The Daily Grind: How can MMOs spice up progression servers midway through?

    
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Just about a year ago, Lord of the Rings Online opened the doors to its very first progression server ruleset. It was a huge event at the time, triggering large queues that the game hadn’t seen in years and even propelling LOTRO to the front page of Twitch for an evening. Players crammed in the front door, eager to experience the journey through Middle-earth together at a measured pace.

Of course, the thing about progression servers is that excitement over them is always high in the first few months and then falls off dramatically after that. The progression servers — now in Rise of Isengard — are trucking along, but they aren’t the hotbed of activity that they once were. This makes me wonder if Standing Stone Games and other studios should take action to inject something thrilling to attract players back to these server rulesets.

What could studios do to spice up progression servers midway through their runs? Would seasonal pass-type challenges keep the community occupied? Special challenges with exclusive rewards? Character level boosts? Or perhaps even additional tweaks to the server’s rules?

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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drew who

I don’t think lotro can do a lot to spice things up . They messed up the progression servers by making them progress a lot faster than originally planned . Only the harder core gamer’s could gear up to experience the raids for each expansion so they are the ones that are mostly left . They would have been the same people who stayed anyway with their alts if the role out had been a little slower .

SSG messed up , they are trying to backtrack now with Isengard but its too late because many have moved onto other games .

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Anstalt

Well, with LotRO specifically, they could have launched the progression server with original code and game design. Instead, they launched the exact same code as the live servers but just imposed an artificial level cap.

If they’d have done that, I’d have played it as original LotRO was one of my favourite periods of MMO gaming. But, the modern MMO, with all the group content that was removed or revamped to be easier, the classes that were dumbed down etc, it’s no surprise that retention isn’t great.

But, to the more general question….

I would say lets have some more GM events. Especially if you are requiring a subscription to access the progression server, I think you could spare a GM for an hour per day to do some cool stuff in game.

During SoA when LotRO was still managed by Codemasters in EU, we had quite a few GM events that were really fun. Some of the bigger events involved GMs spawning/controlling big characters so we could have some fun – I remember one where the GM spawned and took control of some big dude in the Ettenmoors, we had hours of fun trying to kill him! The smaller events were things like GMs supporting community effects, turning up and handing out free fireworks and rewards to winners of races etc. I also remember seeing videos of an event run on one of the Russian servers – the GMs there opened up Eregion to the creeps and turned the zone into a new PvP zone for 6 hours of so.

That sort of community engagement really helps strengthen the community which in turn increases retention and word-of-mouth referrals.

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Robert Mann

If you alter the deal, it is no longer a progression server.

The problem is that MMOs are MMOs. They have content surges, launch excitement, and then slow down. They are not built for constant attention, despite the persistence of player characters, with nothing but a quick jaunt to level and then dailies to grind until you get your eyes bleeding.

To fix this is to change that formula, and there’s only three areas of development with regard to MMOs that are even trying… PvP games that presume the rush is to attack one another, fashion/completion scenes, and those that are indie games (which still have a long way to go in making MMOs less of a sprint to endgame combat). None of which are doing much for avoiding the pitfalls otherwise, or even the pitfalls that are inherent to that design.

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Schmidt.Capela

Special challenges with exclusive rewards?

This is the exact reason why I don’t play Diablo 3 anymore, you know. Offering time-limited challenges with exclusive rewards is a good way to make me lose interest in all parts of the game where said rewards can be used, at least if I do care about the rewards.

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Bryan Correll

Elf butts?

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Definitely Elf Butts, I’ve got nothing to contribute either.

Reader
Utakata

Leeroy everything around me in group instances.
Start up a random cyber RP initiatives at the local inn. Nudge, nudge…
Corpse camp player bodies in PvP scenarios.
Unlock player’s lockboxes in the skivvies while in tow…

“I’m pretty sure that’s not what the OP meant by ‘spicing up’ progression, Uta.”

…oh!! Nm, *ahem*…as you good folks where then! >.<

quark1020
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quark1020

I never played LOTRO, so I can’t speak for it or the players, but I never say no to new in game events. Something that isn’t restricted by levels or is affected by the quality of the equipment worn, even if its something silly like collecting Easter eggs or a fashion show.

Be creative.

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Mallus

The problem with the LOTRO progression server is that it’s tied to a subscription fee…

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losludvig

LotRO is just a very greedy game. If you don’t like being nickle and dimed you probably won’t have too much fun there.
LotRO also houses the worst implemented progression server that I know about, where you are still playing by today’s “rules” just with artificial limits on where you can go.
I had such high hopes when ssg broke free from turbine, so far it’s been nothing but disappointment.

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Kickstarter Donor
squid

How dare they charge money for services!

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Matthew Yetter

There’s a big difference between charging for your services and nickle-and-diming your customers. While LotRO more or less pioneered the Freemium model and there are some really good things to say about it, I have for a very long time now been quite vocal about how ready they are to build inconvenience into the game so that they can turn around and charge a fee of some sort to bypass that inconvenience. Even people paying subscriptions still have a slew of ways that they are asked to throw still more money at the game in order to get various “conveniences.”

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

They nickel and dime for expansions, everything should be bundled with the current expansion for maybe $50 sort of like ESO does with their chapter bundles vs a lower priced upgrade for people that are current, or make the content available with the sub.

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Mallus

Mandatory subscriptions never work well in today’s environment. They could have made it just like the FTP servers and kept a healthy population.