Sunday, September 10, 2006

MMO Industry Rant: Feature Dark and Light!

Well this is essentially a rant about the MMO industry, and how developers are slowly killing a genre.

First Thing, in accordance to some comments I received. I'll just be listing off the features of a game, one by one, and saving paragraphs for an actual review.

Best example of the industry to date is Dark and Light, so here's the info.

Country of Origin: Madagascar
- "Largest MMO", massive world
- You can fly on dragons around the world, where you control the dragon.
- Lots of modes of transportation, including snowboarding, gliding, riding tamed monsters, dragons, air balloons, swimming, and so on.
- Guilds design, and build their own fortress, with the ability to seize other fortresses
- Political system having a heirarchy, and voting, set taxes and such over the land.
And more information can be found at the site.

Now, from reading that list, and the FAQ on the site, one would consider this the best game in existence. covering all aspects of a character, from fighters, explorers, economists, and politicians. However, this is where the rant comes in. This was all promised to be in the game in roughly 2000-2001, when the game was conceived. It was promised to be released Spring 2003, and quickly it had a following of roughly 500,000 users on the forums. But as that deadline neared, and very little had been heard about any sort of beta, the community was a little anxious. A news announcement stated it would be delayed, which it was. And then again, and again, and again. Until FINALLY being released February 2006, this of course was after 6 months of beta testing, where during the first 1-2 weeks, the server crashed non stop.

Finally upon release, there was utter disappointment, roughly 10% of the features promised were implemented, there was still errors, and most of the community soon after abandoned the game. I'm not sure how many play now, but albeit very few. Had I not been following it since 2001, I normally wouldn't even bother posting it, but..There is a pattern to be seem.

I'd say roughly 50% of the current MMO's in production, have postponed releases and removed features (see Spellborn preview, coming soon, for more evidence). Either the developers and game designers aren't aware of what can be done programmatically; or they are rushing games to try and get them out as quick as possible. Both of which are severely hurting the MMO industry. We are not only getting less game now, but its not even going through the proper channels of production to ensure it is sustaining, competitive, balanced, and profitable.

This pattern has outright killed many games, see Wish for an example, Star Wars Galaxy for another, Shadowbane, Horizons...list goes on and on. Companies are promising ANYTHING to get a little piece of the "hype" market share, knowing outright that they cant deliver on their promise. So they put the community through delay after delay after delay, while slowly removing features. The industry seems to believe they can make money on hype, maybe they do in preorders. But lets do some quick math:

1x Pre-Order = $60.00
- comes with 1 month free.
1x Box Set = $70.00
1x Month Subscription = $15.00

So instead of making a decent game, albeit taking a wee bit more time to make it, and getting the box price, of $70.00, plus the countless months said person is going to play for at $15.00, most are choosing to abuse their hype and collect the $60.00 one time fee from a user who is probably going to quit in the first 2 weeks from such a low quality game. And it doesn't help that most of the pre-orders are refundable. Does this make sense to anyone? Its a damn good way to go broke is what it is.

I'm hoping, after countless "big hype" games fall victim to this, the industry will smarten up and start giving real deadlines, with real features, so we can all stop getting our hopes smashed.

Stay tuned next time for my second rant, focusing on MMO design.


Surukei said...

Yeah no kidding, I was part of the D/L hype/dissapointment, in fact I got my money returned to me. Garbage.

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