Tag Archives: Straw Man

What is a Niche MMORPG?

A Massively Overthinking topic came up at Massively OP last week that struck me as… well… a bit silly.  Not that every post has to be razor sharp intellectually, but this one was almost the straw man fallacy illustrated, as the staff was asked whether they would prefer a niche MMORPG that focused just on on a couple of strengths or an all-in-one MMORPG that covered all the bases.  Somehow, that became a measure of features as everybody weighed in.

Unsurprisingly, the entire staff decided that they would prefer an MMORPG that had it all.  It was like asking somebody if they preferred a lover who only satisfied some of their needs or one who satisfied them all.  Absent any other details, why wouldn’t you choose the latter.

Left completely out of the post, except in the minds of those opining on the topic (something I wouldn’t swear to even that in court given some of the responses), was any sort of attempt to define what niche vs. all-in-one comparison even looks like.  You know, some details that might serve as illustration.

It is very easy to say that you’d prefer an MMORPG that did 10 things pretty well than one that did 2 things better than anybody else, or that you’d trade graphical fidelity for features (Is graphical fidelity even something niche MMORPGs offer as a comparative feature?), but what does that look like in the real world?  Where is the comparison?  Show me that niche MMORPG that does 2 things so well and compare and contrast it to you favored jack of all trades.

Sure, World of Warcraft, the one live MMORPG that gets a mention,  can stand in for the “does everything” title I suppose.  But what about the niche side of things?  Where is that?

My first thought went to Project: Gorgon.  That is as niche as it gets in the MMORPG world, right?

But I would be hard pressed to declare that Project: Gorgon has focused on doing anything “better” than the rest of the genre, unless you count being weird and quirky.  I mean, graphic fidelity certainly isn’t on the list.  And it does a whole bunch of things… whether they are better or worse than you want seems to be pretty much up to you.

Basically, its niche status is set more by its low production values and departure from the beaten path than anything the MOP staff was railing against.  Maybe of its 10 things, some are you wouldn’t suspect, but it does them.

Then there is Pantheon: Shadows of the Past.  But that hasn’t shipped yet, so while it has been declared niche, we cannot really be sure what that means.  Given Brad McQuaid’s enthusiasm in embracing any feature that gets brought up, I wouldn’t bet on the focus aspect.  And, in any case, I think its niche status is less about features and more about being old school, for whatever value you care to assign to that.  Is walking to school uphill, in the snow, both ways a feature?

Likewise, Camelot Unchained is still under wraps.  It could be the chosen niche game, being focused on RvR and crafting… and building… and housing… and a few other things I think.  Can it be more than 2 but less than 10 features?  Anyway, it isn’t an option yet, so it doesn’t count to my mind.

Shroud of the Avatar came to mind as well, but that doesn’t fit the bill either.  It is niche in its approach I suppose, but it does many things… many of them badly… does being bad make you niche?

Anyway, as I trotted down the list I started to suspect that you couldn’t really be an MMORPG… and my definition of such means worldly online games like EverQuest or World of Warcraft or EVE Online or Star Wars Galaxies, and not instanced lobby games like Diablo III or World of Tanks or whatever… without focusing on more than a couple of features.  Being a two feature MMORPG is like being a two legged tripod, something that just doesn’t work out well in the real world.

In the end, I couldn’t really come up with a live niche MMORPG that met the seeming criteria of the post.  I could, however, come up with examples of MMORPGs that went too far with features, to the detriment of the game.

So I am left with some questions.

What is a niche MMORPG?  Is it something defined only by features?

What defines an all-in-one MMORPG?  I mean, WoW is the easy answer.  But is it?  I suspect that people on that panel would argue against it because it lacks some feature they feel a “real” MMORPG needs, like player housing.

When does an MMORPG have to have all those features?  The response “at launch,” or even “on a detailed roadmap at launch,” seems unrealistic.  EverQuest, which I dare anybody to tell me isn’t as full features as they come, shipped with a feature set that would probably be considered inadequate in the context of “all-in-one.”  But it grew with expansions.  Then again, it also came from an era where MMORPGs didn’t peak on launch day and fall off after that.

Finally, what counts as a feature in any case?  Seriously, how granular can one go before things count or do not count?

In the end I remain unconvinced that features are the defining benchmark that post suggests.  There are plenty of MMORPGs out there with a lot of features that do nothing for me.  I certainly go back to WoW time and again in part because of the feature set it offers.  But there is more to my affinity for the game than that.

Of course, we could dial this back another step and start in on what an MMORPG really is.  I may be defining that more narrowly than others.  But, then again, I am not sure comparing and contrasting World of Warcraft against something like Occupy White Walls leads us anywhere fruitful either.

EQ Progression Servers – To Kunark or Not To Kunark?

While the SOE downtime got in the way of the original plan for the vote, things have settled down and it is now time (I think) for players to decide whether to allow the Ruins of Kunark content to be added to the two EverQuest Progression Servers, Fippy Darkpaw and… uh… that other one… it begins with a “v” or something.

In my mind, there is no downside to adding this content to the game, an opinion I do not hold for some of the later expansions.  Once the Plane of Knowledge comes in the game is as good as done for me most likely, as it was the first time around.

But Kunark is good.  It is the one EverQuest expansion I approve of without reservations.  And it will bring good things to the Progression Servers.

For the people who are hard core, who have been sitting at level cap since early March, it will give them something new to do.  They do represent a significant portion of those paying for the privileged of playing in this retro vision of the game.

For those nearing level cap, it will thin out the population, which is quite heavy in the higher levels zones, and allow them to progress.

And even for the likes of Potshot and I, the dilettantes who are sitting at level 21 still, this will give us a few new places to explore in our casual tour of the realms.

So who could possibly be against adding Kunark?  Well, there is always somebody… and they usually post to the forums… like this person.

Please cast your vote as NO to Kunark on Fippy Darkpaw!

A large contigent of players have been adversely affecting the game because they are “bored” with the original content.  Rather than enbale these dubious and immature players, it would be in the best interest of the community to discourage and supress them with a NO vote on Kunark.  Game rule violations go unadressed and these minions of selfisness have been encouraged to flourish.

Many of us have been eager to open Kunark and proceed forward, but recent events have caused us to cast our votes to decline it.   Your NO vote on Kunark will hopefully supress these negative minded players for the betterment of Fippy Darkpaw for years to come.   Another vote will be opened before long, and we can proceed forward at that time, minus a portion of these goons.

Quite the classic bit of specious logic.  People who have waited a couple of months, and behaved badly in the process, are not likely to be deterred by having to wait another week or two, especially when SOE has given us all a free month for the downtime.

That people are behaving badly, that the issues with open dungeons are being fully exposed (GMs have to enforce queues for certain mobs), is probably quite true.  But as to how to treat the problem… I am pretty sure that this is not the way.

So the vote it up in the polls option in EverQuest now, and runs through June 6th.  Potshot and I cannot vote, however, as you need to be level 31 (it says “within 19 levels of the cap”) in order to participate.

But if I could vote, I would certainly vote yes on opening up Kunark.

How about you?

Kunark or no Kunark?