The sense of humor

November 24, 2007

How important is humor in the MMOGs you play and what kind of humor should that be? Often we divide MMOGs into areas such as fantasy, SciFi and other themes, or perhaps if the experience is somewhat directed or more of a pure sandbox style.

But would not also how serious the game and its theme take itself or allows people to see the funny side of some thing be an important factor as well? After all, it is entertainment, so humor should be a relevant factor.
For me humor is an important factor, perhaps not for choosing to start play a game, but a contributing factor to why I might stay with a game. It can be what NPCs say, humorous things in the environment or situations occuring. And of course funny things caused by players.

Humor is a difficult thing; it should be delivered in the right context, with good timing and in reasonable amounts. It still will work differently for different people. And talking about it like this in a bit of analytical way for sure does not bring out the funny side…

I am not sure how much consideration is going into MMOGs when it comes to delivering humor in the games. World of Warcraft has some quite nice situational elements with the school class in Stormwind and the Dwarf shooting range in the dwarf/gnome newbie zone. And some of the characteristics of the races there might be funny initially, such as the troll Jamaican accent. That game is a good example I think where there is a decent amount of humor delivered well – it does try to take its story and environment too seriously and be that realistic, so it probably works well with most of the audience, I think.

In Everquest 2 humor was a main contributing factor for me when choosing to play on the good or the evil side (and that ratongas were evil only). The rude and sometimes sarcastic comments made by the NPCs in Freeport was a great benefit over the quite annoying and a bit cutesy comments of many of the Qeynos NPCs. Of course, humor is easier if you can be a bit evil and that shows in the Quenos/Freeport case. Comments were also adapted to the race you played, if you for example played the cat-like race some NPCs would comment on how wonderful I looked and if they could have my pelt..

The ratonga chef in the Temple Street zone in Freeport is also my favourite NPC in that game, with his constant hunt on the street for food sources to kill on the street, as well as being chased himself by street cats (he is a rat after all…)

Everquest 2 was also the first game I heard a mob ask for a heal (Cleric, heal me!) which was good fun the first time I heard that and smiled a number of times after that when it has popped up. Other games have also included that now, the latest I heard that in in Tabula Rasa, when a Thrax soldier called for a Caretaker to heal him. Short one-liners like that work great when delivered with voice, as has been the case in both Everquest 2 and Tabula Rasa.

City of Heroes/Villains have plenty of humorous one-liners and does not take itself and its environment too seriously, which I think works pretty good with a comic book inspiredĀ setting. There is also some good cut scenes, such as the one in Mercy Island, with the target of the mission, Dr Gerst, an evil genius wannabe being shown that he is just that, a wannabe…

Some of the one-liners in City of Heroes/Villains as well as in Everquest 2 is being delivered a bit too often, while others are seldom enough to work just great when they occur. If you see/hear a joke for the 100th time, it probably is not that funny anymore.

Another source of humor and fun is of course the emotes and how they are used by players. For me, City of Heroes/Villains is at the top there. I remember Anarchy Online having a decent amount of emotes here that were pretty good, useful. To be honest, I cannot remember what World of Warcraft had here besindes the dances (its been about 2 years since I played the game) and as I recall Everquest 2 emotes were a bit so-and-so. Tabula Rasa does not have many and do need to work a bit on that side.

So how is it for you, is humor important in the game? And what type of humor works for you? Any games that has too much humor, are lacking humor?

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  1. November 27, 2007 at 16:26

    Controlling the tone and mood is important in any type of entertainment. Humor helps with that. But it’s hard to balance with other mood influencers when you have no idea when the character will encounter the humor. If the player runs into too much at once, the game might lose its drama and feel like it’s all one big joke. If the player happens to miss the game’s humor, then he might not shake off the stress from battle and begin to become ancy.

    Even in horror stories, some humor is usually good. The hard part is arranging for players to experience it in moderation.

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