Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Massively multi-player online role playing games

I am a disgruntled fan of the genre. I LOVE the idea but I hate the execution. I hate World of Warcraft. I hate Everquest. I hate the fact that these games have spawned the belief that this is the de facto 'standard' that must be adhered to in creating a MMO.
After all, how can I argue with the financial success of WoW?

Is there anyone else out there who played Ultima Online? I'd love to hear from you.


I'm a big fan of the 'sandbox' style of MMO. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's used to describe an MMO which gives you a number of role-playing 'tools' and just sets you loose in the world to do as you wish.
There have been some problems I admit, but the good times are SOOOO much better than the good times in the 'combat' oriented MMO games.

A few examples.
The most fun I ever had in Everquest was the time I ran from Qeynos to Freeport at level 5. That's pretty much it. Not much to the story.
There are other stories, like the one where I helped save the lives of a bunch of noobs in Blackburrow for example, or the time I helped a larger group of players kill mobs twice my level in Everfrost, but that's pretty much all I can remember.
There was lots of level grinding that I can't even picture clearly anymore. The depressing fact of my time in Everquest was that I only had fun when I went outside the bounds of what the game is programmed to do.
I didn't get any reward for any of the examples listed above. No loot, no experience.
The Everquest message got to be very tiresome. No acknowledgement of the accomplishment of my OWN goals, just constant reminders that I should've been grinding levels instead.

And that's the problem I have with Everquest (and WoW). You DON'T get to do whatever you want. You WILL grind levels and if you don't like it, you get no reward.


My Ultima Online stories are older, but fresher and unquestionably better.
Like the time my poor PC got his first magic weapon. I was thrilled and figured it would be a good time to explore so I headed in a southerly direction.
I'd been told to watch out for the crossroads.
First of all, how awesome is that? There aren't any crossroads to watch out for in Everquest, just mobs to avoid and zones that aren't suited to your level.
In Ultima Online there was the crossroads, and everyone knew about it and it was pretty much common knowledge that one shouldn't go there unless you can protect yourself.
And there's ANOTHER bit of awesomeness. How do you know if you can protect yourself? In Everquest you know you're level 10, you stay in the zone with the level 10 monsters and you refuse duels.
You're basically completely safe as long as you're conscientious about /conning mobs before you attack and pay attention to reinforcements.
In Ultima Online you never know, as I'm about to demonstrate.

I get to the crossroads and it's empty. Brilliant. There's even something lying on the ground and I run over to investigate. Nothing worth keeping, but now I'm in the middle of the crossroads and I'm approached by a stranger, a fellow PC.
His name is diplayed in blue above his head which was an indication that he'd never killed another player before. He is asking me a question and isn't obviously equipped for player killing so I let him approach me as I'm typing out my answer.

Then it happens.
'So and so' fails his pickpocket attempt.
'So and so' fails his pickpocket attempt.

I cut off my answer midsentence and attack him. He takes the time to yell out 'Yipes!' before running off. I let him go, lulled into a false sense of security by the failed attempts.
Then I check my backpack. (more awesomeness, a backpack for your stuff rather than a stupid inventory screen with squares for your stuff)
The magic weapon is gone.


That still gets me mad.

See that? I'm not mad about anything that happened in Everquest 15 years later like I am about that one day in UO. That's not even the only story. I've got two other stories of relative interest and I only played UO for a few weeks before I gave up on it.
Yes, I gave up on it.
The other two stories also involve mischief-making PCs and it got to be too frustrating that I never felt safe leaving the town. Clearly UO was just a little bit too anarchist for it's own good, but that doesn't mean a completely sanitized, completely safe 'combat sim' is the best the genre has to offer. There's MUCH more out there than stupid World of Warcraft.

1 comment:

Brian said...

No, MMO's just suck

I express my full opinion of them in this indie film I did earlier in the year (starring Pray For Death's Nick Doan lol PR).