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Posted: Dec 11th 2008 8:57PM Mr Angry said

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Honestly, I think there is still so much milage left in both these genres, however I feel that there is too much pressure for games to be an overnight success, rather than nurturing the player base to build a success.

This probably has a lot to do with the financial realities of running a business to recoup costs at launch, but I feel as a result decisions that are made have not been good for the games themselves.

I think that the next big thing will probably be a very simple MMO game, that works with the community to build and expand by fully embracing user generated content in such a way it becomes hugely entertaining. The issue is obviously quality control, which can be countered by giving players highly effective tools to create, build and imagine their own virtual worlds, but around a central system.

One popular iteration of this is the 'sandbox' MMO, but still to this day, no company has even come close to realizing this. It's always things like the IP making restriction as to what to allow, so to that end I'm thinking that anything that allows freedom to live in another world will slowly take off.

If you look at popular social networking sites, they were not launched to embrace all their users, it was a progressive rise to prominence. The analogy of this in the MMO world is obviously WoW, which has built a highly effective and world and invited users to get involved by having premium content. But that in itself is a restriction, you run out of road.

My hopes are that Darkfall will be proven to be a great success, so other companies can see there is real case for creating the tools, let the players populate and realize their vision, but supporting the community in such a way that the growth is measured, effective, engaging and vibrant by allowing users to rate content.

Consider a virtual world with two dimensions, one is to build and realize your own vision, the other is for people who want to enjoy that content. I don't know of a player of MMO's who doesn't fancy themselves as a designer, or have suggestions as to what they would do, and with both the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres, it does allow for more of an open book to realize that dream.

These companies are telling us that their customers are their greatest asset, what they have to realize is that they are probably the best developers too.

So to summarize, I feel the MMO genre is stale, it's time for revolution here, and I applaud any company that can embrace their customers in such a way. CCP have this and it must be tremendously rewarding for them, SWG had this, where players rarely complained about content, as they were the content, both of the Sci-Fi genre and very different games.

So it's my hope that Darkfall can deliver this too, if not, I'm sure there will be plenty of contenders to this throne, once the companies realize that the ideas don't have to come from them, that they have to forget their own pride to realize their own personal vision and allow these worlds to take life organically and far beyond their wildest dreams.

It's a $20 million punt for a company to get this rolling, I think it won't be long before people look beyond genre and back to the mechanics with which they deliver content. These companies are putting too much pressure on themselves to be indulge their own ideas, they need to support their most precious resource. Think of a community where the players were the devs, where players can work through bugs, through content and story. Now think of the retention as a result of these players not just being consumers, but the creators.

An interesting article, so thanks for posting it.

Thank you

P.S. Mr Angry is available to work in the MMO industry to support and design projects such as these.

Posted: Dec 11th 2008 8:59PM Mr Angry said

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Oh I want three stars for that one, it's the best I've contributed to this site yet :)

Posted: Dec 11th 2008 9:35PM Russell Clarke said

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Bravo!
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Posted: Dec 11th 2008 11:49PM Graill440 said

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I will give you one cool point for the piece Mr. Angry.

The thing folks do not want to deal with in an MMO is their own weakneses. Not all folks, but a huge majority simply lack the will to make a stand and hurt their antagonists, which would be a faulty MMO companies.

As stated there are plenty of ideas out there yet to be touched, including making current MMO's what they should be.

Folks arent tired of the genre's, they are tired of the lies, the promises, the spin that these fantasy/space or whatever promise and NEVER deliver. Sure the devs say this and that and spew the patches to try and fix what they know is a faulty product but they will not admit fault. Even the most hardcore MMO fanatic will become bored and frustrated with his/her/it's favorite style of game if the customer service simply is not there.

Lack of communication, censorship by ignorant community managers who are not qualified to moderate let alone report important info from devs and the devs themselves lying through their teeth to keep those subs for just one more month will wear anyone down till they become disgusted with whatever type of game they are playing at the time.

Honesty in the MMO community by devs, properly trained community managers that actually know something about the game you play, and games driven by the majority of subscriptions is whats needed. Fail in this and one might as well close up shop. Promises only go so far and then drudgery and the feeling no one gives a shit (the devs) sets in.

For me it is simply a waiting "game", eventually someone or some company with balls and morals that actually listens to it's player base, does not spin or lie, will appear, at that point they will recieve my money.

With a decent imagination and company integrity how can the fantasy or space genre's or anything for that matter even be close to boring?

To bad we have zero of that currently.

Posted: Dec 12th 2008 1:17AM Mr Angry said

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I too think you are definitely along the right lines, but I'd just like to raise a few points if I may to both support your argument and also to raise some other issues related to the perception of game studios in general.

I feel there is a plethora of talent across all MMO studios and the people who work to develop and build the current genre of MMO's work tirelessly to realize their vision.

I feel that developers are very unfairly targeted as a result of generally poor management, when they produce such high quality product, it just fails to innovate and inspire. I'm certain there are very many people who got into MMO development as their way of making their mark on the industry, their passion, only to become very disillusioned that their enthusiasm for the games was not shared by those making the business decisions.

Whenever I read forums and people attack developers, I feel a bit sad. It demonstrates a real lack of understanding that these people are very closely monitored and managed in such a way that 'getting the project done' supersedes their own person preference to excel, innovate and deliver.

Community managers have a very hard task, and with the constant barrage of 'feedback' they allow ego to take over and deal with customers. I've witnessed good community managers go bad because they take the feedback very personally. I'm not sure I'd agree there was anyone who was clueless in a position for a triple A MMO, but I feel there are some people who definitely need to realize what their job actually is, and treat customers as supporters, rather than the enemy.

As for the games that are failing or have failed, very many people work around the clock to attempt to put right the wrongs of others. It's such a shame they are presented with this type of opportunity as really they don't stand much of a chance. It must be heartbreaking to devote so much of your career to achieving your goal of finally being a dev to see the state of the industry in general.

If we look at the very excellent work done to turn EQ2 around a year or two after launch, or the introduction of the PvP system (which rates very highly with me), this was spot on, players came back as a result. Now the last expansion ignored ongoing issues for players, they introduced a completely unwanted system overnight and are baffled by the poor feedback. It's pretty bewildering.

I'm assuming that the situation is so dire right now with some studios, doing absolutely anything to maintain subs month on month is far preferable to taking time to work out what would be best to grow the game.

It's a sad state of affairs that the bar is set quite so high, but studios need to realize they need to do a few things very right then expand, not fulfill a tick list of must haves, write that on the box then pay magazines and affiliate sites for glowing reviews then cross their fingers that players are too lazy to want to change.

EQ2 screwed up chasing the WoW dollar, but since then games like LoTRO have proven it's OK to be a bit different, games like EVE continue to have a stable population. If we look back to the original Everquest, it was hard work, it was frustrating, but they still had 500k people want to play it, why change that, why not capitalize on that success and grow that idea?

In terms of slow demise of EQ, well SOE have only themselves to blame because they cannibalized their own player base with EQ2, disappointed them and they moved away. They were then on catch up because of WoW's approach and altered the gamer to chase those players. There is no vision here, SOE are on catch up.

SOE were so desperate to retrieve this hardcore, reliable market, they even purchased Vanguard based on empty promises, to attempt to do this. They didn't see Vanguard as a game, they just saw it as 400k units, with an average subscription time of 10 months. How is this good for gamers?

I reserve my scorn for producers, directors and executives who repeatedly turn their back on the customers in order to shortcut profit. It's not a sustainable model for growth, and players smell this a mile off.

I believe, going back to the original point of the article, that John Smedley needs to step down from his position and SOE needs to decide if making MMO games is really for them. I'd really like to see their five year plan for future product development, as I believe they have absolutely no clue as to how to achieve this.

My prediction, Everquest 3 is currently under development, while not under that name, it's being made, it's probably a 4-5 year project, of which they are about 2 years into it. They have probably started this project 3 or 4 times and scrapped it time after time. They will move EQ over to a free to play model Q1/Q2 next year to be seen to give back to the community. The agency has some very real problems right now, as it's been touted as a MMO, and it's not. It will do badly.

As for us, the MMO aficionados, I've got news for us. SOE don't want to earn our money anymore, they want new customers, and so they will diversify their portfolio and their customer base as a result. This is good business sense, but what a let down for those community members who have contributed to their success over the last 10 years.

Sorry for rambling, but all is not well at SOE right now, and I just hope someone from the parent company sits down and seriously considers points like this and from the other great contributors from online publications like Massively. They then reshuffle, clean house, then take a look at that poor developer who spent the last 7 days working 16 hours a day, realize 'they are one of us' and task them with fixing the current stagnation in MMO's and make games fun again.


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Posted: Dec 12th 2008 1:26AM Mr Angry said

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I realized I got carried away and managed to work some SOE venom into my piece here from some notes from earlier, when it's not specifically relevant to the discussion, so feel free to disregard that aspect of my rant.
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Posted: Dec 12th 2008 12:19AM Samael said

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Money talks! The thing these days is very simple, if you are not WoW, you cannot compete. With 11mil subs they have made a statement. The thing is they are afraid of moving away from it, and WoWs success seems to make publishers and devs think that they can make anything and people will fall for it.

Its not the genre but really its us the players, if we do not demand a revolution we will get more of the same. If we have to make a stand we need our money to make a stance. But as long as people are lazy and will accept everything thrown at them we will not see a change.

Posted: Dec 12th 2008 12:58AM (Unverified) said

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I'm personally with the Darkfall-esqe crowd here...I don't like levels simply because it often pulls my playing ability back because I haven't invested enough time in a game. WoW for example was hell for me (granted, I only stayed a month) because the zones were small enough that I'd need to stay in one or two to achieve the next level even when I'd trudged through all the kill X of Y quests in the area and still was just not strong enough for the next zone...maybe it was just me playing the game wrong.

Although Guild Wars isn't a true MMO I think it was slightly a step in the right direction - a low level cap which meant that new players could learn the game at the appropriate pace but vets could skip through knowing where to go and what to do. That said, it took them three games to get there (Nightfall has the best leveling curve in my experiance.)

As numerous posters have said whilst skill progression instead of level progression helps, really all it's doing is creating a more lateral leveling feild - players "level" the subset of skills they use, which unfortunately means to completely change your skillset means you need to spend a lot more time then in strait level based MMO's.

Honestly, I think it would be interesting to see a skill system based off more of a FPS view....meaning that your character usually has it's max health/energy, but limited weapons (or skills) and collects them through play. Although this means that new weapons would replace old (for example, who uses Vibroblades in KOTOR after they get a lightsaber?) whats to say that skills couldn't be more specialist rather then the broad group we have now?

okay...enough ranting. Nice disscussion here.

PassingS

Posted: Dec 12th 2008 1:00AM (Unverified) said

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How on earth did that post get here? Sorry about that all. It was meant to be on a Daily Grind post a few days ago :S

PassingS

Posted: Dec 12th 2008 11:52AM (Unverified) said

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I think you hit the nail on the head. The community is what keeps people into an MMO. Go figure! An MMO provides the opportunity to play with lots of other people from around the world, and the thing that keeps people playing them - is that very aspect.

It just seems to me that some of the MMO companies that want to compete with the AAA titles want to talk about how many features they have and get lost when it comes to connecting people together.

If an MMO could connect you as well as Facebook, the number of people paying to play that game would shoot through the roof. It's time that game developers realize that SEEING others play the game (filled cities, busy zones, lots of chatter) is what ends of being of highest importance in keeping a long-term customer involved in a game.

Posted: Dec 12th 2008 11:59PM (Unverified) said

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I work on a 2D space based MMO with arcade shooter and trading game elements called Star Sonata.

http://www.starsonata.com

Posted: Dec 13th 2008 11:06AM Temploiter said

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There is a proven model to follow now and the cost of producing MMOs drives out most independent studios (and designers). Almost all titles out now are slight variations on the others. Innovation of design is gone. The only innovation shown by the industry today is innovative ways to separate you from your money.

My hope is that some independent studio can make a real splash and shake-up the status quo, or some eccentric billionaire decides to make something totally off-the-wall that becomes a smash hit and destroys the DikuMUD-opoly out there.

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