Fourth Apathy

I recently reconnected with a friend who I had not talked to in over 15 years. While doing the requisite ‘catching up’, my friend mentioned that she was playing an online game. Eager to share my hobby with an old friend, I asked, “Which one? World of Warcraft? Guild Wars? Everquest 2?”

“Last Chaos”, she replied.

“What’s the game’s full name, so I can look it up online?”

“That IS the name – Last Chaos.”

“But that doesn’t even make any sense! Chaos is a concept, not a tangible object. It’s not something that you quantify sequentially. That’s like naming your game ‘Third Havoc’, or ‘Intermediate Ennui’!”

I could tell at this point that my friend was becoming frustrated by my grammatical pedantry, so I agreed to download it and meet her in game.

I’ve been playing MMOs long enough to be able to assess a game’s enjoyability simply by viewing the in-game screen shots. I took one look at this website and groaned. A Korean free-to-play MMO ported to the US by Aeria Games, Last Chaos has ugly graphics, generic game play, an archaic-to-the-point-of-prehistoric user interface, and nonexistent localization. In a word – it’s BAD.

This is what passes for quest text in Last Chaos.

A quest journal entry in Last Chaos.

But the point of this post isn’t to discuss Last Chaos’ flaws, which would be like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel (with a bazooka). Rather, what alternately intrigued and disturbed me was its immense popularity. When I played Last Chaos a year ago, the 10+ servers were frequently filled to capacity. The starter area was as crowded as Stormwind City, and my friend’s guild was 20-member strong. Where were all of these people coming from? And more importantly, WHY?

I spent a month grimacing, squinting, and groaning my way through the game with my friend. Although I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with her, watching paint dry would have been preferable. Despite my efforts to convert her to a better game – I even offered to purchase a copy of Guild Wars for her – she would not budge. By her own admission, she spent hours a day playing Last Chaos and paid over $50 a month on items in the in-game store. She was never able to fully articulate why she liked the game so much. When I attempted to point out the game’s multitude of flaws she would shrug off my complaints with ambivalence.

It saddens me to see far superior MMOs flounder, or even fail (Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa come to mind) while dreck like Last Chaos survive and even prosper. Can this phenomenon be attributed to lack of knowledge? Poor taste? Or simply apathy?


10 Responses to “Fourth Apathy”

  1. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I don’t get it either. There are so many mediocre games out there like this – Rappelz, RF Online, etc. But there are *tons* of people playing them, and they won’t leave. Often, they can’t even explain why they like it – when they try to convince you to play, it’s full of “Well, you know, it’s kinda fun, when you aren’t grinding, and it’s got some pretty models, every once in a while, and you don’t have to buy thta much from the items store, and I’ve met a few people that weren’t obnoxious….”

    I’m using Runes of Magic as my gateway game. I don’t like it all that much, but I’ve found that people who like F2P can often get in to RoM.

    Then I get them to DDO, or even something like Atlantica Online, or big daddy WoW.

  2. Adam says:

    They sell to people who, for lack of a less critical term, don’t know any better. If you’re trying to sell an online game to a friend or co-worker who’s never played one before, you’re going to have a much higher success rate if the game is free to install and play. Once you’ve sold them the same addictive qualities of all grindy MMOs kick in, and the fact that it sucks is unnoticeable to someone with no point of comparison.

    A $50 +$15 a month price tag is cheap for someone who wants to play an MMO and knows their value, but expensive for someone who’s barely even heard of them. WoW’s popularity is an anomaly. I would make a bet that a non-free-to-play MMO will never again hit WoW’s (US) subscription numbers.

  3. Michael says:

    I agree with what Adam just said above, and want to add:

    Once you’re in an MMORPG and have achieved some of the in-game milestones, there’s a part of you that commits to it. You tell yourself, “If I already poured $XXX and YYY hours into this game, I might as well keep at it now. I mean, if I left I’ll lose all this progress!”

    This is why most MMO’s have a free trial available that lasts for two to four weeks. Once you’ve gotten that character some decent levels and gear, you really WANT to keep going, flaws be damned.

  4. Adam says:

    What amazes me is the number of MMOs that don’t (or didn’t used to) offer free client downloads for the trials. Most so-called “free trials” came with the caveat of a $50 box purchase. That requirement is single-handedly responsible for me not trying, off the top of my head, Guild Wars, City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings Online, and Champions Online.

  5. Chargone says:

    I can understand your point with most of them, Adam, but Guild Wars is a bit special: the client is what they’re selling. There’s no subscription fee at all. Giving you that as a free trial would essentially defeat the purpose of selling it, i would think.

    It also makes a better single player game than one would expect. Actually probably better to think of it as a single player game with server moderated co-op campaign and team vs play options. heh.

    Also, $50? is that US dollars? given the prices i usually hear for games in the states, that’d be crazy high. I generally hear 20-40 for things that cost 60-100 here. I’ve yet to see an MMO cost more than 60 on a store shelf unless it was bundled with it’s expansions. [of course, if that’s not US dollars, it sounds low <_<]

    edit: and because i should probably say something relevant to the original article too, I’m just going to say that i never could get into things like that. started out playing WoW on my brother’s account, only really got into MMOs properly when i picked up CoH in the bargain bin at a local game shop once.

    as for translation/localisation issues… it always baffles me how terribly Wrong such things can be. you’d think that all it would take would be to get someone native to what you’re translating into to read through it once to make sure it scans… but apparently not.

  6. Adam says:

    Chargone, I don’t mean they should give away the client, I mean they should give away the free trial. Your first charge after the trial ends would be the cost of the client.

  7. Michael says:

    Guild Wars does have a trial version, but it’s not widely accessible. Basically, if you know somebody who bought the game recently, their copy had a “buddy code” that’s good for a temporary account.

    Anyone can download the client at any time. But to start playing, you need one of those codes.

  8. Husband Unit says:

    We had fun tossing around alternate titles. “Penultimate Confusion” was my favorite.

  9. Amarsir says:

    Regarding free trials, Guild Wars is an odd duck so lets set that aside.

    Standard Practice seems to be bundling “buddy code” trials in the box, and while boxes are selling that’s the only way. Then as sales slow, the free trials start. So City of Heroes had trials on and off starting about 4 years ago, and constantly for the last 2. World of Warcraft didn’t offer at first – and if they had I would have saved the $50 I spent on the box (yes $50 American) so I guess that’s the wise choice. Lotro started fairly recently, and CO had a “trial weekend” which I’m sure will turn into 10-day codes soon enough.

    As for free-to-plays, I’m naturally warm to them because they’re the only chance a small independent developer has. That doesn’t excuse sloppiness or a lack of caring, but if you believe in your product yet have no ad money, that’s how you move forward.

  10. […] I should have known better, since Kingdom Heroes was created by the same people who brought us this mess. But US game developers seem equally unwilling to stray too far from the high-fantasy WoW formula. […]

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