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Reader Comments (58)

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 11:42AM Stormwaltz said

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To focus on "experimentation" is to stop a step shy of real problem. Early MMGs were better by virtue of being LOWER BUDGET - the reduced financial risk allowed them to try different approaches to systems and content.

The budget to create a modern AAA MMORPG competitive with WoW (the perceived standard of success) makes them "too big to fail." If a game with the budget of a SWTOR fails, they bring down whole companies with them.

Back in the day, EQ was considered wildly successful because it had one million players. These days a project with a projected playerbase under 10 million is pooh-poohed as not worth funding.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 12:02PM DerpMchurson said

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that picture is nasty

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 12:02PM DerpMchurson said

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that picture is nasty

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 12:10PM Vanpry said

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In some cases yes, but UO offered more features then almost every game out there. I could just be a black smith, I could be just a fisherman, I could choose to do what I want. Now everyone is an adventurer period.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 12:23PM Khal said

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Yes, they were better. The weak response that there are more people playing now than then is so idiotic it's not funny. OF COURSE THERE ARE!!! Back then was the beginning of the MMO genre! Of course 13+ years later there are going to be more people involved.

There would certainly still be more people involved if WOW never happened, as well. Don't try to argue that it wouldn't be as many people because there just isn't any way of knowing that.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 12:48PM Kentung said

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Nostalgia goggles....

More experimental, of course, it was new territory, and the devs only vaguely knew what they were doing.

But all the old MMOs that everyone pines for (UO, EQ, SWG, DAoC, etc) had scads of problems and unintended consequences. The early devs were continually scrambling to fix clever metagaming of the system.

This trope comes up often, because there will rarely be anything that will match your first experiances. Those maintain a remembered magic glow, regardless of how broken things may have been behind the surface.

Until it becomes possible to release MMOs that don't require a king's ransom to produce, the money conscious bean counters will push for 'safe' avenues. Of course, many find the 'safe' offerings a bit cloying now.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 1:23PM Mikx said

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Oh, for the good old days, when we used to lick pig noses. I mean, clearly they don't use it to rut around in the mud, right.

If anything, early mmos were better because of the novelty of licking snouts, but players and developers learned early on that its not a great gameplay mechanic and later mmos benefited from these lessons.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 2:44PM (Unverified) said

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The pre-WoW MMO's took more chances and felt more immersive, but back then MMO's were the new frontier. Since WoW most games want to take the safe route which means different game, but basically the same crap. I used to play Ultima Online long ago and think wow these MMO's are going to look and play so great when technology advances 15 years only to be here 15 years later and realize the games look better but are mostly more boring, repetitive, and dumbed down.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 2:47PM Space Cobra said

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Of course there was more "experimentation", many game folks didn't know what they were doing in MMO games! Some had inklings based on MUDs, but others just threw things into a pot and see what worked.

I wouldn't say WoW broke anything. Sure, it brought more people into the hobby, but Blizzard took things from EQ and other games. It also put in it's own thought-processes (experiments) and went with it. It had name recognition and the resources and the determination/will to market their own MMO (which isn't solely theirs anymore).

You want to know what *really* ruined the "magic" of MMO games? Well, besides "nostalgia", the one big thing that ruined them is that they went "corporate". Either they turned into big corporations or they got bought out by them. Corporations like profit and they like things "safe". What worked before should work again. They are really not innovators.

When WoW hit such big numbers, numbers that have never really ever been seen, you got lots of people outside the gaming business that wanted access to that money and numbers of players. It caused SWG to go NGE. It cast future MMO projects into certain molds and expectations. It even brought some MMOs to their knees until they went a different route (free-to-play).

The gaming industry, even the console industry, has grown by very large leaps and bounds. You can even see from the console side, things can get stale. Luckily, there are some ways indies and small companies can enter the business nowadays in easier ways they could not before. Still, players are much like the rest of the public: Most don't chase after indie music or small, local restaurants, they want something that is easy to get/install/understand/buy.

I see many players complain about f2p and the sub model, but these same players want innovation and changes from the current status quo. They are bored. But these players really do not look at other games. They do not scour for indie games or are turned off by less-than-stellar graphics because they expect a AAA+ game to do it all for them. In other words, these players really do not support innovation the way they *could*. The thing is, even bigger AAA+ titles will change if they perceive their customers finding something else; they will and have changed. It's true they can go back to their status quo or only adopt some things from other titles, but these things have a lasting, cumulative effect if they are popular. Again, if something is a "hit", even the corporate world will chase after that "magic" to gain sales.

People should challenge their expectations and search for games. Posting for change on an MMO forum is one thing, but actively picking and promoting certain games and their features is quite another.

Posted: Jan 5th 2012 3:20PM (Unverified) said

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@Space Cobra

I disagree. It's not simply a choice between AAA and indie, with indie games being experimental and offering what we crave. We're simply not being served! It has happened throughout gaming: when a genre recovers from huge successes, so devs just go with what works and right it into the ground until the next big thing comes along. Innovation is simply lacking in the MMO genre, period. How many indie devs can make a full-fledged MMO? Hell, not even small companies can expect to make an MMO and have it run for more than 6 months. The experimental MMO is just a rare beast these days.

Why do you think people get so excited when the next big MMO starts to be released? Because they are hungering for some new life to be breathed into the genre, not just repeat what they've played for 1,000 hours before.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2012 2:56PM Vandal said

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"-although some of those experiments certainly did not prove to be palatable to the gaming masses."

Some?? Try ALL. MMOs become known as a niche market before WoW came along for a reason.

It was only 7 years ago when anyone who suggested an MMO could draw significantly more than 1 million players (outside of Korea) would have been laughed out of the room. Are people's memory so short they forgot the industry insiders back then shaking their heads, claiming the market had simply reached it's limit?

Those same insiders who claimed MMOs were not meant to be judged the same as other video games where success was measured in the millions. MMOs were "special".

It turns out MMOs are just just like other video games. Only the MMO genre stagnated with more than a decade of clueless developers making games that had little appeal.

Those developers were more concerned with their precious experimentation rather than focusing on making good games. Their experimentation never addressed the MMO traditions of bug-ridden releases, timesink-filled mechanics and tedious gameplay. They never fixed the fundamental flaws of the genre.

You can keep that kind of useless, pointless experimentation. Make a car that runs first before you worry about putting fishtails or chrome on it.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 4:17PM mmorpgsux said

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I am just about to give up hope on mmo's. The mmo has stayed in the dark ages in graphics, immersion, story telling, and innovation in my opinion. You can say I am ignorant when it comes to knowing what it takes to make an mmo, but ultimately it is my own "expert" opinion and dollars that count when playing a game. I loved the story telling of the older generation Final Fantasy games, but the attack and wait got old. I do not think an mmo can accomplish what I mentioned earlier and just do not understand why.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 8:22PM Sorithal said

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I'd say the old school MMOs definitely get credit for starting off the MMO market. However, many of them were very much for niche and hardcore gamers typically. They weren't very friendly to newcomers to the genre who didn't want to go through a lot of pain just to try and enjoy the game. At least from the few I played.

There were a lot of good ideas though, and those ideas helped lead to MMOs today. Of course the goliath of MMOs is WoW now, because it was able to take elements from past MMOs and then turn the difficulty level down so players wouldn't have to be hardcore masochists in order to enjoy the game. Since then, many other MMOs have of course used WoW as a model, and there are still MMOs experimenting out there.

Just not many AAA MMOs branch out majorly to experiment these days. Most of the big AAA MMOs we talk about today all pretty much use WoW as their base model and then they expand from there. Many of the newer AAA MMOs have been experimenting and branching out further though while using that base that's been successful. Some haven't done too well (WAR for example) while others are succeeding pretty well so far (RIFT and TOR are the latest examples).

And then there are others that branch out beyond that (apparently Secret World and Guild Wars 2 will be like this), so it'll be interesting to see how those ones do.

*shrug* I think it's perfectly fine for MMOs to take from each other, but they have to then expand out well enough to where it feels like its own MMO rather than a "clone" or "copy cat". Taking what works and building upon it is a good way of furthering the MMO industry when taking risks and doing something completely different doesn't always work out.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 9:35PM Nucleon said

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Is there anything that's not made better by experimentation? I mean really, experimenting and the creativity required is the necessary precursor to meaningful innovation.

Lets not kid ourselves though, this is the standard business cycle. Experimenting is always the hallmark of the up-and-coming companies and not the top dogs. Young companies with nothing to lose and lots to gain experiment, fail and die, or succeed and take over. The big companies stick to their tried and true business plan and release solid dependable work and capitalize on the fruits of their enormous market reach.

Posted: Jan 4th 2012 9:43PM Crapplebag said

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I honestly think the reason people pine for older MMO's (or 8/16 bit carts) is because

1.) The challenge of doing simple things was greater and thus the reward and/or sense of achievement felt greater.

2.) It required you to use your imagination more than current games in order to flesh out the world.

It's kind of like how as a kid, playing with a whittled stick and pretending it was a sword was more rewarding and fun than playing with a plastic one. But then you got a real steel sword and it was awesome but you still missed the old wooden stick because you made it yourself and pretending it was a real sword was more fun.

Kinda like that lol. It's nostalgia basically. It seems better than it was. There's no denying there was some real magic there. But you just can't go back and if you try to it won't be the same. It's easy to get jaded but take a step back and look at what developers have achieved with the latest offerings. It's not all bad. And if you want more innovation support Indie developers as Space Cobra said.

Posted: Jan 5th 2012 12:51AM (Unverified) said

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WoW is going to be blizzards own worst enemy. What ever money they put into their next MMO project they will have to fight their WoW player base to recoup the costs.

WoW has completely brain washed gamers. If anything in a MMO is different than what they are used to. Bring out the pitch forks.

I miss the way when you were issued a quest in LoTR:O you had to read the quest dialogue. It would say south west of and north of it lead to a little bit of exploring.

Now we just go to where it's marked on the map. In SW:tor I skip all the VO (gimme the quest already) and just go to the waypoint of the map. it becomes very boring.

But it's easy right?

I'd take more interesting game play over the same crap we've had since 2004

Posted: Jan 5th 2012 3:11PM (Unverified) said

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Yes and no. It was an exciting time for MMOs before WoW, but it was also quite bleak at times, and I was fully expecting the genre to die out until I heard Blizzard was making one.

But in my mind, Dark Age of Camelot really struck gold when it experimented with how to do meaningful open world PvP. Many people believe it was pure luck on Mythic's part, and perhaps they were right, because they constantly messed up PvE and RvR content after the wonderful Shrouded Isles expansion, but those days were glorious. DaoC in the SI days was and still is my favorite MMO by a large margin.

WoW came close to awesomeness in the PvE department at times; the content was undeniably strong. But the setting was Warcraft, which is simply not as cool and mysterious as Midgard. And I hate Warcraft's "lore". Also, I really hate instancing... which WoW took to new levels and is now standard in MMOs. Seeing multiple groups in a dungeon, fighting other realms... it made the dungeon feel like part of the realm, not a roped off rollercoaster ride.

All these new games with simply arena-based PvP and PvP in lakes with the opposite side doing PvE make me long for RvR again.

Posted: Jan 7th 2012 10:21PM Raaqa said

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Older MMOs were better because they were new to me.

I don't think I'll ever love another MMORPG. They've been reduced to after-work timewasters. They can't possibly bring anything new to the table until something big like 3D technology becomes mainstream.

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