5 Lessons New MMORPGs Can Learn From Old Ones

Reflecting upon history is something that’s often neglected yet it can be a very powerful and potent tool in all walks of life if done so correctly. The MMORPG genre is still relatively new to the gaming industry but it’s been around long enough now for newer and forthcoming MMOs to learn from older ones. What mistakes did their predecessors make or what did they do right that gave them their success?

Here’s my top 5 lessons new MMORPGs can learn from old ones:

  • It’s OK to be mature (Age of Conan). Funcom broke records with their AoC pre-orders showing us that MMORPGs don’t need to be aimed at kids in order to attract attention. If done correctly, adult themes can help enhance the lore and immersion of a game. However, be warned, it’s still no excuse for poor or lacking content.
  • You don’t have to be the most original, you just need to be the best (World of Warcraft). WoW didn’t exactly break any gaming boundaries when it was released in 2004. It didn’t have groundbreaking graphics or fancy new technology or the most innovative gaming concepts. It was, however, extremely well polished, taking tried and tested concepts and implementing them better than anyone else had before.
  • A strong IP won’t save you (Warhammer Online). Just because a MMORPG is based on popular intellectual property, don’t expect that to give it guaranteed success. Players first and foremost want a good game and a strong IP may give lots of hype but it won’t save the game if it sucks.
  • Don’t promise the Earth… and then fail to deliver (Vanguard). Vanguard was the worst offender in this category but there have been plenty of other MMORPGs that have shared the shame of promising features, content and general gameplay that just never makes it into the final game or, at least, not as we expect it. Managing expectations is a sure way to avoid disappointment – if you’re not going to be able to incorporate mounted combat, flyable dragons, ship to ship warfare and that amazing nostalgic sense of euphoria… don’t promise it.
  • Don’t release before you’re ready (Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Earth & Beyond, Everquest 2, Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online). Releasing a game that feels unfinished or partially complete, filled with bugs and missing key or promised content is never going to be a foundation for success. It seems to be a lot wiser to hold out and finish it properly rather than take the gamble that the players won’t care if the MMORPG just wasn’t ready to launch. First impressions count and there’s always another new game around the corner to steal subscribers.

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14 Comments

  1. Carson63000 says:

    I must confess I never played Age of Conan, but I always kinda got the feeling that its “mature” content was aimed at kids. OMG BEWBS!!

  2. Gordon says:

    AoC actually deals with it all very well. Sure, the violence and nudity will appeal to some kids but the game handles it very well. Conan has always been mega violent and the game is just staying true to the lore and implements it very well.

  3. Hudson says:

    “Don’t release before you’re ready”

    Champions Online
    soon Star Trek Online

  4. Victor says:

    Lol! “Don’t release before you’re read”
    Darkfall.

    Stupid ideas. I hate too that games try to copy WoW and fail.(Warhammer Online)

  5. Best graphics wont help if you have to grind all day long without any instance till level 25… (Aion)
    And knowing me by reading that will scatter your illusions of me: WoW does that pretty well – first instance with level 12-15+ = awesome!

  6. I always debate the don’t release early. As much as I rail against it at times, I always think in the back of my mind “would 3 or more months really help this game?”. Sometimes the developer needs the market to sort out the game before they can do any good for it (example: DDO).

    Also, I think the first point about being mature is wrong. AoC placed too much emphasis on the mature rating only for it to pretty much backfire when everyone realized it was nothing more than them showing some digital boobies.

    • Gordon says:

      I don’t think the mature (i.e. blood and boobs) aspect of AoC was to it’s detriment. In fact, I think Funcom did a very good job at re-creating REH’s world of Conan. It felt like Conan and it was great. The problem was, as you rightly said, that the content after Tortage absolutely sucked. I think had they managed to create good content, the game would’ve been very popular. I don’t think the reason it wasn’t though had anything to do with the sex and violence in it.

  7. Jasper van Weerd says:

    Remember Utopia from swirve? its now from another publicer. The once 60.000 player from each server (2) now moved on to another live, sometimes I speak with friends about the great times it had. But now its graphical and the total charme is off it.

  8. [...] easy to demand that game companies shouldn’t put games on the market before they are finished, but that’s a promise that not even Blizzard is able to keep anymore. The Wrath of the Lich King [...]

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