Twitter Question

A blog post for longer form thoughts and answers.

@SaraPickell: Q to the listening audience: Would you play an MMO with no character advancement

@NT_: @SaraPickell In what ways would it be different from the FPS online games that don't have character advancement (like COD2, not COD4)?

@SaraPickell: @NT_ it would be massive, and wouldn't necessarily be an FPS. Better question, it what ways would it be similar, and are those bad things?

@NT_: I think this would make a good blog post & discussion thread, if you like. Topic's a bit deep for twittering at work, lol.

@hallower1980: I would, but it would have to have better combat, exploration, and more dynamics than typical MMOs

@copperbird: @SaraPickell Yes, it doesn't need to get more powerful. But it would need some other goals.

@Ardua: @SaraPickell Depends I suppose on what I can do. If there was a good hook, yes.

@xbevisx: Now THAT is a killer question. I'd like to be adventurous and say yes, although for season reason it scares me. Like clowns.

@JadeTalon: @SaraPickell How would rewards work? How different or customizable will each player's "character" be?

@SaraPickell: @JadeTalon Dunno, didn't really have any specifics in mind when I asked. I suppose then what would you need to be the answers to say yes?

@pasmith: @SaraPickell Probably not. I play most games, MMO or not, for the character advancement. Maybe if it had a killer storyline

@Ysharros: @sarapickell yes, if you define advancement purely as getting levels

@pasmith: @Ysharros @sarapickell Wouldn't getting new skills, fame, gear, etc all fall under character advancement, though?

@SaraPickell: @Ysharros but what if it wasn't? I'm kind of asking myself that now, what if you never even changed from what you first look like?

@Ysharros: proooobably -- but I imagine you'd find folks would figure out ways to make their own goals. Else it would be IM-with-avatars?

@Ardua: @SaraPickell @Ysharros Indiana Jones. Have whip, will make the rest up as the situation requires. Who needs to change themselves?

@copperbird: @SaraPickell If you start out looking amazingly cool, you might not want to change (like CoH)




  1. Part of what interests me in this is that I've heard it over... and over... and over again that MMO design was all about rewarded players for one thing and punishing them for another. Something about that doesn't seem completely right to me. I mean, on a most basic level it's probably true, but as a high level design ideal, I've always felt like it fell a little flat.

    By and large, I think that disparate groups of players want to do certain things. Groupers want to group, raiders want to raid, duelists want to duel, leaders want to manage guilds, etc... The question is not can we reward people into taking these paths, by and large they will automatically. The question is, does your system of rewards and punishments actually discourage people from doing those things? If, for instance, you never got better gear from a raid dungeon, would that make everyone avoid raids, or just mean that raiders would never completely abandon a given dungeon?

    I don't claim to have the answers, nor claim that not having advancement would be "better". But I am interested in the answers, and to some extent, interested in why I've never come across those answers.

  2. *kicks* Work damn you.

    I lost my post, so here it is again in short.

    Robo-Cop MMO. Robo-Cop has precisely three things. He's tough, he's armed and he can aim well. It's how those are applied (especially the aiming) that are entertaining.

    I'd happily live with no character progression provided I could use whatever abilities are granted in a myriad of ways.

    Then before I hit enter I realised I was answering the wrong question.

    So the raid example. I think it wouldnt matter if you got better gear doing raids or not, so long as there was some sort of challenge in the raid itself. Who is the better raider? The guy specced for a single task wearing ultimate everything or the gal who can clear the dungeon with two sticks and a whole lot of hope?

    If it's a fun pursuit, people will do it regardless of any return. I'm doing an Imperious Task Force tomorrow in City of Heroes, not because I need the inf or the merits, not because I need anything from it (though I admit it isnt like a raid), but because I want to see how funny it will be with my team.

    I think I've looped back to the original statement. So long as I can do the same old, but in new ways... I don't mind if there's advancement, progression or levels or whatever.

  3. Well I think right now it all kind of flows together. Is money advancement? Are achievements? I don't know, and I don't think we should just kill off all the rewards. On the other hand, we have a lot of MMO 'wisdom' that gets passed around as fact, when honestly we just don't know. They haven't been around that long, and we're only scratching the very surface of what all is possible with them, even given current technology and limitations.

    If we took away player advancement, would they make their own? Would it be better than what we make, or worse? Can we even make enough content to please people if they had access to just about everything from the word go? I'm just sort of in question mode at the moment. Looking for more input, and perspectives.

  4. I'd play a game with no real advancement. Sure. But it'd have to be fun in some way. Temporary goals and dungeons that keep resetting, puzzles that need doing over and over, a battleground that's really fun and gets you nothing in the end... oh wait I'm still talking about current MMO's. Ok so maybe if you made a Team Fortress MMO and but with swords and axes and arrows, where you pick what you are and just go crazy until your team wins or you have to respawn, that'd be more along the lines of what this person is talking about on twitter right?

  5. I didn't really define the form of the MMO, mostly on purpose. Your latter example would certainly fit, and your former fits just fine as well. Part of thinking about the question is the considerations of how much of what we currently have in MMOs really "needs" to be attached to character advancement.

    I do find it interesting that the conversation trends towards the only choices being big fantasy MMOs or server based fpses with a global chatroom. Heck, even the standing fantasy bias is kind of interesting in and of itself. Would you play a third person shooter, ala gears of war, where you could quickly get co-op going and had a house back home to decorate as you wished? Can we honestly say we even have an answer to that question, after all it really hasn't ever been tested?

    Do we have to explore dungeons? Or are we just going to call anywhere we wind up having to explore and fight through a dungeon?

    How about I posit a theoretical MMO. Your an airship pilot in a historical fantasy WWI setting. You start out with a choice of airship styles, and you can change to one of the other styles anytime you want. You can also decorate the inside any way you like, or paint the outside anyway you like. Then you and your friends can get together and go out to fight the enemy NPCs over given strategic points. Of course you can also explore the countryside, either alone or with friends, and learn about the historical events surrounding WWI, or how having airships changed the nature of that warfare. It could be through quests, or just infobits scattered around the world, or even just from listening to the NPCs talk about their lives. Of course there would be more to the game, but that's the basis that comes off the top of my head. Would that be an interesting MMO? Would the lack of advancement, the fact that your ship would never get bigger or badder than anyone else's turn you off?

  6. Hmm, it doesn't sound like something I would play really if I couldn't customize the airship itself both inside and out (i.e. add guns or a detachable plane). Then again, how would you get missions and what would they be for, how would you group? Many of these including exploration which I would think would be interesting in an "up" sort of way.

    I can name 1 mmo that did not have advancement in the normal sense, hell it didn't even have combat at all and it did not succeed. It was called "Seed" and it was totally revolutionary on a roleplay scale, no combat and deep socialization game. The story was you were awoken as a clone on some distant world being colonized, the robot ai shut down and you had to make a go of it on this world. Now this is where the options came in, there were others in the world, some wanted to fix the robot and leave, some wanted to fix the ship and start the colonization, some wanted to sabotage other's efforts. It was a deep social mmo, to the point of you had contacts of groups of people, each would require favors of you (jobs) and would give favors (rewards). Every time you did something, got a tool for someone, you would gain faction with that group, but lose it with another and so the game progressed based on your "choose your own adventure" and parts of the ship would continue 'CONSTANTLY' at my annoyance to break down and would require repair, if you were the group trying to repair and colonize the world (where most are ushered to).

    But because there was no combat, you would never die so you also never advanced past the stage you started but you did progress in the way you interacted with other groups. As you fixed something you got a reward turned that into a favor and did something else gaining/losing points with each group in turn.

    In the end, even though it was a sci-fi setting and the game was barely playable (movement around via mouse click was horrific) while it was still in closed beta. As it got closer to launch it became more bareable but it didn't get any funner, every missions or job seemed to be the same and the ship parts constantly broke which set you off on new tangents and I mean something you had just fixed by the time you got back down to the npc would be broke again and the cycle would repeat. There was no progression other then through character interaction by building contacts (read as reputation expansion) and their was no death/combat, along with the fact it lacked major character customization it was just not a fun game overall.

    Totally revolutionary and very good for roleplayers with the myriad of options it had available, but ....boring and repetitive overall.

  7. I still find this an interesting question, yet it's so broad that knowing where to begin and end is difficult. Plus, there's this damn cat in my lap that won't lay down. :)

    When first considering the question, I wondered if such a game wouldn't be trying to go back to where the industry has already been and is heading away from. That's not a *bad* thing, but swimming upstream is difficult from a business perspective.

    [ejects cat, cycles laundry] I guess, with few other details, my answer would be "maybe". As someone interested in competitive play with social aspects, Second Life-style worlds aren't in my thoughts. If no character progression means no grind, I'm interested. If success is dependent on your skill, knowledge of the game and ability to coordinate well with others, versus simply playing (crafting/farming/mining) endlessly until your gear and/or abilities are significantly more powerful than others, I'm interested.

    The reason I brought up FPS games is that they are nearly as persistant as some modern, instanced MMO's. The maps are the same every time. Even mods that alter the stock maps are the same day to day. Only a common, community space is missing, a city or social hub where everyone gathers.

    Now, many FPS games have/will have character progression (COD4), massiveness (MAG) and social space (Global Agenda). This is not meant to be comprehensive but to illustrate how genres are converging and the difficulty in defining them at all.

    So, snipping out what would be six screens of rambling, I would say that an MMO with no character advancement would need to have another strong draw to keep people coming back. The most difficult to implement yet most interesting feature is players having a long-term or permanent impact on the game world. Persistence without change, regardless of genre, is boring.