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Ask Massively: Second chances in MMO's

Kevin Stallard

I'm feeling a bit cranky these days, so for this week's Ask Massively, I thought that I'd give you all my unvarnished opinion instead of kissing your collective backside in order to generate a few more page hits. Get your claws out for this one, folks. This nugget of truth is going to hurt a little.

Why do MMO's only have 1 shot when they change so *drastically* over time?

Games such as EQ2, DDO, Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, perhaps AoC...

6 months to a year later when the game is good and bursting with content etc. Why do players always chime the mantra "Too little too late" and perfer to just wait for the "next big thing" instead of re-visting these other games?

I understand feeling burnt for not getting everything at launch, but who cares? if the game has everything you wanted *now* who cares about the past when it *didnt*?

I just dont get it.

-Ding Dong Dang

Good news, Ding Dong! You're not one of the people I'm about to describe.

Your average MMORPG player is a short-sighted, fickle, overly demanding, whiny cry baby.

You say you don't believe me? How many of the following phrases have you seen in your favorite game?

  • "This game sucks! <Insert class name here> is over powered."
  • "Nerf <any class other than your own>!" / "My class needs more stuff"
  • "I won't pay 15 bucks/month for a game that isn't finished yet."
  • "Why are they working on all of these features that nobody (translated: "I don't") wants instead of fixing the really important (read: "important to me") stuff?"
  • "I can't wait for <Next big MMO> to come out so that I can stop playing this craptacular game!"

Sound familiar? That's what I thought. You never hear about folks who just vote with their wallets and choose the games they like to play, but there is no shortage of whiners in every MMO community forum or blog who want to start a holy war on a game developer because their every whim isn't being catered to fast enough. Now, with 10 million players in a game like World of Warcraft, you could argue that the large number of forum whiners is still a nearly insignificant percentage of the overall population and you'd be correct. On the other hand "The squeaky wheel gets the grease". Those whiners exert a disproportionate influence over the communities of which they are a part.

If "they" say that a game sucks loudly enough and long enough, the perception of many gamers can be filtered through that skewed perspective. For example, a game like Age of Conan boasts 400,000 subscribers yet there are loudmouths out there who are screaming that the game is a failure. In the interests of educating the masses out there, let me give you a fundamental truth about MMORPGs

  • No MMO ever goes live "fully functional"

It can take a year (or more in some cases) for a new game to hit it's stride. Look at EQ, which didn't peak until it's second expansion. Look at Anarchy Online which is still ticking 7 years after most folks gave it up for dead. Maybe you'd prefer to use EVE Online as an example. World of Warcraft might be an exception to this rule, but bear in mind that it didn't have Dire Maul, Molten Core, or much in the way of server stability for the first few months after release either.

So to answer your question, 3D, MMOs do not have only "one shot" at making it big. Rarely does a game suck so completely that it dies altogether. (Even Vanguard still has a pulse.) As long as the game producer is striving to add to and improve their game, the game will have a chance. A halfway decent marketing campaign ("Living Legacy", anyone?) can get new (and old) players in the door long enough to give a game a second (or third) chance.

That's it for me this week. I'm off to Dragon*Con to run the MMORPG programming track. If you have a question for Ask Massively, stop by our tip line or send an email to ask AT massively DOT com.

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