the soapbox

The Soapbox is home to our staff’s wild opinions on MMORPG topics near and dear to us. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

The Soapbox: Can MMOs eradicate pay-to-win?

You know what sucks about getting old? Apart from the adult diapers and the dying? Yeah, it’s the seeing things you love retconned into things that you don’t love. That’s basically the opposite of fun, and so it goes here lately with me and MMORPGs.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still playing them in the hope that they’ll dial back the casino stylings in favor of fun gameplay and ambitious feature sets.

But really, why would any for-profit development studio do that when a generation of gamers thinks that gamble boxes, cash shops, triple-dipping business models, and pay-to-win are not only acceptable but preferable?

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The Soapbox: Making your own fun in MMORPGs

This guest Soapbox was commissioned through Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign and is authored by Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, a developer at Missing Worlds Media. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

Howdy, all. I’m Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, project lead at City of Titans, and I’d like to spend a few moments talking about the things that we, as game designers, can’t do for players.
I call it making your own fun.

There are several things that make an MMO an MMO, but one of the most important elements is the entire “massively” part of “massively multiplayer online.” More than just a team, and bigger than a raid, it’s everyone around you.

And people get rewards from being in this ocean of players, whether they’re showing off their best armor, getting a little help in a public event, or playing the auction house economy. None of those systems would work without a lot of other people around.

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The Soapbox: The trap of the I-win button

This guest Soapbox was commissioned through Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign and is authored by a longtime reader named Syndar. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

Everyone grows up knowing that it is more fun to win at whatever we’re doing than to lose, and so it goes in the gaming industry too. No matter what genre of games we play online or offline, we want to be the winner, some of us by any means or method. And so some people look for the easiest way to win.

The superficial point of games on the whole may be simple enjoyment, but those who look beneath seek to figure out the mechanics and maximize their performance too. In MMORPGs, that means sorting out how best to charge onward to the endgame or how to defeat the enemy. As online games evolve through their life cycle, we hear players complain that their class is not competitive because of some other class, and so all too often, developers fall into an impossible balancing patch cycle, making more and more corrective adjustments as the classes take turns at the top of the “overpowered” pile. As ridiculous as it seems, we’re hardly happy until we have that magical I-win button, and without adequate testing, that’s exactly what the developers deliver to us.

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The Soapbox: The misguided quest for MMO stickiness

This guest Soapbox was commissioned through Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign and is authored by Tyler F.M. Edwards, who blogs at www.superior-realities.com. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

The concept of “stickiness” is always a hot topic in the MMO community — stickiness being the sum of those game qualities that ensure player retention and keep people coming back. Fans and journalists talk about it often, and I don’t doubt that MMO developers devote an enormous amount of time and money to making their games sufficiently sticky.

But this obsession with stickiness can do more harm than good, and when developers focus on retention, they risk losing sight of what really matters: making games that are fun to play.

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The Soapbox: The crowdfunding conundrum

As I type this, Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign sits comfortably at $54,323. We hit our initial $50k funding goal in roughly 48 hours. We’re on pace to smash through our $75k stretch goal before the month ends. Thanks to the miracle of crowdfunding, the Massively team and I get to keep doing what we love to do instead of spending the next few weeks explaining to potential employers what an “MMO” is and why we had to write about it.

This has been an incredible experience. I’m absolutely humbled by our community and am infinitely grateful for its support. As I said in my backer update earlier this week, I’m completely out of ways to say “thank you.”

However, my overall feelings on crowdfunding remain the same. It’s slimy, dangerous, and a borderline scam.

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The Soapbox: It’s the little things that make an MMO special

In the years that I’ve been playing and covering MMOs, I’ve noticed that there are two distinct phases when it comes to introducing a new game. The first is the big marketing push, as the team introduces the MAJOR TALKING POINTS and attempts to overwhelm players with how this will be the MMO to end all MMOs due to its sheer feature list. We — the press and the community — get a lot of talking mileage out of this, although it typically devolves into a straight-up comparison of other titles.

But then there’s a lesser-noticed but perhaps more significant stage, when people start checking out the game and commenting not on its impressive feature list but on the little details that stand out. I’ve read and written my fair share of posts where the author burbles excitedly about some cool little thing he or she noticed and enjoyed, and that sort of enthusiasm seems more genuine and personal.

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The Soapbox: Has F2P worked for SOE?

The MassivelyOP staff was discussing the SOE Daybreak armageddon recently, and given the total absence of public data relating to who or what was ultimately responsible for the wide-ranging job cuts, we were forced to speculate. Some believe the company stretched itself too thin across its vast MMORPG portfolio. Others opined that everything from early access to SOE’s parent corp struggles to EverQuest Next and Landmark being in some sort of theoretical development hell were at fault.

Personally, I see the firm giving away expensive content — i.e., F2P — as the larger problem.

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The Soapbox: Facing an industry of change

Right now I believe that we are on a threshold of change in the MMO industry, and it feels a little uncertain and a lot scary.

While there are MMOs being made and developed as you read this, it seems as though there are less of the traditional big-budget titles with highly recognizable IPs and more indie projects that are operating outside of the normal paradigm. We have games that are funded entirely through fan support. We have spiritual successors instead of sequels. We have MMOs that are also single-player titles. We have devs over here jumping on the Minecraft wagon, devs over there trying to get a piece of the League of Legends phenomenon, and devs designing for a specific audience rather than a general one.

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