The failures of modern day MMOs

The failures of modern day MMOs

This post kicked off my return to classic everquest on the Project 1999 server. Read about my exploits and the server in my ongoing series. Part one: My Return to an Old Classic and part two: The Saga Continues Part 2: My Return To EverQuest (Project 1999)

By many measures modern day gaming and MMOs are doing quite well but something is amiss.  Quite regularly I see discussion online that something is off, that something is missing.  There has been an increasing trend in years to make things easier on the player.  Easier to find a group, easier to manage your quests easier to rise to the top by eliminating competition with things like the ever increasing use of instances.  At first glance these things would seem like a major improvement.  Anyone who played EverQuest back in the late 90’s early 2000’s will remember long ques, to the order of hours sometimes, to get a group in placed like High Keep, Karnors, and so on. However, these ques were the product of something very important.  Forced long term social behavior and cooperation.

By requiring players to spend days worth of time in the same general area by limiting the number of “zones” available for progression at any given level there is ample opportunity to be continually social with others at their point of progression.  You begin to recognize each other and slowly develop friendships and cooperation. Further, not only are people spending prolonged time in certain areas before moving on but the game play was much much more conducive to socialization.  In most modern MMO’s people fill up their quest log and work their way down the list. People will sometimes identify others working on the same quest they are currently pursuing and team up for a few minutes only to immediately disband once the present task is done.  Further, you seem to always be on the move.  In original EverQuest players utilized “camps” where they would set up in a relatively safe location and utilize the skills of specific classes to”pull” mobs to the camp to be killed.  This meant that most players were able to focus on more than just moving and killing allowing for socialization and longer term cooperation. This is typically not possible in today’s games through the use of “tethering” or locking the mobs within a small range of their spawn point.  Given the more zoneless nature of modern MMOs tethering would likely be necessary at this point but the ranges need to be significantly expanded.  Players need to be able to camp a location and pull to it to afford the organization and time necessary for better socialization.

In early MMO’s players had to coordinate in huge numbers to accomplish the higher end events and raids.  While raid groups were used for coordination there was actually no limit to the number of players that could join a specific raid in the early days of everquest.  This afforded the opportunity to play with the somewhat silly, but often effective zerg rush strategy. This was employed by an amusing guild on the server I played on named “Third Wave Go”.  Over time the number of players that can coordinate on any given event has gradually been reduced across all games.  This built upon the other aspects of the game that forced more social interaction and utilized these wider player networks to coordinate for what felt like truly epic tasks.

Finally for now, as briefly mentioned at the start of this article, competition seems to be slowly degrading over time.  This is largely a result of instances. In early MMOs the only instances that existed were the different servers and this lead to some amazing interactions.  Intense competition would form around the limited in game resources.  Players would compete over named spawns, groups would compete over the best camps, guilds would compete over raid content and progression.  This resulted in amazing player managed solutions often based around rotations. Players would get angry and try to sabotage eachother sometimes resorting to “accidentally” running a train through their competitions camp in an effort to break morale and cause the group to disband and give up their claim to the desirable camp. Often this could be frustrating for the plays when on the losing end of a confrontation but when the group would pull together and overcome the odds and win a fight that was severely stacked against you the feeling of reward that you would experience was like nothing else in gaming.

I will try to expand on this in future posts but I think that this gets the gist across.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

What are the big differences between todays MMO’s and the games of yesteryear that you would change and why?

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edit: shortly after writing this I joined the P1999 Classic Everquest community and wrote an article about it. If the sentiment expressed in this article rings true for you consider taking a look at my other article/the server and joining us.  It is a blast! http://lofalexandria.blogspot.com/2012/12/my-return-to-old-classic.html

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