Should we expect an MMO to last forever?

Going on day 3 without power thanks to the recent snowstorm, good times. Spent the first night at the house, but once the temp dropped below 50, it was time to go. Luckily my parents’ house has power, and they are away on vacation so we are here just hanging out. Power company estimate is to have things fixed by tomorrow night. We’ll see.

Anyway, on to a topic I’ve been meaning to blog about for a bit now, ‘forever’ MMO design vs one-off content. Forever design is what EVE is, where after 10+ years, things are still going and for the most part what worked five years ago still does today. I’m talking about things like mining asteroids, using the same ships/modules, and a place like Jita being the main trade hub.

On the opposite end of that spectrum is a game like WoW, where each expansion, and sometimes even a patch in that expansion, resets the game and content you experienced before no longer ‘matters’. This is known and accepted by the players, and the point of playing isn’t to continually build up to something like in EVE, but to enjoy the ‘ride’ and come back when a new ride is added.

Life is Feudal is a sandbox, so in theory is more like EVE than WoW. There really are no ‘rides’, but your character does have a skill cap that is easily reached (as compared to EVE), and each town you build has a limited number of buildings and crafting stations before it too is ‘done’. Furthermore, some resources like iron and clay don’t respawn like asteroids do in EVE, so those too are limited. It is simply not possible for a LiF server to exist for 10+ years like EVE has; all of the non-renewable resources would be gone, all existing characters and towns would be maxed, and the only activity left would be PvP for the sake of PvP, which itself would eventually stop working as all weapons/armor would eventually be gone from durability loss.

Even on a smaller time scale, some things in LiF only work at the beginning. One example would be coops, which hold chickens or rabbits. When you first start playing, you can catch a rabbit or a chicken in a snare trap, and once you have it, you can place the caught animal in a coop you built. The quality of the animal is likely low, somewhere between 10-30. Once you have a few animals in the coop, they will breed, and generally the offspring will have a slightly higher quality than the parents. Over time, you will eventually have a full coop of max quality (100) animals.

Quality of the animals is important for crafting items from said animals. You can make higher quality food from the meat, better arrows from the feathers, and higher quality armor and weapons from the leather. Going from low quality animals to higher takes some time, and while that’s happening you are scaling up from their output, slowly getting better/stronger. It’s an enjoyable loop, and it’s just one of many happening all at once as you play.

But that loop, and many others, can be skipped if a more advanced guild gives you 100 quality animals, or if they give you an advanced town to move into, or the best quality food to massively speed up skill gains. These are all temping things to get better faster, but ultimately they just shorten your time with LiF, as currently the growth loop IS the game.

LiF is still in early access, but the issue of a limited content loop is there, and would be hard to fix, if the devs even intent to fix it. Not all MMOs need to live forever, be it via EVE’s design or WoW’s continued content drip. Maybe LiF is intended to be played for a set amount of time, and then that’s it. I personally see that as a flaw in the design, but I also can’t deny that the current gameplay loop, even if not infinite, is a lot of fun. If the devs turn a profit, while supporting the game for a 3-4 year run, is that ‘worth it’, both for them and the players?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in crafting, EVE Online, Housing, Life is Feudal, MMO design, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Should we expect an MMO to last forever?

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Difficult question. I just logged out of Rift Prime. I played Rift for 6 months at launch and four of those were good months. Not as good as beta but still a lot of fun. The final two months were increasingly less fun and by the time I stopped I’d more than had enough.

    I’ve dipped in a few times over the years since but never stayed more than a few sessions. I expected nothing much from Prime and I wouldn;t have bothered only as Wilhelm pointed out you can play for free by using the cash shop currency Trion handed out to subscribers when the game went F2P. So I took a look. I played for a couple of hours, got to level 8, did a few rifts and a major invasion.

    It was…dull. Even though there were plenty of people there was no buzz. Everyone was going through the motions to get through the levels to wehrever they believe the game starts. Back at launh everyone took those invasions as seriously as though it was their own home town being attacked. If it was a sandbox, with or without PvP, it really would be your (virtual) home being attacked but still, how long could you make that matter?

    In GW2 I cared, in a videogaming caring sense, about holding our territory in WvW for about 3 years. My wife still cares about it now. I still care on occasions. It gets harder to take it “seriously”, though, the longer it goes on. How many times can you save or retake the same structures before it starts to feel meaningless?

    There are ways to increase the connection and make the emotional pull stronger but I don’t find them appealing. I’m not a fan of stimulating deep emotions for entertainment. Triggering adrenal responses designed to deal with life or death situations to get a quasi-drug hit seems like a bad idea all round. If I wanted that I’d just take some drugs.

    Without those chemical triggers, though, what’s the likely life of a game that relies on the risk of loss? And without the risk of loss, where’s the thrill? I think it’s hard for MMOs that sell themselves on that basis to extend their lives for more than a handful of years. The ones that do rely far more on much calmer, steadier, activities that stimulate a gentle sense of pleasure or wellbeing or satisfaction, which is why most of the long-running MMOs have large tranches of content that most players could run in their sleep – and probably do.

    Whether 3-4 years is a viable lifetime for an MMO economically, who knows? You wouldn’t imagine so but I guess it depends how well planned it is. Crowfall is an interesting case, with a persistent safe game that runs indefinitely linked to an ongoing series of dangerous, finite campaigns. I don’t think that’s been done before but I could see it working for MMOs other than PvP.

    • Catalina de Erauso says:

      Very interesting point. I think that long lasting games are those that give chances to relax as, IMHO, real life is more stressing than boring to most people (having mortgages, kids, elder relatives…) so relax is more needed than thrills. Young players look for thrills, but older players outnumber them and unlike youngsters they (we) tend to stick to customs. For a company, developing a game that someone plays for relax as a custom is gold if they can monetize it properly.

      I think that EVE has lasted 15 years because mining and PvE provide a income stream to pay for the ebbs and flows of PvP blance/imbalances.

  2. Azuriel says:

    Nothing lasts forever. The best we can hope for is a game that lasts at least as long as our interest in it.

    • dachengsgravatar says:

      “all of the non-renewable resources would be gone”.

      Deeper mines, new technology and new skills needed to acquire them. New things to learn through founding monasteries or later universities. New shipbuilding technology leading to new lands being discovered. There are plenty of ways to expand the game.

  3. The thing is I am not sure even EVE is going to be a “forever” design in the long, long term. It gets along better than most, but in the end it still has to wrestle with the problem of an unending wealth faucet in the form of NPC bounties. If you can hole up in a safe-ish corner of New Eden, like Delve, and crab until you can buy a capital, then a super, then a couple of titans, you end up eventually with wealth beyond need.

    While the EVE economy is stronger than most, the latest MER has me eyeing the balance between mining and ratting in Delve. They are pretty well matched at the moment, so mineral prices are steady as production eats that up to produce ships to sell to the people who are ratting. But if mining, on a serious uptick with the moon mining operations coming online in huge numbers, gets too far ahead, that market could crash. Without something to absorb the ever increasing giant pool of ISK the market for things like PLEX could spiral. But CCP can’t really tax or otherwise tap that ISK pool because it will, as always, hurt the poorer players and drive them off long before the rich even notice.

    And even if things stay balanced, when do people reach the level of absurdity? At the moment it seems more likely that we’re going to lose a Keepstar because GSOL got tired of refueling the every growing array of them than because some external force.

    Then again, EVE is different because all of this stuff matters. WoW releases an expansion and puts in some hugely expensive vanity item to soak up some excess gold. In EVE the economy is too complex for that.

    • SynCaine says:

      I think the ‘solution’ to people having too much ISK is for CCP to create some new, very serious conflict drivers. Granted I’m not sure what that would be (maybe Jove space that is very small, and the single source of T4 ships or a higher tier of modules?), but if it happens, people simply can’t keep up if they are losing capitals/supers somewhat regularly.

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