Remember when you were younger, playing a console Nintendo™ single player game, and then finding yourself stumped by a boss-fight or puzzle within the game?
Some may have used funds from their parents or otherwise to make a call in to the Nintendo Power™ Magazine’s helpline and gotten some clues or hints. Others of us maybe actually had the copy of the magazine or even the official ‘Player Guide’ that game had to offer, and used this for our reference. While others were not able to make the phone call, did not have a Nintendo Power™ subscription to turn to, and simply could not afford both the game and the guide. This last group probably did one of three things, asked a friend who had one of the above or already beat the game in question, went to a book store and skimmed the Player Guide for the answer being sought, or simply gave up on bothering further with the game.
Things have definitely changed, the children today have not only the internet for such resourcing, but even communities and forums have emerged dedicated specifically for game guides and discussions thereof. Where once tolled calls were made to request assistance when stumped, nowadays if you cannot simply Google the answer being chased, you can likely find a video or forum containing the answers you are after.
This massive media and informative outlet of the internet has been a major piece in the completion of many a single player challenge at this point, but how does this means truly affect the delivery of the MMORPG challenges as they are presented? Certainly it is nice to know that we have this avenue by which to find the answers when appropriately challenged, but doesn’t this create a drain on some of the entertainment intended? Again definitely nice as a means to a measure, but something happening more regularly within the MMORPG gaming community is a steady pattern of boredom. Symptoms of this boredom would be population decline, growing complaints and ‘trolling’ within the game, continual additions to, and of, the ‘end-game content’ as pertains to each game.
Unlike the single player games for console systems such as Nintendo™, the MMORPG gaming industry is very reliant on grouping and interacting with other players. When those players are not available to interact with, some percentage of the games’ offerings are also lacking for an active player. As more players are unable to enjoy such offerings, a greater boredom sets in and a greater decline in population takes place. The single player game will never have this drawback, so what could possibly help to preserve the interests of longtime players within an MMORPG?
It seems the answer most of the major MMO’s out there have come up with is simply continuing to add more end game content, that or a full expansion to raise the level cap and ultimately include new content. This seems a reasonable enough solution, but the truth is we are looking at a band-aid for a wound which requires stitches and proper mending. With added expansions that increase level caps it is clear that the top level players are being addressed, but as games like World Of Warcraft™ are finding, the newer players are so stifled now with the repetitive challenges ahead that boredom sets in sooner. While the added end game content seems reasonable as well, we have more and more leaks steadily handed out up to the release of the ‘new’ content that by the time it is actually live the ‘newness’ fades quickly as the puzzles and battle strategies are almost as readily available as the content and even beforehand in some cases!
So what can be done, if all the new content needs to be tested and leaks are inevitable at this point, what can the developers truly offer their players that will retain their interest with any given MMO? Perhaps the answer is in the very mechanism of entertainment most of these games were built off of, subscription. To further explain allow me to post the 2nd and 3rd listed definitions of this word from dictionary.com:
2. the right to receive a periodical for a sum paid, usually an agreed number of issues.
3. an arrangement for presenting a series of concerts, plays, etc., that one may attend by the payment of a membership fee; to purchase a 10 concert subscription.
Now to elaborate:
Receiving a periodical for a sum paid; granted this ‘periodical’ is not going to be in the form of a paper periodical, but the idea here is a steady and regular stream of content.
An arrangement for presenting a series; here is the real clue ‘a series’.
Something it seems too many of the developers fail to remember are the roots from which this industry was spawned; television. What made series such as Lost, Walking Dead, and Battlestar Galactica such successes for television? The involvement and intrigue of the viewer, the puzzles and mental challenges, and let none of us forget the great cliffhangers.
If the developers of any MMORPG want to see their regular players remain regular, give them a regular and progressing event in which to be subscribed. Give the event a drama, a story, a content, that can all be used to feed the cliffhangers delivered, the incentives offered, and even present puzzles and possible variant outcomes from the play out of these events. These events could even have parallel events on the opposite factions that could determine an outcome that affects the overall event, or possibly even elements within the overall gaming of that server. These same events could lead up to outcomes for up and coming expansions and feed the fires of their welcome as opposed to the flames of their repetition. Granted these events would potentially suffer some of the same leaks and clues, but steadily working these and limiting their offerings or even involvement could stimulate the longtime players in ways that just throwing more of the same would not normally.
Some of you are possibly saying, there are events that occur regularly such as Halloween, Christmas, and other holiday offerings.
These should remain, but even they could see a gradual evolution to incite further involvement or even regular involvement. It seems that too many of the developers take the desire for content in their games to mean another dungeon/instance or new bosses and loot offerings. Certainly these are essential within such a request, but content that encourages commitment typically has a means of involving those taking part and giving them the feeling of having truly affected the outcome in some significant way.