I’ve tried many MMORPGs in my time (ranging from the original Everquest to World of Warcraft) and while most have been amusing for a few hours, none had been able to keep my interest for very long.
The game that kept my interest for the longest was Star War Galaxies. The reason? Because they did something different. It wasn’t just a constant grinding hack-and-slash which grows exceedingly dull for me pretty quickly. It had other stuff to do, from making junk to just exploring and finding neat little bits nestled in the crannies of the world. More to the point, I felt like my actions had a small but perceptable effect on the game world, unlike with every other MMORPG which nothing you do seems to change the outcome of the world in any way, however small.
By far my favorite activity was making stuff. Unlike most MMORPGs, the economy was entirely player-based; if the players decided not to make a particular good, then it simply wouldn’t be available. This led to an interesting laize faire dynamic which, again, meant you could affect the game world. I never really progressed very far, honestly, but I still have fond memories of creating a crappy set of armor and selling it as “Famed Tatooine Hunter Wamprat Jones” official armor. I discovered if I gave even terrible items an interesting description, people would flock to buy it. I sold a helmet for over 10,000 credits in an auction this way. In addition to Wamprat Jones, I also used the possessions of a “space pirate, rebel sympathizer, and known sexual deviant”as a hook to sell junk, the description written as an Imperial proproganda piece.
I like to think, even in the nearly deserted servers of SWG today, there is one obsessive collector scouring the galaxy for the entire set of Wamprat Jones’ armor.
But over time, this aspect of the game has eroded, and will basically be completely removed soon with the Sony revamp. Gone will be all the interesting trade dynamics, player cities, and so on. It’s to be replaced with just yet another generic MMORPG combat-grind. Yawn.
I think I know why Sony is doing this, pissing off the few remaining diehards. Sony is looking at World of Warcraft and wondering, “Why aren’t we rich like these guys?” So, they’ve basically adding more and more WoW-ish as time goes on in the hopes that copying will magically make them hugely popular. I don’t think this will work because:
a) People already have WoW. Why go through the hassle of moving to a totally different game?
b) They won’t do it nearly as well, because they’re not trying to make a game; they’re trying to get rich.
In short, they’re suffering from the normal managerial short-sightedness. Apple’s iPods haven’t crushed all other players beneath their heel because of any pure marketing spin; they’ve crushed them because iPods allow people to do what they want with minimal hassle — which is play music. Other companies are trying to fight back with featuritis — color screens, high-definition screens, entirely solid-state electronics — and are totally missing the fact that the reason Apple succeeds because iPod identifies a market and caters to it.
In the same way, WoW identifies a market and caters to it. Sony, on the other hand, just has a nebulous goal of being rich. They’ve proven time and time again they don’t care about their customers (hence the large losses they’ve reported), and constantly change things to try to appeal to the Least Common Demonator. The problem with that, of course, is that it doesn’t really work for long-term growth or profit.
One of the big reasons for the Sony rewrite of SWG is so PS3 people can use the console system to play the game. Honestly, does anyone really believe that they’ll play it for any great length of time on a console before something else shiny catches their eye? All Sony has done is muddled the interface to try and capture a market which is unlikely to provide any long-term money while at the same time pissing off the few loyal customers that remain. Not only that, but the revamp turns the game from a real RPG in that stats of the _character_ are what matters to a twitchy FPS in which the _players_ reactions matter. This naturally means that they’re targetting younger people… but younger people are notably fickle and probably don’t have assteady sources of income. They might improve things for a brief period, but in the end, the entire thing will collapse once again.
I give it six months to a year before it finally goes underwater for the third time.