I’ve found myself wondering why I’ve been spending so much time within Landmark lately when it is such an unfinished product. The scope is limited, the bugs and issues plentiful and the only thing to really do is build and gather – it’s a great foundation for a game but not one I would have ever though I would play that much or be as popular as it is considering.
When you think about it though every mmo when it releases is usually more of a husk, a platform for ideas rather than something fully formed. Of course this is in varying levels and has become even more true lately with the prevalence of beta and alpha play but even the most polished product, or 200 million dollar gambit will still be missing features, need polish, and require a greater amount of content to keep players engaged.
Looking at the mmo’s I have and do play I’m surprised I spent so long in the ones I did regardless of their flaws. I played Firefall despite its lack of content; Guild Wars 2 despite its abysmal WvW development; Rift despite its lack of alternative progression and PvP; Tera despite well, everything except the dungeons. I played them all for many months, well beyond any reasonable time based on their positives because there is often something we hold close that can be more meaningful than any of this, and that is a games potential.
This isn’t even something we can quantify very well as there are a lot of different facets. Also it seems most of the potential is more personally felt based on what the individual level of interest is in certain things and whether or not they’ve been reflected in your experiences. How a game feels, personally is something extremely subjective and based on the parts we play and how much we play them.
There are some other important parts that keep us playing games longer than the content provides, that keeps you playing despite the flaws. regardless of whether the developers are focusing on your areas. parts that add onto the feeling of potential for a product and extend on its lifespan.
Based on how previous features, mechanics and content have been implemented into the game; the level of polish towards them and how well they fit within the whole provides a lot of information about how these sort of things will be implemented in the future. Across a single project you are likely to see the same level of quality and focus on certain feature over the long-term be based on the things that have come before it. You can make predictions about what’s to come; what new features and content you might see which you would then know how well you are going to enjoy it based on your previous experiences.
These are all assumptions but they are often rather apt. First impressions, and even short-term experience with the direction of the game can give you enough of an impression to understand any future interest. The game that ignores PvP will likely do so for longer. The straight and narrow Themepark will likely stay that way, and the incessant need on some sort of ongoing story will likely continue in others.
This seems to be a relatively new feature for MMO’s to show off to the players. These sort of things have usually remained an internal guide for developers but nothing that has ever been shown to the players. The increased transparency in the industry has now allowed us to view these and make more long-term plans for their game of choice and what potential is there. If a mechanic or feature that has been sought after is going to be implemented or fixed in the near future then you might just stay around to see it.
We’ve also seem an increase in developers wanting player input in these roadmaps for the future which I believe is an incredible idea. It’s good to see developers and games have a certain ideal they hold close and are unlikely to change but it’s good to get input for the myriad of other mechanics and features around that. It’s hard to know exactly what the mmo playerbase wants at times, interests change so quickly and forum rhetoric sometimes isn’t that reliable. Being able to anonymously give your input allows for increased input from players and a greater sense of investment in a product as your able to shape the direction of the game in some small or large ways.
Games like Planetside 2 and even Firefall have done this well with integrated, polished and well supported features for submitting ideas and voting on interests and I felt more positive about their potential because of it.
In a lot of older games and MMO’s there has often been little developer input on the forums and conversation between players. When there has there has always been an overwhelming adherence to confidentiality, to keep information about any potential or upcoming feature to a minimum. To keep expectations low… or unrealistic and to always keep to some sort of PR guideline.
So many games do this and still do yet, I believe it will always be a negative feature. I hate being left in the dark regarding features, updates and content. I seek to understand a product that I’m interested and having realistic and up to date information lets me make more informed choices for purchase and long-term play
I’ve noticed that without developer input, real input, forums and websites increasingly fall into a pit of negativity. Speculation runs amok, discussions deviate into faults, and in the end becomes just a bunch of children bickering while their parents are absent. The slow demise of the GW2 PvP and WvW forums is a very recent example.
Recently the new trend has become and an increase in visibility of developer actions, insight into development and transparency about faults and actions. It is incredibly refreshing. I’ve been playing many different beta’s lately and I can say I’m far less negative about the ones that have been more forthcoming with information as my expectations are more realistic. I’m surprised at the positives and understanding of the faults. I don’t feel like I’m being cheated or manipulated either which leads to less backlash in the future.
Waste and Waiting
All these points extend on the potential of a product and how long you will play for but, in the face of controversy or conflicting information how long do you wait? What parts should serve as a greater warning than others and what are you willing to wait for a bit longer than the rest?
Of course all of this, while being a great thing for maintaining a sense of potential for a product and long-term interest it can fail in the end. MMO’s end and you will have to move on regardless. Mostly it seems that feeling of potential will eventually falter and it will all feel like a lot of wasted time. I’m seeing a lot of people now who try to avoid that feeling by continuously bouncing around many titles in a superficial way as a way of avoiding it, never putting down roots so as to never feel dissapointed. The perpetually MMO bachelor.
I can understand that approach as I’ve been through the heartbreak of broken potential a few times before but honestly, I would never trade the amazing moments and feelings as a way of avoiding the eventual negatives. Give in to your inner feeling of potential now and then and indulge in a game above all else. Even if it ends it will always be worth it.
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