The Cancer That’s Killing MMORPGs Redux
Last week, Austin made an article on the current, sorry state of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Reading this spawned some thought into me as well, as I also have accounts on a lot of MMOs, or have tried out a lot of different MMOs in my time. As Austin said, MMOs have changed over the course of time, and MMOs tend to change over their lifetime as well, as they have to try and change in order to attract new audiences, and/or keep their currently/previous audience playing. For some games this means adding full amounts of content which significantly change the game, for others it just means adding new features or areas that will keep players playing enough for them to have to pay for another month.
As shocking as it may seem to the hardcore game playing community out there, I actually do not play, nor do I like World of Warcraft. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t know a thing or two about the game, as most of my friends play it. It just never hooked me though. And especially with how the game has changed, I don’t think it ever will either. As Austin said in his article, being able to level and get to the content which was once just for higher level players so much faster doesn’t exactly make the game better to play. Unfortunately I understand why Blizzard did such a move. At this point, most people who have heard about the game and aren’t playing it yet have heard from their friends all of the cool stuff that you can obtain in the higher levels. So when one of those people finally get into the game, they’re eager to get to that content sooner than later. In order to keep them hooked sooner, Blizzard just makes it easier for them to get that stuff, and then the player is happy.
In some cases though, they don’t purposely make the game easier for new players, but it just happens, at least, to the best of the consumer’s knowledge. That being said, I look towards Guild Wars, which technically is actually a CORPG, or Competitive Online Role-Playing Game, which is a term that was actually coined by ArenaNet, the developer of Guild Wars, themselves. To continue on Austin’s train of thought, with each campaign that was released, they added some sort of new feature which made the games easier to complete, and since each expansion campaign just adds to the map more or less, you can travel back to the original games with those features and be even more powerful than before. In the biggest case, the feature was called Heroes, which were customizable AI players which fought with you. I played Guild Wars on Day One, and it was awesome how people worked together to get through missions, and using the original AI players that you could add called Henchman was a challenge, as they weren’t that powerful. Now with the addition of Heroes, the idea of the game being multiplayer has somewhat gone out the window.
Now of course, to every rule, there is an exception. Even though we complain about all of these different things which hinders the game in our eyes, there is one game that, at least in my own opinion, has done nothing but improve over the course of their lifetime. That game would be CCP‘s own EVE Online. EVE Online is one of those special cases because, honestly, it doesn’t have the kind of user base that these other MMOs have. That doesn’t stop it from being one of the most social and impactful MMOs on the market today. Every expansion that has been released for EVE Online, which is now up to ten plus, is a free expansion. In saying “expansion” though, I don’t mean in the amount of explorable space, but rather, the feature list. Over the course of the past years, EVE Online has not only improved in gameplay, but graphically as well, at an amazing rate. Most MMOs that you see leave their game where it is, and just go for adding content, which, in most cases, is what people want more. And the fact is, EVE does that, but also makes the game look just that much better in the process. It’s amazing what they’ve done with their game, and this is why I play it. And of course, it’s hard. Not TOO hard, but it’s difficult. There is no easy button in EVE, even for new players, which is half of the reason why is chases most new players away.
There are tons of MMOs out there, more than what one person could play at a time. Using Austin as an example though, you can still play multiple MMOs with only paying one subscription fee by hopping. And that seems, in the cases listed, that it might be the best idea. After time, people become bored with a game, especially one that they have to play for an extended period of time in order to get further in it. But when it comes to the developers’ choices in order to make the game more appealing, both for new players and for previous players, some of them could be better. Making the game easier may work for some people, but for others, we are just looking for more content, or improved features upon what the game already has.
Now of course, on the flip side, there are times when the developers DO make the game harder for players, which brings in the idea of “nerfing”, or changing what an ability does to not make it impossibly overpowered in many cases. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help make the player base exactly happy, although nine times out of ten it’s just the players complaining because they have to choose a new strategy to be able to beat a boss, or a certain area, etc. There are a ton of MMOs out there, and they are run differently in one way or another, yet at the same time, in some way, they all are run similar, as MMOs must follow a certain progression style in order to attract peoples’ attentions. Finding the right one for you, that doesn’t feel like it’s insulting your intelligence with how easy it is, but isn’t making you want to throw your computer out of a window with how hard it is, is the ultimate challenge of the MMO player.