MMORPG’s are not Single-player Games

Why are MMO’s becoming single-player games?  I’m not referring to the ‘easy vs. hard’ content argument of the WoW-clone generation, being able to solo everything instead of needing a group.  That was last generation’s issue.  I am referring to the open and deliberate act of making a very core part of a MMO into a single-player experience as if the players were offline.  Blatant examples include SWTOR’s heavy instancing and personal story, and now The Elder Scrolls Online.

The Elder Scrolls Online Creative Director, Matt Firor, was interviewed by GameInformer as part of their ongoing TESO coverage.  Here’s a quote from Firor:

“We have a whole part of the game which is one hundred percent solo, which is the main story where the world focuses on you. You’re the hero.  Everything you do is solo, and the world reacts to you that way.” [Via GameInformer]

If it’s so important to your game that the player be the hero in the story, why are you making a MMO?  MMO’s suck at being single-player games.  Did you skip SWTOR?  What makes MMO’s any good at all are the multiplayer elements.  Take those away and what are you left with? A game worse than the one you could have made if you actually made a single-player  RPG.

Catering to this mystery demographic, maybe the casuals, who want single-player content is killing the MMO identity.  There are other mediums through which better games can be delivered to a player wanting to be the center of attention in a game. MMO’s are not about one single individual player changing the world.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  MMO’s are about a world that exists, and the player chooses to participate in that world.  The world is what changes and the players are expected to react to it — not the other way around!

Developers are literally trying to sell us on the idea that massively multiplayer games are evolving into single-player games.   Please, post a comment if you buy into this nonsense and explain why you support the idea.  I think it’s purely a poor business decision — trying to take a piece of that lucrative “MMO” pie — and has nothing to do with making better games.

  • Thank you so much for finally writing about this topic. I have been feeling the same way about how all of these MMOs nowadays are simply single player games with other people hanging around. I HATE it! I miss the days of going out with a group of people to discover dangerous lands that would massacre a person if they tried to do it alone. I miss the special feeling of having specified roles for each class. (Remember having someone go out and actually specialize in pulling mobs back to your party?) Now it seems all classes can do everything. I know I sound like an old gamer who can’t let go of the good old days, but that is why I fell in love with this genre, and it hasn’t been seen again since. So sad…

  • Because it is the future! I mean, why would I want to play with others in a MMO? If I wanted to play with other people, I’d just play a game with a multiplayer component!

    Note that my previous paragraph was written using the Sarcastica Font. I am now back to Tahoma. This has been one of the things that has been turning me off to most MMOs these days. I started playing them with UO and EQ. I also played Shadowbane (which is a given) and DAoC but since then, it’s hard to find a game with a good community component to it… which was what got me into UO in the first place. I already have plenty of single-player games I can play when I want to be Mr. Sole Hero. And I have multiplayer games where I can just play with a few friends. But when I play an MMO, I want to participate in the community. Most games aren’t really touting that aspect anymore… sure they talk about you and your friends… you and your guild… but what about the server community as a whole? Where did those go?

    Maybe its just me but I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find that component in most MMOs these days.

  • I agree with you, although I am guilty of soloing more than grouping lately. I’m just not a fan of instances which puts me in the “casual” spectrum because instances are about the only thing developers do for group content anymore. Even if I am a casual, I would weep mighty manly tears of joy if a game rewarded (or at least fostered) open world grouping. SWTOR tried with upping XP gains by grouping, but they made their regular content so ridiculously easy it’s almost a waste of time. Not to take this into a “in my day…” thing, but some of my best memories of gaming was just BSing with my group in EQ in between pulls at a camp.

    Granted, I don’t have the magic idea that would make everyone happy but I sure as hell hope someone does soon.

  • I think you’re off base here. I could write several paragraphs, but what it boils down to is that this isn’t a “mystery demographic”. If either Bioware or Bethesda had eschewed single player content, they would have thrown their loyal fanbases of the last decade+ under the spiked wheels of the MMO bus. That would have been rude. They are rightfully respecting and catering to their fans, and they should be respected for it in turn.

  • I think there are a couple of causes. The first one could be from the aging fanbase of the earlier MMOs. A lot of those players are now graduated out into the real world with a job that works them more than they want and quite possibly a family of their own which commands much more of their attention. I think the developers, a lot of who may fall into this same demographic, are trying to build games that give their players more things to do when they can only log on for the half hour between dinner and bath time, or after their kids are asleep and they aren’t too far behind. The second is that I think companies are finally realizing that they aren’t going to beat WoW at its own game and they are trying to get that next big thing. Couple that with investors who aren’t interested in a new game that strays so far from the mold of the franchises they are working with, and you end up with a game that doesn’t do either as well as a more focused game would.

  • I certainly agree wholeheartedly, but then again I have an obvious disdain for games like SWTOR. Perhaps we need someone who plans to keep paying a sub for SWTOR long-term to give the counter-point? I’ll repeat my point from another thread:

    I am bored of games that try to make me feel like the most powerful individual on the mysterious and secretive Dark Council, when in reality I spend large chunks of time playing Huttball to get a token to buy a new pair of gloves in between selling stacks of Blue Goo on thee GTN with all of the other Dark Council members running around Fleet.

    Perhaps it is the simplistic Turf and Surf mentality of large buffet restaurants. The devs believe that if thy offer everything in principle they will get as many people as possible to try it, but will they stay?

    I think this approach has merit for a non-sub game, which can shoot for a 1-3 month crowd, but that model would likely need to charge for expac’s and nowadays have a cash shop.

    Single player/coop “MMO’s” with theme park minigames tacked on in a hodgepodge fashion are unlikely to support a long-term subscription base. I think that the idea to incorporate MMO elements into this type of RPG is likely due to a belief that it will keep people around paying on a sub, that is a purely financially derived motive.

    This flawed game design is bad for the field in general as the AAA gaming companies start taking losses on these massively expensive and yet short-sighted projects.

  • Agree 100% on this.

    Why not make single player games with a “Multiplayer” component?

    e.g. The original Never Winter Nights had dozens of community run servers, where small populations could mingle and quest.

    MMO’s represent HUGE risks for developers and publishes alike. I don’t get why everyone is convinced it’s the only way to move forward.

    The fact is, I don’t really care much for playing with strangers.

    Diablo III has been a great example of “Single player meets co-op” play. We need more RPG’s like that.

  • The more I hear about the Elder Scrolls MMO…. the less I actually want to play it.

  • @KittyKitty

    I didn’t read anything in Keen’s post that suggested he believes that MMO developers “eschew” single player content as you seem to suggest.

    The problem as I see it is that, while I believe soloing should be a viable alternative, MMOs these days seem to favor solo content as “optimal.” In other words, there is little group content available outside instances and, in many cases, grouping up actually hampers progression. Which, for many MMO players, is a death knell and therefore, will never be done.

    I recall once playing WAR and trying to do PQs for reputation rewards. Then a couple folks joined me and I noticed that my rep gains for each kill was split evenly by the number of players with no grouping bonus. In other words, as soon as those two other folks joined me, my reputation gain per kill went down to 1/3 of what it was, and we certainly weren’t killing mobs 3 times as fast. Even when we could, we would run out of mobs and have to wait for spawns. I found this even split was true with XP rewards as well. That is when it hit me that Mythic had actually created a system that PUNISHES their players for grouping up together and I could see no logical reason for it.

    So many games do that these days. I understand wanting to have a viable solo experience. I don’t understand making soloing the optimal means of progression. It is an MMO after all…

  • MMO’s suck at being single-player games.

    No they don’t. Modern MMOs are usually better at single-player than most single-player games.

    It is really quite simple. Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim and Mass Effect (and… what else lately?) are all great RPGs. And they all end, usually after ~40 hours of gameplay, but sometimes can stretch into the 100-300 hour territory if you push it. So basically they cap out in the 1-2 week range, or after 6-10 weeks on the upper end of casual play (~20 hours/week). That is barely 2 months. When we talk about MMOs, the milestones we use are 3 and 6 month increments, on the low end.

    Besides, when you get right down to it, you do the same sort of things in MMOs that you do in RPGs: quests, killing thousands of monsters, getting gear/XP, getting a story-arc, and so on. The only real difference? The MMO is “living.” It doesn’t end. There are regular patches and new content. Plus, when you are up for a little Show & Tell, you have an audience right in town. When you don’t, well, the good MMOs still let you accomplish things.

    It’s win-win… unless you get hung up on what terms “should” mean, like those debates in the 90s over whether the Zelda games technically count as RPGs.

  • In fairness to SWTOR, the solo content was pretty good. Running through class stories in a duo in probably the most fun way to play the game – regardless of what your thoughts on what an MMO should be.

    I’m going to write a separate blog post, as there’s too much to go into in a comment, but fundamentally I think you are wrong to refer to the ‘mystery demographic’. These are average players, perhaps in your guild, who are going about their business in a MMO world by themselves. Choose your favourite game and run a /who or equivalent. I think you might be surprised how many such players there are out there.

    That is not to say that Zenimax Online have a clue what they’re doing. My spidey sense is telling me bad things about this game.

  • @Azuriel: In my opinion, length is not related to quality — especially in this scenario. MMO’s don’t have better single-player gameplay than single-player games, and I havent’ felt a “living” MMORPG since the days of EQ, DAoC, and SWG. Playing with others to show and tell negates the single-player argument.

    I disagree with, well, everything you just said.

    @KittyKitty: Respect the players by creating a single-player game if that’s what you want to make and what your fans want. If your fans want a MMO, make them a MMO. Don’t make a horrible single-player game and a horrible MMO, combine them, and think for a second that you’re respecting anyone.

    @Bernard: There’s a difference between people wanting to play by themselves and “solo” and developers creating single-player MMO’s. I’m fine with people wanting to play solo, but if you want a single-player game then MMO’s are -NOT- for you.

  • I think there might be some discrepancy in what context either side is using the term “single-player” (SP). I believe this to be true as I agree with both Keen and Azuriel, but for different reasons.

    On Keen’s side I see the term SP in a RPG context where everyone is epically advanced to have a rich story arc where you eventually become King Arthur. As I implied in an earlier statement there are only so many Excalibur’s that can go round before the magic becomes mundane ( One is at a bit of a loss when the story progression ends with the last big boss fight; what is left in an MMORPG context is a bunch of people standing around the water cooler (read PvP lobby) telling the same story of how they destroyed Sauron. RPG’s demand a feeling of unique epicness.

    On Azuriel’s side I see the term SP meaning that I can play an MMO solo, which in actuality is the way I have played the majority of PvE content in most MMO’s to date. This is a matter of playing style and both can be accommodated, as easily as deciding what level mob one should pull, but also with event scaling.

    I feel there is a difference interacting in a world full of stories that I can play a part in versus “a whole part of the game which is one hundred percent solo, which is the main story where the world focuses on you. You’re the hero.”

    Too many heroes and not enough minions if you ask me.

    People think they want everything, but in reality this doesn’t work well in games. Try remembering playing in a new DM’s D&D game when a +5/+5 Flaming Vorpal Sword dropped for your level 5 Barbarian, freaking awesome! …and then the +10 Mithral Shield, amazing! …and then the 10 +6 Rings of Protection, and so on.

    There is only so much interest that can be maintained in a Monty Haul group scenario where THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE, except of course for everyone else…

    Solo play in an MMO context is cool, but seamless integration of an epic RPG story into an MMO context (where people are expected to interact frequently in a predominantly non-instanced fashion) is another matter. Massively individually instanced story lines connected by lobbies are just an illusion of a Massively Multiplayer Online game by my definition.

  • Agree totally with the post. I’m tired of the genre catering to rambling idiots that can’t play with others without extreme hand holding. It’s part of the reason why we’re basically in a genre depression right now, nothing but mediocrity being released the last five years.

  • The cause is the book “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal which cites a bunch of statistics about how people just want to play MMOs as single player games with other people occasionally running by. Read that book if you want to know thy enemy.

  • I’ve made a few argumentative forum posts against people who I felt were criticizing Elder Scrolls Online based purely on speculation.

    But if their Creative Director is going to say ridiculous things like that, I’ll stop bothering.

  • I also feel that a sub for an RPG is a ripoff at least as implemented by its poster child SWTOR.

    If SWTOR had released as a box only charge. I would have given it a Metacritic rating of 7 for a solid RPG, and made a couple disparaging remarks about its feeble minigame multiplayer content. I would have recommended to wait for an Origin sale to pick it up.

    Marketing it as a seamless integration of RPG, MMO, PvE, and PvP (both warzone and open world) warranting a typical MMO $15/month fee on top of a minimum $60 box, puts me in the Metacritic 4 rating category for a poorly executed MMORPG.

    Manufacturing false expectations comes at a critical price.

  • Why are they making single player MMOs? Isn’t it because the “customers” have asked for it? I remember complaints ever since the early MMOs about “forced grouping” which was seen as a negative. It seems to me that going down the solo route is something that is customer driven (by the same customers that dont like anything in MMOs that requires effort).

    Also, solo content is much easier for the Devs to control and control is what MMOs these days are about. That is why we have instances with up to X number of people allowed in it…easy to control…I mean balance. You put out challenging content in the open world that requires a group…then you need to balance it with rewards…the people in the group must get more out of it than if they just did solo content (there always will be some sort of solo content). Of course, then some good players might take advantage of that and reap tons of rewards by doing the content solo or in small numbers.

    If you have good rewards associated with group content then you get a bunch of people automatically whining about the content not being accessible to them because they can only play solo…the easiest solution is to just dumb it all down, bring it to the lowest denominator, and balance it versus solo play unless you go into instances where you can carefully control group content.

  • @Keen

    That’s my point – I believe there is a large demographic that likes to play MMOs ‘solo’ with occasional grouping and a player-driven economy.

    There are numerous ways to address this market – have content that scales according to group size or have alternate progression paths suited to soloing (pet collections, achievements, singleplayer quests).

    You can, of course, ignore this group and tell them to go back to their singleplayer games, but I suggest that this could be a costly mistake for your new MMO.

  • You could solo a pretty good chunk of the old school MMO’s.

    The real issue is that they are making all these “personal stories” and have this weird misguided sense that seems to involve a a somewhat disjointed thinking process; everyone wants their contributions to matter! Therefore everyone wants their actions to change the world! Therefore everyone wants to be the centerpiece to the story! Therefore everyone wants to be the HERO(in)!

    They’re confusing the things people have been clamoring over, and completely misinterpreting it. They keep developing “personal” stories and single player specific content because they have misinterpreted alot of the complaints MMO’s are recieving about being too static and linear and that’s because everyone looks at WoW as their baseline due to its success.

    It’s getting frustrating really, it’s like the new buzz phrase, personal story, solo story, etc. I wish most developers would look farther back at WoW and take a few lessons from the older games that actually did some of this stuff right, that contributing and evolving world/story don’t actually have to mean a solo instance or a solo story line, it’s about contributing to something larger than yourself.

    I will give an example of it done RIGHT… the opening of the gates of ahn’qiraj, sure it was a failure on a TECHNICAL level since blizzard didn’t expect SO MANY PEOPLE to participate (which says something right there), but on a community, server and world level, it was a success of colossal proportions.

    Then nobody decided to copy THAT part because there were crashes and it caused some inconveniences, and then came the instanced zones to alleviate server load…

  • Just to expand on my AQ point, that was a development of story, within the world, where player contributions matter, and everyone wanted to participate and felt they were actually doing something important.

    There were complaints suuure, there is with everything, but the number of people who showed up alone are the evidence to show just how amazing it was, the number of people “participating” didn’t die off towards the end like with most of wow’s events, it was a goal to work towards, it was a story, there was a clear motivation to do it, a goal, and there was encouraged participation from everyone.

    No “personal story” required to be awesome, it wasn’t even remotely soloable (lower pop servers did have issues with this unfortunately), and that made it matter.

  • @Keen

    I am not convinced you even know what you are disagreeing with. “MMO’s don’t have better single-player gameplay than single-player games?” Blanket statement is… blanket? Or would you suggest that, say, The Witcher’s gameplay stacks up favorably against even Warhammer Online’s janky PvE gameplay? The real question though, is figuring out how many single-player games you would be willing to play for even 200 hours without going out of your mind.

    When I talk about “living” games, I mean in the sense that the mechanics and content of the game evolve. No matter how many times you play Deus Ex, it’s the same game; once you have achieved mastery over its mechanics, there is nowhere else to go (story aside, although that’s vanishingly finite as well).

    Finally, Show & Tell does not at all negate the single-player argument: it enhances it. When you beat a single-player game, do you not want to talk about it? Are you not curious as to how other people approached Encounter X? Being able to show other people the achievements you have obtained generates additional single-player content. You want to Show & Tell.

    Even if we assume everyone has the same linear path through this TES MMO storyline, we can still compare notes at the end in a way we couldn’t in, say, Skyrim. Screenshots and Youtube and blog posts just aren’t the same as seeing each other in-game. And knowing you got a cool reward by completing a quest I skipped, gives me motivation to go back and do said quest. By myself.

    Maybe you still consider that multiplayer, in which case we’re talking past one another.

  • First real substantive thing Ive agreed with you Keen in a long time. I do not know what happened but if I had to take a guess it would have to be WoW. I do not believe dumbing the genre down had anything to do with it personally, as some elements of the Big 3 (UO, EQ and AC) just doesnt work well, namely FFA PvP, long grindy gameplay (i.e. camping a set of mobs for hours on end) and 15 mins of buffing to hunt for 30 mins of gameplay.

    WoW bought innovation to the masses and made a very approachable MMO. In Vanilla WoW it wasnt uncommon to level up with passers-by because of the need to tackle emerging gameplay elements like group quests, pre-level cap dungeons, and Attunement quests for specific dungeons. All that fun stuff was slowly phased out in BC and futher expansion packs.

    Games like GW2, DayZ and TSW (to an extent) are trying to bring the social and dynamic elements of solid community building aspects back to the forefront, and other games like TESO, TERA and Copernicus still drive on the solo to end game mantra with not a sign of social interaction. Anyways thats my beliefs and I will stick to them and I will never ever play another WoW modeled themepark ever again.

  • Actually my fav RPG right now is Crusader Kings 2, but what an unforgiving learning curve and watch out for those sneaky Turks!

    The definitions of what a genre of games encompasses likely makes sweeping generalizations difficult to become universally accepted.

    Greed >
    Sloth >
    Pride >
    Envy >
    Lust >
    Wroth >
    Pirating (games) >

  • @Argorius : I too believe that Forced grouping is a bad idea, but the problem is just as bad in reverse, Forced Soloing. Sorry to say games like AC (Asheron’s Call) got this completely right. You could solo to level cap all day, but you would miss out on amazing quests that required groups and your power output or TTK (Time-to-kill) was severely diminished because you sacrificed loot for XP or vice versa, not to mention you were actually rewarded for grouping as an example solo a mob would yield 100% XP, in a 2 man group it would yield 150% xp and in a 3 man would yield 200% XP AND SO FORTH.

  • I tend to agree with you, Keen. I’m in favor of MMOs that facilitate soloing as a fully viable playstyle in the same way I like to crafting and other non-combat activities treated as full progression paths. That’s very different from the nonsense the Elder Scrolls guy is touting up there.

    Of course, I’m completely opposed to his basic premise that “You’re the hero”. I want my characters to be ordinary joes, not heroes. I loathe it when NPCs start spouting on about my characters and how great they are – it’s plain embarrassing.

    The plain fact as I see though must simply be that there’s potential to make a LOT more money by encouraging people who play single-player games to a) play them online and b) keep making incremental purchases to supplement a single game. Once you have the base game made, the incremental costs going forward must be hugely reduced compared to starting over from scratch to make a new game. I think that’s why it’s happening.

    I wouldn’t worry about it. The kind of games you want to play probably only need to attract and hold a few hundred thousand players. Maybe just a few tens of thousands. Virtual world MMOs of the old school should slip back into the hobbyist closet where they were before WoW. Leave the making of those to specialists who understand that market and let the megacorps churn out these online single-player MMOs for the mass market, which we can all happily ignore.

  • I have to say that while I agree that MMOs are not single player games, there is a real and qualified need for content that focuses on the player. I will say that my opinion is greatly effected by my long term play of FFXI, a game that was most definitely aimed at 98% group play, but also focused the storyline of everyone of its main mission sets on the player character being a major force in the world and that their actions were key to the world’s safety.

    There is a place for player focused story content in MMORPGs. What games like SWTOR and Age of Conan proved that there is no place for these stories to not require the assistance of other players in the community.

    We need more reasons for grouping in our MMOs. Currently in the big daddy of them all, World of Warcraft, there is only a single reason to group in the open world at the level cap. “To make daily quests go faster,” simply is not a good reason to group up in an MMO. Games such as FFXI and Tera (and most Asian based subscription MMOs) have put an emphasis on open world grouping for a very long time. Its true that this emphasis came about because of time based design decisions, but they are there and the games are better off for them. You can argue the quality of these games, especially at the end game, but the simple fact is, these games have created real and valid reasons to group up in their games.

    In today’s typical MMO we are often directed into instanced dungeons and that is where the grouping begins and ends. With these Asian MMOs we are shown that story can show us the way to grouping both inside and outside of dungeon content. That endgame does not need to revolve around gear progression based raid/dungeon grinds.

    Just because these MMOs tend to place the player into a major role in the game’s overall plotline does not diminish the role of other players in the world and it does not distance players from grouping up.

    The overall MMO genre broke when WoW was released. Subsequent games have used the WoW model of questing and the “get in and get out” mentality of gameplay and character progression. Gone are the days when progressing your character involved time and interaction with the world at large. Today we are relegated to a game landscape where players need to be able to “progress” in chunks based upon limited time. We live in the LFR generation of MMOs. People need to be able to log on do something of “value” and log out. Unfortunately, this limits the idea of grouping into a “Dungeon Finder” system.

  • That’s why I have such hope in GW2.
    GW2 brings MMO backs to the roots, UO and AC1, where people where grouping as they met in the wild, rather than to be forced to group by the content like in EQ/DAoC/WoW clones.
    I’ve seen more people helping each other in one GW2 beta week end than in 6+ months playing games like SW:TOR, LOTRO or WoW, simply because the game brings people to work together even when they aren’t physically grouped instead of pitting them against each other.
    It’s hard to explain… you depend on others without depending on others. Finally a developer got it right.

  • “Bring back DAoC leveling style when you had to group to level effectively.”
    And nobody would play it. Being FORCED to group is (and has always been) bad. Being encouraged to group and work together while not dismissing other options is the way to go.
    I guess the nostalgics don’t remember how lame it was to have to spam a LFG channel for 30 minutes at least before being able to do anything… and being totally screwed if you were only able to play at “weird” hours.

  • Here is hoping GW2 with public quests and RvR can bring back the old school community feel…

  • Nothing to add, just want to say that I 100% agree with you!

    Ok, I lied, I do have something to add. I think most of the industry (especially the big guys) see MMOs as just a way to fix a major problem of single-player games: short life span. They don’t see it as an entire new genre, with limitless possibilities, like us silly players do. They just want to have a stable environment in which they can throw content every 4,5 months and receive a constant stream of cash.

  • What he said is that they have a ‘part’ of the game which is solo only. He didn’t claim the entire game is like that. This is exactly the same as GW2 with its ‘personal story’ which is solo only.

  • Totally agree. I’ve played great single player Elder Scrolls games. Zenimax is 100% missing the point.

    Stop telling me I saved the universe when I can plainly see that is not the case in the rest of the MMO.

  • The problem is the data. Metrics from successful MMO’s show that 60% of the playerbase play “alone” – not even interacting. Note that this number is not absolute, i.e. a guy could play alone but then hook up with a friend.

    Basically the majority people want to play MMO’s with the option to play together with other people – and the data supports this.

    Thats why publishers insist on the large “single player” content in MMO’s.

  • Yes; Unfortunately, MMO’s are going to be leaning more towards single-player experience. The are several reasons fro this. Developers found out that a big chunk of players end their subscriptions because of frustration. Frustrated players, because they can’t group and/or play MMO content. They want these players back. The mentality/attitude/logistic, of the new 15-25 years old crowd, is very different to the one, ten years ago. This generation doesn’t like to wait, to group, don’t want to be followers, hates seniority, rules, discipline and are extremely individualistic.

  • Every new mmo coming out has a “personal story” doesnt bother me… guild wars 2, the secret world, elder scrolls online, etc..

    All have personal stories.

  • I think it the fact a lot of modern MMOs are single player games trying to make an MMO version of themselves. Thats what swtor is, thats what the elder scrolls is, to some extent thats what GW2 is, even funcom started out as a pretty damn good single player games maker.

    Also besides the technical factor, managing an MMOs population experience in your game is a very hard. Its easier for these people to just make a few group activities instance you out on an adventure and throw some crappy kill and fetch quests inbetween to keep you playing longer.

  • the sooner this “genre” splits apart into subsets that aim to appeal to their own specific audiences (and learn to scope appropriately so that those smaller audiences don’t force them to close down) the better. I hope bhagpuss is right. I don’t personally care that they make these massively single player instanced hero games any more than I care that they make new call of duty games or new barbie fashion games. I’m not the intended audience. I’d just like someone to make one where I was

  • Let me once again emphasize that this isn’t about being able to solo in a MMO. Solo vs. group play is an entirely different argument — one I’m passionate about, mind you.

    What I’m talking about here is literally creating content for a MMO that is designed to be for a single player as if the game were not an MMO at all. SWTOR’s story took the individual player and made the entire MMO hinge on that player.

    Firor did say a “part” of the game — in fact he says the main story — will focus on the solo player. That’s significant. The side quests, the whole game, tend to focus around a game that is story driven. You can argue that SWTOR’s main story was the only real “single-player” aspect, but let’s not fool ourselves by thinking that the rest of the game didn’t end up playing out the same way to keep the flow of the content smooth.

    @filch: I agree.

  • @Kenng

    The GW2 beta did have a community feel with people risking their lives to run into battle and try to get you back up. If there were people around you were going to get a rez sooner than later.

    The skeptics might point out that this was due to getting exp when someone got back up, which certainly fosters and focuses helping out each other, but once this pattern of behavior is established in a community via whatever mechanism it nurtures a feeling of We got to get in there and get that guy up!”

    It was a really cool feeling to rush in during the mass chaos and switch role from dps to trying to get someone up, balancing how close the local mob were to dropping versus how much benefit another player could contribute to the effort if we got him back up; invariably getting the fellow player up felt like a altruistic choice even under these circumstances, and the vast majority of time the favor was returned.

    It is curious how inclusion of a seemingly small game mechanic like helping out a player in the downed state can have a large positive effect on the feeling of camaraderie in a community.

  • The whole solo, accessibility concept of MMO’s has come around only to broaden the potential player base and hence the possible profit. However, these mess so poorly with quality MMOs that it tends to backfire.

    Someone is going to have the stones one day to recreate a truly open, noninstanced virtual world, with a player driven economy, guild warfare, and player housing. Cannot wait for that time…

  • Gaming evolves as the player base evolves. The PC gaming culture in the early days of MMO’s was MUCH different than today. It was primarily gaming geeks who knew how to make their computer work to play the game. As WoW became popular, it expanded the player base to people who normally would only check their email on a PC. A hair stylist that my wife used to go to was a WoW player. That should tell you something.

    The MMO gaming industry is trying to evolve along with its player base. There are several things pushing them towards a more single player focus in an MMO design.

    1) Money. The amount of money it takes to make a thoroughly polished and expansive MMO today is rediculous. The bar has been raised too high. Game companies need to cater to those single player elements to maximize their customer base just to pay for development costs.
    2) Social interaction. The “massively multiplayer” aspect of MMO’s are killing the genre. There are so many asshats in MMO’s that it turns people off from wanting to group with strangers. I’d rather group with friends and family than deal with some of the punks in online games. So, if none of my small group of friends is online, I need something to do while waiting for someone to show up. If forced to group with the unwashed masses, I’d rather quit playing the game. I roll my eyes when I hear people talk about server communities. Just because the community exists doesn’t mean I want anything to do with it.

    If a gaming company wants to recreate a game that has no single player focus, requires grouping and grinding and all the great things that the early MMO’s did, then they are free to. Just don’t be surprised if it has an extremely small player base and there isn’t a large finished game world when it launches. It will probably be a very crude MMO to start because the projected income will never justify the cost of developement.

  • I wonder how many people commenting on this thread actually think that MMO’s shouldn’t have content that can also be soloable, i.e. that players should be forced to group most of the time?

    That could be an interesting topic on its own, but as I interpret it the original point of this thread was that a game designed to provide a predominantly single player *RPG* experience is more often than not incompatible with the community-oriented game mechanics of straight MMO’s.

    Solo playable content in an MMO context versus content that is specifically designed for an indidividual RPG story arc are two different things.

    The thread seems to have lost focus and diverged into multiple counterpoint arguments against POV’s that aren’t addressing the same topic and aren’t even mutually exclusive.


    “A hair stylist that my wife used to go to was a WoW player. That should tell you something.”

    That the MMO industry had better not dawdle on inclusion of LGBT content? 😛

  • Yeah, I play an mmo to play with other players. If I wanted an epic single-player story experience I’d play a single player game. I’ve seen people saying things like, ‘Is it any better to force players to group?’ My answer to that is…you’re playing an mmo. That goes with the territory: you will play with other players. Hopefully the game is designed well enough for easy grouping. I really like how naturally and organically GW2 pulls it off. Other players aren’t hindrances at all. You don’t have to technically physically ‘group’ with anyone (outside of a dungeon). Just fight alongside people, and everyone benefits.

    But I just feel an mmo should be build around the notion that players should constantly be playing with other players. That’s what sets the genre apart. That’s why I (and I assume many others) play an mmo to begin with.

  • …and another thing.

    I think the term MMORPG is too broadly defined. For instance to me SWTOR was a MMORPG. There was great focus on the RPG aspect and some MMO on the side.

    ANet President Mike O’Brien describes GW2 as a MMORPG ( The problem is if GW2 is considered an MMORPG then every MMO is by default a MMORPG if there is any personal story line, which there of course always is. WoW is also described as a MMORPG, but I feel more comfortable with just the term MMO.

    This definition is just too broad for my liking unless alternatively we coin a new term for the SWTOR type of MMORPG, perhaps MMOSPRPG (SP = single player). Of course MMOSPRPG would seem to be somewhat of an oxymoron, which in turn might help to explain SWTOR shortcomings?

  • The “people are jerks” argument for not grouping in the modern MMO is not a good excuse. First of all, if people were needed to work together in an MMO they would likely behave better toward one another. Secondly, if players make the effort to try out a few groups they would likely end up making friends that they could group with in the future and *gasp* create a pool of new friends in the game!

    Yes, having to group might frustrate a certain faction of the game and make them quit, but the relationships it would foster would make players stick around longer and more likely to return if they quit.

    I hated AOC, which was the first SPMMO. I hated TOR and I’m probably going to hate EOS for the same reason. I’ll play my modded version of Skyrim or Fallout if I’m gonna play a SP game.

  • “A hair stylist that my wife used to go to was a WoW player. That should tell you something.”

    The leader of my guild in WoW was (and still is… =P) “PhD – Applied Industrial Modelling: Exponential Asymptotics”. I cannot tell you precisely what it is, but the guy is a math genius.

    So what was your point again?

  • @MMOkay: The mindset of people are jerks is an excellent excuse. If a game required grouping to progress you would have 1 of 2 things:
    1. People only grouping with guildies and friends. Sure some people will group to progress but it leads to my 2nd point.
    2. The games popualtion will be so small that it couldnt possibly be a AAA title. Remember games like UO, AC and EQ were successful and thye only had 100K populations. No AAA studio in their right mind will ever make a game that will only garner a small subscription base like that.

    The basic formula is to create a World, not a game. The idea is to foster community building blocks in much the same way GW2 is doing. It has strong incentives for grouping but it doesnt punish the solo’er for wanting to be his “own man”, this was the problem that the first gen MMO’s never got right and WoW perfected. Capture the essence of what made WoW great in its early days through innovation and polished gameplay but still keeping the game focused on community and living in a virtual world.

  • I am not a real MMO player.

    The only MMO I played is GW2 during BWE. In this game, but it was only some hours, I really enjoyed the MMO part (events, WvW ) AND the solo part (personnal story).

    The solo part was reinforced by the MMO part (more credible, bigger world, the world exist without you) and the MMO part was sustained by solo one ( add a goal, create a story, add distraction).

    I understand that solo part can destroy the MMO part. But if not, if it adds something without destroying anything, while not includes it ? Developers have tried, and often failed, but why not try again until it is a success ?

    Note :
    I think the key for GW2 success was that you are not THE hero but only ONE hero. In the Charr (one of the playable race) story, you create a weapon that will help destroy their enemy [ I am trying to avoid spoiler].

  • @Ettesiun:

    Crap, now you gave away that I’ll get a weapon which will kill enemies… 🙂

  • […] been some discussions about MMOs as single player games that I’ve found interesting, notably Keen and Azuriel. Personally I think MMOs are superior to single player games for the variety of […]

  • […] (Something like Skyrim is weird for being a single-player virtual world; The Elder Scrolls Online sounds like it wants to be an online single-player theme park, closer to Diablo 3 than Skyrim.) I’m not […]

  • I agree 100 per cent with you. MMO’s are degenerating into single player games.
    The reason though I understand completely. It’s not that I like it though.

    The reason simply is:
    Younger people who don’t know what a real MMO is or what an RPG is (those who think Mass Effect is any kind of RPG lol) swarm the marked in masses since the ‘next gen’ consoles are available.
    These people’s expectations about new games are completely different from ours (the grown up players).
    They want: Action, sex and blood in a game (in that order).
    They want to be solo heroes with other players just being statists, because they are in the age where people think they own the world.
    They don’t want: to be dependent on other people, to use strategies to fight normal enemies (which would slow their action defined pace) and to rely on class-synergies because their class can’t do everything all other classes can do too.

    The problem is: these people are the majority nowadays.
    And the majority gets the attention of the big companies.
    And only the big companies are able to create games nowadays because their development costs skyrocketed in the last years because of motion capturing, star voice overs, extreme graphics and videos.

    The is no conclusion of this for me, because I don’t see one. At least not a positive.

  • The key words here is OPTIONAL and PARTICIPATE!

    Since you are using SWTOR as example, unless you got tossed on a server with Low Population than what you are stating makes sense. But for those of you who were not let me throw this at you.

    SWTOR FACT Optional Grouping :


    -World Bosses (at various lvls)

    -Heroic Missions


    -Pvp (Premades)

    Again the game doesn’t decide for the player, the player decides if he/she wants to participate in them with other players.

    This game has giving players the same optional tools like many other MMOs to participate in groups. The developers can only hold your hand for so long in a game.

    If you start forcing people to group, they will complain about there isn’t enough freedom for a player to do what they want. This alone is in a treadmill in it’s self.

  • You should Really take a look at the new game from Funcom (The creators if Age of Conan) named The Secret World.

    Along with an innovative class system (you can learn every ability avaliable in the game with one single Character), I find the questing system most refreshing.

    You have to Hack into a password protected computer for example. As you move arround in the environment you see various hints what the password is. Like pictures on the wall, Notices on the floor and so on.
    They even implemented a ingame webbrowser to search for hints.
    And thats one of the simple quests, with tons of them avaliable.

    I know that it is pointless to recommend MMO’s to someone, simply becouse we all have our own preferences how important different parts of a game are to us.

    What I found interresting was, that they haven’t implemented some sort of “Team Member Finder” at least thats what I read on the internet (Funcom announced that they patch it in). So a game made for playing with others hasn’t the ability to search for other players to team up? That’s somehow strange. In my eyes it’s basicly the today’s organization model of companies who lead to such problems. You have basically the financial guys in the company, the technical guys and the creative guys. And what I find interresting here is, that the financial guys who have just no idea about the technical or the creative aspects of the product have the most power over the content which is finally delivered in a game. And becouse the financialy guys also have the most power over the employees there is mostly no way for the other two parts to fight back.

    Just be shure to look the game up, and maybe give it a try.