Spoon Fed - The "New" Generation of MMORPGs
By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Journalist
The last couple of years we have seen many games take the more casual route, and as a hardcore gamer, I can’t say I am really happy with that. Let’s just take a look over at for example Dead Space; it is a great game, and the first game in this franchise was definitely a game to shake me awake in the middle of the night. Recently the third game saw the end of the tunnel and I must say I am disappointed, not because the game is terrible no not at all, I really found the game fun, but what happened to the horror of the game? Sure many of you would argue with the fact that the first one is also not really that scary, but I at least had some terrifying moments. But the MMORPG genre takes an even worse route…
And mainly from what I’ve seen, it is mainly the browser MMO’s that I have seen these new mechanics added. I cannot really understand the reasoning behind this but I just cannot believe that anyone can actually find this fun. Let’s get to the point, a few days ago I was again reminded that some game publishers are either not doing their jobs right or do not put their heart behind the game because the players are literally spoon fed the game objectives. It starts off in the tutorial: you have this big flashy arrow showing you what to click in order for you to go to the next step. And there is absolutely no way in hell that you will miss these arrows, because they will actually give you a headache after a while. But this is just something minor compared to the other points that I want to discuss. A lot of MMORPG’s and mainly the ones made by Asian companies actually don’t want you to do anything anymore. What happened to playing the game and finding everything out by yourself? More and more often I just see game mechanics that will automatically walk you to the next objective. You don’t even have to read the quests anymore. All you do is click on one line of text, and your character is on its way to whatever you have to do.
And to add the cherry on the cake, it sometimes even automatically attacks these monsters for you. I just cannot understand why these mechanics are implemented. What is the point in playing the game if you actually do nothing? Sure you can say, quit rambling about this and just do everything manually, but what is the point in that if the rest of the people are able to do something faster by clicking on one line of text.
I am an old school gamer. I have played games since I had my NES, and I must say when we picked up a new game we went into it blindly. Sometimes you literally had to read the instruction manual just to understand how to get started. The first Mario was just a weird plumber being able to run and jump around and that’s it. Sure it was simple, but most games taught you to search around, find how it works on your own and that actually taught my generation something, or perhaps it spoiled it. When I think of all the games ten or twenty years ago, they all let you mind your own business, and find everything on your own. As games evolved, they became smarter with their development to the point that titles like Megaman X would force you to learn certain skills to progress in a dynamic fashion that made perfect sense but still forced you to think. Yet lately only indie devs seem to follow this school of thought. Where is the openness to explore and think things through in these newer titles? We even have sandbox games launching that tell you what to do. It’s just absurd.
Props to egoraptor on explaining the way games need to be made again
Perhaps as I’ve said, I might be spoiled. The current era of gamers want everything spoon fed because that’s the kind of world they’ve grown up in. Sure I am not that old yet thankfully, and I haven’t got any grey hairs yet, but I just cannot understand how the direction of gaming changed so suddenly. The new handheld way of handing out achievements for instance really irks me. Back in the day we just figured everything out, and the reward was that final eureka moment when it would just click. Nowadays all the information you need to gain an achievement is right out in the open for you to read and start working towards. What is the point of earning that ribbon if you knew it was coming the whole time and just grinded for it? I actually prefer to avoid looking into the achievement list in games like World of Warcraft now so that it can still be somewhat of a surprise when I suddenly hit one of these achievements. I want to explore, I want to discover, I don’t want to get handed money to buy candy, I want to earn it and understand the value of it. Does the current generation of rising gamers really look at this process in a different light?
But I’d like to get back to the automatic combat systems I touched on earlier. What is the reasoning behind this? Sure, on the surface it sounds useful if you like to gain levels when you are too busy to play, but we in the real world just call that lazy. Imagine telling your grandfather that you won a football match while you sat on the bench because you didn’t feel like playing that day. How can you feel a sense of achievement for something like that? The same applies to games. It’s hard to get that sense of level-up achievement when it happens while you’re at the store buying cookies.
While on the topic of leveling I have to state that the leveling curve introduced by many newer MMORPGs is just awfully implemented. Most of the time when I try out a new game and am done in the tutorial, I am already level 20 when I have played the game for only ten minutes. What is up with that? Hey let’s get these new players a walk in the park for the first few minutes of the game so they will enjoy the game more. What actually is the thought process for of pushing players to 1/4th of the max level in the first ten minutes of playtime? Do they think the rush of constant levels will give them that rush to look in the cash shop and make a purchase before they realize the title has no real content and move on?
The last thing I want to touch on that brings this entire rant full circle is the growing laziness of developers. In many games and mostly the Asian ones yet again, I see the same textures, buildings, and area types recycled and repeated with slight reskins that in no way disguise the obvious. We all know how loosely copyright infringement is enforced in some eastern countries, but is this an excuse to not be innovative? Sure I am talking about most of the minor Asian games that most of you probably never played, but when I take a look at the major ones, and even the MMOFPS games I see a lot of resemblances as well. Thankfully it feels players are finally getting tired of supporting these types of games and causing them to shut down quickly or I’m sure investors would be all for cutting corners on the major titles in the interest of increased profits.
Personally, these frustrations are usually a huge letdown when I see them in any game that I try out. I am not too sure if I am just spoiled or the new generation of today’s gamers just don’t know any better, but I miss the challenge that games used to give me back in the day. I don’t want to gain an achievement when I kill a monster ten times, hell no. I want to explore things, heck even try to find a bug that lets you access special places before you’re allowed to. And I most certainly don’t want to play something that looks like I have seen it before. Unfortunately we have seen this lazy attitude, and copying of features subtly leak into the bigger gaming studios as well. Every time I see an unknown game get popular, it gets made more casual with each patch and update to continually ‘appeal’ to a larger audience. In the end I’m sure most of the indie studios would follow suit when a large suitcase of money is thrown their way because most developers in the MMORPG field seem to have had the passion sucked out of them over the last decade of gaming. And without passion, the principles that made the genre fun and successful early on will never survive into the realm of the AAA titles of today before selling out.