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Community Spotlight: Danger in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 31 2013 at 11:22PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Danger in MMORPGs" by BigHatLogan. In the thread, BigHatLogan muses on the lack of danger in MMOs and polls the community on their thoughts:

I recently received an email from ArenaNet about GW2: The Razing.  It states "New Allies! New Dangers! New Items!"  So the first two are certainly reasonable and expected in MMORPGs, but the middle phrase struck me wrong, and even felt a bit insulting.  New Dangers?  Really?  Well I got to thinking about the concept of danger in MMORPGs and realized it really is missing from MMORPGs and single player games in general. 

When is the last time something actually scared you in an MMORPG?  Even if the monster I am fighting is challenging, it kills me and I have about a minute of downtime with no penalty whatsoever.  Even worse is MMORPGs that allow a player to self resurrect, they might as well just skip the dying part.  At worst a player will get a minor debuff for an inconsequential amount of time.

A can recall a couple instances of being scared.  EVE online will scare players.  This is because a mistake can cause you to lose virtual treasures.  That's a bad sign when one of the scariest multiplayer games is based on spreadsheets.  I know Wizardry Online released with perma-death which certainly causes fear, but the game itself was pretty bad at least at lower levels.I never played EQ1, but i heard horror stories from players that certainly sounded like they felt fear.  Perhaps due to xp loss penalties and impossible corpse runs. 

Single player games are often times even worse than MMORPGs with the overall lack of danger.  Many many SRPGs let you save your game whenever you want.  Which of course translates into saving your game every few feet, or even between swings in battle in case a mistake is made.  Dark Souls is a notable exception to this with their soul loss and bonfire system.  Even the old Final Fantasy games required you to get to a save point rather than save every couple steps.  Final Fantasy is far scarier than Skyrim because you don't get to save where you want, and Final Fantasy is loaded to the brim with retarded monkeys and big goofy birds. The new X-Com has a brilliant ironman mode and is a quite scary game, its actually nice to see a game with a scary theme actually play scary. 

Does anyone else feal that lack of danger makes MMORPGs and sRPGs feel stale?  Are their any games out there that I am missing that have successfully caused terror in players?  I'd especially love to hear about MMORPGs that pull it off.  To be clear I dont't mean dark theme or scary graphics, those may scare a 5 year old.  When I talk about fear and terror I mean that a player will be scared or upset when they are defeated.  I don't care how scary a boss looks when it jumps out at me, if i can just hop back up and fight him again when I die that is not scary in my book.

Read on for some highlights from the thread!

Wizardry offers a couple of examples:

I felt scared in EQ2 when first came out and in FFXI because for the most part,you couldn't run,so if something went bad you had to either fight or die.MOST games you can simply run a short distance and the mob/s retreat.

Sometimes the fear factor was totally unrealistic and actually pissed me off.Example in Vanguard,there was an outpost and as soon as i came within a certain dsitance the whole outpost would attack me at unreal speeds.There was no realism in the aggro or range or speed at which they caught me,like 200 yds in 5 seconds lol.

The only real time ,i have actually been on the edge and kind of freaked out was playing an old xpansion for was an expansion done by NIN,so the whole sound and music was eerie.Turn off the lights and it was really freaky lol.

MMORPG's are basically linear,connect the dot questing games now,hardly anything there realsitic or scary.I can't imagine whoever thought ,that if i was a Warrior in real life,i would be going around asking every npc/person if i can do a quest for them.

WHOA kill 10 armadillo in Commonlands???No WAY .,that is frightening.

Take that Stein to your friend?? Wowsers,i don't think i can handle that frightening task as an elite Warlock.

Wolfenpride discusses the good ol' corpserun:

Only game that scared me in that manner was EQ1 when it had harsher death penalties.

The risk of loosing my stuff in the bottom of a dungeon somewhere made going into them very scary. The general mazelike/claustrophobic designs for many of them added a bit to my fears as well, once you were deep in one, you were pretty stuck with no where to run if something went wrong.

It happened occasionally, but I was always able to get a rogue/necro to drag my corpse back to me before it expired.

I was hoping Wizardry would deliver similar experiences, but with the way souls work characters feel really disposable. Same with Eve online, replacing a lost ship didn't seem that big of a deal, but then again I never bothered buying anything that I couldn't afford to replace. Still enjoyed both games though.

Ironmanning Xcom EU was fun and challenging as well, but again there was that sense of disposability once you had a bunch of ranked soldiers. Starting off was pretty rough though.

Rusque hasn't ever experienced that sense of dread that others are describing:

The only video game that would cause fear is one in which someone comes to my house and chops off my arm in real life as punishment.

I really never understood the appeal of perma-death games or severe consequence games. I don't feel scared, I actually care about my avatar less than I would in a game in which I get to keep him. Whenever I play hardcore mode in PoE or some game with similar death system, I just view my character as a temporary resource for some entertainment, but my main is always invariably on the softcore side. That's the character I care about, the one I want to develop and see grow because I know I'll always have it.

I must be missing the fear factor so many people experience from those games, I never get the adrenaline rush or the near death high.

The only time I really felt any sense of fear in an MMO was back when Star Wars Galaxies was still using corpse runs. Running back to Ft. Tusken or some such area where my corpse is deep behind enemy lines was always something I looked to avoid back then.

Other than that, it's really only PvP servers that can create that feeling for me at all, even if there aren't permanent consequences to dying. That feeling of possibly being attacked at any given moment can really keep you on your toes.

What about you? Have you ever felt a real sense of danger in an MMO? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!