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An Ongoing Tribute to my own lameness.....

General random thoughts about gaming, both within and outside of the MMO genre.

Author: Jimmy_Scythe

The Answer.... sort of.....

Posted by Jimmy_Scythe Wednesday October 17 2007 at 1:29AM
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I want to kick this one off by venting an unrelated frustration of mine....



Whew, glad I got that off of my chest! In case you're wondering what that was all about, I recently took on the project to convert the first level of God of War into a 2600 ROM. Yeah, I know it won't be very much like the <cough> PS2 version, but that's kind of why I chose to do this. I wanted to see how close I could come to the spirit of the original while still operating within the limitations of the Atari 2600 hardware. You'd think this would be totally easy. You'd be mistaken.

Everything on the Atari 2600 has to be done in 6507 assembly language with 4K of ROM and 128 bytes, yes BYTES, of RAM. For those of you that don't know, the 6507 only has three registers and can't multiply or divide. Visa vie, I've only been able to get the TIA (Television Interface Adapter) to draw a single chunky box on the screen and move it according the joystick input. As soon as I have an actually screenshot of the finished product to show, I'll be posting it here.

But enough of this stupidity, on with the show!

I think I may have a way to please most of the people, most of the time. Given, no solution will please everyone but I'm fairly certain that if these next ideas were implemented correctly there would be an 80% decrease in the pissing and moaning that currently infects the MMORPG community. Before I get into one of my ever annoying lists, I want to state a few recent observations that bear directly on the solution I'm about to present.

To begin with, the more people that are involved in a project, the less impact an individual can have on the project. It isn't hard, for example, to make a difference in a Football or Hockey game because there are only about 20 people on your team and 40 players on the field total. It's would be almost impossible to do the same thing if you were playing the same game on an expanded field with 100 players to a side. Even with multiple balls / pucks in play, most people would still be just standing around waiting. With the volume of goals / touchdowns being scored, no individual play or show of talent would really influence the outcome.

As another example, I play a lot of speedball at the local paintball field during the season that it's open. Speedball is a 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 CTF game, and it's not uncommon for one player to carry his team through a round or 10. In larger scenario games that involve 100 or more people and multiple objectives, it becomes very easy for me to get lost in the shuffle or just fall into a place between firefights with no idea of where to find the action. This was probably the number one complaint against Planetside from it's launch day.

So what does that tell us about MMOs? It tells us that the "living breathing world" thing is a catch-22 of averages. You can impact the world in little ways, but your overall effect on the world is minimal due to the sheer number of other players that are also impacting the world. Individual glory dies in this environment. Not saying that it can't happen, but most of us spend our entire day trying to chip away at a world where we are statistically insignificant and really don't want to be reminded of that in our recreational activities.

The next observation is that we generally hang out with people we already know. Most of the people we meet are either co-workers or relatives. Yes, we occasionally meet people while trying to find the bathroom at a concert or the movies, but for the most part, we stick to people that we already know.

Don't believe me? Then ask yourself what guilds are for. Ask yourself what multigame guilds are for. Ask yourself why few people are still playing Everquest and why fewer people are still playing UO. The answer is because people want to play (at least in co-op) with their friends. When EQ got released, people left UO and took their friends with them. When WoW was released, people left EQ and took their friends with them. Show of hands: How many people are still playing a game they're bored with because all their friends play it?

Now this changes a little bit with competitive play. When you're just out to kick ass and takes names, any opponent will do. This is why FPS deathmatches, arcade fighting games, and online sports games are so popular. It's all about individual glory and cooperation is kept to a minimum. More recent FPS games like BF2 and Quake Wars are small enough that one person can go Rambo without every acknowledging that the people he / she is playing against are anything more than really clever AI. Likewise, I can go to the local YMCA and find a game of 1-on-1 or even 3-on-3 without having to know anyone there.

With these two (three) things in mind, I've come up with some guidelines that I think will clear up most of the problems that people have with MMORPGs. These don't cover all the bases, just the most glaring problems.

  • Stop designing content for groups larger than eight people. Again, most people only play with friends and family. I don't have 40+ friends and even if I did, it's highly unlikely that I could get them all together at the same time. On the other hand, if I have 10 friends then it would be fairly easy to find two or three of them to play with at any given time.
  • No more level restrictions on grouping! Ever lose a friend because they were higher level than you or vice versa? Allow players to gain XP regardless of who's grouping with them and the problem goes away due to the law of averages. For instance, you're level 1 and you group with a lvl 50. You both get level appropriate XP for each kill the party makes. So the Level 50 gets full XP for the level 48 mob he just killed and you get XP that is appropriate for a level 1 that just killed a level 48 mob. This allows you powerlevel to the same range as your friends with a minimal timesink.
  • Dungeons or GTFO! I could usually crank out a 10 to 20 level dungeon ,or equivalent area, for NWN in about a week. A professional MMORPG dev team should be able to add two or three such areas a week. Yes, most of these would be instances and wouldn't take the players more than a couple of hours to blow through, but you'd be missing a major factor to dismiss this idea on that basis. Current MMOs are timesinks that devour whole days of player's lives. If we design with the philosophy that players will likely play with their friends at their convenience then we can assume that two hours, every couple of days is how most will play. When we shift to this format, MMOs become more like cable TV than blatant scams for cash. You're getting new content all the time and you aren't required to play 24/7 to see it all.


Damn! Out of two basic observations we made three rules and came up with a design that is completely different from the current MMO model. Given, there are some games like this already. Guild Wars, DDO, Phantasy Star Online BB, etc., but none of these games really deliver content in the way outlined. By the time they got done making GW and DDO, the devs should have had enough art assets and solid enough design tools to just keep adding content on a weekly basis. This, IMO, would have justified the monthly subscription fee. Currently, Dungeon Runners is trying something similar but .....

And I know that about half of you reading this want to skin me alive and wear my face as a mask as you drag my flayed, yet still living body down a gravel road behind your truck for even suggesting that we shift to a model of mostly instances. That's all fine and good, but I don't think I ever stated that we needed to abandon persistent worlds altogether. I merely said that we need to redesign these worlds for smaller groups and add to them on a weekly basis. Some of the content will be instanced, that can't be helped. However, not all of it has to be. PvP zones and objectives, obviously, would benefit from being part of a persistent world. Live events would also have to be hosted in persistent areas that everyone could get too. In fact, live events have actually been done as part of periodic content in many MMORPGs.

If it takes me a week to make a two hour scenario for NWNs, think of what a dedicated team of 10 or 20 level designers could do per week. And wouldn't it be nice to not feel like you absolutely have to dedicate four hours a night to get your money's worth? As a man with a wife and full time job, I find it a lot easier to spare six hours a week than 20+.




soulwynd writes:

I loled in my mind. You should be playing WoW.

Wed Oct 17 2007 7:49AM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

Did it take you all day to think that comment up? WoW is absolutely nothing like what I just outlined. Not only is it soloable up to the level cap rather than based around small groups, but WoW is also all about a static persistent world with 40 man raids. How often is new content added? Every 6 months? And you have to pay for that content in an expansion?

WoW also diminishes the XP in groups by dividing it among all members in the party according to character level in a way that punishes you for grouping with much higher level characters. The result is that while you advance faster in groups, you are discouraged from grouping with just anyone.

What I'm talking about is more along the lines of GW and Phantasy Star online. I liked both of those games, I've never played DDO, mainly because they fit my lifestyle and revolved around the idea of the "adventure" in a way that mimicked PnP RPGs. Ultimately, this is what most players really want. They want to be able to play through an adventure in one sitting with two or three of their friends. If a game was designed with this in mind, new content could be delivered on a regular enough basis to justify the monthly fee. Currently, the devs just shove players onto a giant field of mobs and rake in the cash. Taking that into consideration, Is it any wonder that people are bored and disillusioned with the genre now?


Wed Oct 17 2007 9:37AM Report
Thaliost writes:

You really think you only play with friends? Cmon....


99% of people I play with, I met in the internet and inside the game. With some I eventually become "game friends" (not actual RL friends).


Just because you don't seem to socialize in-game and play with the same people all the time, don't let the rest suffer (with those 8 peeps dungeons).

Wed Oct 17 2007 2:01PM Report
soulwynd writes:

And I'm still loling in my mind, but I suppose the reply comment made me smirk a little bit too. I mentioned WoW because everything you said was WoW with a nice pretty bird mask on its face, carnival style. I for one am tired of WoW-likes, and if I really wanted to be helpful, which I think I am right now, I think the best advice I can give you is to try to find a nice D&D irc channel, make some friends there and play a game with a real game master creating the content. Every adventure will be different, you will most likely be teaming up with people your level and even if they stray a bit, D&D xp table will counter it by rewarding lower levels more xp.

Oh yeah, before anyone complains, I'm not a D&D fanboy, I don't even like D&D, but it pleases some people.

Also, while I know it would be great for a game to have new content added constantly, I don't think paid games are exactly ready for that. People pay for their crappy expansions after all.

Thu Oct 18 2007 9:16AM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

Thaliost, not all of us are shut-ins that only socialize online. Most of the people I've met in real life that play WoW are playing because their friends are playing it. And by friends I don't just mean people that they met face to face but also people they met on MySpace or on forums. I've been in quite a few pick up groups that number from two to twenty and I never see any of those people again. Even when they put me on their friends list and vice versa, I just never group with people I met in a pick up group. In fact, search the forums and look at some of the comments about PUGs. Most people hate them.

Soulwynd, I played WoW and didn't find it to be any different from any other MMORPG on the market already. By saying that my ideas are just WoW with a mask is basically saying that my ideas are just MMORPGs with a mask. The WoW response is a lame, knee-jerk, derogatory comment. It's a canned response and really doesn't make any sense in this context.

As for D&D over IRC, it normally doesn't work that well. PnP games work better over forums, but it's just not the same as a face to face game. But that's not exactly what I'm aiming for here either.

What I'm thinking that people want is somthing closer to Gauntlet, Golden Axe, or Crackdown online. An online co-op game where you and your friends can beat the holy hell out of hordes of enemies while shooting the shit. Hellgate: London looks like it'll come the closest to this model.

Thu Oct 18 2007 9:54AM Report
Thaliost writes:

My "problem" is that almost all my RL friends dont play and have never played MMORPGs.


Ofc you can get retards in a random group you form. But out of playing for a while, you get to know some players who you like or identify with, and you just add them to your friends list so you can team up again. As time goes on, your friends list just gets bigger and bigger.


I'm not saying that you have to socialize in-game. My socializations are purely for gaming reasons. But when you play a game with hundreds of thousands of other people, you just get to expand that group.


And about WoW. I played it for 3 months. Excellent game at the time with cool quests. But after reaching cap lvl, I stopped playing cause it got boring to do the same things over and over. Eve online lasted me almost 2 years though :)

Thu Oct 18 2007 5:46PM Report
wowgold2258 writes:


maple story mesos
world of warcraft gold

Fri Oct 19 2007 2:37AM Report
soulwynd writes:

Well, Jimmy, I think you're looking in a very narrow market then. There are several different mmorpgs out there, so please, don't throw a generalization fallacy at me.

Have you tried City of Heroes/Villains? It's made for small groups. It has no level restrictions when grouping, well to be fair, it has them but it also has a system that counters them. And it's a bunch of dungeon or GTFO, perhaps now how you wanted, but every mission is sort of a dungeon.

It's still a WoW-like game tho. You get quests, you grind quests, you grind everything, you try to level, you hunt for equipment I mean enhancement, it becomes work, you quit. I mean, I quit.

Fri Oct 19 2007 8:31AM Report
Jimmy_Scythe writes:

CoX and Anarchy Online were two major influences on this article. I played and enjoyed both games quite a bit. I played AO for over year and CoX ran out of content after about three months. Both penalize you for grouping by dividing the XP rather than giving everyone full XP. With CoX, you get less XP per mob but you kill a greater volume of them. Ditto for AO.

Grinding implies pointless repetition and that's actually something that I'm trying to avoid in this article. Of course, if you play any online game more than 20 hours a week, you're going to end up doing the same things over and over again. What I'm thinking of would be designed for 10 hours a week or less. So yes, total catasses would not enjoy this game at all. However, I think that the biggest problem with MMOs is that they ONLY cater to catasses. Any hint that a game requires less than the commitment of a part-time job invites "go play WoW you carebear" type flames. Not all of us live in our parent's basement and have no sex life.

Fri Oct 19 2007 9:20AM Report
soulwynd writes:

I'm a casual gamer myself, I don't think you can stop the market from creating games that are targeted to people who are easily addicted to things, such as living in basements without sex, drinking beer, and smoking pot.

Part of the problem is that you cannot be exactly fair with a game targeting casual players. Unless you force everyone to advance at the same rate like EVE, some hyperactive kid will max out in a week while you're still down there. So one branch of players will think the casual game is too easy and the other will feel like they have been cheated into the game that was supposed to be casual. Giving people only 10 hours to play a week will also piss some people off. You can't exactly please everyone with an online game.

Sat Oct 20 2007 11:29AM Report writes:
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