MMOs are a weird beast when it comes to videogames. With your typical video game you can shell out $60, get between 8 and 20 hours of enjoyment out of it and be done with it, moving onto the next game that will be released in just a couple weeks. When it comes to an MMO, you’re being asked to commit yourself to a longer period of time, and everything in the game is geared towards encouraging you to play longer and longer.
The weirdest part about this is anticipating a new MMO coming out. We’ve all done it, saw a new MMO that struck our fancy just right and started dreaming about what it was going to be like to play it. You go in with aspirations of hitting the level cap, playing the endgame, mastering the pvp ladder, doing all the things. You also know that this is going to be longer than your typical single player run through. This is going to be a commitment.
You might start clearing the decks before New MMO comes out. This means finishing up games that you have not had a chance to, because when that new MMO hits you won’t have time to go back and finish; it’s going to be New MMO all day, every day. Of course MMOs are more fun if your friends play, so there is that to do as well: recruiting.
You start selling your friends on New MMO. You become a PR masterclass alum slipping into casual conversations tidbits that you know your friends are going to like about New MMO, tidbits tailored exactly to their taste. You extoll upon them the classes, the mechanics, show them screenshots on your tiny phone, all in the effort to get them to play this game with you. You pitch your guild name and possible raiding schedule. You tell them who else they have lined up to play already, and hope that those people are doing the same thing to their friends. The more the merrier!
It’s kinda weird if you think about it. It’s like knowing you have a guaranteed relationship with someone you are incredibly attracted to months before they even meet you. You play out every date in your head, what you’ll say, and how you think they’ll react. You know you are perfect for one another, so you plan out the wedding, start naming your kids and/or pets, and even eyeballing that nice community in Florida you want to retire to.
And just like dating, reality sometimes doesn’t live up to the fantasy. New MMO may not have launched as robust as the developers promised, with missing features “coming soon”. There might be some mechanic about your chosen role that bugs you to no end. There could be a whole host of bugs that are not game-breaking in the way that developers will drop everything to fix them, but game-breaking enough for you and your class to make playing the game less-than-enjoyable.
You suddenly feel a pang of guilt. You recruited your friends to play this game! You try to like it, become blind to its flaws. You become a steadfast defender and evangelist for the game when no one else will. Three months have gone by and your recruited friends stopped logging in. It’s just you and whatever PUGs you can get made up of people like yourself.
Sometimes the anticipation leading up to a new MMO is more exciting than the new MMO itself. This is no different than any other game, but MMOs have unique twists. You recruit your friends to play with you. You make extraordinary time commitments to it for weeks or months on end. You aspire, lottery-style, of being the “best” or “first” at accomplishing something in-game.
Is any of this wrong? Of course not, but if we can recognize what we are doing, then we can stave off the possible guilt when the wheels inevitably come off. “You HAVE to play New MMO with me, check out these websites!” becomes “Hey, I’m pretty interested in New MMO, do you have any interest in checking it out with me? I can link you some websites with info.” See the difference? If the latter approach works then you might recruit less people to play with you, but their own interest level will be higher, which can mean they will stick around longer. And that’s a good thing!
What new MMO are you anticipating with bated breath? Are you actively recruiting your friends into it? Madly linking every preview article from MMORPG.com? Or are you taking a more measured approach this time, taking in information and gauging the interest levels of your friends before making the commitment? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Matt Miller / Matt Miller is a 22 year veteran of the computer game industry and columnist for MMORPG.com. He was Lead Designer for City of Heroes over five years, and has "seen it all" when it comes to MMOs (but still learns something new every day). You can always reach him on twitter @MMODesigner.