I recently had the chance to run part of the adventure from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set. It was well put together and the rules are a mix of familiarity and some new ideas but it’s not different or striking enough for me to want to go out and buy it in a hurry, that’s a long-standing problem for RPG developers, their products do not go obsolete just because they say they are. RPG groups can happily continue to use thirty-five year old 1st Edition AD&D rulebooks if they so desire.
What about editions of MMORPGs or sequels? It’s easier for gaming companies to control the playerbase, the bluntest instrument would be to shut down the old game forcing players to move to the new although risking they’d abandon the franchise entirely. From the MMORPGs I’ve played I can see two very different approaches to this topic.
I’ve never played the original Everquest or any other game in the franchise except Everquest 2. Having come to the world of Norrath from EQ2 I’ve not felt tempted to venture into the nostalgia-rich first game since the graphics do look dated and they have that old-school (but suddenly back in vogue) idea of a strictly limited active skillbar. If I want to play a “small set of abilities” game I can just login to Secret World.
From what I’ve read on different blog posts and forums Everquest 1 benefitted most from the need to group and the culture of grouping (monster spawn camping). That’s something that I guess was lost due to EQ2’s incremental support for solo play since the second game these days seems very poor for grouping outside of guilds.
I have played both of the Guild Wars games, unlike Everquest 1 & 2 however the flexibility of building and playing a character went down from original to sequel and it seems will be simplified even further in a future patch. Guild Wars 1 had the same limited skillbar as the second game albeit one that was more freeform – the only restriction was one equipped elite skill. This allowed for a lot freer build creation and with the option of adding skills from a second class into the mix there was a massive, if somewhat bewildering, array of choices.
The graphics certainly improved in Guild Wars 2 and of course we gained the ability to jump, never let that be underestimated. The freedom of movement compared to the excessive pathing in the first game was a real boon to the sequel.
Jumping does bring a downside though as the devs at ArenaNet have gotten rather carried away with adding platformer jumping puzzles into the content.
In the case of both pairs of games the gameplay of the first and second game is different enough for fans of one or the other to happily stay in their preferred version. But the developer may not want to commit the effort and resources to keeping both games updated and supplying new content. Here we see a big difference in approach.
In the case of the Everquests, Daybreak have recently announced no more expansions for both games in favour of downloadable content (DLC) patches. That’s a balanced approach to how the two games are treated compared to ArenaNet decision to sunset (i.e. stopping new content production) Guild Wars 1 shortly after the sequel’s launch.
Although I have no direct experience of another multi-MMORPG franchise, Lineage, I’ve read that the first game enjoys much greater popularity than the sequel (see the second chart in this post about NCSoft Earnings Call). We never see official figures from Daybreak (or SoE as was) but I would suspect that the same is true for Everquest over its sequel.
With Guild Wars 2 the current game has enjoyed a good measure of success so far (with an expansion coming to boost profits back up) whereas the first game is now mostly deserted, a playable trip down memory lane. I’ve logged in on my characters to collect their birthday presents and it’s currently the anniversary festival but I didn’t see more than a couple of player characters in any of the main zones.