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The “Twit Generation” vs. Us – and Why Your Memory is a Little Cloudy

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:

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  1. Syncaine

    I think I’ll have to do a post about what made UO/EQ/AC ‘hard’, because it sure as hell was not just time. I’m not even sure ‘hard’ is the right term really. More… interesting might be a better way to look at it. Either way, I think a lot of people are missing the mark when talking about those games and MMOs of today. It’s not that I’m looking for a Super Meat Boy MMO, be it with a 5 minute or 5 year XP curve.

    As for the “find another genre” thing, if you understand that with less play time comes less (or selective) content access, you are not the problem. It’s the 5 minute player that expects to down the final raid boss that is the problem.

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      I’d like to read that, Syn. Please do! There was definitely something especially appealing about those older style of games, and they did have challenge unto themselves, but I do think time as a barrier was far more elevated than it is today. Still, write that post! I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the topic.

      I never understood why people thought they should get equal access with unequal effort. In a single player game, does the guy who plays 10 minutes get to beat the 30 minute level because he “paid to see all the content?”

  2. nobody

    well said.

  3. Drew

    “As for the “find another genre” thing, if you understand that with less play time comes less (or selective) content access, you are not the problem. It’s the 5 minute player that expects to down the final raid boss that is the problem.”

    This; you’re spot-on, Chris, that Casual != “Twit generation”.

    It’s what I was trying to get to in my post with the softball analogy (and admittedly came up a bit short). If I can adjust it slightly here – You don’t get to play serious, organized softball games with 6-man teams or in a 30-minute window because you’re too busy. Sure, you and your friends can coordinate that if you like, but don’t expect the league to change its rules for you.

  4. MMOCrunch

    I agree that difficulty and time have nothing to do with each other. MMOs are easier today, but only because there filled with thousands of mindless quests. I’ll take a few challenging ones over a thousand shitty ones any day of the week.

  5. Ferrel

    Syn, I think you’re looking for mystery, wonder, and a sense of danger.

    That is why those games were so exciting. You could lose and lose big. Everything was not known and in video form on YouTube. It was the wild west.

    MMORPGs these days are theme parks. They have some thrills but you know it is in a safe, controlled environment.

  6. epic.ben

    Somewhere in the evolution of video games, they started to move from “games” in the traditional sense, to “entertainment”. It’s like what Dragons Lair tried to do eons ago, but it works now – all we have to do is choose ‘Left’, or ‘Attack!’, when prompted these days to win.

    MMOs are the perfect example of this trend. For non-raid content in WOW, you have to literally TRY to fail. It requires a conscience effort; you can pretty much button-mash your way to the level cap.

    Contrast that to Everquest – I remember playing a Druid and having to work my a@@ off to kite mobs for hours. I remember dying in the Gorge over and over and losing two levels in a night, because I kept running into a red-con mob that spawned in the middle of the mobs we were camping. It was a brutal environment, with very little room for forgiveness or mistakes. On the other hand, WOW is the exact opposite. It’s geared to let you WIN, whereas Everquest was geared to make you LOSE, unless you really worked at it. Call me a sadist or masochist or what have you, but I don’t like playing games that I can’t lose. It’s boring. I mean … the freaking Doorway to Horrors VCR boardgame (dating myself) has more challenge in it than a casual session of WOW.

    But kids these days (and I blame it on the kids, sorry) – don’t want to be challenged. They’re not used to it. They want to be entertained and the thought of, well, thinking is just too much to handle, so not only do we get dumbed down version of MMOs like WOW, we get F2P items that essentially let them pay to win (cheat to win). It’s the same reason you don’t see health packs in shooters since, like, 2004 – the kids can’t stand to be forced to play better, so health auto-regenerates. “Hey, look, I just lost all of my hitpoints because I’m rambo’ing through the level like a total idiot, let me crouch behind this crate until my health fully regenerates and I can keep playing my movie.”

    Keep playing my movie. That’s where we are. UGH.

  7. Syl

    I’m not sure it is all just coming down to time. although to be fair, I would argue that things like needed organisation or cooperation etc. are integral part of an MMO’s “difficulty”, a cooperative game? maybe this is a question of principle.

    other than that though, I kept thinking about the differences between vanilla WoW and today;
    when I picked my healing priest, I did so because I wanted to group play and I knew as a priest I would need to. leveling up as holy was near impossible or at least tedious, which is why most priests were shadow in vanilla during leveling or always grouped.

    already in TBC this started to change. I was still shadow to level to 70 though. in WotLK and Cata however, I leveled easy peasy on holy – solo.

    so, something changed here and it’s not time, although it is in FAVOR of time. my priest got either stronger or the mobs got weaker. either way, the game allowed me to solo easily what I couldn’t have soloed the same way before. the same happened to elite quests by the way; no way you could solo one of them in vanilla. later on Blizzard simply removed real ‘elite quests’, tuning them down for solo play.

    this is just one example that diffculty was tampered with in order to make the game more soloable and faster. which again begs the question: isn’t an MMO about cooperation (and all related downtimes).

    1. Tesh

      ” isn’t an MMO about cooperation (and all related downtimes)”

      Not always. Sometimes it’s just about a persistent world that happens to have other players in it. Maybe *parts* of the game can always be cooperative… but I’d suggest that those parts shouldn’t be related to the storyline.

      1. Syl

        Well, I’m all for there being both / variety. but to me, (good) cooperation requires more effort than just execution one moment in time. if that wasn’t the case, then pickup groups and raids would be a real hit. there’s more to cooperation than just assembling a random group of people, joined in the wish for loot?

  8. scrusi

    You cannot prevent insta-gibs with either quick movement or quick healing. (Hence “instant”)
    Therefore, your whole post is wrong.

    Lame attempt at trolling aside, I agree that time was an important factor in MMOs of old (as far as I can judge them, but surely not the only one. There are many levels of thought/difficulty that conveniently get lost in your matrix above. Going back in the not-so-ancient past, Brutallus was a pure tank and spank encounter and it was damn hard. Sure there was a time requirement (farming gear) but there was also a whole level of composition planning, theorycrafting, and learning the optimal way of dealing / mitigating damage. While these do require time, time spent is not the determining factor here at all.

    I have not raided in older games and therefore can’t speak to those boss fights – but adding “get out of the fire” style mechanics doesn’t necessarily mean a fight is harder than a pure tank’n'spank encounter. In my experience, it is the other way around and the “gimmick fights” tend to be the easiest ones of them all.

  1. Challenge, Risk and Time « Tish Tosh Tesh

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