Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Descartes, damn you!

Second post of the day. Not good. People will now ignore the first one. *thinking*. I am not here to grind commenters. Stupid!

First I'd like to document an idea so that I don't forget it: What about making CC (crowd control) a small minigame. Isn't it a pity that it is fire and forget at the moment?

Now to the unrelated main topic:
Am I kiddin' myself? Honestly, maybe I don't even want a MMORPG to be immersive or credible, or consistent or 'worldy' or fallout-like or whatever. Maybe I am a bit fatuous? I mean: I still play WoW. For the 6th (?) year in a row with some breaks, of course.

You know, if you have a blog that is about game design, but is mostly known for championing 'immersion' in MMORPGs, you are quite prone to stop having any doubts. After all I have a stake in this. This is not good.

Perhaps I actually love the LFD in WoW, would hate any travel without teleports and couldn't stand organizing a group to do any group content. One thing in my defense would be that I actually played and liked classic WoW. But Cataclysm wasn't available back then, so this argument reaches only so far.

I tried EVE online, but didn't like the UI, didn't like the RMT and didn't like the CPP mechanic. And that was enough to leave it? Come on! How many things do you claim to not like about WoW?

I tried Dawntide beta. Great concept, no money. Still have it installed. Discussed a lot in the forums. Some over there claimed that I was a WoW fanboy. Mmmh. I don't play Dawntide. The character animations were terrible.

I haven't even bothered to install Minecraft! The current showpiece of sandbox design. Why? Don't like the graphics. No, that is not shallow, I just don't have enough time to play all these ... indie projects.

I never tested A Tale in the Desert, even though it is a pretty good sandbox game as far as I know. But it doesn't offer combat and I am too simple minded to enjoy a game that is about architecture. I am the kind of guy who couldn't tell you the difference between New York and London unless the Eiffel Tower was in front of his eyes. I just don't care very much about how things look. .. What did I just say about Minecraft?

I tried Warhammer. Warhammer had relatively epic battles, server identity, I certainly had some fun for a month. Before I left, I wrote a forum rant that this game cannot have any future, because there was no endgame. I turned out to be correct, didn't I?

I stopped playing Age of Conan even before I reached max level, because I couldn't stand the monster grind at high levels. They all looked the same. But I sure would have loved original Everquest ...
Also the whole PvP was totally unbalanced and RvR was not working back then. Graphics were nice. I got a headache from the unimmersive light-show animations. Yeah! Clearly not immersive enough! Ha ha!

Life's hard sometimes. I should probably discuss more in the Dawntide forums to explain to these people that skill based character progression systems may be more immersive, but turn out to be too hard to balance.

Sometimes I get comments by people who are even more pro-immersion than I am. I am actually very serious about the "A MMORPG has to be as immersive, credible and consistent as possible and as little as necessary."

Trying to defend myself:
I like computer games. I liked Tetris, Super Mario, Duke Nukem, Doom, Quake, Sim City, Civilisation,...

I loved Counter Strike for the relentless realism. Most people don't often think about it, but Counter Strike is one of the most successful computer games ever. And it is a realism* approach par excellence!
Before Counter Strike, what do you think how those game studios had reacted to your proposal: "Headshots kill players instantly"? Well, Counter Strike made them stop laughing! Of course, that is not the reason for the popularity. The reason is the gameplay. But Counter Strike uses gameplay mechanics that allow the credibility, consistency and immersion to make it even better, doesn't it?

When discussing MMORPGs and thinking about the world vs. gameplay aspects I basically hope that someone manages to make a game like Counter Strike: Very immersive, convincing, credible, consistent and great gameplay inspired by these values!

*'realism' is a special case that is very consistent, credibile and immersive. I usually try to avoid the word, as people instantly come up with the 'fireballs aren't realistic, either' statement.


  1. Just a suggestion.

    You may want to start reading the Sugar Free Gamer and see if PBeM wargames appeal to you.

    While I don't think you will stop playing MMO's, I believe they may satisfy one of your cravings.

    Good luck!

  2. I more or less agree with you… again… which is slightly troubling. :p

    I want an immersive game. The problem is I also want a game I’m not required to play every day to keep pace with. It is very hard to combine the two. EverQuest was immersive. I don’t know if I can ever fully explain how immersed in the game I was… I was addicted because of this immersion. So the next paragraph is a bit of a long time secret…

    I honestly had dreams that I WAS my character. It was because; to me at least, Norrath was a place I could visit. I could imagine myself being there, experiencing what my character felt. I was an Iksar for a very long time. I understood the social and political struggles my character had to endure at being an outcast and a member of a fallen civilization. No game has ever recreated that for me. Even after I switched to a High Elf Enchanter I still identified myself as an Iksar while playing. Luckily I could turn into one as an Enchanter.

    I don’t know all the reasons why this happened. I think part of it was that the game relied so much on the community to compensate for the lack of certain game features, no LFD and limited LFG functions, no auction house. The game was hard and the punishments were severe so we huddled together in numbers, that whole misery loves company thing. Our hardships bonded us. I also think a major boon to the system was that it was first person view.

    The problem is I don’t think I will ever be able to play a game like this again. The reason is that it won’t be designed for someone who can only play 2-3 hours a night, and not every night. I gave Darkfall a try and it was probably the closest to the EQ community I had found, but I didn’t have the time to commit to the game.

  3. I do think you lose lots of credibility admitting that you STILL play WoW :) . Hey but at least your a honest about it.

    I? -I dont play any mmo more than 2-3 months anymore. I saw it all before so many times I shudder at how little originality there are in mainstream MMOs. At same time I see some great ideas and even decent implementations in obscure little mmos no one plays anymore

    For example combat system in PotBS, great atmosphere in fallen earth, wow remade to open world standards in UOWOW emu, or great open world in dark and light

    Dawntide is just empty shell with some ideas somewhere in the background but no implementation whatsoever ( I mean u cant just throw some poorly made models with no animation into generic landscape and call it an MMO). Ideas are dime a dozen...

    I dont know if CS would be a good example. It is completely different genres after all. If I had to start somewhere -it would be UO. Everyone who thinks about virtual worlds should familiarize themselves of how actually old UO worked and broad areas of activities it provided ( you still can not do half the stuff in modern MMOs you could do in UO). Then maybe look at old SWG crafting system.

    No one in the world ever done pvp right in large scale so there is nowhere to look frankly , but DaoC is something which could give some real example of a game where world pvp actually happened

  4. Epiny, thanks for sharing a secret ;)
    Well, I don't know if I want a game to be that immersive. And such things don't even work without outside factors supporting it.

    About the time thing. Yes - big problem. I, too, have problems immersing myself into any game during monday-friday. Would be great if you could forget the job for a while, but even then there are too many things you need to take crae off, because you couldn't take care while on the job. A few hours are not enough to really enjoy an immersive game.

    But there are still weekends and vacations and other .. ways to win back your freedom - if only temporarily :)
    And then there is still retirement. I know I won't pick flowers like my grandparents and I am really happy about it. (They always seemed a bit bored).

  5. Max, I never kept it a secret that I play WoW. In fact, most of this blog is actually about WoW. That is not even bad, because WoW is the most influencial MMO on the market.

    What is intereesting is the reason I play WoW, I think. I play it after work for the raid. That is a fun, social thing. I also like the occasional battleground. Great gameplay. Leveling up in Cataclysm was a fun single player game. It's not a virtual world and I'd like to play a polished virtual world and I will stop playing WoW the moment a good virtual world is released. But right now there isn't any.

    Acknowledging the strengths of WoW is very important and even though I may sometimes appear like a WoW-hater. I am not. As I wrote before, Good criticism differentiates.

    The kind of WoW bashing that goes on in some parts of the blogosphere is a mistake. Firstly, because it doesn't help. Secondly, because it is even wrong.

    If you don't understand the success of WoW, what chance is there that you understand how to make an even better game ?

    MMO Developers must not ignore WoW as some 'coincidence without explanation'. There are reasons WoW is successful and you'd better know them before you make a new game.

    Of course, as wrong as it is to neglect WoW without understanding it, as wrong is it to clone it without understanding it!


    The reason I consider Counterstrike to be such an important example, is that it really is the paragon of heavy-immersion games that are successful.

    When I first played it I scratched my head in disblieve. There was a game that was almost 100% designed for realism and still one of the most successful of its kind. And it then turned out to be one of the most successful games ever!

    Usually, when you talk to game studios you will be met with doubt and sarcasm if you propose to make a game more credible, logically consistent, let alone more realistic. People fear that gameplay will suffer. And they rightly fear so!

    But Counterstrike has proven that this is not necessarily the case. You can make a very immersive game, add just a few gameplay rules and be successful. And not although it is immersive, but because it is.

  6. Descartes Comedy!!!