Marvel Universe Online Dev Says MMOs Are In A Rut

By William Usher 2011-10-11 18:43:51 discussion comments
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Gazillion Entertainment -- the developers behind the upcoming MMO Marvel Universe Online -- COO and president David Brevik had some interesting things to say about MMOs and he basically states the obvious: MMOs are in a rut because they’re trying to be WoW clones.

In a very transparent interview with GameIndustry.biz, Brevik pointed out that…
"I think MMOs in general are in a rut. It's still mainly WoW clones," …. "A lot of people have done these games, but it's been that same kind of gameplay, and that doesn't mean that's what it has to be."… "Look at Ultima Online: it's an MMO, but the experience of Ultima Online was very different from World of Warcraft, yet everybody's gone in that one direction."

Not quite everybody…there’s still Mortal Online which has been hailed as a spiritual successor to Ultima Online in terms of gameplay and openness. The only problem is that Mortal Online is the worst MMO out there.

There’s also Fallen Earth, Earthrise and APB: Reloaded that don’t fall into the World of Warcraft clone category. However, it is true what Brevik mentions…most MMOs out there are fantasy-medieval oriented RPGs using modified D&D rules with World of Warcraft style mechanics. A lot of gamers are skeptical of anything “MMO” related because of the stigma attached to it that an MMO has to be a varient of a “WoW” clone. Red 5 Studios and Sony Online Entertainment are hoping to change this trend with games like PlanetSide 2 and FireFall.

Brevik also briefly touched over how games have really hurt themselves with the subscription model and how Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the last big budget MMO with a subscription (though he seems to be forgetting about TERA Online which will launch after SWTOR and also has a subscription based model). Brevik basically stated that…
"I have a lot of friends in the industry and... I mean, the budget for The Old Republic is outrageous, but it's the last, large scale subscription game I can think of," … "Part of the problem with it is that you aren't going to get the results. This is kind of going back to my talk: if your gameplay is integrated with the very concepts that you're trying and integrated with the platform you're going to get a better experience."

He also points out something that I think is hurting the MMO industry right now: free-to-play conversions. David makes the very astute observation that if The Old Republic fails as a subscription-based game it’ll have more problems trying to take on the free-to-play concept as opposed to starting out with the free-to-play concept to begin with, and I completely agree.

There’s a huge disparity in the player community with most converted free-to-play games that were once pay-to-play titles, especially games like Champions Online, Lord of the Rings and City of Heroes, where the free-to-play options were extremely limited compared to most other F2P games, and the non-subscribers complained about this, yet it left premium users feeling like they were getting the rotten end of the deal since they were paying for a game others were playing for free. Companies like Crytpic may have gained a lot of revenue from the move in the short run but there was a huge player divide, to say the least.

Brevik verifies this point by explaining why Marvel Universe Online will be free-to-play from the start instead of starting with a subscription model and converting to free-to-play later, saying…
"…what do you do with your existing subscribers: How do they view this? How do you treat them? 'I've already spent X amount of money on this game. What do I get out of this?' There are some tough problems to deal with if you don't make a free-to-play game right off the bat."

The only problem is that Brevik doesn’t really explain much on what sort of concept Marvel Universe will adopt in terms of gameplay. Will it be another Champions clone? Another World of Warcraft clone? Or something entirely different?

You can check out the entire interview over at GameIndustry.Biz. Marvel Universe Online is scheduled to launch sometime in 2012.
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