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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Explaining the Dearth of Console MMOGs 123

spielermacher writes "Gamasutra is running an interesting analysis written by Flying Lab Software Producer Joe Ludwig explaining why there are not more successful Console MMOGs. Some reasons given: lack of keyboard, MMOG players like to play in pairs, business model doesn't always work out for the developer, larger installed base of game-quality PCs, and others."
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Explaining the Dearth of Console MMOGs

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  • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:42PM (#23731585)

    Some reasons given

    Or the most obvious answer... parents don't want their TV tied up for 16 hours at a time while their 26 year old son "Johnny" does back to back raids. =P

    Another argument about his lack of job hunting skills and the small TV in the bedroom doesn't cut it. =D

  • by theuhstuf ( 1153693 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:46PM (#23731689)
    ...but no one is willing to take the risk. I've been playing WoW with a xbox360 controller for years and I love it. :p Joy To Key is one of the best pieces of software ever developed... ( http://www.electracode.com/4/joy2key/JoyToKey%20English%20Version.htm [electracode.com] )
  • MUDs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:47PM (#23731727) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, lament the dearth of teletype MMOGs, let alone those that can be navigated from my console.
    What dearth? There are plenty of MUDs [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:No Keyboard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fitten ( 521191 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:57PM (#23732013)
    Because chatting via typing is difficult when you don't have a keyboard. The other option is to use voice communication and it's hard enough dealing with text chat much less several dozen people all talking at once... seriously, could you imagine Barrens chat if it were voice? or the chat inside Ironforge? How about all the gold/isk sellers spamming voice chat? Many people use most MMOs as a fancy graphical chatroom. When you can't chat... well, there you go.

    Voice works great for guilds/corps/groups/raids but that is selective admission into the channel(s) already.

    And then you get into needing lots of buttons for game play. You need how many for your spell icons in WoW? How about adding attack and all the other commands as well? (crafting/harvesting/etc).

    There just aren't enough buttons on a gamepad for them all, and if you did have them, it'd turn into a keyboard of some kind (maybe a chorded one).
  • Erm, obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:07PM (#23732277) Homepage Journal
    • limited networking ability on the consoles
    • less multi-threading support in traditional console app architecture
    • product-oriented publishers not good at running service-oriented servers
    • what to do with little kids in big adult world
    • ...
    • profit!!! (which can't be determined until servers run for months)
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23732587) Journal
    Actually, having played a lot of MMOs, IMHO the login is the least of your worries.

    In WoW a Shaman can easily run out of the 60 icon slots on the toolbars. On COH most of my characters had to keep some of the temporary powers off the 3 toolbars available (only _very_ recently they provided the option to open more).

    You need _some_ way to activate them quickly. Be it keyboard or by clicking them with the mouse. Scrolling through lists of choices with a gamepad, in real time, would suck more ass than the vacuum toilets on the Soyuz ;)

    I mean, seriously, I can see the talks after a WoW-style raid:

    Tank: "Dude, FFS, why didn't you heal???"
    Priest: "Sorry, guys, I had to look for a mana potion in through my action list."
    Mage: "Heh. Do what I do, just scroll to it in advance."
    Priest: "STFU, noob. The only reason I wasn't at it, was that I looked for the bandages earlier when you over-nuked."

    The best I've seen done with a gamepad was Sega's PSO, which was little more than a hack-and-slash with 6 actions maximum, assigned to 3 keys on the gamepad. Plus one "shift" key to select between the first and second set.

    The sequel, PSU, reduced that even more. Yeah, so you can play it on a gamepad. Except with any given weapon you have exactly one special attack you can assign to a key. And you have to scroll through a list to even select your mana potion or put on some special glasses. (Which turn off your sword, since you don't have enough buttons to activate the glasses _and_ use the sword.) It gets (A) annoying fast, and (B) repetitive fast, since the number of actions is finite and small, and there are no clever combinations and strategies to use with them.
  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:30PM (#23732951) Homepage

    ...and its hard to chat with no keyboard.

    MMORPGs owe their origins to the world of MUSHes and MUDs, which were essentially chat interfaces oriented around playing a game as a common activity.

    Much of my time in any MMORPG is spent talking with my group, whether determining tactics for the next fight, discussing game issues and features, or just finding out how things are going in their lives. All of that requires a convenient means to communicate, and while some people use voice communications for much of this, most still use typed chat. A console is simply not chat-friendly in the same manner that any PC is. Voice chat is less useful in many cases because you are not provided with any visual tag as to who is speaking as you are with in game typed chat (and when the female elf you have been playing with turns out to have a deep male voice, its harder to associate the spoken voice with the character at least at first). Its fine when you *know* the people from regular contact or in real life, but when playing in a pickup group (PUG), thats not the case.

    Now if a console system were to integrate a decent keyboard with the game instead of various controllers then this might change, but consoles appeal to a different style of gameplay (one I fail to appreciate) and often a different type of player. While standard games may be steadily moving to the console format in many cases, MMORPGs will remain PC oriented until new technology arises (some new form of voice recognition chat that puts what you say on screen as speech balloons say, rather than hearing it as voice, or more than likely in addition to doing so) that makes playing them possible and convenient. Personally speaking I know I could never use the substandard control available from a controller more effectively than the control gained from keyboard+mouse, although I am trying to adapt to using a Nostromo in some games at the moment. Even then its not as effective for me.

  • Re:Erm, obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JebusIsLord ( 566856 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:48PM (#23733429)
    * The modern consoles ALL have built-in networking.
    * The modern consoles (Wii exempt) both have multiple CPU cores. Anyhow, a) why do MMOs need multi-threading more than traditional games, and b) why do you think the multithreading support is lacking in consoles?
    * The same developers who make MMOs for PCs (Sony, Square Enix), make non-MMO console games. These guys already know how to run the business end of it.
    * The console market is huge, so games can target the young, the mature, or everyone. There are also parental controls on all 3 modern consoles.

    Not to flame you, but I don't think any of your answers are "erm, obvious", or even "erm, likely". There is tons of online gaming on XBOX, just not massively multiplayer.

    My guesses:

    * No keyboard for socializing! The 360 has a headset. I'm not sure about the PS3. The Wii is screwed on this front.
    * Hard drive space is limited on the 360, and these games have HUGE update requirements.
    * XBOX Live users are accustomed to a single XBOX live charge for online pay, and might balk at additional per-game charges. Sony plugs their "free online play". These games make their money off recurring charges.
  • Patches (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dontPanik ( 1296779 ) <ndeselmsNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:07PM (#23734015)
    MMORPGs are constantly evolving games (or at least they should be) because people find exploits and the interactions must be kept fair. Consoles have more difficulties delivering these patches although with more widespread internet access among current generation consoles this is less of a problem.
  • Re:Half-wrong... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eponymous Bastard ( 1143615 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:36PM (#23734879)
    A couple of your points

    So what? Good MMOs are continuously updated for five to ten years. No reason to think you couldn't port it to a different platform and give it a graphical update in that time.
    But updating, say, from PS2 to PS3 is so far from trivial it's not even funny. Compare to going from XP to Vista, for example. For that expense you can port to Mac or Linux easily.

    No businessman is going to make a decision of starting a project that is going to have to be ported to a new platform before even releasing, when you can stick to the PC and keep your investments low.

    The only way I can think of convincing someone to do this is if you have advanced knowledge on the next console platform and start developing early, so as to be the flagship product of the console. Maybe the next XBox will focus on being an MMO box and allow the developers to get a head start by developing on a correctly configured PC.

    Many, many people play MMOs (and other games for that matter) in pairs. I've played 6 different MMOs with my wife. Lots of people play with their spouses, siblings, or kids.
    And many, many people play console games in pairs, trios, or quartets. We tolerated split-screen for Goldeneye on the N64, where each player might get, what, 180x140 worth of screen space? And now we're on HD displays.
    And once again, we hit the hardware limitation problem.

    In GoldenEye, both players were in the same map. In an MMO there is a chance that they'll be in completely different areas, and consoles don't usually have that much RAM, let alone having to split texture memory, etc. Likewise, barring cordless headphones, you'll be sharing sound too. And since you won't be reading as much, it's just a mess.

    Then again, you could have two consoles on different TVs anyway.

    Console MMOs really need to support split-screen play on a single machine, which adds to the development complexity.
    And developing for a single platform, instead of the "PC platform" of whatever the fsck the user decided to buy, should reduce development complexity.
    And it's easier to develop for x86+windows+OpenGL/DirectX than for multiple consoles or generations of consoles.

    Seriously, consoles are nice and all, but the current hardware doesn't look like a match for MMOs. Maybe the next generation will include an MMO machine, with extra hard drive, wireless keyboard, specialized controller, headphones/microphone, voice recognition, enough memory for split screen, etc. But until then, don't bother.
  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:03PM (#23735627)
    Not all MMOs require massive numbers of on-screen spells. Everquest provides 8 spell slots (if I remember correctly), and Guild Wars only allows 8 skill slots at a time as well. Part of the strategy in these games is choosing a subset of your available firepower that will work well for a particular mission or area. WoW is obviously optimized for a PC platform with a mouse and keyboard input. So, yeah, a straight port of WoW would probably be pretty awful. But it's certainly possible to design a compelling game that doesn't require 60 icons on the screen at once.
  • Re:No Keyboard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stormguard2099 ( 1177733 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:29PM (#23736179)
    That doesn't really matter. computers ALL have keyboards, it's a given. As long as you have to buy the keyboard extra for the console the PC will always have that advantage to it. you can't design a MMO around keyboard usage on the console and expect it to do anything but flounder and as long as you only have a controller then it will continue to be inadequate.

BLISS is ignorance.