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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

How Elitism Is Stifling The MMOG Market

Posted by Meleagar Saturday June 19 2010 at 7:32AM
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When I post on gaming forums ideas about 24/7 advancement and solo-centric games, the haters come out in droves. If they had sound arguments against such a game, I would love hear them. However, most of the time they spew such unreasonable rhetoric that it becomes difficult to even have a reasonable conversation.  For example, one guy recently argued that the reason they don't make such a game is because of the name of the genre - massively multiplayer -  which in his mind necessarily meant "grouping" and "raiding". 

What is odd is that these people get angry and hateful just for my suggestion that some developer should make a game that is solo-centric and where characters progress 24/7. It's not like I'm advocating that all games adopt this model. Why the hate for a suggestion to expand the kinds of MMOGs available? Why the hating on players that don't have much time to stay online, but still want to adance their character? Why the hating on soloers just because they don't like to be forced to group up or raid to achieve top content?

Simply put, the standard MMOG model is built around fostering a sense of elitism for the powergaming/raiding playstyle, and those players - at some level - recognize that if the kind of game I advocate is ever actually made (and made well) and marketed to the public, the casuals, soloers, and time-starved players will abandon their game in droves for the chance to inhabit a game where they, and their playstyle, is king; where nobody can advance their in-game character faster just because they're jobless and live with their mother, and where one doesn't have to suffer the political machinations of little Mussolini's in their self-aggrandizing, corrupt mega-guilds just to experience top content in the game.

As it stands today, though, the entire MMOG market is built to foster the same kind of elitism for the same kind of players, and any game that breaks that mold - like the one I'm advocating - will rob them of the 2nd and 3rd class citizenry they need, in their game, to feel superior.

So, it's no wonder they hate the idea of a solo-centric, 24/7 advancement game.  Their game might quickly depopulate and lose their peasant class. How can elitism be served if there is no 2nd and 3rd class players around?

Hawkeye666 writes:

Not sure I completely agree with everything her. But there is certainly no small amount of truth to your points. I am a solo gamer. I love exploring the worlds within an MMOG. I will not play PvP and I prefer not to team up unless I am familiar with the other members of a group. There are very popular games I simply will not play because of issues such as you describe, and others I play but cannot fully enjoy because I cannot advance far enough, nor fast enough to keep from getting bored.

If there were a game like you describe, and if it weren't dog lame or butt ugly I would most certainly give it a try.

Sat Jun 19 2010 8:50AM Report
Ranio writes:

two words.....Eve Online....

 

1. 24/7 advancement

2. Soloable Play Style Friendly (Combat/Non-Combat missions, Pirating, Mining, Manufacturing, Trading)

Sat Jun 19 2010 12:07PM Report
coldandnumb writes:

I fully agree I have quit every mmo that I have ever played do to being locked out of the endgame due either to game requirements of hundreds of hours of grinding or all the elite snobs who won't even group with you if they don't either know you personally or you don't build or gear your character to the standards "they" deem needed for end game raiding.

I have seen this trend grow increasingly worse over the last 2 years or so to the point that I've all but given up on the whole genre. I'm holding out some hope for the crop of new stuff coming over the next year but if the game mechanics are all the same then even all the shiny new graphics and bells and whistles won't fix this issue.

Sat Jun 19 2010 12:51PM Report
Vasagralem writes:

Hi Meleagar, ive been following your blogs for a while now, all the time hoping you would slip the name of a current mmorpg thats already to some extent "solo friendly" or solo at all: I would love to see a blog in wich you name all of the games around that you know of and that you approve of being solo friendly, be that game a triple A kind of game or a free to play or whatever. Thats it, keep on with your efforts of a one day solo exclusively mmorpg. Chao.

Sat Jun 19 2010 1:18PM Report
Meleagar writes:

Hawkeye666: I appreciate the positve comment and all we can do is keep doing what we can to get the ear of developers.

Ranio:  I played Eve online for a while. While it is true that your character can learn many or most skills while you are offline, other skills take money and everything else in the world - ships and mods - where your skills matter costs game money, and one can only gain game money while online.  While Eve is a step in the right direction, it still fails as a true 24/7 model because of the serious disparity that online time generates in terms of in-game money.

coldandnumb: that's one of the discouraging things I've noticed with the whole last batch of MMOGs; none of them seem to be wiling to go any farther than Eve in changing the fundamental game mechanics, meaning they are all essentially the same MMOG.

Vasagralem: the problem lies in the very phrase you used, "to some extent solo friendly". Why should soloers settle for a game that is "to some extent" solo-friendly? "With all the MMOGs online and coming online, how is it that not a single one of them is solo-centric?  Why do none of them offer true offline advancement? Eve and Alganon offer offline advancments, but the both hide their online bias through game money, and in Alganon you can only advance one of your characters while offline.  Alganon, however, isn't a solo-centric game.  Eve might be the game that is friendliest to soloers, but that is only in terms of game mechanics. In practical usage, if you aren't a member of one of the corporate factions, you're not going to amount to much in that game. 

IMO, we need to stop feeling guilty or chagrined by our playstyle and advocate for our own game without trying to appease the powergaming raiders mentality by accepting only leftovers and 2nd best content. That's why I will not pay another company until it makes a game that is fully suited to my playstyle; I refuse to subsidize content and glory for others by paying for a game that has deliberately coded me out of top end content. 

I think there are more time-starved and solo players in the potential MMO market than there are powergaming raiders.  Why is no company marketing a game tailored to their playstyle?

All we can do is beat the drum.

Sat Jun 19 2010 4:43PM Report
Yamota writes:

That suggestion makes no sense. Why make a game massively and then make it solo centric? Sounds like an oxy-moron to me.

Not saying soloing should be impossible, I am all for being able to solot, but If you want solo-centric games then play single player games.

Sun Jun 20 2010 6:45AM Report
Krelian writes:

Interesting blog...

Massively online games usually take much longer to finish and give a greater sense of LONG TERM goals to me while giving me the opportunity to virtually live in a more - ''alive'' -enviroment..

Also i like grouping OFCOURSE, but it is usually a little too hard to find a group for the task at hand (without waiting quite a while) LET ALONE finding a group devoid of ninjas and other sorts of grifers (unless u have friends atm).

And HENCE, i really appriciate online games that also have a  large dose of SOLO content besides the group quests etc.

Just my two cents.

Mon Jun 21 2010 3:07PM Report
MurlockDance writes:

I guess it depends on what you define as an MMO and what you're looking for in an MMO. The thing I don't get is why play an entire *multiplayer* game solo? As someone said, why not play a single player game instead? Why have the multiplayer aspect at all? Is it the idea of a persistent world that appeals? Is it the idea that player actions could have impact on that world that might affect you? Is it the possibility of having an essentially anonymous person to chat to while you're soloing?

What is it in the game that you want to do? You say that EvE is a step in the right direction for 24/7 character development except for the ISK grind, but what do you expect to do once you're logged into the game and 'playing' it? If there wasn't some form of doing something in the game, then what would be the point of playing it? Every 'game' has a competitive and interactive element to it that 'advances' your character, whether it's getting a high score in Asteroids or watching a story unfold in the Sims. If you have a complete hands-off approach, it's not really a game anymore but more of a social emulator if it's multiuser. Something like Second Life comes to mind.

Wed Jun 23 2010 5:30AM Report
Eondil writes:

what is the point of 24/7 advancement?  Why bother playing at all?  It's not like the "elitists" aren't working on this system as well, basically baseline moves from 0 advancement to X advancement, there is no effective change between you and the "elitists", they still advance faster than you.   And if as you propose everyone advance at the same pace irregardless of what they do when they play or don't play.  What the hell is the point in that? 

I've played MMO's since '98, spent 5 years not getting to level cap, closest I got was 62 when cap was 65.  I played DAoC for a year and only got to lvl 40.  Played FFXI for 2+ highest job level I reached was 42.  WoW, played for 2ish years and got 2 lvl 80s.

The difference between my experiences between EQ, DAoC, FFXI, and WoW is that WoW was the only one where I felt like I needed to get to end cap before I had fun.  Subsequently, I had less fun playing WoW than the other games.

What you are proposing is a game that has no sense of achievement.   You come across something that challenges you in the game, you can either, try harder to achieve your goals, or log off for a week and just skip over that obstacle.  Wow, that just oozes adventure...

In short, I see no merit in your suggestions, and pray that no one actually takes heed to your words.

Wed Jun 23 2010 9:31AM Report
Eondil writes:

Don't see any option to edit.  Paragraph 2 should read "I've played MMO's since '98, spent 5 years playing EQ, not getting to level cap.  Closest I got was 62 when cap was 65."

Wed Jun 23 2010 9:34AM Report
Meleagar writes:

Eondil and MurlockDance:

I have answered those questions and rebutted those challenges throughout the course of this blog. You might read prior posts to understand the nature, goals, and structure of the game I am proposing.

I understand that it is difficult to undersrtand a different gaming concept when it is radically different from the one you are used to.  For example, the concern that there is "no reason to log in and play" is extrapolated from a gaming perspective where the primary structure of the game is built around "time spent online".

The basic dynamic of the proposed game - the very reason to log in and play, as you say - must of course be fundamentally different from what it is in current MMOGs, because one isn't logging in to advance their character or to make game money.

However, advancing one's character and making game money are not the only viable forms of profitable entertainment. Nobody is "advancing one's character" or "making game money" when they play all sorts of games, when they watch TV or movies, or when they listen to the radio.

Furthermore,  if the entertainment value in an MMOG can only be derived from personal at-the-keyboard advancement of character or acquiring of gold, or can only be obtained by grouping up or raiding up, why do so many people run bot scripts, buy gold from 3rd party sellers, hire or use others to advance their characters while they are otherwise occupied, or just buy rich, high-level, geared-out characters from third-party sellers? 

Why will people just buy from cash shops what they could otherwise enjoy earning via at-the-keyboard effort? 

If the only way to enjoy an MMOG is to group up or raid  up, why do so many people refuse to do so, but still play, when they could be playing solo, non-MMO games?

The proposed 24/7, solo-centric MMOG offers a different kind of entertainment value than transforming time at the keyboard into character advancement and acquisition.

Wed Jun 23 2010 10:38AM Report
Eondil writes:

Well if advancing is not what you do when online, why have a persistent world?  If you want a game akin to a sporting match, why not have a game setup like counterstrike, with a centralized server and non-persistent characters.  it's the same thing. 

And if you have your 24/7 advancement system.  That only favors the people who have played longer since there is no way for anyone to catch up to them if they started later.

What kind of content would you provide in this proposed game?  Do you think anyone would run dungeons for the pure joy of gathering a group together and just doing it?  I happen to believe this type of "game" is doomed to failure.  You cannot have any sort of itemization in a game like this as anyone who gets an item is inherently more well off than someone who did not.  You can't offer cash since having more money would be unbalanced.  You can't offer any type of perk whatsoever other than perhaps unlocking more unrewarding content or a useless achievement or title.  Hell you couldn't even offer fluff items because someone would scream "hey I logged off all week and I didn't get a my little pony mount!"

What you are proposing makes no sense as an MMO. 

You ask why people bot, buy gold, or pay someone else to play their character.  I believe you may be mistaken on how many people participate in these activities, I do not have any hard statistics either way.  But the reason they do it is the same reason people cheat on their taxes, steal, or cheat.  They have a sense of entitlement that they should have something that other people have and instead of working to get it, they find another avenue. 

Also, there is an inherent flaw in today's MMOs.  All newer MMOs place too much importance on "end game" content.  People didn't play D&D to strut around as max level characters.  The whole fun was the advancement through the game and watching their characters grow.  EQ allowed for this.  None of the expansions completely invalidated the previous expansions.  It was often preferable to raid older content to gear up your guild.  FFXI was the same, if not more so.  Then you have WoW in all it's grandeur.  People who start now don't even set foot in the older instances let alone raids.  When an expansion comes out, world drops replace your raid drops.  There is something very wrong about that.

Oh and just to clarify, I "get" your differernt gaming concept.  I just don't see why you would call it an MMORPG.

Wed Jun 23 2010 7:16PM Report
Eondil writes:

http://progressquest.com/

Wed Jun 23 2010 7:52PM Report
Latella writes:

I am not sure how would a game where playing more does not reward you more than playing less work.

You seem to want a game where you can be a top tier player no matter the amount of time you spend on it but that makes no sense at all.

A game can´t be composed of just one  part of the community, it would not be profitable to make a high quality game with the features you described because only the most solo class of the casual players cast would enjoy playing in such game.

Even facebook casual players want to have a higher amount of restaurant points ( or whatever ) than the rest of their friend list, and even the most carebears of moms that defend to the death "i should be able to do what everyone else does" runs to link their newly acquired shiny to her guild for self satisfaction.

A game where someone that plays one hour a game can compete with everyone else would be pointless to anyone but the most solo fanatics/casual players and those by themselves can´t make enough of a community to support and provide enough funds for this kind of game.

Wed Jun 23 2010 8:01PM Report
MurlockDance writes:

Even in CS time invested in the game allows for progression, not of your character, but of your skills as a player, and getting a higher score. Sure, every character starts out equal, but to win your matches and get a high score against veteran players in almost all cases means you have to put in a lot of time playing the game yourself and acquiring the skills.

In my eyes, only a social games like the old MUSHes I used to play back in the 90s or something like Second Life would fit the 24/7 model in the sense that there isn't any 'score' or form of competition. But still, to get anywhere in the MUSHes requires playing them with other players through role-playing to progress the story of your character. Second Life you can do whatever you want (except gamble apparently).

Thu Jun 24 2010 3:46AM Report
Meleagar writes:

Eondil:

Let me show you how your objections and questions are non-sequiters; for example, you imply that in my game I cannot offer an item-based reward system for activities in the game because it will make some players "better off", as if it is my game design that no player will be "better off" than another player.

First, how can you define one character as "better off" than another character when they are all advancing 24/7, and there is a classless, completely open advancement system? If you go into a dungeon and get an item like, say, the Axe of Doom, how does that make you "better off" than the guy who has put all of his advancement into political skills so he can advance into the hierarchy of city-state government? How does that make you "better off" than the person that put all their skills into tattoo and business professions so they could open up a magical tattoo shop?  Who exactly are you comparing yourself against, and by what criteria?

My 24/7 open advancement system isn't designed to make everyone in the game equal in any comparative sense; its purpose is to geometrically expand character development diversity.  Some people are going to be almost unbeatable at PvP; some people are going to excel at PvE; others are going to be master blacksmiths, others respected diplomats. Others will be leaders, and some will be jack-of-all-trades.

The only thing my system does is equalize character advancement rates and gives them the opportunity to acquire game money by setting their characters to work while they are offline if they wish.  If people dedicate themselves to making money, they will make more money than other players; if people dedicate themselves to acquiring superior gear for their particular character, they can so in several ways; if they dedicate themselves to any particular line of advancement, they will be better at that than other players not so dedicated, or how have a broader advancement approach.

Latella,

Yes, I want the opportunity to develop a top tier player over time, in any particular line of advancement if I so choose, regardless of how much time I have available to spend online. I understand that you don't understand this, and I understand that you don't think the game would succeed.  But, that is exactly what I am advocating.

If it helps, think of it as a character development system (instead of a "game"), where i pay my $15 a month and I get to set my development queues (like in Eve) to advance my character down any set of development paths I wish.  Let's say I can even manage my character's development and access their stats and read about what acquirable attributes, skills, talents and professions will do for my character from my i-phone or i-pad.

In this sense, the game is a lot like the hugely popular "Sins of a Solar Empire", where much of the game is just really just managing your empire; except you are managing the advancement of your stable of characters and you don't actually  have to have the game running on your computer to do so.

However, the added bonus to this "character development system" is that there is also a world you can enter with your characters and interact with other people's characters, a world full of monsters, quests, lore, politics, and opportunities for you to use all of your gained skills.  There are events, dungeons, intrigue, role-play, social interaction, items of all kinds to be acquired. In this sense, "the game" might be more comparable to a blend of "2nd Life", "The Sims", and a 3D version of Ultima Online.

This kind of game would represent a different form of entertainment value than most MMOGs out today; you pay $15 a month and you get to manage the 24/7 advancment of a stable of characters and have a full, deep, broad massively-inhabited online role-playing world you can visit with any of your characters any time you want.

Remember, you might be able to advance to master diplomat without ever entering the world, but you cannot **do anything** with that skill unless you actually enter the world.

Thu Jun 24 2010 6:58AM Report
Meleagar writes:

By the way, when I use the term "dedication", it doesn't mean "spending massive amounts of online time", it means "managing their character advancement down very specific and highly specialized skill, talent or profession paths".

Thu Jun 24 2010 7:01AM Report
Madimorga writes:

I'd like to try a more solo-centric game, and 24/7 skilling up sounds peachy, too.  I mostly solo in any game I play, and I certainly don't feel guilty about it.  It's a game, I play for enjoyment, I do what I want to do, where I want to do it, which eighty percent or more of the time means running around doing things alone in a world full of other players. 

 

Why people get so upset over soloers in MMOs is beyond me, but then, those pep squad kids in high school used to get upset about this sort of thing, too, maybe it's just a personality issue.  Put your bullhorns away and quit trying so hard to get everyone to have fun your way, pepsquad gamers.  Not everyone is a 24/7 extrovert.

Fri Jun 25 2010 4:56AM Report
Eondil writes:

This has nothing to do with pep squad gaming, soloing, and casual are not mutually exclusive.  Most of the soloer's I knew were hardcore about it and spent plenty of time in game doing just that.  I just think that a constant advancement system would separate players more than anything that is out there today.  It would not promote a community as people would have no chance of "catching up" to a friend who started playing earlier.  How do you propose you get around that? 

Fri Jun 25 2010 10:23AM Report
Meleagar writes:

Eondil,

I guess you just refuse to read any of my prior blog posts.  I've already covered this. You "catch up" basically the same way Eve handles it. An advancement clock is kept from the day the game opens, and those who come in later advance at double the normal rate until they catch up.

Fri Jun 25 2010 11:55AM Report
zyguh writes:

I think this system would be the WoW killer everyone talks about, and become the most popular online game in the world if done right.

BECAUSE a game like Meleagar is proposing would still allow people to group if thats the way they want to play. What he is proposing ISNT a game that would force "groupers" to play solo, its a game that DOESNT force soloers to group in order to advance to the highest levels.

You and your guild can still form a guild in a game like this. You can still raid the dragons lair, and do it way earlier than soloers can. But if I want to exclusively play solo then I should be able to have a way to ALSO get the gear from that dragon they way you and your friends do. The possibilities of HOW to do that are almost endless, and would actually make an amazing game.

I could enlist in the army of my home city. I would be given patrol duties, equipment upkeep, etc. etc.. All the duties that someone enlisting in an army could expect. There would be local fights with neighboring bandits, or monsters, who were harassing nearby villages, things like that. By working hard, solo, at following all orders and being a good soldier for my home city I would advance thru the ranks. Soon I would be in charge of my own squad of men. At that point I could take my squadron out on patrol and start fighting things that you and your group of 4 friends were able to fight.

Eventually, if I play well enough, I am advance to a command position in the Kings army and at that point I the King ask my advice for areas the army should concentrate to make the kingdom better. I suggest we track down and kill that evil dragon. The King takes some convincing, but eventually agrees, and assigns me a standard raid sized troop of men and allows me to go and slay the dragon so its head can fly from the ramparts of his Kingdom.  At that point, I as a solo player can actually go "raid" the dragons dungeon and get the same loot as you and your group of friends.

The difference is that you guys could do it in 4-6 months, and it took me just over a year to work my way up solo.

Or I could become a bandit and work my way up to being the leader of a local gang and then take my 40-50 bandits and raid the dragon.

Or I could be a merchant and build up a hugely succesful business and eventually have 40-50 mercenaries working for me and use them to go kill the dragon so it will stop attacking my trade caravans.

Or I could study dragons, and uncover a secret group that works FOR the dragons, and work my way up in that group and eventually the dragon in question rewards my loyalty by gifting me with the very raid loot you and your group raided to get.

The possibilities in the type of game Meleagar suggest really are almost limitless and I really think it would become the biggest online game in the world if done the right way

Wed Dec 14 2011 11:08PM Report
Ortwig writes:

Tend to agree, though not sure what form such a game would take.  But yeah, been thinking along the same lines:

http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/strangesands/062012/23355_The-Serendipitous-World-Isnt-Fun

http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/strangesands/062012/23262_The-Secret-World-and-LevelFree-Systems

Tue Jun 19 2012 9:19PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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