Sunday, February 25, 2007

MMOGs: The Need for Culture and The Greed for Experience

MMOGs have gained incredible popularity in the past couple years and currently are not losing momentum. Despite this upshot in use, the same issues still riddle designers and gamers alike. Many people desire a more realistic and immersive experience, and others are only concerned with getting to the highest level as fast as possible by any means necessary. Again I turned to the Blogosphere this week to see how other bloggers felt. I commented on two blog entries discussing the issues MMO players and developers are faced with, which can also be seen here in the ensuing paragraphs. Jen Dornan’s entry, “Us Being Human”, discusses the lack of realistic human culture within MMOGs and received my first post at her blog Terra Nova. The second post I chose to comment on was from Psychochild’s Blog by Brian Green whose entry, “Cheat While Exploring, Not Achieving”, covers the use of automated bots and the use of guides, such as Thotbott which is pictured to the right, and their effect on MMO gameplay and development.

"Us Being Human"
Jen, MMOGs definitely need to make strides in the direction of a more integrated cultural and social experience. Like what others have said in response, many of these educational and cultural aspects exist in structures outside the “game” itself and can be observed within guild interactions. These subcultures are not built upon the structure of the game, and though they arise and are prevalent, it is not something the game provides to the player; the players form it themselves and bring it to the game.

Some people have indicated that the integration of cultural functionality could render the game “un-fun” as it would be too akin to real life, or it is simply unnecessary because people already encountered all seven phenomenon resulting in culture within MMOG’s.

Frankly, that is absurd. MMO’s strive to strike a balance between emulating reality and fostering fantasy and escapism. Games will not throw this balance off by introducing more complex structures for encouraging substantial culture to form. Rather it will allow for new levels of exploration for both of the competing forces to be reached. Secondly, if people are already experiencing all of these social structures through other avenues such as guilds, then why not make them inherent to the gameplay and therefore more easily accessible to all players?

"Cheat While Exploring, Not While Acheiving"
Personally I don’t believe that there is a distinction between botting/ RTMing and using guides quantifiably; it is a matter of quantity. I mean that guide using and botting are both of the same nature just of differing degrees. Players use bots and guides for the same reason, to achieve their goals in game with minimal time and effort. Botting is only looked down upon due to the more blatant laziness and lack of user intervention. However, using thottbot to “automate quests” as you concisely put it, it is only more accepted because it is a less barefaced offense.

Is this an issue of bad design? Partially. Someone above mentioned dynamic content and quest variation. These are phenomenal ideas and would definitely lessen the number of people pushed to guides due to boredom. However this overlooks the issue of player’s experience greed. The major reason people use guides or bots, is not because they are bored with the quests, but because they get more enjoyment out of being high level as that gains them more social prowess. MMO’s are about the social aspect; questing is a means to an end for those seeking social glory. This is the root of the problem and it is only compounded by the boredom felt by genuine quest-lovers.

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