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Reader Comments (68)

Posted: Apr 25th 2011 4:32PM Gloon said

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I remember rolling my first character in EQ... a high elf mage. I was TERRIFIED of dying. I didn't know what would happen if I did. Would I have to create a new character? I killed a few bats, a couple skeletons. Eventually, I got the courage to follow the path outside of the safety net provided by the Felwithian guards. The path ended in a clearing. I looked up and saw an entire city in the trees above, with swinging bridges and magic platforms shuttling people to and from the surface.

I don't know if I'll ever recapture the sense of wonder and sheer elation I experienced at that particular moment in time. To be honest, I don't think so. It was so new, so fresh. It felt like the future had finally arrived. To get that back, it's going to take something so new, so revolutionary, that is forces us to completely change the way we think about our games and what we think is possible.

We need someone to invent the holodeck!

Posted: Apr 25th 2011 5:06PM Methos said

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The idea of racing to kill quest NPCs so that you can finish your quest and move on led me to lose that sense of wonder. I just can't get all that into it. SWG at least was nice with enemy spawn camps. But still, I can accept some of this 'been there done that' questing, as long as the rest of the world is interesting to explore and interact with. But to do that, you have to get rid of a lot of the fast travel, not have ! above quest givers, and provide a great sense of what you do actually matters (having accessible, non-instanced, housing can do this).

Posted: Apr 25th 2011 5:20PM Anatidae said

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I found how to "get the magic back" in many ways - play closed betas. And the main reason is that you'll find a community.

Log into WoW almost any time of the day and you'll have access to millions of strangers who might share the temporary goal of earning a daily reward with you in an random instance. Which, in itself, has no real meaning either.

Many of the classic MMOs have been cited as "dangerous" but what they also had was a distinct lack of instant transportation. That fact alone created more reasons for people to share goals - if one was just to make it across a zone alive. It also forced people to group up with the other players around them. If you stuck around a zone for a while, you made friends in that area over time.

Ultima Online was even more community based. With the lack of a level system (god I hate the "level" mechanic) you could hang your virtual hat anywhere. And although it wasn't impossible to travel from city to city, when you did go from Minoc to Moonglow - it felt like a distance. Nothing in WoW feels far at all and Blizzard kindly offers amazingly fast travel across their world. You don't even have to walk to your instance even.

What has slowly happened over time is that MMOs have become refined games, instead of refined worlds.


Now, EVE - that game has community. It isn't for everyone, but when you stake a claim to some corner of space, it means something. If you want to meet up with friends, you might fly across the universe through some very dangerous places. You might even need friends to escort your ship too. The EVE universe could use more... individual personality (which they are slowly adding), but it gives a player HUGE depth.


Wrapping back around, Beta gives players both a common goal of exploring the new features of a game and helping the developers refine them and the feeling of danger in a new environment - who knows what might attack you? WAR was amazingly fun in the beta. When it shipped it felt like a drove of soulless players who could care less about working together just showed up to button mash. But then, isn't that what they have been taught to do by the likes of WoW?


But the only way a released MMO can continue to create that sense of newness and danger is to go sandbox. Let the players take control of the world... completely. Developers need to create tools and systems that not only allow for player governments, but revolutions. They need to find creative ways of building obstacles.


I'll throw one example out of a million: If you want your MMO to have instant travel across the world, but still want to make the world seem huge and instil a sense of wonder and community - make the travel interesting. WoW almost had it allowing mages to open portals.

What it should have been is the farther the portal, the more mages took to open it combining forces. Each mage would have a micro-game to play in order to open and maintain the portal. Something that a player who actually became skilled at would do better at. There would be a whole community formed around portal mages.

The local player government would want a whole collection on staff to provide basic travel services. Other towns might come and solicit the better mages offering better wages. If a township was in war with another township, killing or luring their portal mages away could be a huge tactical advantage.

What I propose is building a MMO that doesn't look at how a skill affects a raid group, but how it might be leveraged to affect the entire world gameplay. Someone who using baking skill should have a different, but equally profound effect in their corner of the game world.

No, it isn't an "easy mode" game. And it is one that would have frustrating moments. Someone came and killed all your portal mages and then loosed a dragon in your city - yeah, I'd be pissed. But I would have a real story to remember. Way better than the first time I downed some boss that is now on farm status because all we really managed to do is memorize our reactionary parts to the various event queues.

I could go on and on. Alas, the bigger sandbox games seem to miss the point of virtual worlds and they are more directed at just creating a PvP pro-gank world that encourages a distinct lack of morality and sense.

Posted: Apr 25th 2011 7:51PM mysecretid said

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As has been said, one's "first love" MMORPG is partly a result of the newness of the experience, and that aspect can't really be recaptured as it was.

BUT

As has also been mentioned, part of the problem now is that MMORPGs are very predictably structured, and almost everything ends in grindy endgame raiding for "phat lewtz" -- a process which never really pleases any player faction entirely, whether they're PvE or PvP.

In fact, I think the way most MMORPGs have tried to mix PvE and PvP "zero-sum competitive gaming" has done a disservice to both types of player.

The PvE players see their "vast, living world" turned into a fairly obvious loot farm sytem pointing towards endgame. Meanwhiile, true PvP fans never get all that the wish for, either. The game is not an open PvP-driven world, where battle has consequences.

EVE Online had it right, in this respect. They picked their spot (PvP universe) and ran with it, not pretending to be anything else.

Lord of the Rings Online, perhaps, is the best opposite example. The game never really prioritized PvP action, and didn't pretend to do so. There was "monster PvP", and that was about it. Whether things have changed since F2P, I couldn't say.

To get back to that sense of wonder for players, I suspect games have to stop making design compromises which please no one.

To the point, your game is either an explorable world, filled with story and glory, or it's a survival-of-the-fittest battlefield driven by player competition.

Trying to "split the difference" seems to result in the predictable, formulaic meta-gaming experiences we have seen to much of lately -- where, again, everything rushes towad a grindy endgame of repetitive raiding which pleases no one.

Posted: Apr 25th 2011 8:20PM Kaoy said

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I am fairly fortunate in this regard, when it comes to MMORPGs, anyway. My first real MMO experience was Ragnarök Online. Say what you will about the grind, but its just one of those games that will eat you alive, both because of its heavily enforced party play, learning curve, and absolute addictiveness. There has almost always been at least one game around that kept those themes alive.

I have had my personal spells of ennui, but all it takes to de-funk myself is to roll backwards thru my past favorites, and try and find what it is about that particular sub-genre that really drew me in the first place. Interestingly, the answer always changes just a little, as its always something else that I lost the feeling towards. When this fails though, I just call an all out quits for a few months. Maybe keep tabs on my games, but never entering them. While the absence doesn't really make my heat grow fonder, it at least keeps the hollow feeling from turning my admiration for the genre into dried up husk.

Sadly though, I feel I have formed something of a permanent disinterest in single player RPGs of late. Even my old favorite, Skies of Arcadia, is only enjoyable for nostalgia and some of the funnier cut scenes now. Of course, thats a fairly separate subject, so i will leave it at that.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 2:13AM cray said

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I don't think ANY game can recapture something that is nothing more than fleeting emotion from memories. Sense of Ooh and Ahh comes from first time experiences. Closest thing is nostalgia, Wolfshead might as well play EQ all over from the very beginning.

The problem is not the games, plenty of new gamers today will tell you they were awed at wonder of Darkfall, EVE, or Champions Online.The real problem is Wolfshead needs to let go of EQ, Stop trying to compare every MMO to his beloved EQ.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 5:03AM (Unverified) said

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It's funny. I just finished playing Dragon Age: Origins/Awakening/Witch Hunt and I was surprised at how well it evoked the sense of wonder. I was surprised because if you just described the concept ("Join forces with dwarves, elves, and mages to fight demons."), it sounds so very, very generic like a hundred other games. But it's all about the story, and Dragon Age tells the story very well, and gives you a sense of your character developing over time.

Of course, Dragon Age is a single-player RPG, and it remains to be seen whether the same level of storytelling can be done successfully in an MMO. I am hopeful, however, that BioWare will transfer the compelling parts of their single-player RPGs to SWTOR.

The two MMOs that evoked that sense of wonder for me were EVE and Fallen Earth. In both cases, it was the sense of scale and also the sense that I didn't really understand everything that was going on from day one, and that was a good thing, because the process of exploration and discovery is part of what creates that sense of wonder.

The thing that kills wonder is the grind. I've been playing Rift for about a week, and I'm almost ready to quit. Love the character system, like the combat, like the graphics, like the dynamic events, absolutely hate the grinding.

I think one of the biggest mistakes MMO developers make is to try to do both PvE and PvP. I almost never see this done well. Do one or the other. Story-based PvE can work well, and so can sandbox-style PvP, but they're fundamentally different games.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 8:41AM 111011 said

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I love MMOs but lately I just have a 'meh' feeling when playing them. My first MMO, unlike majority of the people here, was Anarchy Online, and I was captured by the sheer enormity of the world and its stories. Soon after I got Guild Wars for my fantasy fix. I'm not a big group player and I dont like being forced into it to get something done and these games gave me the opportunity to play the way I wanted, and I used to stay up all night playing. But since I finished GW and grew out of AO, I haven't found a game that made me feel the same as when I first started, now it's just tedium. Sometimes I feel loosing the wonder might be age related, but I still read books and watch films that capture my sense of wonder, even when they aren't doing anything new, why not in MMOs?

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