Day-one mastery

Keen has a nice post about why he is finding current-day MMOs lacking, especially in immersion. I think what Keen writes is something many (most?) MMO players feel, whether they actually know it or not. A major issue with MMOs cloning WoW is that today, everyone is already really good at WoW, and so a major chunk of ‘content’ (learning the game) is instantly missing from whatever AAA MMO you load up.

This is a major reason why, despite having access, I only played GW2 a tiny bit during the first BWE event; just enough to know the game was decent-enough to play with INQ and my wife. Because while GW2 is set to cure all MMO woes, it does so in very familiar fashion. You are still mashing a hotbar, you are still going from lower level zones to higher, still collecting ever-increasing gear, and you still have an end-game where you bash people/doors/npcs until… well until you are bored (or for a small subset, until your server sits at the top).

The details of all of the above is what will make GW2 interesting, and there will be some changes thrown in (ooh, dodge), but learning those will take minutes rather than years, and because this is a mass-market game, the learning will be terrible accessible and dummy-proof.

The ride itself will undoubtedly be pretty, it will have some ‘ooh neat’ moments, and the time spent with it will be entertaining. But I have absolutely no doubts that GW2 will not be immersive. It won’t be something that sucks you in and challenges you on that level for months if not years. It won’t be the land of unique MMO stories, where a year after release we are reading about how a small group of players just discovered a new way of doing… anyway. And all of that is 100% fine, so long as you go in with reasonable expectations. I fear many are not, but what can you do.

Back to the larger point; in the days of the big three, immersion worked not only because no one really knew this MMO thing, but because each game had little in common with the other two. Simply put UO did not play or work like EQ1 in any way, and what AC-DT was doing was also completely different. If you put UO next to EQ and added up the similarities, and did the same for WoW and GW2, which total would be higher? And by how much?

On top of this, figuring each game out took longer, mostly thanks to the games being less accessible and the ‘how this works’ never being officially explained. This lead to information being posted elsewhere, but at that time half of what you read was still wrong. Today not only can you get every system explained to you on one site, but that one site is almost certainly accurate. If today I want to know the absolute best build for a GW2 character, I’m only one Google search away.

As always, the current-day exception to this is EVE. The lack of accessibility in EVE means you are left to figure many things out either on your own or in your group. The wealth of options means that while you can master one aspect, there are dozens of unrelated things you know nothing about. A great null-sec pilot is a noob in WH space, for instance, and to truly become a master of everything not only requires a massive amount of time, it’s also very, very optional. You would have to force yourself to jump from area to area of the game frequently just to experience it all, and that’s not very realistic for a variety of reasons.

What EVE loses by those dropping off before the first month due to the complexity it makes up for (and then some) from those who are 4 year vets and still have things to learn. The PvP-based nature of EVE also means that not only will that 4 year vet have game systems to learn; he will constantly be adjusting his gameplay due to other players and shifting tactics.

It would be difficult for a new MMO to replicate the complexity and depth of EVE on launch day, simply because unlike WoW, EVE has actually been expanding (rather than replacing) its content over the years. But while it would be unrealistic to expect years of complexity on day one, more than a month is not asking too much, is it?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Asheron's Call, beta, EQ2, EVE Online, Guild Wars, Inquisition Clan, MMO design, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Day-one mastery

  1. Anonymous says:

    hi I like MMOs but most of them are too hard, what are you saying? Wow and runescape are the only ones worth playing, everything else is unfamiliar and hard to play because it’s not wow but a more complex and difficult remaking of it

    dont even talk about EVE, only supergenius russians can play that, and all the games coming up are too hard compared to wow. there aren’t any other good games to play because its all too hard and I dont know how to play them

  2. Pingback: Embracing the knowledge gap « Gaming for Introverts

  3. kalex716 says:

    My rule of thumb is simple.

    I’m not buying or spending money on another MMO with a quest hub of a typical kind ever again. Its not a system i want to “game” in any longer.

  4. bhagpuss says:

    I was about to comment but then The Secret World finished patching…


  5. Shadow says:

    “Keen has a nice post…”

    My brain just exploded.

  6. bhagpuss says:

    Back in a brief out-take from TSW. Keen’s post is interesting indeed and I just had a lengthy discussion on the topic with Mrs Bhagpuss.

    My thoughts:

    1. MMOs are the equivalent of a good tv show, movie or novel. A good one can chime in a way that resonates for a very long time, but you can’t come to every one expecting that to happen. If and when it does, count yourself lucky. Otherwise, just be glad it entertained you for as long as it lasted.

    2. You can only have any experience for the first time once. Some experiences improve with repetition, some deteriorate. Not everyone agrees which is which.

    3. Yes, UO, EQ, AC and all were unbelievably intense, immersive, amazing experiences when we encountered them all those years ago. If you could wipe the slate clean and start over in 2012, though, would you *really* rather have your first encounter with MMOs there or in, just to pick a name at random, GW2? Do you really think a brand new MMO virgin starting on the 28th of August would get more out of an exact replica server of 1997 UO or 1999 EQ than he or she would get from 2012 GW2?

    4. All this angst is fear of aging/fear of death. Getting older sucks. I’m more sanguine about it only because I’ve had longer to get used to the idea. If I was in my 30s I’d be as pissed off as you are.

    Now pardon me while I return to TSW, another not-that-different post-WoW theme park MMO in which I am having one hell of a good time.

  7. Lyss says:

    You cant compare everquest uo and the likes to standards of today. you have to differentiate (?) between the things which sucked and needed to be improved and things which have been pseudo improved and never sucked in the first place.

    I played WoW for a long time and one thing which really sucked at the beginning was the griffin taxi system, namely the part where you have to hop off every station, buy the next Ticket get in the air rince repeat until your at the end point (the quest with linken was hell). This got improved and after the patch i still had long flight routes but I could tab out look something up or grab me something to drink in the kitchen etc.

    It was a good improvement because theese flights were meant to be automatic. It never bugged me that I have to be at my keyboard if i had to or wanted to ride/walk somewhere. It never bugged me that the ways in between towns/Instances etc where long and i had to fly fpr 10 minutes or ride/walk even longer. Because the first problem was a bad design decision which made no real sense and was annoying for the player, the second could be annoying for the player but made sense in an immersive way.

    My Point is, most players are expecting theese pseudo quality of life improvements like townportals in wow for example or for something even uglier the fucking dungeon finder system, with ports and such things. Thats one thing why you cant expect players to put up with old games and the ways in which they where made.

    the second thing, more to the point of accesability, just because something is thouroughly explained and accesible doesnt make it dumb. For a non online game, take chess for example, rules are simple, you can buy hundreds of books on good strategies for every situation and still its not a dumb game.

    It doesnt kill my immersion if I can read all mechanics online and have them explained to me buy theorycrafting elitists on day one because they have figured out that stuff in the beta. What does kill my immersion is when its dumb.

    When there is nothing to explain, nothing I can spend time to read, or choose to ignore to explore the mechanics myself. In the non dumb game i still have to execute all things perfectly, in an open world game i could know how the crafting wiorks which wood i have to chop from which tree to build arrows and a bow, i still have to do it, and then i still have to aim shoot and kill something.

    what bugs me the most are games which, as a frined of mine said to me as he was quitting wow two years ago, insult my intelligence as a gamer. Games in which I cant do something exciting, something challenging entertaining or interesting not because I have read up on all infos but because the geme expects me to be dumb as a bag of rocks.

    I would happily play the next themepark if they had an interesting setting and story going on, if there are interesting things to do aside from fucking point collecting for the next best armor.

    so of course you could build a game, and make a national secret out of the mechanics fpor the first x months, but I think what makes a real good game is its ability to keep you invested even if you have figured out most of its mechanics.

    As for eve, even if I knew all things there are regarding pvp from the beginning of my career, it would still be very entertaining to blast the shit out of others by executing all strategies I know. Its not what I know its the fact that the game forces me to put my knowledgeto good use, which keeps me gaming.

    this and voice acting, nothing says good game as the german voice of doug heffernan as your jedi master.

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