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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Room for Many Realms

13 posts found
  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13461

 
OP  2/15/13 10:28:12 AM#1

There seems at times to be little agreement between users as to what defines a 'good' MMO. In today's Devil's Advocate, we take a look at a recent pair of blog posts and try to find some common ground in the eternal argument. Check it out before heading into the comments.

I’d like to spend today’s Devil’s Advocate discussing the ideas from those posts. I feel they’ve both taken their points of view to opposite extremes on the spectrum of well-intentioned commentary.  As much as there is truth to what they both say, perhaps the more apt discussion piece on MMOs lies in between their rhetoric.

Read more of Victor Barreiro Jr.'s The Devil's Advocate: Room for Many Realms.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Mueslinator

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/08/11
Posts: 78

2/15/13 4:30:36 PM#2

I agree with the over-all conclusion of the article. I particularly like the 'outlier' moniker.

 

The problem for MMORPG developers in roughly the last eight years was the "Hollywood problem": They had one example of a game that worked, and then they tried to replicate the success by replicating that game.

Their eyes were -imo- set on the wrong primary goal: Emulate the mechanics of a game that works, and you would get a game that works.

It's like saying: "Coke is popular. So are potatoes. And steak. And gravy. Let's mix that, and we should get the food of kings! Hey, the hamburger did it with bread, beef and salad, what could go wrong?!"

I have maintained for years that WoW did in large part not succeed because of those much-copied mechanics but in spite of them. It was a quirk in the system.

If WoW has 12 million subscribers it does not mean that those 12 million are "MMORPG players". Most of those are strictly WoW players. WoW or nothing.

 

Luckily this understanding is gaining traction in the MMORPG market - I have the feeling that the first studios have the guts to say: "Okay, obviously how WoW does it is NOT the be-all-and-end-all of MMOdom. Let's try to make games we feel will work and we would want to play instead of amalgamating a host of features that theoretically should work, but don't in practice".

 

 

Lastly, I have never really understood the 'nostalgia' argument. Sure, some things may be a bit rose-tinted by it. But by and large gamers tend to know what works for them and what doesn't. And it's a difference if we're talking basic design philosophy or 'quality of life' improvements.

 
 
  victorbjr

Hard Core Member

Joined: 9/13/10
Posts: 162

2/15/13 4:41:17 PM#3
Originally posted by Mueslinator

I agree with the over-all conclusion of the article. I particularly like the 'outlier' moniker.

 

The problem for MMORPG developers in roughly the last eight years was the "Hollywood problem": They had one example of a game that worked, and then they tried to replicate the success by replicating that game.

Their eyes were -imo- set on the wrong primary goal: Emulate the mechanics of a game that works, and you would get a game that works.

It's like saying: "Coke is popular. So are potatoes. And steak. And gravy. Let's mix that, and we should get the food of kings! Hey, the hamburger did it with bread, beef and salad, what could go wrong?!"

I have maintained for years that WoW did in large part not succeed because of those much-copied mechanics but in spite of them. It was a quirk in the system.

If WoW has 12 million subscribers it does not mean that those 12 million are "MMORPG players". Most of those are strictly WoW players. WoW or nothing.

 

Luckily this understanding is gaining traction in the MMORPG market - I have the feeling that the first studios have the guts to say: "Okay, obviously how WoW does it is NOT the be-all-and-end-all of MMOdom. Let's try to make games we feel will work and we would want to play instead of amalgamating a host of features that theoretically should work, but don't in practice".

 

 

Lastly, I have never really understood the 'nostalgia' argument. Sure, some things may be a bit rose-tinted by it. But by and large gamers tend to know what works for them and what doesn't. And it's a difference if we're talking basic design philosophy or 'quality of life' improvements.

 
 

I believe you're one of those folks who understands the scenario MMOs exist in today! Kudos to you!

 

On another note, I really like your username, as I'm on a reduced sugar intake diet and eat a lot of muesli to feel full at times. :D

A writer and gamer from the Philippines. Loves his mom dearly. :)

Can also be found on http://www.gamesandgeekery.com

  jtcgs

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/28/04
Posts: 1843

2/15/13 5:43:59 PM#4
Originally posted by Mueslinator

The problem for MMORPG developers in roughly the last eight years was the "Hollywood problem": They had one example of a game that worked, and then they tried to replicate the success by replicating that game.

 It goes back farther than 8 years. DaoC was nothing more than a newer EQ with RvR added to it.

You can see this by the fact that nobody tried to copy Asherons Call because it wasnt as popular. While a few games have come close to its open class system, none have tried to copy its action combat which is still by far the deepest in the genre.

Melee attack: High, middle, low.

Type: Blunt, Slash, Stab

Element: Fire, Frost, Acid, Electric

Monsters had vulnerabilities to different types of attacks...and you could take on dozens at a time and live and move right on to the next group without stopping.

“I hope we shall crush...in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson

  Militant

Novice Member

Joined: 4/28/10
Posts: 48

2/15/13 10:19:36 PM#5
100% agree that wow players dont count as its wow or nothing (not all 9mil subscribers ofc.. But probably 90%) of them
  Mueslinator

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/08/11
Posts: 78

2/16/13 4:49:25 AM#6

@Victor: Thanks! Like so many people in MMO forums I'm a bit of an armchair developer; maybe with the added benefit of having worked in the VG industry previously. My username's been with me for over 15 years now, I got it for largely the same reasons you're chomping down on it ;-).

@jtcgs: Might well be the case. To be honest, I wasn't around in the MMO space back then. I looked in from the outside and regretted that internet and payment pethods in my country were not yet up for it. In any case, this pattern of 'going for what seems to work' becomes more prevalent in all industries the costlier a product gets. You cannot afford to fail, so you play it as safe as you can. And incorporating elements that have been proven to work tells this to your investors: "See, we're adding mechanic X, which we estimate will net us another 20,000 purchases".

Investors for the most part aren't players, They go by the books and by the numbers. It's very hard to convince them that abstaining from adding a feature that a successful product has will be good for their product.

And if their product then fails the reason is sought anywhere but at the 'proven to work' features that work in exactly. One. Game.

It's very hard to come up with anything original. We consumers often don't honour it. Take (non-MMO example) System Shock 2. Abysmal sales. Cult classic now. Opened the way to a whole new 'brand' of games.

 

The aspect that is most important to me in an MMORPG is a persistent, open world. WoW has that. Very few loading screens in the open world. You can travel from one end of a continent to the other without seeing one. It gives a sense of cohesion, size and 'reality' to the game world.

In very broad strokes, a good MMORPG in my book nowadays should be a hybrid between Sandbox and Theme Park with a huge open world and partially dynamic events. The focus should be less on 'gear as the ultimate goal', but on 'being someone' in that world. Sure, more power is not a bad thing, but if you make it the sole motivator, you're going to fall flat on your face.

 
 
  Tithenon

Novice Member

Joined: 1/31/11
Posts: 106

2/16/13 9:58:40 AM#7

Victor, well-written.  Now, to perhaps add a third voice... if game developers will develop MMORPGs rather than Combat Games, I think you'll see a serious, and positive, shift in the market.  This isn't just about themepark or sandbox games, this is about the quality that goes into the game.  People have been screaming for story for the past decade, and many game publishers have touched on the idea of adding story here and there, but those are not real stories.  They have a nice background and they might have a trick or two during game-play, but they are still combat monstrosities.

 

Pretty armor, clothing, fashion-forward character separators, great visual character builders, different types of weapons and items, as unique as each may be made, are not story-builders in and of themselves.  I believe, if it can be developed, that players desire to have stories that are unique to their characters, or character groups, as much as possible.  Once a character or group has cleared an area, for heaven's sake it doesn't get populated, again, for a little while, at least, and the player can run their character through that area, again, and it's empty because they emptied it.  This will require a little bit of server magic on the developer's parts, but if it's a big part of the development cycle from the beginning, it shouldn't cause a problem.

 

Let player's develop their character's histories and then allow those histories to have an effect on the player's gameplay; Champions does this to a limited extent with Nemesis.  Let player's make selections about the kind of gameplay they would prefer to participate in: puzzles/no puzzles, PvP/no bloody stinkin' stupid PvP, mass groups of killing/smaller story-relevant groups of killing, dungeoneering/surface-world play, exploration/charge in where angels fear to tread, etc., and then allow those sliders to adjust automatically, through the course of their game-play, as they solve tasks (not quests; we're not after the holy grail, here, just putting down a minor demon insurrection, so it's not a quest, it's a task) that place them more appropriately into realms they desire to play in.

 

Having all of these game worlds is great, but these console-playing, non-table-top-role-playing developers don't seem to get the idea that the game is not about the game, it's about providing a playground for the characters, and their players.  The world, the background, history, and current events are there to set the player's imaginations on fire, to allow them to experience, through their character's eyes, the world provided, and then to do something about it.  As things stand, right now, the lion's share of MMOs allow you to pick a sex, a race, a class, and maybe a few colors, and then your character blasts into the world; let me develop a character, their face and body type, as based on attributes I've selected, allow me to choose the skills I want to play with, allow me to choose a past and present circumstances, sliders to help determine the types of game-play I would prefer to participate in, wind me up and watch me go!

 

A quick caveat, for groups all game-play choices are calculated together and averaged for all characters in a group, and the adventure scales to accommodate based on those values.  Yes, it's a whole lot of work, but a whole lot of work has been neglected for the past fifteen years, and perhaps it's time to honestly change the dynamics of the game.

  Atis-nob

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/01/12
Posts: 51

2/16/13 3:51:58 PM#8

There is no way to create a good story for MMO. Few thouthands of players at  each server, most of them wanna-be-heroes-without-efforts, all have their own preferences - you cant create really good story to fit them all. Good story requires drama and suffering and hard work to make ppl feel for it. Now try to create epic drama with 5000 participants who just want entertainment.

MMO's best bet is separated story for chain of quests. Many games do that and still fail often because story for one hero doesnt fit for team of 50 and vise versa.

Leave story to single-player games, give MMO lore and systems and ppl will create their own story if they want, if not - dont push them into story-making.

--------------------------

And for the article, yes, it was always so obvious to me, I never understood how game studios cant see this - it's much easier and safer to make 10 games for different crowds and, if one of them will grow fast, increase it's budget. 10 games with 300k players each is same as 3mil players in one and there is always a chance that some games will be more successful, so how about 5mil players? Not that bad and you dont need Blizzard for this, just 10 small teams with small budgets who understand their niches. Then you close unprofitable ones and replace them with new projects.

  xSyngex

Novice Member

Joined: 12/03/12
Posts: 67

2/16/13 11:52:07 PM#9
Wtoo wany wamrks own war..
  MurlockDance

Advanced Member

Joined: 6/20/10
Posts: 1216

2/17/13 10:56:08 AM#10
Originally posted by Atis-nob

There is no way to create a good story for MMO. Few thouthands of players at  each server, most of them wanna-be-heroes-without-efforts, all have their own preferences - you cant create really good story to fit them all. Good story requires drama and suffering and hard work to make ppl feel for it. Now try to create epic drama with 5000 participants who just want entertainment.

MMO's best bet is separated story for chain of quests. Many games do that and still fail often because story for one hero doesnt fit for team of 50 and vise versa.

Leave story to single-player games, give MMO lore and systems and ppl will create their own story if they want, if not - dont push them into story-making.

--------------------------

And for the article, yes, it was always so obvious to me, I never understood how game studios cant see this - it's much easier and safer to make 10 games for different crowds and, if one of them will grow fast, increase it's budget. 10 games with 300k players each is same as 3mil players in one and there is always a chance that some games will be more successful, so how about 5mil players? Not that bad and you dont need Blizzard for this, just 10 small teams with small budgets who understand their niches. Then you close unprofitable ones and replace them with new projects.

Yes this is very true. Even though I have fun in ToR, too much on-rails story gets annoying after a while. All you can do is consume it, and at one point you reach the end and there is nothing more. There is nothing else either to do other than story in a game like ToR or WoW.

It is also annoying when every single character in the game does exactly the same story and goes through the same steps. ToR is not the only one, even Vanguard does this, and it is irritating after a while.

If I could design and write an MMO, I would not do quests the same way. As someone who has run PnP games for a while, I have different ideas.

The fact that MMORPGs are in some ways very personal experiences, especially the old school ones, it is impossible that they be marketed to the masses. They are very much niche and that is not a bad thing, though it pisses off big investors. I still believe that 100k players for the average MMO is a success, but I guess I am just weird that way.

Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.

  haggus71

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/19/07
Posts: 261

2/17/13 12:36:23 PM#11

Right on the money.  I disagree with trying to cover so many different bases in one game.  With the spread of F2P/B2P, there are plenty of options out there.  It's like choosing your stats in-game.  If you find your comfort in play, and focus your stats on a few core stats, you will succeed.  Try to spread your stats to cover too many situations, and you end up with a Jack of all trades...master of none.  WAR was a good example of this.  If they had stuck to the PvP/RvR side, and made a more open world, it could have been a success for its niche.  

Which leads to the bigger part of the dilema: the Suits.  The great thing about Kickstarter is, it gives a developer an idea if their idea is actually popular enough to get support; and it lets them get away from having to listen to the Suits when they say, "Why don't you include this? WoW had it."  Or, "We think the game will be 'too niche' if you don't add this, and this....oh, and this...and this..."  Marc Jacobs said as much about WAR, and why he is concentrating on doing a limited-scope game HE can control.  If you have to listen to a corporate head while designing your game, you will never put out the product you want.  

  jbombard

Advanced Member

Joined: 11/06/08
Posts: 466

2/18/13 2:25:21 AM#12

I think there are too many assumptions being made on both sides.  The "WoW model" encompasses quite a bit.  SWTOR didn't fail because of the "WoW model".

 

SWTOR failed because they failed to follow up on their release, keep the momentum going, and continuously provide value to the players.  The last being the one quality that perhaps defines WoW as an outlier in that they have enough addicts that they can get away with not releasing new content for more than half a year while still taking people's money.  

 

I think F2P and B2P have been really raising people's expectations.  If high quality games can be played without a subscription fee, what is the value proposition for subscription games?  Subscription games can be successfull, but they absolutely must provide value to the player continously otherwise the player feels like they are getting taken for a ride.  WoW has been trying to do this with faster updates, as I think they recoginize the change in the market, and the "you get to connect to our servers for your money" statement just doesn't fly in this day and age.

 

Whether or not a game can be successfull with 100,000 players depends on a great many things, how much their initial investment was, how much overhead they have, how much they are spending on new content vs. making revenue.  But yes it is perfectly plausable and I agree that there is plenty of room for all kinds of MMO niche or otherwise.

 

 
  Wulfyn

Novice Member

Joined: 12/17/05
Posts: 19

2/22/13 1:52:43 PM#13

Thanks for the article. Thanks also to the people that replied, there were a great deal fo very interesting and informative posts, and I feel there are some kindred spirits of mine here. For me what is particularly lamentable is that, sandbox or themepark, far too many MMORPG lack any RP and are quite arcadey.

 

The only thing I'd disagree with slightly is the idea that there is a game for everyone, because I don't really feel that there is a game for me. The one I enjoyed the most was Eve, but now I have felt like I have done everything I wanted to in that game. I've tried out quite a lot of others but none seem to be offering the experience I want. So this got me thinking about the sort of thing that I would value in a game.

 

 

A game world rather than a game combat arena.

Social communities that exist in the game and not as an afterthought on the forums.

Diversity of play styles, with combat players realising they need industrialists to enrich the world and industrialists realising they need combat players to purchase their goods, and other service based professions as well.

Dynamic environments where mobs move around, grow or shrink in strength, and are more than just loot drops.

 

I put these ideas on a website just to collate them (in my sig), but I'm really interested in hearing the thoughts of the other people here as to how to accomplish some of the goals that would be in your ideal game.

 

 

--Mueslinator, I agree about the hollywood problem. Due to the values that I would have in my perfect game it is likely to always be niche. It's likely to also be 'unfair' in the sense that many games are about creating a level combat playing field whereas I would want to have GMs that interacted with the players playing NPCs and helping to shape storylines. Do you think that such a niche style would have enough traction to gain the subscribers it needed to pay for these GMs?

Another factor I think is important is a promotion of 'being' over 'doing'. When my friends and I first heard about a Warhammer Online game we thought that it would be more like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay than the RvR arcade game it eventually became. When we were talking about what we wanted to do not a single person in my group (of 8) wanted to be a hero. Professions ranged from a river boatman to an artisan. Only one person wanted to be an adventurer and this was as a support engineer. Now I understand that these may not be mainstream positions, but if you were put in charge of designing a game what would you to to promote the sense of 'being someone'.

 

 

--Tithenon; I agree about having your own story, and how this can be facilitated by a sandbox-themepark mix. I especially think you are on to exactly the sort of game that I want to play in when you talk about providing a game world with a background that players can be a part of and that lets their own imagination set free. How would you cater for such a wide range of what people want within a single server game (or do you think this is not possible)?

 

 

Would be interested in hearing the thoughts of other people as well! :)

 

www.ygworlds.net