Aug 28, 2007

[Age of Conan: What's So 'Mature' About It?]

At MMORPG.com's forums, I keep seeing post after post by AoC fanboys gleefully holding up every example of female nudity, sex, and gore in their game reasons why 'WoW kiddies and immature brats won't be mucking up this game!' I just have to lol.
(They also mention the complexity of the game mechanics as another assurance of 'older players.' I dunno about that, MMOs aren't rocket science. Now if the learning curve is overly steep, that may make a difference, but then that also turns off plenty of older players who just don't have the patience for that kind of thing, and it's hardly a guarantee of a certain maturity range.)

It's wierdly similar to how Vanguard fanboys kept saying how all the 'hardcore' level grinds and grueling travel time in their game would ensure a 'mature' playerbase (and repel those pesky WoW kiddies), too. What it ended up doing was giving the game fewer overall players, period.

For an MMO with a smaller player population, it tends to be easier for people to blacklist asshats, because word spreads faster. Therefore, people tend to try to behave better to avoid being ostracized (in theory). World of Warcraft's greatest weakness is that, with huge numbers of players and easy server-transfer services, troublemakers can easily escape bad reputations. In other words, the large number of idiots in WoW is not directly related to it's lack of blatant T&A. =P

It doesn't help that AoC's devs can't seem to think of ways to hype their game that don't include the equivalent of shouting 'Whee! Titties!" Check these quotes from E3, by Jorgen Thereldsen, Funcom's Product Director::
"It's a mature game. Hyboria is a brutal world. It's savage. It's violent. It's sexy. There's no pink hearts and pretty fireballs. Heads will roll!"
"We have boobs in our game!"
"See? It's good to be a healer. You have a naked lady buffing you!"

And, when watching a clip of an incubus character: "You have to watch the idle animation. Watch! It will cycle into the hip-thrust animation."
(He then angled the game camera up under the demon's loincloth to try and show off it's genitals. All while scantily clad 'booth babes' handed out shrunken head 'party favors' to the audience.)

For some reason, I get more of a 'frat party' vibe than a 'maturity' vibe from this game. Maybe Funcom honestly doesn't know the difference? It seems a lot of their fanboys don't, at any rate. With every new example of T&A or violence, they get more and more convinced that only the most 'grown up' players will be playing Age of Conan. Seeing as how every other rated M game available has plenty of kids under 17 playing them, I'm not sure where they get that confidence.

Is Funcom really that dismissive of the facts showing that the overall gaming audience is more diverse now than ever? Or, perhaps like CliffyB's brother, they have only disdain for anyone that doesn't fit their idea of a 'real gamer'? Jorgen's subtle jab at women gamers by mentioning 'no pink hearts or sparkles' in their game (because that's TOTALLY the deciding factor in what games girl gamers like best, tee hee!) hints a lot to what their attitude is towards any inclusivity: it's pathetic and 'wussy'. And for female gamers like me, that's an attitude we're all too familiar with. And it's a major turn-off.

Narrowing their intended demographic to the extreme stereotype of 'gamer dudes', while at the same time intentionally alienating most women and/or anyone not into gratuitous imagery, seems really self-defeating on Funcom's part. Vanguard's community also touted how they only wanted the 'most hardcore' players in their game, with no welcome for 'inferior' players. And designing gameplay around that attitude was one of the many factors in the game's failed launch.

Upcoming games like Warhammer Online, Chronicles of Spellborn, Tabula Rasa, Pirates of the Burning Sea, etc. are all vying for players attention. Can Age of Conan afford to be so polarizing in it's design choices in this future competitive (and rapidly diversifying) market? We'll have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Linn said...

So great to see my own opinions expressed so much more eloquently put.