Critical Hit is my weekly rant article where I take a stab at some of the issues that plague the MMO games of today. For this weeks article I take a look at a trend that has reared its ugly head over and over in the free-to-play MMO market for years, transferring games from Eastern audiences to the West. It's no secret that each hemisphere has its differences in regards to gaming tastes and culture, so why do so many developers port games to the other audience with minimal changes?
It's definitely more common to see Western games come over to the East but there's an obvious difference in the main aim of titles from each culture. Japanese titles, especially online JRPG's, usually feature extensive amounts of grind, minimal story and unnecessarily complex features. Western games take a different approach; constantly evolving their MMO titles to provide more freedom, more choice and a smoother experience for the player.
A recent example of this is Wizardry Online. The game boasts some of the most exciting features I've ever experienced as an MMO player but in true Eastern style other parts of the game are nothing short of awful. The perma-death mechanic is one of the games biggest focal points, offering intensive PvP and PvE that can result in players permanently losing their character and items; but for all the excellent ideas involved in this feature, there's another issue within the game.
The graphics are terrible, the animations appear cheap and the translation is almost as bad as Silkroad Online. My first impressions of the game involved creating my character and exploring the starting town, while attempting to avoid eye contact with any aspect of the hero I just created. My sword was floating several inches from my body and there was clear gaps in the movement animations, issues I've come to expect from poor East to West transitions.
However, it's not all bad. There have been a number of success stories involving Eastern games coming to Western audiences; most notably titles like Aion, and we've got some exciting games on the horizon such as ArcheAge and Blade & Soul; although there are some major differences. The majority of the poor East to West titles are free-to-play games available on portals that offer as much after-purchase support as McDonald's, whereas ArcheAge and other upcoming titles are big-budget games from popular MMO developers.
So what's it all about? Personally, I think it's all about money. Transferring a game from East to West is easier than ever thanks to the support of publishers such as Aeria Games and the potential for more income via micro-transactions is huge. So why bother making any serious changes when so many MMO players are happy to invest in a sub-par product?
What do you think? Am I being harsh or do you agree that the majority of East to West titles lack the depth and charm of titles developed specifically for a certain audience? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.
Of course if JRPG's aren't your kinda thing, there's no shortage of exciting games coming out this year and MMOAttack has you covered! Check out our top top MMORPG games of 2013 article.
Aion is a converted free-to-play 3D fantasy MMORPG from NCSoft.
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