We’re settling into a ‘New MMO’ Slump

In the comments of yesterday’s entry I was asked whether or not I play MMO’s anymore because I have not been talking about or reviewing them (other than WoW).   My answer to that question is definitely a discussion starter.

What MMO’s have come out or are coming out, which I haven’t already commented on, that are worth playing?  That’s the answer and the topic of today’s post.   Simply put, I don’t feel that there are any MMO’s right now or in the near future.

Here’s a list of the MMO’s coming out that I am interested in and plan to play and write about.

SWTOR
Guild Wars 2
FFXIV
TERA
Rift: Planes of Telara
Dawntide

These are all games on the horizon… and the horizon is really, really far away. We may see FFXIV this year — maybe — but the rest I’m expecting early next year or even 2012.

We’re definitely in a new MMO slump. There are currently a few games that people are hanging onto, but nothing exploding with genuine mass appeal. For me it’s WoW. Why? It’s a polished game capable of providing a reliable gaming experience and I know what to expect. The population is there, the content is there, the expansion is coming soon, and the game isn’t suddenly going to fizzle out.

I saw this coming, as did many of you. MMO’s these days are lasting, on average, 3 months before the new MMO smell wears off and reality sets in. A mass exodus ensues and we move on. That’s not the player’s fault — that’s a problem with the games. The causes and how to fix it are a discussion for another time.

Until the MMO slump is over, I’m really not going to be hyping anything or writing a lot about these games until we know more. Occasionally I’ll write a responsive piece but, taking Guild Wars for example, there’s not much to say about one of the classes being revealed.

What I do want to discuss though are general MMO subjects. I want to revisit topics about the type of MMO that I want designed as well as current popular and unpopular mechanics.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything on my list. If you want to know why I’m not playing X or why Y isn’t on my list then ask away and I’ll tell you straight up.

  • Disagree, it is mostly the players’ and the hype’s fault. People kid themselves that this is the next big thing, perhaps leaving a community, friends and many many hours behind. When the new community turns out to not be as great as the fansites, and the game doesn’t live up to the rapid hype that that they and their fellow fansite persons built up, they start to leave because they can’t adapt to change/can’t stand being alone/can’t rekindle the “first MMO” feeling because they ruined it for themselves by getting into the numbers and not the game.

  • Also, on a more light-hearted note: do you plan to stay with (or at least keep going back to) WoW for some time or is it just to tide you over and no more?

  • I agree i feel the same lately, been burning through the one MMO after another hoping for something to tide me over for something that actually draws me into the “world”.

    Unfortunately even WoW is just “going through the motions” there, i’m no longer interested in reading quest text or bothering with the “story” or “world” …it’s stale. Some would say it’s burn-out, maybe, but i sure as heck have no problem playing Mass Effect 2 and being totally hooked and drawn in [and even ME2 is not far removed from the instanced type of MMOs we’re seeing] .

    On a side note, you have no interest in The Secret World though? [The new MMO from Funcom] . While Funcom might have alot of hatred drawn upon them, i wouldn’t exactly ignore every game they bring out…

  • If a product can’t live up to its hype then it deserves to fail. From a studio perspective, you have two options: deliver on the hype being generated (fairly or unfairly) or control peoples’ expectations before launch with a sober reality check via interviews or press releases.

    Unfortunately, studios tend to take the third option which is to do neither. They simply let the hype get out of control (because they want big sales) and then fail to deliver (because they can’t deliver).

    MMOs are probably the hardest games to build and launch with zero issues. Inevitably something screws up which leads to bugs, lag, population imbalances, exploits, or unforseen playstyles.

    MMOs also try to be everything to everyone for the most part because they want maximum sales/subscriptions/RMT. They are starting to set their own expectations WAY TOO HIGH and in trying to achieve mass market appeal, they appeal to very few.

    Bring on the smaller scale niche MMO revolution please.

  • I have been giving World of Tanks a go as well.. Needs some work but it has been fun.

    Keen if you haven’t read anything about it think tanks from Battlefield (without being able to get out of them) that are upgradeable.

  • “We may see FFXIV this year — maybe” – You don’t believe the September launch date then?

    You don’t mention DCUO either, which is scheduled for November. Might not be to your taste, but it’s a major MMO by any standard.

    That’s two “AAA” MMOs due to launch in the final quarter of 2010, which is surely as many as one could reasonably expect. Then there are the free versions of LotRO and EQ2, which are two very major events for the genre. I’d have thought that was enough for anyone to be going on with, although personally I am also very much looking forward to the open Beta of Zentia too.

    From where I’m sitting the rest of 2010 looks incredibly exciting MMO-wise. My main problem is how to fit everything in. Next year will be even better, though. Feels like it could be the second Golden Age of MMOs right here.

  • I fell into that slump around the start of the year, and I was slouching towards it for a while. It’s a good time to be out-of-game.

  • Thanks for posting this Keen, I always enjoy your take on mmo’s so it’s annoying that there is not much out there. Actually even what’s on the horizon looks to be more of the same. The only mmo I see that MAY break this funk is Rifts. They may actually have a new concept of dynamic worlds, etc….here’s to hope 😉

  • FFXIV just finished phase2 beta and is moving into phase 3, apparently on schedule to release on 22/30 September, depending on which version you buy.

  • @Merketh: I played WoT and damn it was awful. It doesn’t do a mix very well at all: your FPS skills don’t let you at least compete with other people, and the RPG element is so light and yet so restrictive and damaging that any new player gets roflstomped in a matter of seconds.

  • I’ve got the MMO blues myself, but I’m very excited for what’s coming out 2011/2012.
    IMO two titles I think will redefine the genre:

    Guild Wars 2 for it’s dynamic event system. I will have no problem saying goodbye to questing as we know it today. Unlike SW:ToR where they couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, I think Arenanet will deliver the goods which is sad for me to say since I’m desperately wanting a good sci-fi MMO. Maybe Earthrise or WH40k, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Tera for it’s twitch based combat. Of the bazillion (slight exaggeration) MMO’s shown at this years E3 where most seem to be the same ol’ thing with a new skin. Tera was the one the stood out for the lucky ones that got to try it out leaving them wanting more. They also seemed to have really taken combat to a new level and on top of that make tactical group game play.

  • I’m also looking forward to the World of Darkness MMO. They’ve kept a pretty tight lid on it, so who knows what to expect. But I’m going to give it a try anyway.

  • @Bhagpuss: I won’t speak too much about FFXIV here since I don’t want to disclose much. I’ll just say that I’ve heard … from voices in the wind… that the controls and various aspects of the game are being completely re-looked into.

    If it launches in Septempber I’m not certain it’ll be worth playing right away. The jury is still out on whether or not the game will be the right kind of grind. We know it will be grindy but will it be Aion or DAOC grindy.

    @Warden: I tried it briefly. It was better than I thought it would be, but there’s something missing — something that would keep me playing and I don’t know if that’s just overall quality or not.

  • I’ve been in an MMO slump for quite some time, to the point I’ve just given up on them for now. The biggest problem for me is a lack of innovation in the genre. I’ve spent enough time with elves, dwarves and gnomes leveling up and repeating content for better loot. It’s a tired model and I desperately hope to see something innovative and compelling hit the genre.

    I find myself reminiscing about games of the past that kept me playing for hours on end day after day that had no levels, no loot and no time commitments that are difficult to maintain when one is employed full-time and has obligations to family and friends. I played Tribes for countless hours for years simply because the game was a lot of fun to play.

    I suspect some of the reason we see a lack of innovation is hesitancy from investors to put up capital for something “risky.” WoW has been so successful that everyone seems to want to copy their model. I think it’s created stagnation in the MMO genre.

    I’m also disappointed by the F2P trend. Keen has already pointed out the reasons why this model is bad for games but I will reiterate some of those points here. First of all, F2P is often misleading. Most of these games are Free To Try, but you need to spend money to actually get much out of the game. Secondly, game changes are not made for the good of the game or the community but purely to drive cash shop sales. It results in decisions that are upsetting and difficult to understand for the player base.

    I am eagerly anticipating SWTOR but I think that has as much to do with the IP as anything. From the few leaked beta videos I’ve seen the gameplay looks very similar to WoW. I’m hoping the fully-voiced NPC interactions and Bioware’s reputation for fantastic games set it apart from the plethora of similar games already out there.

  • Yeah Keen what were you thinking? You totally forgot two MMOs coming out that are going to one of a kind (well, I mean… well you know what I mean) There are currently no good flight sim MMOs! Think about Freelancer or Freespace or Privateer or any of those awesome flight sims back in the day. Dark Star One anyone?

    Jumpgate Evolution (which has been in Closed Beta forever and might just be vaporware at this point) and Black Prophecy are two MMOs that I am really looking forward to. SWTOR too, but I miss some good flight sims. And I need a reason to crack the old joystick… no not that one you perverts!

  • I agree, unfortunately WoW is where its at. Polish is so important now because wow has set that benchmark. Guild Wars 2 hopefuly will live up to the hype and become the premier Pvp MMO once again.

  • @Drill, yeah if you are looking for some sort of twitch FPS, WoT is not the game for you. it has alot more slower “tactical” speed.

  • @Merketh: I understand where you’re coming from but I got no sense of “tactics” at all! It was basically: you’ve been playing for longer than me, your tank is better, oh look I’m dead AGAIN without making a single hit. Even if I did fire a shot it took so long for the reticule to be accurate that most people killed me before I had decent shot.

    I even gave loads of different tactics a shot: blazing forward, hanging back, sitting in a group, defending the objective etc. Every time I encountered someone else they either killed me before I could rotate to them since they had so much more fire-power, or they just whittled away my health because their tank was faster than my turret. A tactical game I could appreciate and enjoy, WoT I could not.

  • did you only play on the noob tank? if not; yeah its hard because they have no Tiers/brackets implemented. which means as soon as you get about 2-3 tanks you could possibly face lvl 10 tanks. something I hope they sort out for release.

  • I was looking forward to FF14 and I will probably try it even if it gets bad reviews, I haven’t heard alot of positive things coming out of Beta other than it’s pretty.

    I’ll end up back in WoW by the end of the year as soon as Cataclysm launches.

  • MMOs are just flat and dull to me at this point. I certainly see more innovation coming from single-player games then I do in any MMO. I’ve played countless MMOs, probably 20 – with WoW and EQ1 being the top MMOs where I’ve probably spent close to 7 years total of my life in both games combined.

    I’ve effectively left pc gaming for a PS3. Something that I swore I would NEVER do. I just could not, in this economy, justify buying a new pc every 2 years which is what I was doing before my business slumped.

    And my relationships suffered greatly while I played MMOs addictively over the years as well. Yes, its not the games fault, but my own, but still – now that I’ve stopped playing MMOs my life is definitely more manageable. I’ve gotten back together with my wife, we divorced, started exercising and lost about 20 lbs with more to come (thank you P90X), and I’ve had a chance to look at what hardcore gaming did to my life. With 4 kids and a wife, raiding 4x a week was a job, and I was being very neglectful of my responsibilities and I was very unhealthy.

    Anyway, I’m ranting and preaching – thats not my point, my point is, for me, MMOs are unfulfilling; chasing a carrot on a stick, which you never catch, gearing up and grinding rep to tackle a dungeon only so you can tackle another dungeon and so on.

    I recently finished MGS4 on the PS3, that damn game was a masterpiece. And I could pick it up, and put it down whenever I wanted. And since I am so new to consoles I am finding major titles, used on Amazon, pretty cheaply. It feels so good to be rid of MMOs and their need to constantly be fed.

  • I guess it could be considered a slump but as a result I have went back to COH and LOTRO full time and couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to just play to have fun and not worry about gear score, loot, or finding a run for the latest raid.

  • This slump sent me back to Warhammer Online before SC2 came out. I was pleasantly surprised with a lot of their improvements but also sad. That game had such potential. 🙁

  • it’s a community thing for me. It took a very long time to build the community I am a part of playing WOW. The only other time I’ve had that type of community was in Horizons. I enjoy playing these games as a social aspect.

    I agree with Drill in that the community is a big part of the burn out.

    In WAR it seemed rushed to me, people didn’t really connect in the three months I played they just powered through content. Public Quests didn’t really work to build community in the way I thought it would and the community never congealed for me

    With Champions Online it was build a super great character and everyone else had a super great character and we were all instanced to hell… Again, no community feeling and I left.

    Finally there was Fallen Earth I love this game and want to play but again I find the community lacking. It seems very spread out and the people weren’t very talkative.

    I’m bored to hell with WOW, and all I’m doing is grinding in the game right now but the community I’m apart of in the game makes it bearable.

    I hope I can find community in another game, I think this is what was missing and what new games aren’t seeing. At least it is for me, or maybe I’m not giving the games enough time (3 months on average).

    On a positive note I’m hoping SWTOR and GW2 fill in these gaps and give me something to do other than grind WoW

  • I agree on the slump. Games are just too grindy with too little fun now, designed to make you spend a lot of time on maintenance tasks with little fun gameplay to suck you in. The F2P explosion doesn’t help, because very few of them seem good enough to stick with for a bit.

    This next generation is a turning point. If they release all those big games and its still a same reaction, might be time to find a new hobby.

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