I won’t bore you with a dictionary definition of polish–I won’t go into the etymology of the word, its language of origin, whether it was Old French or some other branch of what we call Indo-European. I will say it seems to be the latest buzzword in the blogsphere of MMOs, and I approve of players demanding a high level of attention to detail, as we called it in the the Marines. What interested me enough to put my thoughts into print, however, was a recent article on VirginWorlds comparing the MMO market as it currently stands, and EQ2 in 2007. If you want to skip my spin and go to a broader perspective on the subject, I recommend reading their article.
I primarily pay for an online subscription (two in the case of EQ2, and formerly two with Blizzard) because I expect the developers to continually polish their product. Let me be more specific: by polish I mean fix bugs, add content, revise/refine character models, tweak performance, balance classes, add new graphics, and generally suprise me and improve my gaming experience on a regular basis. I have played enough persistant NWN worlds, MUDs, and other “volunteer” administered games to recognize the difference, and know you do, in fact, get something for $15 that is of value.
Everquest II, as has been discussed ad naseum from its launch, may have appeared prematurely, may have gone live to compete with that new MMO of the day World of Warcraft, or for some other reason, unknown to me. What I do know is the current game is a much more playable version of the original EQ2 of November 2004. As Wilhelm wrote when he returned to the game last fall, “Echoes of Faydwer! Holy fae wings Batman, I wish this was the game I purchased in November 2004, not November 2006. Still, better late than never!” (TAGN “November in Review” 2006). I also believe SOE would have seen the initial momentum of subscribers retained in good part, rather than squandering that playerbase to other titles due to poor “polish.” As VirginWorlds reports, EQ2 is looking better than ever in the Spring of 2007.
[…] EverQuest II, which has maintained good subscriber-ship without becoming a mainstream success, has reached a level of polish equal to World of Warcraft, and people are starting to take notice. Fans of EQ2 are trumpeting its merits, and rightfully so. It has great depth of content and nice balance between the fast leveling curve of WoW and the grind of its predecessor.
The current size of EQ2–original game plus three expansions–variety of character races and archetypes, and complexity of play (read, challenging), make it a superior title at this time. I suffered through over a year of WoW, even enjoying it at times, only to see the expansion, for example, moved back close to a year–which was indicative of Blizzards handling, generically, of “polish.” I hope SOE can learn from their experience with EQ2 and continue to put some “polish” on this title, and even launch “Kunark” with as little downtime as Blizzard accomplished with “The Burning Crusade.”
As for new titles, we have Vanguard to look at as evidence SOE is not concerned with marketing a playable, polished game at launch. Lord of the Rings Online has had similiar criticisms leveled against its current state. This begs the question–why is it profitable to launch a game in this condition? Do SOE and other companies factor in the loss of subscribers due to unfinished or generally unpolished content upon launch over their long-term run for a game? I have to believe if EQ2 had been a bit more playable in 2004 we would see a more populated Norrath–though that is not necessarily a good thing, new players can enhance an existing game, providing they have a quality, polished world to explore.
I do not believe I have a particularly fresh take on this subject, but I am curious if anyone knows why companies are releasing obviously unfinished products. Does the initial sale of the software net them the profits they need? Should retention of subscribers have something to do with the process? Each time I have cancelled a MMO account, the company wants a detailed explanation to “improve our product” for other players, so they at least give lip-service to the idea that retention is important.
What am I missing?