I have to say I was a little surprised to see the poll results about the Module 15 announcement, because I expected an overall more positive result. Instead, most of you guys went with “Acquicorporated who?”, the most negative answer you could vote on in the poll. Granted, we didn’t really set up the answers too smart. Most people would have liked a little bit more distinction and didn’t feel properly represented, but 329 of 538 is still a strong vote against the upcoming content. Especially since Ravenloft has been such a success Omin Dran and company might need to convince the playerbase of their qualities.
Like I said, I was somewhat surprised, but thinking about it I think I can relate. I touched on some points in the podcast on Monday, but like to add to my thoughts today. So is a humorous, story-driven module what the game needs at this point? First of all it’s important to understand that the devs plan content months in advance. Even if they decide they have to push a certain area of the game, it’s going to take at least two mods until release. So it can actually happen that content that seemed like a great idea no longer is come release time. So if you’re talking about whether or not content is a good fit, you’re kind of judging in hindsight because the devs decided on it months ago and obviously can’t fully anticipate the game’s development.
Focus on Bringing in New Players
With that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk! In the pod on Monday I mentioned that I generally like what bringing Acquisitions Incorporated in means for the game. As long as these collaborations continue to happen, Neverwinter is in great shape. Because as D&D game you obviously want to be a strong part of the WotC family. And Lead Designer Thomas Foss indeed did a wonderful job of building the brand! Module 15 once again seems to cater to the classic D&D crowd. Ravenloft already was a decent job of bringing an insanely popular setting to the game. Now “The Heart of Fire” offers a solid, story-driven, and casual campaign.
It means that the game more than ever focuses on bringing new players in and probably tries to build endgame around grind. Criticizing this approach is beyond my pay grade and knowledge to be honest, but being around since 2013 I obviously would like to see a little more classic MMORPG features for veteran players. Especially since, in my case, I grew into D&D due to the game, and not the other way round. So these official story lines are not necessary a selling point for everyone.
What About Retention?
More than that though, you have to worry about retention. I tried to do a little research on free-2-play MMORPGs and it seems like the genre is really about constantly bringing in fresh blood. The vast majority of players don’t even stick around for 30 days after their first login. What the linked article also mentions however is that the key to longevity is indeed retaining as many players as possible, and that titles usually start to stabilize after two years. Unfortunately the disastrous Elemental Evil happened around that crucial two-year mark, which probably screwed the whole theory. But now that we theoretically should be over the hump, I think it’s time to think about features that aim a little bit more towards the future.
That’s what has me a little worried in terms of “The Heart and Fire” release. I believe the story telling of the Penny Arcade folks will be superior, but right now we’re still looking at farming the same old group content for at least six more months. New players already have tons of stuff to do, but seasoned ones could be looking at a pretty serious content drought. That said, the professions system could actually fill the void and, given it’s well set up, be one of those classic MMORPG features that can be extended and maintained in the future.
Group Content, Foundry, and True Housing
Especially systems that work completely besides the game’s main story and grind make sense at this point. What you’re talking about is the Foundry, a true Housing system, new class, or competitive PVE and PVP. This stuff ideally never gets outdated and naturally grows with game, given sufficient maintenance. In Mod 16 I think we really need to see at least something related to the list above. It can’t just be another dungeon, another campaign, and some minor extras.
A reader commented a while back that “The Heart of Fire” exactly feels like the type of low resource module that precedes a high resource module. So here’s hoping that Acquisitions Incorporated is indeed just a filler and big things await adventurers six months from now! It wouldn’t hurt, because based on what we know right now Module 15 won’t feature enough additions or improvements in MMORPG key areas.
How do you feel about Module 15? Does it offer the right type of content given the game’s current state? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!
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