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Reader Comments (20)

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 8:41AM HackJack said

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Choices are most important to MMO companies: they allow more kinds of users to play the game the way they want to, thus bringing in more subscriptions. It's easy as that.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 9:01AM Critical Mass said

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"So the question is, how important is the power of choice?"

Why ask this simplified question that doesn't mean anything in particular? I find this trivialisation of game design offensive.

The author here seem to pit quality against quantity, which seem to overlook the task of game design. Why limit the game deveopers to this simplified set of options where apparantly you have a dichotomy of quality and quantity?

I will personally never play a MMO that is based solely on leveling. What a boring game for me. Fake levels of achievements. Doing/killing X with one set of parameters, and then do/kill Y with an improved set of parameters and etc, etc ad nausium.

Creating a functional community should be easy. Of course this would perhaps only make sense on a one-server setup like in Eve online.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 9:34AM Critical Mass said

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I suppose it is fair to say that game design is no easy thing to do. It does after all require a lot of work.

Just want to say here that I of course am not really mad at the author of the article, I am speaking my mind about an issue that has become very personal with me. The issue being what I think is right and wrong with game design.
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Posted: Feb 17th 2010 9:03AM (Unverified) said

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I agree with HackJack, I believe options, or choices, are the single most important thing for MMORPGs.

I played WoW in Tandem with RoM, and there were so many niggling, horrible little annoyances in WoW that were totally absent from RoM because RoM gave you the choice. Whether it's choosing how to track and NPC or not, How you gain your skills, How you do daily quests, and many others, there is only one way to do it in WoW, but RoM gives you 2 or more options.

That doesn't mean some will be with me and find the same things annoying, but the options are there.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 9:48AM Pingles said

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Great subject.

I pity any game designer trying to figure out what is a priority.

I'm easy. I like to explore so if you give me lots of zones I'm happy.

But I'm sure lots of players would be happy with fewer, higher quality zones.

Also like to add that PvE (my preference) is the easy development choice. PvP is a much tougher design challenge.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 10:17AM Zaetal said

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The less choice there is for paths, the worse the game seems to me, having grown up with either do whatever you want, wherever you want (UO) to here's a crap ton of races and classes and starting areas and questing zones (EQ 1&2). You also have the choice factor when you have opposing sides that do not meet, for the most part, quest wise (Anarchy Online, WoW).

City of Heroes/Villians promoted more of a vast choice of who you are and what you look like, for the time, the actual game part didn't have alot of real choice and was entirely short random encounters that got very samey. One ended up doing all of it over and over again on each character just to advance.

The worrying trend is games like Champions Online where again, the character is the flexable part of the game, the rest of actually progressing is fixed and unchanging for all your characters, which makes having more than 1 character a boring idea even with the great designs for concepts you could make up, playing it out each time exactly the same.

Less options and less world and less time taken to get to the "end" seems like it would be better served just being a single player game.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 10:26AM Tizmah said

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Well I know I hate off brand cola. I want the real Coca-Cola, not that Sam's Club crap!!

Dr. Thunder my a$$!!!!

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 2:06PM HackJack said

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You really enjoy paying for their ads, don't you?

Whatever floats your boat, I guess...
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Posted: Feb 17th 2010 2:17PM Tizmah said

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You just don't have tastebuds that enjoy quality over cheap knock offs! I am very picky about my drinks :P
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Posted: Feb 17th 2010 11:41AM Gaugamela said

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I think that giving the biggest number of choices to players is the most crucial aspect for an MMO to have success. The more an MMO feels like a world to me with plenty of options to explore, the more time i am going to spend in it. Unfortunately MMOs nowadays don't offer much in the department of game features that make me stick to them in the long term.

The most recent MMOs usually shine in a very specific area and suck in everything else creating limitations to what a person can accomplish in the game. Couple this with increasing subscription prices and cash shops on top of that and i get more and more turned off in ever picking a new MMO title.

I will mention WoW as an example of a game that does things well: It has amazing endgame dungeons/raids (even if it is a gear race), a very decent PvP system (arenas, BGs and world PvP to a much smaller extent and PvP servers) a enormous crafting system with plenty of choices, leisure crafting professions/mini-games as fishing and cooking and good solo options. Basically in WoW you pay 15$ per month and you can do a lot of stuff simultaneously. What other recent MMO lets you do all this?

The few other MMOs that give such a wide scope of options are EVE (in a drastically different way), EQ2, LoTRO, Vanguard and even older games. From the recent subscription MMOs only Fallen Earth and Allods Online come close in the array of choices that are presented to the player and Fallen Earth is much less polished and a niche product.

Why isn't there another subscription MMO to be launched that allows you all these choices? Even if the amount of content is smaller than those older games the number of polished choices should be there.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 1:21PM Critical Mass said

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Speaking of options. I think there is an awkward thing with games that is not easy to critizise. Because it is not obvious what the developers had decided on internally.

I am thinking of a game's supposed replay value. Imagine being able to play as either male or female in some RPG. Should developers be content by having both versions of a story count as the games quality and content?

Like offering 10 options in a game, and then each of the 10 strands are abit meh, so it is expected to replay through all 10 different ways?

Personally, I would 'demand' that games are not designed this way. I do not want to be forced into playing say Mass Effect 2 ten times over with all the different variations. It is ok as a possibility, but I hope developers are not designing games to suit this limitation, where there is this obvious dichotomy of quality vs content.

I suppose what is of interest here, is whether developers can be said to have such a lame game-design strategy. And one could wonder if this acts as an excuse to keep games as simple as possible.

It would be like, developers not wanting content go to waste, expecting the player to try out all variations. I wouldn't like this kind of priority.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 3:01PM mrdrum81 said

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I would much rather have a SINGLE LINEAR STORY ARC that was excellent, then a game with multiple horrible paths to get lost going down. This works great in a game like Mass Effect, Baldur's Gate or Bioshock, which actually all have multiple ways to address the game, but does NOT work at all with an MMO. The reason for this is because the MMO communities spoil EVERYTHING! If a new instance arises in my favorite MMO, within a week of it launching, there will be tons of tutorials up on how to do it "properly", groups you join up with to go through the instance are all convinced of the "right" way to do it, and all the exploratory fun is ripped from the game. Because of this, a single over-arching story line with a mostly linear direction will never be as fun or successful as those types of story lines are on a single player or merely coop game. As much as we would love to have that perfect multi-story line driven MMO, the truth is, unless you are on the cutting edge of the game as it launches, you will never be the first one to accomplish something or discover an area in a game. At least in single player games, we have the illusion that we were!

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 4:10PM Bezza said

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Choose A. or Choose B. Hmmmm... I Choose C.

Why should the choice be a single linear well filled out path or several less filled out paths? Why no have several well filled out paths? Or perhaps that might require developers to actually develop a MMO to a almost ready for release stage before actual release. Perhaps I am being cynical when it is becoming the norm for half developed MMO's are deemed okay for release. But isn’t this precisely what Bioware/EA are doing with SWTOR?

Many well developed paths and stories. So I say again, I choose C.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 4:19PM (Unverified) said

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I'm not really sure what the question is? But I'll give a shot at answering.

I like multiple throughlines and miscellaneous things to do scattered throughout.

I like it when I can stop playing one throughline and go on to something else then comeback to it when I want to do something along them lines.

Say I start a quest that has 15 parts to it. At part 3 I might want to go fishing or gardening, or building my house and when I get bored with that, then I'll pick up where I left off.

If there are 100's of quests with 15 parts to them, I want to be able to break from any one of them and them pick up from where left off at my choosing. But it shouldn't affect the quality. The quality should always be there regardless.

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 5:00PM (Unverified) said

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I like sandbox games because they often have an option that other games do not, the choice not to make a choice. For example, WoW forces you to choose factions. In SWG, maybe you have no interest in the galactic civil war, maybe you just want to sell your food or guns or whatever.

As for other aspects where choice is a concern (and what area isn't?) character customization is most notable. I think the more you look like someone else the less you care about your character. Identifying with characters lends to pathos, and pathos is the most important part of storytelling. If you don't care about the characters, how can you care about any story?

Character development is another aspect of games that benefits from a wide array of options. Darkfall, for all its flaws, succeeds in allowing players to play exactly the way they want to play. SWG, similarly, had an excellent character progression model. The fact that your master tailor couldn't get to the materials that band of Tuskans were camping on notwithstanding, I thought it was an excellent way to cherry-pick what skills were important to you (and not need to buy a retcon to unlearn them, Sakura Park be praised.)

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 6:22PM TheGreatMachine said

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Absolutely more choice is better.
You only need to look at Aion with it's highly limited race, class and zone choice. Pretty game, great animation but so limited and boring.

Nothing turns me off a game quicker than being led so obviously by the nose.

Fallen Earth is the real mystery on this issue though. For such an open ended game they remove your choice with the AP quest mechanics. You have a good choice of where to go - but you have to go everywhere (retread, everywhere if an alt).

Posted: Feb 17th 2010 6:35PM roberticvs said

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+1 for you, Dag. I happen to agree with your original post. Building a viable community should be a priority. Posing as some sort of noble philosopher "What is the value of choice?" bringing fundamentals to the little people is self-inflation at best.

There is a powerful crosswind in gaming right now, and it is "ELIMINATE....LEVELING".

Once we get players out of the mindset of jumping through hoops of illusionary achievement (ohhh, it's such a viable business model though!) we can get back to the art of virtual online communities; something Richard Garriott has a right to toot his horn about.

Posted: Feb 18th 2010 2:34AM cray said

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Choice is everything for a MMOG. A game can never have too many choices. But I think the key is the repercussions to the choices we make.

There are many players who skip parts or avoid things because there wasn't enough effect to their cause.

I'm all for choices, but I want to see more varied repercussions to the decisions I make. I want the repercussions to effect othersand my surroundings, not just to myself.

Posted: Feb 18th 2010 3:44AM Critical Mass said

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I came up with this idea recently, that with a Cyberpunk 2020 mmo, you could go around in the city doing tagging with a spray paint can :D

This is probably a complicated idea that has to be worked out well, but I thought the aspect of interaction and the possible lasting consequences were fascinating.
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Posted: Feb 18th 2010 3:49AM Critical Mass said

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Just want to add to my comment here, that incorporating an idea is no trivial thing. From my time with Eve online, it occurred to me taht it makes sense to be aware of possible tendencies with ideas.

Because what seem to be a nice idea, would likely take on a different direction than you had foreseen in the first place. And the bad thing is not what one guy could do, but what everyone could do with that idea, should it be a tendency for all to catch up on an idea and use it in ways that were not intended.
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