So Mythic Quest is a TV show about a fictional MMO studio – how well does it represent actual MMO issues?

    
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As an avid MMO gamer and big fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I was extremely excited to watch Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet when it released last year. The idea that we might get a TV show with some major talent that may also represent MMO and gamer culture in a positive way was fantastic. MMOs have come a long way in the mainstream since South Park’s World of Warcraft episode aired back in 2006, so to see where MMOs fall in today’s pop culture is interesting. With the new season currently releasing weekly, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look at the series.

For those of you who may not know what I’m talking about, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a TV show streaming on Apple TV+. It’s about an MMO game studio and its wildly popular game called, logically, Mythic Quest. The show has been called a mashup of Silicon Valley and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I think that’s fair. The premise is that the Mythic Quest game (in the show’s world) is essentially WoW, and the team is looking at releasing an expansion called Raven’s Banquet.

The show itself is quite funny and the writing is zippy, but I was most impressed with the actual MMO and gamer issues addressed in each episode. The writers and cast might not have nailed the landing on each one, but the fact that the showrunners truly attempted to include actual MMO topics and didn’t just use an MMO studio as a facade or flavor text for a generic sitcom is commendable.

I’m not here to give a formal review of the show (although I really enjoyed it). If you want that, there are dozens of TV review sites you can go read, and after all, we’re an MMORPG website. So instead, I want to take a look at the how well the show actually represents MMO gamers and the issues we know and experience playing in our favorite games, at least in the first two episodes.

Also, fair warning: There’s probably going to be some spoilers slipped in here and there. I’ll try to block them out, but don’t hold it against me if some slip through.

Episode 1: Streamers, influencers, and design decisions

The pilot doesn’t really have a core MMO issue to tackle as deeply as many of the later episodes do. It’s primarily because the writers are setting up the different characters and subplots. However, the closest issue that is addressed would be the importance of a popular streamer’s opinion of the studio’s new release.

In this first episode, the Raven’s Banquet expansion is about to launch, and the lead engineer has a new shovel tool she’s excited to add. She believes it will lead to entirely new emergent gameplay as players will be able to literally dig and redesign the landscape. The creative director insists players will only use it to build crude and vulgar things, so it should instead be one of the best weapons in the game. This back and forth ultimately plays out – and whether it’s successful or not depends on a popular streamer’s opinion of it.

The show doesn’t go into the nuance of the shovel tool too deeply. While I do agree that players, especially initially, use tools like that in games for crude humor, I think the episode doesn’t give enough credit to cases where player creativity is truly remarkable. Take player housing, for instance. It isn’t my jam, but I can absolutely appreciate some of the designs that others have put together. It’s only in passing that the engineer mentions how cool it could be in players hands. But the show immediately takes its uses into the gutter and never brings it back. The showrunners chose to depict that players only really care about combat and violence. It is a bit of a letdown that they didn’t come back around to the creative side of MMOs.

Now, I don’t work for a game studio, so I can’t opine on how accurately it portrays a studio’s feelings and reliance on a streamer’s opinion of the game, but I can say that from the outside looking in, it often feels that way. I remember when For Honor was only a week or two away from release, and early access was given to streamers. It felt bad as a regular Joe. I just wanted to play the game, but all I could do was watch a bunch of kids I couldn’t care less about have a grand ol’ time on streams.

The show really captures the absurdity of the streamer’s personality. Rather than giving a review of four out of five stars, the streamer gives “b-holes.” Studios likely don’t stand by with bated breath waiting on a streamer’s “review” the way they do in the show, but we do often see the power the most popular influencers can wield over a studio. Just last week Project Steele walked back its Kickstarter plans largely due to a YouTuber’s video. And when Valorant released last year, the only way players could initially get access was by watching streamers and getting a special access code. So it really feels like it hits true. While the streamer on the show is admittedly over-the-top, I can’t help but have the same feelings of annoyance for him as the studio characters do.

Episode 2: Microtransactions vs. gameplay

This episode takes the marketing and finance team head-to-head against the development team. Marketing wants to add a casino to the game as a way to increase revenue streams with additional monetization. The engineer explains why the team didn’t want to add it: “We wouldn’t work on it because it’s an artless money-grab that has no connection to the game.” In retaliation, marketing makes all the items in the cash shop free. This in turn is a problem because there is apparently pay-to-win equipment in the store, so the players are getting the gear and churning through the new expansion too fast.

There are a ton of problems with the depiction in this one. Adding a casino to the game was off the table for the development team, but a cash shop with overpowered pay-to-win gear was no big deal? Also the idea that a single department of the company can instantaneously wreak havoc for the whole company with no consequences was a bit too fantastical for me too.

Regardless, the showrunners really missed the mark here. Monetization in MMOs is a hugely contentious point and definitely one that could’ve been explored more deeply. We’ve talked time and time again about how we feel about cash shops and gambleboxes here on MOP. The show could’ve found a way to play up the player perspective and how important it really is to deal with monetization in an even and fair way that doesn’t take advantage of the players while also giving support for the game’s development. Unfortunately, that isn’t what we got out of the episode.

I’ve discussed only the first two episodes of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet here, and I certainly had some criticism, but overall I think the fact that the show didn’t simply use MMOs as a set piece and instead actually attempted to incorporate real MMO issues and topics was fantastic. If you’ve seen the series, let me know your thoughts on these episodes below! If there’s enough support for it, maybe I’ll be able to tackle the rest of the series in later columns.

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Glenn Woods

Decided to get Apple plus TV instead of Netflix for a couple of months . Mythic Quest is quite a fun watch even if the larping episode made me cringe a bit . Also enjoyed Ted Lasso, the Mosquito Coast and For All Mankind .

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Sogz

I was really pleasantly surprised by how good mythic quest is. It has a surprising amount of heart, especially towards the end of the first season and I’m enjoying the second season so far. It’s just nice, easy watching TV with some really good jokes every once in a while.

And to add in on the further discussion about apple TV: my partner got a free year after buying an iPad so we checked it out. I assumed that apple TV would just be another generic streaming service but between this, Ted lasso and some other shows they seem to be going for the ‘comedy but with heart’ vibe that I’ve not really seen anywhere else. (Although I admit that might be just because I’ve not been looking for it.) And it’s got some other surprisingly good shows too. See was surprisingly good and For All Mankind is one of my favourite shows of the last year or so. I’m not saying go out and sign up for apple TV right now, but if you happen to check it out I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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T h e n o n y m o u s

I feel like a lot of this article misses the point that this show is sardonic satire, and they’re not trying to accurately depict a functioning developer (although they obviously do try to make it relatively realistic within reason).

Poppy represents a lot of what you’re saying is missing: the creative and hopeful side of gamers, the people that use tools for creation and stuff (which is why she wants that and Dinner Party and stuff in the game), but that’s not funny so they’re not gonna waste time showing players not making penises with them lol.

Instead they focus on metrics like TTP (Time To Penis), calling their 14 year old top streamer “a total piece of shit” and advocating he kill himself (even more fucked up when you find out who he actually is), and “Brad from Monetization” realizing he’s only happy taking everything from people who already have nothing (“Micro-Microtransactions…Nanotransactions!”).

That’s not to say the show doesn’t have it’s moments of reality or anything (A Dark Quiet Death and Quarantine are absolute standout episodes), but their ultimate focus is clearly on everyone and everything being a caricature more than anything else.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

I cringed a bit in the first couple episodes, but as I got to know the characters and style of the show it became just an all around worthwhile watch.

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T h e n o n y m o u s

It gets weirdly deep as it goes on too. A Dark Quiet Death and Quarantine are both pretty emotional and real, especially for a show as sardonic as it is in every other episode.

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styopa

“While I do agree that players, especially initially, use tools like that in games for crude humor, I think the episode doesn’t give enough credit to cases where player creativity is truly remarkable.”
Never played Spore, did you?

I think you might be expecting a lot from the toss-off show written by people who really aren’t much into the online gaming community.

And no, I don’t belong to the Apple ecosystem either, so I’ll never see it (shrug)

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Dug From The Earth

I wouldnt know because Im not down with it requiring Apple TV.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

If you’re just not going to watch anything going forward I guess that’s your business, but there is nothing else any of us can do about every major company making their own streaming service now.

Apple TV+ seems to have one of the weaker offerings in terms of quantity (which is that keeps people paying for a subscription service), but I’ve enjoyed Mythic Quest and Ted Lasso more than enough to justify borrowing a relatives login info to watch on their sub. :)

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Dug From The Earth

I watch plenty of stuff… I just reached my limit of services to subscribe to.

Currently I pay for:

Netflix
Amazon Prime
Disney Plus
HBO Max
Paramount+ (gotta have my Star Trek)

Its hard to justify all of those… let alone even more.

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SmiteDoctor

Exactly, I can not justify subbing to a channel for one show.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

Yeah, it is a hell. Its weird how badly these corporations want to drive people to piracy.

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Dug From The Earth

Greed leading to them each wanting their own slice of the pie, making them blind to the side effects of it all.

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DeadlyAccurate

I’m at my limit with paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime, but I have a three-month trial of Disney+ and my internet providers gives me HBO Max for free, so I’m also trying to take advantage of those while I can.

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T h e n o n y m o u s

Ted Lasso alone is almost worth the price of admission. I was very surprised by how great of a show that is (and season 2 soon!).

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Pandalulz

For All Mankind was pretty good too. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it a couple of episodes in, but then it gets super compelling in its alt-history what’s gonna happen next.

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T h e n o n y m o u s

I mean…you can get the free trial and just binge it?

Unless you’re saying you think you need an Apple TV device to watch it, in which case you’re very misinformed lol. Apple TV+ is an app like Netflix and it’s available on most major devices.