WAR is not a good MMO

But it is an amazing GAME.

Okay, so the title was intentionally sensationalist, but that doesn’t mean my point is wrong. I want you to reread the title of this post, and that first line again.

When I think of what an MMO is, or is supposed to be, I think of a virtual world. An electronic location created with rules and systems in place that continues in motion regardless of my participation. A series of interconnected systems that influences one another to create a place where players LIVE a second life. This is a topic that has been getting bandied about the last few months by some well-known bloggers as well as some industry people, and various other folk.

The gaming genres were historically broken into very distinct and separate categories. RPGs had levels, stats, character progression, classes (black wizard anyone?), and lots of dialog. Shooters were first-person view, with all the gore they could muster, and roaming monsters that begged the player to blow them into juicy meat-morsels. Except now, we’re seeing a bleed across genre lines. Dead space was gory (and scary) as hell, but there were methods of leveling up, and progression, as well as numerical stats to follow. FPSs are going the same way. Every modern FPS game in the last couple years have had progression elements, with different kits, or jobs, and ranks that unlock new gadgets, weapons, or peripherals. The same bleed is happening with MMOs.

While the term MMO used to be synonymous with “virtual world” that is no longer the case. Looking to games like Guild Wars, Global Agenda, and yes, even WAR, we see that what is commonly called an MMO is not also a world. Most of those listed games are good GAMES, but it’s important to keep in mind, that is what they are. When coming to them, you shouldn’t walk into them expecting a world. Even some games that have created a world, aren’t interacted with in that way. EQ2 and WoW are great examples of this, to various extents. The practice of playing WoW is very much the same reality as playing another RPG, only with a longer view in mind. You follow a path, and obtain goals, defeating bosses. Elements from other genres are being called in where developers find them appropriate. Battlegrounds for PvP are matches like an FPS. Matchmaking systems are a tool that you see across almost every ranked player competitive games.

When Raph interpreted Dusty Monk’s message as such:

He’s describing a future where the market has retreated away from MMOs themselves, from their intrinsic nature, because the market couldn’t crack the problem.

He’s accurate in a round about way as I see it. The term MMO, by definition of its letters, means “Massively Multiplayer Online”. Two of those words are objective, one is subjective, ‘Massively’ being the odd-man out. So for a game to qualify to be called an MMO, it needs to be multiplayer and online first and foremost, then you get to quibble over whether it’s massive or not, and that goes into a whole slew of  qualifiers and quantifiers. The Diablo games could easily be called ‘MMO’, the makers of Guild Wars have even said they don’t consider their game an ‘MMO’, yet the moniker persists. It’s because of the perception of what an MMO actually is, no longer matches what they started out as. Ultima Online, Everquest, and some of the others were worlds, the market sense then has skewed strongly towards games, and I don’t see that changing.

So, when I say “WAR is not a good MMO”, what I’m REALLY saying is, “WAR is not a good virtual world”. That doesn’t make it bad game, because as a game, I love it. It’s got a lot of the things I look for in online gaming: competition, progression, personal persistence, community. However, I don’t fool myself into thinking that what I’m playing is a world. What I play is a series of connected arenas and battle-royales, with some side games and a safety box if I need a break. I absolutely believe that to be worth the subscription fee, because those arenas and a side games a lot of fun, but I don’t expect my participation in those portions of the game to have any long-lasting impact. Because WAR is just a game.

About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

8 Responses to WAR is not a good MMO

  1. Zwingli says:

    Thank you for the thoughts. Interesting read.

    I had a friend leave WAR because he just loved exploring the world but had no way to find competitive gear by interacting with the world. Also, he gets frustrated with ‘MMO worlds’ because he finds out that there is nothing his behavior does to impact or change them.

    These were never my reasons for playing as I never had the traditional MMO view you are describing.

    Just a question for you. Have you tried defining MMO in context of leaving out just one letter and listing examples.

    e.g. Name 5 Massively Multiplayer offline games. Name 5 Massively single-player Online games. Name 5 non-massively Multiplayer Online games.

    Thanks again, Zwingli from Iron Rock

  2. Krymaiustai says:

    Great post, will now visit site on a regular basis 😀

  3. And now my dreams are shattered.

    Just kidding. Interesting thought though, and extremely true.

  4. Xyris says:

    You’re right in a lot of ways. UO started us out with a dream of setting up a second reality. Your online avatar had a true footprint in the virtual world. The goods you crafted and sold and even your house and possessions stayed present in the world even after you logged out. The experience you got out of the game was in direct correlation to the amount of time your invested into it.

    Modern games like WAR, or even PvE-centric ones like LotRO, now cater to a more immediate sense of returns. You can log in, get a quick fix for an hour, and then log out with a sense of accomplishing some progression while being highly entertained. At the same time, your impact on the world is ephemeral. Like building a sand castle on the shore, any actions you take one day will be completely washed away by the next. There is literally nothing you can do to leave a footprint behind.

    Is that change bad? Do we need second homes in the virtual world, or are a few hours’ entertainment a better goal? I suppose it’s a matter of opinion. I started my love of MMOs back with UO when I was in college and had all the time in the world. These days I’m in my mid-30s and more rooted down by the adult responsibilities of family and home and I find that the quick in-and-out mentality of more recent MMOs better suits my needs.

    • Shadow says:

      I whole heartedly agree, especially with the last bit. I just hit 29, and have the job, wife, kid, mortgage, and all the other wonderful responsibilities that come with age, which means a much smaller amount of play-time. In no way do I see one type of game as having more worth than the other, merely a difference of what they are. That said, I still WANT to play the type of game where my actions leave behidn some kind of imprint, maybe that’s why I’ve been playing Eve a lot more of late when I do have free time.

  5. theerivs says:

    I beg to differ, as I was leveling up there was a great world to explore in WAR. I had a sense of growing ever powerful with more armor I got. There are times I sit in the Chaos Wastes alone, and see the wind whip by, and marvel.

    I think the world is there in WAR if you want it. People just don’t want it.

    • Shadow says:

      The world you explored in WAR while leveling, is the exact same world that is there now. That’s a painting, or more accurately, the backdrop to a stage. Changes to how we play in the world have come, but the world itself is still mostly the same world we saw two years ago at launch. We have an additional zone in land of the dead, that is gated, and seperate, and we a new instance.

      I’m not saying these in negative ways, because I don’t believe the game was designed to be a “virtual world”. It’s a game, first and foremost, and that’s the design element that drives it before any other I think.

  6. Pingback: Panorama « Shadow-war

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