Cutting down the money tree, MMO style.

This is a rather amazing back and forth. Quite a long read to get the full story, but well worth your time.

It’s rather hard for me to comment on anything specific because I’ve never played SWG, but like everyone else, I’ve read plenty. I disagree somewhat in the statement that you can’t radically change an MMO mid-way in, especially one that is already approaching deaths door. But even if you do radically change it, you have to at least TRY to retain the aspects that worked, and that people loved. Assuming you listen to your player community, is it that hard to identify those features, or to keep them?

Plus explain this to me. You spend five and a half years developing a game, and then think two weeks of work is going to fix everything and magically make it better, especially when the changes dramatically shift everything around? How that even went through, or who thought it would actually work out, I would love to know.

The entire story with SWG is an odd period in MMO history though. I mean you have an IP that is almost guaranteed to print money whenever applied, from a developer that made, at the time, the biggest hit MMO, and you end up with a train wreck that went from bad to make history awful. And then shortly after, we witness the release of a game (WoW) that completely changed the market and blew previous expectations out of the water, showing us that rather than setting a goal of 300k subs, we need to think in millions.

I still don’t get how EA f’ed up The Sims Online either. That WAS a money tree, and it had to take an epic amount of effort to cut it down. You practically already had The Sims Online with all the player made content and community sites that existed, and somehow you come out with a game that disappoints all those millions of pointless expansion buying lemmings… how?

In bright sunshine news, it’s Friday, and the Celtics will be flying home with banner 17 on Sunday.

14 Responses to Cutting down the money tree, MMO style.

  1. Thallian says:

    EA wants money but they don’t understand that money represents value in the sense that they have to provide “value” and then they get “value” back in the form of money…. Making value in the form of fun takes a level of creative whimsy that they have routinely stifled over the decades within their own company through their burn and churn process and bureaucracy. I can’t see them actually making something fun internally.. on their own, unless they change that. Others do come make good things under their banner of course, but internally where they have messed with things a lot.. I don;t see it.

  2. Beatnik59 says:

    I suspect that the reason The Sims Online didn’t work has everything to do with the fact that The Sims is not a good platform for multiplayer.

    The appeal of The Sims is like the appeal of a fishbowl: you have your fish, and you control every aspect of the environment your fish swim in. It’s about the player’s attempt to craft every detail, to “play a god,” if you will. That’s why they call games like Sim City and The Sims “god games.”

    The Sims Online wasn’t about players owning fishbowls. It was about being a fish in someone else’s fishbowl that the player has no control over. The player is constantly subjected to little impositions from other players. You can’t ever achieve the perfection you crave in a multiplayer game, because multiplayer games are all about compromise. And if there’s one thing about The Sims players, they do not want to compromise when it comes to their neighborhoods.

    EA’s mistake was that they figured that if they designed a Sims Online, millions of The Sims players were all the sudden going to magically give them $15 checks per month. The only problem was that a good single player game rarely can get translated into a good massive multiplayer game without losing some of the hook.

  3. Mallika says:

    If a game isn’t for you, fine and dandy, but saying everyone who likes The Sims and buys some or all the expansions as “pointless expansion-buying lemmings” is rather uncalled for. I don’t play FPS games (mainly due to the fact that first-person perspective makes me nauseous), but I don’t snark about how everyone who enjoys FPSes are smack-talking idiots with the mental age of a thirteen-year-old.

  4. Mallika says:

    (And no, I’m not one of those who bought all The Sims expansions — just the main game. :) )

  5. Rog says:

    The Sims Online had the potential to be so much more than (and certainly more popular and lucrative) than Second Life has become. But as they’ve done many times before, the suits threw their “games are like movies” crappy hollywood producer formula at it and figured just by making it alone they’d rake in the bucks.

    The entire SWG fiasco was just a situation of the same assumption, they were just not happy with a Star Wars license not capturing the world’s biggest attention as an MMO. So they butchered their success in the belief that if they cater to the most obvious parts of the license that all the fans would flock right to them. Get a quest from Chewbacca! Be a Jedi! Ugh.

    I just hope they’ve buried the entire concept of Star Wars as an MMO, because if it turns out the rumours are true in regards to BioWare, I’m hanging my head and crying tears for the great ~original concept~ game BioWare could make in exchange for a very tired old license.

    • Paul says:

      I just hope they’ve buried the entire concept of Star Wars as an MMO, because if it turns out the rumours are true in regards to BioWare, I’m hanging my head and crying tears for the great ~original concept~ game BioWare could make in exchange for a very tired old license.

      So prescient, you were. /hatsoff

  6. tonyp5 says:

    My opinion:

    The developers, individually, are very intelligent people. They had to be to get where they are.

    The problem, though, is not their intelligence – it’s their ego.

    These very smart people, once they reach what may be the pinnacle of their careers – making lots of money, in positions of authority, considered to be ‘at the top’ by their peers – simply think they are TOO smart to have to listen to their customers. They believe they know what is good for their customers, and know exactly what their customers want, regardless of what their customer are actually saying they want.

    I saw it happen in Everquest, when at one point the company basically shut themselves off completely from their customer’s feedback, and kept giving them exactly what the average customer DIDN’T want. Then along came WoW, which gave those people what they wanted from EQ but couldn’t get, and the rest is history.

    Ego is the great MMO killer.

  7. Wolfshead says:

    I agree 100% with tonyp5. Ego is the main cause of decline for every MMO that has declined in recent years. Koster, Smedley, McQuaid and soon you can add Pardo and Morhaime to that list. Blizzard will eventually kill their MMO with their e-sports and motion picture hubris.

  8. Manasi says:

    The NGE was and will forever be a crock of shit. I played the game prior to NGE and Like the game I now play (EvE) it was complex, and challenging and very fun to play. You are spot on to bring up the fact that they ( all involved with the SWG game at every level F&*ked up BADLY ) I was one of the 200,000 that left and I will NEVER play any SOE game ever again. Ever. So, the risk to developers who do what it seems was done to the Sims and the SWG and to a couple other games is that me ( the paying customer) wil never buy their product ever again.

  9. Nosf says:

    SWG was a dismal, wretched game before the NGE. Had they gone with something closer to the NGE from the start, we’d likely all still be playing it. Instead of catering to fans who wanted epic space opera, we were given dancing and moisture farmers. I’m fairly certain if you go back and get a stopwatch, the epic space opera parts of the movies are 99.9% and the dancers and moisture farmers are the remaining part.

  10. Chris Ostler says:

    So much for bringing that banner home on Sunday

  11. syncaine says:

    Slight delay to tonight. Would rather win at home anyway… :)

  12. Larry says:

    Nosf Says:
    June 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    SWG was a dismal, wretched game before the NGE. Had they gone with something closer to the NGE from the start, we’d likely all still be playing it. Instead of catering to fans who wanted epic space opera, we were given dancing and moisture farmers. I’m fairly certain if you go back and get a stopwatch, the epic space opera parts of the movies are 99.9% and the dancers and moisture farmers are the remaining part.
    Just to show you how wrong one can be..
    Pre-CU/NGE SWG had more dedicated crafting accounts than it’s entire subscription base now.

  13. Iconic says:

    The bottom line on tne entire NGE fiasco is this:

    Sony paid a lot of money for the Star Wars license, and then the combined magic of Raph Koster and George Lucas kept them from making it anything like the game that most star wars fans actually wanted to play.

    Instead of just taking the money that was there from the fan base they actually drew, and making a separate new game that would get it right, they decided to replace the existing game more or less on a whim.

    You would hope that every company would understand by now that if you can’t make the game that fans of the IP want to play, then the IP is not worth that much. Apparently no one told the people that made LOTRO, because you can’t be a wizard.

    You would also hope that every company would now understand that they can’t change their game into something it’s not, and if you try to, you’ll alienate your player base. Apparently no one told Blizzard, because they still want to turn WoW into a competitive e-sport.

    You also hope that every company would now understand that rampant lazy bugs will drive away a lot of customers the way they drove people away from SWG, but apparently no one told Funcom, because … look at Age of Conan.

    I guess no one really ever learns all of the lessons the first time around.

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