Options vs Momentum

Whenever P2P vs F2P models get debated, the F2P crowd likes to point to the fact that most people will only pay one monthly sub at a time, which greatly limits how many games one can play in a given month vs how many you could play with the F2P model. Assuming you are someone who falls into that “one sub only” crowd, this is correct.

Yet while “more” is usually better, in the MMO genre I don’t believe that’s actually true, at least not when it comes to how many games you play at one time.

Generally, the more you get into an MMO, the more you play it. And the more you play, the more ingrained you become in the community, be it a guild or a server. This momentum is one of the reasons MMOs entertain us for far more hours than single-player games, and it’s also why almost everyone’s MMO highlights include others in them. Community and player interaction are the “secret sauce” of the genre (because lets be honest here, even the best combat systems and such in an MMO are, at best, decent by overall gaming standards).

Solo content and solo focus are two very different things. I believe any good MMO will have solo content, as being handcuffed to always play with others is not always ideal, and such things can actually lead to reduced player activity (the whole, log in, no one around, can’t do anything, log off cycle). Sometimes, you just want to zone out and do something quick and easy, and such content should exist. But that content existing is very different than that content being the focus. In recent themeparks, solo content has been the focus, especially before the level cap.

Solo content becomes the focus when it’s more optimal to do something solo than to team up. Horrible examples include WoW leveling, where it is actually harder to level with someone than solo, but anytime it’s NOT optimal to group up, that’s bad MMO design.

Mix the two together (F2P + solo focus), and is it any wonder guild, and especially server communities are so poor? And the downward spiral is easy to see as well: more people casually playing = more need for casual (solo) content = more of it = more player focus on it, etc etc. I fully believe communities reflect the content focus of any game, and the more solo/casual focused you become, the less community matters.

The golden solution would be to create a game that is both casual but also group/community focused, but things like player momentum still get in the way. At the end of the day, the MMO genre (in the traditional sense, not Farmville) is a somewhat ‘hardcore’ genre; it requires more time than others to really get to the best stuff, but as we know, the best stuff tends to be much better than what a solo game can provide. The more you get into something, the more you enjoy the fruits of your labor, and taking shortcuts to reach a goal always cheapens the satisfaction you get.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but at some point you have to make a decision: do you create a game that some players will love, or do you create one that many can hop in/out of. I don’t believe you can do both in this genre.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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5 Responses to Options vs Momentum

  1. bhagpuss says:

    I’ve gone full circle with this.

    I started in Everquest and played mostly solo for about the first eighteen months.

    Then I went to DAOC, where I played in full social guild mode for about 9 months before I returned to EQ, then EQ2, then back to EQ again, remaining in social/guild mode until I went to Vanguard in 2007.

    From then on I’ve played almost entirely solo and duo.

    Now I’m in Rift playing together-alone.

    On balance, I don’t think it makes any difference. The amount of fun I have is constant. My strongest memories include both solo and social happenings. The deciding factor in the end would be, for me anyway, the sheer convenience of being able to get on with stuff without having to find someone else who wants to do it too.

    And it really wouldn’t add anything if they made my core gameplay group-focused. Sorting your inventory is best done alone.

    • Saucelah says:

      I dunno, inventory sorting could be an interesting group activity. Send me your log-ins and passwords and I’ll show you.

  2. Dril says:

    I agree wholeheartedly that in order to get the best from an MMO you have to play it regularly, often and be involved with it pretty heavily. That’s not to say there aren’t some cases (TAGN’s instance group is an example here) where playing with a closed community on a very casual basis can be great, but imo, MMOs are best served as a long-term dish.

    Sadly, I haven’t been able to put it into practice properly for about a year now. I used to play WoW…a lot. It used to suck up all my time, but, since quitting, I can’t find anything to hook me, and, as a consequence, I’m constantly jumping from MMO to MMO in order to find something that I can devote my time to. partially because I really want to be focussed on one game, and partly because it’s getting too expensive to game-hop all the time.

    I was struck by something in EVE this month by two things I haven’t experienced in a long, long time: I was forced to group to continue an epic story arc, and I made one really, really good friend from it because the encounter was difficult, but not impossible. Better yet, there was a follow-up group section, which meant we could back together and do it. Making a totally new, out of the blue friend is something I haven’t done in an MMO for, what, 5 years now.

    And I think, honestly, MMOs need way more forced, complex, long-term grouping. Rift isn’t the answer, because it’s a zerg most of the time and there’s no need top communicate. Neither is WoW and its abysmal dungeon finder.

    Sad, really, that the closest thing to a sandbox in the MMOsphere is the only thing that has a strong grouping themepark element for newbies.

    (For reference, it was the Sisters of EVE Epic Arc, and the bosses were Kritsan Parthus and Dagan, or something like that.)

  3. SM says:

    I think most companies are using the f2p option to lure in customers and get them started. Once they get the bug, they can opt for the full sub. Can you think of any end-game content for f2p? Neither can I.

  4. bonedead says:

    Since I don’t like to read I just skipped to the end. Perdy sure some people love WoW and a lot of people can hopin/out of it. Owned!

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