Syp the EntitledSeptember 3, 2008
Are titles silly accoutrements that ultimately point to pride? Probably.
Do players fawn over attaining titles in game? Definitely.
Are titles important? Absolutely.
When I was in high school, I was a frequent partaker of role-playing sessions on bulletin board services (BBS), the proto-internet that took far too long to connect and was slow as anything. I’ll always remember one night, while I was on a Star Trek RP board, when I got into a tiff with a guy who told me I was “doing it wrong”. We went back and forth a bit, until I called him by his last name and he yelled back, “That’s DOCTOR lastname to you!”
He was a guy who loved his title, who couldn’t bear to be addressed without it.
Titles mean many things to many people. They can designate respect (or polite faking-of-respect): “Sir”, “Ma’am”, “Mr.”. They can indicate a profession: Doctor, Pastor, Honorable, Governor. They may be given or created to celebrate an accomplishment: Smitty the Crazy Bungee Jumping Freak.
Titles and MMORPGs (or even just RPGs) have had a long history together. To some, titles are just meaningless extras, kind of like how some people (women) wrap presents with curly ribbons and elaborate bows, whereas a sheet of the newspaper comics and a few strips of masking tape would do just as well. These people couldn’t care less about attaining or displaying titles, and you’re not going to see any under their name in Warhammer Online.
Then there are the people who care just a little too much, who are downright eager to boast about whatever marvelous in game milestone they’ve reached. Not to mention the folks who find a particular title funny, or fitting in the role-playing background of their character.
Personally, I have no problem with them. If it’s fun for some people and doesn’t interfere with others’ enjoyment of the game, what’s the harm? I won’t be going nuts trying to get every last title in the game, but I am going to be gunning for “The Pirate” title as quickly as possible. Syp needs to be a pirate, arrr matey!
The question then arises, are too many titles too much of a fluff thing? Let’s look at two quick extremes. Exhibit A: World of Warcraft. It had titles, but only a few, and it kept those few scarce and extremely difficult to attain. For a casual-friendly game, titles were very un-casual to get, and their scarcity both pushed the player base to not care about titles (as a whole) and recognize that those who did achieve a title to have accomplished something big.
Exhibit B: Lord of the Rings Online. Going much more hand-in-hand with WAR’s approach, titles were all over the place, as easy rewards for the deed log. You’d get a title (I liked any that had to do with pies), but then see a thousand other people running around with their own titles, to the point where there would be so many titles out there that it was hard to distinguish between titles that actually meant something to attain, and titles that were given out like dental floss after a teeth cleaning. The title pool was diluted with the sheer quantity of options present.
Keen’s upset that Mythic is handing out a title for nothing more than just validating your e-mail address with their account system. I think it’s an ingenious way to get people to verify their address, but he does have a point. Before the game even launches, whatever worth a title has is taken down a notch. I doubt very much that, a month or so after launch, titles will hold actual weight to them, other than being a textual dressing of your character’s appearance.
Still, that’s compared to everyone else. I don’t think titles are supposed to be as great in terms of bragging rights as, say, your bragging rights screen, or your gear/trophies, or your renown rank. They should mean something to you, something about your character’s journey through the game. And if I want to be a gaudy pirate from the seven seas, well, why shouldn’t I?