Alright, I’m going in.

This week I’ve got a special treat for you all, the very first Stilts Out Loud: Special Report! While normally these posts are more of general editorials, which draw examples from multiple shows (and even from other genres) to talk about some theme or storytelling tactic, today we’re going to take a look at one anime in particular. That’s what these special reports will be – when there’s something to be talked about that wouldn’t fit inside a single episodic post, we’ll break it out and jaw on about it here. And I say “we” quite deliberately, because this week it isn’t only me spewing walls of text at you. Yes, this is a collaboration between your kind and reliable onii-chan (that’s me, Stilts!) and our resident British song-meister, Moomba! And by collaboration, I mean that he did most of the work :3

So for now, I’ll get out of the way and let Moomba regale you with a discussion of the state of the current MMORPGs, how things used to be, and what Sword Art Online shows us about all of that. Take it away, mooms!


It’s extremely easy to tell that Sword Art Online was written back in the early 2000s. Back in 2002 things were very different, especially in the MMORPG scene. In those days, MMOs were aimed not at casual players, but at those with time and money to burn – those who would play for hours on a daily basis, often setting aside four to five hours twice-weekly to run a single large-scale instance. Those were the days when MMOs were considered a hardcore experience, mostly due to the time required to actually get things done and the sheer number of hours needed merely to advance slightly. Everything was a part of the grind; reaching the level cap was in itself a challenge that needed to be surmounted, and there were always things to be done to relieve the stress from grinding, be it exploring, questing, or attempting to kill strategically challenging bosses.

When SAO first began airing, people joked that it was fortunate there were no Koreans trapped in there with them, or else the game would be cleared in under two weeks (I sincerely hope this was a joke, otherwise it suggests quite the naiveté). This is simply not feasible. Back in 2002, before the ‘free-to-play’ and ‘cash shop’ models had become almost synonymous with the genre, MMOs were designed to be a time sink in order to fully take advantage of the subscription fees players were required to pay. Regardless of whether or not Diablo III (which isn’t even an MMO to begin with) was cleared far more rapidly than intended, it’s still a product of gaming in this day an age – shorter, easier, and heavily casualised. When Sword Art Online was conceived, it was not uncommon for reaching the level cap to take upwards of a year; grinding a crafting discipline to max would take at least as long; and should you desire legendary weapons or armour, I hope you’re willing to put in another year or two on top of that! Games in general were not designed for instant gratification, no ‘Press X to Not Die,’ no ‘Press Circle for Awesome,’ and certainly no hitting the level cap in two weeks. To illustrate, back in the days when I played an unhealthy amount of Final Fantasy XI, I had friends whose playtimes clocked out at over 365 days (Stilts note: I clocked 341 days between Everquest and vanilla WoW…I got over it!). That’s more than 365 solid days, or 8760 hours spent actually logged in and playing over the course of several years. And there was still more to do – more classes to level, more quests and missions to complete, better gear to be had, and bosses that, even after the game had been out for six years, still hadn’t been figured out and defeated.

Goddamn QTEs.

With this in mind, gameplay plans for Sword Art Online seem a lot more feasible, especially when not playing at capacity since a large portion of the player base doesn’t take part in frontline combat. As far as we’re aware, clearing level 100 would have resulted in the end of the game, meaning that the journey towards that goal would be the entirety of the time the company behind the game could extort subscription fees from players. But perhaps even SAO was intended to have an endgame – that’s something we’ll never know. Or maybe upon clearing floor 100 an expansion would be released adding an additional fifty floors, requiring more complex strategies, further grinding for levels, and even better equipment.

In the ten years since 2002, a great deal has changed based on the rising popularity of the ‘free-to-play’ business model, the general casualisation of the games industry, and the constant demands by vocal portions of fanbases for games to be easier and shorter. These days, almost all games end up with an easy mode, from games that are already easy but still ‘too hard’, games designed entirely to be hard (fortunately this was written off as a translation error and Dark Souls won’t be getting an Easy Mode), to adding characters boosters to classic games to remove the grind entirely, and even as far as industry professionals suggesting a function to allow skipping gameplay and some running with it and actually implementing such a system. Gaming in general has changed a lot. Nowadays MMOs are designed to be friendlier to casuals, with some rewarding you for spending time away from the game, others actively punishing hardcore players, and others, more commonly, relegating the rewards of a hardcore play style to mere cosmetics.

Where reaching the level cap used to take months, even years of daily effort, it can now be accomplished with relative ease. I’ve always been a believer that the journey is as important as the destination – while a year of grinding may not seem attractive, there were always things to break up the tedium and it often led to making friends, interacting with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, and even long lasting relationships (Stilts note: not to mention that it made it insanely satisfying when you made it, rather than a shrug and a “What’s next?”). Now, in order to make the system friendlier for people who only want to drop in and play an hour or two a week, a hardcore player can easily reach cap in a matter of days. There was a time when you’d be 40,000 exp to level up, grinding away at rates as low as 2k per hour. Now you could probably net the full amount in less than thirty minutes. To use one example, we have Guild Wars 2, which unlisted, verdant, and myself have been playing these past couple of weeks. In less than two weeks, all three of us have reached the level cap. Verdant and I both also have a crafting profession maxed out. This isn’t just limited to newer games either; what used to take a long time in World of Warcraft can now be done in under three weeks without ever speaking to another player, and even in Final Fantasy XI, a player can now reach cap in a couple of days, or a week at most. These sacrifices were made in order to meet the needs of the current day market and the evolution of the genre.

Five years of hard work… and that guy just did it in a week.

Sword Art Online was conceptualised two years before World of Warcraft came into existence. This is massively important in considering how different it could have been. Regardless of what some might want to believe, World of Warcraft had a major impact on the MMORPG genre and changed it in many ways, both for better and worse. These days, almost every MMO released is compared to the behemoth that is WoW, and the term ‘WoW clone’ is thrown about a lot. While not entirely true for most recent MMOs (though it certainly is for some), nearly all recent MMORPGs have taken some manner of influence from WoW. Prior to WoW, MMOs varied vastly with almost entirely unique systems and concepts, but since it entered the stage, most have attempted to emulate its success in some form. With its decision to make the game far more accessible to casual players and emphasise solo gameplay, it forever changed the games that came after. Even many of the cosmetic choices have been emulated – while WoW didn’t invent the standard item quality colours, it certainly popularised them. Had Kawahara Reki sat down to write SAO in the aftermath of WoW’s impact on the industry, we’d likely be seeing Kirito’s inventory as a mass of coloured text!

What’s with all this crap you’re giving me?

Enough background. Here’s the important part – how might Sword Art Online be different if it was written today? The biggest and most obvious change would be in the time it would take to clear the game. Much as people joked about Korean players, SAO would likely be cleared within the space of two weeks due to a lack of content aimed at players trapped and playing 24 hours a day. Even with many electing to hide out in starter towns, the stronger emphasis on solo play would mean that people like Kirito would level at an even greater rate and the removal of strategy from all non-optional bosses (because strategy is too difficult) would result in simple zerging being the most sure-fire way to take them down with as few casualties as possible. In a way, this would actually be beneficial to the story – since it would take place over the course of two weeks, there would be far less need for suspension of disbelief on keeping 10,000 coma patients alive in hospitals across Japan for two solid years, or the fact that no government agency deigns to do anything about the situation, and Kayaba Akihiko’s hiding place remains undiscovered throughout.

However, one of the most important things in the entire novel would be adversely affected. Kirito and Asuna’s relationship would either never develop (two weeks is not exactly much time given how long it took for their relationship to blossom), or it would be forcibly compressed, much in the way Liz’s feelings for Kirito so rapidly developed. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Asuna would not have overcome her initial reservations while playing the game during that time and thus never stepped onto the battlefield, never actually meeting Kirito at all.

Another aspect that might change due to this condensing of time would be player killing. Two weeks is not a lot of time when compared to two years, certainly not enough time for sane people to begin to lose their grip on reality and become psychopathic. While there would still be those who would indulge in PKing right off the bat, their numbers would be far smaller and guilds dedicated to the art would not have near enough time to expand and become a real threat. Though there might be despair from players at first, knowing the state of the MMORPG genre, they would still be able to hold onto the hope of a quick resolution and escape from the game. In fact, the initial despair itself would also likely be far shorter – one can safely assume that, given when the story was written, the players went into the game knowing it would take an absurdly long time to clear, greatly contributing to their despair at being trapped.

Goddamnit Klein, you’re DCing again!

With emphasis on soloing coming to the fore, parties would be more capable of dominating regular foes (even with scaling in place, a party situation in a game designed for solo play is still usually far safer) resulting in a vastly higher survivability rate. Knowing that failure would result in perma-death, players would still elect to use the safety of numbers to minimise risk, leaving only individuals like Kirito to face the content as it was meant to be played. Fewer people would die in combat situations, especially when playing safe and avoiding foolish risks. At the end of the two weeks, far more people would emerge alive.

I also imagine that the launch would be vastly different if Sword Art Online was to be written today. Back in those days, MMORPGs were niche and the player count was much lower. Limiting the game to ten thousand players on day one would be far more likely than it is nowadays. Let’s say they were to raise that to fifty thousand and somehow still didn’t collapse under server strain due to vastly enhanced technology – that increase in number alone would also help with the swifter clearing of the game, faster discovery of exploits and even further reduction of the risk of death. It’s actually a little strange these days for MMO launches to go smoothly. Even should stress on the servers not cause any problems, there are always a myriad of bugs which are quickly fixed. I doubt even future tech would be able to completely negate that, and unless Kayaba Akihiko is secretly pushing out patches all the time, I could see many of these being exploited. Or perhaps he would go down the route of banning people for dancing outside of designated dance zones. But no-one would ever make such an absurd mistake… right?

Continuing down that road, with the phrase ‘It’s not a bug; it’s a feature!’ gaining popularity once more in recent years, particularly in MMO development where such bugs occur extremely frequently, perhaps the entirety of SAO’s story would be written to come across differently. What if the inability to log out truly was a bug and was merely touted as being a feature to save face? The story could take on entire new levels of meaning, becoming a commentary on just how far developers are willing to go to mask their failures, picking up some elements of comedy along the way. Kayaba Akihiko was so ashamed to have missed a bug in something as critical as the log out system in a game that interrupts your neural signals that he invented a story about trapping them in a death game on the spot. After all, there’s no way a developer would allow something so game-breaking to occur by accident!

Artist’s impression of the most gripping moments of Guild Wars 2 at the conclusion of day one.

There are many features that were far less popular during the early days of MMORPGs that are often seen as being essential by players in the advent of World of Warcraft. Mounts, particularly flying mounts, are one of these (Stilts note: you young whippersnappers. In my day you had to walk to the next continent by yourself, unless you found a druid or a wizard who could teleport you, but they never wanted to because that’s all they got asked for all the time and I’M BUSY DAMMIT GO AWAY!! *twitches*). While not essential, they make a great difference to a game. I suppose in a sense, the ALO arc of SAO addresses the concept of flight and invisible walls… but this brings me to something I’ve wondered about for a while. If SAO has invisible walls to stop any sort of funny business like climbing to the next floor, or building an immense tower of players to reach it, when you throw yourself off the 70th floor to commit suicide, do you get to experience the wonderful scenery on your way down, or do you splatter on one of said invisible walls? Maybe, were flying mounts incorporated, a different method of preventing access to levels that have yet to be unlocked would have been thought up.

See that mountain? You can climb it. Well actually there are invisible walls so no, you can’t.

Another ‘feature’ which now permeates not only the MMORPG genre, but almost all games, is native HP regen. Where health management was once an important aspect of combat and its aftermath (Stilts note: and was usually managed by yelling, begging, or bribing the nearest healer), these days it’s rendered meaningless by rapid regeneration. Sure, regen effects have been around since the early days of gaming, and even SAO shows that Kirito possesses the trait. But it was never inherent and never anywhere near as powerful as it is now. It was a passive effect gained from high level traits, gear or buffs – it was something that needed to be earned rather than given natively to every player. These days however, all players have regenerating HP, whether constant or only while outside of combat. When we take into account how combat works in SAO – the constant switching of players in and out of battle so that they can stop to use potions to regain HP on the outskirts of the fighting – we can see how this mechanic would change things. Potions would become worthless – immediately upon being switched out a player would merely need to move a short distance away from combat to rapidly regain their full health bar before rejoining the fray.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes that has come to MMOs in the last ten years is the cash shop. How on earth would you write a cash shop into the gameplay of Sword Art Online as a death game? Maybe you wouldn’t, but say you did – how would it affect things? I suppose it would depend entirely on what sort of perks you would be able to buy. They could be purely cosmetic, things like accessories or unique armour skins. But assuming SAO was designed to be a death game from the get go, it would be far more likely for the cash shop to contain things like experience point boosts, gear with superior stats, and all manner of items that make life easier. Just like in any of these types of games (often dubbed pay-to-win), the richer players, or rather those with looser purse strings, would have an advantage over everyone else, surpassing them in both levels and equipment. Some people may not even have access to the cash shop at all; the game might prompt you to include payment details during registration, but most MMOs wait until you actually try to purchase something from the cash shop to ask for credit card details in order to support the illusion of being free-to-play.

Shit, I forgot my credit card details!

However, no matter how different it might be were it written today, it doesn’t change the fact that a game like Sword Art Online will probably never exist again. I’m not talking about the virtual reality aspect – virtual reality games are pretty much inevitable. Rather, I’m talking about the systems and gameplay style, so heavily geared towards a business model that’s no longer viable in the current climate. With the direction the MMORPG genre is moving, such large time sinks are unlikely to return to the fore. In fact, the genre itself isn’t doing so well these days. Many recent MMOs, launching as subscription based games with enormous budgets, have crashed and burned almost immediately, ending up as free-to-play games with only a small number of players. With the crash of Final Fantasy XIV, one of the few games to purposely step outside World of Warcraft’s teachings in an attempt to be completely original, we learnt that avoiding the things that make WoW popular is a sure way to fail. DC Universe Online taught us that a brand name alone is not enough to make an MMORPG attractive enough for a subscription model. Star Wars: The Old Republic showed us that not only is the Star Wars brand not enough to sell it, but that being a carbon copy of WoW set in a Star Wars universe is still not enough to sell the subscription model (and that being able to date everything that moves is not a huge draw) (Stilts note: at least, not when they don’t let us see the jibbly bits. What? I can’t be the only one!).

So I have to wonder, would Sword Art Online even be conceived today? If Kawahara Reki hadn’t written it ten years ago, would he still do so now? Or would he imagine it in such a way that it wouldn’t even be recognisable as the Sword Art Online we know?


Now, my thoughts. In a word: no. No, I don’t think Sword Art Online would be anything like it is were it to be written today, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t even be written at all. Growing older and having to become all responsible and shit has turned me into a dirty casual myself, so I can tell you that there’s very little compelling about the free-to-play games I occasionally play. Oh, they’re fun enough, but they’re nothing like the epic adventures I had from playing Everquest, or even vanilla WoW (though I was a guild leader of a huge raiding guild in the latter, so sort of a unique experience there). I remember the good old days adventuring in Norrath, of…

  • Taking nearly a year to reach the level cap, and never making it there with another character.
  • Spending weeks on end working on my epic weapon quest, only to wipe on the final raid boss I needed to finish the thing…and then having to organize two more raids to finish it, in which no one was getting anything other than me.
  • Climbing to the heavens with over 100 other players to slay the literal gods some of our characters were said to worship.
  • Massive server-wide drama that involved hundreds of people.
  • Unkillable bosses (well, almost) that spawned only once, and moved from zone to zone, slaughtering everything in their path.
  • Kiting upwards to 10 mobs at a time for hours on end because no one needed my class.
  • Begging for “crack” (an absolutely necessary mana regen buff) from every enchanter that was unlucky enough to come nearby.
  • Quadruple-boxing characters in a boss encounter I had only done once before.
  • Racing other guilds for raid bosses (this was before instances, people), only to have them train a hundred fire giants onto us and wipe our raid…only for us to stay up for hours afterwards to keep doing the same thing right back to them.
  • That one time I camped a rare spawn for two days straight.
  • Praying, literally praying for an item I was crafting to not fail, because the materials cost hundreds of platinum, and that was a lot of money.
  • Sending the rangers in to get Death Touched (insta-killed) on every boss, because everyone knows rangers are useless anyway.
  • And most of all, of being harassing for Spirit of the Wolf (a movement speed buff) in every godsdamned zone I ever stepped foot in, arrrggghhhh!

See what I did there? While modern games can certainly be fun, the experiences they give aren’t memorable enough to recall so vividly years after the fact. What they lack is challenge, but also stories. Some of the things that Moomba and I and many others did back in the day was certifiably insane; I will not argue with that. Yet even now as I look back on those crazy experiences, I look back fondly – even the ones that used to annoy me! – because though they were difficult, frustrating, infuriating, exasperating, and even soul-crushingly aggravating at times, when all was said and done and we had triumphed over a challenge, it was utterly satisfying in a way that modern games just cannot match. The scripted events I saw in WoW while opening Ahn’Qiraj or tromping around Naxxramas just couldn’t compare to the very real stories that I lived in the game before that.

Once upon a time, when we played an MMO we truly adventured. Now it’s mostly just faffing about. Which of those do you think makes the better basis for a gripping, life-or-death story? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The most epic game I’ve ever played. Seriously.


    1. Basically…Kawahara wrote the 1st SAO to try and win the Dengki Game Novel Prize in 2002, though he passed over the page limit (and couldn’t edit fast enough I guess) so he missed his chance there. So he basically kept writing it as a web novel and put it up on his website.

      Even though it was quite popular on the web, I guess a production studio just can’t obtain the “rights” to adapt it, if it isn’t from a proper publishing company yet…least that’s how I’m guessing it might work in his case.

      When ’08 came around Kawahara did win the competition that time around with Accel World, and well then he got asked if he wanted SAO to be published as an LN as well. Which he obviously accepted, so he took down the web novels.

      I’m guessing he might have been asked then if a SAO anime might be okay. But seeing as the publishing of SAO started in ’09…I guess it was a obvious no. He probably needed to revise the earlier parts of the story. It was probably a good move if that’s how it went down, I mean from 2002 – 2008 writing SAO, and not revising it would be bad…besides he’s grown as a writer so he might have removed some ridiculous elements from the web novel version lol

  1. May want to put a spoiler warning regarding Show Spoiler ▼

    Not everyone has read the LN.

      1. It isn’t actually that hard to do in reality just go look at the first episode or so for a long “discussion” about Japan’s medical system and the boring details.

        Now the self maintaining game, high fidelity brain to computer interface those are the “magic” sci-fi things that currently are not possible with known technology.

        Show Spoiler ▼

  2. ok, this was somewhat an unusual long text, but it was fun to read and i agree with most that its said here, specially about how wow has turned to an example of how to make games, and now i do not know any online game that dosnt have a similar interface like wow.

    Examples of wow similar interfaces we have guild war 2, lineage 2, star wars and so on.

    1. People would be paying to unlock unique skills which totally wouldn’t be unique anymore!

      …they probably wouldn’t do anything different damage-wise to normal skills either… just be more flashy.

  3. If SAO had been written a few years later, maybe it could have drawn from EVE Online and its GOONSWARM drama.

    Imagine that you’re trapped in an MMORPG and can’t escape without dying. Now imagine that some imaginative hackers find out a way to log into the game with multiple accounts per person, and start wrecking havoc all around. The only way to survive is to PK them, and if you don’t take the core account down, they’ll keep spawning accounts.

    El Huesudo II
    1. I agree that EVE Online has all the ingredients to make excellent stories, with the GoonSwarm kamikaze “space bills” sage being an excellent example of as much. I feel like EVE belongs to the old order of MMOs though, the pre-WoW days where companies actually experimented with other ways of doing things.

      Either way, I’d read that story you started outlining there!

  4. Somehow I’ve seen a lot resemblance of Mabinogi when I first read the novel. Forgive me if there is still many MMO that have similar system/mechanics since i have played very little MMOs. This is because I remember Mabi had similar mechanic which the player trains themselves base on skill experience (amount of times activated/used) instead of focusing on level grinding. There is also food that will affect the stat parameter when consumed (though i think Reki only mentioned it once when Kirito treats Scillica)…. That said, I think Reki did well in picking up the good elements from various MMOs for example the item loot system, party battle formation/role/strategies,etc

    I also think the author actually adapts to the MMO trend as I remember GGO did mentioned stuffs like foreign servers, cash exchange items, etc that were more or less getting more general in recent MMOs

    Regarding the hardcores like Koreans, i think theres not much different because their role is pretty similar to the Beaters, except that they do party lol

  5. Lately, there’s been too much MMO games out there, whether it’s free-to-play or the opposite. Can’t even decide which one to dedicate the time need to play them because each and everyone of the MMO games have there pros and cons. But still, I haven’t dedicated my time to play even a single MMO just to reach the level cap and start doing other things. I remembered a time when I started to play a certain MMORPG game for a quite a long time just to get killed by another player when I was leveling alone (or in a party). And yeah, I hate an MMO that are “pay-to-win”. It is certainly unfair that players of just doesn’t care much about their money flies away just to buy some epic godly items just to outdo others who doesn’t have that much of cash to use and purchase a virtual, non-physical in-game items, which is definitely only benefit the games, and not the reality.

    *bows for my humbleness*

  6. If SAO was written today, we’d get some references to some of the most epic and meme-worthy meltdowns in MMO history. It’s been years since my WoW Raiding days. But this is still one of the funniest moments I can ever remember in WoW.

  7. Having played some mmorpg games in the past including some open source mmorpgs which I tested years ago like Planeshift (this comes to mind the closest I see with SAO which is still active, it has guilds and other stuff) and Mana World (wow, it was in alpha and the characters were all not wearing clothes, funny memories!), I’m pretty sure and agree with Stilts that SAO wouldn’t exist if it were made today.

    It’s all for the story, these old mmorpgs – which I keep missing in the new games I play (don’t play mmorpgs anymore; too little time, and once you’re sucked in a game, it’s hard to stop). Nowadays, you practically just whiz through the game and after that, you just forget it after a while. No emotional attachments (I finished the Mass Effect trilogy in 20 hours on average per game, but after that, meh).

    I kinda missed those games which evoked such fond memories; nowadays, games seem to be easier to finish (those 80s and 90s games were much much harder!), and they may have the graphics to wow you for a while, it just doesn’t stick to you after that.

    1. I’m not sure why you’re comparing the “length” of an MMORPG to a single player game. Final Fantasy XIII took me more playtime (using the word lightly since you watch so many cutscenes) to finish than the old 16-bit SNES FF4, FF6, or Chrono Trigger did. I don’t remember how many hours FF7 took on first play through, but it was comparable to FF13. Looking at non-RPG games in both 8-bit and 16-bit, many were designed without saves or passwords to be completed in a single sitting of a few hours. In short, games weren’t longer in the good old days. MMORPG, on the other hand, took longer to reach level cap than they do today. But these had a lot of mindless grinding stringing out the play time, rather than you doing anything significant. Camping bosses for 3 hours in FFXI, I’m looking at you.

      1. I don’t know why exactly, but my interest drifted off the final fantasy series after part VIII. Looking at the newer FF series, it impresses me it’s all fluff and no more magic left in those games (although I think I would be interested if something like Agni’s Philosophy would come out… Just curious about it).

        For non-rpg games, maybe it’s just me, but as I compared the original game titles with for example, the Broderbund version of Prince of Persia with the new one I played (The Forgotten Sands), the original was way more challenging than the new one and I enjoyed it more, whereares the newer ones, although with better graphics, I just finish in one sitting (I actually do sprints during my vacation leaves from work). That goes for me playing the original tomb raider in dos (gosh, I remember playing it on my Cyrix 200mhz system with a crappy S3 Virge video card) compared to the latest one I played as well (underworld). Even the original POP trilogy was quite difficult as I remember it, than the new ones. And even if graphics were real bad, they made it up with really good gameplay. But then, I’m a somewhat in between a hardcore gamer and a casual one, and I’m a sucker for games which make me have my own adventures and stories to tell.

        I do agree with the statements below that Korean MMORPGs, at least some of them are better in some aspects than their western counterparts. But again, that discussion would come for another day.

    1. Ragnarok was THE definitive starter MMO for pretty much anyone else in the world.

      I highly doubt people outside EU and NA were able to play Everquest so I’m pretty sure a huge majority of MMO players (especially here in the east) had Ragnarok as their first taste in MMO gaming. Ragnarok today is just a shadow of its former self though.

      Having fun with glitched areas, enjoying the occasionally wonky sprite animations, or just chatting with emoticons, those are pleasures you can’t really find in MMOs nowadays.

    2. After spending almost an entire year in RO, back in its heyday I find the new RO really bad. People are taking like 3-4 days to hit the rebirth lvl cap and who pretty much failed at life for a whole year just to hit the normal cap back in 05′ is somewhat insulting really. I sound like and old grandpa but back in the day mmo’s used to be fun. Nowadays it’s all a zerg rush for hitting the lvl cap

    3. ragnarok online is very popular in japan, you still can find its relevant thing in niconicodouga. How I miss RO… my childhood memory, those classes, those skills, those animations, those monsters, those lovely BGM… definitely one of the most influential MMORPG of all time. And I am certain SAO draw some elements from RO

    4. RO may be an old game, but it is still very popular. Guild wars, party system, pvp, marriage and baby adoption, different job classes, tons of equipment to choose from, pet system even a homunculus system. Definitely one of the best MMORPG ever. (◕ ‿‿ ◕)

    1. Author-san edited them in for the LN version. The equivalent of vol1-7 (and maybe more, I don’t know) of LN version SAO was already written a long time ago on his website when they got published in LN form. When he published the LN versions he often added and removed stuff. He said all this in the afterword of vol6.
      Suppa Tenko how about coming on IRC one of these days, I like you quite a lot.

  8. Well SAO lacks a sort of “theme” to the whole game. And yes Stilts games nowadays feels abit emo where people either don’t talk to you or you get insulted with profanities everytime >_> it’s like a Single Player game but with other people.

    Well the exception recently is Guild Wars 2 where people are really friendly and during the Trading Post maintenance and had to rely on pure faith to trade. Luckily didn’t get scammed.

    1. That’s one of my problems with SAO. The whole playing in an MMO is intresting but I couldn’t care less for the world they live in. In fact I learn very little about it througout the episodes.

      To compare .hack// had a huge mythology built around it. The World was based on poem written by a someone and the MMO itself displays Celtic and Germanic themes. Even the real world had its own AU backstory to justify The World’s existence with the Pluto’s Kiss virus destroying the internet.

      1. Hmmm, destroying the internet that is a strange premise given that it doesn’t take much to make an “internet”/network. Just take some old junk and some old school 10BASE2 coax Ethernet bus networks and I doubt your historical equipment could even run a computer virus that “destroyed” the internet. It sort of sound a bit too fantastical when you have a virus kill something that isn’t really a thing more of just a concept.

        Also impossible given that nukes are not on the internet as the government isn’t that stupid. In actuality there are two people in a locked room that have to go through a whole convoluted process just to arm the missiles. Not to mention nuke carrying subs that are not on the surface can’t actively be connected to the internet unless the virus can work with about 1 byte per minute one direction to some decades old not a real computer system.

        Also traffic lights can’t physically go green all direction as the power electronics will fail safe the light regardless of it’s programming (Most don’t even have controllers in them still they just run off a clock and many intersections will never be upgraded because there is no point). Unless this computer virus is pure magic which .hack seems to have heaps of hacking planes, traffic lights, process control would require extensive physical knowledge and direct focused physical/digital modifications to cause problems. Not something any one person could do ever. And even though every year countless engineers stupidly connect things that shouldn’t be online most engineers that want to keep their jobs keep the important stuff away from school kid script kiddy hacking by not plugging it into the network.

  9. Well, that sure was certainly fascinating, considering that the first and, after several years of on-and-off playing, last MMORPG I’ve which I’ve ever played was the unfathomably soul-sucking and time consuming MesoStory (urgh), which I got into into late 2006.

    It’s especially notable that Sword Art Online is a show heavily directed for the MMORPG playing audience, and thus having been written in 2002, falls a bit out of touch with new generation gamers. There’s a bittersweet irony in writing a book series geared at gamers, only to have the entire structure revolutionized and rebuilt with the advent of a new of MMO, World of Warcraft. In the world of online gaming, what is conventional and what is profitable are now synonymous. As Stilts and Moomba echo, the MMORPG conventions have changed entirely and playing online is no longer the same.

    It’s been said before by many, many people in the Anime Blogosphere and on Twitter that Sword Art Online is penned as a wish-fulfillment anime of sorts, a sentiment that I do happen to share. But sure enough, with the overhaul of the MMO structure came a different sort of audience, an audience adapted to a different sort of gaming thanks to the WoW revolution. This may explain why episodes three through seven (Kawahara Reki’s second installment which was released in 2009 I believe) are focused far more on familiarizing the audience with the world of Aincrad instead of the characters. They’re geared towards bringing in current MMO players into the world of the early 2000’s, Kawahara’s world.

    While I still remain and continue to be one of the harsher critics of Kawahara Reki’s writing, which is up and by far the weakest part in Sword Art Online and Accel World, due to the stark lack of characterization and, as Moomba said in his SAO 10 post, the frequent absurdities he writes into the plot, the order of episodes now makes far more sense to me. Even though this doesn’t excuse the blatantly poor development of the character’s and their respective relationships this far into the series, it’s interesting to learn how different this show could have been if it were written in the latter half of the decade.

    Whether you want to return to the early 2000’s or stay in the current generation of online gaming, one thing will continue to remain certain: the game has changed.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it like that. It does make sense that they were trying to familiarize viewers who weren’t forged in the fire of early 2000’s (or even late 90’s!) MMOs with the type of world SAO takes place in. Neat!

      …that said, I still think it has more to do with wanting to shove those stories in somewhere because they wanted to make this a 2-cour series and milk more money out of it. But hey, that’s just me, and also off topic! D:

      1. It also doesn’t help that they’re not exactly what I’d consider well-written and feel like they were thrown in to cover some plot inconsistencies as well. But you gotta please the light novel fans with more tsunderes somehow! More derail! More, more, more!

  10. Well, one of the harshest environments Ive faced online was back in the early 2000s with my first MMO (that I visit still on its free account).
    Death penalty included:
    1.Loss of 10% of total experience gained (that was remedied later but still is at least 2% today)
    2.Potential (10% chance on every item) loss of every item equipped, and 100% loss of the backpack containing basically your entire non-equipped inventory. Again remedied but you get to pay for the protection item/spell hefty sum.
    To add insult to injury, PKing was rampant (yes there was marking similar to the orange markers, but if you were strong enough and/or organized into guild you could get away with murder)… Guild wars devolved into things akin to the 30 years war, with ordinary players being robbed and “taxed” by warring guilds to buy supplies… , and even on pve servers it was common to lure strong monsters on unwary players, sometimes even into the main cities.
    When I got into the WOW, I was simply smashed by ease of use built in, never mind the graphics that while tame today, were big breakthru for me (like, going 3d!)… There was also where I got my best guild moments, like killing the Witch King after 3 wipes… We were so proud!
    My newest adventure lately is Star Wars TOR, or TOR-tanic as many have it dubbed. While it has its share of weaknesses, I was enchanted by the character storylines, and by TROPErific selection of badass characters, from heavy weapon wielding commandos, thru cool snipers and badass longcoat gunslingers, to standard SW fare of lightsabers and force powers.

    1. I’m curious, what MMO was that? Your first one, I mean.

      Also, I had forgotten about death penalties. Back in EQ wasn’t too bad…if you had a cleric around to cast a rez spell, you got back 96% of the exp loss (with the best rez spell at the time I was playing…lower level ones gave back less). You also got ported back to your body, which was great because all your equipment stayed on your body, and would decay if you didn’t get it within a few days or something. The whole concept of “corpse runs” has been lost, when an entire raid full of naked people would have to run back to the bosses room and try to recover all their gear without getting hate-murdered by other mobs, lol

      Reminded me of a fun time. Since rez spells only gave you back 96% of your exp, that meant that even at max level, you could sometimes de-level if you didn’t keep a little extra exp around. Which is super fun when you died in a zone that requires you to be max level to even enter. I once had to go exp for like half a night in a really high level Planar zone because I died too many times and de-leveled, and now couldn’t get back into the zone where I lost my body. My spells were suddenly super weak XD Whooooooops!

      1. It was amazingly bad graphically basement production by (then) 4 German students called Tibia. It is 2d to this day, but has its charm reminding me of some early-jrpg’s with their pixelated characters…

  11. “In a way, this would actually be beneficial to the story – since it would take place over the course of two weeks, there would be far less need for suspension of disbelief on keeping 10,000 coma patients alive in hospitals across Japan for two solid years, or the fact that no government agency deigns to do anything about the situation, and Kayaba Akihiko’s hiding place remains undiscovered throughout.”

    I remember bringing this up in IRC chat. 1000x yes to this.

    1. I found it rather easy to simply justify: if the “kill player” code is entirely within the NerveGear, and tampering with the headset or server might trigger it, moving them to a hospital and allowing the game to run its course is the safest option. Even if they found Akihito’s hiding place, he’s (probably) in the game, and therefore not in a position to be interrogated about it.

      What I *am* surprised is that they haven’t bothered to try and connect additional players (to replace the slots the dead ones freed up), perhaps some armed with knowledge from the SAO programmers on exactly what the bosses will do, to help speed things along safely…

  12. It’s kinda sad games had become too easy these days. It feels like people are getting dumb or something.
    I never play normal mode anymore. It always needs to be the hardest mode if available. And even then, I finish 3 days at max. :\

    1. They concentrated on the story rather than the game-play cause of fear that people will get bored when they can’t finish it on time or should I say “lack of time”. Hard games consumes lot of time and lately people became busy due to the fast movement of economy and technology at the same time.

  13. @Moomba

    So I have to wonder, would Sword Art Online even be conceived today? If Kawahara Reki hadn’t written it ten years ago, would he still do so now? Or would he imagine it in such a way that it wouldn’t even be recognisable as the Sword Art Online we know?

    Exactly the first thing that came to mind when I first saw the title to this article.



    While modern games can certainly be fun, the experiences they give aren’t memorable enough to recall so vividly years after the fact. What they lack is challenge, but also stories.

    Do you really think that modern games are less memorable because they lack stories? Many recent MMOs have been touted by reviewers as “the best story-telling MMO experience to date”- most notably Bioware’s recently gone free to play Star Wars: The Old Republic. And Guild Wars 2’s dynamic events have been praised as an innovative storytelling device that provides a far more immersive adventuring experience compared to the old “collect 10 rabbit feet” WOW questing system. And let us not forget TERA online, the self-procalimed first ever Action MMORPG- while close scrutiny might reveal their claims to be slightly exaggerated, TERA’s battle system is indisputably quite innovative, allowing you to chain abilities into fluid combos- a significant advancement over the plain old hotkey based battle system of traditional MMOs like WOW. So much so that many would argue that current MMOs are, quite conversely, significantly more advanced than their early 2000s counterparts in terms of storytelling, questing and combat- and therefore also necessarily provide a superior gaming experience.

    Show Spoiler ▼

    DISCLAIMER: (To anyone else who happens to read this) Here I present an alternative theory as to why MMOs of the early 2000s were more memorable; a model that tries to explain things from a socio-economic perspective. I stress that this is a theory; in no way am I claiming that this is indeed the end-in-all truth- all that I am hoping to do here is to provide a model that enhances our knowledge on the matter by trying to explain things from a different perspective.

    1. Personally, I don’t think MMOs are any more or less memorable today than in the past. They might be, to individuals. But I bet years down the line people will be talking about their first MMO experience, whether that be Rift, GW2, SWTOR, TERA, TSW, WoW or whatever. I think it has more to do with nostalgia than anything else. You touched on why the games were memorable, because of community, and more often than not, what was our first exposure to the genre of MMORPG. It was a new experience, and why the game will always be special in some way. I remember when people were bemoaning WoW as the herald of easymode, even before Lich King, which really dumbed the game down. Yet, as you’ve described, there are people who cherish vanilla WoW. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

      1. Nostalgia is indeed an important factor; one that I failed to mention in my speed-written comment. I think you’re right in saying that in terms of sheer objective memorability, neither modern MMOs nor the MMOs of the early 2000s are any more or less memorable in general. It’s the subjective human factor that gives a game its memorableness, whether it be the community, “first experience” nostalgia, and/or anything else…

    2. @Zen

      To quote myself:

      The scripted events I saw in WoW while opening Ahn’Qiraj or tromping around Naxxramas just couldn’t compare to the very real stories that I lived in the game before that.

      I’m not talking about scripted storylines. Those have overall gotten better. What I’m talking about is setting up a world in which players can create and live their own unique stories. EVE Online is the absolute master of this, but other older games (EQ, DAoC, AO, etc.) did this quite well also, by having rich and varied worlds that were challenging enough to actually give players some trouble.

      Remember, games are an interactive medium – why shove us through scripted encounters when what you should be doing is setting up a world that is interesting and challenging and letting us live our own stories while trying to clear the hurdles that have been placed in front of us?

      1. What I’m talking about is setting up a world in which players can create and live their own unique stories. EVE Online is the absolute master of this, but other older games (EQ, DAoC, AO, etc.) did this quite well also, by having rich and varied worlds that were challenging enough to actually give players some trouble.

        Remember, games are an interactive medium – why shove us through scripted encounters when what you should be doing is setting up a world that is interesting and challenging and letting us live our own stories while trying to clear the hurdles that have been placed in front of us?

        Hmm, I do see your point. While there have been significant advancements in terms of scripted storytelling, questing in the MMORPG scene has yet to see very much innovation at all with respect to allowing player to “do with the world as they please” as EVE does. Everything’s instanced and/or scripted- even more so as techniques for scripted storytelling improve.

        But hopefully, not for long. There’s this new Korean MMORPG, Archeage Online, that is pushing the envelope in this regard. It features an astounding amount of character class customizability, with ten different ability trees, from which a player must select up to three for his/her character- and there are no restrictions on combinations, as far as I know. And it allows players to build their own houses. As a guild, you can even conquer territories and build your own town- or conquer/destroy another guild’s town/territory. Or if you don’t like ground warfare, just build a guild navy and duke it out with your rivals at sea! From what I’ve seen/heard/read of ArcheAge, I have to say that it allows players/guilds to influence/change the in-game world and leave their personal mark on it in way that is entirely unprecedented in WOW-type MMORPGs…

        The NA/EU versions don’t have an official release date yet, but are apparently already in the works.

        More Info: From

        Part 1: Races/Characters/Abilities
        Part 2: Factions/Guilds/World

      2. @Zen
        I personally have high hopes for Archage based on the ways they’re trying to innovate the genre (heck, the fact that they’re using CryEngine alone is a promising step forward). The 120 total possible classes should allow plenty of freedom for customisatiom in comparison to some of the more restrictive systems used in MMOs today and. What has me most interested though is what you described – the ability to build player villages, grow trees and crops, etc, wherever you want as long as there’s space to do so. Heck, that entirely-player built continent should be really interesting to see on different servers.

        But the concern still remains over things like the cash shop (which has a tendency to be game-breaking in Korean MMOs) and whether it will actually be f2p or subscription-based.

      3. @Moomba

        But the concern still remains over things like the cash shop (which has a tendency to be game-breaking in Korean MMOs) and whether it will actually be f2p or subscription-based.

        Yeah, power-selling is certainly a major concern; one that is closely related to the game’s business model, too. Free to play games live or die off of microtransactions, so if ArcheAge does happen to go in that direction, questionable cash shop items become more of a (worrying) possibility…

        I’m also kind of concerned about ArcheAge’s questing/leveling system. From what I’ve seen of its quests, they don’t seem to be terribly innovative, sticking to tried and true formulae for the most part- as for the leveling, well, ArcheAge is a Korean MMO, and they have a tendency to get rater grindy at higher levels, tending to put off Western gamers (Which doesn’t bode well for its NA/EU recepton)- and thus far I haven’t seen anything indicating that ArcheAge intends to break away from this mold…

      4. This AO sounds a lot like Darkfall in terms of player freedom to build in the world.

        Having “infinite” class customization sounds nice, but comes with the inevitable knowledge that balancing, or maybe even attempting to balance, is impossible. Personally, I prefer refined and “balanced” classes even if that means less choice.

  14. “In a way, this would actually be beneficial to the story – since it would take place over the course of two weeks, there would be far less need for suspension of disbelief on keeping 10,000 coma patients alive in hospitals across Japan for two solid years, or the fact that no government agency deign

    I was unwilling to suspend my disbelief for those exact reasons, it’s far too unrelistic especially since there’s rich people in there that surely would put all their efforts in getting their sons or what have you in finding the bastard that caused it. I saw no future to that plot because it didn’t have the slightest chance of happening in real life wich is why i stopped watching it after the first episode, but I still know about it because it is the most watched show of the season.

    it would have been easier if they pulled something like the time in game was different from the time IRL, that way they could have kept all the plot while also having an excuse as to why nobody found a way to save them in all that time!!

    1. After reading the light novel I analyzed the potential options the government and families would have to get the people out and it is actually quite limited and risky to do anything really but wait given the information given in the books.

      This information is based on the LN so is below the spoiler tag,
      Show Spoiler ▼

      I’m not sure why you don’t think it can’t possibly happen because at worst doing what you suggest would likely have everyone dead which wouldn’t be much of a story. Now being the super nitpicker and engineer there is one way to get people out of the game without anyone dying but it is still risky and insanely expensive.

      Dip everyone’s head (head first, upside down) into liquid gallium, and to defeat any fail deadly traps in the system you would also have to do it in secret, simultaneously, and rapidly. (Gallium is a liquid below body temperature but is also a non-toxic metal that would block the death microwaves from killing most of the people) Now this would cost a fortune because of the implementation costs of simultaneously dipping 10k people into a vats of liquid metal and the fact that gallium is very expensive and not used in volume not to mention the impurities added by dipping people’s heads into it would make resale difficult without reprocessing. I sort of put that out as too far out to realistically occur so in my books SAO is still within a realm of possibility other than the center piece future tech stuff.

      And in terms of keeping people in an effective coma is quite simple to keep 10k people who are not actually sick in beds. Feeding tubes and a bed is all that is actually needed. Probably could even outsource it after a while as they don’t need constant medical attention. People do need to be rotated every so often to prevent deadly pressure ulcers though but family members can be shown how to roll a person around without interfering with the equipment. Also neat fact is Japan has a high number of beds to population with about 2.1 million beds from 2002. So 10k patients (0.48% of total capacity) might be a big logistical nightmare but not anywhere near an order of magnitude outside a medical systems capacity.

      1. More completely random reading apparently the “programming” in traffic light safety controllers is done by physically soldering wires onto a “program card”. Otherwise you can make the networked digital controller do anything and the light will just go to a 4-way stop. At least some engineers know how to make the hacking a lot harder. Also boxes have tamper switches that will get the police on your case pretty quickly.

  15. “MMOs were aimed not at casual players, but at those with time and money to burn – those who would play for hours on a daily basis”

    From what I’ve heard, surveys say that the average player plays almost 3 hours per day. This is in the post-WoW era.

    “There was a time when you’d be 40,000 exp to level up, grinding away at rates as low as 2k per hour.”

    This doesn’t really even begin to describe the horrors of old school MMO leveling.

    Rates could be as low as 0 per hour, as you sat in town trying to form or wait to be invited to a group.

    Rates could easily be less than 2k per hour depending on zone congestion, or just fail groups.

    Because of XP loss on death, rates could be NEGATIVE, especially if your group gave up and disbanded.

    But a good group would easily get 4-5k per hour at 60+ in FFXI. A superb group, even higher. And with ToAU expansion it could be around 10k per hour. 30k per hour at 75 meriting with a top notch group. Now an average alliance group makes over 100k per hour.

    1. Ah yes, those days of negative exp were a nightmare. I can remember always having to spend several hours seeking and then grinding in a party the day after a Dynamis run, just to get back the enormous amount of exp that vanished because someone failed to stun the Ninja mobs before they could Mijin Gakure.

      1. Let’s not forget about how time-consuming it was farming time-spawn bosses to collect items, then taking those items to spawn yet more bosses. Then you get their items to spawn (you guessed it,) another boss. Even more fun when you’re the tank. I think I re-leveled Ninja more than any other job in that game. Except for RDM, maybe. At least they were both jobs that got parties easy. I cannot say the same for DRK…nobody wanted one of those in their group.

    2. But you have to take into account that ToAU came after WoW. During FFXI’s life there were a lot of changes. They changed the exp curve and exp calculations/bonuses, the most notorious was the reduction of exp require for 60-75. Also between CoP and ToAU they started changing the respawn times of mobs from 10-15 min to as fast as 5min. Back then I started with the NA launch and it took me almost a year to get to 75 in my first job, I got it just after the exp curve change. The second time around took me a few months, the third less than a month with the gradual changes.

      The players have been begging for many changes for years to improve the game and reduce the grief, but S-E didn’t do it till later when WoW was released and changed the panorama, like the instanced Raids and other stuff.

      But those factors also benefitted the community. Like Stilts said players had more memorable experiences from back then. Yes the current crop of MMOs have betters storytelling/scripting, better systems, but that doesn’t enhance or incite more social interaction between the server population as a whole.

      Dynamis was the first step into what would be instanced raids. But Dynamis was limited in it’s scope because each dynamis zone was limited for reservation for a single group for up to 3 hours. This forced the different guilds (in FFXI they were know as LinkShells) and even Linkshells from different nationalities to negotiate schedules, where usually they wouldn’t see each other face to face. Or cases where since it allows 64 players to enter, and two LS combined would squeeze inside those numbers why not cooperate and do it together.

      Also because the highly sough NM and HNMs (bosses) weren’t instanced and only spawned usually once a day this was the source of a lot conflict or Drama LLama, usually ending with fighting and MPKs. But also while camping people from different LS would chat, fool around and get to know each other. On the Drama Llama level I remember once when Nidhogg spawned, the rare once a week version of a NM that spawned around once a day, there was so much conflict between the 2 NA and 2 JP guilds present that it turned into a two day MPK fest. Or while still having a lvl 75 cap, watching a LS fight VRTRA for three hours was like attending Heathcliff vs Kirito duel.

      And back then because of the nature of the players in MMOs, how much time people spent playing together, those so tight-knit guilds in FFXI made it all run around the gossips and accomplishments of the members or other guilds.

  16. This post certainly brought back memories, some of them not so good. My first mmo was Everquest and WOW when it went live. After struggling in EQ with this and that class I settled on the bard….the solo king. Playing a bard made things considerably easier in a rather diificult game. Then WOW hit and my entire guild moved there en masse. It was sooo easy compared to EQ at the time. However, if I was to take a new WOW player snd send them to the old vanilla WOW they would be horrified at the “difficulty”. WOW has has changed so much over the years it is hardly recognizable with the game it once was. I still play, mainly because I have friends there, but I spend at least as much time chatting as playing. One day I hope some company will come along with a game to dethrone WOW, but I dont see it happening anytime soon. So thanks for the memories……I still shudder thinking about EQ corpse runs.

  17. I remember playing the closed beta of RaiderZ, fighting bosses with people I didn’t even meet before. Just run to the boss, attack it, and people start inviting, no asking for parties required. Once I camped with a party at a boss spawn area(spawns every few minutes), for some strange reasons, we did “switching”(as shown in SAO) without a word said.

    It helps to have at least a quarter of the server being anime fans. Someone mentioned SAO, then the whole server started talking about it, and I joined a guild(named Beaters), on the first day because a bunch of people wanted to form a guild.

    Still remember attending the pvp rounds organised by the leader, everyone fought while naked and used beginner weapons.

  18. I can only speak of my experience in wow since I’m been raiding for years until some months ago (I can’t stand dragon soul). In my opinion while I understand the mmorpgs have been opened to more people and companies have to get all the people they can, making their games more noob friendly, in wow case, they can’t dumb down all the content like they do, hms included. I think there is room for everyone and that is the fail in wow’s case, they only look for the new people to stay because they think the veterans will stay loyal, but that’s proven to be false.

    Cataclysm had much hype as the comeback to the old style wow, bliz hear the veteran players and things were thought and you had to work to do the things right, I really liked how it began. The game was hardened up compared to wotlk but nothing you couldn’t resolve in instances with a little patience and brain and hms where like supposed to be. It was the first time in many years where I had to spend a complete afternoon to clear a single instance (halls of origination, the best instance since shattered halls IMO, a pity the timed event was only for one boss). Then the crys of “it’s too difficult” began, the instances became the same 15 minutes run back in the wotlk, the raids became easier, and what really bothered me, hard modes also became easier. It become gradually easier to the point now I know people who aren’t the most brilliant riders with full heroic gear. At least back in the day not everyone could manage to get hms past sindragosa, putricide or council even with the nerfs, but now loads and loads of people are “saviors of azeroth”, and some of them really bad raiders. And there was much more people playing before than now.

    Until now I liked the game because even if the normal content was dumbed down, wich I don’t necessary see as something bad, the raids and hms were enough challenge and fun to keep playing but not anymore since the hard content gets easier too and there wasn’t a single interesting mechanic in bosses for me in this patch (didn’t make to see spine and madness hms, I got enough with the absolutely boring normal modes).

    Ok, let’s do easy content for casual players, ok it’s fair and normal. Then why they have to touch the advanced content also? And in the case of this patch were the content itself is utterly boring IMO and in the opinion of almost all veteran player I know, if you quit the hard part of it, what now?

    What makes tetris fun as hell is that it keeps getting harder and harder the most time you manage to survive in a game, it would be absolutely boring if the game stay at lvl 0 every time just because there is people who can’t manage the game past lvl 9. I enjoyed more doing an hour game of dr robotniks or beating that resurrecting bastard in sf3 than clearing the actual content in wow. At least in single player games you still have the will to make it harder if you want.

    What’s the point to attract casual people if the veteran people, the one who really supported the game for years, will leave? And like the word “casual” means, those players aren’t there to stay for too long, it’s impossible to mantain a game like a mmorpg like that.

  19. If it was written today, something closer to Planetside would make a much better story. All out PvP war, three factions. If your faction wins, you are free, and that means the death of thousands of players regardless.

    Being all PvP, battles would be much more dramatic. It would be like a huge scale warfare battle royale.

    Samanta palos
  20. The title question seems irrelevant in the end. Animation and comics have exaggerated all subject and interest to whatever standard they need, be it about racing, fighting, demons, crime thrillers, etc. MMOs are no different. Although I’m sure a few things would be different if this just started today, I would say the core story they’re trying to tell here would be basically the same. I myself love the more casual nature, as adults need more time for other activities, like our job, relationships, hobbies.

    Developers have simply realized that, and have found ways to still get our cash without burning us out, like with the shop and vanity items. I would say MMOs have only gotten better with time. Those that think vanilla WoW was the shit have their nostalgia goggles wrapped on too tight. Even AVGN knows how shitty a lot of the games he loved are, really as a worthless grind and unbalanced headache.

    1. Perhaps, and I don’t mind the existence of casual-friendly MMOs, because that’s all I have time to play today. Yet while people might prefer the gameplay that way, it’s undeniable (in my mind) that they have gotten easier, and an easier world makes for crappier anecdotes and personal stories. That was my point, while Moomba was simply discussing the difference between the two from a storytelling point of view. So our points are still valid!

      1. That is where I disagree. “…an easier world makes for crappier anecdotes and personal stories.” No. I could make a list of fundamental games that are, on a whole, easy and/or short that still feel very satisfying in moral thought/character development/world building, even as a casual experience.

        For two popular examples, Braid and Limbo. They can definitely be hard at times, but not on the scale of grinding hardcore gameplay that literally takes months in many MMOs (mostly old school). Yet they can actually be finished in less than 6 hours. And I actually loved it more than over half the MMOs I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a ton.

        There are tons of others, like Yoshi’s Island, which took a week for me to finish at a very young age. Or Sonic Adventure. Or Halo. Or Portal. Or Ace Combat. Or whatever else I can think of off the top of my head. Yes, they can get a little bit hard, but again, nothing on the level of what MMOs require in time!

        In truth, MMOs aren’t actually that hard, they just make it extremely drawn out, at least in the early days of the genre. Like I said, nostalgia goggles on too tight. There was no real reward except for the fact that you farmed a mob for 12 hours getting that rare dragon whelp. There was no challenge in it except for the reality of your commitment to wasting those hours hitting the same spells over and over. I remember lots of MMOs like that, so much. Just so fucking much of it.

        There was some good moments, even great moments, but nothing compared to what other games can offer in 1/10th the time at least. And burnout is an extremely serious condition to those super-focused enough to neglect their baby needing food, or their own need to go to the bathroom or eat. It was literally that extreme for some. We’ve all heard the horror stories that actually happened, where some actually died from that (which sadly gets applied to all gamers for those uninformed).

        You, and many others like you are just too much into the old habit developed from MMOs of what is “normal” to spend time on something that is ultimately of little value compared to more “casual” games or real life in general. I’ve gotten more spiritual enlightening satisfaction from them, more than any original MMO has done. Its good for getting strangers together, but that has little to do with the grinding that they need to put in for you to come back to it hour after hour.

        So far I’ve loved what today’s MMOs can tell in story and the worlds they create, without burning us out, unlike what others like you can have “…an easier world makes for crappier anecdotes and personal stories.” That is complete bullcrap. Stories didn’t even need interaction at all in the beginning. All we needed was our mind and the spoken or written word. We didn’t need challenges or grindfest to make those stories meaningful and gratifying. Otherwise movies would flop and novels would never be read… Interaction definitely does make a higher dimension, with it being more personal, especially in western RPGs, but it was never needed as you say to feel alive within the worlds people create.

  21. >ctrl + f
    >1 of 1

    Ragnarok came first before WoW, though I think it got overshadowed now. IMO, it had the perfect balance of story and the gaming experience. The grinding was pretty tough too.
    Well, just saying. I never played WoW though. Or for that matter, I haven’t played an MMO in a long time. I can’t even remember the last one I played.

  22. Well, it would make sense… if the maker wasn’t an insane scientist wanting to trap thousands of people in his death game. I doubt he really thought of user friendliness in terms of difficulty.

  23. Ironically, Korean MMORPGs (yes, even some of the F2P P2W ones) are these days far more innovative than their arguably more polished North American cousins. Too bad nearly all of them eventually collapse under the weight of their own game-unbalancing cash shops.

  24. I don’t like not being honest so I have to admit I got a bit bored reading all this, it’s full of things I already know and I think most people already do too…
    Usually I wouldn’t comment just to say that, still doing it as I have a joke fitting for this in mind for a while now: if SAO was written today there would be no mention of the TGS.

  25. For me the best mmorpg is still the first one I played: SWG (Star Wars Galaxies), almost all the content came from the players, the skill system was flexible and the crafting system was the best ever made (each item had an unique ID & stats, you could also make a blueprint and start an automated assembly).
    I miss my fully custom decorated house, dropped in front of our guild city hall. 🙁

    1. I was reading to see if anyone would mention Galaxies, when it first started i loved the Exp system and the fact the crafters really had a standing of importance finding the right elements of different qualities and such you could get some people that put effort into it to really get something interesting. also it perfectly fits what moomba says about wow affecting the mmorpg, because i just had to bail after they changed and revamped everything to mimic wow after their sales skyrocketed over galaxies (star out as a Jedi!? wtf you had to max out a ton of points complete every quest just about and then “find the force”). really for me it was much more rewarding when people could cross classes and be half of this or that and really customize your abilities much like real life. ..i also miss my desert house and my customized blue xp-38 😛

  26. Great article! Too bad that old classic MMORPG model is not longer possible…

    Well, like how a old Chinese saying goes : The old must go, for the new to enter.

    Ahh i miss my old days in Ragnarok Online…

  27. I remember my days of EQ with my shaman. To this day I still wonder why people will stop me to ask for females pigs. I caried herbs not animals ;P The pleasure of falling from your tree house playing my wood Elf. Hunting a Cockatrice just to be mauled by a Goon. Then Wow hit, no more running to your corpse to get your items back. Free Public transportation from Stromwind to IronForge in the subway; until you get your mount.
    So going to the question: if SAO was written today the menu system should be different and we might get a couple of gadgets to make it more flashy. However the bottom line is the author will bend the “game” to be able to tell his story.
    Finally what SAO lacks is a raid into one of the safe cities. I still remmeber entering IronForge to find all players including guards death; because the horde was raiding the city. The will teach those lazy gamers that don’t want to help clearing the game in SAO.
    The initial post was better oh well….

  28. The things you love about EQ are what is called “emergent behavior.” It happened in EQ and other games of that era because there was a limit on what COULD happen in those games, and people tended to fill in the gaps. Today, emergent behavior still occurs, but there are so many scripted events and systems that it often gets lost in the shuffle.

    In MMOs of the future, emergent behavior will become a major factor again because it is essentially the holy grail of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology (here called self-organizing systems), and other technologies of the future. So in Tomorrow’s MMO, we will hopefully be enjoying both anthropogenic emergent behavior and AI-generated emergent behavior.

    1. In MMOs of the future, emergent behavior will become a major factor again because it is essentially the holy grail of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology (here called self-organizing systems), and other technologies of the future. So in Tomorrow’s MMO, we will hopefully be enjoying both anthropogenic emergent behavior and AI-generated emergent behavior.

      A little meta thing to think about, the first true AI will just be a brain of sorts. As such the first AI-generated emergent behavior that can be “truly” emergent and useful in such an abstract situation will probably be closely modeled if not copied directly from research done on how the brain works. Or in other words the fastest/cheapest way to have an “AI”/Self Maintaining/Emergent Behavior system could and is already implemented with humans sitting in an office.

      Biological systems both integrate nanotechnology (self-assembling from a single unit), cost (carbon is cheap), emergent behavior (neural circuits), and evolutionary (genetics).

      Nanotech has been here for a long time and the Tobacco mosaic virus can build you a better lithium battery if you mess with it enough.

      So to get your future MMO we just need to figure out the cost model to have people run the “AI” of a game to make the game “organic” enough to not seem scripted. Rapid content generation, procedural content generation, databases of content, and seamless real time editing of a game world with real actors, writers, etc… Cost is an issue though as the number of artists, actors, game programmers, tool programmers, etc would be astronomically expensive. In other words you just want a cheap non-human but human functional brain to do such activities. Just hope they don’t try to unionize. If the F2P trend doesn’t kill the industry then hopefully they can work towards something like that.

      In essence groups of people act together to make an artificial collective intelligence that creates emergent behavior in games and companies that no single person could do by themselves. It is just it is pretty easy to lose people’s interest in participating without a lot of careful design work. (Given that most design work is now focused on extracting the most dollars out of the tiny fraction of paying users that might backfire)

  29. Wow, that was a long read. But I’m glad I read it, a few comments from me:

    The MMO’s I prefered (and still do) are MMO’s with a massive PvP option like guild wars 2 has WvWvW, or RF Online or Space Cowboys Online AKA Ace Online (I was gonna add Flyff to the list, but then I realized it doesn’t have epic PvP options).

    The problem with the later two, you had to invest huge amounts of time to reach the max level (and to be able to participate in the massive PvP or else you’d just be slaughtered). Ussually, I’d play with friends, but those friends would eventually get bored because it took too long to level, and just leave me grinding alone, while they started another game. However the epicness of those games was really big, how you’d raid an army with an ever bigger army, or kill a boss with a huge group was great!

    I don’t think that one of the two types of MMO’s is better (early days MMO’s or modern day MMO’s) It’s just a matter of how much time you can afford to spend on a game.

  30. Disclaimer: I am an experienced MMO player. I first played Ultima Online in ’98. I played WoW PvE competitively for years in top 100 US guilds before my job forced me to quit at the end of WotLK. Still leveling in modern MMOs here and there when I have time.

    I strongly disagree with 90% of the content of this post.

    My first MMO, Ultima Online? The worst experience I ever had. Honestly, I was never able to have much fun until WoW came out.

    Stilts’ list in particular is particularly aggravating to me. How can you find any of the “features” listed there to be fun?
    – Wasting 10 minutes to run from point A to point B for the hundredth time? Not fun.
    – Losing exp (= time) because of a random disconnect and death? Not fun.
    – Camping outdoors bosses, waiting for hours before I can finally fight? Not fun.
    – Grinding for hours on end to reach the next level and finally access the next area? Not fun.
    – Etc.

    To me, fun is battling difficult and compelling content, and enjoying a good story. It is not battling a poorly designed leveling and experience system. It is not grinding.

    I find the idea that old MMOs were more challenging than modern MMOs to be risible. The difficulty in old MMO was fake difficulty; grinding. Modern MMOs do a much, much better job at creating technically challenging and bosses.

    Let’s take WoW for example. Did you really enjoy the first raid in Vanilla? Molten Core was bloody horrible. The developers did a great job in cranking up the technical challenge in boss fights as the game became older. My last fight, HM Lich King, was the most technically compelling boss I faced in the game (note: I said technically compelling; not necessarily the hardest).

    Yes, modern MMOs are also more accessible to “casual” gamers. And what is the problem with that? Most modern MMOs create content at different tiers and different difficulty levels. Everybody can enjoy the game, fostering a richer community. Again, what is the problem in that? Your ego is diminished seeing that every person can get the same gear? I am in for the experience, not to collect virtual objects.

    Finally, regarding SAO: the anime is ok, but the gaming mechanisms in it are really horrible. An extra item delivered to whoever deals the last blow to the boss? Items assigned randomly to player? How could any sane game designer implement this s*&^? It takes hours to walk from town to the dungeon? There is no healing spell, so instead of fighting and having fun, the system forces you to step back from the action to recuperate? Where is the fun in that? The game and the bosses are not even hard; the game is just a huge time sink. I mean, beating a boss on the first try with few to zero deaths? That is hard? Hard is wiping 300 times before everything clicks and the mean guy goes down…

    Summary: I don’t know if SAO could be written nowadays, but I certainly hope that no such game would ever make it out of beta.

    1. I’m pretty much in agreement with you. I don’t believe that time = difficulty. Easier to level != easier game. Taking 2 years to finish my relic weapon wasn’t really fun, it was just a goal to get an ultimate class item. Not a challenge, but an inevitability that if I put in enough effort, it would be possible. It’s not like endeavoring to climb Mt. Everest, where failure could mean death.

      In FFXI camping bosses usually resulted in you watching other people fight, your hours of camping didn’t even result in an encounter where you had a 5% chance or whatever for a single usable item to drop for your raid group.

      I think that there is an illusion of extra difficulty in your first MMO, because you don’t understand group mechanics yet, or raid mechanics. Kiting was an advanced concept at one time. So was positioning and re-positioning during a fight. Now it’s old hat. Also, those pioneering MMOs existed in a time without YouTube or game wikis, or even centralized forums. You couldn’t just google how to beat a raid boss and come up with extensive strategies and videos documenting everything to prepare you. Heck, it took years before true mastery of tanking mechanics in FFXI emerged. And the funny thing is these mechanics weren’t even designed into the game intentionally.

    2. I actually disagree with almost all points.

      Making a cross continental run across the world was never something I had an issue with, because back in EQ, I had my music player going, my tv on, a book or homework on my desk, and if I didn’t have any of those other things, I had 3-4 accounts going to help my friends level up with me. Making those treks which I did daily because my farming area was a 10-15 minute run from the main trading area (permafrost – EC for those EQ fanatics) was just part of the daily goal. You just found other things to fill that time and it wasn’t that hard. But I still like hearing the rain in the karanas, the snow in everfrost, helping a noob in Highpass, feeling scared as crap in kithicore, and avoiding d’vinn around WCs

      Loss of experience gave death in the game a meaning. Death in modern MMOs? oh darn hit your hammer and move on. Death in EQ? run back naked to your corpse organize a retrieval party if necessary, bust your behind or lose your gear. I only lost mine once, at level 6. It never happened again because I learned the mechanics of the game and if things went bad, how to die in a safe area. Our raids felt much more strategic in our approach, and there weren’t many guides. My guild had a “we walk in blind, and we do it our way approach”. There are only a handful of guilds out there like that in modern mmos because its all about the latest strategy you can watch on youtube.

      The level grinding? not that bad because once again, There was so many other things that I could do while I was playing, I could multi task like a beast and when the game NEEDED my full attention, I wanted to give it. Modern MMOs demand my attention for the time I play them, and I don’t like to give it. I like doing 3-4 things at once.

      But most of all, In EQ, shadowbane, and vanilla wow I felt like the time I put into my character made me DIFFERENT from other people. Somewhere in SA they describe the mentality of hardcore gamers and the sense of satisfaction that can be gained through character advancement. For me, THAT is gone from modern day MMOs. I cleared all but 2 HM bosses while they were relevent (top of the time) in current wow while having 7 characters maxed leveled and able to raid HC content. I only really play these to spend time with my friends, not because I really enjoy the game. The fact I could max a character and have it ready for raiding hardmodes in 2-4 weeks (depending on drops) is laughable.

      While many things in older MMOs may be considered inconveniences by modern standards, they had a way of giving chracters background, story, and individuality.

      The latest trend with single player story lines intertwined in the games is trying to bring that back, but the best stories were the ones you created yourself or with your friends, and that is what is lacking from modern MMOs. Are they better games? of course. But do I get invested in them and want to go back? not a chance. I played in the shadowbane reboot 2 years ago and had a blast. I also played on project 99 until kunark was botched. Both were more enjoyable experiences that I remember more than any other mmo lately

    3. You’re of course entitled to your opinion, and you’re not wrong that modern MMOs have better systems. Yet difficulty – even fake difficulty, though it’s perhaps not the most ideal sort – makes a game more compelling because it takes more out of you to get to succeed. And it makes for better personal stories, as stories are usually made in the fires of adversity, fake or otherwise.

      I think of it like blogging here at RandomC as opposed to somewhere else. It’s much harder to write here – we have very specific standards, and posts take a lot longer than many other bloggers require of themselves – but it’s rewarding when I push out a post that gets a good response because I know that effort I put into it was worth it.

  31. Good article – I haven’t read everything – but this definitely is a question that crossed my mind.
    My first MMO was back in 1999. It was called Nexus – the Kingdom of the Winds.
    I played the Indonesian localization. While the Korean version was still strong in the roleplaying, the Indonesian version was strong in simply community, with minimal roleplaying.

    It took approximately 3-4 years before everything goes downhill, real money getting involved and so on. And yes, SAO is pretty much a minimally tainted story. When I say ‘tainted’, that’s such as PK-ing, monopolizing, etc. It’s bad, but it’s still in game. When reality is involved, lots of things go wrong (Of course, ALO touches this aspect too)

    Also, a strong point here. I’ve noticed that various players here played western MMO, such as WoW, Guild Wars, Ultima Online. There’s, or there was, a STRONG difference between western and eastern MMORPGs, the environment, the players, and the setting.

    Just because I’m writing below Steelman, for example, ‘It takes hours to walk from town to the dungeon? There’s no healing spell..’ – this pretty much is common. There’s a lot of games with minimal teleportation these days. There’s a lot of games where only the healer class can heal, and the rest has to use potions. Or they are given basic healing spells (refer to the game I mentioned above – Nexus)

    I’m interested in reading this article and the comments, but you guys need to remember to open up your imagination – don’t be fixed in ‘Nowadays it’s like this, how can it be different?’ ‘My experience was like this – SAO is a bullshit design’ ‘SAO will never survive in this day and age’ etc.

    Old people tend to be stuck in old mindset. That’s how legacies fall.
    And I am also interested in the question, not ‘What if SAO is a game being developed today?’ but ‘What kind of novel would a person with the imagination to write SAO, write today?’

    1. *Sorry, about the healing spell – I realized that was Steelman’s point.
      But yes, I can imagine a game where there’s no healer. That way the healer’s not being enslaved, and tanks become more important. Current games dictates there should be a offense-type and magic-type, with healing often included in the magic. But like Kirito’s HP regen, there’s a lot of players who go solo and try to survive without healer. I for one like to jump between beta MMOs so I don’t form parties, going solo mostly just to experience the game before dealing with real life again :s

    2. His point was that forcing players to step away and spam pots, but with little to no risk of death, is bad design. How can you tank if you have to heal yourself, and step out of combat to activate a potion? By definition, you are no longer tanking.

      I’ve played Eastern MMOs, and the difference generally seems to be less actual content, and more elongation of the game through grinding. And lots of sales of fashion items.

      I’m actually waiting for Western MMOs to have an “Asian Grind” server where XP rate is at 1/10 and XP/level is at 500% to cater to people who like to spend thousands of hours to level.

  32. I really feel like you guys are spot on with your summary of how things have changed. I miss those old days too, even though there were terrible days, and infuriating moments, a lot of those memories are really funny or just enjoyable to look back on.

  33. I remember when i play FFXI, ranger is one of the most powerful job.
    It’s super easy to level if you have friends who know what are they doing. I think go got to max level in like 6 months, lvl 75. Then get another jobs to 75 in less than 3 months.

  34. Nice post that reminds me that i have keep playing GW2 to get my elementist to lvl 80 so lazy to do it >.> I prefer to read light novels instead…………I will give it chance when i feel like it 😀

  35. Gotta agree on the story part,

    I honestly can’t recall a single story from wow/ff11/CoH/Global agenda/anything else I’m playing or have played

    But from Shadowbane and Everquest, I still recall some of the crazy stuff me and my friends used to do;

    Like 2 guys building the largest and most expensive city in a game on one of the more populated servers of shadowbane because we capitalized rune spawns using a rotating 4 hour schedule and then steamrolled the highest rank trainers charging an arm and a leg for people to cap their skills from our nation. I still remember the day our R7 went up and our Deposit shot up into the 10s of millions within an hour

    Or Rushing in and popping riposte discipline on a first time AoW kill despite not being on the MT rotation because I was double boxxing a cleric in the CH rotation, spending 3 minutes with my defensive discipline up while the guild rallied and rezzed all the tanks that dropped in second because they didn’t control their aggro properly. I’ve never had such a rush as that in a game.

    1. Or being in a CH rotation as a druid, who by that time had finally gotten a “semi-CH” (what a ridiculous idea), which was like a normal CH but more inefficient and healed a third as much. We were sort of desperate, lol. I did get to hijack a necro as my personal twitch bitch though, so I enjoyed that 😀

  36. I actually think that when VR gaming becomes a reality, the old-style MMO might make a comeback.

    If we had game worlds like that, I somehow think more people would WANT to immerse themselves in it and wouldn’t mind not wanting to ‘clear the game quickly’. It’s just so vastly different from sitting in front of your computer/console/handheld device – the pioneer games of the new VR generations will attract a massive amount of gamers not unlike the pioneer MMOs of the Information Age – such as EverQuest or Raganarok Online.

    Of course, as time passes I’m sure that as the novelty wears off and gamers get used to VR as much as we’re used to regular computers today, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gaming model evolved exactly as it does now.

    History does tend to repeat itself after all.

    1. Just mix in some augmented reality and you could have people playing your game almost all day.

      Wonder what that would do to productivity or mental health. Dystopia scenario would be the gamification of everything with such a system and casual gaming would be life. (Black Mirror ep.2 sortof similar minus VR aspect)

      Probably future is VR gaming with augmented reality used to replace smartphone’s traditional interfaces. Although don’t expect things to be too fast as sword art online’s version of VR gaming is very future tech. (Requires a deep understanding of the brain internal communication protocols and some magic RF tech to do it without wires)

      1. A small device(wirelessly connected to the nervegear?) inserted into the spine that sends electrical impulses to the brain might be possible. We know that the brain receives information of the outside via electrical impulses so mapping the nerves in the brain might be needed.

        Mother’s Rosario tackled the issue of using VR games to let terminal patients to experience life and have some pleasant memories before dying, it’s actually quite good and allows blind/mute/deaf/handicapped/etc people to experience what they could never do in real life due to their disability.

      2. @Whatsht

        Yes if we could implant a direct interface into the spine it would be feasible provided we figured out these areas of active research.

        Attaching electronics to nerves without causing scarring (Ghost in the Shell strangely has this covered under Cyberbrain sclerosis). Some solutions exist but messing with the spinal cord carries a lot of risk for paralysis/death.

        Attaching electronics to specific neurons (Currently we both kill and can’t aim any better than 1 random cell to a whole area of cells)

        Signal processing involved with attempting to determine the signals of about 31 main lines that carry sensory, motor, pain, regulatory information.

        Figuring out the encoding process for sensory, motor, pain, etc.

        Infection control of the implant and extremely easy/fast/cheap implantation if it is to be a consumer device. (Note the engineering triangle of cost/time/quality (pick two) is violated here given the context of the device’s location)

        And having a high bandwidth wireless data/power system that is compact, unobtrusive, and cheap.

        This being said they are working on brain to computer interfaces with implants directly into the motor cortex in the brain and various other micro arrays to help people and to try and figure out how the brain even works.

        The only magic part that there isn’t much research on is the ability to wirelessly and without implants communicate bidirectionally with the brain with enough fidelity for a VR simulation. There is some tech but no where near what is needed yet.

        Not currently possible but not impossible. Once it happens people today would call it magic as it would take quite a lot of innovation to work.

      1. Sounds like an interesting MMO tht I would like!! (Anything containing myth + conspiracy + UMA + etc interest me)

        Too bad I don think my com can handle it lol. My com do not hv much memory left…

  37. Hmm I think since SAO controls required the player to “move” their whole body, it is more tiring than just using your hand to control. So grinding over long period of time might slow the grinding and all.

    1. Technically they are not actually moving their real bodies as the system uses what is essentially sleep paralysis or muscle atonia. So even if you feel tired from flaying around in game in reality you were not moving at all. I wonder what would happen to players who have severe sleep walking problems and move both physical/virtual bodies at the same time.

      But because it isn’t just a button mashing game it would be more difficult to grind and exploit the game when you have to move, eat, and sleep in game or your brain will think it is tired, hungry, or sleepy.

  38. My experience was with Asheron’s Call and WOW when it started and both were time extensive. Our horde Guild was first to clear MC and BWL for our server and the time and preparation were incredible. The moment we finally killed Ragnaros, after months of work, still is my proudest game moment.

  39. That reminds me, is GW2 fun?
    I mean… “fun” as in no grindfest, repetitive gameplay etc.

    I stopped playing MMOs back in WoW pre-BC and I’m thinking of picking up MMORPG again. Though after seeing how most of the game nowadays are all grindfest, I’m not really sure…
    Maybe I should just stick with consoles for RPG games.

  40. Hi, a question. A friend of mine says that SAO is lame compared to your typical rpg because it doesnt have magic or anything else besides sword skills, I disagree, first because story-wise this is the first game for the nervegear so it’s like any new software that tries to exploit the platform features, in this case the ability to full dive, and what better way to do it that by fighting with swords, not just releasing magic attacks. and second, because the fact that’s being played with a nerve gear gives already the game an infinite number of possibilities even though it just has sword skills, am I right? and if so, what do you think about what my friend said, I really need more reasons to make him understand or at least humiliate him, lol.

    1. then told him to wait for 3 more ep and he can get magic 8-}
      for me sword skills are good enough, and why he want to stand in one place and cast magic when he have a chance to use nervegear???

  41. I’ve been playing MMO’s since Ultima Online, Everquest and the old WoW all day. In fact, you mentioned my guild which I played the role of “Asuna” that killed Kerafyrm :).

    The biggest issue is that if everyone were trapped in the game, there is no way that Kirito could be one of the highest leveling players. Guilds and groups will always clear faster, be able to distribute loot and level up faster than a solo player, even if there are no bonuses.

    That being said, lots of elements in this anime are still very enjoyable. Unfortunately without the monologues and explanations from the LN, it makes it difficult for anime viewers to watch at times.

  42. I feel you man back then mmo gaming was a time sink, I remember spending 6 months just to get a character to lvl 99 only to be told new promoted class comes a few months later and this time your lvl 99 character will turn back to new lvl 1 with new skills and stats but only 3 times as long as before to get to lvl 99 again, so many nights of non-stop grinding and lvling. It was crazy, sad, brutal, and torture but in the end now I look back as sad as it was those are the memories that really stay with me the most. Compare to nowadays everything is being dumb down and cash shop, getting to max lvl require little to no effort, no sense of accomplishment now being max lvl, cause you and thousands of noob reach that max lvl. It ppl don’t wanna spend time then they just use cash shop for easier lvling, any noob can get to max lvl and no more of seeing a lvl 99 means seeing one of the top player in game, no we can’t tell if this guy is really skillful in playing or just some rich spoil kid who spend 1/2 the time playing than the rest of us.

    Overall I really think mmo nowadays really go downhill compare to what it use to be. MMo company don’t really care about its games, is almost everyone just clone each others effort and in the end all they care for is cash shop and money, whether the content that comes out is up to standard or not don’t matter as long as cash shop is working is all they care.

  43. Excellent post, Stilts and Moomba! I have no MMORPG experience at all not least b/c I hesitated to commit so much of my time (I learn from your post that’s less of a problem today). What fascinates me of SAO is how the players adapt to an environment with different rules than RL and how basically new social rules and ways of interacting are formed. I wonder if this has some resemblance to how “life” was in the MMORPG’s back in the 2000s. It seems sad to me that MMO’s have changed in the direction of casual playing w/ less immersion and less time for the players to explore ways to adapt to the game world.

  44. Not to mention that, back then “raiding” a boss, mean, coordinating 72 and up people to kill something, with rotations, groups designated to do something, and best of all, most likely NO CHANCE OF LOOT FOR YOU!
    Since you don’t have enough DKP! tururu~

    Yet you would go there, you would kill the monster, and you would be HAPPY THAT YOU DID!!
    Since in about half year you would accumulate enough points to ask for something..

  45. Not to spoil, I will add it within spoiler tags even if it could only be considered a very very minor spoiler:
    Show Spoiler ▼

    I wonder in what extent Kirito’s opinions reflect those of the author, in regards to gamedesign but also rights of AI, etc.

  46. I thought the reason for Final Fantasy XIV getting bad reviews and flopping was because the game had too many bugs and was too limited in scope. The criticism wasn’t that the game play wasn’t WoW-like, but that the game was unfinished and unfit to play.

  47. Having finished the entirety of the Sword Art Online animated series and some reading on the light novels, i’d say it is very much a sandbox game with a goal (which is made so much more important than it should be by the real death penalty). They did mention the existence of mundanely oriented professions e.g. fishing, woodcrafting, blacksmithing, even cooking

    (though looking specifically at blacksmithing and cooking, the actions needed are somewhat minimal compared to the finished product/s, but then again, it’s like balancing ‘immersion’ and ‘skill level effects’ so it doesn’t become more tedious than it needs to be, and it is in a game after all)

    In that regard it is somewhat similar to EVE Online, though the latter is far more diverse and in varying degrees of ‘complicated’, ranging from mining asteroids (sit in belt, lock roids, zap with mining lasers, switch once targeted roids get depleted, jettison ore once cargohold is full, etc. it gets drowsy boring real fast) to small-gang player-vs-player action in low-security space, where you really ought to know what you are doing, and solo play is not viable in the long run even if you have good skill levels. Two examples of refined PVP Action here (they do have more on their channel)

    Anatomy of a Fight – involving advanced carrier tanking / remote repair switch tactics

    Ironclad – Importance of ‘logistics / remote repairers’ and ‘damage resistances’ among other things

    The thing about EVE is that real enjoyment can be had when doing things as a group, and ship size does not matter, roles do. While a frigate can never hope to solokill a battleship or a titan (lacking dps), said battleship or titan can’t hope to hit said frigate either (too small, too fast, large guns can’t track unless target is very slow or standing still); however, said frigate can ‘tackle’ i.e. stop larger ship from escaping so the rest of the gang can come in for the kill.

    But i digress, with my characters staying in the newbie NPC starter corporations at the moment for various reasons. While joining a player corporation is one of the best ways to get to do group-oriented stuff, there’s a sizable amount of barely active corps, and a handful of good ones (and not so good ones).

    Going back on track, SAO seems to have adapted some prevalent features of RO (marriage system) with ‘necessary addons'( [ Ethics Code : Off ] comes to mind, not to mention that since Episode 8: [NSFW]
    …Yui has been watching them…)

  48. Late to the party, but I’m pretty sure if Sword Art Online was written today it still wouldn’t look like this.

    If we’re talking about the first virtual MMO then applying current trends wouldn’t make much sense. If things have changed since back then why assume it’d be the same however many years when this tech would exist? Writing it you’d have to guess at mindsets anyways by that point. Also think it’d be entirely possible that the first major game of this genre could be a throwback to the more hardcore style. If you are going to go into a game where you are physically there, you don’t want it to be cleared in no time. The expense for the equipment and the experience would probably already eliminate most of the casuals in the first place. There’d be little point in trying to appeal to people who’d never spend the money in the first place.

    So I think we can throw out clearing in 2 weeks from the premise in the first place. Even if you could argue that it would appear to be friendly to the casuals, would someone who has built technology to trap people in a game world really make it that easy? Someone like Kayaba would be more likely to have the system drastically alter and adjust the game. If he can hide what his plans were he can certainly make the game far different inside than it appeared from previews, interviews, beta test, etc.

    Think this is more just driven from being down on where the MMO is today. But someone writing wouldn’t focus on the current style that isn’t suited to a story like this. It’d be a throw back to older ones that could support this story.

    Maybe the one thing that was mentioned here that would stay is colored items to show rarity. Otherwise I’m not so sure. Cash shops like the log out button would surely be disabled.

    A good write up about things have changed though.

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