[MUD-Dev] Winnable MMO

apollyon apo11yon at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 31 20:08:48 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

A friend and I were discussing the non-winnable nature of PvP MMOs
currently on the market or soon to be released.  DAoC, Shadowbane,
SWG, they all have a strong PvP element but none are truly winnable.
The games are specifically designed such that the conflict will
continue unendingly until they just fade away into obscurity as
players abandon them for the next great game.  Anarchy Online comes
close with its prefabricated story spanning a discrete timeline at
the end of which they will determine who wins, but there is no game
out there (at least that I've heard of) that actually leaves the
fate of that game up to the players.

There is a portion of the MMO player base that is frustrated at the
current lack of anything on the market that offers the opportunity
to actually overcome the foe that you are predestined to battle.  If
a game will not allow a player to either win or lose the long-term
conflict, then how long will that game sustain it's playerbase?  EQ
has shown that they can sustain it for quite some time with
effectively no PvP conflict at all, but for those who play the game
to sustain that conflict, would a winnable war lead to greater
player retention?  The most commonly cited excuse I've heard for why
a given player left a game is, "I got bored with it."  My contention
is that this boredom is directly related to the inability to
actually accomplish something monumental, to win.  Not that every
player will win, but people will walk a long mile for a carrot if
they know that they CAN get it.

So, what if you designed an MMO that was made to be winnable?  Most
games are winnable.  No one plans to play a single game of Monopoly
for the next 5 years, but when the game is over they are more than
willing to play another game to see if they can win this time.  What
if you designed a game that was made to be winnable over the course
of maybe 1 to 6 months and when one side won the game would be
played again?  The timeframe would not be so long that people would
feel as if they had made too great an investment to think about
starting over again, but long enough that players could feel as if
they had striven against a worthy opponent and would be anxious to
try again.

The biggest obstacle I can see to such a proposal is that it's
risky.  MMOs are expensive and no one wants to lay down that much
money for a game that people can "beat".  My friend suggested that,
much like the Unreal engine, the future of MMOs will likely be paved
by the licensing of a prefab engine that people can then skin to
suit.  Doing so will likely reduce production costs substantially.
If production costs get low enough, producers will begin taking
risks that might otherwise never see the light of day.

Another obstacle is the fact that every time a given conflict ends
there's a finite chance that a given player will simply set the game
aside and not pick it back up again.  To help alleviate this, such a
game would need to include rapid power advancement so players can
quickly get back into the swing of things after a concluded
conflict.  Perhaps even an advantage to continuing play once you
have concluded one conflict.

At any rate, just some thoughts that got stirred up.  Curious to
toss them around and see what opinions people might have regarding
the concept as a whole.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

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