The Daily Grind: Is an MMO still an MMO if it lacks chat?

In the comments of Andrew’s last Soapbox on whether or not Pokemon Go properly constitutes an MMO, veteran MMORPG designer Raph Koster argued provocatively against our writer’s statement that an MMO without a communication system (text, symbolic, or gestural) is no MMO at all.

“I don’t think an in-game communication system is a requirement for an MMO, or a virtual world either,” Koster wrote. “Consider an MMO where no one has chat because The Silence has fallen across the world. But everything else you are used to is the same… you’d still call it an MMO, wouldn’t you?”

I’m not sure. I am sure that the very first thing we’d all do is pile into chat and voice channels and Kickstart a chat plugin, not unlike the way everyone piled into ICQ and IRC back in the ’90s when confronted with online games sans global chat. People complain endlessly about not being able to chat even with enemies in faction-based games like WoW. Communication seems pretty critical to me, more than any other feature, miles ahead of combat, trade, or graphical avatars. Maybe it’d still be an MMO, but a very broken, incomplete one.

What do you think? Is an MMO still an MMO if it lacks chat?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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87 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Is an MMO still an MMO if it lacks chat?"

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Johnny

How the hell is this even a question? Where in MMORPG is “CHAT”? Bree…. MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online.

As multiplayer means two or more players playing TOGETHER (eg; shared experience like pong), one can deduce that the word “Massively” beforehand simply means a massive amount of players (eg; hundreds at the very least) playing TOGETHER online. Persistence doesn’t matter, the type of game world doesn’t matter. All that matters is that a massive amount of people are sharing/playing a game experience TOGETHER at the same time. The world doesnt need chat. The world might be only up for 15 minutes. But if a massive amount of people experienced that game TOGETHER (not in separate instances), than its an MMO.

Before hitting post, I looked at some of Bree’s past articles and I fear she struggles with what MMO means. She seems to think 100 instances of 16 player games constitutes what MMO means. Im not trying to attack Bree, but this is an MMO site. Just some constructive criticism here.

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enamel

At this point I feel like getting rid of chat can only improve the MMO experience for me lol

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Duane Does not check email

it’s not the same experience if you can’t have a 14 year old repeatedly messaging you to say that “you gots pned! you gots pned!”

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Drainage

Yes.

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Rottenrotny

I feel like that online interaction within the chatbox is pretty integral to the MMORPG experience. Could probably get by without it, but players are used to it being there and would complain.

hurbster
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hurbster

I do not see how it can be.

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Dividion

M – Massively (a lot)
M – Multiplayer (more than one person interacting with each other)
O – Online (on the internet)

So, if it’s “a lot more than one person interacting with each other on the internet”, it’s an MMO.

Chat is unnecessary, but interaction between players needs to exist, or it doesn’t meet the “multiplayer” requirement.

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Kherova

No, chat is an integral part of an MMO.

capt_north
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capt_north

Is it massive, multiplayer, online, role-playing and a game? Then it’s an MMORPG.

I think it’s a design flaw in most cases not to include some form of chat, but I’ve seen the decision made with MMOs targeted at younger players, probably due to safety/liability concerns.

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Alex Malone

As long as 500+ people (or whatever number you consider to be massively bigger than standard multiplayer) can occupy the same game space and interact with one another then sure, it’s an MMO.

I’m not familiar enough with Pokemon Go to make that judgement call (though, from everything I’ve seen and read, it’s not an MMO) but the presence or absence of chat doesn’t affect it’s status as an MMO.

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Doubleplusgood

Technically as long as players can play together to achieve a common goal with cooperative game play then you have a Massively Multiplayer Online game. I don’t think chat is a requirement, you could just have content that doesn’t require communication for players to complete together. But chat does affect (positively and negatively in same cases lol) the enjoyment and quality of the game. You cant have any kind of in game community without chat.

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adri

I think a basic communication tool is necessary for an MMO. It doesn’t have to be a world-chat or zone chat but at least something to communicate with otehrs like wisperchat or party chat.
I hate zone chat in general and deactivate it as soon as possible and as extensive as possible.
Do I still play an MMO then? Yes I do! I can still write with the people I like.
I think text-based chat is nice to have but in the middle of a raid or zerg or whatever you don’t read chat. I use text chat rarely but we have VoIP and this is chat as well .. in the more traditional sense of chatting.

As a side note: Pokemon Go is not an MMO for me. You can’t directly interact with people in the game world and thus this game disqualifies itself as a non MMO imho.

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vengaul

If a single player game has a chat feature, does it become an MMO? Actually, a chat feature in some single player games could be pretty cool.

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Manastu Utakata

Nope. Neither does adding grouping or raiding mechanics. Even though that would be entirely pointless, it still will not be a MMO. This would be a case of replacing a cat’s legs with that of a dog, does not make it a dog. :)

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Doubleplusgood

Yes, it becomes Elder Scrolls Online
*ba dum tss*

rondstat
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rondstat

No

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Robert Mann

Considering what chat functions are used for in games, and the massive array of alternative chat systems… it isn’t a requirement for an MMO. I can do without seeing various linked crud turned into juvenile attempts at jokes.

People will always find things to complain over. It is the nature of people. Honestly, some games would benefit from avoiding global chat systems, while others will not. I don’t think such restrictions make sense outside a game going for a more realistic vision of world design… but at the same time I also don’t believe they truly contribute much to most players. The primary exception being new players, who may occasionally find a nice person who answers questions among the flames and jokes at their expense that will surely clog global chat.

Now, local short range chat, or a system to replace it, is fairly critical to an MMO. I suppose within the idea he proposed soundless emotes might be a thing… but I would expect a lot of failure to communicate there.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Yes, but probably not one I’d want to play.

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mcsleaz

Sounds about right. The main thing MMO’s offer that their single player counterparts don’t offer is the chat window.

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AoC

Sure. Stopping whatever you’re doing to write a paragraph worth of text to show other people you’re paying attention to them is not the only form of interaction. After all, socialization does not have to be verbal…. err, written in this case.

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starbuck1771

On this I would have to disagree with Raph. Communication is a must with true MMO’s otherwise there will be a lot of rage within the community which will tear it apart and it will not last long. Party/group communication is a must have.

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Nordavind

Yes.

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Pandalulz

My kid plays Animal Jam. There’s no chat but she’s definitely looking at a bunch of other real players. She can emote them and play games with them. She can customize her character and buy it houses. It’s most definitely an MMORPG. But most importantly, there’s meaningful interaction between players in game. That’s the part that kills Pokemon Go’s MMOness for me.

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Jack Pipsam

But for how long will it remain meaningful?
Unlike say RuneScape, Animal Jam’s lack of chat does remove a sense of community which will hurt it in the long run.

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Nordavind

Plenty of meaningful interactions between PGO players. Says Nord the Introvert.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

If MMO players can’t communicate, they will explode. Problem solved. End of gaming.

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strangesands

The subject of MMO definition can be endless and fun. Keep on defining, folks!

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silverlock

MMO chat causes brain cancer. True fact!

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Doubleplusgood

NOWAI IT MAKEZ ME SMARTR!

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Like alcohol makes people smarter.

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Bryan Correll

Especially in the Barrens or on Dromund Kaas.

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Jeff

Is it? Yes, but should mmo’s not have chat is the real question….honestly as much as chat seems to be loathed and not used these days it still is the only real way to communicate with other people you don’t personally know. I just don’t know if I could play a mmo without chat.

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billy tim

Of course it can still be an mmo….just like there were societies before language, there are other ways to communicate.

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Armsbend

I just killed this rabbit before you and handed you it’s pelt. That means I want to group with you. Here watch me throw this axe at that tree over there. This means I wish to trade 10 logs for your corn.

Sounds like fun.

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Bryan Correll

Among my people, who have no name since language doesn’t exist, a rabbit pelt is a grave insult. A rock hyrax pelt is the appropriate grouping offer.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

While I agree with Raph in 95% of all things MMO, I don’t know about this. Okay, sure, it would be a “Massively Multi-player Online” game. I give that. I don’t think it would be a mmoRPG, however. Emphasis “RPG”.

that is my initial reaction, though I’m open to entertain the idea of a world (based on lore) where “the Silence” happened. I just think that due to such an event (depending on how close in time the game time is to the event) that the people of that world would have adopted some other form of non-verbal communication that could be translated into a game communication mechanic. No something that ultimately ends in a chat function. Something intuitive that adds a uniqueness to the game.

If Raph will do it, I’ll give it a shot.

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Robert Mann

You mean like actually being able to generate writing in game, like making notes, books, etc. that you use to communicate? It would be new to the current crop of MMOs, at least… if not new.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Games like Journey which seamlessly add and drop players from each others games have interesting ways of communicating with one another that don’t involve text or even actual language. It’s just pings of sound that you can make with a button press.

I think getting rid of text/speech in a way adds something cool to the experience if you force the players to communicate non-verbally. Pushing people to have to get over a communication barrier so they can work together is pretty rad.

If an MMO were like this it’d still be an MMO and would most likely be fostering better communication than I’ve seen in chat windows since I started playing MMOs.

styopa
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styopa

Of course it’s still an mmo. Just one without chat. What a silly question.
You might as well ask if BDO (which has broadly prohibited interplayer trading) is still an mmo?

I would point out that Toontown was clearly an MMO, but disallowed chat generally, in preference to kid-friendly selectable dialogue options.

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Raimo Kangasniemi

Social aspect is one of the features I use to separate MMOs and mere multiplayers. So yes, lack of chat pushes a game towards the latter in my books. Not necessary over the line.

But I feel that a MMO needs a variety of chats among other social features. And its also a very easy way to bring out that this is a shared world, that those people rushing around you are more than NPCs or farming bots.

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Vunak

I agree with Raph on this one. Well I agree with Raph on most cases.

borghive
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borghive

Wait, there is chat in MMOs?

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Witches

MMO is just an umbrella term that doesn’t mean anything, at one point it was short for MMORPG but after the success of WoW, it stopped having a real meaning, it’s just a term used to give a sense of greatness to any game.

A similar example would be how almost any type of tv show can be called a reality show these days.

The funniest thing is, the acronym MMO, usually leaves out the G, so in theory it doesn’t even need to be a game to be an MMO, which just doesn’t make any sense.

Don’t think chat is a requirement, but i wonder how popular and for how long a game without it would be, my guess is not much and not for long.

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Dividion

Leaving out the “G” is still okay, since it’s usually implied by the word multiPLAYer.

But yeah, it could be something else you “play”, like a sport (competitive game), or musical instruments (plenty of musical games exist). The word “game” itself is subjective. One person’s game could be another person’s career.

Crow
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Crow

I want to share a story from a comment elsewhere on the internet about someone’s amazing experience in Journey.

It all started when I got the game Journey. I’m traveling around, enjoying the atmosphere, the creature designs ect. All seems to be normal fair until I come across a another ‘me’. It followed me around, made jingle noises and jumped when I jumped. I thought to myself “Huh, interesting companion”.

So we progress throughout the story, come across the cylinder room where we see a vision of us failing to scale the mountain and right when we’re set to leave the temple to scale the mountain, my companion doesn’t move. I move back and forth indicating that we should get moving, but nothing is working. So when I walk outside on my and and turn around, the companion vanishes. It wasn’t until I step out into the cold that I begin to understand why. Maybe the companion was happy enough where it was and it didn’t want to go out and risk it’s life to scale the mountain as the images foretold. It was scared, worried but content with where it was. So I moved on.

It wasn’t until my scarf was telling me I was close to death that from out of no where, my companion comes dashing up the mountain slope to my rescue, restoring my scarf. From that point on, we scaled the mountain together. and… well, I won’t spoil it for you.

I thought that this was just simple story telling through gameplay mechanics. It wasn’t until I researched the game after beating it that I learned what was going on. The companion character was actually another player. I had been playing a Multi-Player game and didn’t even realize it. That moment when the companion refused to leave wasn’t because it was written that way, it was because the player got disconnected. And when the companion came back to rescue me, that was just a different player connecting to my game.

It’s funny how not knowing what is actually happening helped shape a story like that. Here are these two journeying strangers seeking out a calling, and one of them is too scared to venture forth because of the dangerous road ahead. There was nothing cowardice or weak about it. It just felt like someone had reached their limit. The idea that they would come rushing to my aid in the freezing cold and continue onward really touched me, and again, it was a moment that shouldn’t have happened at all.

The whole article was full of MMORPG/MMO stories that highlight interaction in a positive way. One common theme is that the meaningful experiences were born, generally, from challenge and difficulty, and there were pretty much no stories from the crop of “modern” MMORPGs. Why? Because, well, most of the crop of MMORPGs we have now lack any kind of mechanics where you can get “stuck” or “need help”.

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Armsbend

Hell no.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Even MUDS had text chat.

I’d hesitate to say Asherons Call 2 died in large part because of chat issues. By the time Turbine took the chat server away from Microsoft and rewrote it, it was too late.

And really, is this what folks want?

bose_mime_lovers.jpg
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Rheem Octuris

For the last time, it’s a massively online single player game. Get over it.

No one ever said it was going to be an mmo. Stop trying to make it into an mmo.

I know you want a Pokemon MMO, and that would be great. But that’s not what this is.

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Jack Pipsam

I would say it plays a huge part in it. As for it being a technical requirement? I suppose not, I mean if you still have a game which is Massive, Multiplayer and Online, that should be the core requirement.
While the implication of online is certainly communication, it can just be connecting to the server and running around with other people.
But it is a huge part of the appeal and success of the genre, I do think sometimes why some kids MMOs lack a sense of a community and have playerbase issues is because of the restricted chat (so you just felt like you were running around with NPCs, not players, so what’s the point?), in this way I think that’s why RuneScape was such a massive hit among kids of my generation, because you still had the chat, you still had the community, it’s a vital part of an MMO’s success in my opinion, although you could do one without it and still be classified as one.

The reason I struggle with the idea of Pokemon Go being an MMO is less to do with lack of chat (I mean you’re supposed to chat with others IRL), but more that even if a lot of people are standing next to each-other playing the game, the game doesn’t really always recognise that fact, so th massive and multiplayer part is only if you’re seeing others with their phones out around you playing it too, so it’s more abstract.

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Modrain

I would say yes.

In-game chats very rarely impact the game world (at best, word-triggered emotes?), they’re rarely part of the gameplay like they are in text-based games. They use game datas to determine the way people can communicate with each other, but if it was not for it, they would be completely separated.

If you compare in-game chats to external voice chats, they often use the same datas than the game: you find guilds with a vocal, factions with a vocal, etc. The difference between the two being automation and inclusion directly into the game.

Chats are not a necessity for a game to be an MMO, but having one is the the same kind of conveniency than having a mobile phone: at this point, people expect it and some would be at a loss as to what to do without one.

If anything, having no means of communication would prevent a game from being an MMO, but communication can take many more forms than a chat, from simple character presence and movements to emotes and such.

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Reht

Hero’s song, as released, is actually a pretty good example for this discussion (no, not the failure….). There was no chat system, no grouping but your avatar could interact with other player’s avatars in a limited fashion – assisting to kill, working together, healing. The part that was keeping it from an MMO was the massive amount of people playing it at early access launch, not the lack of chat or grouping. However, the lack of chat or grouping would have kept MMORPG players from being happy if the game had succeeded.

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Paragon Lost

No. You need some form of communication that allows for multiple people to communicate at the same time.

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Manastu Utakata

Yes, but a very limited one. Kinda a like a MMO that has no grouping mechanics.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

Does it support a massive amount of people playing a multiplayer game via an online connection? Then it is an MMO. What is considered massively and what is considered multiplayer is what needs to be clearly defined. Is 50 people considered massive? Depends what you are comparing it to. If you’re comparing it to the 12 people lan parties we used to have, definitely. If you’re comparing it to the 1000s of concurrent players on a WoW server, then definitely not.

Whether it has a chat system or not is irrelevant as long as a large amount of players are able to literally play the game together.

Crow
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Crow

“Massive” was a useful word when getting more than 20 people connected to a server was a technological feat.

The technology is so far past that, now, that going “massive” isn’t even usually much of a technical issue.

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Reht

Yes, it’s still an MMO without chat.

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Manastu Utakata

…kinda like a dog is still a dog, even if it has no legs. :)

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Bryan Correll
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Manastu Utakata

Err…that’s sad. But yep, still a dog! :(

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MesaSage

Since I generally turn off Global as soon as I enter a game, I’d say that it’s still an MMO without chat. Oh, wait, are we talking about ALL communication? Including IM? I think the terminology is getting a little mixed. In game communication and “chat” are two different things to me. I think you still need to have some sort of IM, even if you don’t have general chat.

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Totakeke

Inconvenience? Totally. Still an MMO? Of course it is.

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Denice J. Cook

Clearly Destiny is an MMO, and it lacks a chat window. You can still tell it’s an MMO, though, due to the way Bungie swings the nerf bat around. ;)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i loled.

but you’ve got a point. to those on the outside looking in, the mmo genre is often defined by those shitty cliches that make it unfun/less fun for it’s players most of the time.

rather than what may draw us on this site to the genre despite those things in many cases.

Crow
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Crow

The lack of chat is far from what makes PoGo not a MMO.

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TheDonDude

Chat functionality is so ubiquitous in the MMO genre that it’d be tough to separate them. But if you removed WoW’s chat but kept all the grouping and PvP and large open world, I can’t see how it’d stop being an MMO.

It’d be a /lousy/ MMO, but still an MMO.

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Reht

I think removing most of the chat in WoW would make it a better game……

Crow
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Crow

Or maybe WoW is just kind-of a lousy game now?

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Reht

Nope, WoW is still a good game – it’s the people who are lousy to one another, kind of like on blogs/forums/etc. you dig?

Crow
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Crow

Here’s my very serious thesis: MMORPGs were dealt a huge blow when they opened the doors to the fad and grabbed a huge number of players who had little-to-no interest in anything besides the pavlovian-style rewards.

Developing games for the “mainstream” meant developing games for individuals who wanted to very much bury the “RPG” elements due to simply not being into the RP-side of stuffs at all. These are the people who picked up WoW because of the raiding and gear chasing and who didn’t read a word of text and were focused 100% on getting to max level and being awesome. There’s a lot of sort-of “high school popular kid” at play in a lot of the epeen mentality that came after.

And it is specifically that we, as a community/genre/industry, intentionally went directly after the players who were toxic in CoD or Halo. It was a fad and everyone was playing. The approach shifted from being about a small, niche community of “RPG-players” seeking massive worlds to being re-focused entirely to the issue of reward loops and ego-driven desires to simultaneously “have the best stuff” and “not have less than that person”.

There was plenty of toxic chat before WoW blew up, but there was also a far less spiteful and nasty mainline community behind it. Drama and RPG players go hand in hand, but at the same time things like server reputations and the generally smaller overall community made for a much more impactful base experience.

And I like to talk about the “trinity” of in-dev games that are directly going back toward being “RPG worlds” instead of being simplistic “MMOs”: CU, SotA and Pantheon. And there are plenty more. Hell, Star Citizen is probably the most hyped thing out there and the focus there is on living in the world. The idea that you can crawl into someone’s ship and stow away is amazing. The fact that a pilot needs to actually check the ship (and it isn’t some blinking light mechanic that holds your hand) is what makes an RPG instead of just a simplistic MMO.

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Loopy

It would be a very lackluster MMO, but yes – technically it would still be an MMO. It’s like saying “consider that the Great Blindness has fallen on the world. Everyone is still playing around you, but you can’t see any other characters. You can still talk to them though via chat. Everything else would still be the same.. you would call that an MMO, wouldn’t you?”

Yeah, a shitty MMO.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

there’s mobile games like that actually. i remember noticing there was chat without seeing other players in that one star wars mobile gmae i emulated on pc a couple years ago for example. or for example my mom’s fb games tend to have chat in them.

idk that any of them are calling themselves mmo’s mind you. but then i’ve seen all manner of games called or calling themselves mmo’s that probably have no business doing so.

begs the question is DAI an mmo? it’s got many of the shitty mmo grind tropes and whatnot. but it’s also completely singleplayer (outside of the limited mp mode i guess). does that make it an mmo now?

in this world any word can mean anything we want and communication becomes useless as we abuse language to suit our own profit margins and narratives. thanks mr koster!

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BalsBigBrother

First come up with a universal definition of what mmo means that everyone accepts and then we can talk about details like the chat thing :-)

Assuming that happens (yeah right) I would say that chat isn’t essential for a game to be an mmo. Take games like GW2 or Rift for example where I can group up on the fly with folks and still do stuff all without saying a thing, maybe not as effectively or efficiently, but it is still possible to down open world content and work together without the need to actually talk to each other.

Crow
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Crow

There IS a pretty universal definition of “MMO” which is any game played online with a large number of concurrent other users. Pretty simple.

It is “MMORPG” that is harder to pin down, though I sincerely think it is pretty simple.

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Veldan

You’d think there’s a pretty universal definition, yet it has been discussed endlessly and agreement was never reached.

Crow
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Crow

Well, it doesn’t really matter if people think it isn’t decided, because it is. That’s their issue in not being able to understand a pretty simple term.

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BalsBigBrother

Yeah sorry Crow I disagree and think you are being a bit arrogant. However to forestall a pointless back and forth that won’t change either opinion I am just going to cut to the chase to save time and agree to disagree with you. :-)

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Manastu Utakata

You only went for 2. I usually do that on the 4th!

…though I see much wisdom here in cutting it short. My pigtails will note this for future engagements. <3

Crow
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Crow

I’m always arrogant. Very much so. Some is earned and some is not, like most arrogance.

At a certain point we need to sit back and stop having pointless conversations about pointless things. It doesn’t matter if something is or is not some buzzword, but if something is or is not a good experience/world/story/whatever.

In fact, the word “massively” is pretty useless in the current age of technology. “Massive” was a meaningful term when we were on 56k modems and broadband was just beginning to edge out DSL. “Massively” was special and meaningful for those reasons.

I think it is a worthless (and already defined) term that is a relic of the past era when there was actually a stiff line between things that were “just online” and “massively online”. It was a tech barrier that doesn’t exist in the same way.

My larger argument is that the “MMO” part has been focused on and the “RPG” has been overall ignored leading toward a lot of games which were basically shared worlds where you never really interacted with other people and were able to basically just play a single player game on a server under someone else’s strict ruleset.

But the core of my argument is that the definitions are outdated already and frankly, were rather well defined when they were useful and in context. Everything can easily be “MMO” in one way or another due to the technology, which places it like 3D engines in the early 00’s which were standard-but-still-finding-footing.

What actually sets many current in-development projects apart is the attention to the “RPG” side and a step away from the “pure action” games that have proven themselves not very well suited, usually, to the kind of slow-burn MMORPGs that focus on the “RPG” elements.

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Veldan

Depends on what you call “work together”. In my opinion, people do not work together in the games you mention. 2 people hitting the same mob is not working together unless they actually interact in some way.

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BalsBigBrother

Ok in GW2 for example there is an achievement for reviving people in battle something like 1000 revivals which I have. Interaction can be defined by other things other than hitting a mob and constitute working together to achieve an aim. Also didn’t speak to 99% of the folks I revived.

I would argue that hitting a mob is also working together I kind of think of it as a barbarian horde kind of deal but if you don’t then that is fine

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Veldan

Well… yes, but mainly because people would chat anyway with external programs. It would be a very inconvenient MMO though.

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