Up Your Butt and Around the Corner

Do you remember that phrase? Yeah, if you’re around my age, you probably thought it was hilarious at one time. You may find that it is, in fact, no longer hilarious. But, to be fair, no one over the age of 10 ever found that funny. Perhaps a better example would be The Karate Kid trilogy. Those movies were awesome. In the 80s. If you released those movies now, they would fail miserably. What about Jaws? If it were released in the exact same state for the first time today, it would be a Sci Fi original, not a blockbuster.

What once was good simply is not anymore. The technology, the techniques, the writing, everything. It just doesn’t hold up anymore. Even if you updated the technology in Jaws and left everything else the same, then released it to a world that had never seen a Jaws movie before, it probably wouldn’t do well. Times change, preferences change, the market changes. Movies like Jaws are still awesome only because of the nostalgia and the knowledge that it was made in the 70s.

This is just as true in the video game industry. Things change, people change, mechanics change. There are very few games released more than a few years ago that could come out now and still be successful. Yeah, there are games like Tetris that would still do well if released today for the first time (movies too, like The Godfather). But, those are few and far between.

For most games, and most genres, the mechanics get stale quickly. If you were to release Ultima Online or EverQuest today in their original state, even if you updated the graphics, they would fail. In the real world (as opposed to Ideal Nostalgialand), the MMO market has matured. It has moved on beyond mechanics like experience loss, equipment loss, and PKs preying upon players who only want to PvE.

Yeah, some people would want to play those games. But, probably not too many. That’s okay, except that it means you have to budget such a project knowing that the game will be niche. That means a sub-8-figure budget (most likely), which means the game can’t be nearly as impressive as what players are used to.

Meaning, it’s virtually impossible to make a game just like WoW (for example), except super hardcore mechanically. World of Warcraft took at least 8, if not 9 figures to make (thats dozens to over a hundred million dollars).

Okay, a bit of a tangent there. The really important thing to take away from this is that as much as some of us (even game developers) want an “old school” MMO, trying to make it old school by implementing throwback mechanics is a bad idea. At least, it’s a bad idea if we’re trying to make a very successful game (though, I admit, in relative terms a Nostalgia MMO could be successful if the budget were conservative enough).

That isn’t to say that it is entirely impossible to capture some of the nostalgia–some of the magic–of an MMO from ages past. You just need to identify what that magic was, and doing that takes voodoo in itself. I’ll try to follow up tomorrow with a post about capturing (and reproducing) the magic of an old school game in a modern MMO.

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