Are MMOs just watered down single-player games?

| Monday, February 14, 2011
As I read Gordon talking about MMOs possibly harming single-player games I was struck by the sad question: what are we paying for?

There are many ways to measure the value of a game, many comparisons to use. All of them are tangentially based on dollars, which are money, so none of your Euro nonsense here.

Time played per dollar
Fun per dollar (I believe that fun is theoretically quantifiable, but it comes in too many forms in too many ways and is too subjective to be easily figured out)
Fun per time - concentration of fun
Concentration of fun per dollar

Note that I am leaving out the social factors for now.

In my experience single-player games have a much higher fun per time than MMOs. Not needing to share a world with others allows for greater depth of mechanics, more gameplay options, and much less attention to nitpicking balance and risk/reward. For example, I like that in a single-player RPG I can sometimes go to a NPC and just buy something nice, with plain old gold. No rep grind, no tokens, no bosses, just here's some gold and wow how does this person have that for sale? This would probably be an awful idea in a MMO since inevitably someone would miss out on it or someone would monopolize the rare spawn sale or whatever. Oh and difficulty sliders, those things are awesome.

MMOs tend to compensate by having lots and lots of time, time which can boost back up the fun per dollar. In this way they're a bit like bad candy, but it comes it two pound bags! WOOO! Perfect for spreading gum disease and diabetes to children while pretending to be nice. This leads to a very low concentration of fun per dollar. It also means that if you can't play a lot, you're going to have some value issues.

Does the social factor make up for this? That's the key element, the one major advantage of MMOs. The social interaction or at least epeen contests must be enough to compensate for the lower fun per time per dollar. Back when I sometimes played Goldeneye with my brothers, fighting three bots wouldn't have been much fun compared to fighting two brothers and a cousin. The actual play wasn't particularly amazing, but the social aspect made up for it. It added another layer. That layer being a lot of yelling.


Max said...

Well MMOs do tend to have more content than single player games (even if grind is taken to account). I do not enjoy MMOs as much as I did however and dont subscribe for them more than 2-3 months usually

I purchased Just Cause2 on christmas sale and oh boy does it have a great seamless world. Wish MMOs had one like it

Anonymous said...

Your point about concentrated fun per dollar is a good one but then I'd argue against it by saying that grind isn't really a huge factor in MMOs any more. And although it does still exist to some degree, is it really any worse than say the grind in Dragon Age: Origins? Or is the PvP queueing in WoW really any different to queueing for a game of COD or Street Fighter? MMOs are becoming more and more accessible, just like single player games, probably in an attempt to increase the concentration of fun per dollar value.

Oh and dollars, real money? I don't think so :D

Klepsacovic said...

@Max: There is more content in terms of world size and play time (even excluding grinds), but I think much of it is watered down compared to single-player games.

I should have specified, I'm attempting to compare RPGs online and offline. Obviously FPS tend to be much shorter and often have less depth of play, not because of any flaw of the game or developer, but that's just the nature of point and click violence.

@Gordon: Must you taunt me with the fact that I have been unable to play DA:O? Tell you what, if dollars aren't real money, I'm sure you can get a whole lot for barely any pounds, which you can then use to buy me a real computer. Deal?

The obvious grinds are on the way out, by which I mean the old mob grinding leveling or outdoor rep farming of Silithus and Burning Crusade, but is the fiftieth run of Throne of Tides any less grindy? I suppose the activity is more complex, but I'd argue that if an activity has to be excessively repeated, it should be simple, so as to allow the lack of attention needed to complete such tasks while retaining sanity.

Tesh said...

"what are we paying for?"

I'm pretty sure I've asked that in every MMO article of mine in one way or another. The answer rarely satisfies.

Faeldray said...

In Goldeneye, the real fun started when my friend got bored of killing bots and started killing my brother and me with friendly fire. It added a whole new dimension to the game, and a lot more swearing.

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