The Daily Grind: When have MMO devs brought up ‘universal’ experiences that ring hollow?

    
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Everything old &c

I remember the developers talking about Legendary items in World of Warcraft: Legion in hushed tones, noting that they wanted to replicate the experience of getting one of the rare world purples with odd effects back in the base game. They may as well have promised to replicate the experience of playing Roy Batty in Blade Runner, as neither one was a familiar experience to me. In fact, my experience was having these drops never happen and feeling left out, which boded ill for the actual mechanic in play. (Lo and behold…)

Of course, this is far from the only instance of this happening. I’ve also been told by developers that I formed my longest-lasting and deepest friendships by having to group up with people to level (did not happen), that server reputations mattering made the game more fun (did not happen), and that seeing people in excellent gear inspired me to raid (did not happen). Sometimes I wonder how many of these experiences happened to people in general, but they were certainly not universal. So when have MMO devs brought up “universal” experiences that ring hollow to you? When have developers tried to appeal to familiar and cherished memories which you do not actually have?

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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Ashfyn Ninegold

Cinematics. While I love them, they are deceptive. My characters never look like that. They never make those heroic moves or say those chilling things. And there’s never a gang of like-minded, equally amazing dudes covering my play.

And I can’t say enough bad things about gankbox developers who try to pretend their games are all about crafting and building, when they are really about griefing and destroying.

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rafael12104

Heh. We just had some of that bs this morning in the Daybreak announcement of Planetside Arena.

Talk about “ringing hollow”…

Now, they aren’t the first nor the last to do this, but what I’m talking about that universal bullshit nostalgia that many devs try and use to make us believe that this is going to be just like those awesome experiences of old. But it is also new and improved…

For the love of Yoda, IT IS A Battle Royal GAME!!!

They started droning on about how they loved playing multiplayer shooters while growing up and how this was a dream to work on because they could bring some of that old shooter action back with a new and improved spin.

WTF? Who the hell are they talking too?

Mewmew
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Mewmew

This is a bit different than what you’re talking about – but it is in the same vein. It’s the mindless “event” of “Race to see who can level the fastest!” that so many MMORPGs do at launch. It’s mindless and ridiculous. It shows no thought whatsoever and is not at all fun for a good portion of us who enjoy taking our time through all parts of the game.

I don’t like rewarding rushing to begin with but making an “event” out of it always bugs me and it happens over and over and over. It’s like they have no imagination to think up different types of events and just go with the same old rush ones again and again.

And you know I get on some level some of these games are doing it to sell their Cash Shop boosters, but a good deal of them that have done it haven’t sold experience boosters. They just do it to have an Event out there with no thought and no real programming skills needed to make it.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

I’m going to have go with, “Games with no incentive and no tools to self-police and lots of incentive and tools to grief the community are going to totes be successful this time, we are super serial.”

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rafael12104

Ah yes. Emergent gameplay. LOL! What a joke that was with Trion and ArchAge. I chuckle now, but when I was caught in the middle of it, it was not funny.

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styopa

“replicate the experience of getting one of the rare world purples with odd effects back in the base game”
Really? That’s what you’re “trying” to do? I’m not a PhD game developer, but I’ll give it a whirl:

1) you inherently can’t replicate this for EVERYONE. (cf. the meaning of the word “rare”)
2) here’s how you ACTUALLY do replicate that cool experience: you put a few items with odd or unique effects on loot drop tables at very low rates.

Psst: And then you can’t sell the fuckin’ thing in the online store, either. (again, cf. the meaning of the word “rare”)

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thirtymil

“Everyone secretly wants to raid, we just need to make it easier for them to join raid groups and then they will.”

Cadaver
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Cadaver

seeing people in excellent gear inspired me to raid

No, but seeing people in raid gear inspired me to question the developer’s aesthetic sensibilities.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m really glad cosmetic gear and transmogs are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

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NeoWolf

LOTROS legendary weapons.. they promised a system whereby a character could grow their weapon with them from level 1 to 55 (at the time) and what we got were fixed appearance weapons that requirea MONUMNETAL amount of grind and that you only got from level 50+ and then they gated the becst versions the 1st age legendaries behind the Dungeon wall of forced group play.. That system was just such a horrendous let down on all fronts despite it coming from a REALLY good idea.

The reality sadly did not meet the Hype or hope.

UnknownCode
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UnknownCode

Just to add to this discussion, its a shit feeling when you do get whatever epic loot and its character/account bound on equip or some nonsense. Why cant i use it for X amount of time then decide to get rid of it?

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Arcanum Zero

I think it’s that developers mistake ‘spending time and effort on their game’ for ‘having fun with their game.’ The MMOs that have retained a playerbase over an extended period of time aren’t successful because they are fun all the time. They are successful because they require work. Work creates a feeling of investment, and investment makes us susceptible to the sunk-cost fallacy. This is a way more powerful draw than entertainment.

As a (universal!) community:

– We didn’t farm purples for fun, we did it for an advantage.
– We didn’t form relationships in dungeons for friendship, we did it to streamline our throughput.
– We didn’t grind rep for bragging rights, we did it to release content locks.
– We didn’t raid for gear, we geared to raid.

The fun, friendship, bragging rights, and gear have always been gravy.

Second-generation MMO devs don’t seem to get this. They seem to think everyone is hanging around because the game is just that enjoyable, and so they try to ‘replicate’ experiences that resulted from old ‘poor’ design by using new ‘good’ design to make them easier and accessible (more enjoyable), thus obliterating existing players’ sunk cost and defeating their own purpose.

This is why I believe the ‘classic MMO’ concept has legs, although those legs are clearly hamstrung by the “you can’t go home again” phenomenon, which I think is way more powerful. We all (universally!) enjoy booting up the NES emulator and fiddling with Dragon Warrior for a few hours, but the number of us who can actually stick with technologically primitive experiences through to completion is vanishingly small.

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Eamil

Speaking as someone who’d never played a pre-WoW MMO until FINALLY managing to stomach the… esoteric… UI of FFXI and then falling in love with the game earlier this year, I see a lot of potential in recreating an old-school experience while learning from those older games rather than trying to recreate them perfectly. I think that’s the smarter way to go than just trying to “do EQ again,” so to speak, and I’m hoping that Pantheon in particular manages to find the right balance.

Think about how many people first got into MMOs with WoW, and realize for most of them such a game would be a completely fresh experience. For them it’s not really “going home again” in any sense. A lot of people have been playing WoW clones for the last 15 years and would probably really enjoy something genuinely different, which I think is why games like Pantheon, Ashes of Creation, Camelot Unchained, etc. have managed to be so successful in crowdfunding.

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Arcanum Zero

I see a lot of potential in recreating an old-school experience while learning from those older games rather than trying to recreate them perfectly.

I’m not sure you understood me, which is probably my fault. My argument is that the only option classic MMOG devs really have is to abandon the contemporary context and recreate these classic games without the benefit of next-gen thinking.

Because, as Eliot has pointed out, in their original context where little was attractive, the old, unattractive mechanics worked. Now the context has changed and things are far more attractive. So you update the design to the modern context, and in the process of making it more attractive you break what made it work.

The ‘home’ in this example isn’t /players’/ home, but rather the genre’s. It doesn’t matter whether a gamer ever played a pre-WoW MMOG, because they’ve been exposed to and influenced by the post-WoW genre. The cat is out of the bag, when it comes to more accessible player gratification, and the industry can’t put it back.

So when it comes to classic — or any other aspect of MMO design, really — I think it’s go hard or go home. Just make the game you want to make. “Balance” pleases no one but the shareholders.