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The State of Sci-Fi MMOs

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the work-in-progress dept.

Sci-Fi 194

Massively is running a story that looks into the status of the sci-fi MMO genre, and why such games have had a tendency to struggle over the years. Quoting: "Fantasy alone carries with it assumptions based in our own history, a romanticized version of the middle ages where knights were good guys and smart people with beards could cast spells. Preconceived notions in sci-fi are far less cast in our collective memory. While stories that predict the future are surely as ancient as the myths describing the past, sci-fi itself didn't really ingrain itself into our culture until the 1800s, with H.G. Wells' stories and other writers at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. ... Compounding the lack of specificity in setting is the tendency of sci-fi games to overwhelm players with skills and rule sets they initially don't understand and eventually don't need."

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I love Eve Online (3, Insightful)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 5 years ago | (#27499911)

Enough said.

Re:I love Eve Online (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27499953)

I'm sorry.

Re:I love Eve Online (2, Insightful)

Planetes (6649) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500173)

Agree completely.. I've been a fan for over a year and have no intention of leaving the game anytime soon. It's one of those love or hate games in terms of interface and complexity. If you love it, you love it.

Re:I love Eve Online (5, Interesting)

hidannik (1085061) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500409)

For me, it's not about the interface or complexity.

My problem with it is that I'm a tourist, and like every other MMO it caters to perfectionists. It's not well designed for completionists or tourists.

The NPC missions are few and far between, and most are not very interesting.

Oh sure, I've heard all about the player created PVP drama in the game, but that's all endgame content. And it takes months if not years of mining or 'rat-hunting for hours every day to earn the skills needed to enter 0.0 space without getting pod-killed every five minutes.

And getting pod-killed can set you back days (implants), weeks or months (underinsured with inadequate quality clone), or back to where you were when you first got your account.

So while the tourist content might be there, it's behind a giant wall of perfectionist grind. No thanks.

If the combat were actually fun, it might make up for the grind, but it really isn't. Lock on and auto-attack until the enemy blows up. Yawn. Even Starfleet Command's combat was better. What I want in a space MMO's combat is something like LucasArts' X-Wing, or Freelancer.

A Freelancer MMO... now that I'd play.

Hans

Re:I love Eve Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27500527)

A Freelancer MMO... now that I'd play.

Hans

Check out Vendetta Online, that's pretty much what it is. I haven't really played it more than a few minutes, though, so I don't know how good it is. They do have clients for Windows, Mac, AND Linux, though :-)

Re:I love Eve Online (5, Informative)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500557)

I hate to come in sounding like an Eve Online fanboy, but your post does sound a lot like someone who got the trial, went 'meh' and thinks they've seen all there is to see. Feel free to TL;DR to the end of this to check out some game recommendations instead.

You are absolutely wrong about 0.0 first off. First off, there is no "endgame" in Eve. This isn't WoW or WAR. Secondly 0.0 is open to new pilots even with low skills. A newbie in a properly fitted (and by that I mean the right setup not necessarily T2 gear) frigate can work as a low cost interceptor quite easily, for example. That barely takes any time at all to train for. Believe it or not, creative T1 fits can be quite effective and not break the bank.
Combat is far from that simplistic, with some ship builds requiring a good deal of hands on management in order to keep yourself from capping out and proper module activation timing. On the broader spectrum, fleet commanding is pretty intense stuff and great fun to learn to do.
Go get into an interceptor duel with someone who knows what they're doing and try saying combat is boring again. :D

Getting podkilled is a bitch, true, but jump clones exist for a reason. Clone insurance is also very cheap so really if you get popped without it that's your own damn fault.

NPC Missions are kinda wank depth wise, but CCP is constantly adding new ones with better laid out mission briefings and do eventually plan on actually adding NPC AI beyond just the recently added sleepers (which for anyone who's been out there knows that they're no slouches and will rape the first logistics ship to show up and say hi).

You are right on one thing though, Eve is not a tourist's game. It takes a fair amount of time at the beginning to get through the initial learning curve and general entry barrier, and this puts off a lot of people who don't have friends in game to help them out. It's entirely up to the player motivating him or herself to get out there and make something of the game. It doesn't hold your hand and gently point you at a few wolf cubs to go kill for cheap xp, which really, is what most gamers want in a game. It instead says "here's your rookie ship, have fun!" and leaves it up to you. Definitely a niche game, but a successful one.

You may want to check out Jumpgate: Evolution which features hands on ship control with classic space sim combat.
http://www.jumpgateevolution.com
On a non-mmo but still space shooty shooty level there's also Naumachia which is shaping up to be all sorts of awesome.
http://naumachia.aureasection.com/ [aureasection.com]

Anyway, sorry for the fanboy rant, but posts such as yours drag that out of me. I don't like seeing people drag Eve through the mud and potentially put off people who may actually enjoy the game by posting pretty innacurate statements.

Re:I love Eve Online (4, Informative)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501945)

I agree with just about everything you said. One other thing that bears mentioning though is that Eve is really NOT a single-player game. If you decide to go it "lone-wolf" style then yes, you're probably going to get bored unless you have the patience of a saint.

The point of Eve is community. Join corps, leverage them as a jump-off point for your own corp if you want, or work your way up the ranks. Just like real life. I've played on and off and been in a few corps. In most cases, I've left on really good terms and come out with loads of equipment, ISK and training (not to mention, friends that I made through Eve Online). Sure there have been times I've been raiding my ex corps thanks to a mission in my new corp... but that's half the fun.

For some, Eve is a bit TOO much like real life I think. I only stopped playing frequently about 8 months ago because I just didn't have time for it. But I still plan to return... my character is still sitting on a database somewhere and will one day be reactivated. Maybe I'll join another corp (currently independent), or maybe I'll use the equipment and money I have now to build myself a new corp... enlist some of my old friends if they're still around.

That's what Eve is all about.

Re:I love Eve Online (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501191)

Erh... no. Sorry, but no.

First, going into 0.0 space alone is a good way to get podded. Whether you have a million or fifty million SP under your belt, you won't stand a chance. 0.0 is basically what constitutes as raid content in other MMOs. The twist is that you, as a low player, may actually participate. Sure, you won't fly that huge titan with its devastating, POS-killing firepower, but you can still be useful (and I don't mean just as a decoy and meatshield).

What you complain about is essentially that you can't play for 2 weeks and level the raid dungeon single handedly.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

tfmachad (1386141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501895)

A Freelancer MMO... now that I'd play.

Try the Discovery Gaming Community for your Freelancer M(200 cap)MO needs.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500509)

Agree completely.. I've been a fan for over a year and have no intention of leaving the game anytime soon. It's one of those love or hate games in terms of interface and complexity.

I played Anarchy Online for years and said exactly the same thing. You're talking about MMO addiction not something special with Eve Online, millions have said what you have about the majority of MMOs out there.

If you love it, you love it.

No shit, Sherlock.

Re:I love Eve Online (4, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500511)

My beef with EVE is the leveling system.

There is no way for anyone starting EVE today to ever catch up to those who started a year ago, and those that started a year ago will never catch up to those who started two years ago, .. and so on.

I played eve for nearly 6 months. When a big content patch came out that was essentialy ships I wouldn't be able to fly for at least another 6 months, yet I had to compete directly against one (freighters), I decided the system sucked more than I had already suspected.

I was a very successfull high security hauler and trader who had his market taken away by superships he could afford to buy, but could not fly... I had to train another 10 or so skills (one of which taking almost two months to train all by itself)

Basically, I had to pay them $15 x 6months = $90 in order to continue my trading career, and thats assuming that a new update wasn't going to again push the bar even further away from me.

EVE, mostly a great game, but the leveling/training system needs to go.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500699)

I had the same problems really - many pvp based corps want at least 6 million skillpoints just to join, and some as many at 20 million.

Unless you just want to tackle all day you need an insane amount of time just sitting there buying skill books and "learning" crap.

It seems to me there's an insane amount of unnecessary skills as well - many that sound similar, many that have crazy amounts of dependencies that you'll only figure out using a flow chart (get used to flow charts and spreadsheets if you want to take the game seriously btw).

I guess some people like that - and to be honest if my RL friends played it I'd be more into it, but as it stands I'll play something else.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

ssh_agent (688937) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500837)

Well yeah a lot of corps have randomly high standards. Corps have to be careful when dealing with new players get to many in and corp chat is lost to a chorus of "how do i ...." There are still plenty of corps out there who will take players early on. In particular FW corps. As for "tackle all day", i've just peaked over 72mil sp...and i still believe nothing beats the thrill of interceptors. Aim for your racial interceptor and lose crap t1 ships in the meantime.

Re:I love Eve Online (3, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500843)

This is not entirely true.

While the leveling system of EvE, with no level cap meaning that playing longer == having more skill, certainly rewards players that have been playing since the beginning, starting later does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to compete sensibly.

Skills are leveled at a diminishing returns system. To explain to those that don't play, every skill comes in five "levels", each level offering you the same benefit (e.g. 5% more speed, so 25% at level 5), but leveling times increase with each level. I.e. to level from 4 to 5 you need more time than the previous four levels combined.

Most skills that require other skills to be learned first (but the most advanced) require the prerequisits at level 3-4, usually. Unless it can be assumed to be a given that someone "hardcore" enough to want the specialized skill has the underlying skill at 5 anyway. If you're a hardcore miner, you have mining at 5. So it's understandable to make Mining 5 a prerequisite to fly the more advanced mining ships.

Freighters are a bit of a special case, needing some skills you might not have seen as important as an industrial hauler. Yet still, they're not really out of reach. Besides, I doubt that you cannot make money trading anymore just because there are freighters. Freighters are big, but slow. Trading, especially margin trading, is often a matter of being there first, unless the amounts asked are so ridiculously high that you can't fulfill the conctract alone anyway. And then, the frighter pilot would first of all have to have the amount at hand.

Especially in empire, and especially in ore trade, you'd have to visit a LOT of places before you can use a freighter sensibly. Before you can fill the balloon, the trade's long done and over.

What I'd suggest for a industrial trader is to build a network with miners. Miners (e.g. me) love to sit in belts, gobble rocks, maybe split them open for ore and then... well, then we're sitting on a few million trit and other ore that we have to get off the planet somehow. And we (ok, I) don't really like the idea of having to carry the crap for 20ish systems just to get a good price for it.

In other words, I think we should talk. ;)

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500921)

The thing is, you could have flown those freighters in a lot less than 6 months. The only intensive skill is a single industrial hauler skill (there are four to chose from) which takes somewhere around 3-5 weeks depending. My take is that even, if you hadn't trained any hauler-specific skills, you could be in a freighter inside of two months. And no offense, but why didn't you research the new content expansion so that you would know what you needed to train before the expansion arrived?

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

TOGSolid (1412915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500999)

The only difference in characters as they get older is not that they can do things better, but that they can do other things well too. Take for instance a one year old character and a 4 year old character. The one year old has spent their time tricking out their interceptor, the 4 year old has that already wrapped up. The big difference is that the four year old toon can also maybe fly HACs, HICs, and a few other toys, or maybe not. Who knows maybe they can fly a really tricked out inty and then went and trained for industrial skills? Anyway, both toons can fly an interceptor equally well skill wise. Technically the 1 year old has "caught up" in his chosen profession.
Case in point: My alt trained exclusively for mining as soon as I got her learning skills done. She's about a year and a half old, and I can't squeeze anything else out of her Hulk. However, besides that and indy piloting those are the only things she can do ridiculously well. She has however caught up to older industrial toons in her chosen profession.

People unfortunately have the classic leveling system burned into their skulls, so often they'll look at Eve as if it was WoW with infinite levels.
About freighters: Don't bother unless you're in a corp that needs the massive hauling space. Spend your time training for T2 indies instead. Blockade Runners are sexy, sexy boats.

Re:I love Eve Online (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501225)

Same here (say, were you that guy that hoovered away my belt last night?). I'm a miner. There's literally nothing (short of godawefully expensive implants) that I could add to my mining skills to squeeze another m/minute out of my mining lasers. And it won't get you anything "more" anyway, when you look at the way the rocks work. You sit there for three minutes even if the rock would pop earlier. Usually, the few additional m you could get are wasted anyway in that last cycle.

Essentially, what I can do after four years in mining can be reached in less than half a year (you'll need longer for that initial half billion you need to buy all the junk you "need" anyway). The only difference is that I can additionally fly a BS (in a way that keeps them alive), actually hit something with large turrets, command a fleet of miners or fighters, refine without waste and a few other tidbits that are, at best, "nice to have", but anything but a "make or break" part of my career.

What matters in EvE is that you find out fairly quickly what you want to do first, then go for it and stick to it 'til you can do it at a level that satisfies you. Yes, it can be quite a drag when a lv5 skill with heavy multipliers keeps you locked down for a few weeks, but push through it and you're rewarded by being as good as a 4 year old player in that particular field.

You put it quite well, and if allowed I'd want to quote you on that occasionally, playing longer in EvE doesn't mean someone gets further ahead in a certain field. It means he has more options.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501337)

You can capture that extra little bit of efficiency that you lose by letting your mining lasers full-cycle every time. If you're willing to watch your survey scanner closely and you know how much your lasers pull in with each cycle, you can shut off a laser mid-cycle and it will pull in a partial load. This is also useful when trying to drive off rival miners by mining their asteroids out from under them. (If you finish off the asteroid, they'll get nothing when their mining laser cycles.)

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501611)

If I could remember what I have in that med slot that the survey scanner would take, I could also tell you now why I don't do that... beats me, though.

Thinking about it, I guess I should review the setup of my ships once in a while...

Re:I love Eve Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27502075)

You guys are all so right! How dare he act as though it would take him six months of paying CCP to be able to play the game and have fun, when it fact it would take him only two! Clearly he has unfairly maligned a wonderfully designed system.

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502549)

Ok, Ok, I bite.

You needn't sink two months into the game before you can "really" start playing. That's like saying you have to sink two months into WoW to get to 80 and get some of the initial equipment so you can start playing (raids). There's plenty to do. Plenty that's also more sensible than "grind 'til your eyes bleed so you get to 80 soon".

The fun part about EvE is that even a player with half a week of experience can be a sensible addition to a group. A miner with years of experience hacking rocks in .6 space would certainly not mind a frigate pilot with 2 weeks of experience as a bodyguard. Yes, the year old player could probably kill the mobs more easily, but first, he'd have to use a different ship and second, he'd have to use a different module fitting, thus reducing his mining output, thus reducing his revenue. Hell, I'd happily pay a 2 week old player to be my ore hauler. All he needs is an industrial (be my hauler for 2 hours and I'll buy you one), the skill for it can be learned even in a day.

And you're teamed up with a player whose account (and character) started in 2004, without even a moment of feeling like he's "pulling" you.

You can actually pull your own weight from day one and be an asset to a seasoned veteran. In the right circumstances, of course. You will not fly a POS-leveling titan. You will not be a cunning 'ceptor pilot. You will not be the builder with all the ultra-rare and OMGwannahave blueprints. And you shouldn't even dream about being the person that a 100+ people corp entrusts that carrier to.

If your goals are reasonable, though, you will be rewarded. You can expect to be valuable to certain people, even from day one (as pointed out above), something you can't even dream of in most other MMOs. You shouldn't expect to be the top dog in 0.0 space though. If that's your expectation, then you're in for about the same disappointment you'd get out of expecting to be called to a heroic raid in WoW after 3 days of leveling.

Re:I love Eve Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27501583)

I downloaded the trial a few months ago and the first time I opened the map screen my jaw dropped. The world is huge! It's mostly empty space... but it's HUGE!

Re:I love Eve Online (1)

kria (126207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502461)

I was enjoying EVE to start with, but I eventually realized I was playing a fundamentally wrong game for me. This realization came when a couple of dozen people blew up my battlecruiser and podded me when I was simply jumping into an area to do a mission. (Podding, for the uninitiated, is destroying your lifeboat; you lose all of your implants and potentially some "experience".)

And then I realized that I wasn't interested in a game where I spent a substantial amount of time reading a book while traveling and/or mining.

(shill)But hey, my husband at Dragonfire Lasercrafts has the images licensed, so he can make merchandise for the game, and continues to enjoy playing. (/shill) These days, I'm playing Pirates of the Burning Sea.

Re:I love Eve Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27502583)

I know this is shallow, but Eve turned me off the minute i found out that my "person" was permanently sealed inside the ship in a matrix-like goo capsule.

For some reason it completely ruined the game for me. In eve online im not a person im a ship, which completely removed any chance i had of ever identifying with my in-game alter-ego.

I think i played for 3 days or something. Nobody would talk to me, i was completely lost. I'd see players come & go, but nobody ever responded to me. The one time i left orbit i was shot down by something for some reason.

Besides that, the mechanics and UI of the game reminded me a lot of trying to "play" Battlecruiser 3000... Lots of neat options that dont really make any difference thrown at you with little or no explanation.

I really would like to see a good space MMO, EVE online aint it.

Not just MMOs (3, Insightful)

jimmyhat3939 (931746) | more than 5 years ago | (#27499955)

It's not just MMOs where sci fi has been somewhat less popular than other genres. It's also true for traditional roll playing games.

I think it's possible that what's going on here is that when people want to play games, they'd rather have it be about something totally out of the realm of possibility, rather than a possible future scenario, which is frequently the goal of sci fi.

Re:Not just MMOs (4, Insightful)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500247)

Quite possible. I would submit that attitude also plays a role. Traditional fantasy settings have a romantic, epic scope. There's a much more clearly-defined line between Good and Evil, which simplifies the morality issues of killing and looting various denizens of said realm. Fantasy societies tend to be (although they don't have to be) more wild and unregulated than science fiction settings.

And of course, fantasy more often celebrates the "epic hero" who kicks ass and takes names (Beowulf, Ajax, Merlin) as opposed to science fiction's more mortal protagonists. There's less opportunity for character advancement, since so much of the escapism is based on technology. A level 20 wizard has access to crazy spells that the lowbies could only dream of and is decked out in arcane accessories presumably lifted from some dragon somewhere. A level 20 space ship pilot is just a better pilot, perhaps one with a better space ship, which any lowbie with cash could simply walk into a store and buy.

And fantasy makes running the game easier. You can just randomly make stuff up and fit it into the game with a mere explanation that, "It's magic." Sci-fi technologies more often need to be explained, since they can be mass-produced, etc.

Re:Not just MMOs (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501649)

Whether or not any lowbie could buy that ship is as likely or unlikely as whether some wizard can march into a shop and dump a ton of gold on the counter for the superspecialawesome wand of leet.

If you think about it, that dragon the wizard stole his wand from had to get that wand from somewhere as well. So someone must have made it. This someone could just as well have sold it instead of trying to kill a dragon with it.

Because it requires those oh so special ingredients that no mundane would ever touch and no wizard would willingly part with? Who says that this isn't as true for starship components? That prototype engine with the extra bit of boost certainly wouldn't be for sale either, requiring some super-rare thingamajig ore only found on the lost planet of Sqiddrigon. Mass production? You're kidding, right, you gotta hand forge this stuff, no machine can predict when it's just right, you gotta 'feel' that, it's more art than science or you end up with a very expensive piece of scrap metal!

See? In no way any less sensible than the magic wand of awesome, and in no way more mass produced.

It's much simpler than that (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27499969)

The whole concept of Fantasy is to give power to the weak and nerdy and put them in a milieu that encourages and promotes the behaviors that they so desperately want to express in the real world. But the real world is a harsh critic, and those behaviors (being smart, mostly) are universally reviled.

So the lucky ones discover the Fantasy genre and are rewarded for their behavior with scantily-clad women and a sense of satisfaction from acting chivalrous. It's a self-feeding world. The only necessary thing is a bunch of disaffected nerds.

The problem with sci-fi (or SyFy, if you prefer the modern nomenclature) is that it is designed to tackle difficult moral issues. Unlike Fantasy which is designed to feed the spiritual needs of nerds, SyFy is designed to force them to think. In a sense, fantasy provides an outlet for basal needs, but SyFy provides an outlet for higher-order needs.

Also, since SyFy is based on reality and the possibilities of reality, it is seldom that women are included in the plot solely for the sake of being women. Unlike the damsel in distress role in Fantasy, women in SyFy are neutered and masculinized to appeal to a sense of liberal sexual freedom. Fantasy does not have this limitation and therefore provides ample space for sexual expression for the nerds who take part in it.

It's no wonder that Fantasy MOO games do so much better than SyFy games.

Re:It's much simpler than that (4, Funny)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500067)

Sci-Fi... fuck!

I went Outdoor Life Network today, to do a little National Geographic Channeling, and stumbled across an Animal Channel, what a Discovery Channel, I was so Xtreme Sports Network about it, I blew my HBO, and had to buy another one from the Shopping Channel.

Was totally Comedy Central.

Re:It's much simpler than that (1)

eiMichael (1526385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501017)

If I had mod points I'd give this +1 Insightful.
SyFi is just an ad campaign to rebrand a cable television channel.

If ECW (or whatever other wrestling clubs they show) is SyFy. Then, perhaps a SyFy MMO has potential.

Re:It's much simpler than that (0, Troll)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500071)

SyFy.... Sorry, I stopped reading there, and forgot what I had read so far.

Re:It's much simpler than that (4, Interesting)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500241)

I'm sorry, but you haven't a clue about what you're talking about.

1) Intelligence is only "universally reviled" in the US and is becoming more common in Canada as well. The rest of the world take *far* more kindly to the actually intelligent.

2) SyFy is NOT "the modern nomenclature" for Sci-fi. It is a marketing gimmick from the Sci-fi network as an attempt to widen its viewing audience.

3) Fantasy is more popular because it is more accessible. As in, everyone knows about wizards, knights, etc as that has pervaded society for a *long* time. But, not many people know about sci-fi and its trappings. So, it's "weird" to many.

Seriously, you're attempting to trivialise fantasy to horny teenaged "geeks". And that's just so wrong it isn't funny.

Re:It's much simpler than that (2, Funny)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502633)

"Syfy" was military slang for a social disease in my day. Pronounced with a short i and long e. I guess nobody told them that. :\

Re:It's much simpler than that (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502713)

Actually, your thinly veiled bit of anti-American ranting only highlights your OWN parochialism. Obviously, by "rest of the world," you're ignoring the multitude of dictatorial countries where scholars and intellectuals are often the first to be targeted in brutal campaigns of repression (the REAL kind of repression, not the "They didn't give me enough grant money to fund my public art project" kind). A guy like you thinks he's being clever with a little smug U.S. bashing, but in actuality, you're just another arrogant dipshit who doesn't know "Khmer Rouge" from "Moulin Rouge."

Re:It's much simpler than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27500343)

I'm sorry. I didn't realize everyone who's ever played a fantasy computer game was a maladjusted nerd overcompensating for an unfulfilling life. Makes me wonder me what you would say about the people into the dystopian/post-apocalyptic obsessions of sci-fi.

I'm pretty sure most people just find games fun...

Re:It's much simpler than that (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500963)

Your analogy is like a melon crushed by a steel mace. All I know is that if you haven't been dogpiled by a bunch of bald, angry, drunk Russians, then you haven't lived. Or died as the case may be.

Re:It's much simpler than that (1)

james_orr (574634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502335)

SyFy is a brand name, not the title of the genre.

That's the whole reason the channel changed it. "Sci Fi" can't be trademarked while "SyFy" can.

Re:It's much simpler than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27502581)

The whole concept of Fantasy is to give power to the weak and nerdy and put them in a milieu that encourages and promotes the behaviors that they so desperately want to express in the real world. But the real world is a harsh critic, and those behaviors (being smart, mostly) are universally reviled.

Hey, not all fantasy is Elfy-Welfy Power Quest Fantasy.

Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (3, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500019)

In a game like WoW, you're basically walking or riding a horse around. That limits the distances you have to travel. Even the cities are excusably small when you rationalize for the smaller fantasy "village." With Sci-Fi, the ranges that the map worlds have to cover will become huge to be believable. That's a lot of space to design and populate.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500029)

I invite you to compare Master of Orion to Master of Magic.

You'll find that there is no problem with scope if handled correctly.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501313)

The problem is, those games are single-player. There's a lower threshold for satisfaction.

When you have a MMORPG, does it make sense for every PC to crowd into one city per planet? While there has to be some sort of defining limitation so your developers aren't cranking out dozens of game worlds every month, there has to be more then "Here on Planet X, you can go to the city, and the environs within immediate eyesight of the the city."

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500073)

But that provides great lines for the marketing monkeys:

"The map's A MILLION TIMES BIGGER than Oblivion!".

P.S.: Lack of the first coffee has made me write "pam" instead of "map" twice and still, I nailed "Oblivion!". I won't be telling that one to my psichiatrist.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500483)

But that provides great lines for the marketing monkeys:

"The map's A MILLION TIMES BIGGER than Oblivion!".

P.S.: Lack of the first coffee has made me write "pam" instead of "map" twice and still, I nailed "Oblivion!". I won't be telling that one to my psichiatrist.

Dutch's law: Any post that mocks bad spelling or grammar will invariably contain original errors of its own.

Usually this occurs when mocking others' errors, but I'm gratified to see the law holds even when mocking your own. ;-)

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500711)

Except they aren't - in Eve stations are a static screen, and you jump from place to place so the distance is minimized.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500869)

Are you serously calling it a bad thing that they took the tedious boredom of traveling out of the game?

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27501407)

As any experienced MMO player will tell you, travel time is masturbation time. So yes, it's a bad thing to take it away.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Turiko (1259966) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500757)

so true. EVE doesn't have the biggest game space without reason :P.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501037)

Yes. But I would go even further in this. The main problem is the speed with which information travel.

In fantasy, information (and power) travels very slowly, so the parts of the world can be rather independent to be believable. That also means plots can be linear, because events in a new place doesn't depend on events from another place (usually, it's heroes who travel faster than information). So fantasy world is a lot easier to manage, because it's lot less dynamic.

However, in our world (or scifi), there is information society, so speed of information is very fast. This significantly alters the need to manage plot lines. Events on one side of the universe can greatly affect another side. This makes most scifis hard to do in computer.

I think it's no wonder that successful scifi worlds are post-apocalyptic, such as Fallout or System Shock. Post-acopalyptic sci-fi doesn't suffer from this problem. Or, another way to approach it is to change the scale - so now instead of more-or-less independent (information-wise) villages or towns you get independent planets or solar systems. But this is not a real scifi then - it's just a fantasy with futuristic weapons.

In particular, Cyberpunk is especially difficult for this reason.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501697)

Why should FTL travel automatically mean FTL information exchange exists? Or that either is readily accessible to anyone but the super rich and heros? I see the difficulty with Cyberpunk settings or any setting on a planetary scale with current or futuristic technology, since "instant" information exchange and overnight cargo delivery are already in place (so why I should entrust some nobody with my goods when there is certainly something like FedEx in place is beyond me), but in an interstellar setting with FTL space travel you can essentially create the same setting you would have in a medieval world, with local "lords" (planet lords) holding reign over planets, often also controlling what information goes into and out of his realm (who said anyone will have a right to off-world information in the future? Might well be a privilege).

Yes, you have to be more creative with SciFi if you want to create a credible setting. It's easier with medieval/fantasy themes, since you have a good role model to work from.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

LS (57954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501105)

Space is much larger than a single planet, but it is also much more sparse, so the actual amount of interactive content could be about the same if desired. Also, distance is just an abstract concept in a virtual world, and can be traversed at any rate the programmers wish to allow, so it is also not an issue.

Re:Sci-Fi scope is more difficult to manage (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501719)

Think about this: "Traveling" in modern MMOs is mostly done by cutscenes anyway. In whatever form, from AOs Whom-Pahs to EQ2's harbor bells. Yes, you can "walk" that way often, too, but frankly, who'd want to? What would fit more than making different planets different zones, with transports flying between them? Would essentially be the same as the different areas of other MMOs.

Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27500047)

I believe you meant to comment on the state of super cool and hip SyFy MMO's

Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (3, Interesting)

The_Myth (84113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500089)

The problem with the genre is that often times the Sci-Fi set is too smart for its own good. Take for example the original Star Wars: Galaxies. It had some brilliant character creation and development systems. The concept that you could mix and match from 24 professions to create your character made it very appealing. What happens to it? It didn't have the content it needed to guide a users experience hence it was too hard for people to understand. Then SOE starts a series of neuters that reduce it to a shadow of its former self and any of the redeeming features are removed.

Now this "too hard to play" syndrome is present in the Fantasy genre. UO/DAoC were too hard core for a lot of players who gravitated to Everquest then WoW.

With the exception of EVE I cant think of another Sci-Fi MMO that still has a presence in the MMO space.

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27500129)

Actually, I thought the problem with Star Wars: Galaxies was that SOE hated their customers and when one guy discovered how to dupe credits (aka 'money') and paid people with the duped creds, the SOE admins permanently banned the people who (unwittingly) received the money- but not the guy who duped it all...

The playerbase rioted, but SOE admins teleported them into space. At least, that's what Penny Arcade told me...

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/08/25/ [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (2, Interesting)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500177)

[Edit: Accidently posted as AC...]

Actually, I thought the problem with Star Wars: Galaxies was that SOE hated their customers and when one guy discovered how to dupe credits (aka 'money') and paid people with the duped creds, the SOE admins permanently banned the people who (unwittingly) received the money- but not the guy who duped it all...

The playerbase rioted, but SOE admins teleported them into space. At least, that's what Penny Arcade told me...

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/08/25/ [penny-arcade.com]

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (1)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502653)

I played until shortly after they released the Corvette raids or whatever.

The amount of credit duping that happened was apparently rediculous. I think they released a report that showed all the numbers. They had noticed that there was a lot more money being passed around than there should be. They showed in the report that almost twice as much money was being spent every day on building maintenance fees than was being brought into the game via mob drops and missions. And people still had millions of credits to swap around. So I don't know how the duping was being done but some people were doing it on a massive scale because I never talked to anyone that suggested it as a way to make money.

A single solo player could easily go out and earn 100k credits in an hour doing some missions, which would pay your fees for at least a week.

Anyways I had a lot of credits pass through my character and never knew anyone that got banned. I'd say it's unlikely they banned people for receiving duped credits.

The doom of the game really was a lack of content. The crafting was better than most games. The economy was entirely player driven. The skill system was fun though incredibly hard to balance from a developer's point of view. Their just wasn't enough content to play through in the normal sense. The only quest line I remember was for the rebels and you could do it all solo in a day or two. I think it was a sandbox game that could have used more sand.

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (2, Interesting)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500295)

Your analysis of MMOs present and past seems a tad flawed.

Dark Age of Camelot never had the same total share of MMO users that UO or Everquest had during their respective primes. It's not like a bunch of people gravitated away from that game to EQ and WoW since their subscriber base was never all that large.

Your typical MMO migration went a bit like this:

UO -> EQ -> WoW

There were plenty of other games that distracted people from this basic progression (such as DAoC) but subscriber numbers will show that they were not long-term destinations for many. Lineage and Lineage 2 sort of throw a monkey-wrench into that progression but they are their own peculiar beasts.

Also, claiming that DAoC was too "hardcore" for some people is a bit silly. That game was a cakewalk compared to pre-Kunark EQ (or even post-Kunark and post-Velious EQ). Everquest was possibly the "hardest" mainstream MMO ever given how tedious it could be, how inflexible group dynamics could be, and how much time it took to accomplish anything in that silly game. It took them far too long to realize that punishing players with downtime, absurdly slow leveling, and ridiculous travel times did not necessarily bring the fun.

DAoC offered some boredome but overall it was a simpler game that had a lot more to offer to players that wanted to get away from that style of tedium. Too bad it had shortcomings in other departments. Nevertheless, DAoC had many features that were a direct response to people's complaints about old-school EQ (horses for quicker land travel, faster leveling, the ability to solo, more group flexibility, better PvP, etc). I'm sure it has become more complex since release, but I played it in beta and after release and boy howdy, playing any caster class in that game was so simplistic compared to the mess that old-school EQ casters were. My EQ Enchanter was like a Swiss army knife with dozens of different spells and spell-lines, some of which were bizarre or useless (Minor Illusion? Bind Sight? And do you think any MMO will ever get away with something as crazy as the original Gravity Flux? The damage that spell used to do to players . . . oy). My DAoC Enchanter had maybe six spell lines and that was it. Summon pet, buff pet, heal pet, single-target blast stuff (actually had two spell lines that did that), stun stuff, and I forget what else. I was Light spec so it was pretty limited in scope.

If anything, UO and EQ were much more "difficult/hardcore" than DAoC. DAoC and WoW are two titles that really stick out when it comes to being intellectual successors to EQ in that both built on the gameplay style of EQ and both went well out of their way to make the gameplay experience smoother and more rewarding. WoW just took it to a new level with a better interface, and look where that got them. The legacy of UO has been largely abandoned by developers, for good reason.

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501665)

Well, it depends on what you mean by "presence" but -

Anarchy Online is still around (and still getting expansions etc.) is free to play for the basic version but you have to pay for the expansions. I tried it out a few months ago; wasn't for me, but it wasn't a bad game.

For SWG fans, SWGEmu, which is an emulator of the SWG servers before SOE lobotomized the entire game (the 1.0 release aims to be 100% true to pre-Combat Upgrade live servers) is coming out "soon." I've been playing around with the test server and also set-up my own server to play around with building content etc. Right now, because they want to focus on getting people to test on their server, the SWGEmu devs are keeping some of the source closed (network stuff, with a 1-hour maximum uptime and 20 connection limit), to be changed once they hit v1.00.

Re:Sci-Fi "Too Hard" (1)

Rhys (96510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502307)

If you define presence as "large player base" then EVE itself may not qualify. On the other hand, if you don't, there's still Planetside and Galaxies kicking around. City of Heroes may qualify or not depending on your take (it is theoretically set 'today' but is more like an alternate future history ala Heinlein that we have caught up to).

It's simple (2, Insightful)

Skadet (528657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500105)

It's simple -- everyone wants to be Cpt. Kirk, and nobody wants to be Ensign Ricky. How many starship captains can one MMO really have?

Alternately, everyone wants to be a Jedi and nobody wants to be a blaster-wielding doofus.

The success of MMOs is about enabling the player to wield ridiculous amounts of power and have obsessive-compulsive levels of control over their character. I do not believe this is an impossible task for a Sci-Fi MMO to achieve, it just hasn't been done really well yet. The Fantasy genre lends itself much more naturally to this type of thing.

Re:It's simple (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500781)

I am a non-gamer and a science fiction reader. The biggest problem I have with games (MMO or otherwise) is having to play by somebody else's rules. A simple environment like second life would be okay for me but something where I have to kill a dwarf to get a sword to buy a boat to learn how to fight to... well you can see I don't do this stuff but it would keep me interested for about five seconds.

My main online interests are tech news and tech discussion so an MMO which would interest me would probably reduce to slashdot.

Re:It's simple (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500899)

It does work in SciFi settings as well, as long as there is more than one "uber" class.

In a fantasy setting, you have many kinds of heroes. You have the knight in shiny armor, you have the powerful wizard with his spells, you even have the sneaky bastard that backstabs the evil guards. They all make formidable heros.

Star Wars the MMO was kinda doomed to fail, for the reason you said: Everyone wanted to be the one single super class, the Jedi. It's like making a superhero game and asking people to play either a hero or some peasant. Now, what would everyone pick?

It can work in a SciFi setting, though, if you avoid too much focus on one single hero type. Maybe we have more fantasy than scifi stories so we have more hero archetypes to draw from in that setting, but why shouldn't it work in SciFi as well? You just have to make sure that all heros have their shortcomings, and that all heros need others to aid them in their quest and you have, essentially, the story written for a SciFi MMO.

Re:It's simple (1)

dropzonetoe (1167883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501019)

I generally agree to your points, but would argue that there is a nice sliver of people that enjoy playing the less useful class. I typically fall into that camp. I often times much prefer a support role in games rather than the "star". Playing the medic, the supply depot, or sitting back and just watching the map and directing the other players to victory is often times much more enjoyable for me than getting right into the combat. Often times it is playing the much weaker class/choice that is more fun as you know your going to lose but the game is to see how good you can do before that happens.

Why does Fantasy succeed where SciFi fails? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500139)

Well, first, fantasy MMOs are the "oldest" of the pack. Take a look at the history of MMO games and you'll see a lot of fantasy, but really few SciFi classics. This leads to a certain standard setting: People know what to expect. When you look up and down the fantasy MMO genre, you'll see basically the same games. You get your heavily armored tank, you get your stealthy damage dealer, you get your healer, you get your damage caster... and wherever you look, this distribution holds true.

Look at the SciFi genre and you won't get necessarily the same. You can be as close to the "fantasy trinity" of tank-dd-healer as AO, or as far away from it as EvE. You could stumble into something as alien to the whole MMO concept as Tabula Rasa. Or even a multiplayer FPS game gone MMO like Neocron.

And, as TFA points out, people don't really want to jump into uncharted waters with a game they want to stick with for years.

So my guess why fantasy succeeds where SciFi fails would be that people know what to expect from fantasy MMOs. And, sadly, the majority seems to want to play what they know already. Not good news for those of us that want something new, finally, but I guess that's how it is.

Different types of Sci-Fi work. (2, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500165)

As Skadet points out above everyone wants to be the really cool character and not a minion. Where in outright fantasy everyone has potential to become something, regular Sci-Fi that doesn't really work.

So what happens? A different type of Sci-Fi.

"Retro Futuristic" sci-fi can work, such as things along the lines of Flash Gordon, or possibly post-apocalyptic sci-fi can work, think slightly more futuristic Mad Max. I could see an MMORPG based on Mad Max working out great, and if you move up event that causes society to collapse a couple of hundred years you've got yourself one heck of a game.

Last but not least, a favorite in retro Sci-Fi: Steampunk. Steampunk is sci-fi that has everything that makes fantasy games great.

Though not exactly fitting into any of the three but fitting squarely in the middle of all of them - I could see an MMORPG based on Skies of Arcadia taking off. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and Pirate themes all in one game? WIN!

Re:Different types of Sci-Fi work. (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501363)

As Skadet points out above everyone wants to be the really cool character and not a minion. Where in outright fantasy everyone has potential to become something, regular Sci-Fi that doesn't really work.

Most people want to be part of something greater than themselves. You're only a 'minion' if you're not respected, if you're only doing it for the material gains.

Sci-Fi vs Fantasy (1)

KneelBeforeZod (1527235) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500187)

Let's say a Sci-Fi game and a Fantasy game both have identical game mechanics. What would make the Fantasy outsell the other? Fantasy follows thematic template that involves very simplistic concepts that are easier to grasp. How so? Swords, shining armor, and horses aren't fictional but goblins, orcs, and dragons are. And magic is often elemental; fire, water, etc. So theres But with Sci-Fi everything seems to become inconsistent. One scifi game could be just giant robots, another may be cyberpunk, steampunk, and etc. So maybe Fantasy wins because its much more familiar. Or maybe it wins because Sci-Fi involves too many abstract concepts.

One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (2, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500227)

I haven't played Eve or any of the other Sci-Fi MMOs mentioned so I don't know if this has been done before but one answer to Sci-Fi MMOs is to implement something more like Star Control where you don't have a player character, instead, your character is a ship that gets upgraded with better guns, better shields, better engines etc (and your ship would have a crew obviously). And the aim is to destroy the bad guys (i.e. those not friendly to your race), talk to and trade with the good guys (those friendly to your race) and try and form alliances with everyone else. Different areas of space would be declared as space controlled by different races and as the game progresses, the balance changes and control over different bits of space can change hands.
Make this in a Trek MMO where you get to pick a race e.g. Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Borg, Ferengi, Human, Vulcan, Andorian or whatever else. Obviously you wouldnt start out in control of a Galaxy class starship but if you play the game and advance, you may be given command of a better ship than the one you started with. And eventually you might get to the Galaxy class.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (3, Informative)

Maserati (8679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500237)

Yeah, that's almost exactly EVE. Try it.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

zigmeister (1281432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500485)

Really, that actually sounds incredibly fun, (re: something I was bitching to my brother about, why the heck doesn't somebody make a game like that, it would be so cool...)
Couple quick questions:
-Does Eve work through WINE?
-What is the $/month rate

-Jeff

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

Quothz (683368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500649)

-Does Eve work through WINE?

Yeah. I think they have a Linux client, as well.

-What is the $/month rate

Fifteen, but no upfront charge for the software, which is nice.

That said, I tried Eve and gave it up. It's not really my thing; it's got a lot of tedious travel, a lot of grind, and is very PVP oriented. Griefing is actively encouraged.

The gameplay tends to encourage players to join into large, highly-structured, aggressively-run corporations (which are the equivalent of guilds or clans).

That said, it has a lot going for it, if you really like PVP and corporation administration. Corps, in particular, have a great deal of power and flexibility; they can claim sovereign rights over territory, for example, and build various structures and powerful warships there. Cool in concept, but the grind/PVP focus and long, slow travel turned me off to it. Your mileage may vary; try the trial and see for yourself.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500995)

I've been playing EvE for about four years now. I have ... dunno... 30 Million Skillpoints? I honestly don't have an idea. I could probably smoke a few of the self proclaimed 'leet' players (well, someone with some PvP skills using my char could), but I have never even been to a 0.0, i.e. PvP, system.

I also am not a member of any important corp. I'm mostly a solo miner, with a few contracts running to keep my ISK account high and ore thieves off my back.

EvE is what you make out of it. You can go the way you described. I went a different one. More or less successful, who is to tell? I probably make less money per hour than someone kicking rocks in 0.0, but I also don't lose ships for half a billion per week, so I guess my balance might end up higher than his.

Due to my trade (i.e. highsec miner) I also know a fair lot of people who make a "living" by hauling cargo through secure space, there are others that run missions for NPC corps to increase standing and earn rare goodies like implants, and of course there's people dedicated to research. Not to forget the ones that make all (yes, ALL) the crap we blow up, the builders (there's barly any NPC stuff to buy).

So I wouldn't say that you outright have to become part of a huge corp to play EvE. It's one way to play it. There's no 'best' way. And, personally, I'm not even sure if being part of a 0.0 corp is the most successful path to choose.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

skolima (1159779) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500653)

Yes. 39 Euro for 3 months.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500779)

-Does Eve work through WINE?

Yes, but it's not offcially supported and will take some work. First, you need a better card than the 6000 series of GeForce video cards (apparently the 6000 series cards work with Windows but not Wine). Second, Eve needs a Wine patch (I use Wine 1.1.16) and fonts installed. You need a latest version of the NVIDIA drivers if you use an NVIDIA card. The Eve forum has a linux section which has worked out the install details. I personally am stalled because my computer, a Dimension 8200 doesn't support a more advanced NVIDIA card than the 6000 series.

-What is the $/month rate

Skolima has it right, though I believe the US Dollar is favored and slightly cheaper. It also is possible to trade subscriptions (called "30 day pilot licenses"), which when used extends your subscription by 30 days) in game. For example, I haven't paid for Eve since Fall of last year and I have a couple of accounts going (Eve is very "alt" heavy with multiple alt playing encouraged by CCP).

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

Rhys (96510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502215)

Or Earth and Beyond. Oh wait, it was almost stillborn. Lasted what, 1 year past release then canned? It was closer to what he describes, because it was a /lot/ less complex than EVE.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500913)

Strip crew, add areas of space controlled entirely and only by player alliances and you just described EvE.

Re:One answer to Sci-Fi MMOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27502269)

ask, and thou shalt receive:

http://www.startrekonline.com/

Fantasy isn't that old (2, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500291)

I think the article is overestimating the reach and historical significance of "fantasy".

While there have been stories of elves, trolls, goblins, wizards and the like for centuries it hasn't been "fantasy". Now I'm not an english/mythology major but from what I remember about western mythology there was very little of said storytelling OUTSIDE of the historical epics which were mostly written around the time they were set. The story of King Arthur, Dragons, swords etc... comes from a time when it wasn't abnormal for someone to run around with a sword. Dragons were still mildly plausible and Wizards and Witches were believed to walk the earth. So while it was at the time debateable whether or not there were witches etc... it wasn't 'fantasy'... it was dodgy news with a dramatic twist.

Furthermore. The assemblage of "Fantasy" as we know it today has pretty much one primary source and one derivative source: Tolkien -> DnD. The Fantasy world which DnD popularized was largely the creation and invention of JRR Tolkien. Before Tolkien the canonization of what a goblin/troll/elf was and how they interacted wasn't nearly so clearly identifiable as we would today describe a fantasy game.

Really "Fantasy" as we recognize it today is all just Fan Fic for JRR Tolkien written less than a century after the original and has very little mythological root in actual western literature and lore.

IANAEM (I Am Not An English Major).

- Gavin

Re:Fantasy isn't that old (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500357)

Furthermore. The assemblage of "Fantasy" as we know it today has pretty much one primary source and one derivative source: Tolkien -> DnD.

well, it's a bit much to say it's all down to tolkien. he certainly shaped the genre, but ignoring people like george macdonald [wikipedia.org] or lord dunsany [wikipedia.org] would be like saying science fiction started with asimov (thus forgetting wells and verne). and there's plenty of people out there writing reasonably well-researched fantasy based on actual western traditions--i read the first book of lawhead [wikipedia.org] 's song of albion [wikipedia.org] recently, and it was derived directly from irish mythology.

Re:Fantasy isn't that old (1)

gnud (934243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500849)

Not to mention how much of Tolkien was derived from actual myths.

Sci-Fi is more like reality than Fantasy (3, Interesting)

PowerVegetable (725053) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500347)

This isn't just about MMORPGs; written literature has a similar issue.

As some have pointed out above, it's far easier to invent a story-framework when you don't have to deal with plausibility.

In our technologically sophisticated world, and especially among gamers, we have a territorial claim on technology and scientific plausibility. We're much more critical of sci-fi, because we feel comfortable judging sci-fi settings. In contrast, fantasy is allowed and expected to exhibit arbitrary rules like magic, and to develop romantic stories involving heroes.

If, in a fantasy setting, I'm jumped by rabid fairies from the Underworld, I can buy it. If they cast eternal drowsiness on me and limit my mobility for 10 seconds... OK that's fine. If, in retaliation, I cast a spell to call down meteoric fire from the sky, that's totally believable (not to mention awesome). Fantasy doesn't invite us to call bullshit.

But if, in a sci-fi setting, I'm attacked by robots, well OK that's plausible. Maybe they're programmed to attack outsiders, I can buy that. They hit me with their laser guns... OK, I can buy that that's possible in the future with advances in battery technology. And I guess I didn't get cut in half because I was wearing special nano-armor that, ummm, absorbs laser light. But in retaliation I cast my hacker-spell and... wait... I smell bullshit.

It's easier as an author to just cut yourself loose from present-day reality. It's far more challenging to write in a future-of-now setting, and deal with the annoyances of the real world's rules and history.

Re:Sci-Fi is more like reality than Fantasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27500731)

So if in some hack fantasy, I'm riding a dragon, it's totally believable.

If thousands of years in the future, I find myself on a parched desert world, and hitch a ride on a giant worm, it's not? :p

The problem with your sci-fi example is it isn't sci-fi: it's fantasy with lasers. Robots and lasers do not necessarily mean something is science fiction.

Re:Sci-Fi is more like reality than Fantasy (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501765)

But in retaliation I cast my hacker-spell and... wait... I smell bullshit.

But in retaliation I release a cloud of nanobots that I remote control with an implant in my brain to hack the robots.

Technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguisable from magic. Use that.

Another view (2, Interesting)

Mathness (145187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500499)

One of the good things about SciFi MMOs is that they come with no baggage, it is quite possible to create a whole setting that is original. As you game and read the missions you get a feel for the world and it settings. Fantasy often comes with a lot of baggage, mostly it must have magic, elves, dwarves etc. So it isn't always open to do new things.

I think one of the reasons SciFi MMOs suffer (besides its general lesser appeal to non-SciFi people) is that range combat is always rather poor. Despite all the progress, it still takes a large amount of bullet/lasers/... to kill anything and the range is very limited. Obviously it is so for game reasons, but one can't help but feel a sense of disappointment.

Tabula Rasa is (was) one of the games that got SciFi right, the long range class worked great at longe range (sniper) and they came up with some new weapons that both worked and made sense (polarity gun and injector). And there were a lot of background story and a plot to boot, it was more than just a mission/kill fest.

Then there are games like Ryzom (mostly fantasy, with some SciFi), which have completely new races and world/creatures which are able to break the fantasy mold of elves etc.

Re:Another view (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501427)

The drawback to coming with no baggage is that the developers then have to create the backstory. Sometimes you get good backstory, sometimes you get bad backstory.

And you also have to create a non-conflicting framework for the setting. (I'm going to segue into pen-and-paper RPGs for a bit here.) In, say, ShadowRun, you had these things called skillwires. If you wanted to be Dan Danger, Master of Gun-fu (no, that's not a spelling error, it's what we called the guy with dual pistols), you slotted a Pistols 6 skillchip. The problem was that, given the time and money, you could have a skillchip for every combat skill, ever.

Imagine translating that to an MMORPG. I'm not saying ever sci-fi based MMORPG would have to have skillwires or something similar, but if they did, there would be no real limitation on why every character wouldn't have every skill.

Or, another standard of sci-fi... transporters. Penny Arcade did a strip on how that would affect questing.

Or, as you mentioned, ranged weapons. Yeah, in Star Trek, a phaser set on kill... well, it kills. Hrm. That would be real popular with the PvP crowd, and I suspect it would make leveling a breeze, but you know.... just don't see it happening.

It's easier, in fantasy games, to justify things, that in a sci-fi setting would leave even the greatest Rick Berman fanboy going "no fucking way!"

It will have it's day (1)

Sparx139 (1460489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500539)

Every game genre has sucked until there was a brilliant and revolutionary game which paved the way to work around the genre-specific problems, allowing for a flood of games emulating the first success to come out.

Look at the FPS genre on consoles. For years, developers struggled to get the controls correct. Bungie's 'Halo: Combat Evolved' title finally overcame this issue, and nowadays most console FPS games, regardless of which platform they're on, closely mirror the control layout that Bungie set out.

So, what issues does the industry have to overcome before a wave of Sci-Fi MMO's are released? Is it an intuitive 'I know what this is without having to read the manual' setting, a good choice of classes (sci-fi equivalent of healer/fighter/spellcaster), a detailed and fun universe to explore, or something else?

Re:It will have it's day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27501205)

What drug are you on, buddy?

Seriously. Halo invented nothing except mindlessness for idiotic consumers. The game was mediocre, at best.

And I hope for your sake you aren't suggesting that the current de facto standard control scheme was invented by Bungie when they made Halo. People were using WASD probably years before some moron at Bungie even thought about making Halo.

-XcepticZP

Re:It will have it's day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27501211)

Ah okay, I see you're talking about consoles only. My bad.

-XcepticZP

No cook can please everyone. (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#27500627)

What this guy seems to want is things to be simple. In an MMORPG. That is possible, just play any asian MMO.

Not all MMO's, typically the western ones, follow that design. Typically, western MMO's have fewer levels, but more happening in a level (skills) and are on the whole slower to play. One free MMO has me AoE a dozen of enemies and killing them with a single skill dropping piles of loot. Of course to pick it all up, you had to buy a piggy with real money or spend ages clicking loot after each 1 key press killing spree.

In for instance Lotro, such enemies are hard to find. For the new rune-keeper and warden classes, such enemies would be nightmare. They are classes that build up their attacks. One shot kills are boring.

The lore-master class has a lot of skills, but many depend on the situation. What enemy, how many, dictates how you play. Not nearly deep enough as far as I am concerned but I am sure way to complex for some.

SWG and the likes didn't fail because they were complex. WoW is complex. They failed because they were so bug ridden only the most devoted fan could tolerate it and then the developers screwed their fans. Funcom and SOE are companies that basically just don't get customer relations. They don't understand that a game is NOT their product. It belongs to the people who bought it and you can't just mess with it. Change it after the sale to attract more customers does NOT work. You upset the people who bought it for what it is and any new customers are going to be scared off even if they are now intrested by the way you treated your existing customers. After all, if they screwed their old customers, why wouldn't they screw their new ones just as hard?

SWG and Age of Conan have showed that you CANNOT just change the game and expect success. SWG has been talked about enough and AoC tried to lower its age rating by getting rid of nudity. Both failed. AoC and SWG are just waiting to die, if in fact AoC hasn't already.

The simple thing an MMO designer must do is this. Ask "WHAT IS MY MARKET".

Is it a simple, "chat with your mates in an internet cafe while clicking away barely paying attention to the action" korean MMO? Is it, "Anybody can play this for half an hour a day, but paying a full monthly fee"? "Hardcore raiders only, anything takes at least a weekend to accomplish an end-content requires a cathater?" "Real life is to earn the monthly fee, this isn't second life, this is your life" style world-sim?

Mix and matching don't work so far. If you satisfy one customer you are sure to upset an other. SWG pleased some, then they changed it. AO was to messy and Eve is doing fine because the developers picked their audience and don't upset them.

Re:No cook can please everyone. (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501367)

How in the name of Jesus Allah Christ (tm) is WoW complex? There's 2 builds for each class, PvE and PvP, and all you do is left click / hit hotkeys over and over as everything is autohit. Complex is a game like Asheron's Call or Darkfall/a) or Ultima Online. [darkfallonline.com]

Re:No cook can please everyone. (1)

Yosho (135835) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501661)

How in the name of Jesus Allah Christ (tm) is WoW complex? There's 2 builds for each class, PvE and PvP, and all you do is left click / hit hotkeys over and over as everything is autohit. Complex is a game like Asheron's Call or Darkfall/a) or Ultima Online.

Sounds to me like you played some pure DPS class to 30 and then quit. Am I right?

In general, the only classes that only have two viable builds are pure DPS classes, and the developers are working pretty hard to change that so that every class has at least three viable builds for PvP or PvE (although the degree of success so far varies by class). Hybrid classes usually have at least three builds. Druids have four, and Death Knights have seven (yes, seven).

Besides that, the complexity isn't in character design. That's something you do once over the course of a few minutes and then go play the game. The real complexity is in the raid encounters. Read up on the tactics required to beat Kael'thas Sunstrider [wowwiki.com] or C'thun [wowwiki.com] or Sartharion [wowwiki.com] . If you run into those (or any other high-level boss fight) and just mash your hotkeys, you're going to die, and you're going to get the rest of your raid killed with you.

Re:No cook can please everyone. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501811)

I've been a healer for the longest time. I finally quit when my deftank decided he wants to move on to a game where he is still needed and more important, it's at least half a challenge to play one.

When you have an AoE taunt that you can spew every couple seconds that makes the aggro of a permanuking wiz look tame, the game lost any kind of challenging moment.

Re:No cook can please everyone. (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502537)

How is using the same tactic over and over, with no legitimate variability due to it being mobs running on basic AI programming challenging in the least? I've yet to play a game where there is any challenge/complexity in the PVE, you use the same tactic over and over with x mob. The only complexity I've found has been in PVP due to it being truly dynamic in every fight, atleast in games likes UO, AC, and Darkfall. Having a fuckin BLAST in darkfall, get ganked all the time but have tons of fun in the process due to the all the variables and such that make me actually think on my feet.

Starcraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27501173)

There is one obvious exception: Starcraft.

I hate to sound like a broken record here... (1)

LoganTeamX (738778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501435)

But EVE is THE best game I've played, MMO or otherwise, since Ultima: Online (and yes, I know that it's STILL around) in terms of a comprehensive and immersive user experience. My EVE main character is about 4 years old (but without 4 years of consecutive gameplay - took two breaks) and my IRL friends and I run a nice little Corp that invents t2 stuff and we're now into reverse-engineering for t3 stuff that came with Apocrypha. It is also singularly awesome in that you get all of your expansions rolled out as part of your subscription, unlike *cough*WoW*cough* some OTHER games.

They did not talk about Stargate Worlds. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27501723)

They did not talk about Stargate Worlds and that does sound like a cool game.

Re:They did not talk about Stargate Worlds. (1)

james_orr (574634) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502429)

With Stargate Worlds troubles it will either never be released or forced to release early to raise cash. If it does release early all the WOW players will trash it for not being as polished as WOW is now after how many years and the game will fail.

How about the state of Sci Fi in general??? (1)

Doghouse Riley (1072336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502607)

It takes me about sixty seconds to flip through the monthly flyer from the laughably named "Science Fiction Book Club" and I don't think I've bought ten books from them in the last three years.

By the time I've crossed out all the sword and sorcery crap, all the vampire and zombie crap, all the TV and movie spinoffs, all the $30 comic books, oops, "graphic novels", and all the reprints of SF from decades ago, there are usually less than five new SF books a month to choose from.

I see exactly the same thing in my library and in bookstores. For the love of Pete, can't we separate out all the fantasy/gothic stuff so SF readers can more easily find what we want to find?

It seems like there is a fair number of SciFi MMOs (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27502725)

I wonder if the article is a bit wrong. Sure there have been some high profile scifi failures but there have also been a lot of fantasy mmorpgs that failed.

There actually are a fair number of scifi-themed mmorpgs out there. They aren't as successful as WoW but they are still around. I've never played any of these (I've never played WoW either) but someone is still playing Anarchy Online, Eve Online, Star Wars:Galaxies, the Matrix Online, and Planetside. They are all still around so they must not be losing too much money.
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