"MMORPGs Dead; WoW Questioned," Part One

"The whole damn [MMO] genre has run off the rails and become a parody of itself. Click the button and a gamer-treat rolls occasionally down the little pipe activating neurotransmitters in the brain that beg endlessly for more tiny little gamer-treats." -- Sean "Elysium" Sands

All good things must come to an end.

What sickly-sweet, TV series-ending crap.

The persistent-world online role-playing genre is never going to disappear. It cuts too close to what we humans want from our online existence. Today's 3D graphical MMORPG, though, has reached a point of stagnation. It hasn't met the promise of its potential, and never will. It's time to recognize that and start planning for the rebirth of large-scale online roleplaying games.

How did this happen? What's gone wrong, and what can be done differently in future? I'm descended from a hyper-intelligent subspecies of Yorkshireman, but I wouldn't presume to preach from the mountaintop on this matter. The Goodjer Collective has some big, juicy brains in it that like to ponder MMOs. GWJ articles often become starting points of a conversation; I'm just stating my intent to start such a discussion from the beginning.

EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies developer Raph Koster has said, "once [game genres] get past a growth phase and become mature, they tend to calcify." Have you noticed MMORPG tutorials have become more like briefings? If it's not your first MMO, you want to know what's particular about that particular MMO's interface and control scheme. The rest of the dance is pretty much the same. This hit home for me after I coached another player through one game's tutorial, emphasizing the rich world and its roleplaying possibilities. He asked where the beginning monster area was. I offered to take him to a ruined castle nearby. He marched straight toward the rat-infested dungeon after taking a couple of experimental swipes with his beginning weapon. "All right," he said, "let's go get paid."

It's easy to get this blasé. The first couple of games, you were immersed in this strange and wonderful new world and needed to learn how to interact with it. After a while MMORPGs began working much the same, and tutorials became more of a technical exercise. The growing MMORPG playerbase and the game publishers were in a feedback loop: the consumers' past experiences created expectations for future games, and the businesses providing those games wanted to emulate the success of earlier ones. Such a loop gets smaller and smaller: just look at the fairly rigidly-codified "standard" for the interface and control scheme of first-person shooters. Deviation from the design status quo becomes highly risky. Bolt a new multiplayer widget onto an FPS and you're praised for your bold vision. Shift movement from WASD and you're branded a heretic. The loop becomes a noose, and innovation is left twisting in the wind.

Content in MMORPGs went the same way as the user interface. Quests, check; monsters to kill, check; player guilds, check. In this way, things weren't much different from the first text MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle created in 1978. More and more "stuff" got thrown into the pot over time: instanced dungeons, auction systems, and fast transportation, for example. Other changes were meta-content that affected the shape of the genre, driven by a vocal minority of players. These changed the very language of MMOs. I go berserk when people speak of the "end game" in an MMO context. End game raiding, end game balancing. Level caps and time to reach the end game. End game equipment. Back in the good old days, there was no "end game." You set yourself other goals if you reached the end of your class or skill progression. We accepted that like other roleplaying games, MMORPGs had no "ending," and we liked it. Hey you kids, get out of my Jell-O tree!

Player vs. Player (PvP) combat is another example of how the lexicon changed to fit the changing MMORPG standards: no one spoke of "PvE" initially. There was PvP for a few enthusiasts, and then there was everything else. Devising a term to describe Player vs. Environment play brought the "normal" dynamic of gameplay down to the same level of importance as this minority interest. As with the end game, the tail wagged the dog.

The final blow to innovation in MMORPGs was the success of one particular game -- you may have heard of it -- World of Warcraft. WoW's success has given it a gravity that no in-development MMO can afford to ignore. To stray too far from their formula is seen as certain death.

Even before WoW, game companies all wanted to stake a claim in this new gaming frontier and brought the risk-averse, "me too" approach to game design mandated by their sycophancy to shareholders. Gamers grew in number, clamoured for design decisions that dispossessed one or another type of player, and demanded that each new MMORPG be different -- but not too different. Each existing MMORPG just wanted to feed the maw of its existing playerbase in order to keep themselves alive with a revenue stream. Meaningful development got pushed aside in favor of content, content, content.

The core of that meaningful development? Systems and structures to create living, breathing persistent worlds. It seems an almost laughable fantasy to say it, but the dream has long been alive. The true dynamic world, one in which players can tangibly and permanently affect its environment and history, has been lost to the exigencies of the business of catering to a playerbase whose horizons have narrowed and whose expectations have stagnated.

So: all that needs to be done now is to leave behind the husk of the MMORPG genre as it is now, create new and different games, re-train a huge number of players, and totally revamp the online gaming business model. Who's with me?

The MMORPG is dead! Long live the MMORPG!*

(*don't get me wrong; I am totally playing Conan when it comes out.)

Comments

WoW's success has given it a gravity that no in-development MMO can afford to ignore. To stray too far from their formula is seen as certain death.

(Good article. I hope it sparks some debate.)

That's the biggest kicker that MMORPGs face right now. I'm sure if WoW wasn't around then many of the other failed games that have been released since Blizzard put out its online cash cow would still be thriving. People are judging everything new against Warcraft and have yet to be satisfied. For example, I have a friend who has literally bought three MMORPGs since he started his first Night Elf rogue and has played them each for about 30 minutes. Shortly after he exclaims "It's not fun" and goes straight back to the obsession-filled, life-sucking, school-failing game he has been playing for over four hours a day for the past two years straight. Hell, one of those games was Phantasy Star Universe, which is the sequel to his favorite Dreamcast game of all time. He even admitted that PSU was better than PSO Version I and II because it kept the same gameplay but added new concepts and vehicles.

..so why give it up?

It's sickening to me since I don't understand it. Therefore this beast needs to be taken down, and fast. I don't think the success is largely due to the game being so good either since I can barely stand playing beyond level 30 without growing bored of the tediousness. Coming from a guy who has found fun out of some of the most horrible games made is a statement not to be taken lightly. "But wait, after you get a mount is when it finally gets good!" Sorry, no. Why should I torture myself for days of my life just to start having fun? After level 40 is when you admit to yourself that you have to keep playing since you just devoted dozens of hours of your life to a single character that has yet to explore a fraction of his online world. The people who go far and beyond this and continually do the same dungeons over and over again, night after night, with the slim hope that they may get the chance to roll on getting a single piece of armor in a set have more balls and endurance than I ever will. I, on the other hand, won't come back to a quest for days if I fail it once because I grew frustrated and don't want to repeat my actions.

It has been said that WoW is idiot-friendly so literally thousands of non-gamers, some who I know for a fact are among the supporters that video games are harmful for us, are enjoying this virtual world. I have at least two non-gamer friends who play their funky little bald gnome wizards every day after they come back from lacrosse practice until they need to sleep after midnight. They hit 60 long before Burning Crusade came out yet continued to play for months even though they hit the proverbial end of the journey.

Why does it seem like every new MMORPG is fantasy-based? If you want to break the mold, somebody has to at least break the genre. Eve is a good example of a game that is not fantasy based and does things just differently enough to be different ... and fun (sometimes). I think that is much of the reason for Eve's continued success.

I'm waiting for someone to perfect the MMO FPS ... something along the lines of a Planetside or BF2142, only better. I'm waiting for someone to come up with a MMO RTS or Strategy game ... a game where you don't have to chose an avatar. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else can be done. Games are games and MMO's are no different. There is a certain formula that must be followed and only so much innovation is possible.

They say life begins at 60 (or maybe 70 now) in WOW, but I seem to recall thinking "Ok sweet... level 60. Now what?" when I hit it the first time. Maybe that should have been warning enough. I'm sure every MMO Game has this moment and I don't think thats going to go away.

I totally agree with the idea that it's very hard for a game to try to break away from the WoW mode; there are too many expectations on the part of gamers, and too many dollars to risk on anything but what is seen as the one proven formula.

That said, I also have hopes for Conan, although I wonder if those hopes really have anything to do with Conan; they may simply have attached themselves to the most convenient future release.

Good Article, but I don't hold out a lot of hope, at least in the short term.

The best analogy I can think of is television. Right now WoW is the color network station to the previous generation's black and white: polished, accessible, and good enough to hold the widest audience possible without overly favoring one specific group. Even with a thousand entertainment options, some people still watch NBC sitcoms because of inertia and the knowledge that the experience will always provide a certain minimum amount of enjoyment. The other MMORPG's are more or less the equivalent of the cable stations, vying for a smaller, more defined niche (sports MMOG's, kid MMOG's, hardcore MMORPG's, etc.). Eventually, I think we'll see another big game come up and become the new FOX (murlocs gone wild!) of the MMORPG space, but it will probably be at the EXPENSE of innovative play, so as to capture an audience familiar with the format. I agree with Raph, the majors will err on the side of not upsetting the expectations of the vast audience when generating new content/gameplay/etc.

The game that will supplant WoW will have to be an order of magnitude better in terms of gameplay and presentation, and will have to carry the same (or better) level of polish that WoW has. It will have to have such high appeal that average gamers will want to dump their 60's and 70's for something totally new. It will have to break the inertia barrier in the same way that YouTube has to get NBC viewers over to watching videos of dogs farting and Turkish insults.

I do think that eventually we'll see a game capable of overthrowing WoW in the same way that YouTube has the (yet unrealized) potential to overthrow NBC/CBS/FOX. In the meantime, the Long Tail of MMORPG's is already out there for the adventurous few who are willing to look.

P.S. For the Horde!

I remember playing MUDs and eventually good players/community members would eventually get to write a few areas. If that worked out, eventually you could become a deity of some sort.

That seemed like a good goal. I haven't gotten sucked into a MMORPG since those days for more than a 2-3 months at the outside, and that's because I know I'm going to end up making my own entertainment in the 'endgame'.

What would or should motivate you? They can just keep you on the hamster wheel forever, occasionally bumping up the level limits, giving you the happy pellets ... outfits, weapons, mounts.

In the end, you're still the same person, you probably haven't learned anything you can use IRL. If you want to meet people, there's better ways.

The final blow to innovation in MMORPGs was the success of one particular game -- you may have heard of it -- World of Warcraft. WoW's success has given it a gravity that no in-development MMO can afford to ignore. To stray too far from their formula is seen as certain death.

I disagree with that.. I think perhaps poor developers without really strong design or strong gameplay will fall back on that... as a sorta safe way to continue funding with a not so thrilled Publisher.. but in the end that exact thinking will just doom them to failure.. since unless its significantly better very few people will leave WoW for more of the same.

The true next big MMORPG will be radically different from WoW.. as there isnt much more that can be done with the IoK/UO/EQ formula for primarily PVE based MMORPG.

H.P. wrote:

The loop becomes a noose, and innovation is left twisting in the wind.

Mmm, that's good imagery.

A dynamic world that changes even cosmetically has a lot of appeal for me. Erecting a building on the world map for example, as with UO, Horizons, and even SL, must be quite satisfying. If you aren't in the ranks of the most motivated players though you may not have your chance for even that.
Want to change the world? Open the gates of Ahn'Qiraj. You better have 100 people on the same, new server that want you to as well.

Well, poop.

I'm with you Elysium -- this is the original reason I even posted here. I'm not really going to respond directly to quotes from your article, but just bring up a few points (in nice easy ways where people can easily quote and argue counterpoints too!)

1) Living-breathing, persistent worlds are possible. MMORPGs currently have this concept all wrong -- I think they're all busy trying to write content into the game and finding that a far too difficult endeavor. You make it possible by having those within the game create this world and make its mythos. Can you imagine the draw for players as they scribe their name permanently into the history of the game?

2) End-game: Most people have this Odysseus-esque single-mindedness about things. We're conditioned in this society to understand things in ultimate goals and I don't think you're going to change that mentality to a Buddhist or Taoist, "It is about the journey, stupid!" thought process any time soon. Everything in MMORPGs right now are largely goal oriented, but you do find traces of individuals and group breaking this mold and really playing the game as it should be. (An excellent example just happened recently concerning Eve and a major, major takedown of one of the most powerful corporations in the game after it had been infiltrated by a rogue group for over a year, slowly working their way in and completing a mercenary contract). The end game needs not to worry so much about getting to that last level so you can stand at the top of the mountain or craft that house or boat. What it should be about is (if you're going to use the levelling system) finding a way to make the experience multi-layered without really making it seem so. Vanguard really tried this with diplomacy, but what if prestige reallymattered?

3) PvP vs. PvE vs. RvR vs. oh, I give the hell up: RvR tends to work pretty well, but what if this were changeable within a game; for example you begin with a certain faction toward another and that faction was changeable. The closer you get to someone's 'homeworld,' the more they hate you, the farther away, the more they tolerate you. In this way, you might be able to slowly work your way into a non-combative stance. Faction in EQ works something vaguely like this, but it really needs a huge-makeover. Not knowing what your faction is either would be a plus and add an element of danger about entering an unknown or potentially hostile area. Having people with varying degrees of faction instead of an entire population on the same scale would be something worth looking into as well.

4) Stop the levelling treadmill and the unhelpful quests: The current schematics for levelling that everyone uses is a greivous insult to the intelligence of everyone playing. Why not focus levelling on quests, or adventuring (Asheron's Call), or killing infidels at the gate, running patrols, following orders (fighter), learning new spells (if this were some fantasy pooh-pooh), or aiding the poor, donating alms, or converting others (clerics? priests?) Wouldn't it actually be cool if you escorted a caravan to a city and then have them set up and sell exotic/rare goods? If you learned a new spell to reinforce the porticullus or gave a poor man 40 acres and a mule, they became a farmer and paid tithe to you! I know this stuff seems advanced, but what if there were a way to combine the quest/grind effectively to give experience that tend to follow your class of character (especially in the initial stages as you learn about the world, gain some loyalty to your city, meet others in your same boat right off the bat, and worked on becoming a part of the world at large as well). Giving experience for PvP would help as well, giving more experience for killing someone that is highly negative to your faction and actually docking exp for killing those that are positive factioned to you (as well as possibly making that UO 'head' quest for killing reds viable)

Whew. I'm tired. I have a trillion ideas and whatnot and have been actually working on ideas for a MMORPG with a guy who has experience with game design. I think the idea is solid, not that it will likely ever come to fruition, but it sure is fun to dream.

BlackSheep wrote:

Well, poop.

I'm with you Elysium

I don't think Elysium's posted in this thread, but he did write an article yesterday about WoW's success. This article was writter by der Saucemeister.

Fedaykin98 wrote:
BlackSheep wrote:

Well, poop.

I'm with you Elysium

I don't think Elysium's posted in this thread, but he did write an article yesterday about WoW's success. This article was writter by der Saucemeister.

I'm with you Lovesauce.

My alliances are strong as oak!

BlackSheep wrote:

2) End-game: (Goal-oriented gaming)

Sure, having goals can be important for people. I've never seen the justification for most of those goals, though. Hitting level 70 can be a goal, but why do you want to? What's the real appeal?

4) Stop the levelling treadmill and the unhelpful quests: (Gaining XP)

I actually really like the UO style of stat advancement: Practice yeilds skill. Made sense to me.

I think Spore, though not a MMORPG, will be a refreshing new game, and it may lead to the revolution of MMO's.

The game that will supplant WoW will have to be an order of magnitude better in terms of gameplay and presentation, and will have to carry the same (or better) level of polish that WoW has. It will have to have such high appeal that average gamers will want to dump their 60's and 70's for something totally new.

I disagree with this quote. People are already tired of WoW. I think if a stable and fun game comes along it could sweep many of us off of our feet. It may not need to be leaps and bounds better than WoW. It could even be a clone but with a different world map, different creatures, and different quests.

There are already threads by people who say they have "hit the wall" in WoW.

All I'm saying is to unseat WoW's customer base, it will not require a revolutionary game.

I have high hopes a revolutionary game will come along though too.

I like the picture Lovesauce drew with his words. It led me to imagine an MMO where the expectation isn't that more levels will be added hopefully before you reach the max levels, but instead you are in an ever changing world where your actions may influence the world around you. A virtual reality of sorts with artificial intelligence that creates and destroys things in the world that we consider static in todays games. A game with a built in editor similar to Spore perhaps, that lets you (perhaps) create your own caves or homes or outposts, which if you did not protect, would be overrun, maybe first by wildlife, or a natural disaster, or by some dangerous sentient creature(s).

The ability to mold and shape the world around you with built in tools or actions with restrictions in place to prevent game breaking scenarios.... Blah blah blah. I could go on imagining but what's the point?

I expect what will happen is in-game editors may become more common after Spore shows how it can be utilized to create creatures and buildings by players.

Also technology will advance (with that headset that has been in the news recently) that lets you send simple commands to a computer using thoughts, emotions, and facial expressions. Incorporated into a game, this could be pretty cool.

Once better hardware is more prevalent, and AI had also progressed, we may see the type of dream games we are wishing for now, 20 years from now. Hopefully we won't have to wait longer than that.

I dunno.

So: all that needs to be done now is to leave behind the husk of the MMORPG genre as it is now, create new and different games, re-train a huge number of players, and totally revamp the online gaming business model. Who's with me?

Nice thoughts. I agree on some things, others not so much. I don't think that WoW is the genre killer that you think it is. I think that Everquest was as much a killer (if not more) than WoW in this instance.

As for the call to rally? I'm right there already, trying to get involved with this "Secret" MMRPG project that Acclaim's doing. Not that i'm holding out much hope of it getting anywhere or of me affecting it too much. But i have ideas and i think they need to be implemented to make the next big thing that's even bigger than WoW - and the nice thing is? It doesn't require the setting to be fantasy or sci-fi - it can be anything.
Basically my ideas revolve around bringing the game world to life - not just through the story you're playing - and also by trying to individualise each player experience to the utmost. I know there is only a limit to the individualisation you can achieve, but we've not even scratched the surface in the RPG's i've seen. All's you do is follow a story and grind. I know from experience that the most fun you have is when you use you mind and co-operate and compete. This is what i want to incorporate and it's what will make a game great...

Aang wrote:

I like the picture Lovesauce drew with his words. It led me to imagine an MMO where the expectation isn't that more levels will be added hopefully before you reach the max levels, but instead you are in an ever changing world where your actions may influence the world around you. A virtual reality of sorts with artificial intelligence that creates and destroys things in the world that we consider static in todays games. A game with a built in editor similar to Spore perhaps, that lets you (perhaps) create your own caves or homes or outposts, which if you did not protect, would be overrun, maybe first by wildlife, or a natural disaster, or by some dangerous sentient creature(s).

These ideas have already been incorporated into MMRPG's. There's one that allows users to make dungeons for adventurers to come and try (not sure if it's out yet), there's definitely one that has fortresses that can be constructed and defended and if lost so is the territory (again a name eludes me). Though i don't think wildlife has any say in the matter... The super hero one has changing content with the "episodes" that the team presents - which i think is a pretty cool idea and changes the game world allowing players to feel that they actually did defeat the evil that time...

I haven't seen an MMOG with this aspect though

It led me to imagine an MMO where the expectation isn't that more levels will be added hopefully before you reach the max levels,

This pretty much sums up how the genre seems to me these days. Every MMO that has been or still is in development since the release of WoW has seemed to at some point along their journey to release stopped, looked at WoW, and said "We need to be more like WoW if we want to make money". Then either the game's core systems are modified to be more accessible or additional systems are added to make the game "WoW player friendly". It was so disappointing with every patch in VG beta watching the game move closer and closer to being a crappy WoW imitator. If I wanted to play WoW I wouldn't even be looking at VG.

Honestly I don't think the next big thing will be something vastly different than WoW. It will take a game that is simplified and streamlined even further than WoW providing a more accessible treadmill for people to churn. This game will have to be even more polished and visually appealing than WoW and offer the exact same core game play that WoW has. People will need to be able to make the transition to this new game and feel right at home. I don't really see this happening for at least 3-5 years however. WoW still has a lot of time ahead of it as the top dog.

There are only two ways I see a worthwhile yet completely unique and original MMORPG hitting the market in the near future. One being a game designed by a smaller development shop that has the mindset and backing to create a game that is intended from the start to be a niche game and appeal to a smaller market share. EvE is a perfect example of this. The other would be if some obscenely rich person who happened to also be a gamer decided he/she would like to dump 50-100 million in a game that they themselves would like to play. Otherwise I see nothing but a sea of WoW wannabes.

Really since the release of EQ there are only a few major releases that are still around that I see as having tried something new and outside of the norm. Shadowbane, which was so poorly designed, looked and played so horribly that it didn't stand a chance of mass market appeal. Star Wars Galaxies, which made a pretty nice attempt at combining some of the MMO features of the time with a sort of psuedo sandbox style of game play which its devoted fans loved... Which they decided to scrap in favor of a more streamlined style of play that is more reminiscent of the "traditional" MMO than sticking to their guns. And finally EvE which is in most respects radically different than traditional MMOs and while having a fairly limited appeal in the greater scheme of things seems to have a fairly firm grasp on its slice of the MMO pie. EvE more than any of the other current MMOs has allowed players to dictate the way the game is played. My biggest problem with EvE is that actually playing the game is so dreadfully boring.

PvP, PvE, RvR, GvG, whatever seems to have gotten out of hand. In my opinion what PvP brings to an mmorpg is simply another facet of social interaction. A good "pvp" game to me is one where very little actual player vs player combat occurs. It should be a means of developing a player run political structure. Not simply the ability to kill another player. Again EvE probably does this better than any other game at present. RvR, team PvP servers, PvE servers etc do not allow for a level of PvP interraction that would promote this. Don't get me wrong fighting other players is certainly fun. It's just that when it has no bearing on the social structure of the game it is not really living up to its full potential. Killing another player should require a person to think about the ramifications of their actions the same way it would in the real world. It should promote reputation, consequences, and allow for the enforcement of laws or the protection of territories established by players.

I am not saying that this should completely exclude PvP for the sake of combat. Declaring war on another guild or faction allows for this. However I have no interest in PvP that has been segmented off from the rest of the world and laid out as a means of yet another advancement treadmill (wow or daoc). This to me just becomes a fun little mini game and offers little in terms of social interraction or benefit. Unfortunately most players only see a more open PvP ruleset as a gankers paradise and cries of "oh noes griefers" seem to flood the message boards. This makes me sad.

Really to me what makes or breaks any MMO is the community. The community in Everquest was drastically different in my experience to that of WoW. Even though conceptually the games are strikingly similar. In Everquest I found myself completely enjoying the journey and while bumping into the occasional max level character would inspire small twinges of envy after examining their gear, I never felt like I simply had to rush to max level to get to the "fun". I played EQ longer than I played WoW and at no point did I ever have a max level character. EQ, AO, DAoC, Shadowbane, SWG, etc all made me feel like I was part of a community from the first few levels all the way up. In WoW? I found myself just grinding away up through 60. I had to get to max level so I could enjoy the game. All of my social interraction was primarily with folks I already knew from RL or previous games. Finding people interested in low level content was damned near impossible. Everyone discovered early on that advancement to the level cap requires absolutely zero help from anyone else and that soloing was in fact more efficient than helping one another. The WoW community doesn't really start to blossom until the "end game" when you are suddenly forced to interact with other players to advance. The problem here is that even at max level the community still feels underdeveloped. Instanced content yet again becomes another means of fragmenting the community as a whole, this time it's broken up into smaller social units of groups or guilds rather than individuals... However it still feels more like I am playing at a LAN with a few friends rather than playing a part in a living breathing world. *shrug*

I dunno maybe I, and my RL friends who game, have simply smoked a little too much crack over the years. It just seems to me that this genre is losing its soul in favor of hooking larger groups of players to maximize income potential. I find myself now at a point where single player games no longer do it for me having tasted the fun of an online world.. Yet at the same time none of the MMOs released in the past 3 years seem to do anything for me either. Maybe I have simply played too many MMOs and now have "experienced it all". I don't really think that's it however. I think it's simply that MMOs are such a huge investment of time, resources, and money that folks are afraid to deviate from the norm. Regardless it sucks. I want to play another game that inspires an inner struggle not to quit my job, break off all contact with the outside world, and devote myself mind body and soul to getting my game on. Someone please help?!

One thing I forgot to mention is that I'm scared Blizzard won't do anything besides WoW until it collapses in on itself... and considering how long Everquest lasted without much major competition I think I'm in for the long haul regarding hearing people talking about what armor they have over soup and sandwich at Panera

I don't want Warcraft to fail, believe me. There's no way it could be deemed a failure even if all the servers exploded at this very moment destroying the entire staff and information database that supports it. It's just that the damn game is too bloated, and someone needs to pop the air out of it so the rest of the gaming world can get back to its senses. Starcraft 2, Warcraft IV, and Diablo III will NOT see any major advancements in their production until Blizzard has a reason to start worrying about their coin purses.

Also, what if WoW continues for so long that all the other developers take heed and follow them with their titles? Will all games be MMORPG, where instead of buying new ones at stores you have to just pay for information and resources via a monthly subscription? The biggest drawback of MMOs for me has always been the monthly fee. I want to buy the game, own the game, and know that I can play it whenever I feel like without worry since I already bought the game. If MMORPGs ever became free to download and/or buy, but still have a monthly fee, then I may be more tempted to dive back into the genre. You only have to fork over the money once. Getting billed twice however just to enjoy what you bought is stupid. Don't take me wrong, though. I've paid for MMOs for many months. My time spent with DAoC proves that, but I only stayed with that game for so long because back then I didn't have the funds to buy a $50 or $60 game per month.

Vrikk wrote:

The biggest drawback of MMOs for me has always been the monthly fee. I want to buy the game, own the game, and know that I can play it whenever I feel like without worry since I already bought the game. If MMORPGs ever became free to download and/or buy, but still have a monthly fee, then I may be more tempted to dive back into the genre. You only have to fork over the money once. Getting billed twice however just to enjoy what you bought is stupid. Don't take me wrong, though. I've paid for MMOs for many months. My time spent with DAoC proves that, but I only stayed with that game for so long because back then I didn't have the funds to buy a $50 or $60 game per month.

I dunno it works out for me. I look at most MMOs as games I want to devote at least 20 days or so of play time into over the course of purchasing the game. That's 480 hours. If I did that over a 12 month period (~1.5 hours a day) that's roughly $225 (60 for box 165 for 11 months after initial free month). Most single player games I pick up I play for roughly 20-60 hours. Assuming the best case scenario for those games (60 hours each @ $50 per game) that's at least 400$. If you just used gamefly that's still ~250$ for a year's sub.

There are plenty of good MMOs out now or upcoming that don't have the name Blizzard attached to them. Eventually people will stop playing WoW, but they'll have been turned on to the genre in general and start to experiment. Conan, Tabula Rasa, and Warhammer Online are just a few likely hits I can think of off the top of my head. Hellgate's paid online portion will be successful, too.

souldaddy wrote:

There are plenty of good MMOs out now or upcoming that don't have the name Blizzard attached to them. Eventually people will stop playing WoW, but they'll have been turned on to the genre in general and start to experiment. Conan, Tabula Rasa, and Warhammer Online are just a few likely hits I can think of off the top of my head. Hellgate's paid online portion will be successful, too.

Good or not, I still feel that potentially good MMOs will be crushed in popularity to the point that they won't be able to sustain themselves on their monthly fees. With Blizzard's consistent content additions and gameplay changes there is no end in near for WoW's strangehold.

Conan, Tabula Rasa, and/or Warhammer Online may all turn out to be good games but if they are not absolutely great then they won't flourish next to Warcraft. Why have hamburger when you can have steak? Both are good, but one is better.

Vrikk wrote:

Good or not, I still feel that potentially good MMOs will be crushed in popularity to the point that they won't be able to sustain themselves on their monthly fees.
Conan, Tabula Rasa, and/or Warhammer Online may all turn out to be good games but if they are not absolutely great then they won't flourish next to Warcraft. Why have hamburger when you can have steak? Both are good, but one is better.

The current MMOG's seem to be doing okay. I don't think it's too hard for a good MMOG to break even and maybe make a profit. To compare most MMOG's with WoW in terms of success invites the impression that there is no space left in the market and that those secondary games could not survive. The reality is that out of the current competitors there is a fairly rich diversity in the way that money is made and the way the games play. I don't think we should be worried about creativity dying out in MMOG's, the advancements always come - it's human nature and to be frank, i think it's good that other developers try and quantify the "WoW effect" and add it to their games.

Current MMRPG's:
Planetside, Eve, WoW, DAoC, Vanguard, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes/Villains, Lord of the rings, FFXI, All those korean MMRPG's (had autoassault )

Then we've got the upcoming ones:
Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, Tabula Rasa, Dark and Light and many more i've never even heard of: http://www.mmorpg.com/index.cfm?bhcp=1

Looking at the MMOG industry, I think the future's bright (to steal a quote )

I got to try eve online one day.

Well when you think about it EQ1 was a massive hit with something like 500k subs? I think any of these games can sustain themselves with 200-300k subs np. It's just a matter of how much will they be able to improve the game with limited funds and such.

The problem is that Warhammer Online and Conan will not be drastically different than WoW from what I have read/seen. Tabula Rasa doesn't have PvP from what I remember so I haven't been following it too closely. With these games not doing much to broaden the genre and while still being successful not being able to touch WoW's numbers I think they will do very little if anything for the future of this genre. Investors will look at the big cash cow that WoW is and not want to risk throwing down millions making a drastically different game. *shrug*

From what I recall Vanguard claimed to have the highest development budget of any MMO aside from WoW. Even with that kind of capital all they could do was roll over and try to push what was left of their vision into making their game resemble WoW as much as possible.

Having been exposed to Vanguard SOH and NWN2 recently, and other games like Shadowbane, Anarchy Online, and Star Wars Galaxies in the past, it's apparent that this blasé money-making scheme even disregards playability. The code for these games is absolutely atrocious. The reason the "new" generation requirements are so high? It's not the graphics, that's for sure. It's poor craftmanship on the part of development companies - they obviously have little regard for producing anything resembling quality. But the consumer pays for the software and the monthly kick in the nuts.

XLCS wrote:

Having been exposed to Vanguard SOH and NWN2 recently, and other games like Shadowbane, Anarchy Online, and Star Wars Galaxies in the past, it's apparent that this blasé money-making scheme even disregards playability. The code for these games is absolutely atrocious. The reason the "new" generation requirements are so high? It's not the graphics, that's for sure. It's poor craftmanship on the part of development companies - they obviously have little regard for producing anything resembling quality. But the consumer pays for the software and the monthly kick in the nuts.

I find it amusing in the latest CGM the ads for Burning Crusade and Vanguard.. one who has a simplistic graphics engine circa 2002 has all ingame graphics in their ad.. the other featuring a sophisticated top of the line graphics engine uses all artwork and ZERO in game graphics in their ad.

I think I have mentioned this in other threads, but the MMORPG with a dynamic world can never happen. It's the "Neo" syndrome that all humans have. Everyone wants to be the hero, but when you aren't the hero, the hero is a jerk who is ruining the game. People will line up to see V for Vendetta and The Matrix, but when someone actually leaves their house, goes out into the world and tries to change it (for better or worse), they will be shouted down and arrested as a troublemaker who is rocking the boat. Thus is the way of MMORPGs. People got used to that town being there. They made a lot of money there. The enemy faction finally got sick of it and wiped it off the face of the earth. Why build another one? They'll just do it again.

In a way, the static nature of the MMORPG is a perfect simulation of the ideal world for most people. Hell, even when the game developers change your class, everyone is upset. Everyone just wants everything to stay the same.

Now I'm going to go shoot myself. That's amazingly depressing.

TheGameguru wrote:

I find it amusing in the latest CGM the ads for Burning Crusade and Vanguard.. one who has a simplistic graphics engine circa 2002 has all ingame graphics in their ad.. the other featuring a sophisticated top of the line graphics engine uses all artwork and ZERO in game graphics in their ad.

Nice. Post of the week.

XLCS wrote:

Having been exposed to Vanguard SOH and NWN2 recently, and other games like Shadowbane, Anarchy Online, and Star Wars Galaxies in the past, it's apparent that this blasé money-making scheme even disregards playability. The code for these games is absolutely atrocious. The reason the "new" generation requirements are so high? It's not the graphics, that's for sure. It's poor craftmanship on the part of development companies - they obviously have little regard for producing anything resembling quality. But the consumer pays for the software and the monthly kick in the nuts.

I agree much more with this train of thought. One of the biggest reasons I think WoW just took off is the actual quality at release compared to some of the other stuff that's shoved out. If you look back at how WoW ran out of the box and the degree of server problems they had it was grand slam by MMO standards. Hopefully what devs are pulling out of WoW isn't the same generic fantasy world with new minor spins on gameplay(OK! not only do we have bg's but ours have 4 teams and 4 flags to run!). If MMO dev's instead take from WoW the approach of releasing games that are polished that don't implode on themselves at release the future isn't as bleak.

The first MMO that avoids the generic WoW model that doesn't fall flat on its face because it fails to meet the basic standards people expect when buying a game will do surprisingly better then some people would expect. (even if its not that great maybe.)

XLCS wrote:

Having been exposed to Vanguard SOH and NWN2 recently, and other games like Shadowbane, Anarchy Online, and Star Wars Galaxies in the past, it's apparent that this blasé money-making scheme even disregards playability. The code for these games is absolutely atrocious. The reason the "new" generation requirements are so high? It's not the graphics, that's for sure. It's poor craftmanship on the part of development companies - they obviously have little regard for producing anything resembling quality. But the consumer pays for the software and the monthly kick in the nuts.

and

TheGameguru wrote:

I find it amusing in the latest CGM the ads for Burning Crusade and Vanguard.. one who has a simplistic graphics engine circa 2002 has all ingame graphics in their ad.. the other featuring a sophisticated top of the line graphics engine uses all artwork and ZERO in game graphics in their ad.

The problem is all of these games spend so much time and/or money on a super powerful uber graphics engine capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound and displaying 10 trillion individual animated widgets with super uber triple chocolate bump mapping covering every single pixel... And then they focus more on things looking detailed then they do on making things look good and compliment each other. The result is a world filled with individual objects that you look at and go "That looks amazing!". They just never really manage to make all of the amazing looking things look amazing together.

While I may have lost interest in WoW I certainly acknowledge that of any 3D MMO to date Blizzard has done the best job of balancing out the capabilities of their graphics engine with the quality of their art. The WoW world has consistant design throughout, everything in the world looks like it belongs there, and while there are certainly a few graphical glitches and screwed up textures here and there they are by far the exception. I wish more games would spend time on making a good looking functional game rather than a nifty tech demo for their graphics engine. In all fairness though if the numbers I have read elsewhere are accurate any 3 or 4 of the other MMOs in existance (with the exception of vanguard) combined cost less than what it cost to make WoW.

Also I will say that AO had a really nice sense of style as well. I think in their case it was more sh*tty coding than any attempt to overdo it on the graphics side of things. *shrug*

jowner wrote:

The first MMO that avoids the generic WoW model that doesn't fall flat on its face because it fails to meet the basic standards people expect when buying a game will do surprisingly better then some people would expect. (even if its not that great maybe.)

This is sorta why it surprised me so much when VG ended up the way it did. While it certainly would not have been a revolutionary game, had they made it more hardcore it would have at least been a different approach to the same old tired crap. After investing as much money as they did in the game, changing directions before release, and then releasing an incomplete game right in the footsteps of the Burning Crusade's release... Just seems a bit odd to me.

This is sorta why it surprised me so much when VG ended up the way it did. While it certainly would not have been a revolutionary game, had they made it more hardcore it would have at least been a different approach to the same old tired crap. After investing as much money as they did in the game, changing directions before release, and then releasing an incomplete game right in the footsteps of the Burning Crusade's release... Just seems a bit odd to me.

Not sure why you think its odd.. what would have been odd is if Quaid and co. had actually released a complete playable game that didnt run like ass.

I mean.. you did play EQ on launch?

I think another 3-4 months delaying the launch would have done a great deal for VG.. would have at least allowed them to clean up some bugs..and avoid the release window of TBC.