No MMO is ever truly “finished.” We all know this.
But how “finished” does an MMO have to be to be considered suitable for launch? What features are in the “must have” category at launch and which ones are we content to wait on until later?
I think we’d all agree that, at the absolute minimum, a game needs to be playable, which as few bugs as possible – hopefully none of them egregiously game-breaking – with solid gameplay through the leveling experience and at least a modicum of endgame.
(Being fun would also be nice, but that’s subjective, so we’ll leave it out of consideration.)
Back In The DayTM, when MMO launches were chaotic messes with half-day-long queues and you counted your blessings if you could play 15 minutes without crashing, this was enough. Just let me play, maybe interact with some friends, and look at the pretty, pretty world.
Our standards have risen, and understandably so. Now a game can launch nice and smoothly, with no appreciable hitches, and we’ll still gripe about features being left out, or complain about how “incomplete” the game is. For instance:
Star Wars: The Old Republic didn’t launch with a group finder.
TERA didn’t launch with structured PvP.
Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have raids.
Relatively few games have open-world PvP.
And a lot of games – most notably World of Warcraft – don’t have player housing.
In the first two cases, those oversights – if they could be labeled as such – were quickly remedied. For the third, it’s not likely to ever happen barring major negative feedback from players.
Or are they? Spectator mode was in the first Guild Wars from launch, so not having it in GW2 seems a bit off. Then again, there were no official forums – an out-of-game feature that virtually all MMOs offer – for GW, while the GW2 ones officially opened this week.
Finally, what about other security measures like authenticators or anti-hacking or anti-spamming tools? Many games are lacking in these categories at launch, only to add them later when players’ rancor reaches unacceptable levels.
So what is “essential” to an MMO launch today? What features are you not going to be content with waiting for until a future patch or update? Beyond basic gameplay functionality, what is a must-have from day one?