“There are many good reasons most games studios don’t attempt an MMO, and why all of the advice to indies is to avoid it like the plague. Basically? Because it’s the plague.
An MMO is the most expensive and complex design choice you can possibly make. In some ways it makes the 64bit problem look like a school project. Moving from single-player to multi-player adds complexity. Moving to large numbers of players who expect to be able to interact with each other en masse, chat, trade, work together, work against each other, connect any time of the day or night, never lose any saved data, never have their accounts hacked, never lose out to a cheater or a scammer, and never be abused in chat by a troll… well, it’s games development in “Extreme difficulty” mode. “MMO” also makes people think of complex character sheets, and massive, massive, massive replayability.” [James Hicks]
Yesterday, the folks over at Massively OP featured a lengthy commentary by Ascent’s lead developer James Hicks on the kerfuffle around Star Citizen. It’s an insightful read about all the great risks and challenges that come with such massive, crowd-funded projects and naturally, his above statement about the MMO genre as a whole stood out to me and bears repeating. We are so used to our AAA-MMO gold standard and so very demanding, it’s easy to forget what a remarkable feat every running MMO(RPG) is to begin with. Developing massively multiplayer online worlds is diving into a bottomless well or as Hicks called it, the plague – one we get to enjoy without all the peril until no one’s left who would lead us there.
darkest dungeon artwork
I am blessed as a player of MMOs in that I have not one tiny jot of the Completionist gene. If I’m not enjoying something I can easily stop, leave and never come back. I don’t feel any nagging pressure to finish anything in a video game. If it isn’t entertaining me it can go die in a ditch. [Bhagpuss]
I want to say amen to a sentiment expressed by Bhagpuss yesterday about his relationship with completionism in MMOs. As a fellow explorer and potterer, I have given up such past ambitions after realizing three things about my own completionism-monster back in vanilla WoW:
- the (rat-) race never ends
- it’s not actually enjoyable (duh)
- this is not what I’m here for
I am not much into progressive content nowadays and yet, I am a fairly progression-minded player in the sense that repetitive tasks with foreseeable outcome bore me a great deal. There is a degree of repetition to all the games we’re playing but completionism in today’s MMOs is often defined by collectivism for collectivism’s sake (lots and lots of achievements of no further consequence) and the type of grind that solely exists as timesink and where the balance between journey and reward is broken. There’s no purpose or meaning in 100 of the same daily quests, no challenge and satisfaction in performing the same motions over and over in so many similar bossfights. The underlying narrative to many of our activities has become strangely reductive (as in stripped of all decorum) and circular:
Why do you farm 100 tokens? – To gain an achievement.
What does the achievement say? – That I should farm 100 tokens.
But this is not the time to get back into it all: the different playstyles and player focuses, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators, longterm vs. instant gratification, journey vs. reward, themeparks vs. sandbox worlds, the value of randomness, meaningful choices, incentives of cooperative vs. solo content and so many more topics that I’ve written articles about over the years. Instead, I am leaving you with three links, old and new, that discuss this subject in different ways:
- On MMO Gypsy: Achievement (Hate), Exploration and Mystery
About the ways questing and exploration have changed in MMOs over the years, why more and more rewards cannot make up for journey and how dominant achievements/achiever mindset have contributed to the current status quo.
- Tevis Thompson’s Blog: We are Explorers
The inspiring article for my own post and possibly the greatest and most important read on the subject of mystery and exploration in games I have ever read. Deals with the subject of how the illusion of scale and immersion in virtuality are juxtaposed to completionist mindset.
- Recently on Eurogamer.net: The man who made a game to change the world
About Richard Bartle’s dream of virtual worlds as a safe haven, MUDs/MMOs changing society and the ways current games have failed to live up to that potential (thanks Spinks for the link via twitter!).
The true traveler doesn’t know where he’s going. Happy exploring!
The “G” in MMORPG is the one letter we could do without. I’m not here to play games. I’m here to see worlds. (Bhagpuss)
I don’t do quote-of-the-day posts often, in fact this is maybe the second time ever on MMO Gypsy. That’s weird considering how much I love words and quotes but the reason is probably that QOTDs don’t create discussion. They do however spread words worth spreading and that is one hell of a quote-worthy statement right there. Happy Monday, all ye MMO world travelers!