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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

The Staleness of Current MMOG Releases Explained

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday June 9 2010 at 10:21AM
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Why are current MMOG releases so stale and unsatisfying? Simply put, in a very fundamental sense, once you've played one, you've played them all.  They are all basically the same game with a few minor tweaks and variances.  This leads to a deep sense in many players that the game they are playing is stale; once they get over the pretty new graphics, and once the player figures out what the character class/advancement structure is and  the correlation between the new terms and the old terms, they realize they're still just essentially playing Everquest or WoW.

That is because in every online game, the structure is contrived to be "balanced" according to the same general theme: that individual characters should be generally equal in their ability to contribute to a group or guild in the pursuit of experience, gear and levels, and or be generally equal in capacity to solo content in order to advance their character.

Whatever the terms one uses on classes or abilities, however they are visually generated on the screen, and whatever one calls the talent trees or skill sets; they're all ultimately the same things: set commodites deliberately manufactured, organized and constrained to guide every player towards relatively equitable usefulness and effectiveness (at least in theory) within the framework of a manufactured systems of group and solo goals.  Within this framework, efficient and min-max playstyle is always the dominant methdology of processing a character through this system of class and ability progression.

In other words, "winning" the game means progessing as quickly and efficiently as possible towards maximum usefulness in terms of a set of end-game goals. No matter which game you play, that is the structure. I don't know about anyone else, but I am finding that structure incredibly boring, regardless of if they call it "medic" or "cleric" or "priest", if it is a fantasy or superhero genre, or anime or western graphics. If you put wings on a pig, all you have a flying pig. Big deal.

So, what to do?

First, stop the "game" mentality, and think of it as a massively multiuser alternate experience. Throw out the idea of balance and end-game structure, which necessarily funnels the experience throughput through a narrow set of parameters.  Many players do not have the time nor the inclination to spend their lives beating down dogs and gathering firewood to advance their character; who really wants to spend as much time doing the same thing for a second or third character?  Killing a few giant worms is fun for the experience the first time; having to kill 1000 to level isn't fun at all - it's mind-bogglingly tedious and completely unnecessary.

Envision the characters in a player's stable as being actual entities that live in an alternate existence, and the player as their "god" that manages and organizes their experience, taking any one of them as an avatar through which to experience the fun and joys of the alternate world. Let the player set, EVE-style, the particular courses of advancement for all of their characters, which those characters pursue whether the player is online or not. 

The effect of this scenario is that nothing in this alternate experiential world  has to be organized or constructed to provide a continuous and "fair" system of advancment for any character, because that advancement is a set, continuous feature. Skills and abilities do not have to be organized and constrained in a manner that keeps the character "viable", because the character is always advancing at the same general rate as any other player regardless of their particular skill or talent set.

Thus, the efficient, min-max funnel system is abandoned; players are free to take their avatars for rides and do anything they wish, for as long as they wish, however they wish; they can accumulate from the entire breadth of skills, talents and abilities their world has to offer, because no set can "imbalance" their rate of advancement and progression relative to anyone else's.  What skills and talents one's character has becomes a matter of choice, not organized, constrained class or racial limitations necessary to make the game "fair" or "balanced".

The reason why current games are so boring and tedious is because they are essentially the same game with a different dress on and using a different language.  Only by fundamentally rethinking the genre, and moving away from the "game" mentality to the "alternate experience" mentality can something entirely new be created.

Otherwise, all we will every be playing is some iteration of Everquest, whether free to play or subscription, whether sci-fi theme or fantasy.