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The staff of 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,

MMOs With Feeling

Posted by garrett Monday May 3 2010 at 3:44PM
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I wanted to talk today about what events in MMOs ever had feeling or meaning. Many players claim MMOs to be mindless grinds.
Many of them are... However there needs to be a point in MMOs that is fun and gives the player a reason to play. No I am not talking about loot or achievements. I am talking about feeling.

For me MMOs are always about meeting up online with your friends and adventuring together. MMOs should feel like an adventure and many times they do not. The development concept of populating the world with rats and having people collect rat feet is lost in many ways. Look at WoW's current end game for Lich King. Almost all PvE content is instanced. PvP content is instanced as well. So groups of friends can do tasks with a point. However, beating ICC every week gets a big old. You still wait for your shield to drop...been weeks waiting on my shaman caster shield...but still you strive on. Yet in WoW I have no reason to play other than to do ICC at this point or maybe Wintergrasp.

This got me thinking about things in other MMOs I had accomplished that made the game fun. Dark Age of Camelot was PvP no question. Also I used to actually enjoy grinding through Darkness Falls to level up my friends and realm mates. I say realm mates because groups would form that were not just for one guild. In Ultima it was PKing or going out with my Blue to fight the other PKs. It had a purpose that was not put there by the game itself telling me I had to do XYZ. I could just log in and do what I wanted.

With instancing the issue stands that players can group together, but there is a limited number of instances. We will quickly figure them all out. However, what about desiging leveling so that it could be done through adventuring. I know DDO has done this, but in its early days you could not solo in DDO, big mistake. Solo is needed, more than anything for a player who has time to play but does not have his or her friends online to play with.

If a game is designed with feeling it gives players goals and objectives without making them part of the game specifically. Those reasons are given without them having to be spoon fed to you. They just evolve over time and soon you are playing for goals that you have set for yourself or your friends. Not goals that have been set for you.

Helping new players level should be rewarded, realm pride fights should be rewarded, passing on a piece of loot that you may need but someone who has worse gear needs it more should be rewarded.

All these things have feeling, and are lacking in MMOs right now. It is just a theory but finding reasons to play outside of the shield drop or emblem runs is a sign of a good game. Not that WoW is bad, but it has lost its feeling sometimes as to why we play it.

Rohn writes:

Motivation to play a game will vary by player and game.  "Feeling" will also often vary over time with each person.

One person's "game with feeling" can be a mindless or soulless grind to another.

Mon May 03 2010 3:57PM Report
Jenuviel writes:

Rewarding players for helping each other, while it sounds good in theory, does have its down side. When players' primary motivations for aiding others is self-interest, how much "feeling" does that actually have?

If some stranger just drops a crafted shield into my inventory (ostensibly, the most efficient 'reward : expense' shield possible), it's not going to give me any warm glow or positive impressions of the community, it's just going to make me roll my eyes.

MMO developers can do a lot of things to add thematic elements that provide feeling (lore, quality ambient sound, voice overs), but the most important elements come from other players; I'm not sure developers can do much to make us all better people.

Mon May 03 2010 4:02PM Report
ThomasN7 writes:

Wait, isn't this a negative article about mmos ? You should be getting a warning soon!

Mon May 03 2010 5:00PM Report
fyerwall writes:

The problem is the whole 'reward' thing. Newer MMOs are all about rewarding every little thing someone does with a cookie to the point that unless there is a reward attached to it, it isn't worth doing.

Before WoW people did things such as helping others out for no reason other than they wanted to. If someone needed to run through a dungeon people would offer to help. Today if someone asks for a run through an instance its either "Bleh, theres nothing in there that I need..." or "Can we do X instead? cause they drop this sword that I want..."

It's kinda like bribing a kid with $5 to get them to take out the trash. They are going to expect that $5 everytime you tell them to take the trash out and if you don't pay up, they are going to throw a hissy fit. 

Mon May 03 2010 5:14PM Report
peacekraft writes:

I remember back when I played Lineage 2, sure it was a massive grind, I even fell asleep playing on a number of occassions, but the open world raid bosses, which were often contested in FFA pvp with other groups wishing to kill them were some of the best times I have ever had in an mmo.

Mon May 03 2010 5:55PM Report
Derrial writes: It's a double-edged sword, because a game with "feeling" as described in this blog by its nature is a tougher, more hardcore game. For example, helping new players level in WoW is not rewarding or interesting at all because we all know that nobody needs help leveling in WoW. It's ridiculously easy to level up in WoW, so why should I spend time helping someone? It's only fun to help a new player when you know that they really need that help and that you're making a real impact on their experience. Non-instanced open world PvP can lead to some really awesome, unpredictable battles that leave you breathless when it's over, but to have that one enjoyable evening you have to endure several frustrating weeks or months of being repeatedly ganked by higher level players while leveling up. It would be an amazing day if and when a developer can capture that feeling of community, unpredictablity and challenge in an MMORPG without having the frustration and tedium of a tough level grind and PvP gankfest. Mon May 03 2010 6:26PM Report
choujiofkono writes:

How can there be feeling to a game that provides an item shop that you can purchase rare or coveted items for real cash?  Answer: can't happen.  They removed the lore and adventure and provided a "skip to the end" solution for their customers.  By skip to the end I mean you got your item and they got your money (in the time it takes to run a credit check).  They didn't even have to pay someone to design a quest or write a story for it, you just givem the cash and they press cntrl+V game over.  Big Fun... not.  There is only one side benefiting from this arrangement but they have people so fooled they can't see the rest of the deal that's missing. 

Mon May 03 2010 9:18PM Report
Inktomi writes:

Very well said. I am thinking about how these theme park mmo's like wow give players a fixed set of goals to strive for. A good game to me, like you said, is finding a reason to play outside of those goals. Those goals are chosen by that particular player. 

Another shaman, somewhere within wow, can care less about caster shield x and is trying to get his crafting up to a certain level. Another shaman is working the pvp arenas and another one has your shield and has moved onto the next goal. 

Many mmo's have a fixed set of goals: get gear, be better; get rep, be better; kill people, be better. If you can find those goals in line with your own then to that person, you have a good game. If they burn out, lose interest or accomplish those goals then your run into saturation. At that time it is critical for a game to have another built in set of goal mechanics.

If they don't then usually the player will leave or start all over again, enter the altaholics. Players who either have no fixed set of goals, but want to accomplish the same goal repeatedly in different ways. 

Shooters are a lot like that because you are essentially starting off at the same point every time you enter a new map. KILL, KILL, KILL... or CAPTURE FLAG or DIFFUSE BOMB  etc. rinse and repeat. 

Garrett, its ok to reach saturation level. Its actually normal in a way because if we didn't we would not need to even play games at all. We constantly need new stimulation, that is why sometimes certain games, single player games too, lose their sense of meaning.

Play safe,


Mon May 03 2010 9:42PM Report
Blazz writes:

Player driven content multiplies replayability and increases a world/community "feeling" better than anything, in my opinion.

I would love to have the ability to construct things in WoW (since it's so damn polished everywhere else) that stayed in the game world after I left, and could be destroyed.

Eh, one day, maybe.

Tue May 04 2010 2:18AM Report
AutemOx writes:


It's kinda like bribing a kid with $5 to get them to take out the trash. They are going to expect that $5 everytime you tell them to take the trash out and if you don't pay up, they are going to throw a hissy fit. 


Studies show this is true too.  All those programs that gave kids rewards for good grades etc...  The minute you take the rewards away, the grades drop to the same level or lower than they were in control groups.

It's kinda like bribing a kid with $5 to get them to take out the trash. They are going to expect that $5 everytime you tell them to take the trash out and if you don't pay up, they are going to throw a hissy fit. 
It's kinda like bribing a kid with $5 to get them to take out the trash. They are going to expect that $5 everytime you tell them to take the trash out and if you don't pay up, they are going to throw a hissy fit. 
Tue May 04 2010 4:02AM Report
AutemOx writes:

Building a virtual community needs to be about letting people find their own meaning, not spoon feeding it to them.  Letting people st their own goals is your best bet for a long lasting and dedicated community, IMO.

Tue May 04 2010 4:04AM Report
Hathi writes:

Someone should write an article on how todays MMOs are a lot like fishing in a lake. Except everyone is fishing in the same lake.

Thu May 06 2010 8:41AM Report writes:
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