Preaching Patience – Online Open-Worlds

With so many open world online-games being released as of late, one of the common complaints is that after the main objectives and side quests have been cleared, what’s next?  In recent years, games such as The Division, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and Sea of Thieves have promised a persistent and ever-changing environment for the player to lose themselves in.  The issue is that once the main content has been cleared, the experience afterwards tends to feel very hollow.

Which is why developers should preach patience. 

Online-only games tend to feel unfinished as the entire experience is reliant on post-launch content.  These games are designed with a long-term vision and will generally feel barren after the first few playthroughs.  Take the Division, an online-only third person shooter that like the games mentioned above, was supposed to feature large dense environments for the player to roam.  Players immediately noticed that while the map was gorgeous and fairly sizable, it didn’t feature the diverse gameplay that was promised by the developers.  While the original content had enough depth to keep players entertained for around 20 hours, it got repetitive quickly and led to players ultimately fleeing the Division as the gap between expansions was far too long.   Since its initial release in 2016 there have been multiple expansions, additions and tweaks that has made The Division worth returning too.  The same could be said for Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and will eventually be said about Sea of Thieves.

It is almost impossible to accurately predict when a player will start to lose interest with a game.  Most post-launch content is set 3-6 months after the initial release to ensure that returning players maintain their interest.  These online open world games tend to require far more attention because their communities are expecting new and exciting developments constantly.  It is imperative that developers preach a consistent message throughout development as not delivering on any of their pre-launch promises will more than likely result in the loss of dedicated players.  It is incredibly rare for any game to live up to the lofty expectations set forth by developers.  Players are skeptical and for good reason, there are far more examples of failure than there is of success.

Which ultimately leads me to this point; open world online-only games require an incredible amount of patience.  These games are meant to be played in the same manner as an MMO or a MOBA.  Meaning that these games could potentially be played for years without the need of a sequel because the post-launch content should easily extend the life of the product.  Developers have to be cognizant as to whether or not the expansions being prepped for future release are enough to satiate a fan base long enough to get to the next update.  Otherwise you’re left with an unnecessary sequel like Destiny 2 and the Division 2.

Sometimes the hype for a game can be too great that it actually has a negative effect.  Tell someone that they can go anywhere and do anything and they’ll make an attempt to do just that.  Open betas tend to display problems that aren’t addressed upon the games release and this can be incredibly frustrating.  Being transparent regarding the in-game content is crucial because this will develop trust within your fan base.  I can’t blame a developer for marketing their game to be the next big thing as there are financial goals that have to be met.  But lets be real, false advertising is the reason why Hello Games had to work twice as hard to make up for No Man’s Sky’s shortcomings.  In their defense, they did make good on a lot of their promises, but it shouldn’t have been this hard.

Investing in these experiences requires patience by both the developer and the player.  No one wants to invest their hard earned money in an unfinished product.  Developers will have to understand the initial frustations of their base and players are going to have to accept that the game is a work-in-progress.   It just won’t work any other way.   These games act like long-term relationships, there is an adjustment period that cannot be avoided.  It can be a struggle at times, but the payoff can be worth it in the end.

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