The Daily Grind: Do MMOs need to slow down?

    
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If you look back at the early years of MMORPGs, nearly everything was slow, ponderous, and took gobs of time. Travel took time. Combat took time. Leveling took time. Crafting took time. Loading up on a 28.8-baud modem took time.

Then things got faster as internet speeds and gamer tastes developed. Then they got really fast, as action combat took over the scene and things like leveling and travel became trivial and sometimes instant. While a lot of this made MMOs far more convenient and accessible, there are some who might argue that games need to slow down — that the combat is way too fast and difficult to follow in a multiplayer setting and that these changes have trivialized the impact of the game world and its challenges.

What do you think? Do MMOs need to slow down or are they good as is?

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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Vaeris
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Vaeris

Emphatically…Yes!

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Carebear

Thats why i love vanilla wow! I am having fun killing mobs with my wand, auto attack with my hunter while chatting in guild.

I love when i dedicate a game session to open some flight paths. Its relaxing a fun for me. I guess this is why i love turn based strategies too. I want slow and relaxing experience but difficult at the same time. Old MMOs had that, i am all for old MMOs!

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Bruno Brito

Yes. Completely yes. I would love a slower GW2, honestly, but the game should be enriched in other ways. For instance: It doesn’t help that your game is slower if the experience is too streamlined. Would be incredible if they brought the old talent system back with tweaks, so you could mix and match cool stuff.

Also, there are features that help a slower pace game: Sandbox features, housing, fashionwars. I think a lot of MMOs nowadays are getting away with too many features lacking. I see it as a issue.

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Ocho

I think leveling should slow down, but all the rest I’m fine with. Mobs shouldn’t take an eternity, traveling should be instant/easy, and crafting shouldn’t be tedious. Out leveling a zone’s story, though, really gets on my nerves. It’s like reading a book only 75% of the way (sometimes even 50%), and then having to skip to the next book.

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Avaera

I’ll vote yes to more game worlds offering a slower experience (or at least the option for it to be as rewarding as the fast track).

I’m no fan of action combat generally, but I’d say it is particularly divisive in MMORPGs because done poorly it tends to make the world tiring to interact with. I could only stand fairly short bursts of gaming sessions with Wildstar or GW2 for example, because every few steps in the world meant having to engage in highly visceral, reactive and dexterous finger gymnastics in order not to die, and that got wearying fast. I do enjoy the odd fast-paced arcade/action gameplay in other genres, it’s just not the limiting factor I want on my character development in a complex persistent world.

Travel and levelling – I don’t think it needs to be fast necessarily either, but it has to be designed to add something meaningful and allow me to find the content I want and the people I can enjoy it alongside with relative ease – as soon as it becomes a hassle to find other players/content, it isn’t working!

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Ken from Chicago

Yes, that’s what I finally realized about DC UNIVERSE ONLINE. I’d be physically tired after playing 15-30 minutes whereas I might be mentally tired after same amount of time in CITY OF HEROES, GUILD WARS or STAR TREK ONLINE.

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Castagere Shaikura

I miss the mmo’s of 2000. Anarchy Online had a level cap of 200. Back then when you saw a level 200 player you were in awe of them. But it wasn’t really about getting to max level. Ask those max level players and they would always say don’t rush and enjoy the game world. Because AO was really a world where you as the player was part of. Exploring that world was amazing back then. That’s what mmo’s were about in the early days and i miss it. It was a fun slow journey to level 200. Man there were times when i logged in and just hung out with players in night clubs just talking to people for hours. Now that’s being social. Today i can’t relate to mmo players.

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Serrenity

Same here! It was such an event when someone hit 200 (or was it 220?) that there was a server wide notification when it happened. And that happened rare enough that it was commented on. I played AO for years and my highest character was like … 140s or something. But I never felt like I was missing out on something because I wasn’t higher level. I could do things (with moochies) that benefited people lower level and higher level than me.

I know I have some rose colored glasses with Anarchy because I’ve tried to back and its just not the same, but man it did so much right. I miss it.

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Castagere Shaikura

I feel just like you. It was the best time to play mmo’s to me back then. I live in Beantown and got to know this guild of M.I.T. players. I got to meet them at M.I.T. and play with them at the school in this huge room with all our PC’s together. They even help me build my first PC. They became real friends and we would meet at bars and talk Anarchy Online.

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Bruno Brito

I honestly feel like playing AO a lot, but the game is so incredibly clunky and messy that it makes me log out in 15min.

It seems extremely fun, like a better fleshed out Neocron, but all the quirks you have to go through are a bit overwhelming for my taste.

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MassivelyMacD

Yes it was a long journey

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Josh

Definitely. I’ve picked up playing Vanilla WoW lately and I realized why the leveling process has felt like it’s gotten worse in MMOs despite all of the quality of life upgrades:

By having leveling as a slow process with mobs that actually pose a threat, there’s incentive for people to actually group up while leveling and actually pitch in to help someone who accidentally pulled too many mobs or actually use healing skills.
So many MMOs nowadays try to push players to group up with rewards or events, but if your content involves just mindlessly mowing through enemies without any real threat, grouping up with other people is just a drag and there’s no reason to actually talk to those people.

And by having leveling slow, I don’t just mean how long it takes to fill up your experience bar. That part really doesn’t matter too much. What really needs to be slow is how long it takes to kill mobs and how careful you have to be to prevent getting overwhelmed. Players should have to learn to be careful with how they pull mobs, especially when solo, because when they group up, they realize just how much of a boon other players are. Games that let people just YOLO into groups of enemies and AoE them down don’t feel any better when you group up.

And at the end of the day, the social element is what really sets MMOs apart.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

I’m going to take a middle of the road approach–things should definitely not be as slow as they were back in the old days simply because their demographic doesn’t have that kind of time to spend. But at the same time, going too far down the “no inconveniences” path really destroys immersion and I think overall hurts the game.

In Virtual space, the only real mechanism we have to measure a space is the time it takes to traverse the space. If you cut out that travel time too much, the world inevitably feels smaller and less… space-y :-P

I think the best route is a mix of fast travel and ‘slow’ travel. I like how Anarchy did it – you used the whoompah to jump between major cities and beyond that, you were walking. That cuts down on dead time but still helps maintain the feeling of distance and space in the game.

People are like content locusts and are too obsessed with max level, so much so that they miss most of the game (granted, game design also isn’t doing itself any favors here). I wish that max levels was less of a static thing–like exp loss on death, or requiring XP to craft, or Xp as currency between players. There are a ton of ways to still have experience in the game but not have hitting level cap by the end all. People are attached to the concept of not losing experience on death because they feel like it keeps them from the ‘real game’, where you have to be max level. If you make the gameplay at all levels, losing/spending experience becomes part of the gameplay loop. The net I think would be that people would slow down.

But the biggest thing is that playing game should happen when you start playing the game and the core gameplay loop shouldn’t be any different lower level than max level. This mentality of the game starts at max level is anathema to the genre in my mind. The game should be the entire time that I’m playing and level shouldn’t matter in terms of giving me interesting, fun things to do.

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Vincent Clark

I think the world, in general, needs to slow down. Take a moment. Listen. Ponder. But yeah, MMOs too. I think it all boils down to having delayed gratification “issues” and companies making millions, if not billions as a result.

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Arcanum Zero

Yeah, I think so. I don’t pine for the days when an MMO was a full time job, but I do miss dungeons that were not sprints.

More than anything else, though, I miss lore content that isn’t tied to a world-ending threat. Which I guess isn’t an issue of too much speed but rather too much urgency, which can feel the same. “It’s Tuesday, so it must be the apocalypse,” is a terrible way to write any story.

World-ending threats work better in single-player RPGs, because typically speaking when they hit they are the only thing to do and when they are done there is nothing left. There’s something sad about sitting through the epic night-before-the-battle cutscene and then porting back to town to repair your gear, check the AH, and maybe finish up some of those artifact power quests you’d been putting off before returning to the final boss, but what’s even more sad is going back to do all of this stuff after you’ve killed him. It’s almost like a deconstruction of heroism.