Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 24, 2008
 
Would mono-games be better than multi-games?

Modern MMORPGs are huge beasts that allow for a large variety of gameplay modes. You can PvE solo, in small groups, or in raid groups. Or you can PvP solo, in pseudo-solo automated groups, in small arena teams, or in huge guild versus guild battles. The advantage of offering so many different ways to play are obvious, players can choose what to do depending on their mood and how much time they have available. But on the other hand the various game modes cause problems for each other. Especially class balance seems to be difficult: some classes are good soloing but not so desirable in a group, others are the other way round. Class abilities get nerfed to achieve balance in PvP, although that ability might have been perfectly balanced for PvE, and is now underpowered. Abilities and item stats like aggro management end up being useless in solo and PvP play. Gear progression from PvE doesn't mix very well with PvP, which is supposed to be more skill-based. Meanwhile making all these huge games becomes increasingly expensive. So why not make games that only have one of these parts?

When Age of Conan and Warhammer Online were announced, it appeared as if these games were mainly about PvP. But either that was just a marketing trick to differentiate these games from WoW, whose PvP isn't its strongest point, or the developers changed their minds: From all what I hear both AoC and WAR will have extensive PvE parts. And I wonder why that has to be that way. Why not make a pure PvP game, without levels and gear progression, where the classes are perfectly balanced for PvP without having to take PvE into account? Why not make pure PvE games, like Everquest was? Why not make a game that is all about raids, where there are no levels, and nobody is forced to solo 70 levels just so that he can join his friends in a raid? And why not make a game where you only solo until the level cap, without tacking a raid game onto the end?

I'm not saying that any of these mono-games, focused on only one of the aspects of MMORPGs, would sell as well as World of Warcraft. But it would certainly be easier to make a good mono-game than making a game with many parts, all of which have to be good. Mono-games would be cheaper to make, and even with a smaller subscription base could be perfectly profitable and viable.
Comments:
There are games like that. In fact, most MMOs out there are pure PvE games with very basic PvP just tacked on.

There is a superior PvP-only game: it's called Team Fortess 2 ;-). Seriously, I don't think stat-based games like WoW and other MMORPGs can hold a candle to action-based 'twitch' games. Why you'd play WoW BGs or Arena instead of TF2 is beyond me.
 
Tobold - most of that already exists
Solo Play - Final Fantasy
Pure PvP - Team Fortress
Solo Raiding - Strategy games (Advance wars maybe?)
Group raiding - that one I dunno, I'm sure there is something out there though.
 
> There is a superior PvP-only game: it's called Team Fortess 2 ;-).

For those not familiar with the game: it's a twitch-based first-person shooter, and as such much faster than the "press a button every 1.5 seconds" combat of WoW. I don't think many WoW players would like it. On the other hand, there are some similarities: you chose one of nine different classes, you have healers, tanks, and you need to combine the skills of several classes to be most effective. Some of the mechanics have a direct counterpart in WoW: depending on class, you have an invulnerability bubble, DoT damage, stealth, totems, AoE damage. Gameplay is team vs. team. When you die, you wait a few seconds until respawn, just like in a WoW BG. There are capture-the-flag maps and control point maps.

What's interesting is that Team Fortress 2 is moving towards MMO-like, grind-oriented gameplay. Currently, every player can switch to any class they like and have all the weapons available. In the future, there will be stronger variants of all the weapons that you can unlock by playing the class for X amount of time, and achieving certain objectives (like having a lifetime total healing of X). In other words, you'll have to "level up" your characters.

I'm curious how the playerbase will accept that, I for one will probably abandon TF2, because I really don't need a second MMORPG.
 
For the publisher, the games that focus on only one type of gameplay are troublesome the moment the player gets tired of that particular type. Retaining your customers will be a challenge.

However, Sony could probably pull this off with their Station Access. They don't particularly care if you stop playing Everquest 2 and start playing Planetside.
 
I think a lot of others have already mentioned it, but it is worth repeating.

The mono game, is the mother of the multi-game. Just about any game element you mentioned (with the exception of group raiding) has at one point been pioneered in a mono game.

As an example, I like turn based strategy games (huge in Japan, rare in the US these days) and enjoyed Real Time Tactical (they called them strategy (RTS) but they were more tactical in nature in my experience). A very favorite multi game of mine is a perfect example. Medieval Total War II. It is a combination of turn based strategy, and real time tactical.

I just wish I could play the grand campaign with people online, just like you can do with table top strategy game like "Home Before the Leaves Fall."
 
In a perfect world, I think one MMO would do all of those things well. Then we would have a large playerbase and lots of resources in one place. That being said, one game doing it all right is probably not possible- hasn't happened yet anyway.
 
Tobold let's take your "80% of your time is spent in the end game" number from a previous post. That is where these games HAVE to be judged to determine whether they are PvP or PvE focused. I think it is fairly safe to agree that all diku-inspired games will provide a PvE leveling model.

WAR's endgame is heavily geared towards the city and keep sieges. Secondly, WAR's "fast action" endgame are battleground style scenarios. For the most part, end game PvE of WAR will be a result of PvP actions. For example: killing a king in a city siege will be a pure, instanced PvE encounter. But it will only be unlocked after a couple weeks of PvP actions by an entire realm.

AoC is sort of in the same boat, but we don't know much about the end game because they are launching the game before it will be publicly tested. According to the developers, AoC's endgame is guild city building and warfare, but whether that is in game, works, or anything will be a "find out when we get there after release".

I think it is fairly safe to say that WAR players will spend 80% of their time engaged in PvP (aka RvR in WAR), with the side note that high end PvE will unlocked via RvR.
 
I thought Guild Wars was a pretty good example of a mono-game. Yeah, there's a PVE element, but at the end of the day the game is mostly about PVP, and you have the option of skipping the grind and going straight into a max-level character for arena combat-only.

I don't recall seeing the numbers, but I think NCSoft has done decently with GW being sold as a one-time-fee game.
 
Guild Wars is also interesting for offering solo 'group' play. While much of PvE content requires a group of characters to tackle, you can hire NPCs to fill your party if you'd rather not play with other people.

Really, Tobold, if you are interested in exploring different choices in game design, do yourself a favor and try some other games (not just MMOs either)! Only playing WoW and talking about game design is like living all your life in a small town in Kansas and pontificating about world affairs.
 
Games have leveling to give people something to progress towards. Without it it's just a FPS. That's why I play these games. I like to watch my character grow in power and ability. If everyone starts at max level and there's no gear upgrades, there's nothing to play for.

I like TF2, and CoD4, but I can only play them for short bursts. A couple hours every once in a while. Because I feel like I haven't accomplished anything.

This is also the reason why mono games won't ever work for me. Sure, I could play this mono game for PvE. But tonight I feel like PvPing. If I have to switch games, and progress I make in the other mono game is "wasted". Even worse, I may be starting from scratch without my powerful character from my mother mono game.

And if there's no difference in character levels, what's the point? That's what makes a MMORPG -- character advancement.
 
Why not make a pure PvP game, without levels and gear progression

Then it wouldn’t really be an MMORPG. It would be WWII Online. A big part of the appeal of an MMORPG is character development and progression. The irony is that balanced and fair PvP is best when each match or game resets and everyone starts on equal again. To me, this is the fundamental flaw of all MMORPG PvP. The best players are rewarded and given advantages in addition to the skill they acquire that already makes them better than the average player. In an FPS or RTS game, that’s irrelevant because only the skill and experience are persistent from match to match. You may “power up” during a match, but you reset on death or when the match is completed.

I wrote in Syncaine’s blog a few days ago that I thought one solution to this problem is “breakable” gear that eventually wears out. First, this type of system would require that even the best gear be fairly attainable in order to replace it. Second, you wouldn’t always PvP in your Sunday best either. You would bank it for rated matches or other important events. As I wrote at Hardcore Casual, “Imagine that instead of it costing 21000 honor and 30 marks for a piece of gear that it only costs 300 and 3 marks. The difference however, is that it breaks and becomes unusable after 10-15 matches.”

Diablo actually had a good system in place for handling broken gear. If you recall, once gear “broke” you could repair it but at the cost of lowering the max durability of the item. A sword with 0/110 durability would have 90/90 durability after getting it repaired.
 
Many off-line games (particularly console games) try and include pvp or 2 player modes as well as the solo game, and for a lot of these games, the pvp/2p content stinks.

It's like they feel they have to include it, otherwise their game won't sell.
World of Warcraft, despite its huge success, illustrates just how difficult it is to combine different game modes successfully.
 
I think what developers really need to do is better divide the different playstyles within the same game.

Make pvp modes that shed the pve game entirely to do them. When characters enter a pvp battleground they could switch to a pvp template which locks out all their pve skills/spell/abilities and assigns them pvp abilities based on their class. Just stop any crossover, there's no need for contiguousness between the two modes and it leaves developers free to balance PvE and PvP separately. I'm sure there would be better ways to implement it, but you get the idea I hope.
 
Really, Tobold, if you are interested in exploring different choices in game design, do yourself a favor and try some other games (not just MMOs either)! Only playing WoW and talking about game design is like living all your life in a small town in Kansas and pontificating about world affairs.

Lol, as I've been playing computer games since the ZX81 and played every major MMORPG since UO, that comment is pretty pointless.
 
Tobold let's take your "80% of your time is spent in the end game" number from a previous post. That is where these games HAVE to be judged to determine whether they are PvP or PvE focused. I think it is fairly safe to agree that all diku-inspired games will provide a PvE leveling model.

That seems like it will be an issue with these games, if that's the model they follow. People will want to play the games for the PvP, sieges, etc., but will have to play through a part they don't like in order to reach the likable part. (Though I think I read at one point that warhammer is allowing leveling through PvP, but it still seems an issue that will come up in a lot of games.)

Really, Tobold, if you are interested in exploring different choices in game design, do yourself a favor and try some other games (not just MMOs either)! Only playing WoW and talking about game design is like living all your life in a small town in Kansas and pontificating about world affairs.

This is something a lot of MMORPG players/bloggers may need to to as well, since there are a lotof things they say that cause a "Does not Compute" effect in my mind on reading them.

Then it wouldn’t really be an MMORPG. It would be WWII Online. A big part of the appeal of an MMORPG is character development and progression.

In the future, I hope games that still try to include progression do it in ways other than extra gear and power, just because of how much leveling messes up other parts of the game (PvP, friends lists turning into "who do I ask for a run" with different "progression" speeds, mudflation, etc.)

It also seems that MMORPG's have been overly limited, whether due to developer tradition, player expectations, investor expectations, etc. Most MMORPGs seem to be designed around having characters that fight something, quests, leveling, crafting, armor and weapons with special stats, etc. Most don't seem to explore the full range of what could be done with lots of people playing as characters together on the internet.
 
It doesn't have to be one or the other. There's a lot between 1 and n, if n is "small PvP + big PvP + small PvE + big PvE + solo".

Why not just have "solo + small PvE + big PvE"?

I know a game that used to be like that...
 
I enjoy the current synergies between the different aspects of PvE and PvP, and deciding which talents and gear I'll keep or swap out for each situation.
 
Further on the "Tobold playing multiple games" part of the comments, it would be nice for the blog to have more MMORPGs out, since it would give more types of stuff to write about than "Wow raiding/items/progression issues". (That's actually a big reason I'm waiting for the Age of Conan beta to come out, not because I plan to play it at the moment, although it does look interesting, but because it will hopefully provide some more food for blog posts here.)
 
People want some measure of progress. They want their character to get better from spending time playing it. That's why there are PvE elements... because in PvE, the computer doesn't mind losing.

In a pure PvP game, there's no progress. The gameplay has to be able to stand on its own for that. Not saying it isn't possible, but you lose a bunch of people who want to make their characters better over time.
 
if you really are dieing to read about more games on this blog, you could just go through the archives. What is the difference between reading about a game that came out 2 years ago that you never played and reading about one coming out in 3 months that you will never play?
 
I like the idea of "mono-games" as Tobolds calls them and think they already exist partially. But my issue with these would be the consistency. If I like to PvP one night, raid the other night and all that with the same friends, I wouldn't like to switch games all the time. For me, a rather complete package maybe even with one set of chars under one "game name" seems rather attractive. Imaging leveling your rogue in PvE, 'transferring' it to a PvP game or start raiding with it, while still being more or less the same char (looks etc) I started with. Not mentioning having the same friends list :)
 
The reason why these big MMORPG's have both PvP and PvE, or only PvE is because a pure PvP mmorpg will plain just suck.

The different "economies" feedback into each other and generate the motivational forces that keep players going. If you cut PvE from the PvP game you cant have the mmorpg bussiness model. You'll have to go the FPS path and lose those nice subscriptions. (But you maybe can tag on micro payments instead.)
 
I guess the most obvious reason why not Mono-games, would be that your friends most likely won't be playing the same game at the same time you login. (easily solved, in theory, I know, but it's not commonly done nowadays as far as I can tell)
 
There is such a game, Tobold. It is called Team Fortress 2, however. :)
 
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