Content. MMO players are obsessed with it. We want more. And more. And more, again. Be it in free patches or paid expansions, we can never get enough content. We finish newly released content in record time and ask for more. Devs have to work faster and faster to make sure we get it. Don’t want us players to run out of things to do, do they?
But there is inherent problems with new content. Most content takes the form of new races, new classes, new areas, quests and instances. We eat that stuff up. We love it. Unfortunately, however, some new content changes the core of the game that we love and makes it nigh unrecognizable. This is bad.
Let’s take expansions for instance. I have played plenty of MMOs and purchased plenty of expansions over the years. Most have been great. The Mines of Moria, for example, was a solid expansion for an already solid game. It added the much anticipated Moria to the game, raised the level cap, added two new classes and hundreds of quests. They also added Legendary Weapons and Crafting instances. This expansion went over amazingly well with the current players of LotRO. There were a few nitpicks with one of the new classes, the Runemaster, and it not fitting in well with the Lore, but other than that, the expansion was very well recieved.
Similarly, the Everquest 2 expansions have seemed to be solid and hits with EQ2 fans. I don’t pretend to be an EQ2 expert, having only flirted with it in the past, but the five expansions (wow! does any game release as many expansions as EQ1 and EQ2?) have all looked to be pretty well-recieved and have not had too many complaints by long time fans.
On the other hand, we have DAoC. My favorite MMO of all time. DAoC’s expansion history started out pretty solidily. Shrouded Isles was nice, adding new classes, races, lands and a upgraded graphics engine. The second expansion was free and added player housing. Then came THE MISTAKE.
Trials of Atlantis was released on an unsuspecting DAoC player base and totally changed the core of the game. Suddenly, the things we loved the most about DAoC, Realm versus Realm, were thrown to the ash heap in favor of a PvE heavy expansion. Not only that, but all of the best gear was located in those PvE dungeons and to excel in RvR you needed that gear.
DAoC was changed in a heartbeat. Disgruntled players left in droves, players who stayed were forced through the PvE content. DAoC, as we knew it, was dead. Mythic admitted their mistake and later made “Classic” servers but it was too late. DAoC ended for many on October 28th, 2003.
Not as drastic, but just as bad for many players, is WoW’s expansions. “Vanilla” WoW is, seemingly, a totally different game than modern-day WoW. Less forgiving, requiring a higher time investment to excel and more accepting of World PvP than today’s WoW. Raids were 40 man and were truly epic. Epic gear was much, much harder to come by. World PvP on PvP servers was abundant. Classes and races were less homogenized.
Look at the WoW forums now and you see many threads begging for a classic server. A server that forgets that The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King ever happened. A server where Shaman are Horde, Paladins are Alliance and the Blood Elf abominations are only myth. I see more of these threads every day. Blizzard changed WoW and left many old players behind.
So, what does this have to do with Aion? Plenty. NCSoft has already said they are hard at work on the first expansion. We have no idea of a release date or what the expansion may entail, but we can only hope the core of the game does not change. The average Aion fan seems to be very fond of World PvP, difficult PvE with many group oriented quests and, in fact, many seem to be former WoW players looking for a “Vanilla” WoW experience. We can only hope that Aion takes this into consideration as they design new content.
Getting new players is all well and good but a MMO developer should never forget about the original fans. The ones who followed the game from the beginning. The ones who built the original community and paid their hard earned money to make that expansion possible in the first place.
Call me a Texan but in this case I fall back on a phrase that my grandfather said to me many times:
“Dance with the one who brung ya…”