Friday, February 5, 2010

The Direction of MMOs and Foundations

In my opinion as a gamer there have only been two majorly successful games in the last decade. World of Warcraft and Everquest. Everyone has either played these or knows these games and the success of them. They are getting to be rather older games. The difference is: Blizzard still has a major focus on it's bread and butter, while S.O.E. still tries to put out shiny new games. Yes, I know Blizzard has another in the works, for now it's not here-- it doesn't count.

Over the last two years there have been several new MMOs released, none have been fantastic enough to push past the success of WoW. Either they release with an unfinished feeling or try for a direction that people find boring. In the end a lot of them try to keep up with World Of Warcraft or compare to it in some way.

Changes or Lack of..
Some games are trying to change direction, like EQ2. S.O.E. is adding battlegrounds into the game, with rewards. This is something I was kind of boggled on. Will this impact the game play much? When you have a game that has two different play styles it can have a huge impact with balance on both sides. This has been a heavily focused PvE game for so long, I suppose it is in hopes of drawing in more players.

With WoW I find a lot of people bored- I find myself bored as well . Blizzard's less is more view on expansions- or should I say polish, polish, polish-- it will be ready when it is ready! People tend to grow bored quickly. While I was always very happy with the speed S.O.E put out expansions for Everquest. However, I don't like that Everquest is left to advertise itself: "Do people still play that game?"

Speaking of stagnating- lets talk Aion. NCSoft seems to lets players feel ignored, has security breaches with account security and lack of communication with the community. You can't hope your game is so shiny and new it will blind people to these issues. Why bother with a new game if you're going to let the game stagger?

Those are two big things I find to be problematic about the MMO world. 1- Every game trying to conform or compete with WoW. 2- Letting players grow bored and content stagnating. There are so many games out now and many companies try to make something new, shiny and bigger. How about focus on what you do have, the players who you do have are obviously interested. Why not work with what is there, what they know people like? Hey, Blizzard is doing it!

A Bird in the Hand...
A third would be: Too many pots on the stove! We all know what follows, when the new game comes out the older ones get less attention. What you end up with in the end is a bunch of low populated games that don't get the attention they need to keep people interested. DAoC anyone? Mythic ended up with two (WaR and DAoC) games grasping for customers. One wasn't a huge success as it was thought to be and the other was basically left to function with no new content.

S.O.E. has a bunch of great games but they move focus to the newer ones leaving the other game's players feeling the game is ignored in many ways. I'm not saying we don't want new games, I am saying we don't like what is good getting neglected. We, as players, still like these old games- we have invested in them, time and money. Memories- Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Maybe I am sounding like a ranting 'old time gamer'. Maybe I am! Though,  I do know that the direction of MMOs over the last few years have been in a spiral downward. I am simply not impressed thus far.

I suppose the moral of the story is.. 'Don't know what you've got till it's gone'.. By saying this, I mean player bases. Something will blow away the old games one of these days. It may not be for years to come. Still, why not build on the foundations you have? All that glitters isn't gold..



  1. My random thoughts, some in response to your post, others just sort of triggered follow up ideaas:

    I think a game can fall well short of WoW and still be a success. WoW is an anomaly. If there were other MMOs with say, 4.5 or 4 million, that wouldn't be the case, but after WoW you don't find #2 until like 500k. I don't think this is because WoW is that fantastic a game (it's better than some but has its problems), but because the Warcraft IP and Blizzard in general already had a huge fan base in the more popular genres of RTS and RPG games when MMOs were still pretty niche. This wouldn't bother me except that people keep saying "Well that game didn't beat WoW. It must be a failure."

    Also, as an avid EQ player, I'd love as much as any EQ nerd to see SOE pump as much time and money into it as possible, but alas, while we might love old games, they're not where the money is. Plenty of EQ players might think it's the best game in the world, but when I try to introduce new people it their response is usually "Ew, isn't that game like 10 years old? I want to try something new." The "It has constant updates and content patches" argument usually doesn't sway them. No matter how good a game EQ is, it will never get that albatross of its neck, and I think SOE knows this, so as much as I might dislike it, I can't really fault them as a business for investing in newer games.

    There definitely are a lot of "WoW imitations" floating around, either entire games, or original games borrowing ideas. I don't think this is totally horrible if done well. Ultimately a lot of WoW is borrowed from EQ, which draws heavily on old school D&D, which was just based on Tolkein which came from Norse Mythology which was based on who knows what. So much has been done that little is truly original anymore, and I don't think there's any shame or harm in borrowing ideas that work. That said one must be careful. If you just make a total WoW clone, that won't work too well, since anyone who wants to play a game like WoW is going to be playing WoW. =p It requires a careful balance of proven old ideas and original ones.

    On that note, I certainly must commend EVE Online for being pretty much the most original MMO launched since EQ (I picked it up a few months ago and it's pretty neat), though it's such a niche game (super hardcore PvP, mostly. It has PvE but the PvP is the main focus and meat of the game), that its sub numbers aren't much beyond most other MMOs. Hopefully the future will hold games with the originality (and stunningly winsauce economy) of EVE, but that appeal to a broader, more casual audience like WoW.

    So, yes. In conclusion: MMOs are awesome.

  2. That turned out to be a LOT longer than I planned.

  3. Very well said, I always enjoy hearing others thoughts on topics like this one.

    When I say not a success I mean within the first couple of years servers merging, free trials trying desperately trying to get new players ect. There are many smaller games out there that are doing quite well as you mentioned as Eve- but just more niche as you said.

    I just haven't been able to find a game that compares to either of these two games in terms of long term playability.

    I dunno I would rather play an older updated game rather than some watered down version of it. Then again one could say they all are- After EQ =p




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