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Posts Tagged ‘MMORPG’

A little while back, Syl mused about how World of Warcraft has changed her in an article thisaway.  Others chimed in like Victor, over here, and Rakuno over here.  I figured I’d jump in, since I haven’t done enough navel-gazing lately.  To dig into what MMOs have done to me, I need to go back to the 90s, before I did anything with them.

I work in the game industry.  I play games.  A lot of different games.  MMOs are just a small slice of my game library and vocabulary (though they tend to consume a disproportionate amount of time), but they have had some significant effects on me over the last 6 years or so.

My background is primarily in RPG games and tactical games.  I’ve played RTS, FPS, driving, fighting, puzzle, and other games, but most of my gaming time before MMOs was with epic RPGs like Final Fantasies, Chrono Trigger, Star Ocean 2 and the like.  Back in… 2002? or so, I remember seeing an advertisement in a magazine for the upcoming World of Warcraft.  It wasn’t the first online game I’d heard of (Sierra’s The Realm gets that honor, I think, and I was aware of Ultima Online), but it looked really good, and I liked the Warcraft IP, having spent many fun hours with Warcraft and Warcraft 2.  That was the draw, really, the ability to prowl through the jungles at ground level as a single character, rather than the third person nonentity I was in the Warcraft RTS games.  In short, I was captivated by the idea of exploring the WORLD of Warcraft.

Of course, the blasted thing is an online game, and the only place I had internet access was at school or work.  Those were the only places I had a computer capable of then-modern gaming as well.  Yes, I spent a lot of time with classics like Master of Magic, Master of Orion 1&2, X-Com (the old, good one), Privateer and the like well past their heyday.  I’ve always been a late adopter of games, really.  It’s better on the wallet.  Anyway, while WoW looked appealing, there was no way I was going to be able to play it, so I ever-so-slightly wistfully pushed it aside and ignored it.

In the meantime, I graduated from college in 2003, then got a full-time job that let me buy a then-powerful laptop that I fully intended to play games with.  I still didn’t have an internet connection (and to this day, I still think the darn things are too expensive), but I had a computer that could finally play Morrowind.  I was hooked, finally happy to be wandering through a fantasy world that was so much more interesting to me than my FPS experience in Wolfenstein (the old one) and Doom (also the old one).  I got lost along the shores outside of the starting town, died a few times, and then downloaded a few hacks.  I found I wasn’t all that interested in playing the right way, I just wanted to putter around in a fantasy world.  Imagine that.

It was while I was working in that first post-graduation job that I ran into someone actually playing that World of Warcraft thing.  He played during lunch, mining, mostly.  I watched him maneuver his zombie-ish guy around some barren-looking canyons, mining some sort of rocky nodes.  I think, looking back, that it was maybe in Thousand Needles, one of my favorite locations in the game before the Shattering.  He showed me around a little, noting that his “real” character was an Orc Shaman.  He offered me a ten-day buddy key to try out the game, and I graciously accepted.

I still didn’t have an internet connection.

So, I installed it on my office computer and played a little during lunch like he did.  Yes, we played games at work.  We were working in the game industry, and every one of us were gamers.  One guy played Magic the Gathering Online for lunch, and sometimes we all played the actual card game for lunch.  And it was good.  The bosses didn’t play games as much as we did, but they didn’t mind us playing, even with company assets like the computers and internet connection, so long as we got all our hours in and got our work done.

Anyway, I had ten days to play, only during lunch, only at work.  It was little more than a taste of the game, really.  I fired up a Tauren Shaman and puttered around.  I learned what the WoW notion of quests were, and I followed some breadcrumbs around the hill to a small Tauren town, then made my way up the road to Thunder Bluff, still my favorite capital city in the game.  I learned Skinning and Leatherworking, charmed with the ability to make my own gear.  It felt like my Tauren was a self-sufficient adventurer in a larger world.  It was good.

The game’s reality lurked in the wings, though.  I wanted some more backpack space since I kept winding up with lots of junk I picked up off of the critters I killed, but I couldn’t buy anything from the auction house and vendor bags were too expensive.  I figured I’d use Leatherworking to make some kodo hide bags, since there were kodos just downhill.  Silly me, I figured it should be easy.  Just go kill and skin a few kodos (they are huge, and should have plenty of leather apiece) and then stitch together a bag or four.

…the last three days of my trial were spent trying to make those stupid bags.  I had to skin several dozen critters to qualify for skinning kodos.  I had to kill dozens of kodos just to get one scrap of kodo leather.  I needed six such pieces to make one bag.  I stuck with it because it was my “endgame” goal for the time I had.  I never actually did finish even a single bag.

It was stupid.

That, in a microcosm, is the WoW experience, I think.  Fascination with the world and its potential, ownership of your own little avatar in that world, seeing new sights and new monsters… then running face first into the soul-crushing time sinks that the game uses to suck people into that next sweet month of subscription money.  I learned enough about the game to know I still loved the idea of the World of Warcraft, but that the game itself got in the way.  Even if I had internet access at home at that time, I still wouldn’t have bothered with the game because of the absurd subscription business plan… and to be honest, I did want to keep playing, but I was already getting burned out a bit, just because of the stupid grindy pacing of the crafting system.  It was probably good that I didn’t keep going at that point, since I was still on the edge of still liking the game for what it could be, and could go on pretending that it was exactly what I hoped it was.

Soon after that, I found Puzzle Pirates, and it was like I had found a home I never knew I was missing, and I didn’t have to pay a sub for it.  It’s still my MMO home.  I was hooked there by the gameplay, not so much the sense of the world, though I did love “memming” the ocean solo, still scratching that Explorer itch.  It helped that I was pretty good at the game (skill is more important there than time investment), and that I got my own ship without reaching some arbitrary “endgame”.  I didn’t much mind that I was missing out on the WoW craze.  I had something that fit me better, and really, it still does, seven years later.  In fact, last night I finally won my first Swordfighting tournament.  Sometimes it’s the small goals that make the most fun.  It is also the only MMO that my wife has played with me for more than a half hour.  She gave Guild Wars a good try, but it just didn’t stick.

It wasn’t until… 2008 or so, when the ten-day passes were obsolete and anyone could just sign up for a ten day trial, that I tried the game again.  I played another ten day trial, this time with my home desktop and internet connection (albeit a cheap one, which made the game laggy… which didn’t help).  The game still looked nice, and it was fun to make a new character, hoping for good times.  This time I did a little more research on the game and fired up a Druid.  I’ve loved Druids ever since.  I have a soft spot for Hunters and Shaman still, but I’m a Druid player at heart.  I had fun, learned Bear form, messed around a bit shifting between forms as necessary… then my time ran out.  I still mostly liked the game, but still wasn’t going to pay to keep playing.  I was mad enough that I had to pay $50/month for the internet connection.

The wider world of MMO gaming had been opened to me, though.  I tried a bunch, from Dungeons and Dragons Online to Guild Wars to Lord of the Rings Online to Atlantica Online to Star Trek Online to Allods Online to Wizard 101 to Neosteam to Free Realms to City of Heroes to DC Universe Online to my latest experiment, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and others in between that I’m not remembering at the moment.  I (quickly) grew tired of the DIKU grind, always chasing levels and loot.  I decided that playing with others can sometimes be OK, but that I’m still a soloist at heart.  I studied game design, business models and the game industry.  I found some MMO blogs as I studied the silly things and their communities, and eventually started a blog of my own.  This is why this blog still has a backbone of MMO analysis, but it’s not devoted to any one game or even stuck solely on games at all.  I came to this blogging world because of MMOs.

I may not be a MMO groupie, but I still find value in the sociality involved with the games and blogging in general.

So that’s what MMOs have done for me.  They have introduced me to bloggers I consider friends, they have increased my knowledge of the game industry and game design, and given me well over 6000 screenshots that I can use for inspiration (I’m an artist, after all).  My knowledge of games, my chosen career, has been enhanced by the wider world of the internet and how games work in that shared social space, whether or not they are designed for it.

My life is richer, not necessarily for having played MMOs, but for what they have led me to.

…but I still hate subscriptions.

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It’s that time again.

What with the whole “SWTOR companions are solo friendly, and LOTRO Skirmishes are solo friendly and FUN“, the “MMOs are for grouping only” zealots are tunneling out of the woodwork again.  More often than not, the acronym “MMO” is cited as self-evident conclusive evidence that grouping is the Only One True Way to Play.  (Green Armadillo has a good starting point if you want to start prowling the conversations, and he has a great point to boot.  And to answer his question, yes, NPCs can teach you how to group with players.  This is precisely how it works in Puzzle Pirates, where NPC pirates train you as a noob, and even let you sail ships solo later on by manning stations.  It works, and works extremely well.)

I suppose there’s some sense to it, after all, “multiplayer” does by definition mean more than one player.  Of course, given the “virtual world” roots of MMO design, it should be (and has been) noted that “multiplayer” in no way exclusively implies “players playing in a group”.  That’s the difference between connotation and denotation.  “Multiplayer” denotes “more than one player”, in this case, playing the same game.  Some players take it and run with it, believing that it connotes “more than one player playing together“, when the word itself only has that as a possible subdefinition, not an exclusive overarching one.  If anything, such is a much more limited and specific small subset of the word “multiplayer”.

I know, English is hard, especially if you’ve gone through American schools, and logic is even harder.  Perhaps it’s not the gameplay that needs dumbing down in these games, it’s the terminology and public relations.  After all, it’s harder to educate people than it is to make the system stupider.  *coughNCLBcough*

Perhaps we need a new acronym.  (Muckbeast wrote a great article on this a while back, but I can’t find the link…)

I suggest MGORPG.  The G there is for “Grouping”, so that there is absolutely no question what the second letter in the acronym refers to.  It also sounds better, since MuhGORPGuh sounds worlds better than MuhMORPGuh.  The former just rolls off the gutteral better, while the latter sounds like a stammering hikikomori surrounded by pretty women who want his phone number.  Plus, gorp is healthy!

I suppose you could go with GOG (Grouping Online Game), but that’s already taken by Good Old Games, and Gog and Magog are sort of apocalyptic, which may not be a good allusion.  And that brings us back around to connotation and denotation.

MGORPG could clarify the debate considerably.  Of course, it’s only a mirror suggestion to make the acronym family complete, since others have suggested MSORPG (rather condescendingly and inaccurately… it should be MSPORPG since “single player” is actually two words) for single players.

I’d actually like to see that sort of differentiation in the market.  Make a nice Punnet Square of games; MSPORPGs that are just leveling content, MSPORPGs that are just raiding, MGORPGs that are just leveling content, and MGORPGs that are just raiding.  Throw a bunch of players at them (F2P to get more players involved, of course), and see what sticks.  That’s what happens in a nice, mature, differentiated market.  The successful design floats to the top, and the next wave of designs takes those successes and runs with them.  Darwinian game design, as it were.

Of course, it might be noted that such is actually the genesis of the increased soloability of MMOs of late.  See, people, weird whackjobs that they are (remember, I’m a soloist, too, pleased to be a nutter), actually do like playing solo in MMOs.  Games are evolving to cater to such players, and GASP, are proving to be profitable by doing so.  Ditto for the differentiation in the business models.  Anyone who has spent much time reading about MMOs has certainly seen the fallout from that particular holy war.

The staunch Old Guard still wants subscription based forced grouping death march grindy games, and by gum, those whippersnappers should want them too.  It’s self evident that such is the One True Way when it comes to MMORPGs, since that’s how it’s always been.  I mean, it’s right there in the acronym, right?  Get off my lawn and go play your offline single player games, NOOBz!

Oh, by the way, there’s a black guy as president in the U.S. now.  Stupid hippies.  Can’t they see that the American Empire only works when there are old rich white guys in charge?  We’re doomed! Who let those freaks vote?  Let’s go back to landowners (subbers) being the only ones that can vote!  Those other people are doing it wrong!!!

Further recommended reading:

Playing Alone, Together (Muckbeast)

That’s Right, I Solo in Your MMOs! (Saylah)

Get Your Party Off Of My MMO (Ravious)

Gaming Dictatorships (Melf_Himself)

AI Allies (Andrew)

Suddenly Bioware is Incompetent (evizaer)

The Social Soloer (Sente)

Three Truths (Cyndre)

Stupid Single Player Games Ruining it for MMOs (Dusty)

Defining “Casual” and “Hardcore” (Gordon)

Grouping Isn’t Always Healthy (Callan)

Disclosure:  I’m not an Obama fan, but it’s because I don’t like what he does.  Imagine that, judging someone by what they do and by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, or their playstyle, or how they pay for their games…

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