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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
  • 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 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]
  • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Friday October 24, 2003 @12:47PM (#7301593)
    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 the preprogrammed off-line games....

  • 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

  • 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.

  • by Razor Blades are Not (636247) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:01PM (#7301744)
    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 percentage of their inital player-base due to the aforementioned low quality.

  • 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.
  • by hyphz (179185) * on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:13PM (#7301862)
    I think what he's more referring to is the Verant style of GM event, though.

    Verant's guide to GM events: GM events can only involve a few people. Other players will be resentful if event participants get stuff they can't, purely because they were online at the right time to get in the event. Therefore, avoid giving players special rewards in events. Killing players is OK, because nobody is jealous of that.

    Player's response: "When you see an event, log out. There's nothing in it for you and you'll probably get killed." I actually saw this posted on an EQ forum.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:52PM (#7302296)

    I'm an AC, and I want answers.

    Normally I wouldn't respond, but you don't sound like you're trolling so why not? AC, you shall have your answers.

    So, Weaselmancer my friend, are you saying that it takes a certain psychological makeup to avoid becoming addicted to cocaine?

    Nope. What I'm saying is that some kinds of people are more susceptible to addiction than others. Any twelve stepper would tell you the same. And this guy sounds like an addictive personality. The whole "keep at it until it's fun again" is textbook. People who OD usually are thinking something similar.

    What about crack?

    The author shouldn't do crack, either. :^)

    Are you speaking from experience, or just trying to make a joke?

    I was modded 70% funny, 30% insightful and that reflects what I was feeling when posted pretty accurately.

    And I am not speaking from direct experience - I've never done the coke/crack thing. But a lot of my friends growing up did. Oddly enough, most of them now (you guessed it) play EQ. Compulsively. They think nothing of "camping" some imaginary monster for 2 weeks at a time just to get the Toenail of Yendor that gives you +1 to your knitting skill. It boggles me.

    Weaselmancer

  • Re:text of article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Friday October 24, 2003 @01:57PM (#7302338)
    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 even have any idea if it does until then. I still have problems with the payment model, even though I've tried 3 games for myself (UO, EQ, and PlanetSide), and my girlfriend just saw the payment model for herself last nite when I was showing her some of the information on Final Fantasy XI, and thought they (or I) were insane. She could've understood either the up-front payment or the subscription model, but the combination is too far out there, and I tend to agree. Even if I had to pay slightly more than normal for the first month, or subscribe for a minimum of 3 months at the start I could understand it, but $50 + $X/month is just too much. Luckily, I managed to find each of the games I've tried so far for less than $50, but in each case it certainly meant waiting quite a while (though less time with PS) after the launch, or even the stability problems being reduced.

    PlanetSide had much less of the level treadmill and the 'pest control' aspects, but still started you off as basically cannon fodder rather than a useful individual. It also had a very short build-up until you reached the maximum level, and no content beyond the basic storyline (and a very sparse world with hotly contested areas that change hands constantly).

    At the start of EQ, it seemed like there was something to do immediately, but then I realized after a couple of hours that I wouldn't be able to complete my first quest until I had levelled up a great deal (I couldn't even start on my way towards the area I needed to get to to start the quest without facing enemies that were significantly more powerful than I was). Oh, and getting killed by insects and bats was not my idea of fun, not to mention having to kill so many of them to get to level 3 (woohoo! ding!).

    UO felt like a world that was already well established in which there was nothing to be done, and immediately presented me with a wolf to attack my character and another player that decided to help the wolf out. Oh, or a rabbit, which also had a 50/50 chance of killing my character.

    I don't need to be all-powerful when I start a game, I just want a sense of something to do and a feeling that my character is maybe slightly more powerful than I really am in some way. It doesn't matter if it means that an orc in WoW has the same power (both in attack power and defensive power) as a bat in EQ, at least I would get killed by a swarm of orcs instead of a swarm of bats. If I have to commit genocide to level up, though, there's still something wrong. Genocide should be reserved for high-level characters (and committed quite easily against bats and low-level orcs).
  • by Eric Savage (28245) on Friday October 24, 2003 @02:12PM (#7302483) Homepage
    Games are about competing. Not necessarily winning, but at least competing. There are other aspects, like socializing, but if that was the ultimate goal then Sony would just be charging $15/month to get on IRC servers (you could argue that this is what being an entertainer in SWG is).

    The designer's challenge is this: What basis will players compete on? The answers are a combination of several factors, each with pros and cons.

    1. Time (e.g. EverQuest)
      • Pros - Simple, fair in the sense that regardless of all other variables, someone can always get ahead just by playing.
      • Cons - Leads to grinding, also unfair in the sense that there is a wide disparity between the amount of time various players have available.

    2. Physical skill (e.g. Quake)
      • Pros - Interesting gameplay
      • Cons - If you aren't as skilled as other players, you'll quickly grow tired of being beaten and having no perceivable way to win.

    3. Intelligence (e.g. Chess)
      • Pros - Very interesting gameplay
      • Cons - The same people will always win, and there is nothing those other people can do about it.

    4. Knowledge (e.g. Trivial Pursuit)
      • Pros - Related to intelligence, but you can gain an edge by studying/learning.
      • Cons - Takes a lot of time outside of the game to get better at the game.



    So no matter what you pick or what combination you pick it in, there are downsides. I haven't really read a cogent article on how to really improve games, they all just say "don't do this or this or that", this one included. What exactly is your alternative to killing rats at level 1, killing dragons? Then what do you kill at level 50? So you want to get rid of levels, now where is my sense of progress? You want more content, which is expensive to develop, are you willing to sacrifice something else for a great storyline?

    What I'm trying to say here is that games aren't necessarily broken, they are just faced with challenges. It used to be all about graphics and effects, but we've kind of gotten over that hump, I run SWG at lowest possible detail and it still looks so great I never think about the graphics. Groundbreaking games like GTA3 have really spoiled us and raised our expectations, but we need to realize that the current games are better than the previous ones, often marvelously so, and if you don't temper your whining with some praise you sound pretty ignorant.
  • 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. :)
  • by Chris Canfield (548473) <{slashdot} {at} {chriscanfield.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.
  • by lysium (644252) on Friday October 24, 2003 @03:06PM (#7303023)
    Dude, you missed the forest for the trees. The experience is not worth hanging around for. Paying $80 and waiting four months to do even something remotely interesting is not fun. That is not play. It's boring work, and anyone who enjoys it is, basically, a pathetic no-life. And if you've ever played a REAL multiplayer RPG (i.e., with pen and paper) you would realize that MMORPGs are not multiplayer at all: rather, they are a bunch of people playing solo, really close to one another. It would be funny, if the developers weren't getting filthy rich in the process.

    ===========

  • by Cherveny (647444) on Friday October 24, 2003 @03:14PM (#7303120) Homepage
    Thinking along these lines reminds me of the thinking of several other games. Remember back when Everquest was just about to come out, a lot of UO players said it would solve every problem UO had..... It didn't. Then Dark Age of Camelot was suposed to sweep us all off our feet..... It also had it's own problems. During this time, Shadowbane was supposed to fix all of our problems......it didn't. Then Star Wars Galaxies was going to be the perfect game, fixing all problems in MMORPGs we'd seen to date.....It didn't. Now Worlds of Warcraft is supposed to solve all our problems....Somehow I doubt it will. And then people will be off looking to the next game release to give us satisfaction. Each MMORPG incarnation is learning from the past and trying to make things better, but I think we are still several games away from a design that will really last for a large majority of people. (Sorry if this seems rambling. It's my first post ever on slashdot.)
  • by Behrooz (302401) on Friday October 24, 2003 @03:24PM (#7303209)
    I am a level 24 orc-slaying warrior...

    ...and it frustrates me immensely that these inconsiderate asshole game developers always force me to fight my way through levels 1-23 again and again!

    That's why I support the concept of characters starting at the level of their real-life avatars-- I want to be working on level 25 from the beginning! I suspect that the reason for this travesty is the game developers' belief that their target market would start with 'negative levels' under this arrangement.

    I can see the tech support queries now... "D00D WTF WHY AM I LEVEL MINUS 12 DOOD!?!?!?"

    OK, OK. I guess it would be unfair to subject their game moderators to the kind of temptation those sorts of questions would create. Not to mention the 'negative hit point' totals possessed by the truly MMO-obsessed...
  • by harborpirate (267124) on Friday October 24, 2003 @03:56PM (#7303618)
    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 sure that the quest was actually fulfilled, and other players who accepted the same quest could be notified that someone had already completed it.

    Obviously, rewards for these quests would have to come from the player who commissioned the quest, rather than the game itself.

    I believe the next generation of MMORPGs will include this functionality in some manner. Admittedly, even player created quests will only hold players a little longer, and there are a lot of issues with them to be surmounted:

    How does a player find someone who is offering a quest?

    What prevents a player from offering a quest, and upon completion, even if they are required to give the reward, simply killing the other player to get their reward back?

    What impetus is there for players to offer quests? Why would the player not accomplish whatever task they want done themselves?

    These, and a lot of other questions need to be answered - but I suspect MMORPG developers will start to come up with at least workable solutions for them. When they do, MMORPGs will get a lot more interesting, but I'll still refuse to play them under the current price gouging... I mean structure.
  • by joeljkp (254783) <joeljkparkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 24, 2003 @04:32PM (#7304057)
    I too have tried the basic MMPORGs and found the mundanity in killing 'Rabid Rats' and 'Angry Bats' for hours on end, only to realize that I need to get to level 50 to make any real difference in the world.

    Why the high standards? Why make the highest levels to unachievable that only the most dedicated and time-wasting can get to them? Why not start you out at level 1, and make the maximum level, oh, 10. Players would turn into 'mature characters' able to do things that effect the plot and the game world without devoting months of gameplay. Or focus on the actual skill of the player more than the percieved skill of his level, attained by the most mouse-clicks against hordes of killer mice.

    The reward needs to be in the shaping of the world by the players, not in the attainment of the astronomically high levels that would allow it. If every character that spent a reasonable amount of time in the game turned into 'full citizens' of equal level, quests would be completed by the number and mental dexterity of the players themselves, not by the amount of time they have dedicated to the game up to that point. Want to rid the world of the Big Red Dragon? You could either gather 3 level-95 uber-players who have spent their entire lives the last three months getting to that point, or you could assemble 50 regular joes, led by an experienced player with some leadership qualities, to get the job done. The average players would hear about the dragon quest in the first scenario. They'd participate in the second.
  • by Branch_Dravidian (701057) on Friday October 24, 2003 @05:02PM (#7304316)
    They broke this genre by applying the values of the real-world economy and workplace to allegedly escapist games. Their supposed fantasy worlds have become thoroughly mundane... It's not about saving the world anymore... it's about eating your vegetables, paying your bills and showing up to work on time. The games are not really fantasy or science fiction any more. They're just capitalism simulators... not even from the exciting, thought provoking global perspective of a "Railroad Tycoon"... but from the worm's eye view of a cubicle rat. This is Dilbert in real time 3-D with dragons and laser guns. Goody. Ordinary players pay $12.99 a month to be terrorized by psychotic Little League dads (THIS IS A *GAME* SON! IT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE *FUN*!!! NOW GET A HIT RIGHT &%##%@# NOW OR IT'S 2 MORE HOURS IN THE BATTING CAGE AND STRAIGHT TO BED WITHOUT DINNER!!!) moonlighting as game developers... and their equally joyless, emotionally stunted powergamer children/cronies... The limitless potential of MMOGs is only matched by the coarseness and banality of their actual implementation... Ask a typical MMOG player about his game of choice... EQ, DAoC, SWG, etc... and he'll probably tell you he plays it not because it's great.. but because it's the one that sucks the least...
  • Re:SWG Sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mabu (178417) * on Friday October 24, 2003 @05:43PM (#7304653)
    Very interesting... not that "the game is broken" because I don't really think the game is broken. I think SWG is a victim of its own ambition.

    SWG is so realistic, it's actually just as mundane, tedious, political and intimidating as in real life! But that's the problem. People want to log into a fantasy world and be king of the mountain, and if everyone is king of the mountain, then what's the point of playing.

    I can't disagree with any of your criticisms. I am amused however, because today's generation of ADHD kids don't have the patience and want instant gratification with the next generation of MMORPGs, and there's a paradox of trying to make a game immersive but also delivering the instant reward/motivation that keep people coming back.

    I agree, SWG isn't terribly playable right now, but that's mainly because the game was designed as a backdrop world where the players would create an unparalled amount of content as opposed to following a script. If the game cannot attract the base amount, it will fail. It will be very interesting to see if: a) the game can mature so as to be playable and b) if SOE and Lucas have the patience to let this "Star Trek" be recognized for its genius before they cancel it.

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