The end of the MMO road?

I’m not the first blogger to write a post like this recently and I wonder why it’s happening all of a sudden.

Nickle tour of my MMO gaming life: I’ve been playing them pretty much since they’ve been making them. I played MMOs before they were called MMOs and you had to pay $6/hour to play on GEnie. Or even more on Compuserve. All the big early players, I played at least for a while. And I might be done.

I came to this realization when thinking about this weekend’s SW:TOR beta. I wasn’t excited to partake in it. I have the client, have the account set up. In theory once it opens all I have to do is log in, and I probably will, just to gawk a bit. But really play? No, I don’t think so.

I was thinking that it just wouldn’t be worth the effort, given that our progress gets wiped on Monday.

And that’s when it hit me. I play MMOs for progress and really only for progress. I don’t play them because the minute-to-minute experience of playing them is fun for me. It used to be; I remember a time where every battle, or at least many battles, felt exciting and interesting. These days it feels more like an exercise in mundane repetition.

Just to be absolutely clear, this isn’t a slam on SW:TOR; the game systems of pretty much all MMOs are the same way. I’m just using SW:TOR as an example, and anyway this is about me and my personal preferences, not about the games, which continue to be wildly popular. Also consider I solo much of the time; battles of course get more interesting as you add more people to them (and therefore more variability). That’s why I liked Rift so much in the early days when people fought the titular rifts.

Anyway I’ll wait for SW:TOR to launch and play it then when my progress will be saved. I’m still interested by all the people talking about how compelling the stories are. In my first beta weekend I only got to level 7 so really didn’t get engaged in any stories that time out. If the stories are really that interesting I’ll stick around, otherwise I’ll just play my 30 days and move on.

I might need to give DC Universe Online another look; as I recall that had combat that was a bit more fun. But why can’t MMOs have combat (and other) systems as rich and interesting and compelling as non-MMOs? How about throwing in the odd puzzle, or climbing section, or something to mix things up? Why do I have to turn to Uncharted or Skyrim to have a good story and fun combat and a rich mix of things to do? Shouldn’t we be getting more from a $15/month game than we do from a 1-shot $60 game?

9 thoughts on “The end of the MMO road?

  1. “Shouldn’t we be getting more from a $15/month game than we do from a 1-shot $60 game?”

    This isn’t a fair fight. The maker of that single player game doesn’t need to code online server infrastructure, worry about latency, databases, or even class balance – if mages are more powerful than melee, that difference is a feature, not a game-breaker for half your players. The modern “solo” mmo experience may have painted itself into a corner, where it has to compete with single player games that are cheaper and easier to make.

    I actually like DCUO, but it was originally sold with the same price tag as single player games like Arkham Asylum/City and Infamous, which do not have monthly fees. The single player games offer fewer powersets (you can only play the one hero), but the gameplay and even the hours /played to finish the game on a single character are pretty comparable.

    Like I said, not a fair fight; guess life isn’t fair sometimes.

    P.S. You might want to try DDO, if you haven’t previously. I was experimenting with DDO at the same time I tried Dragon Age, and I found that DDO’s combat, character building, etc were all much deeper than Dragon Age. DDO also has jumping/climbing puzzles.

  2. “I play MMOs for progress and really only for progress. I don’t play them because the minute-to-minute experience of playing them is fun for me.”

    Exactly! I have nothing against progression-heavy games, but the momentary experiences should be fun. There’s no excuse, technical limitations be damned.

    MMOs are designed for achievement junkies and social whores (people willing to pay for a chatroom with shared activities — available for free on Facebook). If you’re interested in deep and dynamic action or meaningful exploration, MMOs are not the place for it.

    If the joy of SWTOR is just wanting to know the next plot twist, then you want a book, not a game. Bioware has plenty of books.

  3. I know what you mean. Except I equally experience that ennui with RPG’s now too. Like the Diablo Beta — it’s a fun game, and I appreciate the mechanics and visual beauty, but it’s not sweeping me away like RPGs used to in days of old. And same, not picking on Diablo 3, I had the same trouble getting into all the recent games I’ve tried to play in recent months/years like Dungeon Siege and Oblivion and Dragon Age. I enjoy them when I first start, but if I go a day without, I find myself not really ever going back. It’s not like when I used to think about the game all day and what I was going to do next as soon as I got home and could start in again. Sadly, I get more pleasure out of stupid Facebook and Big Fish Games click-click games than anything else, and I’m not quite sure why.

    I miss that feeling of being excited by a game. I don’t miss MMO’s or RPG’s or any one particular game. Maybe I’ve just aged to a point where it’s time to develop other interests? Dang, I hope not, LOL.

  4. It’s true for those of us who have played MMOs over the years, we break it down into what we are doing. Over the years that the mentality that we have because simply “We’ve done this before” and no game has really been gamer changer.

    Yes, there are some MMOs out there that try to spice it up but due to lack of funds, talents or the nicheness of their product etc.., it hasn’t really caught on with a lot of people.

    People are waiting for a game to suck them in. Just took a lot at Skyrim and all the attention it’s getting. Even news sites are doing blogs and editorials about their experiences or the best mods. I think Star Wars: The Old Republic is on to something with story but from what I’ve experienced and played that seems to be all they have going for them.

  5. Gwyn, I have that thought too…that maybe it’s just time to develop new interests. I’ve been really enjoying Skyrim but so far in this holiday weekend I’ve been watching my backlog of Masterpiece Theater instead of playing it, or any other, game.

    Green Armadillo — On the point of fairness, I can reply in two ways.

    First is that I’m talking about my feelings and my ennui towards the genre. The budget of the developer doesn’t really factor into what I like or don’t like. So yeah, maybe what I want doesn’t fit into anyone’s business model, but (as far as I’m concerned, at least) then they ought to stop making MMOs and make something better.

    Clearly this is a selfish point of view and there are millions of people who love MMOs the way they are. But I’ve seen this ‘tired of MMO’ sentiment more and more frequently, most often from long-time players. It just may be that I’m part of the tip of the arrow and these companies need to shake things up.

    The other way to respond is that games like Guild Wars manage to maintain the infrastructure and all that without a $15/month subscription, so where is that money going in games that require it? It seems to me like it wouldn’t be more expensive to put in a “rotate the pillars to solve the riddle” puzzle than it would be to develop a mini-boss encounter that’s well scripted. Sure, a day after launch there’d be a wiki or a faq with solutions, but that happens for single player games too. Some people will use them, some will enjoy the challenge of the puzzle.

    It just seems like the state of game worlds hasn’t improved much, aside from more polygons, since, say, Asheron’s Call, which had seasons. That’s a trivial point I know but just in general most of today’s MMOs feel like Everquest with a new coat of paint and the difficult dialed way back.

  6. I’ve been feeling similarly. Lately, I find that single player games just offer more that is fresh and new. MMOs right now feel, as Tramell says, been there done that. Especially for players like us who value progression, leveling mainly in my case, it’s all the same repeated formula. SWTOR will play like every other MMO but at least the story delivery is fresh. I wonder, though, whether the game might just prove how tired this design really is. Hopefully GW2 plans their release around the time people start leaving; they seem to have the best shot of being a long term success — they’re the only ones treading new ground.

  7. $15/month has little bearing on how a game is developed or polished. It’s just a price point that the market has accepted for whatever reason.

    …but yeah, for me, I want a TON more for that kind of outlay.

    Oh, and I’m in complete agreement on the moment to moment play. A game has to be fun while I’m playing, not while I’m achieving or getting stuff. If it’s not fun to *play*, I have little reason to stick around.

  8. I miss the original Neverwinter Nights. There is a new one coming out, but it has been changed from a monthly rate to a free-to-play with a choice to buy upgrades. The Origina NWN had a client that would allow players to build their own worlds, and put them online for free to play, making the player the game master. It was great, just pay the $59.99 for the game and the rest was free. But from what I know, the got rid of the world-builder. I am disappointed.

  9. I agree, removing the world builder is a huge mistake. Perhaps they will add it in a later patch like City of Heroes did with its mission architect. As far as MMO’s not going anyplace. I would like to see more innovation too, but until people start voting with their dollars and are less willing to jump on anything new and shiny unless it is also actually fun to play (I mean other than just the story), we can expect the status quo to remain.

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