MMO preservation sucks. It's not just about servers getting shutdown, but major game changes not preserving the old version even when there's demand for the old version. Content relevancy is too short for most players besides the hardcore. Horizontal content progression can help with short content relevancy. Not preserving smaller MMOs or MMO eras leads to a more divided MMO community. Toxic MMO fanboys going out of their way arguing against MMO preservation are toxic. There are ways to improve MMO preservation even if it's not thought to be profitable by the devs.
I love MMORPGs I've been playing them for almost 20 years. I have a lot of great memories and still have friends today that I met in MMOs. The problem I have with MMOs is that they're short lived expensive temporary services. Game companies seem to care little about persevering their games.
I feel this should a bigger problem for most MMOs players but it isn't being talked about enough. It goes further than a game company shutting down the servers. Personally I'm not really a big fan of most modern MMOs. A lot of people like modern MMOs and that's fine. I'm not trying to make this into a "Modern MMOs suck" thread.
The problem is I like older MMOs or older versions of MMOs and have been wanting to still play these MMOs for years. Most of these MMOs we literally cannot play even when there is demand for it. Modern MMOs are just not a replacement. These are different styles of MMOs that are simply not being preserved. There needs to be more effort into preserving MMOs. So this thread is about the different ways MMOs aren't being preserved and the things developers, publishers and the community can do to hopefully make it better.
The most obvious point when it comes to preservation for MMOs is server shutdowns. Making the game unable to be played and pretty much completely killing it. Now depending how long you've been playing MMOs but I'm sure a lot of long time MMO players have at least played one MMO that can't be play anymore because of the servers shutdown.
These suck and can happen if the game is no longer profitable or the company goes bankrupt, etc. But there are cases when the servers get shutdown even if the game is profitable but not profitable enough and the publisher wants to move the resources to other projects.
Major game changes
Another big problem with MMO preservation is major changes to the game. The devs decide to change the direction of the game to a completely different one to the point where it becomes a new game and the old previous version of the game is lost in the process. At this point at least to me, is the bigger threat to MMO preservation.
A game like WoW isn't just one game. Every expansion is pretty much a new game or at least you can look at WoWs history and see different eras as different games. This applies to a lot of MMOs that are still around today, especially MMOs that came out before WoW. If the devs decide to change the direction of the game but you still like the way it was, well too bad. That old verison of the game is pretty much lost. I feel like this point of MMO preservation is often overlooked.
Now obviously Classic WoW is the most know game where there was enough demand for Blizzard to bring it back. But remember that was after Blizzard shutdown a Classic WoW private server and got a lot of backlash for it. But there are plenty of other MMOs that are still around today that have major changes to them and were different styles of MMOs that were lost to these big changes. FFXI my favorite MMO, went through the same sort of thing. I'm sure you guys can think of plenty of other MMOs or different eras of a MMO that are not being preserved even when there's demand for it.
This is even true with lobby type games like Destiny 2. Recently I wanted to give Destiny 2 a try and I knew one of my friends played it. I come to find out he the quit the game after he put hundreds of hours into because they made all the old content and gear irrelevant and he doesn't trust Bungie anymore. How many times does this have to happen to MMOs and even non-MMO live service games before we admit there's a huge problem with how we're not preserving these games.
It would be like if everyone was forced to play only the most fastest game in a series or genre. For example if FFXV was the only FF game that could be played. Or the latest COD is the only COD game you can play. It sounds ridiculous but this is how it is like for MMOs. I don't know about you guys but I often play older games and a lot of older games are still great. Now obviously MMOs require a server to run but it's still very doable to preserve these games but game companies are frankly too short sighted and it's huge blow to MMOs.
Content relevancy is too short
MMORPG are huge games with a lot of content. It takes a lot time to get through the content. The problem is most MMORPG content relevancy is simply way too short for most players besides the most hardcore with a lot of time to dedicate to the game.
For example, I will never forget at the end of vanilla WoW and with the launch of TBC. Naxx was only out for about 6 months, then TBC came out and Naxx became instantly irrelevant. Only 6 months! Naxx was a the very end game and supposedly one of the best raids. You had to be max level, you had be in a dedicated raiding guild and you had to have the gear needed for it. It would take a lot of time to get to that point and in the end very few people got to do it. And there was plenty of us that wanted to do it but couldn't because it was relevant for way too short of time. This happens with vertical progression MMOs all the time.
Why doesn't the community make a bigger fuss about this? If you want to do all the content but don't have the time of a hardcore player you're pretty much out of luck. I can't take my time and play at my own pace. I have to play at the developers pace which is never enough.
Horizontal content progression can help
Now I'm sure most MMO players are use to this way of vertical content progression. It's always replacing gear and content every major patch/expansion. But there are ways to make content relevant longer.
Horizontal content progression is one of the way. With a more horizontal content progression of adding content and making gear more of a side-grade can help a lot with making content viable for longer.
FFXI was the only MMORPG that I know that had a strong horizontal progression system. Content and gear were viable for years, in a lot of cases it would be like 5 years+. It got away with this because of its gear system. There were a lot of gear slots and you had different gears sets for different situational. FFXI is often considered a "hardcore" MMO, which it does have a lot of hardcore content in but saying it was only for hardcore players overblown. As a more midcore player I could take my time and play at a slower pace because of it's horizontal progression and how gear and content was viable for much longer. When I moved to WoW I was shocked at how short content was relevant for. A lot of MMOs are similar to WoW with the shorted lived vertical progression.
Not preserving games leads to a divided and often toxic MMO community
Another major problem with not preserving these games is it creates a lot of tension between these different types of MMO players. We all have are own favorite MMO style and eras but since MMO preservation is terrible we are all sort of forced into only playing the latest modern MMOs. Now obviously there's different MMOs but the video game industry is very trend focus. Not allowing more niche MMO to be preserved leads to problems. So the MMO community is divided in which direction the MMO genre should go.
Unfortunately there are lot of toxic MMOs fans that actually go out of their way to argue against game preservation because they have some sort of weird insecurity or hatred against a certain game or game era. This type of toxicity is worse than the console fanboys that throw a fit when a former console exclusive game is released on another system. I don't understand why people are this low to go out of their way to try and stop people from playing the games want to play and preserve. But hopefully people start to realize that the lack of game preservation will start effect games they like. Feeding the whole dead game meme cause games aren't as popular as they once were or compared to other games is just dumb.
Now of course game companies want to make a profit. And not every game or era will be profitable for the devs but the devs/publishers can still put effort into preserving these games even if the devs don't want to host the servers themselves. I'll get more into that later.
There are games that have been very profitable in the past and still have a lot of demand with thousands of players playing on buggy private servers willing to pay for something more official. FFXi for example was Square-Enix's most profitable FF game for a long time. The vast majority of that profit came in the classic era, a game/era that you can't play anymore cause SE didn't preserve it.
Private/Emulated Servers aren't ideal and have problems
Now I'm sure some of you are thinking. What about private servers? The problem is private servers might be illegal or at least in a legal grey area. It is a lot of risk to run a private server. It also takes a lot of work. Having to write all the server side code from scratch in the dark with no access to the original source code or data is an insane amount of work.
it's also quite costly for an average person to run the server by oneself. The private server communities also often don't want to do crowd funding to help with server costs or dev time because they fear that the game company will see that as profiting off their work and would give a reason go after them more.
So what can be done about it? Here's some ideas off the top of my head.
Devs/publishers should stop going after good private/emulated servers that are trying to preserve their games. Also allow the community to crowd fund to help fund the servers.
Devs need to make more of an effort to archive/snapshot the source code and data of their games. Some game companies have been pretty bad with this in the past. Hopefully they can learn from this so it would save them work in the future.
Devs should help out private/emulated servers in someway. Not going after them is one thing, but actually helping the community that want preserve their games would be a huge help.
Developers should preserve and host the game servers themselves. This is the route Blizzard and it's great that a company like Blizzard cared to preserve their game. But remember it was only after they got a lot of backlash for shutdown vanilla WoW servers. Since then though we've seen that Classic and retail WoW can co-exist. But the MMO industry needs to do a lot better on this front.
If developers aren't sure if it will be profitable and don't want the community to host the servers, they can see if crowd funding will be enough. Similar to how Platinum games crowd funded ports of their game.
Now maybe the MMOs industry will solve some of these problems by working with the community a bit and allowing crowd funding for these servers working to preserve these games. Or maybe more companies besides Blizzard will start hosting different major eras of their MMOs. But MMO makers in the future need to consider this stuff. It's honestly hard for me to trust some of these companies going forward with MMOs considering how little they care about preserving their games or respecting our time and money.
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