When you hand over your $15 per month to a subscription massively multiplayer game, what are you expecting in return for that money? Massively multiplayer games are a weird one as they’re one of the few games of their type that the community commands additional content. Unlike strategy games or first person shooters, it’s rare to hear the community demanding more and instead they often ask for tweaks and balance changes rather than asking for additional content.
Back when I used to play Dark Age of Camelot, I never once looked at patch notes and it never once crossed my mind to actually wonder about whether or not Mythic were expanding the game. I didn’t think about the need for more because I was fully entertained in what I had been provided with. The exact same could also be said of my friends and guild mates who played at the time, for years I never once had a discussion with any of them wishing that there was more to do in the game or that they were unhappy with Mythic’s patch progression.
I don’t really know why I didn’t find myself wrapped up in the developmental improvements of Dark Age of Camelot or why those I surrounded myself with also didn’t have any inclination to delve deeper into the game we were all playing. Fast forward many years (I’ve now two children and a middle aged spread) and the first thing I do is absorb myself in the community outside of the game I happen to be addicted to. Whether it’s PlanetSide 2, WildStar, Guild Wars 2 or Bloodlines Champions, I want to know exactly the course that the developers are charting and whether or not I want to stay on board.
What I find interesting about my current habits versus my old ones is the fact that despite me investing considerable amounts of hours in the communities, my enjoyment of Dark Age of Camelot (by not knowing) seemed different to what I currently enjoy about the genre. Perhaps it was just an innocent view on the product, away from the negativity and pessimism of communities that helped.
Back to my original thoughts though, on what I actually want for my money - it’s a strange question. There’s a side of me that by default expects more, just as the masses do. However, I think large parts of massively multiplayer development shouldn’t really command a subscription model (or event micro transactions) but are expected as a very minimum due to the very nature of the game. Balance changes, improvements to game functionality and optimisation should be at the forefront of any persistent game world but that alone shouldn’t sap all our subscriptions or in game purchases. So besides the usual content push, what else should our money be for? With the exception of server upkeep (althoughArenaNet once said was absolutely minimal for a massively multiplayer game) I really would like our money to go to a few things that I feel are neglected:
A small and coordinated community team that includes the players.
Many massively multiplayer games have community teams but the majority are pretty awful. They tend to start wonderously open minded and before long tend to turn to the dark side. Alongside this, Community Teams tend to be reactionary rather than pro-active. I’d like to see much more effort be placed on engaging the community daily but also having a Council, similar to Eve Online, that allows for a direct relationship between developer and community.
Updates that are, as best as humanly possible, bug free.
I fully appreciate that coding isn’t an exact science and when you think you’ve fixed one thing, another springs a leak. However, part of the cause for bugs - I’m convinced - is the speed in which developers are attempting to work. If they just pulled back and took the time to nurture their patch content I’ve no doubt we’d see far less bugs.
Too often players hit refresh on official forums or sub-Reddit’s awaiting any news on the game they’re playing. It really shouldn’t be that way and while it’s important for community teams to keep active, I think it’s more important that those at the top of the food chain, as a minimum of once a month, put time aside to address their community on what is being worked on, what difficulties they’re facing and what the games roadmap is looking like.
GM Lead Events
You tend to only see GM Lead Events at the end of a closed Beta before the server plug is pulled. The GM’s jump onto the server and spawn dozens of enemies across capital cities that players have to fight over. It’s total chaos and so much fun. A fond memory I have for a GM Lead Event was in Guild Wars 2 during its closed Beta and during it, one of the developers started a world event that resulted in a Dragon landing on one of the continents. It was pretty epic and unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen any more. Would it be so difficult to set a small team aside to trigger these? The introduction of Megaservers for many MMO’s must also make the process much easier.
Content The Community Craves
You’d often think that developers know best (hah!) but I spend many an hour banging my head against the wall when I read developers doing the complete opposite of what a community wants. Take Guild Wars 2 for example, ArenaNet placed their fingers in their ears about so many subjects (WvW account wide XP, account wide dyes, repair and Trait costs as well as Rune and balance issues) that it was hard to believe the developers and the community were playing the same game. What I’d like to see is some of our subscription (or in game purchases, in the case of Guild Wars 2) be spent on a single person or part of the Community Team regularly presenting these concurrent issues to the development teams and actually receive appropriate justification as to why, when or how they’re being implemented (or not).
So they are my five suggestions, what are yours? Besides additional content, what would you like your massively multiplayer subscription to cover? Let me know!