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General: Saturday Debate: Innovation or Upgrade

StraddenStradden Managing EditorMember CommonPosts: 6,696

Staff Writers Dan Fortier and Carolyn Koh take opposite sides of the issue of The MMO Dilemma, to innovate or to upgrade.

There are lots of varied approaches to take toward any project. Whether you are building a house or designing an online game there are still important choices to make that will effect what kind of future the final product will have. As with most things, it's far easier to stand on the shoulders of your predecessors and build upon what they have accomplished and learn from their mistakes rather than forging your own trail of innovation into uncharted territory. Using the house analogy, it's much simpler to use a tried and true blueprint that has proven it won't fall apart at the first stiff wind rather than crafting your own architectural style.

As far as MMOs are concerned, how much effort should go toward implementing and improving current/existing features versus expanding the horizon and inventing new technology and content that will improve the genre? It's a difficult question and one that is the focus of this week's debate between Dan Fortier and Carolyn Koh.

Read the whole debate here.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    This article completely overlooked the simple fact that innovation to improve the genre does NOT have to mean new technology.  It is possible to introduce new features and options without having to worry about new technology.



    GAWD this aggravates me to no end.  Why is it that people always assume that innovation means reinventing the friggin wheel??  For an industry that is in... how was it put... it's "infancy", there must be a hell of a lot of ways to add new features and content without having to explore new forms of tech.  It's called creativity in design...  and the tools to do so are already there.



    Stop giving your developers stupid ideas.  Pay them to write decent code for a fun game, and see the development through to the polish before releasing it.  That will improve the genre 1000 times more than attempting to develop new ways to color a rock.

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  • xaldraxiusxaldraxius Member Posts: 1,249
    New ideas, old ideas, innovations, upgrades: Give a penny take a pound. None of these things are what I see as being the most important part of an MMORPG. Individuality, story, developer involvement, huge events that effect not only every player, but the shape and scope of the world as well, these are what makes a good MMORPG to me. I want to feel that my character is an extention of myself in the world, and that he has the ability to shape or at least influence the events of that world. I want my: warrior, ninja, space pirate...etc to be able to be vitueous, or sinister and have the NPC's of the world react to him accordingly. I want saga's to be written about me, I want every action to have a consequence. I don't want to play in a world that is like an episode of the Simpsons where in the end everything is back to where it started from, give or take a couple of new shops, or dungeons.

    As far as I am concerned no MMORPG has done this well since Asheron's Call. Everything else is just cookie cutter characters and static worlds with little or no influence shown to reflect the actions of the people within them.

    City of Heroes/City of Villains does a good job of opening up the doors of individuality, but constantly repeating quests and beating the same villains in the same places over and over again is just dull.

    Completely player driven games suck too. There should be at least one supreme villain that no one can defeat, played by a developer or someone else hired to play this char, who pulls the strings behind the scenes. Machinations that turn what everyone thought was a victory into a trick that serves to advance the possition of the enemy. REAL storylines that keep players guessing what will happen next, and paying their hard earned money every month to be a part of it.

    Good graphics are always important, but the story is fundemental.
  • This articale really failed to mention all the failed attempts at innovation. For example lets look at D&D online, Auto Assault, and the NGE in SWG. In all these examples the developers were trying to do something to change the game from the standard target and attack macro type set up. The real problem with innovation in a MMORPG is if you try something new and it doesn't work out you will have hundreds if not thousands of your dedicated fans taking the 10 hours per day they were spending on your game, and now spending that time trying to convince others that the game is not worth player.
  • bainsterbainster Member Posts: 19
    Originally posted by Guler

    This articale really failed to mention all the failed attempts at innovation. For example lets look at D&D online, Auto Assault, and the NGE in SWG. In all these examples the developers were trying to do something to change the game from the standard target and attack macro type set up. The real problem with innovation in a MMORPG is if you try something new and it doesn't work out you will have hundreds if not thousands of your dedicated fans taking the 10 hours per day they were spending on your game, and now spending that time trying to convince others that the game is not worth player.
    I disagree here. The problem is not that they tried to innovate and failed. They failed to impose new ideas on old gameplay. Give me a feature that was introduced that changes how people played those games that was not a 1+1=2 feature.



    Game designers are hamstrung by investors. Everybody wants a succesfull game, but when you mention a new feature that is completely without any support in the market space as a sure fire way of drawing more players aka subscriptions, they are left on the cutting room floor because economics dictate (as in majority of TV and movie productions) that the working recipy for MMO's cannot be tampered with beyond a curtain point.





    Apart from pure innovation vs upgrade there is a multitude that affects the outcome of a MMO in the market, not just features. Just look at Vanguard.



    At the end of the day, Game designers have to try to innovate regardless of the restraints on them from a number of areas in the industry. If they are just going to create another clone of every other MMO out there to get a market share to make profit the then the future of entertaining MMO's is bleak indeed.
  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    No big surprise that many of the games that tried to change focus midstream lost a lot of quality, considering how it usually gets done.  Most major changes to MMO's post launch are reactionary, and are a direct result of the most support tickets or feature requests from players, and are poorly tested prior to bringing them to live servers.



    They real key is for an MMORPG developer (meaning the company as a whole) to develop new and interesting content and features BEFORE launching the game, test the hell out of them, and polish the whole thing before charging a penny for subscriptions.  Then, as time moves forward, new features and content should absolutely be introduced to the game, and the same process should be followed.



    To say that it is impossible to be innovative and creative without screwing it up is absolute crap.  Commercial software companies do it all the time... and they don't have HALF of the issues.



    It's time that players demanded MORE from the games they play, and it's time that the game publishers recognized that they have been dropping the ball for years.

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  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by bainster



    Game designers are hamstrung by investors. Everybody wants a succesfull game, but when you mention a new feature that is completely without any support in the market space as a sure fire way of drawing more players aka subscriptions, they are left on the cutting room floor because economics dictate (as in majority of TV and movie productions) that the working recipy for MMO's cannot be tampered with beyond a curtain point. 
    This is an excellent point.  This is one of the reasons why I have always been a little sad that MMORPG's got so popular.  It can be nice because there are more people to group with (if you like that), but it turns the industry into just that... and industry.  The more corporate gaming gets, the less innovative it will be.  ESPECIALLY if the company is US based.  Just look at the auto manufacturers here.  It's criminal what happens there, and it's becoming more and more apparent with MMORPG's too.

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  • jpete3jpete3 Member Posts: 15
    I guess there are just some things in life that people don't think are possible.   Thank God we are not in charge of making new and exciting games :)  Why can't we have both innovation and updates?  Is there some law of the universe that says consumers can't expect high quality gamplay, with stunning graphics and a deep storyline?  Some might say  that I'd be asking for too much or I'm just not being realistic.  I submit to you that we as consumers expect these things from other service and/or product providers every day.  Why not MMO's?  It's like asking the question "what do you want, high speed internet with low quality images or low speed with high quality images.  Who among us would settle for those options?  What if 10 years ago I said I want a computer with an internet connection that loads a page in less than a second?  I want to be able to play video games in Oregon with people in Texas, New York and Germany.     I want to download, upload, and send information, music, videos and e-mail instantly across the globe.  No reason why gamers can't have what they want at a price they can afford.  Whether it be innovation, updates, deep stories, good graphics, and whatever else you enjoy. 
  • gpettgpett Member Posts: 1,105
    First off, building a house is a poor analogy.  Nobody lives in a house for fun or entertainment.  A house is a necessity.  We don't move out of our house and get a new one when we are bored.



    Secondly, Innovation, new features, or changes cannot be implemented in a sloppy way.  Many games that try innovation forget to polish all of the many facets of their game.  So, it was not the fault of the innovation that caused games to be poor.  It was there inability to integrate new ideas into a game seamlessly. 



    Quality companies know that the product has to "feel" right.  First impressions of any product are more important than anything.  In a game; sloppy animations,  non-intuative controls, lack of "fun" factor, nothing that makes you go "wow" are death for a game.  I think developers get caught up on making a game instead of making a game fun.



    Yes, I want innovation.  But, not at the cost of something else missing from the game.
  • BadSpockBadSpock Member UncommonPosts: 7,979
    Originally posted by Dreneth

    Originally posted by bainster



    Game designers are hamstrung by investors. Everybody wants a succesfull game, but when you mention a new feature that is completely without any support in the market space as a sure fire way of drawing more players aka subscriptions, they are left on the cutting room floor because economics dictate (as in majority of TV and movie productions) that the working recipy for MMO's cannot be tampered with beyond a curtain point. 
    This is an excellent point.  This is one of the reasons why I have always been a little sad that MMORPG's got so popular.  It can be nice because there are more people to group with (if you like that), but it turns the industry into just that... and industry.  The more corporate gaming gets, the less innovative it will be.  ESPECIALLY if the company is US based.  Just look at the auto manufacturers here.  It's criminal what happens there, and it's becoming more and more apparent with MMORPG's too.



    I like your reference to the auto industry. However, answer me this...

    The problem with US auto industry is that we simply cannot compete in manufacturing with countries who pay 1/10th as much to their workers. Hence, why so many jobs are outsoureced out of the US. And why the only people opening plants in America are Toyota and Honda... The US auto industry has been dead for 30 years, people are just finally starting to realize it...

    For MMORPG's, the most successfull title was created by a US company. A product that takes Upgrade over innovation. They've become the global leader. Look at what's coming out of Asian MMO market, more Korean grinder games. Look what's coming out soon from US companies, WAR and AoC, Innovation over upgrade for the most part... well, WAR may be more upgrade then innovation but..

    Point is, it's nothing like the US auto industry.

    lol

    True, everyone is trying to hop on the MMORPG bandwagon after WoW's success, but few will succeed. What this means for the industry? Increased competetion for your subscription, but I doubt we'll be exporting MMO design jobs to Korea any time soon. :)

    If anything, the MMO industry is more like the television industry. CSI and Law and Order are SO successfull, everyone is trying to make a crime show to run against them, but few will succeed. There hasn't been anything innovative on television in quite a while, just upgrade's to the same old formulas... Hence, much more accurate comparison to MMO industry.

    I've been drinking, sorry if this doesn't make sense. It IS Saturday

  • bainsterbainster Member Posts: 19
    Originally posted by heerobya



    If anything, the MMO industry is more like the television industry. CSI and Law and Order are SO successfull, everyone is trying to make a crime show to run against them, but few will succeed. There hasn't been anything innovative on television in quite a while, just upgrade's to the same old formulas... Hence, much more accurate comparison to MMO industry.
    I've been drinking, sorry if this doesn't make sense. It IS Saturday
    Very close to my thoughts. It will take one group that creates a whole new genre of MMO to create a whole new fad (yes I mean that)

    I am willing to bet the next big MMO will be very different from WoW.



    WoW will die off old age just like sienfeld etc or will be replaced with a new game from Blizzard that has similar design and execusion as WoW but possible in a different setting, but I suspect not as successfull as WoW.



    WoW will be one of a kind. It's the watershed between old style computer games (aka single/networked) games and MMO (massive onlne) It's dominance  will decline (some argue it's already started) and the market will settle.



    Enough about WoW. :)



    I would love to be part of something truly new and exciting. maybe even something completely non related to RPG's in the MMO world.

    Now if only some Game Company would hire me ;P hehe
  • MarLMarL Member UncommonPosts: 606

    There has to be inovation or the mmorpg genre will die(die as in back to the uo days with 250,000 players). I will not play another fantasy mmorpg unless it has something ground breaking and FUN in it. Leveling and item whoring is not fun.

    Own, Mine, Defend, Attack, 24/7

  • bainsterbainster Member Posts: 19
    I agree. I will not spend another cent on an MMO that doens't create a new experiance from what I've seen so far.



    Things I want from MMORPG's

    • A Single player experiance (as in I wanna feel like the hero, not just another moron with a weapon running around)
    • A game experiance that does feel like the more you play the harder and more impossible it becomes.
    • A game mechanic that is NOT focused on killing things in one way or another (crafting means killing things etc)
    • Seperate single and group game mechanisms so that they don't effect each other negatively.

    • Create a dynamic game. One where players effect the world and possibly the story.
    And that just int he RPM genre. I have a list as long as my arm on different MMO genre's and game mechanics that they can bring to the table.
  • heimdallrheimdallr Member Posts: 61
    Originally posted by bainster

    Originally posted by heerobya



    If anything, the MMO industry is more like the television industry. CSI and Law and Order are SO successfull, everyone is trying to make a crime show to run against them, but few will succeed. There hasn't been anything innovative on television in quite a while, just upgrade's to the same old formulas... Hence, much more accurate comparison to MMO industry.
    I've been drinking, sorry if this doesn't make sense. It IS Saturday
    Very close to my thoughts. It will take one group that creates a whole new genre of MMO to create a whole new fad (yes I mean that)

    I am willing to bet the next big MMO will be very different from WoW.



    WoW will die off old age just like sienfeld etc or will be replaced with a new game from Blizzard that has similar design and execusion as WoW but possible in a different setting, but I suspect not as successfull as WoW.



    WoW will be one of a kind. It's the watershed between old style computer games (aka single/networked) games and MMO (massive onlne) It's dominance  will decline (some argue it's already started) and the market will settle.



    Enough about WoW. :)



    I would love to be part of something truly new and exciting. maybe even something completely non related to RPG's in the MMO world.

    Now if only some Game Company would hire me ;P hehe







    Well, I agree about most, but looking at that settling on the MMO market after (certain) WoW death: This really wont be that easy, especially when dealing with Blizzard Entertainment (now owned by Vivendi) - as we all know, WoW has made loads of cash for BE, so when their gigant will die, they will take this loads and put them into something even greater - please note that BE has the habit to develop, test and polish everything as long as it takes to bring perfect, fresh game to the market (of course when considering its impact and popularity, so again...cash flush).



    Maybe some of the WoW players will subscribe and play other games, but millions of new will come and buy new Blizzard product - this company just somehow alway knew how to get to gamers (both casual and hardcore).



    So - this will be an everending problem, and I won't be suprised if BE will hold their majority on MMO market for a long, long time.



    Of course, till some cash-flushed investor will be called by an extrermely talented developer, so they can both publish new, ground-breaking MMO that everybody was waiting for (ok, not likely)

    _________________________________________________________________________________________
    imageMMOs played-> UO: AoS, L2, GW, GW: F, HO, SoF, ToP
    image

  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by jpete3

    I guess there are just some things in life that people don't think are possible.   Thank God we are not in charge of making new and exciting games :)  Why can't we have both innovation and updates?  Is there some law of the universe that says consumers can't expect high quality gamplay, with stunning graphics and a deep storyline?  Some might say  that I'd be asking for too much or I'm just not being realistic.  I submit to you that we as consumers expect these things from other service and/or product providers every day.  Why not MMO's?  It's like asking the question "what do you want, high speed internet with low quality images or low speed with high quality images.  Who among us would settle for those options?  What if 10 years ago I said I want a computer with an internet connection that loads a page in less than a second?  I want to be able to play video games in Oregon with people in Texas, New York and Germany.     I want to download, upload, and send information, music, videos and e-mail instantly across the globe.  No reason why gamers can't have what they want at a price they can afford.  Whether it be innovation, updates, deep stories, good graphics, and whatever else you enjoy. 


    QFE and jpete3 FTW



    This is EXACTLY how I feel

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  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by heerobya
    I like your reference to the auto industry. However, answer me this.../  /...Point is, it's nothing like the US auto industry... /  /...I've been drinking, sorry if this doesn't make sense. It IS Saturday
    My point about the auto industry was the lack of innovation in design and efficiency with American cars.  China, for example, has cars which have better emissions ratings than US cars *might* have in 12 years if the newest regulations for emissions controls don't get squashed before they are enacted into law.  MMORPG's are becoming like Ford and GM.  The world needs more efficient vehicles, so they come out with Hummers and scrap electric cars.



    In this regard, the analogy was spot on, IMHO 

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  • rhys1882rhys1882 Member Posts: 18
    The general problem with this article is that it characterizes the debate in a way that makes it more about semantics than about substance.  Improvement vs innovation is a bad way to look at the issue.  Innovation can lead to improvement, and improvements can be considered innovative.  Small changes in simple mechanics can be huge improvements and can be considered innovative as well.  Its too easy to get bogged down in arguing what constitutes improvement and what consistutes innovation and both sides of the argument can end up making the same points and pointing to the same examples, as is evidenced by this article.



    The real question is whether MMO developers should follow the trends but make minor improvements on the gameplay or should they try to revolutionize the industry by doing something entirely new.  Obviously you run into the same problem that all forms of media run into.  TV, movies, music, video games....   The companies with the large sums of money to invest in large projects want a guarantee on their return.  So a huge number of them will push for clones of already successful games.  All we can really do is hope for the same saviors we find in other mainstream forms of media.  Either we look to people within the mainstream industry with enough money or clout to push through truly revolutionary ideas, or we look to scrappy independent underdogs who scrape by and squeeze out something good that then ends up gathering momentum and becoming a break-out hit.
  • mirkrimmirkrim Member Posts: 69
    Oh boy.  This is one of those things that always gets oversimplified.  No matter how much we debate over the issue, a revolution of the MMOG requires more than just developers listening to the community's ideas.  You need money to sustain the project.  You need interest, either by generating it through creative marketing, or acquiring it through the licencing of an existing premise.   You need creative and highly skilled developers.  But most importantly, you need executives who truly understand their game and keep corporate pressure from interfering with the goal of a fully realized, polished product.



    Blizzard has all of those, which is why WoW is so successful.  I would say EVE Online also.  But at this point, there are few others.
  • brostynbrostyn Member Posts: 3,092
    I don't agree that it takes deep pockets to bring about innovation and fantastic new ideas. Actually, I believe that its quite the opposite. Making money is a great motivator for people. Big names already have the money, and I don't believe we can count on them to do it. I think that has been proven with WoW, EQ2, and most recently Vanguard(who had SOE's help). All 3 of these games are Everquest with a solo option and button mashing.



    Its the guy who is playing WoW, and all these other clones, that is being bored out of his mind who will someday break out of this Everquest clone gaming style that is so pervasive in this genre. Its people like that who bring about new ideas. He'll want to get into the market, and create a game that people will love. DAoC, Eve Online, Anarachy Online, and Asheron's Call all started from humble beginnings. They didn't have Sony or Blizzard backing them up. They started with a love of gaming, and a want of money. Now all those companies are doing bigger and better things.



    Just like in all businesses, though, you have people trying to get rich quick. Your Dark and Light, Throne of Chaos, I'm even going to throw Vanguard in there because that is an obvious scam from my viewpoint. They don't last long, because they were amateurs who thought the business world was easy. They thought you can just throw any old product out there, crap or not, and people will love it. No, people don't like playing with feces, so these guys go under.



    Show me one game that had deep pockets behind it which had a new idea. I'm not sure there is one.
  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by mirkrim



    Blizzard has all of those, which is why WoW is so successful.  I would say EVE Online also.  But at this point, there are few others.
    Then it is about damned time these companies change their business model, and figure out how to make it work.  I am sick of having to settle for half-assed work when the potential is there for so much more.  Commercial software companies can do it...  why can't gaming companies?

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  • mirkrimmirkrim Member Posts: 69
    Deep pockets don't directly equate to revolutionary changes, no.  But you need money to pay the people working on the project, and to finance publicity efforts.  Without those you become SEED, a game which would have done some great things for the MMORPG had it not shut down due to lack of funding.



    Again, there are multiple components required in this equation.  Refer to my previous post.
  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by brostyn



    Show me one game that had deep pockets behind it which had a new idea. I'm not sure there is one.
    SoE had a 3 million dollar development budget for EQ2, if I remember correctly.  They were the first to... er... uh...  what the hell did all that money pay for anyway??

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  • mirkrimmirkrim Member Posts: 69
    Originally posted by Dreneth

    Originally posted by mirkrim



    Blizzard has all of those, which is why WoW is so successful.  I would say EVE Online also.  But at this point, there are few others.
    Then it is about damned time these companies change their business model, and figure out how to make it work.  I am sick of having to settle for half-assed work when the potential is there for so much more.  Commercial software companies can do it...  why can't gaming companies?

    Because they're corporate entities, and corporate entities often don't care about getting things right if there is a faster way to profit.
  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Originally posted by mirkrim



    Because they're corporate entities, and corporate entities often don't care about getting things right if there is a faster way to profit.
    Round and round it goes... where it stops, nobody knows...

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  • tapeworm00tapeworm00 Member Posts: 549
    Originally posted by mirkrim

    Because they're corporate entities, and corporate entities often don't care about getting things right if there is a faster way to profit.
    Sadly, this is VERY true.



    Just look at the MMO Forum list. There's games I haven't ever heard of, yet there's probably a ton of people playing each and every one of them, and another ton for each "Game in Development" forum. The problem I see is we, the public, the consumers, keep buying all the crappy games companies throw at us just because we think it's gonna be the "next big thing". How many people fell for the  "Dark and Light" and "Mourning" scams?? Most of us are so thirsty for innovation we blur the lines between innovation and upgrades (yes, they're different: upgrading means making something existing better, innovating means creating something new altogether) and go for every upgraded game out there hoping it will play differently from our last MMOG. Corporate entities keep giving us all this crap because we keep buying it, it's as simple as that. On one side, you could think they're just playing unfairly with our hopes as gamers and consumers, but you could also think that they're just reacting to what they believe people like, because that's what people are buying.



    The "round and round it goes" poster condensed it very well in a single line.



    I'm sure most game developers have great ideas, but I'm also sure most of them get lost in the economic impulses the "people higher up" impose.


  • DrenethDreneth Member Posts: 697
    Well, I suppose this brings us to an interesting point of discussion...



    How the hell do we fix this??



    That is in and of itself, a loaded question, as trying to get a collection of gamers to do the same thing pretty much equates to herding cats.  So it's not like we're going to organize a massive boycott or anything...  I mean, hell...  Are our choices really limited to simply waiting for someone NOT to suck at MMORPG production?



    My first experience with a video game was in 1980.  Holy hell... that was 27 years ago.  Anyway...  Since then, I have seen many,  many wild and crazy advances in the video game industry.  Most of the innovative, groundbreaking work was done by people with very little spare cash and a whole lot of dedication.  Now...  with all of the incredible technology at our disposal, we have a bunch of people who probably don't even play video games calling the shots in a boardroom somewhere, deciding what to cut out of production based on cost analysis and revenue forecast models.



    Gaming is no longer about someone making something really cool, and someone else getting to play it.  it is about selling "insert movie spinoff here" wrapped in a shiny box, most likely with a half naked chick on the box... which, by the way, probably doesn't even exist in the friggin game.



    Man... I miss the old days.

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