Thoughts on Staying Power #MMORPG #EQ2 #SWTOR #WoW

 

This post may come off a little negative, but that’s not how it’s intended. I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to why SWTOR didn’t grab me, or rather, it did, but couldn’t keep me. One of the major issues I had wasn’t really an issue at all, but is just how gamers perceive things. There are a lot of ‘things’ that I’m used to having in games, thanks to those who have been around for 5+ years. I realize it’s incredibly unfair to judge a game that releases today against a game that has been around for many years because after all that game has had time to grow – but – as a gamer, we are not interested in how things were 5 years ago, or how they will be 5 years from now. What we are interested in (and I use the term ‘we’ loosely here before someone throws a fit) is what is available NOW. At this exact moment that we are playing. If I can play a game that offers me 5 things that I really want from my video game, as opposed to a game that offers me 9 things that I really want from my video game, which game do you think I’m going to play? It doesn’t matter how old or how new a game is – in order to KEEP me playing, it’s going to have to appeal to those things on my list, and lets face it, the older games have had more time to work out what those ‘things’ are and to add them.

I feel very strongly that in order to actually compete with games that are 5-10 years old, games that are being released today need to take that progress into account. Dusty made a very good point yesterday regarding SWTOR – if you are leveling alts you can’t simply say “well, I leveled in Balmorra last time, so this time I’ll go to planet X instead.” There’s no alternate rout for you to bring your characters, where as (as an example) in EQ2 if you leveled in Thundering steppes last time, you’re more than welcome to head to Nektulos Forest. Or Butcherblock Mountains. Or do dungeons. In WoW you also have the choice of where to spend your time. In Rift? Not so much. SWTOR? Also not so much. Again this is an unfair comparison and I know it is, because the two later games are much newer, and thus haven’t had the time to add new content – but that’s simply how it is. In order to compete with games that are 5-10 years old, you must think of yourself as one of those games. I realize that there’s only so much manpower a company can dedicate to a game, and I also realize that this is pretty much an impossible task – but for us selfish gamers, that’s how we’re thinking. We’re going to constantly compare any new game to those we have played previously. Those older games have already gotten their hands on us, we’ve already got ties to them – new games need a way to get those hands on us in a MUCH faster way, so that we’ll stay.

When it comes down to it, that’s why SWTOR didn’t have the staying power required for me to keep playing. Were the stories amazing? Sure they were, I loved them. I loved having choices for my characters to make. I experienced very few bugs (personally, I know others have a long list of bugs), and datacrons and exploration were fun. The problem is (aside from the story lines and character choices) I can get those things in any other game on my list, plus more sandbox features which is key to me sticking around in any game. I play alts, they need choices that will be different from my mains. Sure, I can choose a different *story* for them, but they’re basically doing the exact same things (as long as we’re the same factions) as my main, minus the class quests. They’re visiting the same zones, collecting the same datacrons, and when I dislike a zone like Balmorra (those lifts.. that map.. OUCH) I have no alternate rout. Now, maybe game companies have given up on trying to retain players and instead are working to build up their first-time sales, which is completely fine if that’s the way they’re trying to operate. Obviously that’s not how I’d prefer things done but hey I’m not a gaming company trying to make money, I’m just a player.

Anyhow, those were just some of my thoughts on player retention. As always, happy gaming, no matter where you find yourself!

 

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7 Responses to Thoughts on Staying Power #MMORPG #EQ2 #SWTOR #WoW

  1. Calreth says:

    I have a different problem compared to yours. I do a couple of warzones, space missions and flashpoints here and there, and I found myself outleveling zones too fast. From what I understand, progression was supposed to be from Balmorra to Nar Shadda, but I found myself at Nar Shadda and completely skipping over Balmorra. Same thing happened with Tatooine and Alderaan for me. I see Balmorra and Nar Shadda as being equivelent, much like how TS and Nek is in EQ2. Same for Tatooine and Alderaan. Other than having to visit planets for class specific quests, it is possible to choose between leveling on either, and only one of them.

    That being said, I do find myself being disappointed with new games launching without features that us “vets” are used to. Shared and guild banks are to be staple in an MMO, but games like Rift and SWTOR were still launched without them.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    I see two questions here:

    1. How many players want to play multiple characters?

    2. How many players adhere rigidly to the suggested progression path?

    Game companies have access to vast amounts of data on this that we just don’t have. I’m a player who plays a lot of alts, very soon rising into double figures in any MMO I stick with for longer than a few months. I’m also a player who tends almost completely to ignore any suggested path regardless of the potential detriment that may cause to the character in the long term. In short, I tend to play all the characters I want and have them do anything that takes my fancy.

    This playstyle is best served, as Stargrace says, by established games with deep and layered content. I very much doubt, however, that it’s the most common playstyle. It may not even be sufficiently common to be commercially significant. I know I read a while ago that the average MMO player has no more than two significant characters in any MMO. (Wish I could remember where I read that so I could cite the source, and it was a good few years ago now so it might not be the case any more even if it was true then).

    I personally didn’t find Rift as restrictive in choices as others have suggested. Like Calreth, I out-leveled most zones long before I had fully explored them. Some I had barely set foot in. I have three level 50s and a level 47 in Rift and they have barely duplicated any PvE content at all. I suspect that rather than see new MMOs try to match the wide-ranging content of older games we’re more likely to see tighter progression paths and more directed content. It absolutely won’t suit my playstyle, but I’ve seen far more complaints over the years from people who don’t know what to do next than I have from people who want more choice and I think game designers fear players becoming confused by too many choices far more than they fear them becoming frustrated by too few.

  3. Scopique says:

    I wonder if there’s a real disconnect between the development process and the rubber on the road that allows this to keep happening. People WILL say that WoW or EQ2 or other, older games with gobs of features have had years to add those features, but they’ve also had years to allow players to acclimate to those features. But new games are sent into the world with a fraction of the features that players have become accustomed to, so the question is, why? I can’t believe that these developers are living in a bubble, ignorant of the high-profile, most requested, most popular features of other games. I know that it’s likely that some features are added while the new game is actively developed, and that feature creep would run amok if they just looked at what others were doing, but so many things are notible for their absence (guild banks, as Calreth mentioned, is glaring in SWTOR).

    It’s almost like the games are DESIGNED with the modular mindset these days, not because they expect to add those things in later, but because we had lived with those older games adding those features in piecemeal. Rather then planning to give us the best experience right out of the gate (matching as best they can with what’s on the market already), they are telling us that they’re doling out features “because [Insert Game X] didn’t have that at launch either”. I don’t agree with that; if players leave Game X where they had a 100-200 person guild and relied heavily on the guild bank, porting that guild to a new game that doesn’t have a guild bank isn’t just inconvienient, it’s downright hostile to making the player transition a smooth one.

  4. pkudude99 says:

    I don’t think your post was negative at all. It’s a post I’ve been wanting to make with regard to SWTOR for a while, but haven’t really thought of how I wanted to word it.

    It’s kinda sad, as MMO’s do seem to have a fairly high barrier of entry to make a new one anymore, and the *need* to include a lot of convenience features that other MMO’s have paved the way with only raises that bar. SWTOR’s lack of many of these features is really taking the shine off the game for me. I’m still enjoying it enough that I’m not planning to cancel/stop playing for a while yet, but it still grates at times.

    So far as repeating the leveling content goes, I’m not minding that so much, but I think a big part of that is that I’ve got my alts spread out a bit in levels now, so if I didn’t like Taris on the 1st toon through, I can go play something else on a world I did like, so that I’m breaking it all up a bit.

  5. gamerladyp says:

    Actually, we have had the choice to skip most of the content of worlds after the capital planets. We did as many of the side quests as we could in Nar Shadda so that we only had to do the class quests on Alderaan and could save that planet’s side quests for later. We’ve been able to do that with most of the worlds of the same level so far.

    We decide what is make or break feature wise. It is really easy to talk yourself out of giving change a try. It is really easy to decide to be patient and wait for maturity. I’m not to end game yet, that is what killed Rift for me, so I can’t say what staying power I’ll see there. Perception shapes reality when gaming. Some quality of life features can be great, but I can decide whether or not I can live without them. I can also decide whether I hate not having them and thus I transfer some of that hate to the game. And some “quality of life” features are actually harmful to a game in the long run. I don’t want to see people zooming through content getting to the end and then being bored. I think games should slow us down a little bit more than we’ve talked games like WoW out of doing, but there is a fine line between slowing us down and just making us spin our wheels. Sometimes giving us all the candy we want is actually bad for us. But that is really hard to define. My opinion of the guild system that WoW added to Cata is that it was extremely harmful to the game and to our guild, our alliances, etc. and that was really unexpected.

    Games have to pay for themselves, decisions get made on most bang for your buck, etc. But I was surprised after seeing Rift have to implement a guild bank so urgently after release, why SWTOR didn’t have one. I know I want a bank that is really solid and hacker proof, so maybe those kinds of controls are a lot more complex than I think. I’d rather have no bank than one that could be easily targeted by malice. And if the development is part of a much larger and grander scale effort (guild capital ships for example), then maybe it is better to wait and get it all together?

  6. Shar says:

    I took part in a couple of SWTOR weekends and the one thing I went in with was not to get over enamored with the newness of the game. Everyone almost always enjoys the first few levels/days of any mmo. The newness and the fascination with learning how to do things within *this* other mmo. SWTOR had that too but I was taken in with Rift by being wowed at the early game and the so called dynamic zone events. I subbed there for 3 months but didn’t even make it to the end of the sub. The dynamic events just turned into the same old things from zone to zone. Gameplay started to get very monotonous and no different than any other mmo I had played really.

    But the real decision that made me quit Rift (and not even order SWTOR) was because of the features within EQ2 I had gotten so used to that were nowhere to be found in these newer games. The guild banks, the shared banks, HOUSING, appearance tabs, the broker buy/sell game, guild halls, decorating, crafting, heck even the mailbox keeping your mail stored forever upto a certain limit (Rift deleted all mail after 20-30 days). All these things I just mentioned is what kept me logging into eq2 practically everyday when not raiding or general adventuring. Sure I didn’t expect so many of these features to be in Rift at the start but I didn’t want to wait around for who knows how long till they started coming in, if they did at all. The mailbox thing really irked me I tell you. I would craft all these things and put them on the broker and hardly anything ever sold (I was on Faeblight). It was a chore and a half having the auctions expire and end up in the mailbox only to have to clear it out or lose everything. I had one of each crafter, just ugh. And even though I haven’t played eq2 in over a year, if I logged in today, everything I left on the broker would still be there. My mailbox would not overflow or expire, the crafting would still mean more than it did in Rift. I would have to pay rent to get into my house but it would be there. Etc etc.

    So when I played SWTOR beta, I was looking out for all these things. The broker interplanetary market thing was a fubar’d mess. Crafting/harvesting isn’t even needed – “hey sidekick, go do this while I nap”. No housing/interior decorating. Everyone of your class looked exactly the same for the ~20 levels I played. Good lord. The convenience factor that eq2 spoiled me on was so not there. So what if the gameplay was somewhat polished, the stories were neat and things like that. The game certainly did not have enough to grab my $60 until things may or may not get patched in.

    My personal feeling is those who are so enamored with SWTOR today are either new to the mmo genre, Star Wars fanatics or just looking for something to waste time on. I can’t imagine very many mmo vets thinking this one will be the one mmo to rule them all for a long long time. Breaking up with something you think you love is always hard to do. For me, time to look forward to the next challenger to step up to the plate. (Sorry this got as long as it did).

  7. Carson says:

    Well said!

    When it comes to judging games, I’m not some professional judging diving or gymnastic performances at the Olympics – I don’t CARE what the “degree of difficulty” is.

    Sure, it’s hard to match up to the sheer tonnage of content that 7-year-old MMOs like WoW and EQ2 can bring to the table. But on the other hand, it’s hard for those older games to come close to matching the “new car smell” of a newly released title – content that is no better than that in an old game might appear better just because it’s unfamiliar. So both camps of developers have advantages and disadvantages.

    Ultimately, it will come down to who can provide me with the greatest entertainment delight for my budget – and that budget is a budget of time, not money.