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Devil's Daily: ARE MMOs Too Easy?

28. June, 2013Tags: Firefall, MMO Blog

Mark Kern - head of the team behind Firefall - today asked whether MMOs have become too easy. It's a fair question, but it requires a little bit of thought. Kern's answer was "yes, unless you're playing Firefall," although to truly make that statement you need to judge how easy is too easy.

At what point does ease of play stop being a necessary entry tactic and start becoming extreme? On today's Devil's Daily, we look for the answer.

Changing Pace

So what does Kern mean when he says MMOs have become too easy? It's not so much the difficulty itself that he has a problem with, but with the result of that lack of difficulty.

From MMORPG:

"As content gets easier in order to appeal to a wider market, it at some point also pushes that market away. We feel bored by the same formula over and over. We never explore the world, having been indoctrinated to just follow a laundry list of tasks. There is no thinking, and not much choice, as the ideal path is spoon fed to you in a linear fashion (ironic how open world MMOs have become linear quest fests). It may be great for relaxing and having a fun couple hours of gameplay, but it doesn’t last. No wonder we have such a huge crowd of jaded and bored MMO players. Every MMO that follows the WoW formula is a trivial exercise, dominated by rote and convention, trading off the joy of the journey for a series of meaningless tasks. And when we race to the end, we expect some kind of miracle end-game that will keep us playing. It never does."

I think anybody that has played MMOs for any length of time can see that he has a lot of valid points. This is especially true for fresh IPs from smaller studios, games that go with standard fantasy ideas and locations, as opposed to building anything worth exploring. They know that people don't want to, so why bother going to that cost and effort?

The Target Audience

This is where I have to start questioning how much of this is a bad thing. On paper, even when discussed person to person, all of the above seems terrible for the industry and for the genre. You know what's worse? People not playing. If the average MMO gamer - even if they wouldn't necessarily identify as such - wants a laundry list of tasks, a few enemies to kill and nothing else, why would anybody take that away from them?

Play Firefall

Too easy implies that we've gone too far. That we've reached the point where things are balanced enough that everybody is happy, and that we've gone beyond that. While I can understand why a hardcore gamer - someone that spends 40 hours a week at their rig, mouse in hand - might be underwhelmed by what's currently available on the market, a hardcore gamer isn't typical of anything and I can't imagine that a casual or even many core gamers would be happy with a game where you're just let loose on the world without any "kill 10 of these creatures" missions.

Final Word

MMOs are easy and that has a knock-on effect on the industry as a whole. Our genre is one that has become too dry for its own good. As I asked only a week ago, "how on earth can a genre survive when it remains so incestuous?"

However, it's not too easy. It's just easy enough for those that make up the vast majority of the MMO audience. The answer isn't in appealing to the core, in heading back to the things we hated before World of Warcraft came along. The answer is to develop something new and exciting, to create something that, like World of Warcraft, innovates but makes more accessible.

I'd love for Firefall to be that game. Something, anything, needs to fill that gap.

What do you think?


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