The pattern is pretty clear at this point: MMO’s are not built to last anymore. The new formula is to create, what I will from this point on call, a “3 Month-er” .
Just a few characteristics of a 3 month-er:
– Leveling is fast enough that many people nearly hit the level cap before the head-start is over.
– Character progression is considered an end-game activity.
– PvP is done in small instanced maps
– Content is finite and completed by “running through it” instead of exploring it, experiencing it, or living it.
– Quest-centric grind
– Extremely solo friendly to the point of never needing to group 1-end
These games are being designed (consciously or not) with one goal in mind: Achieve failure. They’re building something that people may look at from afar and see as interesting, but in reality they’re building something no one wants!
That’s right. They achieve failure. Everything goes according to plan but the game still fails, at least for the players like me who want something more than a 3 month romp. A 3 monther is built with absolutely nothing keeping the player from wanting to move on to the next best thing. Cataclysm brought WoW to the pinnacle of achieving failure by moving the game officially into 3 month status for me. It was great fun for 3 months, but then suddenly took a nose dive. It’s the same story with WAR, AoC, LotRO, Darkfall, DCUO, probably Rift, and every single game released since WoW.
Take the opposite of those few characteristic I listed above and you have what is necessary for a long-term MMORPG that players can really dig into, invest their time in, become emotionally attached to, and want to play more than 3 months. Where is the game that takes a year to reach max level or the one where PvP is done in the world over objectives with three factions? Where’s the game where sitting in a cantina for hours socializing with your customers who buy from you is not considered a waste of time? Where’s the game where players must actually play together to progress quicker than they can alone? Where’s the game that allows players to stake a claim on land or to explore a new region for its riches? Those games are on the other side of the spectrum from a 3 month-er.
I’m becoming much more adept at spotting the 3 month-er and I’m contemplating swearing them off entirely. It’s a love-hate relationship for me. I usually enjoy the first little bit then I see the pattern or figure out the game won’t last long and grow to hate it for its shortcomings. What matters more to me: enjoying a game for a little while and growing to hate it or never having played it at all? (Love and lost than never loved before type thing, right?)
Let me go on record again by saying that the 3 Month-er mentality is a short-sighted, short-term idea. It will not last in the long run as I hope that one day failure will ultimately prove to be the great equalizer of quality.