Whenever I go without a MMO for long periods of time the first thing that always comes to mind is how I need a game that I can invest myself into. That’s what sets MMO’s apart from other games for me. A MMO character is something that the players should feel committed to in a good way. It’s a time, emotional, and monetary investment. I see building up a character and spending the time playing him as a positive form of investment that brings with it a certain level of fulfillment. That feeling is one of the main things that keeps me playing a MMO.
What happens when that feeling is not present? It can be missing in various ways from the start of a game. It can also be present but then be removed or destroyed. In the case of Allods, the feeling that I was committed to my character was definitely there until the rollercoaster of bad news/good news began. The most recent bad news has been that, while perfume costs are down, the mechanic has been changed so that you must consume many of them at once. Without burdening you with too many unnecessary details, it has effectively made me no longer think about the future — I’ve stopped caring.
I heard the following analogy that fits: It’s like knowing the train you’re on is going to crash later — you’re going to get off before it does. There are several things to note about this.
The game is not even broken -yet- but people will stop playing because it’s going to be. Those that do keep playing will be depressed (unless clueless to the whole situation) and will likely not play the same way. No matter what, the community shrinks and begins to plummet. At this point, even if the future problem is averted, people have already detached themselves from their character and the game to the point that returning is easily overlooked.
It’s probably the absolute worst position that a game can be in because no matter what happens you’re screwed. The only way to avoid it is to not let it happen.
Perhaps one of the most sorely lacking qualities in today’s MMO’s is stability. I haven’t felt stability in any launch for many years. Is the game going to suck? Will X ruin the game down the road? Will the company survive or go bankrupt? Bottom line: Is this game here to stay? There is a definite loss of faith in the companies and/or games being released that is squashing our ability to commit to these games. Not even studios that have released gems in the past are able to replicate their success. What a horrible state the industry has sunk into. In many ways this is exactly why World of Warcraft remains the #1 game of choice for most people. Regardless of their meta-game end-game, they’re stable and you know what to expect and that they’re going to be around. This stability will transfer over to their next title.
We continue to place our trust in new developers and old developers nonetheless. Unless we stop getting burned, and feel like we can trust the developers again to deliver that stability, companies like Blizzard will remain as the providers of a dominant gameplay style. The resulting “clone” effect is then expectable and the cascade effect of that puts us into a vicious cycle.
The cycle can be broken. No, the answer isn’t to stop playing new games or to stop playing WoW as many will quickly jump in and proclaim. This whole “the players are in control” stuff is nonsense. One way, perhaps THE way, that the cycle can be broken is if someone will develop a polished MMO that provides a feeling of stability — a feeling that is a direct result of quality and common sense from those who have a clue.