Bringing players back to older MMOs

Today I want to pose a question to our readers: What would it take to get you to go back and play a MMO?

I was thinking about this when I read a statement from the GW2 devs saying something like, “Don’t count us out yet.”  My personality tends to feel sympathy for others and I put myself in their position.  A year and a half ago they were at the top of the world.  Their beta was going strong and all the hype was focused squarely on their game as the next big thing.  Their team was probably larger, their spirits high, and their future bright.  Now you won’t find GW2 being talked about because it’s last year’s news, it’s no longer the game everyone plays.  The general consensus may even be that GW2 is a good game, but the fact remains it has slipped.

What about games that are even older?  EverQuest 2 and Vanguard are still being updated with content, still making the news (maybe even more than GW2) yet I know their populations are smaller.  They are 6… 7 + years old?  Yet I personally believe they are both good games; arguably some of the best.

What would it take for a game like that to bring people back — to bring YOU back?  I’m genuinely interested in your opinions.  Is it even possible for an older MMO to get people to play?  I think about solutions like the Station Pass where you pay one subscription and get access to every game a company makes.  That works when a company like SOE has a large portfolio.   Veteran rewards are often used to keep people playing but rarely to bring them back.  Going F2P works short term (SWTOR) but doesn’t really work long-term.  Maybe an active game constantly developing new content and truly showing progress?  Even then, why would I go back and play something like GW2 when I can just wait for EQN, WildStar, or ESO?

If you’re someone who goes back to older games I am interested in hearing why.  I think there’s a door here waiting to be unlocked that will really help a lot of companies keep people interested in their games. I’d love to see the industry stop transitioning together to every new title.

I really do want every game and studio to see success.  The more real options we all have the better off the entire industry becomes as competition increases quality and the entire industry flourishes.

  • It is so difficult to go back to an older MMO when you are sometimes the lone player in entire zones because the game is built as a vertical progression system and everyone has moved on to other places and has zero reason to play with/near you.

    I currently go back to The Secret World every 2 or 3 months to check out the new story content but once I have played it I am done and do not return again until more content releases. I do the same with DCUO, log in for new story content but no consistent playing.

    Both of these games allow me to come and go as I please and if I had to sign up for a $14.99 sub just to get access I would not even bother. The reality is there are dozens of online games now and easier a company makes it for me to log in and play their game the more likely I will. To be fair I should add that for both of these games I was an early subscriber so I am not hindered by their F2P models.

  • I doubt it could be a game that I was never enamoured with. For me that would be only be 3 games, old school WoW, Allods, and Tabula Rasa.

    If a game leaves me angry or overly frustrated there is virtually no way I’ll go back, take SWTOR or AoC for instance, but the one exception to that rule was Allods, largely because it reminded me of old school WoW; in Allods I saw the promise of reliving those original WoW experiences, but I also couldn’t avoid seeing the many ways they non-transparently broke it to accommodate their cash shop. It just seemed so obvious from a westernized POV what they needed to do to fix it, simply drop the cash shop, charge a sub, and let the game be what the devs intended, such lost potential.

    I went back to Allods the first time they claimed that it wasn’t P2W cash shop anymore, but found it had just been de-emphasized and not eliminated, and after that I never looked back.

    It would be a cool idea to have a Blizzard designed vanilla WoW server that was updated with new content and de-emphasized grinding gear rewards, but I have no reason to think that would be financially viable for them considering most players seem to like what they are doing atm. I long for old school battle grounds where people gamed because it was intrinsically enjoyable and didn’t base their play style upon the most efficient token currency earned per hour.

    I really liked the feel of TR, but it just seemed to fade away before my eyes and it the end didn’t feel finished, so a relaunch of a completed product would get my interest. Again I doubt that will happen.

    There are a lot of intangibles as to what grabs my imagination, but in the end whether it be fantasy or sci-fi it can’t be a fast tracked gear grabbing game like current WoW. I prefer the older stingy and time consumptive approach where people used to proudly announce on chat that they finally saved up their first gold piece.

    If I can max level a toon in 3 weeks then the game is going to last me a few months at best; I like consuming content regardless of the intrinsic exp gain rate. “End-game is only the beginning” is a lie if it means getting channeled into gear grind raids or mini-games. If it took me a year to get to max level that would be fine if there was a year’s worth of fresh content and multiple paths that I could customize my class.

    So in short I am ripe to go back to an old game I liked if it had the old school mechanics with new content, but it isn’t going to happen, and so for me the more pertinent question is what will it take for me to start playing a new MMO once again? I bet it will have to be an indie, but one that doesn’t swing back to violently in the complete opposite direction touting “hard core” features such as permadeath, full looting, and unfettered PK’ing.

    It is unfortunate that over the years game mechanics weren’t so much refined to improve game play, as redesigned to improve cash flow. Just give me old WoW and I’ll likely pay for it…

  • I routinely go back to older MMOs. This is probably because I never really “quit” an MMO and move onto a new one. I just tend to get bored with one game after a while, and once my boredom has finished its ‘cooldown’ I go back. The end result is that I end up playing MMOs in cycles instead of moving from one to the next. For example, I got frustrated with GW2 and stopped playing a few months ago… and now I’m back and enjoying myself, at least for a while.

    New content is of course a draw, and I have to like something about the game in the first place. The quality of the world (art style, visuals, soundtrack, lore) are a *huge* factor in bringing me back. If I love your world, then eventually I will miss it and want to visit.

    Barrier to entry is also huge. You say that going F2P doesn’t work in the long term, but I have to say I’d disagree. Knowing that I can keep an old MMO installed and revisit it at will is a big deal to me. I may come back to an old MMO on a whiff of nostalgia – if I have to go your website and whip out the credit card first, that moment is already past.

  • I logged into Everquest yesterday to visit the Qeynos Acqueducts and take a screenshot of the “Aradune Is Stinky” graffito for a blog post I was doing about Pantheon. The character I logged in was on Stromm-Luclin, a U.S. server. I logged in at around 10am GMT, so 3am on the Pacific West Coast, 5am in the East. On a weekday.

    There were 35 people in Plane of Knowledge, sixteen in the recommended starting area, Crescent Reach and a dozen in the next zone along, Blightifre Moors. General chat never stopped gabbing the whole ninety minutes or so I was on. Presumably most people online would actually be in current content, which sits around level 100 and which I have never seen.

    EQ still has, I think, 17 servers running. Every time I log in to any of them (and I have characters on many) the game feels as busy and populated as many MMOs a quarter of its age. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it has more players than EQ2, although the extensive instancing of the latter game makes that hard to tell.

    What kind of populations people are expecting I don’t know but there seem to be be plenty of older games doing not at all badly after many years. As for GW2, which is still a new MMO in my book, it’s bloody heaving!. Again, I don’t even play prime-time and yet I never see the server flagged at less than “very heavy”, something that is clearly accurate from the masses of players visible everywhere I go.

  • Its not new content that will brings me back(new raids, new zones, a holiday event that now days is being called content, new dailies, new gear, e.t.c.) but new features, like housing, a new crafting profession, a class overhaul with new abilities/progression system…or even something simple as “enhanced nights” that will bring darker nights in the game, with systems that will use to light them(torches, light spells) and with different gameplay (stronger mobs, different mobs, events like “vampires attacking the city”).

    Something that will make the game deeper and will add to the gameplay, not more of the same shit(dungeons, raids, dailies, gear)

  • I always find it hard to go back to games I love… Nostalgia sets in and lasts as long as it will. But its not the same, most of my memories in MMOs are the friends I had and the adventures we went on. Take that away and you are left with but memories and some buttons to press.

  • Graphics generally aren’t a big concern for me, specially if gameplay is good. The biggest thing that holds me back is UI and dated mechanics. For instance, I tried getting back into SWG EMU, but for the life of me I can’t handle how the interface works and the abysmal class balance. I don’t think I could ever go as far back as EQ anymore.

  • I don’t think there would be anything. When I leave an MMO its because I’ve grown tired of the core of the game (some games quicker than others). That usually means I play one MMO at a time, and play it for a while, sometimes years. When I’m going to leave, I’m gone.

    Its possible that as older games have made huge advances the core of the game has changed. But usually it feels like a new skin. Or tacked on mechanics. I’ve tried to go back to a few games. But like many aging gamers, my free time has changed. So the long progression doesn’t appeal to me. Or they’ve eliminated it with faster leveling and/or a companion (FFXI did both, didn’t EQ do one of those?).

    Perhaps the look and feel of the game beings back memories that cloud my ability to enjoy the changes. I don’t know.

  • I would go back to Dark Age of Camelot in a heartbeat if they updated the UI. I can’t believe I used to play the game for as long as I did with that UI, lol. That’s it, I still think the graphics are okay, maybe a nip and tuck here and there… 🙂

  • What counts as an older game? I am currently playing EVE Online, 10 years old, and WoW, 9 years old.

    I did go back and play EverQuest when they opened up the time locked progression servers. The delivered on some of the spirit of the original and I had a good time. But I have no real investment anymore in the current live game. Not has it diverged from the original over the years, so it doesn’t “feel” the same, but it also still contains some of the seeds of what made me stop playing back in the day.

    Aside from EVE and WoW, the only other game I go back to for long stretches is LOTRO. All three still deliver something that got me to play them in the first place. Other games, EQ or EQII as examples, do not and when I go back to play them my stay is generally very short.

  • If it is a game that I enjoyed while playing, I will go back to play it when there’s something new (like GW2). If it’s a game I didn’t like I won’t be back.

  • I think older games need to either be totally in and pull out all the stops. They need to quit worrying about whether or not they’ll be cheated or someone will get over or just give up on getting the new player back. Awhile back I saw that EQ2 was letting players bump a character up to higher level to show off thier new service. I thought it would be cool to get in with my sons and try it out and see if it was worth it. Only one level bump per IP. So instead of taking them up on their offer I posted a polite response on the forums that I couldn’t play with my boys and that we’d find something else to play. I’ve still got that insta leveled character don’t know if I’ll ever try out the new abilities or not.

  • I’m finishing up my annual MMO tour, which I seem to do about once a year when I find myself without an MMO to call “home.” I’ve gone back through many old games, including LOTRO, EQ, EQ2, WoW, GW2, Vanguard, AoC, and AION.

    The only three I’ve spent significant time in and plan to continue playing are EQ, Vanguard and WoW. I feel I should narrow it down to one as I don’t really have time to invest in more than a single MMO but thus far I’ve been unable to do so as I like each game for different reasons.

    I have no problem going back to older MMOs because they still offer things I find lacking in modern games. I pretty much break it down as pre-WoW and post-WoW. The success and pervasiveness of WoW has shaped the direction of seemingly every game to follow. Every time a new game comes out I get all excited but ultimately feels like I’m playing the same game but with different graphics, less features and less polish.

    I’ve become skeptical and/or patient enough now to wait and see how a game does. If people make it past the first 30 days and start paying a sub that’s a good sign that it’s worthwhile. I’ve been disappointed too many times to want to pre-order anymore.

    I’ve been trying to make myself like WoW again because I feel like it’s the “best” overall MMO. Most players, most polish, still know a couple people playing (though they pretty much only login to raid) and lots of different things to do, though ultimately you get funneled into raiding and pretty quickly at that. It’s also mind-numbingly easy for the most part, has a community best described as wretched and the constant inundation with rewards makes each reward less meaningful.

    Vanguard is the game I like the most on paper. It has everything I want in an MMO: class diversity, huge open world to explore, no instancing, a single server where reputation matters, challenging content, interesting crafting, etc. I’m hesitant about it because even now with more dev attention than it has had as long as I can remember the game seems plagued with issues, especially in regards to server stability and lag. It’s also very group and dungeon oriented and I find it hard to join random groups for a dungeon crawl when my life is such that I often have to go afk for short periods of time (help wife with the baby, answer the door, get the dogs, etc). So, unless I can find a fairly static group who is understanding of this I feel relegated to multiboxing. It seems there’s not a lot I can do in short bursts or where I can go afk easily if needed.

    EQ was my first MMO and one I still have a lot of nostalgia for. The game has changed a lot but still feels like EQ. I would argue that multiboxing is pretty much part of the game now, at least at lower levels. However, the slow pace of combat, mercs and being F2P accomodate this pretty well. I still enjoy the classes, the world, the huge amount of content, the fact raids are huge with 54 people, the inherent difficulty the game provides, the lack of being completely meta-gamed with YouTube videos of every boss, and the sense that there’s still a huge mountain for me to climb before I ever worry about end-game.

    This was a really long-winded way of saying I still go back to and enjoy older games because they provide experiences and play-styles I can’t find in modern games. Despite hearing many of these games are dead, I find most still have active, seemingly healthy communities, and in general they seem far less toxic than WoW’s. They just aren’t 12 million strong.

    I think it will be very difficult for most older games to bring in new players. I know a number of people who refuse to return to an MMO once they’ve quit. I find it a weird stance to take but I know multiple friends who have this mentality. Once they quit, that’s it, no going back. I have no problem returning but I recognize I’m a niche player.

    TLDR version: I still like older games because they provide experiences and play-styles I can’t find in newer games.

  • Out of all of the old games that I never played, SWG would be the one I would be most interested in trying. I see the SWG EMU dev forum has a 3 day old post on working through different server issues. I would think this game might be high on the radar for many here given the praise for Pre-CU game play.

    Any feedback?

  • @Wilhelm: I think any game you stopped playing could be an older game. Anything from EQ to GW2. Anything that isn’t currently in the spotlight.

    @Sam: That’s a good point. The instant max level character is definitely enticing. The line between going too far and ruining the entire experience, though, is a tough one to walk.

    @Gankatron: SWG EMU is excellent and will launch hopefully sometime this summer.

  • For me to seriously go back to an older game there has to be a new increased effort by the team in charge of it. First thing, something new – like a graphical overhaul that shows that a lot of resources went into improving the game. It definitely would have to be something big and graphics is the most obvious thing to point to because that is what people see.

    I would have to see definite game play changes in the game that make me believe the creators now “get it” and realize where they have messed up in the past. That cannot be vague lip service but it needs to be convincing.

    I think you need these two to create a hype engine…once you get a momentum of people that are excited to go back then that attracts other older and new players.

    One example is actually FF:A realm reborn…they had the original which sucked…and they created hype, made major changes and attracted a lot of new and old people as if it was a totally new game…whether or not this is long term is another question but that methodology used to relaunch the game appeared to be successful.

  • More than anything, I want a game that puts the world and the ways the player interacts with that world first. Modern MMORPGs have gotten (for lack of a better term) too gamey. In attempting to appeal to more and more people, they have had to add more and more features to streamline or improve accessibility.

    That’s not to say I enjoyed half hour boat rides or corpse runs or spending half my time logged online looking for a group to play the game with. I am just aware of the socialization, exploration, and richer immersion that has been lost in moving away from these dated features without properly replacing them.

  • Over the holiday I had two weeks off. I was looking for MMO to play. I still have GW2 install, but I do’nt play anymore. I didn’t do the holiday event. I downloaded LOTRO and logged in for two days and gave up because it feel foreign and I didn’t feel like going through Moria just to catch up to current populations. I also installed Vanguard and sail in my boats to my old home that no longer there (due to rent). The server is very barren even in very central town like, Khal. I saw 3 PCs during evening hours. VG was the most fun since EQ1 I had. But now I don’t see how I can revive that.

    I subscribed to SWTOR for two months as my final decision. I leveled my BH to 55th and then i didn’t even bother to try out the new Hutt stuffs. STill got another month of sub left, it’s just sitting there. It took atleast a whole week to re-familiarize myself back into the game. I had a hard time w/ both VG and LOTRO too.

    SWTOR did feel like a Solo game, while VG and LOTRO you definitely need to play with someone else. When you return to a game, if you don’t have a few friends to come back with you, it would be really tough to get thing going again, especially when other Players are far and few.

    In GW2, I still see alot of people logging in. LA are full of people. I haven’t bother w/ the Last 3 Living Story and I don’t see anyone returning will bother with it either. The last fun thing was the Super Adventure thing.. which I didn’t even do the 2nd return.

    Unless you have incentive to re emerge yourself into the same game you’ve already experience, I don’t see how you can pull players who left without new content (such as new class, new race, new area, new dungeon, new shiny), and even then there’s the feeling of people having to live with whatever reason they left the game in the first place. One of the deciding factor for me for LOTRO was that I’m going to have to go thru MORIA again.. Ick. (decided to level my Captain instead of going forward w/ my Warden)

    I don’t see ESO or Wildstar will hold much interest next year. maybe a 6month-1 year distractions. My hope is with EQ NExt (not Landmark), ArchAge (alpha started for English) and Star Citizen. Need real Sandbox.

  • Gw2 is extremely good at keeping keeping the content flowing, I am not sure Vanguard or Eq2 even come close.

    I normally only do games for a month or so and then move on to other hobbies or life interest. I rarely will continue logging into a game on a daily basis. Normally when i get the MMO mood again there is something shiny and new to try out. UO is the only game I could return to. I never played EQ in its prime and trying to get into later has always ended pretty fast,.

  • I regularly played on EQMac before it closed last year. Bustling community and just like EQ of old, a few days of playing would net you tons of new friends. I’m sad it’s gone and ‘original EQ’ is gone with it.

    I don’t know if there is another MMO I’d go back to. Maybe a 2004 WoW server, but it wouldn’t have the same draw because the community in WoW wasn’t great from the beginning (although leagues better than it is now).

  • I’ve found that having friends playing an MMO is the biggest attraction to the game for me. However interest levels differ, and people will burn out at different times. I have considered going back to WoW, but every time I sit down and think about it I see my 200+ games that I have but haven’t played, or get pulled in for a quick Bf4, LoL, D3, SC2 or something else game.

    Worst part of any game is as soon as it doesn’t feel like a game any more but a job I won’t play it again.

  • Fidjit says: I may come back to an old MMO on a whiff of nostalgia – if I have to go your website and whip out the credit card first, that moment is already past.

    -when people say f2p don’t work they don’t mean for the player but for the company…if using your credit card is a barrier for you to go back, that means that is very unlikely that you will use it once you are back. And the more they go back without using the credit card, the more the cost the company need to pay (servers, GMs, e.t.c.). So yea, f2p doesn’t work long term for sure 🙂

    Misaligned says:I’ve become skeptical and/or patient enough now to wait and see how a game does. If people make it past the first 30 days….

    -More and more people are becoming sceptical (me too) especially after the last years flops(tortanic the biggest one). But if we all wait to see who will pay, aren’t the games doomed anyway?

  • I’m downloading EQ2. I have never played it, so I thought I’d give it a try… All MMOs but WoW have disappointed me and I’m soooo tired of people making “round tables” about games that aren’t even out, making science about games they have not even played yet. The hype in the MMO world is too great and makes every game old before they are over, sometimes even before they are released. TBH, I start to be extremely sceptical about the future of MMOs.

  • Back to WOW after TAGN inspired some nostalgia, and because still have buddies from an old guild that I can pal around with.

  • The only ‘old’ mmo I would go back to doesn’t have a company behind it, and doesn’t even exit right now. If EQClassic ever comes to fruition, I will play it. EQ-EMU on that god awful titanium client is just a terrible experience of old with new but still being old crap (engine) that doesn’t work right.

  • DAoC Origins just launched today, the 16th. It’s just a freeshard of course, but it is Dark Age with Shrouded Isles only, so Old Frontiers too.

    And since it just launched for real, all characters as of today were brand new. Makes for an interesting adventure with old friends that were moved to play too.

  • Thanks for the heads up, Rawblin- haven’t done anything with DAoC in 10 years but will definitely check out Origins.

  • I’ve actually gone back to GW2 over the past few weeks, leveled a warrior to 80 for the first time, which is my 6th class I’ve taken to 80. This time around I’m enjoying the WvW a lot more than the past couple times I’ve played GW2. Maybe just because I enjoy this class more than the others I’ve leveled. Having fun though.

  • I play GW2. I take a break.. Then I play. Then I take a break. I do the same with The Secret World.

    Nice thing is that, with those two games, there is no re-entry costs, there’s no sub being wasted, there’s just a fun game I can take or leave as the whim hits. Which is great, it allows me to play other games without having GW2/TSW hanging over my head…

    I can’t say that for some of the MMOs I’ve played and quit as I’m one, or two, or even three expansion packs behind. And I’m not going to drop $40 to $150 (depending on the game), plus subs for two of them on expansion packs to play an MMO that I’ll fully eat-up in 3 months and be just as bored with as I am with GW2 right now…

  • I rarely go back to older MMO. They dont tend to age well. Heck i dont even think there is a term “classic MMO”. It doesnt matter how popular an online game is. When its servers go down it’s ancient history.