Plus ça change: I remember how any new MMO that launched would have a General Chat channel filled with proclamations of how much better the game was than World of Warcraft. I’ve been in two new MMOs recently, and I’ve seen none of that usual banter.
Plus c’est la même chose: Now everyone is jabbering on about how much better the game is than Star Wars: The Old Republic.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me Kickstarter is beginning to feel like a number of one night stands. Drunk with beneficent gamer’s glee, I’ve sowed my arbitrary funding oats across a number of projects now, but at mostly $10-$15 a shot I’m starting to lose track of what went where and with whom.
More to the point: in nine or so months I’ll start getting these strangers turning up, informing me that at some point in the past we were intimately involved, that I ‘gave them a donation’, before handing over a little bundle and telling me that ‘here, this is yours’.
I think the idea is pretty much Analogy Complete – it even has that layer of built-in guilt, considering that they did all the hard work over the subsequent months, and I just happened to be there at the start, throwing my sponsorship seed around with wild abandon.
Hmmm, perhaps I should instead start selecting the ‘No reward, I just want to donate’ option, the Kickstarter equivalent of donating to a sperm bank.
Mentoring systems –such as those seen in games like EQ2, CoH and STO– are still rarity in the genre, despite being an obvious enabler to allowing friends to play together. Yet most MMOs implement some form of PvP where players of varying levels are slammed together, with the level disparity ‘normalised’ by temporarily increasing the level of the lowest players.
Thus the system is often applied to PvP, where lower level players are more likely to be put off playing again because they are dramatically behind the power curve of higher level players (due the significant differential in equipment, number of powers, etc), and are in direct competition with those players.
Yet the system is often not applied to PvE, where lower level players are more likely to be prevented from playing with friends if they are dramatically behind the power curve of friends who are at a higher level, and are thus unable to join them in a cooperative effort.
It seems to me, at first glance, like a curiously backwards convention of design.
In the land of the grind, the one-trick pony is king.
Applying the generic MMO philosophy to real life would mean that my boss asking me to write some code would inevitably result in me having to kill at least fifteen people or animals before the task was done.
Thankfully there is a distinct lack of wolves and boars hanging aimlessly around the office, but that pair of third floor accountants by the printer look as though they might aggro if I try to collect my hard copy.
I still find it interesting to consider ‘Why primarily combat?’ for a large number of MMOs. You may view that question in different ways depending on your prejudices, but it needn’t automatically be considered a failing of developers; indeed, many MMOs have tried other approaches without staggering success, so perhaps players have been seen to reject these alternatives. Again, though: why primarily combat?
Because combat provides an easy win condition? To satiate a fantasy which we cannot experience in real life? Because it is an easier system to encapsulate in lines of code than the alternatives? Because it’s a system which easily satisfies the input–>reward philosophy of gaming? Because we have yet to be offered alternatives which provide the exhilaration of the fight?
I’m not sure of the answer –or whether there even is an answer– otherwise this would have been the Revelation of the Day.
You know you’ve been playing a certain MMO too much when you walk past a door labelled ‘Project Room’ at work first thing in the morning, and your fuzzy mind interprets it as a project room.
I wonder if the Jedi have project rooms? Huge rooms with padded walls, full of oversize bean bags, enormous soft toys, and giant cushions, which the warrior monks can fling at one another with impunity. I always wondered why the Jedi Council looked so ruffled and out of breath every time they spoke to Anakin and Obi-Wan. If you watch closely during The Phantom Menace you can even see Mace Windu trying to discreetly hide a teddy bear that got lodged in the hood of his robes.
And pillow fights at Jedi pyjama parties suddenly take on a new and exciting outlook.
M’colleague and I were discussing his intention to order the Digial Deluxe Edition of the forthcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. His comment “And an in-game flare gun that serves no purpose has to be worth [an extra] £20, right?” had us looking at exactly what you get for your intergalactic space bucks.
The item that stood out for me was the HoloCam: ‘Keep visual records of in-game adventures.’ To which my immediate response was “Wow, they’re going to make screenshots a feature that’s purchasable from the in-game store”.
But then I realised that they aren’t going to have an in-game store. (Or are they? Ahhhhhhh!)
But then I considered all the trouble people reported having with taking screenshots in the recent stress test, as though the functionality was deliberately absent or hobbled, perhaps because the feature might be something which could be enabled by, say, an in-game HoloCam (free with the Digital Deluxe Edition or purchasable from the in-game store that doesn’t exist or does it ahhhhhhhhhh).
But then I thought that that was an incredibly unlikely and cynical supposition: that enabling screenshot (and video recording) functionality only when the player possessed an RMT-purchasable in-game item would open the floodgates to all sorts of the worst kind of micro-transaction-based shenanigans.
But then I observed that I had a cup of tea and a chocolate HobNob on the desk in front of me. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?
Werewolves in top hats, gnomes performing the dance moves from Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, steampunk motorcycles and planes, Murlocs, escorting orphaned children through the Dark Portal in Hellfire Peninsula, ridiculous sexual dimorphism in PC races, non-combat pets, Haris Pilton, giant cow-men riding on chocobos, polymorph, Quilboar, dressing up in an ogre suit, shoulder pads you could hide a small village under, remote-controlled fighting robots, Santa Claus and the Grinch, Big Love Rocket, blue space demons, wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey, mechanostriders, transforming into a furblog, parachutes, escorting mechanical chickens, ludicrous retcons, kobold candles, Forsaken Death Knights, teleporters, steam car vs rocket car racetrack, Thunderfury, jet packs, Tuskarr, dressing up in a murloc suit, orbital death satellites, pink elekks, Engineering, Gnomish Nutritional Effervescent Remarkably Delicious Sweets…
And you’re worried about pandas?
It’s been a fairly quiet summer for MMO updates.
Which is why LotRO’s considerable Isengard expansion, DDO’s Update 11 with new Artificer class, and City of Heroes’ freemium Issue 21, have all decided to launch now, within a week or so of one another. Because they’re all trying to kill me with MMO overload after several months of deprivation, clearly.
Living with current MMO release schedules is like existing alone on a deserted island which is visited once a year by five different carnivals, all at the same time, for one week.
Eventually some bright spark in China will work out how to link their factory equipment controls to an MMO interface; then they’ll simply create quests such as ‘Craft 10000 Nike trainers for 30 XP’, and we’ll pay them a monthly fee to let us do it.
With the ostensible beginnings of a long resisted but inevitable decline, it’s interesting to see World of Warcraft finally forced to passe arrière. What’s more interesting is their counter-riposte: a patent feint hinting at an expansion involving one of their most beloved and untapped races, then a change of engagement with respect to the balance of responsibility within the Holy Trinity, and now a redoublement of emphasis on appealing to the casual/RP masses.
What next, I wonder. Mentoring? Housing?
However, what will be most fascinating to observe –with Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic just around the corner– is whether this is too little too late, is this the Hero of Haarlem trying to plug the Möhne dam with his finger?