Would You Play An MMO With Wipes?

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Would you play an MMO with regular wipes? I would! The idea of a fresh start can be exhilarating. A wipe is like a chance to do it all over again differently. Everyone is once again on the same playing field, and the fate of the server is unknown.

The idea of wiping a server regularly would really work best in a game that emphasizes the journey, and not one where the journey is incredibly long. Regular wipes in a game like EverQuest would not have made sense. Regular wipes in UO, however, could work. Narrowing things down slightly more, wiping in a sandbox emphasizing survival and the world itself over individuals would have even better results.

In a way, although it’s not a true ‘wipe’ per se, WoW ‘reset’s every major expansion. Someone starting on day 1 of an expansion can probably catch up to someone who never stopped playing for ten years, but it’s not quite the same in a themepark due to the world not being influenced by the reset.

Playing an MMO that wiped regularly could be fun. I’m trying to think in what ways this could work. On one hand I love the idea of regularly have that reset to give me the ‘fresh start’. I love it. On the other hand I wonder if after a while thing would get old and the depth might go away. The MMO would have to focus so intensely on the world itself rather than character progression, and move along at quite a fast pace.

This wipe/reset mechanic could be incorporated into the game’s design and not simply be a complete wipe, but that becomes gimmicky and shallow if not committed to fully or done without finesse. I’m just rambling now, but I’m trying to brainstorm ways in which a world can radically reset — characters and all — without progress of some kind being lost. Think that one over and share your ideas if you come up with any.

  • One idea of been daydreaming of recently is a good permadeath system. One that lets you convey bonuses to your descendants so you are essentially starting new characters but also progressing your bloodline.

    I was thinking about this more in terms of a game that has playable dragons since really, no game has done that really well yet. Once your dragon has reached a certain stage you start a brood with another player. Stats from both sides are randomized and eggs are laid. When you die you have the option to create a new character from one of these eggs and gain whatever bonuses go with that. Humans would have a similar system but really it was more fun to daydream about dragon bloodlines 🙂

    The PVP system would be that dragons drop the best crafting mats. And the only drakes and dragons in the world are players. So you are very hunted.

  • Wipes can be risky. Part of what keeps people playing after a time is that attachment they have to their characters… and their equipment. Sever that and some people will walk away.

    On the flip side, the best times I ever had in TorilMUD was after pwipes, when the old crews would get back together and level up again. There were not many wipes, but they happened. Some people would drop out, unwilling to go through the whole thing again, but it would form tight bonds amongst those who stuck it out.

    I think the closest you can get on an MMO is what SOE did with the EQ progression servers. When the last round launched a few years back, that was the most fun I had playing EQ since probably 1999. Not only was everybody level 1 again, but the field was mostly made up of old hands, so there was a real senses of camaraderie. I want them to do that again, badly. (And this is SOE… or Daybreak… so of course they will do it badly! ha ha)

    I would also be interested to see WoW try some sort of fresh, no transfers and no heirloom equipment server experiment. It seems unlikely to ever happen, but I can dream.

  • @Wilhelm: My favorite time in WoW was around the first few months of launch when they kept opening new servers monthly. I would start new on every single one of them and get up to raiding level just to start over again. I loved it. I was a weird masochist or something. It was always that fresh start to do it again. I think EQ’s progression servers are a step in the right direction. Emulated servers are as well.

    @Gringar: Wow, cool idea. 🙂 I like the dragon concept. That’s something we haven’t seen explored often — playing something other than a humanoid character.

  • 50/50 on the idea, and its a topic that was heavily discussed on the DF forums in the MVP section.

    On the plus side, much like an expansion, you have a set date for a large number of people to start, and that leads to momentum of player activity, which is critical and a lot of fun.

    The negative is you also make it easier for people to walk away. Say a game wipes once every 3 months. If you are in the first month, and know your gaming time will be more limited the next two months, you will be more likely to walk away and return after a wipe (if your remember/care enough to return). If we are talking an MMO with a sub model, that’s not good. Even if we are using a different business model, the loss of player activity isn’t good either.

    The counter to this is having some sort of scoring system, where playing to the end is beneficial, and not just to the top players but to everyone. Crude example; you carry over 10% of everything after a wipe, so getting more ‘stuff’ is always helpful. That can lead to balance issues, but it at least provides a reason for people to keep playing right up until the wipe.

    Anyway, its a very complex issue, and one that can either really help a game or absolutely sink it. A game designed from the ground up to support the system could, at least in theory, make it work.

  • I would not play a game with a server side progression reset.
    Remember the big backlash from the first WoW expansion the burning crusade, where people felt like thier progression has been reset? People do not like that at all.

    A client reset like perma death is ok.
    It might have made a game like UO more interesting…

    @Keen: I visited massively several times a day. Since massively is shutting down. Can you recommend a new site for me to read my daily mmo and f2p news?

  • Many of the shadowbane guys wish they incorporated wipes. I think it works really well in games like DF and darkfall which are basically about fort capturing. It would also let you run different battle setups. So for example GW2 could have different maps and cycle them around. This lets you add stuff for expansions and keeps things interesting.

    Civilization Online I am pretty sure will be incorporating wipes. I am keeping an eye on that one, it looks interesting.

  • How about a new server every 6 months? That way you can start over regularly but still have your old characters to go back and play if you wish.

    This would be especially attractive in sandbox games where the results of a server every 6 months could be substantially different from other servers- think player-run territories that can be conquered.

  • Wipes can be good and bad, just too tough to tell.

    With that said, I agree the best times in MMOs are the beginnings when everyone is starting fresh, but tough to tell someone months or years of work will be removed. Easy for them to walk away, like Syn mentioned.

    One solution would be to have rolling servers, say a new one everyone 6 months, or some other trigger like X boss kills. Then there would be a base line to keeping older servers around, say Y amount of active logins. Once a server is deemed to be wiped, a player has the option to transfer the existing character to the forever server. Actually, sounds like an interesting concept, which would require a lot of fine tuning and work 🙂

  • I also used to start a character on every new EQ server as they were added, which for several years was pretty often. Some of those characters stuck and some didn’t but it was always fun.

    However, it was rare that I jumped completely to the new server (I did when Luclin (the server) came up and also Stromm, which was the genuine new start, no transfers server). More often than not, after a few weeks I drifted back to my established characters on older servers.

    So, yes I would probably play an MMO designed around regular wipes but I very much doubt it would ever be my main MMO, or not for long. I’d be more likely to make new characters at each reset, play for a week or two and then go back to an MMO that didn’t wipe until the next reset came along.

  • Hey,

    Have you guys looked into das-tal-game.com ?

    They are doing server wipes, based server story

  • I’m pretty sure A Tale in the Desert does this already…It’s primarily a crafting based game with server wide cooperative progression as more technologies are developed by the player base, eventually leading to a world wipe back to the beginning.

  • I don’t think I’d like it. It would lose the MMO feeling for me as my character would just be temporary. Hard to identify with them.

  • How about instead of wipes they do what Turbine did with Asheron’s Call and had monthly content updates that added new dungeons, quests, lore, items and land masses.

    Even though patch day was always buggy, everyone couldn’t wait for it because of all the new content. If an old 1999 game can provide monthly content updates, why can’t games today? It would be much better than wiping all the time.

  • It wasn’t an MMO but I think Diablo 2 did it well with the Ladder servers which transitioned to the regular closed battlenet servers at the end of a ladder season. That way you could have your cake and eat it too. I very much dislike the way that WoW handles it by releasing content that rapidly completely eclipses the old content. EQ managed it much better than WoW at least for the first few years. Because even though most expansions raised the level cap, added lots of raiding, and lots of equipment, there was still a lot to be said for gearing up through each of the expansions various content batches.

    Anyways I’d like to see an MMO that has hard resets when expansions hit but moves your old characters and gear to some more central server that is always an expansion behind. And those expansions should add content across all levels of play.

  • I think i would be fine with wipes if it had meaning.
    -No Character respecs. The wipe is your respec.
    -Carry over of some kind of achievement or Minor item from run to run.
    -Choose your own adventure style story. You only see certain paths based on your choice after wipe.

    I would really dig that.

  • I’m a big fan of account-based progression, which current MMOs haven’t dialed in very well. LotRO and Rift basically kill alts by punishing you for wanting to have alt-characters and take them seriously. The question is whether the general playing public would accept this, or completely hate losing their characters and detach from the game.

  • I’m not really interested in a progression system that resets on someone else’s schedule. I’m so slow at levelling these days that under a system like that I’d be permanently stuck at a low level.

    I do kinda like Gringar’s idea of descendants inheriting power from characters that die. So each generation is slightly stronger than the last. I believe the strategy game Massive Chalice does something like this – no reason why it couldn’t work for a MMO too.

    Rather than random permadeath, I’d give each character a natural lifespan, say up to 100 hours of game time. Within that time limit, let the player choose when to pass the torch on to the next generation. A longer lifespan would make the individual character stronger. A shorter one would accelerate meta-progression of the family line.

    But honestly, I think I’d prefer more MMOs without vertical progression, like the GW2 expansion. Then there’s no need for resets or racing to the top. You can just play to have fun.

  • @Morreion: New server every 6 months would be awesome. I would absolutely love it. I think it’s technically unsound for companies to support running that many servers, though. Is there a way around the technical limitations of opening so many new servers?

    @Zyler: MMORPG.com or Reddit.com/r/mmorpg are my sources for news on MMOs these days. I also visit Shacknews.com daily for regular gaming news. I also frequent the official sites of developers making games I’m interested in.

    @OrPros: I’ve looked at it very, very briefly. I’ll look into it more. Thanks!

    @Damage: AC was all about that journey. It could take years and people would never reach the end or run out of things to do. That’s another concept that I’ll write about today. 🙂

    @Sneth: That’s sorta the concept I was alluding to toward the end of my post. If wipes could be incorporated into gameplay and have something of what you did in the previous wipe carry over, it could be neat.

  • How about a PvE game that segregates players by number of deaths?

    0 death characters all in one instance
    single death charcters in another
    2 deaths
    3-5 deaths
    6-10 deaths
    11-20 deaths
    20+ deaths

    When you die, you revert to first level but keep your gear, allowing you to advance quicker on subsequent deaths.

    At the end of each “season”, the highest level characters in each instance get landmarks named after them which carry to the next seasons. The lower the deaths, the more prestige associated with the landmark. Add new content at each season, and over time locations in the expanding world become associated with specifc players.

  • Perhaps it’s been said (I didn’t read all the comments – sorry!), but if a game could run two or more servers, it seems like they could wipe one periodically, while maintaining the other. Make server transfers free from the wiping server to the forever server in case people are attached to their toons and don’t want to lose them, but don’t allow transfers in the other direction. Everybody has to start fresh after each wipe.

    Given that WoW has a ton of servers, this seems like it would be something really easy for them to do. WoW could even charge for those server transfers. I wonder why they don’t do it?

  • Permadeath, but you always control 4 characters at once. This dampens the impact of a death to most, but allows for user-generated lore and legendary heroes.