Note: Everything in the following article will be entirely subjective, with me merely stating my opinion on the matter.
What do those three letters represent nowadays? How can you call a game a MMO? This prefix, which lets recall means Massively Multiplayer Online, has been used indiscriminately in the recent years, and recent games that are eligible for its employment have not always helped restore its image. Again this is only my personal opinion, but for me a MMO is a game that is characterized primarily by three elements.
Its universe is, as we call it, persistent. This means that if you disconnect it continues to evolve without you, but it also means that your actions have an impact on the environment of other players and vice versa. Ideally, while not exactly a requirement, a persistent universe at its best would be capable of having the players progress on a single server (or at least one server per region). And while there have been, and will be, successful games that took the risk and went through with it, unfortunately, very few try to stand up to the challenge, resorting to multiple servers and dozens of channels, often with reason.
Beyond the technical issues, such as latency and/or graphics performance, poor estimation accounts of the surplus of players leads to other inconveniences. Most of you must have experienced the ordeal of overpopulated quest zones, with dozens, if not more, or players waiting to complete a quest objective. Speaking of launch, let’s not forget that the sudden influx of players on a server often causes crashes and connection issues. Except that it’s not always from a lack of means or erroneous forecasts. MMO publishers are well aware that all their players are not constantly going to find themselves in these launch crowds, except maybe in a few places, such as hubs. Therefore, they are more focused on managing small groups, and phasing reinforces this aspect.
If these “solutions” do improve individual experience or even those of small teams, we lose something that was (and still is for some, EVE Online, for example) the charm of the MMO genre, taking part in the immense activities involving a big fat part of the community. It should also be noted that the network infrastructure is expensive, and not only to initial cost. This remains the element that was most degraded over the years, as a result of cost, certainly, but also the casualization of the MMO community and the diversification of offers. Indeed, if your players tend to flit between different games and are only connected for short periods at specific times, why keep a model that was the basis for dedicated loyal hardcore gamers? This ends up causing awkward situations, such as the use of VPNs for the high level content of Final Fantasy XIV.
Another characteristic element of a MMO is character progression, or more commonly known as leveling. This is more a characteristic of the RPG genre that we now find systematically in MMOs, albeit under other forms other than earning experience to level up. Constantly improving your character is beyond a feature, it is a goal. For if our character does not have the required level and/or the right equipment, it gets difficult to explore the content of the game. What I regret at this point is that very few games have truly innovated in this aspect. In the end, whatever the form (Skyforge’s Ascension Atlas, for example), it always comes to a system of bashing/questing to acquire more experience points or whatever is used to gain levels or improve your stats/equipment. Once that is done, we are left having to complete PvE (dungeon raids, world bosses) or PvP (arenas, guild wars) objectives to obtain even better equipment.
Because obtaining gear is only the itemization of the leveling system. When your character can no longer improve by itself, what can be done to become even stronger? Find better yourself weapon/armor. And even when you do obtain them, it is not over yet. Just like your character, the pieces of equipment can be upgraded to earn better stats, as well as new abilities. Sometimes at the risk, especially in the Asian Games, of completely destroying the item you worked hard (something that can, of course, with a few credit card swipes). I should add that I have nothing against the basic form of itemization (borderline P2W options aside), quite the contrary, since it rhymes with rich content. If game developers and publishers want to keep the players in this way, they are forced to create content. Personally, what ruins my experience personally is the leveling itself. Maybe I’ve played too many MMOs and grew out of it somehow, but I’m tired of having to walk through the road to the max level, which is unfortunately always the same.
The worst part is that as you level, you run through a universe that has clearly taken a lot of work, sometimes being extremely detailed, be it the graphics of the lore. But since they can’t truly do much in the game until they’ve reached this dreaded max level, very few players are interested in exploring and learning more about the game. Frankly, I’d rather have a game where I am propelled directly to the final content, but an important content that promotes the game more. Speaking of which, this is also something that has been gradually lost over the years: group play. The leveling and the gaming scenario put forward the solitary playstyle.
I regret this loss of the community aspect. I still remember the many hours spent jumping or walking backwards like an idiot, doing nothing else but talking with members of my guild, my contacts, or just random people in area/global chats. You’ve guessed it, the third element that defines a MMO for me is (granted somewhat linked to the persistent universe element) the community. This concept of community should be within the meaning of the acronym anyway. At one time some bickered about whether Guild Wars, first of the name, was a MMO or just a cooperative online game. It would be good to get this debate back to the minds of game designers. Strengthening this aspect will also prevent constant deterioration of the relations between players. I can not count the number of times I have seen players steal the objective of a quest, while it would have only taken a few clicks to form a group and accomplish it. I can hardly expect a “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” from them.
I will not be one of those to say “it was better before,” but this particular aspect was really fun. There are many changes in the MMO category that I like, but the genre has not really changed, I would rather say that it was content to adapt.
How about you? What defines a MMO for you?
Content retrieved from: http://2p.com/40654250_1/What-Defines-A-MMO-For-You-by-AnotherInfinity.htm.