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Reader Comments (56)

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 3:17PM (Unverified) said

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A succinct and exceptionally well-though-out article on the major issue plaguing the MMO landscape. We forget the "game" aspect of the game and focus on the internal and external competition that playing with other players inevitably brings - my sword is better than your sword because I spent 40 hours a week for a month raiding/grinding/praying for the lucky drop to get it. The nearly ritualistic act of grinding dungeons for loot to grind harder dungeons lies at the core of too many games. Why should developers work on new features when the playerbase will complain that it gets in the way of the grind?

There are no really, really great games that are MMOs, only various levels of grind disguised behind varying levels of veneer. Even big titles, like WoW or Rift suffer from the crippling affects of this problem. MMO gamers lose out because of MMO gamers.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 3:27PM Borick said

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I think that competitive gamers are goal-oriented to the exclusion of enjoying the scenery. If we start talking about 'living worlds', then don't we need to drop the 'G' from MMOs as an inclusive term?

I don't have a problem with limited express methods of travel -- portals that require farmed reagents perhaps, or fast 'boats' that run on a limited schedule. Hell, I'd love to play in an MMO where I had to hire fast transport from another player who had a specific investment and return from playing cabdriver.

I think that MMOs have spent too many years near the shallow end of the kiddie pool, pandering to that once-derided console market. Our worlds have been turned into lobbies for sports-like exclusive play. If we want to enjoy the world and the journey, then we need to stop trying to refine the players into little production engines for some idea of an 'endgame'.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:39PM socialenemy2007 said

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@Borick This. I'd love to see a developer drop the G and instead create a living breathing world. Developers tend to focus on extreme ends of the mmo spectrum pvp ffa thempark tired raids.

Star Wars Galaxies Pre-CU is what developers should strive for. That game was amazing before Smedly and his crew destroyed it slowly and then put the final nail in the coffin with NGE.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 8:50PM (Unverified) said

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@Borick Exactly. You hit it dead on.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 11:46PM Ordegar said

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@Borick

You should perhaps check out Xsyon (there's an article here on Massively about it); it's very immersive. You have a hunger stat, and you have to eat to keep it up or you become weak; you can't hold a zillion things in your bags that weigh 100x your weight; there are no npcs that have built a city for you, rather you have to build your own with your "tribe" starting from huts, and build your skills by doing the thing related to the skill, etc.
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Posted: Apr 28th 2011 1:39PM Djinn said

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@Ordegar

There's a problem with this: I don't want "reality" in my virtual world. What's the point of "escaping" to a fantasy world if I have to be hungry and do menial labor?

I want to build stuff only when I want - not because I have to. The same for slow travel, eating, etc.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 3:32PM Hipster said

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Not all MMO's forgo realism, and the world. Just the so-called AAA titles the drones all play.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:09PM Apakal said

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@Hipster

I'm really enjoying the hypocrisy between your name and your post.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:26PM Ohhlaawd said

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@Apakal

I'm thinking you don't know what hypocrisy means.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:30PM Borick said

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@Hipster I'm willing to believe that this is true, but I don't have current knowledge of any such title that doesn't come with some deficiency in the gameplay or control systems that stifles eusocial behavior.

Eve is an awesome game, but I can't stand the control system. When I day trip to places like Vanguard I don't see an active, dynamic community but instead a bunch of insular holdouts. Most other 'social sandbox' games seem to lack the sort of risks that make adventuring exciting.

If you're saying that there is a persistant online world with lots of people poking around for the sake of exploration and meeting others, please cure my ignorance. The closest thing that I've found right now are private Minecraft servers.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 10:14PM Apakal said

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@Ohhlaawd

A person with screen name "Hipster" calling other people drones is just about the definition of hypocrisy.
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Posted: Apr 27th 2011 3:42AM The Minn said

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@Apakal A person with screen name "Hipster" calling other people drones is just about the definition of hipster, also. Do you know how many hipsters it takes you screw in a lightbulb? It is a really obscure number and you have probably never heard of it...
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Posted: Apr 27th 2011 8:06AM Apakal said

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@The Minn

Well played.

/golfclap
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 3:33PM Lenn said

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It always bothers me that designers spend a lot of time designing a beautiful world, only for players to rush through it on their way to the next quest hub.

My best times in MMOs have always been those moments when I went "my quest objective is that way, but what if I go this way first?" I've been playing LotRO for 3 and a half years now, and I still come across things I have never seen before whenever I take a new alt through Middle-earth. I regularly had those moments even in WoW as well.

Speaking of LotRO, in which travel has been made easier and easier over the past few years, there are a lot of people who've tried the "smell the roses" approach to travelling. Many have even done the Fellowship trip. Although it doesn't take the book's weeks, walking, not running, from the Shire to Rivendell, following exactly in the Fellowship's footsteps would take you a good few hours. If i remember correctly, there was someone on the EU servers who did it in about 8 hours (with stops along the way).

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 3:45PM Ghostspeaker said

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I agree with you whole-heartedly. Unfortunately we live in an increasingly consumerist society addicted to instant gratification. Getting the newest car/computer/smartphone/McQueen/pixels will always be more attractive to more people than taking the time to sit back and enjoy just looking at the pretty things around them. Since MMOs are a business, they'll always trend toward satisfying the desires of the largest amount of people.

Sadly, even the niche market titles don't usually reward exploration quite as well as they ought to. The only counterexample I can think of is EVE, where you can make a business out of exploring various regional markets, buying low in one market and hauling it to another to sell high. Granted, that's not rewarding exploration directly, but it definitely pays (literally) to go poking around in places you haven't gone before.

Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:04PM Space Cobra said

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@Ghostspeaker

Exploration XP:

I wanted to talk about this, although Beau uses it as an example, I think his article is "more" than just that.

A few games do give out exploration XP or at least a badge or achievement and some of those adds to the future stats of the character if they collect the whole set.

I know WoW gives Exploration XP (and badges? I haven't been in the game in a long while): It ain't a WHOLE lot of XP, but at least it's there. CoH gives Exploration badges that add a stat bump, if they are a certain kind (Well, I know there are set-bonuses for some badges that may not be Exploration-related or may). DCUO also gives items for such things.

I know other games do so, but it goes under our noses. I like to clear maps of the "fog of war", especially with my "main"(s).

And really, I keep on the lookout for visual Easter Eggs while enjoying the scenery, just in case.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 4:39PM Ghostspeaker said

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@Space Cobra I wasn't just talking about exploration XP either. After all, I used EVE as an example of a game that rewards exploration, and EVE isn't based on a model that would make such a thing even desirable. All you need for skill progression in EVE is time and patience, not grinding XP. The real currency of progression in EVE is, well, currency. ISK. EVE isn't about just getting the biggest baddest internet spaceship you can--especially since you lose that big bad spaceship if you ever get outmatched even once--or getting the most skill points.

Yeah, there are games that give XP for exploration, but it's usually a teeny amount. It doesn't reward nearly as well as killing X mobs or completing Y quests, which was part of his point. Most games don't reward non-combat forms of play nearly as well as combat. And this is largely because of a gaming culture that sees a greater accomplishment in slaying internet dragons than in finding those little pockets of real magic and beauty in the game world itself.

That's one thing I think Beau does overlook in the article, now that I think about it: devs are part of gaming culture every bit as much as gamers themselves because devs typically ARE gamers. If the culture is mostly focused on killing the biggest internet dragon around to get the biggest internet penis replacement around, then dev design decisions will reflect that. This is probably a big part of why we've wound up in a rut as far as innovation's concerned.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 5:00PM Borick said

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@Ghostspeaker "If the culture is mostly focused on killing the biggest internet dragon around to get the biggest internet penis replacement around, then dev design decisions will reflect that."

Great comment. Gaming companies recruited (And threw LOTS of money at) people like Tigole and Furor, when perhaps they should have been looking more for people like Notch.

Don't discount the bubble-effects of game theory and calculus on the industry, either. For about thirty years now we've trained calculus and derivitive equations over the humanities. Game theory calculations seem to have become the securitized base from which companies made their decisions. I've seen the same thing happen across the board in American business professions -- smart, successful businesspersons were those who knew enough calculus to make dangerously stupid decisions.

Vacuum behavoir theory and the concept of rational actors helped put a wrecking ball to things that are human-relevent, but the wheel keeps turning, and the times they are a-changing.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 7:22PM Ghostspeaker said

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@Tempes Magus

Actually, I would argue that it applies even more to our entertainment than our daily lives. There is actually very little instant gratification in the daily lives of most people. They go to work every day, doing jobs they don't find all that satisfying so they can pay the bills and maybe have enough left over for some fun stuff on the weekends and holidays. That's not instant gratification, that's pretty much the definition of delayed gratification. So when deciding on what entertainment they want people tend to look for what they can't get, the instant gratification. Why do you think nobody reads books anymore while movies and TV shows have become the dominant forms of media? Because books take days or weeks to finish, while movies and TV only ask an hour or two at a time when people (especially Americans) are more time-strapped than ever.

Note, however, I'm not talking about everyone. Some of us find the process itself just as important and gratifying as finally getting that carrot at the end. But IME most people don't fall into that category. Those of us who like to wander around and see what's there to be seen are the exceptions, not the rule. Just look at slot machines. People don't think pulling levers is fun; they're doing it because there's the possibility of a pay-off at the end. Most MMOs are like that. Just replace pulling the knob with grinding XP or raids. People are doing it because they want that ding, and eventually they want those fancy armors and weapons. If most people did enjoy the drive as much as the destination, games like EVE would be way more popular than they are. But I think most people are tired of driving, because that's what they do every day. They'd like to feel like they're finally getting somewhere instead of driving to nowhere like they do in the rest of their lives. Of course, the irony is that they're doing just that anyway because the devs will keep cranking out more fancy loot for everyone to chase after until everyone stops playing. But that fact is glossed over by the arbitrary, temporary milestones set in place by the devs, so very few ever think about that.

I totally agree with you about mechanics being beholden to the world instead of vice versa. Unfortunately, the competitve nature of gaming culture doesn't really support that very well. According to that mindset, mechanics are all that matter because mechanics control who wins. What you're talking about is a mindset where there is no such thing as someone "winning".

Still, I'd like to at least see a few more niche market games around that did things like that. They'd likely get my money, and probably quite a few other people's. I think that MMO development has gotten inflated to the point where nobody wants to pay for your development unless you're trying to make something with mass appeal (a.k.a. a wow-killer-wannabe). Almost nobody is seeing the value of the solid, reliable niche market, the cult hit. It's too bad, because there's money to be made there and nobody sees it.
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Posted: Apr 26th 2011 8:59PM Borick said

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@Tempes Magus "I think you have a lot of people scratching their heads right now. "

If anyone is bothering to do so, then good on them. I'll forgive any embarrasment you might feel for my sake. :)
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