Epic Verdict: A l33t Legacy and Freexperience Freefall

Welcome to the Epic Verdict where we report MMO trends fast, straight, and most importantly, with a bias. Here you’ll find snap judgments on game developments in the World of Warcraft, Aion, and dozens more. Sometimes we even pick on a baby murloc or two.

We set our sights in the world of Eve Online, where a revered leader is passing on the keys to his kingdom (technically, corporation) to a new generation of altruistic educators. Six years after establishing Eve University, a free learning haven for capsuleers in New Eden, founder and CEO Morning Maniac is retiring from his post.

Morning Maniac will be glad to know the institution he built from the ground up has trained more than 2,500 gamers to learn “everything from PvP to Industry, and let them free into the great wilds to make their own name in the galaxy,” as one gushing Evelopedia entry puts it.

What I find fascinating is that not many gamers (in any MMO) can hold claim to leaving such a legacy as Morning Maniac’s. Sure, unique item finds and boss kills could garner bragging rights, but not in the scale of impact as successfully running Eve University for over half a decade.

MMO developers should take note of the  success of such a “payback” tutorial scheme–where graduates then contribute ISK and assistance to a new batch of noob pilots. Planned improvements to the guild systems of titles such as World of Wacraft seem to be working at the same idea of  fostering community involvement, so gamers have more reasons to log on every month (along with their shiny dollars).

Bonus Experience Promos: Stopgap Central?

While we’re in the topic of dangling carrot sticks, there is a growing trend to splurge gamers with free stuff as a hotfix for complaints. For Aion, this involves  hosting another double experience weekend to appease players who find leveling through 30s to 50s mind-numbingly painful.

The move from NCSoft isn’t surprising since gamers are always dazzled by words like bonus, free and extra.

I’m personally reserving my Starbucks stash for extra Aion Kinah weekends so I can grab the best ganking gear. Time to teach those silly Asmodians we Elyos aren’t just manga-cute.

The uproar over the scarcity of xp could also teach NCSoft that “MMO casual” is the new black, so epic leveling grinds could make quite a stinkfest  except among seasoned gamers who are used to such mechanics.

I expect more MMOs deemed “too hard to level” to join the freexperience bandwagon as gamers find it so much easier to choose an alternative if they don’t get their way. New titles and expansions such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and WoW‘s Cataclysm would only be too glad to snap up disgrunted casuals.

A part of me looks forward to more casual gamers getting hooked on MMOs and the lifestyle being more integrated in mainstream society (Who wouldn’t want to see more Ellen jokes on MMOs or The Guild becoming a full-fledged network series?). But I also cringe at the doomsday scenario of dumbing down MMOs so all eleven-year old kids can “have the chance to win in PVP, too”.

So developers, get those thinking caps on. Balance, balance, balance!


– Desktop redecorating for the New Year? Check out these awesome screen graphics from Lord of the Rings Online. If you’re feeling artsy,  print them out for an extra call for the wall or work desk.