1. #1

    Five Assumptions that are Killing the MMO

    Got this from mmorpg, thought it was a well written and thought out post. Original author is Greyface.

    Let's talk about the assumptions we all make about MMOs that are suffocating the genre. I love MMOs -- I've been playing these games for a long, long time. But it's suffering from a serious case of stagnation. If things don't change, I see MMOs going the way of the Adventure Game.
    As players, our own expectations are to blame. There are so many things we simply take for granted -- no one even thinks to question them. Developers, for their part, have gotten lazy. Very few can even articulate what's wrong; they just know that they're bored. Bored players don't rant on forums -- they cancel their accounts. Developers, for their part, respond by doubling down on past mistakes. The list is strictly my own opinion; feel free to disagree or add your own.

    Assumption #1 Developers should listen to the players: Henry Ford once said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Developers who design based on player feedback get a lot of praise. They really shouldn't. What do players ask for? More of the same: more raids, more gear, more levels, more buffs, more nerfs, more convenience.

    The truth is that the players don't know what they want, because they've never seen it before. Verant (now SOE) took a lot of crap back in the day for talking about their "Vision." Sure, they sounded like jerks, but they also built a landmark game in Everquest. Back in 2004, no one was demanding more quests. Blizzard did it anyway, and you got the runaway success of WoW. When was the last time a game feature came out of left field like that? The reason why there's never been a WoW-killer is that the AAA developers can't move past the WoW-clone. Players aren't game designers -- they're going to ask for a slightly different version of what they know. Innovation comes when a developer takes risks.

    I'm not saying there should be no communication between the people who make games and the people who play them. But the industry has gotten into the habit of trying to please everyone, and the players have gotten into the habit of expecting it.

    Assumption #2 Players are the problem: I cut my teeth on Ultima Online, a game where players brazenly tormented one another and exploited even the smallest bug. It was one of the best gaming experiences of my life. You never knew what was going to happen when you logged on, because human beings are unpredictable. Note, I wasn't a PvPer in those days -- in fact, I spent a lot of time complaining about player killers. But I loved the spontaneity -- the sense of player agency. There were a thousand ways to play that game, and someone was always coming up with a new way to turn things to their advantage. It was far from perfect, but like many other gamers, I was hooked.

    Fast forward to 2013, and all you have are walls to prevent players from bothering one other, and from playing the game in unexpected ways. MMOs used to be one the most social and creative of genres; today, players are isolated from one another. Group finders match us up with random strangers, so we can grind away at scripted content in instances that ensure that we never run into anything, or anyone, unexpected. Groups are fixed in size and composition, and deviating from developer-planned strategies will result in a wipe at best, bans at worst. When soloing, you follow breadcrumb trails of phased quests that enclose you in a cozy little bubble of isolation where no one can get in the way of your progress. Trade is anonymously conducted over auction house. PvP is more like football than warfare – except you can’t trash talk the enemy because we don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt. Nothing you do really affects anyone else, and nothing is unanticipated.

    Other players could make life hell back in the old days, but in our quest for convenience, we've tossed the baby out with the bathwater. We play alongside one another, not with one another. There has to be a happy medium between Lord of the Flies and It's A Small World. This brings me to...

    Assumption #3 Sandboxes are sandboxes, theme parks are theme parks: To read these forums, you'd think that we're discussing two entirely different genres. It doesn't have to be this way. In spite of what I've written above, I'm not a die-hard sandbox guy. The game I played longest, besides UO, was WoW. As players, we need to move beyond seeing sandboxes and theme parks as irreconcilable opposites. They should be looked at as points along a spectrum.
    Sandboxes avoid a lot of the problems in #2. But they trade those problems for a new set of issues that have doomed them to a niche audience. Where theme parks suffer from over-scripting, sandboxes leave new players adrift. EvE, for example, almost dares a new player to enjoy it. Why can't we have a game that starts off simple and gradually expands your options as you progress? Why do we have to choose between free-for-all PvP and instanced battlegrounds? Why does persistance have to mean dog-eat-dog?

    In the real world, both totalitarianism and anarchy are seen as bad ways to run a society. Most places opt for something between the two extremes. Why do we, as gamers, fail to see that there's a third option? I'm no game designer -- I'm not sure what it would look like in practice. But I know that the game that combines the accessibility of WoW and the persistence of EvE has the potential to be the next ginormous hit.
    The lack of publisher support for this concept is a little baffling to me. One of the biggest headaches in running a modern MMO is keeping up with player demand for new content. Allowing the players to have meaningful interaction is an inexhaustible -- and free -- solution to that problem.

    Assumption #4 Story is important: After the failure of Star Wars: the Old Republic and The Secret World, I'm amazed that the takeaway seems to be that the subscription model is the problem. Subscriptions are fine -- players will pony up for a game if they think it's worth the money. The problem with both games is the notion that voice-acted cut scenes are the magic bullet for a smash hit MMO. If we, as gamers, want this sort of thing we'll play single-player games. They still make those.
    Being the Chosen One in an MMO is just dumb, because there are 500 other Chosen Ones pouring out of the same instance right behind you. Context, not story, is what we need. Make the world and its back-story live, and give the players the tools and freedom to create their own story.

    Assumption #5 The Endgame is all that matters: So many gamers -- and games -- have this idea that the process of developing your character is somehow a precursor to the "real" game. If a single-player game shipped with a 40-hour tutorial and 3 hours of actual gameplay, how do you think that would go over? WoW is one of the worst offenders, which is stunning to me. Most of their initial success came from the fact that Blizzard was the first developer to put actual content into their low level game. But these days, people level as fast as they can just to get to the raids and battlegrounds.
    If players are rushing through solo content just to get to group content, the solution should be obvious. Instead of shortening leveling curves and then adding loot grinds to slow down the rate of content churn, why not just put the good stuff up front?

    Just spitballing here, but imagine a game without a level cap. As you progress, the cost to level up increases and the benefits shrink. Eventually, players would hit a de facto cap, but it would take a long time, even for the worst content locusts. How would players respond to that? In practice, there wouldn't be much difference from the current status quo: slow advancement coming in tiny steps. But it breaks from the idea of loot as "endgame" progress. Players would be free to seek out the content and activities that they enjoy, rather than just charging into whatever instance gives the next set of gear.

    Anyway, that's my list. If you read the whole thing, I'm grateful and a little amazed. Of course, your mileage may vary -- this post isn't intended to be a universal proclamation of the way forward. Looking forward to hearing the responses (if any).
    Guild Wars 2 Was A Lie

  2. #2
    What will kill Mmorpg's will be the fall of wow. Right now it houses some of the best but a lot of the worst of the mmo community if it collapses all those players will search for new homes. The good players will be welcomed but the vitriolic crowd of "bad personality" type players will corrupt other games. Personally I'd rather wow last forever that way it keeps the toxic crowd in 1 place while other new Mmorpg's build strong communities ready to reject the influence of the bad wow fanbase.

  3. #3
    I don't like the tone because even if the start of the message is that making such assumptions is wrong, and I think making ANY KIND of assumptions is wrong, it quickly derail to stating that making the OPPOSITE assumption is right.

    No, it's not. ANY SIDE will compromise the balance. It looks to me just another "I'm right, you're wrong" article, than a "together we will reach consensus".

    Buu <= WHY I LOVE TO PLAY HUNTERS! => Pendleton

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by staticflare View Post
    Just spitballing here, but imagine a game without a level cap. As you progress, the cost to level up increases and the benefits shrink. Eventually, players would hit a de facto cap, but it would take a long time, even for the worst content locusts. How would players respond to that? In practice, there wouldn't be much difference from the current status quo: slow advancement coming in tiny steps. But it breaks from the idea of loot as "endgame" progress. Players would be free to seek out the content and activities that they enjoy, rather than just charging into whatever instance gives the next set of gear.
    you just described tibia.

    EDIT: for those who don't know the game.



    (the game itself has no sound or music)
    Last edited by checking facts; 2013-01-02 at 09:13 PM.
    Warlorcs of Draenorc made me quit. You can't have my stuff.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Axehandle View Post
    What will kill Mmorpg's will be the fall of wow. Right now it houses some of the best but a lot of the worst of the mmo community if it collapses all those players will search for new homes. The good players will be welcomed but the vitriolic crowd of "bad personality" type players will corrupt other games. Personally I'd rather wow last forever that way it keeps the toxic crowd in 1 place while other new Mmorpg's build strong communities ready to reject the influence of the bad wow fanbase.
    The worst community would be playing MOBAs/ARPGs.

  6. #6
    Scarab Lord Gimlix's Avatar
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    WoW is the MMORPG, WoW has spoiled the MMORPG gamers so much, if WoW does die the whole MMORPG economic will die to, because those MMORPGs are far behind what WoW offers, i think when WoW dies, MMORPG dies, and the whole monthly pay system, and after that big chance more games will die and PC won't be the most massive gaming system out there, but playstation or w/e idk :P

  7. #7
    The amusing thing about the quote in #1 is that Henry Ford ceded leadership in the auto industry when he didn't listen to customers.

    Even if listening to the customers is wrong, giving the customers something they don't want is even worse.
    Last edited by Osmeric; 2013-01-02 at 09:10 PM.
    "There is a pervasive myth that making content hard will induce players to rise to the occasion. We find the opposite. " -- Ghostcrawler
    "Almost every time I have gotten to know a critic personally, they keep up with the criticism but lose the venom." -- Ghostcrawler

  8. #8
    Would just like to point out that from my experience TSW and SWtOR struggled because of lack engaging endgame. Most people I've talked to really enjoyed the story aspect of it.

    People want endgame because when you hit max level (and you will) that's all there is to do. What the endgame is in your game can vary however.

  9. #9
    Warchief MickM's Avatar
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    Lol... as a genuine certified game-designer, I'm gonna have to bust your balls, but as pretentious you're statements are. They are all false.

    1. If designers did not listen to their target-audience, the product would fail miserably and people would stop using it.
    2. That's like saying other people can't be dangerous in traffic. They are!
    3. Sticking to generic designs with core-mechanics is not the way to go. Sandboxes come in all shapes and sizes. A true designer shows his/her potential by thinking outside the (sand)box.
    4. As a writer, I enjoy story. But gameplay is more important. Fact!
    5. Endgame is not all that matters. It's a mixture of leveling-content, endgame and social platforms.


    So yeah...

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by MickM View Post
    Lol... as a genuine certified game-designer, I'm gonna have to bust your balls, but as pretentious you're statements are. They are all false.

    1. If designers did not listen to their target-audience, the product would fail miserably and people would stop using it.
    2. That's like saying other people can't be dangerous in traffic. They are!
    3. Sticking to generic designs with core-mechanics is not the way to go. Sandboxes come in all shapes and sizes. A true designer shows his/her potential by thinking outside the (sand)box.
    4. As a writer, I enjoy story. But gameplay is more important. Fact!
    5. Endgame is not all that matters. It's a mixture of leveling-content, endgame and social platforms.


    So yeah...
    You may be a genuine certified game-designer, but you are not a genuine certified good reader Half of your statements are exactly what the OP was saying.

  11. #11
    Mechagnome Vinni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Osmeric View Post
    The amusing thing about the quote in #1 is that Henry Ford ceded leadership in the auto industry when he didn't listen to customers.

    Even if listening to the customers is wrong, giving the customers something they don't want is even worse.
    True. He also mentioned that some players don't know what they want. If a developer creates something that wasn't asked, but is still received positively, it can work.
    ''The only true failure is when you stop trying''.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by MickM View Post
    Lol... as a genuine certified game-designer, I'm gonna have to bust your balls, but as pretentious you're statements are. They are all false.
    (...)
    4. As a writer, I enjoy story. But gameplay is more important. Fact! [The same OP said]
    Logic robot tries to compute that.
    It explodes.

  13. #13
    #1: Devs need to listen to players to a certain extent. Not necessarily for all things, but there are always easy-to-avoid traps or else simply bad things that they can avoid by listening. SWTOR is example of a game that did not listen enough to its players ahead of time. As a result, the game was released with so many things that players warned that were not good, and after launch people hated it. Examples: the UI (Bioware had to go back and thoroughly redo it multiple times), space combat on rails (they were warned that it sucked, and lo and behold: after release players were so disappointed with it). After launch the players warned that the small server populations were going to be a big problem, as was missing key multiplayer functionality like LFG. players were right.

    #2: The playerbase of MMOs has changed. As part of becoming mainstream it also means that the games needed to adapt to the desires of the mainstream audience. For better or for worse, the vast majority of players are "casuals", "noobs", or whatever other derogatory names more serious gamers want to give them. but the reality is that for all these MMOs to be financially viable, you need to cater to the gamestyles they prefer. Otherwise have fun playing a game with barely any players.

    #3: There's always a mix between sandboxes and theme parks, and people understand this. The author is jousting at windmills here.

    #4: Actually, what is important is that the game is engaging and immersive. There are a dozen different ways to do this: good gameplay, good social interaction, good story, and so on.

    #5: Endgame is seen as the focus because gamers have different expectations from an MMO. They may be satisfied with 30 hours from AAA single player games. They may be amazed by getting 200 hours out of Skyrim. But so many players play MMOs for literally thousands of hours. NOBODY can create enough content for them without things becoming incredibly repetitive, and if you put those too much into place during the leveling process, people get frustrated at their lack of progress. So instead game designers try to hide it with max level gear grinds and alternate leveling systems.

  14. #14
    I liked it. It's an interesting read. I don't agree with everything but overall I understand his pov. Titan will be the last big push for mmos imo. If that can't save the mmo market then that probably will be it for big budget mmos.
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    You're full of shit honey.
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    You should have no expectations for the next expansion IMO...

  15. #15
    in all fairness however the assumption that "only end game matters" is because that's what they are treated like by the games.
    personally i enjoy the leveling experience, but game companies are the ones that created the system.

    it's not fair to get on players to expect that notion when it's always been done that way, it's not really an assumption. it's a state of affairs. maybe it's not a state of fairs that you or the op or i agree with, but it's the reality of the current state.
    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

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    They're greedy soulless monsters for not handing me everything for my 15 moneys a month!

  16. #16
    Titan Adam Jensen's Avatar
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    I liked the point about SWTOR.

    I loved being Darth Baras's favored apprentice . . . only to run into 200 more of Darth Baras's favored apprentices.

    If a video game developer removed tumors from players, they'd whine about nerfing their loss in weight and access to radiation powers. -Cracked.com

  17. #17
    Staticflare you get a +1 from me. I completely agree.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Buu View Post
    I don't like the tone because even if the start of the message is that making such assumptions is wrong, and I think making ANY KIND of assumptions is wrong, it quickly derail to stating that making the OPPOSITE assumption is right.
    No, not quite. Infact he, multiple times, says along the lines of:

    Quote Originally Posted by staticflare View Post
    I'm not saying there should be no communication between the people who make games and the people who play them.

    There has to be a happy medium between Lord of the Flies and It's A Small World.

    Most places opt for something between the two extremes.
    Last edited by openair; 2013-01-02 at 11:00 PM.

  19. #19
    Old God Frozenbeef's Avatar
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    #2

    i agree...the mmo before i played wow was very small 2d space type game where you would fly around space killing things, leveling, upgrade your ship,choose from different classes,build bases and farm credits...

    The problem was there was a lot of players and only a limited number of galaxies to build in which caused rather high tension between teams (guilds) our team was only mediocre and we would literally stay up all night to guard our bases and systems(imagine a large scale risk type game with thousands of players) because if we lost one we would lose money and power and if a high level squad decided to explore for new expansion space we basically had to hold out against them until other members woke up when we could defend properly...that was probably the most fun and exhilarating experience I've had on an mmo and it was because players weren't restricted as to what they could do, the players were in control of the game and the developers would introduce new content and fixes around the players.

    Wow on the other hand offers no reason to win other than gear which is pretty pointless when our power level gets reset every expansion and the only thing you carry through are rep,mounts,pets and gold >.< Wow could be so much better but seems to be afraid to explore into dangerous territories due to fear of upsetting players.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Magemaer View Post
    Logic robot tries to compute that.
    It explodes.
    You should file a complaint, that's a rather poorly designed logic robot.

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