Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Does an MMORPG need to Tedious to Be Good?

Logging into Guild Wars again was interesting. Beautiful crisp graphics with no lag. Fabulous responsive combat. I have to admit I was tempted to put lotro aside for a while and jump back in. I won't though but I had to think for a bit to understand why.

First off I must explain that Guild Wars is one of the best PVP games out there but I amn't really into PVP. Nevertheless Guild Wars also has a truly terrific story based PVE game. If you haven't played the game recently you would be truly amazed at how the game has developed to make life convenient for players. You can fast travel anywhere for free. Total respecs are free. You can change to a new secondary class at will (for free). Missions can typically be completed in about an hour and if you can't get human companions you can bring npc henchmen and heroes instead.

Why then is the game not as immersive and compelling as a traditional full blown MMORPG?

One reason is that the world does not have as many frills as a full blown MMORPG, things like trade skills, auction houses and NPC banter. Another reason is the instanced nature of the world which makes Guild Wars a very lonely place outside of towns.

I have to wonder though how much the very factors which make the game so convenient also devalue the game experience. The ease of getting characters to maximum level and convenience of changing their specification has diminished my feelings of empathy for those characters.

In a previous (long) post I talked about how traditional MMORPGS artificially create value by making things very hard or very tedious to get. I was going to distinguish between hard and tedious, suggesting that developers could add in hard content that wasn't tedious as a way to overcome this dilemma. On reflection I realise that the nature of these games is such that hard content just becomes tedious because the way to overcome it is to spend lots and lots of time trying it over and over again.

Does this mean that MMORPGS must always have tedium? I hope not. I hope that someone figures out a way to square the circle and create a world with the convenience of Guild Wars and the richness of Lotro.

I think that the much heralded advent of new ways of paying for game content will force game developers to confront this dilemma and hopefully come up with creative solutions. After all the real money transfer market for MMORPGs is all about people buying convenience. The question remains as to how much that convenience damages the game experience?

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