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What makes an MMORPG good?

Well certainly there are a number of characteristics that would allow me to classify any MMORPG as good, but of course, we must remind ourselves that this is mostly opinion and opinions are relative (as WoW constantly reminds us). With that done, let's go

Author: theguru22

The Storyline Aspect

Posted by theguru22 Wednesday December 10 2008 at 3:40AM
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This really is quite baffling to me...

So we have single player games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row doing their damnedest to be a go anywhere do anything inside of a relatively thin framework of dulled progression sandbox games which ultimately have a main story line but it doesn't ever seem to be one of the drawing points to the game, and then we have MMORPGs like WoW and Age of Conan which seem to be trying just as hard to provide some sort of linear storyline in order to gain the prestiged (posh) title of lore including MMORPGs. It seems to me that although single player games would be bland as hell if they shoved you into a sandbox do-anything world with no overarching storyline or goal (ie. Mount & Blade), MMORPGs which include a linear storyline are really wasting their time for a couple of reasons:

1) No one fucking cares.

- Most players, especially those strapped into the class and leveling system for the next eon, don't give half a crap what mystical ancient sword their wielding so long as it allows them to dice heads slightly better than their previous enchanted, ancient, murder-stick.

2) It makes "hero" a mediocre title.

- One of WoWs selling points which the marketing division seemed to belabor quite unknowingly is also one of it's biggest flaws. "Join over 10 million heroes already online" (or something to that effect) quoth the marketing representative as people began to scratch their heads and wonder just who were the peasants and townsfolk they were protecting.

Nowadays you log into WoW and it's a joke; nearly everyone has the +4000 armor of ultimate doom and the blade of a thousand deaths of which there was only 1 in existence ever according to game lore. It's impossible to tell anyone appart from anyone else not only because said items are about as difficult to aquire as bottled water and snickers bars, but because the game seems to produce an infinite number of the "items of legend" which never even get rusty without a second thought.

(Aside) Let me say this right out: I endorse item decay as long as it's handled properly not only because it's realistic and practical but because the good items should be not only difficult to get or produce but finite and fleeting so that you actually give a rats ass when you acquire one. I would rather be upset when my +90 hammer of smiting breaks and completely thrilled when I find a  javelin launching bow of superior impaling than wade through the sea of mediocre "everyone else has-its" that plague classic MMORPGs.

and 3) It will never compare to single player games.

- You're really just shitting yourself if you think the storyline in MMORPGs can even hold a candle to single player games. First of all it's completely stagnant because the men behind the scenes can't have the world you play in change and this leads to "instanced" gameplay, which to me seems to completely undermine the idea of MMORPGs. Great, so you can team up to slaughter the same keeper of darkness over and over again in order to get your bland baubles in the giant dullathon quest for superiority over all the people who have wasted far less time than you, but ultimately you're playing a half-assed single player game in which the only storyline involves the firebreathing, hatred-engulfed big baddie you're taking down being evil and you being the shining beacon of hope who will trounce him 400 times until you finally get your shiny necklace of slightly-better-than-youness (boy isn't that joke getting old).

In single player games, by stark contrast, there's usually a bit of plot, as well as character, development so that you actually care who the baddie is and why you're trouncing him. Some games even take it so far as to let you be the baddie and smash the shimmering hopes of thousands of innocent dreamers because you like the mist created by your minigun and the screams of terror as you reduce their tiny hovels to smoldering rubble.

 

If you really want to do it right you're going to have to pit player forces against eachother and then somehow maintain the balance, or better yet allow your game to change as time goes on. Of course, being a developer is probably not easy in fact is probably about as difficult as maintaining flacidity during a jello wrestling contest and subsequent nude fondling at the playboy mansion, but if you want your game to keep up with the times you're going to have to be in developer mode constantly. Either that, or you can sit back and leave it mostly to the players to create their own conflict, city-states, and storyline and concentrate on more important things for MMORPGs such as combat, balancing, item creation, and stability. I recommend the latter.

craynlon writes:

i disagree

i think theres a marketplace for both story driven multiplayer games and sandbox virtual world simulators.
i think a lot of publisher would do good to clearly lable their games accordingly because both aoc and darkfall run under the label mmorpg and i think its time to segment the genre.
if you read a single player game review youll find something like "more then 50h of great gameplay". if you encounter a mmo, even with a great storyline that is out of content after 50h youll light your torches and burn the devs.

maybe some devs (including bioware maybe for swtor) should make more clear where they want to head with their game. maybe the same devs also should fokus on only on of these elements and say clearly "no: we want to tell a story, we dont expect you to spend 6h/day the next 10moth hitting spawning mobs or fighting players"

Wed Dec 10 2008 5:58AM Report
Giddian writes:

1) No one fucking cares.

- Most players, especially those strapped into the class and leveling system for the next eon, don't give half a crap what mystical ancient sword their wielding so long as it allows them to dice heads slightly better than their previous enchanted, ancient, murder-stick.

You must be a PvP Player. You could not be more wrong on this if you tryed. PvE players LIVE for the Story and as big of a Hit WoW is,, Proves my point. If the game does not have story or Lore, there is no glue to hold it all together. Don't try to speak for the masses with "No one fucking cares" it's YOU don't fucking care.

Wed Dec 10 2008 8:32AM Report
7anman writes:

You make strong points, but I'll add my own input

Point #1: People do care, I raise my hand as someone who cares.  One of the big reasons I quit WoW was because I felt like I had no purpose in the game...and after 3 years of the same grind I just got sick of it.  I do agree with you that people dont care about the "mystical ancient sword" because, like you said, there is going to be a new one in a month thats stronger...companies do that to themselves, that doesnt mean that lore behind a particular item or ability you recive is stupid.  I think saying that any MMO trying to have a strong story line is fail is a narrow minded thing to say.  I personally dont like PvP that much, but I think not having it is cutting off a whole communtiy of MMO's and thats dumb.   

Point #2: I think the reason why WoW makes Epic gear a handout is because they have 10 million subscribers (i think its 11 million now), most of them casual gamers.  WoW is made for the casual gamer, with relatively easy instances and good gear & weapons are fairly easy to obtain..nothing else I can say that everyone already knows

Point #3: This is the point I had the most trouble understanding.  I get that single player games can have a more immersive experience...but why would you compare two totally different game types?  Again, I do understand what you mean when you talk about GTA and open world enviroments that allow you to do whatever you want...but the huge difference between them is the interwebs.  The ability to interact with other players and players affect how & what you do in the game is a huuuge difference. 

@craynlon - I do agree with you that there is a market for both, thats a pretty good way of putting it.  I am a fan of both, I'm a huge fan of the sandbox but I do enjoy Rainbow Six Las Vegas and Unreal Tournament from time to time. 

Wed Dec 10 2008 8:53AM Report
XBlade97 writes:

Dude I disagree on the story aspect.  I've recently started playing LotRO and with a good community and a linear and very good storyline it keeps people playing.  The thing with the linear story is they can keep going in a MMO.  Once a single player game is released 99% of the time that's the end of the story.  And LotRO storyline is just as good as any single player game I've played.  While you help from the shadows the big heroes.  While you may not be the person who throws the ring into the mountain, you are the one protecting the citizens as the onslaught of Mordor creeps along the land with corruption, terror, and ancient evils coming at you from all sides.

Wed Dec 10 2008 8:59AM Report
Giddian writes:

2) It makes "hero" a mediocre title.

- One of WoWs selling points which the marketing division seemed to belabor quite unknowingly is also one of it's biggest flaws. "Join over 10 million heroes already online" (or something to that effect) quoth the marketing representative as people began to scratch their heads and wonder just who were the peasants and townsfolk they were protecting.

Nowadays you log into WoW and it's a joke; nearly everyone has the +4000 armor of ultimate doom and the blade of a thousand deaths of which there was only 1 in existence ever according to game lore. It's impossible to tell anyone appart from anyone else not only because said items are about as difficult to aquire as bottled water and snickers bars, but because the game seems to produce an infinite number of the "items of legend" which never even get rusty without a second thought.

(Aside) Let me say this right out: I endorse item decay as long as it's handled properly not only because it's realistic and practical but because the good items should be not only difficult to get or produce but finite and fleeting so that you actually give a rats ass when you acquire one. I would rather be upset when my +90 hammer of smiting breaks and completely thrilled when I find a javelin launching bow of superior impaling than wade through the sea of mediocre "everyone else has-its" that plague classic MMORPGs.

If there was only 1 Sword, 1 Set of Armor, and 1 Hero. we all know once the game is released, it would go to that nerd in his mom's basement who has NO life and gets it in the first weekend. Then whats the point of anyone else playing. This way it geves everyone the chance to be that hero. Come on. think things through.

Wed Dec 10 2008 9:45AM Report
craynlon writes:

 ah one more thing about the hero status

if you build upon a item/level based game you need to make it 100% cheat prove. if you look at lineage2 (my experience with sandbox) those people were heroes that ebayed their gear and botted their chars.

so to make hero mean something it has to be in the skill of the player and even tough every new game claims to have player- skill based combat only very few make really true on that.

Wed Dec 10 2008 10:22AM Report
theguru22 writes:

I guess my point, which may have been a bit obscured, is that you can't possibly feel like an integral part in the storyline because there are 10 million others out there doing the exact same thing and when you throw in the repitition of grinding bosses for gear things get ridiculous. Having a linear storyline entirely defeats the purpose of MMORPGs like I said which is to play with other people and make a name for yourself. It's like someone holding your hand, leading you to all the caves and temples where you can get the next best thing until you finally kill the biggest and baddest boss they have and then what? Well you have to wait for an expansion you twat because you've explored all the content the game currently has to offer. The only way to provide constant content is to let players build the towns, make the items, think up the quests, and explore the world for themselves, something which SWG succeeded with in a massive way. Sure you can have computer generated dungeons etc. but the core of the game will have to be players if you don't want to live in a stagnant world and if you do then just play a single player RPG. Furthermore, if you like linear storylines why don't you just read a book or watch a movie. Games were made to be interactive and if your actions mean squat in the grand scheme of things then you're just a hamster on a wheel.

Wed Dec 10 2008 12:50PM Report
Deivos writes:

Giddian I need to correct you on something...

 

"You must be a PvP Player. You could not be more wrong on this if you tryed. PvE players LIVE for the Story and as big of a Hit WoW is,, Proves my point. If the game does not have story or Lore, there is no glue to hold it all together. Don't try to speak for the masses with "No one fucking cares" it's YOU don't fucking care."

 

That right there, is wrong.

WoW Lore is TERRIBLE! Ioutright sucks at this point. They murderedany sense of consistency that existed in the storyline when they released BC and it only got worse after the latest expansion.

I joined WoW specifically for the lore and RP aspect. MMOs aren't goodfor much else in my book simply because it can't handle detailed combat like a good fighter or shooter can.

Right off the bat you get thrown into a world that has a rather stunted lore compared to what was set down before it. Every oneand their uncle RP wise only has a few gems of unique moments they can brag about, and no one takesany questline seriously or brags about it simply because they all know it means nothing.

When I first made my character, I had a wonderful little storyline that fit in well with what had been going on in the game. It took me quite a while to find where something could fit relatively well andmake sense. And y'know what happened? Three other people had the same story...

This is even more of a sore spot for RPers. If the game is too redundant without a good or at least consistent background, then there isn't much we can build on. We might as well be trying to RP in the middle of a StreetFighter match.

Wed Dec 10 2008 1:12PM Report
Giddian writes:

But my point Isn't wrong because you WANT Story, You want Lore. Even if you think the story went off the deep end and you don't like or agree with it.. THATS what you want.

WoW is the bigest boy on the block, Like it or Not. Story is what kept it together. if the story falls apart, people will only take it for so long before they move on. But it is the story that keeps PvE players going.

I know for a fact that a ton of people love WoW because of the story comming from the RTS Warcraft games The novels do well too because people love the story.

This isn't a knock on PvP players, but they don't seem to care too much about story. If I want to PvP, I'll play Call of Duty 4.

MMORPG's to me need story, thats what pulls me in and advance the story along with my friends

Wed Dec 10 2008 1:24PM Report
craynlon writes:

 i see your point and in a way i can even agree with you on the fact that it isnt very immersive knowing your the 1000th hero to rescue the princess out of the claws of a dragon.

but most players that like stories and lore can black out these facts and do feel the center of the story. the difference for many pve players and some pvp players as well to single player rpgs is the team and coop aspect fighting thrue these challenges together. its true that it doesnt necessary live up to the "massively" feeling you could get from an open world sandbox with good community but still it differs from a single player game thus earning its righgt to be called at least a multi player online rpg.

also im having trouble envisioning players to make quests. dont get me wron, ive been part of creative communities like never winter nights moders/scripters but in the end id say 90% of the people would rather consume then to create. i dont even feel that the quests in story driven games are at their peak of quality (if you compare them to literatur, comics, movies, tv...) but i think a purely player driven sandbox has even less complex stories to tell.

Wed Dec 10 2008 1:28PM Report
7anman writes:

@theguru22 - Ahh now we see your true purpose.  So before I write 3 paragraphs again, what your saying is that an MMO having a linear storyline is pointless because you prefer games that sort of give you a background...and then the players themselves make the storyline?  In other words, a sandbox.   Am I correct?

Wed Dec 10 2008 1:34PM Report
theguru22 writes:

Alright, I don't think that not caring about the storyline automatically designates you a PvP player because a lot of people play for the accomplishment of getting the best stuff in the game, etc.

I don't expect players to sit around and dream up the "go and fetch me 80 boar skulls" quests like the devs do, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying given player created guilds and towns as well as pirate dens, raiding parties, and mercenary guilds there's more than enough to merrit the "let's go raid the pirate den" or "let's defend the city" type of player generated 'quests' that actually matter and have lasting effects on the world.

So ultimately I'm saying that MMORPGs seem to waste a lot of time funneling players through dungeons in order to progress or "get phat lootz" and these dungeons are always grindfests with little to no storyline involved other than "kill the giant dethlord". So you may be killing the giant dethlord from a book or somesuch bullshit but it really doesn't matter because the story does not manifest in game whatsoever, and it's nearly impossible to make it so, especially without feeling the copout of a million similar "heroes" performing exactly the same deeds daily. If you want to play an online RPG with your friends then maybe it'll appeal to you but that's about as exciting as having your friends come over and watch you play a single player RPG with 10x the story and ultimately it will matter just as much in the online community.

Wed Dec 10 2008 4:20PM Report
haggus71 writes:

In that case, an ideal MMO would be one that changes with the community's actions.  Have enough success in a certain area, and the storyline changes.  If the Hoard or Alliance gain enough victories, territories change.  In certain parts of GW, Kurzick and Luxon victories influence territory changes.  If one side loses enough, they lose cities and outposts to the other side.

Also, you could make it so that winning a certain elite mission enough times affects the storyline, possibly even changing the map.  One nice thing about TR was seeing an outpost get bombed out in an event, changing it permanently, or the storyline being changed with the passage of time. 

While giving an organic feel to an MMO is nice, however, addressing the multiplayer part of MMO is most important.  Without some emphasis on community, PvP or PvE, people would rather play Final Fantasy or some other RPG. 

Wed Dec 10 2008 8:43PM Report
Giddian writes:

Alright, I don't think that not caring about the storyline automatically designates you a PvP player because a lot of people play for the accomplishment of getting the best stuff in the game, etc.

I don't expect players to sit around and dream up the "go and fetch me 80 boar skulls" quests like the devs do, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying given player created guilds and towns as well as pirate dens, raiding parties, and mercenary guilds there's more than enough to merrit the "let's go raid the pirate den" or "let's defend the city" type of player generated 'quests' that actually matter and have lasting effects on the world.

Once again, I'm not knocking PvP.  But that is A PvP type of game. and to me, that would get boring REAL fast. As for collecting 80 Boar Skulls in itself is Boring, Giving it a Story,,,, A reason to collect the Skulls , makes it fun. That why a MMORPG's Need a story behind it.

What you discribed is COD With the addition of building your own city. you Might want to try Planet Side. You don't build your own city but it might be more your style of game

Thu Dec 11 2008 8:30AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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