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Posted: Sep 1st 2009 1:42PM (Unverified) said

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There's a difference between taking smart risks and dumb risks.
But neither is the issue.

Innovation is the problem, along with business models.

Companies just aren't innovating enough, and they aren't understanding the fast changing world of the information age and new business models that are required.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:06PM (Unverified) said

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I have been talking to friends recently about this very same thing, thanks for this article and links!

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:36PM (Unverified) said

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I have been talking to friends recently about this very same thing, thanks for this article and links! These are the sorts of articles that keep me checking Massively each day.

Since, we have climbed out the primordial soup of BBS gaming into the brave new world of (graphical) MMO's, the games _have_ gotten more unexperimental and run of the mill. The large developers don't even care to produce an MMO that pushes the envelope. It is sad, they just want to produce WoW clones with different skins.

Why haven't we gotten things like a new persistent world FPSMMO (ala Planetside)? Games that echo more of the 'player' run building and inventing (of towns and equipment) like Star Wars Galaxies? Why are producers turning AWAY from single shard environs? Shouldn't we be headed towards more of these things?

MMO's (as we all know) are growing in popularity each year, and are becoming a much more mainstream gaming channel.

It brings me high hopes that there are forward thinking companies like CCP who still want to push the boundaries. DUST 514 is one of the bravest leaps in MMO history as of late. Combining a preexisting MMO with a single shard FPSMMO in a presistant world that effects and interacts with another MMO that is already running. This is the sort of thinking we need in the MMO game space. And I can't wait till more developers realize this, and sack up to the challenge.
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Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:18PM (Unverified) said

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I have been talking to friends recently about this very same thing, thanks for this article and links!

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:13PM Minofan said

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Certainly some quality 'idea games' have come & gone, but there is some heavy-duty fanboy-ism and - dare I say - snobbery out there when it comes to MMOs and their relative successes with "the masses".

Sometimes innovative spirits are simply folks with sub-par technical skills or shoddy business acumen, and their enterprises crash & burn not because of Lazy-Joe-WoWbot's disinterest but because the product doesn't pass muster.

For every potentially trailblazing True Blood caliber development looking for an opportunity, there are at least as many Viva Laughlins waiting to crawl malformed from the shadows - and I guarantee every one has a hard core of support ready to pour scorn upon "the masses" for not sticking around to watch the freakshow.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 5:47PM (Unverified) said

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It's not even really an issue of these games being "malformed". I think WoW introduced a new paradigm in polish and playability that was unprecedented in the MMO genre before then. Where before people would forgive MMOs their quirks and eccentricities, they now hold them to more or less the same standards as single-player games, because they've been shown that it can be done.

No matter how fresh their ideas or how skilled their programmers, no small-time indie developer has the resources to produce the level of quality that people expect these days. We just have to hope that the giants become more willing to shell out for interesting ideas in the future.
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Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:21PM (Unverified) said

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I have been talking to friends recently about this very same thing, thanks for this article and links!

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:22PM Wisdomandlore said

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I think developers are willing to take risks...it's the investors who aren't, and ironically many players won't either. Investors see the runaway success of WoW and think any MMO can achieve that, without understanding the complex factors that made WoW the success it is. At the same time, they pour lots of money into an expensive, long development process. Too often they pull the money out too soon, forcing developers to launch with incomplete messes. Maybe AOC's investors made it up just with the box sales...but usually launching an incomplete product is a great way to lose your money.

I also mentioned players. I've beta-tested many games now. A common theme I see as the beta opens up and new players entered is the demand that Game X be exactly like Game Y (which is usually WoW). While beta'ing LOTRO, I saw so many posts that said "Why can't I play Orcs?" "I want to play a Wizard?" "Flying mounts!" "Where's the quest arrow?!" "I want Dark Elves!" While some posters were using WoW as a benchmark to measure LOTRO, many more were just flat out demanding that LOTRO become WoW. They wanted the same races, the same classes, and the same gameplay mechanics. I've seen this time and time again, from DDO to AOC to recently CO. Developers too often give in, watering down what little risk they took.

I personally don't understand the sentiment. While I look for certain things in every game (for example, a system to sell items, like an AH), I don't expect every game to play and offer the exact same thing. EVE bores the bejeezus out of me, but I'm glad it's out there and that it's unique. I want new games to be, you know, NEW. I'm not looking for the same races, classes, and mechanics every time.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 7:48PM Crsh said

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"I think developers are willing to take risks...it's the investors who aren't"

Damn right. Investors and publishers just want WoW-level success and revenues, and sadly think that duplicating a known model means instant success. How many pseudo-WoW killers have we seen announced, hyped up, launched and failed miserably within months in recent years? You'd think they finally got a clue, somehow.
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Posted: Sep 1st 2009 2:29PM BaronJuJu said

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"..... the ones that do aren't rewarded for it"

This is definitely the case. There have been quite a few innovative MMO's in the recent years but they have either died quickly at launch or never make it to release. As a fellow MMO player I think we are the majority of a problem. If it doesn't fit into our narrow minded mold of what WE think the game should be, we start a media blitz across the internet bad mouthing this game to the point that no one wants to touch it.

If you are the CEO spending millions of dollars on a project, you probably want a sure thing to reap some rewards for the investment and after seeing the way potential customers treat innovation, you go for the sure thing and play it safe...hence the reason for lack of risk. Companies neeed to stop worrying about appeasing millions of players at once. Take risk, make a solid game and that niche crowd will grow. Look at EVE.


Posted: Sep 1st 2009 3:02PM (Unverified) said

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Yes, it is true that catering to the masses requires one to jump on the latest trend bandwagon and stick to what is safe. But, how can there be innovation when some of the big studios that can afford to take risks are being run by lunatics that want to exploit gamers and release sequels/expansions every quarter?

I understand that any company is going to want to turn a profit, but there is a fine line between being successful and being exclusively profit driven. The games industry used to be one of innovation at any cost, but I feel there has been a dramatic shift in mentality among many developers.

Granted I am referring to games in a general sense here, but there would definitely be a trickle down effect to the way MMOs are handled.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 3:27PM (Unverified) said

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I like how every person claims to want innovation yet most people still play WoW. There ARE games that have tried to innovate. Customers didn't like it. They are happy and safe inside the typical MMO, WAR, WoW, EQ styles.

The market, which is another term for the GAMERS, have not supported any new innovations in mass. Until they do the developers will not get the funding to do it.

WoW wasn't incredibiliy innovative over EQ. It took what worked and added onto it. The next Genre's are either cloning WoW or trying to completely avoid it's game design. The next big thing will take what WoW did right and add to it... or Blizzard will release their new IP which will probably sell 4 million copies on name brand alone.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 4:09PM BaronJuJu said

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An example of a game that tried to innovate...Seed. Based around the premise of group interactions and politics with no combat. It even looked different with a cell shaded appearance if I remember correctly. Lasted for what? 2 months?

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 4:45PM Teki said

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I would have to say AAA titles can't take risk, they have to make so much money. it's the smaller independent game studios that can take some risk.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 5:57PM (Unverified) said

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There has been a lack of unique ideas in MMOs for the past 10 years or so. While some of this is a result of people trying to create the next "WoW killer", I also think it's because of a proven formula. An MMO generally has a very long development cycle, with often more content than any other genre. It's much easier to push out the next Madden with a couple unique twists that either pass or fail, because it's mostly copy/paste. A company is taking a larger risk by pouring half a decade or often more into a single game. Larger companies are going to have to take the risks necessary to push the formula for a good MMO.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 5:22PM Tom in VA said

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Ummm.... Investing zillions of dollars in developing an MMO isn't taking a risk? Many of these MMOs have subsequently gone belly up, all those investment dollars awhooshing down the toilet. That's not taking risks?

OK, so maybe you mean "risks" in the sense of gameplay innovations, perhaps? Even there, most of the innovations I've seen in MMOs have come in increments and are not revolutionary. But I have still seen a lot of innovations in Warhammer, Guild Wars, LotRO, Tabula Rasa, and so on. Games building on tried and true formulas but then tweaking the formulas this way and that is just good business sense, imo.

More MMOs still are in the pipeline: STO, SWTOR, GW2 -- all of these games look innovative enough to me, although in different ways and to different degrees. Even Blizzard will be doing some new and interesting things, MMO-wise, over the next couple of years.

Considering some of the MMO disasters of the past couple of years, one can hardly criticize the MMO developers for innovating gradually and cautiously.

Personally, I think people complaining about not enough innovation can't see the innovation taking place under their own noses and/or have rather unrealistic expectations of the industry.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 7:02PM (Unverified) said

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That picture is from a TV show called the time tunnel.

As for taking chances. Yeah somewhat. SGW if it ever gets published.
DDO buy as you go plan. DCU & the Agency.

Posted: Sep 1st 2009 9:16PM cray said

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Definitely agree that the developers are constantly finding ways to try new ideas. When they do it's a hard to see the rewards for it. I think the problem lies within the investors who control the development process.

I think the solution would be more companies using their own capital to develop new cutting edge ideas. Less interference from investors who have very little to no developer skills.

Companies also need to realize that a lot can be learned from a failed MMO. Perfect example would be TABULA RASA, which implemented a lot of new play mechanics which were successful in their own right.

Posted: Sep 2nd 2009 5:43PM (Unverified) said

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I think if we're going to see innovation it would be some someone who's not trying to be a "WoW-killer" but actually has the intention from the beginning to make a low-overhead indie game.

Innovation in other areas of entertainment usually comes when someone makes something not expecting it to be highly profitable, just wanting to put it out there and hope to make enough money that it's not a loss. It's from these types of products that the "next big thing" usually emerges. Unfortunately with the MMO genre it's hard to use that model, since the costs just to keep something sustained are higher than just putting a product out there.

On the other hand, expecting something mind-blowing all at once may be expecting too much. With MMO's it may be more realistic to look for gradual changes until eventually the MMOs we all play resemble WoW only as much as WoW resembles a MUD.

Posted: Sep 2nd 2009 10:19PM (Unverified) said

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They definitely are. I'm even worried after seeing the lastest gameplay video, that BioWare is going to try to make Old Republic far too much like WoW.

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