MMOs and the future A brief analysis By Rich Bryant
How all MMOS work• Start from nothing Kill Rats. Kill bigger rats Max level yet? Bigger shoulders No Yes
• And that’s really it. There are some problems with this approach, though. Let’s go kill something and get bigger shoulders! Level mismatch is a bitch. Let’s go hit that new bar-themed dungeon! YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE THIS RIDE. EVEN IF YOU PAID.
And really, that’s only the superficial problems. Look a little deeper. Deserted newb zones are wasted dev investment Ah, I remember killing rats in there… Endgame is where everyone looks, acts and dresses the same Look daughter, the hero who saved our village is fourth from the right! And third from the right. And… er… they all saved the village. From the same thing. At different times. Hooray! It’s still in the same danger though….
But wait, it gets worse for you….. Run hamster, run! Players are reckoned on average to burn through new content within two payment cycles. Unless you make it a massive grind. And even if it’s grindy…. This guy will eat it in 9 hours. THERE ARE MILLIONS OF THIS GUY.
And the real problem – the Skinner Box. Let’s think about those big shoulders. Basically, you go grind->level->ding. Until you hit max level. Then you get loot. All of this makes you more and more powerful and there’s a ceiling. Traditionally, you can do PvP and PvE. Now, in PvE, you have a problem. Once players hit the ceiling, then what? You raise the ceiling. And that’s expensive, because content creation always is.
But wait – you’ve got a far bigger problem. How do you stop players burning up all your content in 34 seconds? By making it so damn hard that you need 40 of them to kill one boss. Awesome. But for that, players need players. And players won’t take players who haven’t achieved their level of Uber yet.Thing is, once you’ve raised the level cap and instituted AA systems, new players are along way behind. They need groups to achieve high enough levels to catch the vets. Butthere are no groups. You just created a barrier to entry. So vets are burning out orcapping out and quitting, and newbs are quitting because of your barrier. You asshole.
But there’s still PvP, right? You wish. Here, your problem is way, way worse. See, you probably decided to give PvP rewards for PvP, right? And you made those rewards into combat powerups? So you made somebody who’s hard to beat really, really hard to beat? So to your basic newb, that guy is unkillable? What the hell is wrong with you?
Your PvP is now dead. Over. Kaput. You probably made this mistake because you don’t PvP. But I do, because I am a bad person. So take it from me, PvP is carnivorous. If it doesn’t get fresh meat and plenty of it, it starves. And you don’t want that, because PvP is cheap. Hell, once it’s initially coded, it should be free content. This is stuff you should be able to implement and forget. It’s free money. You really want healthy PvP.The only solution at this stage is a revamp which players hate, or endless new content.The latter requires endless money. You’re not Blizzard or you wouldn’t be reading this.
Let’s assume you have limitless money. And time. Lots and lots of man- hours waiting to be burned.
And you’re publisher who doesn’t play games….. Then you’d probably ask this question. And the answer is no. And your game will fail. And you will lose all of your money.
Let me explain. Even if you launched right now with absolutely every feature of WoW andyour own special gimmicky nonsense like class stories or voice acting – sorry, too soon? –you’d still fail. Because your market is WoW players. And they have 13 years worth of stuffin WoW. Oh, and all their friends and guildies are in WoW, too. And they like WoW. Because if they don’t like WoW, they don’t like your game because it basically is WoW. So why would they leave? They won’t. At least, not for longer than it takes to see that your game is WoW without all their stuff in it. And then EA will sack your staff – sorry, still too soon?
Basically, DIKU fails unless you’re WoW. The DIKU market is gone. Deal with it. WoW with wings!
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana Oh, fuck your “too soon”.
Recap!1. You can’t beat WoW with a WoW-clone. Not even if you’re BioWare.2. The DIKU model is hugely expensive in the long term and you can’t afford it.3. A niche is a good place to be. Love your niches.4. Iterative design has peaked on the Grinder model. Cut that shit out.5. If they can’t play with their friends, they won’t play at all.6. A barrier to entry is a barrier to getting paid.Let’s restate in stronger terms – Players who want WoWmechanics already play WoW. They will not play your half-assedclone for long enough to cover costs. You will fail. However…..
..And here’s where I become the idealistic, naïve gamer again It doesn’t have to be that way. Exhibit #A Chartered accountancy in space. Spreadsheets&Sliderules The nichiest niche of all, is currently at over 400,000 paying subscribers and still growing.
MMOs have always taken ideas from single-player games. Nobody makes single player games like today’s MMOs, because they would suck. So. What doesn’t suck? Conquering territory. That never gets old, provided you get to keep it. How can you keep it? By clever design.
What else? Well…. Teamwork. Strategy. Tactics. Being in command. This is called “having a team when you have no team” Amazing.
And of course… Genuine stealth systems. Not this “ooh, I’m invisible” bullshit. The player really should be required to think. Otherwise it’s a job. In McDonalds.
Or even….. Reactive control systems? Why not? Was spamming your F3 button too much fun? Anyway. The point is, we’re stealing the wrong stuff. We steal the crap that the single -player world grew out of years ago. Objectively, MMOs are terrible games.
But what about this guy? He wants 20 million active subs! Tough shit. He can’t have them. The studios will have to learn that a smaller outlay and a better project will make a proportionately higher return. And players should play because they want to. Not because you caught them in a Skinner Box. When you make good games, you don’t need to make everything powerup based.
And what about this guy? That guy plays WoW. That guy will always play WoW. That guy will never play your game for more than a month because he plays WoW. Stop developing for that guy. Stop it now. You’re pissing away money. FORGET THAT GUY.
fin. Incidentally, I do have a design for a game that breaks all the WoW-clone rules and solves the Wizard problem. Drop me an email if you’re serious about better games. email@example.com should work..