Saturday, May 02, 2009

Another Plea for MMOs to have an End of Game

Tobold's I'm taking a break from World of Warcraft post today got me thinking again about why can an MMO not have an end of game. Please note that end of game is very different from end-game. End-game is a device to try and keep you subscribed forever. End of game is a mechanism to allow you to leave the game with some feeling of completion. This is a similar line of thinking to that which inspired my thinking about perma-death.

I wrote my thoughts in a comment to Tobolds post but I am going to be lazy and copy them here for my own records:

Why do we even have to justify our decision to stop playing a game for a while. Moving on is an entirely healthy phenomenon in my opinion and yet there seems to be a suggestion of treachery about it. It is no reflection on the quality of a game or its community that you have gotten bored and want to do something else for a while.

Perhaps this is a fatal flaw in the current mmo business model. If Blizzard or Turbine or CCP's business model is based on the assumption that I and my fellow consumers will sign up to their offering for life to the exclusion of all other forms of entertainment then I am sorry but that doesn't work for me and I doubt it works for very many others either. I want variety. No matter how good a game is I want to play more than one game in my life and that means I have to move on.

Here are a couple of suggestions off the top of my head for a more customer friendly mmo business model.

1. An episodic or time limited mmo that has naturally occurring end points at which people "finish the game" and move on.


2. Thinking big how about an "internet of mmos". An overarching virtual world network linking all of the various mmos together allowing you to move your characters between virtual worlds at will. Tadd Williams Otherland comes to mind (which incidentally is soon to be an mmo in its own right).

I admit I haven't yet figured out how the above schemes would help companies make higher profits but in the long run products that do what the customer wants generally beat out those that do what the company making them wants.


Christopher Weeks said...

This isn't exactly what you're talking about, but I wanted to point out that A Tale in the Desert has an ending -- in case you're not familiar. The whole game ends every couple of years. Otherwise, I agree with your points.

mbp said...

Thank you for reminding me Christopher. Although I have never played ATID I have heard about it and now that I think about it the ending of the tale every couple of years is an excellent example of an "episodic" end of game. I must read up more to find out why the developers chose to do this but it does seem to be one way to avoid the necessity to pad out the "end-game" with ever more frustrating repetitive content just to keep people online.

Do most players leave after the end of a tale? As I understand it many don't and they stick around for the next one. That might provide some comfort to developers who are afraid they will lose all they customers if go down this route.

Deborah Beale said...

Hey, I'm Tad Williams wife just browsing the stuff coming in today... Loved what you had to say about Otherland MMO. We've got a new novel (very much influenced by Otherland, for my part) coming in August in yr part of the world, but if you want free chapters, email me on our site

Anyway - thanks. Happy gaming, Deborah Beale

mbp said...

Hello Deborah, I am currently reading the Otherland series (about half way through book 4) and am enjoying it a lot. Please pass on my thanks to Tadd. Will watch out for the new novel when it comes out.

Christopher Weeks said...

Re: ATitD, most players either quit long before the end or stick around.

Tesh said...

Wiqd and I have bandied this about for a while now as well. I tend to think that MMO game design that tries to avoid an end winds up with mudflation and deeper exposure to treadmill mechanics, sabotaging itself (and outmoding old content) as it goes on (and on and on and on).

Truly sustainable worlds can't rely on DIKU design.

That suggests two things to me: DIKU MMOs need to have an end (play in chapters, periodic resets, whatever), or MMOs meant to be perpetual "living worlds" need to jettison DIKU design.

mbp said...

Hi Tesh, we seem to be coming to similar conclusions. I like your "Perpetual Living World" solution. Even though it doesn't have an actual "end of game" I think it still gives players the freedom to set their own goals and leave when they are done. It has the great advantage as well as allowing new players to start at any time and not to be stuck on their own on the lower rungs of the levelling curve alone when the main bulk of players have moved on. This sounds like a good way for a game to achieve longevity.

Tesh said...

Agreed. Perhaps that might make for a greater divide between "virtual worlds" and "MMO games", but I'm all for more virtual world design, with longevity in mind. That's what I thought MMOs were going to be in the first place.

Anton said...

My opinion...We could use some more MMO's that have a conclusion to them, and some more persistent worlds. But there's still nothing wrong with the current ones...There are just so many of them now that we do need some more options.

I'm interested in playing one where you get to build your own buildings, plant your own trees and crops, and explore an ever-changing world--Including a living ecosystem where the balance between plants, herbivores, and carnivores is in a constantly fluctuating state. Doesn't really fit into your End of Game plea, though.

Thinking about how to make an MMO end, I'd suggest shortening the game dramatically, then treating the game as sequels beyond that. Maybe once you move your character onto a sequel, your character can't go back, so the world could be changed from one sequel to the next.

wow gold fraud said...

Yeah, now I'm wondering also why mmo games don't have an ending. Like in world of warcraft, you will gain up to 75+ levels but still the story and your quest to azeroth didn't stop. Maybe, because this is the industry cycle of the game.

mbp said...

@Anton you are right of course it would be nice to have more choices. I am looking for an "end of game" because I like finishing games and moving on. Your Living Ecosystem on the other hand sounds like a perfect example of a Perpetual Living World such as @Tesh was describing. I do think it is unfortunate though that the linear progression grind model has become so dominant.