以一個體驗玩家角度談MMORPG遊戲行業的演進歷史

原作者:Anderson Addo 譯者:Willow Wu

跟其他從2005-2010年代開始玩遊戲的美國孩子一樣,我喜歡玩大型多人在線角色扮演遊戲 (MMORPG)。我就是喜歡那種奇幻世界、自由、還有冒險!遊戲社區很活躍,能讓我沉浸其中,遊戲中的冒險驚心動魄,讓我不禁讚歎……你懂的我的感覺吧,這一切都妙不可言。

具體來說,我玩Runescape和Flyff已經有6年了。

但是在2012年,Runescape發生了變故。遊戲換了一批管理團隊,開發者們做了一些非常不對玩家胃口的決策,甚至影響了原來的遊戲玩法。新團隊才接手沒多久,遊戲中就出現了各種坑蒙拐騙的微交易,然後社區徹底分裂,遊戲被活生生地撕成兩半。我目睹着社區成爲一盤散沙,最終我傷心地離開了遊戲。

我相信閱讀這篇文章的大多數人都有類似這樣的MMORPG遊戲經歷。

GW2(from mmorpg.com)

GW2(from mmorpg.com)

Jagex還算走運,Runescap並沒有因此遭受打擊,還依舊活躍,但是有時候我還是很想知道當初他們到底是爲什麼做了如此反常的決定,給遊戲和玩家們都帶來了無法抹滅的傷疤。直到今天,還有人爭論說Runescap並沒有完全恢復它往日的輝煌。用一些玩家的話來說,到底是什麼能讓開發者們“不愛社區愛錢包”?

講個故事……

我有自己的一套推論。Runescape之前一直在嘗試增加對新玩家的吸引力,避免遊戲停運。有段時間,我也和大多數人的想法一樣,以爲這就是MMO遊戲的其中一個失敗案例。

但是最終我還是決定深入研究一下。花點時間上網,我在Reddit上收集到了好多信息,瞭解到其實早在變故發生的10年前,這段插曲就已經開演了。

1990年代末期到2000年代早期是MMO遊戲的天下。如果你的遊戲跟別人不一樣、有潛力,在那個年代的遊戲行業是很吃香的,像是Eve Online, MapleStory, Everquest和Runescape (是的,Runescape算是很老的遊戲了),都是很有趣的遊戲,有幾百萬玩家支撐着。說真的,他們簡直是挖到了金礦。

然而,YouTube一個名爲Extra Creditz的頻道中有一期視頻說到了“每隔一段時間就會出現一款強有力的遊戲,雖然很少見,但足以震撼整個遊戲行業。”這用來形容MMO遊戲是再合適不過的了。

2004年又有一款遊戲加入混戰,從此MMO遊戲翻過了新的一頁。

這麼厲害的遊戲是什麼?這個非同尋常,能夠載入MMO史冊的遊戲是什麼?如果你玩MMO遊戲玩得多的話你應該知道我說的是什麼,而且很有可能你自己也在玩這個遊戲。

它就是《魔獸世界》。

一個充滿魔獸的世界

《魔獸世界》(通常被簡寫爲WoW)對遊戲行業的影響就像是隕石對恐龍的影響。

沒誇張,就是字面上的意思。

《魔獸世界》簡直是讓整個行業都沒了活路。有趣的是,這意思並不是說這個遊戲差到讓人不敢相信,或者是令人反胃或者是怎樣,是因爲它實在是太棒了。這種成功是史無前例的,但更重要的是遊戲所具有的巨大吸引力。

它造成的影響跟數量沒有沒有關係,玩MMO遊戲的人數並沒有因爲《魔獸世界》而產生巨大改變,而是它影響的是MMO遊戲的特色。

《魔獸世界》已經找到了成功的方法,於是其他人也想分一杯羹。突然之間,大部分的MMO遊戲都做成了《魔獸世界》的山寨品,這個現象持續了有整整十年。這些遊戲的開發者進入這個行業只是爲了賺錢,毫不意外,他們也沒有真正搞懂玩家社區對於MMO遊戲的重要性。

遊戲質量差,行業變成飽和狀態。如果有人不明白這是什麼意思,其實就是遊戲太多了。因爲這種狀況,整個行業進入了低谷期。

對於新玩家來說這個類型的遊戲並沒有多有趣,而開發者們又面臨着越來越大的競爭壓力,把那些現有的玩家看作是行走的取款機。遊戲越來越注重收益,社區的重要性已經不如從前了,但是它恰恰是促成遊戲成功的關鍵。

但是問題還不止於此。

快餐式滿足作崇

MMO遊戲有個特點就是它們非常耗時間。你要花費好幾個小時升級,取得遊戲進展。很多時候,這個過程會很慢,而且……我得承認確實是……比較無聊,但是最終拿到獎勵的時候真的是感覺很爽。

然而這就是遊戲行業的其中一個問題:開發者們提供給玩家的遊戲體驗越來越多是快餐式的滿足(而且他們也越來越擅長於此),而不是傳統模式那樣需要努力一段時間,之後纔得到你的獎勵。

爲了取得最後的滿意成果,玩家需要花很多很多的精力,只有少數遊戲類型纔會要求玩家這樣做,RPG遊戲就是其中一個。在過去,這個過程是非常枯燥的,而且必須不斷重複,但是現代RPG在這個過程中增添了很多樂趣。

但是這仍是RPG遊戲中不可或缺的一部分。

MMO行業逐漸趨於飽和,競爭越來越激烈,只要一有新玩家接觸到遊戲,開發者們就不遺餘力地要把他們留下來。這些玩家大部分都是第一次玩MMO遊戲,他們並不習慣傳統遊戲中那種需要耗費很長時間才能得到滿足的遊戲體驗。因此,有些MMO遊戲就降低難度,變得容易上手,只要能夠讓玩家高興他們什麼都願意做,最終結果通常就是玩家拋棄了這個遊戲,又去尋找新遊戲。

遊戲變得簡單了,社區對於他們來說並沒有多大的合作意義,所以他們的社區也是一盤散沙。

安全行事

所以,《魔獸世界》的轟動效應過去之後,MMORPG行業到處都是低質量的山寨遊戲,玩家也不在乎遊戲社區。當然,高質量的遊戲並沒有消失,比如Tera,但同樣也有一堆不怎麼樣的遊戲。

所以這種現象大概還會持續一段時間吧。爲什麼?就跟它出現的原因是一樣的。

製作MMORPG遊戲是一項非常艱鉅的任務。成本高、開發時間長,上線了以後,開發者們還得繼續花錢花時間來維護遊戲,這點也是很讓人頭疼。開發者們知道有個賺錢的好方法,就算是紅海地獄他們也願意往裏跳。比起創新冒險,他們更願意直接參照別人的設計,安全行事,這就是爲什麼很多人都要山寨《魔獸世界》。

所以現在呢?

MMORPG遊戲開始復甦了。現在有越來越多的新想法出現,但是正如我上文所說的,開發遊戲需要時間,所以這個復甦過程會有點慢。

所謂復甦指的不是會有更多玩家去玩MMORPG,而是指遊戲本身不再那麼千篇一律,而是有各自的遊戲特色和閃光點。

除了創新,MMORPG也逐漸向F2P模式靠近,這樣就會吸引更多玩家,讓社區重新活躍起來,也能幫助開發者們更好地運營遊戲。希望開發者們在遊戲上能夠更加“頑固”一點,堅持自己對新內容的想法,把焦點側重在遊戲社區上,而不是收益。

在未來,我們可能不會看到太多比較複雜的MMORPG遊戲,但是我們會看到更多更有趣的遊戲,它們將會有更好的玩家社區,能讓玩家沉浸在遊戲中。

這就是我最後的答案!

我想這就是爲什麼Runescape能渡過難關。他們不顧玩家的反對,頂住了壓力,對遊戲做出了更改。雖然事實證明這不算是壞事,但我也無法客觀地說開發者們做出的這些改變到底是必要的還是多餘的。然而,以這個例子來講,Runescape“丟失了它原本的特色和閃光點”,這是署名爲Witchwood Icon的一位粉絲說的。在這個競爭激烈、門檻低的行業中,它變得比較“現代化”了,在一大堆MMORPG遊戲中它變得那麼平庸,我們還要花點時間才能找到它的位置。開發者們的想法是吸引更多新玩家來帶動遊戲的老玩家,但同時又想保持遊戲的核心部分,但這麼做反而讓玩家覺得這個遊戲變得越來越陌生。

要點

MMO遊戲是個相當複雜的領域,儘管我想盡力把東西總結給你們看,但是內容實在是太多了。我說東西不一定都能適用於整個行業,肯定還有很多內容我沒有涉及到,還有一些我沒有完全理解的地方。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Like many children who started playing games in the USA around 2005 to 2010, I loved to play Massive Multiplayer Online Role Player Games (MMORPGs). I just loved the fantasy, freedom and adventure! The communities were immersive and lively, the adventures were wondrous and breathtaking and … you get the idea. They were amazing.

A snapshot of Runescape. Credit: Wikia

I specifically played Runescape and Flyff for 6 years.

But then, around 2012, something happened to Runescape. The game went under new management, and the developers made some majorly unpopular decisions to affect the gameplay, and before I knew it the game was chock full of cheesy microtransaction schemes and a community so divided that the game literally split into two. The community dissipated before my eyes, and eventually I left the game heartbroken.

I’m pretty sure a lot of you out there have had an experience like this with an MMORPG.

Luckily for Jagex, Runescape survived and is alive and well, but sometimes I wonder what caused them to leave such a permanent scar on the game and their player base. To this day, some could argue that the game hasn’t completely recovered. What caused them to, as some players put it, “care more about their wallets than their community?”

A little Story by the Campfire…

I had my theories. For a while, like many, I though it simple was a product of the MMO genre dying out, and Runescape was attemping to become more attractive to new players to avoid closure.

But eventually I decided to really look it up. After a little web surfing and a ton of Reddit, it became clear that the history of Runescape’s episode actually started almost 10 years before its occurrence.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, MMOs were all the range. The gaming industry welcomed the change and potential, and games like Eve Online, MapleStory, Everquest and Runescape (yeah, Runescape is a very old game) were benefiting from millions of players and were quite a lot of fun. Honestly, those guys struck a gold mine.

However, as was once said in an episode of the YouTube channel Extra Creditz, “Every once in a rare while, a single game comes along that affects the entire gaming industry.” And that couldn’t be more true for the MMO industry.

A game in 2004 came into the mix that changed the course of that genre forever.

What was this rare game? What was that anomaly, that game that would make it into the gaming history books? Anyone who plays MMOs enough should know exactly which game it was, and have most probably played it themselves.

World of Warcraft.

A World of Warcraft

A snapshot of World of Warcraft. Credit: Cinemablend.com

Commonly abbreviated as WoW, World of Warcraft hit the industry like the meteor that hit the dinosaurs.

Literally.

WoW killed the industry. The interesting thing is, it’s not like WoW killed the industry because it was just mind-bogglingly bad or revolting or anything, but because it was just too good. It’s success was simply unprecedented, but more importantly, it was attractive.

The death it caused wasn’t necessarily a death concerned with numbers, but with individuality and flare.

WoW had found a formula to find success, and others wanted its benefits too. Suddenly, for a whole decade, the majority of the MMOs coming out were all rip-offs of WoW. They were being made by developers who entered the industry just for the money, and, not too surprisingly, didn’t really grasp how important the community aspect is to the MMO genre.

The games were low quality, and the industry became saturated. For anyone who doesn’t know what this means, it simple means that there were too many games. And it’s due to this the industry hit a pretty low point.

The genre seemed less interesting for new players, and existing players were faced with being treated like walking money bags since the games they played had to deal with more and more competition. Games became more and more about money and less about the community that made the games successful in the first place.

But here was another problem too.

The Evil of Instant Gratification

One thing about MMOs is that they take a lot of time. You’ll grind for hours and hours to level up and get make progress. Many times, such grinding is slow and…I must admit it…boring, albeit the reaped rewards make you feel really great.

That’s a problem for a gaming industry that’s growing and getting better at supplying users with instant gratification, rather than delayed gratification (working and earning your reward).

You see, RPGs are one of the only genres where you have to really work for an end product of gratification. In the past, that work was dull and repetitive, but modern RPGs are making that progress making more fun.

But it’s still an integral part of the genre.

So with the industry becoming saturated and competition becoming unfavorably tough, MMOs would prefer to keep any players that stumble upon their games. Many of these would be players new to the MMO scope, and when they get on they aren’t used to the delayed gratification. This leads to some MMOs making their games easier to play, reducing their challenge levels and doing anything to please players that leave to try out new games in the end anyway.

Games that become easier had a lower need for a cooperative community, so their communities crumbled too.

Playing it Safe

So by the end of this earthquake the MMORPG space was filled with tons of low-quality rip-offs with low community engagement. Sure, there were still high quality games out there, like Tera, but there were a lot of pretty mediocre ones out there too.

So this trend continued for a while. Why? For the same reason it started in the first place.

Making a MMORPG is a very herculean task. The costs are high and development time is long, and on top of that the maintenance that goes into the game once it’s live can be a real headache. Developers only want to jump into that abyss if they know there’s something good on the other side. They’d rather play it safe, which is why a lot of them decided to just follow WoW and choked up the industry.

So what now, then?

Star Citizen, a major MMORPG hopefully coming out in the next few years. Credit: engadget.com

The MMORPG industry is starting to recover. More innovative ideas are coming out, but as I just said, these games take a while to develop and this recovery will be a bit slow.

Like I said, it will be a recovery of flare and individuality, not numbers of players playing the genre.

Apart from having more unique takes on things, MMORPGs are becoming more free-to-play, which will attract more players to them and can help revive their communities (provided the developers run the games well). Developers will also hopefully be a bit more rigid as to what they will add to the game, and focus more on the community and less on the wallet.

We probably won’t see that many challenging MMORPGs in the future anymore, but we will see more interesting ones with better communities and player engagement.

So I Got my Answer in the End!

So I think this is why Runescape went through that episode. It bucked under the pressure to fit the masses. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though, and I can’t objectively say whether how they changed was necessary or not. However, in this case, Runescape “lost its individuality and flare” as the fan Witchwood Icon put it. It became more “modern”, and took a while to find its place in the MMORPG industry that has become more competitive and easy. Its attempts to attract more players affected its indigenous players, and while the game tried to keep its core aspects ,it became more and more alien to its fans.

Takeaways

The MMO industry is a complex one, and while I tried so summarize things for you, there’s a lot going on. Some of the things I’ve said don’t apply to the whole industry, and there’s sure to be a lot I haven’t covered or don’t fully understand.(source:gamasutra )