Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Early Adopter Blues: CoS

I barely managed to log into last weekend's City of Steam beta, the third of four. The one thing I took away from my very brief visit is how slick the whole thing is begining to look and feel. I'm not at all sure that I like it.

Giant flaming swords spin around me as I fight. Why?
City of Steam is one of the MMOs I've followed most closely for the widest span of development in all the time I've been playing MMOs. I've played many betas, several, like EQ2 for example, from the earliest closed-beta stage, but City of Steam is the only one I've ever started testing in pre-alpha and stuck with from then on.

New notice-board looks great - old one looked better

I think it's fair to say that most MMOs I've played in both real beta versions (where changes are still being made to fundamental game concepts) and in their final live versions were at their best for me at some point during the beta process. I'm not talking about the experience of playing the game with the traditionally friendlier, more open-minded and definitely more laid-back beta playerbase but about the game itself, its systems and design.

Excellent functionality, breaks the 4th wall
At some point in beta MMOs tend to hit a level of completeness that satisfies me - one where the basics all work but there aren't yet many frills. That's how I like my virtual worlds - solid, workmanlike, even a little bit plain. City of Steam was already close in pre-alpha and by the end of alpha testing it was nigh-on perfect.

I knew this was a dungeon without the Purple Glow of Doom.
Beta has brought frills and lots of them. Everything's being shined up. It's the dreaded polish. At the same time things I enjoyed having to work out for myself, that contributed to making the world a fascinating puzzle of a place, are now being signed, roped off and generally marked open for business. I preferred it a little rougher around the edges.

The neon orange doormat was hideous enough...
None of this changes the fact that City of Steam is going to be a very good online-RPG/MMO. It is and I'm very eager to get stuck in to my permanent characters and start playing the hell out of it. What it does mean is that, for me, by the time it releases I will already be nostalgic for the glory days of Sneak Peak and Alpha. That's both my punishment and my reward for being an early adopter.

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