I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game.
John Smedley, Twitter
So H1Z1 has been a thing… at least an early access thing… for almost a week now and, as I have noted, it has gotten a variety of reactions. Whether you believe early access is a good thing or not, H1Z1 is out there, the latest MMO from SOE.
Only there is that Smed quote from Twitter. This was in reaction to a story posted over at Massively, More Boredom than Terror, that describes Syp’s venture into H1Z1 on a PvE server.
Putting together the full series of tweets from Smed, they read out:
Watching [Massively’s] story about how H1Z1 is boring and seeing other commentary along the same lines from people playing PVE. Makes me realize just how stratified the online gaming industry is. Not a bad thing at all. just interesting. Basically the review is from the perspective of an MMO vet coming into it. The comments are identical to stuff we heard from our own company.
My perspective is different – new kinds of experiences with comparisons to current MMO experiences mean people are looking at it through a different lens then we made it. All still valid points of view though and can’t disagree with them.
I look at H1Z1 not as an MMO at all. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with MMOs. It’s a session based persistent online game. session based because lots of people play until they die. It’s an easy stopping point. anyways… just a bit of rambling about it, but I find the experience an MMO vet has coming in to H1Z1 (or Day Z for that matter)
I will say that at least Smed didn’t go for the cheap “It’s a PvP game” shot like so many comments over at Massively did. SOE provides PvE servers and the team has, in Smed’s words, “…really have gone out of our way to make sure PVE players will be happy” so the idea of “not playing it right” can be discounted.
But how about the idea of not looking at it right?
That does bring us back to the age old question of “what’s an MMO anyway?” I know what I mean when I use the term… when I write it, it is almost always short hand for persistent world, progression based, multiplayer, online, servers and shards, role playing game. I also usually mean “fantasy” as well, but there is EVE Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic out there, so maybe I should stop thinking that automatically.
But what I mean when I say it clearly carries little weight, as the term gets used for games like War Thunder and World of Tanks and League of Legends, and probably quite a few more games that would not, in any way, meet my own personal definition.
On the flip side, H1Z1 does seem to press most of my MMO buttons. You have a character, a persistent world, the whole shards concept with many parallel realms, a form of progression… it is equipment based progression, but that is hardly a new thing… and there is the whole multiplayer aspect. Common mechanics we find in MMOs, quests and raids and auction houses, are missing, but so what? Common isn’t the same as required, while the hardcore nature… gotta eat and drink or you’re gonna die… doesn’t disqualify it.
In the “quacks like a duck” view of the world, H1Z1 seems like an MMO to me. Also, SOE calls it an MMO right there on the SOE main page, thus planting the seed rather firmly.
H1Z1 is a zombie survival MMO set in a post-apocalyptic world where thousands of players must strategically align with friends and against enemies in order to survive the worldwide infection.
And then there is the description on the H1Z1 site itself:
And “sandbox” is a common subset of MMOs, at least for purposes of argument most days.
Of course, you might say that marketing needed to call it something, and they call everything else at SOE an MMO… except of course, they do not.
They manage to avoid the term, at least on the SOE main page, with Landmark and with H1Z1’s antecedent, PlanetSide 2…. and also with EverQuest and EverQuest II, which are clearly examples of the MMO genre. Maybe marketing was just lazy. After all, they also say that EverQuest is the “online game that started it all!” Though, to be fair, they don’t really define “all.” However, you get the possible implication swimming in that vagueness, don’t you Ultima Online and Meridian 59 vets?
But I digress.
The usage of the shorthand term MMO could also just be the lens through which we… me, Syp, SOE marketing… are seeing things as well. The human brain loves to categorize things. It was a key survival instinct out on the African savannah and remains so in many modern situations, like crossing a busy street in a big city. (Hint: Cabs are predators.) But it doesn’t always help in situations that are more nuanced… or even when recognizing which situations might be more nuanced.
I know the idea of an MMO is more nuanced than the industry treats it. A lot of things seem to get that label more because of marketing than any deep thinking on genres and classifications.
But even with that, H1Z1 still feels more like an MMO than any other option.
Is H1Z1 an MMO? Is it something else?
Are we too fixated on MMOs to be able to tell? Is Smed to close to be able to see beyond the details?