Global Chat: What Asian MMOs can learn from the west

Usually when it comes to discussing world hemispheres of MMO game design, comments and observations are made about what western studios can learn from their eastern counterparts. MMO Bro, however, flipped that discussion recently to share four things that eastern MMOs can (and perhaps should) learn from western games.

“The problem, though, is that in most eastern games I’ve played, the story still feels like kind of a background element,” he writes. “There isn’t a lot of effort put into developing it or helping the player experience it in a dynamic way. It’s usually bland quest text. In the west, we’ve seen MMO games make great strides toward better storytelling in recent years.”

As we continue with our visits to MMO blogs, we’ll hear musings on Guild Wars 2’s direction, Standing Stone Games’ missteps, speed-leveling in World of Warcraft, and more!

Tales of the Aggronaut: Burning torch

“This is ultimately what I consider to be my first MMO, or at the very least the gateway drug that opened me up to the possibilities of EverQuest […] While the core gameplay loop is still enjoyable to me personally… it won’t be for many especially considering how slow paced the game is and how cludgy the targeting system can be.  A good bit of my love of Destiny is likely because Phantasy Star Online was my first ‘looter shooter.'”

Inventory Full: How we live now in Guild Wars 2

“The original GW2 project was to create an ever-changing world, a dynamic environment in which no two players would have the same experience and no two sessions would play the same way. The current orthodoxy is, ‘It’s a game, after all… a game that doesn’t need reinvention but mostly needs a steady stream of great content, so we can focus on delivering great content.’ I get it. It’s just a game. I won’t take it any more seriously than it deserves.”

Gone; Now Back: Azeroth in summer and the lazy days of alts

“This summer I have been able to do something I have never done less than a year into an expansion — have all my alts at max level […] In the post-7.2.5 world of Azeroth, with Broken Isles flying, heirlooms, and legion assaults, characters can be leveled in a just few days to a week. It all comes down to how many assaults you can hit.”

SWEAR TO ME

Contains Moderate Peril: Is the honeymoon over with Standing Stone Games?

“There were cracks appearing in the façade of mutual goodwill during the anniversary event, when it became clear that several activities were exclusional. However, it has been the debacle over the pricing structure of the Mordor expansion that has returned community relationships back to how they were previously. Many LOTRO players do not consider the itemisation and costs of the three different editions of the expansion to be equitable. Once again, the game developers appear to be taking their customers loyalty and support for granted.”

In An Age: Mobile mindset

“I spent approximately 20 minutes playing FFXIV over the weekend. I logged in, talked to some NPCs, teleported to some cities, talked some more, then had to take a minute Chocobo ride back to the main base camp to complete the quest. The main story quest, mind you. I had more fun in the 60 seconds of dead time on the Chocobo than I did in the entire 20 minutes playing overall, as I was able to boot up a mobile game, snag some rewards, and restart some locked chest timers.”

GamingSF: Casual group content can work

“I’ve been plugging away at the Tyranny of Dragons campaign in Neverwinter on my Hunter Ranger and it struck me that the casual approach to group content in the game seems to work pretty well. Not that I’m running dungeons or more formal group stuff at the moment, mind. By casual group conent, I mean the lairs and dragon fights that feature in this campaign.”

Every day there are tons of terrific, insightful, and unusual articles posted across the MMO gaming blogosphere — and every day, Justin reads as many as he can. Global Chat is a sampling of noteworthy essays, rants, and guides from the past few weeks of MMO discourse.
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35 Comments on "Global Chat: What Asian MMOs can learn from the west"

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Titi Macel

Eastern devs should learn to release patches simultaneously for all regions. Is not ok to bring an update to the west weeks after the release in Asia.

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Alex Malone

I disagree that Asian MMOs need to improve their storytelling to match western MMOs.

First, I don’t think story telling in western MMOs is any good. SW:TOR is often held up as the pinnacle of story telling, yet it sucked! The class stories (supposedly the best) were pretty generic and predictable. All the other stories were awful. The voice acting was a nice novelty to start with but quickly got in the way. Worse, the voice acting actually got in the way of me connecting with my character, as I sounded the same as everyone else and my voice didn’t reflect my game choices – I was fully evil, yet I always sounded like a bland accountant.

Second, I think focusing on story is bad for the MMO genre as a whole. Stories / quests tend to get in the way of actual multiplayer features. They segregate the community (can’t group because we’re on different quests) and kill immersion (I’m the most powerful jedi in the universe…..except those other 3000 jedi who are also the most powerful…). They force a linear way of thinking onto a genre that is anything but linear.

If I was to suggest things that Asian MMOs could learn from the west, in order to improve their appeal in the west, it would be:

Monetisation – The West learned F2P from the East and it seriously hurt the genre. However, Asian MMOs tend to still be terrible at offering value for money and fairness. A fair,
easy to understand monetisation strategy would really help
Aesthetics – Asian MMOs, in my opinion, do a great job in designing enemies and it can be really exciting to see all those crazy creatures to kill. But when it comes to our own characters….na, it sucks. A large part of player retention is the ability for us to connect with our own characters but what is on offer is not what we want in the west. I aspire to be a burly viking, or an industrious dwarf, or a savage orc or whatever. I don’t know anyone who aspires to be an androgynous manboy or jailbait.
Player Skill – we in the west tend to better appreciate games that both allow player skill to show and also rely more on player skill to determine outcomes. The east tends to be very focused on grinding for improvements, so combat is often determined by gear and not often by skill. That is a trend that also infects the west, but we seem to be much more appreciative when games rely more on player skill.

Sadly, that’s about all I can think of. There are perhaps a lot of lessons that the East could learn based on what the West is doing badly (like, the focus on solo content destroying longevity, action combat destroying depth, removing the trinity resulting in terrible combat, sticking with the trinity causing stagnation etc), but the West really isn’t doing much well at the moment.

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

I think you missed the point. It’s not about the story itself but how the story is presented. SWTOR is a special case and it’s a shame you didn’t like it but that’s far better than millions of lines of text nobody will ever actually read. Play something like BDO and tell me if that’s any better. The story is in-cohesive, poorly translated, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s not engaging and you just want to skip it. Forget whether or not you actually like the story, in many of those games you don’t even want to give it a try because of how it’s presented to you. On your other point, they should focus more on story. These games become boring much more quickly when all there is to do is grind. Having a story to be engaged in adds another layer of entertainment. YOU don’t have to like it but most do appreciate a good story and want one. Ignoring it is stupid.

In general, as fantastic as Eastern MMOs usually are on a technical level, they are by and far the most inaccessible things in gaming. It takes a special type of person to enjoy grinding and it’s telling that those types of games tend to have the worst communities and don’t last long.

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haishao

I think western MMO have a lot more to learn from Asian MMO than the other way around.

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A Dad Supreme

A decade ago, I would have said that the biggest thing an Asian MMO maker could learn from a Western MMO maker was quality control and delivering good and not rushed products.

Now most Western MMO makers have lost the one thing that was the difference between “cheap Asian games” and “well-crafted Western games”.

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Melissa McDonald

Actually I think Asian MMOs have been some of the best of the last 3 years. The only thing I would change is greater emphasis on localization, language translation, things like that. Their artists are the best, their gameplay is interesting, and their QOL features are often ridiculously better than the milquetoast western ‘sandbox/gankbox/schmankbox’ offerings we’ve gotten for a long time now, where murder-thy-neighbor (or kick over her sandcastle) is what passes for content.

OK, if you held a gun to my head, I would ask for character models that aren’t quite so Asian-by-default. As much as I love Black Desert Online and its character generator, some of the models are really difficult to make appear to be a different race/ethnicity.

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MesaSage

Something is having an impact on the Lotro pop, because the numbers are down. That said, the game has a better vibe now then since I started playing some years ago.

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Cypher

Less sexualisation; we’re not all teenagers, many if us have by now, had enough sex that the pixellated variety does NOT offer any mystique or appeal…

Oh and how about realistically proportioned weapons? Never understood the “surf board sword” obsession… over compensating Mayhap?

Finally, alluding to my first point, no toons under the age of 21… just NO!

Tamanous
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Tamanous

Oh I hear you there. The old man creepy school girl fascination from Japan saturates anime and eastern games and has infected the west. I still enjoy anime but, as an adult, I pick and choose the ones with more intelligent themes even if dark and with adult nudity. I have zero interest in ecchi/harem and sure as shit don’t want anything close to it in my games.

Art design is an issue for myself and a close gaming buddy too. BDO is about the most we can handle, but as I have posted here before, I think they went a little too far with the Tamer model. It is just too young.

I have explored the forums on many sites both in English and translated in order to figure out the existence for such interest in female classes in BDO. It is clearly more marketable to them and every response to why people choose them over even very close male class counterparts clearly reveals why (beyond those who are game mechanic junkies like me):

“Jiggle Physics” and “boobs > all”

A response to a serious question about class differences. The only responses were like this:

“Wizard / Witch – Elemental Dumbledore boobs.
Ranger – Leather boobs that shoot arrows.
Berzerker – Naked boobs with sharp nipples.
Warrior – Armored boobs.
Valkyrie – Holy boobs.
Sorceress – Satan worshiping boobs.
Tamer – Woodland boobs with a small set of hairy boobs that provide emotional support.”

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Mikka Hansen

That, in general terms, western players DONT want their games to be reflections of how wealthy their are in real life

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Jack Pipsam

Jumping through hoops shouldn’t be required to log into a game.
WASD is better than click and point.
Offering some sort of subscription service to avoid many F2P nonsense would be nice.

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Carebear

Lore and immersion. And less boobs and butts

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Veldan

Exactly!

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Witches

Storytelling in western mmos…now that was a good laugh!

Eastern games could use MUCH better translation, but i for all i know the translations are just as bad the other way round.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yes, SSG does seem to have burned a lot of bridges with their pricing structure, withholding of the High Elf race and generally lacklustre premium perks. The only good news here is that Mordor is a solid expansion, challenging even for veterans in a way we haven’t seen in the game since the original Shadows of Angmar release.

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Brother Maynard

The lack of a proper story in most Asian MMOs has always been a complete mystery to me. They have such a rich tapestry – history, art, legends – from which to draw inspiration and judging by their films they love deep and beautiful stories as much as anyone. Why then would they settle for games of endless repetition, grind and almost entirely based on combat is baffling.

wandris
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wandris

I do not think storytelling in western games has improved much at all. I see a general decline in the quality of the stories as the production quantity is increased. Stories in MMO’s have always been different becasue they have a distinct interactive element. The landscape, the NPC’s, the environment, the background lore all tell a story. The best ones inspire thought and wonder, but it seems that games have gone in a direction of very formulaic and predictable storytelling, in an effort to expand quantity. Take a game like ESO for example. Perhaps one of the largest most expansive sets of dialogue I have ever seen in a game, but overall I have not been very impressed. Perhaps the game shines more in the DLC, which I have not gotten around to yet, but for the huge expanse of vanilla content it all seems extremely generic. Then take a game like Black desert, which is extremely unfocused with ten thousand little tidbits and very few answers to anything. That is an interesting story because you experience it more organically without being spoonfed a predictable pattern and outcome. Even some older western games with almost no coherent story, like say darkfall, early WoW, age of conan were more interesting, because the gaps draw you in and make you want to learn more.

Take a game like path of Exile, not quite an MMO, but a tremendous story which has slowly been built up over years. The story such as it was has always been sort of in the background, but has slowly become more fleshed out as more lore has been incorporated into the game. Actually learning it and figuring out how all the pieces fit together is a long journey which could take many playthroughs to fully experience.

I suppose my view is a good story does not necessarily need to be over-complicated, coherent or full in an MMO, becasue an MMO is not just a book with a beginning middle or end. You the player get to fill in the story, and make part of it up as you go along. The story is more enjoyable when it is more fluid. Korean MMO’s tend to leave more room for this. Perhaps that is not intentional but I think it can work better in some cases over storytelling which tries to ram it down your throat.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Storytelling is the one of the only fields where western MMOs able to keep up with eastern MMOs. But honestly, I dont want for eastern MMOs to become theme parks on rails with a story. I want them to innovate and move genre forward – something western MMO developers fail to do.

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rafterman

What games are you basing these comments on? Most eastern mmos are grindfest trash and the article is spot on with what they can learn from western games.

There are probably two decent eastern mmos on the market right now, one of which, ffxiv, heavily borrows from western mmo design, and still has some of the faults listed in the article, and the other, BDO, is also highly westernized and still manages to have all of the faults listed in the article.

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Oleg Chebeneev

There are much more good asian MMOs then 2. Blade & Soul, TERA, Age of Wushu, Moonlight Blade, Archeage, Lost Ark, Lineage Eternal to name a few. I would rather call SWToR, RIFT or Neverwinter trash then any of those games.

Almost all innovations that happen in MMO genre are found in asian MMOs

quark1020
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quark1020

Something the east can learn from the west: Streamline harassment reporting for botters and gold sellers. On the same token, improve customer services, particularly wait times when opening tickets to moderators.

That second one really depends on how much effort/money whomever localizes puts into it, but the first one really shows the difference in gaming between cultures. From what I heard, gold spammers aren’t as much of a problem in the east due to players needing to put their social security numbers in order to make an account. As tempted as I am to support this for the sake of improving gaming communities, realistically, the cost in privacy and potential security risks is just not worth it.

So, I’ll do the American thing and complain about it till they write some code to let me mute entire accounts!

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ket

+1 for mute the whole account, not just the character. For that matter, mute their MAC addy while we are at it, some people have multiple accounts.

“You, and the netcard you logged in on!”

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Schmidt.Capela

For that matter, mute their MAC addy while we are at it, some people have multiple accounts.

Not actually possible. You can only determine the MAC of another computer if it’s connected to the same local network as you; the MAC isn’t transmitted across the Internet.

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ket

… sure, as a Developer, you can…
You got a client sitting on their machine, just read the physical address right off of the network info. Then, send it over the network in a text file.
There is always a way!

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Sally Bowls

The head of NCSoft West quote seems to support the narrative idea.

“Bringing games directly from Korea to just translate and publish them taught us what works and what doesn’t,” Yoon says. “Western players pay attention to narratives and their experience within the game … but don’t necessarily spend a lot of time trying to understand the saga and legend behind it.” Americans also like being heroes, she says, and are more likely to play solo.

—–

Does anyone know how much control SSG had on the LotRO pricing? Lotro is published by DBG and I thought pricing tended to be under the purvue of the publisher more than the developer.
Three levels at 39/79/129 do not seem that different than other games published by DBG.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

No one knows. But there are a few indicators. First, press at the time indicated the DBG was doing international marketing. You wont find LOTRO on that site you posted the screen captures from, which is the DBG site. So they are definitely not taking LOTRO and DDO under their domestic wing. There’s no news, press or any mention at all of either game on DBG’s site. Considering the importance of the Mordor expansion to LOTRO, if SSG and DBG had a traditional publisher/developer relationship, then it should have been widely touted. Instead, radio silence.

In other words, it doesn’t seem like DBG is doing anything to make LOTRO successful even by utilizing easy stuff like their own website. But really, if DBG were doing a credible job with LOTRO, that Mordor trailer wouldn’t (hopefully) have been as bad as it was.

That doesn’t mean that DBG didn’t influence SSG on pricing by providing them with market data or advice. And, given the price points, it is easy to surmise there was input from DBG to SSG. If that’s true, then from what I’ve seen this is the first evidence that DBG has done anything at all with or for SSG.

That’s my take.

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Sally Bowls

I do not understand the power in the relationship. Similarly, in AA, if Trion thought a lockbox should cost $25 and Pearl Abyss thought it should cost $10, who gets to decide? IDK, but my guess was the publisher. Similarly, if DBG wanted $90 and SSG wanted $50, then who gets to decide? DBG is clearly the publisher for SSG; the MOP Dec 19th article here had “Daybreak Game Company’s role as publisher for LOTRO and DDO should have no impact on any existing Daybreak games.”

Then there is the question of who owns SSG. Did any of the investment come from CN or DDB? My recollection was that they declined to say who bought SSG from Turbine – who owns SSG – although they did say it was not employee owned. I just assume that if it were someone benign, say Jeff Bezos or Brianna Royce, they might have told us.

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ket

The utility of having hundreds or thousands of players in a game is not storytelling, that works better in a single player or small group multiplayer game. The utility of “MMO” games, if that term means anything anymore, lies in story creation via player interaction. So far, no game really tries to maximize player to player interactivity. It boggles the mind, really, as toward why such an obvious question ( why have zillions of players in my game ) goes totally unanswered.

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Sally Bowls

Except I think it is too limiting to only think of “player to player interactivity.” Any MOBA or FPS can have player interactions; I think MMOs are about interacting with and changing the world. Which does not require another human to be around. In EVE, you can lose several thousand dollar ships or systems you spent hundreds of hours fighting for while you are asleep, by people 12 time zones away who you will never be logged in at the same time, who speak a different language than you. That is a only-in-MMO interaction as the world evolves every day; but you never directly interacted with another player. Or take a WoW AH/Crafter. There might be hundreds of people who are customers, competitors, and suppliers. They affect you; you affect them; no single player game can currently provide that. But you may never directly talk to any of them. But they and you both affect the world you live in

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ket

OK, to get a tad technical, there is a difference to be noted between synchronous and asynchronous, as well as direct and indirect interaction. Direct being when you interact with or on the other player or their avatar, indirect being when you both interact with the same object or feature ( ie, a market, or a rock ). And to be a bit more complete, we should also distinguish between social and game-mechanical interaction.
/pedant

Personally, I tend to value the social interactions as much as, or more than, the game world mechanical interactions. I want to interact with, and meet, other people, as much as with their moves in a game. Both, or either, are valid from the perspective of why a developer would bother to include the cost and development overhead of a high concurrency game.

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thirtymil

I think originally the answer to ‘why have zillions of players in my game’ was simply ‘because we can’. I.e. it was mind-blowing just to be in a game with other players.

You’re right though, we’ve barely scratched what can actually be done with so many players in a game. It feels like all the social/interactive opportunities have been ignored in favour of single-player focused storylines and instancing, and the only progress is being made in the PvP area, where the current popularity of survival gankboxes proves that we have at least made some sort of progress on that front.

So in short, much like in human history, we’ve invented new and varied ways to kill each other, but not quite so much in the realms of collaboratively helping each other. Let’s hope then, that much like in human history, what we learn during war eventually rubs off on what we can improve during peace.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I think the only group survival gankboxes are popular with is developers. They seem to be the FOTM for indie developers.

As you have noted, the interesting thing for me as I watch the hype train for one after another of these gankboxes go by and then read the postings of people who jumped on one after another, is that human nature hasn’t changed a bit.

In gankbox design there does appear to be a separation of intent between those developers who throw one together (so to speak) with only a few basic, easily circumvented rules and those developers who recognize that, just like in any other civilized society, there must be elaborate rules to protect the many from the trepidations of the few. I suspect those are the games that will succeed in the long run.

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thirtymil

Yes, I think you’re right in that the application of elaborate rules is what will refine the survival gankbox into something that will succeed in the long run. Moreover, some of those rules are going to become staples that define the genre.

However, I’d say that the financial success of Ark and the persistence of PUBG at the top of the Steam charts suggests there’s a definite group of people other than developers that survival games are definitely popular with. There’s a lot of people buying them somewhere – not me, certainly, but a lot of people somewhere :)

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Schmidt.Capela

The big difference between survival gankboxes and open world PvP games is that your character in a typical survival gankbox is meant to only live for minutes or hours, while a character in an open PvP game is meant to last far more time. Thinking about the characters as disposable shells makes it far easier to accept player-on-player violence.

(And even then sometimes player on player violence becomes too much. Just today the Friday the 13th game announced friendly fire will be removed from all public servers because, in the words of the developers, friendly fire got “abused by players to the point where the vast majority of our current communications from fans are complaints of rampant/unwarranted team-killing/griefing/trolling.”)

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thirtymil

Friday the 13th game announced friendly fire will be removed

Which is a shame, because friendly fire in my opinion is the defining line between a team that is kinda working together and a team that is definitely working together.

When you have to refrain from shooting at the bad guys because your team-mates are in the line of fire, that shows you actually care about them.

(Alien Swarm taught me everything I know on this subject)

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