What happened to the multiplayer in my MMOs?
I log into DC Universe Online and select my character, “Sinergy,” the staff wielding, lightning bolt hurling, super-fast running villain that fills one of my character slots. Upon entering the game, I queue up a team instance and wander around Metropolis doing missions on my own. Five minutes later, I’m on Gorilla Island with a group of strangers, ready to tackle an instance I’ve done six or seven times already on my other characters.
Fast-forward 20 minutes, and we’ve beaten the mission. “gg,” says one of the players, and everyone leaves. I wait around until the end to get the remaining group loot, and I leave too.
Flashback to 2007. I’m on Ventrilo with a group of friends from Guild Wars. We’re chatting while we wait on our next Guild vs Guild match.
“I don’t want no drama,” jokes the guild leader while the rest of us throw out momma jokes and ridiculous banter.
If the GvG plays out like three of the last four matches, our four-man troupe of assassins will get decimated by another low-ranking guild with a full eight-man party while we scurry around the battlefield like chipmunks, crossing paths and laughing all the while.
As I log out of DC Universe, I wonder what happened to that kind of multiplayer in my online gaming.
I’ve been playing DC Universe since mid-summer 2011. In that time, I’ve added one player to my friend’s list. He stopped playing the game about a month after it went free to play, and my friend’s list has been empty ever since.
Maybe it’s just me. I’m more reclusive and anti-social than I was five years ago, I don’t have the freedom and time that younger me did. But still, I can’t help feeling like the environment has changed too.
MMO’s have exploded in popularity this millennium, with the number of available titles seeming to grow exponentially each year. And if you’re old enough to read, then you’ve likely been witness to the ever-expanding free-to-play revolution. Just this week, I’ve seen at least half a dozen new free to play MMOs that I’d never heard of before. And I, like many other gamers, will no doubt try out a good chunk of those new MMOs before forgetting they ever existed.
It’s a two-edged sword. Of course it’s good for the market to expand, and the more titles that can successfully operate within the genre, the better: it means more choices for gamers and more ideas to build off of for developers. But, it also means more abandoned game accounts, more short-term players who stick with a game for a while and then wash out before ever making an impact on the game world or its players. In short, it means less community.
Quite simply, with the free-to-play revolution, the number of choices has exploded. As a result, the average gamer just doesn’t invest nearly the same amount of time in a single game as we used to. Five years ago, if I played a game, there was probably an 80% chance that it was Guild Wars. Today, Guild Wars is just one of 80 or so MMO’s that I have an account on.
But so far, it’s the last one where I actually made any friends.