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Armchair Philosophy

Random thoughts about gaming, both online and offline.

Author: Eindrachen

The Problem With Opinions

Posted by Eindrachen Sunday March 22 2009 at 5:48AM
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MMOs are always in a difficult bind.  On the one hand, the playerbase out there keeps demanding things.  On the other hand, they are all pretty dysfunctional about their requests.

The most important example of this issue is the "hardcore" argument.  Proponents want content that is less accessible to certain people playing the game.  Hardcore PVP has to be more punishing, hardcore raiding has to require more people, ad endless nauseum.  The idea is that by providing this content, these individuals asking for it will be happier and thus better off.

See, here's the problem: these people equate the kind of game they prefer playing to a kind of personal virtue.  On forums everywhere, they have successfully created the farsical myth of the "carebear" as a kind of scapegoat for all the woes in MMO gaming.  The idea is that because all these "carebears" asked for easier gameplay, companies gave in to their wishes and appealed to the lowest common denomenator.  Hardcore gameplay, of whatever kind, is upheld as a kind of gaming Holy Grail, a symbol of the perfect game.

Pardon while I laugh maniacally at such a silly notion.

It isn't that I don't think hardcore gameplay doesn't have a place.  Even I like spending hours crawling through some vast, expansive instance, in a small army of other players, destroying the inhabitants and filling my bags with swag.  If the area is well-designed, it is a tribute to their skill that they can make something that entertains me for hours on end.  And mass PVP is insanely fun; I'm not actually keen on one-on-one fights (MMORPGs, by the very definition of roles, destroys the possibility of a "balanced" fight), but in large group PVP, I love the idea of trying to help my team overcome another team.  Group PVP in MMO is one of the most enriching experiences you can have, barring the occasional bad run here and there.

No, my ridicule is reserved for the notion that these "hardcore" types have somehow been wronged by the objects of their scorn.  Apparently, it is the fault of everyone but themselves as to why their gameplay of choice has gotten easier for everyone to get into.  Well, allow me to dispel that myth: it is the hardcore crowd themselves who made things this way.  How?

Back in Ultima Online, we see a perfect example of how hardcore PVP became its own worst enemy.  By allowing players to engage in any behavior within the game mechanics, players chose to engage in the worst behavior allowable.  This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; we can look to plenty of real world situations where anarchy is a signal for human beings to act like monsters towards other human beings.  And this was a game, so naturally there are no actual real punishments for harrassing other players, corpse-camping new players, etc.

When the Trammel server came out, the mass exodus of players to it shouldn't have been a surprise.  Most folks are playing MMOs in their spare time, because they do have college, work, etc.  Most of us gamers can't play 8+ hours of games a day, every day, for months and months.  If a person can do that, awesome, I wish I was in their position.  But if they want a game to cater to them, they can't expect me to be happy playing it.

Hardcore raiding has the same issue.  Everquest is often held up as the perfect example of how awesome raiding was.  These people never want to talk about the negatives of raiding: the internal drama, the logistics needed, the fact that the only actual skills you need to raid (other than the ones you need to solo or small-group) are being able to shut the hell up and listen to what you are being told, and following directions.  When someone tells me that they should get game content catered to them because they can sit in front of a computer every day for hours on end, and the only additional skills they have over me are knowing what macros to use (after they look up a website on how to make them), which addons to download (so they don't have to pay as much attention to the fight and can spend more time yakking on chat), and the information for their guild's Vent server (so we can hear raid leaders act like complete r-tards), I can only shrug and say, "Yeah, whatever."

Hardcore gameplay is, by its very definition, difficult for most people to do.  I'm sorry to burst anyone's bubble here, but just because you play on a PVP-oriented server doesn't make you good at PVP; it just means you are either stupid or crazy enough to put up with the crappiest behavior known, just to play a game.  (I refuse to answer questions as to my own relative sanity.  This isn't about me.  Or my invisible pet squirrel Amadeus.)  Just because you are stupid or crazy enough to play in a single area in a single game for hours doesn't mean you are entitled to more content.

That's really the crux of the issue.  Too many hardcore gamers have a sense of entitlement.  Let me dispel that lie right now.  If you paid your montly subscription to a game, and you played that game, you are not owed a single blessed thing.  You got what you paid for: a period of time to play the game and possibly enjoy it if you like what you found.  Too many veterans in a given MMO game seem to think years of paying for a game forces a company to give them more.  This notion is not just wrong, but almost hypocritical; it presumes that their opinions matter more because they paid more money to be entertained.

Folks, MMO games are just like any other form of entertainment.  If a movie you paid to see sucks, you can ask for your money back, but unless the movie projection itself was flawed, the answer is often, "No."  It may be your opinion that the movie sucked, but the act of paying for it before you've seen it implies you are accepting the risk that it isn't what you thought it would be.

The same thing goes for, well, all forms of entertainment.  Concerts, plays, sports games, and yes, even MMOs.  The truth is that if a given MMO doesn't appeal to people, they won't pay for it.  If the MMO doesn't make money, it usually gets canned.  This isn't about whether hardcore or casual gameplay is good or bad. It's about what makes money and what doesn't.

There is an adage: opinions are like buttholes - everyone has one, and they usually stink.  Before hardcore gamers get upset and sling insults and accusations around that casual gamers have ruined their game of choice, I would ask that they consider the fact that their opinions are truly in the minority and that means they probably won't get what they ask for.

There is no wrong or right in what you prefer to play in a game.  That goes for everyone, though, not just those who wish they had more hardcore content.

Sovereign797 writes:

Good post.  It is true, money is at the heart of the problem.  The reason why it's so hard to have truly varied MMO experiences.  A developer can look at what made money, what makes money, and they're going to want to cash in.  Someone has already done that, and you'd be hard pressed to do a better job of making that game.

If developers would realize this, and try to carve out new genres capturing a different portion of the market than every other game, they would make money, not as much as Blizzard still, but more than if they make a clone and fail.

When this happens, there will be more choice in MMO gaming and no doubt more opinions.

Sun Mar 22 2009 6:31AM Report
Sovereign797 writes:

Good post.  It is true, money is at the heart of the problem.  The reason why it's so hard to have truly varied MMO experiences.  A developer can look at what made money, what makes money, and they're going to want to cash in.  Someone has already done that, and you'd be hard pressed to do a better job of making that game.

If developers would realize this, and try to carve out new genres capturing a different portion of the market than every other game, they would make money, not as much as Blizzard still, but more than if they make a clone and fail.

When this happens, there will be more choice in MMO gaming and no doubt more opinions.

Sun Mar 22 2009 6:31AM Report
Eindrachen writes:

Sovereign797:  I think the main issue is that the MMO community is way, way too dysfunctional.  We keep saying what we want.  What we refuse to say is how we can work together to get more of what we want, even if we can't have everything.  It's a problem that goes both ways.

I'm sure some hardcore gamers will see this blog and think, "Oh, God, another hater."  Let me affirm that I think hardcore PVP and raiding need to be in every MMO to at least a small extent, just so folks who love it have a reason to stay and increase the size of the community.  I'm not against it; if anything, I would love to see more of it here and there, even in established games.

What I'm against is this needless pointing of fingers and people acting ridiculous about a hobby.  The egos in some forum posts have become ridiculous; it's like people want companies like SOE, Blizzard, and Mythic to sit down and make their own personal MMO.  Well, guess what?  If that's what you want, you are a moron.  No company on this planet is stupid enough to risk that much money in making a game only one person they know for a fact will play.

The time has come for people to take off the fishbowls on their heads and see that they aren't the only folks playing MMOs.  The only hope SOE and Blizzard has of keeping their chokehold on the MMO industry is that different types of gamers - hardcore and casual, raider and PVPer - keep arguing with each other instead of targeting the real source of the problem: developers catering to the easiest-to-satisfy whims of the community.

I'm not going to doom Darkfall before it is even out (after all, everyone keeps consigning World of Warcraft to failure every time they release an expansion that surges the playerbase even more), but let's not forget the debacle of UO and the Trammel server.  I'd hate a hell of a lot if something as innovative and bold as Darkfall fell on it's behind because it thought catering to a specific type of gameplay would earn it huge profits.  If the company is smart and nurtures a good and loyal customer base, they'll succeed.  If they try that Age of Conan crap... well, it was nice knowing them.

Sun Mar 22 2009 7:49AM Report
OddjobXL writes:

Hey, I don't mean to burst your bubble but it seems like you have opinions too.

That said, they're pretty good ones.  However, I think players know what they want whether it's something I want or not.  Eve Online's a perfect example of someone saying, "Let the PvP roll and, hey, we'll build in meaning to the process by basing our game's economy around PvP and having vast reaches of space for people to control and a wild array of possible tactics with fully combat customizable avatars (the ships)."

Now why every PvPer in creation doesn't flock to Eve Online to really show what they can do is another good question.   Some may be afraid they'll never catch up to the stats and resources the old timers have and if they can't be top dog there's no point to it.  Others seem to not want to really have to think about strategy.  We'll call them the "fair fight" crowd.  They'd rather just have one on one or small team fights without having to worry about espionage, diplomacy or planning ahead for consequences.  Some might just not like sci-fi or want human avatars.

Still, a small but successful purely hardcore game can work.

I'm just hoping someone vacuums up the lessons from other games to make a small but successful purely roleplaying game one day.  Judging from the numbers, I think we're catching up in population.

But I as a roleplaying hardcore, like the PvP hardcore, reserve the right to speak my mind.  Maybe the devs in this game can't or won't do what I want but what I say could be carried on by other players who see it and eventually reach the ears of a dev working on a title somewhere else who has a lightbulb.

Yes, people can be stupid and obnoxious and ignorant and shortsighted and egomaniacal and selfish.  But for every 100 of them there's got to be one or two that have a point and can express it well enough to possibly make a difference or to inspire someone else that can. 

I think we just have to take the good with the bad even if that means a clothespin on the nose and an itchy trigger finger on the forum ignore settings.

Sun Mar 22 2009 9:39AM Report

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