The Daily Grind: How bad are delays for MMOs, and how much does communication help?

    
26

Last week, a newly minted Ship of Heroes fan posted a comment on the game’s official forums saying he’d studied in-development MMOs and settled on backing Ship of Heroes specifically because of its “open and honest communication” – and also because a rival MMO, in his estimation, had suffered serious delays and lapses in said communication that “cost [it] some trust from [its] community.” (For his efforts, he got a lengthy written update from the lead developer and CEO, which we covered here.)

I wanted to bring it up because I’ve seen similar narratives forming around indie MMORPGs, especially Kickstarter MMOs. Most of them suffer delays, some multiple years of delays. “Open and honest communication” definitely buys them a ton of sympathy through those delays. But even then it seems as if there’s a tipping point, when it doesn’t matter how much the devs and CMs are running themselves ragged to communicate: People run out of patience. (I’ve seen this in the last few comment threads for games like Camelot Unchained and Ashes of Creation, for example. And do I even need to utter Star Citizen here?)

How devastating are delays for MMOs, and in your opinion, how much does communication help? How many years of delay does an MMO have before a critical mass gives up?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
MagmaFist
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
MagmaFist

You talk about a Ship of Heroes rival but then link a Ship of Heroes article. I think I know what delay you are talking about and expected an article linking to City of Titans. I think you need to link to another article as the context makes no sense to me. Maybe you meant https://massivelyop.com/2018/12/21/city-of-titans-delays-issue-0-launch-into-2019-were-still-here-were-still-fighting/?

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Honest communication is key, Marketing Bs and excuses doesn’t cut it. If there are problems that have caused delays simply say without having to go into details with as good of an ETA for resolution as you can give. Don’t soft soap it, don’t brush it under the rug and definitely do not just say nothing.

Gamers memories are long, developers may want to remember that from time to time fob us off at your own detriment lol

Reader
Does not check email

Timely communication as the deadline approaches… not a week after it has passed.

Reader
Kevin Smith

If there is good communication then delays can be weathered with little effect. It’s when they start giving reasons that go against everything they have said previously or not saying anything at all that delays can kill a game.

It might not be an MMO but if you want an example of how bad communication an misdirection can destroy a game go look at Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. They have rebuilt the game from top to bottom now multiple times, changed the focus of the game from what people that backed it backed it for, straight out lied about when things would be released as in testing phases not a delay but lie, and just about every thing else you can imagine going wrong. This game hasn’t even made it out of testing and has basically ran off most people that were backing it due to delay after delay after delay. People weathered the a huge delay for 6 months without much communication from the developer and still supported them because you can accept delays when you are promised the delay will be worth it. The day for the delivery of the promise and they pushed another delay, but they changed their story a few times before they flat out came out an said it isn’t ready.

Overall that type of development and delay issues will kill a game before it even gets out of the gates. Sorry for the rant but that was one of the best examples I have seen in the last 30+ years I have been gaming for how not to do something and use delays in a very bad way.

Reader
Anstalt

I don’t think delays have much effect on the majority of MMOs to be honest. Yes, it’s frustrating, but ultimately if the devs are able to release a good quality game then it doesn’t matter if it’s late, players will still play it.

That said, there are some specific circumstances where a delay is definitely bad news.

1) Crowdfunding is still required. If a game is still in development AND still reliant on getting more money through crowdfunding, then delays are bad. The drop in confidence will result in reduced crowdfunding which then threatens the whole project.

2) Competing titles are being released. If you are in a development race (such as the multiple CoX successors or multiple PvE sandboxes) then a delay will mean some of your target market will end up playing your competitors game and not your own. The quality of the game is still the most important thing, but if you game is not that different from your competitors then delays can cause serious harm.

3) The game design is dated. Lets face it, a lot of MMOs are very generic and share a ton of features. They instead rely on good graphics to attract new players who may have gotten bored with their old world and fancy something new to explore. A delay, especially a long one, means that your main selling point is no longer valid.

This is why I am in no way worried about the multiple year delay for Camelot Unchained. It’s frustrating, sure, but ultimately they already raised the capitol to build the game so I have confidence it will be finished, it has no competitors to worry about (maybe a bit crowfall, but the designs are so different that i think they’re targetting different markets), and the game design is so far beyond what everyone else is doing that it doesn’t matter if it gets delayed, it’ll still offer a unique experience.

Does communication help?

A little bit. It’s more important for crowdfunded games where a lot of people already have skin in the game, theres an opportunity-cost to crowdfunding a game so delays can cause greater frustration. Too much and the negative feelings can reach a critical mass and the game gets tarnished with a “never get done” label.

For a traditionally funded game, its all about the hype machine. A delay doesn’t matter as long as the hype machine is still able to turn itself on before launch. If the hype machine has already been turned on and then there is a delay, that can cause bigger issues as it’s a clear sign that the different parts of a company aren’t working well together and that lowers the markets confidence.

That said, you have to remember that the vast majority of gamers don’t pay attention to any of that at all. All that matters is that they can play the game and they can afford it, most probably aren’t even aware that a game has been delayed, let alone the reasons behind that delay.

Reader
Arnold Hendrick

Actually delays can be just as deadly to a traditionally funded game as a crowdfunded game. Traditional funding has limits. When the money runs out, development must end, no matter how close or far from actual release. Publishers will loose patience, and stop “throwing good money after bad.” White Knights can run out of money, or reach a financial limit beyond which they will not (or can not) leverage any more money for development.

‘Project Copernicus’ by 38 Studios is the most famous example on the White Knight side. “The Agency” is just one of many examples from the publisher side (the publisher in that case being the rarely lamented Sony Online Entertainment).

Also consider that development isn’t the only cost to launch an MMO. The single largest launch expense is the the advertising effort. After all, people must knmow the game exists in order to buy it! In addition to all the marketing munchkins employed to whip up enthusiasm, get press coverage, and buy or beg social media coverage from “influencers,” not to mention the wicked munchkin bosses to manage them, you need at least $100k/month for web advertising coverage. Finally, you’ll have to support most of the dev team for the first few more months of live operations. Otherwise the game will crash and burn just as spectacularly as “All Points Bulletin” (APB) – which exhausted its last dollar (or pound) just as it launched at the end of June, 2010.

Reader
Barnoc N'Draak

It depends on how much crowdfunding money you have taken, how much you continue to take, and what you promised.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

It depends on the delay and it’s hard to put a hard number on how much it matters. If a developer clearly states they need a few months and why – that’s cool. If it is continually up in the air and they are spending time doing side projects never in the original scope – screw them.

The latter is what 99.89% of kickstarters employ. They are learning/making on your dime – why bother keeping a deadline? Once the game releases the party ends.

Mewmew
Reader
Mewmew

And yet if they release a game before it’s ready, if they rush it, it’s so very much worse than delaying it. There are people who are always going to be impatient. If the product isn’t ready, it simply shouldn’t be launched, no matter how impatient they are. Do they really want a shoddy half-arsed product released rather than for it to be delayed until it’s ready?

That launch product is what most people judge the game on. It doesn’t matter what it patches up to or becomes in time, the vast majority of people simply do not go back. To launch it before it is ready is so very much worse than delaying it.

The current generation is probably more impatient than any other (and I’m part of that generation, so I’m not saying “kids today!” or anything). We get what we want very quickly all the time without leaving the house. It is half technology, and half of how Generation X raised us and changed the world when they became adults. But on the whole we’re spoiled and impatient.

I do get wanting to play, but doesn’t it logically make sense that they need to wait until they are ready to launch the game? I guess it’s because people paid into Star Citizen that they are so impatient, I haven’t paid into it and I don’t care if it takes 10 more years to launch. I do want to play it, but I’m very ready to wait for a polished and finished product.

I do realize I’m in the minority there. People are upset because they expected it earlier. Yes the delays are annoying and people feel they shouldn’t have to deal with that big of them, if they release a piece of crap tho that’s just so much worse than delays isn’t it?

So people want it now, and they want it polished and done. Yet if it’s not really done, how can you still get it now? After all this time should they release an unfinished product that 90% of the people laugh off and go away never to return? After this amount of time they better make sure they’re releasing a solid product in the end.

Someone wanted to push Fallout 76 out the door to make the end of the year holiday shopping of 2018. That could have used about 5-7 years worth of delays and development time.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

If nothing comes out of devs other then delays and rare news posts, I’ll stop caring about game eventually. If its like Star Citizen where even after many years of delays we get tons of info, progress reports, new juicy stuff, new content, its still interesting to follow development and delays dont look too bad

Godnaz
Reader
Godnaz

Communication and sincerity need to go hand in hand though. I love that CIG is continuously giving updates on what it’s doing even if it gets rehashed at times. It is some of, if not the best communication I’ve seen from a developer. In the beginning though, what I didn’t like is that the guy at the top had to lie in order to get initial funding for the project. We all know the story.. 6 years is a bit of a difference in release schedules.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

what lies you’re speaking of?

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Pandalulz

It doesn’t matter how shady or transparent you are to me if you still don’t have a product that you are happy to call final, not early access or beta. Release something, then we can talk about your PR.
I buy and play plenty of AAA and indie games that I barely knew anything about, enjoyed greatly, and I’m fine continuing with that. Even KS games I’ve backed, which I don’t do anymore, just as I don’t pre-order, I just turn off the updates and wait. Eventually it will release, or it won’t, but it won’t make a difference if I’m empathetic about it.