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News & Features Discussion  » General: Massey Asks Why Not Let MMOs Grow?

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Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

OP  10/01/09 3:30:19 PM#1

Would you support an MMO that started small, but strongly and then grew over time? With a few attitude adjustments from fans, media and developers, maybe this could be possible.

Dana Massey

What’s worse is that fans, media – and let’s be honest here – developers forget another important fact. These games evolve. People have short memories and if they look at any MMO as it exists today, they in some strange way assume it’s always been that way. World of Warcraft has had four years of development since it launched. Think about that. The features and quality you see today in World of Warcraft is essentially the product of a decade of the most well funded development time in the history of gaming. How can someone be expected to compete with that?

So my question to you players today is this: would you play, pay for and support an MMO that does a very small number of things very well in the hope that it will one day be as big and expansive as larger competitors?

Read it all here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  User Deleted
10/01/09 3:39:46 PM#2

Honestly my trust in dev's has become such that I know most of them cannot be trusted in this manner while there are games that have done just what you said there are in my estimation many more that have done just the opposite they've treaded along just about the same as they were at launch, while I have experienced WOW and have seen many of the changes it experienced WOW is not the norm another game that comes to mind is LOTRO they have done an awesome job of expanding on the orignial game with and without expansions but again there seem to be many more games out like SWG,AOC that keep the carrot in front  of your face promising to make changes fixes and additions but delivering very little and as I've stated in other posts they just send a Craig or Smed out to lie and say things are not bad and we have no choice but to go with what they say no matter what.  So I''m getting closer and closer to the point where it is obvious who out here is capable of creating a decent game and building it up from there and if you don't fall into that category I'm not chasing your carrot.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/09/08
Posts: 1086

10/01/09 3:43:13 PM#3

I plan on being there wiith SV as Mortal Online grows.  This game has HUGE potential.


Novice Member

Joined: 8/04/06
Posts: 664

10/01/09 3:47:19 PM#4

While I definitely agree that some companies should try to start with a "focused" MMO and grow on it for a smaller fee, I think the big problem is this: the reason most people leave a game is due to the core game itself.

While people might complain about game X not having feature Y that they promised to have, a player doesn't buy a game, install it, play it and then go "well, the game is great, but it doesn't have X, so I'm not going to play it anymore" (except perhaps in the case of AoC where it was supposed to have DX10 at launch and didn't...). They stop playing because the core game is flawed.

The thing that even a small MMO would need would be a "core," which is probably the hardest thing to develop when you have to keep in mind that the core must be able to expand. It's hard to program something and then just slap in additional code (at least, not without causing your programmers to jump off of a very tall bridge to escape the pain). Even something that seems as simple as an auction house has to take the codes of every single item in the game into consideration, and then organize it, allow that information to transfer safely AND display correctly on an AH, and then transfer it to the player who bought it. If the items and core aren't programmed to shift "real" items into a "non-real" version and then back into its original and "real" state elsewhere, then you have to completely rewrite the item system (and likely even the core).

That's why when a game has an expansion or patch, they travel into new areas. "Hey, we can mess around with the core and codes without messing around with the original stuff!" So while yes, a game could have expansions that bring in new features (as most already do), you still need a solid core, and that requires a lot of time and money.

Plus the question becomes: why pay for a core, when there are other MMOs out there with a core and X, Y and Z features? Most players would rather wait until a later time when the features finally show up.


Novice Member

Joined: 3/04/04
Posts: 748

That is just my opion and we all know what THAT is good for!

10/01/09 3:53:32 PM#5
Originally posted by jaxsundane

Honestly my trust in dev's has become such that I know most of them cannot be trusted in this manner while there are games that have done just what you said there are in my estimation many more that have done just the opposite they've treaded along just about the same as they were at launch, while I have experienced WOW and have seen many of the changes it experienced WOW is not the norm another game that comes to mind is LOTRO they have done an awesome job of expanding on the orignial game with and without expansions but again there seem to be many more games out like SWG,AOC that keep the carrot in front  of your face promising to make changes fixes and additions but delivering very little and as I've stated in other posts they just send a Craig or Smed out to lie and say things are not bad and we have no choice but to go with what they say no matter what.  So I''m getting closer and closer to the point where it is obvious who out here is capable of creating a decent game and building it up from there and if you don't fall into that category I'm not chasing your carrot.


Not necessarily a Wall of Text but definately more like a huge freakin stone of text all jumbled together into one continuous stream of thought that should have bnded somewherein the middle but I got a headache and could not make it through the whole thing thanks for trying to get your pointacross but I think it was lost in the translation from brain to keyboard.


OK, that aside.  I would tend to give my time, money, and effort to an indy game that is doing what was going through the growing pains in the OP.  FE is right on the cusp of just such a game.  The feeling you get from them in their interviews is basically just what you are stating.  They were indie so had to focus on some core gameplay.  Once that is done well they then switch gears to expansion and so forth.


However, I also have confidence in Cryptic Studios.  They have shown that they can build upon a decent game and improve some minor flaws that were exponentially blown up when the number of swubscriptions were increased.  You can also look at this as they tend to release the game a bit early to recoup some dev costs while they continue to polish.  Meh, cup half empty cup half full.

Say hello, To the things you've left behind. They are more a part of your life now that you can't touch them.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/19/04
Posts: 134

10/01/09 4:30:09 PM#6

If a game came out that did a few things really really well I'd be all for supporting it.  Especially if the developer understood that their product wasn't comparable to the big studios and did not charge like it was.  Starting with a base subscription model of $4.99 US for instance and then increasing the price as new features are added would be sweet.

Having the option to opt out of features for a modified subscription cost would also be a nice option.  Say I like to PvE but they add a PvP option to the game.  Perhaps arena based so that it's a part of the game you have the option to play but will never notice is missing if you don't.  If I want to continue without the module being enabled then that's all fine.  If I want to PvP in arena then maybe I pay $7.99 a month instead.  The module is enabled and I then have access to PvP.  It's a pricing model that many coporate applications have for accounting systems and other business applications.  Everything is installed and options are enabled based on the subscription model.



Novice Member

Joined: 11/24/04
Posts: 2

10/01/09 4:39:01 PM#7

I really don't think that most players would stomach the idea of increased fees as content increases.  While I personally think having a game that is solid but simple for a smaller fee is ok, sadly I think most players would simply feel that they are Entitled to get an ever improving, ever increasing gaming experience for the same low fee, and would balk at the idea of having to increase their payment as the game began to flesh out and become a great project.

Had WOW started at $5/month, I don't think people would be willing to pay $15/month simply because 3 expansions have come out, even with the growth and changes to the game.


Personally though, I like indy games, they tend to offer things that the mainstream has either forgotten about or is unwilling to risk attempting.

(as a side note, I hate EA for burying E&B.. dumb dumb dumb.)


Novice Member

Joined: 6/23/09
Posts: 2728

10/01/09 4:50:35 PM#8

Why are people not happy when release is missing items? Two very simple reasons. First because you just bought the game and are paying monthly. Where as if you waited until those features were in you'd probably get a free trial, free game and only have the monthly fee. So you are paying more for less. This works into reason two, there are already games out there that have all the features, have fewer bugs, and have better balance and they only require the monthly fee at this point. So why pay more (because of the box fee) for a game that has less?


It really is that simple, if you want to bust into a market then you had better provide more then what is already there, not less. It is not the player's fault that investors didn't grasp how long it was until the game was going to be released and thus force it out the door to see some returns before it is ready.



As for Global Agenda I doubt I will ever play it, I could get the same type of action in Halo or a number of other FPS games and not pay a subscription fee. Where as I would pay for Planetside 2 because it involves stuff that changes in the world 24/7, but even there they had better do it right other wise I wouldn't pay for it for very long because once again I could just go play any other shooter I have without a sub fee (I see that as the MMOFPS problem overall really).


I would however pay to play an Indie game from a small company that does not have as many features as one of the big boys. Because with a company like that you are helping bring new names in the industry, and since it is most likely their only game they will keep all their focus on improving and maintaining it. Darkfall is not an example of this though.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/03/09
Posts: 1839

10/01/09 4:52:25 PM#9

You hear a lot of people say, "Well <insert game> wasn't that good at launch, it took them years to get that good." The problem with that argument is that while that is true, new developers have had those same years to learn from that MMO's success and failures. The idea is to do just that, learn from their successes and failures, not make excuses that "that game didn't have this feature at launch, so we don't either."

As consumers, we buy products based off of value/$. If a AAA game with a laundry list of features is charging full box price and full subscription price, what makes a person think that we want to pay the same for a product that is inferior value/$. In this case, an inferior product is one that is less technically sound, has less features, and less support. So as the author said, the first step a company takes is by lowering the barrier to entry for their product. Don't charge full box price and then turn around and charge full subscription price, just because it's the market standard.

My next point is directed to what constitutes a finished product. While every MMO gamer knows a MMO's is constantly under development, this doesn't give developers the liscense to release unfinished games. Who would buy a single player game that releases with only half it's content, with a promise to patch the rest in a month from now? A game, MMO or not, needs to be complete at launch. That full and complete game is worth a subscription because we are paying for a continuation for that content or features that are considered post-release features, not for content that should have been there at launch.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/24/03
Posts: 461

10/01/09 4:58:13 PM#10

It really is a catch-22.  We as players demand the polish and refinement that Blizzard achieved with WoW.  But at the same time, we demand innovation, creativity, and evolved gameplay mechanics of some sort.  I've come to believe you really can't have both.  I recently got in an argument with a player about Fallen Earth.  I commend the devs for sticking to their vision that just so happen to stray from the MMO norm in a variety of ways.   However, with these quirks came the price of polish and refinement.

And its funny.  Aion will get praised for its level of polish but blasted for its lack of innovation.  Fallen Earth will get criticised for the opposite.  It will be praised for being different and niche.  But it will also be blasted for the fact that it didn't have the AAA level of refinement that Blizzard and NCSoft can afford to adhere to.

CCP is a perfect example of a developer sticking to its guns and just building on top of what they released before.  Its one of the few MMOs out there that has maintained a steady growth since its release and it has benefited from it.  I don't think devs are doing a great job of understanding their general audience - outside of knowing that a large number of players are looking for the 'anti-wow' so to speak,  skewing  their projected subscriber number expectations.  I honestly believe EAMythic somewhere along the line expected at least a steady 500k subscribers and let development get out of hand and out of focus trying to make WAR a little bit of everything.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

OP  10/01/09 5:07:44 PM#11
Originally posted by streea

While I definitely agree that some companies should try to start with a "focused" MMO and grow on it for a smaller fee, I think the big problem is this: the reason most people leave a game is due to the core game itself.


Oh, I agree. The hypothetical was a situation where someone does something you like. There's no accounting for just a bad game, big or small ;)

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


Novice Member

Joined: 5/22/09
Posts: 42

10/01/09 5:38:50 PM#12

I think there's some incredibly linear thinking going on here.

The basic message here is "Why pay the same and get less, if there's a game out there that's already full-featured?"

The problem is that we're assuming that the list of features to be expected is written in stone. We're saying a game NEEDS to have a fantastic leveling experience, countless raids at the endgame, arena-based PvP, Auction House etc etc, and if it released without those things, then we're getting less than we pay for. But that's assuming we're talking about a WoW-clone here that's coming out with the same content as vanilla-WoW. In that case, yeah, why pay the full price for a vanilla-WoW-clone when you can get the real WoW for the same price?

But this whole thing seems incredibly backwards to me.

I'm willing to pay the full price, and get even less than vanilla-WoW offered in terms of scope, if I could get a rock-solid, small, kickass PvP game. I'm dying for a good PvP game. WoW isn't PvP. Warhammer, as it stands right now, doesn't provide that. I'd gladly pay the same amount of money, to get a small-scoped, but good, PvP game that will grow over the years and become even better. It doesn't have to have huge raids. Doesn't have to have a mind-blowing leveling experience, or even leveling at all. Doesn't have to have an AH at launch. But if it can pick one thing that you can't get anywhere else, and get that right, then it's worth my money.

I'm NOT willing to pay the full amount money for a Vanilla-WoW-Clone that may get good one day.

  User Deleted
10/01/09 5:46:09 PM#13

Dunno this article seems to be some sort of defense for Alganon or even Fallen Earth.

MMOs are lifestyles to many. If they start out with little, they have to expand rather quickly just to maintain interest. If you have enough content for a few months of casual play, the elite will be done in a few weeks time. I just don't see that as any way to gain momentum or even retain position.

Darkfall started off with a little content, some bugs, and a lot of controversy. It's expanded, fixed bugs, and the controversy is pretty dead. Dead because it is off peoples radar now.


Advanced Member

Joined: 11/11/08
Posts: 790

10/01/09 5:53:16 PM#14

Why not? I see a couple of big reasons, some of them related:

1. The market has proven it has no memory and insane tolerance for unfinished/buggy launches. If you can get away with releasing unfinished junk, recoup costs and pay off investors then the continuing revenue stream either goes to the next project or to papering over the cracks you left at launch, not "growth".

2. Hype - related to the above, promising the moon and beyond while delivering a small piece of cheese has become the normal business model. Most games spend a year+ (if not years!) just living up to what they already promised.

3. LCD, McMMO, dumbing down for the masses - growth would (pretty much automatically) require an actual direction and planned design other than the present trend of derivative/cloned gameplay and features.

4. BBD...bigger better deal...most players won't wait 3,6,9 months for features they want when by the time its added "newgameXX" will be out. I suspect "average" player retention times are going down across the board as people do more game-hopping than ever.

5. Lack of talent - not sure who to blame this one on, but let's face it: did all the good programmers get better jobs or something? The number of new games with significant issues that seem to be based in things like their network coding, server structure and the like - structural issues, not "polish" or content, is way too high.


Advanced Member

Joined: 1/30/05
Posts: 135

10/01/09 6:04:53 PM#15

Personally speaking I enjoy watching MMO's continue to grow, expand, even change the layout of the World (in this case include a "Cataclysm" to be able to do so).  To me that's what keeps an MMO a living dynamic thing, but that's just me and I really don't care about anyone else's take (mainly because most everyone probably disagrees...thus I just don't care)

drakonus777 Xfire Miniprofile

Novice Member

Joined: 12/23/07
Posts: 1097

10/01/09 6:05:25 PM#16

I would absolutely support a well done indy game with a small core, as long as that core gameplay was what I was looking for.

Unfortunately, what I am looking for is somewhere in between EQ and EQ II.

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
Benjamin Franklin


Novice Member

Joined: 6/07/07
Posts: 289

10/01/09 6:19:46 PM#17

The biggest flaw I've seen with most new MMO is they spend more time developing assets (graphics, animations) then the engine. If a game started with just the well polished engine and added assets after launch, I would play if it was type of game I like. This is Fallen Earth's plan but it's too PVP focused for my tastes. I also agree the monthly fee or patch fee would have to be implemented to offset development costs and that would be fine with me. Had Vanguard spent more time removing lag and stuck with 1 continent, it would of been a much better release.


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/09/04
Posts: 3610

If you can't kill it, don't make it mad.

10/01/09 6:27:09 PM#18

I quite agree with you Dana. We've seen how many games of great potential get the axe because the suits/investors ran around in panic? Not to mention the hysteria all too many players react with, if a game doesn't have all of the features and polish that WoW has... Having been in WoW since late beta, let me tell you that WoW didn't have all of that at launch either.

But expecting a rational/thoughtful response from the typical player is doomed to failure.  Don't even get me started on the lack of patience, ignorance and uncivilized behavior that has for far too long been the typical response of forum denizens.  That is NOT to excuse the poorly thought out designs, and sloppy coding thats also all too typical of many of todays half baked projects.

After some of the abuses of trust and faith that many of us have experienced, its understandable that we have become less tolerant of mistakes. Thats simply human nature. That having been said, new companies can't be expected to do everything right the first(or even the second time).  BUT if they are open with their player base, AND take pride in their work, AND demonstrate that they aren't doing this *just* for the money(which of course IS a motivating factor)  then the players who share their vision, should support them while they go through the "learning experiences" one has to expect with these HIGHLY complex suites of software and the underlying hardware. 

Keeping in mind that the players patience/toleration is NOT infinite... One of the better responses I've seen was CCP's. On making a howling mistake on one of their patches, they posted something along the lines of "Those responsible have been given a personal tour of the airlock". A company that can keep a sense of humor, and remain open with their players is going to have more leeway in the inevitable mistakes that WILL happen.  As for the suits/investors that panic at the slightest hint of problems, a smart company will have highly trained/experienced personnel whose task it is to hand hold, and feed them shiny tech demos on a regular basis.


Novice Member

Joined: 8/19/04
Posts: 68

10/01/09 7:10:39 PM#19

I agree with you, not all MMOs deserve a full monthly fee, and that maybe lowering it or even not having any, might have saved a few MMOs.

In this case I think of Tabula Rasa, it was a MMO that had potentials. I was in the closed beta you see and it was obvious the game was not up to the hype created by Garriott, the game lacked direction and assurely content, there was potentials true but it was a long way to get there. We were a few on the beta forums to tell the devs the game would tank if they were not doing something here and now, once players would realise during their fitst month of play they got conned. Who would keep paying the monthly fee after the first month? We said the game could get closed like Auto Assault if things kept going this way. We also added they should make the game like Guild Wars where you buy the box and pay no monthly fee. Like that people would keep buying the game, and playing the game, even if the game lacked stuff due to the lack of monthly fees, and the devs would get income through the box sales which is better than nothing, and use that income to improve the game. Guild Wars has sold millions of boxes after all, it's a thriving success, and I think it could have worked on Tabula Rasa too.

Of course the Lord British fanbois, and there were plenty of them I can assure you who were litteraly kissing his "divine" feet, told us time would prove us wrong and that TR would succeed with tons of subs and would be thriving. We all know how that ended, Tabula Rasa ended up having the same fate as Auto Assault like we predicted. And I find that sad because I can imagine how Tabula Rasa could have turned out in different circumstances but that never happened.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 6/26/05
Posts: 2644

10/01/09 7:29:18 PM#20

I love buying a car and being told that in 2 months or so I will get that drivers seat, but till then I can squat and still dive the car.  I can understand the end game content not being there at launch, but all the initial bells and whistles should.  If a current game has a feature (not content) then a game at release shoudl have it if it is intended for use at low level (banks, auction houses, etc.)  I would not buy a game for a console that was not finished why should my demands on a MMO be different.

It seems to me if a lot of the flim-flam game companies stop sucking up development money to make crap games and instead 3 or so game got all that cash to develop something nice we might get quality, innovative games.

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