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What makes an MMORPG good?

Well certainly there are a number of characteristics that would allow me to classify any MMORPG as good, but of course, we must remind ourselves that this is mostly opinion and opinions are relative (as WoW constantly reminds us). With that done, let's go

Author: theguru22

The Age of Infinite Heroes

Posted by theguru22 Saturday January 3 2009 at 2:41PM
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Let's all take a minute to admire how dramatic that title is, and postulate how well it would do as a game title.




Back with me?

Alright so, your typical MMORPG transplants you in the body of some human/??? creature of a strange and mystical world and then guides you from behind the scenes through a series of zones and boss fights until you've collected everything and killed everyone, in which case you can do one of three things:

1) Reroll another character of a different class because you've been suckered into the relentlessly boring and outdated class system.

2) Go PvP until your eyes fall out.

3) Use the game as a giant, 3-D chatroom in which you're actually a human with purple skin and inexorably long pointy ears.

So basically the only mechanic of the game MMORPG devs seem to give two shits about is the combat system, since they know that MMORPG players are all bratty 13 year olds who just want to dismember as many rabbits before bedtime as possible. This is only the case, however, because bratty little 13 year olds are the only audience that's impressionable and easy-to-please enough to be a consistent audience and therefor making games that tailor to them is always the most lucritive and easy route. And so MMORPGs have been pushed into the corner where the Disney Channel sits, being only entertaining and engrossing to people of a certain age (or mental age) for a certain ammount of time, thriving on the inevitable aging of pre-teens into their demographic to fill the hole of those who left.

So the devs will spend months and years at a time ensuring that their combat is at least fun enough to brainwash impressionable youth with things like class balancing, abilities, slightly new ways to dismember rabbits, etc, while everything else (crafting, immersion, player interaction, dynamic worlds) gets quickly and fervently shoved aside because they're A) hard to develope well and B) not the selling points for spoiled children.

The sad fact is that most players crave the samey make a character and grind till you drop "cookie cutter" MMORPGs that are the dried husks of the genre's wasteland. If this were not the case WoW would not have the subscriptions that it does and RoM would not have the apologists that it does. There's a recent blog on this site asking why people like sandbox games, and here is my response:

"People want sandbox because they want to shape the sand. Because they feel more like part of the game rather than a passenger in it. Because they want their actions to have meaning rather than ending up at the same dead end as everyone else who followed the linear storyline. I guess the people who enjoy linear MMORPGs are the same people who enjoy daytime soaps; they struggle with creativity and show no motivation to develope rather than participate.

We are done participating as innocent passengers aboard the train car of linear progression worlds. As Cloud said, 'It can only go where the tracks take it.'"

But I do believe that there is a dedicated group disatisfied with the WoW clones and underappreciated gameplay mechanics such as crafting and immersion. We're hoping to see these issues addressed with every new MMORPG, but we're certainly not holding our breath.


Adendum: If combat is all you care about, there are a ton of FPSs and FPS/RPGs that do it way better than most MMORPGs. Rakion, Gunz, TF2, L4D, etc.