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Gaming To Hell In A Handbasket

The trials, tribulations and musings of an MMO veteran trying to find the next holy grail.

Author: Strayfe

The Sky is Falling

Posted by Strayfe Wednesday September 29 2010 at 7:30PM
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Today I am not only the Devil's Advocate, I'm his best friend.  Today, I prove that there are people out there who are not fooled by endless hype and shiny press releases.

Those who have read any of my previous blogs know one thing about me.  I am quick and ruthless with my criticism.  If something pisses me off while I'm gaming, I don't hesitate to call a spade a spade, then whip out a spade and beat it more thoroughly than a dead horse in a Thai meat factory.

Time is precious.  When I offer mine to a company by choosing to play their product, I expect a certain level of satisfaction, or else I simply disengage and find a more worthy recipient of my attention.  As the days go by, and I become older (22 now... joy...) and more jaded, I find that I'm becoming more and more picky.  I no longer have the inclination to grit my teeth and sit through hours of mind-numbing shit to get to the mediocre part of a game.  It's no wonder then, that I also find myself unable to stick with a game for very long.

... and by very long, I mean more than a day, or even a couple hours.

Sadly, most games ARE that bad.  They're so bad that I wonder on a daily basis what the hell happened to the gaming industry.  I wonder what sorts of things people look at and say, "Hey, this is a good game, I think I will keep playing it."  I wonder what sorts of things other people look at and say, "BOOOO, this is a terrible game, why would anyone play it?!"  I wonder if somewhere along the way wires were crossed and people lost the ability to distinguish quality from gimmicks; depth from tedium; content from a boring, pointless grind.

I know the answer of course, but it still bothers me to see so many people salivating over certain games that are pulling the wool over everyone's eyes with the cloth of "innovation".

People are drooling over Guild Wars 2 because of "Dynamic Events" and "Personal Stories."  I look at the available information about these systems, and all I see is "Public Quest Chains" and "Single Player Instances."  Meh.

What else are we cheering about?  The graphics?  The combat?  TERA is better on both counts.  And even if you give Guild Wars the nod in the graphics department, there are games with far better out there.  Namely FInal Fantasy XIV.

"But Strayfe, it's ArenaNet.  Surely they won't put out anything bad!  Look at how great Guild Wars 1 was!"

... What?

The original Guild Wars was successful for three reasons.  #1 - It has no subscription fee.  #2 - It has no subscription fee.  #3 - It takes absolutely no effort to get to max level... hell, you can even START a character at max level.  Talk about taking all the fun out of advancement.  If you want to play a game where everyone is on equal footing, starts at the same level and is skill-based, play an FPS.  To top that off, the game is entirely instanced and has a horrible community.

What has ArenaNet done to garner this much faith from gamers?  If it were Blizzard? Definitely.  Mythic?  Probably.  But a company with only one mediocre game that is not even an MMORPG?  I'm not following the logic.  Read this article and tell me it doesn't make you sick:

Don't care to read that much?  Let me give you some highlights. 

Extremely minimal death penalty, all classes can heal, all classes can raise from level 1.

Challenge Rating: -3.9 billion

Game Rating: -Infinity

Can someone please explain to me why people want to play a game that has NO CHALLENGE?  NO RISK?   If you don't stand to lose anything by dying, there is no incentive to avoid it.  Killing anything simply becomes a matter of bashing your face against it until it falls over.  I can't possibly think of anything more boring.

All classes can heal and raise?  Really?  What is the point of making everyone self sufficient in an MMO?  There's only one.  To discourage grouping.  I'm glad we have that all sorted out.  Guild Wars 2 doesn't want you to group with other people.  An MMORPG should foster dependency on other players, not discourage it.  This line of reasoning is unfathomable to me.

Moving on...

People are drooling over Star Wars: The Old Republic, because it's going to be an MMO with a story and also because it's made by BioWare.  Sure, games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect had deep, involving storylines, but lets face it, neither game had particularly impressive gameplay.

I'm also amused by this little tidbit of information:

"Unlike traditional MMOs, classes in the Old Republic are not limited to the typical archetypes (healer, tank, melee dps, ranged etc...). Bioware has stated that each class will support on-the-fly customization that will allow any class to fill any role within a party, eliminating the need to spam channels in search of a specific class needed to fill a role within a group, which can delay or outright stop parties from completing group quests. While each class in The Old Republic will still favor a certain play style (be it ranged, melee, or otherwise), customization combined with companion characters will make for having a class be able to tackle many different situations, with or without the support of other player characters, and without requiring specific other classes in order to move forward."

Let me translate this from Pre-Release Hypespeak into something everyone can understand.

"Unlike good games, classes in the Old Republic mean absolutely nothing.  Bioware has stated that everyone will be like everyone else so that casuals don't have to wait to do their one instance a day.  While each class in The Old Republic will have a different name (be it Smuggler, Jedi or otherwise), lack of customization, combined with a poor man's pet system will make for everyone being able to do anything.  Screw individuality.  Screw grouping.  Who needs anyone else, this is a single player game."

That aside, if you're making an MMORPG, your goal should be a world rich with lore and background, NOT a linear story.  Nobody wants to be led around by the nose in a genre that has always been about making your OWN story.  If you want a story, play a single player game.  Read a book.  Don't suffer through $50 and another $15 a month for a piecemeal approximation of a single player game, developed by a company whose expertise only includes single player games and whose only gameplay innovation is cover mechanics for combat.

Cover-based combat got old after Gears of War.  I guess BioWare is a bit late to the party.

Anyways, I fully expect buries and comments disagreeing with me.  My motto has always been Nemo Me Impune Lacessit.  It means, "Nobody Provokes Me Unpunished".  I think that motto would be better suited to MMO bandwagons.

The sky is falling, like it did with Darkfall last year.  I have dared, once again, to insult everyone's babies.  But before you put fingers to keyboards and prepare a verbal salvo that would flay the skin from a drunken sailor, consider this:

I was right about Darkfall.

Limitations writes:

Interesting read....

Thu Sep 30 2010 12:00AM Report
Drachasor writes:

Forcing people to not group with friends or forcing people to play classes they don't like isn't good design.  I'm surprised that someone talking about how many games don't seem to be focused on what is fun doesn't realize this.  Are you really saying it is fun to be forced to be the healer in an MMO?  Is it fun to tell a friend they can't come because the class they enjoy the most isn't the right one?  No, these are NOT good things.

People are social creatures.  If you remove barriers to working together, people WILL work together.  You see it plenty of times on small levels even in games like WoW.  You'll be out donig quests, get into some trouble or whatever and someone nearby might well help for no reason other than to help (or you see something you both can't tackle alone).  Grouping in these small situations is organic and natural.  Of course, you suffer some grouping penalties (content is too easy, less loot per person, etc).  GW2 intends to get rid of those penalties so people will feel nothing bad about joining up with other people.  That's GOOD design.  Similarly, GW2 and TOR intend to make grouping easier so there is less of a barrier to grouping and hence people can form together and have fun together easily rather than the tedium of waiting to have fun that you see in other games.

As for death penalties, I think you are really misunderstanding them.  The penalty for death IS failure.  If you die, then whatever thing you were doing doesn't get done in a game like GW2.

You seem fond of a bunch of artificial and frankly unnecessary rules and restrictions that force people to behave in a certain way.  The fact is, most of the things like this in MMOs actually get in the way of people doing things together more than enabling them to do things together.  They are kept because MMOs have odd design choices, similar to how they have a lot of unfun grind in the design (one reason that closed beta testing is so needed, imho, is the games generally are centered around fun, but instead centered around hiding grind and you have to test how well the grind is hidden).

Thu Sep 30 2010 1:49AM Report
Strayfe writes:

While I can see your point, Drachasor, I'd still like to know where individuality comes into play when everybody has the same capabilities as everyone else. 

You say people are social creatures, this is certainly true, but people also want to be a special, unique snowflake.  If every last person in the game is equal in the roles they can fill, that makes every single person in the game expendable.

The only game I can think of that had people playing classes they didn't actually want to play was WoW.  Generally in large raiding guilds, a lot of people had tank/healer alts which they geared especially for those days when the main tanks and healers were AWOL.  This is the exception though, not the rule.

The trend in a game like GW2 is to trivialize group experiences.

"Similarly, GW2 and TOR intend to make grouping easier so there is less of a barrier to grouping and hence people can form together and have fun together easily rather than the tedium of waiting to have fun that you see in other games."

Where you see treasure, I see trash.  There's no reward in grouping when every group is slapdash and piecemeal from whoever happens to be around at the time.  Look at Warhammer.  I like Warhammer, but imagine how ridiculous it would be if every single player was a Warrior Priest (good damage, good survivability and some healing) with different ability names.

Now throw 30 Warrior Priests into a series of chained together public quests and expect them to group up.  Where's the incentive to group when everyone around you is the same as you are?  Do you really believe that there is going to be any real diversity when players can only have 10 skills?

Being a doctor, a lawyer, a nuclear physicist or any other "elite" occupation is meaningless if everybody you meet is also one.

Thu Sep 30 2010 3:26AM Report
brnmcc01 writes:

Throw in the even more homogenization of classes, and more nerfing of racials in Cataclysm, I don't like where the current direction of MMO's is headed either.  What will they think of next, a FPS MMO, with no classes, no levels, no gear?  Oh wait, that's Blizzards "Titan" project, due out in 2013 sometime.  /Yawn

Wed Mar 16 2011 11:28PM Report
brnmcc01 writes:

I can also see Drachasor's point, there's a point in where you can design boss encounters to require certain types of tanks, ranged and melee dps, raid healers and tank healers, buffing classes, debuffing classes, and CC classes; but then you'd be back to Everquest style raids, and it would suck to be ready to go with 23 friends, and can only clear trash cuz you can't dare pull the boss without at least 1 good Bard.

I think one thing they could at least try, would to be to make sure that EVERY type and archtype of class is viable and powerful in leveling, grinding, and fun to play in PvP.  Tanks and healers (compentent ones anyway) were such a bitch to find in WoW for the most part cuz everyone wanted to be a "omglol pewpew DPS".  Then GearScore and DPS meters ruined that too, hehe.  Then you had the problems that dual-spec brought out, which basically ruined the chances of actually having some healers in your battleground PUG cuz everyone that had a class capable of healing had already switched to their lolpewpew spec.

Wed Mar 16 2011 11:35PM Report writes:
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