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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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  • 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
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:40PM (#7301508)
    Article text for those who can't get in:

    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:
  • Re:text of article (Score:2, Informative)

    by Paolomania (160098) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:59PM (#7301718) Homepage
    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.

  • 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.
  • by Patrick May (305709) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:09PM (#7301830)
    Actually, some MUDs, including Ancient Anguish [anguish.org] encourage experienced players to become developers (a.k.a. wizards). This leads to an ever evolving game with a constant influx of new areas and projects.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:16PM (#7301904)
    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.
  • It already exists. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Silvers (196372) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:20PM (#7301948)
    Its called Shadowbane.
  • by joeldg (518249) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:30PM (#7302052) Homepage
    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
  • by Slicebo (221580) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:31PM (#7302062)
    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 and run mildly multiplayer games.

    The NWN community has created over 2900 modules that are hand-crafted to target many different player styles, from persistent worlds (run by teams of volunteer DMs) that allow dozens of concurrent users, to small-team oriented modules designed to be played by 3-5 players for a couple of hours (with or without an interactive DM), to solo adventures that range from one-shot 45 minute modules to multi-module campaigns that take weeks to complete.

    There's an excellent community-run website that provides links to descriptions and downloads for modules, schedules for upcoming multiplayer games sessions, community ratings of different downloadable modules and persistent world sites, and lots more good stuff. Here's the URL:

    http://nwvault.ign.com

  • 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.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:36PM (#7302144)
    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.
  • by Slicebo (221580) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:52PM (#7302300)
    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.
  • by mabu (178417) * on Friday October 24, 2003 @02:00PM (#7302373)
    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 wild goose chase and give you carpal tunnel syndrome. And after all the trouble, the product you've created is worth less than the value of its components.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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