All I need to know about MMOs, I learned from my 8 year old.

I don't play MMOs. I don't play PC games, in large part due to the fact that my PC is absolute garbage. But with the excitement surrounding the launch of SWTOR, my interest has been piqued. Having no real sense of what is available, or playable, on my PC, and possessing a strong desire to avoid paying a subscription fee for something that may not be my bag, I decided to install DC Universe on my PS3. While the gigantic gamefile downloaded, I took my son out to shop for Christmas gifts for my wife. During that time we talked about what character we could make, what adventures we might go on, what powers we would utilize. We were both genuinely excited to get started. We had a great deal of fun deciding on a costume, a weapon, and our superhero name. We started off on our quest, got through the tutorial mission, and jumped into the world proper. That's when the wheels started coming off, and the "Oh yeah this is an MMO" feeling began.

I guess that's not exactly true, as we had fun exploring and beating up things on our way to quest objectives. We made progress, fought a boss, had a duel with another player, got new weapons and gear. We stalled a bit by getting distracted by various side nonsense before calling it a night. Then this morning, I let my son make his own character. After getting over the shock that "Sharp Shooter" was taken by another player, he settled on a name and started down his own path. I let him take the reigns, and went off to do various things around the house. I came back and asked what mission he was doing, and he said, "I'm blowing up these transporters." I responded, "Oh yeah, why?" He said, "I don't know, because that's what it says on the screen."

That pretty much reinforced what my uninformed preconceived notion of an MMO was: doing this "because". Can there really be a story, as one would traditionally think of it, within this structure? Is everything just in service of raising numbers on a stat screen? I'm certainly not ready to totally write off MMOs altogether, in fact I was honestly enjoying my time with my character last night. And my son is definitely ready for more. I started writing this while he was taking a shower, and as soon as he came back downstairs he asked if he could start playing again. I suppose the next step is to try to make some connections with other players, or to try to convince a friend or two to play with me. In any case, I'm looking forward to what he does with the game, and what he's able to get out of it.

13 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by Krummey

I don't play MMOs. I don't play PC games, in large part due to the fact that my PC is absolute garbage. But with the excitement surrounding the launch of SWTOR, my interest has been piqued. Having no real sense of what is available, or playable, on my PC, and possessing a strong desire to avoid paying a subscription fee for something that may not be my bag, I decided to install DC Universe on my PS3. While the gigantic gamefile downloaded, I took my son out to shop for Christmas gifts for my wife. During that time we talked about what character we could make, what adventures we might go on, what powers we would utilize. We were both genuinely excited to get started. We had a great deal of fun deciding on a costume, a weapon, and our superhero name. We started off on our quest, got through the tutorial mission, and jumped into the world proper. That's when the wheels started coming off, and the "Oh yeah this is an MMO" feeling began.

I guess that's not exactly true, as we had fun exploring and beating up things on our way to quest objectives. We made progress, fought a boss, had a duel with another player, got new weapons and gear. We stalled a bit by getting distracted by various side nonsense before calling it a night. Then this morning, I let my son make his own character. After getting over the shock that "Sharp Shooter" was taken by another player, he settled on a name and started down his own path. I let him take the reigns, and went off to do various things around the house. I came back and asked what mission he was doing, and he said, "I'm blowing up these transporters." I responded, "Oh yeah, why?" He said, "I don't know, because that's what it says on the screen."

That pretty much reinforced what my uninformed preconceived notion of an MMO was: doing this "because". Can there really be a story, as one would traditionally think of it, within this structure? Is everything just in service of raising numbers on a stat screen? I'm certainly not ready to totally write off MMOs altogether, in fact I was honestly enjoying my time with my character last night. And my son is definitely ready for more. I started writing this while he was taking a shower, and as soon as he came back downstairs he asked if he could start playing again. I suppose the next step is to try to make some connections with other players, or to try to convince a friend or two to play with me. In any case, I'm looking forward to what he does with the game, and what he's able to get out of it.

Edited by gamma_male

Story-telling in games is difficult to implement without clumsy exposition. The story isn't being explained in the same way as a film or novel. It tends to be happening around you (see: Half-Life 2). I don't think this is a problem exclusive to MMOs. In fact, I don't think it's that much of a problem. Give me a set of problems in an interesting environment and I'm quite happy to make my own story.

If you and your son are having fun, surely that's more valuable than your character's motivation?

Edited by lockwoodx

@Krummey: You hit the nail on the head as far as mmos go. It's not a mmorpg unless the world is open and free for you to impact it with the decisions you make. Sadly, gamers have lowered their standards to the point they are content to exist in worlds where the only impact they can make is to their own characters.

MMORPGs are nothing more than "do what it says on the screen" until they figure out how to make open worlds with real consequences. I hope your son doesn't get hooked on mediocrity, they use instant gratification to condition gamers to the point of genuine addiction.

Posted by Lavapotamus

Well, you could always argue that certain players just don't pay enough attention to the included story. Sometimes its supplied, albiet poorly, and it could argued as the player's fault for not taking the time to read through mission explanations. Of course, if the explanations themselves are dry or uninteresting, then it could be the fault of the writers for not properly capturing their audience...

I don't know. I have this problem fairly often with RPGs and especially MMOs. Side quests in most games usually feel like additional challenges to either offer more playtime or to set up a challenge before the player can receive an optional reward. The execution of these is pretty transparent at times, but if they're handled properly I can forget all about that and get pretty interested in the story. I really can't say that too often with MMOs, though; they're not exclusively at fault, but their quests always feel really mundane to me unless I force myself to read the entirety of the mission's text. Even then, I'm not guaranteed to be entertained. I usually have to just focus on being entertained through my own character's progression rather than the world these types of games are set in.

Edited by Tennmuerti

To be honest DC Universe is not the best example of an MMO. Well actually it quite a good example of a generic MMO, which most of them are. So in that sense it's perfect. But there are MMO's that do it better.

@Krummey said:

That pretty much reinforced what my uninformed preconceived notion of an MMO was: doing this "because".

In the end yes all of it can be boiled down to just that. It doesn't have to be, but most mmos make it easy to do so, therefore a majority of players do just that.

Can there really be a story, as one would traditionally think of it, within this structure?

Absolutely. Ironically an MMO which most others try to copy, WoW has just that if you choose to invest yourself in the lore of the world and the story. But one would need to go deep down the rabbit hole and not just in WoW but explore the backstory and important characters/events of that universe that occur outside of the scope of the MMO. In fact I would have probably quit it much sooner that I had if it was not for the lore, the characters and the story.

I assume the new star wars mmo is attempting just that also.

Is everything just in service of raising numbers on a stat screen?

If you choose to break it down to that then yes. And like I said most generic MMOs make it tempting to do so. One needs an investment in the world and fiction of the MMO in the first place to be able to choose to be interested in the stories that are there. Plus of course the game itself needs to be able to facilitate that.

PS: One other thing is that the community of an MMO is very important. If you aren't doing stuff or talking to other people in an MMO you might as well not bother and just play SP games. Some people call MMO's glorified chat-rooms and not totally undeservedly so.

Posted by Krummey
@gamma_male That's fair, and we are having fun. I certainly don't feel like we're having $15/mo worth of fun so I'm glad this is free.
Posted by Krummey
@Buzzkill He's 8, man. He's having fun making the cars freak out by attacking them. He likes good games though, I'm teaching him right.
Edited by lockwoodx

@Tennmuerti: It's funny you bring up WoW's story in the positive, but that's exactly what killed WoW for me. As soon as prominent figures of lore became nothing more than "Loot Pinatas" with the lame excuse of "because they went crazy!" I was done with it. Blizzard had a decent story and decided to cannibalize it for greed because they were out of good ideas. Eff that and eff them.

Posted by Krummey
@Tennmuerti

To be honest DC Universe is not the best example of an MMO. Well actually it quite a good example of a generic MMO, which most of them are. So in that sense it's perfect. But there are MMO's that do it better.

@Krummey said:

That pretty much reinforced what my uninformed preconceived notion of an MMO was: doing this "because".

In the end yes all of it can be boiled down to just that. It doesn't have to be, but most mmos make it easy to do so, therefore a majority of players do just that.

Can there really be a story, as one would traditionally think of it, within this structure?

Absolutely. Ironically an MMO which most others try to copy, WoW has just that if you choose to invest yourself in the lore of the world and the story. But one would need to go deep down the rabbit hole and not just in WoW but explore the backstory and important characters/events of that universe that occur outside of the scope of the MMO. In fact I would have probably quit it much sooner that I had if it was not for the lore, the characters and the story.

I assume the new star wars mmo is attempting just that also.

Is everything just in service of raising numbers on a stat screen?

If you choose to break it down to that then yes. And like I said most generic MMOs make it tempting to do so. One needs an investment in the world and fiction of the MMO in the first place to be able to choose to be interested in the stories that are there. Plus of course the game itself needs to be able to facilitate that.

PS: One other thing is that the community of an MMO is very important. If you aren't doing stuff or talking to other people in an MMO you might as well not bother and just play SP games. Some people call MMO's glorified chat-rooms and not totally undeservedly so.

I feel like I'm making the right choice here treating this game like an MMO with training wheels. We'll fool around with it for a few weekends and see what we can get out of it. I'd like to be able to find something that my wife could get into as well. Strangely though, she already plays an MMO, but it's an iOS game and utter garbage. But the first time she told me about going on a raid, not realizing she was using "dorkspeak" as she might say, I got a little teary.
Posted by ajamafalous
@gamma_male said:

Story-telling in games is difficult to implement without clumsy exposition. The story isn't being explained in the same way as a film or novel. It tends to be happening around you (see: Half-Life 2). I don't think this is a problem exclusive to MMOs. In fact, I don't think it's that much of a problem. Give me a set of problems in an interesting environment and I'm quite happy to make my own story.

If you and your son are having fun, surely that's more valuable than your character's motivation?

Pretty much this.
Edited by Tennmuerti

@Buzzkill said:

@Tennmuerti: It's funny you bring up WoW's story in the positive, but that's exactly what killed WoW for me. As soon as prominent figures of lore became nothing more than "Loot Pinatas" with the lame excuse of "because they went crazy!" I was done with it. Blizzard had a decent story and decided to cannibalize it for greed because they were out of good ideas. Eff that and eff them.

Oh yeah that is partially what made me give up WoW too (tho not the only factor). There is no denying that :(

But it took a while for them to do that and truth be told the story progression of that MMO is still far far superior to almost everything else mmo wise on the market. Hell I would go as far as to say it was better that many SP rpgs. So I bring it up in the positive in a comparative sense. And also there is no denying that WoW's story appeal is rooted in the huge amount of lore that preceded it.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@Krummey said:

That pretty much reinforced what my uninformed preconceived notion of an MMO was: doing this "because". Can there really be a story, as one would traditionally think of it, within this structure?

SWTOR says hi. I burned out on WoW three years ago and have failed to click with a single MMO since (and I've tried them all) exactly because of how the quests felt like a pointless grind. Yet here we are five days after early access began, and all I can think about is when I'm going to be able to log back on to TOR so I can progress my character's story and see what happens next! I usurped a Darth and replaced him with an imposter, single-handedly put a stop to an entire planet in rebellion, and regretfully defeated a comrade in a duel so emotionally charged that I'm not too proud to say that I got a little misty eyed.

It may not be for everyone. The pacing is slower compared to other genres and some people just don't like Star Wars. However, 24 levels in Bioware has given me exactly what I feel was promised: KotOR 3. I can't wait to finish the end game so I can try the other classes and experience KotOR 4-10.

Posted by lockwoodx

@Tennmuerti said:

@Buzzkill said:

@Tennmuerti: It's funny you bring up WoW's story in the positive, but that's exactly what killed WoW for me. As soon as prominent figures of lore became nothing more than "Loot Pinatas" with the lame excuse of "because they went crazy!" I was done with it. Blizzard had a decent story and decided to cannibalize it for greed because they were out of good ideas. Eff that and eff them.

Oh yeah that is partially what made me give up WoW too (tho not the only factor). There is no denying that :(

But it took a while for them to do that and truth be told the story progression of that MMO is still far far superior to almost everything else on the market. Hell I would go as far as to say it was better that many SP rpgs.

Can't argue with that.

Posted by Krummey

You should all have 8 year olds who only recently discovered comic book characters try to make character names in comic book MMOs. "Dad! Somebody took Colonel Fury, too!"