Twit generation is in my MMO

First, can we please stop qualifying Facebook games? “Not bad, for a Facebook game”. We don’t do it with TV (oh that show was terrible, but it was on a 3rd rate network so it was decent), we don’t do it with movies (oh that movie was awful, but it had a low budget so 3 hours/$15 well spent!), and we don’t do it with books (hey it was softcover, so even though all 300 pages sucked, it was worth it). If you are gaming, be it on Facebook or otherwise, you are gaming. Facebook is not in some magic void where ‘decent’ is the top grade and anything above “punches you in the nuts and charges you $10 for another” is considered ‘good enough’.

That rant aside, but somewhat related, I want to talk about the Twitter approach to gaming that has not-so-slowly and not-so-subtle been going on, and how it directly impacts the MMO genre. In case you have been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve noticed it. ‘Bite sized’ dungeons, solo-instances, shorter XP curves, epics-for-all, etc. The signs are all over the place; some companies are catering to people with 15 minutes to play, and with only five of those where they can fully focus.

And look, if aiming towards that market gets you millions, more power to you. If your goal is JUST to make as much money as fast as possible, everything else be damned, set out to clone whatever is the current FOTM, pump it out asap, pray the stars line up and you become a new ‘fad’, and cash in. 99/100 times you create something totally forgettable that never gets noticed, but hey, at 1/100, you still have a chance. “The guy who invented the pet rock made a million dollars”, right?

The problem with 140 character players is that they don’t really fit into a virtual world, at least not what we traditionally consider them as. EQ1 had what, a 2000 hour leveling curve? 7xGM in UO was not exactly an overnight process (even with massive exploiting), and grinding to the cap in DAoC was tough, let alone getting high in renown ranks. Hell even WoW in 2004 had a much, much longer 1-60 curve than what most games have today (hi Rift).

And it’s not just about time. At some point getting everything stopped being a goal and become a given. Log in and collect! Not only does everyone hit the level cap, but everyone sees all the content, effort level be damned. And again, for the Twitter-types, that’s great. They can update their status and post pictures while downing the final ‘epic’ boss of the final ‘epic’ instance (solo).

But what about those of us with more than a 5 minute attention span? What about those who found the older level of challenge just right? We spend money too, and tend to spend it for longer periods of time when given the chance. Are there countless millions of us like there are Farmville players? No. But we are out there, in the hundreds of thousands at least.

Three recent examples: In Global Agenda last night we ran our first two Ultra Max missions. The first one STOMPED us, and the second we did a little better but still got rolled by the boss. It motivated me to play the game more than anything else to this point.

Second: I’m 500+ days into my current Mount and Blade game, which is a serious length of time, and it’s not my first go-around. The mod I’m playing, Prophecy of Pendor, is tuned to be much harder than the original (Native) game. Odds are stacked against you, battles demand more tactics, and to outright win you have to do some serious long-term planning and execute that planning. Best game/mod I’ve played in YEARS.

Final, I’m still playing and loving Final Fantasy Tactics on the iPhone, and I’m still getting my ass handed to me in most battles. Re-playing a battle with a different strategy and seeing the successful results is about as good as strategy gaming gets IMO.

Returning to the MMO genre, a certain level of buy-in is required to really establish what makes an MMO tick; community and familiarity. Without those, you are playing a single-player game with horribly named ‘NPCs’ that seem to do nothing but spam chat channels and dance on the mailbox. And as these core values erode, we can see devs reacting not by trying to improve them, but by providing tools to further remove yourself from them.

Sick of random PUG groups? Screw finding a solid guild. Run a solo instance!

Can’t progress fast enough because you are playing 5 different games at the same time? Screw dedication and really digging in. Buy an XP pot!

A tough battle in your path? Don’t refine your strategy or look to improve. Just wait for the nerf!

Point being; you can only push a game towards casual so much before it stops being an MMO, for the simple fact that an MMO (traditionally) has not been a casual genre. You can’t get solid communities, buy-in, familiarity, and all the rest catering from Twitter-players. You get Farmville.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, EVE Online, Global Agenda, iPhone, Mass Media, MMO design, Mount and Blade: Warband, Rant, Rift, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Twit generation is in my MMO

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Nice rant!

    It’s not 1999 anymore, though. Or even 2004. It’s not just MMOs that are changing almost out of recognition, it’s the world. And it won’t stop because we don’t like it.

    Welcome to getting older. The good part is that however old we are there will always be someone willing to cater to our demographic until there are literally none of us left. But as you point out, when we’re talking about the kind of Virtual World MMO that we grew up with, so to speak, it’s probably a six figure market not seven or even eight so it’s the niche for us!

    • SynCaine says:

      MMOs have always been niche though. WoW was/is the outlier, but everything else that plays like an MMO is right in the six (or five) digit range.

  2. Dril says:

    I pretty much agree.

    The true joy of MMOs is that they offer absolute equality of opportunity: to get somewhere, you have to have merit and time. The *point* of MMOs is that they are *multilplayer WORLDS*, not singleplayer games. I utterly detest people who cry about their not being enough solo content in an MMO and, as such, they have to group. It’s just…stupid. It’s like buying a pure Shakesperean script and then whining that it doesn’t have enough drawings, modern language and specific stage directions. It’s like going into a movie and whining that it takes too long to watch, has too many people watching it with you and takes too much brainpower because there’s the odd polysyllabic word.

    People arguing for soloification, gamification and equality of outcome need to get a grip and realise they’re going against what an MMO really is. And don’t get me started on them whining about elitism and how the hardcore are mean to them when they themselves would openly ridicule and exclude anyone who takes an MMO half-seriously, and promptly shit all over anything that gives a nod to a more hardcore audience.

    The problem, though, is that they have the money. And game devs would rather follow the money than follow their original goal.

  3. Drew says:

    Have you thought about giving Fallen Earth a go when it’s F2P, Syn? As far as living, breathing “worlds” go in MMOs these days, it’s pretty good.

    Also, at least there’s a reasonable explanation as to why you respawn when you die. (You’re a clone.)

    Not tab-target, either.

    • SynCaine says:

      I might give FE another shot. I played it at release and it just did not grab me. The semi-aiming of the combat was odd. Either I’m aiming or I’m not, don’t go half-way.

      • Drew says:

        Yeah, it’s a bit weird in that regard – it feels like you hit where the cursor is regardless of the movement of the mob, for example. Also, there’s a dice roll in there to-hit, I believe.

        Those intracies aside, the game world itself is really what grabs me. The post-apoc setting is fresh and the humor actually makes sense (unlike, say, Paris Hilton having a cameo in WoW).

  4. Nils says:

    Nice rant. Like it ;)

  5. Phedre says:

    Thanks for that first paragraph. It annoyed to no extend as well.

    I think you are right there might just be hundreds of thousands left that want to invest in the time. Unfortunately we don’t all want to play the same game. But fortunuately there is still plenty of choice. Fallen Earth, Global Agenda, Anarchy Online, Darkfall, Ryzom, Eve Online, Vanguard, Everquest to name a few. That list is already longer than I have time to play. Each of them are worth the time if you seek out their community.

  6. Werit says:

    Seems like we’ve already passed the point of no return. I think most of the new MMo’s with any kind of budget behind them are fixing to be pretty easy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think it is sad that all the advances of computer games entertainment of the last 20 years have lead to human beings basically becoming monkeys learning to mindlessly click buttons to play a bunch of money making “apps” (I refuse to call this Zynga crap “games”).

    But then maybe this is all that the masses can cope with and the real computer games that actually require skill and thought be left to those of us that haven’t succumbed to the drivel put out by companies like Zynga.

  8. Loire says:

    I’d like to think the human population has always been this way. 90% mindless apes 8% of us who sit somewhere in the middle and the 2% of actually intelligent beings who drive the future.

    Farmville/WoW players are just our generations term for them.

  9. Azuriel says:

    “It was pretty good, for a SyFy original.”
    “Ehh… it was on Netflix streaming.”

    Feel free to rant about it, but there is nothing wrong with holding different things to different standards. I bought Kane and Lynch on Steam for $5 the other day; when I get around to playing it, the most I will expect is $5 worth of entertainment. If I bought it at full price on launch day, my expectations (and resulting determination of quality) would be considerably different. If your point is we should hold Facebook games to a higher standard… then I have to ask whether you hold indie titles to AAA standards.

    As for the Twitterification, that debate is long-settled by industry metrics: only 10-20% of games are beaten. Even 20-hour ones. I am totally with you when it comes to enjoying an epic experience, but that is an era unlikely to be coming back particularly soon. And why would it? There are enough (free) alternatives out there that the average gamer can coast along in the gaming sweet spot (no grinding, no restarting, no toiling for a win) indefinitely.

    Honestly, at this point we’re reduced to shouting “It builds character!” from our rocking chairs.

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  11. Tobold says:

    Are you even aware that your first paragraph contradicts the rest of your post? How else than by qualifying are you going to make any sensible statement about a game that only needs a 5-minute attention span?

    Short games can be good in their own category. You can only compare a short game to another short game, and a game which takes over your whole life with another lifestyle type of game. If you dismiss any game that doesn’t offer 2000 hours of content as too short without even trying it, I’m afraid you’ll soon have to stop calling yourself a gamer, because there will be nothing left for you to play.

    • SynCaine says:

      Short games can be good, sure. The short games you are talking about on Facebook are not them. “But it’s Facebook” does not change that.

      Trash is trash, whether you spend $150 for a CE edition pre-release or spend 5 minutes playing for ‘free’ on Facebook. Just like we don’t expect that $150 product to actually be 3x or so better than a ‘standard’ game, I don’t see why you lower the bar to the floor when talking about Zynga titles.

      • Tobold says:

        The short games you are talking about on Facebook are not them.

        How would you know that? From second-hand reports about Farmville, which have nothing to do whatever with how the newer Facebook games are? Did you ever try Empires & Allies or The Sims Social?

        • SynCaine says:

          Those ‘games’ are terrible, and it takes ‘just 5 minutes’ to realize that. Even EG could handle reviewing Zynga games.

          But if you are suggesting otherwise, why also add the little bit about “for a Facebook game”? If you think The Sims Social is just as good as The Sims, why not just say it? If you think Empires and Allies is just as solid as SC2 or Civ5, say it.

          You don’t because they aren’t.

  12. bonedead says:


  13. Tobold says:

    The Sims Social is just as good, or even better as The Sims in short play sessions. Empires & Allies is better than Hearts of Iron III under the same conditions, short play sessions.

    What you apparently have problems understanding is that some people prefer short play sessions, while others simply don’t have the time for anything more. Saying “for a Facebook game” is simply the same as saying “is more suited for short play sessions”, and has nothing to do with quality otherwise. Short games aren’t automatically worse, they are just shorter.

    • SynCaine says:

      I wasn’t reading “for a Facebook game” as “for a short play session only”, perhaps maybe with the hope that at some point, someone on Facebook will release something of substance.

      But if that’s the limiter, that the game in question can only be played in 5 minute chunks, ok. After all, if you only have time to type 140 characters, you might as well use twitter, right?

      • Tobold says:

        You’re confusing length with substance. Tetris is a better game than Everquest, overall.

        But I agree that if you’re waiting for Facebook to have a 2,000-hour game, you shouldn’t hold your breath.

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  19. Stubborn says:

    i see I’m quite late getting into this, but I did want to put this out there. I don’t think the time frame has anything to do with it. I can only play some on some days, but I don’t expect to be able to run solo dungeons, reach level cap in a fe days, or have epics handed to me. I’m not of the Twit(ter… I get it) generation, but I still have less time than the (I’m assuming) average player.

    I think the dividing line is much more about ego than time. Whether it’s the idea that every game should be catered to ME, or that i (I can’t capitalize that for effect, but just pretend that “I” is bigger) deserve all the epics, or that lack of other people shouldn’t stop ME from doing a dungeon, really it’s the ego we’re discussing, here.

    Impatience and inattention are symptoms of that, sure, but they aren’t the cause. MY time is valuable and I have better things to do are both ego statements, after all.

    In other words, it’s not about players not having enough time. It’s about players not having enough dedication, perseverance, and patience to work for success.

    None of this is to say that anything else in your post is “wrong” or that I disagree with your main points; I don’t. I just wouldn’t use short play times as a determining factor.

  20. Sam says:

    There are many bits of your post that I agree with, but I do feel that just buying the game and paying your monthly subscription fee is enough to warrant access to ‘all the content’. At the end of the day there is a massive base of casual gamers who want light entertainment, and simply cannot afford to do arduous Red Bull-fueled hours in front of the monitor until 5am to hit level 12.

    There is a reason MMORPG games (and hardcore players) get the piss taken out of them on the regular by society (think South Park WoW episode) – they tend to consume peoples’ lives a bit too much.

    Perhaps separate servers for the casual/hardcore players is what’s needed.

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