Monday, September 28, 2009

Random Shots: MMO Solipsism

  • I'm turning rant mode on for this post, so stand back if you want to avoid the flames.

  • There is a persistent attitude in the MMO blogging community that doing the same quests as other players reduces immersion. They feel like their own efforts are for naught if the next person that comes along ends up killing the same ten rats to save the village that they just left. Those people are wrong and here is why.

  • People have abdicated all responsibility for investing themselves in the games they play. They expect the computer to do all the work while they have a passive experience. As computer power and graphics have improved, people have expected more from their games and less from themselves.

  • When I starting playing games on my computer, my avatar was an "@" symbol. There wasn't any color. When a kobold ran up to smack you, a little "k" ran across a field of periods and the combat animation was a sentence: "The kobold hits you for 7 points." And ASCII graphics weren't even around for earlier gamers. They had to read about that kobold running up to them. Someone had to work pretty hard to feel immersion in a game like that, but it happened.

  • MMORPGs actually do a pretty good job of telling stories for their players. There is no indication in game of what quests other players are on. You don't get to read what they're reading. From the point of view of your game client, those people are just autonomous NPCs running around willy nilly, occasionally beating on the wildlife. As a player you can parse out what they are doing, but your character cannot. MMOs have also added cutscenes, instances, and phased graphics to help tell a better story. And the funny thing is that the people crying about immersion are the ones that scream the loudest when these storytelling devices are put into use.

  • When I sit in front of my computer all I can see is what my character sees and knows. My character doesn't know that ten million other players have killed these very same bandits or collected those red bandanas. The least I can do is meet the developers halfway. It may be the poorest form of roleplaying in existence, but that is what we are doing when we enter these virtual worlds.

  • If you're not feeling immersed in an RPG, maybe you should take a look at yourself and what you bring to the game.


  1. Randolph Carter9/29/2009 6:33 AM

    Hey Marty,

    I couldn't agree more with what you said. Well put, sir!


  2. @ Jayedub & @ RC - Thank you both! I do feel like an old man waving his cane at the kids walking across his lawn, though.