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6 Enduring MMOG Beliefs I Just Don't Get

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
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The MMOG space has never lacked for differences of opinion. This isn't a problem; it would be pretty dull without them. What's more, we generally recognize that it's normal for at least some other people's views to diverge from our own. However, this is an expression of my rational side. At the gut feeling level, certain things with which I disagree are considerably harder for me to “get” than others.

Although it does happen once in a while, I'm not talking about changing my mind, but rather about how I feel. As a simple, real world example, let's say I learn you prefer a different beer or cola. It's extremely unlikely I'll react at all, either explicitly or just to myself. This is also true for many perspectives on MMOGs, but here are my thoughts on a handful of exceptions.

MMOGs must always be deeply immersive

I'm not against immersion. What I'm unable to understand is the kind of seemingly binary thinking that appears to assume a game can only be completely immersive or not immersive at all. For me, it's a matter of degrees. What's more my minimum acceptable level isn't always the same. Rather, depending on my circumstances at any moment, it's a moving target. My threshold moves up or down depending what I'm doing.

To illustrate what I'm getting at, let's say I'm grouped with one other player. At some point in time, one of the other person starts to talk about a topic from real life – the chances Lebron will return to Cleveland, Canada Day dinner at Aunt Betty's, which country will win the World Cup, whatever. Can this be annoying? Of course. Is it always? No. Can it be completely fine? Yes.

Whether and how much it affects me is person- and situation-dependent. Take one scenario where the other person is a personal friend or family member, the topic is one we'd naturally talk about if we were face to face, and the two of us aren't doing anything that requires much attention. Compare this to another where I'm with an individual I only know in the game, we've never mentioned any real-world subjects to one another before, and we're in the middle of a difficult battle.

My key point here is that at any given moment, the degree of immersion I want from a game can differ significantly. What's more, I can choose which one to play (i.e. how serious vs. casual) and with whom according to how I feel. And there are times when my minimum threshold is very low, even effectively non-existent. When a friend and I decide to stop actually playing and to stay logged in so we can talk about a non-game topic of mutual interest for a while, how much does either of us care about immersion?

MMOGs must be fully featured

There are quite a few gamers and even some developers who believe this. While it's an opinion and therefor can't be right or wrong in absolute terms, I've strongly disagreed for a very long time. It seems to be a take on feature creep, which has always troubled me. I completely fail to understand how or why incorporating a mediocre version of an element is better than omitting it and directing the time and effort toward something far more important.

Let's take crafting as a personal example, but one where I suspect my feelings aren't especially unusual. It's not my favorite gameplay element, but neither am I completely disinterested in it. Accordingly, it's something I participate in and enjoy in some MMOGs while ignoring it as much as possible in others. The primary reason, although not the only one, is simply that in quite a few titles, the implementation is unremarkable.

It's as if the developer was forced or felt obliged to include crafting, and did just enough to meet the perceived basic requirement. Whatever the reason, the system is unimaginative and shallow. It feels highly generic. When I do craft, it's because I feel I have to rather than to enjoy the actual activity. I want it to be over as quickly as possible so I can go and do something more fun.

Don't take this to mean I'm against fully featured MMOGs. I'm not. What I don't get is why some people apparently feel every single one has to be.

Hardcore MMOGs are better

There was a time when I was among the hardest of the hardcore. This is no longer so. My values and preferences as a gamer have evolved over time. Arguably, I can still be just as serious as I was years ago. Now however, my tastes are broader. As a result, I have a greater, more personal appreciation for mid-core and even quite casual play styles. 

That said, even back in the day, I tried not to confuse what I like more with being superior in any global sense. Wide popularity isn't the same thing either. Neither “better for me” nor “better for many people” is fully synonymous with “better”. So, I know some gamers have no interest any non-hardcore MMOGs. That's completely fine. What I don't get is why some seem to feel everyone else should think like they do.

Asian MMOGs are all the same

I can understand thinking that there are more similarities among Asian-made MMOGs than western ones. This even seems fairly natural in light of the relative numbers. If we look at hundreds versus dozens of practically anything, we can expect to find many more resemblances, similitudes and parallels. On the other hand, however, it can be argued we're also likely to see more differences.

At best, describing all Asian MMOGs as the same is a gross, poorly informed over-generalization. At worst, it's... well, you can decide for yourself. I don't get how anyone can have such a stereotyped point of view, or even if they do, why they'd want to show how narrow-minded they are by stating it.

A strong launch is absolutely critical

Very important, yes, but a flawed launch, while obviously not a favorable indicator, is certainly survivable. It's even possible to overcome such an initial stumble and to become quite successful. There aren't that many examples, but I suspect you're aware of at least one, World of Warcraft.

For those who don't know or have forgotten, WoW experienced a major issue when it entered service. It could take half and hour or more just to log in. The actual length of time varied with each server, but most if not all of them were affected to some degree. I still remember that I was “lucky” enough to be on one where I seldom had to wait more than five to 10 minutes.

Subscription or F2P or B2P is better

This is another perspective I don't get because it states an opinion as if it were a fact. Contrary to what some would like to believe, I don't automatically favor any particular revenue models. My preference is situational. For instance, if I'm confident I'll end up playing something fairly regularly for a long time, I'd rather pay $60 up front than $15 per month. But since I won't continue subscribing to a game I don't play much, the latter is fine too, cheap entertainment when I'm still paying it.

F2P is harder to evaluate since the degree of advantage gained by spending money can vary considerably. So can my playing time. I can tell you I've never paid out anything even remotely close to $15 per month in any game. I've also never laid out $60 in any single one. Indeed, I'd say my lifetime grand total is still under $100. So, I'm satisfied with the value I've received for the dollars I've spent.

I understand that people whose MMOG preferences and/or play styles differ from mine are likely to measure value differently. What I don't get, as in other cases above, is why some continue to think and to say that what they like is best for everyone.


Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.