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    [Opinion] Have MMORPGs failed to evolve?

    There are many of you that might have never played an MMORPG, or really knew what they were before World of Warcraft hit the market. Those that reminisce about Ocarina of Time or Crash Bandicoot as pivotal moments in gaming, I have fond memories with a genre of gaming alien to a large chunk of the population. Unfortunately, it is a genre that stopped changing, stopped evolving and instead spawned copy cats trying to make the mega cash like WoW, without any heart or passion.

    My eleven year old self remembers my first introduction into the MMORPG scene: Everquest Online Adventures for Playstation 2. There was something special about that game, it did something that I think few MMOs really accomplish: create a game where the community is the focal point. You would group up with others, literally go out into the wilderness and find a place to grind kills.


    You cannot play EQOA by yourself for very long. Once you get past the introduction levels, grouping up with others is essentially the rest of the game. Sound unimpressive at first, but the game relied heavily on roles, like a person who heals the teammates when they get hurt, a guy who deals major damage, or the person who absorbs massive damage known as the tank. Most areas in the game had powerful creatures that could not be defeated alone. The game relied on you playing in groups for leveling or questing. Not to mention traveling was very dangerous, making use of magic skills like invisibility or freezing enemies so they can't chase you. The zones were not easily laid out like they are in more current MMOs, you could travel from one low level zone to a high level zone very quickly.

    Then came the release of Final Fantasy XI. A game I would play on and off for a good six years. Like EQOA, it embraced team work. In many regards XI was even more hardcore than EQOA. Everything was a chore, or an activity that was seldom accomplished alone. However, everyone in the group contributed greatly to leveling or questing. Hell, even traveling through zones was a monumental task. Your group could be in a zone leveling and often would lurk much higher level creatures that would smash your unit to bits. Finding a spot would sometimes be equally difficult as it sometimes required you to sneak past these same kinds of elite creatures. XI taught you that each area is dangerous, even with others around you.



    Both EQOA and XI taught me that you have to work with others. You were forced to, or you would end up quitting. It might sound like a pain, but it made quests so much more desirable. To know that the item you so desperately want is in a cave filled with tough challenges, you had to help others and in turn they would help you. Guilds in these communities spent more time helping each other than worrying if members are geared well enough for endgame raiding. These MMOs were about experiencing these worlds with others, not reaching the final level to "begin" playing the real game.

    Of course I played WoW at some point in my life. A group of real life friends wanted me to join them. They knew I had dabbled with MMOs in the past, they wanted me to try it out. I definitely was addicted at first, but I quickly grew tired once I came to the realization that WoW didn't offer a great experience. There were no real penalties for death, traveling through zones was barely dangerous, if I got caught attracting enemies it merely meant I had to slowly run away for 10-20 seconds before they would give up. In XI, enemies did not give up chasing you. You were dead unless you switched zones.



    With WoW, I could breeze through the levels just spamming attacks not really understanding my role. I didn't need to group up with others. PVP was a fun concept, and the main attraction for me. I knew that WoW wasn't an MMO for me, the game was more about mundane quests that reward you with gear you constantly replace. There were no real sets of armor for mid level ranges that you "had to have" or desired. Even the dungeon gear that dropped from bosses could be something you replaced in 5-10 levels by simply powering through the content.

    The zones didn't provide any danger, exploration was limited to what quests you were doing and the game used constant rewards to keep you grinding. All of it wasn't what got me into MMOs in the first place. The biggest problem for me what the fact the game could've been turned into a offline single player game and you could essentially have the same experience. The need of a community was only secondary to the game's design. It simply wasn't important to reach new level or zones with others.

    WoW set the new mark for MMORPGs. In a genre that saw many different kinds of style, WoW became the definitive version that other companies wanted to emulate. Hard to argue when the user base is bigger than all of the major MMO games combined.

    Years later we see games like Rift and Star Wars The Old Republic release. Two games that essentially try to take this and that from WoW to create their own version of it. Not to mention there was an older, now defunct Star Wars MMO that provided a complete unique experience that was nothing like WoW. It's unforunate that these current projects were trying to play it safe, and attempt to chip at the millions of subscribers of WoW to their works. They provide more or less the same experience. Go out and do quests or dungeons! Neither require you to reach the top levels with groups, soloing is a easy process.

    It's hard to blame WoW for the lack of innovation, the creation of an MMO is an incredibly expensive project, much more than creating a AAA title. But years after Wow's release, the best we get are two new contenders that play it so safe that the outcome are two experiences that play a lot like WoW? Runescape, EVE, or Everquest were all different styles in the same field, but dressing WoW up with light sabers was just a poor attempt to gain subscribers instead of creating a gaming experience that people couldn't ignore. Which was exactly what WoW did to become the benchmark of MMOs in the first place.



    Then Guild Wars 2 made its debut. A game that truly set its own pace, much like the first game. An MMO that embraced the idea of playing with others, with scenarios like dynamic events, which made it so you could quest and not worry about a guy stealing a kill that halted your progress and force you to wait for a respawn. However, it still was very much the tired old types of quests you've done over and over again disguised in this new package. My experience with Guild Wars 2 was short, but it did one thing most MMOs would never do: rid the holy trinity of Tank-Healer-DPS. Any class can do any task, just needs a simple switch which gives wiggle room for people to group up and play, instead of waiting for a key role to log in to do a dungeon.

    Even with that said, Guild Wars 2 was missing something for me. The magic of exploration and cooperation weren't there, but it's the best attempt since WoW released at a unique MMORPG that tries to innovate. There is definitely some WoW influence, but it tries to create its own system, unlike Rift or The Old Republic.

    The future is uncertain, but new heavy contenders are on the horizon: Final Fantasy XIV and The Elder Scrolls Online. Square-Enix probably wishes XIV 1.0 was a bad dream that never actually happened, but when 2.0 hits, it should be an entirely new game that might revitalize my feelings towards MMORPGs. Too early to judge what Elder Scrolls will be like, early indications seem like it might gravitate towards the WoW approach.



    Maybe it's coming with age, but MMOs have failed to change much for the better part of a decade. The magic that enticed me to enter those worlds: a place where exploring a cave or dungeon was an optional feature that was only done through your own curiosity. It wasn't a place marked on the map to make you kill 20 eleven archers to receive a new stronger bow that you would replace in 2 levels. It is important to note that grouping up with others for the world content in newer MMOs is generally not necessary, and instead many pass on it because the games provide little difficulty outside of dungeons or endgame content.

    Earlier MMOs created communities that worked together, they forced you to interact, and in many ways it forced you to rely on others. Newer MMOs are more about, "Well, what do I get out of this?" The focus is more on shallow content like entering the forest to attack a goblin camp because your quest marker pointed you there.

    Newer MMOs have abandoned deep community connections to be more accessible, user friendly, and constantly rewarding you to keep playing. Now the MMORPG scene is about attracting new users to tired systems that haven't really changed in almost 10 years. A an avid gamer, I hope they go back to the magic that was once there: the experience was more about the journey than the actual destination. At the very least create an experience I don't feel like I've already seen.


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  3. #2
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    Absolutely yes. Which is a shame because I'm not totally against the idea of an MMO, I just hate what the vast majority of them are.

    I think it has gotten to a point now where developers of new games coming out are wary of calling them MMO's. And there's going to be a lot more crossover in the next few years, normal games with deep, persistent online worlds, incorporating MMO elements but are not MMO's. There will always be a market for your WOW type of game because a lot of people just seem to love to grind in a never ending game. But we may see them become less mainstream.

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    I haven't laid my hands on an MMORPG so I can't really say. What I have observed though is that the majority of them don't play much differently.







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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyn View Post
    Absolutely yes. Which is a shame because I'm not totally against the idea of an MMO, I just hate what the vast majority of them are.

    I think it has gotten to a point now where developers of new games coming out are wary of calling them MMO's. And there's going to be a lot more crossover in the next few years, normal games with deep, persistent online worlds, incorporating MMO elements but are not MMO's. There will always be a market for your WOW type of game because a lot of people just seem to love to grind in a never ending game. But we may see them become less mainstream.
    With the price to enter into the MMO relm, many companies can't afford it, unless they are backed by a big company. So I agree that more devs may focus on games with MMO lite features. Some games this gen have definitely emulated it. Projects for these types of games can easily take 6+ years with giant teams.

    @Fon, some of the games really don't play all that different. You start noticing how some character abilities are directly ripped from other games, cheapening the experience.
    Last edited by Sir_Scud; 03-01-2013 at 22:40.


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  7. #5
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    Maybe it's coming with age, but MMOs have failed to change much for the better part of a decade. The magic that enticed me to enter those worlds: a place where exploring a cave or dungeon was an optional feature that was only done through your own curiosity. It wasn't a place marked on the map to make you kill 20 eleven archers to receive a new stronger bow that you would replace in 2 levels. It is important to note that grouping up with others for the world content in newer MMOs is generally not necessary, and instead many pass on it because the games provide little difficulty outside of dungeons or endgame content.

    Earlier MMOs created communities that worked together, they forced you to interact, and in many ways it forced you to rely on others. Newer MMOs are more about, "Well, what do I get out of this?" The focus is more on shallow content like entering the forest to attack a goblin camp because your quest marker pointed you there.

    Newer MMOs have abandoned deep community connections to be more accessible, user friendly, and constantly rewarding you to keep playing. Now the MMORPG scene is about attracting new users to tired systems that haven't really changed in almost 10 years. A an avid gamer, I hope they go back to the magic that was once there: the experience was more about the journey than the actual destination. At the very least create an experience I don't feel like I've already seen.
    I am right there with you. COMMUNITY brought me into MMO. The feeling of logging on everyday, talking to people, helping with quest, the proud feeling of taking down a boss were great. But now I no longer have that feeling. I feel as tho I am simply playing a single player online game. MMO has evolved, but in the worst ways.

    Old School MMO:
    -Group quest was main focus. You couldn't solo for crap past a few levels.
    -Skill was a must and earned. If you sucked at your class people would know and care.
    -Community. If you "ninja" something, were a jerk, or anything of that nature good luck getting anything done. People will recall you.
    -Dying was a BIG deal and something you wanted to avoid. Xp loss, item loss, time loss were a part of dying so you came prepared
    -Exploring the world was not only encourage but part of them game. Hey I wonder whats over there? Exploring was big and would often get you into trouble running face to face with a mob twice your level
    -REAL PVP. Not this I am a twice your level and killed you but rofl that's pvp dawg. You had no reason and in fact many games penalized you for killing a player enough level below you.
    -PVP/PVE skills separate. Well many MMOs did this not all
    -End game gear was EARNED. Be it killing a boss you worked months on, or that one special item it took months to craft it was EARNED.

    Recent MMO:
    -Can be a complete douce bag and nothing matter because its all some click button to find dungeon and you can switch your name, realm, everything.
    -PVP is a joke. It is all just some red vs blue free for all so kills really do not matter because you can sneak behind a player just killed 5 other guys, is low on health and bam. Killing people lower level that you is "pvp" dawg and is encouraged.
    -Solo, you do not need a guild for $#@!. No sense of community what so ever.
    -No one cares about a giant world they just want max level now to run a dungeon, kill a boss, get shiny and talk about how great they are.
    -No sense of earning. Everyone is entitled to everything NOW and they want it now, their way.
    -You die who cares.
    -You can be the worse person on the planet, afk and entire boss fight and none care. Seriously they do not.

    MMO have just fallen from grace. While I do not miss the taking months or even years to get to max level I do miss challenging boss fights(I mean REAL challenge not just oh this is hard mode and by hard mode abilities just do more damage). I miss the day were being a good player with good gear meant something and you were proud of earning the gear. Most of all I miss the communities. Mature people hanging out, having fun, and people helping other people. MMO died when WOW took off and WOW died during WOTLK. WOTLK had great story, areas you wanted to go, ULDUAR still one of the best and most rewarding raids ever made, but WOTLK also started the casual market of MMO were purple gear started falling from the sky.
    I have twitter to https://twitter.com/GamerYuichi , Also started youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMu7yRGCz8QrTyxaNVR3Tqw I don't always twitch, but when I can you can find my noobness http://www.twitch.tv/yuichimccry,




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    I would quote you Yuuichi, but I'd basically be quoting everything lol. For me, community was everything for these games. Playing EQOA, at one point I was a noob. There was one guy that basically became my mentor and taught me how to play properly. In XI, I was messing up and someone politely told me how to do something. People really helped each other. In my guild for XI, if you typed into guild chat you needed help, SOMEONE always helped.

    My switch to WoW, it was my first experience at the new wave of communities. People running around ganking, nobody wanting to group up to do quests, even when you're literally 5 feet away doing the same tasks. Guild leaders who really only helped because they wanted everyone geared for raids, it deflated a lot for me.

    Ninja looters in old school games were remembered. Those people had tough times getting groups. The $#@! community members were much lower in the those games, since everything required team work, people played along. In WoW, people seemed bored so they thought it'd be funny to go to a lowbie zone and gank noobs.

    The downfall for old style MMOs was how everything took forever to do. WoW and future MMOs were much quicker to reaching higher content. Unfortunately, so did the challenge. Especially with WoW. I know it was awhile back, but the old dungeons (below lvl 50), were not all complete cakewalks before, just one of many examples there.


  9. #7
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    I don't think solo players is really a new thing nor do I really see it as a problem. If I liked an MMO enough to actually play it regularly I'd probably be a solo player. People should be able to play how they like

    Agree with most of the rest

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    Yeah, soloing is definitely not a new trend, and was present in MMOs way before WoW and newer MMOs. I'm only stating that when WoW became the juggernaut it is, newer MMOs shifted towards that style. Newer entries stopped trying to be diverse, and instead try to capitalize on the WoW like success. Part of that change was a decrease in a community environment.

    I guess if you ever played EVE, which has probably the most intense community out there, it would change how you view them. I'm not one to really get on the mic and talk to others in CoD or other playstation games, but those older type of games really bring out this vibe of team work. I'm more of a lonewolf player in games like Socom.

    Curious Cyn, what's your experience with MMOs? Any of them you currently like?


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    Ahh see the mmo i played solo was never really a big focus. I mean yeah you could do it but grouping was fastest way to get xp. Like one mob solo would nearly kill you.
    I have twitter to https://twitter.com/GamerYuichi , Also started youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMu7yRGCz8QrTyxaNVR3Tqw I don't always twitch, but when I can you can find my noobness http://www.twitch.tv/yuichimccry,




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    I hold a special place in my heart for MMOs because they've gotten me through a few depressions... kept my mind off the BS of reality long enough to get over that state of mind. I do agree they've become very stale though and they all pretty much use the same formula that's been used the last few decades.


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    I've never been really into one because the gameplay in the majority sucks, and gaemplay for me is the be all and end all of games.

    But in passing I have tried WoW (who hasn't), EVE online, Everquest, Guild Wars, LOTR online. And the general feeling is just they're all severely handicapped in the gameplay department. Point and click and watching your character swing his sword around just isn't my thing.

    And I know what you're saying about EVE, I love reading about it but just can't bring myself to play the thing. There's aspects to love about MMO's for sure, but more in a lore-fascination kind of way than actually wanting to play them.

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    In all fairness Cyn, I couldn't really get into EVE myself. But it's one of those incredibly unique games, just not built to my play style. DC Universe Online was kinda neat, an action oriented MMO (so no watching him swing his sword). Plagued with problems though.

    @PBM, yeah MMOs can do that. I once had a big issue that I guess I sorta dealt with by playing XI, or escaped from you could say.


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