Give me a reason to return

Continuing the recent string of WAR-related musings, I’d like to talk about developer focus today. As I see it, there are basically three groups of players for any MMO at all times: those who never played your game, those who currently play, and those who played but canceled. So whenever you are working on an update to your MMO, you are likely targeting one or more of those groups, but they don’t all want the same thing, and this is where I believe Mythic could use a little focus-shift.

First lets get the “those who never played” out of the way. The best way to transition them to the other two groups is with a quality free trial. WAR has that, as do many other MMOs. This is not the only way to get someone’s attention (an exciting expansion certainly helps, as does a re-release to retail or a price drop), but IMO it’s the best/cheapest route to go for any studio. If your game is a quality product, people will enjoy the trial enough to make a purchase and move into the ‘currently playing’ group. If they decide not to purchase, I’m not sure they really qualify for the ‘played but quit’ group, as I think a certain (debatable) amount of time has to be spent to really ‘get’ an MMO and judge it on more than a superficial level.

So we are left with those who currently play and those who played but quit. Those who currently play follow the game on a much deeper level than most who don’t, so patches that address balance or minor but annoying bugs are going to appeal to this crowd. If you are still playing you are likely (hopefully?) happy enough with the game to keep paying, so rather than dramatic changes you generally want ‘more’ of whatever you are getting. If you are playing WoW you want more PvE, if you are playing WAR you want more RvR, etc. What you definitely don’t want is an NGE-style update to a game you enjoy, be it full loot added to WoW or a total focus shift to PvE in WAR.

I also believe that the faster you see updates, the better, even if those updates are small little bites rather than massive updates. The knowledge that ‘something’ is being worked on by the dev team is reassuring, and long periods without an update will anger those who are currently playing. You pay every month; you expect to see something from that payment. From a business standpoint, obviously you want to keep as many of your current players playing/paying as you can, so ignoring them to the point of a mass exodus is self-defeating.

With that said, and especially for WAR, a far larger population of ex players exists compared to current players, and while making sure those who are currently playing stay happy is important, you also need to try and bring those who left back. Especially those who left not because they thought the game was terrible, but either they ran out of content, just got a bit burned out, or took issue with one or two particular items but overall enjoyed the product. I mean if you hated the game, yea, no updated short of a overhaul is going to bring you back, but for WAR I believe many who tried it found that while the game has many things going for it, it’s missing something ( :cough: 3rd faction :cough: ) to make it really click.

That crowd is not lost forever, far from it IMO. What they are looking for is something to trigger a return, and small balance updates or performance tweaks are not going to do it. A promising expansion would, or a major patch that addresses some of their concerns or sparks interest. And when those ex players do return, they WILL notice all the work you have done to clean up the little things, to make everything a bit cleaner/smoother/more enjoyable, and they are then more likely to stick around for a bit. But in order for them to see all of that work done, they need that catalyst to come back in the first place. That IMO is what WAR is missing right now, and given how many players already bought the game originally versus how many are currently playing, I’m really hoping Mythic has something up their sleeve to bring many of us back. I for one am just looking for a good reason, and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, Patch Notes, Rant, Warhammer Online. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Give me a reason to return

  1. Billy Hicks says:

    WAR seems to lack vision. The one created by Paul Barnett didn’t work and they are churning through Producers at a rapid rate trying to find one with the right ideas.

    I am just hoping that they are hard at work on an expansion, if not and all their time is focused on the stuff we are seeing then they are totally screwed.

    If the patches we are seeing are the side show and they have most of their team working on the expansion then that might be enough to kick start the game, but I am not sure there is much they can do about many of the problems without a 3rd/4th faction.

  2. Anon says:

    Mythic doesn’t seem likely to spend the money required to have anything up their sleeve. They’ve been in maintenance mode on WAR for quite some time, and I don’t see that changing.

    • SynCaine says:

      I really hope that’s not the case, because more than any other MMO that comes to mind, WAR is the one game that is a major feature or two away from greatness (and by greatness I mean the 200-300k sub level of LotRO/EVE and company)

    • shadowwar says:

      To be frank, Anon doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I can understand how it may appear that way from someone who probably doesn’t even play, or keep up on stuff. However, I sincerely think that something new is coming, my guess is this summer will have an annoucement.

    • Snafzg says:

      Personally, I’d love to see a massive expansion that brings thousands upon thousands of players back, but I don’t think it’s a realistic hope. Their last expansion actually drove players away (LOTD).

      Most of EA’s money is going into SWTOR right now so I can’t see WAR getting many new resources to play with.

      Sure, they might push something out that pleases current players. Kudos if they do because that’s an important focus, but they’ll need to implement some big NEW features to regain old players as Syncaine said, and I just don’t think they have the capacity to do it.

      There’s just too much in their current game to polish up imho. It’s been 18 months and they’re still trying to come up with a solution for city siege. From an outsider looking in, it’s like watching a train wreck.

  3. sid67 says:

    The ‘reason’ why people leave your game is definitely a huge factor in how you should approach these expansions.

    If people are leaving because they just ran out of content, then simply serving up more content is going to appease both groups (current and former players). I would say that this is the approach WoW has been taking for the most part.

    If people are leaving your game because they think it’s broken, then it’s much more complicated.

    Do you “fix” what’s broken and risk changing the game so much that you piss off your existing players?

    Or do you keep the game as-is and work to please your existing subscriber base?

    I think most companies are going to take the second option. For no other reason than “fixing” something doesn’t guarantee that people will return to try it.

    Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.

  4. Aspendawn says:

    This was an mmo I wanted to like. Having played DAOC, even though it had an rvr focus, it still had tons of pve content to keep me busy. WAR hardly offered a fraction of what DAOC did, so there just was very little for me to do there.

    I did like the classes and was nice to see some unique offerings, just wasn’t enough to the game for a non-rvr person.

  5. amuntoth says:

    Gotta say I would LOVE to play WAR again, if they got rid of a lot of the CC that plagued that game. Really though all it would take is to somehow inflate the amount of people in Tier 3 so I didn’t have to PVE through those levels and I would resub.

  6. Max says:

    I personally never played war – heard too many bad things about it . -WoWish combat mechanics without wow polish and lots of lag, lots of instancing. Basically it looks like I would be better still playing wow if I am looking for that sort of expience

    Nothing I keep hearing about the game makes me want play it . For example recent announcement that their “city sieges” is a 24vs24 instance. Really I am supposed to be excited about that? WoW has wintergrasp and even AV is 40 vs 40!

    The only thing that looks remotely interesting is variety of classes, but I suspect balance is so fubar it really not an advantage for it.

    Screwed up launch imho can really hurt you – potential players heard so much stuff about your game that it will be hard to even get them to try it (even mmo trial is significant time investment, you dont want waste it)

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