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The Disgruntled Pony

Attempting to get his opinions across, one hoof at a time. Not guaranteed to be 100% honest and factual all the time and can be bribed with sugar lumps. Do not stand behind it.

Author: DarkPony

A delayed message for AAA mmorpg developers

Posted by DarkPony Saturday May 5 2012 at 3:35AM
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Dear Sir or Madam,

I come to you with a grave matter. It looks like your development department has missed a couple of memos addressed to you over the past years. We found them on the bottom of a mailbag which was collecting dust in the cellar of our office. Please accept our apologies for the delayed delivery.

I sincerely hope we didn't cause too much of an inconvenience!

With kind regards,

Your postman.




As a kid of 6 years old I was really happy to get a toy car at my birthday but at 16 years old I would have severely frowned at such a gift to say the least.

To me it seems that what the mmorpg industry is doing (at least the "AAA" branded part of it), is consistently developing the gaming equivalent of toy cars, or dolls, if you will, but not realizing that their audience has grown older, more experienced and more able. Even the younger generations are more proficient and more intelligent gamers compared to us older folks when we had their age.

Then why is it that it seems the industry is mainly catering for inexperienced, juvenile gamers?

Why is all content in AAA releases of the "ready made" kind and all player freedom severely restricted except in designated, clearly marked areas?

Why is the writing in mmorpgs catering for the lowest common denominator? (i.e. "For ages 8 and up")

Why is character development and a player's entire ingame property limited to a character name, a few slider settings at character creation, possibly a list of generic "accomplishments" and the gear you happen to amass?

Why does the industry keep falling back to cookie cutter battleground and instanced pve models and effectively taking out the "massively" aspect out of large chunks of their games?

Why do worlds have to be of the static kind, varying only due to respawn timers or event cycles and where no player influence is truly persistent?

Why do character deaths in most games mean so little to people that they don't feel really compelled to avoid it (even tempting players to use it as a means to fast travel), and with that, effectively taking out most of the excitement out of pve and pvp encounters?

Why is an aspect like crafting always limited to making gear, gear upgrades or potions?

Why aren't players given the freedom and mechanics to pick the role they see fit? And why are roles in general a non-existent factor in these games? (Apart from the predetermined profession based ones).


... I can only guess.


Might be that the industry is still looking at WOW as their main example of a successful mmorpg and "being like WOW" as a strong USP to get funding. (Even though they consistently forget about WoW's strong points like a seamless world and the ability to attack the opposing faction, even in its capital cities).

Might be that the industry is simply too slow to react; developing these games takes years, add in a little conservatism to attract funds or get the stamp of approval from your non-gaming CEO and you have a recipe for games that are outdated in gameplay values even well before they launch.

But more than anything I think "offering convenience" is the true infection plaguing our games these days: insta-participation, level scaling, clearly marked objectives, catering for casuals in terms of accomplishment per session, no real set backs, linear progression, premade rides that adhere to the strictest safety standards ...

It seems as if the last thing they ever want to do is offering players a true challenge (in whichever aspect) or proposing them the daunting prospect of more open-ended and diverse gameplay options. As if they are mortally afraid of having to deal with a single rage quitter who missed out on a dose of instant gratification.

Whatever the reason (feel free to add your own), this tendency results in a complete lack of AAA games that truly break the themepark mold ...

Games that put players back in control as an unlimited source of creating content for each other.

Games that challenge and appeal to our talents, intelligence and creativity.

Games that excite us and give us an adrenaline rush at times.

Games that are compelling and tempt you to dive in deeper, to find the role and niche that fits you best.

A common misconception I read often is that a game like that can only be a full loot, free for all pvp, sandbox like EVE or Darkfall, but even the area somewhere in between the ends of the spectrum is uncharted territory for AAA developers. And there is much more to be found in sandbox country than just a "ganker's paradise"; extensive building, crafting and rich economies with a myriad of opportunities for trading to name a few things.

Sure, the most renowned developers offer fresh shades and hues of existing aspects like questing becoming "dynamic-" or "public events", "offering story as an extra pillar", "action based combat" or by adding "meaningful world pvp" (yet only over designated objectives and in designated areas), but at the very essence they are still the exact same type of game.

Now that The Elderscrolls Online has been announced and the first available information we got makes it look like it will be yet another reinvention of the themepark formula, I kind of lost faith in the industry to really break the mold. It feels like there's a vast potential target group being completely left out in the cold by top developers.

And like in the past decade, those who are truly looking for something more deep, open, challenging and exciting, are still forced to look out for (often low budget) indy developments, or yeah, ... revisit good old EVE.

For me, at this particular point in time there's only one developer shining a beacon of hope, and it's shining from the far east, (despite my personal dislike of some of the design aspects that are branded "Asian").

ArcheAge, it isn't by choice, but may you blossom and come to fruition. Without you as a prospect, things would have really looked bleak for the likes of me.

*neighs solemnly and trots off*
 

kanwal236 writes:

I agree with most of your article, GW2, in essence it is the same questing style, but with the option of other people joining in on your escort mission or something similar, but I like it.  I am a little troubled by the way some events might work, like the swamp boss event.  But overall from all the other MMOs I've tried, I feel that GW2 will be the one I will definitely play throughly, even if I do feel there are some things they could have done better, it's shaping up to be great and I still feel that way after having played it.  ArcheAge on the other hand, only time I got excited for the game was when I read it will be using CryEngine 2/3 (graphics handled by 3).  Apart from that the class selection...looked sub par (maybe more so because of the armor design) and the gameplay did not look very exciting either.  But I'll have to try that game to have a real opinion on it.  I did love the idea of being able to play the whole game in /dance  mode.  GW2 needs /dance.

Sat May 05 2012 8:18AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@kanwal

The very first reply to my very first bog post. You can has a carrot cake!

To me ArchAge's strong points aren't so much found in the questing, combat or class departments: but in everything it allows you to do NEXT to the standards mmo content. It allows you to build homes, grow crops, tend to trees and gardens, siege forts, make boats, explore islands, claim a part of the world alone or with your friends, be jailed for crimes you commited and escape from jail, amongst other aspects. In that sense it offers a more ambitious set of features than all other big releases this year combined.

 

Sat May 05 2012 8:28AM Report
Soultice writes:

Darkpony I often wonder why mmorpg's have moved into a mass single player game without any penalties.  I am sure I will get flamed for stating that.  I no longer play mmorpg's much anymore. 

Developers design them so a trained monkey can play them.  Add-ons telling you what the boss will do next, threatmeters, damage meters, status and when you need to hit the button on that expiring spell.  It is all just nuts.  I always played mmorpg's to have fun and try to figure ot how to defeat bosses. I feared dying.  No longer and of course I will be called a dinosaur.  Now it is all about instant satisfaction. 

There was a time really when crafted gear meant something.  The problem is Dev's went the route of a gear grind instead of actually rewarding people rarely for their accomplishment.  I am all for getting noob gear as I journey.

PVP is now pretty much a joke as there are no consequeces for griefing people.  There is no consequence for being an outlaw.  People want no consequence for their actions.  Even in WOW they complained because they lost honor for certain actions.  Never stopped me from still having a good time.

Exploring is linear and nothing worth doing anymore.  Surpises are pretty much gone now.  I can remember when some real world bosses spawned all over the world and never in the same place twice.

MMORPG's are now turning into solo PC games, look at Bioware's KOTOR.  I hope a dev indeed makes a sandbox world wrought with danger with real consequences for your action where good does indeed fight against evil.  Where evil can indeed roam and have areas they can return too as opposed to not going to the town everyone else goes too , so no one will got to the darkside.

The ability to change your UI around and some ui add-ons and thats is all.  Funny how Eve is doing all these years but today dev's measue success based on retail sales and not the journey.

Sat May 05 2012 10:35AM Report
Yamota writes:

Very good article. Unfourtunately the triple A SW companies have their bean counters to calculate what kind of game will bring maximum profits and for some reason they seem to all come to the conclusion that making it like WoW and adding even more easy and casual elements is the way to go...

Sat May 05 2012 2:58PM Report
PyrateLV writes:

I can answer your Why with 3 words. ITS TOO HARD! -Matt Firor

Sat May 05 2012 3:48PM Report
Mike-McQueen writes:

I pray someone hears you. Archeage, while it inspires hope, even falls way short for my standards. I thought the Elder Scrolls was going to make my dreams come true, but alas...It's all just so disappointing. GW2 seems to be the best of the worst possibilities, so I'll be there in the WvW all day, but gods be good someone make a real game. Anyone please.

Sat May 05 2012 3:56PM Report
levin70 writes:

The game you are looking for died in early 2005.  Pre-CU star wars galaxies. 

Sat May 05 2012 4:08PM Report
BillMurphy writes:

I just got really happy after reading Pony's started a blog... don't even need to read it.

Sat May 05 2012 4:22PM Report
DarkPony writes:

Bill ... Did you know I have a button on every post here that reads [Ban User]? Even on yours?

Read it, you must!!!

(It feels like having a button that can start a nuclear war, I love it. Probably Mike should have never allowed me to have a blog in the first place *cackles madly*).

Anyway, thanks for the replies guys.

@PyrateLV: if it's too hard for the entire AAA industry to come up with a game that caters for a more intelligent, older, freedom loving audience than it must be humanity being in severe decline as a whole. Personally I really suspect it has to do with many severe misconceptions in marketing department and board rooms.

Sat May 05 2012 4:33PM Report
Emwyn writes:

oops meant to post this hear. Posted in the thread instead sorry! :)

Pony... Thank you for your article. I was talking to my other half today about games. Recent and soon to be released games in particular. I told him I think I forgot to drink the kool-aid or something because I don't see the appeal for the same ole same ole. Or worse, the same ole same ole disguised thinly as something "new". Reading through your article especially the first part, it struck me that I didn't forget to drink the kool-aid at all. I think I've outgrown the kool-aid. I still like games but long for something a bit grittier, a little less cliche and predictable. Funny you mention EVE. I installed it on my freshly built pc last night

Sat May 05 2012 4:42PM Report
Emwyn writes:

er HERE not hear :( where's my edit button?! Gone!

Sat May 05 2012 4:42PM Report
Amaranthar writes:

"Personally I really suspect it has to do with many severe misconceptions in marketing department and board rooms."

Yeah. That and the fact that if you want to make an MMORPG, you're most likely going to hire someone with experience. And those guys all come from Themepark models now. That's all they know. And they have a strong belief that "Sadnbox doesn't work".

Plus I wonder if there's a little thing about RMT and cash shops, secret rooms for private bulk buyers, that sort of thing. You know, a la Farmville. That could explain why they don't want a real game in lieu of games all about flashy gear and items. I hope I'm wrong there.

Sat May 05 2012 4:48PM Report
BeansnBread writes:

Wasn't there an issue with ArcheAge getting a publisher in NA or something?

 

Has this been resolved?

Sat May 05 2012 4:49PM Report
VowOfSilence writes:

Hm.. add source of the "average gamer is 37". In general, that is probably true - but is the average player of AAA MMOs 37 as well? I highly doubt it.

Sat May 05 2012 4:56PM Report
Bullroar writes:

Good first blog!  I look forward to seeing what you have to say in the future.  I think this sums up the feelings a lot of people who have been playing mmos for a while have.  The genre seemed to have so much promise for me back in the EQ/DAoC days but I think that me would be shocked and saddened by how little it's moved forward looking at something like SWTOR.  Hope remains high that someone will eventually start experimenting more within the genre.  Better combat and more of a potential impact on the world are my 2 big wishes.  I hear CCP is doing a Vampire the Masquerade mmo.  EVE set in a city where you fight for control against other Vampires could be pretty cool imo and is exactly the kind of player driven system I hope the industry as a whole will explore more.  

Sat May 05 2012 5:01PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@VowofSilence: http://www.theesa.com/facts/gameplayer.asp

That's were I got it from. Not sure how the average mmorpg gamer relates to that but I suspect it isn't far off. The threads we had here on mmorpg.com and on specific game forums asking people for their age which I read over the years, all seemed to echo that more or less. At least they made me feel young (35 now) :)

(p.s. Can't link in this quick comment thingamembob posting engine V_V)

@ Bulroar, thanks :)

@ Em, thanks. I answered you in the news topic before I read your post here.

Sat May 05 2012 5:07PM Report
toddze writes:

@colddog04 Theres not an issue with AA not haveing an NA publisher. When they are ready to announce it they will have one. There is already a rumor someone dug up linking AA to NCwest as the NA publisher.

People are making a mountian out of a mole hill on the publisher issue.

Sat May 05 2012 5:08PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Colddog04: there has been somekind of a leak that NCSoft had an office on the same London address as was used for registering AA in the EU. Or something like that. So it might end up being NCSoft having the honor.

Sat May 05 2012 5:10PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Toddze. Y u beat me to it Toddze?!!! *rage face*

Agree on the moutain of a molehill point. They've got plenty of time left to snare a pubbie on this side of the globe.

 

Sat May 05 2012 5:12PM Report
Elikal writes:

Good writeup.

 

You see, my thought when I look at mediocre or bad MMOs is always: How could this happen? I mean, it's not like we are in the early days of MMO design. Many failures were repeated over and over. Why did companies not learn from the mistakes of others? And so many good and beloved concepts existed, why did companies not take up what is good? Why does EVERY new MMO always pretend it is the FIRST MMO ever made and totally ignoring EVERYTHING good and bad in other MMOs?

 

If I take the latest example, SWTOR: there would have been so many clear and simple ideas to make SWTOR 10 times better, ideas which were on the table for years, ideas many loved and enjoyed in other games. WHY did Bioware not take up a SINGLE good idea from other MMOs? Like housing, complex crafting, good open PVP, great diversity in races and visual look, non combat stuff (entertainer, music, hobbies, fishing), or just ANIMATING THE DAMN WORLD? It's not like these things were Alchemy! There had existed in MMOs and people had enjoyed them!

 

But for some reason god (or rather the devil) knows why, every single MMO company of the last 4 years went in TOTAL ignore mode of what worked and what just simply did NOT work well. Like 2 faction pvp vs 3 faction. The latter is so obviously superior in every way. Or how many people spent hours and months in the detailled character design options of City of Heroes and Champions Online, just to look unique and cool! Or how many loved to be farmers in LOTRO or entertainers in SWG. Or how many worked YEARS on their houses in EQ2 and SWG. Or how WAR & DAoC had cool open pvp. Or how Rift and WAR made open events, PQs and brought people together. Asf. All these things were on the table! But somehow companies miss these basic fundamentals again and again.

 

I came to the point to think, most companies don't care heck about long term value at all. They just want big bucks by huge initial sales and then to hell with the players. I can't explain these many years of continued failures in any other reasonable way than that it is purpose.

Sat May 05 2012 5:56PM Report
fenistil writes:

+1

 

Agreed.

 

 

While good themepark sometimes is not bad (I will propably enjoy GW2 ) still I YEARN for good sandbox or heck even sandpark.

 

But that's not only sandbox vs themepark debate or should NOT be.

 

Easy & streamlined & overkill in conveniance = HOW MUCH I DESPISE THOSE. Thanks Pony for brining it up.

 

Sat May 05 2012 6:09PM Report
Arallu01 writes:

Great article!

Maybe the problem lies somewhere in the mult-year dev cycle for these things. What it really seems like lately is that companies just built their MMO in a vacuum with a 'vision' of some new lipstick on the same ole pig. And that lipstick was, easier for mass apeal theme-park stuff. Seeing a comment like 'we didnt add player housing because it was hard' just further cements that idea.

I'm 37 and fondly remeber the sheer terror of seeing a Hill Giant coming into view on the horizon in Eastern Karana and rememering last time I asked a pc for a bind was in Freeport. Consequences have been removed and any game with them nowadays labelled 'niche' for those old-school hard core players.

Sat May 05 2012 6:10PM Report
dontadow writes:

I love what you're asking for. But why are you asking for this on a website dedicated to MMO RPGS.  

RPGs, and I know this sucks, are generally, as you call it, themepark. I don't know of any RPGs where I build crap, or manage crap, or run crap.  Not the best ones. Not the greatest ones. 

What you're asking me to do is, if I was playing Skyrim, is to not only become the leader of the mage tower, but run the finances, build additions to it, pass universal education bills.

When all i care about is slayign dragons and adventuring with my budies, this stuff is boring. It's for a certain type of gamer.

I find it fairly insulting that you think this kind of game is for the "smart gamer" and a normal RPG is not.  Both are for different types of gamers. 

Yes, I wouldn't mind some instanced content like what you said. I've frequently responded to such posts that I LOVED Dark Cloud 2. One of my favorite RPGs. As you adventured you got components to build a city, which helped you out in your adventuring.  It ws a great balance.

But you said it yourself, a full sandbox brings unsavory aspects that only attract the degenerate and the preteen, ganking , camping, kill steels, all the silly things that I am 100 percent sure were not apart of the design during the first "sandbox" games.  

So game companies had to retract.  Because people just weren't interestedin what that was.  

In essence, all fans of RPG games want, is a game that lets me play an RPG with my buddies.  IF tthere are other games fine.  WvWvW, awesome break from gaming. Minigames, love an rpg that has them.  But when it comes to what i''d pay a monthly fee for, it's updated, writer designed content i do with my friends.  

I certainly don't think games have a lack of consequences.  I should know, I played the first Guild Wars game, brutal to have to redo 2 hours of work with every death.  Have you seen the higher level dungeons for GW2,  Brutal, havn't seen a completed game yet.

Sat May 05 2012 6:26PM Report
badgerer writes:

I couldn't help but run Darkpony's criticisms of the genre past my GW2 beta experience and think it measured up damn well, with a few exceptions such as its woeful story writing.

But I know his impressions of the game were a lot less enthusiastic than mine and I do wonder if this is because he entertains a higher ideal than I do. My optimism for the shape that future games will take is constantly modified, usually downwards. My play of GW2 suggested to me that it might actually please everyone, with the exception of:

a) people maintaining a higher ideal, and 

b) people who are determined to be miserable.  

I admire people who maintain more optimism than I do that we'll see some real progression towards the things that Darkpony describes, but at the same time I don't want people to be constantly disappointed. I hope that AA meets his expectations and raises the bar for what's possible, but something tells me that this game may fall short in other areas and let down players - this might just be the skeptism grown from so many disappointments in recent years.

Games that do simulation so well, such as in player building, harsh death penalities, long travel times etc, usually do poorly in terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, and in recent years I've grown to enjoy the latter more. OK yes, a 10 minute corpse run might build character but I'd sacrifice that character for the convenience of actually being able to make game decisions again.

 

Sat May 05 2012 6:59PM Report
grimfall writes:

"But when it comes to what i''d pay a monthly fee for, it's updated, writer designed content i do with my friends.  "

Too bad after 15 year in the industry, no developer has even delivered that.  DDO would be the only game even close.

Sat May 05 2012 7:05PM Report
dontadow writes:

@badgerer, 

I think that the expection is just, too high.  What he's asking for is to make a simlulation RPG, something that, in teh single player world, has only been done ONCE, and that was, as i mentioned, dark cloud 2, and even then there wasn't very much to running of the city. (though i loved the idea of taking pictures and building things from those pictures). 

Look at the sales for a game like civilization compared to a modern day RPG like Mass Effect or Fallout.  Any AAA company that doesn't already specializing in a simulation (and thus have a name for it) is going to go the route of bankrupsy for attempting to make such a game for such a small audience.  Especially when there are dozens of f2p games that offer the type of simlation multiplayer experiences that darkpool wants.  Evony, Lords of Ultima, exactly what he's asking for. 

But darkpool is looking for a rabbit in a bird's nest, and then getting upset because he didn't find anything furry. 

Sat May 05 2012 7:07PM Report
dontadow writes:

@grim 

I"m not going to disparge the fine writers of a lot of games. I may hate their game play , but Wow, Rift, DDO and especially GW2 have excellent story driven content. Especially Star Wars. 

The only thing that they havn't done was figure out how to incorporate skills into the real world.  

It's not the writing that makes the average mmo dull, it's been the 10 years of the same gameplay. 

Sat May 05 2012 7:10PM Report
Oldsalt writes:

Well said.

Sat May 05 2012 7:15PM Report
wunderkind44 writes:

Yes, this article hits it on the head. The games being released today do not provide the immersion that the pioneer mmorpgs did. 

Bring back corpse runs and exp penalties and add more "sandbox" gameplay. Stop designing "games" and start building worlds again!  

Sat May 05 2012 7:41PM Report
Delvie writes:

dontadow-I agree though it's probably only been around 7 years of mechanics that are so similar you wonder if they actually just copy and pasted the code and put new art on it.

DarkPony-combining a simulation, rts, rpg, and fps all into one game and then letting multiples play it is no easy task.  We want our NPCs to have life, our characters to appear real, the ability to change our environment, and fighting to not lag in any way at all.  It will come eventuallly but it won't be cheap or fast for the devs to create.

Sat May 05 2012 7:45PM Report
stragen001 writes:

Good blog post Pony, an interesting read. *hands pony a carrot*

I completely agree that the only remotely sandboxy game on the horizon is Archage, but sadly I think its a long way off :(

Sat May 05 2012 7:57PM Report
Timacek writes:

nice writeup agree. Now its my belowed ES Iam sad. Where are the games like UO and SWG, spirit and creativity gone. online worlds gone.. 

Sat May 05 2012 8:24PM Report
Vorthanion writes:

I'm with dontadow, your comments about what constitutes intelligent gameplay what is WoWified is very insulting.  I get that players like you want sandbox simulation games, but don't be such snobs about it.  It only weakens your argument and alienates the very player base that could help achieve and keep that game afloat financially.

Sat May 05 2012 8:40PM Report
Kuinn writes:

"Now that The Elderscrolls Online has been announced and the first available information we got makes it look like it will be yet another reinvention of the themepark formula"

 

Consider that TESO has been in development since 2007 and back then it was still a good idea fighting WoW with WoW hoping for a fatal crit. I'm not saying, and certainly not hoping, that TESO will resemble WoW much, but the development start time certainly might be a concerning indicator.

 

Devs propably have gotten those memos by now, and many are coming up with more fresh stuff and Arche Age style games, but the problem is those products propably have seen the green light only recently, so we'll hear the announcements of those games by the years 2013-2015 + add a few years untill release date.

 

If not, the only option left is to burn everything related to MMORPG's into the ground, launch the ashes into a blackhole and start the whole damn business from scratch with none of the current "AAA" devs involved :|

 

Ps. Brace for impact when Copernicus details gets announced, we all know already that the devs have hinted "it will be a traditional mmorpg but with our own twist that changes the mmo space forever!" -yawn.

Sat May 05 2012 8:56PM Report
TROLL_HARD writes:

Thanks for the post, DP. I will be following you!

Sat May 05 2012 8:56PM Report
tordurbar writes:

Reason 1 - popularity. Almost everything the OP mentions may be what the older mmo player is looking for (though I disagree with that) but they are not what makes an mmo successful on the order of Rift or Wow or SWTOR.

Reason 2 - technical limitations. The reason why there is no open world pvp in almost all AAA mmos is because they can't do it without major lag or stability issues.

Reason 3 - money. Guess what - developers don't build mmos with their own money. They have to convince investors that the game is going to make money. Investors look at the big money makers (wow, rift, free to play) and that is what they want to hear from the developers that they are building.

Sat May 05 2012 9:02PM Report
Drmarvin writes:

Agreed,  I like your start, DarkPony.

I'd go on a rant here but I don't think I can top the well written blogs by Wolfshead, they should be required reading by all MMO devs and really cut to the problem I have with all of todays MMO's.

http://www.wolfsheadonline.com

Why anyone thought to continue to make MMO's into single player games instead of fostering the wonderful community those original games had continues to baffle me.

Until they stop continuing in the same direction that I'm sorry to say, WoW started, MMO's will never reach their true potential.  You'd have thought SWTOR was everything the 'new' MMO players were asking for but after they realize how easy it is, how the only exploring you do is the big giant neon arrows that point you to the next quest hub where the single players line up with the only social interaction being in OOC how good/bad that game or WoW is.

Until the time they make a game that requires a modicum of thinking as well as rewards grouping instead of penalizing it, giving me more choices instead of less, stop making me out to be the SINGLE hero when I can see 8 people at the same quest giver getting the same speech that I just got about how I alone saved the world I'll stick to the older games.

AO, EQ, EVE is where I will hang my hat until then with maybe some occasional DDO or even NWN multiplayer for good measure.

I don't like to be spoon fed, I outgrew that a few years back.

Sat May 05 2012 9:12PM Report
Drmarvin writes:

I almost forgot, SWG wasn't perfect but the original game and to a point even post CU was good stuff.  Amazing crafting system and vehicle and pet system as well as harvesting and housing.  It's a shame they shut that down to make an online, lead you around by the nose, single player game.

Sat May 05 2012 9:14PM Report
Nierro writes: Good post. It seems to me that MMOs aren't the only genre of video game that suffers from an embarrassing lack of innovation and quality. When was the last time you were truly engrossed in a video game for reasons other than the spectacle of it? How many times have you seen good or even decent dialogue in any game? When have you had to actually use your brain creatively to solve a problem in a game? Sat May 05 2012 10:32PM Report
Uhwop writes: Maybe it's our age, I'm 35 as well, but I feel the exact same way. To say it's disheartening to hear, if the leak was true, that the head dev for TESO thinks that the game needs to play like WoW in order for people to understand it is an understatement. Millions of fans have been, and still are playing ES; we already know exactly how to play it. They can not possibly think we're that stupid. However, developers must, because their apparent solution to attract people to playing the same game they've already been playing for near a decade now is to throw in some sort of gimmick or minor alteration to combat or class composition. Throwing quasi-action combat system onto a game modelled after WoW is still just a game modelled after WoW. And if you can't make it by putting a little spin on the combat mechanics, you could always fall back on a hugely popular IP to get people to pay you to play the game same game they spent the last 7+ years playing. Sun May 06 2012 1:27AM Report
Emwyn writes:

By the way Pony there is a thread in the pub called "When do we grow stagnant (when do we become those guys)?". Wecome to the club I think :)

Sun May 06 2012 2:26AM Report
DashiDMV writes:

I just wanted to say that I always liked Dark Pony's sigs.

Sun May 06 2012 3:01AM Report
MurlockDance writes:

Great post! I wish there were more variety too, the industry has become so stagnant. I don't mind the more recent games like Rift and ToR (heck I am subbed to ToR and WoW), but I wish that it were more like in 2004 when you had drastically different games on offer. Some are still kicking around in some shape or form, but a lot have "updated" their elements, or should I say, made them more like what is becoming the standard MMO.

I wish someone would make an improved SWG in a different game world. I think it had some of the best elements I ever played in a sandbox MMO pre-CU: not FFA PvP, complex crafting, skill system that allowed you to dabble in skills, complex community, ability to make player cities, etc. It was a game you could not solo, you had to rely on other people. That is what made it engaging. UO was like that too, and so is ATitD, and every other sandbox I ever played.

I hope Archeage lives up to its expectations.

Sun May 06 2012 3:12AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Elikal:

"I came to the point to think, most companies don't care heck about long term value at all. They just want big bucks by huge initial sales and then to hell with the players. I can't explain these many years of continued failures in any other reasonable way than that it is purpose."

It's awful but it makes a lot of sense. At least it is reflected in the "pre-nda drop pre-order" model, the short betas for marketing purposes and the "pre-purchase with beta access and ingame suger on top" models. Instead of going for a much harder to achieve game with a growing customer base, they might simply go for games that appeal to as much people as possible before launch in order to draw in as much presales and initial subs as possible. "Cash in early to alleviate the unavoidable decline".

I'm not sure if the metrics support that, though. If you look at the financial record of, say, Funcom, you can tell that AoC hasn't really been a goldmine for them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funcom#History

Looking at those numbers (as well as the bit in the sidebar on that page) it has all signs of a company struggling to make a profit. And which company wouldn't want to sit on a game with a growing customer base and long term success?

 

Sun May 06 2012 3:34AM Report
Trionicus writes:

@DarkPony

Looking at those numbers (as well as the bit in the sidebar on that page) it has all signs of a company struggling to make a profit. And which company wouldn't want to sit on a game with a growing customer base and long term success?

 

I'll shout conspiracy. Based on current economic trends I'll say that it is more profitable for modern executives to throw their companies under the bus then it is to maintain proper business practice. Or at least, much easier.

Also based on the assumption that quite a few execs are not tied to the fate of shareholders.

Sun May 06 2012 4:05AM Report
marcust writes:

When people stop buying trash, they will stop making trash. They wont have a choice.

Sun May 06 2012 5:03AM Report
Psychos1s writes:

This is an excellent article, I agree that games for the past few years have been lacking (at least in my opinion).

The sense of wonder has gone from MMO's, it seems the world's are no longer vast places to explore but just a pit stop on the way to the max lvl gear grind.

PVP has been whittled down to 5v5 UT style matches because they all go for 2 faction systems that kills open world PVP, I dunno I long for a game that really feels like a world where choices have consequences, where you think before you get into a fight as to now just jumping into whatever because all you have to wait for is a respawn timer and where you can have a crafting skill that is truly needed in the games economy.

 

I dunno in other words is it really that bad to expect a AAA game that uses mechanics from games that were available 10+ years ago and haven't really been seen since WoW hit the shelves.

 

Sun May 06 2012 5:50AM Report
Lunarpac writes:

Excellent post. Although I'm very excited about GW2, I realize that stuff like "hearts" are just standard "quests" in the end, but I also think there's more to GW2 than, say WoW. I will definitely check out this ArcheAge thingy though. O.o

Thanks!

Sun May 06 2012 6:03AM Report
Insane666 writes:

agreeing with most of your points i could just /sign under your post,,,

 

im definately not waiting for yet another themepark aaa garbage, nor i will invest any cash in it, since every new themepark seems to be even less complex then the previous one

 

personally in 2012 im waiting most for a new engine to an over 10 years old mmo (ao), and playing another 9 years old mmo (eve), while rooting for a few indy titles to get it right,,, thats what i think of the direction the aaa mmo industry have taken, and ill be voting with my credit card, no aaa company will get any benefit of the doubt from me no more, not after swtor and all those crappy titles we got last few fears

Sun May 06 2012 6:33AM Report
Butch808 writes:

Awesome blog dude, and exactly how i feel currently with the mmorpg industry, I don't have any answers on why it is the way it is. But i'm in need of such a challange currently i have resorted to playing an ARMAS2 mod called "Day Z" a zombie apocalypse survival horror FPS, thats probably the most challanging and brutal game/mod i have played in a long time. Anyway i'm also intrested in archage, some nifty content in that game lets just hope it all goes to plan for them.

Sun May 06 2012 6:43AM Report
Loke666 writes:

Interesting blog, Pony.

But I feel the "Even the younger generations are more proficient and more intelligent gamers compared to us older folks when we had their age."isn´t true, we old C-64 and Amiga players played some really hard games. Not that I think that todays young people play worse or anything, but I think modern devs underestimate players, particularly younger players.

Young people have always been good with video games since the first home computers started to show up in peoples homes. I dunno why all (not just MMO) devs seems to think that all gamers have become retarded suddenly and needs handholding and easy street.

The worst MMO devs are the ones that thinks doing an easy task over and over is hard and fun. Killing a thousand skeletons is not really harder than killing one (or a group depending on how you pull them), it is just a thousand times less fun.

Sun May 06 2012 8:20AM Report
erictlewis writes:

I think  the blog is spot on and why so many of us are restless per say. The industry seams to be stagnant, and all we keep getting is more of the same games from an old model.  Go kill x-rats, go deliver this, go pick this up, and go escort this; then amass a gear score rinse and repeat.

I am not sure what i want in an mmo now days but swtor was not it, and I been playing skyrim lately, trolling the forums in hopes of finding something new, meanwhile being given the same old model with a new wrapper.

Sun May 06 2012 8:21AM Report
vladakov writes:

Gefeliciteerd met je plek op mmorpg ;p

And i pretty much completely agree with you here as well.

Sun May 06 2012 8:59AM Report
Segun777 writes:

Except ofcourse when MMOs aren't cookie cutter easy everyone complains, Besides Secret World is certainly thinking outside the box a little bit.

Sun May 06 2012 9:27AM Report
Kyleran writes:

This blog is "BitterVet™" approved.

And while I agree with much of what you wrote, a couple of comments.

First don't disparage players who enjoy current theme park MMO's by call the games designed for "juveniles" or the less intelligent.  These simplified designs came about because many people want to play a game, and not spend a lot of time working at their recreation.  Doesn't make them lesser players, just folks who enjoy different things.

I enjoyed the greater complexity/design of earlier titles like DAOC. Those who played it back in the day may recall you literally had to use a couple of different spreadsheets designed by the playerbase to calculate/refine your endgame builds and spell crafting.  Not everyone found that fun, and I confess, it wearied my soul sometimes.

Second, no reason to ask why Developers have gone the route they did, they are chasing the money, and right now standard theme park design is the proven way to bet.

People throw up SWTOR a lot as a failure, but face it folks, a couple million or more bought the game, and perhaps a million plus are still subbed so odds are good the game will at least make its investment back and some amount of profit, enough to keep going for a while which is the goal of all developers looking to provide a return on the investment.

Now I agree, we need change, it's time for something different, and I do thing some of the designs of the past could be reintroduced with a more modern spin and enjoyed by the greater playerbase.  Face it though, other features such as games designed around forced grouping likely are never coming back.

But change will come slowly, perhaps in the form of titles such as GW2 that are certainly introducing some new concepts and if its successful, we'll see other games incorporate them and add some twists of their own.

I doubt we'll see any major AAA house take a huge risk and do a radical redesign of the MMO space, and I'm not sure it would really work.  In the end I don't think people can really handle radical change in a positive manner.

Take a look at concept automobiles, the ones most likely to make it to market are the ones that don't vary much from current design.  The really different designs rarely get released, and when they do, people slam them as odd or funny looking.

My advice, try to find MMORPG's that have some element of fun in them (most do have them) and enjoy them for what they have, for as long as they are fun.  That might be only for a month or two, but hey, that's all you get out of a single player title in most cases, so no harm, no foul.

Sun May 06 2012 10:23AM Report
coretex666 writes:

Pony, I think that you nicely summarized the mood of the mmo community or at least of its part including me.

I am also looking at Archeage with my remaining hope. At the moment, it seems that its developers are really attempting at abandoning the WoW themepark formula which almost every major developer seem to copy for last 8 years and bringing new ideas and concepts into the world of MMOs.

From what I have seen, Archeage seems to be a truly nextgen MMO not just because it is based on Cryengine 2/3, but mainly because of the refreshment it carries.

Crafting, growing, building, destroying various things have significant impact on the environment. The game seems to provide its players with freedom.

At the moment, I am not subscribed into any MMO. I quit WoW which I played since vanilla with breaks several months ago  and the new major MMOs (not giving any names) on the market just feel too similar to it.

(I also believe that Titan will be a nextgen mmo, best one at the time when it releases, but it is just my personal opinion).

Sun May 06 2012 10:48AM Report
Slampig writes:

Show me an open ended sandbox game that is thriving. 

 

I would love one just as much as the next guy but it seems they are just not successful. If they were I am sure there would be more about... And I have played them all, I miss me some Pre-NGE Galaxies, although I am not going to whine about it, unlike a certain group we all know...

We have Darkfall and Mortal Online, Xsyon but they are not thriving. Be it game design, problems with the production teams, or lack of interest, you just do not see these games bringing in the player base that, by these forums alone, you would expect. Going by the dead horse beating on this site you would think people would be beating down the doors for these games, yet all we see are complaint after complaint and not enough playing.

I don't blame the companies, I blame the players.

Sun May 06 2012 11:03AM Report
DarkPony writes:

Some very good points raised by many people. Thanks for all the replies and for reading the entire wall.

I realize the blog is not perfect and the message I tried to bring accross, even though its one shared by many, is filtered through my personal preferences and dislikes. But it's good and sad at the same time to see so many being on the same branch, at least for a part <3

@ Vorthanion:

I never intended to bash WoW as a game in this column. I also purposely avoided using the "Wow clone" phrase and mentioned a few of WoW's great aspects. I played and enjoyed WoW for years and still regard it as one of the best, if not the best themepark game I ever played. I eventually had my fill of WoW but the industry as a whole seems to can't let go of some of it's standard themepark characteristics and treats them as "mmorpg development canon".

(And it's ironic how they consistently forget about WOW's aspects that made it a great game for me personally: fun world pvp in the open world (on pvp servers) and a seamless world where you can roam around for harvesting nodes, rare spawns, the best fishing spots, etc. At least that is what I loved back in vanilla days).

Sun May 06 2012 11:19AM Report
Fusion writes:

Pony my love, look no further than ArcheAge, it is the feeling i get from your message above anything else and it is looking like the thing I've been looking for quite some time (well, ever since i noticed everything past wow is well... "wow" in a sense)

And it caters into the "be what you want to be" sense of character creation, sure it's still tab-targeted button mash, but beyond that, it's pretty much the re-invention of Ultima Online meets Asheron's Call, dig into it man, incase you haven't, Youtube is full of closed beta footage by the boatloads!

Sun May 06 2012 11:36AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Slampig.

I think that contributes to the way the scales are off balance. Indy devs that at least TRY to do something new have a whole other range of problems to cope with: not in the last place due to being much smaller studios with much less money which means that "polished indy development" is almost a contradictio in terminus. But when's the last time that an AAA developer tried their hands on making such a game? SWG?

p.s. Your list isn't complete without EVE though. It might not be huge, but is one of the few games that has shown a consistently growing player base over the years. (But they might have taken a dip recently due to monocle-gate, I'm not sure).

Sun May 06 2012 11:38AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@ Fusion

Hah! You are caught not reading the entire wall! (At least not the last sentences). Now what shall I do with you?

And yeah, I agree with your AA assessment. But frankly I'm not too happy on betting on a single number, even though the odds look good at this time.

 

Sun May 06 2012 11:43AM Report
Fusion writes:

Honestly, i did read the wall, but for some odd reason my eyes wholly skipped the "ArcheAge" part!

And truly so, no one should ever bet "all" on just one horse :)

But i have good sense about this AA-horse :)

Sun May 06 2012 11:47AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@ Hehe ok :) You are off the hook. I hope we shall escape from a virtual south korean jail together in the future!

Sun May 06 2012 11:49AM Report
Fusion writes:

And doing it with style, on a full set of black & white stripes :D

Sun May 06 2012 11:59AM Report
Razeekster writes:

I love how you mentioned ArcheAge. That's the game I've been waiting for in hopes that it will be something fresh and new. It's a shame though, I feel like it will be quite a long time before it is released in the NA.

Sun May 06 2012 12:39PM Report
grimm6th writes:

Great first blog post DarkPony, keep it up.

I don't agree with you on some of the points, but that's fine, I don't really disagree with them either.  I would say that people have different tastes when it comes to games, and different ways of looking at things, but in the end it comes down to 2 things (there are other factors, but this is all about the long run):

  1. Player Interaction
  2. Progression
The biggest part of the issues many have with the direction of modern MMOs is that most of them do the player interaction thing in EXACTLY the same way.  We have been trained to respond a certain way (lone wolf style PvE), and this defines the core of the community in the game.  For the most part, recent games (I really don't know about many "older" games) seem to direct player interactions the same way.  I think a change in MMOs, or a growth as DarkPony indicates, Is required for a game to be differentiated enough to stand out.
 
How a developer chooses to do this is up to them, but I personally enjoy the direction GW2 takes this.  Ultimately GW2's level of change is conservative (renown hearts have been mentioned already, but keep in mind that these were added to help those who have already been trained by other MMOs to expect certain things), but I think it is changing the right things.
 
Next up is progression.  I don't mean gear progression, or leveling, or any features you might see directly in the game.  I mean how you as a player change as you play a game for an extended time.  Basically, I think the thing that changes the most (or maybe just most obviously) in players is simply player skill (but not the only thing)
 
Where my issue of player interaction deals more with PvE, player skill is a much more PvP related topic for many reasons, such as AI and games trending towards being generally easy before max level.  Player vs Player means that, balance issues being ignored, players must progress in real ways to get better.  This is something games that aren't MMOs have done fairly well, such as MMOBAs, RTSs, and FPSs, but it really hasn't quite caught on for MMOs.  When you become better at something you are more likely tokeep doing it.  If something requires no growth to play, then I wouldn't be surprised if most players simply stopped playing after a while (this is where progression plays a part in PvE).
 
 
tl;dr
MMO developers could go a long way towards improving the outlook for future games on changing how their games address these 2 issues (player interaction and progression of player skill).  There is more than one way to do this.
Sun May 06 2012 1:10PM Report
teakbois writes:

Here are some things for the MMORPG industry to consider:

 

1.  There has been only one game in the west that has been able to sustain over 500k subs for any length of time.  None of the games that have tried to imitate that game, with the exception of SWTOR, were able to reach 500k subs for more than the first 2 months.  SWTOR might make it 6.

2.  If you look at sustained success over a length of time, these are the most successful MMORPGs in the West (in order)

WoW

EQ

EvE (and at this point its getting close to EQ)

SWG (pre-CU)

DAoC

Ultima Online

LotRO

EQ2

 

Rift has a chance of making that list, but at this point its a 50/50 chance at best its above 200k subs by years end.  All those other games sustaned over 200k for 2 years+

3.  Note that 3 of the top 6 are sandbox games

4.  SWG was an imperfect game.  In fact it was an awful mess in many aspects.  But people talk about it as f it were the rgeatest game of all time.  And it has little to do with the IP.  Companies should focus on building a better SWG.  A sandbox with PvP as an afterthought, with a wonderful player run economy, city building, the best crafting system ever and a class/skill system that both gave you freedom but still made you make decisions about what you wante to be.

5.  If you are going to copy WoW, please copy what it has in common with EQ, EQ2 and LotRO:  Azeroth, Norrath and Middle Earth are simply the best worlds the genre has ever seen.  Lots of care and detail and soul went into making these worlds.

6.  Do not copy what doesnt work:  Recycled instances as max level content.  Endless gear grind but no real character progression.  Dailies, dailies and more dailies.  

7.  Fast leveling is bad.  If the average semi-casual person takes less than a month to get to max level (Im looking at you Rift and SWToR) they don't get that sense of accomplisment or any attachment to their character and are much more likely to leave.  If you must use carrot on a stick, character progression works better as a carrot as opposed to gear.

Sun May 06 2012 1:13PM Report
teakbois writes:

slampig:  you want a thriving open ended sandbox?  There are only 3 games in the west that have over 300k subs

WoW, SWtoR...and EvE.  EvE as a game that turns people off because its in space (non fantasy), its PvP focused, and you dont even have a 'toon'.  And its thriving and has been for years with no signs of slowing.

Sun May 06 2012 1:19PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Teakbois. Those points would make a nice addition to the other memo's. Interesting observations and I agree with your tips.

Sun May 06 2012 2:16PM Report
XanXanni writes:

I can't wait for ArchAge myself. For so long I have been looking and watching this game now but just had no chance to try it. It is what I have anticipated ever since I ended my UO account. Oh if EA wasnt such a douchie clan and would finally grasp a hint of what players want to play, other than Katy Parrys Simsalisciousbullcrap, and come up with UO2. There are only rumors about it, however I can hardly believe those rumors when it comes to that Fraggle Camp of EA. 

I'm with you Pony, lets hope that ArchAge comes rather sooner than later to the western shelves as well

Sun May 06 2012 3:05PM Report
spookydom writes:

Hey Dp this was pretty good. But I didn't really expect anything less. Look forward to more. Grats.

Sun May 06 2012 3:47PM Report
Derangedcowbrain writes:

Non-MLP bro-hoof to you DP.

Sun May 06 2012 8:11PM Report
Goreson writes:

Wow Pony, seriously?

Sorry but I think you and I are living in different (RL) worlds!

I'd just love to pounce on that "Even the younger generations are more proficient and more intelligent gamers compared to us older folks when we had their age " line, but that would really just be me calling most of the younger generation of MMO gamers - though sort of proficient (read: able to do simple tasks) - really just dumb.

Well, maybe dumb is not the perfect word, maybe lazy is better... or spoiled?

Frankly, it's probably most fitting to call them the 'instant gratification generation': anything that takes more than just basic commitment is really just too much to ask for!

Getting your character to 'endgame' takes more than 30 days? Oh the grind, the game is such a fail!

I'm sure you have noticed how much the community for any new game shrinks within the first 6 months after release.

It's simply because the 'instant grat' gamers have done anything that they feel they can do with that game, usually despite there still being tons of stuff to available, just maybe not for that 'endgame toon'.

So it's time to move on to the next hyped game that will of course be much better (*cough*).

Or alternatively you go back home to where you are comfortable. Do you really think that so many gamers fall back to playing WoW after being 'disappointed' by new game X because of the community there in WoW?  More likely it's that they are comfortable playing their casual MMO that has been perfected for them over the last 7 years.

And it's just that "perfection" that is causing a problem:

Investing the time into a new game to make it grow over the years into something great? Heck, why? That is like, like, too long and, like, too much, and, like, if the game is not perfect at release the designers are, like, morons anyways... like d'oh because, like, WoW is there and, like, that one shows how it should be done.... like, right?

 Do you really think a game designer is willing to take the gamble of maybe netting those few smart, open-minded gamers that are willing to give a different type of gaming a chance (simply because they are old and used to a different type of MMO) for the long run?

They know pretty well that while new ideas may spark a shortlived spark of interest in most young gamers (until they understand that this new, different game is not a better version of WoW and therefore a fail!), offering those gamers the safety of what they are used to is the easiest way of making them comfortable.

alas of course, there is the small fact of not having the 7 years worth (worse?) of content that WoW is offering...

Face it: you can't expect sheep to understand how to use the wheel if you put it in front of them.

So game designer just don't do it.

Unless they are willing to create a game for a very small niche of the market... 

Sun May 06 2012 9:32PM Report
TheCrow2k writes: SWTOR is a bitter dissapointment & currently there's nothing on my MMO radar really, current & pending options are old hat. Theme park MMO's as a concept should all be relegated to co-op buy 2 play games with optional Vs playmodes. As lately the themeparks have sorely forgotten the Massive from MMO. Sun May 06 2012 9:33PM Report
Whiskey_Sam writes:

Great blog post!  You voice concerns many of us have.  Too many games seem to be targetting a very narrow audience that is one step removed from established games.  They try to differentiate themselves with one or two features while mirroring other games as closely as they can to minimize risk.  This leaves new games clustered around each other and ignore other segments of the market that are woefully underserved.

Sun May 06 2012 11:18PM Report
Terranah writes:

This genre has fallen so far.  I can't even bother myself to buy the next game because it is the same game only with a different title.

 

When I was playing precu SWG, my friends and I would sit around in the cantina listening to music, watching dancers, and imagine what mmos might be like in a few years.  Well it's been more than a few years.  Our cantina is gone.  Our city is gone.  Our server is gone.  Our game is gone.  There's nothing like it, maybe nothing ever to be like it again if these recent mmos are any indication.

 

 

Mon May 07 2012 12:54AM Report
NortonGB writes: The average mmo player might be 37 but the wiz kid devs are much younger or less experienced where you can't put an old head on young shoulders. I blame the lack of good AAA producers. Mon May 07 2012 2:19AM Report
ignore_me writes:

/signed by a bitter vet who wants more from the games. Great blog Pony.

Mon May 07 2012 2:19AM Report
AutemOx writes:

Weird yesterday I had 2 posts on this thread and now they are gone.

Mon May 07 2012 5:51AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Wormy: You made them in the forum thread on the news item :)

http://www.mmorpg.com/newsroom.cfm/read/24379/General-Introducing-the-Disgruntled-Pony.html#comments

Mon May 07 2012 6:00AM Report
Rekindle writes:

I liked your blog.  I agree with almost everything.  I think the current state of the MMO 'scene' is sad. However, the people developing these games aren't stupid.

For every 300,000 players who scream wow clone there are 700,000 that would eat it up and think its great.  I blame the consumer.

I wish that someone would come by and recognize the adult gamer who doesn't want the same rehashed game over and over.

Mon May 07 2012 7:27AM Report
oubers writes:

gratz on your own blog horseman.....good read, keep it up :)

 

Mon May 07 2012 8:23AM Report
UtukuMoon writes:

I play Vanguard,how about you blogger?

Mon May 07 2012 9:06AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Congrats Pony, though we may not always agree I always enjoying reading your posts and having healthy discussion with you. I look forward to the next blog and really enjoyed this one!

EXCELSIOR!

Mon May 07 2012 9:38AM Report
BadSpock writes:

I just want to add that I find it funny that the games these days are made for people with less time on their hands (i.e. gimme crowd / instant gratification)

yet us old folks who have been playing MMOs for a decade+ are the people with less time (work, family) yet many of us are the ones asking for more depth/time sinks?

Doesn't make sense to me!

I highly prefer drop in/drop out casual, low time investment, maximum fun.

Doesn't have to do anything with depth in my opinion though, acessability is not the death of depth - I like games where it is easy to wade in and out yet if you have the time/inclination you can keep going out further and further and realize just how far down the bottom is.

Mon May 07 2012 9:41AM Report
onehunerdper writes:

I have to say I was excited to see that DP has his own blog on here now.  Didn't disappoint either.

I've just been following AA here and there, I have it on my fav list, but haven't researched a ton.  I guess I've just become jaded to what they stand for.  There has been a lot of talk over the years of games offering a lot of awesomeness, but in implementation they fall severely short of offering something that isn't horribly bugged or features that just don't mean anything.  AA looks like it will offer an amazingly new setup, but I just hope it's meaningful.  Farming and house building is great but if it's about as meaningful as crafting in WoW then it's not going to be ver life changing. That's my concern.  I really want to see a game where the entire area is affected by what people do, not just by predesigned events that are completely controlled by the game.  If farming in AA actually affected how long and how large your nations armies are, just an example, that would be cool. Of course I say all this, and am eagerly awaiting GW2, which I don’t think will have much of anything like this LOL.

I read someone's post on here about the instant gratification generation, and all I have to say is, personally, I don't want to have to grind the same creatures or areas for weeks just to level. I don't want to get to endgame and have to grind dailies over and over again, for what? a mount, or to have the same armor as all the other players, or to get achievement points, I mean really? Maybe that makes me lazy but, that's not entertainment or exciting or...epic.  I mean most people already have jobs in real life where we do the same thing over and over and over again, so you can get a pat on the back or a pathetic pay increase. You can't just remove the entertainment value out of the equation.

Also, I'm not sure about the "perfection" of the game is what brings people back.  Up until a few years back when I finally left WoW, I didn't keep going back because the game was perfect. I was pretty sick of the game, but I kept coming back because of the friends and guilds I had been apart of and it was truly a blast to play with them.  It made it fun, even though outside of the friendships, playing Wow, to me, was like scraping my brain out of my skull with a spoon.

Mon May 07 2012 11:06AM Report
VikingGamer writes:

Good post Pony. I agree. It seems like every company assumes that because WoW is so big, that they must have found the perfect formula and all that needs to be done is to replicate it. I think what happened was WoW was in the right place at the right time with the right product and they cashed in. It wasn't the perfect formula, it was the perfect formula for that moment in time.

I think that games with more action represent a good move forward for the industry. But I think that is only part of what is shifting right now. I think we will see a return to genuine worlds. Big, non-linear, meaningful crafting, meaningful pvp, less scripted. And I think you are right in seeing Eve as an example of it. Something draws you to Eve over and over again and yet something is also still off about it.

There needs to be more flavors of Eve, not more flavors of WoW.

Mon May 07 2012 11:06AM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Sylva: Nope, Vanguard never managed to get on my "must play list" somehow, ... but I've been hearin' some good stuff about it and at a consistent basis. Also I read your posts on it in the past. You reckon that Vanguard might be a home for me for a while?

@Spock: Makes a lot of sense. But I think there are other gaming genres being much more suited for quick bursts of online gaming fun: Shooters / fps / rts, etc.

RPG's (even the MMO ones) are by definition more about long term investment, development, depth, immersion, etc. And they should stay that way in my opinion. I agree they should offer content which can also be enjoyed in smaller portions because even hard core players don't have hours of time to burn everyday, but those content alternatives shouldn't ever make out the main course of the game (i.e.: endgame pvp being only being battlegrounds, to give an example), that kinda goes against the essence of what rpg's are about in my opinion.

Mon May 07 2012 11:13AM Report
Akrux writes:

Mature palyers looking for a deeper game might want to check out

http://www.therepopulation.com/ 

Sci-fi, 3+ factions, PvP, PvE, deep crafting, city building, sandbox

Alpha coming soon.

 

Mon May 07 2012 11:29AM Report
VikingGamer writes:

When you have some free time from other games you really should try vanguard pony. it really is a pretty good game. An incredibly customizable UI for the time. Lots of very interesting features. Like how they handle crafting. Diplomacy is something that just has no equivalent anywhere. Lots of other things. The graphics are now very dated and character models are clunky but the world looks very very good even still. Lots of unusual classes to explore. lots of interesting races. faction reputation actually means something.

It might not strike you as the best game every done just because of its age now. But there was enough inovation in it to justify taking a good look just to see what these guys did. If you are interested in MMO as a subject then playing this game is a must. Like needing to read Dickens to call yourself well educated in literature.

Look up the guild Twylight Song if they are still there. They have been a bigger, consistant and very helpful guild.

Also, start on the isle of dawn and be sure to level all three spheres, crafing, diplomacy and adventuring to 10 and get all the starter gear for each line before you leave. it will also give you a good intro to each. diplo seems boring at first but it can grow on you. After the island you can go check out your racial starting area for the lore if interested.

Mon May 07 2012 11:31AM Report
DarkPony writes:

Thanks for the tips Sylvarii, Akrux and Viking.

@Onehunderdper: Well, actually, one of the cool things about AA is that they are hiding nothing before launch: huge open (at least korean) beta's without strings attached. So it isn't so much "promissing" what they do: they put their eggs on the table for everyone to see. If you feel like doing some research, there's a ton of player vids on YT already.

@Viking: sounds very appealing. I also echo your hopes in your previous post. Let's hope the dawn of open world / open ended goodness is upon us soon.

Mon May 07 2012 12:18PM Report
Onigod writes:

@VikingGamer  I think if vanguard f2p becomes a succes it will be tuned down and get more (wowish) in an attemt to attract more people.

It is very likely this will happen.

Mon May 07 2012 12:30PM Report
Czelaw writes:

And the voice of reason comeeth from a pony!

Nice post Pony  keep up the good work!

Mon May 07 2012 12:31PM Report
DarkHoffa writes:
The answer to all of your questions can be found in the following quote from Inception:
 
“You have 2 minutes to design a maze that takes 1 minute to solve.”
 
Designers are tasked with that duty, and that duty alone.  Keep the majority of purchasers busy for 1 month and 1 week to give accounting time to bill for an extended subscription that marketing will hype.  Give the illusion of depth while using standardized controls to keep folks from exploring that depth for 1 month and 1 week.  A maze with rails, but with a backdrop of activity to make you think you had choice and positive reinforcement to appeal to your “made the right choice” needs.
 
Once upon a time RPG’s told a story.  Character progression was part of the story because it was important.  Now progression is part of the maze and nothing more.  Filler, designed to prevent you from solving it quickly.  I’d put forward that it is as important as requiring you to move pawns around a chess board for 1 month before allowing you to have a rook.  Chess is incredibly deep and doesn’t need an artificial contrivance to extend your stay.  Without a story, the concept just seems silly, doesn’t it? 
 
You mention a section of the gaming population being grown-ups with grown-up entertainment desires.  I’d agree.  Don’t give me 40 hours of drudgery before I can access all the pieces on the board.  I don’t need an extended tutorial.  Give me access to all of the strategic options minute 1 and let me explore them.  If your game is deep enough it will retain a following based on merit, not time sinks.  If it is shallow…
 
The MMOs we have today are not an extension of the original idea that separated the concept from an RPG.  MMOs have been polluted to accept any game concept and justify a subscription, and always on anti-piracy measures.  The motivation is clear, and the smoking gun still sitting on the table.  Unfortunately, Joe consumer is happily lapping it up.  They think they are getting an accessible MMO instead of realizing they’ve been duped into paying a subscription for something that used to be buy to play.  Go Team Marketing! 
 
We’ve been sold out, gentlemen. 
Mon May 07 2012 1:27PM Report
Mouls writes:

MMOs today dont aim only gamers

Mon May 07 2012 1:28PM Report
onehunerdper writes:

Yeah, I was looking at the website, which has come a looooong way since the last time I went to it.  A lot more info available.  I'll have to look up the game up on YT as you suggested.  I'd ask you what the capabilities are, but I think you're too busy mister bloggy to answer questions that may be found on the web somewhere...

*looks out the door to his office and then locks it*

Good thing I'm the IT guy at work...web tracker disengaged...

Mon May 07 2012 2:33PM Report
BadSpock writes: @pony A fair point, but I love RPG's and MMORPG's even in short-burst gaming sessions because unlike FPS or others the short sessions add up to a long character progression. That's the big difference. I don't think there is any difference between progressing your character 20 hours in a week in 2 10 hour sessions or 20 hours in a week in 10 2 hour sessions - but the later is far easier on a working man's schedule lol Mon May 07 2012 3:38PM Report
lzanon writes: I agree with this blog 100% When I saw TESO I saw this to be a good chance for a really good sandbox game as the single player TES games were. Seeing so many promising titles just do the same thing as wow only makes me want to play wow since it does it right. A gimmick like a random mob spawner appearing every few mins or fancy verbal dialog does not make a game. The first time I tried Swtor with a buddy pass I was wow nice story but then the meat n bones of the game was meh. Stationary world mobs, really? Wow is utterly alive. This game is static as they come. Having played many mmorpgs and even some of the buggy ones like istaria has taken me to a point where I cannot find any fun in themepark mmos. If its gonna be another wow with a lollypop attached to it i might as well play wow. Now if only I did not go pirate in eve the last time i played it. Im so tempted just to restart dispite having a 26mil sp char. Just because I miss that sandbox style of a game. That fear of going to a place and maybe lose it all. Istaria may have been pve only, but it was fun to actually build something. I do hope devs actually read this. Mon May 07 2012 9:06PM Report
loulaki writes:

check and this out ...

 

https://goblinworks.com/

experienced devs, there is already a background story, and a lot of sandbox aspects ...  you can also take part on the conversation about how it will be developed ..

Tue May 08 2012 6:14AM Report
Kiljaedenas writes:

Excellent post Pony, I agree with pretty much everything in it.

Ahh, good old Eve...it really is a defining baseline for what MMOs should strive for these days. And as someone else posted, we should get more flavors of Eve and not more flavors of WoW.

Problem is, again as others have posted and you hinted at, most developers are too afraid to go against the mold and want a guaranteed investment, so they copy a model that has tons of subs and initial purchases and don't look at the long-term aspects of it. Or, those odd indie corporations that try it release a bug-ridden pile of crap that doesn't last long.

Perhaps CCP got lucky when they first released Eve and got enough subs to keep them going, as Eve back then definitely wasn't as advanced as it is now. But now CCP seems to be the only developer, at all, that has the balls to try and develop something that really has new stuff in it, cutting edge, never done before, since developing something like that is admittedly a huge risk as you really don't know how the masses will accept it since it has never been seen before.

CCP's Dust 514, a console FPS linked directly into the Eve game world and with baked-in interactions between the two, is completely revolutionary and has awesome implications for the logistical complexities that you can get into. Bleeding edge, never before done.

CCP's World of Darkness, a Vampire the Masquerade based MMO with a lot of Eve's system built in will probably be the first non-sci fi MMO with that style of play. Again, never before done.

Major risks, but kudos to CCP for even trying it in the first place. And they may not get millions of subs like what is considered the "norm" for success, but CCP has accepted that this is not really a good target to aim for. They aim more for getting a smaller but heavily dedicated player base that will play the game for years, just as Eve has had.

Come on developers! If CCP can do it so can you. Buckle down, grow a pair, and take the risk! Don't just settle for copying the same old, same old. CREATE something really new! And for god's sake, don't try to rush it out ahead of schedule and end up throwing a pile of code vomit at your customers.  Really take the time to properly develop it and iron out as much of the kinks as you possibly can.

Tue May 08 2012 3:04PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@Kiljae

That was the 100th reply. And one which I very much echo. You win a free ride.

Despite me still thinking it was a very bad call to go cross platform with Dust, the attempt to link two games together is indeed bleeding edge on the innovation front from CCP. (If only it was a pc game, though).

Didn't read so much into WoD yet, I wonder in what aspects they will make it EVE like. I'm going to have to read up on that.

Wed May 09 2012 1:56AM Report
lifesbrink writes:

I have to say, like many others who commented, this is a post that echoes my own sentiments. 

Also, how did you manage to get a featured blog?  I have been making posts for ages, and find it difficult to get people to even read my blog at all.

Wed May 09 2012 7:05PM Report
DarkPony writes:

@lifesbrink: I didn't really ask for it. It was more a decision on their part I gues. All I know is that the it hardly got any attention in the couple of days that it was up before Mike added it to top rated blogs and made a news item for it.

So I think we could come up with some suggestions to give bloggers some more exposure because they are stuffed away to deep when there's no highlighting or news itemization involved.

For one thing: the sidebar "top rated" and "latest" blog items could be a tad longer, showing more than three results each.

p.s. I'll go and read some of your stuff soon. The first few paragraphs I checked out were pretty good.

Thu May 10 2012 2:16AM Report
mmoguy43 writes:

YAY! DARK PONY IS DOING A BLOG!!!

Thu May 10 2012 3:32AM Report
lifesbrink writes:

Thanks!

Fri May 11 2012 12:31PM Report
FarSight writes: Only 3 MMORPG'g made me play more than free month (and i tried most of them). It was Neocron and Darkfall. Gues what ? It was all about territory control, open world pvp, no instances, full loot (Neocron changed fro, full loot to semi full loot). I call them sandbox, meta game (territory control, aliances etc) was amazing. Yes im 38 yers old and i need another game like that, maybe AA will deliver Fri May 11 2012 2:26PM Report
WittyRaevyn writes:

Although our website is outdated (we've been in production with a small team for almost 10 years) we are now finally presenting to publishers. Then a new website will come.

But for now - I'm very proud to say that I feel as though our MMO, Citadel of Sorcery, will address all of the concerns in this post (save those regarding PvP) and will open up the genre again.

If you take the time to read through the Game Design and Lore and our Forums, I think all of you veterans will be very pleased. I know that as a gamer, I will want to play nothing but this game once it is out. Because of that, I keep working on it with the team as hard as I possibly can!!

http://www.citadelofsorcery.com

Fri May 11 2012 2:34PM Report
Jetrpg writes:

I bumped this i feel the sentiment is correct. Of course you just pick the TYPE of game you liek act like it suprior then call the other forum of game a child's game ... Which is a non-sequiter. But the core messaged behind the detials is correct. Stop pandering to kids, they will play anything their friends are, pander to people who care and have played many games and might be more crital of your systems.

Sun May 13 2012 3:27AM Report
VoodooDali writes:

I think the reason why AAA devs are developing for a younger audience is due to following common wisdom in marketing.  the 35+ audience is not a desired one for investors or marketers.  The general rule of thumb is that people over the age of 35 are already loyal to certain brands and it is difficult to sway them to try a different brand.  Also the over 35 group is seen as having less disposable income since they are usually saddled with debt and kids.   All companies salivate over the tween and 18-35 market because they are impulse buyers, they have a great deal of disposable income, and they are willing to switch brands.

The gaming companies are filled with MBAs at the top levels who would scream and yell if designers said they wanted to make a game built around players over the age of 35.  Even though the numbers indicate the average age of a gamer is 37, they don't care about that - they want to go after that elusive younger audience which is flush with cash.

I predict that MMO's are going to increasingly be built for smaller populations of niche gamers.  It's doubtful to me that there ever will be another juggernaut like WoW.  Already games like GW2 are targeting PvPers.  I'm surprised there isn't a game built around the needs of RPers yet - not as big a market, but extremely loyal. 

The AAA publishers aren't entirely wrong to go after younger gamers, but their games totally lack the controls that parents want.  There's a huge market of tweens who want a WoW like game but their parents are terrified of online predators and also how to get their kids off the game when its time for homework or w/e.  WoW implemented time controls for parents which work fairly well.  The only game I saw that had some chat control was Pirates of the Caribbean, but the game was crap.  Basically a game company going after that audience would need to invest in a huge team of moderators and heavily moderate general chat, plus eliminate the ability to send tells, and allow parents to see a log of all chats their child participated in. 

 

Tue Jun 26 2012 11:52AM Report

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