Massively Overthinking: If you could change one thing about an MMO…

Almost tangible. Again.

Back in April, MOP’s Colin posed us an interesting challenge on the MOP Podcast: change one thing about an MMO you don’t like that would make it a game you would.

“Are there any MMOs that you have absolutely zero interest in playing right now, but would be there in a heartbeat if they changed just one thing?” he asked. “For instance, for me, there are any number of interesting-looking sandbox MMOs that I would totally be there for if they traded their open world gankbox PvP for a flagging system.”

This’ll be a fun one to kick to the whole team for Massively Overthinking! Let’s play the Change One Thing game. Which MMO would it be, and how would it make itself palatable for you with one change?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I almost gave up on this one, partially because the MMOs I’ve loved the most are offline, but then I really got to thinking and realized there is one big change that could be made to an MMO I really liked at release: SWTOR. Despite my guild’s release “rivals” almost immediately disbanding upon release, PvP turning into almost an Ilum timeshare, and most group content essentially devolving into people grinding light/dark rep instead of trying to make an actual decision, I really enjoyed several of the stories and improvements, particularly the legacy system.

Then the F2P model came out and neutered the fun. I still can’t touch the game without feeling burned. If the game were more buy-to-play instead a la Guild Wars 2, I would have lasted far longer. I still avoid spoilers for certain classes that I really had wanted to complete since, I suppose on some level, I figure I’ll return, but most likely won’t. Unless buy-to-play happened, at which point I’d probably get a copy of the game at least for my brother’s WoW Classic retirement, whenever that may be.

Andy McAdams: I’m trying to think of a game that could change one thing to get me interested. Maybe Black Desert. The vomit-structure UI of different systems that are poorly explained, defined and generally just terrible looking overall kills me. I might be able to give it a better chance than I did before. Granted, I don’t think it would stick because there are other aspects to the game that rub unpleasantly, but I wasn’t able to get past the gawd-awful UI and system explanations.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I would love to think that I could return to LOTRO with one magic change, but the reality is that it would take several. But if I were to overlook everything else that now annoys me about my once-favorite, I’d ask that they fix inventory. Back in the day, bag, vault, and cosmetic slots were monetized so the free options were small and constricting. But even with all storage slots purchased, my main character is completely maxed out and I find myself rolling my eyes and logging out instead of dedicating several hours to inventory management.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): My gut instinct here is that most people probably wouldn’t really go play an MMO if it changed just one thing because one thing surely wouldn’t be enough. But I have to say that at least for me, I know that’s wrong. I have a whole list of MMOs that I had played, left, and largely written off until they changed something specific, like LOTRO making its business model more palatable (the first time), City of Heroes adding the Mission Architect, Guild Wars adding heroes, and Star Wars Galaxies finally fixing most of what the NGE broke. But then, I also didn’t say “add this and I’ll come back!” They did it, and so I found it compelled me back.

So maybe it’s less about just any one thing and more about a pivotal thing – and with so many games, there’s an underlying philosophy to so many mechanics that the “one thing” would have to be on the level of “complete rewrite of shoddy combat” or “sea change for group content elitism” or whatever. The Guild Wars example is a good one; adding heroes sounds like a little thing on paper but actually marked a huge shift in how the game was played and designed and who was ultimately being welcomed to play it.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): If Guild Wars 2 replaced the elite specs with selectable classes at character creation, I would come back in a heartbeat.

I appreciate this is a big ask – Hero Point farming in the open world is a big part of the game’s design – but I never found anything about the world of GW2 very interesting anyway, and so being “incentivized” to bumble around the myriad rectangles that compose Tyria is not the hook the game thinks it is. Even if getting Points can be a dawdle now, it’s just an artificial barrier to the stuff I want.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I suppose since I already gave PvP flagging as my example in the original question, I should pick something different. I don’t have much interest in Final Fantasy XIV. I don’t hate it or anything, I’m sure it’s a fantastic game if it’s what you’re into, but given that it has been described as an amalgam of the best parts of World of Warcraft, a game I don’t particularly care for, and Final Fantasy, a franchise I don’t particularly care for, it doesn’t really hold much appeal for me.

However, it would have a lot better chance of hooking me if it had a subscriptionless option. I really wasn’t that interested in The Elder Scrolls Online at launch either, given that the Elder Scrolls IP holds no special place in my heart, but since it was buy-to-play and I got a copy cheap, I kept poking my head in when updates like One Tamriel and Morrowind got good press, and eventually it became one of my favorite MMOs. I can’t do that with XIV; I have to pay $15 to even get past the launcher. And yes, I know about the extensive free trial. It’s just not the same.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): So I’m going to be the wet blanket here and say that this thought experiment, while fun, doesn’t really matter. I know human behavior well enough to say that even if our “one thing” was done, the odds are against us suddenly being enthralled with the product. If we’d wanted to play it, we would be playing it already. One more thing probably won’t change our opinion.

I’ve seen this happen so many times in MMORPGs, when fans keep claiming that if X were put into the game or changed, they’d play it — and then when the devs do, those people are nowhere to be seen. Or they want thing Y now. Or they want the whole game remade into a modern version with realistic graphics and virtual reality and a personal chef who would come by their house to cook versions of game food for us to consume while our characters do. Putting ultimata on a game is a good sign that you’re not going to be content with it no matter what it does, so devs should probably not listen to you or try to appease you.

Wet blanket, out!

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): If FFXIV removed the sub and went buy-to-play, I think I’d buy it and see what’s all the hub bub about. FFXI was my first MMO, after all. I have friends and family regularly talking about how much they enjoy it as well.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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