I’m not being immersed in MMORPG’s

I wish that I could time travel back to the day Star Wars Galaxies launched.  Why SWG, you ask?  I guess it’s because I was already a MMORPG veteran with years of The Realm, EverQuest, and Dark Age of Camelot experience, yet I felt like such a wide-eyed and ignorant noob capable of being overwhelmed with immersion.   Honestly, I could time travel back to the day EQ or DAOC launched and get much of the same feel.  The games were so big, so overwhelming, so foreign to me.   Each step my character took felt important, and my future was never clear:  Where was I going, how would I get there, and what would be waiting for me.

I remember working hard to build a house in SWG, wondering if I could turn it into a shop and get people to actually visit and purchase my goods.  I remember my first two days in EverQuest when a RL friend of mine introduced me to a couple other players — we met in a dark corner of Freeport and in hushed tones they asked me if I wanted to join… their guild.  It wasn’t roleplay when I got goosebumps and felt the anxiety of what it meant to associate myself in a game with other people, and what we might accomplish together in this brand new completely untouched world.

That feeling is lost to me. I haven’t been able to find it.  I’ve pondered why, and I have several hypotheses.  Maybe I’ve grown up.  Maybe I’ve shed the awesome veil of ignorance from my eyes and I’m too educated in the ways of MMO’s to be fooled.  Perhaps the games have changed — I know they have, actually.   Maybe the fault is in the games, and has nothing to do with me. Maybe it has to do with the degree to which games have evolved into themeparks compared to how sandbox’ish even a game like EQ could feel.

I log in to Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, Rift, or [insert any contemporary MMO], and I feel like I know exactly what they want me to do, exactly where I’m going, exactly where I will be in 20 minutes, and exactly what will be waiting for me.  There is no mystery, there is no awe, no wonder, no immersion making me feel like I have been swept out of my conscious ever-keen-on-MMO’s self.  I’m capable of having fun, but I’m incapable of feeling like the game is bigger than me and everyone else — as if everyone around me has it all figured out too.

I’m going to explore some of these feelings.  I already have two or three blog posts lined up with some thought provoking insights as to whether or not I’m incapable or simply unable to given the environment, and I’m interested to know what you all think.


  • I can totally understand where you are coming from with this sentiment. I have not felt ‘a part of the world’ since SWG and UO days. This is not to say that modern MMOs are bad, they just are designed with a different goal I feel in the end.

    To me it is similar to traditional table top RPGs and the two types of GMs. One that embraces the players around the table feeding off one another and building an adventure, and the other that has a very rigid story they want the players to experience and the manner in which they will experience it.

    I think there is room for both styles of MMOs in this market, I just think the immersive world MMO is more of a niche market and it is only a matter of time before someone decides to cater to that demographic.

  • I have a similar situation going on in a real-life D&D campaign I’m DMing. Two of the players are from another group I was a part of until we had some disagreements with how the GM was running things (after an entire year of putting up with it). One of the players has been running around my campaign with the mindset that he’s still in the previous one.

    He went so far to message me online telling me that I’m doing things “on rails” too much, that the fights should be shorter, and that the bad guys I’m currently having them dispatch “clearly” mean nothing. All after 3 sessions! I mean, come on! He could not be further from the truth! I’m trying to develop a story and tell it to my players! They’re low-level right now, so yeah things might take a little while but in reality the encounters they’re currently in affect where I’m going with everything!

    He has his character run up and immediately attack anything that he succeeds a spot check on finding because our previous GM never planned for diplomacy. He gets upset when things run away because our old GM -never- had enemies run. He assumes all masked bad guys are “grunts” that they’ll never see again.

    I guess my point is that it’s hard to look at other games differently when all of them being released with the same mechanics. But someday (hopefully sooner rather than later), there -will- be a gem. One day you’ll be dumped into a game and immediately assume you’re supposed to kill everything around you, but in reality you’ve just chosen whose side you’re on in a war. You’ll swing your sword so much that you become a Barbarian without visiting a class trainer. A rare artifact will drop and you will right click to equip it thinking you’ll discard it later when suddenly it binds to your character forever, giving you a permanent skill no one else in the game has.

    Maybe a bit extreme, but that’s really what we need! We need someone to come up to us and knock the silver spoon out of our mouths and throw it out the window!

    tldr version: I totally resonate with this blog post, and felt I had to share some of my own experience in a rant. I hope a game comes out that caters to players that want an experience that -matters- out of a game, and soon!

  • Man I can totally agree! I have felt this way about everything I have played for awhile. Nothing has kept my interest and everything feels the same. I know exactly whats happening when, where, why, and how!

    Their is nothing new being brought to the genre, it is literally the same design over and over with a different coat of paint.

  • To be honest I actually felt this way recently, but in Minecraft. I got it on Xbox and had stayed away from the PC version. When it released my friend and I (who also hadn’t kept up with it) were just in awe of then entire experience. We started out the gate in the hardest mode and it took us forever to find a place to live and be safe.

    It was one of the greatest gaming experiences I have had in a long time and I think a big part of it was game design, AND the fact neither of us looked anything up on the internet.

    I personally think it may take a Minecraft type MMO in order to bring that feeling back. The needing to explore for a safe spot, cool location, great mining, great farming…all of the above was just fantastic. I think that’s what it’s going to take for an MMO to really be thought of differently than an MMO Counter Strike.

    ….and your getting older! hehehehe

  • I think this is a question with an easy answer.

    You cannot go back to SWG, but EQ and apparently even DAOC is still running. Go play them again. If you feel the same way about playing them now as you did back in the day, then the newer games are at fault. If you cannot bring yourself to play them more than a few hours (if that), then you have changed.

    Maybe you changed AND new games lost their way, who knows. I would suggest in that scenario though, the games are not at fault.

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. I was immersed with The Realm. I was immersed with original EQ. I was immersed with early DAOC. And then nothing since. What has it been a decade or more now? It depresses me a great deal.

    I’m not going to cover all the same points about meaningful death penalty and more difficult to travel and forced grouping, because while all those points are true, I don’t think it’s that entirely. Part of it was because when I saw The Realm for the first time, I was literally blown away that you could even do that on a computer. There have been too many levels in multiple MMOs since then for me to ever get that feeling again.

    However, your post does have me realizing maybe for the first time that original EQ was basically a giant sandbox. Ironically, a game with “Quest” in its name had very little actual questing, and those that it did have didn’t have any shiny rings over the NPCs heads pointing them out. So you stumbled around and just explored the world and every little thing you discovered was that much more rewarding.

    I honestly don’t think you can reengineer today’s MMORPGs with cool new features to get me to fall in love and be totally immersed again though. Maybe I’m just too old now. Or maybe it’s just the fact that there are so many of these games now I’m not sure which of them is worth investing my time in. And deep down, I know that none of them are really worth my time because in the end they are just a giant hamster wheel.

  • @Azuriel: I went back and played EQ Project 1999 and felt exactly the same way. I felt giddy, like I was such a noob, and I looked at anyone even remotely futher along than myself as someone who had an inherent knowledge I lacked. I also tried Ultima Online’s Second Age server and was totally immersed. I was even able to play SWG EMU and it felt the same.

    I stopped playing all three, however, because I felt like they weren’t permanent. Something about them not being official made me believe that I could work hard and lose it all. There was also the fact that they are old, I’ve played them all, and I want new things to come out.

    If the old games are still capable of immersing me, why can’t I feel that way in newer games? I know I’ve changed, but knowing I can still find those feelings in older games leads me to believe it’s not entirely my fault.

  • “If the old games are still capable of immersing me, why can’t I feel that way in newer games”

    You already know the answer. We’ve had this discussion 100 times on vent! haha

  • I feel like we could write a novel about this, but essentially, the current market dynamics do not allow for a game with the type of immersion we are looking for. We are the minority.

  • I have the exact same experience here, except the time frame was a bit different. I think I got disillusioned a lot quicker, and I’m a bit younger. Hence, the only game I ever felt any immersion in was Maple Story. It seems quite silly now, looking back on it (it is a really dumb game, though it’s gotten worse since I played it apparently). Now I try and get into WoW or Rift or GW2 etc. and I’m just instantly bored. My saving grace might be EVE, which is complicated enough to hold my interest at least, but I definitely am not “immersed” in it– it’s all a numbers game, like every other MMO.

  • @Phandy
    Sure, todays AAA MMOs would never focus in our direction but why haven’t there been any smaller indie devs that tried? Yeah, there’s Darkfall and Mortal Online but I believe both of them took on too big of a challenge creating their worlds in full 3D instead of just going top down 2D. I’d like to believe that it would be much easier to create and add new content in a 2D world. Sure one could argue that FPS style MMO is more immersive but I don’t think it’s worth taking on the effort and UO has shown us that 2D can be just as immersive.

  • @Tristan
    Yes, the godawful numbers. Are they really neccessary? Would an MMO without experience levels, skillpoint collecting etc be boring? If done right I think it wouldn’t be that bad. People still play Quake, CS and other old school FPS that doesn’t have any of the new ‘modern’ unlocks, ranking system and such because the gameplay and game mechanics are excellent. Instead of focusing on reaching max level and upgrading your gear why can’t it be about exploring the world? Solving quests? Proper quests, not kill x amounts of boars, collect y boar livers. Meeting new people? Why should some numbers show our progression in a game? Is it not enough progression to become a better player?

  • Hey there Keen! I’ve been watching your site for a while now, and even came near to posting once or twice. I’m a lurker at heart and usually just read and move on. But this title really caught my eye.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get into SWG until it after they screwed it up. But I did play EQ and felt much the same way as you did. Exploring that world was a huge adventure, and I had the most fun just running around and looking at stuff. I feel that anything that claims to be an “RPG” should be, first and foremost, an adventure. And yeah, it’s hard to have an adventure when it seems like your whole career is planned out for you.

    I think the games are partly to blame. Ever since WoW started attracting players by the millions, everyone seems to take it for granted that the themepark is the only sure route to success. I believe that’s a mistake. The themepark approach was one secret of WoW’s success, but that does not necessarily mean “themepark equals success”. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that developers really can’t start out intending to create a success like WoW and hope to succeed.

    I also think the players have changed. Not at the individual level, mind you. Given the right game, I think I’m still every bit as capable of wonder and “being immersed” as the day I first logged into EQ. In fact, I almost recaptured that feeling recently when I tried EVE Online. The idea that there’s a whole universe out there waiting to be explored inspired the same sort of awe. Ultimately it couldn’t hold me because (A) it’s hard to feel a connection with other people who are usually no more than pixels on the far side of a targeting reticule, and (B) when you get right down to it, there’s not a lot of difference between a blue nebula and a yellow one. Those two things kept me at a distance from the world of EVE, but I came away with the feeling that sandboxy games are indeed more likely to be immersive.

    When I say the players have changed, I’m talking about the nature of the market. Thanks to WoW, there are a lot of players out there who have no experience of a sandbox game and don’t really care about immersion. They can’t understand that the process of finding a goal can be part of the fun; they want their goals made clear in advance so they can start working toward them right away. In short, they want their fun and handed to them on a platter.

    Too much? Sorry. If I make the new generation of MMO players sound only slightly better than the better class of zombies, it’s because my tastes don’t run that way. I admit my bias, and I’ll even say there’s nothing wrong with wanting to relax and enjoy a bit of preprogrammed themepark fun now and then. It only becomes a problem when developers let themselves get blinded by WoW’s sales figures and start thinking that this new generation of gamers is the only viable market for their product.

    Everyone would be better served if developers (and investors) just forgot about WoW altogether. People should decide what kind of game they want to make, identify the market that would be interested in such a game, and concentrate their efforts on satisfying that market. So long as the market is profitable enough to keep the developers working, that should be counted as success. Trying to make everyone happy makes for a weak product that satisfies no one and becomes unprofitable far more quickly.

    I wouldn’t say that immersive world MMOs are a “niche” market. That’s a loaded term that implies relative unprofitability. Nothing will drive an investor away faster than that five-letter word. Here’s a better way to put it: immersive world MMOs were around long before WoW hit the scene, and their success was partly responsible for the fact that WoW even exists. If there was a market for them back then, there’s probably a market for them now. Hopefully some developer will eventually realize that it should be possible to rectify some of the obvious shortcomings of the old immersive game format without changing the nature of the game beyond recognition. That developer will create a great, profitable game worth playing.

  • Agree totally. The reason there are so many games for systems like Playstation, etc, is because the novelty wears off quickly, and seeing the same figures, action, and environment soon becomes boring. So off to the next game, even though the mechanics are virtually identical. A quick immersion into something new, but soon you can’t wait for the next fix (different game). WOW was my first, and progression took forever — I think we spent about 6 months getting to level 40. The world was big, and you couldn’t survive in new areas till you reached the appropriate level. More time to level 60, then the endgame, where we spent another 6 months or so building the guild up to be able to do 40 man runs. The newness didn’t run out for well over 2 years — that was amazing, and I’ve not found anything like it since. Today’s MMO’s are just like the next Playstation release — same mechanics, goals, outcomes — just different scenery.

    Until someone comes out with a totally different environment, mechanics, and create an immersion experience that is really different, I doubt if any new MMO will succeed. More awesome graphics won’t work — grinding is grinding and new visuals don’t make it enjoyable. Tough work, difficult survivability, and a different immersion experience will make grinding as enjoyable as it was in WOW classic.

    I also think that scheduled PVP is a game killer. Getting ganked in WOW was part of the immersion experience, and early mass, organized PVP was a new immersion. But now, organized PVP is basically the same, no matter which game. It’s human against human, and there isn’t much you can do to make it different and new. Novw its not much different than single player shooter games – gets boring after a short while and you want to try something new out. I think if a new immersion concept is developed, mass PVP will kill it quickly. Open field ganking is still a great concept, but “arena areas” will feel just the last game, and will hurt the effort to create a new environment.

  • Thats a fundamental problem for many people i have talked with within the last years, especially those who have been around for more than a decade.
    It totally hits the core of things, my *solution* is to focus more on pvp, which has always been a game within the game where i’m able to leave the actual world behind and go for the number crunching min/max fopr a while. Seeking joy in the challenge other players abilities pose for me.
    But games do not last me as long anymore, it saddens me an awful lot.

  • MMOs have notoriously had clunky gameplay. And since the new eara – post WoW – that has improved a considerable lot, but I fear, same as you obviously, that in the race to polish and improve the game we had lost the world.

    I’m feeling that old immersion tingle more in games like Minecraft, Demon Souls and Mount&Blade than in actual MMOs like WoW or even GW2.

    I’m looking forward to the “world games” of the future. (Noticed how Undead Labs brand their game an “online world game” instead of MMO?) I’m certain that the next big breakthrough lies in that direction, although the other line of development will continue on in Titan and beyond.

    The next game to grab and enthrall me in it’s world would be a near complete sandbox, with minimal or no HUD-play and probably will be viewed as extremely hardcore from our current point of view, yet someone would have figured how to fit this into a seamless and fluid experience and that will win them the crown and title 🙂 I’m sure of it.

  • I started out with WoW in 2007 (I’d tried SWG but didn’t get into it). I feel the exact same way about my time in WoW. I played it for years as my only game; with friends or in groups with people who were known as good players in the server community. Random RP events, overland boss hunting, rich non-linear dungeons you could actually get lost in! The game had a huge amount of variety before Blizzard decided we should all chain teleport into loot piñata linear dungeons with random players.

    Yet newer games do not give me the same sense of wonder at a wider world, at the dangers of simply travelling to a location, that sense of immersion you mention. SWTOR is too directed and solo-friendly I think and Rift had too small a world.

    Vanguard actually gave me a bit of this feeling when I tried it recently but the game is so empty of players it doesn’t really feel like a living world – hopefully the F2P relaunch will remedy that.

  • I know where you’re coming from! Every new MMO i jump into i already know what to do, nothing gives me that wow feeling anymore (using wow as in ‘amazing’ here, not as the acronym for the well known mmo).

    The only game that has given me that feeling again recently, has been Wurm Online. Ok, the animations of the characters are pretty meh and the UI is awkward, but the environment is beautiful, especially for a Java game, and every step i took felt important to me. The world felt like a dangerous place, where every wolf or cat could kill me in 2 hits, and my only defense was a carving knife. My main goal in life was to build my own 1×1 shack, and having acclompished that felt amazing (since it took me well over 3 weeks to do it).

    If you haven’t looked into it yet, give it a try at http://www.Wurmonline.com. It’s constantly being updated.

  • If you find no exploration and mystery in GW2, then YOU are doing it wrong… hidden caves, secret passages and other hidden spots abound in that game.

    I started MMOs with UO, then a bit of EQ and quickly moved to AC1. All those games has a great sense of exploration. DAoC not so much anymore (the world was much smaller at launch). AO and WoW (at launch, before everybody teleports and flies around) also had that great feeling of “I’m there in a huge, mysterious world I can explore”.

    LOTRO? Way to “predictable” world, and not that huge either, nice to visit, but no real surprises. Rift or SW:TOR? Don’t make me laugh, same for TSW (TSW=SW:TOR with a different setting). SWG was… nice, but mostly empty. I’ll pass the other numerous games I played, since the list would be too long.

    GW2 brings back that feeling I had when I was playing AC1, a game in a huge world where exploration is actually rewarded, and by more than just “you discovered the hidden cave – 1000xp for you”.

  • you should try Dayz mod for Arma 2. Its not an MMO, it doesnt have any lvl’s. It does have loot and loads of immersion. Its one of the best Zombie games i’ve ever played, but it is kinda buggy. Try it, and tell me what you think

  • There is a really easy answer to why this is…

    “Your only a virgin once” that is truly the answer in this case. When you experience these types of games for the first time everything is “wow cool” or “Shit i didn’t know this could be done”. After that you can never recapture that feeling because well you’ve done it before and understand all the mechanics and things to come in these games.

  • I’m thinking Romble might be right. Either that, or (shiver) we’re all growing up or something. I think back on my fondest MMO days and it’s all DAOC related. Played WoW for longer…. but the memories of DAOC are the most powerful/sentimental.

  • @ h

    Good question. I would think the answer is “risk aversion”. As an Indie company, why take a huge risk with a game that only a small percentage of the market are clearly looking for. Funding is much more difficult for these companies to get given the lack of track record and the risk aversion on potential investors given the current economy (and Curt Schilling certainly didn’t help). It is easier for these companies to pitch “safe” projects to these investors. At least for their first projects.

    Having said that, I am watching Archeage myself.

  • @ The Merovingian

    Exploration, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily equal immersion. Especially considering that you can only do it once for the true feeling of finding sometihng new. For me, immersion is basically player driven content… something that GW2 really doesn’t have. Now, don’t get me wrong, GW2 looks pretty awesome and I will most likely be playing it… but I have specifically stayed away from the Beta so I can enjoy the game a bit longer. In the end, it is still a themepark.

  • You stated here a million times. There are no worlds just sub par single player quest campaigns that end. Every MMO to release recently is content based and not system based. You cannot have a living world because the content ends. For an awe inspiring world you need the system that interweave and create the social experience both positive and negative.

    Since all the money in MMO market is in content based games so is the talent. This leaves the niche market to subpar indie game designers most of which dont know their ass from the elbow and dont have the chops to make an MMO.

  • @Phandy:
    Did you even try GW2? It’s been a long time I didn’t see a MMORPG with a world that feels so “alive”. Granted, it’s not a sandbox, but yet the world is filled with details no other theme park has.
    BTW, release date just got announced, 8/28/2012 🙂

  • I think it is all those reasons you mentioned combined 🙂
    I feel the same way, many of us do; I’ve written lately that for me personally, I think a part of me is ‘drained’, that maybe I’ve just traveled too many online worlds by now and left too much of myself in each of them that there’s nothing left to give. that sounds a little dramatical maybe, but it applies for me – to immerse yourself is to be fully invested and I have been a couple of times, to a point where I don’t feel I have it in me any more. we pay a tribute when playing MMOs so completely. each of them change us and we give just as much as we gain. I look forward to your next posts on this topic.

  • I share the sentiment in the article. This is why I don’t play games that are only PVE. I simply can’t stand to play them. I play games that are player driven with faction vs faction conflict(currently that reluctantly remains DAOC). I look forward to GW2 and PS2 as possible replacements.

  • @Keen

    At least we know its not the gamers to blaim that we lack mmorpgs with the amount of freedom and immersion as you and many of us jaded gamers of that time know and want.

    Example: Minecraft, Dayz mod for Arma2, Skyrim, Batman Arkham City, GTA series, Just cause2, Those small browser build and conquer games like stronghold kingdoms.

    So… clearly gamers do want freedom and immersion in their games.
    Problem is those Stockholders pulling the strings behind publishers.

    To much risk. Risk is bad. Make games like WoW. Then they show best case scenario potential profits from such a game like WoW compared to your so called openworld game. —-> Garbage bin.

    Until recently the future for games with freedom and immersion looked bleak.
    What changed? well we got crowdfunders like kickstarter. Making publishers and therefor greedy stockholders irrelevant.

    Better times await….
    For pc that is. I wish they made access to platforms like Playstation and Xbox easier and less costly on the next generation of console, so we can see more changes there as well.

    (did you know that for example we do not even have an indie section on our xbox live here in Europe?)

  • Romble is correct. It will be tough for a MMO to regain the awe we all first experienced losing our “MMO virginity”. But that hasn’t stopped the popularity of the game machines (Playstation,etc), with new releases coming out every week. Single player shooter games for these machines don’t rely on the “first time” virginity loss to create the awe. They’re more like the experience of finding a new girlfriend, when you lose (or get tired of) the one you now have.

    I still think a new MMO like WOW is possible. It will have to be much different than WOW or the WOW clones that have failed the past couple years. But I think that it will be necessary to keep organized PVP out of the game for the first couple of years, if not completely. It becomes too much of a draw, and players leave the regular game to participate in arena/battleground events, which never change or morph into new experiences. I think there are key elements and concepts that must be included, such as:

    1. Leveling should take a long time.
    2. Leveling milestones open up new territory that cannot be accessed successfully at too low a level.
    3. Leveling milestones open up new game experiences. For example, you needed level 40 before you could get a mount in WOW. For our small group, it became a primary goal to get everyone to level 40. The next goal for us was to get a large guild running, to work on the content available at level 60.
    4. Leveling should take a long time.
    5. Many different skill sets need to be available to play, and need some exclusivity. WOW’s complexity where the endgame required the perfect blend of combat classes (tank, damage, healing, and subsets of damage such as AOE, kiting, etc), was one of its’ main attractions. And not to beat a drum, but this complexity never carried over into battleground PVP, so the game continued to dumb down as organized PVP took over.
    6. Crafting and professions need to play a major role. In our guild, I sucked at combat mechanics (I’m ancient, pre Nintendo generation, so I didn’t have the hand/eye/game controller experience), but I excelled at the economic game. We could afford the best enchantments and speciality gear thanks to the gold flow coming from our economic model. Enchantments were meaningful, so everyone recognized the value of contributing to the economic model, and my non-combantant role was recognized and valued. Crafting and professions contribute to a real world feel, which is part of the “immersion” experience we’re now craving.
    7. Leveling should take a long time.
    8. Farming should be important. And not too easy. Low level farming items should retain importance at higher levels. In our WOW group (pre large guild), most of us intially developed new toons to enjoy the content and experience of acquiring new classes and skills. But after a couple years, there was no outlet for the low level gear or crafting products, so for brand new players, or those wanting to start a new toon, leveling was just work, not fun.
    9 Ganking is great. I hated being ganked, but looking back, it was critical for the immersion process. Horde vs Alliance was brilliant. Although I obviously think organized PVP needs to be eliminated, in-world PVP such as town raids, ganking, PVP at Instance entrances, was some of the most fun we had. Along with killing farmers. Getting “camped” was a pain, but then it was fun to send out a request for some high level help to kill the camper.

    This type of PVP could be exploited for a new immersion experience. Having a new optional status of PVP where you can lose something of value if you die would make it far more real world, and add to the adrenaline rush. Creating content that is only open if you chose this optional status (opening you up to being ganked and losing something) would insure that this becomes part of the game. Logging out to avoid death while in this status would automatically inflict the penalty (for example dying or logging out could result in the lost of an attribute on your best piece of armor — later, recovering that attribute through some grinding might be an option).

    Town raids could be expanded as an alternative to organized PVP. Being able to do some real damage to a town, that required your side to work to rebuild, would enhance the community spirit of cooperation and identity.
    10. Leveling should take a long time.
    11. Gold selling should probably be controlled better. Power leveled toons that are only engaged in farming could be identified by playing habits (no questing, no professions, auction house gold flow, etc). Such toons should always be tagged so upon dying, they lose all possessions. Farming the farmers becomes a profitable profession. It wouldn’t stop gold farming, but it would control it and add a new element to the game.

    All of this sounds a lot like WOW classic, on some steroids. You can’t completely avoid it as a model, but I think the tweaks noted above could make it feel totally new and different, particularly if it a new world environment were created at the same time.

  • I do not want to sound condescending (after all, I’m still playing after all that time), but my feeling is that you are out growing those simple worlds. At 8 I was totally immersed in Jules Verne novels, now I see them quite differently, and some of the magic seems gone.

    If I could give an advice, it would be to keep playing games…as games, and try different worlds to immerse into : you have your pick of two thousands and half years of wisdom, philosophy, history ! Those are complex, challenging, thought provoking worlds. I have been astonished to see the world through those who witnessed the beginning of the scientific revolution and tried to adapt their religious wisdoms to the new concepts.

    Or may be you could start exploring the meta game of mass psychology and how it’s relate to closed world experience ?
    I can assure you that I will have some hours of fun tomorrow in the TSW or later in GW2, as well as enjoying the discovery of Kant and his views on the “world”…

    May be one day you will finally answer Macbeth (or was it the Lich King ?) question about life ” it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”.

  • @ The Merovingian

    You are not exactly arguing against my point. 🙂

    I have played GW2 and as I said above I will most likely be buying it. However I hold no illusions that the game will immerse me in they way I want it to. Nor do I hold some false belief that it is anything other then a Themepark. It might be an awesome new Themepark… but it is still a themepark.

    I’m not blaming the game… I know what it is and I am still choosing to play it.

    I simply yearn for a game where I decide the path I take every single time I log into the game. Not have that path dictated to me by the game itself. Unfortunately, these types of games are incredibly risking to make and I don’t have high hopes for one to succeed anytime soon.

  • @Phandy you can do that (to some extend) in GW2… nobody forces you down any path except for the main story line which is only a minor part of the game. The vast majority is up to your decision, to where you want to go. You aren’t stuck to following a specific set of quest hubs like in SW:TOR, Rift or TSW. And the more you progress, the more the whole world becomes your playground.

  • @Mergovingian

    But what do you do after you reach max level? Your options are fairly limited. That is where the lack of ability for players to derive their own content comes in. Even the fact that you have to get “exp” is an example of being forced to play down a certain path. Sure, I can take 3 different paths to get to the same point, but in the end, I’m forced down very similar paths. Everything is a treadmill. See where I am coming from?

    I’m not bashing on GW2… as I said, I’m fairly certain I am going to play with the community here. I just feel like we are trying to force a square peg (GW2) into a round hole (immersive sandbox) when there is no need to.

  • A full sandbox game is full of “treadmills” too. UO… every skill is basically a treadmill. Minecraft? Endless treadmill to first equip to survive, and then build better than better stuff. So no, I don’t see “where you are coming from”, since I’ve been there, done that too 😉

  • Phandy you can replay every zone due to the scaling. Weather or not they will provide a purpose to do so is another question.

  • Personally, I’m confident it’s the games and not me.

    I picked up DayZ this week, and immediately found myself having much the same experience that I had back in the vanilla WoW beta (my first time in an MMO). Existing in a virtual world with no concerns about leveling, questing, or how long it would take to get to max level so I could start the “real game”; no one holding my hand and guiding me along a concrete path from point of interest to planned activity.

    I could run off into the wilderness and keel over from starvation. I could run into another player and not know if they were going to ignore me, kill me, help me, accidentally shoot me due to a misunderstanding, or rob me and tell me to run for the trees before they change their mind. I miss the fact that I can’t build a house and become a trader; I think having non-combat social (in the sense of building a society together, with homes, businesses, etc.) activities is a key part of the formula, another thing modern MMOs tend to not get right.

    Granted, I’ve changed too, and I partake of these virtual worlds in a much more circumspect and thoughtful way now. But I feel a very clear distinction between areas where I have changed, and where the games have changed.

    GW2 is a nice playground or Theme Box or Sand Park or whatever. I thoroughly enjoy it for what it is. But it is not a virtual world in any meaningful way; Arena Net was never going to to take the risks that would entail as a massive studio with 300 employees and a publisher like NCSoft looking over their shoulder. I think DayZ is yet more proof that the next great virtual world will have to come from an indie studio; but I also think it is proof that there is huge unmet demand for hardcore virtual world games.

  • It will have to be an indie sandox with a smaller niche population for your sense of immersion to come back.

    Even if a world is created that isn’t primarily based upon grinding levels (operant conditioning again), player communities have shifted to a fast-food short-term memory Farmville-type of mindset.

    Immersion in a MMO has great dependence upon the quality of the “Multiplayer” portion of the acronym. Mainstream leveling and gear grind mechanics favor the larger fast food crowd, which in turn favors retention of those game play elements into new MMO’s, and the cycle goes around. No part of this cycle fosters community in general or the opportunity to play a Twi’lek bar hall dancer working to pay off a new house.

    Also the others are correct about the replacement of the nativity of new wonder of first time experience with jaded critical expectation. The first time someone tried Chinese food in their small town they may excitedly have say “WoW, these are original flavors!”, later after moving back from NYC they are prone to say “WoW, this is terrible, not how I remembered it at all. How could they go ruining it like that?”.

  • A member of my guild posted the following about guilds and how they differ nowadays and I thought it related to this post…

    Yeah kinda interesting how things have changed over the years. Even though my first MMO was SB and before that I just dabbled in a few betas like Anarchy Online etc., I think back then it was brand new, technology was hitting a breakneck pace where computers had access to broadband, PCs had better graphics and more power to play these games and allow instant communication, and we didn’t grow up in a time like today where you can have games galore, tablets and smartphones and multiple online access consoles to choose from with constant online connection.

    We built these strong relationships with other people around the US and the World in a newly emerging technology in both video gaming and telephony and computer technology etc. Back then you were considered “smart” if you knew how to navigate the web, let alone setup an email and voice speak for your team.

    People today are constantly connected in everything and it’s all instant, patience and perseverance are gone when you can just pop in the next disc, join the next game room, or startup a smartphone game with your friend two states over. Part of it is just the power of an emerging idea or concept and being a part of that taking form, which occured among most of us with MMO gaming. Look at what this experience did to Curt Schilling, he practically spent his life savings to startup a MMO company because of the powerful effect Everquest had on his life, that says something. But yeah I could go on forever. I don’t think there will ever be what I consider the “Golden Age” of MMO gaming like back then, kind of like the NBA in the 80s and 90s, and people are changing and have access to so much more.

  • I have had much of the same feeling of late and I realized that I have somewhat burned out on MMO’s as a genre. The somewhat lackluster offering of the more recent releases and the regurgitation of the same mechanics and themes has really served to wear down the part of me that could eagerly spend multiple hours grinding or exploring in game. The only thing that keeps me playing tend to be the social connections to people I have gamed with for years now, moving from guild to guild, server to server, and game to game.

    Although as of late my outlook is improving. I am not blinded by the growing hype and shininess of Guildwars 2 but as an MMO I think they are going to do a lot to revitalize the genre and introduce / improve upon a lot of the core and basic systems that have been stagnate in MMO’s for the last 10-15 years. Hopefully if it is successful enough it can open up room for others to break away from the more WoW/EQ like models and get back to more “sandbox” type offerings.

  • Another voice chiming in with ‘I agree’.
    In the years that have progressed since the 2002ish-2005ish timeline, we’ve seen more and more polish of ‘gameplay’ and less and less presence of ‘immersion’. The games, absolutely, have become more predictable. There’s no freeform embedded into the game design DNA in the past 5 years.
    I too have pondered going project1999, a WoW private server or the like, but the experience, as raw as it is, is still tainted by the fact that it’s liable to go offline without notice or that the GMs running the project don’t stay objective and true to the game’s original DNA. The freemium launch of Vanguard might help sedate my vampiric MMORPG call for feasting…

  • I’ve been feeling the same lately. A few friends of mine recently convinced me to try out the DayZ mod for Arma II and it kinda reminded me of how big the world was in EQ for a moment. Running through forests of tall trees reminded me of lesser/greater faydark. I wouldn’t recommend DayZ but it is a huge map, one of the few plus’ it has to offer. The whole zombies/apocalypse/wasteland atmosphere made me revisit Fallen Earth again though cause of it’s semi sandboxish feel it had when it first came out.

    The sandbox is definitely missed though and we really need a new one to step up. EQ was the best for me personally and I too wish I could experience that over again. Getting dropped into a huge dark forest next to some ewok village (kelethin) lookin place not knowing what was happening or what to do was great. The thing is though is that it’s not just one thing that took this experience away from us, it’s a conglomerate of things.

    1. Alot is of course the theme park design with the quest hubs. Knowing that the game wants you to do them and that by starting them you just boarded that roller coasters car and are about to ride around on a track until it decides to stop, not you.

    2. Second is instanced dungeons. Anytime the game separates players from the rest of the players in the world by invisible barriers it takes away from the overall immersion.

    3. Maps and wealth of knowledge on the internet at our fingers. I’d prefer not having an in game map to be honest. Half of the beauty of a sandbox is exploration and having a map and knowing exactly where you are at all times ruins some of the fun in exploring. DayZ reminded me of how it is to not have any form of reference other than landmarks. You can find a map that is broken or a compass but you basically have to use an online map and landmark system to get around.

    4. Fast travel/teleports are my next pet peeve. I actually really didn’t like seeing as many as I did in the Guild Wars 2 beta. Half the fun of exploration is the part where you do this thing called walking/running around…..exploring! When this is removed or sped up it usually makes the world feel much smaller than it really is and that is not something that helps an mmo that probably boasted about its HUGE world when it was trying to sell the game to you.

    The sad part about all this is that we probably won’t see a true sandbox mmo in awhile. I’m almost more looking forward to Planetside 2 just because I know I won’t be doing quest after quest and it will be a huge world. Mind you it’s a FPS though. Archage looked neat but I have a feeling it will be riddled with quest hubs. It’s just the way the working mmo model got molded unfortunately. I definitely think that with more companies going with the F2P or B2P model that we have a better chance of seeing one come along sooner than later however, so here’s to that.

  • It’s partly the aging process, partly knowledge and experience and partly that the genre has changed.

    I’ve been playing almost as long as you, but the big difference, I think, is that I was in my forties when I started. You were, what? Mid-teens? Now in my 50s if anything I’d say I am more excited by MMOs than I was a decade ago. Had I played Everquest for my first time in my teens, though, I’m not sure that wold be the case.

    I like the way the genre is moving in most respects. The only thing I really dislike is the trend towards action combat, which I never liked even when I had the reflexes for it, something I sure don’t have any more. Other than that, I’m having a whale of a time and I see mostly kittens and rainbows on the MMO horizon.

    If it’s any consolation, once you’ve backed off from MMOs, gotten some kind of career and a family up and running and come out the other side into your peaceful years, you’ll have some unbelievably amazing virtual reality gaming to re-immerse yourself in, while I’ll be being fed oatmeal with a spoon. If I’m lucky!

  • I’ve been playing DayZ since the end of May. Considering its humble nature, it’s amazing how much immersion there is. It’s the best online game I’ve played in a couple of years despite being an alpha version of a mod that is full of bad UI and mechanic design. I love the fact that the guy who made it tried to pitch the game elsewhere and he was told that “gamers say they want things like permadeath, but they really don’t.” and turned down his pitch. The guy made the game the way he wanted because he was a gamer and it worked. I hope other devs notice that there are niche markets for this type of gaming experience. Seriously though Keen, it’s good enough to pay $30 for now. That’s a much better investment than the last BF3 or SWTOR.

  • I don’t want to be construed as recommending DayZ unconditionally. It is definitely buggy and needs a lot of work. Many of my deaths have simply been frustrating; fatal bugs, silly decisions like making broken legs incredibly common, or unintuitive superhuman zombie senses (i.e. hearing very well through walls).

    That said, so far it has been exactly the game it claims to be, no more and no less, and if a pure sandbox with no “endgame” or social structure – and merciless PvP – is what you want, jump right in. I personally decided to get in early because it’s fascinating and valuable to me to experience how the metagame and culture change throughout development.

    Basically if you’re not interested in playing the game in a very rough state for some reason (research, interest in game design, giving feedback as a tester), I’d say consider waiting at least a few weeks for a more stable build. But the game’s promise definitely seems to live up to the hype, at least in my experience.

    I feel the harder question is whether the final implementation lives up to the game’s promise…

  • For myself I don’t expect to ever have that feeling again. It’s like asking why don’t I get excited about Christmas or any of the things that were exciting as a kid. Christmas is a good analogy. Christmas now days is only exciting if your get an awesome present (loot drop or reward) or you’re really looking forward to seeing people (your guildies). Having your own kids and watching their enjoyment of it can also add back some interest (introducing a new player). But other than that, I feel jaded and bored with the whole thing. Even if you reskin Christmas to *Festivus* (Wow clone) it wont be long until you realise it’s just the same. If I’m not enjoying the world it’s not the world that’s necessarily the problem it’s me too. A new player coming into Wow will still feel all the amazement and adventure I first felt when I played, but I will never feel that again. I get the impression that sandbox MMO’s partially overcome these issues but I feel that the barriers to entry for new players are quite high as by their very nature, sandbox games do not limit griefers, and existing players are very wary of new players.

  • lol man i think ur the only person in the world who would travel back in time to play some mmorpg
    if u have the chance

  • Went back to EQ briefly and the “magic” is still there. There is that world feeling and the feeling of mystery and danger.

    I did not stay because of the ancient graphics and low playerbase (and the stupid portals which ruin the world). But, that old magic is there and can be recaptured in a newer more polished game, IF Sony has the courage to make that game.

    (Side note: I hope I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER play a storyline quest hub game again in my life. EVER. Bring back the “world” to MMORPG gaming, instead.)

  • Ahh my kind of peeps, had to stop about a 3rd way down when I realized how big this thread was. Has anyone mentioned danger ? to me Danger gets me immersed, with today’s games once u max level there is very few areas u can get killed. I really dont see that anymore or any significant death penalty, I know those are not popular, but it motivated u to stay alive and move carefully.

    As to WoW, Blizz has created a generation of spoiled gamers. Due to games like wow and the players they brought up, it may be a while before we see a MMORPG like we want. Myself Hoping EQ Next can do it, but that is SOE so i have my fingers crossed.