The Daily Grind: What’s a hardcore MMO to you?

    
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The core here is so hard.

Sometimes we have ads that get me thinking. Case in point, the most recent ad on our site for the upcoming Lineage 2 classic server, which promised “hardcore leveling.” I freely admit that my time in the game was brief, but I honestly don’t recall it being all that “hardcore” by my definition. Sure, someone could jump out of the trees and introduce an arrow to my trachea at any moment, but that wasn’t hardcore. Leveling in groups or doing nothing in Final Fantasy XI was hardcore.

And yet there are some people who would argue that my vision of “hardcore” wasn’t hardcore at all, that it’s not really hard until the aforementioned arrow-trachea interactions are in place. Some people will probably argue that it’s not really hardcore unless you’re dealing with classic Ultima Online, which admittedly I bounced off of very quickly.

Like lots of terms, there’s no real hard-and-fast definition of what is and is not “hardcore,” which means it’s the perfect thing to turn over to our readers. So what do you think? What is a hardcore MMO to you? Is it one with open PvP? Grouping to level? An expansive challenging endgame? No group finder? It doesn’t have to be a game you’d want to play, but what sort of features would you list as part of a hardcore game?

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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hamblepants
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hamblepants

One where in-game damage is doubled in real-life, so when I sink below 50% health in game, I explode into gooey shards across the floors, walls, and ceiling of my real room.

Alex Js.
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Alex Js.

“Hardcore” depends on specific content within a game, not a whole game. For example, there are “hardcore” raiding parts in FFXIV where you’re expected to show up at certain time with certain ilvl gear and be a certain class to beat up some raid boss and you’re expected to be highly skilful in utilizing the abilities of your class. Of course, you can still finish the game as a casual player and keep socializing with others or do crafting/gathering without ever needing to do such kind of raiding in this game.

Same goes for other games like for example EVE Online – except replace the “raid Boss” with “enemy-controlled system” (and on a much, much larger scale). And just like in FFXIV, you CAN still enjoy other aspects of the EVE like socializing or crafting/gathering in perfect safety (if you’re, for example, a member of one of the “rental space corporations” or just any most powerful corporation in game ;-)) without ever engaging in such “hardcore” fleet content with strict rules and strict skill requirements.

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Suikoden

Like many of the responses below, my definition has changed over the years. What is “hardcore” itself has changed from my perspective as I’ve aged, as well as how the genre has changed over the last 20 years. Today my definition would be much more loose than it would have been 10 years ago. I’d say anything in which there is no PVE safezones is hardcore. I’d also say that if there isn’t something to do solo it’s harcore. That’s not to say that the mainstream games don’t have hardcore elements at the upper tiers of gameplay, but from an entry point, that’s just 2 of the things I would attribute to a hardcore game. I don’t attribute grinding, on any level, to the degree of hardcoreness. I expect grind in this genre.

I also believe that the community can add to the hardcoreness of the game, despite the game itself. For example, right now in FFXIV you better be watching primers before entering a dungeon for the first time. The community expects you to know what to do, not just on the bosses, but on the pulls and everything. That definitely doesn’t add a casual element to the game. Contrary, a community that is more open and welcoming could make the game have a more casual feeling. Sometimes I can get that feeling from ESO.

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yoh_sl

Hardcore as opposed to casual.
And it’s less of a binary, then it is a gradient. Games are more or less hardcore.
The Dark Souls series is generally considered more hardcore then a lot of games, but then there are a bunch of rouge games that can be more hardcore still. Depending on your preference and play style.
Generally speaking MMO’s are pretty casual, they simply don’t take a lot of effort.
(WoW generation of MMO’s at least)

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Stormwaltz

I remember a time before quest journals, maps, auction houses, mailboxes, and “horse pants.” (I don’t remember it fondly, but I remember it.)

I remember a time before world chat channels. (More to the point, I remember a time when people weren’t arguing 24/7 about RL topics in them.)

I remember when half the adventure was forging a path to your destination, not figuring out the closest teleport point. (I can’t decide if I miss that.)

I remember a time before cookie-cutter character classes and level-restricted zones.

I remember when you could wear or hold any item. You might not use it well, but you could use it.

I remember when you could drop unwanted items on the ground for anyone who needed them. Or, if you sold them to an NPC vendor, they’d stick around a while for someone else to buy. A time when there was at least a rudimentary concept of “local economy.”

I remember when you could publish books in games and perform live music. I remember when you’d commission your friend/guidie, the skilled crafter, to make you an (item) that did (X), (Y), and (Z).

I remember when FFA-PvP was opt-in, but integrated into the same world as PvE. You could be the guy watching from the saloon while gunslingers went at it.

The days of MMGs made for folks like me – not hardcore competitive, but hardcore immersive – are pretty much gone. :)

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Rees Racer

As others have mentioned, EVE is an obvious choice. I’ve been playing semi-regularly since 2006, and have enough skills to do just about anything. However, after the (somewhat improved) tutorials, a new player could easily choose a career by concentrating in mining/industry/marketing, or even exploration, and not have to fuss about with all the nastiness that makes headlines.

Granted, it might not make for terribly exciting gameplay, but flying about in a Procurer (~15m ISK and less than 2 weeks to train) and mining ice in high sec is a perfectly suitable way to play. Or exploring with a Heron wouldn’t take much time to train either.

On another note, if Vanilla WoW was introduced as a new MMO today, many would consider it hardcore…especially on a PvP server. It took me a couple of months when it launched to hit level cap, and just as long to save enough gold for a mount. Some of the best Hunter pets were difficult to obtain. Getting “attuned” for Molten Core was not a simple procedure. Getting through Naxxramas was truly an accomplishment. I’m keen to see how many pining for that nostalgia will remain interested long-term whenever Blizzard reintroduces the game that way (late next year, maybe?).

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Cyclone Jack

An expansive challenging game.

Note that I changed endgame to game. I prefer a game that is fun and challenging starting at level 1, not a game where it takes forever for the challenging content to begin or said challenging content is only in one aspect of the game (eg: raids).

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Mr.McSleaz

FFXI Before it got nerfed and made easy.

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Avaera

One that stays open long after it becomes clear that it is not attracting a sufficient playerbase to stay profitable.

That’s a hardcore MMO.

(But seriously, don’t we have hardcore fans, not hardcore games??)

Vaeris
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Vaeris

One that requires players to actually play the game and invest time in return for significant progression/rewards.

If developers for a game start adding features that require players to spend less time in game, then it is not hard core.