Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Massively singleplayer online roleplaying games?

If you read on blogs about EVE Online, you can find the most wonderful stories, often involving treachery, betrayal and assassination. Then when you read blogs about stories that happened in World of Warcraft, including mine, they feel rather tame by comparison. Sometimes there is guild drama, usually about raid slots or loot distribution. But often people just tell about zones they explored, quests they did, or boss mobs they killed. And because Onyxia is always the same, all the stories on "how we beat Onyxia" are somewhat similar. So why are not more people playing EVE, if it is so much more exciting? Because that excitement is player-run, and not really part of game.

I received an interesting e-mail recently, from somebody who talked about his favorite game: "Face of Mankind is a completely player-run game. While there is very loose guidance by the devs and GMs, all missions, faction events, and structure is handled by and for the players. It's a double-edged sword - the freedom creates a very genuine sense of reward when players are successful, but it also leads to gross mismanagement and abuse of power by people who gain stature through seniority. Still, when this game was in open beta and had swarms of players, I was hooked." and then asks "Is there something else like Face of Mankind? Something player-driven with lots of breathing space for RP? Something with freedom and exploration? I am told that EVE is a game I should look into, and I indeed see many things on the surface that are quite appealing, but after three trials that I gave up on after a few days, I don't see it."

I had the same problem with EVE, I played it when it came out and gave up on it before the free month was over. The player interaction was exciting, but not always in a pleasurable way, like when I was ganked by another player and podded (killed). But most of the time you don't interact with players, you interact only with the game itself, like in any singleplayer game. And as a singleplayer game, EVE isn't so hot. There is too much boring asteroid mining, and equally boring long spaceflights.

World of Warcraft on the other hand is a great massively singleplayer online roleplaying game (MSORPG). You can have thousands of hours of fun without interacting with other players. There are so many places to explore, quests to do, monsters to fight, and items to collect that you never get bored just because you are alone.

Now theoretically you could have both, a great MSORPG with exciting player interaction added on top of it. But practically there is a problem with player interaction often driving away more customers than attracting it. The "Eve Intergalactic Bank" is a great story, but the hundreds of EVE players getting scammed out of large sums were probably pretty angry. And the other story with the guild being infiltrated, it's leader killed and all the guild money stolen makes you wonder how many of those guild members quit the game in disgust.

So most MSORPG have only neutered player interaction. Limited death penalties when being killed by another player, or even no non-consensual PvP at all. No stealing, nowadays not even real killstealing or ninjalooting any more. There is a "bad word" filter integrated into the chat system. Toontown even has no more open chat at all, you communicate mostly with pre-designed safe phrases, unless you know the other player from outside the game and exchange a secret code with them there. The stories of World of Warcraft sound so much more harmless because there really isn't much you can to do another player. But apparently that is what the majority of players wants. A few people would love an alternative WoW in which you freely kill and loot other players. But experience shows that there are always many more victims than player killers, and in the end such a feature only harms a game.
Naturally, any mmo with a pk switch is going to be less "exciting" than one without, but I can live without that type of excitement.

I just don't trust player run servers or games. Too much opportunity for favoritism.

Blizzcon is right around the corner, and rumors are running rampant. There should be plenty to talk about by next weekend, when Blizzard unveils their next game, as well as the next WoW expansion.
I don't pay a monthly subscription to have some 12 year old with an attitude problem ruin my gametime.

I've suffered pkers, BSODers, memory card corrupters, and 'packet crashers' in on-line games before. To me WoW has kept these morons at arms length, but even so, there is still a possibility that someone will hack my account and steal all my items/gold.

The best and worst aspects of on-line games is other players.
>The best and worst aspects of on-line games is other players.

Too true. I would say that WoW still has the ability to have some player run things, it just doesn't really need them, so few people try.
I love Eve Online. Started playing 4 months ago after 2 years of WoW. And I can fully understand it's rather hard to get into. In my 4 months so far, I had a few times I just didn't play for a week since I saw no reason or had no real goal for it.

To explain, WoW is a rollercoaster ride. You enter the world, start following the quests and go where the quests and mechanics send you. It's very easy and it's a damn good (almost singleplayer-like) rollercoaster ride, almost everyone loved leveling up to 60/70 for the first time.

Eve isn't a rollercoaster ride. There's no rail you're forced to follow. It's completely open. You've to set up your own goals. You've to find out what you want to do yourself. You can make yourself useful for others from the beginning. You need to create your own fun and that can be hard, especially when you don't fall in love with the space-combat itself from the beginning. But after a while you'll see the tactical awesomeness of that too.

I could suggest you all to read this article: It explains why I love Eve so much better than I ever could. And if you want to give it another try and start a new trial, I'd suggest you to join Eve University in the beginning. That should enable you to make some friends quickly and make the beginning less overwhelming. After that it should be a lot easier to decide what you want to do in your Eve career.
>A few people would love an alternative WoW in which you freely kill and loot other players.

I think this is what kept me away from MMO's for so long. I always thought I didn't play enough to be able to keep my level 4 possessions (or whatever). That said... there sure are times when I'd like to gank my own side when they steal a kill. lol.

But more to the main point of the post... It's true that Blizzard does a pretty good job at creating in-game events so the players don't much need to do it. But there are some guilds (Sleeper Cartel on Perenolde for example) that do some amazing things with the tools they're given in-game. They make player quests, events, and server-wide parties. I always said that if I didn't have my RL friends on my current server, that I'd spend time with a guild such as Sleeper Cartel to make something... bigger.
The problem with any MMO where you can be a predator to other players is that someone, somewhere, is paying $12 a month to be your prey.

Once a server runs out of masochists, the game's going to be a lot less fun for the predators. I suspect that the masochist supply is extensive but not infinite.
> It's true that Blizzard does a pretty good job at creating in-game events so the players don't much need to do it.

What? Seriously, have we been playing different games? I've never ever seen a single in-game event created by Blizzard, except some small stuff as the Naxrammas invation and the end of beta.

But a game like Eve Online adds consequences to the game. In WoW you can be a total asshole, being hated by your entire own faction and still play the game just as effective as anyone else. Only finding friends to do raid-instances with could be a problem. You'll have a lot more troubles being a total asshole in Eve, where you'll suffer the consequences.

Also. You and your corporation don't get scammed when you know what you're doing, unless someone high up in command screws up things in the same way guild-banks have been stolen in WoW. I haven't found dying to be too harsh or something. Unless you're flying ships you can't afford to loose, it isn't too painful.
I appreciate the mention, Tobold. I'd say that you hit the nail on the head with EVE: it starts off slow - too much like a single player game - and that single player game isn't a lot of fun. As for the PKing tying in with player control issue, my answer to that has always been zoning - which EVE handles in a pretty decent manner. If I join up again and find a good corp, it might hook me in. Until then, I suppose, the search continues...
I think this all goes back to what a player wants out of a game. As WoW has proven, lots of players love playing MMOs as a solo game. For those players, any time they are forced into player interaction, be it pvp or quests, they get upset or skip the content (if possible). Forced too much, they quit.

That said, I think you greatly underestimate the number of players who DO want some form of forced interaction. I think EVE Online has shown its possible, and Warhammer Online will expose the large segment of the market that WANTS that type of game.

I've gone over the issue a few times in my own blog, and I'm sure it will creep up again the closer we draw to WAR. A very clear line will be drawn between the PvP and the Quest/Raid player, and both camps will finally have a solid choice (WoW and WAR)
What I find the most interesting is the meta analysis of the multiplayer game mechanics. Everyone here seems to "get it" on how having other players is a double-edged sword. What fascinates me is that at the meta level the design of virtual worlds is completely unlike how things work in the real world.

That is, jerks in reality are kept in check by other people in the community and/or the powers that be, yet in games, despite all the god-like powers that available, there are rarely systems in place to properly handle the asshats that crop up. It almost seems that in the real world we try to jail the wrongdoers, yet in virtual worlds they jail everyone else in singleplayer/instanced/grind environments just because there a few other players that are dicks.

What we need is a game company that is as willing to drop those players as quickly as they're willing to drop gold farmers. Maybe then we'll get a game that has the benefits of player interaction with fewer of the down sides. I think that's the next real hurdle in the MMO industry.
My thoughts exactly anonymous... Everybody acts like an mmorpg is creating something brand new with no model. While in fact we all live in the real model. I've always thought the pvp (or cooperative) aspect of the game would be much more interesting if it was free form. Meaning that you can interact the same way with anybody regardless of faction. Instead of arbitrary rules like you can only kill or talk to people of the opposite faction, there would be laws that punish you for being a "dick" in game. This is how the real world works while we all run the rat race, why can't our virtual worlds work the same way? Just instead of getting that promotion at work, you get an epic sword for killing a dragon?
I'm finding EVE fascinating, but I'll concede that you need to be in a Corporation. I've trialled it three times, and only stuck with it the third time, since I ended up in a good corp. Once you're in, you can do a lot of solo play, and it becomes a lot more meaningful as something supporting the corp than just something you do yourself.

I really like the open, un-guided shape of the game, though, just as much as I like the possibility of making a lasting impact on the setting.
For me, the biggest problem has been one of balance. Games have tried too hard to balance a PVE scenario with a PVP. There have been a lot of different solutions offered, and while I know i digress list as best as I can:

1: PVE with consentual pvp. WoW, DDO, etc. Great in theory but a player in this game has no need to pvp so pvp loses out to content.

2: Zone-based or quasi-pvp: Eve-online, Neocron, etc. Both of these games, while well-intentioned and fantastic in design suffer dramatically on the PVE side. My understanding is that the devs spend so much time balancing pvp issues that pve takes a back seat. These games also suffer from the same problem as consentual pvp games, where the pvp itself really doesn't effect the game proper. (While I agree that stories of eve corp intrigues look great on paper, as a 3 year eve player I'm here to tell you it doesn't really play out as entertainingly for the player himself,) and these pvp 'story arcs' if you will, really have no impact on content updates anyway.

3rd in the list is the PVP-only category which to date, while being massive in scale has left a lot to be desired in content. Planetside, FoMK, Jumpgate and Fury come to mind. All seemed well thought-out but again implementation is an issue.
Add to this the developers' absolute disregard for content updates ("who needs updates! Let the players make the game") and the inability for player-made content, and what you end up with is a stale, repetitive back-and-forth between factions that drives players away as soon as they reach what I call the "content cap." This is the moment when a player realizes she's pretty much seen all there is to see in the game, and cancels her subscription, inevitably restarting her WoW account because at least she hasn't hit the content cap there.

That said-

I do offer a couple proposals, and wonder what people have to say about them, in no particular order:

a: If you're going to have a pvp game, realize that pvp players usually prefer to use their own skills over their character's skills or items.

b: don't worry so much about balancing PVP.. players will do this all on their own, because they have to. Don't EVER nerf items or skills, just add other items or skills to counter them (this will directly help you avoid the "content cap" as mentioned above. There's nothing players love more than new big guns/swords/spells/etc. to strive for.)

c: Decide WHAT you want your game to be. Don't just throw pvp in there to make some people happy. If that's not what you have in mind for a game, then don't put it in there. If you want PVP, then let your players have a fighting chance. Make sure they understand how combat works, give the new players somewhere to practice, and for God's sake, make it possible for new players to at least hurt experienced ones.

...definitely a much longer comment than I intended.
A little off topic, Guys... I have a question. Last weekend I discovered this site:
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They say you can play online NHL game tournaments on any console for cash... had anyone tried that before? Looks like a cool idea...
Are there any other sites where you can play sports games for real moneys? I Googled and found only and but it looks these guys don't specialize in sport gamez. Any suggestions?
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