Thursday, August 03, 2023

Perilous MMO Tropes

contains moderate peril
 Roger Edwards (aka Mr Peril) of Contains Moderate Peril has been posting about MMO tropes.  For the third day of Blaugust I sat down and read a few of these trope posts and I have some thoughts.

The posts:

 First; these are all great bathroom reads. Second; Roger is an amazing blogger.  Platitudes out of the way let's get to the tropes.

“The MMO genre is rife with its own set of tropes; recurring themes and motifs that have become established and ubiquitous. All of which are ideal material for a hastily produced, lazily conceived, recurring blog post”.


  If there is an MMO trope that encapsulates the history of MMOs it is certainly death mechanics.  In Roger's post he covers the history of death in MMORPGs: from the "corpse runs" of early games like Everquest to the modern "Death is now treated as a minor penalty that temporarily inconveniences you." as Roger puts it.

 In my older age (40+) I tend to lean towards the modern inconvenience approach and I think it is appropriate for today's market.  Every year it seems like a new MMO project gets started talking about the "good ole' days" of corpse runs and death penalties.  None of those MMOs end up going anywhere.

 Death, as outlined by Roger, is a "means by which to teach the player that they’re doing something wrong and that they need to rethink their strategy."  Slapping a penalty on top of that creates friction and friction is what frustrates players.  Frustrated players don't stick around to play a game because there is a dozen other games on the market that will better respect their time. 

 Losing is enough of a penalty for most players.  Games would be wise to let us take our lump and get on playing again.

Running All the Way

 Running is an MMO trope and like Death it has a history with MMOs.  Large worlds and long travel times were a feature in the early days.  Now long travel times are just an inconvenience.  Roger makes a solid point when looking at single player games.

 "Single player games seem to handle travel differently and certainly have some advantages. I envy the fact that a game like Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption 2 provide the players with access to public transport."

 The answer for MMOs doesn't always have to be to add mounts and "public transport" is a great concept.  Some games do it; there were flight paths in World of Warcraft that are the equivalent of Roger's Red Dead Redemption 2 reference "riding the train between towns in RDR2 as it is very restful and highlights for a few minutes the detail of the open world."

  Public transport or player-controlled mounts (which are really just faster travel) the key is the same as death: don't add friction. Friction will piss gamers off and they will walk (ha!) from the game.  There are too many great games on the market to be bored to death traveling in a game. 

"Kill Ten Rats" and Fetch Quests

 I almost spit out my coffee when I read this:

"The MMORPG genre is a curious subset of video games. Not only is it predicated on violence against the individual, institutions and “others”, as so many video games are but also species-specific genocide and general mass extinction of fauna and flora."

 There is no truer statement to encapsulate what modern MMORPGs expect of their players.  Most games are designed around the concept of wiping out entire generations of enemies and then doing it all over again.  And again. And again. And again.  And again. And... you get the idea: grind!

 Some may not know this but Ultima Online launched originally with a model where "mobs" were limited and once killed they didn't just respawn.  If a deer was killed and harvest that was it.  In addition there was a predator/prey system; kill a rabbit and a wolf goes hungry.  Kill the wolf and rabbits could take over the world.

 As you may expect it didn't last long.  Player's killed everything in sight and the system fell apart to be replaced by the never-ending respawn system that is the norm.

 In regards to "kill ten rats" I do have a personal preference.  I would like to see game focus more on smaller but more difficult encounters.  Leave the "kill waves of enemies in a single blow" to the Path of Exile's of the world.  Move away from grinding endless respawns of the same creature.  Instead make me work to defeat one enemy and figure out a way to still reward me for trying even if I die.

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