I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the MMORPG games. In theory they sound like they have a potential to be interesting. In practice however, they usually fall short somehow. Maybe it’s the concept itself that gets boring. Maybe it’s that the developers designed theirs so that it only works out in group-play and sometimes you just want to solo. Maybe it’s that the game itself is so riddled with bugs that it’s a crash-a-minute. Maybe the balance of the game is somewhere between “flawed” and “god awful”. Maybe the engine mechanics are just too goofy for words just to move, rotate the camera, and interact. Or maybe, just maybe, the servers are so packed that no sane person can put up with it just to have a decent game.
With MMORPGs there’s a lot to go wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of gripes that I’ve missed. Some people don’t mind putting up with a lack of polish here and there. While others think it’s not so much a lack of polish as a lack of resources, either in developing or in running the game.
Now, with those free MMORPGs that all seem like they came out of the same cookie cutter, well, you get what you pay for. Most just plain suck. Though I have to say that I at least started having fun on the Asda Story open Beta … until the game was so flooded with players that their servers were constantly lagging and disconnecting. Now, I appreciate that this happens when you expand and don’t put money into more servers. But if that happens, which it does an awful lot in MMORPGs, don’t go blaming the client software. It’s pretty obvious that growing four times your users without growing your servers at all is going to cause problems. The client software has nothing to do with your lack of an ability to prepare for the obvious when you turn a closed beta into an open beta.
Basically, free MMORPGs suck. They’re “free” in that they’ll constantly find other ways to get money from you. Want a power up? Buy it with real money! Want our servers to let you in, or to not crash constantly? Buy preferred server access! Yada yada. They’re not free. They come with a price, and almost always that price is that if you don’t pay, your game experience will suffer compared to those who do.
But are paid-for MMORPGs any better? Well, they’re at least a lot more polished. They tend to play a lot better. Sometimes they even manage to avoid getting boring as quickly. Yet when you’re paying twenty bucks a month on top of buying the actual software, can you really say they’re worth the money? Fifty bucks for the software. Twenty bucks a month for even just a year is two hundred and forty dollars! Plus the original cost means for just one year of play you’ve paid almost $400.oo. For one game. How is that worth it? Even at half that, that’s still $200.00 just for one game. And that’s only a year of playing. How many years have games like World of Warcraft (over 3 years) and Final Fantasy Online (over 4 years US) been around? How many expansions have they had? And when exactly was the last time their graphics engines had an update to keep up with modern technology so that they don’t look completely and totally out of date? Do the math. In what world was that amount of money worth it?
The recipe for a good MMORPG is actually quite simple: usable engine, bugs fixed, game polished, have enough servers, have both solo and group play possible throughout the entire game, and make the cost reasonable. It’s not a complicated formula, and yet… apparently it is!