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[Column] General: Content Locusts Aren’t the Problem

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,610MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

There is an ongoing discussion about what it is that makes today's MMOs so short-lived: Content consumers or the over crowded market or...something else. In our newest column, we take a look at what the real problem might be. See if you agree and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

There’s a part of me that completely agrees with JPNZ, at least as far as the “content locusts aren’t a bad thing” part of his post.  They’re just another type of MMO gamer. There are quite a few folks who will stick with a game for years, despite the “new hotness” around the corner.  One need only look at WoW’s staggering retention rates to see this (yes, I know it’s an anomaly).  In addition, as someone who often has to play multiple games a time to make a living, I quite like the variety.  I have a favorite game most of the time, but that doesn’t preclude me from dipping in and out of others. 

Read more of Bill Murphy's Content Locusts Aren't the Problem.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • CyclopsSlayerCyclopsSlayer Minneapolis, MNPosts: 532Member

    Pretty much spot on. If all the world has is themepark quests, raids, pvp, content will dry up almost immediately, and no one sane can even remotely expect new content to be added at the rate it will be consumed.

    By giving players ways to personalize the world, things to do outside the themepark quest treadmill. Then the players start generating their own content.

    EQ2 made large steps, well medium sized at least, with their housing system, and the dungeon designer. Players could take ingame mobs and terrain, and assemble them in new and amazingly creative ways. Rift housing seems to be going a similar path, but haven't delved too deep there yet.

  • BurntvetBurntvet Baltimore, MDPosts: 2,941Member Uncommon

    And yet, none of the things mentioned in the article will stop MMORPG.com from having dozens of features/articles/columns/previews/anything else hype and praise the next "themepark of the week" to the skies.

    We have seen it over and over again.

    How can the "themepark of the week" MMOs continue to garner such heavy coverage and positives reviews, at this site and others, and then crash 2-3 months after launch?

     

  • JaedorJaedor Denver, COPosts: 1,140Member Uncommon

    I'm playing differently than I used to. I'm engaged with 4 AAA mmos at once instead of being loyal to one. From my perspective, it's quite strange.

     

    As a result, I'm also spending more money. My gaming entertainment budget is a lot higher today than the $13/mo I used to spend. For the industry, this is a good thing. It does feel strange, though, and I find myself continuing to search for something that may be lost to time.

  • RohnRohn Saint Peters, MOPosts: 3,740Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Burntvet

    And yet, none of the things mentioned in the article will stop MMORPG.com from having dozens of features/articles/columns/previews/anything else hype and praise the next "themepark of the week" to the skies.

    We have seen it over and over again.

    How can the "themepark of the week" MMOs continue to garner such heavy coverage and positives reviews, at this site and others, and then crash 2-3 months after launch?

     

     

    I agree.  I'm wondering if, in future reviews, reviewers here will ask themselves "What is there to do in this game other than kill stuff (whether that's mobs for a quest, in a dungeon/raid, or other players)?" when they are assessing a game.  That so often indicates what a game's longevity will be like.

    Most themepark games offer little more to do than kill things.  You increase your level so you can kill higher level things.  You kill mobs for loot so you can kill tougher things.  That's it.

    When members here talk about wanting "worlds" to play in - worlds that matter, worlds that are more complete - that's part of what they mean.

    That "fluff" (housing, crafting, economy, social systems, etc) is a large part of what makes a game feel more like a world.  And, it's something that too many games completely lack.

    Hell hath no fury like an MMORPG player scorned.

  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,066Member Uncommon

    Agree with you on Foundry style User Generated Content whole heartedly.

     

    I would also like to second player and guild housing as well as the following needs to be included to improve retention:

    • Slower leveling.  I think its been said the average game takes 240 hours to level to cap, I would propse trippling that.  I think leveling a character should take at a minimum of 6 months of normal 3 hour a day play time to get to cap.  You can remove the grind associated with such long leveling times as implementing progression at about the same pace as now. So instead of getting a skill point or combat skill every level, have you earn 1 ever third of a level to keep the pace of progression as it is now.
    • game play elements that foster community and espirit-de-corps.
    • Game systems other then dungeon crawling, instanced PvP'ing and Raiding.  But please god no more rep grinds.
    • Stat and Loot based Achievements for guild and characters alike:  Why should I care about 10,000 Centaur kills if theres no rewards associated with it.  Titles are a start but reward meaningful rewards such as rare weapon/armor skins and nice gold rewards for every 10k I kill.
    • Loot systems more akin to Asherons Call then WoW.  You want to retain everyone then make it so each level of creature has its own loot profile and you can ensure players will stick around killing mobs because you never know when that next mob you kill might become the jackpot.  Imagine if you will if every level 90 mob in WoW had a chance to drop what ever the latest raid instance boss drops.  Guarentee you people would be playing alot longer.
    • and finally removal of instancing and removal of any incentives from standing around in cities queing for the next queue.

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

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  • BadSpockBadSpock Somewhere, MIPosts: 7,974Member

    The problem people fail to admit is that the majority, the "modern" MMO gamer likes to consume content, and no game really has as much high-quality content as WoW.

    This is how the game has lasted 8+ years at #1.

    Constant change too. Nothing new right now? Wait a few weeks - there will be a new patch with new raids/dungeons and/or new dailies and factions or another holiday event that will last a few weeks.

    WoW stagnates horribly in the 6-8 or so month cycle before a new expansion is released, and yes I'm sure their sub numbers flucuate a lot in that time - but lots come back each and every time.

    No new game can compete with 8+ years of content additions.

    So the locusts come, devour, get bored and leave. Some go back to their old nest, some wait for the next meal.

    Point is - there is a lot to do in WoW outside of Raiding/PvP - is most of it kind of pointless? It's a video game - of course it's pointless.

  • AmarantharAmaranthar OhioPosts: 2,428Member Uncommon

    I have to laugh. You guys just can't get past "gamey", can you? Opening up player content in an MMO is like saying "here's our MMO, we aren't sure what's in it though."

    Quality control, for the win.

    Just go all out Sandbox, for crying out loud. And no, don't limit it to the money starved content of what we've mostly seen to date.

    Hint: "UO done right, in 3D".

    Once upon a time....

  • TorlukTorluk EdinburghPosts: 162Member

    I've noticed lately that many of the articles on the site seem to fit more closely with the opinions and ideas discussed by the general members on the boards.  It is refreshing to see imo.

    I am in complete agreement with the content of this piece.  Now all we need is for you writers to please start pouring honey in the ears of the folks that matter to get the genre out of this rut it has been in for the past few years.

  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,187Member Uncommon

    I agree, content locusts are not the problem, mainly because they are normally in a minority.  Now it is a quite different story when a game like SWTOR makes most players content locusts.   What I mean by that is the game had a minimal crafting system, very fast leveling, no housing, and the game channeled you everywhere, there was no choice.

    So yes, you could probably do a themepark with decent systems to keep people playing.  It is probably easier in a sandbox environment, but a themepark does not exclude such.  You have to have designers that know how people play these games.  Bioware had little experience with designing a MMO and thought they knew better what would sell in one.  Needless to say they were pretty clueless when it comes to MMO design.

    I had to shake my head at this quote in the article though:

    "Cryptic’s Foundry in Neverwinter (and other games) is perfect for this. It unleashes a steady stream of content made by the players and adds to the community."

    The foundry might be a start, but it is really limited, especially when you look at earlier Neverwinter games.  Looking at prior Neverwinters makes the foundry look like a bandaid just to say they have the feature.   Not only that it will cost you after you use it a couple times.  I don't see the upcoming Neverwinter as an answer to any of this.

    User customized content is a goal, but you have to be careful with it, people will always take it too far if you let them.

  • eric_w66eric_w66 North Richland Hills, TXPosts: 1,006Member Uncommon
    EQ1 kept people busy by having grind. People switched to WoW when it became available to avoid the grind (and get other things like prettier graphics, etc). But the grind could be made 'more fun' if the content was more dynamic. I'm not necessarily talking about user-generated, but it needs to be more than 'Lets go camp the FG in lguk for 10 hours to hope for a FBSS drop'.

    Tho I will admit, rare drops from rare spawns DID add something (besides frustration heh)... special to EQ1.
  • winterwinter El Paso, TXPosts: 2,276Member Uncommon

      Good post Bill. Much more indepth on why content locuste are ok and what the industry can try and do to prevent games from becoming 1-2 month fast food throw away titles.. Not saying the genre has to go to the far left themepark only, but a good hybridization like you point out with neverwinters foundry will go a long way to fill in the gaps between expansions and content updates from developers.

     

     

  • RohnRohn Saint Peters, MOPosts: 3,740Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by winter

      Good post Bill. Much more indepth on why content locuste are ok and what the industry can try and do to prevent games from becoming 1-2 month fast food throw away titles.. Not saying the genre has to go to the far left themepark only, but a good hybridization like you point out with neverwinters foundry will go a long way to fill in the gaps between expansions and content updates from developers.

     

     

     

    I'll agree that things like the Foundry add to a game.  Not only does it provide a ton of content to players, but it's also great fun for those of us that remain GMs at heart from our early days of paper and pencil games.

    Hell hath no fury like an MMORPG player scorned.

  • NacarioNacario World Wide WebPosts: 217Member
    Originally posted by Burntvet

    And yet, none of the things mentioned in the article will stop MMORPG.com from having dozens of features/articles/columns/previews/anything else hype and praise the next "themepark of the week" to the skies.

    We have seen it over and over again.

    How can the "themepark of the week" MMOs continue to garner such heavy coverage and positives reviews, at this site and others, and then crash 2-3 months after launch?

     

    bcuz sadly there r no other alternatives/titles and they make money from these casual mainstream mmos

  • IcewhiteIcewhite Elmhurst, ILPosts: 6,403Member
    Originally posted by Ozmodan

    I agree, content locusts are not the problem, mainly because they are normally in a minority.  Now it is a quite different story when a game like SWTOR makes most players content locusts.   What I mean by that is the game had a minimal crafting system, very fast leveling, no housing, and the game channeled you everywhere, there was no choice.

     

    There's an aspect of this that we rarely see mentioned; how many of the systems that distract and entrance new players are completely lost on "this is my 39th game" vets? 

    "Been there, done that." is the watchword for a growing oldster population.  Regardless of the system you trot out, we've all seen it before, possibly dozens of times.

    -----

    Quest text--were developers really startled to find out how few people actually read them, or ever did?

    We know it came as a shock to bioware, that famous webcomic involving the spacebar.

    How many games have I discarded without even toying with their crafting systems?  I've seen crafting systems before, and yours really doesn't sound particularly unique or remarkable.

    Housing?  You game cannot match what I could already do in 1993.

    PVP--meh.  Same damn game as always, only the moves and interfaces slightly differ.  Back to the eighties.

    Don't even get me started on just how little raiding/raid bosses have evolved.

    -----

    It's not the games that have irreversibly changed, but I certainly have.

    The systems I believe can "rescue" mmos will involve discarding some profits, and shooting for smaller and more socially focused games, and orders of magnitude more customization.  Possibly even discarding the "massive" completely.  And hey, remember roleplay?  You wanted a system whose ability to entertain exceeds your necessity to create content for?  You had it, but it wasn't profitable to focus on.

    How likely is voluntarily cutting profits to be something a corporation will ever do?  Zero, right?

    -----

    Since we know there are entire lists of things modern game producers cannot/will not do, we're just searching every new game for old systems, maybe done just a hair better this time.

    All we can do, really.  (see, two posts down, "innovate in reverse"?)

    Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.

  • gravesworngravesworn charleston, WVPosts: 324Member
    Good article, i tend to be on the sandbox side of the fence, started out with theme parks but then wanted more that they couldnt offer. My play time in mmos has dropped dratically. The only game i spent more than a month playing other than wow was darkfall. It looks like the wave of sandboxes will soon be upon us though.
  • YamotaYamota LondonPosts: 6,620Member

    Spot on article. There is no such thing as a content lucust. What has happened is that over the years MMORPGs have become easier and easier and the gameplay becoming more linear and about finishing content, e.g. quests or other single player constructs, and such have become more like a single player game.

    Problem with a single player game is that, most, have no sub. fee and they are intended to be played from start to finish. So no person in his right mind would continue paying for such a game, once he has finished it.

    No the industry needs to realise that MMORPGs cannot be designed like single player games accessable on a central server and customers need to stop buying those games. Unless we want to pay a sub. fee for playing single player games with a linear path from start to end.

    Open world and player created content is the key and by that I dont mean stupid quest creation tools which just turns the tables and makes players create the above stated single player content. No, a virtual living breathing world need to be designed where players try to find their place in it and that must not neccessarily be that of a hero but rather a citizien. This is what Ultima Online was all about, shame almost no other MMO dev. understood or cared to understand that.

  • BloodaxesBloodaxes ZabbarPosts: 2,651Member Uncommon

    I pretty much rather they get off the levels all together and have stats that increase the more you use them ala runescape, elder scrolls, I think darkfall etc etc

    One does not require levels to be happy, I would prefer something "new" out of the ordinary if it took more than a week to reach cap on everything.

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  • kishekishe aitooPosts: 1,978Member Uncommon
    Problem is that MMO's have turned to fast food. Kids these days want to beat a MMO in few hours like they do their console games and it's fine and good but us old timers are starving for our "phillet mignon".
  • TelondarielTelondariel Ottawa, ONPosts: 1,001Member

    I don't see anything in the article or this thread that hasn't been said over and over for the past 3 years.  It always boils down to sandbox vs themepark, with either side armwrestling over which game design approach is better. 

    Yes, we get it.  The industry is engorged to the point of bursting with cash-grab themeparks.  Even worse, the game dev's have added another tier of money-grab with the Cash Shop trend.  Worlds aren't built any more:  the players are just cash cows that dev's milk as quickly as they can before the herd trundles off to the next green pasture.

    From the corporate standpoint, why not continue doing this?  It works.  They get their investment back, and with the sale of cheesy virtual Cash Shop items they can pump out "content" that a low-skill, low-pay employee can produce in very short order.  And people gobble it up. 

    The industry has gone too far over to the side of corporate gaming.  Let's make shallow, compelling content, hype it all to heck with the sweetest wording to fool even the most jaded of players (*cough* GW2 bait and switch *cough*), and rake the profits in.  Retention?  No one expects 100% retention.  As long as the initial costs have been covered, plus a decent buffer of gravy, the remaining players will keep the lights on by buying Cash Shop shinies and expansions.  Its a well practiced model that keeps working, and people are making a lot of money by following it.

    What we don't have enough of are people with the stones to truly make something good.  Not sandbox vs themepark; a world that integrates features from both models to appeal to a wider spectrum of players.  But, that takes money, a skilled team, and more passion for the genre than for pleasing a corporate suit.

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  • MilitantMilitant nyc, NYPosts: 48Member
    Telon basically hit the nail on the head. It's exactly right.. Dev's simply don't care about the genre, it's all about money.
  • erictlewiserictlewis Cottondale, ALPosts: 3,026Member Uncommon

    Content locust are somewhat of a problem, however on the other hand game companies who spen 200 million and 5 years in development that deliver 2 months worth of content is a problem.  Most compaines now days are falling into this. Long development cycles with not much content. Folks goble it up and go ok whats next.  

    Suposedly swtor was to have 10 years of content, that has yet to show up. Despite the fact we were told they had banked content in the wings waiting. 

     

  • renadirenadi MORA, MNPosts: 19Member
    I don't think having levels is bad, honestly I think a levelling system like Demon's Souls and Dark Souls would work well for an mmo, you get one stat point a level, skills are all based on your skill or aquisition of the item to use it, effectiveness may be somewhat tied to your stats but the SLVL 1 runs of a moderately difficult game show that there's a LOT of room for skill.
  • evilastroevilastro EdinburghPosts: 4,270Member
    Originally posted by Burntvet

    And yet, none of the things mentioned in the article will stop MMORPG.com from having dozens of features/articles/columns/previews/anything else hype and praise the next "themepark of the week" to the skies.

    We have seen it over and over again.

    How can the "themepark of the week" MMOs continue to garner such heavy coverage and positives reviews, at this site and others, and then crash 2-3 months after launch?

     

    Just because sandboxes promote longevity in a game, doesnt mean that themeparks are bad games.  MMORPG.com reports on all upcoming games, it is hardly their fault that there are more themeparks than sandboxes. Sandboxes are hard to make, and often financially unviable.

    Sandbox fans need to stop being such negative Nancy's and start accepting the diversity of interests in the genre. Follow games you like, ignore ones you don't. The industry doesn't revolve around you.

  • surfer88surfer88 Lansing, MIPosts: 33Member
    The main thing i want to see MMO's do is bring back that community aspect... EQ1 had its flaws yes i will admit but i loved having to group to experience content thru all my levelling. That's what makes an mmo feel awesome. exploring is another big one... not to find a vista, or skill point, but even just to find a camp that i can group with my friends at and farm for hours to gain exp. give us exp for more of the map we open up .
  • evilastroevilastro EdinburghPosts: 4,270Member
    Back to the topic - content locusts arent a problem. Making games which can be 'completed' is a problem when you are making MMOs. Developers should have realised by now that if they dont add user generated content or non-combat things to work on while waiting for the next zones to be released, that there will be a mass exodus of players once the content is chewed up.
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