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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

How Should MMOs End?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday May 25 2010 at 5:24PM
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Like millions in America this week, I can’t stop thinking about LOST and its recent series finale.  I’ve been watching the show since it first premiered, and like so many fans and haters of the show I’m left with a weird post-finale feeling: sadness.  Let me be clear.  I’m firmly in the camp that loved the finale.  I believe there are two types of LOST viewer: those that are along for the ride and the relationships, and those that are along for the mystery and the answers.  The finale was bound to please the former and annoy the latter.

I grew really attached to the survivors of Oceanic 815, and I’m now saddened by the fact that I’ll not be seeing any more of them other than in reruns and on DVD.  Part of me wishes to see a spinoff Fantasy Island-esque take on the island as run by Hurley and Ben, but I know it’ll never happen and I know it really shouldn’t.  Just as part of me would love to watch a cop drama with Sawyer and Miles playing Starsky and Hutch.

But all the LOST-centered thinking got me wondering about how other forms of entertainment that seem to go on for years come to an end eventually, just like anything else.  And I began to wonder if MMOs shouldn’t have send-offs in the grand tradition of TV finales.  Perhaps not all of them are suited to the notion, but theme park styled MMOs are very much like seasons of our favorite TV series.

There’s a story that is delivered to us through content updates.  We follow along by playing the content, developing our characters, and taking part in different portions of the storyline.  One of the worst things about an MMO going dark is all the time we invested in our characters.  But another is the world we spent so much time playing in is being wiped from existence.

And since all MMOs will eventually not be a sustainable form of business, I think it would be nice if developers began treating their final days in the same fashion as television producers and writers.  Too often these days games don’t get to stay around long enough to get through the complex narrative their designers craft, but for those few that do a conclusion at the end of it all would be a welcome way to close down the servers.

Imagine the far off day when Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is shut down.  Setting aside the fact that the game will likely spawn a sequel (if it hasn’t already by the time the original is shuttered) and setting aside the fact that the closure of WoW is probably a decade or more away… what would that day look like?  What final events would Blizzard create for us all to gather around and say farewell to Azeroth with?

Would the Alliance and Horde have to work together one last time against a final evil?  Or would it be something like Rocky 3 with Thrall facing off against Jaina Proudmoore in a boxing ring?  I like the way we’ve seen some games go down thus far.  Currently the last day the servers are on is like one big party for the game’s loyal fans.  But what happens when LotRO’s designers eventually take us all the way to the final battle at Mordor?  The servers aren’t going to go dark after the Dark Lord is destroyed, but they’ll have to eventually.

And when they do, I wouldn’t mind it if I got to watch as Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo sailed off to the Grey Havens instead of just partaking in some massive mayhem with Balrogs traipsing about the Shire.