Sunday, October 29, 2017

Off The Charts

In a serendipitous sequel to yesterday's post on non-MMO gaming, this morning I clicked the link from Atherne's Adventures to nominations for 2017's Golden Joystick Awards. Most of them I'd never heard of, unsurprisingly, but a few names I recognized from brief flurries of attention they'd enjoyed on various blogs I'd read over the last year.

What did surprise me was how quickly and completely whatever attention those games received in this corner of the blogosphere had shriveled and died. It's not even as though people had reported on their endings or their play-time coming to a close.

Did anyone finish Horizon:Zero Dawn? I remember several people starting but that's about all. I know someone was posting about Final Fantasy XV because I recall being curious about the apparently contemporary setting. Never heard any more about that one.

I could kill for a rum punch.

Much was made of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, with its open-world gameplay that was either compelling or purposeless depending who you were reading at the time. Several people seemed to have bought the Nintendo Switch just to play it but other than a couple of tales of buyer's remorse I never found out how all that ended.

Mass Effect: Andromeda might be the only exception. At least a couple of people blogged the whole of that journey, not just the amusing visual glitches and the bad launch horror stories. Other than that, the games that keep coming up, the ones I was reading about last year, read about this year and will almost certainly read about next year, are all MMOs.

Various kinds of MMOs, certainly not all of them MMORPGs, but the genre's a broad church, wide enough to embrace PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds at one end and FFXIV at the other. It's something even the creators of the Golden Joystick Awards recognize: in the "Still Playing" category, defined as "...your chance to celebrate the games that have held your attention for years or even decades after release" almost half the nominations are MMOs. More than half if you want to count Diablo III and Overwatch.

Is anyone there?

Of the two non-MMO games I bought this year, no-one else ever mentioned Tanzia and I'm pretty sure no-one wanted to hear me going on about it either. I was browsing the always-fascinating Steam Charts last night and I noticed that Tanzia's all-time peak concurrency on the platform was ten players.

That's ten. Not ten thousand. Just ten. Although right now I imagine ten players online at the same time would be living the dream for developers Arcanity Inc. since September's average concurrency was 0.07 of a player with a Peak of three. And as far as I can tell, Tanzia is only available via Steam.

Yonder, the other game I bought, did much better, with an all-time Steam Peak just shy of 1300 players and a September average of just over 45. You can also buy and play Yonder outside of Steam as well as on the PS4 so that's just a portion of the audience. Still, it hardly represents the break-out hit and potential phenomenon I thought it was going to be when I jumped the bandwagon back in July.

Every MMO has to have a zone called "Crossroads". It's the law. Only this isn't an MMO. It just wishes it was.

Contrast those numbers with 2017's genuinely unexpected breakout, PUBG. Featuring heavily in the Golden Joystick Awards as "one of the year's biggest success stories", the survival arena phenomenon currently tops the Steam chart with a staggering 2.39 million players all playing at the same time.

With room to improve, because that record was set yesterday and the numbers are still trending upwards. PUBG's concurrency has increased inexorably since it appeared seemingly out of nowhere in March, almost doubling month on month.

I haven't played, just like I haven't played the game that seems likely to have suffered the most from PUBG's meteoric rise, H1Z1. Arena survival is hardly my thing, although ironically I played three games of Southsun Survival for dailies in GW2 yesterday and, as someone said in chat during one of them, "ANet invented PUBG years ago".

Adorable the explorable.

Bad things happening to H1Z1 always worry me, not because I have any interest in or affection for the zombie slaughterfest but because I imagine it's the Catalonia to DBG's Spain, doing most of the hard lifting and paying most of the bills. Certainly that won't be Planetside2, currently languishing at #154 on the chart.

Although perhaps "languishing" isn't the right word. Not at all. That placing still represents four thousand players at Peak and nearly half that on average. And again, PS2 is available through other channels than just Steam.

H1Z1: King of the Kill (soon to be rebranded without the unfortunate, foreign revenue sapping corollary) is still in the Steam Top Ten. Just. Number nine and falling, with a September Peak of 105,000 players but a current 24-hour high of less than half that number.

I hate to be the one who has to break it to you but that really isn't an Ice Shard.

Still, it's a lot of people. I knew H1Z1 was popular but I hadn't quite realized just how successful it was and still is.

DBG's current re-focus, both the upcoming rebranding, the significant changes now on the Test server and the re-invigoration of H1Z1:KOTK's thought-to-be dead in the water prototype, H1Z1: Just Survive, suggest a clear understanding that the entire playing field has shifted with the arrival of PUBG. (As an aside, DBG's evident current revitalization, the new decisiveness and increased intensity across all projects, is a topic for another post. Something's going on, I'm sure of it, and I'd be all over it... if only I knew for certain what that something was.)

Back to PUBG, success that fast and on that scale changes everything. Amazon's Breakout won't be the only project going on hiatus or worse, I'll wager, as executives around the world try to figure out how to get some of that sweet PUBG action. Brace yourselves for another half-decade of WoW-killer hype, only with "WoW" airbrushed out and "PUBG" scribbled in.

One day this will all be yours. Oh, wait, it already is.

The perhaps ironic upshot of all this is that I might, finally, get around to downloading the original H1Z1. The re-purposed Just Survive is beginning to look quite interesting. As for the many nominees for the Golden Joystick Awards, though, I'll probably pass.

Except, maybe, for a couple of the Indies. The annoyingly-named Everything looks intriguing. Thimbleweed Park, with its curious USP of "Monkey Island meets Twin Peaks" could be worth a try. In fact, I could imagine playing and enjoying any of the ten entries in the Best Indie list, which is not something I could say with a straight face about many of the various AAA nominees.

Aywren offered an early entry in the inevitable swarm of "what I'm looking forward to in 2018" posts but right now the only game on my radar that's guaranteed to launch next year is We Happy Few. I was fairly sure I'd get that but Compulsion Games' decision to go full AAA with a launch price of $60 has made me think twice. I'm not really price-sensitive when it comes to video games but bearing in mind what I said yesterday about Tanzia and Yonder it does seem like a good way to throw money down a hole.

Nope, I think I'll stick to my MMOs for now, and my old MMOs at that. I played a lot of EQ2 yesterday and it made me want to play a lot more. I know I don't need any new games but right now I'm not even sure I want any.

Maybe we already have enough games. Anyone ever think of that?


  1. Looking over the Joystick Awards list...
    Nier Automata I finished. I set Prey aside for a bit when I realized I'd made a few errors in building my character that I wanted to restart and correct. Night in the Woods I own but am waiting for a friend to finish before I start.

    Aside from that, I'm simply too busy with my backlog of older games to worry much about the newest AAA titles. Horizon is on my shortlist of to-play games, as soon as the expansion pack comes out and it goes on a sale of some sort. I really should try Zelda someday, but I'm about six Zeldas behind schedule...

    And so on, and so on.

    1. I have never played a Zelda game but that one did look interesting, or it would have had it been an MMO. So did Horizon for that matter. Lack of persistence really kills it for me - coming back to a saved game with nothing having changed. Hmm. I bet there are single-players where the world does carry on and change when you aren't playing though. Someone must have done that, surely? That would be interesting...

    2. Offhand, I think Animal Crossing and State of Decay both do something of the sort.

  2. I remember Asmiroth finishing Horizon:Zero Dawn. And Vrykerion finished Final Fantasy XV! But yeah, our attention spans seem to be getting shorter... except when they don't. But there's certainly a lot of games competing for our attention at any given point nowadays.

    1. I didn't have either of those blogs in my Feedly or Blogroll. I know Asmiroth from comments on other blogs but Vrykerion is new to me. Added both to the roll - thanks form the prompt!

  3. I certainly already have more MMOs on my playlist than I can reasonably balance or probably ever complete to a greater degree. None of the upcoming games interest me particularly since the apparent shift towards pvp-centric, smaller scope games do not interest me. So yes, if expansions keep coming for EQ2, WoW, GW2 and other games I see no need to add more titles to my library. That's not to say never, but unlike the early 2010s I'm not hanging on every new MMO release...

    1. I am increasingly interested - even excited - about Pantheon and slightly interested in Ashes of Creation. Neither of which I expect to see this side of 2020. Other than that, nothing really. GW3 would be nice...

  4. Everything is currently available in the Day of the Devs Humble Bundle for $9usd, which I've earmarked to pick up mostly for the Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle remasters, but wouldn't mind trying out Everything to boot.

    If anyone doesn't have Grim Fandango remastered, they should go give that a try for sure, with a walkthrough if necessary - they don't make such emotional character laden stories like that any more.

    As to the other topic, well, it's a normal phenomenon that most people start games but never finish them. Other priorities often get in the way, mixed with either frustration from the increasing difficulty curve in most games' later portions or the boredom of repetition of already learned gameplay loops.

    I've long given up as viewing this as a problem. I appreciate games for their concepts, what they're trying to accomplish, am fine with sampling as much or little as I want out of them before moving on. As long as I don't pay more than I expect I'll get out of the game or want to support the devs for, I don't feel cheated or like I didn't get my money's worth.

    1. It's odd, though, isn't it? I mean, I sell books to people for a living and while a lot of people complain that they find it hard to make enough time to read, I've never met anyone who says they're happy to buy books, start them and then give up before the end. Indeed, when I do get feedback from people who have done that, it's usually because they are very unhappy about it and want to complain either about the quality of the book or the recommendation.

      Similarly, walking out of a movie before it ends is widely seen as making a public statement about the quality of the film. It's common to hear people say things like "I've only ever walked out of two movies in my life..." as a preface to a rant about how bad a particular movie is.

      Why it should be acceptable, either culturally or commercially, for us to buy video games, play them for a while and then give up, let alone to still believe we have gotten our money's worth, I'm not sure. It seems to me to suggest that the games need to be made differently. If people aren't finishing them then there is something wrong in the design, surely, or the marketing. Either the games are not fit for purpose or they are failing to reach the appropriate audience.

      It's okay for open-ended hobbies like MMOs (which I have always argued are not, or not only, "games" anyway) to lose people before the end, largely becasue until they sunset there is no end. For single-player games with either a "Win" condition, a narrative arc or both, however, seems to indicate a basic flaw in the design. If it's because they are too difficult, they should be made easier (or have more difficulty modes). If it's because they're too long, they should be shorter. If it's because they become dull and repetitive - well it's pretty obvious, the answer to that one.

  5. This was an odd year for me in that I didn't look up what was new for 2017 and note when they'd be out to take a look. I've some Steam sale games, but havent looked at them really either. When I'm in full MMO rotation swing, there's not time for other things.
    The Golden Joysticks have rejuvenated my interest in looking at what's new for 2018, so I'll be looking around at what's upcoming and next year, perhaps I can vote with some knowledge. Problematically, though I have an Xbox One, I really just play on PC and my iPad and not much besides shooters comes out there. I regret not buying Mass Effect, but the advance word on the game was too awful to contemplate. There are often new games that come out for the PS4 that appeal, but do I want to buy another system? Hmmm.

    1. I'm very vaguely considering some kind of console. Of course, right now we don't even own a TV but that could change too...

  6. Tanzia hasn't been released yet. It's only available as Early Access on Steam.


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