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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Danger in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 31 2013 at 10:22PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Danger in MMORPGs" by BigHatLogan. In the thread, BigHatLogan muses on the lack of danger in MMOs and polls the community on their thoughts:

I recently received an email from ArenaNet about GW2: The Razing.  It states "New Allies! New Dangers! New Items!"  So the first two are certainly reasonable and expected in MMORPGs, but the middle phrase struck me wrong, and even felt a bit insulting.  New Dangers?  Really?  Well I got to thinking about the concept of danger in MMORPGs and realized it really is missing from MMORPGs and single player games in general. 

When is the last time something actually scared you in an MMORPG?  Even if the monster I am fighting is challenging, it kills me and I have about a minute of downtime with no penalty whatsoever.  Even worse is MMORPGs that allow a player to self resurrect, they might as well just skip the dying part.  At worst a player will get a minor debuff for an inconsequential amount of time.

A can recall a couple instances of being scared.  EVE online will scare players.  This is because a mistake can cause you to lose virtual treasures.  That's a bad sign when one of the scariest multiplayer games is based on spreadsheets.  I know Wizardry Online released with perma-death which certainly causes fear, but the game itself was pretty bad at least at lower levels.I never played EQ1, but i heard horror stories from players that certainly sounded like they felt fear.  Perhaps due to xp loss penalties and impossible corpse runs. 

Single player games are often times even worse than MMORPGs with the overall lack of danger.  Many many SRPGs let you save your game whenever you want.  Which of course translates into saving your game every few feet, or even between swings in battle in case a mistake is made.  Dark Souls is a notable exception to this with their soul loss and bonfire system.  Even the old Final Fantasy games required you to get to a save point rather than save every couple steps.  Final Fantasy is far scarier than Skyrim because you don't get to save where you want, and Final Fantasy is loaded to the brim with retarded monkeys and big goofy birds. The new X-Com has a brilliant ironman mode and is a quite scary game, its actually nice to see a game with a scary theme actually play scary. 

Does anyone else feal that lack of danger makes MMORPGs and sRPGs feel stale?  Are their any games out there that I am missing that have successfully caused terror in players?  I'd especially love to hear about MMORPGs that pull it off.  To be clear I dont't mean dark theme or scary graphics, those may scare a 5 year old.  When I talk about fear and terror I mean that a player will be scared or upset when they are defeated.  I don't care how scary a boss looks when it jumps out at me, if i can just hop back up and fight him again when I die that is not scary in my book.

Read on for some highlights from the thread!

Wizardry offers a couple of examples:

I felt scared in EQ2 when first came out and in FFXI because for the most part,you couldn't run,so if something went bad you had to either fight or die.MOST games you can simply run a short distance and the mob/s retreat.

Sometimes the fear factor was totally unrealistic and actually pissed me off.Example in Vanguard,there was an outpost and as soon as i came within a certain dsitance the whole outpost would attack me at unreal speeds.There was no realism in the aggro or range or speed at which they caught me,like 200 yds in 5 seconds lol.

The only real time ,i have actually been on the edge and kind of freaked out was playing an old xpansion for Quake.it was an expansion done by NIN,so the whole sound and music was eerie.Turn off the lights and it was really freaky lol.

MMORPG's are basically linear,connect the dot questing games now,hardly anything there realsitic or scary.I can't imagine whoever thought ,that if i was a Warrior in real life,i would be going around asking every npc/person if i can do a quest for them.

WHOA kill 10 armadillo in Commonlands???No WAY .,that is frightening.

Take that Stein to your friend?? Wowsers,i don't think i can handle that frightening task as an elite Warlock.

Wolfenpride discusses the good ol' corpserun:

Only game that scared me in that manner was EQ1 when it had harsher death penalties.

The risk of loosing my stuff in the bottom of a dungeon somewhere made going into them very scary. The general mazelike/claustrophobic designs for many of them added a bit to my fears as well, once you were deep in one, you were pretty stuck with no where to run if something went wrong.

It happened occasionally, but I was always able to get a rogue/necro to drag my corpse back to me before it expired.

I was hoping Wizardry would deliver similar experiences, but with the way souls work characters feel really disposable. Same with Eve online, replacing a lost ship didn't seem that big of a deal, but then again I never bothered buying anything that I couldn't afford to replace. Still enjoyed both games though.

Ironmanning Xcom EU was fun and challenging as well, but again there was that sense of disposability once you had a bunch of ranked soldiers. Starting off was pretty rough though.

Rusque hasn't ever experienced that sense of dread that others are describing:

The only video game that would cause fear is one in which someone comes to my house and chops off my arm in real life as punishment.

I really never understood the appeal of perma-death games or severe consequence games. I don't feel scared, I actually care about my avatar less than I would in a game in which I get to keep him. Whenever I play hardcore mode in PoE or some game with similar death system, I just view my character as a temporary resource for some entertainment, but my main is always invariably on the softcore side. That's the character I care about, the one I want to develop and see grow because I know I'll always have it.

I must be missing the fear factor so many people experience from those games, I never get the adrenaline rush or the near death high.

The only time I really felt any sense of fear in an MMO was back when Star Wars Galaxies was still using corpse runs. Running back to Ft. Tusken or some such area where my corpse is deep behind enemy lines was always something I looked to avoid back then.

Other than that, it's really only PvP servers that can create that feeling for me at all, even if there aren't permanent consequences to dying. That feeling of possibly being attacked at any given moment can really keep you on your toes.

What about you? Have you ever felt a real sense of danger in an MMO? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

TwiPhoenix writes:

In a MMO?  Personally, I think the scariest moment was in City of Heroes when I was with a group attempting to pull a Master of the Lady Grey Task Force.  Part of that challenge meant no deaths.  So, when we got to the Hamidon, the Blaster made a miss-step and was getting pummeled, that was scary.  Not only were we merely one more hit away from failing the challenge but, with me being on a Scrapper, there was literally nothing I could do but sit there and pray that he managed to duck behind a rock before another shot came his way.  Dashing out from my rock to taunt his attacker was out of the question due to the fact my HP was low and I had two or three mitos locked onto me, waiting for me to step out from behind my rock.  And that's ignoring the fact the distance was way too far to taunt it in time regardless. 

 

Fortunately, one of our support teammates with a heal popped him with one quite literally half a second before that MoTF-ending shot landed which allowed him to get behind a rock with about 8 HP remaining.  But, being able to only helplessly watch is what made that whole situation so scary.

Mon Apr 01 2013 12:32AM Report
Vembumees writes: Path of Exile hardcore has given me more fear and danger than any game in the last 10 years. Mon Apr 01 2013 12:38AM Report
evilized writes:

UO - spending all your money on regs only to die to a lich and have it loot everything off your corpse (or any other passerby that didn't mind a small karma hit).

 

Shadowbane - "We have this bane won! The city our guild built with our own hands is safe!   ...why are our allies attacking our city guards...?"    say goodbye to months worth of work and your livelyhood in the game.

 

EQ - running around any zone as a noob. aggro range used to be absolutely insane. want to level in crushbone as an iksar? there's nowhere for you to bind until you are at least dubious with the guards which is a LOT of dead orcs. if you die you can either be rezzed or you have a couple hours worth of travel ahead of you including an expensive port back to gfay or BB druid rings.

Mon Apr 01 2013 2:09AM Report
sanshi44 writes: The biggest issue i have with MMO nowadays is it lacking the sense of danger there was nothing more immersive in a game than fearing death itself to some degree. Everquest is the best game ive played to date and ive played quite alot and i beleive the main reason for this is because of that sense of danger. Darkfall also another one of my favorite but it doesnt beat EQ because it lacks the polish and all that from a AAA company game. Other than those two games i havant realy had a memorial moment in any other game that i can remember. In Everquest i havant played it for a good 8 years or so and i can still remember basicly the entire layout of the map but more recent games dont even remember the thing i did in it the day before. Mon Apr 01 2013 3:02AM Report
EinsamWulf writes: I have to agree that most MMOs do not push the "danger" aspect enough. While I can understand this somewhat as part of what most triple A MMO's attempt to do is grab a large chunk of the market by appealing to everyone and most people aren't looking for crazy hardcore amounts of difficulty. That being said having spent a decent chunk of time in Eve I will never forget the amount of nervous energy that struck when I entered nul-sec for the first time or even better when my buddy found a wormhole and as the more combat heavy (and savy) player I went ahead and sure enough I found a group camped on the other side. No game has really offered that level of danger but then again Eve has never had the subscriber base of something like WoW. Mon Apr 01 2013 5:27AM Report
MumboJumbo writes:

I remember using a cheat code in a really great platformer back in the day, thinking, this game is great, but I just need a "small helping hand..."

infinite lives, press the super tiger power button whenever you want.... returned back to the shop in a few days and bought another game with the refund/return policy.

That sums up a lot of "mmorpg danger": Games that provide players with ways to extricate their characters out of danger voids the experience or otherwise suggests the interminable progression is not worth the wait without such "cheats for players" to fall back on. imo.

Mon Apr 01 2013 9:09AM Report
Torvaldr writes:

I remember playing a pirated copy of Ultima III with my friend on one of the faculty computers during high school.  The thought of getting caught was kind of scary.  That was probably my scariest video game moment.

All the other stuff isn't scary.  Maybe I should say old mmos weren't scarier than new mmos.   Dying in Lineage wasn't scarier than GW2 or Tera.  It just sucked a lot worse.

Scary - I don't think that word means what you think it does.

Mon Apr 01 2013 9:40AM Report
WellzyC writes:

Danger, Death Penalties, Punishing mistakes.

 

All that stuff gets in the way of Casual Gamers.. And devs love casual gamers. They = Cash.

 

it will never be that way again. sory.

Mon Apr 01 2013 10:00AM Report
PsiKahn writes:

Real danger got brushed aside in the pursuit of a more casual user base for sure, but the implementation of danger in many early MMOs was pretty arbitrary and often frustrating to begin with.  In a game that's extremely focused on level progression, something like XP loss in PvE just seems like a useless frustration for the player, not great design.

The viability of crowdfunding and technology that now allows production of niche MMOs for acceptable costs makes the emergence of risk-centric games more viable since they don't need to be for everyone. Clearly there's a contingency of players who crave a game that actually gives some weight to your decisions.

The guys who are working on Trials of Ascension really get this and I hope that they can pull off Kickstarter funding.  Removing "conning" and limiting characters to 100 lives just totally changes the way you act in-game and adds a new level of mystery and intrigue to your actions without being needlessly cruel (like a one-and-done hardcore mode).

The scariest thing out there to me is the unkown, encountering someone out in the woods and having no firm idea of how powerful they are.  Do you step to them?  Do you run? Do you let them make the first move? I'd like to experience this in an MMO in my lifetime, and for it to work you need real risk and limited information.

Mon Apr 01 2013 12:02PM Report
PsiKahn writes:

Real danger got brushed aside in the pursuit of a more casual user base for sure, but the implementation of danger in many early MMOs was pretty arbitrary and often frustrating to begin with.  In a game that's extremely focused on level progression, something like XP loss in PvE just seems like a useless frustration for the player, not great design.

The viability of crowdfunding and technology that now allows production of niche MMOs for acceptable costs makes the emergence of risk-centric games more viable since they don't need to be for everyone. Clearly there's a contingency of players who crave a game that actually gives some weight to your decisions.

The guys who are working on Trials of Ascension really get this and I hope that they can pull off Kickstarter funding.  Removing "conning" and limiting characters to 100 lives just totally changes the way you act in-game and adds a new level of mystery and intrigue to your actions without being needlessly cruel (like a one-and-done hardcore mode).

The scariest thing out there to me is the unkown, encountering someone out in the woods and having no firm idea of how powerful they are.  Do you step to them?  Do you run? Do you let them make the first move? I'd like to experience this in an MMO in my lifetime, and for it to work you need real risk and limited information.

Mon Apr 01 2013 12:08PM Report
poisonman writes:

Ultima Online Pre-Trammel, non-consensual open pvp, murderous player killers roaming around, full looting of players,  there was thievery skills in the game, people could steal / rob your house / boat, traps, poisoning, etc.

Emergent, Immersive gameplay, like DayZ has where you have no idea what will happen when you encounter someone out in the world.  

Ultima Online had semi safe zones in the cities and towns with guards, but bad things could still happen if the guards don't see it or weren't called in time.  But you had a sense of fear and thrill every time you left town, every time you logged in.

Also sounds like upcoming MMO Trials of Ascension will have these elements as well

http://trialsofascension.com/

Mon Apr 01 2013 4:07PM Report
Jaedor writes: Scariest: TSW quest takes place in an underground parking lot. You have to find a light source, and it can run out of batteries. I know a couple grown men who slightly peed themselves when things jumped out of the dark. :D Mon Apr 01 2013 4:49PM Report
Rohn writes:

There are games out there that still provide that sense of danger.  In Mortal Online, it's possible to be killed by mobs, the environment (i.e. falling), or other players, and lose everything your character has on him/her.

Additionally, the nights are darker than in most games, and with a fixed first person view, it limits what you can see at times, which can be a little stressful.

Similar thing in EvE - I really don't like losing a ship.

In most games, death is meaningless, so there's little incentive to really care for your character's life.  That mentality right there is one of the most unimmersive elements found in most current MMOs.

Most of the paper and pencil RPG groups I've played in were permadeath situations - your character dies, it's over.  I'd never just throw my character into the grinder, just as I wouldn't do that personally.  With most MMORPGs, there's no reason NOT to allow your character to be butchered time and time again.  Really kills the illusion of being a real character in a world.

Wed Apr 03 2013 1:26PM Report

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