As a very rapidly growing trend for many games, the Live Service model has already seen a very busy 2019 and we’re only four and a half months into the year so far.
I mean, just on a basic level, look at all of this:
- Destiny 2 continues to evolve and move forward following Bungie’s surprising split from Activision
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey keeps pumping out post-launch content
- Borderlands 3 was officially revealed
- We learned that Anthem’s development was a literal nightmare
- The Division 2 proved that developers do listen and learn from the past.
While Live Service style games are not the end all be all way to create a game, 2019 has already shown us two examples of the right and wrong way to do it. It’s made me come to realize some key elements that need to be there in order for a game to be successful. Here are some key ingredients that I believe are critical for a chance at success for any live service game.
One of the biggest component’s is the foundation. If your product/game is fundamentally sound, even if it lacks in some other areas, you have a fighting chance. Look at both Destiny games, which we can all agree had big issues at launch that were eventually fixed over time. The core element that was rock solid was the moment to moment gameplay. Shooting and moving in the world felt great, which helped keep players around while Bungie continued to refine the experience, evolving into what we have now. Sure, it still has issues here and there, but for the most part, Destiny 2 is lightyears better than how it was.
This is a big reason as to why Anthem may be quickly running out of time with fans. Sure, flying feels excellent, but many of the other elements feel underbaked or just not implemented well. Shooting feels basic and the loot is, to me, uninspired. You have a handful of guns that all don’t really look all that different from one another. The problem here is that players have other options so there is less motivation to stick around. And then you have the Kotaku story which…I won’t lie, really killed my motivation.
If you have that compelling gameplay loop, fans are more willing to stick around to see the game improve and evolve. If your game has huge core problems out of the gate, fan patience is likely to be limited.
Live service games live and die based on fan feedback. It’s critical. That’s why I have massive respected for Massive Entertainment for how they took the first Division game and continued to evolve it 2 years later. What’s even more impressive is that they took those lessons and applied them to The Division 2. Not only is the base game incredibly strong and compelling, but the endgame is wildly impressive. You think you’re done and then the game completely changes and all of a sudden you have this new faction moving in and introducing “Invaded” missions.
While The Division 2 may be the inverse of Anthem at the moment, it just goes to show you how important experience can be when making these types of games. Now, I’m not trying to say Anthem is horrible or The Division 2 is the best game ever, they just highlight a lot of my beliefs that a strong core foundation is paramount to creating a successful live service game that people want to stick with for the long haul.
I hope Anthem can improve, though with everything we’ve seen and with how fans currently look at the product, the situation appears to be getting dire. Hopefully, with future live service games, developers and studios can look at these lessons set and find ways to avoid the same pitfalls and continue to elevate the genre going forward.
Well, those are my observations, but what are some things you’ve seen with live service games? What works? What doesn’t work? Let me know below.