Genre Splitting

I want to combine some topics and thoughts into what will hopefully be a larger point; it’s crazy that today, games like GW2 and EVE are considered part of the same genre. Allow me to explain.

Shiolle asked the following:

“How much time (in terms of hours/week) would you consider a mandatory investment to properly play EVE or Darkfall (the way you play them)?”

To which I responded:

“20hrs+, with solid 2-3+ regular hour blocks and being able to play during the prime nights (Tues, Thurs, Sunday), while also being able to schedule to play 3-4+ hours for something major like a siege?

Some of it will depend on the player though. If you are self-motivated, you can get away with fewer hours or more random times. If you can’t in a sandbox, you will need to be online when the majority of the clan is, and for INQ that’s EST 8pm-1am.”

With that in mind, consider this post from Syp, where he talks about going back to SW:TOR, but in his considerations never once mentions the multiplayer aspect of the game, or anything outside his own time and planning. I’m not saying he is wrong here, as SW:TOR is an sRPG in all of its key aspects, but just consider that these games are, technically, in the same genre, supposedly drawing from the same pool of players (I don’t buy the whole pool thing, but many do, so let’s pretend for the sake of this post).

Now what if Syp was talking about Darkfall instead of SW:TOR, but had the same approach? First, he would ‘fail’ in terms of getting anything out of DF, as it’s really not a fun game to solo around in casually. But beyond that, imagine if Syp was a guild member, and you were the leader or officer trying to coordinate things. Members like Syp are a nightmare.

They don’t show up enough to be reliable for in-game planning. They aren’t active enough to generally follow the flow and social structure of a guild. And at the same time, they will show up sometimes and can’t be completely written off when considering numbers (less a factor in DF since there are no caps, but even here it matters for PR reasons), but often can’t stick around to fully see something through like a siege. Manning the wall for an hour and then logging during a 3 hour siege is not much help to anyone, player or clan. Plus when they move on after a month, whatever training or setup you have done with them goes poof as well.

And yet, currently, MMO gaming (supposedly) caters to both players; Those with enough time to play MMOs as virtual worlds to be lived in, and those with enough time to just experience a bite of content before logging off. It’s no surprise that games who try to attract both have spectacularly failed overall, while games who aim more towards one or the other can do well. EVE makes no illusion to offering bite sized 30min chunks of content as the main course, while GW2 (post-release) has been clearly designed just for that, with little to no consideration for pre-formed groups or long-term retention.

I think what confuses things further, beyond how companies sometimes attempt to market to everyone, is that many (most?) players also don’t fully consider this divide. We are, quite simply, looking for two completely different experiences, and in order to have those, we require two very different design approaches with very different time requirements, both for that day (30min vs 3hrs) and long term (1 month and done vs 1yr+ stays). As has often been stated, perhaps it’s time for a whole new set of terms when talking about the giant mess that we consider the MMO genre.

57 Responses to Genre Splitting

  1. saucelah says:

    The problem with genre classifications in any field, whether gaming or music or literature, is that things are grouped by an arbitrary set of characteristics. Over time and with greater familiarity, the differences start to become as obvious as the similarities and sub-genres are developed. But those sub-genres tend to only be meaningful to those with a lot of experience with things in the genre. Metal fans can tell you the difference between hardcore, mathcore, metalcore, progressive metalcore, and grindcore. Electronica fans understand the nuances of house, trance, big beat, break beat, drum and bass, dubstep, and drumstep. To everyone else, it’s just metal or techno.

    Online gamers understand the difference between theme park and sandbox because the differences become more meaningful to us than the similarities. But for most people, they’re all just games where a lot of people play online in the same space and turning sub-genre distinctions into full genre distinctions will never make sense to them.

  2. [...] asks if we need to come up with different terminology for the full spectrum of MMOs. Currently the term [...]

  3. Frosth says:

    Is this a lead up for discussing the latest Darkfall news?

  4. rulez says:

    I think developers are correct whenever I hear them stating that MMO as term for a genre needs to go away. It is a technology and should be used as such. Well devs, make it so! :P

  5. Mekhios says:

    @Syncaine
    Do you know if there are improvements to DF graphics in the sequel? DF1 (I logged in the other day for a short session) is looking pretty awful now compared to the newest MMO’s.

    • SynCaine says:

      Some, yes. But overall its going to look somewhat like DF1. I liked the graphics in DF1 (character animations aside), with everything maxed the shadows and world look pretty great IMO. DF:UW will have better lighting and higher textures, some new models/animation, but basically a similar-looking game.

      • Mekhios says:

        I am looking forward to the DF:UW release. I found the combat to be very interesting. Not sure how much time I can spend in it though as I am heavily invested in Clan Wars with my WoT clan at this time. I also tried to get my clan interested in EvE Online as we do have some former EvE players but it’s been hard to drum up interest.

  6. Mekhios says:

    RE: Main subject
    Syp by his own admission is a very casual player. He also hops from one MMO to the next. I doubt he would even be interested in MMO’s like EvE or DF which do require a steady investment of time. Correct me if I am wrong but I thought Syp was a game journalist so trying many MMO’s is part of his job.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’m not bashing him. Just using him as an example of a totally different playstyle from my own and what Inq is looking for when recruiting for DF.

    • I actually asked Syp in a comment, in which I declared I was not trolling, on a post where he was gushing about five more titles he was looking forward to, if he actually… you know… played with other people.

      He said yes, he joins guilds and such. But I have to agree with SynCaine, you would never get that impression from what he writes.

      • Mekhios says:

        We’ve actually had players like that in my guild. You could never be sure if they were ever going to be online even for something as simple as a 5-man dungeon run.

        Syp must have a lot of money to throw around as I doubt he is getting a good time vs cost benefit out of the MMO’s he is playing. Plus he and his wife have just had a baby which would make that ratio even worse.

      • Ravious says:

        Syp is in my LOTRO guild. I would say he chats us up pretty good. He has run a few instances with us as I recall too, but I think he also is on another server?

        • Hudson says:

          Wow thats hard hitting journalism. His opionion on MMO’s must be so valid seeing as how he really gets in there and experiences the whole game. /sarcasm off

    • Mekhios says:

      @Shadow
      Oh? :) How many kids does he have?

  7. Fluffy Hyena says:

    I think you’re asking too much out of MMO. It just means the game needs an internet connection, and once in it you can bump into more than fifteen players. the term MMO doesn’t define the interactions between those players, or between the players and the game. So MMO is bound to cover games that are not alike. But it’s the same for strategy games (Age of Empires vs Hearts of Iron) or driving games (Need for Speed series vs any Simbin games) or FPS (SWAT3 vs Quake 3).
    There’s little to gain out of trying to find The Term That Will Define The Games You Like To Play. You’re better off defining the concept itself in more details, like you’ve done in previous posts.

  8. Liore says:

    “…They don’t show up enough to be reliable for in-game planning.”

    I think that paragraph alone caused my ex-raid-leader PTSD to flare up again. The worst were the folks who were that special combination of completely unreliably casual AND who complained that there was never anything going on when they logged in.

  9. Bernard says:

    I thought EvE features casual-friendly elements:

    -High sec space
    -Skills progress while offline
    -Ingame currency can be purchased via PLEX

    It sounds like a good title to log into for half an hour, here and there. Or am I missing something?

    I also wonder what proportion of gamers can really commit the 20+ hours, 3 times a week.

    • SynCaine says:

      Missing something.

      • “EVE makes no illusion to offering bite sized 30min chunks of content as the main course”

        However judging from the comments below, EvE does have content to meet this playstyle.

        • Shiolle says:

          There are activities in EVE that can be done within 30 minutes, and there are certainly people who enjoy them. However let’s view them from two different positions.

          1. Someone who plays casually and spends between 30 minutes and 2 hours irregularly 1 or 2 times a week. No activity listed below (missions, exploration, mining) that fits this playstyle are among EVE’s strongest selling points, and most are also solo. So from a point of view of this person EVE is not a great game, or even a very social game, because he doesn’t have the ability to experience more interesting parts of it or interact meaningfully with his corp social structure (if he even has one).

          2. Someone who plays properly and could only resort to those activities if he doesn’t have a lot of time right now or his corp has nothing planned for a day or two. For him those activities are also not very attractive because he has to spend time to set things up: travel to where his other ships are, maybe buy some ammo/drones/modules before he could start. That preparation takes significant time if you want just to jump in and out of an activity in EVE. I’ve met quite a few people who had separate characters and even accounts just for that.

        • SynCaine says:

          The key part of what you quoted is the ‘main course’ part. EVE has things you can do in 30min, but if that’s ALL you do, it’s a boring game. So yes, its an option, but it should be a side option rather than the main focus. More about it later today in a new post.

  10. Azuriel says:

    We are, quite simply, looking for two completely different experiences, [...]

    I do not think you could be more wrong.

    MMO designers try to cater to both parties because they understand that which party we belong to changes on a daily/weekly basis. It’s great that EVE/DF satisfies the desire for prolonged, scheduled gameplay. However, it’s terrible game design for EVE to offer nothing for the player with an hour to kill because everyone is that player on off-days. How many times have you thought “I want to play EVE today… oh wait, we got nothing scheduled, nevermind”?

    I can see the argument that this sort of design would keep the Syps of the world out of the population, thereby making recruiting/retention easier. But it’s honestly lazy design. The game can be better when you play by appointment, but it should have some minimum level of solo enjoyment too. Otherwise, you should have your gang looking for a different game altogether since you clearly are just there for each others’ company and not because you are having fun playing a specific game.

    • SynCaine says:

      EVE has 30min activities, as does DF. You read the post wrong.

      The point is not to ONLY have 3hr blocks, but for those 3hr blocks to mean something, like they do in EVE/DF but don’t in GW2/SW:TOR.

      • Azuriel says:

        Does EVE have 30m activities that are fun? That was what I was referring to. You already said Darkfall doesn’t:

        First, he would ‘fail’ in terms of getting anything out of DF, as it’s really not a fun game to solo around in casually.

        I understood your point. My point is that those 3hr blocks meaning something and 30min activities being fun aren’t mutually exclusive. Or shouldn’t be.

        • Mekhios says:

          @Azuriel
          EvE does have Agent missions which can be completed within 30 minutes. Or you can travel to an asteroid field and mine for 30 minutes. Or you can spend 30 minutes on the trade market buying and selling resources.

          It might not be considered fun by your standards but it is fun for some people.

          @Syncaine
          3 hours can mean something in GW2. It can mean making money on the trading market, travelling and completing dynamic events, harvesting, working on karma, completing a 5-man dungeon. Why would this be any less meaningful than that in EvE Online?

        • Noizy says:

          I enjoy scanning down and running mag and radar sites. I can usually do that in around 30 minutes. But I’m a low-sec carebear so I don’t have to fly very far.

  11. I know you’re not actually judging other gamers with your post, but sometimes, I feel left out when I think about how I jump from game to game.

    In my case, it’s like I’ve gotten used to being by myself, such that while I love talking to other people online or in games, I can never find that all-in-one game that really satisfies me…

    Not sure if I’m making sense though. Apologies.

    • SynCaine says:

      It does. I suspect that part of the issue is that you are judging the games just on the content as you experience it solo, which is going to yield less-than-steller results (MMOs are not great for that, even solo-focused ones like SW:TOR, compared to a real sRPG).

      When you play with a set group, much of the ‘content’ is experiencing the stuff together, so even bugs or grind can become a source of amusement because you have 10 people in vent bitching about it and laughing rather than just you smashing your head into it solo.

      Look at something like a fleet Op in EVE. Would anyone find that even remotely fun as content in an sRPG? Waiting around for hours, shooting structures, and going home? Of course not. But get 250 people into Mumble, and it can be a riot, regardless if a fight happens or not. And when a fight does happen, it’s better than anything a single player game could ever hope to create in terms of epic, memorable moments.

      That’s why people (should) be playing MMOs; for those rare but awesome moments. Sadly a lot of today’s MMOs are incapable of providing such a moment due to poor design and an overemphasis on the solo at the expense of the group.

      • Syl says:

        “That’s why people (should) be playing MMOs; for those rare but awesome moments.”

        exactly. and I get that feeling EXACTLY when I am journeying around in GW2 and suddenly an event comes up at random and works out perfectly that moment in time. it’s rare and it’s awesome.

        what you describe, that rare feeling, isn’t only linked to multiplayer moments. it can be and certainly should be in MMOs – but it ALSO exists for solo adventuring! and I wouldn’t want to miss either.

        • SynCaine says:

          We are in heavy opinion territory now, but finding and solving a hidden jumping puzzle in GW2 (the best PvE content in GW2 IMO) was a candle to the sun of a great DF siege, or the first time INQ-E moved into our C3.

          I’m curious if you just outright disagree because you don’t find my type of high point a high point for yourself, or if you have just never really experienced one?

        • Syl says:

          my point is: I’ve experienced a lot of epic, mass raids/pvp in MMOs past, and I’ve also experienced epic small scale moments. for me, I want both in an MMO. :)

          you’re comparing the two as if they have to be mutually exclusive – and you’re dismissing that the same feeling can exist in a smaller event in a game like GW2. but I’ve spent a few of my last blog posts explaining that GW2 is darn full of epic, special moments and so maybe you understand why I don’t follow you. and that’s just my honest experience.

        • SynCaine says:

          Difference of opinion I guess. By 80 I and the rest of Inq found GW2 formulaic, and boringly so at that. Plus none of the content is geared towards actually working with your guild (flawed WvW aside), so the ‘small scale’ stuff is just random strangers skill-spamming near each other for a few minutes. Again, IMO just not even in the same ballpark as a highpoint in EVE or DF.

      • You make good points. :) Speaking of which… I need to relog into the INQ forums. I forgot I closed that tab and removed my cookies. LOL.

        I hope to find good adventures with Inquisition while covering other games and working for a news site.

        Gosh, my time is going to be so limited.

  12. Syl says:

    I wonder if, especially for a pvpers case, splitting up the audience is really such a good idea? after all, that demography relies on other players more than any other profile? isn’t DF struggling with the fact that simply not enough players want to play it?

    games of wolves need more than wolves to work. sure, wolves can play against each other – but by default there are a lot less wolves around than ‘sheep’ (which I don’t use in a derigatory way here but to keep up with the analogy). also, what developer today would cut himself off such large a player demography and just create a great, polished MMO for wolves?
    so, while a part of me actually think you’re right that in many ways we’d be better off with ‘purer games’ and less compromises, I don’t think it works particularly well. Eve seems fine with it, but CCP seem to be content with a number of players that other developers aren’t. I don’t think I need to give examples.

    that thought was brought along by a commenter of mine today; related to whether EQ2 will be a true pvp sandbox or not.

    • SynCaine says:

      The problem here is that the number of subs EVE has is higher than the number of subs anyone but WoW has. So saying CCP is fine with that number while others aim higher is… well wrong. SW:TOR needed ‘just’ 500k to stay above water, yet they are going F2P already. What does that tell you? Rift is profitable, but by all accounts Trion has fewer subs than CCP. LotRO, the ‘darling’ of F2P conversions, just had massive layoffs. WAR, Aion, EQ2 are all afterthoughts. GW2 activity is dropping, and Anet never attempted to charge a monthly sub (for a reason, and it’s not to be nice).

      People have the outdated image that CCP is catering to some small subset, yet that ‘small subset’ is now bigger than any group outside of WoW. Whether that says more about CCP or everyone else, I’m not sure, since EVE really SHOULD be a niche game (Sci-Fi, no avatars, incredibly complex, etc).

      • Syl says:

        well, Eve has little competition the way other MMOs do. even some MMO players who are more into fantasy themes stick to Eve because it’s the only ‘real pvp sandbox’ for them out there at the moment….and don’t say DF – I know a fair few who would’ve stuck with DF had it not been infested by botters. :D DF has had its own problems..
        find ONE proper competition for Eve’s model – or better even, find five and then see what happens to Eve subs. this is a flawed comparison as long as not more devs create MMOs with the same demography in mind. the moment Eve isn’t a niche anymore is the moment Eve loses subs – like the one, always overbooked italian restaurant on a street full of american diners. ;)
        that wasn’t my point though. does a pvp MMO really benefit from less players playing it?

        • SynCaine says:

          Kinda like all those WoW-killers taking all those WoW subs away? We know the ending to that story. :)

        • Syl says:

          it needs no ‘wow killers’. but wow would have more subs still if there were less, other MMOs to choose from? that’s a no brainer…hell, even I would probably play it for lack of alternatives and sheer desperation. :D

          you can argue on a level of qualities or quantities. if you want to count numbers: a great lot more players out there currently are playing ‘some fantasy themepark MMO’ than there are players who want an Eve style game. and that’s not even addressing the scifi theme but general playstyle. it will be interesting to see what happens when/if a ‘real’ sandbox fantasy MMO ever comes out again, in this era!

          and my question still goes unanswered :P

        • SynCaine says:

          WoW was still growing when games like LotRO (back when it was decent) came out. It stopped growing not because the 10th clone was released, but because the Blizzard interns released WotLK/Cata/MoP. If an MMO is good, people will play it. Simple as that.When you have 10 meh offerings, all the same just with different themes, people only care so much (F2P).

          The “is the game better with fewer players” question? You need an answer to that other than “don’t feed the troll”? :)

        • Syl says:

          well, you make a case against mixing MMO audiences in this topic – so if there’s a troll, you invited it. ;) it could be a good question if looked at from different angles, pve and pvp. which made me curious you’d even suggest it as a more pvp minded player.
          tangentially this article – http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm and the ‘killers versus killers’ passages are quite interesting in this context. or if not for you, well then you can simply ignore it :)

        • SynCaine says:

          Ah, now I see where you are coming from. I believe the pool of sandbox players is large enough to make a game like DF work, without the need to attract themepark casuals (if that was possible to begin with). It worked when AV was still updating DF1, and it’s worked for CCP since 2003. Hopefully the post later today will clarify some of this.

          Also that Bartle piece is horribly outdated. Read the killer-killer part and look at EVE’s null-sec history.

  13. [...] made an observation recently that had me reflecting on my gaming history and what I wanted out of it. In his post, he [...]

  14. Ettesiun says:

    I totally agree with you. The two sort of players need different game : I totally understand that Casual are not need and can be not desired in a Hardcore game, and casual game does not enjoy hardcore one.
    In the opposite, hardcore player will not find casual game interesting, and can be “dangerous” by grabbing effort from developer off the casual gamer.

    About your comment “GW2 activity is dropping, and Anet never attempted to charge a monthly sub (for a reason, and it’s not to be nice).” I would say it differently : they knew they want a game without subscription and build their game for it.

    To see the bad effect of hardcore on casual game, see the Halloween event discussion on GW2 : casual players say that most of activities needs a lot of time in a week, and does not find it fun. GW2 is a strange beast : nearly all the game is built for casual, but some small pieces are for hardcore : legendaries, sPvP, hard jumping puzzle.

    I agree that hardcore game create more interesting story to read, and awaits for your DF2 stories !

  15. [...] When you play with a set group, much of the ‘content’ is experiencing the stuff together, so even bugs or grind can become a source of amusement because you have 10 people in vent bitching about it and laughing rather than just you smashing your head into it solo. — SynCaine [...]

  16. [...] I’m fairly certain that this post will irritate some people, so let’s start it off right with a quotation from an established blogging shit-stirrer, SynCaine: [...]

  17. [...] be a good corporation member. If Syncaine is representative of what an average corp wants as far as weekly availability, let’s just say I’m going to be a [...]

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