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Fresh Content in Pocket MMORPGs: Spacetime Studios Does it Better than Gameloft

Fact: There has only been one substantive content update to Order & Chaos Online in 2012.

It’s true. There have been three actual updates in 2012, but only one — Sailen The Lower City, released in April — actually added a new dungeon, new bosses, and new equipment. True, the earlier 2012 update added daily soul quests, but those mostly recycled existing content. And the latest update, the Anniversary update, was a vanity event that has outlived its interest within a few weeks.

Salien: The Lower City, released March 2012

It’s no wonder, then, that the game is starting to feel boring. Just last week, on the Massively Portable podcast, I compared logging into OnC with going to work — something I felt obligated to do, instead of something I wanted to do. That’s not a good thing for a game to be.

Honestly, this situation is reflective of the entire problem with Gameloft as a shepherd of a major MMORPG: they don’t treat it like an MMORPG. They treat it more like a puzzle game, with the occassional release of new content and updates to fix major bugs.

Compare the way Gameloft handles OnC with Spacetime Studios, developers of the Legends series (Pocket, Star, and Dark). Their Legends games remain lively and interesting in ways Order & Chaos doesn’t. Just in the month of July, both Star Legends and Dark Legends have had multi-week in-game events to liven up the play experience for all of their players. In Star Legends it was a “bug hunt” event, where players had to collectively destroy 2 million alien eggs; in Dark Legends, it’s been a Summer Solstice bonfire, complete with special vanity gear.

Promo image for the Infested Deck event, Star Legends

And these are only the latest. Spacetime Studios has a history of dropping events and little specials into their games. Just days after the death of Steve Jobs, for example, Star Legends had a free memorial Apple Icon that players could wear in remembrance.

How do they do it? First, they have a dedicated and active developer corps that actually tends to the player community. When I go to the Spacetime Studios forums, I don’t have to go very far to find a recent, friendly, informative message from the devs either discussing upcoming content, responding to a player question, or asking what the players want to see next. Compare that to the OnC forums, where the forum moderators — who are in no way connected to the dev team — rarely speak up, and when they do it’s usually to offer canned, empty replies to complaints.

Promo image for the Dark Legends Summer Nights event

Second, unlike OnC, the Legends games are built in such a way that new content can be patched live, without the need for an App Store update. When they put that Apple memorial item in the game, they didn’t have to submit anything to the App Store; they just sent a patch to the game when players logged in. OnC has no such system; every change must be built into an app update and sent in for review. It’s why the Christmas-themed content arrived in early December and lasted well into the New Year — there was no way to do it quickly.

It’s amazing what a difference these two things make. Between them, they deliver a clear message: Spacetime Studios cares about their games, cares about their players, cares about the future of their game.

Order & Chaos Online is, on the face of it, a better game. It is the quality of the core build, the raw excellence of the play experience, and the dedicated player base that have made it an awesome game and kept it alive this long. But when it comes to community service and continuous quality improvement, Gameloft plays the chumps to Spacetime’s champs. It’s time they got a clue and started taking better care of OnC, before it withers on the vine.

For more on pocket-sized MMORPGs, listen to the Massively Portable podcast.

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