A Time Traveler Returns From 2013

Well, wasn’t that an interesting trip. Excuse me while I dust off the time-o-copter. Yes, yes, you’d think simple blades wouldn’t collect so much dust but, well, it’s not like they get used for much, anyhow. So, you’re probably wondering, “what’s 2013 like, Time-O?” and I’m here to tell you. Barack Obama, you say? No, I haven’t a clue about him, though Sarah Palin’s swift dive into Playboy and Maxim was a bit of a surprise. I hear Daniel Radcliffe is considering a run against the “mudbloods” or some such. Anyhow, you’re an MMO audience and MMO talk I shall deliver.

The first thing you’re probably wondering is how TOR made out. I’m sorry to say that, no, indeed they didn’t keep their 2 million subscribers. True, they did break records, yes, but, well, let’s just say the subscription argument is a thing of the pas– present. Let’s just say, however, that Jack Emmert was finally right.

To the actual game though: a better theme-park there never was. By the time I had to leave, they had just announced their first expansion pack, Hutt-Hutt Love, but due to the extensive amount of voice acting, it had a tentative release date of 2014. Never fear, however, as new raids, zones, and battlegrounds were added in the two years after launch. The release of WoW: The Emerald Dream put a bit of a kiebash on TOR’s biggest selling point, however. Who would have thought the Emerald Dream would have space ships and “energy sabers?”

Guild Wars 2, though, there’s a sad case. ArenaNet tried and, to their credit, delivered on much of what was promised. The event system was nothing short of revolutionary in a “public quest” kind of way. People didn’t anticipate the grindiness, however, and quirks in the reward system were still being worked out during my visit. Still, it isn’t in the gameplay or financial success that the true disappointment lies; it is in the moving of the series. Who would have thought that turning the game so far from the first, adding levels, adding lots of new stuff within the trappings of old Diku stuff, that they would lose much of their initial audience. As it turns out, GW fans really did want a CRPG instead of an MMO.

Don’t get me started on TERA. Really, don’t, because I was busy grinding out my elvish lass’s 39th level. If I’d only had another 35 hours, I would have had it!

No, the age of MMOs has changed two years out, my friends. It’s no longer a landscape of big, sub+ games. There are the leaders, sure, but they are the same as they are in 2011: WoW, ToR, LotRO… the big, multi-million dollar projects. No, the heart of the industry now lies in the ultra-niche. If there is a mood in which you’ll game, there is a game to suit your mood.

It’s not surprising then that Darkfall still remains the #1 PvP MMO and EVE is working on it’s 50th expansion. In the most recent update, Darkfall has blended deftly with World of Warcraft in their latest patch entitled, Kill the Nub. Blizzard has yet to raise legal action against the inclusion of their models, but it’s assumed they’re too deep in their piles of money (and Bobby Kotick’s pocket) to care.

Dominating this tier of games, however, is Rift, the artist formally known as “Planes of Telara.” It turns out people really didn’t want something radically different. The MMO industry is still struggling to compete with their rift system, though it never was as dynamic as we hoped it would be. In the best ways, it is like World of Warcraft and in the best ways it is not. Scott Hartsman is currently leasing a Boeing 757 for his morning commute to work.

But, listen to me prattle on. I am the mystic one! The traveler of world and time! I am Time-O! Ask your questions, if you will, but let me leave you with this prediction: I will next travel to 2025, wherein I will find the first full head-tracking helmet-goggles computer monitor. It will come with an optional vest, with feedback sensors, jolting you with every parry and blow. And yes, it will support World of Warcraft.

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