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Skill and MMORPGs - An Unhappy Marriage

What can be considered the primary reasons why people play MMORPGs? Some will say socialization, although, you could, more or less, achieve the same level of socialization by just trolling a specific forum community for a certain period of time. Then, there is the aspect of uber loot - trying to get that epic sword that very few other people have, and why?
While there are never any general rules here, it often boils down to human vanity. Many play video games because they want to feel special, and rise above the rest of the crop. In many cases, games give you that false sense of accomplishment that people lack more of in real life. This leads to a rather contradictory situation in MMORPGs though - in really popular MMORPGs, it becomes very hard for the casual player to "stand out." Although this is not impossible, being special and having the best gear almost certainly implies that you have to play the game to such an extent that it would be a crime to call yourself a casual gamer. Often, in MMORPGs, the most vocal and vibrant online personalities (for all we know, they could be quiet loners in real life) will garner most of the attention, and hence myths will be created around their supposed skills. There is, of course, the other side of this coin too, where certain people will be labeled skill-less, and often this general impression of them will be based around even more myths.

In fact, while MMORPGs promote socialization, they promote it, to a degree, in a wrong way. They impose new values on this closed online society where people without a life are rewarded the game's highest accolades, and their skills are praised where no true skills are to be found.

I couldn't tell you the exact definition of skill, but the way I see it, possessing skill means that you've taken your natural abilities and perfected them with so much hard work that you've become better at something than a great majority of other people. For instance, a great ball player has skill - he has talent backed up by hard work. So if for instance, you were to play a 1-on-1 game against one such person, there is a *very* good chance you would lose 10 out of 10 times. You simply don't have the skill that he does. Your natural abilities backed up by whatever amount of hard work you put into them do not surmount to the same level of skill that he has.

Conversely, there are gamers that possess true skill. Naturally, their skills are only apparent in video games that actually promote skill. At this year's E3, I had the privilege of watching the reigning UT 2004 champion, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel, play a number of promo matches with random people from the crowd. Now you may think you have a chance against this guy, but seeing how fairly good players from the audience fared, and the level at which Johnathan plays the game, it becomes apparent that you'd lose... badly... 10 out of 10 times. (Seriously, I never once saw Fatal1ty get killed. - Smap)

This takes me back to the problem of MMORPGs. It is in the competitive nature of our race to glorify people with skills and humble the people without them. The way this happens in MMORPGs is horribly wrong, however. Again, this has somewhat to do with human vanity and that desire to stand out at all costs. In MMORPGs, this gets to the point where people start justifying the blatantly obvious deficiencies of MMORPGs in terms of skill-based playing just so that they could artificially categorize players by skill (because it's in their human nature to categorize other humans by skill). So myths are created about good players and bad players.

In reality, the very nature of RPGs goes against the idea that the most skillful players are the ones receiving the most accolades. For one, there is no level playing field. One guy may be decked out with epic armor because he plays the game all day long, and the other may have very ordinary equipment, as he has a job, a family, etc. If we suppose that both of these players have the same amount of knowledge about their class and the class they are facing, and sufficient level of motor skills (nothing out of the ordinary mind you), then there is a strong chance that the guy with the better stats will win. His advantage is based on calculations by the game of the inputted stats, rather than his skills. And even if the other guy wins, it just could be that the random factor in these calculations (a number of critical hits, or resists per match), may tip in his favor, giving him an edge. All the while, however, an unordinary level of skill is not a factor in this Player vs. Player conflict. And even if it is *a* factor, it's far from being *the* factor.
In simpler terms, being an ordinary MMORPG player, I could certainly win at least a number of matches against the supposedly best player in all the land, and that is certainly not something I could hope to do against Fatal1ty, being an ordinary player.

MMORPG PvP conflicts are missing the crucial element that helps Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel win 10 out of 10 matches against you - they are missing true skill. Tactics may play a certain part in MMORPG battles, yes, and you could even call that a skill - quick thinking - but skill in its quintessential form won't be the deciding factor. The very thing that helps "Fat" beat you in all ten of the matches.

So what is the problem here? Why write this article at all?

The answer is simple, I consider myself a competitive person, and I like the idea of the sporting spirit. I like to see players with skill (in sports or competitive games) being given the recognition they deserve for being really skilful at what they do. What I don't like to see is myths being created around players that compete in an environment that doesn't promote genuine skill. There is something fundamentally wrong about this. It's like glorifying a crappy painter just because ten people who are supposedly authorities on the matter say he's good.
Companies will promote PvP gameplay in their MMO games to simply ensure that there is enough content for players to keep paying the monthly fee. What this promotes, however, is not true values that define our competitive nature, but myths and vanity, just perpetuating the rather unhealthy attitude that is already abundant in MMO games.

Would the introduction of skill-based gameplay solve this problem? Possibly, yes, but then people who spend the most time on the game, wouldn't be rewarded as the naturally gifted people who might play less, but achieve far better results than them. That would sort of break the system of MMORPGs, which is based around people with no life (or genuine skills) getting a false sense of accomplishment and recognition in an online world.

You must've wondered at least a couple of times why FPS/MMORPG hybrids haven't worked yet, or why "true" MMORPG gamers steer clear from such games. What I have just written could possibly give you an answer to that question - they like make-believe competition instead of the real one.

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Reader Comments
King Speedy Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Why write this article at all?

My thoughts exactly....sounds more like a frustrated rant, if ya ask me...
DinoX Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
LOl, I agree, sound like you just got beat down 10 times in a row in a PvP area of some MMO game.

I've never considered playing RPG required skill, nor have I considered other people that plays have skills, yet they are fun nontheless. But then again you'd never catch me in an MMORPG in a million years cause I wouldn't be caught dead buying a game then paying mothly for it.
  DinoX: nm
craigww_22 Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Me three. It's the sole reason I haven't been interested in MMOs - so far...
SpaceMonkey Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I think the article is trying to say that playing game wouldn't get you anything in reality. Playing wouldn't get you any real skills etc. For christ sake playing games IS about wasting time! Why would anyone expect otherwise is beyond me.

You want self improvement in real life? go to classes or get a job.
DarkOps Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
With you again lions...since I've been switching a lot between WoW, HL2DM, and BF2 lately you definitely get a feel for how different an environment like WoW is from either of the other two FPSs.

I do agree with some of the previous comments, tactics is a skill required to be an effective WoW PvPer, but the luck/stats battle 9/10 times still wins a fight.

Real tactical skill, if we are going to do this solely based on "tactics" as a skill, can be found in a game like BF2 (not that I'm a huge fan, but just for comparison's sake). You need to be aware of so many more factors than "what class is/are my opponent(s)."

Wish I could have seen that bastard play lions. Reminds me of a few clannies back in the old TFC/CS days.
araczynski Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
'skills' and 'video games' is akin to 'politicians' and 'morals'.

i still think all these game 'competitions' are just plain pathetic, all thse kids getting used/milked by the industry to promote their crap, nothing more, of course to pay for all these stupid 'competitions' they end up jacking up the prices of all their already overpriced components and the end user has to pay for it.
BigTwiggy Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
You maid a ton of valid points in your article, and it gave somewhat of a loathing for the gamers on MMORPGs that i game with (I am a WoW drugy) and i dont think that it all comes down to gear. I personaly have almost toasted 2 level 30 alliance rogues with my 27 mage (then one used a bandage....that sob...) and taken on infernals with a group of about 5 people in xroads. It didnt matter who was dealing the damage, everyone was helping one way or another, whether or not they had the best gear, or the highest level. But about the skill, yes it is almost impossible to have "skill" in an MMORPG but a certain style is possible. Some players are exceptionaly good at killing the oposing faction (Aliance/Horde) but arent exactly unique. I aslo play fps in long shots whenever i get a bit borred of WoW, and they not only require skill, but the ones i play also largely depend on teamwork and tactics (Rainbow six(RVS and AS) and ghost recon) to complete the mission/objective. But the teamwork is different in both games. In FPS you think fast, take a good idea and try it out. In an MMORPG you need the full co-operation from everyone with you. This proves to be difficult sometimes, due to the fact that some players dont speak english very well, and others are just n00bs. (just to clarify for those who dont know(im pretty sure most of you do but nonetheless) a NEWB is someone who is new to the game, and is still learning. A n00b is an arogant piece of crap that thinks he/she is the best at the game and deserves more than everyone else, usually found pulling in numerous mobs in an instance, or ninja-ing BOP (bind on pickup) items that he/she cant really use anyway. For those of you who play on Archimonde, wickedkiller haks, and turbohonda is a useless ninja-ing turd. How many n00bs there are...way more than i can remeber let alone name. But all it comes down to in the end, is that there are different kinds of skill in FPS and MMORPGs, and there is no one style that works best. The game is designed to be that way. It keeps things interesting, and nomatter how much sense al this made, as showing how completlly pointless MMORPGs are, im still gonna log 8-10 hours today, because honestly, i've beaten every other game i own and the long drawn out style and variables of WoW, keep my attention and since im kinda ADD, this is all i have...plus the online community of FPS is slowly dying. Sorry if i was kinda all over the map on this, i get kinda worked up about games sometimes =)
ShadowLance194 Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Glad someone else noticed this. Now someone above mentioned that winning in mmorpgs takes skills like reaction, stradegy, cooperation etc. Now I dont know what mmorpgs your thinking of, but will ANY of those three things make ANY difference if it was a lvl 8 with average equipment and 120 health vs a lvl 99 with 'uber gear' and 56,394,481 health points that deals 6.7 million damage? Theres a difference between a game HAVING skill, and that skill actually changing anything.

If you play an FPS for 5 years you can still get owned by someone who just picked up the game a week ago, you'd have to be RETARDED to play a MMORPG for 5 years and still be level 3 with crap equipment.

Basicaly what I'm saying is MMORPGs may HAVE skill but they dont NEED skill, FPS HAVE and NEED skill.

Now Guild Wars is an interesting exception... as everyone is level 20 with the same gear. Dont give me anything about 'oh but those who have played the longest have the most skills unlocked'. Yes this is an advantage but I played with the pre-made templates just fine. Now I try to make completly unique pvp builds as I have unlocked more skills. Point being once you level the playingfield like that what decides who wins? Yes having a good team setup helps, but thats not what MAKES you win, I've done 13 flawless with no monk, and 10 straight losses with TWO monks. It depends on how good everyone on your team is. Its like a 4 legged table, cut one leg off and it might stand, cut another off and no matter how strong the last two are it will fall. Not saying that 2 good people cant own 4 n00bies, just making a point. If you get 4 people who are all GREAT players it doesnt matter how well balanced the other team is, if they suck your going to own them. So I think the big difference between THIS MMORPG and FPSs is knowledge, its not really a matter of starting guild wars pvp up and because your a good stradegist you win, its a matter of knowing the system as I believe 2lions mentioned in his argument.

The biggest problem in saying FPS vs MMORPG is MMORPGs today are doing more and more to cut down on the 'I killed 5000 racoons so I can get a bigger stick than you' mentality. Back in the day you'd just squash things to get more health and damage, so it was impossible for a low level to kill someone with 90k health points and regeneration, even if he was AFK for 8 hours. I havn't played many new MMORPGs but from the sounds of people's arguments this ISN'T how MMORPGs are today? If it IS still that way why is there even an arguement about skill in mmorpgs?
Moesha [STAFF] Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
He is pissed right now becasue EA just axed the upcoming Hello Kitty MMORPG that we was all gooey to play.

Live it with it 2Lions.
  2Lions: Fuckers said they'd never do it! But that's EA for ya…
MrBored Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Look at all those words.
resistance156 Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I've never really seen or heard of "skill" being perpetuated seriously in an MMORPG. Anyone that has half a brain knows it boils down to your level, equipment, class and skills. In almost any RPG the determining factors in being "good" are time and knowledge. The knowledge part includes what skills to get, what stats to get, what equipment you need for a given task, what skills to use during a battle, and fulfilling your role in a large group battle.

Even action RPGs like Diablo 2 take very little "skill" in the way of hand-eye coordination. It's mostly all about getting used to the interface and investing time and possesing the knowledge of where to put your stat points...

I also think it's kind of funny how you stereotype "MMO Gamers" as people that have no lives, when you know absolutely nothing about most of them.
2Lions Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
"I also think it's kind of funny how you stereotype "MMO Gamers" as people that have no lives, when you know absolutely nothing about most of them."

No Sir, it would seem that you know *nothing* about MMOGs, or of the time it takes to seriously level a character and have it decked out with the best equipment. That alone is proof enough they have no life.

Then again, it's clear that you're not an MMORPG gamer...
  kfsone: "No Sir, it would seem that you know *nothing* about …
2Lions Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
DinoX, ha! Not a chance... but I really don't like how this idea of skill is perpetuated in MMORPGs, especially since I come from a FPS background (so to speak).
SpaceMonkey Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Are skills only pertain to hand eye coordination? does it mean it doesn't take skills to play chess? what about turn base strategy games?

2lions, I think in a long enough timeline everyone will be max level with best equip. when that happens, that's when real skills are needed.

It's a game for crying out loud, it supposed to waste your time. I play MMOGs, I guess in your definition: I don't have a life.
2Lions Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
IF you have time for the end game stuff, and have enough time to get all the highest-end gear, then, in all probability you spend a lot more time than you should on the said game.

That said, I'm not excluding myself at all. Essentially, I was one of those people, and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. No, not the experience points... gah, never mind :)
Palehorse Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
"Skill" in an online RPG is the same in some ways as the FPS but different in others. You use different areas of the brain in different ways between the RPG and the FPS.

In a shooter, sharp aiming reflexes and the ability to quickly change to an appropriate weapon are very important skills. So is the ability to 'know' where you are on a level and where you're headed, where you're facing, the weapons being fired at you, etc. Being able to recognize different sounds and their implications is vital. Is that the sound of a door opening? A teleporter? A shot going by? The entire FPS experience generates a stream of information to the brain through the eyes and ears that gets translated into action via the keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc. The better you are at absorbing and processing this information into frags, the higher your score will be. Those that have spent the time to master the finer aspects of this process are likely to have higher than average IQ's. Eventually, not a scrap of information gets by unnoticed. This is what makes people like Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel so good, not the speed of his hands, but the speed of his mind.

In an online RPG, you have the same streams of incoming information. I'll use World of Warcraft as an example of why there is still an element of twitch-skill in an RPG. To someone that's never played the game, or is just beginning to fine-tune their abilities, combat in WoW (PvP and PvE) looks like a mess of cartoon characters with numbers drifting up from their heads, lots of odd sounds, and the occasion "Release" box appearing upon death. There isn't as much running and jumping around. To those that have played it a while, all of that information has meaning and will affect what they do. I have a 60th Druid in WoW and, over time, have learned what curse effects look and sound like when they go off. Why is this important? Because I want to dispel the effect as quickly as possible, which means I have to find out who just got hit as quickly as possible. I can either frantically start clicking people to see who has the curse icon on them (very difficult to do) or I can whip around and look for visual ques, much faster provided you're familiar with what you're fighting and what the effects look like. Each class in the game will train the mind for different sights and sounds as well. For example, I can't counter a disease effect so my reaction to the sight and sound of that effect will be very different than that of someone playing a shaman, a class that can counter it. Multiply this phenomena about 100 times and you start to get the picture. Then there's your hot-key layout to consider. Are the abilities you may need on the fly conveniently located? Are you going to have to flip through 3 pages of hot bars to find what you're trying to do or simply hit a number on the keyboard? Given the number of races, classes, and trait combinations possible, you can safely assume that NOBODY will have the exact same layout as you. If you know how to play your build and take advantage of your equipment, you will win 10 out of 10 time against someone that does not.

For me, the allure of the FPS partly rests with the fact that when you jump into a game, you know that you start exactly the same as everyone else. You all run the same speed (in most of them), jump the same height, have access to the same weapons, etc. It's what you do with the information streaming in that will tip the advantage to you. If you recognize that sound as a door nearby opening up but the next guy does not, you're going to react to it and he isn't. You can guess who'll die first.

My advice to those that only play FPS games would be to get an online RPG and play it for a while. You'll still have a preference for the FPS but the experience will likely improve your game, much like playing an FPS will improve an RPG'ers game. Playing both has improved my experience with both types and made each more fun as not many expect you to pull tricks out of one genre's hat and play them in another :)
kfsone Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I think you're making an error in comparatively value-judging different activities, and you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the average homosapien.

Our ape-ancestry does not make us highly competetive as a group, it leads to highly competitive individuals amongst us. The alpha-approach is an evolutionarily restrictive trait, however, because back when competition came in the form of who kills who, only the winner got to pass his genetic line on, and usually it would be one of his descendents that usurped him, further isolating the genetic line.

Homonid tool usage very likely evolved from spectating at dominance fights. As the group blood-lust raised, the ones that picked up sticks, stones, rocks, and used them, would be the ones coming away from the fight and passing on their genetic material. [And the instinct to throw things at spectator venues is still very strong, and brain scans indicate is from fairly deep in the motor cortex]

Where is the proof of this in today's human? TV game shows; Football stadiums. How many people go to a football game? And how many of them actually *participate*? But how many come away feeling as though *they* participated. Its sufficient for a normal, average human to immerse themselves in "supporting" their team going to a match to watch (or even just turning on the TV). Yet they come away feeling as though they somehow were part of the victory.

Your average, normal human is a spectator. They don't want to have to be judged by extreme talent, they want a certificate that said "I was able to do this", and an MMORPG provides exactly that. It's about as challenging as a pub-quiz.

While I agree with you on your definition of "skill" - I don't think anyone aside from a few spotty teenagers mistakes the "skills" in MMORPGs for attributes of the virtual avatar. If that's what is riling your case, then I suggest you hold on a little longer, puberty will be over soon and you'll see the bigger picture.

Personally, tho, I don't understand the value of football or hockey or chess as "sports". Sure, chess is a great mental activity, and football and hockey are fun ways to exercise, but to me anyone who devotes their life to copmeting at them ... has no life. I don't think being king of WSAD gives fatal1ty a life. I don't think being level 60 in WoW is any more or less life retarding.
Umer Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
2lions... sanzo to u sounded like micheal moore to george w. bush.. but hey, u win some u lose some right?? ;)
DNA Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I don't know if the author here has specific MMO's in mind, but I have to say I think he's way off base at least in regards to one MMO, World of Warcraft.

I've played to 60 in that game, and I'm pretty bad at PvP. Is it because my class or equipment sucks, or because I'm retarded? 'No' on all counts. It's because despite having played the game for an ungodly amount fo time (probably 300+ hours), I'm simply not skilled enough at PvP. I don't know all the strategies and counterstrategies for each particular hostile encounter, and sometimes I'm just not dextrous enough to get off a spell in time.

Is there as much a hierarchy of skills here as there is in the FPS community? Probably not. But to tell the truth, I don't really consider 1337 n4m3 guy Fatal1ty much more worthy of general accolade. So he spent 300+ hours learning how to circle strafe and click rather than pretending to fight monsters for digital loot. It's not like his "skills" are any less pathetic or ephemeral than my WoW character's equipment. (Well, maybe HIS are less pathetic, because he makes money off them, unlike most gamers.) The author insults MMO players for having "no life," as if all the kids at the top of the CounterStrike servers are gamers by night and professional athletes by day. We're equally dorky, my friend. Embrace the demimonde.

Or is the point of the article that learning mad skillz is simply more fun than leveling up an online persona? Well, that's subjective, and 3.5 million WoW players might beg to differ.
Necronomicon Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
The main issue that I have with this article is that you are comparing two very distinct genres of video games. Along with distinct genres come distinct skill sets. You wouldn't expect Tiger Woods to win the Tour de France any more or less than you'd expect Fatality to have the patience and social skills required to advance in an MMRPG community. It's fairly easy to memorize small map circles and adapt coordination to point and shoot. It's a completely different skill set to organize a raid party to destroy an end game boss. You're opinion appears prejudiciously geared towards first person shooters, and as all prejudicial opinions, completely ignores the skills required to navigate through a massive online game. It is an incorrect assumption to surmise that one promotes "good" skills while the other promotes "bad". Competitive or no, games are games and are designed to be entertaining. Once you lose sight of that, you've lost the magic of what games provide.
CalmLikeBomb Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
SKILL - Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience.

Skill is not a generalized thing. You have skills in various things, most people do, and the combinations are different for everyone.

Fatal1ty has skill in FPS, even more exact would be UT I'm sure. Put him in an MMO and I can almost guarantee he would not hold the same level of skill in regards to the situations he would encounter.

Personally, I think this entire argument is greatly flawed and written from a one-sided perspective of a FPS player. Myself being a player of both, but an RPG fan since the days of Nintendo (Dragon Warrior), it's almost ridiculous to hear someone claim there is no skill in this. Granted, MMOs and FPS should not even be compared to each other and will not belittle the skill in an FPS is any way. This is comparing Watermelons to Sweet Potatoes if you ask me. Allow me to break down where the skills are held in an MMO, using WoW as my example:

Character Creation: Like another person stated in another comment, there are people who live for the thrill of being able to spec their characters into the most efficient healing, killing, support machine possible. They know how to crunch the numbers and get the most from their talents. This takes a multitude of skills working together, not only in-game but in life. How about math, logic, abstract thought, and creativity to say the least. Personally, I find the thrill of making the most off-the-wall character styles the most entertaining part of an RPG/MMORPG.

Understanding - If you cannot understand the way your character is meant to be played, what the flaws and strengths are, and how to use them in specific situations, you never make it. It was said that leveling to 60 in WoW is impossible not to achieve, but if the people playing cannot comprehend the strategy of a shaman, they don't make it. They switch to something more fitting for themselves and MAY reach lvl 60 with their rogue or the like. It takes a certain amount of skill to reach the top with any class, and you cannot make it without the understanding of how the class operates. These may be people who have proficiencies (skills) in playing healer types, warrior types, etc. but they all have skills in their area. They just may lack them in other class types.

Strategy - When it comes to developing a reliable team to go out and adventure, lets say for the end-game raids in WoW, there are certain things that must be expected of people within the group. As a warrior, you MUST be able to defend the healers and magicasters. Also, as a healer, you MUST be able to keep your tanks alive so that they may defend you. If the people in the group cannot perform their specific tasks, they all fail. In order to perform these tasks, each person again must understand their skills that are given to them in game, but also have the innate skill to think on their feet and react to a situation in an instant.

Leadership - Besides the solo aspect of the game, there comes a time when ever person is has reached the cap and is ready to begin adventuring for those epic items we all love so much. In WoW, it can take up to 40 people working together to achieve these items, and gathering a group like that does not happen without the guidance of certain people who have the presence and ability to be a leader. Most of the times, these people become Guild Leaders.

Guilds - There is so much that goes into being a guild leader or officer that it's impossible to go through it without another entire rant. Again, besides all of the solo aspects, leadership, strategy, logic, reasoning, presence, and much more skills are needed to be effective.

----------------------------

One more time, I do NOT belittle FPS in any way, and in fact, I loved SOF2 on XBox, but this article was not in any way accurate. It is two entirely different game styles that aren't even from the same dimension as far as I'm concerned. It's like telling a submarine driver that he has no skill becuase he can't fly a plane.
Belinar Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I love how someone can even post this kind of "rant" and get any response that looks like "Oh, he's right. I agree". I'll grant that someone like what's-his-name on the UT2k4 tournament can kick some butt, but what if he was to play Quake 3 Arena?... Or Half-Life... Or MONOPOLY! Sure, he has skill, but only in relation to his game.

The same goes for MMO'ers... but you can break it down that much further... You have skill, in your game, in your class, in your level bracket... You're going up against much more seasoned and professional players when you're comparing your own lvl 60 character that's decked out with another, possibly more decked out than you.

Now when I say "going up against", I don't necessairly mean PvP ( though that definatley falls under this category )... I'm talking about proficiency playing that character... keeping your TEAM alive when 40 of you are trying to kill a dragon, doing your part and surviving to try again. Mr "Uber-at-UT2K4" may or may not have that skill. Seeing as how I haven't ever seen him play a lvl 60+ bard on EQ or 60+ Warlock on WoW, I can't make that assumption, just like you can't make that assumption about lack-of-skill in MMO's if you've never played them, leveled them up, and SEEN the morons out there with NO skill.

I'll agree that the act of leveling up takes no skill... that's for fun. You get to go around killing bad guys. ( Welcome to Video games ). The skill comes from how proficient you can do it. When it takes a group of 15 people 3 hrs to clear a dungeon, and a group of approximately the same level of people, but only 5 of them can clear the exact same dungeon ( with no uber equipment or anything ), that shows skill. Again, I'd hate to assume that just because they have "Skill" in this dungeon, that they're any good at Risk. :P
Slayve Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
There is no doubt that someone like Fatal1ty possesses skill, and a lot of it. But whatever shortcomings most MMO PvP matches have, I think you have missed the point: MMOs like WoW are world simulations, you could even say they are life simulations. As in real life, the most useful commodity in WoW is knowledge, and that applies to combat as well as quests, professions, and finances. Knowledge of your opponent's class, weapons, and abilities are necessary in PvP, just as knowledge of the market is necessary to optimize moneymaking, and knowledge of resource gathering is necessary to optimize your profession. Knowledge is the true skill in this type of game.

The world of WoW is so vast and so complicated that everyone plays for a different reason, and enjoys it for a different reason. I see no point in being so narrowly focused on what you see as competitive skill when trying to evaluate the success of a game's design. Think of it as if it were real life: Is everyone in rl competitive? Does everyone in rl have comparable skills? If you were in a WoW-style battle in rl, would the warrior with the most skill necessarily win, or would a less skilled player sometimes win because he had better armor or a better weapon, or because he ambushed you, or because he had more friends to back him up? I'm sure that most soldiers who have seen combat will tell you that skill and training can sometimes keep you alive, but in real war even the most skilled warriors fall in the chaos of combat. In this way, I think WoW is more realistic than more "skill-based" FPSes. There is no such thing as a "level playing field" in rl, so why should there be in a world simulation like WoW?
  CalmLikeBomb: Again, this is talking about the skill we can label S…
MrBored Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Firstly fps mmogs don't exist yet because people with 56k modems can't possible play them and not everyone has a huge connection ( along with the increased responsibility on the server to be lag free ). Although this is changing and the lack of bandwidth is quickly becoming a thing of the past, the developers have seen that a particular strategy works and will only try improve that and not invent their own concepts ( a few people have tried, but failed because of technical problems imo ).

Skill can be found in mmorpgs, it comes through realising how the game thinks and figuring out how to play the code rather than the game. People who figure this out can generally lvl up way quicker than the average person and build more impressive and useful characters. Unfortunately, once their secrets are discovered or revealed it levels the playing field once again.

I find that people play mmorpgs because of the addictive nature in making numbers get bigger. This seems to drive guys nuts, we'll do anything to make those numbers go up, whether it be skills or levels or frags, we just have to increase those numbers. Its genetic.

Some games possess PvP skill requirements though, Ultima did and DAoC ( although the whole zerging thing usually squashed it ), but that reminds me of another point. RPGs come from pen and paper gaming where PvP combat didn't really exist ( it was dungeon crawling PvM ). The point was to immerse yourself in another world and play the role of something that didn't exist in real life. Ultima has been one of the only games to really support this. Its 50 odd skills and completely customizable characters allowed one to take up literally any profession and didn't force you to have a combat based character. I haven't seen or heard of a better crafting system ( I admitedly haven't played very many mmorpgs though, but I haven't read anything to the contrary ).

Its the roleplaying that makes mmorpgs attractive to me as it increases the level of escapism, not the combat or competitive aspect, so the lack of skill involved isn't really an issue.
  fatBastard();: "Skill can be found in mmorpgs, it comes through real…
Ulairi Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I'd like to start by stating what utter bull-crap this whole article is. Ealry on in your article you utter the words "true skill" this is such a subjective expression and what you see as "true skill" in such gamers at fatal1ty exists in the world of MMORPG. I'm a player of WoW and while aware that the items you havew equiped may significantly alter the players chance of sucess in other games this is mearly a sweaping generisation and only shows your ignorrance in the matter.

Where you see skill in FPS is because of it having such a linear play system unlike MMORGS I have played that need further examination than the seemingly one off cursary glance you have awarded them.

You go on to mention that you feel you would have a chance again the great players of MMORPG (given a level playing field), you seem to somewhat overplay your hand here and would have to mark this down as a lavish exageration. While I would agree players have more of a chance against players of a higher skill than them, this to me is only a good thing - I get fed up in some fps having no chance what-so-ever and will generally grow bored with the game - but there wins will few over the course of a 10 round battle and the "true skill" will out. Where skill in FPS can generally applied the same to every fight, In MMORPG such as the World of Warcraft the skill and stratagy changes from fight to fight and even within fights, the abilty to adapt and adjust your skill depending on the oponent far surpasses that in a FPS.

As for "It’s like glorifying a crappy painter just because ten people who are supposedly authorities on the matter say he’s good." This is how the world works, I couldn't give two hoots about the works of picasso but the art world, I'm sure, would quickly admonish my claims as foolish. This brings me back to one of my opening rebuttles of subjectivity. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not there. You should come to accept that you may not be able to see and/or appriciate all aspects of gaming, and you should also refrain from writing disparaging articles pretty much dismissing a whole genre of games.
burnart Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Actually I agree with 2lions in some parts, but..

okey, so in 1vs1 the one without skill will win sometimes, but if you are as skillfull in a mmo game as fatal1ty is in UT, you would win probably all of the times.

And..

This "True skill" that FPS gamers have, is skill learned through many many hours of playing a week, in fact I actually knew a former CS player, his group was ranked as one of the best, he's called Damien if anyone know of him, he had to practice most of the day to keep his being at his lvl, he quit because it took too much of his time...

SpaceMonkey Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I couldn't agree more with the second page, you guys said all that I wanted to say and then some.
LinnyTheDinny Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
can you people write your comments any longer? please you spend more time trying to read the comments then you do the article... keep it short and simple...
2Lions Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
HAHAHA! So many WoW fans here... Essentially, many people here are accusing me of two things: mixing frogs and apples and not being able to define the term that the article centers on... and then there are (ignorant, blanket-accusation-spewing) people saying I haven't played enough PvP in a game, like say World of Warcraft to know what I'm talking about...

Got to Commander rank fairly early on, got bored with the repetitive nature of the PvP gameplay, 40 days spent in WoW in all... maybe more, I'm not sure.

On second point, you can argue about the definition of skill, but you can't say that "skill" in WoW is not comparable to skill in UT. It is definable in relation to UT.

In one crucial aspect...

I can win fights against the "best of the best" in WoW and I HAVE DONE THAT. Not because I'm extraordinary or anything, but because "skill" in WoW is partly based on knowledge, tactics, and dexterity, but the other part is about luck and constructing such a combat system which gives everyone a chance to shine, which compensates for your lack of actual skill, one which makes Fatal1ty truly unique.

How unique? I could NEVER EVER hope to win against someone like Fatal1ty, not once out of 50 matches, even though I posses average skill in FPS games too. I can beat the supposedly best PvP player in WoW if the random calculations go my way, our levels are the same, and, of course, if I know what I'm doing at least, and I'm an average PvP player.

If I could win against Fat on the other hand, I'd be winning actual money at tournaments because skill is rewarded... with money. Think pro athletes.

The day I see a tournament where people are paid actual money for being good at PvP in World of WarCraft is the day snowballs start freezing over in hell for all the arguments I have mentioned in the article.

They are only making you feel like you have skill with all the artificial boosts (even if you might only be average), it's the very nature of an MMORPG, which I don't mind, but let's at least be a little realistic.
2Lions Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
/salute Keldorn

Very well said. In my book, you're one very thoughtful person.
Gowan Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Well that was a load of crap.

...and this is coming from a guy in the "skill-less" category. I know rank level, gear, and time played has a lot to do with the success some players & groups enjoy. However, if readers do not think there is any skill developed in learning how to work together as a team, they are mistaken. There are also the people who first figure out how to beat boss mobs and all the other little tricks devs throw at players. That falls under problem solving and that is definitely a skill desired in the real world. Then there is the decision making process. There are some that have the ability or learn the ability to read a situation in the game and know which tactic will work to resolve the problem. They typically have all of 5 seconds to make this decision. All of these skills are present in an mmorpg. If they were not desired traits then why would orgainzations, among which includes NASA, the US Army and the US Air force, utilize simulation software (games) to train their personnel? DAoC BTW.
Sparrisen Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I find playing WoW to be very unawarding by itself. Most quests provoke skindeep emotions, and after a while you just skip through the quest background and find out where to go, who to kill and what to bring. Also the realization that nothing you do really matters to the world at all begin to dawn to you at this stage, and that you can't really customize ANYTHING.
Solutions:
1: don't skip quest briefs, try to actually get involved in them.
2: Role play! The computer gaming world says something along the lines "to get better stats over time equals a RPG", which proves that the developers don't know jack of what I consider to be roleplay. Roleplay to me means to imagine you're another person, in another world, which among other things stimulates your creativity. While developers can put in tools to make roleplaying easier, the main effort has to be done by the actual player. WoW has no handy RP tools, (a character description page would be among the most basic) but provides a world and history where you can let your imagination loose.

I get pissed off pretty often when it turns out that the game I've looked forward to trying so long, wasn't actually built to suit me. I've sent in tons of suggestions to Blizzard about ways to improve customization and the variation in WoW, but let's face it, WoW is made to earn rediculous amounts of money in as short time as possible, *NOT* to be the perfect game. Never got an answer to any of those suggestions, but Blizz seldom answers anyone directly either.


There is however one MMORGP that I've played which require active use of the contents within your head and where "fame" isn't achieved by spending the most time doing menial tasks. It's not big enough to have lost it's vision, and it is even possible to achieve a person to person chat with the developer. It's called A tale In The Desert and (officially) focuses in completing "tests" in various areas in Egypt, like constructing puzzles for others to solve, creating art, simply get the most people to vote for you, or create laws to (hopefully) improve Egypt. There is no killing of other egyptians in the game, although there are comptetitions where you can compare you're wit, breeding skills or likewise to other players. To me the goal isn't to have built the prettiest mosaic, as it in WoW isn't to get the best gear. It's to get to know other players, and I've got more attatched to the most people in this game than any other.
V45K0 Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
This is a similar argument that i have with my friend on a regular basis, one game that does require skill is GunZ i have been playing this of late and even though gaining levels gives you access to better equipment the playing field is virtually level. and even players who use the k style fighting can be beaten by e style fighters. the only pitfall that i can really gripe about is that it lacks the true open world MMO feature, this would add a dimension never before seen in MMO's (to my knowledge)
SpaceMonkey Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I found this topic....difficult to discuss.
There're so many factors to be considered, and different games applies differently in this discussion.

I should simplify by using world of warcraft as an example, since it's what I'm playing now.

First, there are 2 types of skills in gaming that I've noticed.

1) nimble fingers and quick reaction time, much like most sports in reality and most arcane games, fps etc.

2) strategy and tatics, the game of out thinking your opponents. like in chess, checkers, turn base rpgs etc.

Most games requires player posess a little of both skills.
In WoW, to be "skillful" means a good understand of the game, i.e. other classes abilities and limitations. In addition nimble fingers to activate your toon's skill.

However, since this is a discussion about MMORPG the writer of the article failed to acknowledge one important detail:-socializing.
MMORPG is about play together, as a team, with other players. THAT in itself takes skills. Communication skills, persuasion skills, manipulation skills......

One have to realize they're not playing alone anymore, and to "win" the game you need new skills that you normally would not in a single player game.

Have anyone ever play battlegrounds? or is a clan master trying to get their team to raid the alliance or the horde? you'll be lucky if more than 5 people listen to you and your plans.

Once the raiding starts, a simple command as "stick together" seem like a foreign language.

In MMORPG ALOT of skills are required, namely the skills to coordinate,cooperate, communicate......YOU NEED TO BE A TEAM PLAYER just like in a company! and GET PEOPLE to be a team player.

If you think that doesn't take "skills" then please enlighten me on what does.

Maybe most MMORPG favor the one that played the most, In a 1vs1 situation this seems to be true, the one with the best gear(which require alot to time spent on the game) will have the advantage. But I would like to see anyone with the top gear to survive 3 pyro blasts with combustion.

Bottom line: MMORPG is no longer about individual skills, it's about team skills.
  DinoX: Please... 5 players (or more) with uber-items and su…
MrBored: No, not at all. If you've played an MMORPG, especial…
Cheddar Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
This may be a rant-ish article......but I enjoyed reading it. And yeah, it's probably just because I happen to agree with many of the points that were made, but meh.
skribb Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I just played WoW for the questing. That's why I quit. I don't really like the concept of playing just to get good items.. But I like improving my character...
Umer Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
ummm i think that ur argument is fundamentally flawed by the assumption that u made, namely, the fact that fatal1ty is as good only because of skill. he probably spent hours after hours getting this good, just like the players in RPG's do. he gained this much skill by polishing his techniques over time. competing on that level is IMPOSSIBLE without continuous practice.
personally, i am a big fan of counterstrike-type games but again, u get good at them if u practice enough. yes a bit of knack is always a plus point and ur learning curve will not be as steep, but everyone gets there given enough time and motivation!
  fatBastard();: No that is not the way it goes. The skill of fatal1ty…
Annihilator Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
Very nicely written. Even if it is a little rantish, it still provides a thoughtful and insightful view on a genre of gaming that I never completely "got." Games like BF2 do seem to be more rewarding in the skill department.
Papa Sep 03 2009, 12:00 am EDT
I completely agree with teh 2lions
Airmandan Apr 21 2010, 09:11 pm EDT
I thing you hit the nail on the head directly. Was definitely 1 of the best gaming articles ive read in a good while.

I started out as an avid RTS and FPS player and only dabbled in the MMOs every once in a while. But as of lately ive really been getting into MMOs but theres always been something missing and what you brought up in your article is exactly that. I would love to see a true MMORPG/FPS hybrid. Where player skill really mattered. Where a person coming into the game on day 1 could in fact beat someone whos been playing for a year. Granted the odds would be stacked against the day 1 person i think it should be feasible. Theres always so much emphasis on leveling skills and not enough based on what the player can actually do. I mostly play medieval fantasy MMOs WoW is not one of the games i play though. Off topic but i would love to see a combat style in a game for example where 1-5 hits would kill anyone depending on the type of weapon they had, melee combat based on mouse movements, and where the character "skills" say for a weapon only effected say the speed at which the player was able to handle the weapon and maybe some special moves that he has learned through the course of using a specific weapon type. Now my idea is only based on a small part of combat but what some thoughts on this?
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