The Daily Grind: Is the ‘forever game’ philosophy healthy for MMOs?

    
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The Daily Grind: Is the ‘forever game’ philosophy healthy for MMOs?

A few weeks back, Remnant from the Ashes creative director David Adams did an interview on Gamasutra where he discussed how his team very specifically wanted to avoid the “forever game” mentality when it came to development. MMO players, of course, grew up thinking the forever game was the norm and the ideal, but then non-MMOs decided to horn in on the format with dollar signs in their eyes, forgetting that always-on doesn’t actually mean good or social. Here’s the key excerpt from Gamasutra’s piece:

What’s interesting about Adams’ perspective on this model is that it actually strays away from the “forever game” that’s attracted developers to the online RPG genre of late. Adams said there was some desire to make a game that players could walk away feeling satisfied from, with the hopes that new content would lure them back in to capture something like the original experience. […] “I fully admit that…we didn’t really design the game to be like, ‘you’re gonna play this literally forever,’ because we didn’t want a game built around the idea of grinding the same content. Once you’ve seen all the random content, and gotten all the cool collectibles and figured out all the secrets and puzzles, we’re totally okay with [players] saying ‘alright, cool, I played Remnant.”

I am a “forever game” person at heart, but sometimes I wonder whether it wouldn’t be better if more MMOs had a five- or 10-year plan instead of the “slowly abandon the game but keep it up to leech money until we give up” plan. The stories would make more sense, the powercreep would be slowed, developers wouldn’t become so exhausted and tangled up in spaghetti code, and it’d be a lot harder to be blindsided by a sunset or maintenance mode.

What do you think: Is the “forever game” philosophy healthy for actual MMOs? Or are MMOs meant to be forever-games by their very definition?

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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texyFX

so cancel culture reached the devs olymp?
cuz replayability evolved to a standard feature many seasons ago, esp. Remnants procedural maps, build diversity etc. verified its right to exist. cuz: customers demand.

who wants fun to end? (and not to evolve?)

any sane marketing dep. will push to satisfy any profitable demand, thats y we got all those major franchises like BGIII, Civ VI, SL, DLC model, games-as-service etc.

and probably a Remnants II with increased replayability.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Is greed ever good for anything?

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Minimalistway

This is a good question for the podcast, or Massively Overthinking :-)

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TomTurtle

In terms of being designed to go on as long as possible, yes, an MMO should be a forever game. That’s one of the unique aspects to the genre and one of its strong points. They’re supposed to be online, living worlds.

In terms of practicality, they should be designed to retire gracefully when the times comes. Ideally through preservation at the least, though it’d be nice to also give consumers the option to host their own private emulated versions so they can truly live on in one form or another.

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Rndomuser

It depends on a game design. A properly designed game like EVE Online with very dynamic world can easily be a “forever game” because most zones in it are relevant no matter how long people keep playing it, same goes for majority of ships and most of “gameplay content” or “story” is being generated by players themselves so even with major engine upgrades it would always be worth it for developers to keep upgrading most of the assets with new visual details and they don’t really have to expand territory for “new story quests”.

In games like FFXIV which is a very linear and story-driven themepark where most players never have the reason to re-visit old areas (excluding capital cities and housing areas) once the story moves out of those areas and once they “farmed” all their tradeskills and faction reputation to the max – developers would have to basically waste their time when upgrading stuff like old zones and all content related to them when there is a major engine upgrade because most existing players would never bother visiting those and new players may want to skip all of them or rush through them without doing many optional quests or visiting areas which would not be necessary anymore in order to efficiently level up. In cases like this, it would actually make sense to completely abandon it after several years then build a new MMORPG in same exact setting but with newer engine and all new zones, where developers would only have to care about brand new zones which would be relevant to both newcomer players who never played previous version of this MMORPG and to people who played previous version of MMORPG set in same setting.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

A 5 or 10 year MMO isn’t a bad idea in theory, except…

…it assumes the dev studio (any dev studio) is capable of making and sticking to a roadmap for that long, when it’s clear that the industry operates on the basis of ‘let’s get the game launched and then work out what comes next.’ Even Blizzard, with all their resources, appear to approach each expansion as if they’d given it absolutely no thought until after they wrapped the previous one.

…and it assumes that MMOs that have reached the end of their lifespan will be replaced by newer ones, which leads to the ugly question of when does a studio switch their focus away from the old (but still active) game and onto the new one? The hope that the gaps will be filled by new studios isn’t borne out by the actual state of the genre right now.

Whch leads to my last point. The genre isn’t healthy enough to support this. If the 10 year cut off was applied to current MMOs it would devastate the entire genre, leaving maybe a handful of active western developed titles, and those would all be entering their last few years of life. ESO is probably the ‘newest’ big title from a western studio, and even that is already 6 years old.

The appeal of MMOs, in part, is that they grow and evolve over time, and limiting that evolution with a predetermined cut off point seems unwise. Sure, some games will decline over time, but some do get better.

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Danny Smith

I think the idea as a target is poison. It can happen to people naturally but when you force it you are one board room meeting from “How can we entrap the wallets in our digital storefront ecosystem until we exhaust their funds?”. I would rather play a dozen games like remnant i buy once, put like 50 hours in and can recommend and move onto the next over “GOTTA LOG IN EVERYDAY, GET MY DAILIES DONE, GET MY DAILY LOGIN BONUSES, GOTTA KEEP GRINDING THAT BATTLEPASS, ONLY X DAYS TO GO TILL THE NEXT ONE, GOTTA UPKEEP MY GEARSCORE, GOTTA-” and so on and so on.

I don’t think its a surprise my MMO of choice for the last 7 years has been FFXIV where the devs intentionally design for and tell the player to “exhaust the content then unsub, come back when we have something new for you” and guess what? thats how the transaction should work. Not “how can we design the forever game to keep the paypigs on the teat of some artificial, parasocial contract based around a intentionally designed habit forming skinnerbox”.

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Schlag Sweetleaf
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Anstalt

Totally depends on the design of the game.

I’m a “forever game” fan at heart, but most MMORPGs are not designed in that fashion. A themepark should not be long term, it just doesn’t work well. So, I would much rather a themepark be designed for a 3-5 year run, then they make a sequel. For example, LotRO could easily have been made as 3 or 4 separate games. Turbine could have kept the old games running in maintenence mode, making it easier to preserve, whilst building the new games and applying the lessons learned and also attracting a newer audience.

A sandbox (assuming good design) is much more suited for long term enjoyment as the investment the player makes would be much harder to let go of.

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styopa

Yeah, but let’s recall that ‘forever game’ is just the framing put on a product that was meant to give players more-or-less an unending stream of stuff to DO so they continue to PAY $15/mo. (Ie a sandbox with an unending series of more-or-less-unconnected chores).

If you as a dev don’t want to “fall” for that, you have basically two choices:
– make a PVP game. It’s SUPER cheap, because the other players provide the content. You provide the assets, arena, and rules and let them provide the ongoing challenge. (cf New World and umpteen other games).
– make a game with an ACTUAL story, compelling narrative, and interesting complex drama (ala Divinity Original Sin, for example) which is hard to build, and players play it once and move on.

You can’t get people to pay $50 for the product and then $15/mo for a finite game, online or otherwise