‘MMO’ is redundant.

This post has been a long time coming, but it feels even more relevant in these last few weeks than ever before. With so few MMOs to look forward to, I think it is important that we each understand what it is we are hoping to look forward to. This isn’t a direct response to any one post in particular, though I know it is a subject that many of us have tackled time and time again. I had originally planned something larger and more epic in scope, but it seemed less necessary than this single part.

MMO means Massively Multiplayer Online. It describes a type of video game in which players play together with a large number of other players over the Internet. By itself, ‘MMO’ tells you almost nothing about a particular game, other than the fact that it requires the Internet and it is intended to be played (to some degree) with others. No matter what kind of MMO a game may be, its still the game’s genre which determines what players are doing.

While doing some cursory research for this post, I noticed the wikipedia article on ‘MMO’ specifically points out many examples of various MMOs, all with distinct genres. For example, a MMOFPS (First Person Shooter) like PlanetSide 2, MMORPG (Roleplaying Game) like World of Warcraft, or MMOR (Racing) like TrackMania: Nations Forever.

Wait, how massive is ‘massively’, anyway?

All of these games are online and multiplayer, but to be a MMO, they must also be considered ‘massively’. The term itself refers to having a large amount of concurrent or, arguably, consecutive players interacting in a shared space. Many MMORPGs allow for thousands of players to occupy a single server, but rarely can they all be in the same area without the gameplay being hindered by hardware limitations. At most, you may see several hundred players interacting at once (an open world boss or event), though in a more conflict driven MMORPGs, such as Eve Online, hundreds can turn into thousands during large-scale PvP encounters.

For other kinds of MMOs, these numbers differ radically. The MMOFPS PlanetSide 2 broke a record for most simultaneous players in a single FPS battle recently when it had a bit more than 1,100 players fighting it out, but that’s hardly a daily occurrence. The previously mentioned MMOR, TrackMania: Nations Forever, broke its own record in 2008 when it had 250 players racing on the same map against one another.

These games all exhibit elements of being massively, but the term is highly dependent on the genre, the intent of the developers, and hardware limitations. PlanetSide 2’s largest battle would be hard to match in most MMORPGs, but those games are more frequently designed around closed group content (raiding) with hubs being the only area in which a large amount of players often interact.

TrackMania hardly compares to the other examples. Yet, when you compare it to the 12 racer max of many modern, non-MMO racing games, its 250 players on a single map done seven years ago seems like a big leap even now.

I dunno, ask the hardware and software people.

Technology also plays a significant role in how massively a game can be. A MMOFPS like the original PlanetSide (released in 2003) would not have been possible on the same scale at the same time as the original EverQuest (released in 1999). PlanetSide 2 (released in 2012) benefited from a higher rate of broadband adoption, meaning a larger population of players could reasonably interact in twitch-based encounters without significant latency problems.

Evolutions in server technology have unlocked the player’s characters from their home server in many MMORPGs. Where once you were bound to a specific shard (to borrow Ultima Online’s term), more and more games are moving toward clusters of servers or single-server designs where players can interact across hidden server lines unimpeded. In doing so, these games have significantly increased the number of consecutive interactions with strangers possible, and created a more concurrent-feeling community.

Contrast that with the smaller, tighter knit communities of the past. During my tenure in Ultima Online, I played on a server that came into being as a special cross-promotion with AOL, and was exclusive to their customers. I cannot imagine the server ever held more than a few hundred people at peak hours. My memory may be hazy, but when they featured how many players were online on the EverQuest server selection screen, I recall seeing most at 1,500 or less.

For better or worse, changes in technology have knocked down many of the walls that once separated players. Even if it hasn’t led to significant changes in how many players can reasonably occupy a single space, it has made MMORPGs feel more massive and given players the opportunity to be truly lost in a crowd.

Doesn’t matter: everything is massive, multiplayer, and online now.

The definition of ‘massively’ is not consistent within a single kind of MMO, differs drastically from one MMO to the next, and is dependent upon both a game’s specific genre and the technology surrounding it. While I don’t think this concludes that the word is without meaning, its meaning is hardly strong enough to base an entire supposed genre around it.

Now that our world-at-large is almost always online through the Internet and social networks, the whole ‘MMO’ thing isn’t exactly unique. Watching a live broadcast of a television show while livetweeting is a form of play which involves many, many people online – that sounds like a MMO to me.

Nearly every AAA game has a multiplayer component these days, and the age of couch co-op is mostly behind us. If you want to play a game with friends, then you must do it online through servers or direct connections. While finding people with common interests in these games (offline or on, multiplayer or singleplayer) was once a more arduous task, the Internet has radically changed everything. Now these communities can quickly find one another and stay always connected via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, forums, etc. These networks provide much of the same socialization that always came so easily to MMOs.

No matter which game, the value of all MMOs rest in the connections they can make between players and the game, the gamer and players, and players with other players. We live in a world where those connections are an emergent part of our everyday online lives, and persistent worlds are no longer necessary to make that happen. Social networks have swept the emotional core behind the idea of ‘massively’ right out from under us and we are all left wondering why we spend less and less time in-game, hanging out, or searching for new friends.

The term MMO is redundant. The entire world – not just our games – is massively, multiplayer, and online now. MMORPGs are less special and not nearly as engaging as they once were because of it.

Special thanks to Eri from the Healing the Masses for ‘talking me down from the ledge’ on a few earlier drafts of this one.

Bonus Objective: How do you keybind?

Yesterday’s post about keybinding had a lot of positive responses. I am so glad to see so many of you are as into keybinding everything as I am. A few of you already chimed in with your methods.

Isey of I HAS PC wrote,

“I use the Razor naga – if I stood the mouse upright the keys look like this:


1-5 are so easy to use, very natural. So I tend to put the most used hotkeys 1-4 there. I tend to put 6 as my heal because it is a deliberate thumb movement for me (so I never hit it by accident). 5 as my interrupt. 7-8-9 are the rarely used but still needed once in a while. It all depends what kind of class I am playing, but that is the generality of it.”

Eri from Healing the Masses added,

“i do something similiar in key heavy mmos but make my the primary abilities (heal skills usually) the normal one to six and then secondary skills alt +”

Neri (Mama Needs Mana), Chestnut Stonebough (Gamer Girl Confessions), and Clockwork (Out of Beta) commented with their thoughts as well.

As for the rest, how do you keybind?

Keybound for the Floor #MMORPG

There was once a time where I had zero confidence about myself in MMORPGs (and also in life, but that’s not related). I didn’t understand the deeper mechanics. I was scared to strike up serious conversations. I was as casual as possible and that was mostly okay. Raiding in World of Warcraft changed me completely.

When I found myself in a progression guild at the beginning of The Burning Crusade, my entire playstyle was evolving. I wanted to really sink my teeth into the game and use that passion to drive my DPS through the roof. At the time, I was still too shy to take on any other role seriously, so hiding in the shadows as my Rogue was all I could do reasonably well. Of all the things I did to be a better player, there was only one thing that made playing the game more enjoyable: keybinds.

For a long while there, when anyone told me they didn’t use keybinds in a MMO, I’d gawk at them and give a well-practiced speech that must have sounded like this: I am an elitist asshole. I know better than you. You will do as I say and conform to my worldview, or else you risk forever being inferior in my eyes. That’s hardly what I meant, but you get the idea.

It just feels good to keep everything copacetic.

This post represents a new angle of attack because, frankly, I still believe you need keybind your shit. Why? Because it sincerely makes a MMO more enjoyable. You fiddle less with learning icons. You don’t have to balance a book on your head while you navigate a pit of fire and remember to click button x and then click group mate A before everything falls apart completely and irreparably. Plus, it promotes organization, and brings absolute order to absolute chaos.

For my return to Final Fantasy XIV, my first task after getting my character in order was rebinding everything. You see, with each new MMORPG I play, my strategy for keybinds levels up. Sometimes my hardware changes and I get a great mouse or a fantastic keyboard. Sometimes a unique combination of abilities forced me to rethink my methodology. Either way, I have to adapt.

This is my note for this particular iteration of keybinds.
This is my note for this particular iteration of keybinds.

Since I am playing a White Mage (or working toward one, still), I try to keep rows of buttons with like skills. For example, the top row of three buttons on my MMO mouse are all healing spells, while the second row contains my damage spells. Elsewhere, I use the old 1-4 keys on the keyboard, as well as Z/X/C, for FFXIV’s many mini-buffs.

I find that when I am clicking skills, I end up reading them more often and I get lazy about where I place things on my hotbar. By its very nature, keybindings force me to be more organized and diligent. With my added requirement of keeping like things near one another, I rapidly learn what my abilities do, how to use them, and never look back at having to read the descriptions.

It is often argued that action games feels more involving than classic RPG-style combat because of the real time ‘press button, get reaction’ at its heart. I disagree: the reason is because the player knows what every button does and just plays the game. Interfaces are great and a real necessity for most MMOs, but removing just a little bit of it can really make the gameplay feel a lot more responsive.

It’s an added level of pain and sometimes frustration, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel far more immersed in a MMORPG when I am using keybinds. My focus is more where it needs to be: on playing the game and not playing the UI.

Where in the Blogosphere was Murf this week?

#MurfWasHere is my own hashtag to organize all the fantastic blogs where I’ve written comments that I think are significant or worth others seeing them. Here I am aggregating them. For more information, click here.

Valentines For All

My February-long valentines holiday has been an experience, to say the least. Trying to say nice things about anyone is one thing, but to do so everyday and not sound completely redundant is another level altogether. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed expressing some of my feelings toward so many of you.

Of course, if you didn’t get one, please do not feel left out. My goal all along was to do a post a day, and my vetting process for who made it was little more than “how many blogs that I read can I name in the next five minutes”.

Some names that I certainly want to shout out to are Endalia, Aywren, Braxwolf, Neri, and Jaslya. You aren’t the only ones, but I certainly have a lot of love and respect for your talents as well. I may not read you as much as I’d like to or probably should, but I value your commitment to being excellent bloggers and all-around fantastic people.

I could spend the better part of my year writing nice things if I wrote about those who I don’t really read but respect a great deal – Alternative Chat – or newer blogs I’ve gotten into lately like Party Business, Endgame Viable, and Star-Fire Beef. There’s plenty of bloggers I do read, however frequently, but may otherwise forget to mention – Pasduil or Jeromai come to mind, as well as Duke of O and Rowan Blaze; there’s also Casual Aggro, In An Age, I Hate MMORPGs, Missy Mojo, Alpha Signal Five, and The Mystical Mesmer.

Besides, there’s a lot more to my online gaming community than those with blogs or who are still actively blogging. Sigtric comes to mind, even if this may encourage him to continue NOT writing. There’s Cabbidges and TwoHP2Few as well, and a ton of people on my Twitter that I am still learning about.

Blogging is about expressing yourself and connecting with others. Many of you do that, with or without the blogging, and intentionally or otherwise. The act of waking up one day and signing up on the internet to start a blog is an act I respect unto itself. I cannot encourage or thank you enough for sharing yourself with me and everyone else.

If you are reading this, then know that I love and cherish your point of view, and I want to see more of it. You may need to beat me over the head to get my attention some days, but if you ask then I will come and I will do so with all the passion I can bring to bear.

I don’t know if every nice thing I said this month was nice enough or captured everyone perfectly, but I do feel even more connected. Blogging has been a transformative experience for me. No, I am not Internet famous nor am I any richer monetarily for it. It has, however, given me a platform to air my grievances and a bunch of shoulders to lean on. I’ve made friends over the Internet (and lots of them) – what will they think of next, online grocery shopping?

Happy valentines everyone!

The Recap