May 28

Forums, Forums, Forums… and trials as well

Category: Games, MMO, Rant

Ahhh, dont you just love the sweet smell of flamewar in the morning?

Well depending on the forums that you frequent this might be a regular occurance.

I shall copy what was directly said on a forum that I frequent (note, this is the 3rd post in a thread which started off saying how nice and peaceful the general section was after it was decided to move all “Rants and Flames” into their own section)

ep. All 15 people that are still playing are enjoying their short-bus game w/ no interuptions from non-fanbois. While 90% of the people that held on for TR to get good have washed their hands and moved on.
Most of them to AoC. Since they catch so much flak for pointing out TR’s short comings, whether in an informative post or bashing, they’ve left the site dwellers and mods here to bask in their pithy soloable game. GRATZ!!!

See you in AoC, 2 months after you hit 50! (or after the next patch that’s “deployed” and nerfs more unbroken game aspecs).

Now whilst I have my own opinions of said forum (which i have made known on a couple of occasions, and recieved warnings over) the above quote made me think a little bit.

If you are running an MMO, and you have “Official” Forums, I would assume that you would at least make them visible to non-subscribed members of the community. Hell even portal websites (MMORPG.com, Gamespot, IGN, TenTonHammer et al) allow you to view their forums without being a subscriber to the game.

Why make the forums visible to non subscribers of the game? Well if they are official forums, then they will have the finger on the pulse of the game. You will be able to, and very fast as well, be able to gauge the “state of play” for the game. City of Heroes/Villains, World Of Warcraft, Eve Online, hell even everyones favourite “company you just love to hate” SOE allow non-subscribers to view the forums (even if you cant post on the game).

Funcom seemed to have done the reverse of what Destination Games (Developers of Tabula Rasa) have done. At least with DG they let the Devs post on “unofficial” forums… seeing as there a NO official forums for Tabula Rasa.

In this situation Funcom have “locked” themselves into a black box right now… Whoever is inside it (ie subscribed) can hear everything fine, whilst those on the outside can only hear mumblings of what is happening (via portal websites/forums). And normally as well, they are of a higher “signal to noise” ratio than official sources.

So how are we (the common, maybe slighty interested punter) going to get info on the game?

Right now its hard to say. Official forums are a No-No (see above), there are no major reviews for the game (just yet), and also on top of that portal sites seem to be split on “if the game is good/ the game is bad” (take your pick of any site, and chances are you will see “this game sucks, and this is why” posts, OR its more “tech support/asking about what class can i pwn newbs with)

So that leaves us with three (yes 3!) avenues.

1) Wait for a review

2) Get your hands on a trial code and give it a shot yourself

3) Take the plunge and buy the game yourself.

Ah-ha, but each of these has a catch though (for point 3 it should be pretty obvious)

1) Wait for a review
Yes you can wait for a review of the game, but for MMO’s these normally come a couple of months after the game has been released, although they might do a “quick hands on” feature for it. MMO’s (at release) can be a bug filled mess. I say can be, as there have been games released that have had pretty smooth launches (Lord Of The Rings Online being one example that springs to mind).

Reviews are going to be skewed slightly as they generally avoid “the community” by and large and just focus on the game itself (which is not a bad thing especially early on in the games life). But hangon, even if the game DOES have it short fallings (or is even “Teh best game in the world eva!!!11!!elevnty!”), the community itself is what makes or breaks a game.

2) Get your hands on a trial code and give it a shot yourself
Again, Funcom seem to have shot themselves in the foot (either deliberately or accidentally) on this one. You see, they have done the sensible thing and given a “buddy code” to each copy of the game that you buy (5 buddy codes in collectors editions)…. BUT have chosen not to make them usable until they get the game/servers stable enough (granted this is where I might give them the benefit of the doubt).

So what does this say to me… well it can be one of 2 ways. On one hand, the game could be soooo over subscribed that the servers cannot cope, and Funcom got caught unawares with it; and on the other hand it could also mean that the game isnt ready yet (hang on though, wasnt it originally meant to have been released October of last year, and then again over Easter, and then they pushed it back again? Makes you wonder doesnt it?)

So why on earth did they say that you could use the buddy codes at release? Why did they even announce it? To get punters in fast and early (marketing for the win)… although in this case it does seem like there is some spin on it.

And when/IF there are ever going to be official trials for AoC, they had better do a dual DVD version that you can buy in a shop as well…. not everyone can/has the bandwidth available to download 13GB in the space of a few days (yay! more time taken up downloading the game!)

Now at least when City of Heroes did their Trial Codes, there wasnt a delay as to when you could apply them to your account. Even WoW had the option to use it immediately (although WoW at launch had it owns issues)

and then there is

3) Take the plunge and buy the game yourself.
Would suck though if you didnt like the game in the 1st place though wouldnt it… especially as you have to take a risk on “can my PC run it”

Ok enough ranting (as it were) about Age of Conan (as i know i have done a large enough derailment as my mind wanders along a certain paths)

So why was I ranting about this? Well it appears that unhappy member(s) of said forum are looking at a place to vent their anger towards the old(er) game that disappointed them (although saying that, just make the one post explaining your reason in a clear concise and NON-ranting way would be accepted) and then move on… Check back every now and then but don’t keep on chewing the same old issues (they might not necessarily still be valid, or infact they might never be changed fullstop).

For me Forums are the place to go and see what the community is like. With official forums, you can get that feeling pretty fast; with unofficial forums though, you might have to scour 2 or 3 of them to get a general feeling (especially if they are in a “slow” period)

I will do the whole “We haz forums” Vs “We haz no forums” discussion later on in more depth….

3 Comments so far

  1. Spurr May 29th, 2008 12:56 pm

    MMO and game forums are a strange thing.
    It never ceases to amaze me how aggressive the posting style can be, and how even the smallest of thing can spawn pages of troll fodder.

    Open forums are a MUST HAVE for MMOs in my opinion, I was lucky in that my first modern MMO was City of Heroes which has what I still find to be one of the nicest communities around and one of the better forums (EU side at least).

    The next MMO I bought was another “blind” purchase and that RFonline I fell foul of the shiney box and the promise of Mecha, and after CoH I assumed all this talk of bad mmo communities was an internet myth…
    Needless to say the game sucked, and the community and forums were terrible!

    Ever since then I have made it a point of looking at the forums first and getting as much information regarding the community as possible.
    Though at times I have ignored my own gut feelings and listened to other peoples opinions instead (see my adventures in WoW as example, the forums and net community was terrible but friends told me it was better in game…how wrong they were :P ).

    Tabulas Rasa I felt pretty safe going into, but that was because most of the community seemed to be the people I knew from City of Heroes, and though the game itself disapointed me he community inside was ok.

    EvE is a strange one, I go through phases of being really hyped about it to total disgust. Quite often depending upon what part of the community I have just encountered/killed/been killed by ;)
    And the forums for it reflect that jumbled view as well.

  2. Henshaw May 29th, 2008 3:13 pm

    For Funcom, I have firsthand experience, as I have played Anarchy Online for 3 years… They hype everything in advance, and whatever it is, it first gets pushed back time and time again, and then released so bugged, that they have to make an emergency fix 3 hours after, and a patch 1 day after that…
    As a player for 3 years, I have seen AO having less and less players, and at the moment, I think the subscription fees just barely cover the maintenance cost. That is why they are so concerned with AoC, as if people knew what bundle of bugs they are getting, nobody would buy the game. AO was practically unplayable still half a year after its release, and it still has some of the original bugs, after so many years.

    Having said that, AO is THE largest MMO there is, and the most complicated one also, by a very large margin. Their community is crap though, as the game setting has 2 sides, which are in a constant war against others.

  3. Gangrel May 31st, 2008 2:38 am

    Well i will admit Funcom have now just gained (a small) plus point in my book

    The forums are open to all to view (well in theory anyway, as the EU ones look suprsingly empty right now)

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