Every year a new genre of MMO seems to capture the imagination of the avid MMO'er and this year it was the turn of the survival/horror MMO scene. The release of a survival title isn't a new thing but we've seen an exciting amount of titles releasing for the genre this year.
The Dead Linger has made huge leaps with updates and patches this year, 7 Days to Die appeared almost out of nowhere and immediately earned a place among the most innovative titles of today, Infestation: Survivor Stories finally delivered on many of its launch promises, DayZ's highly anticipated alpha finally released and Nether continues to grow in popularity through the Steam program. So with all these exciting new changes to the world of the survival MMO why are players still yearning for more? Why do some leave those games left wanting?
Personally I think it's the quality. Every single one of these games had to make a sacrifice in order to deliver what makes it unique. The more indie-based survival titles quite often sacrifice graphical quality and update regularity while the biggest quite often leave players completely clueless as to their aim in the game.
The biggest problems that all of these games share are the lack of single player content and the amount of time wasted doing nothing but traveling. In all of the games I listed above players have spend to far too much time "trying to survive".
These "survival" techniques involve players searching room after room, ruin after ruin, all in the hopes of finding a packet of crisps or a can of beans. What follows is a few seconds of contact with another player before you're back at the character creation screen.
Although one cannot hate the mechanics that make a game fit into a genre, the survival genre is not your typical setting for an MMO. MMO players tend to be more social that their single-player counterparts but the survival genre appeals to a far bigger range of players. That solo gamer that enjoys the achievement linked with survival, the aging gamer that wants to test their wits against the unpredictable behavior of the human society when faced with a catastrophic event, people want to experience survival, they want to see something new.
However, like the MMORPG genre before it, there are huge teething problems that nobody has had the imagination to fix just yet. None of the survival games I mentioned at the start of this article are anywhere near finished. There's something about this genre that requires funding and support during early access, giving players access to the game when it's just not ready.
The average gamer is not qualified or prepared for alpha testing. Releasing a product to the massive Steam audience can be great for a game, but not when the first impression is that of an unfinished and broken product.
We gamers are a fickle bunch. Why wait when we can have it now? Even if the game isn't finished I really want to see if it lives up to the expectations I have of the final product, I can play it now! This attitude has left many players with a purchased yet unused product. Evidence of this is available on a daily basis through features such as Steam stats, seeing over 100,000 people purchase a survival game that only reaches a peak of 5k players per day.
The survival genre is stagnating. It's lackluster when compared to the variety of the typical MMO game and other than a relatively small group of hardcore PvP players with large groups and guilds, the genre will all but disappear unless a developer comes forward with a high-quality, complete product.
I'm not hating on the currently available survival MMO games and I have many a fond memory exploring the world of survival but I want to experience a complete game. Something I can enjoy out of the box with all the features the developers promised. Not sit by and wait more than a year for a released game to have even half the promises fulfilled.
What makes this worse is the success of the title during early access. What if it doesn't sell well because players spread the word that it doesn't work? What if it's a huge success? Developers can make all the promises they want but they cannot deny the success of an early launch impacts the final delivery. Nobody wants to board a sinking ship so poor sales during early launch could mean developers moving to other projects or just calling it a day.
What do you think? Do gamers deserve more quality than is currently on display in the survival genre?