Sunday, August 23, 2009

MMO Novelty and Social Networking

We are at a turning point in the MMO genre. It is a point which will bring about either the downfall or the pervasion of the grandest display of video games seen yet. Up to this point, I feel MMOs have survived entirely on the novelty of playing in a large, persistent world. Players were willing to do very un-game-like activities because that's just how it is in an MMO. By the time grinding catches up with them, they are bound to the world with social ties--guilds and friends they've played with over the months.

The novelty is wearing thin, particularly in the combat area. More and more MMOs are appearing to be copies of each other because developers can't get past those poorly designed grinds. Aion, Champions Online, Fallen Earth, SWTOR: all have the same combat system. And guess what? WoW pretty much popped the MMO cherries of any gamer who would begin to try an MMO. Please stop with the "tried and true" single-target, hotbar doldrums. If you stay down this path, then the only way gamers are going to migrate to your new world is if all his social ties move there, and you will lose that battle also.

I'm projecting my feelings for Aion, but I'm willing to bet other players feel the same way. Aion deviates little from the beaten path. The only way I will be paying for Aion is if several of my RL and gaming friends decide to play it.

The only feature I am looking forward to is grouping. Apparently you can kill monsters in groups as a means to get XP, which is reminiscent of EQ, FFXI, and all those aged MMORPGs. What I am afraid of is that this feature gets American-ized out, and the grossly optimal way to level is solo-play. Fewer players willing to group means fewer groups.

So should NCSoft remove my beloved parties, I will be very reluctant to start paying them. I'm not going to torture myself just to chat and play with my friends. If I'm that socially depraved, then I'll start using Facebook more.

And here's the kicker. With all the social networking outlets, with all the social apps and casual games found on all these sites, MMOs will become obsolete. That is, unless they offer something these venues cannot: engaging progression that can't fit inside a Facebook app. If players get the same rehashed game systems over and over, they will learn to stop trying new MMOs. Less players means less revenue, and for a world that requires millions of dollars to create and maintain, that is not a sustainable business model. MMOs will die out.


Anonymous said...

Yup, I agree with you about the latter part. I think that the internet itself has become the kind of huge virtual world experience that a lot of the earlier pioneers dreamed about. And if hanging out online is more absorbing than most games then people will quietly skip the games and chill on twitter instead.

motstandet said...

I think MMOs and Social Networks should merge, and they'd both be better for it.

How awesome would it be to have a web-facing aspect to your favorite MMO? You could still "friend" all your non-gaming acquaintances, upload your RL photos and game screenshots to albums, tag your guildmates or relatives, and update your status or microblog. "Going to Boston on Monday. Won't be in game." Now your family and guild know where you are.

Tesh said...

Mot, that seems like the natural progression of the beastie. Some of the proposed changes are along those lines.

It will definitely be interesting to see where things go from here. I wholly agree that the "that's just how it is in MMOs" mentality is past its expiration date, and those who want significant success in the future will learn to leverage the medium in more interesting ways.

I know I'm already sick of the relatively low-quality "gaming" in MMOs, and if I want a social bender, I'll pop onto Facebook or an MMO without sub fees.