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Ask Massively: This is a sneaking mission edition

Eliot Lefebvre

Let's get something straight: Even though I'm late to the party with Metal Gear Solid 4, I'm a fan of the series. It's not perfect by any means, but it's one of my favorite franchises of all time. That having been said, why is it always a sneaking mission? Just once, I'd like to be told that this is a march-in-with-an-automatic-gun-and-shoot-people-in-the-face mission. But no, solo sneaking mission, every single time. I know, it's the series hallmark, but since my second playthrough is already going to be a bloodbath with a stealth unit equipped, part of me wants to do that on the first playthrough. Just once.

Appropriately enough, this week's questions for Ask Massively involve stealth in MMOs. They also involve subscription fees, but that doesn't really segue naturally. If you've got a question you'd like to see in a future installment of the column, feel free to leave it in the comments or mail it along to

Thartso asked: Why do people get so down on stealth classes?

Because the idea of stealth is fundamentally broken in MMOs. Specifically, it's a mechanic through which the player becomes hard to see via use of a toggle rather than by use of actual sneaking skills -- picking spots off the beaten path, avoiding detecting, using shadows and other models, and so forth.

The problem here isn't the mechanic itself, of course. The problem is that to a smart player, if stealth exists entirely as an in-world thing, there's no reason you can't have any character be stealthy. Classes and ability types that rely on stealth from a flavor and mechanical standpoint need something unique to themselves, so stealth becomes a much more mechanical element rather than being a nod to verisimilitude.

This causes problems pretty much everywhere, as stealthy characters are designed to break some fundamental rules about how the game works. So if you play a non-stealth character, it's annoying to think that you can always have a stealthed character running around bypassing fights or creeping up to shiv you in the back. Meanwhile, if you play a stealth character, you have to deal with a lot of misplaced animosity because of the aforementioned, never mind that you're sneaking up and shivving someone in the back because you'd be eviscerated if you walked up from the front.

Fortunately, most mature players realize that this is all just a case of different playstyles, and they unite against the real enemy: horrible ranged classes that take good work from decent melee classes.
Fienemannia asked: So why is the subscription price for MMOs so universal?
Well, it's not. There are games that do actually cost a bit less than the industry-standard $15 a month, although many of those do come with caveats. (Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV both cost less, for instance... but that's for a single character slot, which is arguably all you need, but I digress.) The fact that deviations are notable, however, makes it clear that most of the MMO industry has adopted a usual "default" price.

So why $15 instead of more or less? A combination of factors. For starters, World of Warcraft goes for that price point, and there's something to be said for market peer pressure. More importantly, however, it's a good price for an average monthly investment (less than 50 cents a day) that makes money for the companies in question. So it's largely tradition and the fact that the price still works. If you were asked to pay more, you'd be more likely to feel that it was unfair.

Will it still work in a few years? That's a different question.
Space Cobra said: Blah, my Kingdom for a Horse-that-edits-posts.
How big is the kingdom and how good does the horse have to be at editing? We could work something out here.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

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