I was interested a few weeks ago to read this article at Massively. But I guess what was more interesting were the comments. It seems the majority of people (well, Massively readers at least) don’t feel that attached to their characters. Most simply, when they’ve had enough of a game, log out when they get bored, and if they don’t log back in again, well, no sleep will be lost over it.
But I got thinking. Recently, I’ve dabbled in Morrowind and Oblivion (two of the finest games I’ve ever played) and I found myself, as I approached the end of a gaming session, riding to a city to close the game down in my house, or an inn. Of course, there’s no benefit of this. No benefit at all, except maybe the peace of mind of knowing that I won’t boot up straight into a fight. But, most areas would guarentee that. Then I thought of MMOs again. The only time I’ve ever felt the need to log out in a certain area is for the rested XP bonus for logging out in an inn or a city in WoW, and similar things in other games. That in turn, got me thinking. In some ways, it’s a bribe for immersion. You act “immersed” and you get rewarded. So why do MMOs feel the need to bribe you to do something that CRPGs provide naturally?
MMO developers like to have the buzzword “immersive” attached to their products. It’s a neat little word that conveys a lot of positive emotions about that product. If something is described as immersive, I think;
- There’s lots to do – you become a part of the world
- Character progression is good – you develop alongside the character you play
- Once you play, you want to keep on playing – it’s the “can’t put it down” effect that you get with books, or “can’t switch it off” effect with a TV show
- You’ll play lots, so you’ll get good value for money – even more important these days
- Most importantly, it’s fun - that, after all, is the reason we play games
The thing is – if I’m being bribed into feel immersed, I don’t feel immersed. It’s simply min-maxing – making the best of the time I play the game. But, am I an average gamer? I have an awful tendency to overthink things, and to attempt to simplify things. Does that mean, that, even though I don’t feel immersed, most players do? I’d love to hear your opinions. Do you feel immersed in MMOs? How about single players games?
Part of the reason why I think I feel immersed in single player games is, they feel more realistic. There’s no addons, and often a minimal UI. There’s no leetspeak in the chatbox, no goldspam. The graphics are invariably better, the world is quieter. Monsters don’t respawn after two minutes. People behave like people – they don’t sprint everywhere (except me), in good games, they eat, they drink, they gossip, they live like people. There’s nobody standing on the mailbox dancing naked. I think, ultimately, that’s the reason I feel immersed in single player games. I don’t have to worry about guild politics. I don’t have to worry if I make a huge cock-up – there’s nobody to laugh at how noobish I am. I can simply relax and enjoy the game. I can concentrate on the dialogue, often I have choices (as opposed to MMOs where questing simply involves running through dialogue boxes, which all end up at the Accept/Decline screen). I guess that, at a basic level, immersion is simply feeling a connection with the game you’re playing. And if I can concentrate on the game, as opposed to what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s easier to be immersed.
Before I start, let me apologise. I’ve treated this blog badly, as have I you, my reader. For that I am truly sorry. I willattempt to explain my absence, and hopefully, you’ll find the explanation fair.
The simple truth is, I’ve lost “it”. I’ve lost whatever “it” was that caused me to enjoy MMORPGs. That’s quite a statement, I know. “Burnout” – that is, when you’re “burned out” on a game (this often applies to MMORPGs, due to their time-grabbing nature). Well, I feel “Burnout” is the closest description to what I have been “suffering”. Only it’s not simply one game I’ve “burned out” on. Every MMORPG I’ve turned my hand to, I’ve found, sadly, uncompelling. Since I last wrote, I’ve played WAR, WoW, LOTRO, EVE, to no avail. Maybe I’ve become jaded by the genre, but I truly believe that I’ve fundamentally changed, somewhere, deep down, and those kinds of games no longer appeal to me.
So what have I been playing? The good news is, I’ve not lost my drive to play all games. That’s good news for me, as I’ve drawn a lot of entertainment and excitement from games throughout my lifetime. Also, it’s good news, as otherwise, a gaming blog would be a bit of a waste. I’ve been playing Team Fortress 2 a lot and Football Manager 2009, also a lot. In between, I’ve dabbled in Runeforge, a RTS/TCG and Mount & Blade, an indie medieval simulation, which I’ve had a lot of fun with.
Of course, I’ll go into more detail in later posts. This post was simply a heads up, letting you know I’m alive and well, and intending to ressurect this blog.
It all started June of last year (2007). I’d dabbled in WoW previously, but never got hooked by it. In fact, I’d got bored of it. I reached level 63 and dropped it. Me and a friend were on the look out for something new. He suggested LOTRO. I was unsure. I love the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, for that matter, both for the books and the films. But that’s a different story. Back to LOTRO. Eventually, my friend persuaded me to play. I made an Elven Hunter, him a Lore-Master. My first thoughts – this game is beautiful.
We levelled up, pretty steadily over the new couple weeks. It was truly amazing, so much fun. It took all the good stuff from WoW, and added it with a load of neat new features. It was great fun. Soon we hit 50. The leaders of my guild got bored of the game, and I found myself leader. All good fun, at the time. We were fairly well populated, and under my fresh leadership, people seemed reinvigorated and refreshed. I was running almost daily events, whether that be instance runs or social events. Soon we were raiding as well. After a couple raids however, some of the less serious players dropped out. I managed to get a very successful raiding partnership going between some of my kinship’s players and those from another kinship. After a week or so of the new arrangement, we felled the Balrog! This was several weeks after the first kinship on the server got it down, but at the time it was an achievement nonetheless. I’d have to say that the moment when the Balrog first went down, I was pumped full of adrenalin in a way that I’ve never felt before or since in games.
Sadly, that was where it started going downhill. Now, because of the masses of fun I’d had in this game, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay. Yet, patch after patch, Turbine were adding stupid, meaningless features to the game. No meaningful content was coming in. Eventually, I cancelled my subscription. That was around May of this year. Around the same time, however, Mines of Moria was announced. Now, that did excite me. Mines of Moria is a quality looking expansion, for a game I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. And the chances are, yes, I’ll go back to LOTRO when the expansion comes out. Maybe, I’ll even purchase a lifetime subscription.
And as I come back, I bring my verdict of WAR. The gaming world seems to be ablaze with people raving about WAR. It’s the MMO of the moment, and the majority view is that it has suceeded, where Age of Conan didn’t.
My verdict though? Been there, done that.
It feels “samey”. Sure, they’ve added a few innovations, improved some jibes I had with other MMOs, but it doesn’t feel new. It’s kind of like when you watch a classic episode of the Simpsons that you saw a few months back. It’s kind of new to you, but when it comes to the best jokes, you know the punchline before they say it. It ruins it for you, doesn’t it? Nothing’s the same as seeing a brand new episode. That’s what WAR is like. It’s so similar to other MMOs that I’ve played before that it’s not as fun as it was the first time I experienced it in LOTRO. Does that mean that any MMO that’s similar to this style, the EQ model as it were, I won’t be able to enjoy? Maybe. Kind of sad, but I think I’m only indicative of the average gamer, and in the future we’ll be seeing new things in MMOs. By the way, by the EQ model, I don’t mean the UI, I mean the style of game. All these games have the same basic progression model, same combat style, same objectives in game.
I’ve got a week left of my subscription, yet I’ve uninstalled the game. I found no fun in the Old World.
What now? My eyes are looking firmly towards LOTRO, with the expansion coming, hopefully, next month. In the mean time, I’ve got myself a spot in the Football Manager Live stress test. That’ll be an interesting experience – there’s a game that doesn’t use the EQ model. I’ll certainly be buying FM2009, but depending on how I find FM Live, I might be trying a totally different game!
“I hope as many WoWfanboys stay with WoW as possible; I don’t want any of there [sic] kind in our new game.”
It got me thinking – as a potential future player, nay, stakeholder in WAR, do I want WoW fanboys joining me in the ‘World of Warhammer’?
Now, my good, charitable, kind upbringing causes me to immediately say I shouldn’t say I want them to stay away. I should offer a place for them, I shouldn’t discriminate. But what if it ruins the experience for everyone else? What if it causes other players to leave? Kind of like the big loud blokes who gatecrash a party, and the original, pleasant guests disappear. Surely you’d say you should have locked your doors to them before they came in, and allow everyone else to enjoy the party? That’s what I’d say too. But Mythic can’t shut their doors to people. They can’t have interviews with people who want to play their game, and review them on a case-by-case basis. People who want to play do so. So why would people from WoW, come to WAR, dragging alongside them their ‘CHUCK NORRIS PWNZ UR MOM’ attitude? Well:
- WoW is old. No denying it. It’s passed its sell-by-date. It’s lost its youthful vigour and now creaks and groans each time you load it up.
- Blizzard butchered their lore, their dignity and their souls to keep it on top. As a result, it’s not really a hugely fulfilling experience. It feels like a timesink.
- They’re now clutching at straws trying to keep the subscriber numbers up. If they lose their grip, the subscriber numbers will snowball. They’re shamelessly stealing sucessful features from other MMOs (that’s where this whole discussion stemmed from) – as a result, WoW is losing it’s originality, starting to look like some sort of inbred mongrel rat. Sort of like this. Whereas WAR, built from the ground up to integrate these features, holds them much better, and is looking pretty slick and smooth.
As a result, many WoW players want something new. But, even after 4 years in Azeroth and Outland, they still demand quality. And enough polish so you can see your face in it!
Why do they need the attitude? I hear you ask. Well, I think it’s more of an environmental thing. I guess when everyone around you, 10 million other players are talking like that, you just kind of pick it up. Naturally, you can’t beat them, so why not join them? Indulge in your immature side! The only problem is you find out you can’t revert back to standard English. You forget the phrase ‘is/am better than’ and in place your neurons only recall the term ‘Own’ or ‘Pwn’. You forget all manners of earthly Deity, and in his/her/their place is Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger. And for some reason, you have a strange obsession with peoples’ mums…
I guess what I’m trying to say, is try to show these people a little understanding. Clearly we can’t be shot of them, so use it as an oppourtuinity to show them that you needn’t behave like they do when playing with people online. Show them the civilised way, chuck them an invite to your guild if you’re able too. Maybe if everyone can ‘De-PWN’ a WoW fanboy, the WARld will be a better place.
So it’s that time of the year again. E3. One of the most exciting games for me is Fallout 3. Made by Bethesda Softworks, creators of one of my favourite games of all time Morrowind (and also its sequel, Oblivion, which I also enjoyed). It’s got a great setting, outside of my comfort zone somewhat, as in, no orcs, elves or trolls, but with an essence of what made Bioshock great. As for the gameplay, that’s where I believe it’ll truly shine. It gives choice. I’ve seen videos showing how you can play it as a real-time FPS, or as a series of queued moves that play out after you’ve planned the combat in advance. Your character, too, can be whoever you wish. A sneaky character, a manipulative character, or a brutal combatant. I’d love to play the game through a few times in the different styles. But perhaps one of the best things I’ve read about the game so far is that your choices aren’t ignored as you progress through the game, but they have consequences. I’m not talking ‘if you break a law, you’ll get hunted by the police’, I mean that your actions throughout the game really influence how the game ends for you. Todd Howard said there would be 10,000 possible permutations.
And the world is large. The whole of post apocolyptic Washington DC is up to explore, with many different factions and organisations struggling to survive.
I’m genuinely excited about Fallout 3. It has atmosphere, it has grit, it has action, suspense and consequences. And it’s being worked on by one of the most talented teams in the industry.
In other news, the fallout to the announcements of Black Friday are now becoming apparent. Countless bloggers have talked in detail about their thoughts of the announcements, but my initial fury has subsided somewhat. If you haven’t done so already, see Syp’s silver lining piece, it raises some good points and it is true that too many people were expecting too much of WAR. I’m still excited about it, still locking away my beta codes in the safest place in my house. All in all, I look to the fall.
I make no secret that I despise what WoW has become. The world’s biggest timesink. Yet I still see fun in it. Even when I read about incoming features that I hate, I nearly always see things that I love at the same time. My interest in this Titanic of a game has been sparked again recently by my friend offering me a ‘Scroll of Ressurection’, causing my account to regain activity for 10 days.
Those 10 days are drawing to a close, but they’ve certainly been thought-provoking and insightful. I’ve hit one of the lowest milestones in the game, in getting to level 70. In some ways, that’s where my interest in the game ends. I’ve no desire to lose hours of my time grinding an instance for a piece of gear that allows me to progress to the next level of instance to grind. I love instances, I love raids, but not when I’m doing that instance for the hundredth time. I really enjoy learning the instance, how the bosses work, I like a challenge, and I enjoy the ‘process’ of a raid, the organisation, and the feeling when it all works out, and that boss is down. But the raids in WoW take that enjoyment I experience and stretch it to the limit.
WoW grabs you with pretty graphics and easy gameplay, and sucks even the most anti-gamers in, and pretty soon they play it religiously, barely stopping to eat. It’s something we’ve all read stories about. And yet, for some reason, I don’t feel the same way. I’m not compelled to play 16 hours a day until I’ve got my ‘Epix’. I’ve no desire to spend my life in Alterac Valley. It got me thinking, why?
I think the truest answer is, that WoW is a game for people who’ve never played a game before. I mean that in an extremely loose sense of the word. Not people who’ve literally never played a game before, but people who’ve never connected with a game. People who’ve never seen what a game can really be, all the range of emotions it can bring. WoW simply provides a medium through which people can enlarge their ego, by getting better gear than someone else. That makes people feel good, but a game should be so much more than that. A game should excite you, frustrate you, make you laugh, make you sigh (because men don’t cry!), make you feel empathy, and act on that empathy so you end up feeling better about yourself and the situation you worked on. To me, WoW does none of that. Maybe that’s because I’ve seen all those things at work in better, greater games. Sorry WoW, but you’re too shallow for me. You don’t provide those things. I’ve no connection with the world, or the other characters. You just have me, as a player, looking at the next piece of gear on my wishlist. But I tend to think, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this’, and pretty soon I end up logging out. And I think unless Blizzard take WoW in a totally different direction, I might not ever be able to truly enjoy it.