Give me entertainment, or give me death! Well, or take my money at least, but I do actually want something in return. I'd like some kind of entertainment I can sink my teeth into. Movies end after a couple hours, books are read in a few days, most single player games only last a few more, but MMOs last as long as my interest is kept. I re-purchase an MMO every month and game studios can rake in my money for years if they play their cards right.
I can honestly say that I've been wandering aimlessly from MMO to MMO for the last few years. I've become a professional beta tester and have participated in almost every beta in the industry since DDO beta. Nothing, however, seems to keep my interest. Am I outgrowing the gamer mentality? Am I loosing my geekness? Am I becoming frugal? Am I being too picky? No, I don't think so, I'm becoming smarter. I seem to see through the games now and can recognize the money pits that have taken place of entertainment these days. MMO's have been thrown at us in the last couple years that have no story, no plot, no background, and no point other than to collect my money. Other MMOs that started with a story and background have been hacked up by chop-shop studios and been served to us as games. Still others that had extended backgrounds and detailed plots have been developed with the money maker concepts first and fans last.
As one company introduced a noob friendly version of an RPG, other studios simply try to reproduce it to see if they can make money from the same audience. Releases are rushed pushing large quantities of bug filled code onto gamer machines for the sake of making money. Companies believe that making controls changes to standard control templates makes for unique gameplay. The word 'soon' has become the industry standard dev response to game-making and game-breaking fixes, and adding a 'TM' to it has also become one of the worst ever-lasting non-funny jokes I can ever remember. Can you imagine buying a refridgerator that doesn't have shelves? 'It works, and keeps things cold doesn't it? We'll give you the bells and whistles sometime soon.' Or could you imagine buying a car with no seats? 'Hey, it looks great, runs good, and you can play with all the cool electronics. Here, use this milk crate to sit on for now. Look for the seats in our next update.'
A new trend on game-site forums is devs arguing with beta testers on what they will like. I read one this week that had 20+ posters all agreeing (that's impressive in itself) that a minor decrease to an arbitrary skill requirement needed to be made to just one quest because max leveled toons were having a tough time with it, and a dev chimed in just to say 'you are wrong, I made it that way'. So one developer is making desicions that will affect all potential customers and isn't keeping the players entertainment in mind, just making it as frustrating as he can. Worse even still, he has been given the authority to do so. Kind of reminds me of Brad McQuaid (Vanguard): 'Oh, but he's such a gaming genious.' Side note: I was so sick of reading that guy's name and the decisions he was making during VG Beta that I actually quit because of it. Yeah, he's freakin' brilliant...
Players aren't much better though these days either. We used to work together to figure out how to beat bosses, or use each others data to create reference guides for the population, or even to brainstorm on what game mechanics we'd like to see in the next update. Now, most game forums have been turned into a uber vs noob flame wars where you're more likely to read a contructive post followed by 25 posts filled with 'you suxxors n00b!!11' One beta forum that I'm currently in contains no guide, faq, or any other detailed info on how to play the game, or help for fixing a certain technical issues, or anything constructive - just troll posts. It's sad, but it's quite possible that dumbing down games is the only way to build a successful (i.e. money making) MMO these days. I don't necessarily want to play a successful MMO though, I want to play an entertaining one.
I'll attempt to provide thoughts in future posts on how to provide entertainment to the masses. First and foremost though, all MMO development studios should look at the definition of entertainment: 'Entertainment is an activity designed to give pleasure or relaxation to an audience.' - Wikipedia.