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 constantly 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. They are supposed to have longer life-cycles than your average game. Take the Division, an online-only third person shooter that like the other games mentioned, featured a PVE and a PVP mode. Players immediately noticed that while the world was fairly large there were multiple sections of the map that were inaccessible. While the original content had enough meat to keep players entertained, it got repetitive quickly and ultimately led to the players fleeing the Division as the gap between expansions was far too long. Since its initial release in 2016 there have been multiple expansions and various additions to the gameplay 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. Developers have to remain consistent as not delivering on any of their pre-launch promises will more than likely result in the loss of dedicated players. Almost every single open world online game today as seen this happen because the game doesn’t include the promised content. If a developer states there’s hundreds of hours of gameplay, then that needs to be present or it will end up frustrating players.
Which ultimately leads me to this point, these open world online-only games require an incredible amount of patience. These games are meant to be played for an undefined amount of time. Meaning that these games could potentially be played for years without the need of a sequel because the post-launch content should be able to extend the life of the product. Developers have to be cognizant as to whether or not the expansions being released are going to be able to satiate a fan base long enough to get to the next expansion. Otherwise you’re left with what should be an unnecessary sequel like Destiny 2 and the recently announced The Division 2. Sometimes the hype is too great for a game that it can actually have a negative effect. Tell someone that they can go anywhere and they’ll make an attempt to do just that. Being honest regarding the initial content is crucial because this will help build your fan base.
Investing in these experiences requires patience by both the developer and the player. No one wants to invest 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.