I guess if I'm leaving, I might as well make a goodbye post.
I haven't found any motivation to log on to MQ for weeks now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon unless there's a MAJOR engine revamp. I don't feel like there's anything left to look forward to anymore EXCEPT monthly mechas, and those are hardly a prize when there's no quests left to use them on. MechQuest held my attention for about three weeks, which isn't exactly what I'd consider successful. But then again, the MQ team did get my $20 for the SC upgrade, so I suppose the primary goal was accomplished. Honestly, I think the primary problem here is that MechQuest LOOKS and FEELS like a dying game, and not enough people seem to care. We're seeing all the usual signs of an online game in its final days- dwindling releases, rehashed events, uncontrollable power inflation to cater to veterans, unusual shifts in narrative tone, and most of all, forum topics about how the game is dying.
I discovered the game when I saw my younger brother playing. Apparently his group of school friends had stumbled upon MQ while on the warpath through the entire online gaming world. As a game blogger and aspiring social game developer, I like to follow trends and pick up on what's popular and what's not, and kids like my brother probably represent the largest demographic of players- kids (of any age) with high expectations and low attention spans. I'm a bit more selective than my younger brother when it comes to selecting games worth my time, but MechQuest had a certain something that caught my eye from the outset. The hand-drawn art style was a refreshing change from what most developers are doing these days, the battle engine implied an extensive customization system, and the subtle tongue-in-cheek humor had a quirky charm. The one thing that sold me on the game, stupid as it might sound, was the Shadow E1's 10-minute gun animation. That was just adorable. That said, the initial appeal is certainly there, but my enjoyment was cut short by a surprising lack of quantity.
The dropship, as I've mentioned before, was a fun introduction to the game. It created an intense atmosphere, introduced a handful of characters, and inspired a sense of urgency. There's a war coming, and I'm going to be right in the middle of it! I just need to finish my training, then I'll go out and be a big galactic hero! Alright, maybe jumping the gun a little there, but I didn't expect the truth to be TOO far off. Instead, I found myself delivering pizzas for the next several days. Honestly, I was pretty much ready to quit by the time I hit level 10. Of course I understand that two days of playing isn't exactly giving a game a fair chance, but let's face it- most potential players don't give games a fair chance. In any case, I only really held on because the (utterly broken by comparison) Mecharoni nearly doubled my grinding rate, and Yokai was just barely interesting enough to hold my attention a little longer. After my hundredth Evil Sam Rye or so, a few things started to sink in. One- I hadn't upgraded mechas in a long time. I bought some other mechs with my spare cash, sure, but those weren't upgrades in any sense of the word. Even with my lowly level 13 Mecharoni being the strongest mech in my garage (and pretty much no worthwhile customizations available for it), grinding slowed to a snail's pace around level 17 or so, and there still weren't any decent upgrades available. After looking around a bit and getting a better idea of the "normal" level of game balance, I can only imagine how slow the lower levels must have been if I didn't stumble upon the Mecharoni from the start. For what it's worth, my brother quit at level 9 and has long since forgotten about MQ entirely.
Anyway, I went ahead and upgraded at level 19, probably too late to fully enjoy the benefits. I enjoyed playing around with my new SC toys for a few days, and cleaned out the rest of Soluna (minus ghost hunting) and all the other planets except Necryptos. Some missions were more fun than others, and some of those rolls got to be extremely daunting, but it was a pretty decent experience overall. The war on Lagos was the uncontested high point, while Yokai was a disappointment overall. The other planets fell mostly in the middle, with tedium being the primary detractor. I can say without hesitation that the SC upgrades made the game more enjoyable, so I'm glad that I made the upgrade before finishing those quests. However, I can say with equal confidence that enjoying those quests was nowhere near worth $20, and I have zero desire to sink even more money into Nova Gems. I know I still have all of Necryptos to finish, plus a few straggling missions on Zargon, but there's little desire to finish them. There's no story pulling me along, there's no characters I've grown to like, and I'm pretty sure that one more planet isn't going to give me the last TWENTY levels I need to reach max.
Any online game's success (and profit) comes from two places- player attraction and player retention. In MQ's case, succeeding at the former translates to convincing someone to upgrade to Star Captain, while succeeding at the latter means convincing players to buy NGs regularly. In my experience, I found that MQ only barely succeeded at the former, and outright failed at the latter. And of course, the company must succeed at both to maintain profits and maintain a strong reputation, which in turn should translate to more staff dedication to the game. Personally, I only upgraded because I felt like spoiling myself a bit for my birthday, and I happened to already be at Best Buy to do some other shopping. I wouldn't have gone out of my way to upgrade otherwise. As with most games, the staff might have the best ideas when it comes to actual content, but the players are the ones who best understand the overall "feel" of the game. After looking through the suggestion boards, I'm actually pretty glad that so few mecha/weapon suggestions are actually taken seriously; most of them are horrendous. However, the suggestions in THIS topic (and its predecessors)- those regarding balance, mechanical adjustments, and the overall player experience- are the ones that need to be taken to heart. As things stand right now, I feel that the new player experience is mediocre at best. And as everyone else has articulated so many times, the end-game balance is a mess right now because of SCMM imbalance and a severe overload of overpowered rares. As a final point, there are NO successful games on the internet with zero player interaction. I know the ideas have been shut down in the past due to the difficulty of implementation, but I think both an active market and full PvP are both integral to MechQuest's ongoing success. No game developer has ever been able to create a world so engrossing that the players need nothing else. In the end, players keep each other interested in the game, and developers can only do what they can to facilitate the natural emergence of competition.
Now, the real core of the problem? Revamping a broken game can be more difficult (in concept, not actual work hours) than starting fresh, and there's a shiny new MMO project that already addresses pretty much every single problem I see with MechQuest. From a business standpoint, there really is no benefit to dedicating the manpower to this dying community. On top of that, I know I'm not exactly in the loop here, but I also get a strong sense of company politics hampering MQ's development. Avoiding backlash from long-time players is probably a bigger concern than sacrificing the limited profits from SC/NG purchases at this point, but as the rest of you forum posters drift away, that will become less and less of a problem. The less of us hanging around here that need to be pleased, the fewer quality releases we'll get, and the cycle will continue until MQ is officially dead. I mean really, how many regular posters are there on these forums? Twenty? Thirty, tops? Not a huge number of players showing dedication, as compared to the 800+ that come and go on a typical day. I think the best outcome we can hope for is a MechQuest 2.0 in MMO format, and maybe "classic" players will get a bone thrown our way in the form of free account upgrades or special rare items. On the other hand, the era of cheap/free MMOs seems to be ending to make way for the unstoppable Zynga/Playfish bullet train, so maybe there's not much hope there either.
Anyway, this post has gone on way too long (as my posts often do). I probably sound like a terrible person too, with such scathing criticisms of such a high-quality product. I do feel obligated to say that I greatly enjoyed all the creative details that made the limited gameplay worthwhile, and I also truly appreciate the warm welcome I received on the forums here. Maybe on a different medium, or in a different era on the gaming timeline, MechQuest has the foundation it needs to be wildly successful. Unfortunately, I don't anticipate that potential coming to fruition here. And now, a quick countdown of the changes I feel are most necessary...
6) Enough content to fit the experience curve. Frankly, if 45 is the max level, I expect enough quests to get me to level 45, and a reasonable number of upgrades to enjoy along the way. I shouldn't be finishing the game around level 25, and only having used three mechs to do so. I know that simply adding more content is an unreasonable demand, but there are ways to make it more manageable. Also, the fact that hardly any customization is even worthwhile before level 20 is a huge disappointment.
5) More Star Captain missions, and a larger gap between SC and NG bonuses. Frankly, I felt ripped off by the lack of SC benefits aside from the SCMM. I'd have felt even more ripped off had I bought NGs and realized the bonuses were only marginally better than what I could get with the one-time $20 upgrade and wouldn't even scale to my level. I think NSC players could even afford to LOSE content if it means making more SC-exclusives, because that just makes the upgrade more worthwhile. If a free player gets 25 hours of decent gaming and still hasn't upgraded, chances are they never will, and I'd say that they have received enough of the dev team's time and effort.
4) Improved accessibility. MechQuest really isn't a game that demands much attention. If someone is taking the time to sit at a desk to play a game, it's probably going to be something a little more intense. Simpler games like MechQuest would be ideal for handheld devices, so as to avoid direct competition with the industry juggernauts. If there were just a battle app and a database app for phones, I think the addiction factor of MechQuest could increase tenfold.
3) A revamped Soluna, to ensure that new players get HOOKED and will absolutely want to upgrade to Star Captain ASAP. The first 10 hours of gameplay simply do not live up to the hype created by the website description and the initial dropship mission. Those first few hours are, bar none, the most vital to MQ's ongoing success. Even if people upgrade and regret it a week later, at least that money can go back into further game improvement. The limited mech selection and the mundane city jobs we have now just won't cut it.
2) More low-effort quest formats. I know that full storylines must be a pain in the ass to code and animate with such a limited staff, so I'm keeping my expectations realistic. However, a constant stream of half-assed wars (against silly turkeys, no less) isn't exactly appealing. Neither is an entire new planet populated with a grand total of TWO enemies and a blatant joke boss. Smarter use of the material that we already have (GEARS, recurring characters, houses, etc) could quite literally double the size of the game with only minimal effort.
1) Full player interaction. I know this has been shot down in the past, but it's the only thing that will save us in the end. Even the biggest developers out there really struggle to create lasting single player experiences. Games like Pokemon, Starcraft, Street Fighter, etc, still fail to deliver that, even with ten years and millions of dollars to work with. And on the far opposite end of the gaming spectrum, games like FarmVille and Cafe World go to the extreme and offer NO single player whatsoever, yet ended up being the fastest growing games of the past year. Trying to pump out story quests fast enough to keep up with players is just hopeless. Competition is what really drives the best games. And to go along with my earlier point... When the day comes that two students can whip out their iPhones and challenge each other to a mech duel on the spot, that's when MechQuest will have truly achieved success.
Okay, I'm done now. I promise. Love you all.