MMOs Never Had a Chance

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | 45

The massively multiplayer online game genre, if that is even a thing, never had a chance. It has long been dead, and we’re still standing around its corpse, poking at it with sticks. We’re anxiously awaiting the next vestige of something we all once loved, to dribble out of its bloated carcass and ultimately disappoint us. What’s really sick is that we know a giant pile of garbage is headed straight for us, but we’re all too busy making Richard Garriott and Notch richer to move out of the way.


In the mid to late 90s when Raph Koster, Brad McQuaid, and the rest of those dorks were living in their parents basement, smoking weed, and not having sex - extremely backwards things were happening. The most advanced systems that would ever occupy massively multiplayer games were being developed and implemented by said dorks. It’s like an adolescent hitting adulthood before puberty; it makes no goddamn sense.

See, most of the time games of a particular genre grow in complexity over time. If you compare DOOM to Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty, there’s no denying that the latter titles have evolved quite a bit from their predecessors. Even if you take the graphics and sound away, we didn’t have features like iron sights or destructible terrain when DOOM was conceived. AI was much simpler, physics were non-existent, real-time multiplayer was not a thing. The FPS genre had time to mature, evolve, and required who knows how many iterations to figure things out. Maybe Call of Duty and Battlefield aren’t your ideal games, but at least they are progress.

MMOs don’t exhibit any of that. Take away the veneer from World of Warcraft, and you have a game which takes a gigantic leap backwards from its predecessors. Sure World of Warcraft looks better, plays better, and has all the bells and whistles a modern day game engine should - but it is an extremely basic game at its core. Where did features like open world housing, localized economies, territory control and deep crafting systems disappear to? This genre is so messed up that Everquest, the game WoW most resembles, had to dumb itself down and make itself more like Warcraft to survive.

"The Genre is half baked."    - not Dave Chappelle
Given the development lifecycle of your typical MMO, there has been no room for iterative improvement. Star Wars Galaxies and Shadowbane were the last MMOs with major publishers that really did things differently, and weren’t gigantic heaps of shit (Shadowbane was extremely buggy but still exhibited innovation). Ultima Online released in 1997. World of Warcraft set the model for success in 2004 and killed any need to continue innovating. MMOs peaked way too early. Some recent titles borrowing on old systems are doing new things - like Darkfall, Mortal and WURM - but they’re also extremely niche games with proportionately small audiences.

I suppose this is a pretty common trend we’ve been experiencing across all genres of games, but then again most are much simpler than the MMO genre, so the impact isn’t as noticeable. Some are experiencing their renaissance and, others not so much. I know one thing though - don’t expect any innovation to come crawling out of this pile any time soon.

45 comments :

  1. "...I know one thing though - don’t expect any innovation to come crawling out of this pile any time soon."
    Damn. Back to Ultima Akalabeth I guess...

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  2. I will continue to seek out innovation where I can find it because it does exist in this genre beyond the WoW launch. Archeage is more of the same yet a step forward. Hopefully gamers flock to it at release because unlike niche titles such as Mortal Online it has a chance at some mass appeal. Then perhaps we can get a few games that are more then quest hubs with a gear grind at the end that actually have a dang budget.

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  3. That's probably your safest bet.

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  4. Whether archeage is a step forward or not is debatable. Unfortunately seeking out innovation in the genre means playing games with five other people who feel the same way you do.

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  5. This sunny bullshit already got Nat in trouble.

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  6. Did someone call for some Love and Rainbows? I've got a BIG hug with your name on it!

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  7. I agree with all this, but I am interested in knowing what you think may be the cause of this? Simply to satisfy the underachieving gamer with the attention span the size of a photon? Do we just have to wait for something good to mistake its way into our PCs or, what can we do other than try to find a kickstarter projekt which either has our interests at heart or is trying to rob us?

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  8. I give it a 4/10 on actual hatred for MMORPGs. It opened so strong but dissolved into nerd tears and MTG Tournament insults.


    I call fraud. This man bears nothing but love for MMORPGs behind a tough-guy exterior.

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  9. Yes, he's clearly a huge fanboy! *steps out of the way*

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  10. Also, what does any of this have to do with Java?

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  11. I see these kind of tantrums every day from my 4 year old. Kid'll be great when he learns to cite sources.

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  12. Saying there hasn't been any innovation is unfair. True, there may not be any systems-innovations, but there has been a TON of new particle physics!

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  13. I didn't know you were such great friends with Raph Koster and Brad McQuaid. Please tell them to send me pot and pizza.

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  14. Your four year old cites sources when throwing tantrums? Is he autistic?

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  15. Do you even find (dungeons) bro?

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  16. WoW Clones.
    I've consciously avoided WoW. Heard it was crap couple of times, never even looked at it. After playing multiple other MMOs, I've noticed they had soms similarities: grind, empty servers, soloing playerbase that refuses to die, pay to win ads, huge boobs, and skinny gay elf lore.

    In 2013 I finally bought WoW. Got to 90 in a week, ran couple dungeons and never played again. It surprisingly did not share said similarities with any of the previous MMOs. Or any other ones I played later.

    And then I realised: every single game that will ever try to improve upon a.k.a. copy WoW will fail. They will never have the money, time, experience, endlessly refined technology, brand and testosterone that Blizztard posesses.

    Nail to the coffin is today's focus on PvP. WoW was not originally a PvP game. They did not split the community in half on day 1. They enforced cooperation and making friends, joining guilds. Class dependencies. Teaming up to achieve common goal. WoW's PvP servers are still empty.

    Richard Garriot really wants to visit space one last time.

    Housing is a cancer of all video games.

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  17. Okay, there is a lot here I really disagree with. PvP circa the late 90's was non-exclusive and fully collaborative. In Ultima Online, you could kill (or team up with) anyone you feel had wronged you in any way. There were tangible consequences, and potential rewards.


    World of Warcraft turned PvP into PvE. By that I mean, they whittled it down to a series of repeatable actions and paper-rock-scissors class balance. They did split the population in half, but because there was no inherent risk or reward to PvP, the only reason to do it was for the joy of causing grief. This attitude spilled over into other games with better systems.


    Games that copy WoW (to your point) are usually far more successful than one who don't. The only reason WoW ultimately wins out is because they have a decade of content expansions (and brand recognition). No game has been relatively successful since World of Warcraft that didn't deliberately rip them off. Period.


    Housing is an amazing feature if it isn't instanced garbage, but I suspect you are relatively new on the scene and haven't seen good implementations.

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  18. "By that I mean, they whittled it down to a series of repeatable actions and paper-rock-scissors class balance. They did split the population in half, but because there was no inherent risk or reward to PvP, the only reason to do it was for the joy of causing grief. This attitude spilled over into other games with better systems."


    I heart you and I'm sorry for everything I said about your face on Twitter.

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  19. Will do! I'll tell them to seal the packaging with kisses.

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  20. Gentle kisses earmarked for the neck!

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  21. Let me expand then.


    PvP in persistent world is fun only for players with KD>=1. Not so much for everyone else. In shooters everything is instanced. You play the match, if you win its fine, if you lose you rage for a little, and move on. In persistent world however, each death is an ethernal mark that torments you for the rest of your characters' life. You get teabagged by enemy and at the same time mocked by allies. It's MOBA all over again. Just on bigger scale and the nightmarish match never ends. And you've joined in the middle of the match as level 1.
    If EVE had just nullsec, it would be dead by now.


    Instanced housing is not harmful. It's just fancy storage menu. Public housing however, that's a different story. I would love you to give me a well implemented example of this, Miguelito. But from what I've seen, there are 2 decent-ish approaches, both happen to exist in Minecraft.
    One is that each player has its own chunk and cannot build anywhere else. It's bad because you cannot create local shared structure that can benefit your neighbors. Second is that each player has its own chunk, but can build between the chunks. It also sucks, because when you create such thing and make your neighbors happy, there will always be some dufus that will destroy it, even if it's just a cobblestone highway.


    Both have the same common flaw: There are more buildings then active players. Even if somehow admins keep up to date and remove empty/inactive chunks, cities are still so infinitely large, and empty that nobody really gives a shit what happens on your chunk. It's probably worse than instanced housing.

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  22. That's pretty much dead wrong. The thing that drew me into Ultima Online originally was the danger. If you're hung up on carrying your (fake) life's savings with you everywhere, you're going to have a bad time regardless. This type of attitude reminds me of kids who won't get into the pool because their legs seem cold standing on the step. Once you're in there, you get it; but without taking the leap, you couldn't possibly know it's pretty sweet. The griefer culture is a whole other issue, but that culture was CREATED by the sissified game systems, not the other way around.


    Open-World housing and PvP are (and should be) tied together because having an impromptu safe-zone gives you a strategic advantage. Ultima Online originally had a system where you could place a house on any flat land large enough to support it. This was a functional system, but did result in over-crowding. There were ways to get around this, but they hadn't imagined in their wildest dreams that the game would be so earth-shattering. If there isn't any risk in the world, housing isn't necessary. At all.


    I mean, you're free to disagree, but my opinions come from experience; not theory.

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  23. If your is KD<=1, and you're mad about it. Stop playing so poorly.

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  24. That's not really fair, but conquest-type games certainly do try and make death really frustrating.

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  25. IMO get good or get got - games are about being challenged and learning to overcome said challenges. Not having your hand held through a choppy narrative tied loosely together by mind-numbing quests. You're comparing lobby based shooters to MMOs and you're complaining about tea-bagging? I think you need to reevaluate where you're coming from.

    Nullsec is the reason EVE is what it is - the game would collapse without the dynamic systems nullsec makes possible. EVE would be pretty boring if there was no threat of venturing into space and getting blown up. I don't know if you've ever tried PvE in eve but it's not exactly entertaining, much less exciting.

    Minecraft is the successful only implementation of open world housing? What about Ultima Online? Star Wars Galaxies?


    You need to play more than one MMO and minecraft before you can form conclusions like these.

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  26. I play well. But the cost of me playing well is that players who I've defeated leave. And never come back. And the numbers are decreasing, and the game dies.

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  27. It ment: If I launch EVE as new player and get shot in the face rather than get shown a tutorial, I'll probably turn around and quit. Else I'd be a masochist.

    Yes, I'm a pretty young person from a god forsaken country, and when WoW was coming out, I still did not have internet nor knew english language.

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  28. Eve needs both sectors to survive. High sec players bring the cash to CCP with the 100s of thousands of missioning/manufacturing bears. While null sec gives a meaningful reason for all of that to exist. Without both parts you have a broken/uninteresting game (*cough* Darkfall *cough*)


    I will list good housing for you in mmos: Wurm Online, Eve Online (pos tower system sort of counts), Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies (if you missed it check out the emulator, the game is running great), Albion Online, Salem Online. Mediocre housing: ArcheAge, Everquest 2, Rift. Terrible Housing: Lotro


    I usually scale a games housing to this: Open World anywhere housing > open world limited housing > Instanced housing > 0 housing


    I will take a game with instanced housing over a game with none any day even if it just means I have storage space.

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  29. EvE is a pretty good game, for such a shitty game!

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  30. WoW is confusing, ok hor can a warcraft game be that carebear, I mean think about it. I tried it, hated it, left, but before battlefields. So the BF, I have no idea how they are, but really Blizzard, I remember playing Warcraft 1 & making bloody piles of Horde on the ground. If there was a modern SB (updated graphics & crafting) I would 110% go for it.

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  31. Clearly the solution is to make an MMO where losers aren't allowed to quit. Make them sign contracts, and if they quit, they get sued for all their money. The only way out is to fight their way to the top! Or at least fight their way to a high enough ranking that they're no longer considered losers.

    Another idea is to hire cheap American prison labour to play MMOs, thus ensuring that there's a healthy player base for every American MMO. Probably easier to enforce must-play rules/laws when the players are already locked up.

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  32. Haven and hearth does public housing well. It can be destroyed and if on unclaimed land it will slowly decay and vanish.

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  33. Did you play on a PVE server? You didn't get in on the early days of WoW during which it was all about pvp just for the fun of it.

    At one point, Southshore, a level 25-30ish are was constantly overrun with fighting between max leveled characters in an all out war. There wasn't much of a goal beyond killing the shopkeepers and flightmasters, but it was a lot of fun.

    I also think that it is remembered so fondly because it was a battleground of the players' choosing. It was one of the lowest level pvp areas that was used both by alliance and horde, which lead to small battles that blew up.

    There was no honor points or anything like that, it was just about playing for fun, and it was a blast.

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  34. I'll agree, that phase of vanilla was fun with one caveat. People who weren't done leveling yet basically got camped until they logged out. That's why I believe that this sort of pussymode risk-free pvp system is designed specifically for the purpose of causing grief.


    Open PvP is good, but if there is no risk, it creates an extremely toxic community.

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  35. That could happen, but Blizzard's stance was always that there is a PVP solution to that problem, which was to get friends to help you. I guess that you had to understand that risk when you rolled on a pvp server. It was a pretty sandboxy stance on the issue, which I think was a good thing.


    In my experience, camping happened to me a few times, but it wasn't so bad that I couldn't play at all, and I leveled on a server with quite a few more of the enemy faction than my own.

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  36. What you're describing is zerg tactics as both a problem and solution. It was a broken system to the majority of players so they created an even shittier system to replace it. Battlegrounds... What followed is the terrible garbage people play now.

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  37. I don't insult people, but you suck...just kidding. Seriously, that's not the "risk" he was referring to. He is talking about creating fear to attack. The very idea that your bad decision might lead to something other than a short walk or instant resurrection. Risk is the reason ultima online was successful. It is what is missing from mmos. Blizzard did not need to change the pvp system at all, they needed to add risk and a reason. Why the hell can't I attack undercity and take lorderon? Why the hell can an entire raid of horde run into storm wind and no one cares? This was ORCS AND HUMANS! PVP at its very core. All out war, not e-sports. Getting killed is not a risk by itself.

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  38. You have to admit it. His comment about, "pay to win ads, huge boobs, and skinny gay elf lore" was awesome. I got a chuckle.

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  39. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Wall of text crits for zillions of damage. Caused blindness for three rounds. Oh shit...I said rounds. I'm giving away my age.

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  40. Pancakes are awesome if you like ketchup.

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  41. and god. Add in your opinions come from god...

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