There was a short interview with lead WAR designer Mark Jacobs posted on the Multiplayer blog at MTV.com. I thought it was a pretty interesting read since they were talking about the reasons why MMORPGs fail (MMOs have the highest failure rates among entertainment products, apparently!), and what is needed in order for them to succeed. One of the games that the Mythic VP mentioned was - yep, you guessed it - Age of Conan.
I think that the greatest mistake that Funcom made was not listening and not learning from what had gone before. When they looked at the game when they were ready to launch, I can’t imagine how they didn’t see the issues that other people saw. According to their annual reports, they had plenty of money. They should’ve looked at it and said, ‘We need to delay this game.’ There are probably reasons I’m not aware of… but I think that’s their biggest sin.Mark also said that in some way he wanted Age of Conan to succeed and to show everyone that it's not only Blizzard who can create a successful MMO. In other words, the lead designer let us know in no uncertain terms that he didn't view Age of Conan as possible competition anymore. On the other hand, he didn't write the game off completely yet:
If Funcom are willing to spend the time and the money to fix the things that — according to the players — are broken, and put in the things that players say they didn’t put in, they can turn it around. But now they’re going to have to leapfrog over us and then leapfrog over Blizzard in order to bring back a ton of players — that’s going to be tough. They won’t be what they could’ve been.I agree completely that Age of Conan didn't deliver all the things that Funcom 'promised'. The game was clearly overhyped; if it wasn't, perhaps the players would be more forgiving, and instead of seeing a lot of initial sales and a huge nosedive in subscription count later on, we could have seen low to moderate initial sales followed by a steady growth, with Funcom adding new content continually.
Still, subscription count isn't the only indicator of how good an MMORPG is. I'm sure Age of Conan will find it's niche in the MMO market, even if it won't be a huge commercial success that it could have been. I'm also sure that a lot of players (including me!) had and are still having tons of fun adventuring in Hyboria.
Continuing the same thought, if Darkfall will come out and deliver the promised features such as free-for-all PvP and full PvP loot, many players (especially the Ultima Online crowd) will surely call it the best MMO ever - but I somehow doubt that Darkfall will ever come close to, say, Warhammer Online in terms of subscriber numbers.
Head to Multiplayer blog to read the whole interview.