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General: Massey Asks Why Not Let MMOs Grow?

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

Would you support an MMO that started small, but strongly and then grew over time? With a few attitude adjustments from fans, media and developers, maybe this could be possible.

Dana Massey

What’s worse is that fans, media – and let’s be honest here – developers forget another important fact. These games evolve. People have short memories and if they look at any MMO as it exists today, they in some strange way assume it’s always been that way. World of Warcraft has had four years of development since it launched. Think about that. The features and quality you see today in World of Warcraft is essentially the product of a decade of the most well funded development time in the history of gaming. How can someone be expected to compete with that?

So my question to you players today is this: would you play, pay for and support an MMO that does a very small number of things very well in the hope that it will one day be as big and expansive as larger competitors?

Read it all here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

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Comments

  • jaxsundanejaxsundane milwaukee, WIPosts: 2,776Member

    Honestly my trust in dev's has become such that I know most of them cannot be trusted in this manner while there are games that have done just what you said there are in my estimation many more that have done just the opposite they've treaded along just about the same as they were at launch, while I have experienced WOW and have seen many of the changes it experienced WOW is not the norm another game that comes to mind is LOTRO they have done an awesome job of expanding on the orignial game with and without expansions but again there seem to be many more games out like SWG,AOC that keep the carrot in front  of your face promising to make changes fixes and additions but delivering very little and as I've stated in other posts they just send a Craig or Smed out to lie and say things are not bad and we have no choice but to go with what they say no matter what.  So I''m getting closer and closer to the point where it is obvious who out here is capable of creating a decent game and building it up from there and if you don't fall into that category I'm not chasing your carrot.

    but yeah, to call this game Fantastic is like calling Twilight the Godfather of vampire movies....

  • RuynRuyn Moose Jaw, SKPosts: 1,052Member

    I plan on being there wiith SV as Mortal Online grows.  This game has HUGE potential.

  • streeastreea Dallas, TXPosts: 654Member

    While I definitely agree that some companies should try to start with a "focused" MMO and grow on it for a smaller fee, I think the big problem is this: the reason most people leave a game is due to the core game itself.

    While people might complain about game X not having feature Y that they promised to have, a player doesn't buy a game, install it, play it and then go "well, the game is great, but it doesn't have X, so I'm not going to play it anymore" (except perhaps in the case of AoC where it was supposed to have DX10 at launch and didn't...). They stop playing because the core game is flawed.

    The thing that even a small MMO would need would be a "core," which is probably the hardest thing to develop when you have to keep in mind that the core must be able to expand. It's hard to program something and then just slap in additional code (at least, not without causing your programmers to jump off of a very tall bridge to escape the pain). Even something that seems as simple as an auction house has to take the codes of every single item in the game into consideration, and then organize it, allow that information to transfer safely AND display correctly on an AH, and then transfer it to the player who bought it. If the items and core aren't programmed to shift "real" items into a "non-real" version and then back into its original and "real" state elsewhere, then you have to completely rewrite the item system (and likely even the core).

    That's why when a game has an expansion or patch, they travel into new areas. "Hey, we can mess around with the core and codes without messing around with the original stuff!" So while yes, a game could have expansions that bring in new features (as most already do), you still need a solid core, and that requires a lot of time and money.

    Plus the question becomes: why pay for a core, when there are other MMOs out there with a core and X, Y and Z features? Most players would rather wait until a later time when the features finally show up.

  • NovaKayneNovaKayne Houston, TXPosts: 743Member
    Originally posted by jaxsundane


    Honestly my trust in dev's has become such that I know most of them cannot be trusted in this manner while there are games that have done just what you said there are in my estimation many more that have done just the opposite they've treaded along just about the same as they were at launch, while I have experienced WOW and have seen many of the changes it experienced WOW is not the norm another game that comes to mind is LOTRO they have done an awesome job of expanding on the orignial game with and without expansions but again there seem to be many more games out like SWG,AOC that keep the carrot in front  of your face promising to make changes fixes and additions but delivering very little and as I've stated in other posts they just send a Craig or Smed out to lie and say things are not bad and we have no choice but to go with what they say no matter what.  So I''m getting closer and closer to the point where it is obvious who out here is capable of creating a decent game and building it up from there and if you don't fall into that category I'm not chasing your carrot.



     

    Not necessarily a Wall of Text but definately more like a huge freakin stone of text all jumbled together into one continuous stream of thought that should have bnded somewherein the middle but I got a headache and could not make it through the whole thing thanks for trying to get your pointacross but I think it was lost in the translation from brain to keyboard.

     

    OK, that aside.  I would tend to give my time, money, and effort to an indy game that is doing what was going through the growing pains in the OP.  FE is right on the cusp of just such a game.  The feeling you get from them in their interviews is basically just what you are stating.  They were indie so had to focus on some core gameplay.  Once that is done well they then switch gears to expansion and so forth.

     

    However, I also have confidence in Cryptic Studios.  They have shown that they can build upon a decent game and improve some minor flaws that were exponentially blown up when the number of swubscriptions were increased.  You can also look at this as they tend to release the game a bit early to recoup some dev costs while they continue to polish.  Meh, cup half empty cup half full.

    Say hello, To the things you've left behind. They are more a part of your life now that you can't touch them.

  • xtravertxtravert Lloydminster, ABPosts: 134Member

    If a game came out that did a few things really really well I'd be all for supporting it.  Especially if the developer understood that their product wasn't comparable to the big studios and did not charge like it was.  Starting with a base subscription model of $4.99 US for instance and then increasing the price as new features are added would be sweet.

    Having the option to opt out of features for a modified subscription cost would also be a nice option.  Say I like to PvE but they add a PvP option to the game.  Perhaps arena based so that it's a part of the game you have the option to play but will never notice is missing if you don't.  If I want to continue without the module being enabled then that's all fine.  If I want to PvP in arena then maybe I pay $7.99 a month instead.  The module is enabled and I then have access to PvP.  It's a pricing model that many coporate applications have for accounting systems and other business applications.  Everything is installed and options are enabled based on the subscription model.

     

  • Kedrick7Kedrick7 Lake Charles, LAPosts: 2Member

    I really don't think that most players would stomach the idea of increased fees as content increases.  While I personally think having a game that is solid but simple for a smaller fee is ok, sadly I think most players would simply feel that they are Entitled to get an ever improving, ever increasing gaming experience for the same low fee, and would balk at the idea of having to increase their payment as the game began to flesh out and become a great project.

    Had WOW started at $5/month, I don't think people would be willing to pay $15/month simply because 3 expansions have come out, even with the growth and changes to the game.

     

    Personally though, I like indy games, they tend to offer things that the mainstream has either forgotten about or is unwilling to risk attempting.

    (as a side note, I hate EA for burying E&B.. dumb dumb dumb.)

  • SnarlingWolfSnarlingWolf Thereiam, ARPosts: 2,697Member

    Why are people not happy when release is missing items? Two very simple reasons. First because you just bought the game and are paying monthly. Where as if you waited until those features were in you'd probably get a free trial, free game and only have the monthly fee. So you are paying more for less. This works into reason two, there are already games out there that have all the features, have fewer bugs, and have better balance and they only require the monthly fee at this point. So why pay more (because of the box fee) for a game that has less?

     

    It really is that simple, if you want to bust into a market then you had better provide more then what is already there, not less. It is not the player's fault that investors didn't grasp how long it was until the game was going to be released and thus force it out the door to see some returns before it is ready.

     

     

    As for Global Agenda I doubt I will ever play it, I could get the same type of action in Halo or a number of other FPS games and not pay a subscription fee. Where as I would pay for Planetside 2 because it involves stuff that changes in the world 24/7, but even there they had better do it right other wise I wouldn't pay for it for very long because once again I could just go play any other shooter I have without a sub fee (I see that as the MMOFPS problem overall really).

     

    I would however pay to play an Indie game from a small company that does not have as many features as one of the big boys. Because with a company like that you are helping bring new names in the industry, and since it is most likely their only game they will keep all their focus on improving and maintaining it. Darkfall is not an example of this though.

  • nate1980nate1980 Evans, GAPosts: 1,829Member

    You hear a lot of people say, "Well <insert game> wasn't that good at launch, it took them years to get that good." The problem with that argument is that while that is true, new developers have had those same years to learn from that MMO's success and failures. The idea is to do just that, learn from their successes and failures, not make excuses that "that game didn't have this feature at launch, so we don't either."

    As consumers, we buy products based off of value/$. If a AAA game with a laundry list of features is charging full box price and full subscription price, what makes a person think that we want to pay the same for a product that is inferior value/$. In this case, an inferior product is one that is less technically sound, has less features, and less support. So as the author said, the first step a company takes is by lowering the barrier to entry for their product. Don't charge full box price and then turn around and charge full subscription price, just because it's the market standard.

    My next point is directed to what constitutes a finished product. While every MMO gamer knows a MMO's is constantly under development, this doesn't give developers the liscense to release unfinished games. Who would buy a single player game that releases with only half it's content, with a promise to patch the rest in a month from now? A game, MMO or not, needs to be complete at launch. That full and complete game is worth a subscription because we are paying for a continuation for that content or features that are considered post-release features, not for content that should have been there at launch.

  • rwyanrwyan raleigh, NCPosts: 461Member

    It really is a catch-22.  We as players demand the polish and refinement that Blizzard achieved with WoW.  But at the same time, we demand innovation, creativity, and evolved gameplay mechanics of some sort.  I've come to believe you really can't have both.  I recently got in an argument with a player about Fallen Earth.  I commend the devs for sticking to their vision that just so happen to stray from the MMO norm in a variety of ways.   However, with these quirks came the price of polish and refinement.

    And its funny.  Aion will get praised for its level of polish but blasted for its lack of innovation.  Fallen Earth will get criticised for the opposite.  It will be praised for being different and niche.  But it will also be blasted for the fact that it didn't have the AAA level of refinement that Blizzard and NCSoft can afford to adhere to.

    CCP is a perfect example of a developer sticking to its guns and just building on top of what they released before.  Its one of the few MMOs out there that has maintained a steady growth since its release and it has benefited from it.  I don't think devs are doing a great job of understanding their general audience - outside of knowing that a large number of players are looking for the 'anti-wow' so to speak,  skewing  their projected subscriber number expectations.  I honestly believe EAMythic somewhere along the line expected at least a steady 500k subscribers and let development get out of hand and out of focus trying to make WAR a little bit of everything.

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member
    Originally posted by streea


    While I definitely agree that some companies should try to start with a "focused" MMO and grow on it for a smaller fee, I think the big problem is this: the reason most people leave a game is due to the core game itself.


     

    Oh, I agree. The hypothetical was a situation where someone does something you like. There's no accounting for just a bad game, big or small ;)

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of MMORPG.com
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • BigJohnnyBigJohnny Beverly Hills, CAPosts: 42Member

    I think there's some incredibly linear thinking going on here.

    The basic message here is "Why pay the same and get less, if there's a game out there that's already full-featured?"

    The problem is that we're assuming that the list of features to be expected is written in stone. We're saying a game NEEDS to have a fantastic leveling experience, countless raids at the endgame, arena-based PvP, Auction House etc etc, and if it released without those things, then we're getting less than we pay for. But that's assuming we're talking about a WoW-clone here that's coming out with the same content as vanilla-WoW. In that case, yeah, why pay the full price for a vanilla-WoW-clone when you can get the real WoW for the same price?

    But this whole thing seems incredibly backwards to me.

    I'm willing to pay the full price, and get even less than vanilla-WoW offered in terms of scope, if I could get a rock-solid, small, kickass PvP game. I'm dying for a good PvP game. WoW isn't PvP. Warhammer, as it stands right now, doesn't provide that. I'd gladly pay the same amount of money, to get a small-scoped, but good, PvP game that will grow over the years and become even better. It doesn't have to have huge raids. Doesn't have to have a mind-blowing leveling experience, or even leveling at all. Doesn't have to have an AH at launch. But if it can pick one thing that you can't get anywhere else, and get that right, then it's worth my money.

    I'm NOT willing to pay the full amount money for a Vanilla-WoW-Clone that may get good one day.

  • neoterrarneoterrar Cedar Rapids, IAPosts: 512Member

    Dunno this article seems to be some sort of defense for Alganon or even Fallen Earth.

    MMOs are lifestyles to many. If they start out with little, they have to expand rather quickly just to maintain interest. If you have enough content for a few months of casual play, the elite will be done in a few weeks time. I just don't see that as any way to gain momentum or even retain position.

    Darkfall started off with a little content, some bugs, and a lot of controversy. It's expanded, fixed bugs, and the controversy is pretty dead. Dead because it is off peoples radar now.

  • ericbelserericbelser buffalo, NYPosts: 783Member

    Why not? I see a couple of big reasons, some of them related:

    1. The market has proven it has no memory and insane tolerance for unfinished/buggy launches. If you can get away with releasing unfinished junk, recoup costs and pay off investors then the continuing revenue stream either goes to the next project or to papering over the cracks you left at launch, not "growth".

    2. Hype - related to the above, promising the moon and beyond while delivering a small piece of cheese has become the normal business model. Most games spend a year+ (if not years!) just living up to what they already promised.

    3. LCD, McMMO, dumbing down for the masses - growth would (pretty much automatically) require an actual direction and planned design other than the present trend of derivative/cloned gameplay and features.

    4. BBD...bigger better deal...most players won't wait 3,6,9 months for features they want when by the time its added "newgameXX" will be out. I suspect "average" player retention times are going down across the board as people do more game-hopping than ever.

    5. Lack of talent - not sure who to blame this one on, but let's face it: did all the good programmers get better jobs or something? The number of new games with significant issues that seem to be based in things like their network coding, server structure and the like - structural issues, not "polish" or content, is way too high.

  • DrakonusDrakonus Los Gatos, CAPosts: 135Member

    Personally speaking I enjoy watching MMO's continue to grow, expand, even change the layout of the World (in this case include a "Cataclysm" to be able to do so).  To me that's what keeps an MMO a living dynamic thing, but that's just me and I really don't care about anyone else's take (mainly because most everyone probably disagrees...thus I just don't care)

    image

  • Nightbringe1Nightbringe1 Bluefield, WVPosts: 1,093Member Common

    I would absolutely support a well done indy game with a small core, as long as that core gameplay was what I was looking for.

    Unfortunately, what I am looking for is somewhere in between EQ and EQ II.

    Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
    Benjamin Franklin

  • SilverminkSilvermink Cape Coral, FLPosts: 289Member

    The biggest flaw I've seen with most new MMO is they spend more time developing assets (graphics, animations) then the engine. If a game started with just the well polished engine and added assets after launch, I would play if it was type of game I like. This is Fallen Earth's plan but it's too PVP focused for my tastes. I also agree the monthly fee or patch fee would have to be implemented to offset development costs and that would be fine with me. Had Vanguard spent more time removing lag and stuck with 1 continent, it would of been a much better release.

  • WraithoneWraithone Salt Lake City, UTPosts: 3,593Member Uncommon

    I quite agree with you Dana. We've seen how many games of great potential get the axe because the suits/investors ran around in panic? Not to mention the hysteria all too many players react with, if a game doesn't have all of the features and polish that WoW has... Having been in WoW since late beta, let me tell you that WoW didn't have all of that at launch either.

    But expecting a rational/thoughtful response from the typical player is doomed to failure.  Don't even get me started on the lack of patience, ignorance and uncivilized behavior that has for far too long been the typical response of forum denizens.  That is NOT to excuse the poorly thought out designs, and sloppy coding thats also all too typical of many of todays half baked projects.

    After some of the abuses of trust and faith that many of us have experienced, its understandable that we have become less tolerant of mistakes. Thats simply human nature. That having been said, new companies can't be expected to do everything right the first(or even the second time).  BUT if they are open with their player base, AND take pride in their work, AND demonstrate that they aren't doing this *just* for the money(which of course IS a motivating factor)  then the players who share their vision, should support them while they go through the "learning experiences" one has to expect with these HIGHLY complex suites of software and the underlying hardware. 

    Keeping in mind that the players patience/toleration is NOT infinite... One of the better responses I've seen was CCP's. On making a howling mistake on one of their patches, they posted something along the lines of "Those responsible have been given a personal tour of the airlock". A company that can keep a sense of humor, and remain open with their players is going to have more leeway in the inevitable mistakes that WILL happen.  As for the suits/investors that panic at the slightest hint of problems, a smart company will have highly trained/experienced personnel whose task it is to hand hold, and feed them shiny tech demos on a regular basis.

  • DarkWolfyDarkWolfy Montreal, QCPosts: 71Member

    I agree with you, not all MMOs deserve a full monthly fee, and that maybe lowering it or even not having any, might have saved a few MMOs.

    In this case I think of Tabula Rasa, it was a MMO that had potentials. I was in the closed beta you see and it was obvious the game was not up to the hype created by Garriott, the game lacked direction and assurely content, there was potentials true but it was a long way to get there. We were a few on the beta forums to tell the devs the game would tank if they were not doing something here and now, once players would realise during their fitst month of play they got conned. Who would keep paying the monthly fee after the first month? We said the game could get closed like Auto Assault if things kept going this way. We also added they should make the game like Guild Wars where you buy the box and pay no monthly fee. Like that people would keep buying the game, and playing the game, even if the game lacked stuff due to the lack of monthly fees, and the devs would get income through the box sales which is better than nothing, and use that income to improve the game. Guild Wars has sold millions of boxes after all, it's a thriving success, and I think it could have worked on Tabula Rasa too.

    Of course the Lord British fanbois, and there were plenty of them I can assure you who were litteraly kissing his "divine" feet, told us time would prove us wrong and that TR would succeed with tons of subs and would be thriving. We all know how that ended, Tabula Rasa ended up having the same fate as Auto Assault like we predicted. And I find that sad because I can imagine how Tabula Rasa could have turned out in different circumstances but that never happened.

  • HorusraHorusra maryland, MDPosts: 2,583Member Uncommon

    I love buying a car and being told that in 2 months or so I will get that drivers seat, but till then I can squat and still dive the car.  I can understand the end game content not being there at launch, but all the initial bells and whistles should.  If a current game has a feature (not content) then a game at release shoudl have it if it is intended for use at low level (banks, auction houses, etc.)  I would not buy a game for a console that was not finished why should my demands on a MMO be different.

    It seems to me if a lot of the flim-flam game companies stop sucking up development money to make crap games and instead 3 or so game got all that cash to develop something nice we might get quality, innovative games.

  • Kaelaan21Kaelaan21 Woburn, MAPosts: 349Member Uncommon

    I agree with Dana. If the game itself is concentrated on quality over quantity, I would consider it as a viable MMO and not dismiss it due to it's short comings.

    However, there are two things that would reduce its chances of success. Which, we see all too often lately.


    1. Are the common features that are missing something that the publisher promised would be included at launch or included in an official road map?



      I know that cuts always need to be made. However, if the publisher releases information after the features are added, then they reduce the risk of rioting fans demanding that a specific feature must be added before launch.

       

    2. Is the game at release fun? If I plan on playing it 6-8 hours a week, will it keep me entertained for that length of time?



      Games with too few features may be a casual gamers utopia. However, if played for more than a few hours a week, smaller games tend to get boring rather quickly. Part of this problem with MMOs is caused by players searching for walk throughs online to quickly bypass quests. This may be okay in a game with thousands of quests such as WoW, but in smaller games will leave you with nothing to do in no time. I think that some of the best indie games produced in the future should try to overcome this hurdle by some form of random generated quests. To avoid burnout too quickly with minimal content - even if high on quality.

     

     

    EDIT: I think that many people here are mis-understanding the article. This isn't a case of missing features that make the game unplayable. It's the equivalent of having 200-300 very well written, scripted and involved quests vs. 1000+ go fetch me x quests. Or, having an RvR-like system in a game, but having 8 takable keeps and 4 types of siege weapons in the game at release. If it's done well, they can add new keeps and new weapons afterwards. I don't think the article was referring to unfulfilled promises.

  • WraithoneWraithone Salt Lake City, UTPosts: 3,593Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Horusra


    I love buying a car and being told that in 2 months or so I will get that drivers seat, but till then I can squat and still dive the car.  I can understand the end game content not being there at launch, but all the initial bells and whistles should.  If a current game has a feature (not content) then a game at release shoudl have it if it is intended for use at low level (banks, auction houses, etc.)  I would not buy a game for a console that was not finished why should my demands on a MMO be different.
    It seems to me if a lot of the flim-flam game companies stop sucking up development money to make crap games and instead 3 or so game got all that cash to develop something nice we might get quality, innovative games.

     

    Considering that the car industry is almost a century old, and the MMO industry is around 15 years plus... There is just a wee bit of a difference. I seriously doubt you would have been quite so happy with some of the first cars at the dawn of the automobile age...

    Not to mention that MMO's use some of the most complex software suites and hardware combinations in existence.  That of course doesn't excuse continued mistakes, or poorly thought out design and sloppy code.

    Those who demand a current  WoW type game(at launch) are eternally doomed to disappointment.   You might be better served to either continue playing WoW, or switch to single player PC/console titles.   Or you could wait for what every Blizzard is working on for their next MMO. In any event, expecting new companies to have a hundred million to invest in their games is wildly unrealistic.

  • brostynbrostyn Louisville, KYPosts: 3,092Member

    Sure I would. It still has to be fun, though. Being small is no excuse for making a crap product. I can easily do that myself.

  • KhalathwyrKhalathwyr Denton, TXPosts: 3,138Member

    I'm doing it now with Fallen Earth. As long as they continue to head in the direction they talk about, they will continue to get my (and my wife's, and my 3 good friend's and 2 of their wives) support.

    "Many nights, my friend... Many nights I've put a blade to your throat while you were sleeping. Glad I never killed you, Steve. You're alright..."

    Kickstarter 2 / Naysayers 0

  • GreyedGreyed Sin City, NVPosts: 128Member

    The biggest impediment to the model you're describing is the subscription model. Let me take City of Heroes as an example. It is, by no means, in an exclusive club.

    City of Heroes launched in 2004. Since then it has had 1 paid expansion (City of Villians) with another on the way as well as 16 updates. The most recent update comes with a free weekend w/double XP. Yay. As a former subscriber (several times over, in fact) I can look at it for a whole 2-3 days. But new customers can preview it for 2 weeks.

    Now, I quit several years ago because of the state of the game was back then. I think that was around issue 4, well before CoV. So 12 content updates since then. The only way for me to get a decent shake of the game is to either repeat the lower levels, resub, or try to cram in as much playtime in 2-3 days as I can. The first choice doesn't let me see if the high-end problems I had have been addressed since I'm limited to brand-new, low level toons. The last choice doesn't let me see if the high-end problems I had have been addressed as I could easily spend 2 days just getting reacquainted with my characters and learning about the changes since the last time I played. That leaves resubbing. Resubbing to a game I quit because I didn't like it on the off chance changes have been made which will entice me to stay.

    As I said, that isn't solely an issue with NCSoft and CoH. Almost every MMO I have ever played has the same policy. Until they give a sane policy for their former players to reevaluate the game as it is vs. how we remember when we quit what incentive do we have to give them the benefit of time to grow? If they want former customers to reevaluate their product every x months they should give the same amount of time to former customers as they do to new customers (IE, 2 week trial) every x months. 6 months, 12 months, whatever. Mkae it a use-it-or-lose-it trial; IE, it isn't cumulative time. But doing so would go a long way to letting former fans of the game really see that things have changed.

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  • MMO_DoubterMMO_Doubter Bedford, NSPosts: 5,056Member

    Yes, MMOs (especially niche MMOs) should start small and grow from there. They must have a good starting experience and a functional and fun end game right from the start, however. Skimp on mid game, and expand that and add new start and end game content. Four classes and two start areas is enough to launch a game. Add more later.

    As for charging more as new content is added - hell no. Players won't stand for that.

    Also, if you make some new content optional for extra charge, then the devs will concentrate on the cash content and neglect the core game.

    "" Voice acting isn't an RPG element....it's just a production value." - grumpymel2

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