The Single-Player MMO

Syncaine made a very interesting footnote in a recent post:

*It’s a multi-layered joke. One: Immersion is a long-running inside joke. Two: While I jokingly say that I’m looking forward to playing an MMO solo, the sad truth is many today hope for just that in their Massively Multiplayer games, and SW will make Cata look like a sandbox. Three: Barrens chat will look tame compared to SW general chat in the first month or two. Not only are SW nerds the worst nerds of all, but you just know every Huntard is going to take their unique brand of ‘gaming’ to SW and making the most (worst) of it.

I do think it is an open question about whether gamers actually want an MMO versus a single-player game with (optional) MMO components. Unlike Syncaine however, I do not think people playing MMOs as single-player games is “sad” at all – it is more indicative of the lengths gamers are having to go to find meaningful entertainment. In other words, I think it is a lack of quality games that have driven this segment into MMOs in the first place.

This is not to say there hasn’t been quality single-player games, but rather there are not enough being put out. Outside of the game-crippling bugs and sloppy design in several areas, Fallout: New Vegas was absolutely amazing and I spent 70 hours in there, loving every minute. I spent a similar amount of time in Dragon Age: Origins. Portal 1 & 2 both fantastic, both over in ~10 hours. So… that is 160 hours out of the 20 I play each week, or amusement enough for about two months. What about the other ten months?

I quit smoking when I bought WoW, joking I would trade one addiction for another. I have not smoked in 4 years.

My 4-year WoW anniversary was last weekend, having started 8/17/07. Adding up all the days /played across my toons, I ended up around ~322 days, or 7,728 hours. Depressingly that averages out into 5 hours a day, every day, for four years. I played more when I was unemployed for a year, of course, but it is still shockingly bad. Then again, that also equals $0.087/hour as far as entertainment goes. Or imagine buying a $0.99 app and getting 11.38 hours of gameplay out of it. I find it unlikely that I would have done something (more) productive with my time had WoW not existed, so with that in mind perhaps I should be instead celebrating all the money I saved by switching to Geico playing the everliving hell out of WoW.

I have heard and agree with many people who suggest that WoW will be their first, last, and only MMO. Although I am a storied veteran of games that require other people to play with, e.g. pen & paper D&D, split-screen Goldeneye, Magic: the Gathering, etc, the common denominator was a group of people you enjoy hanging around with. In the absence of friends, WoW is a pretty shitty single-player experience once you reach the endgame. And while this problem can be “solved” by making new friends, actually shifting through all the bullshit is a lot of work* for the payout of challenging gameplay that comes in the form of hoping people that are not you do not screw up, e.g. raiding.

In this light, I do not particularly think the trend of companion AI or whatever is necessarily bad. Having played Minecraft for a while now, I have reached that plateau where you want nothing more than to show off the cool biodome tower you built or the Pit of Doom you dug or the cross-Atlantic powered railroad to someone, anyone else capable of appreciating the amount of effort/vision it took to do so. Of course, the thought of trying to do what I have done on a multiplayer server where anyone could wreck my house and steal my materials at any time is mortifying. I want a Show & Tell, not a group assignment. I want a single-player MMO.

And until then, WoW (with liberal playing of Steam games) will have to suffice.

*As outlined in this three year-old Cracked article, which is still pretty dead-on.

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Posted on July 23, 2011, in MMO, Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Its very rare that I will read an mmo blog post and completely agree with every single point, but you really connected with me here. I can't count the number of times I've tried to explain these very points to people who were confused as to why I wasn't off playing a solo crpg if I didn't want to be in a group all the time.

    Anyway, sorry for the late response — I often seem to join blog conversations days after they are over …

    Oh — I just did a search on your blog for lotro and got no results. Have you really never played it?

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  2. Never played LotRO, and unlikely to start in the near future. I have a rather considerable backlog of Steam games that may very well last me until the end of the year.

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