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Role Playing (Games) Editorial Entertainment Games

The Trouble with MMORPGs 403

Posted by michael
from the lack-of-tribbles dept.
jasoncart writes "The trouble with MMORPGs is a humorous account of one gamer's struggle to find and assume his place in the rapidly evolving societies which form a part of the online RPG explosion. Ultimately, it is also a lament for the loss of direction that is the scourge of the genre."
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The Trouble with MMORPGs

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  • by soluzar22 (219097) * <soluzar@hotmail.com> on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:31PM (#7301386)
    I got to the same stage as this author about 6 years ago. I spent lots and lots of time playing MUDs - (remember MUDs? Nahh, didn't think so!) before there even were such things as MMORPGs, and while I loved it at the time, after a while you've just done it all, seen it all, and just don't want to do it again. As a result, I've never bothered playing any of the graphical MMORPGs. They can't be that different from MUDs really, can they? I mean, in the enjoyment factor?

    I enjoyed the social scene on my favourite MUDs but apart from the jadedness factor, they were a huge time (and money, this was pre-unmetered internet) sink.

    -- Soluzar
    • Really, you can't expect programmers to generate enough coherent scenarios to keep players interested, can you? If these games were to involve interesting plots, you'd keep running into people who had done exactly the same things as you, except that the demon/warlord/killer pig had a slightly different name. Hang on -- doesn't that happen anyway?

      No, human intervention is required to customise the experience, GM style. Smaller worlds are needed with restricted take-up of gamers.

      Either that, or stick to t

    • and a great one is DurisMUD [durismud.com].. durismud.org 6666
    • I watched my roommie in college waste a solid week of his life on these things. I'm in greater danger from Sid Meier products.
      The MMORPG that might be tempting would be an accurate historical one.
      What if you could go back in time to, I don't know, Homer's Greece and tool around with Jason ISO fleece?
      I hope that there aren't any archeology/history professors on /., because if they teamed up with the right coders, you could have a killer app.
      Even more frightening is the threat of the players learning som
    • Lineage is actually a pretty good game.

      I recommend it to people who don't want to be crowded in UO or would prefer a "darker" world than EQ.

      It is a timesink, all these games are.. hell, computers are.. it is just the way things work..

      anyway the site is at
      http://lineagethebloodpledge.com [lineagethe...pledge.com]
      easy to start, eases you into the game nicely (which is something none of the others do) and people are good..

      cheers
    • One of the best features of some MUDs I've played was the fact that after reaching a certain point in the game (level, quest goal, whatever), you could become one of the games content creators.

      You'd be given access to a rudimentary scripting language, given a "starting point" in the online world (a door, a cave entrance, whatever), and could create your locations and quests from that point on.

      Your creation would be "moderated" by other random people who have also been granted this benefit, so as to avoi

    • by stwrtpj (518864) <p@stewart.comcast@net> on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:46PM (#7302234) Journal
      I spent lots and lots of time playing MUDs

      There were also upmteen different varieties of the MUD that came out, many of which were devoted more to role-playing (RP) than level advancement.

      I was on PernMUSH (based on Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern universe) for 3 years, 2 site changes, and 1 database rebuild. It was a huge timesink for me because it was fun. And the main reason it was fun was because the PLAYERS got to decide what plots to RP. Anyone could come up with a plot, round up enough interested players, and RP it, so long as it fit within the framework of the Pern universe. And more often than not, if it were interesting enough, other players spontaneously joined in after it started.

      Sure, it had places where you could "advance" (you could become a dragonrider, or you could advance in a craft, etc), but in most cases, advancement was determined by other players based more or less on your RP activity rather than arbitrary tasks.

  • by GoofyBoy (44399)
    .. the real-life webserver PK'er.
  • text of article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:37PM (#7301465)
    If game developers knew about me, they'd try to bottle what I have - I am the equivalent of MMORPG litmus; an acid test. I've played most of the big ones - UO, EQ, AC, DAOC and now SWG, and I've exhibited the same reaction to almost all of them. You see, I'm always the fish that got away.

    It always starts so well. I install, register. Spend an age perusing arcane and obscure sites to find the elusive best combination of STR and DXT and INT for that uber nuking mage or damage soaking tank. I make the decision, create a character. I change my mind, re-roll and start again. I do this several times, until everything is just right. But finally, I'm happy. I enter the game world.

    And am immediately lost and confused. No MMORPG ever has managed to ease me into a game. Maybe I'm obtuse, but invariably someone takes pity on me and points me in the right direction - the rat/snake/mouse/snail killing fields, where I begin to cut my level 1 teeth with the other "n00bs". In UO and EQ, this was a delight - it was all new, we were all new back then. This was before the days of power levelling and macro'ing your way to level 40 before the game was even out. No. Back then, we ALL did our time in the rat fields. But despite the obvious menial nature of the task, it is still fun. The levels come quickly, new skills are learned and used, new items acquired and the next goal is only just around the corner. This is the MMORPG honeymoon period - the time where the grind is not just bearable, it's actually enjoyable. But like the real thing, the MMORPG honeymoon can't last.

    It begins to creep in, almost unnoticed. The levels are further apart. You begin to notice that newly acquired skills are carbon copies of the old ones, with a different coloured icon and a two percent damage increase. You start to get 'class envy' - that feeling that almost every other race/class/profession is better off than you, and that the developers have it in for you and your kind. Suddenly, you find yourself looking for groups because you're bored of soloing, or soloing because you can't find a group, or crafting because you can't be bothered with either. You try out all the little distractions the developers have put in the game to make things 'deep', only to find they're broken, bugged or plain pointless. But you're a trooper. You stiffen that upper lip and press on, certain that if you can only hang in there the good times will arrive and the game will be FUN again.

    It is at precisely this point, that me and others like me will part ways with our more determined MMORPG brethren. I, you see, am a quitter. And that's why developers should listen to me, because it is me and those like me who cannot be retained after the free month. Simply put, if I'm paying for it, then it's a winner. And I tell you all honestly, I'm TIRED of quitting. I want to proudly display my level 75 death mage to all and sundry. I want to tell bored "n00bs" of how I acquired my shiny Boots of Relentless Perseverance + 2 after a three day battle with a fire giant. I want to be that guy - I have it in me, to be that sad.

    But frankly, and I mean this in the nicest possible sense, all the MMORPGs out there bore me senseless after two or three weeks. So where are they going wrong? Well, if you're still reading at this point, I'm going to tell you. Here follows Nick's list of MMORPGs do's and dont's... so without further ado, and in no particular order...

    1) DON'T use me as pest control:

    I've killed them all - rats, spiders, snakes, snails, wasps, worms, beetles etc. And more to the point, I've BEEN killed by them all. I'm tired of this crap - I know MMORPGs must have a sense of progression and therefore start small, but can't I start a bit higher up the food chain? For God sake, in real life I could give most decent sized mammals a good hiding and I don't even possess a shock spell or whirlwind attack. Let me fight something bigger.

    2) DO allow me to play how I like, when I like:

    I keep unusual hours. It's a by product of being
    • Re:text of article (Score:2, Informative)

      by Paolomania (160098)
      If I'm right, then some time next year, Blizzard will show us all what we've been missing.

      Along those lines, Blizzard has just updated the WoW site with an overview [blizzard.com] of how their quest system will work.

      • I think that portion of the article is a good example of what is wrong with a lot of MMOG players. They find they don't like what they've already played, yet they still look towards the next game as if it's going to solve all of the problems. The author of the article already knew far more about WoW than I had even known was available about the game, and was writing about it as if he had already played the game.

        WoW may or may not solve some of the problems with MMOGs, but it's not out yet and no one will e
    • Re:text of article (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cranesan (526741)
      >>I've played most of the big ones - UO, EQ, AC,
      >>DAOC and now SWG, and I've exhibited the same
      >>reaction to almost all of them. You see, I'm
      >>always the fish that got away.

      The fish that got away? How much money did the game companies get, for selling this dude the box set to each game, and 6+ months of monthly service... the article talks about how the players are losing out, but as long as we consumers pass along the message that what they give us is profitable they will keep chur
    • Re:text of article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Quixadhal (45024) on Friday October 24, 2003 @02:48PM (#7302834) Homepage Journal
      I hate to say it, but ALL the so-called MMORPG games are based on 12 year old technology. They used to be called MUD's, used to be free to play, and required only a telnet client to play. The had this awesome graphics engine called "imagination" that let you read efficient little text descriptions and picture scenes that have yet to be created in any 3D game to date.

      SWG innovated by offering in-depth crafting and non-combat experience? Please. BatMUD did this a decade ago, and is still around and going strong. All of the things that these new graphical games are experimenting with are well-established ideas from text-based games.

      I know, text games aren't COOL enough for today's kids. If it doesn't induce nausea at 120FPS or more, it's boring. Try playing one though. Yes, there are lots of them out there, and many of them are cookie-cutter garbage. But some of the larger ones really do provide good gameplay, and well crafted environments. Plus they don't cost you $50 to try.

      I have also tried several of the MMORPG's, and the only one I ever went back to was DAoC, mainly because I liked the overall feel. I don't play them as much (since my cable modem is slow all too often), but I do hop on every so often when I want some eye-candy.

      *I* am the favorite player of the company. I pay my $12/month and probably play about 20 hours or so, as opposed to the uber-leveler who plays 12 hours a day every day just to see if they can max out every class before the next expansion. :)
  • We simply hang in there, hoping it will get better, blaming ourselves for the lack of content in their game.

    "It's our fault", we say, "that I am not enjoying this as much as I did when I first started. If I just hang in there, and believe, it will all be ok"

    We're sorta like battered wives, except we pay for the privledge.
  • Back to MUDs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shihar (153932) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:41PM (#7301513)
    Simply put, MMORPGs are years behind MUDs. MMORPGs these days are glorified versions of Diablo. Even the most trade skill savvy MUDs really have just reduced trade skills into a Diablo equivalent... press this button so many times and win a prize. MMORPGs do not have consistent or coherent worlds. They rely purely upon addictive game mechanics and social communities built within the game to thrive. Personally, I went through the stage where I tried out addiction and found it to be less then enjoyable once I stepped back and realized how utterly boring these games were.

    These days, I stick to MUDs. MUDs are light years ahead of MMORPGs. For instance, the MUD I normally play, ArmageddonMUD http://www.armageddon.org/ has a coherent world, enforced RP, and permanent death. No MMORPG comes even close to this. The game is NOT built around slaughtering thousands of NPCs. Just like in real life, it will only get you dead.

    The day that MMORPGs will become worth while is when they find a formula other then pure addiction to keep people active. I think A Tale in the Desert is a great leap forward. Combining that sort of game play in with traditional action and adventure is where I believe it is at.

    Personally, I will go back to MMORPGs the second one manages to pull off true permanent death. MUDs have been able to pull it off and keep the game enjoyable, yet MMORPGs have not even been able to make the effort. Permanent death forces the game world to be coherent and for combat to less then mindless. I think that we have many years to come before MMORPGs can pull off what MUDs have already done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:41PM (#7301516)
    If this genre doesn't die soon you can get ready for GENERATION LARD - kids who will spend 18 hours a day having sex chat under the auspices of slaying dragons. While they will quickly get over the psychological issues of male/male sex chat posing as teenage lesbian sex chat, it will be hard for them to physically cope with excessive masturbation being their only form of exercise.
  • by Jason1729 (561790) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:41PM (#7301517)
    Don't make me pay for the game twice:

    If you charge a monthly fee to maintain your virtual world, that's okay. Just don't charge a second time for the game itself. The "game" in the box is just a client to connect to the real game on the server. It's as stupid as if AOL charged $50 for those CDs they give away and then charged their monthly fee.

    By charging $50 just to get one's foot in the door, you chase of 90% of the people who would try the game if it just cost the first month's fee. At least some of those people would stick around.

    Jason
    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
    • That $50 box might be the best way for them to get their game into the retail channel.
    • Nope.
      People generally believe free things are of lower quality than things they pay for. 90% of people will believe that the slick box they paid $50 for is worth that $50.

      If it were free, then they might also start to wonder about how much they're really paying for it through that monthly fee.

      Furthermore, the games are generally of low enough actual quality that the company has to cover their costs up front as much as possible, in order to cover those who drop out after the first month - a large percentag
      • the games are generally of low enough actual quality that the company has to cover their costs up front as much as possible, in order to cover those who drop out after the first month - a large percentage of their inital player-base due to the aforementioned low quality.

        So what you're basically saying is that the upfront cost means the game sucks because the company needs to recoup their costs right away. It's better to wait until a game does come out with no upfront costs because then they have faith t
    • Either that or give away more than one free month with the box. If there were, say, three free months added in, it wouldn't be that big of a deal - it would end up working out about the same anyway.

      Of course, all that the people at the company see is, "but we'll be losing out on [2 months of subscription fees|$50 / box]!"

      More importantly, though, is a TRIAL. How many times have you wanted to try a game, but definitely didn't want to spend $50 for it just to see how good it is? A three-day trial would b
    • That's great for gamers, but it doesn't fit into the current channel that retail understands. How would you get a company to put a $0.00 box on its shelves? Even if you go the route of making them pay the first month up front, that's still what - a $20.00 box? Not much profit for the sellers unless they give the software out to the retailers for nothing. And they can't sell it at $50.00 a pop and then give you two months for free or they'd go out of business before they could get everyone's 3rd month su

    • by brkello (642429) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:17PM (#7301916)
      I totally disagree. Your complaint is valid and I don't think anyone would mind a drop in price, but I don't really think that is the real problem with MMORPG. If you want to fix your problem, then people need to form sort of boycott not buying until they do this. While people are willing to shell out the cash, there is no need to change (even if you think they would profit in the end). I think they would lose money for exactly the reasons discussed in the article. Most players are going to quit because they get bored. Therefore if the company loses that $50 chunk up front, they will be losing money when everyone quits after their free trial period is up or after the first month of playing.

      These games need to be fun in both the earlier stages when everything is new and fast and the latter stages (right now when you are high level everything is slow and tedious). If the game is fun to play for a longer period of time, more people will stay, giving more profit to the company. But how do you do this? The article brings up good points. I also think if MMORPG stole some ideas from single player games. Stick in some major quests, when you beat it throw in a CGI sequence that continues the plot for your character. Keep adding these for higher levels and maybe have some quests that are so tough, only the highest level players could dream of completing them and make it actually have an effect on the overall game world. For example, have a giant dragon ravage the country side. Everyone will have to run from it except the highest levels. Eventually, when someone beats it, it is gone. Maybe make it explode treause all over the whole viftual world. Or have some quest that would be incredibly difficult to solo. And the first character able to do it gets to build their own castle adding more npcs and quests for all. I think these features are something that would keep me in a game, because like the author, I quit these things after a month too.
      • I have to agree with you that pricing is not the main problem, though I dislike the current pricing structure of MMORPGs enough that I refuse to play them.

        I think you finally hit on the right idea in the second to last sentence. The only feasible answer I can think of is player created quests.

        Player created quests would have to have specific conditions in order to fulfill them, with specific reward(s) specified beforehand, and would have to be managed through the game itself. Thus both parties could be su
    • This is one reason why I love America's Army. The second reason is because I don't have to pay a monthly fee.


      Okay, so my tax dollars go towards this, but at least I can say they're well spent tax dollars. In fact, I hereby declare that all of my tax dollars go towards development and maintenence of AA:Ops. Fuck interstates, education, the FCC, and any Senator that gave herself a raise. My dough is going exclusively to AA:Ops.

    • I disagree with this. Although I'm less likely to make the initial investment required to play a game which requires a software purchase, plus monthly licensing fees, once I make that crucial purchase, you'd better believe I'm going to be playing it for several months.

      I currently refer to this as the Star Wars Galaxies syndrome. Lots of people paid for a game that was ready for beta 3 when it hit the shelves. They played in a world that was incomplete and buggy, and the initial weeks saw crucial nerf af
  • Studies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scoot G (714257)
    We did a study on this in my Social Issues In Computing class last year. Online RPG'ing is a scary thing. People get sucked in and lost the ability to coherently act outside of the game. Who do we blame? The gaming organization? I don't think so. They are just good at what they do. It is like when Coca Cola put traces of cocaine in their soda. They were just good at getting people addicted...then the whole cocaine is illegal thing came to notice. Oh well.
    • Dude,

      Check out Snopes.com and you'll find that Coca-Cola didn't add cocaine to their soda, it was part of the original formula (Coca leaves and Kola nuts) and was originally designed as a medicine, not as a beverage.

      You'll also find that the chemists at Coca-Cola worked hard to remove every last trace of the 'cocaine' part of the coca leaves extract, but management felt there had to be some coca leaf extract in the formula so they could keep their every important Trademark.
  • MUDs had it right... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by normal_guy (676813)
    One word: JediMud. The economy was barter-based, the world was dynamic and quests were DM'ed by former players. The best part of all was you could only get as high as level 30 (still 40-50 hours of play) before being forced to become immortal or remort. After remorting you got a 1-point bonus to one stat. That kind of system would really cut down on what I consider the worst aspect of MMORPGs, lifeless nerds playing for 80 hours a week and effectively 'ruining the curve'.
  • What is next? An article from a net "pundit" declaring MMORPGS dead? Every other article anymore is "is the internet dying?" "is bluetooth dead?" "is _____ dying?" Okay I am going to become a "genius" right now, you heard it here first "Wi-Fi is dying." There you go, slap a beret and some horn rimmed glasses on me now, I am officially a "genius".
  • That in the end the game system is the same:
    Do x to get y
    OR
    Kill n monsters to level up.

    So in the end, you're doing highly receptivity tasks for less and less return. This is not to say that these types of tasks don't have a place in the game play (or in real life either, you don't start out as an Karate black belt and must practice to perform better and better, but after a while, you've done it all and your skill doesn't rise - a gross simplification, but a useful one).

    Where I think these games fail is i
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:50PM (#7301618)

    But you're a trooper. You stiffen that upper lip and press on, certain that if you can only hang in there the good times will arrive and the game will be FUN again.

    You, sir, should avoid cocaine at all costs.

    Weaselmancer

    • I think that's the funniest thing I've read in weeks.

  • yeah well when I jump on a treadmill, I expect to lose weight... not gain it.
  • by tarnin (639523) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:53PM (#7301652)
    They try and tailor each game to nothing more than time sinks. The longer your play the more money they make. This right there takes the "fun" factor away and adds in the grind. Why do the developers think its fun to go on a 14 hr raid to maybe get a piece of eq that I might need at some point in my characters life. Also, after the initial time sinks have been reached, instead of rewarding you they add more! Look at EQ and DAoC. Both of which have added pay for expansions that do nothing more than give you more pretty pictures and a TON more time sinks.

    At some point they have to realize that time sinks do not equal long term cash. Maybe back in the day when EQ and UO were the only game in town could this be done. Now, there are litterly hundreds of new MMORPGs on the horizon lining up to get a piece of the pie.

    Devs!! It's time to remember that we play these games for FUN not for another grind akin to our every day lives.
    • by JMZero (449047) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:32PM (#7302090) Homepage
      I think the focus needs to shift in RPG's away from leveling at all. Progression should be made mostly outside of computer. Want to kill dragons instead of rats? Then you're going to have to get good at playing the game. You (the person outside the computer) are going to have to gain new skills.

      Whether the actual skills required to have your character succeed involve manual dexterity, fast thinking, good memory, or knowledge of the game world doesn't matter - and perhaps it could vary by class.

      A lot of the fun of a game is getting better at the game (like I'm good at Super Monkey Ball) - where you are able to do things you just couldn't do before. Levelling is one way to have that happen, but it's artificial and ultimately unsatisfying - especially in a competitive setting where the winner is determined primarily by time/luck/cheating (rather than skill/focus).

      If progress was based on progressing the skill of the player, imagine how much more satisfying it would be. Ever wonder why the first month of an MMORPG is satisfying? Because that's when YOU are gaining the skill to play,instead of your character.
  • by Xentax (201517) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:55PM (#7301680)
    ...as far as I'm concerned, anyway. I'm in the last stages of burning out on SWG big-time. As usual, that's more depressing than surprising, I knew going in that they'd have to really bust ass to keep me interested beyond a month. Considering how many other 39.99 or 49.99 games have only held my attention for a month or two, though, that's not a terrible thing, just another bad game to stack beside the various bad games and bad movies that come and go between the rarer good stuff.

    I also share the author's hope that World of Warcraft will actually BE DIFFERENT than the mass-multi's we've seen so far. I sum up my feeling on that as: "If anyone can do it, Blizzard can".

    But that still leaves me wondering *if* anyone can. I mean, how can the content creators ever hope to keep up with the powergamers? It takes 10 or even 100 times as long to create a robust, interesting, and distinctive quest or mission as it does for a typical player to complete it (at least, that's the sort of numbers game developers have tossed out when asked). Solutions like EQ epic quests aren't the answer, because they force the player to join enormous guilds in order to access significant amounts of the game's content, forces an amount of play (in terms of per session and per day or week) that is more than many players can afford to give.

    So, have the releases thus far been unable to keep it fresh and interesting because of incompetence or poor design choices (as the author claims), or is actually an unsolvable problem?

    Xentax
    • by autechre (121980) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:43PM (#7302209) Homepage
      Babylon 5, all flamewars aside, stands out from other series of its kind mainly because the entire 5-season storyline was written ahead of time. There were story arcs spanning multiple seasons, as well as fun little non-arc episodes. This is in contrast to most series, where the people behind it might come up with a rough overall sketch for the next season, but there's no solid framework that's been well thought out in advance, and when your ability to come up with new ideas falls behind the schedule of shows, it comes apart.

      So maybe the way to keep people playing is to not keep them playing, so to speak. Come out with a game and say, "This game will be around until November 2005" (if it came out today). Have a coherent overall storyline and subplots, with contingency plans in case the users change the flow of things too far in one direction. Create an ultimate evil that needs HORDES of high-level warriors of all sorts to even meet face-to-face, let alone kill. And maybe in the end, if they don't have the strength, the players lose! Have events play out so that the big climactic battle is about a month before the game itself ends to provide a little coda and see what happens.

      I think planning ahead like this will merge the best elements of offline RPGs and MMORPGs. There probably will be "heroes", or at least local badasses that everyone in town knows because they are fanatical players and have amazing powers.

      This would be far cooler than, say, PSO Online: "Well, 534 teams of 4 people each have destroyed the 'ultimate evil' repeatedly, and that's just today." Better to have a definitive end, going out with a bang and all that.

      • by Noren (605012) on Friday October 24, 2003 @04:09PM (#7303775)
        In addition to being free to download and having a free 24 hours-of-actual-played-time trial as others have mentioned, A Tale in the Desert [atitd.com] is explicitly intended to have a finite story arc. In theory, it's supposed to last a year, although we're nine months in and as far as I can tell we're about halfway through.

        It is expected that there will be a Second Telling once we win/lose this one. (basically, a complete reset with unspecified changes in world/tech/mechanics/etc.) Many people seem interested in staying after this reset, but it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the player base.

  • I used to hate having to do pest control in games (killing rats and rabbits for those who didn't read the article). But I put this akin to being a tutorial before the main game. In most MMORPG's I've played you don't feel "established" until you hit at least level 10 or so. Fighting little woodland creatures is the easiest way to accomplish this in my opinion. It's the MMORPG way of having a tutorial level.
  • by Knife_Edge (582068) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:00PM (#7301725)

    Is systemic. These being 'persistent' worlds, they permit somebody to spend all their time in them, 16 hours a day if they like (although that is an extreme example). Yet the only way to get anywhere faster in the game is to spend more time at it.

    Ordinary, casual gamers are forced to compete with everyone else in the game for the status/level of accomplishment they want, and to do this they have to run on a treadmill that just keeps getting steeper. Most people cannot devote 8 hours a day to the game, for the average person, even an hour every day works out to quit a lot.

    Anybody who doesn't have some kind of obsession with in game achievements (which are NOT IMPORTANT, it's supposed to be a game, fun, not a substitute for real life), is eventually going to throw up their hands, questioning "How many rats do I have to kill?!" What happens is that the distance between the levels/goals you want to achieve keeps getting broader, yet the activities to reach them don't get consistently more challenging. It's just the same old repetition, and once it goes on long enough without you getting anywhere, you have to question the legitimacy of your goal. Is getting there really fun, or are you only trying to get there to get ahead of other people? If it's the latter, the game is probably adding more stress to your life than it relieves.

    For the people on top, who essentially have free run of the game, it is fun, but to get to their level you have to spend ungodly amounts of time in the game, to the point where it is overwhelming your entire life. But that's the only way to get there. If they didn't do it, someone else would. Remember what I said about status in-game being the result of a competition between all the players, with those who spend the most time winning?

    Everybody wants to feel like a winner, in life or even in any game where there is competition. But you have to ask yourself at some point, do I want to be a winner at point and click killing? The best trader of nonexistent commodities? How much are you willing to sacrifice for these things? For most people, MMORPGs make the sacrifice far too great.

    • Perhaps future games could go some way to level the playing field a great degree by asking about (and then tracking) expected playtime/week (or day, etc). Based on the answer (1 hr/day or ~7 hrs/week), you are directed to a subset of servers to play against others with a similar schedule. For those lunatics with no life who can spend unlimited time online, there should be a subset of dedicated servers for them and them alone. They don't get ungodly advantage over most others because they are playing agai

  • Planetarion, the one I'm addicted to, is entirely browser based, with no fancy graphics. There is no "levelling-up", the combat is entirely player vs. player, and all you have to do to get new skills is choose which one you want to research next. The gameplay is all in the co-operation of players, forming alliances, trying to get into better alliances, defending your friends, ganging up on your enemies, outthinking dumb people and general larking about with likeminded people in irc. It's even inspired sever
    • I think the most interesting (and sad) thing about the MMORPG you're pimping is the fact that there are NO screenshots and/or gameplay demonstrations anywhere on the site.

      If they want people to sign up and play, they need to be absolutely clear (with pictures and descriptions) as to what it is they're getting into.

      I'd consider it...if it had such information.

      No wonder they're losing business.
      • There are no screenshots because there are no graphics!

        It's all HTML, and you play it in your browser. The game itself (even the free trial) has no adverts, but there is 1 per page on the support pages.

        Descriptions of what's going on are in the introduction to the manual. [planetarion.com]

        It's probably my fault you missed this, because I decided to link to the sign-up page rather than the manual, partly because I hate the design of the manual (it's nothing like the design of the game pages, which are skinnable), and I t
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Planetarion started to suck the moment they started making those "improvements". People researched certain technology lines with long term strategy in mind, spent vast resources on properly balanced fleets, only to find the whole universe trashed by the latest "improvement".

      Planetarion suffered (fatally) from the designers not knowing what they wanted. By the time they'd changed the rules for the Nth time, they'd pissed off everybody with any ambition or clue.
    • I also recall when Planetarion was free (I dont know, 4th or 5th generation when I started) that the player associations or whatever they were called all banded together and became so powerful taking over so many planets that the game was pointless. My galaxy in peticular was doing very well (on the top 10 list) by itself until the folks in one of the associations crushed each and every one of us in one swift move. No protection against it, nothing to do but ruin 6 months of hard gaming.

      Because of that exp
      • Yes 'blocking' of alliances has been a problem in Planetarion, but I guess if you have a war game there are going to be casualties. I was top 20 individually in round 8 when I got bashed back to the stone age like you are describing. Nowadays, alliances are fiercely proud of not being block members (despite ofc forming bloocks anyway and lying about it on the forums!) for exactly this reason. The trick is to pick the winning side, not the losing one.

        Having said that, the new round (10) has some degree of p
  • I think you mean 'lack of direction.' Loss implies that the genre had direction at one point, which it didn't. ^_^
  • If you feel your MMPORPG isn't keeping up with your actions, the gameplay may need tightening. Click here [fitness-equipment.com] for more information.

  • by objwiz (166131)
    I have to agree so much about the staleness of MMORPGs. But I read about Second Life [secondlife.com] here on /. and I am in love again with online gaming. It is a totally different experience, nothing I could have prepared myself for. I certainly thought I would be bored with it but I'm not!

    Seriously, I recommend giving it a try...
  • Neverwinter Nights (Score:4, Informative)

    by bucketoftruth (583696) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:05PM (#7301793)
    I was as jaded as the author after running through all the same games as him. Then I took a break and played some Neverwinter Nights (the built in campaign). It was fun, well balanced good ol' D&D. Then I tried the online client. WOW! Log into a NWN persistent world and it's like a free MMORPG without the MM part. It's not huge, but it's not crowded either. There are great tradeskills, class balance is never an issue, selective PvP, dynamic mob gen... everything works so well. Give it a shot if you're burned out on paying monthly fees for garbage.
    • I was wondering if someone would mention NWN. The trick to this game is that the developer is not making money from the online game. The worlds are free player-run games. Yes, the gameplay can be clumbsy, and relying on free services is hit and miss at best, but solves the "time sink" dilemma.

      I am a member of the Lands of Lore [nwnchat.com] nwn community, a very popular Neverwinter Nights persistant world.
    • Do you have any suggestions of where to look for the better persistant worlds? I bought it a few months back, but never made the leap from playing the solo modules.
      • by Slicebo (221580)
        http://nwvault.ign.com is a community site with links to various persistent worlds (and community ratings of those sites are available.)

        Also try searching for "Neverwinter Connections", another well-regarded community site.
  • I want a MMORPG with a "serial killer" type of character. That would get me to sign up. We misanthropes need a healthy outlet, too!

    Yeah. That's be sweet. The Everquest Chainmail Massacre. Yeah. Mmm hmmm. I want me some o' that.

  • EQ, UO, AO, and SWG...I have played them all, and I think I know the problem. I don't want to bitch about them. I have enjoyed them all in some way, but have also found several major flaws that I think turn the genre into the boring grind so many hate after they get up a few levels.

    1. How bout adding community us against them scenarios? Ultima had this for a while, and it was really great. An invasion of the town, everyone running to the city gates or bridge to help repel the AI enemy. Fighting and almost
    • Actually... Planet-side (kind of) addresses both those issues. I don't play it, because I know I'll get bored with the genre.. But Planetside isn't an MMORPG. It's a Massively Multiplayer On-Line Squad-Based Tactical Combat... Like Tribes, but more people. In fact, exactly like tribes, but more people. It has the same things that made it fun; When you get good enough (your skill, not numbers on the screen), yes, you can go out alone and whoop ass. And, of course, the whole point of planetside is to beat the
  • by ivan256 (17499) * on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:12PM (#7301850)
    Every time somebody tries to spell out what's wrong with MMORPGs they always get lost in the technical minutia and miss the big picture.

    Multiplayer RPGs aren't anything new, they've been played with dice and pencils for decades, and these problems have all been solved there. People aren't tired of killing orcs in D&D. Pest control isn't the problem.

    Making an RPG fun is about rewards. On a basic level, the player has fun when they are rewarded for their effors. The trouble is that giving the same reward over and over quickly looses it's apeal. It's hard, however, to create reward variety in an MMORPG because intangible rewards require a lot of creative output. There can't be a controlled plot because there are just so many people that it's infeasable to create that much independant content. This has caused the entire genre to fall into the trap of using levels, experience, and items as the sole rewards. After a while, another level is just a number on the screen, and another item is just another item. Unless the actual game play is it's own reward players will get tired of the game. This means that unexpected things need to happen that cause the players to think critically and encourage them to play the role. It means that every adventure can't be another version of "go kill this thing"; and it doesn't matter if that thing is a rat, or some new creature you've never seen. You'd get tired of all of it if that's all you did.

    Sure, there's a small protion of gamers out there that will be sitisfied with seeing the level number go up over and over, but most people will find that it gets old quick.

    Now if only the solution was simple....

    The only options I see aren't compatible with the "let's make buckets of money for something we used to only be able to charge $50 for" model that most of these games follow. Either the game has to build a community that can support it on social merit alone, which people will not be willing to pay large sums of money for, or large numbers of creative professionals will have to be employed on the server side (think like the precursor to interactive entertainment as described in "The Diamond Age"), which would also cut severly into obscene profits. Either way, it seems to me that the massivly profitable MMORPG will soon be a thing of the past.
    • The trouble is that giving the same reward over and over quickly looses it's apeal.

      A cure for this was found in the Diablo series of games - random items. It made it so that they gave the same reward over and over, but since there was always a chance if you getting better and better items, it was still VERY addictive. Why no MMORPG has implemented this item system is beyond me. I knew people in Diablo that would spend HOURS and HOURS just searching for items, and getting some relatively nice stuff, too
      • A cure for this was found in the Diablo series of games - random items.

        That just delays the inevitable. Eventually you end up not caring what item you may get because either what you have to do to get it is the same as what you did for the last 5000 items you got, or because the chance of getting an item better than the one you've got is close to 0.
  • by lysium (644252) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:19PM (#7301945)
    Today's game developers are trying to create novels out of short story material. Grand worlds that take 72 real-world hours to cross, epic plot lines that never enter the player's experience, characters that take months of play to be useful in the world. They are designing games that they think are going to be played indefinately.

    Why not scale things down a bit? Why not have a finite plotline that runs for a few months, at which point the game is over? When the game is over, the next plotline begins -- think of the serial adventures of Hurcules and Xena to know what I mean. Limit the game to a reasonable amount of players (fork multiple smaller worlds if need be), so everyone has a chance for involvement.

    As long as developers are working on a hollywood style of production, backed by marketeers who want to lock-in subscriptions (guess why leveling up takes 1.5 pay cycles......), we are going to be playing some seriously boring games. Someone needs to break out of the mold.....without the big-studio budget that destroys innovation.

    ===========

  • My thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bendebecker (633126) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:20PM (#7301954) Journal
    1. This guy is about as egotistical as they come. I have rarely seen such arrogance and if this is his regular attitude then I am not suprised he has difficulty finding parties.

    2. The fact that he gives up in the first month is less a litmus test for how good the game is and more a litmus test on your ability to stick with something. If you aren't going to pay beyond the first free month than why should the developers care about you? They care about paying cutomers and drawing more, the way he talks it sounds liek he'll never pay unless an impossibly good game comes out. He won't pay till .hack//sign comes out in the real world.

    3. It sounds less like the MMORPG's are bad and more like you just don't like playing MMORPG's. If you think the game sucks, don't play em! There is always in all markets an element of the population that is simply not interested in the given product. If you fall into taht group, deal with it and stop complaining. There is more to life than MMORPG's.

    4. Because I am drawn to them as the moth is to the flame. I have a history of single-handedly and without prior research, choosing as my own the class or profession that is clearly 'screwing the pooch'. Reminds me of the fat guy blaming MickeyD's for his weight problems cause they are making the food look too good. Plus, the grass is almost always greener on the other side of the fence. If you think your class sucks, dump it and start a new one.

    5. I'll say it again. If you don't like a game, don't play it! Ever game eventually gets old. No game is perfect. Just becuase you can't play a game infinitely doesn't mean that it should be changed just to please you.

    About your critism of the current MMORPG's, okay, some do suck major ass. Blizzard's does sound cool, but when you look at their record of how they treat their customers and the time frames of how long it takes to actually get problems fixed on their regualr games, I wouldn't go jumping off into WoW. Wait a month, see some real feedback. And yes, I am Diablo 2 player.
  • All games suck except some variant of Quake (and basically just Quake): Left, Right, Up, Down, Shoot. Play for 15 minutes. Start over.

    Once you turn 18 that's about it. It just takes you 10 years to realize that.
  • I think that one fundamental weakness of MMORPGs is the requirement to be "massively" multiplayer. The desire to cater to the percieved "needs" of thousands of diverse players, with wildly different desires from a game, results in watered-down "least-common-denominator" games that meet SOME of the needs of MOST of the customers.

    That's why I think that Neverwinter Nights is taking an interesting approach to the problem by producing a "game creation and management" platform that customers can use to build a
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:31PM (#7302070) Homepage
    Ok, try America's Army [americasarmy.com]. They have a solution to the "newbie needs guidance" problem.

    Drill sergeants.

    America's Army makes you go through basic training before you can play.

    On the tech front, America's Army now has a Linux version for 64-bit Athlons, shipping as a bootable disk. Now that's cutting-edge technology.

    And it's all free. You can even run your own server.

    Of course, if you do well, they try to get you to enlist in the real army.

  • Would a kind soul explain what "crafting" is, in relation to MMORPGs?

    Also, what's an "overarching storyline"? I did a search on google and it's funny that it is used almost exclusively in game reviews.

    • Crafting is like an online scavenger hunt. Some game designers seem to feel that the more useless objects that drop off mobs and can be player-created the more "real" a game is. So one key element of most MMORPGs now are the zillions of weird items, body parts, and other components that you can pick up and do something with. Most of the time you sell this junk or you "combine" it in a container or device to create another item.

      The concept of crafting sounds neat at first, but all it does it put you on a
  • Is finding something to do.

    They are always based around the concept of 'killing things for experience', which means that groups of players are always waiting around common monster spawning areas ready to jump on whatever pops up.

    So you end up sitting around a lot making small chat with whoever it waiting near you (many people). You're in a lineup to kill monsters that randomly appear. I don't see how that's much better than sitting in an arcade in the 80's waiting for the Galaga machine to be free.

    At low
  • I did try once.

    I logged in, picked up a sword, said hello to someone who wandered by (who ignored me). Went north and was killed by a wizard.

    Total playing time: 7 minutes.

    Funnily enough, I never bothered going back again.

  • 1) DON'T use me as pest control
    Oh lord, the author nails this. I spent an entire weekend, about 22 hours, killing spiders and wolves to level my Barbarian Warrior high enough to take on the dreaded Baby Mammoths. Ohhhhhh. And guess what, they weren't worth my time or effort.

    Now, some will ask "why didn't you go somewhere else?" Simply put, I couldn't. You can't move a Level 1 - 10 character outside of a "newbie" zone or risking dying. A LOT.

    2) DO allow me to play how I like, when I like
    Yes Yes Yes
  • Morrowind was like this for me. The frustratingly long walks everywhere. The pointless leveling. The combat style that lacked any element of fun.

    I think that this sort of style in gaming is getting more popular in all genres. If developers do not have to worry about fun, they can concentrate on the parts of a game that do not require inspiration. They pretty up the art. They can program by template instead of using new ideas.
  • ... when it comes out. I'm just guessing on the content of this article since it's already Slashdotted and no one seems to have posted a copy, strangely enough, but it seems that he's beored with over-defined "games" that require significant blocked time effort and mandate certain types of social interaction to achieve anything "fun".

    Frankly, maybe you should re-visit the type of "game" you play. I plan to start Uru (aka Mudpie, aka Online Myst) as soon as it comes out for just this reason. You completely
  • by Duncan3 (10537) on Friday October 24, 2003 @02:41PM (#7302760) Homepage
    American MMORPG have quite simply become MMOFPSG. No more roleplaying, way more FPS.

    3-D graphics engines, complex and pointless interface controls, with camera positioning and such of course, blah blah blah. Where are the deep quests the more-then-trivial guild structures and behefits... etc.

    Maybe that's why the largest MMORPGs in the world are still 2-D.

    MMORPG's need WRITERS not more caffine tweaked coders. You know, those creative types geeks are raised to dispise... problem is, THEY make good games.

    And that's why games are so damn lame after the first couple weeks... there really is nothing more to do.
  • by Chris Canfield (548473) <slashdotNO@SPAMchriscanfield.net> on Friday October 24, 2003 @02:53PM (#7302893) Homepage
    One of the major problems with MMPORPGs is they know they can't fit a traditional Japanese RPG Savior of the World goal structure into the game, so they hardly try with any goals. This needs to change, as goal-based gaming is far more rewarding than treadmilling.

    For example, a player's NPC family might be sick, and the medicine is only available in a certain higher-level area that is significantly higher than the player's current level, and which is only available as an item to those who have sick families. Or perhaps a certain number of people start in a city that has been raided, and their purpose in the game is to rescue their Husband / Wife. Perhaps, as in SWG, there could be some form of Nirvana that individuals can reach by attaining X powers.

    But all of this ignores the secret of good storytelling: it doesn't have to be consistent across all listeners, it just has to all make sense to each one. Phantasy Star Online did this admirably, with small groups venturing down to the planet's surface and miraculously not encountering the other groups on the surface. Many caves or dungeons in MMPORPGs would be significantly more emotionally gripping if they weren't full of hundreds of "William teh Great"s and "Yo m0t4a fuXor"s running around complaining about how easy the dungeon was. Why not have certain, if not most dungeons be party-based?

    For that matter, why have goals be consistent? Maybe every now and then a few people in the world get singled out to form an impromptu party because they came across Midgard while it was being set ablaze by a Balrog, and it is their duty to defeat it. Maybe this happens to most people at a rough skill level in the game. Maybe not. Anyone else who happens across Midgard during that time gets the regular version.

    You could take it one step further and have this as a function of the gameworld, ALA Silent Hill. The universe is being swallowed up by Hell (or The Nothing, for the Atreyu fans out there). It is your job to claw your way out. Or reach your goal, and stay to become one of the architects of hell. Maybe to some characters you speak a baffling language, to others you speak plain english. Maybe some characters watch as the world crumbles into a drug-induced fantasy realm, where others have no idea where the first group of people went. With people exiting and returning to MMPORPGs on their own schedules, this could mesh acceptably with the people's groupings.

    With more and more people looking to use their broadband connections for online gaming we need to create more and more content tailored to the medium. Clan warfare was a good first step towards creating a unique language for MMP games, but there are many left to take. How far can we stretch consistency before players balk? How much of a "Tardis" effect can we rely upon, or do players need rigid spaces?

    We won't know the answer until someone demonstratably steps over the line. Sadly, far more games fail these days because they are afraid of breaking conventions, rather than because they broke them too much.
  • comments from a gm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by humankind (704050) on Friday October 24, 2003 @05:18PM (#7304442) Journal
    As an ex-senior guide from Everquest, I'd like to add a few things to the discussion. The lion's share of online "helpers" are often volunteers; players like everyone else, that often field abuse from frustrated players. We ourselves are just as frustrated, but we just can't show it (hopefully).

    I agree with much that has been said on the issue, though I think Everquest is far and away the best and most successful MMORPG. Star Wars Galaxies turned out to be hugely anticlimactic. What makes EQ work are IMO, the core of solid low and mid-level people involved. The problem with most of the user's gripes are related to issues beyond the control of those who really have the ideas and the willingness to make the game more enjoyable.

    A good example of this is with real-time GM events. As quest coordinator for my server, I pushed very hard to add more dynamic, interesting content to Everquest. But we were very limited to certain confines as far as what quests we could run, and most importantly, limited to very substandard rewards that could be given away. As a result of the mediocre rewards, many players would groan at the discovery of a GM event because they knew it would not be worth it.

    This frustrated the GMs even more than the players, and resulted in morale loss across the board, as well as less enthusiasm to run events, which is why you don't see many, and when you do, they're lame. There's nothing more disappointing than participating in an event and getting a reward that you would sell to a merchant rather than use. But we couldn't do anything about it.

    To make matters worse, most volunteer GMs share all the same frustrations, but are afraid to publicly voice much opposition, even among their peers for fear of being excommunicated from the privileged fold. As a result, things don't change much.

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