Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Developer Appreciation Week: props to Turbine, as well as some honorable mentions

The studio that gave me the most entertainment over the the last year was definitely Turbine. I discovered DDO during the spring, and had one hell of a time there. The real time combat, abundant traps and puzzles, and stupidly deep character development system make it a serious breath of fresh air compared to most fantasy MMOs. They have been updating it like crazy, with significant new content being added every two or three months. The solo game may effectively end in the mid levels for many classes, but you will have an incredibly unique experience getting there.

I also have to give props for Turbine for having the guts to switch their most successful sub based MMO over to FtP. Where DDO was on life support and had little to lose from the conversion, LoTRO reportedly was north of 200K steady subs. Potentially setting an audience that big on fire was a risky move, but it really seemed to pay off for them.

Finally, Turbine gets huge credit with me for not being afraid to make major updates to core systems that were unpopular with the players. Yesterday's patch removed radiance from the game and included a major revamp of the legendary item system. Both changes were also preceded by "me culpa" dev diaries that I found incredibly refreshing. If only all studios were as responsive and transparent. Under this year's DAW theme, communication, I think Turbine has really taken the cake this year.

Honorable Mentions:

In the gonads of stone department, I also have to give honorable mention to Blizzard. Love or hate Cataclysm, a major redesign of the core leveling game was a gutsy move. Just based on social inertia they could have coasted on their old leveling game and still likely had the most profitable MMO on earth for years. But they thought they could make it better, and in this blogger's humble opinion... they did.

Finally, I also want to give a shout out to SOE and EQ2X for value. The silver membership in EQ2X is pretty much the best bargain in modern MMO gaming. You get access to something like 3/4 of the entire game for absolutely free, and for a mere ten dollars you unlock enough features to make for a highly playable experience. You end up with 6+ months of top shelf full featured MMO gameplay for less than it costs to sub to most MMOs for a month. I have whinged about aspects of their payment plan in the past, but the silver member ship on it's own is an absolutely fantastic deal. My fun-to-cost ratio in EQ2X was off the charts.

Finally, thanks to Blue Kae for reminding me about DAW and Scary Booster for organizing it.


  1. gonads of stone This is awesome!

  2. Reading this post made me ponder the trend of MMO developers becoming more gutsy and taking more risks. In this competitive market, I guess it's becoming more necessary. I'm happy for Turbine and Blizzard that their decisions payed off :)

  3. Ugh, why can't I spell paid? I'm literate, I swear.

  4. @Blue Kae: thanks :-)

    @Mmogamerchick: I suspect that you are absolutely correct. As the market heats up, developers of existing games will need to take bigger risks to stand out or inevitably fade into obscurity. "Fantasy MMO" is a particularly crowded sub-genre.

  5. Improving an existing game is a relatively low risk effort compared to do an entirely new game, especially with all the different games to choose from. I think

    Of course, improvements can be done by adding stuff as well as revamping stuff. Revamping is definitely a bit more gutsy/risky in comparison, but it can also pay back to give an overall better impression of the game.

    I wish that Paragon Studios would look at revamping some older parts of their game - the revamps they have done in the past have been quite good. But probably not considered to give a good return on investment to do.

  6. I believe MMOs should have a proactive approxh to their fans. They are living games so they need faces to those games. People that play MMOs are fanatics and they want the attention of daddy dev. Mythic did a great thing with communicating with blogs until they became less popular. I hope future studios do what they did and interact more with the community. Not just on forums, but Twitter and blogs.

  7. @Sente: I do remember some well received revamps over the years. If I recall correctly the hollows got a much needed rework at some point. The launch version was seemingly designed as a death trap for lowbies, it was much better the last time I was there.

    @Scarybooster: Mythic seems to got back and forth a lot. Back in the DAoC days when Sonyia worked there they were much better about communication with players than was common for the time, especially surprising since they had no official forums back then.