Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Massively Multiplayer Ugliness

Can't get excited about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Sorry. I tried.

I'll grant you that I haven't seen the thing in motion. I've seen screenshots, and that's about it. But they're such ugly screenshots.

Is it so hard to make an MMO that looks nice? The Koreans have practically turned good-looking MMOs into a cottage industry. And yet iteration after iteration of the Western-developed flavour seem to involve piloting skanky witches around endless plains of brown.

I enjoyed Guild Wars, and that was a fine looking game even during its blasted-brown-plains levels. I spent a lot of time with World of Warcraft which was known to flirt with the occasional poo-brown wasteland but was mostly breathtaking.

I've also played City of Heroes, which, I'm sorry, doesn't have an artistic bone in its body. Never have I been more conscious of my surroundings having been designed by human hands. (My brief experience with Tabula Rasa was similarly underwhelming.)

This is the reason I'm not touching Age of Conan, no matter how much you beg. With the lifetime artistic output of Boris Vallejo to draw from, it's unacceptable for that game to be anything less than stunning.

If you're expecting me to sink hundreds of hours of my life into your MMO, you'd better offer me a world that is at the very least more interesting to look at than the inside of my lounge room. With games like Braid raising the bar for artistic excellence on a shoestring, it's just not acceptable for big budget MMOs to look like they're set on the mud planet.

By the way, all you WAR players out there, if I've done Age of Reckoning a disservice please feel free to direct me to the good screenshots. I'm sure they're out there. Try looking behind your couch.


Anonymous said...

Do you consider Neverwinter Nights to be a MMORPG?
...because NWN2 is full of pretty!
And with community developed content, the only limits are our imagination!
Custom content can be generated fairly easily, and is simple to intergrate into the game. (if you consider throwing downloaded files into pre-prepared folders simple...)

Greg Tannahill said...

I don't really consider NWN2 to be a MMORPG, in that while it might be multiplayer and online, it's not massive in the traditional sense of the word. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't find thousands of players simultaneously exploring the same game world. (Can't say I've spent much time with NWN2 as it seems to fundamentally disagree with my PC in some fashion.)

Arkem said...

To be fair I wouldn't exactly call Braid's budget "a shoestring" since Jonathon Blow spent about $180k of his own money on it. Sure that's nothing compared to AAA titles but it's certainly more than the average two guys in a basement indie budget.

Greg Tannahill said...

I'll be honest, I don't know where the 180k went. The actual game mechanics are entirely one-man-in-a-basement stuff. Did he maybe fork out that much for the art direction and music?

Anyway, I know EA would be happy to get even a Live Arcade game out the door for 180k.

Actually, I'd be interested to see the budget for Castle Crashers, which is slightly technically more complex, with the same kind of art and music quality (although in a different direction).