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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Why Multiplayer Is Missing from Modern MMOs

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78 posts found
  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13261

 
OP  6/06/14 9:50:30 AM#1

In my last article, I wrote about the role of GMs in old school text MMOs, MUDs, and how they enriched the experience rather than performed customer service. This was one of the features that we’ve lost in the transition to streamlined, modern, graphical MMOs. This article continues exploring old MUD elements that are worth revisiting and, perhaps, reinventing for the modern era.

Read more of Mark Kern's Why Multiplayer is Missing from Modern MMOs.

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

  Shaigh

Elite Member

Joined: 3/07/13
Posts: 263

6/06/14 4:26:04 PM#2

We have to find a way to create worlds that players have strong social ties and high attachment to characters. Re-introducing class dependence, in a modern way, is key to this. The MMO that can recapture the group play aspects of older games is going to feel more special and be far “stickier” for players than current MMO offerings.

 

This one really hit home. I can find better singleplayers and if I wish to play with my friends we play a coop, the only special thing MMO's have is the social aspects and attachment to characters, and without them MMO's no longer feel special.

 

Looking forward to your next column.

  Blaze_Rocker

Hard Core Member

Joined: 6/06/14
Posts: 53

I've got a fevah, and the only prescription...is more cowbell.

6/06/14 4:30:45 PM#3

I don't even have to read the article to know why multiplayer is missing. Too many people had bad experiences that went like this:

 

I played with this player and they were a D-bag. I tried playing with other people and I found more D-bags. D-bags D-bags D-bags. They're everywhere! So I started playing solo and I demanded the ability to solo 95% of everything in every game I play.

 

A few developers started catering to this type of person and the industry became flooded with more of the same B.S. over the past couple of years. If developers would just stop trying to please everyone with every game then gaming would start getting back to the way it should be.

You can just hang outside in the sun all day tossing a ball around, or you can sit at your computer and do something that matters!

  Lustmord

Elite Member

Joined: 12/21/05
Posts: 1057

6/06/14 4:34:03 PM#4
play Darkfal Unholy Wars.
plenty of multiplayer going on in that.
  sunandshadow

Elite Member

Joined: 12/05/13
Posts: 603

6/06/14 4:49:23 PM#5

You might want to take into account that many people want to roleplay a lone wolf or similar character archetype who travels alone through the virtual world.  US culture has always praise do-it-yourselfers, praised accomplishing difficult things without help, and put negative value on needing help and begging.  We often hear about how bad it is to be co-dependent - IMO that's exactly what required group play in MMOs is, forced co-dependance.

  FlyByKnight

Novice Member

Joined: 12/31/12
Posts: 495

6/06/14 5:09:21 PM#6

The problem with MMOs is you have developers who don't know the difference between "playing together" and being social.

 

Stop trying to MAKE people sociable with each other. They'll do that if they want to.  I don't need to be 100% social with anybody to work together with them to accomplish a goal.  I don't need to have a sense of "community" to play a game. That's icing.

 

Make the content require teamwork at the earliest stages and the teams will naturally form.  Period.  There should be "LFG to explore eastern forest" because it's dangerous to go it alone. If you ARE alone, you should be happy to see other players and want to stick with them for safety. This is not the case currently in most games.

 
It has very little to do with class dependency.
  Kaneth

Elite Member

Joined: 8/19/07
Posts: 1564

6/06/14 5:15:59 PM#7

Sorry, but this whole article is way off base, even coming from an industry insider. Yes, the industry took deliberate steps to ensure that all classes were able to solo, but there wasn't that much homogenization in the early years of that and it didn't kill multiplayer. Multiplayer still exists within mmos, go look at end game raiding in mmos where that's offered, or dungeon runs, or organized pvp, etc. There is still a myriad of reasons to go and have multiplayer interactions within the world.

If we're talking about the death of multiplayer during the leveling process. Well then yes, that was effectively killed. Not that it existed in all games. Asheron's Call was one of the original mmos and featured a most solo experience. It was one of the major ways that game was unique at the time.

Class solo-ability didn't kill leveling multiplay, nope, quests had a bigger impact. Running to a quest hub, completing those tasks that eventually lead you to the next quest hub, and this is what you do until max level. In WoW, there were areas where there was elites quests almost exclusively, and those quests were fun and super rewarding. They could also be skipped for those people who play odd hours or are just more introverted. WoW was the first mmo to really have a robust questing system, and that's part of the reason for its massive success.

However, a single player driven questing experience wouldn't be nearly as popular if not for the biggest reason to kill multiplayer leveling in mmos. That would be people behaving poorly.

In all group oriented mmos I have played there are two things that happen without fail in pug groups. First, class shunning. There will always be a better tanking class, a better healing class, and the best DPS class, not including other roles that existed (like buffers, debuffers, etc). If you happened to play a class that had more utility, but was outperformed by other classes, then you were effectively shunned from groups. I remember playing DAoC and seeing groups advertising for folks, but Rangers and Nightshades were not welcome. Even to this day, you will see groups stacking the "best" classes to get through content the easiest. Hell, even in FF XIV: ARR, people would stack Black Mages to aoe through FATEs faster (one of the reasons why I decided to leave the game).

Aside from class elitism, there is also just more general elitism. If someone makes a single mistake, they are berated and/or kicked from the group. We're not talking about someone who clearly doesn't know how to play, I've seen instances where the healer misses healing an over aggressive DPSer (who gets themselves killed), and get verbally abused and kicked from the group. I could go on with examples for hours, but we've all seen these issues. If these types of issues were rare it wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, these are regular occurrences within the realm of the mmo.

Now games like GW2 and Wildstar have created ways of making grouping more loose. Things like shared kills, and open world events go a long way of making grouping more organic. Instead of sitting around doing nothing for however long it takes to get a group. You just go out and start playing, and grouping can become a natural thing, more so for GW2 than WS. However, the numerous small group mini-bosses have made for an interesting experience of groups forming out of the need to kill one mini-boss and then it erupts into a "hey let's go kill em all" kind of thing.

The bottom line is that we, as players, expect to be able to play the games we are paying for. Sitting around for hours at a time just to find a group isn't fun, nor is it playing the game. Grouping should be encouraged, but in a more organic way, and it should be rewarding, but not at the expense of the solo game either. 

  Dreamo84

Defender of Worlds

Joined: 5/20/04
Posts: 2907

I actually still like MMORPGs

6/06/14 5:51:32 PM#8
Originally posted by Kaneth

Sorry, but this whole article is way off base, even coming from an industry insider. Yes, the industry took deliberate steps to ensure that all classes were able to solo, but there wasn't that much homogenization in the early years of that and it didn't kill multiplayer. Multiplayer still exists within mmos, go look at end game raiding in mmos where that's offered, or dungeon runs, or organized pvp, etc. There is still a myriad of reasons to go and have multiplayer interactions within the world.

If we're talking about the death of multiplayer during the leveling process. Well then yes, that was effectively killed. Not that it existed in all games. Asheron's Call was one of the original mmos and featured a most solo experience. It was one of the major ways that game was unique at the time.

Class solo-ability didn't kill leveling multiplay, nope, quests had a bigger impact. Running to a quest hub, completing those tasks that eventually lead you to the next quest hub, and this is what you do until max level. In WoW, there were areas where there was elites quests almost exclusively, and those quests were fun and super rewarding. They could also be skipped for those people who play odd hours or are just more introverted. WoW was the first mmo to really have a robust questing system, and that's part of the reason for its massive success.

However, a single player driven questing experience wouldn't be nearly as popular if not for the biggest reason to kill multiplayer leveling in mmos. That would be people behaving poorly.

In all group oriented mmos I have played there are two things that happen without fail in pug groups. First, class shunning. There will always be a better tanking class, a better healing class, and the best DPS class, not including other roles that existed (like buffers, debuffers, etc). If you happened to play a class that had more utility, but was outperformed by other classes, then you were effectively shunned from groups. I remember playing DAoC and seeing groups advertising for folks, but Rangers and Nightshades were not welcome. Even to this day, you will see groups stacking the "best" classes to get through content the easiest. Hell, even in FF XIV: ARR, people would stack Black Mages to aoe through FATEs faster (one of the reasons why I decided to leave the game).

Aside from class elitism, there is also just more general elitism. If someone makes a single mistake, they are berated and/or kicked from the group. We're not talking about someone who clearly doesn't know how to play, I've seen instances where the healer misses healing an over aggressive DPSer (who gets themselves killed), and get verbally abused and kicked from the group. I could go on with examples for hours, but we've all seen these issues. If these types of issues were rare it wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, these are regular occurrences within the realm of the mmo.

Now games like GW2 and Wildstar have created ways of making grouping more loose. Things like shared kills, and open world events go a long way of making grouping more organic. Instead of sitting around doing nothing for however long it takes to get a group. You just go out and start playing, and grouping can become a natural thing, more so for GW2 than WS. However, the numerous small group mini-bosses have made for an interesting experience of groups forming out of the need to kill one mini-boss and then it erupts into a "hey let's go kill em all" kind of thing.

The bottom line is that we, as players, expect to be able to play the games we are paying for. Sitting around for hours at a time just to find a group isn't fun, nor is it playing the game. Grouping should be encouraged, but in a more organic way, and it should be rewarding, but not at the expense of the solo game either. 

That's one reason fewer classes is sometimes better. If only one class can heal/tank etc then there's no room for class shunning lol.

  Crusades

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/14/14
Posts: 494

6/06/14 6:48:04 PM#9
The novelty has worn off. People still like them but people like other stuff too. Mmo gamers are aware of this and are at peace with being mediocre in game for the sake of having a better life in real life.
  MadFrenchie

Elite Member

Joined: 5/02/14
Posts: 252

6/06/14 7:07:04 PM#10

 


Originally posted by Mark Kern  

Homogenizing classes, increasing solo-ability, and eliminating class dependencies also does one big thing that is the white-elephant in the room: it makes an MMO effectively single player. This is probably the largest thing we’ve lost, the social aspect of MMOs. If you can play the whole MMO without having to group with others, then guess what, most people will play that way. It’s just easier, takes less time, and is less frustrating than dealing with “other people” sometimes. But what sadness, to blaze through a MMO to max level without ever having to group up or socialize.


  

(Emphasis added by me)

And that is precisely the reason most players blaze through these "soloable" MMOs solo. It's not because they hate playing with others, it's not because they don't ever want to socialize or interact with players. It's because, in the most recent crop of MMOs, it's simply the most expeditious method for advancement. Yes Mark, I agree that it is definitely worth R&D investment to find better ways for players to progress, just as efficiently as they would soloing in today's MMOs, while encouraging interaction and maintaining higher class interdependencies. Is it an easy solution? No. But as the saying goes, "Nothing worth doing is ever easy."

This article gives me bright hope for the future of the genre. Seeing an MMO try out new ways to bring people together more efficiently and encourage those people to actually interact with one another instead of just silently rushing through an instanced dungeon would immediately captivate me and certainly tempt me to invest in such an MMO. Kudos to you, sir.

 


 Originally posted by Kaneth

The bottom line is that we, as players, expect to be able to play the games we are paying for. Sitting around for hours at a time just to find a group isn't fun, nor is it playing the game. Grouping should be encouraged, but in a more organic way, and it should be rewarding, but not at the expense of the solo game either. 


 

Precisely. Soloing should not be an endeavor that feels like work. However, it should not be more rewarding or efficient than finding a good group of players with which you adventure. The goal is not to stamp out soloing; it never has been. The goal is to entice players to interact and communicate with one another in a meaningful way that enhances the experience and helps create an attachment from the players to their character, their guild, and their server.

  Bietol

Novice Member

Joined: 3/25/11
Posts: 1

6/06/14 7:20:33 PM#11

I would often encounter this problem when playing with my brothers; we would group up and blitz through "solo" content and find the experience trivial and unrewarding. There was nothing in reach we could point at and say "Hey, let's try that while we're together; I couldn't take that on by myself."

 

Well, actually we did eventually figure out to pull increasingly larger crowds of mobs to farm.

 
  BMBender

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/14/07
Posts: 553

6/06/14 7:33:31 PM#12

"What if we could bring back class dependencies in a way that fit our modern play-styles? It’s not an easy problem to solve, but I would argue it’s worth it to invest R&D in this area. We can’t, as developers, afford to keep making disposable MMOs. They are too expensive to make in this fashion. We have to find a way to create worlds that players have strong social ties and high attachment to characters. Re-introducing class dependence, in a modern way, is key to this. The MMO that can recapture the group play aspects of older games is going to feel more special and be far “stickier” for players than current MMO offerings."

I suspect the attempt will be unlikely to succeed better or worse than any other modern title. You are still basically proposing a different form of homogenization as already exists. They are, and will likely remain two different and non-complimentary play-styles. The people yearning for old-style grouping mechanics are not at all interested in contemporary play-styles. The people who miss long churn type content will likely continue to have little patience for fire and forget "modern" content.

Pick your niche and polish what you CAN build, stop shooting for the impossible and getting bland morass.

  Alders

Elite Member

Joined: 1/28/10
Posts: 1684

I cannot fiddle but I can make a great state of a small city.

6/06/14 7:56:31 PM#13

Players and people are products of their environments.  How do you convince the younger generation to be patient in this form of entertainment when they are not required to be in any other?  I don't think you can large scale wise but what you can do is attract the players that are understanding, which is how the genre began in the first place.  Unfortunately the bottom line suffers so instead a dragnet is cast and we have what we have.

I've heard this a lot from younger players: "Are we getting this show on the road?  If not i'm going to go play a game of LoL or DoTA."  How do you change this mentality?  I don't think you can.  Players just have more options and refuse to dedicate themselves to one game for long stretches like we used to.

The focus needs to be shifted back to the RPG elements and the nerds and geeks that built the genre.  I don't see that happening until the entire thing crashes and needs to be rebuilt.  Perhaps that's what we need.

  User Deleted
6/06/14 8:20:38 PM#14

I think the problem really stems from two things: forced grouping and forced classes.

Let players select their skills (not classes) to specialize (or generalize) as they wish instead of defined classes with predefined roles.  Interdependencies will naturally occur.  By definition, there are no class imbalances when there are no classes (much less work for developers) and players can build their characters however they want (think Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim; do not think ESO which is an abortion relative to Elder Scrolls skill systems).  By the very nature of skill systems (done right) interdependencies between different skill specializations will occur.

IMHO, developers need to completely delete the whole idea of groups from their mindsets; it's a stupid -- idiotically stupid -- forced formalization of people cooperating to complete a goal.  Just let people cooperate if they wish to cooperate.  That is, if there is a boss in the area or some objective that requires multiple people to complete it, let players talk amongst themselves and decide how to attack / complete it.  Players have brains (although sometimes that's debatable); they don't need to be forced to cooperate; they will naturally cooperate or be removed from the gene pool.

"Wow, look at that boss!" or "Wow, look at all the mobs!"

"I can't do this alone..."

"Hey, I'll heal, but I don't have enough DPS to kill it / them."

"Okay, I've got the DPS, but I'll need help..."

"I've got heavy armor and lots of hit points, but my DPS sucks..."

"Okay, on three, guys... one-two-three..."

Spontaneous "groups" like that are a lot more fun -- and, realistically, more social than "LFG - need healer and tank.  Must be XXX class with yyy spec.   ZZZ class and www spec need not apply..." which invariably end up with some autocrat dictating to all of the other group members about what they must do.

Screw that... just like guild politics and guild drama drive a lot of people away from guilds, the same sort of thing drives people away from grouping.  Some people have no qualms about using others; how many times have players helped someone complete some task only to have that person ninja the loot or disappear when the helper needs help?

Lots of times.  Too often.  Even in MMOs, nice guys finish last because, quite frankly, they get taken advantage of.  People don't like being taken advantage of.  So, they start going solo on everything.

Grouping per se is artificial as hell.  IMHO, guilds are artificial as hell.  If people want to hang out together and work together, they will.  They do not need some forced and manipulative game mechanism that says, "Now you are grouped; now you are part of the same club.  You are special because you are different than people who are not grouped or part of your guild."

I prefer not to solo, but I hate guilds and I hate groups.  I love working with other players, but I don't tolerate self-serving "leaders", guild-members, and group-members.  If your game forces me to join a guild or be part of artificial groups, I won't play it.  Period.

 
 
  Arglebargle

Elite Member

Joined: 6/13/07
Posts: 1070

6/06/14 8:44:37 PM#15
Yeah, the class system is an easy abstraction for the game designer, and was used from way back when.   Skill systems are a far more interesting way to approach it though.  Allow the players to specialize and be top notch at a couple of things.   Or generalize, and be okay at a lot. 

If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.

  Quizzical

Guide

Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 13305

6/06/14 8:52:05 PM#16

The article blames reduced class interdependency on a shift toward making everything more soloable.  Soloability has nothing to do with it.  Class interdependency usually worked horribly for group content, too.

The basic problem comes if, in designing content, you assume that 25% of your players doing some particular content are going to be healers, and only 15% of players looking to do that content are actually healers.  Change the numbers and change the role, but if role distribution that game designers anticipated doesn't match the role distribution of players actually wanting to do content, you have a problem.  Make some content give relatively better rewards for some classes than others and even if you magically guess what classes players will tend to play a year before launch, grouping for particular dungeons still fails.

I'd also like to take exception to this statement:

"But what sadness, to blaze through a MMO to max level without ever having to group up or socialize.  The lasting friendships, shared adventures and social aspects are what made MMOs so compelling."

In most MMORPGs, socializing is mostly about talking in guild chat, not doing content together.  And that's especially the case in traditional theme park MMORPGs that put all sorts of barriers in place to make it so that you can't just group with whoever you want.  You'd like to group with your friend, but he's on a different server.  Or he's not close enough to your level.  Or you're both max level, but your gear is too far better or worse than his.  Or you just need to do a different dungeon from him because you're trying to farm different drops.  Or because he logged on and started content half an hour before or after you did and is busy elsewhere when you're recruiting.  That makes repeated grouping with the same people basically impossible unless you're willing to schedule your lives around the game--which is among the worst things that a game can demand of its players.

There have been games that I've grouped with the same people repeatedly.  The common characteristic that they all had was that there isn't any implied order in which you're supposed to do the content.  That way, if you want to do particular content and get friends for it, the game doesn't nearly always force them to turn you down on the basis of being the wrong level, having the wrong gear, needing to farm for something else, or whatever.

Indeed, class interdependency actively harms efforts at grouping with your friends.  You'd like to invite your friend, but he's the wrong class and you need something else.  The online game that I've played that was the best for repeated grouping with particular people was probably Spiral Knights--which doesn't have a class system at all.  The content scales with party size, and you can allow people in your guild or on your friends list to jump into your group to fill a vacant group spot.

  BMBender

Advanced Member

Joined: 9/14/07
Posts: 553

6/06/14 9:08:50 PM#17


Originally posted by Arglebargle
Yeah, the class system is an easy abstraction for the game designer, and was used from way back when.   Skill systems are a far more interesting way to approach it though.  Allow the players to specialize and be top notch at a couple of things.   Or generalize, and be okay at a lot. 

To be fair classes or classless has little bearing on group ability, hello UO(classless) EQ(classes) want their hair nets back. Group content or solo content can and has been designed around either. It's this belief pervading the industry that you can cram dis-similar demographics and play styles into one huge homogenized title, as if the mmog population is some monolithic entity, that gets in the way of one or the other.

Beyond a certain point; the blend for any two otherwise dissimilar play-styles by definition must devolve to the lowest common denominator. As a developer if one wants large scale grouping across the content band then design a group centric game with only enough solo content to complement the content band not bypass it. If you wish a solo centric title then reverse it. The industry is full of hybrids, that's all it really is atm, and it's why the industry is viewed as bland by many.
EDIT:
Case in point look at LOTRO, a group centric title targeted at a specific demographic. Then later "evolved" into a homogenized "mainstream" title. I'll leave it to ya'll on how that little experiment turned/is turning out.

  Jerek_

Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/08/04
Posts: 398

6/06/14 10:22:16 PM#18

you mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

The problem is that the DnD and MUD concept of multiplayer is still being applied to this media that is capable of so much more.  Expand your definition of multiplayer to include the types of interactions MMO's are truly capable of-  create worlds and universes full of player interaction and dependency so that you never feel alone in an empty world even if you always solo and this won't be an issue anymore.  Its funny that the wild ideas that started the genre seem to fit todays players better than ever before.

  Eir_S

Advanced Member

Joined: 8/07/11
Posts: 4700

GW2 socialist.

6/06/14 10:33:46 PM#19
Originally posted by Blaze_Rocker

I don't even have to read the article to know why multiplayer is missing. Too many people had bad experiences that went like this:

 

I played with this player and they were a D-bag. I tried playing with other people and I found more D-bags. D-bags D-bags D-bags. They're everywhere! So I started playing solo and I demanded the ability to solo 95% of everything in every game I play.

 

A few developers started catering to this type of person and the industry became flooded with more of the same B.S. over the past couple of years. If developers would just stop trying to please everyone with every game then gaming would start getting back to the way it should be.

Or maybe people should stop being D-bags.  Truly, if their were a lack of people who were turned off by infantile behavior, there wouldn't be ENOUGH of them to sell the modern MMO's to.  So that says a lot.

  Betaguy

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/31/04
Posts: 2614

Some folks are like Slinkies, totally useless but great fun to watch when pushed down stairs

6/06/14 10:42:39 PM#20
I don't find grouping as fun or social with LFG and cross realm grouping. This took away the ability to make a name for yourself and to make long lasting friendships. Ppl come and go so fast with LFG that they don't even talk. Just get in and get out...

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