While talking about the fun curve, Tobold addressed something he and I have been going back and forth on for a bit: do you burn-out on an MMO, or do you quit because the game changed?
Before we go on, I understand that the easy answer is “it depends”, but for the sake of making a blog post, lets continue.
If Cata was BC/WotLK, you would not have quit, right? -Me
I am not certain. It is hard to look into alternate universes where thing would have happened differently. I liked WotLK more than I liked Cata, but maybe that hypothetical “more fun if Cata had been WotLK” would only have made me play a month or two more – Tobold
Tobold wrote more after that, see his blog for the full reply.
Cata caused Tobold (and many others) to quit, while at the same time Tobold (and likely many others) were already growing tired of the formula that is WoW. The Cata changes simply accelerated the path to “not having fun anymore”. And like Tobold says, had Cata been WotLK, perhaps it would have bought Blizzard another month or two, but the same-old feel would still likely have kicked in.
But what if Cata had not only been better than it was, but better than WotLK? What if the expansion had been something like (insert your favorite MMO expansion)? What if, instead of every 2 years, Blizzard released an expansion every year, with enough ‘stuff’ to keep players entertained until the next one?
Isn’t that… the point of the MMO model? (Or was anyway) And more importantly, isn’t that the ideal MMO experience? To have a game that is constantly evolving in a positive way, while retaining the core that got you interested in the first place?
Isn’t that why we all thought MMOs would dominate gaming forever, because instead of consuming a set amount of content and moving on, we would now be in a world that constantly provided us with more content, enabling us to stick around ‘forever’? And, well, isn’t that what happened ‘back in the day’? How long did you play EQ1? How quickly did people ‘burn out’ on AC1? Did anyone EVER see all of the content in UO back when that game still had a dev team?
On the flip side, we have plenty of examples of devs trying to do just that, and instead of adding positive content, they add trash AND screw the core up. Rift in beta vs Rift today will always stick in my mind, but WoW has slowly (or not so slowly, depending on who you ask) fallen off as well for many. Point being, changing the game can just as easily make it worse than make it better, and if you have a good thing, the ‘safe’ play is just to feed people ‘more of the same’ until it stops working, and then you go F2P, shut down, or do something drastic.
The reason I don’t believe that burnout is ultimately inevitable is because we have solid examples to suggest otherwise. I mean, Tobold has played WoW for 6000 hours. Are you really going to tell me it takes 6000 hours to reach burnout? Or was WoW so good that burnout was not a factor until the game itself started slipping? I played UO until Trammel, I played DAoC until ToA, I played WoW until TBC, I played Rift until 1.2. In not one of those games did I move on because of burnout. It did not take years to burn out on UO/DAoC, months for WoW, or weeks for Rift. Time was not a factor; the games changing was what did it.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that EVE, an MMO that has kept its core solid (blowing up spaceships), while at the same time evolving more than most, has seen and continues to see growth, even after 7 years. If Online Excel can do it, why can’t others?