Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MMOs have made me bitter

I look forward to reading posts that are a little off topic these days, because the usual MMO stuff is starting to sound like a broken record. I'd like to think that I'm experiencing another MMO burnout, but this feels different. I'm not burnt out, I'm angry at the industry for being so arrogant and stupid. They always claim to have a 'new experience', or some buzz feature, but it always turns out to be the same old shit with a different stink. I get the feeling as though no one with any influence in the industry is actually listening or even cares. MMO games are now all about how much grind they can squeeze in for the least amount of development cost.

Gamers aren't treated like loyal paying customers. These days your account can be banned for 'suspicious activity' with no warning or care from the company you had been giving money to for the last 4 years. It's also rare that any MMO games company will take responsibility for an exploit or a bug in their game. Instead they just swing the banhammer around and around and around. It seems to always be the paying customer's fault...

Gamers are made to chew the addictive paddocks of grindville, while the fat cats work out how to make the grass taste better so they can get a little fatter. I am yet to see a single MMO games company actually care about the health or life of the batteries powering their organisations...

MMO companies need to learn to divorce their business model from their game design so that the design is driven by user experience rather than by money. When I play an MMO these days, I don't see a land of fantasy or sci-fi. I see clever design strategies to keep players addicted. I see grind in all it's disguises. Worst of all; I have some idea in my head of what makes a good MMO, and all I see are dribbling excuses that feel more like cloned cash grabs than games. It's like my own analytical brain has doomed me to never again enjoy an MMO world...

Why is that MMO designers make the same mistakes over and over and over? When a new game comes out, it often follows the same flawed path as it's predecessors. Full of bugs, game plays the same as something else but with a buzz feature. The design barely works because it was put together like a picture puzzle with pieces from 10+ other puzzles. Is it because of the size and complexity of the project? Is it because of the financial risk? I'm sick of playing with mangled puzzles, I want a complete picture, and one that I haven't seen before. Is it too much to ask?

So what now? I still enjoy playing video games. I'd much rather play video games than watch TV. I'm going to be steering away from the MMOs for a while and instead target indie type games, where success or failure rests on quality design and clever game play. I want to be able to play a game and respect it's designers for being intuitive and creative rather than loath them for unorginality and repetitive blunders.

There are still some MMOs that I want to take a look at though: Jumpgate, Aion, SW:TOR and Guild Wars 2. I know that they will probably just increase my bitterness, but I haven't given up on the genre just yet. I'd be impressed now if any MMO could hold my attention for more than 3 months. If it did, you'd know about it.

So all in all, apologies if you catch me ranting about fail MMO design decisions in the comments of your blog. It will take a while and some quality gaming to wash the bitterness away. I'm playing Team Fortress 2 at the moment which seems to be helping. I love my RPGs, but it seems that MMORPGs are still a long way off winning me back.

12 comments:

Scott said...

Have MMOs made you bitter, or have DikuMMORPGs specifically made you bitter? I suspect that's the case with me. Right now I'm on break from everything Diku, and I'm happily chugging along with RPGs and shooters on the 360 and Guild Wars on the PC, which is very non-Diku.

BFG said...

There's your problem right there - you said 'business model'.

Even a business model that puts customers and their concerns as high as they can possibly get is not going to give you what you're after because making money will ALWAYS come first. That's the way of the world - get used to it :(

You're the minority mate - most people playing these games DON'T see them as a grind. Most people play them because they find them fun.

Unfortunately the guy in Blizzard towers lighting his $1000 dollar cuban with £100 dollar bills isn't listening to you, and won't unless all 11 million of his subscribers agree and /quit the game...

BFG said...

... having read that back I forgot to add. I agree with you!

Openedge1 said...

Wowsers...

I know how you feel. I finally picked one game, and finished it (yea...I said finished, because what is max level in these games anyways)

They all still bring the same ole poo, and expect you to be happy about killing another 20 creatures.
Nothing innovative there.

It is the market though...They need longevity to pay themselves back for pumping as much cash into their game that some blockbuster movies do.

Keep it simple stupid is the motto. Guild Wars did as one example.

I love Fantasy, so it is not the settings that I hate.
I even like the style of play.
I just hate the sameyness, with it's broth of bugs, mixed with Developer stupidity for spice.

YumYuck

(PS: I am NOT pinning my hopes on any game, like Aion, etc...then I will not feel disappointed when it is another WAR/AoC debacle with WoW gameplay and style)

Crimson Starfire said...

@Scott
That's a good point Scott. I think the vast majority of what made me bitter spawns from DikuMMORPGs. The only MMO that I truly enjoyed playing was Guild Wars, which is not Diku. It's why I'm looking forward to Guild Wars 2 so much. I still have faith in their designers.

@BFG
It's more that the game design needs to be independent of the business model. How many MMOs do you know that could change their business model right now and have no effect on the game?

What annoys me most is that grind is massively increased with subscription model type games. It's the only way they can get people to hang around month after month. It shouldn't be this way. People should be able to play a game for enjoyment, not because grind requires them to.

... but your right, money always comes first, and yes I am the minority :(

@Openedge
I'm very impressed that you picked a DikuMMO and stuck with it until the end. I don't think I could do that these days.

I too will not be pinning my hopes on any DikuMMOs in the future.

Melf_Himself said...

Awww I want to just come and give you a big hug Crimson :p

I have been thinking for a while that the best possible solution for everyone would be to launch the game initially as a single player RPG. See if people enjoy playing it, and if so, that will make investors want to give you the extra millions of dollars to take what you've got and turn it into an MMO. That way the developers have to prove that they can actually design a game before being entrusted with $50m, and since it was made as a SPRPG first then they can't really put grind into it.

Then of course, someone went and stole my idea before I posted about it:

http://biobreak.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/torchlight-not-torchwood/

So hopefully that experiment turns out successful and more people will follow.

I disagree with BFG that people thinking like this are the minority. There's a difference between 'good fun' and 'bad fun'. Good fun is going to the slot machines a couple of times a year and trying your luck. Bad fun is going every night and leaving your kids locked in the car. The 'majority' of people playing WoW are having bad fun, but they play it anyway because they're addicted. I'm sure they'd be much happier (true happiness, not the 'happiness' that comes from grinding) with a game that gives them shinies, socializing opportunities, the feeling of exploration, etc, that doesn't make them grind.

Tesh said...

CS, Brother! I rant about MMO design, trying to make it better, but I don't bury myself in actually *playing* them all that much. I'm even tired of what I do, these days. (And my recent trip into WoW for research even wound up... lacking.)

Melf, the Torchwood plan is why I wish Bioware would actually just go ahead and make KOTOR 3-9, rather than what I'm fearing will be Yet Another Friggin DIKUSUB game. I loved KOTOR, and SW:TOR might just make me loathe MMOs more than I already do.

I'm presently happy with my Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis. :)

Anton said...

I'm enjoying Neverwinter Nights on a role-play server right now. It's fascinating to spend 3 hours playing one evening, only to look back and realize you spent half to all your time just interacting with other characters.

Another alternative to playing games I enjoy is designing games. I sometimes design games on paper, as board games, as choose-your-own-adventure books, as card games, or as pen-paper rpg's. If you know any good programmers and artists, you might be able to get them to put together a pc version of your game. I mention this because you obviously have ideas of what you think a game should be, so why not try to materialize it?

Melf_Himself said...

I can't speak for Crimson, but for me

a) I'm going through ideas in my head every day (on the walk to/from home, when I'm in the shower, etc :p)

b) Unless I come up with a spectacular idea, I probably wouldn't bother making a low-budget version (eg Dwarf Fortress) because it would have to be pretty special to attract enough interest to allow you to move to the next level

c) There are plenty of non-MMO's that I love, it's the MMO's specifically that are letting me down. Actually building an actual MMO would be... biting off a little more than what a couple of people could really achieve (although there is that one guy working on the 'Love' MMO to prove us all wrong...)

Crimson Starfire said...

@Anton
It's funny you should mention it, because I've slowly been putting together a game design document for an MMO. It will be some time before it's finished, but it's been keeping me busy. If anything it will be good for a laugh in a few years time :)

I've also be dabbling a bit with the LFD level editor. Level design is still something I am yet to master. Fun to play with, but I doubt it will amount to anything.

evizaer said...

I want to know what elements would make a good MMO for you. I'm working on trying to come up with an innovative MMO tries to avoid grinds and make the player actually feel like he's accomplishing something by playing the game.

I wrote an article a couple of days ago about what I see as the 10 design threads that will form the basis of a revolution in the design of MMOs. I'd love to know what you'd think of it and any suggestions as to other threads that should be involved.

http://thatsaterribleidea.blogspot.com/2009/07/mmorpg-revolution-10-points.html

Also, if you want to get an idea of what I'm like as a gamer, you can read this article about the questions I ask to see if an MMO is worth playing.

http://thatsaterribleidea.blogspot.com/2009/06/seven-questions-i-ask-myself-about.html

Crimson Starfire said...

@evizaer
I couldn't fit a reply in the comments, so I turned it into a post. Hope it answers your question. Nice blog by the way, you just scored another follower ;)