Massively Overthinking: Are MMORPG players a minority in their own genre?

Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.

“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.

“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”

Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I think miol_ is on base with some of these perceptions, though I may be a bit biased as a pre-WoW era MMO enthusiast. Those of us who like the older style of MMOs are probably in the minority these days, that much is true. However, I think most of us have evolving tastes. A lot of old MMOs had, essentially, time sinks, to ensure that people were always playing. New MMOs don’t exactly lack this, but they’re much more guided now (hi, daily quests!). While putting together dungeon groups and recruiting people by hand helped me learn a lot of socialization skills as a teen and young adult, these days, I just want to be able to jump into a game and have some fun. Features like regional conflicts have totally different meanings to me these days, as I’d previously stay up whole nights to help my guild protect their base, but these days, I’m fine with pre-formed landmasses that essentially change hands every few hours with little reward.

The only way I can really see that might allow you to “lobby our cause” would be to draw massive attention to pre-WoW era MMOs. I say this as a member of the Earthbound/Mother community, in that we campaigned for, yeesh, at least few decades to get Nintendo to focus on our favorite cult classic. Even then, we still haven’t won (only 2/3 of the series staples have been released outside of Japan). Things like fan art, petitions, and letter campaigns may seem old fashioned, but I’m sure taking things to social media can help, especially if your fan community acts as a cohesive unit. Hmm, maybe the Asheron’s Call community needs to figure out an AC day or something and use it to bombard Turbine/WB so it feels like we’re relevant at least once a year…

Oh, but back to the topic, no, I don’t think it’s too late for anything to change. I think that’s one thing that’s great about our site. Studios can see from the comments section how passionate people are and how big their crowd may be. Reddit’s another outlet people can use to gauge the community. As long as people organize themselves and make an effort to produce something to show studios the value of their fandom, you’ve got a fighting chance to, at the very least, get studios to not sue fans that want to keep a series alive.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I get what miol_ is trying to say. But every time I try to answer it, I keep running into the problem that I don’t really know who “we” are. Is it people who played any MMORPG before the tipping point known as WoW? Because that includes such a wide range of people who have very little in common, everybody from the Asheron’s Call Darktide ganker to the EverQuest uberguild raider, from the dude who ran a roleplaying tavern in Ultima Online to the girl who led keep assaults in Dark Age of Camelot. And it includes me, who roleplayed a smuggler and a moisture farmer and sold crates of foodstuffs out of a tent in Star Wars Galaxies. And some of those folks are still being served and served quite well by the modern AAA MMORPG.

Not all of them, though.

I think it’s fair to say that the “virtual world” ideal of MMOs has been eroded, “unbundled,” heavily, and that millions of new gamers entered MMOs with WoW and became MMO gamers just as “we” are. MMORPGs might be a minority under the MMO umbrella now, but the MMORPG playerbase just keeps swelling as the genre’s overall mainstream popularity increases. I don’t think we should venture down the “truefan” path. The genre belongs to everybody, not just those of us who got here first.

Well-told, but not well-planned.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I’m going to do my best to avoid cursing here, because I don’t want to make Bree edit all of that out. And I don’t think miol_ was actually trying to push my berserk button but stumbled on to it by mistake, so I’ll also do my best to keep that in mind. But the whole “are we the minority in our own genre” thing ticks me off because the reality is it’s not our genre. We don’t own sweet eff-ay. We just play video games.

Let me use an example from my own life, here. The first time I played Marathon, I was entranced. This was what the FPS genre could be. This was where it ought to go, this was the sort of game that Doom originally presaged. Only I was totally wrong, and instead of “atmospheric exploration punctuated by gunfights,” FPS games went far more in the direction of constant shooty bang-bang with nary a trace of exploration and mystery. Heck, the original Half-Life was praised as an intellectual game when it was, in fact, everything I had not wanted from FPS games. So was the genre being stolen from me? Were these developers and fans wrong to celebrate these games which went so firmly against what I had wanted?

Hell no. The genre moved in a direction I didn’t like as much. I spent years as a younger and far dumber man feeling as if I had been robbed of something, but really all that happened was I had mistaken potential and possibility for a promise. Development went down another route.

I started playing MMOs with Final Fantasy XI, and if we hadn’t gotten games which moved away from that game’s oppressively slow and unpleasant design axioms, I would have stopped playing MMOs altogether. What World of Warcraft accomplished when it first launched was to give people the parts of an MMO that they liked without the many tedious, unenjoyable, or unpleasant aspects which went along with it. The fact that the game later became responsible for a genre-wide narrowed focus doesn’t change the fact that it was not a unique and unexpected flub of a success; it was responding to a very real perceived issue within existing MMOs, and not solely to problem’s with the EverQuest model of gameplay. (Blaming WoW without acknowledging a lot of the really dumb decisions of EQ seems slightly disingenuous to me, really, but that’s a different lengthy discussion for a different time.)

The original playerbase of MMOs pre-EQ is a minority in the genre, but that’s because those original bases were a minority; it took a while for the genre to grow and diversify, helped along by the increased ubiquity of Internet accessibility worldwide. And it’s not that there aren’t lots of games out there offering big, diverse, fun experiences in new ways, nor is it true that there aren’t tons of options for people who prefer any given style of MMO. What’s happening – and this is something I touched on with my last piece about The Secret World and Secret World Legends – is that the “one route of content forever repeated” model you see in far too many games (which did not, in fact, originate with WoW) only works so long as there’s a steady drip of content and novelty, and until players get bored with that one route. If the game offers no alternative routes, people leave.

UO offers alternative routes. Final Fantasy XIV offers alternative routes. Black Desert and The Elder Scrolls Online and Project Gorgon and EVE Online and the neon block explosion that is Trove offer alternative routes. And that’s just scratching the surface of what’s out there.

So to answer the question: You’re in a minority, but that’s a function of history, not design. And if you’re waiting for the clock to turn back, it won’t… but don’t assume that some developers falling down an easier-to-develop hole means that there’s nothing out there beyond pining for an evolutionary backslide. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that what the genre grew into is no longer of interest, but there’s always something to be said for recalling that the genre is bigger than its most tone-deaf design choices.

Also, I’d like to note that I got through this whole thing without cursing once. So fuck that.

Somebody loves you, and that's good.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I always feel very uncomfortable speaking for a large group of people, most of whom I don’t know personally. Gross assumptions are born then and run rampant through fields of speculation and guesswork. So to be honest, I have no idea what the demographics are of the current MMORPG population and how big or small of a percentage is represented by… let’s call them “old school” players. The pre-WoW crowd, if we need a dividing point.

I think it’s safe to say that there are players who have been in it for the long haul, who have left and come back several times, and who are part of generations now of MMO gaming families. How many? No idea. Couldn’t even fathom figuring out where to start getting that info unless you ran a detailed survey. But from the responses of Nostalrius, Classic RuneScape, and the money poured into some of these throwback-tough-as-nails indie MMOs, it’s not an insignificant crowd. I sincerely doubt it’s anywhere near the size that could threaten the majority of online gamers’ desire for more casual and accessible content, but it’s there.

We throw the word “niche” around a lot in MMOs, especially since we exist in a Russian nesting doll of niches. There are always sub-groups of sub-groups that are looking for very specific experiences, and I guess that the dividing line between it mattering and making a difference is if that sub-group is large enough to make a game viable and financially profitable or not. It doesn’t have to be the majority, it just has to be large enough to make money for the studio and keep the server lights on. And considering how many games are still running and being made, I don’t see that as a problem.

Meridian 59

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I do think the original MMO crowd is definitely a minority, but as much from defection as from the growing MMO population! I’d have to say that I am not even sure the “original” MMO player base is original anymore. Yes, the genre does not cater to the styles that were first introduced way back when. We can all agree on that! But I have my doubts that many of those first players are in the exact same state now as they were then, and would actually love the way MMOs were. I think they have changed: Their tastes, their circumstances in life, etc., have all altered over the years. Even me, as much as I would love to throw my life back into SWG, would find the experience a bit lacking in that the world as it was then is simply not the world it can be now. And I mean that not in the gameplay mechanics of it all but in the fullness of the environment and living world we all created. The magic was in the combination of game, timing, and community. Those three things just cannot be replicated again. New ones combos must take the place. My specific life that I loved in SWG cannot ever be reborn; those stories have already been told. Of course, I can start a whole new set of stories.

Also, I think you can’t really pigeonhole MMO players with narrow definitions.

Your turn!

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karrion_nightstalker

Here’s the thing when i read the question are we a minority now, then combined with the fact that people want to make a distinction between pre-wow players and post wow players.. You all are the same players. Take a real close look at the original EQ and the original wow. Both games are basically kill x creature x times to get xp to get to max level, then run different “dungeons” to get the best gear. The only real differences between EQ and WoW is that when Blizzard created wow they tried to engineer out the things that we absolutely hated about EQ, which were things like down time (those that played EQ know what im talking about staring at that book for 15 mins to regain mana between battles). Or anyone remember when Plane of fear would reset it actually became a fight between the two biggest guilds to get in there first.. anyone that ever did it can remember getting mad seeing another guild there buffing up at the entrance when you were there first. All wow did is removed the downtime and created instances, then created the dungeon finder, players no longer had to go to every zone and do camp checks and try to find groups, can anyone say death penalty.

The reason wow was such a big success is easy to explain, first it had a big name behind it, every gamer mmo or not knew of blizzard, the studio already had a huge following and almost anything they created was a huge hit. So when they came out with world of war craft and people logged into it, first thing they noticed is that almost everything was polished up real nice and looked good, and even though there were a few bugs… there was only a few bugs. Then people figured out they could actually play it instead of having to spend hours looking at books and trying to find groups and what not. So given the fact that at the time there wasn’t much else out there when people came from EQ, and found all the annoyances had been engineered out, WoW couldn’t have helped but become a huge hit that ended up shaping the landscape into what we are seeing now.

Now I am forced to bring up SWG and what is actually missing from games today, and perhaps this is where the minority comes from. Now I know SWG wasn’t the first “Sandbox” mmo, however for a great deal of players it was the first introduction many had into a non-forced or if you want a nicer phrase “Non-Structured” play style, and non-grind heavy, and non huge time sink game play. Yea stop right there, i see those fingers starting to move on the keyboards, just because you decided to make it so doesn’t mean it was meant to be a huge time sink!

Unfortunately a lot of the best stuff that SWG had to offer, a lot of players never got to experience, those that played the closed beta and probably the first month of it’s launch will remember gaining xp from people using items they made, or gaining xp from simply using a factory or harvester as it was removed. The games original design was focused around the casual player being able to log in and play a couple hours every day and still feel as if they managed to advance.

In fact the pace at which you were allowed to gain skills and the ability to swap them out meant you could change play styles at whim. This was also the first game that a lot of people were introduced to the concept that there was more to playing an MMO then killing stuff, this game had a lot of options and allowed for different play styles like many had never seen before.

In fact I would argue IF LA/SOE had allowed proper development time (it actually was only in development for 20 months) probably needed at least another 2 years of development before launch, and had they actually been given the server hardware they were promised instead of refurbished EQ servers (this caused a lot of problems) then the mmo gaming landscape as it exists now would probably be a lot different. We’d probably all be complaining about SWG clones instead of wow clones.

After SWG failed, and wow succeeded the perception of the big studios became Theme parks are profitable, sand-boxes are under-performers. Which is unfortunate, because without big funding it’s doubtful many really good sand box type games will happen.

And i actually think that is where the distinction between mmo players is really made, you have the amusement park people and you have the sandbox people. Being as the amusement park crowd is the one that is getting the greatest amount of attention the perception of a minority comes into existence.

I myself am a huge sandbox fan, when i log into a game i want so many different options in play styles and so many different things to do that I am forced to decide which thing i am going to do first, in other words i want to actually be entertained by a game… So tired of logging in each day to these amusement parks and doing my daily quests and dungeons, and on Tuesday doing my weekly raids. Also getting tired of being forced into open world pvp games.. seems to be the only real difference in mmo games out there these days.

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imayb1

I see this as like cable TV channels. In the beginning, we had the “big three” broadcast stations and maybe some local or public access channel. After a while, TV channels started exploding in number. The big three never went away and maybe they evolved a little, but the newer channels offered every niche possibility!

So it is with games. Each new game offers something different, if not something truly new. Maybe the newer games have more room to experiment where the three are steeped in expectations and feel they can’t change too much. Each new game will draw away a few players and some will find their ‘home’ or at least a niche away from the original three. Each player’s idea of what’s good will evolve to very specific criteria.

The end result is a fragmented group of players who know what they want and IMO, most of them figure they’ll eventually be offered what they want as long as they wait for it. Sure, they can lobby for something or fund Kickstarters that fulfill their desires, but changes are occurring constantly. I don’t think we’re ever going back to the “big three” and I think we will continue to see choices on the horizon.

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Jeffery Witman

To expand on your simile, look at cable channels today. No longer are they catering to their niche market. Now they try to pull mass markets into the niche by diluting the essence of the niche genre down to window dressing. Let’s take SciFi/SyFy as an example. They went from running some of the greatest SciFi shows and movies on cable to doing Ghost Hunters and replays of Smackdown. They filled up their schedule with reality competition shows, and used the SciFi label as a setting for relatively safe formulaic dramas.

Translate that to MMOs. You look at the WoW-ification of the genre and it goes much deeper than just game mechanics or UI. Who is making the games has changed from small developers with a vision to large conglomerates with a market forecast report. I’m not saying money was never an issue in the early days of MMOs. It certainly was. The genre was dominated by pay to play games because of the ridiculous costs of server up time. Still, the lights stayed on and people got paid for those games. Even the simplest ones like Tibia are still able to make money and transition into the modern mobile market while expanding their playable world. You can’t tell me that game can do it and SWG, or Secret World, or CoH can’t.

It’s a struggle between business and art. When WoW struck it big, the art of MMOs became big business. The enjoyment of the players is tertiary at best in today’s development goals. They want it to be addicting, compelling, and profitable, and not necessarily in that order. You can make a Bejeweled clone and get rich in games today. You can put new dressing on the same mobile game a hundred times and get the same people to pay you for it again and again like it’s a Madden title. For MMOs it’s about the same things, just with sightly different scales.

The flood of Freemium titles didn’t help things, either. Once companies saw they could make a generic MMO clone, advertise it like hell for a month and double their initial investment the whole genre was doomed. The best hope lies in those old school MMO players that went into developing the games and who will be leading projects, or their own indie titles, to try and bring back some of the substance of that essence.

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imayb1

There’s a lot of truth there.
Still disappointed in the changes to Sci-Fi/SyFy channel.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

I think the idea that whatever your first MMO was that gave you “that feeling” is the thing everyone who has experienced that is chasing. It’s like falling in love. There are people that keep chasing that initial phase over and over. They aren’t looking for actual love. They are chasing “that feeling”.

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Paragon Lost

In the end I feel that we aren’t a minority in our own genre. Sometimes the genre moves in direction that many of us don’t agree with, but overall we still play so there is still more we agree with than disagree on. So we still are a part of the hobby.

capt_north
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capt_north

WoW was a response to EQ was a response to UO was a response to DikuMUD was a response to tabletop D&D was a response to wargaming….

And every step of the way, somebody from the old school was whining that the new kids drawn in by the progress were ruining the “real” game. I’ve been watching the process since the hot computer game was Pong and a couple of guys in Lake Geneva were tossing around ideas that would evolve into the first RPG.

If your idea of a “real” game is UO or EQ or a text-based MUD or Chainmail, have at it — they’re still up and running. If your idea of fun is reverting the paradigm of the whole industry back to a point that suits your tastes…. good luck with that. And if you want new games with old paradigms and nothing in the niche aisle is working for you… start coding.

For my part, I think I’m mostly over 45 minutes of rolling funny dice to resolve one combat. Unless you’ve got pizza, then all bets are off.

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Melissa McDonald

“true” RP for me was too difficult. I just decided to be me in every MMO. Kinda like Alice stepping through the looking glass. It just felt more natural and I don’t have to worry about consistency.

“true” RP is also overrated. I learned this during a particularly uncomfortable incident in original EverQuest, waiting for the boat to arrive as a Wood Elf, and having to deal with a particularly grumpy, distrustful Dwarf. Good, true RP from the dwarf, but I found I didn’t like being around someone who felt obligated to pretend to hate me. KnowwhutImean?

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Schmidt.Capela

That is why I consider effective roleplay to require consent. Not just for the PvP part, but for the interaction as a whole.

Consent, in this case, means finding a way to interact that is mutually enjoyable for everyone involved. Having a back channel to the other players so you all can ensure each other that it’s all just roleplaying, adjust how you are acting to avoid creeping out anyone, and figure scenarios that will entice most, if not all, of the players taking part.

It’s what my groups always did in pen and paper RPGs. No matter how bitter the characters are with each other, their players were always in agreement about the conflict existing and how it might play out, to the point of jointly planning how they could escalate the conflict in interesting ways.

Yeah, it detracts somewhat from immersion. But I consider the benefits to vastly outweigh any downsides.

styopa
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styopa

Let’s try another example: Marching band alpha-geek sad that it got popular and now all the ACTUAL popular kids are in it, so he’s totally outclassed and no longer alpha anything?

Is that pretty much a restatement of what’s going on here?

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Jeffery Witman

Almost, but not quite. Marching Band used to win national competitions and then the popular kids joined. Now they can’t even make it to state and there’s signs up in the band room about not leaving used condoms in the trombones.

styopa
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styopa

I wish I could give you more than one point. /applause

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Serrenity

Not even a little bit

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Sebastian Shaw

No. Its not.

amadahy
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amadahy

I don’t have anything to add beyond saying I’m on Team Eliot for this one.

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MesaSage

Since the word “original” was used by the questioner, then the question answers itself. Of course they’re in the minority.

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odin valhalla

I had an atari in 1983 everyone since has screwed it all up. I am a minority because I am a console gamer, because I played Atari as my first gaming experience.

The premise really doesnt work as games are defined by people who play them. As an example when I started in LOTRO you had to play in groups to finish the content. Then once I think the great river dropped (it was before Rohan) I leveled a toon and never had to group (even through all the epics in moria, they scaled them for solo play).

To me LOTRO was always an MMORPG, to someone who started later? You could say it was a SPRPG. Games have broad offerings because the player base is so broad there really are no minorities or majorities IMHO, youre either a gamer or you arent.

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Tithian

There was a natural seperation of the playerbase when MMO drifted away from being “virtual worlds” and into “games”. The first one implies that you as a player needs to be more involved in everything going on in that virtual world, which simply is not viable any more due to most of us growing up, getting jobs, families and RL responsibilities. I would love to log in and “live” in such a world for 4 hours per day, but that isn’t happening. And logging in for 1 hour means I do nothing of impact.

The more recent MMOs simply went for the lite experience, offering queued content and solo stories to experience, hoping to pull people into sticking around through social bonds made in-game, rather than the “world” experience. It’s a different demographic, and it seems to have worked wonders because world-style MMOs have gone almost extinct. And whenever an MMO tries to go back to its roots, there are freaking riots. You can see it in the reactions of the WoW playerbase when flying was essentially removed for the newest expansion; people outright quit the game. I realized this when I tried to get one of my friends into BDO. When he asked if there were flying mounts or fast travel options I knew he would quit within a day max.

Now we are the 3rd stage of online gaming, which is that of lobby-style games almost exclusively. You can tell by the fact that titles like “Playerunknown Battlegrounds” tops Twitch, along with Overwatch and MOBAs, 90% of the time. I see more and more people experience quest-MMO fatigue, and I would assume that within 5-6 years max that style of themepark will be just as obscure as Ultima Online was when Burning Crusade launched.

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Jeffery Witman

Lobby games predate MMOs, though. Battlenet matches of StarCraft are what funded WoW’s creation. I think what the original content was getting at is more about how MMORPGs have gone from exactly what the acronym means to something different. MOBAs are MMOs, and the ARPGs that can be MMO, but tend to play like single player games with a lobby option really just feel like old school StarCraft and Diablo style games with bigger graphics budgets.

I do agree on the split between living in a world and playing a game, though. I just don’t see why that split has to mean different games for different people. Many former MMOs cared about all their players, not just the more casual kind (and there have always been casual players). You could play SWG as a tailor who was a badass pilot for the rebellion, but couldn’t shoot a bantha at point blank. Or you could be a bounty hunter that hated space travel and only took the simple shuttles from planet to planet. And you didn’t have to craft your own awesome gear. You could trade for it, or help your friend get theirs so they could help you get yours. You could spend your time collecting resources and creating assume items to sell if that’s what you liked. Or you could run a player-made City and turn it into a new hub for player activities of all kinds. Or you could create your own quests and stories and put them in player quest terminals for others to enjoy. And there were still Epic quests, and raids, and PvP of all kinds, etc.

You could play with everyone and not have to choose a game built specifically for your play style only. I think that’s a lot of what’s missing today. I look back at the old The Guild episodes and I can’t imagine that happening anymore. The spreadsheet lovers would be in one game, the PvP loving gankers would be in another, and the ones that like to actually enjoy the story would be in yet another.

It’s not so much that we want the game design to regress to a previous point in as much as we want to know why it seems to have regressed from what it once was back to the highly stratified and differentiated games of the 90’s (now with a cash shop for all your convenience items). The promise of those old MMOs was a virtual world where you could be the action star, whole someone else is running a business empire, a third person is embroiled in political intrigue, and there’s a gang war going on just outside town for military control of the entire region. But you can all meet up at the tavern for some music and a show put on by players who like to entertain at the end of it all.

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Christopher Angeles

I really like what you are getting at with saying “virtual worlds” and ” games” – which arguably could be also known as “themeparks”.

I think we also have to look at WHEN these games were created. We [as a community] , were introduced into MMO “virtual worlds” when gaming was just getting into 3D textures and internet + gaming was something extremely new. We dumped hours and hours a day into these virtual worlds and at some point we realized we can’t do that anymore; WoW came out and we found that we can still enjoy the genre while not having to spend so many hours just “living” in the world, but just play the game.

And then some of us realized we liked to “live” in the virtual worlds more than just play a game that somewhat resembled those worlds. These people fell into the minority of the genre.

With that said, I think developers now realize that the genre is split and what WoW fans love are not always the same things that draws the FFXI/EQ crowd. Luckily for us, crowd funding has led to catering to all kinds of groups within our genre of MMORPG.

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Melissa McDonald

Best quote of the thread. Wish I could +10 this.

borghive
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borghive

At least those lobby games have social interaction, which is the main reason I played MMOs in the first place. I think a lot of younger gamers don’t stick with MMOs because of their single player focused content, that is why you see games like LoL, Overwatch and all those survival games being so popular.

django857
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django857

For me as an old mmo player the games i had the most fun with were all the pre Wow mmo’s. I used to have a few of them running at the same time and they were all sub.based games. But today i find it really hard to stick with any of them for long. I think its all the gimmicky crap that’s been added to new games lately. And the player base in mmo’s has changed and not for the better. I have stopped playing any of the newer games and go for the less popular old school style mmo’s. Been playing mmo’s since 1999 so i have seen the genre change.

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Witches

Their own genre? Seriously?

The genre is only yours because you choose it to be, it’s like calling NY your city.

Games are not democratic or representative, nothing stops a game with a majority of pve players from being a pvp heavy game or vice versa, so being a minority is pretty irrelevant, GW2 and Wildstar are the best current examples of this.

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Danny Smith

10 years ago when everyone and their dog was going “muhmorpuggers? omg you can play online and chat xD” sure. Nowadays? with facebook and twitter? not so much.

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Melissa McDonald

you’re right, the social gamers are on Facebook now instead as they got older.

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Schmidt.Capela

It is a place for social interaction with little required commitment and that can be accessed through a multitude of devices, so yeah, it’s only natural for some of the players of old that were more interested in the social than the game to be there.

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Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

This is no different to what happens when a band that used to play small clubs breaks out and ends up playing stadiums. Some longtime fans are happy for their success and glad the rest of the world sees what they saw all along. Others feel left behind, even betrayed, as the music inevitably changes to meet the demands of a much wider audience.

Things that become more successful, change. For more people to like something, that thing has to become easier to like. If you were one of the people who liked it when it was harder to like you may feel that’s change you didn’t ask for and don’t want.

Personally, as someone who started playing MMOs in 1999 and has played them ever since, I think the MMO genre has never been stronger, richer or more satisfying. It started great and it just keeps getting better. I feel the opposite of disenfranchised: I feel included.

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Schmidt.Capela

I can’t remember who said this, but it’s quite pertinent to this discussion:

One player’s inconvenience is another player’s game.

Or, in other words, aspects of the game that are an inconvenience for some, perhaps to the point of driving them away, can be the whole reason others play the game. One example is AH-less player commerce in a game where all the best gear is crafted by players; I usually can’t enjoy playing a game that goes for that, but at the same time I know more than a few players that absolutely love playing commerce and have seen that whole playstyle vanish from many games, be it because of the rise of automated AHs, be it because games usually won’t allow the best gear to be traded anymore.

So, people that liked the MMORPGs of old feeling disenfranchised isn’t just jealousy or possessiveness; players that enjoy certain elements of old MMOs, and played them for those elements, have often seen those elements dropped from new games, sometimes even removed from an already running game. The new offerings might be good MMORPGs in themselves, but what attracted those players in the first place is gone.

There is no easy answer, though. The number of players that enjoy some of those features seem too small to support a well polished, large budget game, so those players are unlikely to get anything larger than niche indie games to scratch that itch.

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Veldan

Yes, they are. And you don’t have to look at history to see it. All it takes is a single game.

Take, for example, RIFT (chosen because it’s a game I played a lot). There are people who enjoy the whole game, like me. We’d enjoy leveling and questing, we’d enjoy building our own houses in dimensions, we’d enjoy going out artifact hunting, or running gathering rounds, and we’d also enjoy dungeons or raiding with guildies. In my opinion, these are “MMORPG players”. They enjoy the games they’re playing.

Then you have the typical rusher, who doesn’t read a single quest and rushes through leveling, queues LFG tool dungeons and rages at anyone who doesn’t know a mechanic or hasn’t optimized their spec, does PvP just for the rewards and teleports out or goes AFK when it even remotely looks like their group is losing… I could go on. There are a staggering number of players nowadays who don’t really seem to be enjoying the type of game they’re playing at all. I would not call these people MMORPG players. They’re another kind of gamer, who somehow ended up in MMORPGs, but shouldn’t have.

So yes, MMORPG players are in my experience a minority in their own genre nowadays.

borghive
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borghive

You nailed it, Blizzard especially loves catering to this type of gamer. Greed was really the driving force behind the state we are in these days.

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Schmidt.Capela

It’s what you get when devs use rewards as the main motivator for players to do specific pieces of content: players that are there just for the reward, and will cheese and exploit the system in order to get it even if doing so will ruin the experience for everyone else.

For my part, it’s why I usually only do PvP if there are no rewards attached. When there are no rewards then all the players are there because they enjoy the PvP, which IMHO makes the whole experience far better.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

When did WoW peak? 10 years ago? 7 years ago? I honestly can’t remember. If we are talking about that still then what are we doing? Just stagnating in the glory years like some 40 year old dude who was the star QB at his high school?

My tastes in MMOs has completely changed in the last 2 years or so. I used to be a single title dude who dabbled a month or two a year in something else for a break and another month a year playing single player games.

Let’s stop living in the past where all our conversations are about milestones in our MMO lives be it UO, SWG, Meridian 59, WoW or otherwise.

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Jeffery Witman

Then they need to give us better replacements. There have been so many titles with so much potential in the years since then, but they were all screwed six ways to Sunday by the worst aspects of the business side of the games. Whether it’s going Freemium, or simplifying for console releases, or putting out giant time sinks and calling it content (or even charging for it as DLC)… There’s a lot of ways these games have gotten worse instead of better. Narrowing them down to nothing but a stick and carrot reward system with convenience options if you pay for it is probably the worst offender. It’s the slot machine model and it’s filled the games with gambling addicts instead of players trying to have fun.

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Christopher Angeles

The glory years always seems better, but I don’t think that holds true with video games. When you’re 40 you cant go back to High school and play football; we CAN go and play games that were made in the 1990s.

All our tastes have changed in MMOs (and honestly video games as an entertainment form), but that doesnt mean now we don’t like what we used to.

We don’t need to try to live in the past, we can remake the past into a better future for the genre.

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Melissa McDonald

if the coach had put me in, we’d have taken State

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steve

I think not. As has been stated, it’s not our own genre, and the Old Guard may have been pioneers in the genre but they aren’t gatekeepers.

Virtual World ideologues like myself are a minority of the MMORPG playerbase, but I think we were always a minority. We’re kooks.

miol
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miol

Your responses are awesome, can’t stop reading them all again and again!
I’m very sorry for not seeing some very important aspects about MMOs and their history! /bow
I’ve learned a great deal here in these nice and tight, on the point breakdowns!

With what I’m still struggling is that very last question: “How could we come closer again?”
As the overall answer to that, seems to be: “It’s okay to be different!”, which of course should be totally cherished!

But what I can’t shake off, is that we, as a whole, have maybe lost that one last tiny common denominator!
The original “seed”, if you will, that keeps on growing new forms, but where you can always go back to and meet everyone else to find something new >>together<<!

How often are there players in the comments, who are struggling to find the next MMO they really want to stick with; fell new in love with, if you may say that? How often do you read, that it either feels too similar or just too different now?

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rafael12104

IMO, the thing that will bring back many from the disparete and ever changing landscape that are MMOs, is an advancement in the genre itself.

EQN was, at least from what we know, headed down that path. A true dynamic world where mobs ebb and flow depending on in game circumstances and environments. Truly dynamic quests that arise and are given depending on the ingame circumstances. Player generated content. Battles that leave a resounding mark impacting others that come along later, etc. etc. When a game comes along and implements those type of things, then there will be a convergence IMO.

I recently played another game, a single player game, that is moving in this direction. Suddenly fetch quests weren’t a bother because you visit locations you had frequented before but which are changing based on the broader context of what was going on in an open world.

So convergence will happen and what EQN was supposed to offer will be produced, the how and when, I don’t know. But, it is only a matter of time. I believe it will happen because games have to evolve to compete and remain profitable.

miol
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miol

So you mean the more advanced a game is, the more of a clean slate it represents?

And by that it gives a chance to make a potentially more inclusive game with way less fear of being pigeonholed (Now devs are often afraid to even use any established MMO nomenclature in fear of being dismissed right away by one side or the other), since when most things are new, the deep divisions of different opinions have yet not been already carved in? Hm!

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steve

I don’t think I’ve heard or read anyone who claims that things are similar to how they were. WoW happened. Megaservers and phasing killed much of the old server-level community identity. Things changed. The genre evolved and new generations have grown up to take the mantle of MMO players.

But the wheel keeps spinning. I’ve found all of that old magic in the survival genre, and the people there are the same as the people I knew back then. They might even be better.

miol
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miol

The term “clones” didn’t come from nowhere, while others try to be even more niche on their own!
Sure, it’s legitimate, as the time has passed, that the genre has grown to such a variety!

Some branches became their own stems, which of course it’s also totally natural, but that also comes with less variety for each stem, as every new stem is still very young and has not many own branches, if any!

What I’m trying to say is, that the richest games are those who can manage to be the most inclusive, but now that has become an impossible task as the differences have become too big, leaving only too similar iterations or just too different ones to choose from!

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steve

Ahh, yes. I can see where you’re coming from, but I see development trends as more like a braided stream than a branching tree. The good ideas from the subgenres flow back to the mainstream. It just takes a while.

I think it’s just a matter of time before another WoW-like phenomenon emerges. Right now things feel more like the old MUD days with lots of private servers and experimentation with different mixes of rules and mechanics. ARK in particular has shown a lot of mainstream appeal (They’ve even managed to bridge PC and console players!).

Bezos seems interested in gathering the masses together again. Perhaps he can do it. He does have deep pockets and lots of rackspace.

miol
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miol

I just wish, there is more we could do to bridge those gaps between the now independent communities sooner, than to just wait and hope that big money flows into enough different streams to “fill those rifts” again!

It’s already hard enough for one single community to bundle its forces successfully, as we can witness on Kickstarter and early access!

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Utakata

No…I am not in any minority in my choice of MMO’s. I play them because I like them. And what Mr. Eliot said.

Eliot Lefebvre
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Eliot Lefebvre

Mr. Eliot said a cuss.

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Utakata

Mr. Schlag might be by with his swear jar in the morning. You can contribute to that then. <3

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starbuck1771

Yes us old school MMORPGer’s are a minority but that isn’t a bad thing. It’s called evolution. Even P&P games have evolved over the years. Nothing stays the same forever.

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rafael12104

It seems to me that yesteryear is always better for veterans of MMORPGs. I call these folks the Old Guard. I don’t blame them for looking back fondly because those were some good times. But what isn’t remembered are the problems, the growing pains, and the outright vilification of others who did not meet the criteria of being dedicated.

I’m a member of the Old Guard myself. Lol. But, these gaps, these moves that have changed our genre to be more MMO and less RPG in the traditional sense are a function of growing player base. Games have to evolve to survive.

Yet, I don’t have a problem with the diversity of what is being offered. I don’t view my Old Guard status as a minority. Lol. Why? Because there are games catering to niche markets. I can go with more traditional MMORPGs such as SOA or CU when released. I can also enjoy theme parks like BnS and SWTOR for what they are. And hey, I’m not above playing a MOBA or just a massive first person shooter.

The point is, we have options, take advantage of them. MMORPGs will survive even if the name doesn’t. I’m certain of it because there will be always be a market for them.

Sean McCoy
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Sean McCoy

I think it’s pretty natural for people to place a level of importance or status with being early to something. You see this all the time with bands, fads, trends, or just about anything else that becomes popular. That said, I’m of several different thoughts on this one.

From a personal standpoint, I do see constant reminders that my “generation” of MMO player is becoming less noticeable in the grand scheme of things. I notice that I tend to follow certain social rules and etiquette that places me in the minority in some situations.

Quite recently I took part in a debate within my server community on FFXIV, and it was pretty clear the difference in mentality between veteran players and newer. The topic that was discussed was Need/Greed etiquette in the game. To give some background (for anyone who hasn’t played), there’s a pretty standard system for looting. If the gear matches your class, you can roll Need/Greed/Pass. If the gear does not match your class, you only have Greed or Pass. Unwanted gear can also be turned into a vendor for a form of currency that you can use for a variety of purposes. What started the debate was a player who indicated that they were told off for hitting Need on an item that was inferior to what they had equipped. Their argument was that they were entitled to roll Need because it was class specific gear, and they “needed” the currency they could get from the vendor. I, among others, argued that for the betterment of the group, it’s more polite to Greed on any item that isn’t a direct upgrade, even if you have the ability to do so.

Eventually I began to notice a trend through the arugment, with two distinct camps coming forward. The “It’s good manners to Greed and give the others in the group a shot” and the “The Need button is available so I can click it if I want.” I began asking players how long they’ve been playing MMOs, and almost every player who spoke in favor of Needing anything they could was consistently new to the genre. Those that argued against were most often older players who had been around for some time.

All that said, I don’t think that older players are any more/less important than new players. I also don’t see any real shift in the right/wrong philosophy. People are leaving WoW, sure, but that’s because they’re finding more specific titles that appeal to their playstyle. Some will go to FFXIV, some to ESO, some to MOBAs, etc. It’s not a shift in demographic, but rather that demographic breaking up to find their own homes.

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Sray

I honestly think that this is a much an issue that is going on throughout pretty much all multiplayer gaming, not just MMORPGs: most games in the multiplayer sphere are being built for an achievement oriented player (someone who wants to be given a goal and a trophy for scoring), as opposed to an activity/escapist oriented player (someone who’s not necessarily looking for a challenge, just some entertainment). There’s nothing wrong with being either type of gamer; and the fact is that most of us are both types who find fulfillment for those different “cravings” in different places: the hardcore MOBA competitor might also be addicted to Telltale Games’ offerings; while the guy who spends twenty hours a week role playing a pacifist gardener in Ultima Online might also be a world ranked Overwatch player. The player who was looking for an escapist experience, as opposed to a sense of accomplishment, was the original audience of MMORPGs, but World of Warcraft built a game that was aimed at an achievement type of gamer and succeeded at drawing millions into the genre; and everyone who has followed has specifically gone after that achiever type gamer, leaving the activity/escapist player mostly out in the cold.

This is the same situation for pretty much all multiplayer games right now, and there’s a reason for it: when dealing with adults, which the vast majority of gamers legally are (although emotionally many are not), it’s simpler to build a brick wall, give them hammers, and say “knock it down” than it is to hand them a bunch of Legos, GI Joes, and Barbies and say “have fun with those things”. I’m not necessarily talking about “themepark versus sandbox” though: Everquest was always themepark, but it wasn’t built around a “go, run, score goals” theme as it was built around a “here’s bunch of rides for you; go enjoy them at your leisure” theme.

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imayb1

Hm. I wonder if there’s a corellation to children’s play. When I was a kid, we were shoved out the door and told to go play. We entertained ourselves and made up our own games. Now when kids are told to go play, I think they head for their electronics. I could be wrong here, but I wonder.

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Sray

Kids might head for their electronics when they go play, but they still tend to use them like toys and make their own fun. That’s a big part of the reason that Minecraft is so huge: kids just build some simple structures and then pretend whatever they want is going on up there on the screen.

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Mr Poolaty

I fell in love with final fantasy 11 because of the grind. I wanted a challenge. I wanted to work towards a goal. I enjoyed doing things with other players. I STILL WANT THAT!!!
I’m so tired of the final fantasy 14, eso, Neverwinter solo shit. It’s a quick solo ride to max level then group dungeons. It’s like playing an offline rpg then loading the group finder for a dungeon/raid with other players. It’s shit!
I want my ffxi experience again!!

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Scott Rondeau

Is the collective gaming population simply getting older. It used to be the kids who dictated the gaming market. Are there finally enough older gamers so that we outnumber the younger ones?

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Fenryr Grey

I’d say the “old” ones aka the former young ones aka the first generation of gamers are now confronted with a younger audience. We are going to die out and the now young ones will eventually be the new old ones. Gaming has never been more diverse than now and ofc this is going to have some conflict potential, like in every aspect of life where more than one set of people get together.

TL:DR no we won’t

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Paragon Lost

We weren’t young then.(we being the first generation of gamers online) Most of us were working professionals. I guess young in that we were in our 20s and 30s on average. I’m always amused that we older online gamers who were the true first generation of online gamers are consistently written off as non existent. I say that because when posters like you and Scott mention young, you’re usually talking about gamers being school age.

Tell me how many school age gamers could afford the systems that we had, the hourly charges that we paid for connection services and the per minute charges from the phone company that some of us paid. My average monthly gaming fees were around $500.00 a month (early 1990’s prices) and sometimes spiked to a grand a month.

exterminatus463
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exterminatus463

I may be off base, but what I *think* I’m getting from the question that was asked is a bit of a nod at how the general RPG demographic has changed. Back in what I guess could be the ye olde times of yore, it wasn’t as competitive. Things like gearscore wasn’t so much of a big deal, and whether a person was a ganker or a completely non-combative social roleplayer, there seemed to be a general respect for the genre by all who played. There was still a sense of actual roleplay, as in people playing their character, as opposed to driving a “toon”.

Then again, perhaps I’m wearing rose tinted glasses. I myself became bluntly aware that times, they were a-changing when I was in WoW one evening at the Pig & Whistle with a group of others doing some random tavern RP. In came some Pally all decked out in the highest tiered armor, when one of the group bid him over to our table to “share some tales of your experiences.” His response? “lol. nerds.” and he ran out. When someone in a RPG calls other players nerds, perhaps its time to rethink the paradigm.

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steve

I disagree that the old MMOs were less competitive. UO could be brutal. You didn’t want to be picking flowers around Bon3d00d or Plat3d00d. EQ raiding was a level of competitive asshattery that would put a robber baron to shame.

And roleplayers always got crap. Weddings were raided. Funerals were raided, and botting a toon was easier then than it is today. I think I remember Smed saying in an article that at one point half the active players in EQ were bots.

Certainly there have been changes in norms as the environments changed, but I don’t see that our behavior has changed all that much.

Bobuliss
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Bobuliss

This smacks of elitism. Like when people say certain bands aren’t “real metal” or “real whatever” and that fans of said music were posers or “scene kids.”. Just play whatever you find fun.

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socontrariwise

What is a MMO player if not someone who plays a MMO?
That makes those millions of WoW player MMO player doesn’t it? Or do you mean “people who exclusively play MMO’s”? I would argue those hardly ever existed at all.
I find the statement puzzling and illogical.

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TomTurtle

I’m loving these responses. Pretty much hit the points I would have made and expressed a similar type of reaction I had to reading that question. Though these are far more eloquent because I suck at writing.

One ray of sunshine for many MMO fans involved is that you can show support for various MMO types these days by either playing and paying for an existing MMO or helping to fund one not yet made. It can feel frustrating at the moment for the latter since we’re relatively early in the days for crowdfunded MMOs and there are the ups and downs that go with the various projects. The shaky crowdfunding landscape helps to highlight just what kind of MMOs people likely are and are not willing to pay for.

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Robert Mann

I’m not sure we really are, outside WoW. I think in large part this is a squeaky wheel problem. Those who will rage over the slightest thing are those who are constantly yelling about “this is wrong” and there’s two groups: post WoW raiders, and post WoW convenience.

Frankly, if we are going to make deeper virtual worlds again, there will have to be some dividing point. It may be time to delve deeper into terms, leaving us with MMORPG-WCS (WoW-style combat simulator) or some similar subdivision, and at least one other branch.

I don’t see us, without doing so, having any real revival of the genre unless… as Bree is so loathe to hear me say, we simply stop playing what we don’t really like completely. The problem with either tactic is getting heard.

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H. D. Harris🏳️‍🌈

a lot of the original players are now not in a place where they even want what a lot of older mmos had, due to rl time constraints, and if you tried to do them players would balk at having to deal with those features nowadays.

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steve

We balked and bitched about those features then, too. I think we only put up with it because we had no other options.

I went back to EQ a few months back for a naked gnome run. Any nostalgia I had for going back to that was brutally murdered before the boat reached Freeport.

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Mr Poolaty

Give it to me please!!!

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

people who came into the genre later tend to be just as bored with how the genre went as those that played before the paradigm shift to wow clones and endless sanbox as a grindy naked gankfests no one remembers galore.

and my observations and personal experience dictate that those that are most vocal about going back to those days wouldn’t be able to deal with those conventions anymore. and are at best dishonest with themselves about the things that made those experiences back in teh day so magical, and why we won’t recapture them even if we were to make more games like those old ones in the way “True Oldschool MMO Players” are so vocal in demanding (and often get in newer games as developers bend over backwards to look like they listen to players).

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Sray

I have zero desire to actually go back to the “good ole days” but I’d love to see a return to some of the design principles from those days make a return. So many things have been removed for modern audiences (stuff like designated downtime, having to travel to an instance, etc), which is great because many of those thing were a complete waste of time, but the problem is that there was never anything put in place to fulfill the role that those things served (primarily as opportunities for social interaction).

dixa
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dixa

yes, us 20+ year mud/mmorpg vets are a minority.

f’ng millenials.

dixa
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dixa

I guess I was the only one who watched The Magicians that week…

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

yeah it’s millenials who are to blame for everything wrong in the world XD

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I think I’d go with the boomers actually or elf butts.

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Bryan Correll

Well, millennials are largely the children of boomers. So I’d go with it being the boomers’ fault.

dixa
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dixa

yes, i blame my gen (x) for being moron parents and spawning these needy, insecure things.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Yeah, this is weird for me, since although I don’t have kids, a lot of my students felt like “millennials” meant them and I completely can’t relate, nor can my brother, sister or most of our friends. I don’t think we’re a huge minority either. For example, there’s very little narcissism in my circles without much member overlap (aside from myself). My brother’s friends in particular would probably get weirded out if you busted out a selfy stick instead of just asking someone to help you with a picture.

To note, my personal circles have a lot of non-whites (but many were born in America), have diverse incomes, and even come from several different states. The term just feels like it applies to trendy teens and the pop culture icons they emulate.

miol
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miol

You guys want to feel really old?

There are after the millennials already the generation z, who already have driver’s licenses!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Z

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socontrariwise

I thought it is always Obama’s fault?

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rafael12104

Nah, the Russians are in there too!

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