Community Forum Spotlight: Churn Baby Churn
Community Manager Laura Genender takes a look at a thread from our forums that discusses the churn of players in MMORPGs. Why do we move on from the games we play?
The MMO market is in constant churn, with new games opening up, old ones closing down, new users arriving and veterans moving on. This week on the forums, user Swiftblade13 takes a look at one aspect of that churn: MMO boredom, or the defeat of the EverCrack Syndrome. What causes us to become disenchanted with a game?
Swiftblade13 opens, "I'm sure many things can cause it, but lets rule out a few to start with.... lets assume its an MMO you expected to like... so its not the genre etc that's bothering you.. it's the gameplay." In other words, for the sake of this article (and his thread) we are assuming that the genre and general setting is what you, the user, expected; if you wanted a fantasy RP game, you got a fantasy RP game.
He continues by describing his own experiences with MMO boredom: "When I tried EQ2 and LOTRO I simply lost interest after a few hours of gameplay. I rather suspect for me that its the ease of casual progression.. there is no challenge so it doesnt keep my interest."
His opening post is concluded with a poll: "What makes you get bored with MMOs?" Out of 45 voters, 24.4% were most driven away by similarity to past games they've played; 20.0% were burnt out on MMOs in general; and 22.2% left for lack of sandbox features. Comparatively few (6.7 to 13.3%) users leave because of lack of challenge, groups, or because they find a game too linear.
Forum user Vortigon is one of the majority percentage who feel they've seen it all before. "Lately developers churn out the same crap with different colour scheme, what I call lowest common denominator no thought gaming. When I start a new game I DON'T want to automatically know how to do everything in the game, I want to be able discover things or discover ways to do things or to have to learn how the world works. Pick up any new MMO and straight away I know 99% of how the game is going to play and what to expect, that for me = boredom."
User Blazeard, on the other hand, is disappointed by the lack of player effect on MMOs. "Personally, I voted for 'lack of danger' instead of the sandbox, bc sandbox for me overlooks one very important factor - community and dynamic feel of the game. Thus, what I really wanted to see in the poll is 'lack of dynamic interactive world'.Personally, I voted for "lack of danger" instead of the sandbox, bc sandbox for me overlooks one very important factor - community and dynamic feel of the game. Thus, what I really wanted to see in the poll is 'lack of dynamic interactive world'." This has always been a tough one for MMO developers; in a single player game, there is only one hero to cater to. How do you make everyone in an MMO a star?
User Remali suggests that SwiftBlade13 add an all of the above choice to his poll!
For me, I think I would make a slight change to SwiftBlade13's question: instead of asking what in MMOs makes people bored, I think we need to look at what, in MMOs, keeps people's attention. For me, I would say the community of a given game is the biggest hook - when I'm in a good guild, I'm happy, and most of my quits coincide with a negative guild experience. Similar to SwiftBlade13, I soloed a great deal in LOTRO (as a Champion) and the game never really pulled me in.
Another factor for me is my involvement with the world. I love lore - but not as some forgotten text blurb up on the official site. I like seeing interactive quests that let me play through and learn a story. Recent releases follow a trend of silly quests: for example, the Vanguard guardsman who's afraid of chickens and wants you to extract one from his bedroom. On the opposite hand from that, a recent quest I did in EverQuest had me build a disguise from monster parts - your normal loot and scoot mission - but in the next instance, I actually wore the disguise and my "fellow monsters" didn't agro on me.
As for similarities to other games - I feel that this is a yes and no. Our genre, and video games in general, are fairly young. Sure, many games share similar elements, but I think the majority of games I've played have enough unique aspects to keep me satisfied. Vanguard had interesting takes on familiar classes, Guild Wars had fantastic PvP, LOTRO's traits system introduced a new kind of questing. What will the next generation of MMOs bring? Do I care if the UI looks similar to WoW (which looks similar to EverQuest) if it's a new world, with new lore, and new experiences?
You can read the entire thread here.