Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 7
I've decided that today is the day that I impart my vast wealth of knowledge on the dregs in the game development industry. There are a lot of ways that MMORPGs could be less bad, but I'm going to try and target the ones that I care about the most.
Remember, if you disagree or think that something else should be on the list, leave me a comment telling me why I'm wrong. Without further Adieu:
5. The MMO Identity CrisisMMORPGs have recently attempted to blur the lines between genres (MMOFPS, MMORTS, etc...). This might seem harmless, but in fact it is destroying the standards of the original genre. Once a bottom of the barrel MMORPG is released with a first person shooter combat system, other legitimate games look at that as an improvement in the genre, and deemphasize things that were originally more important, such as design, originality, vision, cohesion, or fun.
Developers stopped looking at MMORPGs as a genre, but instead just elements to be added to other types of games. Terrible... If that isn't bad enough, half-assed self proclaimed media sources like MMORPG.com praise these devolutions as ground breaking.
4. Micromanagement isn't fun for anyone... ever...I apologize to Eve Online fans in advance, but they're probably too busy doing math for fun to read this post. Nobody (except accountants) want to play a game that forces them to micromanage every aspect of their character. If someone has to check a chart to see if 12 strength is as good as 24 attack power, there are twice as many stats as there need to be. This is not depth in the correct area of the game.
Complexity in MMORPGs should be reserved for puzzles, and PvP, not for mandatory max/min sessions. In my opinion, that is the line between a game and a job.
3. MMORPGs should be social firstDon't misunderstand. I'm not saying that community is more important in MMORPGs, I'm just saying that the entire point of an MMORPG is to have the randomness that comes with real people being in control. Any way that limitations on interaction are implemented spits in the face of what a MMORPG is supposed to be. The most fun part of a MMORPG is the possibility that at any time a nude person could run by and insult you in fun and creative ways.
Companies like Blizzard have made sure that free speech doesn't on their servers. My account was once temporarily suspended for saying "Balls for you" in general chat... True story. I suppose it is part of the kid friendliness that they're trying to promote. Just because the crack they sell is in Flintstones chewable tablet form doesn't mean they aren't crack dealers...
2. Too many arbitrary restrictionsRestrictions in an MMORPG are all intentional. Even Gandalf used a sword when the situation deemed it necessary, but for some reason your almighty hero in MMORPG Land can't pick up a broom if it isn't class appropriate. If I want to exert my creativity, why the hell shouldn't I be able to make a shitty sorceror with plate mail and a two handed Axe of Jesus +2?
The main cop-out answer is balance. Balance is an abstract concept derived from the idea that people shouldn't ever have to use creativity to solve problems. I pose this theoretical encounter:
An archer is raining down arrows on you, and you'd certainly die if you stay out in the open. What do you do?
A. Use natural cover and positioning to close ground on the archer and fight him at close range.
B. Accept that you're not situationally prepared for the archer and retreat to fight again another day.
C. Run directly at him , die, then write an e-mail to support about how your class simply can't kill an archer.
If you chose any answer except C, you are not mentally retarded... Congratulations. Sadly, developers only hear from the people who chose C and they assume that the only solution for morons is to either make them much stronger or the archers much weaker. This is inherently a flawed system since paper-rock-scissors type combat promotes creativity and group tactics.
Those who answered C are the #1 reason MMORPGs suck.
1. The Carebear EffectThe worst thing about MMORPGs is that the vocal minority in the player base are capable of driving both the development of unreleased games (via forums), as well as the subsequent balancing patches of games released (via whining to administrators). This is quite obviously the most broken system in MMORPGs. I would still be playing Ultima Online today if their development team hadn't listened to the 8 people who couldn't survive in the harsh FFA PvP environment.
Carebears stifle creativity and progress in many aspects of our culture (both inside and outside of gaming). 12 pussies complained about how death penalties made Everquest too difficult, so all next-gen MMORPGs treat death like a form of slightly off-putting fast travel. If these gaming terrorist aren't stopped then we're looking forward to a future full of Hello Kitty Onlines... I'm not excited about that.
Shit, I hate carebears... I think I'll put that on a shirt or something.