Published on December 10, 2004 By Kobrano In MMORPG
Tonight I was reflecting on the problems with the current MMORPGs, and why I’m not happy with them.. World of Warcraft(WoW) is a good game, in the traditional sense of MMOs, its probably the best “Standard Template” MMO out there. But that doesn’t mean it’s free of issues, or filled with vision…One of the biggest problems I see with WoW(and traditional MMOs), is that they have an exponential levelling curve.. Meaning level 10 is about 100x+ stronger than level 1, and the result is, at level 1, you are useless in a group with level 10s. This is a huge problem in traditional MMO’s, and really leads towards imbalances, and puts a primary focus on levelling, rather than the game.

Second problem, WoW content is extremely limited to a set level range. For example at level 20, you are doing quests, and fighting in areas, that a level 10 cannot. Thus, limiting your exposure other people, new areas, diverse non-force fed content at your own pace. I call this “Segregated Content” , patterned after the Everquest model.

Both of these converge to the ultimate problem… If you are level 10, and your friends are level 20, they can’t group with you, quest with you, or don’t have any real reason to hang out with you. The result is usually Isolation. If half your guild are level 30+, and you are level 10-20, they have zero compelling reason to group with you (in fact, they can’t), and are pretty busy doing their “Own thing”, that you almost feel completely alone in this game. Its an extremely flawed design by its very nature, but has shown to make money, so that is path of least risk for companies wanting to cash in on the genre.

Another issue is the rigid rule set and character configuration developers throw at us – treating us like we don’t have the mentality or desire to think for ourselves. We are force fed endlessly contrived content, strict rule sets, and outrageously simplistic “Kill Monster” methods of advancement. We’re told what the laws and rules of the game are, and how we will play it, and sent off after they have our credit card numbers. What ever happened to players making their own rules, handling their own issues, and creating their own content? Are gamers nowadays overly simplistic or are we just used to being forcefed weak games? In the early days, I think developers assumed people were advanced, and wanted advanced games - nowadays its like they think we are all brainless console gamers.. In Meridian59 for example, when it was publicly released, we were presented with a “Sandbox” that had almost no rules, and little content. We as the players were left to our own accord, and it was incredible! Early on, murderers ran rampant, towns were cesspools of corpses. But as people learned, worked together, formed their own law, order was restored, and in the process an incredible microcosm of virtual life was built. Those murderers were gone, because on every street corner in the game, there was a “Guard” – an actual player – there to enforce the laws of the town!

Honestly, I’m not sure a canned, pre-defined, limited scope MMORPG with a exponential levelling treadmill and segregated content will ever be playable by me again. Are any developers out there listening? Will one step up to the plate and deliver? The list of MMO’s that didn’t follow this design doctrine is quite small, but most people probably would consider one or more on the list, to be on their “Best Ever” list. Its quite hard to argue that breaking from tradition isn’t profitable, and these games demonstrated that it was/is.

Ultima Online
Asherons Call 1

as a few examples...

on Dec 10, 2004
I played Asheron's Call and thought it was great for the first three years or so. But then they started changing things and I felt it became less good. Looking at your article I think they were moving the game away from what it was and to a more traditional model, which would explain why I didn't like it as much. In any case, interesting article.
on Dec 10, 2004
That is EXACTLY what happened - and it happened to Meridian59 as well.. The result? Both games virtually died overnight because of the changes some beancounter decided to have made to them. Asheron's Call the first couple years, was pure gaming bliss, as was Meridian59... Then 3DO took over Meridian59, hired a bunch of unskilled people, and released patches that took away the freedoms of the players, and added contrived "Rules" to the world.. Boy did it get LAME fast!

Look at UO.. Same thing.. Someone came in, added Trammel, added a bunch of rules and regulations, and UO went to the dogs in a matter of months.. Its ironic really, all of these games were doing GREAT - but someone saw the Everquest gravy train, wanted a piece of their pie, and added traditional rulesets and other garbage to their games to try and "Attract" the Everquest crowd.. In the process, they killed their own customer base.

Maybe someone will get it right eventually.
on Dec 12, 2004
There's a game coming out that I can never remember the name of that might appeal to you. It's going to be PvP with penalties for random killing. You'll also be part of a family and when you die (permadeath!) your offspring will carry on, so you actually need to get married and have kids to keep going. The permadeath is the thing that intrigues me. I see all these PvPers whining about how everything has gotten carebear when in reality they just miss ganking newbies for rags. If death is permanent then it makes forming a posse to hunt down a rogue player an awful lot more satisfying. Of course there's every chance the game will change beyond measure before release because noone wants to play it.

I checked - I think the game was Atriarch but while looking it appears there are a number of games in the pipeline with similar ideas.

Oh, and finally: Eve-Online was the most boring treadmill I've ever seen. It singlehandedly dashed my dream of ever mining asteroids for real.
on Dec 12, 2004
The game you refer to is called "Realms of Krel: Mourning", I'm beta testing that as well, but its far from release ready at this time.. If it holds out, then that could be the one.. Wish, Krel, and Dark and Light are my last hopes for the MMORPG genre. If none of those pans out, then i'm done with the genre for a long time. Its really sad that EA bought Origin, and canned UO2, that game woulda been incredible.

As for Eve-Online, great game, but yes, mining gets tedious, but they do have some brilliant systems in place, and for that, I respect them. The longterm playability is there - if you can tolerate the mining.
on Sep 13, 2005
I played FFXI for awhile, and it was a lot of fun, but also required large blocks of time for party play. Now that I've graduated college I can't really play anymore, so that's out the door. I tried World of Warcraft, and it was fun for about ten levels and then the wheels sort of came off the treadmill. But that was back in the beta so maybe it's better now, although I'm not inclined to try it again while the end-game is apparently so time-intensive (that's why I quit FFXI, right?). Guild Wars is fun with a group to play with, but I don't have one, so it is mostly unplayed.

I'm playing EVE Online now, and that's pretty fun so far. Mainly because I can keep gaining skill while offline, so I can make progress in character development with virtually no time investment (even if my equipment doesn't improve that way!). And missions allow some pretty rewarding short-duration gameplay. Mining? What's that? I heard everyone complain about mining in EVE, but neither I nor anyone I know spends much time mining in EVE (although I am aware of some players who do it a lot). I plan to go on some mining parties in deep space (dangerous and exciting!) eventually, but it is no more required than is herbalism in WoW. Although it sounds like a lot more fun.
on Sep 14, 2005
Ive been a uo player for 8 years. I used to really enjoy that game even when they screwed up and added trammel... Personally I saw trammel as a way to provide more housing and to make people happy... I was OKAY with trammel, That allowed me to go and easily mine for resources to omake armor to fight with.. but they messed up with the expantion "Age of shadows" and they added Insurance and switched for a very diablo 2 style weapon/armor system.

Insurance is what killed it because then there was no risk (outside of 3600 gold which is nothing) to pvping and without that risk of losiong youre best armor what was the point of fighting at that point?

Ive only just cancelled my uo subcription which doesnt end til sometime in early ocotober.
on Sep 14, 2005
I can concur wholeheartedly with the leveling exclusion part of your article, Kobrano. My friends were able to play WoW far more than I, and got about 4-5 levels ahead, which quickly turned into 10 levels ahead. At that point, they simply started refusing to do anything with me in the game because they got nothing out of it (nor did I with the XP penalty for being with high level characters). It totally killed the sole reason why I started playing WoW in the first place - to hang out with my friends from back home. Since you're forced to do so much in groups in WoW at higher levels, I lost interest in the game completely at that point.
on Sep 14, 2005
City of heros is still the ONLY game ive seen try to tackle the level issue with sidekicking and the like

nothing else to post yet.
on Sep 14, 2005
As for Eve-Online, great game, but yes, mining gets tedious, but they do have some brilliant systems in place, and for that, I respect them. The longterm playability is there - if you can tolerate the mining.

I've been playing EVE for over a year and my total mining time probably adds up to a fortnight. If that. You don't have to mine to play EVE, I certainly don't make my money that way and neither do most of the people I play with.

Also, EVE doesn't suffer from the level resrictions that plague many MMO's. Less developed characters will need help to do some things but there's nothing to stop them joining in. City of Hero's side kick system sounds like a great idea to address the level-barrier problem, although I haven't seen it in person.
on Sep 15, 2005
Genius of UO was that there were no levels. Everythign was a skill and you had 3 attributes which you could raise. Skill cap and attribute cap didnt lock you in because you can rework the skills. You could be a mage with high intelligence and change to a warrior with high dex (Thou it took time). So your character was never locked in or bound by anything. This also created the ability to ake any skill cambo template, altough only few were viable (Every character needed healign prettymuch, be it magery or healing/anatomy). That is what i liked the most about the game. And havign had played that as my first RPG, the concept of levels is just totally unantural to me!
on Sep 17, 2005
What I'd like to see is for higher level players be able to act as quest givers.

And you need to give incentives for doing so.

Which means something like: Higher level quests still require a bunch of drops that come from lower level monsters. Higher level players aren't going to want to spend a lot of time farming low level monsters with no exp, so have a system where you can reward lower level players with gold/items/exp for getting these things for you.

This has the added benefit of forcing more player interaction as well.

Of course, there should be some high level quests that don't require these low level drops, for the level pioneers. But the rewards from these quests should be much lower, to encourage people to do the player-interaction quests.

Basically, it's a form of subcontracting quests.
on Sep 17, 2005
Try Kingdom of Loathing. When you're tired of MMORPGs, why not play one that makes fun of them? Plus the stick figure graphics are sweeeeet.
on Sep 17, 2005
lol that's what I've been doing since early august, loving it as a disco bandit.
on Sep 17, 2005
loving it as a disco bandit

Disco bandit is good. Disco bandit works. That's my current incarnation, I was formerly a turtle tamer.
on Jul 21, 2006
And the game mechanics in Kingdom of Loathing were developed while drinking beer! How is that not awesome?