You might look back nostalgically at previous mmorpgs: World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, EverQuest, Lineage 2 and you might think…wow those guys were at the right place at the right time.
Wrong, Ultima wasn’t new, WoW wasn’t new, these games were well marketed and had follow through with their products. There was Lineage 1 also popular and prior to that there were literally thousands of muds mush muck etc…. Yeah they weren’t quite as big or as graphically pleasing but it was there…ever since the early 90s at least. Some of them were in fact massively popular and had subscripton fees….here is a list of still active variants…. http://mudstats.com.
It may have been novel to the masses just like a lot of modern mmorpg content is novel to the masses, but wow, ultima, eq, etc…were just the next stepping stone with good marketing they weren’t ground breaking people already played games with thousands of users online and they already played graphical games offline…once DSL, cable, satellite …etc connections caught up naturally stuff moved there…we were playing Warcraft 1 on LANs with 8 people connected to larger online servers in the mid 90s you could reset these RTS and play online against opponents ….yeah wow, uo, eq etc… Did it bigger (and your character progressed longer, much like pen and paper rpgs) but it wasn’t new. Good design, good product, follow through, and good marketing is where it is certainly within the realm of doable but if you try to be like someone else you will never be better than them. That’s where everyone gets it wrong… You don’t try to beat WOW by doing what they do better….they have more money, more staff, more time and more experience at doing what they are doing….how are you gonna surpass them? Hint: you won’t…how much money do you think ole blizz has spent perfecting their product? What AAA is gonna invest that upfront? You can’t out WOW Blizz, but the sky is the limit.
What will be successful? Something new and origional, say Eve…Eve did space, it was new and original whatever they did, that’s why it creeped up the way it did….I never played it so I dunno what that was…..what does an AAA gotta do today? Step out of the box (ESO has the potential to do this IMHO but they got a lot of work to do if they are going to pull it off), go with it, don’t be afraid to be different…and when you do that…do it flawlessly in a way that leaves no bad thought in the users mind…its gotta be fun, fast paced, active (people are tired of just mashing buttons on an endless gear grind)….content is king…but content is time consuming to create. New added content should be flawless.
I goto the bank teller machine it works it has money I slide in my card I slide it out I punch in my code and my money comes out….it just works, that’s how mmo developers need to look at their products (before launch) if you can assign a swarm of beta testers to the product for a week and you’re still finding more than one or two bugs….better send out a notice and say “sorry the product is not quite ready” …are there going to be more bugs found at launch? Sure but you’ve eliminated everything possible prior to that.
What do I see as the next big thing? Player created content. A developer will release a game and reward player created content (so many players can produce so much more content)…but wait that’s been tried….well kinda….this player made content will be highly moderated, require lore friendly and be tested by the developers prior to public release. These player made content will consist of many dungeons to explore (devs will constantly increase the number of quality tools player driven content creators can use). The game developers will be responsible for the world map and integrating the player created zones into the larger world. A developer who creates a dungeon that gets integrated into the game gets a free year of playing (on a sub game) or $150 cash in a b2p/f2p game. Why? Cause he has provided an hour of content for the entire playerbase….thats value. You get 12,000 player creators working on that task each one releasing one dungeon a year then you have suddenly 12,000 new dungeons worth of content…each year…and figuring an hour a dungeon thats 12,000 hours of unique content for players. That is also high quality (cause it was fine tuned by the company before actual release and properly vetted). How many of you played 12,000 hours last year?…total cost to the company for the bulk of the content work 1.8 million (a drop in the bucket compared to the alleged cost of making this game). The internal beta review of the content before public release and payment would take a decent staff of testers (full time work is 2000 hours a year…so just to play through the content once on each submission would require 6 fulltime testers…plus all the content that didn’t make it…plus actually doing proper testing…you might need 20-100 actual internal testers. At 30k a year per tester a hundred testers is 3,000,000 per year…and you have the polishers who take the submitted products and improve them to perfection ….maybe another 1.5 million a year. The total annual expense of 12,000 hours of unique playable content about 6.5 million a year in development costs only.
Now how many of you would sub ($15 a month) to a game that released 12,000 hours of flawless unique content each year? If that number is over 40,000 people then the development costs are paid for…the only expense left is management, financial, maintenance, server etc… I bet a paltry 100k sub’s could completely support this and with all that content …I bet sub numbers would grow!!!