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General: Beyond the MMORPG

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member Common

Today in his Beyond the MMORPG column, Managing Editor Jon Wood discusses Resident Evil 4, and suggests some of the ways that MMOs might capture that game's feeling of suspense.

Ok, so I’ve been really impressed lately with the game, “Resident Evil 4”. I’ve played it on two systems now (Playstation 2 and the Wii), and I have to say it’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a third-person shooter… ever. The thing is though, playing this game got me thinking about how the MMO industry might learn a thing or two from the folks at Capcom. How and why would I say such a thing? Read on dear friend, read on.

Resident Evil 4 is, according to Wikipedia (, a misleading title as it is in fact the sixth game in the franchise. Frankly, I tried one of the Resident Evil games a few years back and just never really got into it, so my knowledge on the background of the series is limited.
I first picked up RE4 when my friend, who was one of the lucky few to get a Wii early on (lucky jerk), picked it up in a bargain bin. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think. When the Wii was first announced, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a shooter game. For those who might not be aware, shooters are my first love and I will always remember playing Doom until the wee hours of the night when I’d start to get motion sick and have to go to bed. Problem was, the first “shooter” game that I tried for the Wii, Red Steel, didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. It was clumsy, and hard to control and really didn’t do anything for me. With that in mind, I was skeptical to say the very least.

Read the whole thing here.

Jon Wood
Managing Editor


  • NetherbeastNetherbeast Foothill Ranch, CAPosts: 55Member

    These "Beyond" pieces are great and illustrate how the MMO's can improve in ways they seldom do. We all play offline games like Final Fantasy, Halo or Resident Evil and they all bring exciting mechanics the MMO's don't include.

    You are spot on with the suspense and danger of Resident Evil 4. When you make it to the first town and the villagers, who are just crazed locals at that point, swarm the town, you are low on ammo and have to hide in buildings and decide to run or take time to block windows in order to stem the tide. Finally you make it to the shotgun with very few shells when the chainsaw guy shows up. It's not about how many guys you kill at that point, but how you survive. The scene is ended when you last some amount of time until the bell tolls.

    You are also right about the sense of danger of not knowing if you can beat certain enemies until you experience the fight (or read a faq online). Not many offline games let you see if an enemy "cons red" to you. Not knowing if the guy you just shot will burst into tentacles made that element exciting. Pen and paper rpgs, which are what MMO's are descended from,  typically don't let you know what level or stats an enemy has (if its gun by a good gm). Try playing in a game and asking the GM "Hey is that a 4th level Kobald or a 6th Level?" A good gm won't tell or just make it a shapeshifted dragon who looks like a Kobald.


    Give a man fire and he''s warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he''s warm the rest of his life.

  • LucifrankLucifrank Brooklyn, NYPosts: 355Member

    I really loved this article. When people talk about incorporating elements from shooters and console games into MMORPGs, they always seem to miss the boat and focus on game mechanics or making MMORPGs more twitchy while ignoring things like atmosphere, tone, and pacing. I'd much rather see MMORPG worlds that take into account the storytelling elements Jon points out rather than, "Oh man, when I hit Shift X twice real fast and click the left mouse button after I execute the killing blow, my toon pirouettes through the air AND decapitates my adversary."

    MMORPGs are about story, more so, dare I say, than your typical shooter or console game because it's not just about the story we lead our avatars through, it's also "writing" the story OF our avatars. Great storytelling is great storytelling regardless of the genre--be it film, books, comic books, songs, console games, or PC games. That's why I'm so intrigued by what 38 Studios might do with a fantasy author (R.A. Salvatore) at the helm. 

    Really nicely done editorial.

  • SmokeysongSmokeysong Lewisville, TXPosts: 246Member Uncommon
    I agree with you to some extent, but I wonder how well it would work in an MMO, in terms of what the average MMO player wants.
    It will be interesting to see how well Tabuls Rasa and Age of Conan do, since they potentially will challenge some of the tried-and-true formulae of MMOs.


    Have played: Everquest, Asheron's Call, Horizons, Everquest2, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer, Age of Conan, Darkfall

  • MeltdownMeltdown Home, NHPosts: 1,179Member Uncommon

    I don't know if you can recreate the feeling of a single player 3rd person shooter unless your in your own instance. And then once you've done it once or twice its pretty blah. I say this is comparing apples to oranges, but there have been places in MMO's that I have feared for my life, namely in EQ and UO. UO mostly as you said that man shambling towards you may or may not be a huge threat and it was the same without a single idea if that man coming towards you wanted to give you a new weapon or wanted to slice you up and place your torso upon his mantle. It's all about the games getting inside your head... which games of late do not care about.

    "They essentially want to say 'Correlation proves Causation' when it's just not true." - Sovrath

  • oronisioronisi bumblef, NJPosts: 284Member

    Originally posted by Smokeysong

    I agree with you to some extent, but I wonder how well it would work in an MMO, in terms of what the average MMO player wants.
    It will be interesting to see how well Tabuls Rasa and Age of Conan do, since they potentially will challenge some of the tried-and-true formulae of MMOs.


    Sadly, TR challenges nothing in terms of MMO does however challenge my ability to want to play TR (boring game).

    AoC, I don't think will challenge much outside of the combat mechanics.  Hopefully I'm wrong and the rest of the game is good.  However I think this game will largely be combat only.

  • achesomaachesoma Portland, ORPosts: 1,054Member Uncommon

    Nicely done article and I am in agreement.  I also have  RE4 on Wii as well as played previous versions going back to the original on PS.  RE has always done a great job with story and suspense.  Not sure how you would incorporate that into a MMO since once you go through a dungeon(or any area of the game)  you will already know what to expect and you lose the element of surprise.  Now if a dungeon could be created that changed every time your group went in then that would help add to the suspense of the game.


  • DrenethDreneth Southeastern, MAPosts: 697Member

    Is there any plan to offer a separate checkbox to opt out of receiving news alerts for articles unrelated to MMORPG's?  I would like to continue receiving ON TOPIC news alerts from, but I couldn't possibly care less about this column.

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  • AlienovrlordAlienovrlord San Antonio, TXPosts: 1,525Member

    The article fails to realize that the kind of suspense, pacing and tension so impressive in Resident Evil is only possible in NON-MULTIPLAYER environments.

    Old-school players always deride people who want to solo in MMORPGs but how suspensful would a something like Resident Evil be if there were hundreds of smacktards running around talking l33t or train-pullling zombies on you? 

    Multiplayer environments will always ruin any serious story experience which is why MMOPRGs shunt them into highly controlled Instances (as suggested by earlier poster Meltdown)   And yet old school MMORPG players constantly deride Instances as 'ruining' the MMORPG idea of massive multiplayer environment.

    You can't have both.  You want mutliplayer, say goodbye to suspense and pacing because there will always be some idiot who's only goal is to ruin those same elements for all other players.     You want suspense and well-scripted environments, then you have to accept Instances that take you ALL the way out of the 'Massive Multiplayer' world.



  • lilune666lilune666 Cedar City, UTPosts: 129Member

    Maybe if the multiplayer aspect were more tightly controlled,  it would be possible to create structured storylines where such nuances as pace were actually present. 

    Or maybe this is a case of the genre being forever held back by a few idiots, and we should all give up and go outside? 

  • MacroPlanetMacroPlanet Posts: 1,084Member Uncommon

    Awesome article and great ideas by the writer.  I would have to agree that UO had RE4 style MMO pretty close.  I mean, you had to worry about if you had too much invetory if you were going to run out of stamina and the killer will catch you.  Also, was the guy helping you really good or bad?  similar to the RE4 tentacle dude.  Unfortunetly that game didn't open up doors for more games similar to it.  Instead I felt like UO was the "Don't do what I did" child.  So everyone wants to be safe.  Well, that gets boring.  We need excitment and for that we need fear.  Not fear of XP lose, *yawn*, but fear of losing our stuff!  Maybe even perm-death (stretching it a BIT too far).  To be honest, I'm tired of running in a dungeon where I know I can respawn and try again.  I want to be scared that I won't be able to retrive my stuff if I die.  I want to be scared of a PK instead of being like "Ok, he killed me, let try it again."


    Great article and hopefully we'll see this in the future.

  • GW_JunkieGW_Junkie Pittsburgh, PAPosts: 13Member

    Old-school players always deride people who want to solo in MMORPGs but how suspensful would a something like Resident Evil be if there were hundreds of smacktards running around talking l33t or train-pullling zombies on you?

    Even soloing in some games (CoH) isn't suspenseful because once you've done the sewer, office, warehouse and cave maps the first time, you'll do them thousands of times over and over again because the mobs are all arranged exactly as the ones you beat at level 2.

    Other games (Guild Wars) tries to ramp the suspense by throwing in "pop-up" monsters - those that suddenly appear from underground or out of trees - but once you've seen one group of pop-ups, you've seen them all and they get annoying pretty fast.

    The dungeons in GW are large and beautiful, but  the thing that always sent shivers up my spine in games like Quake or Half Life was rounding a darkened corner not knowing what you'd run into next.  You don't get a compass or mini-map in console games that let you know where the next group of monsters is, and you can't "tab target" them to let you know how they're spec'd.

    The saving grace of GW - as opposed to other MMOs - is that each chapter actually has a story, and the cinematic "cut-scenes" not only advance these stories, but enhance player immersion.

  • lusislusis miami, FLPosts: 27Member

    I disagree that "tighter control" would help the MMO experience. If anything, it is ruining it. If you want tightly controlled, scripted play, stick to single-player games.

    The issue with MMO's these days, IMO, is that when your dealing with real people, they will constantly seek new, easier ways to solve a problem, often unforseen by developers and outside what many would consider to be proper.

    MMO's would best be served by not trying to mimic single-player games in terms of linear gameplay, but  instead concentrating on creating a realistic environment, setting, and physics, and let the players write their own storyline. Remember, the MMO began with idea of using paper-and-pencil to, in a sense, write your own book.


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