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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: The Problem No One’s Talking About

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Elite Member

Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 3039

11/03/12 2:16:16 PM#101
Originally posted by elocke
Originally posted by Burntvet
Originally posted by Foomerang


Forum members get their sandbox threads locked because "we already have a sandbox discussion thread". Then the Managing Editor writes a column about the same things that mods normally shut down and titles it, "The problem no one is talking about". Well Bill, we would talk about it if your moderating staff would let us. And no, necroing some all encompassing thread wont cut it. Especially when countless combat or quest system threads gets put on a pedestal.

And not only that...

But it also seems that all of the reviewers here and at other sites also seem to miss most of what is in this article, too... when they are writing the review/preview of theme park of the moment and almost uniformly give all AAA games high marks...

So, a game can be missing all kinds of systems giving a game longetivity and deep game play, as mentioned in the article, and still score in the high 8s/low 9s? Even though because of this we have seen the population crashes 2-3 months after launch?

Seems to me a good bit of that could be mentioned during reviews (and isn't).

But these games continue to get high marks anyway...

I wonder why... (not really).


Not really fair to be honest considering we as humans always review or rate/grade a product when we try it.  In the case of MMORPGs, they really can't be fully graded until one has hit that "plateau" of gameplay where they feel they have experienced enough of the game to be an expert on it.  At THAT point is when we should review and score these games.  Otherwise, everyone sits in the honeymoon phase hopped up on the newest shiny game to come out the door.  They are all great for that first "hit".  It's whether they get stale or not that counts with these types of games and again, the review process either needs to wait till "one character completion" is hit or a certain timeframe has passed.

I could accept that if it happened occasionally, but every single time?

When it is the biggest budget games (that also "coincidentally" have the highest marketing budgets) that always get very high review scores, despite glaring deficiencies, that is somthing else entirely. And then the population crash... and all the reviewers couldn't see anything wrong?

To my mind, an MMO scoring a high 8 /low 9 should not lose 80% or more of the player base in the first 3-6 months. For that to happen, the reviewers are plain not doing their job, or are so incompetent that they miss or ignore the obvious and serious shortcomings a game has, in order to give it that high score (and a score higher than the average player review).

TOR is only the most recent example, the review page of this site is loaded with examples of the same.



Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/11/08
Posts: 184

Know Thyself

11/03/12 3:39:42 PM#102
Originally posted by Gdemami


Originally posted by ompgaming

Why don't the MMO developers get this? 


They do get it, it is Bill who is missing by a mile tho...


How do you figure?  Bill plainly states the concept and its rarely if ever seen in games.  So how do you figure that the devs do get it and Bill doesn't?

Above all else... never ever piss off the penguin.


Novice Member

Joined: 7/21/12
Posts: 67

11/03/12 3:44:46 PM#103
I have so much hope for Neverwinter... it will hurt twice as much if it fails.

Hard Core Member

Joined: 5/28/04
Posts: 699

11/03/12 3:46:17 PM#104
I'm not sure Neverwinter is a good example. From all of the news releases, everyone gushes about the Foundry but I haven't really heard very much about the game itself.  95% systems, 5% game isn't going to cut it.  Maybe use some examples for games that have better coverage or are released.

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/23/08
Posts: 8004

11/04/12 1:32:43 AM#105

Originally posted by ompgaming

How do you figure?  Bill plainly states the concept and its rarely if ever seen in games.  So how do you figure that the devs do get it and Bill doesn't?

As pointed out before, Bill is talking business with gamer perception. Leaving all business aspect of MMO development aside.

It is a typical "games needs to change to suit my desires otherwise whole industry is doomed". Just written slightly better than average "sanbox fans" do on the site.

Why it is rarely seen in games? Because business people get it that it does not work that way :)


Advanced Member

Joined: 10/18/05
Posts: 407

11/04/12 3:17:33 AM#106

Excellent and well thought article Bill.....

When I think back at the most intresting and fun games, were the ones that were hybrid in nature,, Thempark AND sandbox, MMORPG and combines FPS, (MMOFPS) as opposed to tab clicking only games

Look at Battlezone and battlezone 2, great games, hybrids. Some Bioware games had mini games that were hybrid in nature.

Look at SWTOR, why not make a few "emtpy" worlds like SWG so to speak, and let people build on them, and still combine the story with the core worlds of the game


Its as if things are to compartmentalized. its a sure box formula........predictable, dont mix it up


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/02/10
Posts: 1566

11/04/12 3:33:15 AM#107

Totally agree with the atrticle. In fact, I've been yelling this for years now...

With the huge improvements in memory and graphics, a lot of devs have forgotten that even video games are still games, first and foremost... And games mean game design, what you would call "systems design" nowadays.

For the past 10 years I've been seeing developers sinking vast amounts of money into "content" without ever a passing glance at what makes this content tick... and then act all surprised that players are not impressed. A shining example of this was the initial fiasco with Warhammers RvR... any armchair PnP wargame designer worth his salt could have pointed out to Mythic exactly why their game won't work as they imagined using only a few bits of paper and a couple of dice. SWTOR is another - a fail in concept if I ever saw one. What is the goal of this game, what is it supposed to evoke in the players? If your answer is "tightly directed story like in the movies" then you can see how incompatible it is with the idea of massively multiplayer and subscription paying to boot...

On the other hand of the spectrum you have small indie games which have "inexplicably" grown to massive success... and what is behind each of those games? Extremely well thought out game design (pardon me "systems design"). It's not about piling up ever more money into shinies anymore, the market is too saturated for that. After the massive failure of SWTOR even the old school developers "video games = movies with something to do with your fingers" are beginning to change their stance, thankfully.


Elite Member

Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 7205

11/04/12 10:00:34 AM#108
Originally posted by muffins89
Originally posted by Ozivois
They need to slow down level progression - that will add more time to subs.  Lower experience gain to a minimum so that players have to spend inordinate amounts of time in every area of the world. Offer raids for every ten levels. Limit daily experience gain.  Make it so that rare level 20 armor is worth looking for because you will be able to use it for another month as you work your way to level 30...

didn't they speed it up to avoid being called 'a korean ginder'?


Big difference between a korean grinder as you call it and slowing down the leveling progression.  Even when Wow came out it took you a good 3 months to level a character to 60.  When the average user can level to end game in less than a month it is way too fast, it is a good way to kiss most of your playerbase goodbye in a few months.  I would go as far as saying they need to limit daily progression.   Any developer that has fast leveling is shooting themselves in the foot because people will just tear through content and ignore much of it and you had better hope you have lots of end game entertainment in such a case, which we all know just does not happen.

The big issue here is fluff which includes voice overs, cut scenes, etc. that does nothing to enhance gaming systems.  It usually does not get much of a return for the investment as Bioware has found out.  I will bet that is one of the reasons that Curt Schillings enterprise died on the vine, too many people just doing fluff, why else would they need 400 people.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 8/24/06
Posts: 3340

11/04/12 10:08:48 AM#109

I agree with Bill 100% on this article.  Another thing that noone talks about, is the players.  Players and community are what sets MMOs apart from other genres.  In today's games the community is nowhere as good as it used to be.  Noone talks to each other, noone has to trade with each other, noone has to party with each other (at least with anyone they'll ever see again.).  The old MMOs caused everyone to respect and honor everyone.  If you didn't you were an outcast, and shunned bye almost everyone. 


Ashen Empires comes to mind.  In most part, everyone was friendly and nice to each other.  Guilds formed unofficial alliances.  People played as mercenaries, helping if a guild paid them.  And even a very few people liked playing the outcast role.   They would grief, full loot, corpse camp, and run for thier lives when a policing guild got word of thier wrong doing.


In Today's MMOs, this would never ever work.  The community is too caught up about "me" to care about some poor guy that just got all his gear looted because a small gang of ruffians killed him.  There would be no policing guilds, no friendly people who would go help kill them and get his gear back.  In Today's MMOs, you're lucky if you get to talk to someone that isn't in your friends list or guild. 


Another thing that new MMOs have done has become really quickly over.  This comes to Bill's System section.   MMOs today, take maybe a week without trying to hit cap.  Old MMOs took months or even years to complete.  Usually by then, there was an expansion with new content coming out, for most players.  DAoC comes to mind here.  It used to be that levels 40-50 took you at least a week, if you played non-stop, but generally took a month or more.  When you finally hit 50, everyone cheered you, because it was a real achievement.  In today's MMOs, you hit 90, 50, 20, or whatever the case may be, there really isn't any celebration.   All you get is a "grats" in guild chat maybe...they can't even give you the time for a "congratulations".  I remember when I first hit 50 in DAoC, my guild threw a party for me, and a few others that hit 50 that week.  In today's MMOs, there is no sense of accomplishment.  This is one of the reasons why some players play a MMO for 2 months, then they're done.  After 2 months, there is nothing else to do.  You have the best gear, you've completed all the quests and dungeons.  You've been on ever raid and defeated every challenge. 


There's no reason for you to stick around, since you've done everything, and there's no community to talk to.  In old MMOs, I used to sit around and chat with people while standing in a bank, or guild house.  In today's MMOs, there is no talking.  I almost feel sometimes like I accidently turned off chat and almost have to check to make sure I didn't.


Elite Member

Joined: 5/29/04
Posts: 729

Leader and founder of the Excessum Gaming Community

11/04/12 10:47:30 AM#110
Originally posted by strangiato2112
Originally posted by Entris38

Thank you........I hadn't even realized how much has been cut out that I enjoyed.......

Quick,someone forward this to SOE for EQNext!

EQ2 is the game that closest resembles what Bill was getting at.  No other current MMORPG is even in the same ballpark as EQ2 for this stuff.  The most robust housing in MMO history?  check (yes, its not open world like UO or SWG.  but you can do more with it than even UO).  Player made dungeons?  check (albeit they still need some work, the framework is there).


SoE is embracing player made content and systems.  They even tried player created quests in SWG.  However, this is all being done on an existing framework, as opposed to building the game with it.  EQNext is going to be built along side this sort of thing.

I agree the only issue with Eq2 i have atm is that the game is very very old and is way past its prime, combat system could be more dynamic as well in this day and age. After Tera ppl got spoiled :P


(Retired)- Anarchy Online/Ultima Online/DAoC/Horizonsz/EQ2/SWG/AC1&2/L2/SoR/WoW/TMO/Requiem/Atlantica Online/Manibogi/Rift+(SL)/Lol/Hon/SWTOR/Wakfu/Champions Online/GW/Lotr/CO/TcoS/Tabula Rasa/Meridian 59/Vanguard/Shadowbane/Fury/SotW/Dreamlords/HGL/RoM/DDO/FFXI/Aoc/Eve/Warhammer Online/Gw2/TSW/Tera/Defiance/STO/AoW/DE/Firefall/Darkfall/Neverwinter/PS2


Advanced Member

Joined: 9/04/10
Posts: 12

11/04/12 11:40:44 AM#111
Player made content is great, but I think mmo's need to start making the mmo just for a certain type of player and just aim for those people. Only then will players be able to find that one mmo that they love and stick to it. I miss the days of camping one area, having a great class system that required more then just a tank, healer, and dps you needed a support class that slowed, debuffed and did CC just so you could make it through the fight since the mobs were made to be overly hard. Most mmos today I feel like I spend the whole time running, then one month later onto the next mmo and more freaking running. The classes are weak or boring everything gets boiled down to tank, healer, and dps. And no one talks to anyone else since, one you level way to easy and fast and two you spend more time running around then staying in one area killing to experiance the area. And instead of making something to prevent this mmo companies are perfecting this kill faster keep running don't stop starting to feel like an ADD squirrel on meth....

“Do not argue with an idiot they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
Mark Twain


Novice Member

Joined: 4/28/10
Posts: 48

11/04/12 2:56:22 PM#112
The problem with the sub model is both WoW and the $15/mo. Since most 'aaa' mmo's made in the last few years are really just WoW clones why should players pay $15 a month for a wow clone when they can just play wow? Developers are hung up on the $15 a month cause wow gets away with it.. Why not stop being greedy and killing your own games and charge $5 a month and use a cash shop for cosmetics? Nooooo, they would rather go 15 a month and kill the game when players say screw this after 3 months. Think about it.. $15x12= $180 a year!! Plus 60 for expansion packs! You could be buying 3-4 brand new games a year for the price of $15 a month.. Now if your sub is only $5 a month thats $60 a year, box cost of 1 new game.. You could still buy 2 brand new games a year while paying a sub.. Play these games while you wait for content patches.. Which would granted be slowwer with leas revenue, but you also wouldnt get burnt out because you got money for 2 other games to play!!

Basically, IMHO, I believe the majority of developers are too blinded by greed and killing the genre themselves.

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/23/08
Posts: 8004

11/04/12 3:29:14 PM#113

Originally posted by Militant

Why not stop being greedy and killing your own games and charge $5 a month and use a cash shop for cosmetics?

People will not play your game because it is cheaper, you only lose money that way.

That is not how it works.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/31/04
Posts: 363

11/04/12 4:05:14 PM#114
Originally posted by orbitxo
Originally posted by ShakyMo
The problem is company execs keep seeing the "10 million" playing wow and think if we make a game like wow and only pull 1 in 10 of those people we will make more money. We just have to make a game like wow with a couple of things that are missing from it.

Hence you get all these wow with a twist games. E.g.

Lotro - wow with rp features
Rift - wow with rifts and free spec switching
Swtor - wow with personal story
War - wow with rvr and pqs
Aoc - wow with action combat and boobies
Tsw - wow with puzzles, story, semi action combat and skill based progression
Tera - wow with action combat and bams
TESO - wow with rvr and open dungeons?
Nw - wow with player made dungeons?

twist games. E.g. ...with Better wow graphics.


Not even sure how to respond to this post.. TSW is nothing like Wow not even close no clue where you came up with half these games being like Wow....


I also see you forget to mention "THE PRECIOUS" because if anything that game should also be on your list if TSW is lol.....


Elite Member

Joined: 2/12/12
Posts: 1524

11/04/12 5:52:19 PM#115
Originally posted by Gdemami


Originally posted by Bill Murphy

The problem is MMOs by their very nature are dependent upon players sticking around in game for months or years at a time. 


And this premise is based on...?


The fact that MMOs have been, since their creation, experiences based on long-term, on-going adventure, not short term, "beat it and move on", console-style gameplay... which is what they've largely become.

This is why you have people who are still playing games like Anarchy Online, EQ1, AC1, DAoC, FFXI and so forth all these years later - and still enjoying them. Because they offered that kind of depth and longevity in their experiences. It's why, even with all these other new games on the market now, they still remain playing them.


The problem is MMOs in the last several years have moved away from that; surely the result of big companies getting involved that had no clue about the genre they were getting into. They were just trying to get a piece of Blizzard's pie.


No, it's not "because they've put so much time into playing them and don't want to give up". I know that's a popular canned argument intended to undermine the long-term success and "keeping power" of those older MMOs. It's just a very poor and lazy one. When people are no longer finding enough enjoyment to continue paying for a game, they stop playing. No one spends years sticking with a voluntary activity they get no joy out of.


They stick with those games because they provide, among other things, the kind of elements that Bill touches on in his article. Systems. On-going, self-sustaining activities where the players are part of the content and of the experience. These are the kinds of experiences that true MMO communities build around - you know, the kind that us "old MMO fogeys" love to go on about? They develop because such systems require player interaction. When people interact, they get to know each other, they build online friendships, people become known across servers and, lo and behold, communities grow.


I see people trying to argue that it's perfectly reasonable for MMO-hopping to happen and that games should be created to support that (mostly through the F2P/Cash Shop model). I could not disagree with this more wholeheartedly. The fact that MMO hopping exists is a sign modern MMOs have failed to create or capture the kind of experience playing the 1st and 2nd generation MMOs was. It's a symptom of a bigger problem.


I gotta say, between Smedley's seemingly revelatory statements about the direction they're taking with EQNext (however much you can believe anything Smedley says), articles like Bill's showing up, and the amount of agreement I see in many of the follow-up comments... it seems maybe.. just maybe... developers are starting to slowly get it again. And maybe.. just maybe... we can get back to having MMORPGs that are true long-term experiences again, and not just short-term, throw away "games".


One can dream.


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Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

11/04/12 6:46:07 PM#116
Good article Bill, glad to see you come over to the dark side.

Best thing is these two ideas work well for any type of MMO,and likely appeal to a large segment of the market place.

In my day MMORPG's were sooooo hard we fought our way through dungeons in the snow....uphill both ways.
Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon


Novice Member

Joined: 6/15/09
Posts: 193

11/05/12 1:35:59 AM#117
Originally posted by achesoma

I have to disagree about WoW being a fluke.  It was the first of its kind to be friendly to new MMOers.  It had a very low learning curve and most of its content was easily accessible.  I remember when I first started SWG in 2003 and it took me a good 2 months to learn the ins and outs of that game.  Now I can jump into any current MMO and learn all I need to know in less than a hour. 

WoW did to MMOs what Starbucks did to coffee.  Starbucks got the masses to drink coffee that normally didn't like coffee.  And it's not really the coffee most people like about Starbucks, it's all the sweet, flavored crap they pour into it.  WoW did the same to MMOs.  It's not the MMO part of WoW people like, it's the Skinner box method of getting players hooked on their epic shineys and they can't let go.  Most don't give a flip about any true social aspects of MMOs.  People that truly enjoy the MMORPG aspect are unfortunately in the minority.  A fluke?  I think not.  It was a brilliant business strategy. 

Your analysis is worthy of noble slow clap.

*slow clap*

So the question becomes; how do we close Pandoras box?

Virtual shiney rehab centers?

Kumbaya Online...a new horizon.


"Train by day, Joe Rogan podcast by night, all day!"


Elite Member

Joined: 10/29/07
Posts: 17684

11/05/12 2:38:13 AM#118
Originally posted by Ozivois
They need to slow down level progression - that will add more time to subs.  Lower experience gain to a minimum so that players have to spend inordinate amounts of time in every area of the world. Offer raids for every ten levels. Limit daily experience gain.  Make it so that rare level 20 armor is worth looking for because you will be able to use it for another month as you work your way to level 30...

In that case I think it might be better to get rid of levels altogether.

Let gear have stat and skill requirements instead of level and give out a stat point or skill instead of levels.

Being level 15 of 80 kinda stresses people out today. And it really hurts character customization as well. 


Novice Member

Joined: 11/28/11
Posts: 29

11/05/12 2:50:08 AM#119

I think a lot of people are forgetting that one of the major reasons the old school MMOs had much more longevity was because of the incredible GRINDING that most (all?) of those MMOs had incorporated into leveling, gaining rare equipment, etc.  So let's not be too quick to praise these games for their longevity. 


Wasn't it we, the MMO community, who complained about the whole grinding issue and beat it into the ground in the first place? That's probably one of the main reasons why MMO developers are making games the way they are now - anything that feels like a "grind" has become taboo, and thus developers feel compelled to give us instant rewards for minimal effort. The result is players, especially the more hardcore MMO players, burn through content quickly and move on. This is, in my opinion, the core reason why this problem even exists. We complained about grinding, and developers came up with an inadequate solution.


Developers need to think of new ways to keep us occupied. Sandbox features and player developed content are a great way to do this, for sure. But there are other solutions as well. A truly dynamic themepark MMO in which the content and make-up of the world is entirely dependent on the interaction between numerous world events, for example, could potentially keep a large number of players in a themepark enviornment engaged for a very long time. 


Another issue is that developers are too enamored with the concept of creating a "personal story" for players. In an MMO, the focus needs to be on the community, not the individual. Personal stories make it so that players feel like they are "done" once their personal story is complete, and have no need or desire to help or interact with others (unless it is a friend or guild mate). What we need is a "group story". Maybe on a server-by-server basis... something that tells of the actions and achievements of the community as a whole, in a very specific way - mentioning guilds and characters that were influential, etc. Hopefully then, people will feel as if they're a part of something greater that is continually evolving and isn't necessarily "done" when they reach max level or whatever.


Sadly, in the end, developers are in it for the money, and what they're doing right now is making money. So real solutions won't come until the players demand it with their wallets. Or until some indie game company creates some kick-ass game out of their love for the genre. 


Advanced Member

Joined: 10/15/12
Posts: 911

11/05/12 2:52:46 AM#120
Originally posted by strangiato2112
Originally posted by Entris38

Thank you........I hadn't even realized how much has been cut out that I enjoyed.......

Quick,someone forward this to SOE for EQNext!

EQ2 is the game that closest resembles what Bill was getting at.  No other current MMORPG is even in the same ballpark as EQ2 for this stuff.  The most robust housing in MMO history?  check (yes, its not open world like UO or SWG.  but you can do more with it than even UO).  Player made dungeons?  check (albeit they still need some work, the framework is there).


SoE is embracing player made content and systems.  They even tried player created quests in SWG.  However, this is all being done on an existing framework, as opposed to building the game with it.  EQNext is going to be built along side this sort of thing.


I agree but find it strange that Bill never mentions EQ2 but talks about GW2 which is far away from what he is talking about. EQ2 is the closest example of what bill is talking about. Then you have games like Vanguard which has some very nice features nope it dose not have player made content but it doesn't need to have it. It has a vast amount of content that is right up there with EQ2, it would also take a noob months to level and with diplomacy and crafting it would take a good year. Seems to me that the OP is talking about features that some MMOs already have if people choose not to play them and go for the souless content lacking games like GW2 then its there problem.

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