Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Golf clubs and MMORPGs

What is the difference between a 5 iron and a 6 iron golf club? A golf veteran can probably explain the difference and knows in which situation to use which of these clubs. Everybody else would be unable to see the difference between the two, if they weren't hadn't "5" and "6" etched onto them. MMORPGs have the same issue: If you made a screenshot of yourself killing some wolves in a game like Wildstar or Guild Wars 2, and you showed that screenshot to a non-gaming friend and asked him what game he thought that was, he is likely to answer "World of Warcraft". Because he probably hasn't heard of the other MMORPGs, and for him the difference between WoW and GW2 is about the same difference as between those golf clubs.

I am currently playing World of Warcraft. But that is more or less an accident of history. I might as well play Final Fantasy XIV or Guild Wars 2 or one of many other similar games, and that wouldn't make a change in my life. There are very few games in the MMORPG genre (EVE, A Tale in the Desert, Puzzle Pirates), where the basic gameplay is actually much different from World of Warcraft. I was reading about the design of Project Gorgon where the devs asked themselves "what is a player going to do every 15 seconds, every 15 minutes", and the answers were "kill a mob" and "hand in a quest". And these answers are the same for a huge range of games, even games like Destiny that aren't usually considered as MMORPGs.

The sad thing about this is that the possibility space of MMORPGs is much larger than this. You weren't doing a quest every 15 minutes in Ultima Online. You don't kill mobs in A Tale in the Desert. Games like the first Asheron's Call showed that interesting social structures other than raid guilds are possible. Star Wars Galaxies experimented with non-combat classes and player-built cities. The whole promise of "players living in a virtual world" was squandered by everybody (including Blizzard) following the Everquest model of MMORPGs and neglecting the alternatives. Nintendo made a better community-shared virtual world with Animal Crossing than any of the big MMORPGs ever managed!

If the overall MMORPG market is in decline, it is because most developers chose to do "more of the same", trying to emulate successful games instead of searching for success with other formulas of gameplay. I still believe that a big social MMORPG which is about living together in a virtual fantasy world is possible, without violence being the main gameplay option. I just hope that devs interpret the various "WoW is dying" reports correctly as that the EQ model of gameplay has been overdone and isn't attracting players any more, and that we need something completely different. I don't want another golf club.

You named 3 different games: EVE, A Tale in the Desert, Puzzle Pirates
Are you playing (and paying to) any of these games?

If not, how could they continue to exist?
How could other developers prove investors that there are need for their different game when still 90% of the MMO players are playing WoW?!

Want different games then WoW? Put your money where your mouth is and stop playing WoW, start playing a different game!
You know, I've been saying this very thing for some time now: current crop of MMORPGs are too mired in DiKU MUD/Everquest/WoW model. But I strongly believe there a vast reservoir of other options beyond "kill 10 rats to get +1 sword", we just need developers not hindered with this mentality to explore it.

Virtual worlds could be so much more than "10 new levels, four new zones and two new raids."
Plus, I agree with the goblin!
Are you playing (and paying to) any of these games?

I played A Tale in the Desert in several of its incarnations, but the development team is small, and can't add new content at the speed of Blizzard (and people are even complaining that Blizzard isn't adding content fast enough). I have a lifetime subscription to Puzzle Pirates. I boycott EVE because I believe you need to be inherently evil to enjoy that game.
Tale in the Desert has small team because they don't have enough subscribers. You could give them one.
Puzzle Pirates: fair point, you gave them their support.
EVE Online: you are dead wrong. You can fight evil. Yes, it's easier to have fun if you are a bad person. But it's much more satisfying to slay a really evil opponent than a pixel boss who never done anything bad even in the game world. I mean did anyone ever seen any of the WoW bosses leaving their dungeons and doing anything bad outside of cinematics (hearsay, rumor)?
I understand that Second Life is the all social interactions all the time game. I have no interest in "playing" it, though because I'm not an extrovert that needs people to interact with them.

I think the issue here is the majority of game players are introverts like me. Game companies know this and make "Combat, collect stuff" type games in response.

The problem with entirely cooperative games is most players don't want to cooperate all the time. That said, though... I would agree that combat doesn't have to solve all problems. Walking into a village of NPCS that are trying to build a town hall like structure and need your help to solve the labor disputes (Basically a puzzle game.) would be an interesting change of pace.
[...] instead of searching for success with other formulas of gameplay.

I don't think failure to search for success was the problem. The problem was that they searched for success and it didn't exist. There is no opportunity to "squander" by developers when these non-WoW games fail/sink into obscurity.

Alternatively, and perhaps more charitably, these non-standard games simply aren't profitable enough. In which case... whose fault is that?
@Azuriel: indeed. If everyone who says "WoW sucks" would leave WoW and play some different game, then maybe WoW wouldn't dominate the market.

As the saying goes: If you want a change, be a change!

Millions of people have quit WoW this year. So please tell me, what exactly did that change?
What those millions leaving WoW did was likely move the next expac's announcement (and development) up to early August instead of their traditional "wait until Blizzcon" presentation.

It seems that Blizz is starting to realize that they need to engage with the world beyond their fans if they want to remain relevant.
"If the overall MMORPG market is in decline, it is because most developers chose to do "more of the same""

I don't see that as the problem at all. That isn't the problem in the FPS genre, or the MOBA genre, or any other currently successful genre.

The problem is that developers are trying to make games that they WANT players to want, not games that they ACTUALLY want.

More specifically, they want hardcore players, so they try to push casual players away from casual stuff and into hardcore stuff (particularly raiding). But casual players don't work that way. They don't just turn into hardcore players, they get frustrated and bored and quit the game. What's more, casual players VASTLY outnumber hardcore players, to the point that they represent roughly 90% of the player base. This is true even for a "hardcore" game like EVE, that has been out for a long time and supposedly all the casuals should have quit by now.

'The problem is that developers are trying to make games that they WANT players to want, not games that they ACTUALLY want."

I agree. And I would modify that slightly:

The problem is that developers are trying to make games that THEY want to play themselves, not the game that's appropriate for the budget the developer has given them.

People like Ion Hazzikostas should be working on a far smaller budget making a game for a far smaller audience. One that's consistent with the number of elite players appropriate for that target group.

Through the magic of vertical integration, Blizzard COULD have it's cake and eat it too. LFR funds the core development of a raid for the massive casual crowd, then Ion's elite group, which is much smaller, gets to use the same artwork for their more difficult raids in the end game raiding game.
@Tobold: at first, they didn't show up at other MMOs, so they likely left the genre instead of WoW. Secondly 5.5M is still very-very many.

But it's not about them, it's about you and other bloggers. Telling that WoW is a bad model and we need other model while playing WoW is literally
Gevlon, in the absence of a perfect world everybody goes for the least bad option. Or are you telling me that you play EVE because it is an absolutely perfect game?
No, it's not. But I also don't post every second day how bad EVE is and how much I wish someone made a better game. Actually I find it a good game with some even better potential.
First of all, this is blatantly untrue. I checked my blog posts of 2 days ago, and they were not about how much I wish someone made a better game. In fact I was blogging about playing my paladin in WoW. Second, why don't you take your own advice and apply it to blogs? Your every comment comment is about how bad my blog is. So why don't you put your money where your mouth is and comment on other blogs instead of mine?
I never said or believe that your blog is bad. I said that I disagree with this or that statement. Having differing views doesn't make a blog bad, it make it interesting. If you'd agree with me in everything, there wouldn't be point to read you. You provide intelligently formed arguments instead of what bad bloggers do (and I don't read them) "X iz shite Y roxxor lol".

My point is exactly that you seem to enjoy WoW, yet your opinionated posts on it are negative.
My point is exactly that you seem to enjoy WoW, yet your opinionated posts on it are negative.

My point is exactly that you seem to enjoy my blog, yet your opinionated comments on it are negative.

And you might want to read my post again. Nowhere do I criticize World of Warcraft in it. It is mainly a criticism of OTHER game developers who slavishly follow the WoW formula instead of making something different. In other words, I like spaghetti, but I would protest if every restaurant in my city was ONLY offering spaghetti. Isn't that a reasonable request for more variety?

And you seem to completely overlook my various posts over the last couple of days and weeks where I defend World of Warcraft against the sensationalist "WoW is dying" and "it is the quality of the bad expansions that makes WoW die" posts on other blogs. I enjoy WoW, WoW is getting old, I'd like to see something else instead of switching to a game which is basically indistinguishable from WoW.
Why would someone complain about something they aren't engaged with?

If a game is really bad or really not suited for you, then you don't really have anything to say about it. If it's really great and you fit it really well, then there's not much to say beyond occasionally gushing over it.

Everything else is either 'games I play, but that I can see how they could be improved', or 'games I don't play, but would if they fixed something with it.' Both of which are negative. And that's fine.

I don't talk about call of duty, because I'm never going to be a call of duty player. I complain about eve, because I really want to play eve, if only it didn't have pvp. I complain about wow, because it's a good game that just doesn't hit all the things I wish it would. I don't talk about gw2, because I'm having fun with it and don't really have anything to say. So it would seem I only talk about things to complain about them. :P
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