MMO Blogosphere Review Of The Year 2011: February! Changes to Vote-Kick, Top Gamers, Cataclysm is HARD and more…

February 2011 was a pretty quiet month for MMOs and blogging. RIFT had just released, but aside from that and some minor tweaks to WoW, the big news was still Cataclysm.

But that didn’t mean that it was a boring month! From discussion of top gamers’ playing schedules to a raft of “difficulty” posts, read on for a retrospective of the end of Winter 2011.

Gaming Affairs: RIFT launches and WoW changes its kick functionality

The MMOsphere was pretty quiet in February, with RIFT launching to quiet enthusiasm, but nothing like the massive acclaim that SW:TOR has seen. (Interestingly, this means that RIFT actually picked up steam over the year, something that few MMOs manage).

Our very own Ross Bambrey posted a detailed first-look at RIFT , and concluded that whether most people would play it depended largely on “if all my WoW buddies do”. The Soul talent system was still attracting a fair bit of enthusiasm, with Bootae saying that all MMOs should adopt it , but other than that, things were fairly quiet.

(Now that it’s been out for a year, by the way, is the Soul system still considered such a good idea? I’d be interested to hear.)

The only other game-changing announcement – quite literally – was Blizzard’s decision to tweak the vote-kick system for Looking for Dungeon. Notably, they allowed insta-kick for people who are outside the dungeon for a few minutes, and they made it harder for guild groups to vote-kick non-guild members. Blessing of the Grove was not terribly impressed by the decision, and nearly a year later it’s safe to say that those changes are still somewhat controversial.

In the blogosphere: Top gamers and WoW difficulty

As often happens, it took a few months for the ramifications of the changes in Cataclysm to sink in, and February was the month when everyone really started to notice that, hey, this stuff is hard – and often not that much fun, particularly when paired with LFD or the originally rather brutally tuned Tier 11 raids.

Healers were finding the difficulty of both raiding and LFD particularly punishing, with Wrath’s infinite mana bar having been replaced by something that was… significantly less infinite. Ceraphus at Variant Avatar wrote an extensive critique of the pendulum swing in difficulty , citing increasing arguments in groups between healers and the other classes.

But it seemed like everyone was talking about wiping. Screaming Monkeys’ guide to Cata raiding used words like “brutal”, and said that Tier 11 “means wipes, and lots of it without a real feeling of progression.”. Gnomeageddon wrote about why he loves wiping . Peashooter, in a particularly interesting post, was concerned that Cataclysm’s difficulty might totally gate out older players with slower reflexes . And in the “arguments after wiping” section, the term “Wrath Baby” was coined to mean “people who still play like it is Wrath of the Lich King”, and rapidly attracted controversy .

Eleven months later, it’s obvious that the flap was sufficiently large to cause Blizzard’s design team to totally change direction – between LFR and massive nerfs to earlier raids and dungeons, it’s arguable that WoW is now easier than ever, putting paid to the brief days of viciously hard dungeons and Heroics. And given the feedback they were getting at the time, and the looming shadow of SW:TOR, it’s not surprising – a theme throughout this year as a whole has been “what’s wrong with WoW”.

Meanwhile, the other topic that took the blogosphere by storm was the life of a top gamer. Originally prompted by Kruf’s article about a day in his life over at the Paragon blog, discussion then spread through the Pink Pigtail Inn , who felt it was an interesting illustration of how far casual raiders and World-First seekers are, and then to We Fly Spitfires , who wondered whether we should applaud or pity Kruf’s dedication. And all of this ended in a great post on SRSBusiness asking just what success is

“Essentially, success is subjective. Ultimately, we define the conditions of our own success or failure: it’s about setting goals and working to achieve them. I’ve talked a lot about goals here, when working on achievements such as my Bucket List or working on the Gold Cap, or even working on the Shadowmourne questline. The point of goals is to succeed, to measure oneself against his/her own wants. The feeling of success “the rush” when achieving is often the biggest reward. Everyone should have some measure of success if they want to be happy.”

Blog arrivals and departures

The saddest news in the blogosphere in February was the departure of much-loved cross-game blog Righteous Orbs (formerly at Tamarind and Chastity’s loquacious, often hilarious style had been a favourite of the community for years, and their departure was sufficiently remarkable that Beru of Falling Leaves And Wings organised a farewell event for them . Since their departure, the domain name has lapsed and their posts are no longer available, but if you want to have a browse through some of the best MMO writing of the last few years, you can find an archive of their site on the Wayback Machine .

Meanwhile, new blogs were springing to life. Notably, the entertaining Sheep The Diamond , coiners of the phrase “part-core gamer”, opened their doors for thoughtful, personal posts from – as you might expect – a part-hardcore, part-casual perspective.

Other Great Posts

*And that’s it for February! We’ll be away tomorrow, what with the whole “Christmas” thing, but we’re back on Boxing Day with March, RIFT, RIFT and more RIFT – and one of the oldest blogosphere voices comes to a close.