The Innovation Apocalypse

Everyone these days seems to be talking about innovation (every letter is a link there).  And by innovation they mean games doing something “new”.

I’ve made a few comments around, but there is one thing I want to post about here that I feel is important.  I’ve touched on it before, at the end of this post.  MMOs are a different beast that other forms of games.

Left 4 Dead 2 made some game play changes from the Left 4 Dead model.  They added melee weapons, and the new boss infected shake up how you have to play, and the new “hordes until you turn them off” events instead of just the “hordes for X minutes/waves” ones change everything.  However, if you hate the changes, all you need to do is put your old Left 4 Dead disc and play.  The original game is still there.

When EverQuest launched, it had flaws.  Parts were unfinished and some things just didn’t work.  They released patches to fix those, and over the course of the first few expansions they expanded the game with new races, classes, item slots, abilities, and more.  But, the underlying game, the way in which you played, really didn’t change.  That came later.  If you were to play EverQuest now, you’d find it plays very differently from the original game.  With the new quest/task system that mimics WoW’s abundance of quests as opposed to EQ’s original more in-depth longer quests, mercenaries, more instancing, and other bits and pieces, it just isn’t the same.  The old game still does exist on the EQMac server, but if you are on a PC and want to play the old EverQuest, you can’t.

Even World of Warcraft is not immune.  The game as it exists now doesn’t play exactly the same as it did in the past.  The faster leveling, the LFG tool for instance cross-server groups, the changes in raid designs.   If you want to play the old WoW, you can’t, you have to play the WoW that exists now.  The new Cataclysm expansion will put an end to the old game permanently as those zones won’t even exist in their original form anymore.

This is what I mean by the title, The Innovation Apocalypse.  MMOs are expensive to make and expensive to run, and companies don’t want to see their game dwindle to a hardcore fan base and be faced with launching a sequel.  EQ did that with EQII and initially EQII was a flop.  They’ve recovered somewhat, and they have continued evolving EQ (up to expansion number 16 now).  They are looking at EQIII (which might be referred to as EverQuest Next), but don’t expect it to be an iteration of the existing model – it will probably be a complete reinvention.  If you are a fan of EQII, you should be thrilled with the idea of EQIII, because it means that all the new ideas are headed that way and are likely not to be implemented in EQII for a while yet.  But that may just be a matter of time.  Many of EQ’s more drastic elements didn’t come until after WoW and EQII were out.  Someday, the EQII that you love may be gone as well.

Personally, I’m all for innovation in new games.  But please don’t innovate in the game I’m already playing and enjoying.  It is heartbreaking when a game you love ignores you and is ruined in its chase of a new lover.

2 comments to The Innovation Apocalypse

  • I agree completely. When we resurrected Meridian 59, I thought about changing the business model to something else, but ultimately decided not to because one of our goals was to preserve the game for the fans. This might have hurt us in the long run, but I think it was the right decision to make. It’s also worth noting that M59 was originally designed for a pay-per-minute type setup, originally came out as a flat rate subscription, then went to a relatively expensive pay-per-day type setup with a max amount of charges per week before going back to a flat subscription fee and then closing down at 3DO. Confused yet? ;)

    If you get to the point where you’re considering a massive change to a game, perhaps it’s time to consider making a different game. Easier said than done in most cases, however.

    • I think another element to this is in large MMOs the teams working on them change. And in many cases a new developer to the team has less attachment to the existing product, so is more willing to “shake things up” and change the game. In fact, may have a desire to change things to “put their stamp on it”. Many people would rather say “I made that” than to say “I maintained that”.

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