A while back i came across this quote when i read a post about Jaedia returning to Guild Wars 2:
…I love being able to play with my friends, that is the big draw of MMORPGs after all,…
Hannah Richardson-Lewis, Returning to Tyria
Hannah/Jaedia is a great blogger – i enjoy following her blog and posts on mmorpg.com and i find myself agreeing with her for the most part- but this statement is something i don’t agree with, even if i know i’m probably blowing her harmless sentence up more than i should and MMORPGs are different for all of us, it’s that statement that inspired me to draft the following post a couple of weeks back, only to edit and publish it now for Blaugust.
While you can play MMORPGs with friends, of course, and have a great time while doing so, i think that this approach is one of the things that went wrong with MMO design in the last couple of years. Questing is mostly a solo affair nowadays, dungeons are for small, casual groups either consisting of friends who know each other or total strangers bundled together by the group finder who for the most part won’t say anything to each other and won’t grow the respective friend lists.
Successful MMORPGs are hard to create because MMORPGs need to provide players with meaningful content in every situation- the big draw of MMORPGs, while being different to each of us, is possibly the fact that MMORPGs are a genre-mix that can be played in different group sizes and situations, all the while playing in a persistent world with a community to boot.
What makes MMORPGs unique and interesting is that this is the only genre where players should feel part of “something bigger” than themselves in every activity they can partake in. Whether you’re soloing, playing with a couple of friends or strangers from the group finder tool, selling to thousands of other players in an auction house / dabbling in the ingame economy or decorating your instanced house (that can be visited by more or less everyone), you should always be a part of something; mainly the ingame economy.
In my opinion, that’s maybe one way the genre lost it’s way. Blade and Soul, for instance, is a great game, but if it weren’t for multiplayer dungeons or world bosses, one could live without it being online at all- the same is possibly true in The Secret World and even Black Desert, which, while being a sandbox, manages to give the feeling of playing alone most of the time. In Blade and Soul you can even turn off the display of other players- my guess is they’re still there, you just can’t see them anymore.
I guess the best example of the other extreme would, again, be EVE Online. Whatever you’re doing in that game will find its way into the ingame economy, because when it comes down to it, EVE is about its economy.
But World of Warcraft does this in a good way, too, with their auction houses, useful mob drops and so on.
I don’t know about Final Fantasy XIV- i see there are very few “trash items” in that game, if any, but i haven’t dabbled with the retainers enough to know whether there is an ingame economy worth noting.
Elder Scrolls Online, in my opinion, dropped the ball on economy. I can understand their reasoning, but…well, for casuals like me, trade might just as well be nonexistent. I really hope they’re thinking about ways to improve that situation, because as they’ve said, they’re seeing less “hardcore” involvement into their game and more “on and off again” behaviour to which needing to join trade guilds/socializing for trade is counter-productive.
Anyway, what i wanted to express is that MMOs can, of course, be fun when played with a group of friends and for players, it’s a totally fine reason to play MMORPGs, just like playing solo/raiding/collecting hats are. It’s just that i think, when we turn the tables around and see this from the perspective of developers, they shouldn’t create an MMORPG with “friend play” being their main focus or goal.