MMORPGs Suck, And Are The Future of Gaming, Part 2

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We’re continuing from Part 1: here. We left off with my gaming friend B-Dawg reporting that:

‘Online Games have expanded the experience  beyond waiting for your friends to come over and play. Like, what’s Street Fighter without a human opponent?’

And I get where he’s going here. But honestly, Street Fighter without a human has really hard computer AI which will kill anyone, even me. I still remember playing Street Fighter II Turbo for Super Nintendo and trying to beat the game on AI difficulty level 8 without dying once, using the same character. This is before online even existed. Damn that was fun.

I’ve never found the point in playing Street Fighter with another human unless it’s in public for a pissing contest. Don’t get me wrong, I love pissing contests too 😉

And also, playing a game with your friends in the same room (on the same couch)  or simply watching someone else play and enjoying the experience with them is still really fun and something that cannot be replicated.

For some reason, replacing your friend coming over to play with online gaming is kinda like saying a sex toy replaces sex. It’s still missing a real human body… and a face you can punch if you lose.

B-Dawg moves on to a different topic (the weakest one):

‘The numbers don’t lie, there are millions of MMORPG players! There must be some draw. When I tell you a possible reason why, you get bitchy.’

I don’t think I was ever bitchy. I think he’s missing the point. There are millions of people playing poker and slots machines in online casinos. I personally don’t enjoy that. That doesn’t mean I should understand why it should be fun or satisfying for me. Or why real, normal casinos should feel dead (I love Vegas!).

‘You’re the game-designer! Instead of denying something you don’t comprehend, why don’t you try effing absorbing it for one minute and make a Better MMORPG.’

I see we’re switching to and from topics here. But let’s reiterate that I don’t want to make a MMORPG.

Asking me to make an MMORPG is like asking Stephen King to write a children’s story involving bunny rabbits and gumdrops.

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While I’m sure King could do a kick-ass bunny story (and I probably could manage a pretty decent MMORPG). I wouldn’t enjoy it myself (unless it fixed the major design flaws all MMORPGs have right now), so my heart wouldn’t be in it… kinda betraying the player, really.

There are millions of romance novels sold every day too. That doesn’t mean I’m suited to writing romance novels. I’m not going to design barbie games either. (Voltron or GI Joe games however…) 🙂

Perhaps online games simply have some emotional affection* on its players? This caught B-Dawg’s attention:

‘I agree, it does have an affection, that’s what I was trying to figure out.’

This affection is something weird. I remember casually dismissing MMORPGs to a teenage kid in the Czech Republic. He went effing apestuff defending WoW like it was his own mother. Come to think of it, more than his own mother if I recall…

I never  completely dismissed his B-Dawg’s original statement (‘I love the feeling of being connected online. Offline/console games feel dead’). The first sentence I agreed with. But he ruined it with ‘Playing a console game feels dead.’ I’m still in the middle of enjoying Dragon Quest IX and Pokemon Pearl (yes, I know… Pokemon) on the DS. Both offline.

He relented a bit here and waxed:

‘That’s the best way I could describe it, an affection. However, even to me, no online game can compete with Final Fantasy VII, because it had a beginning and an end to the story. It closed the loop, so to speak.’

‘But the fact remains I enjoy playing with other players, maybe it my competitive nature, but I feel “connected” when logged on.’

‘… There just haven’t been any good stories in a while.  I don’t know.’

‘But more and more games are being made for online multiplayer, theres a reason why and that’s what I was referring to. The trend will continue…’

No arguments there. It’s great to play against people without inviting them over (just not in an MMORPG). 100% agree for many other types of games (puzzle games come to mind). Sometimes the sex toy is all you need.

Yet, you should keep in mind that games are also going the other direction. Lucasarts sudden interest in Monkey Island and the success TellTale games is interesting.

‘Meh, I dunno. Monkey island was a moneymaker and as Hollywood constantly shows us, companies would rather go with tried and true.’

Moneymaker? Perhaps. Monkey Island represents graphic adventures and good story telling in games. Lucasarts stopped making graphic adventures (and games with elaborate stories) altogether because they stopped making money (as a Developer. As a Publisher/Licensor of other titles like KOTOR, this is obviously not the case).

TellTale became a huge success. And they are solely making episodic graphic adventure games with good stories.

Lucasarts pumps out a bunch of Star Wars games.

Lucasarts wonders ‘maybe making only Star Wars games isn’t the best course of action?’

Lucasarts joins TellTale by remaking Monkey Island: Special Edition and licensing the Monkey Island series for them to make an Episodic set of sequels.

Gamers rejoiced.

‘One last point, as I think more on it… I think people want to be special. And how are you special? By being the best in an online game!’

My mom said I was special. That’s all I need 😉

In all seriousness, online gaming is the future, there is no way around it. But online MMORPGs have a two very major design flaw fixes before they become as satisfying and truly entertaining (to folks like me) as an offline RPG. That is:

Having a modular world which is affected by everybody’s all of the players’ actions and an over-arching storyline in which the game and story can in essence be completed.

Both of these problems  seem extremely huge in scope. Without resorting to a full-time story writing team which would constantly be expanding the story in near real-time (which is a cool idea), it would be difficult even to come up with fresh and new ideas in a world filled with other Hero’s constantly running into one another. The closest automated story-telling (or interactive story-telling) by far is the Storytron (formerly Erasmatazz) by Chris Crawford, found here: http://www.storytron.com/

Chris Crawford may be a nut, and may not have released a game since the Atari days, but dismissing the ideas he put forth in his game design books would be silly. He knew that interactive story-telling would be really important someday, and he is already leaps and bounds beyond anyone else.

The second design flaw…. well… Implementing the interactive story into an online world, and then handing out tasks/quests, and then having those tasks affect the world in which the players are playing is, well… difficult. I have no idea what  to do about that, yet 🙂

*Using the archaic definition of the word affection:
The act or process of affecting or being affected.
• a condition of disease : an affection of the skin.
• a mental state; an emotion.
— we’re nerds like that
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