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Welcome to the new and improved Free MMO Überlist. For years I have been keeping track of free MMOs and this is the place I have decided to collect them. The goal of this page is to make people aware of these games and to give everyone some sort of clue on what games to avoid and what games might actually be fun. My descriptions of games are often patently wrong, biased, incomplete and ridiculous, this is mostly for my own amusement. If you feel a description is wrong: please let me know and I'll write a slightly less wrong entry.

donderdag 16 februari 2012

Let's not have raids.

Massively's Karen Bryan recently talked about raiding. She is very happy about improvements on the "playing together with actual humanoids" front and I couldn't agree more. In many MMOs it is so much easier to play group content. In fact: we are so used to LFG-tools, remote queuing and global chat channels that Star Wars: The Old Republic is now an outdated game.

"What do you mean, I have to run my character to the actual entrance?? We're not at mo-fuckin' Disney Land."

Now I started raiding in World of Warcraft's Molten Core. A raid that required 40 people, most of the time the fights were complete no-brainers for all but 3 or 4 of the players. One of the hunters told me that he once cleaned out the dish washer while his character was fighting an eldrith horror from the very core of Azeroth. That's where we're coming from, people.

With improvements in MMOs developers have ditched the requirement for very large groups of people to cooperate. This choice is is given in by the sheer fact that a lot of customers do not have the time and/or patience to get 40 people together. This is an understandable solution to the problem: lower the warm bodies requirement and you will improve the percentage of customers who will play the content you develop for them.

So now you have raiding in the Lord of the Rings Online that requires 12 people, Star Wars has raids for 8 people and I'm sure there's plenty of other games with different numbers for stuff that is called "raid" by the developers.

But how are we defining a raid anyway? I can identify two different explanations:

1. Very tough group content.
2. Content that requires more players than all other group content.

The first explanation is silly: some group content that only requires 2 or 3 people can be a lot tougher than stuff you're supposed to face with 40 folks, this is entirely in the hands of the developers. Why does the toughest content even have to be for larger groups only? Maybe me and my buddy want to be challenged without having to team up with people we don't know.

The second is so broad it becomes useless, yet this is how raids are usually explained to the uninitiated: "so we are playing this game together with other people and when there's only a few of us we call it an "instance/flashpoint/dungeon" and when there's more of us we call it a "raid""

When [potential] customers demand "more raid content" they could mean one of two things. They might want more challenging content: when you've been playing the same MMO for more than 40 hours you have become quite competent at it and many players will want to see the difficulty of what the game throws at them ramp up. Or they might want more challenges that require a larger group of people to participate. When you're playing with 5 friends and every instance is made for 4 people, you will want stuff that will allow you to go with all of you. Same goes for larger guilds: it's nice to have a chat room for everyone, but when you've got enough people together, it would be fun to play the game with all of you.

Neither of these demands require "raids" to be made in the way we're seeing them in now. If players want more challenges they could get tough solo/small group challenges just as easily and when people want to do stuff in larger groups it does not automatically have to be the toughest content in the game at the same time. They're not a two-for-one deal.

While we are at it: we can do away with the MMO logic that the more people there are playing together the better the loot should be. The best rewards should be offered for the biggest challenges and there is no reason this should be the content you are required to play with the most people. Why not give awesome rewards for challenging solo challenges? What's stopping developers here?

Not every game has to be the same, but it would be very refreshing if developers took a step back and think about how they want to provide challenges and large group content without automatically ignoring the fact that challenges and group content can be two different things entirely. It's OK to move away from raids and provide desired content to your customers in other ways.

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