The Daily Grind: Is an MMORPG still an MMORPG without gear progression?

    
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A Massively OP commenter recently opined that “without gear progression, [a game] is a MOBA not an MMORPG,” and I would really love to talk about that because I’ve seen similar sentiments crop up a lot in the last year.

Many of my personal favorite MMORPGs are usually those that do away with gear progression or render it unimportant. Classic Star Wars Galaxies, Guild Wars, City of Heroes — never mind sandboxes like pre-Trammel Ultima Online or Glitch — all had minimal gear progression if they had any at all. Detractors might crow that Guild Wars 2 went back on plans to avoid gear progression, but I think most of us would still agree it’s relatively tame compared to the gear-grinds of themeparks like World of Warcraft. Are those not MMORPGs?

I agree that without some form of character customization or advancement, either vertical or horizontal, something that goes beyond swapping in a cash-shop skin for your avatar between matches, a game tips away from being an MMORPG. But I don’t think it needs to be gear. In fact, I think gear-based progression is cheap and lazy choice for an MMORPG to begin with.

What do you folks think? What’s the true deciding line between whether something’s an MMORPG or mere MOBA or online shooter? Is an MMORPG still an MMORPG without gear progression?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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iridescence
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iridescence

findMMO “moba are mmo, as it just means massive online multiplayer, but not mmo-RPG (which are like wow and clones.).” -> No, MMO is just a short form of MMORPG as calling something a “Massively Multiplayer Online” is an incomplete sentence. If people want to say something is like an MMOFPS they’ll spell it out like that. MOBAs are just multiplayer games. Nothing massive about them, no different from really playing COD multiplayer.

findMMO
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findMMO

moba means that there is an arena…and multiplayer, usually pvp-focus or only.

moba are mmo, as it just means massive online multiplayer, but not mmo-RPG (which are like wow and clones.).

so the question is semantically wrong.

though, gear progression is a common feature in mmorpg’s, but I do think that it’s not necessary for having a good game.
it’s quite the opposite to me, as I hate to “prepare” for endgame for dozen hours just to have proper gear and level, i m skipping the whole genre.
unfortunately old school roleplaying is heavily based on exp, leveling, gearing, training skills…but I ll wait for a change of direction

NavSandhu12
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NavSandhu12

Flamethekid NavSandhu12  well the context of the question isn’t the power behind the gear.  Gear and equipment is an important element of game design, that allows diversification of different products, and allows artists and game programmers more creativity during game creation.  Obviously there isn’t a rule saying it has to be there, though the question happens to be about Role Play Games and MMORPG’s.  It has also a lot to do with logic and numbers, like a level five weapon against a level 3 weapon.  The guy with the level 3 weapon could still win, if he happens to be more smarter than the other guy, though then again would depend on game design, etc.. though if the level 5 is used by a smarter guy, then he would be able to dispatch his opponent much more efficiently and quickly… it’s important

FeveredDreamer
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FeveredDreamer

Weirds me out and saddens me that this is even a question.  Seems obvious to me that this garbage isn’t a necessity, in so many ways linear gear progression seems like a pox on the industry.

Flamethekid
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Flamethekid

NavSandhu12 why gear progression

why does your gear have to be the power behind your character instead of your character progressing?

NavSandhu12
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NavSandhu12

RPG’s need to have some sort of “gear” progression in one form or another, so if it doesn’t have it, its not an RPG or an MMORPG… let’s put it this way…if this were 10 years ago or before MMORPG’s came out, it would be an RPG that would really suck and everyone would call a crappy RPG, so therefore, it should have some form of gear progression to be called an MMORPG.

Ehra
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Ehra

You can play GW1 or GW2 purely through PvP and never experience a single ounce of gear progression. They’re definitely not MOBAs.

The question also implies that “gear progression” doesn’t exist in MOBAs, when it absolutely does. A lot of characters rely on cheaper items to get them through the early game until they can afford the more powerful equipment later on. Runes in LoL are a form of gear progression under the guise of a different name.

What a ridiculous statement.

Fathdris
Guest
Fathdris

Yes. Games like SWTOR could thrive in my opinion if they took gear
and leveling out of the equation. The progression for those games is
content. For SWTOR specifically, story.

As I advance
through the story in SWTOR, I find myself doing things I don’t want to
be doing or else I’ll be under leveled. I think crafting could adapt to a
no gear game too. Taking SWTOR for example, crafting could involve
making ships, making modifications for ships, making things for ship
interiors, or for strongholds. It could involve making appearance based
clothing and weapons, speeders, medkits, etcetcetc.
The biggest
argument for levels and gear I have seen is that it “Makes you feel like
you’ve accomplished something”… No, it really doesn’t. Finishing
Balmorra made me feel like I’d accomplished something. Taking down
<class story boss> made me feel like I’d accomplished something.
Completely chapter 2 made me feel like I’d accomplished something.
Gaining gears or levels? Pointless.
At least in an MMO like SWTOR. For an older non-story driven MMO like WoW? I don’t know.

Denngar
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Denngar

I’d argue that, given the right tools, lack of gear progression makes a game MORE of an MMO, not less. The modern MMO uses gear progression as a clutch. That’s really all most developers focus on.

Look at the older, non-EQ based MMOs. Progression was taking a new town from your enemies. It was finding a new quest before other people, or solving a quest line no one else had because we didn’t have people constantly data-mining to break the game’s secrets. MMOs used to be worlds, not treadmills.

Gear progression is fine, but there needs to be a purpose other than to get better gear. It’s one thing I really like about the Monster Hunter series- it doesn’t hide the fact that you’re chasing gear, but the gear means nothing without skill, and you can actually do pretty well with sub-optimal gear if you have enough skill (as in, if your weapon’s above average, and you’re practically naked, if you dodge enough, you can still be pretty successful in a hunt).

Kaloth
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Kaloth

I hate to point this out (because grr eve), but Eve Online doesn’t have gear progression, at least not in the traditional sense.
Sure, there’s bigger ships that take longer to train into, but they’re not necessarily better for any given situation. If you take a battleship on a frigate roam, you’re probably going to lose it because you won’t be able to hit the smaller targets. 
Eve’s progression is amassing ISK and earning skill points, both of which are needed so you can branch out and do multiple things on one character. And then there’s the meta-game, which is more convoluted than I really want to get into here.