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We’re Working Backwards

In 1999 players were welcomed to the world of Norrath, one of the most expansive and immersive experiences ever encountered.  In 2001 the realms of Albion, Hibernia, and Midgard gave players the chance to participate in a three-way war for territorial domination comprised of keep assault and relic sieges.  In 2003 the limits of a player’s ability to interact with the world were stretched further than ever before in a Galaxy far, far away.  These are but a few examples of many games that released before their time.

Looking at what the MMORPG’s of the past were able to accomplish and what is being designed and attempted today, does it not appear as though we are working backwards?  If someone who knew very little about these games were to look at the industry objectively, would they not see the pinnacle of what today’s players want in a game released a decade ago and the path to that point clearly illustrated in a straight line of regression as each new game releases?  Dark Age of Camelot, for example, had the ideal three-way realm war.  As new games released, such as Warhammer Online (ironically made by the same developers), doesn’t it seem like WAR should have come first and then Dark Age of Camelot?    The same holds true for each of the examples I gave and many more.

Why are we moving backwards?  Why are the games today releasing as mere shadows of what came before them?  It only makes sense that we should be moving forward and making each new game better and better, building upon what came before, in order to achieve further success.  Yet, today a game releases and it’s brushed aside with comments like “It’s not as good as…” or “Why didn’t they include or learn from ….”  and then the game is set aside after only a few months to wither away and be set on auto-pilot with a skeleton crew of developers as they move on to the next project.  Sadly it’s looking like the MMO industry has become a salvaging operation with the mindset that there’s more money to be made in selling it for parts.

To correct this problem, why not make games that push the boundaries of what we knew?  Release a game that rivals the ideas presented in DAOC, AC, or UO.  Why not design the games to release at a point where they mirror what was once considered the peak of perfection and then push just a little further?  Even taking bits and pieces from several games and refining them into a polished game works — that’s how we got World of Warcraft. This is why people ask for DAOC 2.  It’s not just nostalgia.  It’s the ability to recognize a model that released before its time that could have astronomical results today.  I do not believe there is a soul among those of you reading this right now that can’t look at a game from the past that you thought was amazing and then add ideas to it that would make it even better.  If you can come up with those ideas, why can’t developers?

This industry started and became as big as it is today because of the potential recognized in the older games.  What released since then does not reflect that though.  What is holding us back?  I do not believe for one second when people tell me “the time for that has past”.  Bullhooky!  You’re crazy if you think millions would not eat up a game built with the ideals of DAOC, with the graphical capabilities of today, providing that ideal three-way true territorial realm war.  You’re off your rocker if you think an enormous open sandbox game where players can populate the landscape and involve themselves in the social dynamics of a complex player-driven society, economy, and conflict would not blow away the success of today.

Do we have the wrong people for the job?  Are there not enough idea men out there? Is it a problem of not enough money?  Technology not good enough?  I don’t believe any of these issues are true, nor do I believe that if they were they could not be rectified.   There is an enormous amount of untapped potential — yeah, yeah we all hate that word now — but it will never be fully realized workingbackwards.  You do not move forward by starting from the beginning and breaking each new game down to be only a bi-product of the original.  They may have released before their time, but it’s not too late to start again and make them only the beginning.  There is money in it, fun in it, and amazing games just waiting to be made.

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Grant - January 3, 2010

I don’t think the industry is moving backwards neccessarily. I do think that both player and investor expectations are considerably higher these days. That means attracting a larger audience on tighter schedules with more competition. Not easy.

Someone could try to build a modern game to mirror the experience of an old school game. But didn’t EQ2 and, later on, Vanguard try just that?

Bhagpuss - January 3, 2010

If only we were crazy.

Take off the rose-tinted spectacles, though, and really try and think back to how it was in 2000 – 2004. Everquest and DAOC, two games that I played extensively back then, were NOT filled with happy, cheering players who loved the complexity and challenge. They were filled with complaining, disatisfied, disgruntled players demanding endless changes and revisions to the very elements of gameplay we now hold up as visions of a Golden Age.

So much damage was being done to its brand there that SoE had to close down its own forums and reopen them, months later only under extreme Moderation. The Gameplay forum was so utterly filled with complainers it was universally referred to as “Whineplay”.

Back then the vocal majority of players hated complexity, hated slow levelling, hated grinding, hated slow travel, hated BOTH forced grouping AND easy soloing. They complained bitterly, loudly and continually. Forums nowadays are sweetness and light compared to the bloodbaths back then.

Players wanted to know all the mechanics. They hated secrecy, mystery and having to think. They wanted experience for questing but they didn’t want to read quests, work them out or go hunting for where to get them.

I was in the EQ2 beta and it was blindingly obvious that SoE had done their very best to design out all the myriad issues over which people had been screaming at them for 5 years in EQ1. Over at WoW the Blizzard devs were doing the same with their new MMO.

All those changes didn’t come about because games designers got lazy or decided to dumb their games down. They happened because players had been demanding them for years. And because not giving in to those players would have left MMOs in a tiny niche in the entertainment market forever.

DAOC attracted maybe a quarter of a million players to its now-supposedly seminal RvR content. SWG at its peak reached maybe 350 thousand players with its wide-open sandbox approach; that with possibly the biggest global franchise ever. Those figures are miniscule.

Half a decade on, with the market for MMOs much better established and mainstreamed, there is room for small companies to work that old niche. A hundred thousand subscribers for an old-school MMO is big money for an indie developer. But for a big development house? Not likely. They tried that and got their fingers badly bitten by the beast they were feeding. Much safer to feed it what it says it wants, not what might be good for it.

Fenlock - January 3, 2010

The problem, is its too much money. The developers and publishers alike know that these games now are easy money. They start the hype train, charge for pre-orders and early access specials – then roll the “finished” product out the door asap to get the subscription charges in. In most cases, the end player ends up buying at least A) the retail/digital version the client, B) for some early access/beta/head start advantage. C) at least a months subsription (most people interested in the game enough will probably stick around at least a couple of months before ditching etc.

I honestly think that no developer involved in the mmorpg industry now shoots for a finished product at release. Instead, its much more business practical to aim for a stable client, with a flashy intro to get players started and a back platform to add more content later.

Its quite sad that the next BIG thing is likely to come from Blizzard, because they now have so much money, they can afford to take there time with whatever new MMO they are working on while WOW continues to pull in the cash. Biowares got money as well, so there is hope for SWTOR. But im afraid any smaller developer or publisher with failed MMO’s already on there cards is going to continue to follow the business model above, and roll out flat games that have no content in the hope of pulling in the subscription costs while it continues to finish the game.

We Fly Spitfires - January 3, 2010

I think nostalgia definitely plays a part in how we view older games like EQ and DAOC although I still agree with what you’re saying.

I think MMORPGs have lost their way and are no longer the groundbreaking genre that they used to be. They are now basically MMO-action games or something, no longer about creating massive, immersive worlds that push boundaries but about making profit by appealing to what publishers think is the mass market.

It’s lot like Hollywood really. Think of all of the huge-budget summer blockerbusters that come our way every year and most pale in comparison to the first ones that were truly great because they didn’t try. We used to get films like Star Wars and Jurrasic Park. We now get films like Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe. They no longer try to be unique or original, they’re scared to, they just want to have enough action, enough comedy, enough romance and enough special effects squeezed into a PG-13 rating to get big bucks.

Just like how foreign cinema like Hong Kong and South Korea is starting to challenge Hollywood with interesting films so too will it be that the “niché” MMOs challenge the mainstream ones and will be the games that push the boundaries forward.

Mahlah - January 3, 2010

It depends on how you are defining forwards and backwards.

If an open, free, virtual world, is your idea of the ideal MMO, then yes, we are moving away from that.

If the idea MMO is the one that gets the most subscribers, clearly that isn’t the way to do it. Fact of the matter is, most players would rather have shinies, quick progression, etc.

The fact of the matter is, most people don’t want that virtual world experience, for whatever reason, most people will tell you they don’t want to “work,” just want “fun,” or hate “forced” grouping.

I think it stems from the fact that you had the initial MMORPG made/made for people that are traitional RPG players, loved the idea, for instance, of being able to explore all of the Forgotten Realms in full 3d form, with no DM, etc. However, that sort of gaming was never a mainstream. Thats simply not the playerbase anymore. Most of the people who play WoW would name call at dungeons and dragons players without a second thought, for instance. (lol fags!!!111)

As someone who group with pencil and paper RPGs, the idea of the MMO for me was to be able to bring those experiences that were played out with others around a table/in my imagination, but with 100s or 1000s of other players living in that world.

Fact of the matter is, that vision is non existent to most modern MMO players, who treat the game as if it has more in common with face book than with Dungeons and Dragons. Frankly, I’ve mostly given up on the genre at this point, hopefully we’ll see some smaller projects that keep the dream alive.

Nollind Whachell - January 3, 2010

The thing to realize though is that this problem that you’re talking about isn’t just one encountered within games design. It’s a problem of design in general. For example, today I find many electronic gadgets to be cheap and disposal, in comparison to sturdy and reliable electronics that I owned in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in terms of their usability (ease of use), todays electronics are inferior to the simplicity of yesterday. I mean do I really need a digital readout for a toaster? Sometimes simple analog is best. Or put another way, don’t use technology just for the sake of using it (i.e. Flash on websites).

Same applies to games design, especially since they are often very complex systems. The simplicity at the core, which everything is built off of, needs to be there for the gameplay to be enjoyable. If it’s not there, it really doesn’t matter what you add on top (i.e new features, content, etc), the game just won’t work. People can’t describe it but it just “feels” broken or without any flow to it.

So is the approach to scratch everything and start over from a clean slate? No way. There are lot of aspects of MMOs that do work. We just need to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Not so easily done though, especially when everyone has their own opinion. It’s why I find it an almost futile effort conversing with others on it because I don’t have their perspective and they don’t have mine. Thus I often just figure it out on my own, collecting notes and thoughts over the years.

Argorius - January 3, 2010

Here is my theory on the going backwards observation…

The difference between the early games and the late ones are production costs. They went from high to insanely high…

With an increase in production costs there comes an increase in risk – to counter the increased risk – the developers have to play it safe and do what they observe works.

Another point is that new games are expected to be fully functional and graphics have to be top notch. The excuse of “this is an MMORPG” so it is ok if it is ugly doesnt work anymore.

Also, DEVS try to cut corners everywhere and try to make things so we get 2 Realms in WAR but we had 3 in DAOC. It was hard enough to make 2 full realms for the WAR Devs – imagine a third…I believe necessary…but had they done it – how long would the DEV process have been delayed. At some point the development time of an MMORPG can be too long and by the time you get to the end – the graphics you used at the start are already garbage again. Devs also try to make their lives easy by trying to achieve this perfect balance between character classes – this takes a lot of time.

Another observation, the modern games shift the responsibility of having fun from the player to the DEVS. Early games like UO let you do everything you want – it was up to you to create a fun experience from this. Later games restrict player freedom a lot and consequently force the responsibility to have fun from the player to the DEV. UO or AC used a skill based system – it was up to the player to find the best skillset to use – not all worked out well. Later games have predefined classes – much fewer choices (to save money) and now the player gets stuck with what the DEV is telling him he can do – so the responsibility is on the DEV to make it fun.

In the end, I think it is all about money and production cost…in order to compete with WOW you have to likely dish out tons of cash in order to make a market competitive MMORPG that releases within a reasonable time…that is a lot of risk and nobody wants to do it. Instead, DEVS dont realize that their shortcuts get the an initial thumbs up from their investors but they are just not cutting it – the time to half ass an MMORPG is over…

Velzak - January 3, 2010

I think one of the reason’s games have devolved is because well people are becoming much more lazy than they used to.

For example as you said back in 1999 there was EQ, sure they didn’t have a huge amount of subscribers but for that time it was a lot. In EQ you had to fend for yourself and there weren’t many baby steps for you to take, kind o just put into the world.

When you look at today’s MMO you see casual players all the time, so the developers think o it as slacking off and saying “hey we can just call this casual” and it would limit what you could do.

Really, MMO’s will probably continue to go downhill until a developer will truly get into there game and want to make it however they want without worrying about money

WoW is the iPhone, not Walmart | Cuppytalk - January 3, 2010

[…] @ 4:51 pm I don’t mean to pick on Keen and Graev here, because they’re awesome, but here is yet another post about why MMOs aren’t evolving.  Is anyone else sick to death of this topic?  Two of my […]

sikk - January 3, 2010

I think the industry has just changed the genre over the past decade. It went from a full course meal to fast food basically. The “industry” thinks it will appeal to a more diverse number of people if they can accomplish more stuff in small amounts of time with little to no penalty. Run across a continent for 30 minutes to get to a dungeon? Never, we can just teleport magically directly to the dungeon. Wait for pvp to naturally occur? Blasphemy, we’ll make instanced pvp so you can do it whenever you want.

This mindset I feel is the main problem today. The people making these games that are AAA titles don’t think there’s a market for the MMO design of a decade ago. With that said indie developers I think is our only bastion of hope. Unfortunately a small number of these games really have the quality to become good and fewer take the risk of not copying the AAA markets design and doing something unique or going the route of bringing back the design that has been lost.

That’s pretty much the problem. AAA developers think the risk is too high to go back to the original designs, and indie developers either copy AAA developers, try to innovate and usually fail, or attempt to use the original mmo design but usually fail in one aspect or another never quite getting it right.

Dblade - January 3, 2010

Keen, I think its not fair for us as players to hold developers up to some unreasonable, ill-defined potential. We have no idea how to even make “more” or how feasible or profitable it is. It’s one thing to say we don’t like the current crop of games, it’s quite another to accuse them of not having enough ideas or failing to top past hits. We aren’t in a position to do better.

Toot - January 3, 2010

Developers make the games that people want to play.

Look at yourself, are you playing Darkfall arguably the most innovative game that came out the post WoW era?

No you are playing Allods Online – a game the seems to be a clone of WoW – same interface, same game mechanics same type of graphics, same rulesets.

So there. You are preaching one thing and doing the opposite.

Lethality - January 3, 2010

We’re not working backwards, there has been plenty of innovation.

wolfiebr - January 3, 2010

I have to agree with some of the posters above. I played DAOC extensively and while I have great memories of the most fun I have ever had in a game, I also remember it being a whinefest. Daoc had class complexity to a point where class balance was absolutely non-existent and when realm balance depended on such class balance it became even worse. Add to population problems and you could have a sense of realm un-pride during many months. I remember for instance tying in alliance chat (which for a time in Hib Nimue included basically EVERYONE since the population got that small) that the mids were taking our keeps and try to get a defense to form up and most people would simply go: “Why bother?”. This went on for several months until we got new blood on the server. I also remember how hard it was to be hit with the nerf bat to the point of near unplayability, and then having to face the prospect of leveling an alt through that HUGE grind. I also remember leveling the toons of afk friends, forcing them on groups so that they could use my skills which were needed for optimum leveling speed, and so on. So things were not all roses.

When WOW came I jumped ship with NO regrets. Wow ran better on basically any rig I could afford. Wow allowed for some semblance of fun in leveling (at least it wasn’t mindless grinding one room or spot). It did have faction pvp and at release it happened quite a bit and I loved being part of the horde (you can see I have a spot for being the underdog realm). For a while it was my favorite game since I also quite enjoy small scale PvE dungeons though I despise raiding or mass scale PvE with a passion (which is why I left EQ for Daoc in the first place).

Stan - January 3, 2010

i never played DAOC. i played AC, we got our AC2. lets just say it was more like WOW then AC1. i loved AC for many years. AC2 did not even come close to AC.. they could just not do it again.

i guess War is your DAOC 2. to me it really does feel like these games are going backwards.

Keen
Keen - January 3, 2010

I’ll try to address many of your comments. As always, we may not agree but I appreciate what you’ve had to say thus far.

@Dblade: I’ve already diffused what you’re saying though. “Unreasonable potential”. So it’s unreasonable to expect today’s games to be as good as or better than games released 8-10 years ago? I definitely disagree. I’m stating more than “Why didn’t your game sell as much as…”. I have not met a soul on this earth who thinks WAR hit the mark or surpassed what DAOC accomplished in terms of design. It’s quite the opposite.

@Grant: I won’t speak to EQ2 in this example, but Vanguard is not an example of what I’m talking about. I’m not saying “Remake” the games. If one does remake games, Vanguard is an example of how not to do it. You don’t remake a game by leaving out core elements. In any case, this isn’t so much about sequels and remakes as it is about looking at what games have accomplished, feats they have achieved, and wondering why we’re seeing games release today that you would expect so see as stepping stones to products of the past.

I want to restate that and put it in bold.

It is about looking at what games have accomplished, feats they have achieved, and wondering why we’re seeing games release today that you would expect so see as stepping stones to products of the past.

@Sikk: Well said. I like your fast food analogy.

@Toot: I enjoy Allods Online. Do I think it’s revolutionary? Hell no. It’s fun though, and it’s free. I also make it a point to try everything. As for Darkfall being the most innovative game… I’m sorry Toot but you’re living a fairy tale.

@Lethality: I am not saying there has been no innovation. I’m saying that we’re seeing games release today that are nowhere near the accomplishments, in terms of design, that we saw as far as a decade ago or as early as 2004. I’m writing something about innovation that I’ll post soon.

@wolfiebr: Okay, so DAOC wasn’t the game for you. There is no faulting you for that. But you liked WoW. WoW is included in my entry as a game that built upon others. WoW is an example of a game that did not ignore the past releases and decide to release as a product inferior in design. WoW released a cut above the rest for what they wanted to accomplish (accessibility and polish). Blizzard said to themselves, “Hey, look what has worked. You know what, we can improve upon that and use the past releases as a platform to go UP.” I’ve always given them credit for that. Today though it appears that no developers are having such conversation.

Lastcall - January 3, 2010

Two things jump out to me. The perceived importance of high quality graphics and the fracturing of the community.

With the immense scale of MMO worlds increasing graphic quality greatly increases load on the computer and development time. character progression is central to the genre, but also makes large scale combat sluggish or require a miracle engine to work when players require highly detailed and differentiated items. I’d rather have a big, seamless, UGLY world to take part in combat of epic proportions but vanilla stylings but it seems the majority of the potential playerbase likes will make sacrifices to embrace “the graphical capabilities of today.”

The second problem is the fracturing of the playerbase. There are some indy developers who’ve offered up a sandbox or people still holding on to the olden days through emulation. But they’re almost entirely populated now with people who play sandboxes to abuse them. The people who enjoy easy progression and PvP on their terms have other options to play leaving only wolves in the sandbox. Community is a vital part of any MMO, and I think diversity is important to that. The old guard of MMOs forced diversity through less competition, now more often than not you play with your own kind and this is harder to make work with those who enjoy player freedom.

Cyprus - January 3, 2010

This is one reason I have a lot of hope for Blizzard’s new MMO IP. They don’t have the limitations you listed. They -definitely- have the money, more than likely have the idea people, and the technology to accomplish the “next big thing” for MMO gaming. We see it in WoW all the time, but for good or for bad, Blizzard is -excellent- at taking other games’ ideas and turning them into something even better. My guess is that Blizzard has been sitting on their throne, collecting their ideas and refining them, and biding their time to strike back at the MMO market with a vengeance. I too am biding my time, patiently awaiting some word on the progress they are making.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to give my money to some newer, indie company, but Blizzard has delivered plenty of quality in the past. While there have been disappointments (*coughBurningCrusadecough*), they have proven they can learn from them, and adapt accordingly. They’ve set a bar for an entire industry, and I doubt they are content to just produce something on par with what they already have. They are going to raise that bar again, that’s just what Blizzard is about.

I kinda feel dirty gushing about Blizzard so much, but there you have it. XD

Keen
Keen - January 3, 2010

@Lastcall: Nicely said. I agree with you about the community.

@Cyprus: First of all, where have you been stranger?! I miss talking to you on vent. I agree with what you’re saying and it’s okay to gush over them every once in a while. Afterall, it does feel good to play a Blizzard product. Clearly they are -not- a company that releases a product that should be a stepping stone to what came before it. They’ve always been about releasing quality and moving forward. Even if one doesn’t like their games, you can’t argue the quality.

Dismantled - January 3, 2010

I still think an UO with today’s 3d/graphics would be a great success. As long as they stayed true to the original formula.

If they try to make UO+WoW they should just not even bother.

wolfiebr - January 3, 2010

Keen, first of all, DAOC was the game for me, as I said, I it was the game that gave me the most gratifying memories of ANY game ever, though I believe that to be fair we must remember its shortcomings as well and that some of its shortcomings led to the “development” of the genre to its present situation.

We do agree 100% that, while games were not released complete (far from it), they had more content of all types at release than most do right now. Take DAOC for instance. I believe the game world at release is bigger than War, Aion and Age of Conan combined – that lead to a certain sense of awe in exploration that rarely happen with the newer games. The first time you see Camelot for instance, or Tir na Nog. I remember running from Connla (I was a celt) to Tir Na Nog to meed with my friend who had made an elf and it was an epic quest just trying. The same could be said of the journey from Qeynos to Freeport in starter EQ.

I also dont think my present lifestyle could take DAOC gaming anymore. I simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for a perfect group to form to roam the frontiers looking for a fight. That could take hours in the past.

And I agree that WOW is excelent at taking other people’s mechanics and adding them to their own game. I dont play it exactly because that often takes the game from the direction of my prefered playstyle.

I am download AO now. Hopefully we can see each other online!

Gringar - January 3, 2010

Shadowbane 2, if it were made, would pwn

Shadowbane was awesome, huge open world, build a city (or even a random house/shop) anywhere, cool pvp, the game was just never stable 🙁

Brian Inman - January 3, 2010

I think possibly one of the problems is the age of most devs. They are all pretty young, and back when we played EQ, and DAOC they were probably still in diapers. They just never experienced alot of the games we played when they were huge so they can never know what it was like.

I find that people tend to remember only the good things of previous MMO’s. It is like when you break up in a relationship, and 3 months later you get back together because you remember all the good times you had. A week later you remember why you broke up in the first place, and it wasn’t really how you remembered it.

Jeremy T - January 3, 2010

Rose colored glasses.

We’re getting better games. They’re still not good enough, but they’re nowhere near as bad as they were 10 years ago.

I guess it’s easy with time to forget how much EverQuest and DAoC actually sucked, and instead just remember the good times. Memory is a funny thing.

Sean - January 3, 2010

You assertion here turns on whether the MMOs of the past – specifically particular mechanics and their execution – are in any commonly accepted sense better than contemporary MMOs. No doubt Everquest and DAoC were breakthroughs for their time, succeeding despite the poor UI and frustrating mechanics that would simply be unacceptable in today’s environment. Everquest’s open world, for instance, the same open world that facilitated all those great experiences old-timers remember fondly, also precluded many people who would have otherwise been interested in MMOs from participating. A lot of people don’t think that camping at monster spawns for days on end is all that fun. Your cross continent corpse run or train pull might make for great laughs and an exciting blog post but most people find that extremely frustrating.

You might argue that what I’ve just pointed to aren’t integral elements of the Everquest experience and what distinguished it, positively, from contemporary MMOs lies elsewhere. I don’t think one can easily disentangle the openness of a true sandbox MMO from the repercussions possible within it, and the general consumer reception of sandbox versus non-sandbox MMOs tells against what you think is ideal in an MMO. In any case all I want to suggest is that what you take to be pillars of progressive MMO design are not as clear cut or universally accepted as you take them to be. There is no ideal form of the three faction, realm vs realm MMO. Perhaps two factions are just as good, or perhaps, as in Fallen Earth’s case, six are even better. If making a successful MMO was just a matter of having a good idea, then we would be awash in too many compelling MMOs to count let alone devote time to. The proof is in the execution and identifying market demand, and to disregard that or to think that developers for the last 10 years have been generally stupid is naive at best.

Skia1 - January 3, 2010

Its the age of engineering. Almost everything modern around us atm is based on one great idea/invention that someone (or a group of ppl) thought out maybe dacades ago, what we do now days is engineer the crap out of that to the point of exaustion.
The same applies to the MMO genre, not enough breakthroughs to follow this fast paced era.

Olrick - January 4, 2010

I have the feeling that there were a few pitfalls during those last years:

– the quest for the holy grail of video improvement: the video cards of today have an insane graphic power, and the technophiles developers tried to harness that power… and forgot that the large majority of the intended target has none of these (gamer went from being power users to plain users with the growth of the market size)

– the quest for the so called open world, boundless, uninstanced that the server technology does not yet allow

– the quest for the One Ring: old games had a lot of issues, we shall solve them all with our unique power, creativity and IQ. Hubris, I think it was called by the ancient greeks (not speaking of Aventurine).

– the quest for the Dragon Gold: what Blizzard has done can be replicated easily with enough money and a good IP. Sure…

Now all these forgot that software is an art, and nobody can really predict what people will want at a given point in time. Sometime it’s Avatar with a simple story and millions of $, sometimes it’s Paranormal Activity…

I just spent a whole week on Mass Effect that I missed last year. I had more fun than in any of 2009 MMO.

Nobody predicted that a phone could generate thousands of applications, so I’m not going to predict anything for this year, but I’m sure that somebody, somewhere will surprise us.

Happy new year to all of you.

reggie - January 4, 2010

I think its just demand that devs focus on. I mean dont forget that 10 years back there were still the same number of people populating the planet. Back then 200k subs was big but there already was a much bigger untapped potential of subscribers. Granted though that also back then maybe 1/20th had a pc to begin with 🙂 so that also plays a big part in the sub numbers of those days.
Now everyone and their mom has a pc at home ready to play games and the devs are now trying to tap into that huge market for which wow was the big example of accessing it.

Me myself i really dispise mmorpgs released nowadays. Granted i play m but most i dont even finish and unsubscribe after 1 or 2 months already. They bore the hell out of me. To much soloing, to easy (since every class has to be able to solo), to linear. Champions online topped them all for me. Talk about utterly boring, what a crap game !

Warhammer didnt do so bad. Their problem was including pvp instances and designing bad pvp zones and boring keep siege. Warhammer’s problem was putting a pvp environment in a pve model. A model where you’d get the same reward system as in other pve mmorpgs. This made pvp just another loot grind like in any other mmorpg unlike daoc where the pvp was designed so well that, besides ranks, you’d pvp coz it was fun and had motivation! Not just a grind to get new shinies !

I myself miss the days of exploration, wow still had this, and grouping up alot and meet people.
Nowadays mmorpgs throw socializing out of the window, its like they took away the RPG part from MMORPG. All you have to do is follow a straight line from start to finish without really having to talk to anyone you come across. I bet that star trek online will be the same crap. Its made by the same company that made champions online, lol, and aim for simplicity. They just hope the IP attracts alot of sales.

It’s really alot like someone else said in this thread. They use a big IP, hype a game, do presales with collector editions, pretty presents and head starts. Then hope to hit a 800k + mark on initial sales before people start to abandon the game. Its like nowadays most money is made during the first 2 months and thats all they seem to be aiming at.
Well not really aiming at but cost vs risk its worth it to try get a big cash flow fast. Beyond that its just showing them their idea of ‘casual’ didnt work out as well as they thought it did.

As a last note. Last year i played daoc again. It still a great game. A game that makes me long for the good old days of exploration, thrill and exitement. A world full of magic, many fun classes to choose from, achievement and truely awesome pvp. I still think PVE is great too in daoc.

Nothing beats the thrill of lvling in the frontiers while at any time you can get jumped by a pvper or you see hordes of your realm rushing to a keep to defend it from a big assault.
Right now i,m considering to start daoc again on the new US super cluster. For me nothing still beats daoc.
To be honest graphics dont matter shit if the game pulls you in. Something other games lack.

Hey at least in that game i group up again and socialize. Something that cant be said from new mmorpgs.
At least in that game i find excitement and thrill and fun and meet new people and make friends and play a fun original class.
At least in daoc i get the feeling im actually playing a massive online game instead of some boring solo grind like in newer mmorpgs where pure boredom makes me unsubscribe.

Longasc - January 4, 2010

I think creativity ended with World of Warcraft. At release it was supreme, and they refined their style to very polished heights.

But right now they don’t advance the genre. Babysteps, minor innovations. Casualization.

And other companies have no better ideas than to follow in their wake and release more MMOs of the type. Turbine discovered rep, token and dailies grind and selling minimal content while making the story parts more accessible through skirmishes.

And employing clever new ways and alternate business models might be an interesting thing, in the end I could not care less about the payment model if the games don’t interest me.

There needs to be something new, not polishing old crap like Dark Age of Camelot into a 2010 version by taking the “best” parts of contemporary game design. There are no good parts, the “new ideas” are just extensions to ages old systems by now.

Crackbone - January 4, 2010

@ Toot : I’ll echo Keen’s sentiments and would love to take a hit on what you are smoking.

Darkfall, while definitely different than most of the current titles out there can in no way be considered “innovative.”

Jordan - January 4, 2010

I think that game development really just follows, for the most part, what the masses want. Sometimes they hit and sometimes they miss, but at the end of the day, and especially for the triple-a titles, they are just trying to maximize their revenue stream which means they are going to make easier, hand-holding type games with ultra-fast leveling, lots of shinies and very little work involved to get there.

Unfortunately that’s the opposite of what i want. I realize my days of playing those big blockbuster titles are over and now i pin my hopes on the Indie devs who are allowed to make the games they want to play w/out basing every single decision on whether or not they believe it will maximize revenue streams.

Re: Darkfall, i know the Darkfall hate is very strong on this blog but i’m not sure how you don’t consider it somewhat of an innovative title. Innovative doesn’t mean you have to like it. Is there another fantasy game out there where you can have massive battles with hundreds of players with a non-auto-targeting melee system either on land or at sea? That alone is basically the backbone of the game and no other mmorpg has ever pulled that off to my knowledge.

What do you consider innovative? Alods online?? lol

Epiny - January 4, 2010

@Keen’s Posters

First off if you have a blog don’t post a link/exert from it. You look like a dbag trolling for readers. Type in your website in the spot provided, Keen isn’t here to facilitate you with more readers. (everyone has a blog now days so it just gets out of hands sometimes)

Second I agree with Keen. Irony incoming, I’m writing about this on my blog this week. I think what everyone needs to do is really identify WHAT made those earlier games great. You can’t just say it was immersive and nothing else. Game features went into making it that way and unless you can pin point them it’s pointless to try and duplicate it.

I believe the community has changed alot today as well. If we want a MMO like EQ or DAoC we are going to have to accept a playerbase of 300K. The main stream gamers just want purples and achievement titles. I don’t fully understand why this is, maybe its the type of people that are attracted to MMO’s now days. It seems like the XBox generation is migrating over.

The MMO community needed the Sims playerbase to migrate over if we really wanted the older MMO style games to be fesable. Those player enjoy just “existing” in a world. The XBox group requires flashy items and easily obtainable goals.

I use XBox group as a reference to console gamers, as XBox is the most popular console. Console games have fostered a different gaming mentality over the past 20 years than computer games.

Robert Schultz - January 4, 2010

The #1 thing I think these MMO’s had was a sense of a world.

Take DaoC for example.
* The world was HUGE
* It had NO map. You had to remember which tree to turn left at
* It took time to get from point A to point B, even with horse routes. None of this 310% flying over everything nonsense

Because everyone felt so connected with the world, it developed “realm pride” and then RvR was great.

Dblade - January 4, 2010

Keen:

it’s unreasonable because you are expecting something that can’t be quantified. They could have made WHO into DAOC 2 and it could have actually gone worse. Each new game is it’s own beast, and you can’t judge how past successful features will work, and how healthy or in demand they really are. Or how hard it can be to code them, or create them, or balance them.

I think we honestly need to cut developers some slack when it comes to demanding how the genre progresses. I don’t think the DAOC people cared a lot about how they were making a game not as fun as the MUDs and MUSHs of the past.

Epiny - January 4, 2010

Dblade, it’s one thing for a fan to say the developers code was flawed it’s another to say a feature was a bad idea.

I don’t need a degree in computer engineering to tell me that only two armies is a bad idea when concerning balance. I don’t need a degree to tell me that gamers will exploit what ever feature advances their character the fastest. (ie Tor Anroc farming)

Game designers aren’t taking into account how gamers will react to their features.

Epiny - January 4, 2010

My kingdom for an edit feature…

furthermore a socioliogy major would better understand what game features would flourish and what wouldn’t then a game designer with a comptuer major.

Keen
Keen - January 4, 2010

@Dblade: I’m not basing this on the feeling of a game, nor on something that can’t be quantified. I’m saying look at the facts here. The “Realm War” created in Warhammer was flawed by design. Many aspects of Warhammer were flawed in their implementation as well. Look at DAOC’s Keep implementation vs. WAR’s. Look at DAOC’s BG’s vs. WAR’s Scenarios. Look at DAOC’s frontier vs. WAR’s “RvR lakes”.

They’re accountable for what they design. Every developer is accountable. What this entry is about is questioning why we’re seeing games today trying to accomplish the same things as games 5-10 years ago but designed with obvious flaws. The order should be reversed. WAR should have released in 2001 and DAOC should have been released in 2008. That would have been logical because it would mean they learned from mistakes and made a better game. Why is it that the pinnacle of design for that type of game is from 9 years ago?

office jerk - January 4, 2010

i think too much engineering thought goes into today’s games. i’m thinking specifically of WAR here, but it definitely seemed like a group of techies sat down with their flowcharts and tables and tried to create DAOC v2.0 rather than DAOC II, if that makes sense.

Daoc seemed to have been created from this idea of “lets make an MMO like EQ, only with three factions, and they fight each other in these big RvR zones and you can capture keeps and stuff, that would be awesome”. Sure, there were some flaws with it, but the core concept worked well!

In WAR, it just felt like they overengineered everything, like they tried too hard to create the “perfect battleground” system. i admit, i had high hopes watching the video casts about stuff like “your actions will help the war effort from level 1” and “you’re gonna wear the heads of your enemies as trophies” and “this is going to be daoc 2.0” stuff, whereas with DAOC i had no expectations, maybe that’s why it felt so good.

i could never go back and play daoc now, I know because i tried on a reasonably populated freeshard of it, but i could play WAR. I think DAOCs strongest weapon is nostalgia here.

I challenge you, Keen!

Go play DAOC on the Uthgard shard (uthgard-server.net) for a while, level up to 20 or 30. Let us know if you really think that WAR was a step back.

toxic - January 4, 2010

I really don’t think there’s been backward regression at all. That’s sheer blind nostalgia.

Also, putting WAR’s problems down to not having a third faction is simplistic at best. It would still have fallen apart regardless of the number of factions, because the game of capturing objectives is too limited and monotonous. The reason I quit WAR wasn’t because I couldn’t find enough action or I was always getting dominated— it’s cause there’s only so many freaking times you find staring at dudes operating a ram fun. It was boring. Most of the scenarios as you went up got so elaborate that it was hard to figure out what you were supposed to do, and impossible to actually do it when you knew.

Look at today: You have WoW, you have a fairly abstract space commerce sim, a free-for-all pvp game, and Fallen Earth, which is … something… all doing well. A lot of MMOs fail, but perhaps the expectation that these games will live for years and years is just too optimistic. Most TV shows don’t last 7 seasons or break any new ground, but it’s hardly proof that TV is regressing.

Keen
Keen - January 4, 2010

@Office jerk: I’d be playing on Uthgard but the DL is like 30kb/s and I’m not patient enough. 🙁

@toxic: Look a little deeper at what I’m saying. I’m looking at what was achieved in the MMO’s like WoW, SWG, DAOC, EQ, UO, etc and asking why we’re underachieving to the point of working backwards and regressing. The games are not getting better from a design perspective.

Ming - January 4, 2010

I think the answer lies in the fact that MMOs, at the end of the day, are just games, and therefore people play them for “fun,” not to do “work.”

In that case, then hypothetically, if what you wanted to do a particular night was run a dungeon or something, then traveling for thirty minutes to get to that dungeon is wasted time.

office jerk - January 4, 2010

@ Keen

Lack of patience. I think that’s a good indicator what’s going to happen in game as well.

Seriously though, give it a try. it was interesting.

Keen
Keen - January 4, 2010

@Office jerk: Do you know of a faster download? I was speaking somewhat out of jest about the lack of patience. It’s 8gb and 30kb/s would take many, many days of stopping and starting the download. I’ve even heard some some installs are corrupt. Imagine doing all of that for a corrupt install.

As for going back to DAOC, I’ve gone back to the game as it is now. I didn’t like some of changes they added and the added content was entirely new to me. I’m wanting what Uthgard has to offer though — the original.

Russell Gusto - January 4, 2010

@ Keen

I think one reason you can never find what you seek is because your mind only wraps itself around one type of playstyle. It’s kinda like eating pizza, many different kinds but in the end it’s all simply pizza.

Just look at the ftp game your playing. Does it not remind you of other games you have played? Now I’m saying you can’t have fun just that the industy is moving forward it’s just that you are stuck in a style that you can’t seem to break out of.

Keen
Keen - January 4, 2010

I’m not sure what you mean Russel. I play just about everything.

Russell Gusto - January 4, 2010

Yes you do but you seem to only want one type of game so most of the games you play are fail before you even play them simply because the mechanics, rule set, etc are not what you want. It’s like forcing someone to eat oysters if all they want to eat is pizza. I may be wrong but just from hangin’ around it seems to be a pattern. I used to hate seafood, now I LOVE it. Sorry for the food analogies just seems to fit.

Keen
Keen - January 4, 2010

What would that one game type I want be called? I seem to play every game type and critique them all.

I’ll play the WoW type, the EQ type, the SWG type, the DAOC type. I love them all.

Gankatron - January 4, 2010

@Grant:

“Someone could try to build a modern game to mirror the experience of an old school game…”

They are and it is called Allods Online. I think it is a good idea to take what works and add in fun mechanics from other games. F2P may make this one have substantial appeal. Maybe WoW is the wheel that people are unsuccessfully trying to reinvent. This is what makes me happy:

1) A vibrant world and storyline, where I have a hardy laugh now and again.

2) Balanced, but varied skill trees. I want to look at the skill trees as a puzzle waiting to be decoded, something that I want to try a wide variety of re-spec options before dabbling with a new class, let alone faction.

3) A rule set that rewards contribution to communal gameplay and not mindless clock watching for the highest honor per minute payout. My best example is again the de-evolution of the WoW BG Alterac Valley, which used to play out as a great long back and forth battle, and then became an afk’ers race to completion. It seemed so obvious that changing the reward structure to one that emphasized an individual contribution to the group effort would have driven off the afk’ers and people ice fishing, and yet nothing substantial was done by the time I left the game (BC); it would have been a whole different situation if honor gained was based largely on overall damage/healing, meeting game objectives, maybe even rewards for accomplishments (such as most damage taken without dying, etc), instead of just showing up. People actually interested in the battle would have loved to see people who minimally contributed, get no honor, or even better yet get booted for a waiting player.

4) Also throw in some randomness, I don’t want to know that I can farm mob for a certain item and I would like to sometimes log in in the midst of a giant creature unexpectedly attacking my home city. Holiday events are great fun; I would do quite a lot just to get a Pumpkin head hat even if it had no stats.

I think the unfortunate thing is that although we tend to think that fun games will sell, that is not a dev’s primary concern; the ability to keep the gamer hooked with real time intermittent rewards in a token economy is what we are looking at here. “Game” designers like Zygnia have taken this to an extreme with the Facebook ‘win by recruiting your friends’ model. In this way in does come down to money, as the devs take an Alterac Valley focus and try to design games that will yield the highest dps (dollars per second) from their addicted community members, any fun generated along the way also serves as secondary positive reinforcement…

PeZzy - January 5, 2010

Games are devolving because the MMO crowd has become fickle over the cloned offerings. The developers are making hit and run games, hoping to survive. That’s the problem – no one is willing to take a risk on a large venture.

SWG was the best game I played…it was leagues ahead of WoW, but the public wanted a shallow, grinding game.

Steeldragoon - January 5, 2010

@Bhagpuss – I played DAOC after most had quit. It was down below 10000 worldwide players during primetime before I left (about 2 years ago). I did not have much to complain about other than the lack of population. Compared to today’s MMO’s, the issues in DAOC were mostly non-existent on the Classic servers (no ToA).

office jerk - January 5, 2010

Keen is selling me on Allods. I’m also craving pizza and oysters for some reason.

Steeldragoon - January 5, 2010

@office jerk – 820 players is not a reasonable population aka uthgard-server.net

We were playing with a max of 6000 (3000 minimum) on combined servers and people were STILL spread all over.

Stan - January 5, 2010

i never played daoc before. i looked in to the uthgard server. been playing all day seems like a good game for sure. i will keep on playing it, mostly because its free.

the download was slow. i just left it over night was done in the morning. not sure how long i will play it, does seem fun. new games always seem fun to me though. i really dont know much about the game or whats to come, going to keep on playing for now and just see.

Anne - January 5, 2010

@ Bhagpuss
You are right, developers were only listening to players. And that is where the problem lies. Look at current WoW, many of the little things that were considered too hard have been removed. It is like the difference between looting one at a time and auto-looting. If you’re going to remove the challenge and the gameplay aspect of moving each piece of loot to your bags. Flying mounts = oh they get you places faster (hence makes the game more automatic and less-useless stuff) but that in itself removes much point of the game, its a ‘crank it up to 11’ mechanic. Same goes for cross-server anything, developers obvious DO NOT think that other negative affects it may have on the communities, hell as long as the queues are shorter! And the list goes on, even a lot of minor ones like removing Hunter arrows, that mechanic was in there for a specific reason and added to the overall game experience but was removed because of ‘teh lazy’ and because the new developers (or the same idiot ones, doesn’t matter) thought it useless.

The developers in your examples obviously didn’t think things clearly enough, since ‘easier’ is not advancing.

Otherwise, ‘nostalgia’ (rose-tinted spectacles) excuse without any true evidence isn’t an excuse at all. It is fanboyism. MMORPGs WERE better, sure much of it was because they were new… but obviously the new ones cannot at all create a similar newness or fun factor. There are obvious gameplay changes which makes the games different even though there are many more similarities then there are differences (same genre of course). If the new ones were as effective as the old ones then they would be able to create the same sense of fun, but they aren’t as good because they aren’t as original and clearly have some major differences.

Gankatron - January 5, 2010

It would be interesting to get some actual devs on the board under a psydonym and hear their points of views. I am sure that they are hardcore gamers, and likey became disillusioned by the economic reality they encountered. I think the definition of a good game varies between players and stockholders…

Steeldragoon - January 6, 2010

Why do people have to keep pointing at reality and nostalgia? I played DAOC about 2 years ago. That’s NOT that long ago. I’m pretty sure I quit because most of my guild went to other games and the battles in PvP were becoming less than entertaining due to the population leach.

When you can be an assassin and sit on a bridge all day and not have a single kill, you have a population issue.

It is not nostalgia, fanboyism, or any other kind of reality issue for DAOC so stop pointing in that direction.

And once again, uthgard-server.net is now down to 520 people online. It had 820 People online around 6pm after work. That is a LAUGHABLE population. DAOC was NEVER this low during daylight hours (USA) in the year I played it before it seemed to truly die in population. And when it did seem to die, perhaps this was the level it eventually fell to since it seems to still be running. Although the Ywain cluster claims to have 2000+ people on in the morning which is insane compared to uthgard. I want to say that at the height of the 3 Classic server cluster, we had 10000 to 13000 playing against each other. How do you compare that to 500 or even 800? It’s a PvP game, you NEED massive amounts of people so stop telling people to check their nostalgia against Uthgard. It just won’t be the same no matter HOW MUCH you want it to be.

So in conclusion, my favoritism is not some mistaken thought of the past and yes, it died in population while I was playing it and therefore the battles were small and far between making the game from blasting fun, to boring.

Steeldragoon - January 6, 2010

I just thought of something. Mythic never understood that we wanted another DAOC version 2 right Keen? Capitalism works on money. You show it money and it tends to head in that direction. What do you think of getting 10000 people to sign up on one of Mythic’s servers AT ONCE (or resubscribe if they already played it). Not only do we do that, but we have all 10000 people send comments and feedback and emails to Mythic letting them know of our position.

Any chance of that happening in order to convince them that we WANT a DAOC version 2? or is that more of a dream than these guys pointing to nostalgia and fanboyism?

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