The novelty of playing an MMORPG is long gone for me. There is nothing new and exciting. The social aspect fails to muster much attention. After a decade of playing MMORPG’s, even the other players are all clones of one another. Every MMO on the market is essentially the exact same game with a slightly different sugar coating.
I’m not alone in feeling this way. I would wager that millions of players feel exactly the way that I do. It’s human nature. If you spend hundreds, thousands of hours doing one activity, you will get tired and bored of it. The magic is gone.
The huge failures of the past few years (Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Tabula Rasa, etc.) was probably caused in large part by disappointed and jaded players. Players jump from game to game looking for something exciting to grab their attention, but after a month or two, the novelty wears thin and the only thing remaining is the infamous MMO grind.
There is no real depth to MMO’s. Very little skill is required.
In MMO’s, hard work is rewarded…not skill. To reach the highest peaks in an MMO, all you have to do is invest the time.
When you achieve a goal in an MMO, like leveling up or obtaining loot, you feel a sense of accomplishment for the time invested. This is not the same as the sense of accomplishment you feel for achieving something skill based.
In comparision, let’s take a look at two other hugely popular genres of online games: first-person shooters and real time strategy games. For both FPS’s and RTS’s, skill is rewarded, not hard work. You can spend thousands of hours playing Call of Duty or Warcraft 3, but if you aren’t any good at playing these games, you will never achieve anything.
If you suck at FPS’s or RTS’s, you will constantly lose to other players. If you suck at MMO’s, it’s doesn’t really matter. You can die over and over again, but as long as you have the patience to keep trying, you will eventually succeed.
Skill based achievement is ultimately more rewarding than work based achievement.
Let’s take a look at the core gameplay in an MMO: Combat. Pick a target and hit the same sequence of keystrokes. For many combat encounters, that’s about the depth of gameplay involved. In comparison, combat in FPS’s or RTS’s is far more involved. Let’s take the analogy further and compare it to real life combat. There are countless people in the world that devote their entire lives to learning combat skills.
Combat in an MMO is boring, stupid and repetitive. No skill is required. There is little sense of achievement for killing something. The same holds true for practically every aspect of MMO gameplay, like crafting, gathering and exploring.
I am oversimplifying it a little bit. You do need a minimal level of skill and a reasonable online social ability to find and join a like minded group of players. Nothing more is necessary to excel in an MMO. The primary attributes for MMO success are patience and a lot of free time.
Veteran MMO players looking for something more usually look to PvP or top tier raiding to find some sense of satisfaction. To be a top PvP’er, you need a lot of knowledge about the game and a reasonably good level of skill. Top tier raiding is primarily an exercise of organizing a big group of people together to achieve the same goal. Even PvP and raiding eventually lose their appeal.
Unfortunately, in the current MMO market, innovation seems to be dying. It is too costly to create a new MMO and even if millions of dollars are invested, there are no guarantees. Game publishers and developers are largely unwilling to take risks. As a result, we get dozens of cookie cutter MMO’s. Occasionally, there are little evolutionary advances in gameplay, but it’s not enough.