Personal blog of Elijs 'X2Eliah' Dima

You can’t make an MMO for people who hate MMOs

I think I might have a bee in my bonnet about Guild Wars 2. The peer pressure to get it – even if purely passive – from places like Twitter is pretty staggering at this point. It’s not a bad thing. Heck, I know that if I jumped into an MMO, especially if it has people I know from outside the game somehow, I’d completely lose myself in it. We’re talking about the “spends 8-hours-a-day” type of stuff here. I know because, quite simply, I have been there before, on way less ‘clever’ MMOs back in the day. Now, Guild Wars 2 has constantly been trying to sell itself to people who are not quite aligned with MMOs. To look at a transcript of the dev manifesto ( (Yes it is a wiki link and no I will not look for more dependable sources, if you want to dismiss this article because that’s a wikilink, then go ahead and screw you), GW2 devs say that “if you hate MMOs, you’ll really want to check out Guild Wars 2”. That can’t be right, because GW2 is still an MMO, and there’s no arguing around it.

What is it that makes people hate MMOs in general? It’s not that some of them are fantasy wow-clones, because then it would be clearly said that “people hate current unoriginal wow-like MMOs”. But the MMO world is still quite a lot more diverse than that. You have SWTOR which admittedly has a different IP and setting, if not much else. You have EVE Online, which is just the quintessence of excellence for people who want to roleplay as supreme asshole accountants in space. You have all kinds of.. idk.. social-media-minigames like idk-stuff-on-facebook. You have the free-to-plays by the bucketloads. Thing is, it’s not the gameplay or the setting or the visual style that makes people hate all MMOs. It’s the addictive skinner-box nature of them.

That’s why I really dislike and avoid all MMOs, period. It’s the persistent world that advances without you. See, in nearly all singleplayer games, you play for a while, then you stop – maybe to eat, or sleep, or go to work/school, or just take some time off. It doesn’t matter, you’re free to do so. Whenever you load up the game, it will start right where you left it. That’s very much not the case with mumorpepeggers. The world of the game is a shared, constant thing. Even if all your quests will wait for you (which they won’t in Guild Wars 2, if I understand the in-world-totally-not-quests-you-guys thing), there’s the entire social meta-scene. You have to keep up with your friends’ levelling pace, to not fall too far behind. Lose them on levelling, and you can’t really do shared stuff and properly enjoy it, because it’s either a cakewalk for one side or a way too difficult “I can’t do anything so I’ll just sit back and let them carry” dungeon run. If you have any bit of competitive spark – that tiny voice niggling you to keep gaining levels/items/money/stuff to just keep up with others, with the leaderboards, with anyone on your friends list, well, you’re done for. Even if that is not the case, the overall world still advances as players within that world shift the average level-dispersion upwards. You’ll see more rare stuff in towns. You’ll see different marketplace dynamics. You’ll definitely see varying surges of players in the various PvE areas. And that is hell for those inclined to go in over their heads. Because this is a world that doesn’t wait for the player, but expects them to keep up. And that is the one aspect that all MMOs have, regardless of practically anything else about them. That is, quite likely, the most important aspect upon which people can say that they “hate all MMOs” – it’s because they hate the entire concept of a persistent, social world. Either because it is unappealing to them, or because it is too appealing to risk going in (my case).

Saying that Guild Wars 2 is a game made for people who hate MMOs is rubbish. Worse yet, it is pretty much a hook, a false lure, planted just to get people much like me attached to the game. And that’s something I can’t help but dislike seeing, the way the developers of GW2 think of their game as something so revolutionary, when it is still the same overarching MMO. Yeah, it has new mechanics. Yeah, it has some unique aspects. Yeah, it still has the social meta-world, and that’s the problem. It is still an MMO, and thus it is not for people who truly dislike MMOs.


~X2-Eliah would really like to get into Guild Wars 2 because plenty of cool people he knows on twitter are into it. But he still has university to think about. If only there wasn’t such a thing as “real life”. You probably think that this is contemptible and weak and pathetic. It probably is. Doesn’t really change much of anything, though.

11 responses

  1. I’d have to play the game to actually see how valid your argument is, because I know GW2 does subvert a lot of typical MMO things. For example, you can be leveled up or down in order to fit a zone, thus making the keeping up with friends point at least partially moot.

    I can definitely see where you’re coming from, though,

    28/08/2012 at 09:57

    • Hm. That would be interesting, aye. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that you have to be online and playing the game with your friends all the time. It’s just the entire idea of having to accomodate your playing-timeline to other people as opposed to your own life/stuff that’s the critical bit. And I really don’t know how to avoid that, how to remove the “your playtime depends on other people” in an MMO, because it is just so inherent in the entire social-meta-world aspect of it.

      28/08/2012 at 10:11

      • Yeah, there is level-scaling in the game, though it really only works one way. PvP scales you up. PvE scales you down. So if you’re like, level 14, you can’t go to the area where your level 30-40 friends are hanging out, but they can come to where you are and become powered down in the process so they don’t overwhelm everything there. They do have better gear and more skills which gives them a slight edge (gear doesn’t make that huge an impact in this game really, it feels more like it’s about having the extra little edge), but if they aren’t careful they’ll go down as easily as anyone else.

        28/08/2012 at 17:53

  2. My biggest problem with MMOs is the mindset “it’s an MMO, so of course you want to play with other people”. So many games are MMOs these days, and so many genres and IPs are being offered up in MMO form (often in solely MMO form) that it’s either play an MMO or don’t play at all. And there are enough of us that would prefer to play their games alone that we really need to do away with the “play together or go home” mindset.

    I don’t mind the grinding (to an extent), I don’t mind the persistent world. I don’t even mind monthly fees, if your game is actually worth it. But MMOs invariably lock content – or worse, rewards – behind team gates; I have yet to see one that does not. And every one of those team gates is the developers saying “screw you, krellen, we hate that you like playing games alone, even if you give us just as much money as everyone else”.

    So screw you, MMOs.

    28/08/2012 at 10:10

    • Aha. I suspect this is so very much about SWTOR not being TOR3. 🙂 And I agree. I haven’t played GW2, so I didn’t mention the teamgating thing – idk how applicable that is. But that’s certainly a problem in many, many MMOs. And, honestly, if you plan to do it alone, then entire MMO aspect is redundant, if not harmful.

      28/08/2012 at 10:12

      • Not just about SWTOR. My biggest gripe with MMOs is actually the changes that happened to City of Heroes. They took it from about 1% of the game being team gated to 10 or 15% of the game being team gated, and the gated part was all the new advancement they decided to put in the game. That annoys me far more than SWTOR – I invested a lot more in City of Heroes.

        28/08/2012 at 10:15

  3. This might have talked me out of getting GW2. I’m not a very competitive person and so if my friends are suddenly 2299902349 levels higher i will stop playing all together. On the other hand, so subscription, so I can do what I like.

    28/08/2012 at 14:24

    • *no subscription

      excuse my end of the day grammar spelling

      28/08/2012 at 14:25

    • Ringwraith

      Although from I hear, you can ignore any competitive aspects (which are all behind an area which puts everyone on an even footing anyway) so you can play the game at your own pace.
      If you want to play with your higher-level friends, they can simply wander over to where you are and not be a higher-level while they’re there, or they can simply roll up a new character. It does seem to be designed with people who can’t invest oodles of time into it and/or have a diverse group of friends who can invest varying amounts of time and still play together without messing up the experience.

      28/08/2012 at 14:45

    • One thing to keep in mind, I have no idea how the game mechanics actually work. Maybe they got around the entire “you can’t play with your friends unless you play with them 100%” issue, idk. it’s just something that’s been keeping me off of all previous MMOs ever since.. well, the last great mistake of my life, I suppose.

      28/08/2012 at 17:27

    • As I mentioned above you won’t be able to go into high-level areas, but when going into lower level areas you’ll be scaled accordingly so the place will still pose a challenge. Experience and loot will scale to whatever level you are, no matter what you’re fighting (like I’ve gotten level 14-15 drops off of level 6-7 mobs while I was level 17), so it will never be “worthless” to go hang out with lower-level friends.

      That combined with how everyone who participates in a quest/event gets a reward no matter if they’re grouped or not does make it seem like they’ve done their very best to make the game more accessible to everyone who wants to play, no matter how they want to do it.

      I won’t say it’s perfect though. The way the events scale depending on how many people are closeby can get a little wonky at times, and that there’s no way to scale people up in PvE feels a little weird when do exactly that in PvP. Since you get the same rewards wherever you go, why don’t they let you go wherever?

      28/08/2012 at 18:02

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