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MMO & Me

I have been itching to get back into MMOs for the last two years. I played DAoC (Dark Age of Camelot, for those who don’t know) when it was released in 2001. I spent a lot of time online looking at gaming websites, so I easily saw people posting entries about Everquest, Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call. So I decided to try the next MMO released and see what it was like. It sounded awesome on paper at least. I played for about a month on a 46k modem, and I successfully busted the Internet connection cap for November of that year. But you might wonder why one month? That’s because I was stuck at level 5.

Level 5. There is a good reasons why I was stuck at that level. Quite simple really. Levels 1 to 4 can be played solo, no need to join up with another player, but once you reached level 5, you had to join with others or die (or level up reallllly slowly, killing lower level creatures). See, I didn’t know anybody else who played the game, and everybody looked so stuck up online that I didn’t feel like chatting with them. I did group up with a few people here and there, but I always felt like I was a means to an end: them gaining XP. Kind of killed the fun every time I thought about it. Also, nothing remotely social came out of those interactions, and I’m not that good at typing in a chat window. I also tried crafting, but the repetitive task and fee stopped me after a few hours. At the end of my free month I decided that MMOs where not for me, and I stopped reading news on the subject. For 7 years. I love MMOs on paper, but I ended up hating the results in practice (although there were a few interesting moments).

DAOC Camelot
DaoC Camelot

Fast forward to 2008, BioWare announces a new Star Wars MMO. My reaction: bof. It wasn’t until they announced the Smuggler class that I got interested in the game. Since then I have been trying lots of MMOs and reading about them to see how the genre evolved. I got lucky and found my way into the free DDO beta (Dungeon and Dragon Online). I had quite a bit of fun although again I didn’t know anybody in that game, so not much grouping although soloing is much easier at lower levels. I did group once or twice and had a bit more fun than in DAoC, but I stopped playing mostly because above level 10 the content stopped being fun (well, I don’t call spending three hours in the same quest fun). The low level content is really fun, though.

I also tried LotRO (Lord of the Ring Online, now free-to-play) and AOC (Age of Conan) free trials. LotRO is a lot of fun, especially as a Hobbit in the Shire. I found myself in the condition of subbing, or waiting, for BioWare’s MMO. I decided to wait. I had lots of single player games to play anyway. I played AOC simply because I wanted to see how the game was after reading about it. I was unimpressed; just not my thing, but it is really pretty. Then last summer some of my friends started to play DDO and invited me. It was lots of fun until level 10.  At least 10 is higher then 5.

Here is where I stand on MMOs: the genre isn’t doing the right thing.  Games are meant to be fun, but MMOs are not fun. They cater to addictive personalities, which mean that the game is actually boring to most people.

  • Grouping shouldn’t be mandatory. People should group because they want to not because they need it to level up. There are major differences in the game’s psychological aspect and also in the fun level factor just because of that small distinction.
  • Not all people have 3+ hours free to play the content. Shorter dungeons/quests are needed. Lots of them and not just at lower levels. The pyramid scheme needs to die.
  • I want to have fun, and killing 100 of the same creatures isn’t fun.
dalaran city wow
I never played this game

To this day I’m waiting for two MMOs to be released: Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare/EA/LucasArts) and Guild Wars 2 (Arenanet). TOR because of the story and, well, I’m a Star Wars geek and GW2 because Arenanet sees the same problems I see in the genre and is trying to fix them as opposed to “rolling with it” like all the other game developers do.  I also made a few realizations. First, joining close to the release date is a good idea. Second, making friends who will be in the game before it launches is really good idea (example: join a guild early). Finally, play a game for what it is and not what you want it to be, and don’t get your hopes up (that works for all games too).

Hopefully, I will be able to enjoy my next MMO for more than one month. Also, dear readers, do you have any MMO experience to share?

6 replies on “MMO & Me”

I’m not a MMO player, but I spent many years playing on MU*s and I recognize so many of your complaints here. Games like this — frankly, any game that pits you against other players with a ‘winnable’ goal — cater to those who:

* have excessive amounts of free time
* can manipulate rules and stats
* are obsessive about playing

Its problematic, because those issues drive away players who want a more casual, fun based experience and who have responsibilities and interests outside of the game,which are necessary to help keep things in perspective. I don’t think there’s any way to really work around these issues — they seem inherent to any sort of competitive gaming situation.

I don’t entirely agree with you. I play WoW and you can be pretty mediocre and have fun. You can also play one or two times a week (or less) and get alot out of the game. Most people I know who play it with me do have lives, businesses, relationships and outside interests. You just need to make choices, playing different classes and forgoing certain types of endgame events. If you want to be all l33t, sure, you have to be hardcore but there are plenty of really good players who are not that serious about it.

I would say that competitive vs “casual” isn’t happening because of the game features (or lack of them). It’s a social thing and present in all aspect of it, the difference is that there is no “pro-level” servers in MMOs, everybody is dumped at the same level.

That’s why it’s important to find people with a like minded-interest and try to fill your server with as many of them.

I have a group of friends that I’ve been playing mmos with for over five years and we migrate from game to game. Sometimes I take long breaks—like i didn’t play anything for a year and a half. That makes it worthwhile, I mainly interact with them. It’s much harder when you do it on your own.

All I could think is “is this someone who has been frustrated with FFXI”? Because I played that game for three years and all your criticisms are a central problem with that game. But I enjoyed it too. I played FFXIV for 3 days. That was painful. Now what was sad was that Warhammer had so much potential–they need to expand expand expand to make it worthwhile.

I never played FFXI. It was released in my years of me not paying attention to MMOs. ;)

I think that my criticisms are touching the MMO genre as a whole, with a few exception, and simply get worst the closer you move to Asia. Ever played a F2P Korean grinder? I did…for about 3 hours.

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