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Working As Intended

Working As Intended: The unfortunate conflation of sandboxes and PvP

Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvP, Opinion, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Working As Intended

A certain perplexing belief about sandboxes pervades the blog comments, forums, and general chats of MMOs:

All MMO sandboxes are free-for-all PvP games. If it doesn't have free-for-all PvP, it's by definition not a sandbox because sandboxes let the players make all the rules and decisions. Free-for-all PvP adds the necessary spice to keep you on your toes and keep a game fresh. Without it, you may as well be playing The Sims.

All of these statements are wrong.

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Working As Intended: It's not the journey or the destination

Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, MMORPG, Working As Intended

FFXIV
If you play MMORPGs, you've no doubt been told, hundreds of times, "Slow down! Don't rush! Stop to smell the flowers! It's the journey, not the destination!"

Typically, you're being told to slow down in an MMO whose focus is the destination: the endgame. All the good stuff is at the end. The best dungeons are there. The best gear is there. The best PvP content and titles and achievements are there. The players the devs cater to are there. Patches and expansions provide new content there. In fact, the only reason to play the rest of the game is to level up to get there. The midgame is a hindrance, a barrier to the "real" game, and it's usually neglected by developers once most players are through it.

So if games themselves reward you only for arriving at the destination, why on earth should you feel bad for not savoring the journey?

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Working As Intended: The forgotten fields of Green Acres

Fantasy, Bugs, Business Models, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Guilds, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, Humor, Sandbox, Housing, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG, Working As Intended

Paolo Neo
My first trip to Ultima Online's Green Acres was in 1998. The first guild I'd ever joined had just split up into a bunch of... let's call them "philosophically incompatible" groups, and I was still hanging out with some of the shadier types because I was a clueless teenager in my first MMO and wanted desperately to fit in and hadn't yet figured out where I belonged.

"Hit this rune," my new guild leader commanded. His favorite murderin' weapon was a poisoned warfork. He was not a nice man. "I'm being evicted from my safehouse in Green Acres. Help me move my crap."

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Working As Intended: Dabbling in indie sandbox Villagers and Heroes

Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Casual, Sandbox, Crafting, Housing, Working As Intended

Villagers and Heroes
Villagers and Heroes is not the sort of sandbox that gets a lot of coverage in the gaming press. You can't gank in the game. No one will murder you for your ore or your logs. There are no petty internet crime lords generating scandals or developers being ousted for cheating. Clichéd zombies are not waiting to slaughter you come nightfall. You cannot fall off a cliff or treetop pathway to your death. You never have to walk 10 miles uphill in the snow both ways to get to your house. You don't have to wait in line for an instance. You don't really have to fight at all.

In fact, the worst thing that might happen to you is that you'll run out of energy.

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Working As Intended: What Guild Wars 2 got wrong

Business Models, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Endgame, Guild Wars 2, Crafting, Housing, Working As Intended

GW2
Back in March, I spent an entire Working As Intended column discussing the game mechanics that Guild Wars 2 got right. But that's just one side of the story. In order to be completely fair to the game and to myself, I want to grump about the things it got wrong. Don't take this as utter condemnation for the MMO; we're most critical of the things we love precisely because we love and know them so well and want them to be so much more. And in spite of all the things I love about Guild Wars 2, it's far too often living in the shadow of its older sibling.

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Working As Intended: Change for change's sake in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Business Models, Classes, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Miscellaneous, MMORPG, Working As Intended

Photo taken by Man vyi
MMORPGs struggle to meet two contradictory goals: They want to provide stability, permanence, a world you feel you can always come home to, and they want to provide dynamism, change, a world that always has something fresh and new. Lean too hard to one side -- change too much or too little -- and the backlash from fans and former fans and future fans can be overwhelming.

That's something Blizzard has never learned. With World of Warcraft, Blizzard is constantly chasing different demographics to maximize its playerbase, and those different demographics typically want different things out of the game, be they veterans or returnees or hardcores or casuals. Most of the game's expansions have retooled combat and classes and specs in some way, but in Cataclysm, and now again in Warlords of Draenor, the class revamps have been so far-reaching that they actually manage to turn off both veterans and returnees. Gamers, it seems, are willing to tolerate only so much dramatic change to their precious characters before rebelling.

This is a lesson City of Heroes could have taught World of Warcraft had Blizzard been listening.

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Working As Intended: There's nothing wrong with soloing in MMORPGs

Business Models, Economy, Game Mechanics, Guilds, MMO Industry, Opinion, Miscellaneous, Dungeons, Working As Intended

CoH
A Massively community member recently wrote into the podcast to tell us that he prefers to solo, to craft for himself, to avoid group quests, and to skip guilds. Still, he told us, he loves MMOs and doesn't want to leave them to play single-player RPGs. "What the hell is wrong with me?" he asked.

Nothing. Nothing at all. There's nothing wrong with soloing in MMORPGs.

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Working As Intended: What Guild Wars 2 got right

Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Guild Wars 2, Hands-On, Crafting, Buy-to-Play, Working As Intended

GW2
I returned to Guild Wars 2 recently after months away and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. No, there was nothing earth-shatteringly new, and no, I'm not going to praise the latest installment of the plot, but I realized that I'd forgotten just how much Guild Wars 2 managed to get right. I have many complaints about the game ranging from the way group combat in dungeons flopped to how the economy tanked to the fact that the living story bores me to tears. But Guild Wars 2 has some true nuggets of brilliance all the same, even if it doesn't have (I'm gonna say it) Cantha.

Let's talk about them.

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Working As Intended: Endgame is the worst thing that ever happened to MMOs

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, EverQuest, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, PvE, Opinion, Ultima Online, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, WildStar, Dungeons, MMORPG, Working As Intended

Taken by Bree Royce in Sacramento, CA
Endgame is the worst thing that ever happened to MMOs. I tweeted this last year, and it won't stop rattling around in my head. Every time a developer dodges concerns and leaps to his version of the "elder game," every time a reader claims a reviewer who doesn't get to endgame is irrelevant, and every time someone justifies a weak game mechanic because it doesn't matter at max level anyway, it rattles around some more. Endgame is the worst thing that ever happened to MMOs.

Having an endgame, thinking you need one, and designing your game around it -- this is the core problem of the MMO genre. No matter how hard you spin it, when you create a game with an endgame, you create a game with an end... and not much else.

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