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First off, before people start jumping down my throat for the title, I hope you'll all take the time to read what I'm really saying here. I know that several of the regulars in this forum know me from my days of playing this game (two years including beta) and I hope they already know that I'm not here to trash the game, just to give a former player's opinion of it.
I never made an official goodbye, just faded into the woodwork with (to quote an old TSO playmate) not a bang, but a whisper. This, I think, is what I would have said had I had the inclination.
TSO was my first MMO ever. I signed up for the beta test and started testing/playing in September '02. At the time I thought it was a heck of a lot of fun. I had burned out on the offline game and was tired of the God mode idea. Having interactions with other sims that were out of my control was exactly what I was looking for.
I have to say that the beta testing period of TSO was some of the most fun I've had in an online game. People were still figuring things out, having a good time and trying to find what the limits were. At the time, the limits were actually quite few, reporting was almost unheard of (for all the good it would have done) and, though the content was limited, the imaginations of the players were not limited, so we created wholly unique things to occupy ourselves.
Once the game was released (and even in the few weeks before hand) things started to change. Promised content was shelved, restrictions were imposed and the imaginations of some of the truly creative players were stifled. I feel like this was the beginning of what a lot of people see as being what ruined TSO in the long run. There is a quote from Will Wright along the lines of him wanting, ideally, 1% of the players to create the fun for the other 99%, but once the limitations started kicking in, that 1% was effectively reigned in. Not that it stopped us all, not that it stopped most of us, but it got some people pushed out or banned, and it was something that jaded many of us.
The lack of introduction of custom content caused a lot of CC-creators from the offline games to leave. The perceptions and outcry of the "masses" (or, more realistically, the outspoken) caused the departure of a lot more people who just wanted to have fun in ways that were not accepted by others.
For me, and quite a few others I know, burnout kicked in. Those who have left (and some who haven't) felt this at various stages, but there comes a point where you can't take any more breaks. Creating fun for other people does become a burden - sometimes you just want to kick back and let others do the work, but there's sometimes an entitlement from the ones who partake in your hospitality, and it becomes difficult to keep going for the sake of others.
I think, in part, that the entitlement of some of the player base has caused the game to stifle. Other factors are (IMO), the lack of regular content updates, the assumption of a certain sect of the player base that they should (or do) have more control over the game than they in fact do, and the lingering God-mode mindset that wants the game to be one specific way, without variation or controversy. Playing Happy Family or Dysfunctional Family is great for some, but not everyone has the same playstyle and it often seemed to me (toward the end of my playtime, anyway) that there was a large enough segment of the community that wanted to dictate the "right way" that it left quite a few plays discontent overall with the supposed rules and the backlash they would experience from some of this.
Keep in mind that all of the above is without touching on the interpersonal drama that tends to wear thin for a lot of players. As much as that, too, affected my decision to leave, it's not something that I really think is a deal maker or breaker for players of the game.
I have fond memories of playing this game, memories that I will hold on to. I also have several lasting friendships that came from my time in TSO and that means the world to me, but it's simply not enough to justify paying for something that I just could not motivate myself to play.
All in all, though, I find the premise of TSO to be severely lacking. Inherently, it is a boring game with the intent of relying on those with active imaginations to create something outside the box - which is not always (or even mostly) welcomed by the playerbase or the developers, and that is the major flaw.
I think it's unrealistic for any company to expect their customers to create their own amusement while having restrictions that are unclear or contradictory to the overall concept of the game. The early lack of communication and broken promises left a lot of people wary of the long-term outcome of the game (and, I believe, rightly so). There is an underlying boredom within the gameplay; a certain feeling of searching for something that may or may not exist and an almost-despair at what will be found while searching for the undefined fun that should exist, that used to exist, that could exist if only the right people could create it.
No, TSO is not for everyone. Even for the people who are dedicated to and love the game, it will probably not always be for them. At this point, it seems to me, that the vast majority of those playing have been around for a while and the negative opinions of the game (primarily from punished players, those who have no or limited experience with it or people who just like to complain) have effectively prevented quite a few people from trying it out for long enough to actually find fun within it.
It is more successful that some of the EA games that have previously folded. EnB and MCO are often lauded as "better games" and games that should have been salvaged to the detriment of TSO, but those games never pulled the numbers that TSO did and, as far as I can tell, never had as dedicated and hardcore a playerbase. There is no comparison between TSO and games of the bang-bang-shoot-'em-up (BBSEU) genres, it is something entirely different and, at the time of release if not still, a revolutionary idea.
I don't begrudge anyone this game, nor would I push for the closure of TSO. Regardless of my own opinion on how long the game will last at this point, I do see people who enjoy it, but I also see a lot of people who are still holding out for a little something more. Something I fear, they will never get from TSO as it exists today or as it appears to be going.
To those who say the game is boring, you're right, but that's partly your own fault for not trying to find or create the fun. To those who say it's fun, you're right, too, but remember that it's the efforts of others that make it so, and see if you can't do your part to keep it fun for THEM so that your fun can continue.
I don't really know what to say in conclusion, or even why I took this time to write all of this out. I think that TSO fills a gap in the MMO market and it truly saddens me that the BBSEU players can't acknowledge how TSO has served the overall market by bringing in players who would otherwise never have ventured into the online gaming arena.
Both sides have their points and it takes a certain type of person to really enjoy TSO for all it has to offer. Just because you don't like it, doesn't make it a bad game, but just because you *DO* like it, doesn't mean that it's good.
My bottom line is this: TSO, in and of itself, is a mediocre game that appeals to a niche market. It's the players themselves that turn the basic game into something that you're either going to love or hate... or develop an allergy to. I once heard Jerry Garcia say that the Grateful Dead (and I think he mentioned Woody Allen as well) is like buttermilk, you either love it or you hate it, there's very little middle ground. I'd apply the buttermilk factor to TSO as well, but I think you're in good company