Massively Overthinking: Unpopular MMORPG opinions

    
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Unpopular opinions: We all have them. In fact we have so many that it’s a straight up meme. This week’s Massively Overthinking is one I’ve wanted to do for a while since sometimes we need a break from discussing serious stuff.

I’ve asked our staff to summon their own personal top five unpopular opinions about MMORPGs and the MMO industry – stuff they genuinely, truly believe but that isn’t widely shared, so no trolls – just hot takes. I’ll be super disappointed if you don’t put yours down in the comments too. Dracarys.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): The Golden Age of MMOs is gone and never coming back. It’s helped generate tech to handle online gaming much better and that’s basically where we’re at now.

Most people don’t want a virtual world, they just want a social grinder. Why do you think RP servers have always been the minority?

Mobile gaming is a direct threat to PC gaming, and that threatens traditional MMOs.

Virtual reality still feels like it would benefit the MMO genre more than most other genres because it can add details that so enhance immersion into virtual worlds. The problem is that it feels like even innovators like Nintendo can’t gamify it well enough, so organized VR RP chat rooms are the best we’ve got.

As much as we may herald their potential benefits, some people need to remember that MMOs shouldn’t be a replacement for your real life community. They can be used to enhance relationships or create new, context sensitive ones, but they are part of a whole of our reality.

That’s why we need more MMO fan conventions!

Andy McAdams: *Casts Spell of Flame Resistance* Min/maxing a character than talking about how ‘leet you is the MMO equivalent of a trust fund baby complaining about how hard they worked to get where they are in life. You give yourself every possible advantage then brag about how you beat content with all the absolute best everything. Tell more about how skilled you are?

If you are playing a game just to win, you are doing it wrong. Games, like life, are all about the journey. If you only care about the end, you’re missing all the stuff that makes it a game.

Fast travel trivializes the size of worlds and destroys immersion. The only way we have to experience how vast a world is through the time it takes to travel between two points. Fast travel ruins that and makes everywhere feel tiny and cramped.

I think Funcom is one of the best MMO studios making games today.

Pay-to-win as a concept is bullshit in MMOs. It’s a designation that people throw on things they don’t like so they have a thin veneer of a reason to claim their dislike is objective instead of just a matter of opinion. In reality, everything in a cash-shop can be interpreted as pay-to-win by someone. Leave alone the whole concept of winning a game that objectively has no defined win state .

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Old-school devs had no idea why they were successful back in the day and don’t know how to recreate the magic now.

Asheron’s Call was a way better video game than EverQuest.

Pure DPS is mind-numbingly boring and no MMO to date has solved the problem.

Anybody who says he/she doesn’t play MMOs to play online dress-up is lying.

Star Wars Galaxies NGE had become a truly great MMO by the time it sunset.

Most MMO lore and storytelling is absolutely terrible, and the best MMO story in an MMO was some random unedited gem by a total nobody buried in a forum about a decade ago.

Mists of Pandaria was WoW’s second-best expansion by a whole helluva lot.

Endgame is still the worst thing that ever happened to MMOs, but lockboxes – specifically, the predation and “race to the bottom” they represent and inculcate – are a close second.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): I don’t like FFXIV’s stories; it always plays it safe. No matter how “dark” the story gets, it will backtrack into some kind of kumbaya moment when everyone’s somehow forgiven and we have a nice safe “reset.” If anyone’s watched the anime Murai-Nikki, it’s got a great plot but the ending is so bad because it ends with a “reset.” I hate those kind of endings, and it makes going through FFXIV’s questline feel pointless.

Cash shops are super innovative, and I think pay-to-win in good games titles is worth the money. Full stop, I think it’s super convenient that I can just work an extra 30 minutes at my job and use that money to earn an advantage in my favorite game. I want to emphasize good games. I won’t be dropping money on something like Kritika: The White Knights because it’s really poorly designed, like many mobile titles. But if it’s a game like Black Desert Online, then SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

I love toxic server chat! I love how incredibly toxic it can get, how people talk about politics like clockwork, how simple questions can lead to absolutely ridiculous tangents, the weird things people say, the jokes and pretty much how everyone playing can read it. I like how lively it is and it just can be a good break from the grind.

Genderlocking is fine. I know MMOs are all about customizibility, but a developer’s artistic vision shouldn’t just be limited to the world and story they craft. If they feel that a certain class or race should just be one gender for the sake of their artistic vision, then by all means! Go for it!

Quake Champions isn’t popular because the game’s too hard: Not enough people play this game, and I really think it’s because the game’s too hard for many people!

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): While I will contend that characters created expressly for the purpose can smother open social locations, I still maintain that ERP is not an awful thing. Pun not entirely intended.

Incidentally, open social locations are important to community building. There’s a reason lots of us like to build taverns with in-game housing.

Being able to improve a block stat for a tank class should be viable and rewarded. I don’t care about your PvP balance; let’s stop it with shields being an incremental stat booster and actually have them block stuff.

The only MMO that made mounts feel like they were more than fast horse pants was Riders of Icarus.

TERA is unrivaled in its action combat model and I wish more games ripped it off.

I like Dauntless more than Monster Hunter World solely because it’s 1,000 times easier to find people to play the game with in Dauntless than it is in MHW.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I’m not sure PvE and PvP even belong in the same game, but if they are in the same game, they need to be balanced separately. These are two totally different ways of playing the game. You’re never going to be able to balance classes and skills for both.

Lockboxes are annoying at best and predatory at worst, but legislating them won’t do any good. Companies will just find find ways around it and/or invent new (and probably worse) annoying, predatory things to put in their games.

Combo systems in MMOs are terrible. Combos are just WoW-style rotations that a developer made for you, but even less intuitive.

The subscription-only model is not inherently better or worse than free-to-play or buy-to-play. It all depends on the game and the decisions the studio makes. That said, the subscription-only model lends itself to more design problems.

World of Warcraft is not, and possibly never has been, the best MMO on the market. It was in the right place at the right time and it survives only out of sheer momentum.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The stigma against ERP in online gaming is a fundamentally immature standpoint borne out of a place of fear and regressive philosophy, and leads to more predatory communities as a result.

Kickstarter is a terrible choice for MMO development, and the closest thing we have to a success story, Star Citizen, is barely even shuffling toward something resembling a launch state while constantly creeping larger in scope.

World of Warcraft was an amazing game, but World of Warcraft fanboys (and before them, EverQuest fanboys) have done incalculable damage to the discourse surrounding online games and their accessibility.

People spend more time searching for games that feel like home than making games feel like homes, which is the biggest element that cannot be designed to be repaired.

There’s a good reason a lot of features people get nostalgic for (universal open PvP, for example) got removed from games as de rigeur elements.

If content isn’t going to be seen by at least 10% of the game’s playerbase, it was wasted design time.

EVE Online has made the atmosphere around sandbox games substantially nastier for no real gain.

Worrying vocally about “is this game pay-to-win” is paying far too little attention to what game design actually provides incentives for, which is a whole lot more important.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Guild Wars 2 has overdone dragons to the point that it’s finally erased any special awe that these massive creatures should have. The answer to everything isn’t “more dragons.” Sometimes much less is more.

Gamers who have burned out on particular MMORPGs become the worst kinds of hypocrites when they go from loving to hating on a game just because they’ve had their fill. You had valid reasons you once loved it, even if you don’t do so now. Own up to that.

Final Fantasy XIV does, in fact, have numerous flaws, but you won’t hear about them because the community shouts down anyone who dares bring them up and force them to confront what they actually know. All MMOs, even this one, have issues, and you don’t do this title any favors by ignoring them.

Speaking of flawed, game creators are not deities free from criticism. I may like and appreciate what they’ve done in the past and present, but the cults of personality that have sprung up around certain figures (and you know who they are) are genuinely disturbing.

I like the free-to-play model and contend that it’s brought more lifespan and attention to titles that would have sunk otherwise.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): The subscription model does not guarantee you a better community.

Whales pay to keep your free game up and running, so stop complaining about the money they spend, even if it gives them an advantage.

Original settings and stories are better than ones built on popular IPs.

The low level gameplay experience matters. I am not going to slog through 40 levels of crap and grinding to get to “the good part.”

Nostalgia is a liar. Many of today’s games are pretty great, and a lot of old games stink.

I didn’t think I would have five. My hot takes tend to be lukewarm at best.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): WoW is not worth a second of my time; it isn’t anything special. In fact it was damaging. The fact that it has reigned as the standard depresses me to no end because it stunted creative game development for far too long.

The Secret World combat was pretty good. Great even. I had fun with it (and even wrote a column about that!) I honestly think the biggest problem was the min/maxxers.

Stereotypical tavern RP sucks. It’s not roleplay as much as it is storytelling. If you want to just sit down and tell a story to everyone, write a book. If you want to play a game, play the game and roleplay while you are doing that. The best roleplay is organic as you live in the world.

The game isn’t yours. It doesn’t belong to you. Stop browbeating devs to make it cater exclusively to you, alongside everyone else who wants something different. The game belongs to the devs and the studio. Let them make their vision. If it isn’t a financial success, well then it isn’t. If they want feedback fine, but stop demanding changes that ultimately ruin it for everyone. Why? Because a game cannot be all things to all people; any game that tries just destroys itself.

Endgame is the bane of MMOs. It’s like the antithesis of what an MMO is. Reaching end game sucks because the game is the journey. Also, I don’t give a womp rat’s behind about winning. Seriously, there is no “winning” in MMOs.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): Being able to complete the highest mythic, epic tier raid does not, on its own, mean you are great at playing your class.

There is no difference between someone who spends 300 hours to get a legendary, elite weapon from someone who spends $300 to buy one.

Dueling should be a default feature for all MMOs.

PvP players know their classes (and even other classes) inside and out better than players who avoid PvP.

Casuals often enjoy their game and support their game better than the hardcore players.

Tyler Edwards: Oh, man, you had to open this can of worms, didn’t you? Unpopular opinions are kind of my stock in trade, but even if we’re limiting ourselves to MMORPG unpopular opinions, I’ve got some doozies. Dons flame resistance gear.

The Secret World had great combat. Normally I try to respectful of other’s opinions, especially as it relates to subjective stuff, but in this case I will go so far as to say that if you think the combat was bad, you’re just wrong, full stop. The large majority of the criticism I’ve seen is simply not supported by the facts. No, builder x5, double consumers was not the only rotation. No, it didn’t take 30 seconds to a minute to kill a mob — not if you had a decent build. I did a lengthy rant on this back when Legends was first announced.

The furor around lootboxes is massively overblown. I don’t like them, and I don’t buy them, but they’re ultimately pretty harmless. At the absolute worst, lootboxes are a minor annoyance that is easily ignored. I’ve yet to play a game where the presence of lockboxes or other similar mechanics significantly hampered my ability to enjoy myself. The concerns over “gambling” seem to me to simply be puritanism run amok, and honestly, I don’t see how this is different from games that expect you to camp for rare spawns or kill the same boss dozens of times to get what you want. Why do we see this predatory design as “the good old days” and that predatory design as beyond the pale?

MMOs are so inherently unbalanced and filled with unfair mechanics that there’s really no harm in letting people “pay to win.” At the end of the day, it makes absolutely no difference if someone has better gear than me because they spent more time grinding or because they paid cash for it. The mistake was believing that MMOs were ever a level playing field, or an accurate test of skill.

A monthly subscription fee remains the greediest and most player unfriendly business model around. Doesn’t matter how many hundreds of dollars you’ve sunk into a game; if you haven’t coughed up $15 in the last 30 days, say goodbye to your characters. It’s a model that spits in the face of customer loyalty. At least when I buy something from a cash shop, it’s generally mine to keep until the servers close.

The gaming industry is in a great place. We have more and better games than ever before, and the current crop of developers and publishers deserve loads of respect for their hard work and innovation.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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Aiun Tanks

Nah. TSW combat was still crap. Sure, you might not have to take 30sec killing a mob with the right build, but the time you saved on the fight got lost on the recovery afterwards, instead. And the lack of variety in sound effects and animations deserve a mention when factoring in how much patience you wear through when repeating those encounters.

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Tizmah

FFXIV’s story isn’t as great as everyone says it is.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

My own unpopular opinion: I’m fucking tired of saving the world, I want meaningful stories about small people, and I believe it’s achievable in MMO, too. Going from Big Bad Guy to Even Bigger Bad Guy path leads to nowhere.

Alyn
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Alyn

I agree with most of the opinions here. Colin I especially agree with as it has been a bone of contention with me for many, many years. We do need separate trees for both pvp and pve if they are exist together. It is doable and should have been thought of a long time ago.

We should also not force people into slaughter unless they choose to do so.

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Adam Russell

Fast travel works in a game that has just released, and maybe the first one or two expacs. When it gets too huge you need fast travel. There is a limit to how long a group can wait for a replacement to get there. Any analysis of fast travel based on solo play is faulty for that reason.

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Adam Russell

Typo: Should have read NO-fast-travel works in a game just released.

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feleran

I agree:
PvP and PvE are totally different and if they coexist, they have to be balanced separately.
Secret World combat was good, if not great.

I cannot agree:
that p2w is good and subscriptions are bad. I would any day choose a simpler MMO with less features that is fair to everyone (and with a same monthly fee) than a prettier one where in-game power can be bought for real money.

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Iridescence

No other MMO will ever get WoW’s numbers, it was a fluke. RPGs in general have always been a niche appealing to a certain type up person and should give up chasing a mass audience and should go back to what they are good at as a genre. Allowing people to create interesting characters and participate in virtual worlds. Yes you will not get millions of players doing that but you can’t do it by copying WoW or the latest video game trend either.

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Zero_1_Zerum

I like being able to solo MMOS. I hate being forced to group up to do part of the main story or being forced into a PVP zone. I like having other players in the game, because it makes the world feel lived in, with the Option to group up if I feel like it. But, that doesn’t change that there’s a few thousand chosen ones running around on the same quest I’m on. At least have it make sense that every player is playing the story, like having everyone working together towards a common goal, instead of “you’re the only one who can save the world… ignore that guy over there who is doing the same thing.” PVP doesn’t belong in a game with PVE, it brings it down.

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Anton Mochalin

Guild Wars 2 has overdone dragons to the point that it’s finally erased any special awe that these massive creatures should have. The answer to everything isn’t “more dragons.” Sometimes much less is more.

The whole fantasy genre has overdone dragons (and dungeons) for so many years. When I see that dragon-stylized 2 on GW2 logo I think “Oh no, not again”. But GW2 is a great game, definitely one of the best. Well in its world dragons at least rule the whole regions so meeting a dragon shouldn’t be any more awe than meeting a king. And anyone familiar enough with GW2 knows it’s not about the dragons at all and that’s a much more serious problem for the game – it advertises itself with dragons (and overall story) when they’re actually more like a part of the landscape and there are lots of GW2 players who don’t care about the story. Well at least “living world” is closer to truth than “living story”.

micedicetwice
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micedicetwice

It is one of the best but man, the story became really stupid. Last season especially so! It never was super great but since they started to kill and revive characters it lost the last sense of value, everything in this world can be fixed, there are no real consequences, we just “saved the world, again”. Jesus, it became ludicrous.

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Anton Mochalin

Kickstarter is a terrible choice for MMO development, and the closest thing we have to a success story, Star Citizen

“The closest thing we have to a success story” is Albion Online which is now just a normal MMO with playerbase, expansions and all. I don’t personally like Albion but people who funded it on Kickstarter more or less got their game.

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Iridescence

Kickstarter MMOs are still batting way below the Mendoza line though and a lot of high profile failures.

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Anton Mochalin

Just like non-Kickstarter MMOs – we’ve seen so many of them closing last/this year.