Perfect Ten: Terminology the MMORPG genre needs
MMOs, like any other hobby, have their own terminology. We have the term “newb” for new players, “noob” for players who aren’t actually new but still make new player mistakes, and “n00b” if you want to sound like an insufferable weirdo from the aughts. But we also have a lot of terminology that just plain doesn’t work any more for a variety of reasons, like “pay-to-win” and “hardcore” and so forth.
That does not, however, mean that we do not need our specialized terminology. Indeed, while some of our older vocabulary is not up to the tasks of modern games, I think a great deal could be accomplished just by adding some new words to our lexicon. So let’s create some brand-new terms (or codify existing ones) so that we can, in fact, have shared words to describe scenarios that we encounter on a regular basis.
Noun: A game wherein the primary focus is finding and murdering other players, and every other system focuses on supporting the act of finding and murdering other players.
This sort of game usually advertises itself as a sandbox, but the fact of the matter is that sandboxes don’t need the negative association. It’s a game without any goal beyond finding your fellow players and killing them, with every single action tilted toward either doing precisely that or facilitating murder in some fashion. It’s the sort of game that insists you have to have open and constant PvP because otherwise what will you do — not let players murder one another?
EVE Online could arguably be called a gankbox at times, but it has enough high-security spaces that the effect is heavily blunted, so at best it creeps in by the outside definition. Pretty much any sandbox game claiming to go back to the pre-Trammel days of Ultima Online qualifies, though.
Noun: A player who spends a great deal of play time within a single game while loudly complaining about how terrible the game is.
Complaining, in and of itself, is fine. We all have things to complain about. But as I write this, I’m only a few hours removed from watching someone inside Final Fantasy XIV complaining that the game has no content requiring coordinated groups which has the potential to wipe out the unprepared… while having never cleared any Savage content or any EX Primals past Ravana. This player is clearly paying a subscription fee just to complain to an audience about the game he’s playing.
In other words, this isn’t about complaining. This is about someone whose clear joy in life is just complaining while playing the game. A fanboy for whining, in short.
Verb: To offer so many beta keys or early access keys that they become worthless and unwanted.
Let’s say that I’m at a street corner and I’m proudly offering to give away 10 candy bars to the first 10 people who ask me for one. In this case, you will probably do your best to get a candy bar, even if you don’t really want one, because it’s rare. Other people, who got there too late, will wonder what kind of candy bars I had.
Now let’s say I had 500 candy bars. You’re much less likely to go for one if you don’t want one right there because seriously, there are enough candy bars that the odds are good you can go back and get one. Newcomers will see how many bars I have left and assume that my candy must not be very good. By having more, I’ve made the whole thing less desirable all around.
The same thing is true for beta keys. Landmark was particularly bad about this toward the end of its beta, giving out keys when people who wanted them likely already had four or five and leaving people who lacked one assuming that one would always be available if wanted.
4. Rushin’ spammer
Noun: A player whose primary mode of interaction is to complete all content as fast as possible, regardless of any other circumstance.
Recognized by the mating cry of “gogogogogogogo,” this player is one most of us have met. Never mind what the content is; it must always be completed in the shortest time possible. You can feel free to speculate about what justifies being in such a huge hurry, but the real answer is pretty much always “nothing.”
Heaven help you if this boss takes a second longer to down this time. You’ll hear about it.
Noun: A preamble explaining that there are online games aside from World of Warcraft and League of Legends, generally indicating that the writer is unaware of any other games beyond those two titles and the one under discussion.
The usual defense of these preambles is that the piece in question is being written for people who are unaware of the existence of other online games. That is not a justification. If your audience on a gaming site does not have an intimate history of platform games, you do not start by explaining that examples exist other than Super Mario Bros. You also do not explain to people who know nothing about fighting games that there are series other than Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
In short, it’s dumb. If you know that there are other online games out there beyond those two? Good, great, grand. Stop justifying it.
Noun: A game, almost universally of Chinese or South Korean origin, that is imported, kept updated for one or two years, and then quietly shuttered with no expectation of long-term commitment.
There are too many examples of this sort of import to list, but we all know the sort. We all know, as soon as the previews start, that it has an expiration date. The people importing the game know it has an expiration date. So let’s call a spade a spade, yes?
Verb: To complain about mechanics that the complainer has not personally interacted with.
Complaining about the effect that Sky superbosses had upon the culture of players in Final Fantasy XI would be completely valid for me. Complaining about the actual fights would be a bit unfair, though, because I haven’t actually experienced them. In this particular case, there’s enough documented evidence that I can make pretty clear judgement calls, but even then I’m theorygriping.
Obviously, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes, your idea of what a fight must be like (annoying) lines up perfectly with what it is in play (annoying). But it’s important to note the difference between actually doing something and finding it tedious and just finding the concept tedious enough to avoid ever trying.
Noun: 1. A sandbox game without any compelling reason to do anything within the wide open space.
2. A sandbox game that offers players no useful tutorials about what can be done in the wide open space.
While those definitions might seem to describe two very different games, they boil down to the same thing: You, the player, are left just standing there. You have no reason or knowledge to go anywhere. There’s a great big world out there, and you’re not interacting with it; you’re just watching it happen.
For some people, this is the height of gaming because then you get to decide what you want to do and see if you can do it. For others, this is the cue to go play something else.
Noun: Gameplay that is centered primarily around standing in place and waiting for something to happen.
In far too many older titles, EverQuest in particular, waitplay basically made up 90% of your game time thanks to so-called “designed downtime.” FFXI has been vastly improved in recent years specifically because it’s been patched to remove a large portion of waitplay, so you spend less time sitting around and slowly moving from zone to zone and more time, y’know, actually doing stuff. You get the idea.
It should be noted, again, that this is not necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes, waiting for something for a little bit can be a good thing and encourage bonding. But if most of the game is about standing and waiting for something to happen… well, you don’t have a game. You have a patience evaluation device.
I’ve seen this one defined before as “sandwich gameplay,” but I feel like that term offers a few different definitions. This is more straightforward.
Verb: Launching a Kickstarter or crowdfunding program that is explicitly stated to have no influence on whether or not the finished game gets made.
I should note that in this particular case, it doesn’t matter whether the claim is true or not. Hero’s Song was going to get made regardless of whether or not its campaigns succeeded or failed, for example, and that didn’t happen. But part of it is because right from the start, Smedley was crowdbusking, asking people for money that no one believed he needed.
The irony here is that crowdbusking is often used as a way to drive up engagement on the basis that no matter what, you’ll get your game. It can have the opposite effect, however, by convincing people that there’s no need to fund the game at all. It’s a double-edged sword.
I have no doubt I’ll return to this well in the future; feel free to leave your own thoughts about terms we need down in the comments.