Level one, and god-mode already?

Why do we assume the first mob we fight in an MMO should be an easy kill?

I’m serious, how many MMOs can you name where the first mob you face has a legitimate chance to kill you? I mentioned the goblins in DarkFall yesterday, and certainly in Ultima Online the first mob you faced could kill you since the game did not have quests and you were not placed specifically close to easy mobs, but any others? WoW, WAR, EQ2, LotRO, etc, all start you off with mobs for miles that roll over when you look at them funny.

Of course the first reaction to this is “you want to give a good first impression”, and certainly you don’t want a totally new player getting one shotted, teabagged, and have a pop-up appear with a link to the account page, but if the first encounter actually required more than just standing still and auto-attacking a targeted mob, would it be that horrible to not succeed immediately and you know, have to learn one or two things before seeing some success? The first ‘mob’ in Mario one shot killed you; did everyone immediately turn off their NES and smash the cartridge? Nope, you got another life, ran back a few steps, and learned to jump over/on the little guy. How is it that all the little kids playing their NES back in the late 80s could deal with a minor setback, yet in 2009 the 18+ crowd playing MMOs needs to be spoon-feed for the first few (or 80) levels before any remote challenge is presented?

I’m not saying the average MMO should be Nintendo Hard, but does it have to be My Little Pony easy? I remember a few years back people joked about a Hello Kitty Online MMO (before it became a reality), and how anyone who could not handle playing MMO X should just go play that (In a way this was the precursor to the current “Go back to WoW” phrase we use now). How much easier is Hello Kitty Online compared to WoW? I mean really, how much harder is it to reach level 80 in WoW compared to doing whatever in HKO? Does it bother anyone else that most current MMOs have literally ZERO challenge for hours/days, and what little challenge exists is tucked away in a corner? What happened to gradually getting better at a game like Tetris or Mario, where you truly did start off as a noob and gained more competence as you played? How is it that in 2009 a few purple pixels, and a hollow ‘ding’ rewarding nothing more than successfully typing in your account password is enough to make people overlook the utter lack of any challenge or growth?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Console Gaming, Darkfall Online, EQ2, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Rant, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Level one, and god-mode already?

  1. Tipa says:

    The first monster you see in HKO will kill you without a thought. In higher zones in HKO, you are swarmed by monsters that will kill you without a thought.

    HKO is (not sure if you read my first look) not a newbie-friendly game, and is actually a bit more hardcore in that respect than WoW.

  2. Andrew says:

    Great post, Syncaine… and I agree completely.

    The level grind might not be so bad if it wasn’t so bloody trivial.

  3. Thallian says:

    It bothers me… And I’m sure it bothers most people to some degree.. but not usually in the “I’m angry” kind of way.. more in the “this sure is boring” kind of way.

    Btw Tipa that’s hilarious… Hello Kitty Online == more hardcore than WoW :P. Take that Blizzard.

  4. Jim says:

    I still remember the first mob I attacked in UO it was a chicken and it killed me. It was one of the most exciting times I have had in a game.

  5. Tipa says:

    Heh… well, nobody considers WoW a difficult game, do they? People LIKE it because they can play it while distracted or without having to think about anything.

    • syncaine says:

      Yea if I can reach max level while watching TV, we have a problem. Problem becomes a bit bigger if after watching said TV, I’m not only max level, but also decked out in ‘epic’ gear. Of course then I have to turn off the TV, tie one hand behind my back, and get ready for some ‘hard mode’ content, WHOOO!

      • Tesh says:

        It’s not a problem, it’s a selling point. It’s only a “problem” if you are looking for something better, and many people aren’t. *shrug*

  6. Rick says:

    Eve Online? I can’t remember if my first fights were simple or not. I suspect not…I remember needing to learn a lot about fitting ships before I felt like I could handle ‘rats in the belts with any confidence.

    Ryzom also has some mobs not far from the newbie starting area on Silan that’ll beat your ass if you don’t get some skills under your belt first.

    I’d like a challenging game from the start, yep.

  7. Xyloxan says:

    Be honest Syncaine about your WoW experience. I am pretty sure you were killed a few times by mobs when you were still a noob. :-)

    • syncaine says:

      Nope, never, even when being the first tank on Vael.

      • Remastered says:

        Speaking as the second tank in what was supposed to be our Vael rotation, I can attest to this.

      • syncaine says:

        Best part of BWL: “What spot in the rotation can we put Gavel in that he will be least likely to fail to grab agro on Vael, even though he has been provided a tanking macro and has unlimited rage…?”

  8. evizaer says:

    Yeah. MMOs aren’t made for gamers. It’s an annoying reality for people like us.

    Darkfall, on the other hand, seems to be a game designed for gamers. That’s refreshing.

    I hope that there are more MMOs designed with gamers in mind. Even if they are niche products, I can easily imagine a game with server populations of 300-500 people being fun to play if the mechanics are designed for low-pop.

    • syncaine says:

      The sick thing is that in the beginning, MMOs were not designed for gamers because they were TOO hard to get into. Why would you struggle with UO/EQ1 when you could play some easy console game.

  9. Thallian says:

    that’s true Tipa, that’s true

  10. Bonedead says:

    A game can’t stay hard forever and when that happens you have to set the challenges for yourself. Back in the Mario Kart for SNES days after mastering the game and beating it front to back, what is the point of playing? I still did though. I’d play 50cc and (if you noticed) depending on which racer you choose the computer racers would usually always finish in the same places. What I would do is try my damndest to make the usual last place finisher get 2nd behind me. I was able to after a while and eventually moved it to 100cc.

    I do the same with WoW. Group quest you say? Hah! I laugh at the notion! So after I’ve died 5+ times and I finally think I’ve figured out how to solo this 50-70k hp elite even con mob, I die again. But sometimes I don’t die and then I’m a fucking champion.

    As for the go back to “insert game here” phrase, didn’t the WoW players (or those with the same mindset, aka, /b/) start that whole thing? Go back to Gaia?

  11. Thallian says:

    btw I just wrote a post on this subject on my blog if anyone’s interested cuz Syncaine got me thinking.

  12. Anjin says:

    The first mob in Champions Online is a pod that can’t even attack back. The threshold is damn low.

    Of course, this is more a problem of players wanting to learn how to play by playing a tutorial instead of reading a manual. That’s why every game starts by telling you about the WASD keys.

    I miss reading manuals.

    • Malakili says:

      Champions almost stumbled upon a decent way to teach people the game. the first couple quests are effectively against training dummies. (the pods that you beat on, and then the guards that shoot you when you ask them, to teach you the blocking mechanic). I’d be just as happy having a small starting training zone against training dummies or something that shows you the game mechanics, after which you can leave and enter the real world.

      The part where Champions fails on that regard is that you are supposedly saving the city while fighting stuff that basically any guy in the city should be able to walk over and punch to death. If it had been written off as an x-men style danger room, it could make more sense.

      Then again, you’d have to expect a more difficult game outside the tutorial, which Champions barely offers.

  13. Argon says:

    A couple of the early night elf quests in WoW are fairly brutal, with densely packed, quickly respawning mobs. But yes, generally you are right. That’s why it is more fun, for me, to level a caster character, as there exists some minor risk. Leveling plate DPS is just silly. “Oops I just accidentally pulled an extra 5 mobs. That’s okay, I just may have to use my healing powers.” You really have to solo group quests in order to do anything remotely challenging.

  14. Bhagpuss says:

    My problem isn’t that the first mobs you fight in MMOs are a pushover. It’s that they get harder.

    Yes, I have been playing since EQ was shiny-new, and yes I have done it the hard way, and yes I enjoyed it back then. But I’ve now had the chance to try the “hard” version and the “easy” version, and the “easy” is simply more fun.

    My actual gripe, though, is why there has to be anythign like the amount of combat in the first place. Easy or hard, it’s the fighting part that i lost interest in years ago. At least when its easy its out the way faster and I can get on with the many other parts of MMOs I actually want to be doing. For some bizarre reason all kinds of trainers require my characters to have beaten up ten zillion creatures before they will teach me to bake a new cake or stitch a pair of pants.

  15. Letrange says:

    o.O someone is setting the “hardcore” bar damn low. FFXI, wave good bye to solo content at level 10. After that “weak” mobs can WTFPWN!! most players solo.
    It only makes a sorta comeback after level 30 and then only for tonally deranged beastmasters and red mages/ninja’s. Even then the penalty in rate of progression payed by solo players compared to party players is soul gutting.
    A character in WoW has a measly 80 levels to cap. A character in FFXI will only get to one job combination to cap in (75+37) 112 levels (including 5 level break quests one of which HAS to be completed solo – MAAT). To totally max out a character in FFXI takes (75 on 20 jobs – 20 times thru the dunes…) 1500 levels (not sure anyone has done it it’s been a few years since I’ve played).

    I actually preferred the movement keys to be directional arrows since it freed up my left hand to mash macro combinations and you could still type in party chat while macro mashing because the querty part did not do double duty as menu shortcuts and chatting. It’s still the only MMO where it feels natural to go in full first person perspective when wandering around (hopefully FFXIV will have this as well).

    • Dblade says:

      It took a long time for me to get from level 9-10 on my first FFXI character. in FFXI it was very common to get killed a lot because even an easy prey mob could kill weaker newbie characters.

      I also was one of those deranged beastmasters. I soloed bst mostly from 1-75 with some campaign and very rare party play on the side. It was soul killing to be honest, some nights I died five times or more and lost ground.

      I’m proud, but to be honest I’m not missing FFXI since I quit it, and not minding easier games. FFXI is a little like Ninja Gaiden-you feel good when you succeed, but every other time you get frustrated as heck.

  16. sid67 says:

    I don’t really have an issue with Level 1 not being hard. My issue is that Level 2 is no harder than Level 1. That’s the real problem. Difficulty doesn’t scale with level.

  17. theJexster says:

    “The first ‘mob’ in Mario one shot killed you” I hate to keep saying it but…I agree! If you look at the type of MMO/Game being made no days, and how they made to play, it is obvious the current dev opinion of the majority of buyers are that of brain dead monkeys. It’s kinda like in Kill Bill 2 when he says Superman’s ideal human is a weak dorky Clark Kent. The MMO powers that be view us as unintelligent slackers that want to be spoon fed everything while always winning every time no matter the challenge. The result u games that are so boring and unrewarding it pains me to log in and feel to underestimated by the dev. The worst part is they are probably right. The majority of people are idiots who will throw a fit if they come up against anything that represents a slight challenge. They keep on consuming crap which leads to more crap bloating the market. Aion is a perfect example of this. It’s RC Cola WOW with more PVP. Lets look at what it’s doing to add to the genre…

    exactly. If the majority of consumers would learn to filter crap we wouldn’t be getting products that are bad. Sadly it’s the same in every industry. The hit songs are crap. And how the hell were we able to make a fan last 50 years in the 50’s, yet now in 2010 I am lucky if the fan I bought lasts me through the rest of the month. Technology is getting better yet products are becoming worse because rather than say no and boycott the junk people smile buy one, it breaks, and they buy 2 more to be safe rather than say F you to the company. Why? Because the majority are perhaps the lazy mindless morons these games are being built for.

    Ok, that was deeper, and angrier than I wanted to go, back on topic. I was thrilled in Darkfall with I killed 2 goblins in a row. I was more excited than when I hit 60 in WOW, and I felt like I accomplished more, simply because I earned it.

    MMOs today lack meaning and attachment because they lack difficulty, consequences. Life has no meaning without death and MMOs with no loss or difficulty results in a yawning experience that gets old and is easily abandoned after a few lvls. See WAR.

    • sid67 says:

      You died to the mushroom? Seriously? Not to throw stones here but maybe you shouldn’t be complaining about Level 1 being too easy ;p

  18. theJexster says:

    Apologies for the typos, typing, hiding window, typing again not a good thing. Damn work! I must be one of the majority…

  19. Yeebo says:

    The reason that most mobs aren’t hard in MMOs is that you have to kill exactly one bazillion of them to level. It is for similar reasons that most mobs aren’t hard in Diablo and most other other offline RPGs.

    In a skill based MMO that lacks levels, you can gain vast amounts of “experience” (skillups) in any fight. As the amount of reward you get from a fight isn’t locked into how many things you kill, designers are free to make common mobs more challenging without pissing off players.

  20. I have no problem with the initial levels being very easy but what always confused me was in a game like WoW, leveling actually get easiers, not harder. You start off being able to easily kill one mob at a time quite slowly but end up being able to take on dozens at a time like an immortal.

    Following normal game curves, leveling in MMORPGs should get harder, not easier.

  21. The problem, I think, is that people now have an expectation of ease when they begin an MMO. MMOs are different from Mario because they are much more complex and there’s a lot more for a new player to get used to. Blizzard set the standard that players should be given a cushion to work with when they jump into the game and others have followed suit. Nowadays, when a player hops into a game and dies right away they attribute as a problem of the game instead of anything to do with themselves.

    The WoW Effect in action.

  22. Der_Nachbar says:

    When people talk about WoW being player-skill based or not, they forget that it really needs alot of skill(knowledge might be better to say). But its more of a strategical nature. You need to know how many of these oponents you can handle, which is the dangerous glass cannon or supporter, etc.
    Darkfall players can make use of that kind of knowledge, too. But even if they judge the situation wrong, they have the chance to fight a way out of it via clever movement and good timed attacks.
    In WoW its predetermined, you can beat the encounter or you simply have no chance whatsoever. Thats boring at its best and frustrating for most fights.
    In Darkfall you can try to pull-off a Jackie-Chan awesome move and if that was not enough, try to use the terrain to your advantage in your flight.

    Old console games were harder. In order to stretch the time a player needs to win the game. This is an relict from the arcade halls. Generally games didnt have that much content back in the days, and stretched that via hard difficulty or few lives.

    The diablo comparison doesnt work. In D2 your a hero slaying legions in seconds, thats what the game is about. Your supposed to feel like a natural disaster among the enemies.

  23. MMORPG’s are a weird blend of genres, that’s why.

    MMORPG’s are not action or platformer games. Part of the reason it worked in Mario is because you were back up and running in less than 5 seconds. No MMORPG does this (although it would be neat to see one ‘rewind time’ when you die)

    MMORPG’s although they have ‘RPG’ in their name, usually don’t follow the way the best and most RPG’s have handled their combat.
    For example, the classic gold box RPG games used very strategic combat. If you gimped your party of were not very good with strategic combat, you could easily die in your first encounters.

    Later RPG’s incorporated more action elements.

    MMORPG’s handle combat in the most care bare method possible. Give you 1 or maybe 2 buttons to push. Nothing else matters. Position rarely plays any role in early battles, if ever. Skill rarely plays any role. Being strategic in other ways, also not a factor. At BEST you can become better or worse by pressing the two buttons in different orders or sequences or with different timings.

    No, MMORPG’s are just plain lame when it comes to combat. They don’t even come close to action/platformer or classic RPG games, not even action RPGs.

  24. Eckyman says:

    It may have something to do with the fact that most MMO players look for efficiency over challenge these days. Challenge simply draws out the time till players can grind dailies and run the same raid week in, week out.. so its not welcome. That is why mounts get lower requirements in cost and effort these days. People dont want challenge, they want streamlined, efficient ways to skip through content as fast as possible.

    How many people raid without reading strategies? I doubt many guilds start raiding blind and figure out a way that works for them. Everyone loads up someone elses guide and reproduces that tactic to get the fastest possible route to loot. That to me is not gaming. It sucks the fun out of it. If I were to sit and play Shadow of The Colossus with some guy behind me telling me every_single_move to make, every trick to climb on the bosses, where everything was.. what fun is it? I may as well give the pad to the guy behind me as he is more or less playing the game for me anyway. If you don’t figure the game out yourself, where is the fun in gaming?

    Most guilds no longer play for fun, and this is evident by stat logging addons and ‘after raid’ evaluations. One death turns into a ‘waste of someone’s time’. The ‘game’ has become about getting through the content, as fast as possible, with as little time wasting (deaths, learning curve), to suck as much loot as possible in as short amount a time as possible.

    This is why I quit Warcraft and why I cant find any MMO I like right now..

    Warhammer was more fun, but in the end that turned into the same ‘efficiency’ bullshit meta-game. Why work out tactics and strategies, or try to fake the opposition out with fake attacks, why bother flanking enemies or anything like that when you can simply get as many people as possible and zerg the shit out of everything? Why spend an hour or so locked in actual battle with the enemy when you can simply go to an empty zone and PvE for your keep bag? Why RvR when you can level faster in Scenarios?

    You can blame the devs all you want but as long as players are trying to find faster, easier, more efficient ways to get things done.. the blame lies on their shoulders.

    In WoW there are more casuals PAYING a sub than people looking for a challenge. More people who want to grind on autopilot while watching a movie.. and so devs cater to that market and dial the difficulty back to retard level and pack the game with endless grinds/timesinks to replace challenge.

    The problem isn’t the game, its the idiots playing it. Even in Darkfall you can (or could.. I guess the patch helped this?) see it with people using macros to get the fastest skill gains possible instead of just playing the damn game.

    I see it on Monster Hunter (PSP) with people using cheats to access items they should be playing the game to acquire. If you cheat to get the max level gear available, where is the motivation to hunt the monsters that give materials to craft that gear? Where is the challenge if you obtain the best gear and THEN fight the monsters?

    The appropriate example would be someone paying for a WoW account with top end raid gear from Ulduar or whatever, then going and wrecking Wailing Caverns. Why bother?

    The majority, in any game.. are idiots. Load up Xbox live and listen to the coms on CoD4 or Halo.. Go join Alterac Valley and watch the chat and how players act in game. It never ends.

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