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Archive for December 7th, 2009

It’s that time again.

What with the whole “SWTOR companions are solo friendly, and LOTRO Skirmishes are solo friendly and FUN“, the “MMOs are for grouping only” zealots are tunneling out of the woodwork again.  More often than not, the acronym “MMO” is cited as self-evident conclusive evidence that grouping is the Only One True Way to Play.  (Green Armadillo has a good starting point if you want to start prowling the conversations, and he has a great point to boot.  And to answer his question, yes, NPCs can teach you how to group with players.  This is precisely how it works in Puzzle Pirates, where NPC pirates train you as a noob, and even let you sail ships solo later on by manning stations.  It works, and works extremely well.)

I suppose there’s some sense to it, after all, “multiplayer” does by definition mean more than one player.  Of course, given the “virtual world” roots of MMO design, it should be (and has been) noted that “multiplayer” in no way exclusively implies “players playing in a group”.  That’s the difference between connotation and denotation.  “Multiplayer” denotes “more than one player”, in this case, playing the same game.  Some players take it and run with it, believing that it connotes “more than one player playing together“, when the word itself only has that as a possible subdefinition, not an exclusive overarching one.  If anything, such is a much more limited and specific small subset of the word “multiplayer”.

I know, English is hard, especially if you’ve gone through American schools, and logic is even harder.  Perhaps it’s not the gameplay that needs dumbing down in these games, it’s the terminology and public relations.  After all, it’s harder to educate people than it is to make the system stupider.  *coughNCLBcough*

Perhaps we need a new acronym.  (Muckbeast wrote a great article on this a while back, but I can’t find the link…)

I suggest MGORPG.  The G there is for “Grouping”, so that there is absolutely no question what the second letter in the acronym refers to.  It also sounds better, since MuhGORPGuh sounds worlds better than MuhMORPGuh.  The former just rolls off the gutteral better, while the latter sounds like a stammering hikikomori surrounded by pretty women who want his phone number.  Plus, gorp is healthy!

I suppose you could go with GOG (Grouping Online Game), but that’s already taken by Good Old Games, and Gog and Magog are sort of apocalyptic, which may not be a good allusion.  And that brings us back around to connotation and denotation.

MGORPG could clarify the debate considerably.  Of course, it’s only a mirror suggestion to make the acronym family complete, since others have suggested MSORPG (rather condescendingly and inaccurately… it should be MSPORPG since “single player” is actually two words) for single players.

I’d actually like to see that sort of differentiation in the market.  Make a nice Punnet Square of games; MSPORPGs that are just leveling content, MSPORPGs that are just raiding, MGORPGs that are just leveling content, and MGORPGs that are just raiding.  Throw a bunch of players at them (F2P to get more players involved, of course), and see what sticks.  That’s what happens in a nice, mature, differentiated market.  The successful design floats to the top, and the next wave of designs takes those successes and runs with them.  Darwinian game design, as it were.

Of course, it might be noted that such is actually the genesis of the increased soloability of MMOs of late.  See, people, weird whackjobs that they are (remember, I’m a soloist, too, pleased to be a nutter), actually do like playing solo in MMOs.  Games are evolving to cater to such players, and GASP, are proving to be profitable by doing so.  Ditto for the differentiation in the business models.  Anyone who has spent much time reading about MMOs has certainly seen the fallout from that particular holy war.

The staunch Old Guard still wants subscription based forced grouping death march grindy games, and by gum, those whippersnappers should want them too.  It’s self evident that such is the One True Way when it comes to MMORPGs, since that’s how it’s always been.  I mean, it’s right there in the acronym, right?  Get off my lawn and go play your offline single player games, NOOBz!

Oh, by the way, there’s a black guy as president in the U.S. now.  Stupid hippies.  Can’t they see that the American Empire only works when there are old rich white guys in charge?  We’re doomed! Who let those freaks vote?  Let’s go back to landowners (subbers) being the only ones that can vote!  Those other people are doing it wrong!!!

Further recommended reading:

Playing Alone, Together (Muckbeast)

That’s Right, I Solo in Your MMOs! (Saylah)

Get Your Party Off Of My MMO (Ravious)

Gaming Dictatorships (Melf_Himself)

AI Allies (Andrew)

Suddenly Bioware is Incompetent (evizaer)

The Social Soloer (Sente)

Three Truths (Cyndre)

Stupid Single Player Games Ruining it for MMOs (Dusty)

Defining “Casual” and “Hardcore” (Gordon)

Grouping Isn’t Always Healthy (Callan)

Disclosure:  I’m not an Obama fan, but it’s because I don’t like what he does.  Imagine that, judging someone by what they do and by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, or their playstyle, or how they pay for their games…

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