The Day MMO's Died

Long ago, I stopped playing World of Warcraft. I told myself it was the guild splitting up after Lich King was down. I told myself it was many of those things we like to think it was. I even told myself it was because of the real cash auction house on Diablo 3 making me no longer want to support Blizzard. However, it had actually died well before that for me. I just didn't know it.

I healed a raid on a druid for a few minutes once in tree form when my friend needed to go AFK to get and pay for the delivery pizza. I don't recall how long exactly, but I pushed a total of 3 buttons a handful of times. The instructions I was provided took all of 20 seconds to explain to me since I already knew the fight. After that I realized that tiny spark of interest in raid healing died completely. I don't recall exactly when this was, but it was an easy raid (the boat one).

Warlock DPS was much more engaging. I had tons of addons on my screen, so many that people asked how I could see anything around all that junk.

So many addons

Slowly, my interest in the game waned as I realized everything was the same thing, over and over. I wasn't looking at anything actually in the world anymore. I was looking at my addon data. How much damage? Did I waste time somewhere? Was that the optimal place to stand? Do I have to run that far or can I stop just short of that and turn to DPS?

I had long before lost interest in tiny "fetch quests" for which the only purpose seemed to be forcing people run about in circles and feel like they had actually accomplished something. All that running about was designed to consume time. Time they needed you to spend to stretch out the available hours of content into something that took longer. This is a bulk of the hundreds of hours of stuff to do in MMO's. Filler.

So, after I had quit WoW, I got into a beta phase of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Exciting! Execpt it wasn't. It was the same as WoW, with a Star Wars skin. The sales pitch was the whole 'fouth pillar' thing with the 'personal story' they touted and I thought that was gonna be something. It wasn't. I would say during that 30 days in the summer before they released it, I spent maybe 5% of my time on that personal story. The story itself was great, but it just wasn't enough of the game's content to make it much fun. Again, almost everything was filler.

As an example, every planet I went to had a kidnapping quest. Sure, the details where different, but it was like someone made a plot device chart for each planet and filled in checkboxes to make filler content. I didn't care about bugs, I even reported some, though that wasn't the purpose of this beta group. Our purpose was to just play like the game was out. I played for a solid 2 weeks. I then played sporadically the last 2 weeks. I posted on the forums. I, like many others told them to let the game bake in the oven some more. Get more content. Fix the map system (which was awful) and other things. We told them there was still a lot of work to do.

They even sent us a poll asking if they should wait another year. I said yes. So did others, just like on the forums. Most people voted to release it. The problem being, they had hyped this game for years. They sold it long before it was ready for anyone to even see screenshots. Those people who voted in favor of release were impatient. They had fun. Anything can be fun for a while. MMO's can be fun for months, even if they suck.

So they went with the poll data and released it against the wise advice they got on the forums about things that needed to be addressed. You know the results of that. They had to go free to play just to keep trying to make back their massive investment in what was basically a WoW clone.

What did all this mean? It means MMO's are time sinks. Lots and lots of time sinks. That's what a game in general sort of is, but most games do not have deliberately placed time sinks like MMO's do. MMO's need to offer countless hours of content. Content that if produced with the quality of a non-MMO AAA title would result in a development cycle of a lifetime. It would cost more to produce than such a game could ever hope to recover from the market. And so, I fade into west. MMO's are dead to me. I will likely never again be able to play one and fail to see it as simply time sinks and pointlessly unrewarding grinding.

If anyone who makes games would like, get ahold of me. I will happily critique your plans and designs. Especially MMO developers. I'm happy to work with you. I've played MMO's since 1999. I've played many of the ones you've heard of and some you probably haven't. I played MUDs before that. I can quickly tell you where you're getting something from, what was bad about it in that game, and what will burn people out. Why? I get burned out of MMO's fast. If I'd burn out in 2 weeks, most people will burn out in under a year. If I'd burn out in a month or two, you might have the start of something good. NDA's don't bother me, I've still got secrets I don't share from previous NDA's and work places. Hit me up on reddit /u/sirmaxim and we can arrage something.

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