And I did, indeed, play some TSW… for about an hour. My laptop has gotten some upgrades recently, and my connection is the same as it was before – but TSW had some serious lagspikes that I hadn’t experienced before. From the large number of others complaining I gather that this is server-side lag. Which is a pretty big turn-off for me with an MMO. If your servers cant handle the load, I won’t play your game.
So, I decided to take Blizzard up on their friendly offer of a 10 day free trial of Pandaria. I made it 3 days. The new talent system actually isn’t quite as bad as I once thought it would be, but it did require some getting used to – so I rolled a new Paladin and a new Druid to get the hang of things before playing around on my 85 DK and Disc Priest. Some things immediately screamed for my attention. First: all quest areas are cross-realm now. You quest with your battle-group. This might seem a good thing to some people, but it was pretty obvious to me that it’s a sign of WoW’s downfall. You see – when server populations dwindle in an MMO, most companies merge servers. But merging servers is commonly regarded as one of the first deathknells of any major MMO. So Blizzard, instead of merging servers, decided to make it look like the population was still high by implementing cross-realm areas. Prettty much everywhere is cross-realm now. But the Auction Hall isn’t – and the sky-high pricing of items across the board was another indicator to me that WoW is losing a lot of subscribers. That’s a pretty normal event in most MMOs when the population declines to a point where the majority of players are multiboxing. The final clue as to just how bad WoW has been losing subs came in the form of the dungeon finder. I spent over an hour in queue with both my DK and my Disc Priest, during peak hours. Since the only real attraction WoW holds for me at this point is the extremely high population making it easy to find groups I decided to go ahead and (re)quit WoW. Part of my is feeling vindicated – after all, I’ve been saying since the beginning of Cataclysm that Blizzard’s pandering to the lowest common denominator was destroying the game, and lo and behold MoP took that pandering further and the game is dying. Another part of me is somewhat unsettled, I’ve used WoW as my fallback for years – if I get bored with other games, WoW has a high enough population to keep me occupied if annoyed – that, however, is no longer the case.
Enter SWTOR. I played in Beta ad for a few months at launch, and quit for much the same reasons as everybody else – why pay 15 bucks a month for a game advertised as an MMO but which is much more like a single player RPG with a large graphical chat room and the advantage of an auction hall? However, SWTOR is free to play now so I decided to go give things a spin again. First: the population decline is rather enormous and obvious. There are 6 North America servers left, out of some 40ish when I last played. Even with these merges areas are very light on population compared to the early days of the game. A bare 135 on Dromund Kass, compared to over 2000 when I last was there. The game still plays like a signle player RPG, grouping is still more bother than benefit, and crafting is still overly expensive for little to no gain. All-in-all, SWTOR is still a crapfest that just isn’t worth installing.
This leaves me a bit… bored. I’ll be cycling through some other free-to-play titles over the next month or so, but honestly at this point I’m waiting for NeverWinter and Elder Scrolls Online. So you probably wont see many updates from me for a time.