WildStar and the Futility of Online Gaming


Well, it’s not a surprise. I honestly expected it a long time ago. But there it is. WildStar is officially sunsetting. I adored this game. I loved the colorfulness, the characters, the story, the world, the freedom of movement, the classes. It had the best housing. It had the amazing combat. It had an incredible soundtrack. It had the my favorite mounts (I’ll miss you most of all, DeLorean hoverboard). But the game launched far too focused on ultra hardcore endgame raiding, and, while it had so much else going for it, it couldn’t turn the Titanic away from that iceberg. I think they tried, but the damage was done, both because they had built a team of people who didn’t know how to do anything else, and because their public perception was irreparably damaged. I want so badly for this game to get saved and rebooted by a different team, but I know it’s not going to happen.

At least we saw this one coming a little more than Marvel Heroes. But losing the two of them within a year of each other has had me thinking a lot of depressing, “all is vanity” type thoughts about playing MMOs.
XKCD 1136
All MMOs will shut down. It’s hard to imagine popular games like Elder Scrolls Online or the unstoppable juggernaut that is World of Warcraft suffering the same fate as WildStar, but realistically, this will happen sooner or later. It’s ironic, because one of the reasons why I like MMOs is because I feel like my achievements mean something. In a normal RPG, I get to the end and that’s it. Your character lives happily ever after and has no more adventures for the rest of their days (unless they show up in a sequel having inexplicably leveled back down to 1 from level atrophy or something). In an MMO, my character lives on indefinitely and continues doing bigger and better things. Until the game goes dark. I can always dust off the SNES and go for a Hyrule nostalgia tour around Zelda: Link to the Past (or, better yet, play it in one of the numerous more modern formats it has been released on), but how many 27-year-old MMOs will we be able to pull off the shelf and play again? The answer is we don’t know yet because the genre isn’t that old, but I doubt it will be many. How many more decades can Ultima Online have left in it? Or Everquest? Or Eve? In some ways, as long as people keep showing up with money, you might as well continue development, or at least keep the servers on, but on the other hand, from a business standpoint, it’s an opportunity cost. If they’re investing X dollars over here and getting a 10% return and X dollars over there and getting a 200% return, they’re both making money, but which one do you think they’re going to invest more in? That’s what happened to City of Heroes (which, ironically, many people believe was killed to fund WildStar). Sooner or later it’s going to happen to every online game.

But, you know what? Gaming ultimately isn’t about permanence or achievement for me. It’s about having fun. I had a ton of fun in WildStar, throwing psi-blades at alien robots, stealthing around and slicing up strain-infected wildlife with Wolverine claws, and putting on laser light shows that heal my friends. I met some cool people, none of whom I talk to anymore, sure, but I still remember their names and their characters and their voices. I built cool houses (nowhere near as cool as some people’s, but I enjoyed them). I spent a lot of time zooming around Nexus on hoverboards just for the fun of it (have I mentioned how much I love hoverboards?). I took a lot of screenshots.
I got a lot of memories out of it.
So in a way, even when they shut down, MMOs are still permanent in the ways that matter.

Advertisements

Six Months Later, Still Mourning Marvel Heroes

“Temporarily Unavailable”

Half a year ago today, my favorite low-stress, sort-of-MMO went dark, amid a flurry of weird circumstances and mishandling on the part of the studio and Disney. Do we really know why it folded exactly? I’m not sure. I think I stopped paying attention when the end was clearly upon us.

The worst part is that it has kind of ruined Marvel media for me. My wife has recently gotten into the Squirrel Girl series (which is excellent, by the way!), and, given that she was one of my favorite characters in Heroes, reading those comics always dredges up memories of shooting squirrels at everything in Midtown (Death From The Trees! Hulkbuster Squirrels! Squirrelpocalypse!). Infinity War was also painful, not because of the characters they killed off (seriously, if you want me to be sad about characters dying, don’t kill off ones who are currently shooting another movie), but because of the game they killed off six months earlier.

I feel a little silly talking about some dumb video game, and, let’s be honest, a sometimes mediocre one at that, like I’ve lost an old friend. But I think other gamers who have had a game that they thought would be there for years to come unceremoniously yanked out from under them will understand. Ask anyone who played City of Heroes (man, what is it with super hero MMOs?) or Star Wars Galaxies anything about those games and you will get a long nostalgia trip about how great it was and how there’s nothing else out there quite like it. Well, now I understand those people a little better.

I’m still hoping someone will come up with a way to do an emulator/private server. I’d love to play this game again, even if it’s just as a single player experience.

Alas, Poor Marvel Heroes! I Knew Him


Well, it’s official. Marvel Heroes is dead, or at least it soon will be. Of all the MMOs I have played over the years, I never would have guessed this would be the first to go. It’s never been one of my main games, but it’s always been something I come back to from time to time. It’s the perfect game to pick up a new character, blow some stuff up, and move on. No big time commitment, not a lot to think about, just punching bad guys. There aren’t many MMOs that do that well. Back in 2013, I wasn’t a big Marvel fan (I hadn’t even seen most of the movies at that point), but I was fresh off of an obsession with Torchlight II, and was just thinking how cool a Torchlight MMO would be when I saw an announcement for Marvel Heroes. I was initially excited about it because of the kind of game it was, but later I recognized what a perfect game it was for the IP, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have been as interested in the Marvelverse as I am if it hadn’t been for this game. Marvel Heroes educated me about a lot of Marvel characters–Rocket Raccoon, Deadpool, Captain Marvel, and, most importantly, Squirrel Girl–long before they showed up in movies or TV shows. Translating comic book characters to ARPG power sets sounds almost as fun to design as it is to play. There will never be another game quite like it.

I was sick yesterday morning when the news hit Massively Overpowered, so I immediately logged in, and there were a lot of mixed reactions. At that time, the official forum announcement hadn’t yet been made, so a lot of people were in denial about it, even coming from legitimate sources like MassivelyOP and Kotaku. Most were stunned or sad. Some people were angry, perhaps rightfully so for those who had just dropped money into the game with little hope of a refund. I feel worst for the console players, who had already been a bit price gouged, and now won’t even get to enjoy their purchase for a whole year before it’s unceremoniously ripped away from them.

I’ll keep the game installed, but I don’t know how much I’ll play before the lights go out December 31st. I’d like to get a couple characters to cap, just to say I did it. I was never good at sticking with a character, especially once I had most or all of my skills unlocked. The whole thing is really sad. We aren’t even clear at this time on why it’s happening; some say it’s because of harassment accusations leveled at the CEO, some say it’s due to lack of money. Maybe a bit of both. I don’t really care what the reason is, I just know I’m going to really miss this game.

You know, in hindsight, we really should have seen this coming. I’m not talking about the lack of communication or legal allegations, I’m not even talking about what a terrible track record superhero MMOs have, I’m talking about back in Spring when they changed the game’s name to “Marvel Heroes: Omega,” and then announced that Ragnarök would be coming. Clear signs of the end times for this game.
…too soon?