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.