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Reader Comments (136)

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 5:19PM Nenene said

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There's more criticism against MMOs these days because MMOs suck more than they did in previous times.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 5:40PM freebase said

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Lethality is bitter. lol

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 6:05PM Lateris said

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@ Jeff- first off I love what your pics are stating. I agree. Well played!

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 6:07PM BaneBergan said

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This is a great read.
I had more emails about my SW:TOR preview/review than anything else I have ever written. Each and every single one of them pretty well accused me of being somehow jaded, ill-informed, confused, stupid or a liar. Why? Because I stated my opinion.

More than a few also stated that "EQ might have been great back in the day, but it is shit now". I actually started playing EQ on a private server just to see if I was somehow out of sorts because of the sheer number of these emails (and for the record: EQ is still every bit as good as it was then, provided you are playing it as it was back then).

I frequently disagree with alot of the crap on Massively (yep, if Beau Hindman posts it, it's a pretty safe bet that I would not even wipe my rear with it), but Jef Reahard got this exactly right.

Jef, I appreciate you seeing things clearly and telling it like it is... even if some people seem to completely miss it. Good games are good even 5, 10, 15 or 20 years later... bad games are bad exactly the same way. "Rose Colored Glasses" is how we remember something for being great when it was not... but if you can pick one up and play it today (as it was then, not altered and changed patch after patch) and it is still a great game... that whole "Rose Colored Glasses" nonsense just does not apply.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 6:33PM Saucelah said

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I really don't accept the argument that "most" players want theme parks. I've seen no evidence to support it -- the presence of theme park products proves most publishers believe most players want theme parks, nothing more and nothing less.

Watching an episode of Extra Credits recently, I was reminded of a time when all publishers believed there would never be any more FPS games without competitive multiplayer, so they forced devs to take time away from single player campaigns in games like Turok to tack on so-so multiplayer, and of course those games failed to have good campaigns or worthwhile multiplayer. And since then, games like Fallout 3, Bioshock, and a number of others have clearly proven that single player FPS games are just as marketable as they were before the publishers decided they were no longer marketable.

The same will happen with sandbox MMOs, and in fact, I already see signs of the desire among my younger, newer to MMO friends. I've even seen it in the comments on articles about theme parks here on Massively. When I read an SWTOR fan that says "I wish there were more reasons to actually be part of a guild, things for my guild to work on together, besides just having some go to friends for flashpoints," what I actually hear in my head is "well, I like this directed leveling experience but I wish there was some long-term sandbox goal to work toward with my friends"

After all, if all of us gamers hate sandboxes, why do single player open world games do so well?

I've also decided that many people who say they don't like sandbox MMOs really mean they don't like the currently available sandbox MMOs. And that's fair. But that's not all that will ever be possible with a sandbox. It's not even all that's been done before. Whoever fist said that "sandbox means no content" clearly had limited experience with sandboxes and assumed they all must be like the few they had tried.

Publishers have been wrong about what gamers want in the recent past. The failure to achieve WoW levels of success for every theme park style game publishers push developers to release suggests to me they're wrong again, and eventually the marketers will back off the artists and let the ones who have a better grasp on the audience do the designing.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 6:51PM Borick said

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@Saucelah I think that PVP has a lot to do with it. For some reason 'sandbox' is a genre claimed by some of the most hardened and heartless PVPers.

When developers can find a sandbox model that discourages griefing and PVP, then we might get a working, popular "Sandpark" model.
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 7:42PM Saucelah said

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@Borick

I agree with you completely.

If you've never read it, Syncaine (syncaine.com) did a series of posts on how to make a PvE sandbox, and he qualifies at least as a "most hardened" if not a "heartless" PvPer.
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 8:13PM Buhallin said

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@Saucelah "I really don't accept the argument that "most" players want theme parks. I've seen no evidence to support it -- the presence of theme park products proves most publishers believe most players want theme parks, nothing more and nothing less."

This is part of the rose-colored glasses people often refer to.

MMOs didn't start theme park. They started as sandbox-y as you could want. The industry didn't move away from it because hordes of players were clamoring for less content, and less protection from each other. It moved away from it because apart from a small portion of the player base, people HATED it. UO to EQ, EQ to WoW, each one put more and more restrictions on the open world nature of the genre, and each one pulled a bigger and bigger population. That's evidence of what players want, whether you're willing to see it or not.

It's all well and good to claim that the silent majority agrees with you, and undoubtedly would flock to your perfect game, but history doesn't really bear that out.
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Posted: Jan 18th 2012 11:13AM Irem said

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@Buhallin
I think you're missing what it was that those games offered that drew people in, which was accessibility. WoW was so popular in large part because it did away with the idea that you needed to be catassing 24/7 to immerse yourself in a virtual world. It was actually removing restrictions that brought people in--by making the games more user-friendly, people were able to get to more content quickly and spend more time enjoying themselves. That has nothing to do with placing restrictions on player activity or emergent gameplay. I think part of the reason sandboxes are so unpopular is because they tend to couple the style of content design with "hardcore" features like FFA PvP and the need for time investment, which makes them look cold and unfriendly to the average player. Meanwhile, themepark games have been placing more restrictions on players to the point that your hand is not only held, but there's actually no reason to ever go off the rails, making it a rather shallow experience that might as well be single-player aside from the chat box and ability to do co-op fights. I have no particular love for pure sandbox games, but I strongly doubt implementing more features from the style would hurt themepark games, because they add depth when they aren't punishing. I've heard very few people standing around going, "Oh boy, sure is a good thing Blizzard won't let us have player housing! That would suck, thank god for restrictions!" or "Wow, it's really cool that crafting is basically limited to clicking a few buttons to make stuff that's either bound to my character or can be sold at a loss!" or "Gee, it would be terrible if our actions could affect the world to any degree!"
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Posted: Jan 18th 2012 7:25PM corpusc said

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@Buhallin apparently its not very obvious to you that every game is a mixture of different elements.

you focus on a few of them and make these judgements based on those few things, and ignore all the other elements.

if you give a person a crap sandwich with wheat bread, a wax sandwich on wheat bread, then a ham sandwich on white bread.... just cuz people almost always prefer the sandwich with white bread in those situations DOESN'T mean that people universally prefer white bread.

don't overlook the sandwich filling.
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 7:06PM Deliverator said

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Nice article Jef.
It's also interesting to watch the mass market defend its games.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 7:48PM Utakata said

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Since I really don't have anything to add to the debate...the cats pictured are as follows:

First angry cat: Dil

2nd angry cat: NeverDeath

The cool cats are from left to right: Irem, Space Cobra and Sorithal.

Sad cat: pcgneurotic

Strange cat: Nenene

Feel free to disagree. And add too and take from your own pleasure.

...as you were folks. :)

Posted: Jan 18th 2012 1:28AM Nepentheia said

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@Utakata

x-D Hehe! That pretty much sounds about right!

And me? I'll just stay being leety. ;-)
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 8:17PM digitalheadbutt said

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My biggest problem with the *hating-for-hate's-sake* crowd is that they usually don't frame their arguments very well. Using SWTOR as an example, the over simplified criticism I see most is "SWTOR = reskinned-WoW with laserswords". While basically a fair thing to say because, SWTOR is very similar to WoW, it ignores the fact that WoW hijacked elements from all the MMO that came before it. Even EQ, UO and M59 took their lead from the MUDS/MUSHes and Pen+Paper RPGs that the developers were exposed to which inspired them to make their own games. There is no such thing as original anymore; at least not until someone actually does some of this "innovation" we hear and read about, as opposed to regurgutation.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 9:38PM Daeths said

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@digitalheadbutt I think the real problem is that too many people take valid concerns, criticism and opinions as hating for hatings sake and thats not always true. Hell, its probably not true most of the time.
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 10:08PM Greyhame said

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@Daeths At the same time, some of those people making those criticisms don't realise that they are their own opinion, and that everyone who plays MMOs shares their opinion on what makes a game good, bad, unplayable, playable, etc.

And to be fair, some people the other way also argue that way, and then things go down from there.
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Posted: Jan 17th 2012 8:35PM (Unverified) said

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I started my MMO experience with WoW and I loved it. I personal like the theme park MMOs but I'm one of the new gen of MMO players. I can't play sandbox MMOs because they bore the hell out of me. SWG is a prime example of a game sandbox MMO. My friend tell me horror stories of the greifing and outright players hold other players hostage for credit aka Jedi's in that game. I not a big fan of player housing just another place for me to be bored in.

For the time being theme park game are the way it's going to be and tbh i honestly don't care because I'm having fun and that is all the matters to me.

People don't like change it's part of the reason that this style of MMO has lasted so long. Sadly to you old school MMOers will just have to put up with it until sandbox MMOs make money. MMOs are big money and the average company doesn't care what you like or don't like. It's all about the money. For every 1 person that doesn't like themepark MMOs there are 20 that do. That is big time profit.

Posted: Jan 17th 2012 8:55PM (Unverified) said

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But the thing is, MMO development is NOT just a choice between some arcane niche sandbox that the grizzled UO vets will love (and the other 99% of the market will hate); or "Lord of the EverRift Wars: The Old Warcraft (Online)."

You can make a fun, game-first world-second themepark MMO without classes, levels and talent trees.

Without tab-targetting and button-bars full of skills to use on cooldown.

Without tanks, healers and dps.

Without characters getting enormously better at what they do, whilst never broadening their skills to do other things.

Without health bars, mana bars and healing and mana pots.

Without two factions that can't play cooperatively, but can fight in the open world (occasionally) or in instanced battlegrounds (frequently).

Without choosing two crafting professions from a list of ten or so.

Without every piece of content being strictly designed for 1 person, n people, or 5*n people.

It's NOT a matter of "that's what MMOs are". Or even "that's what themepark MMOs are". It's just a colossal deficit of imagination, and even people that LOVE themeparks and AREN'T looking for an intricate virtual world simulation to live in are SICK of it.

Posted: Jan 18th 2012 12:59AM theBeast said

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@(Unverified) I dig this.
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Posted: Jan 18th 2012 1:19AM RoninBlade said

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@(Unverified) Sure, you can, and I wouldn't mind seeing more variety, but just because the form of a game is conventional doesn't mean it sucks. It may suck, but that doesn't go without saying.

This reminds me of Scott McCloud's take on Internet comics, which is that you don't need to have a set of panels arranged in a linear fashion, like a conventional comic strip, but you can arrange them in an infinite canvas with branching timelines going off in all directions. That's true, and I find many of his experiments fascinating. However, that doesn't mean that traditional three-panel or four-panel strips aren't worth doing, if you can do them well.

Hypertext, interactive fiction, all that stuff is fine, but that doesn't mean that the linear one-word-after-another book is obsolete.
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