No More MMO Heroes

Yesterday, the gods of Team Fortress 2 felt the need to bestow upon me a glorious moment for my birthday.  The payload was in a trench, and just then someone threw a jarate at the bomb cart.  This lowly pyro did jump into the fray pushing the cart thereupon critting down two heavies, a medic, an enemy pyro, and some other hapless being before succumbing to enemy fire.  The moment was epic.  I just had to share.  Allow me this one small indulgence.

I, as well as Zubon, have been playing a lot of Team Fortress 2.  I really enjoy the chaotic style of play that public servers are ripe with.  One can usually find me amidst the Lotus servers.  Now back to regularly scheduled Kill Ten Rats thoughts:

Team Fortress 2 is based on the theory of player skill.  The teams are “evenly” matched, players are able to switch classes at any time, and in most scenarios battle lines are drawn.  The gameplay of Team Fortress 2 is similar to an MMO in that it is a team-based game that cannot usually be won by a single, exalted gamer.  If the team on average sucks and there are too many snipers, even with two or three masters that team will usually lose.  However, Team Fortress 2 does give, quite constantly, the feeling of personal triumph (like one I described above).  Being able to take out two or three enemies before succumbing to death leaves the feeling of not only contributing to the team but also the feeling that it was because of player skill.  This is something I find lacking in many MMOs (especially regarding PvE), and upon examination gives quite a hole that could be filled.

Take a normal raid.  Players are combined to create an amoebus output of DPS while simultaneously mitigating and repairing inputted damage.  There are some tentacles that do more damage than others.  Some tentacles are better at keeping the invaders busy until attention can be drawn to said invaders.  Some tentacles merely run around putting band-aids on other tentacles.  Yet, all in all there are no heroes.

Sure, there are moments when a last standing member manages to take down the raid boss, but these instances are few and far between.  And, last surviving tentacle doing its job is not really heroic, just necessary.  Usually, though, the amoeba lives and dies as one.  Fault is laid bare to a specific minority when losing.  Yet, with a win, rarely are MVPs named.  The raid leader gets thanked for managing the cooperative process, healers are thanked for doing their job, and everybody views the amoeba as generally being good.  It’s been a great, banal system.

Could an MMO system be created that gives the feeling of being a proactive, reactive, intelligent hero in the team encounter?  I can only hope for such an MMO that gives me the feeling of success and acknowledgement in a risky, breakaway, and most importantly skillful performance.  Until then, I will play my part.

–Ravious
fortune’s fool

14 thoughts on “No More MMO Heroes”

  1. TF2 is one of my favorite all time games for many of the reasons you describe above. I absolutely LOVE the fact that it has taken on many MMO-like qualities recently. Item drops, inventory, achievements, etc. are all welcomed additions to me, although I realize that some may not feel the same.

    I’ve always felt that there needs to be a TF2 style MMO. Centralize the server(s), thus eliminating the hacks/exploits and keep everything small scale and balanced. You just take what is already there and figure out a way to put something in it for goal oriented players.

    This might be something to wish for, and once obtained might be a bad idea. We won’t know till someone tries, and I think someone is. From all I’ve seen it looks like the upcoming Global Agenda game is going this route, and I look forward to seeing if they can fuse MMO-style mechanics with all the fun that is TF2 style game play.

    I’m on Steam as “Stimulus Package” if any of the KTR crew happens to see me online :)

  2. Lack of requirement for player skill is why I play MMOs in the first place :)

    Seriously, though, I look to MMOs for an experience closer to a craft hobby like knitting or gardening than any kind of memorable “event”. You do the same thing a great number of times, as accurately and/or efficiently as possible and eventually you stand back and take a look at the result. A sweater, a nice row of beans, your character.

    An experience like you describe is a world away from what I sit down at the keybooard and anticipate.

  3. It is rare to be a hero in an MMO and I totally understand your point. It does actually happen though. Not a lot, but sometimes you can tell when one person steps up in a make or break situation and succeeds.

    I can think of a few different examples from my long raid history but, like I said, they are few.

    Superior play can matter though. Not as much as it used to, but it can.

  4. Yeah, that’s one issue I had when writing with this… arguably it does happen. Suzina’s last stand sounds like a good heroic story, but all the one’s I have heard have all been founded on recovering from mistakes, whereas the “farm mode”-raiding leaves no room for heroics. So they are almost like self-inflicted heroics…but yeah, definitely not the norm.

  5. I think this may be my problem with MMOs. I’ve got the FPS, it is possible to win for your whole team, mentality. Those moments are what I strive for and they are just so rare in MMOs. I don’t even have to be competing in a match to get the moments in FPSes, I can just be in a public server. It just happened the other day, I’m the last CT and the bomb gets planted, I make my way to it and kill 2 guys with my rifle ammo, switch to pistol and kill the last 2, reach the bomb and defuse it one second before it blows up. WINNER! That just doesn’t happen as often in MMOs because they’re designed against it. If I was capable of mowing down 4 other players on my way to cap a flag in WAR then my class would be getting nerfed soon.

    The closest I’ve come to making it happen on a regular basis in an MMO is when I stack the deck in my favor. By playing with friends and building good duos/trios. In DAoC it was a Zerker/Shaman combo and WAR was a Runepriest/Runepriest combo.

    Maybe I’m just a dick but I want to be the winner and I want my team to know it was because of me, but I also want to feel bad if I don’t win to motivate me to get better.

    P.S. Balls

  6. Actually I find this to be the case in MMOs as well. The problem is you need to wade out beyond the kiddy pool of WoW to get there. FFXI has provided that feeling many times while I was playing it. Quite a few times player skill can pull victory out of the jaws of defeat. The effectiveness between a party of people that know what they are doing and are on the ball is incredibly different from one that’s not.

  7. The only times I’ve felt like I’ve had “proactive, reactive, intelligent” participation with an MMO group, it’s always been in small-team situations in challenging circumstances (usually designed for more players).

    The original WoW Endgame dungeons (Stratholme, Scholomance, Blackrock Depths, and to a lesser extent Dire Maul) provided opportunity to take a smaller group for some serious on-the-fly craziness.

    Since then, dungeon design has been scaled in such predictable fashion, or worse, scripted. Good for story and presentation, but not as good for gameplay. And that’s true not just for WoW, but pretty much every MMORPG since. =(

    This is why I still spend so much time in the FPS games. Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Unreal Tournament 3 and a host of Half-Life 2 mods, all with better team dynamics than most MMOs. I miss the persistence when I play these games, but for sheer visceral fun with friends, they’re hard to beat. PvP especially, from my perspective I can’t fathom why people both PvP’ing in MMOs, the gap between quality content is so huge.

  8. That was why I liked DDO. Combat in that felt much more immediate, and positioning was much more important. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to feel a bit more like their personal skill makes a difference.

  9. I have felt like a ‘proactive, reactive, intelligent’ hero in Guild Wars PvP, but nothing compared to TF2. I remember analyzing this exact topic a while back and was left wondering what was stopping MMORPGs from replicating the same PvP experience TF2 can provide. If only Valve made an MMO…

  10. The the few rare”hero” experiences I’ve had in LotRO were PvP situations (solo, group and full raid) where one person pulls through seemingly impossible odds and completely dominates (or escapes). Overall the PvP system in that game is just PvE but with a lot more wargs trolling for easy kills.

    This is unlikely, if not impossible, in PvE play. Sure, you have good players and bad ones (group with a good minstrel vs. a bad one and tell me you can’t see the difference :P) but at the end of the day, as long as they can press hot-keys in the right order anyone can make it.

    Mortal Online looks like an MMO that’s trying to incorporate a little skill but I don’t have high hopes for that one sticking around long or being appealing to enough people to make the community interesting.

  11. @Arkenor: DDO actually might come closer. I am in the beta (I think I can say that), but I want to wait until the new version is released (I have a static RL friend group waiting in the wings).

    @Crimson Starfire: GW GvG does come close. When you go solo to take down henchies at the base, it feels pretty good. Or flag-runner fights…

  12. after all the years of jumping back to front from MMO to Fps .. i really do miss the days of Playing Raven shield Pistols only and going and killing some tangos.. Clearing CT maps and the team work from complete strangers… flip side you have a MMO and you know some of these ppl for years in game.. and still dont go nowhere and it is a constant grind with little or not real satisfication.

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