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Future of MMOs

Basically outlining things I see as needed in next gen mmos.

Author: axlezero

MMO Community

Posted by axlezero Sunday January 25 2009 at 4:12AM
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I recently made a blog about failed mmo's and after more thought, I think it goes beyond the game being finished.  Don't get me wrong, that plays a big part of it, when full guilds join a game, but leave shortly after because there is on raid content ready to go etc.  However I think the biggest thing that makes an MMO suffer, and I say this knowing full well how successful WoW is even though its community is horrible.

WoW's success I think has to do with the amount of people playing and small communities within, such as the guilds.  WoW also has that easy factor so people don't really need groups, so can ignore the bulk of the community.  I believe a big chunk of these players are waiting for something more, but games fail to deliver the product and so the community suffers and then word of mouth kills the game, making it hard to get back on its feet.

Some might call me a hard core player for saying this, but I want the EQ days back, with the forced grouping and community hotspots where you funneled to, so you could get a group to level.  Slow down leveling so you get to know your fellow player while grouping and get the game back to basics.

MMO in my opinion is all about the community, when that suffers the game suffers.  I remember my first week in EQ, I got so frustrated I almost gave up several times, till people actually stopped and took the time to help me.  I wasn't whining in ooc, I wasn't yelling in /shout, I wasn't cursing, sending tells to random people.  I just had alot of dang corpses everywhere that were rotting every 30 mins, and so they stopped, taught me the basics, gave me some gear, followed me around for a few minutes and explained things while I got my feet on the ground.  That more then anything made me a die hard MMO player.   Keep in mind this was before there were guides out the wazoo and 50 sites dedicated to a game.

I stopped buying platform games, and have played alot of MMO's over the years, and slowly but surely, that in game community and willing to help has dwindled. 

Why forced grouping?  Slower xp? 

We, and by that I mean me as well, blow through content so fast, that most games its almost pointless putting in any extra content at lower levels, and sometimes I still wonder why they do.  If you can hit max level in 2 weeks, why would you bother putting in alot of lower level content?  Slower XP allows you to actually explore the game, or at least move about to other places out of boredom if nothing else.

Grouping in EQ was really one of the only ways to level, even the so called solo classes grouped because it was just hard to get by on your own.  The benefits were this:
1)  Grouping was better and faster xp.  You leveled much quicker and dungeons even had bonus xp.

2)  Grouping made you know your character and play it to the best of your ability, because impressions were everything. 

3)  Newbies were taught things to help, and if you were being an ass people didn't group with you, so the community kind of regulated it self.  Be respectful or get blackballed is how it usually went.

4)  Group sessions were usually on going, as one person left they brougnt in another person.  So you could spend hours with some one and actually get to know people.

In eq I actually felt like i was part of something, people knew me and looked for me to group, even outside of the guild.  These days, I play these games, but rarely meet anyone outside the guild, and yes that might be part of my doing, but part of it is whats the point.  I can get to max level without anyone else's help fairly easy, with a guildie even better.  However I don't feel that same connection with the community on the whole that I did in eq.

To this day, I still help newbies because of my experience in eq, I teach them tricks, give them gear and money, and sometimes (rarely) I get a thank you from them.  Most of the time I think they are calling me a sucker behind my back, but it doesn't stop me from potentially shaping some one else's first experience in an mmo.

MMOs need to break it down again and find out how to build their communities again, to keep a large base of players continually interested.  Also having devs that don't know what they are talking about isn't good either, when your playerbase is telling you something is wrong and dev says no its not.  Chances are the players know what the hell they are talking about, after they play it everyday and know what changes fairly quickly.

Personally, I almost think that MMOs should consult a sociologist to study in game behaviour of gamers and and patterns that draw people.  So they can give advice on the things that can strengthen the community AND the game itself.

Thoughts on "Failed" MMOs,

Posted by axlezero Monday January 19 2009 at 3:21AM
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A lot of mmo's have come out recently, (Last few years) that have been called failures, and most would blame early releases, and would essentially be correct.  Here is a numbered list of industry "standards" I guess that game devs continue to follow and it boggles my mind that they don't change these.  Find a lower standard, so they release a polished game, while still offering us a game full of content.

1)  Starting Max Level 50: Why 50?  Because eq did it?  WoW did it?  Most games out there have done it?  I would prefer having 20 levels of solid game content, with possible level 20 raid content available to me at release, then to have 20 levels of ok content, and then 30 levels of grinds and crappy or no content.  

There is nothing saying you have to start with 50 levels, and there is nothing saying that level 20 raid dungeons can't be turned into one group content at a later date when you can add levels and more "working" content.

2)  Why release with a billion races and classes?  Give us a run down or list of classes you plan to implement in the future, but have a shorter list of them ready to go out the door.  If you can add more, then by all means go for it.  However get the race/classes that you want at release to be working at least 90%.  Before you try to add in more classes and races.

3)  A world doesn't need to be released with 500 areas right off.  Use one continent, floating isle, planet, or wahtever and fill it with content, and quests, and pack it in good for release.  Planning for others, but not polishing them for release and just give us a big continent packed to the brim, with lots of stuff to do, and then add more to it.  We want a polished game, not one with 300 of the 500 areas empty with out so much as a squirrel to kill.

I say this because the people backing these games obviously want a game out the door making them money, and we, or at the very least me, want a polished game that plays well and has stuff to do.  Racial quest lines, stocked with lore.  Quests for legendary items, that actually work.  Raids, more then one.  Community hot spots for trade, grouping up and questing.

If you give me a solid product with stuff I can continue to do, I will be appeased till you release more content, as I'm sure most would.

What I would love to see is quite simply a game with a max level of 20 out the door, with content actually designed for large groups of level 20s, as well as single group and/or solo content.  Quests that work, zones that are populated, and game that runs smoothly, I can live without the level 50, and the extra races and classes, until such a time that you can continue to release the content.  

In this fashion, you will be able to release a product in shorter time, and the people paying to produce the game will be off your back, because for most mmo's it seems like they are on a 5 year plan, imagine if you could cut that time in half and manage to not piss off your customer base.  A solid product IMO will get more subs, then a massive game with tons and tons of content, that just doesn't work.  Also by releasing a smaller finished game, you can let people know all the stuff that is already in development that will be released over the course of the first year.  Giving customers a lot of cool things to look forward too.

I understand that having all that additional content is good for marketing, but IMO its the game community thats going to keep the subs coming in and if they are happy with the game, then they will tell their friends who will tell their friends.  

Its great that games want to give you the biggest and the best, but as it has been shown time and time again that just fails. Look at WoW for example.  I just think that games try to hard to blow our minds and impress us and fall on their face, where as I'd be impressed with a game that works the first day it goes live, and even more impressed that it has an end game for the current max levels.

Anyway rant off,

 

MMO Lore is Becoming Afterthought

Posted by axlezero Saturday January 17 2009 at 3:42AM
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Lore in my opinion was always the driving factor of any RPG game.  It pulls you in, makes you love the characters and follow the plight of the world around you.  It is the cornerstone that all RPG whether mmo or platform should be building their games on, but to me it seems this is becoming less relevant then putting out the next big hype.

I will mention games I have played, starting with EQ.  Gods were a large part of the story, and the races and who hated who.  The game actually seemed to be built around the story, not the story built around the game.  As a Dark Elf you were hated by many races including humans, and couldn't enter their cities without being killed, but as far as RPG goes, that is exactly how it should be.  You want to enter that Freeport (human city)?  You make ammends with them.  Dark Elves killed a lot of orcs and brought orc belts to the captain of the guard in Freeport to gain that faction so they could walk freely in the city.  However you didn't have full run of the city, you still had to watch out for certain factions within the city.  Freeport merchants, Freeport Guards, Freeport Wizards (Can't remember the wizard faction).  You had to build your trust up, and for good reason, the Dark Elves were an evil race that did bad things and going into the story you knew that.  Your lore started almost from day 1.

EQ2 built upon eq1 obviously, but even then it seemed to diverge and make the story more generic in some aspects.  Unifying the races, picking an evil side or good side rather then a god to worship and your faction based on race.

WoW had its lore that it built on, even if the game ruined the mmo community (not saying the game itself was bad, but the community is horrid).  It was rich in history and the places you go have a story, and to be honest I think that can be attributed to its success more then anything else.  You may fight the urge to resist it, but its there.

I also think IP's (Conan, SWG, etc) are bad for lore as well.  It seems to me, it would be very limiting in what you can do and say.  IMO these games are targeting a fan base and are good for those who make them for a quick buck.  The lore is mostly known, and breaking away from it will piss the people off that follow those stories closely and sticking with the story will push away people that want some new kind of spin.  Not to mention it's not very creative, if you have the know how to develop a game, why not come up with something new.  Or at the very least put your game a thousand years in the future after the story lines, and build the world based on what changed and give people that new twist, and some crazy lore about how Luke Skywalker went to the darkside in his later years, and in the conflicts that followed was directly responsible for his sister dying.  He lived on for a thousand years and is now part cyborg, and practically a god. 

It seems now though that games are moving away from designing lore first, sure they give a story, and some background.  However its not in your face from the very beginning, and you can tell that large parts of the game are unfinished because of it.  Towns, npcs, quests, and items aside, if it has no background to me its a two dimensional place with no purpose.

I still play Vanguard, and I love the game, despite its problems.  It is a beautiful game, with so much to work with, but its lore was broken from the beginning.  Its got all these races and factions and stuff seems incoherent, and out of place, and to me more then anything else, is the most disappointing thing about VG.

A great game will stand out because the lore will pull you in.  You step into the game for the first time, and bam its in your face.  A dark elf defending his city from a race of high elves that think they are an abomination, and want to wipe them off the planet.  Your god imbues you with strength to withstand the the incoming army.  Or (VG reference)  A dwarf getting his first mission to patrol the paths at night, with hordes of skeletons roaming the night, invading your homelands.  Your people making their final stand in their greatest fortress, but even their numbers can't hold out for ever against an army of undead.  You get jumped by 10 skeletons and up rides a Dwarf Paladin on (his warthog, stupid f'n racial mounts) and hacks them down saving your soul from damnation, his armor emanating with the protection of his god.

I just think its time that games start actually building their games by designing lore, and adding what makes sense and cutting the rest.  Building on those stories and stop throwing crap in willy nilly, which helps nothing.  Concentrate less on massive amounts of crappy content, and sticking with a story line full of rich, complete, and fulfilling content.  At the end of a lore driven quest line, giving a great item that you can show off and people will be like he worked hard to get that and learned alot about his people along the way, (or another race if he was helping them out).  Stick to your guns when it comes to faction, if two races hate each, make damn sure they can't go into each other's city without working hard to do so.

I think subconsciously people follow good story lines and want to see the end of the quest lines, and when they have these quests with, kill me 100 worms, they start to become withdrawn from the game rather then be immersed.  I honestly believe this can be a suboncscious push to quit the game, instead of being invested in your character and advancement within the game.

 

Just some thoughts on an issue thats been bothering me lately.  Also, I am not an RP'r, I just like a good story, and background to what I am doing in game and why I am doing it.

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