Perfect Ten: More terminology the MMORPG genre needs
Many moons ago (so, a few months), I wrote a column about terminology that we need for the MMO genre. This made our Editor-in-Chief Bree extremely happy, and she informed me immediately that we would be going back to that well because it was such fertile ground for future exploration. Thus, for the past several weeks, every single time I write a Perfect Ten, she wonders if this is the one wherein I’m finally going to deliver more terminology.
The answer, this week, is yes. Partly because these are pretty easy to come up with, and partly because we have so many things we see over and over without specific names. It’s just a matter of giving these things words.
Here, then, are another ten bits of terminology we may immediately begin working into our lexicon. I’m happy to see that some of these are already becoming used, so that’s a good thing; now we’ve got a need for more. Place them in your appropriate forum signature immediately.
Adjective: A game that clearly has the revenue and population to have an active fanbase, but the fanbase seems almost entirely unknown to the larger MMO community.
These are the games which inevitably wind up sticking in our minds, because it is obvious that these games have players and fans. RuneScape and MapleStory, for example, are clearly both successful games with plenty of players and fans. They bring in money quite effectively. Yet you never seem to actually meet anyone who plays these games. It’s like they exist in a pocket universe where there are no other MMOs, no matter how successful they may be.
How much of this is due to our particular readership and how much of it is down to the game is, of course, entirely a matter of personal experience. But in the space between the games you know people play and the ones you know nobody plays, these games exist.
Verb: To hold on to consumable items in case you might need them later until the items are no longer of any use to you.
If you cannot make your own health consumables, you will likely squirrel away the ones you get. If you have temporary buffs to your damage or survivability, same deal. And in the end, you overhoard them. By the time you realize that you should have used that +5 strength buff earlier, +5 strength might as well give you no benefit whatsoever. You have overhoarded, and now you must pay the price of vendoring these once-useful items.
Props to City of Heroes here, which thankfully avoided having this ever happen. I mean, you could still forget to eat your greens, but at least you wouldn’t find that green suddenly worthless.
Noun: A small advantage possessed by one class/skill/build which is taken by the fanbase as proof that it is entirely overpowered and unbalanced.
There are situations when one class is genuinely more powerful than other classes. That happens. If one class deals 5% more damage than another when they both fulfill the same role, that’s a relatively minor difference, but you could argue that the class dealing less damage is worse without being wrong. But then you get into situations where damage figures are tuned within a respectable degree, but class A has a utility ability that helps out in an uncommon situation and class B doesn’t.
Never mind that said uncommon situation may never come up; now class A is better and class B is garbage. It has a maximarginal advantage. Yes, it is strictly correct, but in every way that matters there’s little meaningful difference. For an example, ask Final Fantasy XIV players whether Monk is better or worse than Dragoon.
Verb: To rebalance classes so that the strongest class is now much weaker and the weakest class is now much stronger, thereby recreating the original problem in reverse.
This is also known as the Blizzard approach to balancing. By compensating hard in multiple directions, you wind up with the situation not having actually been fixed so much as shifted. It means everyone gets a day in the sun, but it also means that World of Warcraft players will forever overreact to even the smallest tuning because it could be precisely this. Shaman player characters will no longer take damage, indeed.
5. Camp counselor
Noun: A player who expounds in great detail on what other players should do without actually going out to do any of it. Common in PvP battlegrounds.
More often than not, this player is a jerk, but it is not actually a requirement. Sometimes, the player in question is offering genuine good advice to other players. The determining factor is that the advice being offered is not being followed by the person actually offering the advice, even if there’s a good reason for that. Frequently the player in question is “defending” an empty node from enemy incursions, which is a task that is important but also winds up looking a lot like sitting in camp and telling others what to do.
Noun: The perception that the actual odds of something happening are dramatically different from what the game states the odds are.
The fact of the matter is that if you tried something with a 70% chance of success, you’d expect to fail three times for every seven times you succeeded. Missing a 70% chance four times in a row isn’t normal, exactly, but it is entirely in keeping with that chance; odds are low but plausible. Yet somehow it feels like a betrayal, as if you should be succeeding far more often despite the listed chance.
This applies to everything from drop chances to hit percentages to… well, really anything that involves playing the odds. You know how often something should happen, and you may even realistically know that’s not a promise. But when it gets flubbed, you still feel betrayed. Often you wind up resorting to anecdotes, like how everyone else in World of Warcraft got that fox mount and I still don’t have it. Angry.
Noun: The community managers who players assume are also simultaneously programmers, lead designers, animators, sound engineers, etc.
Many players recognize that community managers, first and foremost, are there to communicate with players in a give-and-take relationship. These people read what’s said, break it down into digest form, communicate it with the heads of various departments, get responses, and then explain that. All well and good. But there exists a small yet vociferous group of players insistent that community managers are, in fact, polymanagers.
These legendary individuals are simultaneously personally responsible for every aspect of the game, and furthermore can make immediate and unilateral changes to the game without taking any time whatsoever. Or, depending on the weather, they could fix every problem in the game by flipping the “Problem” switch to “off,” but instead they’re answering forum questions. That must be what’s happening, because otherwise you’re letting people know about your problems and they can’t just immediately fix them.
Noun: A statement that sounds like a promise to the playerbase but is vague enough to mean almost anything whatsoever.
When Eternal Crusade switched business models, the developers repeatedly stated that the game would not become pay-to-win, and I felt my hands instinctively clench into fists. That’s a nonclaimer, right there. It’s something that sounds like a disclaimer, but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere “pay-to-win” is a term that doesn’t mean anything. It allows you to use a vague enough term that the game could sell literally anything in its cash shop, and so long as it’s not an item that literally ends the match and pronounces you the winner, it’s technically fulfilling the promise.
A nonclaimer is like that. “No pay-to-win” is a common one, as it both sounds like it promises something without any specifics. You can think of some other classics; one of my personal favorites is “plenty of content for solo players,” which promises content without promising its accessibility or rewards in any realistic fashion. Or “we’re still considering that,” which can mean “we’re talking about implementation” or “we’re laughing about it and don’t want to say that.”
Noun: The pattern of numbers in an expansion to get higher without actually changing the core balance or expectations at all.
Numbers in an expansion are going to get higher. You expect that, to a point; if the new expansion raises the level cap, for example, you’d expect to have higher stats at the new level cap. Gear is probably going to get better in that scenario, too; you have to create something worthwhile for people in endgame sets, after all. But why is the money you’re getting from quests and enemies higher, too? Since everyone’s earning that at the same rate, shouldn’t the old rate work just as well? Why does everything provide more money here?
Simply put, money is a number, and it undergoes expansionential growth like any other number. The numbers go up because you’re in an expansion. You deal more damage against enemies that have more health, so your total damage remains constant, but the numbers are still bigger and ever more obscure. It’s the growth of numbers that make no real difference, getting bigger because the new expansion should be bigger, you guys.
Verb: The act of creating new terminology and jargon to call a server merge anything other than a server merge.
Players hate server merges. So let’s call them something else; that will cunningly throw everyone off of the trail! They’re megaservers! Or server adjustments! Or anything other than just server merges!
Of course, they’re server merges, and trying to convince people otherwise works about as well as trying to convince children to eat vegetables they don’t like by calling them candy. But at least now we have a word for that, right?