Is it the new balance?

For years I have had a love/hate relationship with MMO’s. I don’t have them with ANY other type of game. Just online persistent ones. On one-off games you read the review, buy, it stays the same (for the most part) you play it until it is over, and shelve it. The fact that MMO’s DO change is where the Love/hate comes in. I love the persistent world and perpetual non ending to the game. I hate some of the changes they make that impact my game. I love the community aspects of the MMOsphere. I hate the jerkoff community members of that same sphere (hate is a bad word, but for every 1 person that typically makes a community great, there are two that detract from it). I love that the games forces people of all walks of live to objective based goals. I hate that for the most part I have to rely on those same people I can’t stand to enjoy the game. Love/Hate. Wheeee.

I loved EQ, my personal MMO birthplace for the wonder and exploration. I ended up hating it for the inability to enjoy the game with friends who had more time than I did. I loved WoW for it’s ease of entry, slick gamplay, and fit in my gaming-time-lifestyle. I hated it for their self admitted inflated grind mechanics to tow along their sub fees. I loved DAOC for the RVR gameplay. I hated what they did when they tried to make it into a PVE game with ToA. Each game I have spent significant time in I can list the things I loved – and hated about it. Do you have to hate a game, as much as you love it, to keep playing it? I know that sounds silly to even ask, but why can’t the games just focus on the love, discourage the hate, and be some sort of a success? Have the developer-“geniuses” realized that if things were all good in a game, we wouldn’t play it? Do we design our reality, or “fun”, around misery and suffering? (Shameless Agent Smith Plug!)

Reading blogs and forums would lead me to believe the answer is “Yes”.

We all have the option to vote with our wallets, yet none of us do – although we threaten to often. I am guilty of this myself (not the threatening part, but the voting with my wallet.) In Politics we are apathetic and don’t vote, because we feel that our votes won’t make a difference. Is it the same with our subscription fees? I know that if I pull my $15 that there are 749,000 other people who won’t – meaning it won’t have an impact. So I might as well enjoy the parts of the game I love, and deal with the parts of the game I hate, because no one has given me an option otherwise to date.

Dear MMO developer. Make a game with the Love, leave the Hate out. I’d pay double to play it and I bet other people will too.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve voted with my wallet for a long time. When I was introduced to WoW some threeish years ago, I loved it. I played the ten day trial and didn’t touch it again until I recently did three more ten day trials for kicks and research. The game simply does not offer enough value for me to subscribe to it. (Though I’d gladly buy in if it worked like Guild Wars.) I’ve written at length about why on my blog, but the short version is that I’m a casual player, and I can’t play WoW on my terms. Of course, that’s the business side of the love/hate relationship.

    The game design side is another concern entirely. I love the art direction of WoW (though I’m no fan of the bikini of doom syndrome). I love the lore (despite some hamfisted retconning and character assassination for the sake of gameplay). I love running around the world, taking screenshots and reading story nuggets. I love figuring out how to handle mobs I’ve never seen before. I love random acts of kindness, or just silliness. (I still laugh about the cat chasing a gnome that I ran across… I needed to tame one, so I got its attention, and the gnome got a good laugh out of it.) I even love zoning out and grinding sometimes, since it’s pretty low intensity, but satisfying in a Zen sort of way. Especially if I’m skinning the beasties; it’s like a double loot hit.

    With all that, can I overlook the things I hate about the game? Certainly. Here’s the key, though… would I change them if I could? Absolutely. If the game was free to play, would I play it? Absolutely. The love outweighs the hate.

    Still, most of what I hate (mindless grinding, poor mechanics, idiotic billing) could easily be remedied. That it has not been does indeed prompt me to walk away. Put another way, the game could be easier to love. That designers are content to slog along the way they do is baffling to me.

    To answer the question, no, I don’t believe that hate is required for a game to be fantastic. I do think that the more something is loved, the more time is spent with it, and the inevitable flaws get magnified. We only find things we hate because we love so much. It’s part of an imperfect life.

    Still… games can be changed, and if designers and number monkeys could pay attention to what people really want, rather than what they want, we might start getting better games. No game will appeal to everyone, but there is a LOT of room for improvement.

    Nice article!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Tesh.

    Great points and I think we see things the same way here. To be fair I will admit that some things that I personally ‘Hate’ may be something someone else ‘Loves’. We are all different and have different wants (more importantly, NEEDS) from our gaming experiences.

    Of course, no one in their right mind can say that they ‘Love’ pointless grinds, so that is a good example that can be squarely put in the pointless ‘Hate’ side.

    You are right in your thinking for sure – developers sit around a table to design these games from the outset, and seeing what WoW has done (for all of its good) with their pointless grinds, realize those grinds buy additional development time and subscription dollars, and say “hey – we can do that too!”. So they do.

    I would like to be sitting at that table (with you for backup) and say don’t do that. Make the game fun, and people will pay to play – happily – instead of pay to play – miserably. Which pretty much sums up my MMO experience. MMO’s are my chosen games for all the good, and Love/Hate is something I haven’t been able to avoid, unfortunately.

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