For over 15 years now, MMOs have been a staple of my gaming life, though the first MMO I played was the beta test for Sierra’s The Realm from around 1996. (That game is still live, btw.) I began the world of paid MMOs with Earth & Beyond, which died an early death at the hands of EA, followed by Star Wars Galaxies (which died a horrible death at the hands of mismanagement by Sony and LucasArts (looking at you, Julio Torres)), followed by City of Villains (which died a lot later than it should have), GuildWars (Still going!), Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, DC Universe Online, the ever-lamented but sometimes fun Star Wars: The Old Republic (more EA mishandling), and Guildwars 2. I also tried a few others in there including Eve and The Secret World.
What most of these games have in common is they’ve adapted a successful free to play model to attract more players. Unfortunately, with that model a few things happen that are drastically hurting the games. I present to you, my list of seven deadly sins of MMOs that I think will eventually cause the MMO market to collapse and bring rise to single-player games again.
- Dumbing down of content: There is a great rush now, to get everyone to the endgame content as fast as possible. In order to do this, whole swathes of content that were epic and difficult and required cooperation, planning, and teams are now solo-able and nuisances at best. I do respect there being solo options for some content but I should never be able to fight off a Mandalorian clan alone or flush a camp of Sauruman’s Uruk out of a stockade in Rohan while wearing a bathrobe. In addition to making content a little too easy (an insult to veteran players) some of the systems are brought to a point where the flavor of the game suffers. Making trainers obsolete and putting you on a path so that your skills are the same as everyone elses, for instance. Or making crafting so generic that it just isn’t fun anymore; or, with quest rewards making it obsolete altogether. For the veteran player, these sins are almost unforgivable. I don’t want my hunter to be like everyone else. I want to be able to make some extra in-game cash by selling unique bows. Oh, look, you’re taking BOTH away from me? Thanks.
- “Features” over World Building: This is a sin most epitomized by Guildwars 2. It is a technically advanced, beautiful game with the dullest, most convoluted story I’ve ever seen. They went a little too far with the open world content and because of it, the game is aimless and boring. This has improved since launch – the game is much less aimless. But it is still godawful boring. Just because a game is shiny and looks really cool doesn’t make it a good game.
- Pay to Win: This one didn’t use to piss me off but it has begun. So you have a game and you’ve earned an impressive rank in it and given equipment to reflect that status. Then the game goes free to play and suddenly they offer you better equipment for special “points” you can earn or buy. $50.00 worth of points. Then a few months later they say, “Hey, remember that equipment you bought? Here’s a better version. For another $50.00 worth of points.” It never ends. To get anything done, you need the new equipment. To get the new equipment, you need to spend more money or wait patiently as you accrue points (which you can’t do because you need the damn new equipment!). You wind up spending more than if the game had remained subscription based. I get it, that’s how they earn the money, but it is a huge bait and switch and I’m more than sick of it.
- Lack of Real New Content: This and #1 piss me off equally. So now that you’ve rushed me to the end game and you’re promising more content to keep me handing you money one way or the other, I expect the new content to be NEW content. Don’t reskin what is already reskinned content that was boring as hell the first time and try to tell me its new. Don’t add ridiculous team queues when the existing queues don’t get enough people to want to play them. Sit down, with actual writers and artists, and design new shit. I’m looking DIRECTLY at you, Star Trek Online.
- Bad PvP: Well, to me, honestly almost all PvP is bad PvP. I once likened PvP to jerking off. Sure it feels good but in the end what have you accomplished? PvP “matching” has become a thing (and a well-needed thing) but so many MMOs are forgetting how to do this right and are falling into the Call of Duty trap. Matching novices with people who have been playing the game for months or years and they’re getting rolled. How the FUCK is this fun? These simpleton twitch-gamers make a career out of griefing other people and miss out on the other 80% of a game and I cannot fathom why. For the games that do match appropriate level, bravo. I still rarely PvP and when I do it’s because I’m in a foul mood and I want to take a little bit of that out on someone else.
- Poor Growth Planning: This goes a bit with dumbing down content a little bit, but I think it deserves its own sin. So take Lord of the Rings Online, for example. The game is HUGE. The first “volume” of the main story deals with a set of quests that coincide with the Ringbearer. You know how it was hinted that there was a distraction going on to keep Mordor off the trail of the Fellowship at first? Yeah, you’re the distraction for the first part of the game. It should take you from area to area from level one and finish you out ready to go into Moria for level 50. Unfortunately, in their streamlining attempts, you are level 50 very quickly in areas meant for level 25 and if you go to the level 50 areas you’re missing a third of the game. There’s no risk/reward balance to keep you interested in the early content which lays down the foundation of the game. This has become a symptom of many games as they grow. They streamline things and then you grow too fast making what was once important and beautiful places to be a nuisance at best and outright skipped completely at worst. I have a guild mate who insists on skipping the entire last five “books” of the first volume and I’ve begun to dread playing with him because of it.
- Revamps of Mechanics that Aren’t Broken: This one has actually caused me to quit games (DCUO). Taking a mechanic that works fantastically and changing it is bad enough, but resetting all of my damn points over and over and over again until I spend half a night just resetting my character to a semblance of where he was not 24 hours before is unforgivable. Stop. It’s bad enough that to get to this point you’ve already committed the first sin, but then you top it off by making me have to reconfigure everything about my character is intolerable. Oh, and you make a feature that I worked my ASS off to get buyable by spending a “Point”? That’s just insulting.
Bonus Sin: Pandering to the WoW crowd. Stop trying to make your game like WoW. If I wanted to play WoW, I would. I’d rather play something with a bit more substance.
LOOK WHO CAME: