Be un-massive for a reason

One of my least favorite parts of blogging is presenting a topic and having people directly apply it to the now. The best example of this is talking about item loss, and having WoW players say it would never work because of how many runs it takes for Rag to drop his legendary weapon. “Losing that to a gank would make me unsub!” Derp…

Yesterday’s post had a bit of that, with people looking at Skyrim and just inserting thousands into the existing game and declaring that it would not be fun. No shit.

The challenge in blogging here is to write enough detail to set people down the correct path, without spelling out every single step and turning each post into a novel. Perhaps the post yesterday was my fault for not providing enough of that detail, but honestly I’d much rather blame the readers. It’s not me, it’s you people.

Blogging mini-rant aside, lets continue down that path.

In the MMO genre we often debate just what the ‘massive’ part means. From solo-instances up to EVE’s null-sec mega-brawls, just how many people are involved in something varies greatly.

I think scale matters. Those EVE battles are epic almost on sheer numbers alone, and that’s important. It’s a bit like watching a sporting event in a giant stadium versus at a local field. Simply by having so many like-minded fans around you, the experience is enhanced. It’s one of the core principles of the whole genre, and often justifies the otherwise simple gameplay (like harvesting for example).

That does not mean bigger is always better. There are some advantages to an instances 5-man experience versus an open dungeon for all. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m designing the MMO I’m going open dungeon and making that work, but that does not mean the entire concept of the instances 5-man is total fail.

Skyrim the MMO would be very much that 5 man experience. But rather than going half-way like DDO, go full-blast. The entire game is small-scale. You can even select the scale. Want to play all the content as a duo? Go for it. 20 man guild? It scales to that as well.

“Cool Syn, but that’s not an MMO” you say? Bah to that! Are you honestly telling me you would not pay $15 a month to play Skyrim on a Bethesda server with your buddies, and that subscription ensured you get Dawnguard-like content updates and fixes but more consistently? Of course you would. I’d even venture to guess a few hundred thousand people would.

And here is the thing; Skyrim has a silly amount of content, so clearly Bethesda can do what EA and SW:TOR seem so incapable of, and that would make the sub model work. Even the broken systems, like magic, would be ok since you are playing just with your buddies. Want to break the game and ‘win’? Knock yourself out. Or maybe because the game would have a team supporting it full-time, those things get fixed. Either way, it’s not a game-breaker like some have suggested it would be.

I’m sure there are a lot of details to iron out here, no doubt. But I think the base concept is solid, and again, I’m surprised we have not seen a more solid effort made in this space (but I’ll just go ahead and blame the WoW-blinders as per usual).

21 Responses to Be un-massive for a reason

  1. sid6.7 says:

    “Cool Syn, but that’s not an MMO” :P

    Now you can say your other least favorite thing about blogging are the trolls. :)

  2. gwjanimej says:

    On message: One of the things I learned at Intel school is that as the messenger, I’m responsible for correctly conveying the message. If the boss takes away the wrong message, I fucked up. Take that what you will.

    As for your tangent of TESO, there will be folks would say that. Of those folks, I’d wager you’d find more than a handful of hypocrites in the lot. Personally, I’d love it if it went that route with all scalable content. Throw in player cities and random generated filler content for quick fix stuff(think of all the caves in Skyrim) padding out a bunch of longer term investment quests, and you have a solid base for success.

  3. Anonymous says:

    ““Cool Syn, but that’s not an MMO” you say? Bah to that! Are you honestly telling me you would not pay $15 a month to play Skyrim on a Bethesda server with your buddies, and that subscription ensured you get Dawnguard-like content updates and fixes but more consistently? Of course you would. I’d even venture to guess a few hundred thousand people would.”

    Of course I would. I’d cough up $15/mo to play multiplayer Skyrim in a goddamned heartbeat. I’d murder a puppy to have a complexity breadth and depth of Skyrim shared with friends.

    Would I pay that for a simplified (read: shitty wow-esque) massively multiplayer version? No. I don’t want a simplified game dumbed down to be as accessible as possible, I don’t want to play an MMO with just my close friends because when you take away the “massively” you’re just left with a shitty game.

    I want to play an awesome SPRPG like Skyrim, except multiplayer.

    i would absolutely pay $15 a month for that.

  4. I think this sort of thinking is what could be the death of TES:O – because what you say WOULD be a pretty good idea. So what’s the point of potentially diluting the immense content of the single player games and spreading it over an MMO in order to get a subscription out of people?

    That’s not to say that they won’t reproduce the experience of playing the single player game in an MMO – but it would be a first, and I would think it extremely unlikely.

  5. pixelrevision says:

    This type of game with a full on multiplayer experience really has yet to be fully realized but there is a HUGE market for it. Much greater than a few hundred thousand me thinks. I only have a few real life friends that will actually play a hotbar style mmo. But multiplayer elder scrolls or fallout? Almost any friend who likes games would.

    What I fear is is they sunk all this dough into a “persistent world mmo” and don’t want to canabalize it’s entire potential user base. But all the previews I’ve seen of TESO look to contain nothing that makes modern bethesda games amazing. So hopefully you are right and while not for “the now” some point in the future they will add in this feature that I think most players of skyrim would kill for.

  6. xXJayeDuBXx says:

    Isn’t Guild Wars 2 just like a coop Skyrim, just without the sandbox or actually being good and fun?

    I haven’t played Fallen Earth in ages, but I really like how the game meshed the theme park style content within an open world sandbox. I’m not saying it’s perfect and again I haven’t played the game in quite awhile and I never experienced the PvP, so I could not have a clue what I’m talking about.

    Man, if SWG had just a bit of the theme park PvE content but not that crappy NGE, it would have been the best game ever!

    • pixelrevision says:

      GW2 took a lot from the book of elder scrolls. And those elements really make it shine as a game. Unfortunately it is held back from its full potential by not having something that most single player games have which is a difficulty slider.

      The place where the game is at its best is the open world exploration/discovery but due to the fact that when you have been through it there is no real way to to put the difficulty on “hardcore” much of the replayability of that content is lost.

      What you end up with is a game that solves so many problems that plague the MMO genre with left without the options to really show their true potential. If they had a server that had all mobs with 4x health/damage and no waypoints for instance the game would be very satisfying to replay. A race based free for all pvp server could also be very interesting. What they have ended up relying on for the replay factor ends up being more along the lines of wow raiding/dungeons and they do not do as good a job of that as blizzard.

      • bhagpuss says:

        The direction they are heading is certainly not ideal, that’s for sure. I’m not sure why you think re-doing content on a harder setting would be an improvement, though.

        It really mystifies me how some people seem to be able to complete all the content in such an incredibly short time. I have 750 hours played on account alone, out of the two I have. I have six characters at 80 now and I don’t think I have yet seen 50% of the standard overland content, for one thing. Any one of them has only maybe a third of the possible maps even visited at all and I have only “completed” about five maps in total. At the rate I’m going there will be an expansion long before I as a player, let alone any of my characters, have seen all the content even once.

        I’m actually all in favor of difficulty settings for MMOs. I’d set most of them easier. Then I might actually do most of the content in one in less than five years one day!

        • pixelrevision says:

          You can’t get through all of GW2’s content quickly. There is waaaaaay too much for that. However for a certain type of player who wants lots of challenges it becomes easy to write 98% of that content (at least the pve side) off.

          I guess I feel like difficulty settings help along games because they give you a new challenge to rise to. Playing a non mmo through to the end then starting over with it being harder reuses ALL the content. It also seems like a cheaper solution then trying to come up with unique content for everyone, which currently is leaving a lot of people underwhelmed and game hopping.

  7. Bristal says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Skyrim MMO you are describing is one in which I gather a group of players/friends first, then enter the game with them, and the game world is limited to just us.

    As opposed to a game I enter, start playing, and look for friends and other players within the game population. Like WoW and EVE.

    I think an estimate of hundreds of thousands who would/could make that work, for a subs, even in an amazing world like Skyrim, is unrealistic. It might appeal to a small niche of people who play a lot of different games together and discuss it. Kind of like, you know, bloggers.

    People pay subs for that hanging out, people coming and going, shooting the shit quality that MMOs offer. And a good game is required to get the people there.

    • SynCaine says:

      Keep in mind Neverwinter the sRPG sold millions of copies, and had a MASSIVE online presence in terms of mods and a community. I can only imagine how much bigger all of that would have been had it been officially supported and sustained.

    • spinks says:

      Take a look at what Bungie are saying about their new game, Destiny. They’re talking about pretty much exactly this: hanging out, people coming and going, but adventuring mostly in small groups.

  8. [...] Be unmassive for a reason by Syncaine at Hardcore Casual – some interesting ideas about why Massively Multiplayer Online games should be considered “Massive”, and do they always need to be? [...]

  9. So you want Skyrim as a GW type micro-instancing and scaling to current group size? Sounds fine and a strong idea.
    Your original post did seem very much “Skyrim would be great as an MMO if you took out the bits that wouldn’t work and add bits that would” SW:TOR would be the greatest MMO ever if they removed the bits that don’t work and added stuff that does.

    • SynCaine says:

      The difference IMO is that Skyrim is 80% there, while 80% of SW:TOR would have to be scrapped to ‘fix’ it.

      Also EAWare vs Bethesda.

      • dachengsgravatar says:

        I’m surprised you think that Skyrim is 80% of the way there. It’s an excellent single-player game that will have to overcome many problems if it is to succeed as a multiplayer game. I think you’re wearing your rose-tinted glasses.

        I predict that you will continue to hype TESO until, at most two months after you start playing it, you will declare TESO a total failure, and lament what could have been.

  10. Anti-Stupidity League says:

    For some reason I doubt that there’s a subscription-based market for (non-massively) multiplayer Skyrim that you’ve described. I’m sure there would be people who’d love to play co-op Skyrim for sure, though.

    Maybe it would be easier to monetize by dividing the content to smaller chucks of DLC similar to Fallout 3 or Borderlands, but based on my highly scientific research methods (i.e. personal experience of me and my friends and guildmates), people who play co-op multiplayer games are not necessarily ready to pay for that fun every month.

    • SynCaine says:

      I feel like we are at the point where paying for more than just the box is so standard today, and not just in gaming. $5 on-demand movies, premium theater screens, iTunes, etc.

      I mean, before LoL, did anyone think millions and millions would play a ‘hardcore’ 5v5 PvP game famous for having by far the most toxic community in gaming (DotA), and that said game would be perhaps the biggest earnings generator amount all games out by selling dresses (skins)?

      We are no longer in the $50 cartridge days.

      • pixelrevision says:

        I think it’s also important to remember that this whole revolution came from a mod of a humble little blizzard game. I can think of a few others where the life of a mod well extended the life of the original game. Counter strike, team fortress and dayz all come to mind. Open up multiplayer along with Skyrim’s current ability to mod and who knows what type of game would emerge. That gives Bethesda many unforeseen ways to monetize.

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