Monday, October 3, 2016

Channel Update - New Series! New Streams!

The above video explains what's been going on and what my plans are for my Youtube and Twitch channels. I'm announcing a new series and new streams, mostly starting in November.

Since I've detailed everything in the video, I'll not repeat it here. Instead, I'd like to take a moment to mention the shutdown of Asta (the MMORPG shown in the video), which I believe happens today. But first, I need to catch you up on what led me to it in the first place.

I've been feeling that itch the last few months to... you know... play an MMORPG again. Not too surprising, considering the name of this blog, I suppose. I've ignored any new titles in the genre for a few years now, and a lot has happened in that time:
  • Everquest Next was set to knock our socks off, only to collapse before seeing beta. 
  • Wildstar boldly released with a subscription model, but quickly went free to play due to a rapidly decreasing playerbase. 
  • WoW weathered the decline from at least two lackluster expansions, and is now seeing a bit of a resurgence with Legion
  • Project Titan was scrapped and its assets recycled into what is now known as Overwatch
  • Amazon recently announced they're working on an MMO (currently titled "New World") that will supposedly have a lot of that "evolving world" hype proposed by EQN as well as revolutionary levels of Twitch integration and interactivity. 
  • A number of indie developers are now trying their hand at MMOs as well, though it remains to be seen just how well that will turn out.
And that's the really short list. Now that the gold rush that followed WoW's success is mostly over, many players and developers have left the genre in favor of other multiplayer titles (like survival games or MOBAs). This may actually be a good thing, though. Hopefully, it means that the people still making these games are actually in it to produce a quality product, instead of essentially reskinning a popular title and tossing in one or two new elements (a practice so popular that it spawned the term "WoW clone").

...which finally brings me to Asta. It was undoubtedly worthy of the term 'WoW clone' in gameplay, setting and stylized art. Oddly enough, that's exactly what drew me to look at it in the first place. I know that sounds like a contradiction, so let me explain.

I'm of the opinion that WoW changed mostly for the worst over the last few expansions (prior to Legion, that is - I've been hearing somewhat positive things so far there). While Vanilla/TBC/WoTLK were not the utopia some claim it to have been, so much has changed that recent versions of the game do not feel like the same title at all. The worst changes were those that ended up encouraging isolation and toxic behavior in the community. Blizzard has addressed some of the larger issues, but it's felt like too little too late for some time now. Considering the popularity of the (now defunct) classic-era Nostalrius private server, it would seem that I'm not alone in my opinion.

All that in mind, the term 'WoW clone' may not necessarily be a bad thing today. With so many clamoring for a classic-era WoW experience and Blizzard refusing to deliver (or allowing others to do so), now just might be the best time to capitalize on it. That said, a developer would still have a lot of work ahead of them to replicate a quality experience (even from a decade ago) and simultaneously figure out a business model successful enough to actually support it all. 

This of course is where Asta (and a number of other titles) failed hard. The majority of what we've seen thus far have been cheap knockoffs that weren't even properly localized (and in some cases unfinished), where the only thing you could count on being updated regularly were their cash shops. As time goes on though, I speculate that the costs to maintain a classic (perhaps read 'outdated') online title may decrease, while nostalgia for it will increase. There just may come a time some years from now when we see a classic-era MMO (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof) return.

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