Not Every MMORPG is a 3-Monther

Not every MMORPG is a  3-Monther, despite what some may say.  A popular vantage point for launching a debate against said belief is to claim that it’s impossible to recreate the past because it was nothing but a launchpad for today’s market, and that games like DAOC, SWG, and EQ (to name only a few) are not what the market wants.  The whole point of identifying the 3-monther was to point out the opposite.  Look, I just have the facts: People used to play MMORPG’s for years and now they play for weeks or months (I realize the exceptions).

Saying that every game is a 3-monther is just a sad declaration of the state of MMORPG’s today, mainly that they are all the same, and saying that no game will hand you the past is just admitting defeat or that you do not care.

Ask yourselves why every MMORPG has to be a 3-monther, and identify why the past isn’t being recreated today.  You’ll see it’s not because it’s impossible to be something else, but that conscious choices are being made.  What mechanics are missing, what new features are opposing forces, what is the goal of the game, etc.  There is great value to be found in those questions.

Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.  If the reality today is a stagnant market full of 3-monthers, maybe it’s time for someone to do what Blizzard did with World of Warcraft to stand out: Address the problem head on, create a working, viable alternative, and give the players what they want by imagining something new.  That’s why for a decade people were sticking with games.  Each game offered a unique experience, -not- because the players had no choices.

I’ll continue fighting for my belief that contemporary virtual worlds can be made and they can succeed in being everything players want in a game today.  I know that there are people interested in games where they can play to live in the world, and not just play to beat it.

  • Unfortunately for me, about the closest thing I can find to one of those persistent player driven worlds is an SMP Tekkit Server for Minecraft 😛

    But I do quite enjoy it, so I guess it is working for me. I still miss the days of the multiyear MMO. I agree though Keen. Giving up would be a mistake. Someone out there has to stay strong and make our happy place.

  • Most MMO players have a career. Most do, not all. There’s always the ones who fall in love with a game, no matter how awful it was. Even the worst MMO’s have a hardcore player base.

    They fall in love with one MMO. They play too much. They burn out. Eventually they bounce around from MMO to MMO, looking for the magic again. Then they play for a while because they don’t know how to fill the time without an MMO. Eventually they quit entirely. Or sometimes they live off an endless cycle of hype, infatuation, disappointment, and nostalgia. Cough cough. It’s a video game Keen. Posts like these (“I’ll continue fighting for my belief”) make me think MMO’s have an unhealthy level of importance to you. They’re just video games. There is no crusade here. There’s just a niche gaming genre that is heading back to the ultra-niche it deserves to be.

    The actual quality of the game is not nearly as important as your state of mind when it comes to how long you’ll stick around. The MMO player base started shrinking a while ago; more people have been quitting than have joined in. This is the source of the general air of disappointment; more and more people are winding down to the terminal stage of their career.

    These games are 3 monthers because a lot of people are in the stage in their career where they are bouncing around looking for the magic again. They won’t find it. Keen won’t find it.

  • This whole three-month thing would make more sense of we saw MMO after MMO appear, burn brightly then close down within six months of launch. They don’t. If any major MMO disappears that quickly it’s a big news story. Tabula Rasa, APB, Auto Assault, Lego Universe, HellGate London – those are exceptions (and even some of those have risen from the grave).

    Most MMOs go on for years. Someone’s playing them and it isn’t an endless succession of people playing for three months at a time. They all acquire long-term, committed players who play for much longer than three months, but who, other than those players themselves, pays any attention? There’s a seemingly endless stream of new MMOs coming out month after month and there has been for years. As soon as each ceases to be new it ceases to be news and the next one slots into place.

    Turn the three-month thing on its head. Imagine the next big MMO launch is a game so compelling that you haven’t finished with it in three months, or six months or even a year. While your bedded down there, living in that world, will all the other competing MMO companies stop producing new MMOs? What if your wish comes true and most new MMOs are no longer three-monthers but games you want to play solidly for years?

    It used to work that way because A) the choice was *much* more limited which meant that B) the temptation to stray was much weaker and C) in any case the whole thing was very much for hobbyists. The opening up of the genre to a market twenty times the size changed all three of those criteria and there’s not much prospect of things changing back.

    Which doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for much more worldlike MMOs designed for the kind of hobbyists who made and played the earlier ones. There’s room for enough variety to suit all tastes and that is one area that’s probably not being catered for as well as it could be, while it may well be that we already have enough beat-the-game MMOs to go round.

  • “Each game offered a unique experience, -not- because the players had no choices.”

    I’d turn this phrase around. BECAUSE each game you cite offered something that none of its competitors did, customers had no other choice but to stay with that game for month after month if they wanted that particular experience.

    For example: Where was a solo player going to go in 2005 if they were dissatisfied with how almost all of the new content being added to WoW was for raiders? EQ1? FFXI? In 2007 LOTRO came out, EQ2 revamped itself to be more solo friendly, and WoW kept on patching in top end raids… until abruptly changing directions with easier epics in 2.3 and 2.4. Coincidence, or did their subscriber numbers do something unpleasant once there was finally real competition for the solo MMO market?

    While there is definitely some underutilized territory in which a modern MMO could carve out a similar monopoly, I’d argue that the more mature market makes this harder.

  • @Bhagpuss: The MMO doesn’t have to close down for most players to find out there’s not a lot to the game. The 3-monther isn’t just indicative of time, but design. The 3-monther is a game designed to be gobbled up quickly on the go — it’s the breakfast bar of MMORPG’s.

    @Green Armadillo: I totally disagree. First off, the solo player can go play a single-player game. I have always hated the idea of catering first and foremost to the individual in a massively multiplayer game. I’m not saying there isn’t something for them, but the single-player is NEVER an acceptable foundation for core MMO design (in my opinion).

    Players have never been forced to play a game. I haven’t changed over the years. If I didn’t like a game back in 1999 I quit. If I got bored in 2003, I quit. If the devs screwed the game up in a patch I quit. I can’t get onboard with the statement that because I had no other options I felt forced into staying with a game. If I played for a year it’s because I found the game compelling. To say otherwise is to say that there is some magic force compelling people to play a game that sucks because they don’t have something better — that’s never the game’s fault, it’s the crazy player. That’s a ludicrous idea today, and it would have been ludicrous 10 years ago.

  • If an MMO can give me 1 year of entertainment I consider it worth it. More than a year is a bonus, and less than a year is a shrug of the shoulders and an oh well.

    Star Wars Galaxies: 5/2003(Beta) to 10/2004(Jump to Lightspeed)
    EverQuest2: 11/2004(Release) to 9/2005(Desert of Flames)
    World of Warcraft: 10/2005 to 5/2010
    Warhammer Online: 9/2010 to 10/2010
    DC Universe Online: 1/2011 to 2/2011
    Star Wars The Old Republic: 12/2011(Release) to 4/2011
    Guild Wars 2: 8/2008 to Current
    Planetside 2: Beta

    Nothing on the radar for quite some time. Not interested in the least in any Elder Scrolls MMO.

  • If every MMO was a 3-monther and if that is what the market wants then people would play MMOs for roughly 3 months and leave happily to proclaim that this 3 month MMO was awesome. This doesnt happen…people disappear disgruntled, upset, mad, and/or bored.

    The argument that UO, EQ, SWG, DAOC longer lasting experiences were due to them being first generation MMOs might be valid if today’s games were released with similar design goals with a quality finish. If games today were from a design point of view very similar but yet are 3 monther in 2012 but were played for years in 2000 then the argument would have merit. However, we see a clearand blatanly obvious departure from the old design AND a shift from long term play to short term play. The first and most important point to invesitage is “Does the change in design have something to do with the shortening of playtime?” If you could rule this out then you could look for other reasons such as nostalgia. Nostalgia might even play part in this but to what degree compared to the switch in game design…5% to 95% or 20% to 80%?

    What makes it even funnier is that nostalgia exists in part BECAUSE of a switch in game design. To declare now that this is all nostalgia driven is like the tail wagging the dog.

  • My point is that your opinion about whether it sucks reflects more on you than it does the game. You seem to think that games objectively suck or don’t suck; that’s not true. You loved EQ; I thought it was a confusing, grindy, time consuming mess. Or that your perception of said game would be the same throughout time. Also not true. The WoW of today is pretty much objectively better than it was in Vanilla; better quests, higher production values, etc. Yet I find the best part of WoW today less exciting than the collecting Goretusk Livers in Westfall back in 2005. That’s because I’ve changed, it’s not because the game is worse.

    And I didn’t mean you stuck with any particular game because you had no other options; I’m saying that it’s possible to feel like you need an MMO (any MMO) to play because you just don’t know what to do with your time without a game hoovering your free time. That’s how I felt for a while towards the end of my MMO career. I just didn’t know what to do with myself except play MMOs.

    And I’m not accusing anyone of being crazy either. But with MMO’s there is a compelling force making people play bad games. It’s the ding. We get hooked on achieving the next goal, and there is always a next goal. MMO’s are the only game genre where it is expected that you will play 20 hours a week, every week. It’s the only game genre I know where it’s simply accepted that you will spend a lot of your time doing tedious shit so you can do the fun part. MMO’s operate by creating the illusion of achievement and the illusion of importance.

    Thing is that that illusion wears off. Getting tier 3 might seem really important. It’s much harder to care when you’ve done the same grind up to tier 12.

    A game is a 3 monther when you no longer think it’s important and you’re just getting your kicks. Video games in general are three monthers. But what MMO isn’t a three monther by that standard?

    I’ve seen you run through quite a few games lately where you had very little bad to say about the game, but you just lost interest. Rift, SWTOR, GW2. Nothing too bad, it just didn’t click for you. You’ve got a bad case of MMO fatigue, as far as I can tell. But you just won’t admit it to yourself that it’s you that’s changed. You’re blaming it on the game instead.

  • @Keen: You are focusing on my specific example (not even on its merits, but rather on your view of soloing) and missing my point.

    No, you would not want to go find another game that is like the game you hated enough to quit. However, if you LIKE the gameplay – say RVR in DAOC for an example that you deem acceptable as the basis for an MMO – that’s where lack of competition matters. Where would someone who liked RVR in DAOC’s heyday go after 3 months? By definition, if you innovate you are doing something that no one else is doing and therefore you enjoy a window in which you have no competition.

    One place where I think we agree – developers do themselves no favors by clustering the entire genre into a single type of game – solo leveling with group endgame. I would argue that the abundance of “3-monthers” exists in part because any new title in that particular mode is landing in a space where existing competition makes their job harder.

  • @Green Armadillo: I don’t understand. Why would someone who liked RvR in DAOC’s heyday WANT to go anywhere else for RvR? And if another game offered RvR, is it better? If so, competition wins. If it’s like today’s 3-monther market, where players tire of a game quickly and move to the next just to find themselves tiring of the same things and moving on… it’s a moot point.

    Where we agree is the entire point. Developers are making the same types of games: Games that are so similar to each other, and/or designed to be gobbled up quickly — worlds designed to be beaten, not lived in. That’s why every game is not a 3-monther… every game designed like every other 3-monther, however, is by design the same.

    @Toxic: I think there are plenty of objective ways to judge a game. I believe the 3-monther, as it pertains to the design of the game (not necessarily time played), is in MANY ways objective. It has proven true every single time I have applied it to a game.

    As for my passion, I won’t apologize or feel bad for having it. This is my hobby. This is something I love. I’ve seen grown men cry over football games, but I do not deem them unhealthy.

    Fighting for a cause I identify very closely with — and have backed up with empirical data time and time again — is important to me. MMORPG’s can still be virtual worlds where players play to live in the world, not play to beat it and move on. I acknowledge that the play to beat the game mentality can and should exist, but not at the expense of snuffing out the other design models.

  • Green— problem is that no other genre of MMO has ever done squat, at least without Star Wars in the title (and let’s be real— it had magic and it was a long long time ago, so it’s basically fantasy too). If Eve Online were a Triple A MMO it would be considered a dismal failure.

    Nobody has ever rebutted my argument that the reason that MMO’s are all basically the same has a lot to do with technical limitations about how each object added to the simulation increases the computational cost of collision checking and so on. There’s a reason pretty much every MMO is an avatar with a hotbox on an effectively flat cartesian plane. Planetside is the only one I’ve heard of that wasn’t like that, and guess what? Unless you have a hell of a system the game was unplayable in a real battle. The first M in MMO means that the games will all end up being designed more or less the same way for the same reason that cars have 4 wheels. Three ain’t stable, five is too many. If they aren’t that way, they aren’t Massive. A game company can’t innovate around a computational problem fundamental to the game design anymore than GM can ignore the laws of physics when it designs a car.

  • I would deem crying over a football game unhealthy, especially if they didn’t have any money on the game. Very unhealthy. But then you’re about to trigger my ‘rabid football fans are just giant nerds who think they are cool’ rant, which is a topic for another day. At the very least they have a serious lack of perspective.

    Ultimately I think you want two contradictory things: you want MMO’s to have millions of players and you want them to be designed in a way that is only appealing to a few hundred thousand people in NA and Europe.

    It’s common for people in niche groups to dream of their hobby taking over the world because they really like it and they don’t see why other people wouldn’t like it too if only they would open their minds. Problem is that when that happens the casuals take over the market and ruin it for the hobbyists.

    So basically, given what you seem to want, I think you should be rooting for the failure of all these new games, and WoW. I mean utter smoking ruins failure, so that game developers will make nicely profitable games with maybe not the best graphics for you again.

  • I wouldn’t root for their failure because they have every right to exist. To root for their failure would mean I’m doing what everyone is doing to me.

    I’m rooting for the failure of the MENTALITY that they (themepark, play to beat, gobble quickly, 3-monthers) are the ONLY way to play -and- that my way is old and unwelcome.

  • Your way IS old and unwelcome, because it means commercial failure when you are spending tens of millions of dollars. Most other players aren’t interested in your way, because to them it is incredibly boring.

  • @Toxic: Let me preface this first by saying I don’t mean this as a personal attack. Your opinion is -EXACTLY- why I have to fight so hard. That way of thinking is pigeonholing this entire industry. People who think like you are destroying MMORPG’s. There have been NO contemporary commercial failures to reference!

    The core design of my preferred virtual world may have a foundation in roots that are old, but they are strong and a necessary foundation for the non 3-monther. If not qualities from the past, SOMETHING different has to take hold. Denying the success of the past just begs for more 3-monthers.

  • No offense taken. I’m glad you are being direct.

    And I don’t mean this as a personal attack: you have a a bunch of contradictory ideas that you can’t see are inconsistent and unrealistic because you consider playing MMOs to be a part of your personal identity. When your personal identity is wrapped up something, you lose perspective and can’t think straight anymore.

  • Thanks for the linkback, Keen. I agree that this is an excellent jumping off point for discussion because we all, essentially, want the same thing: A game that we can come back to over months and years that scratches that elusive itch. The difference is in reasoning. I think we can have that game again but only when something comes along that radically shakes what we know an MMO to be. I am of the belief that it will be a return to classic, virtual world design… closer to UO than WoW or SWTOR. And it won’t be AAA.

    The problem is, I don’t think the MMO playerbase will know what they want until they get it. One thing is for sure, it’s not old style design we want anymore. EQ and UO were great but no one plays them despite their still being alive after all these years. Why? Because people dont want yesterday’s news. They want pieces, sure, all the while ignoring that the things they no longer tolerate are some of the very things that made those games stand out in memory. Forced grouping, harsh death penalties, huge level curves… Until developers can figure out how to provide those same highs while simultaneously holding back the lows, how to provide something so new that grizzled veterans can actually keep their disbelief and “live” in the game world again, we will keep dropping off and keep looking forward. It’s not impossible and I don’t think it’s a sad declaration of defeat, it’s just an acknowledgment that it’s not happening anytime soon; if for no other reason, I don’t think developers have figured it out. I firmly believe that when we do get a game that takes those risks and hits those notes, it will be indie and niche.

    I also totally agree with Green. There were less options for certain experiences. Less games were out and coming out. And you played where your peers played. Those are the experiences that shape us and what we want to relive. It’s human development. Facts or no facts, we always look back at how things used to be so much better. That’s why the three monther trend will only be broken when something radically reshape how we experience these games.

    (Written from my phone, sorry for any crappy grammar, typos, etc)

  • Up in your first paragraph of your post, you wrote:
    “People used to play MMORPG’s for years and now they play for weeks or months (I realize the exceptions).”

    I maintain that the games you mentioned all existed in an era where they were the only available option in their specific type of MMO. Setting aside the question of whether WoW should be called an MMO, they were doing something that no one else was doing from Nov 2004 through mid 2007. SWG was doing something that no one else was doing or has done since. DAOC was doing something that no one else was doing. EVE to this day is doing something that no one else is doing.

    We will never know what would have happened if DAOC had been followed shortly by half a dozen RVR games. You suggest that competition would have left the best version as the winner. I think that instead we would have seen 3-month RVR games – some poorly executed and some that offered iterative improvements, but none sustaining peak populations for multiple years. I guess we’ll never know, but I don’t think we can disregard the context in which the games of yore achieved the numbers they achieved.

  • If TOR was a 3-monther, the game would have shuttered by now. Right now, it has more subs than EQ has ever had. Take WoW out of the picture and nearly every game today is more than a 3-monther to someone. Heck, Rift is the largest success in 6 years if only because they aimed for less than 1 million subs from the gate.

    If you only get 3 months out of it, odds are you’ve played the game before, just a different skin. It doesn’t mean other players aren’t getting more than 3 months out of it.

  • @Chris
    “EQ and UO were great but no one plays them despite their still being alive after all these years. Why? Because people dont want yesterday’s news.”

    Those games also evolved into things far less great than what they were. Trammel effectively killed UO for people who loved that game.

    I tried playing EQ on a PC server recently and it was a completely different experience, and not for the better. I went and tried the Al’Kabor server, which is locked in PoP, and I got hooked.

    I’d love something new, but I’m not holding my breath. Archeage is the only thing somewhat on my radar.

  • @asmiroth Yes, you’re right of course. No game is a 3-monther to everyone and obviously the fact so many games are still running means they’re not failures. We’re talking larger scale though; player percentages. SWTOR has more subs than EQ but only because we’ve expanded the market so much. Relative numbers aren’t the issue, it’s public perception of how many stay versus how many leave.

  • @toxic about tech limitations. If you want to do a Streetfighter style fights yes you are right. For everything else, servers hit boxes etc are a non-issue. Client side machines have little to do with it, all you need is a scalable special effects which should be standard thing for client side graphics. But game has to be designed for this, for example it does not matter if you can handle 500 player in proximity if everything about the game makes it a terrible experience. Target limited AOE? BAD AOE with out tapering off? BAD target limit on CC BAD etc.

    Maybe it is how people judge games now, if DAOC came out now it would have been dead within weeks. The game we all remember is what happened more then 8month after the game came out.. it was a glorious thing but it took a long time to become that. Same with EQ for me, before Kunark it was just ok for me Kunark design was kindof awesome. On other hand I hated Asheron Call. Never been a fan of UO etc

    There are many different kinds of players, me I have not played an MMO since WAR beta. I do not bother buying current crap, playing multiplayer co-op ME is more fun.. (it is not really fun but in comparison it is).

  • I’d love to see this as an experiment:
    Have an option on char creation in WoW for an EQ-style leveling curve (super slow leveling), with no other changes, and see what happens. Flag other players around you who are also on the same curve so you can meet up with them…

    It would be so easy to implement, and I’d love to see how it would affect a server’s community.

  • @Asmiroth: Heh, most of the SWTOR crew was laid-off, the Doctors retired, the game went F2P, and the vast majority of players left. A game doesn’t have to shut down to be considered a 3-monther. I’ll keep repeating it if I have to.

    @Green Armadillo: I maintain that there was plenty of competition, and plenty of alternatives back then. I could play SWG, DAOC, EQ, CoH, UO, and each of them were totally unique. Because they were so unique, the pull to go try them was huge. In a way, it’s the same issue today. When a new game came out, it was new so people wanted to try it. The difference is that when they tried it and didn’t like it they could go back to the one they did because it was still there providing enjoyment of an entirely different sort. Now’days players quit a game, try a new one to find out it’s the same, and quit but don’t go back because it would be going back to the same thing.

    Speaking to the general topic at hand, I just have to reiterate that I KNOW a MMORPG can launch today and not be a 3-monther. Maybe we’ll have to wait for EQ3 since it claims to be taking old gameplay and modernizing the experience. I just know that saying we’re doomed to have nothing but a bunch of SWTOR’s forever is simpyl wrong. Someone will come along with the next UO, EQ or WoW and restart the industry. It -will- happen. Whether or not it harkens back to yesteryear or teaches us all a knew way to play doesn’t matter. I think we’re in this situation because of mistakes made by a handful of people making decisions. Whether or not we have to wait for them to die, retire, or get thrown out on their ass… their days are numbered.

  • @Keen

    “I believe the 3-monther, as it pertains to the design of the game (not necessarily time played), is in MANY ways objective. It has proven true every single time I have applied it to a game.”

    I believe your definition of a 3 monther is flexible to support whatever your argument is. In the original blog entry, Diablo 3 was a 3 monther.

    Do you mean a game where the game dies after 3 months? I believe you will only have a handful examples of this.

    Do you mean a game where over half of the initial players stopped playing after 3 months but the game continued?

    If so isn’t this just symptomatic of a market where there is a big title launched almost every quarter and a gaming population (average age 37) can afford to buy new titles each time because it’s exciting and fun to do so?

    Moving on to a new game is not a sign that that game has failed. Likewise no one is forcing you to rush through content in 3 months.

  • I don’t think the 3-monther problem has anything to do with “players unable to relive their past nostalgia” . There’s a lot (MORE) players in the genre that didn’t play EQ/EQ2 or even WoW 2005. There’s no way the 11 million WoW players actually played EQ/EQ2/DAOC , only a tiny percentage of those played MMOs on that level.

    So conclusion? the 3-monther is a design flaw post-WoW . It’s not hardcore players playing “faster” or “trying to get the same out of modern MMOs” , they are the minority. The casual player is the majority….

    As Syncaine puts it nicely in his latest blog post, it’s all about progression and how far a player can progress in a meaningful and exciting way. If you create a game which makes the “leveling” game your primary progression mechanism and this “leveling” game comes to a sudden stop at lvl 80 , what do you expect to happen? Players to hang around doing the most mundane “left over” activities like farming?

    Now if your main path of progression is quite fast and easy, i.e. , do-able in 1 month for a focused gamer, why would you expect your MMO to last longer than 3-months for said player?

    EVE’s success is all about the progression, it’s deliberately slow and comprehensive. This is why EVE lasts longer for most players that do get into it, but the slow progression also means alot of players give up long before achieving anything…

  • @Chris
    “EQ and UO were great but no one plays them despite their still being alive after all these years. Why? Because people dont want yesterday’s news.”

    Hey Chris. I am with Jenks on this.

    EQ and UO is not in their original sate that made so many people still remember with nostalgia.

  • @Silvertemplar: I think we’re in agreement.

    @Bernard: It’s flexible, but objective. Diablo 3 was most definitely a 3-monther. For sure. (Despite not being a MMO…)

    None of your “do you mean this…” characterize the 3-monther. The name “3-monther” is just a nickname. It just so happens that when a game dev makes design decisions, the average time people tend to play their game is about 3 months.

    The 3-monther is a game designed to be gobbled up, yet not intentionally designed with the player running out of things to do and quitting, then it is indeed a design flaw. See what silvertemplar wrote as well.

    Rift = 3-monther
    SWTOR = 3-monther
    Each WoW expanion = 3-monther
    GW2 = 3-monther

    They all have very similar flaws (Note: Some do not consider this a flaw. That part is subjective). Inherent in their design is this ‘play to beat’ instead of ‘play to live in’ gameplay that simply does not last long enough to keep *most* people around.

  • The only real difference between today’s MMO’s and MMO’s of the old is that the old ones had a huge grind and stricter penalties, so you needed months to grind up, and then months of grind to gear up. Give EQ and DAOC xp/drop/rp rates of today’s MMO’s, and they will be also be “3 monthers”.
    Also, what people fail to realize, today we have a much bigger choice of games to play. In the heroic times of ye good ol’ EQ, there were actually very few MMO’s on the market. In the period of 1998-2004, you had 5-6 MMO’s with reasonable popularity. Today, you have 4-5 big MMO releases PER YEAR. And not to mention non-MMO market, and the huge number of high quality multiplayer games that come out every year.

    So there is no some big design secret that only Blizzard gets, Keen. MMO designers would just have to add more grind into your daily dose of gear grind, and you would be happy for months.

  • Its’ all about enjoying the adventure.

    UO-2 months, quit after tired of PVP which was the only thing to do
    EQ – quit after 9months, got my soulfire and then didn’t want to grind anymore
    CoH – 2 months, areas same and boring
    WoW – 6 mths, quit after clearning MC vanilla; returned a yr later for 4 mths
    starting new char, quit after clearing BWL & then a month after BC when it got
    to be too much of a grind for my schedule, haven’t been back
    Stronghold Kingdoms – 9 mths, quit after Prince & 15 castles, no challenge left

    I’ve hit a few here and there but nothing to keep me around long enough to recall all the names. Most promised the moon and fell way short which is why I skipped out on TOR, TSW & GW2 waiting to see the 3-mth reviews. So far all good decisions

    At this point it appears MMOs are not for me as they are all flash and no substance. GW2 legendaries have zero appeal, map exploration to 100% no desire, collect dungeon sets that are pretty? lol no thanks

    The challenge that isn’t a grind just seems not obtainable from the current MMOs available, however I’ll keep reading and hold onto some sliver of hope that something will eventually be available that is worth a good 6mths of fun. Maybe if WoW ever goes F2P I would do all the new content but I don’t see that happening until they release their new mysterious MMOG

  • I think you guys should all come and try Salem. It is a persistent world crafting type town based pvp game with permadeath. It is a world you truly live in with constant drama on the forums from all the shenanigans. Ten Ton Hammer is giving out beta keys every day. Come join my town if you want it is a good time. UO style goodness.

  • Also, just as an example, it is totally a sandbox world. I spent maybe 40 hrs just building my personal home area in the town just how i wanted it. That is not including all the time i spent getting the infrastructure set up and all my fields etc etc. True sandbox world with repercussions for your actions. Anger someone on the forums? They will search the whole game world for you or offer rewards for your coords to come mess you up. I am not getting paid by Salem to post this lol. It just seems like this is the game type we are envisioning here in this thread.

  • I will only speaks for myself here, even if I think i am not alone. You said : “People used to play MMORPG’s for years and now they play for weeks or months”.

    I believe, this is just plainly wrong. If you restrict to actual MMO players, I think that majority of people who play now were used to not play MMO at all – the number of MMO players that played DAOC or Everquest or others is ridiculous compared to actual MMO players. It is even possible -but I have no data, so it is only a hypothesis – that there is more player now that stay one year or more in a “modern” game that there was 10years before.

    But there remains two questions :
    1) Why in relative number, people stay less than three months : my hypothesis is that the playerbase has changed
    2) for the old gamer, that were playing games for long, why now are they quitting the game after 3 months : this is because games have changed to adapt to the new playerbase.

    “[Games] can succeed in being everything players want in a game today” I hope so ! That is why I want GW2 so much : a MMO without sub, where the end-lvl feel accesible enough for me : I may even be able to achieve it in less than four months ! Woooohoooo. I even gain *ONE ENTIRE LEVEL* for each session ! In GW1 (20 lvl) it takes me 6 months to achieve max level !

    GW2 motto was “the whole game is end game”. Wrong. What motivates me is “The whole game is start-game”

  • Why did I play EQ for more than a few months? Pretty simple, really: one, it was grindy, two, it had very little competition, and three, I was poor (and $10/month was cheaper than buying a new game every couple of months).

    Now, games are way less grindy, and there are way more of them. I make enough money so price is not a limiting factor. Why would I ever stick to a single game for longer than a month or two in this context? I actually wouldn’t want to recreate that experience.

    Let’s be honest: there’s nothing substantial to these games that you can’t experience in a month. You learn the basics of combat in a week or two, you find the optimal skill rotation from some web site full of math nerds, and you’re basically done. After that, you’re largely dealing with consuming “content” which is the same stuff in different skins.

    As I age, my tolerance for grind is rapidly approaching zero, and grind is a huge way that these games are “padded” to last longer. A game with pacing like EQ would get precisely nowhere with me now. Even GW2 feels too grindy to me, and that’s probably the least grindy MMO I’ve played.

  • The question is how to make an MMO that has no end? Slow the leveling down? Perhaps find a way to do away with leveling altogether? I would love a game where all the areas remained relevant. GW2 auto level does this to some extent but I would love to see it go further. Why have a whole world sitting there that you progress through then never see again? I also feel the internet has been bad for MMOs as guides are posted on how to progress before the games even get released. If the content could be randomized so that you never knew for sure how to run a dungeon or do a quest would that not help? Also find a way to make dynamic events really dynamic. Make them change the world. Mind you if you have several different servers you end up with a mess of different results on different worlds so that would not work unless you have a single server.

  • Many of you have lost sight of the topic. This isn’t about bringing back old games or making today’s games like old games. That’s another topic you can find in the archives.

    This topic is clearly stating that an MMORPG released today does not have to be like SWTOR or one of the other games that lasts 3-months (at most) then sees a massive decline in players due to being designed such that players don’t have enough to do. I was responding to one of many people who think that we’ve reached a point where it’s impossible to do otherwise.

    Topics like “would WoW have been a 3 monther back in 2005” make no sense. WoW wasn’t a 3-monther. Relatively speaking, it wouldn’t be one today. Blizzard came at the market with something unique that addressed a need.

    My whole point is that we’re not seeing the necessary design decisions to create a game that lasts longer. I know what’s needed. I’ve said it many times. What works is being ignored. I also know that there are ideas and solutions no one has thought of yet, and I’m excited to see what a developer does to create the next ‘WoW’ — that is to say, the next MMORPG to take the industry in a *new* direction.

  • “If TOR was a 3-monther, the game would have shuttered by now. Right now, it has more subs than EQ has ever had.”

    Return on investment. EQ’s ROI > SWTOR’s ROI.

    “Moving on to a new game is not a sign that that game has failed. Likewise no one is forcing you to rush through content in 3 months.”

    It’s a sign the game didn’t create an emotional hook.

    “Today, you have 4-5 big MMO releases PER YEAR.”

    Not for long. The funding for the sequence of giant AAA WoW wannabes we’ve seen is drying up – because they turned out to be 3-monthers and didn’t provide the expected ROI.

  • Sure Wow is/was a 3 monther. 3 months is more than enough time to hit max level, and if you weren’t end to waiting for hours for 40 people to get it together, that’s the end of it for you. All these MMOS have something to do once you hit max level; it’s just that most people don’t care enough to do it. The point I am making is that your perception of the game has shifted because you’ve spent hundreds, possibly thousands of DAYS playing MMOs, and you’re just not as easy to impress as you used to be. The same goes for a growing % of the MMO player base. They just aren’t going to be as impressed. Sticking around for the endgame to get good (and what MMO launched with a good end game? IIRC WoW didn’t launch with Molten Core, and even if it did MC would be roundly ridiculed for being too long and having too many simplistic fights where spamming decurse was the main challenge.

    But then MC is pretty impressive when it’s your first raid. Not so much when it’s your 20th.

    So you could play these games, but to you, with your experience getting into a new raiding game just doesn’t do it for you, and you aren’t willing to wait for it to get good.

    It’s you that is determining these games aren’t interesting enough for you to keep playing. It’s not that there’s really nothing to do.

  • The main limitation is population expectations. There’s been a non-trivial shift in the industry view of what population numbers should be, this happens in a lot of genres after a big breakout title happens (if you want to see this in action, watch the next 2 years of MOBA games, LoL was their big breakout title, just as WoW was for MMOs, in 12 months someone like Keen will be calling Smite and Dota 2 three monthers or something similar).

    The big shift is, when a genre is young initial game expectations are low, few people are currently playing, and most of the emphasis is on bringing new people to the title. After a big breakout title like WoW, most of the gaming audience has tried something in the genre (most of them the breakout title), those that liked it stayed, and those that don’t have moved on. Now the marketing focus shifts from bringing new players to the genre to ripping existing players from their current title. The main impact is that early titles get to start small, focus on retention and slowly build their player base.

    Older titles are forced to make a big entrance to get players to replace their existing game with the new one, that forces the game to have it’s largest exposure just after release, at it’s least attractive, and to a audience that’s not as well matched to the game. (Incidentally, this also leads to crappy early days of a MMO where the first days are unplayable and then servers get deserted, and they need to do merges. This both sucks for the players because merges suck. Sucks for marketing because merges look bad. And sucks for the game, because having tons of servers just for the first few days is expensive. GW2’s overflow system was build almost entirely to solve a problem caused by the shitty way games are currently forced to market themselves that will be over a week after launch) This is further hampered for things like MMOs where there’s a large network effect. Seeing the numbers go down makes people start saying things like 3-monther and casting abound for something else to play. Everyone’s out looking for their the ‘ideal’ MMO-experience they remember. (Which, in theory, seems like it would be fine since there are more MMO players now, sadly for folks like Keen enough of them have found the MMO experience they’re looking for, and it’s WoW, not DAOC, so they’ve stopped game jumping.)

    Almost all the breakout games see their largest growth quite late in their lifetime (I think WoW’s big growth spurt was late BC/early LK though I could be wrong. Half of LoL’s playerbase registered in 2011, almost 3 years after launch.) But it requires being allowed to survive the early years of steady growth to be able to enjoy that. Eve and Rift seem to have managed by keeping expectations low. SWTOR financial could have probably done so as well with slightly better planning, but my bet is that the nature of the SW license probably made it impossible to have a low expectations game. GW2 probably has a good chance of doing it too, especially with no sub.

    Pretty much all of Keen’s list of golden oldies enjoyed that attitude as well. No one expected many folks to play EQ or DAOC or SWG, so they could slink along with miniscule subscription numbers while building their playerbase. I’d bet money that every one of them if launched today (assuming they were technically on par with the competition) would have gone the 3-monther route, that or released quietly with niche audience and tried to build Eve-style.

    Probably the only shot at a big sprawling old-style MMO to succeed in the current market is either a) Be build by Blizzard and be the beneficiary of cross-promotion from WoW, b) start as a niche game (couple of unique hooks, gameplay ambitious but not technically ambitious, probably with a reasonably flexible modding system to get some free work out of the community), sell at a cheaper pricepoint (there’s probably a space for a $20 box’ed game at $5-8/month sub with well designed premium cash shop), and launch in a more controlled manner (probably a final soft launch/beta that doesn’t character wipe, and focus retention over new subs). (There’s probably also a c) here, which is go completely B2P or F2P but I’m not sure that ends up with the traditional MMO experience).

    Sorry, that was as bit long, and slightly callous, but oh well. 😉

  • you cannot dismiss what time does to you and experience. it is a tremendous difference to read your first fantasybook, then a second and yet another…until you’ve read so many series you start seeing patterns, you start focusing more on the differences and at some point you focus more on the bad than the good.

    this is the same with MMO players. you are not the same person you were in EQ and you’re not the same player. the more experiences we make, the bigger the ‘pool’ gets for comparison and the smaller the sense of wonder (and tolerance for imperfections). there’s also a playstyle routine you lack at first, things you take for granted today you had to actually learn for a long time, across many games. the speed at which you mastered this is not one new games can match in creating innovation. you would never have leveled as fast from 1-80 for example had GW2 launched 10 years ago. I cant prove that but I’m quite convinced of it anyway.

    the past cannot be recreated, firsts cannot. you wrote on wow’s moths not too long ago, and see how powerful the effect of nostalgia is for some players (not claiming it, referring to the many who openly admit thats why they play wow) – to an extent where its not anymore about how good/bad the game is today, but the memories of the game it used to be. if thats not proof the present is at at disadvantage then I dont know what is. but maybe you ‘are’ one of the exceptions – personally I 100% agreed with Chris’ article and I see it all around me.

  • So you think that if WoW launched today, it wouldn’t be a 3-monther?

    WoW launched when there were zero solo-friendly MMOs. UO was still a PvP gankfest where people lost hours of progress on death(or months of work if a house). EQ required 2-4 hours of playtime to get anything accomplished. DOAC was all about PvP.

    WoW succeeded due to being at the perfect place at the perfect time with the only tool. The fact that it’s still popular today is partly due to the familiarity everyone has with it.

    If WoW was not a 3-monther, then the subs wouldn’t be taking a massive nosedive 3 months after every expansion (they dropped 25% since Cata and that’s including the 1yr subs that took the D3 offer). There are simply too many games, too many options, on the table today for any game to last longer than 3 months for the wide public.

    The MMO space is exponentially larger today than 7 years ago. Every console game has some MMO component (CoD, Mass Effect, D3, Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands 2, WWZ,etc…) where you can play with your friends or an online community. EQ, WoW, DAoC worked because at the time, that online component for other games simply did not exist.

  • It is unfair and unwise to think any old game can release the same today and not be scrutinized. What I have maintained all along is that WoW created a unique experience when it launched. If it did the same today it would do well.

  • “My whole point is that we’re not seeing the necessary design decisions to create a game that lasts longer.”

    I have to disagree. We are seeing real good design decisions but lasting high population games we will never see.

    Keen I have been reading you for the longest time, and you like me, are always looking for the next big thing. That is real cool, but you have to realize that most MMO players are the same way..looking for the next big thing. Over the last 4 years there has been some real cutting edge games that have come out. Games that pushed the limits of MMO’s and the sad thing is we view most of them as failures. These ideas do not mature over night. they take time to grow into a game.

    The reason why I asked about WOW from 2005 is because they did not make any major design changes, unless you count instance groups. They hit at the right time. That’s it. Over time the game has matured into a very good game (that I will never play). Lets face it, its the definition of MMORPG.

    I think from this point on….every MMORPG will be a 3 monther, that is why the F2P models are so popular. Developers will not be interested in turning the industry in a new direction when you can make money off a 3 monther on a F2P model.

    • My counter to the statement that every MMO from here on out will be a 3-monther is simply: They do not have to be.

      I am always looking to the future because I love ‘new’ things. However, when it comes to MMO’s, I’m not always looking for the next best thing; I”m looking for the next place I can call home. I have been looking for that next SWG for a very, very long time.

  • I really don’t understand this idea that keeps being repeated if eq or wow launched today they would be a 3 month. Same with if you played GW2 10 years ago you wouldn’t level as fast. What?

    Sure you have experiences that make things not new and unique anymore. For instance in EQ i had no flying mount and then in WoW i did, cool. Now if i see that in a new game its no big deal, true, ok i get that.

    But if EQ launched today would i enjoy it? Well I have no idea, would I enjoy camping in one spot, reading my spell book with not being able to see, not being able to solo a mob at lv 44 because they are so strong? No I dont think so but I didn’t enjoy that back in 1999 either which is why I quit. But it took me longer than 3 months because I just didn’t play it quite as long. However my longest straight session ever was EQ and that was 22hrs solid. Never did that again lol, but I got my soulfire.

    Now I haven’t played GW2 as I mentioned above, but the only problem I currently have is how quick it seems to play to max level. Either dont have levels at all, or make it take longer. I mean seriously, how come it couldn’t take twice as long to level? The leveling process is the enjoyable part, getting stronger, seeing new areas, etc.. why do i want that to take a week? What is there to do when the ride is over? That is the carrot that games seem to quit achieving.

    In WoW at max you had to find a good guild or do small dungeon runs or run alts. So I found a good guild and ran raids. They go so boring that my class would take shots everytime the RL said a certain word that was common, or we would just BS about stuff while playing. That became the social fun, just chatting with your buddies playing the game. If GW2 doesn’t build that part of the game, what is there to do, run about solo randomly playing a small dungeon that the GW2 team already patched casue they are a grind? That isn’t a carrot i want. Either make it take longer or give us content to enjoy that has meaning.

    I’m still surprised no one has gone the FPS route and you start at “max” and just work on getting better geat. Sort of like Monster Hunter, just get better gear from killing mobs and teaming up on the big ones.

    Maybe I’ll try EQ2 or Vanguard, I hear they are both much different from laungh and I never tried them out either. I recall the debate of EQ2 vs Wow and someone WoW won out, possibly because it was more solo friendly if I remember correctly though not 100% on that. Where is EQ3 and will Blizzard go Space to change up the MMORPG world? Those are the questions I want to know, now would eq or wow be a 3mth today because they are note relevant. Most that say yes say so because after 4 expansions they realize gear means nothing but they enjoyed the ride then so why wouldn’t they enjoy it now? I hear transmogrifying can make the game fun now but man, who wants to grind MC for old gear lol, would be fun to solo though, which is something GW2 will never allow with auto leveling, stupid decision from my pov

  • @Timurids: You mentioned that we see “really good design decisions” as you disagree with the statement that we do not see the necessary design decisions. I am sure you guys are talking about completely different things here.

    I am not sure about you all – but if I stop playing one of these new MMOs…it is for a very particular reason. A design decision that, for me, doesnt make sense and is not fun. I know if it was designed differently, I would still play these games. At the same time, everyone else around me stops playing too…now instead of doing the analysis and asking “Why is this happening”…everyone is starting to explain this by saying “It just happens…they arent supposed to last longer…?” This is bizarre…

  • @Ferovar

    I played on P99 for a short time. It was nice, but it just isn’t the same when it’s not official.

    I’m currently playing on the Al’Kabor server, the “real” EQ Mac server. It is time locked in PoP, forever. While not my absolute favorite era, I would prefer official+PoP to emulator+Kunark.

    If you look hard enough, you’ll find you can play on Al’Kabor without a Mac.

  • @Argorius: Exactly. People say “it just happens because this is what MMO’s are like.” I’m providing a reason why it’s happening and showing proof it wasn’t always that way and it doesn’t have to be that way. They’re being DESIGNED that way. It’s not inherent to MMO’s — it’s inherent to this particular design. It doesn’t have to be that way.

  • @Keen I’d argue really strongly against the idea that MMO’s are being ‘designed’ as 3-monthers. At worst they’re designed to have a constant stream of content that people will work through, and that a certain amount of the audience will churn out. Both of which are pretty reasonably given that that’s how people play games (and not just MMOs, pretty much every long term title, even CoD or LoL behaves that way).

    I think something does need to be done differently for something to break out and be long-term (I hesitate to say WoW-Killer) successful. But it’s not dev’s deciding “We’re not going to make a 3-monther”, because they all already do that.

    I’d also argue that it’s not “Lets do things like the old games did” for a number of reasons. (1. The ‘success’ of those games would be a ‘shit-can your studio’ level failure now, 2. design decisions that worked 5-10 years ago won’t be received the same way today 3. we’ve already got a long string of headstones from games that have tried that route and failed already, we don’t need more)

    @Timurids No game that launched with a sub was planned to lose players and just make their cash from F2P. F2P is a nice way to salvage something from a troubled game, but no one that wasn’t F2P from day one is thinking of it as Plan A. Everyone wants to change the direction, just none of them have figured out how to do it.

    Actually saying that, how’s this for a divisive opinion: To date, WoW is the only game to have lucked out and produced a Mainstream non-3-monther subscription MMO. Everyone before was serving the mmo-niche audience and lasting longer, everyone after has felt obliged to go for the mainstream audience and can’t make it last.

  • @Jenks

    That’s tempting, but since it’s entirely F2P, it just seems like something that they could just shutdown at any time. While the same could be said about Project 1999, it’s maintained by people who love the game, not Sony.

  • @Shutter: I’m not necessarily saying let’s do things like the old games did. I’m saying look at why they lasted so long. It -is- a design difference.

  • You got to give it to GW2 they are quite different and their model is not a typical, install, level, delete. It might actually become something special long term. Their competitive pvp always been the best and maybe they can salvage the rvr for more casual players.

    I think next time I burn myself out from working I might take a break and play DAOC again.

  • “I’m not necessarily saying let’s do things like the old games did. I’m saying look at why they lasted so long. It -is- a design difference.”

    It is also an expectation and population difference.

    The expectation difference has been well articulated by many on this thread including Syl, Toxic, Shutter, and Asmiroth. I fully agree with their main points and again broach the ominous accusatory word “nostalgia” with reference to the old game references; there are valid reasons why this word keeps reappearing in this blog…

    The population differences come about by catering to the “fast-food” short attention span of gamers , which are a far larger (read profitable) target audience than old school gamers that read gaming blogs. Game mechanics such as rapid leveling and gear progression will be included in most AAA MMO’s released today, and naturally they will fall into 3 monthers as they successfully meet the expectations of the large bulk of their short attention span audience.

    To restate, don’t be surprised if game mechanics support short term gratification with a maximum cap will lead to a short term gaming experience for most players.

    Once servers are merged is when we can start to identify a remaining core of dedicated gamers that likely read gamer blogs.

    On this note I am surprised to hear people defining GW2 as a 3 monther. I feel that if you can’t find more than 3 months of gaming enjoyment in GW2 then you really need to stop complaining about 3 month games as I have a difficult time envisioning an AAA game that meets so many of objectives of people posting on this blog.

    There is a point where reality has to take precedence over idealistic theory-crafting. I’ll tell you with complete confidence that you are highly unlikely to find a large initial release such as GW2 that meets most of the stated wish lists of this blog; hopefully under ANet’s nurturing it will mature even further and address dedicated gamer’s concerns.

    GW2 will also suffer a sharp decline in subs within 3-6 months after release as people with short-attention spans will have short-attention spans. What hopefully will be left behind are the more dedicated gamers that are willing to let the game evolve much like WoW did after its release, the major difference being that WoW wasn’t held to such a critical standard as the competition was relatively more scarce than today.

  • People haven’t changed as a whole. Games have changed.

    People have:

    • – Stayed behind in the old games (see the tens of thousands playing on emulated servers for old games every night)
    • – Adapted and tried to play the new games
    • – Entered the industry in this era and don’t know any better (Those who believe that there’s no such thing as an MMO that lasts more than 3 months.)

    Facts are not nostalgia. Nostalgia would be “gosh weren’t those old times so great when we all grouped together and did dungeons.” Pointing out literal differences in the design of games isn’t nostalgia.

  • Yes, undoubtedly the primary target audience of AAA MMO releases have changed as a whole, which drives game mechanics design.

    If one lives in a world surrounded by game bloggers who validate each others idealistic old-school beliefs then the monumental shift in player base expectation may be overlooked.

  • Again, it doesn’t matter if the “target audience” has supposedly changed. Let’s evaluate the facts. MMO after MMO releases, fails to deliver to that target audience’s expectations, and either shuts down, downsizes, probably goes F2P, and/or drifts off into obscurity with its small group of core players.

    This target audience sure doesn’t sound like it matters much. Those 500 million dollar budgets don’t seem to matter much, either.

    Let’s split the industry in two (read SynCaine’s recent post) and have the developers aiming for the new primary “target audience” compete against developers who aim for a smaller market, with design aimed at long-term games that are different from the 3-monthers. I guarantee you the ROI for the latter is better.

  • I think if any of the old school MMO’s were to be released today you would see them jsut as susceptible to being 3 monther as any other game on the market now.

    the reason why there wasnt no 3 monther then was there were no choices. Today theres a new release 2-3 times a year and alot of gamers jsut want to try everything. Plus you have to contend with the fact that alot of players are the console/single player class and have no desire to stick to a game for more then a few months.

  • @Gankatron: Yeah, supposedly. Look it up. As far as I know, the goal has always been to target people wanting to play MMORPG’s. For the sake of your argument, I assumed it changed. I won’t repeat the rest of my previous comment.

    @Zederok: You’re coming into a vetted debate with a comment that I have been trying to squash over, and over, and over again. You can not say that apples are oranges. An apple will always be an apple, and an orange will always be an orange.

    The *entire point* of this has been to say that we are getting apples over and over, and that we can have oranges if the developers simply plant the orange seeds!

    And this whole discussion about no choices is bull crap. You think we have any more choices today? When I quit GW2 … what am I going to go play? Rift? WoW? Seriously, what choices? Tell me. I’m waiting to hear the choices I have, because all I see are a bunch of games that are the same. If I quit one, there’s no reason I’m going to play the other if I know it’s going to be the same.

  • OK so you supposedly don’t believe the target demographics for people playing MMO’s has changed significantly since WoW came out (or even with WoW since it came out, Pandas notwithstanding).

    I consider this an indefensible contention, and generalizing your verbiage to retreat to a defense where essentially no group distinctions can be defined is pointless; why not say that their goal is to target groups who want to spend money then we can all agree (on nothing substantial that is…).

    At this point I believe you are arguing to not appear wrong as opposed to defining the variables more precisely, and the argument will not advance. Don’t take people’s criticism of your arguments so defensively.

  • Gw2 and CoX are an interesting comparison. CoX actually has less end game then Gw2 and still managed to hold people over a long period of time. With this the only answer is choices. With other games though especially UO and SWG it has to do with living breathing gaming systems that everyone interacted in.

  • “My whole point is that we’re not seeing the necessary design decisions to create a game that lasts longer. I know what’s needed. I’ve said it many times. What works is being ignored. I also know that there are ideas and solutions no one has thought of yet, and I’m excited to see what a developer does to create the next ‘WoW’ — that is to say, the next MMORPG to take the industry in a *new* direction.”

    This. 100x this. My thought isn’t that it’s impossible for a game not to be a 3-monther, just that no one is willing or able to actually do so, hence nothing falls out of that category. A game can be made that brings us all (majority) together again for a long-term stay. That game will have to be shocking enough to force us out of this rut we’ve found ourselves in. It will have to re-define for us what we know an MMO to be, make a leap, just as EQ made the jump from MUDs, and WoW made the jump from EQ. Huge, fork in the road shifts that decided huge aspects of virtually every game that came after. As it happens, there is nothing on the horizon that even comes close to being able to do so, and when it does, I doubt it will be AAA because of the risks involved. Which begs the question, in order to hit the critical mass needed to actually shift the genre in a foundational way, could it be anything other than AAA?

    Regardless, the game will come. I’m more concerned that GW2 was most people’s big hope and it obviously isn’t a big enough jump in virtually any way (despite being an excellent game). Then again, maybe the successes it did achieve will encourage other developers to challenge conventions even further.

  • @Chris: /thread! Lol. Okay, so you at least agree that the 3-monther is a choice and a non 3-monther is possible because (1) It has been done and (2) could be done if the devs simply made the choice.

  • Not saying the choices are almost mirror images because for the most part they are. I honestly think its only a minor issue though, especially considering GW2’s release. A game that is truely different from the traditional themepark MMO and yet there is alot of bitching and complaining goin on the forums and elsewhere that there isnt enough stuff to do, theres no raiding, or the dungeons are to hard or the grind is to severe. Prior to GW2 I would of agreed with you but it jsut appears now that gamers want everything and they also want nothing and regardless of what comes out they will quit within 3 months.

    Back in the early days You had 3 choices, AC, EQ and UO and a good MMO release was like once every 2-4 years. remember from 1999 with the initial 3 there wasnt a major release till 2002 with DAoC. In the last year we have had GW2, TSW, SWTOR, Tera, D3 and god knows how many F2P non AAA MMO’s released. In the near future (within the next year) we will have PS2, Neverwinter, TESO, Salem, DF 2.0, AA in the east, Firefall, The Repopulation, War Z, and god knows how many mnore. I stand by my assertion the MMO market is flooded and alot of gamers will continue to move from one game to the next. Only WoW seems to be immune to this paradigm shift in the genre.

  • Again Keen I ask you. What proof do you have that if EQ, UO or AC were released today they too wouldnt be subject to the whims of the 3 monther? I think they would be and recent history prooves me right. Regardless of how good or bad you may think a game is todays average MMO gamer jsut isnt interested in staying long term with a MMO. You and I are the same as well as most people who visit your blog. We are old school and want to find a world to live in. Regardless of how we feel the avverage gamer jsut isnt like us.

  • There’s no *game*, MMO or otherwise, that’s likely to amuse me for more than three months in a row at this point. This is not a unique problem to current MMOs.

    I think the fundamental notion that you *should* want to play any game for more than a few months in a row is kind of misguided. I know that some players really want to dig into a single game for whatever reason (often, this is e-sports, or casual, or social) but I can’t think of anything that would make me want to do that. There are so many games out there that I’ll never have a chance to play already; the longer I spend on a single game, the less time I have for the rest.

    I know from an MMO business model perspective long term retention is important. I just don’t know that long term retention is even something that is beneficial for most players.

  • @Zederok:If you have to ask the question, you don’t know what a 3-monther is and I can’t possibly answer with ease in a comment. Put simply, EQ and SWG are the antithesis of the 3-monther. They are the opposite. What a 3-monther is, they are not. The 3-monther changes, alters, and ignores what makes a long-term MMO be a long-term MMO. What makes an apple not an orange?

  • “Again, it doesn’t matter if the “target audience” has supposedly changed. Let’s evaluate the facts. MMO after MMO releases, fails to deliver to that target audience’s expectations, and either shuts down, downsizes, probably goes F2P, and/or drifts off into obscurity with its small group of core players.”

    I think you need to be careful not to impose your expectations on those of the target audience. These games aren’t meeting your expectations that doesn’t mean they aren’t meeting the expectations for a large group of people. Yes games come out with huge launches then fall back to earth, this is because there is such a huge WoW audience that is looking for the next best thing, but they aren’t willing to stick with a game long enough to let it grow and develop. AOC and WAR were both much better games 6 months to a year after launch but it was too late, the masses had moved on. Rift is a game that has gotten much better with great service and fast content updates and a great looking expansion coming out, but people that label it a 3 monther will never see that cause they came, saw, conquered and left.

    What is odd to me is that I played DAOC, AC, SWG, AO and DAOC is the only one I played for more than 3 months, and that was mostly because a) it took forever to level and get to RvR endgame, and b) I had many friends that kept playing so I stuck around for them if not it would have been a 3 monther as well. I have put way more time into LOTRO, Rift, WoW, CoX and even AOC than I have in any of those older MMO’s that you consider long timer games. It’s really that new games just aren’t hitting that sweet spot for you and after reading your blog for awhile I wonder if it is even possible.

    “And this whole discussion about no choices is bull crap. You think we have any more choices today? When I quit GW2 … what am I going to go play? Rift? WoW? Seriously, what choices? Tell me. I’m waiting to hear the choices I have, because all I see are a bunch of games that are the same”

    RIFT, LOTRO, AOC, WAR, WoW, Tera, Vanguard, EQ2, EQ, DAOC, AO ST:O, SWTOR, CO, DCUO, AION, DDO, and there are many more that I am missing. Plently of choices, just because you don’t want to play them doesn’t mean that they aren’t there and that a large enough player base isn’t happy with those games to keep them playing.

  • I recently stumbled upon this site and am enthralled at this discussion. My background is that EQ was my introduction to MMORPGs and while I liked it, it did not “Grab” me. I then tried WoW back in 2006 and have played fairly steadily ever since. I dabbled in a few other games (Star Trek Online, Aion, SWToR, and a couple of other that I can’t remember right now) I keep going back to WoW partly because that is where my friends are and it is a part of my social life and partly because…well I like the game.
    I suspect that part of the design issues gomes from the word “game”. To most people the word “game” defines having some end to meet, be it a final boss, final puzzle, or whatever end goal the game is designed to have. Perhaps the paradigm shift would come from trying to define an MMORPE with the E standing for “experience”. And by my definition, and “experience” does not have a defined start or end. Not sure how this would be done on a technical level, but perhaps setting this as a design challenge would give you (and other gamers like you) what you are looking for.
    Just my $0.02 and perhaps not even worth the electrons it took to post this.

  • Look, I just have the facts: People used to play MMORPG’s for years and now they play for weeks or months (I realize the exceptions).

    You and your romanticized, selectively interpreted facts… Facts include the MMO market sucked and there was little variety and competition. Facts include the games were so content free the developers had to crush you with tedious, mob-killing grind for you to level.

    Here’s another fact. My old rotary-dial telephone didn’t have an auto-redial feature. If I called for some customer service, chances they didn’t have a waiting queue so the lines would be busy on the other side and I’d have to call back.

    Sometimes dialing for hours until I got through. Leaving me with a sore finger and, eventually, using a pencil or a pen to dial with… Yeah, weren’t those the good old days! Spending HOURS dialing a telephone number hoping you MIGHT get through this time…

    Now I dial once. If it’s busy, I hit redial with my thumb. Chances are that I’ll then end up in a queue and be helped within a few minutes to half-an-hour. Even better, now that pretty much every cell phone has a hands-free mode, I can just set it down and wait for someone to answer AND do something fun and productive.

    Wow, the world progresses! We’re no longer stuck next the phone in the wall dialing hopelessly, wasting half-a-day to handle a simple chore!

    You know whay, MMO progress as well. There is more ‘content’ in these ‘three monthers’ than those old games. What’s lacking is the mind-numbing, time-consuming grind of killing 4000 sprites or rats or orcs or whatever to gain a level.

    As for EQ. You’re right, it’s not a ‘3-monther.’ It’s a tedious grind-fest that I quit before three months because it was a tedious grind fest with brutal and unfairly punishing mechanics. EQ2 was a little better, but like EQ it was tedious after a couple of weeks and you really were clear that you were being strung along with tedium and a deliberately slow pace to milk you for your $$$.

    So, you may have some romantic thing about EQ, but it wasn’t really that successful on it’s gaming/technical merits (rather it was the best of a bad situation for social gamers) and it and all the rest of the NA/European grind-fests pretty much crashed after WoW, a game you’d call, by your current positioning, a three-monther, came out.

    Only, WoW’s average play-length is over 3-years, 7-months…

  • Huh, I see a lot of oddly defensive people in these comments. I played WoW for six years, then I took a break from any one MMO and drifted around for a while, and now I’ve been playing RIFT as my main game for six months. It IS possible to make an MMO that people don’t get bored and leave in 3 months. To say otherwise is frankly ludicrous and pretty immediately contradicted by the fact that 9 million people still play WoW.

    I think a number of people here are taking Keen’s words as some kind of “siding with the enemy”. You’re quick to shout, “No, I don’t like games like that so they don’t work and no one should ever make one la la la la” and frankly it’s weird. Why can’t someone make a game that sucks people in like EQ did, or RIFT does now for some people? You don’t have to play it. Does it really offend your sensibilities so much that some people want a more permanent relationship with their MMO?

    If there was NO market for that kind of thing, then how does WoW still exist? EvE? RIFT? Hell, people are still playing UO and Everquest. Is there a market for casual “3 monthers”? Sure, and that market is pretty heavily catered to at the moment. Stop whining.

  • I only read the first 15 comments or so; perhaps this has already been said. If so I apologize.

    Keen, I think one of the major places you are running into trouble here is that you are using the term 3-Monther as if it’s some objective fact about a game. It’s not. Whether a game is a 3-Monther or not is deeply subjective.

  • It’s not because Keen said such game is a “3 monther” that it is one.

    Got doesn’t post here – only a gamer 😉

  • @Swarmofseals: I am applying my opinion to a set of facts and formulating a result. I believe the end result is mostly rooted in fact.

    For example, SWTOR being a short-lived experienced designed to be gone through and beaten vs. being a world where players live in long-term is a fact. My opinion is that it doesn’t make for a very good game.

    Example 2: Guild Wars 2 is designed to be beaten quickly. While a good game, it doesn’t have lasting appeal to the majority of players like it could if it were designed to be less short.

    I think it’s a given that if you read my bloggings you’re reading an opinion, but you can take that opinion as either educated or crazy. Maybe both. I think I have a great track record of expressing viewpoints that are proven down.

    @The Merovinginan: Perhaps a gamer god?

  • I still dont understand how you can say that GW2 doesnt have lasting appeal. For the most hardcore voracious consumer of content maybe, but to the average MMO player I just dont see it. I have already stated based on my average play time it will take me on the order of at least a year to aquire a Legendary weapon or a full suit of cultural T3 armor. On top of that we have WvW which is arguably the most diverse mode of lasting gameplay a game could implement.

  • @Keen I know exactly what a 3 monther is.

    SWTOR, WAR, AoC, RIFT and the last few years are full of them. It is a game with minimal change from previous incarnations. Something the original “big 3” didnt have to worry about. But you also have to include the player demographics. A game like EQ, UO, or *shudder* my favorite AC would all be just as guilty of being 3 monthers now because the player base has changed, MMO’s are no longer the niche market. Alot of player will stick around but many more will move on when something “new” comes along. It is just the nature of genre we live in now.

  • I totally understand that’s the nature of the genre now. I’m saying we can change it, or at the very, very least offer an alternative.

  • I think we can too but it wont stop what I consider the “new crowd” or WoW babies to the genre from leaving it when a new game is released. But for now GW2 is as close to an old school style MMO that I can see myself playing for a long time, mainly because the WvW is so damn fun and “personally” gratifying and rewarding. (even for someone who is decked out in Full exotic gear)

    I too would like to see some new blood come into the scene. The problem is almost all 3 monthers are WoW clones with little to no difference from its predeccesor, something which I have advocated for a long time as being the main problem with the genre.

  • “I totally understand that’s the nature of the genre now. I’m saying we can change it, or at the very, very least offer an alternative.”

    I think I finally understand why there seems to be such polarized opinions on this thread. It is akin to people worshipping Old Testament versus New Testament entities and trying to define how the world works in those contexts.

    In one camp we have those who conceive that there is a nurturing and compassionate force behind the current veil of MMO tears, one that will heed its follower’s prayers if they are presented with enough conviction, where the other sees indifferent and wholly self-interested beings that are completely resistant to the pleas of a minority its follower’s.

    Upon reading the quote above the first thing I thought was “who is this WE that Keen thinks are empowered enough to effect change?”

    This explains why some of us think demographics is critical to the discussion of effecting change in the MMO marketplace (or at least why game bloggers will be unable to have a significant impact in doing so), and why others feel that people who point to the importance of demographics are missing the point, that is a logical analysis of game mechanics should be of primacy to redefine the genre.

    The first camp would define the market as being primarily money driven, and as such will design game mechanics to suit the larger and thus most profitable casual target audience; from this POV the dedicated or hard-core gaming playing base, such as those that write on this blog, are antiquated, marginalized, and disenfranchised in this new age of highly marketed MMO releases.

    The other camp believes that rationality and conviction, regardless of the size of the audience putting forth these contentions, have a real possibility to bring around game developers to see how their common sense approaches would profit them in the end, even if it runs in the face of current models that focus on how to best cater to a casual player base with a short attention span.

    An excellent movie that addresses such differences in approaches is called “Ridicule”, which is about a doctor in 18th century France that has determined that the swamps around his hometown are responsible for spreading disease. He wholeheartedly believes that a thorough and logically presented scientific argument to the court of Versailles will necessarily convince the opulent aristocrats to allocate funding to drain the swamps as this would be an obtainable goal that would be of substantial benefit to the people even though they represent only a small village.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZKG555N6Rg

    I fully stand behind Robert McNamara’s Lesson #2 that is “Rationality will not save us.” No matter how well thought out or compelling your arguments may be Keen, it is representing a minority opinion and is unlikely to be heard, at least that is the demographic argument. If you can frame it in a context of how it can benefit the casual game playing mindset then perhaps it can be entertained, but it had best not fly too much in the face of current WoW-clone modeling or “we” will be ridiculed regardless of logical merits.

  • Don’t over-think it too much.

    We = Players wanting more than a flash in the pan from our MMORPGs.

    Maybe “we” are not a dominating segment, but I have to believe that there is a large enough number of people wanting something more — enough to make a compelling argument for a developer to make a game for us.

    I can’t say -all- development teams are driven by self-interests. Maybe there will be one nice enough to make us a game because they are kindred spirits. I’d rather say look at the trends, look at what has worked and what has failed, and see the rationale behind the argument for designing a game that will have more lasting appeal and substance.

    The post I made referencing WoW as a roadmap for how to break out of a trend is an example where they were not only the most successful, but changed the industry. When Blizzard made WoW, they didn’t make it for the EQ/SWG crowd. WoW was made to attract a DIFFERENT crowd. I see no reason why someone can’t make a game today not for the WoW crowd, but for a different one. If done well, perhaps, like WoW, it will become the new staple.

  • Two Cultures seems quite relevant. You’ve got a bunch that seem to lack the experience and/or vision to see beyond the current crop of “3 monther” MMOs and why they are “3 monthers”.

    I’ll just list a few things that can help a MMO become long-term:

    1) Players can effect permanent change in the world. Even simply having player-created houses and shops goes a long way (as in UO and SWG). I would like to see this extended to include things like building fortifications and bridges, digging mines and dungeons, planting trees and crops, razing enemy camps (i.e. no constant respawns), etc.

    2) Truly dynamic events, run by GMs (or good AI). It’s already been successfully done in MUDs and UO.

    3) Player-centric economy. I.e. player-crafted items should always be better than junk found as loot; then there’s incentive for player’s to actually craft stuff and for others to purchase it.

    4) Finite, non-node-based resources. Then it becomes relevant for players to get good at finding and exploiting resources (or collaborating with players that are).

    5) Limited, earned transportation. I.e. finding, or saving up money to buy a horse, boat, hot-air balloon, runestones, etc. becomes meaningful and satisfying. Exploring and finding new locations only accessible via a specific transportation also becomes interesting and fun.

    6) Meaningful, satisfying challenges. It’s boring when everything is handed out on a silver platter. Not only are MMOs “fast food” these days, but they’re all milkshakes sucked down through a straw.

    7) Focus should be primarily on world content not story. A story automatically creates boundaries and limitations on the world setting and can railroad players into doing things they wouldn’t necessarily want to do. Let players create their own stories.

    8) Last but not least, no DikuMUD-based design, like so many are. There needs to be more than combat-centric, level/gear-based progression; it can only go one way and is inherently unsustainable. (Especially if content is consumed faster than it can be created.)

  • That’s a fantastic post by Raph. I remember reading that this summer and thinking how much I miss this guy being involved with MMORPG’s. I highly recommend you all visit his blog and read up.

    Thanks for reminding me about that, Xenovore.

  • “2) Truly dynamic events, run by GMs (or good AI). It’s already been successfully done in MUDs and UO.”

    I do hope that this will re-emerge in GW2, as was done at the BWE finales. Nothing like a good group of dungeon masters to run a dynamic event!

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