MMO Rant #8: OMG, This Rat Is So Much Teh Uber

Have you ever played an MMO in which it was apparently determined to be okay to scatter rats, snakes, bears, boars, and wolves throughout every level range of the game? Perhaps the better question is, have you ever played a fantasy MMO in your entire life? If you have, then you know exactly what I’m talking about, and you may very well be as tired of this crap as I am.

First, let me back up just a little bit: It is never okay for a normal rat, a tree snake, a sheep, a dove, or a doe to even be a threat to my life. NEVER. I play fantasy MMOs to be more of a badass than I am in real life, and if a normal freaking rat is a threat to my life in a game in which I’m supposed to be heroic, I’m going to stop playing the game and become an exterminator in real life instead–at least I’d get paid.

A rodent of unusual size, anaconda, ram, a disfigured radioactive carrion, or moose are perfectly fine alternatives to what I listed above. They are still less awesome than giants and dragons and elementals, but at least you don’t see me trying to take those creatures on in real life. I’m immediately slightly more of a badass in the game than I am in real life, so I haven’t quit the game just yet.

Where I decide the game is stupid and boring is the third or fourth time I see a wild boar that is somehow more threatening than the last ones I saw at level 25. What the deuce? Sometimes there is a little creativity involved–the boars have a different texture, are bigger, or have fire coming out of their arse and acid coming out of their eyeballs, but often I can hardly tell the difference between these boars and the last boars.

I know, you spent a lot of time on the model of the crazy mean boars. People like familiarity. You don’t have time to make more art assets. Whatever. I don’t care about the excuses anymore. At this point, it pisses me off what people get away with as “content,” and we need to see a shift from game designers for this crap to stop being churned out.

In Summary: Don’t you ever make anything that isn’t a threat to me in real life a threat to my character in any MMO in which I am supposed to be a hero; don’t make me fight the same animal mob more than a couple times, and certainly not for 30 effing levels; get creative and stop sticking your thumb up your ass looking for ideas, because they obviously aren’t up there.

Side Note: Don’t be surprised to see an area in some world I work on in the future with gigantic bunnies and other completely non-threatening crap blown out of proportion because I think it’s hilarious.

Love, Ryan.

20 Responses to "MMO Rant #8: OMG, This Rat Is So Much Teh Uber"

  1. JuJutsu

    Will I be able to kill the giant bunnies?

  2. Thermoses

    I enjoy seeing certain threats reduced to nuisances as I increase in level. Where the crypt of skeletons almost killed me at one point, wasting the entire lot with a single fireball later gives me a lot of satisfaction.

    As for the umteenth version of the ROUS: at least have it make sense why they are where they are. Maps, backstory, quest lore; all should back up the placement. Even if the story is not immediately apparent, it should be discoverable for the inquisitive player. “Why did a giant rat attack me in the church…Oh! There’s a hole in the wall in the catacombs below that leads to…[plot hook]”.

  3. Ugh. I would tend to agree. There should not be level 45 deer. How the hell did a deer get to level 45? It took me a long time of grinding on crap much harder than a deer to get to 45. What were they killing? Grass? If I’d known you could have gotten xp from grass I would have been on my hands and knees from level 1 on!

  4. Would you be referring to WoW? :neutral:

    …at least in UO you got your arse kicked by things like leopards and bulls…not sheep…*rant*

  5. Playing devil’s advocate here:

    When I decided on my path to civilianhood, some of my friends took a different path and enrolled in the Special Forces. Despite being some rather hardcore individuals, and contrary t Hollywood, some of the threats you mention are VERY real threats that even they remain mindful of.

    The difference is that they don’t have to stand in a fixed position entering into 1-on-1 combat with them to resolve the issue.

    THAT’s what’s messed up with MMO’s- not that rats, snakes, or boars are threats but they way they’re threats, and the way all threats are resolved. Everythings a mob to fight- something to swing an axe against- and something that swings back in a way that makes the too-narrowly-defined combat engine function.

    The snake need not be something to bash at. Treat it as a hazard on the road- a “trap” that, if you’re not careful, might bite you and slink away when you stepped too close to its sunning spot. Your speed is debuffed. Your combat defenses might be slowed. You’re in pain, after all.

    Make a different kind of game around those little critters. If you treat a rattler like a trap, there’s a detect-disable/evade minigame waiting to happen right there. Maybe the rattler “instance” spawns a hotspot. Successfully navigating to the hotspot gives XP (so you don’t reward XP for just walking away) OR the person can nonlethally attack the snake, pin it, and toss it (disabling the trap) OR simply kill it (dem’s good eatin’).

  6. Watch out for the named rat called ‘Bob’! He might just wipe your entire raid!

  7. It’s all driven by the cost of making art assets, most notably animations. Some rough napkin calculations – a smaller-budget MMO may have skeletons for 50 non-human enemies. A larger budget game (WoW, EQ2) might get up to 75. Each of them has between 15-30 animations, depending on the complexity of your combat system. This is a mammoth amount of animation.

    Zone designers want each zone to have at least 10 different monster types in it (to prevent you from being bored to death by fighting nothing but wolves for five levels). Thus, you have to start reusing content pretty fast, and designers are put under a lot of pressure to come up with a list of monster skeletons that can be reused throughout the entire arc.

    Sharing, when possible, is optimal. For example, in WoW the ogre and the moonkin are both on the same skeleton. Still, the more unique a creature is in body shape, the harder it is to reuse.

    Anyway, if you as a designer want more mundane challenges at low levels, such as wolves and boars, you will be under immense pressure to reuse those again at high levels, or the project isn’t getting enough bang for the buck for those models, and they get cut in favor of something that can be reused.

    And to be honest, having mundane creatures like boars and wolves help ground the zone cognitively, so that players can still relate to them. If you have a perfectly normal forest and all of the monster are wierd Gigeresque creations, the players actually feel disconnected from the experience. Having normal wolves and deer make the wierd stuff ‘pop’ more.

  8. Teljair

    But.. but.. I like to kill boars!

  9. laethyn

    On top of that, when is it okay to have cats and rats running around together in packs?

    Or Giant Rats and killer cheese slices?

  10. I dig the way City of Heroes is able to equate larger meaner gangs or villains for higher levels. At the very least it plays well in that specific game.

    In truth though it would always be easier to say there are weak thugs and stronger thugs and yet even stronger thugs in any fantasy game as well. Human NPC’s are easier to accept than the “Incredibly Enraged Boar from Hell! (lvl 69)”

  11. sacremon

    The ‘non-threatening crap blown out of proportion’ reminds me of beetles in many of these games. Okay, we don’t see beetles in RL the size of dogs, but unless it is something noted to be vicious in the insect world, an oversized version isn’t going to be that big of a threat either. Maybe to a character just starting out, but a trio of 1′ long beetles that can kill a top level character? Sheesh! Spiders I can understand – they are venomous. Beetles?

  12. Human NPC’s are easier to accept than the “Incredibly Enraged Boar from Hell! (lvl 69)”

    Possibly true, but an overabundance of humanoids also results in a kind of fatigue. The silhouette of what you’re fighting doesn’t change, and the animations don’t change, and after a while, you get bored. This is definitely something I felt playing CoH, which was pretty much limited by their IP to focus on humanoid enemies.

    Let’s not forget, the twelve tasks of Hercules included a Lion, a Boar, a Hind, and a Bull – and this was considered the greatest hero in greek myth!

  13. One day while playing EverQuest, my best friend and I were level 45 and hunting in the Burning Woods (not the Burned Woods). I got a tell from another friend who had long ago quit the game and had just come back, starting over. We’ll call him Lucius.

    Lucius’ new character tells you, “Hey, what’s up? Its Lucius.”
    You tell Luc, “Hey Luc, long time no see. How’s it going?”
    Luc tells you, “Starting over in gfay killing wasps. You?”
    You tell Luc, “Heh… level 45 and in the Burning Woods… killing wasps.”

    Much time passes, Luc quits the game and comes back a few times, and one day I’m on a raid and he sends me a tell.

    Luc tells you, “Hey, get a load of me, I’m in Burning Woods killing wasps! What are you up to?”
    You tell Luc, “You aren’t going to believe this, but I’m level 63 in the Bastian of Thunder ans there is a group of like fifty of us… killing wasps.”

    I’ve always gotten a giggle thinking back on that story…

  14. I couldn’t agree more about not wanting to see rats, snakes, piggies and bear at higher levels. It is bad enough that we have to fight these critters in every starting area of every fantasy MMO. I would much rather fight humanoids.

  15. […] fun quote from the comments section here.  It’s a rant about stupid reused animal mob models (hello, FFXI, how are […]

  16. Sigh. Yup. What realy bugs me is the cell zone structure. I look left off the road and all I can see is BluVariation Boar nodes, spaced in roughly 3 yard by 3 yards blocks.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the bad guys had a social structure. There’s a wild boar den. It can suport a family of wild boars. The number of boars, variety of boars and spread of boars is controled by the weather, landscape, availability of food and most importantly, frequency of PCs wandering by and laying down some smack on the boar’s nest.

    Want to see it get cooler? Replace boars with goblins in that last paragraph. See the population of goblins at the goblin spot affect the composition of goblin society (we got 50 goblins? we need a goblin forge. And some wolves. How ’bout a tower. Hey we got a goblin shaman yet?).

    That would be cool.


  17. Mythilt

    July 16th, 2007 at 16:13

    The ‘non-threatening crap blown out of proportion’ reminds me of beetles in many of these games. Okay, we don’t see beetles in RL the size of dogs, but unless it is something noted to be vicious in the insect world, an oversized version isn’t going to be that big of a threat either. Maybe to a character just starting out, but a trio of 1? long beetles that can kill a top level character? Sheesh! Spiders I can understand – they are venomous. Beetles?

    Actually, I’d be more scared of giant beetles than almost any other giant insect, spiders included. There is a reason that the beetle is the most successful basic design of all insects. They tend to be top tier predators in their niche. (Ants would be the other giant insect that would give me the heebies…they are social.)

  18. Mythilt

    Oh, my personal peeve in that area is the upper level towns, where the smallest weakest peon can one shot 80% of the PC’s in the game. (Maj’dul anyone?)

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