The Massive Gap

As a follow-up to the post the other day about the largest online battle ever, and as an additional data point relating to Syncaine’s post yesterday, I present the following video. Go ahead, watch the whole thing, and pay attention. I’ll be right here.

The first thing I’d call to your attention is not the experiment that the video is about, but the numbers involved. Roughly 700 participants took place in this battle, which was (much) smaller than the epic struggle in LXQ2-T. Now I’ll point out what you didn’t see. Lag.

Seven hundred players, plus their drones and missiles (Drakes are Caldari, remember?) fighting it out in a single system, without lag. I’ve often defended WoW against Syncaine’s various assaults, but on this I agree with him – Blizzard’s failure to get even moderately-scaled open-world PvP working is nothing less than an embarrassment. But it’s not Blizzard who should be most embarrassed – it’s everybody other than CCP (and maybe Adventurine.)

It’s indicative of the larger problem in MMO development, which is the lack of will on the part of most developers to push technological boundaries. The battle for LXQ2-T was massive, both because of the number of players involved and the fact that they were all in a frefight. How massive is it for 100 players standing around, browsing the Auction House and dancing on mailboxes to crash Ironforge? How massive is it when a numerical advantage of a few dozen is enough to throw the factional balance of an entire Warhammer server?

The “massive gap” is widening between EVE and the rest of the MMO field (with a couple of weird outliers like Champions Online and Darkfall.) And it’s narrowing between the MMO field and conventional multiplayer games, even titles like shooters which are traditionally resource hogs. No wonder these types of games are calling themselves MMOs, nowadays – in their fields the technology is still advancing; they’re getting more massive all the time. Only in the MMOs that pioneered the idea are developers not even thinking about this anymore. Everybody assumes that the way WoW does this is perfect, without even asking themselves whether it might be desirable to actually live up to the massive name. Mythic decided 2500 players on a server with three-quarters of them blocked out of the open world by instancing was massive enough, but their game was dependent on being massive, so it goes down as perhaps the most epic fail in the history of MMOs thus far. Even bigger than Vanguard.