Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Over the edge

Spinks is excited about the Mirkwood expansion for LotRO, specifically the solo dungeons called skirmishes. She dreams of a MMORPG future in which people have soloable, scaling dungeons, with NPC henchmen fixing the obvious problems of class balance. You'd never have to rely on another player again to advance in the game! I think that would be an absolute nightmare, a step too far in progressing solofication of MMORPGs. A step too far and over the edge into a completely different genre, the MSORPG, massively single-player online role-playing game, and into ultimate failure.

Jean-Paul Sartre in the existentialist play "No Exit" says that "Hell is other people", and apparently a large number of MMO players agree. Other players are constantly being blamed for everything anyone thinks is wrong with MMORPGs. Players are blamed for ganking in PvP, wiping raids in PvE, being morons in the player-based economy, and even for ruining other MMORPGs and game companies by not adequately valueing them. So why would remove player interaction not be a good idea? Because suddenly we wouldn't have all these stories, neither the positive ones of challenges overcome with the help of our friends, nor the negative ones cited above, and our games would quickly become boring. A rant about a ninja-looting scumbag makes a good story, but who would be interested in how you beat some dungeon with the help of NPCs?

Why do you think players are willing to run the same dungeons many times in a game like World of Warcraft, but consider to be done with a single-player RPG after having played it through once? People consider it perfectly normal to do the same raid several nights a week for several weeks in a MMORPG, but I do not think that there would be many people interested to play single-player dungeons with NPC support at that rhythm. The participation of other people in a raid makes all the difference, even if that participation sometimes leads to a less than optimal outcome.

Personally I think that already World of Warcraft, in the leveling part, overdoes soloing, and makes forming groups not sufficiently attractive. Apparently Blizzard agrees to some extent, which explains the upcoming cross-server dungeons and improved LFG features of patch 3.3 (rumored for a planned release next week). I believe that players not always really know what they want, and can end up severely disappointed when getting exactly what they asked for. And I do think that even greater soloability in MMORPGs is exactly such a case. People would rejoice when such a game came out, buy it, play it for a month, and quit it. It has always been said that people keep playing a MMORPG even past the point where they enjoy it because of "their friends". A MSORPG, a game in which meeting strangers and turning them into new friends is completely unnecessary, would implode within weeks.

In a time and age where companies can make millions with cheap games extremely lacking in gameplay features, but being rich in social interaction on Facebook, it would be ironic if on the other side the MMO genre abandoned its roots and removed social interactions. I can't see people paying a monthly fee for a MSORPG very long.

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