs other MMO’s. You don’t have people standing around doing goofy emotes and jumping in circles, because there aren’t goofy emotes in these other games. I think what you might be confusing with derivative art is you are in a different environment that doesn’t appeal to your apparently finicky taste.

    And now you are bringing RTS into comparison with MMO’s? Why not bring in casual games too. I think the depth of Bejeweled isn’t sufficent to hold my attention.

    Oh and way to hop on the 2005 bandwagon. WoW > EQ2, no one has EVER tried to make that point before EVER. Hey maybe next blog you can explain why game journalists are biased or why Chuck Norris is funny.

  5. July 17, 2007 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great comments so far.

    Byrd: I am an acknowledged Blizzard fan boy. I am a big fan of a lots of other good things as well like water, food, and air.

    Rob: If thinking the graphical presentation of a game could be a reason why it’s more popular is ludicrous, then why don’t more people seek out less attractive mates who have great personalities?

    Mike: Or you’re just completely spent from coming up with your cripple metaphor…

    RadarX: Okay, what are the current EQ2 subs? I mentioned RTS and don’t forget action-RPGs. If Blizzard made Bejeweled it would have been appropriate since it, like the other games I mentioned, dominates it’s market. I should have mentioned Lost Vikings but I’m not sure how it fit in to the multi-character side scrolling platform market at the time.


  6. Micajah's Gravatar Micajah
    July 17, 2007 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Really….”sucky spectrum” was the best you could come up with?

    In all honesty, you can’t include EQ1 in your initial comparison because World of Warcraft is entirely derivative of that initial foray into the MMOG space. Without the original EQ, there wouldn’t be a WoW.

    Really, what caused WoW to dominate the market wasn’t a superb release (WoW’s was equally as crappy as EQ, or do you not remember the hour long queues to get into a server or the lack of actual product on store shelves), nor is it great art (honestly it’s merely “bright” and “full”).

    No it has more to do with marketing to the low-end min-spec market and creating a fluid new player experience, both of which were done to near perfection. Even today, few games (aside from LotRO) provide gamers with such an easy-to-follow treadmill to max-level.

    That is what made WoW great. Not the art. They could’ve made EQ-style art, and they would’ve done fine.

  7. rocrom's Gravatar rocrom
    July 18, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Perhaps you ARE one of the billions and billions served that chooses McDonald’s when going out for dinner. Hey, they gotta be doing something right to be that successful right?

    Myself, I tend to go for a good steak & champagne. Probably just be my “sucky tastes” though.

  8. Stark's Gravatar Stark
    July 18, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Ah, you’ve got to love the wrath of the fanboy. I’m generally with you on the WoW graphics, though once you get into the really “ubah” stuff it’s just so oversized it’s insane.

  9. DaveT's Gravatar DaveT
    July 18, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    That is what made WoW great. Not the art. They could’ve made EQ-style art, and they would’ve done fine.

    Wrong. Really, really wrong. Your choice of art style affects everything about the game from the server (one or shards) to server population, to possible landmass of the world, to how many players can inhabit that space. Heck even the emotes that are able to be added.
    Could Blizz have chosen a more photorealistic art style? Sure, but the game would not run as smoothly, with so many people in view, on such low-spec machines. EQ2′s mirror-like water lapping poorly textured beaches throws you deep into the uncanny valley and everything you see subsequently is just ‘off’.
    To get to max level in any game players have to hit level 2 first.
    Wow’s launch was easily as smooth as CoH’s, and boxes were on store shelves in abundance. EQ2′s art is why I never made it off the dock.

  10. rocrom's Gravatar rocrom
    July 19, 2007 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Is everybody on 486s? My rig is far from bleeding edge and EQ2 still runs fluidly, although I don’t really play it any more.

    WoW’s graphics are quite simply – simple. That’s all. Add in a bunch of color and sure, you’ll get “oohs” and “ahhs.” But that really is all there is to it. Lots and lots of color. Apart from that, there’s really nothing worth mentioning in the visuals department. Hell, I can’t even tell what race some of the things are in that game. Can be fighting a mob and trying to figure out if it’s a dog or a rabbit.

  11. Chris's Gravatar Chris
    July 19, 2007 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I have nothing against World of Warcraft, but I cannot play it because the gameplay is largely EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot. I spent man-months of my life playing those and Warcraft is too much more of the same.

    I agree that the art style overall, is well done, more so in the expansion. Your thought that some people just don’t like it has a kernel of truth, however. Disney has found that about half the population outgrows a liking for cartoons at an early age (which is why kids channels are split between animation and live action shows)

  12. Daniel's Gravatar Daniel
    September 17, 2007 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to say, wow! I am entirely unimpressed with the artwork in WOW. I really like the game itself, but the graphics and artwork were not reasons why liked the game. I liked the interface and the game play. I kept playing WOW even after it began to bore me simply because I could play it easily on my laptop anywhere with a wireless connection. Granted, you do need to have a really good rig to enjoy the graphics in EQ2, but the expense is worth it. I hated not being able to log into WOW because it was busy and I really got fed up with the millions of small children who seem to inhabit the game. I’m still saying, wow, because I can’t believe that anybody could say the WOW has better graphics then EQ2. Is it easier to play, yes! Is it more compatible with low-end systems than EQ2, yes. Is it played by more people, yes. Does it have better graphics than EQ2, hell no!

  1. By on July 18, 2007 at 1:47 pm

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Be On the Show! Email Us
Podcast RSS
Blog RSS
Current Poll

How often do you play MMOs?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Blog Categories
Fave Blogs