Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

There are few places on the Internet that are as full of hate, rage and hostility as the official forums of a MMORPG, even more so if the game is new or near to its upcoming launch date. If you check Metacritic when the user review floodgates open for a new MMO, you’ll invariably see a large number of people flocking to post disproportionately low scores without even getting a chance to play the game. What’s the last time you saw a newly released MMO that objectively deserved a zero? Yet that kind of score always pops up, and not just once or twice, but many times.

This apparently weird syndrome affects other games in smaller measure, but MMORPGs suffer from it the most, and with worse consequences. 

The success and long-term operation of a MMORPG invariably depend, at least in part, from its population. Population means revenue for the developer, and revenue means resources that can be reinvested in content and upgrades for players to enjoy. In addition to this, having many fellow gamers to play with is a high-demand commodity in the genre.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

It’s hard to deny that seeing friends and guild-mates leave in sizable numbers is always a severe blow to one’s enjoyment of a MMORPG. That’s why whenever a new entry in the genre appears on the horizon many automatically see it as “the enemy”, or the cruel monster that will “kill” their favorite game and swallow their friends whole.

It’s hard to fight this perception; many often end up begrudgingly purchasing the new game because their friends and guild moved over, and enter the brave new world already jaded, without any predisposition to enjoy it. They secretly (or not so secretly) hope to see a failure that would send them and their friends back where they came from.

Add to this the fact that MMORPG gamers normally come from already established games that had most of their launch problems ironed out; no new MMO, no matter how initially polished and carefully honed, will ever offer the same smooth experience out of the box. As a result, you get the perfect recipe to generate malcontent, that often turns into open and very public hostility.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

The recent release of Star Wars: The Old Republic is a clear example of that. While the atmosphere in game and in neutral environments like Facebook and Twitter normally ranges from the satisfied to the enthusiastic (with few exceptions), the Metacritic user score is a mess of zeroes and the official forums are nothing short of a warzone.

The same users posting “I unsubscribed!” messages over and over (they must be a lot less determined than they think if they quit and come back so many times) are a rather common occurrence, and false allegations about unjustified bans to try and give BioWare a bad image are something SWTOR players have sadly become accustomed to.

The Old Republic isn’t the only victim for sure. As a veteran MMORPG gamer that tries at launch (or before) basically every major entry in the genre and many minor ones, I’ve seen this happen every single time a “new kid on the block” has dared to brave the market after Everquest: Dark Age of Camelot, Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Everquest II, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Aion, Final Fantasy XIV, DC Universe Online, RIFT… I lost count. Even those that didn’t have an official forum to gather all the hate still had prominent environments that got swamped by it.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

It happened with every single one, no matter if complaints and rage were justified or not, and unfortunately not every MMORPG has a budget and marketing resources comparable to World of Warcraft or SWTOR, that can be spent to hold the creeping negativity at bay.

Thinking that the same won’t happen with future games like TERA, ArcheAge, The Secret World or Guild Wars 2 would be rather delusional.

Launch time flaws and issues are endemic of the MMORPG genre. No matter how hard developers try, no MMORPG will ever be released perfect due to the complexity of the project and the iterative nature of its evolution and testing.

Any of those flaws, major, minor or even negligible, becomes a target, with hundreds of people going out of their way to be as venomous and hyperbolic as possible about it, commonly bordering or even passing the limits of misrepresentation. This riles (often intentionally) other users that just happen to be frustrated by that particular flaw (even if they enjoy the game as a whole), the most aggressive fans scramble to defend the game (often just as irrationally), and it all turns into a mess that’s normally very hard to keep under control for the unfortunate community manager that happens to be on shift.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

How many times, on official or unofficial forums dedicated to a new MMORPG, have you seen hyperbole-driven sentences like “This is the worst game ever released!” or “The whole team should be fired on the spot!” or again “The way this feature has been implemented is an insult to my intelligence!” and many other imaginative variations?

Those that some call “trolls” or “haters” (together with others that are simply being irrational), decide to take upon themselves the mission to wage war against any new MMORPG that they perceive as “the enemy”, and they will stop at nothing in order to feel that they managed to have a negative impact on its popularity.

Like in any “war”, they completely (and very conveniently) forget that the “enemy” isn’t just an impersonal entity like a plane or a tank, and that they are actually talking to and about real people (the developers and community managers) that worked and are working hard to deliver the best experience they can to their customers, often in conditions that aren’t exactly ideal and with the very real nightmare of team downsizing looming over their heads.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

I wonder how they would behave if they stopped for a second to think that the venom they make a point of spouting day after day actually affects (maybe even marginally), the jobs of hundreds of other people and gamers. I dread the idea that many of them actually know and just don’t care.

The press isn’t really innocent as well. Journalists aren’t immune to the behaviors described above, and while many manage to restrain them thanks to their professionalism, some don’t, and use the full weight of their media visibility in order to bash their “enemy” of choice that is perceived as a threat to their favorites. Luckily, they are rare, but the fact that it does happen is disconcerting.

Many others aren’t as guilty, but they simply follow the usual, sad trends that drive the press, whether it’s gaming press or dedicated to any other topic (or to no topic at all). The media live and thrive on disasters and tragedy.

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

There’s nothing like an earthquake, a volcano eruption, or a good ol’ murder to draw journalists like fire attracts moths.

As most of you probably know I’m Italian, and my country has recently witnessed the tragedy of the Costa Concordia. Press of all nationalities has been all over it for days, with headlines that often looked disgustingly sensationalistic, fueling as much as possible the negativity and the hate towards the Captain (that is probably guilty, but that’s beyond the point) and the crew when the actual judicial inquiry isn’t even near to drawing any solid conclusion.

The same happens with games, and even more so with MMORPGs, that, being as complex as they are, are also naturally bound to hit the shelves with flaws that the media can feast upon.

Someone posts on YouTube a movie about an exploit (even if it’s a common one that happens pretty much in every MMO)? Breaking news! A random dude lies about being banned for a very weird reason or gives his own skewed version of a justified suspension? Featured article with no contradictory for the top header ready in five minutes, sir! A random market analyst with no knowledge of the gaming industry or of gaming in general decides that a game isn’t performing? Stop the presses!

Hostility: the Worst Enemy of New MMORPGs

But if afterwards another analyst (and maybe one that’s more qualified to talk about the gaming inustry) happens to post a positive outlook stating that the same game is doing fine, how many of those sites post about it? How many post about the Community managers that clarify that those bans didn’t happen at all and those suspensions were due to clear cut exploiting? Not too many, because that kind if news doesn’t cause enough controversy, and are somehow perceived as less “juicy”.

Mind you, this opinion piece doesn’t want to defend the habit of developers to “launch now and patch later”, even if, to some degree, it’s pretty much inevitable in the MMORPG genre. It also doesn’t try to discount the importance of feedback and constructive criticism, or to say that the press shouldn’t call developers out on serious mistakes.

What I’m pointing at is the hyperbolic venom and irrational negativity that sneaked into the launch of basically every new MMORPG since the genre has become a competitive one. We should always keep in mind that competition is good for the market, and especially good for a market that has been stagnant for years as that of MMO games. It drives evolution and forces our favorite developers to improve their games in order to keep them on par with the newcomers, granting even those that decide to stay a better experience.

There’s no need to scramble to the Spitfires to shoot down the evil newcomer. It doesn’t carry bombs. Ultimately the ones that benefit the most from a fluid and competitive MMORPG market are the gamers. Fighting against change to stubbornly defend the status quo will only hurt us.

Join the Discussion

  • Ideaz

    If Age Of Conan isnt that bad why it keeps losing players day by day? 🙂 I think some post on forums are truth and AOC went the wrong way for sure look at pvp there….

    • Aside from the fact that “losing players” is a personal perception (No one but Funcom really knows), as I said in the editorial, constructive criticism is fine. It’s going out of one’s way to be venomous and intentionally spread negativity that is not. And that’s for every MMORPG.

  • Kirkkh

    It’s a two way street. Criticism breeds fanboy bombings, after getting knee jerked by a “community,” most people will leave. Without any friendly recipients of critics, fanboyism will continue to have newer players running.

    • This is generally untrue. Well phrased and respectful constructive criticism normally doesn’t get “fanboy bombed” in any significant way. That happens when the tones are overly aggressive and negative.
      Non constructive criticism normally gets slammed because it’s unwarranted and disrespectful. 

      Using the term “fanboy” is, by itself, not exactly constructive. typical example “i know I’ll get flamed by the fanboys but…” Perfect way to start a conversation with a preemptive flame.

  • Gurv

    What I see is a long, long biased article to defend SWTOR.

    Ok all MMOs have problems at launch but at different levels.
    Only problem I can remember from WoW’s launch was server stability and availability.
    Sure it was annoying but 1) Blizzard did compensate with free game time 2) That was pretty much the only serious problem.
    Funny thing is SWTOR is the opposite : only thing that was good at launch was server stability. It had some queues but it was very reasonable.
    As for the rest, oh my! Lag, performance issues, overuse of voiceover (for the many “kill ten rats” type quests), static world, no LFD, no dual spec, no macros, no combat log, no customizable UI, no AA, not even UI scaling or draw distance setting! Shadows that look like minecraft, bugs galore (BH anyone?), questing on rails, game box that includes the absolute bare minimum… I’ll stop here you get the idea.
    Lots of people are getting really vocal about SWTOR not because they are bad persons/haters/whatever but because they are pissed to have spent their money on such a lackluster over-hyped game.

    Btw, I’m not an insecure WoW player feeling threatened by SWTOR.
    In fact I quit WoW a year ago because I didn’t like Cataclysm.
    I waited for SWTOR for nearly a year and expected it to be my main MMO until I realized just how bad it was, after 2-3 weeks of playing it.

    • All I see is a pretty biased comment against SWTOR. 

      This article is about the MMORPG genre as a whole. SWTOR is just the latest and freshest example, and mind you, one of the most polished MMORPGs at release in the history of the genre. 

      Of what you list, a lot is opinion (voice over overuse? well, tons of people evidently love them), most are features that are almost never part of a MMORPG at launch, and some are plain falsehoods (bugs galore? have you ever played a MMORPG at launch? the bugs in SWTOR were very few in comparison, even in comparison to WoW mind you). 

      The only “idea” i get is that you had your expectations set unrealistically high and when the game came out realistically polished, it still didn’t live up to them. 

      Mind you, your overly negative, aggressive and intentionally venomous tone is the perfect example of what I write in my article. Thanks a lot for that 😀

      • Gurv

        – voice over overuse : agreed it’s only my opinion. That said I find it would be more epic if it was reserved for class and planet quests. Plus it’s not worth the investment, in my opinion, to voice over the filler quests ;
        – “most are features that are almost never part of a MMORPG at launch” : really? Antialiasing not a feature at launch? Draw distance settings? UI scaling?
          If I remember correctly, Rift launched with all of these plus others (customizable UI, dual spec, macros, combat log) less than a year ago.
          That said, Dual Spec/LFD IS subjective and I don’t call it mandatory.
         But to say SWTOR is one of the most feature complete MMO at launch is far fetched.
        – as for bugs, the bounty hunter class quests was bugged for a while to the point of preventing any further progression ;
        – yes, I played the game, in general Beta and the included month (level 48 Jedi sage) ;
        – my expectations aren’t unrealistically high, SWTOR lacks a lot of features Rift had at launch and some even WoW had in 2004 ;

        Really, it’s not a single missing feature/problem that disappointed me, it’s the whole lot of them.
        But to each his own. I’m pretty sure some people will love the game just because of story/voice over/star wars. But for people just looking for a good MMO like me, chances are they will be disappointed.

        Also no need to call me “intentionally venomous”, I didn’t insult you.

        • Voicing “filler quests” (most of which aren’t filler at all, due to how story driven they are, choices, and voice acting itself) is exactly what makes them more epic, and opens more storytelling options. Voice acting has a practical use that some don’t notice. It makes realistic and expressive writing possible, reducing the boredom of the “filler quests” by a lot. You’re basically saying “it’d be more epic if it would be less epic”. Besides, the investment for voice overs is made mostly by Lucas.

          Antialiasing? Draw distance? Since when graphics are what matters or “standard” again? Besides, SWTOR’s graphics compensate with a level of environmental and lighting design that most if not all other MMOs don’t have.
          Nor is UI scaling. That’s what you call an accessory. A welcome accessory,but indispensible? No.

          RIFT had those features, and it was a really good game (short of great because of how bland and generic it’s world and design were), but it’s one game. One game doesn’t set a standard. It also lacked a lot of the features that SWTOR has. TOR has expanded upon the feature set of MMORPGs considerably, so if I consider both game’s features at launch side by side, I easily identify the old republic as the richest. 

          Yeah, the bounty hunter class quest had a bug. And there were others, and they were still way less than most MMOs at launch, unless you consider localizations of Korean games, that aren’t true launches as they already had months or even years of live game in Asia to iron out the bugs (and they still manage to launch with bugs).

          Many people love the game because it’s rich, extremely well executed (for a MMORPG), it offer a very varied experience and a level story that no one else offers, because most quests aren’t the “usual filler”, companions, because crafting isn’t a boring chore, and a ton of other reasons. Reducing it’s appeal to voice overs and star wars is, I’m sorry, a quite irrational attempt to artificially downplay the game’s many merits. 

          It often sets the tone of the posts of those that go out of their way to bash this game, completely ignoring it’s many upsides and focusing only on what it lacks, which exemplifies perfectly the content of this article.

          The same happeens with most other MMORPGs (I heard it said for WoW too: “The olny thing it has going for it is that it’s warcraft!”)

          And “venomous” is hardly an insult. It’s a simple description of how aggressively bashing your comments are.

          • SlyJo4

            Can someone explain to me what features SWTOR has added to the MMO genre?

            Voice overs? MMOs before SWTOR had them
            Cinematics? MMOs before SWTOR had them
            Story? Do i even need to say it?

            SWTOR is NOT a well executed game.
            You want it for the single player experiance? There are ACTUAL single player games that are better than SWTOR

            You want it for the MMO experience? There are MMOs that do it better than SWTOR

            End of story. Why Bioware thought it would be a great idea to focus on the leveling experience is beyond me.

            Not mention, that great leveling experience? Ya… IT ENDS. Once you hit 50 ITS OVER. At level 50, SWTOR becomes every MMO on the planet, only difference is SWTOR has half the features of modern MMOs plus a terribly executed social hub (“Hey guys, lets take every FP and OP and shove it into one tiny space station!”)

            Rationalize all you want, but that story and that voice over doesn’t change the fact that you’re STILL killing 10 rats (droids?) and you’re STILL chasing that carrot on a stick while exploring bland static worlds and barely meeting anyone else in the process

            So no, Giuseppe, hostility isn’t an MMOs worst enemy. Lazy companies and lack of innovation is an MMOs worst enemy. Nice try though.

          • Your comment is another perfect example of that hostility. Your hyperbolic terms and use of rather juvenile attacks like calling people that worked for years on a game “lazy” perfectly prove my point, so thanks.

            Voice overs in every single quest of a MMORPG? No MMO had them before. It’s an innovation.
            Choices during quests? No MMO had them before. It’s an innovation.
            Companions with their own storylines, that react to your choices in quests and that you can fully treat as a second character? No MMO had them before. It’s an innovation.
            Crafting by proxy that completely removes it’s boring grinding aspect? o MMO had it before. It’s an innovation. And so forth.

            They may not be the innovations you personally want, but that’s completely irrelevant. They *are* innovations. 

            SWTOR has a fully fledged endgame (stronger than most MMOs at release), so the “the leveling ends!” point is pretty much moot. Having a great leveling experience is crucial. First experience is important for most, and only the most hardcore minority is very willing to go through 50 levels of boredom in order to attain the endgame nirvana. If leveling isn’t good, the endgame is useless because most won’t even get there. 

            So yeah, hostility is a new MMO’s worst enemy. It leads people to make false and hyperbolic in order to attack a game that they see as “the enemy”.
            And you just proved it 😀

  • The Chef

    Amen… Yet it is not only at launch, but also continuing years after release.. Look at WoW forums… Not much positivity there. Look at AoC forums.. not much positivity the either… 
    But it stretches way further than MMOs nearly any game will have a strain of dissatisfied gamers complaining about it as if their lives were forced to have dedicated hours in front of that game. 
    Look at Skyrim for example released three months ago… yet there are numerous newly added threads with titles like “Why I left this game” and “How Skyrim sucks…” 
    Again as you said this negativity spreads everywhere and we could be talking about nearly any “entertainment” topic and still have the same content in the discussion. 

    The world is literally turning negative. And there’s a very simple reason for it.
    For simplicity let’s stick to negativity surrounding new games. 
    You pointed out that people are afraid of leaving the already familiar. That is true, but not nearly the whole truth. 

    What is really the drive force behind negativity is expectations and greed. While games are getting constantly cheaper… even free. Gamers are becoming more demanding. In a way they have the right to as technology becomes more advanced. 
    But look at it like this. J.K. Rowling wrote a tremendous 7 volume series Harry Potter… Whatever she decides to write after this will probably never reach the quality and fame that H.P. did. 
    Why? Well because she would have to top everything she did in the Harry Potter books. It’s like setting a World Record and then trying to beat it. (And if you can’t beat it again people will start throwing negativity at you).

    A game can easily be compared with a meal. A single meal. Some prefers fish some prefer meat and other vegetables. A restaurant would naturally have to cater to either one or all or a mix. When you buy a dinner at the restaurant you expect to get something nice, you pick a course and eat. But what if that dinner didn’t at all match your expectations.
    Now imagine subscribing to an MMO is like going to a buffet. You pay for the collected amount of time you are there. And get served new dishes regularly.. that’s what you pay for. Now each dish better taste better than the last one. But keep throwing this many dishes at us and we are less likely to dish out the same amount of money each time.. unless the taste is so superior to the previous dish or we still haven’t finished the previous one. 
    Yet now there is this increasing stream of new people who are eager to try buffets because they’ve heard it’s delicious or it might look compelling with eat-all-you-want. 
    So an F2P MMO? Well you are essentially free to eat all you want… just that all the food is an small platters almost like samples.

    How do players react to a new mmos or games announced? Well it’s like any new buffet or dinner, it’s just that the expectations for new course is as higher since the previous course was great and the media preliminary ratings of this new course are sky high (measured often by the look at some major ingredients and composition). 

    So how come gamers are so negative when they get their teeth into this new course? To begin with in anticipation of this new course the gamers had all but forgotten most of the forgettable dishes from the previous course. They do however remember the unforgettable dishes and the flavor is still hanging in their mouths. So when they imagine how this new course is well, each dish would have to be no worse than heavenly to surpass the last meal. And preferably also contain some of the old flavors so we won’t be to estranged by the new tastes. 

    The problem is no chef nor bunch of chefs could possibly cater to such expectations.

    A game is known to get better feedback when there are simply no expectations to it… as with everything else. 
    Gamers are steadily growing in numbers and along with those numbers are the amount of gamers that take whatever games are out there as a given and improvable by any other game that is released after them. 

    You who read down here congrats…. You will probably have a neutral-positive opinion about the next game you are playing.

    for the rest:

    tldr; Gamers attention spans are short. And they’re spoiled like the rest of the consumerist world. 

           And you who only read that⬆. GTFO! (get the f* out!) and find something else to do.

  • SlyJo

    Don’t make shitty MMOs

    Problem solved

    Now go to bed

  • Ccomuso

    The game is decent, but the MMO part is lacking. This really isn’t subjective, its more or less a casual observation. 

  • roflcopter

    This is soo true, trolls are everywhere, just see the AoC Forums its a swamp of trolls there trolling each other, but the game itself is really very good.
    In TERA online forums i dont see trolls yet and i really hope it wont happen, but I know it will as soon as there is a critigal point of WoW players reached testing this game 😛 *just kidding*