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News & Features Discussion  » General: MMOWTF: The Rule of Simplicity

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  Stradden

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

 
OP  9/14/07 12:29:46 PM#1

Weekly MMORPG.com columnist Dan Fortier talks about the idea of difficulty in MMORPGs from what we have, to Perma-Death to a difficulty system.

There has always been a strange tension in game communities about how difficult an MMO should be. Many players constantly gripe that MMOs are too easy and that the amount of time played, not player skill, is the overwhelming factor in advancement. Others point out that the new generation of easy games has helped the genre expand out of the niche market. Like most single player RPGs dating back to Dragon Warrior, you could always overcome a challenge by simply out leveling your foe and thus crushing him easily. With few exceptions, the concept of 'Level > Skill' dominates the industry mindset. This week's article will bridge the gap between the two camps with a few novel ideas. Break out your inhalers for what promises to be a thoroughly sordid adventure!

Before a game is released it is easy to bemoan the 'no consequence' mechanics in favor of complex and challenging systems. I've found that most people who are not playing any game at the moment are most likely to demand harsher penalties and tougher challenges in the games they want to play. Once these 'hardcore' disciples start playing, however, they typically are the first ones to get frustrated and quit when things don't go their way. It's human nature to let your eyes get bigger than your stomach when wishing for games that are tougher. Features that look great on paper can easily turn into a nightmare if not implemented properly and with suitable caution.. I'm sure, for example, a good portion of the perma-death crowd would cry "OMGWTF this is BS!" and pummel their keyboard when actually faced with the permanent loss of a character in their wonderful system.

Read the whole column here.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

  techn0

Novice Member

Joined: 5/25/04
Posts: 5

9/14/07 1:01:06 PM#2

This instantly makes me think of Diablo II.  Hardcore mode was a blast and seeing a global message of another player's perma death never gets old.  This type of difficulty setting seemed popular enough to warrant use in another title, though I'm still waiting for it to come about.  I remember some of my friends watched me play in perma-death mode and commented they would never play a character they had a chance to lose forever.  For me though, there is no difference between fun and challenge.  They go hand in hand.

Your def. on the right track, this genre needs a change in scenery.  No, not an expensive title that copies already proven methods for sales.  I'm talking about inventive game mechanics and bringing back player skill.  It's not a crime to make a gamer think, we're actually good at it, given the chance.

  Fion

Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 2356

forums.3305local.com

We are recruiting.

9/14/07 1:08:33 PM#3

Originally posted by techn0


Your def. on the right track, this genre needs a change in scenery.  No, not an expensive title that copies already proven methods for sales.  I'm talking about inventive game mechanics and bringing back player skill.  It's not a crime to make a gamer think, we're actually good at it, given the chance.

IMHO the only upcoming MMOG that is trying to change things up for the better and not following the mass market crap just for the box sales, and really is trying to bring back player skill into the equation (though not via perma-death,) is Age of Conan. Most the others have gone with the status quo generic MMOG system or are basically too damn simplistic, at least from what I've seen, and I'm currently beta-testing several of the late 07/early 08 MMOGs.

  techn0

Novice Member

Joined: 5/25/04
Posts: 5

9/14/07 1:20:13 PM#4
Originally posted by Fion
Originally posted by techn0


Your def. on the right track, this genre needs a change in scenery.  No, not an expensive title that copies already proven methods for sales.  I'm talking about inventive game mechanics and bringing back player skill.  It's not a crime to make a gamer think, we're actually good at it, given the chance.

IMHO the only upcoming MMOG that is trying to change things up for the better and not following the mass market crap just for the box sales, and really is trying to bring back player skill into the equation (though not via perma-death,) is Age of Conan. Most the others have gone with the status quo generic MMOG system or are basically too damn simplistic, at least from what I've seen, and I'm currently beta-testing several of the late 07/early 08 MMOGs.

 

I agree.  I've been eyeballing this title for some time.  I was not happy to hear the big reason they gave for pushing the release date, the combo system had a steep learning curve??????   I mean, if it doesn't function properly thats one thing, but a hard system to learn?  Tthat sounds like a challenge to me and I'm all for it......

  Scythy

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/09/04
Posts: 42

9/14/07 1:21:13 PM#5

This brings me back to the whole wisp thing in WoW. I was excited for that class, since it's a visual representation of challenge and pride. I love the feeling of people seeing my 99 charged bolt sorc in D2, they're always saying stuff related to, "How the f***"

 

As for the difficulty settings, I think what's required for that in my opinion is a big word next to your character name saying what difficulty you're set at. Laugh at the easy moders, admire the extreme players. I might've played WoW when I heard about the wisp, being a level 60-70 wisp with lots of BoP gear would be great. :) All the people saying, "You're nuts..."

  Sunder

Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 335

9/14/07 1:32:29 PM#6

I am one of those who is waiting for that "Challenging MMO" to come out.  I am not the one who arrives at a challenge in a game, gets frustrated and beats up my keyboard.  (It is way to purty of a keyboard for that) As for that quote from the OP, it sounds exactly like something we would expect to hear from a Dev, or financer of a title for their excuse why they are following the mold that every other MMO has been fashioned in.  Okay, we get it.  People get pissy at games and don't like when something is a challenge.  There are enough titles out there to cater to their more simplistic ideals of how an MMO should be played, and what level of challenge should be out there.  So how about, All of you Devs, Financiers and bloggers, look more to what is not being provided, and stop giving the industry the excuses they are looking for.  Not enough of them are taking the time or putting out the effort to come up with something more original, or catering to the smaller audience.  You could at the very least make them put out the effort to come up with their excuses for themselves.  Eventually they will run out and have to come up with some originality.

  Alienovrlord

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/28/07
Posts: 1528

9/14/07 2:50:04 PM#7

 "I'm sure, for example, a good portion of the perma-death crowd would cry "OMGWTF this is BS!" and pummel their keyboard when actually faced with the permanent loss of a character in their wonderful system. "

Finally, someone coming forward and making this brand of whiner confront the truth.  Not that we can expect any of them to admit it.  They'll all maintain that *they* are Ubarz -l33t enough that they would *never* complain about the perma-death penality. 

Fortunately the free market system works on greed and hard cold numbers.   If harsh, pemanent penalties were so popular in online game (or ANY game for that matter), someone would be making money off of it.   But they're not.   The article put two and two together and did the addition for the whiners. 

Originally posted by Sunder

 There are enough titles out there to cater to their more simplistic ideals of how an MMO should be played, and what level of challenge should be out there.  So how about, All of you Devs, Financiers and bloggers, look more to what is not being provided, and stop giving the industry the excuses they are looking for. 

What are you talking about?  The MMORPG industry provided 'challenging' gameplay for an antire DECADE before Blizzard had the brains to wonder why anyone was making games like that. 

We all saw the results of this 'challenging' gameplay  - sales numbers that were a joke compared to other genres, driving away the vast majority of gamers and keeping most of them from touching any MMORPGs with a 50-foot pole. 

But the article makes an excellent suggestion.  A MMORPG with adjustable difficulty levels would be very interesting and informative for the whole industry.  Mostly because the developers could actually monitor the difficulty levels and see exactly how many people would  be willing to play perma-death with a character that ISN'T free to play every month. 

  Scythy

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/09/04
Posts: 42

9/14/07 3:01:17 PM#8
Originally posted by Alienovrlord

 "I'm sure, for example, a good portion of the perma-death crowd would cry "OMGWTF this is BS!" and pummel their keyboard when actually faced with the permanent loss of a character in their wonderful system. "

Finally, someone coming forward and making this brand of whiner confront the truth.  Not that we can expect any of them to admit it.  They'll all maintain that *they* are Ubarz -l33t enough that they would *never* complain about the perma-death penality. 


The first death always pisses you off. It's the ones after that make you want to start over and do better the next time. I stops bothering you entirely by the 3rd or 4th one.

  Sunder

Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 335

9/14/07 3:01:49 PM#9

What I am talking about, Alienovrlord, was actually pretty well defined in my post.  Perhaps rather than argue it, you should try to see the post for what it was.  Yes, I would play a game with perma-death as an option.  I would play with it and without it.  The gaming industry is evolving by the day, and the games that come out have to be willing to evolve with it.  That means less cookie cutter designs, and more games catering to more exclusive audiences.  Will they be slow at first?  Absolutely.  But as with everything else in the gaming industry, (And every other industry for that matter) once they find their niche of consumers they will grow, and more people will be happy to have something for them.  No, Perma-death is not for everyone, but yes, a true CHALLENGE in an MMO would be great.  I am not a crusader for the perma-death game design.  Not a proponent thereof by any means.  All I ask is for less cookie cutters and copy cats, and more unique game design.  Stop following the exact same design, or you will continue to have all of the numerous threads wherein people complain about how bored they are with every game.  Switching games for a refresher is becoming less and less of an option because everyone follows the same pattern.  And people combat change, or try to find flaw everytime someone ASKS for something more new and inventive, I.E. Alienovrlord et all.  Rather than ask "What I am talking about" read the post with an open mind, and read other peoples requests and ideas with an open mind rather than trying to find fault.  Thanks.

  Suplyndmnd

Novice Member

Joined: 11/23/06
Posts: 552

9/14/07 4:01:56 PM#10

"I don't think I've ever heard a player say they were quitting a game because it was too simple"

 

Let me be the first to say it then.  I quit WoW and LOTR:O because it was too simple.  I play FFXI where even the most simple of things like Crafting and Growing plants are made uber complex.  Your harvest from gardening depends on the crystal you give it, the order you give it, the day of the week you planted, the energy of your house, the pot you plant it in, the day of the week you give the crystals, the day of the week you harvest and the moon phase in game.  That's right, that's just GARDENING!  That's a game that's complex my friend.

Not going to be one of the "WoW is for noobs" crowd because it, like Guild Wars serves a community that likes a game that is more simplistic in nature.  Hell, Guild Wars entire business model is how simple the game is and look at it.  It's blowing up.  For me though, i prefer the complex. FFXI is absolutely the most complex game i've ever played and the only one I can say I know i'll play for years to come.

EVE - Sharvala
FFXI - Shazamalicious
Guild Wars - Xavier Lucifer & Charlize the Necro


"Ranged...stuck...tree...15 random words... suck... noob fanboy... I MAKE GUIDE!"

  Hamilton-NEO

Novice Member

Joined: 4/09/07
Posts: 75

NeoJav Developer

9/14/07 4:02:48 PM#11

My opinion with the level of complexity is the trade-off of the type of initial sales to repeat sales.

The more simplistic the game is, the more initial players there will be, but at a high turn over rate (they just won't stick around as long)

The more complex the game is, the less initial players it will have, but the turn over rate will be lower (those players will stick around longer)

So it becomes, what is more important, Getting more initial sales of the game? Or getting more monthly subscriptions over the long haul?  Or somewhere in between?

 

I know that there are exceptions and do admit that the quality of the game (in terms of bugs, customer service, etc) do play a significant factor.  For this statement, I am considering those as all equal, save for the level of complexity.

Sign off,
Hamilton

  RonnyRulz

Novice Member

Joined: 9/14/06
Posts: 488

This forum''s opinion is worth less than a stray dog crapping in a forest that no one cares about.

9/14/07 4:06:00 PM#12

Anyone with a brain could make a game that is both Simple, getting tons of first time subscribers, but also very complex and deep, keeping many of the subscribers for longer.

 

You can have something be both simple and complex, it just takes intelligence and skill in game design. IMO, it's rather easy to take something complex and give it Simplicity... but then again I'm not a stupid developer who lacks skills in the area of brain activity, logic & reason, and mental thought. I also have the rare "uncanny" ability to think outside of the close-minded box.

  soulwynd

Advanced Member

Joined: 10/26/05
Posts: 49

9/14/07 4:09:56 PM#13

The only difficulty in a game that doesn't rely on strategy is ass pain. Nothing cheers me up more than spending one hour in a game to get 10% closer to level and then think; "Yay, only 30 more levels increasing ass pain left to go". With that said, I firmly believe that no MMORPG developer has ever played chess. Not ever. Not once. Well maybe once when they lost and went crying to mommy. Most MMOs I see only challenge your patience and not your mind. Some challenge your reflexes but that doesn't make any of us less than a fat ass either.

What the MMO stream lacks is a game that will require people to think instead of making them spectators who sometimes press a button. A game that doesn't rely on rock-paper-scissors to say it has 'strategical' elements. A game that doesn't turn everyone into serial killers. A game that shows that ever the smallest mice can kill the mightiest warrior with salmonella. A game that captivates people by being fun to play and not by denying them aspects of the gameplay just to keep their ass there, paying monthly, as they hurt trying to reach the highest whatever they can be in the game.

  RonnyRulz

Novice Member

Joined: 9/14/06
Posts: 488

This forum''s opinion is worth less than a stray dog crapping in a forest that no one cares about.

9/14/07 4:32:29 PM#14

"A game that captivates people by being fun to play and not by denying them aspects of the gameplay just to keep their ass there, paying monthly, as they hurt trying to reach the highest whatever they can be in the game."

 

Definitely agree with that. After hitting level 50 in DAoC and level 30 in CoV, I never wanted to play levels 1-49 again, or levels 1-20 again. DAoC doesn't get fun until lvl 50, and CoV until level 20 after your first character.

Instead, I was FORCED to a grueling grind back up t those levels with my characters. Solution? I quit DAoC forever and got bored with CoV.

After getting past the "newbie" levels, I can't even stand playing them again- IN ANY GAME.

I tried playing the beta for GnH and Tabula Rasa. I quit out of total boredom- more boredom than I've ever experienced.
Why? Because I am so freakin sick and tired of killing rabbits with ONE or TWO abilities at levels 1-5.
It doesn't matter if these rabbits are disguised as an army of ancient wyrm dragons, the fact is that levels 1-5 are so easy, dull, and BORING, I can't to uninstall the game before I even finish the fight.

The fact I ran up infront of 3 mobs in Tabula Rasa shooting me, and stood there for 5 minutes, and DIDN'T DIE, then fired 3 times and won.......wow that is ridiculous. If I wanted to play a game that easy, I'd go play Mcdonalds Adventure for ages 1-5.

I don't care if it only takes an hour to get to the level when the game begins. The fact I have to work just to play the game for ANY amount of time SUCKS.

  DrowNoble

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/12/05
Posts: 1283

9/14/07 5:45:34 PM#15

I like the idea of difficulty levels in a game.  That way the hardcore types can get their jollies by being "harder-core" and the casuals can roll along at their own pace.

CoX has a difficulty system, but it only affects instanced missions.  Still it's a nice feature to have, I adjusted it up on my MM once he got his 2nd pet buff and cruised all the way to 50.  

I will disagree with a previous poster about CoV getting boring after 20.  That is when the game begins to open up more as you've just earned your cape and 2nd costume slot.  With Stamina you aren't resting nearly as often.  Plus the story arcs get more involved and interesting from there on out.  He was dead on about DAoC though, pretty much now it's all about being 50 with a bazillion realm points.

  Darkz0r

Novice Member

Joined: 8/23/06
Posts: 82

9/14/07 6:17:43 PM#16

Obviously, if your game is simpler you will get more subscribers...its quite simple, the majority of people playing nowdays are casual players.

I think it's reallty a vague point to discuss, because different gamers want different kind of games.

When I was younger I played FPS games because 'uber skillz0rs to pwn all' was something hard to acquire, but now I play easy games because each day I have like 30mins free to actually do what i want.

So, sure, if you have tons of free time you will want harder stuff to feel you acomplished something. If you don't, you'll want something simpler so that you CAN actually acomplish anything.

And that's it.

 

  techn0

Novice Member

Joined: 5/25/04
Posts: 5

9/14/07 6:28:03 PM#17

It seems like most of the problems with our current state of MMO's is the entire leveling system.....

Maybe I'm wrong but is there no other alternative?  Can we not take this system out completely?

Instead of your character deriving all his power through levels, you could have a system where your skill and the skill of your group as a whole is the determining factor.  FFXI has a great (and complex) skill chain system that I would very much like to see implemented in another game as the main factor of combat.  EQII tried to do something similar with horrible results.  Could you imagine a game with no levels?  would it suck? would it get boring?  Some games are still fun at max level.  Why not skip the tons of effort spent designing content for leveling and instead spend it on different variations of the fun things to do at max level?

(btw, acquiring experience to spend on Skill points is still considered leveling)

Taking out levels and equipment really screws with the risk vs reward though. We would need something to balance it, any ideas?

 

 

 

  Sunder

Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 335

9/14/07 6:50:18 PM#18

Oh certainly, there are many ways of implementing progression without levels.  First though to address something another poster stated.  I myself do not have a lot of time for gaming of late, having an infant in the house now.  My points in previous posts in this thread was that there are already a lot of games out that cater to the casual gamers.  I have my moments of casual gaming, and indeed tend to play more than one game, so I have something to suit my current need or desire.  There are however more hard core gamers, as well as people who like to feel a certain level of accomplishment in their gaming outside of what a casual gaming environment can provide.  Thus my insisting that devs etc should try to provide something for a different crowd, such as the more hard core gamers.

All of that said, one method of progression rather than a level based system would be a skill based system.  Dating back to my days in MUDs, there is a mass amount of skills available in a game, the mastery of which unlocks further tiers of skills which ultimately define your character.  That can be done through making certain classes or professions available only after a character has mastered certain skills, the "profession" or "class" in turn opening up new skills/spells or whatever.  Rather than killing X amount of creatures making you suddenly adept at given skills, actually USING skills would over time give a certain gain to them.  I have seen this in many game systems, and while that is no perfect or flawless system, it is a viable alternative, if implemented properly.  Proving yourself with a given skill, weapon, or item would make someone more amiable to teaching you a more refined skill of the same tree.  I.E. starting your life as a forester and becoming adept with chopping down trees would provide enough axe mastery to impress a fighter into teaching you how to wield one in combat, or whatever.  It is a starting point with flaws (Don't post flaming me and telling me it would not work.  I already know it has its problems, but it is an example of something that could be refined and worked into a usable model for a game, and is more constructive than people posting how stupid everything else in every other game is.)  I am sure other people have their own ideas also.  This is simply one example of a plausible platform.

 

  Suplyndmnd

Novice Member

Joined: 11/23/06
Posts: 552

9/14/07 6:53:12 PM#19

Originally posted by techn0

It seems like most of the problems with our current state of MMO's is the entire leveling system.....

Maybe I'm wrong but is there no other alternative?  Can we not take this system out completely?

Instead of your character deriving all his power through levels, you could have a system where your skill and the skill of your group as a whole is the determining factor.  FFXI has a great (and complex) skill chain system that I would very much like to see implemented in another game as the main factor of combat.  EQII tried to do something similar with horrible results.  Could you imagine a game with no levels?  would it suck? would it get boring?  Some games are still fun at max level.  Why not skip the tons of effort spent designing content for leveling and instead spend it on different variations of the fun things to do at max level?

(btw, acquiring experience to spend on Skill points is still considered leveling)

Taking out levels and equipment really screws with the risk vs reward though. We would need something to balance it, any ideas?

 

 

 

I have noticed a lot of people asking for this.  A game that advances and gets more difficult but without levels.  The only problem is what's there to work towards?  A new player can take down an end game boss as easily as someone who's been playing for a year?  Hardly fair and not really a good goal.

I think though, that the market should come up with a way that doesn't make you grind (as much) to get those levels.  Guild Wars did this to an extent in Factions where you got massive amounts of experience because the game wasn't about experience as much as story.  The only problem with that is to stop a level 5 from getting to end game and skipping everything, they locked the towns and places where you couldn't get to them unless you did the quests leading up to them.  It achieved the goal of making levels meaningless but then you have people like me that like to explore.  To go out and venture into new places and stumble upon towns they are too low to be in.  That, to me, is a great achievement (Notice I said go and explore, not get ran to).  I don't think there is a way to get rid of levels entirely without locking parts of the game until certain storylines are finished.  That's robbing Peter to pay Paul I think.

EVE - Sharvala
FFXI - Shazamalicious
Guild Wars - Xavier Lucifer & Charlize the Necro


"Ranged...stuck...tree...15 random words... suck... noob fanboy... I MAKE GUIDE!"

  Sunder

Novice Member

Joined: 7/25/03
Posts: 335

9/14/07 7:26:37 PM#20

To expound on what I posted a post or two ago, if say we all start out with the option to gain in any of the "Initial set" of skills, and I decide that I want to work on my ability to wield a blade.  I do not have to kill 10 wolves at 10 XP a pop to get 100 xp and level.  I would pick up a blade, a light one since I do not have any proficiency, and go out and do a miserable job with it, but slowly become adept with it.  A master at arms could decide after I have X amount of skill (By whatever "test", or "quest" he deems fit for me to prove myself, perhaps besting him at a friendly duel) he would then enable me to learn beyond the max I had available to me, say 25 initial skill.  If I spend a lot of time working with various blades, I would over time be able to wield bigger better blades as I prove myself to various "trainers."  That does not make me a knight by any means, and does not enable me to don a suit of platemail armor and fight.  Armor is another line of skills entirely.  Eventually, if I invested all of my time in blades, I could be considered a mercenary, or assassin, or what have you, without ever actually leveling a formal "Class." 

If say I later find something else more useful, I could practice something else.  To avoid people trying to make "The ultimate character" and without setting a set amount of "Skill points" a character could have (such as Ultima Online) skills that I no longer use would slowly degenerate over time (Time spent in game, not me going on vacation or holiday with my family and coming back to an infantized character) and the character would then only be adequate or proficient at whatever abilities the player spends time honing.  As an example, my wife was once a "Professional" saxophone player, but has not played in near 20 years.  I bought her a new Saxophone a =nd gave it to her this past week.  Because she has not actively USED that skill in a long time, she is not professional grade or "Proficient" with that skill.  She still has it, simply at a degenerated ability which she is presently (God help us) working back up to a functional level.  This would allow for different player types and play styles, and not pigeon-hole someone into always being a guilds "Main tank" because different "Boss" mobs would require a tank of a different ilk, or skill build.  This also allows for a player to experiment a bit with different things and find what works for THEM, without being drawn into a specific and more restricted skill set, at the same time giving them the ability to return to something if their foray into something new does not pan out. 

A system of this style does not allow someone to buy the game and be able to take down the end game boss, but at the same time would permit a casual gamer to, over time, reach the same apex of their character as the hard core gamer.  Or even those who have the high end guilds or hard core raid guilds.  It would not hurt the hard core guilds, as they can reach the end, and enjoy their style of play, but the casual gamer who must rely more on pick up groups has the opportunity to do the same, or become as great in the end, and be a viable entity in the PVP world, because it would boil down more to an individuals play style, and actual player ability, rather than the person who has the most time to sit around on their ass every day.  Okay, enough ranting from me for now!  (Again for all the flamers, I know, it needs work, so don't tell me how flawed it is.  Just a starting model.  And well, we aren't designing our own MMO here anyway.  Just discussing and stating our thoughts! hehe)

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