The Parable of the New Game Experience (NGE)

V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes Mask

Sometimes events take on a wider significance than simply what happened to a few people at some point in the past.

Jon Wood, Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, posted an interesting article this week – in broadly discussing a game I said I’d stop talking about, he stated that linking Sony Online Entertainment to the Star Wars Galaxies New Game Experience (NGE) was unfair in today’s market. His three key points behind this were:

  1. It’s been five years already, SOE is a different company with different people.
  2. SOE President John Smedley has apologised and said it won’t happen again.
  3. Linking SOE and the NGE in every thread for the past 5 years is just getting boring.

He misses a fairly big point here.

… Should Ever Be Forgot

Putting aside the who and the why, the SWG NGE should be a massive warning to every MMO player that their favourite title is exactly one patch away from being unrecognisable. That’s the Parable of the New Game Experience – that a development studio can (and will try) to cast aside their current players if they think dramatic game changes will result in a bigger slice of the pie… and what the fallout will be if they try.

MMOs are virtual entities, so that someone can spend years of their life and hundreds of dollars on something they have nothing material to show at the end. Permanence only exists on the whim of developers who can, with a few clicks of a mouse (or: several hundred man hours of coding, but that makes game development sound like work), erase your virtual possessions, virtual character and virtually everything you’ve invested in a title. All it takes is one patch. So players need to trust that the devs won’t do that.

That SOE is still linked to the NGE is because – duh! – they were the ones who tried it first. It should be still talked about today just to remind devs that players remember these things – you break that trust, you just bought a severe and long-term PR hit. Some people do take it too far and bash SOE with the NGE-club every opportunity they can. But if Wood is suggesting that the MMO industry limit its collective memory to 5 years because lord, aren’t those old topics old and boring? then developers are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

(End Note: Regarding the term ‘NGE’ itself, it originally stood for New Game Enhancements, but over time New Game Experience has been used interchangeably when discussing the same topic. Wood used “New Game Experience” in his article, which is why I’ve used it above instead of the technically correct term.)

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6 thoughts on “The Parable of the New Game Experience (NGE)

  1. Games journalists get far too many freebies from the industry. The objectivity of people like Wood is suspect. Does writing topics like this get him free tickets to conventions? I think it probably does.

    Next if SOE had been exemplary since NGE they’d have a point. As you’ve recently discussed here, Unsub, they haven’t been. They’ve made the rather NGE-like move of hijacking the EQ2 newbie faucet away from the Live servers and into EQ2X. I actually rather enjoy EQ2X but I think I’d feel a bit betrayed had I been an active EQ2 Live player when it launched last year.

    Lastly the best way to stop internet trolling is not to rise to it. Articles about the NGE keep it alive, no matter how supportive they are. (But, hey, saying nothing wouldn’t get Mr Wood free convention tickets and games).

  2. Then you must have loved the article listed below where Bill Murphy addresses comments about his “honesty” (article titled the same). What I found amusing were the comments posted on the article which really addresses the overall issue. I agree stabs, how much payola is going on with the game “journalists”?

  3. I’m sure Wood spends a lot of time reading MMO forums, so that the simplistic SOE bashing around the NGE could get tiresome. But it is said for a reason.

    SOE doesn’t help by often appearing to be the Lucy to the MMO players’ Charlie Brown: “I promise I’ll definitely hold the ball in place this time. Not like the last 100 times, at all. Go on, take your kick.”

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