Rules That Constantly Change
Although patches and expansion packs are a way of life in the gaming industry, in a MMORPG they can have particularly profound consequences. Players constantly complain about having had classes, abilities, and items "nerfed," referring to when an update has changed the attributes of something in the game. A persistent online world is a work in progress, so players have to get used to the idea that the rules are going to change as they go, often with little or no explanation. On occasion these changes turn out to be mistakes and will have to be changed back. Perhaps worse, retail expansion packs frequently add new, more powerful gear to the game which makes it very difficult for anyone without the expansion to compete. An optional expansion for a game with no subscription fee is one thing, but a "must have" expansion when you're already paying to play is quite another.
It's a well-documented fact that people can become a bunch of douchebags when playing an online game. There are always those that will go to great lengths to cheat, exploit, harrass, or simply inconvenience other players any way they can. While this is a concern in all multiplayer games, having thousands of people sharing an online world definitely exacerbates the problem. These game disrupting activities include everything from camping valuable item drops to "training" large groups of monsters into other players. Efforts are sometimes made to deal with these problems as they arise, as no developer could have imagined how many ways people would find to bend and abuse the rules to the detriment of the game.
Game Life Span
When a MMORPG no longer has enough players to make it profitable, the world goes offline and the game ceases to exist. They tend to scale their operations to fit their player base, and we've already seen a number of them disappear completely. Single-player games, on the other hand, can often be reinstalled and enjoyed years after they have fallen out of favor.
Despite these issues, there is little argument that MMORPGs have improved dramatically since pioneering projects like Ultima Online and EverQuest launched in the late 90s. Game developers are aware of the problems and they've gone a long way toward addressing them, or least minimizing their impact on gameplay. The technology has also gotten a lot better over the years, allowing developers to offer innovative features that make massively multiplayer gaming less persevering. Let's not forget that if MMORPGs get too good, it will become all but impossible to get out and cut the lawn, study for exams, or hold down a steady job.
Join the Discussion
Is the genre inherently flawed, or can MMORPGs be fixed?