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Are MMOs Time-Release Vaporware?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the going-going-gone dept.

PC Games (Games) 193

KKnDz0r writes "Australian technology and gaming site 'Atomic' raises an interesting question about the dangers of MMOs that go bust. Are they part of a new breed of games that render themselves completely useless and without value if the parent company goes belly-up? It certainly seems that way in some cases, with Fury and now Hellgate: London both going to software heaven, leaving a player base holding relatively useless client software." While it's certainly not an issue for the large, continuously successful MMOs, we've lately seen a huge influx of companies trying to grab a slice of the MMO pie, some of which will inevitably fail. It would be great to see a dying company at least open up the server software, but how can we give them incentive to do so?

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first? (-1, Troll)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599729)

i suppose i am the first ;)

mmos are pointless imso (s=superior). but i dont really like pc games anways.

Re:first? (4, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599985)

mmos are pointless imso (s=superior). but i dont really like pc games anways.

Not liking PC games kinda sucks the 's' out of your opinion.

Re:first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600173)

Turns it into an 'h'... ...as in horrible.

fp? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599743)

Frist psot?

Re:fp? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599807)

Smallest penis!

Re:fp? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600191)

nope, first loser..

Example: Age of Conan (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599773)

See Funcom's stock here [oslobors.no] . Can you tell when AoC was released by just looking at it?

The should have made Anarchy Online 2 instead (1)

Vandil X (636030) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599873)

The original AO had a great storyline & setting and had plenty to worth with for a sequel.

Also, Sci-Fi boobies are just as appealing as medieval ones.

Re:The should have made Anarchy Online 2 instead (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600539)

It doesn't matter what you release when it's as horribly unfinished as AoC.

I hung on a lot longer than many, because I love so many things about that game, the setting, the brutality, the fast-based combat (even though they nerfed the original design of the combo system), the open PvP, and I think it has some of the best-designed outdoor zones in any MMO. They are realistic but still interesting, and some of the vistas are amazing.

But the unbalanced classes, unfinished PvP system, unfinished mid-high level content, broken sieging, and bugs upon bugs are what killed it.

The Conan world has at least as good of a story as AO. That game had so much potential, but they made the mistake of many potentially great MMOs before them and launched too early. It may recover some, but they'll never get back the full 800k that bought the game initially...not even close.

Incentive? (3, Interesting)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599775)

It would be great to see a dying company at least open up the server software, but how can we give them incentive to do so?

That's easy. Buy the code from them. If it's not already owned by a parent company, you can probably get it for fire-sale prices. Chances are that it's already legally the property of creditors though-- purchasing or even renting the servers necessary to launch an MMO is an extremely costly venture, let alone the costs of payroll and development.

Re:Incentive? (3, Interesting)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599877)

Or, we gamers could never pay for something that depends on the goodwill of the manufacturer to function. Buy Software? Sure. Rent services such as MMOs? Sure. But I don't understand why anyone would buy software that requires a service to function. This seems like a case of had it coming.

Re:Incentive? (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599989)

But I don't understand why anyone would buy software that requires a service to function. This seems like a case of had it coming.

I see the point. I also see the barrier of entry of incoming MMOs.

I bought DDO Online Stormreach[1] first. Got a one week trial first, then decided to "buy" it. Big mistake. I had ended up on a European server for the trial and the US copy of the game I had would not permit me to play on the original server. Geographical regioning sucks! Big time.

I got WoW at the same time I bought Stormreach and ended up never looking back. By the time I got their "WE WANT YOU BACK, SOLO NOOBIE STARTING QUESTS ARE MORE NUMEROUS NOW" it was too late.

Serious competition to WoW is tough and that's bad because competition is good for everyone.

[1] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was "in" a brief Microsoft Windows XP appreciation "class". And it was all Slashdot's fault anyway - most of the MS Windows fans here say they must use it because of games, so I decided to put that to the test.

Re:Incentive? (3, Insightful)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600183)

What you're describing is an issue of distribution-- the developer can't help it if the publisher insists on doling out regional rights, or throws other obstacles in the way of players looking to get into the game.

World of Warcraft is not something to be seriously competed against-- its multi-million subscriber base is a gigantic anomaly, in an industry where 250,000 subscribers is still a prodigious number. Buy-in for end-users is low enough that you can have simultaneously active subs on several games for under $50 USD per month, which is less than a lot of people pay for TV.

And while I don't care for Stormreach either, it certainly hasn't failed yet. Failures are actually extremely rare in the industry-- a bad game can last a very long time, if the publisher is determined to squeeze every dime they can out of the last few tens of thousands of subscribers that haven't moved on to something else. Even games that have failed spectacularly out of the gate (Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, or Vanguard, for example) can limp along for years, or rally behind tightened code and newly released expansion material.

like proprietary service dependent hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600085)

I wonder how many electronics went to the landfill once the service they were used with went belly up? Oh well, at least you have a shiny coaster to go with your door stop.

Re:Incentive? (5, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600187)

I never understood paying for MMO software. So you pay 50 dollars, for the priviledge of paying 15 dollars a month?

Pick one way of charging, and stick with it. Either lower the barrier to entry and only have monthly fees, or lower the abandonment rate and only have up-front fees. But don't double dip.

*Note: I have played several MMO's at various points in my life.

Re:Incentive? (5, Interesting)

Trecares (416205) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600377)

The initial cost pays for the software development costs. The monthly fee pays for ongoing development and server/network expenses which can be considerable. That's why it's there. Some software have low enough costs that it can be sold for a low price or even for free, with the catch being the monthly fee. Others will usually heavily discount the initial purchase cost after a while when they've recouped most or all of the cost. Companies do it all different ways. Some (Anarchy Online) even dont charge monthly fees to get people into the door, but if you want the perks of the expansions, you gotta ante up.

It's a sensible thing, and frankly, the monthly fee is much cheaper than anything else you could do to entertain oneself for a whole month.

Trecares

Re:Incentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600593)

The monthly fee for an MMO is almost the monthly cost of my DSL. Screw that, I'll stick to single player and free to play online games.

If running servers costs them so much, why don't they make it decentralized? A P2P MMO could work.

Re:Incentive? (2, Informative)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601065)

Thats the way all the Nexon games work, and all of them are absolute hacker fests.....read the forums for any of their games, and you will see 75% of the posts on their forums are hacker issue related.

Re:Incentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601377)

That doesn't mean it can't be done, it only means that Nexon isn't very good at what they do.

Re:Incentive? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601079)

You could say the same thing about any ongoing endeavor. Verizon could sell network access at 100 dollars for build-out + 50 dollars a month upkeep. ESPN could charge 30 dollar development + 10 dollars per month for access to their content online. You don't see ISP's (successfully) charging 4 months worth of fees to cover their cost of building out their data centers, do you?

It's all how you recoup your initial and ongoing development expenses. Those should be together under the same heading! Unless a player can choose which software to buy, and who separately to recieve service from, keeping those costs separate only serves to keep the barrier to entry high.

BTW, Anarchy Online didn't drop the initial fee because they recouped, they did so because they realized that a high initial outlay as lock-in wasn't working, and that they needed a much more consumer-friendly entry point.

Re:Incentive? (1)

strathmeyer (208375) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600763)

Yeah, next thing you know people are going to have to both purchase an automobile AND pay for gas.

Re:Incentive? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600873)

It's more a question of what use the car is once the only gas station in town closes up.

Re:Incentive? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601021)

It's more a question of what use the car is once the only gas station in town closes up

There is a limited supply of oil, so eventually cars will be useless - Doesn't stop people from purchasing and enjoying them in the present.

Re:Incentive? (1)

NosTROLLdamus (979044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600879)

I was waiting for a bad car analogy!

Re:Incentive? (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600961)

Eve only charges the first month's fee as your account activation after the 14 day trial. So there's at least one of them doing it.

LOTRO is 1 month free + activation for US$25, so not so bad. I just went with the founders club and never have to pay again for access.

Re:Incentive? (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601019)

You pay $50 because you're getting the game pretty much right when it comes out and you're paying to get it right away. If you waited a bit, you'd only pay $20 for the initial cost once the price for the client software goes down. Since almost all MMOs give you a "free" month when you buy the software, if you're willing to wait you're essentially paying $5 (assuming a $15/month fee) for the installation media and manuals.

Re:Incentive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601039)

That would be one of the things I like about Guild Wars, the lack of monthly fee.

Re:Incentive? (2, Interesting)

trytoguess (875793) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600167)

If a MMO goes down, what does the creditors gain by keeping the severside code secret? I mean like after the chance of the code being bought by another group goes down the drain. Is there still an economic rationale?

Re:Incentive? (1)

trytoguess (875793) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600189)

Oh wait, silly me. Release code for free, and your competitors (which includes open source) could create something that carves a significant piece of the MMO niche, and that's unacceptable unless you totally ditched that market.

Re:Incentive? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600213)

Creditors don't care about source code and IP when liquidating a company, they go for the fixed assets such as office furniture, the other stuff is not bothered with.

Re:Incentive? (4, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600257)

I've had legal dealings roughly 30 times with people who are not the original creators, but own something 'IP'ish - either because they are the heirs of an estate, or because they got it in lieu of normal payment for debts. Over half those times, the new owners seemed to seriously overvalue the item, and by seriously, I mean thinking it was worth its weight in flawless blue white diamonds. Creditor/Debtor relationships seem to be a bit less skewed in this respect than estates, but it's still pretty common.
      If you look at the financial history of the great depression era, particularly with regard to magazine story and sheet music rights, there are huge chains of companies which got awarded assets upon their debtor's failures, and held out for way too much in turn, even as they were going bankrupt themselves. There are chains where the property was transferred by a court ordered bankruptcy times 25 times in a decade, which would mean the average case for them was a company ignoring all offers for a work even though they faced bankruptcy within, on average, less than five months. We know the offers happened, because the courts used that fact to evaluate how to split assets among multiple creditors equitably. Even if you believe we aren't currently in anything approaching a full scale depression, that still looks like a good model of what to expect today.
      There's a semi-fair chance that a receiver will realize that taking 5 cents on the dollar for the server code is better than any other deal they might get. But if not, expect them to set the price like the MMO is a sure fire World of Warcraft killer, plus some.

I think... (5, Informative)

BJH (11355) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599797)

...I should point out that Hellgate: London was not actually an MMORPG, and it includes a single-player mode so it can indeed be played even if the servers are no longer available.

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600111)

I just feel bad for the poor schmucks that paid for a founder account when the game lasted a little over a year.

Poor schmucks like me :( (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600509)

But hey, it was fun for a few months there. A ripoff, but fun.

Re:I think... (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601005)

Well, that was pointed out quite nicely in the article, but I suppose nobody read it did they?

Of course Hellgate: Londonâ(TM)s story is a little different to Fury in that the game can still be played offline, but the heart of Hellgate was always the online play and grouping with other players, so mentioning the offline component as a boon is akin to claiming itâ(TM)s okay that your Bugatti Veyron 16.4 got torched because the CD player still works fine

BTW, what is it with /. and the rendering of apostrophes? Is it just me, or Firefox, or what?

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601179)

Single-player isn't everything, though. Phantasy Star Universe, for example, has a *lot* of additional content that's only accessible online - up to entire classes of weapons. It's honestly not a lot in the full swing of things but I still feel bummed about it.

Well considering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599811)

I never even heard of Fury before the announcement that it was going under, so why should I be surprised that it failed?

Re:Well considering... (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600029)

At the store across the street, they're selling multiple copies of a particular MMO title that shutdown in 2007. Of course there's no indication on the box about this. No, it just says "First month of play free!"

It's only a few bucks. Not sure whether it's an actual deliberate ploy by the store to shift unwanted stock, or they simply just don't know it's shutdown.

Re:Well considering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600769)

i wonder if the store will end up in leagal doodoo over this?

Answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599817)

Yes.

horrible idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599823)

That's a terrible idea, if every MMO that went bust released their server source code it would flood the market with decent MMO. How could anyone run a profitable MMO business if there were dozens of free MMO with the amazing features and graphics.

If it weren't for healthy capitalist competition you would be stuck with maple stories, last chaoses and rohans, *yawn*.

For example, Aion which comes out this fall has raised the bar again with 3D combat while in mid-flight and absolutely stunning graphics. I can't wait.

Great video of some of the action and graphics:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh8qsFrquKc

Open source hasn't produced any quality games of this caliber, and the truth is it never can. You want someone to do all the hard work for you, and just hand it over so you can tweak it. You're a bunch of lazy whining tweakers.

If you want to make a respectably advanced open source game. You're going to have to do a lot of work from scratch to make a beautiful game and find amazing artists willing to work extremely hard for no compensation. I'm sorry, but it isn't going to happen.

An Impossible Expectation (4, Insightful)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599845)

When World of Warcraft bites the dust, you'll have a whole hell of a lot of people with 10gigs of data on their drives that does seemingly nothing. Thankfully, when that happens, it's a simple matter for the 11-million-some subscribers to switch over to a private server.

However, for fans of smaller, less popular MMOs, they're essentially screwed if their provider shuts down and nobody's reverse-engineered the server software.

I think it would be a good publicity stunt for the software companies if, when they shut down an MMO, they release the server software for private use. They don't necessarily have to open-source it since their own proprietary code might be re-used in future projects, but if they at least gave the die-hard fans a way to keep enjoying the game, they could build up an even more loyal following rather quickly.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600015)

When World of Warcraft bites the dust, you'll have a whole hell of a lot of people with 10gigs of data on their drives that does seemingly nothing.

If it ever becomes time to `rm -rf World\ Of\ Warcraft', I will not be shedding a tear over the money I've spent on it. It is worth every penny/centavo. And most things become boring after awhile.

Why am I not playing qtnethack right now? Sigh.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600021)

When World of Warcraft bites the dust, you'll have a whole hell of a lot of people with 10gigs of data on their drives that does seemingly nothing.

By the time WoW dies, its players will have moved on to better MMOs. The last few holdouts can play together if they want, but it's more likely that they'll outgrow their obsession and find a new form of entertainment.

This article is not about WoW. It's about MMOs that might be really fun but not profitable enough to run for very long. In those cases, there is a real risk of entertainment value being lost because of a premature server shutdown.

I doubt that releasing the server software would help anyone very much. The user base would naturally dwindle, cheating would become commonplace, and latency would suck. Even die-hard fans would give up and play something else.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (0)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600051)

Download the client. (Perfectly legal.) Download and run your own Mangos server. (Perfectly illegal.) Deprive Blizzard of money they don't need. I mean seriously NOBODY, ANYWHERE, needs to earn the $75+ million a month they make for their stupid little game.

WOW is a great game.... When it's free. For $15 a month it's a complete ripoff.

I can't remember if it was Will Wright or Sid Meier who said it, but one of those gaming legends said WOW was the best single player RPG they'd ever played.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (4, Insightful)

murdocj (543661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600131)

WOW is a great game.... When it's free. For $15 a month it's a complete ripoff.

Utter bullshit. For $15/month WoW is probably the greatest entertainment bargain on the planet. Let's see... $15 gets you 2 movie tickets. Or a cheap dinner. Or you could rent a couple of videos. Any of which last a couple of hours.

Or it gets you a month of fun with friends. As much time as you care to spend online. Yeah, if you don't like the game, it isn't worth, but if you think is a "great game" then it's truly a bargain.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (-1, Troll)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600317)

You must have a lot of cash to be able to eat out and go to the movies each month. Why don't you send me your money since you think it's worthless..

A lot of people in places like Iraq setup their own emulator servers because the internet is restricted and slow.

Also, some people would like to play MMOs without douchebags.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (2)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600503)

Thanks. Nicely put. I prefer my own server.

No rude people asking you for money.
No people inviting you to parties constantly without asking you if you're interested.
No people throwing insults at you when you decline their multiple duel requests.
No people trying to scam you.
No people shouting racist/sexist crap.

And the list could go on and on.

It's nice being able to experience the content of the game without being surrounded by assholes. I mean seriously, all of the above happened on a daily basis.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600915)

No people to talk to. No people to party or raid with. No people to give a crap when you kill a boss or do something ingame. No people to PvP against. No reason to play.

The only thing setting ANY virtual world apart from single player RPGs is the people who inhabit it. Without them... it's all kinda pointless.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600981)

I'll give you the raids, but if killing a boss is something you feel you need to be able to share with someone for some sort of validation as if you've actually achieved something of worth, note or merit...

Saying there's "no reason to play"... Yes, there's no reason to play the thousands of quests designed to be soloed in the game, or simply for the enjoyment of seeing everything you've paid for without paying constantly to do it.

God you hardcore MMORPG'ers are fucking scary!

Re:An Impossible Expectation (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601063)

Well, maybe you're different from me, but to me, the ultimate measure of worth of ANYTHING you do is mostly based on how it affects other people. Hell, I can cook the best pasta bake EVER, and maybe I'd feel good about eating it myself, but it's worth far more to me if my wife thinks it's delicious than if it's just me that does.

As for "thousands of solo quests", all quests I've seen in WoW fall into a very few basic categories. I reckon there are about 3 quests in all of vanilla WoW: "Kill X of Y", "Get me X of Y item [from mob Z]", "Go talk to X [and give them Y]". 99% of single-player WoW is monotonous as all hell - it's the people you play with that make it worthwhile.

It's interesting that you seem to equate valuing the community within you exist with being a hardcore MMO player. And it's the community that's real whether you're talking dragonslaying, Perl programming, rock-climbing, anything. What makes you think that anything at all has "worth, note or merit" beyond common consensus or individual valuation?

Re:An Impossible Expectation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601595)

You must have a lot of cash to be able to eat out and go to the movies each month.

Time to give up your career in fast food. Get a real job.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600479)

To each their own my friend. I'd rather spend the money on a DVD. I'll get more enjoyment out of that than endless hours running around like a twat trying to find Murloc penises.

Re:An Impossible Expectation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601523)

For $15/month you get 160 hours of entertainment. That sounds like a good deal to me.

Put their code into escrow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599859)

This is common in business to put their code into escrow so if they go belly up the end user isn't stuck with no support and no source.

In this case, in the event that the company shuts down the game code becomes open source.

Gamers could then buy insurance to fund a group to pick up the pieces and get the servers going again.

shutdown != bankrupt (1)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600195)

Auto Assault is a case in point, and the servers could potentially be reused for another game... so they wouldn't want to give away the source. In the case of bankruptcy having the code in escrow is much worse for the investors (the ones who paid for the game to be made in the first place) and there is really no upside in doing it since consumers, by and large, don't care if the code is escrowed.

what's the point? (3, Interesting)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599881)

I guess it might be nice if they open-sourced the software so that people could run their own servers... But I really have to kind of wonder what the point would be. What makes these games fun isn't the amazing engines or terrific game mechanics - its the players.

These days there's hardly any gopher servers out there (yes, I know there are a few) - so gopher clients aren't particularly useful.

Players move on to the newest, shiniest games out there. Without constant upgrades and expansions, players get bored pretty darn quick. And then your playerbase shrinks... There aren't enough people around to get groups or run raids... Which means less fun for the remaining players... And before too long there's nobody left to play with.

I suppose someone might pick up an open-sourced game server and expand/improve it enough to keep people playing... Might even do a good enough job to get people to pay for it... But I really have a hard time seeing any game living for terribly long after it's been abandoned by the original company.

I mean, there's a reason these games go under in the first place - they aren't making enough money because there aren't enough people playing them. Open sourcing the code might allow a few die-hard fans to keep playing... But the odds are pretty damn good the game will be dead (or close enough) before too long anyway.

And really, as an MMOG player myself, that doesn't bother me. Unlike a novel or a CD or something like that I don't feel that I'm purchasing an item when I buy an MMOG. I feel more like I'm joining a club... What I gain is the fun, experience, and memories of playing with other people. Not an item that I can revisit later on. It's like when you go on vacation to Mexico - what do you really have to show for your money when all is said and done? A few souvenirs maybe... Some photos... But the main thing you have are the memories of what you did.

Re:what's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600001)

Unlike a novel or a CD or something like that I don't feel that I'm purchasing an item when I buy an MMOG. I feel more like I'm joining a club... What I gain is the fun, experience, and memories of playing with other people. Not an item that I can revisit later on. It's like when you go on vacation to Mexico - what do you really have to show for your money when all is said and done? A few souvenirs maybe... Some photos... But the main thing you have are the memories of what you did.

Exactly. Or if you take a trip to the US and then the economy goes tits-up when you get back, does that cheapen your vacation in any way?

When I purchase a game, I consider it entertainment. I don't expect to get entertainment out of it forever. However, I do expect to be able to use it for at least a couple of years. And I think MMOGs would be smart to let people know up front the game isn't going to last forever. It can't.

Re:what's the point? (0)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600097)

What makes these games fun isn't the amazing engines or terrific game mechanics - its the players.

So much for WoW being successful?

Re:what's the point? (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600585)

To the down modders,
WoW is successful due to it's amazing engine and smooth game mechanics. The biggest criticism is about it's mindless content and playerbase.

Re:what's the point? (3, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601013)

Sturgeon's Law applies to MMO players as strongly as it does anything else. 11 million players still means there are over 9 million crappy players.

And despite the moaning of everyone about WoW's playerbase, one of its biggest strengths is the fact that so many people play. MMOs benifit (or suffer) from extremely strong network effects. Try playing WoW on a very low-pop server, it's horrible unless all you want to do is solo quest. Switch to a high-pop server and the world comes so much more alive. Now if only they'd increase the server populations a little more... 2.5 - 3k concurrent at peak is only just starting to fill the world up.

Re:what's the point? (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601199)

That just means Blizzard needs to man up and do away with shards.

Re:what's the point? (1)

KefabiMe (730997) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600557)

I just wanted to write about a counter-point. Ragnarok has lots of private servers, and it still has quite the player base. It also allows server operators to tweak the server settings so that players get to pick server settings that most suit their taste. Note: I play WoW, used to play Ragnarok, and have friends who still play it.

Re:what's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600631)

Unlike a novel or a CD or something like that I don't feel that I'm purchasing an item when I buy an MMOG. I feel more like I'm joining a club...

Where I disagree with your analogy is how MMOG companies want to sell you the client subscription for $50 or whatever, on top of the monthly fee that actually makes the client useful.

It seems like it'd make a hell of a lot more sense for them not to charge for the client at all. I wouldn't feel at all ripped off if a game I played shut down if I hadn't sunk any money to "buy" the client.

I feel for those who buy lifetime subscriptions on games that go under. Although not too much--I personally wouldn't consider buying such a thing until the game actually has a track record. You might end up spending more in theory, but it's a lot better for peace of mind.

Re:what's the point? (2, Interesting)

Cookie3 (82257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600841)

>I really have a hard time seeing any game living for terribly long after it's been abandoned by the original company.

Like... Continuum? http://www.getcontinuum.com/ [getcontinuum.com]
Or Gladiator? http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/gladiator/ [yahoo.com]
Or ZZT? http://zzt.belsambar.net/ [belsambar.net]

I would generally say that if the original developers/company _offers_ the game (and/or the source) for free with no support, players will freely support it themselves. A community will form around the players who support the game, and the game will live indefinitely. If the fanbase is technically knowledgeable in any way, you may even see patches to fix bugs and other dev tools come out -- particularly if the source is provided.

The problem, of course, is simply getting the game/source.

actionable (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599891)

We had the story recently about a court considering the "theft" of a virtual item.

If I have the Sword of Slaying Everything except Squid (which has some real-world value), and the company decides to cancel the project, can I sue successfully?

Disclaimers:

  • I think that's absurd.
  • Sword of . . (c) Steve Jackson Games

Re:actionable (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600123)

Well it would be nice for some legal precedent to be set. There is a lot of unknowns about who owns what. Many MMO creators even claim ownership over the software you bought. So you may walk out of a store with cd's, a box, manuals, and some flashy pin-up art, but you really only bought a license?

You may be told you won an in game prize for a contest, but actually the developer owns your prize? What are they claiming you won, exactly?

You may be given in game cash as an incentive to return to a game, but it's not really yours? Who are they giving it to?

Again, I eagerly await legal precedent on this.

On the other hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599895)

Why would you want to play an MMO, though, with only a handful of people, or by yourself?
And every MMO has illegal servers somewhere, how come these people don't share the knowledge?
And even, even, even then, who really misses MMOs that are so crappy that they fail? There's plenty of crappy MMOs that are still online to play.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600069)

Just because a game is MMO doesn't mean it isn't a fun single player experience. The way I see it, it just provides life to the world.

To be honest, I enjoy WOW just as much on my own private server (if not more so because I can engage in shenanigans that would get me banned from the official version like visiting forbidden places etc...) then I had online.

Only part that does suck obviously is the trading side. I miss trawling the auction house for bargains. But really, that and raiding aside, it's ostensibly a lot of single player experiences happening at the same time. And the game punishes you if you party by lessening the experience you get for killing stuff, completing quests etc...

Re:On the other hand... (1)

devman (1163205) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601109)

actually, unless they changed it (it's been while since I've played) you actually receive an XP bonus when you are a party of 3 or more as a way of encouraging grouping. The total XP of the mob is divided among the party but then everyone gets bonus on top of it so a party of 3 is actually generating more net XP than those 3 individuals would be generating separately if they were killing at the same rate.

Add Auto Assault to the list (1)

grumpygrodyguy (603716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599909)

This same thing happened with Auto Assault. It was a unique and genuinely fun MMO. It was akin to Steve Jacksons Car Wars, something I'd been waiting for for years.

I bought this game, subscribed, and played it for about 4 months. Unfortunately the game had no longevity, was fundamentally flawed design-wise, and went 'belly up' in about 6 months. I've still got the box and the CD and the manual. It's really a shame this game didn't get fixed and stay afloat because I love the idea of an MMO like this.

Re:Add Auto Assault to the list (1)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600075)

They're still selling multiple copies of that game in the store across the street from me. I pity the poor suckers who buy it.

Re:Add Auto Assault to the list (1)

Unending (1164935) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600133)

I have a copy that I got free from NCSoft I think a month before they shut it down
it had a decent mic/headphone combo with it so I guess I got about $10 worth of hardware for free at least

Not anything new, and not a big problem (1)

Scorpinox (479613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599923)

This isn't anything new, I remember "Fighting Legends" from about 7 years ago which went belly up when Maximum Charisma went bankrupt. It was a bummer for me at the time cus I sunk a lot of time into the game. I recall some rumors about a fan created server being made but I don't think anything came of that.

In general, I don't play a lot of games over and over again, and in the case of MMO's the gameplay is not usually something I enjoy a lot. I play MMO's for the people I play with, and if a game's failing, most those people are leaving already and that just encourages me to stop too.

Money Talks... So does advertising. (1)

jarrettwold2002 (601633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599947)

The MMO's may go belly up, and you can offer to buy it. But, the studio doesn't necessarily go belly up with it. In game advertising or, massive advertising across the ridiculous amounts of social networks may help.

It's the new Gold Rush (1)

Trikenstein (571493) | more than 5 years ago | (#25599971)

Only now it takes more skill to succeed

Re:It's the new Gold Rush (1)

bigpaperbag (1105581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600533)

Only now it takes more skill POINTS to succeed

The proper usage of time-release (see tag) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25599977)

Why yes, MMO's use colloidal suspended pellets of vapour to gently provide a gamer with just the right amount of vapour all day long, so that he'll never feel anything but pleasantly moist.

I think the headlines mean to say "Are MMO's A Vapourware Time-Bomb?" "Time-release Vapourware" sounds like something the villain Moist (from Dr. Horrible) would employ.

Oh, and nice "question in a headline," dude. ;^)

greedy companies vs nice companies (1, Insightful)

omfglearntoplay (1163771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600033)

To me, it's all about how evil a company is. There is obviously no benefit to them hoarding information unless they are really going to reuse it somewhere else. Just give it up, and maybe you can at least still see people enjoy your game even if you had to move on to a new job. Why not?!

I see a lot of gaming companies trying to DRM their stuff. As much as i like halflife 2, portal, and team fortress 2... i just have that feeling that one day they aren't going to have steam and my games wont work anymore.

Re:greedy companies vs nice companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600185)

To be fair, most of those games already have steam workarounds, and at that point I don't think there would be much moral objections to using such an app.

Re:greedy companies vs nice companies (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600397)

It's not that simple, I've been trying to get the source code [freegamedev.net] to the game hardwar, but without knowing who the copyrights belong to it would be illegal for the CEO of the old company (who lives 30 minutes away from me) to give it to me. In fact if the owner showed up and he had GPL'd or handed out the code he could be taken to court.

The law firm that sold the assets of the company knows but they want £250 to look through their records and find out the information.

You also have to realise that not all code in owned by the company, there could be code from different games companies, libraries such as Havok, etc which makes open sourcing the game difficult.

I think how evil the company is has nothing to do with it at all.

With that being said you should contact and get in there quick before it hits the copyright blackhole (ownerless because no one knows who owns it). This happens to a lot of game source code.

It's already started (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600077)

The number of servers for Final Fantasy XI has been going down for the last few months. Players are being moved to the remaining servers.

What will happen once Square Enix decides to stop everything? I'm hoping they will release the server program and/or release the protocols so that people can make open-source versions of the server.

We'll see that a lot more now (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600095)

The development of MMOs shows that we'll soon see this happen a lot more often.

MMOs have turned into the love child of VCs. They see the success of WoW, see what kind of a huge cash cow it is, and of course they want a slice of that cake. We will see a lot of MMOs pop up left and right in the near future. Actually, we do already see that happen.

Now, early MMOs were mostly a kind of game for a rather small audience, and they were developed as such. EQ, UO, let's not talk about Meridian, they didn't really expect millions of subscribers. And because of this, they aimed lower and already considered the game successful if it managed to break even, which, in turn, wasn't so terribly hard to do with lower expectations (from the players), lower cost of development and the "new kinda game" smell all over it, covering the stench of tedium.

We're now in a post-WoW world. And players have seen it. Love it or hate it, WoW is, from a purely playability and long term interest point of view, very successful. The world is big. The graphics are nice. The quests are easy but managable. Boring from time to time, but never as boring as many others were in so many other MMOs. And most of all, the game is very open end. You can't have it all. Even if you play constantly, have no life outside of it.

Now try to recreate that. Your problem, as a developer, is twofold. Your prospective players will judge you by the "fun" they have in WoW. Your VCs will judge you by the revenue of WoW.

Can you compete with that?

To make matters worse, you have to be different from all those hundreds if not thousands of other MMOs that are pumped into the market. So you have to be "new" in some way. Do you think EQ could even get a foot into the door today? Let's even give it up to date graphics, do you think it could? By today's standards it's boring, it's static, it's limited.

So the bar gets higher and higher for new MMOs. The cost rises as well. VCs want their money back. And the share you can cut out of the cake gets smaller and smaller with more and more competition.

So we'll see a fair lot of "small" MMOs fold. Often within their first year. We'll have to watch subscriber numbers closer, and be prepared to jump ship in time when we notice the game fails. I mean, who wants to "waste" his time building a character that's gone soon?

Which bears the question, why don't we just play to have fun? I mean, like we used to? Aren't games meant to be, you know, fun?

Second Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25600103)

This is a common fear for users of SecondLife, especially since Linden Lab likes to royally screw their customers occasionally.
Hopefully the Open Grid Protocol Linden Lab is developering will belay that fear

Tupperware keeps MMO's fresh. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600105)

"It would be great to see a dying company at least open up the server software, but how can we give them incentive to do so? "

Why would you want a game that by it's nature needs constant updates to be released? What's that you say? The community can release a constant stream of fresh and exciting content that will keep the people coming back for more. Wonderful. Type up a business plan. Oh wait.

Why single out MMOS? (2, Insightful)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600153)

isn't this a problem with the whole SaaS concept? At least with a game you don't lose anything that has "real" value.

Re:Why single out MMOS? (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600315)

Exactly, besides the years of 12.95 a month.

Correction (1)

Aphoxema (1088507) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600305)

"... companies trying to grab a slice of the MMO pie, all of which will inevitably fail."

There, I fixed it. Nothing lasts forever, anyone who invests their time in an MMO believing it will be around forever (yes, that does include WoW, you damn lunatics) is seriously illusioned.

If you get a pet, you should be prepared for it to die. If you get a car, you should be prepared to eventually give it up for another.

This isn't any different, trying to resuscitate a dead game is just humoring nostalgia.

Re:Correction (4, Informative)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600361)

What rubbish, some of the first MMOs ever made, gemstone, Ultima Online, Meridian 59 (the first 3d mmo) are still going strong.

Everquest is almost 10 years old (1999) and that's still going strong.

Back up your baseless claims.

Re:Correction (1)

KingKiki217 (979050) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600755)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics#Second_law [wikipedia.org]

Even if some things last for a long time, nothing ever lasts forever.

Re:Correction (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600795)

Indeed, now if only we can get this point across to the global warming scaremongers.

Be wise. (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600381)

Don't buy into every MMO out there, do your research first. Only MMO I ever bought on release was WoW. And that was cause I knew it was gonna run, and it wasn't going under. Other than that I tend to wait to make sure the game is worth it. I end up buying most of the games I was mildly interested in at the bargain bin for few bucks, and I play them for a free-month just for kicks. I played Tabula Rasa for $15, and EQ 2 for $3. Hell I even stuck around in EQ2 for 3 months or so on the PvP server. I felt good about both purchases.

Re:Be wise. (1)

derfy (172944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600435)

Second this. I bought WAR a few weeks ago and found out I hated it. Just couldn't get into it. Go go wasting 50 bucks!

Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.... (2, Interesting)

carterhawk001 (681941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25600671)

This is an MMO that beta'd, died, came back with fan run and company verified servers, died again, came back under gametap, died yet again, and now maybe might come back with fan servers a second time.

At this point I doubt Cyan even owns Myst, Uru, or Plasma, the engine they bought and built up. I don't see any future where the fan's will get source code to the servers, or even the ability to run a server free of Cyan's control. Any company going belly up after investing millions obviously hasn't recouped that money, meaning the people that invested in them now own the IP, and why would they give it away? I doubt *they* give a rats ass about the fanbase.

You might be saying to yourself that Uru is still a single player game, and yes, this is true, but that isn't what URU is about, it's about the community. I've played all the myst games, and this one feels the most dead of them all, because you are alone in a world meant to be filled with other player characters.

There should be an aggregator (1)

Pearson (953531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601135)

I'm sure there is stupidity and greed standing in the way, but the obvious fix for this is to have one company acquire all of the failed games.

I know SOE has done this with several games (the Matrix, particularly) and is able to turn a profit even on very low subscription numbers because they already have all the infrastructure in place for their other games. The aggregator company could also gain leverage by selling access to multiple games for one price. For example, any two games for only $10/month, or all 10 games for only $20/month. You might keep a sub like that going all the time just so you have the convenience of playing a few hours of Auto Assault or Hellgate whenever you felt like it.

Make it illegal (1)

Karem Lore (649920) | more than 5 years ago | (#25601225)

Hey, If the software publishers are able to push questionable DRM onto my personal machine after buying a game (or a license to use) it should be illegal for the said publisher to stop providing the services for using the game unless a refund or rebate is given. Either that or clients are given free and only monthly charges occur! You pay while you play. Actually buying a client that then gets "switched off" effectively means you are purchasing a temporary game. Karem

Re:Make it illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601437)

The law would not help at at all. If the company goes bankrupt, you won't get any money back.

If the company does not go bankrupt, it will if it has to pay back the money.

eq (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601461)

i started on eq1, and i never moved to WoW because the graphic looked so cheezy. When eq2 came out, it looked great. And now that WoW is advertising, i still have no need to move. It still looks so cartoonish in comparison. eq2 is great, I see no problems with the gameplay at all. Granted, if you are oldschool hardcore, you level way to fast, but i guess thats the allure these days. Plenty of fun to be had, and the game has been going for quite some time, so old continents are available (you'd think that would bring oldschool players back) and overall, i can have a good time if i only have 30 minutes to play or 4 hours.

Asherons Call 2 ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25601493)

Turbine slapped its fans in the face by abandoning AC2 in favor of Lord of the Rings.

Of course no one would turn away a cash cow like LotR, but Turbine owes the AC fans a debt.

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