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#7954021 Jun 08, 2013 at 08:43 PM
13 Posts
Firstly, interesting points in this thread earlier.

I would also say that I did find several things in the original article, that I disagree with.

The opening chapter discusses about "perpetual newness" and "constantly evolving" nature of the multiplayer online games - while not being exactly sure which games are classified as "multiplayer online games", if speaking of the MMORPG variety, one could actually argue quite strongly regarding this "perpetual newness".

While in fact in many games, the genre, the gameplay, the presentation, and the gamers themselves are really rooted strongly and stuck into the historical baggage of the whole genre. The early conventions, habits and the way the games work and are "to be played" formed by the pre-graphical era MUD's, then further on by Ultima Online - and the 3d-world variants, EverQuest, Asheron's Call and Dark Age of Camelot - a few others were right around the corner by that time, that deserve a mention - such as Anarchy Online and Star Wars: Galaxies. Many of those titles that launch date was well over a decade ago, are still alive and online.

I wished to emphasise these early pioneers in setting up the genre, because World of Warcraft, that we all know of, mostly solidified the good things - it did what any good brand builder would do, take all the good things from the competitors, make them slightly better, avoid the pitfalls and bad things - and make the gameplay experience fluid, fun, engaging, and so on.

It should be stressed here, that from innovation point of view WoW didn't do that much, it did a great thing to improve many inadequate parts in many previous games, enhance many things - and most importantly, bring the whole MMORPG genre to the standing of mainstream gaming.

But the original question of "perpetual newness" and "constantly evolving" - I have seen very little actual evolving since the MMORPG's over decade ago. Yes there are fully voice-overed quests, yes there are lots of quests, yes there are even more quests. The gameplay of most modern games is fun, you follow a "path" of quests to advance, there is very little "grinding", there almost no "camping" at all - very short wait times if at all, lots of action, and so on. Those evolvements are of course good things, though it has made some of the games feel bit like "running through a pipeline" instead of an "open world to explore and adventure" - but still personally I don't see those things as really evolving the genre in groundbreaking way, more polishing the gameplay to make it more action and fun and less waiting and timesink.

However, many of the game mechanics are very similar as it was in Everquest, in the end of the 1990's. Is this true evolving and innovative game-design? .. I would dare to say no. Many modern players compare each new MMORPG to WoW, and often on the forums and social media rise the uproars like "it's just a WoW copy", and then always the replies that "WoW was just an EQ copy".

The game designers seem to have played their bets very safe, and it has also made the fact clear that some newer MMORPG games only have the first big wave of players last for a couple months, when the first big hit of attrition hits, that people are like "we've seen this already, in WoW [or insert another game here]" .. and they just don't feel like playing the same kind of game over and over again.. yet many of the game designers make just those kind of games.

But also the gamers are to fault.

I did play the Secret World last year, and that was interesting game, because it could allow people to make really interesting combinations of skills and create their own "class" quite flexibly - and not be limited to the usual "architypes". But, I ran across many people even quite forcefully arguing that "to say that there is no holy trinity [meaning a tank + healer + dps], is nonsense".

So the game actually would give all the tools and flexibility for the players to solve the given challenges in very creative ways, if someone would just step up and start to create innovative strategies, but many very loud voices in the community argued that this opportunity for new innovative ways to solve the challenges is non-existing, and the only way to solve the challenges in the game is the way that they have been solved since the era of the MUD's.

So my conclusion is that the games truly haven't changed that much in over 10 years, but also many of the gamers and players themselves are very strongly - even so strongly rooted in the tradition, that they're willing to take part in heated arguement to defend that the tradition is the only way.

My opinion is that the "perpetual newness" and "constantly evolving" are more bit of glitter on the top, and beneath the shiny surface remains a big beast that hasn't changed much in a long time.

They are bottom-line oriented

This I do agree quite much with. I think various ways of showing the status, having competitive systems, ranks, titles, unlocked tiers of appearance that can be just visually recognised even at a glance - all those things are in the heart of the MMORPG's and having one-self measured in this way, and compared against the rest of the community is something of core workings of the social gameplay of these type of games - without this kind of nature of the community where one could have themselves assessed in this way, the games could just as well be single player games. Also I agree with the point that in communities like gaming guilds and such, the assessment works both ways, and leaders do get their skills assessed by their guild too, a bad leader wouldn't have a vibrant guild around them for a long time - it does work very naturally - but that kind of thing isn't in my opinion just a priviledge of a gaming community, but same kind of things could be applied to many pasttime or hobby community or group of people, not just computer games or MMORPGs.

They understand the power of diversity

This I would strongly disagree with. Most often the players do understand only one way to solve a problem, and it requires in their mindset very specific "skills" (as in few selected classes in MMORPG game or such) and all the others outside that are deadweight, and will hinder solving the problem. See my earlier arguement about "the holy trinity".

Many players are very reluctant to think outside of the box, many don't vouch for diversity, but in fact they wish to just be part of teams where there are selected members who have the "useful talents" - and diverse talents are seen as something non-desired.

This could be many times seen in games where you had to try to search a group to tackle a dungeon or a party quest - there often were just few classes that are in high demand, such as healers - and sometimes tanks, and many of the "rest" of the classes are considered DPS (damage), and people rarely even care about their finer set of talents, but just see them as "fillers".

So, my personal arguement would be that many gamers are short sighted when it comes to power of diversity, many are unwilling to really think of creative solutions, but are relying in the tradition of "how things always were done", and many don't like to experiment or try to do things in new ways.

They thrive on change

This was already argued in earlier post on this thread in similar ways... that i am on borderline disagreeing with this too. Especially in the MMORPG games many people get very upset when the underlying game mechanics are changed into some direction. Also in many games - i would strongly disagree that the players and guilds would actually transform the game world (in MMORPG games that is) .. there have been very few games in the history of MMORPG's where the players had any kind of power to truly change the gameworld, and that the game being a sandbox in that way.. Star Wars: Galaxies had steps into that direction, and EVE Online probably has strong elements like that, but many of the games in the World of Warcraft sense have very stagnant and non-changing world, that the players are mere actors upon and their actions have very little change into the world itself.

Also see my earlier points about "tradition", many gamers are in fact very much more conservative than this point in the article argues. Many are seeking to do things just the way they were "always done", and in that sense change isn't even in their vocabulary. Many did learn their ropes in World of Warcraft, and still a good group even in games before that - and many of those players are employing just the ways of playing the game in any new MMORPG that they set their foot upon, and doing things in same way as they have always done.

They see learning as fun

This can be somewhat true, I think - but also it has to be said, that when it comes to "learning how to overcome the obstacles", many gamers nowadays just seek the solution to the puzzle or obstacle in online resource, be it various wiki's, Youtube videos, gaming websites or quest or item databases - and once you found the solution or walkthrough, you will just go through the content in most efficient way as possible.

Of course this is a way of learning too, someone posted a tutorial, you got information from the tutorial and then you put it in use. But people many times generally are lazy to actually try to solve the problems themselves. But as said, learning is learning, no matter how it happens, if you find the solution to problem by yourself, or if you search for resources where someone shows you how the problem can be solved, and learning in both ways can be fun, I guess if it wasn't fun people wouldn't play the games in the first place.

But to argue that the game itself would create situations that people learn from the situations themselves and learn to solve future problems or obstacles - I would argue that it's very small minority group of gamers who do actually solve the problems, and then spread the knowledge how the problem can be solved, and then some do create tutorials, walkthroughs and youtube videos of solving the problem, and vast majority will study the solutions and just mimic it. Learning it is still, but not learning to solve the problems yourself, only learning to seek the answers with Google. :)

They marinate on the "edge"

With all the points I argued before, I think to say that "gamers explore radical alternatives and innovative strategies for completing tasks, quests and challenges", is something I disagree highly with. I think most gamers are willing to go with the widely known solution, not wanting to think outside the box, and just do things how the things were always done. Many seek the answers online from the various resources as I argued in my previous point, and it's very small group of individual gamers who actually do create alternative, creative ways to solve problems or puzzles in these games. This has only even been emphasized to this direction with the growth of wiki's, social media and youtube videos, that didn't exist around a decade ago, when the best source to find information how to solve certain problems in games often were the relevant discussion forum to that game.

Also the arguement that players would reconstruct their character to try something new - is in my opinion quite invalid. I would dare to argue that big majority of the gaming community will seek the information to create the "optimal build" for their playing style from these various resources, the forums, the class guides, the build databases that list builds that others have made - and often the community does come to certain consensus that at certain given time one (or a few) build is the "best build", and many players do end up just copying that build for their character.

It is very rare and small group of players who are willing to do actual "theorycrafting" as is said, to learn the mechanics behind the numbers, and to try out various builds, to test them - many times with combat log analyzers (programs that analyze numbers form the combat log file that the game produces and give comprehensive statistical analysis from that - that you can try out different builds and skills with and see the statistical effect) - but often it's also so that these theorycrafters are the ones who will find - often with comprehensive testing - the optimized builds.. often to end up a min-maxed character (useless skills are minimized and the desires skills are maxed out as high as possible).

I would dare to say that this kind of gamer that wishes to "marinate on the edge" does exist, but they are very rare ones, who wish to actually spend time testing, conducting research, try out new things, and discover ideas for a new (often more effective) build. The vast majority is and will be happy to just pick up the "flavour of the month" build from the forums or some other resource, and will be more than happy to game with that.

I must admit that my arguements were very much based in the MMORPG world - these points might be slightly different in some other genre of multiplayer online games - so that does leave them open to debate. :)
Game-based learning enthusiast, virtual learning environments creator, and an avid MMORPG player
#7954546 Jun 08, 2013 at 11:52 PM
110 Posts
Absolutely. The problem seem to come in when I interpret something one way, and the "higher ups" interpret it differently. This is probably just something that goes with the territory, but I've found it to be quite frustrating to have official standards that are actually really vague.
#7954611 Jun 09, 2013 at 12:06 AM
110 Posts
@Case Dirval
I think you make some good points. The "follow the leader" and having certain accepted ways of doing things is something I was thinking about as well, but I don't think it came across as well in my first post. One of the thing that frustrates me about "gamers" is the idea that there's one "right" or "best" way, and all others are worthless. In game design we call this the "golden path", and it's usually considered something to avoid (although very, very difficult to avoid entirely). I don't really like guides/walkthoughs, because it's too easy to fall into the trap of just doing things the same way as everyone else (they are nice when you're really stuck).

It's hard for game designers/publishers, because gamers like what they're comfortable with. Many games have failed (or got a lot of bad press) because they had non-standard elements that gamers couldn't adapt to. A lot of "gamers" rail against any game that isn't what they like, as though making games for other people somehow devalues games as a whole.

I think some of the most fun I had in WoW was doing things in non-standard ways. I occasionally ran instances with all DPS classes (at an appropriate levels for that instance). It was challenging and required a very different strategy, but it was also more fun. Trying to find four other people willing to try this was almost impossible though.
#7954899 Jun 09, 2013 at 01:43 AM
13 Posts

Very true words there.

I think this idea of having just one "right" or "best" way does apply to many other walks of life too, not just games and gamers. Also, thinking outside the box, creativity and innovation are things that allow one to see opportunities, possibilities and new chances where others see impossible. The "mainstream crowd" will never even wish to tread there, as they are more happy doing things in the comfort zone, doing things how they were "always done", doing things in the "easy way", and not feeling comfortable with truly exploring new ideas.

I do believe that there are creative and innovative people amongst gamers, like there are amongst other groups of people too. But also there are many "mainstream" kind of people, who are happy to stay in the certain comfort zone, also within the gamers. And I would guess that the mainstream people do actually make the big bulk of gamers too - this is why ... just like you said, blueAppaloosa, the game designers and publishers have hard time, to actually not make the games boldly too different and too far from the norm, but actually wish to financially too play it safe, and offer the gamers the usual and well known "same old". :)

There are almost exhausting many World War II FPS games on the market, nowadays though that seems to have shifted into the "modern warfare" genre.. then the "WoW clone" MMORPG's.. and many other genres similar. I did actually love the Secret World, as in MMORPG genre, because it really offered things like you wrote, that there were possibilities for "crazy" combinations, like solving challenges with only DPS players, or solving challenges with "strange" combination of classes.. crowd control, DPS, off-tanks, and so on. But lots of the players were so stuck in the only model of doing things, that they never wished to even open up their mind to accept these new ideas.. I am sure there are some heated forum threads in the Secret World forums regarding the "holy trinity" arguement too.

I think there would be lots of room - also in learning point of view - to actually, if not literally force, but at least gently nudge people into more creative problem solving in games, and not just repeat few actually not so complicated patterns. But that would really leave many open questions in the game design side first - and also require daring enough designers and publishers. These days it seems though that the whole indie game movement could actually show way for the bigger publishers too, bit out of the usual "comfort zone" ideas, and more into exploring things that could be even wildly different, and that there are gamers who really would play a game that the publishers never envisioned - MineCraft could probably be a prime example, I'd guess that if anyone would have pitched that for a board of executives, it might have been sacked for not being yet another World War shooter, and that "no-one would like to play a giant sandbox like that, which has no goals at all". :)
Game-based learning enthusiast, virtual learning environments creator, and an avid MMORPG player