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The Problem with Multiplayer? Those Damned Other Players!
by Simon Ludgate on 12/17/11 09:00:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


I've been playing and studying massively multiplayer online role playing games for a long time. I find them fascinating, especially from the perspective of a game designed to be played by so many thousands of players simultaneously. I find them fascinating from a business perspective, especially in the microtransaction sense. But I also find them fascinating from a social perspective: all those people playing together, interacting, competing, grouping... and potentially building alternate personalities and histories.

Part of me still clings to the romance of the MMORPG, the kind of tale told in .hack or 1/2 prince or Sword Art Online. No, not the whole "die in game, die in real life" nonsense, but the sense of such a deep immersion in the game fantasy that characters can establish reputations beyond statistical game mechanics. The online worlds in these tales, where powerful high level characters are few and far between couldn't be more different from real MMOs like World of Warcraft, inhabited almost exclusively by max-level characters decked out in various tiers of epic gear.

I sometimes wonder what it would take to make that romance a reality. Would the game have to be designed to be slower, with more emphasis on the "game" rather than the "end-game?" That romantic feeling was a lot more alive in Asheron's Call, where players could engage in "end-game" style activities long before they reached the technical level cap, and when players did reach the technical level cap, it was raised. Unlike World of Warcraft, where "leveling" is just some annoying tutorial before the real game starts, Asheron's Call allowed and even embraced level variance.

Part of this came down to the core system of how the game treats levels. In WoW, Rift, and EQ, and even good old pencil and paper Dungeons and Dragons, the difference in level between character and monster plays a mathematical role in determining the success of an action between the two. In D&D 4th edition, for example, a player's Armor Class and To Hit bonuses include, among other factors, 1/2 their level. All other things being equal, a level 1 character has a -10 penalty to hit a level 20 character. Likewise, in WoW and Rift there are signifnicant penalties to hit monsters more than 2 levels above a character's level. It's not just that a level 1 character doesn't have enough damage or ability to kill a level 20 monster, they can't even overcome the game's level-based mathematical imbalance and hit it. No matter how good your skills are or gear is, that 3 level difference equates to some kind of 40% higher miss rate and a 5 level difference is probably insurmountable.

In contrast, level in Asheron's Call was just a measure of accumulated XP. That's it. A level 100 character had more xp than a level 1 character, but that 100 or 1 never themselves enter into equations. Thus, in some sense, it was possible (no matter how implausible) for a level 1 character to defeat a level 100 character, provided the level 100 had a low enough defence skill (which, again, is not strictly influenced by level). Thus, while level was a measure of relative power, it was not part of the mathematics. So while level 1 characters killing level 100 characters wasn't plausible, level 40 characters fighting level 60 characters was. It was tough, but there wasn't some arbitrary "only fight things x levels higher than you" clause putting a hard cap on things.

Another thing games like WoW and Rift did was introduce hard level requirements on content. You HAVE to be level 50 to participate in end-game content in Rift. Period. The game will not let you enter the dungeon if you are not 50. In Asheron's Call, there weren't hard level limits. So if you were 45 and your friend was 55, you could go into the level 50 dungeon together.

When you look at the romantic treatment of MMORPGs, statistics are "soft" rather than "hard". A dungeon is "too challenging for a character of your level, but maybe with a powerful friend you can overcome it" rather than "it won't even let you zone in to the instance, so go grind more quests." Clashes between characters of very different power levels were on the scope of "ugh, he's just too strong! But if I give it my all...!" rather than "well there's no point really, 10 levels of difference equates to a -300% chance to hit." It's hard to convey epic excitement through the cold, hard math that dominates modern MMO design.

So I think "soft" statistic MMORPG design would go a long way to restoring that romantic treatment of online gaming, a return to the sense of "virtual worlds" which give rise to their own set of reputations, histories, tales, and destinies. You know, rather than the "grind - raid - quit" formula WoW made so popular.


There's another mechanistic issue in MMORPGs, and that's grouping up. First of all there's finding similarly-minded individuals to group up with in the first place. Then there's finding a mutually agreeable activity. In games with "hard" level restrictions, that means that you can only group up with people one or two levels (or sometimes no levels) different than you. And in games with heavy dependence on quest structure, that means grouping up with someone on the same step of the same quest as you. These sort of requirements can make grouping a chore that most players would rather avoid.

In an effort to overcome "hard" requirements, a lot of games are introducing more and more automatic grouping systems. Systems that auto-group players of the same level together, send them to the same content together, etc. But the system works to the point where players no longer have to interact together to complete the content, and in many cases the players are taken from separate servers in order to reduce wait times so they can't actually see each other again after the content is done.

The issues of grouping made some games, like Dungeons and Dragons Online, basically unplayable for me. Trying to find a group of (A) like-minded (B) same-level players (C) of the right class distribution (D) interested in doing the same dungeon was basically impossible. Likewise, while auto-grouping in Rift for a T2 or Instant Adventure is as easy as clicking "go", finding a group for more challenging raids is harder than actually completing the raid encounters.

The thing is, grouping to do those raid encounters isn't at all embracing that MMORPG romance I described above. It's not engaging in the fantasy, it's just playing through content that you happen to need other players for. I'm actually not sure MMORPG raids would be any less fun with 19 NPCs endowed with really good AI than with the 19 players you have to put up with.


And that's the key problem: other players. It doesn't matter how well designed the game is if other players just ruin it. The concept of a Horror MMORPG was discussed in a recent blog post at and the conclusion was simple: You Jerks Will Ruin It.

Similarly, a reply to my feature article series addresses the need for mechanistic systems in games to help players deal with jerks. League of Legends introduced the Tribunal system to deal with the throngs of jerks, and a similar game, Heroes of Newerth, is so well known for its jerks that "heroes of newerth jerks" turns up over a million hits on Google. And EVE Online is veritably built around jerks screwing each other over.

All of these seem largely based on the "internet anonymity" issue. There may be some important truth to that. Consider that, in most romantic treatments of MMORPGs, players only ever get one character. That character has just as much identity in the game as they do in real life.

But there are good, valid reasons for making multiple characters. I'd hate to have played WoW or Rift or EQ without alts, because I'd hate to have missed out on the joys of playing all the different classes. Maybe that's what makes multi-class games like Final Fantasy XI and XIV so appealing: they get one step closer to that romantic treatment by making the single character identity way more palatable.

It feels like there's a big struggle in MMORPGs these days: a sort of three-way tug of war between helping players to get involved with others, helping players not feel abused by jerks, and helping players play the game and complete content designed for groups. In most big budget games, the latter two take precedence, so much so that I wouldn't be surprised to see MMORPGs add in so much AI companionship that you never need to interact with real people again.

Still, there are some games that are going the other route, like Lucent Heart is trying to do with its Cupid system. The idea is that friends provide something that AIs will never be able to: that sense of companionship that is more valuable than simply a filled PC slot in the raid roster. But does it work? I created a character in Lucent Hearts to test it out. I registered in the Cupid System three times. All three times, I was dumped by my match before I even had a chance to log in and find out who it was. Jerks.

I'm not even sure I wanted to get matched. The idea of partnering up with someone and french kissing them before every fight to get a combat bonus kind of creeps me out. But aren't I, now, just propagating the same problem I complained about a few paragraphs above? Ruining the fantasy of the game by trying to "beat" the game systems? I can't help it! I instinctively read every tooltip that I can get to pop up!

Maybe part of that romantic treatment of MMORPGs requires a certain level of ignorance about game systems. But that fantasy seems so fragile. When I interviewed Turbine's Cardell Kerr, who worked on Asheron's Call, we talked about how AC had so many "secrets" that got "ruined" by players. Like how the secrecy for spell research was distilled to an app that would tell you what your spells were by gaming the spell research formulas, or mapping tools that would calculate routes through the world by cataloguing every secret portal and passage.

The reality is that your player base is going to push that information out to other people and the sad fact is that you only end up with a game with multiple tiers of knowledge. When a person just picks up your game and has no idea what's going on, whereas if they downloaded these one or two other apps they would have a good time.

So maybe even well-meaning people who try to figure out how the game works and share that with everyone else are, in a sense, "jerks" who end up ruining the game for everyone. Or maybe the problem is just that the romance of MMORPGs is inherently flawed: it's based on an idea that core game systems cannot be known or gamed. In fact, every romantic treatment of MMORPGs I can think of includes elements of the games that are unknown to even the game developers themselves.

Still, it seems plausible that the certainty of knowledge of game systems could be suspended as part of the fantasy: a sort of communal agreement not to ruin the game for oneself or others. Some of my best experiences in Asheron's Call lay in that nebulous haze between ignorance and certainty. Take away the tooltips, then get everyone to agree to play nice, right? Still, it only takes one jerk to ruin it for everyone else.

So in a world of jerks, what are multiplayer games to do? Make players interact less? Insulate player interaction so the game compensates for jerk behaviour? Implement systems that punish jerks? Find a way to make players not be jerks?

What are gamers even looking to get out of massively multiplayer experiences, anyways?

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Ian Richard
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.Hack was my gateway into the MMO style of play... which may explain why I find MMO's to be so unappealing. .Hack showed this world where players are all getting together and interacting with one another. Some were friends, some were enemies, but they all could leave their mark on the world.

Yet, my experience in MMO's has introduced me to a world where I'm mocked and kicked from a team because I don't pick the "right" skills.

A world where communication consists of 3 letter combinations. "LFG, DPS, LOL"... how can lasting friendships not be formed!?

The MMO is a world where people are named "x_I_LOVE_JUSTIN_BEIBER_LOL_x" and every shopkeeper is surrounded by 50 people and many people enjoy jumping up and down instead of walking.

It's kind of funny really... the developers put all this work into creating this realistic living world for people to live in... yet it's the players themselves who ruin the immersion.

I don't think I'll ever be into the MMO genre because of the people. What I'd rather see is a smaller scale MMO, where players can create their own server with players who enjoy the same style of play. A few hundred players could do alot to make a world feel alive... especially when they are like minded in what they want from their world.

Francois Verret
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The only multiplayer online role-playing games I ever liked were a couple of free, private Ultima Online servers on which it was rare to see a hundred players online at the same time. Role-playing was not only enforced, but mandatory at all times, and so the game was really about forming relationships and gaining influence.

What you need to find for that type of gameplay is indeed a smaller game, and perhaps browser games, text-based or otherwise, would do the trick.

Luis Guimaraes
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Developing an MMO and supporting server for thousands of players takes a thousand more man-weeks than finding the solution for a couple design flaws.

James Heaney
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I made the mistake of learning EVE too fast for my corpmates' comfort. There was always an undercurrent of suspicion in every interaction. I can't blame them, I could have been a plant from a rival corp for all they knew. I wasn't, but that vague undercurrent of distrust soured me on the game, and I left just a few months after starting. If you can't even trust the people you collaborate with, what's the point of joining a corporation? Yet, you can't achieve much without the support of a corporation.

WOW had a different problem. The incessant bombardment of jerks whose only purpose seemed to get a rise out of a stranger drove me away after two years of play. As Bliz lowered the threshold of achievement and turned to a logarithmic scaling of stats, I was left with nothing but the grind and the loltrolls.

Jonathan Lawn
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I've never found an AAA MMO I wanted to get into, and for me the problem is definitely that I don't want to have to meet up with friends from real life. My romantic view is of an interesting game world I can enter and re-enter, with at least some interesting characters, some of whom I get to have either temporary or permanent relationships. I want to grow into the world, finding it interesting and easy to get into early on, with a chance of getting more central as I grow more confident. And it's got to fit into real life, either by allowing me breaks, or being very low effort.

I found this game once, sort of. had a lot of faults, but it had thousands of players and basically no jerks, probably due to a reputedly rather overbearing owner/creator/moderator. I role-played with those who wanted to, and my three characters grew to have significant roles (marshalling armies of scores of players) within about half a year. It lacked a chance to move beyond this, and I gave up after almost exactly 12 months, but I look back on it fondly as having shown what such games can achieve.

Could a mainstream MMO provide this? Not without serious disincentives to jerks, I suppose, but they should be possible. I think my suggestion would be that most jerks don't invest time before they can jerk around. I suspect most can be avoided simply by making them unable to upset other players early on. The more persistent types who have invested time and/or money should be controllable with moderation, negative voting by players, or some sort of complaints procedure based on play recordings. Alternatively, you can combine the mechanism for finding players you want to play with again with a mechanism for ostracizing those who aren't fun to play with. Ebay works, after all!

The main thing I believe is missing is the incentive to not just form cliques. Guilds are fine for those who want them, but I think something to make meeting new players will add to the game, e.g. XP rewards for each new player you team up with, or even gold transfer from the newer, weaker player to the more experienced.

I realise that all these mechanisms would require care, and that they may have already been tried, but I believe the current AAA MMOs could much more to make a world we want to live in, rather than just a physical space and a collection of challenges. Interaction with strangers should be the key to making the experience more than a single-player game can be, but that doesn't seem to be central to their design.

Shawn Covington
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Ah, a topic near and dear to my heart.

Before I start - Cool, another Sword Art Online fan!

I think one of the hugest issues with the community in MMOs is that the community is divided by design from the word go with factions, servers and hardlocked content groupings that are designed to break out the playerbase to minimize server load. I log in for the first time and the game might as well have the following message when you get to the server selection part of character creation:

"Pick a shard that says low beside it or our server department will be very angry. Give up trying to play with people you know. They won't play with you because you're a lowbie, because you'll pick a faction they think is gay, or because they have characters on another shard that we won't let you play on because it's overpopulated."

Most of the "romanticized" MMO fictions really only take place on one server, with free for all PVP, and the only division between players are their own arguments and choice of hunting ground, and no one ever needs to re-roll. (If they're even allowed to)

One of these days, someone will release an MMO with those sensibilities, mixed with something like Phantasy Star Universe style servers where your character isn't server locked, and you can freely move between servers in game.

In short, the industry needs to stop breaking players apart by design.

Bryce Walters
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I Have to say, the only MMO I've played that comes close to this idea is FFXI. Simon has it exactly right when it comes to removing the anonymity the internet offers. You paid extra for more characters, but you could do everything on one. It meant people knew who you were when you walked around town, and you actually could gain a reputation among players because of it. That's not always a good thing though. ;)

The one main thing that made you actually interact with people was the difficulty. FFXI was a HARD MMO. from level 10 to 75 you couldn't solo unless you were a specific class. It forced you to party with people constantly. This lead to some people searching for hours for an exp party, which sucked, but there was a major benefit from this; it weeded out a lot of the jerks. Don't get me wrong, they were still around, but very few and far between. If you treated your healer like crap because he wasn't keeping you topped off, or was a bit slow on the cures, it would disrupt the entire party. There was a tendency for people to end up in parties together a lot because of the pace of the game. You will probably be seeing that healer again, and if he's in the party before you, and tells the leader you're an ass, you get to keep looking for a group for another 30 mins till another one comes along. Keep repeating, and you start to run out of folks to party with around level 30, which is about when you NEED a group of skilled people to help you unlock the games advanced jobs.

The added benefit of making it so difficult, was that you could spend years playing the game and not even touch half of the endgame content. This made different dedicated guilds pop up for each kind of endgame, and rivalries or partnerships could be formed. Again though, the only real problem with it was that finding groups for things was time consuming. Interestingly enough though, people would get to know each other so well because of the cooperation required, that you would have a long list of friends to turn to when you needed help on a specific quest. Have a few friends on who are up for helping? You've got more than half your group ready to go and spend a lot less time looking for some pickups. Having a reputation as a helpful and good player also sped this process up too.

One small thing I've noticed about FFXI's design that ended up making a huge difference, was the ability to change gear on the fly in combat. It sounds like something that wouldn't really change a lot, but it did. The really hardcore players never ran out of things to collect for their jobs. A set of staffs that increases a specific elemental spell's power? A good black mage would have to have the entire set. A pair of gloves that increases the potency of a warrior's weaponskill damage? Toss it into a macro with your biggest attack for a nice buff to damage. For only having 16 items slots on my white mage, I had around 40 pieces of gear I used every fight, and I wasn't big on swapping out my gear like a lot of players. It kept even the oldest players active in the end game scene. You could get the general big name items fairly quickly, but those little situational pieces that made a skilled player great took time and a huge amount of effort to get your hands on. It also made for really quirky pieces of gear that could change how a party worked. I had a belt that gave a huge buff depending on the in game day, and the weather in the zone. Combine me with my friend who could manipulate the weather around my character, and things got crazy!

Misha Icaev
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After considering topic from a few angles I came to conclusion:

What modern MMORPGs are lacking (more or less) is responsibility (a punishment for mistakes and misdeeds). It provokes irresponsible behavior (from Jerks) and negates value of (any Heroic) achievements. Modern MMORPGs provide height to climb, Next Generation of MMORPGs should add depth to sink.

Bart Stewart
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There's so much that needs to be said on this subject -- thanks for giving it some airtime.

There are a lot of threads tangled up in this "MMORPG players are jerks" knot, but I think pulling on two of them could do the most to untangle it: playstyles and grouping. (I see "levelling" as more of a symptom than a cause.)

On playstyles, this is just one more reason why it's hard to make a single MMORPG that's satisfying to both Explorers and Achievers. Where Explorers want to understand the nature of the (game) world by discovering individual pieces and then perceiving how the pieces fit together, the larger number of Achievers will already have methodically grinded out every secret thing and posted it to a wiki... or, worse, created an abomination of a thottbot to expose every thing explicitly coded by a developer.

When Explorer content is designed to have Achiever-favored rewards, it is a cast-iron certainty that Achievers will crowd out Explorers -- when all the lore of a world can be exposed mechanically for some kind of tangible profit (money, achievements, leaderboard status), why bother exploring when there's obviously nothing left to discover? This doesn't make Achievers jerks; they're just doing what comes naturally in a world whose rules were designed by its developers to be Achiever-friendly.

(Note: I don't use the word "abomination" randomly. Operators of online games don't allow mechanical support tools like aimbots because they destroy the fun of fair competition... so why is it considered OK for information-seeking bots to ruin the fun of exploration?)

The other mechanical issue related to (and, I think, the single most pertinent cause of) jerkishness in big MMORPGs is grouping. Back in the day, MUDs had less of this problem because the "grouping" was smaller and more persistent -- you knew the people you'd be playing with, sometimes even in meatspace. This acted as a check on the inclination of some to indulge their inner jerkishness and advantage-taking. (Kibbutzes benefit from the same phenomenon.)

That check doesn't exist in a MMORPG with thousands of people, different every night, sharing a space. In that kind of social structure, the semi-anonymity frees the naturally jerkish (or insufficiently socialized) to indulge in whatever they think they can get away with doing to their neighbors.

It should be noted that this problem isn't just a mildly intriguing game design challenge. Having to conceive, create, and test special-case code to prevent people from abusing each other (either directly via avatars or indirectly through the gameworld) eats up a significant amount of development time. That's time that could have been spent instead on adding functionality.

This is one of the reasons why my preferred solution is a "living world" -- a single-player game that amps up NPC plausibility and lets players share created content. This gets some of the perceived advantages of multiplayer games while excluding the opportunities for some jerk to spoil your fun.

If someone is still determined to make a true MMORPG, however, then I suspect the most effective path to minimizing jerkishness will lie in carefully structuring the social aspect of group play. Specifically, this means finding ways to help players get to know each other as people and to group frequently with those people, preferably while still providing plenty of (controlled) ways for players to interact indirectly in large numbers so that it still feels like a big, dynamic, interconnected world.

I'm not sure how to do that. I'm looking forward to reading more of the comments here because, even if I've given up playing conventional MMORPGs, they're still fascinating as testbeds for design ideas.

Luis Guimaraes
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"It should be noted that this problem isn't just a mildly intriguing game design challenge. Having to conceive, create, and test special-case code to prevent people from abusing each other (either directly via avatars or indirectly through the gameworld) eats up a significant amount of development time. That's time that could have been spent instead on adding functionality."

I don't think it's even possible to fix these problems in any game that follows modern generic MMORPG patterns. Making a new game with these concerns in mind is a more realistic and tangible goal. There's no way to quick fix and tie together something that is wrong from the ground up.

Bart Stewart
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I hear what you're saying, Luis.

One of the goofy gameplay visions I've been considering for a while is a multiplayer game that stands the usual organizational model on its head. Instead of allowing players to cooperate in a small way in order to compete against others at the top level, I like the notion of a "Big Problem" game.

In this kind of game, players would use a version of the market system to compete to implement ideas. But the results of this efficiency-finding process (which is what markets do) would then feed into a top-level cooperative effort to solve some server-wide challenge that no single player or even guild-size group would be able to achieve regardless of time or resources. Making the best rewards conditional on how well you cooperate toward solving the Big Problem would, I think, lead to a game with a very different feel, if only because the lack of rewards for believing that you have to "beat" everybody all the time would tend to attract a different kind of player.

One example of this would be saving the Earth (somehow) from an asteroid impact. All the necessary resources would be there, and players would have to invent the tools and organizations needed to develop a workable solution in time. If you lose, the game resets and you get to try again. If you win, the game resets with slightly different starting conditions that require different strategies. (For something slightly less catastrophic, I like the idea of starting players out in a world equivalent to medieval Europe and telling them, "land safely on the Moon and return safely to the Earth." By the time they've figured that out, the "establish a permanent, self-sustaining colony on Mars" scenario should be ready to go. ;)

What I'm really saying here is actually pretty simple: the nature of a game community depends in very large part on the core mechanics you design into the game. If you make a game that rewards competitiveness at every level, you shouldn't be surprised when the game primarily attracts highly competitive people who don't always know where (or want to) draw the line. If you want more cooperative players, then your wisest path is to design a game whose mechanics and support systems and reward structures attract more cooperative people.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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"What I'm really saying here is actually pretty simple: the nature of a game community depends in very large part on the core mechanics you design into the game. If you make a game that rewards competitiveness at every level, you shouldn't be surprised when the game primarily attracts highly competitive people who don't always know where (or want to) draw the line. If you want more cooperative players, then your wisest path is to design a game whose mechanics and support systems and reward structures attract more cooperative people."

Truer words were never spoken on this site.

Its really not the players that are the problem (if you look at it in social dynamics) its the design that pushes them in a particular direction.

If you look at the MOBA genre, its not really that the players themselves are dicks, but the design of the games creates an environment where the priorities often get confused.

For example I've long since been an advocate to remove K/D/A scores from the game-overview and replace them with gold-gain. Because KDA stats create a competitive layer beyond "win the match" towards "get the best KDA" which competes with the "win the match" goal (because KDA will not carry you to victory 5/10 times).

LoL for example does little to encourage teamplay, but everything to encourage being "the best" for yourself.

Additionally some of LoLs champions purely encourage soloist play (assassins and junglers).

Luis Guimaraes
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That's exactly what I mean, players will float all over the realm possibility allowed by the core design. What I have in mind for a while is a more competition-focused environment in which it's hard to survive without cooperation, but in which you have to be careful of who you trust as an ally. Let's say, imagine and MMO that takes place entirely in a prison.

dana mcdonald
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Even though Eve has a lot of griefers, it actually fits many of the other things you talked about very nicely. Because it is a single server there actually are famous heroes and villians (probably more of the latter), and because of the difficulty, time and danger of travel you tend to see the same people around in the same areas often, so you can get to know your small communities (People just don't teleport around the entire game universe).

There is no end game, there is no best ship, and often times the better the ship, the more it costs (which means the more it hurts when it gets blown up) which means that long time players are not always flying around in their best ship (Wearing their best gear). On top of it all there is no one ship good for all situations and it doesn't take overly long to get as good as a long time player at each specific thing, so while you can basically advance your character for years, you can easily play with or against a character who has played for months and he won't be totally outclassed.

The big problems are that it has a terribly hard learning curve, it has a very harsh death penalty (which actually helps keep people from flying extra expensive ships often so it levels the playing field a bit). And because of the death penalty and the wild west game mechanics it attracts a lot of griefers.

A game could be made with similar mechanics that was much more user friendly, and much less harsh, but still retain many of the aspects of Eve that seem to fit what I see you talk about in the article.

Eve is certainly not for everybody, but playing it enough to understand it really opened up my mind to a different way for an mmo to play. Eve really broke the mold.

Christopher Plummer
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Interesting article.

I've always been way too serious about discovering new things in games, so MMOs have been sort of the best and worst gaming experiences in my life.

What I found sorely missing in my 3+ years of WOW, which was forced to life in some of the MUDs I played before, was a true commitment to the RPG part of the genre. They completely diluted everything associated with it to the most shallow level, even though there were signs of it being somewhat desired everywhere (separate racial languages, class quests for Shamans and Pallys, reputation levels with different factions, etc...).

But the thing I always found frustrating was the absence of alignment. I had hoped for awhile that the Lore would create a sense of this within the player bases, but it never happened.

Alignment was one of the best tools to empower personalities of all types and it's been completely ignored in modern games. The reason it was so effective, is because it's common sense. Jerks are a part of society! Trying to rid the 'world' of them is a fool's errand. It's much better to acknowledge them and every other role in your 'game' equally. Humans have all sorts of personalities and most are not jerks, but we all generally share a will to keep living. If you aren't rewarding people for being themselves (good, bad, indifferent) then they will resort to whatever keeps them alive - and usually that means being a dick for their own survival.

joseph dungee
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This is the article that has definitely put my feelings and fears on paper (screen). I am watching a play through of a new MMO and I am starting to get the sinking feeling of just another leveling up experience with beautiful graphics.

I and (I think millions of people) are looking for the Tolkien experience, that romance of an expanding world were I don't know everything up front and am just a normal person, that got thrown into "Interesting" times.

I don't know the answer, but I believe it is less knowledge of the underlying mechanics and "secrets" of the MMORPG for player's like myself.

Thanks again for a Super Article!