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Lucie
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PostSubject: The Emasculation of MMOs    Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:38 pm


Ail sent me this article today. I found it rather intersting and spot on.

Quote :
The Emasculation of MMOs


Finally...as a friend of mine says:


Something has changed about the MMO experience in the past six
years. Chances are you probably haven’t even noticed it but you can
probably feel it just the same. MMO critics and veteran players all
suspect there is something amiss with today’s MMOs but can’t quite put
their finger on it.


Part of the answer to this riddle may be that the intentions, goals
and objectives of MMO companies have changed from being primarily about
creating a world of adventure to creating an amusement park. MMOs have
become all about delivering short bursts of “fun”. Making sure you the
player is entertained at every moment has become the holy grail of game
design.


Design based on delivering instant gratification for the masses has
replaced a philosophy of hard won satisfaction gleaned from the rigors
and challenges of survival in a dangerous virtual world. This change of
design focus has fundamentally altered the MMO experience for the worse.


So how did this happen?






From Fun to Adventure and Back Again

To learn the answer and to establish a point of reference, we need
to take a time machine back to eleven years ago when MMOs like Ultima
Online and EverQuest rocked the video game industry to its core. These
new multi-player online games unexpectedly raised the stakes to new
levels. No longer was a video game all about having fun and amusement.
It was something deeper, visceral, engaging and transcendent; an
experience within a world.


As I look back on my 4 year stint with EverQuest it is clear to me
now that was never about the pursuit of fun. It became my passion and my
hobby. It took every skill I had to survive and advance in a world
beset with danger, mystery and hardship. The rewards of adventure is
adventure itself. And that was enough for me.





Adventure is for Adults

First we need to rediscover why we are here and why we even care about MMOs and virtual worlds.


But, let’s examine what adventure means. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word adventure as:


1 a : an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks b
: the encountering of risks

2 : an exciting or remarkable experience


I daresay the majority of people who enter MMOs today would prefer
to be immersed in a virtual world of adventure than deposited into a
theme park of amusement and fun if offered the choice. Sadly, that
choice is not available in today’s market. Instead the player just
follows along the predetermined storyline that the quest designers lay
out in front of them. Never questioning, never deviating from the golden
path.


Real adventure is not scripted, nor is real heroism. When you really
stop to think about it, there is something noble and worthwhile about
adventure as great deeds and experiences beyond our imagination are
possible even if experienced virtually. More importantly, these
accomplishments and experiences are our own — not the property of the
quest designer.


When one thinks of the memorable feats throughout history, mythology
and literature it’s hard to think that any of those heroes had were
motivated by the desire for self-gratification otherwise known as “fun”.
To heed the call of adventure means to put oneself at great risk and to
make sacrifices for some greater good or cause. Frodo and Sam’s quest
to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom was not motivated by
fun. Instead they were motivated and inspired by a selfless sense of
duty and honor.









Fun is For Children

My problem with using fun as a criteria for designing MMOs is that
unlike adventure it lacks the potential to transport the player to a
place beyond mere self-gratification. Experiencing fun for its own sake
is shallow, meaningless and lacks purpose and possibility.


The production of fun in a video game is all about inducing a sense
of unearned euphoria and delight within the player. It’s all about
creating highs but with no commensurate lows. It’s a violation of the
basic law of the universe that says there can be no pleasure without
pain, no light without darkness, no harvest without planting, no reward
without risk.


So let’s look at a definition for the word fun:


1 : what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech

2 : a mood for finding or making amusement


There is a chasm of difference between the definition of fun and the
definition of adventure. Once you consider the full impact of both
words you start to get hints at why things have gone terribly wrong for
those of us that desire a deeper, more mature MMO experience.


Both pursuits seem to be characteristic of different levels of
maturity. While fun can be experienced by grown adults, it’s something
that is more appropriately aimed at children and teenagers. Contrast
that with the notion of adventure which is often thrust upon both
willing and unwilling adults.


There’s also big gap in the level of seriousness of both pursuits.
Fun is seen as lighthearted amusement while adventure is seen as more
sober and solemn endeavor fraught with danger and risk. Even the idea of
a quest which has become a major building block of today’s MMOs seems
more at home with the concept of adventure than fun. Nobody goes on a
quest to amuse themselves.










How Adventure Got Replaced by Fun

The MMO experience that kept us playing for hours on the edge of our
chairs got replaced in a bait and switch scheme concocted by a new
breed of MMO companies like Blizzard. We showed up in worlds like
Azeroth looking for adventure and instead were fed a banquet of
mechanics designed to appeal to a wider demographic. MMOs at their
inception were much more then just a series of fun mechanics haphazardly
sewn together; they were created by people with a consistent and
cohesive vision for a world — not a game.


Eventually the notion of a world gave way to the game and the sense
of adventure gave way to simplistic fun as the quest for more
subscribers and more profits became the overriding design philosophy.


Despite the fact that Blizzard could not have made WoW if there was
no EverQuest (their own words from the EverCracked documentary) WoW is
in no way a spiritual successor to EverQuest.


Blizzard has a clear track record of making successful video games.
This is their true nature. The battle plan for the World of Warcraft was
to make a fun game disguised as a MMO. Let’s be honest here, the
“world” part of World of Warcraft is window dressing and was never taken
seriously or given proper respect.


Making a game is far less lofty process than making a virtual world.
When you create a game it absolves the creators of the higher
responsibility inherent in creating a world. Tolkien created a world,
Blizzard created a game.








Video Games Have Helped Create A Culture of Perpetual Adolescence

I’ve thought a lot about what has happened to MMOs lately. Some of the conclusions I’ve arrived at are not pleasant to consider.


There is something unseemly about the pursuit of fun by grown
adults. As a MMO veteran of 11 years, this is not what I signed up for.
Part this problem is societal and a reflection of the pervasiveness of
our youth culture where people today just refuse to grow up — aided and
abetted by their enablers in the entertainment industry. Somehow the
purpose of life has been reduced to finding ways to endlessly amuse
oneself. Regrettably, our generation seems to be trapped in a culture of
perpetual adolescence.





Concluding Thoughts

I am under no illusions that that many may fail to appreciate the
subtle and not so subtle distinctions between the notions of fun and
adventure. I understand too that the average MMO player has quite
different expectations than what was typical 10 years ago.


Players today want to log on and experience a concentrated blast of
shock and awe in their limited play session time. They want it all and
they want it now. Everyone expects to be treated like hero without
having done anything heroic and companies like Blizzard are only too
happy to placate them.


While I was a video game designer, I always held the creation of fun
(for the player) as the highest virtue. Keeping children and teenagers
amused by my scripting was the number one priority of my craft. But fun
should not be the exclusive mission statement for all MMOs. Instead of A
Theory of Fun for Game Design we need A Theory of Adventure for MMO
Design.


MMOs like WoW are more game than they are a virtual world. The World
part of “World of Warcraft” has been more of a marketing gimmick than a
legitimate passion of the Blizzard developers. It’s clear these guys
are gamers first and foremost. They see MMOs through the primitive prism
of fun and coolness. Virtual worlds are too experimental and
metaphysical for them as Blizzard Lead Designer Jeff Kaplan has stated
on numerous occasions.


The true culprit that blocks the pathway leading to real adventure
via MMOs is the confining notion of a “game”. Since the highest virtue
in a video game is the production of fun, the end result will always be
World of Warcraft. The intrinsic limitations inherent in video games are
not expansive enough to allow for the greater virtues of virtual worlds
such as freedom, ownership, community and of course adventure to
blossom. This is why I am so unceasingly critical of Blizzard; they have
single-handedly gutted the meaning, purpose and end goals of the MMO
experience. Instead of going forward, we’ve gone backwards.


Until the Blizzard design and goal philosophies are exposed,
ridiculed and made obsolete by an innovative MMO company who is serious
about creating a genuine platform for virtual adventure, we will be
forever stuck spinning our wheels playing mere games.


-Wolfshead

















In memory of Shuyan, wherever you are.
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Ishandris
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PostSubject: Re: The Emasculation of MMOs    Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:48 am


Parts of that article voiced my own thoughts that I didn't even know I had. Very interesting, I wish all MMO-designers would read this and heed.
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Lucie
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PostSubject: Re: The Emasculation of MMOs    Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:56 am


Yeah, I feel in many ways it put words on the way I feel about WoW and FFXI, and I guess games in general. And gave an explanation why I never found that feeling of getting lost in a world that I had in XI in other games after that, or why WoW angers me so much despite the fact I actually enjoy playing it.







In memory of Shuyan, wherever you are.
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Sywen

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PostSubject: Re: The Emasculation of MMOs    Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:12 am


indeed.. spot on





Qui se ipse laudat, cito derisorem invenit
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Neige
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PostSubject: Re: The Emasculation of MMOs    Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:40 am


I wouldn't know the difference. I never managed to play any of the more serious MMOs.





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