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Reader Comments (38)

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 9:11PM Tom in VA said

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I have been glued to Dragon Age: Origins for the past several days, and I must say the game is really a treat to play. It gives me a lot of hope for games generally, including MMOs.

DA:O leaves most MMOs I have played in the dust in terms of game design, richness of story, and pure unadulterated fun. The only thing it lacks is a multiplayer aspect (although whether or how such a thing would work in a game like this I do not know -- perhaps with a variety of additional multiplayer dungeons?).

The game does give me great hope and confidence that SWTOR is going to be an amazing game and a groundbreaking new kind of MMO.

The beginning, middle, and end of most MMOs is leveling and gear. That formula is getting really old and tired, imo. Most MMOs run out of creative steam at the level cap and resort to grindy, rinse-wash-repeat raid dungeons. I would like to see more MMOs (like Guild Wars) with an emphasis on story and actual story progression.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 9:45PM toychristopher said

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To justify being an mmo and not a single player game though doesn't the story an mmo have to tell arise because of the players?

The stories that arise in mmo's now actual kind of reveal the true focus of the game: loot drama, guilds breaking up, ninja looters, etc...

I think if the games focused more on the world, and had a mutable world that players could really feel apart of that the dynamic of the game could shift. Playing a single player game that has a great story, just on a server with other people can be fun but at what point does it make more sense for it to just be a single player game?
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Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:03PM CCon99 said

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"...but at what point does it make more sense for it to just be a single player game?"

I couldn't agree more with you, one of my biggest arguments and complaints about the design choices of a game like Star Trek Online as an example, is that the game they are creating would have made for a far better singleplayer game. They've already made all the fun choices for you: you're forced to be the Captain, you have to play with NPC pets, you only get xp from missions and not from kills. If that's the game they want to create then why didn't they just make it a singleplayer RPG with a deeper story and character interaction like a Mass Effect/KotOR?

Most true MMO players are going to expect the opposite from a Star Trek MMO. They'll want to choose the profession they have, they'll want to group with friends over NPC's, they'll want to explore giant worlds instead of the same small boxed sized instance zones with different skies and ground texture. It's a shame because I remember playing UO and EQ over 10 years ago and thinking how awesome MMO's were going to become in 10 years time, now here we are and the current designs are taking us backwards.
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Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:25PM (Unverified) said

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The design ramifications of choosing to make a game massively multiplayer are clearly not understood by designers. It's primarily a problem with the game industry as an institution. This problem becomes endemic because the only people with enough money to make a serious MMO are institutions within the game industry. Sure, there are rare exceptions, but big games need big money and big money can only be found in people who are too conservative to allow MMOs to depart far from the established conventions and norms. Too much money is at risk for innovation to take root.

I think that smaller-scale MMOs that have more rapid (and significantly less ungainly) development cycles and more realistic implementation goals can achieve a measure of success the stagnating MMO industry. If you can make a small game that does a few things very well, player will take notice. I know that if someone approaches me with a young, small, innovative game, I certainly lean towards publicizing their work and endorsing it instead of sticking with talking about the same tired stable of big business MMOs.

I wrote a longer article similar to this comment here:
http://www.thatsaterribleidea.com/2009/10/path-to-mmo-revolution.html
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Posted: Nov 29th 2009 11:08PM Sean D said

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Procedural generation is the next step in the evolution of games. It may serve as another plateau on which developers will sit a while, but it's not the solution.

Evizaer, you write very well. I agree wholeheartedly with what what I've seen of your perspective on MMOs so far.
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Posted: Nov 30th 2009 12:29AM eyeball2452 said

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I wonder if procedural generation is really the next step. We've seen this in the dungeon crawler genre and it worked well. However, I don't want MMOs to be procedurally generated dungeon crawler. I'm already tired of the grind.

Personally, I enjoyed CoH and WoW, but I'm not sure there is a fix for the current state of MMOs. Once you've lived in and been burnt out by an MMO, it's very hard to go back. The genre would have to change dramatically for me to consider investing another 4 years in a new MMO.
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Posted: Nov 29th 2009 9:40PM toychristopher said

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Whoever solves this problem will make the mmo I want to play. I would cite a game like Eve Online as kind of a prototype because the game world is shaped by player actions to a certain degree. Of course this is also what makes it hard to get started.

I really want an mmo where everything is provided for you but the nature of the game itself causes players to create quests or mission for you to go on because they can't do it them self. It's hard to even describe the kind of game I want but I will know it when I see it.

I hate how now mmo's seem to be simply setting the same mechanics in a different locale and calling it new. MMOs need to get back to their roots and make something that is what an MMO should be instead of an action mmo, or a shooter mmo, or an urban warfare mmo. Those things are fun too but I want an mmo that focuses more on creating an immersive, persistent world.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 9:41PM CCon99 said

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I think the target MMO's should be going for are what the genre was originally created for, that being creating the best simulated world setting you possibly can. For the past 5 or so years MMO's have been trying to make dumbed down, over instanced, linear easy mode games thinking they can attract this mythological subscriber base that likely doesn't exist. Instead what they end up creating at best is a game that people will find "cool and fun" for about 6 weeks time before they grow bored and move on to the next "cool and fun" game.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:17PM (Unverified) said

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Goals in games are what you make of them. My main goal playing an MMO? Have fun, enjoy it. Ok, here goes... I know we all hate them...an EQ story...

When I was playing EQ, I played for 3 years before I ever had a character at the level cap. While yes, it did take longer in those days, in those games to level, most of the 3 years was spent alting, BSing around with my guild, crafting, or going out and jumping off of really tall stuff.

Even when I did finally take an enchanter to cap, I had a bazillion AA trees to go grind for. I had no need to go raid, nor any desire to do so. I had likeminded friends and guildies, and a platoon of alts. It was fun.

Now, I did recently go back and give EQ another shot, but that game can't ever be what it was for me. Ah, Nostalgia.

Anyway, back to the point. My point was, the game and the goals were what we made it. "Hey, I need my group temp spell for my cleric, want to grind out some LDONs?" "Hey Com, DoN Missions tonight? "Yup" "Hey dude, we're making a bunch of level 1 gnomes for the Naked Gnome GM race, you coming? "Absolutely."

You can call EQ one of the biggest timesink Grindfests of all time, this side of Korea, but the Alternate Advance system (AAs) from EQ was and is one of the best implemented mechanics I've played in an MMO. Something not_raiding to do at level cap. Wow, imagine that?

But as far as, from the thrust of the article, about feeling as though you have accomplished something, I always felt a keen sense of accomplishment (and still do) when I help a friend reach their goals as well.

My 2 cp. sorry for the long post.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:03PM (Unverified) said

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Interesting perspective.

When you say whoever makes this game, you'll play it. I think what it sounds like to me, is that you are shooting for can really only be "made" by the player.

Breaking out of static old ideals of what player stereotypes are, what they mean, and their old over-generalized definitions, may see a player using more imagination and creating that fun.

Humans are very complex. Sometimes we find more fun in a ball of yarn, than in a shiny new car. It changes too, it's never static.

I've played the same MMORPG for a year now, but I approach it from new viewpoints regularly. I change my goals, expectations, actions, etc... within a very finite amount of fun that MMOs in general actually provide.

I think most MMORPGs actually only "provide" a very minute amount of a players overall experience in having fun playing a game. Much of the world of MMORPGs exist in players minds, no matter how graphically advanced or how innovative MMORPG games are or become.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:13PM (Unverified) said

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Thanks for the link to my post, Eliot. I think that the issue I bring up in the article is a fundamental flaw in themepark-style MMOs (unless you're happy not caring about the game beyond limited and thought-free play).

I have some suggestions about the path towards making MMOs into quality games: http://www.thatsaterribleidea.com/2009/07/mmorpg-revolution-10-points.html

It all centers around turning MMOs into virtual worlds where players participate in cooperative societies that can have profound effects on the world without requiring significant amounts of mindless drudgery.

The general design philosophy I have is one of moderate simulationism, as described here:
http://www.thatsaterribleidea.com/2009/10/defining-moderate-simulationism.html

If you're interested in some of my ideas about how to move the genre forward into a much better place, please take some time to read through the blog. I'm all about productive discussion, so don't be afraid to leave thoughtful comments even if they go against what I'm saying.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:50PM (Unverified) said

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This post is essentially the idea behind why so many people loved Star Wars Galaxies and why people love EVE online now.

It isn't the content that was amazing in those games. SWG and EVE gave us the tools to make our own world.

Out of the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I spent playing SWG, only a tiny, tiny percentage of that was spent doing premade content created by the developers.

The rest of the time was spent creating my own business, building player cities, managing my guild and doing PvP against other guilds. All of these are examples of great content enabled by giving us the tools to make it happen.

To make it worse, a lot of new games like Champions Online forget the reason why MMORPG's became popular in the first place. It is popular because you do things with other people. If it's just a themepark with endless solo quests, it should have been a single player game instead.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 10:53PM Saker said

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The obvious answer is to do away with static worlds. At least 1 company (I forget who) is working on a much more fluid dynamic world for their MMO. The whole idea of making a game as opposed to making a world has something to do with it, craft a dynamic living simulation. I'd love to be able to enter a world (no given maps, you need to explore, or buy some, no compass either same applies), explore, find a spot, build a hut plant some crops (maybe they die, or get a blight, weevils, whatever!) etc, etc. I'm frankly getting very tired of the endless fighting in these games let there be some decent creation too (not the often lame crafting systems that so often seem a poorly thought out quick add-on).

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 11:55PM (Unverified) said

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Then stop forcing yourself to assume that for the game world to be dynamic, it has to revolve around a single player. That the changing goals have to be for one person instead of a group or faction. Territory control, dynamic weather, better AI in how NPCs interact with the world rather than just combat, proper housing (for the individual aspect), maybe even switch up the zones every once and a while slightly (add bridges and other features that require the players maintain them via quests or resources etc or they collapse and require you take a longer way around or some such) There are solutions, but its easier to just crap out a clone and throw gear into the crowd than to do anything about it, especially when the crowd cheers all the same.

Posted: Nov 29th 2009 11:57PM Jeromai said

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I think folks are just recoiling away from linear quest-based games because the majority have been experiencing similar gameplay clones since WoW, hence the desire for something more.

Well, look around and go and play them. The niche sandbox games, that is. A Tale in the Desert will let you explore, find a spot, build a compound, plant crops, the works. Darkfall and Eve have their own pvp-political niche minigames.

Honestly, after possibly 6 months in ATITD, I exhausted most of the minigames and systems in that venue and got bored of the repetitious chores inherent in its gameplay. I'm waffling around with Fallen Earth now, wondering if I have the stomach to do tons of node-harvesting to build up to... what particularly? Unsure. Goalless.

Think I might be swinging back in preference to a guided-on-rails linear experience for a while. Who knows, maybe it's just a cyclic sort of thing.

Posted: Nov 30th 2009 12:49AM (Unverified) said

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Ultimately, I do think it is a general issue with the entire genre.

People spend far too much time playing MMORPG's.

If you do anything for hundreds (thousands) of hours, it's likely you'll eventually tire of it or even grow to hate it.

At this point, everyone is burned out on quest-based MMO's. Most MMORPG's are the exact same questing game with a slightly different coating. There has to be more variety in your gaming experience.

Posted: Nov 30th 2009 1:28AM (Unverified) said

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I have a lot of difficulty with MMOs becoming so goal orientated. I don't think this is a design issue, but rather a playerbase choice that developers have had to satisfy.
Recently, in AoC, you have been able to claim a 2 x XP potion for your characters and this is has been seen as positive by most of the playerbase.
However, what it does is level the player through content far more quickly than they can complete it. A lot of the stories and quests in AoC are really well done but most players have chosen to chug the accelerator potion and fast forward through it rather then just play the game at its normal pace.

In a single player game the player takes their time while working through content since they know once they get to the end it is over. The journey was the fun.
In a MMOs, players rush through all of the story driven content as quick as they can to get to the end (level cap) and then go "Is this it?" once they get there.

A small percentage of the EQ2 playerbse asked for the ability to "level lock" their characters so that they could do all of the content available at each tier before moving on. Most of the playerbase did a /boggle at them but this was added and it is a popular feature. That minority are the people that have it right.

Posted: Nov 30th 2009 3:07AM (Unverified) said

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It only takes ONE line to put a big fat hole into this theory.

The "story driven" individual changing story game .... is played for 1 month and then ended and ... shelved.

Go play those meaningless single off line RPG's and you finish them withen 100 hours of play. How exciting, .... play solo and another 100 hours waisted alone before your CPU.

The other end is even more ridiculous "players made content". So limited in challenge and general gaming fun (for VERY obvious reasons like new players, obvious old players benifits, non challeging GAMING content etc...)

So conclusion: the article is a waste of time: "theme parc" MMO's is just a way to bash at WOW these days.

It is a laugh really, because WOW is already including phasing; the world changes around an avatar by doing quests. Apparently the original dude doesn't even know it.

As for the typical words used in that article like "theme parc" .µ

HEY ---> these are on line GAMES you know, with a progression curve for your characters. NOT worlds you live in with a dull non challenging content.

COD is just being played for fun, you know and it has the most players in the world. MMORPG players should come out of their closed basements.

Posted: Nov 30th 2009 12:40PM (Unverified) said

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The problem you have with my post is not a flaw in my post. You are clearly incapable of seeing past the end of your nose when it comes to game design.

You disregard ALL single-player games in your comment. What does that mean? You have absolutely no credibility when discussing game design. You do not understand even the most basic concepts that make single-player games fun. How can you make a valid statement about how to make MMOs fun?

Please, either learn how to enjoy your life without putting other people down or learn how to troll better.

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Posted: Dec 4th 2009 6:40PM (Unverified) said

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I don't disregard any single player RPG's.

I only say they only last 100 hours and then ... are shelved.

The lifespan of these games is typical:
Launch - 2 months sales - 4th month : 40% price reduction and after 1 year in the basement at 20/30% price.

So Bioware and others used a nice trick to add a further 6 months to each cycle by adding expansions and 'game of the year compilations".

But look at Fall-Out original: already low priced at 19 Euro's...

Of course because those games are not played for years.

You criticize WOW, a game with ... 11 million subscribers .... 5 years after launch.

So WHO exactly knows what PLAYERS want.

If I look at what is being played for long periods of time, I see CS, I see COD, I see WOW.

The RPG off line games fall of that list after only a few months of release.

Of course, they drop, as should be, because they are simply a waste of your life because ./.../ played solo without ANY interaction.

In fact you could sit before a complete empty screen and do that for 80 hours. Perhaps you would even get an idea or two if NOT playing a stupid pre scripted story with NO player interaction....
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