Category Archives: Game Design

About Life, MMOs and the Good Old, Bad Times

It is one of the never-ending discussions among MMO veterans: the golden days of MMOing. The glory days of our youth when MMOs were green and so were we. When treasure was rare and special and punishment plentiful and quick. Today, we miss the hardship of the unknown, the unexplored mystery, the dependence on other people. Fond memories of our beginnings and the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia keep the past locked firmly in our mind like a place of legend.

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…minus the wardrobe, maybe

If only we could recreate the past. And why can’t we – are we the problem? The games? Our missing fellows? I have once concluded on this blog that the fairest answer to this question is probably “a bit of everything” but also, that there are only so many times that we can fully invest in a new MMO and commit to a new world and community. Witty strips such as “A decade of love and hate” by DLC or Arcade Rage’s “Gamer problems: Then and Now” make painfully obvious that MMOs haven’t objectively gotten worse; they’ve changed in some ways but also really stayed the same and they have certainly become more varied and accessible overall. None of this can explain our personal discontent. No, the answer lies elsewhere.

Chasing that which cannot be preserved

How many times over can you build a virtual life from scratch until it feels like a deja-vu and grind and the fatigue kicks in? How many social bonds can you possibly establish and maintain? I say no more than you could do in real life; there may be one big love for you during your life’s journey, or two or three. For most of us, that is the limit of our capabilities and time too only allows for so many iterations. It is the same with circles of friends or careers – the boldest among us will recreate themselves and their world a few times over during the course of their life but time and energy remain limiting factors.

It is our misconception that MMOs should somehow follow a different rule set. That something as profound and time consuming as virtual life, and WoW was that for many (just to name one possible MMO), should be repeatable over and over and never wane in its glory and impact. But how could that be? The best of things and the most meaningful must all eventually bow to finality.

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Looking back, I can say that I’ve had three serious and longterm MMO experiences or “relationships” in my life between age 20 and 35. Maybe five titles altogether have really managed to consume me for a time and make me care about people I met. However every time, it got a bit more difficult; every time I’ve felt my energy resources, my ability to care and my patience for things like ingame appointments and wait times, deplete faster.

“I have done this before – I have been here. Yet it is not the same.”

We cannot recreate our MMO youth any more than we can go back to our teenage years or our twenties. With every decade added to our life, we become more experienced which means we become more critical and picky. The roads become downtrodden and the mysteries familiar. And we have limited resources both internally (energy) as well as externally (time). The games haven’t gotten worse or better, they’ve become different – but we are different, too. And longing for the good old, bad times is merely a product of our bewilderment that life, real and virtual, is constant progress and contradiction: some things change but they also largely stay the same.

That’s why we can love and hate the past all at once, feel relief over progress made but also miss our friends and treasure our memories. (MMO) Life is complex like that.

Dual Wielding LFG Edition: Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

About two weeks ago I got into a lengthy twitter conversation with fellow bloggers Mersault and Ironweakness about good and bad ways of forcing or facilitating group play in MMOs. I believe Black Desert Online might have steered us there, being this very playing alone together experience so far. As more voices joined the conversation, we decided to re-visit this difficult topic on our blogs individually as part of an ongoing inter-blog tradition between Mersault and Ironweakness, which they call “dual wielding” on their respective blogs. I am actually quite fond of this idea and so I was happy to chime in for this one.
Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

Forced Cooperation versus Fostering Community in MMOs

I usually feel trapped in a dilemma when talking about group content in MMORPGs: on one hand I am a big fan of the cooperative aspect of the genre and would call it one of its most defining factors – on the other hand, I value the freedom of playing when and where I want to without games forcing party and setup restrictions down my throat all the time. There’s a time for all things I suppose, today I am fed up with appointment gaming. And I’ve never actually believed that some of the restrictions/requirements forced upon raiders in early WoW, for example, made for particularly good as in genuine and lasting cooperation. Raidguilds were based around common goals for sure, yet as soon as those goals were removed or someone left the community, people and relationships faded away. Game mechanics do not actually hold the power of connecting people; only people can connect to people. What games can do better or worse is set the stage for interaction.

And interaction may or may not occur more depending on whether an MMO “requires” coop. BDO is an interesting example in so far as actual game mechanics discourage many forms of social interaction (partying penalties, trade and chat restrictions) and yet, despite all of this has created a playerbase in desperate need of their fellow comrades’ knowledge. That’s what hardship can do, bring people together to share information and cooperate. The beauty is that it can happen in completely unforeseen, possibly slightly unflattering ways for developers. This could be an opportunity to talk about how MMOs can be too polished or too convenient, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

So how do you get players to play together in MMOs, assuming that’s what you want, and what’s the preferable way of doing so? My personal answer is less clever than I would wish; naturally you do it by creating content and challenges that are balanced around group numbers, be it dynamic FFA grouping or traditional partying. That doesn’t necessarily mean dungeons and raids either, it includes questing, shared crafting, trade, building effort and guild progression. The all important distinguishing factor to me across all these activities is access and this is where MMOs vary greatly in execution.

Bad examples of facilitated group play come down to a majority of linear, gated content that’s enforcing group play in a certain inflexible way – or else face the consequence of all progress coming to a halt. I would call out all of WoW’s early endgame here; it was difficult to find and set up groups outside your guild and even running successfully with guildmates required considerable logistic effort. Yet run you must, attunements needed to be followed and exact numbers met. This worked for about 2% of the playerbase back then, so not that great. Everyone else was leveling alts and complaining on forums.

What WoW did was exact punishment in form of restricted access unless all criteria were met. The rigid regimen didn’t just cause discontent outside the few hardcore but caused considerable amounts of pressure for guild recruitment too as well as downtimes from hell when trying to set up balanced raid groups. I would therefore call this a malus-system for group play. It did very much kill communities as much as the other way around, so hardly a winner in fostering community, either. The great hardcore vs. casual divide was born in vanilla Warcraft and our spoils and victories were all satisfaction, rarely fun. Not a brilliant way of handling group content and cooperation.

Social Engineering and the Freedom of Choice

What I generally like to see instead of mechanics that punish players who won’t meet grouping requirements, is systems that will reward them for doing so, as in bonus-systems. Whenever you are awarded more loot, experience or reputation for grouping up with others in an MMO, that is one example of a bonus-system at work. Players should feel motivated to cooperate not because they fear failure otherwise, but because it makes for the better, more rewarding overall gameplay experience. This may be a small difference to some, yet it matters greatly to everyone flying solo and to bigger, more diverse communities that operate on the premise of individual freedom and respecting real life. And no one likes to pay for a game that’s denying them access to either content or one another as soon as they can’t party up or meet exact requirements.

Thinking of FFXIV’s story dungeons here, I believe we’re in somewhat of a grey area in that particular MMO. While the game clearly dictates everyone run a dungeon at least once with others, it also makes the whole process easily accessible. The 4man dungeons generally aren’t very hard, queuing is simple and the great majority of PuGs in the game are surprisingly friendly (my experience anyway). This seems like a compromise to me, in a game that already features a lot of social engineering done right via bonus systems (newcomer bonuses in parties, wide range dungeon roulettes etc.). If players are presented with feasible tools and solutions, I can get behind an enforced dungeon run every now and then.

The Real Thing is still on us

As for actually fostering community and people hooking up in MMOs, I’m afraid to say I don’t believe any game can achieve this for you. The best and worst games have brought people together and probably produced MMO babies somewhere around the world. Social games may set an accessible stage for meeting others but the magic spark, the moment when we cooperate for no reason at all other than enjoying someone else’s company, that’s not something we can expect to be “facilitated”. Nor do we need to – being social is a free choice that’s up to the individual and fortunately it is one we can always revisit. Cooperation opportunities in MMOs should therefore be an invitation – a door that is always open, either just for a run or whatever else we want it to be.

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

Somewhere between Black Desert Online’s learning curve madness and getting the hang out of sending my workers to craft for me in exchange for beer, I’ve come to know a great satisfaction from creating my own gear, furniture and horse armor in the game. I mentioned few days ago how I’m not a crafter in MMOs but BDO fulfills some itch I didn’t know existed without asking me to get super-hardcore about things. I’ve heard the game being compared to EVE Online’s infamous beginners difficulty but I doubt it’s a very apt comparison. Black Desert for all its little inconveniences, requires more in terms of perseverance than actual skill. Or in other words: keep calm and play on, it will all be okay!

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

What adds to the enjoyment of creating useful things for myself is the simple fact that I now know “how to”; the rabbit holes goes deep and I’m on my way. The fact that BDO is far from beginner friendly, comes with a fussy UI and informational gaps, results in a type of satisfaction that’s not to be mistaken for “fun”. For a run-down of these two definitions, I like to refer to this excellent post by Psychochild which I return to whenever the subject of MMO fun pops up.

Dealing with bad translations or unintuitive interfaces (of which there are many in BDO) isn’t fun but it allows for that “grim” satisfaction that kicks in once you’ve conquered and mastered something tricky. All MMOs do this, although preferably by design rather than not/bad design. Grind is one example of something rather unfun but potentially satisfactory in a game. Either way, once difficulty or complexity have been conquered the outcome is always the same: I feel glorious victor!

Learn, Master, Move on

Good or bad design, intended difficulty or not, what makes the early MMO experience such an enjoyable one is knowing nothing and learning everything. These past few years, I’ve lost nearly all sense of newbie progression when trying out new games: nothing surprised me anymore, everything was overly familiar, following the same design “gold standard” both on the formal and content management end of things. Now to be clear, polish is important and BDO could certainly use more of that here and there. Yet, the game has forced players to collaborate in unexpected ways when it comes to knowledge sharing and its alien handling and shutting up about stuff has made for many a great story and shared laugh on forums, channels and social media.

MMO Satisfaction: We Yearn to Learn

A little fun on April’s Fools

Naturally, I was kidding in above twitter conversation but then, we’re talking about Black Desert Online which means you never know! I get both confused and delighted by the game’s internal logic at times, so it’s definitely forcing me out of my comfort zone. I am faced with new things in an MMO – what’s going on??

I suspect that I am currently not alone in feeling quite forgiving about some of BDO’s greater flaws for the above reason. More than that, these perceived flaws add to my personal enjoyment of the game, by virtue of bringing a little satisfaction to an otherwise very fun experience (which is important: the game overall is also a ton of fun). I need both for an MMO to enthrall me more long-term.

“…before all so-called progress, what we really want is variation. We yearn to learn things, master things, then move on to different things. Not just new; it needs to be new and different.” (source)

What many an MMO review, blog battle and twitter discussion have taught me over the years is that I don’t want the same one thing from the games I’m playing. Yesterday, forced grouping seemed like a good idea – today it doesn’t. Maybe it will again tomorrow, after tiring of today’s lessons. It borders on the unfair but when switching between titles, the biggest breaking point may simply be novelty and variation. Is a new game repeating expertly what has been done right before or is it entering uncharted territory, failing gloriously in places? Is it maybe just bringing back something we’ve forgotten by now which therefore feels equally refreshing?

There’s nothing more to learn in the familiar, yet as players we yearn to learn. So right now, an MMO that’s pushing me to do just that, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed, sounds like the perfect poison. Purple mastery will come soon enough – for now, let me bask in the sunlight of green beginnings.

All the best Things have Campfires

The other night when staring into our fireplace at home, a feature I’ve come to appreciate a great deal since moving house in 2015, it dawned on me how many of the best things I’ve enjoyed over the years included campfire scenes. That is books and games more specifically, my favorite, most formative titles then and now came with special campfire moments that I remember always –

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The Dragonlance companions, by Larry Elmore

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The heroes camping in Chrono Trigger, the Green Dream

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The Witcher 3, first chapter

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Recently, myself hanging in Eorzea

Campfires are obviously the romantic locality of choice to gather your heroes in fantasy tales or listen to the minstrel play; fire is a most enigmatic and evocative force that will also transport to the screen, be it in live action or otherwise. Video games come very close these days in emulating the real thing and the atmosphere it inspires. Fire stirs us on a deeper level.

I cannot pass campfires in MMOs without standing still and gazing into the flames. Wherever it is I am headed, I will take a solemn moment and join whatever company has gathered, be it players or NPCs. There’s an irresistible draw for me that’s hard to explain; as if I was touching something timeless and with it, a realization that the fire before me is all fires. There lies a gateway within the flames to all the other moments that there were in so many tales of beauty and peril, a gateway to all the memories of happiness stored away inside of me. Fire is the thread.

Fire is escapism.

Straight Talk: It’s not the Games, it’s You. Welcome to the Club!

You know how MMO players, veterans mostly, have this discussion of how everything was better in the olden days, how newer MMORPGs are sucking with their silly free-to-play models and self-sufficient playstyles and so forth? For a precursory read, I’ve recently critically addressed the whole social aspect of that debate. Today however, I’m going slightly further and just say it: if you’re not enjoying newer MMOs anymore, if you can’t get invested or find the right crowd to play with, the problem is most likely just you. Today’s array of available games is not worse than it used to be, it’s better already on account of sheer variety, polish and accessibility. There’s more of everything, good and bad.

This is something I have known for a while in my own case but it just got driven home once more, listening to two newer podcast episodes by fellow TGENerates Braxwolf and Liore. On Beyond Bossfights, Brax and Roger recently had an in-depth discussion of how getting older has affected their ability to be involved in games, as they are struggling to juggle increasing real life demands with gaming quality time. Bottom line: with changed priorities, games and online communities are just not that important anymore. Also: they have been there, done that. All the while in Cat Context episode 84, Elli and Liore admit that they’ve “already met all the people they wanna know in MMOs”. This is a very interesting way of phrasing it. Their strong WoW bonds persist and they’ll readily give up new acquaintances in new games if it means getting comfortable with old buddies they share a history with. They kinda wanna play with people but not necessarily put up with the whole effort of meeting strangers.

This is all completely fine, in fact it’s how I feel myself. A while back I made this point in regards to Wildstar, where I have had the pleasure of being part of a friendly and engaged guild full of younger players fired up about Wildstar and raiding and the whole shenanigans. They are having the same fun I used to 12 years ago and the same drama-lama, for a fact. I just can’t chase that stage of early MMO enthusiasm myself because I have already been there. Also, I really don’t want to – it’s exhausting!

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MMOs are not the problem and online communities aren’t either. There have always been trolls in WoW and elsewhere, always been horrible global chats, broken mechanics and bad parties. And there have always been many great new people to hook up with for those who are looking to spend the time (and nerves), to socialize and share moments of epic win. If it somehow doesn’t work out for you anymore after so many years of doing the same thing, then that’s simply put the natural order of things progressing. And how could it be any different?

We’re in this together

Maybe there’s a degree of wistfulness in the admission, but dwindling MMO investment is just another area where life is telling you that you’re getting older and more experienced at things, without literally handing you a pair of reading glasses and a walking cane. One way or another, it happens to all of us. That doesn’t mean we have to stop playing them, in fact it’s an opportunity to explore different ways of doing so without judgement. Thanks to a variety of titles offering playstyle diversity, you don’t have to call it quits on a genre you’ve come to love; no dramatic gestures or vows of abstinence are required.

I used to be a competitive raider, a guild leader, a PvPer. I have always been an explorer, home decorator, riddle solver, gear collector and professional screenshot taker. Who knows what else I will be in the future?

Straight Talk: Tired of Social Rants

Important notice: This is a rant about rants, wooo! Also: I have adjusted some of my opinions on this blog over time, as some of the links provided illustrate. That’s because I am old and fickle!

One of the great MMO blogger evergreens is the (anti-)social debate; with the genre becoming ever more accessible and mainstream since its earliest beginnings, players new and old keep musing on the pros and cons of MMO gaming allowing for increased flexibility and playstyle variety. Stuff like removing role restrictions or shared loot, are dividing topics. Depending on where you stand, your “more social” is someone else’s “anti-social” and it’s very difficult to reach any kind of consensus. I hold with what I’ve said in the past, that the two approaches to MMOs can’t reasonably co-exist. A lot of this stuff is mutually exclusive and even when it isn’t, solutions are usually too complex for practical application. LFG tools in many MMOs are ‘optional’ but we all know what happens once they are introduced: they impinge on everybody.

Roger recently deliberated whether he has become a more anti-social gamer over the years. This struck a chord with me because I find myself in the company of many 35-45ish players who have at some point gone through that stage of self-evaluation. As commented in Roger’s thread, I personally do not believe he’s become more anti-social; what I believe is that MMOs have stopped enforcing planned cooperation via game design. I have made this case before at length and I still don’t buy into the whole altruism spiel, nor will I ever. Being “social” is absolutely an intrinsic quality – you either are or aren’t social. The rest is facilitated gameplay.
Then today, Eri followed up with a similar post, professing her disdain for shared loot in GW2 and the “entire shift” to self-centric gameplay in MMOs. I’m rather sure that even in my most hardcore raidleading days, I was pretty darn self-centric in pursuing my dreams of raiding and loot and whatnot. I faintly remember removing players who weren’t up to the task. But anyway, these posts made me realize something: I am so done with the (anti-)social rants. It’s like we’re stuck and never get beyond them.

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Year 4 in “A Decade of Love and Hate” – the natural progression of the MMO player.

I carry as much MMO nostalgia with me as the next veteran player, heck sometimes I miss the good old, bad days. They were bad a lot more than good but I am not always rational. In truth, I understand why things are different today and like so many older gamers, I need them to be different. My investment choices like anyone’s, shape what MMOs may or may not become. Inevitable fact: MMOs that are trying to survive, have to be financially viable. MMOs that introduce gatekeepers, forced grouping, fixed setups and any variation of limiting factors, are very likely not going to make as much profit on today’s saturated market. And no, don’t look at WoW – look at Wildstar or ESO instead. I am sure all of us would prefer having both: the freedom/flexibility and the social bonding experiences but it doesn’t work that way. Not in the traditional sense we are so used to anyway, where game design pushed us into talking to strangers, grouping up with strangers, cooperating with strangers longterm until they were strange no longer. Maybe in this new era we need to explore different ways, make more conscious efforts?

There’s a significant percentage of 30+ players populating MMOs today, players with bigger pockets, and they need gaming to fit around their lives, not vice versa. That’s okay! I’m not saying I like quiet party chat or mass-zerging so much either but any solution to these issues will have to either address that reality or remain fictional. If you’re against the social shift in MMOs, great! The solution however, will need to be more original than returning to what we already had. Today is not going away.

P.S. Don’t miss the full strip on “A Decade of Love and Hate” over at Dark Legacy Comics!

MMO Forests, Jungles and GW2 I can’t hear you, lalallaaa

Fall has started to paint the trees around here this time of the year. The morning air is brisk but the days are mild and sunny. Sunlight touched leaves turn from crimson to copper and gold. The brilliance of fall is breathtaking before it submits to winter cold.

This morning

Just this morning

Fall is a tricky season to get right in MMOs for its wide spectrum of colors and different moods. The Plains of Ashford in GW2 come to mind or LOTRO’s Trollshaws, both stunning in their own right. That reminds me that I wished games simulated the turning of seasons more dynamically and persistently than they usually do – just imagine Elwynn Forest going through the seasons with you, instead of seasonal themes being divided by static zones.

MMO forests be it fall, winter or spring, are some of the most popular zones among the player base. Design-wise I imagine it’s easier to create player immersion with a forest setting than a desert or plains, so plentiful are your options with forests. That makes them more design intense for sure, yet also more rewarding when done right. And then there’s jungles; forests of a different kind which by my anecdotal experience, are a lot less popular somehow than the classic, northern European or Canadian role models. Before Heart of Thorns launched, several bloggers were expressing their (premature) dislike for the concept of the new zones.

World of Warcraft is well-known for its jungle maps from Stranglethorn Vale and Un’Goro Crater to the more recent Tanaan Jungle. I remember detesting STV with a passion as an early WoW player – the colors, the noises, the way you had to navigate terrain. My partner on the other hand loved questing there, getting all his pages together for the Nesringwary questline while I bought most of mine on the auction house and thank god for no bind on pickup!

So, what is it with jungles that makes me cringe where forests don’t? I’d say most of it is guilt by association because frankly, I have very little experience with real world jungles and I understand there are hundreds of different kinds. Yet simplified, jungles mean heat and damp; they’re wild, sticky, oppressive, unnerving, chaotic and dangerous in my mind. And there are mosquitoes! Forests on the other hand are cool, composed and quiet. They can be dark and spooky of course but also very reassuring and lonely, in a good way. There is a special German word for the loneliness inside forests that cannot be adequately translated to English: “Waldeinsamkeit” (forest loneliness). It is a feeling of isolation and yet, being solemnly embraced by the forest.

The new zones in Heart of Thorns

I’m hearing good things about the new GW2 expansion so far, particularly about the zone design which is something of a surprise. There’s only so much you dare deduct from pre-expansion announcements, but I was certainly among those unimpressed by ANet’s information on Maguuma Jungle and its altered gameplay at the time. However, it seems my concerns were unfounded: Jeromai reports the jungle in HoT feels a lot different than expected, with amazing zone design and screenshots to show for it. Bhagpuss too has been full of praise since his first day impressions. Two strong votes from fellow explorers for an expansion I had no intention of acquiring anytime soon (damn youuu!).

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I am currently overloaded with new games on Steam and subbed to FFXIV and Wildstar, where I have yet to make an earnest attempt at decorating the new plot. Also, I really don’t have much time for gaming at all right now so ARGH……I’ll just ignore everyone talking about the beauty of HoT henceforward, close my eyes and go lalallllaaaaaaaaaaaa I can’t hear youuuuu!

QOTD: MMOs are like the Plague

“There are many good reasons most games studios don’t attempt an MMO, and why all of the advice to indies is to avoid it like the plague. Basically? Because it’s the plague.

An MMO is the most expensive and complex design choice you can possibly make. In some ways it makes the 64bit problem look like a school project. Moving from single-player to multi-player adds complexity. Moving to large numbers of players who expect to be able to interact with each other en masse, chat, trade, work together, work against each other, connect any time of the day or night, never lose any saved data, never have their accounts hacked, never lose out to a cheater or a scammer, and never be abused in chat by a troll… well, it’s games development in “Extreme difficulty” mode. “MMO” also makes people think of complex character sheets, and massive, massive, massive replayability.” [James Hicks]

Yesterday, the folks over at Massively OP featured a lengthy commentary by Ascent’s lead developer James Hicks on the kerfuffle around Star Citizen. It’s an insightful read about all the great risks and challenges that come with such massive, crowd-funded projects and naturally, his above statement about the MMO genre as a whole stood out to me and bears repeating. We are so used to our AAA-MMO gold standard and so very demanding, it’s easy to forget what a remarkable feat every running MMO(RPG) is to begin with. Developing massively multiplayer online worlds is diving into a bottomless well or as Hicks called it, the plague – one we get to enjoy without all the peril until no one’s left who would lead us there.

darkest dungeon artwork

darkest dungeon artwork

You lost me at [Reasons]!

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And the answer is NoooOOOOoooope!

Like most players there’s game genres I like more or less depending on mood and a fair few I won’t play at all. For me personally, RTS or stuff like train simulators definitely belong to that last category. I detest micro-management in games and sims better be exciting and set in some fantasy world or I won’t touch them with a pitchfork.

Genres to avoid aside, there’s features within my more prized categories that will instantly make me go “Eww” and 99 out of a 100 times that will be the end of our fleeting relationship. They’re the fly in an otherwise tasty soup, it really doesn’t matter if it’s a great looking RPG or adventure game or open world MMO – some features are make or break, au revoir mon ami! So of course here’s a quick list of my top five intolerable game features as of today:

  • Isometry; I can’t play isometric games. There’s a ton of great looking and no doubt fun online coop games that OH NOES happen to be isometric. I can’t stand it, it’s about the most unimmersive gameplay experience I can imagine. Also, many RTS are isometric, eww!
  • Round-based; I spent over a decade playing round-based JRPGs and am simply over this slow and formulaic type of combat. Give me hack’n slay any day of the week! Next!
  • Roguelike/permadeath; Who has time to lose their progress over and over? What is this, a real-life sim? Permadeath games are fun for about 2.5 seconds and then it all feels like the greatest waste of time ever. I don’t think sooooo.
  • Jumping Puzzles; Oh man, the pain…the cringe that shoots through my body whenever MMO devs talk about adding more jumping puzzles to their game as if that was somehow a great thing. Jumping puzzles will make me swear off a title quicker than tankinis – if I want to jump around like an obsessed monkey am gonna play PLATFORMERS, thank you!
  • Facebook; I don’t have a facebook account and never will. Many mobile games especially require players to log in via facebook or acquire special items exclusively via the devil. Suffice to say, they can burn in hell without me.

I realize this is a beautiful collection of features that should be buried deep, deep in the underbelly of game design never to see the light of day again. Of course, it’s all subjectivebla and we’re bound to disagree and have wonderful arguments about who’s right or wrong! So, why not share some of your personal no-gos in gaming with the rest of the world? I’m sure someone out there is playing a roundbased, isometric RTS with permadeath as we speak, yikes!

What makes me happy in MMOs [#Blaugust 15]

Gracie has a topic up on ingame happiness for this rainy Blaugust Saturday (rainy for me anyway) and I decided to follow her example. On our blogs we often talk about our gripes with games or how MMOs have changed for the worse over time, yet clearly there must be things that still make us very happy or we wouldn’t be playing them.

I still feel that MMORPGs are the greatest genre there is. I didn’t expect too much of 2015 game-wise but in many ways, it was a much better year for MMOs than many of us anticipated. There were the GW2 and FFXIV expansions for one thing, Wildstar is going f2p any time now and introducing some new features and I’m also hearing good things about Project Gorgon from various bloggers. For now, I am rather content. As for the specific things that make me happy in MMOs, these are just the first ten that popped into my head:

  • Random kindnesses by strangers while soloing out in the field or running dungeons. Meeting players that will help you out when they don’t have to or go the extra mile just for you, without any notion of wasting their own time.
  • Laughs in guild chat and getting to know new people across the world with whom I can have so much in common.
  • Spotting the little things; fireflies roaming in dark corners when all other lights have gone out. The first sunrays creeping over the distant horizons. Windmills creaking.
  • Getting my character to a stage where I feel competent and look crazy good in my gear.
  • Unexpected NPC interactions that make the world come alive for a moment. Companion pets doing the wrong thing at the exact right moment.
  • Heavy rain soaking my clothes. My cloak fluttering in the wind.
  • The sound of snow under my boots as I cross a white snowy field. The way it sounds different from a cobblestone street or a wooden bridge.
  • My own little space, a room in a guild house or a fully decorated plot that is as unique as the next person’s.
  • Getting that mob down against all odds. Not giving up when all seems lost and somehow prevailing.
  • Idling in the city and seeing everyone around me starting to dance because somebody must have started.

There’s so many great things about MMOs: their scale, their simulation, their longevity, their interactivity and social aspects. Most of all however, my magical moments lie in the unexpected. That’s when the game seemingly transcends the boundaries of its script and I feel as if the world was truly unique and live, just for me. MMOs leave room for that sort of thing when most games do not – they leave room for many individual experiences influenced by countless random factors. So I guess you could say I am most happy in MMOs when the game actually stops feeling like a game.