The Four Core (not molten) Desires of every MMO Gamer
Apr 24, 2007 04:25:01

They come in a variety of packages meant to attract and appeal. They're busy, but tasteful and within, the prize, the crack, cocaine, and heroin. Others know them as World of Warcraft, Everquest II, Vanguard, Star Wars Galaxies, Lineage II, or Guild Wars. These are our drugs of choice, the dust we're delighted to spend 15 dollars a month on. And why wouldn't we be happy? Every time we shoot this drug we are privy to a unique and interesting experience. It's everything we've dreamt of, for a few hours, days, weeks or maybe months, possibly years. The ecstasy last only so long before we're looking for something bigger, something better, something that will collapse our veins and turn our teeth into chocolate pudding. We're MMO junkies - game jumpers, title hoppers.

Why do we continue this trend of indecisive sampling and experimentation? Well, the short and simple answer is that as of yet, we junkies haven't been given a product that satisfies every MMOers basic core desires; community, competition, freedom and individuality.

Community - Every MMO gamer knows that his or her experience in-game is ultimately determined by the community that surrounds them. A game's community serves many roles such as teacher, councilor, friend, foe and everything in between. Titles with boorish, quiet or unhelpful communities bear a stigma that is hard to overcome. Look at the classic MMOs as examples of poor communities. Everquest has become a playground for the crusty elite, most of whom know each other by name. Starting fresh in that game earns you a sizzling brand on your buttocks that reads, "Noob." You could be harassed, laughed at, teased, or taunted. Help would come rarely, if at all, and you might as well give up any notions you had about finding a group or guild. Such an encounter would force a quantum leap unlike one Scott Bakula ever experienced.

Competition - Carebears around the world are rubbing their tummies and invoking their powers of cavity inducing love for they know what is about to be discussed - player versus player combat. Nothing inspires more controversy amongst MMO players than PvP. Though devs concentrate on pleasing PvPers through rules tweaks, balancing and an ever present fear of getting ganked, only a few have tackled the real problem with MMO PvP - it's simply not meaningful. Aside from PvP, other forms of competition need to exist to make a successful MMO, if only to satisfy those loveable Carebears. Gear, for example, provides an easy, flag-football-like way of inspiring envy and awe amongst players. This envy and awe often leads to players setting goals which involve besting someone else, or possibly an entire server - classic competition!

Freedom - Possibly the most infrequently implemented of the core desires, freedom is the reason why any game, not just MMOs, gains popularity. So far MMOs have only accomplished isolated pockets of this basic human need in their worlds. Many titles, for example, allow players the freedom of travel... until they encounter a mountain that can't be climbed, a hill too steep for their apparently lame character to scale or a mysterious boundary that forces a puzzling load screen. Freedom in every aspect is obviously technologically impossible but MMO developers could take cues from single player RPGs where characters age, progress in skill sets rather than pre- determined class levels, and can affect the world more than leaving a temporary footstep in sand or snow. Freedom implies the ability to do what you want, not to pick from a list of pre-determined actions. Titles such as Vanguard whose marketing scheme relies on freedom are a long way off from actually delivering.

Individuality - "Look over there, it's Ragnor, the most infamous guy in the game - oh wait, he's not Ragnor, he just has exactly the same face, gear and proportions." Who doesn't like seeing a line of pixilated dolls all wearing nearly the same clothes and features? Me, and I would guess, nearly every other MMO gamer! So why haven't more devs gone the way of City of Heroes, in their customizable costume creation? Who knows! It seems to me that this would be the easiest of the four core desires to implement into an MMO but often times, it seems to be (besides freedom) the one that garners the least amount of attention. The key here is providing players with ways of making their characters noticeably unique (stress the word noticeably). Facial features are fun to tweak, but does anyone really look?

It is lack of all four of these desires being satisfied that keeps us moving from drug to drug. Each new release promises the world. We buy the games with our fingers crossed only to have our chests gored again. Our hearts heal only with rumors of the next high, the next big thing that could deliver. The fun now is not playing the game, but looking forward to the next one. Maybe someday soon this will change, but until then, my name is Bryan Bouren, and I am an MMO junkie.

-Bryan Bouren

Submitted by Brent on Apr 24, 2007 04:25:01 CST (comments: 3)


'The game you are looking for is....' by fl1pper
Submitted on 2007-04-24 16:14:43 CST

It promises everything you seek, but does it exist?

Great article BTW.

'Good article!' by twistah
Submitted on 2007-04-25 10:22:43 CST
Falls under the category "of course" and "how come I didnt think of that?"

Well written ! :)

'Very nice read!' by Wolfshead
Submitted on 2007-07-02 02:41:18 CST
Someday the perfect MMO will contain the right mix of each of these ingredients. I look forward to reading more of your articles. Keep it up!

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