Mechanics Should Serve Content

“Mechanics should serve content, not the other way around and absolutely not in MMOs.” This is a thesis statement for Matthew Gollschewski’s Soapbox article this afternoon on Massively, and I agree completely.

It’s like MMOs are turning into a toy race. To be the next greatest thing, they need to sport more prongs and articulations to be interesting.

Except Elder Scrolls, and that’s partly why I’m bucking the trend in predicting the long run will go well for them. If ESO can manage both simple *and* fun, they can gain strong appeal in the MMO market. The overcomplication complaint is cropping up more and more.

For example, before reading Matthew’s article, I was pondering how Rift’s Dream Weaving system seems like a waste of effort. Here is the premise:

Between 40% and 60% of our daily active users chase artifacts (and by chasing, I mean harvesting). When so many people are avidly hunting for something, there’s only one logical conclusion: give them more of what they want.” – Barish Orhon, November 19th, 2013

That’s dumb logic. If prospectors love hunting for gold, dump lots of gold in them streams! If elves love hunting butterflies, make rare butterflies, butterflies that can mutate into turtles, butterflies that fuse with other butterflies to make super-special freakish butterflies!

No. Elves don’t like when you mess with mother nature. You’re taking two simple things players love and playing Frankenstein. The Rift directive seems to be that more is better. That did not work in Storm Legion. Storm Legion is big and thin.

On the other hand, you have to give Trion a lot of credit for actually supporting crafting, contrary to how F2P typically kills crafting by putting all of that awesome new stuff in the store. And Rift’s niche is both pro and extra-planar, so complex magical complications do fit for them.

In SWTOR, they are advertising the PvP maps and starfighting mechanic, but do you hear about the actual game content? What is the lore and story that these new mechanics deliver?

Where is the Kessel Run? I want to do the Kessel Run and see if I can make the PvE leaderboards for speed using my piloting skill. That would be story, fun, and immersion. I don’t need more exciting ways to kill more players with bigger explosions using bigger guns.

I’m not going to go too deeply into LotRO’s skirmish system. Turbine created the best mechanic the game has to offer, and then they abandoned it for mounted combat and Epic Battles. The Mirkwood expansion is now often considered to be the sunset of the glory days of LotRO.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I think if LotRO had doubled down on the skirmish mechanic serving the storyline content like in Mirkwood, ignoring a minority of complainers and pushing the soldiers into companion status like in SWTOR, and then selling better soldiers like in Neverwinter, the game would be in a better place today. Companions are also the lore.


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4 responses to “Mechanics Should Serve Content

  • the commenter formerly call wumpus

    MMO players are a weird bunch. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the MMOs have data that proves that players will make a choice to grind for an extra shiny over playing new content. The other (completely orthogonal) issue is difficulty. To put it in LOTRO terms:

    I am quite happy with the new class trees. The reason is that it keeps me from gating class skills behind specific trait grinds. The less trait grinds the better for me (although I understand that once they put trait grinds in the game, they are kind of stuck with them).

    Since players spend a great deal of time killing mobs, does Turbine really feel it necessary to make it trivial (even on at level quests, or *must* I buy leveling stones for each of my characters and only play red quests)? I mean I *can* die out there, all it really takes for me to get bored and try to fight too many of them or try to run past where I shouldn’t. Once the core game becomes a chore it is time to look elsewhere (if only I had more hope for ESO).

    If playing harder content gave better shinies (DDO tries to do this with difficulty levels: inherent MMO attitudes seem to make this impossible. Everybody seems to feel that they should insta-win elite when running as a speed run) this might work.

    [Also deleted a long rant about how DDO spent the last few years monkeying with (Turbine specific) mechanics when D&D mechanics WHERE THE MAIN DRAW of DDO. Congratulations, Turbine: you not only destroyed the game, you destroyed the codebase so badly they might not even mange to recover if they regain their senses (new project lead and new commitment to D&D, even if Ed Greenwood is past my playing days).]

  • comenter formerly called wumpus

    Ed Greenwood is ^from^ past my playing days

    Sorry, Ed.

  • iamthetruthseeker

    Well written!

    BTW, on the fence about TESO (signed up for beta of course) and would love your feedback on what does and doesn’t work after their updates so far. Thanks for the blog articles BTW.

  • Jackie

    @Wumpus I feel sure Rift has data that players would rather hunt for shinies and do festivals than do their quests. In LotRO I’d guess the opposite.Glad you like the skill trees. WoW made lower level content more trivial, and maybe that’s now a standard to help people catch up? Not everyone wants to insta-win of course, but there is a very vocal majority that wants accessibility or at least parity. Gosh, you’re making me want to start a new LotRO alt. No clue about DDO, but agree that MMO devs seem to love monkeying with things that should be left alone, but don’t love fixing things that are really broken. Maybe if it’s broken, it means they failed to fix it in the first place.

    @Truthseeker I’m on the fence too. I go back and forth. When the NDA drops, I’ll probably have more things to say. Thanks equally for stopping by and commenting. 🙂 There is another even bigger beta this weekend. If you still don’t have an invite? Be sure to check the spam folder.

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