Isn’t that what you do in every MMO?

I was playing in an unnamed MMO this afternoon and asked a particularly loaded question: “Is the goal of the game pretty much to get to the end and raid for better loot?”  Whew!  The responses I received.

My favorite response was, “Huh? Isn’t that what you do in every MMO?”  There was a legitimate innocence to this individual’s confusion as though he truly was confused by my question.

I used to be the type to want to save this person’s soul. I used to think it was my duty to educate this person about the other side, the other options, the experiences he or she may have never even known exist.  I have since learned it’s impossible to do such things in MMO chat channels, and prefer to do so here on my blog.  But the more I think about it, maybe he’s right.

Let’s assume someone started playing MMOs when WoW came out, and this person probably only plays the most popular or new MMOs and rides the same wave we all do.  I guess there really aren’t any examples of non-raiding end-game.  The same can be said about quest-driven leveling, capture the flag pvp, instanced dungeons, etc.  There aren’t any modern examples to contradict or oppose the themepark model — at least none you can seriously bring up in a conversation with the masses.

Millions and millions of people have only ever known one way of playing MMOs.  To them, this is what an MMO is all about.  This really is what you do in every MMO.  Since that’s all they know, that’s all they want.  And since that’s all they want, that’s all MMO devs deliver.  Since that’s all devs deliver, we get the same recycled/cloned game year after year.

MMOs weren’t always about combat.  Combat was just one of many ways to ‘play’.  MMOs weren’t always about getting loot to progress.  We used to spend years learning new skills and leveling up.  In some games we never even had levels!   I could decorate my house in some MMOs and never worry about being judged as “casual;” having a nice house used to mean people looked up to you.  Having a good reputation used to be more valuable than all the gold in the world because people traded in social currency and cared what other people thought of them.

That sounds nothing like the MMOs we play today.  It’s no wonder the people get all confused when someone questions the status quo.  If only they knew that’s how we got to where we’re at today.

  • There are a couple of exceptions that your wave-rider would probably have hit. WAR (I think? never played it endgame, but it wasn’t a raider was it?). Guild Wars 2. But I definitely can’t disagree with the general thrust of your point.

  • @Carson: There will be exceptions, but even WAR and GW2 tried to capture the same vibe via PvP. Even more fitting that they both tried with the same model.

  • The whole numbers thing from Yahtzee. We get better loot to get bigger numbers in order for us to get bigger numbers.

  • Most modern 3 month MMOs i pretty much play to experience their world and content. Given how they are designed though thats a pretty short lived concept.
    Socializing use to be there but I have not really made internet MMO friends since UO. This is really dead in Modern MMOs for me.

  • This is one of the best blog entries on MMO culture I have read in a very long time. I reraly comment here, Keen, but this post really hit a home run for me. I could not agree more! We forgot the original premise. This genre had given us a glimpse of snowcrash reality only to take us back to good old super Mario tried and true. Too bad, so sad.

  • People used to socialize in mmorpg’s because that was their only option.

    Mmorpg’s have been obsolete for years.

  • Keen, The community was much much smaller back then and the MMOs in general were a “niche” product. More people were unaware of them. Also the era have changed, new kids are spoiled in a cgi hollywood style and artists like Justin bieber and lady gaga..I know I sound like my father now, that it was better in the past and things had lot more quality, but in this case it is true.

    Old gamers were a group of friends going to a restaurant mostly to have fun and chat and slowly eat their food and drink while they are talking and laughing. New gamers is the person who would go alone in a fast food, eat the crap food as fast as possible alone, complain that the food was crap and move to the next fast food, alone again to repeat the story.

  • On balance I tend to agree, but I don’t think the picture is quite as black as you’re painting it. For example, the number of players that I know in the informal “I know your name, I grouped with you a few times in the past” kind of way that used to be the norm pre-WoW has never been higher than in GW2’s WvW. The server I play on has a particularly stable population and many of the names I see now are the same ones I’ve been seeing, and fighting alongside, for over a year now. That has not happened in many other post-WoW MMOs I’ve played.

    As for non-combat options, especially housing, EQ2 has a large, active community for whom housing is pretty much the be-all and end-all of the entire game. Status within that community very much does rest on how nice your house looks and fame and reputation within that community extends far beyond a single server, with formal and informal competitions and social visiting extending across the whole community in-game and into social media.

    I think one thing that has changed is how separated these sub-communities are. There are many, many names I see every day in WvW that I have never once seen in the open world of Tyria; some top decorators never adventure at all. It’s a lot easier now to make a part of an MMO your whole world, partly because of the extensive use of instancing but also because in certain MMOs even the minority interests have more content than an entire MMO did pre-WoW. These things are BIG.

  • Eve online would be an exception.
    No raiding real endgame at all tbh
    PvP is very differeby to almost any other mmo.

  • I basically treat MMO’s like single player games … well level wise i get to the last level declare i have finished the game and never play it again.
    only game i didn’t do that with is City of Heros I had a lot of friends to play with on that one.
    I never seem to find anyone close enough to keep playing a game when i have got to the end.

    Also raiding Bah i gave up on raideing when i stopped playing EQ raids there were enough for me to not do them again.

  • @astral: EVE gets brought up often, but I’m pretty certain it came out before WoW. I know it has picked up steam over the years. It’s a very unique creature unto itself.

    @Bhagpuss: I think there was many ways we can break things down and identify avenues that don’t fit the picture I’m painting. When I asked this question in chat people replied with things like getting all the achievements, decorating a house, etc. Problems is those things aren’t part of the main flow of the game. The main flow is funneling people into raiding. I guess I don’t give concession stand distractions as much weight as I do rides. Oh, and I do agree with EQ2, though I count that as a pre-WoW game.

    @Wufiavelli: Yeah, that’s why I came up with the 3 monther concept. I’m in the same boat.

    @FreeQuest: I’m starting to treat them like single-player games, but I have such a passion for multiplayer.

    @Farquaad: Thanks!

  • Great post and comments. I share many of the views expressed here. I’ve been chasing that “EQ high” I got around the new millennium for over a decade now and have never re-captured it.

    One thing I’m not sure about is how much of it is the developers and how much of it is the players. I have a number of friends and a wife for whom WoW was their first MMO. They talk about vanilla WoW the same way I do about pre-Luclin EQ.

    These old games we loved are still there. EQ is still around. Sure, it’s changed a LOT since most of us probably actively played but it’s still EQ. I go back once in a while and try to get back into it but inevitably get hung on up on the clunky UI, dated graphics and archaic mechanics. Trying to talk friends into going back it’s almost like an insult to even bring it up. It’s not the same experience and it can’t be.

    We also now live in an age of meta-gaming. EVERYTHING is meta-gamed to death, often before it’s even released. Videos and guides detailing all aspects of the game. There’s no mystery anymore. No longer do I have a binder full of hand-drawn maps with points-of-interest. When you go into a raid you’re expected to have watched all the videos and know the fight ahead of time. What fun is that?

    Two other big issues I see are time and choice. During my EQ days I was a college student and had a lot more free time to invest myself in Norrath. Now I’m a dad with a full-time job, a house, a wife and dogs. I have family nearby. My life is busy and I just don’t have time to play games like EQ or EVE anymore. If I can only game for a couple hours I do want to feel like I accomplished something. Maybe I’ve just been brainwashed to expect this now.

    Another issue is choice. There are so many MMORPGs out now that cater to so many different tastes. It’s really difficult for me to get more than one or two of my gaming friends playing the same game. Everyone is playing so many different things. Back in the day we had UO, EQ and Asheron’s Call. That was it. Later we got DAoC. Now we have hundreds of games.

    I’m not a big RPer but there are aspects of it I enjoy, especially in regards to character development. These days voice chat is the expectation and often required. It’s very difficult for me to feel immersed when I learn that female dwarf Paladin is actually a longshoreman named Rick from New Jersey. I had a lot of friends in EQ I never spoke to with voice. I knew them as dark elf necros, halfling druids, and ogre shaman.

    I’m not even sure what point I was trying to make now and am rambling. I guess I feel like the onus is as much on us as players as it is on devs. Gaming is big business now and they’re always going to cater to what they perceive as their largest market. Especially given the recession I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t a lot of market research and number crunching going on before any significant money was being invested. Although I don’t like the direction the genre is going I can’t help but assume it makes financial sense to the people behind the scenes.

    There are still games that cater to things we ask for but we don’t want to play them anymore. The combat in WoW is so good. The game engine is phenomenal. I really wish they would license the engine out. Every other game I play feels clunky or “soupy” in comparison. I have too many issues with WoW to play anymore but man I miss the combat.

    I think my biggest issues with MMOs today are the raiding/loot-grind model (been there, done that, tired of raiding for reasons that would require a separate post) and lack of friends to play with. I used to have a large network of gaming friends. Now the people I play with consistently I can count on one hand.

    Sorry for the rant. This was as much a cathartic post as anything. Thanks for the post.

  • @Misaligned: Thanks for the well-though-out post. I agree with you that it is just as much the player as it is the developers — basically what I wrote in the op. Actually, I really do HOPE it is the players and not the devs. If it’s the devs we’re forever screwed. If it’s the players, maybe they’ll change as developers change.

  • You know what’s far scarier? A lot of MMO devs today only know WoW and it’s clones as what an MMO is. (Working on that post right now, going to link to this as its along the same line of thinking).

  • @SynCaine: I’m not kidding when I say I had 3 paragraphs in the draft of this post saying the exact same thing. It turned into a huge rant, though, so I wiped it out.

    It’s very true. I’m horrified when I think about companies pulling from the pool of potential new employees. I love when I see the pudgy older devs who need glasses to see their notes. I know they at least have experience and wisdom beyond the past 10 years.

  • @Misaligned

    “It’s not the same experience and it can’t be.”

    It sucks that you missed EQMac. It really was the closest thing to that experience we’ll probably ever get. The community was the absolute best. I made a bunch of friends there (pretty much the first friends I’ve made in an MMO since my original EQ run) who I’m playing FFXIV with now.

    RIP Al’Kabor

    I agree with every single thing you said. I’d never even thought about the voice comms as immersion breaking, but they definitely are. I might be wrong, but I believe SOE is working to fix this with SOEmote, doesn’t that have voice masking to go along with the facial movements? It could help take immersion up a notch rather than down.

    I’ve got the same list as you minus the kid, which is probably why I still have time to kill in these games. In fact I met my wife in Everquest back in 00. Maybe it’s time we got started on that…

    Anyway, your post hit so many personal notes for me that I’ll definitely be checking out your blog.