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Sci-Fi Entertainment Games

The State of Sci-Fi MMOs 194

Posted by Soulskill
from the work-in-progress dept.
Massively is running a story that looks into the status of the sci-fi MMO genre, and why such games have had a tendency to struggle over the years. Quoting: "Fantasy alone carries with it assumptions based in our own history, a romanticized version of the middle ages where knights were good guys and smart people with beards could cast spells. Preconceived notions in sci-fi are far less cast in our collective memory. While stories that predict the future are surely as ancient as the myths describing the past, sci-fi itself didn't really ingrain itself into our culture until the 1800s, with H.G. Wells' stories and other writers at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. ... Compounding the lack of specificity in setting is the tendency of sci-fi games to overwhelm players with skills and rule sets they initially don't understand and eventually don't need."
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The State of Sci-Fi MMOs

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  • I love Eve Online (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Majik Sheff (930627) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:24AM (#27499911) Journal

    Enough said.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sorry.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Planetes (6649)

      Agree completely.. I've been a fan for over a year and have no intention of leaving the game anytime soon. It's one of those love or hate games in terms of interface and complexity. If you love it, you love it.

      • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hidannik (1085061) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @03:27AM (#27500409) Homepage

        For me, it's not about the interface or complexity.

        My problem with it is that I'm a tourist, and like every other MMO it caters to perfectionists. It's not well designed for completionists or tourists.

        The NPC missions are few and far between, and most are not very interesting.

        Oh sure, I've heard all about the player created PVP drama in the game, but that's all endgame content. And it takes months if not years of mining or 'rat-hunting for hours every day to earn the skills needed to enter 0.0 space without getting pod-killed every five minutes.

        And getting pod-killed can set you back days (implants), weeks or months (underinsured with inadequate quality clone), or back to where you were when you first got your account.

        So while the tourist content might be there, it's behind a giant wall of perfectionist grind. No thanks.

        If the combat were actually fun, it might make up for the grind, but it really isn't. Lock on and auto-attack until the enemy blows up. Yawn. Even Starfleet Command's combat was better. What I want in a space MMO's combat is something like LucasArts' X-Wing, or Freelancer.

        A Freelancer MMO... now that I'd play.

        Hans

        • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:5, Informative)

          by TOGSolid (1412915) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @03:57AM (#27500557)
          I hate to come in sounding like an Eve Online fanboy, but your post does sound a lot like someone who got the trial, went 'meh' and thinks they've seen all there is to see. Feel free to TL;DR to the end of this to check out some game recommendations instead.

          You are absolutely wrong about 0.0 first off. First off, there is no "endgame" in Eve. This isn't WoW or WAR. Secondly 0.0 is open to new pilots even with low skills. A newbie in a properly fitted (and by that I mean the right setup not necessarily T2 gear) frigate can work as a low cost interceptor quite easily, for example. That barely takes any time at all to train for. Believe it or not, creative T1 fits can be quite effective and not break the bank.
          Combat is far from that simplistic, with some ship builds requiring a good deal of hands on management in order to keep yourself from capping out and proper module activation timing. On the broader spectrum, fleet commanding is pretty intense stuff and great fun to learn to do.
          Go get into an interceptor duel with someone who knows what they're doing and try saying combat is boring again. :D

          Getting podkilled is a bitch, true, but jump clones exist for a reason. Clone insurance is also very cheap so really if you get popped without it that's your own damn fault.

          NPC Missions are kinda wank depth wise, but CCP is constantly adding new ones with better laid out mission briefings and do eventually plan on actually adding NPC AI beyond just the recently added sleepers (which for anyone who's been out there knows that they're no slouches and will rape the first logistics ship to show up and say hi).

          You are right on one thing though, Eve is not a tourist's game. It takes a fair amount of time at the beginning to get through the initial learning curve and general entry barrier, and this puts off a lot of people who don't have friends in game to help them out. It's entirely up to the player motivating him or herself to get out there and make something of the game. It doesn't hold your hand and gently point you at a few wolf cubs to go kill for cheap xp, which really, is what most gamers want in a game. It instead says "here's your rookie ship, have fun!" and leaves it up to you. Definitely a niche game, but a successful one.

          You may want to check out Jumpgate: Evolution which features hands on ship control with classic space sim combat.
          http://www.jumpgateevolution.com
          On a non-mmo but still space shooty shooty level there's also Naumachia which is shaping up to be all sorts of awesome.
          http://naumachia.aureasection.com/ [aureasection.com]

          Anyway, sorry for the fanboy rant, but posts such as yours drag that out of me. I don't like seeing people drag Eve through the mud and potentially put off people who may actually enjoy the game by posting pretty innacurate statements.
          • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:5, Informative)

            by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @08:57AM (#27501945) Homepage

            I agree with just about everything you said. One other thing that bears mentioning though is that Eve is really NOT a single-player game. If you decide to go it "lone-wolf" style then yes, you're probably going to get bored unless you have the patience of a saint.

            The point of Eve is community. Join corps, leverage them as a jump-off point for your own corp if you want, or work your way up the ranks. Just like real life. I've played on and off and been in a few corps. In most cases, I've left on really good terms and come out with loads of equipment, ISK and training (not to mention, friends that I made through Eve Online). Sure there have been times I've been raiding my ex corps thanks to a mission in my new corp... but that's half the fun.

            For some, Eve is a bit TOO much like real life I think. I only stopped playing frequently about 8 months ago because I just didn't have time for it. But I still plan to return... my character is still sitting on a database somewhere and will one day be reactivated. Maybe I'll join another corp (currently independent), or maybe I'll use the equipment and money I have now to build myself a new corp... enlist some of my old friends if they're still around.

            That's what Eve is all about.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by GMFTatsujin (239569)

              "Just like real life."

              That's the problem.

              I don't *want* to work my ass off in a game for another 20 years before I can get decent jobs, buy a house, start a business, etc. I invested that energy elsewhere: my actual life.

              My life is fun and challenging, and I love it. But, I do sometimes want to escape into a fantasy where, right off the bat, I'm fraking awesome and I can go to town.

              • My first thought was "crap a GM... in before the lock!"

                right off the bat, I'm fraking awesome

                That doesn't bore you? I tried Fable and really came to hate it quickly. The vaunted alignment system thing maxed out in about 30 seconds, and as for combat, your spec seemed to make the only difference there... and even then, you quickly became a wtfpwner. Uninstalled and forgtten.

                (i was going to just say "that's no fantasy, that IS my real life!" but i'd rather know more about the serious question.)

          • by crossmr (957846)

            NPC Missions are kinda wank depth wise, but CCP is constantly adding new ones

            this is where you come off sounding like a fanboy.
            If they are constantly adding them, which means they have an established pattern of consistently adding new content with such a frequency that it could be described as "constant". yet, you admit its still currently crap. What's that tell you about how good of a job they're doing keeping that up?

          • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:4, Interesting)

            by hidannik (1085061) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:23PM (#27506871) Homepage

            I was in EVE for 17 months, playing between one and 10 hours a week (3 was typical), between fall '05 and winter '07.

            I was in a corps, and the most exciting group activity we ever did was... mining in .4 space.

            Perhaps this was a mistake, but I concentrated on leverage skills first (learning), then ship-handling and combat. I hunted rats rather than mining.

            I never got powerful enough to spend time in .4 space, let alone 0.0, and it took forever to make enough ISK to buy a new skill (at 4.5M ISK per skill).

            Eventually I realized that I was never going to get anywhere playing three hours a week, and cancelled. I don't like grinding; I get much more fun/second out of single player games, even grindy JRPGs, and session-based multiplayer games like Freelancer or Halo 3 or Unreal Tournament 1 than any MMO.

            That's not to rag on MMOs; my player style is simply unsuited to them. I'm a tourist with a little completionist, and almost no perfectionist tendencies.

            Hans

        • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @06:28AM (#27501191)

          Erh... no. Sorry, but no.

          First, going into 0.0 space alone is a good way to get podded. Whether you have a million or fifty million SP under your belt, you won't stand a chance. 0.0 is basically what constitutes as raid content in other MMOs. The twist is that you, as a low player, may actually participate. Sure, you won't fly that huge titan with its devastating, POS-killing firepower, but you can still be useful (and I don't mean just as a decoy and meatshield).

          What you complain about is essentially that you can't play for 2 weeks and level the raid dungeon single handedly.

        • by kv9 (697238)

          My problem with it is that I'm a tourist, and like every other MMO it caters to perfectionists. It's not well designed for completionists or tourists.

          EVE is a sandbox. you can do whatever the hell you want in there, nobody will hold your hand. some people appreciate that.

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          You must love WoW's achievements then. Personally I prefer to kill shit and take its stuff, but a lot of people I know absolutely love trying to get every last achievement.

          To my mind, achievements are to MMO give-players-stuff-to-do as assembly lines are to Henry Ford's domination of the automotive industry. (Whoa, see what I did there? So far I've had a F1-to-CPUs analogy, a netbooks to cars analogy, and now this. Trifecta ftw! :D )

          I've watched a friend of mine (incidentally the one who got me into WoW
        • Yar, i hear you. Early on, pre-beta, it was explained that this was definitely not going to be a "twitch" game; this was for a different audience. Hopefully someone will fill the twitch niche for y'all :).

          Er, hang on, maybe someone has [jumpgateevolution.com].

          As for the casual aspect of eve, that may have gotten a little easier with Faction Warfare. It seems like there are a lot of newer folks able to jump into combat and enjoying it. The push to maintain tech2 ships, capitals, etc., can take up a lot of time; but with even a

        • by mounthood (993037)

          My problem with it is that I'm a tourist...

          Tourism* is what EVE needs: people invited to roam through player owned territory. EVE is out to kill you; everything and everyone in the game might kill you just for sport, other then your own corp.

          Corporations with territory need a reason to invite and protect tourists. Maybe a contracting system where only outsiders can provide some service. Newbies would find players welcoming them and helping them. Even the corporation drama could be increased simply by having lots of semi-trusted players in your terr

      • Agree completely.. I've been a fan for over a year and have no intention of leaving the game anytime soon. It's one of those love or hate games in terms of interface and complexity.

        I played Anarchy Online for years and said exactly the same thing. You're talking about MMO addiction not something special with Eve Online, millions have said what you have about the majority of MMOs out there.

        If you love it, you love it.

        No shit, Sherlock.

    • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @03:51AM (#27500511)
      My beef with EVE is the leveling system.

      There is no way for anyone starting EVE today to ever catch up to those who started a year ago, and those that started a year ago will never catch up to those who started two years ago, .. and so on.

      I played eve for nearly 6 months. When a big content patch came out that was essentialy ships I wouldn't be able to fly for at least another 6 months, yet I had to compete directly against one (freighters), I decided the system sucked more than I had already suspected.

      I was a very successfull high security hauler and trader who had his market taken away by superships he could afford to buy, but could not fly... I had to train another 10 or so skills (one of which taking almost two months to train all by itself)

      Basically, I had to pay them $15 x 6months = $90 in order to continue my trading career, and thats assuming that a new update wasn't going to again push the bar even further away from me.

      EVE, mostly a great game, but the leveling/training system needs to go.
      • I had the same problems really - many pvp based corps want at least 6 million skillpoints just to join, and some as many at 20 million.

        Unless you just want to tackle all day you need an insane amount of time just sitting there buying skill books and "learning" crap.

        It seems to me there's an insane amount of unnecessary skills as well - many that sound similar, many that have crazy amounts of dependencies that you'll only figure out using a flow chart (get used to flow charts and spreadsheets if you want to

        • The cure to the low level blues is to earn enough money to buy the combat character of your dreams. Rates used to be about 100m ISK per 1m Skill Points but the economy ain't what it used to be.

          It's not impossible to pick up a 10-15m SP toon for about the cost of a cap ship. It's certainly not cheap, but for ambitious new players it is a legit option -- character transfers are fully supported and encouraged by CCP (for a $20 fee, usually paid by the seller).

        • by fractoid (1076465)

          I had the same problems really - many pvp based corps want at least 6 million skillpoints just to join, and some as many at 20 million.

          To be fair, many player run guilds in other MMOs have stupid standards. WoW guilds tend to be "must be available to raid 12 nights a week for 8 hours a night, and suck GM's cock on demand". Yeah.

      • Re:I love Eve Online (Score:4, Informative)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @05:13AM (#27500843)

        This is not entirely true.

        While the leveling system of EvE, with no level cap meaning that playing longer == having more skill, certainly rewards players that have been playing since the beginning, starting later does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to compete sensibly.

        Skills are leveled at a diminishing returns system. To explain to those that don't play, every skill comes in five "levels", each level offering you the same benefit (e.g. 5% more speed, so 25% at level 5), but leveling times increase with each level. I.e. to level from 4 to 5 you need more time than the previous four levels combined.

        Most skills that require other skills to be learned first (but the most advanced) require the prerequisits at level 3-4, usually. Unless it can be assumed to be a given that someone "hardcore" enough to want the specialized skill has the underlying skill at 5 anyway. If you're a hardcore miner, you have mining at 5. So it's understandable to make Mining 5 a prerequisite to fly the more advanced mining ships.

        Freighters are a bit of a special case, needing some skills you might not have seen as important as an industrial hauler. Yet still, they're not really out of reach. Besides, I doubt that you cannot make money trading anymore just because there are freighters. Freighters are big, but slow. Trading, especially margin trading, is often a matter of being there first, unless the amounts asked are so ridiculously high that you can't fulfill the conctract alone anyway. And then, the frighter pilot would first of all have to have the amount at hand.

        Especially in empire, and especially in ore trade, you'd have to visit a LOT of places before you can use a freighter sensibly. Before you can fill the balloon, the trade's long done and over.

        What I'd suggest for a industrial trader is to build a network with miners. Miners (e.g. me) love to sit in belts, gobble rocks, maybe split them open for ore and then... well, then we're sitting on a few million trit and other ore that we have to get off the planet somehow. And we (ok, I) don't really like the idea of having to carry the crap for 20ish systems just to get a good price for it.

        In other words, I think we should talk. ;)

      • by khallow (566160)
        The thing is, you could have flown those freighters in a lot less than 6 months. The only intensive skill is a single industrial hauler skill (there are four to chose from) which takes somewhere around 3-5 weeks depending. My take is that even, if you hadn't trained any hauler-specific skills, you could be in a freighter inside of two months. And no offense, but why didn't you research the new content expansion so that you would know what you needed to train before the expansion arrived?
      • by Jaeph (710098)

        "I was a very successfull high security hauler and trader who had his market taken away by superships he could afford to buy, but could not fly."

        So rather than adapt and find new markets, you quit. Your choice, but blaming the entire game design is highly extreme.

        Note that after a long hiatus I am looking forward to re-joining eve just so I can start trading, as I see a market for industrial traders.

        For those reading, industrial ships haul a lot, freighters haul a gigantic amount. Freighters are slow.

        -Jef

      • There is no way for anyone starting EVE today to ever catch up to those who started a year ago, and those that started a year ago will never catch up to those who started two years ago

        Um, how is this different than any other MMO? With the exception of, there's no way to "powerlevel" in Eve? Which i view as a fantastically good thing?

        So a toon who's been a pilot 2 years longer than you will always have more training. Um. Yes?

        Now, this only works with *active* pilots. Accounts that go inactive no longer continue to train SPs. I was away for a while, and everyone who started after me caught up... and everyone ahead of me got further ahead. This is also how it should be; my toon was s

    • by kria (126207)

      I was enjoying EVE to start with, but I eventually realized I was playing a fundamentally wrong game for me. This realization came when a couple of dozen people blew up my battlecruiser and podded me when I was simply jumping into an area to do a mission. (Podding, for the uninitiated, is destroying your lifeboat; you lose all of your implants and potentially some "experience".)

      And then I realized that I wasn't interested in a game where I spent a substantial amount of time reading a book while traveling

      • by kv9 (697238)
        oh noes, a girl on da internets!
      • realized I was playing a fundamentally wrong game for me.

        Hey! Aren't you supposed to conclude "realized i was playing a game that sucks"? ,-)

        I hate mining. Tho travelling can be nerve-wracking depending on where you do it :D. In corp ops the only thing that kept me sane was all of us being goofballs on Teamspeak (this being before ingame voice client). Even then, it was just... boring. A chatroom where you have to drag and drop resources every minute or you lose some. Bleah.

        However, i would consider mining for you if you convince your hubby to zap me a Nagl

    • I don't understand why they called Eve's launch bad. It would have been a catastrophe if it had been as big as some of the fantasy ones listed, because of the way they run everything on one server. Can you imagine them trying to do 50k simultaneous users back before they had RamSans [superssd.com], with their 2003 budget? No way.

      But they have steadily grown and improved, just as intended; running a profitable independent game company for over 5 years is no small feat.
    • by Knara (9377)

      I loved EO, I really did. Still love the concept.

      However, I don't have a ton of time to get involved with a corp, and, in spite of waiting about 3 years playing on-and-off, the PvE is still horrible.

      Hoping that Jumpgate: Evolution or STO fixes that. I'm not really a "casual gamer" but I'm a gamer with many hobbies, and EVE requires it to be your only hobby to fully enjoy what it has to offer.

  • Not just MMOs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jimmyhat3939 (931746) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:31AM (#27499955) Homepage

    It's not just MMOs where sci fi has been somewhat less popular than other genres. It's also true for traditional roll playing games.

    I think it's possible that what's going on here is that when people want to play games, they'd rather have it be about something totally out of the realm of possibility, rather than a possible future scenario, which is frequently the goal of sci fi.

    • Re:Not just MMOs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by guyminuslife (1349809) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:39AM (#27500247)

      Quite possible. I would submit that attitude also plays a role. Traditional fantasy settings have a romantic, epic scope. There's a much more clearly-defined line between Good and Evil, which simplifies the morality issues of killing and looting various denizens of said realm. Fantasy societies tend to be (although they don't have to be) more wild and unregulated than science fiction settings.

      And of course, fantasy more often celebrates the "epic hero" who kicks ass and takes names (Beowulf, Ajax, Merlin) as opposed to science fiction's more mortal protagonists. There's less opportunity for character advancement, since so much of the escapism is based on technology. A level 20 wizard has access to crazy spells that the lowbies could only dream of and is decked out in arcane accessories presumably lifted from some dragon somewhere. A level 20 space ship pilot is just a better pilot, perhaps one with a better space ship, which any lowbie with cash could simply walk into a store and buy.

      And fantasy makes running the game easier. You can just randomly make stuff up and fit it into the game with a mere explanation that, "It's magic." Sci-fi technologies more often need to be explained, since they can be mass-produced, etc.

      • Whether or not any lowbie could buy that ship is as likely or unlikely as whether some wizard can march into a shop and dump a ton of gold on the counter for the superspecialawesome wand of leet.

        If you think about it, that dragon the wizard stole his wand from had to get that wand from somewhere as well. So someone must have made it. This someone could just as well have sold it instead of trying to kill a dragon with it.

        Because it requires those oh so special ingredients that no mundane would ever touch and

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:33AM (#27499969)

    The whole concept of Fantasy is to give power to the weak and nerdy and put them in a milieu that encourages and promotes the behaviors that they so desperately want to express in the real world. But the real world is a harsh critic, and those behaviors (being smart, mostly) are universally reviled.

    So the lucky ones discover the Fantasy genre and are rewarded for their behavior with scantily-clad women and a sense of satisfaction from acting chivalrous. It's a self-feeding world. The only necessary thing is a bunch of disaffected nerds.

    The problem with sci-fi (or SyFy, if you prefer the modern nomenclature) is that it is designed to tackle difficult moral issues. Unlike Fantasy which is designed to feed the spiritual needs of nerds, SyFy is designed to force them to think. In a sense, fantasy provides an outlet for basal needs, but SyFy provides an outlet for higher-order needs.

    Also, since SyFy is based on reality and the possibilities of reality, it is seldom that women are included in the plot solely for the sake of being women. Unlike the damsel in distress role in Fantasy, women in SyFy are neutered and masculinized to appeal to a sense of liberal sexual freedom. Fantasy does not have this limitation and therefore provides ample space for sexual expression for the nerds who take part in it.

    It's no wonder that Fantasy MOO games do so much better than SyFy games.

    • by Vectronic (1221470) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:50AM (#27500067)

      Sci-Fi... fuck!

      I went Outdoor Life Network today, to do a little National Geographic Channeling, and stumbled across an Animal Channel, what a Discovery Channel, I was so Xtreme Sports Network about it, I blew my HBO, and had to buy another one from the Shopping Channel.

      Was totally Comedy Central.

    • by Secret Rabbit (914973) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:37AM (#27500241) Journal

      I'm sorry, but you haven't a clue about what you're talking about.

      1) Intelligence is only "universally reviled" in the US and is becoming more common in Canada as well. The rest of the world take *far* more kindly to the actually intelligent.

      2) SyFy is NOT "the modern nomenclature" for Sci-fi. It is a marketing gimmick from the Sci-fi network as an attempt to widen its viewing audience.

      3) Fantasy is more popular because it is more accessible. As in, everyone knows about wizards, knights, etc as that has pervaded society for a *long* time. But, not many people know about sci-fi and its trappings. So, it's "weird" to many.

      Seriously, you're attempting to trivialise fantasy to horny teenaged "geeks". And that's just so wrong it isn't funny.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by tsstahl (812393)
        "Syfy" was military slang for a social disease in my day. Pronounced with a short i and long e. I guess nobody told them that. :\
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        Actually, your thinly veiled bit of anti-American ranting only highlights your OWN parochialism. Obviously, by "rest of the world," you're ignoring the multitude of dictatorial countries where scholars and intellectuals are often the first to be targeted in brutal campaigns of repression (the REAL kind of repression, not the "They didn't give me enough grant money to fund my public art project" kind). A guy like you thinks he's being clever with a little smug U.S. bashing, but in actuality, you're just anot
    • by khallow (566160)
      Your analogy is like a melon crushed by a steel mace. All I know is that if you haven't been dogpiled by a bunch of bald, angry, drunk Russians, then you haven't lived. Or died as the case may be.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:40AM (#27500019)
    In a game like WoW, you're basically walking or riding a horse around. That limits the distances you have to travel. Even the cities are excusably small when you rationalize for the smaller fantasy "village." With Sci-Fi, the ranges that the map worlds have to cover will become huge to be believable. That's a lot of space to design and populate.
    • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:44AM (#27500029)

      I invite you to compare Master of Orion to Master of Magic.

      You'll find that there is no problem with scope if handled correctly.

      • by Kierthos (225954)

        The problem is, those games are single-player. There's a lower threshold for satisfaction.

        When you have a MMORPG, does it make sense for every PC to crowd into one city per planet? While there has to be some sort of defining limitation so your developers aren't cranking out dozens of game worlds every month, there has to be more then "Here on Planet X, you can go to the city, and the environs within immediate eyesight of the the city."

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      But that provides great lines for the marketing monkeys:

      "The map's A MILLION TIMES BIGGER than Oblivion!".

      P.S.: Lack of the first coffee has made me write "pam" instead of "map" twice and still, I nailed "Oblivion!". I won't be telling that one to my psichiatrist.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        But that provides great lines for the marketing monkeys:

        "The map's A MILLION TIMES BIGGER than Oblivion!".

        P.S.: Lack of the first coffee has made me write "pam" instead of "map" twice and still, I nailed "Oblivion!". I won't be telling that one to my psichiatrist.

        Dutch's law: Any post that mocks bad spelling or grammar will invariably contain original errors of its own.

        Usually this occurs when mocking others' errors, but I'm gratified to see the law holds even when mocking your own. ;-)

    • Except they aren't - in Eve stations are a static screen, and you jump from place to place so the distance is minimized.

      • Are you serously calling it a bad thing that they took the tedious boredom of traveling out of the game?

    • by azgard (461476)

      Yes. But I would go even further in this. The main problem is the speed with which information travel.

      In fantasy, information (and power) travels very slowly, so the parts of the world can be rather independent to be believable. That also means plots can be linear, because events in a new place doesn't depend on events from another place (usually, it's heroes who travel faster than information). So fantasy world is a lot easier to manage, because it's lot less dynamic.

      However, in our world (or scifi), there

      • Why should FTL travel automatically mean FTL information exchange exists? Or that either is readily accessible to anyone but the super rich and heros? I see the difficulty with Cyberpunk settings or any setting on a planetary scale with current or futuristic technology, since "instant" information exchange and overnight cargo delivery are already in place (so why I should entrust some nobody with my goods when there is certainly something like FedEx in place is beyond me), but in an interstellar setting wit

      • by Zerth (26112)

        You can have FTL travel without FTL information systems.

        Just say that you can't transmit directly through your FTL method, you have to physically move something(either a courier ship or a beacon), making it more like uucp or fidonet.

        You get as much bandwidth as you want but it only gets transmitted once a day/week/whenever the courier passes by. Anyone on a ship can outrun the network unless someone orders a special message run to your destination with a "faster" FTL ship.

    • by LS (57954)

      Space is much larger than a single planet, but it is also much more sparse, so the actual amount of interactive content could be about the same if desired. Also, distance is just an abstract concept in a virtual world, and can be traversed at any rate the programmers wish to allow, so it is also not an issue.

      • Think about this: "Traveling" in modern MMOs is mostly done by cutscenes anyway. In whatever form, from AOs Whom-Pahs to EQ2's harbor bells. Yes, you can "walk" that way often, too, but frankly, who'd want to? What would fit more than making different planets different zones, with transports flying between them? Would essentially be the same as the different areas of other MMOs.

  • Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The_Myth (84113) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @01:56AM (#27500089)

    The problem with the genre is that often times the Sci-Fi set is too smart for its own good. Take for example the original Star Wars: Galaxies. It had some brilliant character creation and development systems. The concept that you could mix and match from 24 professions to create your character made it very appealing. What happens to it? It didn't have the content it needed to guide a users experience hence it was too hard for people to understand. Then SOE starts a series of neuters that reduce it to a shadow of its former self and any of the redeeming features are removed.

    Now this "too hard to play" syndrome is present in the Fantasy genre. UO/DAoC were too hard core for a lot of players who gravitated to Everquest then WoW.

    With the exception of EVE I cant think of another Sci-Fi MMO that still has a presence in the MMO space.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sasayaki (1096761)

      [Edit: Accidently posted as AC...]

      Actually, I thought the problem with Star Wars: Galaxies was that SOE hated their customers and when one guy discovered how to dupe credits (aka 'money') and paid people with the duped creds, the SOE admins permanently banned the people who (unwittingly) received the money- but not the guy who duped it all...

      The playerbase rioted, but SOE admins teleported them into space. At least, that's what Penny Arcade told me...

      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/08/25/ [penny-arcade.com]

      • by Knara (9377)
        While that is definitely true, the problem with both SWG and The Matrix Online was that SOE took what was a great player community and tried to morph the game into something that could compete with WoW. So you had great concepts like MXO with Radio Free Zion and the ability to move between servers, etc etc, and SOE basically drove it into the ground. SOE's really good at that. Pray they never get their mitts on your favorite MMO.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DrMrLordX (559371)

      Your analysis of MMOs present and past seems a tad flawed.

      Dark Age of Camelot never had the same total share of MMO users that UO or Everquest had during their respective primes. It's not like a bunch of people gravitated away from that game to EQ and WoW since their subscriber base was never all that large.

      Your typical MMO migration went a bit like this:

      UO -> EQ -> WoW

      There were plenty of other games that distracted people from this basic progression (such as DAoC) but subscriber numbers will show t

    • Well, it depends on what you mean by "presence" but -

      Anarchy Online is still around (and still getting expansions etc.) is free to play for the basic version but you have to pay for the expansions. I tried it out a few months ago; wasn't for me, but it wasn't a bad game.

      For SWG fans, SWGEmu, which is an emulator of the SWG servers before SOE lobotomized the entire game (the 1.0 release aims to be 100% true to pre-Combat Upgrade live servers) is coming out "soon." I've been playing around with the test serve

    • by Rhys (96510)

      If you define presence as "large player base" then EVE itself may not qualify. On the other hand, if you don't, there's still Planetside and Galaxies kicking around. City of Heroes may qualify or not depending on your take (it is theoretically set 'today' but is more like an alternate future history ala Heinlein that we have caught up to).

  • It's simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skadet (528657) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:01AM (#27500105) Homepage
    It's simple -- everyone wants to be Cpt. Kirk, and nobody wants to be Ensign Ricky. How many starship captains can one MMO really have?

    Alternately, everyone wants to be a Jedi and nobody wants to be a blaster-wielding doofus.

    The success of MMOs is about enabling the player to wield ridiculous amounts of power and have obsessive-compulsive levels of control over their character. I do not believe this is an impossible task for a Sci-Fi MMO to achieve, it just hasn't been done really well yet. The Fantasy genre lends itself much more naturally to this type of thing.
    • I am a non-gamer and a science fiction reader. The biggest problem I have with games (MMO or otherwise) is having to play by somebody else's rules. A simple environment like second life would be okay for me but something where I have to kill a dwarf to get a sword to buy a boat to learn how to fight to... well you can see I don't do this stuff but it would keep me interested for about five seconds.

      My main online interests are tech news and tech discussion so an MMO which would interest me would probably r
    • Re:It's simple (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @05:25AM (#27500899)

      It does work in SciFi settings as well, as long as there is more than one "uber" class.

      In a fantasy setting, you have many kinds of heroes. You have the knight in shiny armor, you have the powerful wizard with his spells, you even have the sneaky bastard that backstabs the evil guards. They all make formidable heros.

      Star Wars the MMO was kinda doomed to fail, for the reason you said: Everyone wanted to be the one single super class, the Jedi. It's like making a superhero game and asking people to play either a hero or some peasant. Now, what would everyone pick?

      It can work in a SciFi setting, though, if you avoid too much focus on one single hero type. Maybe we have more fantasy than scifi stories so we have more hero archetypes to draw from in that setting, but why shouldn't it work in SciFi as well? You just have to make sure that all heros have their shortcomings, and that all heros need others to aid them in their quest and you have, essentially, the story written for a SciFi MMO.

      • by aztektum (170569)

        SWG didn't fail because everyone wanted to be a Jedi. Even now when Jedi is a starting class, there are plenty of non-Jedi. SWG failed because it was 3D chat with a leveling system. There was nothing to the quests in place a launch, there was no content to play through.

        I think sci-fi MMOs haven't gotten the attention simply because sci-fi tends to be more complex. Like you said, in fantasy you have the knight in armor, wizards with spells, you usually also have grumpy dwarves that like beer and fighting. Na

        • by Knara (9377)

          Another major, MAJOR problem with SWG at launch was that...

          IT WAS STAR WARS BUT YOU HAD NO SPACE SHIPS TO PILOT

          Classic example of "releasing the game before it was finished".

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Your fallacy is demonstrated below

      It's simple -- everyone wants to be Sir Kirk, and nobody wants to be serf Ricky. How many knights of the realm can one MMO really have?

      Alternately, everyone wants to be a wizard and nobody wants to be a broom stick-wielding doofus.

      All the fantasy MMOs rely there being a few NPCs to provide supplies and quests and many "adventurers", when in reality,fantasy stories, and fantasy novels there are a very few "adventurers", a handful of royalty, and many peon and serfs.

      No one wa

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:11AM (#27500139)

    Well, first, fantasy MMOs are the "oldest" of the pack. Take a look at the history of MMO games and you'll see a lot of fantasy, but really few SciFi classics. This leads to a certain standard setting: People know what to expect. When you look up and down the fantasy MMO genre, you'll see basically the same games. You get your heavily armored tank, you get your stealthy damage dealer, you get your healer, you get your damage caster... and wherever you look, this distribution holds true.

    Look at the SciFi genre and you won't get necessarily the same. You can be as close to the "fantasy trinity" of tank-dd-healer as AO, or as far away from it as EvE. You could stumble into something as alien to the whole MMO concept as Tabula Rasa. Or even a multiplayer FPS game gone MMO like Neocron.

    And, as TFA points out, people don't really want to jump into uncharted waters with a game they want to stick with for years.

    So my guess why fantasy succeeds where SciFi fails would be that people know what to expect from fantasy MMOs. And, sadly, the majority seems to want to play what they know already. Not good news for those of us that want something new, finally, but I guess that's how it is.

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:19AM (#27500165) Homepage Journal

    As Skadet points out above everyone wants to be the really cool character and not a minion. Where in outright fantasy everyone has potential to become something, regular Sci-Fi that doesn't really work.

    So what happens? A different type of Sci-Fi.

    "Retro Futuristic" sci-fi can work, such as things along the lines of Flash Gordon, or possibly post-apocalyptic sci-fi can work, think slightly more futuristic Mad Max. I could see an MMORPG based on Mad Max working out great, and if you move up event that causes society to collapse a couple of hundred years you've got yourself one heck of a game.

    Last but not least, a favorite in retro Sci-Fi: Steampunk. Steampunk is sci-fi that has everything that makes fantasy games great.

    Though not exactly fitting into any of the three but fitting squarely in the middle of all of them - I could see an MMORPG based on Skies of Arcadia taking off. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and Pirate themes all in one game? WIN!

    • As Skadet points out above everyone wants to be the really cool character and not a minion. Where in outright fantasy everyone has potential to become something, regular Sci-Fi that doesn't really work.

      Most people want to be part of something greater than themselves. You're only a 'minion' if you're not respected, if you're only doing it for the material gains.

    • For people wanting a "SciFi" MMO, steampunk would seem to be ideal- most tech is still pretty slow, personal and limited (no super-AI, no ultra-fast robots, no insta-slaughter weapon systems.) One of the big problems with high-tech SF is the impersonality. Even in the modern day hand held, cheap, off the shelf weapons such as a decent sniper rifle offer one-shot kills from a kilometer away. Scale that up with "smart" high tech ammo and suddenly you can kill anything you can see with a telescope. Do a bit
      • by Knara (9377)

        From my point of view, steam punk is "interesting" but not "compelling". I think you have to be of a certain mindset to really enjoy it. It's like the folks that really get off on alternate WWII history fiction, and what not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      So what happens? A different type of Sci-Fi.

      "Retro Futuristic" sci-fi can work, such as things along the lines of Flash Gordon, or possibly post-apocalyptic sci-fi can work, think slightly more futuristic Mad Max. I could see an MMORPG based on Mad Max working out great, and if you move up event that causes society to collapse a couple of hundred years you've got yourself one heck of a game.

      They tried it, but sadly it didn't work:

      Auto Assault [wikipedia.org]

  • by jonwil (467024) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:32AM (#27500227)

    I haven't played Eve or any of the other Sci-Fi MMOs mentioned so I don't know if this has been done before but one answer to Sci-Fi MMOs is to implement something more like Star Control where you don't have a player character, instead, your character is a ship that gets upgraded with better guns, better shields, better engines etc (and your ship would have a crew obviously). And the aim is to destroy the bad guys (i.e. those not friendly to your race), talk to and trade with the good guys (those friendly to your race) and try and form alliances with everyone else. Different areas of space would be declared as space controlled by different races and as the game progresses, the balance changes and control over different bits of space can change hands.
    Make this in a Trek MMO where you get to pick a race e.g. Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Borg, Ferengi, Human, Vulcan, Andorian or whatever else. Obviously you wouldnt start out in control of a Galaxy class starship but if you play the game and advance, you may be given command of a better ship than the one you started with. And eventually you might get to the Galaxy class.

    • by Maserati (8679) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:36AM (#27500237) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, that's almost exactly EVE. Try it.

      • by Rhys (96510)

        Or Earth and Beyond. Oh wait, it was almost stillborn. Lasted what, 1 year past release then canned? It was closer to what he describes, because it was a /lot/ less complex than EVE.

    • Strip crew, add areas of space controlled entirely and only by player alliances and you just described EvE.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @02:49AM (#27500291)

    I think the article is overestimating the reach and historical significance of "fantasy".

    While there have been stories of elves, trolls, goblins, wizards and the like for centuries it hasn't been "fantasy". Now I'm not an english/mythology major but from what I remember about western mythology there was very little of said storytelling OUTSIDE of the historical epics which were mostly written around the time they were set. The story of King Arthur, Dragons, swords etc... comes from a time when it wasn't abnormal for someone to run around with a sword. Dragons were still mildly plausible and Wizards and Witches were believed to walk the earth. So while it was at the time debateable whether or not there were witches etc... it wasn't 'fantasy'... it was dodgy news with a dramatic twist.

    Furthermore. The assemblage of "Fantasy" as we know it today has pretty much one primary source and one derivative source: Tolkien -> DnD. The Fantasy world which DnD popularized was largely the creation and invention of JRR Tolkien. Before Tolkien the canonization of what a goblin/troll/elf was and how they interacted wasn't nearly so clearly identifiable as we would today describe a fantasy game.

    Really "Fantasy" as we recognize it today is all just Fan Fic for JRR Tolkien written less than a century after the original and has very little mythological root in actual western literature and lore.

    IANAEM (I Am Not An English Major).

    - Gavin

    • by adavies42 (746183)

      Furthermore. The assemblage of "Fantasy" as we know it today has pretty much one primary source and one derivative source: Tolkien -> DnD.

      well, it's a bit much to say it's all down to tolkien. he certainly shaped the genre, but ignoring people like george macdonald [wikipedia.org] or lord dunsany [wikipedia.org] would be like saying science fiction started with asimov (thus forgetting wells and verne). and there's plenty of people out there writing reasonably well-researched fantasy based on actual western traditions--i read the first book of lawhead [wikipedia.org]'s song of albion [wikipedia.org] recently, and it was derived directly from irish mythology.

      • by gnud (934243)
        Not to mention how much of Tolkien was derived from actual myths.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sesshomaru (173381)

        Well, part of the problem there is the definition of Fantasy. The giant of American Fantasy is named Howard Philips Lovecraft, not only because of his own stories but because he was so influential on other important American Fantasy authors like Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.

        It's not like people don't reckognize the man's influence, the problem is that they just don't reckognize him as "Fantasy" partly because a large numbers of his fantasy stories are set in what were for him modern times, and p

        • Precisely.

          I'm not trying to say that there isn't great fantasy out there that doesn't fit the DnD mold. Or that Tolkien wasn't widely borrowing from mythology. Just that what most any "Fantasy" MMO would define as fantasy doesn't really resemble anything except for the DnD/Tolkien canon.

          Sci-Fi on the other hand sort of has the Star Wars/Star Trek genre pretty well defined. (Warriors in Space). Flying around on battleships of sorts. That would be the Eve Online MMO. But most science fiction isn't very ga

    • Fantasy has been around much longer than Tolkien, although its rise in popularity came from Tolkien and D&D. The people behind D&D (Dave Arneson, Gary Gygax, and their respective gaming groups) were fond of other fantasy, including Jack Vance (the D&D magic system was inspired by his "Dying Earth" stories), and Clark Ashton Smith, to name two.

      One thing you may not have noticed is how much Tolkien took from older myths. A story with no Tolkien influence, but drawing on the older stories, may

  • by PowerVegetable (725053) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @03:04AM (#27500347) Homepage
    This isn't just about MMORPGs; written literature has a similar issue.

    As some have pointed out above, it's far easier to invent a story-framework when you don't have to deal with plausibility.

    In our technologically sophisticated world, and especially among gamers, we have a territorial claim on technology and scientific plausibility. We're much more critical of sci-fi, because we feel comfortable judging sci-fi settings. In contrast, fantasy is allowed and expected to exhibit arbitrary rules like magic, and to develop romantic stories involving heroes.

    If, in a fantasy setting, I'm jumped by rabid fairies from the Underworld, I can buy it. If they cast eternal drowsiness on me and limit my mobility for 10 seconds... OK that's fine. If, in retaliation, I cast a spell to call down meteoric fire from the sky, that's totally believable (not to mention awesome). Fantasy doesn't invite us to call bullshit.

    But if, in a sci-fi setting, I'm attacked by robots, well OK that's plausible. Maybe they're programmed to attack outsiders, I can buy that. They hit me with their laser guns... OK, I can buy that that's possible in the future with advances in battery technology. And I guess I didn't get cut in half because I was wearing special nano-armor that, ummm, absorbs laser light. But in retaliation I cast my hacker-spell and... wait... I smell bullshit.

    It's easier as an author to just cut yourself loose from present-day reality. It's far more challenging to write in a future-of-now setting, and deal with the annoyances of the real world's rules and history.
    • But in retaliation I cast my hacker-spell and... wait... I smell bullshit.

      But in retaliation I release a cloud of nanobots that I remote control with an implant in my brain to hack the robots.

      Technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguisable from magic. Use that.

  • Another view (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mathness (145187)

    One of the good things about SciFi MMOs is that they come with no baggage, it is quite possible to create a whole setting that is original. As you game and read the missions you get a feel for the world and it settings. Fantasy often comes with a lot of baggage, mostly it must have magic, elves, dwarves etc. So it isn't always open to do new things.

    I think one of the reasons SciFi MMOs suffer (besides its general lesser appeal to non-SciFi people) is that range combat is always rather poor. Despite all the

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @04:10AM (#27500627) Journal

    What this guy seems to want is things to be simple. In an MMORPG. That is possible, just play any asian MMO.

    Not all MMO's, typically the western ones, follow that design. Typically, western MMO's have fewer levels, but more happening in a level (skills) and are on the whole slower to play. One free MMO has me AoE a dozen of enemies and killing them with a single skill dropping piles of loot. Of course to pick it all up, you had to buy a piggy with real money or spend ages clicking loot after each 1 key press killing spree.

    In for instance Lotro, such enemies are hard to find. For the new rune-keeper and warden classes, such enemies would be nightmare. They are classes that build up their attacks. One shot kills are boring.

    The lore-master class has a lot of skills, but many depend on the situation. What enemy, how many, dictates how you play. Not nearly deep enough as far as I am concerned but I am sure way to complex for some.

    SWG and the likes didn't fail because they were complex. WoW is complex. They failed because they were so bug ridden only the most devoted fan could tolerate it and then the developers screwed their fans. Funcom and SOE are companies that basically just don't get customer relations. They don't understand that a game is NOT their product. It belongs to the people who bought it and you can't just mess with it. Change it after the sale to attract more customers does NOT work. You upset the people who bought it for what it is and any new customers are going to be scared off even if they are now intrested by the way you treated your existing customers. After all, if they screwed their old customers, why wouldn't they screw their new ones just as hard?

    SWG and Age of Conan have showed that you CANNOT just change the game and expect success. SWG has been talked about enough and AoC tried to lower its age rating by getting rid of nudity. Both failed. AoC and SWG are just waiting to die, if in fact AoC hasn't already.

    The simple thing an MMO designer must do is this. Ask "WHAT IS MY MARKET".

    Is it a simple, "chat with your mates in an internet cafe while clicking away barely paying attention to the action" korean MMO? Is it, "Anybody can play this for half an hour a day, but paying a full monthly fee"? "Hardcore raiders only, anything takes at least a weekend to accomplish an end-content requires a cathater?" "Real life is to earn the monthly fee, this isn't second life, this is your life" style world-sim?

    Mix and matching don't work so far. If you satisfy one customer you are sure to upset an other. SWG pleased some, then they changed it. AO was to messy and Eve is doing fine because the developers picked their audience and don't upset them.

  • They did not talk about Stargate Worlds and that does sound like a cool game.

  • I wonder if the article is a bit wrong. Sure there have been some high profile scifi failures but there have also been a lot of fantasy mmorpgs that failed.

    There actually are a fair number of scifi-themed mmorpgs out there. They aren't as successful as WoW but they are still around. I've never played any of these (I've never played WoW either) but someone is still playing Anarchy Online, Eve Online, Star Wars:Galaxies, the Matrix Online, and Planetside. They are all still around so they must not be lo
    • Yes but really the point of the article was that there were no Sci-Fi MMOs called World of Warcraft.

      Really there is only one major player and that WOW. With some smaller successes still running like Guild Wars. And a few ancients still around. But the real money maker is World of Warcraft. And since it's fantasy the author jumped to the conclusion that since the only success currently seems to be WOW-- Therefore Fantasy MMOs are more successful.

  • Fantasy alone carries with it assumptions based in our own history, a romanticized version of the middle ages where knights were good guys and smart people with beards could cast spells

    Ugh... just ugh... let's see, I'll tweak that a bit:

    Science fiction carries with it assumptions based in our own history, a romanticized version of the future where starship troopers are good guys and smart people with bald heads could build robots and death rays.

    Actually, "What's New" did a good comic strip on this

  • by DarthVain (724186)

    Seems to me doing a Fallout Online would be pretty easy to do.

    Sci-Fi doesn't have to be all spaceships and aliens, those that would defiantly be fun also.

    You could even model the same ideas out of WOW. Races? Pick and alien, make them have various abilities. Gear? Ship upgrades, dur. Dungeons? Preset wars or engagements. Guilds could function much the same... perhaps give ability to buy capital ships or support ships for engagements.

    Anyway like most things Sci-fi all it takes is some imagination.

    Oh and as t

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