Syp’s MMO ResumeJune 4, 2008
If you don’t mind a brief diversion from WAR — I’m digesting and working on the glut of new Warhammer Online info from Massively’s visit to Mythic — I thought it might be a lark (a lark!) to take a quick trip through my MMO resume. After all, these are the games that have shaped my experience and viewpoint in the online gaming world, and this is what I’ll be taking with me when I first step into WAR.
Prior to AO, I did not have a beefy enough “rig” (and had to use “dial-up” for the “internet”) to engage in any MMOs. Strangely enough, none of the first big wave of 3D MMOs — EverQuest, Asheron’s Call, DAoC — called out to me. I have been, and always will be, a scifi fan at heart; ergo, Anarchy Online.
So yes, I was there for the now-fabled disaster of a launch. All I remember was lag so incredibly bad that it was less of a MMO and more of slide show where I was occasionally killed for no reason I could discern. I quit, then re-joined the AO world when Shadowlands came out. That expansion went a long way to making AO into a more linear, solid experience, and I got my Adventurer to 40 or so without any big problem. Still, I was a MMO noob, and Anarchy was pretty unforgiving if you gimped yourself by not having good enough gear or if you put skill points in the wrong areas.
Final Fantasy XI
My note for this game was, quite simply, “killed by a sheep”. I always loved the Final Fantasy series, so this game seemed like a perfect match. The install was horribly complicated, but the lush graphics more than made up for it. However, this all came crashing down on my head the first night I put serious hours into the game. I remember it clearly: I was on the phone with my then-girlfriend, when I targeted an enemy sheep (those dastardly sheep, always trying to… baa at us, or something) and attacked.
It killed me. Handily. “I just got killed by a sheep,” I sputtered into the phone. “Huh?” my girlfriend asked, understandably concerned that a herd of LSD-motivated ewes were rampaging through my apartment.
So that was that. I don’t play games where I’m killed by SHEEP.
City of Heroes/Villains
In many ways, City of Heroes was my first true MMORPG experience. It was the first game that I played on broadband, the first game in which I joined a guild (or “supergroup”), and the first game that I stayed with for any serious amount of time — in this case, just over a year.
Having recently revisited the CoH world, I can say with confidence that this title has the most fun combat I’ve ever experienced in a MMO, period. Swords and spells are no serious competition for superpowers like tossing a car onto an enemy’s head, or blasting them clear across the room with a swipe of your hand, or mind-controlling ten guys all at once. The costume creator has been widely lauded, and for good reason. The only reason I’m not still in that game is that there was, and continues to be, a lack of depth to it all. I simply didn’t care about the quests I ran, as they were all slight variations on the same theme in different settings. The world, too, was kind of drab and too concrete-y for my taste.
World of Warcraft
AKA “The Game I’ve Been Playing For Four Years, Off And On, Since Open Beta”. We take WoW for granted in today’s gaming world, I think, but in 2004 this “polished” MMO was nothing short of a revolution in the gamespace. Everything that other MMOs made so obtuse and difficult was suddenly turned into a joy to experience in WoW: questing, leveling, character development, auction houses, dungeon runs. The look of the world was lush and cartoony, like playing in a fantasy setting seen through a Disney filter.
There’s very little newness or wonder left in that game for me, yet the great guilds I’ve been a part of kept my interest going far past the point of me wanting to play regularly. Will I play Wrath of Lich King? Um, probably. Maybe. We’ll see.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
DDO was my first real break from WoW, which lasted, oh, a month. Don’t get me wrong — in many ways, DDO had great ideas for how to deviate from the typical MMO grind. I love the idea of stripping the world down to tons and tons of mini-dungeons, each with a story and an adventure. It wasn’t hard to group up and run around with a lot of other people, and that was refreshing.
However, Turbine did stumble a lot at the beginning, and today, DDO is just limping along where it should be raging. The UI and icons were drab, ugly and somewhat useless. Trying to shoehorn D&D rules into a MMO setting resulted in D&D fans being upset when rules and skills were modified, and average players with little D&D experience found themselves overwhelmed with D&D’s obscure little rules that have become extinct in the modern RPG landscape. I’m sorry, but they have.
Lord of the Rings Online
LOTRO probably got me away from WoW for the longest period yet — almost two and a half months. I sadly said goodbye to my WoW guild in April 2007, and entered Tolkien’s world the next day. Happily, I hooked up with some great friends, several of whom I play WoW with today. LOTRO had a lot going for it: an interesting low-magic world, the fun of playing a Hobbit, great quests and the awesome Deed Log.
Many have praised LOTRO for its beautiful world, and I will admit that at times, it was breathtaking. However, too much of that game is mud and rock, and the sheer pompousness of all the characters and storylines got to me. As much as I appreciate the books and loved the movies, I’ve experienced fantasy worlds far greater than Middle Earth, and it didn’t take long for me to grow bored with it all.
Tabula Rasa, Pirates of the Burning Sea, & others.
The above list are all of the “major” MMOs I’ve played. Unlike some, I don’t have hardcore creds in the old school MUDs or in the first days of UO and EQ. Yet ever since City of Heroes, I’ve sampled most every major MMO that’s come around the corner. It’s shocking just how many pale in comparison to the more highly polished and tuned titles, and none of them kept my interest for more than a night or so. I even tried to give EQ2 a chance, but no go.
So that is where I’m at. It’d be great to say in five years that, “In 2008, I found the perfect game world for me, and I’ve been playing WAR ever since.” That, my friends, is what we call “hope”.