The Revolution the MMO needs: Fun.

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So, Guild Wars 2 has just had a fairly successful beta weekend, and many people are foretelling that it will change the MMO with it's organic questing system. However, while I do feel that GW2's quests are a step in the right direction, it does not cure the MMO's most basic, fundamental problem. They, for the most part, are not fun to play. The average MMORPG experience consists of hammering the number keys in specific orders to make the thing you want to make dead die, or heal your comrades, or whatever. This system, for me, and many others, is simply not very fun. I could be hammering out code on microsoft excel and it would be an exact same experience I would get from an MMORPG.

Now, Tera seems to be taking a step away from that, with its action based combat system, where player reflexes, tactics, and positioning all play a key part in battle. However, Tera fails because its quests (as far as I know) are the same snore-inducing crap we get from most asian MMOs, kill y, gather x, repeat ad nauseum.

While the MMO is making steps in the right direction, with the aforementioned Tera combat and Guild Wars 2 questing, not to mention the upcoming Planetside 2 and its FPS approach to things as well as Star Wars: The Old Republic's story and dialogue, I still think fun is the key element missing from the modern MMO. Being able to do things other than hitting number keys would be pretty cool, I feel.

This is just me getting up on my soapbox, but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

For the record, my favorite MMO was Ultima Online. It truly felt like a living, breathing world, rather than a theme park, which is what Modern MMO's feel like.

woodaba:
but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

Ignorance.

The average MMORPG experience consists of hammering the number keys in specific orders to make the thing you want to make dead die, or heal your comrades, or whatever.

Ignorance like this.

Sorry, but I am sick to fucking death of seeing this tired and inaccurate stereotype wheeled out every time someone wants to take a swing at MMOs. If this is all you're doing then stop hiding behind the tank, get out of the raid group and find some content that challenges you.

Yes, every hotkey MMO player has optimal combat rotations, but if you try to use the same rotation and don't adapt to individual fights then you are going to die. You're going to die a lot.

Any mid to high level character I have in an MMO is going to have easily over a dozen abilities that can be used in combat: half a dozen or more basic attacks, each with its own cooldowns, energy costs, damage and secondary effects; defensive abilities; heals; crowd control stuns, slows and spell interrupts; context sensitive skills that are only usable under very specific circumstances and for very short windows that open at a moment's notice - counter attacks triggered by blocks, spells triggered by other spells... etc.

How, other than hot keys, am I supposed to be able to access any one of them at exactly the right moment? This isn't Skyrim where I can pause the game and scroll through menus at my leisure.

And that's assuming that the game is hotkey based. Most of the MMOs I've played for any length of time are, but in Fallen Earth I have one bar of heals, defensive stances and secondary combat effects, whilst the actual combat is handled by first or third person shooter mechanics.

So yeah, it would help in any discussion of MMOs if we talk about what they are rather than some lazy, uninformed caricature of the genre.

Sixcess:

woodaba:
but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

Ignorance.

The average MMORPG experience consists of hammering the number keys in specific orders to make the thing you want to make dead die, or heal your comrades, or whatever.

Ignorance like this.

Sorry, but I am sick to fucking death of seeing this tired and inaccurate stereotype wheeled out every time someone wants to take a swing at MMOs. If this is all you're doing then stop hiding behind the tank, get out of the raid group and find some content that challenges you.

Yes, every hotkey MMO player has optimal combat rotations, but if you try to use the same rotation and don't adapt to individual fights then you are going to die. You're going to die a lot.

Any mid to high level character I have in an MMO is going to have easily over a dozen abilities that can be used in combat: half a dozen or more basic attacks, each with its own cooldowns, energy costs, damage and secondary effects; defensive abilities; heals; crowd control stuns, slows and spell interrupts; context sensitive skills that are only usable under very specific circumstances and for very short windows that open at a moment's notice - counter attacks triggered by blocks, spells triggered by other spells... etc.

How, other than hot keys, am I supposed to be able to access any one of them at exactly the right moment? This isn't Skyrim where I can pause the game and scroll through menus at my leisure.

And that's assuming that the game is hotkey based. Most of the MMOs I've played for any length of time are, but in Fallen Earth I have one bar of heals, defensive stances and secondary combat effects, whilst the actual combat is handled by first or third person shooter mechanics.

So yeah, it would help in any discussion of MMOs if we talk about what they are rather than some lazy, uninformed caricature of the genre.

I respect your points and understand them, I want you to know that.

(edit: fixed a couple grammatical things that were in here)But just for the sake of being a prick, I'll ask you for your arguments against this statement: "MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

woodaba:
The average MMORPG experience consists of hammering the number keys in specific orders to make the thing you want to make dead die, or heal your comrades, or whatever. This system, for me, and many others, is simply not very fun. I could be hammering out code on microsoft excel and it would be an exact same experience I would get from an MMORPG.

Any game in any genre can be reduced to "Hammering the keyboard/mouse until X situation is resolved". That is not a compelling description of MMO game play. I can understand not liking a genre, but not even attempting to understand why others do reeks of intellectual laziness. And don't even get me started on the inherent subjectivity of "fun".

woodaba:
This is just me getting up on my soapbox, but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

WoW wasn't good for the genre, in terms of the shadow it cast and how overwhelming its influence was on game design. The genre has a lot of potential for innovation that hasn't been tapped because everyone was scrambling for a piece of that pie.

Realistically though, nothing is "holding them back". Most of them are making money hand over fist.

woodaba:
For the record, my favorite MMO was Ultima Online. It truly felt like a living, breathing world, rather than a theme park, which is what Modern MMO's feel like.

I adored UO. You don't see a lot of sandbox MMOs these days, largely because of the reason stated above. I don't know how much of a "living, breathing world" it felt like though, those are some serious rose colored glasses. Do you remember every single field or patch of open grass being festooned with houses and towers and gaily dressed merchants? Do you remember the first few months after launch when the ecology was completely broken because every single mob that spawned had 21 players waiting to beat it with halbreds? Do you remember walking to the bank and seeing 30 guys in their underwear, all named "Raistlin" or "Satan"? The week you could one-shot anyone in metal armor with a basic magic missile spell? I could go on and on.

It was a tremendous, ambitious game, but it was deeply, deeply, deeply flawed.

RJ 17:
"MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

Define "grind".

Sixcess:

woodaba:
but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

Ignorance.

The average MMORPG experience consists of hammering the number keys in specific orders to make the thing you want to make dead die, or heal your comrades, or whatever.

Ignorance like this.

Sorry, but I am sick to fucking death of seeing this tired and inaccurate stereotype wheeled out every time someone wants to take a swing at MMOs. If this is all you're doing then stop hiding behind the tank, get out of the raid group and find some content that challenges you.

Yes, every hotkey MMO player has optimal combat rotations, but if you try to use the same rotation and don't adapt to individual fights then you are going to die. You're going to die a lot.

Any mid to high level character I have in an MMO is going to have easily over a dozen abilities that can be used in combat: half a dozen or more basic attacks, each with its own cooldowns, energy costs, damage and secondary effects; defensive abilities; heals; crowd control stuns, slows and spell interrupts; context sensitive skills that are only usable under very specific circumstances and for very short windows that open at a moment's notice - counter attacks triggered by blocks, spells triggered by other spells... etc.

How, other than hot keys, am I supposed to be able to access any one of them at exactly the right moment? This isn't Skyrim where I can pause the game and scroll through menus at my leisure.

And that's assuming that the game is hotkey based. Most of the MMOs I've played for any length of time are, but in Fallen Earth I have one bar of heals, defensive stances and secondary combat effects, whilst the actual combat is handled by first or third person shooter mechanics.

So yeah, it would help in any discussion of MMOs if we talk about what they are rather than some lazy, uninformed caricature of the genre.

Well...maybe if we stopped copying EverQuest and tried to do something original with an MMO we could concievably move away from the hotkey issue. Your argument is "there is no other way to do this". Uh, thats bullshit. MMO combat is, for the most part, no different than playing Guitar Hero, or playing an incredibly convulted quicktime event. You have to press your keys in a certain order to ensure optimal performance. Sometimes, fights will require certain strategies, (tactics is very rare in MMOs that I have played) but for the most part, you can, and will, hammer the same keys over, and over, again. When something that is fundamentally not fun for quite a lot of people needs to be there to make the game function,as you have attested, its time to shake things up a bit.

BloatedGuppy:

I adored UO. You don't see a lot of sandbox MMOs these days, largely because of the reason stated above. I don't know how much of a "living, breathing world" it felt like though, those are some serious rose colored glasses. Do you remember every single field or patch of open grass being festooned with houses and towers and gaily dressed merchants? Do you remember the first few months after launch when the ecology was completely broken because every single mob that spawned had 21 players waiting to beat it with halbreds? Do you remember walking to the bank and seeing 30 guys in their underwear, all named "Raistlin" or "Satan"? The week you could one-shot anyone in metal armor with a basic magic missile spell? I could go on and on.

It was a tremendous, ambitious game, but it was deeply, deeply, deeply flawed.

What I meant by that statement was that there was more to do in that game and just "Do quest, then find next quest". It was a game that had something, a spark. Something that just made it seem so organic, and interesting. When you log in, and decide "I don't feel like going hunting today. I'm going to build a house." It was, by no means, a flawless game, it was less of a diamond in the rough so much as a Diamond covered in acid that desperately needed to be wiped off, only the more you wiped, the more acid would make its way onto the diamond.

woodaba:
What I meant by that statement was that there was more to do in that game and just "Do quest, then find next quest". It was a game that had something, a spark. Something that just made it seem so organic, and interesting. When you log in, and decide "I don't feel like going hunting today. I'm going to build a house." It was, by no means, a flawless game, it was less of a diamond in the rough so much as a Diamond covered in acid that desperately needed to be wiped off, only the more you wiped, the more acid would make its way onto the diamond.

Well, again though, you're being absurdly reductionist in your description of the post-EQ era MMO because you've personally grown tired of it/never liked it to begin with. Realistically, was there any depth to being a logger? A baker? You click on trees, and lumber appears. The same bloody dynamic is now a basic crafting/gathering interaction in almost every MMO on the market, they just don't sell it as "being a logger". Building a house? You built no houses. You bought a blueprint then struggled in vain to find enough free real estate to actually place the bloody thing.

The game did have spirit, but you need to realize also it was your FIRST MMO, so you are remembering it through a haze of nostalgia. Many modern MMOs, most particularly WoW, actually have a pretty good breadth of game play, and certainly offer more than UO did in that regard. And again, I say this as someone who ranks UO as one of my top 10 games of ALL TIME, and I've been playing games for 30 years.

RJ 17:
But just for the sake of being a prick, I'll ask you for your arguments against this statement:

Anyone who's at all familiar with my posting history on the Escapist will know I'm an ardent defender of the MMO genre, even if I'm often extremely critical of individual aspects or trends of it, so how could I resist?

"MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

(This'll probably spiral into tl:dr.)

I'm afraid I'll start with a cliche: an MMO is what you make of it. That's true of many game genres, but I think most true of MMOs. They have a size and depth that's unrivalled by any single player game I've ever encountered - understandable when they're intended to be played for months or even years.

The grind is definitely there. I've just come away from revisiting WoW, and (regrettably in my opinion) that game, which to many people defines exactly what an MMO is, has never been awfully good at disguising its grind. Levelling up is regarded by many players as a dull task to be done with as quickly as possible before you get to the endgame. I think it was actually WoW players that coined the phrase "the game starts at the endgame."

And yet what is the endgame? It's running the same handful of top level raids over and over again in the hope that this time when the boss dies you'll win a bit of gear that has slightly better stats than the bit of gear you won after killing the boss of the previous raid over and over again. Yeah, that's grind - I'm not even going to try and deny that - and WoW's ever more obsessive focus on that part of the game to the detriment of all else is one reason why I'm sick of it.

At its core WoW remains a rock solid game - I would love for LOTRO, another MMO I play, to have the smoothness and precision of WoW's combat - so it saddens me to see them focus on what I've always felt was the worst part of MMOs - the endgame, the gear grind.

So if I don't like endgame what do I like? I suppose the answer would be - everything else.

1. The exploration.
I've never seen a single player game world that comes close to the best MMO worlds - like Lord of the Rings Online's beautiful rendering of Middle Earth. Bethesda come closest, but Fallout 3 feels small and cramped and empty next to the vast open wasteland of Fallen Earth, where a horse or a bike or a car are essential for travel because it's simply too big to get anywhere on foot.

Or Oblivion (haven't played Skyrim so won't use that as my comparison.) Oblivion reminded me a lot of an MMO world, but it was a small, underdeveloped and rather drab world in my eye, and felt strangely empty.

Which leads me to my second point:

2. The people.
Although I solo a lot in MMOs, I like seeing other players around me - moving around the world. It makes the place feel more alive, like a real place, and not like the entire world exists solely for me. And it leaves openings for lots of interaction - I've made impromptu alliances with other players I've met deep in particularly dangerous areas, banding together for mutual survival. Duels with friends in the streets of a city, trading fire with a rival faction in a pvp zone, or just trading loot drops on the auction house. Or in City of Heroes joining a pick up group of random players to run some missions for a while, and perhaps even trying to form some cohesive tactics (though I recall a memorable description of villainside teams as "8 soloists in the same instance." Villains don't play well with others :p)

3. The depth.
Character building in the best MMOs is an extremely in depth process. City of Heroes for example has twelve unique classes with over 600 possible powerset combinations between them - every one of which plays slightly differently. In games that show you the numbers it's a subgame in itself playing with those numbers to get the optimum build, or just one that plays the way you want it to.

And on a purely visual level City in particular is renowned for the mind boggling scope of its character costume creation system.

Then there's pvp - guild and faction rivalries, raids on enemy cities (with no goal other than an achievement, a mount and fun). Player housing, crafting, customising your look, open world events like zone invasions and world bosses... Not every MMO offers all of these things, but the best of them offer at least some, and more besides.

But back to the point: yes there is grind, but it only becomes the focal point of the game if you want it to be. if you don't want to rush to the endgame and start killing the big bad twice a week forever in search of 'epic lootz' then levelling is just something that happens whilst you're doing everything else. My favourite MMOs have little conventional endgame to speak of - the joy is in the journey, not the destination.

A final footnote: I've never quite understood the hostility and dare I say it contempt that MMOs are often regarded with on the Escapist, when games like the Elder Scrolls play very very similarly to MMOs. I know that when I started encountering random peasants who wanted to send me on quests I felt a definite sense of familiarity.

Sixcess:
Snip

:P You may be surprised to learn that I didn't tl/dr your post. I often can post pretty long-winded things myself and since I expect people to read them, I return the respect by reading theirs.

Anyhow, continuing to play devil's advocate here, let me touch on your major points.

1: Exploration.
I will grant you that MMO's, by their very nature, have exploration on a much more massive scale than any single player RPG out there. But they have to be this way. I would highly suggest you give Skyrim a try because I think that's got the best variation of single player expansiveness of any RPG out there. But when you think about it, by their very nature MMO's have to be bigger...can't have thousands of players crammed into a world that essentially equates to the size of the Eastern Kingdoms in WoW.

However, exploration is not something that is specific to MMO's. MMO's have more range to cover, as I just said, but there's plenty of exploration to be had in the best of standard RPGs as well. And while having plenty of room to explore certainly does offer a good distraction from "the grind", "the grind" still exists.

2: The People.
:P You pretty much confirmed the "used more as socialization tools..." part of my statement.

3: The Depth.
To this I have to refer to Yahtzee's description of the customization in City of Heroes, which you used as your example. Sure, there's 600 different things you can make.....large portions of them taste the same. Just as how ME 3 has 3 different endings, they all taste the same. Beyond that, customization doesn't take away from the statement that, when boiled down, "MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

I appreciate the fact that the above three things are things that you like about MMO's, and I'm not arguing their existence. As I said I'm just arguing for argument's sake here (god know's I've put in MORE than my fair share of time in the clutches of WoW). However you still haven't mentioned anything that really disproves my statement other than pointing out that, indeed, "MMO's are what you make of them". But perhaps I should try clarifying things a bit...

BloatedGuppy:

RJ 17:
"MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

Define "grind".

Grind: Repetitive/monotonous gameplay. Again, borrowing an example from Yahtzee, gameplay that equates to "Go kill 10 Red Howler Sodomites and collect their deedly boppers." Turn that in for the next quest: "Go kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites and collect their doo-hickies."

Now, I'm not saying you can't make you're own fun with MMO's, but most of that fun falls under the "used as socialization tools" portion of my statement: duels with friends, raids on towns (and raids on dungeons, more specifically), etc. But the key point of my statement with regards to MMO's being a grind is that the way you advance through the game boils down to grinding.

RJ 17:
Grind: Repetitive/monotonous gameplay. Again, borrowing an example from Yahtzee, gameplay that equates to "Go kill 10 Red Howler Sodomites and collect their deedly boppers." Turn that in for the next quest: "Go kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites and collect their doo-hickies."

Now, I'm not saying you can't make you're own fun with MMO's, but most of that fun falls under the "used as socialization tools" portion of my statement: duels with friends, raids on towns (and raids on dungeons, more specifically), etc. But the key point of my statement with regards to MMO's being a grind is that the way you advance through the game boils down to grinding.

Well, now you're going to need to define at what point repeating an action crosses the threshold into "repetitiveness" or "monotony". If I kill 5 Harpies in a row in Witcher, am I now grinding? Is "The Witcher" now a grindy game? This myth that MMOs are all about killing 60 million boars hasn't been true since Everquest.

When we used to talk about "grinding", it was because you sat on a hill for eight hours killing the same rhino spawn over and over and over and over and over and over because there was literally nothing else to do, other than kill a different colored mob on a different colored hill. And the game still had its merits, but when someone said, after five hours of rhinos "God what a grind", the term had meaning.

Now, you run quests. Maybe I kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites. Now I need to pick some marsh reeds. Now I need to escort Timmy to the castle. Now I need to kill a named Wolf. Now I need to rescue some Mage from a nearby cave. People are doing these relatively varied tasks, and groaning "Oh what a grind!" because...because why? Because it takes a lot of xp to level? Because there's a lot of buttons that need to be pressed? I've never really had it satisfactorily explained to me why this is a "grind", but repeating actions in a FPS (Oh god...shooting again? I just shot 20 guys!) or driving games (ANOTHER race? What grinding!) or strategy (All I'm doing is founding new cities! Monotony!) is somehow not a "grind".

MMOs can be fun, when there's something new to see or do. I spent like three hours just flying around when I got bird form on my druid, exploring the world from a perspective I'd never seen before, looking for easter eggs or scenic places for a screenshot. If you wanna go even farther back, I spent much time wandering around the galaxy in my Jenquai Explorer, testing myself against mobs that a JE had no business messing with...and winning. I was, after all, probably the only JE on Orion with a Devastating Gaze.

Some of my favorite stuff in WoW was around low/mid-level though. I never did much of the endgame content. Scarlet Monastery, Van Cleef, even Gnomeregan--which everyone else hated--were my favorites. I never really liked the endgame instances.

Of course, my main problem with MMOs is I'm just not really that social. This combined with endless Twenty Bear Asses grinding just kills it for me.

And the thing that will make it fun is making the majority of content lot related to grinding.

It's possible for an RPG to not contain grinding at all. Chrono Cross did it, and it's a well beloved and respected game. Grinding isn't even possible. And modern wRPGs aren't very grindy themselves.

They don't have to go that route, and abandon it entirely. But I think that they need to take a better look at what the other RPGs, jRPGs and wRPGs, are doing, that it is not. Personally, I do wish that someone would make an MMORPG that didn't contain any grinding whatsoever, not so that it would never be done again, but so that people could realize it could be done and take influence.

woodaba:
So, Guild Wars 2 has just had a fairly successful beta weekend, and many people are foretelling that it will change the MMO with it's organic questing system.

WTF is an "Organic Questing System"? Is that a questing system that was grown without the use of chemicals or that doesn't utilize Genetically Modified Questgivers?

Elamdri:

woodaba:
So, Guild Wars 2 has just had a fairly successful beta weekend, and many people are foretelling that it will change the MMO with it's organic questing system.

WTF is an "Organic Questing System"? Is that a questing system that was grown without the use of chemicals or that doesn't utilize Genetically Modified Questgivers?

The idea is that, instead of going to a quest-giver and them telling you what to do, you explore and find the quests in the field, and can work together with other people in the area for the same objective.

BloatedGuppy:

RJ 17:
Grind: Repetitive/monotonous gameplay. Again, borrowing an example from Yahtzee, gameplay that equates to "Go kill 10 Red Howler Sodomites and collect their deedly boppers." Turn that in for the next quest: "Go kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites and collect their doo-hickies."

Now, I'm not saying you can't make you're own fun with MMO's, but most of that fun falls under the "used as socialization tools" portion of my statement: duels with friends, raids on towns (and raids on dungeons, more specifically), etc. But the key point of my statement with regards to MMO's being a grind is that the way you advance through the game boils down to grinding.

Well, now you're going to need to define at what point repeating an action crosses the threshold into "repetitiveness" or "monotony". If I kill 5 Harpies in a row in Witcher, am I now grinding? Is "The Witcher" now a grindy game? This myth that MMOs are all about killing 60 million boars hasn't been true since Everquest.

When we used to talk about "grinding", it was because you sat on a hill for eight hours killing the same rhino spawn over and over and over and over and over and over because there was literally nothing else to do, other than kill a different colored mob on a different colored hill. And the game still had its merits, but when someone said, after five hours of rhinos "God what a grind", the term had meaning.

Now, you run quests. Maybe I kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites. Now I need to pick some marsh reeds. Now I need to escort Timmy to the castle. Now I need to kill a named Wolf. Now I need to rescue some Mage from a nearby cave. People are doing these relatively varied tasks, and groaning "Oh what a grind!" because...because why? Because it takes a lot of xp to level? Because there's a lot of buttons that need to be pressed? I've never really had it satisfactorily explained to me why this is a "grind", but repeating actions in a FPS (Oh god...shooting again? I just shot 20 guys!) or driving games (ANOTHER race? What grinding!) or strategy (All I'm doing is founding new cities! Monotony!) is somehow not a "grind".

All perfectly good points, so allow me to specify further.

I certainly wouldn't call it repetitive or monotonous if you went to a town and were given just that line-up of quests:

Maybe I kill 10 Large Red Howler Sodomites. Now I need to pick some marsh reeds. Now I need to escort Timmy to the castle. Now I need to kill a named Wolf. Now I need to rescue some Mage from a nearby cave.

However, when you enter a town, there may be any number of people that want you to kill various versions of those damn Howler Sodomites. Then the next quest in all the lines is some various version of picking marsh reeds.

It's not that you're killing the same thing over and over (which is indeed grinding, just not "The Grind" that I'm talking about), it's the fact that every quest you get is something you've already done before. I understand there's only so many different kinds of quests you can do, but it becomes repetitive when every new zone, every new town you enter has a guy waiting for you to go take care of his problem with the herd of Giant Red Jackmonkeys that have been eating his cabbages.

And I'd actually argue for the sake of being consistent with my own statements that yes, FPS's, Strategy Games, and Race Games all have their own grinds. To answer why more people don't consider them grinds, I'd imagine it's a time-consumption thing. It can take hours or in some cases days to "grind" through a new zone in an MMO, yet in that same amount of time you can "grind" through numerous new races, battles, and fire-fights that progress you towards the end of the game.

woodaba:

Elamdri:

woodaba:
So, Guild Wars 2 has just had a fairly successful beta weekend, and many people are foretelling that it will change the MMO with it's organic questing system.

WTF is an "Organic Questing System"? Is that a questing system that was grown without the use of chemicals or that doesn't utilize Genetically Modified Questgivers?

The idea is that, instead of going to a quest-giver and them telling you what to do, you explore and find the quests in the field, and can work together with other people in the area for the same objective.

I'm confused, so do you mean you just like walk into an area and your character is like "oh there is a quest here!" or are there just like dudes standing around in a field going "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE! PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED YOU TO KILL 12 FIRE ELEMENTALS AND BRING ME 5 FIRE ELEMENTAL LIVERS!"

Elamdri:

woodaba:

Elamdri:

WTF is an "Organic Questing System"? Is that a questing system that was grown without the use of chemicals or that doesn't utilize Genetically Modified Questgivers?

The idea is that, instead of going to a quest-giver and them telling you what to do, you explore and find the quests in the field, and can work together with other people in the area for the same objective.

I'm confused, so do you mean you just like walk into an area and your character is like "oh there is a quest here!" or are there just like dudes standing around in a field going "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE! PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED YOU TO KILL 12 FIRE ELEMENTALS AND BRING ME 5 FIRE ELEMENTAL LIVERS!"

Say, for example, you're walking along, and you see a big ogre or something laying waste to some civillians. Instead of a quest-giver saying "Kill Bob the Ogre and bring me his head" you can just kill him, and other players, regardless of wether you are in a group or not, can help you.

woodaba:

Elamdri:

woodaba:

The idea is that, instead of going to a quest-giver and them telling you what to do, you explore and find the quests in the field, and can work together with other people in the area for the same objective.

I'm confused, so do you mean you just like walk into an area and your character is like "oh there is a quest here!" or are there just like dudes standing around in a field going "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE! PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED YOU TO KILL 12 FIRE ELEMENTALS AND BRING ME 5 FIRE ELEMENTAL LIVERS!"

Say, for example, you're walking along, and you see a big ogre or something laying waste to some civillians. Instead of a quest-giver saying "Kill Bob the Ogre and bring me his head" you can just kill him, and other players, regardless of wether you are in a group or not, can help you.

Ah, sounds a bit like what Rift tried to do.

RJ 17:
All perfectly good points, so allow me to specify further.

I certainly wouldn't call it repetitive or monotonous if you went to a town and were given just that line-up of quests.

However, when you enter a town, there may be any number of people that want you to kill various versions of those damn Howler Sodomites. Then the next quest in all the lines is some various version of picking marsh reeds.

It's not that you're killing the same thing over and over (which is indeed grinding, just not "The Grind" that I'm talking about), it's the fact that every quest you get is something you've already done before. I understand there's only so many different kinds of quests you can do, but it becomes repetitive when every new zone, every new town you enter has a guy waiting for you to go take care of his problem with the herd of Giant Red Jackmonkeys that have been eating his cabbages.

And I'd actually argue for the sake of being consistent with my own statements that yes, FPS's, Strategy Games, and Race Games all have their own grinds. To answer why more people don't consider them grinds, I'd imagine it's a time-consumption thing. It can take hours or in some cases days to "grind" through a new zone in an MMO, yet in that same amount of time you can "grind" through numerous new races, battles, and fire-fights that progress you towards the end of the game.

Well that's the crux of it though, isn't it? After 40 hours Skyrim felt fresh and exciting. After 150 hours it was starting to feel a little stale. People play MMOs for hundreds and in many cases THOUSANDS of hours. Is it not reasonable to expect at some point they're going to feel a pang of familiarity? Are the games meant to be fountains of eternal content generation, with dynamically changing game play that never offers up the same circumstances twice? I think if a game is going to get labelled "grindy" or "monotonous" there needs to be more compelling evidence against it than "It starts feeling samey around the 500th hour".

And really, this is what I mean when I say the word "grind" has been colloquially abused and misappropriated to the point where it doesn't mean anything any more. People just use it to describe every single instance of them growing tired and bored, even when growing tired and bored is a perfectly reasonable expectation given the time investment you've put in.

The only MEANINGFUL differentiation between MMOs and single player games as far as genre goes is that you're trading heavily scripted storytelling and/or fixed win/end conditions for the dynamism that comes through playing cooperatively or competitively with other human beings. That's it. The expectations people have come to have for these games are literally absurd beyond belief. "I played for two months at 8-10 hours a day and ran out of stuff to do! Game has NO CONTENT and is BORING!".

BloatedGuppy:

RJ 17:
All perfectly good points, so allow me to specify further.

I certainly wouldn't call it repetitive or monotonous if you went to a town and were given just that line-up of quests.

However, when you enter a town, there may be any number of people that want you to kill various versions of those damn Howler Sodomites. Then the next quest in all the lines is some various version of picking marsh reeds.

It's not that you're killing the same thing over and over (which is indeed grinding, just not "The Grind" that I'm talking about), it's the fact that every quest you get is something you've already done before. I understand there's only so many different kinds of quests you can do, but it becomes repetitive when every new zone, every new town you enter has a guy waiting for you to go take care of his problem with the herd of Giant Red Jackmonkeys that have been eating his cabbages.

And I'd actually argue for the sake of being consistent with my own statements that yes, FPS's, Strategy Games, and Race Games all have their own grinds. To answer why more people don't consider them grinds, I'd imagine it's a time-consumption thing. It can take hours or in some cases days to "grind" through a new zone in an MMO, yet in that same amount of time you can "grind" through numerous new races, battles, and fire-fights that progress you towards the end of the game.

Well that's the crux of it though, isn't it? After 40 hours Skyrim felt fresh and exciting. After 150 hours it was starting to feel a little stale. People play MMOs for hundreds and in many cases THOUSANDS of hours. Is it not reasonable to expect at some point they're going to feel a pang of familiarity? Are the games meant to be fountains of eternal content generation, with dynamically changing game play that never offers up the same circumstances twice? I think if a game is going to get labelled "grindy" or "monotonous" there needs to be more compelling evidence against it than "It starts feeling samey around the 500th hour".

And really, this is what I mean when I say the word "grind" has been colloquially abused and misappropriated to the point where it doesn't mean anything any more. People just use it to describe every single instance of them growing tired and bored, even when growing tired and bored is a perfectly reasonable expectation given the time investment you've put in.

The only MEANINGFUL differentiation between MMOs and single player games as far as genre goes is that you're trading heavily scripted storytelling and/or fixed win/end conditions for the dynamism that comes through playing cooperatively or competitively with other human beings. That's it. The expectations people have come to have for these games are literally absurd beyond belief. "I played for two months at 8-10 hours a day and ran out of stuff to do! Game has NO CONTENT and is BORING!".

:P The simple answer to this conversation is quite simply the answer to most every issue every issue in games: "At what point does a game start getting samey?" "Well that depends on who's perspective you're looking at."

To me a game starts getting samey after about the 5th "Got kill those fucking sodomite" quest. Borderlands and Rage are perfect examples of this. In BOTH games, this is the sum total of the questlines: "Go to this dungeon and clear it out." Turn that quest in, the next quest: "Go back to that same dungeon and clear it out again, this time you might have to pick up some items for me (which begs the question "Why didn't you tell me to grab 20 oil cans when I went there the first time?!")." However I'm fully aware that others wouldn't consider it samey at all.

Well guys, I do appreciate the conversation and hope you've taken it as lightheartedly as I have. But now that we've gotten to the core of every internet based argument ("it's a matter of opinion and personal preferences") I believe it's time we moved on.

RJ 17:
Well guys, I do appreciate the conversation and hope you've taken it as lightheartedly as I have. But now that we've gotten to the core of every internet based argument ("it's a matter of opinion and personal preferences") I believe it's time we moved on.

Aw come on. I'm at work for another hour. Surely we can flog this a little bit longer. Say something controversial!

Elamdri:

woodaba:

Elamdri:

WTF is an "Organic Questing System"? Is that a questing system that was grown without the use of chemicals or that doesn't utilize Genetically Modified Questgivers?

The idea is that, instead of going to a quest-giver and them telling you what to do, you explore and find the quests in the field, and can work together with other people in the area for the same objective.

I'm confused, so do you mean you just like walk into an area and your character is like "oh there is a quest here!" or are there just like dudes standing around in a field going "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE! PLEASE HELP ME! I NEED YOU TO KILL 12 FIRE ELEMENTALS AND BRING ME 5 FIRE ELEMENTAL LIVERS!"

Kinda like what you describe. In their manifesto video, they use the example of "In an MMO, you'll see people standing around, and they scream their under attack, but nothing's happening. In Guild Wars 2, you will see the attack happening, in real time, and it'll be up to you to decide to save them or not. If a town is supposed to be under attack by centaurs, the centaurs won't be standing around, waiting for you, they'll actually be attacking the town."

BloatedGuppy:

RJ 17:
Well guys, I do appreciate the conversation and hope you've taken it as lightheartedly as I have. But now that we've gotten to the core of every internet based argument ("it's a matter of opinion and personal preferences") I believe it's time we moved on.

Aw come on. I'm at work for another hour. Surely we can flog this a little bit longer. Say something controversial!

Alright, I'm a team player. Ummmmmmm.....

MMO's are the worst kind of game that caters to the lowest common denominator amongst gamers. They feed off the latent addictive nature in all humans by promising people "shiny new epic lewtz" if you play for just another 8 hours! JUST 8 MOAR HOURS! Only to kick the player in the balls by having the boss NOT drop the item they need, thus ensuring that the players are snared for another day of gaming.

It's just a cheap tactic to ensure that people keep playing your game and I'm sick of it and the hordes of mindless zombies that such games spawn!

:P

RJ 17:
They feed off the latent addictive nature in all humans by promising people "shiny new epic lewtz" if you play for just another 8 hours! JUST 8 MOAR HOURS! Only to kick the player in the balls by having the boss NOT drop the item they need, thus ensuring that the players are snared for another day of gaming.

It's just a cheap tactic to ensure that people keep playing your game and I'm sick of it and the hordes of mindless zombies that such games spawn!

Did you ever play EQ? That game was actually a Skinner Box. No fudging around it, that was some addictive shit. Just fiendish.

I still pine for it, mind you.

RJ 17:
However, exploration is not something that is specific to MMO's. MMO's have more range to cover, as I just said, but there's plenty of exploration to be had in the best of standard RPGs as well. And while having plenty of room to explore certainly does offer a good distraction from "the grind", "the grind" still exists.

No, it's certainly not specific to MMOs, but they do it so much better. I remember when I was playing Dragon Age: Origins and with the scene set I was looking forward to setting off on my quest. When that tiny little map screen popped up with the 4 or 5 locations I could go to me part of me died inside a little. Suddenly this epic fantasy world felt very very small.

By contrast I can log into LOTRO, get on my horse and ride from Bag End to the gates of Moria, travelling through a brilliant recreation of the world that more or less invented epic fantasy as we know it, without a single loading screen or menu to take me 'out' of the world.

2: The People.
:P You pretty much confirmed the "used more as socialization tools..." part of my statement.

Heh. If you stretch the definition that widely then CoD Multiplayer is a socialisation tool.

3: The Depth.
To this I have to refer to Yahtzee's description of the customization in City of Heroes, which you used as your example. Sure, there's 600 different things you can make.....large portions of them taste the same. Just as how ME 3 has 3 different endings, they all taste the same. Beyond that, customization doesn't take away from the statement that, when boiled down, "MMO's are little more than grind sessions designed to be more socializing tools than actual games."

As much as I enjoy Zero Punctuation I take Yahtzee's views on MMOs with a mountain of salt. He makes no secret of his dislike of "muhmorpurgers" and it shows. He's funny, but I don't regard his views on the genre as particularly insightful or even well informed.

I customise my characters for my own personal enjoyment as much as anything else, just as anyone who's ever spent time working on, for example, the appearance of their Shepard in Mass Effect.

As for the grind... well BloatedGuppy made most of my arguments for me (cheers, Guppy) but I'll add this:

WoW is the undisputed king of the pallete swap monster and yes, there's not much difference between a lvl 5 hungry wolf, a lvl 20 rabid wolf or a lvl 80 monstrous wolf save for color and size. But that's WoW, and I've already said I consider WoW's grindiness almost indefensible. City of Heroes, for example, boasts a much wider range of enemy groups, with a lot more to differentiate them than the color of their model.

Grind is associated with MMOs (again, it's the perception that WoW is an MMO therefore all MMOs are like WoW) but two of the grindiest games I've played were Mass Effect 1 and 2. The first game had the almost utterly irrelevant side missions - almost all of which were more or less identical in enemy composition and setting. The second had the infamous planet scanning and if you wanted the minerals to upgrade the ship and get the best ending you had to do that.

Not to mention that almost every loyalty mission seemed to involve slogging through an inexplicably huge and many roomed warehouse because your target invariably had fifty mercenaries with them. Those sequences felt very much like a grind - the obligatory shooty gameplay bit before the next conversation sequence.

(Hmm... two unfavourable references to Bioware games in one post. I'll resist the urge to mention SWTOR and make it a hat trick.)

Meanwhile,

woodaba:
When something that is fundamentally not fun for quite a lot of people needs to be there to make the game function,as you have attested, its time to shake things up a bit.

Do MMOs need a shake up? Perhaps, but as I hope I've made clear, I don't think they're anywhere near as homogeneous as a genre as you're making them out to be.

No game should try to be all things to everyone, and if 'a lot of people' don't find them fun then a lot of people need to find a gaming genre that they do find fun... or at least look deeper into the MMOs that are already out there and recognise that they're not all WoW clones.

I think your veiw of MMO's in general could be linked to what type of game you like. People who really enjoy FPS games, for example, probably wouldn't enjoy WOW. But they might enjoy Tribes, or Planetside 2, because they are reaction based shooters, basically online FPS's. Personally I think that MMO's like Planetside 2 and Guild Wars 2 are the future of MMO's. instead of just one set format, MMO's should have as many different genres as other games.

Sigma Castell:
I think your veiw of MMO's in general could be linked to what type of game you like. People who really enjoy FPS games, for example, probably wouldn't enjoy WOW. But they might enjoy Tribes, or Planetside 2, because they are reaction based shooters, basically online FPS's. Personally I think that MMO's like Planetside 2 and Guild Wars 2 are the future of MMO's. instead of just one set format, MMO's should have as many different genres as other games.

Nonsense! I like almost all genres. The only important thing to me is the quality of the game. Good FPS? Bring it on. Good Turn Based Strategy? I'm there. Good RPG? I'm all over it. About the only thing I never really get up on is hardcore sims, and even those have their appeal if you can really sink your teeth into them. I think dismissing anything on genre alone is really unfortunate and self-limiting.

You're right about MMOs being stuck in a RPG rut, but technically you already have MP shooters like Battlefield and Modern Warfare, they're just not set in persistent worlds ala Planetside. Some MMO strategy games (that aren't finger blistering RTS) would be neat, though, if people could get into the slower pace.

woodaba:
This is just me getting up on my soapbox, but what do you feel is holding back the modern MMO, if anything?

Lacklustre gameplay is one of the many things where the MMORPG genre is lacking. Poor storytelling is another; while games aren't exactly great for that in general, MMOs are downright horrid. A major issue is the endgame-centric focus of the genre, having to go through dozens of levels just to be able to access the "meat" of the game is no fun for anyone. Throw all of these together and you have a new player's introduction to the genre consist of being told to go on the treadmill until they've reached the level cap; if they're stubborn enough to tough it out to that point, they've only been conditioned to accept the grindy nature of the game instead of having grown to enjoy it.

Yet the biggest thing holding back the genre (or more accurately, the best reason it should crash and burn) is... the community. Games can be underwhelming in many aspects if other parts of can hold them up, and in the case of MMORPGs the novelty of the genre's more social setting has allowed it to neglect details such as gameplay and storytelling. Unfortunately, it's an online gaming community; the only reason many put up with it is because they're having difficulty moving onto other venues due to the conditioning associated with the MMORPG genre, but even they eventually can't stand it anymore and leave.

---

The matter of solving this problem definitively more or less means gutting the MMORPG genre, removing many of it's staples so that the rampant elitism and idiotic behaviour has nowhere to latch onto. Removing the gear ladder (or gear altogether), removing progression, removing anything remotely competitive; just let it be a place for people to hop in and have fun in the world without having to commit to it. There's no rewards to obtain or far-off goals to complete, only fun to be had; be it enjoying the gameplay or exploring the world.

And in doing so, what would be left of the MMORPG genre? A large world to fool around in, filled with events created by the playerbase: open-world PvP, impromtu dance parties, naked gnome races, and so on. Indeed, the best and most unique parts of the genre.... much of which I saw in World of Warcraft before any of the expansions were implemented, but were completely unheard of afterwards. Why did they disappear?

And for the short version:
Let players make their own fun, and they will do so.

---

Progression & advancement are too prevalent in the genre, they're what has made it into the endless treadmill occupied by a sea of ego-stroking idiotic jerks. When one person gets it into their head they have to be better than everyone else (often simply because they can measure it), it becomes infectious. And there you have it, all the fun is sucked out of the genre because someone wants to make themselves feel better than everyone else and can't shut up about it.

The only way to minimize it (getting rid of it entirely won't happen) is to make their obsession a clear waste of time and absolutely not worthy of praise. The general playerbase will then pursue other activities, ones which are more entertaining.

Like naked gnome races.

The Abhorrent:
Progression & advancement are too prevalent in the genre, they're what has made it into the endless treadmill occupied by a sea of ego-stroking idiotic jerks. When one person gets it into their head they have to be better than everyone else (often simply because they can measure it), it becomes infectious. And there you have it, all the fun is sucked out of the genre because someone wants to make themselves feel better than everyone else and can't shut up about it.

Assholes and idiots are not a genre phenomenon though. Have you ever played an online shooter? Come back and tell me it's the fault of the "MMO treadmill" that people act like buffoons online.

I'm going to have to stick with the Greater Internet Fuckward Theory on that front.

Sixcess:
WoW is the undisputed king of the pallete swap monster and yes, there's not much difference between a lvl 5 hungry wolf, a lvl 20 rabid wolf or a lvl 80 monstrous wolf save for color and size.

In defense of WoW, though, that's not entirely true. Something as simple as one wolf having a bleed, and another having BAF and a howl that fears you, can completely change the dynamics of the experience. WoW's issue was by it's third expansion it had become painfully easy and rote, so it didn't matter what the mobs were doing, you were facerolling them all anyway.

In New Vegas, all enemies were essentially the same to me. The only difference between them was the size of the hitbox around their head as I sniped them from 500 miles away. Yet no one would ever have accused New Vegas of palette swapping or grinding. WoW does a fair job providing a diverse menagerie to beat on. If it's guilty of a "grind", it's the rinse/repeat nature of raiding, and 90% of the pain of raiding is created by your compatriots as they take turns running to the bathroom, taking smoke breaks or having a fap.

You're right. I never said I didnt enjoy most genres. I enjoy SC2, even though I am ambominable at the MP. But some of my friends get into arguments over BF3 and MW3, whne they are based on the same format. Most moder warfare shooters seem to have the same format, like most MMO's. It's like the big game industries have lost most of their imagination. Which is confusing, because Blizzard come up with stuff like Diablo 3 and SC2.

Sixcess:
Snip

Sorry Six, but Guppy muscled in and finished out the conversation for you, and as work is getting a bit busy now I don't have time to read your explanations though I'm sure you brought up plenty of good points.

Though one part I did notice while skimming through it was that you said you take Yahtzee's views on MMO's "with a mountain of salt". Pretty sure you mean "grain of salt" as a "mountain of salt" would actually probably be worth a lot of money and thus highly valued...implying that you highly value and agree with his opinions. Buuuuuut that's just the semantics nazi in me speaking up. Gotta use my english degree for something...god knows it doesn't apply to many jobs, apparently. >.>

BloatedGuppy:

RJ 17:
They feed off the latent addictive nature in all humans by promising people "shiny new epic lewtz" if you play for just another 8 hours! JUST 8 MOAR HOURS! Only to kick the player in the balls by having the boss NOT drop the item they need, thus ensuring that the players are snared for another day of gaming.

It's just a cheap tactic to ensure that people keep playing your game and I'm sick of it and the hordes of mindless zombies that such games spawn!

Did you ever play EQ? That game was actually a Skinner Box. No fudging around it, that was some addictive shit. Just fiendish.

I still pine for it, mind you.

Only MMO I played was WoW, I was with it from the beginning till the end of content updates for Burning Crusade. That was what, about 4 years or so? And I was in DEEP. I wasn't blowing off commitments and becoming a recluse, but every second of free time that I had was spent in the World of Warcraft.

So no, I didn't get to play EQ, though I had a couple friends that played it and that's how I know it's nickname of Ever Crack. They couldn't fully explain WHY they were so thoroughly addicted to the game...but at the same time they couldn't deny that they were indeed thoroughly addicted to the game, just like a crackhead. :P

Sigma Castell:
You're right. I never said I didnt enjoy most genres. I enjoy SC2, even though I am ambominable at the MP. But some of my friends get into arguments over BF3 and MW3, whne they are based on the same format. Most moder warfare shooters seem to have the same format, like most MMO's. It's like the big game industries have lost most of their imagination. Which is confusing, because Blizzard come up with stuff like Diablo 3 and SC2.

Diablo and Starcraft weren't particularly innovative even when they were new. Blizzard has never been tremendously innovative. Their hallmark has always been robust mechanics and heavy polish.

Really though, big studios answer to shareholders, and shareholders tend to be risk adverse, which is why you see so many "play it safe" retreads of proven concepts. No one wants to be the one to venture out on a limb and fall to their death. Innovation needs to be driven by independents and small, private studios, and the big studios will continue to steal and refine those ideas once they've become proven hits. It's the circle of life!

RJ 17:
Gotta use my english degree for something...god knows it doesn't apply to many jobs, apparently. >.>

RJ 17:
Only MMO I played was WoW, I was with it from the beginning till the end of content updates for Burning Crusade. That was what, about 4 years or so? And I was in DEEP. I wasn't blowing off commitments and becoming a recluse, but every second of free time that I had was spent in the World of Warcraft.

So no, I didn't get to play EQ, though I had a couple friends that played it and that's how I know it's nickname of Ever Crack. They couldn't fully explain WHY they were so thoroughly addicted to the game...but at the same time they couldn't deny that they were indeed thoroughly addicted to the game, just like a crackhead. :P

WoW was actually a legitimately compelling game in some ways. It was crisp and responsive and easy to learn and play. The art style was friendly, the world was huge, and it was bursting at the seams with content, even if some of that content wasn't particularly propulsive or mechanically sophisticated.

EQ was fascinating and had some truly unique elements that will never be seen again (like its hideous difficulty), but was far more addictive. You'd be squatting in a damp cave for 5 hours doing absolutely nothing but waiting for some rare mob to spawn so you could grab a quest item, and in the back of your mind this whispering voice would be screaming "What on earth am I DOING!?".

woodaba:
-snip-

If you think MMOs are inherently and universally un-fun, Blizzard would like to have a word with you. And Gpotato. And all the other makers of perfectly successful MMORPGs. Seriously, just because the games don't jive well with you doesn't mean there's something wrong with them. I don't like coffee, but I don't go around saying all coffee makers are doing it wrong and that they need to completely throw away what they're doing now to make me happy. I'll just drink something else.

New types of MMOs are always nice, and we should never stop exploring new ways of doing it. But never say something is inherently wrong because you don't like it, especially when millions around the world like it just fine. That's just ignorant.

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