Perfect Ten: 10 MMO promises that are not filling me with confidence


Every game’s development – and this includes MMOs – involves certain promises being made that the developers probably half-knows are not going to wind up being true. With a little bit of luck, the audience also knows that this is untrue. Yes, you plan to have monthly content updates without fail. Very nice, Guild Wars 2. It’s strictly speaking a lie, but it’s not really a malicious one, and by this point I generally think some of these things are in an odd space of being lies where neither the teller nor the listener believes.

That being said, there are still promises that don’t fill me with confidence about your game. Not because they’re lies, exactly. You sort of believe them, and you’re hoping that’s enough. But it’s not the dishonesty that gets me but the line of thinking that leads to mostly believing that this is actually a good thing to promise. And while I don’t think the people making these promises are actually just lying grifters outright (there are easier people to grift), it doesn’t fill me with confidence.


1. “Our unprecedented system of complexity”

You know this kind of promise. It’s like Chronicles of Elyria promising a deeper MMORPGs than anything delivered on a triple-A budget without any of that money or experience. Or Star Citizen continually making its systems more complex. Or Galaxies of Eden promising that it’ll deliver sentient AI. You know, promises that always come down to thinking that this must be easy to make because we thought it up, and isn’t that the hard part?

No. That is not the hard part. And if you could actually do this, you wouldn’t have to promise it; you would be able to just show it off, and we would immediately lose our mind over it. Any feature you have to promise will arrive at some distant point in the future makes me wary.

2. “The most challenging whatever”

Here’s the thing. Challenging content is actually really easy to make. Giving players no margin for error? Really easy. What’s difficult is making challenging content that is actually fun, and letting people feel challenged without actually frustrating them into giving the game up. If your main selling point is how insanely hard the game is, I find myself suspicious about whether you’ve done the hard version or the easy version.

No parties.

3. “Content updates are a free expansion”

You know what makes an expansion? An expansion. I’ve written about my love of full expansions, but this almost always winds up meaning that the designers are treating expansions as if X amount of new stuff adds up to an expansion’s worth of features. The thing is… expansions aren’t really like that. They’re big specific eras of a game’s development, and not simply accumulations of enough new stuff to count as an expansion. Trying to market like this sets me a bit on edge.

4. “Now we can finally deliver X!”

You know the sort of promise. “Now that we’ve added combat styles, we can finally add new ones!” yells Star Wars: The Old Republic. And these sorts of promises are always welcome… except for the fact that they always come far, far later than you would expect. Like, can you point to the reason why SWTOR couldn’t really add new classes before now based on class stories? Of course you could. But did adding new classes ever seem to be a priority? Was that really the thing that the game was lacking? It usually seems that these promises to do X mean that the developers still aren’t planning to actually do X; they just want people to hope that maybe X might happen.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

5. “No pay-to-win”

Imagine, for a minute, that you come home to see your son waiting for you in the doorway. “I didn’t break the TV!” he says, the moment you come in the door. No matter what, you are already primed to assume that the TV is broken, and he is now the prime suspect.

This is what happens when a developer gives no details about monetization at first but promises “no pay-to-win.” It’s not that I think it’s a lie (and I’ve talked before about how I don’t like the terminology there anyway). It’s that it indicates the person speaking knows what your first suspicion might be and is trying to get out ahead of it.

6. “Monthly updates” (before the game launches)

Monthly patches are hard. That’s all right. But if you promise me that you’re going to get out monthly updates before the game has launched, it indicates to me both that you want me to feel confident that the game has more content coming very soon (rarely a good sign when you’re already defensive about that) and that you want me to know that more is coming and that it’s all just around the corner. You strike me as answering the questions I haven’t asked yet.


7. “Bringing back the classic” (for any relaunch)

There are legitimately classic MMORPGs that are gone now. City of Heroes has a solid rogue server, yes, but any legitimate server on Steam would have good cause to say that the team is bringing back the classic. But I’m sorry, no matter how much you may have liked your tiny free-to-play Korean grinder from 2004, it wasn’t exactly a classic. That’s why it shuttered. Not everything that shuts down is a classic, and if you’re trying to convince me it is… I get the sense that you want me to think this is a bigger deal than it actually is.

8. “A full remake of the game”

This has worked… once. It has never worked any subsequent time. Often this overlaps with earlier promises, like how we were all told that Secret World Legends would lead to actually getting forward motion on the story! How did that one work out, folks? What’s that? You can’t hear me because you’re glowering into the corner and clenching your fist tightly enough to snap bone? Well all right, then! I think we have our answer!

Come on, my dudes.

9. “Open PvP, but fair”

You made an open PvP game. Fine. I think that was a bad idea, but fine. It’s a game with no non-open-PvP options, which is a worse idea, but fine. (Even Albion Online knows better than that, and it’s the rare MMO in this subgenre that actually does well these days, but whatever.) And now you’re trying to tell me that it’s all right because this open PvP is fair, and seriously, please just stop. You know it’s not fair. It was never fair. It’s not supposed to be fair. You know that it’s not really fair, and you’re trying to make sure that your game doesn’t tank. At least Mortal Online 2 just admits what it is, my dude.

10. Any talk about supporting the game as “a community”

This is one of the reasons I hate being called a “gamer.” I’m not a member of a specialized community because I play video games; I’m a marketing demographic. These things do not define my identity. And any time a game tries to make me feel as if I am special and unique because of a financial transaction, I start getting a little leery.

I didn’t buy your game as a statement of identity but because it looked fun. Community is emergent, not wholly prescriptive. And if you keep telling me how I am part of a super elite special group of people because I gave you money, I’m going to assume that you’re trying to sell me more stuff, get me to forgive not-very-good stuff, or both. It’s usually both, and it’s usually another Kickstarter.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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