Massively Overthinking: Are MMOs designed for ‘low-skill gamers’?

Ages ago on the MMORPG subreddit, a player made a bold statement: MMORPGs are designed for low-skill gamers.

“I remember being dazzled by EverQuest and Ultima as a child,” he wrote, reminiscing about his memory of high difficulty old-school games. “I recently loaded up [Star Wars: The Old Republic] again, and I’m shocked. Piss easy. Everything. XP falling from the sky. Mobs dead in one GCD. Brainless. The same reason I quite every MMO. I never meet people, I never feel challenged. I just feel bored. ‘Wait till endgame’ isn’t gonna cut it anymore. I’m over it. I’m done. I feel like I’m just hitting the ‘Reward’ button again and again and again, solitary and alone, like a stupid little rat in the cage.” He then basically blames the perceived shift of the genre on people who don’t want games to be “like a job”: “The genre just seems to be fueled by mediocre, anti-social “consumers.”

I wanted to pull this back out to see whether our staff and writers agree with the claims — and whether we all have some advice for this fan, who concludes his rant by asking people to change his mind. Howsabout it, Overthinking fans?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I admit I have a similar perception these days. I understand people want to be able to solo, and I’m often in that group myself, especially as I have limited time and may need to AFK at a moment’s notice. Early MMO experiences are, as described, often rather brainless, especially for genre vets. Worse, they’re solo too (I don’t mean the tutorial!), especially after launch rush. I agree that waiting till “end game” doesn’t cut it anymore. This was the only genre to ask that of players, and that wasn’t even how the genre started.

That being said, I don’t know if I’d say they’re for the skill-less. WildStar wasn’t very difficult for me since I’m used to action games, but I saw a lot of newbies (and press!) dying in the starter zones in fairly careless ways. I could do some big pulls back to back and it rewarded my progress, but if I tried to type while fighting or play around with my rotation, I was done for. I think that, perhaps, one of the bigger issues is repetitive design. MMOs thrive on grinding, and when that’s all that’s asked of you, it gets, well, boring. If you think about traditional, table-top roleplay, which is what inspired our genre, we’ve moved far, far past it to combat grinders, and as soon as you realize and master that, you’ve doomed your experience.

I’m not saying all hope is lost. I’m saying we need to flatten the playerbase’s power and change our focus. PlanetSide 2 is a good example of a modern MMO, but it didn’t seem to catch on. What I liked was that even though it was mostly (PvP) combat focused, players of all levels could drop in, find a place they were needed, and be on a team without needing a lobby, arbitrary player cap, or “end of round.” Darkfall’s transportation system prevented it from being quite as accessible, but the idea that I could be useful to a guild even as a gatherer/supply runner/scout on day 1 was a big part of the game’s stickiness. It’s why the death of EverQuest Next still feels relevant to me: the idea of the game world being in constant threat, being something we all interact with but can access on similar levels. Give us multiple gameplay options, not just combat. We need more entertainers and deep crafting mechanics that interact with the people interested in fighting all the time. We need systems of inter-dependence, not independence. We’re seeing more of that in upcoming games I think, like Crowfall and (in theory with the family system) Chronicles of Elyria, so there’s hope yet for PvP fans, but if you’re completely opposed to it… man, I really wish I could think of a modern PvE sandbox MMO that isn’t shutting down.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): As a general rule, I can’t take seriously the “kids are so spoiled these days” and “back in my day, we walked 10 miles uphill both ways” types of arguments. It’s just a generational put-down that ignores most of the factors really in play over the last 20 years. People grow up. They prioritize their consumption and style of entertainment and redefine what “fun” means when half of their life is behind them (instead of most of their life in front of them). The MMORPG genre has also grown up, such that things early hardcore gamers thought were fundamental to the genre have turned out to be correctable mistakes along the way — things we couldn’t design around at the time but can now.

There are certainly some “older” games I enjoyed and miss dearly, but the funny thing is I don’t really remember being “dazzled” by the early games like the Reddit poster. I was obsessed with social interaction of Ultima Online and play it to this day, but even me, a total newbie back then and a teenager, was able to PvP and PvE in that game at its highest levels, so there’s no way it was difficult or challenging. Ditto for EQ, and in fact, I spent so much time bored out of my skull thanks to “designed downtime” in EverQuest that I played other games on the side. So I don’t agree those games were challenging or difficult in the first place. They were grindy and time-consuming, though, which meant the only people who could play them were those who had patience and time. Skill had nothing to do with it at all.

Since those days, MMORPG design and gameplay has become incredibly sophisticated such that those old games feel relatively simple in gameplay, mechanics, and AI, and the social? Well it’s all still there, but you have to look for it now that other people aren’t forced to play with you against their will — which is of course a silly thing for me to say, since forced grouping is a factor in every single major modern MMORPG, every one of them. (If you’re a fan of work in your games, putting your own groups with other likeminded pro-group people shouldn’t be a problem, right?)

Ultimately, I just don’t recognize the OP’s description of the top crop of MMORPGs right now. Boiling down Elder Scrolls Online or Black Desert to “hitting a reward button again and again” is hyperbole to the degree that it could as easily apply to any game from the ’90s, and the idea that modern MMOs are for low-skill gamers while old ones weren’t misremembers history as well as conflates time and skill. And frankly, if Guild Wars 2 had shown up in 1999, we would have done literally anything to play it, and it would have kicked our asses.

That said, I understand and agree with the frustration with the “just suck it up and get to endgame where the real game begins” sentiment, but that’s another rant entirely.

No, mine aren't changing, that's not what I'm actually saying here.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): This is one of those things that bugs the living crap out of me. Seriously. I didn’t play EverQuest, but I played Final Fantasy XI, which inherited a lot of the same DNA, and let me tell you something: It wasn’t hard. It’s never been hard. It’s been slow, and it’s been tedious, and it’s been luck-based, and sometimes it’s been all of those things at the same time, but none of those is the same as hard. If you want something hard, go play Dark Souls blindfolded. A task that requires a year-long commitment is hard only in the sense that taking a photo of yourself every day is hard; you have to put in effort on a consistent basis and might well lose interest.

Games shouldn’t be jobs. I have enough jobs. I’m not going to pay someone for the right to get an additional job that happens to involve punching dragons. The risk of random death didn’t make any of these games harder; it just made them frustrating. They tended to include more time waiting for things to happen than time spent with things actually happening. Given the choice, I would take Star Wars: The Old Republic over sitting in Jeuno waiting for a party in a heartbeat.

If you feel that other people are antisocial, that often translates to being antisocial yourself and wanting other people to make the first move. I’ve forged lots of great bonds in games from FFXI up to FFXIV, in SWTOR and in World of Warcraft, and so on down the line. Getting rewarded at a certain pace hasn’t really changed that. It’s removed any feeling that I might be special for jumping through hoops to get a collection of pixels, but that never made me special. That just meant that I devoted time to it. It’s no more special than reading all of a comic book or watching every Star Wars film until I can quote it verbatim; the difference is that a Star Wars film is less likely to suddenly decide that it’s going to start back at the beginning because I wasn’t paying the right kind of attention.

In short? If what made you like older MMOs was the feeling that every reward required extensive, tedious work, those days are gone and they (thankfully) are probably not coming back. FFXI has done a huge amount of work to patch itself into a state where you spend less time farting around and more time doing stuff. You know what? I find it more fun now than I ever did before. Sure, it’s a bit more lonely, and that’s sad, but I can log in and do stuff, and I was having enough fun that my wife (who has no history with the game) started playing alongside me and having a grand time. Time spent is not difficulty; time spent is time spent.

Of course, none of that touches upon the fact that most MMOs still have huge month-long projects for you to go on once you hit the level cap, thereby meaning that no one expects “leveling” to be a part-time job, but eh, I’m done.

Hooray, disconnections!

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): MMORPGs cover a wide spectrum of playstyle and difficulty, so if you’re whining that the whole genre is too easy because your sample size is one particular game held against your nostalgic memories, then you’re just being lazy. There are tough games, skill-wise, information-wise, and puzzle-wise. There are titles that foster more socialization than others. There are games that are hard from the get-go, while others take a while to ramp up. And there are always parts of games that are more challenging than the rest.

To be fair, some MMOs are quite simplistic and streamlined to the point where they don’t need much human input at all. I prefer to be challenged more in solving puzzles and navigating the environment than I do in combat (which is its own flashy puzzle), but we all have our own desires and preferences. “Skill” can mean a lot of different things to different people, but when it comes to fights, being skilled means using the right abilities at the right time while taking in the situation, analyzing the best response, and performing well. It doesn’t just mean snappy reflexes and constant dodging.

Sometimes you want challenge. Sometimes you want mindless farming fun that makes you feel powerful and helps you zen out in your gameplay. Sometimes you want to be with people, sometimes you just enjoy being “alone together.” The variety and options of MMOs are what keep me captivated with this genre, and I’m not on a crusade to have it all be redefined in a much more narrow sense.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): To this I say: Yup. Yup, yep, uh huh, yah boy, and you got it. Well, at least I do as far as the loss of putting in meaningful effort in many games nowadays. I know my opinion is not a favorite one in this respect (if it were, would so many games do the opposite?), but I agree. So I have no intention of changing this fan’s mind on that aspect because this is basically the problem in games as I see it — at least for me. And don’t even get me started on the loss of building relationships and communities in games.

People say they don’t want games to be like a second job, but in my opinion anything worthwhile takes work. And I hate to break this to some folks, but WORK is not an evil word. It isn’t a swear word. It just means you put effort, time, and care into what you do. You focus on something and throw your energies into it. You invest into it. I invest in more than just paid work. I invest in my hobbies and projects. I invest myself into things to have a return on them, from coaching to crafts to relationships. Sadly I am not really invested in any games anymore the way I want to be because there is little to invest in. To invest you need a deep world where you really work toward goals, where you spend time to accomplish something and when you do it is an actual accomplishment.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t where the market seems to be. Instead, people appear to want quick, easy, practically passive entertainment in their games — to be rewarded for next to nothing. But when you don’t work for something, you don’t get that feeling of accomplishment and appreciation. And people want that feeling, so they just keep going for that quick fix over and over and over again. I really really hate the whole idea of instant gratification; it is shallow and fleeting. No, if you want a fulfilling feeling you will have to cultivate it over time with effort. And that will last longer. I admit that there is a market for fast and furious easy mode. Hey, I get a kick out of that exact thing in Marvel Heroes aka Loot Pinata Online. I just wish it didn’t pervade the whole market. That type of game is just for some fun popcorn gaming, it’s not anything to really sink myself into. And I really do want to sink myself into another world! I just don’t see that happening much anymore. Because “working” appears to be taboo and bad and something to avoid. Me? I think the world would be better if we remembered that work is not all bad. I know gaming would be!

Your turn!

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150 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Are MMOs designed for ‘low-skill gamers’?"

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Goettel
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Goettel

Compared to learning to play the piano or grinding IT I find sitting behind my PC gaming low-skill in general, but don’t find an MMO generally easier or harder than e.g. an FPS, just less tiring.

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Droniac

The notion that modern MMO games are designed for low skill gamers is silly, because it implies that older MMO games weren’t. I’ve played MMOs since 1999 and it’s never been a genre that had any skill requirements for PvE gameplay, even in group content.

The only MMO(-like) game I can recall that did have a high skill threshold for PvE content, even solo content, is Guild Wars 1. And even that game essentially had its difficulty level cut in half prior to release. Aside from that game, the only notable skill requirements in MMOs, new and old, have been rather marginal and in the form of coordination (group content) and PvP.

MMOs tend to not have skill thresholds, unlike many other genres. As such, MMOs generally don’t require skill, instead they allow for it to varying extents. The best example of this is Blade & Soul. You can be the worst Kung-Fu Master in all of history… and still complete 95% of the game’s solo PvE content. But if you’re a pretty good Kung-Fu Master, you’ll tear through that content at 4x the pace and can solo a lot of group content. The same goes for playing a Warden in LotRO, or playing Guild Wars 2, etc. They all have some allowance for mechanical skill or build optimization that increases the pace at which you complete content, but doesn’t hinder you from completing content outright.

The notion that older MMOs were more difficult seems to me to stem from misattribution. There was more group content, but the overwhelming majority of that group content didn’t even require coordination, just multiple players with okay-ish builds. The solo content was no more challenging than today, but it was less restricted. It was much easier to accidentally walk into encounters far too high level for you, because of less regimented or restrictive design and far less clarity and uniformity. But you can absolutely still have very similar experiences even in modern themeparks like LotRO or GW2 or Blade & Soul by simply walking into areas too high level for you… And none of this enhances the skill requirements or even allowances of the game.

The reason MMOs have always had very low barriers to entry is obvious. There’s so much content in these games that balancing around multiple difficulty settings is an enormous endeavor, so developers tend to economically choose for one-difficulty-fits-all. And with this choice you automatically force yourself to design the entire game around Easy difficulty. This because it’s either the most, or 2nd most, popular difficulty setting depending on the game and genre – as can clearly be seen from Steam achievement tracking. Hard mode and higher tends to be the preference for just 10-15% of the player base of a game (including myself), with very few exceptions.

In addition, there’s the problem that MMOs are by definition online games. This means they have to deal with latency – and because of their scope, usually latency that’s much higher and more variable than that of ordinary multiplayer games. As such they can’t realistically demand the same kinds of mechanical skills that other genres do. And as a result of this MMOs will always remain significantly less demanding (of skill, not time obviously) than other genres.

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Leninja

MMO’s are too broad of a genre to have a universal definition of skill.

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Modrain

Difficulty is a relative notion. If 10% of a player base manage to get X, it’s safe to say that getting X is difficult. Conversely, if 90% of the player base manage to get X, it’s easy.

Skill, however, is not necessarily tied with difficulty. Skill can take many forms. Dedication. Reflex. Planning. Smartness. Sociability. “Skill” is just the ability of someone to reach an objective. If everyone can reach that objective, then it’s simply not something that require skill. RNG or time, for example, are not skills. If anyone can get X given enough time, it does not require skill, it requires time, what becomes a constraining factor.

The fact is, while early MMOs relied a lot on dedication and sociability to get things done, they required time before anything else. Things were slower in many aspects, from levelling to combat, and there were dependencies between players we rarely find at the same level nowadays. Were they difficult? Yeah, undoubtly, because many objectives weren’t reached. But unless you had the possibility to pour enough time for your skill to become the constraining factor, they weren’t games requiring skill before anything else.

Nowadays, are MMOs easier?
On the one hand, I don’t think so, quite the opposite, actually. They got quicker, and time is significantly less of a constraining factor. But you still don’t see everyone running with the top gear, or managing to kill the endgame boss. Plenty of objectives are still never reached, but with time out of the equation for many players, it became a skill issue.
On the other hand, in many MMOs, it seems than more people than ever before get the top gear or manage to kill the endgame boss. As the equation changed, the comparison with the past is hard to make, but it suggests that the skill requirements are not high enough to compensate the constraining factor that time was, making games appear easier. Whether or not it’s for the best is left to everyone’s opinion.

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Robert Mann

No. They are designed to be easy to please the majority of players who want minimal challenge with reward. Those who want challenge are usually shuffled to maximum raiding or PvP tiers… which rely on the same physical skills.

That said, there isn’t much for mental skill involved. Most are designed with a rotation, learning that isn’t tough by any means, using it well isn’t really tough. Most highlight where to stand, which is just reactions and doesn’t take much thought. Min/maxing requires a little math skill, but not much. Most of it is super obvious anyway.

Skill in MMOs (and most games) is therefore only physical. So, if you want to really talk about skill, let’s compare against sports where people do similar things… and you’ll very quickly decide it isn’t apples to apples, and then we can go back to the real reasons for design. Until the next time somebody goes off on this.

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Teh Beardling

I think it really depends on what you define as “skill”. The EQ family and ffxi weren’t necessarily hard, they were just time consuming. If you consider patience to grind a “skill”, then i guess they did take alot of skill lol. MMOs these days take a different set of skills though. Its more about reaction time and rotation execution.(especially in pvp centric games). Even on the PvE side of things though, Mechanics have blossomed into some really neat/fun ideas. The problem is more of the fact that the pacing has slid alittle to far towards an action game style as far as progression in most mmos. Meaning, its very fast.(relatively). I wish it would slow down some tbh though. So that you could feel a little more accomplishment when you did something. But the SUPER grinds of yesteryear are, hopefully, long gone.

Side note; one day there will be an mmo where being solely a gatherer/crafter will be viable. At least, thats what I’m going to keep telling myself anyways. A man can dream.

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Jack Kerras

It’s pretty obvious that modern MMORPGs are designed to be completed by all comers; although raids can certainly be tuned to be more difficult (see: require higher numbers to complete, as well as a higher degree of interaction with your fellow raiders), almost all of the rest of the content is one hundred percent beatable by any random person who has leveled up to that point.

There are plenty of hybrid healers who don’t realize they need to hurt in order to heal. There are plenty of tanks that don’t understand it’s their job to get add attention and not let monsters get away and kill the mages and rogues. There are a ton of people who just -don’t know their role-, and yet they’re at endgame, having failed their way forward through an ocean of easy content.

If they didn’t make MMORPGs like this, the games would shut down. The vast majority of people aren’t interested in intricate systems and well-designed encounters that require a certain approach to defeat; they want their numbers to grow, and they want to be able to spank-n-tank everything they see, feeling good about themselves as they go.

Genuinely difficult content would annoy regular folks until they stopped playing. At present, WoW is so sticky because there’s so much you can do, and basically no one lacks a WoW friend by this point.

The World-First race is definitely a thing, but it’s also a thing that gets active participation from a vanishingly narrow segment of the game, much like PvP and other niche activities; things don’t start to really -be seen- by large swaths of the game until LFR, at which point the content is so neutered that you can stand in fire all day and get healed through it most of the time.

Yes. MMOs are designed to be easy.

They’re not supposed to be games. They’re supposed to be social platforms with fun activities to do with your friends. It’s Facebook with a high-fantasy skin, a story, and a Pokemon minigame, among a host of other things.

I would say that a majority of people don’t engage with or fully understand the game’s systems at all, not with their own class, and certainly not with the classes around them, and the game is designed not to frustrate these people and to keep them subscribing.

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Robert Mann

Sadly, the entire social platform part has essentially vanished… leaving them as time fillers where you have to seek very thoroughly to find any such interaction.

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Warking

Virtual worlds needs to be the focus again and not treated like an enemy.

Crow
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Crow

One of these days we’ll have to realize that the enemy is mass popularity.

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Dug From The Earth

are you calling me dumb?

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Esoteric Coyote

I’m sure the comments are gonna be good. Hold my beer, I’m going in.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I think the original post (?) that sparked this column might be drawing an incorrect conclusion from the evidence of SWTOR. He’s right about what SWTOR is like, but it’s because of how it has aged.

Every MMO I’ve played for more than a few weeks has aged in a similarly unappealing fashion: The devs gut them to make leveling fast and easy for latecomers, thus squeezing pretty much every drop of fun out for someone like me, who doesn’t live for endgame. (SWTOR is a particularly egregious example of this, IMO.)

I like a little challenge in my MMO. I want my character’s life to be at risk while leveling. I want to have to die and retry a few times, at least occasionally, so I can get that rush of success. I want dungeons to stretch me. Most people enjoy that feeling overcoming odds.

The problem is that it is quite difficult to deliver that experience across a broad range of player skill levels. Devs seem to cope it with best in end game, where they can deliver different tiers of content (if they have the resources). In the open world, it’s not so easy, and usually ends up on the low skill side in order to not scare off the customers and to provide a non-threatening arena in which people can improve their skills.

I miss the days when even the open world had effectively tiered content, in the form of areas intended for groups. I don’t mind that most content is solo-friendly these days. I do mind, though, what I perceive as a strong faction of “everything must be accessible to everyone”. No. Just no.

You wanna solo? Go right head, but don’t gripe about missing out on some content. I don’t like to raid, so I don’t do it. I also don’t whinge about not seeing the content and not getting the best tier of gear. Life is about tradeoffs. Suck it up, buttercup. Let games cater to a wider audience.

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kgptzac

I just come here to say that, nice bait title!

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Melissa McDonald

So, if true, what’s the alternative? Does the author suggest games like “Overwatch” or “Call of Duty” to be for powerhouse intellectuals? This is barely even worth giving merit.

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Arktouros

They don’t have to be.

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Jeff

The problem is for everyone that more or less whines about how easy a MMO is, there are legions of people who have no issue with current difficulty. Easy for you may not be easy for me…does that make me less of a gamer or person?

That kind of elitism is why games like Wildstar pretty much tanked (although Wildstar did do a lot to right the ship) and Pantheon probably will tank, there just isn’t enough uber gamers to keep the lights on, and even if there is, they would probably find something else to bitch about.

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Robert Mann

Aye, those appealing only to the most ‘hardcore’ players wanting tight gear requirements are exactly as you stated. I think there’s room for growth and challenge in other aspects of MMOs, though.

capt_north
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capt_north

I rarely have any problem finding an aspect of a game that poses a satisfying level of challenge. Some games have difficulty sliders for the purpose, some let you push into zones that are beyond your level, some have elite creatures that are much harder than their standard counterparts. I’d like to see more options like that, but the challenge is usually there when I actively seek it out.

I have a much harder time making a game more difficult for everybody else, so my superior mouse and key skills will be rightfully acknowledged and I can ascend the dais of eliteness above the low-skill peasants.

Fortunately, I have access to arenas and shooters to scratch that itch, and have no need of it in a virtual world setting.

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Vunak

It took 5-6 years to kill Absolute Virtue in FFXI. It takes less than a week to kill the premier content in any new MMO. A linkshell fought Pandemonium Warden for 18 hours straight before they gave up because the fight was to difficult to figure out and still took a long time for people to down him even after the nerf.

It takes less than a week to down any new content of MMOs today, if even that long.

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Robert Mann

But was it about skill, or just about the abilities? AV was overpowering people, rather than being something which was beatable (and SE even noted they had made it so that it wouldn’t be beaten for the longest time) which PW is really about adds and other monsters (nothing really new.) It was just scaled hard for a long time.

Where I’m all for content that doesn’t go down within a week or two, skill is not necessarily the same as difficulty.

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Dean Dean

Difficulty is relative. Most of the content found in MMOs is designed for the average player, for obvious reasons. Good MMOs will employ variable difficulties that can be selected by the players (tougher instances is a common option).

I think the issue is mostly one of communication. The developers don’t seem to understand that they are alienating a lot of players by not letting them know that the content difficulty can or will be ramped up.

Personally, I will choose an MMO that offers PvP, just in case I don’t find the PvE content engaging enough.

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Jack Kerras

I feel like there’s a major reliance on ‘hard mode’ as a way to make things more difficult, but usually ‘hard mode’ just means that something is level 34 instead of 30.

It’s very rare to see a hard mode instance that shakes up enemy placement, that causes random spawns of an ad like the Alarmbots in good old Gnomeregan which shakes everything up like crazy and can wipe the team if it’s ignored, etc. It’s extremely unusual to see new mechanics and new encounters, and very common to see ilvl 650 instead of ilvl 595 requirements for entry.

Even if the ilvl change means more difficulty (IE doing the 595 version at 595 is easy, but doing the 650 version at 650 is tuned in such a way as to present a longer fight and a higher DPS requirement despite the ilvl similarity between gear and content), this is -just- numbers going up, and it’s not that fucking satisfying for people who have been playing games for twenty years.

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Robert Mann

More and more MMOs are going there, rather than just level bumping, to be honest. Not all of them, but it is a trend.

Also, @Dean Dean There have been some well noted attempts at things like this *Ahem, Craglorn, Ahem!* which failed as people just sat around whining about having to group up… or which crazy people like myself proved was mostly solo-able anyway. The end result being the crazy people who like a challenge were happy, but most people just were upset about having to try to group up for the quests.

How we solve that problem… well, I’m not sure that we can avoid it. Simply put, a game may have to accept those people as a loss if it wishes for more difficult combat areas.

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FreecczLaw

I mean generally I think newer MMORPGs require more mechanical skill than old ones, but none of them require much skill compared to a lot of other genres. I don’t think that means MMOs are designed for low-skill players, I see a lot of players that are exceptionally skilled in other games play MMORPGs because it is a different experience regardless of skill. That doesn’t mean I think the genre has gone the right way for what an MMORPG “should” be though.

I think the biggest problem of the genre is that it has barely moved forward since WoW was introduced. Just now we start seeing games start to pop up with different ideas of what makes a good MMORPG and that is what is important imo. Companies have spent the last ten years trying to create a WoW killer or the new WoW which meant there was no variation and very little forward momentum. We have ended up with a very stale genre that also more or less only caters to one type of player. Granted it is probably the biggest sub category of players within the genre, but it still all means everyone else was forgotten.

With these new/old ideas starting to come into the genre we all start to get what we want and I think that is the key. There are enough players out there for more nisch games to work. Some will try to cater to everyone at the same time and that is fine, but it is nice to see some starting to cater to smaller nisches as well.

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Schmidt.Capela

IMHO, games of old, MMOs or not, weren’t any more difficult. They just seemed so.

There is a thing often called Fake Difficulty, when the devs add things unrelated to player skill to hold players back or make it take more time to win. It can be added by accident (bugs often cause fake difficulty), or it can be intentionally added to stretch the game out — as devs of old would often do.

One elucidative example is Monkey Island 2; if you play the remastered edition with the dev commentary on, you will hear them talking about how after the puzzles were done they shuffled the required items to force players to make very frequent trips across the islands and artificially lengthen the game. Similar things were done in other games by requiring players to figure things through (time-consuming) trial and error, to memorize level sections in order to have a chance of beating them, by making progress depend on RNG mechanics, by adding mandatory grind, etc.

What changed is that players nowadays are far less willing to partake in fake difficulty, and there are far more games out there so players can more easily jump ship if a game tries to hold them back with fake difficulty.

Unrelated to the difficulty issue is the social aspect; MMOs of old often forced grouping, so even players that didn’t like reaching out were forced to do so. Thankfully this practice is in decline, so while there is less grouping happening in modern MMOs, it’s usually more enjoyable because the grouped players actually desired to play together rather than being forced into something they didn’t want.

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Robert Mann

Aye, I just want games to be made for those with a more social bent as well. Different games, for the different playstyles. No more failed ‘jack of pleasing all customer’ attempts.

Apply to other things as well, like PvP, more involved crafting, etc.

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Roger Edwards

Oh this old chestnut again. The perennial “if you’re not doing it my way, then you’re doing it wrong” argument. I wish I had a pound for every time I read such a statment.

Beyond the fact that the MMO genre has gotten easier for commercial reasons, everything else is really just the advocation of a personal opinion. Because we all play for different reasons and in our unique way, there is no default universally right position to start from.

Once again we see a Reddit article that allegedly peddles a truth but ultimately is just a vehicle for disdain for people that don’t share the same opinion of the author. It’s a malady we see in all walks of like these days. There always an under current of if you aren’t with me you should be vilified or better still stopped.

As for low skill gamers, it’s a deliberately divisive and pejorative term. It’s also subjective and somewhat nebulous. You might as well criticise all gamers called Colin.

Anyway, thanks for giving me an easy blog post topic today. There’s also plenty of mileage to be had in MJ Guthrie’s moral absolutism, which is especially droll.

Crow
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Crow

Except that then we fall into a subjective black hole where we cannot make statements without couching them in weakness and doubt.

The fact that you make this about someone else’s shortcomings so quickly is exactly the same thing you’re complaining about here. Because, like it or not, MMORPGs are zero-sum systems with clear rules that cannot be broken (even if said mechanics are kept obscure). So there is a definitive and objective “right” and “wrong” way at play here. It is baked 100% into the mechanics and systems which are coded in specific and zero-sum language. At no point does a game’s underlying code take a break and say, “Oh, I guess I’ll let that person do that…” You can either do it or not. If you play a game without progressing when progression is a core concept, you’re objectively playing incorrectly. Now, the real place that matters is if it has an effect on anyone other than the individual player.

For a real-world example, individuals who are intensely against open PvP in Black Desert Online are literally playing the game wrong in every objective measure. Player conflict is a core mechanic in numerous systems over there which assists in things like maintaining resource balance and keeping generalized inflation in check. To remove PvP or to insist that people not PvP literally would break the game. Specifically, without PvP conflict everyone would go to the best grind spot and without interruption just make huge bank every hour quickly creating an insanely inflated economic system which would destroy any sense of balance the game had.

Having strong positions is a benefit to individuals. Muddying oneself in the “well, everyone is entitled to their own…” just gives a blank check for anyone and everyone to be selfish, entitled and downright wrong while being patted on the back for objectively playing a game in ways that are against the zero-sum mechanics.

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Roger Edwards

Logically, every statement we ever make in life should be couched in framing terms. Terms you Crow choose to label weak and doubtful. The reality of modern lif is it’s just not practical to do so. For example, we say the majority of the electorate, rather than saying the exact percentage. Or we ‘ll call a celebrity a “national treasure” knowing full well that they are certainly not loved by everyone. Yet to always be specific is deemed pedantic so we go with broad the prevailing consensus and with our words, paint with broad strokes

With regard to tour Black Dessert analogy it is indeed true that if you play a PVP-centric game and carp about it’s nature your are potentially in the wrong game. yet it is not a simple as that. There are potentially lots of other scenarios. Simply choosing to ignore or bypass a games core mechanics is not a question of right or wrong. It is more of a lifestyle choice. If I play a PVP game but opt to simply tool about doing roleplay, or play the economy etc,am I playing incorrectly? Does my decision to play this way impact upon you? Do the developers give a damn? They’ve had my money already and I may be having so much fun in my own peculiar way, that I may give them more. Doesn’t that make me just as valid as any other customer?

So no, I still reject the notion of playing a game wrong. I may well be ignoring a games specific systems and doing my own thing but that is not the flagrant contradiction that you insist that it is, as far as I’m concerned. Ultimately, it’s a bit like choosing to wear a colander as a hat rather than use it as the functional tool.

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Robert Mann

In most MMOs, if you are playing the economy you certainly affect me… but only because the developers will scale gold sinks to you rather than to my lower funds. I am in no way more wrong in not wanting to play AH for half my day, than a person who wants to.

Thus why I really want a portion of games to avoid AHs. It isn’t a popular opinion, but the reality is that AHs harm my enjoyment of the games.

Crow
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Crow

Gonna do it this way because I know you’re a good debating partner, here.

Logically, every statement we ever make in life should be couched in framing terms. Terms you Crow choose to label weak and doubtful. The reality of modern lif is it’s just not practical to do so. For example, we say the majority of the electorate, rather than saying the exact percentage. Or we ‘ll call a celebrity a “national treasure” knowing full well that they are certainly not loved by everyone. Yet to always be specific is deemed pedantic so we go with broad the prevailing consensus and with our words, paint with broad strokes

I didn’t “choose” to label runaway-subjectivity and relativism as “weak and doubtful”, they’re weak and doubtful on their own, inherently. As logical and philosophical concepts, they are not True statements as they lack a logical proof that actually works. They are subjective feelings that, by virtue of being subjective, are not Truths. They are inherently weak statements because “weakness” isn’t subjective… it is a defined and clear term.

In this case, the “weakness” comes from it being an extremely weak logical argument. Here’s a well-sourced but accessible examination of the concept.

And so, if you’re serious about making an argument, the above is very weak. It has no basis in actual methodology and is appealing to a path of least-resistance.

With regard to tour Black Dessert analogy it is indeed true that if you play a PVP-centric game and carp about it’s nature your are potentially in the wrong game. yet it is not a simple as that. There are potentially lots of other scenarios. Simply choosing to ignore or bypass a games core mechanics is not a question of right or wrong. It is more of a lifestyle choice. If I play a PVP game but opt to simply tool about doing roleplay, or play the economy etc,am I playing incorrectly? Does my decision to play this way impact upon you? Do the developers give a damn? They’ve had my money already and I may be having so much fun in my own peculiar way, that I may give them more. Doesn’t that make me just as valid as any other customer?

I think you may have misunderstood my position a little bit. And this is, perhaps, where we really are at a stumbling block. Why? Because there’s no such thing as “ignoring” or “bypassing” a mechanic. When that happens, it is actually an exploit. You’re thinking about mechanics as something you can see and engage with when they’re like icebergs and 90% of it is unseen under the surface. You want to RP or play economy in a PvP game, you’re not bypassing or ignoring mechanics at all… you’re playing within the mechanics and advantaging those same mechanics for your preferred style. The mechanics and systems still govern everything you do… in the case of the mercantile player, the mechanics are what maintain and sustain the market itself. Drops and grinds and scarcity levels are all mechanics which determine things like prices, supply, and demand. In this case, “ignoring” or “bypassing” mechanics happens when people insist they should be able to sell X good at Y price, regardless of the market. Does that make sense? In the first case there you have people engaging entirely within the mechanics (just not ALL of them… which few people actually do in any game), whereas the second example the individual is ignoring the game’s mechanics and trying to dictate their own (which very, very rarely works– as an aside, BDO’s control economy is an amazing, unseen check on stuff like that).

But my example with BDO stands up, I think, and it is actually what people wanting to “ignore” or “bypass” mechanics look like: they don’t think the rules should apply to them.

So no, I still reject the notion of playing a game wrong. I may well be ignoring a games specific systems and doing my own thing but that is not the flagrant contradiction that you insist that it is, as far as I’m concerned. Ultimately, it’s a bit like choosing to wear a colander as a hat rather than use it as the functional tool.

When you reject the concept that something can be done “wrong” you’re also rejecting the idea that it can be done “right”. But even beyond that, we can look at the slogan of a popular candy to test the idea that “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reeces”. Is that a True statement? Oh no. Not at all. I can think of a hundred ways to no-questions-asked to eat a Reeces in the “wrong” way. A few offhand: Eating it after it has been sitting on the counter, open, for a decade; if you use the candy as toilet paper first; if you shove the whole thing down a toddler’s throat without chewing; if you dip it in liquid nitrogen; if you try to shove it up your bottom instead of in your mouth.

The larger point is really that yes, you can play a game “wrong”. We’re not talking about enjoying a smaller, narrowed focus or not caring about hardcore raiding. We’re talking about straight-up refusing to upgrade your gear or demanding to not be attacked in a game where open PvP is a balancing mechanic. It is playing the game in a way where you’re specifically trying to (what it comes down to by definition) exploit your way out of being under the same forces as everyone else.

Mechanics and systems are like real-world physics. Zero-sum laws of logical consistency. You don’t throw a ball exactly the same way up into the air and expect it to vary in ultimate altitude on it’s own. You put x force on y vector which follows the laws of physics to a known and consistent answer. Game mechanics are the same. The effect and logic of code does not change based on the intent of the user. If a code spits out a mob every five minutes on the dot, expecting it to only take 3 minutes is objectively and unquestionably wrong.

So in conclusion: If you’re playing the market or exploring or plying a trade or RPing, you’re not “playing wrong”. In fact, you can do those things because the game allows it and as such it is objectively “right” in terms of the conclusion. “Playing wrong” is basically seeking or desiring exploits/broken advantages as a generalized concept while knowing they’re not intended.

And lastly, nothing is zero-sum. There are a few dungeons in TSW that were terribly hard before they got the nerf bat. Players found exploits which, upon review by the devs, were deemed to be acceptable (basically they were still tough to do and required work and good gear, but just doing things in a way that advantaged an exploit/bug to accomplish the task differently). You have an example of something that was the wrong way to play being accepted as a right way to play by the signal of devs who (and this is important) communicated such in terms of whether or not it was an actionable exploit.

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Dirty Ape

Many of us often make the mistake of judging MMO skill purely based on hand-eye coordination and twitch reflexes coupled with a working knowledge of a game’s systems (the ‘meta’). In this way of thinking an old school game like EQ (at release) was braindead easy aside from some very specific circumstances (breaking a spawn, corpse retrieval, enchanters when the shit hit the fan). Other people judge MMO skill by the time, effort, and patience that is required to actually advance and succeed in a game. By this measure EQ required an incredible amount of skill compared to a modern game (something like GW2). It generally took lots of studying, planning, and months of working and building in-game relationships to level that first character to max. Nothing in the game held your hand or told you what to do or where to go and the penalities for failure could be far more severe than anything you see in modern games.

So no, I don’t believe that MMOs are designed for ‘low skill’ gamers because I don’t even think gamers can agree on what exactly defines MMO skill. I think there is a time and place for both fast paced popcorn gaming (thanks MJ) kinds of games and slow-burn long haul type of games like Eve Online and nobody is right or wrong for preferring one over the other. The industry definitely seems to have shifted more towards the former, so I’m hoping some of the newer ones in development will cater to some of the ‘old school’ crowd even if I will never again have the time to join them.

bereman99
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bereman99

I think time, effort, and patience deserve their own category rather than labeling them as a different kind of skill.

I see skill as the moment to moment application of knowledge and techniques to overcome a specific obstacle (mastering a fast paced rotation in a modern MMO or executing the best way to kite a tough enemy in an older one – both examples of skill).

Dedication, which is the category that time/effort/patience would fall under, is the willingness to get to those moments of skill and have obtained the knowledge necessary to completing a skill check of some kind.

Both are very much facets of game difficulty, and you can absolutely have a game use much more of one over the other and still be a difficult game (difficult game being defined as one where a certain percentage will not reach a certain level of progression, despite giving a meaningful effort).

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Veldan

I think you made a very good distinction between two types of skill. I also think that many modern MMOs lack the need for either.

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flamethekid .

MJ’s comment is really on point I will agree mmo’s have matured with players but the way they are designed now these days is in a form of not something you can be playing for a long time and have fun all the but either just revolving door syndrome mmo’s or combat grinder spam just something to get people to come in real quick drop their money off and leave.

Its kinda disheartening that this is how it is now these days
I’m not saying mmo’s that are like this didn’t exist back in the days but these days mmo’s that aren’t these 2 categories literally hold the entire room for mmo’s with mmo’s that aren’t in these categories in sheer obscurity, destroyed by bad dev management or bad game design, or just aged to death or even shut down

I think one of the only things that avoided those two categories coming out soon is prolly worlds adrift is anything

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Veldan

I’d like to add to this that if a game can’t be failed, it’s not even a game anymore. The most basic aspect of any game, not even just videogame, is that it can be won and lost. If content is designed so easy that losing is no longer a realistic possibility, it is in my opinion no longer a game. Then it is at most a simulator.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I would welcome failure in games. You could fail Bank Missions in City of Heroes and I was fine with that but there was never an opportunity to ‘follow’ up and through another series of missions, track down Katie Kaboom and her gang of Pop Caps and bring her to justice. You just lost. Here’s your Mission Failed, now go do something else.

Pen and Paper game are embracing ‘fail forward’ mechanics in their storytelling and I think MMO’s should too.

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Robert Mann

Oh, indeed! Failure can certainly be a part of a story (and is a part of many good stories.)

That said, if it isn’t done right people will simply hate it. For example, at the start of MoP in WoW, there was this huge outcry from people about the story, where your character knows things are wrong but just watches the stupidity progress… and the lack of any other path forward was never acceptable there, because the failure was too obvious a setup which all too many people would not have followed. *Not that bad writing is (or was at that time) new to MMOs by any means!*

borghive
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borghive

If you want challenge and the feel of the old MMO community try one of the survival sandboxes. Playing Ark this past year has been so much fun, sure at times it can be just flat out painful, but those feelings are what make games interesting for me. Modern MMOs have zero setbacks, you log in and you just start running that treadmill with very little interference from others. There are no social barriers anymore and the worlds aren’t very dangerous either.

I think Vanilla Wow had the perfect balance of community and the ability to solo. I think that is the really big thing missing from Modern MMOs today is the community we had in the past. All those QOL systems added to the games over the years have just contributed to that anti-social behavior the OP was talking about.

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Paragon Lost

Just gonna say I strongly agree with MJ’s remarks above.

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Jeremiah Wagner

It actually kinda funny becaus3 a couple years ago there would have been a bunch of load mouths saying how wrong this guy is and how mmos are better then ever. Now in the present im betting those people are now the minority and the majority will agree that mmo gaming is far to easy and nothing feels like anything special or an accomplishment. Because developers listened to the load mouth casuals years ago that had no clue what they were talking about. The main reasons for playing an mmo is to meet people and a sense of accoplishment when you work for something for weeks or even months and then finally get it. They removed the main reasons for mmos existing…

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flamethekid .

An mmo is generally a virtual World where people can be whatever they can be in said world having fun or whatever.

you can’t have a world that is fun and a great experience if you feel you are the only person in the world all that leads to is isolation and boredom thats what I would say to those people

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Robert Mann

Now if we could just get developers working on virtual worlds rather than combat simulators with fancy avatars!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Those are your main reasons and you are entitled to them, but they may not be others main reasons for playing an mmo. They are not mine although I do like meeting and talking to people online.

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Jeremiah Wagner

An on going adventure that can be played with thousands is the entire concept behind mmos.

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Schmidt.Capela

Casuals individually tend to be rather quiet; someone not invested in the game will rarely speak about it, after all.

They just sound so loud because they make a truly huge part of the player base, so the rare casuals that have their voices heard do add up.

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Eddie Yasi

Justin’s response captured my reaction to this perfectly. There are different forms of “challenge”, and just because a game doesn’t challenge you in the way you like to be challenged, doesn’t mean there aren’t levels of difficulty to be found, you’re just not interested in finding them.

To phrase it in a different way, not all people find fun in gaming from being challenged or being faced with difficulty. Some find fun from socializing, from building, from creativity, from being immersed in a world with compelling lore, etc etc. If a game bores you, it’s not necessarily true that the game is deficient, it may be that it offers forms of entertainment that aren’t a match with your preferences.

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Jeremiah Wagner

Challenge is only the entire point of gaming… if you dont want challenge then you read a book or watch a movie.

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Robert Mann

Many people play MMOs specifically for the story. It is their book or movie. Others play for social aspects.

If challenge is the only point for you, then go have fun in games where that is really the focus. Your opinion, however, does not invalidate the other opinions… and regardless of my own on any given topic I will defend that point forever.

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odin valhalla

Easy doesnt = low skill. Measuring skill in something that is easy is gauge wrought with issues as well. What is easy? Ive been playing games for a long time and there hasnt been anything in any MMO that couldnt be figured out. Dungeon mechanics that take multiple tries to get right is that hard or is that lack of knowledge of the dungeon mechanic? Now if you knew the mechanics going in and what you needed to do to defeat it and still had trouble, that COULD BE an issue of skill, or apathy, or lack of resources or a combo of all.

I recall a time, back when AOL was king there wasn’t a lot of places to go to obtain info. Now, literally any game out there I can go watch a YouTube on how to complete in game activities. That doesn’t make me or you any less skilled that the information is out there, and even if we ignored the information it doesn’t mean less skill either or the content is easy.

The real issue with the subject is the breadth of the player base. The guy/gal who plays 30 min a night is perceived to have less skill than the streamer who plays nightly for 6 hours but I would put forth that the only real way to measure the question is to have universal conditions on all players. If that 30 min a night player flipped to 6 hours it’s likely they could achieve the same measured success.

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Cypher

Agreed, I can usually at the moment guarantee about 15 mins before I hear my son crying…

Chukii

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Rabidwargamer

Hey MJ, maybe if putting “work” into MMO’s felt rewarding “work” wouldn’t be the four-letter word it is?

I used to do tabletop gaming with painted figures and “worked” at my painting and gaming skill. Funny thing, it never felt like “work”. The results made the effort worthwhile. Even at times effortless, while it was anything but.

MMO’s just never feel like the effort is worthwhile and certainly never effortless. Hense, the second job syndrome. This is NOT a new phenomenon, going all the way back to early release EQ2 for me.

Putting effort into something isn’t bad, just make that effort worth something. It usually isn’t.

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

I agree! There have been plenty of times though that the effort I have put into games in the past has felt rewarding. I guess that’s where it gets hard, because what is worthwhile to one maybe be a total drag to another. Sadly though, I see the “not want to put effort/work” in sooo many places in all my dealings and work in life, and that is a bummer. And no, that isn’t aimed at any particular age group or demographic, I’ve had to deal with it across the spectrum.

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Cypher

Agreed! As a former (and present) GW geek I heartily concur with this! I used to spend whole weekends locked in my room with my models and paints; painting a 1000pt Eldar army was no joke… and not bloody cheap either!

Chukii

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

It doesn’t feel like work(drudgery connotation) if you love it or enjoy it. It becomes passion and most folks would love to have that level of passion about something. That ‘I sat down in front of X, whether it be model building, writing, playing an mmo, or cosplay costume designing’ and ten hours went by like nothing but at the end I felt fulfilled.

Sure you may have become frustrated because the scene you wrote didn’t work out the way you thought, or the span broke on the airplane wing or the glue gun melted a hole in your costume but you dealt with it as part of the process because you were engaged.

MMO’s aren’t really engaging anymore so they feel more like drudgery. While dressed up, in games like ESO, ‘quests’ in the end are still ‘Go kill ten rats’ and ‘Go find/hunt/kill the Macguffin.” and I don’t think MMO players are engaged by that anymore. I know I’m not. Nor am I enthralled by another mmo whose trailer shows flyovers and flythroughs of empty landscapes. Maybe I’m jaded.

They are also still bound by computing limitations or time limitations for art creation. In ESO, I still run into invisible walls, islands to explore just out of reach because of ‘slaughterfish’, conveniently ‘slippery’ rocks I can jump up but not over, and above all a continuing lack of being able to use my hands to pull myself over a three foot wall. So they are also stifled by a lack of innovation as well.

Would I like harder content? Sure but if I have to rely on @QQMOARNEWB420 who might just be a wonderful compassionate and very erudite person IRL but I have my doubts.

I don’t know…when you set down chess pieces to play a game of chess you know what you are going to get out of the gameplay. You either love it or you don’t. Maybe people are expecting more out of mmo’s because they expect them to be something more than they are and more than they can possibly hope to be.

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

(I just had to say, after reading this about killing the Macguffin and going down the comments a bit and finding Mcguffn, I had to do a double take! I’m pretty sure we have no quests to hunt or kill any readers…)

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McGuffn

Don’t worry about me, I’m elusive like Marcus Brody!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

/e gives you a map of the museum.

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Robert Mann

But what if he loses it?

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

The talking houseplant in my living room with the yellow exclamation point hovering over it would beg to disagree.

It demands soo…much…blood.

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MesaSage

The redditor is kind of right – things are easier. I’m not sure who’s fault that is, the suits or the players, but the fact is – it’s there. Whether that makes the games “not fun” is a different matter. We are talking about a genre that’s supposed to be both an RPG and cooperative, so putting the emphasis on difficulty is more of a twitchy gamer mindset. Nonetheless, I agree with the sentiment that we should be challenged and not coddled and certainly not given Fast Pass purchase options.

velimirius
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velimirius

Low skill with enough time on hands to grind their way up, or just spend real cash on lockboxes, boosts or in game currency to get you through.

edangerous
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edangerous

MJ nailed it.

kjempff
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kjempff

Easy or hard is not really the question, that is a matter of audience. But for those who like a deeper game experience and virtual world there are only a few Games and they barely touch that.
The problem (for this audience/gamer type/taste) is that mmos have become story driven rpgs, which is not what they/we want from a mmo – We want to experience, live and progress as characters in that world with its systems; what we don’t want is the be served a predefined story aka on rails experience.

As I see it, developers are dead scared of the gamer that they will “break” the system and so try to lock us into a setting with little room to roam with simplified mechanics, which makes the game feel dead

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Actually, I like story driven mmo’s. I’d like to know that the reason I am killing ten rats has some meaning even if it is just an in-game reason.

I would like it though if mmo’s gave the player more agency. In ESO, there is a quest in Bangkorai where the wyrd sisters have lost the favor or Hircine because they lost their grove to an opposite wild force. You start off helping the wyrd sisters but then they require you to help sacrifice one of their own. My character would not want to do that, I have a story for her, motivations for her, she would NOT do this but to finish the quest I have to help. So, *sigh* hand me the sacrificial dagger.

I COULD just NOPE out of the quest and abandon it but then that is an external mechanic instead of an option for my character to say ‘No, I won’t help you do this.’

This kind of thing takes me out of my immersion.

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Robert Mann

Aye, but that just means you weren’t one of the people kjempff was talking about. There’s a lot of different viewpoints, and when he said ‘we’ he was referencing those who want such a virtual world, not all gamers. Context clearly shows that.

I’m all for more character choice in the stories of such games, just noting that you seem to have mistaken what was meant by the ‘we’ statements.

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McGuffn

Difficulty isn’t the issue so much as burden. As MMOs became more solo friendly group content became a burden for players, and the more people you need the bigger burden it becomes. Locking content or rewards behind group barriers compounds the inanity.

I also don’t think work is an issue. I’m willing to work for something, but i don’t want to waste time working if other people are going to sabotage me. When you’re at work, those people hopefully get fired. But games aren’t work. They’re games.

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Dreema

I’ve felt this way for a long time. All the MMOs I’ve played over the last ten years seem designed with the intent of making everything as easy and accessible as possible. In one way I can understand why this makes sense – you don’t design a game aimed at the most skilled people because then 99% of your potential player base won’t buy it – but at the same time I wish they’d just up the difficulty factor a bit. Add some challenging leveling content, make people actually have to think about how to complete quests, etc etc.

Unfortunately, I don’t really see much changing. Every time, for example, Blizzard add something difficult to WoW, people are up in arms about it. Even if it’s optional content and in no way necessary, they still complain to high heaven because it’s too tough for them.

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Lethality

MJ is the only one making sense in this post.

I’d even take it further; players aren’t looking for “passive” entertainment, they’re also looking to pay to skip that entertainment all together. See my comments on the WoW Token the other day.

Sad state of affairs, and yes today’s games are terrible and easy and brainless.

The next crop of indie games is looking to change that, as we now have technology and creative developers willing and able to take some chances and appeal to a niche. MMOs themselves were once a niche, and you see how that can break through.

That will happen again, but it won’t come from a game that hands you a reward just for logging in.

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Manastu Utakata

“The next crop of indie games is looking to change that, as we now have technology and creative developers willing and able to take some chances and appeal to a niche. MMOs themselves were once a niche, and you see how that can break through.”

This is actually a good thing, as it keeps players with these types of views out of our hair and pigtails, and from spoiling the games we currently enjoy. And conversely, these games that offer players a second day job then can be enjoyed by them to their hearts content. Hey, it ain’t my thing, but more power to them! Because in the end, it’s all about what peeps enjoy.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

So you will be giving Project Gorgon a try yes?

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Fenryr Grey

I totally agree with you on this one. Thx for the sum up of my thoughts ;) hope it wasn’t too much “work”.

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McGuffn

Chances are those games will add log in rewards to pad their metrics anyway, and add that carrot so players stay engaged.

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Schmidt.Capela

Depends on how the game is planned.

An AAA-budget game needs a large enough player base that it can’t escape being made for all kinds of players, including those that are unskilled and can’t put much effort or dedication in a game; to do otherwise would be to risk having a too small player base to recoup the investment.

A small budget game that from the start decides to go after a smaller niche, though, if properly planned can afford to discard the more casual part of the player base to better serve the niche it aims for. Just don’t expect such small games to ever come close to the AAA-budget ones in size, scope, or polish.

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Nick Smith

As an original Everquest gamer, I feel like MMORPGs have changed for the better. Some easier to play than others.

We have to re-evaluate what we love about gaming now that technology has advanced in such a way as to provide us with THOUSANDS of online games. Back in the day, the options were so very slim.

-For me EQ was challenging, but not unbeatable.
-For me, EQ was an Online game that I got to play with friends and other people around the world
-It gave me the chance to role play and express my creativity.
-It gave me the opportunity to group with others, work together, and accomplish a challenge.

I still do these things in other MMORPGs, some more challenging to me than others. The games that are more challenging I stick with and play, the others I drop.

I also get my “dungeon group run” fix by playing things like Warframe, SMITE, Atlas Reactor, and lately Cloud Pirates. They meet the criteria for me that EQ provided long ago. I just have more options now… even though the games I listed are not technically MMORPGs, but they have the same elements of fun within them. That’s my two cents.

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Jeremiah Wagner

What current mmorpg is it that actually pushes you to interact and play with random people? Just wondering because i have play everything from GW2 – BDO – Modern WoW and in none of them does anyone talk except maybe in guild or trade chat , but never just out in the open world.

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Veldan

I’m with MJ (and the redditor) all the way. Modern MMOs have absolutely sad levels of difficulty, especially during leveling and, if it’s a raiding game, any other content that’s not the current top raid. And rewards rain on you the entire time. I’m going to quote MJ because I think this here, perfectly describes the problem with the modern design, and why many of us long for something different:

“People say they don’t want games to be like a second job, but in my opinion anything worthwhile takes work. And I hate to break this to some folks, but WORK is not an evil word. It isn’t a swear word. It just means you put effort, time, and care into what you do. You focus on something and throw your energies into it. You invest into it. I invest in more than just paid work. I invest in my hobbies and projects. I invest myself into things to have a return on them, from coaching to crafts to relationships. Sadly I am not really invested in any games anymore the way I want to be because there is little to invest in. To invest you need a deep world where you really work toward goals, where you spend time to accomplish something and when you do it is an actual accomplishment.”

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Oleg Chebeneev

Get rank 1 at WoW arenas then tell me how lowskilled WoW is

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Koshelkin

PvP is always different because the difficulty is not set by the system but the enemy player.(Not considering gear-dependencies and balance.)

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Oleg Chebeneev

Ofc it is set by the system. There are combat systems with high skill cailing and depth and there are with low one.

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Robert Mann

Getting into the top ranks is half FOTM, half Gear, with just a sprinkle of not being bad at the game. There’s not a ton of skill to that point. Of course, it also doesn’t appeal to many people.

I tried it once, got way up there once I had gear, and quit. It just wasn’t all that entertaining for me. The entire progress path was ‘Did we get a difficult team in terms of composition? No = win, yes = who has better gear.’ Skill was very rarely a factor.

wandris
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wandris

I think many people tend to only view things as how they affect them now in their present and not take into account time. When you are only a few years into these kinds of games you really do not have much comparison, but spend 10 years maybe 20 of playing online games and you may very well come to realize that the primary strength of these games is the gameplay experience and the ability to tailor content to suit a large audience of almost any skill level. Depending on the time and effort you put in, individual skill and ability will change over time both for the better and worse. One year you may be highly invested and playing the most cutting edge raid and PVP content, fully engaged on every level, and then for whatever reason spend some time away, have real life events change you and come back to have the skill level of a button mashing baboon. Fortunately this is where the MMO genre excels.

So I would agree that MMO’s are in general designed for the lowest skill level, however they are also designed to develop skill and offer a full range of content to suit every level from day one noobs right up to the near inhuman gosu. The best MMO’s support a full range.

There is also a second class of MMO which is more about social strategy than skill, this would be games like EvE, darkfall, or any of the other sandbox PVP type games. While skill certainly plays a part, the strength of the group will outweigh any individual skill, and even the lowest skill players can often be used to great effect in certain roles.

If you think these games are only about skill or reward then you’re missing the point. They are about experience and interaction. It is a very common and amateur mistake to get to focused on rewards which are almost always fleeting at best. The best rewards will be found through pushing your abilities, interacting with others and though longer term time investments. I often see the most hardcore lose themselves focusing on the things that matter least, like a narrow pursuit of gear and power to win, which in itself undermines skill development by reducing the challenge other players and content can offer.

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Mr Poolaty

Go MJ!!

boo eliot
FFXI 4 LIFE

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Danny Smith

I think mmos are the genre where you can get more out of it even if you are a low skill cap compared to other genres. God knows how many people got caught in a ban wave in WoW during mists for using a dps rotation bot in lfr because “moving out of things and watching your gdc is too hard to do at the same time” but there were enough to be noticeable.
Its a genre where for every die hard pvper aiming for the top you have 1000 over 40’s folks who call everyone ‘son/hun’ and use the game as a chat client to play guild poppa/momma. You all know the folks i’m talking about.

Are they invalid for doing what they want? nope, but its not the sort of thing you will see in fps games for example. Which is why those sorts of things see pros retire at like 24. The twitch can only be kept up with for so long and in mmos that lasts longer because by and large only 5% of a millions strong userbase will be really pushing to be ‘top tier’ and everyone else has their own personal goals.

Its kind of the point of a virtual world really. Everyone does what they want. Can’t do that in Starcraft 2.

Or whatever rts games replaced that now its dead as dicks :p

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Veldan

The thing is, many MMOs can barely be called “virtual world” anymore. This implies that there is an actual world and applies more to sandboxy games than the themepark zone rush-throughs and lobby games that 90% of the genre is about these days.

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Schmidt.Capela

Many MMO players don’t want a virtual world.

It’s my own case. I love virtual worlds in single-player games, but really dislike them in MMOs.

For me it boils down to how I dislike having other players interfere with my enjoyment of the game. I enjoy playing with others due to mutual choice; at the same time I really hate when another player forces me to acknowledge him, to react to him, when I didn’t explicitly choose to do group content with him in the first place.

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Robert Mann

Which is why I believe we need a different game sub-genre for that. I mean, to be honest, there’s a demand for it, and it should be given some games specific to those goals.

borghive
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borghive

Well you got to take the good with the bad when it comes to playing with others online right?

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Schmidt.Capela

Nope. The “bad” just goes to my ignore list, where in the games I play that player permanently loses any ability to negatively influence my enjoyment of the game. My gaming time is little enough I’m not willing to waste it in “bad” interactions.

It’s the reason I don’t like, and don’t play anymore, MMOs that actually are virtual worlds. I don’t want other players to ever have power over me. Heck, I will immediately leave a guild and put all officers on my ignore list if it tries to dictate how I play.

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Drainage

The MMO (WildStar) that wanted to cater towards the exclusive bunch failed miserably. Would that be evidence?

Holden Caulfield said, “All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”

I think this serves for the elite as well. Elitists don’t want to be told their “superior” raiding experience was not so difficult in retrospect.

Tab-target games can be challenging, but they are limited by that mechanic.

If you want difficult, play chess against a master.

MMOs have to be overall average or below in difficulty ultimately or they couldn’t pay the bills. Nightmare dungeons and raids are so little of the MMO experience. PvP only carries so much weight.

Your typical MMO experience is easy mechanically. There is no shame in that fact.

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Veldan

People love to point out how a game can’t succeed by catering to “hardcore” and “elitist” players, but they always assume one thing there: that it’s about raiding. Who says MMOs have to involve raiding? It’s a gameplay type that many people link to MMO PvE, but not because it “must be”, rather because it’s used so often. I wish MMO designers would start thinking outside the box, and make virtual worlds that don’t make the same mistakes and implement the same types of flawed content that so many have done before them.

Stupidly easy leveling to endgame, followed by easy dungeons to gear up for raiding, followed by slow-paced gear-gated raids to stretch out the gameplay until the next content patch. Not every MMO does this of course, but far too many have. I wouldn’t be at all sad to see the last of this dumb model. MMOs have far greater potential than this.

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Nathan Aldana

The thing is, to me at least. If you want to be a high skill gamer, then play a game, be it mmo or not, that rewards that. Dont rag on other peoples game because you cant stand that people enjoy a game that doesnt cater to you.

Valkyriez_Gaming
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Valkyriez_Gaming

I personally don’t think this is a new thing at all. Whilst the stat’s and systems are relatively complex over the years across various mmos, the mechanical skill level to complete 99% of the games content has always been on the low side.

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Manastu Utakata

Perhaps to a “high skill” gamer, yes. But like with all anecdotal rants, skill becomes a subjective term…often to buff ones’ self inflation of themselves to others. Which I am pretty sure was the source and inspiration of the said /reddit rant.

For me though, it becomes a question of how much I enjoy it. And to which how challenging it is sorta becomes irrelevant to me. As I don’t care how “difficult” or “dumb’d down” it is…I just want to play more of it. :)

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Eddie Yasi

Well said! What we personally find fun or enjoyable varies from person to person. When someone elevates what drives their sense of fun as somehow objectively superior to what other people enjoy it’s from a lack of imagination/empathy.

vikaernes
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vikaernes

Yes they are, and thank god for that! Otherwise I wouldn’t have a goddamn thing to play!

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