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Reader Comments (46)

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:24PM smartstep said

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Never played mmorpg's to be great , epic hero.

Actually I find it bit silly this faked heroism.

I want to play mmorpg's to be part of alternative world for a while cause that's fascinating from many points of view.

Unfortunetally that is hard with nowadays mmorpg design :(

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:27PM Borick said

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I agree with you regarding developer-driven story, but it goes further than that and includes the on-rails minigames and the invisible rails in the gameworld that wall us off from the horizon.

Old guy story here, but in EQ we did have actual heroes (And plenty of villains). While the Tigoles and Furors of the world were off proving who's best there were dozens of guilds who spent their Friday raid rescuing some newb guild get their corpses out of the plane of Fear.

I've come to conclude that I'm not looking for popular in my MMO. I'm looking for a game that obfuscates and underplays the linear elements in favor of offering and refining the player toolset.

Posted: Mar 24th 2012 4:54PM (Unverified) said

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@Borick
Yeah totally agree, the EQ1 memory is so prudent in this case.. i was on the receiving end of that, and then later.. i was on the giving end.. those where heroic times .. or as close to them as we get
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:29PM Space Cobra said

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It's hard to add to this, but I'll try.

I would say MMORPGs have always been a "different kettle of fish". With Single-Player games, the illusion is better kept; you can go fast or slow. Pause and do things in their own time. And you are the only one there.

There is nothing wrong with the heroic experiences offered in MMORPGs, but Dev teams lack resources to deal with each and every player on an indvidiual basis as far as content-generation is concerned. That's just the nature of the best.

Now, in the "old days" some Devs would interact with groups of players, but again, that becomes rarer as an audience gets bigger and that is not mentioning the "rules of being a GM" ala "favortism". Really, the best interactions , IMO, is from the smaller games and I mean very tiny (like current free MUDs/MUSHes and even "A Tale in the Desert").

It is my hope/Dream that in-game tools could be created to sorta mimic this to a larger audience, but so far, they haven't. Granted, it is "cheaper" for some companies to not interact with players in-game, too.

So, what are we left with?

Well, you brought up the "Uncle Owen paradigm" and that's not terrible, but the only way, IMO, to get that to work is *other players*. It's basically a combination of socializing and giving tools to players to create content for their friends/guild. Really, you want to give a "personal experience" to the player and who better to do so than the players themselves? Viola! You don't have to hire GMs for in-game events.

Of course, this does not appeal to every player. Some want straight up raiding. Others need "alone time" to greater/lesser degrees.

The thing is, MMOs especially good ones and especially those that apply to my personal definition of "sandbox" should have ALL these things; it should appeal to a wide variety of these players by offering different activities which could be mini-games, PvP, socializing, decorating, and much more.

You do not have games currently that do all these things in an MMO. An MMO, ideally, is a "virtual console" but tied to one theme/land/universe. If you go somewhere, you can play a version of "Pac-Man" and gain benefit (XP) from it or you can Kill a Boss monster or Decorate your personal space or any number of things that make it hard to leave. A "perfect MMO" should already have something akin to Skyrim/ME3 experiences in their gaming world and much more. It should be an "all-in-one games destination" set in a particular theme or themes.

It should provide "heroic" things and mundane, but in the end, for one person or another, such things should fit different definitions of "fun" and really, one does not have to be "heroic" to get that "fun", but it can help.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:30PM Space Cobra said

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I will also say...

Third Soapbox of the Week!

Wow! ;P

Is there one more out there?!

Can we get a record here of Boxy Soapyness?! ;)

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:21PM Jef Reahard said

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@Space Cobra

We've started going to two per week (Tuesdays and Fridays) because the staff has a backlog of good ideas that wouldn't be as timely if we stretched them out over six months. And this week the GW2 microtransaction thing hit, which ofc generated tons of discussion.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:35PM scfs123 said

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Always love games that let you dedicate yourself to crafting and pretty much become an NPC Shopkeeper.

Sadly most games make it so most crafted gear you can't even give away since everythings better then it =(

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:53PM StClair said

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There's a long-time forum poster in one of my games that's constantly grappling with the fact that an MMO, unlike a single-player game, won't and can't let him be The Hero. The indispensable, the one and only, the star, the keystone without whom the rest of the group would be lost. He's very articulate and passionate about what he wants, and others have tried to help him, but in the end I fear he's doomed to keep trying to shove a ____ peg into a ____ hole.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 4:53PM ntellect said

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Interesting Article, might as well called SWTOR out ;-) I agree with Smart step, I never played MMOs to be a hero. I played to explore a persistent world where I could focus on growing my digital character, seeing how far I could go. This whole 'Wow-clone' , 'fake hero' gameplay is going to implode like any other bubble. Some developer is going to spend hundreds of millions on a product and eventually the gamers wont play or wont subscribe in high enough numbers to sustain. The key to the question is HOW long? Casual gamers are like cattle and if one plays they all play, and I secretly believe publishers bet on this. I feel the niche of players that feel the way I do are a small minority not heard even if we screamed.

So we are stuck. Stuck, mucking through these me-too titles until someone inevitably takes a chance to change the status quo and deliver something fun again. Ive placed my bets on TERA, Secret World and Guild Wars 2. And to a certain degree looking to the asian/korean inspired titles... both ArcheAge and Lime Odyssey.

They dont have to change the formula as so much to allow the players to do what they want how they want. I'm old enough to find my own quest hub. I dont need to have my hand held leading me to the spot I need to go to with a bright big yellow arrow. And to those who need those things, hopefully they will be upset and play the countless other casual MMOs out there.

I do want to be uncle owen, but have enough freedom to become my OWN hero through my own actions against a challenging adventure.

We'll see if that happens.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:18PM Shazzie said

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@ntellect
YES. YES YES YES, YES YES.

I am SO SICK of being The Hero in an MMO, automatically, frequently starting at level one. While I would like to eventually become Heroic in some ways, I have zero interest in being The Hero.

I don't need to see the carrot being dangled in front of my nose. I don't need a game to hold my hand. I don't need neon signs pointing my way down what is ALREADY a one-way street. The treadmill is becoming more and more visible due to all this.

I, too, want to be Uncle Owen. (Well, Aunt Beru in my case). Even Owen & Beru have heroic possibilities.
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:57PM Lenn said

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@Shazzie If being burned to a crisp by imperial stormtroopers can be considered heroic, of course. :)
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Posted: Mar 24th 2012 2:25PM (Unverified) said

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@Lenn
Ever heard of a martyr?
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Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:04PM Deliverator said

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Nice article Jef.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:05PM (Unverified) said

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I don't think it's necessarily true, though, that just because we have ordinary lives we need to be "the hero" in an MMO. Single player games do a good job of letting you play as the hero. I think the role of MMOs is letting you play someone who's life is very different than yours, even if you're not the star hero of the world.

For example, I work at a desk all day and go home to normal chores, etc. Getting to play a character that lives off the land, or sneaks, steals and even murders to get by is far enough removed and interesting enough that it doesn't really matter if I am one of many equals in a world. What matters is how interesting that life is.

Frankly the focus now seems to be less on "how interesting is this character's life" and more on "how powerful are the clothes this character has collected" and that's why people aren't satisfied with being one of many, because the mechanics don't make living that alternate life interesting enough in itself, it's more about who's wearing the best stuff and running through the hardest content. That's fine for those enjoy that game, but it's not really much in the way of roleplaying.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 5:10PM Daemodand said

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I loved being "Uncle Owen" in Galaxies as a Droid Engineer. People would see a Jedi and not even blink. But when they saw me or any other Droid Engineer, they reacted like they were seeing something rare and special, because they were.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 6:01PM Ryukan said

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I'm a bit surprised some outfit hasn't made an MMO based on the Heroes tv show.

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 8:20PM willflynne said

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It's a tricky proposition. How do you give the players the feeling of being heroic without having everyone be "The Chosen One?" So far no one company has really come up with the right answer for everyone.

So far, the game that's come closest to that balance (for me) was SWG. Even with the NGE changes and some of the Mustafar missions, I never got the feeling that I was supposed to be Luke or Han, yet I still got to do heroic things in the game. At best, I always saw the players as being just under the level of characters like Wedge. We saw some action, but the big stuff was happening "off stage."

Someday we'll see a game that strikes that balance perfectly. Statistically speaking, it's bound to happen. LOL

Posted: Mar 23rd 2012 9:48PM Mikx said

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+1, although I'm not quite sure the problem is that 1000s of people get to be the single hero, and more that games expect you to be the hero all the time, which simply isn't realistic. If games could take a page from Master & Commander and expect players to be Fighting Naturalists (you get the idea) games wouldn't have all these problems.

Up to now, the only non-heroic thing you actually do is gather mats. Selling in the auction house isn't being a merchant, it is being afk. I'm quite intrigued by Pandaria's farming, and I wonder how players will take to it. If activities like that could be the tradeskills of tomorrow's games we'd be better off.

In-game, the main reason developers are turning towards instancing is while failure is okay, spending 2 hours fighting through a bunch of respawned mobs to get to the end of a cave, only to find three other groups are camping the boss is a kind of failure that is just intolerable to the player base, even if the players are all secretly uncle owens.

And then you have sheer laziness. Developers rely on openworld quests, which all funnel players into the same directions doing the same things. This can make everyone the hero if you're playing on a low pop server. Seeing 50 other people fighting over who can kill the rats just doesn't work. The problem isn't the players, it is the quests or the lack of content.

Posted: Mar 24th 2012 12:13AM The Moonshadow said

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This is why I love a well done sandbox. In a game that relies purely on player driven content, what you achieve becomes as real as any triumph can be in a virtual world. Using the old go to example of EVE, the truth is the ingame celebrities there are known to hundreds of thousands of players and have actually accomplished a certain level of heroism. Most players are at the nobody or grunt level, but at least we can strive to someday become somebody important due to unique ingame accomplishments not just an NPC telling us good job for the completion of some generic scripted instance encounter or finishing a kill ten rats quest.

Back when the TES MMO rumor was posted, I remember commenting that in all TES games you ARE a unique hero in that single player campaign. If they do end up releasing a TES MMO, I hope that we aren't supposed to be a hero of great destiny but just born into that world as a random nobody. A UO style sandbox could work very well with the TES IP, just not if there are thousands of Dovahkins running around, it would cheapen everything we know and love about the TES series.

Posted: Mar 24th 2012 8:19AM Maraq said

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@Jeff Reahard
Brilliant article.

@watchawatch's comment, that TSW emphasises that the player is not really the hero, but a cog in the machine.

I agree on this, and maybe MMORPG games can salvage a little integrity but making that state of affairs more a part of the lore and cut scenes, and flip flop less between "you're the star of the whole game" in cut scenes and "You're one of the herd, grind for gear!".

But we play a lot of fantasy based games, for escapism and also to feel like the hero. Hence why in some ways mmorpg's are driven by conflicting drives. You play to feel special, but you have to gear grind in exactly the same way as some wage slaves in real life do, with some getting luckier than others. Getting ahead in games often involves exploits and number crunching. not very heroic or escapist at all.

You advertise an mmorpg "where YOU can be the hero!" (translates YOU to EVERYONE), and as Jeff states, when everyone is, no-one is, and it starts looking like a digital version of "keeping up with the Jonese's"

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