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Cleffy Blog

With the experience of many mmos and years of experience I come to you investigating the inner workings of multiplayer environments.

Author: Cleffy

Problem with new mmo's, and what to target with a new mmo.

Posted by Cleffy Thursday October 16 2008 at 4:44AM
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First blog, and I will be blunt so people don't see a lengthy wall of text.  All mmos are failing today except WoW because they concentrate too much on PVE content.  PVE content in its current incarnation is a waste of time and resources.  Its also the leading cost of high budget mmos.

Its been said, 1st time mmo developers underestimate the problems of mmo development and why it takes so long.  Content/story based games have difficulty because a player can play through the content of a single player game in 48 hours or less.  Its fine for a game they paid $50 for, but for mmos the revenue comes for attracting them for months.  Its a constant uphill failing battle to try and offer compelling content for your users month after month.  This is practically creating 5 single player games a month.

My solution is simple, and I will break it down to execution. 

1st you want look at whats been successful at capturing the players attention for long periods of playtime yet offer very little in the form of effort.  This aspect can be seen in competitive multiplayer games like Counter Strike and Starcraft.  When competing against other players to achieve a goal players tend to be interested for longer periods of time.  This is evident in mmos with games like Lineage II and Ragnarok Online maintaining its popularity through guild owned castles and sieges.  So what you want to do is make a PVP-centric game.

2nd is you want to expand on this.  Castle Sieges are a good start, but its something that only happens on a weekly basis and doesn't really offer the variety people want in a game.  I think good avenues of exploration for PVP based competition are expanding trade in the game.  Political systems.  Town Raids and protection systems, Mini-games such as card games and racing.  All of which has the possiblity for addition by freeing production time and costs by knixing generic PVE content.

3rd.  Although I have been critical of PVE Content.  There hasn't been an mmo made that has had success without having to knock a few AI heads.  However, what you shouldn't do is waste the time with static monsters and generic quests its wasteful and time consuming.  You should concentrate on scripted events such as protecting villages from monster attacks, getting a princess back from a raid boss who kidnapped here, and protecting trade caravans from brigands as they travel around.  Maybe sometimes encounter that hungry bear who wonders the forest.

craynlon writes:

i believe the key feature of a sucessfull game and the reason why aoc and war did ok but not stellar is community.

ive seen games succeed with great community and bad pvp/pve while ive seen games fail with great pve (or pvp) because of the community issue.

i think what you need is a drug dealer mentality:

build addiction based on the character
the player needs stuff to do to improve his char, gear, skills, level, renown status... all that has to be hard to come by but rewarding. yet even as the player gets his reward the next goal has do dangle bevore his nose

build addiction based on the community
the player must feel as if his name and character means something in the community. also he has to have bounds to the community up to a point where hed feel he betray his friends if he leaves the game

and btw 1 of the games you mentioned: lineage2 is nothing but a grinder (violates your 3rd criteria) and so does attlantica online yet both have a good addiction factor that aoc and maybe war is missing.

another form of addiction could be based on content like the "cliffhanger ending" in your favourite tv-show (remember lost, xfiles...) that forces you to tune in again next week to watch the story continue. sadly producing content cost a lot of money and no engine seem to be able yet to simulate an ever changing, storydriven world.
im always a bit puzzleded how in "never winter nights" the community could release story after story into the game yet for a team of professional mmo devs it seems to take half a year to a year to introduce something new (see ymirs pass for aoc)

Thu Oct 16 2008 7:40AM Report
Thekandy writes:

Craynlon, i believe you said something very important in your community section, namely the part where you mentioned the player driven content.
WoW has this to an extent, everybody with a little skill at coding is able to produce a mod to the UI, be it a tool to manage your friends in more specific way than the standard friend list does, or be it a mod to enable you to create your own quests, as dependant on other people having the same mod it may be, it's still great.
And that's where i think mmos need to go/return to, the community providing content for the community, it's one of the things that make replayability, look at the old Elder Scrolls Morrowind, people created new content for that game by the masses. Oblivion did this too, but from what i have heard from the modding community it became a tad more strict.
Maybe it is time for the MMO developers to look at things like player created quests and other community content, it just might work for the better.

Thu Oct 16 2008 8:08AM Report
AlloughN writes:

I know of one MMO, where the guild leaders can script missions for their followers, and its a simple text editor like notepad, you dont need any coding skills at all.

Unfortunately, its in a update that hasnt been released yet, I hope its as good as it sounds though, because that would be awesome.


I would have to agree with the community being one of 2 most important parts. Its what makes a MMO a MMO and not a SSO (SIngle Solitary player Online)

Thu Oct 16 2008 9:27AM Report
Cleffy writes:

Community to me is really an artificial thing related to success.  Many failing games attribute community to why they are still around even if they don't actually have a community.  Look at WoW, its community is completely immature and its social networking is archiac at best, yet it is successful.  There are games that have examined ways to build community, such as having a Hub City instead of a chain of cities split up by player level.  Also a cleaner UI with emphasis on the chat effects.  These do help build community, but community is still usually something you just have to be lucky enough to obtain.

On player made content I don't think it is a wise choice.  You are looking at poorly done quests that merely bolster the main players ego.  You may get those few who make truly great and egaging quests, but those in an mmo setting will be done in combination of the not so good ones.  I like to view content in an mmo as an artist.  I would like to select what I think is best to show to the community.

What I wanted to emphasis with this piece is that PVE content as we see it today would be a failed concept to pursue any further.  There is already a Worlds of Warcraft, what will you gain from trying to play catchup to a game 4 years old with hundreds of hours of Static PVE content?  Wouldn't it be smarter and faster to make a script that has monsters attack town X on random nights, or have a caravan set out from a town during a certain time, or bolster, expand, and bring meaning to PVP?

Also wouldn't a game be more enjoyable with a living environment that don't have monsters scattered about waiting to die, and be able to access the more enjoyable features of the game sooner.

Thu Oct 16 2008 10:27PM Report writes:
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