The Daily Grind: Should MMOs have end dates?

    
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Thank you for holding my breath.

One of the best things that Final Fantasy XI did was end. Not end updates, obviously, the game has a monthly release cadence that should shame other games that are more recent; it just ended the story and the major path of the game. It’s done. The current state of affairs is functional an extended epilogue in which all of the major happenings have happened, and in some way that’s great just because it means that the game went out on a high note without falling into meandering stagnation.

Well, at least if you ignore the game’s fourth expansion.

As I get older, I increasingly feel like this might be a good strategy, to have a plan in mind for your MMO not to necessarily go offline after a certain point but to have a starting, middle, an end rather than just going on until you’re cancelled. Of course, sometimes long-term planning is also a problem; the team behind WildStar definitely had a plan, but it unfortunately centered around an endgame that cut that plan real short. What do you think? Should MMOs have end dates and plans for their end of lifespans?

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!
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Love this topic and the convo.

Also once again highlights the contrast between story and system. Stories can outlast technology (they always have, so far), and technology can outlast stories (where did you get THAT photo?!).

MMOs create an interesting scenario where they are intertwined. Sometimes complexly, sometimes simply, but MMO stories cannot be told without technology, and a MMO without a story doesn’t tend to be much of an MMO.

I see it as two questions, then: should stories end (yes), and should technology sunset (yes). Do they have to do so at the same time (no)?

But it’s important to note that if you did it right, and I mean from the beginning with the idea that the “world” exceeds the bounds of any sort of technology representation, that an MMO could “end” without the story ending. Or, perhaps, even without the characters ending.

I think of the Baldur’s Gate series a bit; there are a few other games that allowed character imports (Bard’s Tale 2-4, etc).

What a fascinating look at gaming that would bring to the table for MMOs.

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rafael12104

Hmm. FFXI didn’t end though. It got such a positive response from fans and media after announcing they were going to end that they couldn’t step away from it. That’s the way I see it.

The game is profitable and has a loyal following so, why end it?

No. End dates are not needed.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

MMOs have storylines? Who knew?

Never paid them much attention, my personal story within the game world has always been my main focus, the rest is just backdrop to my great achievements.

What I’d rather see is an end to the never ending development cycle most indie MMOs seem stuck in before launching .

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Michael18

Reading through the comments I am (yet again) a bit shocked at how few people actually see MMOs as virtual worlds, instead of merely a real-time co-op variant of a single player RPG. Guess this is an important part of the reason why the genre has changed so fundamentally over the past 10-15 years.

EDIT: I should add that I don’t wanna attack anyone; it’s a perfectly valid preference to have, of course; it’s just very different from what I, personally, feel MMOs were meant to be.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Elder Scrolls Online had a main story that you play through and it ends basically – but there are so many side stories, new zones released with new stories, expansions, etc, that people aren’t even really mentioning it here despite the fact that the original campaign has an end.

And that’s how I like it. I like wrapped up quest lines, but I also like new ones to play as well.

I don’t think any game should launch with an end in mind. In fact I remember reading that something about a game launching with a story end date or game end date or something that caused a lot of people to be upset because of it.

Anarchy Online I believe? They launched saying that the game as it was had a 5 year conclusion or something but then when people got upset they said if players were still interested they’d keep going? I don’t know exactly, this is all stuff I read and heard a bit about but maybe someone who played when that stuff was happening could give more info about it. I do have a relative that played games back in the early days that maybe has more info on that, but if anybody knows the story it would be nice to hear more information here.

Anyway I find that to be a fairly bad idea. MMORPGs should launch without an end date in mind. I’m frankly surprised by the number of comments below saying they should end. I guess those are people who never really found a game they loved that much and are used to playing games that have an end so they can feel some conclusion.

I’m fine with story arcs ending but I want new ones in their place. And if I’m a new player, I want to be able to access the old story lines that used to exist so I can play through the entire game. In fact that is one of my issues and confusion with playing Mabinogi, the world has moved through different major world-altering events and I just don’t really understand what’s going on when I try to play it.

I don’t care to see games end and actually close. Stories? Sure. Games? No. I think people have some idea that if games they are sick of closed we’d get all these new better ones out in their place or something. In some ways, that’s true. If WoW closed they’d want to put up some new major MMORPG there in its place. In other ways a major huge game that’s there for people to stlll go on and play through and has so much content built up from time would be lost and who is to say we’d even enjoy the new one?

There are many missing games I either read about or got to play a tiny bit near the end of their life that I wish were here now to play. Free Realms, Faunasphere (I really really think Faunashphere would do exceptionally well on mobile now), Tabula Rasa, Glitch, etc. I guess those are all examples of games that closed too early rather than went through their natural lifespan though.

Still I don’t think launching with an end date does much good, unless it’s just that current world story end date. I do feel most people want to imagine the game will be there for many many years to come when they go to invest time in it and don’t want to think about an end date.

Though if ending GTA Online would get them to give us Red Dead Online – maybe go for ending GTA Online. It’s not that it’s not fun, it’s that the developers have lost the game to hackers and don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. The game isn’t fun when it’s awash in hackers in every session, yet they still make money off the game so keep it going. If it’s going to hold them back from something better, it’s hard to say. I’m about to talk myself into a different opinion than I started with so I better shut up now :P

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Hikari Kenzaki

The problem is this… in most cases, if the story was really good (which something like Babylon 5 but in an MMO likely would be), the players are not likely to be happy with an end. They’d want more. And the money types are going to want you to slap something together. (Crusade?)

“But FFXI!” you say in your example of the time it managed to go okay.

But The Secret World, I say.

For all intents and purposes, TSW’s story had a beginning (up until Transylvania), a middle (Whispering Tide and Issue 5-8) and an end (Tokyo). Sure, there were dangling side threads and looming threats/promise of Season 2, but all the major plot points were resolved, the big bad is revealed, evil is sorta thwarted and the world continued to spin on.

Yet, we have it being said just a few days ago that Funcom is a bad MMO company and they shouldn’t make any… mostly because they ended the story. The only way for them to continue is to essentially make a whole bunch of zones and/or a full-on sequel, but we know that’s not going to happen.

So, while it’s possible for an MMO to end and be fine, it’s also possible for it to go totally against what the players expect and fail so very badly.

TSW/SWL is an amazing game that everyone should play through at least once, but instead, it’s a bunch of old vets sitting around talking about wasted potential.

BadJoke123
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BadJoke123

Except … TSW’s story did not end. There were lots of unresolved major plot points, one big bad was revealed and defeated, but that was not the only big bad and not the worst one by far.
It was merely an intermediate ending – the ending of Season 1 of the story, but not the end of the story by any means.

The problem is that TSW’s story was not written to end with Tokyo, so as an ending to the main story it is not satisfactory at all, although it works fine as intermediate ending.
People are not mad at Funcom for ending the story, they are mad at them for stopping the story in the middle.

If a company is going to actually end the story of an MMO it has to be planned well in advance. You can’t do it on short notice and expect it to be well recieved.

Purewitz
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Purewitz

All online games of any kind, should only have a maximum lifespan of about 10 years. Beyond that just maintenance mode for the late comers to get the full experience. But after about 10 years there should be no new content and a new game should be in development, either a sequel or a new IP.

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Michael18

Applied to the current MMO market, you have just shut down the last games that I personally deem worthy of the title MMORPG, because they are all more than 10 years in operation (e.g. LOTRO, UO, EQ1/2, EVE, …).

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Tim Anderson

Our entire game is being designed around a four-chapter sandbox. That is, there are four novels, each one taking the part of a major entry, and we’ll be working towards an end point much like Lord of the Rings Online had with Mordor and the destruction of the One Ring.

We have zero plans for the game beyond that point, but that’s also *at least* eight years of content, assuming a major expansion ever 48 months with quarterly content drops in between.

It’s not that the world will necessarily end at that point (although it might; I’ve talked openly about the possibility for sunsetting the game once we have finished the storyline we set out to tell), it’s just that we have a set storyline we want to tell (at present) and once we’ve rolled out those major plot points, we’ll be done with this particular story.

There may be other creatives on the team who want to run things after I complete my time as creative director over the initial four-part series, we may end up coming up with new storylines from the spinoff novels and tabletop campaigns that our contract writers are working on, but for now, it’s a four-part series and then done.

We would much rather work on sequels and other games than spin one off into eternity. An eight year run for us by that point would also include the 6-8 years of development *on top of that*, so we’re talking a 14-16 year time investment from those of us on the team, and it’s *really* hard to look further out than that, especially without knowing how technology or the market is going to change, how well launch and expansion drops will work out for us, and so much more.

But yeah…we’re not going into this with the idea of having an MMORPG that runs on into infinity. It has a beginning and it has an end, and beyond that we have a variety of other projects we want to work on.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

It would really all depend on how your MMO is designed. This might work for a sandbox, or Theme park with a lot of sandbox elements. But for games that rely on a linear story to keep people engaged, it would be a death knell.

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Jack Pipsam

The overall story should come to some kind of conclusion, then enter maintenance mode.