The 3 Monther

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.

 

  • I have an alternate theory. I think we, as players, may have developed an immunity to the charms of MMO Skinner-boxes.

  • I only got 3 months out of Pirates of the Burning Sea & Warhammer. I had better luck with LOTRO & WOW, getting in at least one year. So I agree 3 months=fail.

  • I would argue that the “3 month-er” is a result of applying design decisions which would work well for a single-player game, to an MMO.

  • How many non-MMO’s do you get constant daily gaming from for three months? Perhaps it’s a flaw of the MMO gamer? In fact, no MMO gives more than three months of content unless you make new characters or the developer adds new content. This is because most MMOers play their MMO far too much.

  • Hmmm…I am over three years with LOTRO and no matter what game I switch to, I keep coming back. New content moving closer to Moria, and an evolving update system keeps it interesting for me. Solo, 3-man, or 12 man instances, or PvP, I can play for a month without repeating anything. At this point all other games are 3 month-ers for me. The FTP has not affected my play in the least. I don’t see any other games making a “Rift” in my current enjoyment.

  • i don’t agree about the solo aspect – i think the solo aspect is fundamental

    but i see your point and i feel the same – it used to be players who optimized the fun out of games, now they are released fun-free from the get go :/

  • I’d like to hear more suggestions for games that are not three monthers. I found wow too boring and the community too wretched to complete. Yet I persevere in WAR and long ago reached level cap in CoH. I’d like to be that guy selling rare, needed things chewing the fat with customers and other business people. So there’s Eve, and then what?

  • This is why pre-NGE SWG was the last great MMO. You didn’t log on to play, you logged on to live in a world other than your own. The problem with WoW and WoW clones is that you log in to grind quests and kill, and there is an assumption that if you aren’t killing or turning in a quest, you are wasting your time. This is getting away from the original concept of the MMO being an online world and not just a game. And I don’t see it changing until some brave developer with triple-A money tries to make an amazing sandbox with themepark elements.

  • I still have my hopes that GW2 will break the mold a bit. I think its trying to be a long-term MMO.

  • What happened to Aion?

    @Daegalus

    Me as well, man. ArenaNet is a good company. However, the recent slew of poor MMOs prevents me from being optimistic.

  • I’ve played Warcraft for roughly five years, but I completely agree with you about Cataclysm. I think that EVE is the one MMO that fights this trend…perhaps because of being the ultimate sandbox game. If it clicks for you, then there is no endgame, just the ongoing journey and whatever gameplay you build for yourself.

  • I think you are wrong here, assuming you are trying to make some sweeping statement about the industry and not just your personal opinions. Obviously there are going to be people who play every one of those games and has been since release and is still enjoying it. They will probably reply with “I agree with most of those but X is the exception”.

    Ultimately, the industry may just be moving away from your personal tastes and towards the tastes of other people that…well, aren’t you.

  • Yah, that WoW is sure a sucky game. I mean it can’t possibly hold on to it’s population for much longer. It’s way too easy to grind through content and nobody could ever find what it does fun. *Cough*

    Sarcasm aside, This is yet another “Oh remember the magic of that first MMO feeling!” post. I’ll agree, I would like to see a new DAoC, but I’m not convinced that it would work as well as the first time. Second of all, I hate level progressions and if you have to tell me I have to spend a year to catch up to my buddies who have been playing since release and are doing content I can’t participate in. Then I’m not even going to bother to subscribe. What about all those guys with jobs and lives? I get maybe 4-5 hours in my favorite MMO of choice now. Is that too casual for you to let me play in the same game as you? I’m not spending 3 years to reach the same content as everyone else, sorry, not subscribing. Have fun in your Asian grind fest.

    You really want to focus on community building? Then do something like Planetside. Everyone’s equal, you just grow to become more diverse with time.

  • I see the point about the 3 month play cycle, but I am afraid the economics on display for Rift (and almost for WAR) prove that the 3 month theory can work. If WAR had actually kept more of its player base for a full three months, its economic outlook might have been very different. Unfortunately it was a 1 monther. If Rift can hold onto 300k subs for 3 months, my guess is is they make money, and prove the 3 monther model you describe quite viable. Sad, but viable.

  • Cataclysm is actually starting to feel sort of like a 3-monther.

    Level capped? Check
    Tradeskills capped? Check
    Dungeons completed? Check
    Heroics completed? Check
    Rep capped? Check
    Valor item capped? (almost) Check
    Raid content seen? 6/12 (not counting PVP boss)

    So half way through and the only thing holding us back for raid progression is the in and out of players.

    *sigh*

  • Keen, to me it seems that Eve is the only mmo that meets your standards for a true sandbox, total opposite of a 3 monther, and for whatever reason i don’t believe you play it. Is it the genre? If a fantasy version of Eve was released would that be to your liking?
    I do believe a game such as that can work, but it will have to be developed by a studio with patience, and the ability to build a subscriber base, because a game like that would not be very popular at first.

  • Designing for “3 months at a time” could also be seen as acknowledging the current MMO reality, even if it wasn’t a conscious decision. There are simply too many MMOs out there now, and our collective attention spans as players grow shorter by the day. All us old-school veterans from back in the day still cling to these ideas that MMOs should suck us in and not let go. Yet aren’t we being hypocritical as well when we ourselves find such a game but still hop around from MMO to MMO?

    Someone above mentioned LOTRO; I’m also a Lifetime and it’s been my go-to MMO for the traditional stuff. I have long-term characters, I am invested in the game and its end-game. However, that didn’t stop me from taking a break for the majority of 2010 while I briefly toured other MMOs but focused more on non-MMO gaming. Every MMO you call a “3-Monther” also has its permanent base, and those who don’t even last 1 month. Even WAR, which boggles the mind. :p~

    I don’t really read WoW blogs but I have to wonder if the new breed of MMO gamers/bloggers who started in the WoW era feel the same or if they simply expect each MMO to be “3-Monthers” and aren’t really willing to devote more time to a single one when there are so many others to visit?

  • @Sentack 3 monther does not mean sucky at all. Oblivion took me maybe 3 month total with all the chars I played, so did Dragon Age. It is just a different type of game. Perhaps games like Rift are best compared to Demon Soul’s? Which is actually a much harder game with a better combat system but is mainly single player with organically added multiplayer.

    ” This is yet another “Oh remember the magic of that first MMO feeling!” ” Not really the case, I think Keen was an EQ player first? I personally started back in meridian 59, then EQ THEN DAOC. I really do not remember either M59 or EQ that fondly.

    Point of a game that is an actual WORLD not a lobby for instanced “content”. Is that yes you should be able to participate right away. In EVE stuff you can mine 1min into the game is useful for someone who played for last 5 years.

    Game that allows participation right away but allows you long term development without content resets is what many people want. If it took lets say 2 month to level playing casual hours in group to cap (learning the game and building network of friends) and then you had years to build your char through some version of RA system.. which was built well enough were a great group that played for couple month could beat a good group that played 2 years (happened ALL the time in DAOC). Then you have something.

    In general it seems to me that single player or even better Demon Soul style games are just much more fun then 3 monther MMOs. Better story, better world, more sense of accomplishment.

  • I agree with you, however I think rift will be different where all the other games, ala, aion, war, aoc failed.

    Post launch content…

    Trion has been basically DONE with the game since before Beta 1, adding tid bits here and there. They’ve said straight up they’ve been working on post launch content for almost a year now. They’ve repeadely said they want Rift to be a service, not a “here’s the game half done now were going to spend a year getting it finished and fixing huge bugs”.

    Because they’ve been done with the game for so long they can concentrate on expanding horizontally. Yeah you may get to level cap fast, but thats fine, as long as there is stuff to do, different things to do, choices, etc.

    They are releasing 2 raids within 2 months of release, with more on the way. Adding more dungeons, more pvp scenarios. There is unexplored land mass, an entire city zone that is said to be a open world PvPvE lake with guardian vs defiant vs planes.

    I think that they are very aware where others went wrong. Hell it took War almost 2 years just to release an actual “expansion” if you want to call it that with the Vermin pack. AOC took almost a year and a half to release an expansion that basically rerelased the game due to its failure. Aion takes 6months or more between updates due to localization.

    WoW.. well, after BC came out it became a 3 monther for me. I come back after every expansion, only to be disappointed within 3 months each time.

  • I don’t actually agree with your premise, but even if I did it is, as you say, only a problem “for the players … who want something more than a 3 month romp”.

    For everyone else, which is clearly most of the potential marketplace, that’s three month’s entertainment for the cost of one game purchase plus two monthly subs (assuming it’s a sub game). Very good value.

    That, however, isn’t the end of it. You now have the game installed and one or more characters leveled up and equipped. When new content appears for the game, be it a free update or an expansion, you can drop back in and consume that content for the cost of one (or more) month’s sub and/or the expansion box/download.

    If there is a problem, perhaps it lies with the player who expects to get many months or years of entertainment from a single game. It’s an unreasonable expectation. Or, rather, it’s an unreasonable expectation for entertainment. It isn’t unreasonable to expect a hobby to occupy you for years.

    Old school, dedicated MMO players are promarily hobbyists. MMOs represent more than just entertainment, they represent a way of life. Gaming companies, especially large ones, however, are in the entertainment business, not the hobby business. Their competitors are movie studios, not model shops. They want to sell you product that you will consume and then desire more, which they can sell you. They aren’t interested in JUST creating a self-sustaining infrastructure in which to carry on your hobby and charging you a set fee for hosting it.

    There are small studios that are interested in doing that, though, and some of them will offer you the chance to be more than just a consumer, too. Just don’t expect large commercial companies to have any inerest in you beyond how to separate you most efficiently from your money and you won’t be disappointed!

  • The new method of creating games has slowly twisted the original idea of the 1st generation MMOs since the Generation 2 MMOs (AC2/WoW/EQ2) came out.

    With those games, the game worlds stopped feeling like worlds players wanted to explore like in UO, while they also started to reward failure more and more often. All in the name of getting the casual player.

    Unfortunately, the casual player also isn’t known for being an overly dedicated player, so you don’t need 5+ years of constant world content and constant content patches since players do tend to cycle through every 3-6 months. Because of this cycle time, developers program expecting players to rush to max level within a week or two and start hitting endgame content. There is no reward for players to stop and smell the roses on their travels. In the gen1 MMOs, you wanted that super rare weapon from the rare spawn named mob, you camped for it, got a party for it, called out last known spawn times, ect. Lots of server communication for what most these days consider a ‘simple’ task.

    The other problem with MMOs anymore is most are afraid to break the EQ/WoW clone rail system of question. Players know exactly where they have to go, when they have to go simply because the quests take them there. You don’t see all manor of quests spread throughout the world making player explore and challenge themselves. Players are rewarded simply for staying on their questing path and NOT exploring.

    Of course, this doesn’t seem to stop the worse of the developer bunch from releasing games with little to no content, and that causes also of negative feedback real quick throughout the forums as those player leave early, and unhappy. This though can’t be helped, as bad developers will be bad developers no matter how much time they dedicate to their game.

  • @Sarin Spot on!!

    “You didn’t log on to play, you logged on to live in a world other than your own.”

    MMO are supposed to create worlds. Not quest generated bs. Create your own quest!

    Decide to build a city, or raid a player faction one. Decide to create a unique character class, or help a friend.

    Single player concepts lead to failure of MMOs.

  • [i]
    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?
    [/i]

    Darkfall qualifies. As does Lineage2 (afair). Too many people equate grind with longevity but fact most of projects with long grinds are just that – long grinds. Probably number one reason I didnt stick with darkfall for more than 1 month

    Heck there is original EQ progression server just opened in case you are into those sort of things

    In any case I see pendulum swinging to 2 extremes – on one people advocating completely care free themeparks like (wotlk+) on other “hardcore ones” loudly anouncing they want everything super long ,super hard and super hardcore

    Rule number #1 : Games should be fun. That the part 2nd groups forget.

    As about first group -well their “games” are skinner boxes based on instant gratification and most animal of human instincts (not as in animal = bad, but as in very basic human nature -one we share with apes).

    I always thought UO and SWG were great worlds, problem is their designers didnt pay too much attention how make the worlds fun. The other group doesnt care about worlds at all, but they are much better at actually making fun games (I dare anyone to say combat in swg or UO is more interesting and engaging than wow – provided its pvp)

  • Some good thoughts here. Let me make some quick points then reply to a few of you.

    – The 3 month model can probably be economically sound. I bet it makes plenty of money in some cases.

    – 3 Month-er’s are not necessarily ALL bad games. Most are, but some are good, save for their 3 month status.

    – This is my opinion on industry based upon my experience in the industry. MMORPG’s are a gaming lifestyle for me that I feel can not be enjoyed to their fullest in just 3 months.

    – I see no reason why the 3 month model can’t stick around, if only we had options pre-2004 of games that could be designed as long-term “live in” experiences.

    @Bhagpuss: Indeed, it’s more for players like me. I’m an oldschool MMO player without a doubt. I want the long-term game where I can hunker down and settle in, savor, unfold slowly, and enjoy as a way of life.

    I’m definitely not the type that wants a new game game every month. I’m growing tired of not being able to invest myself into a game but rather surfing along the top riding the wave until the next, knowing that I’m not here to stay.

    @Smthin: My first “MMORPG” was The Realm, which was in Alpha testing before Meridian 59 but launches a few months after. Thanks for seeing my point that’s not about the ‘goold old days’.

    @Jay p: EVE just doesn’t interest me for whatever reason. I think it’s a combination of many factors. I agree wholeheartedly that it is not a 3 month-er though.

    @Scott: Since WoW’s release, aside from the enormous time I spent in WoW, there hasn’t been a MMORPG that sucks me in and holds on. As mentioned above by another commenter, a 3 monther doesn’t have to be a bad game. LotRO was a good game, but it lasted just a few months until I beat all available content an was left with nothing to do in a game that did not support any other way of playing than raiding.

    @ScytheNoir: You say no MMO gives more than 3 months of content but that’s only valid for the 3 month model. There was an entire generation, the first generation, of MMORPGs that lasted much, much longer.

  • And yet … a lot of sandbox romantics (I count myself among them) who lament that the current generation of MMO’s don’t have legs, I have to ask them: are we subbed to EvE, did we pre-order Xyson, are we playing on EQ’s progression server?

    I have to admit that my answer is no to all of the above. I find myself totally okay with a 3 month MMO if the experience is shared among my friends in a polished game that’s (and here’s the key) more fun than work.

  • Now that you’ve called out all the three monther MMO’s, and I agree with you.
    I’m going to call you out the next time you get excited about the next big MMO title if I think its a three monther. I hope I’m wrong on at least one of them cause then I’ll be joining you in game.

    Let the Keen roller coaster begin.

  • I think it has less to do with being a “3-monther” and more about finicky gaming. Just because YOU (or me) only got three months out of a game does NOT mean it failed. Most MMO gamers are hoppers. They played WoW and said “Why isn’t everything else exactly like this?!”. Or they played WoW and said “Oh my god! Everything is like this!”. Then continually hop from one game to the other. WoW started a VERY bad trend in the MMO market of easy games for easy players. We’ve stopped judging a game on it’s own merits and judge it by how gimmicky the game before it was.

  • It seems games are switching to shorter playing times in order to gain quick revenue instead of a long term support of a game.

    See the difference between Vanilla WoW and Cataclysm: Vanilla went for years, while in Cataclysm the first char was 85 after how man days? 2, 3?

    Players seem to have shorter attention cycles towards their games and the industry is supporting this (Addons instead of full scale games, the rise of F2P market,…)

    I liked the lont term ‘relationship’ towards a game like WoW, because it also gave to chance to get long term friendships. I tried Aion,LotRO, Allods, but didn’t get to know as many people as in WoW because my playtime was like 2-5 months max..

    Lets see which direction games take in the future…
    At the moment the second ‘M’ in MMORPG loses a lot of the multiplayer factor i knew back in WoW because players switch their games much more often.

  • I ought to say, too, that I personally don’t *need* new MMOs at all. I’m still subbed to Everquest after 11 years. I have only let my sub lapse once in that time, for just 6 months. I’m still playing EQ2, which I’ve played since beta. I still play Vanguard, ditto.

    I like to try the new MMOs as they come out because I am a huge fan of the genre and I find something of interest in every one of them. If no new MMO was ever made, however, I’d still spend most of my time playing the ones I already enjoy.

  • Solo/casual friendly MMOs have plenty of fun content but aren’t sticky long term, the huge amount of them that come out give us tons of content that last us a little while, but its not the mechanics we like specifically, we just like original content. The games I’ve played long term have always had unique and/or particularly well executed MECHANICS, not necessarily CONTENT.

    Until we see legitimately unique and good new mechanic come on the scene, we aren’t going to repeat those long term MMO sticky games we had 12 years ago.

  • [q]And yet … a lot of sandbox romantics (I count myself among them) who lament that the current generation of MMO’s don’t have legs, I have to ask them: are we subbed to EvE, did we pre-order Xyson, are we playing on EQ’s progression server?
    [/q]

    EvE combat is boring, and as far as I heard xyson has no combat to speak off.

    Since when EQ is a “world”? -EQ is the first them park, as diku as they get, skinner box to wazoo. Just with tons of grind . wow is EQ made by better designers

  • @Bhagpuss: I only *need* a new MMO when I feel that I have done everything that I can do to the point where the game no longer supports how I choose to play

    There’s also my “chocolate cake” explanation. A chocolate cake sitting on the counter for a few years at one point was amazing. It’s still a chocolate cake and retains my affection, but it’s just too old to eat now.

    @Shradrah: I once again specify that it is only a failure for myself and those who believe that games should last more than 3 months or provide a deeper and more meaningful experience. However, there has to be someone at these studios making these 3 month-ers that recognizes their game was meant to be played more than 3 months but isn’t, and it’s the design of the game that is to be blamed.

    @Ludo: I’m waiting for Kunark to come to the progression server. Apparently it’s only like three months away.

    @Vort: By all means call me out. I guarantee I’ll beat you to it. I called Rift out months ago. I stand by it being a 3 monther, yet I play. Why? Because I’m crazy or something.

    @Mala: I agree.

    @Max: I disagree entirely with your statement that EQ is a themepark. EQ was most definitely a world to the point of being pseudo-sandbox.

  • What about games like HoN, LoL, DoTA, BLC, SC2, etc. that can be enjoyed indefinitely because the progression is a little bit different as it’s mostly related to your ladder score or competitive play?

    I’m absolutely loving League of Legends because they patch every two weeks and there are so damned many champions to learn and master. There’s also the solo and premade queues to test your mettle. Each game is about 40 minutes on average, and while the maps rarely change I can honestly say after 300 games the gameplay is quite dynamic from match to match due to the many team comp permutations and player skill levels.

  • I should say, these games aren’t MMOs, but they might be a fun alternative if you’re looking for a more persistent and drawn out experience.

  • “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.”

    You realise the exact opposite of your list takes us back to Dark Age of Camelot again!! 😛

  • @Kayless: And EQ, SWG, AC, UO, etc. I could have included more sandbox elements to bring it closer to SWG Pre-NGE and UO, but I just wanted to list a few. 🙂

  • I’ve been using this terms for a long time now and just today commented that MMOs are bordering on “shovelware” now: get them out, recoup the costs and then earn a profit on the side in the opening months – after that any remaining subs are just a bonus.
    But for me I am happy to pay for the game and play if I think the entry price will get me x hours of fun whether it’s an MMO or a Solo game.

    I’d go as far as to say that most MMOs are a 1-monther for me, I almost never subscribe 🙂

    Rift is thankfully looking way above the average and I can see me buying into it longer term. Even if that ultimately turns out to be just 3 months.

  • Developers focus so hard on making features for pvp and pve that they forget to make a world. That is all i really want, to play in a world.

  • Ya, again I think it’s worth repeating myself to say that the 3 month design is not indicative of a bad game incapable of providing fun. On the contrary, what makes me hate this design even more is the fact that it’s a short-lived burst of fun that ends instead of continuing.

    DCUO, for example, was a fun 1-monther. Rift is fun right now and may be a fun 3-monther if it doesn’t last longer. LotRO was a fun 3-monther. WoW Cataclysm was a fun 3-monther.

    However, they’ve lost the spark, that charm, that makes them MMORPGs and what makes them what I, personally, desire as long-term games that I can invest myself into — a world to play in. A true world.

  • Funny thing, when i left WoW for Rift, i told my guild i would be back in 3 months 😛

    True story.

    Every single night I whisper a prayer asking for DaoC2.

    Higgs

  • So uhh, Darkfall hits the 1 year(more actually the grind is retarded) to cap requirement. and the open world pvp one. As meat loaf says two out of three aint bad.

    I know there are UO, daoc, SB, SWG emus out or coming out. Mortal Online is going for the rpg living in a world thing it just isn’t quite there. Minecraft servers are teh sex with mods. Pretty much with better mod support minecraft will be the closest thing ever to the sandbox we’ve all been searching for. Small server size but after playing Darkfall with such a small population for a year thats honestly a nonfactor.

    Planet Calypso(Project Entropia) whatever its called might be what you are looking for. Much more hobby based but it does cost more cash than normal. Worth at least checking out from what people told me, if you are lucky you can even make good bank on some investments. Pretty sure you could buy land and open that cantina if you wanted.

    Seems to me like there are plenty of options out there you just won’t go for them. None are perfect but they all have their charms and are 10000000x better than any themepark/3-monther game.

  • Well this doesn’t bode well for our guild in Rift =P

    In fairness to the developers, I don’t think they are trying to achieve a 3 monther. As much as they would prefer that to a 1 monther, they would really rather have a 16 or 24 monther. It’s better for their wallets.

    It’s times like these that make me miss the psycho that is Brad McQuaid. He had the “Vision”. It basically said that players don’t really know what the hell they want and I’m just going to give them what they need. And they will love me for it later. The games that release lately just give us what we think we want. Pretty colors. Fast leveling. No death penalty. Fast travel. Everybody equal.

    He was essentially right, but he delivered it in a very unpolished buggy game with Vanguard (granted the “alleged” drugs may have had something to do with that). If you leave it to players, they want a solo friendly game with zero death penalty and everybody equal. Hell, they probably prefer if if they can level while offline. And preferably some loot for their offline gaming too. Gimme maps and calculate all dps for all specs…etc…etc.

    WoW was actually the start of a person being able to solo the hell out of 75% of the content. You couldn’t do that in EQ and you couldn’t do that in DAOC or AC.

    But WoW succeeded and was relatively interesting in the long run. Not that I played it for the long run but many people did. So I find myself wondering why. I don’t think “polish” builds community and keeps you playing for the long term. But I guess it doesn’t hurt.

    Rift is polished. It lacks the vision though. Death is easy. You don’t need to group much. Everybody is wearing the same gear. Etc. Yeah I think it’s a 3 monther, with a slim chance of having whatever WoW got lucky with.

  • I think it has to do with the quest centric approach taken by most MMOs. A lot of the old school MMOs basically just kind of littered the ground with mobs and people made their way about. Now people want quests that are on par with single player games.

    Content is becoming more expensive to make, because of that it needs to be finite.

    As for the simulated world SWG, UO, DAOC style of gameplay is basically dead. Only people taking up that mantel are inadequate indie companies.

  • @Blessed: Nah, don’t read anything into this about the Rift guild. I have no plans on going anywhere. I’m usually among the last 5-6 most active until games fizzle.

    Achieving failure means everything goes according to plan and it’s like they’re achieving something, but it’s a failure. Some shoot for 3 monthers but some definitely think they’re doing something more, but they’re not.

    I *constantly* miss Brad McQuaid. I have man crush on his vision. Well said on the summary of his vision/what we get now.

    We’ll see how Rift pans out. The next few weeks are crucial. Will they deliver an end-game that isn’t just raid grinds? Will PvP step up?

    @Wufiavelli: Graev and I want to start an almost Minecraftian prodigy studio and make a decent MMO. WTB Investors. 😉

  • Irony is that Rift is the precise definition of a 3 monther. People are already at cap at release, with a lot of headstarters past midlevel. You probably are going to see the usual 3 monther patter: subs fall off dramatically at the 3 month part, and resurge each time a decent content addition is made, only to fall off again.

    3 months is usually now the time to cap your character, with a few weeks to a month to hit the endgame grinds.

  • I don’t think the problem is how fast a player gets to level cap – which is just finishing the purely vertical part of the progression path – it’s how fast you exhaust the “content” the game doles out to you, as Keen points out.

    You could get to level cap in a week and I believe it’d be totally fine, as long as there was a ton of horizontal progression and depth to experience after you were capped. I.e. numerous alternate advancement options, great dungeons, solid dynamic open PvP, crafting, a real economy, a world to explore and live in, etc. I’d point to EvE as a great example of this – you can be a productive member of a fleet after only a few days of playing (granted you’re stuck in a frigate or weak destroyer), but that certainly doesn’t mean you’ve run out of things to do.

    If anything I’d like to see MMOs craft shorter “solo” experiences – make the leveling to “cap” only take 10 or 20 hours through a couple zones, which is about normal for solo campaigns these days – and then make the rest of the world an open zone full of hundreds of ways to customize and progress your character.

    I dunno, maybe I’m the only one who would like that sort of thing. It just seems like a huge waste to build a giant world that becomes almost entirely useless to you once you’ve leveled past it. Not to mention the huge hassle that comes with friends of vastly different levels trying to play together.

  • Basically you are faulting the whole Theme Park MMO genre. Theme Park MMOs will always have finite content because they are limited by the number of attractions put in by developers.

    Theme Park MMOs can only live longer by continuous content updates, which by development time would be far and inbetween. Once done with the implemented progressions (gear, leveling, raids, etc) all there is fluff, which most of your described ‘3-monthers’ are lacking.

    Basically you need to play a Sandbox MMO, like Xsyon or something, because you will never like a Theme Park MMO it seems.

  • @Bhagpuss – that comment about MMOs as hobbies and players as hobbyists is spot on. That really rang true. And now back to our regularly scheduled navel gazing.

  • Sorry, this just came up on my RSS reader today – apparently I’m a little behind. I just wanted to note that you don’t play any of the games that meet your criteria. It’s not that they don’t exist, you just don’t consider them “viable” (whatever that means). Maybe you would like the MMO genre more if you did?

    (Already mentioned by Max and D, Darkfall more that satisfies all your requirements. As does EQ, minus the PvP. And probably Xsyon and Dawntide, once they come out of beta.)

  • You’re a pretty staunch Darkfall fanboy Beleg and I won’t even try to convince you otherwise, but I included Darkfall on my list of 3-monthers not because it’s like the themepark model but because it was a poorly designed game that only had the ability to keep the majority of its population for 3 months.

    I can’t really qualify exactly why, other than being able to list all the various issues the game had at the time. Even to this day, after retrying the game, it’s still the same game.

    As for EQ, I’ve already stated that it’s the cake sitting out on the counter. It was delicious and perfect in every way when it was fresh but it’s not something I’d want to eat right now. That said, I’ll be tempted by the Kunark release on the new server.

    Dawntide is in too rough a shape to play.

    Xsyon, while ideologically perfect, lacks the core elements of a finished game to justify playing. When it finishes, heck yeah.

    I’m not just dismissing games out of hand. I have sound, logical reasons why.

  • “I have an alternate theory. I think we, as players, may have developed an immunity to the charms of MMO Skinner-boxes.”

    I like this post. There is some part of this as an underlying factor to the issue. We are not as awestruck any more. I remember logging into a game called The Realm that you basically had to “zone” everytime you went 20 feet and every single time you entered combat, and I was just drooling with the coolness of it all.

    That would just annoy me to death today.

  • Keen, I wonder if three months isn’t really correct – with games like Rift (which I am enjoying) the timescale is even more accelerated. From what I have seen, something like:

    Headstart begins
    Day 4 or so – people begin to hit max level
    Day 5-7 – endgame raiding going on for a minority of the population
    By the end of Day 7, starting to see posts about “I remember when I was level 1 – here’s what I might have done differently.”

    With that timescale, by two or three weeks aren’t some people going to be moving into the burnout phase, finished with endgame content? Granted this is not the pattern of most people, but I’m not a particularly fast leveller and I have made level 31, along with multiple level 10+ alts, in a week.

  • You are probably right.
    I’m currently having some fun in Rift, but I don’t see it lasting longer than a couple of months. I’ve played UO for 5+ years, AC1 for 5+ years, WoW for 6 years (and counting), LOTRO for 4 years (lifetime, so still playing, but very casually), but Rift is definitely not the next MMORPG I’m gonna play for several years.
    As you nicely put it, it’s just another “3 month-er”. Cheap fun, but with not enough depth to keep you interested for long.

  • As I side note, I disagree with you on one of the games you qualify as “3 month-er” in your list. LOTRO is definitely more than a 3 month-er. A new player playing at casual speed (aka not 8+ hours a day ;)) entering that game has a lot to discover and to do, and the lore specially pre-Moria is quite great too.
    Only my opinion, of course, but I think LOTRO is the only “theme park” game beside WoW to be more than just a 3 month-er disposable MMO.
    Some “theme park” MMOs can be more than 3 month-ers. But they need to be done well.

    I’m still waiting for a MMO with a fully dynamic world, creature migrations, natural reproduction cycles, events that dynamically spawn quests instead of a static world of a “theme park”, though. Seems like GW2 will have some of those elements.

    To digress even more, since I’m on dynamic worlds, am I the only one to think that calling Rift a “dynamic world” because of the random mob generators called rifts is hilarious in a sad way?

  • @The Merovingian: I know that the games I listed are not going to be on everyone’s 3 month list. I did list games that fell into the general category, though, or games I felt did not hold me or the majority for more than 3 months.

    @Anakh: It could very well last less than a month for some. This goes back to my point that I’m trying to make about how some games aren’t 3-monthers for some but others. We all play games differently and can find fun in games that others might not, but in a general sense, the core of their design does not change just because someone finds a way to have fun. LotRO was a 3 monther whether or not someone found a way to enjoy it for years. WoW is the same. People may raid for 2 years between expansions but those expansions are 3-monthers.

    @Blessed: As you might know, The Realm was my first “graphical MUD”. I think the screen changing and loading into combat are part of its charm. It operates on a different level, closer to the point and click adventure games, which make it, even today, a unique game among sheep.

    General Idea
    I’d like to expand the 3-monther category into two parts.
    1) Games designed to last 3 months (most themeparks)
    2) Games so poorly developed/designed that people, generally, can’t stand playing past 3 months.

  • I’m not sure that its been covered, it probably has, but i’d just like to put it in my own terms.

    I agree that companies are making games now to last about three months and then if they have some customer base to keep the doors open even better but i don’t believe that is a factor in their business minds. These business exist to make money. They want our fifty dollars, a few months maybe of subscriptions. For most casuals, and I would estimate that causals make up the largest percent of the gaming population, this is the status quo that the industry, console or otherwise, have taught us. Get a game, play a few months, move to another. The smaller percent of the population, ie. us, that want all the things that you like such as expansive worlds, time consuming meaningful play, so on and so forth are left where most minoritys are put, in the back because we aren’t worth catering to monetarily. To use a metaphor, we are the people with HIV/AIDS or Cancer(gaming minority), We want a cure (better,lasting game),but we’re never going to get a “cure” because the pharmacutical company(game publishers) are making to much money off the “treatments”(3-monthers). They aren’t going to give up that money. It sucks but thats how the world works. We don’t have to like it but we have to live with it..so enjoy what you can..

  • I had no idea you played The Realm. That was my first MMO. I still remember it very fondly. At the time, I didn’t even worry about the screen loading every few minutes. It was all miraculous to me. I was in awe of it all.

    I’m just saying that now if I went back I would just be sorta annoyed with it all. I think their are some elements of our quickly tiring of these games that have to do with how the technology has progressed.

    When EQ started, there were zero clues about how to complete any quests. For a game called Everquest, the quests were incredibly hard to even complete one of them. People just ground mobs mostly to level. If you played The Realm though, I’m pretty sure you know this.

    But now we got big flashing lights over quest mobs, maps pointing to where to go to complete the quests, and text on our screen telling us where to return to complete the quest. With more maps pointers and flashing lights.

    And we are bored with the quests because they want us to kill 10 mobs or something else that seems silly. Really? I’m bored too. I’m not pointing fingers.

    So I think he has a point that when you can see the Skinner Box it all becomes a little less fun. But I could still get excited again about a cool game. I have also been wanting to see videos again on MTV for the past 5 years and that hasn’t happened. So I’m not holding my breath.

  • I really feel people are bored with the current models of games.

    Would love to see a game where
    a) you designed a town and castle using a Stronghold type interface
    b) earned points from building your town in which you could then spend to build dungeons for other players to adventure in sort of like Dungeon Keeper 2
    c) had a character that advanced as you lands did and earned gear by taking on other peoples dungeons
    d) had a huge RvR area where you use your resources to take over and rebuild ancient fortresses and defend them from other players

    Something like this could sort of merge minecraft and mmo and provide dynamic content indefinitely. There would be no ganking and yet purposeful and rich pvp. You would be free to pool your resources with others and build citadels and cities. The whole game would be focused on building rather than destroying, adventuring rather than grinding.

  • Ok, I call all of you out as showoffs and whiners. This game is too hot, this one is too cold, and none of them is just right. In two years of playing EQ2, I have never, never completed all of the content, despite 9 toons and two servers and three guilds, I’ve never had any problem keeping interested, EXCEPT when I focused entirely on raid/endgame content. I can think of no better way to bore myself than spending hours grinding to level to 92, and then spending weeks faction griding in Skyshrine. Woohoo! But there is a world out there to discover and an actual storyline if you don’t click thru the talky bubbles too fast to read them. Ditto LotRO, which is even more involved, and has better rewards for doing mindless fun stuff like composing music for musical instruments you can play in game, and fireworks. Not to mention hunting for dye components if you like to tradeskill. I think the problem is with the player. You’re all so busy name dropping and cred building, you’re missing the game world. How many of you can do the Everling Lockets without missing a beat? And how many of you can make adornments in EQ2? Oh wait, you just buy them with plat, how silly of me.

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