Thursday, 1 September 2016

MMO Design: How not to Sunset a Game

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Massively recently drew my attention to Psychochild's blog post of "How to Sunset a Game", wherein he talks about the Business vs Player issues about such an undertaking. My only real experience with a game closing down on me is Wizardry Online, which has led to my utter hate of all things SOE / Daybreak. Sure I've had Ultima Online shards shut down on me too, but all the free ones we played on were with the express knowledge of "this is just some guy/gal running the server, quite likely in their basement, and it can (and will) end at any moment."

But Wizardry Online was run by a "big" company so I was a bit surprised when news of its demise was announced. Obviously the market for it is dying since even the Japan released is being shuttered. How SOE went about this though is really turd level scum. They pulled all support / event runners from the game, while continuing to have a cash shop selling in game items. In fact I think all focus (of the last guy on the project) went to the store, trying to milk players for whatever money they could, knowing full well said items would be useless soon.

How I would have gone about it? Make all those cash shop items free. The zones that are level locked? Open them up to all players! If that's too hard to do coding wise per area, then put an NPC who just hands out XP. Players would have been encouraged to have one last hurrah. As a bonus, since they actually run -other- MMOs, maybe give each player who registered from "x" date a bonus "thank you" package they can redeem in one of their other titles. You know, to encourage your customers to stick around?

Instead they treated the player base like dying lepers, basically ignoring their last, simple, requests while simultaneously trying to milk the remaining whales like desperate leeches. If that sounded wrong, that's because it is. I'm never playing another SOE / Daybreak run MMO again because of that experience, and strongly advise everyone else to keep away from this terrible company too.


  1. Funny enough, I've been through two game shutdowns and both of them were helmed by SOE - Vanguard and Dragon's Prophet. Now, I wasn't emotionally attached to either of them, nor was I actively playing at the time of shutdown. But the idea I'll never be able to visit Vanguard's world again... and the money I spent on a Dragon's Prophet founder pack (never again) still bug me. I'm fairly certain they ran those closings the same way as you described above.

    Then, poof! Just gone! Unless you want to move to the EU servers for Dragon's Prophet (it still exists) or the fan recreation of Vanguard. Ah, well.

    1. Thanks for the comment Aywren! From what you say it sounds like this is their really their modus operandi. >.<

  2. Hey! Glad my post was inspirational in some way. :)

    One thing to consider about Wizardry Online is that it was a licensed game. SOE licensed the game from another company which means they would have had a little less control over the game. Maybe they couldn't give away stuff for free, for example, for fear of cannibalizing people from other markets. (Same with Dragon's Prophet, for what it's worth.)

    I know it doesn't take the sting away, and SOE is no longer an entity, but something to keep in mind for the future. That said, I agree that a lot of companies could do better in letting the community say "goodbye". When 3DO closed down Meridian 59, they let people play for free for a few months. It was a nice gesture, at least.

    1. Hehe thank you for the inspiration Psychochild! Not sure how they could cannibalize other markets long term if they were giving hand outs in a game about to end, but it's a good point you make about their hands possibly being tied with licensing.

      When I think about it more, I think it really comes to the funding though. It's like when they announce/decide the shut down, they turn off the resource tap almost completely - leaving the game to languish without programmers or support or gms or whatever for the remaining period.

      Odd then that their prime focus in that time is leeching money. Anyway, I can only speculate as I've never run an MMO. All I've experienced is my side of the fence, which in this instance - wasn't very pleasant. :P