I usually keep MMO Mechanics quite general by looking at several games as examples to highlight my point regarding the mechanics of choice in each article, but I have a different format in mind for this edition that I hope you’ll enjoy. I’m going to flip things around, instead using one game — and several mechanical examples — to construct my argument.
It’s no secret that I have Guild Wars 2 on the brain anyway, and with the recent April update being such a reformative hit, I felt inspired. I’ve always believed that innovating mechanics is the secret to MMO longevity and the recent quarterly update for Heart of Thorns is an excellent case study to show how mechanical tweaks specifically can refresh MMOs. In this edition, I’ll outline some of the changed mechanics that gave ArenaNet a newly invigorated playerbase and wide praise for the update.
The recent news about EverQuest Next‘s cancellation has renewed the debate about whether or not MMOs should get sequels, which have given me plenty to think about in terms of mechanics and future MMO development. There are a variety of strategies that online games use to stay updated and introduce new mechanics, of course, and each comes with varying levels of disruption for active players. This disruption is an especially important factor for MMO developers since they need to be conscious of the fact that MMOs are living products with persistent worlds.
Some game developers opt to add new game mechanics in self-contained expansions, causing a separation of those players who own the expansion from those who don’t. Full-fledged sequels may make more sense in cases where the disruption caused by new content would be too great or the gap between new and old mechanics would be too much for the current playerbase to swallow. Some studios have even eschewed both sequels and expansions, opting to use iterative development methods where old mechanics are often updated and retired players who decide to come back can return to a very different game indeed.
In this edition of MMO Mechanics, I’ll look at some examples of each of these three update methods and discuss the impact of each on game mechanics.
I know I promised you an entry that focused on the changes to the in-game economy as my next installment to the Heart of Thorns launch diary, but a juicy post went live last night on the Guild Wars 2 website that I couldn’t possibly postpone commenting on, so I’ve put my economy entry on hold while I take a look at the iterative development process that drives the expansion. Within a week, we’ve seen several tweaks to the mechanics that were introduced with the expansion, and the latest news is that the ArenaNet team has again addressed player complaints with an iterative development approach. In this launch diary entry, I’ll take a look at the team’s iterative approach and highlight precisely why this is a fantastic way forward for the game.
Another point I’d like to note before I talk about the topic at hand is that I’m now in the original Massively Overpowered [MVOP] guild and am looking for company. Any reader can join us by popping his or her account name in the comments below or in an email, or alternatively you can message me in-game by contacting Tinabeans.8064. Please note that I’m on a free secondary account, so I can’t reply to your in-game mail or whispers unless we’re mutual friends: Don’t panic if I don’t write back!