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Hardcore gamer, casual time.

I'm longtime MMORPG player and hardcore raider. But as the story goes, somewhere along the road real life kicks in and gaming hours start to dwindle fast. This blog are part of my search for a new home in the MMO landscape.

Author: Otrantor

How to create a casual MMO for hardcore gamers.

Posted by Otrantor Sunday February 28 2010 at 9:46AM
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I started this blog about two months ago with several intentions. I wanted to talk about what I'm missing in the current MMORPGs and what type of game I would like to see developed. I also wanted to engage in some discussion and bounce my ideas around.

The most important part of the whole discussion is that I'm not trying to change the classic MMORPG. As a former hard-core raider, I simply asked myself the question: What type of online game would I wanna play? And is it available on today's market? And the answer is no!

I think my main issue boils down to one particular dilemma I personally face with today's MMORPG: I'm a hardcore gamer with the playing time of a casual player, and somehow I find it hard to reconcile these two. I made some analysis of the classic MMORPG in the previous blogpost, but thanks to the comments and to the very interesting discussion we had on the MMORPG forums, I would like to tie up some loose ends, make some revisions and make a summary.

There are so many things I love in MMORPGs, so to me it seems obvious to use this genre as a baseline for the game I would like to play. I love reputation and diplomacy, I love tradeskilling and trading, I love interacting and helping out people. I love exploring and showing off new gear and titles. I love looking around AHs for new gear or going into small dungeons with a couple guildies or friends to kick ass. These are the things I really appreciate the game... and I'm by no means trying to take them out of the game.

I simply want to play a game where I know all content is realistically available to me as a player with short amounts of playing time. To achieve this I would make a couple key changes in the game dynamics of the classic MMORPG.

1. The entire removal of multi-party raiding (the final stage or current endgame of the classic MMORPG).

I'm still convinced that this change would force developers to rethink and redesign the endgame of a MMORPG. To me raiding and casual play are hard to reconcile. This is a whole discussion even of itself, but there are no MMORPGs that I know off where someone with a limited amount of playing time can successfully take part in a raid within the first month the content went live.

2. The endgame would revolve around both single player encounters and small group challenges.

This is another issue, I have with classic MMORPG. Solo endgame content is rarely available, while this is exactly an opportunity to let individual skill and commitment shine through. I would love to see a game where you can log on and engage in a tough solo instance that reaps nice rewards or rare tradeskill items. By no means should solo instancing diminish the interaction in a MMO. I think, if designed well, it can greatly contribute to the community.

Thanks to the insight of the board discussions, I can see how small group encounters can be introduced in an endgame designed for players with limited time. If the groups are kept small and managerial nuisances (finding group members, long travel time, long clearing times) can be eliminate, this would greatly appeal to me.

3. Individual achievement must rated and rewarded on par with group efforts.

It's a no brainer that both these elements of the endgame would be rated equally. Group efforts should in general not give better rewards than individual exploits.

4. All content (both items and exploration) must be available in short playing sessions.

Again this is key to the appeal of the game and ties in with the motives of the changes proposed above.

Clearly there are other things I would love to see developed more, but these are as valid to MMORPG as the game genre I'm discussing above. A tradeskilling system and economy that brings the community more together. A good diplomacy and reputation system reflecting your personal choices. More individualization in the sense of character prestige and wardrobe. etc.

I hope this post rounds up the discussion up until now, again all questions are welcome and feel free to react with comments or engage in the forum discussion.

hauptmann85 writes:

This was a great read and I really wish I had the time to read all your blog posts plus the forum discussions.

I too would feel compelled to play a game that has such features, however, it seems as though most of the things you listed revolved about soloing than anything.

No. 3 in particular is something I don't agree with. Although soloing and getting kick-ass gear is nice, there would be no incentive to actually group with anyone when you can do it by yourself.

Overall I think I would feel like playing Dragon Age.

Good read - keep up the good work.

Mon Mar 01 2010 12:13AM Report
Otrantor writes:

 Hey Hauptmann,

thanks for your reply. You are right that on face it appears I'm just trying to create an online game for solo players. But I think the task of the developer is there to create game mechanics so that solo players who engage and interact with the community will reap higher rewards. There are many ways to do this.

For example the best helmet in game might only be available through a challenging 2 hour group encounter, or the reward of a single player end game instance is a rare tradeskill item (forcing you to engage in the crafter community). Maybe you have a high reputation with a certain faction in the game, allowing you to access places and materials that others can't... Or you have a dual instance where you start out as a group and get separated for the final encounter.

 

Mon Mar 01 2010 9:08AM Report
theAsna writes:

What you ask for has already been realized with PnP. You have small group content and in between adventures/campaigns you have room for individual/solo quests (depending on your character's background and "evolution"). A humand DM is flexible, so you won't replay the same quest/campaign the same way.
To a certain degree this is already available in single player CRPGs and to a lesser extent in MMOs. The drawback of computer games is the static nature of their content.

I agree with the 4 points, though.

The lackmus test would be the available content and which priority the game/community puts towards aquisition of gear. In a game without raiding one would think there would be no "time sinks". The one big "time sink" common to all MMOs is the "dynamic cap". The dynamic cap is comprised of the trained skills/attained level/used equipment (the raw power/combat performance of your game character). The more players play the game, the higher the pressure to stay competitive. The more time you have to invest to stay on par. Especially if later encounters are balanced for certain numbers gear/skills/level). 

Mon Mar 01 2010 1:49PM Report
Otrantor writes:

 Hey theAsna,

I think you get exactly what I'm going for,m and yes this is the way PnP works. I've always wondered though how the concept of raiding found its way into online gaming, because it's something quite alien to PnP.

I don't see how a game without raiding wouldn't have a time sink either. Granted though that you would need a higher content ratio because rate at which your dynamic cap increases in non-raid encounters is higher... although this could be fixed through rarity of drops or increasing the difficulty (higher failure rate) to slow dozn player progression.

 

Tue Mar 02 2010 10:39AM Report
Savant writes:

Otrantor,

I love your blog's theme. I'm also a former hardcore MMORPG player, forced into retirement due to real life. I'd love to find an MMO that meets the four points you described because I still want to "feel" like I'm hardcore and competitive, even though my lack of spare time doesn't permit me to play in that space like it used to.

I'm actually just now starting my endeavor to develop a "hardcore casual" MMO to fill such a niche, and I'm documenting my thoughts in an MMORPG.com blog. I'd love for you to weigh in on my ideas along the way!

Tue Mar 02 2010 2:31PM Report
rhish writes:

I understand your situation, but i think tailoring to the "limited time player" is whats eating away at the quality of the games.

The problem is the "casual" player wants to spend a very small fraction of the time other players are spending in game, BUT, he also wants to have the same gear, the same rep, the same achievment as everyone else. He doesnt want to spend time developing his character, exploring the land, working at anything... while at the same time he wants his character to be developed, explored, and full of loot rewards.

 

In fact, the problem isnt even the limited time gamer, its the development teams that bend and trash their entire game trying to feed the limitede time gamer.

 

Its the same place cheat codes come from, the same argument. Its the same excuse gold farmers and buyers use. "I dont have time to spend killing mobs and gaining gold over time... so i buy it online, what does it matter to you, it doesnt effect you..."

Well, yeah it does. The whole intrigue to MMO is that your character lives in the same world as everyone else. Otherwise we coudl all just play single player games and have them tailored to exactly what I want.

The reward is in knowing reward X is only obtained after workign through some set of mobs, or dungeons, or whatever it is, that anyone/everyone else would need to negotiate through. I spend my quality time killing mobs, working through dungeons, crafting, whatever, and i have a reward/somethign to show for it. Like a brag item, or special something.

Along comes the "i dont have time guy". Which is fine, everyone has different time allotments they can devote to gaming. But the guy with "no time" wants to have all the same rewards/achievments as everyone else in the game.

The developers change the game so that they do get all the same rewards, and next thing you know the game is bland and devoid of life.

Whats the answer? Stop making the games revolve around "What level am i". "How am i winning right now". They tailor the games around that constant "I WIN I WIN" on demand scenario, that theres little to nothign else in the game. Log in, press hotkey 3,4,5 in cycles, and get a Flashy screen reward syaing "YOU WIN YOU WIN!!!!"

The crack high lasts about 5 minutes, and the monkey moves on to somethign else... So long as they maintain their subs, the developers are happy with their games ebing this way...

Developers are dumbing down the games exponentially. The depth and complexity is gone. The invested return is gone. The reward of developing a character is gone. EVen the game world is gone. Look at games liek LOTRO, they totally removed the entire open gameworld, leaving only the themepark zones.

Until a developer makes another sandbox game that is good, and doesnt bend to the "i dont have time, crack monkey junkies..." I think the MMORPG market will continue to spiral down and down and down.

 

The next level deep into the bowels of business model mmorpg development is Consoles and microtransactions....

Literally removing the only power a consumer has to leverage against developers... The Cancelled Subscription. The F2P market totally removes that last shred of power from the consumer.

I want an actual MMORPG. No more excuses. No more bull puckey. There are loads and loads of talented code monkeys, loads of talented creative designers, and whats more, a massive market of people willing to pay for the world delivered.

Let go of the Blizzard money dream, let go of the "Business model" mmorpg. and get back to what started this whole genre in the first place, a love for creating game worlds we could all escape to and enjoy spending our time in....

 

Tue Mar 02 2010 6:44PM Report
Otrantor writes:

 @Savant thanks for the support and I definitely drop by your blog here.

@rhish thanks for the feedback... and I agree with you 100%. But the argument you make against this post is flawed from the start. I'm not the person you describe and neither am I trying to propose a game for the "I want it all right now" gamer.

I am not a casual gamer, and I'm not trying to make a game for casual players. The game I wanna see is a hardcore game, where players that invest huge amounts of time will reap great rewards and will be names known throughout the entire community. I just want a game that revolves around players, rather than guilds. The thing that I hate about MMORPGs these days is the game mechanics and time requirements that raiding and endgame in general impose on players.

I can see how you interpret this post as a "I want to have everything" rant, but it's far more nuanced than that. I'm sad you don't see the difference and nor recognize my intentions. 

Tue Mar 02 2010 7:06PM Report
rhish writes:

After re-reading through your start i can see what you mean, i went off on the "i want it all and i want it now" issue.

I agree with you that the "artificial" time sinks are a huge problem. LOTRO has radiance gating. You must have set piece x y and z before you can reach the next level of raid content.

to that extent i agree, and i understand, i went off in one direction, while ypu were trying to keep the topic isolated.

Some players, most actually, dont want to have to invest soooo much time just to participate in a major part of the game.

Its actually one of the biggest complaints in LOTRO atm, and somethign pushed for by casuals. But the results are going to benefit everyone.

 

I think my post was focused on your assumed answer if i were to ask you what is wrong with being a hardcore gamer with casual gamer time?

As youve pointed out, things take too long to develop, the time investment is greater than  you have time for. But this assumes there is some level or situation which you are aiming for and just cant get there with the amount of time you have to spend playing the game.

 

For instance, end game raids, to get there you need item x y and z, and that takes time, and you dont have a lot of time.

But none of that is an issue until you say "I want to see the end game content, i want this and this and that, but i dont have time so i dont want this or that to take alot of time to get.

Otherwise, there is no problem. Log in, play the game. So what if you didnt kill the hardest boss in the game over your 30 minutes this week. So what if this other guy who plays 5 days a week has better gear than you, he plays 5 days a week, he should have better gear than you.

The problem comes when people say "No, i dont want to play for more than 30 minutes, and i want it all"

Whats the answer then? Getting x y and z take less and less time. Less time means less developed content, easier content, more dumbed down content. If getting the Best reward takes 30 minutes and zero learning curve, then everyone on the server is going to have it, which then makes it hardly a reward.

This works for things like Counter Strike source. Or reset RTS's, where the entire game world resets at every game. But a persistent game world, an MMORPG, How do you make everythign available to everyone in 30 minute increments, while still making things worthwhile, worth spending abnother month playing....

 

Lastly, what interests me most is when you say "I simply want to play a game where I know all content is realistically available to me as a player with short amounts of playing time."

Do you really want to play an mmorpg where all it take sis 30m a week to see the entire game? Do you really want to play a game were you feel llike after a short period of time your character has seen everythign, done everythign, and is now stuck in some holding pattern known as End Game? Waiting for the devs to release some new 30 minutes of content?

I reference games like Asherons Call, that were totally opposite the 30minute paradigm. The game had NO END GAME. Literally, as a gamer who came form Asherons Call to WoW and lotro afterwards, i didnt even know what people were talking about when they said "End Game". Until i heard it in WoW chats.

In fact, it sounded absurd that someone would mention  End Game when talking baout a persistent game world MMORPG. The game shouldnt end, i shouldnt ever feel like my character has done everythign.

Yet all the new games ar ebeing made so that people can get that feeling as quickly as possible. And i think it comes form the "I dont have time" crowd, that want to pay their 20 bucks and feel like they are the master of whatever world they log into, no matter how little time/effort spent in that world.

Shouldnt an mmorpg feel like a massive world where theres always somethign to do, somewhere to explore, somethign i havent yet done? As a design strategy, i dont think the player should ever sit there and feel like "Im master of the entire game, cant wait for next patch..."

In bullet number 4 you call for ALL CONTENT, Items and whatever, be available in short time increments? Whats the point? Seriously, if i can log in for 30 minutes a week and have eevry part of the game available ot me and every item and everythign, whats the point? Everyone would then be everythign and have everythign, everythign woudl be worthless and meaningless. Except for the selfish 30 minute a week eprson who logs in, gets 30 minutes of flashies "I WIN I WIN" and then logs out?

 

All in all, i dont think i was pinpointing you as the "i want it all" gamer. But i was saying that they are out there, they are being tailored to, and it is ruining mmorpg's. If you fall intot hat category, im sorry. You said your a hardcore gamer, but dont have time, and so, you want the games to somehow be better, given your time restrictions? I dont see exactly what you were asking for then.

 

Tue Mar 02 2010 10:35PM Report
Otrantor writes:

 My basic premise is that I don't want a game that requires from me to sit through 5-6+ hours raid sessions, or engage myself in a highly timeconsuming social network of gamers in order to access all the content of the game. What I mean by short playing sessions is not that I want to be able to do EVERYTHING when I only play 30 minutes a week... that's a silly demand. What I mean is that I want to reach an endgame where if I log on some night with only 2 hours of gaming tim, I want to walk away with some sort of progression. And it's exactly this that the current game mechanics deny me.

This is what I mean with a shift in game dynamics in the classic MMORPG. When you enter a MMORPG world as a level 1 character with only 2 hours of playing time... you walk away being level 3 or 4... you gained some items. In the endgame, two hours gives me ... nothing.

I would love to see a quest where I have to get items x, y and z to access dungeon Q. But getting x,y, or z should be a realistic objective and not require me to log on for 10 hours straight. If I could get x in a playing session of two hours or so, I'd be very happy. I'd even be happy if I failed to get it, but at least got a realistic shot at it. I don't mind the game being hard and skilldemanding... that's exactly how a game should differentiate players and characters.

Hope that clarifies it a bit :P I love this constructive discussion hehe.

Tue Mar 02 2010 10:51PM Report
neosapience writes:

What your asking for is a game that 90% of the gaming population wouldn't like. Even if it's better than anything else out there, the game would fail because the average player would hate it.

Wed Mar 03 2010 4:03AM Report
Savant writes:

Care to explain why "the average player would hate it"?  Your assertion isn't terribly convincing without some meat to your argument...

Wed Mar 03 2010 5:12AM Report
Otrantor writes:

 Hey neosapience, I would love to hear your arguments as well. Personally, I would think it caters to more people than your average mmorpgs. Look forward to your clarification :)

Wed Mar 03 2010 9:13AM Report
BadSpock writes:

I think instead we need to evolve the genre away from linear statistical progression systems and really re-evaluate how we value our rewards for play time and what those rewards are.

Games that focus on gear and as such linear statistical progression as well as skill grinds and levels will always better lend themselves towards a tiered end-game structure.

You go from solo to small group to large group, from tier 1 to 2 to 3 etc. etc. it's just the very nature of RPG in an online space when it's based on a simple to implement, exponential statistical increase system.

The very concept of end-game is outdated.

Thu Mar 04 2010 9:05AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Why is group content more challenging and rated higher on loot tiers and achievement systems then solo content?

Why is large group "better" then small group?

Why do you have to wait to do large group content till "end-game" when the "level up" process is mostly solo with a mix of small group?

Why are we still grinding through levels and skill point systems in order to get better gear/equipment?

These are the kinds of questions developers need to start asking, and start coming up with new and interesting answers otherwise this genre will continue to stagnate.

Where did MMO's start? Online virtual worlds. Where are they now? Single player story-quests with some multiplayer components.

Developers need to move PAST outdated ideas and single-system selling points.

SImply saying "zomg we have FFA PvP" will sell your game to a few thousand. Saying "zomg we have fully consensual PvP" will sell your game to a few 10's of thousands.

Figuring out a way to do both where everyone can do (or not do) what they want will sell to millions.

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