We Are All Individuals

Is it time to boot stories from MMOs?

I don’t mean that I want my MMO experience to be a completely meaningless affair that’s just about gathering loot from anonymous enemies and watching numbers go up – well, any more than it is already. Rather, I’m talking about the insistence MMOs still have in trying to wedge a strong component of single-player games into their very different frameworks, regardless of how well it fits.

At the heart of this is the “personal story,” found in, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, and many others. It’s obvious why it’s there: so you’ll still feel like a hero, an individual hero, even in a game that millions of people might be playing.

But are we still buying into it? Do I still really feel that I’m having an effect on the world when I face down some big villain at the end of my personal story? A villain that my friend can come along and beat later, when he reaches that same point in his story?

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A Question Request

I’m going to be starting up something different soon, a kind of Q&A column where people ask me MMO questions and I try to provide answers. Not trivia or game advice, but more like industry questions. Think of it as a column like you see all the time on sports sites, like this one, asking about what the columnist thinks about various players, teams, or general recent hot topics.

The problem is, of course, that I don’t have any questions for my first column. That’s where I’d like you to help out. Leave me a comment asking any question about the MMO industry, and I’ll see about getting it into my first column, which will be featured on a major MMO news site. For obvious reasons, the response won’t be here, but I’ll either respond to your comment with a link once it goes live or make a follow-up post. Thanks!

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My Most-Played Games of 2013

No heavy commentary here, no “here’s what I think and why you should think it” opinions — well, OK, maybe a little bit of that. But mostly, here’s just what I played in 2013 and my mostly light opinions on it.

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What Do MMO Gamers Want?

Hoo boy, that’s a loaded question, isn’t it? The answer won’t deal with rules systems (tab-targeting vs. action combat, PvP vs. PvE, pay-to-play vs. free-to-play, themepark vs. sandbox – sort of) but with the deeper needs of MMO players, and, in fact, any gamers.

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Guild Wars 2: Night of the Dolyak

There’s no Guild Wars 2 update to announce this Tuesday? Ha! We’ll make our own…

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Fitting Square Pegs Into Round MMOs

A frequent point of debate on TWIMMO is my opinions regarding certain kinds of games. I’ve played mostly themepark, PvE-focused games not because I think they’re necessarily the best kind of MMOs out there but because they’re generally the most refined, most fitting types of experiences that the current slate of MMOs offer.

I think that an issue many new MMOs have is that they come up with one or two, possibly new and interesting concepts, and, rather than building a game around those ideas, they try to take the standard MMO framework and apply those concepts to it – and then are surprised when it doesn’t work perfectly. This is a little related to my notion that different types of games – MMOs vs. single-player RPGs vs. pen-and-paper RPGs – aren’t one in the same and shouldn’t be treated as such, but more related to entries within one genre.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

Shawn Schuster’s recent article on Massively got me thinking about why so many people who ostensibly claim to love MMOs seem to hate every single one of them. He hits upon many points in his piece, but I think he doesn’t quite go deep enough, down to the fundamental core of why there’s so much MMO hate out there – I mean besides the “I can’t understand why you like something I don’t” attitude of the Internet.

Shawn says: “I imagine that most non-MMO-playing gamers who read this site do so because they once loved an MMO and are looking for a replacement experience, or they’re intrigued by the thought of living in a virtual world with hundreds or thousands of other real people but just haven’t found the one that’s best for them.”

That comes close to the point, but I think you have to go further back than just people’s first MMO. I think the issue stems from our experiences with tabletop role-playing games and, to a lesser extent, other games. I’d guess that just about everyone over the age of 25 or so who played MMOs played Dungeons & Dragons or some other RPG at one time or another. You might have enjoyed your play group, composed of roughly three to eight people, and if someone had pitched to you the notion of doing the same thing, but in a fully 3-D computer world, with the potential to interact with thousands of people from around the globe, you’d have gladly cut off a leg to do it. (Not an arm – you need both to work the keyboard and mouse.)

As Helmuth von Moltke the Elder once (almost) said: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Or, to put it more plainly, no plan survives contact with actual human beings.

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