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An Analogy (10/15)

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  • An Analogy (10/15)

    In an interview with Gamasutra, Funcom Montreal's Creative Director, Craig Morrison shared his views on player expectations in regards to MMO releases. It's his belief that player expectation for massive day one releases is holding the mmo genre back from its true potential. I can't exactly say that I agree. [more info]

    Funcom's The Secret World had 500,000 players in beta. But, only 200,000 copies of the game were sold. One can wax philosophical about what caused the game to "flop". But the simple truth is probably in the neighborhood of "they let too many people into beta (which is free), showed too much of their content, and then had nothing left in the bag to entice players into forking out actual cash for the game."

    Number comparisons to other Triple A MMO's doesn't really matter. I've yet to encounter a player saying, "man this game was awesome, but I can't play it unless it can scrounge up at least a million players". That's silly. Immersive gameplay and enjoyable mechanics will almost always move a title. But hey, maybe he's right. I haven't played the game, so maybe it does require 1 million other players to be seen as viable by people willing to pay for another $15 a month MMO.


    Speaking of MMO's, Project: Gorgon. It's an indie project, 3 years in the making, now seeking Kickstarter funding to enter the final phases of production. With only 18 days to go they're sitting at just over $8000 of their $55,000 goal. I'll admit, it's going to take a minor miracle to get them there at this point. But, it never hurts to spread the word.

    Project: Gorgon on Kickstarter

  • #2
    I have found what he says to be valid in general, just not in regards to Secret World. Consider SWTOR. They showed the people the content for a long time before hand, and still had more people buy the game. SWTORs problems arose towards the end: There just wasn't enough end-game/the pacing at the end was too fast. This was my problem with the game. It was fantastic, I just got bored of doing the same 2 raids over and over. ( Mostly one in fact, because the second one was harder with essentially the same reward. )

    However, I knew quite a few people that got into the Secret World closed betas pretty early on. Every single one of them told me the game itself was pretty terrible. You can bet they didn't buy the game. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a large proportion of the 200k that bought the game never played the beta.

    Now, this also doesn't say I disagree with Woody. I don't find the 2 to be mutually exclusive. It's perfectly possible for a person to get bored playing just the beta. I am fairly certain I saw this in TORs beta. There was a number of people claiming boredom because they largely completed the end-game between wipes. Mostly it was people who had been in 3 or 4 waves and were thus able to skip a lot of content and rush towards the end, and already had strategies down.

    However, I found these people to be largely in the minority, and I know plenty of them still went ahead and bought the game anyways.

    Other games have shown this as well, where they can still attract plenty of people initially, but then stumble later on. Warhammer Online had no problem at all selling units in its first month.

    Then there's also the opposite. I don't think EVE Online even broke 100,000 its first couple of months. However, it has an extremely high retention rate. So, even with very few new people joining, EVE continues to see a climb in population.

    When it comes to MMOs ( as far as making big bucks ), 1 thing and 1 thing only matters: Long-term retention. I don't think any MMO out there has had too few of people on launch day. Even Secret World with 200,000 is more than enough. If it can keep all 200k though, it's easy to slowly attract people over time and grow.

    So, there's the tricky part. Gamers are naturally a bit ADD. We are constantly looking for the next best thing. Getting us to stay in 1 place for a long time is extremely difficult. Far more so for an MMO where they want to attract many different gamers.


    • #3
      What current game producers call "beta" has now become a complete farce. They should rename it to "preview" or "advertising phase". There are no tests done anymore, no bug reports filed.. it's all full of kiddies who want a free early access to the game. How should this even work, with 500.000 "beta participants". 5000 might be ok for a beta phase that's supposed to be useful.
      Sure, if people can play the game in the "beta" phase for free, why should they pay afterwards.. you've caught that problem nicely.
      Through the ranks of the Unbeliever we shall move,
      creating a river of blood as we go!

      Steelgrasp, Kurashasa Dread Knight on Telon


      • #4
        i didn't even know it had come out. weird.
        Jytekk, 85 Worgen Warrior/Doomhammer
        Jykhan, 85 Drenai Death Knight/Doomhammer
        Knight-Captain Jyzen, 85 Nightelf Hunter/Doomhammer
        Gett OffMyDangBridge, 50 Trollish Thane/Kay (retired)


        • #5
          I think the biggest problem with new MMO's are the players. We (speaking about the entire group, not individual exceptions) race to endgame, usually skipping low level content, and then burn through the endgame. All of this happens long before the dev's have made more endgame content. If the devs make the game take longer to level up to max, then it's too grindy, not enough fun, etc. Then there is the loot. Let's face it, we are all loot whores to a point. If there is too much loot, then people don't feel special or elite. If there isn't enough loot, then the game isn't fair because we don't have the time to devote hundreds of hours to playing like those losers with no life.


          • #6
            There's also a critical mass. If players don't see enough other players they cancel and tell their friends and it kills follow on sales.


            • #7
              I never even heard of this MMO. I just googled images and the theme looked like something that would appeal to those that like the undead/occultish kind of stuff that is popular lately and the art didn't seem bad. I would have to guess that their issues were marketing (since I never heard of it) and most likely gameplay (due to less than half as many purchases than beta accounts). Wondering if anyone in the GU forum actually has played this?

              I did have to chuckle at how apt the boobies analogy was.


              • #8
                I have tried many MMO's in the last few years, WoW started me off.

                What i have noticed from many of the MMO's released post WoW is that many players compare the MMO to WoW. Not WoW as it was originally released but WoW as it is now, the WoW that has had many years to iron out bugs, the WoW that has for all intents and purposes been continued developing since its original release.

                I played Rift, age of conan, Aion, TSW. Aside from Age of conan each of those games i love/d, i am still playing TSW and enjoy it, if what i've heard about Kotor going free-to-pay is true i'll probably play it too. In the end though none of them can compare to the amount of work that blizz has been able to put into WoW and its expansions.

                I honestly can't blame players for wanting to avoid the first months of a MMO's release in order to avoid the early bugs they inevitably have if they can instead go to a game with years of polish.

                So in a way, i'd say Craig Morrison is correct but could've said gamers wanted a MMO release to be as bug free, heavy on content as a game that has been fixed and added to for years.

                All of that said, i am not a WoW fan, i like it but can't stand the 'culture' thats developed around it and its endgame.


                • #9
                  Funny, I started watching The Secret World back when they did their first ARG (Augmented Reality Game) and have been following the game for 5 years. I wasn't in the early beta but got in for the last 3 months of beta. The game is very different than any other MMO I've played.

                  There are no classes. Skills are grouped by weapon, each weapon makes a small tree with 6 branches and you get to decide what braches you want to follow. Actually using abilities in the game you get to have two equipped weapons and pick 7 skills to use and 7 of the passive abilities you know (even if they don't come from those 2 weapons). Most of the combat you have to pay attention to what the monster is doing. If the monster is going to use an AoE attack you see the AoE get drawn on the ground and a "wave" move out from the creature. If you can get out of the AoE before the "wave" reaches the edge you avoid the AoE. Trust me, you want to. You select targets, you don't aim. Moving is incredibly important in this game. Going a bit deeper into the game, at the top end of the game crafting a group with the right abilities doesn't make the game easy, it is a necessity if your going to do "nightmare" dungeons. Certain people need to make sure they are using "purges", "cleanse", "affliction" and everybody needs to make sure that one person is responsable for "impairment" because if too many crowd control effects get used the monsters become immune for 60 seconds. That usually means its a wipe.

                  The world itself is incredibly well done. The story behind everything gets told through cutsceens, journal entires, web sites (real websites), dialogue (not much suprisingly), and mission reports at the end. Big missions get full cutseens. Little know its a side mission and even they get more respect than 90% of the quests you see in a typical MMO.

                  Graphics wise, meh. I've seen better, I've seen a lot worse. You don't get a whole ton of character customization at the beginning, but one of the interesting things about the game is your "armor" represents various peices of magical jewelery. So clothing wise you can wear anything. Seeing a guy in a 3 peice suit next to someone else wearing a hazmat suit is perty funny. Clothing doesn't do much for you in the game so there is no outfit or look that dominates (other than women in string bikini tops and hot shorts...get a life guys).

                  PvP. Well, it isn't the best. While I enjoy the PvP as a distraction the vast majority of players would rather do dungeons. You can level up a character completely on PvP and fully equip them. I just don't recommend it.

                  Oh, and yes I am one of the 200k playing. I've got a life subscription too.


                  • #10
                    Along the lines of what Reciprocity said, I think one of the major problems getting to the "end game" too fast before the devs have flushed it out.

                    I remember back to when I started EQ (after Kunark came out), there was a massive world to explore. My first character didn't get level 60 until almost 100 days played. Now if it takes 100 hours to get max level people complain that it is grindy and slow.
                    Retired Player of EQ
                    Enjoy the Simple things in life.


                    • #11
                      I didn't get it because I played the beta and it felt very unpolished, and several agreed with me on other gaming forums, including people that bought it. They have faith that it will get better with time.

                      I'm sure it will, but at that point maybe I will give it a second look. Launch days do not indicate success or failure for an MMO.
                      My Youtube Gaming Channel


                      • #12
                        The main problem that any new MMO will encounter is bored gamers waiting for a "WOW killer". What I kept hearing in SWTOR and hear in TSW are people complaining, "the game is failure because it doesn't have 5 years of worth of tech support and an on-line community that has solved all the puzzles and data-based all the recipes at release!1!"

                        SWTOR is beautiful to look at but otherwise didn't do anything all that differently than the previous dozen new MMOs released. WOW with light sabers. That and the hours and hours I had to spend to keep it running are what drove me away.

                        TSW is truly innovative in it's approach and the game mechanics are different than any MMO I've played. It also doesn't lay out the quests in a neat little line with specific instructions about where you need to go next. I think TSW lost a great deal of appeal when the players discovered they would have to do a little more than press the same 6 buttons over and over and that came out as complaints about it being unpolished and buggy.

                        I agree the latest craze of "open betas" are little more than attempts to get as many people as possible to download the game and TWS falls into this category. But I have been involved the roll outs of EQ Kunark, EQII, Vanguard, WOW, and Auto Assault. I have to say the TSW roll out was by far the smoothest. Sadly it is suffering from a market that has been saturated.
                        My bumper sticker: If you can read this then I've acquired weapons' lock.


                        • #13
                          Having been a WoW player for years and dabbling in other MMO's I have come to my own conclusions about MMO success.

                          1). The leveling experience must give out satisfying rewards. This doesn't have to be new class abilities. Even secondary vehicles (like WoW's pet battles), placed at the start of a rough patch for primary rewards (Class abilities and the like) can be a way to reward players through those rough patches provided the reward to start that secondary vehicle is good enough. (You get a nifty character ability if you get level 5 in pet battles which is unlocked at character level 45).

                          2). End game must be a ladder with a steady incline. Gear me for dungeon tier 2 just as I get tired of dungeon tier 1. This incline goes from faceroll easy to hellish difficulty.

                          3). Push out new content at a rate so that I'm never growing really bored of what I'm doing. This could be as simple as switching out daily quests every day to pushing out a new raid every 3-4 months. Gating content in a smart manner will retain players.

                          4). Occupy players with an easy to do, lengthy group reward. If a guild has to save up points for an guild-wide ability, they'll do it. WoW's guild leveling could be turned into a point system where you buy the abilities. Players will play for weeks to unlock mass-rez. Give them some token rewards while they are grinding points and give them some tough choices at the top (mobile banking or double potion buff time?) and you have yourself a massive time sink.

                          But aside from time sinks done well I think an MMO's success really lies within it's accessibility. EVE Online is hell to get into. But if you do it has some really rewarding time sinks. But because of its accessibility it will never have a massive subscriber base. TOR is easy to get into but there are no time sinks to keep players around. MoP looks like it's got the perfect blend of accessibility and time sink.


                          • #14
                            I will say the MoP gating (especially for the rep factions and their associated dailies) will probably keep people playing for a good length of time. I think its about a month and change to get all the groups to exalted. Also I think they did a better job with the transition between regular dungeons -> heroic dungeons -> Raid Finder -> Normal raids but certainly the fact they are rolling out the other raids over time will keep people interested as well.

                            It seems we are getting to master A just before B is released keeping us strung along which is what a developer wants to do. It sounds bad to me in my head when i write 'strung along' but its fun (for me) and business (for Blizz) all at the same time.
                            PROTECT ME CONE!!!


                            • #15
                              The problem with MMORPGs are multifold.

                              The first, and biggest problem, is commitment. Most MMORPG developers, funcom included, tend to look at MMORPGs more like retail games than MMORPGs, they develop the game, they release the game, and then they move on to the next game, leaving only a skeleton staff remaining at the previous game. This is the WRONG way to handle MMORPGs, and as a result, you end up with a cavalcade of mediocre MMORPGs as opposed to one really good MMORPG. Look at the two best MMORPG developers on the market, Blizzard and CCP, they have both essentially stuck with one MMORPG for over ten years, no matter how bad the initial release was. That person who said that Eve Online did not exceed 200k subscribers in its first few months? Lop off a zero or two and you get closer to the truth. It took Eve Online a year to exceed 50K subscriptions. (source:MMO Data)

                              PS: That is not to say that developing a new MMORPG is entirely taboo, but lets just say that MMORPGs should have much longer development cycles than your typical retail game.

                              The second major problem is tone-deafness and the WoW clone issue. Reading the June article on The Elder Scrolls Online, starting off a press release on your new game by apologizing to the fans of previous games in the franchise that you will not be able to make their expectations and that you will have to use mechanics from World of Warcraft is a horrible way to start off, and it served nothing but to make people even more skeptical of your game. However, what made me outright weep is the fact that their excuses were canned responses from the Everquest days. Latency issues making real-time MMORPGs an impossibility? Come on, even an idiot can look at all the free to play MMOFPS games out there in development to know that you are not telling the truth.

                              A lot of this is that a vast majority of MMORPG developers are, essentially, the same people as those making MMORPGs since the Everquest and Ultima days. However, rather than dynamically evolve the genre, something every other successful genre has done, they have more or less collectively chosen to remain stagnant and use many of the same mechanics that have their roots in good old Everquest and were taken to their pinnacle by Blizzard with World of Warcraft.

                              Now given, there are a few genuine attempts to break from the mold, and I have not played The Secret World so that could be one of them, however, that brings me to the other side of the coin of tone deafness. MMORPG Developers occasionally do try to innovate, but with their innovations typically come changes that end up poisoning the potential good those innovations could have done, or the innovations themselves end up being something that nobody wanted or needed, or the rest of the game was just so terrible that, no matter how good the innovation, a few decent innovations can not hold up a terrible game overall. I bring up Tabula Rasa as an example here, it brings up the excellent innovation of mouselook and action-oriented combat, but this innovation was poisoned by the fact the rest of the game was just a poor WoW clone, not even up to the standards of a typical WoW clone.

                              Those are the two biggest problems. There are other problems like the death of the Subscription model, largely pushed along by the introduction of quality free to play MMOs.

                              There is also the problem of the current quest system that can be summed up as: Developers, do NOT rely on quests to keep your playerbase amused, as, unless you have Blizzard's bank account, you will never be able to create quests faster than consumers will burn through them. Never. So why are you relying so much on do-once quests that will fail in keeping your playerbase in the game?

                              There is also the yearning for dynamic content, something I consider a bit of the holy grail of MMORPGs, one of the things that bothers many consumers of MMORPGs is that, regardless of what they do, the world remains largely static and unchanging. Now given, having a perfectly dynamic system is virtually impossible, but even pseudo-dynamic systems, like the old control points from Tabula Rasa, have the potential, properly implimented, to create a dynamic experiance for the player. One thing I would recommend to MMORPG developers is to take a look at RTS games sometime, infact, take a look at ALL the other genres. Imagine if you could incorporate an RTS into the overworld of your MMORPG. Having monsters patrolling around and attacking settlements, likewise NPC guards also patrolling around and attacking monsters, would make the game a much more dynamic experiance for virtually no cost.

                              There are also a myriad of other issues, but I feel that I have covered most of the main ones. The thing is, unfortunately, due to the whole tone-deafness of the MMORPG Industry as a whole, the only way I feel that things are ever going to change for the better is if the whole rotting house comes crashing down, and with the way MMORPGs are going, that is going to be an inevitability.