Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ten Things I Hate About MMORPGs

Hate is such a strong word, isn't it? But who's going to click on a link that says "Ten Things I Mildly Dislike About MMORPGs"? 

Hmm. I would. Maybe I should...

No, stick to the plan.

So, this all came about because I logged into Guild Wars 2 this morning. I was only doing it because I'd checked to see if there was any news about next month's free games on Amazon Prime and I was only doing that in the hope I'd get a cheap post out of it.

There wasn't anything about March's giveaway yet but I spotted a freebie for GW2 I hadn't noticed before and even though it wasn't really anything I wanted, I grabbed it. Then I logged in to claim it in game and the trouble began.

When you play a game all the time, it can go one of three ways. Either all the little things that annoy you end up irritating you so much you stop playing or you become so inured to them you stop noticing. Or you just soak in a swill of passive-aggressive resentment which, judging by general chat, seems to be the most popular option.

If you were in the "What? Oh, that. No, I never really notice that any more" camp and then you for some reason stop playing for a while, when you return you may find your immunity has faded. That's what happened to me this morning. 

You know that super-smug expression "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" that makes you want to punch anyone who uses it in the face? The blogging equivalent is "When games piss you off, get a post out of it", aka "it's all material", the reason everyone secretly hates writers.

As I was stewing, a few more examples popped into my mind so, since I like lists and I'm always saying I should do more of them, it seemed like an opportunity. At first, I wasn't sure I could think of enough but once I'd gotten into it, the hard part was keeping it down to ten.

In no particular order, then, although mostly how they came to me, then shuffled about a bit for adjacency, here they are:

1. Games that lock up all other functions on your PC when loading. 

That's what GW2 was doing to me this morning. It always does it and it's pretty much the only game that does. I can move the cursor but it won't go over the taskbar and even if it would it wouldn't make any difference because I can't click on anything. I just have to sit there, steaming, until the damn thing finishes whatever the hell it's up to. 

2. Games that take forever to load

Guess what? GW2 again! It's by far the worst mmorpg I know for this, too. Getting into the game at all
takes forever and once you're there, swapping maps takes even longer! I have timed it in the past and it can take literally minutes just to transition from one map to another. There are certain maps I won't go to at all (Lion's Arch, Divinity's Reach) unless I absolutely have to just because of the time it takes to get there. 

3. Games that glitch the resolution or lock parts of the screen when you tab in and out.

I alt-tab in and out of games all the time. I can't think of any mmorpgs that absolutely forbid it any more (EverQuest used to when I first played. There were workarounds but they involved third party apps and were considered a violation of the EULA .) but some of them don't exactly encourage it. You have to fiddle about with the settings to stop everything screwing up every time and even then it doesn't always work. It has improved - I remember a time when I had to reset my desktop gamma after every session although which game that was I couldn't tell you, it was so long ago - but I've had problems with screen resolution in several games recently, mostly non-mmos through Steam but also Rose Online. That one is a legacy title, though, so I'm willing to cut it some slack.

4. Games that don't allow lmb+rmb as an alternative to WASD or click-to-move

Noah's Heart is exemplary in almost every way when it comes to not annoying me but it does have one shortcoming that has me cursing most times I play. If you hold the left and right mouse buttons at the same time - nothing happens. Ever since I discovered that trick some fifteen years ago, it's been my preferred way to travel long distances overland. Instead of leaning forward and pressing down a key or triggering autorun (Which can get you into all kinds of trouble if you're not paying attention.) I like to sit back, hold down both mouse buttons and steer like it's a driving game. If an mmorpg - or any supposedly open-world game - doesn't support that functionality it's missing a trick.

5. Games that use rmb for clicking icons and don't allow you to change it to lmb

This one seems to be increasing. It used to be found only in poorly-localised imports but it turned up in a couple of demos I played recently, much to my chagrin. The really annoying thing about it is the way you end up being stuck with it. I don't doubt there are plenty of people for whom the left mouse button is a positive anathaema and I'm all for letting them follow their right-hand path but I can't for the life of me see why it can't be an option rather than an imperative. After all, you can almost always invert mouselook, which would seem to be a comparable cultural artefact. All of which leads very naturally on to

6. Games that use non-standard keybinds and don't allow you to change them.

Seriously. Why? It's ridiculous enough that designers and developers feel they have to prove something to the world by re-inventing the wheel and fixing what wasn't broken but they could at least have the decency to put their crazy notions on a toggle. I always use F to select. It's next to the fricking D ffs, which means I just have to twitch my index finger to hit it. Put Select on E and I have to use a a whole different muscle group and s-t-r-e-t-c-h. And who uses Tab to open inventory? I mean, I can cope with either I or B but Tab?!

7. Games that either don't have a screenshot function or don't document it in game.

While we're on the subject of commands and controls, here's a particular bugbear of mine. I take a lot of screenshots and I frequently need to take them right at the start of new games because I'm going to be writing up my First Impressions for the blog as soon as I log out. I realise that's a niche consideration but if you want your game to feature in social media and general conversation it's surely in your interest to make it as easy as possible for people to spread the word. Isn't it? You'd think so but apparently not, given the way designers choose to bury the screenshot commands deep in the menus. And don't get me started on the bizarre key combos some devs choose if you want to take shots without the UI. I only have two hands!

8. Games that hide and/or organize the screenshots you take in really obscure places.

Following on from the last one, there's not much point letting players document their progress if they then can't find the evidence afterwards. Just put the screenshots in the Documents folder for crying out loud. Or Pictures. Either one. And label it in clear English. Don't create some arcane heirarchy of letters and numbers that mean absolutely nothing and then tuck the files away in the digital equivalent of behind the gas meter in the cupboard under the stairs. Steam and DCUO are both particularly terrible in this regard, which is why I always have to open Steam just to use the View function before I can find anything and why I end up googling "Where are my screenshots - DCUO" whenever I want to post shots of my base.

9. Games that have screen clutter on by default.

This one, I admit, is more of a matter of taste than anything we've had so far. One person's clutter is another's essential information. Personally, though, I like a clean screen. I don't like to see anything hanging over anyone's head - not names, not guild affiliation, not titles or levels. I'll stomach a simple name and job description on an NPC, purely for practical purposes but even there I prefer to have it on mousover, not as a permanent advertising hoarding. As for combat numbers, floating or static, I don't want to see any of them, mine or my target's. All I need to see is a health bar, preferably off to the side somewhere. The first few minutes in almost every new mmorpg I play is spent ferretting around in the options, switching all that crap off. It does not make for the best of first impressions.

10. Games that have all sound and music set at 100% volume as default.

This is even more heinous, although it tends to be more of a problem in single-player games than mmos. I can't count the number of times I've fired up a new game and either had to lunge for the volume control on my speakers to save my eardrums from bursting or had to dig into those Options once again to set the levels in such a way that I can hear the voice actors over the sound effects. If you're incapable of optimizing the sound effectively then at least set the default at 50% and let me turn up the stuff I want to hear.

And, channeling my inner Nigel Tufnel, let's go one louder.

11. Games that start you in a tutorial instance you have to complete before you get to the real game - on every character you ever make.

And finally, an old favorite that's thankfully fallen mostly out of fashion. Or has it? I can't recall seeing one of these for a while but maybe that's just because, these days, I rarely make a second character in most new mmorpgs. Come to think of it, I seem to remember it happened in both Lost Ark and Bless Unleashed. Maybe it is still a thing, after all. The worst case I ever saw was Rift, where you had to do the full questline for an entire zone before you could access your faction's starting city. Back then I was a full-on altaholic so I probably went through the bloody thing a dozen times. I think they eventually changed that although with Rift in the state it's in now I imagine it's a moot point.

I could go on but I think I've made my point. Eleven of them, in fact.


  1. Excellent points, all. They are definitely all annoyances at the very least.

  2. GW2 really needs installed on a SSD given how many transitions it has (story instances, maps, etc). On my PC, it takes seconds.

    1. That's indubitably true but my issue with GW2 specifically is that all transitions from one instance/map to another take multiple times longer on my system than similar actions in literally any other mmorpg. I've played a lot of mmos on this PC and absolutely none of them come anywhere close to the average loading time of GW2. I can literally leave the PC and go make a coffee and come back to find that Divinity's Reach loading screen at the top of the post still staring at me. I know my system is old and slow but GW2 isn't a new, state of the art game either.

  3. I pretty much agree with all of them, except the sound issue. That's an unsolvable issue since speakers and headphones can have physical controls to adjust the sound levels. There's just no way for a game to tell just how loud it needs to be on start. If you're like me and have hearing damage/wear hearing aids sometimes you need that volume up a bit to distinguish sounds.

    I guess, for me, I'll take a few games that start too loud over having each game start with no volume and force me to pick the proper sound level.

    1. It's true. Right after I wrote yesterday's post, I started a new game on Steam and I couldn't hear the dialog clearly. I opened the settings and the game did indeed start with the sound at less than 100% as default - and I didn't like that either! There's no pleasing some people.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide