Massively Overthinking: Is there too much negativity in the MMO genre?

    
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MassivelyOP reader Threespeed posed us an interesting question for this week’s Overthinking that I thought was particularly appropriate given the Trion Worlds situation.

“Everyone has a right to their opinion, but more and more I see negative comments on news articles dealing with MMOs. It’s not for me to say whether they are justified or not and I can be just as guilty as the next person; I just wonder what you guys think about the way our genre is talked about. If I were a developer reading all the negativity, I think I would create a different type of game. What do you think? Are we at least sometimes doing more harm than good? When gamemakers slow down or decide not to make MMOs, could we be at least partially to blame?”

Let’s hash it out.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Oh man, where to start? Maybe with my own guilty admission: I’ll often be the first to note that MMOs as many of us remember them are pretty much dead, and I can’t see them coming back in the same form.

That being said, any developer who quits because of our feedback probably isn’t in the right line of work. In fact, I’d argue a lot of devs are working in voids, almost unaware of their competition and the history of the genre, especially outside of their nationality. While it may be negative, a lot of readers smack their heads in our comments section because they’re on the ground seeing how disconnected some devs are. It’s frustrating. Sometimes the devs are right and make something awesome, but it’s uncommon.

On the other hand, raw positive commentary isn’t helpful either. I hate bringing it up, but I remember being one of the first people to publish my doubts about Wildstar, even among colleagues who vocalized similar opinions. Earlier criticism may have helped… or not. We’ll never know, but unmitigated hype can blind devs to how things may be perceived outside their circles. Just look at Fortnite. The game it originally was received some positive feedback. It seemed like something our readers might really enjoy. Then it became a “PUBG clone,” and clones always sound like horrible cash grabs. And maybe that’s what it is, except it’s certainly a major competitor.

My point is that criticism, positive or negative, isn’t a major factor. It’s how the devs use it in their decision making process, if that even matters. What criticism does do, however, is bring attention to the game. Nothing is worse than making something no one knows exists. Good or ill, don’t be afraid to critique!

Sorry, guy.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I don’t think Threespeed is wrong. I think the negativity in comment sections (and Reddits and forums and social media) about some games has definitely amped up. As I am typing this, somebody just sent MOP a tweet saying he hoped all the devs at a studio lost their jobs, as if most of those people weren’t just trying to make a living and had nothing to do with the studio’s management screwups. That didn’t really happen five, six, seven years ago. Yeah, it’s amped up.

It’s frustrating because while hoping people are fired and rendered destitute is awful, I’m not actually sure negativity in general is the wrong take, and the two often get conflated. The MMO industry is having issues – design, boredom, community, culture, crunch, crowdfunding, toxicity, scams, you name it. It’s not entirely new, of course; trust me, people were angry and mean on MMO forums 10 and 20 years ago too (you guys would be amused to see what Crossroads of Britannia looked like back in 1997 on Ultima Online’s patch days). But let’s also not be blind to how discourse has changed, how cultural permission to be cruelly edgy and the amplification and immediacy of social media make it way too easy to be an effective jerk online rather than just somebody shouting into the void.

And yes, over these long years, the genre’s innate problems and unforced errors have taken their toll on gamers tired of waiting, tired of being taken advantage of, tired of being outright lied to, tired of paying for half-assed games, tired of watching the genre dwindle to five or six big titles still worth playing, or what have you. And they get bitter and lash out. And pretty soon, as MOP’s MJ quipped this week, every single MMO studio is the worst studio ever according to our commenters.

I don’t necessarily think it’s particularly worse for MMOs than other online genres, for what it’s worth, and I don’t think that studios are shying away from MMOs specifically because of that, not when the clear market rationale to avoid expensive/slow/hard genres in favor of cheap/fast/easy genres is so much more obvious and pressing. If anything, some studios seem to be attempting to harness the toxicity intentionally. If you’ve ever seen a fanboy brigade for one of the old-school or hardcore indie games at work, you’ll know what I mean. But I do think the negativity poses a unique problem for any online game where the community is actually a core selling point.

As writers, we’ve got an extra burden to not sugarcoat but also not provoke. I’m not going to squelch a news post that’s going to go negatively just for the sake of protecting a studio from hearing painful truth. We have to be honest first. Buuuuut I’ll probably make sure we also have some palate-cleansing editorials and feel-good puff pieces on the docket too. (This was one of the reasons we started the Warm Fuzzies tag, for example – to serve as a counterweight for Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.)

As readers or commenters – here or anywhere else – you can report and ignore trolls and maybe more importantly make sure that you’re piping up too so that their voices aren’t the only ones being heard. And then make sure you’re supporting the happy, positive articles and streams and roleplaying and communities and charity events such you’re saying you want to see instead!

And hey, look. Real life sucks for a lot of people right now. Gamers aren’t immune. “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows” and all that. But sometimes it is. Try to have some balance and don’t use the comments, gamers, devs, and video games as your punching bag.

Oh-my-ga.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I’ve written about this very idea on my own blog a couple of times – about how being just as aggressive about things you like as those you dislike – and I’m pretty sure I’ve read about subjects like this on other blogs like Contains Moderate Peril. Some MMO communities and multiplayer sub-genres certainly can strike as the sort that would make me shy away as a developer, and there definitely seems to be a greater onus on us as a community to express things we don’t like in a far less vile way. However, I believe devs should perhaps provide more ways to collect actual insightful input than just leave a forum open and wade through chest-high text-based muck.

In the end, there needs to be a greater emphasis on being genuinely, unabashedly appreciative of the MMOs you like. Even if being happy doesn’t get as much “action” metrics-wise as those who like to post their hottest, most unfiltered takes. So in other words, yea, I agree we as MMO fans are kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. Or at least slowly stepping on broken glass, willfully ignorant to the pain it causes.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Yes, there is most definitely more complaining and negativity.

Oh, we need more? Taken as a whole, MMORPG players are far more cynical, jaded, and disgruntled than they were a decade or two ago. Look to Reddit. Look on official forums. Read global chat. There is so much negativity out there that it creates a lethal feedback loop for MMOs. It seems like we can’t be excited about anything; we just have to dump on the studios, on the games, on every patch, on every decision, on every developer note, on the future, on the past… just everything. I keep seeing the vocal community acting like spoiled brats that can’t give anything a real chance without comparing it to impossible standards or demanding absurd feats on behalf of the studios.

Of course, we can’t over-generalize here. Lots of us are still enjoying games and ignoring these sour pusses. But we’re not being as loud about our excitement as the “MMOs suck” crowd is, so the perception is that it’s tilting the other way. It’s wearing down the developers, it’s pushing away potential players, and it’s not constructive at all.

Be critical. Be analytical. But also be an outspoken fan of the things in which you delight. Give praise as well as criticism. Stop living in the past and stop feeding the trolls. We can help make this genre better, but it’s got to be a concerted effort not to be drowned out by the negative Nellies out there who will never be satisfied or happy.

ESO Tales of the Dead

Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): I mean, yeah, I think when people take to forums, or Reddit, or the comments sections of certain news blogs and websites to just put a game or a developer on blast, it definitely does more harm than good. I think that much is obvious. The problem is that people, by and large, don’t really want to put in the time and effort required to provide constructive criticism — it’s difficult to take a balanced look at something, be it a game, a book, a movie, or whatever, and give even-handed feedback. It’s a hell of a lot easier to just make a list of the things that you don’t like and lambast the devs for their terrible design and decision-making.

If you’re asking me to provide a possible solution, though, I’m afraid I don’t really have one. This is the Internet, where everyone has their two cents and any number of avenues through which to broadcast it, and by virtue of the fact that complaining is easy and constructive criticism is hard, I imagine there’s always going to be more of the former than the latter. I guess all we can really do as MMO fans and communities is do our best to encourage constructive conversation discourage vitriolic negativity, and just hope for the best.

Your turn!

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Dušan Frolkovič

And your rant pretty much sums up why people are very much against developing new MMOs. Why would anyone in their right mind even try to develop anything, if the reward will be rants upon rants upon rants. You know what? I do hope everyone stops making games. Cause then you people can whine about how there are no games. And there will be no one to save you.

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JC Denton

To summarize my lengthy rant:

Gamers, both F2P and paying customers, have been bamboozled, swindled, hog-tied and treated like absolute garbage while being urinated on by gleefully-laughing publishers and defended by corporate whores like Justin.

It is about time we have a long-overdue consumer revolt against these bastard publishers and support only the good games & devs from now on. Let these bastards die off and rot in the bowels of the WoW-clone trashbin they originated from.

THERE IS NO OTHER INDUSTRY IN TODAYS MARKET THAT PERMITS OPEN FRAUD AGAINST CONSUMERS, BAIT & SWITCH, WILLFULL/MALICIOUS DECEIT, UNREGULATED GAMBLING TO MINORS, AND DECEPTIVE PRACTICES WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES.

We need some fucking legal intervention in this fucking industry; yesterday!

TellTale games tells the tale of game devs treated like dirt due to zero worker rights. That needs to also change. This is bigger than MMOs and even bigger than gaming.

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rogbarz

I respect your opinion and I do think that in may ways you make a fair point that the practices of those representing the industry (publishers) did damage the whole community. People are very wary now of games and how things are done, sadly this has also been pushed to the extreme now where that every game gets called p2w.

For example you mentioned Bless, While Bless/neowiz surely made a lot of mistakes in their presentation and communication towards the community as a whole. The game is not P2W yet it does get that name because someone thinks the moment a game asks a dollar that it is wrong. Bless has flaws but P2W is not one of them.

The MMO genre needs a reset and I do believe MMO’s like Pantheon and Ashes of Creation can be that. Websites like Massively OP can play a big factor in this and be a support towards the community to explore these games and to bring back a positive vibe. They could look for more collaborations, Open up a forum, do live interviews with devs and ask the critical questions like P2W, what makes their game so much better then the others, why should people believe their MMO is the one, etc etc …

This would be a big support towards the community I believe :)
Sorry for the poor english

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rogbarz

I do want to add something rather general: (english isn’t perfect)
The world, Media, People, everything is presented these days with extreme negativity.
negativity creates groups and groups are going to find someone that shares their opinion in public. This is something that has been going on since the beginning of time but with the last few years it’s been put to an extreme level. People are growing up hearing only negative things. The media spins positive stories into something negative as negativity = cash. So in general people tend to become more negative in general.

When it comes to mmo’s it is true that we had a bad few years, but negativity can also lead to de-motivation. Which creates a fear factor that can lead to people being afraid or in this case developers of pushing the boundaries with new , fun and challenging content.

For example I love warhammer, Warhammer vermintide 2 is fun I enjoy it but my question is … will someone create a warhammer game that is a live service like destiny 2 or the division?

The reason to not create it could be budget but it could also be fear of what the public will say and think. The publics opinion can have a massive impact on current and future projects as we often judge before we see it.

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P Jones

When you agree with the complaints or protests it’s a good thing. When you disagree then it’s negative and toxic.

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kgptzac

There is no such thing as too much negativity.

hoylegu
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hoylegu

Focusing on negativity in gaming is myopic. It’s not being able to see the forest for the trees.

The world (esp here in America) is experiencing a very dark time.

As the Turks say, “The fish rots from the head,” and global leaders are letting their people down in masses, in epic proportions.

Gaming is just a subset of this larger phenomena, which you can see reflected everywhere.

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psytic

I think were just getting grumpy watching the genre die off. Every major studio has had a crack at the genre. I see very little possibility for new AAA MMOs on the horizon and generally speaking the indie ones coming out don’t interest me. My interest in the genre itself is waning due to lack of innovation. I think we need the next big thing like WoW to come along and shake the genre up but I don’t see any more major investment in this space. Most developers have moved onto open world survival games. People get bitter when something they like starts to die or go stale on the vine. People are bored with the genre and when they get bored they create drama.

Gamers in general are mad at P2W and dlc and in game cash shops. We feel like we are getting milked for every last cent and it didnt use to be like that.

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Toy Clown

Definitely. Sure, there was always a segment of any MMO community that was unhappy, but people quickly learned to create space for those people so they were off in a corner with others of their type. MMOs felt much more positive when negative behavior wasn’t accepted.

Looking back on my own experiences, I feel like over the last 3-5 years negativity acceptance has noticeably gained traction. People that don’t like it stopped standing up because they were attacked in droves by the toxic players, and many of them went into their own neat little corners where they couldn’t be touched by them. It’s been a huge switch in what is acceptable and what isn’t now.

For myself, I’ve limited my contact with people in MMOs with “stranger danger”. That meant leaving behind forums that were full of negativity, firming up my little bubble so I wasn’t letting people with negative behaviors in, and not participating much in Discords until I know the people aren’t bent out hurting other players. I’ll leave discords where there are rampant bad behaviors. I won’t join guilds where it’s known that members troll and fling toxic insults at other people, and as a RPer, I won’t OOCly communicate with other RPers until I’ve RPd with them long enough to establish their playstyle is in line with mine.

It’s a big change from when I used to join every community of an MMO I belonged to, hosting public events, running multi-guild RP plots, etc. It’s rare I want to do for others anymore. I tend to have a smaller view toward giving back now. I wish it wasn’t that way, but it is what it is to protect myself online.

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Sorenthaz

I think there’s too much negativity in general with gaming. Lots of folks have grown rather cynical, jaded, etc. because of what the companies do. In a way yes folks are sometimes being too entitled to what they paid for, but in general companies are doing sleazier stuff as well and when the veil between “we care about our players” and “we actually just care about the money” goes away folks get angry and are more prone to criticize.

That plus folks tend to formulate higher standards as time goes on and we see what games are capable of. Games these days feel like they’ve regressed in some ways, and lost the depth/charm that they once had, especially with MMORPGs.

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Hikari Kenzaki

It’s okay and right to be logically critical of a game or its development. Period.

We can discuss the ways in which a game has succeeded or has totally failed to deliver on any of its tentpole objectives.

Where it gets into the wrong territory is when we stop acting like decent human beings just because we’re in the comments section of a website or a reddit thread.

If you are wishing injury or worse upon someone over a choice they made in creating/changing/buying/closing a video game, that’s where a line has been crossed.

If you are letting your anger/despair over a game being closed cause you to say things like “Those people deserved to lose their jobs.” or other things where we’re forgetting these are just ordinary people trying to put food on the table, that’s where a line has been crossed.

In the communities I manage or help with, I ask people to step back and pause to think about the other people at the other end of the ether before making their post and remind them that we’re all ultimately here to play some games and have fun. And this is one of the best communities out there.

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