Suzina over at KTR posts about a couple recent gaming experiences in LOTRO. It’s a good read for several reasons, but mostly because it captures the essence of what is great about MMO’s – success and failure. I shared a snazzy yet true golf analogy in the comments section about “hooks”. MMO’s live on hooks.
Psychochild made a comment in the thread about the beauty of Suz’s post (we are tight like that where I can nickname her unashamedly.) and that those are experiences you can’t have in single player games – and my first reaction was that he was right, followed up with a “wait, is he?” The answer is yes and no. Suspense suspended after the cut.
Psycho is right that the beauty of community gaming is the shame and glory shared amongst friends and strangers. Where I felt he was wrong (and I use that term loosely – this isn’t a post to show he is wrong, but just the thoughts that compounded from his comment) is that glory and shame isn’t MMO feature specific – although in current MMO context it could be considered so.
I have been playing a bit of MLB 2K9. I am a big PC sports fan, and titles that have come out have completely stunk the past couple of years, with companies focusing on pirate-less consoles and doing weak ports to the PC. The last, best baseball game I played was EA MVP 2005. A title that is still modded and updated since pickens’ are slim for us PC sports gamers. Some are just skipping the PC altogether now. So after reading a few reviews about 2K9 I decided to give it a shot – although I have had my problems with 2k Games titles in the past. Call me waffle boy, but the joy of baseball in the summer is too much to pass up. I’ll touch upon the game itself in a different post -I should probably get back on track. This all relates in my typical roundabout way.
The glory with sports games is making your own player, often in your own likeness, and participating in the game actual while playing the game proper. I made a Pitcher, Chris F, with “decent” stats and a lot of junk pitches. I played a bunch of games, had a few wins, and a few losses. In a tight series against the evil Red Sox Nation (I play the Blue Jays, of course), it was the 8th inning and I realized not only did I have a no hitter going, but I had a perfect game on the line. I became tense. I started shaking off signs from the catcher, picking pitches I felt most comfortable with. It all fell apart with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th when Youkalis hit a line drive into left field for a single. I was genuinely excited to have had the opportunity to pitch a game like that. Even playing by myself, with a bunch of bots for teammates.
So what is the difference between that “glory” experience (which quickly turned to “shame” when I didn’t succeed) with the glory and shame of playing in an MMO? No one knew but me – where if it was a baseball MMO others would have seen my mastery of the Eephus. However, I felt just as good about it as I did downing my first t5 boss in WoW back in the day. Is there a difference? Yes there is.
The baseball game, on All Star level, actually took skill to accomplish. Sure, a little luck and some good fielding, but I had to play the game skillfully to get close to my goal. That is where the glory was – not that other people had to see it, but the near-accomplishment itself was very difficult to do.
That is what is lacking in MMO’s – skill. There isn’t a whole lot needed to play (mostly time/grind/rotation investments) and that is why MMO’s need other people to witness events to feel good (or bad) about it. The lack of skill required to MMO compared to other requirements for success in them is the void that is filled by the community when gauging success – where in a good single player experience, the skill required to succeed outweighs the community need for recognized success or failure.
That lack of challenge, of course, is to get high sub numbers to rake in cash – which is probably no suprise to those who bandy about MMO blognation.
Perhaps a challenging MMO that requires learning, patience and skill could be the next niche to fill out there.