Is hand holding in MMOs always a good thing?
A blog post made yesterday by Mark Jacobs, founder of City State Entertainment, got us here at ZAM thinking about the topic of risk vs. reward. Lately it seems that “old school,” has been recognized as something gamers could actually want.
Risk and reward is something that has been missing from MMOs for quite some time. Things have been made easy, which is not necessarily all bad. Being easier has made MMOs more casual, which has made it possible for some amazing games to exist.
These “risk vs. reward,” mechanics refer to systems in MMOs like death penalties, ambiguous quest descriptions and the lack of a simple respec system. These mechanics can create frustrating experiences, but at what point does making them easier turn into hand holding?
Death penalties still exist in MMOs, but have changed almost entirely. Older forms of death penalties involved a loss of something, usually something that you worked pretty hard to get. This included, but was not limited to, loss of gold and experience points or some serious debuffs to your stats. Wizardry Online is a newer title that has gotten a good bit of attention for taking this route, with actual permadeath a possible penalty.
Newer games seem to have lost this trend because it can be frustrating to the majority of players. Death penalties now can consist of a small debuff or a pinch of game currency. More frequently the punishment is a short walk from a graveyard to your body.
The compulsion of some teams to avoid any sense of penalty was summed up by Mark Jacobs recently when he said “…our players are not children and this is not an intersection crossing.” One of the worst offenders of “hand holding,” has to be the way quests are set up. Today’s mainstream games often lead the player directly to the player’s goal. This is done in several ways, most commonly the quest goal is directly marked on the map, or a path of light guiding you right to your goal.
Mark Jacobs does not see this as an inherently good thing. “By always knowing where you are going and eliminating the chance of getting lost, we also lost some of the frustration but also the fun and feeling of discovery, of exploring and gaining familiarity with a new world and the satisfaction that entailed.” How do you, the reader, feel about the way quests are in today’s MMOs? Do you miss feeling accomplished after a particularly hard quest, or would you rather level up fast so you can get a taste of that end game?
One thing I really love is messing with my characters spec in MMOs. This can always lead to what is commonly referred to as the “flavor of the month,” which is something that hurts player diversity as there is one build to rule them all, and who doesn’t want that build?
Mark Jacob’s game Camelot Unchained is going to lack easy to get respecing; this was confirmed in a quote from Mark yesterday “…players of CU will have limited access to respecs. They will be difficult to acquire except when made necessary by a major change to the character class, in which case the players will, of course, get a free class respec.” This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in today’s market this idea is very alien. How do you feel about respecs? Do you prefer them even if it results in min/maxed builds flooding the game?
What kind of system do you prefer? Do you not mind taking a little punishment if it makes the victory all the sweeter? Or would you rather have the experience be made easier to avoid the frustration?
Make sure to check out our Q&A with Mark Jacobs today, and come back for all your MMO news.