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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Battle Royale: UT2004 versus MMOs

There are lots of things I don't understand about gaming these days, but the latest must be the zeal in which Massively Multiplayer gamers are willing to subsidize for what the average gamer wouldn't even stand for if it was free. And what's really odd is that these are often the same people.

It's like lots of people love to hate Doom 3. But if id had only made it possible for a thousand people to wander around hell and upgrade their Plasma Gun Craftsmanship, all would have been forgiven. Even if not everyone could actually log into hell. See? It doesn't have to work, you see, it just has to promise to work massively when it does.

And if that makes any sense to you, please let me know how. So, how do these two things compare? Let's look.

Unreal Tournament 2004Typical MMO
Retail PriceAbout $50.00About $50.00
Monthly PriceNone$10.00-$15.00
Online features32 player max, hundreds of different servers.Thousands of players online concurrently
Online StabilityRock SolidUsually flimsy
Online SecurityDecent, few problemsVaries. Some have zero problems, others suffer from common problems inventory cloning, leveling scripts and character hacking.
UpgradesFree bonus packs, free patchesFree patches, "non-mandatory" content packs costing $20-$50.
User modificationsAt least a handful of high quality mods, hundreds of user based projects, completely free tools to develop out of the box.Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Never will happen. Unless that MMO is Second Life.

OK, one could read that and say that I place an undue weight on user modifications - but I look at the wealth of gaming the UT2004 offers for free, which is itself limited really only to the energy of the user base playing it ... against the rather random ability to play the core game while still paying for it every day ... and I simply scratch my head.

I hope Guild Wars is successful, because right now I'm thinking the only reason MMO's are an attractive business model is for companies to trick gamers into digging into their pockets again and again and again and again.

I would also argue that there are things about an MMO that I'm going soft on. For instance, when Sony decided that PlanetSide was working the way "intended", they changed the core gameplay. And then they changed it again. And then again. Now that means that when someone reads a review of the game and decides to buy it - they could be buying something completely different. Sony could decide PlanetSide is just a rally race, and the gamers would just have to suck it down.

And when security goes wrong in your typical FPS, it can ruin a server, or in really grand cases effect the whole online community. But private servers and LAN games would still be fine. Security goes awry in an MMO, that could be it. The fat lady has sung, and took that fourty hours of level grinding with her.

I'm not saying MMO's are evil or inherently wrong. I think it's an interesting genre that I hope expands and evolves. I just think that if gamers assume that a) We will always pay a monthly few, because of server costs and b) These games will always be technical infeasible that the genre will have little reason to evolve. The problem with a) is that many companies work after market and don't charge a monthly fee for it (as shown by bonus packs, new modes, levels, etc.) and b) is self-defeating because some MMO's have been capable of stability.

An online chum and I were thinking of what it would take to do Minimal Massively Multiplayer, or an MMO network that ran off a normal MO framework. Maybe if we got that running, and Epic included the UT2004RPG mutator in every box ... they could just start charging a ten spot every thirty days?

1 comment:

Winkyboy said...

Don't forget about the entire other "psychology" that surrounds MMOs and the ability to sell your "success" to other people on online auction sites. While as I understand, WoW's user license disallows this (never mind, I just did a quick Ebay search... ), this ability is akin to using an aimbot on a standard FPS server.

Buying something from an auction site to use in your game lets you become something that you AREN'T, and while it makes it a lot of fun for you, it sullies the game for everyone else.