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Let me preface by saying: I like this game a lot. I think its combat is, even with bugs, the best of any mmo on the market right now. There are many other strong reasons to play this game.
But wandering around the zones today, I realised that an already low pop has tanked from underpopulated to effectively empty. Within a month of launch this is very sad.
The reality is, that apart from a few moments here and there (fight for the demon chest) you will barely ever see another player beyond the first 2-3 zones. I would be surprised to learn that there were more than a couple of hundred subscribers right now.
What a shame, and what a failure on Acclaim's part. This really is a good game, and yet Acclaim seems to have completely dropped the ball - poor marketing, payment issues etc. The devs I feel some sympathy for, although their failure to fix basic combat bugs is growing less forgiveable with every week that passes, and the failure to complete inter house pvp mechanics is a disaster - that was the hook that would keep people playing.
I feel genuinely sad about this... finally, an innovative game with a compelling world, great combat, and interesting classes; no gear grind, well written quest texts, some very fun plot-driven events. And a great set up for interesting pvp.
Here are some thoughts I had on potential reasons for this good game going to waste -
a) Bugs? Perhaps... although i do not think that they are that much worse than any other game's at this stage, and the combat is still fun. That said, the incredibly long list of abilities that do not work as described is very irritating - and becomes more so as time goes on.
b) Poor starter experience? Will have contributed. Five kill boar quests in a row was a dreadful idea... they should have sent you to town MUCH more quickly, do the murder mystery wonder round the houses... and the tutorial is awful awful
c) Skill deck too complex? Sadly, many people wont have understood it. Those who do, realise its about the best combat system in the world of MMOs right now. It's just that great. But most people wont give it enough time.
d) No gear grind. People are so mind-numbed by wow, that they cannot understand that you don't get loot with stats. Personally,I think this is one of the greatest features of this game, but it transpires that the majority of people are so trained to expect a gear hamster treadmill that untraining them may be too hard..
e) Bad customer service. The while fiasco over the cancel button and cc card payments is a real disgrace. No excuses from Accalim here. I think this may have done a lot to wreck the chances of this game, and Acclaim should be ashamed of itself.
f) Poor marketing? I am in two minds about this. I quite liked the lack of hype, and they are working on mmorpg.com and others quite well. The two week free trial is what got me involved, so it was useful. Developer webinars are cool.
But so many chances have been missed. Metacritic still does not allow reviews of the game because 'it is not released'. That is a terrible mistake. Metacritic is god. Where is the G4TV interview? Why is this not on Steam? etc etc The gamer blogs hardly touched it. The ball was dropped on marketing, I think.
g) Incomplete inter-house pvp features. This was a very bad mistake, imo. A compelling narrative surrounding the battle between houses would have kept people in game. PVP is the best part of TCOS. The factions are nicely conceived. But its all dressed up with no place to go. They really should have got this in at launch.
i) Lag. This is another killer - although personally I have not felt it so badly as others seem to. This game revolves around its great combat - but if that is falling apart because of server-side issues, that is a death knell. What happened here?