Down with the goblins - Or how to make MMOs fun again

Of course MMOs need character development. You can’t create the illusion of a persistent online world without it. We’d be just as heavily reminded of the falseness of the game’s reality if no-one ever changed or grew. And MMO players absolutely need to feel proud of the achievements and progress their characters have made in order to maintain a long-term incentive to play. But we need more naturalistic ways of showing those achievements.

Things need to be feel more organic. In real life, you do not get better at cooking by doing something completely unrelated to cooking for five days and then channeling your experience of that completely unrelated activity into your culinary expertise. Nor do you get better at ironing by simply buying a higher-level iron, or overcome insurmountable odds in a fight by beating up toddlers until your ATK level gets high enough to take on someone four times your size and trained in psychic organ-bursting martial arts.

You practice, you learn from your mistakes, and you improve in a human way, not a mathematical one. To not recognise that fact in the supposed world-simulator of the modern MMO is to drag the player out of the experience by the ankles and slam the screen with a big rubber stamp proclaiming “TEXTURED POLYGONS AND NAUGHT ELSE”. Levelling gives us too many arbitrary barriers, affords us too many cheap ways out that don’t involve the personal growth of our character in any real way, and apart from all of that, is exactly as much fun as exploding genitals. MMOs need a new way.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.