Are you having fun?

The title of this post is often the measure people use to determine if an MMO is doing things right.  But it is a horrible measure.

I could be playing World of Warcraft right now.  And I would be having fun doing it.  I enjoyed playing the game.  I liked running in to town and getting some quests and then running out of town to polish them off.  The wife and I liked playing together, and we built our characters so that we could do so.  However, despite that, I became acutely aware that the one thing I love most about MMOs was missing in my WoW time and that was community.

Having come from loving EQ where chatting was the norm, where I would regularly simultaneously hold conversations in group, guild, shout, ooc, and a handful of private tells, going to a game where chatting was a hurdle, where the game was “active” enough that my hands didn’t have the time to chat unless I stopped playing, and the world advancing to voice chat (which I loathe because I cannot simultaneously chat in as many areas as I can text chat, I get locked in to one server where I can’t just say “Hi!” to a random stranger) lead to a fairly silent gaming experience.  Without community, without other people, WoW, like EQ, is actually a really simple and sort of soulless game.

So, realizing this, I decided to stop paying Blizzard for a game I was enjoying but was lacking features I desired.  And by doing this, I joined the minority.  The fact is, most people would prefer to pay for a game they find moderately satisfying than to save their money, play nothing, and wait for a game that fits better to come along.

11 million people can’t be wrong.

That’s the battle cry of people justifying why WoW is a great game even if it isn’t exactly the game they want to play.  They’ll also tell you that if enough people want change then change will happen.  Only, it’s not that easy.

Would you like to play a classless levelless MMO set in a zombie apocalypse?  I would.  However, I can’t.  I want change, and it is possible that there are 40 million people in the world who would like to play the same game, but we can’t until someone builds it.  No amount of demanding is going to get Blizzard to drop classes or levels from WoW, or to replace all the monsters with zombies.  Nor get Sony to change EQ2, or even to get the Fallen Earth folks to re-envision their game.  Once a game is built, change within that game is limited.

In conjunction with the video I posted on Monday, I’ve come to realize that most MMOs are going through the motions.  They copy WoW and make minor changes in an attempt to lure away people and maybe become the new king of the hill.  Even games that strive to be different from WoW still end up cloning their style of combat (the kind that’s too active for community to exist unless the players stop playing to chat) and becoming a game that I can have fun playing but is still missing what I want most from games.

I don’t think the industry needs to be wiped clean like Wolfshead, but it has become clear that I need to seek out more games, perhaps smaller games, and find designs that aren’t following the WoW path to money hats in order to find the game I really want to play.  I’m open to suggestions…

4 comments

  1. Tesh says:

    I always recommend Puzzle Pirates…

    I don’t really look for a gaming home, though. I play all sorts of games, and look forward to finishing almost as much as I do starting. MMOs with their “perpetual now” just aren’t satisfying to me; the only thing that changes is your numbers and social circle. That’s not worth the commitment or the subscription to me. I see games more like books; I consume them then move on, sometimes rereading an old favorite. A game that is more like a second marriage just doesn’t interest me.

    Oh, and if you like zombies, you could try Sonny and Sonny 2, a couple of zombie RPGs by Armor Games.

    • Jason says:

      I’m a Puzzle Pirates player… but that is also a fairly unsocial game.

      I like zombies as a setting, I have no desire to be a zombie. Sonny, from the few minutes I played while my boss wasn’t looking, appears to be about being a zombie.

      I’ve also got very little interest in single player games. I want to play with other people.

  2. Tesh says:

    PP is one I recommend more for the different design and relatively balanced approach to monetization. The sociality, as always, tends to depend on finding a good group of regulars to play with. I’m not sure we can get around that in the MMO space. 🙁

    Aye, Sonny is about being a zombie… an atypical zombie, but still a zombie.

    I read somewhere that there was a studio working on a zombie MMO… Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires has asked for that for a while now. Erm… yeah, it’s these guys:

    http://www.destructoid.com/jeff-strain-talks-undead-labs-and-its-console-zombie-mmo-155866.phtml
    http://www.joystiq.com/2009/11/23/undead-labs-creating-zombie-mmo-for-consoles/

    That’s for consoles, though.

    • Jason says:

      Yeah, I’ve got my hopes up for that… and it being console doesn’t bother me at all since as it is the only games I play on PC are MMOs. Everything else console is my first choice.

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