Apparently SynCaine and I stirred up a bit of a controversy yesterday on where exactly MMOs should be heading and who should be playing them. That’s well and good, but reading some of the responses has me a little concerned, so let’s dig a little deeper.
Let me just say, unequivocally, if you’re one of the people saying busy adults need to find another genre, you’re a moron. Don’t try to justify it, you’re wrong. People who play MMOs do so because of the (ever lessening) uniqueness of it. I think Wilhelm says it best:
After a big world full of live people, a single player game can seem a bit “meh.” […] Yes, your actions can change the world, but only you and the computer notice, and who cares what the computer thinks.
I may not have as much time as a hardcore player, but that doesn’t mean I should cut myself off because “playsomethingelse” says so. We all play these games for the same reason and available time doesn’t enter into that.
That said, there is a whole other issue being raised here and it’s one of difficulty. There’s been a lot of comments on how “easy” things have become. If your main metric for difficulty is how long it takes to level, you’re kidding yourself. Time =/= challenge. It’s an arbitrary barrier that amounts to nothing more than keeping your sub active. Is there a place for it? Sure. This is an RPG we’re talking about and the highest levels shouldn’t be handed to players on a silver platter. But was Everquest “harder” than WoW because it took 2000 hours to level? Definitely not.
What SynCaine refers to as Farmville-level effort is still harder than what Everquest offered:
| Classic MMO
|Organizing dozens of people together to raid (organization)
||Organizing 10-20 people to raid (organization)
|Tank and spank battles (organization/time)
||Multi-phase, multi-ability fights (organization, reaction, direction [following or providing])
|Grinding endless mobs (time)
||Grinding endless quests (time)
|Camping contested mob spawns for hours or days at a time (time)
||Acquiring gear through “mini-raids” in 5-man dungeons (organization, reaction, direction)
|Preventing “insta-gibbs” through quick healing (reaction)
||Preventing “insta-gibbs” through quick healing and player movement (reaction)
|Getting PK’d and losing everything (time/reaction)
||Getting PK’d and having to run back to your corpse (time, reaction)
There you have it. Classic MMOs were difficult primarily because of time and the ability to organize. You had to wait to level up, wait to get gear, wait to re-gear, and spend lots of time getting dozens of people together for fights that hadn’t yet evolved into the — love it or hate it — reactionary “dances” raids have become today. Instead of camping single mobs for single items, you now go into instanced dungeons that require more thought than “hit the mob, stand in one place, hope he doesn’t one-shot you.” I’m not saying MMOs are some ultra-hard thing, they’re not. And your mileage may vary on the “requires more thought” depending on where in the expansion cycle you are, but nowadays you at least have to move.
What older MMOs did have was a greater sense of danger and a much better sense of world, both of which have been lessened to obscurity in the name of convenience, which I’ll get to in a minute.
What SynCaine refers to as the Twit Generation (you’ve got a knack for coining those terms, Syn) are the instant-gratification types or, quite frankly the “new WoWs” who’ve built a nice stereotype around being socially inept, entitled kids who rant and rave whenever the slightest thing gets in their way. To be clear, I’ve put enough time into WoW to say that it’s a good game. Once it became a social phenomenon, though, it opened the door to a lot of non-MMO players more at home in Call of Duty than a 10-man.
There’s a difference. I believe that old school players unwilling to adapt are being left behind because their voices fall by the wayside of WoW’s dollar-tsunami. I also believe that modern MMOs that focus explicitly on quick effort/quick reward are missing the point. The whole purpose of playing an MMO is to have longstanding goals and someplace to come back to months and years later. You can have loot pinatas all day long but if there’s not a constant supply of fresh and exciting, your game becomes little more than a tourist destination waiting for the “next big thing” to push you to F2P.
So while I appreciate having more options as a casual player, I’m totally fine with having things I can’t see because of it — that’s my motivation to keep going. I’m against hollow, setting-only worlds. I want evolution and innovation and simulation. I want real challenge and not simply a time gate or cat-herd raid planner. In a few words, I want a game bigger than myself.
THAT’s the difference between the Twit Generation and the casual crowd. They’re not one and the same.
Hat tip to the other bloggers who weighed in on this topic: MMO Melting Pot, Too Damn Epic, Tish Tosh Tesh, Tobold, BM Hunter