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I think I have the nesting correct in that headline. :)

So the saga so far:

An anonymous game designer who goes by the handle ‘Wolfshead’ posted a fairly scathing critique of the first 15 minutes of EQ2. Tipa rebutted his post. And Wolfshead rebutted her rebuttal.

I was posted a few comments in response to Tipa’s post, and this morning posted a comment on Wolfshead’s blog. Comments there are moderated (as they are here) and s/he chose not to approve my comment. Which is fine — your blog, your prerogative. But my spidey-sense was tingling when I posted that comment and I had the forethought to keep a copy of it.

So here is that comment. Imagine it was in the comments section of Wolfshead’s last post. I’ve left it intact, poor phrasing included (I was rushing to post it before work). The only change I’ve made is to add italics to quotes from the original post:

===
The problem I have with you is, you make too many assumptions about
EQ2 players. For example:

I would like to challenge Tipa and others to put forth their
suggestions to help SOE make a better EQ2 newbie experience.

What makes you think she doesn’t? My significant other is a die-hard
EQ2 fan, and she is constantly giving feedback to the team via proper
channels.

You, once again, act as if your interests are altruistic, but any
potential new EQ2 player that read your ‘First 15 minutes’ would be
pushed to give up on the idea of trying the game; you make it sound
about as much fun as bamboo shoots shoved under the fingernails.

In my experience (I dabble in EQ2, but honestly never stay in it for
very long myself) the EQ2 community is pretty welcoming to new
players. I’ll admit I see that situation through the lens of my SO and
her guild and all the new EQ2 players in it.

But neither can you. You have no idea what SOE is doing back at its HQ.

You say:

Companies pay thousands of dollars in consulting fees to get into the
head space of their potential customers.

Well how do you know SOE hasn’t done that? Doesn’t continue to do it?
Some of the things you critique (eg, the background images at
character creation) were the way you suggest that should be (different
background for ‘evil’ characters) but SOE changed it so that all
characters are in front of the same background. Why did they toss out
the ‘evil’ artwork? Was it an arbitrary decision, or was it based on
market research and focus testing?

If you truly, honestly want to help SOE improve the game, then submit
feedback TO THEM. Don’t trash the game on your blog…all that really
helps is your page view count. And I know you’ll say you weren’t
trashing it, and maybe that wasn’t your intent, but that is definitely
the feeling one comes away with after reading your 15 minutes post.
You come across extremely arrogant and dismissive. I’m not saying you
*are* either of those things, but that’s how the post reads.
====

Since I posted that, Wolfshead has approved other comments, so I suppose I’ve hit a nerve. Redacted. SmakenDahed makes a good point…the other comments might be ‘auto-approved’ by virtue of them being previous posters. Update: Confirmed that this was indeed what was going on, so I fully retract the ‘hit a nerve’ statement.



Comments:
26
  • If nothing else, this little squabble has made me want to give EQ2 a shot again. I tried it years ago, and I came to roughly the same conclusions that Wolfshead did this time. But I was also very much in a WoW vs EQ2 mode (because they came out all but simultaneously) and WoW had yet to burn me out. I’m looking for something new in MMOs that I can sink my teeth into, and I think that either LOTRO or EQ2 might have that. At least with this latest blog duel, I’m getting both sides of the story enough so that I want to try for myself.

  • Oh, your comment was not posted/approve? Odd!

    I personally give not much about EverQuest II, I do not care about the game… and I did not feel that this was a “fairly scathing” review at all.

    Actually, I would say that Wolfshead cares for EverQuest II, unlike me. So I do not quite understand the fuss about it.

    I also do not understand why your comment was moderated.

  • @Longasc – I fully support Wolfshead’s decision to moderate my comment. The owner of the blog should do what feels comfortable, IMO. A blog isn’t a democracy! :)

    I’m surprised you didn’t find it scathing though. He (I’m going to assume ‘he’ from now on) seemed to dislike a lot more aspects than he liked. Which again, is fine if he’s starting these things as opinion, but instead he is stating that they are unilaterally wrong, and in doing so making the assumption that everyone has the same values. Maybe if you have the same values then it didn’t seem as bad?? Just a theory.

    @Beej That’s interesting… so you are drawn to controversy, my friend? I hope you find something you like! Honestly I prefer LOTRO, but I play EQ2 to keep the domestic bliss intact. :)

  • Don’t take it personally, Pete. I submitted a comment there that was encouraging and agreeing with what he said but it hasn’t been approved either. I’m guessing it’s an approve once and that person can post all the want so the others might have already been approved.

    I also didn’t find it scathing – it was mostly minor things that had no immediate bearing on gameplay – everything was more cosmetic, putting on your best clothes sort of thing.

    I think the only thing he said which could be taken as wanting to change mechanics was about adding more instant casts. In EQ2, instant casts (for casters) tend to become available later on in levels as a reward of sorts. Last time I played combat arts (melee ‘spells’) were all instant cast.

    He actually complimented the pace of combat over what WoW has.

    I think some people are being a little too defensive about it (oh hai Tipa!).

  • Well, it starts with the ESRB logo, the char creation screen, then the appearance customization.
    No, I do not find it scathing at all??

    I think people got worked up because he referred to WoW as example of a “newbie friendly” standard UI. And over other things.
    But this actually ONLY happens if you deeply care for the game. Basically, someone criticized someone’s beloved virtual world.

    But Wolfshead feels some love for EQ2 or he would not bother. I think he also tries to explore why the game did not hook him initially, like the old EQ did.

    Yeah, I fear it is a lot of nerdrage we see at the moment. The same happened to wowfony’s really funny Aion-review. He noted some negative things in Aion, and… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtOvpWToe38 – shit starts flying! ;)

  • See, that’s exactly what I do find scathing. Like from the second he started the client he began noting things that the EQ2 devteam did wrong. Maybe scathing is a poor word choice on my part. But it really seemed like he was going out of his way to find as many negative things to comment on as he could.

    But I appreciate you gents offering an alternate point-of-view. Thanks for that.

    And @SmakenDahed, you’re right, maybe those other comments were auto-approved. In any case, I’m glad I posted this here since it’s led to this conversation.

  • […] — but wait! Dragonchasers’ Pete weighs in! This is where I get the […]

  • To give Wolfshead his due, it’s entirely possible he went to work and just hasn’t modded comments yet? I dunno, just trying to find an alternate reason since I’ve not noticed a whole lot of comment censoring going on over there before. If anything, he (I think) seems to like a good heated debate.

    Oh and heya Pete! Been a while! :D

  • … and god help me, 400+ posts in my feed reader.

    I’m running away to Tasmania. Now.

  • yea Pete, I posted a comment at Wolfhead’s as well and it hasn’t shown up yet. Mine wasn’t horrible disagreeable, but mebbe it showed up in his spam comments thing or something. It’s happened before.

  • Hi there,

    My blog is set up that initial comments have to be approved initially — which I finally got around to doing. After that you can post anytime. So nothing was moderated or censored at all.

    Both comments are up on my blog. Thanks for posting them folks :)

  • Pete, my article did include some good comments too. I looked at what I was doing as providing serious feedback for SOE. I wanted to get directly to the points that I felt needed to be addressed, I didn’t want to spend too much of my article massaging the egos of the people at SOE with flattery and praise.

  • I am the aforementioned EQ2 fangirl who does Peter’s laundry. :p I do love EQ2, and I play daily (sometimes several multi-hour sessions). I’ve played since launch and have only taken short hiatus

    I read both Wolfshead’s post, Tipa’s rebuttal, and I tried to read Wolfshead’s rebuttal of Tipa’s rebuttal, but it was too damned long and I lost interest after about the third paragraph.

    Here’s my take on the whole thing: It’s a game!! Some people will like it and some won’t, and that’s ok. My only beef with Wolfshead’s original post is that I feel he spent way too much time nit-picking trivial matters and opining on how they should be “fixed.”

    Thing is, SOE originally employed several of the “fixes” he discussed, and they moved away from those approaches. I’m sure they had damned good reasons for doing so. It was broke; they fixed it. Why break it again?

    Also, you can’t get a good feel for ANY game in the first 15 minutes, particularly if a good chunk of those first 15 minutes are taken up by character creation. I mean, seriously, I’ve spent 30 minutes to an hour sometimes getting a character’s appearance just right, before I even consider their class, starting city, or even their name. I LOVE that EQ2’s character creation is so detailed. Yeah, other systems might look better, but the options are a great way to work with what we’ve got.

    If you’re going to review a game, PLAY the game. Go through the tutorial, get your bearings, and then explore, quest, kill stuff, craft — whatever. Don’t spend that time taking notes or focusing on the negative aspects. The point of a game is to have FUN. If you’re not having fun after playing for an hour or two, then sure, grandstand all you like…but ONLY after you’ve given the game a real chance to hook you.

    I think my fellow EQ2ers are upset with Wolfshead’s article because he based his opinion of the game on a fraction of a fraction *of a fraction* of the content. I believe I speak for a great many of us when I say, WTF?

  • I think you should trust Wolfshead on the 15 minutes thingie, it is probably decided even earlier. This is not Wolfshead opinion, there is scientifice backup on such facts like in what time people make decisions and what are the deciding factors. People already reject games if they do not like the UI.

    Even if there is a pot of gold, the first experiences are crucial. Humans are not so much different in matters if they like someone or not. It is decided in seconds. And to overcome such early impressions can take ages.

    It was also no review. And you totally missed the point. If the early moments do not entice players enough, the fraction of a fraction of a fraction, they will not play and see the rest of the game.

    I seem to become Wolfshead’s advocate against an upset EQ2 community…^^

  • Yes, you really do seem to be his Champion, Longasc.

    And I flatly do not believe this 15 minutes thing holds true when applied to computer games. You’re telling me that a person goes to the store, spends $40-$50 on a game, spends an hour (or more) installing and patching the game, goes through the hassle of setting up an account, then finally starts to play, and within 15 minutes they’re going to decide “I don’t like this” and delete the game?

    I simply do not believe that this happens with any kind of regularity.

    I challenge you to provide links to this scientific data that demonstrates that PC gamers make their decisions so rapidly.

  • I think my fellow EQ2ers are upset with Wolfhead’s article because he based his opinion of the game on a fraction of a fraction *of a fraction* of the content. I believe I speak for a great many of us when I say, WTF?

    I stated many times that I was going to be analyzing a brief segment of the MMO — the first 15 minutes. That’s it nothing more. I also offered the opinion that perhaps EQ2 is an amazing MMO at later stages but that’s not going to matter very much to the new subscriber that decides they don’t like EQ2.

    Some EQ2 players seem to be circling the wagons here and trying to attack me for making some negative comments about their MMO. I understand why some would be protective.

    But the truth is that EQ2 has only 200,000 subscribers at best and has about 1.2% of the total MMO demographic in the world. Clearly something has gone wrong at SOE if EQ2 is such a wonderful MMO as many seem to claim.

    I’d like to ask everyone: why aren’t more people playing EQ2?

    Can you blame me then for wanting to look at possible impediments that might be discouraging new subscribers?

  • “But the truth is that EQ2 has only 200,000 subscribers at best and has about 1.2% of the total MMO demographic in the world. ”

    Where are these numbers coming from? I can throw up some numbers without sources, but they wouldn’t have any more meaning than yours do.

    And even if your figure is accurate, out of context, it is still meaningless. How many subscribers does EQ2 have compared to City of Heroes and Warhammer Online and Age of Conan and Tabula Ras…oh wait, forget that one.

    Percentage of the total demographic in the world? Another meaningless statistic. What is its percentage of the demographic in regions where it is available? And more accurate, what is its percentage of the demographic among subscription-based MMOs where it is available?

    What I see is SOE finding the game successful enough that they devote resources to producing regular retail expansion packs for it. So your implication that it is a failure is wrong, at least in their eyes.

    All that said, and setting all those issues aside and assume for the moment that you are right. That EQ2 is struggling. Can you blame the fans of the game for wanting to defend it? Yes yes, you made a few positive comments about the game. But overall your post is going to dissuade new players from trying it.

    If you thought you’d get any other reaction from fans of the game, you were being incredibly naive.

  • @Longasc: Review, analysis…to-may-to, to-mah-to. :) Either way, it’s a look back at one’s time playing the game in order to determine whether or not you believe others would enjoy it or if it’s a big waste of time. He may be a “game developer” and directing most of his comments at SOE, but how many of the comments or other discussions spawned from the post are *not* from players — pro OR con — like me?

    @Wolfshead: What wagons? *looks around* ;) If you think the game is flawed enough that you or others would consider these flaws deal-breakers, hey, that’s ok by me. That’s your prerogative, and you’re welcome to it, and you’re of course free to shout that opinion from the rooftops. I’m not saying that EQ2 is the best game in the history of the universe, but I don’t believe you gave it a fair shake in your first post.

    Again, many of the “fixes” you suggested were how things were when the game launched — and SOE changed them as the player base grew and the feedback and marketing data started rolling in. Good and evil characters used to have different character creations backgrounds, and I do believe the ESRB logo was much smaller, once upon a time. Crafting didn’t play a very big part in the newbie area, and there were a lot fewer harvesting nodes there. Quest text was shorter, there was no way whatsoever to harvest nodes faster, and you gained only one or two abilities when you leveled. I’m sure the decisions to change these things weren’t taken lightly and had good reasons behind them.

    My shtick is basically this: Looks to me like you analyzed the game. That’s great if you’re a beta tester or something, but this is a living, evolving universe that is home to hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of active characters and is, for all intents and purposes, “finished.” If you want to help make the game player-friendly, you have to PLAY it and go from there, and not just in 15-minute increments, and not nit-picking the details every time your view changes. Who bloody cares that the ESRB logo is hugenormous? Most of us just click through anyway. If you don’t want to harvest a zillion nodes on the newbie island, you can pretty safely ignore them…I’m pretty sure they won’t aggro. ;)

  • Try not to be defensive about his suggestions and remember that polish is something you put on the silverware to make shine, not something that makes or changes the silverware into something else – a spoon is still a spoon but a polished spoon shines and catches the eye.

    This is why most of his points are minor – he’s talking polish. Polish is what you immediately see. If you’re at a restaurant and pick up your fork it’s either shiny, might have spots on it, might be dirty or might be rusty. How do you react to that? If it’s rusty or dirty you might decide to try a different restaurant.

    It’s a first impression piece with suggestions to make it more appealing to new people. That is all his post is about. The only mistake Wolfshead is making is that he’s trying to defend his post to people who have emotional attachment to the subject matter. You know what they say about emotion and reason, right?

    So once again, he’s focused on the first 15 minutes because, he absolutely right, most gamers (note the use of ‘gamers’) will decide if they want to play a game or not in the first little while. MMO players are a different breed who tend to be a little more forgiving about a game because they understand the game isn’t carved in stone and can change. Some hang on hoping things get fixed.

    EQ2 is a prime example of players being forgiving. On release it was stable, but had *a lot* of flaws (I sort of liked some of them personally). A lot of classes were broken or had overpowered mechanics (Inquisitor chain stifle reducing red con content to chumps). After release they made a lot of changes – a lot. A fair number of them are for ‘polish’ reasons so they attract more players – like the revamps to the Isle of Refuge, addition of Neriak, etc.

    Some people are misreading that as a “WoWify EQ2!” post which it isn’t. EQ2 has already gone through its WoWification stage (removal of spirit shards, shared XP debt, xp debt, heroic mobs in the outdoor zones, making players their class from level 1 and so on). It’s also had a huge number of necessary fixes and class revamps. EQ2 is already WoWified, if you don’t know that you weren’t there when EQ2 was released.

  • This is probably getting into dead horse territory :) but…

    If you really want to examine the first 15 minutes with an MMO, it’s all about installing and patching. If you really believe that people make up their minds in the first 15 minutes, then no one would ever play any of these games!

    Let’s shift gears and talk about Aion. I got into a beta weekend over 4th of July. I started the game, it was nicely polished. I really liked it in those first 15 minutes. But by the end of the weekend I’d decided not to pre-order it. The game didn’t hold up to my $50+$15/month scrutiny.

    When you buy a new subscription-based MMO, you get a 30-day free ticket, and with all my heart, I don’t believe people give up on an MMO in the first 15 minutes if they’ve invested the time and money in getting it running, and have a 30-day pass. Yes, if you look hard enough you’ll find a few exceptions but no statistically significant number.

    Everyone says “He’s absolutely right” that people make up their minds about MMOs in the first 15 minutes, but I see zero data to back this “fact” up. I don’t see any kind of ‘scientific’ data, and my anecdotal experience doesn’t back it up either.

    TV shows? Sure. Free game demos? Sure. In a lot of things, people make those kinds of snap decisions. Even when a player rents an Xbox game. But once you’ve committed a non-trivial amount of money to buy the game, and the time to install it and get it running, I think that ’15 minutes’ goes out the window.

    Part of the reaction to the back-and-forth, and I’ve kind of danced around this myself, is, well, the audacity that Wolfshead shows. He presents his ideas as Truth and in doing so, implicitly claims that he knows more about making games than the entire SOE dev team. When you put yourself up on that kind of pedestal you have to expect someone is going to try to knock you down.

    Wolfshead also dismisses facts that don’t fit into his plans. Several folks have pointed out that some of his changes are regressions to the way things used to be, but he ignores the implications of that and charges on with his True Vision of how to fix EQ2.

    So presumably, if he were running SOE, work on the next expansion would be put on hold and the team can go to work on undoing the changes they’ve made (thus pissing off the existing audience), re-creating character models and in turn, all the assets that go with that project, and reducing the size of the ESRB label, and filling the screen with glowy arrows that says “THIS IS NEW IN SHADOW ODYSSEY!!” and that would pull in more subscribers? How many loyal and on-going subscribers would they lose? (Yes, I’m being silly at this point… please read this with tongue firmly in cheek.)

    But we have Longasc being the Champion of Wolfshead, so I guess we need for him to have a Nemesis or two, and I’m happy to volunteer. :)

  • I got into the WoW beta while playing (and enjoying :P ) Horizons. I was immediately sucked into WoW – intuitive and polished and smooth. I thnk my Mom can probably play it (this is a compliment in that the ‘barrier to entry’ to WoW is very low.) This probably is a non-trivial contribution to WoW’s success.

    I ended up playing WoW for two months and EQ2 … going on four years now.

    No, EQ2 is not as polished as WoW. Yes they are stuck with a clunker of an engine and there is entirely too much zoning. But it absolutely pastes WoW in terms of sheer content. Reducing choices for players can IMO never be considered good game design even for MMO virgins. After all even that demographic are still gamers and I’m not convinced we (i.e. gamers) are so vapid that we need the amount of coddling and hand holding that Woflshead article suggests.

    Anecdotally, the reason EQ2 doesn’t have more players is reputation. On the forums I read the opinion almost universally is “Oh, EQ? You can’t solo.” That and the clunky engine requires beefy hardware to put the bells and whistles on (which makes the game look *a lot* better, notwithstanding opinions on art direction.) Without those yeah the game can be fairly fugly.

    But I can’t really parse which demographic is unable to deal with ‘too many’ character creation choices or crafting introduced at level 1. Seriously, teens, maybe? I really have no idea.

    I have tried to find other MMO ‘homes’ in LoTRo and AoC, and while the formers art direction is far superior and the laters graphics are stunningly gorgeous niether ultimately ended up feeling as satisfying; this is in no small measure to the crafting/harvesting models of the respective games (and I’m a lightweight crafter compared to the folks in my guild ).

  • […] with a re-rebuttal (but he’s going to keep playing EQ2 and make it his pet project anyway), Pete@Dragonchasers has some comments also, and so does Ysharros – who has been our generous and long suffering EQ2 guru […]

  • The word is “rebuttal”.

    There, I’ve made my contribution to the reactionary chain. Hit a nerve? ;)

    /snark

    …with the caveat that I don’t really care much for EQ2, but neither do I feel a need to critique it. It just… is, but whatever it is, it’s not my preference. To those who like it, though, hey, I’m glad that you are enjoying it. :)

  • Doh! Fixed. I’m embarrassed at how long that was sitting there wrong.

  • *chuckle*

    This language is just such a mess sometimes. I meant no offense. :)

    The important part was below that anyway, right?

  • No offense taken whatsoever; I appreciate your pointing it out to me!