Do MMO Revamps Help Draw In Players Or Chase Them Away?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor


In case you missed it – and, if you've been following this site, I'm not sure how that could have happened – Skyforge made a ton of changes to just about every system in the game with its recent Ascension update. There certainly was plenty to complain about when the game launched, and we did that more than once on the F2P Cast, but the response to Ascension from viewers of the cast have been mixed. A couple of Bombs from the last two F2P Casts:

Hellsworth: Da-Bomb for Skyforge the new system got me and my friends hooked up on grinding

Elveone: A-bomb to Skyforge. They messed up everything. [long list of complaints follows]

If there's one thing that will always be true about MMOs, it's that you can't please everyone, no matter what you do or how good your intentions are. For every person you please, you'll probably piss off another, which got me wondering: Is it even worth trying to change?

When I read about TERA's reworking of the sorcerer class, I thought about one of my personal experiences, that being when Turbine completely overhauled the progression system and how you acquired skills in The Lord of the Rings Online. Now that I think about it, several other MMOs I've played extensively, such as Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, have done the same. (GW2 has done it twice, in fact, with the first reworking being wildly unpopular.) I don't play World of Warcraft, but I'm of the understanding that Blizzard has overhauled its trait systems so completely that a Vanilla player from 12 years ago probably wouldn't even know what end of a sword to hold these days.


For the games I did play, the changes have been something of a mixed bag to me. I don't play as much as I used to, but I still feel like the way I played LOTRO for six years felt more natural to me than the way I play it now. GW2 actually had yet another progression system in beta, so you could argue that game is on its fourth system right now, and I'm not sure which one I liked the best, though I know which I liked the least. And then there are games like Firefall, which, for a while, seemed to be changing its progression every six months. But that's OK, because it was in beta, right?

Someone else might have different opinions of what system they like the best, and I think some of that has to do with how much they played the game and got used to its old systems, even if they were less than ideal. To some people, comprehending and mastering a system's problematic parts is part of the game, and when that's simplified or changed, that advantage is lost. On the flip side, for a player who finds the system confusing – and maybe left the game because of it – it's a good thing and will have them playing more, or coming back to the game altogether if they quit.

Is it as simple as that? Players who don't currently like the game welcome changes while players who do enjoy the game dislike them? It's probably not that simple, but I'd guess that's a decent start. That said, I also think developers can try to be “too perfect” and mess with something that isn't badly broken. When a decent system is torn out and replaced by one that's objectively better, it still requires relearning and frustration on the part of the players, some of whom might lash out on forums or reduce their playing time – or quit the game altogether.


And if a halfway decent system is replaced by one that's not so good, like the GW2 one I alluded to earlier? Developers always think they're improving their games when they make changes, or even when they create a game's initial systems. Sometimes they're wrong, and those mistakes can be costly in both the short and long term. It's a big risk and one that needs to be carefully considered before the button to change things over is pressed. Is what we've got now that awful that we need to risk alienating our player base to “fix” it? Are we sure that we're improving things? Will lapsed players actually come back, or have they already moved on? What if players reject the changes and we need to switch things up again?

In other words, a lot of time and money have been poured into making Skyforge “better.” Was it worth it? Will all that effort yield more players and more income for Or might they have been better off keeping the game as it was and pouring those resources into more content or improving other aspects of the game? A game doesn't have to change on the level of Star Wars: Galaxies' New Game Experience, but maybe it's better to improve the game for the players you have, rather than trying to lure in a bunch of people who aren't playing. My personal experience after witnessing LOTRO's and GW2's changes would seem to indicate that massive, sweeping changes don't really do a lot to move the needle and can detract from other aspects of the game.

I've explained some of my experiences dealing with these kinds of changes in my MMOs, and I'd like to hear your take. How have you reacted when an MMO altered progression, skills, classes, or some other fundamental part of the game? Are you generally OK with MMOs making significant changes to their core systems? Or is it better to keep the old systems mostly in place, imperfect though they may be, making only minor tweaks and fixes instead of ripping out all the guts of the system and starting over?

Share this Article:

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (21)

pppoe 6 years ago
Wow, they revamped Sorc in TERA? The deepest and most well thought and rewarding class in the game? Sorc was a beast in PvP when used by skilled players and only needed some love in PvE and that's because of the new completely imbalanced classes by the current dev team that are OP on purpose so vets switch and pay more money again. And, sorc was already getting that PvE love with major dps buffs and new skills to fill the PvE rotation when i was leaving. Good thing i left.

I think it's not revamping that's bad or players not liking change. It's just that when things are in dire need of change devs let the problem grow until it's too late and then they try to fix things by messing with everything. Most revamps i saw, just like the L2 one, weren't uncalled for they were just horribly implemented.

Anjeal Soul 6 years ago
You guys ever think they change things, because there are more people who are dissatisfied than there are pleased? Skyfore was good in it first iteration, but with the content it had. The only good thing it had going for it was the atlas. Skyfore's best feature was also it's worst, because that was all that was holding Skyforge up. Now that that's gone it really has nothing going for it. They haven't added any new major content or zones. Most of the maps focus on group and grouping is only done through the capitol hub. Even though the game has a LFG feature no one and I no one uses it. So if deves are trying to revamp a mmo, it's to try and bring the numbers up.

Hellsworth 6 years ago
I think no matter what happens people will enjoy some aspects and will hate others. Some will say "too grindy" while others will say "it's old school, work to get it". Since the day I wrote that up I went from 300k prestige to 1.3M prestige and I am now sitting on a level where the other issues everyone was claiming are starting to affect me aswell and I knew they would come, BUT the lesson to take here is, if you change too much people might leave or people might stay, if you always "play safe" you will definitly be boring and people WILL leave, keep changing. make people think and work for stuff and change what's not well to something that is, work the issue into your next expansion, it will get you your amount of dissatisfaction nonetheless but really think about this question "Do you want people ranting on a full forum with mixed love/hate messages or a stale forum where nothing happens with the few people that actually read?"

Mike 6 years ago
ESO "One Tamriel" falls into this category. I loved the game before this, I hate the game after. They could have "opened it up" by just connecting all the main cities by portals and letting anyone group with anyone else. They could have put auto-scaling in for groups and left the rest of it alone. That would have continued their ideal of having a game that appeals to multiple playstyles. Instead, their wholesale change has ruined crafting/gathering, trashed feeling like you get stronger as you level, and pushed forced-grouping into the fore. They created a game that now has one approach rather than being something that works for a variety of approaches. I was about to buy a second box and get the DLCs on both accounts. They have lost that money and my respect.

View 1 reply
trionisshit 6 years ago
Ugly and boring PAY TO WIN sh it, optimized so bad, go in hub and check it ! To fing party u need to beg/shout weeks, devs working for food, game is dead long time ago, wih few nerds who like to pay and win.

View 2 replies
Edge Damodred 6 years ago
Lineage 2 did this a few years ago. While I do agree the game certainly needed to fix some major aspects(mostly being the stupid number buffs and buff classes needed for a party), they decided to completely change the combat style for PVE. Originally it mostly relied on auto-attacking for melee and archers in parties and left active skills for solo'ing and PVP. Instead they decided to go the constantly smash head against keyboard in the same cool down rotation order for all classes.

As you can see from my description I didn't really care for this new combat style and soon left the game. They eventually realized they pissed off quite a bit of their playerbase as eventually Legacy servers were eventually offered. This is something WoW still refuses to do despite the very heavy evidence that such servers would be desirable and probably profitable as no one's expecting new content to be made for them.

The of course there's still the infamous Star Wars Galaxies NGE update...but realistically that game was already heading into the MMO graveyard. Not saying it was a bad game prior to the update, far from it, but it certainly was an acquired taste game, which meant for publishers, crappy return on investment.

Now are there any "positive" revamps? I would say Warframe to an extent but depends on which few months you played it as they are firmly in the "Wouldn't it be cool if..." school of game design. The game can be great and then next update it's WTF! Come back a year later, "hey it's kinda fun again...OH SHIT HERE COMES A MAJOR UPDATE!"

ASD 6 years ago
If the game is working and is drawing in a huge crowd then all I gotta say is DON'T CHANGE A THING because lately it's like everybody can't keep their hands off of anything everybody has to change everything like in the gaming industry and outside of the gaming industry. Yeah it's good to change some things when it's needed but the useless changing of things is what ruins the games/products and drives away consumers. It's part of the reason why I don't really play MMO's anymore I got tired of the BS the MMO devs/publishers been doing and how I usually gotta pull some cash out per month to buy something. Yeah I know I don't got to buy anything but they use the advertisements and pull out all the useless level boosts like a level 90 level boost that the game doesn't need since if they are selling level boosts then what's the point of playing? I don't see a point at all. GTA online might be worth playing but most other MMOs I don't see a point at all.

View 2 replies
tolshortte 6 years ago
if the game is working some big changes usually hurts more than it helps. obviously depends on the change and the game, but id say it hurts an already working model. for games that are struggling id say its a mixed bag. it might help some but may kill others. again, the devil is in the details.

I detested the changes from burning crusade to wotlk in wow for example. thought it was a step backwards in terms of challenge and common sense.

I detested the initial gear changes is swtor in patch 1.2. as many others did as that was about the time of the mass exodus.

there have been small changes in various mmos over the years that ive thought were good, but I cant recall a massive sweeping change that ive liked. doesn't mean they were bad, just that as a vet of that game those changes usually either didn't make sense to me or took away a portion of the time I put in the game in terms of progression.

YOHO MOHO 6 years ago
The only downside for new players that join a revamped game is the complaining from vet players whether its a good or bad revamp they always complain.
its like changing a monkey's habitat in the zoo they go apes.hit.

View 2 replies
Merkadis 6 years ago
This sh!t can't be just neatly boxed into "can't please everyone".
This update removed atlas, THE thing skyforge was built upon.
You have to be completely bonkers to remove the foundation that holds your house together.
Needless to say, everything crashed right on top our heads when they still did it.

It is always worth it, changing things.
Provided you actually change things for the better......
When you change sh!t blindly, - "ascension" happens.

View 1 reply
bull 6 years ago
This is some FireFall bullshit right here.

Read Next

SWTOR's Upcoming Gearing System Changes Are Making Players Very Unhappy

💣 Feature | SWTOR's Upcoming Gearing System Changes Are Making Players Very Unhappy

Star Wars: The Old Republic is making significant changes to the way it handles loot at endgame.

By Jason Winter - 6 years ago

You May Enjoy

Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen Has Changed Art Styles As Showcased In The Art Update Video

Pantheon: Rise Of The Fallen Has Changed Art Styles As Showcased In The Art Update Video

The world will look a little different from now on.

By Troy Blackburn - 5 days ago
Bloodhunt Introduces Infinite Battle Pass, PS5 Founder's Edition, And Team Deathmatch Adjustments

Bloodhunt Introduces Infinite Battle Pass, PS5 Founder's Edition, And Team Deathmatch Adjustments

All was covered in the third edition of the community newsletter.

By Matthew D'Onofrio - 2 days ago
Reminder: Call Of Duty: Warzone Caldera’s Closure Is Almost Upon Us

Reminder: Call Of Duty: Warzone Caldera’s Closure Is Almost Upon Us

There are only two days left.

By QuintLyn Bowers - 1 week ago
"Buying Expansions Is P2W": New World Answers Your Hot Takes And Questions About Rise Of The Angry Earth

"Buying Expansions Is P2W": New World Answers Your Hot Takes And Questions About Rise Of The Angry Earth

It's time for another Q&A from New World.

By Troy Blackburn - 1 week ago
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Release Date Revealed, And It's Pretty Soon

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Release Date Revealed, And It's Pretty Soon

Hopefully this sequel plays better than the original.

By Matthew D'Onofrio - 1 day ago