Perfect Ten: Ten MMO tropes we don’t need in 2016 (but clearly aren’t going anywhere)

    
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Perfect Ten: Ten MMO tropes we don’t need in 2016 (but clearly aren’t going anywhere)

All right, we’ve had just about a month of 2016 now, and I’m writing this on my birthday. Odds are good that I’m going to be writing about MMOs for at least a little while longer now, probably through next week at least. So it would be really wonderful if all of the stuff I’m about to list could make like a tree and go away forever, erasing itself from the face of the Earth.

That will not happen, of course, because we’re about a month into the year and all of this has already happened. Again.

The odds of this year marking an improvement in the listed fields are basically nil. Nonetheless, I’m writing this list just the same, so that you all can hopefully nod in agreement, and perhaps next year we can be rid of all this nonsense. In all likelihood little to nothing is actually going to change in 2017, too, but at least if something does change, I can be happy I stood vaguely near something sort of shifting.

Why did you do this.

1. Gender-locked classes

This right here is why I’m not even remotely sold on Black Desert. Even if nothing else changed about the game, I would hope that someone at least would have spoken up and pointed out that gender-locked classes are utterly horrible. There is basically nothing in this world that so thoroughly turns me off from a given game.

I don’t mind class/level systems; I think that they work better for MMORPGs than they do for tabletop gaming. (There are ways they can be improved beyond their usual presentation, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.) But shunting players into a specific gender because of what classes they wish to play is the sort of nonsense that exists in only a handful of titles and is incredibly stupid every time it comes up.

2. Kickstarted MMOs

I’ve outlined my issue with Kickstarter as relates to MMOs before, but the years have neither been kind to the concept nor provided us with a surfeit of counterpoints to my initial fears. Far from being awash in innovative ideas that could never have received funding from traditional sources, we’re awash in projects with a stuttering start-stop process, with the most successful examples facing severe troubles of one sort or another like The Repopulation‘s engine woes and the Pathfinder Online… well, everything.

There are a lot of titles off of Kickstarter that I really want to come together successfully – I’ve also said many times that I’m curious to see how Crowfall and Camelot Unchained come together, for example. But as a funding platform, Kickstarter doesn’t seem particularly well-suited to the genre. That’s without pointing out the issues with Kickstarted video games in general, which is another similar discussion but also beyond the scope of this article.

3. Arguments over what is or isn’t an MMO

First, some levity in a joke:

Q: What’s the difference between a cheetah mauling you and a leopard mauling you?

A: Does it matter?

Every debate over “is this an MMO or not” kind of winds up running into that territory. Yes, there are some games that are very clearly not MMOs. Yes, there are also games that exist in a gray area, kind of skirting the line between being multiplayer games and MMOs. But arguing over the definitions is splitting hairs pointlessly, even if a game doesn’t fulfill your personal criteria for an MMO. It’s not worth getting hung about, in short. And speaking of pointless arguments…

Is this the real MMO, is it just fantasy?

4. Arguments over themeparks vs. sandboxes

This is really like arguing over whether the patty or the bun is more important to a hamburger. The answer is that both are important and contribute to having a good burger. Nothing useful is gained by splitting MMOs into two camps and deciding that all features on this side need to go into one sort of game. It results in weaker games overall and fewer options for players who want them.

Thankfully, developers seem to be slowly coming around to this fact; we’ve got housing all over the place these days, and there are far more games embracing the idea that this doesn’t have to be a feud. Players are still feuding over it, though, and every time I see a game advertised as a “return to the glory of old-school sandboxes” or something similar, I cringe. Let’s focus more on features and less on camps, yes?

5. Beta and Founder Packs shenanigans

I do not inherently mind Founder’s Packs as a construct; I think it’s nice that you can buy a free-to-play game, essentially. It works out all right on balance. I also don’t mind letting players into beta early. What I do mind is when access to the game in its test state is sold to people as one of the benefits of people who want to buy the game, thus creating an odd disconnect where a game’s most enthusiastic fans have a chance to get bored with the game before it’s actually out.

I’m also not very fond of Early Access in general, but again, that’s a bigger issue beyond the scope of this column. We can at least stop selling a slightly skeevier version of Early Access with free-to-play games.

6. General abuse of test terminology

This one might just be because I run our weekly Betawatch feature, but… really, at this point I’ve opined that words like “alpha” and “beta” no longer mean much of anything in regards to testing phases. That seems kind of backwards. Rather than the term describing the test, the test is run and the studio behind the game declares what the term means. I would love if this was cleaned up, or even if “beta” just stopped being synonymous with “stress test that might move the deck chairs around.”

JUST TELL ME YOUR DEAL

7. Livestreams for announcements

This is one of those pet peeves that I freely admit may be limited to just me, but I can honestly read a 1200-word article far faster than I can watch a five-minute video. Livestreams are not five minutes long, either. I understand why this is done, that the goal is to drum up excitement among players… but the net result is mostly irritation because I just want to get the information. It’s maddeningly slow, and it frustrates me when five minutes are spent saying something that could be done in just a few minutes.

Special no-prize here for Final Fantasy XIV‘s live letters, which are translated very slowly from their native Japanese. I don’t begrudge Naoki Yoshida for not speaking my language when I don’t speak his, but there must be better ways to communicate this information to players.

8. Image weirdness on official sites

Every time I cannot just click an image, right-click it to save that image, and then move on with my life, my irritation with a game grows. I admit this is purely because of the job I have, but still. Images at a reasonable size without obfuscating code to download those images should be a no-brainer; we did not just figure out how to code websites yesterday.

Not impressed.

9. Use of the term “hardcore” or synonyms of same

Do you know how many games are out there that require hardcore group play past a certain point? The answer is darn near all of them. Do you know which games have challenging group content or PvP mechanics that require careful play to win? Pretty much all of them. We’re good for difficulty, really, and difficulty isn’t an indicator of quality any more than popularity.

There are, of course, a dedicated contingent of players who won’t be happy unless every part of a game requires just as much constant dedication to accomplishing anything, meaning that you shouldn’t be able to reach Level 2 if you aren’t willing to beat a raid boss. That was a philosophy that dominated earlier titles, but it was also one that went away around the same time that designers realized that making the whole game agonizingly slow was not winning any awards. That ship has sailed, and no amount of “designed downtime” will bring it back.

10. Shutdowns of long-running titles

Every year, the reaper claims something. Sometimes it’s a game I don’t care about. Sometimes it’s a game I do. And I’m always sad about it because it means that people have lost a game that meant something to them. I don’t know what it will be this year, but I’d rather have it not be anything if that were possible.

This one hasn’t actually happened yet, though. So perhaps there’s hope that nothing will shut down this year. It’s a slim hope, but it’s there.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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mosselyn
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mosselyn

Leilonii mosselyn blackcat7k I am well aware of that. It was an intentional device.

mmonerd
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mmonerd

Leilonii mmonerd  It was month before the release they started to to do hardcore raid marketing. It scare a lot of people away. And dont forget some people didn’t like the telegraph system at all.

Robert80
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Robert80

Leilonii Robert80 wjowski  Please do enlighten us then, what are the sandbox features other than weather/plants?
Parkour is cool, but it doesn’t make it sandbox.  Harvestable stuff is node based, and it’s cool to be able to use all the trees… but respawning nodes is very themepark.  Crafting with the workers has some cool stuff to it, but again isn’t really sandbox.  Seamless loading is cool too, but not sandbox exclusive.
Static world overall (weather and lighting changing is, as stated, cool… but not sandbox) with static quests in it doesn’t scream sandbox either.  PvP is essentially instanced except guild fighting and pk.  Housing is instanced.  Music systems aren’t sandbox specific either. 
I’m confused, reading their own website I don’t see it as having much of anything sandbox.  I see it as a game with a lot of cool systems for something that is more themepark, but none of the things in there are the solid sandbox metrics like open world housing, terraforming, and resources that aren’t node based.

Samhain92
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Samhain92

Tongle Diablo was less genderlocking classes, and more just giving you specific characters to play as.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Bree I hope you’re taking notes in this comment section because we have a LOT of discussions going on that would be a lot of fun to take into more detail in their own articles.

Group finders of varying types and their effects on communities
Videos and how we all hate them (so why do people keep making them)?
Etc.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Quincha Greaterdivinity I don’t want timestamps either. It’s still a video and will waste my time because I can read faster. Not to mention you can include far more content and detail in written format that I can consume in a far shorter amount of time, and it’s also something I can refer to later. I can bookmark a great article or a well written guide and at a quick glance see exactly the information I need, without having to sit through someone babbling on for several minutes.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Greaterdivinity Leilonii I think the billboard type system with chat link included thing works really well. It worked well in Aion and it worked really well in TERA before the influx of new players last year. TERA used to be a game where endgame content was so difficult that nobody wanted to play with randoms, so they used TERA’s LFG billboard system with chat link thing to form groups manually with people on their server. You ended up having groups that worked together, had more success, actually communicated with each other, and often made friends that you played with again.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Samizdat breetoplay Greaterdivinity Ironwu You can fix 2 the way many games have in the past – keep dungeon finders/matchmaking systems to your server only. That way you have a reputation to uphold. If you have a bad attitude, I’m going to block you and tell all my friends and guildies about you. You will slowly lose more and more grouping options as people learn who you are. Over time, everybody will know you as that jerk with a bad attitude that nobody wants to play with. It will get to the point where you will need to reroll with a new name and learn to get along. I’ve seen it happen in games before and it’s a very simple solution. 

The solution to online jerks is the same as it is offline in real life – make them accountable for their actions and give them consequences. In games just like in real life, when you form a real community, that community will determine what they find acceptable and what they do not. They will shun what is not acceptable and those people will adapt or suffer.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

jeremy2020 breetoplay Greaterdivinity Ironwu We need to differentiate here when discussing group finders. The idea of “helping people make and find groups” is not a bad idea by itself. 

The bad parts come when you a)introduce cross server matching, because this removes the community aspect. If that awesome dps I just played with is not on my server, I can’t friend him and ask him to join my next group. 

And b)teleporting to the instance. If you want players to get out in the game world, out of the cities and towns, and actually play in that world, then you need to give them reasons to do so. Teleporting them to the dungeon for the sake of “convenience”, is one of many ideas that kills that aspect of MMORPG’s.

Leilonii
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Leilonii

Vunak breetoplay Aion is a great example of this. Sure Aion had instances, but there was no teleporting. You got together with your 5 group members (they have 6 man groups in Aion to make room for a Support role) and ran to the instance together. It preserved all types of open world game play because most of the game happened in the open world – even though said world had instanced zones. They incetivized leaving town to farm your PvP daily or do some daily PvE quests in a PvP zone, and the instanced battleground could only be done once during certain hours of the day, etc. So they found a nice middleground between allowing instanced content – both PvE and PvP – without letting it kill the open world gameplay.

That’s a game I wish more themepark developers would take a few notes from. It’s too bad it’s not more sucessful in the West because they had some fantastic gameplay ideas in a lot of areas.