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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Linear Statistical Progression - An affliction that has ruined MMOs from the get-go

Posted by BadSpock Sunday March 20 2011 at 9:32AM
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Linear Statistical Progression.

LSP (linear statistical progression) is a disease that EQ infected the MMO genre with at a very young age, and it's still suffering from this affliction today.
Be it with a class or skill system, level based or not, every MMO has been heavily based on grinding through whatever content or lack of content exists in the game in order to get better stats so you can take on more "challenging" enemies.
It's a total joke though, as your relative strength to the enemies you leveled up to now defeat is exactly the same relative strength as the enemies you used to fight before you leveled up. You still "con" the same relative strength to new mobs after leveling up, there is no additional challenge.
Skills or levels/classes doesn't matter, it's all the same statistical linear progression in every MMO.
It's all about gear progression and level progression or raising your skills to max... there is nothing challenging or exciting about it anymore.
Once you master the very basic skills necessary to play a MMO effectively, like not being a keyboard turner, using quick-key bindings and/or macros, and basic environmental awareness (don't stand in fire, watch your ranges etc.) it's all the exact same formula over and over again. In every MMO, in every sub-genre.
The only games that ever try to do anything different fall into some of the other ridiculously stupid trappings of first generation MMOs like FFA PvP, player looting / griefing / ganking, but primarily it's the terrible and ever-present progression grinds in EVER SINGLE MMO.
As someone who has been playing for 12+ years, I'm quite sick of it.
Who decided and when that the term "RPG" meant "linear statistical progression"? I thought it meant "Role Playing Game" which to me implies story, characters, and exploration as well as adventure and danger.
Leave the instanced PvP to the FPS games and such.
Instancing in both PvE and PvP has ruined the MMO genre.
Why was instancing used? Because games became solely focused on the acquisition of gear and levels, and other players became an annoying obstacle to maximizing your profit / progression per play session.
Yes, it is true that Everquest ruined the MMO genre so early into its early life. WoW, despite being an overall good game I enjoyed for years really put the nail in the coffin in terms of fostering creativity, innovation, and truly MMO design philosophy.
Instancing became the norm because gear was so important players didn't want to compete over it, as it WAS unfair. So instancing gives everyone a gold star and a cookie.
Here's the truth - remove the complete and total dependency on gear and linear progression and you can start making games about community and cooperation again.
These artificial barriers actively divide a community, prevent people from playing together and cooperating, and create yet another system of "haves" and "have not’s" in a virtual community.
Once you can get rid of that, you can make games with competitive elements (like PvP) that can go back to the open world without all the stupid ganking and griefing.
You've all been duped by years of games like EQ and WoW into thinking that is all that is out there. Of course that will turn you off to open world PvP as it was completely awful in those games, just like it's completely awful in modern quote "sandboxes" which are all FFA and just as gear/grind heavy.
Even the "great sandbox" EvE is a total joke of a real sandbox MMO. That game is SO gear and grind dependent and uses heavy instancing too. Every single mission you run is an instance - every acceleration gate to a Room is a private instance. Coupled with the fact these missions are randomly generated, it's grind in the worst possible way.
Even modern FPS games suffer from the same affliction as your motivation to play is now coddled by rank progression systems and item / weapon unlocks.
Gaming, for the sake of gaming, for the sake of games that are intrinsically fun in and of their own right, has been nearly completely replaced by this achievement heavy, power gamer, min/max, loot piñata mentality that tells us if you aren't given some sort of reward every 5 minutes you're doing it wrong.
Is there a better way?
Yes. It's already existed once before. Let's run down a feature list - tell me what you think.
1. Extremely minimal grind - hop in and adventure with your friends / do battle with your enemies quickly without days / weeks / months of grinding.
2. Wide open world - no instancing, no artificial barriers to playing with others like level specific zoning.
3. Fast travel options - once you've explored / traveled to an area once, able to quickly travel back and forth between areas of the game and special locations of your own choosing.
4. Completely optional PvP - fully separate PvE and PvP worlds you're able to travel between at will.
5. Dynamic world - monster invasions and both player and GM run events happening daily.
6. Meaningful open world PvP - battle other players in a multi-faction game of domination, fighting for control of the cities and towns of the world.
7. Player housing - build and customize your own private or shared house/fort/castle!
8. Zero limiting gear restrictions - build your character the way you want to play and look how you want to look! You aren't limited or pigeon-holed by stats!
9. Fully realized player bounty / PK system - Fight for Good or Evil, or solely for yourself, every action has consequence in a fully realized FFA PvP system with player bounties and morality alignment. Also completely 100% optional!
10. Limitless exploration and adventure - brave the terrifying depths of multi-level dungeons and lairs, massive open world full of peril and opportunity.
11. Expansive crafting system - nearly everything in game can be and is player made, from weapons and armors to house customizations and novelty items.
What do ya think?
You probably already know what game this is - a game that had its share of problems sure, but a game that evolved over time into something truly original.
Others have tried to replicate some of the wonderful designs of this game, but they have always missed the mark by not understanding how these systems interact in profound ways.
- You can't have an open world PvP system with FFA options in a game with a heavy skill/level grind and/or gear dependency. Also FFA or any PvP is not for everyone; you simply CANNOT put these people together and expect good results. FFA done wrong is a horrible game mechanic.
- You can't have a truly expansive crafting system with a focus on drops from PvE or PvP looting and any sort of gear dependency - with it, players with always min/max.
- You can't place artificial restrictions on cooperation and grouping with others in a game without instancing. Fostering community is about giving people reason to play together, not reasons to segregate and divide themselves.
And so forth.
Would a MMO with high quality production value and "modern" graphics and control/combat systems still work under this paradigm?
Would people be interested in game that didn't reward you with new pixels every 5 minutes?
The only people to blame for the current direction of the MMO genre are us, the players.
Yes, even me. We allowed ourselves to be taken down this path and made it popular and profitable to do things the same way over, and over, and over again.
Many here are looking for something more - something different and "new" but in reality, we need to take a step back and really analyze what our motivations for playing are and how best to feed those motivations without relying on gimmicks and addiction-fostering game mechanics.
We also need to take a serious look at what kinds of things create a sense of attachment that in itself fosters longevity and player retention.
To close, some are very happily enjoying the current crop of MMO offerings, and to you I say that that is excellent, I am glad you are playing something you enjoy. 
To me, I see so much potential in this genre of gaming that has yet to be realized. I think we're going in the wrong direction too. Sure, there are some games on the horizon I am interested in, games that look to be trying new things and innovating...
But generally speaking, I really do feel this genre could be so much more. So much of the MMO has been lost over the past decade and instead replaced by far too much RPG.
LSP has changed us. We are no longer explorers and adventurers, heroes and villians... we are merely consumers. Gobbling up the treats placed at arms length in front of us and begging for more instant gratification.