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When MMOs Become Too Much

Editorials By  on May 31, 2006

When MMOs Become Too Much
When does an MMORPG become too much?

Editorial by Garrett Fuller

Many of the readers on this Web Site have been playing MMOs for several years now. From the dawn of Ultima Online through the success of World of Warcraft, we are almost reaching the ten year point in the MMO history of gaming. The next generation of MMOs is offering a lot of options to players; they are also offering a lot of promises. In this editorial I want to try to find out when you finally reach burn out on a game. I definitely am an older player when it comes to video games. I have seen it all, from Atari 2600’s Adventure to The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I have played many RPGs. I played my first D&D character at age seven, he was a dwarf fighter. At thirty-three, how many more dwarf fighters do you think I really want to play? None! Variety in games is what many players I know are always looking for. It is that variety that drives us to new ideas in game play. MMOs are always under fire for being very linear and boring. That style of game eventually leads to burn out. How long can you play your Night Elf Hunter until you are sick of him/her? My point with this editorial is to try to find out when players finally reach burn out on a game.

Currently I am playing World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons Online. DDO has taken a front seat to WoW these last few weeks as I prepare to do my review (watch for it soon). I admit that DDO has been a lot of fun and a refreshing change from Warcraft. I do not feel pressure to play and can walk away from the game knowing I still have a lot more to do. WoW does not have the same feeling. Up until recently I had felt the need to raid for epics in WoW so I would be ready for when PvP expanded in the game. It has been months now and more patches have come out for Warcraft and yet the only thing that has been added to the game is more raids. I have a great set of gear so why was I still on this rampage for loot? The battlegrounds on my server have become very slow and only a few guilds really compete regularly. Yet the raids continue on Warcraft. I know Blizzard has said they will do more for PvP, the big question is when? This game play philosophy of simply adding new loot and new raids leads to one thing in my opinion, burn out. There is only so much grinding for faction or raiding you can do before you are so sick of it and you never want to see another giant bug in your life. So after a year and a half of WoW I am burnt. I loved the idea of Zul’Gurub when it first came out. Now I feel like I am going to my part time job to finally get my Revered faction. Why am I pushing it? So I can get more loot. Should that be the driving goal in an MMO? I really think there are better options out there.

I agree with Mythic when they say PvP extends the life of the end game on any MMO. You work hard on building your character so you can go out there and fight for your realm. The great thing about DAOC was that you could log in for an hour, run around the frontiers and fight for a while. When it was time for dinner or to spend some quality time with the family, you could leave without being trapped in. I never got that feeling from WoW. At level 60 the only things to do with your character take hours. You could make a case for the battlegrounds, but with the queues being so long, forget it. There is no short term play in Warcraft. Even if you entered a battleground you were penalized for leaving early. I do believe that allowing players to battle it out in some kind of end game does help with the life of an MMO. Real people playing against each other can always change the style of the game. This is where I think creating a good PvP system on a game helps keep that burn out factor away for some time. Eventually another game will come out that may draw you away, but a good many months can be spent simply fighting it out with other players.

The biggest issue with MMOs in the near future will be competition. Just by looking on our web site you’ll see many games coming out geared toward all aspects of sci-fi and fantasy. You’ll see major IPs being made into games such as Conan, Warhammer, Star Gate, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings. In looking at these games it is fun to see some of these worlds realized in an MMO. My question is, just because you have a brand name on your hands, will you deliver a good game? There needs to be changes in game style and content to make people keep playing. Let’s take Lord of the Rings for example. How many of Sauron’s orcs and trolls can you kill before it gets boring? What will developers do to keep the game exciting? My friend Frank had a great idea in one of our debates to add content to LOTR like the battle of Helms Deep. Make it a huge event in the game that players can take part in, sounds cool right, but what about the next day? The War of the Ring eventually ends. Where do we pick things up from there?

As players what keeps us playing? As the MMO genre matures people are not going to want to grind away at monsters in an open area. Eventually as players grow with games they are going to want more. Look at the errors that Star Wars Galaxies has made with its player base. The game tried to make a change to accommodate everyone, but the change was made for the worse. I played Galaxies for a short time and really enjoyed it; however the life span of the game was short for me. I got sick of it really easy and found it grueling and repetitive. In a seminar at GDC one of the developers of SWG admitted that they put time sinks into the game on purpose. If you had a quest to go to the other side of Tatooine, you were running for a good thirty minutes of game time. My answer to that is, WTF? First of all it’s STAR WARS, why can’t players buy a speeder? Second, why do that to your players? The answer they gave, to keep people online. Okay, well that type of philosophy by developers worked “great” on that game, look at SWG now, almost no one plays. If you want to keep your players online, have them fly over in a speeder and maybe fight a few guards on the way to the objective. Give players something to do, not something to sit through. It is these “sit through” scenarios in MMOs that cause burn out.

OK so it’s conclusion time. I want to say this, I am burned out on WoW; I do not see DDO offering any type of long term plan to keep players either. The only things these games have are quests and raids. In my opinion PvP in WoW is a joke. DDO was a nice change, but I just don’t see myself playing the game for a very long time. Does that mean I am burnt out on video games overall, heck no. I just may be sick of the same old fantasy MMO game that offers the same thing over and over again. Elves, humans, dwarves, hobbits (call them halfings if you like), I have played them all. I do like that orcs, trolls, undead, kobolds, and other races have made an appearance in MMOs. Still, those are just races, how about some changes in game play ideas. I do not have the answer for developers as far as what to add to a game to keep people playing. I do however know that many developers read this web site and look at the forums. I am very curious what the community has to say about this topic. How many of you feel burned out by MMOs? How many of you hope the future games will offer more for players to explore instead of the grinding, questing, raiding, PvP systems we see today?

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